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Elvis would be all shook up with today’s smartphone


Remember those photos of a young (and now a very wealthy) Elvis Presley with a phone in hand sitting in his Cadillac? The phone was a standard-size home phone attached to what must have been a huge base. Everyone thought that was too cool to be real. A phone in a car? Get real!

The cost of a car phone was out of reach for nearly everyone in those days; nevertheless, we all dreamed of enjoying that same convenience—a phone outside the home.

Those Elvis images were shot 50 or so years ago. How life—and the phone—have changed! For most of us, everyday life and a “phone away from home” have become inseparable. Even so, it’s certainly not accurate to say that everyone in the world owns a cell phone today, though the number of cell phone subscriptions makes it seem so.

There are 7 billion people on earth and there are 6.8 billion cell phone subscriptions. But that does not mean that 6.8 people have a cell phone subscription; many people have multiple subscriptions. However, today there are far more subscription holders of cell phones than there ever were people with landlines. In fact, 40 percent of U.S. households rely solely on cell phones. In the UK, more than half of Britons rarely or never use their home phone; in fact, many don’t even remember their number.

And if you think small salaries and third-world economies are barriers to having a mobile phone, you’d be wrong. Even in developing countries there is an average of 90.2 subscriptions per 100 inhabitants (compared to 10.6 fixed telephone subscriptions per 100 inhabitants), according to the International Telecommunication Union.

What all of this means is that cell phone subscriptions will continue to increase, in large part because a cell phone can be used for more than just talking and doesn’t require the costly copper wiring network of a fixed phone. In the United States, 86 percent of cell phone owners use their phone for texting, 82 percent to access the Internet, 75 percent for email, and 63 percent for social networking, according to The Nielsen Company.

What’s clear is that today’s phone is a tool for doing things that Elvis with his car phone would never have thought possible. Consider the following:

•  Alarm fees without monthly fees: Increase the safety of your home with security, video monitoring, and automation technology accessed by your smartphone, all with no monthly fees.

•  Keyless locking system: Did the plumber arrive after you had to leave for work? Unlock your home door’s deadbolt without a key or code. Guests can have access for a few hours to days at a time.

•  Programmable air vent:  Save money by programming your home’s heating and air condition vents to open and close at optimum times.

•  More than a thermostat: Why get out of bed on a cold winter night? This thermostat can be controlled from anywhere, and it can “sense” when you’ve gone and then automatically adjust the settings.

•  Efficient lawn sprinklers: When a rainstorm hits but you’re at work or on vacation, put your lawn sprinkler system on a 24 hour snooze. And you can quickly adjust the watering times for each zone.

•  Send videos (and music) to your TV: Plug this device into an HDTV and then send your favorite show to your TV. Out on a date and the babysitter needs a new show for your kids? Find it and send it from the restaurant.

We love our smartphones because they let us do things much more conveniently. If Elvis were with us today he might be crooning, “Take my hand, take my whole life too, but I can’t help using my cell phone to call you…and adjust the thermostat!”

Are you making the most of your smartphone?

Are you using the Mozy mobile app? If not, you’re missing out on an easy way to securely view and download files directly to your smartphone or other mobile device. It’s fingertip access to a more convenient way of doing things. We call it mobile app-titude. Elvis would call it a phone with a V8.

Malware is one more reason to back up your data

It’s National Cyber Security Awareness Month! But it’s not only October when you need to be aware of the critical need to back up and protect your data.

We’ve seen enough security breaches this year to recognize that malware can hit just about any business at any time. Consumer credit card data has been particularly vulnerable. And based on almost daily news stories, malware will continue to attack bank accounts and corporate assets around the world in attempts to steal valuable data.

Just how pervasive are these threats to our data, be it personal, business, or even governmental? The onslaught of malware is so pervasive that one expert has described the malicious software as being almost a commodity.

“Malware, once purpose-built, is clearly becoming a flexible platform—in many respects, it is now almost a commodity,” says Trusteer CTO Amit Klein in his blog.

