Tech Farrago

Here are a few tech related items I came across recently.

Google Voice wants to make its transcriptions better.  That’s cool, since they haven’t gotten any better since this (which was over 4 years ago).  I like Google Voice, but the transcriptions are only useful as unintended comedy.

Speaking of Google Voice, you can also save the audio voice mails to Google Drive with this handy script.  I don’t do that, but it’s cool that I could if I wanted to.  What I want more is for Google Voice not to die a Google Reader death.

Save a web page as a PDF here.  You could probably just print to PDF via your Print menu, but where’s the fun in that.  I am still looking for an Automator, Apple Script, Hazel, etc. process to reliably and automatically convert documents in a specified folder to PDF.  Sounds simple, right?  But it must not be, because it doesn’t exist as far as I can tell.

labelmaker

I shouldn’t admit this, but I’m intrigued by the new Brother label printer.  I’m a big fan of Brother printers in general, and I too had one of those rotary label makers.

I love Fujitsu ScanSnap scanners.  Brooks Duncan (number one web site for paperless living) tells us how to disable the progress window.  I scan a lot of stuff, so this is good.

Not technically tech related, but awesome.  The New Yorker is opening up its archives.  Only for three months, though.

James Berardinelli explains exactly why I rarely go to movie theaters.  It’s the people, man.  Always the people.  I’m probably going to make a exception for the new Planet of the Apes movie this weekend.

As I noted the other day, I like the Philips Hue line of automation devices.  This light switch looks very promising.

My friend James has an idea for a new Apple device.  I don’t know.  The Windows convertible devices I used back in the day were, well, not fun.  On the other hand, I haven’t worn a watch in years, and I’m very curious about the iWatch.  Maybe Apple can recreate two previously obsolete devices.

Automatic, Not for the People

automaticsda

I’m very interested in automation and the aggregation of life data, and am a longtime user of Dropcams (excellent), WeMos (very good), SmartThings (kludgy, but OK once you get them configured, and possibly about to suffer death by acquisition), Philips Hue (good) and IFTTT (maybe the best thing on the internet).

So when I read about the Automatic Smart Driving Assistant (a reasonable $99), the under-dash device that promised to connect my car to my iPhone and then to IFTTT, giving me all kinds of helpful data, geolocating my car, and making me a better driver, I was interested.  A month or so ago, I took the plunge.  Shortly thereafter, I bought a second one for my daughter’s car (some teenage driver monitoring can be done now, via the device, but Automatic has indicated better monitoring features are coming in the future).  Here’s a summary of my experience so far.

The good?  Installation is easy.  When it works, the device and app combination clearly has potential.  The developers have an active and friendly presence in the support forums.  I want to love this device.  Hopefully, one day I will.

The bad?  Just about everything else.  The device is completely dependent on your phone for capturing and recording data.  Most annoyingly, the device only connects to my iPhone about half the time (and yes, even with the app open in the background).  Which means that I get data on about half my trips, and nothing, nada on the rest.  A taste of honey and all that.  One of the killer (potential) features of the device is that, via IFTTT, it will automatically create a spreadsheet on Google Drive that automatically logs your trips.  Awesome, right?  Except here’s a screen cap of my current log, which- like the Automatic app itself- says I haven’t driven since Monday (three days ago).

automaticlog

There’s a lot more information in the spreadsheet. It’s more awesome than the limited capture above.  When it works, that is.

That’s actually better than the one in my daughter’s car.  It says she hasn’t driven in over a week.  She just got her license and her first car, and drives all the time.

Automatic says the failure to connect issue has, at least in part, to do with limitations under iOS.  OK, but isn’t that like selling a jet pack and then saying its failure to work properly has to do with gravity?

In sum, the Automatic Smart Driving Assistant clearly has potential.  When it works, it’s pretty awesome.  But it isn’t quite ready for prime time.

 

 

Hey Baby, It’s the 4th of July

From Farm Aid, 1986. Manor, Texas.

Staring Through His Own Tail Lights

Reddit, man, frickin’ Reddit.  I love it with the power of a thousand suns.

NOBI16-140624

So some poor mom writes a heart wrenching post about some asshole kids (and there are a ton of them) being mean to her little boy.

I just want him to be happy. My heart hurts for him, and my hugs aren’t enough anymore.

Shortly, some other Redditor, a stranger, writes some of the best, most powerful words I’ve ever read.  Holy moly.  That’s the best writing I’ve seen since the Indian attack in Blood Meridian.

