Gift Idea: Instant Pot

By now you must have heard of the Instant Pot. This is one pot with many functions. It is a slow cooker, a pressure cooker, a rice cooker, a yogurt maker, it steams, it sears, and a few more things. I’ve seen many recipes on Pinterest for the Instant Pot. I understand you can purchase other items that will fit in it, such as a small cheesecake pan. So should you get one? That’s still up for debate.

I myself have bought one three times – all as gifts. Right now I don’t feel I need one because I have a slow cooker, a pressure cooker, and a yogurt maker. All are in good shape and don’t need replacement any time soon. The people I’ve gotten the Instant Pot for didn’t have any of the appliances in the list so this would be a first for them.

Its name can be misleading as nothing is really instant. I believe the name focuses on the pressure cooking part of it because a pressure cooker does cook much faster than standard methods. For instance I can cook a 3+ lb chuck roast to make pot roast in about 45 minutes as opposed to about 2.5 hours on the stove or in the over or even longer in a slow cooker. What these times don’t include for the pressure cooker is the start up time to build up the steam or the time it takes for the pressure to release.

If the person you are buying for hasn’t done much cooking, I understand it may take a while to learn to do all the things that the appliance is capable of. You would have to read the manual and follow the directions.

Some more pluses are you can brown your meat and cook in same pot unlike using a slow cooker. You can start with your meat frozen and still cook in about the same amount of time.

Victor Crew

NextDoor

Have you joined nextdoor.com yet? We received a postcard in the mail about it, so we joined. The call themselves “The private social network for your neighborhood.” They have a website and an app. “When neighbors start talking, good things happen.”

Some of the posts we’ve seen are things like “does anyone have a recommendation for a ___” (fill in the blank). It could be a painter, a handyman, a babysitter, etc. You can see local events, yard sales, people can post things to sell, and a host of other things like lost pets, pets for adoption, elderly asking for help with yard work.

Some of the posts are a little more serious, like reporting breakins or robberies. Of course there are also ads.

On a lighter note, it is fun to see of the more obnoxious posts. Like “Crazies on motorcycles” or “Blue heron eating pond fish”. If you really want to have fun with it, you can follow @bestofnextdoor on twitter.com. They have culled some of the more outlandish posts from around the country and posted them for people to see. You will see some posts with added phrases such as “This is not a dating app” or “Nextdoor is twitter for old people”. Have fun.

https://nextdoor.com/
https://twitter.com/bestofnextdoor

Wi-Fi

We recently upgraded our Wi-Fi through our provider. What was new was we noticed two different bands to choose from. One was just a regular band (at 2.4 GHz) and a new one showing as 5 GHz. So what is the difference? Let’s find out.

Coming right to my mailbox, I received a newsletter and there was an article referenced to it. So let’s go over it.

First we learn that 2.4 GHz will support up to 450 Mbps or 600 Mbps dependent on router class. That comes with the standards you may see on router boxes as 802.11b, 802.11g, 802.11n, or 802.11ac. Not sure what mine was since it’s not printed on the box itself, I found the manual for it online and found it has all the above! So let’s chase this rabbit and find out what the difference between these classes are.

802.11b was better than the original 802.11 standard in July 1999. It brought the speed up to 11 Mbps. 802.11g, brought about in 2002, is supported by all devices and network equipment and supports up to 54 Mbps bandwidth. It is the least expensive to buy and run. 802.11n came about in 2009 and gives up to 800 Mbps bandwidth, an improvement over 802.11g but a little more expensive than 802.11g. 802.11ac has the fastest maximum speed and best range but more expensive. It uses dual-band wireless – thus the 2.4 and 5 GHz we can now see. Its bandwidth is 1300 Mbps on 5 GHz and up to 450 Mbps on 2.4. This is also called Wi-Fi 5. There are a few other 802.11 standards. 802.11ad is fast but the device must be within 11 feet. 802.11ah is a lower energy but goes beyond the reaches of 802.11ac.

