Thursday, October 26, 2017

Amazon Key: Have Packages Dropped INSIDE your home... Wait, What?

Ever have you had packages stolen from your porch?
Are you never home because you work dawn til dusk?
Do you share your entire life with the world via social media?

Then you're probably a Millennial and Amazon Key is for you.

While the concept stands to reason that controlling one of the oldest interfaces in your home with an Internet-Connected interface, might be a step into the future, it's down-right scary to anyone older than 35.  Read the top comment on the above video to see the harsh rejection that has come from the public. It's fairly clear that the general public does not believe that Amazon has their interests at heart.

Personally, I have Internet-Connected (Nest) Cameras all over my house so that I can see the activity OUTSIDE of my home.  While I do have one camera INSIDE, its squarely pointed at the family pet (our Cockatiel, who rarely leaves his cage).   I am probably one of the few who would be willing to have a delivery person drop off a package inside the house, but my spouse would not.  But I can definitely see why many people reject this concept.

One of the last bastions of defense and security to our private lives is opened to a total stranger through the use of Amazon Key. While the actor in the video may be acting like the trust-worthy face of Amazon, we do not know what the Amazon delivery driver in our local town is like.  Is Amazon willing to back the possibly liability issues that may occur with this service?  Is the added fee enough to cover insurance claims when it fails?

Amazon is a huge company and there is probably more to the suggestion of Amazon Key than merely offering a different sort of security for packages and entry to our homes.  Like Alexa, Google Home, and Siri, the large data mining corporations of this age want all that they can get from us, and access to our homes is likely the greatest gold mine of all.  Where does it stop, or does it stop?

It starts and stops with each of us.  While these corporations have the money to launch a concept to offer features that might be pleasing, there is no mandate to use these offers.  Like Facebook, the choice to post our personal information belongs to each of us; the choice to allow Amazon into our homes is also in our power.  Of course they have a great, fast delivery service, with an immense library of products, but we are the customers and we have the option choose (thankfully).

Sunday, October 15, 2017

E-Ink Clock

E-Ink Clock, based on E-Reader Screen

For ages, ever since I first heard of such things, I have had a minor obsession with Electronic Paper or E-Ink.  

And while searching about the internet today (Sunday, Oct 15, 2017) I came across an MIT Engineer's project to turn an E-Reader Screen into a clock.  

"This is PERFECT!!", I wrote on his blog post.  Because it was exactly what I was looking for.  A large format clock that could be managed by a digital interface.  Granted what I am hoping for in the long run is a Wireless connection so that the clock or device could be used for more than just the clock face that is shown.

My interest in these formats is that they can be changed easily and power cheaply.  Like a Grandfather clock, the power was mechanical and cheap, requiring only that the clock be wound up again by hand every so often.   It's not quite the same here, but then the utility is far more than just telling time.

I want a digital clock to be able to change faces and offer more than just the time, but also possibly the weather.  But I want feedback too.  With a Grandfather clock you'll never know if it's not working until you see that it is either out of winding or when winding it does nothing. 

A wirelessly connected digital clock could give feedback to the user, like battery levels, hyper local weather info (maybe even visual info).  But on output side, a digital, internet-connected clock could list an immense amount of information that can be updated every minute.  The Time, the Date, the Weather, a News Headline, a Favorite Stock price, Times in other zones.... And with an adaptable screen the output can be reformatted to meet with other styles or formats. 

In essence, it becomes an interactive device.   

Thank you to Michael Kainer for building this device.  I look forward to further development on the E-Ink Clock.  Please check out his blog for more information on this device

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Automatic Vehicle Sunshade

Automatic Vehicle Sunshade; Not Stylish, but Still Alluring

I've found some particularly odd new tech things on the interwebs, but this one caught my intrigue.  I'm still not sure if it was my interest or disgust that lured me to the Amazon page for this product. At the very least, they make a good pitch for the product.


You may remember that uncontrollable set of environmental variables under which we live daily, also known as the Climate.  It definitely plays a major role in the reason that we do not all ride motorcycles and that we rely so heavily on that portable HVAC inside our motorcars.  So, why again do we need an Automatic Sunshade to place atop said vehicle? Is the exterior shell of the vehicle not enough?

By the testimony of anyone who has owned a vehicle that is black exterior with black interior, even limo-tint doesn't stop the sun from hitting the roof of the vehicle. If only there were a way to block the Sun's rays before they hit the vehicle.

