The Gadgets Page

January 23, 2015

pplkpr: People Keeper Wearable Tech

Filed under: Wearable Tech — Laura Moncur @ 8:00 am

What if an app could tell you which people you should avoid and which people you should see more often? That is the concept behind pplkpr. It’s an app that works with your smart watch (like the Mio) that monitors your heart rate when you are meeting with friends and gives you feedback.

pplkpr from Kyle McDonald on Vimeo.

My biggest objection to this would be if I had to wear an ADDITIONAL bracelet to get this data, but if it works with a smart watch that I already own, then that would be information that would actually HELP me. I don’t already own a Mio, however, so I can’t test with the heart rate functions. I can, however, manually add the information, so I think I’ll give it a try.

I’m interested to see how this works…

January 20, 2015

Magzter: It’s Great If You Like Elle India

Filed under: eBook Readers and Peripherals,PDAs and Phones,Software — Laura Moncur @ 8:00 am

It sounds like a great deal, doesn’t it? All you have to do is download the Magzter app, pay the $9.99 a month fee and you can have access to over 2000 magazines and comics!

But I’ve been burned before… so I looked at the list of magazines and I thought I found paradise. All of my favorites were listed on their website! I got so excited.

Magzter It's Great If You Like Elle India from The Gadgets Page

I added the magazines and signed up for the Gold account. Then I tried to download one of my favorites. Oh… that one isn’t included on the Gold account. Oh well, I’ll try another one… That one isn’t included either. Sure, it LOOKS like I can read the magazine, but the only thing that downloads is a preview issue that has about 6-10 pages from the latest issue.

Okay… well… what magazines ARE included?

When I went to the Gold Magazines and chose the ones from the U.S., there were only 34 magazines. THIRTY-FOUR. Not even one magazine in my favorites was included. NOT ONE. When I allowed the magazines to be from any country and chose the ones that were in English, there were a bunch more added to the total, but I’m really not interested in reading Elle India or New Zealand Women’s Fitness.

So, yet again, I cancelled the introductory subscription and deleted the app. Why do I keep falling for these things?

Via: Magzter launches “all you can read” magazine subscription for $9.99 per month | TUAW: Apple news, reviews and how-tos since 2004

January 19, 2015

3D-Printed Prosthetic Arm: E-nabling The Future Gives Hope

Filed under: Misc. Gadgets — Laura Moncur @ 8:00 am

I had NO idea that this was happening:

There is an entire community of people who are designing 3D printed arms for children who are missing limbs. THIS!!! This is the reason why 3D printers are important. This is why they are going to change the world, not all that Cory Doctorow stuff. Being able to print up a prosthetic arm for your child and when he grows up a bit, being able to print up a bigger one is AMAZING!!

It’s all because of E-nabling The Future:

They have a variety of designs available online here:

THIS is the future that I want to see of 3D printing, not silly little toys and gadgets. THIS changes childrens’ lives!

Via: 3D-Printed Prosthetic Arm Inspired by Star Wars | POPSUGAR Tech

January 18, 2015

Tilt Shift Generator App

Filed under: Cameras,Software — Laura Moncur @ 8:00 am

Tilt Shift Generator App Review on Starling FitnessLONG ago, I bought the Tilt Shift Generator App. It is one of my favorite apps to use to create beautiful pictures.

I mostly use it to add a little pizzaz to a normal photo, rather than making a tilt shift photo. For example, I recently earned my one year chip at Overeaters Anonymous and talked about it on Starling Fitness. Here is the photo for that entry in its original form.

BEFORE Tilt Shift Generator from The Gadgets Page

And here it is with the tweaks from Tilt Shift Generator.

OA Abstinence Chips from Starling Fitness

I really liked how the selective focus on the one year chip really made it stand out. That little extra makes a photo even better at times.

I have been using this app for well over five years and I absolutely adore it. If you are looking for a quick way to make your photos look just a tad bit better, this is a great app for you, and at only 99 cents, it’s a great deal!

January 17, 2015

WhatsApp Messaging

Filed under: Software — Laura Moncur @ 8:00 am

WhatsApp Review from The Gadgets PageWhat if you had unlimited messaging, photo messaging and voice messaging and it was all free? Some people don’t have that on their phone plan. Or some people regularly need to talk to people internationally. I actually have an app that provides this for me called WhatsApp.

Here’s a quickie review of it from Cult of Mac. This review is almost a year old, but it’s a good introduction.