Klein adds, “Not surprisingly, malware is still the most dangerous threat to enterprises, end users and financial institutions.”

In its 2014 Threats Predictions Report, McAfee Labs forecasts that, among other threats, PC and server attacks will target vulnerabilities above and below the operating systems; and cloud-based corporate applications will create new attack surfaces.

Let’s take a look at those two threats as highlighted in the McAfee Labs report.

New PC and server attacks will target vulnerabilities above and below the operating system: According to McAfee Labs, although “many cybercriminal syndicates will turn their attention to mobile devices, others will continue to target PC and server platforms. The new attacks we’ll see in 2014 will, however, not simply attack the operating system, but will also exploit vulnerabilities both above and below the OS.”

Deployment of cloud-based corporate applications will create new attack surfaces that will be exploited by cybercriminals: “Cybercriminal gangs of the 21st century will target cloud-based applications and data repositories because that’s where the data is, or will be soon enough,” according to the McAfee Labs report. “This could be through business applications that have not been assessed by IT against corporate security policies. According to a recent report, more than 80% of business users use cloud applications without the knowledge or support of corporate IT.”

So, what’s the solution? What can you do to protect your data? M-O-Z-Y.

Mozy endpoint and remote office data protection delivers effective data protection and business continuity in a way that increases reliability and consistency, while at the same time the solution significantly reduces IT costs and ongoing maintenance and support efforts. Mozy’s strict security policies, military-grade encryption (including default, personal, and corporate encryption keys), and world-class data centers deliver the availability, security, privacy, and compliance needed for optimal protection of your business and personal data in the cloud.

Although most of us like to think we’re immune from data loss, the truth is that without secure backup and protection of our data, malware can be a serious problem for even the most careful individual or business. With Mozy, your information is always encrypted during the backup process and while stored in our data centers. The security of your data is Mozy’s highest priority.

Malware may be a commodity, but with Mozy you can rest assured that your data is safe, protected, and securely accessible in the Mozy cloud.

The real reason Mozy is #1

Wherever you seek out information about protecting and storing data, there is plenty of noise about the cloud. Not about whether the cloud is an important part of a data protection strategy. That’s a given; the cloud isn’t going anywhere. It’s as firmly tied to technology as technology is tied to information. The noise is about whether the Mozy cloud is better or whether their cloud is better.

Recently, one of our salespeople shared some interesting—though not unexpected—news about a global market research firm whose employees use the Mozy by EMC solution and another company’s product (which will remain unnamed) to back up and access their data.

Mozy came out on top. The other company was dropped.

Let’s talk about the why.

This global market research firm that chose Mozy by EMC is all about data. Everything it does revolves around data collection. They use the data they gather to connect their clients with their target markets. That data must drive business. And that data must be protected and accessible, anytime and from anyplace.

There were a number of reasons why this marketing research firm decided to dump one backup solution and rely on Mozy to fully safeguard its data. The following are a few of the reasons.. And for the record, these are the company’s reasons for sticking with Mozy.

Mozy by EMC offers enterprise-grade integration tools: The other company’s integration tools were lacking. Mozy integrates to any LDAP-capable directory service—such as Active Directory—for secure, automated user provisioning, and management. We have to be integrated! Mozy scales to complete data protection from a single person to tens of thousands of devices in the enterprise.

Mozy by EMC offers detailed reporting: When the other company’s backup fails, a simple report indicates that and not much else. Mozy’s backup status feature monitors your system continuously to inform you of any issue that might interrupt the protection of your data. Mozy reports ensure that you know the status of your backups so that you can react quickly and solve an issue before it becomes a problem. In fact, in addition to detailed reporting, the feature-rich Mozy Admin Console has more than 130 features that allow admins to perform their duties in ways that work best for them, and it utilizes pooled storage, which eliminates the need to manage storage at a device level. That virtually eliminates the risk of failed backups.

