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June 11, 2011

Comparing the Big Three

Filed under Gadgets, Software, Web, Xbox 360

Apple, Google and Microsoft are the the only companies that have the products and services to go head-to-head. There are many components to consider for this next-gen battle. I threw together a table to see how they match up. There is no clear winner: this is going to be fun to watch over the next few years.

 

Apple

Google

Microsoft

Smart Phone OS

iOS

Android 2.X

Windows Phone

Smart Phone OS Market Share

26%

36%

1%

Number of Apps for Smart Phone

~400,000

~200,000

~20,000

Tablet OS

iOS

Android 3.X

Windows 8

Tablet OS Market Share

73%

22%

0%

Number of Apps for Tablet

~100,000

~30

0

Phone/Tablet Programming Language

Objective-C

Java

C#/Visual Basic/any .NET Language

Phone/Tablet Programming Language Owner

Apple

Oracle

Microsoft

Phone/Tablet Programming Language is "write once, run anywhere"

No

Yes

Yes

Desktop/Laptop OS

OS X

Chrome OS

Windows

Desktop/Laptop OS's market share

7.4%

0%

86.3%

Number of Apps for Desktop/Laptop

Few

0

Many

TV OS

Apple TV

Google TV

Xbox 360

TV OS's sold

2 million

? (sales are lower than expected)

55 million

Number of Apps for TV

Few

Few

Many

Web Browser

Safari

Chrome

Internet Explorer

Web Browser Market Share

(from Wikipedia)

6.3%

14.6%

43.2%

Search Engine

None

Google

Bing

Search Engine market share

0%

64.42%

30.0%

Instant Messaging

iChat

Google Talk

Windows Live Messenger/Skype

Instant Messaging market share

Low

~4%

~70%

Web Mail (includes calendar and contacts)

None

Gmail

Hotmail

Web Mail Market Share

0

16.2%

24.6%

Desktop Word Processor

Pages for Mac

None

Word

Desktop Word Processor Market Share (not based on  data)

Low

0%

High

Desktop Spreadsheet

Numbers for Mac

None

Excel

Desktop Spreadsheet Market Share (not based on data)

Low

0%

High

Desktop Presentations

Keynote for Mac

None

PowerPoint

Desktop Presentations Market Share (not based on data)

Low

0%

High

Web Word Processor

None

Google docs

Word Web App

Web Spreadsheet

None

Google docs

Excel Web App

Web Presentations

None

Google docs

PowerPoint Web App

Mobile Word Processor

Pages for iOS

Google docs for Android

Word Mobile

Mobile Spreadsheet

Numbers for iOS

Google docs for Android

Excel Mobile

Mobile Presentations

Keynote for iOS

Google docs for Android

PowerPoint Mobile

Music/Video Store

iTunes

None

Zune

Music/Video Store Market Share (not based on data)

High

0%

Low

Music Subscription

None

None

Zune Pass

Maps

None

Google Maps

Bing Maps

Cloud Storage

iCloud

Google Docs

SkyDrive

 

 

Key

  • Competitive Advantage
  • Competitive Disadvantage

 

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April 17, 2011

Upgrade to SSD

Filed under Computers, Gadgets

The best thing about electronics that break: replacing them!

My hard drive hard drive was starting to die. I don’t like the idea that the device I count on to store my data is not reliable.

I decided to try something new this time: a solid-state drive (SSD). I bought an 250GB Intel Solid-State Drive 510.

Here is my Experience Index before installing the SSD.

Original Experience Index

Here is my Experience Index after installing the SSD.

After

August 10, 2010

Comic-Con 2010 Day 1 – part 1

Filed under Gadgets, Movies, Video Games, Xbox 360

I went to my first Comic-Con this year and had a really good time. Comic-Con is HUGE…over 140,000 people this year. Getting a ticket is tough. All passes were sold out in November 2009 (9 months before the show!). Luckily, I’m considered a “professional” and got a free pass just 2 months before Comic-Con.

IMAG0038

I am not into comic books, so I was not sure how much there would be that interested me.

I arrived on Friday morning. On my way to the convention center, I noticed all the gas lamps in the Gaslamp Quarter were decorated with TRON posters for the new movie.

IMAG0034I am a big fan of TRON. If there was one thing I wanted to see at Comic-Con, it would be anything TRON related.

And look what I happen to walk past on the way to the convention center…

IMAG0035 Flynn’s Arcade!

I asked the people in line what was happening. “Press event.” Dang! I really wanted to see what was inside.

I continued to the convention center and saw the “Black Beauty” from the upcoming movie “The Green Hornet.”

IMAG0036

IMAG0037

Once inside, I saw a huge “recognizer” from a distance. First stop: find out what is going on with TRON.P1030480 There were were a couple dressed up in TRON garb working the booth.

P1030481

They were giving away a light cycle toy if you waited in line. I decided to pass on that one due to line length.

There are going to be a TON of product tie-ins with this movie. Some of the products were on display. I may have to get the Xbox 360 controller.

P1030489 P1030488 P1030487 P1030486 P1030485 P1030484 P1030483 P1030482

They also had the Lightcycle from last year’s Comic-Con on display.

P1030491 P1030490

I asked about access to Flynn’s Arcade. I was told Flynn’s Arcade would be open to the public after lunch. You could get tickets later in the day at the booth, or just go to the Flynn’s Arcade directly.

Some neat new Star Wars Lego kits coming out.

P1030492

Slave 1 with frozen Han Solo

 P1030494

TIE Defender

P1030493

Imperial Shuttle

I stopped by the Xbox 360 setup at the Hard Rock Hotel so I could try out Kinect.

P1030495

I tried out “Dance Central” in front of a group of people. It was fun, but you can’t help but feel like a big dork…especially as you learn the moves. I’m definitely getting this when it comes out.

Here is a clip I took of a guy playing Dance Central. There is a kid that is running around and it doesn’t mess up the tracking.

P1030496 The other game that really stood out was LIMBO. It looks like no other game I’ve seen. I picked it up as soon as I got home and have already finished it. Read my review here.

Next up: Heading to Flynn’s Arcade.

July 4, 2010

iTunes Hacked!

Filed under Computers, Gadgets, Music

image

 

iTunes: Hello, I'm iTunes.

Zune: And I'm Zune.

iTunes: I think somebody stole my wallet!

Zune: How could that happen?

iTunes: Someone must have hacked my account.

Zune: You should call someone immediately!

iTunes: I wish! There is no support phone number for iTunes.

Zune: So what are you supposed to do?

iTunes: Email.

Zune: This is urgent! How quickly will they respond to email?

iTunes: Within 48 hours. You know how it is.

Zune: Actually, I don’t.

iTunes: Oh, you get a better response than an email back in 48 hours?

Zune: I can contact support via phone 7 days a week, from 6am until 10pm.

iTunes: Well you better contact them now!

Zune: I’ll be fine.

iTunes: Don’t be a hero, Zune! iTunes has been hacked!

Zune: iTunes…but not Zune.

 

 

Source: http://thenextweb.com/apple/2010/07/04/app-store-hacked/

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June 7, 2010

Android First Impressions

Filed under Gadgets, Reviews

I picked up an HTC EVO 4G on Friday.

image

One year ago I bought a Palm Pre. I *love* the Palm Pre. My biggest issue with the Pre is a lack of new products (still no follow-on announced) and the lost developer momentum.

Android, on the other hand, is doing very well in those departments.

What I like:

  • Voice search – just press and hold the search button on the bottom right, then say what you are looking for and the phone gives you the Google search results for what you just said. I’m shocked how accurate it is, especially considering there is no voice training involved. This is definitely easier/quicker than typing and it has already changed how I use a smart phone.
  • Similarly, the on screen keyboard has an option to let you speak instead of type. I’ve used it for a few text messages and find it useful. I’m curious if I’ll use this more than the actual keyboard for txt messages…if it saves me keystrokes, then I will.
  • Google Maps has Street View! Maps is a killer app for mobile phones…and having access to Street View makes it even more so. I really like how you can rotate your body in order to spin around in Street View.
  • Google Scoreboard app: This app tracks your favorite teams, and tells you what time they are playing (in *your* time zone), where they are on TV/radio, and can notify you with score updates at start/end of game, or after every quarter, or score. It works great, it is free, and it has no ads.
  • EVO uses the same Micro USB port that the Pre uses, so I don’t need new charging cables for home/work/car.
  • Facebook app…written by Facebook. Automatically populates your phone’s contact list with information (email, phone numbers, address, etc) and profile pics.
  • Twitter app…written by Twitter. Like the Facebook app, the Twitter app integrates with Android so that any contacts you have that don’t have pictures associated with them can get their profile pics from Twitter. App has fun cloud/bird animations that give it a unique look and feel.
  • Foursquare app…written by Foursquare. Unlike the Pre version, this actually works well.
  • Gmail. The Android version of Gmail is is more full featured than the Pre mail program (supports labels, collapsing conversations to a single message).
  • Animated wallpaper.
  • Shazam. Ever hear a song and wonder who sings it? Shazam can listen to just a few seconds of a song and tell you what it is. This *is* magical software.
  • Phone kickstand. You can see a metal bar on the back on the phone in the image above. That metal bar extends so you can place your phone in landscape mode on a table for easy viewing. Useful when you use your phone as an alarm clock, watching movies, or a mini computer. Just add a wireless keyboard and you have a *very* portable computer, except the screen may be too small for heavy usage. Which brings me to…
  • HDMI out. The phone can output to a TV via an HDMI cable (video/sound). If you want a much bigger display than the already ginormous 4.3 inch screen…just plug it into your TV!
  • Mobile hotspot. You can use the EVO as a Wi-Fi access point for up to 8 devices! Finally…I can connect my laptop to the internet via my phone. My Pre could not do that (but my old Windows Mobile 6 Palm Treo could).
  • Web browser. I found that more web pages load correctly on the EVO than they did on my Pre.
  • I haven’t really thought about the performance of this phone, mostly because I haven’t had to wait for anything. I guess that means 1 GHz Snapdragon processor is fast.
  • Android has a lot of momentum now, I only expect it to grow. It is nice to have a phone that developers are targeting instead of being an afterthought. There are a ton of apps to play with…much more than what is available for the Pre.
  • Big 4.3” screen makes everything better: more details visible on maps, on screen keyboard has large buttons even in portrait mode, video more enjoyable to watch.
  • HTC’s custom software is actually useful and not crap ware like I was expecting. I like the home screen big clock, weather, alarms, timer, and stopwatch. You can turn on a low light clock that stays on at all times if you want to use your phone as an alarm clock. The pinch to zoom for access to the 7 home screens is very fast/useful.
  • Front facing camera for video chats. Not sure when I’ll use this, but it is nice to know I can.
  • HD video recording at 720p.
  • 8MP camera with 2 LED flashes.
  • Supports 32 GB microSD card.
  • Adobe Flash! It isn’t here on this Android release (2.1), but it should be when 2.2 come out…which won’t be long.

