nullstream weblog - Cool Tech

Firmware Elves

Cool Tech

February 22, 2009 12:23 AM PST

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.

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Go Asus Go

Cool Tech

January 7, 2009 09:31 AM PST

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.

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USB to NAS Adapter

Cool Tech

December 11, 2008 11:14 AM PST


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.

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Cool Tech

August 15, 2008 01:05 PM PST



Piclens (now Cooliris) is not exactly new, but I decided to give it another try recently. I like it. Piclens is a browser plug in for all popular Mac and Windows browsers that displays a full screen (3d accelerated) photo wall. It work will all popular photo sharing sites. You can easily scroll through hundreds or thousands of pictures, zoom in on the ones you like, share them, and even run a slide show. That's not all however, it also lets you window shop product searches at Amazon as well as visually search videos at YouTube. Finally they have added a 'discover' section that lets you browse current news by topic. The news mixes popular news images and video. A single click on a video and it starts playing. Zooming in on a news photo will give you a summary of the article, from there you can also open the article in a new tab.

Continue reading "Piclens"...

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Evernote on sale

Cool Tech

January 30, 2008 11:16 AM PST

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.

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Developments At Trolltech

Cool Tech

January 28, 2008 10:17 AM PST

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.

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CES Roundup

Cool Tech

January 14, 2008 05:11 PM PST

Ok, before we get into the heavy Macworld product announcements tomorrow, I'd like to list the three cool things I saw from coverage of the CES last week.

Canon Vixia HF10

I've been waiting for Canon to jump on the flash memory based HD bandwagon. And finally they have. They've seemingly fixed the issues I had with their previous tape based recorders, and I continue to avoid Sony because of their insistence on proprietary media formats. Now Canon supports an external microphone and light, something annoyingly missing before. Instead of M-Jpeg, they record in AVCHD (MPEG-4), which provides true 1080 resolution as opposed to the cropped HDV format. At full resolution, the camera can store a bit over 2 hours of video on a 16 GB flash card. With optical image stabilization, no moving parts and a price starting at $900, this is a huge step forward for prosumer HD cams. Now if someone would just make an underwater case for this camera, you guys will see me posting some really cool stuff.

Shuttle KPC Linux Cube

Shuttle quietly announced small Linux PCs starting at $99. Fully functional at $199 and upgradeable from Celeron to Core 2 Duo, these computers fit a niche that I've been looking for for a while, and that is a cheap, always-on, network storage machine for automated backups, media center file serving, and recording HDTV.

Sony Distributes DivX

Although everyone is encoding to Mpeg4 now, it's great to see Divx get some love, and from Sony no less. Sony is making all of it's TV shows available online in this format, which represents quite a move for a content producer (cutting out the network studios as middlemen). I probably will not be downloading any of these shows if they have DRM, but it's good to see some big names get behind DivX.

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Quad OS Madness

Cool Tech

November 21, 2007 07:10 PM PST

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!

OSX Leopard
Ubuntu 7.10
Solaris 10.2

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.

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OLPC - Give One Get One

Cool Tech

November 12, 2007 07:57 PM PST

The One Laptop Per Child project started accepting orders for the handy little computers today. The goal is to create a $100 laptop for developing nations, however the first iteration of the laptop costs $200. Initially these laptops were only going to be sold in large amounts to overseas schools, but OLPC has decided on a "forced charity" model that allows anyone to buy one. It's actually quite ingenious. If you want one of the laptops, you must also buy a second one to be donated to a kid overseas.

So the deal is, for $400 you get a cool little laptop and also provide one for a kid to become the next Jobs, Gates, or Mitnick. But that's not all! T-Mobile is offering one year of free Wi-Fi at all their hotspots across the US. You can also write off $200 of the purchase as charity.

The specs of the machine are a mixed bag. The CPU speed and ram are low, but the screen is an impressive 1200x900 at 200dpi, and also has a layered black and white display that is daylight readable. The laptop also supposedly has incredible Wi-Fi range and has huge battery life. All software and OS is open source - Steve Jobs offered free copies of OS X for all the laptops and was turned down because it's closed source.

So click here and sign up for "give one get one".
One Laptop Per Child: Give 1 Get 1
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Cool Invention

Cool Tech

October 13, 2007 04:13 PM PST

This dude invented a totally cool microwind generator . Check out the video link toward the end.

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VMWare Fusion

Cool Tech

June 12, 2007 11:09 PM PST

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.

