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Friday, August 11, 2017

The 35th anniversary of the compact disc

©Mark Ollig


Aug. 17, 1982 at the Philips manufacturing plant in Langenhagen, Germany, history was being made.

Rolling down their assembly line were thousands of round, palm-sized plastic plates giving off a shiny rainbow luster.

It was the “passing of the torch” from analog vinyl records to digital plastic-coated discs.

When I was in high school, a CD was a “certificate of deposit” a person would buy at the bank and hold on to and earn some interest.

CD also stands for compact disc.

“It’s 2017; what’s a compact disc, grandpa?”

Going back to 1979, Holland’s Royal Philips Electronics and the Sony Corp. of Japan engineers formed a task force to design a revolutionary type of digital audio disc.

While Philips manufactured the compact disc and laser technology, Sony Corp. contributed their digital encoding expertise.

Not long ago, I was having lunch with my youngest son.

Our conversation found its way to discussing how my generation listened to music when I was in high school.

I told him we used cassette and 8-track tape players, 33 LP and 45 rpm vinyl records, transistor radios, the home stereo tuner, and of course, the AM car radio.

As I described how a 45 rpm record held only one song on each side, he shook his head at me in disbelief.

When I told him we played those records on our hi-fi stereo turntables, he tilted his head to one side wondering what I was talking about.

I explained hi-fi meant “high-fidelity” sound, and described why we called it a “tuner” and a record player a “turntable.”

Back in the day, yours truly would buy a single 45 rpm record just for the song recorded on the one side.

The flip-side of the record usually had a filler song we didn’t listen to – unless it was a Beatles 45 rpm record, in which case both sides were played.

For those wondering, it was March 31, 1949, when RCA introduced the 45 rpm vinyl record to the world.

A CD’s appearance reminds me of a vinyl 45 rpm record.

CD’s have a spiral of tiny pits in them where the encoded digital data bits (1s and 0s) are stored – somewhat similar to the jagged spiral grooves on a vinyl record which holds analog information.

The CD’s audio is scanned by a laser to obtain the data; somewhat analogous to how a record player’s needle in the tone-arm captures the modulated analog sound from the vinyl’s grooves, while the record spins.

The popular thing about CDs is that they don’t wear out like my old 45 rpm records; plus, they held more than two songs.

The sound quality from the CD remains constant for a long period, as there’s no physical contact of the laser to the disc medium.

Feeling nostalgic, I located a 1970s vinyl 45 rpm music record I had in storage, blew off the dust, installed the round, plastic yellow spindle adapter insert, and played it on my old turntable.

The needle was a bit worn, and I probably should have cleaned the record off with some vinyl oil; however, the analog audio off the vinyl still sounded pretty good.

I forgot how accustomed we had become to hearing the occasional “pops” and “hisses” on a record.

While browsing through some articles about the history of the CD, I learned the agreed-upon design of the CD was in fact, based on the shape of a vinyl record.

I also found one interesting explanation of how the circular circumference of the CD came about.

One story said it was made to match the size of a Dutch beer coaster.

This anecdote may have originated in the offices of Holland’s Royal Philips Electronics, where I assume they drank a lot of beer.

Interestingly, the hole in a CD is the same size as a Dutch coin.

One hour’s worth of recorded audio content storage was originally planned for a single CD.

Instead, Sony Corp. reportedly decided to design the audio length of a CD based upon a famous conductor wanting the disc large enough to hold Beethoven’s 9th Symphony.

And so it came to be, one CD would hold 74 minutes’ worth of digital audio.

The very first CD player was sold by Sony Corp. in Japan Oct. 1, 1982.

By 1986, CD players were outselling record players; and by 1988, CD’s outsold all vinyl record sales.

2007 marked the production of the 200 billionth CD.

A very detailed history about the CD is available on the Philips Research webpage: “The history of the CD – The beginning” at: http://philips.to/2wrNWwL.

