Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from 2016

Family Tech: "Some Thoughts for the coming year" - December 30, 2016

Don’t we all start the New Year with optimism?  It is the time of the year the gyms fill up, only to dwindle back to normal traffic by late February.
And while our thoughts today may go to parties, soon practical thoughts intrude. Like getting ready to do our taxes, paying off those Christmas bills and organizing ourselves a little bit better the coming year.
I started using an app lately that helps me keep things straight.  It is a journaling app. There are any number in the Google Play and Apple App stores. I have not looked at many.  The one I’m using is not syncing right, so I’ll find another.  Even so, I’ve been impressed with its usefulness.
With it I can jot a quick note. If I choose, it also records my location and the current weather.Soon after I started using it, I had my once-every-10-years lower back spasm. I tracked when I took pain meds with it.
I also track significant events in my day so that I can jog my memory to them later on.
You could use it as a journal is meant to be…
It’s tough ending a 22-year relationship. Trust was broken not once, but at least twice. And while ultimately confessions were made, it was not until years later -- after it was too late to repair the damage.
Thankfully I had ultimately moved on to something younger and flashier. I’m talking about Yahoo. In September they confessed they had been hacked, and half a billion accounts were exposed. If that wasn’t bad enough, they confessed the penetration had occurred two years earlier in 2014. And then just last week, they announced a possible one billion more accounts had been violated. Worse, that penetration had occurred in 2013 and Yahoo didn’t find out until the U.S. government found out and let them know last month. 
From both hacks, hackers stole names, birthdates, phone numbers and even passwords that were encrypted with a weak encryption technique.
Are you one of the one billion monthly users of Yahoo?  I am. I started using Yahoo soon after they began in 1994.  The web was sm…

Family Tech: "The tech revolution is keeping us healthier" - December 16, 2016

High tech home medical technology used to be a thermometer.  If you were lucky, it was oral.
Today, a lot of technology you would only find in a doctor’s office or hospital has come home.  And what you find in the hospital today is truly futuristic.
At the hospital, we have robot surgical knives like the Davinci machine that can hold a scalpel rock steady. A few inches movement of the controller by the surgeon might move the scalpel a millimeter.  A tiny camera inserted into the incision along with the scalpel gives the surgeon a view he could not get without opening up a much larger incision.  This minimally invasive surgery allows faster recovery and safer surgery.
What’s even more amazing is the controller unit and the patient do not have to be in the same room.  Theoretically, this could allow a surgeon in New York to operate on a patient in Bangladesh, or on the Space Station.
Even more futuristic is IBM’s Watson.  Readers may remember Watson as IBM’s supercomputer that triumphed aga…

"Let's Call it What it is: propaganda" - December 12, 2016

Fake news has been all over the news recently. Let’s call it what it really is: propaganda.

Why are we talking about this in a column about technology for families? Anyone online is inundated with information. Before the internet, there were certain filters in place when we got our information from newspapers, magazines, books and broadcasting.

It was expensive to print and distribute or to broadcast. The publishers and broadcasters had limits of how much content they could put out, so they were discriminating in their selection. And they had to reach a large audience to be economically viable, so they could not alienate a large portion of their audience by being unfair.

I do not mean to suggest propaganda techniques were not used, just that there were some filters in place. Today there are none. Anyone can publish to the net for only the cost of an internet connection. The only filter between publisher and audience is what the individual audience member provides for himself.

I learn…

Family Tech : "You might want to be a kid again when you see these toys" - December 2, 2016

Last time we talked about gifts for adults.  What about younger people fascinated with technology? What gifts can nurture an interest or spark an interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, STEM? 
Or best of all, show off the wonder of the world?
I’ll champion high tech gifts in a bit, but for showing off the wonders of the universe there is no better gift than a telescope. You can find entry-level telescopes starting at about $40.  I still recall my first view of the moon through a telescope as a life-shaping event. So much of what I had learned in school became much clearer.  Today, you can use a phone app to help point your telescope at planets and other celestial bodies.
Looking the other direction at the universe of life --in a drop of water-- is even easier today. There are microscopes that hook into a PC and let you manipulate them through software, as well as capture images.
Of course, links for these, and all the items we are going to talk about here are in this…

Family Tech : Gifts for Geeks

The best kind of gift, someone once told me, is one someone wants and would never buy for themselves.
That theory works well in choosing gifts for the geeks on your holiday gift list.  I’m not using geek as a pejorative, but rather to refer to someone who enjoys technology, clever gadgets, superhero stories and science fiction.  When you look at how many people watch “Star Wars” and the movies with Marvel and DC heroes, you realize geeks are all around.
So how can you buy them gifts they will enjoy?
The good news is you can, and should, avoid the big ticket items. We geeks are extremely choosy about our phones and laptops.  We have to choose those ourselves.
And we will put more effort into that than we did into choosing a college.
The most expensive things I’d suggest would be an Amazon Echo or a Google Home. Both are small devices you place in your home. The device hears your commands when you call it by name, and you can ask it to do a variety of things: answer questions, set timers, te…

Visiting a B-17

A few weeks ago I toured the EAA's B-17 when it visited the Manassas Airport.



