Tech was supposed to make our lives easier.

I am an acknowledged weather geek. I do not have any illusions about that. Yesterday however why I am a weather geek came out. First off, we were going to as our boat across 1.4 miles of open water. At the very edge of the Chesapeake Bay. During that trip, we would be exposed not only to the weaves, but also any wind rain or lightning that was in the area. A storm was predicted for the middle afternoon yesterday. I knew where the storm was going to be and knew where I had to be at various times. We had an uneven moving of the boat and ended up sitting in traffic as the rain exploded. Something that would have made riding in the boat a little harder.

The wind was also pretty bad. That got me thinking about other ways that people use and leverage technology every day. The simple answer is a car or a smartphone. Right? Most of us either use a car, walk near where cars or, or ride some variation of automotive and train focused transportation. The technology that is cars, trains, Airplanes, boats and so on, are things we often use. There are nearly 3 billion cellular phones in the world today. So nearly ½ the people on earth use a cellular phone. But there are other technologies that people use as well. Stop signs would appear to be mechanical devices (they once were). invented in Cleveland Ohio the stop sign was a mechanical device used to control traffic.

Now, most cities have connected stoplights. It allows them to modify traffic flow. Most buildings are moving towards smart building consent. Not because everyone want’s their building to be smart, it is cheaper to run and operate a smart building. Smart cities are another thing that allows for considerable financial savings. It’s cheaper to operate a smart city, a smart building and eventually really smart cars.

Technology is all around us; sometimes we just need to stop for a moment and remember that the goal of technology as not more technology. The actual goal of the technology was removing mundane tasks from the lives of humans. Technology has the goal of making the lives of everyone just a little bit better. Technology is not the enemy; it is supposed to be your ally,


Understanding Technology

I have a computer that is part of the Windows Insider program (and the office insider program). You get the latest version before it hits the street. It is an older computer and one that I don’t use every day. The reason I am bringing this up, is the upgrade coming for Window 10, is impressive. I like to know what is coming, when is it coming before it hits the rest of the world.

1. I usually focus on here areas when it comes to updates. The first area is doing this to improve my security. For the most part, this doesn’t happen very often. But when the update is wholly security focused, I install it as quickly as possible.

2. Does the update create or improve functionality that I find critical (this is beyond security) new functionality may be something I want, have wanted for a while?

3. The last thing is new functionality – but something I hadn’t previously considered or thought I needed.

I am sharing these rules because they work for me. That is why I have a PC registered to the Insider program. I want to make sure that the upcoming OS, hits or doesn’t hit one of my three goals for upgrades.  I apply these rules to my other devices as well. But unlike a few years ago, I only have a limited number of computers running beta software (1). There was an time when all my computers ran beta software. That is no longer the case. I like to have a working PC the vast majority of the time, and troubleshooting problems that are not new aren’t something I like to do as much now, as I used to do! I also realize in publishing my daily technology missive, that many more of you, readers, don’t like to troubleshoot issues either.

The thing I have learned over the past ten years of a technology blog is two-fold. The first is that I have to avoid going too far into things that do not yet exist. I did for many years advocate crowdfunding projects. The reality of crowdfunding is things fail. I stopped doing that more than two years ago. The other side of technology is not everyone chases technology as much as I do. It is a huge part of my job, so I focus a lot of time on it. But it isn’t what readers do most of the time.

Thanks to everyone that reads. Your time and comments are welcomed!

where we are, where we could be

The path to tomorrow lies in where we came from. It is an interesting thought in the technology world, and not always one that people consider. The first part is simple, consider where technology has come from — a world of connection by cabling. The original mainframe computers were mountains that did not go to the user; the user came to the computer system. The tape libraries of some of those old mainframes were huge rooms built off the end of the data center floor. Consider the mainframe for a moment to be a spider on a giant went. The spider stays in one place in this web, and the web brings dinner to the spider. Rather than the spider moving around the web.

Out of that spider, the web grew client server. Client-server is different than the mainframe. If you think of that spider web, there is only one spider on each web. The same for a mainframe, in the sense that you connect to one system at a time. With client-server solutions you might be connecting to multiple computers in the process of getting a web page, paying bills with your bank, or connecting to Virily! Client-Server solutions use two different things to make sure they operate in a highly available manner. The first is called load balancing. That is often, either a server or a piece of hardware that sits in front of the web site or application and makes sure that no one server has to carry the entire load.

Load balancing is like defense in soccer. Everyone has an assigned role.  The goalie patrols the goal area. The back line is responsible for stopping the ball before it is shot at the goal. Now, the example, if we were not using load balancing, would be the goalie doing all the jobs of defending the goa0l and trying to stop the ball and then trying to stop the shot on the goal. Not many teams could win with a non-load balanced goalie system. Normally client-server solutions are setup with front ends (in the case of Virily that is the web page). Then there is a backend (sometimes you will get an error on Virily that says “back end fetch failed” that is the front end talking to the backend (the database).

Lots of moving pieces keeping something like Virily working!


Of scans and scanners…

When, five years ago now, we started the family history project I spent a lot of time evaluating scanners. During the project, we were scanning pictures and slides. We started with the slides my father left, then, on a visit my mother rolled a suitcase full of pictures to the house. Finally, we went into our attack and pulled the tub of pictures we had stored there. Fifty-four thousand items scanned. We, and by we I mean my daughter, actually went to a professional photographer an asked them (two different photographers) what scanner they used. That said, we spent a lot of time considering scanners. We tried three different scanners overall and honestly found one thing.

