Wednesday, June 27, 2018

The Soccer World Cup 2018



I was counting the days until the first game of the FIFA Soccer World Cup 2018 in Russia. It is always exciting to watch the countries best players to compete on the field. My team, the current champion, Germany, started the cup with a myriad of controversy in regards to the player selection by the trainer, Joachim Löw, but that was more a political issue and, in my opinion, has nothing to do with soccer. The biggest question this time was if Germany can successfully defend the title they fought for four years ago. Brazil was the last team in 1962 to accomplish this feat. Germany's first game was against Mexico in which a stunning upset marked the state of the team. After barely surviving the second game against Sweden with a game winning goal in extension time, I started questioning the advancement out of the group stage. The team looked slow, sluggish, and uncoordinated, although the average age of the team is 27.1 years according to statisa.com. Mexico (29.4), Sweden (28.1), and South Korea (27.8) were older on average but seemed much more nimble. After loosing the last game against South Korea 0:2, the team (die Mannschaft) ended up on the last place in Group F and did not advance to the next round.

Group F
Team
MP
W
D
L
GF
GA
GD
Pts
1
    Sweden
3 2 0 1 5 2 3 6
2
    Mexico
3 2 0 1 3 4 -1 6
3
          South Korea
3 1 0 2 3 3 0 3
4
    Germany
3 1 0 2 2 4 -2 3
A truly national embarrassment for Germany, the German newspaper der Stern published this minutes after the loss:

Natürlich ist das das Ende der Ära Löw!

Die historische Blamage ist perfekt: Deutschland scheidet in der Vorrunde einer Fußball-WM aus und diese sportliche Schande kann nur eine Konsequenz haben - unabhängig davon, dass die Wunde noch sehr frisch ist.
Von Finn Rütten

Naturally this is the end of the era Löw
The history embarrassment is perfect: Germany does not advance out of the group stage and this sporting shame can only have one consequence - irregardless that the wound is still fresh... 


Back to the drawing board, they have four years to rebuild, however, nobody will ever forget, it will be referenced and questioned over and over again next time around.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Alfred follow up

After endless weeks of getting used to the erratic behavior of  the robotic vacuum cleaner by KOIOS aka Alfred I came to the conclusion that this was definitely a waste of money. Not only did he do the random bouncing around cleaning, but he also took two hours to do it, sometimes more. The last straw was the sudden turning right, after turning right, after turning right and then he stops.
Although, if he cleaned, it was somewhat okay. So, cleaning the dust of the vacuum cleaner and put it to work with some elbow grease.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

SONOS



In search of a suitable device as an extension for Lois the infamous sentence exclaimed by Julius Caesar came in mind "Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears." (Why? idk just did)

As usual the inquiring advice from the almighty search engine spit out the optimal device to be connected to an existing network to play music from any capable device in the household:

SONOS Play:1


Today I wanted instant gratification. I visited Best Buy to find out what the price was, turns out to be the same as on Amazon - instant gratification.
Setup is a breeze, plug the power in, download the app, follow instructions - 3 minutes later

BOOMING SOUND  


Saturday, February 17, 2018

meet (potentially) Alfred

After a long debate with myself and the bank account I decided to hire Alfred. Alfred is a robotic vacuum cleaner by KOIOS. The advertising as well as the description puts many claims forward. One of them is that the noise the robot makes during vacuuming is less than 65dB, the other claims state that the suction is 80% higher than the competition, and boasts an infrared-sensor for evading obstacles. The main factor for me was, of course, the price, $199 on Amazon.
Scheduled delivery was Monday, but it showed up two days early - excellent delivery service. Of course I had to check it out right away although it was past 9 PM.
The package

Expecting an overnight charge like my previous robot vacuum, I positioned the machine (it has to prove itself before it gets a name) in the docking station and started fiddling with the remote control. To my surprise the machine was already fully charged which I discovered after I hit the clean button on the remote and the robot zoomed off. It turns out that the first claim about the noise was completely right, in contrast to the previous one (the machine aka Nigel) this vacuum robot only emitted a low humming sound while scuttling at various speeds throughout the house.