And in the face of it all, asks for two wonderful favors.

1) Please, Never Be Cruel.

2) Please, Always Be Kind.

If everyone would try a little harder to do that….

 

 

Like You’re Watching It

lookingback

Like most holidays, Father’s Day is a time to reflect on the present, to look back and remember what’s gone, and to share hopes for what’s to come.  That sort of thing is easier for some than for others.  For me, it’s like whiskey.  The trick is in the amount.  A little is good, but too much can make you crazy.

I can barely remember my own father, and my children don’t always think I’m as wise and benevolent as I feel.  All of this, plus my deep-rooted desire to avoid participation holidays having to do with me (my birthdays, etc.), finds me hunkered down on these days, partially grateful for any overtures and mostly waiting for the next morning, when things will return to whatever approximates normal.

dadandme-737799

So when Swedish songwriter Tom Levin emailed me about his new song, “Father to a Son,” a good and timely song about the difficulties of both being and having a father, and the often overlooked, but vastly important, legacy one creates through those relationships, it got me thinking about parental music.  A trip too far down that rabbit hole, like most introspection about one’s struggle to be good at what matters while simultaneously being excellent at much of what doesn’t, is to be avoided.  For sure.

But if I were to give a musical sermon to my children, it would sound something like this.

 

I haven’t done a particularly good job of doing all that stuff, but such was my intent, to the extent intent matters.  The anti-new age parent in me says it matters a little, but only a little.  To try is to fail with honor and all that.  But if intent is the precursor to action, maybe it matters more than we think.  In other words, to be you have to become.  To go someplace, you have to think about the direction you should travel.

Another musical message that I adhere to in theory, if not in action, is this one.

Well all the friends that you knew in school
They used to be so cool and they just bore you
Well look at them now, already pulling the plow
So quick to take to grain like some old mule
Young man full of big plans and thinking about tomorrow
Young man going to make a stand…

So here’s the point.  It has to do with intent, and direction and becoming.

Kids, you need to decide what you want out of life before life decides for you.  Not what you want right now, and not what someone tells you you should want, but what you want to do for the next few decades.  Something you’re passionate about, that will allow you to make a living and a difference.

Or maybe, on Father’s Day, you’re allowed to just listen to this one (the Honky-Tonk Stardust Cowboy and the Seldom Scene are a wonderful combination) and sit on the back porch, waiting for the birds to return to the feeders.

Like most things, it’s complicated.

Don’t You Know that I Can See

You have to click play before you can proceed.

Generally, I am a strong proponent of knocking down walls and tossing the gatekeepers out on their selective ears.  Remember how much we used to care about who linked to whom?  And sometime before that, I actually cared about the NBA and thought soccer was boring.  That was all wrong.

Like much of what one reads in the so-called press these days.  Now that the newspapers have been killed (generally good) and most content has been drug to free, anyone with a MacBook and an internet account can be a journalist.  Or at least portray one of the internet.  Sort of like I’m doing now.

That means more people competing for the same number of eyeballs, which results in more and more extreme stories, marketing and editing.  This is math, inevitable.  Which means you have some people who couldn’t write their way out of a wet paper bag hammering out half-baked and overly dramatic headlines.  Link bait is the new journalism.  Long live BuzzFeed.

foxnews

Add to the mix some extreme polarization between ideologies, and you have a constant stream of bullshit that either pisses you off or reinforces what your preferred plutocrat has told you you already believe.  It’s a hot mess.

I was off the grid for WWDC this year.  When I read some of the recaps, it seemed like a very underwhelming event.  Macworld has a great recap of the rush to fail.  I was disappointed.

Until I watched the video of the keynote.  And realized that, while no new hardware was announced (it is, after all, a developer‘s conference), Apple announced some things that are not only awesome but destined to materially improve mobile computing.  In other words, it was very impressive.  Something I would never have known based on the news reports.

See for yourself.

Baby, No One’s Doing Fine

When I listen to a new song the first time, and without even listening to the words carefully, I find myself getting wistful or misty-eyed, I know I have found something special.

That happened a while ago, via The Loft on XM Radio.

 

Fire Mountain, the pride of Troy, Alabama.  After listening to Doing Fine about 25 times, I went to Spotify, and listened to the rest of their excellent new record, All Dies Down.  Music like this is why I have ears.  Wonderful.  Highly recommended.

Amazon link
iTunes link
Bandcamp link