First there was the Drones Club, then Drone Racing and now: making some money with drones.

Our friend Lee gets his family a tech present every year. Last year it was drones. Lee’s 20-something daughter, a civil engineer, started using hers to offer aerial photography and video to construction sites. Then she started her own drone business, offering these services as a certified remote pilot in Wisconsin.

If you Google the phrase “how to be a drone entrepreneur,” several sites come up. The first, from Virgin.com, describes several possibilities. One is farming. Drones have been crop-dusting in Japan for 15 years, and U.S. farmers are getting started. American farms are much larger and farmers here are looking for drones that can carry more, are made from cheaper or disposable hardware and can stay in flight longer. Basically, these are the same features the military are looking for. Other areas for drone entrepreneurs include mapping, 3D modeling and surveying. An outfit called Conservation Drones is using them to monitor Sumatran rain forests (they count orangutan nests), Bolivian fresh water fisheries, and plantation health all over the world.

It’s the Tech Support, Dummy

Hardly any companies pay much attention to tech support. They should. Top tech support was a major reason for the rapid rise of Dell in the early days of desktop computers. Those days are gone.

Looking at the latest Consumer Reports Magazine “Buying Guide for 2017″ (available in most public libraries), we found an extensive review of computer company tech support. Apple got a good rating; everyone else flunked. Microsoft came in second, but with a negative rating for online support. All the rest had the worst possible ratings for tech support. These included Dell, Lenovo, HP, Asus, Samsung, Acer/Gateway and Toshiba.

What’s our own experience, which as tech columnists for more than thirty years is pretty extensive? The worst has been Hewlett Packard, which not only has not solved a problem when we call in, but tells us the best solution is to buy a new Hewlett Packard computer or printer. Gosh, that’s helpful.

The best tech support we have ever found, including all of the known universe and parts of New Jersey, has been from Okidata, which just makes printers. Their phone tech support is available 24 hours, every day, and in thirty-five years they have only once failed to fix the problem. That one time, they just sent a new printer, and asked us to use the same box to return the old one. Now, what to us is an interesting thing about their printers is the quality is the best and yet you never see them for sale in any of the big office supply stores. Why is that? A mystery wrapped in an enigma.

Way to Scan!

Epson just introduced the fastest low-cost scanner we’ve ever come across: “WorkForce ES-400” and the “Workforce “ES-500W.” They can scan both sides of a document at 35 pages per minute. That’s both sides of a page about every two seconds and the capacity is 50 pages at a time.

Now we have absolutely no use for something like that but we’re charitable in our tightwad way and figured that it might be pretty handy for law firms and government agencies. Anybody who likes to have a backup copy of printed material.

The scanned image shoots right into storage sites, like DropBox, SharePoint, Evernote, and Google Drive. The scanners can handle ID cards and business cards, receipts, extra-long pages, and so on. They say it’s virtually jam-proof. (They haven’t tried one on some of our relatives.)  The machines come with lots of software: Epson Document  Capture, ABBYY FineReader and NewSoft Presto! Bizcard. The wired version is $349, the wireless scanner is $399.

By the way, we haven’t talked about ABBYY Fine Reader for a few years. This is a program that lets you edit a scanned document. You see, when you scan any document, what you get is an image of that document, not the actual text. If you want to make changes, you need a program like ABBYY.

App Happy

  • “AOL Alto” is yet another way to manage more than one email inbox on your iPhone, iPad or Android phone or tablet. You don’t need an AOL account to use it. You can bring in mail from Gmail, Yahoo and all the usual places, and swipe between the accounts for various family members. There are tabs for photos, shopping, travel, personal notes and attachments and other categories.
  • “RedZone,” from RedZoneMap.com, identifies high crime areas in the U.S., pinpointing areas of assault, shootings, theft and other crimes. It was iPhone/iPad only when we mentioned it eight months ago. Now it’s out in a version for Android as well. The new version sounds an alert when you’re navigating within five miles of a crime zone. (That cuts out most of any large city.) It pinpoints crimes committed within the last 48 hours.
  • We first tried the “7 Minute Workout” using the Amazon Echo Dot, but it’s also a stand-alone app for iPhone, iPad and Android. It’s an amazing way to build strength. Start from the easiest level and before you know it, you’re doing advanced pushups.


  • Worldfitnesslevel.org will judge your age based on your fitness level. Joy is 33. Bob doesn’t want to know.
  • PaperlessPost.com has online greeting cards that unfold on the screen like a traditional card. At the site, click “online cards” at the top of the screen. Their main focus, despite the name, seems to be printed cards. We dropped three photos into a “Ho Ho Ho” card, one next to each “Ho.” Well done.


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