Ocvember Update

I can’t believe tomorrow is November (already). The signs are everywhere: the holidays are coming. (Cheeses, the local grocery [chain] put out Christmas displays during the first week of October – that’s JUST WRONG… wasn’t the “thing” to wait, at least, until AFTER Halloween?

I am stuck in tradition. Like putting up Christmas decorations AFTER Thanksgiving. Traditions: like using turning signals while driving… Continue reading “Ocvember Update”

November Update #2: iPhone X Review

OK, so I’m not the first person to offer a review of the iPhone X and I doubt that I’ll be the last!

I believe I’m becoming a bit jaded: I received my “X” on Friday, the first day it shipped. I did NOT set it up (or even open the box) until Saturday. Yawn.

Out-of-the-box set-up was crazy simple. The device seemed to anticipate EACH step from getting facial recognition set to restoring apps from my old “7+” … except … (and this is B-I-G!) Once set-up was complete, the “X” seemed operational. Note: I said “seemed” … It was NOT until the following Monday, after dropping my wife off at the commuter train (BART, for those of you in the San Francisco Bay Area), and driving home that I realized the “X” didn’t “bing” my wife’s usual message that she was “on board and rolling.”

Hmmm…???

When I arrived home, I checked the phone. The Message app indicated “awaiting authorization” (?!) SO did the Phone app ?!

Apparently, I had been carrying around a “brick”. The final step in the set-up was contacting the carrier (in this instance Sprint) and telling them to authorize the device.

Would have been nice to read that I must contact the carrier to authorize the device somewhere in the set-up instructions (I don’t remember reading any set-up instructions!)

I’m still adjusting to the subtle and not-so-subtle differences between the “X” and the “7+”. So far, so good. The facial recognition is excellent! Swipping up in lieu of the double press on the Home button to “Close” apps is taking a while to adjust to and switching among apps is easy and fast!

I’ll use it more and add to this brief review at a later date.

Isn’t it a GREAT time to be alive?!!

August Update

“TechTalk” is a bi-monthly gathering that I host to discuss all things techie that might be of value to the Baby Boomer generation. Today was our first August meeting and it was a winner!! We were introduced to “ELLI-Q” from Intuition Robotics.

“ELLI-Q™ is an active aging companion that keeps older adults active and engaged.”

Although NOT available to the public as yet, the company appears to have an excellent outreach program that introduces the concept and one of the original working prototypes to groups of older adults. These presentations take the form of a focus group. Our presenter, Danielle Ishak – User Experience Researcher – provided us with company background and then dove right into the gist of ELLI-Q stopping along the way to ask for questions and suggestions, likes and dislikes.

It’s a clever device that “emotes” with easily-interpreted gestures and sounds. She speaks, similar to Amazon’s Echo and Google’s Assistant, however she’s much more. Once “on-boarded”, ELLI-Q begins to “learn” her owner’s likes and dislikes and begins to – proactively – make suggestions for anything from playing music (“Shall I play Iron Butterfly’s In a gadda da vida?”) to playing games (“Hey! You’re going to be playing bridge with the girls this afternoon, would you like to practice for awhile?”).

She’ll also do all the routine things like reminding you to take your medications and to go for a walk and she’ll monitor your environment and your activity to be sure you’re safe. If she detects that something’s not right, she’ll alert whomever you have on her call list.

ELLI-Q is still in beta and the developers are working through kinks while adding new behaviors. And, they’re seeking the input of the folks they want ELLI-Q to live with: us!

Check ELLI-Q out: I’ve included the link above and another here.

Amazon Echo Show

I’ve had “Alexa” from day ONE. As an Amazon Prime member, I was offered, and accepted, pre-order of the original Echo. Never looked back! It’s was love at first conversation, request, question … and now, again using my Prime account, I pre-ordered Echo Show. My experiences with it begin in the next paragraph.

Overall: I find no compelling reason to own it. There. That’s said.

It IS Alexa with a screen. OK, so what! I have other devices with screens. I have other devices that are akin to Alexa (Google Home, Apple Siri, Microsoft Cortana, and soon, Samsung Bixby). They all perform the same with varying degrees of success.

What makes “Show” better or worth more than Echo? Nada. (IMHO).

Yes, it can make phone calls. I believe the original Echo can now do that, too. It can make video calls (hello, Skype! GoToMeeting, oovoo, webex, FaceTime … just to name a few). So, what makes Echo Show better. Again, I say: nothing makes it better than the original Echo. THAT is a cool device!

