Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Last Minute Gift Ideas for 2007

Tommy and Rumble
Originally uploaded by gadget.
If you are up early in the Midwest, or chillin' in the cold Northeast; browse-into on December 20th, 2007. I'll be a guest on Tommy & Rumble - on 99 FM - Hampton Virginia's rock station. This is my second time talking to the guys (but don't ask me which one of the guys is the Rumble) about gadgets and finally last minute holiday gifts for people who have everything. Like me. Tune in early - they are on from 5:30-10am Eastern time, and my segment will run a couple times... While I sleep in perpetual 60 degree California. Look, somebody's got to do it!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

AT&T Tilt by HTC
Originally uploaded by gadget
This week I have been at the CTIA Wireless I.T. and Entertainment show in San Francisco. I've not seen anything revolutionary, just evolutionary. Take a look at my Flickr Stream for photos from the event. There are a few new handsets like the HTC Touch and Tilt, as well as some cool LG phones with touch screens more akin to the iPhone than the Treo... No iPhones though!

PC Magazine Productivity Expo

It's time again for the PC Magazine Productivity Online Expo, which opens Thursday, October 25th (9:30AM - 6:00 ET/6:30AM - 3:00PM PT)

I'll be speaking on PC Magazine's online trade show, the Mobility Technology Online Expo. There will be a cast of other experts and characters speaking on how you can achieve excellence in the latest in mobile computing and connectivity.

My topics are: Productivity for Road Warriors: On-Demand ApplicationsFor low monthly fees, providers of on-demand applications keep small- and medium-size business from having to pay large up-front costs to keep mobile workers productive. And the good news is that the quality of on-demand applications has risen dramatically in recent years. In this interactive webcast, experts from PC Magazine and leaders from top on-demand application companies will show you how to optimize on-demand solutions for any kind of business.

Friday, October 12, 2007

In July 2007 a law took effect that mandated the cable industry move to a method of conditional access, or content security that was open to users selecting their own tuners, while still being protective of premium content like HBO. This technology is known as cable card where a small PC-Card (formerly known as PCMCIA) form factor descrambler can be installed into your late model LCD or Plasma screen, digital video recorder (DVR), or even some new Vista Media Center PCs, and eventually accessory PC cable QAM tuners. Cable TV subscribers need only call their operator to get for free, or a low monthly fee, a cable card for their chosen tuner. Currently, as this is a new technology, these cards are installed via a truck roll from your cable company, at a cost that you can frequently have waived. In the near future I expect this to be self-installed like DSL as the process is extremely straightforward. Cable companies today do not have their customer service representatives trained yet on this new activation process, as their legacy set top boxes are installed by technicians as well.

Because of this government mandated user empowerment, the newly released TiVo HD looks like it is going to replace my Mac Mini running XP Media Center Edition 2005 via Boot Camp with tuning via a Silicon Dust dual QAM tuner in the living room. The reason? It's cheaper than my Mac configuration, it's way easy, and it always works. You can pick up a TiVo HD for about $250 delivered depending on tax from Amazon; which supports dual tuners and can pull in all encrypted digital cable channels, except the on-demand programming. Best of all, thanks to cable-card for conditional access, and the M-Card supporting multiple streams, a single coax cable plugged into the TiVo; along with a single M-card unlocks both internal high-definition tuners. My favorite model of TiVo before this, the DirecTiVo supported two tuners as well, but required two coax lines feeding it from the satellite, a difficult installation proposition for most users. The TiVo HD also has the ability to record from two ATSC UHF HDTV digital signals through a second airial port, so you can stay away from cable fees, enjoying great HD content from over the air (OTA) reception.

The internal 160GB drive is a little small; supporting 20 hours of HD content and 184 hours of SD content (at the High quality setting) but rumor has it that TiVo will be releasing software to enable the external hard disk eSATA port for expansion plus the ability for the home media option to work as well - giving bi-directional content sharing with PCs. With that "open" access to additional content, we will have a winner on our hands. I have already seen two updates on my unit, one to fix macroblocking problems that some users experienced and a second that enables more sophisticated "Universal Swivel Search" which searches not only the program guide information within TiVo, but also new movie releases and Amazon Unbox content - which can be delivered to the TiVo from the living room user interface! Take that AppleTV!

