the canary watching us…

Another crowdfunding success that I have been using for a while is the Canary. I love the name. It is a video surveillance device. One of the things that are cool about it is it is integrated with the cloud. So, when some enter your house, that image is in the cloud. Even if they take a baseball bat to the Canary, you will know what they look like. Canary started as a crowdfunding campaign around four years ago. The device includes a camera, sensors, and a network connection—pretty traditional stuff for the reality of home security. There are several things that the canary system does that some of the other systems also do; I will talk about those in the next section.

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The first cool feature is the push to talk option. With their advanced monitoring package (around five bucks a month), you get the ability actually to connect to your device and speak to the person. I use it on occasion when I need to get the kid’s attention fast. The intercom works well and is two way. The Canary has a microphone and an air quality sensor. It doesn’t detect smoke or CO (Carbon Monoxide) but will tell you when the air quality where the camera is isn’t good or is abnormal. Overall I like that feature as it is useful. The sensor can also tell you the humidity level of the air around the sensor. Humidity is something you have to be careful about in the winter if you have a wood fireplace.

Wood fireplaces tend to drain the moisture from the air. Fast. The last feature of the device is its ease of setup. The software works on Android or iOS devices. I pulled the system out of the box, connected to my home wifi, and was up and running in less than ten minutes. The application has a step by step process that is easy to follow and configure. Overall the device is sleek, works well, and produces pretty good video. There is a motion detector, so it turns on when there is motion. I have lots of images of our dogs coming into the kitchen at all hours of the day and night. The units cover all the entry’s to our house, just in case for peace of mind!

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on crowdfunding…

Yesterday I got something from a Kickstart Campaign. It is a guitar tuner (automatic). It’s called Roadie3. It was designed by professional musicians and roadies that have to quickly tune 4, 5 or more guitars. IT works very well on the one I have! Crowdfunding is a risk; one of the things I always caution people about is that reality. You don’t ever get the product you backed. Sometimes, the product isn’t as good as the big company item that leapfrogged the one you backed. But crowdfunding tech is fun more to be part of the development cycle. To get to see things as they develop/ As I sometimes said, developments end with the “we can’t do this letter.

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That said, I wanted today to highlight some crowdfunding ideas that are now full-fledged companies.
• Rocketbook – they have a reusable notebook that is amazing! They also have moved into the whiteboard world!
• Occipital (they made 3d scanners)
• Ravean the best-heated jackets and gloves ever!
• Kinsa makes smart thermometers, and they are doing well.
• Travis the Translator (they continue to go strong with the fly language translation)
• Waverly Labs (they also make voice translation software/hardware combinations)
• Snapmaker (they are on v2 of their product) CNC Carving, Laser Engraving, and 3d printing!

First off, it is not a long list on purpose. There are many more. I backed all of these early, and I have to say the evolution of their products has been outstanding. I like seeing tech early, so I know what is coming. But I also want to be involved first just to see what the possible tweaks could be. Some products make their first and even their second release before they go out of business. Some of these projects never make it out of prototypes. Some ship that first product only to find the market shifted well away from the direction they choose. But in all cases, it is fun to track the tech, and it evolves.

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healthcare tech

Health technology is something I am interested in. Some of what you can do today at home is simply amazing. I learned (from my mother) how to operate an old fashioned hand operated blood pressure cuff. You can easily have an automated blood pressure cuff at home connected to your phone—no longer writing down your BP (XXX/XXX). You know, show the doctor the log on your phone. The other thing that I find interesting is the reality of connected medical devices. My blood pressure cuff at home is connected to my phone. I also have a stethoscope that is connected. I was doing some testing of related software for a buddy of mine.

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He worked for EKO and got me one of their electronic or digital stethoscopes. Combine that with the new Series Six Apple watch, and you get a much better picture of what is going on with your heart. The connection between your health and your devices has improved over the last five or years. I know that many people are nervous about that connection. One of the first Science Fiction movies in that space was a hacker gaining control of pacemakers and killing someone. Hackers are more likely to attack an entire hospital and wreak havoc than they would be to attack one person unless that one person was very important or wealthy.