Scanners are all about connection and software.  Epson has the easiest software to use. So Epson scanner it became. The very first scanner we owned was a SCSI connected Canon scanner on a Macintosh (more than 25 years ago). Since then there has been a significant improvement in scanners since the first one we owned. We went through several years where the only scanners we had were multi-purpose printer/scanner combinations. I’ve gotten several of the handheld or wand scanners over the years. I was working with a customer that gave me one of the Planon scanners, I liked it, but wand scanners require you to move them, which makes scanning much other than documents difficult.

Like pen and paper, scanning is something I do, nowhere near as often as I once did, but I still scan. We kept the scanner (Epson Perfection series) that we used for the family history project. I still have a bag of around 200 pictures that needs to be scanned (the collected pictures of my mother-in-law) that didn’t get scanned (they have stored in albums in the attic and forgotten). I’ve also considered and gotten from various vendors some of the handheld scanners on the market. I didn’t review them, because honestly I got them for free and my rule is if I get them for free I don’t do a review (there is a natural bias in favor of something for free versus having to pay for something)! I will say this, free or paid for; scanning is all about the software.


from phones to connected cars…

The first time I got a digital phone was around 1993; before that, I had a CDMA phone.  The digital phone has a shorter signal range, and ultimately require more towers, but they also can do more. The concept of what your phone can do is beyond amazing. I remember when the goal of a phone was to connect people. I do sadly remember the daily, wait, dial, wait for the longer the number, the longer the wait. The first phone I ever dialed was a rotary phone (dial, click click click) wait, daily next number. Do you remember rotary phones? I can’t tell you the last time I dialed a phone number. Most meeting software includes an automatic login in option for phone users. Click it, and you are connected!

Oh yeah and I ask my pheon to dial numbers often! What you can do with that he continues to evolve. Today I want to talk about the art of the possible. I recently got a Hum adapter. Hum goes into the ODB port of your car. That is an onboard management port for most new cars (figure anything newer than 2008 has such a port). That part is standard (it doesn’t matter what kind of car you have). It connects to the onboard computer of your car and allows you to see information about your car — average speed, GPS location, but most importantly, what does that check engine light mean. You see, if the check engine light comes on in your car, it can be a lot of different things.

• It can be a loose gas cap connection

• It can be a serious engine problem

• It can be a loose connection for the car

But not knowing what it is, is annoying! Hum also allows you to have a cellular wifi connection in your car. But the most interesting thing for me is the gas pricing application. I have that in the GPS of my car, and the GPS application of my phone, but the Hum application seems to have a better real-time pricing index for gas prices. Hum is an IoE (Internet of Everything) device that has some interesting applications!


Instant replay, over and over…

I was watching the NBA game on TV yesterday. I am a horrible Fairweather NBA fan. I only watch during the playoffs. But I do enjoy watching the best basketball players in the world play. One of the things that I grew up loving Basketball, so it isn’t unusual for me to watch a lot during the playoffs (when there are 0 games watched during the regular season and roughly 1-2 partial game son the weekends, that is a huge increase!). I am a college basketball fan; I watch as many games as I can throughout the year. It was something my dad and I did together. My grandfather and I used to watch American Football. My dad and I watched football as well, but my dad never watched either professional basketball or professional football is he could help it.

One of the things my grandfather and father had in common was yelling at the television set. In 1976 dad and I would often go to Indiana University Basketball games. I used to love to keep score of the game. At halftime, dad would say how many points did May have and so on. I would tell him. I am not sure why I am sharing this, I’ve shared it before but, one game in 1976 dad said: “who scored.” I listed off the five starters and the sub that had played that (Buckner, May, Wilkerson, Abernathy, Benson, and Radford) and gave the point totals. I also had for someone reason tracked the number of times dad had stood up during the game, so I told him “you stood up 15 times.”

The reason for this is I noticed at halftime as we went back to the NBA game yesterday they shared what was called next level stats. Things that while we thought about years ago, we didn’t track. The amazing technology that they have now for sports broadcasts is impressive. You can, when watching golf, see the flight of the ball as it leaves the club head. You can while watching soccer see the replay of the goal, showing why the person was free and how they scored the goal. The same is true in basketball and football as well as all the Olympic sports. The ability to stop and replay the moment changes the game forever. Now, there are many people that hate replay. But I have to say I am a fan now!


Failure is always an option

When I was first starting as a school teacher, I used to wonder about the reality and impact of technology on education. I know, now, that many schools struggle, not only with having the latest tech but also in being able to make that technology a part of a core curriculum. You have to teach certain skills for students to be able to pass the national tests. The problem with the national tests is that they are the mid-point. Designed to capture the needed skills, but it really can’t. In the book Freakonomics, the author speaks of creating and maintaining economies. Not, the global buying and selling of billions of the dollar, but the economy of an area, of a group of a family.

When you break an economy down to the atomic level, the lowest point is a single person. You are an economy of one. In being that economy of one, you may extend your economy to more people. You may become an economy of two, three, four or more. Either in becoming a larger economy your buying power increases or your limited resources get stretched much thinner. When we consider the reality of crowdfunding we come to this economic problem. A crowdfunding campaign is an economy. Sometimes you are pledging to help a person move forward. They need an operation. They have to pay, or funeral or they want to go to college. Or they want to make something.

All are reasonable; all convey with them a sense of participation. I am helping. Giving at church and other charitable organizations achieves the same thing. I am giving it. What becomes interesting is when you, give to a crowdfunding campaign with the intent of that campaign producing something tangible at the end. Something honestly like the now former crowdfunded, former companies  Jibo, Keecker, and other products. Sadly just because a campaign reaches the goal and ships what you were funding, doesn’t mean they are a company. I have a really good friend that says the startup technology market is a crocodile. It moves a lot faster than people think, and if you aren’t careful, you won’t know the crocodile is about to eat you.

No one ever hit a shot in basketball that they didn’t take.

But, no one ever missed a shot they didn’t take.