Here is something they can try for free. Microsoft is offering free tutorials and also streaming live tutorials daily on their MakeCode site. There are several to choose from for learning computing.
Circuit Playground Express
LEGO® MINDSTORMS® Education EV3
For Windows 10 computer owners, they also have apps for micro:bit, Adafruit, and Cue by Wonder Workshop.
For some of the courses you may need some peripheral products. The micro:bit computer can run about $20. The circuit for Adafruit Circuit Playground Express runs about $25.
Find out more: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/makecode
Adafruit Circuit: https://www.adafruit.com/product/3333
micro:bit computer: https://store.birdbraintechnologies.com/collections/featured-items/products/micro-bit
We’ve told you about Google Glass, Vaunt Smart Glasses, and Amazon Echoframes. There are new smart eyeglasses out from Bosch. What is different about these glasses, is they use tiny lasers to beam images directly onto your eyeballs. You will need to be custom fit for them to make sure they hit your retina in the correct place.
They have a way to integrate with your corrective glasses. It is the smallest most lightweight product that can turn any set of glasses into smart glasses. A smart phone can be paired to it but you should not have to look at the smartphone to see what you want.
There’s a new personal robot ready to help you. It’s called Ballie and is made by Samsung. It was introduced at CES2020.
It is a small rolling robot that reacts to your needs. In the video, you can see some of the capabilities. From waking up and opening your drapes, helping you with your exercises, your pets, connecting its camera through an app, turning on the TV for your pet, knowing to clean the floor with the vacuum.
Then consider Echo Loop. Echo Loop is a smart ring is a way to answer your calls quickly, set reminders, get answers quickly. It’s kind of like a wearable PDA. The battery lasts all day and it is water- and scratch-resistant.
The Echo Loop comes in four sizes, small, medium, large, and x-large. You can order the free kit that contains the sizer rings so you can try them on wear them on for a while to make sure of the fit. Once you know the size you can ask for an invitation to order the ring at a discounted price as a Day1 Edition. The price is $129.99. After the introductory period, the ring will be sold for $129.99.
Cyber Monday is here and there sure are a lot of deals out there. From Oculus Go to Instant Pot, the deals were phenomenal.
On amazon.com, Oculus Go went pretty quickly for a low price of $119.00 for the 32GB version with a timed lightning deal. Regular price they are selling for now on amazon.com is $149.00. It was a little more for the 65GB version.
Once again Instant Pot made a big splash with the 8-qt version selling for about $64. There are many other deals to be had.
Kohls.com was offering $15 Kohl’s Cash for every $50 spent + $10 off + 20% off. Alaska Airlines had fares starting at $39 one way. Even some museums and zoos had membership deals. Whatever the deal is you are looking for be sure to check for deals first!
Last week we talked about how home devices such as Google Home and Amazon Echo keep listening after you think you have stopped. There is more.
The same company, Security Research Labs, has more testing they have done. This time, they tested Google Home and Amazon Echo with actions/skills called Lucky Horoscope made just to show how the devices can be used by hackers for phishing. When asking for Lucky Horoscope they created to show this, the user is given an error that tells the user the action/skill is not available in their country. It waits a little while and then says there is an update. It then asks for the user’s password and records it. The hacker now has the user’s email and password.
You may think you are ok using home devices such as Google Home or Amazon Echo but maybe not so much. Security Research Labs in Germany has some videos that will show how the devices are still active even after you think they have stopped listening.
In this video you can see the person talking on the right and the information recorded in the terminal on the left. As she keeps speaking after the time of her first question, it keeps recording the information to the server.
You will see it continued to record after the person said “Alexa stop”.
By invitation only, which you can request, you can get Amazon echoframes for your eyeglasses for $179. After the introductory phase, they will be $249. The only choice right now is black. The only choice is black but they give you all day access to Alexa. You can filter from who and what notifications you receive so you aren’t bombarded all day long.
It directs the sounds to your ears so others won’t hear what you hear. You can turn off the sounds with a button. They are not yet compatible with iOS smartphones and you will require a Android phone with Android 8 or higher and the Alexa app to connect as well as Bluetooth. There are special instructions for you optometrist for how to clean and shape them. If they do not work with your prescription, you can get a refund.
Amazon now has Echo Auto for your car. Right now we see it listed for half price.
