The technology of our walks…

IMGP0017We had an interesting discussion on our evening walk last night. The conversation was around the concept of, need for and the overall impact of driverless cars. One of the primary reasons for the conversation is that once again, a car nearly ran over us. We were clearly in the crosswalk, but an aggressive, I have to get ahead of everyone else driver, nearly hit us. I saw him, he did not see us. I don’t think he realized how badly he screwed up until he was on the other side of the intersection. I just threw up my hands into the air. I guess I was suffering from walkers rage.

The point made, of course, on our walk was that drivers like that would be removed. The computer AI would drive the car. That person wouldn’t be driving. Except that in all cases I’ve seen so far there is a manual override option. I suspect drivers like that would kick into manual override, well the minute they got into the car.

So we talked about mandatory testing. That you couldn’t pop into manual mode until you had passed a psych, and driving skills exam. We agreed that there were people who could and should drive and frankly people that shouldn’t and can’t drive.

IMGP0018Yes, we have technology conversations like that all the time. I often ask the boys to describe the gameplay and expectations of the games they are playing. I can read about them, but that is at best a one-sided biased view of the game. I want to know what they think the rationale, goals and bad things about the games are. Plus it gives them a chance to connect and share something they are passionate about.

I am sure passing runners, bikers, other walkers, and birds have heard snippets of odd conversations flying, passing, or walking by us in the past. That part I cannot help. I am curious as to not only what the boys think but how they think about various things.

They are both passionate about video games. I was as well, once upon a time. Although my video games at least, in the beginning, cost a quarter every time. I was never as good as a lot of different people I knew at Galaga, Asteroid and so on. I knew people that could beat Ms. PacMan and the original PacMan every time. I just struggled most times to get way from the ghosts.

Growing up digital, I think is the real name for it. As a technologist, I exposed my children o technology at an early age. I expected them to be able to troubleshoot and solve their own problems. Mostly because at times I simply answered you can fix it yourself, or wait until I get home. Since there were times that I wouldn’t be home for two weeks, it was best to fix it themselves.

IMGP0019Self Reliance is a key skill when it comes to technology. Understand that you know enough about what you’re trying to do to solve the problem, and then keep trying. I can say it was actually a goal of mine to teach the kids to be technology independent. I also taught them to cook at an early age. I never want my kids to be stuck not being able to solve problems of any kind!

Today’s images are from the digital collection of Dr. Hans O. Andersen.

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Technologist

Time to kill the Windows Phone, but there are some new products from Microsoft that are beyond amazing!

IMGP0012In the best sense of what is fair, I have bashed Windows Phones for more than 5 years. They just don’t have a solid strategy for what should come next. Recently Microsoft announced a more integrated platform basically finally truly have a phone running windows. While that is interesting, it isn’t the answer to the problem. I am asked constantly on Quora and other forums why Microsoft still tries in the phone space. I answer the questions very carefully. In part because I understand not wanting to let go of a market you once owned. But, add a phone to the pile with clippie and Bob. Time to move on Microsoft.

The other side of that equation is the reality of office. Today, I can use and operate office applications on either my Android Tablet or my iOS device. And frankly, I do, almost every day! The need for a phone that is more connected has gone. I can connect my iPhone to my windows 10 desktop in less than a minute. I can run iTunes and operate as if my phone and my computer were from the same company. It doesn’t matter anymore.

What does matter though is the integration with future tech devices? In particular, the integration upcoming in the next version of windows with Hololens. And the intelligent way the Microsoft team has actually built a fully integrated platform for VR.

Oculus Rift runs so cleanly on Windows 10 it is amazing. Microsoft has pushed once more to the edges of what could be done. Between Oculus and Hololens the future is pretty bright for windows 10 in the home.

IMGP0013I keep wandering back to Hololens. I use it every day on conference calls because it lets me see my computer screen, interact with other people on the call and at the same time look things up without ever leaving the conference call window. I sit on a lot of calls with presentations and people talking about what we need to do. It is nice to be able to type in a search when someone asks a question and have the answer quickly. Just that one use case, improving conference calls, makes Hololens valuable for me. Expanding that use case allows you to include functionality for developers (while coding, you can look things up quickly, without leaving Visual Studio. Teachers can interact with students while being able to quickly verify information. The use case of Hololens as a research tool is a huge one.

Hololens also offers another use case, that of a tech fixing or repairing machines. Walking in with the knowledge of the 10 most common problems with specific equipment reduces the overall time required for any one fix. Being able to look directly into the machine and see next that what it is supposed to look like is another huge value.

