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PODCAST: Reuben’s tech tips

Happy Holidays!

In today’s show, Reuben shares his toptech tips and hacks that help improve productivity and security in everyday life.

Reuben has always been tech-savvy with influence from James Bond and Back to the Future films. He shares that he spends the entire day on the computer and enjoys a high-resolution monitor. He also uses a screen clipper and a split keyboard. He uses chrome plug-ins like Video Speed Controller and password managers such as Lastpass, Dashlane, or Roboform that store passwords for the user’s future reference. Tessa and Bill ask about how to use these technologies and share their concerns about managing passwords.

One hack that Reuben used since his kitchen disaster is a Guardian Leak Detection System. Then he discusses how the system works. They also talk about Google Photos that recognize faces and objects. Tessa mentions that iPhones have the same feature and highlights the quality of photos that new phones capture. Bill also shares about a car rental sharing mobile application that works very conveniently.

They talk about a very useful home internet security and family-friendly browsing which is the OpenDNS Family Shield, it’s accessible through https://www.opendns.com/setupguide/#familyshield. Reuben shares that he is using two routers that allow him to shut down the internet connection at night. Reuben also uses magnetic charging cables that are available at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08LD8TWYS. Another tip is using Adobe PDF viewers that allow you to sign and fill in documents without needing to print them.

Access more tips and hacks at Home Inspection Blog – Structure Tech Home Inspections.

TRANSCRIPTION

The following is a transcription from an audio recording. Although the transcription is largely accurate, in some cases it may be slightly incomplete or contain minor inaccuracies due to inaudible passages or transcription errors.

Bill Oelrich: 2021.

Reuben Saltzman: It’s been a fun year.

BO: It is gone.

RS: It’s been a crazy year.

BO: Yes.

[music]

BO: Welcome everyone. You’re listening to Structure Talk, a Structure Tech presentation. My name is Bill Oelrich, alongside Tessa Murry and Reuben Saltzman, as always, your three-legged stool coming to you from the Northland, talking all things houses, home inspections, and anything else that’s rattling around in our heads. Welcome to the end of the year. Where did it go? 2021.

RS: It’s been a fun year.

BO: It is gone.

RS: It’s been a crazy year.

BO: Yes, it’s been a very interesting year, and who would have ever thought that we would still be battling our way through a pandemic, but we are, but we are not gonna talk about pandemics, we are gonna talk about tech. And Reuben has recently blogged about tech, but before we dive into his techno stuff, I wanna just make a point about Structure Tech and Structure Talk. We often refer to links and you can go find all this information. Reuben’s blog is one of the best places you can get information about home inspections and all things houses, but when we’re on the podcast, we often refer to a lot of different websites or different things, and just always remember that in our show notes, everything we refer to is hyper-linked.

BO: So, structuretalk.com is where you can get all the links and all the information that we’re talking about. So, we just wanted to launch off this podcast with giving you a little bit of that background information, but today…

RS: Yeah, ’cause this show is gonna have a lot of links included.

BO: Yes, ’cause what is it, Reuben? Let’s see, you recently blogged about your five favorite tech packs for the year, right? This is become an annual thing for you.

RS: Yeah, life hacks, tech tips, whatever you wanna call it. Exactly.

BO: Okay, okay. When did that blog actually drop?

RS: It was right before Thanksgiving, I think.

BO: Okay, and were you able to get everything that you wanted in, or is there more here that you wanna put in?

RS: I got everything I wanted in that day, [laughter] and I got a lot of positive response, and I realized there’s a ton of other stuff. It was just conversations I’ve had with people like, “Oh yeah, hey, by the way, you should try this,” and I keep having people say, “Hey, you should do a part two,” and I thought, “Okay, alright, I’ll do a part two,” and I haven’t done a part two yet. Maybe I will have by the time this podcast airs. So there’s a part two coming, but if you are a podcast listener you get to hear about what’s coming in part two today.

BO: That’s awesome. Okay, so you are known as a technical person, you like gadgets. And if you had to guess at how many gadgets you have in your house currently, is that number north of 20, is it north of 30?

RS: I don’t even know. I don’t even know, Bill. It’s gotta be north of 50 probably.

Tessa Murry: Are you including the garage in that?

RS: Oh, oh, for sure. Yeah, yeah, and I’m not talking about the traditional power tools, I’m talking about the fun little tools. Yeah, lots of gadgets.

BO: What do you attribute this love for gadgets to?

RS: I have no idea. I think some people just have the bug and others don’t. My son, he’s totally got the bug, he loves technology, gadgets, he’s always talking about what this phone does and specs and all that stuff, and my daughter, it’s like, you hand her a phone, and she will barely know whether it’s an Android or an iPhone.

[laughter]

RS: She’s like, “Can I talk to my friends on it? I know I need iPhone for that.”

BO: Good girl. Train her to be an iPhone user, Reuben.

TM: Yeah, I can identify with Lucy, I’ll be honest. I know what I need to know, but do I find joy out of learning and using all these new little gadgets? Not so much.

RS: Yeah.