Enter: the Vehicle Sunshade

Laying aside for the moment any latent American style-struggles, there is a very practical side to this product.  It blocks heat in exactly the same way that a beach umbrella keeps you cool on the sand.  It takes the brunt of the Sun's rays to keep it from hitting the vehicle, like a beach umbrella or a tree's leaves or the next floor up in a garage. But unlike all those other items, it is designed to be portable and easily usable on the roof of a vehicle. 

Style: The Bane of American Intellect

What shallow individual would dare be caught taking the time to make a practical change to their vehicle.  This is 'why' we have window-tint, not just that it makes us look 'cool'.  This device takes time to setup, time that could be otherwise spent aimlessly wandering around the mall or checking out the opposite gender, while looking 'cool'. 

Practicality: The Real Reason for this Post

I quite like this product.  It is a good idea.  But is has it's limits.  For the model at the top, the Lanmodo, it's a tad-bit heavy at 30 lbs to lugging about in the trunk of my vehicle.  It's also a bit of overkill with it's automated opening and closing.  However, It is shown on the website to be useful in more ways than one, as a Tent or Canopy.  It has a battery that can charge a phone or run a projector.  

The general concept of the Vehicle Sunshade appears to have taken-off as several manufacturers have taken to Amazon to sell the idea. If you search for "lanmodo" as I did, it will yield at least 3 other offerings. (YEEGE, YIKESHU, Dr. Deng)

Final Thoughts

For those who live in the desert, this seems like a pretty good idea.  I used to live in Bakersfield, California where the weather was known to crest 40-45 C (104 - 113 F) all summer.  I lost, to excessive heat, more than one car-thermometer, the highest record stuck the last one at a record 57 C (135 F ).  I would have liked to have had one of these sunshades back then. 

Saturday, April 22, 2017

MST3k Hybrid B-Movie Names

Mystery Science Theater Returns with some amazing awesomeness.

In episode four of the new season, Jonah (the host) makes a Public Service Announcement on behalf of all who love / hate Hybrid B-Movies.  They have registered the names of as many concepts as they could think of and scrolled them on the screen, mocking them.

Here they are...

  • Snowcano
  • Triceraquake
  • Birdaclysm
  • Gatorlanche
  • Ghost Orca
  • Horsetapus
  • Three-Toes Blitzsloth
  • Rainicane
  • Frog Fog
  • Pugslide
  • Gatoricane
  • Underlanche
  • Brunchtapus
  • Narwarlrus: Arctic Terror
  • Blitzcano
  • Blitzfrog
  • Crocowasteland
  • Mastodennui
  • Swanpedo
  • Firenadosarurus
  • Eaglesaurus: American Frightmare
  • Tor-NATO
  • T-Rexplosion
  • Clamorrhoids
  • Frankesnake Riftbeaver Vs. Outer Space Napalmuskrat
  • Abominable Meg Snow Spiders
  • Beet Wave
  • Vocanosaurus Rex
  • Wooly Clammoth
  • Dinoseal
  • Beluga Moose
  • Rabbitoxicity
  • Rabbi Rabbit
  • Pugslide 2: The Puggenining
  • Cesium Storm-odile
  • Monsoonicane 6000
  • Monsoonasaurus
  • Ptarmageddon
  • Blitztastrophe
  • Sunfishoscopy
  • Cancercano
  • Snaketological Duckopalypse Vs. Protopuffin
  • Catpuffin
  • Bluejayquake
  • Buffalocalypse
  • Volecano Vs. Mole-atron
  • Snowbeaver Vs. Ultra-Fox
  • Lemonado
  • Streptocrocker Spaniel
  • Mechaflood Vs. CloneSnake
  • Swanquake
  • Moose Moth Vs. Lemming Bear
  • Mothometer Vs. Pianodon
  • Ponyshark Meets the Tortostito
  • Basswasp
  • Velociwalrus
  • El-Nino Bear
  • Spider-Man: But a Monster, not the Superhero
  • Roboquake
  • Beaglebot Vs. Horsetapus
  • Shark-Heatindexwarning
  • Tarantullama
  • Blitzcanoswordapocalastronaut
  • Dogclopse II
  • Volcanosaurus Rex
  • BlitzCraig
  • Adobe Flashflood
  • Fraggle Rockslide
  • Frankenferrent
  • Rikki Tikki Tarantula
  • Robo-Bonobo
  • Sharkstesthiologist Vs. Proctologerbil
  • Clowntapus
  • Skunk Bucket
  • Mech-Shakespeare-icane
  • Magpatonsil
  • Platapocalypse Vs. Clownocerus
  • Cari-BOO
  • Raptor Identity Theft 2016
  • Wooly Clammoth Vs. Leopardvangelist
  • Nerdemic
  • Global Worming
  • Night of the Were-Dads
  • Sharkstadon
  • Rhinoculus
  • Shrimptologastrophe
  • Will Feral Cats
  • GoatSwarm
  • Kangapus Vs. Gullfrog
  • Mastadonatello
  • Underwater Kidnaposaurus
  • Robocowboys Vs. Sickle Squid Anemia
  • Influenzalanche
  • Glutenoceros
  • Mammalsquid Vs. Sandstorm
  • Lionado
  • Wedgiegeddon
  • Underground Coyoteprawn Meets the Tsunami Crab Squirrel

Monday, September 12, 2016

Wandering Thoughts: Helix Folding Bike

I think that anyone who has browsed YouTube can say that at some point they got distracted by something random.  I do too, but today (like many days) I found something cool.

I enjoy riding on / in wheeled vehicles.  I also like portability (see Ninebot post).  So to find the Kickstarter project Helix, was pretty cool.

Yeah, there are lots of folding bikes out there. I used to own one (that was also electric; Prodecotech).  But just about every small or folding bike seems to have at least one major problem... Small Wheel Syndrome (I just made that up).

The Helix does not suffer from SWS, rather it has 24-inch wheels and yet still folds into a space that barely greater than the sum of a single wheel.   So why did everyone else fail at making a nice folding bike until now?

I pondered this question as well... Maybe the tech didn't exist, but maybe, just maybe people were asking the wrong questions.  Not, "can we make a smaller folding bike?", But "Can we make a normal bike that folds efficiently without sacrificing too much?"

Yet another Canadian manufacturer makes some cool stuff.  Thanks Canada!

Check out the Helix Folding Bike 

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Essential Android Apps

There's no doubt to anyone that knows me, I'm an Android Fanatic.  I wear the shirts, I have the gear, I hack the gear, I am the... well... no I'm not an Android, and I don't want to be one... but I think it's awesome.. *picture of me covered in Android stuff toys and tablets*

To date, I think I have 10 tablets, not to mention phones dating back to the original G1 (HTC Dream). But this is no trip down memory lane, it's a list, MY list of essential Android apps to get rolling with any new Android device that I have.

Stock Android

There's no such thing as STOCK Android unless it's just the bare Operating System and Google Apps... but even so a bare Android install still needs to get updates.... and the first thing that you get before anything else will probably be Google Play Services.

At a bare minimum you will need this to install any new Google apps.  Google will probably volunteer you to get it as soon as the Android device gets a connection to the interwebs.  It's not Absolutely necessary, but it's vastly more helpful than going without.

Google Play Services gives you access to the full suite of Google Apps and also helps you to jump over the slow update cycle of the major manufacturers (I'm looking at you, Samsung).

After the onslaught of Google Apps* updates are complete, or once they've gotten started, I tend to hover over to my desktop browser to start throwing the apps that I need / want onto the new device.  Of course you can, with newer models of the OS, get the backup set of apps from any other device; most people will do this.  I do not usually want to have go through 100 app possibilities to figure out what I do and do not want.  Plus, it is smart to consider how much memory you have on this latest device.   8 GB is a very small margin for 50 apps, especially games.

*Google Apps includes: Chrome Web Browser, Drive, Docs, Sheets, Maps, Plus, Photos

Media Content

I like media content, like (1a) YouTube, (1b) Play Music, and (1c) Google Movies, but these are rote Apps and will be installed with the Google Apps Suite.  What I need is (2b) Amazon Video and (3) Netflix.  Netflix is pretty easy to install, but Amazon Video is not.  Amazon Video resides outside the normal Play store for Google.  To get it, you will need to install (2a) Amazon Underground first, which requires that you allow "non-play store" apps.  To do this, Go to Settings --> Security --> Unknown Sources (slide the bar / check the box).  Android will warn you, but you already know what it means (it means that you need to be very certain of where the app comes from, if not the Play Store).

After the media, I will need a way to access it from my Google Cast devices.  That requires the (4) Google Cast. And the obligatory (5) IMDB app, to use in searching for the actors in each movie.  Google Movies and Amazon Video do provide info on the characters in each movie, but I still like to read further from my new device.


Data is fun, to me.  I like to see how much data I'm consuming and from which source, either for bragging (mostly) or for keeping track of my total data usage.   My favorite tool to date for this, is called (6) Traffic Monitor.  It has a nifty widget that I use on the desktop that shows Mobile and WiFi data as well as an icon to do a speed test.

