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Better Living Through Technology

Category Archives: Computers

“Back to School” used to mean stocking up on paper, pencils and Pee-Chee folders (for those of us old enough to remember…). Now it’s all about the electronics! Every kid is trading in their notepads for iPads, and there’s a whole new crop of back-to-school “must-haves” that are 100% digital.

Talkin' "back-to-school" with CW6 Anchor Lynda Martin

Talkin’ “back-to-school” with CW6 Anchor Lynda Martin

Here are a few of the latest trends in electronics for this year’s back to school season:


  • The new AT&T-exclusive Samsung Galaxy S7 active mobile phone is shatter-, water- and dust-resistant. The kids can take it anywhere and (for once…) not break it!
  • Here’s a tablet you won’t mind lending to the kids — in fact, it’s built for them. EPIK (Empowering Parents. Inspiring Kids) Learning tablets are designed for children, from pre-K through third grade, and they come preloaded with reading, math, spelling, programming, games, languages and more. It’s a complete classroom set inside a rugged 8-inch device that’s perfect for exploring the world — and importantly, it includes cybersecurity measures and parental controls to ensure a safe online experience for all ages.


  • For older students: Windows is soooo 2015! What the college kids want now is a super lightweight laptop that is always on, always online, and ready to go for hours and hours between charging. ChromeBooks based on the Google Chrome browser are going mainstream — and they don’t do Windows! Check out Acer’s Chromebook 14 with 4GB of memory for only $300.CB3-431-C5FM
  • Still need Windows for the heavy-duty apps, like editing videos or writing code? The new breed of laptops — like Acer’s new R 15 Convertible Notebook, with its cool 360-degree hinge design — are anything but ordinary, and prices start at only $650.As R5 571T photogallery 03
  • How about a full-fledged PC in the palm of your hand? Smaller and lighter than a paperback novel, the Kangaroo Windows 10 Mobile Desktop is as powerful as any desktop PC — just plug in a mouse, keyboard and monitor, and when class is over, throw it in your backpack and go!InFocus Kangaroo mobile PC at work


  • If you’ve ever tried running or working out with a big set of “cans” on your head, then you’ll love these little in-ear marvels: Phiaton’s BT 220 NC earphones combine Bluetooth 4.0 and active noise-cancellation in a tiny earbud design.
  • Since you’re ready to get some exercise, get the most out of your workout with the FitBit Blaze — a new fitness watch that’s as stylish as it is smart. FitBit’s largest smartwatch to-date features PurePulse™ heart rate, connected GPS, onscreen workouts, and more.





October 21, 2015. It seemed like it would never arrive. As we sat mesmerized in the movie theaters, peering around the other viewers with their big 1980’s hair, it seemed perfectly plausible that we’d all be commuting in our flying DeLoreans by now. How young and naïve we were.

So the future is here now. Where are our hoverboards, our time machines, our household nuclear fusion generators? Well, Marty McFly and his friends did get a few things right:


Hoverboards are here. OK, it’s not a hoverboard like Marty uses in the movie (or like the one Lexus unveiled recently as a publicity stunt — I guess getting just the right combination of superconductors, magnets and liquid nitrogen is still a little tricky for consumers…), but this has got to be the next best thing: It’s called an EOHawk hoverboard. Think of it as what would happen if a Segway and a skateboard had a baby.

ForTech Two Wheels Mini Smart Self Balancing Scooter,Black

Here’s a couple videos of it in action:

If you’re in the San Diego area, you can pick one up at the VapeKingz kiosks at Fashion Island, Mission Valley or Plaza Bonita malls. (Tell Eddie that Steve sent you.) If you’re elsewhere, check them out on


One of the whiz-bang technologies shown in the Café scene in BTTF2 is a couple of robot waiters taking orders and serving food to tables. Check out this new robot created by NXT Robotics, a San Diego-area startup, that is designed as a personal assistant for use in homes, and businesses like hospitality, corporate or campus security, etc. Company founder Jeff Debrosse has posted a video of his original Nexie robot here:

 Jeff Debrosse and IRIS

Jeff Debrosse, CEO of NXT Robotics in San Diego, shows off IRIS, the company’s flagship model.


In the movie, they use thin tablet computers to get people to sign petitions, pay for cab rides, etc. Tablets today are commonplace, but I have two pretty cool ones to check out:

The first is the brand new Barnes & Noble Nook/Samsung Galaxy Tab S2. It’s one of the thinnest tablets ever produced, and in addition to all the things a normal tablet does, it lets you read the morning paper, or your favorite magazine, or hundreds of thousands of books, all on one device.

NOOK(R) by Samsung(R)

The second one is Microsoft’s Surface Pro tablet, running Windows 10. It does anything a full-fledged laptop or desktop computer can do (like allowing me to write this blog…), all with the portability of a tablet. And there’s one more cool feature Microsoft just unveiled that harks back to the movie: You can not only do video calls on it like the McFly’s do in their futuristic home, you can also use the new translating version of Skype to hold a live video conversation with someone who speaks a different language (say Mandarin, for example).

Alternate image


One of the things the movie shows in 2015 is that we all have automated houses, with lots of cool built-in gizmos. Of course, the flat-screen TVs  in the McFly home with picture-in-picture capability were mind-boggling at the time, but they are pretty ho-hum today. And while home automation (or “smart house” technology) exists, it’s too complex and  costly for most consumers.

But check out this kit that lets people start automating their homes with something that’s both ingenious and simple as pie: These new LED light bulbs from TCP screw into any lamp or light socket in your house, just like a regular bulb, but you can control them via your mobile phone from anywhere in the world. Turn on the lights before you drive home? Or dim the lights in your dining room while you eat dim sum in Shanghai? No problem.

TCP Connected Smart LED Light Bulb Starter Kit with (2) A19 LED Dimmable Light Bulb

Now, what do you think we’ll be doing on Oct. 21, 2030?

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— Be Careful Where You Click

— Be Careful What You Download

  • Android apps may be riskier than Apple iPhone & iPad apps

— Be Careful  Even If You Use Antivirus Software

  • AV software may not protect you from the latest threats – especially if you’re a business

—  Be Careful When You Buy

  • Use apps like Dynamite Deals to make sure you’re always getting the lowest price (Free: )


—  Ballistic Hard Core for iPhone

—  Hitcase Waterproof/Shockproof/Mountable Case w/Wide-Angle Lens for iPhone

—  G-Form Extreme Sleeve for iPad

Here are the contenders (by Mobile OS):


  • — Apple iPhone Smartphones ($199 & Up)
  • — Apple iPad Tablets ($399 & up)


  • — Android Smartphones (Example: Samsung Galaxy, $199 & Up)
  • — Android Tablets (Example: Acer Iconia, , $200 & up)


  • — Blackberry Smartphones (Example: Blackberry Bold, $200 + service)
  • — Blackberry Tablets (Example: Blackberry Playbook, $250)


  • — Windows Mobile Smartphones (Example: Nokia Lumia, $19 & up)
  • — Windows Mobile Tablets (Microsoft Surface — shipping late Oct. at $300-$800)
  • — Windows Ultrabooks (Examples: Dell XPS; HP Folio; Acer S3/S5: $650-$1400)

Stop. Think. Connect. — That’s the message computer safety expert Steve Kovsky has for National Internet Safety Month as he teaches us how to practice “safe surfing”

Key Stats:

  • Someone is a victim of a cybercrime 14 times every second.
  • Last year, over 430 million people were victims of cybercrime.
  • Chance are that you or someone you love has already been a victim — and may not even know it.

So remember to STOP. THINK. CONNECT.

  1. STOP: Before using the Internet, take time to understand the risks and learn how to spot potential problems.
  2. THINK: Watch for warning signs and consider how your actions online could impact your safety, your kids’ safety or that of your family.
  3. CONNECT: Log on with confidence, knowing you’ve taken the right steps to stay safe online.

What Else Can You Do?

  1. Learn More: Go to
  2. Attend the upcoming 2012 Securing Our eCity Cybersecurity Symposium & Awards
  • October 11 & 12, 2012
  • San Diego Gas & Electric Energy Innovation Center in Kearney Mesa
  • Speakers will include:
    • Ken Mortensen, Chief Privacy Officer, CVS Pathmark
    • Lydell Wall, CEO & Founder, Recovery Logic (former detective)
    • Dr. Larry Ponemon, Founder, Ponemon Institute
    • Howard Schmidt, former Cyber Coordinator for the White House

Some Additional Tips to Avoid Scams


  • Check the End of the Web Address. (What comes before the domain doesn’t matter, and the suffix — .com, .org, .mil, .gov, etc. – should be correct and appropriate.)
  • Check the Beginning of the Web Address. (Secure sites — like banks, shopping, etc. —  should start with “https://” or “shttp://” – If it’s just “Http://” it’s not secure!)
  • When in doubt, throw it out. (Links in email, tweets, posts, and online ads are often the way cybercriminals compromise your computer. If it looks suspicious, even if you know the source, delete it and above all — don’t click!)
  • Get savvy about Wi-Fi hotspots.  (Pros don’t use public Wi-Fi. If you do, be careful what you connect to, limit the type of business you conduct, and adjust the security settings on your device to limit access.)
  • Watch out for “free” apps – they may come at a cost. (Example: Angry Birds)



1.  “Amateur Hour Is Over”

  • Lone hackers and “script-kiddies” are yesterday’s news. They’ve been replaced by professional international criminal networks.

  • In fact, your private data is one of the hottest commodities in organized crime today, grossing more annually than the global drug trade, according to Dept. of Homeland Security estimates.

2. Think You’re “Under The Radar?” Think Again…

  • If you think you’re not wealthy or famous enough to attract the attention of cyber criminals, you’re dead wrong. You don’t have to be rich — your very identity has tremendous value in the illicit data trade.
  • Even newborn babies routinely have their identities stolen and used to establish credit, citizenship, and support other illegal enterprises! (They typically won’t find out until they’re old enough to apply for credit or a job.)

3. Criminals could be after more than just your money or your ID.

  •  The danger from cyberspace could be very real. Cyber stalking is a very real threat, and most people have no idea how exposed they are in today’s “everything-online” environment.
  • Even the federal government is concerned about the impact of individuals’ cyber privacy– as a matter of national security!


1. Encrypt everything.

  •  Whenever you see encryption as an option – take it! From storing your iPhone data on Apple’s iCloud, to backing up your hard drive, encryption is free and well worth the extra click.

2. Pick “Safe” Sites.

  • Stick to brands you know, or choose less-risky alternatives like instead of Craig’s List. (But still, watch out for “Phish-ies”…)

3. Participate in Local Cyber Awareness Groups and Activities