Category Archives: Business & Tech

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, is important for people who really into fitness and exercise all the time, and even use supplements, which I also use and this is my recommended HMB brand.

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.

Review | Nintendo Switch Impressions

Hey everyone, Rich Belsan here! It’s been a while since I’ve posted on Central Florida Top 5 but I’m hoping to be back more regularly. I’ve been hard at work on a YouTube project, Over a Beer, where we discuss movies, video games, and everything else pop culture. Jen and I have been trying for a long time to get something going between Central Florida Top 5 and Over A Beer and I’m hoping this will be the start.

Below I’ve posted our latest video where we share our initial impressions of the Nintendo Switch, Nintendo’s newest console. My co-host and I have also put some time into The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, one of the best reviewed games ever, and discuss our earliest thoughts on it.

Woken from a 100-year slumber, Link must explore the wilds to regain his lost memories and save Hyrule.

 

Breath of the Wild Special Edition includes the game, a Nintendo Switch Sheikah Slate Carrying Case, Sheikah Eye Collectible Coin, Relic of Hyrule: Calamity Ganon Tapestry and Weather-Worn Map, and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Sound Selection CD for $99.99. The Master Edition includes all of those items plus a Master Sword of Resurrection figure for $129.99

 

Let us know what you think in the comments below! If you like seeing Over a Beer content here, we’re going to start posting weekly recaps of our video show and our podcasts.

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, get https://www.onesureinsurance.co.uk/van-insurance insurance for your car and feel ten times 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, although so many people still use their graphic cards just to play video games as CSGO, with the help of sites that increase your CSGO rank.  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. You also need to add security to the sites you create, along with the optimization you do on the site, with a Search Engine Optimization Columbus company.

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). How safe is bitcoin? Visit Money Metals for more information.

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.

Look up, Central Florida! Perseids meteor shower TONIGHT!

If you’re outside and looking up tonight, keep an eye out for a Perseids meteor shower! It’s nature’s brightest light show of the summer!

According to NASA, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, when these meteors slam into Earth’s atmosphere, they will be speeding at about 132,000 MPH, and burning bright at around 3,000 to 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit!

Dedicated star gazers will also be able to see Saturn, the moon and Mars too!

Here’s more information from NASA:

Determine Meteor Shower Activity Where You Live
NASA Meteor Estimator

Fast Facts

  • Comet of Origin: 109P/Swift-Tuttle
  • Radiant: Constellation Perseus
  • Active: 17 July — 24 August 2016
  • Peak Activity: 11 — 12 Aug 2016
  • Peak Activity Meteor Count: Up to 100 meteors per hour
  • Meteor Velocity: 37 miles (59 km) per second
Photo Credit: NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Photo Credit: NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

2016 Perseids Forecast
August’s Perseid meteor shower peaks for U.S. observers just after sunrise on Friday morning, August 12. It should also put on a great show this year for observers in Europe, with some predictions showing an outburst of up to 150 or 200 meteors at the peak, according to NASA meteor expert Bill Cooke. U.S. observers will get a great view of the ramp up to the peak between moonset and sunrise on Friday morning, August 12.

About the Meteor Shower
The Perseids, which peak during mid-August, are considered the best meteor shower of the year. With very fast and bright meteors, Perseids frequently leave long “wakes” of light and color behind them as they streak through Earth’s atmosphere. The Perseids are one of the most plentiful showers (50-100 meteors seen per hour) and occur with warm summer nighttime weather, allowing sky watchers to easily view them.

Perseids are also known for their fireballs. Fireballs are larger explosions of light and color that can persist longer than an average meteor streak. This is due to the fact that fireballs originate from larger particles of cometary material. Fireballs are also brighter, with apparent magnitudes greater than -3.

Viewing Tips
The Perseids are best viewed in the Northern Hemisphere during the pre-dawn hours, though at times it is possible to view meteors from this shower as early as 10 p.m

Find an area well away from city or street lights, and if you want, set up where you are shadowed from the moon’s glare before it sets. Come prepared with a sleeping bag, blanket or lawn chair. Face whatever direction you like, the one unobstructed by trees, buildings or moonlight. Look up, taking in as much of the sky as possible. If you have a group, each person should look in different parts of the sky. After about 30 minutes in the dark, your eyes will adapt, and you will begin to see fainter objects, including meteors. Be patient; the show will last until dawn, so you have plenty of time to catch a glimpse.

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?). Putting your business online can be a breeze when you got Fort Worth SEO to back you up. They are professionals and effective at online marketing.

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.

Top 5 Central Florida Businesses at CES

DSC05236

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. SEO services by SEO Brisbane 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.

We Want to Send You to Maker Faire Orlando!

Maker Faire Orlando defines a Maker as “We are parents, students, scientists and garage tinkerers. We are young and old and we share a love for innovation, creativity and inspiring others to make something – anything – as long as it makes people happy.” In short, we are ALL Makers!

Here, people can show off what they are making and share everything they’re learning,” said Candy Cole, President and co-founder of The Maker Effect Foundation. “Our continued expansion will allow even more makers to participate, and others in the community to see and learn from the incredible talents of our neighbors.

The event is even BIGGER this year as the DIY fun expands across Loch Haven Park and over into the Orlando Museum of Art! Via the 2015 press release;

The partnership with the Orlando Museum of Art is a result of the growth of Central Florida’s Maker community. In 2014, Maker Faire Orlando received “featured” status and promotional support from the originator and licensor of Maker Faire events, Maker Media, and expanded to a two-day extravaganza. Maker Faire Orlando is fueled by the local arts community with DIY enthusiasts and families taking part in a celebration of technology, science, arts, crafts, engineering, education, sustainability and much more. 

