FINDER WILL NOT SEE SHARED DEVICES

I type this as a public service announcement to others – so you do not have to spend 3 hours on Apple technical support for something that should take 10 minutes.

If your Finder stops seeing the network devices, it is probably a simple issue – the firewall. And yes .. before you say it … I should have thought of that way earlier into the process instead of blindly following the Apple level 1, then level 2, then level 3 technical support who never thought to try such an incredibly obvious element.

In my case, all of our devices are using McAfee All Access. Somehow (either by a router firmware upgrade or a McAfee upgrade), the firewall swapped the network from home/work to public, thereby blocking the local network.

Under preferences of the McAfee All Access console – simply change it back – under Type (right side).

Firewall

Hopefully that saves someone else 3 hours.

GOODBYE CAMERA? Not me

The New Yorker article Goodbye, Camera is a thought provoking article suggesting that the era of the networked device will displace the need for a camera:

One of the great joys of that walk was the ability to immediately share with family and friends the images as they were captured in the mountains: the golden, early-morning light as it filtered through the cedar forest; a sudden valley vista after a long, upward climb. Each time, I pulled out my iPhone, not the GX1, then shot, edited, and broadcasted the photo within minutes. As I’ve become a more network-focused photographer, I’ve come to love using the smartphone as an editing surface; touch is perfect for photo manipulation. There’s a tactility that is lost when you edit with a mouse on a desktop computer. Perhaps touch feels natural because it’s a return to the chemical-filled days of manually poking and massaging liquid and paper to form an image I had seen in my head. Yet if the advent of digital photography compressed the core processes of the medium, smartphones further squish the full spectrum of photographic storytelling: capture, edit, collate, share, and respond. I saw more and shot more, and returned from the forest with a record of both the small details—light and texture and snippets of life—and the conversations that floated around them on my social networks.

Reading through this quote I was left with a question – is the networked device destroying the camera .. or is it destroying the moment? He spent his time slogging through the mountains, shooting his photos, editing, instagramming and texting instead of .. enjoying the mountain path and the moment. I can just see him doing what I see so often in beautiful travel destinations .. this fellow tripping along, distracted, glancing up from his phone while he types and Facebooks … Seen it 100 times.

Does it enhance the moment? Personally, I don’t think so.

When I am shooting with a camera I am in the moment, observing, enjoying – not thinking about who I am going to share the picture with. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a time for the camera phone, but for me there will always be a time for a camera.

It would be interesting to hear what others think.

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(San Francisco, China Town)

THE FAILED PROMISE OF TABLETS

For many years I have wanted the tablet to deliver on one promise – paperless.

Starting with Microsoft’s digital ink (2002) which was rumored to cost hundreds of millions, but due to battery life and screen issues – never took off. Then the iPad came along and whilst it is a good multi-purpose device, the note taking element remains substandard. I have written on this topic a few times.

When I am in a meeting and someone is typing notes into their tablet or laptop, it is distracting – creates a barrier and ultimately, inefficient. Type the note on your phone and you run the risk of looking like you are checking email creating irritation or suspicion.

So, I keep using my Moleskine with the Evernote function (I never sync to Evernote) hoping that one day, someone will invent the capability to properly take notes electronically. Why notes? I like to write notes – it helps me remember, comprehend, think – digest – or something along those lines. Plus, when I am taking notes I am focused, and if I am with a client – that sends a message.

Yes, I have tried different pens on different devices .. Android, iPad with a Wacom pen, but everything is middling and I end up back to pen and paper.

Perhaps the day has finally come and this company has figured out the trick. The solution is like the Kindle, a single purpose, low cost device .. the BoogieBoard 9.7. Bluetooth sync and transfer, $100 price tag, Evernote integration, the right size – light and big enough to write on. Looks like it will go “live” at CES 2014.

Boogie_Board_Sync_9_7_LCD_eWriter___Improv_Electronics

Signed up for the notice of when it finally goes GA. Hopefully it will come in a color other than orange trim.

MAC BLOGGING SOFTWARE: MarsEdit DOESN’T CUT IT

Moving from my Windows laptop to a Mac laptop means that I also need to find blogging software as I like blogging offline.

Unfortunately, it seems like no ones has designed one that can work as well as Microsoft’s Windows Live Writer, the best blogging software out there.

I have tried a few different Mac options over the last week, read a ton of Top 10 lists (all are basically the same) and finally landed on MarsEdit. But even then it is with a resigned "if I have to" versus a happy transition. It amazes me that no blogging software has caught up to Live Writer, a 5 year old piece of software that hasn’t changed and is free. After a few minutes of work, my view:

  • The ability to set a publishing date is very cumbersome. You have to do it through menus, versus Live Writer where it is on the main screen and a simple “click” and “pick”.
  • The information and selection bar on Live Writer is very robust covering insertions, and changing as you put pictures into the WYSIWYG interface (crop, set default picture size etc.)
  • Live Writer goes against your blog and pulls down you last 50 posts and gives you the option of choices to pull down all of your posts (if you want).
  • Live Writer has a simple interface to allow for multiple blog support.
    After only an hour of playing with MarsEdit I was left with the opinion that this product is a 5 at best and definitely not worth $40. I have no problem paying, but it has to be at least as good as Microsoft’s free product and it is not.So I installed Parallels, Windows 7 and Live Writer. Problem solved in a cumbersome manner and Windows lives on.

ANOTHER PC BITES THE DUST

Well, my personal travel laptop (Windows 7) just bit the dust. After spending a night thinking about it I replaced it with a MacBook Air. I use an Air at work and it will result in me traveling with one less charger.

The other deciding factor was Time Machine. It works so well, especially if you are traveling like me ..  you can never backup enough.

But the Apple vs Windows war isn’t over. My sons have become PC gamers again, the XBOX is gathering dust. In fact when discussing the hype of the XBOX One, the boys concluded they are no longer interested, which surprised me. When I was at Microsoft I remember hearing stories about Robbie Bach fighting the internal MS machine to keep the XBOX a gaming focused device (The Windows team wanted it to run Windows). Now that he is gone, it seems that the device is slowly starting to lose focus and get lost in MS’s confusing consumer strategy. Too bad, it is a truly great platform.

According to our in-house experts, gaming PCs using Steam offer better games, better graphics, these insane "sales" where they can pick up new games for almost nothing (75 percent off is not uncommon) and instant access via high speed download.

The PC isn’t dead in our house after all.

MY FAVORITE APP

My favourite app for the iPad is Zinio, the magazine reader. I don’t have a single paper magazine subscription left (living in Tokyo killed that). Flipboard is a close second, but the content is hit or miss and I enjoy paying for this content.

With a hectic travel, work and family schedule I find myself reading more and more magazine content as it allows me to dive in and out. The content is very targeted, allowing me to read based upon my particular mood. Feel like learning, HBR. Gadget minded … T3. Love the application.

The interesting thing is that in the era of massive decline of the print industry, I have never had so many magazine subscriptions or spent so much money in my life. In the past, I was maxed out at 2 or 3 – now I have 12. A testament to usability and digital convenience.

