Internet + Death

When I was in the taxi riding home from JFK airport two weeks ago, after our trip to Croatia, I received this text from the superintendent of my NYC coop: “Your neighbor in 10A passed.”

I was stunned on several accounts.

First, I never understood that expression. Passed? I am not trying to be funny, but passed what? An exam? Broke wind? Passed a stone? I just asked Eliot if he agreed with the expression “passed” before writing this post. He got annoyed with me and in a tone that only a 100-year marriage could produce (remember, we work together 24/7), he sighed, “What do you think it means? Passed. Like in passed on. Like no longer living. Like on to the afterlife.” It seemed to make sense during his explanation, but I don’t like it.

Secondly, I was stunned to receive a text. That seems to be the way I am receiving death notices these days. Cut and dry. No need for small talk. “Virginia passed.” Now don’t say that this is “just New Yorkers.” Many people in my coop know each other well because we are always at each other’s throat over some issue.

Virginia was another story. My quiet neighbor who I’ve seen maybe 10 times in the last 20 years even though we lived side-by-side, seemed happy and healthy when we met at the trash chute a month ago. She was around my age and single. I was on my way to work when she opened the door to throw out her garbage. This was our usual encounter. Virginia had been sick a few years back and looked frail for quite some time. In the last year or two she seemed active and carefree. I also confirmed this with our doormen. They know things like that.

I tried to talk to our super Salim face-to-face, but he was too busy in the morning before I left for work and off the premises when I came home at night. So the texting continued. “What happened?” I texted.  He texted back, “Her nephew called me to say that he couldn’t reach her. When he came to the building a few hours later, we both went into her apartment together. We found her in bed, gone.”

When I met up with Salim days later, he told me that in the 20 years he has been working in the building this marked the eighth body he’s discovered — several found in bath tubs, on the floor, or slumped in a chair.

The third thing that stunned me was the notice the police posted on Virginia’s door. Until an autopsy is performed and a death is determined, no one is allowed to enter the apartment. The seal on the door cannot be broken. Salim promised to text me the findings. Other neighbors asked me to text them what I’ve learned.

Texting has replaced hanging out the window, screaming your neighbor’s name.

By the way, we argue by text as well but we use CAPS. “SCREW YOU!!”

I wanted to tell you this story after reading Jenna Wortham’s New York Times piece about “Death Online.” Jenna has been reporting on digital news for years. She is well-respected and adored.

NYTimes: Digital Diary: Talking About Death Online

Posting about a personal loss online makes people — both the poster and the readers — uncomfortable. Why does the social Web seem limited to a few emotions?

Rest In Peace Virginia

The Next Big Thing In TV—–4K

You will be hearing a lot about a new improvement in TV viewing called 4K, so I wanted you to know about it first. It is a long way off, but tech writers will be devoting a lot of their stories to it. That is what they always do when a new improvement has been announced. I didn’t want to leave you in the dark, so I am giving you a simple explanation of 4K and links to other stories if you want to explore.

The reason why it is called 4K, is because it is four times the resolution of the current HD – high definition – now.  Current HD maxes out at 1080 lines or a 1080p picture.  4K HD is 4096 lines, or 4096p.  Kind of like the regular display in the 1st generation iPad vs. the Retina Display in the new iPad – more pixels, higher picture quality. 4K originated in movie theaters.

Toshiba promises to ship a unit in the first quarter of 2013.  Westinghouse showed a 4K TV at CE Week.

That is all you need to know for now. Impress your kids and friends when you casually mention 4K to them. Trust me, they will suddenly have a new respect for like never before.

Toshiba’s 4K TV$12000-55-inch-4k-3d-tv-dazzling/

Sony is releasing a 4K projector

Ars Technica describes 4K.

Happy Fifth Anniversary iPhone

We miss you Steve.

It has been five years since the iPhone was first introduced. I have included a link to CNET, one of the best tech blogs in the world, that shows Steve Jobs first introducing the iPhone at an Apple press conference. Witness history in the making. It gives me chills. I think I love my iPhone more than a lot of other things. Call me shameless.



Silent Retreat

A friend of mine, Barbara Hearne, moved from Miami to Ashland, NC because she wanted the adventure of building a new home and to experience the woods and mountains. She loves it!

