Doug Toppin's Blog

My thoughts on technology and other stuff

Mevo Camera Update Failed

One final update on my Mevo cam before it goes back to BB today. I tried it in the office last Thu and could not connect to it at all. Today I decided to give it one more chance so I did a hard reset on the cam and deleted the app from my iPhone and reinstalled it. I start both up and the app says a cam firmware update is required so I think “great, this might fix it!”. I hit the update button and it spins a bit a says “update failed, unable to connect to Mevo”. Retried numerous times with no progress. #fail

Mevo update failed

Streaming Is the Future of Entertainment

In the past we regularly went into DC for the DC Shorts (@dcshorts) film festival. This involved at least a 30 minute drive in traffic, parking, probably getting dinner and then sitting through a few of the films and then the return trip. This year they decided to support online viewing ( and we had our first experience with it tonight.

We watched a number of short films using my iPad mirrored to my AppleTV and had no issues or any complaints at all. This saves money, time, the aggravation of traffic and listening to people talk in the theater. We regularly stream iTunes and Netflix to our AppleTV and almost always have a great experience so DC Shorts is just another use of that device.

An interesting point on the side effects though. One is that as there is an uptake in streaming it causes a reduced demand for hospitality services such as restaurants and parking facilities. This means fewer jobs in general. The streaming service jobs (data center for example) are likely to be somewhere else in the world.

However, the other side of that equation is an increased demand for content so there will be more jobs and opportunities (and innovation) in content production. These may again occur anywhere but at least it gives the opportunity for anyone that wants to enter that business to try it out.

Review Mevo Livestreaming Camera

I picked up the Mevo livestreaming camera today and am on my second test usage of it. So far I am very disappointed. Each of the videos that I’ve seen from people reviewing it have been vastly better than what I am experiencing at home. Even at the lowest resolution setting I am getting frequent heavy pixelation and timeout errors over wifi.

A recent speed test from my iPad Pro 9.7 showed that I am getting a regular 47 Mbps download and upload speeds varying between 23 Mbps and 37 Mbps. This is via Verizon FIOS.

If this does not improve it is definitely going back.

I have done a number of livestreams of meetup groups in our area (all on my YouTube channel) and have been using a Logitech BCC950 with my MacBook Pro which has worked very well.

I wanted to try reducing my rig to an iPad and the Mevo and based on the video reviews I’ve seen of it that seemed reachable. The Mevo iOS app also provides some reasonable studio capabilities (selecting camera view for example) and I thought that that would also improve my meetup captures.

Unfortunately, the pixelation and errors are bad enough so far to reduce my willingness to keep trying it but I figure that a few more days is reasonable.

Bose QC-35 Bluetooth Headset Review

A quick review of the Bose QC-35 wireless headset. I’ve been using a QC 15 at work for some time and regularly catch the audio cable on something (chair arm most of all) and half the time yank the cable out. I got tired of the enough last week to buy the Bose QC 35 wireless headset. It works like a champ but one caveat on it. The 15 has a solid throw switch for on/off. The 35 on/off switch is a different design and more flimsy. It appears to be easy to abuse. It feels different to your fingers and I have a tendency to push it in in addition to sliding it. I’ve learned to look at it and turn it on before putting the headset on. Audio quality is at least equal to the 15, over ear comfort is the same. It also has a rechargeable battery in it with a usb charging cable. I’ve been wearing my 15 much more often at work lately to reduce surrounding office environment noise.

It connecting to up to 2 BT sources means that if you are listening using one of them (such as your MBP) while connected to your phone if a phone call comes in you get a spoken notification with the option to switch BT sources. Worked very well for me minutes ago.

My only complaints are that the power button seems flimsy and asking to break and it would be nice to connect to more than 2 BT sources. In my case my source are iPhone, MBP personal, MBP work and iPad so being able to do 3 at any one time would work best for me.

Tesla Fatality and Autonomous Vehicles

I keep thinking about some of the implications of the recent Tesla driver fatality and a few aspects came to mind regarding autonomous vehicles.

One is did the car detect the accident (the top was sheared off I think) and if so how? Does it have accelerometers that detect a jolt indicating an accident and react accordingly? Would this event even have been noticed by an accelerometer?

In this case the car drove under a flat bed truck and may have continued at least for a bit. The accident might have had a better outcome if the car had impacted the truck directly rather than the way that it did which was bad luck.

Another consideration is related to the car awareness of the driver condition. By that I mean what if the driver had a heart attack or seizure and did not touch anything that would get the car’s attention. Is it possible that a driver could become incapacitated or even die and the car not be aware of it and continue on until it reaches a destination? The stipulation of driving modes such as this is that the driver is supposed to maintain continual awareness. The reality is that it will become easy and tempting to do something else. Aircraft autopilots have been criticized because they reduce pilot direct flying activities, increase dependence on the autopilot and may erode pilot skills as a result.