Now this moves into and beyond the reality of augmented reality (AR) and into the creation of a new reality (VR) that can be consumed and considered. Hololens is a toll with a growing number of use cases that are impactful and interesting.

IMGP0014With the next major release of windows 10, Microsoft is promising more and more integration between the windows 10 computer and the HoloLens. With its already delivered tighter integration between iOS devices and android devices I wonder again aloud if Windows Phone is needed.

It doesn’t matter anymore Microsoft. Windows phone is dead. Your innovations, however, Flow, Hololens and others are growing and frankly, those are the images that will drive tomorrow! Flow is amazing (search Microsoft Flow and sign up – it is the best tool for simple task automation I have seen in a long time). The Hololens is expensive, but it can replace a number of other tools very quickly. The integration of Oculus Rift and the Windows 10 platform is beyond amazing.

The future is virtual and windows is ready.

Good job Microsoft!

Images today courtesy of Dr. Hans O Andersen’s digital collection.

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Microsoft Futurist

Suddenly I found myself up to my neck in alligators.

IMGP0009

Hard to remember then, the original job was drain the swamp!

It is funny, I started a project three years ago with the intent of making logical sense of all the pictures my father and grandfather left behind (physical picture prints and slides). 30,000 or so of slides and another 4,000 or more pictures.

We (and by we, in this case, it is the royal we, my kids did most of the scanning) scanned for nearly 11 months. Doing between 2000 and 3000 images per month. Doing another 2000 slides per month also. We scanned two full tubs, one full suitcase (that my mother brought when she came to visit us) and two cardboard boxes full of albums. We scanned images from the 1940’s, 1950’s and all the way to today.

I found out I was a cute baby. So now I am wondering what went wrong because I am not cute now. I guess the apple fell from the tree and then rolled under something that squished it.

The other day I was looking for pictures to share in my family history project blog. I’ve been doing my own wander project or a Where’s Waldo of Scott project. My kids all did wander Indiana projects in 5th grade. Basically, you picked a place in Indiana, went to it, and then wrote a report about it. So we did three different projects. Marengo cave was my daughters choice. Vincennes Indiana was the first choice of one twin. Indiana University and Bloomington Indiana and in particular the School of Education was the first choice of the other twin.

IMGP0008Based on that, and the fact that I didn’t get to do a cool wander project when I was in 5th grade, I started doing one of my other blogs. I’ve had the opportunity to wander the world for more than 40 years now and it has been fun to share.

Then I wandered into the wrong place. In my folder family pictures, where I keep the majority of the pictures I found a folder called Barb picture disks. I have more than 40 disks of pictures. Good thinking on my part to keep the original high-quality originals of film and digital. Bad thinking because they are labeled picture disk 1, 2, 3 and so on.

So now I have to sort through all of them and figure out what event hey really were. Otherwise, when the pictures are shared with family there isn’t a frame of reference. Sure you could use image identification and facial recognition to figure out who each person in the picture is. You could use Microsoft Flow, create a flow that would look at your on-line picture folders, using facial recognition, take images of people. But that wouldn’t allow you to have the next level of connection, what event were the people gathering for.

picture disks...Yes, the images have 23 people you know in them. But it doesn’t tell you then the age of the people involved or the event they were attending. That sadly requires me digging into each of the folders, relabeling them and then creating instances of the new folders in multiple places. The number one lesson of the family history project is to have copies of images. I cannot tell you how many times we had to take slide scans and work with them to see if we could at least recover a part of the image.

Flow, a processing tool from Microsoft is pretty cool. If you haven’t tried it, I highly recommend it for quick process integration. There are a number of pre-built solutions the tool has. All you need to do to sign up is to have a Microsoft ID. If you have an outlook.com account (or an old Hotmail account) you can log in. It’s a really cool on-line automation system. Having played with Chef and Puppet, which are powerful process automation tools, Flow is really easy to use. It is not as powerful as the two automation tools mentioned, but it has some pretty cool functionality built into it!

Now if I could only find my car keys.

Images today courtesy of Dr. Hans O Andersen and come from his collection of digital pictures. Except for the picture of my computer hard drive, and the image showing all the picture disks. That one was taken this morning!

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digital fanatic

The taste of a Champaign network…

IMGP0002As long as I can remember I have been telling companies to be careful about the reality of bandwidth. I have asked the question about available bandwidth for a long time. One of my first posts on CloudTweaks was all about bandwidth.

