Dan Tudor

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iPhone vs AndroidMonday, February 20th, 2017

cip_pic_360Chelsea Cipriani, Front Rush

It could be a question on a dating site – that’s how important the answer is to some.  Are Android users compatible with iPhone users?  What does it all mean??  Joking aside, the differences in devices and the debates probably come up in discussion for each of us about once a week…maybe even more often between your coworkers, your friends, and your family.  

It is also important among recruits.  While I was on campus last month a coach mentioned to me that his recruits (the iPhone users) did not like interacting through text with Android users because texts come through as green and not blue.  He was referring to iMessage.  iMessage works with iPhone and can operate while on wifi… it also shows up as blue on the iPhone.  An iPhone user can actually know if you are using an Android vs. and iPhone and to some it is significant.  Also, did you know some emojis are not compatible from iPhone to Android / Android to iPhone?  While small, these details matter a LOT to the younger generation.  

For some of us, the thought of using a brand / device other than the one we are familiar with can seem almost foreign.  I know as a very dedicated Apple user, when my grandmother (an Android user) comes to me for advice, I end up doing lots of googling to help her out with the functionality.  I had to google something as simple as turning on the flashlight.  I have even resulted to opening up the user manual… yes they still exist!  To me, Androids are super confusing and I just can not seem to grasp it.  The same thing rings true I’m sure for some Android and PC users when operating an Apple product… familiarity is key.

This got me thinking, I wanted to poll the Front Rush staff to see what they prefer in terms of Apple vs. Android, Mac vs. PC and to hear more in depth reasons behind why they choose that brand or device.  Whether it is out of necessity or preference, I was definitely interested in learning more.  So I did, and I have shared the findings with you below.  While not everyone on staff participated, this is a good representation of the group.  This is in no way meant to sway you one way or the other, but to give you some insight into what is more commonly used by our Front Rush staff… and why.

What Mobile Device do you use?

what mobile device do you use (1)

iPhone: 64.28%

Android: 35.71%

What iPhone users had to say:

  1. “Because it’s the simplest and most convenient phone to use.  Everyone else used an iPhone, so, naturally I had to get one too.”
  2. “iMessage and very easy to use.”
  3. “I use more apple products than others so it just makes more sense for me to have devices that can communicate with one another more seamlessly. I also tend to prefer the design ascetics of apple products.”

What Android users had to say:

  1. “I used to be a dedicated iPhone user, but I switched about four years ago. I will never go back. iPhones had the following limitations that really limited me: – No memory expansion (my Android phone has a microSD card for a lot more storage w/out a huge sticker price) – Short battery life (my Android phone lasts longer, and I can swap my battery) – More choices (going Android opens my options up to a lot more choices in phones)”
  2. “Open ecosystem, more free apps on play store, the voice assistant understands accents of non native english speakers, “Google now” which works better with Android”
  3. “Easy to use. Very customizable. EASY to customize. Nice design. Not many issues (Loved my Galaxy S4.. currently use Galaxy S5) Many free apps.”

What Type of Computer do you use for work?

computer for work (2)

 

Mac: 71.43%

PC: 28.57%

Top reasons for choosing Mac:

  1. “It works much nicer with my design software, it has an excellent battery life, and the overall life of the device is simply better than a lot of PC products.”
  2. “I am a developer/Engineer and requires to be on a unix based system, so that rules out Windows. Out the choices I have, mac is most usable machine and It is easy on eyes too.”
  3. “Macs were once known to be better for design and graphic work /// since then the bridge between the two has shortened but I have come to learn that Macs are just more reliable and have less problems in their life span /// also a lot easier to use interface”

Top reasons for choosing PC:

  1. “Have always used PCs.. familiarity.. not many issues.. customizable.. can just go on Amazon and buy another battery if I need to. Love my HP Probook.”
  2. “PC > Mac I need the programs a PC has versus what a Mac has”
  3. “Because my needs as a finance manager do not justify a Mac.”

What type of computer do you use for leisure?

leisure (3)

Mac: 71.43%

PC: 28.57%

Mac users said:

  1. “Fast and great for video editing”
  2. “It is pretty. UI/UX is better than windows. Does not crash often, not infected by malware/virus that often.”
  3. “I do a lot of photo development in Lightroom, and the interface is better.”

PC users said:

  1. “Gaming”
  2. “Cheaper”
  3. “Have always used PCs”

When asked, “What do you feel your device / service provides over the other (example – why apple vs. non apple) specific apps / features / etc

Mac users tend to be attracted to the reliability, speed, and seamless transfer between devices.  The PC users mention that they are cost friendly, they appreciate the ability to customize, and enjoy gaming on their PCs which is not always compatible with Mac.