Of course, these days most folks listen to digitized music directly from the cloud; but for me, the music from analog vinyl over a pair of JBL L96 speakers still sounds cool and groovy.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter at @bitsandbytes.

This article was originally published August 27, 2007, and has been modified by the writer.



















(Image royalty license-to-use paid)

Thursday, August 3, 2017

FirstNet: An internet express lane

©Mark Ollig


Driving the daily commute on I-394 in and out of downtown Minneapolis, through rush-hour traffic, is slow and frustrating.

Those who endure this every workday understand it all too well.

Many drivers speed up their commute by using MnPASS.

By paying Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT), drivers obtain an express lane pass (MnPASS).

Physically, MnPASS is an electronic wireless identification transponder tag which is attached on the inside of a car’s windshield.

MnPass allows one to drive in the faster moving, specially designated, far-left express lane during peak-driving times.

“Overhead antennas and readers located on structures such as bridges, detect the MnPASS tag in the windshield. The reader records the tag ID and sends the information back to MnDOT’s central system, known as IRIS, which is used to control field devices, like toll signs and ramp meters, and to collect traffic data,” according to MnDOT.

During times of heavy traffic congestion, driving down the MnPASS express lane gets you to your destination faster and without the bottlenecks.

At times, the internet highway becomes congested; causing “bottlenecks” for users receiving information over it.

On a daily basis; police, firefighters, medical first responders, and other emergency teams use technology and digital communications by way of radio, cellular, and the internet for sending and receiving information.

When they require the internet service, it needs to be available and working.

Weather disasters and other emergencies can cause overloads in a cellular network system’s ability to provide service.

When these systems are handling enormous amounts of data, they can become congested and slow down the processing of not only the publics’, but emergency services’ cellular/internet accessibility, as well.

During emergencies, wireless networks often become overloaded with increased public data usage, as folks seek information or knowledge of the condition of friends or loved ones.

Severe overloads in the network will result in slowdowns, and probable service disruptions and breakdowns within communication routing links – the same links used by emergency response personal.

Wireless mobile/internet service providers do augment their networks by adding redundancy, better-quality equipment, and updated software in order to provide reliability and improved service.

Public safety is paramount, and emergency first responders need to have priority over regular internet traffic.

There needs to be a reserved internet express-lane, if you will, in order for emergency response personal to quickly and efficiently perform their duties during times of disaster.

An ongoing US government plan called First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) is being designed for use as a national emergency responder network.

Signed into law Feb. 22, 2012, FirstNet is an independent authority within the US Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

“It’s the first project of this magnitude for our country, and of this capability nationwide. This is a very important infrastructure project for public safety,” explained Sue Swenson, FirstNet chair and technology executive.

Under federal law, FirstNet is required to consult with each state before beginning construction within said state.

At the end of the consultation process, FirstNet will submit a plan to each state governor for approval.

The governor will either approve the plan, thus permitting FirstNet to opt-in; or disapprove and opt-out.

FirstNet says their mission is to “ensure the building, deployment, operation, and maintenance of the first high-speed, nationwide wireless broadband network dedicated to public safety.”

This secure network will provide first responders with abundant bandwidth data capacity, extended geographical coverage, interoperability among connected response-team devices; uninterrupted service reliability, priority and preventative maintenance, and assured quality-of-service.

FirstNet divides the country into 10 regions; Minnesota is located in Region 5, along with Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio.

As of this writing, states which have already approved build-out plans and opted-in for FirstNet include: Iowa, Michigan, Kentucky, Arkansas, Wyoming, Virginia, West Virginia, and New Jersey.

Check out the US government’s FirstNet website at http:/www.firstnet.gov.

Minnesota is also involved with the FirstNet project.

The Minnesota-FirstNet Consultation Project webpage is located on the Minnesota Department of Public Safety’s website at http://bit.ly/1rJQO1E.

MnPASS webpage can be found at http://www.dot.state.mn.us/mnpass.

Be sure to follow Bits & Bytes via Twitter at @bitsandbytes.








Thursday, July 27, 2017

Implanting microchips in humans

©Mark Ollig


To chip or not to chip: that is the question.

My first thought was, “This is only supposed to happen to the people living in the distant future.”

Apparently, we are now living in that distant future.

A company located in Wisconsin will be implanting a micro-computing chip device inside the hands of some 50 employees.

It should be noted, these employees volunteered to have the microchip implant.

The computing chip, which uses wireless communication, will be physically embedded beneath the skin area between the employee’s thumb and forefinger.

Let’s be clear; a microchip, an electronic device about the size of a grain of rice, is to be implanted (injected) under the skin of a human being for no medical or legal reason.

The chip’s purpose is to more quickly (and perhaps more securely) purchase a product, by waving the chipped hand in front of a scanner instead of swiping a credit card, or using a wireless NFC (Near Field Communication) equipped smartphone.

In addition to using the chip implant for making purchases; chipped employees will be able to wave their chipped hand in front of the keyless door entry of their company’s building to gain access.

Also, instead of typing their username and password to log into the company computer, an employee will wave their chip-embedded hand over its identification scanner and be granted access.

In what I assume was an attempt to alleviate fears of tracking the location of a chipped employee 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the CEO of the company is quoted as saying, “There’s no GPS tracking at all.”

Maybe he should have added “for the time being,” because I feel, implanting electronic chips in employees is opening a big ol’ can of worms.

I understand the reasoning of a dermal implant of a microchip when a person is under a doctor’s care; the implant is used for medical purposes to treat the patient.

Another related exception is when a court orders a prisoner or parolee to have a tracking device attached to their person.

Imagine if employers get the legal green light, allowing them to require employees to be “chipped” as part of their agreement to employment.

What kinds of data could an employer, insurance, or other company or government agency potentially collect about individuals?

I’ve got to hope we’re not going down a road which eventually leads to the compulsory implanting of a microchip inside all of us.

I’m no constitutional lawyer, but would this not constitute an invasion of personal privacy?

If this moves from voluntary, to obligatory chipping of employees; which I am greatly concerned about, expect the Supreme Court to rule on a final decision.

I’ll attempt a bit of levity; once voters are chipped, they could cast their vote simply by waving their hand over the candidate of their choice.

Here’s a campaign slogan: “One Chip – One Vote!”

I digress.

A few years ago, I wrote how all electronic appliances, machines, automobiles, planes, machining tools, and every other type of gadget, will eventually be embedded with an IP address, connected to the internet, and become part of the IoT (Internet of Things) network.

As we know, IoT devices can be tracked, their operating status monitored, and their data gleaned and analyzed by software for the purposes of improving their operation and productiveness within the sphere of their influence.

Analysis resulting in corrections or modifications of each individual IoT device ensures it will operate to its maximum potential; enhancing its value for the benefit of a corporation and/or society as a whole.

Is it humanity’s fate to eventually become physically a part of the IoT community?

Today’s topic reminded me of the “Star Trek” episode, “Patterns of Force,” where Kirk and Spock are implanted with a small “subcutaneous transponder” in their wrists before beaming down to a planet. If they were unable to use their communicators, Scotty could immediately locate and beam them back to the Enterprise.

It would not surprise me if airline travelers are offered a chip implant to guarantee quick passage through airport Transportation Security Administration check-in stations.

It would be interesting to interview some of those 50 Wisconsin employees six months from now, and learn of their experiences and thoughts of being chipped.

And so, dear readers, we’re now discussing the pros and cons of implanting folks with microchips.

Welcome to the distant future.

My tweets are not chipped; however, they are archived. Follow me on Twitter at @bitsandbytes.











(Image royalty license-to-use paid)

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Prolonged internet disruption proved costly

©Mark Ollig


A total loss of internet access was recently experienced by people living in Somalia.

An undersea fiber-optic cable providing them with internet service was severed.

The internet interruption was determined to be caused by a commercial container ship while docking in Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital city.

The ship’s anchor caught and sliced through the internet fiber-optic cable; instantly disconnecting service to some 6.5 million people living in southwestern Somalia.

Users affected by the cut cable endured 23 days without the internet.

Inaccessibility to the internet and its social media networks for this length of time was not only frustrating for citizens, teachers, journalists, and students; it was a large monetary loss to the country’s business and local economies, as well.

For each day without the internet, Somalia’s economy lost an estimated $10 million in revenue.

No doubt, much angst was felt by everyone affected during the sudden deprivation of the internet.

Computers located in science classrooms at the University of Somalia were not being used; one Reuters news agency photo showed empty chairs in front of rows of computers sitting on desks.

Substantial portions of our own country’s economic revenues have been generated from the internet during the last 20 years.

Loss of the internet in this country is almost too unimaginable to contemplate.

No more online access to our local and federal government services, healthcare providers, and financial institutions, for starters.

No more internet social media or ordering from Amazon, eBay, and other online businesses.

Content providers and others relying on an internet connection to obtain information for their work, research, stories, news, and columns would have to revert back to older methods.

We’ve become used to learning about breaking news the instant it happens, and then having real-time public conversations about it online over the internet’s social media.

During the 1980s and early ‘90s, before websites began appearing on the internet, many computer hobbyists used their personal computer for operating an online BBS (bulletin board system).

BBSes used modems, analog telephone lines, and popular software, such as Mustang, Renegade, and one I used on my BBS, “WBBS Online!,” called The Major BBS, by Galacticomm.

Users connected their computer’s modem to an analog telephone line and dialed a specific telephone number to connect with a business or hobbyist BBS, using communication software such as ProComm Plus, Kermit, QModem, PC-Talk, and others.

Sometimes, a user needed to download and execute client software on their computer in order to interact with the graphical user interface environment a particular BBS software had.

Back in the day, AOL, CompuServe, and Prodigy commercial dialup online services provided a disk containing the client software we installed on our computer.

I recall, during the 1980s, a major telephone vending supply company in Minneapolis installed a BBS listing their inventory database for telephone companies to place orders from.

Local television and newspapers installed their own BBSes for enticing users to dial in and be part of their online community – and hopefully watch their television channel, read their newspapers, and patronize the product placement ads.

Some dialup BBSes were strictly for gaming; generating revenue for their owners by using 1+900/976 telephone numbers.

BBSes were used by local city governments as a means of connecting online with its citizens.

By the early 1990s, with the introduction of the World Wide Web, businesses and city governments began to move their online presence from a dialup BBS to a website on the internet.

Having their website maintained through a third party or internet service provider eliminated BBS hardware, personal time coding the website, dedicated telephone lines, and software costs.

Many of us remember how CB radios became less popular with the public, once cellular telephones arrived on the scene.
Hormuud Telecom, Somalia’s leading internet service provider, reported July 17 the damaged undersea fiber-optic cable was repaired, and internet service was restored.

Somalian citizens immediately took to social media and expressed their joy.

“You cannot imagine how happy I am today. The internet is back and I can browse to read and publish all my delayed posts on Facebook,” said one Somalia university student.

“Finally, Internet Service is back in Mogadishu #Somalia,” posted @LibanAbdili on Twitter.

“Internet Somalia repair successful to back the people using the social media,” read another tweet by @alim_mahamoud.

Twitter user, @Suheyfa posted a photo of someone using a laptop computer while holding a smartphone and said, “Internet service is back finally in #Mogadishu. #Somalia.”

So, how would we react if for some reason the internet was turned off; its websites, online services, and social media networks no longer available?

First thing I would do is get my old BBS out of mothballs, and reunite the local online virtual community.

I’d also install a CB radio in my car and announce to the on-air world, “The Green Hornet is back!”

Cue Jerry Reed’s 1977 “Smokey and the Bandit” song, “East Bound and Down.”

Breaker 1-9, follow me on Twitter at @bitsandbytes. That’s a big 10-4.



















(Above image royalty license-to-use
 paid for by Mark Ollig)

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

'Wayback Machine' for the web

©Mark Ollig


It’s hot and muggy outside; the western sky is filled with heavy, black, threatening-looking clouds.

It’s also less than 14 hours before column deadline submission, so I better keep typing.

Do you remember how we navigated or browsed the World Wide Web as it was being placed over the internet during the early 1990s?

One of the first web browsers for public use was created in January 1993, at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA), called NCSA Mosaic, which I used.

Netscape Communications, based in California, developed a web browser called Netscape Navigator in 1994.

This web browser soared in popularity and became widely used among internet web surfers during the 1990s.

Netscape Navigator is the forefather of today’s much-used Mozilla Firefox web browser.

Microsoft brought Internet Explorer (which it purchased from Spyglass, Inc.) to the World Wide Web table in 1995.

A few years earlier, in December 1992, Apple’s Macintosh computer began using a web browser called MacWWW, or Samba. This web browser worked with their Classic Mac OS (operating system).

The World Wide Web was just getting started in 1992.

March 1989, engineer and computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee wrote a paper for the European Organization for Nuclear Research, better known as CERN, located in Geneva, Switzerland.

He titled it, “Information Management: A Proposal.”

Berners-Lee’s written proposal included diagrams and details explaining the benefits of having computer server software with hypertext “links” to documents and files, which could be quickly shared among other CERN researchers working in various locations.

He labeled flowchart diagrams with such keywords as hypertext, hypermedia, and hyperlinked information.

Tim Berners-Lee finished developing and testing the first web computer server in 1989.

The web page editor and browser software application program he coded for his hyper-linked, hypertext markup language operating over hypertext transport protocol was called WorldWideWeb.app.

Berners-Lee’s web application was used by CERN researchers and scientists over their networked computers in 1990.

The next year, Tim Berners-Lee’s web overly software platform application was released to the entire internet community, and thus to the world.

Through the web, we became hyper-connected with each other, and the rest, as they say, is history.

In 1996, the task of storing and preserving the growing number of webpages from the internet was started by an organization called the Internet Archive.

This organization began with a mission to preserve past and current internet webpages so future generations could look back and see their contents of information as originally presented.

“The Internet Archive is working to prevent the Internet – a new medium with major historical significance – and other “born-digital” materials from disappearing into the past,” stated their original mission statement.

Each day, the Internet Archive collects, organizes, catalogs, and preserves web content from numerous websites on the internet.

The Internet Archive is a 501(c) (3) non-profit organization supported by donations.

This organization preserves and stores digital records for future generations, and offers historians, students, researchers, and you and me access to many thousands of digitally-saved historical collections.

These free collections contain a treasure trove of photographs, books, movies, music, audio files, software, educational and historical references, and archived internet web pages.

I think of the Internet Archive as a sort of “digital web time capsule.”

Looking back at those early websites, I was reminded how easy-to-read and uncluttered a web page looked 20 years ago.

In 2000, the Internet Archive began storing television news and related media at https://archive.org/details/tv.

Consider this: The total number of users of the Internet Archive website for the month of July 1996 was 16.

This past June, there were 83,836 users of the website.

The total number of recorded Internet Archive users from July 1996 to today is 3.7 billion.

I recall a 1960s television cartoon featuring a boy named Sherman and an ultra-intelligent dog named Mr. Peabody, using a time machine to personally experience and participate in famous historical events.

This cartoon used a clever and entertaining approach for teaching children history using the WABAC Machine, pronounced, “Wayback Machine.”

The Internet Archive has its own Wayback Machine containing some 300 billion web pages collected since 1996.