Mozy by EMC means better support: The other company’s support was sub-standard at best. Mozy, on the other hand, provides enterprise-quality support with dedicated resources 24x7x365 in multiple languages. The Mozy Community lets you discuss issues, watch tutorials, and find and share solutions with users from all over the world. The Mozy Knowledge Base includes answers to just about every question you might have. And there’s a full range of documentation. Sure, we could mention that Mozy has award-winning support. OK, we will. Maybe you didn’t know that Mozy Support was a winner of a 2014 Stevie Award for legendary support. But that’s really just icing on the cake. The long and short of it is this: There’s a broad range of Mozy resources that can help you maximize everything that Mozy can do for your organization.

Mozy is a mature offering: We aren’t going anywhere. The other company just didn’t measure up. You might call them a newcomer when compared to how long we’ve been around (since 2005). Mozy is backed by years of experience, and wholly owned by EMC. Mozy is built for the enterprise with the flexibility to scale to any size business. We store data in world-class, EMC managed data centers.

Mozy is a proven solution for implementations of from 1 to 1 million endpoints. We take our credentials seriously. And so do millions of individuals and thousands of businesses and enterprise customers, including a global market research firm.

And while any cloud backup solution can claim just about anything with the right amount of marketing spin, it’s the customer who knows best.

Lots of memories in a wooden bat

 

While growing up in Southern California I played four years of Little League Baseball. For me, nothing said baseball more than a Louisville Slugger baseball bat. A wooden Louisville Slugger, of course. It wasn’t as if we had a choice back then; in those days, a bat was only made out of wood.

I hadn’t really thought much about bats in recent years until my boss returned from Kentucky. He was visiting Louisville Slugger. He got to hold bats made for The Sultan of Swat (Babe Ruth), Jackie (Jackie Robinson), and The Splendid Splinter (Ted Williams). Actually, Ted Williams was so great a hitter that he was also known as “The Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived.”

Dave, our marketing guru, is a lucky guy to be sure. Who doesn’t want to hold the bat of “The Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived” or the bat of “The Great Bambino” or the bat of Jackie, the first African-American to play in Major League Baseball and who broke barriers in more fields than just baseball? But lucky us to be protecting the data of Louisville Slugger who made bats for all of those great hitters and continues to make bats for many of today’s great hitters.

Mozy backs up the data of the makers of the Louisville Slugger. That’s a win-win in my book.

The Louisville Slugger has been around a long time. Long enough for my dad to have used the bat, though not always for the right reasons. I remember him telling stories about growing up in San Francisco and knocking down advertising signs along Taraval all the way to the dunes with a bat as a youngster. I know, not the best reason for swinging a bat. But he redeemed himself long ago by becoming a rocket scientist and working closely with the Apollo Space Program. And teaching my brother and me the finer points of playing baseball and the proper use of a Louisville Slugger.

I still remember those batting fundamentals that my dad was always drilling into my head and my older brother’s head:

-The label goes up!

-Hands together—and line up the knuckles!

-Don’t break the wrists!

And, of course:

-Keep your eye on the ball!

Always keep your eye on the ball. That made such an impression on me that I can hear those words today as if I were hearing them for the first time. When I followed that rule and the others, and when I managed to hit the ball on the sweet spot on that wooden bat, the sound was enough to tell me that fielders were gonna be moving—and I’d better be hustling my way to first base.

Although memories tend to intensify our experiences from years ago—for better or for worse—I can remember that I was just an average ball player who never batted above .200. But I loved the game, and some of my choicest memories are playing catcher and feeling the sting of a fast ball popping in my glove, watching my brother pitch against future Hall of Famer Robin Yount, and knowing that my dad was logging stats in the announcer’s box.

Throughout my life, I have strived to “keep my eye” on life’s proverbial baseball. That has helped me to focus in spite of life’s distractions and disappointments. In some ways, I suppose I’ve succeeded from what I learned by focusing on those batting fundamentals, which for me really come down to three words: focus, focus, focus. If it’s important enough, you’ll focus on it. Looking back, playing baseball certainly taught me more about life than I ever could have appreciated as a youngster.