In the past month, I had an opportunity to use the wi-fi at a hotel. The hotel was less than ½ full when we checked in and the overall bandwidth was incredible. It was more than ¾ full when we checked out and the bandwidth I had been enjoying was gone. I ended up using my cellular phone as a hotspot for awhile rather than waiting for the try, fail, try again process with the Hotel Wi-Fi. Now, the hotel provides Wi-Fi as a service for free to guests, so I wasn’t going to complain about it.

But I realized bandwidth wasn’t what I used to think it was. First off when you are traveling for business and have to do work in your hotel room, the extra expense of premium hotel network connections is justifiable. I need bandwidth to do my work. When it is you on vacation, the need and value of the bandwidth goes down.

All of this got me thinking. I realize in looking at my old post on bandwidth that the problem is still there. It is in fact still real. There is a finite amount of bandwidth available. Many analysts project two, three, and some even predict five times the number of connecting devices in less than four years. All of this building on an existing infrastructure.

IMGP0006How many new devices did you get this year that consumes bandwidth? From just presents, I got this year, not a single one consumed bandwidth. But at my age, I tend to buy the things I want and need so there were a couple of things I got in the past month and a ½ that actually consume bandwidth. Not just a little bit.

Every single connected device of the reality of IoT consumes bandwidth. I listen as companies advertise the FASTEST IN HOME WI-FI. Those commercials do two things. The first is they make me cringe. Cringe because they are advertising in-home. That means by the way, that from your device to their router it is the fastest interest connection. Who cares? No one should!!!!! Why? You don’t want to get to their router. You want to touch the routers beyond their routers. You want to consume Amazon instant Video, or Netflix and Hulu services. Those are not at your router. They live at the end of other router connections. So the fastest in-home Wi-Fi is advertising. Misleading, and a ½ truth. You don’t often need to access things connected directly to your router.

The other thing they often advertise is the reality of speed tests. No matter how much you can download (which would be those beyond your router) is the reality of uploads. The more upload capacity you have the greater your ability to have IoT devices. As you sit on a Friday and enjoy Netflix or Hulu (or Amazon Instant Video, sure iTunes and so on) you decide to go out for dinner. The first thing you want to know is what the local weather is. So you connect with your home weather station that is sharing information and see what the current temperature is.

To share that weather data with the world, you are using upload bandwidth. In fact, every single IoT device is uploading beyond your router. So Fastest INHOME WI-FI is useless if you can’t continue fast beyond your router.

WAN connect 1182017That is the half-truth of advertising by Cable and telephone companies providing in-home Internet service.

Is there enough bandwidth in most people’s homes? If your connection is less than 10 meg uploads than likely you have a problem. There is nothing like Champaign taste on a water budget. If you are sitting with 200 Mbps download speed and 5 Mbps upload you are living on a water budget, even if that combination costs you Champaign money!

The image to the left is our actual network speeds, but in fairness measured in the very early am.

images today courtesy of Dr. Hans O Andersen (digital collection)

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Bandwidth fanatic

On predictions of the future and what I think is coming…

IMGP0089For those of us who geek out on new and cutting edge technology, I call this post-CES period the absorption period. That time when the new tech (CES) explodes into the universe and those of us that look at it, evaluate it and begin to see does it fit? Does this new idea actually create, augment or burst into a market?

The hit rate for futurists is low. Really low in fact. Why? Because the future is an ever-changing reality. What is now, isn’t tomorrow. Watching the trends, you are pretty safe in some channels and really highly at risk in others. Usually the ones that you end up being most wrong about are when you wander into the area well covered by analysts that are paid by companies to see a future bright with a specific company’s products and solutions.

In the world of 3d printers, for example, they are still just a little too hard for the average consumer. Not impossible, but with a learning curve. That forces many people to consider them too hard. Other’s consider that the cost of staying current. But that means that 3d printers are still at the edge of the larger market rather than bursting into the everyone has to have one.

People always point to Steve Jobs on stage with the Apple iPhone and call that 2007 event the birth of the smartphone. It wasn’t. It’s time we pull the wrapped off reality. The smart existed many years before apple created the iPhone. What Apple did that was a game changer was too fold. They took the existing market, that had been cheaper hardware and expensive software and flipped it. Completely. Destroyed the old market and make the old players change to Apple’s game. Expensive hardware and cheap software, and by cheap, I mean 99 cents. Which really was pulling the Amazon/Walmart model into the technology space. You can sell a few with high margins and make a profit. Or sell millions with low margins and still make profits!