Of course I took our 360 camera.
Post from RICOH THETA. - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA
Post from RICOH THETA. - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA
Post from RICOH THETA. - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA
Post from RICOH THETA. - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA
I'd previously flew on the EAA's Ford Tri-Motor.

Family Tech: On a road trip to grandma’s, take up reading - November 11, 2016

“Over the river the and through the woods, to Grandmother’s house we go.  The self-driving car knows the way to carry us through the white and drifted snow.”
OK, so self-driving cars are still a few years away, and their ability to work on snow has yet to be proven, but there are some tech tools to make long road trips a bit less painful for families this time of year.
Grandma may have once lived two farms over, but now she’s more likely to be in Florida. Costs for flying a family of any size that far pretty much means a road trip down Interstate-95.
On my family’s road trips as a kid, my mother was sure reading would cause car sickness so we were not allowed to read in the car.  As an adult, I found out I could tolerate it better than expected. I found a few tips on avoiding car sickness while reading.  
Reading in the car is a good way for kids to pass the time, and it promotes literacy too.  And parts of the trip that have sporadic cell coverage are a good time to promote reading.
The b…

Waze needs to learn my ways

When I first tried to use Waze, the Israeli developed navigation app Google later purchased, I was not impressed and stayed with Google Maps.

On our visit in March to Israel I saw how every tour operator and taxi driver user loved their home grown app, so when I started my new job and new commute I began using it.

I run the app for the entire commute even though I know the way well.  It warns me of issues that arise since I hit the road and routes me around them.

Every morning though, it asks me to take a route through a small, congested, hilly little town instead of staying on the main route around it.  It makes no sense to me and I expected it would figure out in a few days my preferred route.

No.  It nags me every morning even weeks later.

According to Waze's FAQ :

Waze should always pick what it believes is, mathematically, the fastest or shortest route, depending on your settings. If, in your estimation, it doesn't, that means that there could be an error in the map somew…

LastPass multi-device support is now free

If you are not using a password vault, LastPass now gives you one less excuse. Their free level now lets you use it on multiple devices. Before you had to pay $12 a year for that feature.

I gladly paid the last couple of years. It made managing a multitude of passwords for my many sites easy when using either my PC or my phone.

LastPass is well regarded.  You should consider using it to help keep yourself secure.

Signup for LastPass

Family Tech: "You can get the best tech tools, but…" - November 5, 2016

If you are into tech as I am, it is a never ending cornucopia of new apps to try, new gadgets to covet and new capabilities to instill that “We live in the future” feeling.
Alas, like everything though, there is a certain amount of housework to do.  Without the drudgery of protecting our devices and networks from viruses and attacks, the fun soon comes to an end, and what should be a friction-free environment for work and fun gets bogged down and aggravatingly useless.
Anti-virus and their ilk are boring to think about. I’ve even put this column off for months as I found more entertaining things to write about.
If you are running an antivirus on your PC already, give yourself an atta-boy.  Then go check to see if it is indeed still running.
Many of us get a free 90-day subscription to McAfee with our PCs.  Problem is that after 90 days we get nagged to pay for the subscription and, instead of paying, often just turn off the nags.
If you did pay, find the McAfee app on your PC and check to …

Family Tech: DOS attack reminds us to be prepared - October 28, 2016

I hate it when the world mocks a recent column. Two weeks ago I extolled the virtues of the Internet of Things devices. This week, they helped cripple large parts of the Internet for the better part of a day.
On Friday the 21st, users were unable to reach sites like Twitter, Pinterest, CNN and many others. These sites all used the DYN Corporation to manage their DNS services.
When you type in an Internet address, like InsideNova.com, the request is first routed to a Digital Name Service server. There the name is found in a database, and a number is returned to your browser. That number tells your browser where to find the actual InsideNova web server on the net.
If that DNS server is down, then your browser will not find the content you are seeking.  
 DYN manages the DNS servers for the companies that became unreachable Friday. DYN was attacked by an unknown entity using a denial of service attack, or DOS for short.
In a DOS attack a site is flooded with traffic, overwhelming its servers …

