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Computer Vision: A World Changing Technology – Part 2

Computer Vision: A World Changing Technology

Part 2

In 1982 I was invited to visit the University of Nebraska Lincoln Agricultural School to discuss a new network they were in the process of building which they called Agrinet. I was at the time the upper Midwest sales representative for GTE Telenet and I was located in Edina, Minnesota. It was the vision of the U Nebraska Lincoln to help Nebraska’s farmers get an accelerated start into the 21st century. GTE Telenet was the first company to build a commercial version of ARPANET’s CCITT X.25 packet switching network.

This meant that farmers would be able to dial local modems connected over high speed lines in to the University of Nebraska Lincoln’s computer systems and automate agricultural functions such as planning field layouts, crop schedules, and trading commerce. My mother had grown up as a farm girl with 11 brothers and sisters in Kendall Wisconsin. To me, it was thrilling to be able to bridge my mother’s childhood with the future. I happily worked with them to get their network going.

We have now moved into the 21st century which incorporates the technologies of the Internet, Cloud Computing, and Artificial Intelligence (AI) and farmers have begun to utilize all three of them.

I am going to introduce two of the leading companies that are helping agriculture bloom. They are Sentera in Minneapolis, Minnesota, CropTracker in Kingston, Ontario, along with a group of automation equipment companies that give these two a reason for being.

Crop Management Systems

Sentera

Sentera designs and manufactures software and sensor tools “that crop advisors, consultants, agronomists, and other e.g. professionals can use to help growers achieve the best possible outcomes for their operations.”

Sentera FieldAgent Web

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FieldAgent

FieldAgent is Sentera’s nexus of their product line of mobile, web, and cloud-based software, sensors, and drones.

FieldAgent Mobile

FieldAgent Mobile is an on the ground scudding tool together and utilize real-time imagery and analytics. Its strength is its ease and solutions using drones equipped with Sentera and third-party sensors.

FieldAgent Web

FieldAgent Web provides tablet access to crop health data and analytics. It is used to share and act on seasonal insights.

FieldAgent Notifications

FieldAgent Notifications leverage whether, satellite, and human observations along with Joan data to increase accuracy and efficiency for management decisions.

LiveNDVI

LiveNDVI is video technology that when used with Double 4K and AGX710 sensors you can gather real-time data for decision-making.

FieldAgent APIs

FieldAgent APIs integrate with connected applications and platforms including John Deere Operations Center, Climate FieldView, and Beck’s Farmserver.

Croptracker Farm Management Software

CropTracker is another comprehensive agriculture management software system that is a top leader in its group. It helps farmers maintain accurate records, enhance traceability, and manage labor and production costs for planting through shipping.

Its features include produce packing traceability records, harvest field packing, production practice tracking, work productivity and labor tracking, shifting traceability records, receiving records, agricultural irrigation records, storage records, analytics and reports, and audits.

Like Sentera, CropTracker integrates with autonomous vehicles and drones. What makes this integration powerful is Computer Vision? Besides manual pre-programming Artificial Intelligence (AI) is rapidly finding its way into these kinds of products. Its costs are coming down dramatically to the point where midsize family farms can compete with corporate farms and feed the world.

In normal vehicles the driver detects hazards, navigates, and avoids objects. In autonomous vehicles there is no driver and no remote control. Thus, just programming a path with GPS is not enough. In an autonomous vehicle such as a tractor, it must be able to see, plan a route, understand images of the area, and be able to adjust its path in real-time to avoid damage.

For versatility and mobility, drones rank in the top group. They can carry different kinds of sensors and cameras and rapidly cover many miles of farm fields as well as other terrains.

As Laura Barrera says in her article AGCO – What is Driving the Driverless Momentum in the Ag Equipment Industry “Ask someone in agriculture what comes to mind when they think of autonomy and they’ll likely say a driverless tractor.”

Kraig Schulz CEO of Autonomous Tractor Corporation (ATC) says that in a corn – soybean operation having the right people on hand at the right time is a case for semiautonomous equipment. I a semiautonomous environment, on man could run a fleet of robots simultaneously. ATC is located just northwest of Minneapolis in St. Michael, MN.

