Tesla Powerwall Friday, May 22 2015 

Tesla Powerwall is a wall-mounted battery system for storing energy generated by solar power panels and wind turbines. Powerwall is a product of Tesla Energy, a business division of Tesla Motors.

Tesla PowerwallPowerwall, which is aimed at the residential market, is designed to store power generated at peak solar time for use during power outages and out-of-peak solar time, including night. The system’s slim, modular design is adapted from the technology used in those for Tesla’s electric cars and can hold up to 7 kilowatt-hours of energy, which is enough energy to power a typical home in the United States for about 7 hours. A similar product, TeslaPowerpack, is aimed at the business and utility market. Both products are based on lithium ion battery technology.

Powerwall will be available in a 7 kilowatt hour (kW) model, designed for daily use applications, and a 10kwh model, designed for backup power. The units weigh about 220 lbs. Total capacity can be upgraded by modular connection of up to nine additional units. Tesla expects to start shipping Powerwall sometime during the summer of 2015.

Tesla provides the following specifications for Powerwall:

  • Mounting: Wall Mounted Indoor/Outdoor
  • Inverter: Pairs with growing list of inverters
  • Energy: 7 kWh or 10 kWh
  • Continuous Power: 2 kW
  • Peak Power: 3.3 kW
  • Round Trip Efficiency: 92%
  • Operating Temperature Range: -20C (-4F) to 43C (110F)
  • Warranty: 10 years
  • Dimensions: H: 1300mm W: 860mm D:180mm

Watch a video introduction to Powerwall:

This was last updated in May 2015
Contributor(s): Matthew Haughn
Posted by: Margaret Rouse

Related Terms

DEFINITIONS

  • SAN/NAS convergence

    – SAN/NAS convergence is the merging of network attached storage (NAS) with storage area network (SAN) technologies through the use of newer techniques that overcome incompatibilities between the two. (WhatIs.com)

  • load-sharing mirror

    – A load-sharing mirror or load-balancing mirror is a mirror image copy of a site or service that not only acts as a backup but actively shares in serving a portion of traffic. (WhatIs.com)

  • Tesla Powerpack

    – Tesla Powerpack and Powerwall are, respectively, the company’s business and residential market rechargeable battery products, designed for large-scale energy storage for off-grid and supplemental p…(WhatIs.com)

GLOSSARIES

  • Data centers

    – Terms related to data centers, including definitions about network operations centers (NOCs) and words and phrases about the storage, management and the transmission of data.

  • Internet applications

    – This WhatIs.com glossary contains terms related to Internet applications, including definitions about Software as a Service (SaaS) delivery models and words and phrases about web sites, e-commerce

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REPLACE YOUR EYEBALLS WITH SYNTHETIC ONES Thursday, Apr 23 2015 

This is a repost of a fascinating article By Alexandra Ossola Posted April 20, 2015.  This is also one of two articles I found in less than an hour mentioning a 3D printer.  I think we humans are on to something here!

Link Categories03_mhox_eye

The MHOX EYE system.MHOX

Our eyes are such elegant, complex, specialized organs that their existence seems almost hard to believe–Darwin himself called their evolution “absurd.” But that doesn’t mean they’re perfect; eyes sometimes don’t focus correctly, they break down over time, and they can be extremely painful if infected, irritated, or exposed to light that’s too bright. Italian design firm MHOX has an ambitious idea: to improve human eyes by making synthetic replacements.

“Developments in bioprinting and biohacking let us imagine that in the near future it would be possible to easily print organic, functional body parts, allowing the human to replace defected districts or enhance standard performance,” lead designer Filippo Nassetti told Dezeen.

The concept, called Enhance Your Eye (EYE, of course), would entail a 3D bioprinter, which uses a needle to drop different types of cells into the appropriate alignment and structure. Bioprinters can already make organs such as ears, blood vessels, and kidneys, but eyes remain elusive because of their complexity.

04_mhox_eye

The three EYE types.  MHOX

The way Nassetti envisions it, users could choose between three different types of synthetic EYEs: Heal, Enhance, and Advance. The first is a synthetic eye that basically works just like a natural one and could serve as a replacement for people with diseases or traumas that would otherwise be blind. EYE Enhance seeks to improve the eye’s natural functions by improving vision to 15/20 and enabling filters on vision like those on photo apps (such as vintage, black and white). To turn on or change the filter, a user can take a pill. The third type, Advance, has additional glands to capture or record what a person is seeing, as well as a Wi-Fi connection to share those images.

In order to use an EYE system, people would need to get their natural eyes surgically removed and replaced with the Deck, a sort of artificial retina that connects to the brain and would allow users to plug in different eyeballs at will.

