Goodbye Google Hangouts?

During my perusing of the inter web, I learned that Google might be killing off Google for us regular people and just letting it exist for enterprise customers. I’ve been using Google Hangouts for a while now, mainly I use it because of the integration with Google Voice. There is also the added benefit that I can talk to other people that use Google Hangouts that use it for enterprise customers.

I’m probably in the very small minority that still uses the application. I use my Google Voice number for work and for other things to try and keep the telemarketers away. The problem is, the telemarketers just call the Google Voice number instead. I also like the integration with Gmail and contacts in Gmail. It lets me message people via SMS or make phone calls. The best part is that its cross platform. I use it on my iPhone, iPad and through the web browser. In that way its a poor mans iMessage that I can use on Windows and OSX.

Recently Google brought back the Google Voice app back. It’s always been there but it was kind of neglected for a long time but it was recently updated. Probably in anticipation of eliminating Hangouts. I was attempting to use the web version but for some reason its not working right which is a shame. Hopefully they’ll fix the interface for it soon. It won’t be exactly the same as being able to use Hangouts, it won’t be available within Gmail which was a great feature in itself. I also heard that the app Allo is also potentially on the chopping block. That makes me wonder what consumers are going to use for chatting that can compete with WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger.

You can use WhatsApp cross platform, but the person also needs to have the app installed. Hangouts is different in that its sending it via SMS so it doesn’t matter if the person has the app or not, your message will go through. I hope that Google gets its shit together and makes a converged chat platform for voice, video, and SMS that integrates with Gmail like Hangouts does right now but at least improves upon the concepts and design.

Apparently I have a year to find something new. I have confidence that at least Google Voice will continue since it does compete directly with Skype and WhatsApp. The only thing preventing me from totally trying to switch to something like WhatsApp is that it doesn’t have an iPad app. I think people have been asking for that for years but they just don’t want to do it. With Apple just owning tablets, it makes sense if they want to keep people interested in using the platform across devices.

Most of the big tech bloggers are covering this which is how I found out about it. I’ll continue to watch it over the next year since it impacts me and how I interact with others.

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GoPro Hero 7 Black!

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Due to my numerous travels all over the US for work, I accumulate quite a number of American Express points as I spend money on meals, lodging, and transportation.  Over the last year I saved enough points to finally get a GoPro Hero 7 Black for free!!  I have the GoPro Hero 4 Session that I also got on points about 2-3 years ago and I’ve been using it on trips.  I was just about to get the Hero 6 Black when all of a sudden the Hero 7 was announced to be released soon so I just had to wait for it.

I haven’t really had an opportunity to use it much.  The reason that I wanted a new action camera was because of the image stabilization that was one of the top selling features of the new GoPro.  The Hero Session doesn’t have any type of image stabilization so a lot of my videos were jittery and not very usable.  I tried the Hero 7 recently while riding my bicycle and it was really smooth even with all the bumps in the road.  In addition to the Hero 7 Black, I got a screen protector for the front and back of the camera and a battery charger with 2 extra batteries so that I can use it for approximately 6 hours before I need to juice everything up.  I had just enough points left over for a 200GB microSD card to use for videos.

There are more steps involved with using the Hero 7 compared to the Hero Session.  The Hero Session was just 1 button whereas the Hero 7 has 2 (power and shutter).  Although the voice command stuff is awesome, you have to leave the camera on which drains the battery.  I’ll have to be more careful with my action shots during my vacation to Whistler so I don’t drain the battery just waiting to take a video.  I did try out some of the voice commands and they work wonderfully.  I can see those being very useful so I don’t have to reach up and hit a button if the camera is already on.

I haven’t discussed the video quality yet but I think that’s because I’m not one of those people that shoots everything in 4K. I’m just fine with 1080p.  I shoot that resolution with my iPhone 7 and I don’t have any problems with the quality.  It’s also easier to upload to YouTube and doesn’t eat up hard drive space on my NAS.  I can’t wait to find a good excuse to use this camera in the winter while on vacation.

Reinstalled Windows 10…….again!

img_1430I think this is the 3rd time that I’ve installed Windows 10 on the HP Stream.  The first time was when I did the original upgrade, the second time I was having trouble with the computer itself and just wanted to get it working, and now the third time was because I needed to get more space on the computer.  It occurred to me that the fastest way to get the computer working was to just reinstall windows.  I also noticed that I had a lot of partitions on the SSD that was just eating up space and not providing me any benefit at all so I deleted all of those and created one massive drive to do the install.

The reinstall went pretty well but it took a while to do.  I had to get Windows onto a USB flash drive first, then I had to wipe the computer and then do the installation.  After that was all done a little configuration was needed.  I used to have Chrome installed but I attempted to use just Edge.  That didn’t work so I had to install Firefox so that I could get to the websites that my daughter uses for school.  I also needed to do some driver updates to recognize the microSD card reader so I can save and access files that I had saved before hand.