AGCO has planting robots that can do what Kraig Schulz talked about. AGCO is located in Duluth, GA.

An area of interest for having multiple smaller robots is compaction of the soil. When soil is highly compacted it makes it harder to seed, water, and grow crops.

At this point, let me make full disclosure. I live only 35 miles away from Autonomous Tractor Corporation Headquarters and I have a natural bias toward supporting local businesses.

Most experts agree that the move in autonomous and semiautonomous agriculture is toward electric motors. According to Schultz a 200 hp tractor is run for 10 hours would require 1500 kWh. That would cost $350,000 in lithium batteries and will way more than the tractor itself. He thinks that the better option for agriculture is to couple a generator to the engine and use electric wheel motors without batteries to power the tractor.

ATC eDrive Technology Explained

ATC eDrive Technology Explained

Drones

Until recently, farmers, realtors, agronomists, scientists, insurance companies, and researchers have walked to the fields in order to observe and understand the land and its crops. This is been a time-consuming and labor-intensive, as well as often backbreaking process to analyze hundreds of acres of crops.

In the last few years, the cost of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) were commonly known as drones have come down dramatically putting them in reach of the family farm.

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RMAX Drone by Yamaha

Today’s drones offer greater payloads, longer flight times, and the ability to fly in varying conditions including subzero temperatures. There is a sizable variety of drones available for agriculture so your particular needs should determine what kind of drone you get.

Some of the questions you should be asking yourself are:

  • will you be mapping a small area or hundreds of acres
  • what kind of training we be flying
  • the kind of environment you farm dry, wet, cold, windy
  • fixed wing, multirotor, vertical takeoff and landing
  • what kind of playtime leave using and what kind of sensor devices will you attach
  • the range and speed you will be flying

You may need more than one kind of UAV. The drones in the last paragraph were oriented more towards photography and sensing, but you may want to have drones that work better for soil sampling, water testing, and seating.

In this article I am focusing on two drones that are versatile and should meet most of your needs. They are the PresisionHawk DJI Matrice 200 v2 and the Sentera PHX Complete System.

PrecisionHawk DJI Matrice 200 v2

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PrecisionHawk DJI Matrice 200 v2

According to PresisionHawk: “The M200 is a “workhorse” drone, perfect for repeated use in the toughest farming environments. It flies in sub-zero temperatures and high winds. Also, for farms or ranches in challenging terrain, the M200 features a complement of safety features, such as obstacle avoidance sensors and the DJI Airsense ADS-B receiver, helpful in detecting cooperative aircraft within your flight area. Use the dual gimbal to deploy two payloads, such as visual and thermal sensors.”

Sentera PHX Complete System

$8,499 – $11,749

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Sentera PHX Complete System

According to Sentera: “Sentera’s PHX™ is a highly-reliable, easy-to-use, hand-launchable fixed-wing drone that gives you the ability to view live HD video and capture a wide array of analytic data, including stand count, weed detection, and plant health using the newest variants of the Sentera Double 4K sensor payload.

Leveraging a new long-range omnidirectional communication link, the PHX has a reach of 2+ miles, quickly scouting large fields with precision and is ideal for experienced pilots. The PHX is the best-performing and best-valued professional fixed-wing drone available today.

The PHX is hot-swappable, accepting several different sensor types – including ultra-precise RTK GPS Double 4K sensor payloads.

Industry-leading Outcomes:

  • Deep Analytics: Purpose-build payload options allow you to perform stand count, weed detection, and plant health analytics. PHX is the only fixed-wing drone that maps stand counts and weed locations early in the growing season when action matters. Sentera’s FieldAgent™ data analytics software allows PHX users to create accurate maps and make decisions at the field edge without an internet connection.
  • Long-range: By using an omnidirectional, industrial-grade communications link, the PHX is designed to fly up to two miles away or more. This is helpful for users with BVLOS permissions, and ideal for the average user who stays within the typical one-mile VLOS range.
  • Fast Setup: A small, lightweight, plug-and-play communication box and streamlined pre-flight checklist enable you to easily go from setup to launch quickly and easily.
  • Multiple Payload Options: The 2019 PHX accepts the newest versions of Sentera Double 4K sensors, allowing you to capture more crop health data and gain deeper insights. Ultra-precise RTK GPS is an available option for all PHX Double 4K sensor payloads.

