Of the many loves I have, it’s clear I love technology. Love being a word that honestly describes a want to use technology, and simple amazement at what can be done with so much pre-assembled tech as well as pieces and parts. It doesn’t stop at electronics, of course, it’s about taking all of those things you can buy at your local hardware store and making them into something.
It’s sometimes hard to believe, in a world of everyone-for-themselves, that there are vast communities of people who are willing to share ideas with each other. Beyond the simple telling of what one should possibly do, people help other people. People invest in other people’s ideas and become excited by them. Part of our world culture is shifting to helping people in any way they can. Everything needs a face-lift, and so does the world of advancement in every industry. This is clearly seen by the sheer amount of “crowd sourced” opportunities. Look at examples of Waze (recently purchased by Google), for gathering information about traffic or perhaps the huge number of projects being developed and hoping for funding from folks peering in on sites like Kickstarter. We have become a world of rapid change unparalleled to any of our earlier generations. The proliferation of shared ideas, and mashed-together solutions, proves that our world is become a sum of bolt-on parts.
I’m sure it’s beyond clear that I have this insatiable want to do many things and learn all the time. My project list is beyond gross in volume, but I love everything I’m trying to carry out. If only there were 12 of me, I could get this stuff done! One of the biggest challenges I face with anything I decide to do is getting side-tracked by some other thing I’m trying to do, or something I’d started in the past that seems to fall into sight while I’m working on another project. For example, I’m working on this Gigantic Assistive Clock, and then while I’m in the middle of that, I finally get a piece of hardware to help me with one of my “monitoring” projects. So, I get all excited and go completely over-the-top with working on something related to that. For example, I started creating a fairly detailed (and possibly over-complex) version of an energy monitoring application that can send source energy results to multiple “Internet of Things” sites and aid my automation system. I have this problem where I desire details about the data I’m collecting. It’s a sickness, but I love it. I like the idea of business intelligence and love to create inference solutions based on it. So, like I said… simple idea… out of control.
This distraction cost me some time from working on the Assistive Clock. What cost me time working on the distraction was yet another distraction; the fan on my CPU died. So, after fiddling with finding the right fan and replacing it, it set me back several days and made me less enthused to put my tower computer back together. See? Distraction after distraction.
However, what I did gain along the way was a number of wonderful contacts (yet again!) for working on these projects. I personally see a host of applications to automate and assist people in their homes. After watching my father struggle with so many manual processes that have become difficult for him to handle due to poor vision and other issues, I figured I should look into how to solve these problems for him. Maybe I can help the rest of the world along the way. So, as part of that, I think about all the lines of business I do, all the projects that can help others, and where these pieces fit together. Energy, large display systems, automated lighting, monitors and sensors for making certain pumps are functioning correctly, volumetric tank measurements, and other goodies. All of these working together create a well monitored, automated, visually useful way of running a home or business. This is where I’m going with all of my thinking. Blogging about it happens slowly… but I want to document my thinking and share it with those that might find the time to read it and process it along with me.
With all the hardware for, what I’m calling, the “Gigantic Asisstive Clock” finally here, I’m able to start building towards the solution. Obviously it’s not a simple overnight kind of thing, so it’s going to take some time. Part of the reason I’ve chosen to blog about it is to hopefully just jar my memory in years to come when I think about doing something like this again. I’ve always been kind of “sit down and figure it out” type of guy, but everyone needs help. If it weren’t for the wonderful FlorinC at Time With Arduino I’d be rather lost. His constant help and support are amazing, let alone his kindness and generosity!
With that said, I’ve run into a couple of compiling snags. I think it’s a matter of getting all the many, many, many .h files in the right places with the right #define statements to match. One of the things that was slightly different from what I’d anticipated with this solution was the use of the Sanguino hardware (an open source Arduino compatible ATmega644P chip). Not that it’s a problem, since I’m curious about anything in the microcontroller space. It’s just different and there are new things to learn. The learning curve isn’t bad, just that I was hoping to dive in without thinking about more than what I knew. However, there’s nothing wrong with learning a little more along the way!
