Just another shameless IoT review Bloomsky weather!

IMG_0157In the best sense of customer service, I have to acknowledge that I am a massive weather geek. Probably well beyond what would be considered normal for weather aficionado. Well into the geeky overkill range.

That said, a new weather station has appeared. I have XM weather for my car. It is great and I love getting weather warnings on the information screen of my car. But this new weather station is different and frankly amazing.

It is just another shameless review, Bloomsky! When I read the original Kickstarter campaign for Bloomsky I was interested. A weather station that had solar power (I still have to from time to change the batteries in one of my weather stations. It tells me the batteries are low, but I still physically have to change them so solar is nice). But let’s also not just have a weather station. Let’s add a time lapse camera to the system.

Temperature – check. Barometric pressure – check. View of the sky during the daylight hours – check. So, as you see from the images I was playing with the camera position (still not done) yesterday. I took a few pictures including one of the predawn sky this morning (the last day of November 2016).

First off weather stations are as much about location and use as any IoT device. In the case of weather stations the win or lose is the software. I love my Davis Weather station but the software is at best hard to use and configure. NetATMO is awesome (still have to change the batteries) but the software is amazing.

IMG_0158When I backed Bloomsky I figured it would be in the middle. Decent hardware and decent software. I can honestly say I was doubly wrong. The hardware is awesome, well designed and very flexible. I mounted it off the back deck of my house. Partially because I wanted to verify the readings against the other two weather stations. Partially because I am lazy and that was the easiest location to mount it.

Hardware – amazing – even easier to set-up the hardware for the Bloomsky than my previous favorite in the easy set-up space NetATMO. The Davis was the hardest to set-up but provides you with the most information. NetATMO was the next hardest to set-up and has a number of standalone sensors. Bloomsky has the easiest set-up and also the most interesting software. Plus, you get pictures taken of the sky throughout the day.

(the distortion is from rain drops – really cool effect)!

I am sharing those pictures with you, they come from the backyard of my house. Actually, from the corner of the deck off the upper level of the hosue. I am really impressed with the software. I love being able to send pictures of right now, to myself. Yesterday was the first day in IMG_0159November this year when it actually measurably rained so that was interesting to see. I can’t wait to see the time lapse photos of an entire day. I have the unit pointing in the direction of the sunrise and sunset. Although sunset will be behind our house so it won’t be quite as cool.

Overall this is a great first, second or third weather station. It adds the ability to have time lapse day time sky photos. It includes a solar power cell so you don’t have to change the batteries. It shuts its camera down at night to concessive power. I have a telescope with a camera attachment for night time pictures anyway!

Oh yeah, and the unit looks cool. It is fun playing with Camera angles and seeing what you see!

.doc

I am a weather geek

The long saga of my home office mess…

my officeOver the years my office has been more messy than clean. It is not that I don’t want a clean office, it’s that I don’t often have the time. Or worse I get a new gadget and keep the old one, with double cables in the same physical space it is harder to keep things clean. Lately, because in our hosue my office is in the basement, I have been spreading further and further into the basement. I put the ping pong cover on the pool table, and have now filled that with various project materials. I have filled the utility room with other project materials.

(the picture is of the back half of my office).

It is a process of splurging as my wife calls it. The expanding technology beyond the walls of my home office. Not, by the way that my home office isn’t also a mess. The advantage of VR/AR using Hololens and Oculus, is the office I see isn’t the office I have. The one in my Virtual World is clean. Spotless in fact. Virtual papers are stored. So, are actual papers in my office. When I don’t need paper work anymore I shred it. Shredded paper is an awesome fire starter!

devices_788539The reality of the problem isn’t paper. Its cables. I have a number of cables running around my office. From various devices that do best on an Ethernet connection to the many things I keep because they remind me of something or someone. In the corner of my office I have a desk my wife bought me many years ago, it is a corner computer desk and I love it. Next to that desk is the desk my father gave me in Cincinnati Ohio. Dad didn’t live in Cincinnati, I did. But the desk he gave me all those years ago, was the desk he taught me to read at. A principles desk in fact. I love the desk. It is in awesome shape still even though it has moved from Bloomington Indiana to Kirksville Indiana. From Kirksville to Cincinnati Ohio (Western Hills) Western Hills Ohio to Mt. Airy Ohio. Mt. Airy Ohio to Greenwood. Greenwood to Gaithersburg and its current last move from Gaithersburg to Germantown. It is a well-traveled desk full of memories.

