A website about everything

Have you ever looked at “a website about everything”? There are many websites that may fit that description. Maybe wikipedia.com. The one showing that phrase right on their home page is reddit.com. On reddit.com, everone is a “redditor” – they can vote on stories and discussions. The stories and discussions with the most votes rise to the top. You can create a community called a “subreddit” which is independent and moderated by a team of volunteers. You can choose which subreddits you want to see. Anyone can comments can be posted on every story. There is a page with “reddiquette” so you know what the rules are.

Right now reddit claims to have over 6,000,000,000 pages. Yesterday, they had over 3 million logins. If you want to see a fun way to learn about it, you can watch this video. You could easily get caught up in it so be careful how much you use it. We’ve heard it said that reddit should be the front page of the Internet.

Oh – and reddit is always spelled in lower case.

Jody Victor

Tasting robots

Back in the olden days, a king would have a cup-bearer to make sure his wine or food wasn’t poisoned. If it was poisoned, well, then the king would have to find a new one. If there wasn’t enough poison to kill him, he’d at least make sure it tasted the way it should as well.

Enter the 21st century. Not testing for poison, but rather that the recipes are uniform, Thailand has developed 2 robots (so far) that will taste-test recipes for Pad Thai and other dishes to make sure there is not more deviation than 5-10% from the recipes approved by Thailand’s government and it’s “Thai Delicious Committee”. They hope to develop 100 or more robots to make sure the recipes are uniform the world over.

Other countries are starting to join suit. In Spain, they have developed and “electric tongue” to differentiate between varieties of beer. In Denmark, they’ve developed a nano-sensor to evaluate wine’s quality.

Jody Victor

All Things Apple

Last week was a big week for all things Apple. They rolled out the iOS 8 upgrade, the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. They also are giving the new U2 album to iTunes users for free. There was also talk about the Apple Watch. Over ten million iPhones have been purchased already since they went on sale Friday!

The iPhone 6 starts at $199 for 16GB and goes to $399 for 128GB. The iPhone 6 Plus starts at $299 and goes to $499 for 128GB. All quoted prices are with a carrier. You can get one contract-free with T-Mobile starting at $649. The Apple Watch won’t be available until 2015.

It was hard for people to get iOS 8 right away when it came out because of so many people trying to download it at one time. You also need to make sure you have around 5GB available on your device to download and install it. It adds a Health App to your homescreen where you can record your vital statistics (height, weight, blood pressure, body measurements, nutrition, etc.)

Jody Victor

Siri vs Google Now

Jody’s crew has Android phone and iPod Touch so we thought we’d test Siri vs Google Now.

When setting an alarm by saying “Set 6 am alarm” both did as they were told. We thought we’d try a few other fun tests.

“Beam me up Scotty”:
Google Now: “I canna do it cap’n. I do not hae the power.” (same answer every time with a Google search for the phrase)
Siri: “Sorry, Scotty has left the building.”
“WiFi or 3G?” “Ok Stand still.”
“Can you move a bit your left? Ok, stand by.”

“Give me directions to New York city”: (both cases you need to have location services turned on)
Google Now: “Getting directions to New York” – gives choice of using VZnavigator, Google Maps or Chrome browser
Siri: “Getting directions to New York” goes right to map with directions.

“How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood”:
Google Now: “A woodchuck would chuck as much wood as a woodchuck could chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood.” (Google search pages)
Siri: “None. A “woodchuck” is actually a groundhog, so it would probably just predict two more weeks of winter.”
“42? That can’t be right.”
“A so-called ‘woodchuck’ (correctly speaking, a groundhog) would chuck – that is throw – as much as the woodchuck in question was physically able to chuck (ibid.) if woodchucks in general had the capability (and, presumably, the motivation) to chuck wood.”

“Tell me a joke”:
Google Now: “Here you go. Some matching pictures.” shows some joke images and does a Google search for jokes.
Siri: “I can’t. I always forget the punch line.”
“Let me think… Nope, can’t think of one.”
“What did one iPhone say to the other iPhone? …hmm, I used to know this one.”

“Open Candy Crush”:
Google Now: “Opening App” – opens Candy Crush
Siri: Opens Candy Crush.

“What’s on my calendar for today”:
Google Now:”Here are the items on your calendar for today. First up at 6pm xxxx.” (brings up agenda)
Siri: “You have a couple of appointments for today.” (brings up agenda)

Conclusion: Both are adequate. Seems that when repeated, you could get different answers to some questions from Siri, sometimes long and complicated (like the woodchuck question).

