Technology, Cars, and the Big City

Screen Shot 2014-04-15 at 7.07.28 PMI don’t live in a big city. I live in a busy area, part of the megalopolis that is the northeast US….. but not in a city. However, my adult children and their spouses all live in cities. And when I visit them, I always learn something new.

If you are a city-dweller, you can stop reading, now. This will be old news for you. But for the rest of us …… it is so interesting to watch technology changing something so basic as the old “TAXI!” hail.

But let me back up a bit. It is often not practical to own a car when you live in a city, and entrepreneurs have focused on that need over the last few years, filling the gap with Zip Cars and Cars2Go. Zipcars can be found parked all around the streets of a city, and if you are a member, you just reserve one (find it on your app), unlock it and drive away, using the car for just hours or days.

For really short trips (maybe you just want to drive a few blocks) a Car2Go might be the solution. With a member card, you just get in and go. The description from the car2go website sums it up nicely: “A car2go is always a pleasure to drive: just take it, drive it, park it. Simple and straightforward. You can always find a vehicle in your area. You open it with the member card you receive after signing up. You go from A to B, park your car2go again and that’s that.”

New-to-me for this city-trip was a service called Uber. (thanks, Jinna!)

Uber has been around now for several years, and is located in cities all over the world … but was jaw-dropping goodness when my daughter-in-law whipped out her iPhone and said that she was going to get an Uber car to take us home.

We didn’t have to stand on a corner to try and hail a taxi. Nope. She just pulled up her Uber app on her phone, and tapped to call a car. Then, on her screen, we saw a map. This map showed our location …. and also the location of the Uber car that was on our way to pick us up!

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We watched as the car got closer, so we knew when to start looking for it. No curb standing for us. She also had been given the license number of the car and a photo of the driver.

Car arrived and we hopped in. After a lovely ride to our destination, we said goodbye to our friendly driver and left the car with no money exchanged. Your trip and your tip is simply charged to your credit card, which you gave when you signed up for the service.

Remarkably convenient. And the price was similar (I think in this case cheaper) than a cab ride would have been for the same distance. *****Note to new Uber users: you need to select UberX to get cab pricing that’s similar to taxis. Uber Black car service is VERY EXPENSIVE (it’s equivalent to a town car service). and unfortunately it’s easy to accidentally click on. So be careful (and frugal) and choose UberX for the best price.

This is extra interesting to me since this is a service that I might actually use when visiting Philadelphia or NYC. As a day visitor I would never grab a car2go to navigate city traffic, but an Uber car would be a wonderful opportunity to skip the smelly yellow cab and the whole “I have to find a cab” experience.

A quick google search showed me that many cities (taxi companies) are not pleased with this service, fighting to limit the number of cars, etc.

But I’m hoping this wave of “alternatives-to-taxis” prevails. It is marvelously convenient.

Uber cars are in service all over the world. Click here for a list of all the participating cities.

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Amazon Prime will now cost you a bit more

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Last week, all Amazon Prime members were notified that the price of their membership is going up. The cost had been $79 a year, but when their membership renews they will be charged $99. This is a $20/year increase. (But in all fairness, this is the first raise in price in 9 years.)

$99 a year translates to $8.25 a month. Your $8.25 a month gets you: 1) free shipping for prime-eligible merchandise 2) a large library of videos to stream to your devices, and 3) a library of ebooks to borrow for free and read on your Kindle.

I’ve been a member of Amazon’s Prime for several years, now. And with the raise in price? I’m staying.

My experience has been generally good. When I first started using Prime, the free shipping was the major draw for me. It was delightful not to have to “save up” my purchases to top the $25 total to qualify for free shipping. Suddenly I could order anything, have it appear at my door in days, and I never had to consider postage costs. However, I have noticed that over time many smaller items have been moved to a new category of “add ons”. This has been a disappointment and I hope this is not a trend that continues. But all in all, the free shipping is still very important to me. When buying a product I always sort through the choices to view only the prime-elible options.

The video streaming is delightful. The library is large, and there is a wide variety of content. While (in my opinion) Netflix is still better, Amazon Prime is getting better all the time.

