NC #586 Health Devices, Netgear X8 Router, Netgear EX6200 Range Extender, Tucano Macbook Case, Bespecular

Forbes Allison Steve first meetThe NosillaCastaways take over the show this week since Steve and I were off meeting our new grandchild, Forbes. We’ve got Pat Dengler telling us about health gadgets: Ease Wireless Blood Pressure Monitor made by iHealth, AliveCor Cardia Mobile ECG for Apple and Android devices, and the iHealth Align Glucometer for Apple and Android. George from Tulsa tells us about his new Netgear EX 6200 AC1200 Range Extender and how it improved his network. Denise Crown talks about her new Netgear Nighthawk X8 AC5300 Smart WiFi Router. Allister Jenks of the Sitting Duck Podcast tells us about the Tucano Elements Second Skin for MacBook 12″. Darrell Shandrow Hillaker of the blindaccessjournal.com tells us about a really cool accessibility app called Bespecular from bespecular.com that lets a blind person take a photo of something and have sighted volunteers describe it to them.


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Netgear Nighthawk X8 AC5300 Smart WiFi Router by Denise Crown

Guest post by Denise (@Deverelle) Crown

Netgear nighthawk x8 ac5300Well Castaways, it was time to replace our router.

Our ISP caps our bandwidth to 450 GB per month and several times a year they assert we use double this or more. We don’t stream a lot of movies, our cloud data is pretty static, and we have a stupidly complex password, so this runaway bandwidth is a mystery I cannot solve with our aged Airport Express router.

We also need the ability to manage a lot of WiFi devices.

The wiring closet is at the far back of the house, which has always caused connectivity problems in the front of the house.

Wanting a router that would be current for a few years, I chose the tri-band Netgear Nighthawk X8 AC5300 Smart WiFi Router. I purchased it on Amazon using Allison’s banner and paid a whopping $359.99. It’s definitely an investment.

As the dedicated network and software tech in my house, I dreaded this project like the plague. I removed all the old equipment, crossed my fingers and plugged in this huge beast.
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Netgear EX 6200 AC1200 Range Extender by George from Tulsa

Guest Review by George from Tulsa

Netgear EX 6200 AC1200 Range ExtenderMy 1953 ranch house is long and low, with a mix of old and newer electrical circuits. The cable modem and primary router, an Airport Extreme N, are at the far north end The “media” room juts out to the east, at about the middle, the front porch at the west middle, the bedrooms at the far south.

I ran an Ethernet cable to the “media room” and added a Netgear N900 router there and connected everything except one Chromecast with Ethernet.

There’s three wireless networks, #1 at 2.4 from the Extreme, #2 at 2.4 and #3 at 5 ghz from the Netgear. I assigned channels that don’t overlap each other, or the neighbors.

None reliably reached the front porch or bedrooms.

I’ve wondered if the re-modeling’s steel studs and aluminized insulation impede the signals, or it it’s just distance?
Continue reading “Netgear EX 6200 AC1200 Range Extender by George from Tulsa”

Blood Pressure, Glucose and ECG Devices for Connected Health Monitoring by Pat Dengler

Guest Post by Pat Dengler of Dengler Consulting

IHealth Ease Wireless Blood Pressure MonitorI’m going to chat about three devices that I use to monitor my health. What they have in common is that they all report to Apple’s Health app. Each has their own app but with appropriate permissions given, I can see all my readings in one place.

After I listen to the Nosillacast, one of several podcasts I follow is by Tim Ferris. He’s known for the Four Hour Work Week and Four Hour Body. He’s a big experimenter on himself. I’m not, but with Apple’s Health app and the accessibility of various medical grade measuring devices, I thought it would be fun to try a few. That’s usually my ‘problem to be solved’ by the way – ‘what would happen if I tried…’? I’m also a big experimenter with home automation so this just follows!
Continue reading “Blood Pressure, Glucose and ECG Devices for Connected Health Monitoring by Pat Dengler”

Guest Review of the Tucano Elements Second Skin for MacBook 12″ by Allister

Greetings Allison and fellow NosillaCastaways. Allister here from New Zealand with a quick review of a product that won’t excite many, but will help prevent moments of horror.