I like that it works on wifi, without sucking down my data or minutes. Additionally, there is a way to send voice messages. By holding down the microphone on the right, you can record a message and send it, just like phone messaging. This has been SO helpful to me because there is one person who I need to call and leave a message every day, but her phone is a nightmare. Sometimes the voice mail comes. Sometimes I just get a weird silence and no way to leave a message. I have NEVER had this trouble with WhatsApp.

I have always shied away from apps like this because I HAVE voice messaging on my phone. I HAVE text messaging on my phone. It’s just like iMessage… except ONE important thing…

Whomever I’m talking to doesn’t have to have an iPhone. This app works on iOS, Android, Blackberry, Nokia, Symbian AND Windows phones. Whatever your friend has, they can message, voice and photo message with you for FREE.

January 16, 2015

iPad Smart Cover Display

Filed under: eBook Readers and Peripherals — Laura Moncur @ 8:00 am

This is a really cool display that shows the smart covers for iPad:

Via: Clever Apple Store window display | TUAW: Apple news, reviews and how-tos since 2004

January 15, 2015

Utah Department of Employment Security and Their RCA Spectra 70

Filed under: Retro Gadgets — Laura Moncur @ 12:00 pm

A while back, I wrote an entry about some photos I found in an antique store:

Back then, I guessed that these pictures were from the Corporate Office for the computer company itself:

If you notice, the 1965 brochure doesn’t mention a Salt Lake City office, but the 1968 brochure does. Considering that RCA stopped selling the Spectra70 in 1970, I suspect these photos are from the opening of the Salt Lake City office.

I was WRONG! I am so lucky, because Mike Dodas, who worked at the Utah Department of Employment Security during the 70s recognized the people in the photos! He emailed me and I asked him a ton of questions. Here is his response!

December 15, 2014

Dear Laura,

I was very happy to hear back from you! It’s really great to be able to talk to someone about these systems from the past with someone who is interested. I guess I’ll start with your questions, first. In those early days, we were the Utah Department of Employment Security, which was abbreviated (nation-wide) to Job Service. Today it is the Utah Department of Workforce Service. I will refer to it as Job Service.

RCA Spectra 70 UT Department of Employment Security from The Gadgets Page

I happened across your photos as I was looking for information on vintage mainframe computers. I was really stunned to see them. There’s very little out there on RCA systems. IBM’s dominance was so great, it’s no wonder why the other competitors dropped out of the market.

RCA Spectra 70 UT Department of Employment Security Edna Smith from The Gadgets Page

The woman in the pictures you asked about was in charge of the entire ADP (ITS) department. Her name was Edna Smith. And your perception of her being a rock star was a pretty good observation. I admired her a great deal. Her appearance was always as lovely, every day, as she looks in the photos. She started with Job Service in the mid 1940′s and retired in the late 1970′s. Edna came through the ranks through the years. Some of the early “advanced” work she did was hand-wiring the boards that ran the old unit record equipment, like the punched card collator and reproducer, which was still in heavy use at the time I started. She ran a tight ship and had an impeccable reputation within the U.S. Department of Labor and other state Job Service organizations.

RCA Spectra 70 UT Department of Employment Security from The Gadgets Page

Most of the people in the photos are employees of Job Service and a few of the others are RCA reps. They have all passed on, some of them many years ago. A few of the people in the photos are individuals I worked with for quite a long time. I don’t know much prior to the Spectra/45′s, but I think Job Service used an IBM 1401 system. The first system I had exposure to was an IBM 1130, a very small system.

RCA Spectra 70 UT Department of Employment Security Edna Smith from The Gadgets Page 1

The photos you have appear to be the very early installation. I would suspect that it was just in the process of being staffed and programmed. What the photos don’t show is that a little later on, that same room would contain an additional Spectra/45 system plus additional equipment. So there were actually a pair of Spectra/45′s. I think RCA considered our installation somewhat of a flag-ship, as they dedicated a full-time engineer to our site, who later became a full-time employee of Job Service.

RCA Spectra 70 UT Department of Employment Security from The Gadgets Page

This system primarily came about because of a grant the Utah Job Service was given by the U.S. Department of Labor to develop an automated job placement system. Not only was this accomplished, but we also were doing something very rare at the time–on-line terminal communications. The local offices could access client information from a terminal at all of our local offices. This was a very advanced function in the late 1960′s. I believe RCA was actually ahead of IBM and CICS in this area at the time. One of the Spectra/45′s was dedicated to processing on-line transactions during the day and the second ‘45 was used for batch processing. One very bright individual programmed and maintained the entire on-line system, which was written completely in assembler language. We had some of the finest, dedicated IT staff you could ever hope to have throughout the years. Some things that made working on these systems difficult was that there were few or no tools available to assist in problem resolution. If a program crashed, you had to wade through a lengthy printed memory dump to find the offending data error or instruction. Of course, the assembler language programmers loved and thrived on hexadecimal!