The designers behind EYE predict that the product will be on the market in early 2027, but they haven’t released any information about what the Deck looks like or how the system actually looks in a person. (It’s one thing if it looks natural, it’s quite another if the Deck sticks out and makes people look like mutant cyborgs.) And though 3D bioprinting is advancing quickly, making an eye might prove more challenging than anticipated. As exciting as EYE seems to be, it’s important to note that there may be a number of hurdles that come up in the interim years that make the system less desirable–or even impossible–to use.

Written by Alex is a science writer based in New York City. She has contributed to The Atlantic, Motherboard, Audubon Magazine, The Verge, and Fast Company. When she’s not geeking out, Alex likes to travel, hike, do yoga, and (try to) cook new foods.ALEXANDRA OSSOLA

Droning on about drones Wednesday, Apr 22 2015 

I have met a guy who built his own drone for about $400.  It is possible to buy an assembled drone costing from $55.00 to more than $2,000.  There are many DIY drone kits with almost the same price range as the assembled drones.  A Google search for build your own drone returned About 4,910,000 results (0.44 seconds).  This is going to be a lot of fun until ‘they’ start passing laws about it.

When I was a kid, in the last millennium, we spent hours building a balsa wood model plane with a ‘049’ gasoline engine and flew it in circles held by hand with a string.   You go with what ya’ got and call it fun!

https://www.google.com/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8#q=build+your+own+drone

http://mashable.com/2015/04/21/parrot-bebop-drone-review/

The Parrot Bebop is a drone enthusiast’s dream

Headshot_2015_LanceUlanoff

Written by Lance Ulanoff is Chief Correspondent and Editor-at-Large of Mashable.

Gazing straight up into a partially cloudy sky, I could just make out the Parrot Bebop drone buzzing overhead. I looked down at the formidable Skycontroller and attached iPad Air 2 in my hands where I could see the drone’s magnificent view. I could make out water towers in the distance. They were easily two towns away.

This looked and felt like pro-level drone flying though at $899 for the package, I guess I shouldn’t have expected any less.

A follow-up to Parrot’s entry-level AR.Drone 2.0, the Bebop drone is a quadrocopter with serious speed, impressive camera capabilities and, with the Skycontroller option, a remarkable level of control.

I flew Bebop both indoors and out and, once I learned how to fly, I didn’t want to stop.

There are two options for flying Bebop. You can make what’s known as a direct ad-hoc Wi-Fi connection to a smartphone or tablet running Parrot’s Freeflight 3 software. As soon as you turn on the drone, it becomes a Wi-Fi beacon that my iPad Air 2 easily found.

If you plan on using the Skycontroller — as I did — you don’t have to connect to the drone. Instead, each Bebop is pre-paired with its Skycontroller, which, like the drone, is a Wi-Fi hub. Once the tablet is paired with it, the Skycontroller takes care of the rest.

You can fly the Bebop drone without a tablet (the Skycontroller is actually an Android-based device with built-in Freeflight software), but then you won’t see what the drone is capturing on its powerful camera.

If you do use a tablet as your viewfinder, it sits in an adjustable holder, right between the two joysticks and just below the giant antenna. You can tighten up the tablet holder so it feels secure. My iPad Air 2 never slid around or dropped out of it.

To a certain extent, the Skycontroller is just a hardware recreation of the Freeflight software. It has two aluminum joysticks for controlling direction, attitude, pitch, yaw and speed. It adds hardware buttons for many of the soft controls, like “Return Home” and “Take a picture.” But it also adds significantly to the Bebop drone’s range.  Without the Skycontroller, your drone can fly 800 feet or so. With it, the range increases to more than a mile (or 2 kilometers).

The Skycontroller also includes two radio frequency settings: 2.4GHz and 5GHz, with the latter offering more precise control over the drone. For the purposes of my test flights, I used the 2.4GHz setting, but I also never let the drone fly beyond my line of sight. Yes, I love testing gadgets, but don’t really want to get arrested for using them.

The drone comes with foam bumpers that you can attach and use when flying indoors. They protect walls and people from getting caught in the high-speed copter blades, which also include a safety feature that stops them from spinning the instant they detect any resistance. That came in handy when I occasionally crashed the Bebop drone into walls, chairs, trees and bushes (what can I say — it took me a little while to master flying the drone).

Built from plastic, aluminum and foam, the drone is surprisingly robust. It took numerous hits and kept on flying. One time I hit the emergency button on the Skycontroller and the drone’s motors stopped, making it drop out of the sky. The 20-foot drop left it scuffed, but otherwise undamaged. The Bebop drone/Skycontroller bundle does ship with a full set of replacement propellers, which are easy to remove and replace.

Always watching and in control

Parrot equipped the Bebop with an impressive 14-megapixel 180-degree camera that is always recording 1080p video directly to the drone’s s 8GB of onboard storage. You’ll get an onscreen message when it runs out of space. You can offload the videos by connecting the drone to a computer (it has a built-in microUSB port). The only downside here is the Bebop has to be on if you want to download the videos.