Best yet, between October 11th and November 8th, 2007, you can transfer a previously purchased lifetime service from an older box, activated before October 2003, to a new TiVo HD for $199. From here:

Now if you are lucky enough to find or have a TiVo activated back then, that unit's lifetime cost you between $199 and $249. At $16.95 per month, it seems to be a good deal, with a quick 1-year payback, considering you got your "lifetime's worth" on your original TiVo hardware. If you add the TiVo HD on as a second receiver however, and go with a 3 year commitment on your HD box, the monthly payment is only $6.95 per month, which means 29 months to equal $199. This means a two-and-a-half year payback of the transfer fee. If you buy a lifetime box off of eBay, which are available yet carry a premium (note, do NOT buy a "LifeTime DirecTiVo" box as MANY are hacked via software and are not elidigable due to these boxes receiving their program guide from the DirecTV satellite stream) consider the additional preium to pay back your investment versus $16.95 per month. By the way, you can find Lifetime subscription "cards" from retail stores that were once sold on eBay too, but they go for around $600. Yikes!

I am a huge fan of the TiVo interface, and with the features of the HD like simultaneous digital and analog output (some early receivers only allowed digital or analog via a switch) so I can run my HDMI TV and Slingbox Pro simultaneously and not be stuck with a cable provider user interface. This does come at a time when Comcast is slowing rolling the TiVo user interface out to its subscribers on a market by market basis. This at a premium cost over their plain vanilla DVR hardware from Motorola.

By the way, users who said the TiVo HD interface was slow may have been talking about its operating during initial setup, as the box was parsing its data files. I have had nearly every TiVo, from Series 1 @ 30GB, Series 2 with 120GB and a DVD burner (a favorite for making DVD's faster than real-time) the DirecTiVo with integrated Dual Tuners for DirecTV and finally the TiVo HD. All have what I feel to be some un-necessary lag during operations that could be performed in the back ground (like re-prioritizing season passes) but overall this new TiVo HD performs better or as well as my other units.

TiVo, thanks for putting Multi-Stream M-Card support on the TiVo HD box, versus the single stream S-Card on the Series 3 TiVo, which would require a second card and additional monthly charge in my Comcast territory. You've come up with a great product at a decent price. And Amazon has it for $244 now! Oh, and when you activate your service, tell them tivo at referred you!

Friday, October 05, 2007

Johnny, you are the man. You get it! The Internet has leveled the playing field for music (and soon video) and we want to pay you, not the machine.

On October 10th, 2007 Radiohead will release their 7th album In Rainbows with a "pay what you want" model. You name the price that you want to pay for the entire album! Pay what you would for one track on iTunes, or an album at retail, maybe more if you really love the band. This trumps the last innovative sales technique by the steady flower, Chuck D of Public Enemy who in 1998 said that "musicians will circumvent the record label's distribution role." After dropping his label Def Jam in December of 1998, the group who includes current TV star Flavor Flav created history in May of 1999 by releasing the first album over the Internet from a platinum selling group. "There's a Poison Goin On" was available in Real Audio format via the web, with a CD mailed direct to consumers for $10. This was during an age of RIAA lawsuits over the first mass-consumer MP3 player, the RIO PMP-300. I had one and its parallel port interface and 32MB of storage was a joke by todays standards. You can still buy PE music from and their current album, still $10, is "New Whirl Odor." Now instead of one portable MP3 player there are thousands on the market, with more than 110 million sold according to an April 2007 announcement from Apple.

But I digress. Back to Radiohead. You visit their website and enter the amount of UK Pounds that you wish to pay for their new album "In Rainbows," register for their site, then plug in your credit card digits and presto. They get money directly in their bank account. There is a 0.45 pound credit card processing fee, and Waste Products, LTD is handling the transactions for them, since an iTunes song has a similar processing fee, I would venture that Waste is making 0.15 pence (or UK pennies) on each transaction.

Read deeply into these artists album titles. They have more meaning than we imagined... Labels look out! The artists are restless!

Neiman Marcus Gifts 2007 Fantasy Gifts

2008 Lexus IS F
Originally uploaded by gadget.

Neiman Marcus dropped their 2007 Fantasy Gifts catalog insert with over-the-top ideas for the holidays on us this week. My favorite vehicle is the $68k Lexus IS F with a 400 HP V8 under the hood and quad pipes sending a growling note out the back. You get this car, a concept gone production from Steve Millen, plus Skip Barber racing school with accommodations for one extravagant price. The rocket racing team (A.K.A. Red Bull Air Race) is even a little more pricey for me at $2m with just one year of support, and I'd probably get disoriented flying those little jets every-which-way.