So now I’ve learned that I am seeing two bands because of the 802.11ac standard. The 2.4 GHz band happens to be used by other things as well. Old cordless telephones as well as garage door openers and baby monitors for instance. The 5 GHz band has fewer connections and higher speeds, however the shorter waves makes it harder to penetrate walls. You may need to use extenders for this band. If your device can use ethernet, then that will be the best connection you can have. The 5 GHz band is best used for streaming where you would experience less interference.

802.11 Standards Explained
Difference Between 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz

Google turned 20

Google recently had it’s 20 year anniversary. We found this interesting video of where it got its start. It was uploaded by Google’s sixth employee, Harry. It shows the garage where they got their start in 1998. At the end you will see Larry Page, one of the founders.

Larry Page is no longer CEO of Google as he has become CEO of Alphabet, the parent company of Google.

Halt and Catch Fire

In computing, Halt and Catch Fire is a mnemonic for HCF, a code instruction to stop operation. The machine would then need a restart.

Halt and Catch Fire is also the name of a series that ran on AMC. It was a depiction of the how the World Wide Web grew in the 80s and 90s. A fictional series, it follows several characters and their struggles along the way trying to outpace others in development and ideas. Some of the struggles were with hardware and others were with software. It really is fun to see how far we’ve come when we see some of what happened and see some of the hardware that was used then.

It aired for 4 seasons. You can catch all four seasons on Netflix. Here is the trailer for the first season:

Remember the Y2K issue? There’s another issue coming!

The Y2K problem, or bug, or just Y2K refers to when the year 2000 hit, there was a scare put into some people as computers weren’t set up for the rollover from the year 1999 to 2000. All sorts of rumors went around that time. Some thought there would be no electricity and that the power grids would come down. Many went into survival mode and bought gold, canned goods, and other commodities they thought they would need in the case they needed to barter for goods.

So this leads us to what the next “crisis” that is looming. The year 2038. We have plenty of time to prepare for this crisis but here is the gist. When digital systems started, they began with the date of January 1, 1970. So having it as 32-bit binary integer, time cannot be implemented after 03:14:07 UTC on January 19, 2038. Strings for storage are limited to 2147483647 and that would be the same as that time in January 2038 in bytes in a 32-bit system. 20 years from now, you would hardly still be running a 32-bit system you might still be running today.

Tech Mystery Box

$250 for $1,932 worth of tech! So the Victor crew came across this YouTube video of someone opening up 2 boxes filled with tech returns to Amazon. It shows him unboxing 2 big boxes of tech products from Bluetooth speakers, earbuds, headphones, car speakers, and a lot of other miscellaneous products. Some of the items were clearly used and ready for the trash but some could be resold on eBay or Craig’s list. Some items were worth more than the $250 he spent on it.

So we were wondering how to purchase something like this. It turns out there are liquidators that get these types of items and sell them to people that go back and resell them again (even on Amazon). (See links below for more info.)

https://www.directliquidation.com/liquidation-102/buy-amazon-customer-returns-pallets-online/
https://www.directliquidation.com/liquidation-102/buy-resell-amazon-customer-return-pallets-electronics/

Chrome browser

Did you know there are a lot more settings and pages to your Google Chrome browser than you find just in your settings? To find them just type into your address bar “chrome://about” (without the quote marks) and you will find a list of pages you can access.

You will find you are actually on the first page: chrome://about. If you click it there won’t be a change. chrome://chrome will give you the update page. Some of the other pages may or may not look familiar. I clicked on chrome://dino to see what that was – it’s the dinosaur you see when you don’t have an internet connection.

The chrome://flags page will allow you to access some experimental items; chrome://bookmarks will let you see all your bookmarks. Just use caution if you make any changes to the browser.

Does 2-Factor Authentication Keep You Safe?