IMGP0090The moment that pundits call the revolution should instead be the moment that Apple went out to small developers and opened the door to the new iTunes. Google did the same thing with the play store, after Apple but those two stores changed everything!

All of this a revolution.

What then, as a futurist do I see as the next revolution? I think if you had asked me two years ago, I would have said 3d printers. I still see that as a market changer yet. What I see right now as a game changer is the world of drones. But not for the someone is going to deliver goods to your home via a drone. Not for delivery of a taco from Bob’s Taco truck and hunting shop. No, rather drones as an extension of what people do. Drones for joggers, to increase personal safety. Hard to kidnap a jogger if their drone is out of reach and there, sharing pictures of the jogger. If you shoot the drone out of the sky it would then report the issue, as well. Jogger safety is a great future use of drones. Same for kid safety. Drones walk the kids to school, parents see them the whole way and the drone returns to charge going back to walk them home from school at the end of the day.

IMGP0092The other thing I see coming, just over the edge of the horizon. Is a true information age? Not the presence of information. Not the many systems needed that both produce and evaluate information but the integration across all these disparate systems to create the concepts of Information merchants (people that sell information that is validated) and information brokers (organizations that offer access to verified information merchants in a specific field or specialty).

If you asked me in 2006 did I see the iPhone changing the world I would have laughed at you? If you asked me in 2007 I still would have laughed. If you asked me in 2010 I would have said yes. Sometimes trends take a while to percolate. Sometimes, we don’t want to see things because it is painful. The birth of the information age is such a thing. Everyone has rushed us into an age that we just aren’t ready for.

Images today from the digital collection of Dr. Hans O Andersen.

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Futurist

Why canon printers and more details on doing a family history project…

bag006I got a great question yesterday, one I wasn’t expecting. Why, the person asked me, did you switch from HP printers to Canon printers. Well the easy answer to that is capabilities. While the HP printers I had for many years were solid and good, they didn’t really function the way I needed them to function. We have two printers/scanner combinations in the house. One is a B&W laser with scanning and the other is a color laser/scanner. Why two? Because there is a person in our house that prints 1,000 sheets of paper or so per month. She has her own higher capacity printer.

The other reality is that of being able to print from any device anywhere in the house. Frankly the Canon’s do a great job of that. That meant the HP printers were no more! After years of only having HP printers it was an interesting transition. Easier, by the way than I would have expected. Color lasers are very nice when it comes to everyday printing, but they are more expensive. The toner for a color laser runs you 500 or so dollars per roughly 10,000 sheets give or take a few. It is not a bargain to enter lightly!

The other side of printing is scanning. I will say having completed the Family History project over a year ago, now, that having the right scanner makes all the difference. There are many scanners on the market that advertise a variety of features and capabilities. You need two things when you are scanning slides and pictures. Really good software, and a stable base for the scanner. The software part is critical. You don’t need fancy software that does OCR and other fancy text functions. You do need software that is aware of what you are doing though.

bag002We went with the Epson Protection pro v750 scanner. It is a flatbed scanner that includes good software. It is USB connected and has a power brick so it doesn’t run off the USB power. That allows you the flexibility of running the scanner not relying on the USB power. The Epson software is easy to use, and frankly over some of the other scanners we tried early on in the process doesn’t have brain dead errors.

A brain-dead error is one that tells you nothing. You cannot scan. Why? I can’t see the scanner. I can’t see the image on the scanner and so on. Those types of errors are good in that it tells you what is going on but useless when it comes to troubleshooting. What are you troubleshooting. I can’t see the scanner 0 is it powered off, bad cable and so on. An intelligent message is the USB cable isn’t plugged in properly. Take it out and reseat both ends. Or, the scanner is powered on but in the sleep state. Power it off, power it back on and try again.

Finally, the last part of the scanner reality is ease of use. We have two other scanners in the house. The two canons are very good (multi-function laser printers) but the scanners aren’t as good in terms of what we were trying to do with the family history project. Our goal was to scan the 30,000 slides left behind by my father and my grandfather Andersen. The Epson was not like some of the slide projectors we tried (that would do 50 to 100 slides at a time). But it did a better job overall on the images and converting slides to digital images.

bag007The last part of the process was sorting, some of the software was pretty easy. We scanned albums together, so all pictures in an album were kept together. Some of the slide trays had names so we scanned them into folders. Thailand 1972 was an easy tray to scan. Some of the trays didn’t have labels so it was a little harder to figure out what to do with those slides.

