Author Archives: Allen

How I fell in and out of love with smartwatches

Note: I started writing this piece about smartwatches in July 2016. Many months have passed and this ‘once on the verge of release’ article was shelved. Why the wait? You’ll find out as you read further…

Apple Watch… so square!

Flashback to: Late Summer 2014. The first visually attractive smartwatch wooed my interest. The summer heat didn’t affect my impression of what a smartwatch could offer. Part of the Lenovo family, Motorola’s Moto 360 was the first circular AndroidWear watch released and the shape, for me, was the deal closer. Until then all smartwatches had a various rectangular or square shapes which seemed more suited toward manufacturing design. Motorola’s circular watch face set me on track with my first smartwatch.

The Moto 360 is a good looking watch. In many circumstances it looks like a traditional analog watch. Motorola did an excellent job in the visual look and feel of the watch.

In a world of squares, the Motorola 360 was a welcome, fresh face in the crowd.

When I received the Moto 360 and set it up, an epiphany raced through my brain – I had just purchased a second screen to my phone. I had heard of this description and it made sense, but once on it was clear. I just replaced a portion of my phone usage with the smartwatch. I no longer checked the time on my phone or managed/checked my fitness steps on it or to measure the calories I burned on the training bike I got from this reviews of exercise bikes. I simply looked at my watch for this information, of course if I needed to find things as the best supplements to boost iron levels, I still need to use my phone for that

Email, text messages, quick replies while doing something else are features you begin to rely on with a smartwatch. You can even control the watch without touch and only use voice. Easy. Simple. Elegant.

Since smartwatches are a second screen to your phone, you still need a phone nearby for it to work. Quick tip for smartwatch wearers: If leave your phone somewhere, turn off Bluetooth (which is how the Moto 360 initially connects to your phone) to preserve battery. When your phone’s battery is dead, the watch loses some functionality.  How much varies, based on how you use your smartwatch.

Somewhere out there, Flavor Flav is laughing…

Some apps can be installed directly on a smartwatch.  Other apps are simply an extension or controller to an app on your phone. Fitness apps are a good example of this, where minimal information is available on the watch, but you can start and stop your fitness tracking from the smartwatch.

With superb styling came a cost.

The 1st Generation Moto 360 is mute. It can not make a sound. Not a beep, peep, or click. It only alerts you by screen illumination or vibration. Why it didn’t chirp like a 30 year old digital was strange to me. It doesn’t need to play MP3s but an audible tone would’ve been nice.

Software updates came frequently adding features and improvements, including eventually WiFi, where the watch could sync with your phone wirelessly at further distances than Bluetooth. This was great but I was further irritated with the biggest problem every smartwatch has, and I’m sure you can guess it.

 

I’m not going to write a lot about battery life. However, if you think about it, battery life is what you would expect.  Small device + small battery = short usage time.
With the Moto 360 you can get 1-2 days of use. The Moto 360 will operate for 2 days if  you use it like a traditional watch with NO smartwatch perks. The Moto 360 will operate 1 day if you really use the smartwatch features.  Note: ‘A day’ isn’t 24 hours. It’s 10-14 hours. So two days is really two 10 hour sessions. Once the session is over, you will need to charge the watch.

Thermal image of my Moto 360

 

 

After a year and a half, in January of 2016, my Moto 360 began to fail. The battery wouldn’t last 8 hours. It sporadically shut off. It generally began to be useless. After a few months and a lot of frustration I began to notice that the watch would not charge past 70 percent.

 

 

 

Interestingly, I figured out that the watch shut off when it got too warm. This could happen during charging or other operation.

Finally…  I was done.  The smartwatch experiment was over and for me it was a failure.

 

 

 

Here is what I learned…

I really wanted a watch.
I’ve always liked watches but had stopped wearing one. I preferred a watch that looked like a traditional watch and not a smartwatch. Ironically, as of February 2017 there are several Androidwear smartwatches which are just that – truly analog watches with smart innards. This is compelling.

I wanted to avoid pulling my phone out of my pocket.
When you begin to notice that about a quarter of time you spend looking at your watch you are checking time. Notifications or not, using an app as a second screen is just an easier way to interact with your connected data.

I wanted to track my steps and sleep in a wearable, preferably a watch.
When I got my smartwatch, it was the height of the Fitbit count-all-your-steps trend.  I didn’t want to wear two watch-like devices, so my smartwatch needed to do both.

