Archive for the ‘Interesting Stuff’ Category

Cool Home Automation: Wifi bathroom scale does more than just blurt out your weight!

Sunday, November 13th, 2011

The Withings Body scale is not your mother's bathroom scale!

Although the phrase “home automation” has been around for over a decade, its meaning is still unclear for many who tend to think of it only in terms of large-scale green home projects, or whole-house entertainment systems and the like.  What most folks don’t realize is that a quiet revolution has been taking place as designers and manufacturers have begun connecting ordinary household objects from thermostats to refrigerators, to bathroom scales to the home wifi network, and more importantly, have been taking the power of the PC, Smartphone, and tablet, and turning these classic consumer products into dynamos of information and assistance.

One such object is the bathroom scale.  It wasn’t so long ago that most of us (meaning us middle-agers) can still remember when the bathroom scale was a creaking mechanical beast with a difficult-to-read weight chart and a little thumbwheel underneath for zeroing it.  Then sometime in the mid-eighties (mid nineties? it’s all such a jumble to this old geek), the bathroom scale went digital and, provided the batteries didn’t go dead, became self-zeroing and gave you a nice bright readout, easily visible from 4-6 feet away without having to stoop or squint.  And so it was until recently when a company called Withings introduced the wifi-connected bathroom scale.

Okay, so if you’re anything like me you might be thinking: Why do I need my scale to be wifi connected? So I can weigh myself in the bathroom then run to my computer to see how much I weigh? How is this progress? Oh wait, I see, I can see my weight on my smart phone or tablet?  Does the scale take into account the added weight of my Android or iPad?  Maybe that’s the kind of thinking that has me blogging about other people’s inventions instead of being the inventor myself…

Well so let’s talk about someone else’s invention for a minute  shall we?  Because the Withings Body scale is so much more than my simplistic imaginings would have lead to.  You see, the real value of having a wifi scale isn’t the scale itself. Although it is a sleek marvel of high-tech design, the real wow-factor in this product is the app behind the mechanism. You know what I mean when I say app right? That little program that’s designed for your smart phone, tablet, or PC. The brains behind the scale that does so much more than just tell you what you weigh today.

connects to major platforms

Charting weight and body mass index on PC, iphone, iPad, and Android makes the Withings Body scale an integral part of a fitness regimen

The Withings scale is complimented by apps for all major platforms, and provides sophisticated tools that show you your weight, Body Mass Index, and a bunch of other cool measurements in a graphical layout featuring performance over time and ties into weight management and fitness program goals that not only provide valuable data, milestones, and achievements to you, but can also be shared instantly with your doctor or your coach. Of course, if you just want to know your weight, it will tell you that too, but when it comes to home automation, it’s companies like Withings that are reshaping the future of interconnected devices.

for more info, check out Withings on the web at www.withings.com

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geek housecallsThis article was written by , Head Geek at Geek Housecalls, the New England area’s original traveling computer geeks, on the web at www.geekhousecalls.com. Geek Housecalls specializes in “anything computer” and, since 2001, has become the trusted in-home computer and technology support provider for over 15,000 families and small business computer users in eastern Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and southern New Hampshire. For help with your computers, gadgets, or network at home or at the office, click here to contact Geek Housecalls via the web, or call toll free:

1-877-4PC-GEEK             (1-877-472-4335)

 

 

 

 

Asteroid 2005 YU55 passing near earth will be no Fifth Element thriller

Tuesday, November 8th, 2011
nasa radar image and trajectory of 2005 yu55 asteroid

This radar image of asteroid 2005 YU55 was obtained on Nov. 7, 2011, at 11:45 a.m. PST (2:45 p.m. EST/1945 UTC), when the space rock was at 3.6 lunar distances, which is about 860,000 miles, or 1.38 million kilometers, from Earth. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Tonight at 6:28 ET, the recently discovered asteroid 2005 YU55 will make a close pass by earth, briefly passing inside the moon’s orbit.  Sounds dangerous doesn’t it?  All we need is for it to be bigger, flaming, sponsored by evil, and headed straight for earth and now you’ve got a real thriller- fodder for a sci-fi movie featuring tough-guy Bruce Willis, and supermodel Milla Jovovich and oh wait… that’s already been done.

