Comparing Google Photos and Amazon Cloud Drive

Since starting this trip about 2 months ago we’ve taken an average of about 50 photos/videos a day, between our two iPhones and our Coolpix Camera. A month into the trip my external hard drive was filling up fast and I began to worry about how I could keep our growing collection of photos safe without spending a ton of money.

When Amazon offered its unlimited storage CloudDrive product for $55/year (with a 3 month free trial) I jumped at the chance to get in. I’ve uploaded about 70 gigs of photos and video since then and have dealt with some annoying features along the way. I just brushed the annoyances off because I figured A) Amazon would keep iterating on the product to improve it over time and B) there wasn’t any deal out there as good as theirs.

Then a few days ago Google released their unlimited Photo storage product too. Damn. At first I felt as though having options  made things worst. Now I had to decide which product to go with, and, if I did change products, I had to download 70+ gigs of data from Amazon over these shitty hotel networks and reupload them to Google.

I started uploading our new pics to Google this week to give it a whirl and the differences have been fairly major. Google seem to me to be the clear winner for me so far, here’s why.

Amazon Cloud Drive (ACD)

Amazon's File List View
Amazon’s File List View
Amazon's Photos Viewer
Amazon’s Photos Viewer

 Problems I have with ACD

  • You can only share a couple photos/videos at a time
  • The web interface fails if there is a disconnection or network problem.
  • The desktop interface was not better than the web – so why have it?
  • The download of the thumbnails on the media viewer were slow and many photos didn’t ever make it down.
  • Sometimes the video didn’t play or trying to enlarging photos for preview wouldn’t work.
  • Search rarely worked.

The good parts of ACD

  • I liked the folder system to organize things manually
  • You can store ANYTHING with unlimited storage. Files or Photos.
  • There are no limits on the size of your media you upload
  • They were first?

Google Photos

All Photos View
All Photos View
Auto Organized by Place, Scene, or Thing
Auto Organized by Place, Scene, or Thing
Manually Created Collections
Manually Created Collections
Shared Photos Manager
Shared Photos Manager

Problems With Google Photos

  • Can only store photos and video
  • There is a limit on the size of the photos and video you upload.
    • At first that concerned me but none of my media hits those limits so it is moot.
  • No file system.
    • Though, now that I have used it for a week I don’t think I really needed one.
  • Not really sure what the “Assistant” can do for me.
    • It does a few cool things but not all that valuable.  Like it created an animated gif of random files in case I wanted them….Maybe I will dig it down the road…

What I love about Google Photos

  • It organizes my photos/videos into locations
  • I can share entire collections or individual photos. I can easily manage those shared photos easily through a management console.
  • The image viewer loads super quickly. Same network, no missing  images thumbnails
  • Search works great and you can use it to find more than just file names.
  • It recognizes THINGS! Like “ruins” and “beaches.”
    • I don’t know how I will use that, maybe when writing blogs and I want to find something quickly. More importantly, who cares how I use it – it is freaking cool!
  • Smoother flowing design. Not fancy, just clean.
  • The web uploader is way nicer than ACD.
    • It shows you thumbnails of your photo and video being uploaded. You can pause it. And when you lose connection it just holds its current upload position until it gets a connection again (even when the computer sleeps.) I have not got an error yet – and with ACD it was always an issue.
  • I can organize my albums visually.
    • With ACD I had folders (w/ a listview of the files) or a photo view with ALL of my media by date. With Google my collections are as easy to skim through.

Overall the UX of ACD was clunky and the service was more expensive. So, I guess I don’t have that hard of a decision to make after all.

One thing I wish they both did is allow me to use my cloud stores images as IMG’s in my website. It would be great not to have to upload them twice for display. It seems like they provide only a temporary link for the photo itself.

 

How to create fast motion videos on your iPhone for family vacation updates

On our trips to locations around the world our family and friends want a way to get an idea for what we are up to.  Like most people, we post pictures to Facebook that try and capture the essence of our trip but video is so much better at truly capturing the 3-dimensional realities of what we experience.

Now, with tools like Hyperlapse and iMovie on iOS, you can create a video that summarize an entire site in a timely way for both the creator and viewer.

