who is that on the other side…

Do you know the person on the other side of the computer screen? I lived outside of the US when I was young. We had a telephone in our apartment in Bangkok. But honestly, the cost of calling home (the US) was expensive. You could easily back then spend 100 dollars on a telephone call depending upon how many telephone companies you had to touch. It is much less expensive now. But the reality of the internet is do you know who it is on the other side of the computer screen? First of all from a broad security perspective, it is recommended that you be very careful in what information you share online. But there is more to consider.

  • First, the person could be a hacker, collecting information.
  • Second, they could be a very nice and considerate person interested in you.
  • Third, they could be someone who has an ax to grind.

It is an interesting question and one that we have to consider here on Virily and the internet at large. Who is that person typing to me? I often wonder as I converse with people online who are on the other side. I know many authors here on Virily and I enjoy conversing with them. I know other authors, and I stay away from them for a variety of reasons.

Remember, the human is a rule used on the micro-blogging site Reddit. But there is one more part of this world that we do have to worry about — the quality and source of the information. I have a really good friend that long ago was also a coworker. He and I sat in a meeting once. The leader of the meeting was very angry at my friend. He yelled, said a bunch of things. Afterward, my friend said, “let’s go to lunch.” I thought it was so that he could vent about being yelled at. But instead, we spent the time talking about things that were important to us, family other friends and so on. I finally at end of the time, had to ask “aren’t you upset about what the manager said to you.”

My friend looked at me and smiled.

“I don’t trust the source, so I discard the information and claims.” He said.

I have thought about that for 20 years since he said that. I finally got it about a year ago. Consider the source; consider if you find value in what they say. If you don’t trust them, then what they say can be ignored. They can yell, they can scream, or they can exist. But in the end, if they are not a source you use to validate yourself, ignore them!


what is the tipping point for AR/VR?

2020 is a year with a lot of upcoming new and interesting technologies. One of the things that have exploded in the past year is the 360 camera. There are some such cameras on the market, and they continue to improve both in ease of use, but also capabilities. 360-degree cameras are not really for everyone today, and that market remains smaller overall. The other area of recent improvement is the personal video camera. Or more a product that replicates the functionality of a police officer body cam. The Body Cam detects motion and beings recording video. The same is true for the personal version as they detect you moving and start recording video.

GoPro and other devices also do that and fit into the newer category of Action Cameras. Finally, there are some other types of cameras appearing that continue to create interesting new possibilities. For example, there are now AR cameras or cameras designed to help measure space and create a virtual version of an actual space. This can be expanded so that the user can create completely virtual spaces. Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality allow for interesting new photography opportunities.  360-degree cameras can be converted to Augmented Reality cameras quickly. By the way, the interesting fact in this space is that you can also get 360-degree cameras that can be added to your cell phone.

At what point does AR/VR technology take off? Malcolm Gladwell wrote a great book called “The Tipping point” talking about when a market reaches the point where it will be to move rapidly. It is a slow build-up to the point where everyone what’s to be involved in the technology. Flat-screen TV’s are a great example when they cost 14000 dollars, not many homes had one. The larger projection-type screens (the big screen in a box) were 2000 and much more popular. When flat-screen tech got to the point where the screen could be gotten for 500 dollars (all re US dollars sorry) the flat screen exploded. When or what will be the driver for AR/VR to take off. It is a question I keep asking myself.


of headsets and earbuds…

Over the ear versus in the ear? I know what a weird question to ask. It has to do with the reality of earbuds. There are two types, wireless and wired. There are also two distinctions over the ear and in the ear. I have two sets of in the ear and two sets of over the ear headsets that I use for my cell phone. I will say the following about each type:

If I want to listen to music, I use the in-the-ear buds

If I need to talk on the phone, I use the over the ear headset.

In part, that is because, with the over the ear headset,s, you move the microphone away from your mouth, and you are on mute. With the earbuds, I have to mute the phone. When you are on a call, being able to mute and unmute by moving the microphone is a huge value for me. The other value and issue with the over the ear headsets is the time of year. In the winter, the over the ear headsets provide extra protection for my ears. In the summer, they get sweaty. So in the summer if I am outside while talking on a conference call, I use them in the earbuds.

There are many of both on the Market. I use Poly and Jabra headsets. My in the ear are only Polycom, and my over the ear headsets are from both. I did a review of the Polycom Voyager over the ear headsets, and I use them quite often.