For technology the interactive Swami at $75k is clever to visually recognize members of your family and carry on conversations; plus it comes with an unknown model of laptop to run his virtual brain. I predict that WowWee will have this in stores for the 2008 holiday season for $100. What I do like however is the $100k Interactive Touch Media Wall from Jeff Han - AKA the visual and user interface from Minority Report. Think of it as a huge 8 foot by 3 foot iPhone as the keyboard floating letters and pinch and flick features are replicated with it. Remember, that the software you run must be compatible with this wall, so do not expect Excel to interact like the demo video here is - otherwise your fingers will work like a human mouse. But with their proprietary software, it looks like a great way to slide photos around, do some cropping and show your rich friends how well your stock portfolio is doing...

Finally, stay away from the $110k chocolate his and hers portraits. That will just attract ants into your mansion.

BTW: I'll take the wall inside and the Lex outside. :)

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

San Francisco is the #1 City for Singles

This August, I was tapped by a freelancer at Forbes for an interview of the best spots to date in San Francisco. Since I live in and love this great city, I was up for the challenge. However, by the time the story was posted it was changed to a brief with bachelor and bachelorette picks plus some rankings on culture and cost of living amongst many great cities. take on San Francisco as a dating city.

This year, San Francisco beat out New York for top honors and I have to agree. The hustle and bustle of NYC can kill its inhabitants and the weather buries them under snow, rain or humidity for many months of the year. I love to visit New York, but see it tear too many people to shreds. San Francisco is nice and easy, and breezy. Literally.

For my part, Instead of recreating my "top dat spots" Violet Blue, author, sex columnist and all around vixen, headed to one of my picks, "Dateway" the Marina location of the Safeway grocery chain, where she and a girlfriend tested the isles for love. Her gal pal picked up a local with a Berkeley sweatshirt and she headed to a speed dating event at the Crush Lab. And scored too.

So there it is, the 2007 Best City for Singles. San Francisco, California. It's good to be perched in the middle of it.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Go Mobile already with the Mobility Online Expo

On Thursday the 27th, early in the morning (8am) on the West coast I'll be speaking on PC Magazine's online trade show, the Mobility Technology Online Expo. There will be a cast of other experts and characters speaking on how you can achieve excellence in the latest in mobile computing and connectivity.

Topics include:
  • Portable computing devices, including Tablets, UMPCs, Notebooks and Handheld PCs
    Cutting-edge cell phones and PDAs, plus essential applications for them
  • Mobile software-as-a-service applications for online storage, field sales force automation, and more

  • Virtual/online telephony solutions such as hosted PBXs, e-faxing, and VoIP

  • Mobile VoIP solutions, including cell phones, plus VoIP services
    EVDO, EDGE, 802.11 and other wireless communications standards

  • Popular mobile applications for business use, including GPS and mobile browsing

So point your browsers to: and tune into our PowerPoint and audio cast!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Dish and Archos Docked
Originally uploaded by gadget
As I said during my Dish to purchase Sling Media post it is going to be difficult for Echostar to make advances in technology, which empower consumers, when the media companies that they purchase their programming from try to lock down their content.

Only a dozen hours after purchasing the privately held Sling Media, Inc., Echostar announced that they are preparing a registration statement for filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission in connection for a spin-off that represents their technology and investments - like Sling Media, their Archos personal video player investment, and MPEG-2 and MPEG-4 set top box and DVR manufacturing.

This could prove to be an important move as the content and consumer side of the house can be separated, albeit with a dotted line, to these important technology innovations. Charlie Ergen, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of EchoStar comments "We believe separation of our consumer-based and wholesale businesses could unlock additional value. Each company would be able to separately pursue the strategies that best suit its respective long-term interests. The spin-off transaction would also allow employee incentives to be tied to their respective company's performance, and improve opportunities to effectively develop and finance expansion plans."

Keep pushing that envelope for the consumers Charlie! The days of popping a DVD in the home player, car player and a portable player need to be as old school as what MP3 has done for the music CD! Help us to "8-Track" that video format!

Echostar press release on their desire of spinning off their technology group.

DEMO fall 2007 with Chris Shipley

This week brings us the DEMO fall 2007 conference in San Diego. There are a hundreds of people comprised of VC's, PR folks and companies eager to display their technologies, and big companies who are eager to SEE new technologies - which must have never been released in order to launch at DEMO.

