Category Archives: technology

Sam Gold: Apple’s Archive Savior

When Sam Gold was 13, his parents gave him a bar mitzvah choice: a party, or a trip.

He went to San Francisco. But he wasn’t interested in the Golden Gate Bridge, or curvy Lombard Street. He wanted to visit the headquarters of Apple and Google.

Sam is now a Staples High School sophomore. He hasn’t lost his fascination with some of the most innovative companies on the planet. If anything, he’s teaching them some lessons.

Sam Gold recently, at Google’s pop-up shop in SoHo.

Sam has already made a name for himself on YouTube. Posting as Sam Henri, he’s a content creator and social influencer. Sam’s 5,800 subscribers love his unique take on all things techs.

He’s high enough on the food chain that Google sent a web router, and Philips shipped WiFi-enabled light bulbs, for him to review. Check out his channel — he’s going places.

Sam is also a very talented graphic designer.

Sam Gold had fun editing this photo. Yes, that’s him on the wall.

But it’s as an Apple fan that he may be most impressive.

From age 3, when he got his first iPod Nano (from his Nana), he has loved all things Apple.

So last April — when the man running the biggest Apple archive on the internet suddenly terminated his channel — Sam took notice.

And instantly flew into action.

He’d already spent years using tools like the Wayback machine to archive over 800 Apple-related videos. They included ads, keynote speeches, even weird internal training tapes.

The earliest video was from 1979 — decades before Sam was born.

In 2001, Steve Jobs introduced the iPod. Sam Gold has that video — and many others.

Within 24 hours he’d uploaded them all to his own, new unofficial Apple archive YouTube channel.

As you’ve figured out by now, Sam knows his way around the internet. Before posting his 80 gigabytes of videos, he checked YouTube’s Terms of Service. He was sure his archives were legit.

But a week later YouTube flagged Sam, for violating their TOS. They called his Apple channel “spam” — although he was not charging anyone, or making any money off it.

Repeated requests for clarification from YouTube went unheeded.

So Sam turned to the tech-savvy Reddit community. Suggestions poured in.

His archives were not gone, of course. He kept them on a disk. That was perfect for one Reddit user, who had a petabyte worth of storage on his server. (A petabyte is a million gigabytes. Or, in layman’s terms, “a shitload.”)

He offered it to Sam. The teenager quickly transferred his archives from a disk to the server. That’s where — right here — they are now, available free to the world.

Apple’s amazing video archives — all in one place, courtesy of Sam Gold.

But that’s not the end of Sam’s story.

A reporter for Vice heard what happened, and contacted Sam. That led to a front-page story on Motherboard, Vice’s tech platform.

Which, in turn, led to the possibility of Sam freelancing for that well-read, edgy and influential site.

Which leads to this “06880” request.

Later this month, Apple makes a big announcement. They’re expected to announce the next generation iPhone.

Sam has tried to get on the press list. So far, he’s been unsuccessful.

So: If any “06880” reader has Apple connections, please help Sam travel (once again) to California.

It’s the least Apple can do for the kid who saved their entire video archives.

BONUS FUN FACT 1: In addition to Google and Philips, Apple sent Sam some products. Unfortunately, it’s not an iPhone or other device. The largest information technology company in the world gave him a hat, pen and water bottle.

BONUS FUN FACT 2: This summer, Sam decided to see how many certifications he could get online. He is now an official Universal Life minister, ordained to perform weddings, funerals and (I am not making this up) exorcisms. Sam declined to get certified as a lactation consultation, however. He saved that $35 fee — perhaps for his upcoming trip to California.

GoKid! Get This Carpool App!

Like many New Yorkers, Stefanie Lemcke started looking outside the city for schools for her children.

She and her husband took day trips here. When they realized “wow, people actually live in Westport!” they made the move.

Like many new arrivals, she loved the town. And — like many — she had to adapt to becoming a chauffeur. “No one told me I’d do so much driving!” she says.

Like no one else, however, she turned that mind-numbing chore into a flourishing business.