During a recent conversation she told me she decided to “unplug” for a certain period of time and actually go silent for a week. That means no verbal or tech communications. Just complete silence. I was fascinated. I asked her to tell me all about it.

This is her story, her words.

If I had to describe my life in 2012 it would be “un-plugged.”

The previous three years were filled with packing, moving, selling, renting, designing and building my new home in the mountains.  Preparing the land and then building took years. I loved every minute.

My only question is how houses were built before email, texts, cell phones, internet, digital images and virtual 3D models.   I fell asleep at my keyboard many many nights because of  endless questions, answers and decisions made.

When the house was almost complete, I attended my first “Silent Retreat” with over 300 people.  Ahhhhh, a week of not speaking, “silent sitting”, hiking on my own and spending nights quiet in a little cabin.  I actually had to buy a watch since no tech items were allowed.  I noticed a few high end cars outside of some cabins — Porsche, Mercedes, Lexus. The luxury we came for was having no chatter, no input and lots of rest.  I’ve learned to value this quiet time.  Once a friend commented that I am a “true” introvert.  Inspiration bubbles up when I make time for silence.

Since that retreat I’ve given myself permission to be outdoors in nature more and less on the computer.  I love digging in the dirt, watching things grow, feeling the breeze and observing the creatures do their thing.  My partner recently bought me the new iPad,  but I must admit it’s his truck filled with mulch, stone and trees to be planted that excites me most. 

I know that silence is not dependent on being un-plugged. Maybe this is how I’m finding my balance or maybe it’s about getting older and wanting to feel life from the inside out.  Most importantly, I’ve learned to listen to what I need and I give myself permission to have it.  A wise teacher once said it best, “Life is but a whisper, be silent, listen.”

How Qwerty Is This?

To all of you who have aches and pains from typing on a keyboard all day, good news is on the way. Ray Mc Enaney, owner of BeeRaider, came all the way from Ireland to CE Week to introduce a radical new keyboard design that challenges the dominance of the QWERTY standard. The QWERTY keyboard was first introduced in the late 19th century for mechanical typewriters.

Ray says it is time for a change. The new design is considered to be especially relevant for portable devices including smartphones, tablets, netbooks and laptop devices. The first Radial Keyboard is available for all Android users. Other formats are in the works.

The new Radial Keyboard design follows several fundamental guidelines. The aim is to produce a design that would result in:

  • A keyboard that would be more logical, ergonomic and efficient
  • A reduction in user familiarization-time
  • An improvement in a user’s data-entry keying-speed
  • A reduction in the keyboard’s footprint size

As a point of information, the QWERTY layout was developed in an effort to solve a peculiar typing problem with mechanical typewriters. Whenever a typist began to type too fast, the previously pressed key jammed with the next key pressed and the wrong character was printed. The solution was to lay out the QWERTY keyboard’s alpha-character keys in such a way as to slow down a user’s typing speed. And in case you never noticed, the alpha-characters for spelling the word “TYPEWRITER” are deliberately placed on the top row of the QWERTY keyboard so that salespeople selling typewriters could easily demonstrate their typing proficiency by quickly typing this word to impress potential customers.

Unique selling points for the Radical design according to Ray:

  1. Optimized alpha-character layout based on each character’s frequency of use in the English language. Will achieve greater typing speeds
  2. Logical, more efficient ergonomic layout with a familiar user-friendly bee outline that anyone can readily relate to (especially children)
  3. Testing shows that the keyboard’s alpha-character layout can be easily memorized in as little as 10 to 20 minutes. Becoming a touch-typist is a possibility for everyone. Remember, most people even after years of using QWERTY, still don’t know where the alpha-keys are located and must look at the keyboard in order to find them when typing
  4. Much bigger keys for the weaker less dexterous fingers
  5. Small portable size footprint but still maintaining an acceptable keycap size for its smallest keys.
  6. It solves the problem of small cramped keys on devices such as Netbooks
  7. It can be conveniently operated with one or two hands
  8. It has room for a built-in mouse and cursor-keys or numeric keypad
  9. It looks like fun
  10. It reduces the possibility of RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury)

Ray added that the future is about portability, connectivity and wear-ability. ”QWERTY no longer meets the requirements of a modern data-entry keyboard device.”

Ray is in IT support at the Dundalk Institute of Technology.

