Google Expands Scope of Self-Driving Car Project

Google announced this month that they are unleashing a fleet of their self-driving cars in their hometown of Mountain View, California as well as expanding their test runs in the streets of downtown Austin, Texas. Although Google has been coordinating test drives in the area around their headquarters since about 2012, they are now broadening the number of cars that are participating in these test runs. As more and more of the Lexus RX450h SUV self-driving Google cars hit the streets, the controversy surrounding them continues to rise.

Self-driving cars are supposed to be the wave of the future, but there is still an unsettling fear that is associated with them. So far, there have been low accident reports regarding self-driving cars. The few accidents that have occurred have been mostly caused by other drivers, like the two cars that accidentally rear-ended self-driving cars last month. Less than 15 accidents have been reported since the self-driving cars have been unleashed in the streets. Google has promised to release monthly accident reports going forward into the future. In 2013 there were 30,719 fatal car accidents reported in the U.S. caused by human-driven cars, with this data not including non-fatal accidents and fender benders. When more self-driving cars hit the road, we will be able to make better comparisons about the safety of human drivers vs. self-driving cars.

One of the biggest selling points of these self-driving cars is that they will bring the hope of mobility back to those who no longer have it. This means people with vision problems and other physical limitations that keep them from driving may be able to get around again. If these self-driving cars actually make it into our everyday lives, will they cut down on accidental deaths, like the ones that are caused by human error, or accidents caused while driving under the influence? Currently the leading causes of automobile deaths are distracted drivers, drunk drivers and drivers who speed. Will the self-driving car bring an end to all of that?

Another attractive idea surrounding the self-driving car is that we all may be able to travel around while being distracted to our heart’s content. In the future we might be able to text, talk on the phone, eat breakfast, read emails and surf all of our beloved social media sites, all while on the way to work. But what about riding under the influence of alcohol? Will a driver still need to be able to take over if a self-driving car starts malfunctioning? Will there be self-driving cabs in the future that will be able to pick you up from the bar when you have had one too many?

Another question is how self-driving cars will affect traffic. In present day, the single passenger car is the main cause of traffic congestion. Will smaller, single person self-driving cars solve traffic issues, or compound the issue and make it worse?

Although Google cannot guarantee everyone’s absolute safety, they are hoping to at least ease fears that the American public might have when it comes to their self-driving cars. In a society that fears loss of control, there is no wonder the self-driving car can at times be a hard sell. For now, until we have further answers, we can just sit back and watch the progress that is being made in both California and Texas and wait to see what happens next.

Wearable Tech and Your Health

In our latest installment about wearable technology, we’ll go over a few devices that may be able to improve your health in regards to both back pain and living with diabetes.

Valedo

One of the biggest health complaints that Americans deal with on a daily basis is back pain. This especially plagues office workers that sit for eight hours a day. Designated back stretches and ergonomic desks can help, but the FDA has just approved a wearable device that may work even better. Valedo is a wearable for anyone who has issues with back pain, or is looking to simply strengthen their back muscles without having to hit the gym. Valedo’s claim is that it can stabilize your spine, which in turn may help reduce back pain in the long term. Valedo comes with two sensors that attach to your lower back and chest using provided medical tape. When used in conjunction with Valedo’s app can walk you through a series of exercises that you can do while you are sitting or standing.

The app that works with Valedo has a video game style interface, to make tracking the device fun while still being user-friendly. Valedo is compatible with Android and iOS, as long as it is an iPhone 5 or 6 model, and at least a 3rd generation iPad or iPad Mini.

Google’s Smart Contact Lens Project

Diabetes has been on the rise in the U.S over the last ten years, so naturally there have been endless innovations to help manage the condition and to make life easier for diabetics. In terms of innovation, no one comes close to Google. So it makes sense that they have come out with a potential fix to one of the most painful and annoying aspects of having diabetes – checking blood sugar levels. To date, the most popular method of checking blood sugar (otherwise known as glucose) levels has been by pricking a finger with a needle and analyzing the blood. It’s recommended that a diabetic’s glucose be checked regularly, depending on the severity of a person’s condition. Some diabetics check their glucose levels weekly, others must check hourly. Although it’s a small amount of blood that is needed to check glucose levels, anyone who has had their finger pricked knows that it stings. This is where Google steps in.

