Thursday, July 20, 2017

What to do?

Over the years you learn a thing or two about computers, however, you must be up to date with the intricacies of hardware and software. 

Case in point: If Windows did not boot up or you were in need of running in safe mode you simply pushed the F8 while booting. Well, if you have Windows 10 installed that might not be the case anymore. According to the developers Windows 10 is too fast to boot and pressing the F8 key might not hit the mark. Although some times I have the feeling that molasses flows faster than the boot process takes place. 
In any event, yesterday was such a day were I actually had to look up what the story was with the boot process. The good news is that, after holding the shift key (either one) and click on restart, there are more options for the user to rectify the situation than before. 
To make a long story short, I discovered that the master boot record (MBR) was not willing to cooperate. Even going to the command prompt and trying to do a fix it with chkdsk /f did not accomplish anything. 
Finally, I had to reinstall Windows 10. Luckily there is an option which allows me to keep my personal files so I don't have to go through the backup restore etc etc process for the files. The downside is that I had to reinstall all the programs I use frequently. Hours later I'm back up and running, surprisingly enough much faster (I wonder why?) ...  

WALABOT

Curiosity got a hold of me again. I do many handyman tasks and some times I'm in need of a stud finder and occasionally it is a cement wall, in which case its pure guess work what is behind the wall or inside the wall. 

The other day I stumbled over an ad online for WALABOT, an 3D imaging sensor which lets you see what is inside a wall (for my purpose). 


Simply connect to an Android telephone, calibrate and voila the display shows studs, pipes, cables and what ever else lurks inside a wall. Besides the image of the object in the wall it also displays how far away it is from the sensor - definitely useful information. 

Best part - it worked flawlessly right out of the box. 

The company also provides a developer kit with a myriad of possibilities for the use of this technology, but that is for another day...


https://walabot.com/

Friday, July 7, 2017

Mirror Mirror on the Wall ...

About two years ago or so I was visiting a friend of mine who showed me a picture of a mirror in a hotel with a date, time and weather display. So we thought "what a great idea" - almost a must have (or not).
Image result for magic mirror
Something like that
Fast forwarding to present times - there is a hole community of magic mirror enthusiasts as I found out via Pintrest. Mostly done with a raspberry pi and a two way mirror, lots and lots of DIY videos and a dedicated magic mirror builders page.

Which brings me to another gizmo - the raspberry pi. Developed in the UK, the raspberry pi has been around since 2012 and is a single board computer. It developed to the current form for many uses. However, I never saw a real need for it up to now.

I decided that I wanted to see for myself what it looks like. 
Something like that
Once I'm done with the back frame to hold the display, the mirror will be a great addition to the living room.



Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Cheap Fares - My foot

So here is the deal: One way ticket to Boston from BWI


Sound like a great deal?
Think again:

That does NOT include CARRY ON, CHECKED BAGGAGE which would amount to $49, and a $42 charge respectively for a grand total of $397.98 for a one ticket with a carry on and checked luggage - Seriously - What gives?

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Soccer

Here we are again, my favorite past time - Soccer. The spring season came and went with a blink of an eye - or not since we had several rain outs. Our last game was today and we completed the season with a 5 game losing streak.
Although the team started extremely well with two wins and one tie, it went downhill from there. Of course we should have and would have won several other games, but it just did not happen... There is always the fall season to try again. At least we are playing soccer ...

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Customer Support/Service

Yes, one more time.

Misfit

As I wrote before about that Misfit customer support is exceeding my expectations, it still is the case. My shine stopped recording and left me high and dry. After I contacted customer support via email the usual question and answer email ping pong occurred. Once it was settled that the unit was malfunctioning they promptly sent a new unit, actually an upgrade from the shine, to me. Very friendly and accommodating.

Booking.com 

Outstanding customer service for booking a flight way in advance. The price could not have been better either. Great follow up by the representative.



Monday, May 29, 2017

Samsung 8s

After years and years of being  a part of the iPhone family, and Apple Corporation, I finally decided that it is time to switch to a different platform and cellular telephone.  To "put on a new face" if you will.  

My latest iPhone, which is the 5s (yes, there are later versions) emitted so much heat after a 30-minute drive using GPS that  I was not able to touch it for a couple of minutes.  Not to mention the additional exposure to sunlight, which made the phone scream for some shade.  Clearly, one could potentially cook an egg on it -- but no -- in case you're wonder, I have not tried it.   Last but not least, the iPhone quite frequently decided that it needed to reboot at the most inconvenient moments. All of this, plus the renewal and  upgrade to a new phone tipped the scale towards my yearning and need for something different.