Say what you want about the financial benefits of the aluminum bat, but there’s nothing like the wood of a Louisville Slugger. And there’s nothing better than good memories, except making tomorrow’s memories today. So, keep your eye on the ball. Good things are bound to happen, including those few but wonderful moments when you hit one out of the park.

See why Louisville Slugger uses Mozy by EMC. http://mozy.com/product/testimonials/louisville-slugger

For more baseball, check out our infographic Social Media at the Old Ball game.

When good vibrations led to touchdowns

I remember it well, that electrifying experience of watching 22 plastic players vibrate on the field as my brother and I screamed at our players to do anything even remotely resembling what occurs in real gridiron football. If you were offense, you screamed even louder, wishing against all wishes, hoping against all hope that your team would make a coordinated and vibrated effort to move the ball closer to the end zone.

Truthfully, there wasn’t any coordination, but there was plenty of loud buzzing as your 11 team members vibrated wildly down the field—or up the field or across the field or in tight circles anywhere on the field, depending on the unpredictable characteristics of the shiny metal turf. Would there be a touchdown this time? Please, let there be a touchdown, just this once!

I’m talking about Electric Football. My brother and I were having fun with this game sometime in the mid-1960s, long enough ago that today’s gamers with their Madden NFL 15 or other digital football games might find it hard to imagine that little plastic men in undistinguishable uniforms could be propelled to glory by an electrical charge.

 Although we had options like punting or kicking field goals, they were just as likely to fail as was the man with the little felt football that was on a vibrating path that hopefully ended in the promised land. The right promised land, that is.

And speaking of field goals, in Electric Football, each team included a plastic phenom with a catapult leg that was capable of “kicking” the puny pigskin through the goal posts, and even way beyond the boundaries of the stadium. But unless you were lucky or highly skilled with these kickers, the only play resembling an actual field goal would be my brother or me flicking a player through the goal posts out of frustration because the ball carrier vibrated up the field for a touchback when he should have vibrated down the field for a touchdown. I remember there being a lot of touchbacks, but far fewer than there were players just vibrating off the field as if they’d lost their desire to play.

Times have changed, of course. Mine and my brother’s Electric Football game is long gone (though you can still find versions of it for sale on eBay). Consider that early versions of Electric Football used solid-color plastic players to represent whatever team you favored. That worked great, as long as you didn’t mind an all-yellow team). Yesterday’s teams were comprised of 3D unknowns without statistics or college pedigree. Today’s games emulate the actions of professional athletes. In fact, Madden NFL 15 pulls game updates throughout the real NFL season and updates player ratings in the game.

But maybe times haven’t changed as much as technology has. Sure, with Madden NFL 15 games can be saved in the cloud and synced to other devices, but it’s still just a game. Win or lose, it can be a lot of fun. And it allows us to compete in a game whose outcome can never be fully predicted. Likewise, it allows us to keep things in perspective, unlike the old days when you could flick a player across the field and through the goalposts for an extra point.

Be sure to read Mozy’s blog next week. It will feature an infographic about the progression of the football video game. From plastic and metal to LED blips, to trackball to showboating and even late hits, we can still enjoy the game without turning on the TV.

MozyHome and MozyFree new support option

MozyHome Free and MozyHome paying customers receive support via our comprehensive knowledge base. MozyHome paying customers receive additional support via a live chat support line. These are great options to find answers to any questions you may have about your Mozy service. However, if you are more comfortable speaking with someone on the phone, Mozy now has a Pay for Support phone service offering. You can purchase a single incident of telephone support by calling 1.866.789.6699 and entering your Support ID (after you log in, your support ID is located in the upper left of the support.mozy.com page). Phone support is available from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. EST, Monday through Friday. The cost for one incident is $19.99.

Read more >

Trust me, I’m not lying

We trust people who lie, in a roundabout way. Come again?

Recently, I read Ryan Holiday’s national bestselling book, Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator.