Google introduced the concept of its smart contact lens project last year, which may change the lives of diabetics everywhere. This smart contact lens has a wireless chip that can detect and measure the glucose levels in your body by the tears in your eyes, via a tiny antenna that can detect blood sugar levels. Although the contact lenses are still in development and are not in production as of yet, diabetics around the world are eagerly awaiting a release date.

Wearable Tech: Fitbit Edition

For our next wearable tech installment, we will focus on one of the granddaddies of all wearable technology, the Fitbit.

Chances are that you have heard of Fitbit by now. These “lifestyle bracelets” have been taking over wrists all over the Silicon Valley for the last few years, and now the trend has caught on with the rest of country. This wearable device has the ability to track all of your physical movement, and keep track of how many steps and calories you have burned throughout the day. The Fitbit syncs wirelessly to your phone where you can view your stats on their app.

The Fitbit features a waterproof wristband that allows you to wear your bracelet everywhere, including the shower. You even wear it to bed where it will monitor your sleep patterns as well as the quality of sleep that you are getting.

The Fitbit comes in a variety of colors and styles. If you aren’t really into the whole bracelet look, you might consider the Zip version that clips directly to your clothing. A more advanced model, the Charge HR, keeps track of your heart rate and the Surge has built-in GPS. These styles vary in price depending on their functionality. If you are really serious about your weight loss, you can pick up a Fitbit Aria scale to accompany your tracker. This scale not only tracks your weight, but your body mass index and body fat percentage as well. If you are the competitive type and you have some friends that are into the Fitbit craze as well, you can track their progress and compete with them to see who can burn the most calories per week.

The Fitbit price range varies from $60-$250, check them out for yourself. www.fitbit.com

A Brief Introduction to Wearable Tech

One of the biggest topics this year has been technology that you can wear on your body, otherwise known as “wearable tech.” We’ll have a few installments over the next few weeks combing through the different types of wearable tech that are fresh on the market today.

Today we’ll start off with a new device that comes in the form of interactive workout gear you can wear to the gym. Athos is a new bodysuit of sorts that you can wear during your workout to track your movement. Athos uses electromyography (otherwise known as EMG), a process which utilizes electrode sensors to monitor your muscles and collect data. This suit will not only track your muscle fatigue during your workout, but also monitor which muscles are being worked and how hard. The Athos body suit will track vitals as well, including breathing patterns and heartbeats. Both your heartbeat and your breath can indicate whether you are over-or-under exerting yourself. The bodysuit comes as two separate pieces, both a top and a bottom; shorts for men, yoga pants for the ladies.

Another new product on the horizon is one that you don’t necessarily wear, but one that you can certainly sleep in. The product is called the Luna Sleep Tracker, and it will turn any bed into a “smart bed” by tracking your sleep habits and regulating your bed’s temperature. You can even set it to warm up your bed while you are still on your way home.

The sleep tracker comes in the form of a mattress cover that contains a sensor to monitor your sleep habits. The sensor can be controlled from your smart phone, and will find the right moment in your sleep cycle to wake you when you will feel most refreshed, and your energy levels will be the highest.

The sleep tracker fits like any other mattress cover, and comes in a few different sizes. The San Francisco-based company has already reached over a million dollars in pre-orders, and is expected to start shipping to investors later on this year.

Replace Your Keyboard Already

People get attached to their keyboards. Even when they get old, dusty and some of the keys have worn off, most folks keep these keyboards around forever. Working for a cable company, we see people everyday looking for old, outdated cables for their old keyboards. This is always baffling, especially when keyboards are so cheap nowadays. You can get a standard keyboard with no bells and whistles for fewer than ten bucks.

If you want to invest a little more into a new keyboard, we highly suggest a spill-resistant keyboard and mouse combo. It’s a little pricier than a standard keyboard, but worth its weight in gold when it comes to accidents. Liquid spills are a keyboard’s worst enemy; a surefire way to fry a keyboard. And who hasn’t spilled coffee on their keyboard? Our coffee cups usually sit just inches away from our computers like a silent threat. The same goes for your mouse. A spill-resistant keyboard and mouse duo would solve that problem, and ensure that both have a longer life span.

Foldable keyboards are another more recent phenomenon. They bend, fold and are washable as well. They have a USB connection, so you can plug them into any computer that has a USB port. Although it’s a full-size 109-key keyboard, its bendable nature makes it completely portable so you can throw it in a bag with your other portable devices. With a separate OTG adapter, you could even hook this keyboard up to your phone. This would come in handy if you have a long email to write while you’re traveling, and your phone’s mini-keyboard just takes too long.