With a cruise speed of 35mph and up to a 59-minute endurance, the PHX is capable of covering broad areas that other drones of the same size cannot. In a single flight, the PHX can collect data from 700 acres.

Leverage the PHX RTK variant to achieve sub-5cm and better accuracy on orthomosaics and 3D mapping and modeling products. Achieve this without the need for surveyed ground control points or time-consuming post-processing of the GPS data. An ideal solution for survey, agriculture, and mapping customers who need to reliably – and quickly – capture precision data, the dual-band RTK payload delivers true L1/L2, multi-constellation RTK to the PHX. Sentera’s latest offering shatters the cost barrier for industrial-grade, dual-frequency RTK-enabled image collection.”

The New Wi-Fi 6 Will Make Everything Faster

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I recently wrote an article about a business changing life changing technology called 5G. It makes a world of vastly more information to us with vastly more speed. As this technology rolls out another technology that works hand-in-hand with 5G is also being rolled out which vastly multiplies the force of 5G. It is called Wi-Fi 6.

 

5G and Wi-Fi 6 are complementary to each other and bring better performance to the enterprise. Together, they bring higher data rates and new applications while increasing number capacity with the ability to connect more devices. With improvements in speed, latency and density of connected devices, Wi-Fi 6 is ideal for indoor enterprise networks. High-speed transportation and traveling in the car on the highway make 5G the preferred carrier for outdoor networks.

 

Wi-Fi 6 is easily implemented with upgrades of routers and mesh networks. The cost is comparatively low for local enterprises. 5G will take more time to implement in a broad area but I estimate that within three years it will be comprehensive. It will raise the gross domestic product of your business and your nation.

 

Now for some of the techie stuff: The official designation for Wi-Fi 6 is 802.11ax. It is designed to support transfer speeds of up to 10Gbps (10 Gigabits per second). With the advent of Wi-Fi 6 the Wi-Fi Alliance simplified the naming conventions. In addition, the developer community has added dimensionality to the product.

 

Wi-Fi six improved the number of bits that can be transmitted at the same time using a technique called Quadrature Amplitude Modulation (QAM). The previous version Wi-Fi 5 is based on 512 – QAM Wi-Fi six uses 1024-QAM resulting in a 25% speed improvement.

 

Additionally Wi-Fi 6 breaks each channel into small chunks allowing each client to get its own dedicated bit of bandwidth. The protocol is called Orthogonal Frequency-Division Multiple Access (OFDMA). It is a form packet switching.

 

What happens if you ignore 5G and Wi-Fi 6? I think that you risk the probability that one day you’ll wake up and your company will wonder why it doesn’t have customers anymore? The answer is your competitors have become more responsive faster to the market needs and your customers will be doing business with them. We have entered a world that now moves faster with more information and we all need to become part of that world.

 

5G is about to Change the Way We Live

 

A new technology was introduced in 2018 that is about to change worldwide telecommunications. It is the fifth-generation cellular technology hence its name 5G. It is also known as 5G NR (5G New Radio). Not only will it be much faster, but latency time will be dramatically shorter. Initially data communications will start in the 300 to 500 Mb per second range and grow to the 10 Gb per second and then 20 Gb per second speeds will become normal.

 

Some of the 5G benefits that have been talked about in common discussion points:

 

Remote surgery

Because 5G virtually eliminates latency means that a surgeon may not have to be in the same room as a patient in the future.

Ericsson Company says:  “Inspired by the benefits of 5G technology, Ericsson is collaborating with King’s College London to form exciting industry partnerships with the view to improve quality of life and work in society through technology innovation. Carefully chosen partners are enabling compelling research into key technological fields, dreaming up new applications and services to influence a variety of industries and disrupt our preconceptions.

