Archive for the ‘Technology’ category

My Rules for Answering Calls

June 26, 2017

download (1)Is it just me or are the number of robo-calls greatly increasing. I think that they are. So, my little effort in my corner of the world, I will be implementing the following rules with respect to getting me to answer my phone:

  1. First and foremost, if my caller-id screen says “NO Caller-ID” I will not answer the call, EVER. Furthermore, if you manage to leave a message in my voice mail, I will not respond. Delete before listening. If you don’t have the common decency to let me know who you are, I don’t feel the urge to answer the phone or call you back. I pay AT&T a huge amount of money every month. It is for my convenience, not yours.
  2. If your phone number comes up in my caller-id screen but your name is not in my iPhone’s contact DB, I will not answer. Leave a message and I will get back to you. If you are pitching some vacation or money saving offer, don’t bother with the message, I won’t be calling back. I promise to add you name and number into my contact DB.
  3. Actually, rather than a voice mail, I would rather you send me a text message. Voice mail is so last century. If my dentist can figure out how to use text messaging, so can you.

Oh, by the way, we finally got a land line, but you can’t have the number. We got it just to allow us to reach our caregivers while we are traveling. The number is unlisted. If the phone rings, I don’t answer it.

I keep hearing that robo-callers are going direct to voice mail. I haven’t seen that yet. If that happens I might just let my voice mailbox fill up so noone can leave any voice mails.

One last thing. If you are calling me from an east coast area code (eg. 978 or 781) and you call me 8:00 AM east coast time, I won’t answer. I live in the LA area where there is a three hour time difference. Do the math. CVS was doing that to us for a while before with Rx refill reminders. CVS fixed the problem. They send SMS reminders now.

TTFN

Joe

Two Factor Authorization

May 5, 2017

I thought that today I would write a post about protecting our online data. Many online providers have adopted a security protocol called “Two Factor Authorization”. This is how it works. Up until recently, all one needed would be your username and your password to gain access to your account. You account could mean access to your email provider or perhaps your bank or maybe an E-Tail provider like Amazon.

Here’s how it works. When you attempt to login to your bank, the bank will ask for your username and password. So far so good. Then it will send a text message to your mobile phone. The text message will contain a 6 digit cypher that you will need to plug into your login screen. The cypher is good for only 10 minutes. So the reasoning goes that you need to have two pieces of information to gain access your account, a password and the code. Thus making unauthorized access less likely.

Recently Gmail (run by Google) adopted 2 factor authorization. I don’t know about other email providers. Protecting your email access is particularly important because if a hacker can get access to your email, he/she would be able to reset passwords to your other accounts. When you request a password reset, the provider just sends a “reset password” link to your email.

For this reason, protecting your primary email account is of utmost concern. So at this point in time, I know that Bank of America and Wells Fargo have implemented two factor authorization.

Click here for a Wikipedia article on the subject.

JPL Tour

November 19, 2015

EPSON MFP image

On Tuesday, We attended a tour of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Labs in Pasadena. This was a private tour that was arranged by our son Mike who works there. We had a group of about 20 people, most of whom were members of Mike’s 9SOPS unit at Vandenberg AFB.

The tour started at a small theater to view a video about JPL. The lab was started by a couple of grad students at Caltech who were doing research on rocket motors. Here’s the wiki article. Around the edge of the room were several models of JPL space craft including a 1/2 size model of the two spacecrafts Voyager which were  launched in 1977. Voyager 1 and 2 continue to operate today returning data from interstellar space.

 


From the auditorium, we headed to a small museum with more examples of JPL’s projects including Mars Exploration Rover Mission and other space craft for exploring the surface of Mars. We were given ample time to look at all of the models and take pictures. But we couldn’t stay all afternoon because there was another group scheduled right behind us.


 After we were done with the museum we hiked up to the building where the control center lives. They have a glassed in balcony where visitors can watch the business of managing spacecraft millions of miles from planet Earth. The center is manned 24/7/365. Here are a couple of pictures. By this point in the tour my knees were talking back to me.


The final stop in the tour was another glassed in balcony for visitors of one of the large clean room assembly areas where robotic space craft are built and readied for their journey to the outer reaches of outer space. On the far wall in the picture below are the mission symbols for all of the space craft that have come through this building.


It was a great tour. It was a lot easier than trying to go to the public open house held last month.

Jet Propulsion Labratory

October 10, 2015

JPL CampusLast week our son Mike told us that JPL would be holding an open house this weekend (Saturday and Sunday). So we thought that sounds like fun. Maybe we should take a ride up to Pasadena and see what’s happening at JPL. So I checked out JPL’s web site for directions and information. It was a straight shot up the 110 to Pasadena.

The web site recommended to get an early start as parking would be a challenge. Well we didn’t get much of an early start. We finally got going at about 10 AM.

It turns out that not only was JPL having a big event, there was a big soccer game between USA and Mexico at the Rose bowl. Not good.

So we got into the JPL neighborhood and found a traffic jam of biblical proportions. Cars parked on side streets. One gate was closed to traffic. Signage was poor. So after about an hour of poking around the Pasadena neighborhood, we decided to give up. The rent was due on the morning’s coffee and no bathrooms in sight.

So JPL can put hardware onto Mars and send spacecraft to Pluto, but has trouble managing traffic. So we turned around and reprogrammed our GPS for home with intermediate stops at the Happy Diner in San Pedro and Trader Joe’s supermarket.