I wanted a watch to last at least 3 days without a charge.
What is it going to take to get smartwatch makers to simply limit features to provide longer battery life?  I love the animation and screen capabilities but it’s at a hefty battery cost. I’d like to see smartwatches with E-Ink screens like you see on the plain white Kindle and Nook devices. These screens are DRAMATICALLY lower in battery consumption.

I wanted a watch I could keep for 3 years without loss of functionality.
Let’s look at what you have 3 years later in the release of a Moto 360 smartwatch; The AndroidWear operating system has been updated to version 2.0. Yay! But… first generation Moto 360’s will not be updated to AndroidWear 2.0. Booo!

This alone is a real reason to put a pause on smartwatches. Simply put, smartwatches should NOT need be released or purchased as frequently as smartphones. $300 a watch every 2 years. $500 a phone every 2 years. This is not sustainable. Maybe it’s time for $600 smartphone and watch combos?

Lastly, it is an old family tradition to pass down a time piece from father or grandfather to son or grandson. Most likely no one will ever pass on a dead smart… watch.

Top 5 Things You Should Be Doing To Be More Secure Online

Below, our Business and Tech writer – let’s call him Allen – shares valuable tips on cybersecurity; keeping you and your family’s online life secure, multi-factor authentication, encryption, and password managers. We highly suggest you read this post thoroughly and share these valuable tips with your friends and family. In today’s world, one can never be too prepared.

 

123456  123456789  qwerty  12345678  111111  1234567890  1234567  password  123123  987654321  qwertyuiop  mynoob  123321  666666  18atcskd2w  7777777  1q2w3e4r  654321  555555  3rjs1la7qe  google  1q2w3e4r5t  123qwe  zxcvbnm  1q2w3e

If you see your password in this list… you’re done.

Toast.

Busted.

Most people want to keep things simple.

Well, this simple isn’t secure.  This list above are the 25 most commonly used passwords.  There is even bigger list here www.passwordrandom.com/most-popular-passwords.  It contains the 10,000 most commonly used passwords .

(ProAdvice: PLEASE DO NOT USE THE PASSWORD CHECKER ON THEIR SITE.  I don’t think you should type your password anywhere except where you should use it. Got it?  Good.. moving on..)

 

So now that your password has been shared with the world or maybe you know your kids, pets or cars name isn’t secure either… lets get you more secure.

photo credit: Visual Content Data Breach via photopin (license)

1.  USE A PASSPHRASE NOT a PASSWORD
You should use a 9 character passphrase with with special characters.  Like
FromNowOn!WillUse1B!gPassPhrase$.” Short or common passwords can be easily guessed or attacked sequentially.  For many of you, you are thinking there is a password lock out feature that keeps lowly hackers from trying all the password possibilities. In which you are right.

Most sites or apps block multiple attempts and either lock the account or offer an option to change the password after many failed attempts.  However, hackers rarely use this tactic.  Instead, they compromise the website or app and collect the encrypted passwords. With a little research the hacker determines how the passwords were encrypted. (In other words, they figure out the math required to generate the encrypted passwords) They then use hacking tools to brute force “crack” encrypt known words or passwords and compare them against the encrypted passwords which they collected.  This is where your common password falls over backward.

Considering that fundamentally computers fastest action is the comparison of 1’s and 0’s this is a amazingly fast job. In fact there are password cracking tool that use gaming video cards can crack passwords with 6 billion attempts per second.  using a passphrase makes this significantly more difficult to do in a short period of time.

By adding a few characters, numbers and special characters into an easily remembered passphrase you are making hacking your password significantly more difficult to crack.  By doing this cracking your password can go from cracked in minutes to months to years.

photo credit: barnimages.com Working with iPhone via photopin (license)

2. CHANGE YOUR PASSWORD REGULARLY
If you have had the same password for years… you have increased the chance of an old hacker compromise from years ago, leaving you vulnerable today.  Change your password at least once a year.  If you want a gold star, change it twice a year.

3. DO NOT USE THE SAME PASSWORD EVERYWHERE
Imagine if everyone had the exact same house key. The key would be useless … right? Need I say more?

4. USE MULTI-FACTOR AUTHENTICATION
Sounds fancy? You should like fancy. Multi-factor authentication adds another “factor” to your password. It is essentially having two or more passwords to login to your account/service. There are many ways to do this including using your smartphone, having a secure token or USB key or fingerprint.

With a second factor you are using your good password (see #1) with something only you have. Many of you may have enabled fingerprint on your phone. Bravo! You’ve done it for your phone! (Ask me why I don’t use my fingerprint).

