Electric Bikes

A few months ago, before the COVID-19 shutdown took hold, I ordered a couple of electric bikes on Amazon. I decided to go for 26 inch wheels on a folding frame, and a 250Watt motor with a handlebar mounted battery.

This was by no means the highest spec available, but the price was low enough that I felt it would be a good entry into the field of augmented bike.

It may have been the best purchase I’ve ever made, and I tend to buy a lot of tech.

Since the purchase I have ridden almost every day. We go for a lap of central park, or a loop of Manhattan, or a trip to one of the outer boroughs or over the GW bridge into New Jersey. These are all trips I never took on my previous standard bike. And it hasn’t hurt that the traffic volume is significantly down due to the pandemic, and the number of bike lanes seems to increase on a daily basis.

We did make a few mods to the standard bike. Comfy seats, rear bags on racks and maybe most importantly we bought Sena R1 helmets with built in intercoms, so we can chat while riding, which makes the whole thing much more social.

I also added a tow hook to the car and got an incredible bike rack, meaning we can take the bikes away for weekends easily. We spent a few weeks in Virginia and rode every day on the lovely country lanes to little towns.

Our bikes are not powerful but hills no longer exist. Cycling up an incline is as easy as being on the flat, and it is quite nice to pass a full body condom wearing pro on a racing bike, struggling, while I’m on a fat wheeled low-end mountain bike and not even taking deep breaths. The range has also been more impressive than expected, we can easily cover 30 miles without worrying about battery life. And while the bike does offer a throttle (so you can ride without pedaling), I’ve only used this to aid starting from a dead stop on hills, most of the time only using the first and second power levels, and no the highest level (three dots), so getting some workout.

I know these kinds of bikes are now harder to find with longer delivery times and slightly higher prices. But my experience has been so positive, that I have to recommend them to anyone who would like to ride and finds the idea of sweating to be a turn-off.

Here’s the stuff we bought, and love:

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Assholes on display

Assholes on display

I was out walking the dog today, when a millennial couple were walking the other way without facemasks or any interest in social distancing.

I mentioned that since they had obviously forgotten their masks they should consider moving to the other side of the sidewalk, to which this idiot decided to espouse his personal view that no one should be wearing masks, and that I should mind my own fucking business. And then without any further discussion suggested that maybe we should fist fight about it.

I thought this sounded like an excellent idea and suggested that once I had finished my call to the police that was in the process of making on my Bluetooth headset to report his antisocial behavior, I’d be happy to kick his ass.

At which point the asshole in question turned around and ran away.

Made my day just a little brighter.

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How to Protect Your Family, Friends and Colleagues from Identify Theft

A little bit of advice for the season

The techniques being used by thieves to steal from people and businesses are becoming a lot more sophisticated. It is now almost impossible to tell the difference between a legitimate communication from a company you work with and a scam.

The basics of any security process always require you to have something and you know something. The idea being that you should have in your possession some piece of information that no one else knows and you should have some item that only you possess.

This is why a credit card has a series of numbers on the front or back that are not raised. If someone were to take an imprint of your card, there would still be some piece of information that only you have, and there is a secret code, pin or word that only you know.

Here’s how scammers are getting around this. They send you a new card with a label on the front that asks you to call to enable it. When you call, they ask you to provide your secret code. But here’s the trick that card they sent you wasn’t real, and the number they have asked you to call wasn’t your credit card company. That card you have in your hand is a scam, but the scammers now know your secret code and they can now use your account to make purchases. All they had to do was send you a fake card, a letter that looked like it came from your bank. They may even tell you that the new card will be activated in 24 hours, so you keep using the old card for a while, so you won’t notice that the new one doesn’t work until they have had a chance to steal from it.

This same trick works with credit card companies, tax collectors, insurance, loan offers, utility bills, gyms and any other place where you would be willing to provide personal information if you believe the person you are speaking to is real.

Here’s how you avoid being caught. Don’t believe any communication! Always assume the worst. When you receive a communication by phone, text, email or letter don’t believe it, instead find your previous card (or other previous communication) and call the number listed on that.