The next question asked was, “ Are you strictly one brand?”  

The answers were mostly no, but for those who were a yes, here are a few examples:

“Only Apple products for personal use and only PC for work.”

“Yes, but it’s because they have not let me down.” – Apple

“Yep, 98% apple I’d say.” – Apple

Most of the responses looked something like this:

“I am not strictly loyal to a brand but more cost value and features provided.”

Or, “Nope. “Horses for courses”.ie, whatever works for my specific use case.”

For fun, I asked around for other devices that our awesome staff members use whether working or relaxing.  

Below are the devices and some links to learn more about them!

Fitbit – “Fitbit motivates you to reach your health and fitness goals by tracking your activity,  exercise, sleep, weight and more.”

Tile – “Tile is a tiny Bluetooth tracker and easy-to-use app that helps you find everyday items in    seconds.”

Kindle – “Kindle E-readers designed as dedicated eBook readers. Indulge your love of reading without interruptions like email alerts and push notifications. They can hold thousands of books to keep you entertained for hours.”

Amazon Fire Stick – “Fire TV Stick connects to your TV’s HDMI port. It’s an easy way to enjoy over 4,000 channels, apps, and games including access to over 250,000 TV episodes and movies on Netflix, Amazon Video, HBO NOW, Hulu, and more.”

Chromecast – “Simply use your mobile device and the TV you already own to stream your favorite TV shows, movies, music, sports, games and more. Chromecast works with iPhone®, iPad®, Android phone and tablet, Mac® and Windows® laptop, and Chromebook.”

PS4 – gaming console

Xbox One – gaming console

Garmin Vivofit 3 – “No need to switch out your watch or start a new activity, vívofit 3 recognizes when your movement changes so you can go from a walk to a run in no time.”

iPad

Amazon Echo – “Amazon Echo is a hands-free speaker you control with your voice.”

Apple Watch – “The new Apple Watch is the ultimate device for your healthy life.”

Samsung Smart TV – “Stream TV, movies, games, apps, social media and more. Find what you want fast with with your favorites panel. Learn more about the Samsung Smart TV.”

Moral of the story, whichever device you choose is going to have its pros and cons.  I would suggest polling your team and learning which devices they use or prefer and why.  The athletes are the best resource into the trends of the recruits when it comes to current technology / Apps/ Emojis / etc.  It may also pay to invest in one of the cool devices or products listed above for your locker room or team room.  A 100-300 dollar investment may make that lasting impression on that recruit who comes to campus and who knows, it could be the piece that seals the deal!
Whatever device or system you prefer, I hope this has given you another perspective into the common debate of “iPhone vs. Android” and encourages you to check in with your team and recruits allowing you to be more connected with them through technology.

Understanding Software For Non-Technical PeopleMonday, February 6th, 2017

IMG_0152Justin Chud, Sidekick Web Studios

This article will breakdown the high-level overview of how software works in today’s world — and what all those terms mean that you probably often hear in conversations. This is geared for a non-technical crowd in the sense that you know how to use technology, but don’t know how to program/make technology. 

The hot trend it software today is web-based applications. This means applications you access directly in your web browser (like Facebook) as opposed to an icon on your computer (like Microsoft Word).

Web-site vs Web-application

To begin, it’s important to know the difference between a web-site and a web-application. A web-site simply presents static information and doesn’t allow for much user interaction. Think of a local business’s website. They are there to give you their hours, talk about what they do, and maybe give you contact information. There isn’t much interaction from your end. You are accessing the site, digesting the information, and then leaving.

Now a web-application, this is where the fun happens. A web-application involves various layers and user-interaction. Examples are Facebook, Twitter, eBay, and Gmail. When you access these, it involves logging in/out, processing payments, writing on your friends’ walls, checking your email, etc. i.e lots of interaction from your end. An easy way to think about it is that a web-site shows the same page to everyone. If anyone visits a local business’s website it’s going to look exactly the same for everyone. However a web-application, will be unique to each user. If you log into Facebook it will be vastly different than if your friend logs into Facebook. You will see your posts, your news feed, your photos; and they will see all of theirs. This lets us know that Facebook is serving a unique page to every single user who logs in to use the platform. Since they have over a billion users — this means that Facebook needs to be able to serve over a billion different versions of Facebook!

Now that you can see the difference between a web-site (static non-changing information) and a web-application, we can dive into the difference of two terms you probably often here around tech friends: front-end and back-end. In short, here are the differences between the two:

Front-end: This is the code that drives everything that you can physically see on your screen. For example do you see a large blue button that changes color when you hover over it? That is front-end code saying “make this button blue, make it large, and when the user hovers, change the color”. This is front-end code insofar that you are able to actually see what is happening. A reason you are able to see this is that front-end code is actually executed (or run) directly in your own web-browser! This is a reason why it’s also often referred to as ‘client’ side code.