Here is an example of a video of our trip to Cappadocia I created entirely on my iPhone:

Here’s how I did it

  1. Download Hyperlapse by Instagram on your iPhone
    1. Not only does hyperlapse allow you to capture a sped up versions of your video, but it adds a layer of stabilization so to reduces camera shake.486943823_640

      hyperlapse
      Hyperlapse’s home page, recording and saving screens
  2. Use Hyperlapse to shoot some video.
    1. Even though there is built-in stabilization, it behooves you to try and keep the camera as steady as possible.
    2. I often save my video at “2x.” Half the size (in time and memory) as a regular video and, as you will see when we edit in iMovie, you get a wider range of fast-forward-play options.
    3. Once you finalize the video it is saved to your photo library for later use.
  3. Download iMovie on your iPhone

    at-the-core-imovie-hero_1
    iMovie app in edit mode
  4. Follow the instruction to start a new movie or trailer, and select “movie”
  5. Choose a theme (I usually just choose simple) and select “create”
  6. Follow the instruction to add “video, photos, or audio”
  7. Select one of your Hyperlapse videos from your library
    1. Tip: Pressing play will allow you to preview the video before adding it. The arrow pointing down will import it into your project.
  8. Drag and drop your movie clips in the order you want them to play
    1. Tip: Taping a clip once selects it for editing. If there is a yellow border on the clip, you are in edit mode. If you want to move the clip, tap outside the clip so it is no longer highlighted and then tap-and-hold the clip until it is draggable.
  9. Add transitions between the clip by tapping the small square box in between each clip.IMG_9912
    1. Tip: If a clip is too short the transition options will be grayed out. You must have at least enough time in a clip to allow a transition to complete in order to select it.
    2. Tip: Some transition have multiple modes. After choosing a transition by tapping it, tap the transition again to get the different variant. Eg, fade to black or fade to white.
    3. Tip: This is one of the places choosing a theme in the “create project” options will have an outcome. See the “theme” transition. That will change based on the theme you chose. Tap the gear icon in the bottom right of the application to change the theme after a project is created.
  10. Edit the the duration of a clip
    1. Once a clip is selected, and highlighted with the yellow border, you can drag the ends of the clip to shorten or elongate the duration of the clip.
  11. Speed up some “in between” clipsIMG_9914
    1. Some clips will still run a bit slow due to things like how long it took you to walk to the end of a block or to pan 360 degrees. You can speed up segments of these clips to move the video along.
    2. Tap the clip to go into edit mode.
    3. choose the meter icon (directly to the right of the scissor icon.) You will then see a meter labeled 1X
    4. Drag the knob on the meter to the right to speed up the clip. You can move it to a max of 2X (which is why saving the clip as 2X allows you a range of 2X to 4X which.) There are ways around it I will go into later.
    5. If you only want to speed up a segment slice the clip into more segments (explained below) and speed them up without transitions at their ends.

The functionality of iMovie is limited. Most of the effects you will create work off of the duration of each clip in your project. Therefor, you can manipulate your effects by slicing your clips to suit your needs.

How to slice a clip

IMG_9913

  1. Scrub (meaning, slide the white line A.K.A the video head) over the moment in the clip you would like to split into two.
  2. Select a clip for editing (make sure the scissor tool is highlighted.)
  3. Choose “split”

Now you have two clips for the same scene. As long as there is no transition there will be no visual result on the video due to the “split” you just made. Like I mentioned before, you are merely using the split to tell the effects we are about to add when to start and end. Eg, the titles and captions.

Adding a Caption or Title

  1. Select a clip for editing
  2. Select the large “T” (third icon to the right from the scissor.)
  3. Select a caption type
    1. In order to edit the text for a caption or title you will need to tap the video player, above the film section of the application.
    2. Tip: After choosing a theme, extra options will display above the edit tray such as “Center”, “Opening” etc. These will position some titles, as well as change the format for others. Play around with them all to get a feel for the options you have.

By now you should have a video. To get a smooth video will take practice but now you will have all the tools and tips to do so 🙂

To save the clip as a video you can post to Facebook, go to the movie listing (if you are editing a movie project now you will need to tap the back arrow at the top of the application.) There you will have options to save the film to your library.

Tip: If you want to speed things up or make more advanced transitions you can save the edited video to your library and then create a new project with that saved video. You will than be able to speed segments up by another 2X or add transition to clips that may have been too short in your original movie.