Thanks to our friends at Maker Faire Orlando, we will be sending four (4) people to experience all 300+ exhibitions of Makertasticness this weekend at Orlando Science Center!

Send an email before 11:59pm EST tonight to info@centralfloridatop5.com, telling us what kind of maker you are and why we should send you to Maker Faire! The top two entries will win a pair of tickets and be featured on our Facebook Page!

ProTip: Never been to Maker Faire Orlando? Check out the Full Event Schedule or download the super handy app (Android | iOS) to plan your day.

Already purchased tickets online? Great! We will see you there! Oh, and if you end up winning the Deltamaker 3D printer, can we come over and play?

And… Did we mention the Custom Cookie Contraption? or the 3D CHOCOLATE PRINTER?!

Here are our Maker Faire Orlando MUST dos (Click on links for scheduling and more info):

The World’s LARGEST (playable) Arcade Game! (15 feet tall)

factur.org

Maker Doug Brown, owner of Factor Labs in Orlando

Learn to Solder and Make a Makey!

20140909_162617-MOTION

FamiLab.org

 

Learn screen printing and MAKE your own t-shirt!

merchmakr.com

Bring your own t-shirt or buy one (while supplies last)!

REALLY cool, LEGO Micro Maker Faire displays by GFLUG!

BxhwreNIQAAw4FJ.jpg-large 20140914_162627_743

 

DOG POWERED ROBOT LABS!

20140913_124033_578

 

Nerdy Derby Recycled Racers!

Orlando Maker Faire Nerdy Derby

 

ABOUT MAKER FAIRE ORLANDO

Maker Faire Orlando began in 2012 as a family friendly showcase of DIY science, art, technology, and hands-on activities. Independent crafters to scientists can share what they are making and learning. Featured at the Orlando Science Center and the Orlando Museum of Art, the event is part of the original Maker Faire held in San Mateo, CA and now also in New York, Atlanta, Detroit, Paris, Rome, Tokyo, and other cities around the world. In all, there are 120 independently organized Mini Maker Faires worldwide.

ABOUT THE MAKER EFFECT FOUNDATION

 The Maker Effect Foundation exists to activate and amplify the efforts of makers as they learn, build and work together in their communities. Their efforts include research, publication, community organization, event production, and startup advisement. The foundation’s community organization and startup efforts are focused on Central Florida, however our research and publication efforts are not limited in scope. The Maker Effect Foundation is a 501(c)(3) public charity

ABOUT ORLANDO SCIENCE CENTER

Located in Orlando, Fla., interactive learning and discovery await within the Science Center’s hundreds of exhibits, programs, labs, films and planetarium shows. The Science Center provides educational opportunities both within and outside its walls including field trips, family science nights at schools and community centers, and other outreach.

Orlando Science Center’s mission is to inspire science learning for life. The Science Center strives to create lasting impacts on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education and develop the next generation of creative innovators. Fully accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, the Science Center ranks as one of the most popular museum destinations in the region. Having served more than 12 million people since its inception in 1955, the Science Center offers rich resources for lifelong learning. 


ABOUT ORLANDO MUSEUM OF ART

Founded in 1924, the Orlando Museum of Art is a 501(c)(3) educational institution whose mission reflects the continued growth of Florida, ardent community support for the arts, and the Museum’s role as a leading cultural institution in the region. Since its inception, the Orlando Museum of Art’s purpose has been to enrich the cultural life of Florida by providing excellence in the visual arts. To meet this objective, the Museum has dedicated itself to collecting, preserving, and interpreting notable works of art; to presenting exhibitions of local, regional, national and international significance; to develop first-rate educational programs; and to presenting creative and inclusive programs to reach every segment of a diverse community.

How I survived a film shoot in the dead of summer with Portacool

Summer may be on its way out but, does it ever really leave? Not here!

For the past seven years I’ve also asked this question; Why does the 48 Hour Film Project Orlando have to take place in August? It’s in the dead of summer, humidity’s at it’s highest. Even when properly hydrated (it’s IMPORTANT, folks!), it’s an absolutely miserable time to spend extended time outdoors.

Portacool on set 3

Director TL Westgate with some familiar faces; Actor Nando Luis Torres and camera op Jay De Los Santos on set of our short film, “Resolution.”

On film shoots, days are long. Depending on the setting and length of your script, you can spend anywhere from eight to sixteen hours on set. When shooting a scene set in the outdoors (aka: an exterior), it can be particularly brutal in the summertime. Here in Central Florida, we don’t have the privilege of the wondrous phenomenon known as “seasons,” like most of you see. Aside from rainy days, we enjoy “Hot” and “Not as Hot” changes in weather. This Central Florida summer was particularly sweltering until mid-August, where I pulled out what will become a dedicated friend for years to come.

Enter Portacool’s Cyclone 3200.

Portacool on set 2

Calm, cool and collected: Portacool’s Cyclone 3200

You ask, “What’s a Portacool?” It’s pretty AWESOME, that’s what it is! And huge thanks to Lee Allport from mysentimentexactlee.com for introducing to me this technology! (She used a bunch of these units to keep her wedding vow renewal party cool.)

Ever hear of evaporative cooling? It’s a concept where air is cooled by added water vapor, unlike an air conditioner which alters the temperature of a space, basically, by refrigerating it in cycles. Confusing?

Think of when you sweat and drink a cold glass of water. Yeah, it’s gross and our involuntary brand of sweat is always unwelcome, but it serves a purpose. The cold water keeps you hydrated and your sweat cools your body. This is kind of how Portacool’s products work except the unit doesn’t ‘sweat’ like your skin. In fact, there’s no liquid mist expelled at all. Just cool air, and enough to cool a 700 square foot area!