Stefanie Lemcke

On the Upper West Side, Lemcke walked her kids to school. Here, she had to learn to navigate carpools. Emails, Excel spreadsheets, texts — there had to be a better way.

Having worked for years with companies like Uber and Lyft, she thought instinctively of an online platform. She had not been involved on the tech side, but she became “obsessed” — her word — with her idea.

Her solution: a secure website that allows families to connect easily with others in their school, and identify carpool opportunities. She called it GoKid.

Lemcke hired 2 freelancers in California to write the initial code.

Techstars — a Detroit-based startup accelerator — accepted GoKid. That helped her raise over $1 million in funding.

She hired the best people she could find — wherever she found them. Lemcke’s team includes 3 developers in New York; 3 Argentines; a London COO, and one guy who travels in a truck.

Despite very little marketing, growth as been explosive. Over 50,000 carpools have been organized, in more than 25 countries.

But GoKid — which works on a desktop, smartphone and other devices — is very much a Westport company. Its official address is here, and visitors to the site see photos taken all around town.

Many of GoKid’s promotional photos were shot in Westport. This scene is at Staples High School.

GoKid fills a clear need. For budget and other reasons — one bus route averages $37,000 a year — over 50% of all school districts no longer use buses, Lemcke says. In California, just 17% do.

Of course, Lemcke notes, “Kids still have to get to school” — and their many other activities. GoKid allows users to organize carpools by neighborhood, grade, even kids’ interests. It’s a way to find trusted drivers beyond a small group of friends.

Last week, GoKid rolled out advanced features, like “recent participant” and “recent location”; the ability to set up return carpools with different participants, and customized alerts and notifications. It’s now available on Android devices. And it’s making its first marketing push.

The screenshot on the left shows text messages regardiing a carpool event. The one on the right shows a carpool map.

Lemcke knows the carpooling problem first hand. She lives on North Avenue — a few feet from Staples High and Bedford Middle schools. “Everyone drives their kids, even though we have buses,” she notes.

But the founder of an app that makes carpooling easier is not convinced that’s the only solution in her home town.

“It would be nice to create an initiative here around walking and biking,” she says.

“This is a progressive community, with great schools. But we’re backward when it comes to transportation.”

Of course, parents will continue to drive their children. That’s a fact of Westport life.

“Given the traffic and congestion, we welcome the opportunity to work with  Westport schools to help parents save time and reduce traffic,” Lemcke notes.

(For more information about GoKid, click here.)

 

Wait Until 8th?

I don’t have an 8th grader. I don’t have any grader, in fact.

I’m not a Westport mom. I’m not any mom.

But I do love WestportMoms.com. And the other day the moms — Megan and Melissa — posted an interesting story.

Whether you’ve got an 8th grader, a 3rd grader or no grader at all, if you’ve lived or spent any time at all in Westport, you’ve noticed cellphone creep. More and more, younger and younger kids carry phones.

Which means they’re texting, swiping, and in every other way glued to their devices.

All the time.

OMG!

The WestportMoms story was headlined: “The ‘Wait Until 8th’ Pledge — Let Kids be Kids a Little Longer.”

The idea is for parents to delay giving children a smartphone until at least 8th grade. “By banding together, this will decrease the pressure felt by kids and parents alike,” they wrote.

The story offered several reasons to wait — and noted that “top Silicon Valley executives” agree.

Smartphones:

  • Are addictive
  • Are an academic distraction
  • Impair sleep
  • Interfere with relationships
  • Increase the risk for anxiety and depresson
  • Put children at risk for cyber-bullying
  • Expose children to sexual content.

(They are of course also fun, empowering, and facilitate communication between kids, friends and parents. That was not in the story, but I felt compelled to toss it in.)

What do you think? As the school year races toward us, is the “Wait until 8th” pledge important? Necessary? Unnecessary? Futile?

Click “comments” below.

And kids, if you want to text me — wait, no..

Westport’s Newest SafeRide: A Life-Saving, Anti-Distracted Driving App

SafeRides — the local teen-run ride-sharing service that gave free, confidential rides home — shut down last month.

But SafeRide — an app that automatically locks a driver’s phone, eliminating temptations, distractions and possible disaster — is about to take off nationally.

It’s moving from a soft launch to a full-scale roll-out. And it’s happening right here, in a Westport home office.

SafeRide is the brainchild of Scott Rownin. He’s an eclectic guy. His degrees are in engineering and economics; he plays drums; he’s worked as an accountant, management consultant, equity trader and wealth adviser. But until he addressed the problem of distracted driving, he hadn’t found his true passion.

It happened several years after he and his wife Lauren moved to Westport. (Their first visit came during a Sidewalk Sale. “It was like the movie ‘Funny Farm,'” Rownin recalls, “where the entire town was set up just to sell a house.” They’re still in their “temporary” home, and love everything about the community.)

Scott and Lauren Rownin

A few years ago, Walmart ran a “Get on the Shelves” promotion. The megastore was looking for new products, from anyone.

Rownin had an idea: create a device to stop drivers from texting.

He hired a design firm, and began researching what’s legal and what’s not. Within 2 weeks, he had the beginnings of a device.

Since then, it’s evolved. There are a number of products already on the market. But they’re hardware-based.

SafeRide relies almost entirely on software. It uses Bluetooth as a beacon. Rownin says around 90% of cars now include Bluetooth. And those that don’t almost always have another device that does — say, GPS or a Bluetooth charger.

Recognizing any Bluetooth device, SafeRide locks the driver’s phone while the car is in motion. All phone calls and email sounds are turned off. Navigation and music apps are still available. And drivers can use a hands-free system (in-dash or headset) while the phone remains locked.

In an emergency, calls can still be made to a local responder.

Users can also set up customized auto-text replies, letting anyone who calls or texts know that the message will be responded to soon.

There is an on/off mode, so passengers can use their phones. Rownin is working on an “intelligent” aspect, where the app recognizes if a user is not in his or her own vehicle (and thus is, presumably, a passenger).

“If I were a teenager, I know I’d try to get around it,” he acknowledges. He’s worked to make SafeRide “teen-proof.” It reports misuse to a server — and parents can generate alerts and reports that show exactly when “passenger mode” was enabled.

Texting is so much more interesting than paying attention to the road.

(Of course, as anyone who ventures out on Westport roads knows, the problem of distracted driving is hardly limited to teenagers.)

Rownin has relished every moment of this project. From product design and patent research to capitalization and marketing, he’s been driven by “making the world a safer place.”

His wife has been his biggest booster. “Every 6 months we have a heart-to-heart about this,” he says. “Lauren always pushes me forward.”

She’s also a “fantastic saleswoman,” and joined the team. “She’s killing it!” he says proudly.

SafeRide had a soft launch in March. Now publicity is ramping up.

Rownin hopes to keep the app free for parents. He foresees revenue coming from trucking companies and other organizations that employ large numbers of drivers, along with insurance companies that would license it, then provide it to their customers.

Further in the future, he says, SafeRide might come installed in every car that is sold.

It would be one more life-saving device no one even thinks about. Just like seat belts. Air bags. Or brakes.

(For more information on SafeRide, click here.)

Buy Nothing. Get Something. For Real.

The other day, I posted a story about Goodwill. A reader complained about high prices at the local “thrift shop.” Many readers agreed.

A few days later, alert “06880” reader Libby Kole emailed me about a less expensive alternative.

In fact, it’s free.

There’s no physical location. Instead, you find “Buy Nothing” online.

The Westport Facebook group is part of a national movement. It helps people trade, share, give and get just about anything.

Kole cited one example. She picked up boxes from a woman who just moved here. In return, Kole posted a rocking chair. (She’ll give the boxes away too, when she’s done moving herself.)

Nothing is for sale. There is no bartering. It’s just free.

The national site for Buy Nothing Groups lists things that can be given. They include clothes, dinners, plants, rabbits, laundry detergent, antiques, bikes, canoes, kombucha, flowers, eggs and beds.

People offer services too: nursing or childcare. A resting place for a dying dog. An arborist checking on trees. Guitar lessons.