What you need for it to work:
Bluetooth or AUX input
Smartphone with data plan
Alexa app on your phone
Compatible apps for music streaming, maps
Since this is made for your car, it is designed to attach to your vents and comes with a vent mount. There are 8 microphones which can be switched off for privacy. Voice control the Echo Auto through the Alexa app to stream audiobooks, podcasts, or music from Amazon Music, Apple Music, Spotify, SiriusXM, iHeartRadio, other radio stations.
Use Google Maps, Apple Maps, Waze to get directions. Find gas stations, check the news.
Amazon Echo Auto
If you car is older, you might try to add Bluetooth through an adapter. There are several out there you can look at to see what will work for you. Some require an AUX input and/or USB port. Some even come with USB ports if you don’t have them.
But why add Bluetooth to an older car? You might want to stream music. You may even want to use it for hands-free phone calls. There are a few available that will allow you to stream through your car stereo speakers or you can get a Bluetooth speaker that will cost a bit more.
You probably already know from the Apple announcement event last week that they have already announced the upcoming iPhone series 11. There is the 11 and the 11 Pro.
So what makes the new phone different? Let’s delve into the new features.
iPhone 11: The iPhone 11 has a new dual-camera system – this gives you the option of wide or ultra-wide shots. The iPhone 11 will handle up to 17 hours of video playback. The iPhone 11 has the same 6.1″ Liquid Retina HD display as previous models. It is made from aerospace-grade aluminum. It comes in light purple, yellow, mint green, black, white, and (PRODUCT)RED.
iPhone 11 Pro: The iPhone 11 Pro will have a third camera for telephoto shots in addition to the wide and ultra-wide cameras. The Pro version will handle up to 20 hours of video playback. The iPhone 11 Pro comes in two sizes featuring 5.8″ or 6.5″ Super Retina XDR display. It is made from stainless steel. The colors are midnight green, silver, space gray, or gold.
Find out more here: https://www.apple.com/iphone/
Here is a video from The Verge highlighting the event:
How do noise-canceling headphones work? How did they come about. In the 1970s, Dr. Amar Bose was on a flight and was frustrated with the noise he was hearing and worked on making a way to cancel out the noise. Several years and millions of dollars later, he was able to create noise-canceling headphones.
Sometimes noise will leak through because they works better where there is consistent noise, like on an airplane, subway, or train.
Find out more in this video from TechInsider:
MIT researchers have created an AI that can do your knitting for you! Create your own design and have it made for you. Even if you have never knitted a stitch before, with this system you can create hats, gloves, or whatever you want. Even patterned designs. You can create a template for the computer to follow.
The only missing ingredient is the joy you can get from making each stitch by hand…
iOS 13 is coming out in the fall. But it is made for your iPhone. The iPad will be getting its own OS. So what will be different?
There will be “light mode” and “dark mode”. You can time when you want to use dark or light mode as well.
They are updating their “Apple Maps” app in hopes people will start using it. They hope the map is actually fixed. Also they are adding a street view. You can set favorites and collections so easily get to them in a list.
iOS will have more privacy by allowing you to grant access to apps just one time. You can even have the app ask each time so they can’t track you.
Reminders will have more sort features. You can tag people to your reminders so you can easily remember if someone else needs to be contacted.
More integration with health app to your Apple Watch.
You can Find My … device or… friend.
More photo editing options.
Apps should launch faster, and other speed improvements.
Better volume control.
Swipe on the keyboard – type one-handed without taking your finger off keyboard.
More emojis that are customizeable.
You can download the beta now but it is recommended to wait until the final version comes out.
The Rubik’s Cube has been around since the 70s. Invented by a Hungarian professor named Erno Rubik, his first prototype was made in 1974. When he had built his first cube, it took him a month to solve it. He got his patent in 1975 for his “Magic Cube”. In 1979, it was presented to toy fairs in various countries.
Tom Kremer, a toy specialist with a passion, convinced the Ideal Toy Company to pick this up as a product. The first thing they did was change the name from Magic Cube to Rubik’s Cube and launched it in 1980. By 1981 it was a world-wide craze. Through the years it has been reworked and made even faster. In 2017 they released the Rubik’s Speedcube.
They have a step-by-step guide on solving the Rubik’s cube.
Here is Business Insider’s Guide:
The Victor crew came across this cute little mini-bot. It is a Minitaur™ by Ghost Robotics. It is a small, agile, lightweight robot used as an unmanned ground vehicle.
It can bounce, run, flip, climb, go up and down stairs, and even open doors!