To use the Internet Archive and the Wayback Machine, go to https://archive.org.

A large list containing its “Top Collections at the Archive” can be seen at http://bit.ly/Z523GP.

You can upload data to be archived and searchable by the public; such as I have done.

To begin uploading videos, text, audio, or images you want saved for future generations, first obtain your Internet Archive virtual library card at http://bit.ly/2gxWGJV.

My presence on Twitter began “way back” in February 2008. Follow me there at @bitsandbytes.














(Above image royalty license-to-use
 paid for by Mark Ollig)


Thursday, July 6, 2017

Why Facebook ads are personally appealing

©Mark Ollig


Our participation on Facebook means we accept its advertisements as the price for using their free online service.

However, not everyone is seeing the same ads.

Most Facebook ads are personalized to our individual preferences through a software algorithm which lures us to mouse-click on them.

Some folks call these types of online ads “click bait.”

The more time we spend on Facebook, the more its software learns about our personal likings.

By sharing Facebook postings and internet pages; participating in Facebook user groups, live broadcasts, and clicking ad content, we’re providing Facebook information about our personal preferences.

Facebook gleans our content choices for learning more about us; what products, services, sports, hobbies, vacation, and social media subject matter we prefer.

Where do we find the information Facebook has stored about us?

Log into your Facebook account and then go to this address: https://www.facebook.com/ads/preferences.

Under “Your Interests” Facebook maintains six categories containing detailed information about our preferences labeled:

• News and Entertainment
• Business and Industry
• Travel, Places and Events
• Hobbies and Activities
• People
• More

Facebook saved the names and visual icon links of 426 news and entertainment pages I visited; which is why I see so many online ads from them.

My business and industry category preferences displayed 390 distinct Facebook pages.

The last category revealed a sub-list where Facebook records our personal preferences for each of the following subjects:

• Technology
• Education
• Sports and Outdoors
• Lifestyle and Culture
• Food and Drink
• Shopping and Fashion
• Fitness and Wellness
• Family and Relationships

Under each subject are Facebook user groups and linked pages we have visited, liked, or belonged to.

Facebook is uncovering what we like; thus targeting us with personalized ads from its paid advertisers.

Another category, “Advertisers You’ve Interacted With,” disclosed the list of 92 individual company and Facebook ads I’ve clicked on.

The varieties of ads we see are based on our history of visited Facebook websites and apps, and are managed under “Ad Settings.”

Under “Your Information” we are supposedly able to control (by enabling or 
disabling) Facebook’s ability to show us ads based on the following profile fields:

• Relationship status
• Employer
• Job title
• Education
• Interested in

A disclaimer states Facebook may still add us to categories related to these profile fields.

Facebook’s PowerPoint-like presentation explained why specific ads are presented to us.

The presentation showed how our age, location, interests in certain products, services, and social causes are used by advertisers to target us with ads they feel we would most likely respond to.

Hundreds – if not thousands – of our liked and visited Facebook pages are being recorded, cataloged, and processed through special analytical software.

Many Facebook advertisers use Facebook Pixel, which, according to Facebook, “is a piece of website code advertisers install that lets them measure, optimize and build audiences for ad campaigns.”

Ads directed to our specific geographic location are based either on our Facebook profile, or from where we physically connect to the internet.

Where and how we connect to Facebook over the internet can be determined from the IP (Internet Protocol) address assigned on our computer, tablet, or smartphone.

Our geographic location can also be obtained from our smartdevices’ or automobile’s GPS (global positioning system) navigational coordinates.

Lately, I’ve been seeing more Facebook ads from Minnesota travel trailer and recreation vehicle companies.

Facebook knows I visited the Trailer Park World and RV Tours Facebook ad pages, and that I belong to a couple of Facebook RV and Travel Trailer user groups.

They also know I live in Minnesota.

Here’s wishing your next Facebook ad is personally appealing.


Follow me throughout the week on Twitter at @bitsandbytes.














(photo from Facebook Ads Preferences page)

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Coping with middle-age downsizing


©Mark Ollig




This week, yours truly is straying from the normal internet and gadgets technology column to a topic which will be of interest to many.

I’m talking about those of us who have reached middle-age with grown-up kids.

Many of us still store boxes of the possessions from their youth in our basements, garages, closets, attics, and inside cardboard boxes and large plastic baskets, bins, and containers in rooms throughout our homes.

The things not in boxes are displayed on shelves and tables.

Of course, we store a lot of our own personal memorable items, too.

Some of us have come to the realization we have accumulated too much “stuff” and it’s taken over our living space area.

My kids are all adults and moved out of the house years ago; I am closer to 60 than I am to 50.

After looking around my domicile, I experienced a rare moment of clarity and this sobering thought, “Why am I keeping all this stuff?”

I reasoned it was because of the sentimental value and the memories it brings back when I take an item out and look at it.

Being honest with myself, I concluded there were just too many rows of stacked cardboard boxes and plastic storage bins in my closets and lined up against the walls.

I rarely open a sealed box to look at the items inside. I just read its contents and recall the memory.

Granted, the boxes are all neatly stored and their contents clearly identified, but there are just too many boxes and too much stuff.

I need to do some serious de-cluttering.

Yes folks, yours truly is currently in the process of what I call de-clutterization.

My plan had always been to give these stored-away items to my kids when they became adults.

The sentimental value they had for an item in their youth, would still be there as an adult, I assumed.

Yours truly has boxes filled with the kids’ old toys, model cars, books, crayon drawings, completed school assignment papers, board games, and parts from electronic video games and radio-controlled cars.

There are boxes containing photo albums with hundreds (if not thousands) of pictures of birthdays, school activities, holidays, and other family get-togethers.

Other boxes contain items too numerous to mention.

After contacting the kids about coming over and picking up some of these boxes, guess what I learned?

They really don’t want any of those boxes.

I was shocked.

“I have no place to keep all that stuff,” two sons adamantly told me.

I persisted about the items having sentimental value, and how they’ll appreciate having them to look back on when they reach my age.

That line of reasoning didn’t work very well, although they did end up taking a few items just to keep me happy.

Regarding some of the silver coins I have collected and saved over the years; my adult children had no problem taking those off my hands.

I, too, have many boxes filled with items from my own youth which bring back memories; such as a practice football jersey I wore in high school.

Memories of the practices, games, coaches, and players come flooding back when I see that jersey.

Throwing it away would feel like I was discarding memories.

It’s true. I am going through the personal pain and heartache of parting with years’ worth of items no longer used, rarely looked at, and taking up floor space.

I’ve been told it’s called “middle-age downsizing syndrome.”

As difficult as it may be, I’ve decided it’s time to sort, sell, and donate what I no longer need stored in all those cardboard boxes and plastic containers.

Through my online social media groups, I discovered downsizing is the subject of much discussion; especially among the middle- and upper-age folks.

Some people downsize because they no longer need to be living in a large house and want to move into a smaller one that is easier to manage and move around in.

Singles and couples are selling their house, or moving out of their rented loft or condo and taking to the road; living fulltime in an RV or travel trailer, desiring to experience new adventures in different parts of the country.

Others just can’t part with all their boxes full of stuff, so they decide to keep them in a commercial rental warehouse storage unit.

These folks are paying a monthly fee for securely storing boxes they probably have not opened in years.

An article I read provides another solution for dealing with the emotional separation from our beloved boxed items.

A field study on how to successfully part with and de-clutter stored items was performed by students from Penn State University.

Their research showed people were willing to separate themselves with personal items holding sentimental value if they took a photo of the items before parting with them.

“We found that people are more willing to give up these possessions if we offer them a way to keep the memory and the identity associated with that memory,” explained Rebecca Reczek, co-author of the field study.