Here is my Zinio list, in no particular order:

  • Harvard Business Review
  • Wired
  • Mental Floss
  • Esquire
  • Men’s Journal
  • Inc.
  • Fast Company
  • GEO
  • PC Magazine
  • geek
  • Popular Science
  • T3

My only gripe? I wish I was reading it on a Samsung Android 10 inch Note, not our corporate standard … The iPad.

I miss my Samsung tablet.

McAfee: I AM DISAPPOINTED

 

I am a pretty simple guy with expectations regarding virus protection: protect my computers from viruses.

I am a pretty savvy computer user, but I “got – got” a few days ago. I received an email which looked like it was from FedEx saying they needed me to print out a label and re-do it as the delivery failed. It was a virus. I have a bunch of deliveries going on right now and didn’t even clue into the fact that it didn’t make sense – only thing I was thinking was “which delivery is having an issue?”.

So I did the stupid thing; I double clicked on the ZIP file and the internal .exe (Insert cringe). Sure enough, it launched the live platinum security virus. Here is where I get very disappointed with McAfee. I have been a customer for a very long time – and McAfee failed. You can see where McAfee has failed others on this front here (their community site – many threads on this topic). Not only did it allow the install of a known piece of malware, it also failed to identify it on the full system scan I did.

I had to go and download a free malware removal tool to stop it and luckily I caught it before it did real damage.

This really irritates me. I have the McAfee family plan – pay yearly and religiously – and McAfee failed. They will come up with some excuse (it is Malware, not a virus – or some nonsense like that) – but I don’t care. In my eyes they failed.

If you cannot stop such an obvious and well known issue why do I have you? McAfee All Access – Total Protection needs to be renamed to “Not quite total protection – you should probably just go with freeware”. A bit wordy – I know, but perhaps they can find a catch acronym.

Of interest, when I could not get the .zip to work on my PC I ran to the iMac and did the same thing. The iMac didn’t get infected (and McAfee is on that PC also – but really does nothing).

HIGGS BOSSON EXPLAINED

 

Colliders and the “god particle” are all over the news. I always detested physics in school. In fact, first year honours physics is the reason why I changed studies in University; I loved to code, but detested mathematics and physics so I left computer science. Plus, I couldn’t see myself behind a screen coding for the next 40 years.

But I am interested in what they are doing with the large Hadron Collider so I watched a video that does a pretty good job of explaining what is going on. You can watch hit here.

Thank you NASA.

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A JOKE

 

I have started to tell this joke regularly, when connecting with old Microsoft friends:

Q: What is the first thing a Microsoftie does after leaving Microsoft?

A: Buy an iPhone.

Shockingly accurate.

SKYPE

 

Over the last couple months I have become a big Skype user. Not the free version, but the paid “call any landline in the world” version. I use it on my iPhone via Wi-Fi in hotel rooms and on my laptop when traveling.

The world of voice calls was very unaffordable for the traveler only a few years ago. I cannot imagine being without it now. $13 a month is a small price to pay to be able to call home wherever I am for as long as I want.

UPGRADING THE WIRELESSS NETWORK

 

Before we head out to Japan I upgraded our wireless networking, grabbing the fastest/strongest wireless router I could find – the ASUS RT-N66U.

However, even with the increased range and range extending antennas on the router, when you are upstairs (3 floors from the router) the signal isn’t as fast as it needs to be. So I took my old D-LINK router and created a second wireless network in the office called “Upstairs”. It took some time to figure out how to do that, I simply repost these instructions to help others (and in case I need to do it again):

If you are connecting the D-Link router to another router to use as a wireless access point and/or switch, you will have to do the following before connecting the router to your network:
Disable UPnPT
Disable DHCP
Change the LAN IP address to an available address on your network. The LAN ports on the router cannot accept a DHCP address from your other router.
To connect to another router, please follow the steps below:
1. Plug the power into the router. Connect one of your computers to the router (LAN port) using an Ethernet cable. Make sure your IP address on the computer is 192.168.0.xxx (where xxx is between 2 and 254). Please see the Networking Basics section for more information. If you need to change the settings, write down your existing settings before making any changes. In most cases, your computer should be set to receive an IP address automatically in which case you will not have to do anything to your computer.
2. Open a web browser and enter http://192.168.0.1 and press Enter. When the login window appears, set the user name to Admin and leave the password box empty. Click Log In to continue.
3. Click on Advanced and then click Advanced Network. Uncheck the Enable UPnP checkbox. Click Save Settings to continue.
4. Click Setup and then click Network Settings. Uncheck the Enable DHCP Server server checkbox. Click Save Settings to continue.
5. Under Router Settings, enter an available IP address and the subnet mask of your network. Click Save Settings to save your settings. Use this new IP address to access the configuration utility of the router in the future. Close the browser and change your computer’s IP settings back to the original values as in Step 1.
Connect to Another Router
6. Disconnect the Ethernet cable from the router and reconnect your computer to your network.
7. Connect an Ethernet cable in one of the LAN ports of the router and connect it to your other router. Do not plug anything into the Internet port of the D-Link router.
8. You may now use the other 3 LAN ports to connect other Ethernet devices and computers. To configure your wireless network, open a web browser and enter the IP address you assigned to the router. Refer to the Configuration and Wireless Security sections for more information on setting up your wireless network.

Works well.

WHY I THINK WINDOWS 8 MOBILE WILL ALSO FAIL

 

Time and time again Microsoft re-launches in the mobile market with a promise of “this time we have it right”. Their product has improved, bloggers like it, but it fails to capture the market. In fact, Mobile 7 had a short blip (at a significant marketing expense) and then fell away into nothing. The irony in all of it is that Microsoft makes more money from IP licensing to Android OEMs than it does on the Windows Mobile licenses.

With Windows Mobile 8 on the horizon the market is buzzing with the question – will they get it right this time? In my opinion, the answer is no. Here is why:

1. It isn’t about the carrier – it is about the OEM:  Microsoft spends copious amounts of resources on in-country coverage of carriers around the world. These resources meet with the carriers and talk about new product launches, how to align with the local subsidiary and try to influence the carrier into stocking more Windows Mobile products. You could eliminate that organization and it would have no impact on Windows mobile sales for a single reason – they have no marketing money to invest because each license is $14 and are therefore irrelevant. The carriers might talk to them out of courtesy, but they are not taken seriously.

The war is won and lost with the OEM. As so many Windows Mobile reps in the field found out this year, if the OEM does not choose to range the OS, then there isn’t much to talk about.

Think of the math this way:

A carrier decides to range a device that will cost them $400. They decide to order 50K. Revenue to the OEM: $20M. That OEM will offer incentives to the carrier (millions) in co-marketing to move the product.

Microsoft’s revenue for 50,000 units – $700K. Irrelevant.

2. The licensing model is broken:  As you can see by the above, $700K in licensing leads to one question – how is Microsoft ever going to make money in this market? We know how the competition does it – Google released Android to drive search revenue and app store, Apple drives revenue from high margin hardware, the application store and iTunes.

Microsoft doesn’t have many applications and $14 per device isn’t going to scale.  Even if they sold 200M units – that is only $2.8B inside a $65B company. Which is why Microsoft needs to rethink the mobile strategy and drive revenues by taking a holistic mobile first product view for ALL products.

