Digital Tech Trends

  • Recently, Jim Heppelmann (President and CEO of PTC, the company I currently work for) was featured in an article in the Boston Globe talking about PTC’s exciting move to the Boston Seaport, A.K.A. The Innovation District. The article also featured the story of how Boston’s Mayor, Marty Walsh, came to PTC for a visit and spoke to the employees at one of our famous socials. He praised the company and the employees for making the move to Boston’s newest up and coming hub for business and cultural innovation! And the seaport is pretty much an amazing new innovation district at that—especially with all the incredible simultaneous construction projects going on down there. However, it might be interesting to take quick walk down memory lane to reminisce about Boston’s other innovation districts, of the past. Let’s go all the way back to Colonial times. Over by where North Street meets Moon Street is Paul Revere’s House. This historical landmark is located in Boston’s North End district, now synonymous with the Italian-American community. However, back in the late 17th Century, this area was well known for it’s silversmiths (like Paul Revere, an innovator of his time), blacksmiths, artisans, journeymen, and laborers. For a city that was founded in 1630, this part of Boston became its innovation district of that time. Fast forward through the Industrial Age which affected the entire world, Boston included, and you will see that another innovation district presented itself. This time on the Boston waterfront known as Boston Harbor—part of which is where today’s Boston Seaport Innovation District now resides. For over two hundred years, Boston Harbor, which compromises all the famous Boston wharves such as Long Wharf, Rowes Wharf, Fish Pier, Commonwealth Pier, and Union Wharf to name a few, were the gateways to shipping, railroads, international commerce, jobs, markets, construction, and of course innovation. Without the wharves of the 18th and 19th Centuries, Boston could not have grown...
  • February 10, 2020

    Every Vote Counts and Counting

    Counting every precious vote accurately in a Democratic society has been a challenge that goes as far back to ancient times. Since The Tenth Sphere covers the latest trends happening in Digital Tech & Industry (among many other trendy topics), I thought it would be interesting to give my readers a brief history and discussion of voting machines, voting apps, and voting tech in general. Let’s begin with the earliest of voting machines, paper ballots, which existed as far back as the Roman Empire, ca. 139 BCE. The first use of paper ballots in the United States was in 1629, and was used in selecting a pastor for the Salem Church during the founding days of the Salem Massachusetts community. Fast forward to 1838 England. The Chartists (a working-class suffrage movement) demanded responsible election reforms. And in so doing, Benjamin Jolly of Bath invented arguably the very first voting machine. It worked like this: each voter was to cast his vote by dropping a brass ball into the appropriate hole in the top of the machine by the candidate’s name. Each voter could only vote once because they were given just one brass ball. The ball advanced a clockwork counter for the corresponding candidate as it passed through the machine. And then the ball fell out the front where it could be given to the next voter. Then came Henry Spratt (a British national) who in 1875 received the first US patent for a voting machine. It presented to the voter an array of push-button ballots. Next came American inventor Anthony Beranek of Chicago in 1881. His voting machine was specifically designed to meet the requirements of the United States general election cycle. It was another push-button style voting machine but with a twist: Interlocks behind each row prevented voting for more than one candidate per race, and an interlock with the door of the voting booth reset the machine for the...
  • January 24, 2020

    Long Live the Browser Wars!