What I don’t like/miss:

  • Keyboard. I still prefer the confidence of typing with actual keys.
  • Notifications. They are handled *perfectly* on the Pre. Android needs some work. Android email notification only says you have a new message. Pre tells you who sent it and the message subject. Notifications on the Pre could be selectively deleted. So far, I’ve only been able to delete all notifications at once with Android.
  • Task management. Pre has this done right, too. On the Pre, you press the “home” button and you instantly see small “cards” representing all the running applications. You swipe an app up to send it off the screen and kill it. You can rearrange the order of running apps. You can use the swipe left/right gesture to quickly move between running apps without going to a home screen/task switcher dialog (like pressing/releasing Alt-tab). With Android, I don’t see a way to kill an app (Android is supposed to manage this for you). Android appears to only support switching between 6 apps via a dialog that comes up when you press and hold the “home” button. It’s not terrible…but not as slick as the Pre.
  • The Pre uses a universal swipe to the left or right to delete an item (like a mail message or a notification). Once you learn this, you expect you can do it anywhere…which is true on the Pre. Android doesn’t support the swipe to delete gesture…but I wish it did.
  • The Pre has the touchstone charger that lets you charge your phone by simply laying it on a “puck”…wireless charging. If you get a call, you lift the phone off the puck and the call is automatically answered, just like the way a traditional phone works. Also if you start a speaker phone conversation while on the the puck, lifting the phone off the puck will switch speaker phone off. EVO just plugs into a micro USB cable. :(
  • The battery life is about the same as what I was getting with the Pre…I have to charge a minimum of once a day, or more if I really use the phone. I keep it plugged in overnight and have a charger at work as well. It’s not a step back from the Pre, but I’d like to get back to the days when a cell phone only needed charging once a week.
  • On the Pre, you can slide your launch icons where ever you want. If an icon is already in the location, it will slide out of the way to a new location allowing for easy insertions. Android, on the other hand, won’t let you do this. You must first make an empty space before you can drag an icon to a location. Not a big deal…but not as slick as the Pre.

After using the EVO for a weekend and getting used to Android…I’m hooked. The EVO isn’t perfect and I do miss some of some of Pre’s niceties. Overall, the good almost makes you forget the bad.

I would recommend the EVO and Android to anyone.

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February 17, 2010

Windows Phone 7 Series

Filed under Gadgets

This week, Microsoft announced the latest update to their smart phone OS called Windows Phone 7 Series.

What I like:

  • Beautiful, unique user interface
  • A task-based interface instead of application-based
    • For example, a contact will contain standard contact information, plus that person’s facebook status updates
  • Integration with social networks
  • Unlimited music access via Zune Pass
  • Xbox Live integration (can get achievement points via games on your phone)
  • Strict hardware requirements
    • Resolution
    • 3 hardware buttons (back, start, search)
    • GPS
    • Capacitance Multi-touch screen

I’ll be watching this phone closely…I like what I see so far.

Check out this video to see Windows Phone 7 Series in action.

December 31, 2009

3D in Theaters

Filed under 3D, Gadgets, Movies

RealD Home Page Sample_BL_2008-10-06

Dolby_3D_logo logo

There are multiple ways to do 3D in movie theaters. My favorite is RealD because of the image quality and the potential of getting normal sunglasses that work in a theater. I saw Avatar in both RealD and Dolby 3D and could not tell a difference…both looked great.

Here’s a table to help keep it straight:

Company

Company Technology # of Theaters Cost of Glasses Can tilt head Notes
RealD Circular Polarization (passive) 5,000 $0.65 Yes
  • Polarized light reduce image brightness
  • Requires special silver screen to maintain polarized light and reflect more light to make up for brightness loss during polarization
  • Projector must be brighter than normal to address light loss during polarization
  • Silver screen has more narrow viewing angle and issues with over-saturation in the center of the screen (NOTE: 2D movies may not look as good in 3D equipped theaters)
  • Can get prescription glasses and sun glasses with circular polarization so you can wear your own glasses during movie/outside of theater
  • Theater locator
Dolby 3D Color Filter (passive) 2,200 $28 Yes
  • Works with normal screen,  normal brightness
  • Glasses can’t be used outside of theater
  • Theater locator
XpanD LCD Shutter (active) 2,000 $50 Yes
  • If something blocks the sensor on the glasses, the shutter stops
  • I notice the flicker of the shutter glasses and get eye fatigue
  • Glasses use batteries
  • Glasses can’t be used outside of theater
  • Theater locator

IMAX 3D uses either linear polarization (which means you *cannot* tilt your head), or LCD shutter glasses, depending on theater.

My biggest issues are…

  1. Letting you tilt your head during a movie
  2. Headaches from LCD shutter glasses

For now, I’m avoiding XpandD and IMAX 3D for 3D movies.

Much of this info is from this article.

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September 1, 2009

Home Theater Nirvana

Filed under Gadgets, HDTV, Reviews

image I bought a new super remote: the Nevo Q50.

What I like:

  • Don’t have to aim remote (uses RF to talk to Nevo Connect, which is connected to my devices via IR Emitters)
  • Can use remote in any room
  • No number pad (those keys are wasted on me)
  • Almost everything can be done via 31 hard buttons
  • Four hard buttons that use the remote’s screen for labeling
  • One-handed operation
  • Voltage sensor for devices that do not have discreet on/off codes (like the PS3)
  • Completely customizable color, 320x240 touch screen
  • NevoStudio Pro 2.0 - really good/easy software for programming
  • You can get the screens to look *exactly* like you want. For example, I just took an image from the manual for my PS3 controller and made that a screen. Then I placed hotspots on the buttons that mapped to the actual IR remote output for a PS3 (via IR2BT).

What I don’t like:

  • Has to be charged approximately every three days
  • Software only runs on 32 bit Vista (not 64 bit Windows 7, which is what I normally run)
  • You get obsessed wanting to customize the screens to look perfect…and you are never finished
  • Resistive screen doesn’t work well with fingers (fingernails work better)

I bought the Nevo Q50 Remote, Nevo Connect, and NevoStudio Pro 2.0 software for about $550 on eBay from a merchant called “jdm-cafe.” Normally, you buy this remote from a home theater installer that will do all the programming for you…but what fun is that? I think this remote is more than a $1000 if you buy it from an installer.

I bought a voltage sensor (for my PS3) and 6 IR emitters from Remote Shoppe for about $140.

To figure out when my PS3 is powered on, I connected the voltage sensor to the power lines on a USB cable I plugged into the PS3. I learned about this technique for detecting the power state of a PS3 here.

I’m really happy with how slick this setup works. *NOW*, everything just works. Press the “PS3” button and…

  • TV turns on
  • TV switches to HDMI for PS3
  • Receiver turns on
  • Receiver switches to PS3 digital audio
  • PS3 powers on (if it isn’t already on)
  • Remote switches to PS3 control, with volume keys controlling the receiver

And when I’m done, I press “Power Down System”…

  • TV turns off
  • Receiver turns off
  • PS3 is sent a macro for turning off (if it is currently on)

Mmmmmmm…home theater nirvana! This makes me *really* happy. :)

August 16, 2009

SIGGRAPH: Stereoscopic 3D

Filed under 3D, Gadgets, HDTV, Movies, SIGGRAPH

image

Stereoscopic 3D (S-3D) was big at SIGGRAPH this year and left me thoroughly impressed. For me, it was the biggest news of SIGGRAPH 2009.

What is S-3D? S-3D creates the illusion of depth, like you would see with a View-Master. Instead of a single image, each eye has a unique perspective of the image.

Why is S-3D hot all the sudden?

Hollywood has taken notice of the increased revenue, and it shows. There is a surge in the number of 3D movies coming out.

There are many ways you can see S-3D. Two technologies that standout as the best:

RealD has most of the market currently. I don’t have any stats, but I believe I heard in the SIGGRAPH panel that over 1,000 theaters are RealD-capable now and they have more than 90% of the market for 3D cinema. To use RealD, theaters need a special silver screen to reflect more light and keep the light polarized. They also need a RealD filter device in front of the projector to polarize frames for the left eye and right eye. The glasses are cheap to produce and can be recycled or replaced.

Dolby 3D uses color filters instead of polarizing light. Each eye can only see certain colors, but amazingly appears as a full color image. Dolby 3D uses a standard white screen. A big advantage is there is no special screen to buy and thus 2D movies are not impacted by a theater’s move to 3D-capable. I’m not sure how a 2D movie looks on RealD’s silver screen, but I’ve been told it does look different than using a standard white screen. The Dolby 3D glasses are not cheap like the RealD glasses, and theaters must be careful not to lose the glasses.

I’ve seen both RealD and Dolby3D and I can’t pick a winner…both look really good.

Movies are obvious candidates for S-3D…but I saw other forms of entertainment that *really* shine in 3D. In the SIGGRAPH panel, I watched a demo reel from 3ality Digital that showed scenes from an NFL game, an NBA game, and a U2 concert. Seeing a live event in 3D is *very* compelling.

Two scenes stood out in my head:

  1. A running back trying to break through a wall of linemen and eventually forced out of bounds and into the 3D camera made the entire audience react as the running back kept getting closer to us. We had the same reaction as if we were standing there preparing to get hit.
  2. Watching the kicker kickoff. Seeing the ball from the opposite end zone is nearly impossible with the sea of people in the background…but in 3D, the ball popped out in front and was very clear, even though it was very small.

I can’t wait for movie theaters to start hosting NFL/NBA games in 3D…I’ll definitely shell out some cash to see that.

I’m a believer in 3D for movie theaters…I’ll definitely go see every movie in 3D that I can.

But what about in your home?

That is getting very interesting very quickly.

JVC had a 46 inch LCD on display at SIGGRAPH that uses the same technique as RealD…and it looked really good. The bad news: You lose half your resolution because each frame contains the left and right images instead of just a single image. That means you *cannot* do 1080p currently in 3D.

However, HDMI 1.4 fixes this with its “3D over HDMI” feature.

Panasonic should have a 3D-capable set by next year. Sony has not made a 3D  announcement yet, but was very active in the SIGGRAPH panel…so you can draw your own conclusions.

So you get a Blu-ray player and TV that supports HDMI 1.4…what about 3D content? There is *no* standard for 3D yet…so anything you buy now may be worthless when a standard is decided.

My advice for 3D in the home: wait. It is coming, but it looks like it is still a few years away.

As soon as 3D for the home is standardized…I’m jumping in…I’m hooked on this stuff.

The SIGGRAPH panel left some good websites to follow for information on this topic:

June 10, 2009

My New Phone: Palm Pre

Filed under Gadgets, Reviews

I was impressed with the Palm Pre when it was announced to the world at CES back in January.

It has the cool UI of the iPhone and the keyboard of a Blackberry…a killer combination.

I stood in line at the Van Ness Sprint store in San Francisco the past Saturday. I got there at 7:30am and I was issued ticket #17.

image

I was able to pickup a Pre around 10:30am, but not the cool new Touchstone “wireless” charger because they were already sold out. I ordered one and should have it by next week.

What do I think?

I love it.