Holiday claims he made his living by manipulating the media, by distorting the newstelling. He did that by manipulating, distorting and spreading half-truths, and creating and promoting rumors that he knew to be false and then letting them enter the public’s imagination through blogs and other sources. Once respectable media picked up on the story—even if only to link to the blog without confirming or denying the accuracy of the information—the public often assumed it must be true.

Holiday says he wrote this book “Because I’m tired of a world where blogs take indirect bribes, marketers help write the news, reckless journalists spread lies, and no one is accountable for any of it.”

Now, Holiday wants people to understand how the media works.

If what Holiday writes is true, then all of us bloggers are manipulators to a certain degree. After all, we want to convince you of something—to do something, buy something, believe something, or even to not believe something.

According to Holiday, “Blogs must—economically and structurally—distort the news in order for the format to work. As businesses, blogs can see the world through no other lens. The format is the problem. Or the perfect opportunity, depending on how you look at it.”

What Holiday means is this: A blog writer has just a few seconds to hook the reader. The so-called “bounce rate” on blogs—the percentage of readers who leave the site without clicking any of the links—is very high. If we remember that the purpose of the blog is to promote an idea or sell a product or service, then a successful blog writer has to follow certain rules to decrease the bounce rate.

High on the list of rules to follow is to create a catchy headline. A great headline means that you are going to grab your readers’ attention, at least long enough for them to remain on the page and read the first line. Of course, the first line has to be catchy, too, if the reader is going to continue reading. And keep the paragraphs short. And always remember that readers are busy and have quite a few options when it comes to where they are going to spend their time reading. So the blog should not exceed a certain number of words.

I learned early in my career as a journalist that no matter how mundane or complex a topic may be, a good writer has to find an angle. For example, a famous actor becomes more interesting when the local newspaper highlights that he attended high school in town and was the one who spray painted something derogatory on the water tower at the edge of town the night before the homecoming game against the school’s biggest rival. Then you jump the story to page 4 because on page 5 there’s a full-page ad announcing a sale at the local department store. Good stories sell papers, and advertisers buy space so that readers will see their ads and ultimately buy their products or services.

As Holiday emphasizes, writers need to find not only the angle, but the click-driving headline or an eye-catching image in order to generate comments and click-throughs.

But it’s important to remember that there are many things worth reading, doing, buying, believing or not believing. The onus is on each of us to do the research. In other words, we need to study the issue; we need to do our homework; we need to avoid being manipulated. We need to make a genuine effort to figure out what’s accurate or inaccurate.

So how do you do that? For starters, figuring it out should involve more than simple Internet searches. It certainly involves more than just reading a blog or two. To be sure, technology has made our lives much easier. We have a number of tools right at our fingertips. Literally. But we have to do more. As one of my old journalism professors used to say: “Dig deep for the details!”

Getting down to the nitty-gritty—that which is essential, those specific details about why something is real or true or valid—may take more time and effort, but in the long run, truth is always worth finding. Trust me, I’m not lying.

It’s not about the bike; it’s about what you can do with the bike and technology

1818. When you think about cycling, you probably don’t think of 1818. But the velocipede—as that first two-wheeler was known—for all practical purposes was the first bicycle to hit the road. (Some might argue that the velocipede wasn’t the first bike because it didn’t have a drivetrain and riders had to push themselves forward with their feet. But take a look at a picture. The velocipede is a bike.) It was invented by Baron Karl Drais, who called his invention Laufmaschine or “running machine.”

Cycling has come a long way since the Laufmaschine. If the Baron were alive today, he would be astounded by how cycling has evolved. First, consider that the Laufmaschine was made from cherry wood, brass, and iron and weighed nearly 50 pounds (22.7 kg). No carbon fiber or lightweight alloys back then. Even so, Baron Drais must have been pretty proud that on his first ride he was able to cover 8 miles (13 km) in one hour. For comparison, the speed record on a modern bicycle is 83 mph (133 km/h), unless you’re racing down a volcano. That record is 102 mph (165 km/h) (it would have been faster had the volcano been erupting).