BO: So you weren’t a James Bond fan or… Back when you were a kid, did you watch all these movies and you’re like, “I gotta figure that out. I gotta understand that”?

RS: Me?

BO: Yeah.

RS: Oh, I thought you’re talking about Tessa.

BO: No, no, I’m trying to figure out where they…

RS: Sure. Always. And “When can I have one of those?” Remember the hoverboards in Back to the Future?

TM: Yeah. No, those were cool.

RS: Oh, man, I’m still waiting for mine. Back to the Future 2.

TM: Yeah.

RS: Yeah, all about it.

BO: Okay, so what’s your favorite tech gadget that you did talk about in your blog? Let’s start there.

RS: Ooh, okay, that I didn’t. Let’s see, I’ve got a list of life hacks here and technical stuff, but I’ve only got one real gadget, I guess, an actual device that you would buy, and this one is a high resolution computer monitor. The traditional computer monitors you get are gonna be like 1920 x 1080 or something like that. And a high res monitor, a 4K monitor, is gonna be four times that resolution. And it’s nice for two reasons. Number one, it’s just nice having higher resolution to look at, it feels better looking at it. You can get a really big screen, and then as you shrink windows down you can have a bunch of windows open on one screen and you can see them all in very clear detail as you get them smaller, so that’s nice from a productivity standpoint.

RS: But something I’m doing constantly, when I’m creating content, whether it be blogs, videos, whatever, is I always take screenshots of stuff, I like going to websites and taking a screenshot of this, that and the other. But your screenshot is gonna be limited to the resolution that you have on your screen. So if you pull up, say, a PDF, and you blow up the image as big as you can get it, and then you take a screenshot, it’s gonna be limited. But now you get a high resolution monitor, you take a screenshot of something, it’s four times the resolution, and then you can really blow up that photo, and if you have high resolution videos you’re creating, it’s really cool to have that. So that is the one thing you could purchase on this list here, is a high resolution monitor.

TM: Does it actually improve the sharpness of the image and the crispness of it and the color as well too?

RS: I don’t know about color, but sharpness, crispness, yes, by four times.

TM: Wow.

RS: Yeah, it’s great, it’s great.

BO: What size screen do you use? Because we only see your face, obviously, we don’t get to see the screen next to you.

TM: [laughter] Your command center.

RS: Yeah, I think it’s a 27 or a… I think it’s a 27. And I’ve got a three-monitor setup, where I’ve got my high res monitor right in the middle, and then I’ve got a couple of standard resolution monitors on either side of me.

TM: Can you really tell the difference between the high res and the standard?

RS: Oh, it’s night and day. Oh yeah.

TM: Really?

RS: You can’t not tell the difference. Yeah, it is a stark contrast. Next time you’re over…

TM: I want to see the difference. Yeah.

RS: I don’t know if you’ve ever been in my house, but next time you’re over, I’ll show you…

TM: Yeah, you know, it sounds like it’s one of those things that I don’t know what I’m missing. It’s like I’m fine with the standard monitors I have, and I thought they were fine, but now that you talk about it, I’m like, “Huh, I kinda wanna see what this high res monitor looks like.” It’s like the difference between like a VHS and a DVD, you know?

RS: Yes, that’s it. Or going from a DVD to a Blu-ray.

TM: Right.

RS: I mean, I used to think, “Well, DVD is pretty good. Do I really need better?” But then once you get accustomed to Blu-ray, you go back to DVD, and you’re like, “Wait, is that what I used to think was nice?”

[laughter]

TM: “What is this trash?” Yeah.

RS: Yes. “What is this trash?”

TM: Are they a lot more expensive? Is this a new enough product that you’re paying a lot of money for the high res monitor?

RS: I think I probably paid somewhere between 250 and 300 for it.

TM: Ooh, okay. Yeah.

RS: Yeah, it’s expensive but I justified it because what do I do all day? I’m sitting here staring at my screen. Back when I used to be a real home inspector and I’d go out in the field all the time, it’s like it’d be a little harder to justify, but I spend my entire day in front of this thing.

TM: Yeah.

RS: And if I were to just do a little bit of math and think “What am I gonna pay per day if this monitor only lasts me a year?” I would gladly pay a dollar a day to be using this thing, yeah.

TM: That makes sense.

BO: Reuben, what’s the resolution on the sewer cams that we’re using now?

RS: Very, very low. It’s the same as the first digital cameras we ever purchased, 640 x 480.

BO: Okay, so the best you’re ever gonna see on your 4k screen is that resolution?

RS: Yeah. Yeah, it’s not gonna make any difference unless you’re looking at content that has higher quality.

BO: Okay, so if you were looking for very small details, it’s just the weakest link in that whole equation, is what you can get?

RS: That’s right, that’s right. And if you don’t like looking at really small text, you gotta blow up all of your text, it doesn’t really do anything for productivity, being able to see more on the screen at the same time, but if you got good eyes, and I had surgery many years ago, so my eyes are pretty good now, it works well.

BO: Perfect.

RS: Yeah.

BO: Perfect. So now you watch movies all day when you’re trying to get work done.

