Monday, April 16, 2018

Harry Anderson, magician, actor, geek

Tonight I learned Harry Anderson, star of Night Court and Dave's World, passed away at age 65. 

I met him once, and we talked geek for about 45 minutes.  It must have been sometime in 1985. I was working in the store-within-a-store that was Macys Computer Store in San Francisco.

Back then, companies like IBM and Apple did not let just any store carry their products.  There were expectations of marketing and properly trained staff.  We were one of those stores. The year before, we'd been one of the few stores to have the Macintosh on its opening day.  I have written about how Steve Jobs came by that day to gauge public enthusiasm for his new baby.

One afternoon -- it was a quiet weekday -- I saw a guy wander into the department. Tall, skinny, wearing a dark suit and a 1960s style men's businessman's hat.  "Who does this guy think he is," I thought, "Harry Anderson?"

Then I realized it was.

I approached him and he wasn't looking for anything.  We talked geek for a while. His wife, his very pregnant wife, and maybe two year old daughter came in.  Mrs. Anderson was happy to have a place to sit for while Harry and I discussed Macs.

The little girl interrupted us a few times, so I set her up on an Apple II playing a Muppet game.  She was thrilled.  I remembered a profile I'd read about Harry a few months before in TV Guide.  "You're the little girl who's dad has pulled so may coins out of your ear, its where you ask your mom to look first for your lost shoes, aren't you?"  She assured me she was.  That anecdote had been in TV Guide.

It was the first I'd let on I knew who he was. He and his wife howled. She couldn't believe someone would remember something so obscure from the magazine piece. But I found it charming, and I found that family charming that day. 

Unfortunately that marriage didn't last Harry married a much younger woman, opened a magic store in New Orleans that was destroyed by Katrina. He and his wife moved to Ashville NC,where he passed way today.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Now I am a TV broadcaster!

Audio version of this post
One of the reasons for this blog was to share my absolute delight with technology.  Let me share my most recent delight.

First, a little of my background is relevant here.  I earned a BA in Broadcast Journalism back in 1978 yet within two years embarked on the career of selling computers, other technology and enterprise software.  Broadcasting becanme a memory.

About twelve years ago we bought a couple consumer grade video cameras and Adobe Premiere. I was astonished at the product I could put out. It was comparable to what I could in 1978 with access to a TV station.  I used the capability to shoot a couple of friend's weddings and make a couple of documentaries.  Some are at my YouTube Channel.

Last night, I fooled around with a free software product called Open Broadcast Studio, or OBS for short.

For those who know video production a bit, OBS is basically acts a video switcher.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Ken Levine

One of the many things I could have seen myself doing was writing television screenplays. I even wrote a MASH script for a class in college. It's long lost, probably a good thing.

One person who knows about writing good MASH scripts is Ken Levine.  He is a writer, producer and director on shows like MASH,  Cheers, Frasier and many more.

His blog at is a daily read. He has a lot of insights on television and the entertainment business. And he has a great podcast too.

I'd forgotten until recently that back in 2008 he even wrote an entire column answering a question I wrote.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Goodbye Amazon Cloud (for us--it's not going away)

When Amazon Cloud first came out, I was happy to sign up for $60 a year for unlimited storage.

I knew there had been many unlimited cloud offers that later became limited (I'm looking at you Microsoft! among others), but I thought if anyone would keep their commitment it would be Amazon. After all, with AWS and their other services, they are as much a cloud services company as they are a retailer.  And they offer a lot of add-on benefits to Prime members like us.  I thought they stood the best chance of being truly unlimited. Or, if they did one day limit storage,to do so at a higher value than Microsoft or others.  That is, more than a terabyte.

My primary responsibility as the Director of Family IT in my opinion is to make sure there is effective backup for our various computers.  Amazon Cloud would play nicely for that.

I purchased licenses of ARQBackup and had it setup so my laptop and my wife's backed up to Amazon.  It worked wonderfully. I was even able to log into Cloud while my wife was out of the country for four months to make sure her system was still backing up.