What I like

  1. A keyboard! It is almost identical to a Palm Treo Pro (my previous phone). Some keys were rearranged for better internet typing. For example, the @ sign can be typed without using the alt key. The keyboard is a huge deal. When you type a message, you still get the full screen, instead of just half (or less) on iPhone’s virtual keyboard.
  2. Multi-tasking. I can run Pandora radio in the background, Facebook, Twitter, load multiple web pages, write an email, use Google Maps, and have multiple txt message conversations, and jump back and forth between these running apps. If you listen to Apple (I recommend you don’t…they liea lot), they’d have you believe phones *can’t* do multitasking…and their dumbed down “push notification” is the solution. Whatever! The iPhone is the *only* smart phone that can’t do multi-tasking. You don’t know how much you need multi-tasking until you don’t have it anymore.
  3. Notifications! You can keep working while email/txt messages arrive…notifications don’t get in the way…unless you want to deal with them. See it action here.
  4. Camera has a flash…night time photos now possible with cell phone. Camera is very quick to start, take pictures. It seems like good quality 3MP images, too.
  5. Copy/Paste keyboard shortcuts are *fast*…works much better than using a menu to do copy/paste. To copy, select text by holding the shift key while dragging on the screen, then put one finger on the gesture area (button will light up) and press the “c” key. To paste, touch where you want to insert (or hold orange key to move cursor more precisely with your finger), and then touch the gesture area with one figure (button will light up) and press the “v” key.
  6. The Touchstone charger is just slick (see end of notifications video above)
  7. The Palm Pre SDK runs on PC’s (Windows, Linux, Mac). iPhone SDK only runs on Mac. Also, the Pre SDK does *not* use Objective-C (who uses that?!?!? Oh yeah, just Apple)! I’m trying to get the Pre SDK now.
  8. Adobe Flash Support coming!
  9. Tethering (coming soon)
  10. Smaller than an iPhone…fits better in your pocket.
  11. Linked contacts. I added my Facebook account to my Pre contacts and then all of my exchange contacts that have Facebook accounts suddenly have Facebook profile pics associated with them (for email, txt messages, phone calls). Very cool! Here’s a demo of contacts on the Pre.
  12. Gestures. I didn’t appreciate gestures until I started using the phone…but now I’m hooked. Gestures let you quickly do various common tasks (go back, quick launch apps, switch between apps, close apps) without using any valuable screen real-estate by flicking your finger in certain ways. Here is a demo of gestures.
  13. My phone hasn’t had a typical day yet since I keep showing people what it can do and I’m constantly playing with it. Currently, I’m sitting at 35% of the battery left at almost midnight…not bad!
  14. I’m on Sprint now (had AT&T). At work, with AT&T I had *no* signal until I left the building. With Sprint, I get two bars consistently…my phone is now usable at work.
  15. Wi-Fi on my old phone would drain the battery quickly, so I rarely used it. I’ve read the Palm Pre uses *less* battery with Wi-Fi than using the cellular network for loading data. Good to know!

What I don’t like

  1. Can’t send a txt message to multiple people…or at least I haven’t found a way.
  2. Can’t have more than three “launcher” pages (for starting apps)
  3. No support for iCalendar events. For my previous phone, I’d forward events from my work calendar to my home email as iCalendar and I could easily add them to my home calendar via my phone. Pre doesn’t support this (yet?)

So far my Pre has been amazingly stable with few bugs…unheard of in a 1.0 product.

I expect things to get more interesting as Palm updates the software with more features and more apps are developed for the Pre.

Highly recommended!

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April 26, 2009

In Search of the Perfect Keyboard

Filed under Computers, Gadgets

I have had 6 different keyboards in the last 2 years. I’m always looking for the *perfect* keyboard. My perfect keyboard would have…

  • Backlighting
  • Volume knob
  • Media keys
  • Standard layout
  • Wireless (with *no* dropped keystrokes or delays)
  • Thin profile
  • Pointing stick (so I can use the mouse without taking my fingers off the keys)
  • Small footprint

I don’t think that keyboard exists.

I got a new Logitech keyboard this week. So far, I’m happy with it.

My favorite so far is the Dell Multimedia Keyboard (see end of post).

 

Here are the last 5 keyboards I’ve had in reverse chronological order and what I liked/didn’t like about them.

Logitech Illuminated Keyboard

image

Pro

  • Backlit
  • Cool looking/thin
  • No wasted “extra” keys
  • Volume keys
  • Function keys have normal operation first (can be changed)
  • Small footprint

Con

  • Non-standard layout (delete key/insert key/scroll lock)
  • Not wireless
  • Uses volume buttons instead of knob
  • Media keys don’t work well with Zune player (opened a support item on this)

 

Microsoft Wired Keyboard 600

image Pro

  • Standard layout
  • Calculator hot key
  • Volume keys
  • Small footprint

Con

  • Delay with volume keys
  • Not illuminated
  • Not wireless

 

Microsoft Wireless Keyboard 6000

imagePro

  • Slight curve to keyboard is nice without being radically different than standard keyboard
  • Wireless
  • Good looking/thin

Con

  • Non-standard function key layout
  • Hard to tell which keys were volume keys
  • Not illuminated
  • Many special keys that I never used
  • Sometimes pressing keys would do nothing, reconnecting USB transmitter fixed issue

Microsoft Reclusa Gaming Keyboard

imagePro

  • Backlit

Con

  • Big
  • Extra buttons I don’t care about
  • No volume controls
  • No media keys
  • Flakey keyboard management software
  • Not wireless

 

Dell USB Multimedia Keyboard

imagePro

  • Excellent volume knob! Can easily turn it up/down quickly by feel. *Much* better than volume keys.
  • Media keys layout around volume knob works well. Track forward/back different size than other media keys so they can be used by feel.
  • Standard keyboard layout
  • Small footprint

Con

  • Not backlit
  • Not wireless

 

April 10, 2009

David vs. David: Blu-Ray/DVD Taste Test

Filed under Gadgets, HDTV, Movies, Work

image

First, some background.

I showed David Bullock, a buddy of mine from work, a blog post I did about HD-DVD vs. DVD and how the difference for a typical TV size and viewing distance is not as obvious as you would think.

We got in several “discussions” about the topic. DavidB thought it would be easy to tell the difference between Blu-ray and DVD. I claimed it would be difficult.

Who would be right?

Arguing got us no where. We decided to settle this like they did in the Pepsi Challenge: a “Blu-Ray/DVD Taste Test.”

The loser of the test has to take the winner out for dinner at a restaurant of their choosing.

The taste test had the following rules:

  • 10 popular movies of David Lenihan’s choosing
  • Play a scene of David Lenihan’s choosing
  • May be all DVD, all Blu-ray, or a mix
  • Played in random order
  • No replaying
  • No pausing
  • Played on a PlayStation 3 connected to a Sony XBR3 46” LCD via HDMI
  • TV/PS3 running at 1080p
  • Tuned with Blu-ray Digital Video Essentials
  • 1:1 Pixel Mapping for Blu-ray content
  • Test subjects cannot watch video setup or when video stops
  • Viewing distance of 6ft or more
  • Scoring is as follows:
    • 1 point for each movie identified correctly as Blu-ray or DVD
    • -1 point for each movie incorrectly identified
    • 0 points for blank answer

I invited people from work to join in the fun.

image

From left to right: CharlieK, Ed, DavidB, Shelly, Greg, An, and Ted.

Here are the movies I showed:

  1. Death Proof - DVD
  2. Matrix – DVD
  3. Dark City – DVD
  4. Pixar’s Lifted – Blu-Ray
  5. Reservoir Dogs – Blu-Ray
  6. Close Encounters of the Third Kind – Blu-Ray
  7. Sleeping Beauty – Blu-Ray
  8. Terminator 2 – Blu-Ray
  9. Blade Runner – DVD
  10. Sin City – DVD

I had everybody predict what their score would be on the scorecard.

Here are the results (click on the names to see the actual scorecard)…

Place Name Predicted Score Actual Score
1. Greg 5 6
2. (tie) An (left blank) 0
2. (tie) Shelly 5 0
4. (tie) DavidB 6 -1
4. (tie) Ed 3 -1
6. CharlieK 2 -2
7. Ted 6 -3

 

Some interesting results:

  • Everyone picked Lifted as Blu-ray, and it was
  • Everyone picked Sin City as Blu-ray, but it was DVD
  • A score of zero is what you would expect if someone guessed on every movie. Only Greg beat the guessing score.
  • Ted did 9 points worse than he predicted, the biggest disparity
  • Greg was the only person that did better than they predicted, by 1 point
  • The average score was –0.14, which is worse than the guessing average

So where should I have David take me to dinner? Post your suggestions in the comments.

This was a lot of fun…thanks to my buds from work for coming out and being great sports!

March 21, 2009

I’m a PC

Filed under Computers, Gadgets, Software

I really like this ad…

 

Here are two more “I’m a PC” ads: Alexa and Adam. All Microsoft ads are here.

From an advertising standpoint, I’m impressed with how Microsoft dealt with the “I’m a Mac/I’m a PC” ads.

It is interesting to compare the contrasting styles of the ads:

  • Hollywood actors vs. real people
  • White background set vs. real places
  • Attacking the competition vs. showing how your product works

By embracing the “I’m a PC” catchphrase and putting a positive spin on it, Apple’s “I’m a Mac” ads are now connected to Microsoft’s “I’m a PC” ads.

Is this why we haven’t seen a new “I’m a Mac” ad since Christmas 2008?

March 1, 2009

UI…from the Future

Filed under Computers, Gadgets, Software

Microsoft posted a *very* slick 2 minute video of user interface concepts they imagine will be in use 10 years from now…

 

A longer (5 min) version with more focus on the UI’s is here…

 

Exciting stuff!

Things that jumped out at me:

  • The “transparent” wall conversation between the kid in the US and and the kid in India
  • The single credit card that contains all of your cards
  • The interactive newspaper
  • The arrow on the ground at the airport that leads you where you need to go
  • Zooming in and out by bringing a device closer/further from you
  • The “transparent” coffee cup that shows the liquid level and temperature
  • Devices that are completely wrapped in a screen so the the entire device is a drawing surface

February 19, 2009

Multi-Touch on Resistive Screens

Filed under Gadgets

image

Touch-screen phones existed well before the iPhone. The iPhone is different because it supports multi-touch. The iPhone uses a capacitance screen instead of the traditional resistive screen.

I assumed that a capacitance screen was a requirement to get multi-touch…until I watched this video.

Stantum is demonstrating a way to do multi-touch with resistive screens.

Advantages of resistive multi-touch screens over capacitance screens:

  • Cheaper
  • Works with *any* input: finger, fingernails, gloves, stylus, paint brush, etc.

This tech is a game changer…stay tuned.

January 8, 2009

iPhone, Your Competition has Arrived

Filed under Gadgets

imageToday at CES, Palm announced a new phone called the Palm Pre (rhymes with “tree”).

I consider this the first true competitor to Apple’s iPhone.

Other phones try to duplicate the iPhone and end up not as good. The Palm Pre is what the iPhone *should* be. Apple finally has a reason to be worried.

This is the first cell phone since the iPhone where the hardware and the OS (“WebOS”) are made by the same company.

The Pre has a screen resolution of 480x320, like the iPhone. It supports multi-touch, like the iPhone. It has a WebKit-based web browser, like the iPhone. It rotates its display orientation when you rotate the phone, like the iPhone. It has an app store, like the iPhone.

image

Here’s what I like about the Pre over the iPhone…

  • Full keyboard, slides out (see photo, right)
  • No virtual keyboard means more screen real estate for your apps
  • Support for copy/paste
  • Supports running multiple apps at the same time
  • Removable battery
  • Consolidated contact list. Outlook, Gmail, and Facebook contacts are all stored in a single contact list with no duplicated entries.
  • Consolidated calendar
  • Consolidated IM
  • Combine work calendar with personal calendar in a single calendar. When syncing, only work items sync with work (so you don’t put your personal calendar on your company’s Outlook calendar).
  • Smaller/lighter than the iPhone

The new UI is *amazing*. Check out the launch demo to see the UI in action:

I love the iPhone UI. I think the Pre UI is better.

I’m really excited about this phone. I’ll probably pick one up when they come out in the next few months.

