various braindroppings. infrequent. some incoherent. Please COMMENT, critique, complain, and send me a link to your blog or photos page. You can also click "follow" and get an email upon addl. posts. thnx!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

My Annual CES Summary 2013


CES 2013   -  Annual CES Summary

I went to the Consumer Electronics Show this year (for the 34th consecutive time), and saw “watt’s new in gadgets lately”.  I usually have someone along, at least for a few of the 4 days, but this time it was just me, cruising the showfloor isles and actually, covering a lot more ground/minute (I kinda liked it). Getting to the show is always a challenge. If you stay at a big hotel on the strip, they have shuttle busses. And I often stay at Circus Circus RV park, but this year I stayed at a motel off the strip with no such shuttles. It was about 1.3 miles from the convention center, and taxi cabs lines after the show can run 45 minutes plus. Plus the long drive in uber traffic. Plus the $20 fare! So, I rode a micro kick scooter! And Wendy made me a backpack for the 9 lb. personal transportation vehicle, which I wore around at the show with no fatigue what so ever! A ‘couple days I found a bike rack and just locked it up. It worked great! – ‘Speaking of personal transportation, there were a few innovative vehicles showing this year. An “around town” electric motorcycle for $3,500.  A 28lb. electric micro scooter (I wish I’d had that for this show!). And even motorized shoes!

The big fanfare was, as always,…Gorgeous TV’s. OLED TV’s (organic light emitting diode)(no, you don’t have to water them, or apply plant food) are the state-of-the-art right now, and “4K” screens have 4 times the resolution of our current, 1080p HDTV’s. –‘There’s no content yet for these screens, but they’re hoping we’ll start to buy some of these very expensive sets ahead of time, and enjoy the built-in upconverters, which do make even our currently available 1080 content look quite nice! I saw in the Panasonic booth “The World’s Largest 4K OLED TV”. Then, I went to the Sony booth, where I saw “The World’s Largest 4K OLED TV”. I guess competition is fierce in this ubiquitous category!?

Perhaps the strangest thing I noticed was how many headphones were on the show floor this year. I’m ‘talkin HUNDREDS of manufacturers of headphones!! They seemed to be in EVERY booth. –And being spot-lighted and pushed and touted as being the “best headphone around”. As if they just invented the device for the first time. Now, my memory isn’t as good as it once was, but, I believe I’ve seen headphones at the show before. And these are the big, “over-the-ear”, “DJ style”, regular ‘ole dorky ordinary looking headphones we’re talking about (there were a lot of ear-buds still too, but the big headphones were absolutely everywhere.) I just don’t know what makes all these manufacturers think that suddenly, EVERYONE wants to buy and use big headphones this year?? –If anyone can tell me, please do so in the comments field below. (by the way, my favorite big, over-the-ear headphone that I got recently, and now use all the time is the Phillips O’Neill. –I think they’re the “best headphone around”. –It’s like they just invented the device for the first time!).

Phone cases. -‘Were there any phone cases there, you ask? –‘Any iphone cases? …? Uhm, …yes, I think I did see some phone cases there. At one point, I roughly estimated that if EVERYONE on the planet bought 10 different phone cases (you know, to coordinate with your outfit for the day), there will still be dozens and dozens of phone case manufacturers that will go out of business. To give you an idea, there was a hall there at the convention, “North Hall”, which is way bigger than a football field, and it was two-thirds full of phone cases. Seriously. ‘Shouldn’t we be searching for a cancer cure or something, other than making so many slightly different phone cases?     …..---However,…here’s one phone case I thought sounded great! I plan to get one as soon as they become available.

Microsoft is an interesting company. They showed here at CES for decades, with one of the biggest booths. But this year, for the first time, they DIDN’T show. ? THIS year. The year that they are hoping like hell to stay in business and stay relevant in the world of computing with their new operating system that is supposed to actually work well this time, and work so well, as to make everyone forget how many decades of turkey versions of windows we have suffered through. NOW, in the year 2013? When so many have walked away from their Windows machines and are running their lives more and more with either a Mac, Linux, or, in most cases, just iOS (iphones/ipads) and Android devices for most of their daily needs. I think I woulda’ actually had a real booth THIS year.  ‘There was the Intel booth, which might’ve just as well have had a giant Microsoft sign on it. Where every imaginable new configuration of laptop/tablet, tablet/laptop, detachable keyboard, flip-over screen, use-it-in-the-pool, what-have-you version of Windows 8 devices were on display trying to show you that “We can innovate too!” (after years of being footnotes in the shadows of innovations from Apple and Google).  – Well, from what I’ve seen, they CAN innovate (when threatened with obsolescence), and the new version of Windows finally DOES work well (after decades of re-booting). The totally revamped operating system seems to be very smooth and powerful, and the “hardware partners” have certainly done their homework and come up with some exciting new devices. My favorite is the Asus Taichi, with a screen on each side of a laptop!   So,… what remains to be seen is if it is all too-little-too-late, or if these new families of product lines from Microsoft and friends can achieve a come-back from near obscurity, and become a major player in this new portable digital revolution. I hope they make it. And their new phones are cool too. And we need more than just two kinds of phones. (Although, - next year…Ubuntu for phones!)

Being in the autosound business for most of my life, I was always aware of how automakers tried to integrate computers into cars, but the public was always weary of reliability. The common joke for decades was “Can you imagine a Microsoft car? –‘Having to pull over and re-boot while in a freeway traffic jam?”  “Ha Ha!”  ‘Nervous laughter, but actually based on a very real concern. Well, finally, we’re seeing cars and other machines being improved upon dramatically by microprocessors, usually running on versions of Linux, reliably providing consistent, accurate controls on sophisticated systems of machinery and user-interface.  For the first time there is a general acceptance that computers can be trusted to life-risking tasks. And yes, I blame Microsoft for the delay in this evolution. But it’s finally here, and with careful attention to ultra-reliability, the microprocessor can and should be used to further our evolution of not just communication, science, and art, but of our day to day lives, making life easier, safer, and smoother. And that’s what a lot of this industry is about. Nvidia is a chipmaker known for helping to make great video games, but they’re about a lot more than that. Here’s an example of what our next automobiles will look like.  ‘Speaking of safety: DON’T use your phone in the car! –But,… if you do, and you’re looking for a good phone mount for your dash these guys are terrific! (use promo code 13ces127 for 10% off).

My CES2013 Whiz-Bang award goes to this stroller that folds up with a push of a button! (‘gotta see the video!)  ---  For people with big metal RV’s (I know a few), or even cars in rural areas, this cellphone booster system can improve the cell signal strength up to 20 times! You must install an antenna on the roof, an amp under the dash, and you have to leave the phone in the cradle, so you’ll need to use a headset. But it’s also great for using your phone’s wifi hotspot feature, and feeding laptops in an RV!  ---  ‘How ‘bout a computer for your plant? – With WiFi!  ?    ---   …And, there was some dumb stuff there too. …  here’s a device that beeps if it gets more than 20 feet from your iphone, in case you leave your iphone behind a lot (I don’t know if the maker, by not offering it for Android, is inferring that only iphone users do this, but…).   ---   Or,… how ‘bout the other way ‘round? Stick this button on your keys, your dog, or your kid, and your smartphone will know when they wander off, up to 100ft!   ---   ‘Ever wonder if you’re really being more active on your new plan for better health? Fitbit Flex bracelet tracks all your movements and calculates calorie burning and even better sleep habits, and graphs it all out for you to use for better health!    ---   Ok, Ok, it’s time for me to fork over the silliest thing I saw,… for those that can’t remember to eat more slowly.     ---   I’m now waiting to see, some year at the show, a device that makes us stop and smell the roses.

Ray Kurzweil is an author, inventor, and futurist who invented the scanner we all use everyday in our copiers, among other things. He’s famous for saying (among other things)  …the pace of change and innovation is getting faster and faster. We got printed books a whole century after Guttenberg invented the printing press,… The telephone took 50. The cell phone, seven years. Social networks, blogs, and wikis took three years. The pace of change is getting faster and faster. By 2045, the pace of change will be so fast we wont be able to follow it unless we enhance our own intelligence with artificial intelligence….A kid in Africa with a smartphone has access to more information and knowledge than the president of the U.S. did fifteen years ago….We're above a certain threshold of intelligence that allows us to create tools, which is why our tools grow exponentially. … We will continue to grow our mental powers by using our AI intelligence, and by 2045 you'll be talking to a biological person that’s a hybrid of biological and non-biological intelligence. .... I see it going beyond smartphones, where our devices are literally embedded in our bodies. “

Most people think of consumer electronics as just consumable electronics. Like cheap, ephemeral toys that we could all just as easily live without. But I know there is a lot of serious stuff going on here, some with positive impact on society, and real staying power. ‘Like that telephone thingy. And then that one with pictures.  ‘And that internet-web-whatshamacallit. That was a good idea too.  Let’s keep encouraging these inventer folks to dabble with stuff. Maybe next year they’ll be showing the cancer-cure-o-matic!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

What's a riopelle?