Check out Yubico www.yubico.com for a Yubikey to insert into your computers usb port.

Try Duo https://guide.duo.com/third-party-accounts with its free app to add a second factor. GMail, Facebook, Outlook, Office 365, banks and many other sites support these.

5. USE A PASSWORD MANAGER
Ok, now you are worried you are going to forget your passphrase… NO PROBLEM.  There are apps for your phone and computer that allow you to store you passwords. In fact, some of them integrate with websites and you NEVER have to type or copy the password.  WIN w!n. These apps or websites store all your passwords behind one master password you set.. (See #1)
Check out LastPass www.lastpass.com  or  Dashlane www.dashlane.com. Extra credit: If you use Dashlane or LastPass you can use multi-factor tokens with them also.  Bonus! Dashlane and LastPass can fill in payment forms and store your credit card information too!

Be sure to store your master password for your password manager in a safe just in case you forget. If you use a multi-factor token setup alternate backup access. Check with your web service or bank to find out how.

Once you do this.. you are in complete control of accessing your account. Not even the people from the site in some cases can get into your login. You will be your own locksmith.

Take a deep breath… It’s easier than you think.

Review: ‘Snowden’ gives real Snowden story humility

 

Image: Open Road Films

Image: Open Road Films

Oliver Stone’s latest movie, “Snowden,” opens today and you should go see it.

Fathom Events invited Central Florida Top 5 to an advance screening of Snowden, followed by a live Q&A with Academy Award®-winning director,  Oliver Stone, actors Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Shailene Woodley, and via satellite, the subject himself, Edward Snowden.

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[No story spoilers in this post.  Read freely.]

Snowden is a modern day thriller about Edward Snowden and how he became one of the most well known whistleblowers and privacy advocates. This telling of this story is based on the books The Snowden Files: The Inside Story of the World’s Most Wanted Man by Luke Harding and Time of the Octopus by Anatoly Kucherena.

Stone presents the story without delving into the legality of Snowden’s actions. We, the audience, are allowed to learn more about who Snowden is before, during, and after he leaked information regarding various United States government surveillance programs. This film also shows how Snowden first got the media, in this case UK’s The Guardian, involved.



Stone’s casting selection feels authentic. Like many computer professionals I know, Joseph Gordon-Levitt appears intelligent and reserved as the character playing Edward Snowden. As a filmmaker and technology professional, I really appreciate that Snowden’s character wasn’t over popularized.

Many technology films lose the details which make computer programmer or hacker characters human.  Joseph Gordon-Levitt solidly performed the role of a cyber security professional without the usual Hollywood hipster hacker bells and whistles.

Image: Open Road Films

Image: Open Road Films

 

Snowden’s love interest is played by Shailene Woodley. Woodley, seems to just click with Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Snowden. I have always appreciated each of Woodley’s film performances. Admittedly, when I first saw the pairing I thought Woodley was a bit Hollywood glitz. However, after researching Lindsay Mills, Edward Snowden’s actual girlfriend, I now see the pairing is quite good.

Image: Open Road Films

Image: Open Road Films

Snowden’s supporting characters, portrayed by the strong ensemble of Rhys Ifans, Melissa Leo, Zachary Quinto, Tom Wilkinson, Nicolas Cage, and LaKeith Lee Stanfield, were also believable in their roles. To me, they all felt like the technology and news professionals, or computer instructors I have known in the past. The details in this movie really give some humanity to the characters in the story, whether in the newsroom or hotel room, and allows the audience to sense some emotion of what may have been felt in the real life events.



Technically, the film stayed true to how computers work without the usual over the top hacker computer graphics displayed in previous computer films.  The fact that this was Stone’s first film shot digitally was both perfect and ironic. I really appreciate this approach. When I see Virtual Reality gloves or things flying in cyber space I usually am uprooted from the story immediately.  (Thank you Mr. Stone and art direction team.)



I have followed the actual news stories regarding Edward Snowden at arms length due to their content and a distinct understanding of what data may be present in its content. Much of the data is still considered sensitive or classified, including information presented in this film.

Snowden is a film to watch for anyone using the Internet or other connected computing device.  Watch with your opinions, and technology, put aside and emerge with new insight and a good story in the end.

Bonus: Check out Joseph Gordon Levitt’s short film, “Are you there, Democracy? It’s me, the Internet,” with Edward Snowden.

Your phone, credit cards and other items are transmitting your info to thieves. Silence them with Silent Pocket.

Ahh, we love technology.   It allows us to do so many things quickly and easily.

