Data is everywhere. Using it is the real question!

Father’s day is but a few days away. This year, my wife nicely bought me a sextant. Well, we don’t buy gifts for Mother’s day and Father’s day anymore, we just assign and agree on a maximum amount we can spend. I was able to get the Davis Instruments Model 25 sextant I wanted for the boat. It is something that is cool to look at, but it has a great deal of functionality, in particular as we move further and further away from safe, known waters and into the larger the Chesapeake Bay. While the waters there are known, mapped and understood, having the sextant is something I’ve wanted for a long time. I am a gadget geek, but a sextant never fails. It doesn’t use batteries!

Measurement and the love of capturing data come from my father’s influence, but also the nature of my profession. Data is everywhere, and it is everything and nothing. You can collect infinite data about infinite activities but effectively without the analytics, the data is useless. You always see the tech combing through 100’s of hours of video feeds until they find the right angle and view. That isn’t the reality of video surveillance for the most part. Lots of data, but not a lot of data that you can use.

Enter the reality of motion detectors. Which, by the by, opens up another way to identify a person. I was talking to video recognition professional, who told me that how you walk, while you can disguise it for a short time, is distinctive. It is something you can program a computer to monitor both gaits, along with faces enabling faster identification of people in crowds faster. The reality of security is identity the person and the threat faster. It is easier for me to say than it is to do that in the real world.

Not that I am launching a new security themed blog, just that I find the reality of security extremely interesting. Security is the one hurdle we need to jump in the world of IoT (CPS). Where the Internet of Things and the management and security layer added (Cyber Physical Systems) gives us a view of the many things deployed and connected. Stand-alone hard wired cameras that do not ever connect to the internet are one thing. They become IoT/CPS devices when connected to allow remote viewing.

It is more of interest for me. I find the reality of connection interesting. There are connections I control (USB) that are physical and known. The reality of malware is that if I don’t know where the USB device has been, then make sure you scan and verify the device first. There are any number of USB testing devices you can install and connect the potentially nefarious USB device to the test unit first. Then you will get at least an idea of potential malware. For companies with employees, that becomes an issue, because people don’t always test before they plug.

Bluetooth is another connection type and one along with Cellular and Wi-Fi that has direct attack risk. Spoofing, Cloning, and Bluejacking are all functional ways to force someone to share their phone without them knowing they are sharing. The cool tech thing is we have data. Lots and lots of data produced every day of the week. Want to know if your house shakes when you aren’t home? Install a Raspberry Shake.

You can connect a telescope, a microscope, a seismograph and even a wind vane to your phone. You can create images of the far way, tiny and images in Ultraviolet and UV. All of that by the way, data. An ocean of data produced every hour on the hour. The future isn’t cool tech, its cool tech managing all the data we produce!


data convert…

110 Cornets in the big parade…

There are some things that I have come to consider valuable over the past few years. Yesterday I rambled on about cameras, mostly because I find value in cameras. They are something that my father and I discussed, so like Circular Slide Rules; they have a special place for me.

Being able to play musical renditions on Cassette, LP, CD, and streaming from one device is the first thing I automated in our house. Why? Becuase that is important to me. I am a huge music fan! There is still something about that original sound on an LP that is magical. Every once in awhile, I just like to listen to the LP.

That got me thinking about music in general, but also in specific about the music I listen to and how. First of all, I can honestly say that XM and later Sirius XM changed how I listen to music in the car. As an FM junkie before XM, I found myself taking a portable XM radio with me throughout my US travels (they don’t work overseas). As I continued to travel, I always had my music with me.

Around the time of the XM/Sirius revolution was the reality of ever increasing audio resources as assets. Suddenly you could have an iPod loaded with 50 hours of music and all your Audible Books (that is probably a larger collection for me than most people). That evolved into the newer Android and iOS pheons with enough memory that you no longer needed the iPod. Music went where you went, so now does TV and of course, you can listen to your SiriusXM channels on your phone as well.

There used to be a portable Television screen (FloTV) that would allow you to connect to and watch television anywhere. They went out of business because the various providers like Dish and ATTDirect now offer that service online. FloTV, like SiriusXM, were ahead of their time, the difference being that SiriusXM had and has something that people want (genre focused music) that is digitally pure and can be listened to in the car or streamed in your home.

There are some things missing, however. That missing reality is for a later post, one that will answer the bell for missing pieces. The next change for music enjoyment is coming.