Another tool that does not usually get updated on the first sign of Internet is (7) Google Keep.  It's a simple tool similar to Evernote, but not as robust as Google Docs.  The files it stores allows me to track notes across all devices that have the app and my account, and for me to access the info from any net-connected computer with a browser.

As a data geek, I often have need of a calculator that is more robust than the basic calculator that is included in whatever stock version of Android.  (8) Financial Calculators is my primary and only choice for this at the moment.  For ages I used the free version, then realizing that I had more than surpassed the typical usage, I bought the Pro version ($5).  The app includes a great little 4 x 4 space widget calculator that includes a button to access all the other calculators.

Some manufacturers include a skin over the stock User Interface of Android, Samsung for example, is no stranger to this.  Within that skin sometimes the manufacturer will include a file explorer app of their own making, and sometimes there is nothing.  It seems to depend on the base-line price of the tablet or phone as to whether one is included.  I tend toward using (9) Astro File Explorer.  It is a capably program able to carry out the moving and copying actions expected in an explorer program. The program can also track file usage and offers cloud storage.

Finally, the most often used tool, (10) Power Toggles.  I have this installed on literally every device that can take it.  It adds functionality to the window shade; that is to say that it adds additional buttons.  Most Samsung tablets offer a series of functions in the shade like WiFi, Bluetooth, Screen Lock / Unlock, but often they are tied to the User Interface (UI) and are not removable or alterable. And in some other manufacturers devices there is no UI.  I setup this app to show the following icons (a) Camera, (b) Screen-On Lock, (c) Brightness, (d) Hangouts, (e) Screen Rotation, and (f) Google Play store.  On devices that have mobile data and / or a camera flash, I include these buttons.


Android offers access to nearly every communications app that exists (short of Apple-Only services like Face Time).  I rely heavily on the (11) Hangouts app and before that other messaging services like Google Talk, AIM, and Skype.  I use this app daily for text chat with family and video chat for work.  If anything it is the quintessential application that makes the smartphone, a communications device.


After these all other apps have added functionality, but at the bare minimum I want the above listed.  I use most of the core Google Apps suite as well, but they usually come pre-installed.

It takes some time to set up a new device, but without these apps, I can't truly use a new device.  And with so many devices, it's nice to know that they are more ubiquitous than a laptop or palm-top might have been 20 years ago.  I can only wait to see what the next 20 years offers (hopefully better VR)

BloomSky Weather and Time Lapse Video

Daily Time Lapses of the Canvas of the Sky + Weather.

Bloomsky is a Sky Cam / Weather Station that can be powered by the Sun.   It takes 170-degree spherical pictures of the sky every 3-5 minutes and can be angled so that the image faces to the horizon or the zenith. My favorite Cam so far is one located in Wailea, Hawaii.. The owner got the right idea to place the cam on the beach... the perfect place to capture beautiful sunsets and beach, and trees.. and of course, the SKY!

By comparison to other World Cam software or EarthCam or HDonTap, it's pretty simple to setup, and free to stream.  Granted the video is just a time lapse collection of all the photos taken during the day... But it's still a pretty nifty way of seeing other parts of the world (nearly) live.

Get the Word Out

For now, it seems that it is not possible to share to a link or to embed one of these time lapses, But fortunately, they can be shared to other places and then embedded from there.  I shared to my Google Photos and then copied the link and embedded that link here.    It also does not yet appear that there is a limit to how many Bloomsky locations that you can follow in the App.  I've got 20, still haven't hit the limit.

You may want to consider how many notifications that you want to get from all the cameras that you follow.  Because the more that you follow, the more notices that you will get.  

So, yeah, sharing aint so easy, but you can still get the word out.  Check the Kickstarter site for more information.  You don't have to buy direct from Kickstarter, as the Bloomsky is available on Amazon for $170 alone, and $215 with the Solar panel.  I'd go with the panel, because charging the batteries every 20 days, ... uh yeah... 

Location, Location, Location

Certainly it is possible to stick a Bloomsky under the eaves in your backyard.  But what if you lived on Cliffs of Dover, or on the beach in Wailea, you'd probably get a much more awesome view.  Of course not all of us can live in these places, but we can send a Bloomsky to one of them.  Maybe your flat or apartment isn't the best place for a Bloomsky, but your grandmother's house is on a hill overlooking the ocean.  I'm sure she won't mind if plant one of these on the ground outside?

I'm in the process of ordering one of these for myself, but since I too live in a small apartment, I don't think anyone would really want to see the limited sky access I have or the boring apartment.  I'd personally much rather see the ocean or a lake or something more majestic than a small patch of sky and the weather at my place.  That's why I have NetAtmo. But soon, I will find a good place to put a BloomSky.