January 6, 2009

The Apple MacBook Wheel

Filed under Computers, Funny, Gadgets

This is a big week for gadget lovers with CES and MacWorld about to get started.

Here is the first cool new gadget I’ve heard about: Apple’s latest laptop adopts the iPod click wheel…


Apple Introduces Revolutionary New Laptop With No Keyboard

 

January 4, 2009

Getting Rid of My Crap

Filed under Gadgets, Video Games, Web, Xbox 360

image

I have a closet full of electronics that I don’t use anymore. I am going to get rid of them via eBay and make some cash doing it.

I updated my website so I have a link to my current eBay items on the right (only shows on my home page, not individual posts).

Here is my first item: my old Xbox 360…

Xbox 360 w/ 20 GB, 11 games, HD DVD player w/ 4 movies

 

December 14, 2008

What I Use

Filed under Computers, Gadgets, Software, Web

Here is a list of software, hardware, and web sites that I use at home.

Software

Operating System Vista Ultimate SP1
Programming C++/C# Visual Studio 2008
Debugging Utilities Dependency Walker
Process Monitor
Blogging Windows Live Writer Beta
Web Browsing Internet Explorer 8 Beta
Music Manager Zune 3.1
Email/Calendar/Contacts/To Do’s Outlook 2007
Word Processing Word 2007
Spreadsheets Excel 2007
Personal Finance Quicken 2007
3D Package Maya 8.0
Image Editing Photoshop CS3
Video Editing Premiere Pro CS3
DVD Authoring Encore CS3
Vector Editing Illustrator CS3
Video Compositing After Effects CS3
Sound Editing Soundbooth CS3
MP3 Purchase Zune Marketplace
Amazon MP3
Printing Utility FinePrint
Text Editor Notepad++
Diff Files/Folders Araxis Merge
FTP SmartFTP
Web Hosting 1&1
Weblog Publishing System (for creating davidlenihan.com) Movable Type

 

Hardware

MP3 Player Zune 120 GB
Sansa Clip (for jogging)
PhatBox (for car)
Computer Dell Dimension E520
Monitor/speakers Dell 24” LCD 2407WFP
Laptop Lenovo Ideapad U110
Printer/Scanner/Copier HP Photosmart 3310 All-In-One
Keyboard Microsoft Wireless Keyboard 6000
Mouse Microsoft Explorer Mouse
3D Mouse 3Dconnexion Spaceball 5000

 

Web

Home Page iGoogle
RSS Reader Google Reader
Search Engine Google
Social Networking Facebook
Linkedin
Micro-blogging Twitter


November 14, 2008

Best Gadget Blog Post Ever

Filed under Funny, Gadgets, WTF

imageCheck out this post about a new medical robot from Japan. The comments are pretty good, too. Wow.

October 20, 2008

New Phone: Palm Treo Pro

Filed under Gadgets

imageI ordered my new phone today, a Palm Treo Pro.

It is going to replace my current phone, the AT&T Tilt.

The phone is not available from any carrier. You must buy it unlocked (no contract!) directly from Palm.

What I like...

  • Perfect phone form factor: physical keyboard that you can access without flipping open. Also, you can use the phone with one hand and type with your thumb.
  • 320x320 display...no need to rotate
  • Higher res than my current phone (320x240)
  • Thinner than my current phone and much lighter
  • Button for disabling ringer
  • Button for WiFi access
  • Supports 32 GB MicroSDHC cards
  • Can see time, missed calls, voice mail status without turning the phone on
  • Window Mobile Pro 6.1 (the new texting client is really good)
  • Full Exchange support (email, contacts, calendar, task list)
  • 3.5mm stereo headset jack...you can use standard headphones
  • Can be used as a modem for a laptop, either wirelessly (via Bluetooth) or via USB
  • GPS (although I almost never use it on my current phone)
  • Uses MicroUSB for charging (which is what my last phone used, so I can use the same cables)
  • Touch Screen

August 20, 2008

Samsung Omnia (i900) Unboxing

Filed under Funny, Gadgets

Wow! Finally somebody has figured out how to outdo Apple when it comes to product packaging.

I may need to get this phone.

June 20, 2008

Why I Won't Get the iPhone 3G

Filed under Gadgets

imageI was really excited about the new iPhone 3G that will be out July 11th.

Two things that were requirements for me were missing in the original iPhone: 3G and Exchange support.

I care about Exchange support because I have my own Exchange server via 1&1. This lets me use Outlook on my desktop, and a web browser anywhere else to access my email/calendar/contact list. My AT&T Tilt supports Exchange, so I also have access on my phone. With Exchange, you don't have to sync anything...update data in one place and it is automatically updated everywhere.

The new iPhone adds 3G and Exchange support.

Now there was nothing stopping me from getting an iPhone...until I started digging a little deeper.

iPhone is missing several features that I currently have on my AT&T Tilt and I'm not prepared to give up. These missing features are enough for me to change my mind and pass on the new iPhone.

What's missing from the iPhone 3G (but my current phone has)?

The best thing about the iPhone is how much focus mobile phones are getting now...I expect to see some interesting developments over the next year from Google's new phone OS Android and the next versions of Window Mobile.

June 19, 2008

Skyfire

Filed under Gadgets, Reviews, Web

Wow! This *really* changes how I use my cell phone.

Skyfire is a web browser that works just like the web browser that runs on your PC. It supports Java, Javascript, Flash, Quicktime, etc.

I haven't had any trouble with any website I've tried: facebook, match, youtube, davidlenihan.com, espn...all sites that wouldn't work or had formatting issues with the mobile version of Internet Explorer that comes with Windows Mobile.

With Skyfire, you use the normal website, not the dumbed down versions designed to fit on a small screen. Audio and video work as expected.

I downloaded the beta for free...but considering how much utility this brings to my phone...I'd pay a lot for this software...it's worth it! I feel like I got a new phone...probably because the web browser was the weakest part of Windows Mobile.

Check out the demo to see it in action...

June 14, 2008

New Laptop

Filed under Computers, Gadgets, Reviews

image

I got a new laptop last week. It is a Lenovo IdeaPad 110. Lenovo was previously IBM's laptop division responsible for ThinkPads.

The main reason I went with this one is how light/small it is and it still has a good keyboard. It weighs less than 2.5 pounds and easily fits in my backpack.

I am writing this from a restaurant. I have been running with the extended battery (comes with a regular and extended standard). I've been here for more than 2 hours and my battery indicator says I can go for another hour. I haven't done any tweaking to conserve power, so I could probably go longer. With the settings I have on now, the computer is very responsive and the screen is nice and bright.

I am using my AT&T Tilt's Bluetooth connection for Internet access.

It has a very unique/engaging look...which is very important around here when you have to do battle with all the Apple-fanboys.

The face recognition (via integrated web cam) login works surprisingly well, as long as the light is decent. At first I thought this would be a gimmick, but I rarely type my password anymore. As soon as I sit in front of my laptop, it logs me in. You also have the option to use your face for Internet passwords, which is very handy.

I got my laptop from J&R. I bought it for $1999, which was $100 more than what you get if you order from Lenovo directly. Currently, you can't configure the laptop. However, the version from J&R has integrated Bluetooth and 3GB of RAM (Lenovo's site is selling 2GB of RAM with no Bluetooth). Bluetooth is critical for me because I expect to use it for my Internet connection and I don't want to deal with add-on cards. The extra RAM is nice, but I don't actually need it for what I'm doing

So far, I love it.

I plan on using it for email, Internet, blogging, and a C# project I've been planning for a while.

Here is a video to get an idea of what it looks like. It definitely draws attention.

Technorati Tags: ,,,

June 2, 2008

Blu-ray Player/PLAYSTATION 3

Filed under Gadgets, HDTV, Movies, Video Games, Xbox 360

image

I made the plunge yesterday and picked up a PS3 to use as a Blu-ray player. From what I've read, it is the best player out there and it is relatively cheap ($400).

There are some things I really about the PS3 when compared to an Xbox 360:

  • Quiet operation! I don't notice the PS3 at all...and that is my #1 issue with the 360.
  • Web browser...I can watch glorious 320x240 youtube videos stretched out on my HDTV
  • Slot loading drive...no tray
  • Solid unit...360 feels cheap in comparison
  • No power brick like the 360 has...just a cable to the wall outlet

I picked up the remote for the PS3 and figured I would use it to program my universal remote.

But you can't do that.

The PS3 does not have an IR port...it does its communications via bluetooth!

The cool thing about bluetooth is you don't have to do line-of-sight like you do with IR...which is nice.

The *bad* thing about bluetooth is...no other universal remote can send out those signals! So now I'm stuck with two remotes....grrrrr!

Help is on the way, though. There is a product called IR2BT that will take IR codes from your universal remote and convert them into bluetooth signals that the PS3 can understand! The product is out of stock, but I'm getting one as soon as they are available.

Now that the format war is over, I am switching to Blu-ray as my primary format. I picked up several discs this weekend including:

I am going to continue to use my 360 for gaming. The PS3 doesn't have anything that I'm really interested in with their current line-up.

In October, Little Big Planet comes out for the PS3 exclusively...and I *will* get that. It looks amazing...

May 26, 2008

Freakonomics

Filed under Computers, Gadgets, Reviews

image I finished my first audiobook last week: Freakonomics.

I downloaded "Freakonomics: Revised Edition (Unabridged)" from iTunes for $21.95. The audiobook is about 7 hours long.

I started listening to Freakonomics on my iPod for my walk to/from work.

This is a very interesting, thought-provoking read/listen.

Probably the most memorable topic was about the dramatic drop in crime (40% drop in homicides) in the early 90's and its connection to legalized abortion. It's a touchy subject, but handled in a factual manner without choosing sides in the abortion debate.

Other topics were about what parenting techniques work and which ones don't:

  • Reading to your child every night (doesn't help)
  • Letting your child watch TV (doesn't hurt)
  • Stay at home moms (doesn't help)

The findings are that kids do well when their parents do well, independent of how the child is raised. It's who you *are* as parents that is important, not what you *do* as parents.

Another question the book tackles...which is safer: a house with a gun or a house with a pool? The answer: a child is 100 times more likely to die at a house that has a pool than one with a gun present.

I recommend both Freakonomics and the medium of audiobooks.

I already finished another audiobook, Stephen King's "The Gingerbread Girl (Unabridged)." It was a short listen (about 2 hours) and kept me entertained.

My next audiobook is Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451.

May 11, 2008

Pleo

Filed under Gadgets, WTF

Pleo is a robotic pet dinosaur. I saw one in person at GDC this year. They are hard not to like...which is why this next video is so disturbing...

 

 

Shortly after I saw this video, someone posted this video. It should help you forget the terrible things done to poor Pleo. Skip ahead to the 1 minute mark to get to the good stuff.

 

March 17, 2008

BigDog

Filed under Gadgets, WTF

This is amazing.

I worked with these guys (Boston Dynamics) a long time ago when I did flight simulators. We integrated their DI-Guy product in our flight simulator API (Vega Prime) to get realistic looking people.

Their *other* product line blows me away...robots! REALLY CREEPY ROBOTS!!!

Check out "BigDog"...a robot that can carry heavy equipment across almost any type of terrain.

 

Next up is RHex, which can traverse difficult terrain *and* swim underwater...

 

Finally, RiSE can climb up any surface...

 

February 18, 2008

Upgrading Your Tilt

Filed under Gadgets

I added a bunch of new updates to my Tilt this weekend.