I’m not knocking the platform. I believe Echo has dominated the market. It has “skills” providing myriad capabilities with new ones being introduced daily. I frequently use it as a timer or to play music while I cook. Recently, I learned that it can control my Visio TV. Now THAT’S pretty neat! (Guess you can tell by my vocabulary I’m not a millennial).

So, I’m suggesting that, if you already own an Echo, don’t spend your money on the version with the screen. There’s nothing there that you can’t do with any of your other digital devices that have screens!

I’ll play with it a little longer and post an update. And, I’ll keep an open mind about it. As of today, I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone just yet.

More to follow.

June Update #2

Technology is a great thing except when used to answer phone calls to businesses and do Senior Management (“C” staff) ever call into their own Customer Service centers?

I doubt it! If they did, they’d learn just how bad “most” are … from the maze of automated call directing (what annoying crap!) to the hold “music” that is interrupted very 40 seconds with apologies and reassurances that they’ll get to you “as soon as possible” because “your call is important to us” … (If it REALLY was, you’d have someone on the phone now). “You wait time is expected to be … three and one-half minutes” – It’s already been nine!

Then, there are the front line representatives who must obtain specific identifying information (which, by the way, seldom gets passed along when your call is escalated requiring you to provide all that identifying information all over again…). Once front line reps are convinced they are unable to assist, they transfer you to another representative. Back to that wonderful hold music…

Second level representative asks. for identification purposes, all the same information. (Must be some law they are NOT going to mess because we live in such a litigious society one slip could bring the house down). And, then you are told there is a specific group within the organization that handles your type of question because it’s related to a speciality service or product. “Please hold while I transfer you to that group.”

“Hi! This is ______, of the speciality group. Before we begin, I have to ask some identifying questions…” (again)

I’m attempting to be as generic as possible because I believe this scenario plays out across businesses that use 1) automated answering equipment, 2) music on hold with interruptions less than one minute apart telling you how much they value your time, 3) call centers (off-shore and/or in the Deep South, using, 4) under-skilled front line representatives (less expensive than the technicians to whom the calls are ultimately escalated).

Today’s call started with an “anticipated hold time of three and one-half minutes”. It lasted ten during which I was told nine times how much they appreciate my business. I was transferred four times before getting to a wonderful, helpful, understanding individual who needed to transfer me one more time to the specific-product/service group…

It’s an hour later. I think I might have completed the business that I called about an hour ago (although I won’t be certain until they phone back and confirm they have all the needed paperwork).

Technology should be able to make this process less annoying (Build it into Amazon’s Echo, Google’s Home Assistant, Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana!) and “C” staff should call their customer service centers on a regular basis to experience what their customers experience. The world would be a nicer place – IMHO.

June Update #

The Matrix is out of align! I haven’t found any “new” tech worth writing about and THAT’S troublesome.

Hmmm, well, maybe … Apple recently held its annual World Wide Developers Conference (WWDC) whereupon 5600(±) developers descended upon Cupertino, CA to learn about all the new “stuff” Apple is soon to release. I can write about this here because I doubt any of my readers watched the event. My peeps dip a toe in the technological waters and most, infrequently (at first). So, while this is old news to the enthusiast, it’s NEW news to my peeps.

This year Apple presented a few surprises, the highlight of which (IMHO) was “HomePod”: a cylindrical speaker that pushes (reportedly) extraordinary sound into your space. Oh, and it has a built-in “musicologist” to assist you building playlists and providing information about artists, songs, albums, and collections. Oh, this “musicologist” just happens to be Siri, Apple’s voice-assistant a la Amazon Echo and Google Home Assistant. But, it’s a speaker first, musicologist second, and voice-activated computer third.

Interesting concept: rather than go head-to-head with Amazon or Google on the voice-interface of a smart device, go toe-to-toe with Sonos and bring wonderful wireless sound to and throughout your home. Apple wants to automate your home and that’s NOT necessarily a bad thing. HomePod will work with iHome and that’s developing nicely, thank you.

Unfortunately, Apple is late to that game and is playing catch-up HOWEVER, Apple IS Apple and that matters. They CAN COME LATE and still win (again, IMHO) simply because they ARE Apple. We love their devices. We pay their prices. And they know it.

All that being said, it IS a great looking device and reports indicate it sounds great as well! Release is announced as “sometime in December” (Merry Christmas everyone!)