Jody Victor

TouchPico Android Projector

Jody’s crew found a cool new gadget. It’s called a TouchPico projector. It runs Android 4.2. Any app you get from Google Play will work on this device. You can project it to any surface like a wall or even a ceiling. You have to use the special infrared pen that comes with it for games or other interaction to turn your surface into a touch screen. The infrared sensors in the projector work with the infrared pen. You can project movies on the wall or ceiling. You can use it for educational apps. It is still in start-up on IndiGoGo. The retail price will be $499. There are some special pricing tiers if you sign up now. You can get it for as little as $269 if you pledge now.

Jody Victor

Tech news tidbits: FiOS, Chrome, Toyota

Jody‘s crew likes to stay up to date on some of the latest news in tech out there. Here are a few interesting finds:

Verizon FiOS – Upload speeds will now match download speeds. If you have 75mps download speed, you will now have 75mps upload speed as well. If you are enrolled in the MyRewards+ program, you will get your equalizing speeds sooner than those not enrolled. This will continue through the fall. Read about it here.

Google Chrome – Google is finally addressing a bug in its Chrome browser that eats up system resources. It seems to show more on laptops where resources are more noticeably affected by it. Rather than changing the rate of usage by what it’s doing, it stays clocked at the highest possible rate as long as it is open. Solution for laptop users – use a different browser.

Toyota – The newest Toyota Sienna minivan has an optional built-in microphone to amplify the driver’s voice through the speakers. It only works one way. It is called “Driver Speak Easy.” So “stop fighting or I’ll pull the car over” will be heard more readily! There are a some other new features on this minivan like a pull-down mirror so the driver can check on the kids without turning around, a Blue-ray entertainment system in the back.

Do you know how to “Hukk It”?

The Victor crew came across a website that could prove to be very useful: Hukkster.com. You can keep track of items you would like to purchase from anywhere. You can even have it track when the item goes on sale! It will also show you coupon codes.

Sign up for your free account, and add the “Hukk It” button to your browser. When you are shopping on one of the hundreds of shops that work with Hukkster, you can Hukk It and purchase later. You tell it what color and size if it’s a garment. You can also use it to comparison shop. You will be notified by text, email or push notification (in the app).

Happy Shopping!

Jody Victor

Let’s find out about bitcoins.

By now you have heard the term “bitcoin.” But what is a bitcoin? Let’s explore what they are.

What a bitcoin is. Bitcoin is a “new kind of money.” It is digital money that can be tranferred over the internet. They are transferred directly from person to person without a middle man or bank. This means no transaction fees.

How does it work? You have a digital wallet on your computer or mobile device or in the cloud and can send bitcoins as easy as sending an email. You can purchase anything with bitcoins. The networks are secured by “miners” who make a record in a public ledger. It uses military-grade encryption. Nobody owns it. Using the bitcoin network is free. (You can choose to speed up a transaction for a fee.)

The downside: bitcoin wallets are not insured by the FDIC. You can accidentally delete them, a computer virus can wipe it out. In the cloud, servers can be hacked and bitcoins stolen.

For more information:

~ Jody Victor


JellyThere’s a fairly new app just found by Jody’s crew this past week. It’s called Jelly. It’s available for iPhone or Android. The byline is “Let’s help each other.” And that it does. If you have a question, you can ask it on Jelly and get all of the Jelly users to look at the question and if they have an answer, they can answer it. You can forward questions to people not using Jelly as well. You can tell it when you have enough answers.

If you want to help others answer questions just flip through them and answer them as they come up. The questions range from “Does anyone use Ally Bank?” to “What brand are these boots and where can I get them?” You may even find some technical coding questions along the way. You can choose a picture from the ones that pop up as you ask a question or include your own or search through Google Images to find one for your question.

Check it out!

~ Jody Victor

p.s. Don’t forget tomorrow is when support for Windows XP ends!

Tech news this week

You may have already heard of Yahoo! Screen. Now they want to go a step further and compete somewhat with YouTube, even poaching their some of their stars according to an article by re/code. They aren’t looking to allow users to upload all their content but want to pick the most popular ones and offer better deals.

If you are a developer, you would have received an email by now telling of the revamped Google Play Developer Program Policy. Google is attempting to cut down on deceptive advertising practices from app developers and other third-party services. You can view the policy and hopefully report any apps that may be violating the new rules.