Not the mammal. The robot mop and vacuum. What sets this apart from other robotic floor cleaners is that it is self cleaning. It has Lidar Navigation Technology to map your floorplan. You can use the app to schedule and customize your cleanings. When it is done cleaning your floor, it will return to its base and clean the mops and dry them.
It has capacity enough to clean a 3200 sq ft floor. Right now it is still in KickStarter – it now has far outreached its goal. You can still sign up for the early bird version.
Update – new video:
Some of us may have purchased a Chromebook. It may have been out of curiosity or maybe you just wanted a lightweight “laptop” to just scan your email and surf the Internet. There really isn’t much more you can do with it. If you are “techie” you can install a flavor of Linux to run along with the Chrome OS. The thing about a Chromebook is that the OS is Chromium.
When you do anything on a Chromebook, it is all in the cloud – nothing is on the computer. Now, when it updates, you just get a little message that says to push a button to restart and it comes right back, you log into Chrome again and it’s updated very quickly.
There are limitations on what you can do with them. For instance, I can stream Netflix through the Chrome browser on it, but Prime Video won’t play. The only place you can save files is in your Google Drive.
Google has an Auto Update Policy about their updates. As technology advances and hardware becomes old or outdated, they cannot guarantee the software updates will run any longer. With that in mind, they have set a time limit on updates for Chromebooks. If you have a Chromebook, you can check the date here. It has a list by Manufacturer then Model. I happen to have an HP Chromebook 14, which looks like I cannot get updates past June this year. If it still runs, then that’s fine. If not, I can always install Linux over it and see if that will run.
There are a lot of funny videos of kids trying to get Alexa to do things. Sometimes they are hard for even humans to understand so they are harder for Alexa to understand.
Here is a boy asking Alexa a math question from this past week:
Here is a girl checking her homework:
Here is a boy checking his homework from about 2 years ago:
Here is a little boy trying to play music but gets more than he bargained for:
Here is a little girl asking for Baby Shark:
Here is a compilation of kids talking to Alexa:
This young lad wants Alexa to tell him if she likes Christmas, to clean the kitchen and remember when he was younger:
The other day I was in a Best Buy store and came across a salesperson with Oculus Go. I was curious. After talking to salesman about how it works, I had to give my name and email (of course) in order to try it out. So what is it? It’s a standalone VR headset. Standalone in that you don’t need to hook up your phone or a computer to see the content and can take just the headset with you. It fits right over eyeglasses. There are built-in speakers. It has a 2560 x 1400 p screen. It comes in 2 models: 32GB ($199) and 64GB ($249). It only comes in a light gray. The company is owned by Facebook.
So here I am in the middle of the store holding the controller with my arms outstretched playing demo games and watching demo movies. You can see above you, behind you, and all around. I got to see a demo short of Jurassic Park Blue. It was like the dinos were right in front of me. I played a game that was a lot of fun called Fail Factory. I must have been moving around too much because the sales person had to move me back. They do suggest you use this sitting down for that reason. It was a lot of fun and I am contemplating getting one.
Some caveats – rechargeable battery life is only about 2 hours gaming and 2 1/2 hours watching movies so you can’t plan on it for an entire flight if your flight is over that. There is only 3 degrees of freedom rather than 6 in most VR sets. Case is sold separately (unless you find a deal that includes the case). 32GB will hold about 3 HD movies, 10 games, and 20 apps. 64 GB will hold about 7 HD movies, 20 games, and 40 apps.
The Jody Victor Crew
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.
With Christmas coming we will try to find some gift ideas for the next few weeks. This would be something we see, but may not necessarily buy for ourselves but know someone who might like it.
First off, lets start with the PowerPic from Twelve South.
This is a picture in a frame with a hidden phone charger. Only works with iPhone 8 and up, Pixel, Galaxy, or any Qi-enabled smartphone. It is a pine frame that you plug in. It has a hidden Qi charger to wirelessly charge your phone. You can choose from black or white frame. It works even with your case on your phone. When you put your phone on the frame, it completes the picture. You can download the frame pictures and phone pictures from their website. This will set you back $79.99.
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
This is your chance to own an original Apple-1 computer from 1976. It was restored in June and is up for auction. Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak made 200 of these computers.
The auction will be held by RR Auction where you can register to bid on this item. The auction begins September 25, 2018 at 1:00 PM ET. You can bid by phone or online at https://www.invaluable.com/
$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.)