The Kindle library is the third perk of Amazon Prime. This (to me) is the weakest prong of the three benefits of prime membership. While I have borrowed several books from the Kindle library (and it was VERY easy to do), I haven’t found many of the books that are on my to-read list. That said, the library boasts 500,000 titles, so it certainly isn’t the size that’s my complaint. Just not a lot of current best-seller types. I don’t mean to sound too negative, however. The last book that I read was from this library and it was excellent. I guess I’m saying that it can’t be your ONLY source of books.

So, in spite of the rate rise, I’m staying.

FYI: Amazon Student will raise from $39 to $49 a year.

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Can you Laugh and be Angry at the same time?

Screen Shot 2014-03-08 at 9.32.38 AMI posed a question at the beginning of this post:

Can you LAUGH and yet be ANGRY at the SAME time???

The answer for me, I’ve learned, is absolutely YES.

The evidence came as I watched the video at the end of this post.

The LAUGH: It’s cleverly done. Acted well. Although the language is German, it is not necessary to know what they are saying.

The actions speak for themselves, and it’s … well…. funny!
(Thanks to Margo for sending it to me. :) )

BUT

The ANGER: Gosh darn it. I really get angry, seriously bothered, when older people are portrayed (often in commercials) as complete and utter idiots when it comes to technology.

And that is simply not true. What is true is that we didn’t grow up with any of this. There were no smart phones (your phone was attached to the wall, and tethered with a cord), there was no streaming, there were no tablets. And, hard as it is to believe…. no internet.

In my house we jumped into tech with the invention of the calculator, Pong, and then the Atari 2600. Next we enjoyed the AMAZING Commodore 64. I remember my son explaining to me how he could call another computer and if it was “on” he could leave a message on a “bulletin board” and someone else, from another computer could actually read this message. Unknown to me at the time (I actually thought it was pretty useless) that was the very beginning of the internet.

When he went off to college he explained to me that he would be emailing his papers to professors. I was skeptical…. but the world was changing … and fast.

And so those of us of a certain age, who were there from the beginning, had a choice. Jump in, or go on with life as usual. Technology, at first, was a choice. And if you aged without jumping in, it is most likely overwhelming, now.

But many many many people DID jump in. I loved it all. And still do. I know of many others both personally and online who are also “up there” in years and completely comfortable with smart phones, tablets and all the other technological goodies that are available to us today.

And I firmly believe, no matter what the age, with proper instruction, anyone can master an iPhone or iPad or a Kindle. My mother, age 84, uses them all quite well.

And, not only do I believe that older people CAN use these things, I believe that they SHOULD. The technology of today can enhance a life that is slowing down. A Kindle, for example, allows aging eyes to read comfortably with larger fonts.

The original purpose of this blog truly highlights this point … breaking down the sometimes-confusing-tech-speak into very do-able bits.

I fully believe that when the young people of today are old, they will find that they will be completely comfortable with the technology that they keep up with. But when new things come along at lightning speed (and they will), they just might find themselves left behind a bit, too. (And made fun of by the youth who are being born, now.)

So, after that rant of anger ….. here comes the laugh.

Proving to me that you CAN be angry and laugh at the same time. :)

Dad’s New iPad

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I Really Really REALLY Don’t Like This

Screen Shot 2014-02-25 at 8.41.58 AMI usually love all gadgets. I love my iPhone, my iPad, and my Kindles. Other tech stuff is fun too. I have some remote gadgets, step-counting gadgets and kitchen gadgets. I rarely meet a gadget I don’t like.

But I don’t like this one.

This is just plain creepy.

The Narrative is a clip on camera that you wear. It automatically takes a picture every 30 seconds.

The point? To create a “narrative” of your life. All the regular moments. The things you don’t remember… remembered.

I don’t want to be on either end of this device. I don’t want all those photos of …. ???? and I sure don’t want to be talking or working with a person who is wearing this little camera. I know I’d find it highly distracting.

(I suppose there is an argument to be made for wearing it to capture candid photos of your children, or maybe at an event …. I’ll go with that. But it’s the “all day” and photographing unsuspecting people that just seems yuchy. Bye bye privacy.)

You can read more about it in this article, and view examples of the photos that this gadget takes:

Cool or Creepy? A Clip-On Camera Can Capture Every Moment

If you’re interested, the Narrative sells for $279.

Just don’t visit with me if you’re wearing one. :roll:

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A View of Technology of the Future (2001) from 1967

Walter Cronkite was the host of a show called “The 21st Century” back in the sixties.