Users have requested over-the-counter medicines in the middle of the night. Books, rugs and stuffed animals for a 1st grade classroom. Blackberries for wine-making (the recipient then shared his wine with the entire community). A home, while an apartment is being renovated.

Though the Westport group is just getting started, it quickly zoomed past 250 members.

The list of offerings is not as clever as the national examples. But it is typically Westport.

There’s a Sub-Zero dual zone wine cooler (“worth 4K” — though it needs $1,300 worth of evaporators). A kids’ scooter. Size 6 Crocs (“rejected by my child”). Carry-on luggage. Lice shampoo.

The $4,000 wine cooler.

It’s all there for the taking.

What gives?!

(Click here for the “Buy Nothing Westport, CT” Facebook group.)

David Pogue Finds A Renovation Angel

To the rest of the world, David Pogue is a tech guru. He’s a writer (Yahoo, New York Times, Scientific American), TV correspondent (“CBS News Sunday Morning,” PBS “Nova Science Now”) and author (“Missing Manual” series, “Pogue’s Basics”) who has won 3 Emmy awards, 2 Webbys and a Loeb for journalism.

To Westporters, he’s a neighbor.

Which means he worries about the same things you and I do: traffic. How his kids do in school. His kitchen renovation project.

Here — because David Pogue is a neighbor, friend and “06880” fan — is his exclusive story about one part of that kitchen remodel:

When we decided to renovate our aging kitchen, one of my greatest stresses was: What happens to the old kitchen?

David Pogue’s kitchen, before renovation.

For most Fairfield County residents, I’d imagine the answer is, “it winds up in the landfill.” Occasionally, “Habitat for Humanity will take a few items.”

But I’m here to tell you about an amazing alternative that I wish everybody knew: Renovation Angel.

Our kitchen designer told us about this outfit. To be frank, it sounded too good to be true. Listen to this business model:

* They dismantle and haul away your old kitchen for free. You’re saved the cost of the demolition, disposal fees, dumpster rental, and so on.

* They give you a huge tax deduction.

* They then resell your entire kitchen, both online and at their huge showroom in New Jersey. All of it: cabinets, countertops, appliances, lights, chairs —whatever you can part with. Other people who are renovating their kitchens get luxury stuff for a fraction of its usual price.

* The best part: Renovation Angel then gives the proceeds to charity. They donate to programs for addiction recovery, at-risk children, job training, and social entrepreneurship.

David Pogue, wondering how to renovate his kitchen and help the world.

To me, this seemed like a win-win-win-win-win. You win (free demo and the tax writeoff); the planet wins (nothing thrown away); your kitchen’s buyer wins (saves a fortune); Renovation Angel wins (employs 135 people); and, of course, the charities win.

I decided to try it. I sent them photos; they sent a guy out to measure. They asked when we wanted them to show up, and recommended that we have the water and gas disconnected when they arrived. That was it.

Oh — except for the part where they said that our nearly 20-year-old kitchen would earn us a $40,000 tax deduction! Unbelievable.

And so last week they showed up on schedule with a big truck and a 4-man, fully insured crew. Board by board, piece by piece, they dismantled our kitchen, protecting each piece as they loaded it into the truck. They worked nonstop for 4 hours, treated each piece like an heirloom, and left the place spotless. (Incredibly, ours was their 2nd kitchen of the day.)

Almost done!

Renovation Angel is the brainchild of Steve Feldman, who credits a drug addiction recovery program with saving his life when he was a teenager. About 12 years ago, he saw a 10,000-square-foot house in Greenwich being demolished — and watched all the fine marble, custom cabinetry and expensive appliances get tossed into a dumpster. That was the inspiration for Renovation Angel.

Now, a dozen years later, he’s recycled 5,000 kitchens, donated $2.2 million to charity, and kept 30 million pounds of stuff out of landfills.

The kitchen, after Angel Renovation got done. (Photos/David Pogue)

The experience for us was joyous, effortless and thrilling — not words you usually associate with home renovation. Seems like Westport is a national hub of nice kitchens and kitchen renovation. So I can’t help myself in trying to spread the word!

As I said, David Pogue may be world famous, but he has typical Westport/1st world problems. Like, how will he and his family eat while their new kitchen is being installed?