Portacool on set 1

Instead of changing his shirt (again), Jay stepped in front of the Cyclone 3200 instead!

Since we were run and gun the weekend of The 48, we didn’t have a whole lot of time to or between setups. We shot in a park, in a parking lot and inside a private residence, and we only had the bulk of Saturday to complete principle photography (aka: get everything shot).

When we landed at our ‘home’ location, I quickly set up the Cyclone in the garage which served as our holding area for actors, crew, craft service (aka: food, drink), babies, etc. I locked the castor wheels, threw on a stinger (extension cord) and the nearest water hose and let the 3200 fill up a bit. Here’s where it got interesting…

Our camera operator (and Central Florida Top 5 contributor) Jay was in direct sunlight most of the shoot, had already drenched one t-shirt and was sweating profusely. According to my smartphone’s thermometer, the temperature got as high as 112 degrees with the Heat Index and humidity this particular location. We took a small break to step into the garage that we luckily had just fixed by http://365GarageDoorRepair.com, and the temperature change was remarkable.

Where the temperature was well over 100 degrees, within a minute of stepping into our Portacooled ‘trailer,’ if you will, the temperature had immediately dropped to the 90s. By the end of the video above, the temperature dropped to a much cooler 85 degrees! That’s a pretty huge difference, and by the end of the break, Jay’s shirt was nearly dry!

Also in the video above, I mention sound. Of course on set during a take, no one talks, so of course it’s probably not best to run the unit then. However, I stood directly in front of the Cyclone 3200 on its higher fan setting and could be heard in the same area just fine by the crew. So for instance, at a pool party or get together, your guests will be louder – guaranteed!

Conclusion: I love this unit!!! For our outdoor filmmaking purposes, Portacool’s Cyclone 3200 was a WONDERFUL addition to our shoot! Setup was a breeze – pun intended. Cooling down an area took very little time, especially in a time crunch. The unit itself weights about 100 pounds (empty) and fit snugly into the back hatch of my mid-sized SUV with room to spare on the left and right sides. I will say though, more side grips are needed. Ideally you’d want two sets of hands to load and unload this into a vehicle. It gets a little tricky solo, especially with my short arms and small hands.

Top 5 reasons to check out Portacool’s Cyclone 3200:

  1. Unit is relatively lightweight and portable
  2. Cools up to 700 sq ft of outdoor space by 30 degrees
  3. No moving parts or special electrical hookups, uses tap water
  4. Castor wheels lock unit in place
  5. Locally available at Home Depot

Get more specs and product line info at Port-a-cool.com or on their social media accounts:

https://www.facebook.com/PortacoolUnits

https://twitter.com/portacoolllc

https://plus.google.com/+portacool/

 

The ‘cool’ kids over at Portacool provided me one of their Cyclone 3200 for this post. All opinions expressed in this post were written by me and are of my own, semi-conscious mind. Thank you Portacool!

 

Goodwill Unveils Solar Array at Oviedo Store to Benefit Local Job Seekers

Earlier this week, Goodwill Industries of Central Florida went green by unveiling a solar array installed on the roof of its Oviedo retail store. As part of Goodwill’s “Solar for Good” initiative, the 140-kW, 12,000-square-foot array will generate cost savings to benefit job training and placement programs.

Orlando-based NovaSol Energy was the project’s developer, and Duke Energy supported the project with a SunSense grant. The 423-panel system will offset an estimated 80 percent of the store’s annual electricity needs. It is also part of Goodwill’s “Made in America” initiative and was manufactured by Suniva in the U.S.

Goodwill plans to compare electricity suppliers and install solar arrays at nine of its locations across Central Florida. Over the next 25 years, the installations are expected to save nearly $5.4 million and divert nearly 59,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Defraying these costs will allow the nonprofit to provide job training and placement to an estimated 42,000 more Central Floridians.

“Sustainability is something we practice every day at Goodwill – turning generous donations from our community into job training and placement opportunities for Central Floridians,” said Bill Oakley, president and CEO of Goodwill Industries of Central Florida. “Generating renewable energy with Solar for Good is the next natural step, and we look forward to serving more job-seekers in our community through this initiative.”

Goodwill CEO Bill Oakley addresses the crowd at the Oviedo retail store

Goodwill CEO Bill Oakley addresses the crowd at the Oviedo retail store

The Oviedo array is Goodwill’s second Solar for Good project. In April 2014, Goodwill installed a 14,000-square-foot rooftop array on its Waterford Lakes Retail Store. Since then, the array has offset approximately 76 percent of the store’s total energy. Between the Waterford Lakes and Oviedo stores, Goodwill’s combined solar capacity is now 293 kW, enough to power over 28 average Floridian homes annually.

“We’re proud to take part in this project and help advance Goodwill’s mission,” said Haseeb Qadri, president and CEO of NovaSol Energy, the project’s developer. “When organizations like Goodwill invest in their own solar resources, it not only benefits their own bottom line, it also lessens the burden on the energy infrastructure, which benefits the entire community.”

NovaSol Energy also installs its solar arrays at no cost to qualifying large-scale commercial clients under a long-term leasing arrangement that provides for relatively flat monthly energy bills.

Duke Energy Florida state president Alex Glenn added, “At Duke Energy, we are looking for ways to help our customers meet their sustainability goals and expand their use of renewable energy. The $130,000 grant we provided will help cover the cost of the solar array and allow the nonprofit to focus more of its funds on its important mission – helping people. We are honored to play a small role in that.” 