The 5G research being undertaken in the fields of medicine, education, gaming and culture is expanding the limits of technological imagination, whether it’s by using the internet to facilitate surgery on the other side of the planet, drastically reducing latency for truly immersive mobile gaming experiences, making expert skills and knowledge available to anyone through remote transfer, or allowing musicians scattered across the globe to play together in harmony.”

Autonomous vehicles

Tim Baxter, President Samsung US has said: “The key to realizing 5G is finding the right match between network capabilities and use cases. Such a formula creates flexibility that will allow different applications, each with their different demands, to thrive. While some 5G applications will require a national ecosystem – an ubiquitous network and devices that can access and utilize that network – others will thrive when powered by small scale networks that operate at a local or even venue level.

In our neighborhoods, 5G will bring broadband-level data speeds via easily-installed Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) points that enable connected home solutions such as 4K streaming, wireless gaming and security, and IoT solutions. For businesses, the high speed and low latency of 5G via FWA will enable venue-based service and hospitality platforms that enhance guest experiences using video, photo, augmented reality, and crowd management services.

On the other hand, regional corridors of 5G connectivity between urban centers will enable a different set of use cases for applications where constant connectivity is critical, but the services are only required in a somewhat restricted geographic area.

This type of network will turn trains and buses and roadways into 5G-powered environments, enabling passengers to access enhanced services while they ride, powering connected driving experiences, smart traffic lights and roadways and eventually autonomous vehicles. 5G corridors will provide backhaul to other wired and wireless networks – enabling further broadband access and completion — and they will enable enhanced fleet management and emergency services as trucks and ambulances better navigate cities and traffic.”

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China Acts Like an Existential Threat To America

Let me begin this article by stating that I like the people of China. The people I have known are smart, well-educated, industrious, and hard-working. On top of that they are a beautiful people – physically and socially.

 

The Chinese government, however, appears to  act like it is an existential threat to America. The government in the last few years appears to have been arming itself like an aggressor, using unfair trading practices, flooding our country with spies, hacking into our government and business systems, requiring American businesses to transfer intellectual and commercial property to them. There are several other apparent situations which I will discuss in this article.

 

Following are some but not all of the items I will cover in this article. Then I will expand a bit on these items and expanding greater detail in other articles.

 

  • China launched more rockets into orbit in 2018 than any other country.
  • China launched secret military satellites in October 2018.
  • China is poised to deploy stealth fighters in the South China Sea.
  • The Pentagon confirmed that the Chinese Fired Lasers at U.S. Pilots in Incidents near Beijing’s Djibouti military base injured American air crews flying nearby.
  • The DIA says the Chinese will deploy an ASAT Laser by 2020.
  • China showed off its next generation of destroyer as Xi was in review of it.
  • China is militarizing the deep sea
  • China is targeting control over the Internet of Things
  • China’s impact on the U.S. Education System
  • FBI director Christopher Ray warrants that China is America’s most significant intelligence threat
  • China’s Economic Aggression Threatens the Technologies and Intellectual Property of the United States and the World

 

  

 

As of December 15, 2018 China, made 35 successful orbital launches as compared to 30 for the U. S. In January China launched and succeeded in landing of spacecraft on the far side of the moon. They are working on an equivalent of the space shuttle, and the International Space Station (ISS).

 

In the first part of October 2018, China launched two secret satellites designated Yaogan 32 – 01 and Yaogan 32 – 02 stating pro forma that they were for agricultural research. China watchers say that when they say it’s for agricultural research it’s their way of saying they don’t want to talk about it. Most people believe it was for signal intelligence (SIGINT).

 

China does not sit idly by. They continue development of advanced weaponry such as the J–20 Stealth Fighter Aircraft which they are attempting to make competitive with the U.S. Air Force F-22 and F-35 Fighter Aircraft.

 

A few of the characteristics of the J-20 include:

A chiseled nose section similar to the F-22 adding stealth capabilities.

 

A frameless canopy.

Front canard wings helping to generate lift.

It has an Electro-Optical Targeting System. There is speculation about what kind of radar type is used.

 

The East China Sea has been an area that China has tried to claim for itself in many locations that are considered international or that other countries have long claimed as theirs. China claims to have a “maritime militia” of Chinese fishing boats to contestant air defense identification zone that Beijing has declared theirs in 2013. Both American planes and Australian planes in several instances have had lasers shined at their cockpits from these Chinese “fishing boats”.

