Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Future of Money-Honey

Mini-Chaos has started pretend playing with "money" in a couple of different ways. When we go outside to go on a walk he often says, "oh! I forgot my money" and runs back to the front door for a second to pretend to grab it. He also gets stacks of cards from his games and says, "do you want some money?" I'm not sure where he learned the concept of money like that - because I've been running wallet-zero since before he was born by carrying only my phone with a credit card inside and Mrs.Chaos made the transition to wallet-zero in the past couple of years too. There's this cute little Wheels on the Bus video we watch, and in it the Panda Bear holds his RFID card up to the scanner as he boards - "The money on the bus goes *beep* *beep* *beep*."

We're to give him this little piggy bank with the different sections (spend, save, give) so he might be able to start earning a little bit of money for being extra helpful around the house. But man, we're going to have to go to the bank to withdraw money to pay him with. He is going to have only the vaguest uses of physical money in his life. It's going to be really tough to teach a three year old how to balance his checkbook before he can do math with numbers. Can someone kickstart a little re-loadable charge card with an LCD screen that helps a 3yo to visualize how much money he has on the card? And how many more years until Mini-Chaos gets a wearable on he can use to spend money?

Anyway - we’ll need to start our discussion of money by talking about how NFC payments work from smart watches.

Friday, May 6, 2016

The Movies

Just follow your heart, and keep smiling. - Kiki’s Delivery Service
When Mini-Chaos turned 2yo, we started to let him watch movies. One of my desires while we get to pick what he watches is to help him watch good movies. I've gone back and watched movies I have found memories of from my childhood, shaken my head, and moved on. Maybe he can go back and watch movies and think, "yeah, my childhood movies were great!"
So far the movies he's watched are: Ponyo, Totoro, Toy Story, Cars, and Rio. His favorite movie is Totoro - just loves it. Who wouldn't? The story about two kids moving to the country and how they perceive the world through their imagination.

One of things I've been struck by watching these movies that has made me love Studio Ghibli even more is the fact that Ghibli movies star characters and stories (though fantastical) that are completely relatable to a 2yo. He knows what it's like to be a little kid, and play, and have kid-friendships, and love to find acorns on the ground, and chase animals, and enjoy boats, and all the stuff that characters of the Ghibli movies do.
The other movies? They are movies about adult characters with adult issues and adult relationships and love interests. They characters might be toys, and cars, and birds, but they are adult cars, and adult toys, and adult birds with adult fights and adult relationships.
As I look forward to the next movies he is going to get to watch as he gets older I'm so excited about Laputa, Kiki's, Cat Returns, and then eventually NausicaƤ, Porco Rosso, Mononoke, Spirited Away, Howls.  Stories about kids who are kids, doing kid things with kid interests and kid relationships.
Yes, yes, he'll definitely get to watch the Pixar and Disney catalogues too - but I'm not sure he'll like them as much. We'll see.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Even More Hydration

Water is the driving force of all nature. - Leonardo da Vinci
In June of 2015, Tim Cook got on stage and mentioned that the new HealthKit would include hydration tracking "for all of those smart water bottles" and I immediately went online to buy a smart water bottle. There were none. The best thing I found was a smart water bottle I Kickstarted called "Hidrate" expecting to ship in November of 2015.
It was a Kickstarter, which I funded in June, so it obviously did not ship in November of 2015. I never really expected it to. What I was more shocked by was in October, when Vessyl (which I backed in June of 2014) announced the Pryme Vessyl was going to a thing and in Apple Stores, and early backers would get one for free. This became a fun backer-race. Who would get me my smart hydration system first, Pryme Vessyl or Hidrate?
The answer was Pryme Vessyl, but not by much.  Within about a month my Hidrate arrived!
So what's the verdict of the Pryme Vessyl ($99) versus the Hidrate Spark ($54)? Well, sadly, it depends - but if you don't want to read, I say go with the Hidrate Spark.
The Vessyl is, in every way, a better cooler sturdier more amazing beverage container. The thing is, mine constantly fails to track what I am drinking. I think if the Vessyl isn't actively connected via Bluetooth to the phone while drinking, then it doesn't track it. So as cool and neat and wonderful as it is, if it doesn't actually track how much water I am drinking, then what is the point? Very little.
The Hidrate Spark feels cheaper and less cool and way less sturdy than my Tervis water bottles - but you know what? It has been consistent about tracking every ounce of water that I drink. If my phone isn't connected it stores the tracking in the bottle until the next sync.  Awesome all the time.
My major complaint with both apps is that they only track water you have imbibed with the beverage container of choice.  So I can't use both at the same time and have everything work.  I have to commit on a given day to drink all my water from my Pryme Vessyl or from my Hidrate Spark.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Hydrated So Much It Hurts

We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten. - Bill Gates
I don't even want to look back through my credit card statements to know when I backed the Vessyl - the world's most beautiful beverage container. Let's just say, it would be counted in years. I kind of assumed I would never get one until in late 2015 they pivoted! Vessyl released the Pryme Vessyl into Apple Stores that let you track hydration, and told all of us early backers that we'd get one for free - probably by the end of November! Mine arrived March 14th, a little late, but gorgeous.

