Tech News and Commentary
Dave and the team discuss Dominos and the ADA, NASA’s all electric X-plane, Ring and remote activation of cameras, using a smartphone to verify your identity, Uber Pet, and more.
Eve in Lewes, Delaware listens on 105.9 WXDE and asked: “I’m the caregiver for my disabled brother and my 88 year-old mother. There’s times when I’m away from their home. It would be very helpful if there were some kind fo a button that my brother could push that would send me a message. Right now we use a walkie-talkie type family radio, but I have to be home or within range of the walkie-talkie. neither my brother or mother can use a cell phone. And we don’t want to use some kind of medical button or third-party service. So I’m wondering if there’s anything like that out there where he can push a button and it would send me a text message that would alert me that I was needed.”
Eve, usually to do something like that and avoid a monthly fee you’d have to build it yourself with something like a Raspberry Pi and push buttons, but that’s not something you’d probably want to go into unless you’re comfortable working on builds like that, since it’ll probably require the button, some soldering or a breadboard, and a little bit of coding.
There is an easier way to go about this that would let you do this cheaply and without monthly fees, but it also requires some coding.
Amazon now sells an AWS button that can be used to interface with their web services platform. One of the actions you can set that button up to do is send a text message with a predetermined message. You can even make it react differently if it’s clicked and if it’s held down.
Again, the catch here is that it requires programming. You’d have to set up an Amazon AWS account and use their Lambda serverless platform to get it set up and working.
IFTTT has a similar offering through smart buttons from third parties that can integrate into their services like the Logitech POP. Going with IFTTT would be easier overall to set up since there’s no real programming, there’s just setting some options, but you will probably pay more upfront for the button itself and it will likely only able to send one message rather than reacting differently to different inputs on some of the buttons available.
Ray in Niagara Falls, New York listens to the podcast and asked: “For years I had DSL. I got 1 or 2 down. I finally switched over to cable and am getting 118 down but the computer doesn’t seem that much faster. It’s still super slow. I have a Gateway computer, am connected to the Internet via ethernet card. It’s an Intel i5 3.10 GHz, 20gig RAM and I think it should be better that it’s doing. Don’t know what I’m doing wrong or if there’s some settings that I can change.”
Ray, what is slow in your computer?
If your internet connection still feels slow, you may have some other issue, for example a DNS issue that is delaying pages from even starting to load. If the rest of the computer feels slow, then maybe your i5 process is a 2010 i5 rather than a modern one.
Your computer sounds fast and your connection does too, so our guess is that if you’re achieving those downloads speeds the bottleneck may be in finding the site that in needs to load so it can get the process going using the fast connection. That’s why we’d check the DNS settings.
There is software you can use to try to figure out which sever would work best for you, for example DNS Benchmark, but most people end up going with something more generic and typically performant like Google’s DNS servers or OpenDNS.
Rob in Raleigh, North Carolina listens on NewsRadio 680 WPTF and asked: “Hello Dave, I love your show, and have a question about using USB ports for charging phones and cameras when you travel overseas. No one wants to carry heavy voltage converters on a trip, and I always thought that USB ports were universal, meaning they would drop down the voltage before sending it to your phone or camera. I found out that doesn’t always work when I blew a fuse in a hotel room in China. Someone told me there are different kinds of voltage ratings for USB ports. Can you tell me how I know which ones I can use safely when I travel to a country with 220V? Thanks!”
Rob, what you believed was… kind of right.
It sounds like plugged a 110v charger into a 200v outlet. That can happen and not every charger will step down that voltage that way.
What the USB standard calls for devices to talk to each other and adjust the power, but… that means that a 2A charger will step down to 1A to charge a device that cannot take 2A, or a it may step that down to 0.5A to charge a device that can take that much. The voltage remains at 5V.
If you want to be able to connect a charger that works here to 220v just check that the label and make sure it says that it supports 110-220v input, that about it. Dual-voltage chargers will state what they are in the power input section.
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