Back, however, to the reality of music. I find now that I have devices I use every day and devices I use less often. One of them is the wonderful Amazon Echo speaker system. We have two in the house now, one in each office with an Amazon Echo Dot, in the master bedroom. The three of them provide a wonderful musical and gaming experience throughout the rooms they are in.

I still have, and listen to SiriusXM; it remains a go-to while in the car. Frankly, in the DC area, we are sometimes in the car for 2 hours going somewhere. So we need good entertainment for that two house, SiriusXM fits that bill. I haven’t turned on the HD FM radio or HD AM radio in the car since I got it more than a year ago.

I also have an archive of the more than 200 podcasts I have done over the years. Plus music from my favorite CD’s copies to MP3 (legal backups) and the many albums I have bought that are MP3 to start and never make it to CD’s.

One of my personal favorites (and I know it is geeky) is the Apollo mission recordings. I like to listen to them because they remind me of my father, of simpler times and of the dream of making it to the moon and back.

Finally, I will end with the following. What is it about music that excites you? What is it that you can’t put down? Can’t stop listening to? Is it go-to when you are sad? What is it about music that connects with you?


Music Man

Cool Tech Wander Project Digital Cameras!

When it comes to digital cameras I know, I am both steadfast but also flexible. There was a time when I only had Sony cameras both digital video and digital still. They had great cameras. I moved towards the DSLR world after that, in a time when Sony didn’t have a DSLR, so I ended up considering the options. I looked at the Nikon and the Canon digital single-lens reflex cameras, and after long consideration, I started with the original Canon Rebel. I loved that camera and used it extensively for over a year. I ended up moving on to the Canon 7d, and then the Canon 5ds.

At the same time, I have also moved away from Sony video cameras. I am not sure why that happened, other than I was looking for specific features that Sony just didn’t have the prosumer models. At one point I wanted a video camera that could take a high shutter speed for video, to create slow motion videos. I ended up moving to the JVC handheld video cameras.

Why am I talking about a camera wander project? Well first off because during that same time I wandered around some different camera phones but only one tough underwater camera. I bought an Olympus TG camera when they first came out (the TG-1). I have owned one ever since. In part because I am a firm believer in cameras that are flexible and in part because they have done a great job with the cameras. We have taken them underwater in Hawaii, Europe, and our neighborhood pool. They are amazing cameras and remain one of my top go-to devices. I still on occasion focus on and use my cellular camera, but when the going gets tough, then I focus on the Olympus.

I do have to say recently I’ve expanded my camera’s but that is more me focusing on the new 360 degree capabilities. I will settle on one of the 360 cameras that I like once I play with a few of them. I will keep my Olympus and my Canon because they do things other cameras do not do. I love being able to take the camera as is and use it underwater.

From Wi-Fi to GPS, ultra high-speed shutters and other things are now part of cellular cameras there is something about having a separate logic chip and of course, would you be willing to dunk your cameras? Sure you can get a case that is waterproof, but your cell isn’t built for underwater operation where in fact the Olympus TG series is!

You can also turn off the services on your phone when you use the Camera’s GPS, which reduces the battery consumption of the Cellular GPS system (which seems to draw down my battery at a huge rate). Thus ends my camera wander story, pretty much in the same place it began. Except this time, as I am going to do going forward, I would remind you, backup your pictures!!!!


Camera guy I do not walk with an iPAD in front of my face!

Home automation and universal remotes…

Universal remotes remain an interesting question for me. I was very excited many years ago with the Miracle Remote. It featured the PPC Operating System and offered the ability to connect not only to my existing X-10 system but my home audio equipment. It was a system before its time.

I moved to the Logitech universal remotes for the years after the Miracle. In part, because I loved their design and in part because they offered what I was seeking, connection to multiple devices. Like the Miracle, I soon found that the promise of connection was much less than the reality of connection.

The integration of devices into a unified remote and therefore a universal remote requires two components. The first is a system that can speak the languages of many companies. Sony, Panasonic, JVC and Samsung all have slightly different languages. Dish Network and DirectTV both have remotes that speak Satellite and TV. They can control other things as well, but not a universal remote.

Control4 systemThe last and now only universal remote in our house is the Control4 remote. In part because it answers the original bell (connect to a home automation system) as well as provide drivers that operate everything in my home. From the thermostat to the lights, from the DVD player to the Cassette player (yes I still have one, and I still have some cassettes). Control them all with one remote. Control4 does that and can integrate much more things than home audio, video and automation.

That got me thinking, Control4 has the most amazing tablet and phone applications that let you control your home from anywhere. That is helpful when you are 200 miles from home when you realize you left the iron on or left the garage door open. Or worse, don’t remember if did or didn’t do either.