    Google recently announced that it was going to strip cookies from its Chrome web-browser. This is a big deal for a lot of people, namely advertisers. In case you weren’t aware of what a cookie is (not the yummy kind you eat), let Digital Batman tell you. A cookie is a bit of third-party data that gets stored on your system when you access a website. This data is used to track your online activities such as product browsing history, location, etc. Advertisers can then use this data to target ads specifically to what they think you’re interested in. And furthermore, advertisers can “retarget” ads after you as you browse around the Internet from site to site. Ever wonder how a random website you visit seems to know that you were looking at plushy chairs on Amazon? Well, that’s retargeting and that’s powered by cookies. Which leads to a lot of privacy issues that have been debated for as long as the Internet has been around. Therefore, Google is trying to assuage users’ concerns about privacy by eliminating cookies. What will advertisers do? Well, they’ll probably have to come up with more transparent ways to gather your information, with your permission. Now I mention this because it reminds me about how things have both changed and remained the same over the last 25+ years of browsing the Internet. Back in the heyday of the World Wide Web (mid-to-late 1990s), we had a whole battlefield of web browsers all vying for dominance in The Browser Wars! It all started with Netscape Navigator (technically Mosaic in its initial form), invented by Marc Andreessen founder of Netscape. [Digital Batman had done a previous Progressive Pioneers profile on Andreessen back in July.] Navigator was initially released in December of 1994. It sported a simple interface with a few oversized navigation buttons (like Back, Home, and...
  • January 7th through January 10th were the dates that the epic annual Consumer Electronics Show (A.K.A. CES) in Las Vegas happened recently. Even though Digital Batman was unable to get to this massive tech conference—due to prior commitments chasing after tech villains such as RISC-Riddler—I have managed to compile a list of some of the most bizarre tech shown off at this year’s CES. Toilet Paper Anyone? Leaving the flashy super-advanced 8K TVs aside, this year’s CES was marked by what has to be the most inventive, if not quirky, technological invention of the year: a toilet paper-delivering robot! Yep! You heard that right. The Charmin RollBot is by far the most unique invention yet. And surprisingly useful! How can you argue the merits of a machine that brings you toilet paper in your most dire of needs?! Olive You! Need a delicious helping of fresh olive oil for your salad or sandwich? Well, you’re in luck. The Fresco Eva Mini olive oil dispenser will serve up this ancient delicacy in a Keurig K-cup-like experience. And there’s an added benefit of the final elixir being so fresh that you’d swear you had pressed the olives yourself! Easy on the Eyes! So you like to experience social media on your phone but have trouble with the small screen? Wouldn’t it be great if you could just view the app on a TV? Oh, but then it would still be relatively small, right? Wrong! The new Samsung Sero remedies all of that! It is a large-screen TV that flips into a vertical position (like you’d see at mall kiosks) to display your entire Instagram feed in mega eye-candy glory! Though, no one really asked for this, I’m sure people will try the Sero anyway because who can’t get enough of large-format social media, right? Getting Around in Style… You...
  • January 3, 2020

    Top Five Must-Haves of 2019!

