Windows 10 Tips & Tricks [VIDEO]

I looked at a number of videos that offer the best “tips and tricks” on the Microsoft’s latest operating system. I found that vast majority fell into 3 categories:

  • Ones that featured narrators who spoke with nearly indecipherable accents.
  • Ones that featured narrators that spoke so fast that I couldn’t figure out what they were saying.
  • My personal favorites: ones featured narrators who spoke too fast with nearly indecipherable accents.

After nearly loosing complete faith in the internet, I checked out my old standby CNET.  CNET has a number of videos with clear explanations for Windows 10 as well as narrators with spoke in an understandable manner.

The videos proclaim what you probably already have heard: Windows 10 fixes many of the problems found in earlier operating systems.  After hearing someone yell for the umpteenth time “The start menu is back!” with a level of enthusiasm usually reserved for transcendent sports moments, I grew a little suspicious.

Is it possible that Microsoft has deliberately screwed up some features, so that when they fix them later, people feel even more bonded to this OS? This is a classic technique used by domestic abusers and other grand manipulators.  President Lyndon Johnson used to berate subordinates unmercifully and then give them a car.  Of course, for this to be true, we would have to believe Microsoft to be pure evil.  I leave this to your own judgment.

Below are three videos that I found helpful.  You can also find more CNET videos in their How to webpage.

9 policing tips from a chief who got it right

The one city in the San Francisco Bay area that I would expect to have bad police-community relations would be Richmond, California.  I never ever felt safe there.

I don’t scare easily. In the early 90s, when I worked in an Oakland office, my secretaries reported to me that they heard automatic gun fire every night.  Yet, when I walked around Oakland (often stepping over hypodermic needles), I never felt threatened.

On the other hand, Richmond, which is located across the bay from Marin County and north of Berkeley, had a dangerous vibe in those years.  None of my friends would go there (not even the guy who once lived in the slums of India).

Once I stopped at a train station in Richmond and saw a crowd of about a dozen or so middle-school children running. I asked them what was going on. A boy laughed and said, “We stole a gun from a cop.” He looked about 10-years old.

This is why I was greatly surprised to learn that Richmond has had not only a dramatic drop in homicides, but an astoundingly low rate of police officer caused shootings. Common sense measures almost eliminated civilian deaths at the hands of law officers.

I asked Albaro Ibarra, AMREL’s Senior Marketing Manager, and former police officer what he thought of the article that described the low level of police-involved shootings.  He replied,

“Great piece. In my Academy days they taught us to respond with the level of force that was needed. The dangerous thing was that each officer had their own opinion about the level of threat they were in. There were some officers that were more likely to pull out their weapon because they felt there was a threat. Maybe it was because of the officer’s personal strength or their lack of confidence in being able to scale down a situation.

“A good example of this was when we confronted a very upset lady who was wielding a knife. The situation around us was tense and some officers pulled their guns. One of our lead officers was an ex-NBA player and self-defense trainer. He never pulled out his gun. His confidence in his abilities resulted in him disarming her without firing a shot.

“I believe we didn’t get enough or any training on how to scale down a situation. That would have been very helpful to develop greater confidence within the officers to know that they could handle a situation without pulling their side arms.

“The article touches on how there’s a level of trust between Chief Chris Magnus and the Richmond community. I saw this with veteran officers who often worked the day shift. They enjoyed engaging with the community, and built personal relationships. They would often like to do their work on foot, not in vehicles.

“Some of the new officers, who often worked the night shift, were driven by violence and adventure.  They had less community involvement and escalated situations more frequently.

“During those times we lacked the computer technology that AMREL (rugged mobile computing and biometric solutions) today offers to the Public Safety sector. The ability to be more mobile and be amongst the community helped reduce the feeling of US against THEM and develop more a feeling of ALL OF US. Utilizing the modern technologies that are now offered would have made my work more efficient, and engage more with community. It would have increased the feeling that the Police Department is there to Serve and Protect and not just to Enforce.”

The following article was originally published in Vox

You don’t expect to see a police chief at a protest against police brutality. But when Richmond, California held a protest against recent police shootings of unarmed black men, Richmond’s police chief, Chris Magnus, was there on the front lines, holding a #BlackLivesMatter sign.