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Google Desktop For Mac

Cool Tech

April 4, 2007 12:58 AM PST

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...

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Bluetooth meets iPod dock

Cool Tech

January 24, 2007 12:39 PM PST


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.

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360 HD DVD Continued

Cool Tech

November 19, 2006 11:40 AM PST

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.

Continue reading "360 HD DVD Continued"...

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Microsoft Beats Apple to the TV

Cool Tech

November 7, 2006 11:09 PM PST

Well now we get to see Microsoftís 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 Ďpointí was worth in the real world, I could decide if this is a good price or not.

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Cool Tech

September 27, 2006 01:33 PM PST

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.

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Sandisk's new Nano Competitor

Cool Tech

August 21, 2006 09:44 PM PST

sandisk.jpgSanDisk 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.

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GTalk gets new features

Cool Tech

August 16, 2006 05:06 PM PST

There is a new update to Google Talk available that adds file transfer and voice mail among other things.

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Cool Tech

August 9, 2006 12:24 AM PST


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.

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Would you buy one of these?

Cool Tech

August 8, 2006 09:56 AM PST

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

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?

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Ipod Kiosks?

Cool Tech

July 27, 2006 12:32 PM PST

I've been predicting these for a while now. This one is being built by an Australian company. Maybe Apple will get the hint.

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Zune? Argo?

Cool Tech

July 12, 2006 11:17 PM PST

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.

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Google Browser Sync

Cool Tech

June 7, 2006 10:14 PM PST

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.

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Jack PC

Cool Tech

June 1, 2006 09:32 PM PST

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.

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New Macbooks

Cool Tech

May 16, 2006 11:46 AM PST


Comments on the new (non-pro) Macbooks? On first glance, I'm very happy that they all include DVI and Core Duo. And the magnetic power is a nice touch. The screen res and graphics card could be better, but pretty normal for notebooks in this range. Bezel seems large, and keyboard "buttons" will need to be examined in person. My main concern is the weight at 5.4 lbs seems a little high. I was hoping for the smallest macs to be more portable. I think there's still room in the lineup for an ultraportable Pro machine and a Core Solo education laptop under $1K.

All in all, I think these compare nicely to PC notebooks, and with the added value of multi-boot and virtualization, these could be very successful machines.
(Read: I could see buying a Rev B.)

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Given a choice...

Cool Tech

April 27, 2006 12:31 PM PST



AMD or Intel?

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Xerenity NOW!

Cool Tech

April 4, 2006 09:18 PM PST

Xen is a virtualization environment, something like VMWare. Read a neat analysis of it here.

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!

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High Dynamic Range Images

Cool Tech

February 26, 2006 10:40 PM PST

Half-Life 2: Lost Coast

High Dynamic Range (HDR) lighting has recently been showcased in games such as Half Life 2: Lost Coast technology demo. The idea is that this type of rendering more clearly represents how we see things by over or underexposing things we're focused on in the game.

What's interesting about HDR is that games are working to reduce the amount of exposure (eg, if you focus on the sky, details in the shadows disappear, and if you focus on a dark area, details in the sky are washed out). Games basically render environments in an unrealistically high dynamic range, just as they typically do not simulate depth of field or motion blur as our eyes would see it.

At the same time as gaming engines are reducing the dynamic range of renders - people are taking photos that increase the level of dynamic range by merging the same photo taken at different exposures. With these photos you can now see both shadows and light at the same time with equal detail. Amazingly - it makes reality look more like a rendered game environment! We've come full circle in rendering and photography - amazing times ahead.

A great example is this recent HDR image at Chromasia. The software that created this and a great overview of HDR processing is available at Photomatix. Many more images are in the Flickr HDR Pool.

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Intel Macs

Cool Tech

January 10, 2006 02:17 PM PST

Some people think the Pentium II is the fastest processor in the world. Not quite. The chip inside every Power Macintosh® G3 is up to twice as fast*. Think different.

Remember the days when the Apple fanboys made fun of the pokey Intel procs? I actually had the above as my background screen on my spanking new Beige G3 (the last Mac I ever bought)! Apple today announced the first set of Intel based macs. You can read about the news elsewhere, but this post is for commentary and comments!

The performance of the dual core intel procs looks fantastic, and from the reviews I've read on Windows dual core laptops, the battery life is also better. So dual core is a win-win (this is why we like computers). What better exmple of this than the new iMacs being offered at the same price but with a 2-4x performance increase, faster graphics card, built in camera and the latest and greatest Apple software.

