I saw a movie last night sbout one mans search for what made people happy…

Last night I saw Simon Pegg in “Hector and the Search for Happiness”.  Absolutely wonderful and I cannot recommend it enough.  But, it caused me to think about what makes ME happy.  Of course the first thing that rattled into my nogin was the Tom T. Hall Song, “I Love…”.  You know,…”I love..”.

But besides the usual things like friends coming over for “dinner and a movie”, good BBQ, hugs…I also came up with tech.  Gadgets and new tech had a way of making me happy.  Now, before you say I’m using this to replace human contact, my friends make me MUCH happier than ANYnew tech (well accept maybe a new iPhone).  Also, new tech can also make me pretty sad, like the new 25 watt radio I just got which seems unable to connect with any of the local repeaters and crashes the programming app that came with it.  But, in general, when I get a new package from UPS from Amazon or one of the crowd funded products I’ve invested in, I feel good.  

I remember in the heyday of the go go 80s and the yuppie revolution, the typical yuppie was a serious gadget nut who always had the “latest tech”.  This was part of their image as shallow individuals who were always trying to look rich.   I asked some friends once if my love of cool tech labelled me a Yuppie.  I was pleasantly surprised with a resounding “No way!”  One explained that what made me different is that, it was obvious my motivation to getting the latest phone/computer/whatever was NOT to impress people.  That had nothing to do with it.  They said it was that I really did enjoy plaing with these new tools and putting them to use.  

Hense, this is more reinforcement that I really don’t consider the technologies in my live as classic tech…but toys that I may really use but also enjoy planing with.  

Day three…

I just realize that it was day three of my daily blog. So what I have to say today? Apple is holding its annual worldwide developers conference and so they announce the latest versions of the iOS and OS X.  Sounds like nothing too major, but once again I’m disappointed to discover that they still have not migrated Siri to OS X.  I mean, if I’m ever going to establish a relationship with this AI, I have to have access to it everywhere…  😜

Another Monday

Somethings in the air today.  Rousted myself out of bed and immediately noticed something different.  The normally cool cloudy morning wasn’t really any warmer than usual.  But, the sun was out and there was a feeling that you could sense it was going to be the first really warm day of the year.  OK…here in Alameda, warm is not what I remember growing up.  It’s mid 80’s not the stifling muggy heat of central Missouri.  But, it still was going to be a marked difference from the typical highs in the low to mid 60’s we’ve been having.  Of course, my brother lives in the inner Sunset in San Francisco, and he would LOVE to see it get above mid 50s.  He’s always calling and say…”Is the weather as crappy where you are???”

Still, not to worry.  Tomorrow we’re back to the cool temps that define the bay and what I’ve always felt is one of the most attractive things about living here.  In the mean time, good day to chill outside and enjoy it.

Mr. Robot

Yesterday, I finally got around to watching the pilot of a new series.  It’s called Mr. Robot, and the central character, Elliot, is a rather tortured looking network security expert by day, cyber vigilante at night.  The very first scene is set in a coffee shop he likes to hang out in.  Elliot meets the owner of the chain, and proceeds to confront him with the fact that he has hacked him and discovered the vast amount for child pornography that this man is distributing through a site that he runs through the coffee shops gigabit Internet connections.  He threatens to turn the man in, and he responds by pleading with him and asking what he can do to prevent this.  “Nothing” is his reply and as the Elliot walks out the door the police pull up and rush in to arrest the owner.

From there,  it goes into Elliot’s life and his discovery of a vast conspiracy.  Yet, the plot is not really what I want to talk about here.  What impresses me about the show as much as anything is that it is apparent that at least one person involved in its production is very much of a tech.  There’s a sequence where the main server of a company that his firm represents is attached by a massive Denial of Service attack , and the representation of the process of dealing with this threat is one of the most accurate I have ever seen in a television or movie.  Instead of there being some sort of weird virtual 3-D world he has to jack into and wander around in, or lots of busy music and things flying all over the place, the work is done through a classic command line interface.  It’s not sexy, it’s not flashy, but it’s honest and accurate.  I appreciate that.

