Personal security for the internet age!

Author’s Note: Security begins with YOU!

Personal security, it is something we need to focus on. First, never click on a link sent to you, unless you know the person directly. By directly it means you trust the person completely. The reality of the scams that have cropped up recently makes it imperative that you don’t click on links. If you are even remotely interested in what you were sent, then examine the URL very carefully. If it purports to be from a site you trust, then it has to end in the .xyz of that site. A university won’t end in a .com address. A major company won’t send you a URL that ends with an address that isn’t an address they own. GE doesn’t send emails that go /aspx (this is truly a fake address) and so on. They send information at the site, and there isn’t anything else after that .com.

Security doesn’t start with someone else; it starts with you. That said, it is also a best practice to not click on links. I tell people all the time that if you email me a link I have to recognize the URL or I won’t click it. In the Windows or Macintosh OS’s, you can hover over a link, and it will show you the entire URL. Always a best practice to make sure you aren’t visiting the BObsyouruncle site. Not that bob shouldn’t be an uncle. Rather that it is a completely fake URL.

If someone knocked on your front door at 2 in the morning, and you weren’t expecting anyone, you would approach the door with caution. You might ask the person to prove they are who they say they are. 2 am door knocking is never a good news situation. The same is true of information sent to you online. Consider your inbox, and social media your front door and assume no matter what it is always 2 am. Now, approach that information with a healthy dose of trust but verify!



Amazon Alexa, people and YouTube!

Sort of a side note, sometimes, well at least I do, you meet ½ a couple. You struggle to like the person. Then you meet the other ½ that couple of you realize watching the second half why you didn’t like the first person in the first place. At least now you know you don’t like both of them.  I can count on one hand the couples I don’t like. I can now add one more to that list. I guess I need a second hand now. The reason I am writing is it bothers me to feel that way about people. But I also know there are some people you just don’t like, and that is ok.

From a let’s get away from people, and to the safer reality of technology, I found out something interesting over the holiday weekend. First off we take a lot of Digital Pictures. I took a video of the snow falling on Christmas Eve; we had a white Christmas, I don’t remember the last one, although I suspect it was a few years ago. The family YouTube channel is mostly where I share the yesterday’s weather feed. Interesting problem, I have one video camera, and I forgot it for Christmas pictures. I ended up shooting video with my cell phone, and my Olympus handheld camera. I promised myself to make a better effort to carry my care more

I also didn’t take the SMOVE so I couldn’t try the video stabilizing process. One of the things I am focusing on this year regarding my technology posts is mapping to things other people need. We gave my mother an Amazon Echo Vision for her house as a family this year. Why? Well, mom is pretty technology adept, and she likes to keep in touch with people. We had it setup and running in her living room in about 5 minutes. Mom was using it and having fun with it in about ten minutes after that. At first, she was skeptical, but with no frame of reference, it is hard to ascertain the value of something. Now, she loves it. My nephew gave her the connect system (that I reviewed two weeks ago) that lets you connect Alexa to your home phone line. Mom was happily away and calling people by Christmas Afternoon!

It was a great day, with lots of things shown and learned.

We actually called mom Tuesday when we got home from Indiana on our Alexa. From our Vision to her Vision!



The value of hard drives…

One of the things that impress me is the evolution of technology around hard drives. I bought my first hard drive when they cost around 1/3 or so the cost of the actual computer. The first HD I added to a computer was a 20 meg external SCSI drive. I had just gotten a Macintosh SE with a 20 meg internal HD and added an external one. The external HD was a loaner from the company I was working for; they wanted me to test it out and see if it would do the job.

It was slow, but it did what we needed (moving a large set of files around). At the time of the first hard drives appearing I had between 1200 and 1500 floppy disks (the 3.25 disks not the much older 5.25). We used to have two floppy disks so that we could have the OS and Applications running on one drive and the memory of the computer with the other drive having the files we were using. The summer I built a HyperCard Dinosaur Stack with my students we used 24 disks to run the entire stack. Swapping those disks was painful, having a hard drive changed everything.

The funny thing about the HD’s of then and now is that I have more memory on my phone now than I had in a computer until the late 1990’s. External drives have become so much easier to use now. USB connected hard drives are a breeze. I am a fan of the Western Digital (one of the few surviving hard drive companies) USB 3.0 external drives. They have 7200 rpm drives and 5400 rpm drives.

For the most part and for most people the 5400 rpm drive is perfect. That is the speed at which the platter spins inside the drive, honestly unless you are moving massive amounts of data every day (a terabyte or more per day) having a 5400 rpm drive is all you need. With the new USB 3 connections, you have plenty of speed to move the average amount of information around (100 megs or so per day or less).