First of all, there is a new a ROM (version 1.62.502.0) that fixes some bugs.

image

Then I added HTC Home (pictured above), a plug-in that adds to your home screen...

  • A large digital clock
  • Weather
  • Quick access to favorite contacts
  • A program launcher
  • A music player
  • Quick access to vibrate, silent, and normal sound

I got version 1.6 here (look for HTC Home Plug v1.6).

image

The above plug in is called HTC Random Access. It adds the alphabet on the right side of the contacts screen so you can get to your contacts by browsing with your finger instead of typing in the search box at the top. As you drag, a large letter appears in the middle of the screen to let you know where you are. Get it here (look for HTC Random Acces_updated).

image

I found a post that explains how to enable youtube.com support in Pocket Internet Explorer. This is for the full version of youtube.com, not the mobile one that the iPhone uses.

The instructions and the software downloads (2 of them) are here. Once you have installed, just open this web page in your web browser and you can start watching youtube on your phone (normal http://youtube.com goes to the mobile version of youtube.com): www.youtube.com/?nomobile=1

image

KaiserTweak gives you access to a lot of features that you can't normally access. For example, do you really want a "Message Sent" notification message to pop up and require a "Dismiss" click every time you write a text message? You can turn that off with KaiserTweak. Or what about when your screen dims when you make a call, making it impossible to press the keypad for voice mail menus...that can be fixed with KaiserTweak. It definitely makes the phone more pleasant to work with. Get it here.

Screenshot.gif

Here is a cool software keyboard. The Tilt has a hardware keyboard, but it requires sliding out the keyboard and using two thumbs. This software keyboard works great with one handed operation. Check out the video below to see it in action. I ended up going with the $13 professional version instead of the free standard version. Get it here.

 

The last thing I added is a really slick add-on like the HTC Home, but with more features. It is called Spb Mobile Shell...

image 

You can get it here. Here are a list of the features with screenshots.

January 15, 2008

TV-B-GONE: CES Edition

Filed under Funny, Gadgets

The guys at Gizmodo had some fun at CES with a TV-B-Gone, a remote that can turn any TV on/off...

January 9, 2008

My Next Laptop

Filed under Computers, Gadgets

I bought my first laptop (a Dell Inspiron 8000) back in 2001. I'm ready for a new one and I think I found it.

It is the Lenovo IdeaPad U110. Lenovo is the same company that makes IBM ThinkPads. It was introduced at CES this week and should be available in April.

What I like about it:

  • Light: Less than 3 pounds. My old laptop weighed more than 9 pounds.
  • Small: Less than an inch thick...should be able to fit it in my backpack.
  • Sturdy: No moving parts when combined with a SSD.
  • Nice keyboard for its small size.
  • Runs Vista Ultimate
  • Has a dual core processor
  • Built-in web cam that does face recognition (instead of typing passwords)
  • 2 GB of RAM
  • Looks cool with the red cover
  • Less than $2,000

My new phone can act as a 3G high speed modem (5-10 Mbit/s) via bluetooth. I should be able to hop on the Internet anywhere my cell phone works with faster Internet access than I have at home...without connecting the laptop to anything!

I figure I will mostly use this for web surfing, email, blogging, and programming.

Here is a video review of the IdeaPad U110.

January 6, 2008

Windows Mobile 7

Filed under Gadgets, Software

image

This blog apparently got access to some internal documents detailing the next version of Windows Mobile. In short, it is a pretty dramatic UI makeover designed to compete with the iPhone. WM7 is scheduled for 2009.

October 30, 2007

New Phone

Filed under Gadgets

My new phone was waiting for me when I got back from India. It is called the AT&T Tilt (a.k.a. HTC Kaiser).

What makes this phone special?

  • Slide-out keyboard that "tilts" up like a mini-laptop
  • Works with Exchange Server (I use this one)
  • Internet Explorer
  • GPS (maps will automatically track your location)
  • 3G
  • WiFi
  • Touch screen
  • Windows Mobile 6 Professional
  • Instant Messaging with AIM, Yahoo, or Windows Live
  • Microsoft Word (edit/view), Excel (edit/view), PowerPoint (viewing only)
  • 3MP Camera
  • Can be used as a high speed modem for a laptop
  • Push to Talk

untitled

I hooked it up to Exchange Server tonight and now it is loaded with all my contacts, calendar, email and to-do lists that I keep in Outlook.

September 26, 2007

iPod classic 160 GB

Filed under Gadgets, Movies, Music, Travel, Video Games

image

I'm going to spend quite a bit of time on an airplane soon, so I wanted to find something to keep me entertained.

I initially thought about getting a Dell XPS M1330 laptop. I was actually one click away from buying it today when I realized the ship date was after the bulk of much of my traveling.

I'm actually glad I didn't get the laptop. I don't travel very often, so the laptop would probably sit unused most of the time.

So the next best thing...an iPod. What I like about the iPod over the laptop...

  • Much cheaper ($350 vs. $2,500)
  • Much better battery life (7 hours vs 3 hours for watching movies)
  • Much smaller (can fit in my jacket pocket)
  • Much lighter
  • Fast charging (about 2 hours for 80% capacity)
  • Less concern about theft
  • Should arrive next week

I figure I will load it up with...

  • Season 5 and 6 of 24 (from iTunes)
  • Several seasons of South Park (from iTunes)
  • A few movies I haven't seen (from iTunes)
  • Some audio books (from iTunes)
  • The 3 video games iTunes has (Ms. Pacman, Tetris, and Sudoko)
  • My music collection

Putting everything on the iPod means I don't have to worry about bringing a bunch of DVD's with me.

I decided on the 160GB over the 80GB because of battery life...the 160GB can do 7 hours of video watching on a charge verses only 5 hours on the 80GB.

There are two color choices, black or white. I went with black.

Any suggestions for good audio books, TV, or movies available on iTunes are welcome!

July 14, 2007

Buying Music

Filed under Computers, Gadgets, Web

image

I'm changing the way I buy music...I'm abandoning downloading music (which I've been doing for about 6 years) and going back to buying CD's. It seems a bit backwards, but it has a lot of advantages.

I have a requirement that my music is in MP3 format...I have several devices I use (computers, iPod, car system, Xbox 360, phone) and MP3 is the only format that works in all places.

Most importantly, look at the work involved in getting music into your library.

For downloaded music...

  1. Burn downloaded track onto a CD
  2. Rip track from CD back onto computer so it is in MP3 form
  3. Update artist, song, album, genre tag information
  4. Rename the MP3 using ARTIST-SONG.mp3 format
  5. Create artist and album folders and move MP3 into correct location
  6. Add album art

For CD's...

  1. Rip track from CD

The number of steps involved with downloaded music has kept me from buying music.

Today I wanted to buy a few songs and I tried to find a place that would download MP3's, with album art, correct file names, and tag information...but I couldn't find any.

So I decided to go to amazon.com and buy CD's.

There are other advantages to using CD's over buying downloadable music...

  1. CD is used as your backup in case you have data loss
  2. CD quality is better than what you get from downloaded music
  3. The selection of music on CD *far* exceeds what you can download

Now for the disadvantages...

  1. Cost...you can't easily buy a single song on CD...you usually must buy an album. The songs I want will probably cost more than a $1/song.
  2. Instant gratification...I can't have the music I want now, I will have to wait until next week when it is delivered

I think switching back to CD's is the right answer...I'd be interested in hearing of better ways of dealing with this. Post away in the comments section if you have any ideas.

July 8, 2007

Ok...THIS is my next phone

Filed under Gadgets

My brother pointed out the last phone I had a crush on (Toshiba G900) is not fully supporting any US networks.

But along comes a new SUPER phone! The HTC Omni!

image

Here are the deets...

  • 4" 800x480 main screen
  • GPS/A-GPS (Automatically tracks you on Google Maps)
  • Full QWERTY Keyboard
  • TV and VGA out (you can connect this phone to a projector for PowerPoint presentations or connect it to a TV for watching movies!)
  • 130 x 81 x 16 mm (Motorola Q is 116 x 64 x 12 mm for comparison)
  • Available October 2007 (birthday gift?)

July 4, 2007

Microsoft Research: Shift

Filed under Computers, Gadgets, Software

This is cool. Shift lets you use your finger on a touch screen with pinpoint accuracy. Using Shift, selecting an individual pixel is easy.

June 19, 2007

My Next Phone: Toshiba G900

Filed under Gadgets

image

This phone looks awesome!

  • 3 inch 800x480 screen - Can show a full web page without zooming
  • Slide out QWERTY keyboard
  • Touch-screen
  • Password entered via Fingerprint Reader (also doubles as 4-way direction pad)
  • Uses Windows Mobile 6 Professional
  • 2 Megapixel rear camera and a front facing camera for video conferencing
  • WiFi and Bluetooth
  • Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint
  • Opera Web Browser and Internet Explorer
  • About the size of a Motorola Q, but thicker (119 x 61 x 21.5 mm,
    198g)
  • Works with Microsoft Exchange (wirelessly syncs your email/calendar/contacts/task list...no need to connect to a desktop and sync)

Not sure when it is coming out and who will offer it, but this is the phone I want!

May 30, 2007

Microsoft Surface

Filed under Computers, Gadgets, Software

This is amazing (thanks for the heads-up TreyS). Surface is a new "table computer" that uses touch instead of a keyboard or mouse. You really need to see it in action to appreciate it. The Surface homepage has several videos that are all worth checking out.

The part I'm most interested in is the idea of a computer that multiple people can work on at the same time. I can see where a family could sit around their Surface table and plan a trip...one person could map out the activities for the trip while another books the flight at the same time. Or you could play Monopoly or any other board game, where the board is virtual, but the pieces are real. Or work on a photo album together.

Today, computers tend to isolate us from other people (not counting virtual people). I see this as a platform that will bring people together to collaborate.

It will be interesting to see the new applications created for this platform. Will this be a success or a failure? I hope it is the former! I'll be following this closely. Microsoft is going to demo this at SIGGRAPH, so I'll check it out then.

 

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December 22, 2006

PS3 Thoughts

Filed under Gadgets, Reviews, Xbox 360

I owned a PS1 and I still have a PS2. I decided to switch camps for this generation of consoles and move to the Xbox 360.

I have no doubt that I made the right decision.

I tried out a PS3 demo unit at a GameStop. The controller is almost exactly like the PS2 version, which is not a bad thing. I like that the controller is now wireless and the shoulder buttons are analog triggers (like the 360's). I couldn't try out the tilt feature because the games I played did not support it. The PS3 no longer has support for "rumble", which is disappointing.

The games looked like Xbox 360 games, which is underwhelming considering the price difference, extra year of development time, and bold claims by Sony. Here's a website that compared games that are released on both the 360 and PS3...they look almost identical!

One of the selling points for the PS3 is its new Cell microprocessor. It has been called a "supercomputer on a chip."

Both the PS3 and the 360 get much of their processing power from multiple chips processing in parallel. The PS3 can process 8 threads at a time compared to the Xbox 360's 6. A *big* difference is the PS3 is asymmetric, which means the processors have different abilities and the software developer must take care in deciding which processors runs which thread. This is not an issue for the 360, because each processor has identical properties. Writing multi-threaded software is *really* hard. With the PS3, you also have to manage which processor is doing what and try to make sure the best processor for the job is always finished doing its previous work to avoid bottlenecks. The home user will not notice this issue, but software developers will.