Before we go, here’s a bonus tip …

How to rotate movies

I originally stumbled onto using iMovie when I accidently recorded a video vertically and needed to rotate it. Here’s how to rotate movies:

  1. Open a movie in iMovie (if you do not know how to do so read the tutorial above.)
  2. Pinch the movie preview viewer (the area above the clips and play head line) with two fingers and rotate them (like screwing off the top of a bottle.)
    1. You will then see an circle arrow appear on the video. Once you see that remove your fingers from the screen.

IMG_9915

 

Here is a quick video of some of the features in practice, as described above.


Enjoy!

What bag did I choose for our world trek?

IMG_7816

Originally I bought a Deuter 50L bag (in the SF REI) with an attached (zip on) daypack. It came with a harness that had thick cushioning straps and a strong frame for back support.

Luckily, we decided to test the bags out on our final trip to DC to visit family and friends. During that test I realized that the daypack wouldn’t fit my 15″ macbook pro. To be honest, it was too small to fit just about anything. I went to the VA REI where I found the 70L (50/20) Osprey bag I ended up with. They happen to be the same price; it was an easy trade.

Each bag had its merits and faults. The Osprey had very little cousin on the straps and less support on the back and waist. On the other hand, it had an extra flap on the bottom that that folded into itself and allowed you to zip up your straps while checking the bag on a plane (see animated gif below.) This ended up being super handy. For example, with Jackie’s bag, we ended up having to tie up all the straps every time we checked it to keep the straps from dangling. Of course, that zip cover came at the cost of losing the pillow compartment that was on the bottom of the Deuter bag.

bag_anim

It took me a few hours to make my pick (hats off to the patient staff at REI,) but it has been about a month and I’m very happy with what I got. Since we are in hotels most of the time, and mostly flying, the features of the bag I got have been exactly what I needed. As a note, I rarely have the time to zip the daypack onto the bag. I probably could have got a cheaper large bag and a cheap small day pack for my laptop and have been fine.

Concerning the costs that comes with checking a bag, almost all of our flights so far had a one checked bag allowance. Now that we are about to hop through europe, discount airlines will charge 20-40 euros per bag; almost the amount of the ticket themselves. After 10 flights it will cost an extra 200 euros to check our luggage. I’m not sure how I feel about that yet.  Regarding our fear of losing our bags,  we’ve only had one narrow escape. In Turkey, on a speedy transfer between flights, our bags got delayed. We were able to have the hotel concierge call the company to have it expedited to the hotel, so no harm no foul.

A few more bag selectin tips:

  1. Parkinson’s law of space: If you have the space you WILL fill it. Don’t convince yourself to get a bigger bag “and just not fill it all the way.”
  2. Get a vacuum bag. It doubles the space you do have for fluffy items.
  3. Get a bag that opens horizontally, like a suitcase. The ones that open from the top (for hiking) are pains the the ass to fill and remove things from. If you aren’t camping a lot – avoid the top loader.
  4. Get a bag with zippers. Some hiking bags just have straps, velcro and clips to decrease weight. The added security you get from having zipper is worth the few grams of weight it adds.
  5. The waist strap helps a lot.
  6. Don’t worry about the waterproof cover if it costs more – a plastic bag will work fine for the few times your are walking, with your bag, in the rain for a long period of time.
  7. Make sure your bag has straps in the inside to keep clothes in place. It is a nice way to organize and increase usable space.

How to make free calls home from around the world

imgres-5Wouldn’t it be nice to make free calls to your home country from anywhere in the world? How great would it be if friends and family at home could call you for free while you travel? Sure you can use Skype or Viber to make internet calls, but with them everyone needs to use the same service; it won’t work well when calling a business or landline. With the method below you can call any phone number directly, be it a home phone, cell phone or app. To do it all you need is a Google Account, a phone number with your local “home” area code (only initially,) and a computer with an Internet connection.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Sign up for a Google Voice number in your home country before you leave.
  2. Google will provide you a new local number called your “Google Voice Number.”
  3. “Link” your GVoice number to an existing landline or cell number to complete the registration. Note: You can only have one GVoice number for every landline or cell phone you have.