That camera, by the way, is kept on a digital, three-axis gimbal, which keeps the video perfectly stable during even the roughest of flights. Normally, I would prefer optical image stabilization, but this digital version is so good, you might mistake it for optical. Video quality on a bright, sunny day was impressive, though I wish Parrot had included better high-dynamic range capabilities: The drone had trouble keeping the foreground decently exposed when pointed toward sunlight.

I can’t say enough about the precision control available with the Skycontroller. With it, the drone could turn on a dime. It could also fly at almost 30 miles per hour, which made for some pretty dramatic shots. Yes, strong winds could blow Bebop off course, but it was easy to use the Skycontroller to get it back on track and take it where I wanted to go.

Bebop is more than just a remote control flying device; it’s a robot. If you’re not controlling it with a tablet or the Skycontroller, it will simply hover in the air, awaiting your command. It does so thanks to the sensors inside that include a barometric pressure sensor, accelerometer, gyroscope and magnetometer — and it has a low-res camera in its belly for smooth landings. There’s also built-in GPS so the drone knows where it is, even if you can’t see it.

Without all these sensors, I’m certain I could not have flown the Bebop drone as well as I did.

Caveats

I loved flying the Bebop with the Skycontroller, but the RC is a bit of a beast. Parrot acknowledges as much by including a neck strap for the controller. I didn’t bother with it, though. With just 11 minutes of fly time per charge, it’s unlikely you’ll experience too much arm fatigue.

Yes, you heard me right:   Just 11 minutes of fly time per charge and it takes the batteries an hour to charge.

Just 11 minutes of fly time per charge and it takes the batteries an hour to charge. The $899 kit ships with three batteries, so if you have everything charged up and put one battery in the controller, you’ll have more than 20 minutes of fly time.

The bad news is that the Parrot batteries were flakey. One refused to charge up and the others would only charge 80% of the time. At other times, I put them into the charger and it would just blink red. A continuous red was what I was looking for; solid green meant fully charged. Parrot told me they have not seen similar issues or received complaints about the batteries. However, I had no trouble finding people discussing the exact same issue on Parrot’s Bebop discussion boards.

It’s also worth noting that for as rugged as the Bebop is, I did see a couple of minor build-quality issues on the drone and the controller. On the controller, the power button immediately popped off. I put it back in place and then a few days later, it popped off again. It’s back in place… for now.

Also, the power button on the drone got jammed. I was able to reseat it with a thin screwdriver, but this was not encouraging.

Can’t keep a good drone down

To be fair, these are complex products and these may simply be earmarks of V1 hardware. Neither build issue stopped me from my overall enjoyment of the product.

Is the Bebop and Skycontroller package pricey? Yes, but for under $900, you are getting a pro-level drone with the ability to capture cinematic video. If you learn how to use the GPS, you can program in a pretty impressive overhead tracking shot that then moves down to ground level. The shots are so steady that people will assume you used a giant rig and Steadicam to capture them.

The product is just that good.

Parrot’s Bebop drone offers an impressive level of depth and control, which, to be frank, we can’t fit inside this review. It can preload maps if your control tablet lacks cellular connectivity to show you where the drone is even when you can’t see it. It can return to a preset home position with the touch of a button. You can shoot timelapse video in-flight and even hook up the Skycontroller to a pair of virtual reality goggles for a more immersive drone flight experience.

If you have a creative bent, the sky is literally the limit with the Parrot Bebop and Skycontroller.

Parrot Bebop Drone and Skycontroller

The Good

Smart Powerful Fast and responsive Great camera Addictive

The Bad

There’s a learning curve Battery issues Limited fly time

The Bottom Line

If you want pro-level drone flying but do not want to spend thousands of dollars, Bebop and the Skycontroller is the drone package you’ve been looking for.

Have something to add to this story? Share it in the comments.

Is raspberrypi a computer or a dessert? Monday, Feb 2 2015 

I have not had the pleasure of checking one of these out in person, but it looks innovative, a clever design and very small.  For the price how can we go wrong?  I do have to ask: don’t these tiny computers come with a case?  Not only is there the possible computer based indecent exposure charge but also without protection won’t electronic components break off?

pi_board_02

For more information go to:      http://www.raspberrypi.org/raspberry-pi-2-on-sale/

THE DISAPPEARANCE OF THE INSTRUCTION MANUAL Thursday, Jan 29 2015 

INSTRUCTIONS NOT INCLUDED: WHAT THE VANISHING MANUAL SAYS ABOUT US

0-how-to-camera

Instructional diagrams, like this one from the Voigtlander Vito II camera, have been going the way of the dinosaurs.

In the late 17th century, the printer Joseph Moxon published Mechanick Exercises, the first guide to printing in any language. It had been nearly 240 years since the debut of Gutenberg’s press, and books had proliferated. There were Bibles, of course, along with lots of schlocky literature, some porn, and guides to everyday topics—how to polish jewels, how to cast a spell against your enemy. But Moxon’s manual was subtly different. It rang with a decidedly DIY tone and suggested that readers could learn a new trade, at home, in their spare time.