In 1967, he hosted a program that looked at the home of the future, and how technology would be integrated into all aspects of the house.

It’s fun to see as he takes you through the home office, the kitchen and the living room. The tech is all big and clunky with lots of buttons and knobs. But some predictions are quite accurate.

Remember …. this is 1967 looking ahead to 2001.

The Home Office of the Future (2001).

The Kitchen of the Future (2001) … not quite as accurate. Although the plates idea might still be coming as those 3D printers evolve!

The Living Room of the Future (2001). He was right. Big TV, big sound. But NOT the big ‘console’. Not all those buttons and knobs. They didn’t imagine controlling these things with a gadget that fits in the palm of your hand.

And then there are those windows! Do they exist? Were they ever invented? I kind of like those.

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Remember this?

Does this bring back memories??

Did you eventually have to install a “separate line” for this new-fangled internet thing?

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Technology meets Books in a Unique Display: Book Hive

England’s Bristol Central Library is celebrating 400 years of service.
(wow … 400 years! That’s 1613-2013 :shock: Congratulations!)

And so, for the next few months, visitors to the library will be greeted with an amazing animatronic display of books.

It’s called “Book Hive” and it is interactive. There are motion sensors so that a person standing (and moving) in front of the display will cause the books to open and close …. beckoning to be read. (quite clever, I think)

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if you have trouble viewing the video here in this blog, you can click this link to see it directly from the artist’s website: Book Hive

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Weekend Distraction: Elf Yourself (or Others)

Screen Shot 2013-12-06 at 4.36.28 PMOffice Max has offered us the opportunity to “Elf” ourselves for several years, now, so I’m sure many of you have had fun with this before.

But for those you haven’t …. you’ll want to give it a try and I promise, you’ll enjoy a laugh.

You can start with the original website, which is easy and fun and … FREE to use.

Once you agree to their terms and conditions, just upload photos of anyone you’d like to “elf” and you can quickly turn them into a happy dancing funny fellow. It is easy to do. Once the photo appears on the elf you can size it so it fits just right.

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I made a little dancing troupe of President Obama, Harry Potter and President Putin. I grabbed this screen shot as they were dancing across my screen to some cheery music.

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If you’d like to actually watch a little dance, click here: http://host-d.oddcast.com/php/application_UI/doorId=1177/clientId=299/?mId=51798277.3

On the website you can select from quite a few different dances/music. You’ll have fun, I promise!

There is also an iPhone/iPad version of this: ElfYourself by OfficeMax

The app version offers a free dance and then other, different dances for a fee.

Dances can be shared from the website or the app.

Happy Dancing!

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Shopping? Shop Savvy with help from, uh, ShopSavvy

Screen Shot 2013-12-05 at 7.14.18 AM How often have you been in a store, about to make a substantial purchase, and wondered if you could get a better deal someplace else?

I sure have. In my attempt to get the best price I will stand there with my phone and google the product to see what I can find.

But with this app, the process of bargain hunting is made even easier.

All you do is scan the barcode, and it will tell you how much the product costs at other retailers AND online.

When you bring up the app on your phone, it might look confusing, because they encourage your involvement in all the social media possibilities, and, of course, there are lots of ads and links to ‘deals.’

But the beauty of this app is the basic simplicity of comparing prices. Keep yourself focused on your task, and don’t get distracted.

When you open the app, just look to the BOTTOM. There you will find the scanner ‘button’, right in the center at the bottom.

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Just hold your phone over the barcode of the item and tap that scanner button on your phone. It will generate a list of stores (retail and online) that carry the item …. and the price so you can get your best deal.

I have used it for the last few weeks, and so far (after checking the accuracy of their price reporting) it has been absolutely correct.

ShopSavvy is FREE in the iTunes store

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REALLY funny Satire from Colbert on the Amazon Drones

Screen Shot 2013-12-04 at 6.41.03 AMTwo blog posts ago I included a short video of Amazon’s new drone that is scheduled to start delivering packages sometime in the not-too-distant-future.

Thoughts about these drones range from delighted to terrified.

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Enter Colbert, weighing in on the Amazon Drone.

If you enjoy witty satire, you will love this.

Colbert cleverly moves our advancing technology backwards.

Colbert talks about the Drones and offers a NEW and innovative idea for Mr. Bezos

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