Printer Ink
Want to save money on ink? Use Garamond font. A 14-year-old boy from Pittsburgh, Suvir Mirchandani, did a study on his own to see how he could save his school district some money. He found he could save as much as $21,000/year just by switching to the thinner Garamond font. You can read about his research here.

Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook plans to use drones and lasers to improve Internet access. They plan to fly drones over areas that don’t have access. They are also looking into beaming Internet to people from the sky. Read more here.

~ Jody Victor

Android Users Beware

There are new bugs found in the Android operating system that can leave your device, phone or tablet, vulnerable to malware. This is part of a new class of vulnerabilities called Pileup flaws (privilege escalation through updating.) The malicious apps have increased permissions once Android is updated without informing the user.

You can read more about it here on zdnet.com.

~ Jody Victor

End of the Line for Windows XP

Microsoft will end support for Windows XP on April 8, 2014. So what does that mean?

It really means a lot and is a big deal, volumes have been written, lawsuits are beginning from companies that claim they have custom software that can’t be migrated and on and on and on. So here are few points to consider from some one that loves his Dell 4400 laptop that can’t be upgrade so it now sits in a bag.

1. There will be no more security updates or patches for XP or the IE browsers that run on XP!
2. Much of the newest web technology will not display or run correctly on older IE browsers that XP supports.
3. Your favorite software programs may not continue to to be supported and updated.
4. Older versions of IE that XP will run are already security risks and will continue to degrade.

Microsoft is almost begging people to upgrade to Windows 8 and will pay you to do it, they are offering a $50 gift card if you buy a new machine with Windows 8.

If you decide to keep running XP consider the following suggestions:
1. Run the machine offline, if you do not need the computer in question to be online then physically take it offline (unplug it!)
2. Quit using IE and switch immediately to the latest version of the Firefox or Chrome web browser and keep it updated.
3. Obtain and deploy the latest greatest anti-virus software and run it and keep it up to date.
Remember: There will be no more security updates or patches for XP or the IE browsers that run on XP!

It is estimated that there are approximately 18,000,000,000 (18 million) computers world wide that will still be running XP on April 9, 2014 which is a huge target for Malicious Software Developers (hackers and virus developers) and they will go after these machines.

The decision is yours but Remember, There will be no more security updates or patches for XP or the IE browsers that run on XP After April 8, 2014!

~ Jody Victor

Wake up and smell the bacon!

Hello everyone!

How would you like you like to wake up to the smell and sound of sizzling bacon every morning? Well, now you can on your iOS device with an app and a dongle from Oscar Mayer. For a limited time, you can apply to win a free dongle that will provide you with the smell of sizzling bacon. In the meantime, you can wake up to the sound of sizzling bacon from the free app on the App Store.

~ Jody Victor

A new use for Google Glass

By now, you may have seen some articles about Google Glass. Well the NYPD may take to using it as a crime-fighting tool. They have bought a few pairs for testing. They would be able to see any info they have on a potential suspect by instantly reviewing their history: mug shots, warrants, etc. They have purchased these through Google’s Glass Explorer program as they are not available for consumers yet. The Glass Explorer program allows you to sign up and if a spot opens up for you to try it, you will be contacted. Maybe “RoboCop” isn’t so far-fetched.

~ Jody Victor

It’s Cyber Monday!

Last year we found out how Cyber Monday got started. This year we will look at some shopping tips.

Here are some safe buying tips and cautions:

  • Only buy from reputable retailers.
  • Make sure you have a physical address and phone number.
  • Send an email to make sure it is active.
  • Check with the Better Business Bureau in the seller’s area.
  • Find out about warranties and returns.
  • If you buy overseas, be wary of any recourse under US jurisdiction.
  • Don’t judge by a fancy website.
  • Make sure the website is secure – that it has https at the beginning of the address when you enter your personal information and that a lock is shown somewhere on your browser.
  • Don’t click on popup advertisements.
  • Use a credit card, not a money order, personal check or debit card. Credi card payments can be withheld if there is a dispute. With a debit card, once the payment is made it’s gone from your account.
  • Shop around so you know the price range of the item. If it seems too good to be true it may not be legitimate.
  • If you are using public wi-fi, make sure it is secure.
  • Turn off Bluetooth. This will lessen the risk of others capturing with a nearby device.
  • Read the terms of service before purchasing.
  • Be careful if purchasing digital items like books or music – they can’t be given as gifts but are downloaded to you account. You can purchase gift cards/ecards instead.
  • Save or print your receipts so you have a record.
  • Don’t forget that shipping may add to the cost if it’s not offered free or if your purchase doesn’t meet the minimum amount for free shipping.
  • Be alert for potential charity and donation scams.