The show also has a serious film noir style it also seems quite relevant in a time of groups like anonymous.   I’d say check it out!

 

Random Ramblings Day One

I’ve been writing this blog for God knows how many years, but I’ve never totally gotten the hang of what it supposed to be.  I think I’ve sort of gotten stuck on this idea that I always have to have something to say, and I need to approach it like the articles I’ve written for magazines and television.

The end result is that the time between postings can range from several days to several weeks because it takes that long to actually come up with the idea then write it.

I’m going to try something new. On the one hand, I’ll keep doing articles on interesting tech way I’ve always done, but I’m going to try just ramble every day about whatever happens to be floating around in the open space that is my mind.

Sometimes, they may be interesting, sometimes long, and sometimes short brief thoughts so I get something up here.

So, without any further delay, let’s get started…

The Martians have arrived.

You have undoubtedly read a lot about the new Apple Watch.  Having been a definitely apple Fan boy since I purchased my first 128K Mac in the early summer of 1984, I was VERY interested in it.  But, with a price take of about $600 for the main version, I just could not justify the expense, no matter how cool it was.  Plus, I found what I was really looking for for about $170.

Let me preface this with the simple fact that I have been a fan of “smart watches” since the late1980s.  I remember well my Casio “databank” watch.  Yes, it was very ugly, but it was really cool having all my phone numbers loaded into a watch.  Also, the watch actually was responsible for helping reunite me with my family after an accident in the 1990s.  I was run over by a car in a crosswalk, and somehow, while being checked into one of Oakland’s largest hospitals, my wallet was lost.  So, I became a John Doe until one of the bright nurses figured out that I have this watch that had phone numbers on it. They found the number for my brother in San Francisco, call him, and he helped it going to find me.

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Then, only a couple of years ago when Kickstarter first started, I became one of the first investors in the new pebble watch.  I’ve used it daily since then for all kinds of things such as showing me what’s coming in on my phone, checking the temperature outside, and all kinds of other cool little things.

pebble-watch-deal

But the one thing it didn’t do was allow me to connect with my phone and make phone calls or receive them through the watch, just like Dick Tracy.

But the Apple Watch certainly does this, I discovered another brand, Martian, that works quite well for doing this.  You can’t really compare to the Apple Watch at all. I’m like the beautiful color display, all the various sensors, and just that “Apple quality”, the Martians actually pretty simple.

371835-martian-passport-watch

  The top half of it is actually a traditional analog watch face.  At the bottom of the screen is a small strip with an LED display.  This can show me a variety of information such as tax that are coming in, who’s calling me on my phone, the temperature, and a variety of other things that are fed to it from my phone.  Additionally, there’s a button on the left-hand side that, when pressed, opens up a connection with my phone and allows me to use a built-in speaker and microphone in the watch to make phone calls, receive them, and converse with Siri.   Plus, though not something you want to listen to music on, the quality isn’t half bad.  The only thing you have to be particularly careful with is the fact that it is charged through a microUSB port on the side.  Though it is covered by a little rubber plug, the watch is anything but a waterproof.  Forget about it and accidentally get it wet, and you’re going to need a new watch.

Tesla may be bringing the solution to effective alternative power sooner than you think.

We hear so much about the growth of solar and wind power as alternative energy sources, but they both have a downside.  They aren’t always “on”.  When the wind does not blow or the sun sets, alternative sources of power must be brought online.  Sadly, in some areas, this mean coal fired power plants often negating the positive aspects of the wind or sun.  The problem is how to store electricity for times these power sources won’t work.  There have been some intersting solutions.  In one place, I’ve heard that the power from the windmills and solar panels is used to pump water up to a resevior at the top of a mountain.  Then, when they are not available, the water is allowed to flow down through pipes and generate electricity through turbines.  This is an interesting  but the scale and cost is such that it’s not that viable,

Enter our good friend, Elon Musk, creator of the Tesla electric car and Space X.   His latest effort is the creation of smaller battery systems designed to store electricity for a single house.  When the wind or sun aren’t available, just switch to the batteries.   This idea can work and it’s going to be with us very soon.  