The reality that home automation brings is that of control and management. It is also the reality of making it easier to function. One device, to paraphrase Tolkien, to rule them all and in the living room (bedroom, foyer, garage) bind them!

As we move further down this automation path, there will be less and less fracturing and more integration available. Today, it is incredibly hard to integrate home security with home automation, unless you either select the home security system that your automation system uses or get the automation system from your home security provider. That isn’t the best nor is it the optimal solution. You need to be able to build your home automation infrastructure over time, rather than having to stick with one vendor (who can then charge what they will).

The concept of a true free market economy for home automation will drive the future growth. The future growth will drive the prices down to implement a home automation system, increasing the number of home automation systems. I wonder when the integration of such products like Canary, and other video systems will be complete, reducing the rate of home burglaries significantly (hard to get away with robbing someone when they have a picture of you doing it).

All controlled from my universal remote. Well, not my universal remote in your house. You will have to get your own. This one is mine!

Sad news, cool tech wander and just another Saturday!

Two things today, the second is sad the first is a fun cool new technology. I’ve talked about Beartooth before; it is a unique product (it is the unit on the MSFT Book computer in the cover picture).

What is the result? Well, it is a push to talk system that doesn’t use the cellular connection to your phone. It connects two Beartooths together (or many) and offers you a mesh array of services that you can leverage to create push-to-talk networks without a cellular connection.

Ideal for connecting while separated by distance and needing to talk to someone. Cellular signals can fade in some amusement parks, or other physical locations with low antenna ratio.

Always fun when the cool tech arrives, and I get to figure out how well it works. Two Beartooth charged and connected, all told to connect the two separate devices took about 4 minutes. Part of that was walking upstairs from my office to my wife’s office upstairs (she gets a window and the main level office. I don’t get a window and am relegated to the basement).

The second is the sad news, Niume announced yesterday that as of May 31, they no longer provide pay-per-view for blogs. I’ve seen some of the other revenue streams they have coming, they are interesting, but it is sad. I joined Niume initially for revenue but found over time that there was some other very cool community features the site provided (I enjoy all the people I’ve met).

The initial reaction is sadness, no more revenue stream. But as long as the people I’ve connected with stay on the site, I will continue to post and enjoy the services. Once those connections start to leave though, I will probably also leave.

Started for the money – staying for the community. Sounds like the story of my life when it comes to social networks!

One of the projects I backed a long time ago, was the Rocketbook notebook. 1. I love taking notes with pen and paper. 2. I love popping my Rocketbook into the Microwave and having a clear page. The company was featured on the last episode of Shark Tank, although they walked away with no sharks. Oh well.

So there is a good reason to take pictures with your cellular device…

I know, as a technologist, that there are many ways to solve problems. I also know, as someone that has survived enterprise migrations, that there are more ways not to solve problems. The not to sometimes exceeds the should by a huge amount.

It is why I ended up compiling all the not too”s” I’ve run into and sharing them with other people for many years. It is part of why I write this technology futures blog. In part to share the art of the possible, but also to share what I have learned.

I often get great emails or comments that I share back to the broader group of readers. In particular, I got a great email the other day that not only made me think but actually got me to consider a different view. It got me to change the way I was thinking.

The writer of this missive is someone I have never met. They are someone that started reading my blog about a month ago, and this is their second email to me. The first was simply “thanks for sharing, the information was useful.” The second was a more interesting conversation starter and mind changer.

“why are you so anti-cellular phone cameras.” Well, that one is an easy question to ask and answer. Mostly because the quality of the images is poor. “But what about those of us who only have a cellular camera.” That is a statement I’ve heard before, but it did cause me to pause and now change my position a little.

The difference between a video camera and a cellular captured video is the amount of motion. A camera, such as a video camera is made to be held in your hand. Action cameras such as the phenomenal go-pro series, include a way to mount them to your bike helmet or to easily hold them with a pistol grip. That is the why of no cellular video. You have to be stable, sitting and able to hold the phone at an unnatural angle for the video to even be ok.

But if it is the only camera you have, then, by all means, take a lot of pictures. Back those pictures up (Windows 10 has a great feature as part of OneDrive that does that automatically. Google Drive has a nice feature for that as well.) Don’t just have them on the cellular phone you carry (drop, lose and otherwise abuse).

Finally, if you do take pictures on your cell phone, share them. Not just the occasional Instagram, Pinterest or Facebook post. Actually, back them up to a cloud drive and show them to people. No matter how many bad pictures you take, there is nothing better than sharing them with someone. Then two people know you are a bad photographer (or because I’ve shared so many bad pictures 1000’s of people have realized I am a bad photographer!).