I now have around 50% of 30GB free (that’s 15GB’s).  That should be enough for the swap file so that the computer doesn’t crash constantly when trying to surf the internet using Firefox.  By no means does this mean that the computer is going to be blazing fast or do all the things that I want it to do but it should be fine for my daughter to start using again.  I wrote in a previous post that I might get a new computer during Black Friday but since I was able to get the HP Stream working again I’m going to save the money.  Once my daughter outgrows the computer, I’m going to try and keep it around.  Whenever I have visitors there always seems to be a need for a computer and I won’t be upset if someone messes it up. I prefer to keep my MacBook Pro as my personal computer (not to mention I don’t need someone messing with my files and settings when they’re just a visitor).

I think its time to get rid of the HP Stream

img_0065I recently went to Best Buy with my daughter so that I could return the Ring Video Doorbell 2 (I would have to do quite a bit of legwork to get the thing mounted and I’m just not handy).  My daughter wanted to come along to play with the computers that are in the demo section.  She seems to really like using the Surface line of computers because you have the ability to draw using the included pen.  Although the real reason that my daughter likes going to Best Buy is because her HP Stream isn’t really working well.

I bought the computer 3 years ago for my daughter so that she could use it for school.  I originally bought it with Windows 7 but since then I’ve upgraded it to Windows 10.  Unfortunately the computer doesn’t have a lot of hard drive space and its been experiencing trouble loading web pages due the low disk space.  The picture in this post shows the hard drive only has about 60MB free which is basically nothing these days.  Because of this issue, videos are not loading on the computer which is preventing my daughter from using it to use it for school.  I’ve thought about trying to reload the computer again and delete all the partitions to start again but I don’t have a big enough flash drive that’s clear to put the Windows 10 ISO file on it.  I also don’t have the free time to do this sort of reload either at the moment because I’ll still experience the low disk space error.

I think that a new computer is in order for the family.  One that my wife and my daughter can both use.  I definitely have some requirements and both of them do.  I think the first part is that the screen needs to allow pen capabilities.  My daughter seems to enjoy drawing on the screen and likes to use my iPad Pro sometimes to make drawings in Paper by 53.  My wife has also expressed that this would be a neat feature to have.  Its definitely going to be a laptop.  This computer is going to potentially replace the desktop as well so all that gear is going to go away too.  I personally need the computer to be semi fast and have a decent amount of space on the hard drive.  I think 128GB or 256GB should be about right.  I think I’ll boost capacity to the NAS or I can re-purpose one of my external hard drives that I have lying around.

If money wasn’t any object, I think I’ll get the family the Microsoft Surface Pro 6.  The Surface Pro 6 is brand new but I have to pay extra for the type keyboard and the pen which will bring the price tag to over $1000.  Barring that, I think the Lenovo Yoga 730 would be an awesome machine too.  I haven’t seen one in person but it does hit all of the requirements and its under $1000 but I would also have to get the pen for it too.  However its a convertible computer so I don’t have to get a keyboard.

Black Friday is around the corner so maybe I can get it then, gotta love holiday sales for some awesome savings on electronics for the house.

The Buick Envision is a real gas guzzler

I’ve had a ton of rental cars over the last few weeks but this week I’m cruising around in the Buick Envision AWD. The cross over is typical of most American cars made in 2018 that I’ve driven. Overall I like them as rental cars more than I like the imports like the Nissans or Toyotas. A difference that I find between the Buick Envision and my normal Chevy Envoy AWD is how much gas the Buick guzzles. It’s only Wednesday and I think I have to fill up the tank before I even head back to Detroit. I don’t think I’ve been pushing the car too hard but I will admit that the engine revs a little high and downshifts an awful lot when I’m just cruising on the highway trying to pass someone (slowly mind you).

Surprisingly, the Dodge Challenger that I had a couple weeks ago gets better mileage than the Envision and that had a high powered V6 in it if not a V8. I was able to last the entire week and return the car without having to fill up. I think the Buick is supposed to be the higher end model of the Chevy that I normally roll around in but truthfully I’d save the money and get the Chevy if I had to buy one of them. Fortunately, I’m not in the market for a new car. My Honda Accord is still working just fine and I still haven’t hit 15,000 miles after owning it for the last 4 years.

The issue I now have is that I’m going to have to fill up my rental car here at my client site, drive 2 hours all the way to Detroit and get charged again for gas by Hertz. At least now I know I’m not going to get the Buick Envision again if I see it in the lot. The great part about having Presidents Circle is that I can try out a ton of cars (mostly American) so that I know what car I would potentially consider buying for the family if the time ever arises.

Last weeks car was also quite disappointing too and also ate gas but not at the rate of the Envision. The Toyota Highlander AWD XLE had a really tiny trunk with the third row up. The most disappointing feature of all was that it didn’t have Apple CarPlay and it was as 2018 model too. I’m glad that I live in FL, I don’t have to buy any of the AWD vehicles. I think my wife’s XTerra was probably one of the better 4×4 cars I’ve driven even though it was weak. At least I could choose if it was going to be a 4×2 or a 4×4 to improve gas mileage rather than having it on all the time. I think the one on the Envision is adaptive but I’m too lazy to look it up. Besides, the next choice for a car is the wife’s, but it will be replacing my car most likely since I really want to keep the van. I just need to keep the van going for a little longer, maybe until 200K miles if possible. Just a little TLC should keep it moving so I can avoid these weak engined gas guzzling clunkers they’re coming out with.

Worst work travel day EVER!

I’ve been doing this consulting thing for quite a while and yesterday was hands down the worst travel day. I currently go to Michigan for work. That alone is a pain in the ass but the way home is worse.

My travel home is supposed to be:

  • Drive 2 hours from client site to airport
  • Take flight from Detroit to Charlotte
  • Wait in Charlotte for an hour to catch connecting flight
  • Drive 30 minutes home

This week was a little different:

  • Drove 2 hours from client site to airport
  • Flight delayed 30 minutes, ate dinner at airport (a personal travel sin, I try not to eat before I fly)
  • Get upgrade on flight to Charlotte (it’s a CRJ 900 so the plane is tiny)
  • Start flying to Charlotte as usual, but on approach to land we encountered a rain storm
  • Plane has wheels down and is on final approach (I swear we are under 500 feet), suddenly plane starts to ascend again and head north (wtf moment)
  • Captain says there is a ground stop in Charlotte and we need to pick up fuel in Wilmington DE (shit that sucks)
  • Refuel twice because the tower tells the captain we have to approach Charlotte from the west which delays us about an hour
  • Check the connecting flight and it’s delayed half an hour but will leave without me
  • Call American and ask for rebooking but I’m told I have to do it at the airport (another wtf moment)
  • Finally make it to Charlotte but my Miami flight is gone, rebooked myself on a Fort Lauderdale flight (I didn’t want to fly home at 2PM)
  • Call some hotels but everything is booked so for the first time in my life I’m sleeping in an airport terminal (I didn’t really sleep, more like cat naps over a 5 hour period)
  • Fly to FLL (2 hours) and Uber it to my appointment that I couldn’t miss (30 minutes)
  • Take a second Uber all the way to Miami to get my car (30 minutes)
  • Drive all the way home while listening to a conference call (30 minutes)

And that’s how my Thursday and Friday has gone so far. I’m kind of a zombie but I can function to a certain degree. I’ll definitely go to bed early to catch up. I’ll be trying the Chicago route next week, let’s see if that’s better than flying to Charlotte. What I really need is for them to bring back the direct flight on Thursday evenings. I refuse to stay an extra night and fly home Friday morning.

Flying the DJI Spark

I received a DJI Spark for my birthday this summer and it’s so fun to fly. It’s really small and it works with my iPhone but my wife got me the controller that makes it so much easier to fly. The Spark matches the color of my motorcycle which is pretty awesome.

I’ve only been flying the Spark near my house but there is enough open space that I won’t hit anyone. The pictures in this post were taken with the Spark while I was flying at around 200 feet up. I haven’t gone all crazy with it, the battery only lasts 10 minutes but it’s a pretty satisfying flight. The feature that I haven’t tried using is the hand gestures. Apparently you can have the Spark follow you, take pictures, and take off from your hand. There isn’t enough room behind my house to try it but when I get to a big park I’ll give it a go there.

The most useful accessory has been the cable that links my iPhone to the remote. It lets me fly the Spark farther than trying to use just the WiFi and makes connecting to the drone way faster. The biggest gripe I have is trying to connect to the Spark via WiFi. It doesn’t seem to work and I can’t get the navigation updates which I need to fly it safely. I’ve used Sport mode a couple of times but it really drains the battery quickly and cuts down on my flight time. I’ve also tried to make sure I can always see the drone while flying. I can go pretty far with it but it’s more for safety and I don’t want to lose it.

I want to take the drone with me to Colorado this spring and take some mountain pictures and some video. I think a factor that will make it a little risky is the wind since I’ll be in the mountains. I’ve flown the drone in decently gusty wind in FL but I was nervous about hitting a tree but the Spark is really stable and compensates well. I need to get a good carrying case and some extra batteries so I can fly it for a bit longer and to practice but this is definitely an awesome gift.