My second Cool Tech Review, portable music!

My 2nd review in my new Tech Review series. For regular readers of my technology posts, I won’t be only doing tech reviews I just thought I would kick this off with a couple.

Today I want to talk about the evolution of portable music players and why I still have one. So first off, portable music players have evolved considerably.

AM/FM radios were the first. Then we had Cassette tape players and then the CD playing portable devices. Interesting in that because of their size the AM/FM radio units struggled to get a good signal. The Cassette tape units destroyed the tapes you were listening to, the CD units also over time damaged the CDs.

Up rose the portable music players with a hard drive. At first, the market was flooded with some products. They integrated the concept of portable music stored on the device, and some also offered connections to streaming sources.

These included:

  1. Zune (with FM HD Radio and stored music)
  2. Sirius XM (with Satellite radio and stored music)
  3. FM adapter for some other devices including the iPod
  4. Archos (storage music, AM/FM adapters and the ability to get live TV)

My journey was as follows.

  1. AM/FM Device used mostly for workouts and replaced about every 5 to 6 months.
  2. Next was the Creative Rio I had that in the car for a long time. 20 gigs of music storage was about 2/3’s of my Mp3 backup library then
  3. Zune (I had three different Zunes I miss them still)
  4. Sirius Portable radio (used for travel, you could use the portable connection and FM broadcast ability to have your radio in the rental car).
  5. iPod Classic
  6. Finally the last Device I’ve owned, the Pono Music Player.

I have gotten rid of all of my devices except the Pono. The last two devices I owned are the ones I will rate for this post.

IPod Classic                      8

Pono Music Player          8



Back to cool tech reviews, DJ Phantom 3

As promised here is the first of my technical reviews.

I am rating and reviewing the DJ Phantom 3 drone. I don’t have the 4, I thought about upgrading but the one I have is perfect for what I need right now.

Drone requirements (for me initially)

  1. Easy to fly
  2. Integration with a device so I can quickly grab the video images and share them
  3. GPS so it can follow me when I am wandering

Based on the first requirement I have tried about 5 different drones. The problem with most of them is that they fly well but the controls are hard. In part because, some of them use tablets and phones as the actual controller and I am not coordinated enough for that to be viable. There are several Drones on the market that can be managed with your phone. If you are not coordinated enough (like me) to understand the reality of a drone flying, you may struggle with these as I did.

Drone flying is a little different. You are flying a remote device. The remote device is moving in relation to the controls you have in your hands. The first rule of thumb is set to home with every slight. Once the drone turns on, and you are ready to fly set that location as home. That way if you get in trouble while flying you can always press home and the Drone will return.

The other thing I learned recently, check for Hawks in the air. Apparently, they do not like Drones flying in their space.

I modified my initial easy to fly, too easy to fly using the Yoke. A yoke is similar to the old Radio Controlled systems I used to use back in the day (flying RC planes) and is a familiar setup for me.

In the end, I choose the DJ Phantom 3 as mentioned above as the drone I would use.

My overall rating for the device is broken into three distinct ratings.

  1. My rating for the yoke controller for the Phantom series of Drones is a 8.
  2. My rating for the software included with the Phantom is a 8.
  3. My rating for the overall smoothness and fun of the flying experience is a 10.

My overall rating for the DJ Phantom 3 Drone series is an 8.5!


avid drone nut

Building the many things of the internet…

One of the cool technology areas that are exploding right now is the area of build your own or create your own Internet of Things Device. The number of creative solutions you can hand a child (or a big child like me) are growing. I thought I would share a few of my favorites.

1. Agic – literally draw electrical circuits with their products. They also have a printer, you can print electrical circuits on their specialized paper.

2. 3d printers – virtually any of them now. Most of them have good software that converts images, there are tons of sites on the internet that share the files and away you go!

3. Littlebits – I love their kits! They have school kits for helping your child’s school!

4. The brilliant folks from Raspberry Shake. Have a seismograph in your home. Think that is more scientific than you want to be, donate one to your school. Mention my code in the coupon code for a deal!  My code is Rsend17.

5. MODI – IoT building blocks!

6. Last, but not least none of the companies and products listed today are least! Meeper Bots, using their engine create robots with Lego. Kind of a really cool product!

