Category Archives: Uncategorized

A year with a smart watch…

Just recently, Apple computer finally introduced their new Apple watch. Typical of the Apple products that we all know and love, they look that they will be beautifully made, incredibly elegant, truly cutting-edge, and a bit on the pricey side.  There are unlike any other watch, in part because of the amazing array of applications that have already been created for them, which allow you to do much of what you might do you want to phone on your wrist. 

But, as is often the case, Apple was not the first. Back in the early summer of 2012, I was introduced to the crowdfunding phenomena through probably the first smart watch.  It was called the pebble, and it promised the ability to be notified that messages were coming through my iPhone, whether they be a phone call, or a text message. Additionally, there would be a wide range of apps that would run on this phone.  

Comparring the Pebble with the Apple watch is a little bit like comparing your first cell phone, with an iPhone. The screen is small and black and white. Though very well-made, the watch is plastic. And though there are a wide range of apps available, they don’t rival the amazing array of capabilities in the Apple phone. But, having this thing has really changed a lot of the way but I use my phone, and the way I get information. Right now, the screen that is being displayed on my watch shows the time, the date, and the weather and temperature. Okay, I can see the weather outside the window of my car. But the temperature is a nice feature. If somebody calls me on my phone, or texts me, or a wide range of other apps that are set on notification, my watch or let me know. Sometime this is very cool when it’s information I want to get immediately. Sometimes it’s kind of a pain in the neck because a watch not only changes the screen it vibrates letting me know I’ve got the message. For some reason, when somebody post something on Facebook that mentions me, it doesn’t just notify me once, it notifies me three times. The same is true for the calendar. This really isn’t the fall, watch, it’s just understanding how to make sure that only one application notifies you at a time.  Also, it’s amazing the array of iPhone apps that have notification built into them.    

The only thing I’m missing is a voice link between the watch and my phone.  Ironically, this is not for phone calls.  I honestly rarefy makes calls on my iPhone.  I’ve got a bluetooch headset and Verizon as a provider so my calls are solid and my voice good.  But, most of my friends are on ATT & their calls are almost always difficult to understand or even dropped because of an iffy connection.  But, I’d love to be able to use Siri without getting out my phone.  In search of this feature, I invested in an Indiegogo supported company, Kreyos, who promised a new watch, the Meteor, that would do allow just this and many other cool features.  Sadly, the watch was a total failure.  It was next to impossible to use, VERY cheap in it’s build, and the audio quality was beyond horrible.  

So, in retrospect, what’s it been like having a smart watch over the past year and so.  Nice.  I can’t say that it’s indespensible, but I’ve been very happy to have the link to my iphone.  

An alternative to traditional food sealers

Years ago, I thought I would give one of those food sealers to try.  You know, the ones where you put whatever you want to save in a plastic bag, which the air is then sucked out of, and the bag is heat sealed with a special machine.  Unfortunately, I was less than thrilled.  First, the sealer didn’t seem to really suck the air out that well, and then, once you open the bag, but you could refill it with the heat sealer, it was a real pain in the neck. It ended up costing quite a bit, especially in wasted plastic. 

Recently, I started getting a weekly box of farm direct veggies.  I realized that I wasn’t able to use all of them and ended up having to throw out a bunch because they would go bad before I could really store them properly. So, I started looking at getting another food sealer.  The only problem was my memory of my first experience. Then I discovered that Foodsaver, one of the more popular manufacturers of these things, makes an interesting alternative that’s cheaper and allows you to reuse the bags.  First, it has zippered bags with special valves on them.  Then, there is a vacuum pump which fits on this valve and sucks out all the air.  You put in the items you wish to save, make sure the bag is it tight, and then use the vacuum pump and viola la,  you got basically the same thing you can do with one of the heat sealing machines.   The difference is, if you want to use something from the bag, you just open it up like any other zippered bag, take out what you want, then reseal it and use the vacuum pump again.  Easy Peasy!!!  The vacuum pump is known as the Foodsaver FreshSaver handheld vacuum sealer, and The zippered vacuum sealer bags are available in quart and gallon sizes.  The pump is about $20, while the bags run about $10 for a box.  So far, I’m very impressed!

Crowd funding is for gamblers…

I’ve been a huge fan of crowd funding since I “invested” in my first product, the now well known Pebble Watch, which communicates with my iPhone through bluetooth and notifies me of phone calls, messages, and even the temp and weather using one of my favorite apps.  

The process was simple.  I committed to $110 and, when it went into production, I would get one of the first watches off the line.  Yes, the watch was delayed…by 6 months, and no there weren’t many faces or apps when it came out.  But, all in all it worked great and has grown to earn it’s place on my wrist.  

Only a month after I gof my Pebble, a new watch, named the Kreyos Meteor, appeared on Indiegogo and it promised even more.  And it would have both a speaker and a microphone it it.  Like my Pebble, it would notify me of calls but I could actually answer them on the watch.  It also had a wide range of sensors and matching software for tracking movement and all kinds of other cool things.  So, I made a committment to it.  Like the pebble, it didn’t come out by December of 2013 as promised but I finally got mine just a week ago in August of 2014.  No big deal.  

