My favorite new toy: PiScreen, a 3.5-inch touchscreen for Raspberry Pi

My favorite new toy: PiScreen, a 3.5-inch touchscreen for Raspberry Pi

Raspberry Pi is a credit-card-sized computer that sells for around $35 and packs a whole bunch of fun. It’s designed for hobbyists and tinkerers that want a tiny computer to do whatever with.

You can run a server, install custom OSes and hack the hell out of it. While the Pi itself is inexpensive, you need to add a few things to make it work: keyboard, mouse, power, SD card and a monitor. And it’s that last one I want to discuss.

While it’s got all the ports of a traditional computer, I recommend that you skip the HDMI out port altogether and go with a PiScreen instead.

PiScreen ($57 assembled) is a 3.5-inch TFT(480×320) touchscreen that turns a Raspberry Pi model A, B or B+ into a fully-functional palmtop computer. I recommend that you pony up the extra $10 for the 4GD card because it comes pre-loaded with Raspbian and all the PiScreen drivers you need to get up and running fast.

Google uses machine learning to predict the winner of the World Cup

Google World Cup
Image: Google

In this video (embedded below) from Google I/O 2014 JordaTigani and Felipe Hoffa explain how they used Google BigQuery to predict the outcome of the World Cup.

From the description:

Can you predict the future using Big Data? Can you divine if your users will come back to your site or where the next social conflict will arise? And most importantly, can Brazil be defeated at soccer on their own turf? In this talk, we’ll go through the process of data extraction, modelling and prediction as well as generating a live dashboard to visualize the results. We’ll demonstrate how you can use Google Cloud and Open Source technologies to make predictions about the biggest soccer matches in the world. You’ll see how to use Google BigQuery for data analytics and Monte Carlo simulations, as well as how to create machine learning models in R and pandas. We predict that after this talk you’ll have the necessary tools to cast your own eye on the future.

And the winner is….. A narrow win for Germany in the final

Though we think it’s going to be close, Germany has the edge: our model gives them a 55 percent chance of defeating Argentina. Both teams have had excellent tournaments so far, but the model favors Germany for a number of factors. Thus far in the tournament, they’ve had better passing in the attacking half of their field, a higher number of shots (64 vs. 61) and a higher number of goals scored (17 vs. 8).

Read more about it in their blog post.

Range Oven Intelligence: my new kitchen gadget

Range Oven Intelligence: my new kitchen gadget
Range Oven Intelligence: my new kitchen gadget

I just backed the Range Oven Intelligence (a.k.a. “Range OI”) on Kickstarter and you should too.  Range OI is a remote thermometer for ovens and grills that you can monitor via Bluetooth from your iPhone or iPad.

I’ve previously backed Supermechanical’s Range thermometer ($70, above) and love it. Range Coal is for grilling/smoking, Range Ember is for cooking meat, and Range Aqua model is for beer brewing, candy and cheese making.

As I previously wrote, Range is a high-quality temperature probe that you can stick into a piece of meat, then plug the other end into an iOS device running the Range app (free, App Store). The app monitors the temperature of whatever you’re cooking and sends you alerts when user- or pre-defined thresholds are reached.

Range OI improves on the original Range in one key way: instead of having to be plugged into an iOS devices (which then becomes tethered to your grill/smoker/oven), it includes a slick sheath/holster than includes Bluetooth LE and a battery.

Instead of leaving your iPhone out by the grill, the Range OI talks to your iPhone via Bluetooth, so that it can stay in your pocket in the kitchen while you chop vegetables. It’s only half way to its goal, so let’s get together and back this puppy.

The Range OI Kickstarter will be funded if at least $250,000 is pledged by July 22, 2014.

My new toy: Storm Drone 4 drone

The STORM Drone 4 by Helipal
The STORM Drone 4 by Helipal

When my wife asked me what I wanted for Christmas this year I told her that I wanted something fun that I wouldn’t buy for myself (and certainly not clothes!)

I’ve been a Remote Control (RC) car aficionado since I got my first Associated RC10 #6000 around 1985. I loved building, racing and modifying/fixing it after the inevitable high-speed collision with a stationary object. I rekindled my love for RC in 2012 with a Traxxas Slash 4×4 and an Associated RC10 B44.2 which I love to race with my kids at our local track.

I’ve been paying attention to the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV)/drone/quad-copter space for a couple of years  and always wanted to have one of my own. I couldn’t justify buying one with my current investment in RC vehicles and it would be totally fun. Hence, a great gift idea was born.

I unpacked the STORM Drone 4 from Helipal on Christmas morning to the delight and awe of my kids. Unfortunately winter weather isn’t exactly conducive to flying drones, so I ended up having to wait until things dried out a bit in March 2014 to take her on her maiden flight.