I've also read that the PS3's Cell processor is crippled because of a design defect. If true, it could be another headache for software developers.

But forget the processors...they are not as important as the media would have you believe. For 3D video games, the biggest bottleneck is the graphics card. A game can only run as fast as its slowest component, and that will usually be the graphics card. PS3 has a custom Nvidia card and the 360 has a custom ATI card. These cards are very close in terms of specs and performance. I believe this is the most important reason why you will not see much difference between what a PS3 can do and what a 360 can do.

I see the hardware as essentially equal between the PS3 and the 360...which is bad news for Sony. Sony is a hardware company, Microsoft is a software company. If the hardware is equal, then this battle is going to play to Microsoft's favor. Examples of 360 software that make the platform shine are achievements (like the coins you collect in Mario, but available across all games), Xbox Live (networked gaming; game, video, music downloads), Xbox Live Arcade (retro/casual games), plus tools and libraries to make software developers happy.

I've heard the magic number is 10 million: first console to reach 10 million sales becomes the dominate platform for that generation. The 360 is expected to reach 10 million before the end of the year.

December 19, 2006

The People vs. Nintendo Wii

Filed under Gadgets

I read a story on Slashdot today about a class action lawsuit against Nintendo concerning Wiimote straps breaking.

I read several of the comments and it mirrored the reaction I got from people around the office and my previous posting on the Wii.

Many of the comments on Slashdot found fault with the Wii users. A common theme was along the lines, "If you are dumb enough to let go of the remote, then you get what you deserve" or "Don't blame Nintendo for you being an idiot."

The Wii is becoming infamous for damage caused by its unique input device, the Wiimote. There are web sites dedicated to chronicling damage from Wii usage. The two most popular are Wiidamage and Wii Have a Problem.

So who is to blame for damage caused by the Wii? The user? Nintendo?

I think this a unique issue as is not as clear cut as you might expect.

If 100% of Wii users have an accident of some sort, it is clearly Nintendo's responsibility to fix a design problem with the Wii. I'd say if 10% of users are having problems, then it still a Nintendo problem. At what percentage does the responsibility swing to the Wii user? I don't know.

It is certainly in Nintendo's best interest for the the perception of the Wii to be a family friendly gaming device. That said, I would expect Nintendo to do everything it can to minimize these incidents.

Nintendo's safety instructions state at least four times not to let go of the remote. Is that enough? Nintendo didn't think so, so they included a safety strap. Many of the problems with the Wii involve the safety strap breaking, and Nintendo last week announced a recall on all Wiimotes.

I seriously doubt this is the last lawsuit and safety fix we can expect for the Wii.

Many people I've talked to (mostly non-Wii users) think this is a non-issue, except, surprisingly enough, a Wii-fanboy I know. It is a non-issue for them because they are responsible unlike the idiots that are having problems.

This is an issue and Nintendo has a responsibility to fix it. Let me try to illustrate an extreme case. First, imagine you are a parent and you bought your kids a Wii. Imagine what you would do to setup an environment where your kids and furniture would be safe. Move all the furniture out of the gaming area? Teach your kids to always put on the wrist strap? Tell your kids to never let go of the remote while playing? Make sure your kids stay aware of the surroundings? All good ideas.

Now let's pretend there is a game for the Wii called "Tornado." The object of Tornado is to place a Wiimote in each hand and with your arms outstretched spin as fast as you can. The winner is the person that can spin at a fast rate for the longest period of time.

Dumb game, I know. Will a game like this exist? I doubt it. Could a game like this exist on the Wii? Absolutely. This is a game that is just waiting for an accident to occur with a dizzy, out of control kid swinging his arms...either a kid is going to hit another kid in the face or put an arm through a window or a TV set. There is not much you can do to keep your kids safe while playing Tornado other than not playing.

Who is responsible for accidents from playing Tornado. In this case, I fault the software developer. A game like this should never be released.

I believe there is more Nintendo can do to make the Wii a safer gaming experience.

If you look at most of the Wii problems, they are specific to one game: Wii Sports, the pack-in game for Wii. People are launching their remotes when bowling, serving a tennis ball, driving a golf ball, or hitting a homerun. I believe Nintendo can reduce the likelihood of accidents by changing how their games accept input from the Wiimote.

How? From my experimentation with Wii Sports Bowling, it doesn't appear that the game treats a motion of casually rolling a ball any differently than flinging the ball as hard as you can. Actually, just like most guys in real bowling, you *want* to throw the ball as hard as you can to get a strike. The game could be modified to consider "extreme" motions as "out of control" and send the ball down the gutter. In other words, penalize extreme motions, reward safe motions.

Another idea...Nintendo could setup a safe gaming area in front of the TV/Wii during calibration/setup. If you move out of the safe gaming area, the game pauses with a warning that you must play from the safe area until you return.

I am a software developer by trade, and this is a new world for me. I've *never* had to worry about my software causing physical injuries. I think the Wiimote is a really cool new input device, but with it comes new responsibilities that software developers have rarely thought about. I give Nintendo credit for being a trailblazer...I'll be interested to see how they deal with this situation.

December 1, 2006

Discrete Codes

Filed under Gadgets, HDTV

I define "Home Theater Nirvana" as the ability to use one remote to do everything you need.

In order to control a complex home theater system, you need to turn on components, switch the video input on the TV, and switch the amplifier to the correct audio input.

How do you turn on a component with a remote? Press the "power" button, right? Wrong! What if the component is already on...the power button will turn it off. When you program a remote to setup your system to watch a DVD, you don't know what state any of the equipment is in. To program a remote, you need to use commands that work as advertised.

That is where "discrete codes" come in. Instead of a power button that will toggle between on and off, there are separate codes for "on" and "off."

Finding discrete codes is a bit tricky. I've used a few techniques.

The first way was to buy a cheap One For All remote and use codes from this website. Then my home theater remote learned the discrete codes from the One For All remote. It worked for simple stuff (like on/off), but as my equipment got more complex, I needed more discrete codes than I could get from the One For All remote.

I currently use a Home Theater Master MX-700 remote (which I love). I found a place on remotecentral.com that lists tons of discrete codes in hex format. The hex format is used by the Philips Pronto line of remotes. My remote won't read hex codes directly, but it will read a .ccf file via a feature in the MX-700 Editor called the "Universal Browser." A .ccf file is a configuration file used to store IR codes for Pronto remotes.

To convert hex codes into a .ccf file, I used ProntoEdit.

  1. File->New Configuration.
  2. Create a configuration for the TSU2000.
  3. Right click on "HOME" and select "Add Panel."
  4. Double-click on one of the panel buttons.
  5. Select "Set IR."
  6. Click "View IR."
  7. Paste the hex code into IR Code area at the bottom.
  8. File->Save Configuration to create a .ccf file

This worked for most discrete codes I needed. However, it did not work for direct access to Video 7 (HDMI) and Video 9 (VGA) on my TV. Since I now need access to VGA, I had to find a way to get the correct discreet codes for Video 9.

I found another good way to get discreet codes. I followed these instructions and downloaded MakeHex. I placed the discrete codes I wanted from this list into a .irp file. MakeHex converts this .irp file into a .hex file which contains the hex codes. I then followed the above procedure to convert a hex code into a .ccf file.

And guess what? It worked! I now have discrete codes for all the inputs on my TV: Video 1-Video 9.

This is certainly convoluted and required a lot of digging to get it working...but once you experience Home Theater Nirvana there is no substitute!

November 26, 2006

Running

Filed under Gadgets, Reviews

I *hate* running. I gave up running over 10 years ago. Instead I've played basketball or rode my bike for exercise.

I'm giving running another try because I've hit my weight limit and I found a very cool running trail. The trail starts at the American Airlines Center, which is just down the street from me. It is called The Katy Trail. It is 3.5 miles in length from the AAC to Mockingbird Station. Here is a map of the trail I made with Microsoft Live.

I tried walking it yesterday and used my Motorola Q phone as a music player...and that sucked! Even with max volume, I could barely hear the music. I needed something else to keep me entertained while I was running. I decided to pick up an Apple Ipod Shuffle because they are really light, fairly cheap, get good reviews, and have a really cool commercial...

I went running this afternoon...and it wasn't pretty. I couldn't run a quarter of a mile without stopping. I ran/walked (mostly walked) 3 miles. I have a lot of work to do. I plan on running minimum twice a week.

As for the Shuffle...I really like it. Since I'm running, I don't care that it doesn't have a display. I loaded it up with high energy music and it sounded great. I had it clipped to my shorts and I never noticed it while I was running.

There are a few changes I wish Apple would make to the Shuffle...

  1. I wish we had a single standard for music so I didn't have to use multiple music managers. I currently use iTunes for my Shuffle, Phatnoise Music Manager for my PhatBox, Media Player as my default player, and Rhapsody for online music.
  2. I wish the Shuffle had a built-in USB connection (instead of a USB dock) so I could charge it anywhere and use it as a USB memory key.
  3. I wish I could just drag music onto the Shuffle using Explorer. I *can* do this, but the music is then considered "data" and the shuffle will not play "data." You have to use iTunes to put music on the Shuffle.

November 16, 2006

Who's Winning?

Filed under Gadgets, HDTV, Xbox 360

You can argue and speculate all you want, but why not check the facts? This website uses data from amazon.com to figure out who has the most popular video game console, next generation DVD format, and satellite radio service. Very cool!

September 25, 2006

More HDTV Pics

Filed under Gadgets, HDTV, Photos

I can't stop! Here are a few more pics from my new HDTV.

 This is from Universal HD in 1080i from DirecTV HD.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is from Discovery HD in 1080i from DirecTV HD. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tonight Show from NBC in 1080i using an antenna.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Late Show from CBS in 1080i using an antenna.

MNF on HDTV

Filed under Gadgets, HDTV, Photos

I took some pictures of my TV showing Monday Night Football in HD. My digital camera takes pictures at 2592x1944. ESPN is broadcasting MNF in 720p (1280x720). As detailed as these pictures are, a 1080 broadcast would show even more. I took the pictures about 4 feet from the TV.

Check out how much you can zoom in before the image gets pixelated and the clarity of the text. Click on the pics below to see the full resolution versions.

 

September 21, 2006

My Little Bundle Of Joy

Filed under Gadgets, HDTV, Reviews

After a few years of researching, I finally got my HDTV, a 46" Sony XBR3 LCD.

Why did I choose this set? There are a few reasons...

  • 1920x1080 resolution
  • Support for 1080p inputs
  • Looks great from any viewing angle
  • DRC 2.5 (Digital Reality Creation) - Image Enhancement Chip
  • Sony XBR well respected brand for high end TV's
  • Floating-glass Bezel looks cool
  • Not too big for standard definition, not too small for high definition from a viewing distance of 9 feet
  • Automagically brightens when the room gets brighter (lights on, Sunlight)

 

I used the THX Optimizer from The Incredibles DVD to check the setup. I changed the color mode from "vivid" to "standard." Other than that, all settings were left at the factory defaults. I was surprised that the default settings gave the best results for the THX Optimizer...I didn't have to adjust anything.

I watched some of The Incredibles and I was blown away by how good it looked. I sat about 3 feet away and it looked amazing. I noticed *much* more detail than before. One reason for this is probably because my old set did not support anamorphic DVD's, but this one does. Anamorphic DVD's use the entire frame for video instead of wasting data on the black bars. The DVD player will stretch the frame to fit a wide screen and add the black bars.