On the walls are a variety of things given to me, and decorations. The problem with the office I think today is the reality of a long career, lots of stuff and really no place to store all of it. I slowly expand out into the rest of the basement. I am not allowed to have my stuff upstairs where other people could actually see it. So, I fill the basement. On occasion, I emerge from the basement with an object created on the 3d printer, the object is allowed to stay upstairs. I am not.

Over the years, I have tried various methods for keeping my office clean. What I end up with is neat storage bins, crammed full of miscellaneous things. You never know when you will be a USB to Serial port adapter again. Even though serial ports have gone the way of dinosaurs. Slow and not really relevant in the modern computer. I do still have a floppy disk, but that is more to demonstrate the capabilities rather than to actually use it.

I have made a decision three years ago, that I would digitize all the analog data sources I have such as pictures, video and film. I am converting all of them into digital media files and getting rid of the analog source (except for my grandfather’s film, that I am keeping).

We have converted all of my father’s slides and all of the family pictures to digital. I can on a 250-gig drive carry all my family’s pictures with me. Plus, with cloud storage, I now have the pictures in 4 places instead of one. That reduces the risk of fire and other damage. It increases the risk of someone stealing the pictures, but I am a horrible photographer so if someone steals all my pictures I would laugh. They would be sorely disappointed wandering through the 120,000 plus pictures looking for gold and finding the stuff left after the farmer cleans out the chaff. Not much data there, not much information there except for the occasion blurry whiteboard image of something drawn for a customer that ultimately without the context of the meeting is useless. I don’t save whiteboards like that anymore so they are also well out of date.

The path to a clean office lies in the digital world. I hope. Otherwise I am never going to get my office clean.

.doc

Living in a virtual world, because its clean!

So I read this horrible study today…

Image result for iphone vs androidI read a study today that ticked me off. I’ve seen studies like this one before and they annoy me but this one was wrong day, wrong time. The reality of smart phones and their users. A recent study released in the U.K. talks about the difference between iPhone and Android users. The bias of the study was pretty evident and the missing pieces in the study were wide enough to drive a truck through. Smart phone users should be classified first, then from there evaluate the impact of the device on the person.

The first type of smart phone user is the evolutionary smart phone user. They started with the Pocket PC phones of the 2000’s and either moved to Windows Phones, or left the devices and went to either Android or iPhone (or both). This user may have two distinct characteristics that changes how they operate and include a smart phone in their lives. They may be the cutting-edge person, the technologist who loves technology for technologies sake. Or they may be an innovator who sees value in the new platform. Either way their evaluation and use of smart phones is very different.

Next you have the person who didn’t use a smart phone until 2008. They jumped on the iPhone or Android platform with its release. They are interested in applications and didn’t experience the high cost of software on the Pocket PC platform, they are used to 99 cent applications. They use their smart phone as a personal extension taking lots of pictures and sharing on social media. They are neither young or old (I know people in both categories that are well in this category of user).

Finally, you have the platform lovers. Their bias is for the platform. You know them (I’ve been one since switching off the windows phone platform to the android platform first (and then realizing what a pain it was moving to the iPhone). I know the windows phone platform is dying. I am not a huge android fan but I do have an android tablet. I use it frequently because it has a couple of applications that I find really cool. But for the most part I am an iPhone user.

There is no easy classification for smart phone users. Mostly because the way people consider and use phones is vastly different. My favorite line was my mother at dinner with my family while visiting us asked a question. Everyone at the table grabbed their phones to get her the answer. That is the modern smart phone world. The relevance of platforms today is that there are two. As a cutting-edge technologist, I can honestly say that I can do the same things with Android devices that I can with iOS devices. I cannot do as many of the things with the Windows Phone platform devices, but that is because that is a dying platform.

Image result for iphone vs androidThe difference between the devices? Frankly it comes down to what you need from a phone. Android devices (I had one for nearly a year as my only phone) are excellent quality and deliver great service. The recent battery issues could happen to any smart phone. The more battery (and everyone wants longer battery life in their smart phone) you have the greater the risk can be. There are design things that can be done that will alleviate some of the risk but for the most part batteries get warm. Some of the devices have really high end cameras (although they are not the optimal camera form so using them as your only camera is well, not the best idea). Some of them have amazing audio that is awesome. The end game is they are smart phones.