Tired of pulling out your credit card at the cash register?  Try Android Pay, Apple Pay or Samsung Pay with your phone.  Several years ago MasterCard and many businesses started a quick payment method called contactless payment.  Tap and Pay and Pay Pass are common names you may have seen at local businesses.

Contactless payment is a pay method where a card or other device can simply be touched to a payment device without having to swipe your credit card.  Quick, easy and you no longer have to worry about that magnetic strip on the back of your credit card wearing out. This new payment method uses variations of the wireless technology called RFID. To understand how this affects users of the technology, lets look at how RFID works.

RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) is a clever wireless technology that allows data stored on a device (card, chip or electronic device), to be sent by a wireless “reflected pulse” to a receiving reading device. How? Let’s look at an RFID tag.  An RFID tag is simply an antenna (wire) connected to an electronic chip. The electronic chip does not have a battery. It s powered wirelessly by radio waves. Take a look at this photo of one of my actual RFID tags. Using a VERY BRIGHT flashlight I was able to shine a light through the card.

Inside an RFID tag

See through an RFID tag

You may have seen these before in the back of a library book long ago. At the bottom of the photo is a chip connected to the black lines. The black lines are the antenna wrapped around the chip in a loop.  The antenna is designed to capture power from radio waves.  The radio waves are very low power and are usually only detectable from a few inches to a foot. The power needed is only a few volts, which is sent by the payment device.

Payment devices come in various forms, from SpeedPass modules on gas pumps to MasterCard Tap and Go receptacles on credit card machines. The payment devices “talk” to the RFID tag by sending a radio wave a specific frequency.  Think of tuning your favorite FM radio channel.  The card is only powered and responds when it “hears”  certain radio frequencies. Once powered, the chip sends its data to the receiving device via another antenna loop embedded in the card or device. Another RFID technology called NFC (near field communication)  Pretty clever.

Have you seen this logos on credit card machines?

EMV contactless symbol used on compatible payment terminals

EMV contactless symbol (Courtesy Wikipedia)

The first common contactless payment devices were used at gas pumps via a keychain speedpass token.  You can watch their “how it works” video here.

Some contactless methods don’t store your actual card information on the embedded electronic chip. A proxy card or other ID represents your credit card data.  This can protect your data in some circumstances. However, there are some contactless system which transmit directly usable data. RFID and its associated technology NFC are simple and convenient data transfer methods for credit cards, hotel key cards, passports and any other electronic ID systems.

With the ease of use, it is also quick and easy for  ANYONE to read RFID/NFC devices with a special RFID/NFC readers or even Android phones. Imagine walking in a store or a crowded area with your wallet, purse or cell phone (which many have NFC today).  A person armed with an RFID/NFC reader can silently capture your credit card, hotel key card, passport or other RFID/NFC data. By simply placing the reader near your card or device for less than a second or two.  This can be accomplished easily and I’m surprised it hasn’t become a big fraud/ security issue. You can purchase RFID/NFC readers from online stores or simply run a NFC tag reader application on an Android phone with NFC. This is a legitimate risk.

Solution?

You can protect your data with shielding products from Silent Pocket. Silent Pocket is a California based company we met at CES 2016 who have solutions to protect your data. Silent Pocket has a line of products which shield the RFID and NFC when not in use.  Simply insert your credit card, hotel key card or other thin device in one of their products to protect your data.

Check out Silent Pocket’s video for more detail.

Silent Pocket sent us a few of their products to test. We received a 5 pack of credit card sleeves, a medium sized shielding sleeve for electronic devices, a simple card wallet and an iPhone 6 radiation and card guard. We put them through some tests.  Here is what we found.

Credit Card Sleeve

Our favorite product from silent pocket are the credit card sleeves.  They are very versatile and work well with any card based RFID/NFC solution you want to shield.

Silent Pocket Sleeve Package Front

Silent Pocket Sleeve Package Front

Silent Pocket Sleeve Package Back

Silent Pocket Sleeve Package Back

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Silent Pocket Card Guard 5 Pack

Silent Pocket Card Guard 5 Pack

NFC enabled Hotel Key Card and Transit Card

NFC enabled Hotel Key Card and Transit Card

 

Silent Pocket Card Guard with NFC token

Silent Pocket Card Guard with NFC authentication token

Medium Plus Full Shielding Sleeve

If you have a need to protect a cell phone, small tablet or several small devices Silent Pocket has a medium sized sleeve.  We found this device useful for making your phone disappear. This is useful when used in corporate, state and federal environments where use of electronic devices is forbidden. Trusting that the device is truly off and not transmitting or receiving isn’t a concern with this sleeve.  We tested this by making a phone call, enabling the speaker phone and while talking to another person, placing the phone into the sleeve.