Back-end: This is everything in the background you cannot see. Think of it as an iceberg. The front-end is the tip, and the back-end is the beast below the surface that contains 90% of the mass. When you enter in your username and password on Facebook and click ‘login’ there is A LOT going on in the background that you cannot see. To yourself it simply looks like “login, wait a second, and boom I’m in”. During that second of waiting though, all the back-end code is doing the heavy lifting. This includes security measures such as authenticating your username and password and making sure there’s nothing ‘suspicious’ about your login. It also includes ensuring the correct user gets the correct account. Imagine if you tried to log into Facebook but instead of your account, you were logged into someone else’s. This would be a big problem! The back-end code ensures everything runs smoothly and accurately.

A good metaphor for these two is to imagine a car. The front-end code says “it’s blue, it has 4 doors, and a back windshield wiper”. Remember that the front-end code is what we can physically ‘see’. The back-end code, is the part below the iceberg that does the heavy lifting. So here this would be the engine. The backend code is the real driving force behind any web-application. Making a car frame isn’t that hard, making a functional car engine though…

Knowing these differences, we can also now say that web-sites contain mostly front-end code since there isn’t much going on behind the scenes. You go to the local business’s website and what you see is what you get (and the same for everyone). Because you can physically see everything on the page, that is simply front-end code.

For an actual example I can tell you that all front-end code boils down to 3 languages you’ve probably heard of: HTML, CSS, and Javascript. Here’s a breakdown on what each does:

– HTML is the noun. This language tells us what is on the page. It could be text, images, videos, or whatever we want. Using our car example, HTML says “There is a car”

– CSS is the adjective. This describes and styles the noun HTML gave us. It will make text blue, make an image larger, and make the background of the page be red. For the car, HTML says “there is a car” and CSS says “the car is blue”

– Javascript. This is the verb. Javascript can make text on the screen move around, and can make an image appear and then disappear. Basically, it can take actions on the nouns HTML gives us.

So, HTML says “There is a car”, CSS says “The car is blue”, and Javascript says “The car goes forward when the pedal is pressed”

After the front-end comes the back-end. This is where web-applications enter the picture.

Web-applications have a rich back-end and generally if you take all the code written for a web-application (like Facebook) a huge portion of their code is on the backend (and thus you don’t ‘see’ on the screen). The backend is much more complicated than the front-end (remember the backend is the engine, the front-end is the car frame and other parts). Where the front-end has only 3 languages that always appear on every website, the back-end has hundreds of possible languages to choose from. Some popular back-end languages (and companies that use them) are PHP (Facebook), Ruby (Twitter), Python (Google), Java (not to be confused with Javascript — they are totally separate), and many more.

The purpose of the back-end is to serve and ‘change’ the front end. For example, when you log onto Facebook you are presented with your account. Once logged in you see your own pictures and friends. Since you can ‘see’ the pictures this means it’s front-end code. However, the important piece is how that code got there. The back-end code did the heavy lifting and said “ok this is Mike logging in. I’m going to send the front-end code that properly shows him his own account and not that of someone else”. Effectively, the back-end code is there to ‘deliver’ the code to the front-end that you can see from your end.

The Database

Lastly, there is the database. A database is where all your information is stored. Your Facebook pictures, posts, friends, etc are all stored in a database. The reason back-end code exists is because of databases. Databases are extremely good and effective at storing large amounts of information (imagine how many Facebook photos there are in the world), so they are necessary to have. However, front-end code cannot talk to the database. Back-end code has the advantage of being able to talk to both the database AND the front-end. So, when you log into Facebook what happens is that: The back-end code verifies your account information, it retrieves your data from the database (photos, posts, etc), it then serves the code to the front-end that displays the information from the database to your screen!

The Stack

When you hear developers talk about ‘the stack’ this is what they are referring to. Since there is a hierarchy of the pieces of the app, it is eloquently called a ‘stack’. The stack is the front-end code, back-end code, and the database. The beauty of web development is that there are many different options for the programming languages you can use. Some are better for some tasks, others are better for different tasks. You will often see or hear developers go red in the face defending their choice of language. However there’s no clear answer except for a case by case basis. The question “which programming language is better?” is like asking “which car is better?” with zero context. Unless you know the purpose of the car (road trip? drag race?), the details (how many passengers are needed?), and the rest of relevant data (who’s paying for it? how long do I need it for?) — then the question is pointless.

 

One last term you will hear often is ‘framework’

Frameworks are what makes modern web-development so fun and fast. They also significantly lower the learning curve for beginners who are trying to build something. More or less a framework is a bunch of pre written code that gives you a foundation. It takes care of a lot of the nitty gritty details that go into building a web-application.