Next, consider that today’s modern racing machines in the Tour de France weigh 15 pounds (6.8 kg). Interestingly, these bicycles could weigh less. They are required to weigh at least 15 pounds. It’s not uncommon for riders to add dead weight to the frame to meet the minimum weight requirement. BTW, if you want lightweight and are not planning to race in the Tour de France, there is a road bike that weighs 6 pounds (2.7 kg). Got $45,000? (Yes, even your bank account will be lighter.)

But these days, it’s not just about the bike. It’s about getting the most out of the bike by adding high tech to the riding experience. The following are some of the ways technology can change the way you approach cycling and improve your performance.

Do you want to track your ride? You can with Strava. By using your iPhone, Android, or dedicated GPS device, you can analyze and quantify your ride. But Strava does more than just measure your performance; it’s designed to motivate you to seek continual improvement in how you ride. You do that by comparing your performance to past rides and other riders who have ridden the same route. If you’re faster than another rider, then you know you’re doing something well. If another rider is faster, then you’ve got some catching up to do. Which might motivate you to train harder to stay at the front of your imaginary peloton. But Strava is more than just about competition; it’s about camaraderie in the biking community. It’s kind of like riding with others who are not riding beside you.

If you like the idea of having a personal trainer but don’t want to pay for a personal trainer (the human kind), there’s the Garmin Edge 305. This GPS-enabled device attaches to your handlebars and automatically measures speed, distance, time, calories burned, altitude, climb and descent, and records all of this data to analyze later. If that weren’t enough, this personal trainer also includes a barometric altimeter to tell you the elevation. The Edge includes a heart rate monitor and a speed/cadence sensor. Clearly, this isn’t your father’s bicycle speedometer.

If you cycle, you know that eyewear is a must. But today’s glasses are more than just eye protection. Consider Recon’s cycling glasses. The Recon Jet glasses provide heads-up display for the serious cyclist. They’re kind of like sunglasses on steroids (but since we are talking about cycling, let’s be perfectly clear that we’re not talking about those kind of steroids) just for the cyclist. Recon’s on-board sensors provide speed, distance, elevation gain, and more. And they connect to your heart rate monitor, power meter, and cadence sensor. Talk about instant information in your face, literally.

Today’s cycling gear can make you look and feel pretty darn good. Carbon frame. Check. Form-fitting Lycra shorts and jersey. Check. Cool looking, multi-functioning glasses. Check. Aerodynamic helmet with catchy design. Check. Technology device to measure and analyze your progress. Check.

But let’s not get too serious about all of this high tech cycling gear. After all, no one says you can’t have a little fun, right? If you’re game and you’re willing to embrace a bit of LED low tech, consider adding rainbow Hokey Spokes to your modern Laufmaschine. Attach these blades with LED lights on your bicycle wheel spokes to brighten your image—and even display text. If the Baron could only see you now! Come to think of it, everyone will be able to see you now, at least at night.

You can have smart technology but still drive like a dummy

A few weeks ago I noticed one of those beautiful $20K motorcycles coasting down the street. Yes, with a rider on board, sort of. Let me explain. The bike was nearly impossible to miss—and hear: classic design, two-tone paint, plenty of chrome, and that unmistakable rumble. But it wasn’t any of those characteristics that held my attention; it was something completely unexpected and unrelated to the bike itself. With one hand on the left handgrip, the rider’s right hand was holding a smartphone and using his thumb to punch in numbers. I assume he was texting or using a GPS. You can’t easily talk on a cell phone with that kind of rumble. Granted, he was coasting down a hill and there wasn’t any oncoming traffic, but still, a motorcycle is best controlled with two hands on the bars. Besides, it’s only with two hands that a rider is able to manage the clutch, front brake, and throttle.

As a motorcycle rider myself, I wasn’t impressed. I have learned that if someone is behind the wheel of a car or is riding a motorcycle unsafely, they not only endanger themselves, they also endanger others on or near the road, be that another driver, motorcyclist, jogger, pedestrian, or cyclist.