Call dropped.  WIFI and cellular no longer could transmit or receive signal. The sleeve is well made and is made out of leather.  Its also a good size for various devices.

Note: This sleeve can take you “off the grid“.  There are companies implementing technologies which can track your cell phone in stores.  By identifying your device trackers can note what areas of the store you visit. This tracking system doesn’t have to know who you are, just knowing that customers that look at certain products is a marketing and data research tool. Noting stops them from having one at the cashier when you make a purchase, where they could match you to your credit card or loyalty program.   (Best Buy… Is that why you want us to wait so far back when standing in line?  hmmmm?)

Silent Pocket Sleeve Front Package

Silent Pocket Sleeve Front Package

Silent Pocket Sleeve

Silent Pocket Sleeve

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Silent Pocket Sleeve size comparison with the Nexus 6

Silent Pocket Sleeve size comparison with the Nexus 6 tablet

 

Silent Pocket Sleeve size comparison with several Nexus devices

Silent Pocket Sleeve size comparison with several Nexus devices

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

iPhone 6s case and Guard

Silent Pocket also has an iPhone 6s case and card guard.  Our only reviewer complaint came from this item.
As with the other products the case offers a pocket to protect cards with RFID/NFC.   The pocket can accommodate 1-3 cards with a VERY tight fit. Its a bit difficult to get your card out if you have 2 or three cards in the pocket on the back of the case.  If you do plan to use 1 or 2 cards in the pocket, add one extra card to it for one day to allow it to stretch a bit and your cards will come out more easily. The case provides radiation protection when properly oriented. Check out the diagram below with a description.

 

Silent Pocket iPhone 6s phone Radiation and Card Guard Package Front

Silent Pocket iPhone 6s phone Radiation and Card Guard Package Front

Silent Pocket iPhone 6s phone Radiation and Card Guard unloaded

Silent Pocket iPhone 6s phone Radiation and Card Guard unloaded

Silent Pocket iPhone 6s phone Radiation and Card Guard with one card

Silent Pocket iPhone 6s phone Radiation and Card Guard with one card

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Silent Pocket iPhone 6s phone Radiation and Card Guard Package Back

Silent Pocket iPhone 6s phone Radiation and Card Guard Package Back

 

We did find the radiation blocking a bit confusing.  If you look at the diagram, it appears you must face the phone away from you once its in the case to avoid radiation.  Its a little awkward but would work as indicated.

Silent Pocket iPhone 6s phone Radiation block diagram

Silent Pocket iPhone 6s phone Radiation block diagram

 

Simple Card Wallet

Another favorite shield made with premium leather is the simple card wallet. This is a useful wallet for several cards and can accommodate thin to medium sized RFID/NFC tokens. If you arent familiar with two factor authentication tokens, you will be soon.  We will cover them in another article later this year. The simple card wallet is small enough to be inserted into a medium to large sized wallet. The wallet can hold 6 or more cards easily.

Silent Pocket Simple Card wallet

Silent Pocket Simple Card wallet

Competition?

Silent Pocket isn’t the only company in this game. During our testing we discovered this product in a local store.  It worked similarly, but didn’t have a premium look.
The interior of this product looked like aluminum foil from a chewing gum wrapper. The sleeves from their competitor had a faux leather look.  Both of these products are made out of paper and in this case the competitors product seemed to be a tyvek material which is a bit more durable and difficult to tear.  One suggestion we have for Silent Pocket in the future would be to keep the same quality premium look of the sleeve and make them with a tyvek like material.  Instant winner.

Silent Pocket Card Guard and Card Lock Side by Side Comparison

Silent Pocket Card Guard and Card Lock Side by Side Comparison

Silent Pocket Card Guard and Card Lock Size Comparison

Silent Pocket Card Guard and Card Lock Size Comparison

Silent Pocket Card Guard and Card Lock Interior Comparison

Silent Pocket Card Guard and Card Lock Interior Comparison

Conclusion:

During our tests we surveyed some non tech geeks about what kind of cards and RFID devices they had.  We discovered many were unaware their credit cards had this capability. RFID/NFC is being used in more places. Be sure to check your cards and be aware of what you may be broadcasting.