The interesting difference on this is the scale.  If you wanted to use batteries to store enough electricity to power a  large city or even a smaller town, the cost would be prohibitive.  But, using what Musk has learned from the battery systems for his Tesla carts, building a smaller battery pack that would work for a house is very realistic.  Couple this with advances in fuel cells that would also work at this scale, and power companies should start getting very nervous.  

More reading:

  1. Why Tesla’s battery for home should terrify utilities
  2. Tesla home battery on the way
  3. Tesla home battery to drive millions of the grid soon

Are we too connected?

Only a few weeks ago the San Francisco Bay Area was hit by what many were predicting would be the “storm of the century”.  We were warned via all the traditional media to expect intense rain, flooding, horrible traffic, basically the end of civilization.

When it hit, though it did mess up traffice, ad cause flooding in areas prone to this, the storm as a whole was no where near the worst.  Only two years ago, we were hit by a much worse system.  Yet, that storm was not promoted the extent this one was, in part because only the traditional media sources really promoted it.

This time we learned of the storm through tweets, Facebook pokes, and comments (I wish they’d add gooses too), emails, texts, Skpye calls, blog posts and al kinds of prods and nudges that the virtual word offers.  Plus, if you happend to be a dedicated geek, you would get these on your phone, tablet, computer (both desktop and laptop), watch, glasses, earbuds, and maybe even rectal implant (gulp!).

On the one hand, it is good to stay in touch and be aware of whats going on around us.  But, whenever I install a new APP and suddenly my watch (a Pebble which support notificatios) starts letting me know that somebody else has a higher score than I do in Candy Crush, I ask myself if this has really gone too far.

Yes, I can just disable the notifications of that, but shouldn’t the default for a lot of this extraneous stuff be NOT to notify you of useless notices

Just a thoughts.

3 Weeks with the iPhone 6 Plus

I've now had my iPhone 6 Plus for almost 3 weeks. Do I have buyers remorse? NO WAY! Oh, its definitely NOT the phone for everybody. In fact, I'm surprised that it is so incredibly popular. I feal that ultimately a good number of those who rushed out to get one may end up having real doubts in the end. Let's take a look at where I stand on this beast.

The Bad

  1. First, the size. Yes, it does have a fabulous HUGE screen that is very high res. Yes, movies look great. But the damned thing is giant. It doesn't fit into regular pockets well. Put it in your shirt pocket and it sticks out. Put it in your front pant's pocket and it may also stick out but is definitely not comfortable to sit with. Put it in your rear pocket…well..though the “bendgate” was way overblown, it's still not a good idea. I'm lucky. I wear cargo pants (yes, I know I look like a geek…but I have no problem with that) but they work fine.
  2. Second, the size. OK, if what you use your phone for is making phone calls, and you don't have a headset or have the ability to use a speaker phone, putting this monster against your ear makes me feel a little like trying to make a phone call with the iPad. Unless your head the size of the Frankenstein monster, you will look pretty dorky.
  3. Third, the size. Unless you have big hands…and I mean BIG, using the phone with one hand is really tough. Apple has made a real effort to offer little tweaks to the display to compensate for the size of the screne but it's still inelegant. My hands are considered pretty large, and though I can reach most things, I usually use 2 hands.
  4. Fourth, the siz…GOT YA. Well, it is the the size of the memory. If you get the 128 Gig memory option, apparently there is a problem where the phone goes into eternal reboot. Now, I have this model and it's never happened to me, but Apple is concerned enough to have changed a chip in the phones being manufactered currently and, if your phone suddenly starts throwing fits, you can swap your phone for one with the new chip by visiting a Genius Bar near. It's not really a problem now, but something that shouldn't have happened in the first place.

OK, so what's to like?