I know not a lot of folks on Virily use headsets with their phones. I do use them every day. One of the risks you need to be aware of is not to allow the volume to go to high. You can damage your ears, putting a high noise source that closes to your eardrums.

Makes sure if you do decide to buy headsets to consider three things:

  • Wired or wireless, both are good. But what works for you?
  • Over the ear or in the ear, both are good, what works for you?
  • This one for all headsets and earbuds, make sure the headset you get or the earbuds you get support ANC (automatic noise canceling).


connected medical devices

First of all, I wanted to thank every single person that read, upvoted and comments on my post yesterday about connected medical devices. One of the things that I got from the comments is the trade-off. I wanted to talk about the concept of trade-off. First of all, medical devices are designed to help someone with a specific issue. The easy answer I used was Pacemakers. These devices are designed to help regulate and control the heartbeat of a patient. They help keep the person alive. The ability to have that pacemaker connect to a cellular phone via Bluetooth, and then send information about personal health directly to the doctor is a critical step forward. IT is something you can have today.

But there are other medical use devices that you not even think about helping you. Afib or Atrial fibrillation happens to be a huge portended provider of a warning that you are potentially about to or are having a heart attack. Doctors and medical professionals (if interested I am happy to provide the links to this information and these studies) and evaluated two distinct health issues. Strokes and Heart Attacks, what they found is that the faster the person is treated, the greater the ability of the medical profession and the human body to heal. Get there fast, early and the impact of the Stork or the Heart Attack is lessened overall. How fast is fast, that depends?

One of the technology tools that you can use if you have Afib is an Apple watch. Doctors and medical professionals studied the Afib warning presented on an apple watch and found that 85% of the time, the watch caught the early changes in the Heart from Afib. That means a single device (Apple Watch) can save your life. The value of the watch increased based on that! But there are other wearable educational devices, including the new non-stick generation of diabetes blood sugar monitors. Simply putting the connected device (Gex) on your skin allows it to connect to your phone and let you know what your blood sugar is without you having to poke your finger.

It is about the value of the device. No technology (well other than for me, but I am a geek) is worth getting just because it exists. When technology provides you with value, then it is worth it!


Connected medical devices

There is an interesting new technology area, and I thought I would wander that area a bit today. Medical Technology is interesting. There are now digital EKG devices (Kardio is one) and digital stethoscopes (EKO) in the market. I have talked a couple of times about the Kinsa Thermometer also a digital device. Doctors can get, gather and improve the overall treatment of patients. Simply by collecting more information, the doctor can provide better care. There is also a medical software package called EpOcartes that gives information about drug interactions. More and more information available for helping us deal with medical issues before, during and after they impact us!

One of the reasons for this post today is the interesting difference in medical tech and the security issue that presents. For example, many people now have pacemakers that regulate the beat of their hearts to regulate their heartbeat. It is possible, although very difficult for a hacker to gain control of the device and stop your heart or modify how the pacemaker is modifying your heart. That reality is a little scary overall. That someone can find out information about you, that normally only your doctor would know. The issue is also compounded by the reality of a pacemaker, and You don’t have a login in for the device. So you can’t increase the security of the device by creating a more complex password.

But connected devices are good in the sense that your doctor will get more information about you.  The other issue with that is that the hacker can gain information about you. Only a few hackers attempt to control medical devices. For the most part a hacker would be more interested in gaining information about someone. Presidential candidates, politicians, CEOs and business leaders all have information in medical devices that could be captured and sold. A CEO with a heart condition of a company about to go public because of that CEO might change the opening IPO or initial public offering price significantly. Information is one thing that hackers love to have. Something I know about you can be lucrative.


some vampires have shadows

Did you know that there are vampires in your house? Not the Nosferatu of legend, waiting until you are asleep too, well drain you of blood. Oh no, these vampires are far worse than that. First off they have shadows. Second off they are all day, all night, on the weekends, and if you are not careful while you are away from home on vacation. They are called Power Vampires.` What is a powerful vampire? It is any product that plugged into an electrical outlet continues to draw power when it is off. The reality of why do we have power vampires is the reality of the instant-on world we live in.  If not instant on then the ever-expanding world of always-on things.

There are some things in your home that allows need to be on, or need to be running the majority of the time. Your home heating and cooling system, Your refrigerator and freezer need to be running. (when I was a kid we used to call people as a prank call and ask “Is your refrigerator running?” when they answer “yes” we would say “well you better catch it.”) But there are things that run that you may not want to be running. Also things that run that you probably don’t know they are running. I am going to list some home appliances that are always drawing power and a couple of things you can quickly due to determine if you have other appliances that are “always-on.”