For more about the Solar for Good project connect with @goodwillcfl and @dukeenergy or follow #solarforgood.

Nominations Open for Women’s Executive Council Awards

In the early 1970s, Orlando had just welcomed Walt Disney World to the business landscape. The Martin Marietta (now Lockheed Martin) plant had just opened. The Orlando International Airport was still the McCoy Air Force Base.

The landscape was different then, and women (who had only recently begun to play a major role in the workplace) were largely unrecognized for their contributions to business and the community.

In 1972, Dot Estes Ellis founded the Women’s Executive Council (WEC) in hopes of bringing the executive and professional women who worked in downtown Orlando into the conversation with the Orlando Central Business District (OCBD — now known as the Downtown Orlando Partnership).

Along with their male colleagues from OCBD, WEC members worked with the city and an architectural firm in order to construct mini-parks, plant trees along Orange Avenue, and beautify the downtown. They lead citywide events such as Orlando’s birthday celebrations and the annual Health Day.

The same year they were founded, the WEC held their inaugural Women’s Achievement Awards — an event which continues to the present day, honoring outstanding Central Florida women in Arts, Business, Community Service, Education, Government, Technology, Communications/Media, Emerging Achievers, and the Central Florida Woman of the Year.

Last year's WEC award recipients

Last year’s WEC Women’s Achievement Award recipients

Past recipients include Barbara Jenkins of Orange County Public Schools, Diana Bolivar of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Mayor Teresa Jacobs of Orange County, former Orlando Mayor Glenda Hood, Pamela Landwirth of Give Kids the World, and many more. (View all honorees since 2010 here.)

On September 28th, the 43rd annual Women’s Achievement Awards will be held to acknowledge women who are making a difference in Central Florida. In addition to the awards, WEC’s annual scholarship recipients will be announced. These scholarships are issued to deserving women who are entering or attending one of the colleges in our region.

Do you know a woman who deserves to be nominated for a Women’s Executive Council achievement award? Nominations will be accepted until July 31st. Submit your nomination today on the WEC website!  

 

Beta Builds and Brews at The Geek Easy

What started as a one-off for students of Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy to test their games is quickly becoming the must-attend event for Orlando’s thriving indie gaming community. Kenny Baker, a student in UCF’s FIEA program, partnered with A Comic Shop’s Geek Easy in May to give fellow students a chance to get the games they’re working on into the hands of the public.  May’s event packed The Geek Easy with 150 attendees!

I got the opportunity to attend their June event, which featured two more FIEA games and two games from local developers, Astro Crow and Depth First Games.  The Geek Easy is the perfect place for an event like this as it’s already a hot spot for Orlando’s geek and gamer communities and their bar keeps the event light and relaxed.

Once the developers are set up and the night is in full swing, each development team gets the opportunity to come onto the stage and talk about their game.  So far, each event has only had four or five games, which means you can get a chance to test them all with ease and have enough time with each game to give the developers the feedback they need.

July’s event is set for the 8th and it’s going to bring back the five FIEA games that they’ve featured previous.  It’s their chance to get these games back into your hands “so they can show you the changes you’ve helped them make!”

BBB July

I got to talk with Kenny Baker about the future of Beta Builds & Brews and he told me his inbox is full of local developers looking to take part.  Nothing has been announced as of yet but August is shaping up to be all games from local developers.  “There’s plenty of talent here.” he told me as we discussed the Orlando gaming community and trying to get it more recognition.

I love Beta Builds & Brews and can’t wait to see how it continues to grow.  Not only is it a great opportunity to get games in the hands of the public, but it’s also a great place to network for developers and for people trying to get into game development.

You can check out their facebook page here and if you want to contact Kenny about getting your game featured, you can email him at Kenny@betabuildsandbrews.com.

Welcome to Artegon Marketplace, Gods & Monsters!

Are you a Marvel or a DC? Old School or New School Whovian? White Walkers, Imperial Walkers, or The Walking Dead? Doesn’t matter what your nerd niche is, Gods & Monsters has you covered.

Orlando’s newest (and largest) comics shop opened at Artegon Marketplace on June 13, 2015, and I’ve already gotten that wrong, because calling Gods & Monsters “just” a comics shop does it a massive disservice.  On their website, they call themselves “the evolution of the pop culture retail experience,” and to be quite honest, I can’t think of a better way to describe it.  The massive, 18,898 square-foot space includes the Transmetropolitan Gallery (a spot for local artists to showcase pop-culture themed work) and the Offworld L.O.U.N.G.E. (a great lounge area to relax, eat, and play tabletop games).

The grand opening was a 12-hour mini-comicon, starting with the ceremonial ribbon-cutting at 10:00 a.m., and continuing all day with appearances by cosplay models, aerial silk artists, a performance by Phantasmagoria, costume contest, and a silent auction raising funds to benefit Hero Initiative. Face painting! Local artists! Balloon art! It was an event that simply can’t be put into words.

My favorite part of Gods & Monsters so far is simply the attention to detail.  When I said they have everything covered, I meant it.  If there’s something you’re into, be it comics, games, or just about any kind of sci-fi or fantasy property, you’ll find it represented at Gods and Monsters.  I gasped out loud when I saw a collection of Dragonlance novels, only a few feet from a handful of Soujourn trade paperbacks.

Dragonlance

My own copies are a little more worn than these are.

Soujourn

Am I the only person who was happy to see Sojourn and Ruse get a brief second life after CrossGen when Marvel bought the properties? Just me? Okay.

sign

Even the warning signs are cheeky.