[laughter]

RS: No. And that brings up the next tech tip, is just using a screen clipper. I use a screen clipper constantly all day, and I’ve got one of those keyboards, and you know what, I should add this keyboard to my list, I just thought of it as I’m talking.

TM: See, the list keeps growing, it just keeps growing.

RS: I’ve used a split keyboard for about the last 25 years, and I’m not exaggerating, I remember when my dad bought Structure Tech, I got a split keyboard for working at Structure Tech in ’97, and it’s just… It’s where instead of your wrist being straight, they are at a natural angle. And once you’re switching keyboards, you can get keyboards that have extra little buttons on them, little shortcut buttons that you can program your computer to do whatever you want with that button. So I’ve got a button here, every time I wanna take a screenshot, I just press a button on my keyboard and it brings up the screen clipper. So it makes it quick and easy, and I’m constantly using that to take screenshots, put them in emails, do this, that and the other, and it’s built right into Windows, it’s not like it’s some program that you need to buy.

TM: Do you think that’s faster than just pinning the screen clipper or snip tool to your task bar on your monitor?

RS: Race you. [chuckle]

TM: Okay. Okay.

RS: No, it’s not much faster. That’s what I do on my laptop where I don’t have an external keyboard, but I use it so often, it’s handy.

TM: So fancy. You’re so fancy, Reuben.

RS: Oh, I’m the fanciest. Yeah.

[laughter]

BO: I’m wondering what all these things that you’re clipping from the screen, it’s interesting, so…

RS: You know, it’s a lot of back and forth with technology people and “Hey, this isn’t working, here’s a screenshot, here’s this, here’s that.” And if I’m writing about products I like to take screenshots of products on their website. I never ask for permission, ’cause some day if someone says, “Hey, will you take down the picture of that product you’re promoting?” I’ll say… [laughter] “Sure, I’ll take it down.”

TM: No complaints there.

RS: Yeah, nobody’s ever complained about me using their stuff without permission.

BO: Do you still get a lot of things in the mail where people are asking you to try it out?

RS: I wouldn’t say I get a ton, although I did have an interesting one. Oh my goodness, you guys, I did a recent blog post about my kitchen disaster. We did a podcast about my kitchen disaster back in May.

TM: Yeah. Yeah.

BO: It was that long ago? Jeez.

RS: Yeah, it was that long ago. And I did a blog post about how I could have avoided this whole disaster by installing a Guardian Leak Detection System. It’s this device where it basically clamps on to your main shut-off valve for your house, no tools required, you need to have a quarter turn lever handle though. It clamps on to there, and then you put these leak sensors in all the places where you’re worried about a leak, and it connects to your Wi-Fi, and there’s a phone app, and if water touches any of these sensors, it shuts off all the water to your house.

RS: Really cool device that plumber Joe on our team told me about, and he’s got it at his house, of course, ’cause he’s… I say “paranoid,” but really what I should say is “experienced.” [laughter] He’s more experienced than most of us when it comes to leaks, so he’s got one. And I talked about how you could put one of these on, although I didn’t specifically say, “Go buy Guardian,” I say “Buy Guardian or something like it,” because I gotta admit, their software is a little wonky. And if you look at the reviews on the Google Store or whatever, on the Play Store or whatever, people hate the app. And at the time, I couldn’t even get it to work.

TM: Oh no.

RS: Like, I did everything and it would not sync, and I couldn’t use it at all. And the CEO of that company took note of it and gave me a call earlier this week and had his tech person go through it with me. I spent like 10 or 15 minutes on the phone with this guy, super competent, and he fixed all of my issues. It was nothing that I would’ve been able to do myself, but he fixed it all for me, and it’s all working really well now. And they got a new product they’re gonna be coming out with that I’ll blog about in the future. It’s a super cool device that’ll let you know when your sump pump is going to fail. And so he’ll send me out one of those to test it out when it comes out. But we’re friends now, and I learned that they really do have excellent tech support, so I can get behind Guardian. I think they really do have good products. It was just a real bad fluke that a lot of their software went a little buggy.

BO: Well it’s a fantastic story, but I cannot picture in my head how the leak communicates with something that turns your water off. Is this a mechanism that will actually push that quarter-turn valve off to the off position?

RS: That’s right. It clamps right over the valve, and it’s got a mechanical arm that grabs on to your valve and it closes it.

BO: Wow, okay.

TM: How is that powered? Do you have to plug something in?

RS: It’s plugged into a wall, but it has a very powerful long-lasting battery that’s supposed to be good for like a month or something when it’s unplugged, so it’ll still work if power goes out. And then all of the remote sensors come with 15-year sealed lithium-ion batteries.

TM: Do you buy a pack that has multiple sensors?

RS: Yeah, it came with three sensors.

TM: I’m assuming water heater, and where else do you put them, under your kitchen sink?

BO: Dishwasher?

RS: Yeah, I’ve got one under the dishwasher, I’ve got one in a pan that I built for my point-of-use water heater under the sink, and then I’ve got one under the washing machine. I need to get one more, to put it under my refrigerator, because those ice-maker lines are notorious for leaks too.

