Updates and wonders…

DSC00176I had a great conversation on Friday with a very smart person. It got me thinking first off about meeting smart people, and secondly why it is fun to talk to them. As we move along the path that either is or isn’t our goal, we have the opportunity to meet smart people. I think that makes that day a little better, a little more interesting.

A year ago we were buried in snow (2016). We ended up overworking our poor snow blower, so we upgraded to a new beast. I now understand the logic of winter. Upgrade your snow blower to one that can go to 34” of snow, and mother nature won’t put more than a ½ inch on your driven. Not even enough to power up the big boy. Maybe more is coming later this season.

The other thing we were doing a year ago was wandering around boats. It is funny how much fun you can have wandering around boats. In part because it is interesting to see how people present themselves on boats. It is also fun just to wander around and see the art of the possible.

My rationale for talking about a year ago, is that I started reviewing both the Kickstarter and Indiegogo projects I was backing then, but also what I thought would be hitting the ground soon. A year ago I was still touting my Screen as a Service concept. Hololens was coming (and frankly it exceeded my expectations) as was Oculus Rift (also exceeding my expectations.) Two “home” robotic projects were also interesting. While those two, Keecker and Jibo haven’t shipped yet, they will ship soon. Maybe even this first quarter 2017!

02_02The good news for me is that they are coming. The really good news is the rise and increase in cool robotics projects that are out and about. I find it interesting not only that the art of the possible continues to expand but that what we can do with automation continues to expand as well. I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, the interesting product Microsoft Flow. I have seen a number of other things over the years, including both Chef and Puppet. Where they offer (chef and puppet) tremendous power they just aren’t as easy to use as the flow is.

Of course, there are more things of interest coming this year! There are a number of interesting projects in the 3d and 360-degree camera world releasing this year. There are ROV’s coming that will let you dive beneath the surface of the water and see what is below you. There are interesting devices that help you swim faster, but actually pulling you through the water (Bixpy). All of these things will be in my hands soon and I can’t wait.

The first thing I am going to do this spring as things arrive is done more reviews. I have a stack of reviews that I haven’t gotten to, and I need to do so. In part because there are a number of technology projects that promise interesting options for people. Gotenna and Beartooth Radio both offer interesting new ways to stay connected. One of the things I suspect will happen is the appearance of GoTenna and Bear Radio clubs you can join. Over time that will expands your network. Both of the devices allow your cell phone to connect (via the device) to other devices directly and communicate. So in places where cellular signal is weak, you can still connect and talk to other people with the Gotenna or the Beartooth systems.

04_04I did say goodbye to some technology (and technology companies) in 2016. The first one was hard at first, but I realized it was no longer either a company I could deal with nor was it technology I did or would use again. The first was both technology and a company. I have been a loyal Delorme customer for more than 10 years. From there wonderful handheld GPS systems to the mapping software that I have used for a long time, I’ve had both. I will no longer ever deal with the company again. So I got rid of everything of theirs I used to own. I also retired my last HP printer. I am all canon in the house now and will continue to use and leverage canon printers.

Images today courtesy of Barbara Andersen.

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Techno wizard

Do not go gentle into that red flashing light…

In the IT world, there is only one thing to do when you see a flashing red light. It is pretended that the light wasn’t flashing. Or, if it was a red light, consider it an invitation to open a saloon. There are many saloons in the red light district of Amsterdam.

It is not now or will it ever be the Harbinger of a problem. That is a fact, jack. There is no way that flashing red light is a problem. In fact, as long as you do not (I mean it, do NOT) look at the LCD panel there isn’t an issue, there isn’t a problem.

Well except that no matter what happens there is a natural human response to that flashing light. Danger, warning, come closer, come closer and now LOOK. It happened to me yesterday. I don’t know why I let the blinking red light take over. I don’t normally you know. But, well actually let’s be honest, I don’t like red lights flashing. So I looked. First, at the red light plaintively flashing at me. Then sadly yes I looked at the LCD. It said Fan not operational. It, I call it now, even though it wasn’t always it. It was once my friend, my backup device my NAS for network storage. But now it is not that, it is a device with a dying fan. Oh no, not a dying fan a dead non-operational fan.

So how do you say goodbye to a friend like that? Someone that has faithfully stored backups and copies of pictures for most of the past 3 years? How do you say goodbye to a backup of a backup? Do you, I mean properly say goodbye? Do you, order a 21 gun salute and wrapping your NAS in a flag inter it in the ground in your backyard. Full technology honors in the burial?

