Sometimes the firmware elves toil for days and nights to bring new features to a product that you didn't expect when you bought it. I booted up my Netflix enabled Blueray player last night and it told me I needed to download an update. I was mildly annoyed at having to wait before I could watch my movie, but I was rewarded with the ability to stream YouTube to my TV.
Asus has been busy showing off some new products today. They are releasing two new versions of the EEPC configured as convertible tablets! Oh this is cool. They are also showing a PC integrated into a keyboard with a built in 5" touch display. It drives external monitors and might be a good alternative to a Mac Mini for some.
Hmm, a computer built INTO the keyboard. That takes me back.
Addonics is selling a tiny qizmo that will turn any USB hard drive or storage device into a NAS (network attached storage). It supports SMB and Samba. It has some additional cool features:
1. Supports FTP up to 8 users.
2. Can be used as a print server for an attached printer.
3. Has a built-in Bit Torrent client for direct download.
4. Can be used as a UPnP AV server for an Xbox 360.
It looks pretty slick and is available for only 55 AmeriBucks.
Evernote, one of my favorite applications, is currently on sale. It is regularly 49.95, now priced at 19.95 for a short time. That's a pretty good deal, but many users will actually be happy with the free version.
Evernote is a notetaking / journaling application that takes a different approach from its competitors as well as offering powerful unique features. Evernote's goal is to be your '2nd brain'. The idea is to offload everthing you can to it so you can free your mind for better things. Evernote's interface is a continuous 'roll'. You create entries chronologically rather than create a new 'note document' for each one. Evernote has power tagging and search capabilities for finding this information later and sync capabilities for keeping multiple machines current. It also comes with a clipping tool that will allow you to drop images and content from any app or web site. Evernote automatically creates hyperlinks to most information such as the path to a file you clipped from or the URL of the web site.
The real power however is in the advanced features. These are the ones you actually pay for. One of its more impressive features is advanced image recognition. Evernote will attempt to do text and handwriting recognition on any image you store in it. This means you can take a snapshot of a product or a whiteboard and actually search for the text contained in the image. That's real power. For tablet and UMPC owners Evernote has advanced inking and shape recognition tools that make it a breeze to capture notes in a more natural way.
Evernote currently runs on Windows, but they are actively working on Windows Mobile, Mac and Web based versions.
Trolltech has been getting some press lately. Recently they decided to open QT for Windows to the GPL. Previously only the Linux and Mac versions were GPL. This means that it is even easier to write cross platform GUI apps. This move also gives a boost to running KDE on Windows. KDE is a rich, platform neutral application development / desktop platform. Not everyone thinks making it easier to run open-source apps on Windows is a good idea. The project leads however argue that making it easier for Windows users to experience and develop open source apps will make any OS migration that much easier in the future.
To make things more interesting, it looks like Nokia just acquired Trolltech for somewhere around 150 million dollars equivalent in stock. Since Trolltech has really been putting emphasis in their mobile platform, Qtopia, this move is not surprising. This should give Nokia more ammunition against Google's Gphone platform, Android.
For some cross platform developers a Mac laptop + virtualization software represents the 'holy grail' or rather the 'holy trinity' of technology - the ability to run OSX, Windows and Linux on one machine. George decided this wasn't good enough. After maxing his Blackbook to 4G ram and installing VmWare Fusion he installed 3 additional operating systems for a total of four!
Low Res YouTube Video:
To see the full res JingProject video capture click here. By the way JingProject is this cool cross platform utility that combines screen / video capture, annotation and file hosting. You should check it out.
This dude invented a totally cool microwind generator . Check out the video link toward the end.
Parallels has enjoyed an early lead in the Mac VM market, but it is headed for serious competition from VMWare. I like Parallels, they are local boys and I wish them well, but VMWare is coming at them hard with Fusion. Its first release (it is in beta now) will include features such as Unity (VMWare's version of coherency mode), run from Boot Camp partition, DirectX 3D support, snapshot / backup, virtual SMB and the ability to run 64bit client OSs.
Both VMWare and Parallels have a feature that seems to have slipped below the radar but which I feel is the "killer app" for Mac switchers. On Fusion it is called the VMWare converter. On Parallels it is called Transporter. These utilities allow you to convert existing physical machines into virtual machines. This allows a new Apple convert to migrate his entire existing Windows machine (OS, software, data) to a virtual image and run it on his new Mac. Talk about reducing your risk. If I were Apple I'd be seriously hyping this capability.
Just released, you can download it here.
Why use it when Spotlight is built in? It caches versions of your docs locally, so if you ever delete a file by accident, you can still get at it. It also will index your Gmail account if you set it to do that. It also uses Spotlight importers, so that any third party application that provides an importer automatically works with GDS. And unlike the Windows version of Google Desktop, the Mac version does a full text search of the entire document, even large ones.
But for me, the best reason is that I find it significantly faster to return results than Spotlight, although I haven't compared the quality of the results yet. I've switched from using Spotlight as an application launcher to Mac GDS because of the speed difference. Spotlight seems to choke occasionally, taking seconds to respond to the UI and making it hard to see results get filtered in real time as you type.
It took a little over an hour on my iMac to index the disk, but significantly longer on my old laptop with its slower disk and CPU. YMMV.
There's no sidebar, which I really miss from Windows GDS. I prefer the sidebar over Dashboard widgets, since the widgets aren't always visible and require extra key strokes and time to display. With a quick glance, the sidebar can provide all that useful information much faster. Maybe in future versions...
Soon you will be able to feed any ipod accessory with music from your A2DP Bluetooth device. Yes even the Ipod toilet paper dispenser.