TM: My front-loader, the washing machine, is leaking more and more. And I guess it’s over 10 years old, so I shouldn’t be surprised that that’s happening, but I’m beginning to notice there’s… Like, after a day of use, ’cause I let laundry pile up and then go after it all in one day. But you can see a nice little puddle that’s beginning. So I think…

TM: You don’t seem too worried about it. Is this leak happening on a basement floor or something?

BO: Yeah, it’s in the basement.

[laughter]

BO: Where every laundry room should be. I mean, how crazy is it to put this machine that holds a bunch of water upstairs and sometimes will fail catastrophically? We’ve gone through the mold conversations, there’s nothing good that can come from that conversation, or that event, so…

TM: Yeah, agreed.

RS: And side note, Lowe’s sells these things just on the shelf. You can just go on into the store and buy it, and they’re $300. And they’ve also got this program I just learned about, where you’re supposed to be able to get a discount from your insurance company, and they’ve got a guarantee that if your insurance company won’t give you a discount they will fight for the discount. And if they still can’t get you a discount they’ll just give you $150.

TM: Wow.

RS: So it’s pretty cool.

BO: Yeah, I like that. Maybe I should back off my very hard stance of “no washers on the second level.” If there’s a disaster pan underneath them, I’m perfectly fine with that.

RS: Well, and the problem with that, a disaster pan with a drain leading to an approved or acceptable location, it’s like how many houses have you seen where they got a disaster pan and there’s nothing that it goes to?

TM: And no drain. [laughter]

TM: Yeah! Like “Why?”

BO: Made somebody feel better.

[laughter]

RS: Okay. Yeah, alright…

BO: What else are you hacking away within your…

RS: Yeah, that was a total side discussion that we got on to.

BO: That happens.

RS: Another one is something called… It’s a plug-in. If you use the Google Chrome browser, you can get a plug-in called Video Speed Controller. I can’t remember who told me about this, but it’s awesome. Have you ever sat through any training videos where you have to watch the whole video, you can’t skip ahead and it’s just painfully slow? Well, you use Video Speed Controller and basically for any HTML5 content, which is essentially any video you watch on your computer, it puts this tiny little number at the top of your screen and you can click on this to increase the speed of the playback, just like you can already do with YouTube and Facebook videos, if you know which buttons to click. It makes any video where you can change the speed. So, absolutely love that. And I find myself going to that for any videos I wanna change the speed on, ’cause I like watching most videos at 1.5 to 2x speed, just to get through it faster. So again, it’s a plug-in called Video Speed Controller.

TM: Yeah, that’s super helpful.

BO: Has the Department of Commerce contacted you yet?

[laughter]

BO: Or is there something to prevent people from being able to speed through real estate continuing ed classes now with a device like this?

TM: [laughter]

RS: Larry. Producer Larry, you better cut that out.

[laughter]

RS: No, just kidding. Just kidding.

BO: I’m gonna have to investigate that. ‘Cause, funny enough, most of these continuing ed classes, and it’s not just real estate, it’s a lot of continuing ed classes, they’re timed-out, and you have to be there, and you have to answer questions and all that other stuff, so… But if you’re watching it and you’re still getting the content, what difference does it make if you watch it a little bit faster?

RS: Yeah, if you can absorb it at that speed, who cares?

BO: Well, yeah, or if you’re a fast reader, you get to go faster than slow readers, so…

TM: Yeah, it’s funny too, ’cause I think… Well, at least for me… I listen to a lot of podcasts on 1.2 or 1.5 speed, and you just get used to that, and then, when you go back to just normal speed everything sounds so slow, and when you have to watch videos at a normal speed, I find myself just like, “Oh my gosh, come on!” [laughter]

RS: Yes.

TM: Move along.

RS: This should be a game changer.

BO: Yeah, you just described Thanksgiving. When the kids are at Thanksgiving and they’re talking like, “La, la, la, la, la, la,” and then my parents talk, and it’s like, “Okay, let’s get going here. We don’t have all day.”

[laughter]

RS: Good times.

BO: Yeah, it is. The Minnesota drawl, or whatever you call it, is real.

RS: Yeah. Next one is a password manager. There’s a couple of them out there, and you guys both know about these. The one that I love to use is called LastPass, and it’s where you put it on your phone and any computers you have. You basically put it on your browser, and it stores all your passwords. And it just makes it so that you can have long and complicated passwords that are completely unique for every single site that you ever go to and you never need to worry about remembering all of them, because it’s synced up across all of your devices. And those are just a couple of them. There’s tons of them out there, but I couldn’t imagine not using this. So, a password manager. Oh, another one is RoboForm. My dad has been a RoboForm user for 20 years.

BO: Have you completely switched over to just allowing the random generated passwords to be your passwords?

RS: 100%, yeah.

BO: And so explain to me if you just need to know the one, which is the master password into the software that’s managing all these passwords, but have you seen any issues with going across platforms from your computer to your phone to even public computer where you… Who goes on a public computer and puts in their private password? Nobody, I don’t think, does that in 2021 or the end of 2021, and you shouldn’t. If you are, you should stop. But have you run into anything where it just… The sync didn’t work?