With its prime location at the Artegon Marketplace, Gods & Monsters is bound to become a popular tourist destination, and fits in wonderfully with the space there.  But locals, don’t let the tourists have all the fun.  Gods & Monsters has great potential as a hangout, especially once the promised noodle bar opens in the Offworld L.O.U.N.G.E.  Ramen and Cards Against Humanity? Count me in!

Unboxing IndieBox: Orlando’s Independent Video Game Subscription Box!

Subscription boxes are hugely popular right now.  They’ve gone from being filled with just general pop culture merchandise to being focused to specific genres and themes.  Hell, even Marvel has one now too.  But when you have a lot of people trying to cash in on the same idea, you get companies who decide to do something different and really stand out.  And that’s exactly IndieBox does.

Orlando-based IndieBox chooses one downloadable video game a month and builds a physical collector’s box around it.  All the games they choose must be available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.  They need a rating on Steam of at least 75 or at least an 8.0 on IndieDB.  All of their boxes have a DRM-free copy of the game, USB game cartridge, a soundtrack, and a color manual.  But each box also has different items themed around the games like pins, stickers, and various physical goodies.

As somebody who still buys games physically, I love this idea. Even when you buy physical games, their boxes have nothing inside but the game disc.  IndieBox captures the nostalgia of buying games in the 80s and 90s and understands the lost art of the video game manual.  And I can only imagine how cool this is on the developer side whose game is only available in a downloadable form.

I got to stop by IndieBox in preparation for this article and they’re a small team, consisting of only five people on staff at the moment.  The company started in a living room, quickly grew out of that, and after a little more than a year you can tell they’re outgrowing the shared office space where they’re currently set up.  Their box for May, Dyscourse, is their 13th box at the time of writing this, they’ve hit 1,300 subscribers.

dysc_mock_large_1024

But how is such small company able to reach and fulfill orders for so many people?   Over the weekend before their box ships, they open themselves up to the community and throw a Boxing Party.  You get to come out to their offices and help them package and ship out their boxes.  By coming out and helping, you’ll get a fed, paid, and a free box!  If you keep up with them on Facebook, you can find out how to attend each month’s Boxing Party.

IndieBox also recently partnered with two successful Kickstarter campaigns.  Toejam and Earl: Back in the Groove (that I was a backer of) was funded back in March and IndieBox will be putting together their Kickstarter Exclusive Boxed Game Set.  Steamroller Studies, also located here in Orlando, successfully completely the Kickstarter campaign for their new game, Deadwood: The Forgotten Curse, and IndieBox will be putting together the physical copy for the game as well.  And their reach doesn’t stop there.  In April they partnered with Humble Bundle and released a box dedicated to tabletop gaming.

I can’t say enough how much I love this service and what they’re doing for the indie gaming community.  They’ve grown a lot in a year and I’m excited to see where they’ll be in another year.  You can keep up with them on Facebook and Twitter and even watch them stream games on their Twitch channel. Oh, and if you’re at PAX Prime in August, stop by and say hi!

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!

Exclusive Behind the Door Tour of Orlando’s Gods and Monsters

Co-founder Todd Fisher took Central Florida Top 5 on an exclusive tour of the first ever Gods & Monsters which opens on June 13th at the growing Artegon Marketplace! This new, revolutionary pop culture retail experience (and soon to be a not-at-all-secret cool geek headquarters) has been generating quite a buzz online with both nerds and n00bs. Unlike a third of our new Top 5 writers, I was unfamiliar with ‘geek culture’ before going in and honestly a little intimidated! Thankfully Todd Fisher, his business partner Anna and Mr. Online Sales Guy were very welcoming, friendly and super excited to show us around the space.

Gods & Monsters Logo

Many may be familiar with the phrase (or even song by Lana Del Rey) ‘Gods and Monsters’ in one way or another, but how did Orlando’s Gods & Monsters come to be? “Anna, my partner, and I have been in the retail genre game for… ever! I helped run ACME Superstore in Longwood for almost fifteen years, and she’s done her part in the local art community running galleries for just as long,” Todd said.

The timing couldn’t have been more perfect for both. “It was weird, we both got out of our current jobs at the same time an saw the potential for a team up. Just like in the comic books, ‘Wondertwin powers activate!’ She saw the potential of what I could bring to the table, and I saw the same. We decided to join forces and try something a little different than what a lot of places are currently bringing to market. A classier version of the current comic book store model.

GnM1

Side of Artegon Marketplace will look dramatically different on June 13th!

It’s a nearly 20,000 square foot space. It’s an enormous amount of space. We were originally looking at something much, much smaller and, frankly, more manageable… maybe 7,000 square foot. This awesome space kind of fell into our lap at a great deal and we couldn’t pass it up. It was too good to not to take the shot. I really think that the way we’re approaching it – with four separate business models under one roof – I think it can work.

Top 5 things to expect from the Gods & Monsters Grand Opening event on June 13th?

  • Live silk arialists
  • Phantasmagoria (created by our own John DiDonna!) will be performing
  • Tons of local cosplayers and a few secret cosplay celebrities
  • John Cerabino will reveal his new costume build (it’s a surprise)
  • Visiting artists including James Hance of Relentlessly Cheerful Art

Being an infrequent or first time visitor to such a place might make one feel like an outsider. Not so with Gods & Monsters. Everyone is welcome! They hope to be a community hub for all, whether you may be a reader, gamer, collector, fanboy or fangirl. “With a place like us and what we’re about is ALL about community,” Todd says. “Especially in the last several years, we’ve seen a huge upswing in the nerd community being more comfortable with itself. With it being such a staple on tv programming and movies, comic books are cool! When I was in elementary school it was decidedly uncool to be into comics and toys and all that stuff.