Another interesting introduction was the iMac Pro. Apple finally took a shot at Microsoft’s Surface Studio and it just might get back some who left the fold of cult Mac and jumped to Surface Studio because of its great looks and specs. HOWEVER, the iMac Pro is enough to bring the lost souls back into the fold! Sleek, powerful and aimed squarely at the high-end graphics professional, this iMac hits all the right notes, checks all the right boxes, rings all the right bells … (OK, enough already…)

Finally, an undercurrent of technology that cannot be ignored: AI and machine learning. Apple seems to be doubling-down on AI development and it shows in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. For example, the camera app that, after snapping a photo of a Broadway musical ad in some magazine, will summon the Apple Pay app and ask if you want to purchase tickets and, if you do, for what date(s). Then it will open the calendar app and schedule the event for you. Siri might inquire whether or not you have transportation arranged to attend the event and, if not, ask if you;d like it to arrange some for you.

Extrapolate that interconnectedness … as apps begin to learn your routines and proactively schedule, inquire, and remind, Siri and your device(s) will become increasingly helpful. What a GREAT time to be alive. The technology just keeps getting better and better and more and more helpful!

More on all this later!

 

May Update #2

Hi! Just a few days ago I wrote that I would post more frequently AND that I’d get these Product Reviews started: today is the day!

Click on the Product Review tab (above) and you’ll get to read my first reviews … about wifi garage door openers! Funny thing happened to get this topic of interest: I “lost” a garage door opener at an car dealer. Left it in the old car when driving out of the lot in a new one. “Not to worry” said the Sales Manager, “We’ll find it and ship it to you!”

The idea of my garage door opener somewhere other than in my car was a little unsettling. Might someone find it and drive through the neighborhood clicking away until a garage door opens? Naw, never happen. (Not gonna’ take that chance!)

 

Read the review …

May

Hmmmmm … these once monthly missives seem unusually short and far between. I’m thinking that I need to increase the frequency, adjust the topic range, dig deeper into the gadgets we ‘Boomers use (or should use) and solicit more input from you!

I’ve been educating my home! Yep, we’re living in an ever increasingly smart, SmartHome! I’ve have my LED kitchen lights connected to a smartswitch and have that connected to a smarthub and have that linked to my Amazon Echo (voice-controlled, computer-like thingie that’s sweeping the market (followed closely by Google Home Assistant and others certain to follow). My point? I walk into the room and speak to my Echo, “Alexa, kitchen on.” and the ceiling lights illuminate!

Added another to the Master bathroom: “Alexa, master bath lights on!” and, viola’, the lights illuminate!

Also just added a wifi-enabled garage door opener. No more wondering whether or not I closed it. I glance at the app on my smartphone and I can see whether it’s open or closed and, using the app, I can close (or open) it from anywhere in the world!

Speaking of being home and anywhere in the world simultaneously, I have a Ring© doorbell. It’s more than a doorbell: it’s a wifi-connected, camera and audio, motion-sensing notification device. (Sounds fancy, eh?!) As someone approaches my front door, a chime rings on my smartphone and I get a message that someone’s there. I also have the opportunity to tap the app, open the video, see who’s there … and talk to (whoever) – in real-time, FROM ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD* as if I’m on the other side of the door!

*(Anywhere in the world that provides wifi access, that is)

And then there are my wifi-enabled cameras. I have them strategically located around the property monitoring the comings and goings of anyone on or nearby my property. It’s sad, actually, nonetheless becoming “necessary” as some bold (or brave and stupid) individuals steal shit from other peoples’ front porches. (If it happens here, I’ll plant another package and wire it with a non-lethal-but-powerful charge that’ll shock the poop outta’ whoever tries to snag it.

All these gadgets make life a bit safer, easier, more comfortable (and fun!) L O V E technology!

As usual, I want you to know I am in NO WAY compensated by any manufacturer, reseller or business regarding any products I mention by name. I purchase them myself, install (and sometimes, uninstall) them myself and have no vested interest in anything other than my reputation. I guarantee to you that my opinions are just that: my opinions.

Be safe and c’mon back soon. I’ll be writing more often, I promise!

April Update #

Aw, c’mon … is it REALLY April already? (And, is April nearly gone to May?)