This device plugs into any accessory with an ipod dock connector. It is buttonless and come in black and white. Anycom also offers a bunch of other Bluetooth accessories including a Bluetooth adapter for an iPod nano.
I don't know why but I get a kick out of the idea of someone else feeding music through those iPod interfaces. It would be cool if the iPod interface became a defacto standard and other MP3 players started using it. But alas I sense another iSue lawsuit disturbance in the force.
We last talked about this thing here.
I managed to purchase the 'last' one at a local computer store (name withheld). I went to three places on Sat and got the same story.. they were released on Friday and either sold out that day or Sat morning. Somehow at the place I got mine one guy told me they were all sold out that morning. But another guy said, "hmmm, wait I think I saw one more in the back". I speculate that an employee had set one aside for himself, but forgot to let they other guys in on his little plan. Oh well, mine now.
Ok here is my mini review:
Yes this drive looks and feels like an afterthought hack. It is ugly and clunky, and somehow surprisingly heavy. But it seems to work very well. And is definitely the cheapest entry into HD Movies I could have made for the next 12 months at least.
Well now we get to see Microsoft’s video to your home strategy in the form of Xbox Live Video. Maybe this is the reason for Apple's pre-announcement of their iTV? Engadget has some screen shots. Also some leaked info on a larger hard drive coming soon. This looks pretty cool. Now if I could only figure out how much a ‘point’ was worth in the real world, I could decide if this is a good price or not.
Its going to cost $199.99 and be out mid November.
I looks like the choice between Blueray and HD-DVD has been made... for me at least. I probably won't commit to buying any titles yet however - at least not the smoke clears a bit. Not to worry though, Netflix is building up a decent selection of both formats.
SanDisk has just announced their new 8G flash based Nano rival. I don't want to get into a debate about which device is better, the SanDisk or the Nano. But I do think the SanDisk has two notable features that I really wish the Nano had:
1. A memory expansion slot (MD).
2. A user replaceable battery.
There is a new update to Google Talk available that adds file transfer and voice mail among other things.
Paint.NET is a cool drawing application written using the .NET framework (version 2.0 required). It's also open source, so you can grab the code here. It has a bunch of useful features like layers, good history / undo management and plenty of effects, in addition to a nice Photoshop-like user interface.
It is a little CPU intensive: try drawing a bunch of lines on the canvas, then apply a Gaussian blur with a 15 pixel radius. Theoretically, .NET should be caching the compiled bytecode so it should get faster after the first time, but I didn't notice that.
Sony's new 'cool kid' toy, Mylo, is a WIFI enabled chat and browse device. It looks very similar to a sidekick to me, but without any cell style service. In typical Sony fashion it only supports memory sticks. It comes with Skype, Yahoo, and GoogleTalk IM support. It includes an Opera browser. It can play MP3, WMA and ATRAC audio, MP4 ASP video. It has a 320 by 240 pixel 2.4-inch screen and is rumored to sell for around 350 according to theinquirer.net.
Other than the slick pop out keyboard, this thing doesn't bring any capability I haven't already had for years with the PocketPC platform. Would you buy one of these?
I've been predicting these for a while now. This one is being built by an Australian company. Maybe Apple will get the hint.
All kinds of rumors about the reputed Microsoft answer to the iPod:
Whatever. It's supposed to be out for the holidays this year, led by Mr. J... could it be cool? Would you buy it?
I like the way the tech world has played out, with no major player dominating everything: Apple with music, Sony with games, Microsoft with home PCs, Google with search, Oblivion with Oblivion, PeerSec with sweet security. Actual choice! I'll probably stick with the ol' iPod, but a Wi-Fi mobile music player (with Zero Config) would be sweet.
Just announced, Google Browser Sync plug in for Firefox. It syncs your browser stuff across multiple computers: bookmarks, history and passwords. It also claims to remember the last tabs you had open on and offer to open them on any machine you use. Could this be the holy grail of bookmark sync tools that I've been looking for? I'll try it out and give a full report.
I like the thin client approach. For everything but games RPD works pretty well, especially on local 100 MB connections. Now Jade Integration has taken the 'thin' approach to a new level with their Jack PC The Jack PC is a thin client condensed into a wall socket. It only draws 5W and can be optionally powered with 'power over ethernet'. The device is powered by an AMD Risc processor running Windows CE. I don't believe is supports VNC or remote X sessions, but there is at least one RDP Server project for Linux in case your OS preference slants that way.
For a guy who has more computers in his house than he will admit, the idea of condensing all that configuration and maintainence into a single server sounds more appealing every year.
Even better than booting Windows on an Intel Mac, just buy some stonkin' powerful hardware and run a bunch of OSes at the same time!
The big question for me is whether Windows will run on these laptops. I'm not talking about reformatting it immediately and running only Windows. A good portion of the value of the machine is obviously the OS and applications. However, I can't commit to spending that much if I am locked 100% into Mac. It's too big an investment. I have to have a fallback position to ease the transition over.No word on a new iPod Shuffle. These had been discounted and cleared out of the channels, so I suppose we'll see an update sometime soon. The low end iBook like was also being heavily discounted, so who knows what the story is with that. They can't really mess with the new MacBook, so maybe it will just wither away or use a single core or something.
Well it has been a while since I blogged about alternate operating systems and UI. In fact I think I've been mostly silent on the topic since I started working on this little project.