For the most part, I have included links to Amazon stores set up by the various organizations. Meeper and Raspberry go directly to their sites. I have used, experimented and started over with all these products. Modi is the newest, Agic and 3d printers are the oldest things I’ve used on this list.

The many potential uses of these kits are astounding. Personally, I love putting together sensors and working towards creating a mesh system for both power delivery (using Agic) and communications (I haven’t figured that one out yet).

If you build it, they will chatter. That is my new Internet of Things tag line.


IoT magician!

VR, what is and isn’t today..

I have spent the past four months expanding my Virtual Reality systems. I suspect in some cases that don’t sound good. What I’ve done are installed two different VR headsets. Well, one headset that is designed to be a virtual window into the virtual reality on the computer and the second is a VR/AR headset that allows you to create an interactive computing environment around you.

During that time I have spent considerable time building out potential use cases for the technology. Different ways that the systems, headsets, and solutions could change or modify how the world perceives and operates the overall solutions.

There are two distinct types of AR/VR systems. The first is a wireless or wired headset that connects to a gaming console or a computer. The computer then or the game system presents the VR environment, and the headset is the presentation system for that. The other style is more self-contained. The headset includes the compute resource required for the creation of the Virtual environment.

Now all this said, the recent CES show ended with everyone talking about the virtual systems that were displayed. Within the computer or game console driven VR systems, there were two varieties shown the world, wired and wireless headsets. The second type of all on one device don’t have or require wires other than the reality of charging the device.

That got me thinking of all the use cases I have considered in the past year for VR. First, off the two types of devices have very different visual impacts. The game console or PC-driven VR goggles require space, and you can’t move around with the devices. The phone or tablet driven systems are smaller, but frankly, you don’t have the graphics power to deliver a solid VR experience. You end up with a lesser quality presentation. That will continue to evolve and improve.

Right now the two systems I am using the most are the Oculus Rift and the Sony PlayStation VR. I do have a couple of others, but for now, they are sitting in my closet. As AR (Last year’s Pokémon go) gameify the world around us, you will see more and more systems available. Welcome to the brave new world of VR!


VR fanatic

Good morning will the owner of the red drone please stop buzzing the podium…

The phone rings, we are trained from an early age to answer it.

“Hello” future you says. Dreading of course, that this, in fact, a sales call.

“Hi, this is your neighbor, just down the street from you.”

“How are you?” you ask, happy to not be winning a cruise or speaking to a pharmacy offering discount heartworm medication for the dog you don’t own.

“Well, we have a small problem.”

“Oh my,” you say, not knowing this neighbor well but concerned because they have an issue.

“You see we have a tree in our backyard that is 151 feet high.”

“Ok,” it is quite conceivable that the utter lack of understanding comes through in the way you say OK.

“Your drone can only fly 148 feet when fully loaded. It has to jettison some of its cargo to make it over that tree.”

Suddenly you are flooded with guilt. You have called the grocery store nine times now to complain that they haven’t delivered your milk. Well that your drone hasn’t had the milk when it landed in the back yard. “oh,” you respond the request for the nine phone calls and the realization that your done doesn’t land to jettison its load.

“The tree is on the other side of my yard, and frankly your drone has dumped the milk on my kids nine times now. It has made our swing set into a sticky smelling rotting milk mess.” The voice not pleased continues “Can you do something about that?”

You are glad for a moment that phones have mute buttons as you laugh, the image of small children running around in a rain of milk is, well funny. “Of course, I will make sure that they send the groceries in two drone runs instead of one. Please apologize to your wife and children for the inconvenience of milk falling from the sky.”

“They understand, they would just like to play outside without getting wet.”

“My deepest apologies again.”

“It’s ok, the neighborhood on the other side of you that makes cookies is the real problem. They order the big things of molasses. The drone has to dump half the load of molasses on its way over the tree, so the milk washes some of the molasses off.”

Thank you mute button you imagine stick molasses falling from the sky coating his children.

“Again I am so sorry. We will fix this!”

“Thanks” The click of a line going dead.

A conversation that is both interesting, comical and well probably never going to happen. It is probably, however, the script for a future movie. Can I get Brad Pitt to star as me?

