Galaxy 6 from Samsung, just Ho-Hum but not all bad

From the technology desk of Ribbie’s Weblog

I finally “upgraded” to the Samsung Galaxy 6, from the Samsung Galaxy 4, which, by the way, was and still is a pretty decent smartphone. Galaxy.  Where did they come up with that name?  I imagine it was designed to conjure up space age technology, whatever that is, or some kind of concept of futuristic sophistication. But being the late blooming baby boomer that I am, one of the last I’m told, it just conjures up memories of the Ford Galaxie, like the one that Sheriff Andy Taylor drove on the Andy Griffith Show.

1963 Ford GalaxieThat was one monster of a car by today’s standards, and so is the Samsung Galaxy 6 when compared to the Galaxy 4. At first glance, they look about the same size, but the 6 is appreciably heavier, although I can’t say I appreciate that. The 6 has a metal trim, not unlike the iPhone, whereas the 4 was constructed of some sort of plastic composite – what do they call it?  Polycarbonate? Maybe it’s carbon fiber or fiberglass, I don’t know, but it’s noticeably lighter, which reminds me of the song by Heart called Lighter Touch.

Perhaps a deal breaker for some is the fact that the two phones look about the same and no one will know that you have upgraded if you do.  But upon closer inspection, apart from the weight, there are some differences. The camera lens on the back of the 6 protrudes a bit, whilst (to borrow the term from the Brits) the camera lens on the 4 rests flush.  This protrusion is slightly annoying and does not appear to offer any advantage to the user.  The speaker on the 6 is next to the charging hole which is a welcome improvement over the stupid backside speaker placement on the 4, which means when you set the phone down you can still hear music playing.  The sound of the speaker is not much of an improvement, however, and sounds just as tinny as ever.  Configuring the thing to play music over a Bluetooth speaker is the way to go.  I’ve got a little JBL that sounds swell.

The 6 is faster, I’ll give it that.  It’s fast as lightening in fact.  It comes with a load of Samsung bloat, but at 32GB of storage, it’s got all the memory I’ll ever need.  Some folks on message boards refuse to get the thing because unlike the 4, the 6 has a solid body, like the iPhone, which means you can’t take the back plate off and add a memory card or replace the battery.  If you need more than 32GB of storage, you’d be better off with a tablet or another kind of phone.  How many apps does one need, really?  Hey, if you shoot a bunch off memory consuming videos, get a video camera or a DSLR. Or if you don’t want to deal with multiple devices, just offload some of your stuff to the cloud or you home computer rather than storing everything on your phone. And it’s smart to back up your stuff anyway.  But trust me, for the average user, and like it or not, most of us are just that, average, 32GB is plenty enough.  Look, the Samsung 4 came with 16GB and that was all I needed and then some and I took a ton of pics, a ton.

The screen seems sharper and I feel like it reads better in sunlight than the 4.  The camera has lots of effects and you can download still more for free, but I don’t think it has a zoom, if that’s important to you.  Well, it might, but I haven’t been able to find it.  Zooming isn’t that important to me anyway.  The 16 MP primary camera takes sharp pics that will make you forget about your old point and shoot if you still have one.  While the camera is not quite a Nikon, if you know what I mean, it’s plenty good and said to be better than the 8MP camera on the iPhone 6.

Battery. I used to have a HTC with a battery that lasted me about 3 hours a day. I finally gave up and got the Samsung Galaxy 4, which had a much better battery life.  The Galaxy 6 seems to have a slightly longer lasting battery than the 4.  I’ve been able to go a day with fairly heavy use and not run out of juice.  The battery has a quick charge feature, which is nice, but it won’t quickly charge up all the way, just some of the way.  As mentioned, you can’t change out the battery.  That is, you can’t pop in a spare, if the other one dies or runs out of juice.  Smartphone batteries are designed to be recharged everyday so if you think you won’t have access to an electrical outlet when traveling, well you’ll be out of luck eventually, even with a spare.  I also got a little wireless charger with the 6.  It’s neat.  You just plop the thing on the disk and it starts charging.  But the charging pad itself has to be plugged in, so it’s technically not a completely wireless operation, but it’s still pretty cool.

