Sunday, May 14, 2017

First Time Ever I saw this Face

New profile picture - such a tough decision! .  Do I really want a face that can be identified, or do I want to make it difficult for the facial recognition software to locate me in all the unauthorized posts of me around the Internet that I don't control?  With the help of photo editing software, I have created these candidates for my new Internet face. 

   Face in Outer Space                     Me as Galadriel the                           Hip to be Square
Terrible in LOTR

Or maybe just an emoji?  A smiley face? 

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Surviving Camp Google I/O

For the 2nd year Google I/O has been advertised as an outdoor tech festival.    The technology information is sure be the usual awesome.  But unlike Moscone, there could be logistics challenges to finding clean bathrooms, hot food, and a place to sit.
Google I/O Survival Kit
The Good
Shoreline Amphitheatre is a concert venue, so the concert at Google I/O 2016 was awesome.   Plenty of snacks to go around, great music, and lots of toys that light up means the crowd is rocking.   The keynote was also similarly comfortable except for the lawn seats which were baked extra crispy by midday sun. 
Anyone who has taken a family to an outdoor festival, or amusement park knows locating these in a timely fashion is not trivial.   Unlike Disneyland which has bathrooms with stained glass and working towel dispensers, the Shoreline Amphitheater is typical outdoor venue with concrete floored bathrooms with communal faucets in a circle at the center of the room.     Towels will usually run out by mid-afternoon though the events continue on into the evening.   
If cleanliness is important to you, bring hand sanitizer.   The executive portable restrooms brought in for the event are VERY nice – roomy with working locks on the doors and abundant soap and paper products.    This year Google has marked the locations of restrooms on the site map in the app. 
The venue is basically a parking lot with tents and temporary building set up.     There are recharging stations around the site, and the attendees cluster around them like a modern version of the campfire.  While jockeying for space on the power strip you can get some good conversations going.  If you forget a cable, you may get a loan from a fellow developer.   Those of us who brought cables with both micro USB and Thunderbolt connectors that could be used simultaneously were very popular.   Also if you bring a grounded 3-outlet tap, you can get almost anyone to let you share their outlet AND help a friend.
The smartest thing is to carry spare batteries with USB slots to re-charge your phone and/or tablet.    Once you get back to the hotel you will need to re-charge those, so bring a power strip with USB outlets also.     
You will use your device heavily – the schedule is in an online app, and the updates appear there.  At least half the schedule will be announced after the keynote, because Google wants to keep the mystery about the new stuff.  Slack channels are the best source for up-to-date info.    You also will be checking weather conditions.  Expect your battery to drain quickly.   Power locations are also (this year) marked on the site map in the app. 
Feeding 8000 people without a staff of waiters and kitchen personnel is a challenge.   The 2016 solution was lots of cold sandwiches and a few salads for lunch, and doughnuts for breakfast.   Coffee was at a premium.      A bigger challenge was trying to find out where the food was being served.   If you didn’t find a serving location fast enough, you got no food.  Not poor selection, nothing. 

Food at the nighttime events involved 45 minute lines with small portions.  (6 food trucks for thousands of people couldn’t work out any other way.)   Unlike downtown, you can’t pop across the street for an alternative.   
According to I/O 2017 app, this year there is a centrally located food court of reasonable size (125 feet long)  marked on the site map.  For the first day plan to eat breakfast at your hotel.   Plenty of snacks will be available from re-fueling stations around the venue from my favorite food groups: gummy bears, energy bars, dried fruit, and chips.  There is plenty of water.  
You can always grab dinner at Jack-In-The Box on the way home.   Our Lyft driver was very accommodating. 
For 2016 within the amphitheater seating for all the attendees was no issue.   Outside the amphitheater it was a challenge.  If you got lunch, there were 10-20 picnic tables, some scattered wooden and string chairs, and curbs.     Either you ate standing up, sat on the grass, or sat on the parking lot.    At 79 degrees, the asphalt is very hot in the sun. 

