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.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Mini PC with Screen: Gole1

To anyone else it might have been just another piece of Chinese junk, but to me, it is GENIUS.

The Gole1 ("Goal"? "Goalie"? "Go-lay"?)  is a Mini PC for certain, but it has embedded in the top a capacitive touch screen that offers the KVM (Keyboard, Video, Mouse) functionality.  No other Mini PC that I have found has this feature.  And at least to my speculative thought, the possibilities are nigh to endless.


  • Pocket Emulator
  • Go Pro Video Monitor
  • Remote monitor
  • Remote Emergency Console
  • Video Camera Master Controller
  • YouTube Streaming Controller
  • WiFi Pineapple
  • War Driving (Man-in-the-Middle WiFi attacker)
  • Pocket PC with Connectivity
  • Mini PC with Battery Backup
  • Pocket Minecraft Box
Check out the IndieGoGo Project 
Or Order one from

Also Check out this video on it

Friday, August 12, 2016

The One Wheeled Electric Scooter

How Fun!

It's been  a month since I bought a Ninebot One E+.  In English, that translates to an electric self-balancing unicycle made by a Chinese company called Ninebot.

What has been the most apparent in my journey to learn how to ride a unicycle has been the struggle to get back in shape.  I was once 175 lb twig and until recently was a 230 lb blob.  At  6-ft 4, I know that I do not look out of shape, but running out of breath after one flight of stairs is sad.

The Dream

In late May of 2016, my wife and I finally sold our house and moved to an apartment.  I did not think too much about what I would be losing by living in an apartment because of the mental stress of the move.  At the house, I drove daily an electric vehicle.  At the apartment, there was no cheap easy way to convince the property management that I needed an outlet near my parking space.

What to do?

Back in late 2014, while working as the President of the Silicon Valley chapter of the Electric Auto Association and was buried to my neck in everything electric, I discovered a fellow in Washington state who had invented an electric, self-balancing unicycle (SBU).  The SBU was a great tool for short distance commuting (aka "last mile commuting").

The idea of electric, one-wheeled, last mile commuting fascinated me and I immediately began to search via YouTube for more how-to's and reviews.  I found the Washington-man's SBU. It is called the Solowheel.

Fortunately, although unbeknownst to me, in early 2014 a Chinese company called Ninebot released an SBU that was about 1/3 of the price of the Solowheel.  So in July 2016, I bought one.

Living the Dream

Since early July, I've had the chance to get to know my SBU.  It has not always been pleasant.  Actually, its been a non-stop, uphill struggle to teach myself how to balance atop a single wheeled-vehicle.   Wednesday and Thursday (August 10th, 11th) were both the worst and best days that I've spent riding.

I fell off the Ninebot One E+, nothing new, but the tire guard caught the back of my left leg and put a gash in it.  Then on Thursday, when attempting a sharp turn (at low speeds) my right foot fell off and without the balanced support I hit the ground, and only after that did the Ninebot One e+ accelerate into the pit of my left leg, burning it.

Despite these injuries, I still had a wonderful time zipping around the neighborhood and exploring each new surface with aplomb.  Over the two days, I increased the total mileage accrued by 100% reaching 7 miles of riding.

Life Lessons

I'm certain that I will have more to share soon enough, but I feel that it is important to share what I have learned so far.  These tips, I hope, will help new riders learn from my mistakes and help to be proficient sooner.
  • Training videos
  • Control (while on the ground)
    • Get familiar with using your toe to push forward
    • Learn to walk with one foot on the SBU
    • Toe pressure drives forward, Heel pressure drives reverse
  • Control (while riding)
    • Wear shoes that offer good support
  • Mounting
    • DO NOT hold onto a wall or person, it will only foster a handicap
    • Bend your knees, leaning the SBU toward the foot that is still on the ground
    • Keep the SBU parallel to your other foot
    • Hop up
  • Turning
    • Turn while riding making tighter and tighter concentric circles
    • Turn 90 and 180 degrees, on a point
  • Stopping
    • Learn to stop quickly in case a vehicle or person suddenly appears in your path
    • Stopping quickly can incorporate a quick turn
  • Obstacles
    • Find consecutively larger objects over which to ride
    • Driveways, Tree Roots, Divots, changes between paved and organic surfaces
    • Consider taking these slowly, at first
  • Drops
    • Find stairs or curbs over which to drop
    • Go slowly, at first
    • Absorb the drop with your knees slightly bent
  • Falling (abandoning the SBU)
    • Best to do this into a grassy area (if available)
    • Ride at high speed into a change of surface, then run off the SBU
    • It is better to abandon the SBU, than have it harm you


This is far from the end of my thoughts on the topic of Self-Balancing devices or unicycles, but it's a good place to stop for now.  I hope that by my account that you are encouraged to try a Self-Balancing Unicycle.

If you are interested in purchasing one check out or for European customers,