Kids and Alexa

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:

Gift Idea: Oculus Go

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

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

Gift Ideas

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.

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

Rare Apple-1 Computer up for auction this month

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/

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/

Need Ideas for Father’s Day?

What dad doesn’t like tech! The Victor crew thought they would look for ideas that are out there just in time for Dad’s special Day this week. This list is not exhaustive but maybe it will spur something you hadn’t thought of.

TV streaming device:
Roku
Apple TV
Chromecast

Headphones/Earbuds

eReader:
Nook
Kindle Fire
Kindle Paperwhite

AI device:
Google Home
Amazon Echo
Apple HomePod

Fitness Tracker

Video games

Charging dock for all his gadgets

Subscription service:
Amazon Prime
Spotify
Sirius XM
Pandora
Hulu
Netflix

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.

Vaunt Smart Glasses

Most of us have heard of Google Glass. There is another type of smart eyeglasses that you can get. They look more like regular eyeglasses. You can use head motions to show or dismiss displays. It uses something called VCSEL (vertical-cavity surface-emitting laser) to shine into your eyes and projects to the back of your retina (retinal projection). It is made by Intel.

You can see the text just below your usual line of site. They are working to perfect them to be able to show you what you want when you want it. Maybe you are near a couple restaurants. It can show you the yelp review. Or you ask Alexa for a recipe – you can see it on your glasses. They look pretty lightweight next to Google Glass. Only you know you are reading them.

“Farm Fresh” Amazon

The Amazon and Whole Foods deal going through today is leaving its mark in a lot of different ways. Whole Foods prices are going down on a lot of items in an effort to allow more people to enjoy the benefits of organic foods. You may start seeing some Amazon devices on Whole Food shelves and Whole Food items on Amazon’s website.

Prices have been slashed on many items already. For example in New York it was reported that organic fuji apples went from $3.49/lb to $1.99/lb, avocados dropped $0.80 per lb, organic rotisserie chicken dropped $4.00/lb, and organic bananas went from $0.99 to $0.69 per lb.

The Amazon devices like Echo and Echo dot found in the Whole Foods stores are the same discounted prices found on their website right now.

The Victor crew plans to shop at one later this week and will report back any other findings.

Bloomberg
TechCrunch

Digital Cameras

You’ve heard the term megapixel many times especially with regards to digital cameras. But what does the term actually mean and is bigger better? That’s what the Victor crew wants to know. Here is what we found out.

Early digital cameras had a poor resolution and didn’t compare to regular film cameras when they first came out. Some were only about one-third to half a megapixel. So a single megapixel is one million pixels. If you are using a one megapixel camera, you will have one million pixels in the image. So what is a good size? It depends on what you are going to do with the photos. If you are only going to view them online, one to three megapixels is fine. If you want 6×4 prints, you will need at least 2 megapixels. For larger 10×8 prints you would need to go to five megapixels and even larger 14×11 prints you will need to bump that up to seven megapixels.

How do you get away with a smaller size on a computer? Most monitors aren’t usually more than 2000×1000 pixels so that is only two megapixels. If you have a 4K monitor, that is eight megapixels. So you can get away with about a 6 megapixel camera in most cases. More pixels, however will give you cropping room. You do not have to turn in your camera for more pixels.

Source:
http://www.digital-photo-secrets.com/

Fireworks of the Future

Imagine your sitting on a blanket on the grass with your family nearby. You get ready to watch the Fourth of July drones? Ha! So some are re-imagining see the Fourth of July with drones. So what’s the upside of this? No smoke. No explosions. No air pollution. Maybe you can hear the music they could be flying to. May be even cheaper to run drones than to blow up 30 tons of fireworks for an eighteen minute display. The drones can be choreographed into amazing displays.

Now maybe instead of “Intel Inside” we can see “Intel Outside” as they develop this. Find out more.

Lost your keys?

Nothing gives a more sinking feeling than losing your keys. You’ve searched and searched and still can’t find them. Well, there are small finders that will help you find them. Just add these small trackers to your key ring and download the app to your phone and you’re good to go.

There are several on the market. Some work better with iOS than Android so you need to be careful of what you choose. Some even have a backward function where you can push a button on the tracker to find your phone. Some come in multiple sets and different colors.

You can find them on amazon.com as well as your local stores such as Best Buy. There are so many brands out there you will have to read the reviews and decide for yourself.