Meet Samsung S8, which even with all of the hype, the ads, the reviews, and more, did not convince me as much as the actual use of a Samsung S7, which I had the opportunity to test run for a day.  The look, the feel, and the capabilities of the phone went beyond simply a new user experience.  Forget the exploding batteries, user errors or whatever circumstances that contributed to reports of dissatisfaction.  In my humble opinion, unmistakably, this cellular telephone is the cat's meow.  The phone has exceeded my expectations by more than a mile.

Not only for its sleek design and  masterfully crafted engineering, but for its functionality and software --  it undeniably actually  blows anything else out of the water, while I realize Android users have been saying this for years.

Whereas now, the iPhone seems a clunky relic of past times,

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Drones

Curiosity just got the better of me and I purchased the pocket drone. Contrary to the more sophisticated bigger drone this one is more of a challenge. Why?

The control software is not working as described. Every time I start the drone it just flies off without responding to the controls on the iPhone or the Android App. I suppose Eventually I will figure it out before it brakes...

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Drones



Eons ago I strolled through the mall and stopped by Sharper Image - my favorite gizmo store at the time. One of the sales representatives was demonstrating a drone. Big by comparison, the drone (not the sales reps) body was made from Styrofoam and a camera displayed video on a smart phone. Excellent idea, but $200 plus at the time was not justifiable. Fast forward a couple of eons - the end of 2016, the curiosity peeked again.  

One of the latest hypes, besides AI and robotics, are the drones. I suppose, fueled by the high volume delivery companies or fulfillment houses experimenting with the use of delivery drones, the private sector has a choice of their own drones. With the vast availability of drones one thing is for certain, there will be increasing traffic soon in the upper areas of the highways. Of course, all of this has and will be heavily regulated. Licenses for the use of drones for commercial use (for example real estate pictures) are required.  Other regulations in regards of area of use are in place already. Most of the regulations are still in flux since this is relatively new. 

After weeks of comparing drones of all sizes and features, I finally decided on the DJI Phantom 4.  The initial sticker shock, when I started my research and popped in the Best Buy store went way side after I started to compare the emerging market of the drones. 


The attractive price range yielded mostly poor performances in terms of flying time.  Believe me, when I write time flies if you are flying a drone. Important considerations are battery life and the consequent recharge time, portability and capability of the drone itself.  Beyond the standard features, it is simply amazing what drones can do. Bottom line is you get what you pay for.  If you invest in a quality product you will enjoy better quality, performance, reliability, features, and above all all, tech support, if necessary.

Also there are some other important factors to consider after the purchase of a drone. One is the learning curve of operating a drone. It requires some good hand and eye coordination. After all, there are a number of buttons to use and dials to be moved besides the two joy sticks which control the up, down, left and right positioning. Granted, if you are a gamer this should be a piece of cake. Then there is the registration with the FAA - another $24.99 for personal use and $49.99 for business use to add to the original cost.

Well, I'm not a gamer but I can tie my shoes and walk while chewing gum, which means that after some practicing, as well as flying time, I will get the hang of it. Not that I am joining a fast-pacing racing league tomorrow, I will leave that for other enthusiasts. 

I am also not one to read extensive manuals, or hardly ever; however, this time I did.  There are one thousand reasons to do so. The manual is not only for information of the handling of the drone, but also alerts you to the fact that there are official regulations and restrictions for operating a drone. I would not go as far as getting a live instructor.  If you are somewhat coordinated and patient it should not be too hard to master flying a drone.

After some experimenting and testing "challenging" flight paths in the backyard, I slowly but surely get use to the joy sticks while looking at the drone, as well as just looking at the screen (you are not supposed to let the drone get out of sight - but but but). In any event, it is very entertaining.

I should let the reader know that this review is my personal opinion, experience and choice.  It is not meant to be a comparison of available drones. Other people get paid, or otherwise volunteer to perform the in depth research of technical features, facts etc etc.


Wednesday, January 6, 2016

One more time

Again, occupied with the things dreams are made off I ventured out to try my luck again with the jackpot at $400 million just like everybody else. Needless to say after the below announcement, or a bit before, the bubble burst again...


til tonight, getting ready for the next bubble ...

Powerball jackpot reaches $500 million, 6th largest US ever
 Powerball lottery tickets sit on a store counter in the Manhattan borough of New York January 5, 2016.
Andrew Kelly | Reuters
Powerball lottery tickets sit on a store counter in the Manhattan borough of New York January 5, 2016. The estimated jackpot for Wednesday night's Powerball drawing has hit $500 million, making it the sixth largest lottery prize ever in the U.S. If a winning ticket is sold, the winner could select $306 million in cash, before taxes are deducted, or the full jackpot in an annuity paid out over over 29 years. The jackpot value was boosted from $450 million earlier in the day due to strong ticket sales, According to Powerball's press release. However, it still has room to reach the record $656 million jackpot in a Mega Millions drawing in March 2012. The largest Powerball prize was a $590.5 million jackpot won by a Florida woman in May 201. The odds of landing this jackpot? One in 292.2 million. The drawing is at 10:59 p.m. ET Wednesday. Powerball is played 44 states as well as the Washington, D.C., the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.
— The Associated Press contributed to this report.Ritika ShahNews Associate