I interact with the world via my smart device. But I view the world through the lens I’ve created over the years. My smart phone is an extension of who and what I do. It is not me. My choice of smart phone is more focused on what I need the device for. For nearly 10 years I was on the cutting edge of phone technology pushing the edges of capabilities. Seeking more than was there often and pushing the hardware to its limits. Now, I want to be able to sit back and rely on my phone. It is a tool I use frequently but I no longer push the edge. I add devices that push the edge, but I can upon their failure remove them from my device and be back to fully operating.

The post that offended me talked about and labeled phone users in a way that I found demeaning and at best erroneous. The bias of the observer modifying not only the observation but also the decision and actions that were produced. It bothered me, this study that was released. I don’t really care either way in the end. It just makes me frustrated that people spend time building a case based on bias. Without a proper classification system, the phone user is not representative of more than one person. So, building and extrapolating beyond that is simply wrong.

I guess it bugged me more than I realized.

.doc

Reformed Windows Phone user…

With great power comes even greater responsibility…

So, I wandered around a number of types of connections yesterday that you can have. Each of them with risks and rewards. Knowing what your blood pressure is, well that is important. Knowing your blood sugar, if that is something you are working on, important. In fact, there are a growing number of devices you can connect to your phone or tablet. Devices that give you information specific to whatever you are seeking information about. In my case I love to get weather data. Living near a large city, I know that the temperature in DC is normally 5-7 degrees more than it is in the ‘burbs. So, it is important to know in the winter if the 35 in DC proper, is closer to 29 in the ‘burbs. Because at 28 water is frozen and slick, at 35 is can be partially frozen but can also not be frozen at all. Temperature and location are really important.

That said, there are many other devices beyond weather and health you can connect to your phone or tablet. PPD’s lie within this realm. Personal presence devices allow you to be in two places at the same time. There are the Zinc based photo printers you can connect. Some of them are portable (and battery operated) some have cool software that lets you print a sticker or picture using high quality printing (photo quality in fact). You can connect storage cards to your phone or tablet by using an external device. You can make your phone into the perfect weather station (handheld) by adding a wind meter, a UV meter and a barometric reading. You can connect a breath-o-lyzer to your phone in case your friends drink too much. You can connect an infrared camera to your phone to see if your hosue is leaking heat during the winter and letting heat in during the summer.

There was a time, many years ago, when a friend of mine called me the Pocket PC add on King. I had all sorts of sleeves for my Compaq pocket pc. Including an air card, so I could read email on my PPC device. I had a GPS sleeve and tons of storage cards that slid onto my device. I loved the PPC device and carried it with me everywhere. It was my portable Satellite radio, my GPS and my entertainment system. I had the sling media player plugged in at home so I could watch TV anywhere. The funniest thing is that I had a bag devoted to my PPC stuff. Now, I can carry the same things I had then. Plus, ten to 12 other connections (Wind, UV, Barometer) more storage than I ever had back in the PPC days (400 gig available on the device with add on – a 1 terabyte drive for documents available as well). The world is vastly different. I don’t have a bag this, anymore. It actually all fits into my pocket and part of one pocket in my computer bag. What once was a bag I carried that was full of the things I needed was replaced by a single device and a few new add-ons that I didn’t have in the old days.

I used to carry my phone on my belt. Now it is in my pocket. In part because belt carried phones are no longer what the cool kids do. But mostly because it is easier to just carry my phone in my pocket. I don’t have all the add-ons and additional junk I used to carry.

The one thing that is still the same is me seeking more and more functionality via add on. As more is integrated into the phone natively or the tablet by default, I am always on the lookout for the next new thing. Adding on one more bit of data that is relevant to me, now. The integration of functionality has continued to expand. What was hard before is easy now. The bigger question now is the safety of the data on your device. By safely I am referring to the two-fold safety. The first is someone hacking your device and getting at the information you have there. The second is the reality of backups. Do your backup your phone and tablet today? If you haven’t in a while, take a couple of minutes now and backup your device. Sometimes, backups are the difference between destroyed device, back up and running in minutes. Or destroyed device, never quite sure if you got everything back from your device and all those lost pictures forever gone.

Mobile device security is a scary game. I have listened to a number of mobile security people and frankly it is 90% scare tactics. The reality of hackers is if your device is one they understand how to crack, you should be careful. Since most devices are fairly easily cracked, everyone should be careful. A phone contains your entire world. Losing a phone or tablet in the modern age is bad.