My grandfather Johnston’s videos were the last thing to be converted. He shot film on a Kodak 16mm projector. Converting those was done by a 3rd party because, well nobody on our team really knew how to safely play and convert those videos at a high enough fidelity. So, we sent them off to be processed!

Overall the tech used for the project was successful. The most important thing as you start your family history project is backup!!!!

The last piece of our technology puzzle was a connection to Carbonite for computer backup. Plus, I made 4 local copies of all the pictures. That backup has been a life saver twice now (two hard drives lost to power surges).

Good luck!

Images today courtesy of Henry O. Andersen.

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Family historian and family techno geek!

Wandering through technology reviews…

bag002How do you know when it is too early for tech? That was the question sent to me many years ago, when I first started doing reviews. I reviewed, and still do, some things that while they were interesting never really took off. The person was asking how I dealt with that.

Reality is I look for technology that solves problems. The problems I am, or am not solving using Tech are specific to me. Not that others don’t have the problem but my perception and how I deal with it, is wholly me.

My reviews then are based on how I use the many different devices and gadgets I carry and review. Initially for example, when flying to Europe you were off-line for most of the flight. You had to have movies that were on the device. I carried Archos media players. Over time I moved away from them and moved first to the Zune devices and then the iPods. Now, I am beyond those and simply keep everything on my iPhone or iPad. If it is a book that I refer to often I load it on my Kindle. But the total sum of devices I carry is reducing.

bag007I used to be a huge Delorme device fan. I have to say they have the worst customer service ever and I may write about my experiences with that group eventually. But I had a couple of Delorme Devices until this spring. A hand-held GPS (PN60) and their Satellite communication system (in-reach). I got rid of my last Delorme devices and don’t use them anymore. Gotenna, or Beartooth will rapidly replace the in-reach systems. Why? Because you can use it with your cellular device. Plus, you don’t have to deal with the worst customer service organization ever. I cancelled my service after 4 years and they wanted to charge me to the end of the year. I had to point out twice that in fact I had no-contract and had not had a contract for more than a year. They couldn’t charge me for the year, but they continued to try and threaten over and over.

In the past I was also a huge hand held weather device fan. Kestler makes the best, I still love the devices but the value I get from the device is no longer relevant to me. I can with my iPhone get the same information and carry fewer devices. I can measure wind with a Valuud system right on my device getting both wind speed and direction. I can measure temperature, humidity and barometric measurement right on the phone. So why carry the Kestler? Just another device that needs batteries and well you have to carry more batteries! The two weather stations I rely on for home use are the Bloomsky and the NetATMO systems. I have a Davis computer attached weather station as well but don’t really use that one as much as I did three or four years ago,

I do my reviews based on what is of value to me. My reviews are focused on the what and how of my using the device. I had a CubeX 3d printer for the past two years. During that time, I cursed 3d printers. I hated the software and the printer. Now I have the Dreamer from Flashforge and 3d printing is truly simple and easy. I love being able to just download and print. From dragons to Labradors, 3d printing is easy now! The evolution of my thinking was more from the perspective of being a hobbyist and early adopter to being someone that actually used the 3d printer all the time for things I needed. That subtle shift made the hobbyist printer useless to me.

Printers are another area of change. I used to have many more printers than I do now, although we do still have a number of specialty printers. I do have one that prints electrical circuits (Agic) and one that prints photos (Canon) as well as a couple different ones that print the Zink style. The two that print Zink are ones I backed for different reasons on crowdfunding so I don’t count them. I am down truly to one portable printer on the boat and tow canon network printers for the house. I have a plotter but that is only for me to use and isn’t shared.

bag028I moved from HP printers to canon printers for two reasons. The first was ease of set-up. The canon printers are just easier to set-up and use. The second is the ability of the canon printers to support iPhone and Android device native printing without jumping through hoops. I got rid of my last HP printer a little over a year ago, and after 14 years of HP only, I don’t miss the HP printers anymore.

Anyway, review are what they are. Mine are focused on how I use the gadgets and technologies I review. I also review customer service. Based on that here is my current bad list of customer service to end my blog today.

· Delorme In-Reach horrible customer service

· Vonage Horrible customer service

· Best Buy Without a doubt the worst

Images today courtesy of Henry O Andersen

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Technology wanderer