Safe shopping!
Jody Victor

Some tech ideas for Christmas 2013

I thought you might like to consider some of these tablets for Christmas this year:

From Amazon: The Kindle Fire HDX 7″
This is the 3rd generation Kindle Fire. This is the one you see on the TV commercial where the guy pushes the Mayday button and a customer service rep pops up in the corner. The rep can walk you through problems or even take over your tablet. You can download the Amazon Kindle Freetime app that allows parents to control the time limits and apps if you let your children use it. The drawbacks are, you don’t get full access to the Google Play store, you have to download apps from Amazon’s appstore. You won’t find some of the popular apps like Gmail, Google Maps, Google Drive. There is only a front-facing camera. $230.

From Google: Google Nexus 7
This runs the newest version of Android, 4.4 Kit Kat. It has a rear and front camera and is preloaded with standard Google apps. $229.

From Samsung: Galaxy Tab 3 7″ Kids
This tablet was designed specifically for kids. It comes in fun colors with a rubber case to protect it. I thas big buttons, limited access to settings, and kid-type apps preloaded. It has front and back cameras. $190.

From Apple: iPad Air
This is the latest iPad (5th generation). It is thinner and lighter, faster with better video. There are a few versions – based on size (16GB, 32GB, 64GB and 128GB) and connectivity (Wi-fi or Wi-fi and LTE). Prices start at $499.

From Apple: iPad Mini with Retina Display
Very similar to the iPad Air in a smaller package. Starts at $399.

~ Jody Victor

Dropbox and cloud managers

Many people use Dropbox to store some files to share at work. But did you know you can have a second account and merge them?
You can have a personal account as well and merge the files so they are both available. Another alternative is to log out of one account and into the other to keep the accounts separately.

On a Windows PC, you can make a second user account and have one Dropbox account associated with each profile. Then to access each account, you can just “switch user” on the PC.

There are a few applications out there that allow you to sync ALL your cloud accounts (at least the ones they support) but it will cost you. Here are a couple:

Oxito.com – Different pricing: PC only, $39.99, iOS $9.99, Android $9.99, Windows 8 RT $9.99; Premium Bundle: All above for $95.90/year or $9.99/month. Comes with a 14 day free trial.

cloudHQ.net – This comes with 3 plans: Personal for $9.90/month or $99/year; Premium Plan for $17.90/month or $179/year; Business Plan for $29.90/month or $299/year.

~ Jody Victor

Android KitKat

The latest version of the Android OS is called KitKat (in keeping with the theme of sweets in alphabetical order.) It is the successor to Jelly Bean. This Android version 4.4 made its debut with the Nexus 5 smartphone. This phone retails for $349 for 16GB and $399 for 32GB at the Google Play store. So far it is only carried by T-Mobile and Sprint. We hear it isn’t compatible with Verizon. Shame.

They are running a contest with KitKat – the crispy wafer bars that is. The KitKat bars with the Android on the wrapper has a special code inside. The prizes:
Grand Prize: Google Nexus 7 (1,000 available)
1st Prize: $5 credit for Google Play (150,000 available)
2nd Prize: A coupon for a free 8-oz KitKat Minis Pouch (20,000 available)

Good Luck!

So what’s new in KitKat?
No need to touch the screen – just say “OK Google” to launch voice search, send a text, get direction, play a song…
Faster multitasking – faster more accurate response. Listen to music while surfing the web.
Smarter caller ID – if it isn’t in your contacts, it will search Google Maps for a listing.
All messages together – All SMS and MMS messages in Hangouts app.
Emoji – on the keyboard – express yourself!
Print – print to a cloud printer or HP ePrinter (or any other printer that has an app in the Google Play Store) from your phone.
Access your files – you can use Quickoffice to open and save files on Google drive.

Currently, KitKat is only available on the Nexus 5.

