Thursday, May 28, 2015


So what’s on my phone and why should you care? Because I have lots of cool stuff that you may not know exist, is why! The following smartphone apps are things that I find valuable yet are largely unknown by most of you. Some of these are even more valuable that my, er, “bodily sounds generator” app.

Mightytext: Install the app on your phone, computer and tablet and all your text messages appear simultaneously on your phone, computer, and tablet. You can respond to texts via your computer’s keyboard which is way more handy than the phone’s keyboard.

Google Voice: Google will give you a free phone number with an area code of your choosing. Once you sign up for a number, you can forward calls made to Google Voice to your smartphone. That enables you to give your Google Voice number to people you may not ever want to actually hear from such as the IRS or a creepy person. When they call, you can choose to answer the call or block it completely. Another nifty feature is that voicemails are transcribed for you and sent to you via text/email if you so choose.

For those of you who use Verizon, Verizon Messenger is your stock messaging app on steroids. You can send/receive standard text message, of course. But you can also send your location (handy when trying to hook up with friends). AT&T has a similar product that is not quite as robust. For those travelling internationally, text messages are sent via WiFi when available so you don’t have to sign up for an expensive international phone plan when you travel to Tahiti. Facebook members should certainly install Facebook Messenger. It is awesome.

Geeks have been gushing over “notebook” organizers like Evernote and OneNote for years but I prefer Google Keep. Keep allows you to organize notes and checklists on your phone that can be shared in real time with others. The most handy feature is the grocery list. Tammy can enter grocery items on the shared checklist at home and I’ll instantly see them appear on my list while I’m shopping.

Do you have an old iPhone or Android wasting away in a drawer somewhere? Put it to use by turning it into a security camera. Simply download an app called Alfred on your old and newer phone, link the accounts, then mount your old phone in an area you need to monitor. Whenever motion is detected, you’ll receive a text message with a picture of the intruder. You can then launch the app and see real time video with audio of whatever’s going on. Mount it near your front door to see who’s knocking. Set it up in your motel room as a security camera or use it to monitor your pets while you’re away.

I’ve shown you mine, now show me yours! Please share with me what apps you can’t live without.

Thursday, April 30, 2015


I’ve been looking forward to talking to my computer since I was a kid. The ability to do so with our Smartphones has been around since 2010 but has really become indispensable only for the last couple of years. I’m always a bit surprised at the amazed reactions of people when I whip out my phone to ask a question and the phone speaks a bet-winning answer. Y’all really need to get up to speed. You’re missing out on some awesome. So, this article is for those of you who are still old school.

Voice capability comes in many flavors. iPhone users have Siri, Windows phone users have Cortana and Android users have Google Voice. They each have strengths and weaknesses but all work essentially the same.

So without further adieu, here are some cool commands that you really should be using: First, navigation. You can speak, “Navigate to Orange Beach, Alabama” or “Navigate to home” or “Navigate to 116 East Mobile Street.” You can also speak, “Where’s the closest gas station (or Italian restaurant or doughnut shop)?” or “Give me walking directions to City Hardware” and it shall be provided.

Location based reminders are really cool. You can tell your phone to “Remind me to pick up a gallon of milk at Publix,” or “Remind me to steal a ream of paper when I get to work,” or “Remind me to take out the garbage when I get home.” Your phone knows when you arrive at Publix or work or home and will remind you a few minutes after you reach the destination.

Speaking of reminders, you can simply speak, “Remind me of my haircut appointment tomorrow at 2:30pm,” or “Set calendar appointment for July 4th, pool party” and you will be reminded to party on that date and time. You can say, “Set timer for 4 and a half minutes” to cook a perfect steak.

When speaking a text or email, you can say “comma”, “period”, “exclamation point”, and “question mark” at the appropriate points and appear to be smart.

And of course you can relegate complicated math to your phone such as “How many quarts are in a gallon?” or “What’s 95 degrees in celsius?” or “What’s 420 times 714?” and get an instant answer without even bothering your brain.
I have no idea.
You can open apps on your phone. For example, while exercising or driving, you can speak, “Play music” or “Play playlist workout music” and your phone will play whatever’s stored on your phone. You can also say, “Launch Pandora app (or Spotify or whatever music app you use)”. You can also ask, “Who plays this song?” Your phone will listen and provide an answer.

You can speak, “Send a text to Tammy I love you baby” (which is usually followed by a “What have you done now?”). You can speak, “Send an email to Joe Blow, subject beer, message body, bring more beer to the game” and not only will that email be properly composed but beer will magically appear.

Thursday, April 16, 2015


This is a true story. Back in 1980, I was 18 years old and devised a way to communicate with my future self using a special radio that, when combined with strong aurora borealis events, altered spacetime in a way that allowed me to send radio waves through time and communicate with my future self. I recently came across one of my journal entries from 1980 and want to share it with both my readers.