Well my curiosity overcame me. I’ve been taking a look at the Mezzo UI Concept by Jason Spisak. After years of using basically every OS out there, he decided to see if he could design something easier to use. The Mezzo concept is what he came up with. It is aimed at the novice user, and looks to be about as easy to use as anything I’ve seen. The Greypaper is a good read (warning pdf file link). Some of his personal pet peeves are scrolling, nested menus, and the file manager type metaphor. There are a few little nits I have with his concept, but overall it does seem quite elegant.
There are at least two OS projects currently underway that are implementing this UI. JDistro has a ‘mezzo’ mode. (JDistro is a pure Java based desktop). And Jason’s own project Symphony OS, operated with Ryan Quinn. Symphony is a Linux distro implementing the Mezzo UI. I don’t see any reason someone couldn’t implement a Mezzo shell on top of Windows – but I don’t see any projects doing this yet.
It might be fun to play with Symphony to see if the UI concept holds up to the real world use test. Sometimes ideas that sound good in theory fall flat in practice. Alas, however, my curiosity is currently not strong enough to overcome my serious lack of time.
Recently Microsoft bought foldershare. The assumed goal is to bulk up the folder sharing capabilities of the upcoming Live Messenger. They have now decided to make FolderShare free.
Furrygoat muses on the future of USB keychains. He mentions some strategies for running XP from USB via VM images. This could be done with various VM products including VM Player, which we have mentioned previously.
He has also championed the idea of 'portable CE'. This is running CE apps from a USB keychain via emulation.
There are a lot of resources floating around the web on how to get various apps (like Firefox) to run directly from flash. Many apps however don't lend them selves to this. More work will go on however as this idea becomes more popular. I find the prospect of carrying your favorite data and apps around with you very appealing. Another thing that would be nice would be for all your 'state' to be with you as well. This would be OS and app preferences, desktop settings etc. We are a little bit further away on this one.
Lastly a plug for a related idea that I've been hearing from some of my friends; In the wake of the recent hurricanes and other natural disasters, many people have found themselves not only without their homes and possessions, but without their important identity documents like birth certificates, social security cards, etc. The proposed solution is to scan these documents and store a copy via CD in a safe deposit box or with relatives. A variation is to keep them with you at all times on a USB keychain. I know a few people that do this, including photos of their family members for identification purposes. Of course security of this information would be a concern. To prevent identity theft I would strongly recommend encrypting this personal data somehow.
I'm just passing along something I read here, I can't confirm any of this.
It look like MS is working on some new stuff called Windows Live. At first glace it looks like it is using start.com technology. There are some cools things coming from the article; advanced IM features, personalized home page with RSS feeds and sidebar gadgets, new email and more. There is a Live favorites feature I'm interested in. You can see some of the stuff they have planed here.
I'm starting the research required to replace my ailing Microsoft MN700 router. I’ve been looking at various Linksys routers, even thinking about getting a combo router cable modem. I cam across this preview of the WRTSL54GS, a new router / NAS that they are coming out with. I think I might be able to find some use for hanging a big drive right on the LAN. Of course I’d also spring for an extended antenna to get a bit more range.
VMware has a free new product called VMware Player. This allows you to 'play' precreated virtual machines on Windows or Linux. (You need VMware workstation to create virtual machines.) What's cool about this is that it should allow you to test drive Linux distro flavors in an easy and safe way. I think this method is preferable over a live CD since it loads faster and I don't have to reboot my machine. I can also see this as being useful for testing apps and OS's as you can just give someone the entire VM as a repro case. There are a few VMs up on their site already. I expect more to come.
For grins I tried out their 'browser applicance VM.' This is basically a stripped down version of Ubuntu Hoary. (Yes you just caught me running Linux again.) The performance was pretty snappy on my AMD64 box. I couldn't get the sound to work though. I installed real player to see how the video performance was - not great but better than I expected for running under VM. I don't have the root password though so I couldn't get it properly installed and working as a firefox plug in. - Anyhow, worth checking out. Both Novell and Redhat have VMs of their latest versions to try.
Voodoo's released a Mac Mini clone called the Idol. It is roughly the same size. It costs around $900.00 with a 1.73 Ghz Pentium M 740, 512M RAM, 40G 7200 RPM HD. Oh, and it comes in 11 colors. More here.
While this seems a bit expensive apparently AOpen is working on a similar clone that will be much cheaper.
Update: Looks like they've brought back the 30GB - yaay! This was the ideal size for me. Except of course now that it stores video, I'd need the full 60GB :-). The device is a little smaller than before, screen is bigger, longer battery life, comes in "super-scratch" black. And basically it lets you play video on the screen or connected to a TV. You can also download select TV shows with no commercials for $2 - so it looks like video on demand might actually happen in our lifetime (finally). Two bucks seems really high to me (couldn't you, like finance the show for that?) but we'll leave that for the comments below...
Looks like Opera is going free. No ads no fee. So I guess you don't have to feel so bad about missing 'free' day last August. So I wonder how they are going to make their money? I already regularly use 3 browsers (depending on my location and mood??), should I pick up a 4th?
Meet the O2 Xda Exec. I know some of you don't like the idea of a convergence device. But I for one have been holding out for a device with features like this for years. The current deal makers for me are VGA screen, integrated (backlit) thumb board, memory slot, wifi, bluetooth and integrated camera(s).
