Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Web Secret 420: Lush and the mini USB

I am sometimes oblivious to the technical marvels that surround me.

But from time to time, I can be blindsided with awe.

It started with my birthday - a rather major one this year which I wanted to celebrate by hiding under the covers.

So I did the next best thing, I booked myself for an 80 minute "Synaesthesia" massage at one of only two "Lush" spas in the US.

Lush is an all natural, ecologically minded UK company that makes bath and cosmetics products. I discovered them during a trip to England in the 90s.

Their newest venture, the Lush Spa, recreates the experience of being in an English cottage in the 19th century - think "The Shire" where the Hobbits live in Lord of the Rings.

I opted for Synaesthesia because it promised to take me away and cleanse my mind via "a journey of personalized massage and sensory delirium." The Lush people actually paid a composer to write music to accompany the experience.

And it was absolutely great.

The music was memorable and I immediately ordered the recording from Lush in England. I was promised a vinyl version and a "companion USB."

Two weeks later I opened the box. At first I couldn't find the USB aka flash drive.

That's because they sent a mini USB card.

The size of a penny, the width of a dime.

And this tiny, tiny, tiny little piece of plastic held the entire Synaesthesia soundtrack and a full length movie of the English countryside set to the music and sounds of the Synaesthesia experience.

And it was good.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Web Secret 419: The Grid

I consider myself pretty cutting edge when it comes to understanding social media and surfing the net.

Until I hang out with my 22 year old son. He has an extreme awareness and grasp of imminent technologies.

Stuff that is, (far more rapidly than you would expect,) coming soon to a laptop near you.

He likes to talk to me about these technologies before I have had my morning double espresso - he is a morning person - and I don't always process what he is telling me until months later.

So about 6 months ago he started telling me about "The Grid" - a new technology that will allow artificial intelligence to design a website.

That seemed pretty far fetched to me - it sounded like a sequel to "The Matrix" movie series.

But guess what? My son is one of the first people to build a website using a beta version of "The Grid".

The Grid is real.

And I just wasn't cool enough to see it coming.

In case you need audiovisual aids to grasp it, here is an under 2 minute explanatory video put together by my friends at Sandwich Video.



Oh.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Web secret 418: websites that are useful

Thank you TechWorm.net for a list of very useful websites.

My favorites:

10Minutemail.com - lets you create an email address that will self destruct after 10 minutes. Beat spam with this disposable e-mail service.

Date to Date Calculator - calculates the duration, which is the day count and the number of days, months and years between two dates. Among other things, it can be used to find how many days old you are and the weekday you were born.

Web Capture lets you take full HD screenshot of any webpage and convert that screenshot into JJPEG, PNG and PDF formats.

Use Google without country restriction - When you enter google.com , Google redirect you to country domain like google.in or google.co.uk. If you want to use Google without any country restrictions, open google.com/ncr. Useufl when you want to get more than the US centric perspective

Virustotal - is a free online virus scanner. that analyzes suspicious files and URLs and facilitates the quick detection of viruses, worms, trojans, and all kinds of malware.

Empowering.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Web Secret 417: websites that make you smarter

Thank you interesting engineering.com for your list of websites that make you smarter.

Here are some of my favorites:

Unplug The TV - and open this link instead – every time the site will generate a new video for you to watch and improve your mind.

High Brow - sends 5-minute long courses direct to your inbox every day. Take a break and learn something new!

Lingvist promises you will learn language in 200 hours.

Creative Live - take creative lessons in photo and video, art and design, music and audio, crafts and even life from the greatest creative minds in the world.

Investopedia - provides financial news digests that are fairly easy to understand even for those of us who don’t know the first thing about money.

Drawspace - always wanted to learn to draw but never got a chance? Drawspace provides lots of lessons whether you are a rank beginner or a skilled amateur.

I think I'll unplug the computer.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Web Secret 416: Intermezzo

By the time you will be reading this post, I will be in Italy.

So it seems especially à propos to offer an intermezzo.

In the culinary world, an intermezzo is a small dish of sorbet offered as a palate cleanser between courses during a fancy meal.

This is my attempt at a blog equivalent.

Most everyone in the US has seen "The Wizard of Oz," the great 1939 film based on a book by L. Frank Baum - most of us more than once.

But the true Baum aficionado has also read his other Oz books, the most remarkable of which is "The Marvelous Land of Oz."