The idea of a driver becoming a systems monitor will probably not become mainstream anytime soon.

This accident will likely delay the appearance of the fully autonomous vehicle because it raised the awareness of the complexity of driving and visibility conditions and unexpected events.

Until a vehicle can mimic the same level of vision, particularly field of view, and interpretation of what is seen, heard and felt by a human I am not sure that full autonomy will occur without continued risk.

Book Review: The Reapers Are the Angels: A Novel

Somewhat different than the typical Zombie Apocalypse Fiction

The main character was born around after the time of the Zombie Apocalypse (ZA) and did not know of any other life. An unusual aspect of the dialog was that it is not in quotes, instead almost looking like thoughts. I don’t believe that I have seen this before and I liked it. Since the ZA had happened some years previously the grammar is poorer. This was the first depiction that I’ve seen of life well after the ZA and the inevitable erosion or even disappearance of structured education. The result of this would include some no longer being able to read or write for example.

I did find that some infrastructure elements like water, power, some gasoline stations and vehicles still operating were unexpected given the passage of time. I don’t believe that the original cause was discussed which I appreciated because that is covered excessively in most other books on the subject. Not to include any spoilers, I only mention that the Z and some survivor depictions also included differences that I have not seen before that added to the interest.

If you are looking for ZAF that is thought provoking and different this is an excellent example and I recommend it.

You can find it at The Reapers Are The Angels: A Novel

Amazon Echo and Engaging Your Audience

An example of an interesting Amazon Echo skill is “Seinfeld Fan Trivia”. This asks 5 multiple choice questions about the series. If you have watchers/subscribers it is an example of engaging your audience outside your medium.

Also, I recently got the Amazon Echo Dot. It is a smaller version (smaller speaker) of the Amazon Echo. The Echo is a device that listens for it’s name and a question or statement and when it hears it will respond to you. Examples are things ranging from “Alexa, what’s the weather forecast?” to “Alexa, how old is Cher?”.

We’ve been pretty impressed with our Echo so I wanted to try the Dot to see how it sounds. I would probably just advise using the Echo over the Dot in general just because of the better audio quality but the Dot can also use external speakers which works well too. You might get the Dot if you have a good sound system and don’t need the Echo built-in speaker.

I’m still trying out different configurations for it. One advantage that is apparent so far is that once a BlueTooth speaker has been paired with it you can use it by saying “Alexa, connect to my xxx”. I’m gong to try a couple of different speakers today to see how easily it switches. My biggest comment is that the Dot speaker is definitely “tinny” sounding. I have tried cabled speakers and 1 BT (Bose SoundLink) so far.

There is no lack of opportunity with this device/service and the voice interface in general.

AWS IoT Buttons

Amazon has a series of buttons called ‘Dash’ buttons that let you easily order stuff. They also have a version of this button called the IoT (Internet Of Things) Button that you can use to interface with AWS Lambda. You can then write your own logic on what to do with a button press event.

They recently started selling these buttons but sold out pretty quickly. I would not be surprised if they pop up again so if you like messing with the AWS and IoT type things you should give it a try.

I got a couple and have been fiddling around a bit with them. I will post more on this later.

Telepresence and Elder Care?

The increase in an elderly population has raised my interest in technologies that can assist. One of those has been evaluating whether or not the Amazon Echo helps with mental stimulation, being useful for someone unable to use any phone/tablet technology and providing some degree of companionship.

I’ve been thinking about other tools that might help. Apple Facetime is an obvious one but many elders are unable to use a mobile device at all. Another that occurs to me is a telepresence type device with the Double ( solving several issues. The Double is intended for remote workers but I think it may be applicable in other situations as well.

The advantages include the following.

  • remotely controlled
  • no knowledge or involvement required by the elder
  • very applicable for a single story or no stairs environment
  • the remote controlling person can start/stop it as needed at any time
  • it can charge itself, again the elder does not have to do anything to keep it functioning
  • provides video and audio interaction
  • allows the remote controller to assist in directing the elder by watching and talking
  • keeps the elder involved with the remote controlling person as frequently as desired

I suspect there are others as well. The cost is obviously a concern but not having to drive over or ask someone to stop by for trivial matter can save a lot of time and inconvenience.

Engineers and Coffee Podcast

Fascinating discussion towards the end of this Engineers & Coffee episode at about DropBox moving from AWS. They mention a number of very good points including spending money to simply move to their own hosting rather than adding features, using CapEx expenses to make their IPO appear more attractive and several others.

There are some interesting details to consider about letting your cloud costs escalate. Examples of them might include object storage and data movement. Your architecture planning and design should include not only near-term requirements and needs but also take a long-term view. The long-term view would mean estimating the eventual size of your given given some amount of success with bringing in customers. Consider what gigabytes and terabytes of storage might mean in costs and whether or not you can include approaches that will not cause significant costs later if you are successful.