• Windows Mobile 5.0
• Intel XScale PXA272 520MHz
• 128MB Flash ROM, 64MB RAM
• 3.6” 640x480 65k transflective colour backlit LCD
• up to 8/4/15/250 GSM Talk/3G Talk/PDA/Standby time
• GSM Tri-band (900/1800/1900), UMTS Single-band (2100)
• GPRS class 10, UMTS 64/384
• Bluetooth 1.2, Infrared and mini-USB connector
• Wireless LAN 802.11b
• SDIO slot
• 3.5mm Audio Connector
• Stereo Speakers
• Integrated camera (resolution 1280 x 960) with LED flash, 2nd CIF camera for video calls
• Integrated antenna
• 15 buttons (Answer, Hangup, Backlight on/off, OK, Start, Camera, Power, VoiceRecord, 5-way navigation pad
• 62-key QWERTY keyboard with light sensor to auto-adjust the screen and keyboard backlight
• Removable battery (1620mah)
• Weight: 285 grams
Tom's has a review of Sling Media's Slingbox. This is dedicated hardware to not only 'time shift' TV, but 'place shift' it anywhere in the world. Ok so that really just means stream your recordings over the web, but still cool. Of course if the networks would just make shows available online...
Someday far in the future we will look back on all these crazy gadgets we had to use to get TV on OUR terms.
Continue reading "Using Gmail to archive ideas"...
I've been keeping an open 'ideas' file since the early 90s. It originally started as a paper based folder that I would drop varies notes and scraps into. Over the years it evolved to be entirely digital as I can type much faster than I can write. Currently however I find that I'm capturing these ideas on multiple devices and in multiple formats so synchronization has become an issue. My current solution has been to use Gmail as my idea aggregator.
Now if only they get the VOIP stuff working from mobile devices...
MSN Messenger 7.5 is now released. Nobody seems to have noticed. I'm sure there is a bunch of new stuff, but all I've noticed so far is: 1. a new sign in screen. 2. voice clips (short audio clips you can send during an IM session. 3. dynamic / animated chat backgrounds backgrounds. There are some minor UI changes here and there.
Some have complained about the crazy amount of tabs that seem to grow with every version. I've found at least one way to turn them off: Tools, options, security, check "This is a shared computer so don't display my tabs."
Anyone check this thing out? I can see why Yahoo ran to buy up Konfabulator now.
Also includes a sidebar that you can write plugins here:
Note the cool clock plugin:
Yesterday, I bought a copy of Delicious Library, which is a program for managing collections of your stuff.
Continue reading "Delicious Code"...
I can use my iSight camera to scan in bar codes of books, DVDs, software, CDs and they appear in the library as icons. It loads all kinds of information about each item via the internet, probably from Amazon, and also has a suggestion feature that shows you similar items.
Someone please tell me why I shouldn't get one of these:
Furrygoat has a recent entry on widescreen vs. dual monitors. We have been having similar discussions here. Currently my debate has really been about dual wide vs dual standard, but Furrygoat makes a good point about being able to replace your desktop with a laptop. Hard to do with dual monitors. My preference has always been to have nearly the same setup between work and home (monitors, keyboards, mice etc.) The major drawback I have to this scheme however is that XP remote desktop doesn't support dual monitors. So I'm forced to a single monitor when working from home regardless. When I switch to laptop all bets are off, I have a different keyboard, mouse, and monitor size / form factor.
As for monitors: the Dell 2405 is pretty sweet, but for that price you can get two 2001FPs. So you can have one monitor at 1920x1200 or two with 3200 x 1200 res. But admittedly resolution alone isn't always the deciding factor.
With AMD's new release of its dual core line it's time to start the frenzy of reviews and comparisions.
Here is my 30 second summary:
Basically just two Pentiums bolted together in the same package. They share the same 800 Mhz front side bus. All interprocess communications goes through this 6.4 GB/s bus. Due to heating concerns both procs run at lower clock speeds than the current single proc pentiums. The D requires new motherboards and chipsets, but is priced almost half of the X2 price.
The core was designed from the beginning to be multi-proc. The architecture communicates between the two procs via hypertransport that when combined with the memory bandwidth yields 14.4 GB/s of total processor input/output bandwidth. The procs are available at the same clock speed as their single proc counterparts. The X2 does not require a new MB, you can drop it in your 939 slot with a bios upgrade, but is is nearly double the PD price.
Best to read the reviews and draw your own conclusions.
So does anyone have some details on this new 'mobile wifi'? The buzz on the geek sites has just started to pick up. Some are talking about creating a car version of Itunes music sharing ala rendezvous or what ever they call it now.
I think that there is a lot of promise to making cars 'roaming' nodes in a mesh network. I think it is a logical way to extend wifi clouds - especially in cities. Imagine a city drops just a handful of access points around and suddenly you have full coverage. I could walk anywhere and my pocketPC would hop a few cars to get to the nearest access point. I'm not so worried about what the 'killer app' is for this technology, music, traffic info etc. Just enable Internet access and let the rest sort it self out.
Info on how to play h.264 video files on a PC can be found here. I have not tried it yet however.
The captain sent me this link to the colony video on the 360. This five minute video is more interesting and informative than that dumb Mtv special.
The more I think about it the 'guide' is one of the coolest things coming. Just think about the possibilites here for delivering content to the TV such as movies, music, news, feeds etc. I'm not sure how they will use it in the end but the possibilities are impressive.
By now this is floating around everywhere. Engadget seems to have more illustrations that some other sites. This is just filling in some details on info from last August. My question is 'what' are they patenting? There is obviously prior work here so it must be something specific. Some have speculated that is might be more of a 'smart display', but there is prior work here as well. Viewsonic is still selling them under the name 'wireless monitor'.
The Matrix in Ascii Vision. This one done at the U dub.
You can trade-up your 32bit windows to 64bit XP from now until July 31, 2005. Before you take the plunge however, you need to make sure you can track down 64bit drivers for all the stuff you use. This is a clean install only, so migrating data is up to you.