Unless you want to carry a camp chair, dress to sit on the ground.   Hopefully the Food Court (see above) will have more seating options.

There are significant hills on the site.  To enter the site there is 525 foot walkway from the closest parking or drop off, with a 30 foot drop.   No benches were provided.  One of the largest bathroom facilities is at the top of a 250 foot incline with 25 foot rise.    Several handicapped portable facilities were available on the parking lot where the breakout sessions were held. 
Once on the site the parking lot where the temporary buildings for talks, labs and office hours is flat.   The power cables are all covered to allow wheelchairs to roll over them, and ramps available to access the main amphitheater and the buildings.  The pathways are all concrete or asphalt. 
There is reserved handicapped seating in the talks.   The 2016 non-Google event staff was reluctant to allow any movement of the attached chairs to accommodate mobility issues such as crutches, canes, a raised leg to reduce swelling, etc. 
The distance from the amphitheater to the breakout sessions ranges from 500 feet to the closest and 1200 feet to the farthest.  (Moscone Center is 480 feet from outside wall to outside wall.)   Once on the parking lot the distance between breakout sessions was typically of the conference rooms in Moscone.  If you have mobility issues, you will probably plan your sessions around what you can get to that is closely grouped.  Moving between the amphitheater and breakout locations is similar to leaving a building and walking 1-2 long city blocks uphill or downhill to another building.
What to Wear
Dress in layers.  As Google helpfully listed on the I/O attending site, the temperatures will range from 49-75.  There are no hotels within walking distance, and no lockers to stash stuff you may not need for the entire day.    Plan to sit on the ground, walk a lot, and carry a 5-10 pound pack with your technology, jackets, water bottle, sunscreen, and other necessities. 

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Why is this a Microsoft secret ? Or how to unlink your Microsoft OneDrive account in Windows 8.1

Usually I can find most of the technical help I need for simple stuff on the Internet.   My recent epic fail in unlinking a Onedrive account prompted this post.   The answers I found ranged from "why do you want to do that" to "you can't do that" to "here is a complicated way to link multiple accounts to do something similar to that, but not really."   Of course there was also the usual name-calling and topic-hijacking you see all over help forums.  

Some of the worse hits for the search were the Microsoft documentation pages.  They have a standard format which involves small print, over-complicated explanations for simple tasks, and lots of requests for feedback to ignore.  I mostly read them to find search terms that will find the real answer.

The good news is - it is simple, but Microsoft probably doesn't want you to know that.  The Windows 8 and 10 experience is based on using a Microsoft account to log on to the PC so all the settings can be synced across devices.  Using a "local" account that is not a Microsoft account is strongly discouraged and barely explained.  But for the vast majority of business users who log on using a domain account managed by corporate administrators, logging on to the Windows 8 PC with a Microsoft account is not an option.  

If you want to link a Microsoft account to a local account or domain account:
  1. Hit the Windows 8 key or the logo in the start bar to bring up Windows 8 metro screen
  2. Hit the search icon in the upper right corner, or pull the charms bar up
  3. Type PC settings and hit enter
  4. Click on PC settings, and then choose Accounts.  You will see this screen -->
  5. Click on "Connect to a Microsoft Account"
  6. You will be prompted for what settings you want to sync, and for the userid and password of your Microsoft account
To unlink a Microsoft account from a local account or domain account
  1. Steps 1-4 from above
  2. Screen will show the current linked Microsoft account.  Click on it to unlink.
You're welcome.  

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

My daughter's life is a teen movie

"I hate Leah*," my daughter said, as she got into the car after her math tutoring session.

"Any particular reason?" I asked, trying to keep the mood light.   Teenagers love the drama, and my teenager is no exception.   Maybe talking her through it would clear this all up.   

"She told me I couldn't sit at the lunch table."  

My heart sank.  My freshman daughter had never been good at making friends, and this did not sound good.   "Tell me what happened," I said, hoping for a minor misunderstanding.