Google gets that if they give Android away to the OEM, they drive share and their core products. If Microsoft were to give away Windows Mobile and ensure that their other products were mobile ready and ready to monetize, the revenues would sky rocket. But for that to be successful on the Windows Mobile platform, it requires the 3rd point – that is the biggest hurdle.

3. Build an OS agnostic product strategy:  Microsoft’s history is built on products that drive users to the Windows platform. SQL Server never made it to Unix, only Windows, Office isn’t out on iOS (although that is changing) and Hotmail is driving users left and right to GMAIL because it doesn’t support IMAP (Although they did make the desperate move to allow iOS to work like IMAP but not on a Mac).

Windows Mobile will thrive if Microsoft unleashes their products to all mobile operating systems. Just think of the Office numbers alone. One of the first things I did when I bought a Mac was install Office 2011 and it is fantastic. On mobile, there isn’t a single good alternative to Office but at the same time, users will not convert to Windows Mobile to get a great Office experience (which is core to Microsoft strategy).

If they took every product and made it work on the other 2 OSs (Android/iOS), then it would build Microsoft brand loyalty that is bound to positively flow to Windows Mobile and maybe even have some try their newest phone.

Unfortunately, their current strategy drives us away. I am a great example:

  • Left Hotmail because there is no IMAP support which means a terrible experience on our Mac and on my Android phone.
  • Left Office OneNote (great product) for Evernote because it isn’t cloud and won’t work on other platforms (My Mac, my Android tablet, my iPhone).
  • Don’t use Bing because the above irritate me.
  • Don’t use SkyDrive because unlike Dropbox it doesn’t support every device.

The list goes on. One last point, think of this – 200M devices with Office mobile at $10 a unit $2B and it would drive Bing, OneNote and others if they took the same approach.

In summary – I am willing to bet that Windows mobile 8 will not be a success simply because it does not appear that Microsoft gets the root of the problem. Sure, they will spend gobs of money on the marketing campaign, they will have a fancy multi-screen pitch showing how well Windows PC, XBOX and Windows Mobile work together and it will make a big splash in the fall. But in my opinion, that isn’t enough. Like Windows 7 phone, it will be a short bump.

I will keep using my iPhone and my Samsung tablet (can’t wait for the pen). We now have 3 Apples PCs in the house (2 laptops and a iMac) which have dramatically reduced the ‘Dad technical support calls’ and over the next 12 months as our last 2 PCs start to wear, I will probably remove them too. Starting at a new company this week I was allowed to choose devices and I took a MacBook Pro and an iPhone (It is kind of like that joke that is floating around: What is the first thing a Microsoft employee does when they quit? Buy an iPhone).

Unless Microsoft changes. The fact that their tablet will be using a skinny Windows desktop OS instead of doing what Google and Apple did – putting the mobile OS on the tablet – are indicators that it won’t happen. Their Windows desktop centric culture remains to strong, and too out-dated. Too bad that there isn’t anyone left who can shift the company with a memo.

Who knows, I could be wrong. But as a recently departed Telco executive who talked to and influenced clients about mobile trends every day, I don’t think so ….

THE COTTAGE GAMING ECONOMY

 

I was in the Motorola booth (I think) at WMC where a number of developers were showing off their applications. I was interested in the company escapist games.

The founder was there showing off his Starchart application, which he built with his young son in mind. The app (which I need to buy) allows you to point your phone’s camera at the sky and it gives you information on the star cluster you are looking at. Ingenious.

Somehow he mentioned that he lived in Vancouver years ago, worked for EA and left to start his own company. In his case, he started the company with the low cost game in mind. From his point of view, the $50 console game requires big companies and significant investment to make reality with a high chance of failure. As he put it, many gamers have spent the big dollars on a game and been disappointed. However, the low cost gaming model that is overwhelming the smartphone market provides a unique opportunity – if you buy a $3 game and you don’t like it – it doesn’t matter as much. You move on to the next game and that means a booming industry.

He then mentioned two key facts:

  • They are a company of 10
  • They have sold 2M copies at $3 each

Do the math. Low cost of production, significant rewards, an industry that will continue to flourish.

KINDLE

 

I finally bit the bullet and bought a Kindle Touch – 6”. It arrives Wednesday. Why? My Samsung 10.1” tablet is amazing – with the Kindle and Zinio (magazines) apps – but it simply doesn’t work in the sun. I find myself burying my head under a beach towel or seeking shade; and even then it is a super strain to read. Don’t even try it with polarized sun glasses.

With a few trips on the very near horizon – a beach capable reading device was needed. Someone needs to invent a tablet LCD that works outside. Although it seems to be getting closer.

NTT INTERESTS AS ALWAYS

 

Every year I make a point of getting over to the NTT booth – there is always something “way out there” and someone who can barely speak English ready to try and explain it.

This year’s interesting item was a series of sensor cases that you insert your smartphone into. A ‘breath sensor’ (for halitosis and alcohol), a weather sensor and a body fat sensor.

IMG_0081

I had to try out the body fat sensor. You start by adding in parameters (Which was harder than it should of been as I still think of height and weight in Imperial – not metric) and then you put 4 fingers on these mental contact points on the sensor. Basically you hold it like a point and click camera. He explained that it sends a current through the body and by measuring resistance they make the calculation. My measurements are below … who knows if it is accurate.

IMG_0072

Right beside it was the NEC booth and the marketing display caught my interest as it was profiling people as they stood in front of it. These have been popping up over the last couple years and it is pretty clear that they have some additional work before they hit primetime … look down the left panel and my multiple ages/impressions. I did not move from the same spot and it just kept re-profiling me, and of course I am not female (smile).

IMG_0082

The last one that caught my attention was a docking station for your mobile phone. It caught my attention because I still can’t figure out why I would want one?

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Congrats to GSMA, another great show. Learned a ton.

AUGMENTED REALITY

 

There is a lot of talk about augmented reality and how mobility can provide depth to static media. I happened to be walking by the HP booth and there were a few people demonstrating the Aurasma application with a phone and iPad (Available on Android – iOS). Simply download the free application, point it at a Aurasma enabled item (Like an ad) and voila ….

 

The commercial value is enticing – I watched a John Lewis catalogue demo where you point it at the cameras and it brings up mobile ads and a ‘buy now’ button to take you to their website. The newspaper application is also interesting. And the creative opportunities are pretty interesting ….

 

And of course, you cannot go wrong with dinosaurs.

WINNER OF THE SHOW: SAMSUNG 10.1” NOTE

 

In my eyes, the winner of WMC has to be the Samsung 10.1” Note (Tablet). I still remember getting my first tablet back in 2002 – the Compaq TC1000. The notion of finally having your notes recorded digitally – truly no more paper – was very appealing. Unfortunately, the battery life and speed (It was so slowwwww….) were not up to expectations and it never really took off.

Last year HTC came out with a 7” tablet with a pen. I was very excited. Fantastic integration into applications, but the screen size was too small.

This year, Samsung brings out a 10.1” tablet with a pen and they seem to have got it right. The only thing missing is some deeper application integration (Specifically – native support for Evernote). But I am sure that will come.

IMG_0074

CNET review here.