Here is a nice quote from the Technology Advancement Program site: "Purchasing technology can be frustrating—the minute you buy something, the new version becomes available. We understand this frustration..."
My latest entry in my quest to eliminate wires from my digital life is the Bluespoon AX from Nextlink.Continue reading "My Newest Borg Upgrade"...
I thought I'd share a couple more ways to get your daily fill of geek news:
Digg is a tech 'news' site much like Slashdot but with a twist. Users submit stories like normal, but instead of an editor choosing what makes it to the front pages the users do. You can scan through the pile of recent submissions and click on "digg this story" to vote on what you like. The stories with the highest votes make it to the front page, or to the front page of a particular category. Pretty cool.
If you don't know about this one yet, you should check it out. It is basically a ‘one stop shop’ web based RSS aggregator for about 300 of the top tech sites. As I’ve already mentioned before I prefer to use a web based RSS solution over an installed client package. This allows me to get the latest headlines at a glance from anywhere I can access the Web (PC or mobile). A few clicks later and I’ve got tabs opened for all the stories I’m interested in. For general RSS feeds I’ve just been using my.Yahoo.com tuned to my favorite sites etc. Daily Rotation is much like that only dialed to 11 on the geek scale. You can configure your preferences like format, font, desired sites etc. and it will drop them in a cookie for you. Heck it’s worth checking just to see the impressive list of tech sites you never new existed.
Continue reading "Dashboard vs. Konfabulator"...
I read an interesting (but long) post on Daring Fireball comparing Apples's new Dashboard to Konfabulator. I say interesting because he first defends the dashboard as a logical extension of the original desktop accessories in the 81' Mac,
Wired has an article on some of the surprises that turn up when browsing satellite images.
The UW has a video presentation on Google by Jeff Dean. It is about an hour long, but is a pretty interesting view of how their stuff works.
This weekend mobile.google.com went live explaining all the mobile search features available at google. Ars has an article about it here. From the article it looks like there is controversy brewing since it reformats pages and possibly strips out ads, and 'could' add its own. I'm going to stay out of that debate. It do think it is pretty cool that it proxies sites and reformats them to fit on a small screen. I all ready use skweezer on my pocketPc to do something similar for those 'difficult' sites. This type of reformatting is pretty much required for smart phones due to the limited resolution.
I'm going to play with it a bit through out the week and see what I think. You can play with the search site here if you want to see what it does.
It goes without saying that Paul won't be able to comment on this. Blink once if you use it, twice if you don't.
AnandTech has a pretty technical article on the Cell processor. Excluding a section in the middle on how CMOS gates work (yawn) it gives a very interesting overview of what the thing is and the design tradeoffs that were made.
It's almost like the old days (1994-1995) when everyone rushed to download the latest point release of Netscape Navigator... software that is fun to use! It's seems like it has been ages since you could get excited about really great software.
Highlights: $499, Available Jan. 22nd Expandable memory DVI Silent PC Anodized Aluminum Case (Not Plastic!) Quicktime MPEG-4 Standard support No single button mouse
Remember, there are very popular firewire TV tuner/capture solutions for the Mac, so this makes a DVR type device possible.
I like how they don't even try to pretend they're the only game in town - "just set us on top of your PC and port your software." Very cool attitude.
Perfect for Programmers
Set a space-saving Mac mini atop your workstation PC and add a KVM switch to share keyboard, monitor and mouse. Mac OS X includes free developer tools for Mac, UNIX and Java. Test out a Mac version of your latest creation, instantly. Pretty soon you’ll be using the Mac full-time, with that PC relegated to the testbed.
Most of you are aware of my love / hate relationship with Netflix. I was an early adopter of this service and excluding the 6 month period where we were broken up and were 'seeing other people', my experience has been overwhelmingly positive. Lately I've been really amazed at the trend to release old TV shows on DVD.Continue reading "The Way Back Machine"...
Lots of new announcements from CES this week, but this one from SanDisk is so simple and useful. I can't believe how small memory components are getting. You can use this SD card in your camera, and then just take it to any computer and plug it into the USB port to back up the data, or share pictures. This would come in so handy when traveling and visiting friends who want copies of photos, or offloading a full card in a net cafe and burning them to CD. I'm all for getting rid of those 7-in-1 flash card readers!
Here's a review with more pictures.
On Friday, I went for a walk around Union Square in San Francisco, which is 4 blocks from where I live, to get some fresh air and lunch despite the rain. I lived in Seattle for 3.5 years and never had an umbrella; it rains for 2 days in California and I buy the first umbrella I find. Anyways, I ended up buying the following things:
Back in the day of working at GoAhead, John and I were trying to find a way to have tasty food at lunch without paying a huge amount of money or getting bored of eating the same thing. Enter TastyBite.Continue reading "The Future Is Now"...
SageTV is a popular PC based Tivo competitor. Now it is taking on Windows media player. ExtremeTech puts it through its paces here.
Sage is a favorite of several of our readers. Its strongest features in my opinion, are that you don't have a monthly fee and that your TV is stored in easy to archive, DRM free Mpeg2 format. There are lessons here for both Tivo and Microsoft.
Ever want to download more than 2 files at a time, but IE won't let you? Use Firefox! Type about:config in Firefox's address bar and adjust the following variable (by double-clicking on it) to something that makes you happy:
I set mine to 8, but I hear it can go to 11.
I also noticed that the default settings of Firefox don't always get the freshest page. I had to 'ctrl-R' to get the latest page from a site occasionally, especially frequently updated blogs. The following tweak always gets the freshest page:
browser.cache.check_doc_frequency = 1
This variable can take the following values:
0 = check once per session
1 = check each time
2 = never check
3 = work out when to check from the info provided by the server.