The reality of connections is they are good and bad. It is interesting and that more and more devices are available with the link. More and more information we can share with our doctors as we pursue better health. Technology and those connections are important and useful. We can now put a connected device on our keys and never lose them again. That same device (called a fob) can be placed on your suitcase, so you know when it comes out of the airline baggage chute (if we ever travel again). The most important part of the connection now is the awareness of the end-user. We are paying attention to what and where relationships are is very important. In the new connected world, that may be the best thing we can do!

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AR and VR

I haven’t talked about either AR or VR lately. I wanted to do an overall update on what’s happening in that world. First, I have recently gotten the Oculus Quest headset. The Oculus system is a headset that immerses you in the world of virtual information. I’ve been playing with a number of the feature. My favorite thing is the ability to share my computer screen (application is called BigScreen) to my Oculus headset. That lets me have and use a 100-inch monitor. It’s reality 100 inches—one hundred inches in the sense that it is the same resolution as on a 100-inch monitor. The value of doing it in VR is you don’t need 100 inches of wall space; you need the headset.

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Plus, you can turn your head with a headset, and the monitor is in front of you. The other thing I have enjoyed so far is a couple of interactive experiences. I highly recommend the NASA Apollo 11 immersion. So far, I have used that most of anything else. The interesting thing about the Oculus system is that there are many more applications in their store now than there used to be. Like the Google and Apple application stores, many of the apps are cheap, and many are free. That is fun when building your library. The other thing they have improved is the overall upgrade process. It is really easy to upgrade your applications when the developers load a new module.

The reason I am bringing this up is that I noticed there are several cave tours available via VR now. Since my wander project talked about Mango Cave in Southern, Indiana, I was surprised to see cave tours in the Occurs store. I haven’t tried one, but I will soon. The other thing is that several famous museums have announced their virtual tours via VR. I have been to many of the famous museums in the world, so I will see how close they are to the experience. There is nothing like being in line to see the Mona Lisa for 11 seconds before it is time to move on. It would be nice to stop and examine the paintings from every angle without worrying will the person behind getting frustrated!

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The keyboard…

One of the technology trends that I watch frequently is the evolution of the cell phone. But I post about that all the time. Today at what is a talk about something I’d I don’t often talk about. To be honest, this is not a post about the things you can connect to your iPhone. Or the things you can do with your laptop. Or the conversion of information from analog to digital. This is not the story of how I became an IT person. This isn’t a story about me at all. It’s about an area of technology that I find interesting. It’s also not a wonder project as I wander in and out of topics.

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Today’s technology post is about the keyboard. The simple, almost ubiquitous device connected to your tablet for your computer or on-screen for your phone. The keyboard, the primary input device for the very first computers many years ago. Guess we use the mouse to select things, but the information that we entered and still do to this day for the most part into the computer comes from the keyboard. Over the years, I had several keyboards that I love and a number that I got pretty frustrated with and got rid of pretty quickly. Today I only have three keyboards. One is connected to a switch that has three computers on it. The other two are wireless keyboards. I have one wireless keyboard for my Microsoft surface and one wireless keyboard for my desktop computer. The surface computer has a keyboard from Microsoft; it’s light and easy to use. The other wireless keyboard I have come from Logitech.

I can put them both on my lap and type away. I learned to type in high school on an old IBM Electric typewriter. It’s funny. My dad made me take a business class so I would learn to type. When I started, my dad typed about 30 words per minute, and I was nowhere near that fast. At the end of my semester in organizing class, I typed more than 100 words a minute, and renderings are on my dad. That was fun.

Then along came the computer and my friend whiteout disappeared. I could type this fast as I wanted, and the correction was pretty quick and easy to do. My words per minute rate went to almost 120 words per minute. Then I started experiencing shoulder pain and my rate of words per minute went down. That was when I switched from wired keyboards to wireless keyboards. My rate is back pretty close to a hundred and 20 words a minute. But because I’m able to put my hands lower when I’m typing, I don’t have as much shoulder pain as I did in the past. The fun thing about wireless keyboards as you can use them up to 30 feet away from the computer. If you’re in the market for a wireless keyboard, I highly recommend the ones from Logitech.