So far its off to a great start - my favorites are Motion DSP with a multi-frame video frame aggregator - to give high quality stills from video (spook/security agencies will love this.) Digital Fountain uses Amazon's S3 service to improve video quality from steaming sites. With much more to come.

Comanies presenting for DEMOfall 2007 are as follows:
360desktop, Pty Ltd.; Victoria, Australia; Advanta; Spring House, PA;
AgendiZe; Grapevine, TX;
Apprema, Inc.; Sunnyvale, CA;
Attendi, Inc.; New York, NY;
BatchBlue Software, LLC; Barrington, RI; CashView, Inc.; Palo Alto, CA;
Check Point Software Technologies, Ltd.; Redwood City, CA;
ClipBlast!; Agoura Hills, CA;
coComment; Geneva, Switzerland;
CodaSystem France S.A.; Paris, France; CornerWorld; Dallas, TX;
Digital Fountain; Fremont, CA;
Diigo, Inc.; Reno, NV;
DimDim, Inc.; Burlington, MA;
earthmine, Inc.; Berkeley, CA;
EncryptaKey; Cypress, CA;
Exalead, Inc.; New York, NY;
FastCall411, Inc.; Hollywood, CA;
Fluid Innovation, Inc.; Austin, TX;
Fusion-io; Salt Lake City, UT;
Generate, Inc.; Maynard, MA;
Glam Media; Brisbane, CA;
Global Communications, Inc.; Houston, TX; Global Mobile Technologies, LLP; San Francisco, CA;
Graspr, Inc.; Sunnyvale, CA;
iForem, Inc.; Redwood Shores, CA;
InstaColl; Bangalore, India;
Jasper Wireless; Sunnyvale, CA;
kannuu, Inc.; Dallas, TX;
LiveMocha, Inc.; Bellevue, WA;
LogMeIn, Inc.; Woburn, MA;
LongJump; Sunnyvale, CA;
matchmine, LLC; Needham, MA;
MetaRADAR, Inc.; San Bruno, CA;
mig33; Burlingame, CA;
MotionDSP, Inc.; San Mateo, CA;
mSpoke, Inc.; Pittsburgh, PA;
MuseStorm, Ltd.; Yahud, Israel;
Myndnet; East Palo Alto, CA;
Myxer; Deerfield Beach, FL;
Ncursion; Carlsbad, CA;
PeopleJam, Inc.; Los Angeles, CA;
Phreesia, Inc.; New York, NY;
PlanHQ; Wellington, New Zealand;
Prolify, Inc.; Waltham, MA;
Propel Software Corporation; San Jose, CA;
Proxure; San Luis Obispo, CA;
Pudding Media, Inc.; San Jose, CA;
Quire, Inc.; Mountain View, CA;
Qumranet; Santa Clara, CA;
Real Time Content, Ltd.; Ipswich, England;
RedSquare Ventures, Ltd.; Moscow, Russia;
RelevantMind, Corp.; Berkeley, CA;
SceneCaster; Richmond Hill, Canada;
SpaceTime; New York, NY;
spigit; Pleasanton, CA;
Sway, Inc.; Middleton, WI;
|Talari Networks, Inc.; Cupertino, CA;
Trovix; Mountain View, CA;
Truphone; London, England;
Tubes Networks, Inc.; Boston, MA;
Tungle Corporation; Montreal, Canada;
Vello; Mountain View, CA;
Vitarati, Inc.; San Luis Obispo, CA;
Vyro Games, Ltd.; Dublin, Ireland;
WMS Gaming; Waukegan, IL;
Your Truman Show, Inc.; San Francisco, CA;
Yuuguu, Ltd.; Manchester, England;

Fully Connected to USA
Originally uploaded by gadget
It's nice to see something that I helped with become a part of a bigger picture where it can grow and prosper. I was the Forward Thinker and Director of Product Innovation for Sling Media, helping to launch the second generation products and the initial video content recognition and rules engine behind the Clip+Sling portal.

The folks at Echostar, who market their satellite service as Dish Network, have agreed to purchase my former employer and the creators of the Slingbox for $380MM. This is an interesting purchase for them, even as an initial investor, as they may get some backlash from their premium content providers like HBO, ESPN and the like who feverishly fight to keep their content locked to as few devices as possible, unless additional revenue is pushed into their coffers.

