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A Trip to the Hardware Store

Columnist: Mike E. Duffy
Sep, 2019 Issue

I went to visit my sister in Southern California, and she asked me to get a spare house key made so I’d have one to use during my visit. I took her key and drove to the nearest hardware store, which happened to be Home Depot. If I had done it here in Sebastopol, I would have gone to Sebastopol Ace Hardware, and one of the nice people who patrol the aisles would take me over to the key center, pick out an appropriate blank based on the existing key (in this case, a Kwikset lock), clamp the original and the blank into a glorified grinder, and grind the blank into a copy by following the pattern of the existing key.

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Targeted Advertisements on the Internet

Author: Michael E. Duffy
Aug, 2019 Issue

We’ve all had the experience of visiting a website about, say, the best patio furniture to buy, and then seeing advertisements for patio furniture as we visit other websites. I recently visited the Wealthfront website (www.wealthfront.com) to learn more about their cash account, which currently pays 2.51 percent. Now I see ads for Wealthfront when I’m on Facebook and other sites that display ads. Most people find ads that follow them around the Internet either magical or creepy.

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Are We There Yet

Author: Bonnie Durrance
Aug, 2019 Issue

Picture this: You arrive at your home after a hard day at work. You gather your things, get out of the car and watch it drive off—by itself. It navigates solo to a lot somewhere on the outskirts of town, parks and waits for morning, leaving you with a clear street and, if you have one, lots of space in your garage. Futuristic fantasy? To practical techies in Silicon Valley and automotive makers worldwide, the answer is no, not at all.

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On The Road To Driverless Cars

Columnist: Mike E. Duffy
Jul, 2019 Issue

So, I bought a new car. My new ride is 2019 Lexus ES 300h (for hybrid), though the all-electric Chevy Bolt was tempting, in this day of four-buck gasoline, as was the new Tesla Model 3. It’s also crammed with new technology.

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The Balance of Power

Columnist: Mike E. Duffy
May, 2019 Issue

I just finished reading a thought-provoking book titled, The Power, by Naomi Alderman. Following its publication in 2016, it won the Baileys Women\'s Prize for Fiction in the UK, was named one of the 10 best books of 2017 by The New York Times and was also cited by former President Barack Obama as one of his favorite books that year. Yet two of my “smart friends” who read the book didn’t find it well written. So much for literary criticism.

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Of Biotech Love, Cold ICE, Parking Wars and Pricey Digs

Columnist: Bill Meagher
Apr, 2019 Issue

According to Morningstar Research, BioMarin may have suitors that include Pfizer, Merck and Johnson & Johnson as the pharmaceutical and biotech sectors brace for a wave of mergers. Other possible merger partners include Gilead, AbbVie and Roche. Morningstar, a Wall Street-based research house, says Novato-based BioMarin’s stock is undervalued and it’s drug portfolio is “focused.”

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Why Do We (Still) Go To Work?

Columnist: Mike E. Duffy
Apr, 2019 Issue

I work. My spouse works. And both my adult kids work. I’m going to assume that you work, too. And chances are, we all go somewhere else to do it, at a not-inconsiderable expense when you consider time and money. At the same time, particularly here in the Bay Area, we read stories about how people can no longer afford to live where they work.

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Parlez-vous Francais?

Columnist: Mike E. Duffy
Mar, 2019 Issue

My wife and I were fortunate enough to spend time in Paris last October. A friend of mine, who has traveled extensively in Europe, gave me some terrific advice: regardless of where you’re traveling, learn how to say hello, goodbye, please, thank you, and excuse me in the local language. It will get you much more polite treatment, even if you have to lapse back into English, because you’re making an effort to speak their language.

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Work/Life/Tech

Feb, 2019 Issue

Gartner, Inc. recently highlighted the top strategic technology trends for 2019. Gartner defines a strategic technology trend as one with substantial disruptive potential that is beginning to break out of an emerging state into broader impact and use, or which are rapidly growing trends with a high degree of volatility reaching tipping points over the next five years. Here are the top 10 trends to watch for in the months ahead.

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Debating Whether to Migrate into the Cloud

Columnist: Mike E. Duffy
Feb, 2019 Issue

What’s my number one recommendation for the New Year? Don’t do it yourself anymore. There was a time when you had to run software yourself. There was no secure, public internet, no way to provide remote access to software. Now, almost every application you need to run your business is available in the cloud. Office suites such as word processing, spreadsheets, email and calendaring are available from both Google (G Suite) and Microsoft (Office 365). Quickbooks Online does small business accounting, and NetSuite does the same for larger businesses. Everyone offers some form of file sharing, so no need to run an in-house file server. Slack has become the established way of communicating within teams and companies. And these companies take care of the details such as backing up your data, and ensuring those backups actually work.

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Is This The Real Life

Columnist: Mike E. Duffy
Jan, 2019 Issue

I was at TEDxSonomaCounty a few weeks ago, and one of the afternoon’s presentations was a short play built on the notion that we are merely part of a computer simulation, much like Neo in The Matrix film series. The play posed the question, “What parameters might be changed to make our (simulated) world a better place to live?”

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A Visit to the Future at Amazon Go

Columnist: Mike E. Duffy
Dec, 2018 Issue

I visited the future last week—twice, in fact. And it was definitely a little weird. My time machine was the newly-opened Amazon Go storefront in San Francisco’s Financial District, at the corner of California and Battery. It’s a couple of blocks from my office, and one of only six such stores in the country (three in Seattle, and two more in Chicago). In case you haven’t heard about Amazon Go, it sells food and drink and necessities, much like Target, CVS, and 7-11. What’s the big difference? Aside from a more attractive space, there are no cashiers or checkout stands. You walk in, get what you need and walk out.

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Robotic Process Automation

Columnist: Mike E. Duffy
Oct, 2018 Issue

An ongoing concern of our society is the replacement of employees by robots. It’s already happening in retail with self-checkout lanes at grocery stores, kiosks at McDonald’s, and robot baristas like the one at CafeX, just down the block from my office in San Francisco. And we’re on the verge of replacing thousands of people who drive for a living with autonomous vehicles, in the form of taxis and long-haul trucks.

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Girl Power

Columnist: Christina Julian
Sep, 2018 Issue

Lately my mornings play out something like this. Twin tots throw Cheerios like confetti and fly off furniture clad in capes and superhero garb, as they shout: “Girl power rules!” The fact that my son screams more loudly than my daughter is an indicator that times are indeed changing—not only in my home, but up and down the valley, as people do their own chants for equality, including at the Women’s Summit Napa Valley, held at Charles Krug winery in August.

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Virtual Private Networks

Columnist: Mike E. Duffy
Sep, 2018 Issue

Everyone is concerned, to various degrees, with online privacy and security. You’d like to be sure that personal information—like your home address or what you buy from Amazon—is kept private, and that your online banking information is secure from thieves. Making purchases and handling electronic accounts over a public network (the Internet), which we access through our Internet Service Provider (ISP) means you don’t control who touches the data on its way from your computer to Amazon or Wells Fargo.

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The Science of Hope

Author: Judith M. Wilson
Aug, 2018 Issue

Rare diseases are one of medicine’s big challenges. The number of people that any one disease affects is small—fewer than 200,000 nationally—and patients are scattered across the country, so it’s unusual for most physicians to ever encounter a case. And when the few doctors who do see them are able to make a diagnosis, it can be difficult to find an effective treatment, since so few exist. The dearth of treatments is the result of a market that is too small to generate big profits, thus providing little incentive for large pharmaceutical companies to produce what are known as “orphan drugs.”

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Build Your Home for New Technology

Columnist: Nate Gulbransen
Jun, 2018 Issue

The fires that ripped through Sonoma County during the October 2017 firestorm provided a raw look at the cost we pay for the energy we need to power our lives. Regardless of whether it was the high voltage electric lines that started the fires and melted natural gas lines fanning the flames, propane tanks were seen and heard bursting into flames from miles away. Clearly, it’s obvious now that the energy-heavy or combustion-centric life we lead, has dangerous pitfalls.

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Advice and Consent

Columnist: Mike E. Duffy
Apr, 2018 Issue

When you stop to look closely, there are lots of technologies in use at your business. There’s a computer, your Internet connection, maybe a computer network and various types of servers. There are also printers and copiers as well as your phone system. For retail operations, there are point-of-sales systems. There’s credit card processing, word processing and spreadsheets. There’s accounting software, scanners, document storage and retrieval, computer security. The list goes on and on. (In all the excitement, I forgot to mention email, text messaging and social media.) Frankly, it’s overwhelming.

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Driving Your Business with Technology

Columnist: Mike E. Duffy
Mar, 2018 Issue

I just looked at the “10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2018” from Gartner (formerly the less-impressive-sounding Gartner Group), who makes their money by being smart about technology for big companies who can afford their subscriptions and consulting services.

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Growing Together

Author: Judith M. Wilson
Nov, 2017 Issue

When companies support community service activities, everyone benefits

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Security Breach!

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Nov, 2017 Issue

Last month, the names, addresses, birthdates, and Social Security numbers (SSNs) of 143 million Americans were revealed in a security breach at Equifax, one of the “big three’” credit bureaus (along with Experian and TransUnion). Since this personal information is essentially your identity in the modern world, the breach is a Very Big Deal, and opens those affected to identity theft, especially as it relates to applying for credit.

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Learning to Code

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Sep, 2017 Issue

Nowadays, nearly everything has a software component. Your car is a mass of tiny computers controlling wheels and an engine, new refrigerators connect to the Internet, and farmers hack the software in their tractors. (Some, in fact, are presently suing John Deere Company for the right to do so.) You have dozens of software apps on that phone in your pocket. But as long as Quickbooks lets you pay your bills and invoice customers, how much more do you really need to understand about how it does it?