Bikers Beware

Neil Weinstock

This is not exactly a tech story even though bicycles do have lots of tech accessories and some have electric engines. This is a warning from a friend of mine, Neil Weinstock, who is busy developing the next big technology in 3D. Go to to read all about it.

Neal was in a life-threatening bike accident two weeks ago on Ocean Parkway in Brooklyn, NY. After riding on city streets since 1978, he claims he is not going to do that anymore. He will take his bike to a park where he can do his 25-mile ride a few times a week without the threat of speeding automobiles.

Neal said if he wasn’t wearing a helmet he would be dead today. A run-away car made an unauthorized turn from the side road on Ocean Parkway and smacked right into him on the main road where the bike lane was situated.  The car kept going while he was on the ground gushing blood.

He blacked out and doesn’t remember a lot other than tremendous shooting pain. He was hospitalized for several days and a hundred plus stitches later, he was standing in front of me at CE Week.

Neal is very concerned about Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s plan to get more bikes on the road. “The plan to rent bikes without helmets is unthinkable and irresponsible,” he added. “I want to warn people of my generation, and all generations, that they can’t bike without a helmet. It’s just suicide.”

Neal, we are so happy you lived to tell the story. We can’t wait for you to change the 3D landscape. We are very proud of you

gdgt Live

The world of tech likes to party. Every month, or sometimes every week, there is some event that industry people can attend to see new products, socialize, drink, eat, and go home with a bag of goodies.

The gdgt event last night, smack in the middle of Silicon Alley in New York  City, was a little different. This one was targeted to the consumer. Thousands of people showed up to walk through the exhibit hall at The Altman Building, 135 West 18th Street. Manufacturers and app developers had their new introductions on display to get first hand customer reactions and to start generating sales. FYI, gdgt, a company that dropped its vowels, is a blog where you can get reviews from people who actually have the product you’re looking for. They run live events all around the country as a means to get the innovative companies to interact with the public.

Last night was my first time attending as a blogger. I am usually a PR person pitching product myself. I wanted to find new, exciting products to tell you about. One of the most interesting pieces of information that I picked up is that AARP is becoming a sponsor of some of these events. Robin Raskin of Living In Digital Times told me that AARP is expressing more interest in technology. It all makes sense to me but I will let you know about any services they develop involving innovation.

Here are some of the innovations I saw last night that might interest you.

1) iRobot Roomba 790 with Command Center

2) iPieces from Pressman, a host of new games from Pressman Toys

3) Cobrar entry into the app market with the iRadar

My Life, My Schedule Continues

Barbara and Frank

Yesterday, Barbara talked about the commitment and discipline you must have if you decide later in life that you want to go back to school via the Internet. Millions of people are opting for the University of Phoenix because of the curriculum and leadership in this sector of education.

Question: What are the costs involved in taking courses?

Barbara: Just because the courses are online, doesn’t mean it is less expensive than schools with walls. Getting a degree online is as expensive as traditional college. Each class, which runs about five weeks, costs around $1,200. Every year I spent about $18,000 in order to get my degree. As I mentioned before, it took me five years to get a four year degree. If you figure out the math, you’ll see this is a very serious undertaking.

Q: How much interaction is there between you and the other students in the class?

B: Unless you actually take an online class, you really can’t understand the dynamics of the relationships established during this journey. I believe that some of the friendships I’ve made are just as great, if not greater than those I would have made in a bricks and mortar classroom. There are no pretenses. No time for the usual social judgements. We all helped each other to succeed. You establish relationships with people based on a common cause. That is very different than sizing someone up because of physical or economic attributes.

I am very close to a gal now who comes from the south and who was dirt poor growing up. She was a genius in statistics. Without her I probably would not have made it through physics. She needed me for writing. We were each other’s backup. We spent countless hours offline texting and chatting. We see each other socially now. There is a common denominator now between us that is stronger than some of the social relationships I have made in my lifetime.

Q: How often are you in contact with the instructor?

B: Most of the time you are interfacing online. Occasionally, if the school feels you are slipping or need some encouragement, there is a coach that will call to counsel you. It is more of a pep talk to get you focused and grounded. You get all the help you need but you have to show a strong commitment to be taken seriously.

If you have any other questions, please post them here. Barbara will be sure to answer you.

