Category: Technology


2021 Week 42 – Grammarly App Review

I have a confession to make. I’m lazy when it comes to writing. I let the computer recommend corrections and highlight spelling mistakes. I thought I had it all figured out, and then I tried Grammarly.

Years ago, I played with Grammarly when it first came out and didn’t see the need to keep it as it didn’t appear to be any better than the built-in tools I was already using. However, I kept seeing Grammarly pop up online, and several people I know are happily using it, so I decided to give it another try.

First off, the amount of integration this tool provides is impressive. From browser extensions on the desktop to additional keyboards on mobile devices, Grammarly has you covered just about everywhere. I’ve been using it for the past month or so while drafting Blog entries, and it’s caught WAY more grammatical errors than the built-in editor, especially missing commas that I’m guilty of having. Some of the more technical emails I’ve needed to write at work have greatly benefitted from Grammarly too.

There are a few different options with Grammarly. Free, Premium, and Business. The Premium version I’m currently using is $12 a month. It’s a little steep, I’ll admit, but it’s become so integrated into my workflow I’m willing to pay the price. Of course, it’s not a perfect solution and will, on occasion, make a recommendation I don’t quite agree with, but those are few and far between.


In other news, I just started listening to a new podcast called “How We Survive” from NPR Marketplace. The first season is all about the lithium used in batteries that will be powering everything in the future and how we need to mine more to meet the demand.

The climate crisis is here. Time is slipping away to stop the worst effects of global warming, and the world is looking for solutions. On “How We Survive,” Molly Wood explores the technology that could provide some of those solutions, the business of acclimatizing to an increasingly inhospitable planet, and the way people have to change if we’re going to make it in an altered world. Our first season season dives deep into the economics, the tech and the human stories behind the race for lithium. It’s the “white gold” that will help electrify our cars, homes and power grids, and unlike the gold rush of the 1800s, this time, our survival might depend on it.

Molly Wood – Host of the “How We Survive” Podcast.

That’s it for this week. I have a few ideas for upcoming blogs and have several drafts in the works. See you next time!

2021 Week 41 – iPad Pro Upgrade

I’ve been completely integrated into the Apple ecosystem for a while now and have always wanted an iPad Pro, but the price has always stopped me from making the leap. Because of that, I’ve purchased several iPad Air models and was generally happy with that decision. Well, I finally broke down and bought my first iPad Pro last week.

I opted for the 11″ model with 512GB of memory. Priced at just under $1000, it was not a cheap purchase, but compared to the Air model it replaced, this thing is an absolute beast when it comes to performance. I’ve been blown away by the responsiveness and power of the 2021 iPad Pro. I should have done this a while ago.

2021 iPad Pro with Magic Keyboard

I’ve always used an external keyboard with my iPad, and I had a few choices for this one. I ordered both the Apple Magic Keyboard and the Logitech Combo Touch so I could try them both out and return the one I didn’t want. Initially, I was leaning towards the Logitech option because of its flexibility, but once I tried the Apple keyboard, I was hooked. Both add a considerable amount of weight (and cost) to the package, but the Apple Keyboard is rock solid, and the keys are almost identical to my MacBook Pro. My only complaint is the trackpad is smaller than the Logitech keyboard, and it costs more. However, it DOES have a dedicated charging port to free up the USB-C port on the side of the iPad Pro.

I’ve had an Apple pencil (V1) and didn’t find myself using it much because you were pretty limited in what you could do with it, so it stayed in my bag. Now, with iPadOS 15, the pencil is a lot more capable, and it’s always available since it can be docked (and charged) on the side of the iPad with some impressively strong magnets. Unfortunately, I had to upgrade to the new V2 model as the V1 is not compatible.

Apple Pencil V2

Restoring from a recent backup of the old iPad is all it takes to be up and running. Apple has made upgrading to a new device about as simple as it can get. iCloud keeps everything synced between devices, and the whole ecosystem just works. That’s what’s so nice about the Apple environment.

I took the iPad Air I’m replacing and mounted it to the refrigerator to use while cooking. I had an older model on there for years, and it comes in really handy to have an iPad in that location for recipe reference and multimedia controls of the stereo in the other room.

If you’re an Apple iPad user and considering an upgrade, the Pro series is worth looking into. It’s more expensive than the Air options, but the performance jump is noticeable, and the screen resolution is nothing short of amazing.


In other news, Netflix just released the entire Seinfeld series. I remember watching the show, off and on, in the ’90s and always enjoyed it. Now that I’m re-watching it, I realize what a well-written and acted show it really was! I’m only 3 episodes in with 176 left to go. I hope Netflix keeps this available for a while because it’s going to take me a while to get through all of the episodes.

That’s it for this week. I have a software review on deck & should be ready to publish it in the next week or two. Enjoy the wonderful fall weather & we’ll see you next week!