Day 1

I programmed the machine to start at 10 AM although it was Sunday. The predecessor was not allowed to work on the weekend due to the noise.
The robot started right on time under my watchful eyes. First thing I noticed that the machine did not run into objects, instead it stopped short if it was within the infrared-sensor. My second observation was the fact that the vacuum did not get as easily tangled up in the fringes of the carpet. However, the brushes on the right and left side skidded under the carpet when the robot was trying to switch from the hardwood floor to the carpet and caused the machine to back off or, in some cases, get stuck. Although the cleaning result was adequate, I still had thoughts; a long term employment might not be in the cards for now.

Day 2

How time flies, it is 10 AM again and the KOIOS vacuum has started its round. I set the program for a full house cleaning, in an relentless effort and multiple passes through the rooms the robot finished the work and docked for reloading for the next day. It seemed that the hardwood to carpet transition was resolved for whatever reason. I got the feeling that it did not depend on how much the machine cleaned, since it does multiple passes for each room, but how low the battery is. Also it seems that the cleaning pattern is somewhat erratic. For short periods of time it covers an area in a parallel back and forth pattern, then it rolls somewhere besides the end of the area which was just cleaned and repeats the pattern. I don't think it tracks what areas have been covered and which ones have not been treated.

Day 3

Today was the first day when the robotic vacuum was on its own. I left all the areas open to see what the robot can do. Occasionally I peeked through the surveillance camera to see how the machine performs. Sure enough the wheels were spinning and a little black dot was going back and forth. I returned late in the afternoon just to find the little guy tangled up in the fringes of the carpet. After I freed the machine it continued with the cleaning without hesitation - for two and a half hours. That is either dedication or bad programming. 

Day 4 

I moved the docking station to the same position the previous vacuum (Nigel) was in anticipation of a different route and/or behavior in cleaning.
The usual start 10 AM on the dot. However, after 2 hours and 45 minutes I finally had enough of the humming and the occasional cry for help. I stopped the vacuuming and send the cleaning robot to its room aka recharging station, which did not work. After guiding it with the remote close enough so it can sense the recharging station it was incapable of docking, instead, it ran into it several times and backed out. The machine does not have any guidance system whatsoever to know if it was in the room or not. I'm all for cleanliness but if you work from home it would be preferable to endure the humming for an hour or so (the place is not that big) and not 3 hours with repeated visits. Yes indeed it cleans, very well I must say, largely due to the pattern. The first one is sort of straight, the second and third cross wise. The latter leads the bot into other room openings and it starts the pattern or continues the pattern again until the forward movement leads it out the door again.
Ricochet Pattern (bouncing off the wall)
This is the auto clean setting which is completely annoying because the gizmo does not know when to stop. Tomorrow I'll try the one room setting, according to KOIOS the pattern is only up and down and not cross wise as shown above. On second thought what good does that if you have more than one room? One more feature I miss from the Nigel bot is the scheduling of the cleaning, KOIOS does not have that, it is a 24/7 operation. If I have a machine like that I would like to be able to program it to my needs. I don't really care for somebody else to think that this is what I need or that this is the right way to do things. To answer the invisible question: "yes, I can return it", "yes, I should have read their thoughts behind the machine" ...
Rethinking the concept here

MOCCAMASTER

After 20 plus years of serving coffee every morning "Anna" our Krups coffee machine decided that it is time to retire. I scrambled, after a week of manually brewing the invigorating morning drink, to find a replacement. The agency aka Google introduced many candidates and after some intense interviewing we decided on the MOCCAMASTER coffee maker.

Why this and not that?

