Monthly Archives: August 2016
Appliance Science: How Surge Protectors Keep You Safe

Just published at CNET, How Surge Protectors Keep You Safe.

SurgeProtector_web_EDITYour appliances and gadgets love electricity. It’s the stuff that brings them to life, but too much can be a bad thing. If the voltage of the electricity coming in over your wires suddenly rises, that can damage them. Electrical engineers call this kind of problem a transient voltage surge, because it comes and goes quickly. This can happen when something like a transformer blowout or a faulty appliance sends a sudden spike of energy into your home wiring. This is why many people use a surge protector to block these surges.

Review Of The Yuneec Typhoon H

My review of the Yunnec Typhoon H, a rather cool hexacopter drone.

cameramoveIf you are serious about taking high-quality airborne video, you need a drone that offers serious quality and flexibility. The Typhoon H is the latest model from Yuneec for the high-end drone user, shooting very high quality 4K video and offering a lot of features. Relatively quiet operation, a 360-degree pannable camera and a big-screen HD video preview are among the features on offer in this attractive package.

Appliance Science: How Alexa Learns All About You

In my second column on Amazon’s Alexa service, I dig into how Alexa learns to understand and obey you.

MachineLearningWEB (1)In my last column, I looked at how Amazon’s Echo device and the Alexa voice service allows you to control things with your voice. You speak, it understands and obeys. Alexa is just part of a new wave of services that allow you to control things with your voice, from cell phones to intercoms and thermostats. You can even do things now likeask her to start your car. So, how do these listening devices transform your mellifluous voice into computer commands? The answer lies in two new fields of computer science, called machine learning and natural language programming.

Appliance Science: Alexa, How Does Alexa Work?

In my latest Appliance Science column, I look into how Amazon’s Alexa service captures your voice and translates this into commands.

ECHO_cropThere are plenty of things in my house that I yell at. Some of them answer back these days, though, and even do what I ask. My dog is still a work in progress as far as that goes, but my Amazon Echo has just about nailed it.┬áThe Echo is a device that uses speech recognition to perform an ever-growing range of tasks on command. Amazon calls the built-in brains of this device “Alexa,” and she* is the thing that makes it work.