Dish network is no stranger to network fights as it has dropped Viacom and CBS channels in 2004, Lifetime in 2005 and and Court TV in 2007 due to the networks attempts at rate hikes. The channels have gone "dark" but have each come back after their "we own the pipe to the consumer" tactic of negotiation. They also have been under attack from TiVo for not licensing the DVR technology while building their own around patents TiVo owns. This could also mean that TiVo, which is the peanut butter to Sling's chocolate, could stop promoting Slingboxes on its store and through its rewards shopping site. Sling's CEO Blake Krikorian has stated that "By combining strategies, resources and technologies with EchoStar, Sling Media will be able to rapidly expand our open multi-platform product offerings, not only for DISH Network subscribers, but for digital media enthusiasts around the globe." This means users will still be able to sling content from other providers, even DirecTV.

Echostar will be riding a double-edge sword while pushing the innovation envelope, giving consumers new ways to enjoy services that they subscribe to while convincing the media outlets that they purchase content from, that it is in every one's best interest to let consumers enjoy more content in more places. An interesting achilles heel to the network providers is that Dish does not provide the upstream bandwidth to "sling" content outside of the house, which providers may feel would break their carriage contracts. Dish partners with Wild Blue to provide its DSL Internet service, and StarBand for satellite Internet access which is a high-latency and slower service of the two that does not have the upstream bandwidth for an acceptable quality of service. Because of this, they could argue that the Slingbox makes a much more compelling in-house experience (something half of the initial customers surveyed said that they were using the hardware for) to a laptop or the upcoming Slingbox Catcher, than adding another satellite receiver and TV in the home.

I have always respected Charlie Ergen, who in 1980 sold C-Band "BUD's" or Big Ugly Dishes out of his car in rural Colorado, and dreamed of having his own satellites in space. In 1996 that dream came to a reality thanks to Ku-Band and MPEG-2 technologies. When we were building the Communication Expo stores, we merchandised his new Dish Network service against the Hughes funded DirecTV, and it is a true David meets Goliath story with Charley putting up a great fight against the big corporation. So kuddos to your team for seeing the innovation and strong leadership created by Blake, Jason, Bhupen and the engineering team and executed by John and his team. You have a multiple award winning technology that needs to thrive. Be proud of their 2007 Emmy Award for Outstanding Achievement in Advanced Media Technology for the Creation of Non-Traditional Programs or Platforms! I am!

Echostar press release to Acquire Sling Media.
Sling Media's press release announcing the purchase by Echostar.
My good friend and former Sling co-worker Jeremy Toeman's take on the buyout.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Free VoIP on your home phone

Supura SPA-3000
Originally uploaded by gadget.
The Late Summer 2007 Alt Vehicles issue #11 of Make Magazine has a story that you'll love if you were a former customer of SunRocket. This how-to shows you what you need to get a Washington State phone number and terminate it on the Sipura device here, or any unlocked VoIP adapter, or software. By doing so you can then receive all the calls you want for free, or make toll-free calls with NO MONTHLY CHARGE. Nada, zip, zilch.

The caveat is that you cannot make calls to other home or mobile numbers, nor Skype for now. If you have broadband (duh) and need a phone line to authenticate your TiVo or satellite box, activate credit cards or give your parents a way to call you that doesn't use up your cell phone minutes, then this is the story for you!

Got broadband? Add phone service for $0/month:

Oh, if you get your friends on Free World Dialup and THEN you can call each other and get off of Ma Bell's back!

Originally uploaded by gadget
I wrote a story for Young Money Magazine, a print and online 'zine that hits over a hundred college campuses, about hardware gadgets that will let you watch YouTube on your living room television.

Devices like the Apple TV, NetGear EVA8000 Digital Entertainer HD, iPhone, your typical 3G phone, and even the iPod with third party conversion software can watch videos on YouTube. These are all covered in the story...

Check out: Tech Lover’s Guide to YouTube On-Demand

The only irony here is that most college students don't have televisions... They watch YouTube on their laptops. Oh well, students; remember this story when you graduate! :)

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Mercedes-Benz Search and Send is a very cool failure.