 Your new GVoice number will charge you for “international calls” made to area codes outside your designated GVoice’s area code, BUT it will consider any call to the same GVoice area code a “free call” – no matter where in the world you call from! See screenshots and captions below. 

Google_Voice_-_Inbox__6_ 2
After registering you must verify your new number is connected to a real non-google number.
Google_Voice_-_Inbox__6_
Using the voice.google.com (or hangouts) you can make or receive calls or text to your GVoice number.
Google__Hangouts
All calls made with the same area code as your GVoice number will be free – no matter where you call from!

In addition to the free calls, you will have voicemail that includes a free automatic transcription service, allowing you to read your voicemail messages. You will also have the ability to send and receive texts. Another great option is to use the Hangouts app. Using it you can make internet based calls to other Hangout user AND direct to local phone numbers from your phone.

For travelers this feature gives you an amazing way to stay connected to family and friends at home while using a local number they can call for free as well!

9 Ways to start learning about (or investing in) startups and entreprenuers

imgres-4“I’m looking to start investing in (and learning about) startups. Where should I start?”

I get this question a lot, so I figured a blog post may the optimal way to answer it moving forward. 🙂

Of course, it goes without saying that investing in – well – anything really, comes with its own sets of risks.  [Blah blah blah, legal jargon]

For starters, Angel.co is a great launching point (if you haven’t already signed up I suggest you do so.) There you can learn about, and meet, all kinds of startups ranging from super early to the more later types. Meet entrepreneurs, people who want to work in startups, or find a startup or syndicate and place a bet on an idea you love.

imgres-3

To get in on an investment round for a pre-IPO company start with FundersClub.com and EquityZen.com. They’ll send emails intermittently letting you know when a fund is being made available.

imgres-1 imgres-2

If you want to get shares in companies that are NOT doing rounds or looking for an investment then you’ll have to buy shares from current or former employee on a private marketplace. Sharespost.com and SecondMarket.com helps facilitate that process.

imgres-1 imgres-2

If your goal is to just find a way to invest with more upside than a bank and less risk than a stock, I suggest using LendingClub.com for microloan investments. There you give out roughly $25 per person to thousands of people looking for them. You’ll have to keep your money in for a couple years (although there are ways to liquidate sooner if needed) but you can see about 5%-20% annual returns depending on what you set your risk tolerance to.

imgres-3

Tangentially, if you are looking to meet entrepreneurs and get in on a more personal level to invest, become an advisor or just learn about the startup community, there are a few options: StartUpTravels.com that connects you to entrepreneurs around the world (full discloser, it’s a project I am working on now,) FounderDating.com and CoFoundersLab.com where you can meet other founder types to start a business are worth noting.

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imgres imgres

 

If you are looking for a more in-depth look at the risks that go along with some of the investing products above you can check out my friend Daniel Odio’s blog here: http://danielodio.com/show-me-the-money-six-strategies-to-put-your-cash-to-work

Facebook JS login on Chrome iOS workaround

I was putting together a Facebook JS SDK based login on a site I’m working on – only to find that Chrome on iOS does not support the action.

JH8Un

 

What was even more surprising was the lack of documentation or support online (with Chrome or Facebook) to help work around the issue.

I saw a few suggestion that had solutions based on using Parse or where others suggested using a backend based login API. I didn’t want to install another framework just to solve this problem, and my objective for the interface was to offer a seamless login process that doesn’t interrupt the user’s current modal based workflow.

To make matters worst, and I am really disappointed in Google for this (which is rare,) popping out windows on Google Chrome iOS makes a null reference to the  “opener” in certain situations. This makes it hard to complete a seamless login between two windows once the FB auth page is verified.