In the end, the Samsung Galaxy 6 is an excellent phone but may not be appreciably better than the 4 or 5.  I wouldn’t say I’m disappointed, but the advances are, let’s just say Ho-Hum. So, before you buy, see if you can get a closeout deal on the 5.  Galaxy users, if you must take the upgrade plunge like I did, beware, you won’t be blown away by the 6, but you’ll feel the difference in more ways than one and you won’t have buyer’s remorse.

Are You at Risk for Text Neck?


Funny phrase this text neck, a malady Millennials and Gen X’ers are more likely to suffer than Baby Boomers.  If you don’t already know what it is, what the thing is may be a mystery.  I can say this, it’s not the craning of the neck to catch a glimpse of what others are texting, which came to my mind first when I saw the article headline – Text Neck is becoming an epidemic…I was also thinking about necking, the thing that went out of vogue in the early 80’s and that  only Baby Boomers, and the GI Generation would remember.  And of course I was wrong.  Text Neck is what you get when you bend your neck to text or read on your smartphone, tablet or smart watch.

Did you know that the brain weighs about 12 pounds but when you bend your neck just 30 degrees, the pressure on your spine is as much as if your brain weighed 40 pounds.  That would be a pretty big brain.  Imagine how much smarter we’d be if we had bigger brains.  But the trade off apparently is that all this bending destroys the spine and the natural curvature of the neck, causing all manner of aches, pains, joint stiffness, muscle spasms, and tissue tears, that, as one doctor claims, could lead one to have corrective spinal surgery.  The only corrective thing I ever had was shoes.  As a Baby Boomer, I have some natural protection against text neck.  I never learned how to text quickly having grown up using a typewriter.  I am just now getting comfortable with a computer keyboard.  No, I’m not 94 and not still using a flip phone with a phone card.  But this Qwerty keyboard is still foreign to me.  I can type fast, but can only peck a smartphone with the index finger of my left hand.  And by the way, there’s no such thing as peck neck.  The only thing I can do with my thumbs is give the thumbs up and hitchhike.  Yes, it’s a generational thing I think.  I’ll never get a smart watch which may ultimately cause teens extreme spinal degeneration.  I’d hate to see the younger generation walking around with bent backs and huge bowling ball heads that weigh 60 pounds.

I do feel bad for the next generation who are growing up in the era of global warming, climate change, famine, drought, GMO’s, new rounds of nuclear madness, text neck, and the new threat of being buried alive by unrecyclable k-cups.  What a way to die! The Baby boomers and those still alive who came before, will most certainly fall to cancer or heart disease, but won’t live a painful life of text neck.  And for the rest of you, Gen X and young Millennials, it’s not too late.  You still have time to save yourselves.  Put away your devices and live just a little.  In the badly paraphrased words of Mark Watt’s paraphrase of his father Alan Watts, with a modern twist:  stop thinking (and texting) and start experiencing life.  And I would add, look up, look around, not down!

How Smart are Smartwatches?


Photo by Luekk who has no idea I am using it and therefore cannot be said to endorse my blog post.

Pebble and Apple are coming out with new smartwatches in March and April of 2015 respectively.  I’m not rushing out to buy one.  The Pebble will run you about $200 U.S. and the Apple around $350.  Being more expensive is part of the Apple business model.  The idea is to trick people into thinking the shiny new gadget is of the highest quality.  But what’s up with a smartwatch anyway, and who needs one? I probably would need one if I were 20, just like I needed the swatchwatch when I was 21 or so back in the summer of 1984.  I bought one in Switzerland, of all places, a plastic Suisse Swatch, back before they were a big deal in the States.  Mine was black if I recall and I paid around $26 bucks for it (I think) which would have been something in the order of 65 Swiss Francs in 1984.  The thing didn’t last long.  It took a beating and did not keep ticking.

Today, I don’t really need a smartwatch, I already have one – it’s called a Timex and for $29.99 U.S., it keeps pretty accurate time and has a battery life of about 2 years as opposed to the Pebble Smartwatch with a battery life of about 7 hours.  How smart is that?  The thing can’t even tell time for half a day.  Now my Timex doesn’t have very many apps, but it does have a second hand and gives me the date too.  Impressive, I know.  And it’s reasonably stylish. What more can you ask of a watch?