Hard drives have become amazing tools!



The joy of helping someone use technology!

There are moments as a technologist that I treasure. It comes from the same thing you get as a teacher. That moment when the light comes on and the students suddenly realize how something works. You can learn more at that moment about how something works you than the person you are teaching. It is the joy and wonder of teaching, parenting and sharing technology with people.

But technology is also about simplicity. The creation of a path forward that removes some of the barriers that exist within the world we live in. It is a bar lower if that last thing is a word. It doesn’t set the impossible bar so high people can’t reach it. In fact, technology makes it easier for us to achieve the bar because it pushes that bar down a bit and makes it possible for more of us to reach it.

The answer to the art of the possible and to the art of what is over the horizon is realizing that technology makes our lives better every day. It brings bars down so that more of us can achieve that overall goal. It is an equalizer. That is why I love introducing technology to people and seeing their eyes light up when they get what it is doing, what they are expected to do and what is possible.

2018 is going to be a great tech year!

of scans, scanning and scanners!

Ah scanners, I’ve chased good scanners for many years. In the beginning, Scanners were SCSI (Small Computer Serial Interface) connected. SCSI allowed you to Daisy Chain up to seven devices in a “chain.” We had hard drives, scanners and many other devices connected to our SCSI chains. First of all, there were many issues, and you had to keep the chain balanced, as well as terminated for it to work.

The world of scanners has changed so much. Now, there are USB connected scanners that don’t have the issues or problems that we had in the past. I’ve mentioned the Epson Perfection series before. Great scanner for family history projects. But today, we are wandering more to the world of handheld scanners. There are several products that will join my upcoming reviewing list. There are multiple scanners (hand-held) available now that are interesting.

First, is the capability of using your cellular phone’s camera as a scanner, in particular translating information from one language to another on the fly during the scanning process. This option is improving all the time and is around 85% accurate (don’t sign legal papers based on an automated translation of words using a scanner). There are pen-sized, wand sized and hand-held scanners as well that will do language translation. All of these are potential upcoming review topics!

Scanners have changed so much in the past 20 years. The laser scanner is another interesting addition to the market.

More to come…


long time scan fan

More details on my new tech review process

As the year winds to a close, I will be posting as I have for the past few years, my big trends of 2018 post. I should have it ready by Thursday or Friday of the coming week. Overall my prediction rate and ultimately how good my predictions are sat around 60%. I have missed on a few technologies that I honestly thought were going to be bigger than they ultimately were. I guess that is part of the prediction game. I try to get it out before New Year’s Eve, that seems only fair to predict in 2017 what 2018 will bring.

I posted yesterday my new review guidelines. I am open to suggestions from readers. I got a suggestion via email to review a technology, but frankly, I am not going to buy an Android phone just to do a review of that technology. Any other suggestions are of course welcomed, as long as I don’t have to spend 500 dollars to do the review. I draw the line at reviews at that cost unless honestly I already need the item being reviewed.

Planned reviews for next year starting the first week of January
  1. Tascam Digital Audio recorder
  2. Sonos One (with Amazon Alexa)
  3. Keecker Homepod
  4. Eora 3d scanner
  5. Trident ROV

All of these reviews pending the items arriving in my hot little hands. I will not waste your time with an unboxing video. I will post more videos of actually using the devices. However, that was something a reader requested. Also, installing the software is another request from a reader. I will start adding those to my YouTube channel and sharing the link to the review blog as well. Lots of changes in my technology blog for next year!


Technology review updates for 2018

I decided after many years to upgrade the quality of the sound recorder for my podcast. In the past, I have used a handheld zoom, a great tool, but frankly, it just doesn’t have the same quality as a dedicated microphone. In January I will post my first podcast with the new system, we will have to see if the sound quality has improved. I try to post two podcasts a month and often share my Fred and Ed stories on my podcast. Https:// The podcast is also listed in the iTunes podcast application. I won’t say it is the greatest podcast you will ever listen o, but it is the best one I have ever created.

One of my goals for the new year is more focused reviews. Reviews of technologies more focused on things people need and use. That is a change from my current shameless review series that focuses on things I am interested in, but that other people may not need for many years. This isn’t me giving up on high tech; rather it is me responding to reader asks. I have sometimes been asked over the last five months to focus on things people need and use.

I will pick a category based on reader feedback and then will pick the best device in that category to review. I have lots of years of technology experience both as a user and as an administrator. I will happily focus on either pending of course, who asks me and what they are looking for in the review. My ratings will include the easy of installing the hardware or software and of course the ease of use. My scale focuses on use, value and of course pending who asked any other things. I will rate the solution on a 1-10 scale.