2021 Week 25 – Like Golf but Better

Over the winter I watched a lot of YouTube & I stumbled upon some interesting ones regarding Disc Golf. I’d seen the baskets around various parks in the past and had never really seen anyone playing. Enter COVID-19 and Disc Golf becomes one of the fastest growing outdoor sports in the world. According to the Professional Disc Golf Association the sport saw an 84% new player growth in 2020.

There are over 10,000 courses throughout the world and most are completely free to play, unlike Ball Golf that can run you $100 a round (and take up a good chunk of your day). You can get started in Disc Golf with a single Disc that costs $10 or a starter set of 3 Discs for under $30. Scoring is can be a simple as a piece or paper or with the use if an app such as UDisk (also reporting record growth).

UDisk is a mobile app that lists Disc Courses around the world with reviews and course conditions updated by players. It also allows you to see the Disc Course layout and distances to the baskets. Lastly you can use UDisk to keep score and track your progress as you learn the game. For $15 it’s one of the most useful apps I’ve used, let alone pay for.

Playing Disc Golf is similar to Ball Golf where each player tries to get their Disc in the basket with the least amount of throws. The holes are rated with Par’s like Ball Golf and other rules such as Water Hazards and Out of Bounds are similar. I’m not nearly ready yet but there are Disc Golf Leagues all over the place & they seem to be very active. I’m going to try my hand at joining one this fall once the summer travel settles down. If you’re looking for a new sport to try & don’t think you can beat Disc Golf as a way to get outside and get some exercise while playing.

And finally, I visited Micro Center in Cincinnati last weekend and picked up a 7-inch touch screen for one of my Raspberry Pi devices. If you like to tinker, or know someone who does, a Raspberry Pi is a great gift. It’s an inexpensive (under $50) computer on a board that can be “hacked” to do just about anything. I’m going to build the real-time weather station shown in the video below.

2021 Week 24 – What’s That Noise?

yellow flag on boat

That’s what I said when the 17-Year Cicada Brood hatched last week in the tree line next to my house. It’s louder than I remember but luckily goes quiet at night so we can still sleep with the windows open. On the other hand it’s becoming impossible to keep the car clean!

As I prepare for a couple of big road trips this summer I broke out the Garmin InReach Mini so I could get it updated and re-activated. This little thing is amazing and offers some piece of mind when your travels take you to areas with little, or no, cell coverage. The InReach Mini fits in the palm of your hand and offers Two-Way Messaging, Interactive SOS Alerts, & Location Sharing using the GEOS Satellite network. You can also track your routes and mark positions such as Points of Interest, and campsites/trail heads.

The companion Garmin Earthmate app uses your phone as a GPS display and messaging tool. It connects to the InReach Mini via Bluetooth and allows you to use the keyboard and screen of the mobile phone to send/receive/read messages. Monthly cost is around $35 and you can enable/disable it at will so you’re not paying for it when you don’t need it. I highly recommend something like this for peace of mind for both yourself and those that want to make sure you’re OK on your adventures.

And finally, as a HUGE fan of Top Gear (the original one, not the spinoffs) and the Grand Tour, I was happy to see Jeremy Clarkson hosting a new show on Amazon Prime Video. But this one has a twist. He’s now a farmer! He purchased a 1000 acre plot of land a while ago (probably with thoughts of retiring there) and he’s been put in a position where he’s going to try & farm it himself. Well if you know anything about the Top Gear guys, you have an idea where this might be headed…

2021 Week 16 – Hey Y’all!

blue and silver stetoscope

Kickstarter has some interesting projects.  I’ve backed several over the years and have mostly been happy with the end products (a few were failures and never got enough funded to get off the ground).  A new one caught my eye a few months ago called Tidbyt.  Tidbyt is a retro display kind of along the lines of a lite-brite that we all had as a kid.  It’s “connected” and can be customized to display all kinds of data from weather to stocks to transit timetables.  If all goes according to plan it will start shipping in September.  I’m looking forward to setting one up as a weather station and clock!

If you have pets do yourself a favor and locate at least 2 emergency pet hospitals that are open 24-hours and make sure this information is easily accessible. It’s also a good idea to know where they’re located so you know how to get there quickly.  We had a situation where one of our pets needed emergency care and the first place, closest to our house, had a 5-6 hour wait to see a Vet.  The parking lot was full of people sitting around on lawn chairs!  We identified an alternate emergency facility about 30-min away that advised they had a 1-2 hour wait.  It still took almost 6-hours to get the exam and necessary medications.  Current protocol requires you to call from the parking lot and stay there the entire time you’re waiting for triage and treatment.  

And finally, I’ve really been enjoying the “Bless Your Rank” food review show on the “It’s a southern Thing” YouTube channel. It’s helping me get some ideas of snacks to try when I make a trip down south later this year!

Bonus Episode!

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