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Tech on tech

Another technology blog I’m trying DragonDictate again. Overall I’ve enjoyed using the program. It works pretty well overall, but there are few things you have to be careful about. The first and probably most important is don’t talk too fast. The other thing to worry about is don’t speak more quickly than the conversion occurs; what happens is you speak in the program converts it to text. That is the conversion. You want to avoid getting too far ahead of the program when you’re speaking. If you get too far ahead, then the possibility of mistakes occurs. But as I said, overall, it’s pretty impressive. I do find for me; this works really well. But I do have to dejaronize my writing from time to time. I do sometimes speak in a lot of acronyms!

The other thing and I talked about it several times is the reality of voice conversion. I talked about Travis, the translator, a European-based company that now converts about 80 languages on a small Android-based device. There are several new solutions, including the ambassador and the time kettle m2. Voice translation hardware comes in two flavors. Traverse the translator is handheld. The ambassador product is an ear covering solution. Timekettle M2 is an Earbud and is in the same form factor as the Apple Earbuds. They (Timekettle) are also white like the Apple product. Both Ambassador and TimeKettle allow you to do live, on-device language processing. But there is a limit to how many languages you can have on your phone and or device.

Between voice dictation and voice translation, the products improved incredibly. The first Travis product that shipped about 3 1/2 years ago was about 70% effective. The newest one is more than 95% effective. The better the solution is, the easier it is for you to converse with someone in another language. I’ll end with this, this entire blog was written with Dragon dictate. If I wanted to convert this into another language quickly, I could use Google translate or Travis. The one thing but I haven’t mastered yet with Dragon dictate is getting it to work in a meeting situation and creating notes of the meeting on the fly.

  1. Products Listed
    1. Dragon Dictate (works with iOS and Android OS)
    2. Ambassador translation devices
    3. TimeKettle M2 Translation Devices
    4. Travis the Translator

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applications i use a lot

I was thinking the other day about applications I have had and have used for more than ten years. There are more of them than I would have guessed. I thought I would have. The list started with the Microsoft Office Suite. I have used office applications now for more than 20 years. I am pretty good with the word, excel, and Visio. I wouldn’t say I like PowerPoint, but that is for different reasons. It’s funny there was a time when 90% of my job was done in Visio. Now more of it is done in PowerPoint. Oh well, things change over time. The other programs I have used for many years run a very wide and broad gamut of applications. But I can honestly say It is a smaller list than it was ten years ago.

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I still use Cakewalk. I like to create music and write songs (that no one other than me ever hears). I also use Finale and have used both for more than ten years. They are great MIDI input solutions. I sadly realized I have five MIDI input devices that I have had for a couple of years. I also forget I have one and buy a new one. I wrote myself a note in big letters on the whiteboard “You have a MIDI board” hopefully, I won’t buy another one. Funny thing, I have more keyboards (5) than programs (2) and more MIDI boards (5) than actual misc. programs. I don’t know why I have so many keyboards. I enjoy making the music I make. But as I said, it is just for me.

Another program I use is Mindmanager. It is a mind mapping package I have used for many years. Beyond that now, the number of applications reduces. I use a couple of Adobe applications. But those are more for creating videos and editing the pictures I am willing to revise. I also use visual studio for coding applications. For a long time, I used a couple of other application platforms for building apps, but I don’t anymore. I only focus on developing applications for one platform now. It is stuff I use often. But not things I share. The last applications I use are security-related. I’ve used many different ones over the years and won’t give specific names, but that will end my review of software I’ve used for a while.

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on connection

Many of us connect to this site in different ways. Some of us connect via a cell phone. Some of us connect by a desktop, Some by a laptop. In all cases, we link to the internet and then click on the site. It is the reality of the HTTP process. HTTP (hypertext transport portfolio) allows us as users to call a web site, and that web site returns information that is understood by the browser we are using. One of the things that I always tell people when they are having is what browser are you using, and often I may ask you to try another browser. Why? Put each of the browsers that are out there take a different approach to the concept of HTTP. Based on that, sometimes one browser doesn’t work, but others will.