The laptop was what I was really interested in seeing, and so far am pretty exited about it. Other companies can't be bothered to include a DVI port on their laptops (despite the fact that they must already have the chipset to power the built-in LCD). Apple lays the spank down with dual-link DVI on the new MacBook Pro. This machine looks all around nice, and not unexpected pricing starting at $1999. For the amount of hardware, software, new screen and form factor this seems like a really solid laptop purchase.

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.

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MIT $100 Laptop Thoughts

Cool Tech

December 10, 2005 12:05 AM PST

We haven't talked about the MIT $100 laptop. This laptop is interesting technically, but much more interesting from a social perspective. Read on for my thoughts, and please comment with yours.

Continue reading "MIT $100 Laptop Thoughts"...

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Mezzo UI

Cool Tech

November 13, 2005 09:50 PM PST

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. Iíve 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 Iíve 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 Ďmezzoí mode. (JDistro is a pure Java based desktop). And Jasonís own project Symphony OS, operated with Ryan Quinn. Symphony is a Linux distro implementing the Mezzo UI. I donít see any reason someone couldnít implement a Mezzo shell on top of Windows Ė but I donít 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.

Some other Mezzo references:

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Cool Tech

November 13, 2005 12:43 AM PST

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.

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Furrygoat and USB Keychains

Cool Tech

November 7, 2005 10:19 AM PST

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.

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Windows Live

Cool Tech

November 1, 2005 02:37 PM PST

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 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.

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New Linksys NAS

Cool Tech

October 21, 2005 07:42 AM PST

I'm starting the research required to replace my ailing Microsoft MN700 router. Iíve 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 Iíd also spring for an extended antenna to get a bit more range.

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VMware Player

Cool Tech

October 20, 2005 01:01 AM PST

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.

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Revenge of the clones

Cool Tech

October 18, 2005 11:50 PM PST

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.

Comments (6)

More Gmail tricks

Cool Tech

October 14, 2005 05:36 PM PST


Here are a couple of Extreme Tech articles on hacking gmail. The first contains excerpts from the new book "Hacking Gmail". Some nice stuff!
Using Gmail to...
Google Gmail Power Tips

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Video iPod

Cool Tech

October 12, 2005 11:02 AM PST

Looks like the new iPod plays videos. Not many details yet. I would hope it has a bigger screen than standard iPod, but maybe it's designed just to output to a TV.

Remember: when Jobs says Apple isn't interested in going in some direction, it means that their R&D team has already begun working on it.

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...

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Opera going free

Cool Tech

September 20, 2005 10:42 AM PST

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?

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Finally a real convergence device?

Cool Tech

September 13, 2005 10:17 AM PST

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).

Pocket PC Thoughts Discussion.

CoolSmartPhone review.

Quick Specs:
ē Windows Mobile 5.0
ē Intel XScale PXA272 520MHz
ē 128MB Flash ROM, 64MB RAM
ē 3.6Ē 640x480 65k transflective colour backlit LCD
ē up to 8/4/15/250 GSM Talk/3G Talk/PDA/Standby time
ē GSM Tri-band (900/1800/1900), UMTS Single-band (2100)
ē GPRS class 10, UMTS 64/384
ē Bluetooth 1.2, Infrared and mini-USB connector
ē Wireless LAN 802.11b
ē SDIO slot
ē 3.5mm Audio Connector
ē Stereo Speakers
ē Integrated camera (resolution 1280 x 960) with LED flash, 2nd CIF camera for video calls
ē Integrated antenna
ē 15 buttons (Answer, Hangup, Backlight on/off, OK, Start, Camera, Power, VoiceRecord, 5-way navigation pad
ē 62-key QWERTY keyboard with light sensor to auto-adjust the screen and keyboard backlight
ē Removable battery (1620mah)
ē Weight: 285 grams

Comments (1)

iPod Nano

Cool Tech

September 7, 2005 02:02 PM PST

iPod NanoThe iPod Nano looks like a good form factor. I feel it's a little out of proportion height wise - would have been nice if it was shorter or the screen was taller. Also, the black version looks pretty cool. I don't really think "cataract-white" and "brushed metal" is really that sweet.

I haven't seen if the Nano will work as a USB host for backing up pictures from a camera. Of course I have a 4GB flash card in my camera, but for some people, or my older camera that would be a nice feature.

