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July 24, 2012

Cloud Computing is Almost There
Filed under: Computers in Construction — Tags: — nedpelger

I’ve been traveling since mid-July and thought I’d be blogging more. My gmail and contacts work nicely on the cloud and I thought I had most other functions worked out. Nothing like a trip to foreign lands to expose one’s weaknesses.

My son-in-law had a master’s level creative writing class in Edinburgh, Scotland so I decided to take his 11 year old son to meet his Dad and travel a bit. Of course, when I travel it has to be to a fanatic level. My travel equation maximizes experiences and sites and minimizes rest time. I’ll never forget the surprised look on my grandson’s face when I told him, “You can sleep when you’re dead.” The photo below shows a gorgeous house behind us.

As we were driving into the Scottish Highlands, we passed a castle and decided to have a quick tour. Turns out it was the Doune Castle used in the making of Monty Python and the Holy Grail. The audio tour was done by Terry Jones of Monty Python and was hilarious. The photo below shows the beautiful wood trusses in the great room,

while the video below shows the Frenchman’s insults to the Monty Python crew. My favorite is “You tiny brained wipers of other people’s bottoms.” The first three minutes of the video are really worth a watch.


But I digress from my cloud computing topic. As we traveled, I found several holes in my offsite computing abilities. I had decided to not pay the high Verizon Wireless rates for data in Europe, but just to use wifi when available. So my phone became just a handheld Android computer available when I could find free wifi (which was much less often than I anticipated).

The concept worked reasonably well, but many of the phone apps tend to be a bit buggy, not quite yet ready for prime time. For example, the YouTube app simply wouldn’t upload videos, though it was supposed to. I found out too late that it’s simple to have your phone load photos and videos right up into Dropbox, Box or Google + at no charge. Then you can decide what to do with them.

I found the Android tablet useful for keeping up with email, but simply not quite functional like a real laptop. Again, too many of the app programs for various sites just didn’t quite fully function.

I remain convinced that cloud computing will be the way most of us move into, but can understand some folks lagging behind a bit waiting for more of the bugs to be worked out.

A quick story you’ll enjoy. As we drove across Scotland, then down into Liverpool and finally London, I was amazed at all the small roads. I kept saying, “Aren’t there any highways up here?” My son-in-law and navigator wondered aloud if perhaps our car GPS had some “No toll road” function, which I quickly dismissed.

We drove for many hours on several days where I felt like we were in the cattle chutes, with not nearly enough room on the road and everyone driving on the wrong side (except me occasionally). We’d be on these tiny mountain roads and a tractor trailer would zoom by in the other direction as my son-in-law would say, “Watch the curb! Getting close! Sorry!” all in one breath. And each time I’d tell him I appreciated the feedback…which was mostly true.

Eventually as we drove toward London, we started ignoring the GPS (I was convinced there was some programming flaw) as it kept telling us to exit the super highway we’d managed to find. I then suggested we look at the Settings on the GPS. We found that we had “No toll roads” and “No highways” both selected.

We’d tortured ourselves with my ignorance. Of course, since I’m always willing to look at a glass of water as almost full, I was happy for all the sites we saw that we’d have missed on the efficient highways. In fact, I almost think I’d recommend to others to use those settings.

Here’s some bagpipe music and my grandson who agreed to wear the Scottish Highland cattle hat for the day in exchange for a pound. There’s also some nice shots of Edinburgh, along the streets that included the first 4-5 story apartment buildings in the world.



June 14, 2012

Google + Still Looks Promising
Filed under: Computers in Construction — Tags: — nedpelger

Did you take my advice a few months ago and sign up for Google +? Have you done much with it? Most folks I talk to haven’t. Plenty of folks talk of its failure to launch, but I think that’s a premature evaluation.

Darren Slaughter just blogged about closing down his Facebook fan page and going all in on Google + with his post Goodbye Facebook…Hello Google +.  He earlier wrote about the importance of social networking for construction companies and now casts his vote to Google +.

I haven’t taken the time to really make Google + work yet, but I’m ready to try. I’ll keep you updated on my progress. At the very least, it makes for great video chats with my grandkids…which gives me enough motivation to get it done.

By the way, if you want to understand why social media will affect your future so much more than most people realize, read this great article. Those that miss this boat will have trouble catching the next one.


June 6, 2012

Tech Patent Wars
Filed under: Computers in Construction — Tags: — nedpelger

I’m a sucker for a great info graphic. My buddy Kneal sent me this one called The Patent Wars: The Convoluted Battlefield of Tech IP. Click on it to get a larger view, so you can follow the logic. In a nutshell, the inside white circle represents lawsuits, with the arrow pointing to the group being sued. The outside darker hatched cylinder shows patent purchases, with the arrow end going to the purchaser.