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The problem with the internet in terms of helping people fix problems is information. I often find myself firing off several questions to the person that asks for help. I don’t mean to be rude; I know the top 3 or 4 reasons that things fail. People I’ve helped in the past ask for help with the information I will ask upfront, or in the second email or voicemail, they leave me. The other thing I find is that the way you connect to the internet can sometimes impact your connection. I know that items that do not work on the phone work perfectly on a laptop. Sometimes the reverse is true. Troubleshooting, the two are also very different overall. I know because I help people with both every day
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If you ever reach out for help, I just wanted you to one why I respond the way I do. It is nothing personal. It is simply years upon years of helping people. Sometimes, I am a bit abrupt. If that is the case, I am very sorry. I understand you have a problem, and you are frustrated. I know that I need to get information, but please understand I don’t mean to be rude.

Anyone helping people with IT problems is something I have done for many years. I am not usually the one that handles it now, but I make know-how applications and devices work. If I can help, I will certainly try!

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3d printing

One of the things about 3d printing is you get extra filament plastic in the creation. This is created when the extruder (how the plastic comes out as a liquid) is off a fractional amount. That little bit off makes the wispy fine plastic. There are several tools you can get and use to solve that problem. The one that I find the most effective is a cool little company called Soderdoodle. It comes with tips for shaping and removing plastic as well as tips for soldering. I haven’t l anything in many years but ended up using the tool twice to solder. I guess when you have a solution, the problem doesn’t seem as bad. Anyway, it is a handheld unit that operates on battery power.

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The other tool I use a lot is the 3Doodler. This device is a free hand plastic extruder. You can also use metal and wood as materials. The pen is around the size of the solder doodler. A little bigger than a pen. I use both for laying out plastic ideas—the other for cleaning up mistakes in the printing process. The other device I use extensively is the Ecora 3d scanner. That allows me to place an object on the rotating plate, and the scanner will pull it into the software. I can then use the printer to print new versions of the item. One of the things I thought around five years ago was that every house would have a 3d printer. I have changed that thinking significantly, as the investment in time to 3d print is pretty heavy.

What I do think now is that 3d printing is going to move into places it isn’t today. You can quickly create things now with a 3d printer that was once not easy to get. One of the things I see 3d printing driving is model building—both Radio Control (RC) and traditional models. You can print the parts and build the model fairly quickly. 3d printers (larger) are already heavily used in prosthetics where human limb replacement can be made on a 3d printer. When I was a kid, I liked to build models. But the problem was you sometimes broke a piece. It never quite fit right after it was repaired. With a 3d printer, you can print a new version of the broken part. I don’t think that market is huge now.

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the march of technology

In 1959 we had a space race. From 1959 until 1969, it was a hyper completive winner take all race. Luckily the US and USSR, as well as other nations, started cooperating. By the ISS launch, the world was working together as we built and now staff the International Space Station. Space should be a place of unified human activity. One mistake in area, and it is likely your last mistake. That said, the technological changes that space flight and the space program have produced is amazing. Your cell phone exists because of NASA and the USSR SA, as was the EUSA’s drive for smaller computing power. On a spacecraft, you need little but power computing.

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Yesterday I talked about Drones. I know that some of you are nervous about Drones, and I understand that. The risk to personal privacy when it comes to drones is high. The reality is it has to do with the concept of privacy. What is privacy? We have to be very careful in defining that word, and it means a lot of different things to a lot of people. For example, if you interact on a website with a person, that is your choice. If that person chases you to another web site, that isn’t your choice. Is that a privacy issue? Lots of people and lots of interactions in the universe. They mean something different to every single person. The answer to my question, if wholly yours.

But would you trade privacy for security? If someone could guarantee that if you give up private cell conversations, but the guarantee is, there is no chance of large terrorist attacks, would you? I am not saying it can be or should be done; it is just a privacy question that we have to ask. My personal opinion is that level of safety for that level of privacy given up is a bridge too far. But there are many things that we might be willing to give up. I will list a few. If one intrigues you, answer it in the comments!

• Only speed and red-light cameras, no more police stopping drivers for anything other than reckless driving.
• Willing to give up my image rights if I am near where a crime is committed and photographed.
• I am willing to give up my right to privacy if it helps catch someone that has committed murder.

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