Just a few gadgets for Christmas… (not ones that exist one’s I wish existed)

1All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth and a few other things, but the two front teeth are a good start. For the most part the rest of my list is gadgets. Oh yeah, and I need a new pair of walking shoes, I’ve managed to wear the bottom of my current ones nearly to the point of them not being shoes, just tops for my feet, with the bottoms on the road.

I do need family and stuff like that there, also, but gadget wise there are a couple I have had my eye on for a while now. One of them, a rod holder that fits on our new boat is one I’ve already ordered. The other things I really need are, well already there. But you know, you can always use a few new gadgets. One of the things I really need is induction cookware, in particular since we have most of what we need I need an Ebel Skiver pan that works on the induction cooktop. I don’t know if our current one will I Indeed to test it out. (Ebel is Danish for Apple, Skiver is a pancake. I have had these on Christmas morning my whole life).


A device that reduced the number of devices I carry would be nice. For example, when boating you need to be able to quickly range the boat that is coming towards you at an angle. This is also very helpful when you are driving but you can’t really put binoculars to your face while you are in the car, you can in a boat. Ranging binoculars that contains other devices would be useful. Plus, a pair of ranging binoculars that connected to your cellular device (as a video capture device) would also be cool. Why not add a senior for temperature, wind speed and a barometer to the glasses? You have to carry them anyway why not make them multi-functional.

Devices that connect to your car are available now, adding to what they know about your car is an intriguing reality. I personally use the Automatic tools for our cars. Although I did recently get the Navdy package, I haven’t had time to set it up in one of our cars to see. The advantage Navdy has is the heads up display of information on your cellular device. I will probably put it into my car and play with it for a bit. I am curious as to how good the heads-up display is.

3A device that integrates a good standalone camera with the capabilities of a 360-degree camera would also be interesting. There are panorama devices available now (they actually move taking pictures in a full circle) that make your existing one directional camera able to see more. But the value of a 360-degree camera as I mentioned yesterday is the cool software.

Personal health information is also expanding in both what you can measure and what your device can track. From Blood sugar in the morning to blood pressure at night. Or vice versa, and there are many more that you can track and measure. ECG is another thing you can measure and share with your device (and by the way your doctor) as more and more health devices connect the world will be smaller and smaller.

I guess that is the real impact of technology on the world. Making the world a smaller and smaller place and capturing more and more data!


Gadget wanderer…

Wandering around the edges of 360 degree camera tech…

3As I think about my posts over the past month or so I realized I am lacking a central or consistent theme for my posts in December 2016. In part because I am between books, normally I write components of my books on my blog and then edit it, and publish it with tons of additional content. That way there is a separation between blog and books. The books, being more than simply restating the blogs.

The first image of is of Camorama device.

That said I haven’t had a unifying theme. I’ve talked a lot about weather gadgets and boating tech but no theme there. Well a minor theme but more one I have hummed for years. The reality of technology and its impact on me. I ride the wave of change often in the technology world. Not because I am someone that lacks the ability to concentrate on one thing. I do and can do so. It is more that I see things emerging that are interesting to me and so I experiment with and write about the future of what is out there.

Today’s theme less blog is not now themed the lack of theme’s in Scott’s technical blog over the past month or so. Today I wanted to talk a little bit about 360 degree cameras. I’ve played with several of the shipping/available cameras and some of their functionality is amazing. The reality of a 360-degree camera or a 180 that can be routed is that they have to have multiple lens. That means you also have to have software that does the overall stitching. The layout of the lenses has to overlap so to create a seamless 360-degree image it is important that you have software that can define the edges for each camera.

They are novelty cameras today, except in the larger arena where some of the newer, bigger 360 degree cameras are used for VR and realty image creation. The virtual walk trough’s (with enough detail to not look like a 4-year-old with a cell phone made them) of a house or building location require a considerable amount of camera power. There are professional 360 cameras out that cover that area but they run between 20 and 25 thousand dollars. I am focused more on consumer level devices that are 499 and less retail.

