Saturday, April 30, 2016

Family Tech: You may need to rethink your definition of a camera

You may need to rethink your definition of a camera 

An iPhone 6s and a Kodak Brownie from 1900 work essentially the same way. You hold it up, compose your shot and push a button to take a photo.

One could argue the 21st century has been a revolution for photography. Most of us have a phone in our pockets. There is no longer a cost-per-shot, where every time we click a picture there is an associated cost of film, developing and printing. We now can take thousands of shots on a vacation, where before we may have limited ourselves to 36 -- both a blessing and a curse.

And how we share our photos has changed. We no longer have photo albums or slideshows we have to convince people to peruse. We share our photos online. But the camera in our phone is still a point and shoot camera, as was that early Brownie.

Until now.

There is now a type of camera where you do not compose your shot, because it takes a photograph of everything, a complete 360 degrees around you. It gets everything, including you, what’s in front of you, behind you, above you and the ground you are standing on. There is no viewfinder, because your photo is not limited to what you see in the viewfinder.

We bought one a while back. I thought it would be a good way for my wife to take discreet street shots on her trip to Israel. You just hold it above your head, or to the side, and click a button. The device itself looks like a TV remote.

Ours is a Ricoh Theta S, at the time the only one on the market. In the last couple of months others have come on the market, such as the LG Cam for $199. Samsung has also announced one that should ship soon, but there is no pricing for it yet.

Read the rest at

Monday, April 25, 2016

I think I got Sprint to confirm Marshmallow for my LG G3

Update 8/26/16 New post on this topic.

Update 7/26/2016 :  Three months later, I tweeted them again.

Update 7/30/2016 : I just discovered this post or at least the tweets were noticed and used as a source for a post at

While other cell phone companies have put Android Marshmallow on their LG G3, my carrier Sprint was difficult to pin down as to when there would be a Marshmallow upgrade. I, and apparently others in this Reddit thread, were beginning to wonder if there was even going to be a Marshmallow upgrade for Sprint's LG G3 customers.

So today, I thought I'd see if I couldn't pin them down via their @SprintCare Twitter address.

I think I got confirmation there would be a Marshmallow upgrade.  What do you think?

Sunday, April 24, 2016

STEVEN F. UDVAR-HAZY CENTER - National Air & Space - August 2015

I do not think I ever shared these photos here.  I went out to the National Air & Space Museum near Dulles Airport to shoot some panorama and spherical photos with my phone, an LG G3, for a Family Tech column.

I have the photos in a Google Photo Shared Album.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Family Tech: Here’s how to get the photographer in the family vacation photos

Several years ago I scanned my father’s slides of my siblings and me growing up. Dad had put together a nice presentation of photos of our lives, and maybe once a year we’d sit down and enjoy a slide show.

I noticed how few photos there were of Dad. He had been the self-appointed family photographer.

That is a role that no longer exists. Now, on a family vacation or outing, all family members over the age of 10 seem to have their own camera.

How do we keep those photos from being in their own universe, and make them truly family photos? I wrote about one possible solution three years ago, and a How-To blog post I wrote to go with that column remains the No. 1-read post at

That solution used Dropbox, that give you so much free space and hope you will buy extra space as needed. Photos take up a lot of room, so my solution most likely had most users needing to purchase Dropbox space.

When my son and I planned our Israel trip, I rethought this problem. Google Photos lets you store an unlimited number of photographs for free. The photographs stored at their original quality if they are 16 megapixels or less. Otherwise, the service downgrades the quality to 16 megapixels, but they are still great looking images. Google can save the original high-resolution photos, but you would likely have to purchase storage space from Google.

Before the trip, we each installed the Google Photos app on our phones. It didn’t matter that two of us were on Android and one on iPhone. We turned on the setting to have the app upload our photos to our individual Google accounts when we were on Wifi. That saved us using up data on our data plan.

Read the rest at

A How-To has been created to help you use this process.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Keep - Inbox - Drive - Evernote --- can you make up your mind Google???

Google, I love you to death. Most of the services I use are from you, and thanks BTW, but you are making me crazy with your unfocused emulation of Evernote.

I've been a fan of Evernote since 2008.  I even wrote a book about it that was on the market for a while,  and might be again if I can find time to update it.

The whole time I've thought Google should buy Evernote.  Google is all about finding information on the web.  Evernote is all about capturing the information you find on the web.  Plus information you scan, PDFs you receive, photographs you have, files you want to store and sound files.  It even deciphers the text in the photos and PDFs and make it searchable.*

More about Evernote later on.

I waited, and waited, and never did Google buy Evernote.  I thought that was a no brainer.

And then, one fateful day in March of 2013, as I sat waiting for my order in my favorite Chinese Restaurant, I read Google's announcement of Keep.  I downloaded it immediately.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Family Tech: Here’s some advice for using cell phones overseas - April 15, 2016

Before my wife left for Israel, and my son and I visited her, I had to figure out how we could use our cell phones outside the United States.

There are two kinds of cell phone technologies in the world. Here in the U.S., AT&T and T-Mobile use the GSM system while Verizon and Sprint use CDMA. Most of the world outside the U.S. uses the GSM system – think Beta and VHS or AM and FM. They are similar systems, but different.

I checked the specs to our phones by googling the models online. Because my wife bought her iPhone at an Apple store, it was set up to work with both the CDMA and GSM systems. The Android phones my son and I have worked with both systems. Ask your cell company if your phone can work on GSM systems if you cannot find the information online.