To someone in 17th-century Europe, this was a deeply subversive notion. From the fall of the Roman Empire to the dawn of the Renaissance, age-old social hierarchies held firm. You were born into a station, whether peasantry or trade work or aristocracy, and you and your family remained there for generations. But then came science and technology, and with them new trades and opportunities. With no established guild system in place for many of these new professions (printer, navigator, and so on), readers could, with the help of a manual, circumvent years of apprenticeship and change the course of their lives, at least in theory.

These books, filled with ingenious methods, offered something new and relatively democratic: agency, skill, and command for anyone who could read.

Mechanick Exercises was not the first manual. Vitruvius’s Ten Books on Architecture is one of the only true manuals to survive from antiquity. It offers clear and concise instructions for how and where to construct a house (not in a dell, for instance), where to orient your summer and winter rooms, and many other useful matters. Scribes in the Middle Ages produced their shared guides too. One of the most consistently produced titles in the entire history of writing, the 15th-century Aristotle’s Masterpiece, is a sex manual. But where those early books served as compendia of sorts—the compiled wisdom on any given subject—Moxon’s manual and others like it promised something more: systematic treatments for solving complex problems, such as how to lift a horse with your little pinkie (and a pulley system), how to survey land and on building a fortification. These were books filled with ingenious methods, and they offered something new and relatively democratic: agency, skill, and command for anyone who could read.

Feats of Science

Anderson Newton Design

Moxon’s manual explained how to lift a horse with your pinkie (and a pulley system).

And so it went. As manuals explained more complex systems, they grew in size, developing into the heavy, barely penetrable and largely unread books that most people think of today. But then in the 1980s, the manual began to change. Instead of growing, it began to shrink and even disappear. Instead of mastery, it promised competence. My new iPhone, for instance, came with a “manual” that was about as brief as a Christmas card (and I did not read it). A recent rental car did not come with a manual at all, making its nonreading a snap (but finding out how to pop the trunk rather difficult).

The manuals of old, it turns out, have shape-shifted inward, into the devices themselves. That, or their information has been off-loaded to help-desk support or a parallel, Internet FAQ universe: a searchable realm often filled with answers to almost every question but the one you are asking. Change is the way of the universe, but what does it say that most of us now live our lives using tools that are, practically speaking, beyond our understanding or ability to fix? Have we traded away something important, perhaps even defining, about ourselves—a sense of our own autonomy and control over our tools—for the dubious benefit of convenience?

The Man Who Killed The Manual

If the era of minimalist manual design in which we live could be traced back to one person, it would be John Carroll. In 1976, Carroll, a linguistic psychologist, was finishing his Ph.D. at Columbia University and took a job at IBM’s Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, New York. His job was to help make computer programmers more efficient, but that quickly changed to a new focus—making computers more usable for average people. That was a big shift in thinking. “You have to remember,” Carroll says, “IBM was probably the richest computer research facility in the world, but at the time, the idea of focusing on the average everyday user was sort of off the radar.”

Carroll was doing, in essence, dissident research. He set up a lab, gave secretaries computers and manuals, and then studied them as they tried to accomplish regular office tasks. He tracked “frustration episodes,” observing as subjects became progressively more flummoxed by their manuals. “People would look at me, shaking, and they’d say, ‘I can’t do this.’ And then they’d get up and put their coat on. One person literally had to flee the building,” he says.

Though Carroll had worked at IBM for more than a decade, his quiet revolution—a culture-wide shift not just in the shape of manuals but in how we learn to use technology—didn’t coalesce until one day while he was on a vacation in Germany. He had just finished a manuscript that would become his groundbreaking minimalist opus, but he had no title for it. Then, in the basement of a castle in Nurnberg, he saw a postcard of a painting depicting an old German folktale: two professorial-looking gentlemen in a library standing over a young student who had a funnel affixed to the top of his head. The teachers are busily choosing potions from the library shelves and pouring knowledge down the funnel and into the boy. For Carroll, the image clearly represented the dominant paradigm in most scientific fields—the “systems approach,” a way of dividing the world into taxonomic orders and protocols of action. In computer science, that meant learning an arcane and exacting “command language” and typing directives precisely as prescribed by the system. Carroll’s book, The Nurnberg Funnel, outlined a new philosophy. Instead of focusing on the needs and values of the system designers, it shifted attention onto the end-user, the secretary in the office who needs to hyphenate a compound word.

Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, among others, quickly adopted a similar approach and more would soon follow. Writing a manual from a minimalist point of view, Carroll says, proved enormously successful because it harnessed the true source of all learning—active engagement. Short, succinct manuals allow the user to dive into many different tasks and to accomplish them quickly, thereby gaining a sense of control and autonomy that inspires further learning. “Skeptics would say we weren’t providing the user with any theoretical foundation,” Carroll says, “but we found that people got through their initial learning faster, and that later on, when they needed to learn more complex tasks, the users were also better at doing that, too.”

