Technology for Seniors – Silver Tech

Now where did I leave my emergency pendant?  For the uninitiated (younger) readers of this blog, this pendant is an emergency response device usually worn within easy reach of a senior so that they can send an emergency signal when they are in distress (typically because of a fall, or general call for help).  Unfortunately, many seniors fail to wear them daily, or remove them at night when sleeping and can not locate them when needed.  Could it be that in this case, technology isn’t always the best solution to a problem?

Perhaps the real issue here is not about the technology, but an inherent “generational gap” that exists between tech developers and end users.   Many have observed that a lot of start-ups are run by 25-year-0lds who don’t know much about being 85 or being a caregiver.  Another suggestion is that we need a Consumer Reports for Silver Tech.   One of the best resources currently available is “A Family Caregiver’s Guide to Electronic Organizers, Monitors, Sensors, and Apps.”

It already seems that the most appropriate silver tech is the one that works best in the living arrangement that the individual senior chooses.  There is probably no better substitute for discussing potential tech purchases with the intended user at any age.

Ray Myers

Color Me Red, and Free, on YouTube

I am having a little trouble following all this, so please excuse me.  Maybe it’s my “advancing years,” and if anyone can help me, please do.  Now when I go to the YouTube site on my iPad, it really is all Red, and when I click on a posting that I want to see, I do have access to it, but I also see a short advertisement before it runs.  So I guess I am Red, and have not been asked to pay the $10-a-month subscription?

That’s really okay with me.  I can even skip the advertisements after I have watched the first 30 seconds or so?  But if I really find this an inconvenience, I can now pay YouTube $120 a year so I don’t have to go through this “agony.”  Now if I understand this subscription option correctly, YouTube actually gets a “double dip” as they say in the U.S.  They already have paying advertisers for some of their posted videos, and now of you want to see them without these advertisements, you can pay YouTube for that privilege.  I think I got this right?

Please let me know if I am not understanding the economics of all this.  It just doesn’t seem that YouTube is trying to improve the content that they offer in return for a paid subscription service, but I could be wrong.  You will get to see video clips faster, and many may be willing to pay for this.  But as one analyst concluded: “content is the key so we’ll have to see how they execute on it.”

Ray Myers

Mao Online: Soft Power or Propaganda?

I guess the answer is obvious.  Whether online or on paper, propaganda is what it is.  Not a genuine exchange of ideas, but simply a reporting what is the “party line” in order to preserve the power of political leaders wherever they may be.  Some online course providers in the United States, including edX and Coursera, have decided to bring these offerings to millions of users.  

Take your pick.  For example, among the course offerings from China, would you like to start with an “Introduction to Mao Zedong Thought,” or would you prefer “Will China Rise as a Disruptive Force? The Insiders’ Perspective.”  The second course choice is really intriguing, because I think I already know the answer, but if you are really interested, please feel free.

No pun intended, but these courses are not always FREE.  In true capitalistic tradition, if you would like to get a certificate of completion from some schools you will have to pay a prescribed fee.  Funny, I always thought propaganda was free, but I guess you really need some renumeration if you are trying to sell “soft power.”

Ray Myers

New Technology Digitizing Biodiversity

From explorations in outer space to studying and preserving insect specimens on earth, digital technology is surely one of our most powerful tools in these quests.  Individual specimen collections  can now be digitally photographed from hundreds of angles and made available in 3-D on the web.  These collections would easily fill hundreds of cabinets in any natural history museum around the world.

The Museum of Natural History in Berlin and the Florida Museum of Natural History are two examples of such online collections that are easily accessible from your preferred digital device.  At the same time, you can still make the trip and view these specimens in person, but I think you will probably have a better view looking at a digital screen.

And of course,  if you still prefer, you can resurrect your butterfly net (if you ever had one), and chase all these dazzling species in their natural habitats.  Unfortunately in our digital age, this may not seem as appealing as perhaps it once was.  Maybe there is really no need to chase these beautiful creatures when we can search and “capture” them on our computer screens.  Or you still might simply enjoy watching them on some sunny summer day and admire their natural beauty.

Ray Myers

Apps versus Web and Online Publishing

I still enjoy reading the newspapers and magazines the old-fashioned way – paper in hand, coffee or other beverage sometimes, by my side.  Now there are so many other ways to keep informed about whatever is of interest, and finding out whatever else may be of interest, that your choices have become virtually unlimited.  And the media you choose in order to stay informed may truly be the “message.”  