Accept, the watch is DEFINITELY not what I had hoped.  First, there was no manual or guide what so ever.  Then, the blueooth connection is very unstable and doesn’t communicate with the app designed to control the watch over half the time.  The control buttons on it are also very stiff and difficult to use and, for all I can tell, none of the multitude of sensors works.  Finally,and most depressing, though I did get the watch to talk to my iPhone, the sound quality from it’s speaker is so bad that I can’t understand even Siri.  

Yes, there will be software updates to the watch (though installing them is a crap shoot).  But, the problems with the speaker (which apparently everbody is having) is a hardware one.  Additionally, the buttons may loosen up with time, but it’s still very confusing.  Sadly, this is an example of a product that was a good idea but maybe not ready for prime time.

Guy Kawasaki, former product evangelist for the Macintosh computer, wrote a book once names, “Rules for Revolutionaries”.  In it, one of his bits of advice was when it came to getting a product to market, “Don’t worry, be crappy!”  He spoke of the original Mac.  Though a revolutionary computer, it had too little memory, wasn’t exactly fast, and was generally agreed to be something that was not exacly “ready for prime time”.  I know because I bought one and, though it started a love affair that continues to this day, it was anything but perfect.  But Apple knew that Microsoft was scrambling to get the first version of Windows out and, if they didn’t push the Mac out the door, MS would dominate…even though the first version of windows was AWFUL!!!   

Sadly, in the case of the Kreyos, though they are the only watch with voice link, there are lots of other watches on the market now that are better (the Pebble included) because they are easier to use and actually work.  And this fall, in all probability, Apple will introduce the iWatch (sic) and the rest will be history.  

Do I feel cheated like so many other Kreyos owners who are already clamoring for full refunds.  I can only reply with a resounding NO!   When you committ to a product that has never been created before, you’ve got to accept you are taking chances. Not everything will work beautifully.  Will Kreyos be able to fix my watch?  I sincerely doubt it.  I think the problems with the speaker in particular are too severe to be a simple software fix.  Do I feel I deserve a refund?   No, because I knew what I was getitng myself into.  BUT, I would like a discount on a new version of the watch when things are fixed, if they survive.  They had a good idea but it ended up being “too crappy” on intial introduction (to use a phrase from Guy)

The moral of the story is to realize that when you invest in a product through Kickstarter or Indiegogo or any of the crowdfunding websites, you need to realize that you are basically rolling the dice that this wonderful new technology will be what it promises to be.  You are basically gambling you’ll get what you want.  And, if you are not a gambling man (or woman), then you shouldn’t click that pledge button.  

Ever wanted to pay with your phone or keychain?

Have you ever wished that you didn’t have to pull out your wallet, then dig around the find the right credit card to pay with?  Wouldn’t it be cool if you only had to take your cell phone, or your keychain, swipe it over the card reader and viola…your number was entered and all you had to do was sign it.  A company named LoopPay has done just that.  On other one hand, they’ve got a fob that hooks onto your keychain and can store the information of a credit card on it.  To use it, you only need to hold down on a button, then swipe it over the place where you would normally swipe your credit or debit card.  Built into it is a transmitter that will basically act like a card in the magnetic reader built into the card system.  Unlike proprietary systems that require special receivers, this will work with 90% of the readers out there.  To program the fob, you install an app on your iphone or android device, plug the fob into the audio plug, and swipe the cards you wish to store on this wallet using the ard reader built into the fob.  To load a different card into the fob, just select the card, and upload it.  

If you’d like quicker access to your cards stored in the app, as well as a charge booster for your phone, there’s  a chargecase that fits onto your phone and uses bluetooth to talk to the app.  Select a card in the app, then press the button on the side of case to swipe it over a card reader.  Viola!  Easy Peasy.  

The fob is $39, the chargecase $99.  

Regarding security, there’s a timer built into both devices that you can set.  After a period of time, in order to use the fob or case, it must be reconnected to the app.  

Want to get more “veggies” into your life???

OK, I’ll admit it.  Though I’ve lived more years in the San Francisco Bay Area than anywhere else, in my heart I’m still very much of a Midwesterner when it comes to eating habits.  Try as I might I’m still drawn to red meat.  I secretly see Pork as “the other white meat”.  And vegetables are meant to compliment the meat but not replace it.  