Alas, Amazon  reneged on their unlimited offer.  They have instead setup multiple tiers.  For the $60 you used to pay for unlimited for a year, you now only get a terabyte.  And each additional terabytabout e is a full $60 annually.  It isn't a bad deal compared to the competitors.  Google is $120 a year for a terabyte, Dropbox is about $100.

My contention remains : as a service to Prime members, and considering their awesome Cloud presence, I expect better from Amazon.

And why 100% for each incremental step?  That first terabyte has customer acquisition, advertising, overhead, and retention costs in it. Why not add additional terabytes for less than the full $60?  

I think they missed a chance to soften the blow. They should have made it five terabytes for $60 a year.  In one year of Cloud service, I've paid for a physical drive (I'm assuming they pay a lot less per gigabyte of hardware drive than their charge consumers for consumer drives.   Year 2 I've likely paid for the bandwidth and overhead costs.

So why not just buy a 5 gigabyte drive of my own?  Responsible backing up requires off site backups.  That's the service I'm buying from Amazon.

So now I've switched so each machine backing up to One Drive. We get a terabyte of One Drive with our Office 365 subscriptions for five people; essentially, five terabytes for $99 a year.  It's a great deal!  But I could see us dropping Office at some point in the future; Google Docs is good enough.  

It would be great if Amazon met our needs for storage as we once hoped they would.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Delta to allow inflight texting

Now this is an idea I can get behind.

The idea of the person next to me talking on their cell phone during a flight is repulsive.  They likely have to yell to be heard,

and the coverage is likely to be spotty and frustrating (more yelling).

But texting?  That would be awesome. No yelling. Buffering of messages should coverage be momentarily lost, and people can stay in touch.

Heck, I text more than I call now, and I'm a boomer.  X-Gen and Millennials will likely have no issue with this.

Delta announced they will offer free in flight texting!

Sunday, September 10, 2017

RIP Jerry Pournelle

The writer that may have influenced me the most, is one whose books I have never read.

Jerry Pournelle has passed away at age 84.  He authored countless sci-fi books.  He is known for writing the first book using a computer; a computer that is now in the Smithsonian.

It was his column for Byte Magazine in the 80s that caught my interest.

In his monthly Chaos Manor column, he told his tales of woe for that month getting the computers in his home to work properly.  He struggled with early networking, balky printers, buggy software and all the struggles those of us from that era knew all too well.

I recall some computer publication wag as saying Apple should send a copy of Chaos Manor to every one in the country.  It showed just how much easier those early Macs were to the PCs of the day running Windows.

I still remember Pournelle's Law : check the cables first.  Too often they are the culprit, but often the last thing we check.  My cable tester is my best used tool.

When I wrote my own tech column for the newspapers of Prince William County, I strived to be like Jerry and tell stories of my own adventures but to try and make what I learned benefit the reader.

For more information about Jerry, see his website, Wikipedia and a list of his books on Amazon.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Please help me make a list of note taking apps with phone & web and/or PC/Mac clients?

Regular readers know I use and write about Evernote and Keep. In fact, I am enchanted  with all notetaking apps. I'm constantly adding them to my phone to play with for a bit.

In my mind,there are three tiers of notetaking apps

  • Tier 1 : smart phone apps for iphone and/or Android coupled with both a web app and a client for PC and/or Mac
  • Tier 2 : smart phone apps for iphone and/or Android with a web app
  • Tier 3 : smart phone apps only 

The apps store list the Tier 3 apps. And if you explore each one, you can determine which are really tier 2 or 1 apps.

My question to you then, is do you know of  tier 1 or 2 note taking app I am not yet aware?

I know about :

  • Dropbox 
  • Paper 
  • Evernote 
  • Keep 
  • OneNote 
  • Trello 
  • Simplenote 
  • Audionote 
  • Also Zoho Notebook because apparently a web app is coming soon
Which ones am I missing?

You can comment here, or use this Google Form to tell me.

Once I have a good list, I'll review each in the coming months.

Thank you.