Are you an “apps” or web person?  Digital publishers are now engrossed in making marketing decisions that will increase their readerships and revenues.  The mobile website seems to be prevailing in terms of focusing their publication efforts on being the most effective investment of time and resources.  As some experts note, it’s become increasingly difficult for anybody trying to do something independently on their own.  Unfortunately, the quest for getting people addicted to their business model (i.e., Google, Apple), may outweigh their support for the endeavors of creative working people.  

So I don’t think this is the way things were supposed to be.  Truly, what a tangled web we have weaved.  We still may think that we are the masters of our “Internet destinies,” but you still may have more control when you go to the library (I mean the one with books, magazines, and newspapers in a building).

Ray Myers

Talking #Barbie – Interactive and Wi-Fi Connected!

This is not your mother’s or grandmother’s Barbie.  I guess it was just inevitable in the digital age.  After all, making toys and dolls is just like any other business.  Kids want toys that do things, so let’s give them what they want, and they can chat away for hours with their little #Barbie friends and other “interactive” pals.  Sounds like you can “program” your conversations with your dolls, and I would say that these discussions may become ones where the “programmer” can always know what the outcome will be.  And please also know that there are many apps available for this type of digital play.

What a concept you may say.  No more arguments with siblings and neighborhood playmates, just click and play.  Don’t worry, there is also something for the boys that will allow them to be connected and interactive, #HotWheels.  So many more options for cyber-play whenever and with whomever you like.  Talk about living in the 21st Century.  No more “child’s play.”

Don’t get me wrong.  Technology can create so many more options for all children to learn and play.  So many more ways to make a child’s world more inclusive of friendships not limited by time and space, or physical abilities.  But let’s not forget that sometimes their best friends might just be where they are.

Ray Myers


Connecting Your Home – A Cautionary Tale

In this day and age, why not be connected to all the devices in your house through your handy smartphone?  It may be easier said than done as one enterprising tech savy author discovered when he made this a do-it-yourself home project.  Let’s just say that after all of his arduous efforts, that took quite a bit more time than expected, his wireless router broke!

Upon reflection, he concluded that some of the gadgets he was trying to install were “solutions looking for a problem.”  Perhaps the most telling example of the frustration he felt was his security system with “night vision” that would send a security alert anytime a fly came within a few feet, which happened 5 to 10 times a night.  He generalizes that while some gadgets were hard to set up, others take the simplest tasks and made them more difficult.

After this experience, he looks forward to writing a follow-up piece that will describe what happens when you have an expert connect your home to the “Internet of Things.”

Ray Myers

Playboy Goes Tech; Bradshaw Breaks Male Code

I think this will be my first post combining a couple of favorite male topics, female nudity and pro football, the former more related to technology than the later, but both related to challenging the status quo.  Some explanation is needed, so let’s start with Playboy which is a more tech-related story but maybe be more disappointing to our male readers.  As some may already know, Playboy dispensed with nudity on its website in August of last year with no appreciable loss in readership.  Actually, they attracted more younger readers, average age dropping from 47 to just over 30, and web traffic jumped to about 16 million from about four million unique users per month.  Now the print magazine will also adopt a more “sex-positive” approach (less Playmate, more investigative journalism?).

Now on to Terry Bradshaw, not so much about technology, but about speaking truth to power in recognizing the need to change the culture of spousal abuse in pro football.  I know that there has been NFL sanctioned testimony from some of their star athletes about how this must stop, but Terry Bradshaw goes further.  One retired pro football legend speaking out against one current NFL star “mano a mano,” and taking on the team’s (Cowboys) owner in the process. 

So if Playboy’s transition from nudity in order to attract younger readers represents a “market change,” maybe the NFL should take note and follow Terry Bradshaw’s lead.  Real men don’t beat their wives or any woman!

Ray Myers

What’s Gender Got to Do With It?

I know we are all probably aware of the gender gap in the technology world, but the geek techie image itself may be the biggest hurdle to overcome in making the profession more attractive to the “opposite sex.”  Let’s just take a look at the work setting.   Instead of the routers, wires and computer parts that populate the tech support work space,  imagine a more neutral (feminine?) decor – art and nature posters, coffee makers, plants and general-interest magazines.

Many may claim that these stereotypical images are in fact changing with a few women cracking th glass ceiling of male dominance in the tech executive ranks.  But these changes are very few and still very hard fought, particularly in the CEO, CIO ranks.  Let’s not forget Elaine Pao’s struggles at Reddit and at Kleiner Perkins in Silicon Valley (earlier blog on TechtoExpress).

Many women today are still avoiding technical disciplines because they are afraid they will not fit in.  To make computer science more attractive to women, one might argue that we have to help young women change the way they think about themselves and what’s expected of them, i.e., take the “long view” in changing hearts and minds.  But in the short term, might we also create a different tech environment that would be more inviting to women who are seeking more creative (beyond coding) approaches to tech problem solving.