~ Jody Victor

Devices making their debut

Jody‘s crew was out and about looking for what’s coming out new before the end of the year. Here is what we found:

From Nokia:
Lumia 2520 tablet. This runs Windows RT operating system. It has a 10-inch HD screen with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 800 processor, a 6.7 megapixel camera, a keyboard. It has LTE and wi-fi. Cost is about $499.
Lumia 1320 and 1520 smartphones. Both run Windows Phone 8 and have 6-inch screens. The 1520 has a full HD screen, LTE and quad-core Snapdragon 800 processor, 32GB storage, expandable to another 64GB with a MicroSD card, 20 megapixel camera. Cost is $749. The 1320 comes with dual-core processor, 720p screen resolutio, 5 megapixel camera, LTE. Considered a lower end, will cost $339. Because of their larger screen size they are considered “phablets”.
Asha 500, 502, 503 phones. These are lower end phones that Nokia hopes to better compete with Android. The 503 has 3G for $99. It comes with a 3-inch screen and 5 megapixel camera. The 502 has a 3-inch screen as well but no 3G. It will be $89. The 500 will cost $69 for a 2.8-inch screen and 2 megapixel camera. All 3 have wi-fi and hold 2 SIM cards.

From Apple:
iPad Air. This iPad is thinner and lighter than previous models. Prices range from $499 to $929 depending on capacity and connectivity options. It comes with a 9.7-inch LED backlit Multi-touch display, A7 chip, FaceTime HD camera with 720p HD video, 5 mega-pixel photos, 1080p HD video recording. You can get this in wi-fi or wi-fi + cellular.
iPad Mini. Has all the great features of the iPad Air in a smaller size. The price varies from $399 to $829 – just $100 cheaper than its iPad Air counterparts for same size and connectivity.

Sidenote – This is for sale but Microsoft has a 383-inch screen Surface 2 Tablet in Trafalgar Square, London. Read about it here.

Another robot…

Last week we found a couple robots from Willow Garage. Well this week we found another one. This was developed by some people who left Willow Garage to start their own company, Unbounded Robotics. They are taking orders for YOUR new robot! UBR-1 will be available Spring 2014. The cost is $35,000. It is ROS-enabled (Robot Operating System), an open-source platform that you can enhance yourself by logging in remotely and writing programs.

UBR-1 can unload a dishwasher, fetch beverages, set the table. You can plug into its computer with one of the USB 3.0 expansion ports. It has a continuous run time of 3.5 hours and idle time of 10 hours.

Are you ready for this?

~ Jody Victor

Need a Robot?

There are a few types of robots you can get as a consumer. Willow Garage has a few offerings:
PR2 – a one-armed robot powered by ROS (Robot Operating System). You can watch a few videos of what it can do here, like play pool, fetch beer, clean up empty cans.

Turtle Bot – a small robot also powered by ROS. It can explore your house on its own, build 3D pictures, bring you food, and more. You can get a complete kit for $1,399.00 to build your own or $1,995.00 built for you from I Heart Engineering. You can also get it fully built for $1599.00 or the kit for $999.00 from Clearpath Robotics (not everything is included and it is currently sold out.)

~ Jody Victor

Have you heard of Nest?

Nest is a “learning thermometer.” You can teach Nest by turning it up and down as you need to adjust heat. It learns your lifestyle.

Why use Nest? It can save energy. It can sense you left and adjust automatically. It takes about a week for Nest to program itself as it learns your schedule and needs.

Nest.com says it only takes about 30 minutes to install. You can do it yourself – similar to changing a light fixture. You can adjust Nest via computer or app as well.

Find out more.

~ Jody Victor

Not every one uses the Internet

Jody‘s crew found an article citing one in seven Americans don’t use the Internet. In the article, Steven Vaughan-Nichols talks about a survey by the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project from May 2013 that 34% of the Americans not using the Internet aren’t even interested in it. They say it’s not relevant to them. 32% say it’s not easy to use, frustrating, and they are afraid of spam, hackers, spyware. 19% state it’s too expensive to own a computer or pay for connection.

Nearly half of the non-Internet users are over 65. Maybe some of you tech-savvy youngsters can help your family connect!

Is your device safe?

Jody‘s crew found a couple of interesting stories this week:

1. iPhone fingerprint reader is claimed to have been hacked. The Touch ID is supposed to be more secure than a password. They encrypt your scan and place it in an isolated spot on their A7 chip. You can use this to make purchases as well. But a group from Germany has claimed to be able to hack the fingerprint ID. What does this mean? Maybe not that much. DigitalTrends.com points out the lengths that have to be gone through to make a fingerprint readable in order to break in.

2. Android Device Manager is a way to lock your device and erase all your data should your Android phone become lost or stolen. You can check to see if your device is registered on Google (go to your account then your dashboard. It will show your devices. Then if one of your devices is lost or stolen, go to https://www.google.com/android/devicemanager and you will have the option to make your device ring, erase all the data, or lock the device.