What happened? What event over time caused such a Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion nerdaissance? “Something happened in the last twenty years or so that really galvanized the nerd community and brought us together. ‘In our numbers we are stronger,’ “ Todd explains. “They say the geek shall inherit the Earth and… here we are. Obviously we see a potential to bring a community together and, hopefully, that translates to prosperity. It’s symbiotic; I think that we can bring them something and they can keep us afloat to keep giving them things. I’m very hopeful!

The plight of the small business owner is not lost on the team at Gods and Monsters. “It’s been nothing but constant frustration,” Todd says with a laugh.“We were set to open back in November but every kind of possible permitting issue or stumbling block – every possible thing that could possibly go wrong, went wrong. Murphy’s Law… what’s that Nietzsche quote? ‘Everything that doesn’t kill you makes you stronger?’ I am SO POWERFUL right now!

Tour time! If you can’t bear spoilers, DO NOT READ FURTHER. With 20,000 square feet under their ultility belts, they’ve got a ton of space to fill with nerdy goodness. This is a complete guided tour, so if you have fifteen minutes to spare, watch the video below for the turn-by-turn tour of the entire space front to back!

When you enter the front doors, if you turn around and look up you will see a very large mural by Orlando artist Earl Funk featuring Marvel characters; Rocket Raccoon, Spider-Man, Doc Ock, M.O.D.O.C., Storm and more.

Instagram: @EarlFunk

Orlando artist Earl Funk works on a large mural above the front doors

Turning back around, to the right you will see an Arkham Asylum themed register area. Even the experience in checkout will have really cool interactive components, which we won’t spoil for you. (Ok, it’s REALLY cool and Todd describes it in more detail in the video around the six minute mark.)

GnM Retail

Hard work is being put in by the Gods & Monsters team

In the middle of Gods and Monsters lives a vast retail staging area with lit showcases, toy kiosks and more. “We’ll have your toys, your statues, Hot Toys, Sideshow, Kotobukiya… I’m trying to get the stuff that not every place locally carries, to be that destination for the higher end stuff. And, to showcase that stuff with an eye towards respect that I think that product deserves. A lot of this stuff is art. This will give people an opportunity to see it in good lighting, properly displayed and the bonus is you can take that stuff home with you. That could be IN your home.”

Next is the Gotham themed New Comics and Kids section, both of which will take up a good portion of the right side wall. “We’ll have as wide a selection as I can muster of trade paperbacks on these really awesome (themed) pillar displays.”

Toward the back of the store is The Offworld L.O.U.N.G.E, a concession bar inspired by the Ridley Scott film BladeRunner. “At the beginning of the film he (Harrison Ford as Decker) is getting noodles at the White Dragon Noodle Bar, and we’re trying to theme it as closely to that as we can.” Yes, a noodle bar is also planned!

On the back wall will be a DJ booth/AV section for store atmosphere. Also, in this back section of the store will be themed gaming rooms (three sci-fi, three fantasy), a stage setup with projection and table seating for the concession area. A wall will separate this area from the front of the store and will have mood lighting that can be customized to any tournament, event, concert or gathering.

On the back left hand side of Gods and Monsters will live a fantasy themed gaming retail area that will be fully stocked with cards, dice and other gaming accessories. A large apparel section will neighbor this area; just look for the really cool cosmos, space themed mural. “Not a whole lot of places I find put a lot of money or floor space into an apparel section, and I think… people need clothes. I’m a big fan,” Todd says dryly. A big selection of hats, logo tees, socks and maybe even pajamas will go here.

To the left of the apparel section will be two VIP rooms; one fantasy themed (closer to the gaming area), one sci-fi themed (closer to the side entrance). What’s that you say? A second entrance? Yep! “With the addition of a separate, outside entrance we can do our midnight openings, we can stay open late. Once our concession area opens in January or February, we’ll have beer and wine and can do late night events. We’re very excited about that!” (Oh, and you’ll enter the VIP rooms through a full size TARDIS from Doctor Who!)

The Transmetropolitan Gallery will showcase the work of artists in Central Florida and internationally!

The Transmetropolitan Gallery will showcase the work of artists in Central Florida and internationally!

Heading back to the front entrance is a 1,000 foot ‘high end nerd gallery’ called The Transmetropolitan Gallery, which will showcase original artwork, high value toys, comics and memorabilia. Comic and graphic novel readers will recognize two of the co-owners – Warren Ellis, after whom the gallery is named, and Neil Gaiman, author of the Sandman series among many other works.

ProTip: Neil Gaiman’s wife is Amanda Palmer. She gave THIS amazing TED Talk.

Also with this space comes a great opportunity for Central Florida artists to showcase their work. “We will be accepting submissions to put before a jury to vote on which pieces each month go up. Unless it’s a solo show, or celebrity comic artist show, which we’re planning to do several times a year. Not really (any) restrictions on medium types,” says Anna Young, Co-Founder of Gods & Monsters and Curator of the gallery.

Todd rocks

Co-Owner Todd Fisher, “It’s not always about the money… It’s about sharing this.”

We had to leave you with this great thought from Todd. If there’s one unforgettable takeaway from this post, this is definitely it: “Even if you’ve never picked up a comic in your life, we’re going to make sure – if we have to just give it to you – that you’re going to leave with a comic book in your hand. I want every day to be like Free Comic Book Day,” Todd shares. “It’s not always about the money. It’s not always about taking home a paycheck. It’s about sharing this. It’s about opening up (to) people who haven’t been exposed to this or don’t know the joy of opening up a comic book… or just don’t ‘get’ it. I want them to ‘get’ it. Our mission in all of this is to turn people on to comics, toys and to just show off the space and say ‘Look what you’ve been missing! Come! Let me show you this cool thing!‘”

Note to Artists: Submissions may be sent online or through Gods & Monsters’ Facebook page or by emailing anna(at)godmonsters.com with photos and info for the work submitted.