Last month I talked about the need for drone governance. We have many beginning rules for drones in many states. We need more. The ever growing reality of drone delivery means there needs to be at least some measure of control. Otherwise, we are all going to be sitting on our front porches waiting for our drone delivered dinner, while our neighbors are avoiding the drone launched burritos falling around their yard.


Drone fan, milk avoider

Of software and IoT

The evolution of what we call software has been an amazing ride. I started my technology quest as a school teacher trying to find a way to convey information to 2nd-grade students. I found the computer was a great tool for that, and ultimately left teaching to pursue my interest in technology.

From the creation of enterprise IT solutions to now the explosion that is Cloud resulting in the even larger explosion that is coming (IoT), it has been a fun ride. My goal here is not to look back rather find instead a continued path forward.

IoT, that I talked about yesterday continues to expand, in particular, the area of interesting devices you can have and deploy. For example, home security is an interesting problem.  Today you can have a home security system that is connected to your phone. You can arm or disarm your system at anytime from anywhere. But that doesn’t solve the problem of someone breaking into your home, disabling your alarm and robbing you. Enter the ever-expanding reality of video cameras. The system I find to be the best, easiest and frankly most flexible is the Canary System. I backed the original camera system on Kickstarter and have added several more since the original campaign ended.  My only complaint about the cameras is that they aren’t yellow (that, by the way, is a joke)! I use the Canary Cameras as the primary inside the house watch the doors system. In order to break into the house, you have to go through the doors or the windows near the doors all of which are covered by the Canary Cameras.

The integration of video, motion and offsite recording makes the cameras extremely useful. I have to say just their software alone makes them powerful. Kind of goes back to my opening concept of the journey in software and the evolution.

As the deluge that is IoT washes over us there are many things that are yet unseen coming. I am excited by the potential for the creation of truly smart devices (as I mentioned in my post yesterday). Where the devices actually pay attention to security for themselves,s for you and around them. Where they are aware of the priority of other devices and don’t step on the other devices. If AC is your primary need in the heat of the summer, don’t stress your power system by starting. Become, build and deliver secure, smart devices that empower homes, people and the future!

The more we can automate, the fewer people have to worry about. As a former Boating Instructor once told me “Electronics only fail when they are on.” People only fail when they exist, so the more we can reduce human failure the better things will be.

I am proud to be an affiliate of the Raspberry Shake team. What is Raspberry shake (I mean beyond the obvious Ice Cream with Raspberries)? It is a seismograph you can use at home or school. If you decide to buy on, please add my code rsend17.



Cool Tech Wanderings Issue 15.2223

One of the trends that I follow in technology is that of IoT. Where IoT is a misnomer overall. IoT represents things that have been in our lives for years, but now, because of the internet and beyond that the processing and data analytics capabilities of cloud solutions, they are smart.

Well, smart being a relative term right.

The Internet of Things, not always smart and not always what we think they are. My favorite joke about IoT is the reality of automation. Automation costs jobs the various media outlets cry. Jobs lost forever! But it will create some new jobs (What do you do for a living? I change batteries in IoT devices. Oh.)

It is a balancing act, the push to the new frontier. Star Trek (yes I am a long time Trekkie) gave us the concept of boldly going where no one had been before. It also brought us a soundtrack made by a MIDI capable IoT device called the Theremin.

What is the IoT value? Connection. What is the IoT risk? Security. What does a smart device do? We don’t know yet there aren’t many available if any. For the most part, to be labeled smart the device has to simply go through a marketing process. There are no definitions of smart. Well, there are, but so far the market and consumers haven’t embraced them.

Smart Devices

1. Able to be aware of the power and turn off automatically when systems that are critical need all the power. That would be a TV that isn’t a power vampire and shuts off completely when it is peak air conditioning time.

2. Understand the concept of user and authorization. IE don’t let someone not physically on the network you are sitting on make changes unless you validate it is someone that should be able to do that.

3. When in trouble, when in doubt, SHUT DOWN!

I think the three simple rules as a starting point would be of value for most organizations as we head pell-mell down this IoT path.

By the by, an interesting IoT device is the Raspberry Shake.

I am proud to be an affiliate of the Raspberry Shake team. What is Raspberry shake (I mean beyond the obvious Ice Cream with Raspberries)? It is a seismograph you can use at home or school. If you decide to buy on, please add my code rsend17.


Technologist and Raspberry Shaker!