Tech apps can make that commute just a bit easier - October 21, 2016

A few weeks ago I mentioned I had a new car. The new car was for a new job, and a daily commute to the Reston/Herndon area.  For the first time in 14 years I have a more or less typical commute for this area. I’ve come to see my car as yet another piece of digital technology. And while my physical life may not be the best organized, my digital life is efficiently optimized. So I set out to find the best suite of tools to make my commute more efficient, while not distracting from driving safely. Since a big part of any job is to arrive on time, my commute efforts begin upon waking. Google Now on my Android phone tells me as soon as I turn off my alarm how long my commute will take on my normal route. This gives me an idea of the urgency needed in getting ready for work. The last part of my morning preparation has me at my computer checking personal email and dealing with column and blog issues. One of my open browser tabs is Google Maps. It shows my route to work along Fairfax County P…

Family Tech: Internet of Things is already here - October 14, 2016

It used to be the only thing in our homes hooked to the Internet were our PCs. In a short amount of time, we added phones and tablets. Now, there are a multitude of things we can connect to the net, in our home and in the outside world.
This concept is called the Internet of Things, or IoT for short. The Internet of Things will dramatically change the world and, if we choose, our homes.
IoT in the world can be sensors along the roadside that report traffic flow. It can be power meters already in many homes that automatically report meter readings to utility vehicles that pass your street.
IoT can be sensors monitoring pipelines, medical equipment monitoring patients as they go about their day, buoys at sea watching for tsunamis, remote seismometers, and new uses every day.
IoT may already be in your home. There are home automation lights you can control from your phone, the Harmony remote control system for controlling TVs and other home entertainment, the Ring doorbell or any of the…

Family Tech: Be sure to ensure the kids’ safety online - September 30, 2016

My brother’s granddaughter called her grandmother four times Friday after school.  When an 8-year-old can place a video call for free, cross country, from her own tablet, it struck me again just how easy kids can communicate these days.

Therein lies the great benefit, and the profound risk of online life.

The 8-year-old can communicate with friends--hopefully ones she knows in real life--but also ones she has met online.  How do you teach a child that not everyone is good, not everyone is really 8 when they say they are, and the other cautions they need to learn sooner than later?

And it is not only children who need to be taught to be safe online. We can all fall prey to bad actors online. And we need to help our senior citizens understand the dangers online as they are often the target for financial scams.

Thankfully there are some powerful resources out there to help parents, kids and seniors.

Our county schools teach from materials found at Netsmartz.org. Parents should review the mate…

Family Tech: Aftermarket car tech can save thousands of dollars - September 23, 2016

Our recent venture into the wonderful world of car buying brought home the nicest car I’ve ever driven.  That’s saying a lot--but on the other hand my brother never has let me drive his classic roadster or Lexus --but I digress.
We ventured forth with a list of must-have and nice-to-have features.  We came home without any of the nice-to-haves.
Our list of Android Auto, heated seats and a backup camera were available but added thousands to the cost.
And in one vehicle the package with those items came only with a third row of seats--seats that only a toddler would fit in, and would take away useful storage space. 
This is my first car with Bluetooth technology. I enjoy listening to podcasts and having phone calls through the speaker system instead of my Bluetooth earpiece. Coincidentally, last week’s column was about earpieces. Tech changes fast. Seriously, an earpiece is still good if you are not the only one in the car and you want to listen to something other than what the rest have ch…

Family Tech: Apple’s new phone calls for earpods - September 16, 2016

Apple’s announcement of the latest iPhone and a new Apple Watch was overshadowed by one feature of the new phone. Or rather, a feature removed from the phone. Gone is the headphone jack.  Instead, iPhone 7 will come with earpods that connect through the phone’s lightning connector. Removing the old connector, which provided a hole into the body of the phone, improves the water resistance of the phone. Anyone who has ever dropped a phone into the sink (or worse!)  will appreciate that feature. What really upsets long time iPhone users though is this renders their huge collection of earbuds, headphones, remote speakers and such harder to use. Apple is including a dongle with the iPhone 7 that permits previous devices to work, but the dongle is an ugly appendage hanging off the phone, likely to break or get lost.  And replacement earbuds from Apple cost $29, the same as the old wired earbuds with the 3.5 mm plug that is now gone.  What is not certain is if third parties can produce earpods …

Family Tech: Public libraries critical to community - September 9, 2016

Our county libraries are bragging they are Pokemon Go gyms, where players of the game can capture virtual Pokemons. 
This phone game is all the rage now with kids through adults. I know a minister who plays and is proud his church property is home to three Poke stops.
I’m happy to see the library promoting this on its website.  Staffers understand that being a Pokemon gym is a wonderful way to attract patrons who may have forgotten about the library.
Are public libraries obsolete?  It is understandable to wonder this in the world of broadband, eBooks, Netflix and are other digital media services.  The library does not seem to have the same gravitation pull it once did for many of us.
In reality, our public libraries are more important than ever.
Not everyone can afford a computer, or if they can, also afford broadband. Yet most jobs these days require you to fill out online applications.
Our public libraries and their free computers and internet access let those folks find jobs. It also giv…

Family Tech: Pay attention to social media - a must in this presidential election- September 2, 2016

When my employer and I decided to relocate me from California to Virginia in 1999, the owner of the company said, “I wonder if you’ll become politically passionate like everyone else we’ve moved back there.”

There is something about this area that infected me. While I’m not passionate, my interest in the process has increased.

In the midst of a presidential election cycle, we all find ourselves a bit more caught up than usual. There are online tools to help us follow the elections. 

More and more, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are conversing with voters via social media.

I have followed the tweets coming from the various candidates through the primaries and now into the general election. I use Twitter’s Tweetdeck product. It allows me to have columns of related sources together.

I created a Twitter list of candidates and another of news sources. While I don’t read all the tweets, a quick glance gives me an idea of the ongoing conversation Clinton and Trump are having with the voting pub…

My LG G3 from Sprint is now 2 Androids versions behind

I thought I had Sprint's commitment that Marshmallow was coming for the LG G3 back in April.

Alas. With the release of Nougat, my phone is now 2 versions behind.

I've tweeted them again. Let's see if I get real information this time.

I would be content with a statement that they do not plan on updating the LG G3 again, instead of being strung along.

At best, would be a firm date we should have it by.

At worst, would be a statement again that no date is announced, and to watch their press room for an announcement.  That should be shining users on.



Using Google Keep - Two Recent Articles

Here are two recent posts from across the web on using Google Keep I had already linked to on the Google Keep Community on Google+.

How to Use Google Keep & Inbox to Create The Ultimate Task List from Business to Community.


and

Google Keep: Ultimate Guide from AndroidCentral.com


Moving your Evernote records to OneNote - one person's adventure

Lisa Schmeiser, writing at WinSuperSite.com, talks about lessons learned moving your almost 15,000 Evernote notes to OneNote on her Mac.

It was an experiment only. While there are things she likes about OneNote, she's sticking with Evernote.

WinSuperSite.com



Family Tech: Apple’s, Google’s and Amazon’s family plans offer lots of sharing options

Twenty years ago you bought a movie and put the VHS tape on the shelf near your VCR. If the movie wasn’t quite appropriate for the kids, it went into a shoebox on the top shelf of the parent’s closet. That’s where the kids found it when they got a bit older and snooped when the parents were out. 

Then along came online media purchases and things got more complex. Mom and Dad likely had separate iTunes or Android accounts. Often the kids did too. 

Movies purchased on one account had to be watched on a device tied to that account. If two kids wanted to watch Frozen on their own devices, some parents bought a copy for each child’s device. 

Apple, Google, and Amazon have made it a bit easier with shared family plans for the videos and other streaming and downloadable content. 

These programs allow family members to share purchases and consume them on various devices, even if the purchase was made on another account, as long as that account is part of the family plan. 

Apple’s plan has one adul…

Microsoft's Evernote to OneNote conversion tool now on Mac

From Lifehacker..com, Microsoft's Evernote to OneNote conversion tool now on Mac



Its not a move I'd make, but some are casting about for alternatives to Evernote. Those already paying for Microsoft Office have Evernote as part of Office.

Note taking apps for Students

Long time readers know I find Evernote one of my most useful tools, and I advocate students use it.

Lifehacker.com recently posted a wonderful comparison of a number of note taking tools for students that is worth reading.

There is some exciting new developments in this space with Zoho's Notebook and Dropbox's Paper, neither of which are mentioned in the Lifehacker post.

Family Tech: School Software and Making Plans for the Disaster to Come - August 12, 2016

Have you planned on things going wrong in your tech life?  They will.  Better to plan on it now and be ready.
And if you are sending a student away to school with a laptop, plan now on it breaking or getting stolen or some other catastrophe.
In July we talked about backup options.  Have you started using one yet? Have you setup your student with an automatic, offsite backup system so they do not have to think about it?
You will need it. That is almost a certainty.
What about anti-virus, for the the PCs at home and those going to college?  Get them installed now, and if there is a subscription, make sure it is paid through the end of the school year.
For the college students, check the school’s bookstore or website. Often schools have requirements for anti-virus software for all PCs that use their networks, and site licenses to provide it to students for free.
Before you buy any software for students, check with the university. Besides site licenses that provide free software to students, th…