What do I see? Apple and Microsoft sue and get sued often. That’s a sign of companies I want to avoid. Google, on the other hand, has few lawsuits, but more purchases, especially the huge patent purchase of Motorola Mobility. By avoiding the lawsuit focus, Google again shows themselves as a company I want to be associated with.

So, whether buying Google stock or utilizing their products, this slick info graphics furthers my belief that I want to hitch my little car to the big Google train.

Why should this matter to you? In construction, the technology explosion of  cloud computing will be hitting us soon. We will all be making choices who we utilize for cloud based services. I’m going all in with Google.

What does that mean practically? Of course I use Gmail, Google Calender and Contacts instead of Outlook. I changed a year ago and love the new convenience and flexibility. I’m ready to change my scheduling program from my tried and true Microsoft Project to a better sharing cloud based program. Where will I be looking? Among the Goggle offerings. I’ll let you know what i find.


April 9, 2012

A Day in the Life of Google Googles
Filed under: Computers in Construction — Tags: — nedpelger

If you’re tempted to just let the technology waves go past you without swimming along, you should think again. The pace of innovation will increase and you can’t afford to be a Luddite. We all stress about finding the time to keep up, but I admonish you to stay in the struggle. The Google Googles video below shows what your competitors will be using in a couple of years.


But don’t stay current with technology from fear, rather embrace the possibilities of better living. On the other hand, keep vigilant against technologies that lower your quality of life. We should all work on balancing our technical lives with our physical, financial, emotional and spiritual lives. To find that golden middle path each day, we need to be paying attention. Sleep-walking through life just brings us to death with less  understanding and joy.


March 7, 2012

New Google Play will be Big
Filed under: Computers in Construction — Tags: — nedpelger

Google just announced the launch of Google Play, a site where all your media (apps, books, movies, songs, etc) can be found in one place. You can upload all the media you have and Google stores it for you free (and it never gets lost or needs the location changed). Also, the site will rent and sell all media from all time.

So rather than trying to search all over various sites and hard drives, everything can be in one place, at no cost. I think this site will be useful for expert computer users as well as novices. Looks like Google hit a home run on this one.

Their promo verbiage makes the point:

Now your favorite music, books, movies, apps, and games are all in one place that’s accessible from the Web and any Android device. Discover, buy and share like never before.

The power of the cloud expanded with Google Play. Combined with Google +, we’ll be able to share our media with our friends and have access to almost everything. Here’s a Google Play Help site to answer more questions.

I’m not fully utilizing Google + yet, but plan to work on that. I particularly want to use Google Hangout more, to be able to connect with co-workers or friends easily in video conference. Imagine talking with someone on the jobsite and easily being able to see what they are seeing as you talk? That’s a real benefit.

As usual, I have Lex to thank for bringing this new development to my attention. All I can say is, “Kneal, baby, you’re slipping, you usually have the hotest tech tips for me. Is making a living for your family getting in the way of web surfing?”


January 28, 2012

When We Build
Filed under: Computers in Construction — Tags: — nedpelger

I came across one of the most thought provoking lectures I’ve seen in years and decided to share it with you. Since you read this blog, you probably do some construction related work…or wish you did. I often write about the joy of building. When we build, we use tools to improve the physical world.  In fact, our tools differentiate us from the rest of life on the planet.

Pulling an illustration from the lecture, how efficient do you think humans are in locomotion (moving ourselves a certain distance)? Turns out, we are middle of the animal pack. We use a bit less energy to move a km than a dog, a bit more than a horse and not even close to the winners…condors. But when we hop on a bicycle, we far surpass the condor in efficiency. Steve Jobs used this illustration to conclude that the computer becomes the bicycle for our minds. With the computer, we have the most important invention in human history and we’re just starting to get into the really cool uses.

So when I watched Wilson Miner from Apple speak for 38 minutes on When We Build, I knew it was something I needed to share with you. I know 38 minutes is a long time. I can tell you the lecture is beautiful, pulling in images, video and ideas that can’t be replicated by just words. I strongly encourage you to take the time to watch the video below and think deeply about how the computer will change how you work and live. One idea could change your life.

Wilson Miner – When We Build from Build on Vimeo.


November 17, 2011

Augmented Reality: Coming to a Building Site Near You
Filed under: Computers in Construction — Tags: — nedpelger

iPads and Android tablet computers differ from laptops because of their touchscreens and their simplicity of use.  When the iPad debuted, I thought it a silly tool that old people might find useful. Wrong again! I now think the tablet computers will change construction more than any technology we’ve seen in years.

If a job site has wi-fi, then anyone on site will be able to use their tablet to access the cloud computing world. In the cloud, all the current project drawings and shop drawings will be available for tablet viewing. All the mistakes that come from working from old drawings can be eliminated. Also, all the mistakes that come from not having access to the information from other trades can go away.