Here are some places we encountered and tested RFID/NFC cards:

  • SunRail Train pass (Orlando, FL)
  • New York City Subway/ Metro (NY, NY)
  • Cambria Hotels (Cleveland, Ohio)
  • aLoft Hotels (Tallahassee, FL)
  • Disney entrance bands (Orlando, FL)

Could you use aluminum foil?  Maybe, we tested with regular aluminum and found it was not as durable as silent pockets products.  Within a week or two plain aluminum foil kept in a wallet would crack or develop holes.  After some time they foil could and will fail. Foil may also damage magnetic strips. I also felt odd pulling my aluminum foil sleeve out in public.

Silent Pocket offers premium protection products that appear like normal wallets, bags and pouches. These great looking products effectively make you cards and devices invisible when needed.

Central Florida Top 5 would like to thank Aaron Zar Co-Founder at Silent Pocket for sending us additional products for us to review. Find out more about them at http://silent-pocket.com/.

Silent Pocket provided us with their devices however, all opinions are our own.

Exploring what makes Sanford’s Love Your Shorts Film Festival a Top Festival

One of the worlds most inviting film festivals is located in Central Florida. The Love Your Shorts Film Festival (LYSFF) located in Sanford Florida just wrapped up their 6th annual film festival. LYSFF is a film festival dedicated to short film. Submissions from all over the world are reviewed and top notch films are screened at the Wayne Dench Performing Arts. Festival attendees vote on their favorite films for each film genre.
Comedy, drama, documentary, animation, Sci-Fi/ Horror, Florida Flavor (films made in Florida or by residents of Florida) and E for Everyone (family friendly films) genres are accepted and compete for awards and honors.

As described above, LYSFF is typical of many film festivals. However, what makes Sanford’s LYSFF special are the warm and welcoming people who run the festival, the local businesses and the people of Sanford who come out and support the festival.

The festival staff and volunteers led by the festival president Nancy Kruckemyer work tirelessly to put on a great festival. Festival director Nelson Beverly smoothly executes the festival while still being attainable and welcoming. While attending the festival I noted Beverly worked with his dedicated staff from opening to closing to bring an enjoyable festival. Festival staff and volunteers ended their long days each evening by accompanying filmmakers and attendees to after party events at local businesses.

LYSFF Sponsor speaking before the drama block

LYSFF Sponsor speaking before the drama block

Various businesses in central Florida helped to sponsor the festival. While each block of films were sponsored by local businesses from Sanford. The local community involvement is what makes the festival different in for attendees and filmmakers. VIP area for filmmakers and special guests of the festival are a nice perk for the growing festival. Filmmakers gathered and discussed their current and upcoming film projects in the VIP area.

The LYSFF is a rare gem where attendees can see ALL festival films when a weekend pass is purchased. Most film festivals schedule films simultaneously, which requires attendees to pick and ultimately miss other films. The $55 weekend pass is truly a bargain when compared to festivals like Sundance where a festival pass is $3000. The screening blocks allow attendees to take have lunch and dinner without missing films. A generous hour for lunch and 2 hours for dinner. This works well to visit local restaurants.

Filmmakers love the festival also. Its pretty evident that the strong community effort makes the festival a special place, but for filmmakers their festival badge is essentially a weekend celebrity identifier. Sanford businesses come together to make the filmmakers visit to the city and festival a great experience. Filmmaker Lukas Hassel and Dale Metz spoke graciously about the festival, Sanford and people who made the event special. “The Love Your Shorts Film Festival is a gem of a festival. The people who put on the festival are very generous and welcoming”, Hassel said.

If you haven’t attended LYSFF in the past, plan to attend next year in 2017. The festival usually occurs each year near valentines day. Which is quite appropriate, not only because LYSFF loves short films, but because everyone appears to love the festival.

Live music at LYSFF

Live music at LYSFF

2016 LYSFF voting via text message

2016 LYSFF voting via text message

2016 LYSFF filmmaker panel

2016 LYSFF filmmaker panel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2016 LYSFF Film Block Q&A

2016 LYSFF Film Block Q&A

2016 LYSFF Film Drama Block winner

2016 LYSFF Film Drama Block winner Director Mana Handel and actor Randolph Handel

 

Top 5 Central Florida Businesses at CES

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After a long week at CES (formerly known as the Consumer Electronics Show) in Las Vegas, here are my Top 5 CES exhibitors with a Central Florida presence;

We weren’t able to get to each of these exhibitor’s booths at CES, but Central Florida was well represented at the show with 20+ vendors. The following vendors products were not only compelling coming from Central Florida, but were innovative in their own regard. Take a few minutes to review the latest products on each of their sites.