Next, check with your provider for advice. Sprint told me it had an international roaming plan I could put on our phones for free. In Sprint’s case, it allowed for unlimited data roaming but at speeds from 10 years ago, 2G technology speeds. That’s pretty slow. It also allowed for phone calls at 20 cents a minute. I asked it to activate its international roaming for our phones so we at least have this capability when we first arrived in Israel.

I also asked it to unlock our phones. When you buy a phone from a provider like Sprint, Verizon, T-Mobile or AT&T, the phones come locked to its system. Phone companies are fearful people might subscribe to a two-year contract, receive a free phone, and then stop paying their bills and sell their phone on eBay. Phones cost well over $500 in most cases, with some close to $1,000. Phone companies subsidize the phone’s cost and we pay for them as part of our monthly charge over the life of our cell phone contracts, often two years.

While the phone is locked, you cannot use it on another carrier’s system.

Read the rest at

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Family Tech: Apps make travelling easier - April 8, 2016

My wife was selected more than a year ago as a Fulbright Distinguished Teacher. She is in Israel for four months to study how they educate young children with autism and share her knowledge of the subject. The week of spring break, my adult son and I flew over to visit her.

Of course I used technology to make the trip easier and also learned a lot about technology in Israel. What I learned is useful for domestic trips as well. Lessons learned from our whirlwind trip will be inspiration for the next few columns.

I created a folder on the front page of my phone for apps I needed on the trip. The first one was TripIt.

Tripit is a “freemium” service, meaning it is free but with a paid level giving you more features that track your itinerary for you. Once you setup a TripIt account, you simply forward any emails you get from airlines, hotels, rental car companies, etc. and Tripit maintains your itinerary for you. You can track it in its smartphone app. It makes it easy to remember your flight times, gates and other information.

I also added the app from the airline we would be flying. These seem to be constantly improving. We flew on United and its app kept us up-to-date on flight changes and even held our boarding passes for us.

Once in Israel, my wife introduced us to the Moovit app. It turns out that some of the best travel apps are created by Israeli startups. Many of us probably already use Waze, a driving direction app that also allows other drivers to share information about the road, where there are accidents, police and obstacles. Waze is now owned by Google, but it was created by an Israeli team and their offices are still in Tel Aviv. We passed the Google, Microsoft and Intel offices north of Tel Aviv on one of our tours.

Read the rest at

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Our Trip to Israel - Day Five - Acre and Caesarea

Baha'i Gardens of Haifa from above

Sunday, David & my last day in Israel, we took a different tack. Instead of a bus tour with other people, we engaged a private tour guide for our visit to Caesarea and Acre. David has had a long passion for the Crusades, and we had a short day to visit these two Crusader cities.  A private guide would let us focus on just the things David wanted to see.

Amir caught on right away to David's passion, and challenged him to discover the depth of his passion and knowledge.

He also pointed out the high tech area that has sprung up north of Tel Aviv, where we saw offices for Google, Intel, Microsoft as well as many Israel high tech firms.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Family Tech: Self-driving cars sound scary but could actually be safer - April 1, 2016

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It has been five years since Google stunned the world by showing how far along it was with its self-driving cars. Suddenly another invention, first seen in science fiction, seemed poised to become real.

During the intervening years we may have settled into the idea that true self-driving cars were still a someday thing.

Fully self-driving cars are not so much going to appear suddenly in dealerships, as gradually enter our lives. In reality, there are cars on the road now with self-driving capabilities.

Readers with some newer, high-priced vehicles already have some self-driving features.

Some cars have auto parallel parking, often called park assist. Ford, Lincoln, BMW, Range Rover, Nissan and Mercedes Benz have this feature. I’d have killed for this when I lived in San Francisco. I wonder if they can parallel park on the other side of the street on a 24-degree downhill. I can.

Autonomous self-driving cars have an extensive sensor array in the cars. These sensor systems are appearing now and are used in some cars not to control the car but warn the driver of conditions. Lane assist warns the driver if they are drifting out of their lane.

The sensors can also warn you if there is something in your blind spot as you are about to move over. Others will slow or stop the car if you approach too closely to the vehicle in front of you.

Active cruise control can slow your vehicle as it approaches cars in front and speed back up as traffic begins moving faster. Think how nice that would be on Interstate 95 creeping north in the morning. You still have to keep your hands on the wheel and actively drive, but it delegates one irritating portion of the effort of the commute to technology.

Read the rest at

Friday, April 1, 2016

Our Trip to Israel - Day Four - Israel Museum

Model of the Old City of Jerusalem in the Second Temple period

On Saturday, we had the challenge of making our way back to Jerusalem to visit the Israel Museum.

I say challenge because in Tel Aviv, the buses shut down for Sabbath at sun down on Friday to sun down on Saturday.

In Haifa, where my wife is studying, the buses do not shut down for Sabbath, so when we planned the trip Friday night we were surprised and initially concerned we would not make the trip.

We discovered Sheruts, shared taxi vans that run from Tel Aviv's Central Bus Station to many locations in Israel, even on Sabbath.

We grabbed a cab, and once there found the first bus in line going to Jerusalem.  Once the van was filled with ten passengers, it set off.

From Central Jerusalem we cabbed to the museum.

The photo at the start of this post is a 1:50 model of the Old City of Jerusalem as it was when the Second Temple existed.  The structure nearest is the Second Temple. At that site now is the Dome of the Rock.