 

  1. FIrst, the Size. OK…OK…I know I'm a big obcessive with the size of the damned thing, but as much as it's a negative, for the right user, it's a huge positive. Having all that real estate is really nice. And, as app makers start adapting their apps to this larger space, you'll find it more and more useful. I'm not ready to ditch my iPad, but this thing really is useful.
  2. The Camera. It is the same camera with pretty much all the same features as the smaller iPhone 6, but it has optical motion supression. The smaller one uses digital, which means it oversizes the image captured, then moves it DIGITALLY to compensate for movement. It works fine overall, but the oversizing means you end up losing information and resolution. With optical, there is actually a lens assembly that moves dynamically. This means you lose no information and you can get lower light pictures much better. In a real test, I drove around with the camera shooting out the window of my car. Normally, even on a smooth road, you'd end up with a pretty awful looking video. But with the optical suppression, it honestly looked like it was shot on a motion picture dolly. Couple that with slomo and WOW!
  3. The battery. The larger size means that there is a larger battery. Now, I'm going to be honest. I can drain this battery in a day on mine and so have a charge case for it, but I don't have to turn it on until VERY late. WIth my old iPhone 5, I used the case early in the afternoon and knew it would be touch and go in the evening.
  4. The screen. There is no doubt. The screen is AMAZING! I mean TRUE 1080p HDTV on par with anything you'd see on a big screen….accept the big screen. No, you can't dump you TV but it's still amazing for watching movies. The sound is good as well, though use the headphones (or get some really good ones) or you'll drive those sitting around you nuts. Oh, and be prepared for everbody to come up and want to see it.
In the end, FOR THE RIGHT USER, the iPhone 6 Plus is great. IF you use your phone more for running apps, surfing the net, shooting image/video, and watching movies, this is THE phonoe to have. On the other hand, if you use your phone as a phone (how BOOOORING!) get the regular iPhone 6. You won't be happy with this.

A year with a smart watch…

Just recently, Apple computer finally introduced their new Apple watch. Typical of the Apple products that we all know and love, they look that they will be beautifully made, incredibly elegant, truly cutting-edge, and a bit on the pricey side.  There are unlike any other watch, in part because of the amazing array of applications that have already been created for them, which allow you to do much of what you might do you want to phone on your wrist. 

But, as is often the case, Apple was not the first. Back in the early summer of 2012, I was introduced to the crowdfunding phenomena through probably the first smart watch.  It was called the pebble, and it promised the ability to be notified that messages were coming through my iPhone, whether they be a phone call, or a text message. Additionally, there would be a wide range of apps that would run on this phone.  

Comparring the Pebble with the Apple watch is a little bit like comparing your first cell phone, with an iPhone. The screen is small and black and white. Though very well-made, the watch is plastic. And though there are a wide range of apps available, they don’t rival the amazing array of capabilities in the Apple phone. But, having this thing has really changed a lot of the way but I use my phone, and the way I get information. Right now, the screen that is being displayed on my watch shows the time, the date, and the weather and temperature. Okay, I can see the weather outside the window of my car. But the temperature is a nice feature. If somebody calls me on my phone, or texts me, or a wide range of other apps that are set on notification, my watch or let me know. Sometime this is very cool when it’s information I want to get immediately. Sometimes it’s kind of a pain in the neck because a watch not only changes the screen it vibrates letting me know I’ve got the message. For some reason, when somebody post something on Facebook that mentions me, it doesn’t just notify me once, it notifies me three times. The same is true for the calendar. This really isn’t the fall, watch, it’s just understanding how to make sure that only one application notifies you at a time.  Also, it’s amazing the array of iPhone apps that have notification built into them.    

The only thing I’m missing is a voice link between the watch and my phone.  Ironically, this is not for phone calls.  I honestly rarefy makes calls on my iPhone.  I’ve got a bluetooch headset and Verizon as a provider so my calls are solid and my voice good.  But, most of my friends are on ATT & their calls are almost always difficult to understand or even dropped because of an iffy connection.  But, I’d love to be able to use Siri without getting out my phone.  In search of this feature, I invested in an Indiegogo supported company, Kreyos, who promised a new watch, the Meteor, that would do allow just this and many other cool features.  Sadly, the watch was a total failure.  It was next to impossible to use, VERY cheap in it’s build, and the audio quality was beyond horrible.  

So, in retrospect, what’s it been like having a smart watch over the past year and so.  Nice.  I can’t say that it’s indespensible, but I’ve been very happy to have the link to my iphone.