IMGP0048I wish I knew.

What is the proper protocol to say goodbye to old technology? Well, first I reached out to the vendor but was told I was out of warranty. We cannot replace the system because it is out of warranty. That seems harsh. But it has all my pictures I wanted to shout. Well, it doesn’t have all my pictures and the drives are fine, just a dead NAS. The pictures on it are copies of copies. So I can recover from this. Still, I would have liked a warranty replacement. That seems so much cleaner.

How do you move on from that? How do you bury your old friend and move on? Well, for one thing, the new box is a lot faster than the old box. That bodes well, faster transfers mean easier for me to get data in and out of the NAS (NAS is Network Attached Storage).

How many copies do you need of the digital pictures of your children? The easy answer is three. Two inside your house and one that is thousands of miles away in a lonely data center with an Engineer named Jim who slays dragons by night (Ok he plays Dungeons and Dragons) but he is ever vigilant watching the drives that spin with your data.

He walks up and down the rows of the remote data center. Calling out names to co-workers. Do you have Scott’s data on one of your drives? Do you? Good. Take him off the naughty list. Does anyone have Jim’s data or Sue’ pictures?

IMGP0049I know I am poking fun at something that isn’t, in the end, funny. But that nagging red light reminded me of the fragility of things you depend on. Yes, it was a copy of a copy but now I am limping along on only four copies. It feels risky to me. It feels like I need another copy of my digital copies. It took us 11 months to scan roughly 34,000 slides and pictures. I would hate to have to tell my kids that we have to start over. That all is lost.

Plus I think I have a minor case of data OCD. OR as my daughter says correct CDO. If you truly have the disorder you want things in their proper order.

Trapped, just because I looked at a light. Blinking in my office, forlornly reminding me once again of the failure of systems. Again into the breech.

Oh well.

Images today from the digital collection of Dr. Hans O Andersen.

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Flashing light avoider

It is OK To fail!

bag001It is important to note, yesterday I talked about the butterfly that I chase, new technology. I didn’t go with any of the other eastern metaphors, such as the monkey mind or others. Why was that? Because I believe that in fact, it’s ok to chase your butterfly.

Each of us has one. A butterfly. Mine, as noted yesterday is technology, but in particular the reality of technology that isn’t in the consumer market yet. New or cutting edge technology. Contrary, by the way to rumors started by some people I know, I didn’t buy a boat just to have a whole new Avenue of new tech to explore.

New tech is an interesting butterfly. I gave a talk on innovation yesterday. The audience was high tech professionals, so I was speaking to an audience that understood the topic. I wandered around what I perceive to be the huge change in innovation in the last five years. The rise of crowdfunding.

Crowdfunding is interesting because frankly, my butterfly loves to be in the space. There are more interesting technologies proposed on crowdfunding. Today, what was is no more. It used to be that innovators would join the R&D department of a large company and then bide their time. Or, working on another idea the company is interested in, make an accidental discovery. That was how post it notes, and many other things appeared.

bag008Now they go out on their own and start a company. They don’t, however, have the built in knowledge of how manufacturing works. Or how to make sure their timeline is correct. Many crowdfunding projects fail in that area. They estimate 1 year to complete the project and then 2, 3 and 4 years later they are struggling. The reality of innovation is a failure.

I had the fortune of speaking to a couple of professionals I greatly admire (3 of them in fact) and all three talked about the glory of failure. It is ok to fail. Now, once you have taken money, failure isn’t an option but it is ok to fail to meet your original timeline.

The sue birds appear but ignore them. They are the drivers who cut you off on the highway. Speed ahead and get into an accident later, and they give you the finger as you drive slowly by. It was your fault they cut you off. When those folks back projects that are a day late, they post comments and send messages threatening to sue. I call them sue birds, because once one posts the rest of them flock in and start posting.

Innovation takes time.

Imagine for a moment this conversation. (it is an in-person conversation because the phone doesn’t exist nor will it in this alternative universe.)

“Alexander, Tom glad the two of you could stop by. First off great work both of you so far. But listen I am really sorry but you haven’t delivered and frankly, we are pulling the plug so to speak on your projects. Alex, we just aren’t sure people are going to walk to talk to disembodied voices so we are killing this project you call Telephone. And Tom, the light bulb, a bit disappointing that we can’t see you here in this dark candle lit room, but we are canceling the light bulb also!”

butterfly 2It is ok to fail.

