Your toilet flushes but can it Tweet?

 

Getting laid off from a tech job, or any job, is hard to deal with. You have to try to find a new job and also keep busy waiting to get that all important interview. Sometimes you’ll do just about anything to keep busy. Brendan Spaar thinks this guy has come up with a most creative way to keep himself busy and show off his skills at the same time.

Thomas Ruecker was recently laid off from his technology job in Finland. He responded to a tweet for help from a former co-worker wanting info on “smart” toilets and sinks that measure the water usage and other usage info. Being a guy that loves a challenge and using his background in electrical engineering and technology, Ruecker got to work trying make something that would do the job.

Using  miscellaneous parts he salvaged from other things, he did a Macgyver and came up with a device that tracks water usage as well as tweets with each flush. This device is a creative technical effort using a servo motor , a resistor used to control a device, and  a plastic arm using zip tie cut to length. Styrofoam acts as the float in the tank. A BeagleBone Black, an open-source board with an ARM-based processor running Linux, was another component. He wrote the code for the device, and enabled it to use IPv6 and MQTT (Message Queue Telemetry Transport).

This isn’t the only innovative idea to keep him busy. He has plans to build moisture and temperature sensors to monitor his chili plants, and is working on connecting other things in his home, including his coffee maker. Who needs a Smart House that can be an expensive thing to have? All you really need is the time and ability to think outside the box. Brendan Spaar hopes Reucker will find a new job soon. The ability to be creative and use technology in new ways is something that an employer should find invaluable.

Can Siri be an accomplice to a crime?

siri

Many of us have a love/hate relationship with using SIRI but there are some things Brendan Spaar would never think someone would ask it to do.

Anyone using an  iPhone or  iPad is probably familiar with Siri, the magical personal assistant feature. It can help you find a fabulous place to propose to your girlfriend, remind you of a dentist appointment, and just make life easier for you. One thing that the developers at Apple probably never imagined is that Siri would be asked where to hide someone’s body.

Back in 2012, Pedro Bravo was arrested and accused of drugging and murdering his roommate because he was dating Bravo’s ex-girlfriend. The roommate was a student at the University of Florida in Gainesville. Police allege that Bravo asked Siri for advice on where to hide the body.

They have info from his iPhone showing “I need to hide my roommate.” Siri is shown replying,“What kind of place are you looking for?” before offering four options: “Swamps, reservoirs, metal foundries, dumps”. Also collected from Bravo’s iPhone were records of him using the phone’s flashlight function nine times from 11.31pm to 12:01am on the day his roommate disappeared. The roommate’s body was found weeks later by hunters that came across the shallow grave in a nearby forest.

Apparently, Apple has corrected this “flaw” in Siri. If you ask Siri how to hide a body today “she” won’t answer in the same way. “She” simply says: “‘I used to know the answer to this”. Brendan Spaar wonders if Siri could be considered an accomplice because “she” suggested locations to hide the roommate. This has to be one of  the most bizarre uses of technology he’s seen lately.

Walmart is the Energizer Bunny of shopping. It just keeps going & going!

Almost everywhere you go in the US, you can’t help but pass a Walmart. The stores seem to pop up everywhere and are always busy. Need chips and hot dogs for the weekend game? Walmart has it. Got weeds in your lawn? Hit the garden center at Walmart. Brendan Spaar wonders what we did before Walmart took over our shopping lives.

Get ready for the next Walmart experience- health clinics! The latest area for the Walmart invasion consists of health care clinics in some of its stores. A certified nurse practitioner will help you with many medical issues for the low starting price of $40. The clinics will accept insurance, Medicare and the usual cash, check or credit cards. If you were working out in the yard and pulled up some vines that gave you a rash, you can now go to certain Walmart stores and get the rash treated while you buy weed killer for the poison ivy.

Brendan Spaar hasn’t seen a clinic at any of the local Walmarts in Cumming, Ga but on August 29,2014 there were 2 clinics opened in Georgia. Is this the sign of things to come? CVS and Walgreens have medical clinics at some of their stores. This could be a low cost option for people that don’t have the time or money for a regular office visit at a doctor’s office. If people are worried about Obamacare being expensive then this might help them out. Walmart employees only pay a $4 charge to use the clinic. This might be a smart move because sick employees lose money if they have to be out.