RS: Yeah, the only challenge is… I mean, just the other day, we did some training with Steven and I left my laptop at home and I used Cory’s laptop. So I wanted to log into my Zoom account, so I had to pull up my phone and figure out my 12-digit password, and it’s like, “Okay, asterisk, ampersand, lower case, upper case,” it’s a little tedious, but who cares? How often you really need to do that? For the time it saves, it’s well worth it to have long and complicated and unique passwords.

BO: And is there a function in there that will every, 30 days, just reset and…

TM: That’s what I was gonna ask too, yeah.

RS: Kind of, because to reset passwords, you need to do it at all of the different websites. Like if I want a new password for my homedepot.com account, I need to go to homedepot.com, log in as a user and change it. So it won’t do that for you for most websites, but there are a handful of websites. Every once a while, it’ll prompt me like, “Hey, we can update your password automatically for these 30 sites, and we can just log in for you, do you want us to do it?” Sure, go ahead and do that.

TM: How easy is it for someone to hack into your LastPass? Do they just need one password and verification method to be able to log in into LastPass to see all your passwords?

RS: It’s two-factor authentication. So anytime I log in from a new IP address, I think, I get a notification on my phone.

TM: ‘Cause this is cloud-based?

RS: Yeah, it’s all cloud-based.

BO: I have a password manager, but I still make up my own, I don’t know why. I’m just a dinosaur, some things die hard.

TM: As long as you’re not hacked.

RS: I would bet a large sum of money that you have a handful of passwords for a couple of hundred sites.

BO: No, most of them are different, but they are similar. They’re different enough to give me confidence but similar enough that I can run through up to six algorithms to get into that one site that I went to and have no idea what I used for a password.

RS: Sure.

BO: I still try to be random, but I don’t know, I’m weak at best. What else are you using to bring more productivity and security to your life?

RS: Google Photos. I have all of my photos on my phone backed up to Google Photos, and lots of people use that, but I think a lot of people don’t understand the power of Google Photos. It recognizes faces and things. So, Tessa and Bill, if I want to find a new picture for our podcast with the three of us, it recognizes who you are. I punch your names into your faces, I’ve done that with the top like 100 people of faces that I’ve taken pictures of, and I can just type in “Tessa, Bill, Reuben” and then Google Photos will show me every photo that I have on my computer or phone or device or anything that has our three faces in it. And I do it with my kids, with my wife, with the family all the time. It’s like, “Okay, my daughter needs a school project, she wants a picture of her and her brother.”

RS: So, I just type their names in, and it shows me all the photos with the two of them, starting with the most recent, and it makes it so quick to find stuff. But it’s not only people, you can type in objects. “Oh, I wanna take a picture of them swimming.” I type in, “Lucy” and “pool”, and it’ll show me all the pictures I’ve taken with her in a pool. It’s very smart technology. So, that is a game changer if you’re into photos and finding photos.

TM: My iPhone does the same thing.

RS: Does it? Okay.

TM: Yeah.

RS: Sweet. I did not know that Apple had that going on too, love it.

TM: I don’t know if that’s a new thing or not, but I’m trying to remember how long I’ve used that, I can’t remember. It’s pretty nice though.

BO: How many gigs of storage do you get with that and what happens to some of these pictures if once you start getting near the end, do they start falling off the conveyor belt on the other side?

RS: I don’t know, at some point Google had unlimited storage if you had medium resolution photos, or maybe they called it high resolution photos but not original resolution where they could drop it down. I think it was unlimited at some point, they may have changed it, but I’m not 100% up to date on that. I’ve never had an issue though.

BO: And now we’re back to it’s whatever your camera is, is what your resolution is gonna be, right?

RS: Right, that’s right.

BO: My old phone is not good compared to my wife’s 13 or my daughter’s 11, whatever, she’s running around with.

RS: Yeah.

TM: The cameras have gotten so good on the new phones.

BO: It’s ridiculous.

TM: Unbelievable, the pictures they can take.

RS: Yes, yes. I look at the other cameras I have. For a Christmas card, we had somebody using an SLR camera or a DSLR camera to take all the photos of our team, and then they’re like “And just for fun, I’m just gonna take one with my iPhone.” Well, you know the one we picked.

TM: The one with the iPhone was better?

RS: Yes, that’s what we ended up using. It looked better than all the rest of them.

TM: Wow, crazy. There’s portrait mode, and you can edit with lighting and all that stuff, it just… Yeah, it’s no match for some of these cameras anymore.

BO: Do you ever go back to your parents house and look through the six photo albums that they have of all the pictures of you and your brothers and sisters growing up? And this is a span of 15-20 years, something like that. And just this last month there’s more photographs of my dog on my wife’s phone than 10x of every picture my parents ever took of…

[laughter]

RS: Yes. And what do we do with all these? I don’t know.

TM: I know.

RS: But we take them.

BO: Yeah, well, one day you might want them. And be known from 46 angles.

