Tech Wiz on Sensors….

Air quality is an interesting problem. Many home weather stations now also measure indoor and outdoor air quality. If you suffer from allergies that is a good thing, you know the bad pollen and mold days before you go out. For me, this fall has been the worse in the past few years, because of all the water. Water over time creates mold/ Of all the things in the air that get to me; mold is the number one thing. Noise but that tends to come from humans also bugs me. People that don’t bathe regularly bugs my nose as well, but mold makes me sneeze. Knowing before I got out is critical for me personally. The same is true for the temperature, that can vary from the NWS feed (downtown Germantown) versus the burbs (where we live).

The concept of sensors is interesting. There are many more sensors you can have in your home now than in the past — not a great plant caretaker (like me!) you can buy a soil sensor for your plants. It tells you the optimal soil moistness for the plant you are caretaking, it also reminds you and send notifications to your phone, so you can’t forget. There are many other home sensors you can add. There are the traditional sensor arrays leveraged for home security. Glass Break, motion and door sensors that notify you of activity in your home. You can also get Hue lights that have a connected (IoT) aspect where the lights can be controlled by an application on your phone.

Or, a sleep sensor. Sleep sensors can be fitbits you are wearing, or they can be mattress covers. I like the product from Eight. It was previously called Luna. Eight is a device that covers your bed. Finally, there is the growing world of smart thermostats and smart smoke detectors (from your furnace company or Google). These allow you to connect your furnace to your cellular device. Or your smoke detector. They, the smoke detector also handle CO detection. CO being odorless, it is a good thing to have someone in your house that measure the impact of the deadly gas. That way if you drive away for vacation, you can still set your thermostat down in the winter (and up in the summer) while you aren’t home. Then, connect on your way home and set your house to a comfortable return temperature!


the sensors are coming, the sensors are coming

Tech Wiz on Printers….

I have had a plotter, or a large format printer for many years. Originally I had HP plotters, in fact, I only had HP printers in the house. I switched to a Canon laser printer and later the Canon plotter a few years ago. I don’t own anything made by HP except the advanced programmable calculator I have from the days of old. I keep that to remind me of the way things used to be calculated. Also, I keep it because I loved using it! Plotters are interesting devices. You don’t normally share the lower end plotters on your network. You do share the higher end large format printers. The inkjet variety of plotters has ink that lasts about four months, so they are more expensive printers than a normal printer. They don’t always cost a huge amount of money, but the ink is expensive.

The reality of printers though, is that people just don’t have as many printers now as they used to. Back when I first started in computers, we often had one computer per workstation if that workstation needed to print. There were people back then that printed everything. They would receive an email, print it, read it and then go back to the computer and reply. Then they would often print the reply to their reply. It was a vicious cycle. Lots of paper wasted. The emergence of portable electronic documents (like Adobe Acrobat) allowed for more and more digital-only files, but there are still those who like to print the documents they receive.  They are not wrong; they are just used to the old model.

I do still have the Canon Pixma photo printer. I use that one for printing pictures that I share with people. I share digital pictures with those that like those. But there are people that still like to hold pictures so on occasion I use my canon photo printer and print the picture for them. I have used that printer twice in the past year. I have used the plotter once in the past year. At some point, I will get rid of my plotter and the photo printer. Not yet mind you, but soon. I do still like being able to print large format Visio diagrams. At some point, I suspect I will have the last printer I ever buy. From then on it will be easier to just send the electronic version of the document and no longer print anything. Someday, that will be true I am sure.


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On climate change.

First of all, out of deference to my many friends that live outside the US, I do know and understand that the US is not the global leader in solving the climate change issue. For that, for our lack of leadership, I apologize. I do however wish to caution people on the concepts of climate change. The impact of climate change is going to be huge. How we attack the problem also has to be global. This is more than cows producing methane. It is more than 14% of the overall carbon footprint globally in agriculture. It is the entire 100% of the global carbon footprint that we need to consider. Every nation in the world has to do its part to reduce what we are doing to mother Gaea.

Many years ago I had an opportunity to work on a transactive energy project. The project was about creating a framework for states in the US to makes laws supporting the production of energy. Doesn’t that phrase itself seem simple? Well, the reality is that it isn’t simple. Transactive Energy or TE. TE laws aren’t on the books for most US states and many countries globally. TE allows you to have a solar array on your roof, and whatever energy you don’t use or store for your home, is then sent to the power company. They monetize that power produced and pay you. Most likely if you have a solar system on your roof and batteries in your house, you will be a net positive energy household.

If you don’t have batteries, you may still produce more during the day, solar, than you use (air conditioning, TV’s, computers charging devices and so on) in which case you are financially net zero, but still a larger Carbon footprint overall. TE is a path to a better future. But there is so much more, many more things that we can do. Turn off lights when you leave a room. Close doors when heating and cooling your living space. Turn your thermostat down at night in the winter and up at night in the summer. Get a solar array on your roof. Vivant and Tesla will put one on your roof for free and charge you a monthly usage fee. PS, that is much less than the cost of power from the power company.

The only path to the future is picking a different path to walk now!


Tech Wiz

Mother Earth is calling….

My father used to tell me that you lock the gates to keep honest people honest. The reality of that statement is that everyone has the ability not to be honest. You have to work at what you are trying to do. But the most important thing is that you, are happy with you. No matter anyone else says or does, be happy with you. Climate Change is such an argument that people have. The report, released by the White House on the Day after Thanksgiving in the US points to some significant changes due to the climate change issue. I would like to note that while the President of the United States has previously said he didn’t believe in Climate Change, he did agree with this report, just not all the recommendations.