April 15, 1980. The latest communications with my future self involve the evolution of technology over the next 35 years. The year is 2015. The pace of technological development is both disappointing (no flying cars or robot servants) and incredibly exciting. The best news is that my future self has somehow managed to avoid prison and rehab and married a beautiful woman. I can’t wait to tell mom!

In 2015, there are dozens of satellites orbiting 12,5000 miles above the planet that communicate with “smart telephones” carried in the pockets of nearly everyone. These computers communicate with these satellites in order to pinpoint your exact location at any point on Earth. The same technology can be used to give people directions to points of interest via a television screen that fits in the palm of the hand! In the future, when someone tells me to “get lost”, it will be impossible to do!

Sending a letter through the postal service is considered “quaint” in 2015. Love letters and business communications are now sent instantly through cables and satellites via a process called “electronic mail.” My future self actually communicates regularly with people in Shanghai, China. The same handheld computer used for navigation translates Chinese to English in real time. Language is no longer a barrier for the human race!

Cars that drive themselves are making headlines in 2015. I also have spotty communications with my 2040 self (The spottiness is evidently related to a weird radioactive disturbance centered around present-day Iran). Those communications suggest that, sometime between 2015 and 2040, it will become illegal for humans to drive their own cars. Computer drivers are evidently much safer.

In 2015, a significant percentage of the planet’s population has instant access to the entire human race’s body of knowledge. If one needs to know something, they can simply speak their question into a handheld or home computer and instantly become educated on any subjects. Anyone on the planet can sit in front of a computer and take a college level course from a Nobel Prize winning professor! Unfortunately, people instead use that miraculous technology to learn new jokes and trade insults.

My future self shared his disappointment that so many people of his era take all these miraculous developments for granted. I hope that I will grow up to appreciate these technological wonders and share that enthusiasm with everyone I know. Maybe I’ll choose a career in technology or write newspaper articles or something.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015


I am finally breaking ground on my new home next week. Those of you who have built a house before know that “next week” means “next month” in construction time but we have our fingers crossed for next week. I want to share with both my readers some of the new technology I’ll be implementing.

I will be utilizing new construction techniques will ensure a very efficient home that will be very inexpensive to heat and cool. I’ll be installing a high efficiency air conditioning system and hot water heater that will come with a thermostat that can be controlled via my smartphone. If I forget to turn off my air when I go to Gulf Shores, I can turn it off while I’m on the beach. When I’m on my way home, I can the AC and hot water on so my house will be ready for me when I arrive.

I’ll have a front door and garage door that can be unlocked by smartphone. I don’t know what purpose this will serve but isn’t that just cool as all getout? I’ll have wireless security cameras throughout the exterior of my home that I can monitor from my phone. The cameras will send me a text every time they “see” something move when I’m not home. I shall be inundated with pictures of deer eating my flowers 24/7.

After years of fits and starts, home automation is now maturing. Stoves and ovens can be programmed by smartphones to cook a perfect meal. Refrigerators will text you when you’re out of milk or eggs. Doors will tell you when they are unlocked. One very cool website,, connects these things and make them work for you. IFTTT stands for “If This Then That.” With IFTTT, I can program my smartphone to turn on my thermostat when I leave the office so I’ll be comfy when I walk in my door. I can also tell it to “turn on my coffee pot” when I hit the “snooze” button on a internet-connected alarm clock. 

I’ll be installing internet connected LED lighting throughout my house. There will be exterior lighting for my landscape that I can control with my smartphone or tablet. I can change the brightness and even the color from afar. Again, I don’t know why I’d need to do that but ain’t that cool?

UPS just delivered my Sonos™ wireless speakers! Sonos provides wireless speakers that allow you to play music throughout your home. With Sonos, I can use my tablet or smartphone to tell my kitchen to play me some upbeat cookin’ music while my wife enjoys her relaxing New Age stuff while soaking in the bathtub (Why yes she is spoiled, thank you). It plays music from all the popular online music sources as well as integrates with your existing home stereo so you can play your own private stash.

I’ll be sharing more cool technology as we progress so stay tuned!

Friday, March 6, 2015


This article was inspired by a single sentence buried in a recent editorial published in that other local newspaper. The article was spot-on concerning the lack of honesty from our elected leaders and the news media one sentence from that editorial has been a burr under my saddle ever since I read it: “Businessmen are generally taught in the finest business schools that honesty is a weakness.” Really? Granted, the brunt of my classes were taken at a private Methodist college where such teachings would go against official doctrine so maybe I was sheltered, but I doubt it.

As any businessperson would attest, we are offered a daily chance to scam or otherwise be dishonest. I could sell a client a used hard drive and pass it off as new. I could underreport my meager earnings to the tax man. I could get into the big bucks by developing some scam software. Or, hey, here’s a good one: I could convince you all that I’m building Disneyland in your back yard! There are so many other chances to cheat my fellow man and increase my wealth but I do not. Why? Well, evidently because I didn’t attend one of the “finest business schools” that turn me into a cheat and liar.