Below is a solution that checks if FB is authed, if not, manually opens an FB auth window that forwards the user to an Opener Handler page. That page forces a refresh of the openers auth tokens and closes the window. Once completed the user is sent back to the original page (with no page refresh) and can now proceed with a validated FB auth.


var ABSOLUTE_URI = "http://yourpage.com/openerhandler.html";
var FB_ID = "123456778";
function openFBLoginDialogManually(){
// Open your auth window containing FB auth page
// with forward URL to your Opened Window handler page (below)
var redirect_uri = "&redirect_uri=" + ABSOLUTE_URI + "fbjscomplete";
var scope = "&scope=public_profile,email,user_friends";
var url = "https://www.facebook.com/dialog/oauth?client_id=" + FB_ID + redirect_uri + scope;
// notice the lack of other param in window.open
// for some reason the opener is set to null
// and the opened window can NOT reference it
// if params are passed. #Chrome iOS Bug
window.open(url);
}
function fbCompleteLogin(){
FB.getLoginStatus(function(response) {
// Calling this with the extra setting "true" forces
// a non-cached request and updates the FB cache.
// Since the auth login elsewhere validated the user
// this update will now asyncronously mark the user as authed
}, true);
}
function requireLogin(callback){
FB.getLoginStatus(function(response) {
if (response.status != "connected"){
showLogin();
}else{
checkAuth(response.authResponse.accessToken, response.authResponse.userID, function(success){
// Check FB tokens against your API to make sure user is valid
});
}
});
}

view raw

FB JS Auth

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<html>
<head>
<script type="text/javascript">
function handleAuth(){
// once the window is open
window.opener.fbCompleteLogin();
window.close();
}
</script>
<body onload="handleAuth();">
<p>. . . </p>
</body>
</head>
</html>

view raw

Opened Window

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Gyms as a service (GAAS): Finally, better gym options as product services

imgres-1Five years ago I walked into my 24 Hour Fitness Gym and filled out a cancellation form.

“Are you sure that’s all I have to do?”, I asked the front desk rep. “Yup, you’re good to go, good luck with your move!”

Six months later I got a call from a collections agency telling me that I had six months of unpaid membership fees needing collection. Needless to say, it was an awful experience. I am sure many customers end up foregoing upwards of $200 or more in that situation all the time – not me. After hours of phone calls and emails, I was relieved of my “obligation,” but vowed never to use 24 Hour Fitness again – what else could I do than that, right?

In a world when Taxi’s treated you like crap but you still rode in them every day, there wasn’t much you could do with companies like this. Except turn around, take it and walk away.

When I moved back to the area I was a bit hesitant to sign up at any gym, given my experience. I stayed true to my vow and avoided 24-hour Fitness (even though it was cheaper) and signed up at Crunch Gym instead. I had options! Or so I thought.

lsThe sales staff was friendly at Crunch and, as expected, paying for the initiation fee and last month’s dues upfront was a piece of cake. I was instantly a member and assured by the sales staff that, “there won’t be any hassles if you decide to cancel – anytime.” Since then, two years of dues that would have gone into 24-Hour Fitness’ pockets went to Crunch Gym; I had no complaints.

Then moving time came again and I went in to cancel my membership.

“Sorry, you can’t cancel your membership *in* the gym. You have to call this number.” The Gym rep handed me a card. It was a bitter tasting sentence to hear while watching sales staff effortlessly input credit card numbers for the Gym’s newest members.

I called the Crunch cancelation number. “We already charged you this month…” (I come to find this was NOT true) “… and we’ll use your deposit to pay for your last month starting in April. Plus a $2 charge for any differences remaining since we’ve increased membership fees.” It was March 2nd and I was now paying until May 1st.

robber_MGBasically, in one sentence, my “easy cancelation” turned into about $120 of dues over two months toward a gym membership I just canceled. Jackie had the same experience except with a higher monthly membership fee. Crunch Gym robbed $270  from our household. Poof, just like that, Crunch now has the money and we do not. There is nothing the service agent can do about it and he gives me an email address so I can contact a manager to “have it explained to me further.” Sorry, there is no explanation that justifies being fleeced. I asked for a write-up from him explaining why I am being charged for a service I am canceling so I can submit it to the BBB with my complaint. He said he couldn’t do that. He thanks me for my call and hangs up on me. Note: The things they can and cannot do at these Gyms seem heavily skewed in their favor. Weird, huh?

Jackie said let it go, but that very sentence gave me a pit in my stomach. How many Gyms use this tactic to make up the hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue they see each year? They know most customers will let it go, so they keep doing it. I told the story to a few friends, and, not surprisingly, they tell me that it has happened to them with Crunch and other gyms as well. Have gyms formed a Mafia? I guess they have the muscle for it…

The problem that occurs when companies become monopolies (like Comcast) or mafias (like Crunch Gym and 24-hour Fitness) is that customers don’t have much choice in the matter. In this case, either take it or don’t work out.

