At Home with Tech

Figure out which consumer tech you need, the right gear to buy and how to use your new gadgets.

Tag: technology

What Would my Younger Self Think of Me in 2020?

As a child, I thought about flying cars, especially when I got my haircuts. 2020 was a distant year I could barely count to. Here’s how my expectations met reality…

When I was a young boy growing up in New York City, I dreamt of living in my distant future, and 2020 was the year that represented that faraway reality. To me, it felt like a time beyond which I could not fathom myself inhabiting. Too much would be different. And I would be… old. Someone else, in fact.

Technology would be infused into every part of my life. I had “Star Trek” as my guide, and though I was fully aware of the limits of science fiction, I was hopeful that the future would still have many crazy-cool gadgets to play with. (As we all know, pieces of ‘Trek’ tech are now real, like hand-held communicators, universal translators, and yes, motion-sensor sliding doors.)

When Barrett meets Barrett in a Temporal Nexus
Fast forward to 2020, and the truth is I got about half of it right. Although there are no flying cars and we can’t travel at warp speed, technology is indeed infused into many parts of our lives. And while I have, in fact, aged, I’m kicking the can of ‘old’ down the time portal a couple more decades. (I reserve the right to revise my view again in 2040.)

I think what I got most wrong was my prediction that I would be someone else. To know for sure, I would need a time machine to bring the two Barrett’s together. (And we’d sit six feet apart to avoid both a temporal paradox and COVID time travel.)

If my younger self sat me down and interviewed me, I think he would be surprised.

I know I’ve changed in any number of ways. That’s supposed to happen due to the slings and arrows that life throws at you. But I think my fundamentals haven’t changed. He would still see himself in me. And I expect he’d be pleased to admit his mistake.

This is the Year to Tap into your Inner You
Still, he’d also be a little suspicious. That’s because it wouldn’t only be a one-way interview. And he’d pick up on that. I’d be asking him questions too. I’d want to tap back into some of the refreshing simplicity of his boundless optimism.

Life doesn’t often support that naive level of positive energy for any extended period. But just touching that memory is always enough to refuel the soul.

And 2020 is the perfect example of needing to tap into your inner you during this global stumble.

We probably won’t get the chance to spend nurturing time in a temporal nexus with our younger versions. So, we’ll just have to find the strength to move forward using what’s in our existing bag of tricks.

That’s life, baby.

Using Tech in our New Normal
How ironic it is that as a boy, I couldn’t imagine a future beyond 2020. It was always a sort of temporal mystery, being so far out. And of course, now that it’s here, our global reality has been reset in so many ways due to COVID. Disruption and change is clearly the norm of 2020. Much is still a mystery.

So, what comes next? What will the future look like now? Sorry to disappoint, but I don’t have that answer. (My time machine is in repair.)

All that any of us can do is ride this turbulent wave and looks for ways to maintain balance and hold onto whatever sense of normality we can. On the home front, I’ll keep playing with the technology that boy Barrett hoped I would. And I’ll continue to try to use this tech to improve (or at least maintain) my day to day.

Whether that’s truly happening or my gadget purchases are simply masquerading as a cozy blanket to help me feel good remains an open question.

Maintaining Order with a Robot Vacuum
Case in point: I just bought an iRobot Roomba on Amazon Prime Day.
(Yes, I succumbed to the marketing machine. But I’ve got to admit it felt great to buy something on Amazon that wasn’t related to supplies for our home during COVID.)

I’m not sure how our cat is going to react to our Roomba, but at least boy Barrett would be proud of me. A robot vacuum? How cool is that!
(Just please don’t tell him there are no flying cars yet.)

And my choice to talk about robot vacuums is a good sign that things could be worse. In fact, I’ve got a lot to be grateful for in 2020.


Will Your Tech Survive the Next Snowstorm?

You can’t capture cool pictures of winter if your battery is dead. But when the power goes out, your camera may be the least of your problems. I’ve got six ways to give your tech a fighting chance…

A windy snow event or ice storm will likely create stress that you can’t control. Fortunately, if you’re prepared, you can protect your precious tech from getting zapped by a brownout or worse.

Here’s my six-step checklist to prevent ‘techtastrophy’ when a storm plays havoc with the power grid.

Avoid Direct Connections to Wall Outlets
First off, just don’t plug your electronics directly into the wall. If you expect the power to fluctuate, that could also include a power surge. Why take the chance of frying your gear? You should always plug your power supplies and chargers for your delicate tech (smartphones, laptops) into surge-protector power strips.

If you happen to have a whole-house surge protection system, then good for you. Otherwise, invest in a few good power strips with surge protection.

Get a UPS for Your Computer
A power strip isn’t going to cut it if you’re using a desktop computer that requires a constant flow of electricity. Any irregular (dirty) power is bad, but when a blackout hits, you don’t want to be working at your computer without some power backup. So, you’ll need a more advanced solution…

Your desktop should always be plugged into an uninterruptable power supply. A ‘UPS’ is essentially a battery backup unit with surge protection and automatic voltage regulation. So, during bad weather, you can type away in relative peace.

I bought a great UPS for my iMac.
It’s made by CyberPower (model CP 1350PFCLCD) and goes for
$189.95 on Amazon.

Turn Off Your Desktop During Stormy Overnights
Even with a UPS in place, I’d still recommend you turn off your desktop overnight during a big storm instead of just putting your computer into sleep mode.
(Why take any chances?)

Activate Your Portable Power Generator
A battery-powered UPS can only handle your computer for a short while- enough time to finish up what you’re doing and then safely shut down. If you need a more powerful solution, then you’ll have to invest in a portable power generator for your house that can run for hours or days (depending on your fuel reserves).

I own a liquid propane portable generator (which of course, I’ve never had to use since the day I bought it). But I’m happy it’s in place to keep the essentials going during a blackout.

Juice the Backup for Your Smartphone
If you don’t have any beefy power creation solutions in place, then at least invest twenty bucks on a pocket-sized battery power bank. It will give your smartphone an extra charge or two while the rest of your home waits in the dark.

I carry around an Anker Portable Charger.
($25.99 on Amazon)

But a little power stick can’t come to your rescue if it’s not charged! So, make sure it’s juiced up before the snow hits.
(And it wouldn’t hurt to top off your smartphone either)

Keep Your Smartphone Warm
Your particular smartphone model might be water resistant, but its battery is still sensitive to winter. It will drain down faster when exposed to frigid temperatures.
(And that’s why you shouldn’t keep your AA batteries in the refrigerator)

So, if you’re out and about after a storm, try to keep your smartphone as warm as possible. Otherwise, you may find it suddenly needs a recharge.
(Then, please see tip #5!)

Power Up!
Sure, it’s hard to function in the dark. But it’s easier if your critical tech isn’t down for the count. Here’s hoping you successfully weather the next ‘Snowmageddon’ along with your gear!

A Photo Mosaic for the New Year

One way to celebrate the New Year is to wrap up photos from the past twelve months and combine them into a photographic mosaic.
Happy 2020
Here, I used ‘Photo Mosaic’ software by cf/x to stitch together the photos from my blog over the past year. To create the master image, I repurposed some of my old tech that’s been gathering dust and organized the pieces on my living room rug to visualize the five letters and four numbers.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then one photo mosaic can really do some heavy lifting for your storytelling!

Happy 2020!

%d bloggers like this: