Tag: amazon

When can you call yourself a cyborg? – Episode 58

The Citizens of Tech podcast opens 2017 with a look at the tech devices affecting us either right now or very soon along with today we learned and content we like.

Alexa, turn on the lights.

For example, Amazon’s Alexa is poised as the device of choice for the home. Amazon has been smart about making Echo devices affordable and available anywhere. Now, we can ask Alexa to order things for us, and she does. But Alexa can integrate with third party tools, not just Amazon online. That means Alexa is useful for home automation. We think that’s a low-friction way to drive home automation engagement. “Alexa, set the media room to movie mode.”

Faraday Future’s FF91…apparently, they aren’t faking it.

Tesla has few serious rivals in the EV market, but there are many coming. Soon. Faraday Future has gotten quite a bit of press, as they have been in the middle of several controversies. Controversy aside, they brought the FF91 an early pre-production to CES 2017 — stress “early.” The vehicle is looking good, and has excellent performance numbers in testing. But does the FF91 make any sort of sense, such that Faraday Future is going to survive?

Cyanogen is dead. Long live LineageOS.

We take a look at LineageOS, the survivor built on the ashes of Cyanogen. LineageOS is what you run on your Android-compatible device when you want a truly open source platform that lets you do whatever you like without vendor-modded Android tying your hands.

Thanks for nothing, Kaby Lake.

We ponder when good enough is good enough by comparing the non-upgrade that is the move from Intel Skylake to Kaby Lake CPUs. It’s the struggle of 14nm fab moving to 10nm fab while we’re stuck in the interim. And where’s AMD in all of this? Still mired in mediocrity?

North Sense does not make you a cyborg.

And finally…when can you call yourself a cyborg? North Sense things if you pierce yourself to attach a sensor, then yes…you’re a cyborg. We fervently disagree, and explain why. Hey, nothing wrong with attaching a sensor that vibrates when you’re facing north, but we don’t think that makes you a cyborg in any meaningful sense.

Today I learned…

The technosphere weighs 30 trillion tons.

Content I like…

Ethan and Eric discuss the latest movie entrant into the Star Wars canon, Rogue One. You know, it was…um…okay?

Tesla Powerwall 2

Tesla wants to power your home – Episode 050

Today on Citizens of Tech, we bring you a candle that smells like the tears of a Chinese sweat shop, floating vinyl, Jeff’s iTunes, a tin foil hat for your body, and Tesla’s home invasion, along with content we like and today we learned.

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A candle that smells like a new Mac.


  • You’ve heard of new car smell. Now there’s a candle that promises “new Mac” smell.
  • Put out by Twelve South, makers of fine Apple accessories such as the BookArc and the HiRise iPhone dock.
  • Does is really smell like an oddly enticing brew of fresh chemicals?
  • 9to5 says not exactly. But it does evoke that memory, according to the writer.
  • “a bouquet of mint, peach, basil, lavender, mandarin and sage.”

Bring your vinyl into the anti-grav age.


  • Turntables are their own special mystique.
    • Heavy platters.
    • Clamps that hold the vinyl tight against the platter.
    • Thick vinyl that’s resistant to warping.
    • Belt-driven vs. direct drive motors.
    • Diamond styluses of various shapes that sit in a record groove just so.
    • Cartridges holding the needle make from magic dust.
    • Weighted arms that cause the needle to sit in the groove with a specific amount of pressure.
    • Anti-skate knobs that tweak the counter-active pressure of the record groove pushing the needle towards the center.
    • There are even fancy arms that can tweak the changing angle of the needle as it pivots across the record face in an attempt to keep the needle presentation consistent.
  • And now we have a platter that’s rotated via magnetic levitation.
  • Kickstarter project.
  • The turntable has standard features you’d expect. A phono stage. Selectable 33 and 45 rpm. Semi-automatic tone arm. Etc.
  • Unusual features include…
    • Platter feet. When the platter is not spinning, these feet rise up from the chassis to give the platter something to rest on.
    • A built-in UPS. If there’s a power outage, the system will lift up the tone arm, stop the platter from spinning, and raise the platter feet.
    • Sensor regulating software makes sure that the mag-lev platter is turning at the proper speed.
    • Power consumption is 12W.
    • No moving parts inside, as implied by the feature “no wear of parts.”
  • No word on whether or not the MAG-LEV turntable will damage your cassette collection.
  • As of October 29, 2016, there are 509 backers for a total of $380,953 pledged. The goal was only $300K by November 21, 2016, so this one is definitely going to run.
  • Your cheapest way in is the $780 early bird, which gets you the black finish. Prices go up from there.
  • Find out more about them and join their mailing list at https://maglevaudio.com/.

Amazon streaming music.



  • Amazon has a new music service meant to compete with Spotify and Apple Music.
  • Called “Music Unlimited”.
  • I must admit to being open to other music streaming services, as my Spotify experience on CarPlay is annoying. And the Mac client has been dodgy lately. The iPhone experience itself is still good.
    • Sometimes Spotify won’t start from the CarPlay console. Once it starts, it works. But starting it is unpredictable. Maddening when the point of CarPlay is to not have to interface with your phone while you’re driving.
    • No shuffle control setting in CarPlay. If you want to play an album straight through but were in shuffle mode, you’re out of luck unless you interface with the Spotify app on the phone.
    • The Mac client doesn’t update consistently when playing tracks now. Skipping to other songs, especially when playing to remote sources, has gotten strange. Time progress bar won’t update. Moving back and forth between tracks sometimes doesn’t work.
    • Client software updates used to be frequent. Now they are rare.
  • I love Amazon shopping. I am an Amazon Prime customer. The Prime video service is consistently amazing. The best video streaming tool on my Roku. I’m guessing that if they can get video right, then they can get audio right, too. Thus, I’m open-minded.