  1. Refrigerator
  2. Television
  3. Timed coffee pot (any coffee pot designed to quote turn on at a specific time)
  4. Smart speakers
  5. Laptops computers (have to change that battery)
  6. Some wireless power chargers for devices
  7. Share more in the comments.

The amount of power drawn by these devices every single day can be staggering.  I have a series of small sensors I can plugin that allows me to see how much power some devices are drawing. I also have a device from my solar panels that tell me what the average flow y hour and day. In part because my Solar System generates between 18kW and 25kW per day pending cloud cover and angle of the sun (the sun is lower on the horizon in the Northern Hemisphere in fall and winter, and higher on the horizon in the Southern Hemisphere in their spring and summer).  I will leave you with the following very simple process for removing Vampires from your home.

If you aren’t using it, unplug it!


3rd in my climate change series

The reality of climate change is huge. The reality is that each of us contained inside our worlds, is small. Yesterday I talked about the reality of Transactive Energy. One of the things TE does honestly allows for more localized production of power. The further you transport energy, the greater the loss of energy is. Within the concept of TE there are two things, laws that support the concept of production and redistribution of energy. What that means is that the power company produces energy and charges for it. With TE, when your solar or wind turbine produces more energy than you need it is moved to the power grid, and the power company pays you for that energy.  The second part is the creation of what is called a Micro-Grid.  The power grid represents power generators, delivery systems, and consumer systems. Micro-Grids put the production, consumption, and later redistricting if there is extra energy, into a single place. Put a solar array on your roof, and you are a Micro-Grid. Put a wind turbine on your roof, and you are a Micro-Grid.

That is the big answer to what can I do. There are, however, lots of smaller things you can do. There are also little things. The little things allow each of us to contribute to helping with climate change. I am going to list some below, please (the list is not complete on purpose), add more!

  1. See the article link below – whales are a HUGE impact on the environment. The average whale consumes and stores more than 33 tons of Carbon Dioxide during its lifetime.  When they die, they sink to the bottom of the ocean, and that CO2 is consumed by bottom-dwelling creatures and no released back into the environment. Save the Whales – Greenpeace was right all along!
  2. I have to be honest, and this one hurts to say. In the summer increase the Temp you set your AC at 78 degrees.
  3. Same in the winter, set the temperature of your furnace to 68 degrees. (those two hurt because my father was talking about that being something to do more than 30 years ago)
  4. Turn off the lights (except when reading posts by Alex Levante, then leave the lights on)when you are not using them.
  5. Take public transportation when it is available (I always ride the Metro to downtown DC, less traffic, no parking issues, and overall less pollution!)
  6. Buy things that are packaged in paper, not plastic

Please, this list is hardly even a good start! Add more in the comments!

The reality is this is a huge issue. It is not one that can be throw out simply because we don’t like the end game. We can each make a small contribution to making our world a little better before it is too late. Climate change is a huge issue. I know many people that are truly emotionally drained from giving against the so-called deniers. But I will leave you with something positive.

We can change the world. We have done it already. We can do it again!

Do go gentle into that good night; make sure the lights in the room you left are off!

Save the whales, save the planet


Previous in the series




climate Change 2

My first boss in IT used always to say if you bring up a problem you own the problem. Yesterday I brought up the growing global issue of Climate change. Today I want to talk about some things everyone can do. The first thing is to look up your countries, state, city, or other government and what Transactive Energy laws are in place. Scientists put the amount of renewable water energy every day at nearly 26% of that energy produced. What does that mean? Let’s break it down. In the world of energy, there are producers, and there are consumers.  The power company produces energy and sends it along the power lines until somebody says I need that, and it is consumed.  It is important to note that the power system globally is almost always charged. If you think the power is bad where you are, look at some developing nations and how bad their power is. I have friends in South America, Africa and some Asian countries that routinely have 1-2 and 3-day brownouts (no power).

But power and the way it moves is not like a river. Once the river, in its banks starts flowing, even a dam doesn’t change its course, the Dam stops the water. Electricity is a circuit system and flows both ways on the cabling. But today, for some areas of the world, only one way is supported. What that means is that the concept behind Transactive Energy has not been accepted. TE allows a producer of electricity to sell their extra. Remember, I said that we lose 26% or so every minute of every day, of energy we’ve already produced. That is above 50% or more that is lost in the transmission of energy in the system to keep those power lines changed. TE allows the producer (you) to send your extra power into the power grid for someone else (your neighbor) to consume. Oh, by the way when your home solar system or your home wind turbine produces more energy than you need for your house, you also get paid for that energy. Overall solar reduces your electric bill.