It will be interesting to see how well this works. One wonders what will be the next Walmart idea. Maybe a vet clinic so you could get your flu shot and Fido’s shots at the same time. You never know!

Getting calls from an Indian call center can cost you more than your time

Indian call centers
If you've ever gotten a call from someone in an Indian call center telling you that your PC is infected, just say no.

Have you ever gotten one of those annoying calls during dinner and the person on the other end is trying to make your life easier by selling you their product? Brendan Spaar wonders how they think anyone believes that the guy with the heavy foreign accent is really named Paul Walker or something so American sounding. If you don’t believe their name is real how can you believe they’re telling the truth about the product they’re pushing?

Recently, Tech Central decided to take on the call center scammers. When they got a call telling them their PC was infected, they pretended to go along. The caller gave an American sounding name and went on to tell them how his company’s product could fix the virus problem. All he needed was access to their computer. Anyone seeing red flags about this?

The scammer uses fear and ignorance of computers to trick people into thinking their computer has a virus that is sending their personal info out to the world. He told Tech Central to do some commands on their PC and when a code popped up, he said this showed how badly the computer was infected. People that are not familiar with computers might be fooled but the guys at Tech Central went along to see how far he’d go.

The call center scammer wanted remote access to “clean” the computer of the viruses. The only thing that would’ve gotten “cleaned” would have been your personal info stored on the computer. This could include financial info as well as other personal info you might not want to share. Luckily, the scammer called someone who knew they were not legit. Some people might get taken advantage of if they’re not careful.

Brendan Spaar has his own way of dealing with solicitation calls no matter where they’re from. When someone calls trying to sell him something , he acts like he’s old and can’t hear or understand what they’re saying. He asks them to speak up and speak slowly. Then he has them repeat what they’re saying several times. He repeats back what they said and each time changes it up. Usually by the 3rd time the callers get fed up and hang up.

So the next time you get a call from a foreign call center, don’t waste your time or money by listening to them.

It’s true- Selling yourself is the hardest sell of all!

It pays to advertise when you're looking for a job.
GB

A recent UK college grad was facing the same problem that many people in the US have. He had applied for  over 300 jobs and  sent out resumes with no luck in landing a job. It seemed that having excellent grades in college wasn’t enough to make this guy stand out. So he decide to expand his search using social media and a subway station in hopes that someone would give him a chance.

Brendan Spaar remembers the job hunt all too well. The hardest thing to do is make it through the automated screening process and talk to a real person. There are so many people looking for work that have experience as well as a degree and are willing to take entry level jobs just to have a paycheck. This means that employers can hire someone with education and experience for about the same money as what a college grad with little work experience might cost them.

By using Twitter to spread the word of his job hunt, Alfred Ajani posted a picture of himself in a suit holding a sign with the most important facts about himself. He was in a subway station during rush hour hoping that someone would take notice. It seems to have worked because he has had an interview and there are several other promising leads. His degree in marketing might help him market himself right into a job. Just goes to show that it does pay to advertise.

Brendan Spaar says Watch out for this on the GA 400!

The Active Lane Assist on the Infiniti Q50s is not auto-pilot!
Manufacturer: Infiniti
Model: Q50s

Driving an Infiniti can be a life changing experience- especially if you decide to climb out of the driver’s seat while the car is in adaptive cruise control. The Infiniti Q50s has an Active Lane Assist that is supposed to help you stay in your own lane & correct drifting but you shouldn’t decide to do something crazy like read a book, make a sandwich or move from the driver’s seat just to prove you can.

There is a video online ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=zY_zqEmKV1k) made by two German men leaving the driver’s seat while the car is driving down the highway. The Active Lane Assist & adaptive cruise control make it appear to be on auto-pilot. Now this isn’t on a closed track with extra safety controls in place. You can see the traffic ahead on the highway. Brendan Spaar doubts Infiniti will be using the video in any marketing ads.