Now that you have a few choices, you have no excuse not to get that old keyboard replaced with a shiny new one.

The Death of Low Battery

You know that feeling of dread you get when you are away from your phone charger and your battery is slowly dying? For many of us it’s our lifeline dying along with the phone. It always seems to happen at the most inopportune times too, when we are away from a wall or car charger.

One of the easiest fixes for this problem is to invest in a portable battery charger and replacement charging cables. These types of battery chargers have been on the market for awhile, but are not widely utilized. They are inexpensive and compact; small enough to throw in your bag on your way out the door.

Now that summer is right around the corner, these little chargers can really come in handy at our favorite summer hot spots. Phones often get drained outdoors – particularly at outdoor festivals. Most venues will offer a few wall outlets that allow you to catch a charge, but the downside is that you are stuck to the wall for about thirty minutes while everyone else is having fun without you. There are even some events that offer to charge your phone for you, but you have to surrender your phone to strangers for a few hours, which is enough to make anyone nervous.

Another spot where phones go to die is the campground. Your cell phone is an essential camping tool. It provides music, doubles as a flashlight and keeps you connected to the outside world while you are checked out. Wall outlets are usually scarce and reception can be dicey, which can cause your phone to use all of its power just struggling to find a signal.

There are a million other scenarios where a portable battery charger can really save the day. Pick one up and have one less worry this summer. The days of dead cell phones and low battery signals are behind us.

Spring Fever

Now that the weather is warming up we are starting to get a case of spring fever. Everyone is busy planning camping trips, beach days, outdoor festivals, and road trips. To kick off vacation season, we have put together a list of the top five accessories to take with you this spring, wherever you may go! Check out our list of must-haves when heading outdoors and on the road.

Bluetooth Speaker

This is a must for any camping trip. No matter how many friends are with you for the trip, music is what makes a camping trip fun. Get a portable one that runs off of batteries so you don’t have to worry about finding power sources.

USB Battery Back-Up

This is a must for traveling when you are going to be somewhere without power outlets. This is perfect for an outdoor festival because you can throw it in your bag and use it to charge up your phone or any other USB device that you have.

A Spare Set of Earbuds

One pair is not enough. Sometimes when you are on a trip with a group of people, the only thing that can save your sanity is a pair of earbuds. With them you can checkout and listen to music or a pod cast. These particularly come in handy if you are on a road trip or airplane. Ear buds are the universal signal for “don’t bother me.”

Back-up Charging Cables

A lot can happen out on the open road. Stuff gets lost. Throw in a couple of back-up micro USB or Lightning cables to your suitcase so you can make sure you don’t get stuck without a charge.

Collapsible Beer Glass

This is the perfect way to stand out in a sea of generic plastic beer cups. If you are paying over $10 per beer, you might as well use a re-usable cup. Drink beer while helping the environment. This cup collapses to a small circle that will fit perfectly into your pocket.

Stay tuned for more great ideas from the tech experts at Cable Wholesale!

How to Combat Bandwidth Loss

Internet congestion is a term that gets thrown around a lot, but what does it mean? Did you know that high bandwidth issues can slow down your WiFi and wired internet connections? Follow some of our tips to get your home WiFi connection running flawlessly. In order to fix the problem, you must identify what is causing the trouble in the first place. Bandwidth lag can happen for a few different reasons.

One of the biggest drains of bandwidth comes from content streaming. Streaming can affect your WiFi’s performance in a big way. Streaming YouTube videos and video applications like Netflix and Hulu can really eat up your bandwidth. When you are running different programs and also downloading or streaming material, a bottleneck effect can occur, and your connection will slow or become “clogged.” This means that you do not have enough bandwidth to carry the load that you are trying to stream. This will typically result in a weak signal, which in turn causes buffering. Once the bandwidth gets clogged, you must increase the amount of bandwidth in order to transmit additional data.

Streaming Internet radio sites like Pandora and Spotify can also take up a lot of bandwidth. This can especially become an issue if more than one site is open at once. The same goes for downloading videos or movies. High bandwidth may also arise when you ignore your wireless router’s firmware update. In order to keep your router running seamlessly, keep up with its firmware updates. You can check for updates by checking the router’s part number on the manufacturer’s website.