Tucano MacBook sleeveThe problem to be solved is keeping my gorgeous gold 12″ MacBook looking gorgeous. I bought the laptop while travelling and so quickly became aware of just how easily it marked even carefully putting it in its own pocket in my work-provided laptop backpack. It clearly needed its own special protection.
Continue reading “Guest Review of the Tucano Elements Second Skin for MacBook 12″ by Allister”

NC #585 CodeCademy JavaScript Training, Together Instead of Evernote, Mac App Store Rant

In this week’s episode I’ll tell you about an awesome free training site called CodeCademy where I’m supplementing my JavaScript training for Programming By Stealth. Then I’ll tell you about Together, an app from Reinvented Software that might be the Evernote alternative you’ve been looking for. Then I’ll go on a bit of a rant about all the whining I’ve been hearing on other tech podcasts about the Mac App Store and its pricing model. Then Bart Busschots will join us with this week’s edition of Security Bits.


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Mac App Store Rant

App Store OS X logoI listen to a lot of tech podcasts and many of them have had discussions lately about what’s wrong with the Mac App Store. The level of rant against the Mac App Store has become so high that I feel compelled to voice my own opinions. I’m going to try very hard not to call out any people or products but keep this a generic discussion.

Point of View

First of all, the rants I’ve heard are all from the point of view of the developers. While the developer’s needs and concerns are valid, theirs is not the only point of view to consider. None of these discussions seem to take into account the needs and desires of the Mac user.

I can only speak for myself, but I love the Mac App Store. I love that I can buy an app, and get it on all of my devices. I love the fact that those on my Family Plan can also get access to any apps I buy through the Mac App Store. I love that I can do a nuke and pave and get all of my apps back by just clicking in the store, instead of navigating to each developer’s website and hunting down my license keys.

A couple of years ago I bought a $100 app directly from a developer for which I get high value and I enjoy using. When I bought my MacBook to supplement my MacBook Pro, I was furious to discover that the license agreement didn’t allow me to use this very expensive app on my second Mac. I know that 30% of the cost of an app goes to Apple, but when a new version came out, you can be sure that I switched to the Mac App Store version, even though I could have bought an upgrade for far less money directly from the developer.

I love that the Mac App Store isn’t the only way I can get apps for my Mac. Utilities like App Delete will never be allowed in the Mac App Store, but I can still go get it on my own. TextExpander is too far reaching for the Mac App Store also but it’s 100% worth it to get it directly from Smile. We have the flexibility to get the tricky cool tools directly from the developers and to get mainstream apps through the Mac App Store. Best of both worlds.

Is 30% Too Much?

Apple’s 30% cut has been a sore point for a long time and recently this was highlighted with Spotify complaining rather loudly about it. I’m not sure having the same recurring fee for a subscription service as for apps makes any sense at all so I think Spotify may have a point. And let’s not forget that Apple is now taking 15% off subscriptions in the second year a user keeps the subscription. I’d rather talk about the 30% in context of normal, non-subscription apps.

One developer complained about the 30% during a podcast recently with the statement, “I think the richest company in the world could afford to take a smaller cut.” That evoked so many thoughts for me.

First of all, how do you think Apple got to be the richest company in the world? It wasn’t by having razor-thin margins, was it? This conversation drove me nuts because the argument for why Apple should cut their margin was because Spotify had a razor-thin margin! Why is it Apple’s responsibility that they chose to be in a business with such low margins? I don’t get that argument at all.

I think it’s a valid comparison to look at what cut Amazon takes when you self-publish an eBook. According to Amazon’s Direct Publishing guidelines for Kindle books, the author gets to keep the grand sum of 35% of the selling price of their book. Seriously, Amazon keeps 65%. And they give you a range of what you can charge for the book. That’s the standard policy, but if the author agrees to some further restrictions, she can get a better deal, keeping 70%. But to get the Amazon Kindle deal to be as good as the Apple deal is for apps, the author has to agree to have the book exclusively on Kindle, and it has to be part of the Kindle all-access program (where you don’t get full price for your book). So…is Apple’s 30% cut a bad deal for apps?