If a DVD can look this good, I'm not going to be in a rush to get HD-DVD or Blu-ray. Although, I will be *very* tempted to pickup the new Xbox 360 HD DVD add-on if it is only $170.

I watched a bit of Star Wars Episode III and was again impressed. Granted, I chose these movies because I knew they were filmed at 60 fps for HDTV, unlike most movies that are done at 24 fps.

Next I watched an episode of 24, season 2. It did not look as good as the previous movies, but it still looked great.

DirecTV looked terrible at first. I played with the settings for DRC and then I got a picture that looked almost the same as my old TV, which was really good. Lesson learned: DRC can improve picture quality when done right, and it can make TV look horrible when done wrong. The default is on with some funky settings which make regular television (NTSC) look awful.

I will be getting FOX, CBS, NBC, ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, Discovery, TNT, and MSNBC in HD tomorrow. My apartment complex in the past month has added HD support to the DirecTV they supply us. I can't pick up HD using an antenna because I am surrounded by tall buildings.

I played Xbox 360 last night, which is currently my only true HD source (720p). I sat really close and played Project Gotham Racing 3. I've had this game since I bought my 360 back in February, but I haven't played it much. It feels like a new game...you can see further in the distance, the detail is a amazing. The wide screen fills my field of view...it was a completely different experience than before. I will *definitely* be playing this one more.

My initial impression...I *love* this set.

July 15, 2006

The Coolest Gadget of All Time

Filed under Gadgets, Reviews

This one is impressive. As I've detailed ad nauseum, I bought a Motorola Q. With a new gadget I bought last weekend, I have turned my cell phone into a TV with DirecTV and TiVo!

The device that makes it possible is called SlingBox. You can see my SlingBox sitting above my DirecTV TiVo in the picture above. The SlingBox takes the output from the TiVo (or any cable box/DVR) and then broadcasts it over the Internet to any PC running SlingPlayer or cell phones running SlingPlayer Mobile. Anything you can do with a TiVo remote can be done by SlingPlayer. The SlingPlayer sends commands over the Internet back to the SlingBox, which mimics the TiVo remote with an IR repeater. You can see the IR repeater in the photo above. It is a small black arm sticking out beneath the TiVo and pointing at the black circle that receives the remote control signal.

Here is a video of the SlingBox/SlingPlayer Mobile in action. It shows my TV broadcasting live TV. I put my cell phone next to the TV so you can see that it is showing the same content. There is about a 5 second delay between live TV and when it arrives on the SlingPlayer. This makes it a bit tricky to try and fast forward with TiVo...not impossible, but certainly more difficult. As long as I have a good signal on my cell phone, the video quality is extremely good. It is sharp enough that you can read the text scrolling by at the bottom of the screen of CNN Headline News. As the signal degrades, the SlingPlayer will drop frames so that it will still work with less bandwidth. Audio rarely ever drops, but video rate can fluctuate. Typically, it runs around 30 fps, which looks really good. I've seen it drop down to 5 fps, which is still very watchable.

All SlingBox does is rebroadcast what your TV is currently doing. If I change channels when I am watching TV at work (this is an example...I would never do this), then my TV at home will be changing channels as well. This works fine for me, because I'm single. But I could imagine this might cause some issues when multiple people are using the same TV.

With my SlingBox setup and DirecTV TiVo, from anywhere that my cell phone works I can now:

  • Watch any DirecTV channel
  • Listen to the DirecTV music channels
  • Order and watch Pay-Per-View Movies
  • Pause, fast forward, or rewind TV using TiVo
  • Watch any programs I've previously recorded with TiVo
  • Set TiVo to record something that is about start in 5 minutes

What a great time waster!

I installed SlingPlayer on my desktop. It can be docked on the side of your monitor to allow you watch TV while you work on your computer. Video/audio quality is excellent.

Installation was surprisingly simple. SlingBox comes with a single sheet of instructions that is about 1' x 2'. SlingPlayer is also easy to install, but requires a bit more Q&A to find out what type of remote control you have and how to optimize the video stream to look its best.

I pay for DirecTV in my bedroom in addition to my living room. With SlingPlayer and my laptop...I may cancel that service. Now I can watch DirecTV *AND* TiVo in my bedroom for free.

How much does all this cost? It is surprisingly cheap. I bought the SlingBox for $150 at Best Buy. I didn't want to run an Ethernet cable from my SlingBox to my router, so I also bought SlingLink (uses power lines to transmit Ethernet in your house) for $80. The SlingPlayer for PC's is free. I am using a free 30-day trial of SlingPlayer Mobile for my phone. After the trial is over, I will pay $30. So the total comes to $260 to turn your phone into a portable TiVo. Since I have unlimited data usage on my cell phone, I can stream video all day and it doesn't cost me anything extra. For comparison, Verizon offers video to your cell phone with their "V-Cast" service for $15 a month with a selection of "dozens of broadcasts per day."

SlingPlayer Mobile is still in beta. I did notice a few issues with the software that will hopefully be fixed. The keyboard mapping to TiVo functionality is a bit awkward for some functions. Turning the volume up and down doesn't use the Q's scroll wheel as you'd expect, but instead requires you to switch the keyboard from "123 mode" to "SC" (short cut mode) by holding down the space bar and then use the shifted 1 and 3 keys to turn the volume up and down. That is a lot of work if you turn on the TV and it starts blasting Oprah in a boring meeting. I want the volume controls *always* available. Also I found that performance can degrade if you start and stop the player a few times. The only way I could get the performance to improve was to turn my phone off and then back on...which sounds like a software bug. Otherwise, the software works really well.

I'm blown away by this. It is very cool and fun. I used it yesterday when I was waiting in the doctors office. The doctor was running over an hour behind schedule so I watched 30 minutes of Headline News and then I watched a South Park episode.

Highly recommended! Two thumbs way up!

June 28, 2006

The Microsoft PC

Filed under Computers, Gadgets, Software, Xbox 360

Here is an article about the new Microsoft 22 inch wide-screen LCD. This monitor should be release to go with Windows Vista (probably early next year) and is designed to support some of the new functionality in the OS.

There are two big features I've heard of in Vista that this monitor will probably support:

  • High DPI Support - Should give you a better looking display using more densely packed pixels.
  • Support for HDCP - HD Movies from HD-DVD may require monitors with HDCP in order to play at their highest resolution. Vista is probably going to be the first OS to support playback of HD DVD's that require HDCP.

I knew I'd need to upgrade my monitor to get the best Vista experience. If the monitor is any good, I'll probably get it when it comes out.

There has been a clear line between Microsoft and PC companies like Dell and HP: Microsoft does the software (Windows, Office, etc.) and Dell/HP make the hardware. But with this announcement, Microsoft makes all the hardware components necessary for a full computer: monitor, mouse, keyboard and CPU (Xbox 360). Watch for this, the Xbox 360 could be a very interesting competitor to the PC if Microsoft wants a bigger chunk of the pie. All they need to do is port Office and Internet Explorer to Xbox 360 and you have a very slick PC. And since it is not open like a PC (you can't get Xbox 360 software from just anybody...only from Microsoft), it doesn't have the security problems that you find in Windows, Mac, and Linux (no need to run a virus checker on Xbox 360).

June 25, 2006

A Problem with Keyboard Phones

Filed under Gadgets

I *love* having a keyboard on my phone, a Motorola Q (Palm Treo and Blackberry also have similar keyboards). However, I've been in some situations where the keyboard is worse than a normal phone keypad. What do you do when you want to dial the number "1-800-BUY-A-DELL" or you are asked by an automated system to enter the first 3 letters of the last name of the person you are trying to contact. You look at your phone's keypad and press the number that has the appropriate letter on it. Well that doesn't work for phones with keyboards!

What *should* happen is this...when you type a phone number to dial, the phone assumes your want numbers, so each button you press gives you the number and not the letter (this is what current phones do). BUT, if you want to type "BUY-A-DELL", you should just hold down the ALT button (the button under the "A" key in the above picture) and type "BUYADELL" and the phone should automagically enter the numbers "28923355." This doesn't seem hard...maybe it is just an oversight at this early stage of cell phones with keyboards.

While I was looking for pictures of phone keypads, I ran across this explanation of why calculators and computer keyboards use a number pad with 123 at the bottom and phones use 123 at the top.

June 24, 2006

First Impressions of the Q

Filed under Gadgets, Reviews

This is a billboard for the Q near where I live. There is another equally large billboard barely visible on the far right. Motorola is doing quite a job advertising this phone.

I've had my Q for 3 weeks now. Overall, I like the phone. It is not perfect, but I like it and look forward to upgrading to future versions.

What I like:

  • Slim - easily fits in my pants pocket
  • Keyboard - makes entering information *MUCH* easier
  • Internet Explorer - works pretty good with most web sites. My blog comes is drawn with a black background (should be white), makes some text completely unreadable. I thought it was IE, but I tried an older Opera browser for Windows Mobile and it had the same problem....need to look into how my website is formatted! I'll probably switch to the new Opera browser because it has more features (java script, tabbed browsing, full page view).
  • Download Speed - The download speed makes web browsing easy...and addictive. You can surf *anywhere* with this phone.
  • Windows Mobile 5.0 - This phone is a platform, just like Windows. I expect Windows Mobile to grow in popularity. There is quite a bit of software you can download for this phone. Plus, with Visual Studio 2005, you can build your own apps. I will probably do this at some point.
  • Screen - 320x240 - nice sized screen for reading emails and browsing the web.

What I don't like:

  • Reception - my old cingular cell phone had full strength in my apartment. The Q barely manages half strength signal and frequently drops to 25% or worse. I've had it drop calls in my apartment. I called Verizon about it and they said I am covered by 5 cell phone towers in my location (I live downtown). So either Verizon's cell towers suck, or this phone isn't that great at getting reception. I should note that almost everywhere else I go, I don't have problems with dropped calls...just at home. Go figure.
  • Battery life - I had a few problems where I could not make it a full day without the phone running out of juice. I found that it was operator error....I was using the USB cable on my computer to charge the phone. Although it does charge the phone, it apparently does not do as good of a job as the dedicated charger. Since I've switched to the dedicated charger, I usually have at least half the battery left after one day of use. I don't have enough experience with the dedicated charger to say that I always can make it a full day without the phone running out of power. I ordered an extended battery for $20 from Verizon just in case I do run out of juice and I still need to use my phone.
  • Vibrate - I believe there should be only one ring tone...vibrate, since I don't believe my phone alerts should annoy anybody but me. Since this phone receives phone calls AND email, I wish the phone had different vibrate patterns for different alerts: phone call, friend phone call, email, voice mail, etc.
  • Inputting a Time - Setting a time (like an appointment time) is annoying. You have to hold the ALT button to access the numbers, even though a letter doesn't make any sense. I don't see why the phone can't be smart enough to know that you are entering the hours, so you must need to be in number mode (it does it when you type a phone number). Plus, you have to enter 2 digits to change the hour or minute...you can't just change 1. Also, it would be nice if I could just use the directional pad to move to the digit I want to change and then press up or down to modify the number...that would be the easiest. Not the end of the world, but it does get tedious.
  • Alarm - When I set an alarm to wake me in the morning, that should trump everything. This phone says, I know you set an alarm, but I'm set to vibrate mode, so I won't make any sound when the alarm goes off. BAD!!! So if I *do* turn on sound for the alarm, I also get sound for every email that comes in...all night long....ugh! A new alarm clock with an alarm that sounds independent of the current sound profile may be my first app I write for the Q!!!
  • No text editor - I guess I could send myself emails instead, but why not include pocket word like you do for Pocket PC's?
  • No spell checker - would be nice to be able to spell check emails
  • No external LEDs - It would be nice to be able to see if you have a message waiting or voice mail by looking at a flashing LED. No LED's with the Q...you have to turn on the screen to see what's up.
  • No dedicated volume control - The side scroll wheel does double duty as a volume control and a scroll wheel. I've been browsing a web page when a loud alert played, I wanted to quickly bring the volume down, but the volume keys were now for scrolling...I had to switch to a different app that used the scroll wheel as a volume control!
  • Outlook Notes not supported - I like to jot done important info using Outlook Notes (like yellow post it notes for your computer). I don't know why Outlook Notes are not supported by Windows Mobile...they should be.
  • No support for copy/paste - Windows Mobile doesn't have the concept of the clipboard like Windows does. It would be helpful if it did!