Last night, for New Year’s Eve, I went to a concert. ‘Saw a band that I’ve seen over 20 times before. ‘Most of those times were also on New Year’s! Four years ago I started this blog and part of my first entry concerned this same topic: “...People ask me why I'd want to do the same thing so many times for the same holiday, instead of trying new and different ways and places to ring in the new year, and I guess I'm starting to understand that it's partially about the concept of tradition. Doing something the same on an anniversary helps you think back to your past, and remember who you were, to help you figure out who you've become. And figurin' out who you've become is probably one of the big goals of the journey.” Well, this particular tradition in my life is coming to a close. Jerry Riopelle and his band first played New Year’s at The Celebrity Theater in 1975. And I was there. Along with some friends, including a dear friend of mine that was also with us there last night, at what appears to be the last Riopelle New Year’s Eve show. He didn’t spell it out, but there were many small, poignant moments telegraphed to the faithful, in the show that left no doubt in my mind that we were witnessing the last encore. For one thing Jerry’s in his 70’s! ‘Not that the performance suffered, but the audience attendance is waning. -Or should I say “dieing off” (literally)?  For me, this band’s career- span coincided perfectly with my becoming an adult, and on into “middle age”. -That terrible phrase that denotes the age at which you really should stop going to rock concerts. Not because you realize that they are over-priced, overly-loud, and don’t sound nearly as good as the studio recordings we already have. But because it gets harder to stay up that late! Jerry Riopelle is a consummate songwriter that weaves double entendres into upbeat songs about keeping relationships honest, but interesting. With lines like: “...come tell me the truth, when you’re most afraid to. If you ever stop talkin’ to me, I’m gonna leave you. You tell me how you feel, and there’s just no need to steal...”   And even silly songs get a dose of honest caring about your partner: “Been up all night, strokin’ the hot slot machine...and I’m goin’ back tonight, just me and my machine. We’re gonna get real fat...sit out on our boat and watch tv. ...’pay off the phone and call your whole family...’buy you some panty hose and a diamond ring...I’ll chase you every day, and I’ll catch you every night, don’t tell me your ‘ole man don’t treat you right....”   -Thanks Jerry! For a lifetime of so many infectious songs that are secretly lessons in love.

xmas letter 2012

December, 2012

Hello all! We hope you’re enjoying some holiday time with friends and family! We are too – and wish we could enjoy some time with you too some day! Remember, you’re always welcome to visit us here in Arizona. We’re very casual and have spare rooms!

Speaking of spare rooms, Regina moved out to live with her boyfriend, Bryan. That went well until they decided to rent Bryan’s house out. They wanted to move closer to where they worked to end their long commutes and to be closer to all the “action” that young people crave! While searching for a new place, they ended up living at our place, along with their roommate Matt, for about 4 months. We had just settled into the lifestyle of empty-nesters and then suddenly we had three 20-somethings! (And 2 more cats to add to our 2!) But it was fun. Until one day when they said something like, “You know, we like your home theater so much, we could just stay here forever!” And Fred said, “Uh, no… but we’ll find you a house where we can make you one just like it.” They said, “What about a pool?” So we found a deal on an older, “fixer-upper” split-level house in Tempe with a pool—and worked out a deal with them that includes “sweat equity.” Fred has worked on the home almost fulltime, and Regina & Bryan work on it after work and weekends. It’s been a LOT of work—but it’s looking great, with only a little ways left to go.

In fact, it was in such good shape by October that we decided to have Thanksgiving there. (‘Nothing like setting a deadline!) We ended up having 15 people: Fred’s siblings and spouses, Bryan’s mom, the roommates, and some of their parents! A great time was had by all in the mostly-functioning home. NOTE: Wendy was a little anxious because, literally, the oven and stove were hooked up only a day or two before!

Regina now works for a company called Infusionsoft that sells all-in-one marketing software to small businesses and entrepreneurs. It’s her first professional, fulltime-with-benefits job and she’s loving it, as well as learning a lot. She dreams of having a small business some day of her own, so this is right up her ally! Her and Bryan have two roommates and are getting a third …plus two cats!

Ethan is finishing up his senior year at School of Visual Arts in Manhattan. He survived the big storm, despite living in a basement apartment in the financial district. The flooding came up the street to within 40 feet of his building! He has teamed up with some other film students and they get some real, paying film jobs, working as a team and helping each other out ( and are planning to continue working together after graduation. Unfortunately, we think that means Ethan will continue to be 2,500 miles away—but we’re happy he’s passionate about film production/editing/sound and is mastering the art of networking, which is so critical in that crazy business.

Wendy’s temporary position as an Editor working on Math content for Pearson came to an end in May, but she applied for and was hired for another position at Pearson and had no break in employment. She is now a Technical Writer in Bids & Proposals in the K-12 Technology Marketing group. It’s quite a different job from anything she’s done before—but Wendy says she finally “somewhat knows what she’s doing.”

Fred’s business continues, as well as occasional audio/video installs in RVs. But the bulk of his days this year have been spent on the Tempe house. It was a HUD home and needed a complete overhaul! In addition to structural improvements like dual-pane windows, the re-design involved things like removing walls and building curved soffits with embedded LED lighting and other smart-home features that really make the home a modern, efficient, stylistic showcase.

In addition to work and renovating houses, we’ve stayed busy with a few trips, including some RV trips, one of which took us to the famous Silverton Narrow Gauge Train in CO, followed by the Albuquerque Balloon Festival in NM. Another big event was our 25th Anniversary in April, which was celebrated by a big surprise party organized by Fred’s two sisters and Regina.

We’re looking forward to attending Jerry Riopelle’s annual New Year’s Eve concert. Riopelle had a substantial following—which included Fred—during the ‘70s and ‘80s in the South-West.
I will dance like a fool – I won't be afraid to laugh
I'll make everything matter and I'll believe that everything lasts
I'll see love as a dream and I’ll never wake up
I'll change everyday and I'll taste every drop
I'm so young   
                                                                        © Riopelle
We’re pretending we’re still young… You too?
Lots of love, and best wishes for 2013,
Wendy and Fred