They were demoing Adobe Ideas on the Samsung – very impressive tablet based art and editing. The creative possibilities are very interesting. I can imagine our boys going to school with this tablet and no paper, drawing on it, taking class notes, watching videos, surfing the internet, reading books and on and on.

The tablet finally becomes what it was always meant to be.

SIRIUS ON SONOS

 

Not complaining (too loudly) about we Canadians getting treated as second class citizens when it comes to services (ahem, Pandora) but at least one wrong has been righted. Big user/fan of Sonos and glad to FINALLY see Sirius live and streaming. It was a Coffeehouse weekend.

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TECHNO-DETERMINISM

 

I am not sure where I read the term, but found the definition interesting:

The belief that technology makes us smarter or dumber.

I know that my children’s color laser printed, PowerPoint created school projects are about 1000% more complex and detailed at a much younger age than my Encyclopedia Britannica based, hand written projects. Technology has definitely changed that and I would wager that they know a lot more than I did at that age simply due to exposure to information.

Smarter? Dumber? Not sure that is the right element to debate. More informed, for sure.

BOXEE JOINS THE FAMILY

 

As anyone who has been at our house knows, I enjoy technology. The Sonos for music distribution, XBOX 360 for showing photos on the TV when people are over and now the Boxee Box for video distribution.

I had been using our XBOX for video but Media Center on the XBOX isn’t a fan of all file formats and would often lose the network connection (which was perplexing and super frustrating as it is gigabit wired Ethernet) . I tried Apple TV but was underwhelmed by the iTunes centric approach, lack of codec support and hampered by our lack of iMACs (I still bleed Windows …).

I had heard about the Boxee through Engadget but never really explored it until I had lunch with a colleague and he happened to be raving about it. Two weeks later, I give it a 9/10. It has streamed every type of media thrown at it, it recognizes and categorizes 90% of the media accurately and plays .iso files very well.

Most important? Only one minor technical issue (which was easily fixed), no network issues and it just works. I now have two ….

SONOS: FIVE OUT OF FIVE STARS

 

I love to try new technology, although there are a few that I have skipped and this is one that I skipped 3 years ago. On the home theater side, our house is wired. Ethernet, speakers in many rooms, a media server in the basement that distributes our music, videos and pictures and an XBOX on every TV to view the content. The problem with the XBOX (besides Media Center’s insane flakiness) and music is that you have to be in the family room to control the media. So if you are outside on the deck and don’t like the song or find the volume too high, you have to go inside and change it. Not any longer.

I looked at a Sonos 3 years ago when a friend showcased it at his BBQ in England. In his old home he had bridges set up and controlling speakers with the Sonos proprietary wireless network distributing music around the house. It worked very well for him as old English homes are very hard to wire due to their plaster walls and age. The Sonos indexed his music and playlists from his PC and the proprietary remote control allowed him to stand outside and switch songs, select genres, alter volume or pick a new playlist. The problem was the price and the remote. In the old model you needed all of the kit … the remote (which was a brick), the bridges and on and on. It was a $1,200++ investment.

Not anymore. While at WMC I came across the Sonos booth and found that they had made a couple key advancements. The most important for me was the remote control. They have taken the software and released it on iOS, so you can eliminate the need for yet another remote control and put it on your iPhone or iPad for FREE. They also announced that it will be out on Android any day, which will be great on my Atrix and Samsung Galaxy. According to the Sonos site, you can have up to 16 devices interacting with the system (PCs, phones, tablets). No more looking for a remote, just grab one of the phones that is lying around and take control.

Sonos Product Family Diagram

Which leads to the second component, the ZonePlayer 90. As the house is pre-wired, I do not need to use a wireless network to distribute music. Instead, I invested $400 and bought the ZP90. I plugged the device into my network (via Ethernet), linked it to my amp (via optical), logged into the Sonos app on my desktop, pointed the software to the folder which contains my music and playlists and Voila! Up and running. It doesn’t care if I am using Windows Media Player or iTunes (I don’t … although I did say last week that we should get a Mac .. for the heck of it), it reads them all.

This is a fantastic piece of kit. Sonos has been at it a long time, and with the free software app on the phone/tablet, the cost is negligible and the best out there.  Well done Sonos.

ONE MORE WMC EYE CATCHER

 

Continuing on the theme of face recognition, in the Embedded Showcase the company Viewdle demonstrated their application. Working with the camera on a smartphone the application picks up the identity of the individual and provides action options (according to the staged demo and video). The demonstrator pointed the phone at herself and voila, the application recognizes and tags for use in social networking, gaming or ….?

2011 02 17-11

Their concept video was interesting to watch. The power of these small devices is opening up so many different options

2011 02 17-9

EYE CATCHING AT MWC

 

Whenever I go to World Mobile Congress I always make a point of getting to the NTT Docomo booth. They never fail to impress by coming up with something unique. Of course, I just don’t get a few of their ‘innovations’ like the ‘real wood’ shell for a smartphone, and they don’t seem to want to let that one go. This year’s surprise was a translation program. You speak into a phone on one end and it translates real time. I stood on one side, the Japanese demonstrator on the other and we attempted to have a conversation. While not perfect, it definitely opens up a very interesting potential market. After all, voice recognition continues to get better and better. I use Vlingo all the time with pretty good success.

2011 02 15-3

2011 02 15-1

I can absolutely see this type of application working in the next 10-20 years.

2011 02 15-2

At the NEC booth I found my second most interesting application. A camera that scanned the crowd and recorded demographic information – sex and estimated age. The only issue if you keep standing there it keeps guessing your age which makes you wonder on accuracy if it was looking for a quantity of people count … in my case it guessed my age from 30 to close to my real age, 43. There are clearly some bugs to work out but you can see the application. Currently retail stores have trip counters that record traffic as people walk in and out, giving an estimated close rate when correlated to sales. This provides a completely different level of potential sales and demographic information. Enjoy me at a point in time between 30 and 43 …. 35.

2011 02 15-4

Along the same lines was VTT’s digital interaction demonstration, a product seeking an application. You appear on the screen and random word bubbles jump up beside your head. Amusing, but I am not sure of the practicality. Of course, that is part of what VTT does as a research institute.

2011 02 17-2-2

A small smattering of different applications and ideas hidden among the business show.

eBOOKS

 

I enjoy technology. I enjoy reading about it. I enjoy the frustrating process of participating in a beta. I enjoy watching trends and working out how they will have a benefit in business and/or personal life.

But one piece of technology I have really struggled with is the eBook. I have not jumped on the bandwagon. I was given one as a gift. I have the Amazon Kindle Android app on my Samsung Tablet. But I don’t use them. I have only bought a single eBook. I have been wondering if I am missing out, am I falling behind?

Now, I do read on my tablet. I subscribe to a plethora of blogs via Google Reader, my favourite being HBR. I subscribe to a host of podcasts including the BBC World News, BBC Business News, Wallstreet Journal and others. But I just don’t buy eBooks – and I finally figured out why.

It hit me while on the plane reading the paper version of How The Mighty Fall.  When I read a business book, I read it like I am back in University. I bend pages, I underline, I write in the margin and I even highlight on occasions (if I have a highlighter handy which is almost never). I look at that book as a reference tool, a lesson to be leveraged when I face a future decision or question. I cannot count the number of times I have dug through The First 90 days to refer to a lesson. I realized that an eBook cannot provide that same experience (even if it is searchable).