Magnus was criticized by his local police association for his appearance at the protest — the association claimed that they didn’t have any problem with the message, but it was against California law for him to appear in “political activities of any kind” while in uniform. But Magnus is clearly doing something right in Richmond, a Bay Area town of 107,000. When Vox talked to Magnus earlier this year, the cops hadn’t killed a civilian in five years. (A Richmond police officer fatally shot a civilian on September 14th, 2014.)

Magnus cautions that “policing is local,” and that what works for his department might not be appropriate for others. But here are some lessons he’s learned about leading a department that doesn’t use force as a first resort.

1) Don’t recruit cops by promising violence and adventure

“You have to be thinking, as a police administrator, about what kind of folks you want to attract to your department, and how you do that. You look at some departments’ recruiting materials, and you see guys jumping out of trucks in SWAT gear and people armed with every imaginable weapon. There are clearly situations where that is a necessary and appropriate part of police work. But having said that, that is by far and away not the norm.

“My goal is to look for people who want to work in my community, not because it’s a place where they think they’re going to be dealing with a lot of violence and hot chases and armed individuals and excitement and an episode of Cops or something. I want them tactically capable to handle situations like that, but I want them to be here because they’re interested in building a partnership with the community. They’re not afraid to have a relationship with the residents that they serve, in terms of getting out of the car and talking to people. Those are messages that have to be sent early on, before people even get hired.”

2) Train officers not just in what they can do, but in how to make good decisions

“It’s important that officers have training that involves more than just being proficient in the use of a firearm. Obviously that’s something they need to be able to do, but a big part of our training around use of force, specifically with use of firearms, is training in decision-making under stress. How and when do you consider the use of deadly force? What are the other options that were available to you?

“There are still a lot of police academies in this country, whether they’re through police agencies, colleges, or other institutions, that are probably not as far along as they should be in some of these areas. As a field, we can do better.”

3) Give cops extra training in interacting with mentally-ill people — and teenagers

“We’ve done quite a bit of training, with our school resource officers and our juvenile detectives, about some of the better ways to communicate with youth — what approaches might be most appropriate if you have to use force. Some of that’s really about brain development, and we’re learning that young people really do respond differently than adults do.”

“We do a lot of training dealing with the mentally ill. We have officers on all of our shifts who have gotten even more detailed and involved training — crisis intervention training — dealing specifically with mentally-ill individuals. That covers understanding what the signs are that someone may be in a mental-health crisis, understanding about medications and the impact of those medicines that a lot of folks might be on, understanding what happens when they’re not taking their medication, and getting better knowledge on how to interact or engage with people who are in crisis.”

4) Training doesn’t stop when you get out on the street

“Our officers go through what is anywhere between six and eight months of additional training once they hit the streets. That involves being teamed up with other officers who are trained as trainers, and who provide them with ongoing and regular evaluation about what they’re doing and help them learn from their mistakes in a more controlled setting.”

5) Remember that you can kill someone with a Taser

“Part of the problem with Tasers out in the community is, perhaps, this particular piece of law enforcement equipment has been misrepresented to suggest that it always can guarantee a good, less-than-lethal outcome. And that’s not true. People have complicated health histories which you can’t possibly know, most of the time, when you’re dealing with them. There may be a lot of circumstances that complicate the use of a Taser that you couldn’t know in advance.

“The vast majority of our Taser use involves displaying it and informing the suspect that resisting arrest will result in them being tased. In other words, we don’t even necessarily deploy it. And that’s enough, most of the time.”

6) Be proactive in addressing officers who use a lot of force — before they become a problem

“We have a database in which we track each officer’s history in terms of how they use force. If we see an officer who seems to be using force more than somebody else, we take a more careful look at that. That doesn’t always mean that the officer is doing something wrong or that they’re just predisposed to use force. It might have to do with the area that they’re working, the incidents they’ve been dealing with. But it still never hurts that we look more carefully and try to be as proactive as possible in addressing a situation before it becomes, potentially, a problem.”

7) Don’t be afraid to fire someone who’s not cut out to be a police officer

“It’s hard when you’ve invested as much as a year or more into training somebody. But there are clearly some folks who can’t multitask, they can’t make good decisions under stress, they’re not effective communicators. For whatever reasons, they’re not cut out to be police officers. Part of the challenge of a professional police department is to make sure those folks are separated from service early on. So you have to be willing to do that — and to have the local political support within your city to do that.”