    Now that we have said, “Goodbye,” to 2019, we should take a moment to look back on the top must-haves for the decade-ending year. Since this list is completely arbitrary, Digital Batman will weigh in on what I found to be the most popular gadget, item, digital something, and whatever. Oh, and this list does not put items in any particular order of importance. Enjoy! 1. Disney+ – Yep! The highly anticipated, hugely successful, and most extensive streaming video service from the “House of the Mouse” easily makes this list. Not only does Disney+ have hundreds of movies and thousands of hours of television series, it is now home to the most popular sci-fi show on the small screen, The Mandalorian. This new live-action genre show set in the Star Wars universe is arguably better than the recently released final chapter of the Star Wars/Skywalker saga, The Rise of Skywalker. And there’s more to come with a limited Obi Wan Kenobi series and potential Darth Maul or Darth Vader series. And let’s not forget the new Marvel superhero shows like Falcon and Winter Soldier and WandaVision. Plus, a whole host of kids programming that is way too extensive to go into here. With over 20M (that’s million) subscribers on its launch day, this is definitely a must- have in 2019 (and now)! 2. The Impossible Burger – Why is this on the list? Well, Digital Batman could cite a bunch of health- related reasons why you should give this burger a try. However, the biggest reason is that this new type of plant-based food that mimicks real animal meat (including it protein content) actually made it to market! Giant restaurant chains like Burger King and Dunkin are now sporting Impossible Burger variants on their menus. You can also purchase this...
  • So the other day, I attended the PTC Benefits Fair down on the 3rd floor at the Seaport HQ. I actually found the event quite helpful because I had a lot of questions about my various benefits that were answered. In fact, the WageWorks rep was truly helpful telling me about a commuter parking pass debit card that would make my life a lot easier because I wouldn’t have to file a reimbursement claim for parking expenses, and also have to upload a bunch of receipts. This is the obscure yet imporant kind of information that new employees really need to know about. One of the vendors, Burnalong, was particularly interesting as I am a fitness enthusiast and try to get over to the Fitness Center (also on the 3rd floor) as often as I can—gotta stay in shape to catch all of those digital criminals! The interesting thing about my visit to their table was that, like a plethora of other fitness apps (some of which I pay for), they too had an app, and it is free! So, I signed up for it and downloaded the app.Which got me thinking about a few other apps that we use here at PTC. First, and arguably to most important app, is Benefitfocus. This little app holds a lot of power for PTC employees. Here you can check or modify your company benefits, receive reminders and tasks concerning your benefits, shop for products related to your benefits, and set up a well‐being checklist (e.g. get a flu shot), and more all in one convenient place. When Digital Batman joined PTC, the first thing I did was download this app, which has proven itself quite handy at times—especially on vacation believe it or not Next up is the aforementioned Burnalong app. This...
  • In the battle of the Virtual Assistants (VA), it seems like everything else, there are too many choices. Alexa, SIRI, Google Assistant, and Cortana are practically household names at this point. While each has their particular set of benefits, no one AI (i.e. Artificial Intelligence, because that’s what we’re really talking about here) can fulfill every request made of it. With next year’s pending launch of my company’s (PTC) flagship PLM platform, Windchill (integrated with Microsoft Azure’s cloud solution)—facilitating manufacturers’ efforts to rollout NPIs (i.e. new product introductions)—I thought it would be interesting to explore some aspects of where VAs/AIs are these days in a practical sense from home to business. I’d venture to guess that most homes feature more than one VA. The Digtal Batman household runs both SIRI on our iPhones/iPod and AppleTV 4K, and we run an Echo Dot featuring Alexa. It’s interesting to note the significant differences for our needs. For example: Alexa comes in handy when playing music from Amazon Music Unlimited and radio broadcasts over IHeartRadio. Whereas, SIRI dials our phone numbers, reads our texts, provides us with navigation, and helps us search/navigate our Apple TV 4K streaming device. Conversely, like most PTC employees running Windows 10 on their laptops, Cortana can easily be enabled. But I think it would be a little weird if everyone in the open seating at Seaport HQ started talking into their computers all at once! Though I haven’t used “Okay Google” in a while, it does come in handy for general searches and navigating the plethora of online/cloud‐based productivity, calendar, and meeting tools available—especially if you’re using Google Chrome. And what’s really interesting is now each of these separate VA platforms are starting to work together: organizing calendars across different devices (like cell phones), providing email from multiple...
  • For all the flack that Apple gets for its proprietary and closed ecosystem of hardware, software, and cloud-based services, there’s a lot of good that comes out of it as well. This article will look on the “bright-side” of why having and using an Apple ID over your Macs and iPhones/iPads/iPods, and AppleTV can be not only a robust tool to help you get things done, and do cool stuff with, but also can be a real life saver—digitally speaking of course! What is an Apple ID? To put is succinctly, an Apple ID is an email address that you give to Apple when you set up a new Apple device such as an iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, or a Mac computer running the latest Mac OS. Your Apple ID is also linked to your iCloud account, which allows you to integrate all your “Apple i” devices into a single place. Linking your Mac and iPhone macOS (as of this writing: April 2017, OS X, version 10.12, a.k.a. Sierra) just loves your Apple ID! What’s even better is when you get a shinny new iPhone (say the iPhone 7) running iOS 10 (as of this writing, 10.3.1), and you set it up with that same Apple ID, all kinds of good stuff happens! For example: say you’re working on an article for your employer (like an online tech tip and tutorial blog), and you’re working on a Mac mini running Sierra. Your iPhone is currently recharging in the next room. However, you get a phone call (yes, people still do that sort of thing). Whatever do you do? Fear thee not! Let your Mac do the talking… Yes, as long as everything is set up correctly, and you have audio capabilities with your Mac (who wouldn’t?), then when you get a call, a...
  • Mobile communications such as text messaging, Facebook Messenger, Twitter Direct Messaging, SnapChat, Skype, and FaceTime are all seeking to supplant Email these days as the preferred form of digital communications. Not so for business or for professionals where Email still reigns supreme. Email access essentially comes in two forms: Email Software, or Client-based Email – E.g. Microsoft Outlook (costly subscription fees), Mac Mail (comes with Mac OS X), and Thunderbird (free open-source download) to name a few. Cloud Email – E.g. Google Mail (GMail), Yahoo Email, or AOL Email (yes, it still exists)—all free and accessible via a web browser Let’s delve into the key differences between them with an eye on how each form manages Email in their own unique ways. It should be noted that regardless of what method of accessing your Email is used, all Email actually sits on a server somewhere in “The Cloud” and simply waits for you to get it one way or another. Email Software Client-based (meaning: on your computer) Email still has many years of unparalleled usefulness that other services can’t match—the main advantage being security. Say you’re an employee at Company X and check your email like everyone else does everyday. You can rest assured that the Email sitting behind your company’s firewall is as secure as it gets. Even when logging in from home, you are usually using a VPN (Virtual Private Network) to establish a secure connection between your laptop and your company’s Email servers. There’s very little chance of your Email being hijacked as you send your messages to your fellow employees or out to your clients. Microsoft Outlook allows a massive amount of Email filtering features, rich text (like HTML) messages, Email organization into shared and group folders across the entire organization, remote Email access via a Web-Outlook interface, and comes in cross-platform versions for Mac OS X and Windows (all versions). And the final advantage is group organization capabilities like employee calendars, scheduling...