Which led me to a simple conclusion. For me, business books require paper. Personal interest books can be an eBook. Problem solved.

VOICE

 

Note: The below was created using Google voice on an Android tablet (Samsung Galaxy) – not perfect – but pretty amazing.

I have been using the new samsung galaxy tablets over the last 2 weeks. The application store for android is a lot like apples which an application or virtual everything yahoo calendar. 1 of the coolest applications the ability to use use your voice instead of a keyboard. Drew trial and error i figured out that it doesn’t like if you yell.  It Isn’t perfect yet but It Is quite impressive.

It supports Adobe and every file format imaginable. I love it. Although I am not sure how well the voice conversion would work in Scotland.

 

BLACKBERRY TORCH

 

Obviously, my previous work life has lead to a very Microsoft centric lifestyle. I did ask the boys if they wanted Apple’s this fall for school (laptops) but they said no, as middle and senior school are all PC. Hey, I tried. Call me enlightened.

That being said, I have been using the Blackberry Torch for the last month or so and I am blown away. I love this device and as the saying goes .. “they will have to pry it out of my cold dead hands”.

I have tried many full screen devices, but I always come back to that keyboard. I need a keyboard. And with the new OS, RIM has finally solved what I would call my ‘big beefs’. A few highlights:

  • Universal search. I always hated having to hit a key or go to a menu. Now, I start typing in a name and it starts sorting through my entire device. Showing me the contact, emails from that person and even a history of our interaction (calendar, calls).
  • Browser. I always found the browsing experience on a non-touch screen device sub standard. With the new browser, touch screen with ‘pinch’ zoom in and zoom out, it is very usable.
  • Design. The keyboard is one of the best on the market, like the 9700 and the width is only a little bit wider than the 9700. It still fits in a shirt pocket.
  • Message sort. I love this feature. It basically takes an email and puts all of the affiliated emails into one single folder – constantly updating. So if an email has 12 replies, they only show up as one email in the inbox. When I click that email, it shows me the entire thread and all 12 emails. Even better yet, I can delete all 12 with one keystroke (which is why I really like it).

Well done RIM. While I have had a few people talk about the GHZ of this device or uber-screen of another, in the end do I really care? Nope. This device is a productivity machine for a business person. Well done.

THE WORLD HAS GONE MAD: TWITTER FOR YOUR CAT

 

I am not a big fan of Twitter. I don’t follow anyone and don’t have an account. Perhaps if I was from a younger generation, I would. After all, I am sure my buddies and I would have one or two jokes being shared, while moving from pub to pub (although, they would all need to be expunged prior to employment).

And of course, as with all technology, companies seek out new uses. Sony has just announced a lifelogging application that uploads to Twitter.

The lifelogging device, which was prototyped in collaboration with the University of Tokyo, is equipped with a camera, an acceleration sensor, a GPS, etc to record the activities of a cat.

Using the data collected by the acceleration sensor, etc, the device deduces the activities of a cat such as walking, sleeping and eating.

The device can be used with the Twitter service and automatically posts comments in accordance with the activities. The lifelog data is first transmitted to a PC via Bluetooth, and, then, comments are posted on Twitter. For example, it is possible to automatically post a comment like "This tastes good" when a cat is eating something.

Now, I love animals. I live in a family of animal activists. At one time we had a dog and four cats at the same time. And it runs in family. My son is on a school trip and he called last night and said they were at the Humane Society and he donated all of the money he had left because it is for the animals.

But knowing everything my cat does? Pass.

XBOX UPDATE

 

Looks like the spring update of XBOX live added MKV support. I was surprised, you can now watch your .MP4 files and full HD MKV files natively within the Media Center XBOX shell.

Too bad they didn’t fix the flaw that is seriously making me consider Apple TV …. You must be logged onto XBOX Live (with an active connection, you can’t be logged into your profile) to play media content. If your internet is acting funny, it will ask you to redownload the patch.

So one positive, one negative.

POWERMAT AT WMC

 

I was in the Powermat booth and they had some pretty cool demos going on. Their technology is moving from a shell that you put on your device to power charging integrated into the battery. This is a huge change (the rep mentioned that is will be available Q2) and makes the technology incredibly compelling, I can’t stand all the chargers. Especially if you think about their car holder – drop it into the holder and you comply with the law and charge the device without plugging in.

2009 WMC  (2)

They also demonstrated where they are going with appliances. The below appliances have no cords, just a charging station built below the counter top. No cords, that would be nice.

SAM_0026

NTT DOCOMO

 

Every year at WMC (this is my 4th or 5th time), my favourite booth is the NTT Docomo booth for two reasons:

1. They only seem to ever send Japanese booth people who speak virtually no English. That makes me laugh.

2. They always have the wackiest and coolest stuff.

This years winner for most questionable handset innovation:  For people who think that aluminum, carbon fibre, or gold just isn’t good enough … the Wooden handset!

SAM_0023

How do they do that? Well with 3D Compression Technology of course:

SAM_0024

This year’s wackiest – Eye-Controlled Earphones. I kid you not. The man stood up there moving his eyes and shifting from song to song. Of course, it makes you wonder – what happens if you look at something quickly, will the song change? Or if you are reading a book and listening to music, will it keep fast forwarding? It also wins the award for most humorous demonstration. Watching the man below, I can read his mind ‘I got my PHD to do this?’.

SAM_0025

It would appear that other carriers are also getting in into the ‘out there’ R&D business. Telefonica was demonstrating the ‘State of Mind and Mood Analysis for eHealth’ application. By closely monitoring involuntary facial movement, it could determine my present state of mind. The blue and green shading is my ‘aura’.

SAM_0020

Despite the fact that I was just off a plane, had slept 3 hours in the last 36 and was uber-jetlagged, I was still measured as calm and in a good state of e-health. I asked her if she had red people (high anger, etc.) and she said occasionally. She then asked me to think of someone I really didn’t like, or who I hated or who made me super mad to try and get me to read red. I honestly couldn’t think of anyone that I bear a grudge toward or am angry with at this point in my life (which, upon reflection, is a fantastic thing .. life is good was my e-reading)… So she reverted to a video of Obama.

She showed him as he presented on the national deficit and the state of the economy. The aura is not a happy one (note all the yellow).

SAM_0021

A few cool viewings.

GOOGLE GOGGLES AT MWC

 

Eric Schmidt was a keynote at WMC and during his presentation the team demonstrated the new Google Goggles product. The product takes a photo and using recognition software, will do a web search. For his presentation, they took a few landmarks in Barcelona and executed the web search.

image

The next step was the big wow. The product has integrated Google’s translation software and OCR capabilities. He took a photo of a menu that was in German, it brought up the Google translation page and with a touch of a button converted the menu from German to English.

“Right now this technology only works for German-to-English translations and it’s not yet ready for prime time. However, it shows a lot of promise for what the future might hold. Soon your phone will be able to translate signs, posters and other foreign text instantly into your language. Eventually, we’re hoping to build a version of Google Goggles that can translate between all of the 52 languages currently supported by Google Translate — bringing even more information to you on the go. “ mentioned Hartmut Neven on the company’s blog.