"I went to sit at the table I normally sit at with a group.   You know the same ones I have been sitting with, the three sophomores and Leah*  and Parker*, my classmates from middle school."   I nodded and she continued.  "There were two empty seats. One of the sophomores, Asian Girl, said the seat was taken."

"Asian Girl?"  I laughed a little, and she joined in.  "That's a bit of a stereotype.  Don't you know her name?"  My daughter shook her head.  "You're not very good with names."  She shook her head no again.  "Okay, she said the seat was taken.  Did you ask who the seat was taken by?"

"Yes, but she didn't say.  So I asked her again who was sitting there.  She still didn't say.   So I moved over and took the other empty seat."

My mind spun like a Vegas roulette wheel with scenes from classic high school movies flashing before my eyes.   The lunch room is a battlefield where the conflicts are sung out, danced out, and just plain punched out, sometimes accompanied by a food fight.  Anyone and everyone in the school ends up in the cafeteria at some point, so anything can happen.   Getting ejected from a lunch table is so cliché.  Apparently, based on my daughter's experience, it is still happening. 

"Then what?" I prompted. 

"Leah said I couldn't sit there at their table.  So I went and sat by myself and ate lunch."   She paused, then continued, "After I finished I went back to the table and sat down.   They all got up and left."

"Hmm, "  I said, trying to come up with something brilliant, but obviously failing.  "Are you sure they weren't trying to be funny?"  She shook her head no.  "What did Parker say?"   Maybe her other former classmate would be more kind.

"She wasn't there."  My daughter sounded a little sad, but not devastated.  Good, I thought to myself, now I have to get her feel like a hero, not a victim.  How could I put her back in control?   So I started laughing.    My daughter looked at me, a little confused.

"You have got to be kidding me," I said, and kept laughing   "That sounds like a bad teen movie, and a few good ones." She didn't look convinced, but she wasn't crying. "That line is straight out of Mean Girls."   The movie, Mean Girls, is one of our favorites.  It features Lindsay Lohan at her peak, halfway between the cuteness of Parent Trap and totally losing her mind, dignity, and career in her  drug-arrest twenties.    "Did everyone at the table say you couldn't sit there?" 

"No, the boy didn't say anything.   And neither did the other girl I don't like much."  I started laughing again.  "Why is that funny? " she said.   I explained that she only knew the names of half the group, and the rest had just labels.   Perhaps she might relate better to the group if she asked their names.

I also told her the silent ones were typical bystanders, who may not actually support the bullies, but are afraid to say anything even if they don't approve.    It is hard to stand up to a bully, because you might become the next target.   

"So tomorrow, go back and sit at the table.   If they tell you the seat is taken, do what you did today, and ask who."   She nodded, on familiar ground.  "If they tell you that you can't sit at their table, start laughing.   Then tell them they are behaving like the movie, Mean Girls."

"And they are the Mean Girls?"  she asked.  I nodded. "They might say I can't sit there again."

"But at least you haven't run away, and you might get them to laugh about it."  She didn't look convinced. 

"I don't want to be friends with people who treat me like that,"  she said.  Silently, I agreed with her.  Lunchroom Nazis are not my first choice as friends for my daughter.  "At least they don't have a burn book, " my daughter put in, "Or call themselves the Plastics."

"Maybe they are still working on it."  She laughed again, starting to enjoy the comparison.   "Now all l you need to complete the teen movie clichéd plot is an evil cheerleader.  Blonde."  

She thought for a minute and said, "I don't think we have any evil cheerleaders.  Even the blonde ones." 

We started laughing together again, and life was good for the time being. 

*Leah and Parker are pseudonyms.   Even an MG deserves privacy. And there are two sides to every story

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

iVapor Smart Watch - why wait for Apple?