10          best perfect amazing

7-9         really good

4-6         good to average

3            below average

1-2         not good at all

  • don’t waste your money

Thanks for the feedback – hopefully, this will help people!



the eventual decline and fall of products…

I have managed to clean out several things from my office over the past two days. Mostly during breaks, as most of the day, I was working on a presentation for work and cleaning. It is an idle hands project overall. What I have managed to do, however, is discovered that I have a lot of crap that I don’t use anymore. Some of it, I am loathe to get rid of, mostly because the minute I do, I will need that item again. I found several things that I need to evaluate and ended up with a degree moving a mess off of one desk onto another.

There are many things that need to slowly but surely be taken out of my office. One of the things that I still have is a floppy drive. It is a USB connected a floppy drive. But it is time to start getting rid of some of this stuff. Some things you can let go of, but some things you don’t use anymore, it is time to let go.

That got me started on a reflection of technologies that are no more. The first thing that comes to mind is the Windows Phone, and before that the Pocket PC phone. The end of that line of technology was bittersweet for me. Part one of this is because I was a user for many years. Second part for me is because it was a dead technology platform at the end.  The first was interesting in that there were many years when I had the only smartphone sitting on the airplane. The other part was sad in the company missed the mark on the impact of phones.

The number of technologies that have faded over the years is impressive.

Now the question is, who in the technology market leader now that won’t be around in a couple of years? Who is near the bad market tipping point and is destined to fail soon?



Have a phone, have an echo? Meet connect!

One of the things I often do as a technologist is set things up in my house because it will benefit my wife. As a social worker, she often encounters technology problems that aren’t quickly or easily solved. That is when she comes home and tells me I need to find a solution. She knows I love that kind of geek search and destroy mission. Truly, I do, which probably comes out on my blog but I thought I would go ahead and acknowledge it. In this case, it was an interesting problem. The problem is this: A person has an issue that prohibits them from using their hands. Based on that the person needed a way to easily answer the phone and to make phone calls.

There are limits, of course, one of them was that the person was a landline person, not a cell phone. That made it harder. With Siri, or Google Assistant you can use your voice to make and answer calls. But the cell phone is limited to its battery and hanging up isn’t as easy. This particular problem was focused only on the landline though. I looked around; there are some home automation systems in the space. Honestly far too many solutions in the space.

Then I found the easy button.

Look the reality for technology is complexity. What seems simple to me, can be complex to anyone that reads my work. That said, the easy button, in this case, was the new Amazon Alexa Connect. The connect allows your Amazon Echo to act as a speakerphone to make and receive calls with just your voice. The device is pretty straightforward. You Connect the device to power and a phone jack. Then using the Alexa application on a smartphone, you connect to the connect and then connect the connect to your Wi-Fi network. Once the Amazon Echo Connect resets once, it will now be connected to your Amazon Echo’s and your phone line. The Echo will ring with incoming calls, and you can simply say Alexa dial (anyone in your contact list) or Alexa Dial and then list a phone number.

Overall the technology works well, the Vision (one of the Amazon Echo speakers) is a little tinny with phone calls. But the dot, connected to better speakers, actually sounds very good. Nice to have speaker phones throughout the house. If you have an Echo, add the connect to the mix!


connecting to the universe!

from here to there, and not forgetting my camera!

Over the course of the past 20 years, I have had some digital cameras. In part because there were always new features, new concepts, and new capabilities. I haven’t bought a new digital camera in more than a year now. I did buy one 360 degrees camera, but that doesn’t count, right? The primary reason for not getting new Camera’s at this point is that the features of the ones I have are more than I need today. From ultra slow-motion to time-lapse the capabilities in the cameras are incredible. The other side is, of course, the reality of digital cameras versus the reality of cellular phones. I completely understand the fact that in most cases the cell phone is all you have available.

Most cell phones now have time-lapse and slow-motion capabilities. You can add a 360 camera to your iPhone or Android phone as well (Giroptic).

Reality is the cell phone is going to take the majority of pictures.

Still, there are moments in life that a better camera is called for. Going on vacation, I prefer to take pictures with one of my digital cameras. I have come to realize that part of my family history project is sharing the pictures, and the larger images taken by my DSLR makes them very hard to share. The quality of the images though, makes it hard to leave that camera out of the mix.

The flexibility afforded users by the wonderful add-in plugs of your cell phone certainly change the overall conversation. I am going to try using my cell phone for more video at Christmas using the SMOVE tool. I hope it will reduce the traditional cell phone shake that makes most of the videos shot, well shaky. Shaky cam is interesting but not good.


sometimes you just have to take a picture