That was WOW.

A CAR FROM WORLD MOBILE CONGRESS

 

A mobile show wouldn’t be complete without a totally wired car or two. The first car I came across was the Alcatel-Lucent LTE car. Interested in 100MBPS down in the car? Well this is the car for you.

2009 WMC  (5)

I said to the guy manning the car (who must have been part of the project), ‘Is there just the one?’. Indignantly he responded, ‘Just one, do you know how long it took to build this concept car?’. The back seat LEDs give a snippet of your choices in a fully wired car, a few more choices than your run of the mill Dodge Caravan.

2009 WMC  (4)

2009 WMC  (3)

The loaded Audi concept car was a bit more to my liking.

2009 WMC  (13)

I was underwhelmed by the Garmin Asus concept car (smile).

2009 WMC  (6)

AVATAR

 

A lot of press has written about the hugely expensive Avatar movie that came out on the 18th. Estimates range from $300-500M to make and market the movie.

We saw it as a family a few nights ago. The experience was like my first viewing of Jurassic Park, you just sit there and are amazed by every single scene. After watching that movie, I cannot imagine any experience or story that cannot be made to look life like and real.

On the 3D side, I would have been just as impressed without the 3D gimmick. While it was cool, it wasn’t required.

Amazing move.

MARATICK

 

I have been playing with the Blackberry Application World lately and the different apps that are available. One of the coolest is Maratick, a list making product.

This weekend, instead of heading out to do Christmas shopping this weekend with a piece of paper – I did it with my Blackberry, and it was super easy ticking things off. Cool app.

image

BLOG NOTE

 

Too the Apple fans who keep pinging me every time they see a reference to an Apple product on the blog.

1. I do not use the iPhone. I think it is an amazing phone (My boys have requested one), but I need a keyboard. I also love the iPod that clips … just wish it worked with Media Player.

2. I don’t have an Apple PC. It isn’t out of scope, but I have Windows 7 running on all the machines and am impressed. We will see, maybe if one is ready for Evergreening.

PS: That being said, I am using my first non-Windows mobile device – the Blackberry 9700 and RIM has done one heck of a good job. Still a few nuances that I am not use to, but it has come a long way and is well integrated into Outlook, and the industrial engineering on the device itself is really impressive.

CONSIDERING A HOME THEATRE

 

I have always thought about putting in a home projector system, bigger is better has always been my TV motto and with 3 boys playing on the XBOX split screen – a projector definitely fits the bill. The problem has been the house, you must have the right place for it. In  England and in our last Canadian house, we never had the space. Now we have that place.

What is unbelievable is the price. I remember a few friends doing it 6 years ago and paying $6-8K for a high definition projector. Now, for $2K or less you are getting remarkable quality. Case in point, the new Panasonic PT-AE4000U. It has everything including 1080P output. A review:

The AE4000 announcement is dramatic. Though its spec sheet does not look revolutionary compared to last year’s AE3000, the AE4000 is in fact a superior projector in almost every way. Certainly it surpasses the AE3000 in image quality. And it is even more fully-featured than its predecessor. But what is most stunning is the price. Last October, a mere twelve months ago, the AE3000 was released with street prices close to $3,000. This month the AE4000 comes to market at $1,999. This aggressive move will force other manufacturers competing in the home theater projector market to reassess their pricing levels.

Since the AE4000’s picture quality not only surpasses the competitors in its price range, but rivals and in some cases exceeds that of "high-end" models selling for five times the price or more, it warrants a solid 5 stars for performance. Since it has more features than any other home theater projector ever built, 5 stars is not even enough to illustrate its distinction in this category. Similarly, its ease of use is unrivaled-perfect color calibration out of the box in Cinema 1 mode, smart menus that are easy to navigate, lens memory to accommodate 2.40 super widescreen without an anamophic lens-no other projector has all of these things, and most have none of them.

All of this adds up to a remarkable value proposition: at a street of $1,999, we’ve simply never seen this much performance at this price. Panasonic has been extremely tight-lipped about this product launch. Until now many thought the company was dropping out of the home theater projector market. Today’s announcement makes it clear that they are here to stay. The Panasonic PT-AE4000U will be one of the hottest selling home theater projectors of the fall season, and we enthusiastically give it our highest recommendation.

Not quite ready to get it done, as this requires more planning (screens, seating …), but this definitely makes the decision easier! In the meantime, I rented some equipment for last weekend as we held a birthday – 11 boys on 3 XBOXs. So cool. Much better than the pong I grew up with.

TWO COOL GADGETS

 

I watch TV my laptop regularly. The shoX speaker is a fantastic device for getting sound out of a laptop – much deeper than the built in speakers.

If you are travelling on Air Canada these dates you will see the PowerMat ads. I just acquired one and will be playing with. I love the fact that there are no cords, not unlike the Palm Pre’s wireless charger (you just drop it onto the base and it charges). This technology has been around for a while, nice to see that it is finally becoming commercially viable. I definitely need less cords ….

STORING YOUR DVDS ON A DRIVE

 

I watch TV via my XBOX 360. A friend shared a little tip with me about DVDs. If you want to store your DVDs on a hard drive and watch it via your XBOX, follow these simple steps:

  • Decrypt it via tools like Slysoft.
  • Copy the content (VOB files) to the drive.
  • Use this KB article to make a few Vista changes to enable the feature.

Think of this, you can store 200 DVDs on a $100 1TB drive.

Awesome.

MOBILE WORLD CONGRESS

 

I had the good fortune to attend Mobile World Congress again this year and was not disappointed. A few of the highlights that I was able to catch between meetings:

  • The Toshiba booth was filled with innovation. They unleashed the TG01 – their new big screen phone. Hands on, it is an amazing device with video quality off the planet. They also displayed a phone form factor with a Bluetooth keyboard (basically held together by the leather case for travelling). Interesting concept devices.
  • As always, one of my favourite booths was NTT Docomo. They showed the below children’s phone solution with GPS tracking and problem notification and mapping.

NTT Docomo Kids Phone NTT Docomo Kids Phone (2)

  • Panasonic was running a large screen TV off of one of their phones. Not sure of the application, but very cool. Maybe while in a hotel room? The guy to the left looks impressed.

Panasonic

  • Last, O2 had a really cool demo of Surface going. Video below.