It is also ok to chase your butterfly. Don’t ever catch your butterfly. That isn’t the goal, the goal is to on a summer’s day, with a warm breeze around you to follow your butterfly where it may lead. You never know what you may see along the way to following your butterfly! I think my butterfly talks to my inner child. I have loved technology since I was tiny. I love how things come together and work! I am going to stop now and see what my butterfly is looking for.

Images today provided by Henry O Andersen

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tech fan, butterfly chaser!

On chasing butterflies and what comes next!

crowdfundingA post by a writer I follow got me thinking this morning. I have for many years been a technologist. As someone in the technology field, there are two things that happen. The first is the reality of integration, I know the pain of start down a path, and then stopping and starting over. It means that everything you did, has to be undone and then redone in the new system. I also understand the competition that is new and shiny.

Balancing the desire to chase the butterfly (we all to some degree want to stop and chase the butterfly) against what is there now and requires attention is hard. The butterfly in the case of technology represents the cool new thing. The reality of what we have is much harder than what the butterfly offers. No matter what we do, the alluring butterfly will always pop in front of us when we are not ready.

For me the butterfly is gadgets. I acknowledge that as a technologist I am a butterfly chaser. Not because I can or should, but because I do and have. The reality of the butterfly for me is more that it is part of who I am, and part of what I do. There is an identity in chasing the butterfly. For many years I have been the person with the device in the meeting, not the person asking about the device. I realize however that makes it hard for me to approach life in the way I desire.

maturityI wish to be a minimalist, but I know the allure of the butterfly for me, won’t let me. So I struggle internally with the reality of who I am, what I do and ultimately how I perceive myself. I am the contradiction.

Accepting who we are is a difficult thing. I am a technologist. I believe technology can still change the world. I know this because technology has changed the world. But I also understand now, that the butterfly isn’t always the right answer.

I have at least 35 cables within arms distance of me, as I write this blog. But if I need a specific cable I cannot often find them. I have them, but wouldn’t know where they were. I can show you a 360-degree video of my office, it is a mess. But that is more or less, it is not my problem. My concern, my fear is more of loss than of finding.

I collect manual typewriters and toys from the old animated Christmas show Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. At the same time, I removed thousands of slides and pictures from my life and converted them to digital. Clutter went, and clutter added. My butterfly seeks always to find something new, something just beyond the horizon.

Does my butterfly, in fact, chase me?

I wonder that sometimes, as I sit here in my quiet space. Alexa playing classical music, and Google answering my questions about what is cool what is hot. My butterfly has a name, it isn’t OSCAR, but when borrowing from a commercial for a line, you think about both the line and the concept. The name of my butterfly is not Alexa or Siri.

The reality of my butterfly is not that it is just out of reach. All butterflies are just out of reach. Just out of our ability to see, and touch. It is not that I never catch my butterfly, nor is it that like many others, I always seek my butterfly. Dancing there, in the distance, taunting and encouraging at the same time.

“Come chase me,” my butterfly says, it is good to get up and move not being at a desk. My #Fitbit, rejoicing that it is finally able to track something other than the dancing of fingers on a keyboard. I am alive, my #Fitbit says. The siren call of the butterfly of no concern to wearable fitness trackers. Why, when it promotes motion, would they care?

My butterfly is two sided. The one side is the many things that could have been but never were and the flipping it, the next big thing.

I cannot stop chasing my butterfly. It is part of who I am. It is part of what I do. Someday I will see the color of my butterfly.

What color is your butterfly?

.doc

Chasing Butterflies and charging my Fitbit!

A could of readers questions….

20150924_222420000_iOSI thought I would start off today with answering a couple of great questions that have been sent to me. The first was sent via email, and was in relation to my post called “the technology of our walks”, most of the technology on our walks is either IoT wearable or is talked about. One of the things that I was asked din the email was why no pictures of the walk. Well, I guess I would have to go with lazy. Or, I guess because we track our walk distances (and by we I mean me) with my phone I don’t always have access to a camera. I could carry my point and shoot, but frankly the conversations are more interesting that what you would see on the walks we take. Our route is pretty boring. So I guess lazy, I don’t remember to take pictures, and lastly it is pretty boring. II do have a few walk pictures and will share them with today’s blog).

The second comment I am addressing to start today was sent to me via LinkedIn. The person, a long time friend, doesn’t post publicly right now. He say’s that posting in public right now leads to people flooding you with comments. Then he flooded me with a comment. I, of course, pointed out the reality of private vs. public comments, as did he. So, I asked if I could share his private comment. He responded yes. It follows: “you keep talking about windows phone being dead. But you can still buy one. I am not sure you are seeing that.”

Actually, I am seeing windows phones still. Nowhere near as many as once were. There was a time when landing in an airplane, with the flight attendant announcing “you can turn on your phone” that I was the only one sending and receiving emails, SMS, and phone calls. Everyone else was just receiving or making phone calls. I understand how the market has evolved. My rationale for Microsoft pulling the Windows Phone has to do with the reality of the market today. I don’t just buy a phone. I buy an ecosystem. In fact, most people buy an ecosystem. For example, given that you are going to buy a phone how do you start? Most people actually have an idea of what they want when they walk into the provider’s store. Most people get phones directly from the providers.

20151020_225658000_iOSThe first problem for windows phone, they don’t have much display space. There is more room in a providers store for iOS devices than for all the Windows Phones. It isn’t even funny how much difference there is. Or android devices, which may in some providers stores take up ½ of the entire store.

The other issue sadly is the one that I think is without a doubt the worst one. Once upon a time, the developer ecosystem for windows phones was literally 10 to 1 in favor. Pocket PC application stores had 100’s of applications. Great applications to, but expensive. Now you can get virtually anything you need for 99 cents. What once cost you 20 bucks is now less than a buck. Plus the windows phone app store is pretty barren all told. I guess the reality for me is the dying application and phone add-on market. More developers spent time rewriting their applications so that the new iPhone 7’s that don’t have 3.5 mm jacks, can still use add-on hardware than developed and delivered new apps for the windows phone. Without apps, smartphones are useless. You are hard pressed to easily connect a windows phone to any of the smartwatches. Plus, the once huge advantage the windows phone world had (the only one with Native Microsoft Office Applicaitons0 is gone as well. In fact, the office applications on an iPad are better than they were on the Windows phone.

To answer the question of my reader, I think windows phones are dead because frankly there are no apps now. The great innovations that are bursting on the scene are for Android and iOS devices. No one is leading with a solution that starts out Windows phone and will add iOS and Android later.

As always, thanks to the many readers who comment on my posts. I love hearing from and listening to the many wonderful suggestions, comments, and ideas. As a writer, it means the world to me when someone reaches out!

.doc

friend of Sandler Boggs.

Voice activated motion controlled keyboard…

IMGP0033Over the course of the next three years, there are a number of things that are going to change. Change how we interact with technology. For the past year and a half, the rise of voice managed and voice operated systems has been meteoric. Alexa, Siri, Google Home, Cortana, and others have burst onto the scene to listen, and interact with us.

The motion was the big thing before that, with Nintendo (Wii and WiiU, Playstation Move and the Kinect for Microsoft in the Xbox family) all helped us interact with systems via Motion. LEAP, a motion controller arrived for the PC as well. Motion and voice activation had finally arrived.

As alternative forms of entry continue to expand, I have used Dragon Naturally speaking for entering in information for years, I am still intrigued by the reality of the keyboard. I post two to three blogs a day pending time and topics. All of them are written via a keyboard. I have in the past, a few times written them with Dragon, but for the most part (well over 99%) they are typed out on a keyboard. I learned to type as a senior in high school. While I was never as good as some of my classmates (who were typing at a rate of 100 wpm with no mistakes) I did manage to get up to 60 WPM. With a computer, I am well over 100 WPM.

The limiter for anything is always what you are doing while you are completing a task. For me, I create my blogs in my head. Some of them I think about for two, three and more days. Some of them are memories that I already have present (my Wander Project, and the rest of my family history project).

IMGP0034So while all the cool things are changing how we input data and interact with computer systems the keyboard remains the one thing we use to generate massive amounts of data.

First off, the value of a keyboard is significant. There are two types of computers today, and one type for typewriters. The keyboard of the Royal Typewriter I learned on, is attached. You can attach your keyboard by the old keyboard plug, USB or wireless. The touch and feel of the keyboard are important. The old mechanical keyboards (typewriters) have a more resistant feel. As you press down the keys you feel the mechanical components literally restricting the speed. With some computer keyboards you get a little resistance, but frankly, it is nothing like what we used to feel. Without spell and another checking, just playing typing I think I can get well past 120 WPM on my computer keyboard.

There are two additional types of keyboards, chicklet keys (named for the old square gum from years ago) and more traditional keys. I prefer the traditional keys, but learning how to better operate the chicklet keyboards is important. The world of OSK or onscreen keyboards are wholly chicklet based. As are any of the lasers projected keyboards. They look cool, but if you are a touch typist it takes a few times to understand and properly use them!