Do you NEED a screen protector?

So you get a new iPhone, Android phone, iPad, tablet, iPod … Do you need to purchase a screen protector for it too? The Victor crew wanted to explore this after having seen a protector be the only thing that saved the phone of someone they know and talking to someone else who said they never get a screen protector.

To begin with, there are different types of protectors – plastic and glass. Glass is the pricier of the two. It can also be tempered glass. You’ll find all different type like anti-glare, carbon fiber, high definition, etc. Where do you begin?

Whether or not you get a screen protector is personal. It can help with scratches and longevity of the device. Are you hard on your device? Where do you usually keep your phone? Are you clumsy? If your phone is made with gorilla-glass you won’t have to worry.

Just be sure to get the right type. The cheaper ones may protect somewhat for scratches but maybe not as much if dropped. Thermoplastic is more durable but may not be as effective as a screen guard. Tempered glass has several layers and can absorb some shock. A glass cover may shatter on impact but your screen may still be protected. You may want to go further and find an anti-glare cover.

New iPad – Flat-out Fun.

For those of us waiting for a new iPad, last week Apple announced the new iPad. It wasn’t really given a name and it isn’t an iPad Air. It has a 9.7-inch Retina display with an A9 processor. It comes in just 2 sizes: 32GB and 128GB. (We really wanted a 64GB but had to get the 128GB.) It has iOS 10.3 and Touch ID. It comes in silver, gold, or space gray and costs $29 for the 32GB Wi-Fi model and $459 for the 32GB Wi-Fi + Cellular model. For the 128GB model it’s $100 more each respectively.

Ordering began March 24 and shipping begins on March 31. Read more here. Don’t forget to back up your old device through the cloud or iTunes so you will get back all your apps!

LittleArm 2C

The Jody Victor crew found a cool little toy you can get for your fledling techie on KickStarter. It is called the LittleArm 2C. It’s a mini Arduino Robot Arm for STEM or hobby. Arduino is an open-source electronics platform. STEM means Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, so it is a teaching tool in these disciplines.

This arm comes out of a previous project that was made into a kit through 3D printing. They sent out their original kits and took in all the feedback. They came up with this new LittleArm 2C as a result of the feedback. There is also an app you can use to control the arm’s movements. You’ll have to visit the page to see all it can do!

A new kind of Phone

There’s a new phone around called the Graalphone. But it’s much more than a phone. It’s a tiny laptop, it’s a tablet, it’s a smartphone, it’s a 3D camera.

As a tiny laptop it has a 7-inch screen, a real keyboard, and a Windows based PC. As a tablet it’s an Android OS tablet. The tiny smartphone has a 5-inch screen (not so tiny). As a camera, it’s 2D or 3D with Zoom 5x and Xenon flash.

It will be available later this year. The Victor crew will keep you posted…

Gift Giving for the Techies in Your Life

It seems there are a bunch of different lists of gift-giving this year. If you are giving tech this year, here are a few lists the Victor crew found on the web:

CNN Tech – this has a short video that shows different tech available along with some tips for different types of tech.

The Inquirer – features a list for the gamer and gadget fan in your life.

CNet – video of the top 5 gadget gifts under $100.

Popular Mechanics – has a gallery of top picks for this season’s gift giving.

Storage for your devices

Ever need more storage on your devices but not sure what to use? There’s Google Drive, OneDrive, DropBox, and iCloud for just a few. Did you know you could have your own cloud in your house? There are NAS (network attached storage) devices you can buy for your home so you can access your files. You can access the storage on your phone or tablet through an app and save or backup your files this way. You can even access your files when away from your house.

There is a public folder that you will need to be careful of what you put in. You can even add your other cloud accounts to the app to access them all in one place. Western Digital makes one called MyCloud. Seagate makes a Personal Cloud as well.

Victor crew

Google Pixel

Google came out with the Google Pixel phone October 20. It is being touted as the best alternative to Apple iPhone. It has the latest Android flavor – Nougat. Although it does have a headphone port (unlike iPhone 7), it is not waterproof, it has a nice camera and Google Assistant. One nice thing that it comes with is unlimited storage for photos and videos.

Here is their video about it.