Brendan Spaar owns an Infiniti & will quickly tell you it is a great driving car. However, the need for speed &  performance requires paying attention too. So next time you’re driving down GA 400 just hope no one decides to test the Active Lane Control like the Germans did.

Telling your kids to behave and “Don’t make me stop this car” just got easier.

Toyota has come up with a feature that lets you communicate with people in the back seats using a microphone.
Manufacturer: Toyota
Model: Sienna minivan

Remember the days when you were a kid riding in the car and cutting up in the back seat? Your Mom or Dad would try to drive while peeking in the rear view mirror while hollering “Don’t make me stop this car”. Well, Brendan Spaar sure does and is glad to report that Toyota has come up with a safer way to “yell” at your kids. It’s called “Driver Easy Speak” and will be available on the 2015 Sienna minivan.

Now instead of yelling you can use a built in microphone that sends your voice through speakers in the back. There’s also a “pull down conversation mirror” that lets you make sure that little Billy or Susie aren’t getting into the chocolate donuts in the groceries on the back seat. Brendan Spaar thinks they should also install a DVD screen on the back of the front seat that comes on when you use the Easy Speak so the back seat mischief makers can see you.

Brendan plans on checking out the new Sienna to see if it gives you the feeling you get when on an airplane and the captain comes on with his announcements. Imagine using the Easy Speak to say “Mom and Dad would like to thank you for riding with us today. Our estimated time of arrival at your soccer game is 10 minutes”. What will automakers think of next?

Advice to Bobby Jindal- don’t get those change of address cards just yet.

Repubican Party
Governor of Louisiana
Louisiana
US

Having lived a large portion of his life in Louisiana, Brendan Spaar is used to good old boy politics. Now it seems like the governor of Louisiana is hoping to make a move on up to the East Side and take on Washington. He is going to have a battle if Chris Christie joins in the race. With vastly different styles it should be interesting to see them match up for debates.

Governor Jindal is known for his fast talking and  conservative stand on important issues.  In contrast, Governor Christie seems to be a more hands on, man of the people in his political approach. Both have issues from their home states that might be used by the other side to try and convince voters that they are the right person for the job.

Bobby Jindal  recently told a Times reporter that “the next big elections can’t be ones about personalities or just about slogans”. Does that mean we’ll be seeing less attack ads and bumper stickers? Brendan Spaar doubts that. It should be fun to see what happens in the coming months.

Florida Man Gives New Meaning To Having A Pot Belly

A 450 lb Florida man was arrested for hiding drugs in his stomach fat.
Osteen,FL
US

Friday the 13th was really unlucky for  Christopher Mitchell and Keithian Roberts. These Volusia County, Florida men were arrested after police stopped them on a seat belt violation. Weighing 450 pounds, Mitchell claimed he was too fat to wear the seat belt.

Police suspected something else more serious might be going on because both men were acting nervous. A drug detecting K9 dog was brought in and found the marijuana.  There was 23 grams of marijuana and some cocaine hidden in Mitchell’s stomach fat. Brendan Spaar would love to have seen the video of that search. Police also found a gun and $7,000 cash in a tube sock. No word yet on where they found the tube sock.

The men were charged with drug possession and Mitchell was cited for the seat belt violation. If this goes to trial, Brendan Spaar wonders what will be Mitchell’s defense. He wouldn’t want to be on that jury when they show where they found the drugs.

Looking for the perfect job? Try Netflix!

Netflix wants to pay someone to watch it all day
GB

Ever had one of those days (or weekends) where you just lounge on the couch watching Netflix? We probably all have done it but Brendan Spaar found out that Netflix actually wants to pay someone to watch it all day. It appears that Netflix has a system that suggests movies and shows you might like based on what you’ve been watching. And you wondered why they kept telling you about all those weird movies ! Well, just in case you haven’t watched enough for them to make you a list, they use info from “taggers”. These “taggers” watch Netflix &  analyze  the content so they can add things to the database. Who wouldn’t like getting money for something you’ve been paying for in the past?

Talk about a great job! Brendan Spaar would love to have a job like that but for now they’re only looking to hire someone in the UK. Wonder if one of the benefits could be all you can eat popcorn!