Imagine if you had to build a car. If you don’t use a framework you have to build everything from scratch. The frame, tires, engine, mirrors, all of it. Now this will give you a much better understanding of how everything works behind the scenes and will let you fix any issues that come up in the future pretty quickly. However it will take a lot of time as it’s a steep learning curve.

Now if you use a framework, imagine if you had to build a car — but you can start with a pre-built frame and tires. This significantly lowers the learning curve and will let you get a working car up and running much faster. The downside here is that since you didn’t build everything from scratch — you may not have a deep understanding of the systems that keep the car running smoothly. If there is a problem down the line, there’s a higher chance you will need to reach out to someone else to fix the issue. It’s generally accepted that all web-applications should use a framework for the speed of development, but it’s on the developer to take time and really research what’s going on under the hood to get a better understanding of the foundation. As long as the developer is serious about learning the underlying concepts, you will get the best of both worlds.

To wrap it up, front-end code is what you can actually see on your screen. It is divided into HTML (the noun), CSS (the adjective), and Javascript (the verb). Back-end code is everything under the hood that powers the web-application. The back-end talks to the database, grabs the relevant data, and then sends/generates the proper front-end code which is what you see in your browser!

Mini Talking RobotsFriday, January 20th, 2017

unnamedKen Whittaker, Front Rush

Each week we try to teach you something new or enlighten you about the latest technology. My colleagues and I have written about smart gadgets, wearable technology, and even emojis over the past few months. With all this wearable, on-the-go technology, downloads, apps, and other virtual products taking over your time, it’s sometimes nice to hear about how technology can be used to make your life easier. As you may have seen on TV during the holiday season, Amazon Echo and Google Home are the two dominating voice controlled tech products intended to basically sit in once place and do a lot of stuff. These mini know-it-all robots (they aren’t really robots, it’s just cooler to call them that) have tons of capability, and could finally be the bridge many of us have hoped for (or feared) all our lives. How cool would it be to turn on the lights with your voice or even change the channel when you ask? To some, this might seem lazy. To others, it’s the future.

 

Ok, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. To back up a little bit, the Amazon Echo and Google Home are two very popular standalone devices that respond to your command and give you feedback, information, and tons of other responses. I have had the ability to use both, and have found each to be quite impressive. Setup on each is relatively simple. Basically, you take the device out of the box, plug it in, download the companion app on your phone, and it’s set up in minutes. Before you know it, you’ll have a talking robot in your house, waiting for you to put it to work.

 

“Excuse me? There’s a mini robot listening to me in my house?” you might be thinking. Well, not exactly. Both devices are activated with a “wake word” which lets the device know you’re talking to it. Amazon has cleverly named their device “Alexa” while Google is activated by saying “Ok, Google” or “Hey, Google” before it starts to listen to you. The Echo allows for some variability in wake word, such as calling it “Amazon” or other select options. From experience, it’s pretty simple to get used to activating the device. I’m sure that some of you are still a little freaked out. Basically, once you activate either device with the wake word, it will light up and start listening to your request. These devices do not always listen to your conversations (they have better things to do) – so there aren’t really any privacy concerns. The computational power to listen and process everything you say would be cumbersome and useless, quite frankly.

 

Great. But what’s the point of having a mini robot with selective hearing? From streaming music, checking sports scores, new headlines, weather updates, and controlling your lighting – the possibilities are endless. Amazon was the first major player into this space, releasing the Echo device first. The Google Home was just released a few months ago – and now the race is on. As with most technology, there are things that one device can do that the other cannot. For example, the Echo allows you to purchase things from Amazon and has exclusive deals for Prime members, while Google Home has the powerful backend of the Google search engine behind it. In my experience, asking the Echo facts was hit or miss, generally. The Google Home is better with satisfying the answer to the random curious thought that may be running through your mind. On the contrary, Amazon’s established history in the space has allowed it to partner with multiple third parties already, particularly with home automation, to bring “Alexa” to many more devices, as of now. Some speculate that Google will be able to catch up soon, but all we can do is wait and see.
Competition in this area in technology is bound to be a good thing. For one, users will want each device to be capable of doing things the other is able to do – and both Amazon and Google will be motivated to provide customers with an excellent experience. If you’re curious, I suggest you look into the devices. If you tend to be in the Amazon eco-system – you might find more benefit from the Echo devices (original Amazon Echo is about $180 and the smaller version Echo Dot is about $50). If you want to see where Google takes the product and find searching to be more beneficial, you might want to check out the Google Home (priced around $130 currently). For me, both devices are great and offer a ton of functionality. As a self proclaimed geek, setting up wall outlets that respond to “turn on the light” after calling the wake word is awesome. The future possibilities are seemingly endless.