Apparently, though, some are not satisfied with an ordinary wrist watch, and instead want to wear a mini smartphone or tablet.  But for what?  You’d have to squint to watch a video and you’d need a magnifying glass to play Candy Crush.  I guess you could get the thing to read you your news feed and announce what notifications have come through.  If these smartwatches have GPS, I suppose you would have to drive with one hand on the wheel and your opposite wrist in front of you to see where you’re going.  You could have it talk to you, but with such a tiny speaker, as it surely must have, you’d have to put your wrist up to your ear.  The Pebble alternative to the Apple might have the voice of the Trivago guy giving you directions.  Talk about a distraction.  If the things have cameras, you’d look like you were trying to defend yourself from a punch to the face or shield your eyes from solar glare when taking a picture.

I really don’t know what all the functionalities are or will be on these so called smartwatches, but I would imagine they’d also double as USB drives;  flashwatches, so to speak. Sure don’t want to plug it into one of the computers at work or school or wherever you might be and absentmindedly walk away.  Later you’d be like, “crap I left my watch in the computer…I have everything on it…” That wouldn’t be very smart.  You’d be better off with a Timex.  Your welcome.

Boeing Nightmare

English: Artist impression of Boeing 787-9 Dre...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Boeing Dreamliner, more like the Boeing Nightmare.  What a disaster.  Smoking batteries, leaking fuel, cracked cockpits windows, at least the emergency slides work.  Two major Japanese airlines grounded their fleet of Dreamliners and the FAA has grounded all 787’s in service in the U.S. However, despite the mishaps and concerns, there appears to be widespread international support for the 787 among carriers who fly them and have some on order.  A spokesman for Ethiopian Airlines argued that the planes are safe and that it is natural for new products to have some “bugs”.  Other carriers that have placed orders for the Dreamliner say they aren’t worried because they expect the mechanical issues to be worked out prior to delivery.

I like flying, always have and would love to fly on one of these, but not before they solve the battery issue.  Come on, what’s going on here? Lithium batteries – what are they powering these things on laptop batteries or using those discarded Chevy Volt batteries that caught fire on the test track?  Actually, the batteries are manufactured by a Japanese company, as are many of the parts on the bird.  Not that this means Boeing is off the hook, but it does raise questions about their contracting practices.  It’s like Boeing saying, batteries not included.  Maybe Boeing should have looked to Duracell (the copper top) for battery support.  Now the cracked cockpit window, that’s pretty serious.  I don’t want the captain flying in a depressurized cabin with a mask breathing supplemental oxygen.  And if the cockpit window can crack, so too can the passenger windows.  I always liked the window seat, but I can do without supplemental fresh air.

At least the wings haven’t fallen off.  And that’s good news for the Dreamliner.

Endangered Sounds

I was listening to this piece on NPR this morning on endangered sounds – I just caught the tail end, but it did reference an intriguing place, the Museum of Endangered Sounds and it got me thinking about the sounds I’d preserve.

  • The sound of TILT on a pinball machine.
  • The swishing sound of the sliding doors on the Starship Enterprise and all the “ground breaking” side effects produced by those amazing gadgets like the communicator, the phaser, and the ever present device for field exploration on new planets, the tricorder.  Also the Enterprise had some brilliant ambient sounds emanating from all the computers and other communication and medical devices.
  • The Rebel Yell.  Has anyone alive ever heard one?  Howard Dean’s yell may have been close, so that might be worth preserving.
  • The burble of a water cooler.
  • Jack Goldstein’s Suite of Sound Effects.  It’s brilliant and definitely endangered. I heard it for the first time at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston.  Some of the tunes include the sounds of a lost ocean liner, a barking German Shepard and three felled trees.