When you receive a call from your bank to alert you of a potentially fraudulent transaction, don’t give them any personal information. Instead dig out your credit card and call the number on the back of that and see if they really are trying to reach you.

Don’t believe any communication, unless you initiated it, and to a number or address that you already know to be valid.

This is a simple way to block a lot of the most obvious scams. It won’t stop every scammer, but it will stop a large percentage.

Tell your families, your friends and your colleagues.

Let’s make theft just that little bit harder.

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Augmenting Reality – For Real!

In the 70’s kids carried their steroes on their shoulder.

In the 80’s we used walkman’s (I guess it’s not walkmen)

In the 90’s we wore earphones with a splitter cable so we could share the music with our buddies.

In the 00’s we had to turn on the speakers in our phones to share music, and it sucked. And it still sucks today! I still don’t want to hear your music through a Bluetooth speaker.

I dream of being able to share music with Bluetooth headsets with my partner, while walking around the city or sitting on a plane. But Bluetooth technology is not designed for multiple people to listen at the same time. A couple of companies have tried to make Bluetooth headsets that can connect together to allow music to be shared. And it nearly works.

What I really want is to be able to share music with one or maybe two other people, but still have it be private, and this tech is just out of reach today, until now!

It’s not easy buy we have made it work, and at the same time taken it to an entirely new (and better) level.

There were several problems that needed to be solve.

  1. How can you share the sound from a single device (phone or pad) to multiple Bluetooth headsets.
  2. Is it possible to have the sound without the need to wear on ear or in ear headphones, so that it’s immersive and yet you can still be present, enjoying the world around you and be part of conversations, and not annoy everyone else with your music.

And here’s how we did it.

Firstly, after quite some hunting, I found this device on amazon.

This plugs into an iphone and allows 2 bluetooth headsets to be connected at the same time. It’s a little fiddley to configure, as you have to turn-off the Bluetooth in your phone to ensure that the connection is made through the device and not the phones own Bluetooth. But once the two headsets are synchronized it works.

It’s not the longest range of Bluetooth transmitter I’ve ever seen, so you have to stay reasonable close together (a few feet), but it works, where nothing else I’ve found does.

The next thing we did is invest in Bose’s new Bluetooth connected glasses. These use focused speakers built into the arms of the glasses to project the sound directly into the ear canal. And they work better than I would have ever expected. When two pair were synced to the Bluetooth splitter, we were able to walk around the city listening to excellent music, while still being able to talk together and hear the world around.

I require prescription lenses, which Bose do not offer, But are offered for sales on glassesusa.com, which took 2 weeks to arrive, but work perfectly.

It is incredible!

In summary :

Adaptor to allow multiple bluetooth headsets to be connected to a single iphone – a little techie, but work’s!

Bose Bluetooth glasses – incredible sound, without sweaty ears on a hot day, and when combined with the above mentioned adaptor, totally incredible.

Prescription Lenses for bose glasses – While not officially supported by Bose, it was easy to pop-out the lenses and replace them with new prescription ones. I went for transitions, but basic tinted ones would make awesome sunglasses.

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Why are so many billionaires investing in space travel?

Here’s a thought experiment:

Money is not power, debt is power.

In days of olde, you acquired metal of value (gold or silver for example) and you’d store this in a bank and allow people to see it, and when you wanted something from them, you would write them a note that said if they did this thing for you, you’d pay them in gold. 

These notes become promissory notes and that become money. And so long as you had gold and silver in the bank you could write notes to the value of the metal you had.

Then banks wanted to start to offer more money than they had gold, so the rules were changed to say that if you had gold, you could offer money to the value of several times the gold you had. Because no one actually wanted the gold, they wanted the power of the money.

And then people started borrowing money from the banks, and the banks started to literally create money at a rate of several times the amount they were lending. Most money is not paper and coins, it’s a reference in a ledger that someone was loaned a specific value, and based on this entry in a ledger they can buy other stuff.

And then the rules changed again, and the banks were allowed to create money at many many times the amount that they lent. 

And so, for banks to create more money, all they have to do was lend out even more money.

And somewhere along the way the actual relationship with metal was pushed aside.

Today the more you lend, then the more money you can create. And so long as people can pay back the monthly payments everything’s good.