First off, there remains as I have talked about many times, a value to having a standalone camera. When you get into the specialty area of photography the need for the stand alone increases radically. This is an area where you really need stand alone and not an add on to your phone. It is really disconcerting to have a jumpy 360 video.

2Secondly, they are awkward as hand held. Notice all three, one is an action came so it is a little easier to hold and smaller, but the other two are made for tripod use. I am a fan of all three, they cover all sides of interesting video and stills.

The second image is of the Bubl camera.

Bubl is the first unit (circular) I backed on KS/IG and the first I’ve used. Giroptic is the second. The cool thing about both is their software – both packages are incredible and easy to use. Giroptic was also a fun project because they included a Selfie stick with the device as part of the Kickstarter funding rewards. The selfie stick actually works with all three cameras I’ve gotten so far.

The last camera is Camorama that recently was launched and funded on Indiegogo. It is also interesting and the software is quite good. I’ve only played with this one for about an hour or so. There are others in the space as well, a couple more that I have used as well, but I find these three so far to be the very best examples of the art of the possible.

It is not about cramming features into camera’s and making them more market friendly. It is about providing functionality that a cell phone camera just cannot offer. That makes 360 a great space for standalone cameras. So, if you are in the market you can’t go wrong with any of the three listed.


gadget fan

The Rise of Cloud Brokers….

cloud brokerI had a discussion yesterday with someone that I wonder about. It was one of those discussions that afterwards you wonder, what exactly started the conversation. We ended up talking about the concept of cloud brokers. Yes, I know that is not a topic of conversation that most, if in fact any people bring up or have. Even at the geekiest holiday parties. The conversation was around technology and what is coming, I postulated as I have been for the past several years that brokers will rise. In fact, for the most part they have, but the overall concept left now is the automation.

The person in question does not see the value in brokers. I understand that, although I don’t understand the market logic of denying brokers. I think there are many organizations that will benefit from broker technologies. In fact, I think personally that my concept of the City Broker remains a variable way to solve the initial implementation problem. I also see value in a US Federal Cabinet level agency have its own broker to build and deploy solutions.

Most people today look to the market as it has been for the past 10 years. It is evolving and as is often the case those who spend to long standing at the edge of the cliff looking at the sunset are the ones that get left there when the tour bus packs up and drives away. For a variety of reasons brokers are coming. The what and who of that eventual automation is the question.

EvolutionI believe it is critical that cloud brokers be of two distinct natures. The first is the inward facing broker, not that it only has internal services. Rather than for large companies or US cabinet level agencies the broker is run within the organization, both owned and managed by that group. The second broker is a broader municipal or regional government broker service. The goal of the second is to create a safer stronger overall computing environment.

The reality of hackers is that they will find weakness in systems. Therefore, the stronger the walls of the system the better everyone will be. The security framework that a municipal broker can offer is pretty big. It won’t solve the problem, but it will start the process of moving a little further and a little faster towards a better place.

For large corporations or cabinet level US Federal, or for large government sponsored agencies throughout the world having a broker internally gives them a couple of layers of control. They can enforce strict you cannot build in the cloud without approval rules. They can also manage the cost and the reality of systems. Look, I’ve moved applications to the cloud at the request of customers many times. I’ve told the customer at the time that the applications didn’t need three, four or more VM’s but I was over ruled. With a metering system in place such as what a broker can offer, you gain the ability to know which systems are over preforming (need to increase the number of VM’s) and which ones are under performing (reduce cost by releasing machines).

DevOpsEffetely and in reality, brokers are inevitable. I believe given the concepts laid out in this paper the broader reality of cloud brokers will become real in a short-term view. By short term I figure 24 months for the rise of the internal agency and large corporation brokers. That is just a good financial decision for the two to make. The city broker is one that will take longer, but is one that will benefit many more people throughout the world.

The last component of the overall concept of brokers is the reality of the coming tide, IoT. The value proposition of the IoT explosion is amazing information. The really bad thing is security and data management. Not traditional data storage, but live feed massive data what do we do with it? That data management layer begs for an IoT broker, given the reality of how devices connect it also calls for an integrated gateway layer that sits in the cloud (there are three available right now, Azure’s IoT device gateway, the IBM BlueMix and the Amazon IoT gateway).

I walked away from the conversation realizing that the distance between where someone is, and the future isn’t how far can they see. It is ultimately being they willing to actually look.


Broker lover, cloud dreamer

The reality of why IT projects fail…well at least on the path to why they fail…

Yesterday I was thinking about a customer problem all day. I know that the problem can be solved but a couple of folks asked some questions that got me thinking about the long and short term answers. Sometimes in the world of technology the short fix, isn’t the best answer. Well the same is true in life so that isn’t unexpected.

Reality is most customers are driving towards an answer. They bring in consultants with the intent of shaping and delivering enterprise solutions that are effective. They have teams they call enterprise architects, and enterprise architectures teams. These teams lay out the reality of the business problems in front of the organization and map those to available and future technologies. I’ve seen the most beautiful maps of enterprise software solutions in the offices of EA’s. Maps that you look at and you realize that the EA team has spent hours determining not only what is deployed now, but what could be deployed with minor modifications, moderate modification or with a major reworking. Each of the images they have, drawn on neat lines that come together in multiple places. The desktop of users, the desk of the security team and the infrastructure team.

The answer is already there. But it isn’t there. The reality of technology portfolios is that they are not clean and the minor modification bucket is very small. Most organizations live in the moderate to massive modification bucket. The more complex a solution appears, the more likely it will be painful to move it to another platform.

If the solution is simple but integrated to multiple other solutions, it will be hard to move. Finally, the worst one of all, applications that aren’t touched because they have 3 users only to find out the three users of that application are the CEO, COO and CFO of the company and you better get that application moved, tomorrow.

Not trying to change the world with this post. I am not even trying to change IT, just pointing out the thinking process most customers have to go through as they consider change. Change is a huge issue and a great boon of technology.

The thing, I find often in talking to IT departments is they don’t understand always the impact of what they are doing. I used to interview developers and I passed on every single one that didn’t have an answer to the question. What is the business value of the application you built in your last job? You see that is the answer, the value question. Do you as a developer, or an architect or a team leader in the IT department understand the value of what you are doing. If your business makes money selling cars, do you understand how your supply chain works? Who are your primary parts vendors? What is your JIT delivery line look like?

Too much emphasis is placed on actual coding skills, which are critically important but are not the be all and end all. Yes, knowing how to implement a cloud application is critical. But there are so many parts to that concept you cannot simply be an expert. Too much to know, so you go back to that EA drawing you saw in an office. With any luck that enterprise architect still works for the company. You ask him or her what they were looking for and what business problems were they trying to solve.

Funny how asking questions of people makes for a better overall solution.

Time once again to threaten to clean my home office…

I am going to clean and organize my office. I am saying it before New Year’s because it is not my New Year’s resolution. It is in fact, just something I say every year. I need a Fitbit for organization to keep me on track. Anyway, not really going to happen but I feel better bringing it up.

I got a great email asking why my cool tech Kickstarter and Indiegogo projects blog hasn’t made a December appearance. For the most part two-fold, the number of new projects in December tends to drop and the number I am interested goes down from 10, 12 or more at a time to 1 or 2 over the course of the whole month. Not that people don’t have great ideas in the months of November, December and January just that they tend to be building the cool ideas of the summer in the winter. Not a lot of really cool new products appear in that time period.

That said I am very sad that one of the projects I was backing didn’t make it. A drone that could actually land on water, be in water and actually had sonar modules as well as a waterproof camera so you could take pictures underwater. A very cool idea called Aquadrone. Sadly, it didn’t reach the finish line. That often happens when you move into the higher priced drone world. I find most projects that get funded rapidly are less than 100 dollars.

Now there is still cool tech to consider and play with during this time period, but it is not Kickstarter and Indiegogo tech. The beginning of my family history project was the realization that we had more than 30,000 slides that my father left. Many of those pictures were iconic moments of our families past and needed to be saved. We tried three different scanners before finally settling on the Epson scanner. The Epson V750 Pro is the scanner we settled on. It is bar none the best scanner we found that handled pictures, slides and full size prints. An amazing tool for our project. The software is easy to use, and it is the most reliable scanner. We used it every day during the Family History Scanning project, and it still operates today! (two years of everyday use). We ended up scanning over 50,000 slides, pictures and other memories.

Navdy is another interesting cool tech project. I am putting the device (heads up display) in the car to try it out. It (Navdy) includes a dash display and a plug for your car’s management port. I have the box sitting in my office and haven’t gotten it to a car yet. That is on the list of things to do over the holiday. Put Navdy in car so it can be used, rather than sitting on the floor of my office.

I actually have the pool table in the basement covered with a number of in-flight projects. I really need to figure out better ways of moving projects along. I don’t have a lot of time between walking and working so I like to have the projects easily accessible when I do have time. But I need to get some of them done, and moving on. Three projects will be done in the next few days.

· Replace weather station – in process should be done in the next couple of days.

· Send the rest of my grandfather’s films to the digitization group. I have the box, need to pack it and get it on its way. This is the last phase of the family history project that I have access to now, digitizing all of my grandfather’s old films. He took a lot starting in 1948 and they are an important part of our family visual history.

· Water Strider and Phantom Drone. This is a finish up and cleanup project because I don’t have a place to store the water-strider in the basement. I really need a room of shelves that I can store things in, on and near.

Then I have a couple of things to sell. Those are items that I listed a few times on eBay but didn’t actually end up selling. I suspect because they are tech that is a little older. In the end, I am going to shut off the XM Radio and donate the whole thing to Goodwill for a tax write-off. I no longer need a portable XM radio anyway. I can listen to XM on my iPhone, iPad and virtually anywhere I am.

I guess, if I can get the tech organized in my basement, I will have come a long way in the overall goal of getting my office clean!


Messy office is the sign of a clean mind.

4 recommendations for home security in the age of automation…

Make it easier or make it faster. The value of automation in the end is removing risk. We automated our house two years ago, In the time since starting our home automation project we have added two additional rooms to the process. In fact, the only thing we really haven’t added to our home automation project is to combine the automation of the alarm system for the house and the home automation system. We figured why make it easier. If someone is going to hack our house, make them hack two separate systems rather than one.

It is also why I spend a lot of time talking about bandwidth and home networks. I started building home networks many years ago, my first major reworking on a home to produce a more stable and effective home network was a dismal failure. There were huge dead zones in the house and frankly the net available bandwidth was much less than needed. This was even before the days of Netflix. In the post, Netflix world that network would have died quickly. It had issues, and frankly I cobbled it together over the course of time. I should have been more careful about the components and systems I used in the set-up.

Recommendation 1: Use the Apple Airports to extend your network. They do require a physical connection to your network (Ethernet) but they do an amazing job.

Recommendation 2: Set-up a separate wi-fi router for your Internet of things devices.

Just doing those two will reduce the pain of your home network. I know once upon a time, that my family would call me (I traveled a lot for work) because the Internet at home was down. I knew how to walk them through getting it working again, but it took time and added stress to their lives. Now, it is a simple remote login and reset. They never have to worry about it, of course, I don’t travel anymore but the capability is there and available if needed.

Recommendation 3: Get as many devices connected via Ethernet as you can. Why? It will reduce the impact on your system considerably.

Your home router is a lot better at routing via Ethernet than it is via Wi-Fi. There is less reliance on the Cache of the router, therefore you are less likely to overload the router. Plus, if you have devices that need to be connected all the time, having them on Ethernet actually helps you in your other battles. I try to keep Netflix users in the house on the Ethernet, it allows us to have 2, 3 and even 4 systems connected to Netflix at the same time without saturating the network and causing the always wonderful buffering screen.

I have shared these recommendations several times. The intent is not to pound them over and over simply to point out to readers that keep your network simple helps. The other thing to consider is one of the many home firewall systems that are available. A high-end hacker if they have decided to attack your network can be stopped. If you simply walk over to the router and turn it off. Your connection to the Internet is the router from your ISP, if that is off you have no way to be attacked from the outside.