[laughter]

RS: Yes. I feel like I’m sharing everything, but there’s one that we all know about. Bill or Tess, why don’t you guys share about Turo?

BO: Oh yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Well I’ve recently used it, it’s the car-sharing app, which I love, and I know this is not a new service by any stretch of imagination, but it’s really fun to get somewhere and be able to have a car set up for you. So, it’s a car rental sharing app, and you go to any major city and you just put in, through an app on your phone that’s super sleek, what do you want, and you can get anywhere from the most beautiful luxury sedan vehicle you want to all electric vehicles, whatever. And there’s no shortage of these cars. Everybody seems to have multiple cars available in major cities. So I really like Turo. T-U-R-O.

TM: The thing that blew my mind, Reuben, the first time I had experienced it was when we went to Reading, Pennsylvania to teach at that ASHE conference. And we just showed up at the airport and this car pulled up, kind of like if you’re taking an Uber or a Lyft. It pulls up, the driver hands you over the keys and you’re good to go.

RS: That’s it. Yes.

TM: There’s no paperwork, there’s nothing to sign. I mean, I had just been through a rental car experience not long before that, which had taken me probably at least an hour of extra time, going from the airport to the rental car facility, to the line, to this bizarre situation of getting the rental car off the lot without having anyone there to actually approve it. It was kind of just… It was a headache. And then I went through this thing with Reuben for Turo, I’m like “This is awesome!” Super fast, super easy, and a really nice car, for a comparable or even cheaper price.

RS: It was probably half the price of a compact. And we had a nice SUV, I can’t remember what we got, but it was a high-end SUV.

BO: Well I just like the flexibility and the choice of vehicles, because you get four options at a regular rental place, but if you want some kind of funky Jeep where it’s a soft top and you can take it off and hair in the wind, you can find those. If you want a Tesla, you can find that. If you want just whatever, you name it, it seems to be available, and I just love that flexibility of choice.

TM: Yeah. How long until Turo or something like it puts these other car rental facilities out of business, do you think?

BO: Well, it depends. ‘Cause when we flew into Boston this summer, we were just doing some college stuff. When we went to get the rental car, it was a Saturday afternoon at like 4 o’clock when we got in there. No, it was earlier than that. It was like 11. We had to wait for almost two hours to get our rental car. We went over, and once we got the paperwork, we went up and were like, “Where’s our car?”, and they were like, “Yeah, we’re short-staffed, and we’re running behind, and we’re cleaning these cars”, and they were literally bringing two cars up at a time every 10 minutes. And there was this line that just continued to grow. But Turo, it’s not allowed in that terminal. So you couldn’t do what happened in Pennsylvania when you and Reuben got there. You couldn’t do that at Boston Logan.

RS: I think it’s a lot like Lyft and Uber is to taxis. You get taxi companies who have gotten arrangement with the airport and they say, “Don’t let Uber and Lyft in here” and once enough people start squawking about it saying, “This is garbage,” then it’s gonna change. And I think it’s the same way with Turo or any competitors of Turo, once you get enough people saying “Let me in,” they’ll be in there.

TM: Yeah. I would definitely use it again.

BO: Well, my experience was certainly easy. You get a picture of the mileage at the beginning, you take a picture of the mileage at the end, you take some pictures and upload it to the app, and you don’t have to talk to people or… They do try to sell you their insurance, but other than that, if you just click on that… Did you guys get the insurance?

RS: No. I never get insurance for anything. I’m sorry.

[laughter]

TM: That is not a life hack. This not on your list.

RS: No, no. That one is not.

BO: Why am I not surprised?

[laughter]

RS: That’s just how I roll. Okay. Another one is, how often do you have people, you want them to sign a document, and then they’re like, “Well, my printer’s not working,” or “I’m out of ink,” or “I gotta go home,” it’s like, you don’t ever need to print out a document to sign it. The native viewer for PDF documents is Adobe Acrobat DC viewer. It’s a free program, it works really well, and you can sign things right with that document. So there’s basically never a reason to ever print stuff, sign it, scan it, and then put it on your computer and email it back. You simply use the native program that is meant for this to sign everything. And to fill forms too, and every once in a while you’ll have a form that’s totally locked down, and you can’t sign it, but that’s definitely the exception. Sign and fill forms that way.

RS: Another one is Better Cables, and I know you guys have heard me rave about this. And it’s where you throw away or you put all of your regular charging cables in a drawer, never to be seen again, and you buy these cables that come with these magnetic ends. It’s like this tiny little button end that sticks into the charging port of your phone or other device, and then you’ve got a magnetic cable that grabs onto the end of this port. So it means if you’re charging your device and you drop it, you’re not gonna destroy the charging port on your phone. This acts as a dust protector, so you don’t get dust and dirt inside the charging port of your device, and it’s super easy to connect your charger.

RS: You basically just hold the magnetic end close to the charging port and let go, and it just jumps on, front order backward. So these cables, these magnetic charging cables, have replaced all of the cables in my house, and they come with ends for USB-C, micro USB, and Apple lightning. Each cable comes with one of each. So I’ve probably bought about 12 of these cables, so I’ve got enough ports to cover every device that I have in my house. And now I’ve got one cable in each room that anybody in the family can take any of their devices and plug into. It makes so much sense.