Manual As Mirror

So manuals began to slip from view. They still exist, sure. Highly complex things, like jet planes or nuclear plants, rely on big integrated enterprise resource planning systems, into which an army of sensors and engineers log the status and service history of every part in order to maintain standards. Many think that BP’s failure, in effect, to update the manual of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig led to the spill in the Gulf. But for most consumer products, the manual has become less an object or a thing and more a verb, a service, a response to the statement most likely uttered (or yelled at the top of one’s lungs) by someone stymied by a gadget: Help.

According to Carroll, the help we once sought from a manual is now mostly embedded into the apps we use every day. It could also be crowdsourced, with users contributing Q&As or uploading how-to videos to YouTube, or it could programmed into a weak artificial intelligence such as Siri or Cortana. Help can even be predictive, tracking our keystrokes or vocal cues to steer us away from trouble before we find it. Xerox is already using predictive analytics to manage calls from Medicare and Medicaid recipients more effectively. And IBM’s Watson Engagement Advisor, part of a new generation of cognitive assistants, can analyze large sets of customer service problems to more efficiently answer (or even anticipate) problems during a purchase. Help may soon arrive in the form of augmented reality. Carroll suggests that technology like Google Glass might one day offer a “task intelligence” visual overlay to help users figure out objects in their field of view.

Google Glass

Anderson Newton Design

Augmented reality devices like Google Glass could introduce a new form of interactive manual into the world.

For most of us, the transition from physical manuals to embedded help has been slow, steady, and apparently benign, like the proverbial tide that lifts all boats—who would argue against help after all? The disappearance of the manual-as-book coincides, moreover, with documented realities about how people actually learn to use new tools and devices. Studies published by the Society for Technical Communication, which regularly reports on “human-machine interaction,” suggest that even when manuals are available, people tend not to read or use them.

Yet even as we gladly cede more and more control of our tools, a growing chorus is calling attention to the costs. In his book Who Owns the Future?, computer scientist and virtual reality pioneer Jaron Lanier uses the analogy of the Sirens from Homer’s Odyssey. The creatures would lull sailors into complacency with their beautiful songs, only to have their boats wreck on the rocks. Lured by the convenience of the Internet, search engines, and all that they promise, most consumers are, in Lanier’s estimation, similar to those doomed sailors: a little too ready to give “the sirens control of the interaction.” Kimberly Nasief, president and co-founder of Measure Consumer Perspectives, a consumer monitoring and customer service consultancy based in Louisville, Kentucky, wrote about how Apple’s ease-of-use might be making her a dumber user. She tried out an Android tablet, and the greater complexity of the operating system actually forced her to learn more: “It made me develop some critical thinking on how the system I was using worked. With Apple, I don’t have to do that. It does it for me. And that just might be dangerous. Dangerous in that if I no longer am learning, or if it’s done for me, then I might just get technologically left behind,” she wrote.

If manuals began as great equalizers, then their disappearance should at least give us pause.

Today the hazards of being left behind seem ever more real. Even Carroll notes that research has suggested an unforeseen consequence of the minimalist approach. Furnished only with a manual of one or two pages, users soon reach a comfort zone, a knowledge plateau from which they tend not to wander. The aggregate effect, culturally, may be that less is less. The less we’re inclined to know about our devices, the more beholden we are to the manufacturers that make them, and the more we offer control to those who, for good or for ill, know more than we do. If manuals began as great equalizers, then their disappearance should at least give us pause. By dispensing with them, we could, consciously or no, be setting the stage for something few would relish: a society divided.

This article was originally published in the February 2015 issue of Popular Science, under the title “Instructions Not Included”.

What is MySQL? Class Assignment Friday, Jan 23 2015 

The challenge is go to ” http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2009/03/25/mysql-admin-and-development-tools-round-up/ ” and answer the following questions:

1. What is MySQL?
1. MySQL is the most popular open source database currently on the market. It has a short response time (fast), easy to use and doesn’t crash often. MySQL will run on almost all operating systems (cross platform support).

2. Which of the MySQL Admin and Development Tools explained in the article you recommend? Why?

1. Sequel Pro is advertised (http://www.sequelpro.com/) to be fast, easy to use MAC database management application for working with MySQL databases. It claims direct access to MySQL databases on both local and remote servers.

2. Couchbase claims to provide the world’s most complete scalable and best performing NoSQL database. They claim always-available, always responsive applications on phones, tablets and devices. This app is advertised to work equally well on Ubuntu, Red Hat, Windows and Mac operating systems.