Today, many states restrict the use of cellphones while operating a motor vehicle. In fact, some laws are so specific that they spell out the restrictions. For example, in some states cellphone use is banned while motor vehicle operators are traveling through school crossing zones. This and other laws are defined as “distracted driving laws.” Some states prohibit all drivers from using a handheld cell phone while driving. It doesn’t matter if you’re talking or texting. It’s a primary law and you can get pulled over for breaking it. Some states just ban novice drivers (that is, teenagers) from using a cell phone while driving. But really, anyone who drives distracted is a novice. An experienced driver should have learned that lesson long ago.

In case you’re interested in the distinction between primary and secondary laws when it comes to cell phones, a primary law means that an officer can ticket you for using a cell phone without any other traffic violation taking place; a secondary law means that an officer can issue you a ticket for using a cell phone only if you have been pulled over for another violation, such as speeding or coasting through a stop sign.

What are some of the results of using a cell phone while driving? If you consider this one fact, then it’s easy to see how quickly an accident can occur when you’re driving and texting: “Five seconds is the average time your eyes are off the road while texting. When traveling at 55 mph (88.5 kph), that’s enough time to cover the length of a football field [about 91.5 meters] blindfolded,” according to one source. And it’s not just texting, it’s other related behavior. For example, talking on a cell phone or even listening to one increases your risk of causing an accident. Even reaching for a cell phone is considered distracted driving and increases your risk of being in an accident. The National Safety Council estimates that each year 1.6 million crashes involve drivers who are using cell phones and texting. In other words, one in four accidents is the result of using a cell phone while driving.

And if you think using a hands-free device makes it all right, you would be mistaken. Using a headset or hands-free device does not result in fewer accidents. You’re still multitasking while driving. You’re still driving distracted.

You might be familiar with Pulitzer Prize winning columnist and very funny guy Dave Barry, who wrote a number of newspaper columns during his career about what he called “driving stupid,” wherein he highlighted some of the crazy things people do while driving. I still vividly remember something I witnessed not long after reading one of his columns. Call it “fact is stranger than fiction” or “I never would have thought of doing that.” A woman was flossing her teeth while doing her best to steer her vehicle by using a very small percentage of the sides of her hands against the wheel. I can barely floss my teeth standing in front of a mirror. If I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes, I don’t think I would have believed that a driver would endanger not only herself but also endanger those driving near her for the sole purpose of cleaning her teeth. (Hey, why not just gargle while you’re at it?) You’ve probably seen other more common distractions as well, such as drinking coffee or soda from small to very large containers; shaving (fortunately—if there is a fortunately in this situation—shaving with an electric shaver and not with shaving cream and a razor); applying mascara or lipstick; eating burgers, donuts or other fast foods; or letting Fido rest his paws on the wheel so that his owner can pretend that Fido is pretending that he can drive the car. The list is probably endless.

A tool is only as smart as its user. The car will move if someone starts it and steps on the accelerator. A cell phone will function if it’s in someone’s hands and fingers are pressing buttons. But sometimes a car or a smartphone isn’t in the hands of a smart person. The bottom line: when you’re driving a motorized vehicle, drive the vehicle and focus on what you’re doing and where you’re going. If you need to use your phone, be smart about it and pull off to the side of the road. Or better yet, wait until you arrive at your destination. Sure, there are always “emergencies” or excuses to justify driving distracted, but by doing so you risk creating another emergency. And there’s no excuse for that.

Homemade makeup, shoes, guns, hearts, hands, and casts? It’s all possible with a 3D printer!