 

There has been damage to the eyes of some of these airmen and crews. According to Euan Graham of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute. Australian pilots told him they were targeted multiple times by Chinese boatss during South China Sea missions. Australian forces have noticed an increase use of lasers according to an Australian Defense Department spokesperson. That is rather vicious and evil.

 

According to CNN “China has claimed almost the entire 1.3 million square mile South China Sea as a sovereign territory. In recent years it has aggressively asserted its stake in the face of conflicting claims from several Southeast Asian nations.”

 

According to the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) “the PLA is acquiring a range of technologies to improve China’s counterspace capabilities. China is developing antisatellite capabilities, including research and possible development of directed energy weapons and satellite jammers, and probably has made progress on antisatellite missile system that tested in July 2014.” Furthermore, China is developing a directed energy weapon to destroy our satellite system from the ground and from aircraft.

 

Additionally, China has been equipping its ground forces in China and friendly states with mobile ASAT weapons.

 

      

 

 

 

 

 

 

Additionally, China has been arming North Korea with Chinese made ballistic missiles. Hear the Rick Fisher podcast about this.

 

 

 

China is also aggressively upgrading its Navy. In April 2019, China showed off its new Type 055 guided missile destroyer Nanchang with President Ji Jinping in review. He said “Salute to you, comrades. Comrades, thanks for your hard work.” This was televised live in damp foggy weather.

 

According to Wikipedia and other open sources, the Nanchang is equipped with 112 vertical launch cells with the ability to fire HHQ-9 surface to air missiles, YJ-18 anti-ship cruise missiles and CJ-10 land attack cruise missiles.

 

To make it clear, Xi is implementing a plan to renew the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) with everything from stealth jets to aircraft carriers to an advanced Navy. Many compare the Nanchang to our Zumwalt class stealth destroyer.

 

 

Besides his development of space warfare and aerospace and seaspace stealth technologies, China has disclosed that is begun to build up deep-sea capabilities for warfare.

 

And according to state-controlled media, the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) have the ability to operate in deep waters. This is considered between 3300 feet below surface to more than -13,000 feet.

 

According to the Washington Times newspaper, the Chinese are developing underwater aircraft carrier systems, underwater robotics, and deep-sea troops. This sounds like James Bond’s nemesis SPECTRE.

 

Starting in 1978 China began its upgrade of its PLAN to the present time. In the last few years has significantly increased its building and funding.

 

Whether it is by design the Chinese or it is by economics alone, China is becoming dominant in the Internet of Things (IoT) and has dangerous implications for the people of this nation. This is because, whether by accident or by design, many of the products that are getting into our homes and our businesses do not have security designed into them.

 

 

 

 

The concept of smart homes is expanding rapidly thanks in part to Amazon and to Google with their Alexa and Hey Google Internet connected products. The Google and Amazon products are not the ones I’m talking about that have security problems but many of the products that would connect to them are unsecure. Download and read the report by Dark Cubed.

 

Dark Cubed did extensive testing of IoT products such as light bulbs, video cameras and microphones not only to be unsecure but to be directly connecting to companies and servers in China. In addition, the same devices are connecting with up to 40 different companies and their communications.

 

Do you want companies or governments knowingly your children are home alone or what they’re watching or saying to each other?

 

There will soon be 20 billion Internet of Things devices connected to the Internet. And that will double, and it will double again.

 

Dark Cubed is not alone in his clarion call about the dangers that China poses to the Internet of Things. A report by the U.S.- CHINA ECONOMIC and SECURITY REVIEW COMMISSION says “China’s unique approach to the development of IoT and its enabling infrastructure poses significant challenges for U.S. economic and national security interests.” It further says, “The highest echelons of the Chinese regime view IoT development and deployment as critical matters of China’s economic competitiveness and national security.”

 

“Aside from industrial control systems, unauthorized access to health care devices could kill patients and exploitation of smart car vulnerabilities could kill drivers and pedestrians alike, among other examples of possible misuse of data and devices that could have dire consequences,” the report warns.