The iTunes phone isn't that sweet. I'm surprised the cell networks are letting you copy files directly from the PC to use as ringtones. They must figure "the cut into their meagre profits" is offset by people buying iTunes singles for $2.

Thoughts? Comments?

Comments (18)

"Place Shifting" with Slingbox

Cool Tech

September 7, 2005 09:16 AM PST

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.

Comments (0)

Using Gmail to archive ideas

Cool Tech

August 27, 2005 09:50 PM PST

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.

Continue reading "Using Gmail to archive ideas"...

Comments (1)

Google Talk on PocketPC?

Cool Tech

August 26, 2005 10:26 AM PST

Well at least one PocketPC IM client can work with Google Talk. PocketPC thoughts has a post about it here. The client they mention is here. Since it is Jabber based I'm sure there are others.

Now if only they get the VOIP stuff working from mobile devices...

Comments (1)

Lost in the noise

Cool Tech

August 24, 2005 12:40 AM PST

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."

Comments (2)

Google Desktop and Sidebar

Cool Tech

August 23, 2005 04:33 PM PST

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:

Comments (11)

Black Dog Linux Device

Cool Tech

August 17, 2005 09:11 AM PST

Realm Systems Black DogSome time ago, I realized that a form of PCs will eventually be as small as the iPod. The Mac Mini is strikingly small for a full PC, and it doesn't seem too far off that it could eventually be in iPod form factor.

So here we have an iPod sized linux machine - the Realm Systems Black Dog, powered and interfaced via USB2. Initially, I was pretty excited. Maybe it's a promising solution to Web cafe security issues. Or maybe it could cause some security risks as a keylogger connected to an internal USB port, revealing its contents only with the proper fingerprint. Maybe its monitoring ability could be used for good with the right software as an external high availability monitor of your server, sending a ctrl-alt-delete to deliver a cleansing reboot. If it had ethernet and could draw power off it, it might make a great sniffer or intrustion detector.

It's a lot like the Intel Personal Server circa 2003. The personal server seemed like a cool idea, but I wonder how this machine is better than a PDA? No screen, bluetooth, Wi-Fi, long term battery. PDAs are instant-on, and this thing has to boot. It has a fingerprint reader, but so do some PDAs now. It doesn't have cellular or a camera like smartphones. No hard drive like an iPod. The cost of $200-$250 seems reasonable, although many PDAs are in this range today. The primary advantage is, I guess, that it runs Linux, and therefore is easy to extend and modify. This is reasonable, although the PocketPC tools and emulator are free and very well documented from Microsoft (and complete with Compact .Net framework).

So what do you guys think of this thing? There has to be some interesting use for it while being tethered to a host PC. At a minimum, it's an alternative to installing Linux on your laptop or PC for development, and to be able to plug this in at any time, and resume into the same line of my vi session months later is interesting. Of course, as Paul will note - Mac OS X provides you with a Unix shell and better than Windows UI...

Comments (5)

Apple Mighty Mouse

Cool Tech

August 2, 2005 09:08 PM PST

Ok, ok. A post on the Apple Mighty Mouse for people to discuss. I'll reserve judgement till I see one in action, but my initial thoughts are:

The mini trackball in the mouse seems a little overkill. It's the same carpal tunnel causing motion as the scroll wheel. Why not a toggle/joystick/nubbin type interface that you just hold down?

I'd have to see how the dual button "sensors" work. When I click left or right mouse button, I don't take fingers off the other button, so hopefully it can tell that I'm pressing harder with one finger than another. Seems like it would be possible.

I like the "squeeze" idea. I'd like to apply that to moving the contents of a window. EG, if I squeeze both sides of the mouse, the pointer turns into a grabby hand and I'm dragging the page around. Similar to the action when you click the wheel to get into scroll page mode, but more intuitive. The new mini-trackball might do this already though. Sounds like Apple is aiming this feature at Exposé - you squeeze the mouse and the desktop overview comes up. This acually might be the new desktop management feature we're all looking for. Look forward to trying it out at the Apple store.

Apple Mighty Mouse

Comments (4)

Delicious Code

Cool Tech

July 23, 2005 11:06 PM PST

Yesterday, I bought a copy of Delicious Library, which is a program for managing collections of your stuff. Delicious Library Icon.jpg

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.

Continue reading "Delicious Code"...

Comments (4)

Can't... Resist... Much... Longer...