A delicious cup of coffee starts with fresh water, quality beans, consistent grind, and correct grounds-to-water ratio for a flavorful and complex brew. A brewing temperature of 196° - 205° F is necessary to release coffee solubles essential for a savory outcome.
Entering the MOCCAMASTER, a handmade coffee machine made in the Netherlands. Their claim for fame is the unique copper boiling element which is guaranteed to reach the aforementioned temperatures as well as an optimal pulse-drip method which allows for the perfect coffee bloom and saturation time, in this case between 5 and 6 minutes.
The flavor of brewed coffee is determined by how many solubles are extracted during the brewing process. This is measured by the Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) coffee to water ratio. Moccamaster brewers produce the perfect TDS yield of 18% to 22%, as required by the European Coffee Brewing Centre1.
The machine itself is absolutely quiet during the brewing process thanks partially to a funnel on the coffee pot lit which reaches down to almost the bottom of the pot.
I have to admit that the MOCCAMASTER is a bit on the pricey side, but it does come with a 5 year warranty, and above all, it produces great results. We wholeheartedly welcome "Alice" to our family.

"life is too short for bad coffee"


1 Explanation from the moccamaster website.

Monday, December 25, 2017

... and how are your eggs?

Christmas is here and the stocking need to be filled...
I ran across a gizmo made in Germany called the "Beep Egg" by Brain Stream, a singing floating egg timer. Sounded good so it ended up in the stocking.

This morning we tried it out, skeptical at first, but to our surprise a total success.


Here is how it works: you store the egg timer with the eggs so it has the same temperature as the eggs. Start out the usual way, put the eggs in the water and turn the heat on. This particular egg timer emits the tune of "Oh Susanna" when the eggs reach the soft boiled stage, "Take me out to the Ballgame" at the medium-boiled stage, and finally "Hail Hail the Gangs All Here" when the egg is hard boiled (German humor I suppose). Other melodies are available as well.



As you can see the water never comes to a boil, yet the eggs are perfectly cooked.


Guten Appetit!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

blind sided



Our "faithful" cleaning companion lost his sight several weeks ago. Due to more pressing issues I was not able to come to the immediate aid. Then I finally had some time to dedicate to Nigel. Oh what a pain it was to determine what exactly caused the blindness. Several iterations of cleaning yielded in exactly - nothing. Upon further mechanical inspection I discovered that the "seeing eye" was not moving at all. This discovery resulted in a complete dismantling of the vacuum bot to search for the faulty part which, of course, was in the deep inner bowl of the machine (when its working its Nigel, otherwise its a machine).


Here is a several hundred dollar machine totally disabled by a non functional
$2.95 fan motor
Unique Bargains RF-500TB-12560 2700RPM 0.588N.M DC 6V Miniature Motor for DVD Player

Net Weight: 41g; Package Content: 1 x Micro Vibration Motor
Model: RF-500TB-12560; Main Color: Silver Tone, Beige
Voltage: DC1.5-12V; Speed: 2700RPM
Shaft Size: 2 x 7mm / 0.08" x 0.28" (D*L); Main Body Size: 32 x 19mm / 1.2" x 0.75"(D*T)








Chapter 2 - Replacement Parts. A couple of years back it would have been a simple trip to the nearest Radio Shack to remedy the problem; but no Radio Shack no remedy. The much disliked and treated response to "order it online" was the only option out. No immediate gratification for me today. First stop the search engine. 231,000 in no time at all, encouraging. I started to order it with Amazon just to find out that the delivery would have been several week. Onward to other vendors, Sears had a delivery date of 5 days, so I took it, excited that the machine would be up and running in no time. BUT WAIT, there is more...
The delivery date came and went - no product. I decided to inquire about the delivery of the product just to receive an email with a tracking number which led to nowhere fast since it was not updated. Several days later another inquiry, this time the response email asked me allow 72 hours to complete the investigation. After three days I inquired again, the response was almost hilarious - please give us a bit more time... Eventually, after three weeks I did receive my package in the mail. Bygones...

Chapter 3 - Remembering the reverse order to assemble the machine. Yes, I managed to get the entire mess back together, and, more importantly, working. I hooked it up to the USB diagnostic port to find out if the laser guiding system is working and it was. Satisfied with the progress I loaded the batteries overnight.

Chapter 4 - Letting Nigel loose. Of course I could not wait to hear the roaring of Nigels brush scuttling around cleaning every inch of our living environment. I was not disappointed, the noise was there, the movement was there... Then alas - the treated "Please clear my path" message although nothing is in the immediate vicinity appeared and Nigel/machine stopped.
Hard reset - soft reset - yelling, softly encouraging the little guy to find his way. Battery calibration, another hard reset, another soft reset - he is on his way. A foot later and several chasing your tail movements "Please clear my path". I figured I take the soft route instead of kicking him as suggested on YouTube, soft reset, clean the house, "clear the path"; soft reset, clean the house, "clear the path" 
PATIENCE 
Sure enough after several iterations of aforementioned steps he started to make his way around the house again, for now. Then, after all this trying to figure out were to go, clear the path, etc Nigel depleted his power source and started complaining about it. Reload !
MORE PATIENCE

Chapter 5 - Alternatives. New Batteries or no new batteries, dealing with customer service or skip it. Questions which gave me visions of robot vacuums dancing in my head. Perhaps do it the old fashioned way and use the vacuum which started to collect dust of all things. Then again, perhaps I should invest in a new Nigel which is not only a luxury but almost the equivalent of several car payments. What to do?


Friday, December 8, 2017

Dashcam

A recent trip to Georgia via a very scenic route required too many stops to take pictures, begging the question to move a dash cam to the top of my to-get-items list. Upon my return the research began. Pricing was obviously an issue, followed by functionality. I decided to give Thinkware Dash Cam F-50 a try, it seemed a perfect fit for the first time try. It is very small and fits right behind the rear view mirror, hardly visible from the front. There is enough cable provided to connect it easily to the cigarette lighter outlet. This is the basic model which requires that you take out the microSD card to view the videos. More advanced and more expensive devices have a Bluetooth link to the phone, which in my case defeats the purpose completely since I have to use the phone to look at the video.

THINKWARE - F50 Dash Cam - Black - Front_Zoom
Thinware F-50 dash cam

The dash cam records video in one minute increments to avoid the potential corruption of large files created by continuous video recording. After the initial  testing with the provided 8 GB card, I decided to expand the memory to 128 GB to assure a full days worth of recording. Initially I just plugged it into the cigarette lighter with another gizmo a cigarette lighter double port USB adapter that enables you to transform you cigarette light into a two port USB charger (highly recommended). Perhaps I will connect it permanently to take advantagevideo surveillance feature for parked cars

THINKWARE - F50 Dash Cam - Black - Alt_View_Zoom_16
Dash cam mounted

Of course I was skeptical of the high definition video advertised for the dash cam, but was pleasantly surprised that it actually did have high definition. Granted that you have a clean windshield of course, otherwise you have a high definition video with smudges in the foreground.There is one oddity which is the date time management. You can plug the microSD card into the computer and manage the storage as well as the setup. Although I used the system timing to set the clock with the software, the dash cam recorded videos showed a different date and time. The setup was for UTC -5 but the recording was still at UTC time and 5 days behind. Perhaps with a permanent connection it will be on continuously and maintain the date and time - no big deal at the moment. The 128 GB card works beautifully and does record a full days worth of driving.
Here is where the fun for me comes in. I always wanted to record a video driving through a hectic city with calm guitar music or such in the background. I went a bit further and added a frame to my first video plus background music and credits. OK, I promise to get a life right after those messages from my non existing sponsors.


Since all the videos are in one minute increments it allows for easy editing. Here is the start of a collection of what the dash cam sees.