Click below for David’s great time-lapse video of the entire Renovation Angel project:

 

 

50 Years Ago, Staples’ Computer Made A Memorable Match

In the 1960s, Staples High School was in the forefront of social change.

Students could take “Experimental English.” On an open campus, they came and went as they pleased. Bands like the Doors, Cream and Yardbirds played in the auditorium.

Staples was also one of the first schools anywhere to hold a “Computer Dance.” After teenagers answered 50 questions, an “electronic computer” matched them with their “perfect” partners.

Staples may also be the first place where a “Computer Dance” actually led to a marriage.

This weekend, Collin and Sherida Stewart enjoyed their 50th high school reunion. In June, they celebrated their 46th anniversary.

None of it would have been possible without that new-fangled computer.

And the desperate financial straits of the Staples Student Organization.

The “Computer Dance” was page 1 news in the Staples High School newspaper “Inklings.” Student government president Paul Gambaccini is shown supposedly filling out the match questionnaire.

Back in the spring of 1966, the student government needed money. SSO card sales were low; gate receipts from football and basketball games were “bitterly disappointing,” said the school paper Inklings.

What better fundraiser  than a “computer dance”?

Students replied to questions about their own looks, intelligence, activities, cars, favorite school subjects, TV-watching habits, movies, and time spent on the phone. Then they answered the same questions about their ideal match.

Part of “ideal partner” questionnaire. Even though a computer did the matching, students answered the questions by hand.

Sherida Bowlin was a relative newcomer to Westport. She entered Long Lots Junior High School in 9th grade, when her dad’s employer transferred him from Kansas to New York.

Collin Stewart was even newer to town. Amoco moved his father from Houston to New York in the winter of 1966 — the middle of 11th grade.

In fact, he was not yet at Staples when he filled out the computer questionnaire. His dad — already here — heard about the dance from a new acquaintance at the United Methodist Church.

Realizing it was a great way for his son to meet people, he called Collin. Together on a long-distance call, they filled out the questionnaire.

The 2 juniors did not know each other. But they were matched together at the dance — despite a computer glitch that rendered the boy’s name as “Stewart Collin.”

Collin Stewart and Sherida Bowlin at the junior prom.

They shared “maybe 1 or 2 dances,” Sherida recalls. Neither remembers if there was a live band, or records.

Their friendship grew quickly — though more at their shared Methodist Church than Staples.

Their 1st real date was the junior prom.

Soon they were going steady. They continued all through the next year. By senior prom, they were a well-established couple.

Within days after graduation however, both families moved. Sherida’s went to the West Coast; Collin’s to London.

But they’d figured out a way to stay together. Collin was going to the Colorado School of Mines. His father and uncle both graduated from there — and he wanted to major in geological engineering.

Sherida headed to the University of Colorado — just 20 miles away.

In June 1971 they got married in Lebo, Kansas — her grandparents’ hometown.

Mr. and Mrs. Stewart, on their wedding day.

Collin’s job as a mining engineer took them all over the West. They lived in Colorado, Wyoming and Nevada. They love the outdoor lifestyle.

They’re now in Farmington, New Mexico, in the heart of the gorgeous Four Corners. They have 2 sons, and 3 grandchildren.

“We remain each other’s best friends,” Sherida says.

Collin earned a master’s degree before their kids were born. After he retired, he went back to Colorado School of Mines for a Ph.D. As of last December, he is Dr. Stewart.

Sherida taught 1st and 3rd grades, then preschool working with special needs children. Now she’s turned to inspirational romance writing. She’s won a few contests. (With her 50-year relationship, she knows a bit about romance.)

Sherida and Collin Stewart, in a recent selfie.

Collin came back to Westport just once, a couple of years after graduating. Until this weekend, Sherida had never been back.

Both looked forward to returning here. After all, had it not been for that “electronic computer,” the previous half-century of their lives might have turned out very, very differently.

Take that, Tinder!