Neato Robotics (follow up)

Since I work from home most of the time I have grown quite fond of Nigel (the Neato vacuum robot). "Nigel" a name, a persona or term of endearment I gave my dedicated household companion who had inevitably become a member of the family. 
Every morning at 9:30 am sharp during the week the jet engine takes off from the docking station and makes its rounds, on weekends it starts at 10:30 am. I had plenty of time to observe Nigel and his navigational talents. After I watched him surfing on one of the slippers it became a natural habit to make sure that no light objects are in his way. He would push it somewhere anyway. Reminds me of a puppy I once had and lost shoes, except the slipper was not chewed up. 
He got stuck several times in various situations. Over time I became so used to listening to the sounds that I know immediately when he is in trouble. Sure enough the beeping sound emitted by him showed me his location. Once he climbed onto the bathroom scale, what a picture that was going back and forth. If he determines that the battery is low he will make it back to the docking station, which is a good thing. 
Today he decided that he was not done in the bedroom and ventured out, after recharging, to clean up the rest. I, on the other hand, closed the bedroom door while he was busy loading the battery. So here he is wiggling his way towards the bedroom when he encounters the closed door. I could have sworn that, after bumping into the door, he looked very confused. He turned a couple of times and tried again. I almost felt sorry for the little guy. He pouted for a moment, most likely had an evil expression lingering in his circuits, then he returned to his docking station.

Yes, I'm working on getting a life. 

Working with computers, gizmos, the internet of things (IoT), automated this and that, etc etc I became very used to talking to the machines. Most of my IoTs in my house are interacted by voice anyway so naturally I talk to them. Therefore, I concluded that voice interaction is missing from Nigel, a friendly "good morning" or "excuse me" if he bumps into one of the items once in a while would not hurt, other than that he is at the moment the solo artist and robot who does his own thing He does not communicate with any of the other machines, except the docking station and me via the beeping cry for help, which might be a good thing.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Neato robotics

So a new gizmo, a neato robotics vacuum cleaner.  Courtesy of a friend of mine on a trial basis.
Whenever something says easy to setup I'm skeptical, was it designed by the engineer, inventor, or the marketing team? If you design something it makes perfect sense - to you only.

In this case I was pleasantly surprised that the initial setup was easy. The unpacking was easy, only one wrapper fastener to cut, everything labeled clearly with instructions what to do with the item.

Notice the personal approach language. This is step one.
 This is the content, two pieces and clear instructions - impressive.
Setup time: unpacking 5 minutes, programming the robot 5 minutes, finding the right spot for it priceless ...
The menu options are easy to understand and to program. There are options for spot cleaning or a schedule for daily cleaning of the entire living area.
It took only 15 minutes on its docking station to be ready for spot cleaning. After that I programmed it to clean everyday at 9:30 am, and on weekends at 10:30 am. Then, promptly at the programmed time it turned itself on which sounds like a mini jet engine, and off it went wiggling its way through the house. Although I strongly recommend to let it do its cleaning chores while you are away, the sound of the roller could get a little bit annoying.
From hardwood floor to carpet, over door dividers, under the bed, pushing light objects around, encountering solid objects which causes it to change directions, relentlessly covering the entire accessible living space. There are boundary strips which come with the robot to let it know that a certain area is off limits. However, I wanted to test it and see what it does on its own.
Most impressive are the moves it makes around corners, and it does not get stuck on the edges of carpets with fringes, instead it turns off the roller and backs up. After 45 minutes it covered two bedrooms, living room, dining room, and a small kitchen. Once it decided that it is done it returns to the docking station, all there is left to do is to empty the dust pin, clean the filter, and the access from the roller to the dust bin.
Overall it does an excellent job of keeping the living space clean on a regular basis.




It's been a while

How time flies. It was Spring just yesterday, now there are only 21 days left in the year. It has been a busy time in between, lots of travel, lots of work, and lots of new things to try. I will fill in the gaps hopefully before the year passes.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Life without a smart phone Day I

Since my iPhone gave up communication to the mother ship I realized (again) that most of the daily "support" items are conveniently located on the device. It is not very apparent at first, but then it surfaces one by one. Grocery shopping - all my bonus cards are stored inside my little helper. So instead of logging around a heavy bundle of half torn cards they are neatly organized with hints of "deals" for a particular store. Normally I don't pay too much attention to it, however, today I bought 10 items on sale for $.69; without the card it amounted to $22+ with tax, with card the total was $8+.
Another nuisance is the time. I don't wear any jewelry, watches or bracelets on my arms. The time is on my smart phone, now I have to rely on the sun dial. Traffic alerts are the next vital item I got used to. One of the streets was blocked due to some construction. Normally I have an advanced warning that the road is not usable - today not so much. It is Sunday, I can't wait what happens during the week.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

UEFA Final

Berlin, Germany - Champions League Olympia Stadion

That really was an astonishing game of soccer. The most entertaining Champions League final for years. End-to-end excitement pretty much from the get-go. Barcelona deserved to win - they were the dominant team for the most part - but Juventus gave them a good working over for a sizable chunk of that second half, a period during which the result really was in doubt. It took a huge effort from Juventus to stay with a simply brilliant Barcelona team, and for that they should be applauded. Many wouldn’t have been able to hang on. Barcelona have their fifth European Cup, joining Liverpool and Bayern Munich at that mark on the roll of honor. Juventus now holds the record for final defeats, this being their sixth. But everyone should go away feeling proud. On top of the winner list is Real Madrid with 10 wins and AC Milan with seven respectively.

The Warranty Game

warranty
[n. wawr-uh n-tee, wor-; v. wawr-uh n-tee, wor-]
nounplural warranties.
  1.  An act or an instance of warranting; assurance; authorization; warrant.
  2. Law
  3. a.      a stipulation, explicit or implied, in assurance of some particular in connection with a contract, as of sale:
    an express warranty of the quality of goods.
    b.     Also called covenant of warranty. a covenant in a deed to land by which the part conveying assures the grantee that he or she will enjoy the premises free from interference by any person claiming under a superior title.
    c.      (in the law of insurance) a statement or promise, made by the party insured, and included as an essential part of the contract, falsity or non-fulfillment of which renders the policy void.
    d.     A judicial document, as a warrant or writ.
  4. A written guarantee given to the purchaser of a new appliance, automobile, or other item by the manufacturer or dealer, usually specifying that the manufacturer will make any repairs or replace defective parts free of charge for a stated period of time.
Source: Dictionary.com


The end of March my iPhone 5s decided to get stuck in reboot mode forever and my bad luck with Apple products continued. There was nothing which I could do nor any of the Genius Bar members at the Apple Store to bring it back to function. Of course it happened two days AFTER the warranty expired (is it me or does this apply to many items, it is almost like a timer). However, the very courteous member brought the case to the manager who was nice enough to replace the iPhone for no charge. Fresh out of the box and the content restored from the backup I went on with my life with the iPhone.
Then came last Thursday, said iPhone was searching for the provider. Friday it was still searching for the provider. I checked the billing status just to make sure that the error was not in my court - it checked out, the account was current. The next step was to visit the provider store, another 2 hours I don't get back. After endless minutes of probing, consulting with technical support, and getting the iPhone to factory install it was decided that it is the antenna which was malfunctioning. Since the store was the closest but it was a provider store there was no replacement from the store itself. Instead I was referred to the corporate store, yet another trip I really did not need since they do not replace equipment either. At this store I was reminded that there was no warranty on the replaced device therefore they can not replace it, although I was told at the first store that it was clearly an equipment failure and the device would be replaced at no charge (it was also written up like that). So the first question which popped up in my mind is that if the replaced device is fresh out of the box should it not have a warranty as well? Obviously not. After some discussion with the clerk at the corporate store who was somewhat irritating and arrogant, he finally saw it my way and entered the replacement order, it will be mailed to me within a couple of days.

So here is the million dollar question: Why in the world do I have to pay for a defective device when it was clearly a malfunction on the manufacturers side? Especially if the device just came out of a box and therefore was brand new. Should there not be a warranty on that device automatically?
Here is an interesting quote I dug up:
Consumer advocate groups, such as the non-profit Consumers Union, advise against purchasing extended warranties unless they can be purchased at manufacturers cost. David Butler of the Consumers Union says, "The extended warranty is definitely in the best interest of the company because if the product breaks down they want you to be satisfied with it and buy another one when the time comes, but isn't often in the best interest of the consumer unless it can be purchased at cost with no or very little markup." 
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/

The extended warranty does nothing but feeding the bottom line of a corporation, a bet against a malfunction. Granted that they have a cost associated with the repair, tech support, maintenance and such, but I'm sure that this is already factored in. Besides the cost of manufacturing it in China guarantees that the profit margin is tremendous. However, should it not be done RIGHT in the first place? 

Perhaps it is time to look for alternative smart phone.



Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Gearless Part Deux

Yesterday I used a cleaning fluid for transmissions to test if it was a matter of cleaning the transmission from accumulated varnish and other deposits which might have caused this erratic behavior. I'm certain that it is not the transmission fluid since I had the transmission flushed and the fluid exchanged just two weeks ago. Since, I drove nearly 1,400 miles without a problem.
This morning I set out to unload a motorcycle I had in the back of my van. The destination temporary storage is about 20 miles away. Piece of cake. I made it to 13 miles when the gears started slipping while I was driving on a straight road. So much for the solution I had hoped for.
After several telephone calls and two and a half hours of waiting my car was towed to a preferred auto shop, motorcycle still in the back of the van. What next?