The Fitbit EvolutionMonday, January 16th, 2017

mike vizzoniMike Vizzoni, Front Rush

A little while back my co-worker Chris wrote an article on this blog taking a look at all of the wearable technology we have available these days (link here). It is rather incredible to reflect on how many different options we have as athletes and consumers. From GPS tracking to heart rate monitors to messaging to entertainment, the possible fields that wearable tech can cover seems endless. When wearable tech first started rolling out I was a little skeptical. To me, it did not seem practical to constantly have something attached to you during training or simply everyday activities. Man oh, man was I wrong. Wearable tech has exploded in recent years, and this trend does not seem to be slowing down. As mentioned earlier, my co-worker Chris has already covered several wearable technologies. Here, however, I will be diving into a product that deserves much credit for this wearable uprising. Fitbit is one of the first fitness wearable technologies, and their story deserves to be told.

History

Fitbit, like most other tech start-up companies, is based out of San Francisco, California. The company was founded back on May 1, 2007, by James Park and Eric Friedman. In the mid 2000’s Eric and James began to notice how good sensors and wireless technology were progressing. The tech was reaching a point where the data retrieved by them could be exploited in countless ways. Eric and James realized that they could bring this technology to fitness and change the way people evaluated their movement. They decided to design a product that could seamlessly fit into someone’s life to help improve their health and fitness goals. The Fitbit was born. The first version of this product was released in 2009. This version could be attached to your shirt or pants and monitored very basic activity movement. They sold around 25,000 units. Once 2011 came around Fitbit released a new version that now included an altimeter, digital clock, and stopwatch. To continue the progress Fitbit went ahead and released two more models in 2012. The consistency of model upgrades is what separated Fitbit apart from many other wearable tech products and really kept them ahead of the curve. By the time 2013 hit, Fitbit released their first wristband model. The wristband model is what most people think of when they picture a Fitbit. This seemed to be the most appealing to users and is why Fitbit has further pursued that type of model. In 2015 Fitbit announced its IPO as $4.1 billion! They were the number one wearable tech product and had sold over 18 million units in one year. Last year Fitbit put out four new models; the Blaze, Alta, Charge 2 and the Flex 2. They continue to stay on top of the wearable market outperforming other industry leaders such as Apple, Xiaomi, and Garmin.

Today

Currently, Fitbit is still producing new models and continues to wow its customers with new features. The latest Fitbit supports features such as Bluetooth connection to smartphones, step and distance tracking, floors climbed, calories burned, and sleep patterns. Some of the most recent models also support text messaging and phone calls. All of this data is accessible through the Fitbit app. Simply sign up, log in, and take a look at the calories you burn per day or perhaps how many steps you have taken. What you then do with that data is entirely up to you. The possibilities are endless. This allows users to improve their daily activity and live a healthier life one step at a time. The great thing about Fitbit is that it has utilities that can be very useful for the elite athlete and everyday person alike.

Coaches, ask around to see if your players own Fitbits or any other type of wearable tech. Challenge them to improve their fitness being tracked each day and perhaps look into getting one for yourself. We live in a data-driven society and products such as Fitbit can only help improve your active life by taking advantage of that data.

Why I hate my smartphoneMonday, January 9th, 2017

neal_headshot_dantudorNeal Cook, Front Rush

A new year, a new resolution that won’t stick, but maybe it will work for you:

Taking a break from my smartphone.

Have you pondered how your day would function without that little, 4.7-inch screen in your pocket? The one that you feel buzzing, even when it’s not, but you hear that buzz in the back of your mind?  Remember those carefree days when you didn’t have the convenience of having your world in your pocket? I do. More and more each day.

If all smartphones were removed mysteriously from the planet, at the strike of midnight, tonight, what would we lose? Convenience. No longer would you be able to: call your taxi, order your dinner, look up movie times, check your fantasy sports teams, find the score of the game, keep connected with your work colleagues, listen to music, use your GPS, check Instagram because you’re bored, Facebook, Snapchat, make impulse purchases (with money you don’t have), check in with your family, find a date, watch movies, play games, bank, recruit. I could go on. But that’s already a run-on sentence.

The thing is, you would still be able to accomplish all of the conveniences and jobs we hire a smartphone to provide us. Other products and methods of technology, would fill the smartphone less void, at the cost of convenience.

Each of us uses our smartphone in unique ways. Some may not be addicted as others, or have better self-control, but, for some, putting your phone down can be quite a challenge. Next time you go into a restaurant, do a quick James Bond scan and count the number of faces staring down at their phone.