The basic plot of the novel is as follows:

A little boy, Tip, escapes from his evil guardian, the witch Mombi, with the help of a walking wooden figure with a jack-o'-lantern head named Jack Pumpkinhead (brought to life with the magic Powder of Life Tip stole from Mombi), as well as a living Sawhorse (created from the same powder). Tip ends up on an adventure with the Scarecrow and Tin Woodman to help Scarecrow recapture his throne from General Jinjur's army of girls.

As an elementary school aged child, I devoured the book - until the end, when I was astonished to learn that Tip was actually a girl - the Princess Ozma and the true ruler of Oz. Tip was transformed into a boy to prevent him (her?) from exercising his power.

At first, Tip (and the reader) is utterly shocked to learn this, but his friends help him accept his destiny, and a spell is performed which restores him to her true self and to her rightful position as the child Queen of Oz.

As a 10 year old, I spent hours trying to wrap my mind around this stunning turn of events.

But as a 21st century adult, I think this is the first children's book ever written about a transgender person - and a metaphor for transformation.

Who knows the true intent of the author, but Baum was an ardent support of women's suffrage, and a friend of Susan B. Anthony.

A girl (Dorothy) was the hero of his first novel. And the Land of Oz features a female General - Jinjur - who leads the women of Oz in a revolt, armed with knitting needles. They succeed and make the men do the household chores. Jinjur proves to be an incompetent ruler, but Ozma, a female advocating gender equality, is ultimately placed on the throne.

Shouldn't "The Land of Oz" be made into a movie, and tout de suite?

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Web Secret 415: Social Media Facts version 2016

Pretty much every year, I post the latest social media stats.

These posts have a sameness to them: "Look, billions of people are using Facebook!"

It gets boring after a while, so it was refreshing to see a more thoughtful approach. Thank you Joel Lee, for 12 Social Media Facts and Statistics You Should Know in 2016

You know the drill - here is my condensed version of that article.

1. Over 75% of all Internet users use social media. These kinds of sites are now the bread and butter of modern Web activity.

2. For younger users, Instagram is more important than Facebook and Twitter. The younger generation considers Facebook and Twitter "old school".

3. LinkedIn is the most important social network for professionals. Period.

4. Most social networks are evenly split between males and females… except Pinterest.

5. For the 18-49 age group, YouTube has greater reach than any cable network. Read that again. Process.

6. YouTube is massive, but Facebook is still bigger. "Look, billions of people are using Facebook!" Can't escape Facebook.

7. The largest online dating site is actually a social network: Badoo. And I have never heard of it. Then again, I'm not in the dating business.

8. Reddit is the best social network for large-scale communities. Reddit looks like a website from the 1990s. I don't get Reddit.

9. Social media encourages the development of more extreme viewpoints. It’s called the echo chamber effect and it arises when social media users are allowed to “follow” things that they already believe and “block” anything that might dissent from those beliefs.

10. Teens need to be made more aware of privacy and security issues. Only 9% of teenaged social media users even have concerns about the privacy of their data.

11. One wrong social media post can ruin your life for good. Read that again. Process.

12. Revenge porn and accidental leaks are growing threats. See number 11.

PS: Do not use Facebook for professional purposes.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Web Secret 414: old technology never dies

You weren't there, a couple of months ago, when I read a New York Times article "Disruptions: The Lure of Technologies Past".

But I was smirking.

In that article, reporter Nick Bilton wrote about a Venice, CA store called Vnyl:

"The store sells vinyl records, and the kids who gather there are often in awe."

I’d say half of the teens who hang out in my store have never seen a record player before,”

“They will walk up to the turntable, and they have no concept where to put the needle.” But once they figure out that the needle goes into the outermost groove, ...[they]... are hooked."

"Whenever a new technology comes out, we often believe it will make an older technology obsolete."


Surprise, people still take photographs using film. And they still use newspapers and books. Records. USB thumb drives. Flip phones. And pagers.

The reason I was smirking is that I had posted about this as far back as 2011, "there is no species of technology that have ever gone globally extinct on this planet."... That means, he said, "I can't find any [invention, tool, technology] that has disappeared completely from Earth."

And in May 2014, I wrote "...the Internet has made possible a heightened connection to the past, and much that is retro, vintage or even obsolete. A chance Google search led me to the wonderful www.retrothing.com, a blog that will help you remember, and sometimes find, objects from the past."

So you read it here first.