Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Random chart - healthcare costs

Abstract: "Under current law, national health expenditures are projected to grow at an average annual rate of 5.6 percent for 2016–25 and represent 19.9 percent of gross domestic product by 2025. For 2016, national health expenditure growth is anticipated to have slowed 1.1 percentage points to 4.8 percent, as a result of slower Medicaid and prescription drug spending growth. For the rest of the projection period, faster projected growth in medical prices is partly offset by slower projected growth in the use and intensity of medical goods and services, relative to that observed in 2014–16 associated with the Affordable Care Act coverage expansions. The insured share of the population is projected to increase from 90.9 percent in 2015 to 91.5 percent by 2025."

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Random charts - Congress

Source: The changing face of Congress in 5 charts

"The current Congress is the most racially and ethnically diverse ever... The share of women in Congress has reached an all-time high... While Congress remains overwhelmingly Christian, the share of Catholics has grown while the share of Protestants has declined..."

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Casting to Google Home

Discovered that I can 'cast' and play music from my Android phone (the Blackberry Priv) to my Google Home setup... I just had to go to Settings on my phone, choose Cast, pick the Home entry to connect, then start the music app on the phone. Simple! When done, tap to disconnect...


Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Random chart - mortgages

"... Black and Hispanic households today are still far less likely than white households to own their own homes (41.3% and 47%, respectively, versus 71.9% for whites), and the homeownership gap between blacks and whites has widened since 2004.
An examination of mortgage-market data indicates some of the continuing challenges black and Hispanic homebuyers and would-be homebuyers face. Among other things, they have a much harder time getting approved for conventional mortgages than whites and Asians, and when they are approved they tend to pay higher interest rates. In 2015, 27.4% of black applicants and 19.2% of Hispanic applicants were denied mortgages, compared with about 11% of white and Asian applicants, according to our analysis of data gathered under the federal Home Mortgage Disclosure Act.
In fact, throughout the boom, bust and recovery phases of the housing cycle, blacks have been denied home loans at higher rates than most other racial groups (the exception being Native Americans, and even then only in the last few years), and Hispanics have been denied at higher rates than non-Hispanics..."

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Random chart - U.S. healthcare

"A small number of high-cost patients have long generated a large proportion of health spending. The 10% of people with the highest costs accounted for about two-thirds of health spending, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, a health-care research nonprofit, when it quantified the phenomenon in 2013..."

Saturday, January 7, 2017

More MAD Gaze (user review)

Previous blog entries on MAD Gaze:
MAD Gaze -first look
MAD Gaze - second look

Well, things started off well (solid, professional-looking, well-packaged product) before hitting the wall (unable to connect); here is the ongoing story of my trials and tribulations with the MAD Gaze.

Having been unable to connect to either of two WiFi networks at home, I gave it a try in the evening using the public WiFi network at my place of employment. I followed the exact same procedure and it surprised (and annoyed) me by immediately connecting to the WiFi! I have tried to figure out why this is, without success (for example, I screen captured the QR code and read it. It showed 55555workSSID; WPA/WPA2 PSK; pubpassword so clearly the extraneous 5555 is not the issue...). Note: It still refuses to connect to my home network.

So, next I did the "Connect Mad ID" step and that worked flawlessly too. I received a confirmatory email and the device showed up in the 'Account and Device' section of the phone app. 


OK, so now I put it through its paces. The results? A very mixed bag:

  • Display: Verdict: mixed - fairly crisp, but sometimes the font was too small to read easily, for example in the sub-menus. Occasionally a font was in a different color (e.g. a brown font), which is pretty hard to distinguish. 
  • Sound: Verdict: good - when the MAD Gaze spoke it was clear; overall it also did an excellent job of recognizing voice (even if the subsequent results were less than stellar e.g. see below).
  • Connectivity: poor - as evidenced by the difficulty getting a WiFi connection (see earlier blog entries). Also, I never succeeded in establishing a Bluetooth connection between the Mad Gaze and my phone.
  • Hardware: Verdict: Good - it would have been excellent were the touch panel a little more solid and responsive. Occasionally commands (e.g. tap once, tap twice would not be recognized, more than a little frustrating.) Once in a while in the middle of a function the display would unexpectedly and inexplicably prompt for a two-finger press, which would take you out of the function and to the Control Center.
  • Fit: Verdict: mixed - using the headband proved to be the best option to wear the X5. My glass frame was too narrow to hold/use the X5 with the provided glasses clip. Additionally the weight is such that when attached to glasses it was too heavy and the glasses became unwearable. However, the headband was comfortable, and also held the X5 steady enough to use while walking (it's quite amazing how much 'jiggle' one's head does while walking along... our eyes/brain accommodate this so that it is imperceptible to us, but it becomes a bit more obvious when you walk around with something strapped to your head!)
  • Battery life: Verdict: poor - after a couple of hours messing around with the X5 and trying out the various items of functionality, the MAD Gaze ran out of power and needed to be plugged in and recharged. Clearly inadequate for longer-term use...