I reside in California and, as you may have heard (or read), we’ve been experiencing a drought for the past five years. I haven’t been attending to my work here because I have been dancing in the rain! (not really) … It’s been SO rainy during the past few months that our drought is officially over!! (According to Gov. Jerry Brown, so it must be true). I suggest to my less-than-technology-comfy friends that they can’t “hurt” their equipment by simply playing with it, HOWEVER, I do not suggest playing in the rain while writing a blog; hence my explanation for not being here for a while: I have been dancing (playing) in the rain and doing so non-electronically. (Hmmmmm, I wonder if I can teach Alexa (Amazon Echo) or Google Assistant (Google’s response to Amazon’s Echo) to take dictation and post it here. I’ll work on that …

What have YOU been up to these past couple months? I trust some of you have exposed yourselves to something new in the digital world! Perhaps visited a technology reseller and experimented with a smartphone or tablet!? Remember: there are many, many devices and prices are all over the place. I’ve seen tablets at BestBuy™ for less than $50.00 (No, I am NOT paid, reimbursed nor compensated in any way for my opinions or “recommendations”!) I’ve also seen tablets for approximately $20.00 per month offered by cell phone carriers. (Bear in mind that the cost will require a data plan and that could cost you another $30.00 per month and more!! Still, if you have not acquired a tablet or other smart device, you need to seriously consider doing so because you’re missing out on a lot!!

BTW: Apple will announcing some new products (updates/versions) in the near future so, if you don’t NEED the newest, it’s a good time to shop because much Apple product is being discounted (as usual when they’re about to introduce “new”, they sell off the “old”) Deals are available: go shop!

 

February Update #

The holidays have past. The new year has begun. And I am (finally) getting around to publishing an update!

“Tech Talk”, a bi-monthly round-table discussion group that I host, is a forum wherein a group of neighbors and I get together to talk about all things “tech”. We, Baby-Boomers/Senior Citizens, have varying skills when it comes to using tech “stuff” (smartphones, tablets, smart home devices and the like) so we spend time together asking questions, sharing experiences and, in general, helping each other move forward along the digital highway.

Someone recently asked, on an alternative community neighborhood web site, a question about home security/automation systems, services and recommendations thereto. There were a few responses (use this, try that, avoid this one…) and a little more discussion. One of the members of the Tech Talk group sent me a message suggesting that I address the topic at an upcoming Tech Talk meeting. I agreed. Little did I know how little I knew about home security/automation systems!

Based upon my research, here’s what I learned: home security is either a monitored service for a monthly fee, installed and maintained (for a fee) by professionals OR it is quasi-monitored (you and your smart device[s] get notified…), installed and maintained by you. Where it gets even more interesting (and confusing) is when we start considering home automation!

What IS home automation? A garage door opener is a early form of home automation. Pressing the button on the remote in your car as you approach the garage opens the door automatically. What about when you leave home? When you’re a few miles away and you wonder “Did I close the garage door?” Today’s digital garage door automation devices allow you to “look” using your smart device and, if you DID forget to close it, you can close it with the touch a button on your screen as you continue driving rather than going back to check and close!

There are home automation devices that lock and unlock your home’s front door; that light up a room and play prearranged music when you walk into a room; tell you about the traffic report, weather report and stock market activity (if you want to know about all that). Did you notice that I said “tell you”? Devices like Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, Amazon’s Echo, Google’s Home Assistant can speak to you and they “understand” when you speak to them! Now THAT’S home automation.

Ask Amazon’s Echo, “Alexa, what’s the weather in San Francisco” and a pleasant-enough voice will explain the current weather conditions and forecast as well as commute traffic and the latest news if you like.

I recently installed a “smart hub” (details to follow later) the enables me to connect various home automation devices together such that I can tell Amazon’s Echo “Alexa, turn on the kitchen lights” and it’s done! The lights are LED lights and V E R Y bright so I had a dimmer switch installed. It’s a smart dimmer switch and it’s now connected to my smart hub. So, I can say to Amazon’s Echo “Alexa, turn on the kitchen lights to 45 percent” and not only does Alexa turn the lights on, she sees them to only 45% illumination!

Soon, I’m installing a home security video system with cameras both inside the home and at strategic points outside. The system connects to my smart hub. I’ll be able to talk to my smart device, ask whether or not there’s been any activity in or around my home, and get an answer or a look for myself.

Gotta’ L O V E this technology! What new tech have YOU tried lately?

(Home automation, communication protocols, and devices next post).

(My usual disclaimer: I am NOT compensated for any recommendation nor am I earning any income from any manufacturers, developers, resellers or others for my comments in these posts. The opinions expressed are mine [unless otherwise noted].