That was the motivation to push SWMBO to get one -- so she could *call*
(me) for help if she had a problem (flat tire, car won't start, etc.)
instead of relying on "whomever happens to be nearby".
[E.g., when she has a problem, "standing orders" are to roll up the windows,
lock the doors and politely refuse all offers of help. "Stay someplace safe"
instead of opening yourself up to potential harm]
We had a neighbor who was glued to hers. I don't think I *ever* (literally)
saw her without it pressed firmly to her ear. (Of course, I only saw her
when she was outdoors...)
What amazes me is how willingly people will let others OVERHEAR (one side of)
a private conversation! Yet, if you were to openly acknowledge WHAT THEY
HAD JUST (effectively) *TOLD* YOU, they would consider it rude, on your part
(but, it wasn't rude for you to fill the air with those words mere moments
I suspect the obsession with the things is a variant of "if a tree falls in the
forest and no one hears it, did it really fall?" I.e., "if no one calls me,
do I really exist??" :>
I've sort of gotten used to it but the ones with the ear piece phones
drive me nuts. The first time I encountered one was in the waiting
lounge at an airport. The last thing in the world I need is to be locked
in a sardine can with someone who appears to be having a heated
conversation with themselves.
I just don't "understand" it. The *last* thing I want to do is let someone
overhear a discussion of which they are not a party. E.g., if I have
guest over and have to make/take a call, I move into another room
and use a different extension -- so they aren't (intentionally or
accidentally) overhearing what I'm saying.
Sounds like a good moment to drown the device with
the person attached?
I wonder what happens if you start your own one sided
conversation, sitting next to the phone yapper? Could
be comical. We need Robin Williams alive, again.
There's no guarantee that I'm going to see my email "in a timely
manner". And, I don't have to *answer* the door. :>
Most "visits" are neighbors with things like:
"I'm headed off to Sam's Club; need anything?"
"We're going to San Diego this weekend; can you keep an eye on the place?"
"Here's the craft store's coupons from today's paper..."
"Nikki's computer crashed while she was working on her term paper,
due tomorrow; can you recover it for her?"
I mused about a suitable "door bell" (button) for some time.
The top contender was "a coinslot"! <grin> I think this would
put-off most folks: "You mean I have to PAY to talk to someone??"
But, it would be inconvenient for friends and neighbors, as well
("Can I get my quarter back??").
So, I've opted for a "HAL interface station" alongside the door.
Gives me a place to put CCTV camera and microphone. And, a whimsical
Problem is locating a large glass lens... (and an eerie red light!)
Folks who *know* me with invariably tolerate my eccentricities;
and, probably get a laugh out of them!
Folks who *don't* should be intimidated, "put off", inconvenienced,
etc. I.e., I have a video record of your visit and there are no
"instructions" for how you can "ring the doorbell" (deposit 25c?)
The HAL interface also gives me an authentication mechanism that
I can use to allow trusted individuals to gain entry to the house
in my absence: it "recognizes" them and will unlock the door and
disable the alarm to allow them entry. Of course, it will also
record this event so it's unlikely any of these trusted individuals
are going to avail themselves of this capability unnecessarily!
[E.g., I've had keys to many people's homes. They *assume* I will
only use those when necessary -- but have no assurance that that
is the case. Yet, they are confident in their trust owing to
their personal knowledge of me. They wouldn't leave a key with
the Postman, for instance!]
I think they find many of these things "entertaining" (i.e., they;ve
never encountered anyone who applies technology in the ways I do).
I find them "excellent test subjects" (aka guinea pigs).
I brought a prototype of my "speaker identification" system
("who is speaking") to one of our get-togethers and had them
all amused that a machine could differentiate between them
so easily just by listening to the characteristics of their
[So, I can receive a phone call from <someone>, verify the
caller ID is correct for that person, verify their voice
has the proper characteristics *and* verify they know the
proper procedure/secrets and allow them to turn off my house
lights if I've left them on, close my garage door if I left
it open, turn on the irrigation system if it's unusually dry,
etc. AND, they don't have to be "inconvenienced" to do these
things for me: having to maintain custody of keys, come *onto*
the property, into the house, etc.]
That's so cool. You're the real deal when it comes to thinking outside
the box! I love the idea of doing that even if I don't have all the
skills that you have to make new ideas technically work. I suppose I do
it on a scale that my skill set allows me to, but it's cool when I come
across someone who has more skill than I have and they actually can make
things happen that ARE outside of the box.