Now the bad:
This past weekend, some Chinese hackers were able to hack into the Google Pixel in under a minute at Pwnfest, a hacking competition in Seoul, South Korea. Qihoo 360, a team of white-hat hackers exploited it in under 60 seconds. They won a cash prize of $120,000. They ended up with $520,000 total after some other exploits. Of course, Google is working on fixing their security. This is the team that exploted a Tesla Model S two years ago to control lock, sunroof, and traction controls. Read more here.

Difference between Sleep and Hibernate on your PC

If you have a PC whether desktop or laptop, do you shut it down or sleep or hibernate? What is the difference?

Shut down:
When you shut down, you need to save your programs before closing them. The next time you need to use it you need to wait for the boot up process.

Sleep:
This mode will preserve your session. You can close your lid on a laptop and it will do this. On a desktop you can choose to sleep. When you come back everything will be the way you left it. Sleep is a low-power mode. The current state will be saved in RAM. The only power drawn is to keep RAM on. It will resume where you left off when you power back on.

Hibernate:
Hibernation mode works a little bit differently. It saves your computer’s state to the hard drive and shuts down completely. There will be no additional power drawn like sleep mode. When you power back up, the data it loaded to the disk will load back into RAM and resume where you stopped. It will take longer to resume to where you were but not as long as a regular boot up. Hibernate is the almost the same as shutting down but your work will be preserved without shutting it down.

Most laptops are set up to sleep when you close the lid. You can customize in your settings how long it be before it goes into sleep mode. In settings you can also set up your power button to put your computer into sleep mode. Laptops may be configured already to go into hibernation mode after so many hours in sleep mode.

Find out more.

The Victor crew

In the News …

The Victor crew found a few interesting articles this week:

For those who wondered why their laptops have gone through their battery so quickly, Microsoft has tested different browsers. With each browser, they browsed Facebook, YouTube, Wikipedia, and Amazon. Here’s what they found:
Microsoft Edge lasted 7 hours 22 minutes on Surface Book system
Chrome lasted 4 hours 19 minutes
Firefox lasted 5 hours 9 minutes
Opera battery-saving mode lasted 6 hours 18 minutes.

http://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2016/06/microsoft-claims-edge-can-offer-70-percent-better-battery-life-than-chrome/

There’s a new gadget that allows you to play your original Nintendo Gameboy cartridges on your phone. It costs $59 and works on Android phones now. iPhone versions will be out by December. It is made by Hyperkin.

http://www.coventrytelegraph.net/whats-on/whats-on-news/you-gameboy-new-gadget-helps-11496341

With smart home technology growing leaps and bounds, there are more entry points for hackers to try to get your information. One thing they are now attacking is smart TV sets. Most security options have been focused on computers and smartphones so TVs have been neglected thus far. This article has some steps you can take to help prevent this.

http://www.techtimes.com/articles/165859/20160620/how-to-protect-your-smart-tv-from-hackers-here-are-some-tips.htm

What’s coming from Google

The Victor crew wants to share some new things coming up from Google.

Google Assistant

Google is unveiling the Google assistant. They say the assistant is two-way conversational. It helps buy movie tickets on the go, will find a restaurant for you to dine before the movie, help navigate to the theater. It is supposed to work seamlessly across devices.

Google Home

Google Home is a voice-activated gadget for your home. You can enjoy entertainment, manage your tasks, answer questions from Google using conversational speech. Just like the assistant, it can play a song, check your flight but also can turn on lights, set an oven timer.

Allo and Duo

Allo is a new messaging app with the Google assistant, so it allows you to interact in your chats. It includes Smart Reply that will suggest responses based on the messages.

Duo is a companion that allows one-to-one video calling.

Learn more here.

iPhone makes it easy to switch from Android

iPhone has some information that makes it easier to switch from Android to iOS. Jody Victor‘s crew found that the Apple site has this guide you can follow.

Although if you are used to Google and Gmail and have used an Android phone, then you know that all you really need to do is log in and all your stuff is there: mail, calendar, contacts. Nothing can be easier. But if you decide to switch to iPhone, they want to make it easier for you.

Apple has apps you put on your Android phone and your new iPhone and it will move your contacts, message history, camera photos and videos, web bookmarks, mail accounts, calendars, and free apps*. Your content transfers over Wi-Fi through a private network created when it finds your Android device. You will need a security code to begin tranferring.

Of course you can do it the sissy way and have the Apple Store do it for you, but don’t you want to get your “geek” on?

*With valid iTunes account.