Not always. The Victor crew found an article/video that demonstrates how you have to be very careful even if you use 2-factor authentication in place. The trouble can occur when a user clicks a link sent in a phishing attack. The email may look legitimate but it may have the real site name misspelled.

The most important take away it to stop and think before click a link even if you think it comes from a legitimate source. If you receive a message from a major site, most likely you can just go to that site, log in, and see any notifications someone may have sent rather than looking at emails that are generated.

You can see how it 2-factor authentication is bypassed in this demonstration by Kevin Mitnick from KnowBe4.com.

BattleBots

“It’s robot fighting time!” That’s what you hear at the of BattleBots. People make robots and fight each other in an arena.

The show started on Comedy Central in 2000 and ran for five seasons ending in December 2002. It was briefly revived in 2015 for six episodes on ABC. It ran for a seventh season in 2016. It then found itself on both Discovery Channel and Science channel for its eighth season just this month.

Many of the robots are back again. They are run by engineers, MIT students, plumbers, just to name a few. BattleBots is an offshoot of Robot Wars. When Robot Wars disappeared, some of the robot builders left behind started BattleBots, Inc.

Just like other matches, there are weight classes. Lightweight is about 60 pounds, Middleweight is 120 pounds, Heavyweight is 220 pounds, and Superheavyweight is 340 pounds. They last three minutes per round and are done in a 48′ x 48′ glass box. Not only do the robots battle each other but there are a few obstacles in the arena as well such as a sledgehammer in the corner, spinners and spike strips and in floor, augurs that roll around on the sides that opponents try to push the robots into.

Some contestants have mini-bots that roam around too. Sometimes you will see sparks, flames, smoking, or even tears (from the drivers.) It’s a fun watch so try to see it sometime.

Blast from the Past

Websites have changed over the years. The Google.com of today isn’t quite like the one of yesteryear. Same with Amazon.com or Netflix.com or Facebook.com and many others. A video editing company by the name of Kapwing has been curating websites for their Museum of Websites. You will also find Reddit.com, NewYorkTimes.com, Twitter.com, and Pinterest.com and more!

They have a section within their website with a gallery of how famous websites have changed over the years. They are slowly working on getting more and more. The oldest one is Yahoo!, which has been around since 1995.

Somehow, we don’t think the earlier craigslist.org will show much change over time. It seems its retro look hasn’t changed much since the first time we’ve seen it.

You can join the email list to know when they put new ones up

Beginning days of Email

Remember when people were first getting connected in the late 90s and early 2000s? Emails would travel round and round to everybody and their friends and family. No one would think twice about getting a joke and feeling the obligation to pass it on to everyone in their address book. Not so much anymore.

I wax nostalgic remembering all the emails and then going to Snopes.com to look up the stories to see if they were true. Snopes was the “fake news” buster everyone would check with. Fake news can come in different format these days. It can be a tweet, a post, or even a news article. Snopes still has it covered. They have changed the format of their website quite a bit. They have sections called What’s New, Hot 50, Fact Check, News, Video, and Archive. They even have a Random button that will bring a different item every time you click it.

While looking at their site, we found they are trying to raise some money to keep going. You can visit their GoFundMe page.

So whether it’s a preposterous post, nonsensical news, or a totally thin tweet, you can still look it up at snopes.com!

Shipping with Amazon

If you are a Prime member or already shop with Amazon, you know your packages will come via UPS, FedEx, or even USPS. Amazon is going to launch their own package delivery service called Shipping with Amazon (SWA) as reported Friday. They will roll out in Los Angeles first over the next few weeks then to other cities across the U.S.

They plan to start with third-party Amazon vendors who are already registered. They may also open up to other businesses eventually to directly compete with the other shippers.

To keep your delivery safe from porch pirates, Amazon already has a program called Amazon Key In-Home Delivery. You have to purchase the Amazon Key In-Home Kit, the necessary equipment for $249.99. It includes an indoor security camera and compatible smart lock. They will come and install these for you if you want. When a delivery is made, you will an alert on your smart phone and you can watch the entire delivery.