If I’m completely honest with myself (which is VERY hard to do) I admit to a bit of envy for the scam artists I often write about in this column. I was in awe of the skills of the “IRS agent” who tried to scam me a few weeks ago. The fellow from Nigeria that will soon mail me a $5,000 check is making a killing from less skeptical people. The companies that sell “registry optimizers” and sham antivirus programs are living the good life while I toil to make an honest living.

Other than calling out that editor for making a foolish statement, I think what I’m trying to say is this: You folks who fall for scams and install all that junk software or otherwise fall for scams need to understand that dishonest people are everywhere and they are after you. When an online ad says you can speed your computer up or fix “registry” or “driver” problems, don’t believe it. When the IRS or the utility company calls the threaten you, hang up on them. You darn sure shouldn’t hand over your credit card to anyone who asks for it.

You’re wrong, Mr. Editor of that other newspaper; scammers take the same easy route that Pat Robertson and some theme park developers take: They prey on your greed and fear. They promise you the world in exchange for a little bit your soul. That’s not taught in business school. That’s something they learn on their own.

Thursday, January 22, 2015


In my last article, I stated that Google Glass was a failure and would only be successful in niche markets. I change my mind. Google Glass is cool, dad gummit! I want to be able to beam data straight into my retina so I’m not giving up on it. Google Glass will rise from the ashes and become
awesome. Please?

I predicted that being able to cheaply print your own legos and Tupperware would become a reality in 2014. I was wrong. 2015 is the breakout year for that, I promise.

Drones that deliver packages to your door will NOT happen in 2015. It’s a cool idea but the liability blows my mind. Maybe in 10 years.

I recently paid $200 for a smartwatch. It is awesome but just a little buggy. 2015 will see smart watches perfected and more awesome than mine for under $75.

With the recent surge in health and fitness bands, I’m going to go out on a limb and predict that someone will introduce a gadget that you put in your mouth that will count calories and make you feel guilty in real time.

Someone will announce a new type of smartphone battery that is powered by “energy scavenging.” It will charge itself much like old “windless” watches using motion. People like me who sit at a desk all day long will still have to use the old fashioned charger.

Someone will introduce a “subvocalization” gadget that you wear close to your Adam’s apple. It will “hear” you speak commands into your phone without you actually speaking. Everyone who uses this will look like they are choking on a chicken bone. Your phone will respond to you via a nearly-invisible earbud.

Someone will introduce new 3D technology that will allow you to interact with your friends much like Princess Leia interacted with R2D2 back in 1976 in a galaxy far, far away. You’ll be able to don a pair of 3D glasses in your living room and walk through a home plan or virtually sit in a boardroom in Japan.

This will be the breakout year for home automation. Great strides have been made in controlling your thermostat, door locks and lights but virtually all new home construction in 2015 will include some advanced automation technology - including the home I am about to build. I can’t wait to share some of my new home with you folks. Happy new year!

Friday, January 9, 2015


Back in January of last year I decided to test my psychic powers by making some technology predictions for 2014. I am happy to report that my psychic powers suck. Perhaps that is a bit harsh as I managed to nail a few easy ones but I would certainly not ask me for stock tips. Here are some highlights:

Last year I predicted, This will finally be the breakout year for wearable computing devices such as watches, headsets and bracelets.” This was way easy and of course I nailed it. Fitness bracelets are all the rage now and I recently purchased my first smartwatch. However, I predicted that Google Glass would enjoy “lukewarm” success. Lukewarm was far too strong a word. Glass is “eyewear” that sports some computing power, a camera and a small screen that beams information straight into your eyeball. It’s too early to call it a failure but the current incarnation of this device is dead. Neither Google or I anticipated that people would react so negatively to the thought of people wearing a video camera on their head all the time. I still have hopes of Glass causing a revolution in niche industries such as medicine and aviation but you troglodytes ruined my geek party for now.

I predicted that Apple would release a smartwatch that would revolutionize the (then) burgeoning new smartwatch industry. Apple did “announce” one but it will not be released until at least March of this year. It appears to be super cool but no more “revolutionary” than current smartwatch offerings.

I predicted that not much would happen with regards to combining the television with your computer. Sure ‘nuff, we are still streaming video through Netflix just like we did in 2010 and doing our computing the same way we’ve done it for decades.

I predicted that 2014 would be the year for affordable home 3D printers. I totally hosed that one. The ability to print your own army men and Tupperware is still a few years off. Booo.

I predicted that Microsoft stock would fall from $36 to less that $30. It now trades at $47. Oops!  I also predicted Microsoft would offer an update that would make Windows 8 less horrible. They will do so but not until the fall of 2015. I predicted that Apple and Google stocks would increase by at least 25%. I nailed Apple but Google is down at least 10%. I predicted that Bitcoin would be worthless. One Bitcoin was worth about $1000 last January. It now trades at $300.

So, out of 10 predictions, I nailed 4 easy ones. I reckon that’s better than your average psychic but I think I’ll keep my day job. I’ll test my abilities against in the next article. Happy New Year!