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Gearless

It started last Friday. I noticed that the gears were slipping a little bit when I was backing out of a parking space. Driving home after my soccer game on Saturday produced a slide backup since the forward gear slipped completely and the car would not move. I was lucky enough to pull into a side street without causing a major backup. I pulled over and turned the car off to check if there was something obvious going on, which was not the case. Then I turned the car back on and, low and behold, it drove forward without a problem. However, it happened again just one mile down the road. Same procedure as before and I made it home.
After consulting with the all mighty internet I decided to give Trans Tune by Sea Foam ® a try. I was hopeful since the car moved forward without a problem after I followed the manufacturers instructions administering the fluid. Did it really work or was it just a fluke? I'll find out tomorrow.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Just a reminder

Once in a while things happen out of the blue. Some of them are little reminders that we are all temporary fixtures on this planet. Even though this occurrence was not earth moving in general but it was a reminder that things can change at a moments notice. One day everything seems fine just to turn around within hours, minutes or even seconds, creating ripples in the sea of life - screaming mortality.

Two weeks ago it was such a day. A very good friend of mine complained about pain in the lower intestine. After a checkout at the doctor he was rushed to the hospital for further investigation of the problem. Luckily it turns out that it was nothing serious.

Today was such a day. It was my beloved soccer day, although every day is a special day in my eyes, this event is a special bond between mind liked individuals. Whether we win or loose is not that important since we play for the "fun" of it. We deemed lucky that we are able to play given the advanced youth we all possess.
It is customary to be at the field early to get ready for the game, socialize and to have a chance to watch the second half of the previous game, given that we don't play the first game of the day. It was a relatively mild day with a nice breeze, ideal for a "friendly" soccer game.
During the second half all eyes were on a beautiful pass to left field, which was skillfully defended, when one of the defenders collapsed in midfield. The game was halted and players attended to the downed player.  It was not a foul, he just dropped to the ground. First it was speculated that it was the heat but it turned out it was more serious. Experienced CPR-trained players were applying their skill to the fallen player and the ambulance was called and showed up six minutes later. After what seemed like an eternity the player was transported on a stretcher to the ambulance with the hospital as its destination. It was only later during our game that the sad news spread that he never made it to the hospital and passed away.
Rest in peace, my condolences to his family.
 


Friday, May 29, 2015

One of those again

Several years ago I wrote about the unskilled movies with big names as a draw in them. It was not pretty, neither were the movies.
I stumbled on another one today. It is called "The Prince" with the cast including Bruce Willis and John Cusack.
It was a 2014 film with a 4.5 rating, the synapses sounded somewhat interesting so I decided to fill some time and watch it. Well in short, it was amateurish in all facets of movie making. Very disappointing overall. Going into more detail would be more time wasted.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

MacBook Pro Bloated

The third Week of May I noticed that the touch pad on my Macbook Pro was cracked. Further viewing of the outside revealed that the entire body looked bloated. First thought was that the battery was the culprit and it turned out to be the right assumption.

After hunting down the online appointment entry screen, which be all means is not intuitive, I managed to squeeze in today. The very friendly Genius Bar associate took one look and nodded her head, yes it is the battery. A lookup of the serial number not only showed that it is out of warranty but also that the manufacturing date was 2009 - as she said: "oh, that is a vintage computer". I guess in computer terms it is. To make a long story short, there was no exchange, there is no battery replacement at the store, there is only the internet and third party solutions. Alas, they took the battery out to prevent further damage and to dispose of it properly. Good thing I only use it to make sure that my websites are running on the Mac platform properly, that is pretty much all this notebook is good for anyway.

Here is the hiccup I have with this scenario

(and I assure you I'm not the only one)

There apparently was a battery recall, a KNOWN ISSUE with batteries swelling and causing computer damage. Apple Care told me there was a recall, but because of "company procedures," they can no longer exchange the bad batteries. I expressed how disappointed I am with the "process" of letting customers know when there is a recall. The Apple Care supervisor told me there are no good means of communication on these recalls, that they are posted on the web site. However, Apple has no problem notifying me when there is a new product out, when my computer has been rendered useless because it's OS is out of date or when they've had a "record" quarter in sales and revenue. So what gives? Perhaps it is a good thing that Apple has this blind follower customer base, were boasting "how I damaged my $400 watch" or "look I dropped my brand new iPhone 6S right when I came out of the store" is almost like a hero batch.