STEM

By now, you have probably heard of STEM education. This encompasses Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. You may see many children’s toys with the STEM acronym on them. Schools that teach STEM education, integrate all aspects rather than separate them into their different disciplines. Doing this allows the student to learn computational thinking and problem solving.

Even Amazon.com has a section devoted to STEM educational toys.

Hopefully you were able to purchase some STEM toys for your children or grandchildren. The future of our children’s learning will depend on STEM even for non-STEM courses as they are a way of learning to look at a full problem from all angles.

Terms of Use

A member of the Victor crew just finished a thriller book obtained through Amazon Prime’s KindleFirst program. It is called Terms of Use by Scott Allan Morrison. The premise is there is a social network called Circles. They undergo a cyber attack. Soon one of the workers is murdered and the main character, Sergio Mansour, uncovers evidence of a conspiracy but he has somehow become the suspect.

On the run with his new girlfriend, Malina, they try to figure out what is going on. Not knowing it in the beginning, Sergio finds out Malina’s sister was murdered and blames it directly on Circles. Not knowing who he can trust he works it out with Malina and they continue to find the truth.

The crux of the mystery is that what was found was “socialbots,” bots that parade as people and interact with people and learn using AI algorithms. The bots were going to be used in a bigger plot to sway people to vote for a certain president whose agenda was to bring the US to own over a third of the earth’s rare earth metals. Once in, a Chinese diplomat was going to blackmail him into not doing this as China would lose out a lot of their economy over this.

The scary part was reading about what the socialbots did. How many times do we “friend” someone that is a friend of a friend that we don’t know. That is how the socialbots got onto so many contact lists. You figure, hey they know them so they must be ok. Then the ideas from their feeds find their way onto your feed and can sway the population that easily. When people signed up, it was said their profile could be used in experimentation and since they clicked the button it was ok. How many of us read the terms of use pages, really? Something to think about.

Adventures in Wikipedia

I’m sure everyone has looked up something in Wikipedia at one time or another. Kevan Davis, a developer in London, has developed a Wikipedia game called Wikipedia: the Text Adventure.

You choose where you want to start and it brings up information from Wikipedia. You can choose one of the locations offered or put something in. You can then choose where to go from there from the offerings it gives. You would type “go ” and then the direction choice from the list. Example: go northeast.

To leave and go to another adventure, you would type exit then yes. Check it out: http://kevan.org/wikitext/

Tech Movie: The Internship

It’s a few years old now, but if you haven’t had the chance to see it, The Internship is quite entertaining. It costars Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn as two washed up salesmen, who lost their jobs to the digital world, trying to figure out a new career path. They decide to try for an internship at Google.

So here are two guys in their mid-forties trying to land an internship against a bunch of 20-somethings. To them it was like having their dads with them. What makes it even more interesting is their lack of tech-savviness against the younger generation but they do bring their life experiences. You will see some Google products in the credits such as Google Drive, Translate, Google+, and more.

Tech movie: The Circle

We love tech movies. The Victor crew recently got to see The Circle. The main characters are played by Emma Watson (Mae) and Tom Hanks (Bailey). Mae leaves her hum-drum job join a tech/social media company called the Circle.

At first Mae is reticent about sharing her life but is pushed by co-workers to push the boundaries and become more transparent. As she becomes more transparent, she rises through the ranks from customer service to being part of the “inner circle.” She eventually has people all over the world following her, getting to know her, her friends, her family, and all she does.

As the movie moves along, eventually tragedy happens. Without giving away the full plot, through this tragedy and people she meets, she exposes the top people of the Circle and keeps them from hiding their secrets.

The taglines: Knowing is good. Knowing everything is better.
Some other lines are: Secrets are lies. Sharing is caring. Privacy is theft.

The movie trailers: