To Glass or Not To Glass

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google glassBy now, you surely know what Google Glass is all about. A wearable computer that sits on your face with a viewing screen over one eye, a high-res camera, a micro-thin touch-pad, and equal amounts of supporters and detractors. Back in April, the Glass was made available to the general public even though it’s technically still in a sort-of prototype phase. The wife and I have been talking on and off about my getting one since the first round of beta testing ended, and the conversation has once again come around to the possibility of owning the somewhat controversial device.

 

Maybe you’re in the same position as I am; you’re a tech geek like me, you’ve been into programming and cool gadgets since you were a little kid, you have a significant other who is patient, supportive, and understanding of your passions…but not so sure that spending $1,500 (plus tax) on wearable technology. That’s the chief concern over getting a Google Glass. The price. It’s extremely high. Furthermore, it’s not yet fully functional to the height of its capacities. But that’s somewhat attractive, this phase of the introduction to the marketplace offers software developers and programmers such as myself the capability to design applications and other uses for the device. Get in on the ground floor, so to speak. Does that translate into a revenue stream down the line? Perhaps, nothing is for certain here; but you never know.

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The App That Lets You Skip Out On The Check

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coverYet another step in the full scale elimination of paper money, we now have Cover. It’s a dining app, that offers mobile payment of your dinner bill. Apparently the popularity of payment apps offered by banks like Chase and, obviously, Paypal, which let you send money with a few keystrokes, has extended to dining in restaurants. With Cover, gone are the days of finishing your meal and then waiting for the busy server to get back to you with the check.

 

Granted, I can’t remember the last time I was sitting at our table wondering where when the bill was going to arrive. Of course, there are busy nights at some very popular restaurants, but paying for the meal isn’t often a bone of contention where I’m concerned. Maybe that’s why the app has launched exclusively in New York City and now, San Francisco. There must be a lot of fine dining establishments in those cities where patrons are complaining about slow service. But I digress: the app has actually been a big hit in the Big Apple, which led to its recent roll out in San Fran. (more…)

Backpacks Have Gone High Tech

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Usually when we talk about new hot technology, we’re often thinking about the newest smartphone device or some kind of Silicon Valley breakthrough designed to revolutionize our way of life. For the most part, that’s what I cover on this blog. There has been no shortage of high-tech devices, apps, and websites that I’ve discussed and I’m sure there will be exponentially more cool stuff to come.

 

pack I bought that perfectly holds my laptop and other gadgetsBut today, I’m talking about something that doesn’t have lightning speed, connectivity, or enormous memory. You don’t even need a battery or a charger and you can’t stream music or HD video from it.

 

Though you could use it to carry all of these types of items and more. We’re talking about backpacks today and I’ve got some pretty freakin cool ones that you’re going to want to check out. Military and tactical style backpacks to be more specific.

 

So what’s so great about them? These backpacks have been built with soldiers in mind, which means they’re durable as hell, water-resistant, and designed to keep you organized. How do they do all that, you ask. Many of them come with a large amount of compartments, usually one or two main areas and then some secondary smaller pockets in and around the bag itself.

 

These are all different sizes and meant to hold items of corresponding lengths and widths. So if you need a place to stow your keys or wallet, no need to stick them in the large main area, you have other storage options to make them easily accessible.

 

Many of these backpacks are also equipped with compression straps, which are there to tighten up your load and keep a low profile on the bag. Just cinch them up and it will compress the load so it stays compact on your back. There are also ergonomic, padded shoulder straps as well as chest and waist straps which are there to help keep the load on your back evenly distributed, so there isn’t too much weight being carried by any one area of the body.

 

Most tactical backpacks also have something called MOLLE webbing. This is a strap system that is situated around the exterior of the bag and along the shoulder straps that allows you to add accessories and extra pockets to your backpack. In case the six or seven compartments you can find on many of these types of bags aren’t enough to store all of your gear.

 

If you want to learn more about tactical backpacks, I urge you to track down this website. Click that link to find out what’s available and how many different options there are to choose from when you’re looking for a good backpack.

Yes, You Do Need Tech with That

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running shoeI’ve been having a disagreement recently with my wife about whether or not we, as a society, should be incorporating tech into non tech devices. When I say tech I’m specifically referring to electronics. Take for example the Nike running shoe that tracks your route, weight balance, speed, and more. I argue that this is a great use of electronics. It can help you become a better runner, get in better shape, and run safely. My wife argues that it’s unnecessary and will take away from the joy of running. Running, you see, is something she does to clear her mind, she’s not training for a marathon. I may have called her a Luddite at some point during our discussion.

It looks like this is an argument neither of us are going to win so I thought I would spend a little time thinking about everyday items that have embraced new technology for the better. I’ve already written about google glasses but here are some other cool areas.

Disney Magic Bands

As a father, I’m dreading the day we make our first trip to Disneyland. The crowds, the kids, the noise, the lines. Actually, scratch the lines part. Disney has developed an ingenious band that lets you know when it’s getting close to your time to get on a ride so you can go and do other things while you wait. Disney has gotten rid of lines!

Tactical Watches

My dad was a watch guy and through him I’ve become a watch guy too. Although, we have very different styles. He likes the classic analog aviator look while I myself am partial to tactical watches. They do everything from read the temperature, to track GPS coordinates, to measure the barometric pressure. Awesome!

Segways

Ok, I know they’re over 10 years old but I love these things. And yes, I know everyone who rides them looks like a huge dork. But that doesn’t mean they’re not super cool. They use some pretty advanced gyroscope technology to stay upright and maneuver on a dime. I’ve only ridden them while on vacation but I would love to have one for my own someday.

BONUS: A Pan that will tell you when your food is burning

This one doesn’t exist yet but I really wish it did. I’ve burned too many chicken breasts trying to cook them on a stove top. I want a frying pan will tell me when the temp gets too high and my food starts to burn. MAKE IT HAPPEN!

Facebook’s Newest Secret Weapon is Listening Closely

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facebook appsIf you’re a fan of a certain band, a TV show, or movie, then Facebook wants to help you connect with like-minded individuals to talk about your interests. They’re developing an interesting little fingerprinting tool that you’d have to activate (it’ll be off by default) which works in a similar manner as the hashtags that people add to their posts. But in the case of this new addition, it’s an audio detection feature that is meant to help the social network compete directly with Twitter and Tumblr, both of which are often the preferred forums for discussing all the hottest films and television shows.

 

The difference here is the tags themselves…or lack thereof. I know a lot of people decried the increased use of hashtags on Facebook over the past year or two; before recently users would add a hashtag to their post and it didn’t do anything. But since they had become popular on Twitter, Facebook decided to enable their use to create a trending apparatus that was almost identical. Now, Facebook, ever the innovators, has developed a new twist on the old tag. Their new identification tool would no longer require you to type in something like #TaylorSwift or #AgentsofSHIELD, instead push a button on your Facebook mobile app and it will automatically listen to whatever is on in the background and identify it, much the same way Shazam works.

 

If it’s a song, the feature will post a 30 second preview of the song on your page. A TV show, it will identify the name of the series, the episode and which season it aired. For movies, it will give the title in your status update. Facebook is working with major online streaming services like Spotify and Rdio, among others, to offer the music previews for your friends to hear. When all of this identifying is done, it’ll link your updates with comments from other users who are enjoying the same entertainment – just like the standard hashtag.

 

Facebook just announced their new fingerprinting tool today via the company’s blog, but it’s not quite ready for prime time just yet. They’re saying it’ll be available in “the coming weeks” (which in tech speak could mean anywhere from literally a couple of weeks to sometime a year from now), and Facebook conceivably has big plans for the new feature. Otherwise, why develop the thing? In this case, it’s about more advertising revenue (isn’t it always with things like this?) The tool would make tagging posts entirely effortless and automatic, without the need for typing in the # symbol anymore; but even more important than that, it gives the company access to television advertising money. It would make all the sense in the world for Facebook to get advertisers to budget for ads on both TV and on the website since users would be combining both mediums at the same time. Using Facebook to ID and post a status update during the airing of an episode of Scandal or Grey’s Anatomy on their television.

 

You sure have to hand it to the folks at Facebook, they’re always coming up with some new way to skin a cat and make beaucoup bucks doing it. This new tagging feature could certainly be a game-changer, if it works correctly. When things like this hit the market, I’m the guy who always try to stump it. I’ve flummoxed Shazam on more than a couple of occasions…but they’re not Facebook. The social network has a diverse, worldwide clientele and if this neat little gizmo isn’t able to reach deep to ID even the most obscure music or movies; then people may not use it. I know I wouldn’t. But let’s see, we have some time to wait still.

The App That’s Been Heaven Sent

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russian blueQuite literally, it might appear at first.

 

There’s nothing tougher than losing a beloved pet; and when you’re a child, it’s utterly devastating as we experienced here recently with the death of our cat, Emma. It was pretty bad and Riley took it the hardest, but at her age, it’s like losing your best friend. I mean she loved that cat and our daughter was clearly Emma’s favorite human in the house. I’ll spare you the details of the trauma, but let’s just say Emma got very sick and she had to be put down.

 

I hate to say this, but I’d have almost preferred the cat had run away or been hit by a car. I know, that’s a horrible thing to say. But try to explain to your daughter that you have to put the cat down, you’re essentially killing your child’s one true best buddy in her entire young life. It was awful, just an absolute nightmare. Plus we loved the cat too, and didn’t want to see the poor thing suffering the way she had been for far too long.