RCA Spectra 70 UT Department of Employment Security Edna Smith from The Gadgets Page

The Spectra/45 systems were multi-processing systems that had 256k of memory, tape drives, disk drives, high-speed printers, punch unit and high-speed card readers and communications multiplexer. I don’t think people realize today the throughput those machines had at processing large volumes of real data. We ran two shifts to process our work and used the systems for our exclusive use. We were one of only a few state department with their own data center. We processed all employment services, unemployment insurance payments, employer contributions, Job Service payroll and all state and federal reports, accounting and statistical functions.

RCA Spectra 70 UT Department of Employment Security from The Gadgets Page

Around 1974, the two Spectra/45 systems were replaced with one RCA Spectra 70/7 unit. By then, Univac had acquired RCA. The 70/7 ran the same operating system as the 70/45′s, which was TDOS/22 and TDOS/23. The 70/7 had 512k memory and was later upgraded to 1 meg. Later on, the 70/7′s operating system was converted to Univac’s VS/9. The conversion to VS/9 was astonishingly difficult, because we had to do the conversion on the same machine used for production. Staff worked at night on the conversion running VS/9 and then the system ran TDOS/23 during the day until the conversion was complete. Every JCL had to be written from scratch and every program required some modification and all required recompilation. All disk files had to be reloaded–plus testing. What a nightmare. In the end, it was a very good system. VS/9 was probably more advanced than anything IBM had at the time. Virtual memory, on- line access for programmers (similar to TSO), which started our transition away from punched cards. Both operating system also had input processing ques and print spooling capabilities. We were even using satellite communications to transmit inter- state claims information. This was actually called the Internet, which I believe the Feds gave way to what is currently the Internet.

RCA Spectra 70 UT Department of Employment Security Edna Smith from The Gadgets Page

As for me, I started with Job Service in 1971. I did not start in the Data Processing Department, but transferred to it around 1973. My first position was in Data Control. It was a unit that prepared the runs for processing on the computer and distributed the completed work. We used sorters, collators and various other unit record equipment, many of them programmed with wired boards–my God, how old is that! After about 15 months in Data Control, I transferred to the computer room as a computer operator. The Spectra 70/7 had just been in a short time by then. Of all the jobs I had at Job Service, this was the most enjoyable. I just loved working at this job and with the other people in this section. Computer operators during this time frame had a lot of responsibility. You really had to know a lot about the work and what you were doing and how to recover and re-run. A bad computer operator could really cause a lot of problems. There was a lot to get done and you were constantly busy. It’s a little amusing when I read how others describe the mainframes of that era as “persnickety” and being down quite a bit. I didn’t find that to be true at all. Our up-time was very good and everything was a lot more straight-forward to deal with than today. We ran some very complex systems, even by today’s standards, on machines with limited resources and still achieved remarkable throughput results. Yes, there were punched cards, lots of paper and a typewriter console to communicate with the cpu–but it all worked very well, nevertheless. I have to say, though, that I never missed the punched cards. Between messing them up by dropping them, or having the reader chew them up and lugging the damn things around, I was glad to see them go.

After a few years as an operator, I was asked to fill a new position to handle special reporting requests and trouble-shoot problems. I liked this position because I was doing some programming, plus I was still very close to the operations side of things. During this time, we also started our migration to an IBM mainframe environment. All of IBM’s competitors had (or were) biting the dust, so we went in IBM’s direction.

Around 1980, I transferred into the systems and programming area. I worked on most everything, in one way or another, as a programmer and also an analyst. I was a manager over the programmers for a time and was also fortunate to be heavily involved with evaluating and brining in new technology. Around 1995-1996, we moved from the Social Avenue location in Salt Lake City to a new building that housed Administrative Services for Job Service. About 1998, we lost our own data center and merged with the State of Utah’s ITS system. The merge was one of the last large projects I was in charge of coordinating, along with Y2k, before I retired in 2001. It was sad for me to see almost 40 years of history go. Even though I have worked on other platforms, the mainframe will always be my first choice.

If there is anything else you would like to know or if I have missed something, please let me know. You can use any of the information I have provided as you wish. Years ago, we use to have an audio-visual department that would take pictures and films of various items of interest within Job Service. I don’t know what happened to all that information over the years. I know they took photos and films of the data center. It was probably trashed. If not, I wouldn’t even know where to begin to look for it.

Thanks so much for your interest!