CES BRINGS THE NEW TECH

 

If you are technically inclined, you know that CES is on, the big Vegas show where the manufacturers roll out their new technology and Engadget has been doing a stunning job of covering it. A few that I have found interesting:

  • Toshiba embedding Windows Media Extender technology into their new AV products.. This is a very interesting move. Imagine buying a DVD player and being able to stream the pictures, video and music from the PC through the DVD player to the TV or stereo. Now if a company like Denon would do that, it would be even cooler. The Yahoo news is also interesting with their gadgets on a TV. The routes to the TV continue to proliferate … XBOX 360, HDMI out on the laptop. Many choices. I came across this video, which is the history of Media Centre for the TV – past, present and future – interesting watch.
  • It may be time to upgrade to the latest Harmony remote. I still remember being in the office onCarl Zeiss pushes 3D in updated Cinemizer e day and a guy on our team had been over to their office and seen this new product, the Harmony remote control. A year later, Logitech bought them. Best remote I have ever used.
  • Of course, Windows 7. Beta is out. Interesting overview here. You will be able to download it Friday here.
  • Our boys love building things and I can see how Kodu, the new XBOX LIVE game creation program, will be a huge hit in the house.
  • This is not a CES link, but I really need to get to a demo spot to try these ‘Video eye-wear’ devices.
  • I played with the new line of HP TouchSmart PCs at the Costco the other day. These are very slick devices, with the touch interface and a huge 22 inch screen. Great for a kitchen or dorm room. I remember my first 22 inch monitor, it weighed 150 lbs and cost $2300.
  • They are also posting about MacWorld or something?
  • MSN has a few other neat gadgets from CES including the WowWee Spyball (A little odd) and the Powermat (which I can totally see in my house).
  • DIVX announced full HD and H.264 support.

Over the holidays I acquired some new tech. First and foremost was the Canon Speedlight 430 EXII. I made sure it was the first present opened so that I could capture all of the pictures with perfect lighting (although the comments of ‘Wait a minute guys, don’t open anything else until Dad figures out how to turn it on’ did not go over well. And then of course, disaster struck. A Duracell Plus AA blew up in the flash while we were in Paris. That battery is now on it’s way to Germany courtesy of P&G for testing and a report (which better result in their replacing my brand new flash as I can hear it corroding in the battery department as the second pass).

The second was a wireless router upgrade. This is an interesting one. In the UK, the walls are very thick in the homes. Plaster is alive and well. Which means that getting a connection from floor to floor or even from room to room is almost impossible. At one point I tried to hook up the XBOX 360 with wireless but could never get a good enough signal for video streaming. In the end I resorted to Ethernet over power. But I still was not getting the speed that I truly desired (The broadband provider has a ADSL2 router that I was using, but it always seemed flaky and using XBOX Live lead to challenges (i.e. NAT issues)).

What is amazing to me is the choice. 54mbps, 300mbps, N, N+1, 2.5GHZ, 5.0GHZ, dual band. Plus the reviews are all over the map. CNET says one thing and while Trusted Reviews says another. In the end, I ordered the Belkin N1 Vision after much humming and hawwing for four reasons:

1. Reasonably consistent good reviews.

2. N+1 for coverage for long life (I hope).

3. The LED was reviewed by many as handy. I agree, nice to see download and upload activity at the push of a button.

4. Gigabit Ethernet ports.

And in the true spirit of technology, the day that I buy it they announce the next version at CES with one more feature – dual band. I am not returning it ….

MANDATING DATA PROTECTION

 

I read a story a week about a company or government entity that has lost a laptop and is freaking out because people’s privacy, key company or government data is now gone and at risk. The Daily Mail just sent a note to all of their journalists and freelancers about how all of their bank information was lost on a laptop:

The letters went out to journalists and other freelancers employed by Associated, which also publishes the Mail on Sunday and Metro, and regional newspaper publisher Northcliffe. Both are owned by parent company Daily Mail & General Trust.

Those affected were told their name, bank account number and sort code had been lost. The letter, from the group finance director, Simon Dyson, also advised them to consult a government identity theft website for advice. He apologised for any annoyance and inconvenience, saying the "incident was inadvertently caused by a technical issue".

When heading to a conference the other week, I received one of those famous emails with the word ‘ACTION’ in big letters in the subject. The email was quite simple: you have been identified that you have a laptop, you are running Vista and you are heading a conference so encrypt your drive using Bitlocker (drive encryption). There was a little euphemism in the email where they ‘offered to help you’ with this process at the conference with IT staff on hand (which really means, there are no excuses).

A quick search on the web served up these stories (there are hundreds)

Scary.The Privacy Rights Clearing House reported last month that 40% of reported private-sector data breach events in 2006 were due to laptop theft. Gartner Group came out with an interesting read on cloud computing this week – highlighting the security challenges ahead.

Nice thing, I didn’t need IT. It was one click and it was done. I am now secure.

LIGHTROOM V2 BETA

 

I love to take photos for a simple reason, they are our family archive.

It is becoming increasingly clear to me is that photography has changed dramatically. Before, a great photographer had to be – a great photographer. There were very few tools to change a photograph and those that were available were very expensive and out of reach of most people (e.g. airbrushing a photo). But with the creation of digital photography and the RAW format, it is less about being a great photographer and much more about being a great digital photo editor. The tools are unbelievable.

I have been using Adobe Lightroom (which is between Adobe Elements (entry) and CS3 (pro)). It is a good mid-level tool. In the new version 2 beta they have added the ability to spot change picture parts. It is amazing what you can do with a photo in only 5 minutes. Check out the below.

The original: Not bad, but washed out sky and the sign is ugly.

original

As the photo is in RAW, I can pretty much change anything. So I changed the ISO setting (exposure) to accommodate for daylight. An automatic setting in Lightroom – and out comes the sky. But now the stones are too dark.

_MG_9211

Using the spot highlighting, I quickly (3 minutes) brush the exposure on the stones and grass. But now the grass looks washed out.

_MG_9211-2 

So I take the paint function and jack the saturation level up and quickly paint over the grass (1 minute). But that sign looks ugly.

 saturation up

Use the spot removal feature to paint out the sign and the little fence. (1 minute). Compare the beginning and the end. Amazing.

removing objects

Five minutes work and a dramatically different picture and there is still a lot more that can be done.A good example here. Unfortunately, I just don’t have the time.

I guess just like with music, it is becoming less about how great a singer or player your are as great engineering can change everything. This must mean a crisis of identity for many ‘old school’ photographers.

What really amazes me, is that anyone can now do it at a very low cost. The Canon G9 point and shoot ($500) shoots RAW giving you the utmost flexibility, the large file size is no longer an issue thanks to $20 2GB storage cards and computer tools are inexpensive.

Amazing. Another industry being changed by computers. When you add in a GPS phototracker that allows you to capture your trip and sync that with your pictures – well, the opportunities are endless.

Stonehenge trip

HEY APPLE FANBOY

 

For my Apple fanboy friends. You know who you are.

PIC002

A VERY ODD CALL

 

I am a big fan of Western Digital external hard drives; 1TB for £120 is a bargain especially when I am converting our home movies and every hour of DV is 14GB.

On the weekend one of my drives was acting funny, I moved it from one computer to another and it would not recognize. After futzing around with it and testing it on multiple computers I finally called tech support with the following results …

I called into European tech support and listened to a polite Dutch lady letting me know ‘that they are sorry about ze delay, ve will be with you in a moment’. After a short time, a French bloke picks up ….

FB (French Bloke):  ‘Hello, how may I help?’

ME: ‘ I have a WD My Book Pro II and Vista will not recognize it. Using both FireWire and USB. I have tested it on 3 different computers, I don’t think the USB or FireWire is sending out a signal’

FB: ‘Well, zen it is broken. Send it in’

ME: ‘Pardon?’

FB: ‘Send it in. It must be broken’

ME: ‘Uh, don’t you want to trouble shoot it or something?’