So, in lieu of a personal account of the open house. Here a few facts and pictures culled from Wikipedia and JPL’s web site.

First, here is the Wikipedia entry for JPL. And here is the link to JPL’s web site. Go check them out. There are a lot of neat pictures.

Curiosity Rover

Curiosity Rover

JPL has been responsible for several projects related to Mars. One of the recent projects was a launched in 2011 and landed on Mars in 2012. This picture is Rover’s selfie. Here’s the wiki link.

While I’m thinking about it, go see Matt Damon’s new film titled “The Martian”. I wrote a blog post a few weeks ago about the book. Here’s the link to the IMDB entry.

So that’s about it. Maybe we’ll get up there next year, Pasadena that is not Mars.

COIN

July 5, 2015

  About 18 months ago, I paid $50 to join a crowd source funding for a new product called “COIN”. COIN is supposed to be a credit card replacement that could dynamically change the data on the credit card magnetic stripe. One would be able to store a total of 8 different credit cards on the device. The idea is/was to reduce one’s credit card bloat in your wallet.

It seemed like a good idea to me. I typically have about 6-7 credit cards including ATM cards, credit cards and the like. The developer was promising delivery during the summer of 2014. I guess the early beta didn’t go as well as they hoped. So last summer they scheduled a second expanded beta with expanded beta units going to those who signed on early in the funding process.

Everyone else would have to wait until full production ramped up this summer. Those who didn’t want to wait could get a refund. So a couple of weeks ago I finally received my unit. Better late than never.

Here’s how it works, You need to install the COIN app on your smart phone (in my case an iPhone 6 plus). The COIN comes with a plug in credit card reader. First you have to pair your phone with the COIN. The COIN uses Blue-Tooth to communicate with the app.

One loads the credit cards into the app by swiping the card on the card reader. Then the app prompts you to add the security code on the back of the card. Once you are finished loading credit cards onto the app you then sync the credit cards with the COIN, So far so good. Works as advertised.

The COIN is the exact same size as a credit card. It has a small display that shows the card type (AMEX, Visa, etc) and last four digits of the card number. You can load credit/debit cards, gift cards and some id cards that have a magnetic stripe (though I can’t see how much use that would be.) There is button that you press to wake up the card and select the card that one wants to use.

Supposedly the COIN is compatible with most credit card readers and ATM’s. Here is where the rubber hits the road (or not). I haven’t tried it on any ATM’s yet. I don’t need to go to ATM’s very much. I usually get cash back while I am at the supermarket.

I have tried to use the device about a half dozen time. This is certainly a very limited sample size to be sure. I have attempted and been rejected at two different restaurants. I have successfully used it at a grocery store and the Starbucks at the grocery store.

It does have some neat security features though. The COIN won’t work if you lose connection to your phone. And the app will warn you that your COIN has gone away. It shuts off after about seven minutes and you will need a pass code to turn it back on or be paired with your phone.

So I wouldn’t use at it the regular Starbucks. They have an iPhone App for that and it works quite well.

Much of my shopping is done online and this device is of no use for that type of shopping.

My end goal is to have Apple-Pay become more widely accepted. Then I could ditch the credit cards all together. As it stands right now, I have only seen Apple-Pay in use at one merchant establishment (Panera Restaurant).

If you are interested in learning more about the device from the developer’s web site, Go to onlycoin.com. As for me, I’m not quite ready to leave my credit cards at home (at least not yet.) The support pages has a list of merchants that accept COIN and a list that have been reported as rejecting it.

If I Read it on the Internet, It Must Be True

March 4, 2015

snopeslogoSo listen up ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls. Everything that you read on the internet is not necessarily fact. Alas, it is true.

It seems that almost every day one of my FB friends share a post from one of their BFF’s, an article of great importance that is utterly and completely false.

So how do I tell whether or not the post is fact? First clue, is it outrageous? Have I seen it on a reputable news site like the NY Times or LA Times? Journalists are expected to do due diligence when they write a story.

Was the post from a friend of a friend of a friend? In other words can I discern where it came from?

There is a really good web site for Internet rumors and myths called “Snopes.Com“. Here are some of the latest rumors that are trending on Snopes: (note: all of the rumors listed here are false, except for the last one.)

There you have it, some of the current rumors and news for today. So do me (and all of your FB BFF’s) check the post out before you send it on.

Endeavour

September 27, 2014

Our son (Neil) is in town to visit for a few days. We were looking for things to do besides eat and drink. We decided to go visit the space shuttle Endeavour up at the California Science Center in downtown LA.
 
 The Endeavour was moved to the California Science Center in October 2012. It was quite an event watching the ship move through the streets of LA from LAX to Science Center in downton LA. Here is the Wikipedia Link. Here is a picture of Endeavour on the launch pad.
 

 Currently the Endeavour is on display in a hangar-sized building at the Science Center. There are plans in place to move it outside and display in launch configuration with booster rockets and fuel tank.
 
 Here are some of the pictures that I took.
 


I was impressed on how worn the shuttle looked. High mileage indeed.
 


On the wall in the hangar are posted brief descriptions of all space shuttle missions.
 


The mounting of the space shuttle is on four massive pylons with earthquake resistant disks.
 


The engines have been removed from Endeavour and replaced with nacelles. This is a model of one of the engines.
 
 


Here’s a picture of the space shuttle toilet. There was a video explaining how it was used.
 


Mock up of NASA command center.
 


Where the rubber hits the road (or runway).
 

 – Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Los Angeles, CA