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:



Yellow Nectarines

White Peaches

Red Slicer Toatoes

Red Leaf Lettuce

Purple Potatoes

Bunched Carrots

Summer Squash


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

Is HAM Radio dead???

Type “HAM Radio is” into Google and the first word that pops up to complete your search is “dead”.  When many of us think of Amateur radio, we think of the crabby guy in his “radio shack” in the basement surrounded by glowing boxes calling out “CQ…CQ” trying to talk with other radio operators in far flung places like Russia or South America.  Or, possibly the pickup parked next to the diner with a multitude of antennas, and stacks of mobile radios mounting on the cab and an ARES emergency radio operator sticker on the rear bumper along with those for he local Fire Department, possibly police and maybe a CERT emergency team sticker as well.  HAM appears even in popular culture.  Tim Allen, in Last Man Standing has a very typical  HAM base station.  Maybe you’d remember the character Jodie Foster played in Contact as a young girl trying to reach other operators “DXing’ as it’s called.  Or, this gets rather obscure,  Sandra Bullock in Gravity had a short conversation with a HAM operator in Iceland when she was in the International Space Station.  Ironically, NASA has tried to make sure there is at least one HAM operator in the ISS for HAM operators to contact.  

In this day of universal Cell Phone access, Skyping across the globe, and satellite communications, HAM seems rather…well..quaint and definitely out of place.  It’s a plaything for older guys who don’t have anything better to do with their free time and like to tinker.  

To a point, I pretty much agree with this view of it if you are talking of HAM base stations and trying to see how many long distance contacts you can make.  But, there’s a new development, thanks to he Chinese, that shows real promise to re-energize this dying art.  A company, Baofeng, currently sells a perfectly acceptable hand held radio which can be used for HAM communications for about $30 on Amazon.  Though you can’t call long distance directly, which requires a full tilt base station radio which can runs thousands, along with a large antenna and a slew of other equipment, with the aid of repeaters, that are everywhere and take the low wattage signal from an HT radio, boast it, then retransmitt it, it’s easy to speak to other operators all over your region and even state.  Some systems even use internet connections to send your connection to other repeaters all over the world. Plus, if you remember Gravity and the HAM operator there, HT radios, LIKE THE 30$ BAOFENG are the most popular to talking to the ISS or one of the hundred of amateur satellites in orbit.  The result is, you can get into HAM for under $50.  

Then, if you check for your local HAM club (the best place to start this is the National Association for Amateur Radio  website (http://www.arrl.com) which as lists, you can drop by their meetings.  Often they hold evens where you can get classroom lessons in the morning, then take the test in the afternoon and earn your Technician level license which gets you a callsign and allows you to do basically 90% of what you can do on HAM radio.  In fact, many operators never go beyond the basic license.  

Now, you may wonder, in al honest, WHY WOULD I EVERY HAVE ANY INTEREST IN THIS!!  Well, you may have seen a previous posting of mine abut CERT emergency aid.  One group that is absolutely indepsensable in dealing with Emergencies is Amateur Radio operators.  Often times, the power is out, phones lines are down, cell towers are offline and the only way to communicate is through radio.  The fact that HAM repeaters are pretty low tech and often have battery backups means that they usually survive disasters.  Though the local fire and police have their own radios, HAMs are key to handling many of the communications they often don’t have time to handle.  Yes, cell companies often truck in portable transmitters and get the set up, but this often takes a day or more.  And, if you live on an island, like I do, which will probably lose all means of connecting with the mainland in the base of our most likely disaster, and earthquake, HAM will be key means of communications.  

Plus, if you are a gadget nut like me, and you’re looking for a whole new world to explore, HAM may be the ticket.  You might think that radios and computers could not be more different but several members of the original Home Brew Computer club, the birthplace of the PC, were HAM operators looking for something new.  

CERT, you too can help out in an emergency…

I recently completed my last day of CERT training.  CERT, which stands for Community Emergency Response Team, was created in L.A. shortly after the Northridge earthquak as a means by which to provided trained teams of volunteers to help out in situations where the existing emergency services need some help.  Today, it’s grown to a program that many cities and countys have.  Here in Alameda, our local fire department actually runs the program, which stars with a series of 6 classes that cover foundations in Personal Emergency prep, Hazardous material, Terrorism, emergency first aid (this includes stopping bleeding, opening airways, splinting broken limbs, moving victims, examining them, and triage), basic fire extenguisher and hose handling, and search & rescue.  Once those are complete, and you’ve taken the oath of office, you get an indentification card, a helment, a vest, googles, and a duffle bag to collect your CERT equipment.  After that, there are a wide range of more advanced classes from wilderness first aid, advanced search & rescue, and emergeny radio operation to name only three.  Everything is free and is very hands on.  Regular simulations are put on to keep people in tune in case they are needed.  

The training is very well done.  Generally it’s pretty straight.  It was a little distrurbing when we were going through triage where there are 4 possible ratings: urgent help needed, delayed help ok, minor injury, and dead.  We learned that you check pulse, breating, and attention.  If they have pulse, but aren’t breathing after two tries, they should be considered decesased.  It seems a bit draconian, but if you put it into context where there might be hundreds of potential victims and only a limited number or Training EMT’s available, it begins to make sense.  Additionally, one of the requirements was also to go out and look at places near your home that might have hazardous material.  Interestingly, the one near me with the most was Firestation 1 of the Alameda Fire Department.  Of course, if you head to the west end of Alameda and he former Naval Airstation, you would find a wealth of nasty things.  