FB: ‘Well, vee could do zat wasting about 30 minutes of our time at vich point ve vould both recognize zat it is broken and you would send it in. You plug zees things in and they either vork or don’t. So it must be broken, send it in’

ME: (I start to laugh) ‘Well, don’t you want me to try pressing the reset button at least? Or something? It isn’t a hard drive, it is a chassis with dual drives and I assume some form of electronics board in there as it supports RAID so at least it should recognize it via USB. Plus, the blue power light is on’

FB: ‘Et has a reset button? Iz it a big button?’

ME: (laughing again): ‘No, it is a little pinhole on the back’

FB: ‘Well, zen you should press it. And if that does not work, send it in. Vile you do dat I will go grab a drive so I know what you are looking at’

ME: (I pull out the firewire cable and plug in the USB again and for some miraculous reason, Vista picks up the USB connection and finds the drive) ‘Ah ha! It worked. Looks like the USB is working again!’

FB: ‘Vell, zat is good. Looks like I was wrong. Have a nice day’

I hung up and broke out laughing. Truly the weirdest call I have had to date.

XOBNI

 

There has been a lot of press and Internet activity on XOBNI over the last few weeks. After the 10th person mentioned how cool it is I finally installed it. I have to admit at first, I was taken back by the interpretation of the information in the Outlook info pane after it installed and indexed my machine.

I viewed myself. Seems that I send emails to myself at very odd hours (I will send myself actions or notes to be recorded in GTD). Someone also commented that I send emails at some very early hours. To me, it just looks like I have a lot of mail flowing in and out all the time ….

image

I like the always on access to profile information around the individual who sent you the mail (their phone number, quick click to an appointment, wicked search and the other random tidbits. The conversation thread is interesting as it show historical data (but threading was added in Outlook a while ago). Interesting little gadget.

As an aside, looks like they don’t want to be bought .. yet.

THE END OF UNLIMITED BROADBAND

 

It is interesting to watch the broadband fair usage debate evolve on the web. The debate on torrent shaping is raging in many geographies, with Bell Canada throttling P2P applications, Virgin UK trialing broadband caps based on usage at different times (when you hit the limit, your link is throttled for the rest of the month) and there has been much talk about the BBC iPlayer in the UK which has been a smash success while raising the ire of broadband providers as it shifts the viewing load from over air or via a TV subscription service to the Internet.

It is the fight that consumer advocates call net neutrality and broadband providers call fair usage. What becomes very interesting in this debate is that more than media is shifting to the web. It is not simply about people downloading copyrighted music or the latest bootleg movie. It is more than that. A few examples:

  • I have been doing a lot of work around figuring out our digital memories. How do I properly capture our adventures on photos and videos. I upgraded Pinnacle Studio to version 11 online which came with a digital download. The size of that download? 2.5GB. The amazing thing is that the download was unbelievably fast. Under the bandwidth with usage limits model, I would be cooked for the month. Of interest, while doing the download I had to reboot my router as I lost all Internet connectivity for some mysterious reason ….
  • Live Messenger has an amazing file sharing function. I often take my picture or video folders and simply drop them into the sharing folder with family. These folders can be as large as 2GB. What happens there?

This debate will get hotter as we watch applications evolve (software and services), new services like the BBC iPlayer launch and Internet penetration increase – after all, only 20% of the worlds population is on the net. One could hypothesize that something as simple as web cam penetration and usage will have a dramatic impact on this debate.

Personally, I always buy the top packages. I am fine with a higher price as my disposable income (and time) has shifted to the Internet over the last decade. I want a high level of service, a guaranteed quality of service and will pay the premium – but for that price I will resist throttling.

This will be an interesting debate. It has just started.

PHOTOTRACKR

 

I have been reading about GPS enabling your camera. There are multiple ways with the easiest appearing to be GPS synchronization. The device sits on your pack and tracks your movements and the time. When you sync the data with your camera pictures, it will map the location data to the picture via the time stamp, with full support of RAW and various commercial photo applications (Adobe, Flickr).

There seem to be 2 market leaders, Sony and Phototrackr. A comparison of the 2 found here. We will see how well it works with their software, in a worst case scenario this is a generation one, bleeding edge investment on the way to a market that will expand.        

   

Just a matter of time before the GPS is embedded in the camera.

Update: In what can only be considered an uncanny coincidence, I came across this article describing Microsoft’s newly released free Pro Photo Tools that enable geotagging. Download it here.

Microsoft's Pro Photo Tools lets photographers geotag their photos and show where they are on a map.

From the article:  "That’s because geotagging, done well, enables people to find photos by searching for the word "Paris" rather than sifting through folders with obscure filenames like IMG_5829.jpg or squinting at hundreds of image thumbnails. Until the still-distant day when computers can recognize your Aunt Polly or the Grand Canyon, geotagging holds potential as a way for people to get a handle on ever-growing digital photo collections."

What I am trying to sort is how I would leverage this (Flickr being an obvious first choice and it may be easier, but it does not appear to automatically reference the GPS data). I see someone has figured this out way before me … Adobe Lightroom also has the GPS metadata field included, which is what I have been using for photo editing.

The blog on the Microsoft pro photo site has an interesting article on CSI using Photosynth (another cool app I have to play with when I get some free time) and the 2.0 update of the Expression tools.

A friend put me onto Expressions. I have been using the encoding tool to convert MP4 video into a more generic format so that it is broadly consumable across every device.

X300

 

I have been using a Lenovo laptop for a year now and am thoroughly impressed, great machine. The interweb is aflutter with discussion of their new ultrathin the X300. Their Mac spoof ad made me laugh … watch it here.

MICROSOFT SyncToy

 

I came across this really cool little piece of freeware in PCMag the other night – SyncToy:

SyncToy is a free PowerToy designed by Microsoft that provides an easy to use graphical user interface that can automate synchronizing files and folders. It is written using Microsoft’s .NET framework.

SyncToy can manage multiple sets of folders at the same time; it can combine files from two folders in one case, and mimic renames and deletes in another. SyncToy can keep track of renames to files and will make sure those changes get carried over to the synchronized folder.

I run 2 big machines for media. One is running 24X7 and holds a copy of all files, serving up media to other machines and the 2 XBOX extenders. The other machine is RAID protected, runs 4GB RAM, a big processor and is the workhorse for doing video/photo editing, etc. It is also holds the master copy of all data (In other words, nothing external touches it).

This is a really handy piece of kit.

  • SyncToy 1.4 Download
  • SyncToy 2.0 Beta Whitepaper
  • SyncToy 2.0 Beta Download

    I also found the Photo Info powertoy. A quick and easy way to edit photo metadata right from Windows Explorer in Vista or XP. I wonder what other powertoys are lurking out there?

  • SANDISK CLIP

     

    I bought an Apple Shuffle a while back for one simple reason – the clip. There is nothing more annoying that having an MP3 player hanging around your neck or awkwardly attached to your arm while at the gym. But I always found it annoying – the proprietary Apple formats, lack of playlists and iTunes (not a fan).

    Well, now it is gone thanks to someone finally putting out an alternative – the Sansa Clip. Playlists, a clip AND it does MP3, WMA, Audible, WAV, and FM radio at a throw-away price of $60. FANTASTIC. Anyone want to buy a shuffle cheap?

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