 

Gods & Monsters is located at 5250 International Drive, Suite E8, Orlando, FL 32819 (inside Artegon Marketplace).

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/godmonsters

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/GodsMonsters_FL

Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/godsandmonstersorlando

Orlando Tech Association Invited to White House’s First Tech Meetup

Central Florida is known for a few specific areas of industry on the global level, and our high-tech industry is at the top of that list. Big companies like Electronic Arts, Siemens, L-3 Communications, Raytheon and Voxx International are in our backyard. Did you know that Florida, specifically Orlando, is the number one destination for Modeling, Simulation, Training in THE WORLD? Just as Florida has a Tourism Corridor, we also have a Tech Corridor that is on top of the game and ever expanding. Great news for our community, right?

Photo Credit: White House Office of Science and Technology Policy

Photo Credit: White House Office of Science and Technology Policy

Want to hear more great news? The White House (you know, the big one in Washington, D.C.) is having its first ever Tech Meetup this Friday and our own Orlando Tech Association has been personally invited to attend by Megan Smith, our United States Chief Technology Officer! Currently, there are over 30,000 tech meetups across the country, so to be handpicked as one of them is a pretty big deal.

Ok. It’s a HUGE deal!

Orlando Tech Association is a community-built organization made up of Orlando’s top technology entrepreneurs and leaders with the purpose of connecting, promoting and fostering the growth of technology companies in Orlando. Through its monthly meetup events, hackathons and developer days dedicated to demonstrate the latest and greatest innovations in hardware and software, OTA is quickly becoming THE tech community catalyst.

They even host a week’s worth of informational sessions, demonstrations, networking opportunities and parties called Orlando Tech Week – and the #TechTakeover is happening THIS WEEK, around Downtown Orlando! Check out the schedule here: http://week.orlandotech.org/#schedule.

Top 5 Recommends:

Orlando Tech Week

The White House’s inaugural Tech Meetup has a few goals, a Top 5 list of questions if you will, to collectively ponder:

  • Share best practices
  • Scale outreach and inclusion efforts
  • Find ways to help more Americans join in on our #InnovationNation
  • Brainstorm on how to engage more young people
  • “Upgrade” the ability to include everyone generally in tech and innovation

Chief Technology Officer Smith says, “We also know that more Americans need to plug into the new interconnected ecosystems we live in, to surface their talents, and connect them to opportunities they deserve, and we know that there are more ways than ever to leverage networks and technology to improve lives. We have a lot of work to do to bridge connections and ensure all of our neighbors can participate.

Can’t make it to the White House? You can still join the conversation on social media through the hashtags #WHMeetup and #orlandotech, as well as watching LIVE this Friday, 9am to 12pm, via WhiteHouse.gov/Live.

Congratulations Orlando Tech Association!!

GamerGuy Review | Ori and the Blind Forest Review

In his debut review, please welcome our newest Top 5 writer, Gerald, our resident Gamer Guy!

Ori and the Blind Forest

A brutal and beautiful adventure.

The opening of Ori and the Blind Forrest and subsequent 15 minutes can be summed up into that single sentence. A brutal and beautiful adventure. For fans of Super Metroid from the Super Nintendo days or the PlayStation Castlevania Symphony of the Night will love this wordless yet awe inspiring platforming tale. Playing as the wispy and nimble Ori your adventure takes you through a huge vibrant, lush and colorful forest with an amazing orchestral soundtrack that brings everything to life. The controls are simple yet elegant and watching little Ori maneuver through the many levels is satisfying.

Ori Blind Forrest 1

 

Story has a great storybook feel as subtitles come up with a narrator who chants along in an unknown language. Story is about the renewal of a ravaged forest that Ori may or may not be directly tied to. It’s the details of the story that really sell you, like a certain creature that runs off with an important object. It’s not the lack of voice driven story that sells it but the behavior of the creature as you chase it through the forest levels above and the undergrowth below.

Ori Blind Forrest 3

Playing Ori is always fun running through the forest bounding off the platforms or diving into the many pools of water looking for power ups and health orbs. You obtain a fire orb that hovers with you and lets you shoot blasts to destroy obstructions or creatures tainted by the dark that has taken hold. I found myself many times bounding and jumping through the many levels just to see the Ori animations.

Ori Blind Forrest 2

With the need for upgrades to access more levels of the forest you find yourself doing a bit backtracking to clear previously inaccessible areas of the game. I find it worth it however because every new area uncovered only adds to the increasingly beautiful back drop. Also check out Armchair Empire for all your gaming accessories.

 

Platform: Xbox One, PC (& Xbox 360 soon)

Player(s): 1

Developer: Moon Studios

Publisher: Microsoft Studios

Genre: Platform

ESRB Rating: E (Everyone)

Release Date: March 11, 2015

Good Morning Winter Park: UCF Downtown Update

Good people of Winter Park, have you ever attended a “Good Morning Winter Park” gathering?

In case you weren’t aware, Good Morning Winter Park is a free, open to the public monthly gathering which includes a complimentary continental breakfast. This gathering is held on the second Friday of each month (upcoming schedule below). Chamber members, residents and community leaders discuss important, timely topics with rotating guest speakers to gain new community perspectives on community issues.

This month’s topic is all about the new UCF Downtown expansion! Learn more about it and hear from key leaders of the University of Central Florida about the current process of program decisions, next steps and their timeline.