“The future destructive potential of unauthorized access to IoT devices appears potentially limitless.”

 

 

This past week I was channel flipping and came across Maria Bartiromo on the Fox Business Channel having a conversation with an executive from Huawei. As you may be aware the United States government has banned all purchases of equipment from Huawei and has told some of our foreign partners that if they continue to buy while equipment we will not share intelligence with them. Ms. Bartiromo was asking the Huawei representative about this and he denied that they would ever have to provide the Chinese military with information derived from its equipment.

 

In mid-June a cybersecurity research company called Finite State came out with a report about the vulnerabilities and lack of security of Huawei products. It said, “The Chinese National Intelligence Law of 2016 requires all companies ‘to support, provide assistance, and cooperate in national intelligence work.””

 

“Even if Huawei may be technically correct in saying that Chinese law doesn’t explicitly ‘compel’ the installation of backdoors, China’s intelligence and counterespionage activities tend to be so expansive that these provisions could be used to justify activities extending well beyond China’s borders.”

 

Finite State studied Huawei equipment and discovered that 55% of Huawei hardware devices tested contained at least one backdoor access point.

 

You can read the report here: https://finitestate.io/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/Finite-State-SCA1-Final.pdf.

 

 

On February 22, 2019 the United States Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations  Committee on Homeland Security And Government Affairs published a report CHINA’S IMPACT ON THE U.S. EDUCATION SYSTEM.

 

It was written as a result of several sources having become concerned about activities of the Chinese government using funding to schools to propagandize about China and reports of China threatening to pull funds if the schools don’t play ball.

 

Figure 1: Confusius School in San Francisco (Xinhua)

 

Some of the information in the report and others such as DW.com is as follows.

 

Since Confucius, ancient Chinese philosopher, is synonymous with morality, justice, and honesty, the Chinese government chose to capitalize on his rich legacy in established Confucius Institutes on college campuses around the world beginning in 2004. In the US first Institute was at the University of Maryland. Now there are more than 100 Confucius Institutes in the United States.

 

The Chinese government funds Confucius Institutes and provides Chinese teachers to teach language classes to students and nonstudent community members. In addition to the language classes, the host culture events like Chinese New Year’s celebrations, cooking classes, speakers, and dance and music performances they are to depict China as approachable and compassionate. Confucius classrooms are currently in 519 elementary, middle, and high schools in the United States. Continued expansion of the program is a priority for China.

 

 

There is reason to suspect that some schools and/or districts play for pay. To quote from the report

 

 

“The Cost of Confucius Institutes. The investment by China in U.S. Confucius Institutes is substantial. Since 2006, the Subcommittee determined China directly provided over $158 million in funding to U.S. schools for Confucius Institutes. A number of U.S. schools, however, failed to properly report this funding as required by law. The Department of Education requires all postsecondary schools to report  foreign gifts of $250,000 or more from a single source within a calendar year of receiving them. Despite that legal requirement, nearly 70 percent of U.S. schools that received more than $250,000 from Hanban failed to properly report that amount to the Department of Education. The Department of Education last issued guidance to U.S. schools on foreign gift reporting requirements in 2004, the same year the first Confucius Institute opened in the United States. As China opened over 100 additional Confucius Institutes in the United States over the last 15 years, the Department of Education remained silent.”

 

Read the linked report and you will see several other instances that could generate multiple grand juries.

 

Rachelle Peterson, the lead researcher for the Heartland Institute and Policy Director at the National Association of Scholars wrote a piece in The Hill in February 2018 about how she spent a year and a half studying Confucius Institutes and how they “pressured American scholars to keep quiet about China’s unsavory policies.” She also pointed out that of 103 Confucius Institutes in the US, only 16 have reported Confucius Institute’s gifts to the Department of Education since 2010.

 

Director Christopher Wray of the FBI in April 2019, in an interview with President  Richard Haass of the Council on Foreign Relations said that China is stealing its way up the economic ladder. He specifically called out the Chinese government is a threat landscape ranging from terrorism to cybercrime to espionage.

 

You can read his very direct talk at the FBI website.