In alphabetical order…

Accugraphic Sales (Klic-n-Kut) (Apopka, FL)
Accugraphic Sales makes the KNK Force, an economical dual head plotter/cutter solution which cuts various materials. Some materials include wood, PVC, leather, fabric, acrylic and card stock. This printer like device hosts its own web based software, which allows you control it from nearly any device with a web browser. Shapes and pattern can be designed from many popular vector graphic applications and loaded into the KNK Force. More information on the KNK Force can be found on the Klic-n-Kut web site.
Klic-n-Kut
http://knkusa.com/

FreeCast (Orlando, Florida)
Do you remember Rabbit TV? They are the makers of the USB TV product that allows you to watch television shows and movies on your computer.  FreeCast is based in Orlando, Florida. FreeCast offers cord cutters dream solutions for video on demand and pay per view content. Freecast has new devices which can be used directly on your television.
http://freecast.com/

Go Puck (Sarasota, FL)
If your cellular phone, tablet, camera or other devices need a charge while you are on the go.  Go Puck is the wearable power solution made for on the go and active users. With a sturdy exterior and mountable adapters, this versatile business out of Sarasota, Florida has the recharging solution for you.
http://gopuck.com/

NXT-ID  (Melbourne, FL)
NXT-ID is the maker of the Wocket Wallet, a secure single card solution which simplifies using multiple credit/debit cards. With multiple credit cards Wocket Wallet allows a single intelligent “chameleon” card to morph into each of your credit cards.  If that weren’t impressive enough Wocket Wallet has numerous security features to protect your data, including, VoiceMatch biometric access, password storage, phone and web browser integration for online password auto fill. All your data is stored in the encrypted device, not in the cloud.
http://nxt-id.com/

Unikey (Winter Park, FL)
Unikey makes the smart lock technology Kwikset, ERA and Weiser use in their smart locks. With Unikey’s technology, door locks become smart and allow for unlocking via proximity to your mobile device.  The Kwikset Kevo smart lock allows you to simply touch the lock when your smartphone is nearby.  Virtual eKeys can be given to trusted persons via the Kevo app. Kevo also has a phoneless solution with a small electronic keyfob.
http://www.unikey.com/

Over the next few weeks, Central Florida Top 5 will review these companies solutions and other unique experiences at CES.

How to Select Your Best Central Florida Cellular Carrier

Tired of dropped calls and limited coverage in areas around Central Florida? Are you bothered by your cell carriers colored coverage map that clearly states you *should* have signal at home, but you you don’t? Well, there is an analytical way to determine what is the best cellular carrier coverage you will receive at home, work and in any areas you plan frequent in Central Florida and beyond.

Before we dig into how, let’s review some basics behind your most revered gadget… (your cellular phone).

At a very simple level you probably understand the technical marvel you carry with you can transmit and receive radio signals which deliver our phone calls. (We won’t discuss the science of antenna theory or signal propagation in this article). These radio signals are transmitted by cellular towers.

ATT Cell Tower Near Dr. Phillips Water Park Registration #: 1029071 Latitude:  28.4053 Longitude: -81.4890 Structure Type: Tower Status: Constructed Date Constructed: 01/01/1992

ATT Cell Tower Near Dr. Phillips Water Park
Registration #: 1029071
Latitude: 28.4053
Longitude: -81.4890
Date Constructed: 01/01/1992

Each tower has a specific distance which it can transmit. Some towers can transmit many miles. While others can transmit only a few hundred meters. Your ability to connect to the tower and maintain a call is affected by these and many other parameters. A few parameters include; tower network, location, height and transmit power.

A special note about location, due to Central Florida’s terrain, there are very few high elevations. You have noticed there are no mountains nearby. As a result, cell towers compete with building structures and the curved earth.

Cellular signals more or less travel in a straight line. If you imagine the curve ball shaped of earth and an antenna poking out of the ball. A straight line slanted from the top of the antenna eventually touches the horizon.

At the place that the line (which is our cell signal) touches earth is the last point where that signal can be detected (at that elevation). This is called line of sight. Technically a 6 foot tall person could have a better signal than a child with a phone if the signal is limited by the horizon.

Lastly, the magic is affected by the device you use. Some phones have better antenna and radio design, which can maintain a signal better in poor conditions.