8) When force really is needed, a little community trust goes a long way

“The use of force is something that, when people see it, they’re horrified by it. Even though it may be completely legitimate and appropriate in a larger scheme, it’s not easy to watch, and it’s even more difficult to have to be part of.

“You have to have an underlying relationship with the community so that there’s a level of trust and understanding and people are willing to hear you out about why force was used in a set of circumstances. And the community can trust that when mistakes are made — which sometimes happens — your department’s going to learn from them so they’re not repeated.”

9) Police departments can’t do sufficient training without resources

“It’s totally appropriate and important that we have this national conversation about use of force. But I hope along with that is a commitment to the idea that it takes resources and financial support to do this kind of training. A lot of departments don’t even have the personnel that they need to handle many of these situations. They certainly don’t have the resources to commit to that type of training and equipment. So then you have cops that are really left with a knowledge gap and a resource gap. And I’ve worked in some smaller departments, where I’ve seen that it’s very tough.”

Latin America Defense Market: Hot or Not?

Americas Society/ Council of the Americas has an interesting infographic on Defense spending by Latin American countries in 2013 (see below). While worldwide Defense spending fell 1.9% in 2013, it actually increased in Latin America by 2.2%. Gangs, drugs, and other transnational criminal activities are driving military expenditures.

A couple of things to keep in mind:

  • Increases vary significantly by country. Honduras, Nicaragua, and Paraguay had the greatest increases, while Brazil (the region’s biggest spender by a very wide margin) had a decrease of 3.9%.
  • Defense spending has dramatically increased everywhere since 2005. So even though Brazil actually cut its 2013 budget, it still much larger than it was just a few years earlier.
  • Everybody wants to sell to Latin America. Chinese and Russian presidents conducted high profile tours of Latin America, specifically to strengthen Defense and security ties. Brazil is expected to accept delivery of Russian anti-aircraft missile systems in 2016.

What about 2014?

Do the 2013 trends illustrated by the infographic hold true today?  Americas Society/ Council of the Americas drew their facts and figures from research by the Stockholm International Peace Institute, so I visited their website to find more up-to-date information.

According to their Trends In World Military Expenditure, 2014 (2015 is not available yet) “….spending in Latin America was essentially unchanged” for 2014.

In fact, “Total military spending in South America was $67.3 billion, down 1.3 per cent in real terms since 2013…” For the second year in a row, Brazil again cut military spending marginally (1.7%). For more details on 2014, see the table below the infographic.

Even with these slight decreases, overall Latin American Defense spending was still higher than 2005 by a whopping 48%.

To make sense of this data, I contacted James Bell, AMREL’s Director of Sales for Latin America. He has many years of experience and is an expert on these markets.  His reply:

“Military spending in Latin America has slowed somewhat due to dramatic changes in the currency exchange rates during 2015 in favor of the US$ — making the purchase of imported products 20% – 30% more expensive.  This has the effect of governments cancelling more expensive military programs in favor of smaller, more highly focused solutions.”

In the case of Brazil, the Stockholm International Peace Institute also cited social protests and a stalled economy as reasons for the flat expenditures.

AMREL has not noticed any significant change in the level of acquisition of our products by Latin America. Interest continues to be shown in our DK tablets and our RK laptops.

If you have questions about this important market, please contact James Bell at

latin america

Source: Americas Society/ Council of the Americas

white bit

latin america 2014

Source: Trends In World Military Expenditure, 2014



The Future of Robots is China

 “China could well turn out to be ground zero for the economic and social disruption brought on by the rise of the robots.”

New York Times


Last November, the World Robot Exhibition was held in Beijing. It was an opportunity for the media to gawk at cute, dancing automations, and stoke unfounded fears about China’s “advanced armed attacked” robots (“Isn’t that just a PackBot with a rifle strapped to it?”).

It was also time to consider how important China is to the future of unmanned systems, especially those for industrial applications. According the International Federation of Robotics (IFR):

  • China was the biggest market for robots in 2014.
  • In 2014, Chinese factories accounted for about a quarter of the world’s industrial robots (54% increase over 2013).
  • By 2017, China is projected to be home to the most robots of any country.