“Don’t Pack up Your Sentimental Clutter . . . Just Keep a Photo of It, Then Donate,” reads a sign hanging on a wall at Penn State.

So, I’ll be taking a lot of photos (digitally stored in The Cloud) before selling, donating, and parting with the personal items I no longer have any real need to physically keep.

I know the memories will still be there.

Follow me on Twitter at @bitsandbytes.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

China hosts Asia Consumer Electronics Show

©Mark Ollig


The premier event for showcasing consumer technology for the planet’s most populated continent recently took place in Shanghai, China.

The Consumer Technology Association, which owns and produces the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in the US, also manages CES Asia.

The CES Asia technology event focuses primarily on the large Asia-Pacific market.

Asia is the highest populated and the biggest continent on this planet, with 4.4 billion people covering some 17.2 million square miles of the Earth’s surface.

As with the CES event this year in Las Vegas, NV, this year’s CES Asia event showcased the latest in consumer technology and products.

More than 450 technology companies exhibited their products at the Shanghai New International Expo Center and Kerry Hotel, which were the venues for the three-day event.

Floor space used for exhibits and displaying of technology covered more than 484,000 square feet.

Total attendance exceeded 30,000; including more than 1,100 members of the press and media.

Technology categories featured during this year’s CES Asia event included:

• 3D Printing

• Augmented Reality (AR)

• Drones

• Robotics

• Smart Home

• Vehicle Technology

• Virtual Reality (VR)

• Internet of Things (IoT)

• Green Technology

• Wearables

• Video Gaming

More than 50 technology companies showcased their newest robotic designs.

Robots designed for use as shopping mall attendants, restaurant helpers, coffee shop servers, medical assistants, educators, and home companions were displayed.

Rokid Corp., an innovative leading-edge technology company with headquarters in China, Beijing, and San Francisco, manufactures artificial intelligence (AI) robots.

They showcased their AI robotic mobile home companion called Pebble, which was released to the public in May.

Visually, Pebble’s metallic oval-shaped appearance is slightly larger than a Roomba robotic vacuum.

This AI robot is designed for assisting children with learning, helping senior citizens with household tasks, and providing entertainment.

Pebble comes equipped with 2GB/16GB of memory/storage, and a quad-core processor.

It also includes WiFi for internet access, a microphone and speaker, 12 light-emitting diodes or LEDs, wireless Bluetooth enhanced data-rate technology, and the Android 6.0 software operating system.

Mandarin is listed as Pebble’s official language, which makes sense, since Mandarin is commonly spoken in China.

Rokid has robots capable of simultaneous Chinese and English translations.

Pebble’s internal lithium-ion rechargeable battery will last for eight hours when not plugged into its AC power adapter.

The robot is manufactured using liquid aluminum which undergoes a “compression molding process.”

Pebble is comprised of the same high-strength aluminum used in manufacturing aircraft, along with a number of stainless steel parts.

This pleasant-looking, eye-appealing AI robotic assistant was repeatedly polished during its manufacturing, is scratch-resistant, and gives off a bright chrome-like shine.

“AI makes our life simpler. AI is replacing human beings in more fields. It saves humans’ labor, so we can do more creative work,” said Li Yuanpeng, Rokid Corp. product manager.

I uploaded a picture of the Pebble AI robot to my photobucket website: http://bit.ly/2rM6rxu.

“Chinese companies continue to grow more and more in importance. They are creating partnerships with Western partners to really further their technology. So, we are seeing development of technology advancing rapidly,” said Tom T. Kelly, senior director of CES Asia.

The US Department of Commerce granted CES Asia 2017 an Official Trade Event (OTE) designation status. This allows companies in the US to display their technology and products during CES Asia.

OTE status also provides US companies access to foreign country distribution, trade counseling, and other assistance for expanding and growing their business presence in the Asian marketplace.

The 2018 CES Asia event will take place June 13-15 in Shanghai, China.

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