Archive for the ‘Technology’ category

Wild Fires

October 27, 2019

Screen of “Wildfire Info” app

This is sort of intended for my East Coast friends. I often get asked whether my wife and I are in harm’s way on any of the wild fires that are rampant out here on the west coast. They for the most part ignorant of California geography. It has been said that the four seasons in California are Fire, Flood, Earthquake and Drought.

So for the most part we are rarely near any of the roaring fires that are active these days, We live in a fairly built up urban area that is not particularly close to the trees and grasses that are fuel for the fires. The only thing that tends to bother us is the smoke generated by the fires.

Here’s a picture that I took on our trip this week from San Pedro to Visalia in Central California.

Gorman CA

As you can see, It’s all brown. The only places that you can see with green grass is typically golf courses that are heavily watered. In the spring time in April much of these hillsides will be green especially after a wet winter.

If you looked at my iPhone you would see a few apps that are particularly appropriate to West Coast going’s on. This stuff is probably more appropriate for West coast folks.

First are the “wildfire” apps. I have them on my iPhone and I believe they are available on Google phones. The other thing is that they are free.

First app is called “Wildfire Info“. Clever name, huh? When you open the app it drops you into a map with little red dots for each active fire. Tapping on the red dot gets you up to date info on the particular fire.

Second one is called “Fires“. Similar info. I found it a bit less useful. But it’s free so try it and see if you like it.

So while I’m talking about apps. I might as well talk about earth quake apps.

Researchers out here are trying to develop apps that can give users about 10 seconds of warning when the big one is about to hit. To that end, the researchers have installed sensors around all of the major fault lines.

Here are the apps that I use (all are free). I know they are available on iPhones and probably on Google-Play. (Click on title to get to the Apple App Store):

Install them all and give them a try.

One more thing. Sometime it takes you a while to get your brain around an earthquake. A couple of years ago there was 7.something about 150 miles northeast of us. Felt some trembling. It takes you a little while to say “Hey, we’re having an earthquake”.

Spring Forward

March 11, 2019

Okay, last night I turned our clocks forward an hour. Well that’s not quite true. Some of our clocks (or devices with clocks) auto-magically turn forward on their own.

So our cell phones, iPads, DVR did it all on their own. Even my new Nissan adjusted its clock without me needing to get out the owner’s manual to find out to adjust the clock. Even my clock radio that I have had for many years has a “DST” button that moves the time ahead or back an hour.

I had to manually adjust the microwave, range and two clocks in our living room. Also, I had to adjust Mary’s wrist watch. Truth be told she wouldn’t know the difference if I left it alone. She wears the watch all the time but never looks at it.

I have to be careful with the clock on top of the piano [pictured below]. The battery has a tendency to become dislodged causing the clock to stop.

Paula will need to do the clock in her Prius. This Prius is ten years old. Probably newer models have figured out to to do the magic.

So here’s what bothers me. I hear that politicians are thinking about making us have DST all year round. Now what would I do, to adjust the magic algorithm that makes my phone magically jump forward an hour on the 2nd Sunday in March and back some time in October.

There I feel better. Rant is all done.

TTFN

joe

Christmas Cards

January 9, 2019

I declare that the Christmas card season is about over. Yesterday, I received what I expect to be the last card for the season. So it is time to review what happened.

This year I sent out 130 Christmas letters to friends and family spread out across the country. About half are in the Los Angeles area and the other half in the Boston area. Then add a few odd letters to people in North Carolina and Florida.

In 2017, I sent out about 175 letters. This year I spent a great deal of effort trimming the list down to 130. So how many did we receive? Well as best I can count we received a little over 30 cards, letters and holiday pictures. My goal has been to reach out to the people that we have known over the many years.

 

I don’t understand why the cards received is so much lower than the number sent. We love to hear how people are doing. As you can see in the pictures above, we love to post the cards in any available space around out kitchen and dining room.

So my question for my readers. Do you send out holiday/Christmas cards/letters? If not, why not? If yes, why? Perhaps $.50 each for postage might be one answer.

BSOD Update

August 30, 2018

Still dead but making progress. I talked to nice fellow in India this afternoon about the problem. He was very helpful. He walked me through running diagnostics.