Saturday, August 12, 2017

Back to "one of those again"

Two years ago I wrote about "one of those again" movies. Since then I came across many of  "one of those again" detritus movies. Some worse than others, although I'm not sure what is the next lower level of worse. Some of the "movies" or "documentaries" about conclusions or ill devised interpretations of a possibly bad drug influenced mind crossed my path today on Amazon Prime nevertheless. I always thought that some of the documentaries about aliens were very much far-flung interpretations of existing ancient art or artifacts. However, this one is definitely is taking the cake

Alien Contact: Secret Societies PosterAlien Contact - Secret Societies

Reality Films is a world renowned producer of cutting edge films by world class authors, researchers and experts from across the globe. From Ancient Mysteries, UFO’s and Aliens, Secret Societies and Conspiracies, The Paranormal and Occult, Quantum Theory, Prophecy, Spirituality, Religion, Esoteric Teachings, History and much more, Reality Films ventures into mysterious and unknown realms with its unique brand of life altering documentaries and feature films. Visit exotic places, mysterious realms and discover the secrets of all ages by entering a domain where Strange Is Normal
Reality Is What You Make It

SERIOUSLY?

Budget (estimated) $1,000,000 for a slideshow "documentary". There list of "movies" is tremendous, but all garbage more or less. OK, so I started watching it and fast forwarded through this ill received piece of "art" and now I'm wasting my time to write about this grab too - must have been really bad.

Actually there are numerous distribution and production companies out there who throw anything at the consumer for a buck. One company wrote back that they made their money with the DVD and recommended another DVD produced by the same company - which equally or more than bad and that was just reading the title. However, the executive who responded to my email quit afterward siding that this company is not worth it (not the exact words - just cleaned up). 
I concluded that I'm in the wrong business ...

Thursday, July 27, 2017

The Circle

The Circle Poster
WOW, impressive movie with a myriad of ways to interpret the underlying meaning.


Although it is almost impossible to take the movie as an entertainment face value given today's advances in technology.  Contrary to past "futuristic" environments this movie almost documents the current environment we live in.

Not to spoil or give away the plot line, here are some thoughts you might ponder after the movie.

Back in the 1960’s after the erecting of the Berlin wall it took an army of secret police, in this case the STASI (Staatssicherheit or State Security), to spy on the East Berlin population. 
In tandem, today for example there are 500,00 cameras in London, one camera for every 16 people. Greenwich  Village and SoHo have about 1 camera per 84 residents. None of the counts include private security cameras, police body cams or police cruisers equipped with license plate scanners and dash cams. Dash cams are becoming more and more affordable for private cars and being used on a regular basis, not to mention the obsession of the smart phone cameras and other surveillance cams such as baby or nanny cams, and last not least the fear of FOMO. The latter is simply footage voluntary provided by the public to the public which could in some cases back fire. Granted of course is the fact that it is not all about spying on the population but sorting out the bad, the good, and the ugly.

Along the same theme line there were some movies which appeared a while ago, such as “Enemy of the State”, featuring the intrusion of private lives. Edward Snowden showed the world that this was not so far fetched with his revelations. Perhaps it would take a scenario as depicted in the movie “Transcendence” to change the entire world the way it is.

To take it a step further, entire behaviors are being recorded in the name of “deep machine learning”, providing corporations with brilliant statistical evidence about certain behaviors. To single out some algorithms, being accident prone for insurance companies, or a person relying on credit cards because of their spending habits, for the medical field the makeup of the DNA, shopping habits, targeted advertising, predicting sales, the stock market, and many more - benefiting entire industries . All part of using an objective, neutral, and cold entity analyzing a person and drawing conclusions as a general blanket for all. This data is taken mostly from payment methods and/or reports.

Now imagine live video footage of every single moment of your life with anybody watching.


... and there are people (perhaps me included) who try to sort through family pictures and events - forget that -  just ask Google or Facebook, either one can give you a slideshow of your life - free of charge. Search yourself and find all the foot prints in the virtual sand...


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.