Cool Tech

July 23, 2005 09:47 PM PST

Someone please tell me why I shouldn't get one of these:

Sony PSP 21.jpg

Comments (7)

Windows Vista

Cool Tech

July 22, 2005 11:03 AM PST

Windows Vista
Press pass site

Oh and in other news my XP 64bit finally shipped.

Comments (18)

Wide or Not Wide?

Cool Tech

July 5, 2005 02:35 PM PST

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.

Comments (14)

Bring Out the Dual Cores

Cool Tech

June 2, 2005 01:01 PM PST

With AMD's new release of its dual core line it's time to start the frenzy of reviews and comparisions.

NeoSeeker has good reviews of the Pentium D and the Athlon 64 X2. These articles have a Geek Factor Rating of 2 stars: **.

Here is my 30 second summary:

Pentium D:
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.

64 X2:
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.

Comments (1)


Cool Tech

June 1, 2005 08:18 PM PST

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.

Some more links:

Comments (1)

Play h.264 on a PC

Cool Tech

May 24, 2005 10:20 PM PST

Info on how to play h.264 video files on a PC can be found here. I have not tried it yet however.

Comments (0)

Xbox 360

Cool Tech

May 14, 2005 10:51 AM PST

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.

Comments (29)

Apple Patents a Tablet?

Cool Tech

May 11, 2005 12:23 AM PST

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'.

Comments (3)

More Ascii Vision

Cool Tech

May 5, 2005 08:41 AM PST

The Matrix in Ascii Vision. This one done at the U dub.

Comments (3)

Trade-up to WinXp-64

Cool Tech

April 25, 2005 11:14 AM PST

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 frustratingóthe minute you buy something, the new version becomes available. We understand this frustration..."

Comments (22)

My Newest Borg Upgrade

Cool Tech

April 16, 2005 06:45 PM PST

Bluespoon AXMy latest entry in my quest to eliminate wires from my digital life is the Bluespoon AX from Nextlink.

Continue reading "My Newest Borg Upgrade"...

Comments (4)

More ways to get your geek fix

Cool Tech

April 16, 2005 01:12 AM PST

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.

Daily Rotation
If you don't know about this one yet, you should check it out. It is basically a Ďone stop shopí web based RSS aggregator for about 300 of the top tech sites. As Iíve 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 Iíve got tabs opened for all the stories Iím interested in. For general RSS feeds Iíve just been using 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 itís worth checking just to see the impressive list of tech sites you never new existed.

Comments (6)

Dashboard vs. Konfabulator

Cool Tech

April 13, 2005 10:40 PM PST

Original Dashboard???
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,

Continue reading "Dashboard vs. Konfabulator"...

Comments (8)

Surprises in Google Maps

Cool Tech

April 13, 2005 10:37 AM PST

Wired has an article on some of the surprises that turn up when browsing satellite images.

Comments (5)

Google: A behind the scenes look

Cool Tech

April 4, 2005 11:49 PM PST

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.

Comments (1)

Desktop Background Utility

Cool Tech

March 30, 2005 10:32 PM PST

As promised, here's the Microsoft desktop background changer. It automatically changes your desktop background on a user-definable period. Scroll down to the "Winter Fun Pack 2004 for Windows XP" and select it. I think you have to be in IE for the validator to work (it validates that your copy of XP is activated).

Since it's from Microsoft, I figured this was the best way to go, given the other sketchy shareware solutions out there. It basically lets you select a directory and cycles through images in that directory. The standard placement options, etc. are there. It runs in the taskbar so you can tell it jump to the next image and stuff. I set my XP taskbar options to "always hide" it, so it's not that intrusive. It does what I need it to do, although there are a few peeves:

Comments (4)

Mobile Google

Cool Tech

March 28, 2005 10:56 PM PST

This weekend 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.

Comments (5)

Article about the Cell processor

Cool Tech

March 28, 2005 02:45 PM PST

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.

Comments (0)

That 3D Desktop Acceleration is so hot right now

Cool Tech

March 24, 2005 11:45 AM PST

OSX and Longhorn are going to do it. Now Xorg is going ahead with a GL based window manager. You can check out some info on it here and here.

Comments (6)

Everybody download Firefox 1.0.1 now

Cool Tech

February 25, 2005 12:26 AM PST

Firefox 1.0.1 is out now, so go download it!

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.

I'm now adding Picasa 2 and Google Maps as a full time members to my list of Brilliant Code, they're that good.