TM: Yeah. That’s really convenient. Mm-hmm.

BO: Do your family members battle over charging cords?

RS: Oh yeah. Oh yeah. It’s crazy. We have… I think in my video I called it “The cable gremlins,” go around and they’ll take all of the cables, and I’ll go in one of the kids’ rooms, and there’s just a stash of them, and I’m going “This is why I can’t find anything!”

[laughter]

RS: Yes. You got the same thing, Bill?

BO: Well, all of our batteries seem to get to critical charging level at the same time of the day, and yeah, we’re always fighting for cables. And who do you think gets the cable first?

RS: Not you.

BO: No.

RS: Not you, yep.

[laughter]

BO: Nothing that’s coming on to me is that important.

TM: I can tell by the look of disgust on your face. [chuckle]

BO: I get the hand-me-down phones, and then they don’t let me charge the battery that doesn’t work any.

RS: Yeah, nice, alright. We’ll just have…

TM: First-world problems.

[laughter]

RS: Yeah. I’ll just have two more tips, and then that’ll be it for my list. Another one is… This is more of a parenting deal, it’s like if you have kids of a certain age, maybe somewhere between five and I don’t know what, if you got kids who might get on an internet-enabled device like a computer or a tablet or a phone or something at your house, and you’re concerned about them seeing inappropriate content, there’s something that will filter out the worst stuff out there and… It’s something called OpenDNS FamilyShield. And this one probably requires the highest level of technical know-how. You need to go into your router, the router for your house, and you need to change a setting or two in there. And they’ve got really nice instructions for every router ever manufactured. They say, “Well, to log in, you go to this, you go to that,” and they make it really easy, and it should take you about five minutes total. You change a couple of little settings, and it basically puts a filter on your entire internet for your house, for any devices connected to your Wi-Fi. It makes sure that you’re not gonna have really violent stuff coming through, you’re not gonna have hateful stuff coming through, you’re not gonna have porn.

RS: I can’t think of what else, but it filters all this stuff, and if you try to go to a website that has bad content, you just get this message that comes up on your screen by Cisco, and it says “This site is blocked due to content filtering.” So, if you’re a parent it’s one of those “Set it and forget it” things. You do it once and you’re done. You don’t need to install filters on all of your kids devices. Now, of course, it doesn’t prevent everything. There’s still a ton of stuff on YouTube that I definitely wouldn’t want my kids watching, and it doesn’t filter anything on YouTube, so it’s not a perfect solution, but it’s gonna filter the worst stuff.

BO: What does YouTube do to filter their own content? Do they do a pretty good job? I mean, I’ll be honest, I’m not looking for hardcore anything on any of this stuff, either violence or otherwise, but I just assume they’ve got a good level of protection. But I’m probably making incorrect assumptions. What do you know about it?

RS: I don’t know how that works. I’ve never uploaded really inappropriate content, but I do upload a ton of stuff, and I know that I’ve uploaded stuff where it’ll have maybe just a little snippet of a song playing in the background at a presentation, and it’s almost like before the upload is done I’ll get a notification saying “You’re trying to upload copyrighted content, no can do.” And, I mean, they’ve got some smart filters, just like Google can look at all the photos and they will identify trees or pools or these things in your photos, I think they know when you’re uploading really bad stuff.

TM: You know, your video of you getting accidentally high off huffing the plumbing glue made it on.

[laughter]

RS: That did make it. That didn make it, I was pretty subtle about that.

TM: One of the best bloopers ever. We should put a link in the podcast notes for that blooper. [laughter]

RS: We should, we should. That was a fun one. Oh my goodness.

BO: The contractor who’s working on my cabin, or who’s building the cabin, he was saying that he was doing some work on his own cabin, where they had a pipe failure, and he needed to use some of that plumbing cement, and he was down literally on his belly in less than 18 inches of space in a very… But it’s like an emergency situation, he said it was awful, but what are you gonna do, you know? I mean you just gotta go get it done as quickly as you can and get the hell out of there, so…

RS: That’s where you put on your respirator.

[laughter]

BO: I don’t even know, I don’t even know what the circumstances were, but it was just… How many times have you found yourself in that position where you’re like the best of intent, and you just don’t, because this, that or the other, and next thing you know you’re on YouTube high from plumbing cement?

[laughter]

RS: Touche. Touche.

TM: Hey, one more question about that router. Does it filter out stuff, like if you’ve got Netflix and you wanted to watch a video and there’s a violent scene in there, will it filter that kind of stuff out too or no?

RS: No, it’s more that it filters out entire sites. It won’t filter out content on a site. It will just say “This site has bad content” and it won’t let you on the site at all.

TM: Yeah, okay.

BO: And that’s why that doesn’t work on YouTube.

RS: That’s right.

TM: Right, ’cause it’s a video.

BO: Okay, that makes sense. That makes sense. Okay.