This is a fun phone, and pretty cheap ($200 with 2 year commitment). For me, it is my pda, laptop, ipod, and cell phone. I love that I can access my email, task list, and contacts from my desktop, any web browser, and now my cell phone.

June 5, 2006

Q Internet Download Speed

Filed under Gadgets

I tried downloading a 5 MB file with a full strength signal today on my Q. It downloaded in just less than a minute, which works out to about 0.7 Mbit/sec...not bad for a cell phone!

June 3, 2006

Q Arrives!

Filed under Gadgets

My new phone, a Motorola Q, arrived in the mail on Friday. I'll write up a review once I get it working as my standard phone.

I love the form factor...*very* small. I love the keyboard. Pocket Internet Explorer is not so great...it can't even render my blog correctly! I'll have to see if my blog is doing something non-standard, which is very likely. It doesn't support frames and it looks like it is based on IE 4.0. My Yahoo also rendered wrong. I tried to use the Opera Mini web browser, but it doesn't work on Windows Mobile 5 (the Q's OS) yet, so I'm out of luck for now. I haven't found a way for it to play flash or quicktime movies yet. Internet speed is decent...with only one bar showing for signal strength, I was able to download a 5MB WMV video file in two minutes. Video playback is nice. It doesn't stream video files...it must download them first, then play them. :( I haven't been able to get it to play any of my mp3's I have online...maybe because it expects a certain bit rate? I'll have to investigate this more.

I'm setting the phone up now to synchronize my email/calendar/contacts/task list with the exchange server so my home outlook, web-based outlook, and now my Q all have the same information. I just created a test task on my phone and then checked my desktop outlook and the task is there, too! Awesome! Also, all my email, contacts, calendar, and task list's are now on my Q! Me likey!

New Sony SXRD's

Filed under Gadgets, HDTV

I've narrowed my choices for HDTV's to either the Samsung LED DLP or the new 2nd generation Sony SXRD's. Here is a press release about Sony's new sets for this year. Not sure what the difference between the XBR and non-XBR is. I'm probably going to get a 55" set.

May 31, 2006

Q on the Way

Filed under Gadgets

I ordered my Q this morning. I needed to do something, since my Mavs lost last night. I find gadgets to be therapeutic.

The phone is $199 with a 2 year commitment ($100 rebate). I got the $79.99 plan with 450 minutes/month and unlimited data. Shipping and handling are free. Activation is free through June 4th. Here is where you order the phone online. The phone should be here in 2-5 business days. Verizon's Q product page is here.

May 21, 2006

A Competitor to the Q

Filed under Gadgets

Samsung has a phone that should be out soon that is like the Motorola Q, only smaller and lighter. It is missing the Q's side jog wheel that is helpful for one handed operation. It is called the Samsung i320. Unfortunately, this phone doesn't support the networks needed to run in the US. So, I'm sticking with my plans to get a Q.

May 16, 2006

Q Release Details

Filed under Gadgets

It sounds like the Q is going to retail for $499 without a contract, according to a Motorola Q give away contest (see prizes). And if this guy is to be believed, a two year contract with Verizon will get you this phone for $299.

This post claims the phone will be available for businesses on May 24th, and then available in stores a week later.

LED DLP Delayed Until July

Filed under Gadgets, HDTV

The first LED-based DLP HDTV, or what I like to call "My Next TV", has been delayed until July. Originally, the Samsung HL-S5679W was to ship in May. I guess that gives me a few more months to save up.

Crutchfield has a page on this TV now.

May 13, 2006

Home Computer Genealogy

Filed under Gadgets, Lists

Wow! This took a lot more effort than I thought. I did a lot of searching through company product histories and archives of credit card transactions to put most of this together. I previously did the Game Console Genealogy, so here is the Home Computer Genealogy...computers I've grown up with.

May 12, 2006

Game Console Genealogy

Filed under Gadgets, Lists, Xbox 360

Here is a list of video game consoles I've owned throughout my life. The first one (Radio Shack TV Scoreboard) took a lot of googling in order to find a picture of it. Apparently I've had a console from every generation except the 3rd generation. My guess is that I was busy playing on computers at that time. I'll do my computer genealogy next.

May 10, 2006

New Xbox 360 Toys!

Filed under Gadgets, HDTV, Xbox 360

E3 is going on this week. Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo made some big announcements concerning their next generation consoles. Even though I was a PlayStation guy (I had a PS1 and PS2), I decided to switch to the Microsoft camp and get an Xbox 360 because I thought they had a better game plan than Sony.

Here are some of the Xbox 360 announcements that I'm excited about:

  • HD DVD player
  • Wireless Steering Wheel with Force Feedback
  • Xbox Live Vision Camera - For video conferencing and as an input device for games using "gestures"
  • Wireless Headset
  • Grand Theft Auto IV and download-able episodes
  • Retro games for Xbox Live Arcade: Pac-Man, Galaga, Dig Dug, Rally X, Defender, Paperboy, Root Beer Tapper, Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3, Frogger, Contra, Super Contra, Track & Field, Time Pilot and Scramble. Portrait style games like Pac Man (as opposed to normal TV in landscape mode) don't fit on standard TV. To fit on the screen, either the game has to be redrawn at a lower resolution or it is zoomed in. If you want the closest reproduction of a retro game, these solutions are not acceptable. But since the Xbox 360 can do HD, this should no longer be a problem!
  • Live Anywhere - Play online via Xbox 360, PC, PDA, or cell phone in this seamless network
  • PC RF Receiver - use wireless Xbox controller, steering wheel, headset, etc. on your PC
  • Halo 3 - I've never played Halo, but I've heard good things about it

May 5, 2006

LED DLP HDTV

Filed under Gadgets, HDTV

Samsung has released the first LED-lit (as opposed to a light bulb) DLP set, the HL-S5679W. Here are the deets on this set:

  • 56 inch
  • Native 1920x1080 resolution
  • Supports 1080p input
  • Uses LED's instead of a light bulb
    • Faster startup time
    • Produces more colors
    • No color wheel (no noise, no rainbow effect)
    • Longer lifetime (20,000 hours for LED vs 4,000 hours for bulb)
  • Black cabinet (why do they keep switching between black and silver?!?!)

A quick search of prices shows that this sweet set can be had for as low as $2450.

This is probably the set I'm going to get, pending some good reviews.

April 22, 2006

HD DVD for Xbox 360

Filed under Gadgets, HDTV, Xbox 360

Xbox 360 and HD DVDA Microsoft executive said in an interview that Microsoft would announce details of HD DVD support for the Xbox 360 at E3 (May 9-12).

I read a rumor that the add-on would be $100! That would be amazing if it is true...and it would change my current HD DVD buying plans.

Currently, component (which is analog) is the the best HD output you can get for an Xbox 360. Support for HD DVD implies that HDMI (which is digital) will be coming. To watch some HD DVD's with content protection, you will need a digital interface like HDMI.

How do you add another optical drive to a system that already has one? Adding another box that needs its own power and will be almost as big as the Xbox 360 seems like the wrong way to do it. Plus, how will it connect to the Xbox 360? A quick check of the back of my Xbox 360 shows that the only open connector is for ethernet. The USB port is in use by my Wi-Fi network adapter.

My guess on how the add-on will work is in keeping with Microsoft's true agenda with the Xbox 360: to connect your TV to your computer. I currently can stream MP3's and photos to my Xbox 360 from my computer. If I had Windows Media Center or Windows Vista, I could also stream video to my Xbox 360. And with a fast enough network connection, I could stream HD video, even wirelessly.

So here is my prediction: Microsoft will release an external HD DVD player for a PC that connects via USB and has HDMI cables for the Xbox 360. Then the PC will stream the HD DVD to the Xbox 360. The first HD DVD player is currently selling for $499. An external HD DVD player for a PC should be cheaper since it doesn't have to worry about a user interface (done in software by Microsoft), a remote, networking, or power (might be able to get it from the USB port). Considering that I found a place offering the first HD DVD player for $399, I would not be surprised to see an external PC HD DVD player for $199.

So there's my prediction...what is yours? Post your thoughts as comments (click on the comments link below) and we'll see who gets the Amazing Kreskin award in early May!

 

 

April 9, 2006

My Next Cell Phone

Filed under Gadgets

Motorola Q
This is a *very* cool phone. It is the Motorola Q. I want it now! ...but it is not out yet. It is expected to be offered by Verizon Wireless in May.

It is called the Q because it comes with a QWERTY keyboard.

What makes this phone so cool?
  • Full keyboard
  • Big 320x240 screen
  • Super thin
  • One of first phones to run Microsoft Windows Mobile 5.0 OS
  • Internet Explorer for web browsing
  • Mobile Outlook for email, contacts, calendar, and task lists
  • Mobile versions of Word, Excel, and Powerpoint
  • Side scroll wheel for one handed web browsing (IE will reformat pages so they fit the width of the screen)
  • Windows Media Player
  • No external antenna
  • 1.3 Megapixel camera with light
  • Video camera
I am moving from Yahoo based email, contacts, and calendar to Microsoft Exchange. Exchange (like Yahoo) supports access to email, contacts, and calendar via cell phones.

But with the Q, it works *much* better. Instead of connecting to the internet to look up a phone number in your address book...the Q can sync with Exchange so that all of your information is available on the phone, even if you don't have internet access. If you modify a contact, it is done locally and then synchronized with Exchange the next time the Q goes on line. This means access to your data is very quick because you don't have to wait for it to transfer over the internet.

Another *really* cool feature this phone has is support for SlingPlayer Mobile. With a Slingbox connected to your TV at home, you can use SlingPlayer Mobile to stream whatever your TV can view to your cell phone screen. The phone acts as a remote control to your TV. With the Q, a Slingbox, and my current home theater setup I could use my cell phone to...
  • Watch DirecTV (local channels, ESPN, CNN, HBO, etc.)
  • Watch whatever shows TIVO has stored on its hard drive
  • Schedule TIVO recordings
  • Watch whatever DVD is in my DVD player
  • Listen to AM/FM radio
  • Listen to my MP3 collection stored on my computer (via my Xbox 360)
  • View all the photos stored on my computer as a slideshow (via my Xbox 360)
Here is a video review of SlingPlayer Mobile. Here is the Q on Phone Scoop. Here is a video review of the phone.

I haven't seen a price yet...but I don't care! I must have this phone!

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About Gadgets

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to David's Blog in the Gadgets category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

Funny is the previous category.

HDTV is the next category.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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