Good Morning Winter Park Logo

When: Friday, April 10th, 2015 at 7:45am (networking), 8:15am (program)

Where: Winter Park Welcome Center, 151 Lyman Ave, Winter Park, FL 32789

Topic: UCF Downtown Update

Scheduled Speakers include:

  • Paul Lartonoix, Assistant Vice Provost, UCF
  • Fred Kittinger, Senior Associate VP of University Relations & Director of State and Local Gov’t Affairs, UCF
  • Mike Kilbride: UCF

2015 Upcoming Program Dates:

  • May 8
  • June 12
  • July 10
  • August 14
  • September 11
  • October 9
  • November 13
  • December 11

Trader Joes in Dr Phillips to open April 10th!

Trader Joes DP Ext

It’s no April Fools joke, Orlando. You’re finally getting your own Trader Joe’s on April 10th! The 48 (or 57) year old market chain is ready to share its Cookie Butter goodness with fans on Restaurant Row!

Trader Joes DP Map

Credit: Trader Joe’s

 

Firstly, for those who have visited Orlando’s first Trader Joe’s in Winter Park, you are already familiar with some of the challenges they’ve had with parking. Happy news for those wondering, YES!! The parking lot is bigger at the Dr. Phillips Trader Joe’s than at its sister store. Also, it’s a lot easier to enter/exit from from the two entrances from Sand Lake Road! Most locations are small but we think they learned a little about our area since opening last summer

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Historically, Trader Joe’s is committed to being a good neighbor. In that charitable spirit, every Trader Joe’s store cements roots firmly into the community in which they are located. The Dr. Phillips location is no different. With a hat tip to not only sunny Orlando, but also to local citrus pioneer Dr. Phillip Phillips, the Dr. Phillips Trader Joe’s welcomes you with a mural enriched in Vitamin C!

Trader Joes Dr Phillips

ProTip: Make sure to sign up for the Fearless Flyer, Trader Joe’s newsletter delivered right to your inbox (E-mail and/or USPS) to keep up with the latest TJ products and local events!

Also, inside this particular location are cool little ‘Orlando‘ themed easter eggs, including a great shout out to new neighbor The Orlando Eye!

 

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Will you be there bright and early on opening day, April 10th at 8am? What’s on your TJ shopping list? My Top 5 favorites are:

*I’m not a ‘sweets’ person and even I love Cookie Butter. Not a lot of it, but just enough.
**As Uncle Jesse would say, “Have mercy!” This ice cream is just ridiculous…ly tasty!!

Tech | Comcast NBCUniversal 24 Hour Hackathon in Orlando

It’s the middle of the summer. The queue at your favorite Universal Orlando attraction is at least ninety minutes and ten miles long. What does one do with oneself to occupy all that time? That’s one of several questions tech creatives hoped to help NBCUniversal Media Labs answer at this weekend’s 24 hour hackathon at the Portofino Bay Hotel at Universal Orlando Resort. Imagine coding for a solid 24 hours, starting at noon on Saturday and ending at noon on Sunday. For those of you who are not technically inclined, I’m sure there’s not enough Visine nor caffeinated beverages in Florida to assist in such tasks!

The hackathon set forth six challenges;

Universal Studios Parks and Resorts Marketing Challenge: Use mobile (emphasis on wearable), geolocation and IoT technologies to attract nearby consumers in Orlando and Hollywood.

Universal Studios Parks and Resorts Technology Challenge: Enhance in-park experience of visually impaired guests using native platform on Android or iOS plus tech from the attractions themselves or preexisting in-park tech, especially with Universal Orlando Mobile app integration.

Universal Studios Parks and Resorts Creative Challenge: Enhance queue wait while keeping guest immersed in the story.

Universal Studios Parks and Resorts Entertainment Challenge: Use Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, beacons, geofencing, audio watermarking and RFID [Radio Frequency Identification] to create compelling content to interact and fully immerse guests. (Don’t get the difference between Virtual and Augmented Reality? Let MKBHD explain…)

Telemundo Challenge: Bring Telemundo’s award shows, sporting events and more to Hispanic audience using a 360 experience on multiple platforms.

GolfNow Challenge: Use GolfNow’s tee times API [Application Programming Interface] to target and engage appropriate users of expiring tee times and incentivize them to book through discounts, notification, social integration, etc.

Judges naturally included Universal Orlando Parks and Resorts, Universal Creative and Golf Channel executives, as well as Factur Board Member (and big time coffee lover) John Soucy and Sanjay Macwan, Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer of NBCUniversal Media Labs.

Teams of Orlando’s tech community brightest like the fabulous Willa Riggins and team from FamiLab, Necole Pynn from Canvs, teammate Andrew Kozlik, Caesar Abueg, Kunal Patel, Andres Aranguibel, Carl Dungca and friend of Top 5 Josh Murdock (aka: Professor Josh).

Who won? What did they win? Your answers are below…

Winners List:

  • Parks Marketing Challenge: Team SorcerAr (Prize: $1,500, 4 UOR Annual Passes)
  • Parks Technology Challenge: Team USense (Prize: $1,500)
  • Parks Creative Challenge: Team Malignant Monsters (Prize: $1,500) CONGRATS NECOLE & ANDREW!
  • Parks Entertainment Challenge: Team Wandah (Prize: $1,500) CONGRATS FAMILAB!
  • Telemundo Challenge: Team Interactivo (Prize: $1,500, XBOX One + Kinect, FIFA 15, Samsung Gear VR)
  • GolfNow Challenge: Team Golf Bid (Prize: $1,500, exclusive tour of Golf Channel Studios, 1 yr premium subscription to GolfNow, 1 Golf Channel/GolfNow prize pack)
  • Grand Prize: Team SorcerAr