Since I have never used any of these database applications I feel that I have to qualify my answers with phrases like “they claim” and the “product is advertised”. Given that Couchbase is claimed to work on four different operating systems and Sequel Pro is exclusively Mac, I would say Couchbase would be my recommendation.

18 Non-Toy Gifts for Children Friday, Jan 23 2015 

July 16, 2014 by

http://nourishingminimalism.com/2014/07/18-non-toy-gifts-for-children.html

All of us that have children, have too many toys. No matter how diligent we are at keeping them at bay, it seems to be a constant fight. It’s especially hard when special days come and we want to give gifts to our children, or grandparents want to give gifts.

Gifts are good things!

But, too much of anything isn’t good.

18-Non-Toy-Gifts-for-Children1

A great way to combat too many toys, is to shift all the gifts to non-toy items.

18 Non-Toy Gifts for Children

  1. Classes. Music, dance, riding, drawing, classes are a great way to encourage children in their interests and let them know that you pay attention to them and what they enjoy.
  2. Memberships. Zoo, science museum, children’s museum, YMCA membership, etc. These are particularly great for family gifts! Many young families want to enjoy day outings, but affording them can be a challenge, so give them the gift of a yearly membership.
  3. Subscriptions. Kids enjoy getting things int he mail. Why not encourage their reading by getting them a magazine subscription for something they are interested in!
  4. Events. Movie tickets, tickets to a play, concert or sports event are really exciting! Having an event to look forward to makes the rest of life more enjoyable.
  5. Activities. Mini golf, bowling, skating rink. These are so much fun! And a big part of the fun is going together. Children love spending time with the adults in their lives, they want to see you enjoying your time as well as enjoying them.
  6. Recipe and Ingredients. Kids love cooking with their parents. Baking something special or cooking dinner is an ideal time to spend together and learn life skills. Print out a recipe, purchase all the ingredients and set a date for cooking together.
  7. Crafting Date. Our daughter loves making crafts. I do to, I really do enjoy the creative aspect. But I rarely take time out to do it with her. These crafting dates mean the world to our creative little girl. Keep a basket of craft supplies and get out a book for inspiration. We like this book.
  8. Arts and Craft supplies. If your craft box is running low, stock up a little on things you need. Add in something fun the kids haven’t used before. A gift of art and craft supplies often brings on the imagination and kids can’t wait to get to work!
  9. Coupons. An envelope of coupons that they can “spend” at any time: I’ll do one chore- no questions asked, movie and popcorn night, you pick the movie!, 1:1 game of cards or basketball (whatever the child’s interest is in), sit and read a book with me, Stay up 1/2 hour past bedtime
  10. Restaurant Gift Card. Dinner, ice cream, coffee, cupcake- whatever suits their fancy! Give them the freedom of inviting whoever they wish: it may be mom or dad, it may be a grandparent, aunt or even teacher that they would like to spend more time with.
  11. Dress Up Clothes. These do need to be limited, but  2 dresses and couple play silks can get hours and hours of play!
  12. Books. We get a lot of books from the library, but there are some that I just can’t find there, or it takes us longer to read through. We have read through the entire Little House series, Narnia and are working our way through Shel Silverstein’s books. Be sure to pass the books on when you are done, so they don’t clutter up your home.
  13. Clothes. When kids only have a certain amount of clothes, they often enjoy getting clothes. Make it a point to get something that fits their style. That may mean western clothes, super-hero, fancy dresses, etc.

Want more? Check out:

  1. Snacks. If your child is a foodie, they will love this! Some homemade granola or cookies made just for them, is a special treat!
  2. Outdoor Supplies. If you are an outdoorsy family, giving kids their own fishing tackle or gardening equipment can be a big deal. It’s also something that gets left on the shelf in the garage, so you always know right where to find it.
  3. Telling Time. The average child these days doesn’t know how to read analog, or finds it takes too long to think about it, so they search for a digital watch. Getting them a cool watch makes them want to be able to tell time on it. Boys, girls, and even teenagers can be excited about this.
  4. Games and Puzzles. Games and puzzles are great activities for when kids have to be indoors. It’s a good practice to have individual quiet times during the day, and having a puzzle to sit and work on by themselves helps brain development and problem solving skills. Games teach a lot too! My kids talk about how they passed geography, just because we played Risk when they were little. Monopoly and PayDay have been popular and help cement math skills. Memory games are great for younger children.
  5. Calendar. Many children like to know what is going on, what day it is, how many days until ____. These kids are the ones that want to know what the plan is for the day, in what order things will happen, what time friends are expected over, etc. They struggle with spur-of-the-moment and can be frustrating if you are a spontaneous parent. But celebrate it! These children have many strengths and make our world run smoother. :-) Embrace their inner schedule and get them their own calendar. They can write down their own classes, appointments, play dates, etc. And if they ask you, send them to their calendar so they can get used to being in control of their own schedule. You can even schedule “spontaneous days”, so they know that something different will happen that day. Trust me, it will help them enjoy the spontaneous outings!