Source: International Federation of Robotics (IFR):


A good example of China’s commitment to unmanned systems is Foxconn, the maker of iPhones. Three years ago it announced that it would install 1 million robots in order to automate about 70% of factory work.  It already has a fully robotic factory in Chengdu. Other Chinese companies are enthusiastically pursuing similar plans.

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Opportunities for Western robot manufacturers

The path to widespread Chinese adoption of industrial robots is not without its obstacles. For one thing, Chinese-made robots have a significant quality problem.

Qu Daokui, chairman of Siasun Robot and Automation, a Shenyang-based industrial robot producer, stated in the South China Morning Post that quality is the number one challenge faced by Chinese robot manufacturers. This industry “lacks core technology,” he is reported to have said and is stuck at “low-end application in a high-end industry. As a result, it is under pressure of being marginalized in Western-dominated markets.”

Evidence for the quality problem is found in Foxconn’s troubled “Foxbot.” Difficulties with this robot forced the manufacturer to scale back its ambitious automation plans.

Some of the sources for poor quality can be tied to the relative newness of the Chinese robot industry. It is estimated that 15% are start-ups less than five years old. Chinese robot manufacturers still have not geared up production to meet demand and lack the latest technologies, such as 3-D printing.

Like everyone else in the world of robot business, AMREL is always on the lookout for new markets (we make Operator Control Units for unmanned systems). The poor quality of Chinese robots offer opportunities for foreign robot suppliers. China relies on imported key parts such as sensors and motors. In fact most robots are imported, as demonstrated by the chart below:


Source: International Federation of Robotics (IFR):

Ironically, Chinese industry which has made the world dependent on its manufacturing is itself dependent on foreign imports of industrial robots.

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However, quality and dependency on foreign imports are not China’s biggest robot problems. By far the biggest concerns are about job loss. Sixteen million factory jobs disappeared between 1995 and 2002, roughly 15% of total Chinese manufacturing employment. Many think that Chinese job loss caused by automation may be faster than it was in the West.

Chinese workers are already having a tough time. One survey states that 43% of Chinese workers consider themselves to be overeducated for their current positions.  China’s dramatic reduction of poverty is historically unprecedented, but it has not translated into middle class lifestyle for most.

Furthermore, no one really understands the Chinese economy; it is a unique combination of wild infrastructure spending, state–directed capitalism, extremely high domestic savings rate, and poor incomes for typical workers. Many economists are hesitant to apply traditional models to the Chinese economy.

Add to the uncertainty about the impact of robotics on the economy and its workers, there is anxiety about basic Chinese social structure. The grip of the Chinese Communist Party is rock solid, but what happens when robot-created job loss hinders China’s extraordinary growth rate? Authoritarian regimes fear their people in a way that democracies don’t.

The whole world will be looking to see how China handles these challenges. Humanity has been dealing with job loss caused by automation for over a hundred years, and has yet to find a good answer.

The problem of robots and jobs can best be illustrated by an anecdote supposedly told about Walter Reuther, past leader of the United Auto Workers. An automobile company executive was showing the legendary union leader around a modernized factory floor. Pointing out the new industrial robots, the executive teased Reuther, “How are you going to collect union dues from all these machines?” Reuther replied, “That is not what’s bothering me. I’m troubled by the problem of how to sell automobiles to these machines.”

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FAA & the UAV Explosion

Go to a solar energy conference, and much of the discussion will be about financing. Go to a meeting of national security professionals and you will hear about terrorism. Gather folks interested in unmanned systems – specifically Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) AKA drones –  and you will hear endless talk about the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

So, it made sense that last November Robotics Business Review held a webinar on the FAA’s impact on drones. In 2012, Congress ordered the FAA to develop a comprehensive plan to safely integrate UAVs into the National Airspace System (NAS). This Congressional directive has had an interesting side-effect in that all across the country, law firms are adding unmanned divisions to deal with expected UAV regulations. We may think of UAVs as a technological challenge or as a business enterprise, but right now it is the legal environment that will determine their future.

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Believe the hype

The first thing the webinar made clear is that the UAV market is exploding. See table below.