Note that 3 is the default - anything higher than 3 is the same as 3, whatever the heck 'work out' means.
I bumped into a comment about this over at FurryGoat. What could be cooler than a hard drive enclosure that you just plug into your LAN to serve out files? Try one that doesn't need to be plugged in at all! The new enclosure from from Asus has 802.11G in addition to ethernet. It has built in DHCP and FTP server support as well as NAS (Network Attached Storage) functionality. Just set one of these guys up in your house and serve out your media wirelessly. The downside, it only supports 2.5" hard drives. There is a review over at Tom's Networking. They also mention some interesting competition.
This is the dilemma facing a mobile devices loving geeks such as myself. As the number of doodads and gizmos I want to have handy at all times grows, I feel the strong desire to munge them together into one uber-device. There are others however who argue against such a device saying it would be jack of all trades and master of none – not to mention expensive. Excluding the craziness of being locked in to a cell service provider, I'm pretty sure I would be willing to live with any trade-offs in my quest for 'one device to rule them all'.
An example of such a convergence device would be: A pocketPC with tri-band phone, 4" Vga screen, wifi, Bluetooth, integrated 1.3Mb camera, 4G hard drive (for mp3s), GPS, dual card slots, fast processor, 128Mb RAM, a slide out thumb board and some bluetooth headphones. Of course no such device exists today.
On the other end of the spectrum someone could achieve this level of mobile functionality by carrying around a PocketPC, a snap-on thumboard, a Bluetooth enabled Cell phone, a mini-ipod, wired head phones, a hand held GPS, and a digital camera. You would need a bat belt to carry them all. Of course real mobile die-hards use a ScotteVest. I'm not sure I'm man-nerd enough to attract this kind of attention.
Following Paul’s excellent lead, I did some thinking of geek things I really enjoy. While I wouldn’t classify these as brilliant pieces of coding per Paul’s definition, they are high on my ‘pry it from my cold dead fingers’ list.
XP Remote Desktop
This is by far my favorite feature of XP. I have tried quite possibly every windows remote control product that has come along since windows 3.0 in my holy quest to be able to work efficiently from home. Here are just a few I can remember off the top of my head: Remotely Possible, PC Anywhere, LapLink, Radmin, Netmeeting, numerous flavors of VNC. Nothing can compare to having highly tuned code right in the OS. Now granted bandwidth has radically improved since my first attempts caused me to upgrade my modems to 14.4k, but all things being equal this code blew away the competition. It has allowed me to put in numerous dog years of extra work (including the session I just finished) in without having to hang out at the office all night. My wife appreciates this.
The client code that backs up this service is far from elegant, but this is something I cannot live without. I travel on average between 1.5 and 2 hours a day in the car. Listening to audio books during this time has been a godsend. Now instead of nodding off a the wheel (which was a regular occurrence on the way home late at night during the ‘startup’ years), or fighting back road rage, I put my body into autopilot while I enjoy learning something new or a bit of fiction. It feels like I’ve reclaimed a ‘lost’ part of my day. I know that many balk at the subscription fee, but I feel I’m getting every dollars worth. In fact at close to two hours a day, I’m currently spending more time listening to audio books than watching TV. And by choosing long books I’m getting more hours of entertainment for my dollar than I am with Netflix. Of course my driving situation is not the norm for everyone, and I am locked in for two books a month at a lower rate than new subscribers can get, but I’d give up most of my other ‘frill’ services excluding power and internet access before I’ll let this one slip.
I’m a big fan here, no surprise. I’ve managed to integrate my PocketPC into most aspects of my life. I’m always on the prowl for new add-ons (hardware and software) to get more use out of it. I’m currently in the market for my next pocketPc which will be my 3rd (or fourth if you count that I have two original Ipaqs.) I’ve got some big plans and some new potential use cases in mind. But that is a topic for another day.
Not much to say here. Going wireless is true freedom and now that I've tasted it I won't be satisfied until I have wireless broadband access where every I am.
Oh and of course Xbox Live. I didn't really convert fully to consoles until this came out. :)
What geek items (hardware or software) really float your boat?
Well all this whining about HL2 only being single player was for not. They just released the deathmatch multiplayer update via steam. The are even offering a map creating contest with a $5000 prize. Ahh I'm looking forward to some old school Half Life Mayhem. I hope they still have the blue gun and trip mines. OCModShop has a quick review with some screen shots. Warning their site is a bit slow right now.
I was thinking about some of the software that I've been using lately, and I wanted to see what it had in common in case there was something so obvious that I should be doing... you know, career changing like. Brilliant code, where it changes the way you do things and you say, "I can't live without this".