 

If you used Nextel and were near Disney you probably connected to

If you used Nextel and were near Disney, you probably connected to this tower.
Filing #: 99-ASO-2054-OE
Latitude: 28.406
Longitude: -81.504
Date Filed: 06/25/1999

Steps to superior signal
You will need a working cell phone to perform and active evaluation. If you don’t have a phone, ask your first prospective carrier if they have loaner or test phones. T-Mobile offers a trial with test phones. If this is not an option there is a web research option too. (Central Florida Top 5 has you covered)

Step 1: Where do you go?

  • No carrier works everywhere. There are places in central Florida where there is no cellular coverage. Many of these places are in rural areas or located near large bodies of water or undeveloped land.
  • There are four major carriers in the United States.
  • They are alphabetically… AT&T, Sprint, T-mobile and Verizon
  • There are other carriers.. however many of them do not operate their own cell towers.
  • They lease tower access for their customers from the larger carriers. (These carriers are called MVNO’s Mobile virtual Carrier Operators.)
  • If signal is your most important attribute above cost, start by noting the places where you spend most of your time. Home, work, gym, stores, restaurants and theme parks.
  • Any place you will be for more than 30 minutes twice a month should be noted and added to a list.

Step 2: Install OpenSignal from your “app store”
http://opensignal.com/android/
http://opensignal.com/iphone/

OpenSignal provides an application which collects actual phone signal strength where cellular users are located.

  • OpenSignal is not new, they have been collecting data for many years and have some of the most accurate real time signal strength data comparisons of all carriers worldwide.
  • Upon opening the app you will see several tabs. You will be most interested in the coverage and stats tab. The coverage page will rate and carrier coverage at your exact location. For some of you… this will be a reality check.
  • Once installed use the phone normally, in the places you listed above. It may be valuable to visit each on a day you have to time to drive around. Otherwise check the app at each location you frequent. OpenSignal will automatically notify you when you don’t have a signal. Therefore you don’t have to constantly open the app. Visiting the stats tab will give some insight into the past hour, day, week or month of coverage.

If you do not have a current cell phone plan, want or installing the application isn’t an option you can perform some manual research via http://opensignal.com/, by entering the addresses you collected in step 1.

For those who want to simply know what carriers OpenSignal has recorded with the best coverage. The top 3 are:

  1. Verizon
  2. T-Mobile
  3. AT&T

http://opensignal.com/index.php?lat=28.4813&lng=-81.3687&initZoom=9&isHeatMap=1

I still recommend you test for your area as this list is an average of the entire Central Florida area.

There are competing applications which provide similar data,  one example which users might find useful is  RootMetrics http://www.rootmetrics.com/   It is certainly useful, but lacks direct comparison and carrier ranking.

Higher Learning and sources

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Line-of-sight_propagation
http://opensignal.com/

 

 

If you have any tips, suggestions or thoughts… post below!

Delaney Park’s New Infill Assisted Living Project Means More Public Parking

By Ken Storey

While much of the focus on new construction has been on the downtown district and the theme parks there are plenty of other areas around Orlando where new construction is happening.  Much of this construction is in-fill projects that many will never see, never realize it’s even there, but slowly but surely these projects combined help add more density to the region.  Some of this local growth is in the fast growing field of assisted living.  As boomers age the nation, and especially Florida, grow the number of options available to them.

CAM03953

Most of these trees will stay but expect an updated sign and some new landscaping

One such important project is the expansion of Delaney Park Health Center.  This assisted living center on the northwestern edge of Delaney Park, near downtown, is undergoing a major expansion that will take the small single story center transforming it into a massive new nursing home.  In the process it will fill in an empty lot to the west of the existing building.  The new addition will more than double the size of the center; now at 20,092 sq ft while the addition will add another 20,648 sq ft.  The new addition will be two-levels with the actual building being mostly on the second floor above a hidden, interior ground level parking area, this area will be equipped with a pay and display parking system which will save everyone lots of time.

Altogether the new addition will add 89-beds to the nursing home.

The new onsite parking will help address the parking issue that has plagued the neighborhood for some time now.  The center now has 27 spaces, with the new addition that number will increase to 57. The plans call for all employees to use the on-site parking freeing up on-street parking that has to this point been one of the few options for nearby parking.  The construction of the expansion will also include 15 new on-street spaces along Annie Street and Bradshow Terrace, those sites will not be able to be reserved for the nursing home opening them up to the community around the nursing home.

With the recent approval of the plans from the City Council permits are now able to be pulled and construction is expected to begin by end of the year.   The construction altogether should take a bit longer than typical construction project due to the medical demands of the project.

CAM03963

In the rendering above you can see the roof line of the current building as its integrated into the new building

CAM03958

This empty lot is where the new addition is going.