Convenience, like everything in this world, needs to be balanced. Yin and yang. Take away smartphones entirely, and the average person would gain 90 minutes a day, or 23 days a year. That time can go towards a lot of things. Think of everything you’ve wanted to accomplish, and explore since you were a small lad/gal. Personally, I’m trying to learn the bass, read more, and become the greatest Beatles cover band of all time (with a little help from my friends).

So will everyone slow down their phone usage in 2017? One-hundred percent, no. Unless that smartphone Angel snatches all of our phones at midnight, tonight.

In reality, smartphone usage will continue to ramp up in 2017 and for the foreseeable future. By 2020, smartphone internet traffic will pass PC internet traffic for the first time. Also, toss in the fact that more developed and developing countries are still just getting access to the web for the first time (approx 43% of the world population has access now), and the projections for connected phones and people will only skyrocket.

No one is going to control your phone usage (it’s not 1984, yet). So it’s up to you and me to monitor our usage and keep ourselves in check. For technology and convenience need to be balanced with the important things in life (the love that we create.)

You need to use this google maps hackMonday, December 26th, 2016

neal_headshot_dantudorNeal Cook, Front Rush

Hey Coaches!

Hope your Holiday weekend was splendid!

As much as I would have loved to slide down each and every one of your chimneys, like Scott Calvin, from Santa Claus, I am physically unable to do so (side note…Neal from Santa Claus is a huge prick).

What I can give to you is my top-secret Google Maps hack. This have been tested on the iPhone 7, but should work on Android devices as well.

Without further ado!

Your Places

Follow these steps to save you time in the long run:

  1. Open Google Maps
  2. Click on the 3 horizontal bars to the left of the ‘Search Google Maps’ search bar
  3. Click ‘Your Places’
  4. If you haven’t done so before, click ‘enter an address’ next to the Home and Work icons. Plug in your addresses.
  5. Click the back arrow to get back to the search bar
  6. Enter in an address that you use GPS for frequently (gym, grocery store, mall, etc). You can also enter in family/friends addresses (aunts, girlfriends, grandparents, etc)
  7. Click on the address
  8. Click on the ‘Label’ icon in the center-bottom of the page
  9. Name this address (moms, dads, gym, etc)
  10. Click ‘Done’
  11. Repeat this for all of your frequent searches

googlemaps1googlemaps2

What you just did was associate your favorite people/places with their physical address.

So instead of typing in “2240 Mercerville-Whitehorse Road, Hamilton Township, NJ 08619” to find your Grandma’s nursing home every time you pull up your Google Maps, you can just type “Grandma” to be directed to her location. That is, unless she has ran away on her wheelchair (which my Grandma frequently hints at).

This is a great time-saving hack, and has saved me from repeatedly asking my close acquaintances for their address over and over again.

Hope this helps a tiny bit!

 

Amazon Go (Ho Ho)Monday, December 19th, 2016

jw_headshotJulie Weiss, Front Rush

Yesterday while standing in a long snaking line in Bed Bath and Beyond I caught myself in a brief state of holiday hypnosis as I gazed into the eyes of a dancing Santa figurine  perched on the top shelf of the aisle endcap. Sigh, ‘tis the season for magic. As I came out of my haze I wondered if this familiar shopping experience is soon to change.

Earlier this month Amazon, a company who continues to push the magical envelope when it comes to catering to the consumer, unveiled it’s newest trick, an even more convenient convenience store they are calling Amazon Go. You may have seen the commercial. Customers walk into the store and are free to put whatever they want in their bag then simply walk out. No check out, no lines. It’s all handled through your phone. The Amazon Go app recognizes what you have put in your bag (blows my mind) and then charges you accordingly. So how exactly do they do that?

Amazon has figured out a way to read our minds. Upon entering the store a drone greets you with a bag full of everything that is on your shopping list. Okay okay, so maybe it’s not quite like this (yet).

The concept of the store is made possible through a combination of machine learning, sensors in the form of cameras and microphones; and artificial intelligence. USAToday outlines the flow as follows…

  • Customer walks in, taps phone on sensor in an area Amazon is calling the “transition area”
  • Surveillance identifies the customer
  • Cameras placed throughout the store capture items shoppers pick up and can determine whether the item stays with them or is placed back on the shelf
  • Microphones are used to detect where customers are by the noises they make
  • Infrared pressure and load sensors are used on the shelves to help note when an item is picked up or put back
  • The sensors also tell the store where everything and everyone is at any moment
  • Upon exit, items are totaled up and charged to the user’s Amazon account where they will receive a receipt for their purchases.

The blueprint is intriguing. The system feels thought out and well planned (so far?). The patent filed by Amazon in 2014 gives us an even closer (and somewhat creepier) look at what is involved.