The basic hardware of the solution is a WiseClock4 connected to multiple Sure Electronics 3216 Red and Green 5mm LED dot matrix displays. My original idea was to have four displays connected together, essentially making a 64×32 display. However, the design of the displays don’t really lend themselves to putting the top of one display against the bottom of the other. Although, the side-by-side method works. I had considered making a 128×16 display, but that seemed ridiculous for my purposes. Given that I was basically trying to just make a gigantic clock with a date display for my father, who has poor eyesight, it seemed that it might be difficult to read if he ended up having to turn his head just to read it all the way across (since it would be huge!). I’ll likely be doing two devices communicating over a short-range wireless transmission. I haven’t decided if I’m making one piece of hardware, or two though. I guess that will depend on how things work out in terms of size and space.
The other parts of the project will include an ID-20 RFID using either a secondary Arduino chip/board or perhaps an Arduino with an Adafruit RFID shield. WiFly is one of the possible options, also, so that the device can communicate over WiFi to the internet, but the original plan was to avoid internet connectivity, if it’s not available. The other part of the solution is to handle Caller ID and support speech output for that protocol. That way, when the Caller ID kicks in, we’ll be able to hear it speak the name. It sounds simple, but Caller ID chips are impossible to find anymore, for some reason. Plenty of different stuff on eBay and I’ll probably end up hacking a unit that has Caller ID with the speech stuff built-in. Not sure how this will all work with the Gigantic Clock, but we’ll hope for the best!
Right now, the issue is getting the basic coding to compile correctly, and then we can move on to expanding the hardware and writing more code for it. …and here I thought making a big clock would be easy!
For those that know me, they’ll tell you that I tend to spend a lot of time planning. I like planning, and maybe this is why I decided I liked being an engineer (I love model railroading and building models, so you see how far I’ve taken this metaphor). When I’m trying to work things out, I have to admit, the internet is such a great place to do that. Compared to many years ago when I had to create work out of – what felt like – nothing, today’s research process is so much better! The best part about it is how many people in the community really love watching others succeed on their projects. I feel really lucky I’m able to plan an electronics project for my dad with a talented guy named FlorinC. He’s been instrumental as a sounding board and has amazed with his time and generosity. It just proves that the world isn’t as horrible as some people think it might be all the time (except for those people on that MTV show Catfish). It makes me feel a bit better about my faith in humanity when I see someone come to my aid when I need it. It’s even better when they volunteer to help you with more than for what you’ve asked!
What needs to be accomplished:
Well that should be easy, right? So, yeah, not so much. You realize how much you need the internet after you try to work in the home of an 83-year-old with no internet connectivity and no ability to use it or learn it. Complicated problem solving, but really something that gets the brain going when you’re a complete geek and like to solve problems!
The process continues after I receive some stuff in the mail!
In the recent past, and I would say –Â for an old guy like me — that’s something like 5-10 years, I’ve really enjoyed the ability to use technology in helping me find my way around. Just think about all of the great mobile abilities you have, these days, that allow you to help yourself in not just the “intended” way, but in ways that make your life really easy. Let’s start with an example of something I think is cool, but I haven’t doneÂ yet it’s totally do-able.
Here’s the example: I’m taking a trip to Orlando to visit Disney World (OK, so I’ve done that, but not like this example) with my family and parents, and I’m driving from my home to the location because my mom doesn’t like the idea of flying. So, what can I do to find my way there? I know you have the answer: Mapping.
Sure, you could unfold a map and start tracing your route down the coast (I live in the north eastern part of the USA), and struggle with that. Maybe you could do something hip like type the address of where you want to go (we’ll say “Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge”) into Google Maps, and click on the waypoint, then click on “Directions from…” and then type in a home address. Then you print out the pages and it’s easy to read! Very cool, and very simple! Besides, paper is ubiquitous; it doesn’t get damaged when you drop it on the ground, you can drop it in water and it still probably is good enough to read, and you can fold it up and put it in your back pocket – no batteries, no hassle.
Now, simple is good, but more information and instant access to stuff is even better! There are a host of electronic solutions to give you all kinds of cool functionality. Here are some I think you could use:
Before you say “that last one was kind of cool…” think about this too: that last one is expensive, too. So, you’ll want to be very careful with the device itself – and they’re usually pretty temperamental.Â
Now think about this: with this device, you not only can have a phone, your contacts, access to maps, Internet connectivity and messaging, you can (almost always) have a camera. Think about it, you know when you park your car, you need to remember where you parked it, right? A picture is great. Now combine that picture with the ability to attach a waypoint (that’s a specific point on a map – like “this point is on the way…”) on your Google Map on your phone. You have a picture, GPS, and a phone. You CAN’T get lost or lose your car! … unless, of course, you lose your phone or it dies. But, let’s just assume it’s working well and you haven’t left it anywhere.
If you happen to have GPS tracking while you’re in a big place like Disney World, you can do some other cool things, too. How about not having to read Disney’s daily map, but being able to find the attraction with your GPS? Drop some push-pins/waypoints into your handy GPS application (and there are plenty of these things on the web, mind you) and you have your own destination map for each attraction! With the GPS on, you’ll know how far and which way to go, too! If you have little kids (or even if you don’t!), there is NOTHING more difficult than locating a restroom when you need it. With a few carefully recorded positions of restrooms, you’ll have an easy time finding what you need. The only thing better would be if you had a picture of it so you can identify the entrance visually. … Wait, we can do that, too, can’t we? Sweet!
So, what does this all mean? It means that technology is not only your friend, it’s your butler. Imagine deciding you want Italian food while at the park. With a GPS and the proper Points of Interest (POI) marked, you can find the closest places that serve that kind of food and be able to get there with just a few clicks or pokes of a touch screen.
You now have the tools you need to find everything and remember where you parked your car. Besides that, many of these tools (if not all) have support for playing your MP3s, listening to audio books, and showing slide-shows of pictures you’ve taken (from your memory cards – usually SD) while you’re vacationing. Now you don’t just have to listen to your parents singing some song you don’t even recognize! Along with that, some units even support the use of services like MSN Direct, which will give you information like the closest gas stations and their prices, movie theaters with phone numbers and show times, and even traffic updates, so you can avoid jams from construction or accidents.
Vacation with your family doesn’t have to be difficult, anymore.
I was reading an article on my buddy’s James and Kevin’s site. They truly are the mobile warriors of the world. These guys know their tech and they know how to be mobile – all of the time! So, when I saw them pointing to Chris Pirillo’s iPhone Rant video, I was really glad to see they were – overall – on Chris’ side. [View article... ]
I happen to be one that agrees with the sentiment that everything Apple creates is not gold. Honestly, I love my iPod, I was a long time Mac user, and really do think that Leopard is a cool operating system, but I think the iPhone lacks one major thing: PHONE functionality. Yes, you can dial numbers on it and receive calls, but I have heard so many rants about how there are difficulties syncing with Windows environments and tools like Outlook, that even the cool “CoverFlow” (which Apple bought from SteelSkies – they didn’t come up with that!) isn’t all that intriguing; isn’t this just more bloatware? Pretty is nice, but really, if I want to get to something quickly, the last thing I want to do is emulate flipping through my entire CD collection like it were in a jukebox.
Chris gets into some huge rants about it not having video – personally, I rarely use the video on my phone. I’m sure I’m not the mobile warrior that Chris is, but I would agree that no (or even poor) video on a phone with 8GB of memory is pretty dumb. Heck, I can even stream live video (really well!) with my XV6700 using some apps out there. I don’t, ’cause… well, no-one cares what I think, but that’s not the point! But, no removable battery? That’s just stupid!
But I’m wondering, even if the new iPhone isn’t “all that,” what will this bring? My guess?: By around November or December (maybe as late as February), Apple will release a new series of iPods. But, what I’m guessing is that they’ll probably even release the 2G version of the iPhone. Imagine the new tooling of the iPod looking like what so many speculated: the iPhone style, and it just plays music, pictures and videos! So, do they call it the 6G or “iPhone Lite”?
There is so much stunning visual delivery technology out in the wild these days that it’s hard to look anywhere without it being right in your face. The cable providers, satellite TV, phone/broadband service providers, all are in the act when it comes to content delivery. Then you’ve got the devices: Apple TV, HD-DVD/Blu-Ray players, set-top consoles like Playstation 3, and XBOX 360s. Each of these solutions is vying for your undivided attention to use them for Hi-Def content, leaving many peopleÂ swimming in this sea of sharp photorealistic quality and no understanding of the best choice. Frankly, given how much I love the quality of Hi-Def and tech, I’m feeling a little lost too.
Think about it, you’ve got pieces of hardware, bits of software, and some combination in between as your choices for viewing Hi-Def images on your TV. If you’ve got a PS3 or an XBOX 360, you’ve got some better choices (or decisions you’ve made) for what you’re getting. For example, if you had a PS2, and then upgraded to a PS3, then you’ve sort of chosen the Blu-Ray route. But you’ve also probably opened up your ability to – in the future – download all sorts of Hi-Def content via an online resources strategy that hasn’t quite made it out of Sony’s head’s yet. It’s sort of the same for the XBOX 360, except you’re looking at HD-DVD and there’s already a bunch of content you can download from XBOX Live. If you’re an iTunes fan, you’ve got iTunes for music, TV, Podcasts, and Movies; you pick up an Apple TV, and you’re all set, as well – downloadable content right to your Hi-Def TV! Then there’s the other choice, the HD-DVD or Blu-Ray (or maybe the combo) player; the old school method of getting your TV on. You buy a player, hook it up to your TV and you watch what’s available on Discs. So, which is the better solution?
So, yesterday, I do my iTunes 7.2 upgrade in hopes of un-DRMing my songs… this is what I see: 3 Songs. What? 3 songs?! That’s ALL that it could find in my 5700 song library? OK, so, maybe I have a lot of old CDs that I ripped, but I KNOW I’ve purchased a lot from iTunes. So, I have only three iTunes-purchased DRM’d songs from EMI? Either I don’t like much coming out of EMI or there is something dreadfully wrong.
As much as it pains me to have to pay even more for a song, the extra $.30 is worth the upgrade so that I can access my iTunes purchased music from not only iTunes, but from my Windows Media Player, or my Roku SoundBridge. I love the idea of downloading music: It’s quick and it’s simple. I think the DRM thing has finally started to get its rightful share of criticism. I mean, sure, there are many groups that have been fighting it; hey, I don’t like it either, but have put up with it to be legal.Â But I believe the executive attention of the music industry is finally focusing on the difference between profit and loss; it’s sure taken them long enough.
I think, if you give people the option, you can get most law-abiding citizens to pony-up the extra few cents to pay for a song that is more versatile than the currently DRM’d versions they have been getting. People, especially young people, get it. It’s how music is delivered now. I mean, look at how different this is than what my youth was like: when you had an LP record, you not only could not just skip to a specific track (without a good eye and a keen hand on the grooves), but you couldn’t see what track was playing, it’s title, the band’s name or anything. Worse than that, you could only listen to one band at a time. If you wanted to shuffle your collection, you literally had to place a stack of platters on the phono and keep dropping plates until you ran out… then you had to flip them over! The “Party Shuffle” was definitely not something we had. Then you had cassettes; at least MIX TAPES were a possibility, then. But you still lost all of that great skipping and track identity. This wasn’t even close to being able to “burn a CD.”
I wonder how long it’s going to take the other record execs to agree with Mr. Dr. ProfessorÂ Apple? I hope it’s soon, ’cause I want to be able to stream my collection of iTunes tracks at a higher bitrate!
Obviously, it’s been a while since I’ve written. I won’t get into the details, but there were a number of valid reasons. But let’s just talk about how embracing mobile technology can simplify your life.
If you talk to my buddies James and Kevin at JKOnTheRun.com,Â these Masters of MobileÂ canÂ certainly tell you that this type of technology can not only be efficient, it can change your life; I would wholeheartedly agree. In the past few months there have been a number of changes at the old Manoogian Manor (there was even a once fabled website by that name – now defunct). One of the major things that happened to me was that I switched my mobile phone device; that change, alone, was huge. I also started needing this technology even more – due to personal family circumstances.
So, what’s my gear? Well, that’s pretty simple. I use a Verizon XV6700 as my Windows Mobile/Cellphone as well as my EVDO data connection through my Gateway Tablet PC. These two devices, alone, are awesome! The 6700 is my daily life-line. Obviously, the cellphone is one of the main reasons I use this device, but I probably get more use out of the PDA portion of the device, than anything else. I’m not a huge fan of convergence, I assure you. But, when the right grouping comes together, I’m all for it. My general problem with device convergence has always been the sacrifice of each technology just to make one singular device. In this case, I didn’t give up too much at all. I suppose my ideal device would be Windows Mobile 6 with an eight megapixel camera and the ability to sync to iTunes (iPhone-ish?!). But, I honestly prefer Windows Mobile, right now. I’ve used Palm in the past, but came back to WM because of stuff like Activesync; I love immediate sync of my stuff — I wish my iPod did that too! If my WM device had the aforementioned and a 120GB flash drive, and could sync my iTunes stuff (sans the DRM!), I would be in portable heaven!
It’s been a little while since I blogged anything, but that’s because I’ve been busy, and haven’t really found anything that no-one else has already said 12000 times on 50000 blogs. I used to just report a lot of stuff that was coming out – like many other blogs. But I’ve decided to focus on writing my own articles more times than not. So, here’s one of those things.Â
I was having some fun, the other day, just flipping through some “Web 2.0″ websites and decided I would keep my eyes open for something interesting. I found this site called “AirSet.com.” They have a product that is somewhat similar to what many may have seen. It’s a scheduling and contacts application, that’s web-based, with a really slick interface. Now, sure you’ve seen these before: they let you keep track of your calendar, contacts, and share it with your friends; it even syncs with Outlook and stuff. Great! Here’s the cool thing: they also have an application that runs on your Verizon phone. The app is designed in a way that it’s totally efficient to run on the phone and gives you all of the immediate functionality of the web version of the application. Sounds good, right? There’s more…
They have a cool screen-capture video of the application, and it tells you how it works. I was pretty amazed at the application and its simplicity. I use lots of “calendaring” (I hate that word) tools, so I’m always looking for ways to improve my access to my information. If you’re someone with a Verizon phone, this might be your ticket! Save for owning a PDA phone.
The focus of their application is getting you to share it with lots of people. Think of the scenario like you have a team (like my cycling team), and you get them all signed up to AirSet. You keep your team and personal calendars on there. When there’s a change to your group calendar, you immediately see it on your calendar. When this happens, you can also get an alert letting you know something has changed. That way, you’re not out of the loop and you do go driving off to an event where no-one will be.
This same scenario is great if you have a busy family life. If you’ve got a kid or two, and both you and your spouse are busy running around, wouldn’t it be great to communicate your schedule changes through something like this? Imagine having a neighborhood calendar, School, Team calendar, family calendar, and personal calendar. Together, you know what’s going on all over the place. If someone makes a change – a singular owner of the calendar – then everyone sees the change. This is so much better than those emails flying around between you and who missed them. You sync it up with your Outlook calendar and BANG! You’re done. What, Practice is canceled? No problem… you know before it’s too late! The school play is tomorrow? You know before it’s too late!
I know this sounds like a commercial, and I’d gladly get paid to say this, but I’m not getting paid. I’m just passing on something cool. Check it out! I think combining this functionality with some other great tools would be just astounding!
So, who wants to share a calendar with me?!
I know it’s been a while since I wrote anything. I want to write, but unfortunately that “day job” keeps getting in the way. On the up-side, my day job should be happy that I’m doing my work and NOT blogging. See, I’m a good employee.
Two things, though…
1. I’ll be on vacation, starting tomorrow, and will be away for a week. I was thinking, however, that I might do a PocketCast while I was on vacation. I’ll be in Disney, so it’ll be a cool place to ‘cast. That would be fun!
2. I have this really awesome news from Waterfall Mobile, that Matt Silk and I talked about, and I’d love to share, but I can’t yet. I had drafted a blog post about a conversation we had – about a two weeks ago – but I decided not to release it as 1) I hadn’t finished reviewing it, and 2) Matt showed me some cool stuff and I wanted to release the whole thing all at once.
3. Part Deux of my “Home Automation Discussion” will arrive in a couple of weeks. I hope you guys are looking forward to it!
So, hopefully you guys will come back when I can talk more about the cool and different technology I’m seeing!
Well, we all know that Cisco has its hooks into home networking gear, and that unified messaging and presentation software, and that’s all good. In fact, it’s really good – especially when the proper integration is there. I, for one, love the Cisco thing when it’s functioning well. But there’s more to Cisco than just software and home-based networking hardware.
You’d be amazed at how big of a market the Used Cisco marketplace really is. There are many Cisco Authorized VARs and independent resellers, as well; those are known as “brokers” or dealers, sometimes remarketers. Well, Cisco has Cisco Authorized Refurbished equipment (or Cisco Reman) out there which includes all of the typical licensing and looks like it’s packaged just like regular Cisco stuff, except that it’s marked as Factory Refurb.
There’s actually a really excellent, perhaps even the “Ultimate Guide,” to buying used Cisco equipment on Network World’s website. It’s called the Used Cisco Buyer’s Guide. It covers all of the details of the Cisco refurb products and how to find dealers that carry this equipment. You can even learn about “user to user” Cisco sellers and what that means. You’ll learn all kinds of things like when it’s the best time to buy the equipment as well as how to confirm if you’re working with a qualified reseller of the equipment.
Truly, this is a great opportunity to buy great Cisco gear at a great price. I’ve been looking at some professional gear to protect my home network, but — at the new price — Â it’s out of my range. Looking into this guide has helped me narrow down what it is I can buy and for a much better price. The guide isn’t just for tech junkies like me, it’s for Fortune 500 companies and SMBs that want to learn how to get great prices on equipment. it’s absolutely worth the look and you’ll even find comments from resellers in the article telling you about special “End of Month” discounts. How great is that?
Go check out the article and read about how you can save on some high-quality Cisco gear! Who knows, you might even run your own data center from your house!
Recently, I had looked at the details of the upcoming Cerulean Studios Trillian Astra product/project. It looks like this awesome Multi-Network IM Client (with a whole lot more integration!) will be even more than most people expected. Though, it should be noted that it was recently uncovered that the product was not Adobe Apollo, as it was first thought. It is, however based on Flash.
The new application is a floating Trillian App that gets kicked off from the browser. Once you’ve done your web-login, the product is free from the browser and works on its own – including working with the file system and being able to drop into the system tray. There’s also a web-based version of the product that lets you use the product through a web-page, as well; which is pretty cool since it lets you “Trillian” from anywhere!
Here’s a You Tube video done by one of the developers at Cerulean Studios:
Basically, this is one really slick product! I love Trillian, myself. I’ve found all kinds of cool plug-ins for it and I hope there are updated versions of those that support them; even a plug-in for Skype. In fact, it would be excellent if I could not only look at my performance stats and IM clients, but be able to use Twitter through it, and do other great communications with “Gamer” focused clients like XLink Kai Evolution, TeamSpeak, or Ventrilo. The addition of functionality for a Tablet PC is just great! Being a Tablet owner, I love this. Though I type really fast, it’s sometimes fantastic to be able to express myself through a drawing or two. There’s even a new Skinning engine that makes it much more flexible for skin designers. It looks like the Meebo folks are looking at some pretty serious competition, as well as the possibility that IMified might see some overlap.
Hopefully, I’ll get my fingers on an opening for the Alpha/Beta of the product and I’ll be able to do my own more closely written assessment for you guys!
Twitter (the craziest good idea in social networking) has certainly become one of the most rapidly growing Web 2.0 applications I have ever seen. There is such a flurry around it – and yes, I use it, too. You can see my twitterificness (not to be confused with the twitterific Mac application) under my cartoon mugshot in the sidebar. Well, for the fun of it, I was playing around the web, and found the Twittervision “thingy” on Twittermap.com. It’s a pretty cool mash-up of Twitter and Google Maps. It’s sort of funny, really. You’re basically watching messages pop-up all over a Google World Map with little Twitter pictures and the quotes that people have to say. I’ve found it quite amusing.
So, if you have nothing to do for a little bit of time and want to randomly try to make friends from all over the World, then this is definitely a good place for it! It’s really a hoot!
Developers have been playing with alpha/betas for a while and there are some pretty amazing demos out there, already. Ryan Stewart, over at TechCrunch, wrote a full article in February about some of the better Apollo demos. Really neat stuff like Virtual Ubiquity‘s Word Processor app, and Intelisea (which is a frontend for controlling a yacht!)Â - totally built in Flex 2.
This is all still kind of “pre-release” ready stuff, but it’s truly a new paradigm for how applications might be developed in the future. I think we’ll start to see some really interesting software come out of this SDK, and it may actually make Web 2.0 some interesting, rather than just a marketing machine of developer toys without actual functionality.
The software developer kit can be downloaded at adobe.com/go/apollo.
With my recent talk of IMing and saving the world, I thought “what about saving myself from forgetting what I need to do?” Well, that’s where “IMified.com” comes in. They’ve come up with this “Beta” product that allows you to get instant access to an increasing number of web applications, right through your IM client. If you have an IM client on your mobile phone, you have that much more instant access to your stuff. Like your calendar, your to-dos, all sort of GTD (that’s Getting Things Done for you guys that don’t know) on the fly!
They’re a self-funded organization that’s small and just launched about a month ago. They’ve been developing their list of connectivity through many API’s to many other productivity tools, such as Basecamp, Google Calendar, Blogger, Moveable Type, WordPress, and 30boxes.
IMified is just a buddy you add to your IM list on MSN, GoogleTalk, or AIM (they used to do Yahoo, but it’s currently offline). You communicate to the source applications through your IM client after you set up the source applications in your account, which you create on their site. Now, they claim to be very secure (considering you’re giving up your precious credentials for your personal stuff) by using AES 128 bit encryption and they keep their servers in a secure data center in the Rocky Mountains. you decide if you feel safe.