PS, tile is a great system (or Gecko) that allows you to find and or track your phone if you have mislaid it. The reality of the Tile or Gecko system is some peace of mind. If, however, you are out walking and you realize you’ve lost your phone those devices don’t help. That is when the best thing to do is have a written copy of your IMEI in your wallet or purse and SHUT YOUR PHONE OFF at your carrier. Then only what is on your phone is at risk for theft. Someday the US Government will force companies to permanently shut off an IMEI when it is stolen or lost. But for now, call your provider and get it shut off. Peace of mind is worth carrying a piece of paper in your wallet or purse.

.doc

One device away from happiness…

The connection ah that is the rub…

Image result for connected devicesTo connect or not to connect, that is the question. Tis nobler to write down all the many things you need to remember rather than allowing a device to stand between you and your humanity. I shall not write notes in that good night. I shall rage against the machine and in finding another way seek some sort of retribution.

Yon Hamlet, alone upon the parapets of the castle dark, speaking with the ghost of a person no longer there. Is he mad? Or does he lack information? Lack foresight and working knowledge of the art of the possible? Did hamlet, in speaking with his father now dead, leave his smart phone at home?

No smart phone or digital camera, Hamlet unable to prove his father, returned from the grave had spoken to him, had charged him with vengeance. You see, as I have been told, it isn’t real if it isn’t on Facebook. But now, in the times past and now long since Hamlet himself dead, suddenly we are assailed by the reality of dishonesty on Facebook.

I do not come here now to connect with Caesar or Hamlet. Instead with a Blood Pressure cuff. Yea verify that is my dream connection. To know that my blood, not currently pressured, rests happily within me.

Enough Shakespeare. Enough timeless Bard stuff. Connections are interesting. Both from the what are you connected to, but also from the information you get from the connected device. I can today, connect a thermometer. Tracking over time the changes in temperatures (which if you are trying for a baby is really critical information) or if you already have a baby and want to see what their temperature is. Blood pressure, weather, and blood sugar are all things you can connect to your phone or tablet and find out what is what.

Connection is the basis by which the information age will move from potential to reality. Yes, I am stuck on this concept that the information age doesn’t exist until information is easily advisable for everyone. There is far too much information still in the heads and hard drives of people to be in the information age. The ability to easily get to the data requires a connection system and frankly that isn’t available today. The final death throes of the expert culture are beginning. The question is how long will that culture thrash around (and how many bystanders will be injured by the dying throes).

Image result for connected devicesNow there are rules for data. HIPAA applies to my thermometer, Blood pressure cuff and my blood sugar monitor. That data cannot exist without my approval. IT cannot be shared and of course it is of risk to me if it becomes public. My day after Thanksgiving blood sugar was 101. Not where I wanted it to be, not as bad as it was 4 years ago, the information I gather (and I shared one day out of 365 days of taking my blood sugar not relevant). My doctor cares more about the A1C (the running three-month average of my blood sugar) but that doesn’t come from combining my 1 day at a time readings into 90 and then averaging. That comes from a full blood draw.

The ability for medical professionals to have more engagement in what is happening in your life is a good thing. The reality of connection overall is good. Car phones are safer than phones held to your ears while you are driving. Having information available for your doctor can help you over time improve both your health but also make life a little easier. Knowing who is at your door because of a connected doorbell is amazing. It reduces the risk of package theft considerably. Some people don’t care if their picture is on the news at 6, because they brazenly walked up to a video monitored front porch and stole a package. But many people do care about that.

The future of connection is the reality of the dawn of the information age. When we get there, we will know. Why? Because information will be securely at our fingertips and we will not have to go beg information from an expert.

To connect or not to connect that is the question.

Home, car and other security cameras…

Over the past few years the world of video surveillance has changed. You can now get a video doorbell that rings on your cellular device to let you know someone is at your door. You can connect to your doorbell and see who is there. Someone stealing packages from your front door? Get a video doorbell and you will have pictures of the person.

You can also quickly build a home video security system. The question I was thinking about yesterday was the reality of that surveillance. Do you have coverage for all your doors? Do you have indoor and outdoor coverage for the doors or just one or the other?