Uber and Lyft finally gave us the tools to allow us to ditch Taxi cabs (poor customer service standards and all.) And Netflix, Google, and Yahoo are finally causing Comcast to AT LEAST start honoring their “maintenance window” as they try to prove their worth before judgment day. (Gosh, I sure can’t wait for the day Comcast cries about how unfair it is that Google is taking their business.)

Well America, good news. The new world is being filled with products that focus on value, access, customer service and quality. They are starting to aim their slingshots at the Goliaths we know as gyms.

You have options! You can ditch your P.O.S (and/or overly priced) gym and actually get more for less in the process! A membership where your patronage goes toward the local gyms, you’re experiences are of higher quality and customer service is a tent pole. Now that the game has changed, your “gym membership” can get you into specialty studios, access to activities like Kayaking and sports, and a truly “cancel anytime” philosophy that ensures people that have to leave do so as happily as when they joined.

Here are a few:
fitmob_color.fw_1) FitMobfitmob.com – For about the same price as Crunch (and way more friendly cancelation policy and service) this company offers a membership to a multitude of different gyms and activities. For example, you get access to a awesome yoga studio, or (like me) you can head down to the shore and go Paddleboarding for the day. All free with the membership.

Currently Serving: San Francisco, San Jose, San Diego, Portland, Philidelphia, Austin, Dallas, Seattle

imgres2) ClassPassclasspass.com – Founded by Payal Kadakia ClassPath offers access to a variety of studios you can register online for free with your ClassPass membership. What is great about this experience is  you don’t get a class thrown together by amateurs working for a corporate gym. Instead, you get to go to the best studios in town that specialize in an activity for whatever you want to do. ClassPath is on to something having just raised $14M in funding and growing exponential into more and more cities month after month.

Currently Serving: NEW YORK LOS ANGELES/ORANGE COUNTY SAN FRANCISCO CHICAGO MIAMI BOSTON WASHINGTON, DC SEATTLE ATLANTA AUSTIN CHARLOTTE COLUMBUS DALLAS/FORT WORTH DENVER HOUSTON MINNEAPOLIS/ST. PAUL PHILADELPHIA PHOENIX PORTLAND SAN DIEGO LAS VEGAS RALEIGH BALTIMORE TAMPA ST. LOUIS ORLANDO NASHVILLE KANSAS CITY LONDON TORONTO VANCOUVER

Sorry Crunch, you had your day and just like the Taxi mafia – your time is limited.

More comments available on the public FB post here: https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=10152976618217107&id=704372106

**UPDATES***

March 3rd – Still no charges (or pending charges) on my credit card bill from Crunch. The support rep told me it was already charged and there was nothing he could do about it as a result. Nice tactic – untrue after 2 full business days.

(March 2nd) Crunch asked me to contact a store manager – this is what I sent:
Screen Shot 2015-03-03 at 5.42.53 PM

 

Update March 4th: If you’ve had a similar experience you can contact Jasmine <Jasmine.Vega@crunch.com>. Below is her email and my reply.

Screen Shot 2015-03-04 at 1.22.34 PM

March 4th

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Built-in Dictation on Yosemite

What I dictated – as is and untouched:

It’s been a while since I had tried using dictation mostly because it’s never worked before I don’t know how long maps habitation on it but I figured I’d give it a shot again this blog is written completely has dictation with no edits made to see how good it aside for my poor dictation skills hopefully the words being written are exactly as I intended blow is [the dictation ended automaically maybe becasue my pause or just to many words – starting over] A link showing you how you can set up dictation on your computer. I just noticed that all the dictation coming before this punctuation so I must have to say the punctuation out loud, which is expected.

http://support.apple.com/en-us/HT5449

What I actually said – uncorrected:

It’s been a while since I have tried using dictation. Mostly because it’s never worked well before. I don’t know how long mac has had it, but I figured I’d give it a shot again. This blog is written completely as a dictation with no edits made to see how good it is. Aside for my poor dictation skills, hopefully, the words being written are exactly as I intended. Below is […] A link showing you how you can set up dictation on your computer. I just noticed that all the dictation coming before this had no punctuation – so, I must have to say the punctuation out loud, which is expected.

http://support.apple.com/en-us/HT5449

Screen Shot 2015-02-23 at 11.28.10 PM

To set up dictation go to your preferences and choose “Dictation and speech.”