Scheduling can be greatly improved as site foreman get to use their fingers to show who works where when. We all know how much effort goes into most project schedules and how little they actually affect job site decisions. What if that were reversed? That’s a game changer.

Talking to my tech guru Kneal, he mentioned a proof of concept video he recently watched about augmented reality. This is a concept you want to know about. Imagine you have the 3D CAD files for the building you’re constructing on your tablet. When you enter a room and point the rear facing video camera to the walls, the program determines the location in the building by GPS and object recognition software. So the camera scans the wall and records that the electrical outlet is actually installed 6″ away from the planned location (perhaps the studs were installed differently). The screen can then show how the phone and data wiring will fit or need to be changed given the actual conditions.

So this yields not only perfect as-builts but real time screen shot changes of what needs to happen in the field. The technology to accomplish this scenario exists, the challenge will be to figure out how to use it simply and effectively. That’s a challenge I’m embracing.

To quote the wise sage FogHorn Leghorn, “I’m throwing ya pearls here boy” and as shown in the clip below, “Pay attention, boy, I’m not just talking to hear my head roar.”  And my personal favorite from this clip, “Pay attention boy, I’m cuttin’ but you ain’t bleedin.'” I love the clip below of the sayings of FogHorn Leghorn.


If the concept of augmented reality fascinates you, here’s a video Skanska Construction produced that shows the details of what they now use on an office building in Helsinki. 4D modeling rocks.



November 12, 2011

Let Lynda Learn You
Filed under: Computers in Construction — Tags: — nedpelger

To my non-English-as-a-first-language readers, I apologize. Our language is hard enough without yahoos like me purposely writing bad grammar. Let Lynda Teach You works grammatically, but doesn’t amuse me. I remember playing with the neighbor farm boys as a kid. They’d often get angry with their brothers and threaten, “I’ll learn you to not do that again.” They also taught me a colorful spectrum of profanity that one wouldn’t expect from Mennonite farm kids.

But grammar and weird childhood memories aside, what can Lynda teach us? She can keep us current in the constantly changing computer and technology world. provides short instructional videos that deliver tech skills quickly at a low cost. Go to the site and watch a few videos. They allow you to watch some for free, though charge $25/month for full access.

Now I generally avoid paying for websites, yet I see a value here. I’d certainly pay $25 for a book on a software program that I use and would like to use better. I’ve often plowed through long books, trying to improve various computer skills. This video training model, being able to drill down to the topic of interest then watch someone do what you want to learn, really works.

For example, I’ve previously counseled everyone to get a gmail account and start to use Google for email, calendars and contacts. The free cloud based products work so much better than Outlook in every respect. And they are available anytime from any of your devices (office computer, laptop, smart phone, tablet computer, etc) and always current. All your My Document hard drive files and job drawing files can also be live synced to the always be available, whether you’re on the job site, on vacation or getting a hot beverage at Starbucks.

So schedule some time to improve your process. If you don’t, your success rate will fall over time. Decide when you will grab some time to learn with Lynda. Pay your $25 and watch a series of videos about Goggle Calendar Essential Training or how to really use Adobe Acrobat 9 Pro Tips and Tricks to change your business.

Remember, the smart and fast beat the big and slow. Recall the immortal words of WC Fields, “You don’t want to be a Jabbernow. You don’t want to be a FuddyDuddy. You don’t want to be a Mooncalf. You don’t want to be those things, do you Lud?”


October 14, 2011

My Blackberry Isn’t Working: A Tech Primer
Filed under: Computers in Construction — Tags: — nedpelger

I’ve mentioned several times that the Blackberry smart phone platform seems to be dying. As iPhones and Androids have soared, Blackberries did nothing. I loved upgrading from a Blackberry to an Android over a year ago. In fact, with our new phone apps, we aren’t even developing for the Blackberry. This week brought even worse news, as a three day Blackberry outage infuriated users.

But it’s Friday, so take a few minutes and watch this hilarious clip. Trust me, you need a laugh today.



September 20, 2011

Google Plus Goes Live Today: Hello Construction World
Filed under: Computers in Construction — Tags: — nedpelger

Wired broke the story that Google Plus went from an invitation only Beta site to live today. Now anyone with a Gmail account (if you don’t have one, get one right now), may signup to participate in Google Plus. This social network should be much more useful than Facebook. I think G+ will change the way design and construction teams collaborate.

Google improved the Hangout feature in G+, which will allow scheduled and impromptu virtual meetings. We can video conference from our smart phones or desktops, share screens, SketchPad and Google Docs all at the same time. We can also create information circles around a particular project that keeps everyone in the loop and on current documents.

In an earlier post, I encouraged you to jump in with Google and smart phones.  The reasons to stay current with technology just got stronger today. I’m going to download the G+ app to my Android and see where it takes me.

Has anyone gotten any results yet or have anything to share on this topic?

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