When people look at the 30% cut and declare it outrageous, I believe they’re only thinking about the cost of servers and storage. They know that disk is cheap , they know that linux boxes are cheap and they know that bandwidth is cheap. Therefore, storing their app should be cheap so Apple shouldn’t charge them so much. But here’s a sampling of what people don’t take into account. Apple has to pay for:

  • Cost of physical footprint for the server
  • Cost of electricity to run the server
  • Cost of system administration time to keep the server running and patched
  • Cost of paying someone to architect the server farm
  • Cost of redundant servers, offsite backups, and disaster recovery plans
  • Cost of someone to create purchase orders to buy the servers
  • Cost of developers to design the database for the store
  • Cost of UI designers to create the look and feel of the store
  • Cost of architects to design the store
  • Cost of Research and Development
  • Cost of help desk to answer calls about the store
  • Cost of financial billing software and people to manage the purchases
  • Costs paid to credit card companies for purchases made in the store
  • Cost of managers of all of these people
  • Cost of marketing for the store

I could go on and on but do you see how many things are behind that simple word “server”?

My point is not that Apple is barely scraping by. They’re clearly raking in money hand over fist. With average gross profit margins (profit before tax) at around 40%, they aren’t hurting. We don’t know exactly what margins they make on apps but their services business appears to be in line with that average. My point is that they built this business to make money, they’re responsible to the shareholders for making that profit, and to say that they should lower their margins just because someone else chose to be in a low margin business is just plain silliness.

Some of the people who complain so much about the 30% cut don’t take into account how much better their exposure to customers is with the Mac App Store. I know it’s hard to get noticed, but I believe it’s easier in the store than it is to be found on your own website.

But It Could be Better

I don’t want to leave you with the impression that I don’t think improvements could be made to the Mac App Store that would benefit both the developers and customers. For example, I think both sides would love to have the Mac App Store allow free trials. That benefits both sides. Just yesterday I spent 10 minutes pondering whether to part with the giant sum of $3 for an app just because I wasn’t sure it was going to do what I wanted it to do. You’ve been there, right?

I also think it would benefit both sides if developers had ways to contact their customers from the Mac App Store. Getting notifications of new versions, having a communications path for problems, being alerted to discount codes, all of these things would help the users and the developers.

But saying that the Mac App Store is a horrible disaster as some of these louder folks have said kind of makes my head explode.

Ok, I’m done with my rant, thanks for letting me get that off of my chest.

Together Might be the Evernote Alternative You’re Looking For

Together3 logoJust recently the makers of the beloved Evernote changed their pricing plans dramatically. If you’re an avid Evernote user, I’m sure you’ve read the many posts about this, including Evernote’s announcement. They changed the free tier so it only works on two devices, and both of the paid plans had price increases of more than 30%. I’m sure there are people for whom the price increase is still worth it, and for whom the restrictions are just fine. If you’re happy with Evernote even with these changes, then this article isn’t for you.

If you really like the functionality you get from Evernote but the fee changes and/or restrictions are more than you can bear, I might have an alternative for you. It’s called Together from Reinvented Software. Together doesn’t work exactly like Evernote, so we’ll go through the features and you can decide if it meets your needs. Continue reading “Together Might be the Evernote Alternative You’re Looking For”

CCATP #448 Bart Busschots on How Tech Caused Fitness

Myfitnesspal logoBart Busschots joins us this week but not to talk about stealthy programming or the taming of any terminals or even security. This time he’s here to explain how technology has helped him to lose 40 pounds. He’ll explain how he worked through denial and then started exercising and finally to add dieting to change his bad habits, all with the use of technology. He’s written a blog post with links to all of the apps he uses at bartbusschots.ie/….


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CodeCademy + PBS to Learn JavaScript

Codecademy+pbsBart Busschots has been working on a series in Chit Chat Across the Pond entitled Programming By Stealth, and we just finished episode 18. These lessons started with HTML, then moved into CSS, and since episode 12 we’ve been learning JavaScript. Bart has written terrific tutorials with excellent explanations of the terminology, logic and process of coding in JavaScript. The foundation he is laying is adaptable to learning other languages as well.

A few lessons back I suggested an enhancement to the series. At the risk of being labeled as teacher’s pet, I asked him to assign homework to us, or as he likes to call them, challenges. He came up with the challenges, but they’ve been really hard for me. Continue reading “CodeCademy + PBS to Learn JavaScript”

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