I'm incredibly excited about the health future that Apple is ushering in with all of these connected devices tracking everything we do and storing it into our phones for us to have forever. Forty years from now, I should have 40 years of health activity tracked as well as weight, heartbeats, blood-oxygen, etc. Can you even imagine the type of research science we've got coming?
While I might be tracking all this stuff, it's not really inspiring action from me. Just collecting data. So I'm still unhealthy, but at least I KNOW that I'm unhealthy. The Pryme Vessyl is pretty cool - and I have been drinking A LOT more water than I usually drink. We'll see if it holds true.
When iOS 9 got announced back in October, Apple mentioned that had added hydration tracking to HealthKit "for all those smart water bottles." Here's a hint - there aren't any.  I did kickstart one at the time assuming it would get here before I ever got a Vessyl. I did not, but my Hidrate smart water bottle is scheduled to ship on March 28th (just 3 months behind schedule).

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Planning the Meals

Being busy does not always mean real work. - Thomas Edison

We struggle with our “eating out” budget, just like every family in America. Cooking? Yeah, I theoretically like to cook, but in practice when I’m done with work and have two kids who want to play, do I really want to cook? In practice when I get off work, and Mrs.Chaos has spent eight hours taking care of two kids, does she really want to cook? No. But yet, eating out (or getting take out) adds up fast on the budget.

When we decided that meal planning needed to be a joint marital effort, I did the only thing I know how to do: researched apps to find one that would be awesome for meal planning. Because, the theory goes, if I have a super-convenient method to do it across all my devices, won’t that really be the tipping point?

We’re three weeks in and all is going pretty well on this front. Saturday is meal-planning day. Sunday is grocery run. We’ve been sticking to the schedule.

The app? Paprika - which goes on sale once a year after Thanksgiving, but we shelled out for the full price across Mac, iPad, and iPhone.

Monday, February 22, 2016

They're made of glass

That's what I'm trying to tell you. Meat made the machines. - Terry Bisson (They're Made Out of Meat)

I've had an iPhone since 2007 and Mrs.Chaos has had one since 2012. Between the two of us we've had about 14 years of carrying around an iPhone and we've lost around two screens.

She dropped her iPhone 3Gs and put a nice crack in the screen - nothing too bad. She put a screen protector on it and managed to carry it for another few months until she was eligible for the next one. I dropped my iPhone 4s and put tiny little chip into the screen - nothing too bad. I trivially carried another six months until I was eligible for the next one. This past month she dropped her iPhone 6 and *BOOM* the screen exploded in the insane way that screens do. We paid to repair it.

I'll be super interested to see what kinds of materials mini-Chaos and micro-Chaos will carry around in their pocket and how shocked they will be that our generation carried around these pieces of glasses that had a habit of shattering. Their phones will probably be pretty darn shatter-proof and I think it's very likely they will also be water-proof. What a future!

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Homebridge It

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, creeps in this petty pace from day to day, to the last syllable of recorded time - Macbeth

When Apple announced HomeKit at WWDC it sounded awesome. I have been slowly getting my house onto the Internet of Things (IoT) over the past few years, much to my delight, and perhaps to Mrs.Chaos' annoyance. I have a lot of apps on my phone to control all the different Things in my home and the promise of my beloved Apple solving the multiapp problem was amazing.

Then months and months and months passed and none of my devices were becoming HomeKit enabled. Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, brings forth this petty pace. Then came the vendor leaks that Apple was imposing stringent security requirements on devices for them to be certified for HomeKit. Which in the grand scheme of things is fantastic - we were heading towards a future where every device in home was connected to the Internet and they all had a password "admin/admin." Apple is forcing real passwords and real cryptography, but it means that none of my legacy unsecured devices had any hope of making into HomeKit.

I learned about an open source project called Homebridge - which is a server designed to wrap older devices with HomeKit APIs. Homebridge isn't HomeKit certified, so it means when you connect to it, Apple gives you the BIG warning that it's not certified, is probably not secure, and could be malicious. But of course I did it.

The result was that magically my WeMo-controlled fan, coffee pot, garage lights, my Nest thermostat, my MyQ garage, and my Netatmo Weather Station all appeared like magic! MAGIC! I bought the highly recommended Home app immediately to start taking advantage of it.

There were some holes in my home internet of things - my TCP Connected lights don't show up. The August SmartLock doesn't show up. Sad, right? Whatever to do.

Well ya know what? Homebridge is written in Node.js and the modules that run the devices are just Node.js packages. I know how to write JavaScript. How hard could it be?

I installed Charles Proxy to proxy my iPhone traffic and started running the apps that control my lights, garage, and lock - and you know what? They all use pretty clean and simple REST APIs that are easy to understand.

The result? I wrote a module that controlled my TCP Connected Lights - it probably took about 8 total hours to do. Because my only personal development time when the kids are asleep, 8 hours of work took over two weeks of my time to do - but hey, it's up and it's working!

Now I can say, “Hey Siri, goodnight” and the bedroom lights turn off and the bedroom fan turns on.  I can say, “Hey siri, open the garage” and the door opens. The temporal forces are trying to rip my home apart, because I am living in the future!