But, it *isn't* -- that's the whole point!
What I am doing is exactly whaat a "human being" would do in these
By way of (strained) example, imagine you've got a young child at
home, alone, while you are away (forget how BAD this is when it comes
to parenting skills).
You'd never let that child open the door unconditionally. You'd
train them to look and see who it is, recognize their voice, etc.
and ONLY answer for a certain group of individuals.
Likewise, you wouldn't have them answer every incoming call -- it
could "leak" information to a potential thief ("There's no one
home but some KID!"), scammer, etc. Instead, you'd have them
examine the caller ID before picking up the receiver and only
doing so if it was a name/number that they recognized (Penny,
Uncle Tony, Bob, etc.).
And, having picked up the phone on the assumption that it was
<whomever>, the child would expect to hear <whomever's> voice! Not some random person spoofing the CID credentials! If it's
not Uncle Tony (Aunt Betty, his wife), then hang up!
Likewise, having "authenticated" the other party, the kid would
exercise some care in deciding what instructions he would follow
from that individual. I.e., if Uncle Tony asked for Daddy's
credit card number, the kid wouldn't provide it. OTOH, if he
was told to "turn up the heat cuz its going to be cold tonight",
that would be an acceptable action (from Uncle Tony -- but maybe
not from "Bob", etc.)
So, there's no real "out-of-the-box" thinking going on. It's
just that I'm capable of applying these technologies in ways
that others might not (yet) have considered. Or, are only interested
in if they can convert them to dollars... :<
There aren't many people who actually think about all the details like
you think about the details, and then believe that you can apply those
details to a technology that works. Many people just end up thinking
about a few details and get irritated if you break it down step by step
like you do. I LOVE the details - for example, the intricate list of how
to get from point A to point Z, or even going backwards from point "H"
back to point "A" to define how a series of events either caused or
influenced how someone arrived at point "H" in the first place. Then
analyze that information to determine if the sequence of events could be
changed at a later date to arrive at a better version of point "H" next
I think what you do is analyzing by common sense on steroids, which is
really cool to do, imo.
The technology is the easy part. The hard part is presenting it to the
user in a way that isn't intimidating, doesn't require the device to
"train them" (in how it wants to be used), etc.
E.g., my telephone screening tool could be implemented by sitting down
and WRITING OUT a bunch of "rules":
- if there is no caller ID, then don't answer the phone
- if the caller ID matches someone in *this* list, don't answer
- if the caller ID matches someone in this OTHER list...
- if the voice matches someone on this list...
- if the time of day is between...
- if the caller successfully passes these tests...
etc. If you're a geek, this may be a perfectly acceptable way
of doing things. If you AREN'T, it's total crap!
If you had a secretary and had to spell things out in this level
of detail, then you're either guilty of micromanaging that individual
*or*, you hired someone who doesn't have the desired skills for the
job (namely, being able to learn from observing your actions and
"write the rules for their *own* benefit" -- instead of needing you
to write them for them!)
Most folks would immediately put a "display" in the system -- to
"show" the user what the system is doing. I.e., converting a device
that *could* be used with JUST your ears into a device that REQUIRES
your eyes (and hands -- to manipulate the inevitable "keyboard"
that they would include).
IME, this is what makes the difference between a "hack" and a genuine
[The percentage of devices returned because "user couldn't understand
how to use it" is STAGGERING! Consider each of those is a lost sale
AND an unhappy customer... AND, lost "product". So, coming up with
a user interface that JUST "works" -- and little more -- is a wasted
effort. It has to work WELL, be easily understood, etc!]
Most folks don't want to "be bothered" by their appliances.
They just want them to "work".
Designers often think that users want all sorts of "customization
capabilities". They *do*! But, they want the device customized the way
THEY want it when they make the purchase (i.e., they don't want to have
to figure out how to do this customization -- yet want to know that
the device fits *their* needs and not the needs of The Unwashed Masses)
So, devices need to *learn* what their users want and adapt -- instead
of requiring their users to learn how to "adapt them"!
Mine mostly are "Here's your mail. Got any of mine?" It's a cluster box
and some of the contract mail drones use a random sorting technique. I
damn near paid the neighbor's propane bill once before I noticed the
We have a neighbor next street over (same house number) who often
gets our mail while we get theirs. It's happened often enough that
we simply drop it in each other's mailbox when that happens.
[Technically, only the homeowner and the USPS are allowed access to
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