What can I do:

1. work with your local government to make sure that Transactive Energy is adopted by your power company and by the government! (TE requires a new power meter at the house, it is called a digital meter)

2. if you can get a Solar array!

3. I know this next statement is going to get me in trouble. But all buildings that use space inefficiently (Libraries, Museums, Schools, shopping malls, shopping centers, movie theaters) should be legally required to have a Solar Array on their roof to offset the water energy. I know people love Libraries and Museums, I do as well, but they are huge drains of energy.

4. Pass laws that go beyond the list above to force all buildings over ten stories to have a solar array or wind turbine on the roof of the building.

Transactive Energy is the first step to cleaning up the environment before it is too late!

Link to the last post


Climate Change

Beginning in the late 1850s with the rise of industrial processes and the 1st Industrial Revolution began pumping things into the air that wasn’t meant to be in the air. The rate of change is horrific. Whether professionals have a term that they use, it is called a 100-year storm. That is a storm that happens weather-wise around once in 100 years. In the US, in Maryland alone, we’ve had 3 100 year rainstorms in the past five years. To be clear that means storms that would normally have happened once in 100 years have happened in 3 out of the last five years. Buildings that have sat dry on the same plot of land for more than 230 years were flooded this year in parts of Maryland.

Do not take my opinion, my thoughts my suppositions as fact, read valid scientific data (see links at the end of this post), and make your own decision. In the next 20 years, the rising ocean level is going to force some people close to the sea level to move. An entire country (the Maldives) may lose more than ½ of its land, and 275,000,000 people will have to relocate because their current homes are underwater.  Scientists are now saying we have 20 years to start making changes. The changes we need to make are far more than covered in the Paris Accord, that is a great starting point, but there is much that must be done.  The recent US wildlife study that denoted the loss of 3 billion birds over the last 20 years (that is the total number of birds in the US, now 2 billion less alive now than 20 years ago.) the number one killer of birds is domestic cats, then feral cats. Finally, the third killer of birds today is Climate Change. Many of you post wonderful pictures of birds, imagine a world where they are gone.

Beyond displacing people climate change has another issue. July 2019, was the warmest average temperature (62 degrees average for the entire world) ever recorded for a month, including the various temperature projects looking back more than 10,000 years.  Climate change at this point is truly something that keeps me awake at night; something that I worry about. I have in the past been a bit snarky about the reality of climate change.  The problem with the other side today, is they don’t have facts. I can argue suppositions with the best of people. They are really easy. If you don’t have to have facts and information to back up what you are saying, it is easy to say anything.

The good news is there are short term things we can do to help. The first is the US needs to embrace solar and wind power. (read the study below they don’t kill birds). We need to remove the Ethanol requirements in the US. Ethanol is, at best an energy drain. The last thing is a global accord that is much tougher than the Paris Accord was. The time for change is now.






problems solved by tech

I started my technology quest many years ago in search of replacing a circular slide rule. Now, I think I spend more time considering the impact of technology on the world around me.  So let’s take on three distinct problems that many people have and see what technology has delivered recently that helps solve the problems.

The three problems

  • Capturing audio during a meeting
  • During web meeting images of who is talking
  • Multi-language conference calls

Capturing audio is easy. There have been voice recorders available for the past 40 plus years. You press record and the devices records to tape or a flash drive. There have been solutions in that space for a long time. Now the Senstone product has been released. What is Sunstone? It is a voice recorder that also supports automated conversion to digital documents. You can do this with a standard voice recording and Dragon Naturally speaking. But Senstone is an all in one system that literally can be worn by a user. It is small and works well. Dragon is better at overall voice conversion to digital text, but Dragon operates son your pc it has more power!

Capturing whiteboards just got a lot easier. Now there are two ways this can happen. One is the use of an interactive digital wall (Microsoft and many other companies sell one.) these interactive digital walls run between 6000 and 10000 dollars, so they are not a choice for most of us. Rocketbook has created a product called Beacon. It lets you put the Beacons on the four corners of the whiteboard using your cell phone converting that into a digital (editable) image!

The last tech improvement is the online- transition meeting room or web meeting. There are some products coming, so I won’t mention them, but now you can quickly use your translation device to capture live audio and translate it.

All three of these items do have a cost, but they are significantly less than the more traditional “business” systems.

I hope this helps!