My Life, My Schedule—First Of A Two Part Series

Barbara O’Connell, one of this nation’s biggest success stories, decided late in life that she wanted a college degree. When I first heard that she enrolled in the University of Phoenix’s online Bachelor of Arts program, it came as no surprise that Barbara was going to undertake another huge challenge.
I know Barbara for almost 30 years. Her husband Frank was our client several times during his brilliant career: Twentieth-Century Fox Video, HBO Video, and Skybox trading cards. Barbara, in my opinion, was the perfect wife. She was a natural beauty, had a great shape, always ready to move when Frank got a bigger, better job. She devoted countless hours to charities, hosting exciting dinner parties, became in charge of their extensive real estate holdings, raised two very industrious sons and was instrumental in keeping close contact with her husband’s older children. She also skis, rides a Harley, and hikes. I am sure she has many other interests and hobbies but I think you get my point. Barbara is no sloucher.

It seems that all through the years, Barbara has had a nagging desire to get her college degree. Much like many women her age, she got side tracked by excelling at her first few jobs and raising a family. About eight years ago she decided to do something about it. Without any fanfare, she started taking online courses at the University of Phoenix. The school is known as the pioneer in online, long distance learning. They have all of the same courses and degrees as many major universities.

Since the future of our lives is now going virtual, I wanted to know more about Barbara’s online school experience. It took her five years to complete her B.A. That was three years ago. Her journey should give us a glimpse of what to expect as more of our dealings are being conducted through the Internet.

Question: What is the biggest difference between going to school online and the classroom?

Barbara: The biggest difference for me was that the competition between the students was gone. You are taking classes with people from all over the world.  There is a sense of camaraderie and maturity. Everyone helps each other to achieve. Some students excel in one area while they need help in another. No one was a genius all the time. It was a great feeling to know you were a part of a team.

Q: What kind of discipline do you need to get a degree online?

B:  You really have to want to do it. No one is forcing you. You have to be committed. You can’t be wishy-washy. You are either in or out. You are taking classes with others who are very serious. You can’t hold them up. The class has assignments, some of which is divided up. You can’t move forward unless certain areas have been completed. There are deadlines. You can’t be missing in action.

Q: How did you find time to do all this work with your busy schedule?

B: There is an old saying, If you need something to get done, give the job to the busiest person. The busiest person knows how to manage time. You just have to allot the hours. You basically work at your own pace but you must meet the deadlines. For example, all work was due each week at 11pm on Sunday nights. It doesn’t matter if you did your assignments in the middle of the night or early in the mornings. It just had to get done. I remember many a night that I would sit down to work on an assignment after we would get home from a movie or night out with friends. Frank would look at me and say, “You are getting obsessive about your work. Go to bed.” I never paid attention if I was inspired or had the energy to get a few things done. I liked the fact that I was able to manipulate the hours for when it suited me.”

More Q and A With Barbara O’ Connell tomorrow.

DigiDame Nailed A Scoop !!!

You may not remember but on June 11th, I wrote a post from Croatia saying that outdoor TV viewing was very popular, especially in bars and restaurants. I showed you a few photos of what the flat panel TV’s looked like hanging on the walls and talked about how crowds gathered to drink, eat and watch sports games together. Before Croatia I had never seen an outdoor flat panel so I found it fascinating. The units I am talking about are designed to be displayed outdoors and remain there in all kinds of weather.

The only other time I had heard about an outdoor TV came from my pal Howard Greenberg. He said he had a friend who owned one. I remember grilling Howard because I never heard think of this concept before. I thought perhaps his friend rigged a traditional set for outdoor purposes. Howard insisted that I was wrong and the TV panel was designed to be displayed outside. He said that his friend installed the unit by the pool so his family could watch their favorite sports shows while swimming, having BBQ’s and just relaxing on their patio.

Just a few days ago, I was telling Greg Tarr, Executive Editor at TWICE magazine, a trade publication in the consumer electronics business, about the outdoor flat panel TV that I saw in Croatia and what Howard had told me. Greg is the utmost authority when it comes to new product introductions and trends in the TV hardware business.

Greg confirmed that outdoor flat panels are now appealing to a wide general audience in the United States and he just wrote an article about it. The manufacturers that are in the business so far are SunBrite, Cinios, Runko, Seura, and Toshinaer. I was thrilled that I spotted this trend in Europe and that I shared it with you earlier this month.

Thank you Greg for taking the time to share your story with me and my readers.