You’ve probably heard of 3D printing, but you’ve probably never heard of Chuck Hall. Hall is the inventor of 3D printing. He’s even known as the father of 3D printing. Hall patented the process of stereolithography—otherwise known as 3D printing—in 1986. The technology allows you to produce prototypes and parts one layer at a time using resin that hardens when exposed to UV light. My first real exposure to this from a practical sense occurred last year when a friend designed and then created a part using his 3D printer to replace a broken door latch on the family’s clothes dryer. Although the reproduced part wouldn’t hold up for long, it would serve its purpose until the manufacturer’s replacement part arrived later that week. When you have four children, a properly functioning dryer comes in handy.

Years ago a 3D printer would have cost you tens of thousands of dollars. A couple of years ago, the 3D printer Tom used to create the part for his dryer set him back a relatively small amount of money: $2,500. Today, a quick search on amazon.com reveals 3D printers for considerably less than that. These printers use resin, rubber, plastic, plant-based plastic, powdered metal, etc. to print in 3D. It won’t be long when most households will include a 3D printer that will be used to make replacement parts for everyday items or create items that today are purchased from department stores, sporting goods stores, hardware stores, or even hospitals.

What are people using 3D printers for today? Women are going to love this one: printing your own makeup at home. Inventor Grace Choi, founder of New York-based Mink, has created a desktop 3D printer that prints makeup she calls the Mink. This Mink can take any image and transform it into a cosmetic, and you choose the color—any color in the world! So, what kind of makeup can you create? Eye shadow, blush, and lip gloss. The possibilities are endless. (I will not be sharing this info with my wife and two daughters.) The Mink can take any image and instantly turn it into a wearable color cosmetic. Although still in development, Choi, a Harvard School Business graduate, says that when her 3D makeup printers become available they will retail for about $300 and then decrease in price once popularity increases. Choi says that her makeup printer will be about the size of a Mac mini. With what little I know about makeup but with what I know about how much the women in my life spend on makeup, the price should decrease very quickly.

3D printers are also being used to create the perfect cast to speed up the healing of broken bones. According to Deniz Karahasin, founder of Osteoid, the company that’s created a concept design for the custom cast, these casts could reduce the time required for a broken bone to heal by up to 38 percent and increase the healing rate by up to 80 percent in fractures. If you think this is more than a cast, you’re right. The cast uses low intensity pulsed ultrasound to stimulate bone healing. By using a 3D body scanner, the area with the broken bone is scanned and then the data is transferred to the software that creates the cast. The web-like design can make anyone look like a superhero. And no more itchy, stinky, and heavy casts made from plaster. (I still remember when my daughter broke her arm and two months later the doctor cut away the cast. What a smell! And what was that pen and part of a coat hanger doing in there?) Kids are going to love this. No more whining about broken bones. Hopefully, no one will be breaking bones on purpose for the bragging rights of wearing one of these cool-looking casts.

Other items that have been made with a 3D printer include a kayak, which an engineer made using 58 pounds of resin; shoes and shoe inserts for a custom-fitted feel; and even parts for semiautomatic weapons. Yes, you read that right: the 3D printer has been used to print lower receivers for the AR-15. (If you’re not familiar with the AR-15, it is a highly modular, semiautomatic rifle that’s similar to the M16 used by the U.S. military. The lower receiver is the part into which the barrel, stock, and other parts are added to complete the weapon.) As controversial as making gun parts might be for some people, there is no controversy surrounding the surgeons who used a 3D-printed model of a heart to study the problems with a 14-month old baby’s defective heart. The surgeons used the printer to create a larger-than-life model prior to surgery, which made it much easier for them to “see” the actual defects and then figure out how to solve the problem before opening up the tiny patient. Some items printed with the 3D printer are not just models. For example, a father used a 3D printer to print a prosthetic hand for his son using $10 in material.

If you aren’t quite ready to purchase a 3D printer, you can still enjoy the benefits of one. Shapeways will print models you send them, or you can choose from thousands of 3D print shapes designed by professional designers.

What does the 3D printer mean to the masses? That someday in the not-too-distant future, the printer is going to be churning out a lot more than just words and images on paper. Things like saving life, perhaps protecting and taking life, making life prettier, and making it more enjoyable and comfortable. The possibilities are as endless as words on a page.