In a world of darkness the candle is not the answer…

I decided the other day that a 17% failure rate for projects I was backing on Indiegogo was far too high, I reached out to campaign creators and since then have knocked that failure rate down to 16% and have gotten two refunds. It bothers me that Indiegogo struggles as much as it does, but based on that partnership with IBM it is no doubt they will continue to struggle.

Crowdfunding is hard no matter what you do. Indiegogo is a lot more stringent now than they were (again, I said that would happen ages ago when the partnership with IBM was announced. IBM is one of the biggest IT companies in the world, rigor they are good at). But things are interesting now. I suspect they (Indiegogo) need to do a better job of policing both how they appear, as well as what creators of canceled projects say about them.

Recently Indiegogo canceled a project called TitanNote. They have canceled some projects for user safety and policy violations. Normally what happens is the campaign fades away. Not always though, some Campaigns launch a flurry of emails, with the project creator stating that Indiegogo is wrong in the cancellation. Now you enter the reality of he said, and she said. No one ever wins in those scenarios.

As the consumer I understand it is my responsibility to be aware, to listen and to choose the side I want to believe. Much like politics, there are often two answers, both of which may be right and BOTH OF WHICH MAY BE WRONG. But there are always at least two answers. You have to consider the two sides and pick the one that makes the most sense to you.

That’s why the open IBM and Indiegogo deal will eventually fail. The real power of crowdfunding is the reality of freedom. Not the reality of a site that has a huge company lurking. Rather, it is the freedom of people trying to do what it is they dream.

If the folks at Kickstarter or Indiegogo ever read this post, contact me. I have a great idea for a way to get companies engaged in the process without them being directly involved. The reason crowdfunding emerged in the first place is the REALITY of large companies R&D groups in the first place. I doubt either will ever read this or even reach out, but one can always hope the power of dreams works.

The last step we take as dreamers are the first step we take as realists. We can’t let all the dreamers have those dreams killed!



My VCR kept flashing 12:00. Rather than be right twice a day, I unplugged it!

The pause button and the change it has made. One of the things I remember from back in the early days of VCR’s was fumbling for a tape that one had space and two was near the VCR so I could record the rest of a show I was watching. There were times when you had to run out, and the VCR was your friend. Except over time, it wasn’t your friend.

It was the DVR and the ability to record multiple shows in the same time slot that won the war. With the VCR you were stuck with recording one show at a time. If you were lucky the VCR had a timer for recording, otherwise, it would continue to record until you got home and turned it off. Sometimes, the recordings were not optimal as well.

Now, with a DVR, you can record more than one show at a single time. You can play and replay shows multiple times. With some of the newer DVR’s, you can connect multiple rooms to a single recording device and watch the shows you like anywhere.

It has changed how I view TV. There was a time when I watched what was on. Now, I don’t have to do that. I watch what I want to watch and if nothing is on, I can turn the babble box off and read. When I was little, TV had a better hold on us than it does now.

Except for the news, I still try to watch the news every night. I learned that from my grandparents (they had the CBS evening news with Walter Cronkite on every night at dinner). What I have noticed however is an even more subtle shift in viewing patterns now in the past two years. First off, we are avid Netflix fans. But we now watch as much Netflix as we do live TV. It is getting closer to the time when we probably will stop watching live TV or Network TV other than for the news.

The why of this post – in the US the FCC (Federal Communication Commission) assigns the airwaves to TV stations (local) and allows networks to broadcast to those local stations. Cable and Satellite companies compile the local feeds and resell them to consumers. Today Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon are outside of the FCC rules for being on your home television set, having the nightly news on. Is that the next step in the evolution?

Local TV and National TV also have to have a certain number of public service announcements (anti-drinking and driving, anti-smoking, your brain on drugs) as well. I suspect as we evolve and cut the cable, those announcements will be added to the online broadcasters.

All of this because it struck me this morning. Why is there no Netflix news? Why no Amazon Instant update or Hulu the day in review? I suspect these will be the case in two-three years. It seems only logical that in fact, the FCC rules for local and national broadcast will also apply to streaming media producers as well.

Effectively because the VCR was horrible, we have changed both the impact and the concept of home entertainment. From digital music, streaming media and a digital video recorder that allows you to pause live television and resume it at will, it is a different world now than it used to be. Best of all DVR’s get their time from a central source, so you no longer have flashing 12:00’s in your living room!


seeking the missing digits in 12

Cool Tech Wander Project

People are living life through digital devices; it is an interesting problem. Not that it isn’t one that was predicted many years ago by some analysts. The rise of the camera’s on cellular phones, and tablets changed not only the what, but also the how and when of digital pictures.

Still, if you were wandering around with an iPad or Android Tablet in front of your face instead of experiencing live what is happening and then pulling out the camera on occasion to snap memories, we need to talk.

I watched a family the other day near the Washington Monument, they were walking, talking and all staring at their cellular phones. They walked into the four people I was standing near at the intersection. If they hadn’t hit us, they would have been in the street.

It was the passing of my father, that launched our family history project. In part to capture all the many slides dad had taken, to share those images, but also to capture, scan and place into digital safekeeping all the memories our family has created over the years. In the end 148,000 or so digital pictures and 200 hours of video footage. I attempt to take a lot of digital pictures of family events and such like that there, but still, I do not spend the entire event with the camera in front of me. 

Why, would you do that with a phone or tablet when you can buy a wearable camera built to do just that, to take pictures at whatever interval you want (even continuous if you so desire). It seems a little confusing to me I guess.

Not that I am advocating the other side of this problem. If you are doing something extreme, having a Go-Pro attached to you is acceptable. If you are walking around and have a Go-Pro camera on your head, that isn’t cool. Plus, no matter what the concept of a selfie drone following you, also not cool

I think that is the growing explosion of augmented reality gear and games. Yes, they are cool, but sometimes you just have to enjoy butterflies. Sometimes you need to marvel at how a honey bee can fly based on wing structure, size and lift. Sometimes a flower is not something you capture for later but something you look at now.

Truly I am just as guilty of the mad rush to digital as anyone. I probably pushed some people over the years to start family history projects and share the pictures of the past. For that, I apologize, I knew not then what I was doing. Take the pictures, by all means, share the pictures but not via an always-on selfie drone.

Plus when walking in a big city, don’t make it easy for pickpockets. If you are staring at your device screen, they are considering how much money is in your wallet or purse.

The automation, of automation for automations sake…

Yesterday we mowed the lawn. I think about buying one of the automated mowers every single year, I haven’t as of yet, but I may still. We had a Roomba for a long time (nearly three years) but found that automated vacuums struggle with dog hair. The vacuums inability to do anything other than push clumps of dog hair on the floor once it’s tiny “bag” was full made us turn it off and stop using it. I guess we may someday return to the concept but for now, it is a branch we have cut off!

Automation is an interesting problem, in part because technology evolves quickly and in part because automation isn’t a standard that has exact expectations. In the enterprise automation world, we can consider Chef, Puppet or any of the other automation products. In the home automation world, you can consider any one of some standards starting from the control system to the very protocol you are using. The sad thing is the skills don’t translate from one to the other.

Then consider the even broader automation potential of your cellular phone, drone and other things like Kindle and iPod. Kindle has the interesting Whispernet that allows you to sync between various devices where you are in a specific book. The same can be used for Audible books, Dish, Direct, and other TV providers do the same within your home for a show you are watching (that you can resume in another room where you left off). But none of these things are truly automated.

Imagine the house of tomorrow, you get up during the commercial of a soccer match, and the TV channel follows you to the kitchen screen. Or you are listening to music in your car, arrive at home, and the music continues on your home speakers. I called this continuation and talked about it enough that several friends commented that they got it and that I should stop!

But the problem is that automation isn’t easy, and there aren’t standards that allow us to say do it this way, every time. One of the devices that I find interesting right now is the Microsoft Hololens. It is a device that moves easily between AR/VR production and consumption. Where it excels is as an interactive device. There are some other devices in the space, but for the most part, they focus on the growing consumption market.

The problem remains automation that spans everything. Not just automating the things we know about, about adding the ability to quickly automate things that are unknown. The concept of a single box in your house that would allow you to automate everything is interesting. Risky, in that if the box isn’t updated it becomes the easy way for a hacker to walk into your house. Powerful in that you simply change devices and point them at the automation hub. When you alarm rings in the am (or pm for those that work at night) your house will notify you of the housekeeping issues that require human attention. Change the mower’s bag, change the vacuum bag or empty both. 

This box would, of course, would also connect your alarm clock, your phone your life. If there is nothing on your weekend calendar, the alarm clock shuts off and lets you sleep in. What calms you the most as you sleep? If you are like me, it depends, understands the concept of moods and help me sleep by changing the environment around me.

Automation of automation that is the next step in the success of smart whatever. If we are going to call things smart XYZ, they better actually be smart.


automation dreamer