  • The pre-installed functionality:
    • MAD Gaze Controller: Verdict: poor - the idea/thought of using QR codes to input required information for the connectivity was good; the implementation significantly less so. I'm still not sure what the issues are with my home WiFi, and, more importantly, with Bluetooth (since when you are walking around - outside - presumably you would be using the Bluetooth connection to your phone and not a WiFi connection!) ...
    • Camera and Gallery: Verdict: good/unclear - starting the camera turned on the viewfinder; this was really well done and clear, and walking around with this on was a much better experience (from a display perspective) than the other functionality. Taking pictures and video was a snap. Where the 'unclear' comes in is viewing the results. The images and video are stored on-board the MAD Gaze.You can scroll through and view them in the Gallery; however that isn't the greatest because of the diminutive size. The manual states that "...Micro USB to USB Cable that comes with the device can be used to transfer image and other files from MAD Gaze to computers, or vice versa..." This proved to be an overly optimistic statement! Plugging in to a desktop USB port allows the recharge of the X5, but driver installation failure made it impossible to read the storage and transfer the photos and video to the desktop for review! Looking in Device Manager showed that it appeared to be an issue with a MT65xx driver, see below. Multiple attempts to get this to work were unfruitful. First I tried on 3 different desktops, one laptop, and my GPD Win 10 (with different flavors of Windows, from 7 to 10 Home). After Googling, I also attempted the fixes referenced online, first disabling digital driver signature on the desktops, then attempting to update the driver using various versions downloaded from various android web sites. Several hours of futzing later, with one BSOD under my belt, I gave up for now. The bottom line: I am unable to really evaluate the photos and videos taken, to see how good/poor they are. I might take a run at this again next week!
    • Alarm: Verdict: OK
    • Voice Assistant: Verdict: Good/flawed - I say 'good' because it did an excellent job of understanding what I was saying; however the follow-up was poor. So, when I asked for the weather it was very hard to read the results since the font was smaller to accommodate the information in the display! When I asked for the news ("Show me the news") it showed a single headline from CNN (well, this was probably good from a legibility standpoint; however to see another headline I had to repeat the command) Similarly, when I spoke addresses when using Navigation, etc. it did a fabulous job in recognizing what I had said (the addresses showed on the display), but then most locations were reported as 'not found.'
    • Image Translator and Voice Translator: Verdict: N/A - not having a Chinese menu (or similar document) handy, I didn't test this functionality. Ditto for the voice translator.
    • Navigation: Verdict: fail - OK, before trying this you need to have Location Services turned on in Settings.etc. When starting any/every GPS application I have ever had or tried one always can start with the display of one's current location before using directions, etc. With the X5 when I started Navigation it waited for me to voice command a destination. Now, it did exceeding well at recognizing whatever  I said, be that a landmark or a specific address (Dayton airport, 1234 Main Street, Somewhere, OH 41142, etc.). However it then could 'find' none of them; they were all reported as 'location not found.' I'm not sure if this is X5-related, or if  this was because it had no Bluetooth connection to my phone; however, I had absolutely no luck. Note, I did try "McDonalds" and here it brought up a big list of 'McDonalds XXX,' where XXX was various Chinese ideograms/logograms...  I did not follow-up with any of them!
  • Other applications: The MAD Gaze folks offer additional applications; or at least the manual says they can be accessed by visiting the MAD Store with your phone. Ever intrepid, I tried to visit the MAD Store; unfortunately my phone browser (Firefox) never resolved the address (on several attempts) , see below:

The bottom line? I did not test everything, for example the MAD Gaze X5 Earphone, etc. However, overall, I was really, really disappointed. This was due to very basic flaws (the connectivity - WiFi, Bluetooth, and desktop - issues, the Navigation issues, etc) that completely undermined glimmers of brilliance in some areas! More than anything else it is these glimmers that make me sad that the MAD Gaze X5 did not live up to expectations!  I'm not too worried about the money I spent, since I popped for it at the earlier, discounted, backer rate!  Were I to have bought this at the regular rate (currently USD 719, per their web site) I would be really ticked off!