I have an account, and have my little “IMified” buddy staring me in the face at this very moment. It’s pretty neat, really, but for me it doesn’t work out as well. I happen to have a PDA Phone, so all of my stuff is with me (and secured) all of the time. But, if you’re using a regular phone, or have other methods of getting to your stuff, you can set up a nifty account with these guys. Besides, right now,Â the service is currently free and there’s no catch (at least, not yet), but they’re planning to make it a paid service.
Those who follow my blog know that I love automation, especially things that can be done in the home. I most especially love when something is quick and easy to install. It’s not a lazy side of me, but it’s something that proves to me that the product manufacturer is trying to really make it possible for anyone to do; this is key.
At least a year ago, I had threatened to write an article about a couple of home automation companies. My position in the article – which I got as far as drafting – was to get information from each of the companies about their decisions to use specific development technologies for their solutions. I thought that this would be, well, informative – for the geek and the possible “user.” Well, needless to say I think I disappointed both companies by never releasing the article, but I do want to talk about it now. But not before I cover the more general topic of Home Automation.
I believe that, even after a year, there’s still plenty to understand about the differences in implementation, but moreover, what might make more sense for your own implementation. So, here’s the deal: The companies I’m reviewing are:
But that’s not all I’m going to tell you. Part One of this article will deal with the possibilities of Home Automation products (both software and hardware), and then Part Two will more deeply cover the technology solutions I just mentioned, but from more of a software engineer/developer’s point of view.
Sony recently announced that on March 23rd, they would be giving PS3 owners a chance to help researchers come with with drugs for Alzheimer’s. The study includes simulations for learning how proteins fold into the clumps that plague the brains of those with Alzheimer’s. With enough gamers playing with this stuff, it could dramatically improve the information gathered from those simulations.Â
Many of us know what Alzheimer’s is, and though my blog article title might be a little tongue-in-cheek, there’s nothing funny about this debilitating disease and I honestly don’t take it lightly, as I have family suffering from this very thing. Those who know me understand that I often use humor with the discussion of many things, but I certainly don’t take health and helping others as not serious: it’s all very serious to me.
So, now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s talk about the tech. Think about the potential for solving so many medical issues by inserting technology, into games – even the fun ones – which could assist in calculations for simulations. Honestly, it’s not even necessary to be completely cognizant of the process being performed; using bits of “game data” while users are playing could increase compute cycles for medical simulations. Of course, I don’t advocate not letting people know this is going on, but it CAN occur in the background and create huge GRID networks for scientific study; which is what the Folding @ Home distributed computing project from Stanford is intended to do.Â Sure, there’s always potential for some of this stuff to fall into the wrong ideals, but it is certainly a way to better the world, too.
The problem this is solving the fact that even the fastest computers can’t perform all of the necessary calculations to achieve certainÂ answers quickly. The key is the combined effort – the smallest amounts – from many different sources creatingÂ tangible solutions.
Right now FAH includes about 200,000 computers and has slashed simulation times from 30 years for a mid-size protein to two or three years, says biophysicist Vijay Pande of Stanford University, who began the project in 2000. But “there’s a certain point where adding more computers doesn’t help anymore,” he says, because some parts of the simulation cannot be broken down any further.
Sony believes this is where they will win the day. They believe their Cell Broadband Engine Architecture (CBEA) is the key to unlocking critical pieces of the simulation.
Pande says that he will concentrate on simulating amyloid-beta, deposits of which are found in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s. His goal, he adds, is to identify a drug candidate for Alzheimer’s disease that pharmaceutical companies will want to evaluate. “I would really love to say a year or two from now [that] we’ve made a fundamental advance in Alzheimer’s,” he says.
Turning the work of years into months is the true benefit of this type of architecture. Relying on many interested parties to assist in such wonderful understanding and a huge undertaking is another, though. According to Richard Marks, a senior researcher at Sony, the FAH software will be able to be switched on and off at a users request and can run during idle system time, such as in-between games. Making it a little fun was part of their design, as well, and they created the simulations to mimic some qualities of real games such as realtime zoom, folding, and rotations of the simulations. Their hope is that people will have a compelling reason to do this, and I hope they’re right.
How could you not want to play a game that truly has the ability to save lives? The truth is, not to sound cliche, the life you save very well may be your own. So, if you’ve got a PS2, trade it up for a PS3 and lend a helping hand toÂ science!