Net Neutrality Thursday, Jan 15 2015 

On Jan. 14, 2014, a federal court of appeals struck down the Federal Communications Commission’s Open Internet Order, which was designed to prevent Internet service providers from blocking or slowing users’ connections to online content. The court did not comment on the validity of these rules but simply said that the FCC had used the wrong legal foundation to justify them.

connected_world_fb

In response, on May 15 FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler released flawed Internet rules that would let ISPs charge content companies for priority treatment — relegating all other content to a slower tier of service.

Wheeler’s plan would let telecom giants like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon pick winners and losers online and discriminate against online content and applications. And it would destroy the open Internet.

Without Net Neutrality, ISPs would be able to devise new schemes to charge users more for access and services, making it harder for us to communicate online — and easier for companies to censor our speech. The Internet could come to resemble cable TV, where gatekeepers exert control over where you go and what you see.

Without Net Neutrality, ISPs would be able to block content and speech they don’t like, reject apps that compete with their own offerings, and prioritize Web traffic (reserving the fastest loading speeds for the highest bidders and sticking everyone else with the slowest).

The tools ISPs use to block and control our communications aren’t different from the ones the NSA uses to watch us. Whether it’s a government or a corporation wielding these tools or the two working together, this behavior breaks the Internet as we know it and makes it less open and secure.

We must fight to ensure the Internet we love doesn’t become a platform for corporate speech or another tool for government spying. We must protect the Internet that lets us connect and create, that rejects censorship and values our right to privacy.

The Internet should remain a forum for innovation and free expression. Open, affordable, fast and universal communications networks are essential to our individual, economic and political futures.

For our 101 on Net Neutrality, click here.

Autonomous Cars Will Require a Totally New Kind of Map Monday, Dec 15 2014 

Map Lab

Autonomous Cars Will Require a Totally New Kind of Map

High-definition-map-for-autonomous-driving

As the vehicle navigated the labyrinthine streets of London and headed for the countryside of Surrey with uncommon speed, the passengers must have felt a bit unnerved. Having selected their destination, they’d relinquished control. They had no communication with the driver, but they could check their progress on a map.

The map must have been reassuring, says Peter Skillman, lead designer for Nokia HERE, the maps division the Finnish communications company. Skillman visited WIRED’s San Francisco office recently to talk about HERE’s efforts to build high definition maps for autonomous vehicles. But the passengers he was talking about weren’t zipping through London in a sleek Audi prototype. They were riding in a stagecoach circa 1720. Skillman had taken a slight detour to show off a map he’d bought recently at an antiquarian map shop in London. Then as now, Skillman said, maps can smooth the transition to a new technology.

‘THE KEY TO MAKING AUTONOMOUS DRIVING WORK IS TO NOT FORGET ABOUT THE DRIVER.’

Autonomous cars will require maps that differ in several important ways from the maps we use today for turn-by-turn directions. They need to be hi-def. Meter-resolution maps may be good enough for GPS-based navigation, but autonomous cars will need maps that can tell them where the curb is within a few centimeters. They also need to be live, updated second by second with information about accidents, traffic backups, and lane closures. Finally, and this was the point Skillman was trying to make with the 1720 road atlas, they’ll need to take human psychology into account and win the trust of their passengers. “The key to making autonomous driving work is to not forget about the driver,” Skillman said.

Fully autonomous cars will be ready to hit the road as soon as 2017 (according to Sergey Brin), or perhaps sometime in the 2020s (according to more conservative forecasts), or maybe never (according to naysayers). The timing may be uncertain, but cars are already becoming more autonomous, creeping across a spectrum from current models with adaptive cruise control and assisted parallel parking to future vehicles that can navigate from A to B while you take a nap or make a sandwich. Much of the attention has focused on the sensors and other technology inside the cars and on the legal questions they raise (if an autonomous car causes an accident, who’s to blame? what if the car was hacked?), but there’s another crucial element: maps.nokia-probe-LA

Like typical digital maps HERE is using satellite and aerial imagery as a starting point for its HD maps. The maps also incorporate anonymized “probe data” from GPS devices inside fleet vehicles owned by trucking companies and other partners. This data, which HERE collects at a rate of 100 billion points per month, contains information about the direction and speed of traffic on roads and highways. But the most detailed information being fed into the maps comes from hundreds of cars outfitted with GPS, cameras, and lidar, a laser-based method for measuring distances.

This fleet is coordinated from a nondescript building two blocks from the campus of the University of California, Berkeley. The sensors on the cars were developed by John Ristevski, a 38-year-old Australian native. Ristevski is HERE’s head of reality capture, a job title reminiscent of the famous story by Jorge Luis Borges about a 1:1 scale map that is exactly as big as the area it covers. The map Ristevski and his colleagues are creating has similar aspirations.

