Friday, October 30, 2020

Internet Joins Together What Covid19 Divides

While Covid-19 divides us, internet is bringing us together.

Indeed Covid-19 is the driving force now behind the growth in the use of computers.

That was brought home to me by a phone call from a friend in another retirement community.

A resident there had resisted use of computers all together until recently she could not get to a doctor's appointment without having a cell phone to be notified when she could enter the office.

The question from the other community had to do with the least cost cell phone plan.

So with Covid-19 it is very difficult to get on without computers and internet.

New users actually benefit by not needing to unlearn the old ways of using computers.

Like Windows.  No need for that complexity anymore.

Recent advances have made the iPhone an iPad even more easy to use than before.

Apple has now concentrated on easing navigation.

The new iPhone and iPad smart stack makes it easier than ever to get around and find what you need. And the latest iPad comes in at just $249.

Not only that, but all the features of online TV come easily to these devices.

WatchNews Pro lets me watch all the networks for just $5 a month.

Full subscriptions to NBC and CBS are just about the same price each but extend access.

Apple News gives me access to a huge bundle of publications for $10 a month.

Then there are plenty of advertising based sources of movies at no cost at all.

Computer shopping cuts the cost of going to stores.

Email and video meetings are free.

I really don't need cable anymore.

So now computing and internet are finally coming into their own for everyone.

Not sure how to use all these new tools? Just learn how to search for tutorials on internet and especially YouTube.

And don't forget to forget the old ways.

Oh, except the library, now online at home for all your books and media, even read to you out loud.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Lighting our Way Ahead

In the old days, before covid-19, lights in our apartment were either 60 or 100 watt and were left on on dark days.

Now almost all our lights are controllable with voice via Echo.

They turn on automatically to daylight with breakfast and by evening with warmer color temperatures as we need them

At sunset the lights come on in our living room and dining area.

At bedtime the lighting switch is automatically to the bedrooms at a low level.

No longer do we need to think about and abuse the use of power for lighting.

Mostly it was done with Wi-Fi smart bulbs and cheap switches.

No more changing bulbs as the new ones last 20 years.

Better Hearing with Better Sound

Staying away from exposure to covid-19 plus also a renovation of our living quarters both launched me on a pursuit of better sound.

As good as they were I needed to do away with old bookshelf speakers which required an amplifier, along with wires.

I needed a small and portable and unobtrusive solution. Sound is better as you get closer to the source.

Technology has newly offered some remarkable improvements and what can be had at a low price.

The Echo Dot series 3 was a starter.  These dropped as low as $19 a piece as the new series for was introduced.

Not only do these connect you to Amazon Echo but they are valuable without Amazon Echo

They can be mounted with an adapter directly on the wall in multiple places.

They can receive Bluetooth or send Bluetooth to other speakers.

The Oontz series from Cambridge Soundworks are also small and portable to where you are listening.  I find their sound remarkable, and as good or better than a larger system much further away.

Even smaller and still remarkable are tiny Fiodio resistant speakers  Modek F-130.

We're talking about very small and very low priced technology.

You really don't need the big bulky equipment of the past, however good it was.

And it costs very little to try it out, less than $30.

So where does this all get me?

I can go anywhere in the apartment and to any speaker and access any of the sources of music or audio directly.

That includes everything from my old digitized 78s and 33s plus everything from Amazon and Pandora and Google and also have any of my books read to me.

The highest quality sound at the least possible cost.

Monday, October 5, 2020

Speakers and Speaking are Changing

 I pride myself on keeping up-to-date on technology.

I was busy using speech recognition technology in industry 30 years ago.

However some of the most recent achievements got ahead of me.

Remember those big speakers we used to use with hi-fi systems. I still have a set of KLH speakers which are still really great.

But better tech is here with Alexa and with Hi Google.

Both have simple microphone and speaker system which plug directly into a wall outlet.

Both are unobtrusive and handy and cheap.    The latest versions have very good audio and can be placed near where are you need them.

No need anymore for the old bulky hi-fi unless you have a lot of space you don't need for anything else.

And now they can be controlled entirely with your voice.

Friday, October 2, 2020

Wiring Nightmares

Computers and technology create more and more needs to plug in more and more devices into our old electrical outlets.  In the old days we had a few outlets in a room and that was it.

Our apartment is not that old but it still has only one outlet in each wall, usually in the middle.

One of those outlets is switched, which makes it undesirable for many uses.

So a single outlet was needed to service a TV, a cordless phone, a modem, a router, wireless headphones, power for various TV sticks, and a power recliner which has two plugs, not to mention an Amazon Echo.
So nowadays you too may need to power six or more devices from a single outlet.

That can be complicated by an outlet in the middle of a wall where furniture is usually placed in the way.
I prefer outlets in corners at about chair height for easy access.  I required that at work as a management information director.

Having also been director of a company which was accredited as a hospital, I also prefer nothing on the floor, which accreditation mandated. That avoids electrical exposures and also infection control problems.
But the way as technology has developed, over the years there's a tendency in homes to add surge bars and then plug in surge bars to surge bars and create a disaster.  It is a very bad idea.

So, facing a renovation, I needed to figure out a better way.

My first effort was to eliminate plugins wherever possible. That meant doing away with smart home hubs for smart home switches and bulbs.  I switched to smart bulbs and switches.

It was also desirable to plan for plugging Amazon Echo directly into an outlet as opposed to using a cord. The device hangs directly on the plug.

So now I need an outlet adapter which plugged into the hot receptacle to provide six outlets.

I went through several such devices until I found one which could accommodate the sometimes bulky plugs associated with various devices.

The best solution was a Phillips adapter which provides plugins at the side and on the face along with slots for charging a cell phone and tablet or laptop.

Since I would be out of the apartment during a short renovation, I needed to label power plugs for the appropriate device, to avoid getting them confused.

I picked up a Dymo computer labeler which spits out labels quickly.

The end result was that I could accommodate nearly everything off the ground directly from the outlet.
Where I needed to plug more than six items in, I added a surge bar on the shelf or table.

I needed to throw out all the old surge bars which could only accommodate a very narrow plug, and replace them with newer surge bars which offer plenty of space.

One such surge bar is used for my modem, router, and ethernet hub which then plugs into a remote switch which reboots the system remotely.

That makes it easy to restart the system after an electrical outage, which happens often in a storm..
More frequently our cable goes out in a storm, and I need to rely on internet to watch TV.

In doing all this I realized that the future is likely to offer outlets with many widely spaced receptacles and more devices which plug in without an extension cord like the Amazon Echo and Google Home.
That will free up shelf and floor space for everybody.

The side effect of getting everything off the floor is that our Robovac does not get snarled up in wires.
I no longer need to place something in the way so that the Robovac does not get into trouble.  That was a nuisance.