The difference between today’s asteroid encounter and the flaming ball in The Fifth Element is, well, it’s not flaming, it’s not going to smash into earth, and possibly the biggest disappointment (besides the lack of flying cars) is that it won’t even really be a big enough cosmic event to be viewed by the naked eye…   sigh.  Kinda makes one yearn for the good old days when the comet Hale Bopp  (which has a much sexier name than 2005 yu55) hung around for months offering tantalizing views of her long tail to anyone who cared to gaze skyward.

On the other hand, for those of us geeky enough to want to see and know more about 2005 yu55, here are a few links of interest:

Nasa’s Asteroid and Comet Watch site features updates, charts, and cool radio-telescope images of 2005 yu55

Cal-tech’s Jet Propulsion Lab Asteroid Watch website

 

Geek Housecalls reveals an easy trick that could save you a small fortune on your next computer repair

Saturday, October 15th, 2011

Here’s a simple trick to save money and aggravation the next time you have computer problemsDon’t wait!

“Don’t wait” What? That’s it?  How does that save money? In fact, what does that even mean??

fast computer repair

Acting quickly to solve computer problems can make the difference between a free ride or an expensive repair!

Okay, here’s the scoop… Pretty much on a daily basis, your computer updates itself.  Programs like Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox,  AOL, Microsoft Office, Java, Adobe Reader, Flash, and more – all sorts of programs running the gamut from games to email to photo software to antivirus,  and of course  including Microsoft Windows itself, all have built-in updaters that go online periodically and automatically download and install the latest tweaks, patches, and updates for your computer and the programs on it.

Getting the latest updates is usually a good thing and is highly recommended by geeks the world over.  These updates perform important functions like plugging security holes, enhancing functionality, and fixing bugs,  but there’s a hidden risk to updates that can cost you plenty if you wait too long to fix a problem.

system restore image

Solving computer problems can be as simple as choosing a system restore point prior tto the onset of the problem.

Let’s start with the basic premise that 80% of computer problems can be solved immediately after they first occur thanks to the built-in System Restore tool that has been a standard feature of Windows since Millennium Edition and is included in Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Windows 7. I’m not going to go into detail about what System Restore is, or how it works, but suffice it to say, it is a quick, simple, and often effective first approach to solving problems ranging from virus and malware infections to driver glitches and corruption, to inexplicable errors or loss of functionality.  Mind you, System Restore is far from perfect, but for the average home pc user, it can often make the difference between a free self-repair and a costly professional repair.

But besides being aware of system restore or knowing how to use it, there is again, this matter of timing.  When you address a problem immediately (immediately by my standards being within hours or days, definitely not weeks or months), you are far more likely to see that problem simply solved as it has not had the chance to become buried under layers of updates and changes (ah yes… that’s why the explanation about automatic updates earlier!) that can complicate or even aggravate the issue making it a bigger problem than when it first occurred. As a professional geek,  I can tell you from personal experience with thousands of customer computers, that I can look at a job description and have a fair idea of how complex the issue is and how long it will take to resolve, but when I ask the customer how long they’ve had the problem and they reply “oh, a month or two” all bets are off.

So in conclusion, the lesson to take away here is that the quickest, least expensive and least aggravating, as well as voted-most-likely-to-succeed approach to take when you have a computer problem is DON’T WAIT!  Whether you plan to tackle the fix yourself or plan on hiring a professional, act within hours or at most, a day or two, and chances are your issue will be resolved more quickly, painlessly, and at minimum cost.

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geek housecallsThis article was written by Andy Trask, Head Geek at Geek Housecalls, the New England area’s original traveling computer geeks, on the web at www.geekhousecalls.com. Geek Housecalls specializes in “anything computer” and, since 2001, has become the trusted in-home computer and technology support provider for over 15,000 families and small business computer users in eastern Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and southern New Hampshire. For help with your computers, gadgets, or network at home or at the office, click here to contact Geek Housecalls via the web, or call toll free:

1-877-4PC-GEEK             (1-877-472-4335)

 

The future is here… Innovative tablet menu puts info and more at diners’ fingertips.

Thursday, September 8th, 2011

In the categories: Wait. What??! and Interesting Stuff

yum!Temazcal Tequila Cantina- Fine mexican dining on Boston’s historic waterfront now features a bit of modern history.  Throw away those heavy tomes and dog-eared volumes, your menu will arrive neatly packaged on the touchscreen of an Apple iPad.

Advantages? Yes! No more wondering “what is it?” as you ponder your order.  Every dish offers mouthwatering high-res photos prepared by chef-owner Todd Hall himself. Want to know more? Just tap your way through the onscreen menu for nutrition information, a look at the recipe behind the dish, or to check out the intriguing “history” of the ingredients (like did you know the Aztecs considered the avocado to be an aphrodisiac?).

Disadvantages? Hmmmm… How would my 82 year old mum fare if handed this glowing electronic thingamajig? Oh yeah, she’d hand it to me and say “You’re the geek. How does this work?”

Welcome to the future… who ever thought it would arrive with a side of guacamole?

Yummmmmmmmmmmm!

Straight from the Tamezcal menu, this photo of Todd Hall's Guacamole Langosta is so lifelike you might have to fight the urge to lick your screen!

Guess who just turned ten?! Geek Housecalls celebrates ten years with massive ice-cream giveaway! Are you ready to party?

Friday, August 12th, 2011
yum!!!!!

Friendly's colossal "Giant Crowd Pleaser" featuring 12 scoops of ice cream and 6 toppings is the perfect centerpiece for a Geek Housecalls ice cream party!

The geeks have grown up right in front of your eyes and now 2011 marks ten years of friendly in-home computer service by Geek Housecalls.  And what better way to celebrate a 10-year-old’s birthday than by giving away Friendly’s ice cream parties to our customers?  With made-for-many offerings like their 3-scoop Hunka Chunka PB Fudge Lava Cake Sundae,  5-scoop Caramel Fudge Brownie Sundae, and (get this!) TWELVE-scoop and 6-topping Giant Crowd Pleaser, it’s the perfect way to get a crowd of friends together to help us celebrate 10 years!

In July of 2001:Geek Housecalls was started by Andy Trask and Dave Ehlke in a tiny shoebox-sized office on Mass Ave in Lexington.

2001 geek housecalls website | computer service | computer repair | pc service | pc repair

The original Geek Housecalls website from 2001, complete with hastily scribbled Geek Housecalls logo.

At that time the idea of making housecalls to help people with their computers was rather unconventional, but not nearly as unconventional as proudly calling ourselves Geeks!  We started with a grass-roots marketing approach, posting flyers in local laundromats, donut shops, and pizza parlors that garnered us just over 100 customers in 2001.

want to take a hammer to your computer?

Early ads featured our well-known hammer dude smashing his computer in frustration.

In late 2002 and 2003: things were really starting to roll thanks to an article in Boston Business Journal that was enamored with the idea that calling yourself a geek maybe wasn’t a bad thing! As the article read, “these computer geeks are more like computer gods.”  During that time we also announced our 2,000th customer and in late 2003 were featured by Mass High Tech in an article titled:  Who you gonna call? Geek Housecalls!

In 2004: Positive press coverage of Geek Housecalls continued with two stories in the Boston Globe, one about Geek Housecalls’ role in the emerging in-home computer service industry, and the other, about retail giant Best Buy’s civil lawsuit attempting to force Geek Housecalls to change their name as they felt it infringed on their Geek Squad trademarks. The lawsuit was eventually settled with no change to the Geek Housecalls name, but with a requirement that Geek Housecalls must state on their web site: “Not to be confused with Geek Squad or Best Buy” (yes, you can see it on every page of our website just below the copyright notice.)

Geek Housecalls TV ad circa 2005

In 2005, Geek Housecalls expanded into the Rhode Island market offering our high-reputation in-home service to Rhode Island locals through our acquisition of Providence service provider Down City Systems, and in the same year, was chosen by Delta Dental of Rhode Island as the preferrred vendor to help local dentists get “up to speed” with the technology needed to move forward into the age of web-based billing and claims processing. Also in 2005, Geek Housecalls introduced onsite service for small businesses under the name Geek Officecalls.  As it turned out, we had been gaining a steady clientele of small business customers thanks to positive word-of-mouth referrals from many of our residential customers, and we felt the time was right to create a division that catered to the unique needs of small businesses.

Geek Housecalls customer 10,000

Geek Housecalls customer # 10,000, Erica Flynn is seen in this photo with her geek, Charlie Hoover, and Geek Housecalls founders Dave Ehlke (L) and Andy Trask (R)

In 2006: Geek Housecalls celebrated 10,000 customers with a free year of service to customer 10,000 and $250,000 worth of coupons isssued to existing customers.

In 2008, Geek Housecalls opened a carry-in computer service center located adjacent to our corporate headquarters and call center in Burlington, MA.  The carry-in service center has become a favorite for busy locals and passing commuters who don’t have time to stay home for a housecall and find it convenient to drop off their computers or laptops on the way to work and pick up on the way home at night.

In 2009 / 2010: the Geek Officecalls division of Geek Housecalls was overhauled with a name change to Geek Office Solutions,  and a dramatically improved menu of services that includes a team of IT professionals, a comprehensive Remote Help Desk and network Operations Center that simulates everything needed to support a large organization, and the introduction of our signature “Virtual IT Department” service to maintain your small business  IT infrastructure on an “all inclusive” fixed monthly fee basis.

Geek Housecalls carry-in computer service center

Geek Housecalls carry-in computer service center features flat-rate service prices and plenty of parking.

In 2011 and beyond:  In the ten years since that shoebox office in Lexington, Geek Housecalls has grown to serve over 15,000 customers in three states.  Likewise our service offerings have grown from simple in-home pc repair to cover all of our customers’ diverse needs such as Windows and Mac installation, troubleshooting and service, as well as wired and wireless networking, and personalized tutoring.  In recent years our offerings have been expanded further to cover gadget devices like the iPhone, Blackberry, Android, and other smart phones, iPad, Tablet PCs, netbooks, gaming systems like Wii, PS3, and xBox, and home audio/visual systems hookups including Flat Screen TVs, Surround Sound, Blu-Ray DVD Players, and online services like Tivo and NetFlix . Our geeks have become skilled not only at making it all work smoothly together, but more importantly, have become skilled at helping customers learn how to get the most from their technologies whether Computer, laptop, tablet, smart phone, home entertainment system, or cloud application.

Geek Housecalls continues to offer the best of the best to residential and small business customers in eastern Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and southern New Hampshire.  With Geeks on staff who have been with us for five years or more and some dating all the way back to the autumn of 2001, we are able to offer a level of steadfast maturity to customers who feel, frankly, a bit nervous about being serviced by the inexperienced kids offered by many competitors.  And so to the 15,000+ who have used Geek Housecalls, we say “Thank you!” and good luck with the contest, we hope you get some Ice Cream!  And to those of you who have not yet tried Geek Housecalls, now’s the time to find out just how good – and how friendly – computer service can be!

 

The Contest:

Between August 13th and October 1st, 2011, Geek Housecalls is choosing lucky winners to receive an Ice Cream Party for ten in the form of a $100 Friendly’s gift certificate (Gather your friends, that’s a lot of Ice Cream!).

How to Enter:

Customers who use Geek Housecalls during August and September of 2011 are automatically entered into the weekly gift certificate drawings.

No purchase is required to enter the drawings.  Residents of  Geek Housecalls’ service area may enter by sending their

  • name
  • mailing address
  • birthdate
  • email address
  • phone number

on a postcard addressed to:

Geek Housecalls 10-Year Anniversary
7 Cypress Dr
Burlington, MA 01803

Contestants must be 18 years or older by August 13, 2011 to be eligible to win prizes. Only one entry is allowed per person/household.

The Fine Print

Geek Housecalls is giving away Friendly’s gift certificates valued at $100 each. Geek Housecalls will draw winners at random from all eligible entrants.

Eligible entrants are those customers who use Geek Housecalls during the period from August 1, 2011 through the day preceding the drawing, or who send a mail-in entry that is received at the address stated above by the close of business on the day preceding the drawing.

The contest is closed to new entries after September 30, 2011. Mail-in entries received after 09/30/2011 are not eligible for prize drawings.

Winners will be notified via email and must respond by 12/31/2011 to claim their prize.

All decisions and results are final. No prize substitutions are permitted. Winners are responsible for any taxes. Odds of winning vary depending on the number of entries received and customers serviced during the contest period..

 

Two Massachusetts Towns Make The Forbes Top 10 Geekiest Cities. You’ll never guess where…

Sunday, August 7th, 2011

Forbes Magazine recently compiled a list of the top 20 Geekiest cities in America and guess what? Not one, but two Massachusetts towns made the top ten!  Kudos to you if you guessed Lowell and Framingham (which came in 3rd behind Boulder CO, and Silicon Valley epicenter, San Jose, CA)!

Kinda makes one yearn for the good ol’ days when Digital Equipment Corp, Wang Laboratories, and Pr1me Computer reigned supreme and Route 128 was known far and wide as “America’s Technology Highway.”