Ray Myers

Love Online – Modern Romance Part Two

People don’t lie online and online dating is not dangerous.  Well, not exactly, at least in terms of the lying part.  Seems that both men and women like to add a couple inches to their height.  I can relate to that in some ways since it seems that I have lost an inch or more as I get older.  My wife does remind me to stand up straighter so that I can regain that youthful posture, and not look like I’m seventy something.

Now I have read that online dating is not dangerous when compared with meeting people at bars or parties.  Since online dating allows people to browse possible partners from their own homes, it is clearly more efficient and less “random” than meeting someone at a bar or party.  At the same time, it seems that most single “twenty somethings” are now doing more socializing at local bars or Starbucks than going to parties hosted by friends or neighbors (see my blog of 9/21, Party Like Your Parents Did or Not?).  Online just seems to be a safer, and more “controlled”, place.

So whatever your dating preferences may be, it seems that first impressions and appearances still do matter.  When one of the leading online dating sites temporarily turned off personal pictures of their users (blind dating app), most their online searchers were not happy.  In the words of one of their executives, “so we turned the photos back on, giving people the dating experience they wanted: superficial, skin-deep and probably worse.”

Ray Myers

Love Online – Modern Romance Part One

This will be a two-part blog since the subject is so intriguing (at least for an old guy like me), and there are so many ways of interpreting what it all means in terms of “love and marriage.”  In all fairness, we are just talking about online dating, but we all know what usually happens when someone finds the “one” however that might happen.  It seems that online dating may just be a flirtation itself, but it really does offer some “search” options that were not available before Al Gore discovered the Internet (maybe it was somebody else?)

Some researchers have gained the title of being “experts” in this area, and I certainly do not claim to be one.  But for purpose of today’s posting and the one that will follow on Friday, I am going to take their word for it.  Here are today’s three “findings:” (1)  very few men over 30 actually reach out to 20 year old women; (2) online dating has made it easier for those seeking long term commitments to find each other; and (3) a person’s attractiveness had no correlation with how well the date went.  Okay, here are my very unscientific, impulsive reactions to these findings in numerical order: (1) really?; (2) really?; and (3) really?

Well, I still have a couple more findings to ponder before I post anything on Friday, so please give me a couple more days to think about this.  Maybe by then I will have developed a deeper appreciation of why “40 million Americans are looking for love on the web.”  And they all can thank Al Gore (I think?).

Ray Myers


Be Careful What You Buy, Facebook and Google are Watching

I guess it had to happen.  One of the reasons I like to watch PBS is the absence of commercials on shows I like to watch.  Well, almost the absence.  Somehow they do seem to manage some recognition of major donors.   I really shouldn’t complain too much, but now you should be aware that Google and Facebook have devised a couple schemes that will allow advertisers to “reach out” by using your email addresses and combining ad campaigns on TV with online advertising.

Customer Match will be partnering with Google, providing their customers’ email addresses so that they can show specific ads whenever one of their customers signs into Google.  So now when you “Google it” you will be getting more than just what you were looking for.  As a bonus, you may also be getting all the advertising you ever wanted, or maybe never wanted?  To be fair, this is just not all about Google.  Don’t forget Facebook.  They will be launching ad campaigns “across television and Facebook” just to make sure they get your attention.  

This may all sound like advertising overkill, but let’s not blame the poor advertisers.  They are only trying to reach out to a generation of multi-taskers.  According to Neilson researchers, 88% of tablet owners and 86% of smartphone owners use these devices while watching TV.

Ray Myers

Tech to Trap Terrorists Taps Beauty Market

I hope you like the alliteration in this title, but I couldn’t resist.  Originally created to read the lips of suspected terrorists, this technology has now found a home in the cosmetic industry.   “Modiface” was launched in 2007 and has since flourished into an online phenomenon used by fifty-two beauty brands world-wide.  Most cosmetic companies are now using Modiface technology in their apps that customers can easily access on their mobile devices. 

From geeky professor to beauty expert is how Modiface’s founder, Parham Aarabi, describes his experience.  Perhaps this is just another example of some of the unintended consequences that technology can create.  Modiface was hit-or-miss at reading lips, but it is a hit with customers who want to virtually “try on” makeup.

Now I will not personally be using this app to improve my appearance, and please do not consider this posting a personal endorsement of this product.   But I do think that it illustrates how technology’s potential and how we apply it to our daily lives should never be underestimated.

Ray Myers