A tin foil hat for your body.


  • The tinfoil hat keeps the bad guys out of your head, right?
  • Of course, that’s silly, but this new Kickstarter is more or less on that idea.
  • The “Anti-Surveillance Coat blocks every in- and outgoing signal. Keeping you safe in an information-driven environment.”
  • The coat looks sort of like a modern take on the rain jacket. It falls about 3/4ths of the way down your body, to roughly your knee. It has a hood.
  • It’s made of metalliferous fabrics (a polyester, copper, and nickel blend), that the maker claims works like a Faraday cage. No signal in or out.
  • If you want signal to/from one device, there’s a black breast pocket on the front just for that.
  • Wut? WHY? Well…”We as humans are creating an enormous invisible network on top of our existing biosphere; the infosphere. This infosphere consists of networks and radio waves. It’s our new, ever expanding environment that grows at a staggering rate. Yet we roam around unprotected with privacy-sensitive data. This data might easily be tracked and misused by virtually everyone; random people, but also companies and governments. It has become impossible to control which information about us is revealed and what stays hidden. We are not in control of our own privacy anymore. And privacy is what makes us human.”
  • Ridiculous. But, if you want to take part, you’ve got until November 12 to contribute to this Kickstarter and protect yourself from the pervasive infosphere taking over our souls. They need €15K. As of this recording, they aren’t even close.

Tesla Powerwall 2.0 / Solar Shingles


    • We’ve discussed the original Powerwall several times
    • We generally concluded that it was a great idea, but wasn’t *quite* “there” yet.
      • It had a storage capacity of 7 kWh with ~ 5.6 kWh usable
      • $3,000 (without the inverter)
      • You can daisy-chain them to increase total storage capacity
    • Enter the Powerwall 2.0:
      • 14 kWh storage with ~12.5 kWh (AC) ~12.85 kWh (DC)
        • Handily more than 2x the energy density
      • $5,000 USD
        • So not quite double the price for double the storage


  • And it includes the inverter


    • Still daisy-chain-able
    • Sleeker, flatter, more futuristic looking.
    • Interior or Exterior mounting options
  • Again, this is all part of the Solar-City / Tesla power play to get their new shingle panels on your roof, PowerWall in your garage and an electric vehicle in there next to it.
  • So how about those newly unveiled solar shingles / tiles?
    • They appear to be highly durable in the impact demonstration
      • Only tile that didn’t crack or shatter
      • Question is: how will those dings affect the electric generation output?
      • Even partial shading often renders an entire cell nearly useless
    • They look great.
    • No real word on pricing yet
      • “Less than a new roof and the cost of electricity over the life of the panels.”
      • That life is supposedly 25-50 years…
      • So probably pretty darn expensive.
    • Again, a step in the right direction, but this isn’t the first time this has been attempted; there have been other solar shingle products that were pulled from the market for lack of interest
      • They were expensive and far less efficient than “regular” PV cells
  • Interesting days ahead. As someone who is looking at the prospect of having to re-shingle my house, I’m academically interested, though I likely won’t be in a position to move on it, since again, it’s probably pretty darn expensive

Content I Like

A16z Podcast


  • High level perspectives on technology from the venture capitalist firm of Andreessen Horowitz.
  • Some inside-baseball about Silicon Valley.
  • They get to the point and keep it usually 30 minutes or less.



  • Electric guitar required
  • USB adapter required
  • Remastered version (in 2014) was $39.99 plus the adapter $35 or so
  • Lead, Rhythm, Bass
  • Teaches you how to hold, attach your strap, navigate the frets, do bends, slides, chords, etc.
  • Teaches you to play songs ranging from Elvis to Bob Marley to Muse and Poison
  • Intelligently helps you with riffs you kinda suck at
    • If you continue to suck at it, it will progressively slow the tempo down until you get it, then ratchet the speed up as you get better.
  • Real feedback on your performance
  • One note: if you don’t read music, this won’t really teach you to (at least that I’ve seen so far) – this is moreso aimed at learning to play via tablature.
  • Like guitar hero, except with a real guitar, so harder.
  • Bottom line: It’s really fun, but not a replacement for actual music theory.

Exponent Podcast


  • Ben Thompson and James Allworth (tech writers)
  • They pontificate with strong opinion about what’s going in the tech world, news items, big company moves.
  • They play well off of each other as co-hosts. Easy to listen to.
  • About 60 minutes.

Triangulation Podcast


  • Leo Laporte finds uber nerds and interviews them. The triangle is Leo, the guest, and the listener, since Leo records his content live via twit.tv and has a chat room where you can comment and ask questions while the show is being recorded.
  • Fascinating people turn up. Jerry Kaplan, a pioneer in AI, was a recent guest, for example.
  • About 60 minutes.

Today I Learned

The world’s largest corn maze is, supposedly, the Richardson Farm Corn Maze in Spring Grove, IL. 33 acres, 5 different mazes. Even if they aren’t the largest, they have a Star Trek maze that, from the air, looks amazing. Get lost in the Kirk-Spock bromance one last time.


A stacked ring of self-supporting Pringles potato chips is called a “ringle.”


Well that pretty much drives a stake through the heart of this Halloween episode of Citizens of Tech. But like the inevitable zombie horde, the show will rise from the grave next week, and we hope you’ll be along for the next hair-raising adventure. Please remember that you can help support the show by sharing and retweeting/liking our posts on social media, and there’s always Patreon and that Amazon affiliate link is actually really worthwhile, so if you don’t mind, hit it the next time you have an Amazon purchase to make: citizensoftech.com/amazon – that will help us get the word out about the show to more folks interested in the kind of content we put out on this show.

But for now, “We’d better get back, ‘cause it’ll be dark soon, and they mostly come at night… mostly.”