“The use of cameras can even go as far as to determine your skin color. The patent says this is used to identify the shopper’s hand to see whether they actually pick up anything off of a shelf, but combine that with the fact that Amazon knows what you’re buying and who you are and this is pretty next-level market research data.” (verge.com 12/6/16)

Yes it does sound a little creepy, but if they make us aware of the creepiness from the get go while making the shopping experience more efficient in the process, do we give them a pass?

What about the human variable? What if an item is put back in the wrong place? How will the sensors react? Are the microphones able to differentiate between customers? Will quiet shoppers go undetected when drowned out by crying babies? How will Amazon account for multiple cell phones when families, friends (and teams), shop together? Will an army of drones be released on potential shoplifters? It is yet to be seen how such variables will be taken into account.

The beta store located in Seattle is currently being tested out on Amazon employees and is slated to open to the public in early 2017. The inventory consists of basic grocery needs and pre-made meal kits. With Amazon’s hold on ecommerce it is not hard to imagine how this concept will branch out if proven successful.

Imagine running to the store to stock up on food for your next away game without lines.

Looking past retail, the possibilities that this technology creates are endless.

Streamin’ On The GoMonday, December 12th, 2016

mike vizzoniMike Vizzoni, Front Rush

Netflix recently released an update to their incredibly popular app that allows users to download content for offline use. This new feature will let people binge their favorite Netflix content with no internet connection what-so-ever. This is huge news and something that people have been waiting quite a while for.

Funny thing is that back in 2014 the current director of corporate communications, Cliff Edwards, stated that the company would NEVER support downloadable content. He said that offline play back would be a “short-term fix for a bigger problem”. The bigger problem being poor internet connection. Although most of America still suffers from poor internet connection, faster speeds are on the rise! According to Speedtest.com, we have seen the average upload speed of fixed broadband internet usage rise to 50 mbps in 2016. That is 40% higher than 2015 and broadband internet speed seems to be rising even more as the year went on:

Screen Shot 2016-12-09 at 2.34.42 PM

(http://www.speedtest.net/reports/united-states/)

So with the average speed of the internet increasing why is offline playback such a huge announcement for Netflix? This is most exciting for those who travel a lot or simply want to save on cellular data usage. Those of us who travel frequently may have been disappointed in the past when attempting to watch Netflix on a plane, subway, train, or any other form of transformation. You are not always able to connect to the internet when traveling and this new feature will let users download content to then watch while traveling without an internet connection. This is also great for those of us who may have an internet connection through cellular data but would rather stream Netflix without using said data. Cellular networks have a stranglehold on data and most people are trying to cut corners on data usage whenever possible. This can prevent people from going over their monthly data allowance which in turn helps save a ton of money.

Let’s quickly break down how offline playback works. First off, make sure you have updated the Netflix app to the most current version on whatever mobile device you normally us to stream. Once the app is updated you will see a new message pop up the first time you open it:

netflix-download-1

You are now officially able to download select content on Netflix. When this was first released many people thought that users would only be able to download Netflix’s original series and movies but Netflix has gone above and beyond! Good Will Hunting, Pulp Fiction, Mad Men, and Parks and Recreation are just a few examples of other production company’s content that you are able to download. Netflix spokeswoman Marlee Tart also announced that “Netflix is working with lots of partners globally to get downloading rights for the bulk of the content on our service”. Hopefully one day everything within Netflix will be available for offline playback but in the meantime, they have supplied a great little tool within the app that lets you search for downloadable content. Any show or movie that supports this new feature will have this option:

Screen Shot 2016-12-09 at 2.55.35 PM

After clicking the arrow symbol, the content will begin to download. Always make sure the download has finished completely before exiting the app. Also, keep in mind that downloading shows and movies will take up physical storage on your device.

Coaches, be sure to share this info with your players. I am sure many of them enjoy watching Netflix on the way to or home from games. This new feature will surely help them save on data and I know when I was in college my parents would have been thrilled about that.

TFRRS: How It Helped Shape Collegiate XCTFMonday, December 5th, 2016

chrisMby Chris Mateer, Front Rush

In 2010, the foundations of college track and field and cross-country shifted. There was no massive legislation that was passed by the NCAA, there was no major scandal, and tracks remained 400 meters long. The change was brought on by a website with a pretty boring name and a very bare-bones layout. The site is known as the Track and Field Race Reporting System, or TFRRS for short. TFRRS is a simple website with a simple layout. It simply lists race results and filters these into various leaderboards and team rosters.