Mercedes-Benz Search and Send
Originally uploaded by gadget.
These guys were SO close with this innovative service that reminds me of the "send to phone" browser plug-in for Firefox. Close, however but no cigar. Look, I love the redesigned C-Class. MBZ did a great job capturing the essence of the expensive S in this platform that even I could maybe afford (like my old 90's E-Class.) My question is how could they release a GPS feature which requires a second step "pull" of the address by the owner seated in the car after the first action or the "push" from the desktop - which could come from the owner, an executive admin, or significant other who asks for an errand run.

Engineers frequently screw up the user experience - as proved with this image above showing the steps for the Mercedes-Benz Search and Send:
1. Search for the location you want to find on your laptop (good idea #1 - we do that today often)
2. Send the directions to your device (good idea #2 - we email stuff to people from the web)
3. Download at the touch of a button (really BAD idea - who thinks to dial a voice service to get the data that has already been sent via a PC?)
4. Directions pop up on the navigation system (great idea #3 - but a SMS text message could do that automatically today.)

Consumers are overwhelmed with electronics and you need to know that "multi-steps means multi-failure points" causing products to fail in the marketplace. Case in point: it was Apple who created a better ripping and purchasing software program, that we all know as iTunes, along with a playing device that auto-synced the player which won the battle of the portable players. They were not the first in the market - by a long shot, Apple just made the experience better.

Search and Send should not be the forgotten technology that it will soon become. I have seen my friend's Germany based Autobahn cruising Porsche factory audio system receive and send text messages - just by putting your SIM into the head-unit, even "way back" in 2003. The Search and Send feature of their summer 2007 vehicles should have the ability to receive this map destination information as a SMS based text message that is automatically queued within the cellular network and pops up on-screen once the car is turned on. This is technically a closed solution with the Mercedes-Benz Telematics system via a partnership with Yahoo Maps and Google Maps, so creating a parsed single or even multiple SMS (to get over the 160 character limitation) message system would have been trivial.

Very cool, nice try, but it's doomed to failure. There is always version 2.0 however.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

XBox 360 HDMI Cables
Originally uploaded by gadget
Update: Clearly I should be on the beach, not in front of my computer as this is merely an HDMI cable for the new HDMI equipped Xbox 360, not an adapter for the old one as I had "read into" it. Put down your credit cards and I promise to turn off my computer. :) From the "OMG its really about time and who knew it could do this anyway" department comes the HDMI cable accessory for our favorite aging white console, the original Xbox 360. Snuck out over the Labor Day holiday, with no press release, this $49 Xbox 360 HDMI cable plugs into the original video connector of the Xbox 360 to bring you left and right audio + optical audio and a female HDMI (also supporting audio) jack.

This means that you can avoid losing money by selling your original console on eBay to re-buy the console with the integrated HDMI jack, or the Elite XBox 360 in stylish black, which should, but does not contain an HD-DVD drive (but only a 120GB HD upgrade) and you can just limp along with your old console. That is until further upgraded (and nearly required in 2007) hardware gets placed within the 360, like a cooler CPU and HD DVD player.

Friday, July 27, 2007

iPhone losing its luster and $500 notebook computers

Sony laptop and Apple iPhone on a floating house.Since I get called upon as a guest expert by the media in the consumer electronic space, I am going to make an effort to share the outlet details here so that you can tune into the net streams....

On Saturday, July 28th '07, I'll be making a second audible appearance on WCCO Radio's Esma Murphy show at 10:10 Central time. Last time we spoke about the iPhone where I weighed in on my opinion that "Americans love tactile feedback" and do not want to look at their thumbs on a screen in order to type. We will do some follow-up on that topic, as a few of the originally heavy users of the iPhone have grown less enamored by the $600 device and are longing for the "clickity click" of their Blackberries.

Don't get me wrong as this keyboard is truly revolutionary in nature - it auto-heals or picks the correct letter that it thinks you mean to type via a real-time dictionary; It can remove buttons that are not needed depending upon the field you are typing in - for example, the space bar is converted into www, "/" and .com during input of URL's; finally as you type, letters "rise up" out of the on-screen keyboard area to above your thumbs to show you what key was registered. The only lacking feature that kept me away was a way for my thumbs to "know" where they were. Even with the virtual click of the speaker, which is a nice way to audibly recognize input, it lacks that "touch factor" that Americans love about buttons. As a feature, what if you could choose between clicks of the speaker or mini-vibrations of the silent ringer alert? Could this benefit from a type of haptic response? Sounds novel and interesting to me!