Word of caution:
If you suspect that your device has a swollen battery, the first step is to exercise caution. Puncturing a battery in any state is incredibly dangerous, but swollen batteries are especially vulnerable to compromise as their casing is already under stress from the built up gasses within. In short, handle any device with a suspected swollen battery with care.

Next, if your device has a user-removable battery, you can try to carefully remove it. Note that the battery’s swollen casing may make removal difficult. If you encounter any unusual resistance to removing the battery, stop and follow the advice below for those with devices containing non-user-removable batteries. If, however, you are able to successfully remove the swollen battery, place it in a safe, cool container so that it won’t be vulnerable to puncturing. Do not discard the battery in the trash or elsewhere. Doing so can severely injure the health of sanitation workers who may come into contact with the battery, as well as the environment. Instead, always dispose of batteries — swollen or not — at an authorized battery disposal facility. Many computer repair locations have the equipment and procedures to safely handle swollen batteries. For example, if you have an Apple MacBook Pro, take the battery to your nearest Apple Store. Other electronics retailers, such as Best Buy, also offer recycling and disposal services. Just make sure that you inform the employees that you are recycling a swollen battery so that they can take the proper precautions (don’t just drop the swollen battery in a battery recycling kiosk). If you can’t find a suitable location to dispose of your battery, contact your local government for instructions.

Blackhat

Curiosity got the better of me last night and I watched it. Although the trailer looked somewhat promising, the movie itself was not as good. Michael Mann did a good job directing it in his personal style, the plot line itself was very disappointing.
I suppose that the "cyber" movies will become more popular in this day and age, however, the content needs to be worked on big time. I thought that Sneakers, a star studded movie from 1992 or Enemy of the State from 1998 had more debt than this movie when it comes to technology.
There were several BIG questions marks in this movie. One of the first ones was the possession of a smart phone in a prison cell. Perhaps it was to establish the "hacker" persona, who knows. Others included the display of the code, Norton Utilities to the rescue. I have seen smarter decoding or reverse engineering schema scenes. And, above all, downloading a key logger within the NSA - seriously? If it would be that easy any 13 year old "hacker" could do that routinely. Using a hotspot as a connection for a Dropbox, why? To use android advertising? Bluetooth would have been less conspicuous bad guys.
Then there is  the motive of this entire schema. Some wild looking Aussie with some bad ass following doing all this for what? Obviously not to take over the world, but have some gain in the stock market? Since it was so easy to get inside the targeted dam, would it be more efficient to just blow the dam, and, if you have all this money already and perhaps access to more, why go thru all this?
All in all from an entertainment point of view, not too bad. From a "cyber" point of view - lousy. I'm not sure if even the general public bought this one.

    1. 5.4/10·IMDb
    2. My rating 3/10

Monday, May 11, 2015

Predestination

Based one of the great science fiction writers Robert Heinlein's "'—All You Zombies—'" comes this mind bending movie Predestination.

It was written in one day, July 11, 1958, and first published in the March 1959 issue of Fantasy and Science Fiction magazine after being rejected by Playboy. The story involves a number of paradoxes caused by time travel. In 1980, it was nominated for the coveted Balrog Award for short fiction.

Although it is slow to watch, it keeps you interested in the plot line. It is not until three quarters into the movie until it all comes together and it leaves you puzzled long after the movie is over. 
One has to admire the imagination of the writer to come up with the "find the beginning of a circle" scenario.

  1. 7.4/10·IMDb
    3.5/4·Roger Ebert
 My Rating 9/10

Friday, May 8, 2015

Cheap Flying

Once in a blue moon the "economic" way to travel is by air, especially when time is of the essence.
There are many choices when it comes to the carrier. A quick search in the Google browser revealed five airlines with prices ranging from $175 to $231 or more. I prefer non-stop since it is more convenient. Of course the origination airport plays somewhat of a role too as well as the departure time.
In my scenario it worked out to be a flight, non-stop, from Baltimore-International Airport to Fort Lauderdale, Florida at 6:00 AM (in the middle of the night so to speak). Doing some time math it meant to get up at 3:30 AM to get ready, drive to the airport and check in. Naturally there is no checked luggage, just a carry on; also a sign of the times. One carry on, one personal item - FREE. Everything went according to plan, we arrived on time, checked in at the self check kiosk, walked thru security and onto the plane. No delay, one fluent maneuver - encouraging, even the TSA check point was a simple walk through.

The plane's interior left some things to be desired, so did the service. Spirit has a menu of items you can purchase, were the coffee is more expensive than Starbucks coffee (most likely see through coffee in a Styrofoam cup). But it was just a two hour flight early in the morning, there was plenty of real coffee to be had in Fort Lauderdale - Cuban Coffee to be exact.



It is somewhat hilarious how the items are described as a delicious upgrade. It used to be customer service to include free non alcoholic beverages and some sort of snack. I guess the bottom line on the balance sheet needs the $2 to stay in the black.

Yes, it was the cheapest flight available with the desired times. From a comfort point of view and ease of travel it was hideous.

After a week of doing what we came to do it was time to return to the metropolitan area. Yet another early in the morning departure, another quick time math exercise and we departed at 5:20 AM to get to the airport on time. Enter Fort Lauderdale International Airport - Spirit Terminal 4.
Almost taking the usual routine for granted, we checked in at the self check in - flawless. Off to the TSA security. Two uniformed Spirit employees pre-checked the amount of luggage before the ticket check. I guess they were not morning people, no friendliness, lots of barking commands. It did not help that there was a robocop in camouflage outfit right next to them  - let the nightmare begin. 
We had the same luggage as we had departing, yet the barking voices commanded that we had too many items and need to pay an additional $55 for the extra bag. Mind you it is the same airline but a different airport - no consistency at all. Some unpacking and repacking later we reduced it to three total items, paying an additional $55 (important for the bottom line) to take one personal item on board. Not that it makes a difference in weight or anything else if you have one carry on and one personal bag - it is pure penny pinching. Now enter the TSA checkpoint, not only was it inefficient and run purely, it bordered on harassment. We barely made the flight after all this nonsense. Our seat assignments let us to row 2, right after the "first class" seats. There is no middle seat in the "first class", therefore no space to store the carry on luggage. Another inconvenience were the flight attendant offered to store it somewhere else with no access to it until arrival and then an endless wait time to get the luggage back. Luckily it was just another two hour flight with somebody who snored loudly next to me. In addition some constant announcements to sign up for the Spirit credit card to earn valuable mileage points.  

Compared with some of the flights I took earlier this year to Florida with JetBlue this was the worst experience even though I bought a $50 cheaper ticket. I know that this was the first and last time I used this airline. 

It is bad enough that because of some disturbed individuals in the past everybody who uses air travel has to undergo searches, walk barefoot or in socks to the x-ray gizmos to be verified, and, in addition, padded down like an ordinary criminal afterward, luggage being searched, some unidentifiable piece of cloth being swiped across your hand with comments like "if this comes back positive you are in trouble", and extremely unfriendly personal - power tripping at times. Welcome to the land of the "free".
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Just for the fun of it lets do some cost comparison 
(calculations do not include accommodations they would be the same in either case, unless you sleep in the car).

Flying/Rental Car 
Flight   $175 per person (not including "fees" and tax to keep it simple)  total $350
Additional baggage fees $55
Rental Car  $184 (not including "fees" and tax)
Luggage - limited to carry on or you can check a bag for $100 per bag, or selectively $55 per additional carry on.

Grand Total for six days $588 

Driving (normally I will gladly drive any distance around 1,000 miles, one way)
Gas (averaged at $2.60) for 2,100 miles at 20 mpg (low average) equals around $273 round trip
Luggage - unlimited, including golf clubs and other items which would cost more to check in than they are worth at times.

Grand Total for six days $273

Okay, so there is time involved. Four hours flying versus 30 hours driving. Let's put a value on the time we spend and pay our self $10 per hour.

From and to the airport: 2 hours total, getting to the plane 2 hours total, rental car logistics 2 hours for a total of $60.

Driving about 15 hours with occasional stops for a total of 36 hours totals $360.

New Grand Total for Flying: $648     -      New Grand Total for Driving: $633  

PIECE OF MIND , NOT BEING SUBJECT TO BAD SERVICE PERSONAL, and 
OTHER IDIOTIC RULES AND REGULATIONS
PRICELESS

Friday, May 1, 2015

Senseless Departure

Everyday you read and hear in the news about shooting, mugging, murder and mayhem. After a while you tune all of it out, after all, there is your life to live, bills to pay, games to play, movies to watch and all the news reported events seem very far away from your own life.
Until one day the news do affect your life because the person in the news was somebody you knew personally. Perhaps you shared a dinner just a couple of weeks ago, attended a family event together, or spend time talking about this and that on a regular bases. The impact is traumatic, especially if you know that it was just the beginning of his life. Reaching out in the world to establish what could have been a life worth living, however, his life was cut short. Nobody knows why, just the how.
The impact on the last fleeing moments of his life created a tremendous ripple effect throughout the family. Normally it is said that your life flashes in front of your eyes just seconds before you die, the same can be said if somebody close to you passes, except it is not your life but the valuable moments you spend with this person. Nothing can prepare you for this. If it is a long lasting illness you might be more prepared, but not when it just happened an hour ago and by force.
Perhaps it could have been prevented - or not, perhaps the prevention should have happened a long time ago - or not, perhaps somebody should have ... None of it happened and nothing will change the final outcome. Helpless feelings and disbelieve is all there is left for now. Perhaps you will always remember the flashing smile, the sparkle in his eyes, his courteous behavior or the daring efforts to do something right - perhaps that is how he should be remembered.


