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Mailboxes and delivery tech, are you looking at me?

Tech Talk

Mailboxes and delivery tech

You've probably seen the term "last mile" used quite a bit lately. From flying drones to little robot cars delivering packages to our houses, many people and companies are working on the "last mile" problem. The term "last mile" actually comes from the telecommunications industry. The costs of building out a telephone network can be spread out over the whole system, but the cost of connecting one customer to that system can only be amortized by that one customer.

For delivery companies, the "last mile" is accomplished by somebody in a truck dropping off packages or delivering letters.


Many people don't know that you can "see" what's in your mailbox before you get in the ATV and run down to the end of your long driveway. It's a free service called Informed Delivery, and you can see if your address is eligible and sign up here: reg.usps.com/entreg/RegistrationPortalAction_input. If your address is eligible, they'll mail a confirmation code to your address. Enter that code on the portal to get verified.

Once you're signed up and verified, you'll receive an email every day with the scans of the front of any letters being delivered that day and another email later about any packages.

The Post Office scans your mail anyway, for routing and sorting purposes, so all they're doing here is sharing information they already have. Oh, and the scan is just the front of an envelope, so magazines and odd-sized mailers might not show up.

There are two parts to the Informed Delivery site, the Mailpieces tab, and the Packages tab. Letters show up on the Mailpieces tab for seven days after delivery, and packages show up on the packages tab for 15 days.

The service is handy for watching out for important mail in your mailbox, or when you're out of town (remember vacations? Sigh); also handy for deciding whether it's worth the trek out to your mailbox to get the mail.


UPS has a similar free service called "UPS My Choice." Here's the sign-up link: http://www.ups.com/us/en/services/tracking/mychoice.page. Once you log in, you can see a calendar showing which packages will be delivered on which day, along with a link to package tracking information on each package.

UPS can send notifications of scheduled deliveries, out for delivery, and delivery, by email or text. You can customize your notifications in Settings.

UPS also offers a paid Premium subscription, but most of us don't need the features it provides.


Not surprisingly, FedEx also offers a delivery tracking feature called FedEx Delivery Manager. Sign up here: http://www.fedex.com/en-us/delivery-manager.html

Once you're signed up, you can track any package being sent to your address. You can choose to be notified about packages addressed to you, the day before delivery, out for delivery, any delivery problems and when it's delivered.

Are you looking at me?

We've all been on too many video calls lately. While it's better than not getting together with other humans at all, it's not the same as real life. One of the worst things is when everybody's looking at the screen and not at the camera. Microsoft's Surface Pro X laptop and Apple's FaceTime can adjust your video, so it seems like your eyes are looking at the camera. Better, but not perfect.

NVIDIA is developing AI to do much more than adjust your eyes. From upscaling video to make it look better, replacing backgrounds, reducing noise and turning your head to face the camera, here's a video demonstrating what their AI, MAXINE, can do to improve video calls: AI-Powered Video Conferencing with NVIDIA Maxine - YouTube

MAXINE isn't a product though NVIDIA is releasing the AI toolkit for other folks to implement.

Creating Artificial Intelligence (AI)

You'll know we've created a true AI when it starts drinking to forget about all the existential questions we've been asking it.

Do you have a computer or technology question? Greg Cunningham has been providing Tehachapi with on-site PC and network services since 2007. Email Greg at [email protected].