HT5449-yosemite-system_preference-dictation-001-en

 

Turn dictation on and you’re all set. Press Fn key twice to start.

Annnnnnnd end scene…

Overall it’s not too shabby of an implementation considering it used to cost hundreds of dollars to get dictation software on your computer. Also, it helps that the dictation bar has always been set fairly low. To be fair, trying to make up something while dictating is a bit unnatural – so I can see why the feature would stumble through a sentence; I sure did. A nice feature is that dictation works in any website or app on your mac – all you have to do is press the function key twice and start talking 🙂

You can also go the extra mile and set up text commands. This feature is not new, and I have never found myself able to speak my commands more quickly than I could keyboard them – so I will leave that decision up to you. You can read more about voice commands herehttp://www.macworld.com/article/2834532/ok-mac-using-automators-dictation-commands-new-in-yosemite.html

Wolfram Alpha: Product Spotlight

Wolfram-Alpha-iconWolfram Alpha calls itself a “computational knowledge engine” and was spun out of “Mathematica,” a mathematically intensive formula and graphing calculator on steroids.

Although amazingly powerful, Wolfram Alpha is not widely known, though you may already be using it. Its one of the data engines behind Siri – and one of the few Siri systems you can actually count on. It responds on Siri’s behalf for computationally based queries. For example, when you ask Siri “How many inches in 10 meters” she replies with:

IMG_7595

Notice the logo beneath the answer.

You can access Wolfram Alpha directly on the web and get some surprisingly robust answers from it. Just for kicks, while showing Wolfram Alpha to a friend (completely unrehearsed), I asked it, “How many cars are on the road?” ( Purposefully leaving it a bit vague.) Surprisingly, this is what it responded with:

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It helps that Wolfram Alpha is scoped. It focuses on statistical and computational questions. Therefore, it doesn’t search the web for trends and rankings since it’s primarily driven by data and math. So, to get the most out of it I suggest focusing your questions on ones that possess those qualities. It can be, for example, a good place to gather preliminary data for your research. Like this one, “number of families in the united states with an average income above $100,000 per year.

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To be honest, it’s been years since I last played with it; it’s kind of one of those products that its usefulness ebbs and flows. Recently, however, while researching a “social product” idea, I stumbled upon this nifty feature advertising a Facebook Report from Wolfram and decided to give it a go.

Wolfram Alphas Facebook Report

Not only was the data of the report interesting but the speed at which it gathered, computed and graphed it all was a bit stunning. It’s able to give you just about everything about you on Facebook.

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You can view charts of your post history over time, as a ratio between posting images vs. text, most active times of day by media types or a word-cloud of your most often used vocabulary. You can find out what post garnered you the most likes or comments, who’s commented on your posts the most and how often you use the FB app.

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This little graph shows me the ratio of female friends I have to male ones and what their relationships status’ are – broken down into a pie chart. You can see the average age of my friends and where in the world my friends live.

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This graph I don’t really even understand, but it looks hella informative!

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All in all Wolfram Alpha is a fun product to play with and may even help you get some of your research started and difficult questions answered quickly.

Here are some other fun questions to ask it:

Facebook V. Twitter

How far is Saturn (Remember, distances are not static)

First cousins once removed

35,000 Words in Finish

More examples

Heroku now deployed through Github

heroku-logoI’m a big fan of Heroku setup for pet projects. With it I am able to quickly deploy a project without having to develop on some proprietary  framework or prep a server to host a website. I especially love how easy it is to deploy directly from my local machine through a git push to master, and my ability to run and configure the system through a dashboard or command line toolbelt.

Until now however, I needed to keep two repos to manage my source code. One in Github for sharing, viewing, and tracking; and one in Heroku for deploying. Last week Heroku released a new feature that allows you to connect your Heroku account to Github: https://blog.heroku.com/archives/2015/2/6/heroku_github_integration

You can use this new feature to select which branch Heroku should use to trigger auto-deployments, as well as run pre-checks against your C.I. system tests. In short, I likey 🙂

wanderworld_·_Github___Heroku