95% of the time people avoid our house (we have big dogs) but on occasion I do see people wandering up to our hosue. I clearly see them, and then they clearly see the cameras and walk away from the house. I wonder how many people casing houses for future burglaries have walked away because of the cameras?

I am constantly trying to improve the security of my home, cars and boat. Not because I fear someone rather because it offers peace of mind. Your quality of life is improved if you can, on heading out to dinner, check on your home remotely. Look into the video feed and see what is going on. Often. Because I am curious as to what our crazy dogs are doing. They run around the house like crazy people when we are gone. They aren’t people, but they are crazy.

Since adding the video cameras in the house, I have gotten to see a lot of crazy things that the dogs do when we are not there, plus a few people walking up to the house hearing the dogs and seeing the cameras and walking away. Like I said, most folks are worried when they hear dogs. If they aren’t where they are supposed to be, they get a little more worried.

Peace of mind is a funny thing. First off, that we worry about it. Second that we strive for peace of mind. I had a car accident about two years ago, that was a he said, he said situation. The other driver claimed that the accident was my fault. It wasn’t and the physics of the accident don’t actually support the argument she had, but the insurance company didn’t have a choice. It ended up being I paid for my car and she paid for her car. It bothered me. So now I have a camera in the car. I will never again be in a situation where I have to worry about that type of scenario again. I am curious as to how many people are heading down that path.

Or, is this an example of me going a bit too far because I am a geek. The injustice of dishonesty really bothers me sometimes. Look everyone tells untruths. It is part of life. But there are situations where you have to be honest. If you are not honest, then the situation is made worse. I can understand in a bad financial place not wanting responsibility for two deductibles. But you still have to be honest. I would have happily paid for my car. It wouldn’t have bothered me, other than the lying that resulted in me having to pay for my car.

So how many people have video cameras in their cars now?

.doc

wondering if it is just me…

Cool Tech projects that are on Indiegogo and Kickstarter now!

Why not give the geek you care about, a card with an Indiegogo or Kickstarter contribution in their name, so when the product ships they get a gift twice? Once in a card from you and once in the mail or delivery service when the actual item arrives. Literally the gift that just keeps on giving!

My top technology projects from Indiegogo and Kickstarter for today, Thanksgiving Day 2016. First off Kickstarter and IndieGoGo are not stores. Anything you back can still fail and not deliver. That said today I will share some projects that I am interested in and of course, backing.

IndiegogoIndiegogo

The first is Orbi. Orbi is a 360-degree set of glasses. They are in prototype stage (they have a working version of their technology) today. The glasses are designed to take video of what you see and what you see in video. 90 minutes of recording time gives you a chance to see a lot. I’ve backed projects like this one in the past, but this is the first that has all the functionality and features of ORBI. If you are interested the link is embedded above.

The second for Indiegogo (and last) for today is Bixpy. I backed their original project on Kickstarter that just didn’t quite get funded. This one is now officially funded and ready to roll. There are only five days left so this is a really exciting time to hop on the Bixpy train! Bixpy is an underwater propulsion device for people to use either with Kayaks, canoes, surfboards or other small water craft, or as a personal water propulsion system. Imagine swimming nearly as fast as an Olympic swimmer for 30 minutes! You can cover a lot of distance in the water!

Kickstarter with prideKickstarter

To start off this morning we have Aquadrone. There have been a couple of projects like this, multi-purpose modular drones. This one allows you to have sonar, to find fish, or to take your fishing line into hard to cast to places (which for me is virtually anywhere) or you can send the done out and take pictures. Why is this one special? It has a waterproof camera and the drone is also waterproof so you can land on the water and takes pictures using the camera, underwater. So, you have a Trimodal drone that is modular. Exciting!

My last project for today is Odin2. I backed the original projector and it is amazing. What you get is a projector that is also a standalone computer. With embedded android, the Odin2 will allow you to connect your tablet, computer or operate on its own. You can load Hulu, Netflix or many other applications (Dish Anywhere) so you can use the device as a portable television. Or as a small (it is very compact and easily fits in your computer bag) projector. I have been using the original Odin for the past 7 or so months and it is extremely useful!

Notes all projects are projects I back. Not ones that I donated to, but ones that I am personally backing. Not all projects come to fruition and sometimes projects fail. The dream of crowdfunding is helping innovators find a new path and direction. When they fail, don’t yell at them. Instead remember that they tried to deliver the dream.

On that note, off to the races.

.doc

Crowd funder