For example, the impact of climate change has nothing to do with the reality temperatures rising. Global Warming was the original “crisis” and isn’t the problem. For example, there has been more than twenty-one hundred years or once a century storms in the past ten years. That is an unfortunate precedent that has never happened, ever, in the past. The reality of climate change is going to impact the US economy, and by default, it is going to impact the global economy. Farming is the easy answer to what will be impacted. You see, farmers rely on two things — consistent rain. By the way, that rain falls in a pattern, more in the spring and gradually reducing throughout the year.

In 2018 the rain came in July in the Eastern US. The Western US, which needed rain, didn’t get it. They go wildfires. For the DMV where I live (District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia) we have as of November the 4th wettest year in recorded history.  It is important that we read that report. We need to understand the impact of climate change and hopefully act upon that information before it is too late.

Sadly, folks, we are in a dark alley. There is a group of people following us (our children) and a group of people in front of us. The goal has to be to get everyone through the alley safely.


Introducing a new way to consider work units….

`The browser wars’ of the 1990s helped drive the internet further and faster. I suspect the reality of that Netscape versus Microsoft’s Internet Explorer made a lot more people aware of the internet than previously. I remember working with the team as our company set up the first company website. 90% of my job was setting up the first internet connection our company had — an ISDN connection to a company in Columbus Ohio. We suddenly had internet mail (SMTP). We also realized that we didn’t have a WWW presence. We built our website and deployed it. Another person on the team took it over from me about halfway through the project (I had some other projects I was working on at the time).

Why am I wandering 20 plus years ago? Well, one of the things that I am looking at is how do you model a business. Enterprise Architects consider the concept of a work unit. A work unit is any set of tasks completed by a user to complete their job. SAP, Peoplesoft both offer extensive suites of software as do many others. Microsoft and Salesforce off online CRM (customer relationship management) solutions. The work units are simple to use cases applied to business needs. Accounting needs to be able to enter information into a system that will track AR and AP (accounts receivable and accounts payable). Based on that each of these represents a work unit.

The problems start when we forget two other components. There is the concept of destination. IE, where is the data going and where is it coming from. The network sits between the work unit and the destination. Why do we care about destinations? Well, the problem with a destination is the implementation of the connection between the destination and the user. That has radically changed over the past ten years. Ten years ago few companies had much more cloud solution than a web presence. Now, many have a significant portion of their organizational assets in the cloud. Some larger companies actually now exist wholly in the cloud. But users aren’t in the office anymore. They, users, are everywhere. So destination, device, and work unit now need to be evaluated at every level of the solution.


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Tech Wiz on Cyber Monday (be careful out there).

Today for my 363rd picture in the photo challenge I shared the solar system. It is the AstroReality solar system. They have also created a series of notebooks; the picture is shared with this post. Embedded AR objects continue to grow in both scope and number.

Today in the US and now globally is called Cyber Monday. It is interesting because of the advertising reality of the day. You hear numbers like 90% off for a 55 inch TV. It is critical that as the consumer you verify that the features you need are included with the cheap TV. For the most part, the TV’s are specially made for Cyber Monday and do not include the majority of cool functionality. Like, having a USB slot or multiple HDMI slots. Both of those are critical if you intend to use your TV for more than watching Cable or Satellite TV. Plus, one HDMI input forces you to a switch or not having a DVD player attached to the TV. Or, the cheaper TV may not have the application environment, which means you may lose Hulu or other programs.

Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving in the US was never something that I was interested in. I am also disinterested in Cyber Monday. It feels like more hype than reality to me.

I wonder if Wednesday of this week is Porch Pirate Wednesday? Since the majority of packages are now shipped two days, Cyber Monday results in Porch Pirate Wednesday.

Or Video Doorbell install Tuesday, so there is no Porch Pirate Wednesday.

I shouldn’t make fun of any of those events. It just strikes me as funny, if people perceive they are saving money they won’t always check twice. Please do so if you are shopping today. Make sure you are getting what you need. Don’t be filled by 80% off. It may mean less money out of pocket only to find out that the 80% off was both features and price.

Have a wonderful Cyber Monday!

Buyer Beware.

Tech Wiz

Tech Wiz on the importance of anchors in communication….

My twins and I often, while walking has discussions about the importance of language. In particular, we have argued that the dictionary is arbitrary versus an archive of language. They argue that there was language before there were dictionaries.  They focus on the creation of language as an aspect of everyday life and not a core component of communication. I know as they get older that argument will dissipate. The reason I know is that is an argument I had with my father many years ago. Dictionaries are both a component of language, but they are also the arbiter of communication. The words that are not currently in the dictionary or definitions not currently widely accepted cause communication problems. The word means one thing. If you modify a word outside of the accepted definitions then well you are risking communication failure.

The reason language and communication are so critical, and by extension, the dictionary comes from the long-ago history of humanity. Pictures, drawn on cave walls could convey a message. But one of the reasons for that communication had to do with the reality of the communication structure. Every tribe had a language: 1000’s of languages and no arbiter. No one was writing down what things meant. The Rosetta stone did more for deciphering the language of Ancient Egypt that anything previous to that. Why? Because it created a dictionary of Ancient Egyptian. Once you have a basis point, it is a lot easier to communicate in a structured manner. Personally, that is one of the big drivers for me, with the Travis Touch system. The ability to communicate easily.

Throughout my professional career, I’ve had bosses that communicated in one of two ways, yelling or deriding. They didn’t understand how to lead and manage people. I’ve worked with people that were scary. Very smart person but they literally, scared people. Few people would argue with them because they were scary. I’ve worked with people that build consensus and deliver projects. The thing they all had in common was language and communication. That drives out of the dictionary. Try the following experiment for a day. Pick ten words and look them up. Using the dictionary for the lookup, pick the 3rd or 4th definition of the word and work it into a conversation. See how quickly people are lost and confused!


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