Push notifications from your cell phone can take up some bandwidth, but unless you are in a room with multiple other people and you all receive a push notification at once, it shouldn’t be an issue. If you are looking to conserve all of your bandwidth, simply turn your push notifications off.

If after all this you still have an unsteady connection, don’t despair. There are a few ways to strengthen a weak WiFi signal. Upgrading your router’s antenna is one way to boost your WiFi signal. A weak antenna signal will definitely interrupt your WiFi. Also, make sure your WiFi is secured with a password. When your WiFi is not password-protected others may access your router and that can definitely put a drag on your bandwidth. If you have concealed your wireless router out of sight, try moving it to a more central location and see if that helps to strengthen the signal. If this doesn’t fix the issue, try buying a wireless extender. This type of fix can be pricey, so we recommend this as a last ditch effort.

Cocktails 2.0

The latest “buzz” on the street is about some new alcohol delivery apps that have just popped up for both iPhone and Android. These apps will deliver firewater right to your door, no questions asked.

Now there is truly an app service for everything. If you need a ride, you can order an Uber or a Lyft. If you want take-out transported to your front door, you can order from a food delivery service like GrubHub or from apps like Postmates and Seamless. Now you can have booze delivered direct as well.

Saucey is one of the newest apps on the alcohol delivery scene. Their tagline is “Beer, wine & spirits delivered at the push of a button.” Their guarantee is that alcohol will be delivered between 20 and 40 minutes. And to make you feel like a responsible drinker, Saucey will donate a percentage of profits from every bottle sold to a charity that provides clean drinking water to those in need.

Sqyre

This companies claim to fame is that they do not charge an extra delivery fee. They will also send bottles of hooch directly to your love interest as a gift, if you so choose. Who needs flowers anyway?

MiniBar

This app has limited delivery areas in SF but is widely available on the East Coast. They promise that spirits will be delivered within an hour. They also have informative product pages that give you ingredients of the booze you are selecting, as well as the alcohol content and the region it originates from.

Some might wonder why an alcohol delivery app is necessary when most big cities have a liquor store on every corner? We can see this being most convenient if you are throwing a party and have some extra thirsty guests, and you don’t want to run to the store. There is also the instance when you might want to have a few drinks at home, it’s late at night and you live in a sketchy area of town. Maybe you live a couple blocks from a liquor store and you don’t want to drive. Or maybe you just shouldn’t be driving. Whatever the reason, we think these apps are going to be pretty popular. Going for a “beer run” just might be a thing of the past.

Microsoft Gets Cozy with Internet Pirates

Microsoft has been making waves this week with a few curious announcements about their new Windows 10 operating system. Microsoft is taking a brand-new approach with their upcoming release. First off, they are sending an early beta-build version to around 3 million users, and asking for their feedback. The idea is that in the end Microsoft 10 will be a joint venture between the company and its users. It’s a fresh approach and one that seems pretty popular thus far. At the very least it has definitely created a buzz.

Besides the usual improved interface options, there are some innovative features that are promised with Windows 10, including HoloLens, which is the first software to pluck a hologram straight from the future and make it a reality in our everyday lives. This is is by far the coolest feature of Windows 10, as well as a feature called “Windows Hello,” which will allow you to sign into Windows 10 with your face. Windows 10 will not require a password, as passwords in general are in the process of being phased out of technology anyway. So going forward you will be able to unlock your device by simply looking at your device. Other options for unlocking include the iris of your eye, or the print of your thumb.

Microsoft is even taking their release one step further by offering a free Microsoft 10 upgrade to those who have are running pirated earlier versions of the software. This is being done in an attempt to show users the value of having a user license. This is especially big news in China, where a reported three quarters of users are running illegal software.

Some are questioning why Microsoft would offer a free upgrade to folks who have swiped copies from them illegally. The consensus seems to be that because Windows 8 was received so poorly, the company is trying to save its reputation while getting users on the same page and leaving Windows 8 in the dust. Although this leaves XP and Vista users out in the cold, but they will have the option to pay for an upgrade. The amount that Microsoft will be charging for the new operating system is still unknown.

Microsoft has not been shy about admitting that they have set out to fix things that were poorly received with the Microsoft 8 upgrade, and they are addressing all these issues individually. It’s rumored that they skipped “Microsoft 9” and went straight to “10” in an attempt to further distance themselves from the last release.

The finished version of Microsoft 10 does not have a solid release date, but the company has promised that it will debut at some point during summer 2015.