Apple announced their entry to the smart watch market.   The press, predictably enough, oohed and aah-ed about how wonderful the Apple watch was gonna be.   Certain lucky reviewers got the see the future product up close, but did not get to actually manipulate it.   Even without actual hand-on interaction, there was no shortage of glowing reviews of what the watch was going to be like

So why wait for the Apple watch?   Really, why?   I love my Moto, and I am not willing to wait until 2015 to have a smart watch.   I can get significant value from my Android watch in the six months that will make me a more discriminating customer.    Why wait?    Technology is not a lifelong commitment.   I have bought more than one smartphone/media player/laptop/fitness-band.    Besides, it takes Apple three versions to get it right, so I may skip the first two generations.

So until Apple comes late to the party to make their big splash,  I am going to continue enjoy the timer/email/translator/life coach/etc. already on my wrist.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Domo arigato, I love my Moto - banishing the myth of poor battery life

There is no shortage of Android watch reviews from the "professional" reviewers who use the tech for a few days and rush to judgement to grab a headline.   Not every tech relationship is love/hate at first sight.  Like "must-see" TV, it can take time to appreciate and evaluate a device.

I am on my second Android watch.  I have the LG, and that introduced me to the glories of  of Android wear.  I used it to display my boarding pass for a Delta flight.   I read my email on my wrist.  Then my Moto arrived, courtesy of Google I/O.    Since it was my second device, the setup was minimal.  (Pair, and done)  ]

I realized after a few days of wear, that my Moto was more comfortable than my LG.  The round display looks good, and there are no corners/edges that dig into my wrist.   Looking at the display screens of both, I find I can see information just as well on the smaller Moto as the rectangular screen.  

Many of the early reviews complained about the battery life on the Moto.    That tells me the  reviewer  used it less than 2 days.     As you continue to use and charge the Moto, the battery life increases.     After a week of ownership I lost my Moto on a Friday night.   Fifty hours later when I  claimed it from the lost and found, the watch still had 4% of the battery left.

That's better than my smartphones.    

So, my Moto is my Android watch of choice.   I just wish I could get a prettier band instead of the hyper-nerdy black.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Love at first byte - the Surface Pro 3 is my dream PC

In interests of full disclosure, I own 2 iPads, and an iPhone 5s.  There are 2 more iPads and 2 more iPhones in my household.   So obviously, I am no stranger or enemy to Apple.

But I love, love, love, the Surface Pro 3.  Really - it is almost everything I have been dreaming of in a PC - plus a few things I didn't know I was looking for.   That type keyboard/cover with the magnetic connection and the tilt - so easy.   I was reminded of what a pain every other keyboard, including the sleek looking Apple wireless, is to pair up and recharge.  Sooner or later the keyboards run out of juice, and it is never convenient to recharge.   And the connection - no Bluetooth pairing, so it is instantly on.  The magnetic coupling means no fumbling with cables, or matching ports.  You literally slap the keyboard on side of the table and it is ready to run.

I find the spacing on the keys totally typical..   I don't even think about it.  The kickstand on the back of the tablet makes it stand up at the same angle as would my laptop screen.    There is also a touchpad mouse controller on the keyboard, so I don't have to use an external mouse.   Or I can just touch the screen.    The screen is so readable, with that 4:3 aspect ratio.  

The PC has an i7 processor and and 256 gb storage.  That means it runs as fast and stores as much as my previous PC, but weighs half as much.   Considering I was already carrying an ultrabook, I still noticed the reduction in weight.

The only thing I still depend on my iPad mini for is the 3G connection.   If I could put a SIM card in my Surface to connect to the Internet, it would be perfect.   I don't understand why the vendors think that a Windows tablet only needs to connect to Wifi.    Carrying around an external Internet connection is like constantly carrying a power adcord because there the vendor thought because electric power was available no one would need a a battery.  

I also like not having to constantly locate the iPad equivalent to everything I do on the Windows PC.   Until the cloud storage vendors came of age I was frustrated by all the backflips I had to do to find and use files.  Each app may or may not connect to my cloud storage, and might or might not coordinate with the app I wanted to use.

The Surface Pro 3 is simplifying my life.    Windows 8 is still confusing me, but at least I can switch over to the desktop.