One final comment... In this day and age I can't imagine why any firm producing a newer electronic product would not set up user forums, where users can ask question, swap stories, discuss issues, help each other out, etc. And where the vendor can help with trouble-shooting and problem-resolution. I searched mightily and found nothing; which makes it even more reprehensible that not having provided such a forum they did not respond to a couple of emails asking for help! 

Miscellaneous Information:
Hong Kong Smart Glass Startup Taps IBM Cloud to Combine Augmented Reality and Cognitive Capabilities

Sad to say, but the MAD Gaze X5 is to be exiled to the 'closet of misfit and expired/replaced/obsolete technology.'

Friday, December 30, 2016

MAD Gaze - second look

MAD Gaze - first look 'unboxed' the MAD Gaze and set it to charging. Once that was done I started the setup - I downloaded the MAD Gaze Connector from Google Play; registered it, put on the X5 using the headband, and fired it up.  


After choosing the language, calibrating the touch panel, and choosing the time zone, you are then prompted to set up the WiFi connection. This is done by using the 'Connect WiFi' functionality which generates a QR code on your phone that your 'read' with the X5 to get the SSID and password information to the MAD Gaze. Here's where I hit the wall... hard!

The X5 read the QR code, and first said "Connecting" before I ended up with "Connection Failure." At this point the only options appear to be to acknowledge (OK) and rescan a QR code, since the X5 stays in "read mode" with the camera scanning for a QR code. There does not appear to be any way to get beyond this; no combination of touches or key-presses appear to do the trick (including the single finger long press that is supposed to get you to Home mode, two finger long press that is supposed to get you to Control Panel; etc., etc.). 

Worried that I had made a typo I tried again, and again, and again, and again... with the same result ever time - Connection Failure. Logging off, rebooting the phone, turning off and restarting the X5 only resulted in frustration. I wondered if there was something wrong with the QR code, so I screen captured it and read it in another QR reader.

Hmm, a couple of weird things: First, it read as a Text QR code and not a WiFi QR code. Second it appeared to 'munge' the SSID - reading as 55555mySSID; WPA/WPA2 PSK; mypassword. (it appeared to add '55555' in front of the SSID). It did the same when I tried my 'high speed' WiFi, reading as 55555mySSID_hispeed; WPA/WPA2 PSK; mypassword

Strange! Assuming that this perhaps was the cause of my connection failures, I thought I could get around this. I went to a number of online QR code generators (trying both Text and WiFi QR codes) and generated them with the appropriate information and sans the '55555.' However, the X5 rejected every one of these QR codes with the message "Invalid QR code." Apparently, they have monkeyed with the QR code for some unknown reason.

The bottom line? At this point I'm completely stymied and don't know what to try next. Googling, the Mad Gaze folks don't appear to have an online forum of any sort for questions and/or user discussion, no real FAQ, etc. There also don't seem to be any user reviews online yet to help out. Perhaps I'll put this aside for a couple of days before coming back to it to retry...

MAD Gaze - first look

Well the MAD Gaze I backed on Indiegogo in June 2016 was just delivered a few minutes ago... Unlike some of the other "AR glasses" that I have backed this actually appears to be a real product and not vaporware!


Here's what you get in the box:

Here are the details of the MAD Gaze X5 and Bluetooth earpiece:

Here are the specifications::

Very preliminary verdict: very nice packaging and all the parts and electronics are solid. But can it perform as specified (see quote below from the Indiegogo site)? Well, I have it charging up and will then run it through its paces and let you know!

4 Major Functions of MAD Gaze

  • Instant Translation - Ever walk around a foreign country and have no idea what is going on? MAD Gaze is going to fix that for you. There is an auto-translate application that translate everything the glass see into the language of your choice. You’ll never want to travel without your MAD Gaze. 

  • Social - MAD Gaze allows users to make phone calls, text, send multimedia to contacts, access personal data assistant (PDA) and play any media. Seeing as this is the main reason people are on their smart phones all the time, by replacing that phone with MAD Gaze, a lot more time will be spent looking up. 

  • Entertainment & Games - Imagine playing your favorite game not having to look down at the screen, or using AR+ to play games where your surrounding real world interacts with you. Suddenly, the game becomes more interactive than idle. The world is enriched. MAD Gaze takes gaming to a whole new, more exciting and entertaining level. As a player, you truly feel in game. 

  • GPS Navigation - The GPS on MAD Gaze will ensure you never get lost. With the map and directions right in front of you, you will no longer miss a turn. A completely hands-free map creates a safer alternative than a smartphone in situations where having your hand free is quite important. Just envision having a little map in the corner of your eye directing you as you bike, drive, walk, run, kayak, anything!

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