UAV Facts & Figures FAA artcile

Two major factors are driving this incredible growth. First, the combination of the UAVs and cameras is magic. UAVs with cameras are used by:

  • Farmers to determine which crops are getting enough water
  • Engineers to inspect bridges, buildings, wind farms, oil rigs, power lines, cellular towers, and other parts of our infrastructure
  • Firefighters to examine wildfires
  • Realtors to photograph properties for sales
  • Law enforcement to patrol borders & exert crowd control
  • Filmmakers to capture shots that would be otherwise too expensive
  • Roofers to check shingles

Secondly, UAVs are a relatively cheap package of hi-tech goodies. For $1000 to $4000, you can get not only a camera, but also a satellite connection, GPS, infrared sensors, sonar, as well as some autonomous capabilities. One of the seminars participants stated the concentration of technology in a UAV is comparable to that of a smartphone. For the amount of money involved, it’s a good value, and represents a low financial threshold for a pioneering innovator looking for a new disruptive application.

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FAA & the law

Current law mandates that anyone who operates a UAV for business purposes needs a pilot license. This is absurd over qualification, and many expect it be changed in the near future. One of the webinar’s participants speculated that a simple low-fee brief online course will be all that is required.

Another current requirement is that a business operator of an UAV needs a Section 333 exemption. The FAA is understaffed, underfunded, and overworked, so the paperwork for this exemption can take 3 months. As you might expect, promoters of UAVs for business applications are chomping at the bit and are impatiently waiting for new regulations that will make their enterprises more practical.

Until recently, recreational users of UAVs needed to follow only a few simple rules. UAVs must:

  • Fly within Line of Sight of the operator
  • Fly below 400 feet
  • Be kept 5 miles from airports

One of the biggest problems facing the FAA is that recreational users do not know about these rules, or simply ignore them. The webinar was full of cautionary tales of UAVs endangering aircraft thousands of feet in the air, hampering firefighting efforts, and interfering with airport operations.

Under proposed rules (that have been announced since the webinar), recreational operators will need to register their UAVs if it weighs between a half-pound and 55 pounds. The low end of this weight requirement has created some backlash.  As one person put it, “You want me to register a toy when we don’t even register guns?”

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Government regulations are good for business

While the new recreational rules stirred controversy, it is the business regulations that entrepreneurs are anxiously awaiting (since AMREL makes Operator Control Units for unmanned systems, we are among those keeping a close eye on this). While some may grouse about anti-business bureaucracies, there are solid reasons why the process is proceeding at a glacial pace.

The FAA was never designed to regulate UAVs.  It oversees manned aircraft, and does a pretty good job at it. On any given day, there are over 7000 aircraft in American skies. Yet, accidents are so rare, that even a near-miss will make the news.

We may not like the intricate bureaucratic labyrinth that the FAA has weaved around air travel, but it has demonstrated its value. Without invasive government regulations, people would have no confidence in air travel, and that industry would be a fraction of what it is today.

So, it should be no surprise that the FAA would adopt a similar heavy-handed regulatory approach to UAVs, especially since they have proven problematic. Not only have UAVs endangered aircraft as mentioned above, but they have also rammed into skyscrapers, crashed into football games & tennis tournaments, interfered with police helicopters and have entered secure airspaces, such as the White House.

The good news is that the FAA is looking to business to help solve these problems. The advisory task force has such industry luminaries as SpaceX and Amazon. With the help of these big players, the FAA will eventually comply with Congress’ mandate and issue regulations that will integrate UAVs into the national airspace. When that happens, the Era of Business UAVs will have finally arrived.

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Flame-throwing UAV roasts a turkey [VIDEO]

I lived overseas for several years. When I came back to America, one of the differences that I noticed was that more men were seriously into cooking.

Not just any cooking either – manly cooking.  Guys were deep-frying whole turkeys and even tenderizing meats with explosives (“Well, sure it’s dangerous, but so what?”).

The video below demonstrates part of this manly cooking trend; it shows an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV AKA “drones”) cooking a turkey with a flame thrower.

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The same person once posted a video of a UAV with a gun rigged to it. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) was not amused.  Attaching weapons to aircraft is expressly forbidden by the FAA.

However, it is an open question about whether or not weaponized UAVs are protected by the Second Amendment. For a detailed discussion on this topic, see this US News article.

My next bumper sticker:

“When roasting turkeys with flame-throwing drones is outlawed,

only outlaws will roast turkeys with flame-throwing drones.”