Here is my list so far:
iTunes + iPod
Mac OS X
Google Desktop Search
Firefox: I just don't feel secure using IE at any level of patching. It's at the point where I will not do ANY online banking or purchasing with IE. Firefox, on the other hand, has tabbed browsing, pop up blocking, about:config, simple configuration... the list of coolness is endless. In addition, it is very fast and extensible (see http://www.mozdev.org for loads of cool extensions). Can't live without it! (http://www.mozilla.org)
GMail: I've had an internet email address since 1990, and I've primarily used command line UNIX mail tools (elm, mutt) for years in university, then Microsoft Outlook at work and Hotmail. Until I got on Gmail. 14 years of email habits die hard, but GMail converted me in a "Road to Damascus" style epiphany. Most people think about the storage space, but you need strong search and conversation threading to make all that email useful. This is why Hotmail is clueless. So what if I have 250 MB (1/4 of what GMail gives you)? Hotmail still shoves soft core porn ads at every mouse click, no search, no threading. Ugh. No thanks. Gmail also has labels, which you can think of as virtual folders, except that an email can have multiple labels. In programs like Outlook, email is either in one folder or another, even if it makes sense to be in both. Try it out for yourself though: if you need an invite, send me an email at email@example.com. I will never go back to client applications after using the brilliant UI of GMail. I'm currently using 29 MB of space after 8 months and not deleting anything. At that rate I have 23 years before I hit the 1 GB max. I'm sure I'll delete all the Netflix, Apple and music venue emails that make up the bulk of that (html mail messages), so I won't run out of email space in this lifetime. I'm already archiving important documents there, like a mini file system... Can't live without it! (http://www.gmail.com)
iTunes + iPod: iTunes is simply the nicest music playing application I've used. Back in the day I've usd Winamp, XMMS (horrible clone of the horrible Winamp) and Sonique. These can only deal with one playlist at a time, and their UIs leave much to be desired. Sonique visualizations could be pretty, but the controls were pretty useless. I stay away from Windows Media Player, which does have good streaming technology... but it has a terrible UI. For music tools, it really does come down to the UI. I don't understand how the WMP designers can get it wrong so often when they could just copy from iTunes. The iTunes UI is pleasant to look at, the menus are in sensible places and you can search on multiple fields (I often browse by genre when I want a certain type of music). It handles multiple playlists really well, does streaming decently. It, at least, includes the option to encode to MP3. The iTunes Music Store is really quite nice and easy to use. Music purchases are fast and painless and the DRM isn't truly horrendous although DRM is my personal devil and deserves its own rant. Which leads to the iPod. Ordinarily, I'd want one device to do everything: cell phone, camera, PDA, music storage, etc. But the iPod is perfection. The weight and feel of the device is absolutely perfect. I feel like I'm in the future when I'm using it. So simple, so convenient. I use my iPod for an alarm clock every morning (hooked up to JBL Creature Speakers) and on my ~2 hour commute by shuttle everyday. I use it as my music player at work instead of copying music files to my workstation and playing them there. Bottom line: I listen to much, much more music now. Hours per day more! That is a huge accomplishment... can't live without it! (http://www.apple.com/itunes)
Mac OS X: I bought a G4 laptop a few months back so that I could do Unixy stuff at work and home without the sucktastic nature of the linux UI (my extreme pickiness about UI is becoming more apparent). Mac OS X is a thing of beauty. The graphic animations are slick, the colors are perfect, and so easy to use. I can get a Bash shell and crank on stuff like subversion, python, gcc and all the usual UNIX suspects and then use the finder. The attention to detail is amazing, and it feels like a perfectly tuned machine, or a fitted suit... the laptop has a backlit keyboard for low light conditions, it has a small light which pulses like a breathing animal when it goes into sleep mode. The keys themselves are the best I've used on a laptop. It gets onto wireless networks perfectly, mounts SMB drives with no problem, and of course, I can run Firefox and iTunes on it. The only reason I haven't completely gone Mac yet is that I need to run Embedded Visual Studio to do Windows CE programming. Can't live without it! (http://www.apple.com/macosx)
XBox Live: I get excited about new games often, and let down often. Most of them have good graphics these days, but the game play tends to not rise above the level of "open the door, shoot the monster, take the stuff". But online play is something else... there's nothing quite like chasing your friends around with a (virtual) rocket launcher and sending them to the great respawn point in the sky. We've played Half Life at LAN parties, and during lunch at work, but there was NEVER voice involved. That changes everything. Taunting, strategizing, and just general chatting make this completely emersive. Even the brain-dead mayhem sessions are more compelling because of voice. Microsoft really scored a huge one with XBox Live... I don't want to play games any other way now (although my projector and surround sound speakers also contribute). Can't game without it! (http://www.xbox.com/live)
GarageBand: Another Apple product that changes things for me. Another example of perfect UI polish and craftsmanship. Without being insanely complicated like many music production apps, or being too limited (you can hook up MIDI or regular audio instruments), GarageBand had made it easy for me to just plug in my guitar and record, apply effects, add loops and more. It takes a few minutes to learn the basic concepts and soon your music projects are automatically part of iTunes. Anything which can make music production simpler is going to get high ratings from me... this is something I've always wanted to do, but never got past the phase of looking through myriad of options out there. Since it comes free with the awesome Mac OS X, I'm able to figure out if I really need a more advanced package without spending all the cash. But GarageBand is extensible and already has expansion packs so I'll plenty of room to grow before I need something like Logic Pro (also an Apple product). Can't live without it! (http://www.apple.com/ilife/garageband)
Google Desktop Search: Comes in a 400 kB download (yes, less than 1/2 megabyte) and does very fast searches on your local disk. It avoids the trap of building a complicated Win32 UI (and all the associated bugs) by displaying the results in a browser window (with clickable thumbnails). When you search the web normally, it automatically does its search in parallel with a regular Google query and merges the results into a coherent results page. It is currently in beta and is missing PDF and Mozilla support, but hopefully soon it won't... One really nice thing is that it displays email from Outlook / Outlook Express in a threaded manner in the results page, so you don't get a disconnected set of emails and files in the results page, you get them in a threaded view. It is completely unobtrusive while running, and only uses idle time when first building its index. As my document collection grows, Google Desktop Search is the only way I'm going to be able to manage it all (just like GMail is with a lifetime's email). Can't live without it! (http://desktop.google.com)
Honorable mention: Picasa. I'm not really a photo person yet. I'd like to be, but that means hauling around yet another digital device on the off chance that I might take a picture, then deal with the horrible way that Windows XP detects my camera (i.e. in my experience, it often doesn't). iPhoto is good for syncing, but it doesn't organize the photos in a natural way on disk. I've heard (though not verified) that it doesn't really scale well. From the minimal playing around with Picasa that I've done, it is really quite good. Very fast, brilliant UI, doesn't try to move all the photos around and good importing (what are they doing that isn't built in to Windows?). My only problem is that it is Windows only. Alas. (Free download: http://www.picasa.com/picasa)
I really wanted to include some form of PocketPC / SmartPhone software, but there's nothing there yet that has made me step back and be amazed. This is different from feeling that the platform has a lot of potential, which I think it has. But I've yet to find an application that changes the way I do things. The mobile future is bright though.