Recommendation 4: Be able to turn off your home routers.

The incidence of small businesses being attacked and hacked is growing. The number of reasons to attack and home, is pretty high as well. The primary goal of a hack of someone’s home is to gain bots. Bots are used in attacking systems with more security, that require more processing power. Being able to turn off your entire network removes the participation of the bots in your house. In fact, if you do turn off your Internet connection because you think you have been hacked, turn off all your devices. Unplug them from the power source. Then plug them in one at a time while watching your network traffic. You can reduce your risk, but simply following the 4 recommendations today.

Sometimes we portray hackers as people wearing hoodies and in the shadows. What they do at times is in the shadows but they don’t all wear hoodies. There are many types of hackers. The easiest way to hack a home, life or business is to do so via the weakest link in any system, the human being. So, don’t assume you can identify hackers by their hoodies!

They may not be wearing one.


home security town crier…

Cool boat tech redox

Since I was on the cool boat tech bandwagon yesterday there are several other cool tech items for boats that are well, very cool. I am a huge fan of the OpenROV team. I’ve had one of their ROV’s for the past three years and they are well built and fun to operate. There is something about being able to well see what is under the water. OpenROV lets me explore under the boat. I haven’t come face to face with a shark yet, but then my face is pressed to the monitor topside, and the shark would be underwater with my drone. It would be cool. Although I wonder if sharks think ROV’s underwater are food.

That got me thinking of some other products. First off I love things that are connected to my iPhone or iPad. Why? Because it is easier to carry one device and add on to it, than have to carry multiple devices. The battery issue alone is critical. There are a number of products that are value add and work with your portable devices. Deeper is one of them, a cool sonar device that you can literally cast into the water. Then since it is connected to your iPhone you can see via sonar what is beneath the Deeper ball. The picture is their stock image but the device is so easy to use it is amazing. It works by the way in either fresh or salt water. If you are careful you can cast it with a rod and reel, or simply let is out behind you as you tool around the lake, bay or river you are boating on!

There are also quite a few that are interesting in the space. Water Strider is an interesting add on for your DJ Phantom Drone that lets you land on water. Since it is hardened plastic it can land on fresh or salt water. I suspect it wouldn’t handle over a 4-foot roll, so be aware of the ocean conditions before you take off and land on water. I tried it (water strider) in the pool in our backyard (kiddie pool for the labs to stay cool in during the hot months of the summer). It landed and took off very well. The Strider is built with plastic so it only adds about 1.2 pounds which reduces your flight time and some of your aerodynamics but the value add is pretty good. I went from average flights of 14 minutes to roughly a little over 12 minutes for maximum flight time.

Beyond the other things there are the tough series cameras from Olympus. Video and standard/video cameras that let you not only get them wet, but encourage it. They take pretty good underwater pictures if there is enough light. I’ve taken the TG-4 down to about 10 feet in depth, the images were pretty murky but the camera was fine. The new action camera they have (Olympus) also supports underwater video. It is similar in size to the Go-Pro’s. We have several videos taken on our European Cruise on our YouTube Channel with the Olympus action camera.

The interesting problem for broadcast TV is the reality of antennas and for satellite TV, you have to get a special (and very expensive) dish receiver that supports the motion in the ocean. While sitting on a boat you forget in time that in fact you are moving up and down with the ocean waves. That up and down movement makes it really hard for Satellite receivers to work effectively. You don’t want to mount a huge antenna on a boat, for terrestrial broadcasts so you are bound to the old-fashioned entertainment know as DVD’s and Blu-Ray! That is fine by me. Cellular signals work on boats, as long as you aren’t too far off shore. You can watch live TV via your iPad easily. Add a Chromecast to your TV’s on the boat and you have live TV!

Finally, as I close out my two-part cool boat tech series I would also take this moment to remind everyone considering boating, that the USGS requires you to have both electronic and paper maps. There are times when Electronics fail, you have to be able to read a compass and a map so that in that case you can make it safely back to port. Nothing is worse than a stranded boat that didn’t have a paper version of the map of where they are.


gadget fan boating geek