  • The sound of manual typewriter keys and the ringing return.
  • Fender Rhodes and Moog synthesizers of the 70’s, that helped create the groovy and funky sounds of Stevie Wonder, Herbie Hancock, Joe Zawinul and so many other hip pioneers who played them.
  • Ed McMahon’s abrupt laugh.  Johnny Carson of the Tonight Show was funny, but lost without Ed who laughed at the right times.
  • Muttley’s laugh (Dick Dastardly’s dog from the Wacky Races).  For a sample of the snickering dog click:  SKm5xQyD2vE

Wasting Time Online

A 2010 study completed by the Kaiser Family Foundation as reported in the New York Times suggests that kids are wasting time online.  And the study found that kids from poor families waste more time on the computer (11.5 hours a day) than kids from families of means (10 hours a day). And this was 2010; imagine what the usage data looks like in 2012. A poor kid was defined as one who comes from a family where the parent or parents do not have a college degree.  One of the reasons posited for this “digital divide” as the New York Times pens it is that poorer kids have less supervision because their parents don’t know much about computers.  It’s not that families from lower socioeconomic backgrounds don’t have access to technology, but rather they don’t have access to digital literacy education.

This is somewhat alarming and speaks to an addiction.  Facebook is one of the main culprits and of course video gaming.  I’m not a kid, but if I didn’t have a job and some supervision at home, I’d play Angry Birds all day.  Some kids waste the weekend away playing video games and are like zombies on Monday. I guess it’s better than wasting away in Margaritaville.  And with all the drugs and violence on the streets, I guess playing a violent video game is better than being the victim of violence, unless the exposure leads to violent behavior, a grim thought. I’m not sure that it does.  Have you ever heard of the Grand Theft Auto defense?  And of course no jury has ever bought that violent cartoons like Popeye and Roadrunner caused one to commit assault and battery.

But it’s not just kids who are wasting time online.  I’m sure there are studies linking technology use to lost productivity on the job as countless people combine the personal with work on their mobile devices endlessly checking Facebook updates, stock tickers, emails and sports scores. I can remember a time at work before smart phones and the Internet when people actually smoked cigarettes at their desks.  “Times they are a changing”, wrote and sang Bob Dylan, a recent recipient of the Presidential medal of honor and it still rings true.

What’s the solution?  The article mentions digital brigades to educate parents so that they can provide better supervision of their kids online activities.  This is a good idea, but I have a few that are more extreme:

1. Facebook Freeze.  It would work sort of like a breathalizer that keeps the inebriated from driving. After say 1 hour of Facebook use, the user is logged out and can’t log back in until the next day.

2. Online Free Holidays.  The government could promote computer free holidays, maybe even giving a tax break to families to build roads or go fishing.

3.  Roll Back Time.  Make everybody live a week in the 70’s before computers, the Internet and mobile phones.  Kids would have a choice between Pong and Pac Man.  For music, it’d be either an 8 track or records – the rich kids could to listen to stuff on Reel to Reel.  And no energy drinks –  just Tang and Ovaltine.

Dr. Watson to the Rescue

Watson the IMB supercomuter may soon be used to diagnose patients.  Dr. Chase of Columbia, not the show House, has teamed up with IBM to “retrofit” Watson for use as an aid to physicians in diagnosing patient ailments.  Presumably, Watson could comb through unthinkable amounts of data in seconds flat and cough up a diagnosis.

I tell you one thing, I’d rather a doctor use Watson then to step out of the room to consult Web MD, as I suspect some do.  You know those ask your doctor commercials on TV?…Is Zegred OT right for you, or whatever…I’d like to ask my doctor if he could ask Watson what’s up with my ailing “frozen” shoulder.

I do have some reservations though. Watson is not omniscient.  It is a computer programmed by humans, who have been known to fail upon occasion.  Don’t forget that on Jeopardy, Watson did not answer all the questions correctly. It thought Toronto was a U.S. city, and it buzzed in to give the same wrong answer that its competitor gave.  Watson may be intelligent, but not a very good listener.

I can imagine a scenario where a doctor plugs in some data about an elderly male patient who has the chills, an earache and leg cramps and after a a 15 second delay, Watson comes back with a likely diagnosis: Colic.  Treatment:  Warm milk.

Actually, warm milk might just do the trick, I don’t know, but if you ask me, I say I’d rather my doctor stay informed than depend on a computer. After all, a computer is potentially more vulnerable to a virus than a doctor.