All of this, pretty much available for the past two years or more. But the keyboard is the easiest way to enter in data. I use a Logitech wireless keyboard myself. I have for the past four years relied on the Logitech’s. Reliability and ease of use are important. I find that keyboards last me about a year, not much more than that. The Logitech system lets me switch out the components that aren’t doing as well over time. I replace my mouse about every three years. My keyboard every year. So the mouse I am using today is on its 2nd full year. The keyboard is about 3 months old. It is the 3rd keyboard I have had in the last two years. But that was more my fault than anything. I dropped the first one. The second one took a coffee bath. I have backup USB keyboards just in case things don’t go as projected and or I drop/spill on the existing keyboard again.

IMGP0035By again I do in fact mean again as I have done both in the past year. The coffee spill issue was bad, as it got my shirt, keyboard, and carpet by my desk. The dropping of the keyboard landed squarely on my foot so I ended up with a dead keyboard and a nice bruise.

Keyboards remain the essential connection to your computer. Eventually, as systems get smarter, better and the ambient noise issue is resolved this probably won’t be the case. For now, it is keyboard first!

Images today courtesy of dry. Hans O Andersen’s digital collection

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Keyboard fan…

The decline in ethics and customer service may be related…

IMGP0021Technology is my personal passion. It is what drives me to do things differently. Of course, always looking to do things better and faster, not just using gadgets. That said I have over the years had a number of devices that were important to me, that are no longer used.

I have for a long time sold those gadgets on eBay. There was a time when I was a loyal eBay user but not anymore. Their customer service has declined and the value of their fees relative to the cost of the fees is frustrating. When I am on vacation I am willing to pay a little extra to stay at a Marriott hotel. Not a lot extra but a little (50-199 bucks per stay). Why? Because I know I am going to receive excellent customer service. I do not think that about eBay anymore.

So I don’t post as much stuff on auction as I used to. I tend now to donate devices and gadgets to my kids or to organizations that will use them. That change is one that I find sad. In the first part because I have a huge number of positive evaluations on eBay (with no negatives and only 1 neutral). That used to mean something to me.

How an organization evolves their customer service is a critical component of going from small to medium and large business. First off, if your organization is moving from the world of small business to the world of large business use LEGAL SOFTWARE. I cannot tell you how frustrating it is to in this modern pre-information age era to run into organizations that don’t pay for the software they use. The onus of payment isn’t on the vendor it is on the consumer. If you don’t pay for your software than more than shame on you. It is beyond unethical to do that.

IMGP0022The same by the way is true for music and movies. If you steal music or steal movies then whatever happens next should be the same as that company that steals software. Which is what you are doing, and what they are doing. If you don’t pay for something you are using, and it isn’t something that you own, it is stealing.

When a company takes fees from you and then provides horrible customer service I think that fits into that category. They are taking from their customers and not returning the same value as the monetary compensation extracted. I use the word extracted because it is a better fit that charged. You don’t get to charge eBay when they screw up. But they get to charge you, to impact your small business with horrible customer service.

It is the sad reality of being too large to fail. Or worse too large to care. eBay reached that status a couple of years ago. There are other companies that have gotten close to that status recently. Places that offer you mediocre to poor customer service. Over the years I have come to realize that the best way to solve most problems is to deal with it myself.

IMGP0023Many gadget geeks find this out pretty early on in their quest for the perfect gadget. You have to continue looking for better ways to do things. Customer service should always consider that a customer is something they want to keep. I recently ended my long relationship with Delorme products. I have owned one for more than 10 years. But based on my last interaction with their customer service I will never own another Delorme product. Even though in canceling my account, there would be a credit on the account, the customer service representative threatened to turn me into a collections company. After 10 years of customer status, why do that?

First off in the technology world, there is the issue of where in the reality you are. If you are on the cutting edge you don’t expect customer service. It isn’t easy for an organization to provide service beyond what is known. But if it is a mainstream device, I expect reasonable customer service. The sad reality of customer service is it isn’t what it used to be. Delivered with a smile and delivered with the intent of solving your problem.

Oh to live in times when customer service mattered more. When people that stole music (by shoplifting a CD) faced the legal ramifications. Now you can steal music in far too many ways. You can steal software, and in all cases, it isn’t the responsibility of the vendor.

Those who take what isn’t theirs, make it so much worse for those of us who do not. One of the impacts is in harsh rules for customer service. It is truly sad that the few make it hard for the many.

images today courtesy of the digital collection of Dr. Hans O Andersen

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Missing customer service…