Saturday, April 18, 2015

Customer Support

I wrote that I would blog the results of the customer service interaction in regards to the Zubie and the Misfit products.
So here are the results:
Zubie, after the initial email it was suggested that my car was incompatible. Could not have been since it was working and can show that on the map/trip history. Next round was an elevation of the request with the result that the engineers showed only low traffic on the GPS. Therefore it should be the product, since the GPS on the iPhone and other gizmos is working fine, even the Zubie app reports my location taken from the iPhone GPS function. All the emails were accommodating and left me with the assurance that something is being done. Today I received an email requesting a destination address for a replacement unit. Overall rating for the customer service 5 out of 5.
Misfit customer service:
Equally accommodating with clear instructions on what to try and do. Nothing worked and the almost immediate response was an RMA number link. I sent it in two days ago, now I'm waiting for UPS to notify me that my new unit is there. Rating 5 out of 5.
We will see if it is consistent since I also purchased BOLT, the new LED wireless light bulb and one failed on the second day ...

Diet and Sports

The initial 21 days of the diet are over, the result was an overwhelming success. Not only did I weigh in on the last day at 163 with a body fat mass of 21.6% but also my energy level went through the roof.
One event I noticed it the most is my weekly soccer game. I play the striker position since my endurance allows me to run "fast" (relative term) during the 90 minutes of game time. I did that before, but now it seems much easier, naturally because I'm 20 pounds lighter and did not loose any muscles.
The first game of the season was during my 500 calories a day phase so the result on the field was not very overwhelming. Today was a different story. My calorie intake went from 500 to 1,500 calories a day which makes all the difference in the world. This is called the stabilization phase. As a result I was "on the ball" today. Did not score but had a good effect on the game. We tied at 2 all, which is a good result considering that our opponent usually prevails. The difference today was the fact that the majority of players showed up and we had six substitutes, all good players. In the first half it was a give and take. Our team took over the midfield during the second half for the better part of the half. The result is a mixed bag, a zero all would have been all right too since both teams played their heart out. I'm looking forward to next Saturday ...

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

GigAEye WiFi Camera

Yet another "toy" to play with, the GigAEye, a small but versatile IP camera. Years ago I used bigger and much more expensive IP cameras which you could remotely control. Technology advanced so much that this little camera runs circles around the larger version.
Once you get over the installation process it works well. Installation is not necessarily a breeze, but not too hard. The software provided, however, including the mobile app, is not that great.
From a web client it is very easy to manipulate the camera remotely. Not so much on the mobile app.
Due to the lack of consistent performance by the software I switched to the open source ispy program for a more constant monitoring.
If anything is a breeze to setup and connect, this program is, and it is free. Once you setup a free account the camera view is available from anywhere. As far as the camera is concerned it is a great gizmo with surprising clarity and mobility. The price is relatively reasonable at around $50.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Misfit Bolt LED Light Bulb

I was very excited when Misfit announced their new product BOLT, an LED light bulb with build in WiFi. I bought the three pack once it was available online. Three days ago I picked them up and installed them. The result was great, really. All three bulbs had a good Bluetooth connection, the app was easy to use and very functional. I used the preset lighting scenes and fiddle a bit with my pictures as a source for the color of the light bulbs.
Compared to other light systems this one is a one to one connection to the bulb. No hub or other gizmos to connect. If you have more than one household item it might be worthwhile to have a central connection hub for control. However, I do enjoy making the coffee myself ...





Sunday, April 12, 2015

Diet Day 20

Time flies when you are having fun. It seems an eternity has passed since I started this diet. Meanwhile I feel much better, lighter, and much more alert. However, my soccer game on Saturday proved otherwise, my reflexes were not present at all.

The weight loss over the last two days was slow, half a pound or close to it. I can look at the scale past my stomach without bending forward - hurray!!!
Imagine to wake up and carefully slide your feet on the scale, I do that since in my mind I want to ease the scale into it, and hope for the best. Well, the best was there this morning:

164.1 pounds : fat mass 23.4% : BMI 24.9 
(below the recommended 164.4 pounds top for weigh,t and the top 25 BMI  level - by a hair)
Lost:
19.655 pounds : fat mass 5.8% : BMI 2.9

Although the fat mass played tag with the weight several times, this one is higher than my lowest one of 21.2% a couple of days ago. But I'm confident that the fat mass will drop again.
Here is another really nice thing about this diet - inches off your waist. It was nice to put on my pants, close the button without taking in my stomach and the latter not hanging over the pants and making them look tight like skinny pants.
Tomorrow is the last day of the first phase. Tuesday kicks off 72 hours (not 3 days) until the second phase starts.
Dr. D is a genius