For the Saturday radio show, also on deck is a chat about sub $500 laptops and what can you get for that bargain price. Back to school season is coming in a week or two and notebooks are cheaper, and of course more powerful than ever. They are also heavy in this price point, at around 6 pounds, so paying a little more saves you a pound or two. Most people keep their laptops plugged in at home anyway...

If you want to hear more, tune into on July 28th at 10:10pm in the central time zone.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

AppleTV YouTube
Originally uploaded by gadget
The AppleTV "Upgrade software" button finally worked on June 20th, after three months of "Your Apple TV is up to date" messages. Pressing this button gives a seemingly long download of the new operating system (version 1.1) and an even longer reboot time.

Once rebooted however, two new menu items appear. In the Settings menu, a new item "iTunes Store" lets you pick your country, however no further options nor the ability to buy Movies, Music or Videos surfaces in those menus.

The big addition is the YouTube interface, with its logo looking just as shiny as the Apple created functions. As long as you have Internet connectivity on your Apple TV, the videos stream right into the device, no transcoding PC is required to sit in the middle, like the Netgear EVA-8000.

On my HDMI connected 720P DLP TV, YouTube videos actually look OK, not as blocky as I would expect on a big screen, but the content quality of course varies by the producer. The addage "Garbage in, garbage out" still applies years after my 1987 RPG and COBOL classes. Click on the photo for a few examples of stolen (music video) and user generated (crap) content in my Apple TV HDTV Flickr stream. Watching the videos within the Apple TV Top Music Videos interface still looks the best, but these HDTV published videos are still hard to come by.

You need to know that all videos on the YouTube PC interface are not available, like the quitely launched 3GPP mobile ( portal. For example, searching for Ze Frank on the YouTube PC interface gives 620 results, but on the Apple TV, none are found. There will be some time before the Adobe flash content is converted for both the Apple TV compliant H.264 and mobile 3GPP codec platform.

Now if only YouTube could get some compelling and legal content - anyone?

And why Apple, does iTunes CRUSH the AMD 3000+ CPU utilization on my machine when syncing with the AppleTV? Maybe you should check out what is going on with your Ethernet stack. (Update: This system slow-down seems to be fixed with the 7.2.035 iTunes release.)

I have also created a video walkthrough on the device to give you a look at the UI.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Killer cellphone and Kyte

I decided to check out the new web video posting service, tonight. To do my premier test, I took an MPEG video that I had lying around and uploaded it to their service. It was pretty straightforward, and I was also able to add a viewer poll to the video. I wish that I could pop the poll up at the end, I don't like it covering the video, but the service is new, and I didn't tinker with it much...

This video is from a email that circulated in late 2000 and shows a Yogoslavian or Croatian made four chamber .22 caliber gun. It is encased in a chassis resembling a mobile phone and buttons on the keypad are used to fire the rounds.

Note that these have not been found on U.S. soil, only Eastern Europe, and airport screeners have been trained to look for these weapons. This story is really only a test, but I wanted to throw a gadget into it that would make you think twice about why things like this even make their way out of people's minds and into the world.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Vista Media Center dual-screen bug

If you use a dual-screen monitor setup these days (with LCD monitors so cheap, who isn't?) there is a good chance that you will perform work on your primary monitor (the screen with the start button) and use the second monitor to multi-task and enjoy some media. I typically use my Sling Player or the Winows Media Center interface on my second monitor.

These days, I am testing Windows Vista Media Center Edition with a HDHomeRun ATSC/QAM digital tuner which outputs its video via dual 26mbps Ethernet streams. Vista does not require a legacy analog tuner, which is an improvement over MCE 2005, but there is a glaring and obvious bug. My Vista powerhouse machine (trust me, the OS requires it) is a 2.4GHz Dual Core with 2GB of RAM and a GeForce 7900 WDDM video card.

The problem with this system (besides Vista not supporting many multimedia conversion utilities) is a glaring BUG that the Media Center development team did not fix. When you move the mouse over to the Media Center monitor, make a seclection with the mouse, etc, then try to slide it back across the screen to the primary monitor, it "hits a wall." That is, as soon as you click within the Media Center "full screen" interface, your mouse becomes "locked" on that screen.

To fix this; use the Windows Media Center interface in a stretched (not maximized) window or if you are in full screen mode, you can hit ALT-TAB to re-activate the primary screen window, then after the flickering ensues, you can then move your mouse off the Media Center window and onto the Primary screen.

What a silly bug to have to blog about...