So the hard drive and memory are fine. He offered the link for downloading the recovery disk. I told him that wouldn’t work because I had no other computer (other than my iPad) to create the thumb drive.

So he ordered up a recovery thumb drive for me. Shipped out via FedEx this afternoon. I should receive tomorrow afternoon. He was nice enough to waive the fee (about $50). I had told him that I was a retired HP employee. Maybe that helped.

Unfortunately, I will end up scratching my hard drive. Not to worry, 95% of my files are stored in the cloud (Dropbox, Google Drive, etc.). I will have to reinstall a bunch of apps that I use, but that’s easy.

Should be a reminder to everyone. Do your backups.

TTFN

Grand Chapter Recording

June 3, 2018

As many of my east coast FB friends who are member of OES, I do the recording of the Grand Chapter session. Ever wonder what I do at the table at the back of the hall next to the sound board? Here is a brief explanation of how I do that.

Hardware

First, here’s the hardware setup. I use a standard Windows 10 laptop. I connect to the hall’s sound board with a Tascam MK122 interface. Tascam no longer makes the model MK122. Here is a reasonable variant that would work, though with a bit more than I would need. It converts standard audio signals to a USB signal. There are two XLR cables. One for each stereo channel. There is also a headphones jack for monitoring the audio.

Software

I used to use a software app called CuBase, but when I upgraded to a new laptop three years ago, the version that I had wouldn’t work. CuBase offered to sell me a new version for about $300. Nope, not gonna do it. The new version of CuBase had way more features than I really needed.

So I started searching for alternatives. I found an app called “Mixcraft” by Acoustica. It seemed to fit my needs and wallet just fine. Here’s a view of the screen while recording:

2018-05-19 13.37.40

The red section of the screen is the currently recording channel. My job during the recording is to balance the input levels. With different speakers and different microphones, I need to make sure that I am getting a solid signal at all times.

Also during the recording, I have an Excel spreadsheet open that I use to log who is speaking and what they’re talking about. This is done so that later I can find a particular speaker and/or report.

Mixcraft uses a project file to manage the operation. I have a different project file for each day of Grand Chapter. I need to stop and restart the recording every 20-30 minutes to allow Mixcraft to write all of the WAV files to disk. I keep a different folder for each day of Grand Chapter.

By the time that all is said and done on Saturday night, I will have about 25 GBytes of WAV files on my hard drive. I try to backup the files to either a thumb drive or portable USB drive.

So when I get home, my job is to create MP3 files and copy them to a thumb drive. I used to write DVD disks but thumb drives are easier to deal with. Mixcraft has a handy function to mix down a select portion of the recording to a MP3 file. Sometimes, I will edit out long stretches of silence. Then I do some editing of the Excel file for accuracy.

And finally, I mail two thumb drives to Grand Secretary in Mass. Archive all of the files in case someone asks for a recording from way back when. I have full recordings going back to 2010 when I started doing the job for MA OES.

It’s Flying Time Again…

May 14, 2018

It’s time for our annual trip to Boston for MA Grand Chapter OES.

I did a few last minute errands this morning. Picked up shirts at the cleaners. Picked up Rx for Mary and went to the USPO to hold the mail.

So the main USPO in San Pedro is this beautiful old Art Deco building. So I took a picture of the lobby. It’s worth a look.

All of my computer gear is packed. My function at GC is to do the recording of the session. To do this I have an interface that patches into the sound system and connects to my laptop via USB interface.

Of course, I am bringing iPad, iPhone x2, iPad mini (for Paula). Plus all of the applicable chargers and cables.

I checked in at noon with Delta. Boarding passes loaded on phones. Got note from Delta that I have to check bags at LAX Term 2, then off to Term 3 due to construction. What a PITA.

I would have liked to do non stop both ways, but to do that on LAX-BOS would mean flight leaves to 0800. To early for us, so flight leaves at noon and change planes in Detroit. Arrive in BOS at about 10 pm EDT. We will be at our hotel by about midnight give or take.

So we expect to see many friends and relatives. Fly back on next Monday.

TTFN,

Joe

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