Mike Dodas

Salt Lake City, UT

Thank you, Mike, for sharing all this information with us! I love hearing about the old systems and I believe all of it should be saved and archived. Wishing you the best in all you do!

CES 2015: Parrot Mini-Drones Choreographed Display

Filed under: Toys and Games — Laura Moncur @ 8:00 am

There is something to be said for a company who bases their entire promotion on the product itself. Parrot had a huge display at CES this year and the majority of it was used for this cage. Every few minutes, the mini-drones would come out and do a choreographed display like this one filmed by

By the time we saw this display, I was SICK of drones, or quad-copters, or hex-copters or whatever they finally decide the names of these little toys are. I’m sure the big ones that we saw could be used for something other than camera flyovers and playtime, but on the whole, these are toys.

But there were SO many companies with drones that it makes me feel like they are something that I should pay attention to.

All I can see, however, is a future where every pre-pubescent kid has a mini-drone, following them around and filming every moment of their lives. Or maybe a sky so full of drones that I have to swat them away like bugs. I know that there will be laws and the future won’t turn out to be that dystopia, but then again, laws agains drones are just as dystopian. All those people who love to fly these little quad-copters and RC planes will be run out of their hobby if the states outlaw them.

In the end, drones were a HUGE thing at CES this year and as much as I worry about it, I am excited to see what the future will look like!

January 14, 2015

CES 2015: Beam Pro Telepresence

Filed under: Cars & Transportation — Laura Moncur @ 8:00 am

Beam Pro had a booth at CES this year and I came face to face with the idea of telepresence. If you are unfamiliar with the concept, watch this video clip from the television show, Big Bang Theory.

Beam Pro is a professional version of this kind of device. It is marketed to companies for meeting attendance and remote presentations. And it has a MAJOR flaw.

You can’t look the person in the eye.

You can barely see what I mean in this video.

She does a very good job of looking into the camera for most of this video, but a couple of times, you do see her glance down at the screen. Only professionals would do a good job with a telepresence. Most of the people I saw at CES 2015 who were interacting with people were staring at their screen the entire time. It appeared that they were looking downward, like they were ashamed.

When I was talking to the telepresence, I did the same. I looked at the screen, which is lower than the camera. It took an incredible effort to look at the camera because I wanted to see the person’s face. What they need to do to fix this is somehow mount the camera behind the screen.

We WANT to look at peoples’ faces. That’s why we both were looking at the screen instead of the camera. The camera needs to be in a different place for this to work.

Oh, and any telepresence that can be knocked over by a careless intern is no better than a laptop computer carried around by said intern. In fact, if you had an intern carry around a laptop using FaceTime or any other teleconferencing software, it would actually be BETTER and cheaper than a Beam Pro.

Except MegaBeam. Nothing beats MegaBeam.

They had a HUGE version of this telepresence product rolling around their show floor called, MegaBeam. Here is a picture of me interacting with it.

CES 2015 Beam Pro Telepresence from The Gadgets Page

It was so large and intimidating that it really made me feel happy and chosen when it interacted with me. This is how it looked from my point of view.

CES 2015 Beam Pro Telepresence from The Gadgets Page

Something large like MegaBeam sets off the guttural instincts and causes one to genuflect, even if it is manned by a nerdy guy with glasses. He asked nicely if I would take a picture of him and post it with a MegaBeam hashtag and I complied without a second thought. The sheer size of MegaBeam ensured my compliance.

And he didn’t even need to say, “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain…”

January 13, 2015

CES 2015: SK Telecom Smart Beam HD

Filed under: Audio and Video — Laura Moncur @ 8:00 am

Play Ic200c - Mini Projector DLP LED at Amazon.comSK Telecom has been making Smart Beam projectors for a while. They are tiny little projectors that work with your smart phone and project on a wall or screen. They use LEDs for their light source, are inexpensive and you can buy them right now on Amazon:

Here is a commercial for them that shows how they work with a little bit of sentiment thrown in:

This year at CES, they have upped the ante a bit. Instead of an LED light source, they are using a laser and it also has auto focus, so no matter where that wall is, it will be clear and bright. They were showing it off in the bright lights of the showroom floor with barely a cover over the screen and it was easy to see.

CES 2015 SK Telecom Smart Beam HD from The Gadgets Page

We tried to show how quickly and easily it refocused on the James’ shirt, but it didn’t show up well in the picture. Let me assure you, it refocused perfectly on his chest just as well as the screen behind him.

CES 2015 SK Telecom Smart Beam HD from The Gadgets Page

Long ago, we researched digital projectors and they were HORRENDOUSLY expensive. To see these tiny boxes that cost less than the replacement halogen bulb in the old projectors is AMAZING!

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