But, I also know that we need to eat more vegetables and fruit.  And, ideally, they should be organic and locally grown.  Luckly.  I like in a town where here is an aboslutely amazing organic grocer, Dan’s Produce, who has joined many other such veggie stands that offer “farm direct boxes”.  So, what is a “farm direct box”.  For about $30, every Wednesday, I get a box of assorted vegetables and fruit that is locally and organically grown.  Then end result is that you end up with all these ingredients that basically force you to rethink what you cook in order to use them.  Here’s a typical week’s lineup:

Blackberries

Strawberries

Yellow Nectarines

White Peaches

Red Slicer Toatoes

Red Leaf Lettuce

Purple Potatoes

Bunched Carrots

Summer Squash

Kale


For some reason, they always have KALE, which is something I have not yet learned to cook.  But, the fruit is wonderful, and the veggies are always just right.  


If you are interested in getting more vegetables & fruit into your diet, and also benefitting local farmers, check out your local organic grocer.  If you live in the East Bay, here’s a link to Dan’s Fresh Produce’s   http://www.dansfreshproduce.com




Cell phones…the future of computing???

It was just another day at the coffee shop.  I grabbed a double cap, an almond scone and sat down to work.  I put down a little stand on table and rested my iPhone 8 on it.  I pressed a small button the side and suddenly a tiny laser projected a virtual keyboard onto the table in front of me.  I reached up, and pressed a small button on the side of my glasses activating the built in projection system to generate a 42″ display (virtually of course) about 2 feet in front of me.  Then, I taped the side of a ring I wore and reached up.  The cursor appeared on the screen and I selected the menu bar at the bottom.   From that point forward, it was no different from using a regular computer.   

Sound far fetched.  Everything I mentioned here, save for the iPhone 8, actually exists.  

RING – This is amazing idea.  It’s a ring you wear on your finger that has bluetooth built in and is able to track the motion of your hand.  You can use it as a mouse, you can use it to control and change channels on your TV, you can even sign things with it.  The fact that’s it’s an unobtrusive ring makes it ideal

Glasses that project screen in field of vision  – We’re all familiar with Google Glasses, but there are a number of competitors working on the same kind of technology.   Of course, Apple is supposedly developing iGlasses itself.  The difference is that many are not standalone devices like Googles.  Instead, they take the display of the computer, tablet, or phone, and project it in front of the wearer.  Personally, I think this is a much better approach.  Instead of having to use very limited display and processing technology due to the small size (such as Googles), these rely on the power of the device they are projecting.  

Projecting Keyboard  – A company named Celluon already produces a tiny box that will project a keyboard onto your table that you can use instead of a physical one.  You can get this at Amazon for about $110 and considering there are cell phones that have built in video projectors (Samsong came out with the Galaxy VideoBeam in 2012), this would be an easy addition to any phone.

The processing power built into a current smart phone may not compare with a fire-breathing game laptop, but it’s a quantum leap past desktop systems of only a few years ago.  I predict that, once manufacturers are willing to design phones to rely upon external devices for display input, you’ll see the demand for serious processing power (both CPU and graphics) will increase.  Additionally,as nano-technology progresses, and the speed with which we can access the cloud reachs a point comparable to a standard hard drive, or even RAM you’ll see the demand for even laptops drop.  As Apple’s IOS bears much in common with OSX, and you can easily run Linux on a cell phone (in fact, there was a server built back in the 1990s that was the size of small matchbox), you’ll start seeing true operating systems ported over.  Cloud storage offers another benefit, namely that your data is stored SECURELY online.  Should the phone be stolen,  it would be useless as everything it needs to even run could be stored online and this connection would only be established using some form of biometric such as finger print, voice ID, or even retina scan (through the phone).

The bottom line, in my opion is this.  In the not distant future (I’m talking may 3 or 4), there will be no need to the size of even a laptop accept in special situations.    Of course, all this would only be stop gap until nueral implant technology becomes universally available .  Then, you won’t even need the phone as it’ll be already in your head.  But, that’s another story.  

Do you lose things now and then?

Do you have a habit of misplacing things? I’ve a good friend who had a habit of losing everything. Being the tech guy that I am, I kept suggesting products that would hopefully help her find whatever she lost.

One was a little gadget that you would attach to your keys, for example, then when you wanted to find them, you just whistle. Of course, she loved to naturally whistle all the time, so it got kind of irritating.

The Sharper Image had this thing where you would stick a little sensor on every object you wanted to fine, then you had this remote with different colored buttons on it. You press the button of the gadget you were trying to find and that sensor would start beeping. Of course, she lost the remote shortly after getting it.

I also tried the product from a well-known computer assessor he company, Kensington. It was a small tag, with a battery in it, that you would attach to your keychain or whatever you were trying to keep track of. Then, there was an app that could connect to it through Bluetooth. The problem is that the tag kept losing track of the Bluetooth app and we just start beeping on its own. It got really of noxious.

Well now I think the answer is here. It’s called TILE, and it’s a little square tag that works through your smart phone, much like the Kensington system. You either put it on your keychain, or even stick it to what you’re trying to find. Then, when you need to find it, you run their app. If you press a link to the tag on the app, it will start the little square beeping. It also will show where it is on a map, though it’s not necessarily accurate enough to show specific places in your house or apartment. Check it out at thetileapp.com.