 

Since then Riley’s been handling it as well enough as a girl her age could be. But we had a little help. There’s a new app out called PetMatch. Parents: if your pet passes away, suddenly or not, this is a vital tool to have at your disposal when young children are part of the picture. It’s currently available on iPhone exclusively, but for all the tears and heartbreak that it has helped assuage, it might just be one of the best selling points I’ve ever seen for switching to Apple’s device.

 

Here’s how the app works: it’s based around an image analysis algorithm that uses any picture you enter into it (in this case, the face of a cat or dog) and then it finds similar or identical images from a database of pets that are available for adoption from shelters or rescue organizations. You then choose the one you like most and the app will put you in touch with the folks who have that animal. Like any recognition software, a clear picture is absolutely essential. If the software can’t get a good image then the results will be corrupted.

 

But it’s pretty easy to get a workable picture into the app. This newest incarnation of visual search has been under development for awhile, and the company behind it, SuperFish, has been in the game since 2006. Of course, this app is great for just about any other reason beyond replacing your deceased pet. Some people may not want to replace their lost kitty or doggie with the exact same version, and some may just love a certain breed of animal. It’s really up to you why you use the app, but for us; it helped a heartbroken family and a very sad little girl find a new best friend.

 

We now have a very beautiful 2 year old Russian Blue named Anastasia…or Anna for short.

The Weird and Wacky Museums of the U.S.

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Mashable.comweird museums has posted a cool article about the ultimate cross-country road trip, in which you could visit 26 of the strangest museums in the U.S. I love little pieces like this because I’m always looking for new travel ideas both here and abroad. Checking out their list of choices, I recognized more than a couple along their route and that got me thinking; why not write about the ones I’ve actually visited.

 

Whoever compiled their list did a pretty great job; some of these museums sound like Bucket List material, while the others that I’ve visited are each truly unique and worth the drive whether you live nearby or you’re just passing through. There seems to be a museum for just about anything these days, but these locations demand a mandatory visit at some point in your life.

 

The Mutter Museum – Philadelphia, PA

 

Have you ever wondered what Albert Einstein’s brain looked like? Well they’ve got a portion of it on display at the Mutter. Billed as one of only two places in the world where you can check it out; this museum features all kinds of anatomical curiosities, including a Civil War Era amputation kit, microscopic images of dead human tissue and a collection of 139 actual human skulls that show the evolution of cranial anatomy through Europe. Fun stuff!

 

 The Poe Museum – Richmond, VA

 

If you’re a fan of the works of Edgar Allan Poe, then this is the place for you. There are manuscripts, letters, all kinds of Poe memorabilia, even first editions of some of his most popular works. Immerse yourself in the world of Poe at this museum, housed in the oldest free-standing house in the city of Richmond.

 

 The Mustard Museum – Middleton, WI

 

5,624 different mustards from every state and over 70 countries. A museum of mustard. Founded by guy who was so distraught over the Red Sox losing the 1986 World Series, the mustard in his local supermarket started talking to him. Next thing you know, he’s collecting them and soon enough he’s got his own museum dedicated solely to the popular condiment. Make sure you check out the mustard vending machine before you leave.

 

 Historic Auto Attractions – Roscoe, IL

 

A museum of cars. Old cars, newer cars. Each exhibit has a very specific theme and some seriously cool wheels. There’s a JFK exhibit showing the cars used in the fateful motorcade on November of 1963, Gangsterland vehicles from the Roaring 20′s, old NASCAR vehicles from back in the day and movie and TV cars including a couple of Batmobiles, the DeLorean from Back to the Future, and the Griswolds’ Family Truckster from National Lampoon’s Vacation. Among many others!

 

 The International UFO Museum – Roswell, NM (Where else??!)

 

This place helps Roswell protect its reputation as Ground Zero for anything otherworldly. A museum dedicated entirely to the Roswell UFO Incident of July 1947. Visitors can guess what really happened back then, because the museum offers no solid answers. Only “evidence” to let you make up your own mind about the truth!

 

 Museum of Western Colorado: Dinosaur Journey – Fruita, CO

 

Sure there are plenty of fossils and facts to check out but the real attraction here is the collection of animatronic dinosaurs. Things get pretty grisly as the dinos tear each other limb from limb, while others shamble and shake peacefully for your amazement. Jurassic Park it ain’t, but it’s certainly cool nonetheless!

 

The International Banana Museum – Mecca, CA

 

First a mustard museum, now a banana museum. This tribute to yellow kitsch houses anything and everything shaped, colored, and featuring the famous yellow fruit. You’ll be sure to see a few monkeys hanging around as well, and you be sure to have a seat at their Banana Bar to enjoy chocolate covered bananas, banana ice cream, banana shakes, even banana flavored soda.