What has made TFRRS so revolutionary, however, is the centralization of data and the linking that occurs. Race results are listed chronologically and sorted by season. Every athlete has their own profile which lists their history of performances. Athletes are then listed on a team roster, where you can see that team’s performance list for every event. Each team is then part of a conference that contains its own leaderboard for each event. And finally, every conference filters into its own respective division and the division funnels in a national leaderboard. Everything is clean, centralized, hyperlinked, and completely objective. Soon, the NCAA ruled that in order to be eligible for championship qualification purposes, a race had to be listed on TFRRS.

The shifts that have followed have never directly pointed to TFRRS as the result, but the connections are hard to ignore. In the past, many conference and nationals meets set qualifying times or distances. If you hit the mark, you were allowed to compete. Provisional marks were in place and used to fill in fields on years when automatic qualifying performances were scarce. Now, nearly every meet goes off of performance lists, which absolutely requires a database like TFRRS to function.

It has been fascinating watching these subtle shifts affect the ways teams and athletes train and race. In the past, athletes and coaches would shoot for single, objective marks. Once they hit the times, they could scale back the competing and focus wholly on training and peaking for the conference and national championships. Now, there is always one eye on the leaderboard, making sure you are not being pushed too close to the cut off for qualification.

One of the most fascinating developments has been the emergence of “Last Chance” meets. These meets are on the very last week of the season where athletes take their last chance at qualifying for nationals. In the past, these meets were always important, but rarely ran the risk of knocking someone else out. Now, one well timed Last Chance Meet can completely change a field at the national championships. If you’re on the cusp of qualifying, you better keep an eye on where everyone else is traveling to. If you’re not there, your season may be coming to an end.

On an individual level for an athlete not looking to qualify, much has changed too. You know at any given moment where you stack up on your team and in your conference at the click of a button. There is no longer any disputing who ran what time and where they ran it. With the NCAA contract in place now, if the race happened it’s now on TFRRS. Although these words were written by John L. Parker in his cult classic Once a Runner almost 40 years ago in 1978, the words never rang more true:

“Never mind, the point is that we know not only whether we’re good, bad, or mediocre, but whether we’re first, third, or a hundred and ninety seventh at any given point. Track and Field News tell us whether we want to know or not.”

Learn How To Keep LearningMonday, November 14th, 2016

unnamedby Ken Whittaker, Front Rush

I’ve learned enough for one lifetime…said nobody ever. The reality is, we learn something new every day (gross, clichè) through the people we meet, the news we watch or read, or the work we do. There’s no doubt that knowledge surrounds us, and as new technology comes out, it’s very easy to feel dated. It seems like every year there’s a new social media craze, companies trying to remove the everyday need for the laptop, TVs that offer a clearer-than-life picture, and technology that makes us feel like dinosaurs at times. So, how can we stay relevant and keep learning – without breaking the bank?

Well, because we live in this technology driven society – we can leverage this to our advantage. As a software developer, I must continue to learn and adapt new technology, languages, and proficiencies to be sure the products and applications I build meet or exceed the end user’s standards. Newsletters, articles, blog posts, and Twitter can all be instrumental in getting pointed in the right direction. However, don’t be fooled into believing that this is only possible for technology geeks such as myself. Of course, online courses are a great resources for people looking to advance in their current career, but also offer tremendous benefit for picking up a hobby or learning more about something you’ve always been passionate about or interested in. You may surprise yourself how much you already knew, how much you’ve been lead on to believe, and how much is out there still to be learned.

One of my favorite online course sites is Udemy. Many courses are inexpensive, sometimes being discounted as low as $10 and ranging up to $200. After signing up for a free account, you can purchase access to any number of Udemy courses taught by various instructors across the globe. From learning languages to finding out how to get that six pack in the gym, Udemy offers thousands of courses that you can purchase and participate in at your pace. Many courses also offer a section that allow you to post questions to the instructor, and they have the opportunity to respond to you. Of course, this will vary based on the instructor, but is a useful resource if you get stuck or really want to learn more.

Lynda is another option, though I admit I have not used it yet. Their pricing model is a little different by which you can pay around $20 or $30 per month for unlimited access to thousands of courses. This would be a good option for anyone that wants the ability to hop around topics without the need to pay for multiple courses. Also, if you accidentally dive in to a course that is too difficult or too easy, you could potentially switch to another one without having to worry that you’ve wasted your money.

One of the last ways you could gain some extra knowledge is through various podcasts (hey, I hear Dan Tudor just launched their own podcast!) or TEDTalks. These offer a wider range of topics, from sports to healthy eating choices, and is a more passive way to learn new things. Podcasts have been around for a while now, but if you find a topic you’re passionate about and want to learn more, or just want to be inspired or hear a success story, podcasts offer a relaxing way to get those neurons firing. Don’t know what a neuron is? Maybe a podcast or Udemy course on Psychology might be a great start!

 

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