Once you’ve got your ID card, you can join a team which is put on call.  In an emergency situation, you may be called upon to help provide emergency services to supplement the local fire and police.  Here in the heart of Earthquake country (and on an island which over half is rated likely to have the most severe shaking and possible liquifaction when the “big one” hits, this is even more important.  Ironically, what CERT has provided in the immediate time has been teams that helped find seniors who wandered out of their retirement homes and got lost.  Ultimately, the amount of time it takes isn’t great.  But, it’s a really interesting way to get involved.  

Tips on being a crowd funding investor

My first encounter with crowd funding (sites like Kickstarter or Indiegogo) came when a friend posted that they had just invested in this cool new watch called a Pebble. It linked to your iPhone and allowed you to see incoming calls or text messages on your watch. I was immediately intrigued and linked to the site, and signed up to invest the amount asked for to receive one of the first watches off the line. When the initial investment deadline was reached, the money was withdrawn from my AMEX account.

If you’re not familiar with crowd funding, it’s a very exciting new means of raising money. Everbody from small startups with a new technology (such as a watch) to producers of a the movie (“Foreign Correspondents” raised the 20 thousand they needed to finish the film) to musical groups (I’ve heard that major labels won’t even consider a band that hasn’t raised money using crowd funding initially) haveused popular sites such as Kickstarter (http://www.kickstarter.com) or Indiegogo(http://www.indiegogo.com) to raise anywhere from $10,000 to millions in funds.

The way systems work is that you comitt to an “investment” of a certain amount that you get something in return for. For lower amounts, it’s often a thankyou or possibly being listed on their website. More, and it can get a copy of their product when it’s available.

For those interested in supporting the arts, this is a wonderful opportunity to literally “put their money where their mouth is”. For those of us who are admitted techno addicts, it’s a fantastic way to get the latest new tech before it reaches the general public.

Therein lies the rub. When you commit to a product, there is a ROUGH ESTIMATE on when it will be shipped to you. Realize that this date is ROUGH and can AND WILL slide by weeks, months, and even years depending on how well developed it was when the funding was originally sought.

Pebble is a perfect example. The original watch was promised to be shipped in the early fall of 2012. Unfortunately, they were a victim of their own success. They had originally asked for $100,000 in startup funding. They got over 10 million! The original production plan had been to produced enough watches for the 100 or possibly 200 thousand dollar funding level. All of a suddent, instead of having to build 1000 or so watches, they needed to manufacter NINTY THOUSAND! This, coupled with the usual delays that occur when you are creating a new product that really is the first of it’s kind, resulted in my getting my watch June of 2013.

That’s not to say I’m not happy with the watch. It’s wunderful. BUT, people often approach products they INVEST in on a crowdfunding site as something they are PURCHASING. There is a BIG difference. The end result is that many companies end up suffering an onslaught of angry investors when their product doesn’t appear in their mailbox on the date promised. Sometimes, there’s justification in this. One product I invested in in 2012 has hit snag after snag after snag it’s development. I was supposed get it in December of 2012. Now, I’m hoping it may arrive by AUGUST of this year. Sadly, it’s designed to fit the iPhone 5 I currently have and I plan to upgrade to the iPhone 6 in October and so it’ll basically be worhtless.

But, in most cases the problems encountered are just part of new product development. IF you decide you really must have that exciting new headset that communicates through the bones in your ears, understand that the date they provide for their product to be shipped is an ESTIMATE and WILL slip. You are NOT buying the product. You are INVESTING in the company and the copy you received is their THANKS for supporting them. If you that whizzy new gadget doesn’t appear on your doorstep on the “date they promised it”, to quote Samuel L. Jackson, “CHILL THE F&*% OUT!” They are doing their best.

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.  

I really need this!!!

Sincer I bought my first Mac and was introduced to the ubiquitous mouse, I’ve been fascinated by new ways to interface with a computer.  I’ve tried a whole slew of pointer controllers including track-balls, track pads, chip movers (a strange tiny cube you moved), and most recently a motion capture system that allows me to control my screen using my hands.  I’m a very big believer in Voice control, and even considered a strange device you wore on your head that allowed head movements to control your computer pointer.  It never caught on for the general market, but has become very popular with the severly disabled.


Yet, since I first read William Gibson’s Neuromancer and heard the term “jacking in” I’ve longed for a time when I could directly connect my mind with the computer.  Well, that wait is no more.  Several companies have developed products that read brain waves and then use them to control, or at least see them on your computer.  One of the most imaginative is Necomimi.  They’ve created this device you wear.  It has a small sensor  you place on your forehead, a clip you attach to your ear, and two soft, furry ears that pop out of the top.  Turn it on, and it will read your brain waves and control the ears.  Get into a relaxed state, they lay down like you are sleeping.  Become alert, and they perk up.  Get, “in the groove” and they wiggle back and forth.  I mean, this is something I REALLY NEED!


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.