One thing that I’ve learned so far is that flying a drone/quad-copter is much more challenging than driving an RC car. The whole roll/yaw/pitch thing takes a little time to wrap your brain around. The quad-copter transmitter is substantially more sophisticated than a ground-based vehicle too.

Drone transmitter vs. RC car transmitter
Drone transmitter vs. RC car transmitter

Take a look at the Walkera Devo 7 transmitter that comes with the STORM drone 4 (left) versus the Airtronics MT-4 pistol grip transmitter (right) for the RC buggy – there’s no comparison!

The drone transmitter uses a bunch of sticks and dials and one wrong flick can ditch your drone into the ground whereas the buggy’s controller is basically a steering wheel and a trigger throttle.

While challenging, my flying is getting better with practice. It’s still not good enough where I feel comfortable attaching a GoPro camera to it – yet.

I  highly recommend that you watch the videos of the STORM Drone 4 in action on the product page.  Here’s one of my favorites:

Why I’m dumping my Spotify subscription (Update: I’m back)

Why I'm dumping my Spotify subscription

I’m on a tear right now and one thing I’m targeting is recurring expenses. I have too many of them and I feel like some of these companies are taking advantage of me and are too expensive.

My first target is Spotify which I reluctantly cancelled today after being a subscriber since the closed beta.

Spotify changed the value proposition in December 2013 when it changed its middle ($5/month) pricing tier from the ability to choose individual artists and tracks to a “radio” format – like Pandora uses. In other words, instead of being able to listen to specific artists, albums and tracks you now can only pick an artist and genre and listen to random track that some algorithm picks.

No thanks.

To make matters worse, Spotify doesn’t even technically offer the middle/$5 tier, unless you threaten to cancel your account. The company’s pricing page only lists Free (a.k.a. Ad, Ad, Ad) and Premium ($10/month).

Where's the middle tier Spotify?

Spotify’s December bait-and-switch move had the effect of forcing subscribers in its $5/month tier to its twice-as-expensive $10/month club (plus tax).

I canceled my jive today because:

  1. I already pay for SiriusXM in my car and I have the bundle that includes Internet access (hence all the “genre” listening I want), and
  2. I already pay for Apple’s iTunes Match service, which at only $25/year works out to a little more than $2/month

Companies that change the game, spin it as a positive (free listening on your mobile!) deserve what’s coming to them.

Update 2014-0522: I re-enabled my Spotify Premium subscription so that I can access its 20M tracks from the amazing djay 2.5 for iPad.

iOS 7 privacy settings every user should change

I wrote an article for CBS Interactive/ZDNet (where I’ve been writing for nine years) and it’s a doozy.

Not to toot my own horn or anything, but it was the number one article on ZDNet in 2013 (which is saying a lot!). Anyhoo, the gist is that when you update from iOS 6 to iOS 7, your privacy settings get switched back to their defaults – which share a lot of data with Apple and its partners unnecessarily. I’m not exactly a tinfoil hat type, but why give Apple data about your life if it’s not absolutely necessary?

For example:

A whole number iOS upgrade is a big deal and it resets a bunch of your settings and adds privacy and security settings that you should be aware of.

Apple hides its System Services settings all the way down at the bottom of the Privacy > Location Services panel. If you’ve owned your iPhone for more than a few months you’ll have dozens (possibly over one hundred) apps listed on this screen, making it a very long scroll. If you actually make it to the bottom of the list (most people don’t) you’ll see the fabled System Services setting and the explanation of what that little purple arrow icons means.

Again, the path is Settings > Privacy > Location Services > System Services:

Privacy settings you should enable in iOS 7 immediately - Jason O'Grady

With that I give you… Four privacy settings you should enable in iOS 7 immediately | ZDNet

Read it and share it with your iPhone-toting friends, m-kay?

Rolling Stone’s grim prediction on climate change: Goodbye, Miami: Why the City is Doomed to Drown

An article in the July 14, 2013 issue of Rolling Stone about rising sea levels and the fate of Miami (“Goodbye, Miami: Why the City is Doomed to Drown“) was extremely alarming and an eye-opener. Highly recommended reading for everyone, regardless of where you stand on the climate change issue.

South Florida has two big problems. The first is its remarkably flat topography. Half the area that surrounds Miami is less than five feet above sea level. Its highest natural elevation, a limestone ridge that runs from Palm Beach to just south of the city, averages a scant 12 feet. With just three feet of sea-level rise, more than a third of southern Florida will vanish; at six feet, more than half will be gone; if the seas rise 12 feet, South Florida will be little more than an isolated archipelago surrounded by abandoned buildings and crumbling overpasses. And the waters won’t just come in from the east – because the region is so flat, rising seas will come in nearly as fast from the west too, through the Everglades.

Read more:

The pen is mightier than the sword