[Source data: Scientific American]
The other day, while I was singed into Windows Live Messenger, I noticed this little tab. It said: “I’M”, so I clicked it. It told me about this great new campaign that the Live Messenger system is doing to help share some of the wealth. It’s really simple to do, too.
Basically, you go into your profile and type in one of the following codes to have part of the Windows Live Messenger ad revenue support one of these particular causes:
|Â Text Code||Â Cause|
|*red+u||American Red Cross|
|*bgca||Boys & Girls Clubs of America|
|*nafÂ||National AIDS Fund|
|*mssoc||National Multiple Sclerosis Society|
|*komen||Susan G. Komen for the Cure|
|*unicef||The US fund for UNICEF|
All of these different causes are important, and there are many more out there. I hope that more organizations can get on board and start seeing some of the trickle of the funds coming from ad revenue like this.
I suggest you “sign up” and get your little I’M next to your name!
Looks like it’s finally happened, the geniuses at NAVTEQ, the number one leading provider of mappingÂ data for GPS devices and services (you know like all that stuff you see in Google Maps?), March 15th, 2007 announced a “new Visual Content suite” that will allow for three-dimensional models of cities and major landmarks. Whoa! This could be so cool. Imagine, all of your digital mapping (which is pretty much how it’s all headed) being in 3-D, and when you’re doing your turn-by-turns in your car with your GPS software, everything looks just like what you’re seeing. Now THAT would just be mind-blowing the first time around, wouldn’t it?
I’ve been wondering if everyone uses NAVTEQ’s capabilities or if it’s just the big guys. From what I understand, it’s everyone. I haven’t dug into the roots of this stuff, so I’m not sure if NAVTEQ is “owned” by the government, or provides services to them and the commercial market. The relationship would be interesting to understand. I do know that NAVTEQ also supplies and small bunch of the same services to Windows Live Local – which I think looks pretty amazing, too. As simple as it may seem, I think the IP location that it does is kind of neat, too. Obviously, it’s not dead-on, but it ballpark’s really well.
Overall, I’m glad to see that all of this technology is moving forward in reproducing a more realistic map of the world. Just imagine how great this type of thing is for kids learning their geography. Kids can be in a classroom and take a full walking tour somewhere famous that’s nowhere near them. At some point, full photorealistic images will replace the three-dimensional models and it will be an astounding learning experience for everyone. Isn’t this what we’ve been talking about for the past 25 years or so? I’m glad it’s finally starting to trickle into the public sector.
I got to thinking about the benefits of teleworking (or telecommuting, if you prefer). Many times we look at this subject with the positives of who gains what. Companies see the benefits being lesser office crowding, fewer required parking spaces, desk sharing, and energy savings based on few people drawing power, heat, air conditioning, and water. This saves the companies in a number of great ways.
The employee benefits, too, right? You get to stay home, in your bunny slippers, not take a shower, have great coffee, and keep your dogs happy. You’re home more for your family, and you’re just more comfortable and can get more done, right? I’m sure this is all true; that and you save on the energy costs of driving your vehicle, too. You’re thinking, this is great! I agree, it is great!
Here’s where I see a problem: What about the energy we use in our homes when we’re working there? Think about it: you’re in your house, right? So, you’re using your lights, your heat, and energy to supply your laptop. You’re also using your broadband connection to support your VPN. Granted, there are a few benefits to this too: you can claim your home office on your taxes if you’re on a real telework schedule (by the percentage of square feet of your overall house size, if you need to know), and your company might even pay for part of your broadband solution.
But think about this: now that you’re home, you’ve probably got your 60″ HD Plasma screen on while watching CNN. You’ve probably got multiple lights on in your house (unlike that one high-efficiency desk lamp at work). If it’s winter, and it’s cold where you are, you might have a gas fireplace that’s probably on. Maybe your stereo is on, your using your water, and boy isn’t easy to run to the restroom more often ’cause you’ve been drinking more liquids (which are good for you, so long as it’s not alcohol). …and hey, you get a lunch break, let’s run out to the local restaurant and maybe meet up with some friends; so, now we’re driving.
Here’s my thing: I love telework. My question is this: has anyone figured out if this all really saves any energy? I’d love to see the numbers, ’cause I’m a stats geek like that. What else could be factored in to figure out the actual savings and by whom? Who gets the better end of the deal, the company or the employee?
What’s your take on the whole thing? I gotta know!