(Hat tip: Fred Cantor)

FAA Pilots A Drone Course

One of the highlights of last April’s Maker Faire came when a Federal Aviation Administration official awarded Staples High School sophomore/aspiring drone operator Ryan Felner his Remote Pilot Airman certificate. (For the back story on how it happened — after Ryan thought his life was ruined — click here.)

This month, Westport is once again on the FAA’s radar.

From July 24-28, the agency will help sponsor the nation’s 1st-ever Unmanned Aircraft Systems Aviation Career Education Academy.

That’s ACE for short. And “Unmanned Aircraft Systems” is government-speak for “drones.”

Brandon Malin’s drone view of the Staples High School pops concert at Levitt Pavilion.

The course is designed for 16-20-year-olds. Students will learn how to safely fly a drone, through hands-on instruction and more.

Hopefully, they’ll then pass the FAA Remote Pilot Certification test (July 31 and August 1).

The course will be held at Staples High School. Tuition of $200 covers all materials. The certification test is an additional $150.

And no, you do not have to own your own drone. They’re provided.

For more information or to sign up, click here; call Mark Mathias at 203-226-1791 or email mark@remarkablesteam.org.

(In addition to the FAA, the course is co-sponsored by the Academy of Model Aeronautics, Remarkable STEAM, Westport Public Schools and the Westport Library.)

David Pogue’s drone.

[OPINION] Saugatuck Resident Thanks P&Z For Tesla Response

Last night, the Planning & Zoning Commission heard public comment on a text amendment to allow an electric car service center — and possibly a dealership — on Saugatuck Avenue.

Most of the public was not in favor of the plan. The P&Z heard concerns loud and clear. They’ll revisit the proposal on July 6.

Opponents of the plan — which involves Tesla — took heart from the meeting. Saugatuck resident and “06880” reader Marilyn Harding writes:

Last night the residents of Saugatuck did a brilliant job — through strategies that encompassed fact-based data, tell-tale photographs and their passion of purpose— that saved Saugatuck from a future of more traffic chaos, more misuse of land, and more reckless change to a historic community. Their presentation to the Planning and Zoning Commission fully demonstrates how local communities can work together successfully to preserve the town of Westport.

20 Saugatuck Avenue — the site where Tesla hoped to build a service facility.

The P & Z deserves bunches of kudos for their sound judgment in steering an electric car company away from the already overcrowded streets of Saugatuck, but did embrace the innovative brand.

P &Z members extended welcoming invitations to Tesla, alerting them to locations on the Post Road where the required commercial zoning is permitted for car dealers.

The P & Z took yet another step forward, acknowledging the value of their predecessors’ work when town regulations were written and designed to safeguard Westport’s authenticity as a historic New England town.

Congratulations to the Saugatuck residents, members of the P & Z, and to the wonderful, creative Westporters who have gone before us!

Stew Leonard Jr.: Amazon Purchase Of Whole Foods “A Game-Changer”

Amazon’s proposed $13.4 billion purchase of Whole Foods has rocked the grocery and retail industries.

An hour ago, Stew Leonard Jr. was one of the experts CNBC called on for expert reaction.

Stew Leonard Jr. (Photo courtesy/Westchester Magazine)

The president and CEO of the small but influential chain called the deal — which includes a store on the Westport border just a mile from Stew’s Norwalk flagship location — “a game-changer in the industry.”

Amazon’s technological know-how “will revolutionize how people buy food and get it delivered,” he added.

Leonard — whose grandfather Charles Leo Leonard founded the store’s predecessor, Clover Farms Dairy, and personally delivered milk straight from the farm to local customers — saw today’s announcement as a return to those days.

“The cost of the last mile of delivery has been dropping,” he noted.

Leonard also cited the growing number of millennials as a factor. Using his 31-year-old daughter as an example, he said that her generation expects every purchase to be deliverable.

However, he continued, “retailers have to get snappier” about how they present the purchasing experience.

“We try to make it fun,” he said, with plenty of animation and the chance to see mozzarella balls being made fresh.

However, he acknowledged, buying cereal and water in a store is far less exciting.

(Click here for the full 4:42 interview.)

When Amazon gets into delivery of Whole Foods products, will the animals at Stew’s be less of a draw?