 

I expect to periodically update you on this very important subject.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brand New! Alexa in Your Car

A few months ago I saw on Amazon that they would be introducing an Echo product that would reside in my automobile which got my attention. I have four active Amazon Echo products in my home. In my living room I have an Echo Fire TV Cube for my Samsung 4K Smart TV, in my office I have a Second-Generation Echo with Alexa, and in my bedroom I have an Echo Show, and on my Samsung Galaxy S8 I have the Amazon Alexa Application which makes it a part of that intelligent group and is the intelligent app to drive that group.

 

To continue,  I learned that I could opt in to receive an invitation from Amazon to be one of the first people to buy and get the Echo Auto. Four days ago I got an email from Amazon saying I was selected to buy the new Echo Auto and because I was part of that select group it was offered to me at a significant discount. I think that was pretty cool. But, as excited as I was, I didn’t jump in immediately.

 

This is because between the time that they brought up there being a new product coming and my getting an invitation, I experimented with using the Amazon on my phone by interfacing with my car system. In January, I leased a brand-new 2018 Mazda 3 Sport Hatchback. It has an intelligent control panel and system including navigation, analog radio, FM radio, High Definition (HD 1 and HD 2) radio, Bluetooth access to my phone, and hands-free calling which also has my contact list from my phone. As part of that I had learned that it actually uses my phones Alexa App to perform quite a few Alexa applications but not as many as I would like. Additionally, I have stored on my phone thousands of songs that I bought from Amazon either from direct download and/or CDs and can play those on my car system.

 

There was one more potential deal killer. The Echo Auto sits on the dashboard in a position where I can talk to it and thus do all the other neat Amazon echo things I can do at home. It sits, however, on a molded piece made exactly for the Echo Auto that has an adhesive bottom to attach it to the dashboard. My concern was if I wanted to remove the holder for the Echo would I damage the dashboard? I called Amazon and they put me in touch with the group that is responsible for that device and I talked with a really helpful lady named Taylor who let me know that any residue that was left on the dashboard could easily be removed with a Clorox wipe.

 

I thanked her and let her know that as soon as our call was finished I would be ordering the new Echo which I did. Happily, I received it the next day. I waited until yesterday to install my Echo Auto and with little difficulty got it running beautifully. Just for kicks, from my car I asked Alexa what the temperature was in my home and Alexa told me. Is that neat or what?

 

Other things I can do from my car include:

  • set the temperature in my house
  • turn the lights on and off
  • see  who is at the door
  • record a TV show and/or a movie
  • whatever I can imagine.

 

I definitely recommend getting Amazon Echo Auto. It’s like living in the sci-fi world I could only read about, only it’s not sci-fi anymore.

The Geek Squad is One of My Prized Assets

 

 

I made the decision two or three years ago to add a solid-state drive to my computer as my C//: drive in order for my computer to process information faster. I bought a 256 GB  Solid State Drive (SSD) and thought that would be as large as I would ever need. In the last year or so I discovered that it seemed my SSD drive was beginning to develop and I was beginning to try to find ways of getting rid of information on it.

 

In the last 90 days I was struggling with that and last week I finally gave in and called my IT department (i.e. the Geek Squad) to see if they could help me. I got Agent Bradley who was a great choice. I had seen some things on the web that indicated I could move applications from a C:// Drive to my hard drive to free up my drive. The Windows 10 set up is such that the C:// Drive contains the Windows operating system and my programs.

 

Prior to calling the Geek Squad, I did research about moving those programs over to hard drive in videos about being able to do it but it appeared a little sketchy to me. Hence my calling the Geek Squad to find out if that could be done. Agent Bradley understood what I was asking him and was able to explain why that is not a good idea in as much as moving the wrong files could mess up Windows. I’m pretty techy but by no means an expert on the Windows 10 operating system.

 

What Agent Bradley did was run a proprietary Geek Squad application and go through my SSD and identify files that can be safely moved to the hard drive. I have a friend so there’s a lot of room on it for expansion. He went over with me, section by section, which files could be moved without impacting Windows and causing a disruption or breakage. It was like watching a maestro at work and discussing with him how he’s does what he does. Continue reading