But when you lend more and more, people have to borrow more and more, and so to make the monthly payments achievable the term lengths for loans are getting longer.

You can now borrow more, over longer periods, and in exchange the banks can print even more money, which they must be able to loan out to be able to grow. Lending and borrowing is the source of the money. Debt is therefore the ultimate power.

If things stop growing, that would be a huge issue, because then the whole house of cards would collapse.

WE MUST CONTINUALLY LEND AND BORROW MORE AND MORE!!!

But the resources of the earth are quickly being consumed, oil and coal are being burnt at unpresented rates, causing global warming that is effectively shrinking the useable land mass. We need people to continually borrow more and more.

We must find new ways to get people to spend, loan and borrow. 

So space!

If we can build cities on the moon and mars, mine asteroids, and built starships the gravy train of civilization can roll along. There is a whole universe of stuff out there to create reasons to create money.

If people’s ability to borrow money was to stop, then literally the basis of western civilization collapses.

It’s funny to think that the future of humanity as a space faring species is being driven by the desires of scared, egotistical, savants to keep their wealth, but hey whatever works!

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How to automate the process of building an entire city

It makes little sense to send people to Mars to build a city, as people need a level of infrastructure that makes living there impractical until you build the infrastructure needed to survive.

It makes a lot more sense to send machines to build the environment and send people later.

What if robots could mine raw materials, build the factories to process the raw material, build the infrastructure to build more robots that could then build everything needed to sustain life.

There is no reason why this cannot be done!

Phase 1 – Robots investigate available raw materials (survey)

Phase 2 – Robots mine raw materials (mine)

Phase 3 – Robots use the initial raw material to build refineries to produce building materials and factories (Build)

Phase 4 – Robots build more robots out of refined material (replicate)

Phase 5 – Robots now build everything needed to sustain life (buildings, machines, infrastructure) (Implement)

Phase 6 – People arrive (Immigrate)

How long would it take? 50 years, 500 years? Probably somewhere in between.

I believe phases 1 and 2 are almost practical today. While phase 3 is partially possible today.

It could be started on Earth right now. Build the technology to build cities from nothing, anywhere on the planet, and potentially beyond.

A few square miles of barren land, a lot of smart minds, enough investment to make it happen.

This is the project that is needed!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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It’s becoming very hard to spot phishing attacks

Every year the quality of phishing attacks seems to get better. It wasn’t too long ago that you could spot a fake message from a bank, because of the terrible use of english and awful formatting of the images, but it is not a lot harder. The syntax, grammar, formatting, images and event the URL’s they point you too look identical to those of the real institutions that they are purporting to be.

In fact, some of the emails you receive from scammers, now actually look better than the ones from your bank.

The simple answer (of course) is to NEVER trust an unsolicited communication from anyone, it doesn’t matter of the bank calls you, emails you, writes to you, or knocks on your door directly. If you didn’t expect the communication there is a very high probability it’s fake.

The best answer is to always either visit the institution in person, or call the number on the back of your card (and I can even think of a few ways this can be faked, but it’s much harder)

Here are a few of the attempts to scam me, that I’ve received just this month:

“Hi I’m calling from Microsoft, and we have detected a virus on your computer, and you need to give me access to remove it”

“Hello dear friend, I’m the daughter of the late finance minister of an African nation, and am in trouble and need your help to get funds out of the country, I’ll pay you well for your service in this matter”

“There is an issue with your iCloud login, please click below to resolve the issue”

“This is a IRS calling to tell you that you will be arrested unless you call this number immediately”

“I have been contracted to kill you, but will not kill you it you pay me the same amount of money as the contract”

“This is a fraud alert from the bank, please login below to confirm the transactions”

Some of these were via email, and some phone calls. All were ignored, and most entered spam folders.

For the phone calls I use an amazing service called norobo, which checks every incoming call for know garbage (including charities and political parties) and diverts the call as soon as the caller id is identified. A brilliant free service for the home line (and they charge for cellphones)

For email, the built-in spam filters seem to work quite well, and I needed to actually look in the spam-folder to see what I received.

The simplest answer is to just not believe anyone who calls or emails, assume they all lie, and you are right virtually every time.

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