So bright, I will have to wear shades.
Those Live CD Linux distributions are so hot right now. How about an distro that fits on a business card CD or a 128MB USB pen drive? This one fits in around 50Mb. It includes a desktop, browser and a pile of useful utils.
Another extension to the browser. Have you guys checked this out? Reminds me of another "everything but the kitchen sink", but there might be a few gems. I'm hesitant to use an RSS reader. Knowing the amount of time I put into the layout of this blog, to have people reading it as text-only is kind of annoying. Plus, I like the different look and feel of the blogs I read through the Web. I know a lot of the more professional blogs don't have full contents even in their RSS feeds because ads are not shown, which limits RSS usefulness for many common sites.
The benefits of a dedicated reader are primarily for mobile devices and "content scraping/aggregation" applications. An XML based format is an excellent way to define a lot of Web content in a way that can be presented to various screen sizes, etc. When mobile devices capable of easily synching with blog content become common place, I still don't see a syndication format being super popular. Because of the desire to display ads, I can see content mangement tools generating custom pages for various mobile devices on the server side, based on the underlying XML content.
I suppose there's a benefit to RSS also in the sense that you can monitor when new content is posted. This works in Firefox and Thunderbird. I especially like the Thunderbird integration, because blogs look similar to how Newsgroups are displayed in Outlook. They turn bold and show the number of new unread posts. Clicking on a post will show either the XML summary, or load the entire post as HTML in the preview pane. To give Microsoft credit, they had "Live Bookmarks" years ago that would highlight sites in the Bookmarks menu that had changed recently. Doesn't this accomplish the same thing?
I'm just downloading and trying out version 2.0 of TextAloud. This is one of my favorite apps, and ways of making use off all the time I spend sitting in traffic. It will convert files, text etc to MP3 files or speak them directly. The new version offers support for reading html, word and pdf files directly. There is also a new IE tool bar. If you purchase one of the nice recorded speech voices the output can be amazingly pleasant to listen to.
Check it out at:
PocketPC shipments top Palm for the first time world wide [brighthand.com]
I went to the Microsoft Mobility Road Show tonight, on the Silicon Valley MS campus. The emphasis was heavily on .NET development which is a little too immature yet for deploying on the limited resources of Windows CE. It's certainly nice to have a less annoying language than C / C++ to program in... too bad it isn't python.
One of the demos was a SmartPhone consuming a web service based on MapPoint and that was way cool. It doesn't take too much imagination to find a neat business idea built around local information and MapPoint which is an exciting thing! The cool things you can do with a SmartPhone, GPS and web applications...
The good thing about the .NET Compact Framework is that it is being bundled with the devices, and those devices are sold faster than PCs. This means that writing .NET applications (especially web services) for Windows CE devices is going to be viable a whole lot faster than writing them for Windows XP / Longhorn.
I've manged to get UT2004 demo running under Linux. I knew this would take a bit of work, and I was right. Good news it that I managed to get it working in only 1 hour. Still too hard for the average Joe I'm afraid. Lets recap the steps:
1. Download UT2004 demo for Linux
2. chmod the install file to make it runable.
3. Install as root.
4. Hmmm won't run, complains about Xfree-dri or some such thing.
5. Use Synapic to update all XFree files.
7. Still won't work.
8. Read the forums abit about drivers and such.
9. Download Latest Nividia Linux drivers.
10.chmod the driver files.
11. Attempt to install as root.
12. File says you can't install while X is running.
13. Switch to command mode login and try to kill X. (Doesn't work.)
14. Edit inittab as root, set run level to 3.
16. Log in, Run Driver install.
17. Edit XF86Config file to use new driver, and to change some module settings.
18. Set inittab back to run level 5.
20. Log in and run the game by typing ut2004demo from a shell.
Yeah. Only 20 steps. Next step: ghost the drive again so I don't lose the magic.
Anandtech has a review of the Asus Digimatrix small form factor PC: Anandtech link This thing is small.
* Very Small formfactor
* External power supply brick
* P4 up to 2.6Ghz
* Laptop optical drive included
* External secondary IDE on the back.
* USB 2.0 / Firewire
* Build in SIS (low end) video
* 100MB / 1000Gb / and 802.11b networking
* VGA, DVI, TV, HDTV out
* 5.1 Audio with optical out
* Built in FM / AM tuner
* Built in TV tuner with Video In (no hardware encoder
* Front Panel memory card reader
* Front Panel controls, volume knob and display
* 400 - 425 (with DVD / CD-RW drive)
Negatives (that I can see)
* No support for standard PCI cards, only two internal mini-PCI
* No hardware MPEG encoder.
* S/Pif optical is on the front?!
* Low end on board video