When the car is in motion, the lidar system—a cylinder about the size of a soda can—spins around, shooting out 32 laser beams and analyzing the light that bounces back. It collects 700,000 points per second, Ristevski says. An inertial sensor tracks the pitch, roll, and yaw of the car so that the lidar data can be corrected for the position of the car and used to create a 3-D model of the roads it has traveled. The lidar instrument’s range tops out about 10-15 stories above the street. At street level, its resolution is just a few centimeters.

here-car

A HERE car outfitted with GPS, LIDAR, and cameras. Nokia HERE

Lane markers and street signs stand out in the lidar imagery because they’re coated with reflective paint. HERE uses a combination of computer vision algorithms and manual labor to extract this information and check it against imagery from the cars’ cameras (much like Google extracts similar information from its Street View imagery.)

HERE has outfitted roughly 200 cars with the sensor system Ristevski designed, and the company has a similar number of cars with an older generation of equipment. In Berkeley, Ristevski and I took a quick spin with driver Luke Pulaski in a bright blue Volkswagon Jetta wagon with the sensor equipment mounted on a Thule roof rack. A battery pack and custom Linux box with a terabyte hard drive occupied the space where the legs of a front seat passenger would go. Pulaski logged on to the system with a few taps on a tablet mounted just to his right, and icons turned green to indicate that the cameras and other sensors were working. Turn-by-turn directions appeared, calculated to provide the most efficient route to cover every street in the area to be mapped. “For the most part, the driving is actually boring,” Ristevski said. “It’s designed to be.”

All told, HERE has driven 2 million kilometers (1.2 million miles) in 30 countries on 6 continents, all in the last 15 months. Google, HERE’s main competitor in the race to build maps for autonomous cars, has focused its efforts close to home,reportedly mapping 2,000 miles around its headquarters in Mountain View. (The US road network, for comparison, covers 4 million miles). A live map in HERE’s Berkeley office shows which cars are active. The afternoon I visited, a green tags indicated cars actively mapping roads on the west coast and a couple tags indicated that drivers in Australia were off to an early start. The tags in Europe and the east coast were grayed out, done driving for the day.

HD maps will tell an autonomous car what to expect along its route, Ristevski says. “If you just have a bunch of sensors on the car that detect things in real time and no a priori information about what exists, the problem becomes a lot harder,” he said. “The maps are essential.”

 

Of course, road conditions can change quickly, and another challenge for mapmakers is how to detect things like accidents and lane closures and update their maps in as close to real time as possible. Sensors on future autonomous cars could feed information over cellular data networks to HERE’s map in the cloud, but that might not be fast enough to avoid an accident. According to Peter Skillman, it could take several seconds for a car in San Francisco to beam its data to a data center in, say, North Carolina, and get a response. Getting response times down to tens of milliseconds—fast enough for a car to switch lanes to avoid some debris in the road spotted by another car ahead of it—will require applications that live inside the LTE networks and can be accessed locally, Skillman says.

A self-driving car that swerves to avoid debris may be a marvel of technology, but it’s also a scary car to be in if you don’t know what’s going on. And this gets back to Skillman’s point about maps as mediators between human psychology and a potentially frightening new technology. A recent survey found that 88 percent of Americans were worried about riding in a driverless car. The key to getting people to trust autonomous cars, Skillman says, is having the experience match their expectations. If the car signals ahead of time that it’s about to change lanes to avoid some debris, and then does exactly that, it will start to gain the trust of its passengers, he says.

Skillman pulled up a few examples on his laptop, short clips that showed the kind of map you’d see in the console of a car with an onboard navigation system. In one, an animated arrow popped up on a map to indicate an impending lane change. In another, yellow brackets and an exclamation point highlighted a man walking near the side of the road—thereby alerting passengers to the possibility of a sudden move to avoid him.

Skillman played another animation, a short 3-D clip of a route through the streets of Chicago. Played at the start of a trip, this sort of overview could help put passengers at ease by showing them where they are and where they’re going, he says. It’s the same purpose his 18th century road atlas served. Passengers would be able to see that there’s a right turn coming up and understand why. Cartographers will have to keep inventing these kinds of solutions as they design maps for autonomous cars, Skillman says. “We need to develop a whole new visual language so you know what the car’s intentions are.”

1720-road-map

Link: What to do on a long trip with a self driving car:    http://wp.me/p2YCFN-us

What Is The ROI Of Social Media? Thursday, Dec 4 2014 

social-media-roi

There is little doubt of the value of social media. You can gain a lot of readers and expand your brand. All of these efforts take a lot of time, so how do you know that what you’re getting back from your efforts is worth your time? What is your return on investment? Does its gain outweigh its cost? How valuable are social media shares?

http://www.elegantthemes.com/blog/tips-tricks/what-is-the-roi-of-social-media?utm_source=Elegant+Themes&utm_campaign=dc862b0193-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_c886a2fc0a-dc862b0193-50512893

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