RS: Last one, and this is closely related to that, this is another tip for parents, is I’ve decided that pretty much anything that happens online in any devices at my house after I’ve gone to bed is something I don’t want happening. So I don’t want my kids doing anything on the internet, sending messages, looking at content, anything, after I’ve gone to bed. So to make it really simple, I got two routers at my house, one of them is the “parents only” router, and that’s for my computer and my phone and all of the smart devices at our house, like the Alexa and the garage door opener and whatever else that’s connected to the internet. All of that connects to one router. The other router is for the kids and all the other devices at the house, the TVs, whatever you have, where you can have content, those all connect to the other router. And for that system, I’ve got a very basic plug. It could really just be a Christmas-tree timer, and at a certain time the power goes off, that’s it, there’s no internet after bedtime at my house, and it automatically comes on at 5:00 AM the next day.

TM: Wow, where did you get that idea to do that, Reuben?

BO: [chuckle] I came up with it myself, Tessa. I went into my router settings and I programmed the MAC addresses of every device that I could find in my house that my kids would use, and I created special rules for every MAC address. I had to program all of this into my router and create permissions for when they could be on the internet, and I spent so much time doing this, and it never worked, and for some reason, I had some setting wrong and these devices would still connect at night, and one day I just thought, “Forget this, I’m just gonna unplug it,” and then a light bulb went off, I went, “Wait a minute, all I need is a smart plug.” [laughter]

TM: Wow, Yeah, that’s a very interesting idea. And I think for kids these days, they’re bombarded with… It’s like Snapchat and Instagram and all these things that studies are finding now that are causing mental health issues and brain development stuff. And it’s like how do you as a parent try and filter that out? And you can do the best… You can try, but I think you found the solution.

RS: It’s a heck of a lot easier if you only need to worry about content they take in while you’re awake.

TM: Yeah, yep.

RS: It’s not perfect, of course, but it’s a lot better, and it eliminates any discussion over it. It’s done.

TM: So what’s the shutdown time for your kids?

RS: I’d have to look [chuckle] I think on week nights it’s 9:00 PM, and on weekends, I think it’s 10. And every once in a while, they’ll have a sleepover and it’s like, “Can you turn it on later, we wanna watch a movie”? And it’s like, “Alright, we’ll make it 11 or whatever.” But…

BO: Just wait until they turn nocturnal on you. And you’re gonna have to stay up till 3 in the morning, because it happens, every kid decides they have to stay up late.

RS: I think my kids are already there.

TM: Well, I was gonna say, what happens if they get access to the… Can they just plug it in themselves eventually some day, will they do that?

RS: That’s why I was really hoping we would get to this part of the podcast before my son walked in the door. [laughter] He doesn’t know that this is how it works. [laughter] And I count on neither him or any of his friends listening to this podcast.

BO: Perfect.

TM: Very good [chuckle]

BO: Wow, okay. Well, that’s a good list of life hacks. Is there anything else you’re gonna throw in this conversation before we put a wrap on it?

RS: I think that was about it. It was just about Life Hacks today.

BO: Is part two of the blog gonna come out? You gonna recap everything in words, what you just said?

RS: Yeah, yeah. Part two will come out some point after this, and we covered, at the very beginning of this, we covered all the stuff that’s gonna be in part two, and I did it that way so that anybody listening to this podcast could get some fresh content ahead of time.

BO: Okay, so let’s bring this to a wrap. But before I do that, we had a pretty interesting weather situation a couple of weeks before this launched, and Tessa, you used a word to describe something, and I want you to use this word for everybody, because it’s fantastic, and I’ve never heard it before. So, can you share?

TM: Yeah, I was describing the metal cap on this chimney on the house next door that has been kind of semi blown off and it’s crooked on top of this chimney, but I described as being “whopperjawed”, and then Bill and Reuben were like, “What did you just say”? So I don’t… I guess that’s a word you guys have never heard before, “whopperjawed”.

RS: Yeah, that’s ’cause you made it up, Tess.

TM: I’m pretty sure I didn’t, [laughter], but maybe I did. Maybe it’s a Murry family thing, maybe. I’m not sure. But I don’t know. If anyone else has used this word or heard of it, please let us know. Send us a note, a message, an email. I’m curious, did I make this up? [chuckle]

BO: I’m not sure.

RS: I would like to know too.

BO: Yes, yes. So with that, everybody, that’s your homework assignment. Go look up the word that Tessa just said. One more time, Tessa.

TM: Whopperjawed [chuckle]

BO: Okay, That’s it.

RS: It’s a good word.

BO: Report back to Tessa, Yes. Awesome. Well, this is gonna launch right after Christmas, So Merry Christmas to everybody who’s listening. Happy holidays, Happy Hanukkah, or whatever faith or whatever your beliefs are. Happy beliefs to you.

RS: And Happy New Year.

BO: Yes, and Happy New Year.

TM: Yeah, and Happy New Year, goodbye 2021.

[laughter]

BO: We’ll see if 2022 is as interesting. You’ve been listening to Structure Talk, a Structure Tech presentation. My name is Bill Oelrich, alongside Tessa Murry and Reuben Saltzman. Thanks for listening, we will catch you next year.