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Balancing Work & Health

Author: Stephanie Derammelaere
Aug, 2017 Issue

Once considered an added perk to offer employees to boost morale, reduce stress, and increase productivity, corporate wellness programs are evolving as the state of health in the American workforce continues to decrease significantly. Today, 86 million adult Americans have pre-diabetes and 34.6 percent are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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10 Breakthrough Technologies

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
May, 2017 Issue

For genetic disorders with a single cause, it's now entirely possible to cure them using a virus to deliver healthy copies of a gene to replace the ones responsible for the disorder. The smart people at the MIT Technology Review came up with a list of 10 breakthrough technologies for 2017. To quote the article, “[s]ome are unfolding now; others will take a decade or more to develop. But you should know about all of them right now.” Here’s a brief summary of each breakthrough technology.

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Homes of Future Past

Author: Judith Wilson
Apr, 2017 Issue

The movement to tear down and replace mid-century modern homes is often controversial, but Marin County preserves Eichler homes. The demand for new homes was on an upswing after World War II. The post-war Baby Boom was underway, and subdivisions with cookie-cutter tract houses were the trend, as developers raced to meet a growing need. But Joseph Eichler had a different idea. He’d lived in a house in Hillsborough designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, and he envisioned building affordable, modern homes that made the most of opportunities for indoor-outdoor living.

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Home Smart Home

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Apr, 2017 Issue

Right now, you can buy smart devices to optimize one aspect of your home's operation, but your home isn't smart. Growing up, my folks would manually turn down the thermostat at night to save on heating bills during the winter. Now I have a programmable thermostat that lets me set the times when the heat is on or off.

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Are Screens Making Us Sick

Columnist: Kirk Pappas, M.D.
Apr, 2017 Issue

The average teen (and pre-teen) spends more than six hours per day looking at their cell phone, TV, iPad and computer. Last year, Kaiser Permanente in Santa Rosa hosted a physician wellness event at the recommendation of one of our family practice physicians. During this event, we watched “Screenagers,” a documentary created by Delaney Ruston, M.D.

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April 2017 Tech

Apr, 2017 Issue

Recent updates in the tech industry

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Talk Dirty To Me

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Mar, 2017 Issue

To make the experience more seamlessly human-like, these devices are listening to you all the time.   People have been wanting to talk to their computers for a long time. As humans, we’re wired for conversational interaction, so it’s not a giant leap to imagine talking to a computer as being easier (for the human at least) than typing at one. In 1966, there was the talking computer of the starship Enterprise in the original Star Trek television series, voiced by Majel Barrett. The fictional HAL 9000 was the calm-voiced villain of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey in 1968.  In 1983’s War Games, the primitive text-to-speech voice of the WOPR computer asked, “How about a nice game of chess?”

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The Robot Columnist

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Feb, 2017 Issue

Sure, there are many ways to describe how one team won or lost the game, but the list of descriptors is still finite. There are only so many ways to say the 49ers sucked this year.

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Trump and Tech

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Jan, 2017 Issue

In his 1997 book The Art of the Deal he [Trump] wrote "I don\'t even know how to turn on a computer." I’m writing this in early December, but barring some unexpected event, Donald Trump will become the POTUS on January 20, 2017. It seems appropriate to consider what this means for technology, if anything. To quote Scientific American, “President-elect Donald Trump’s views on technology and tech policy were not prominent campaign features on his contentious path to the White House.”

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The Quick and the Dead

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Dec, 2016 Issue

While we may be deeply complex individuals, our expression of that complexity is sometimes markedly less apparent.

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Losing Our Humanness

Author: Lawrence A. Kropp
Dec, 2016 Issue

Interpersonal skills, motivation, knowledge skills, analytical skills and organizational skills were cited as the top skills lacking in the incoming workforce.  

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A World Without Work

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Nov, 2016 Issue

When the cost of a robot is less than the cost of an employee (considering benefits and turnover), companies will increasingly turn to an automaton.

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Share the Air

Author: Karen Hart
Oct, 2016 Issue

Small unmanned aircraft are on the fly and finding ways into daily life.

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Eye in the Sky

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Oct, 2016 Issue

PSS has made it possible to follow someone who commits a crime forward and backward(!) in time to see where they came from and where they go.

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October 2016 Tech

Oct, 2016 Issue

New tech available in the North Bay

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The Key to Home

Author: William Rohrs
Sep, 2016 Issue

Realtors in the North Bay agree its a good time to buy a house—if you can afford it.

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In this Issue

Moving Home

It has been almost two years since the devastating firestorms hit the North Bay in 2017, burning down 5,143 homes and leaving nothing but ash and debris in its wake. While to many the incident leave...

Moving Home

It has been almost two years since the devastating firestorms hit the North Bay in 2017, burning down 5,143 homes and leaving nothing but ash and debris in its wake. While to many the incident leave...

The Barlow After the Flood

When an atmospheric river began dumping rain on Sonoma County in late February, no one at The Barlow was too concerned. The City of Sebastopol received frequent updates on potential flooding from So...

See all...