Comments (6)


Cool Tech

February 24, 2005 11:31 PM PST

Feedview is a 7KB Firefox extension that applies a very sweet XML transform on RSS and Atom feeds to make them easy to read directly inline. To see what I mean, click on one of the two RSS 2.0 icons in the navigation area on the right. The resulting xml isn't easy to read. Now install Feedview and click on one. Sweet, huh? You can still access the original XML code by viewing source. There's a cool little slider bar that shows up on the page too - looks like an interesting extension to dissect!

I've noticed that some xml files don't want to load in the browser. This is the case with or without Feedview, but I notice it more now that I've been clicking on XML links more often. I think it has something to do with the XML content type on those sites.

I'm actually a bit conflicted about XML feeds as a way to fully read news. I really like being able to read a site in the actual site layout, rather than having all sites look uniform and bland. Plus, I put considerable time into the design of the site, and that's all lost with direct feed reading. Of course many sites with ads, etc. don't supply full text in feeds so you'll visit the site - that's one way to solve the problem.

My review will cover an even better news reading tool that complements Feedview and shows the full power of XML news feeds.

Comments (0)

iMac LC (OK, Mac mini)

Cool Tech

January 11, 2005 11:30 AM PST

Ok, at our first glance it has beat our negativity and lives up to expectations. Very, very interesting product from Apple.

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 youíll be using the Mac full-time, with that PC relegated to the testbed.

Comments (33)

The Way Back Machine

Cool Tech

January 11, 2005 10:03 AM PST

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"...

Comments (15)

Secure Digital + USB2 Card

Cool Tech

January 6, 2005 07:06 PM PST

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.

Comments (1)

Shopping Spree

Cool Tech

January 2, 2005 04:07 AM PST

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:

Comments (2)

Cheap iMac Rumor

Cool Tech

December 29, 2004 03:36 PM PST

G4 Cube George says:

Think the headless imac rumor is real or some mac fanboy's wet dream? I want to believe and I would buy one if they really turn out to be $500 but it probably won't come to pass as it makes too much sense. For $500, I'd buy one for my inlaws also just to get out of providing IT support for an adware infested Windows 98 box."
Comments (20)

The Future Is Now

Cool Tech

December 26, 2004 11:37 PM PST

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"...

Comments (2)

ExtremeTech Reviews Sage

Cool Tech

December 24, 2004 02:43 AM PST

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.

Comments (5)

Firefox tweaks

Cool Tech

December 24, 2004 01:16 AM PST

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.

Comments (7)

Asus Wlan HD Box

Cool Tech

December 13, 2004 08:58 PM PST

box.jpgI 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.

Comments (0)

Swiss Army Knife or Batman Utility Belt?

Cool Tech

December 3, 2004 12:55 PM PST



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 Ė 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.

Your thoughts?

Continue reading "Swiss Army Knife or Batman Utility Belt?"...

Comments (2)

Geek stuff I canít live without.

Cool Tech

December 2, 2004 02:38 AM PST

Following Paulís excellent lead, I did some thinking of geek things I really enjoy. While I wouldnít classify these as brilliant pieces of coding per Paulís definition, they are high on my Ďpry it from my cold dead fingersí 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 Ďstartupí 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 Iíve reclaimed a Ďlostí part of my day. I know that many balk at the subscription fee, but I feel Iím getting every dollars worth. In fact at close to two hours a day, Iím currently spending more time listening to audio books than watching TV. And by choosing long books Iím 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 Iíd give up most of my other Ďfrillí services excluding power and internet access before Iíll let this one slip.

Iím a big fan here, no surprise. Iíve managed to integrate my PocketPC into most aspects of my life. Iím always on the prowl for new add-ons (hardware and software) to get more use out of it. Iím currently in the market for my next pocketPc which will be my 3rd (or fourth if you count that I have two original Ipaqs.) Iíve 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?

Comments (6)

Half-Life2 Multiplayer

Cool Tech

December 1, 2004 10:09 AM PST

dm_lockdown.jpgWell 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.

Comments (2)

Brilliant Code

Cool Tech

November 30, 2004 12:38 AM PST

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
Xbox Live
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 for loads of cool extensions). Can't live without it! (

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 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! (

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! (

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! (

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! (

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! (

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! (

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:

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.

Comments (6)

Damn Small Linux

Cool Tech

November 22, 2004 10:34 PM PST

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.

Comments (3)


Cool Tech

November 22, 2004 11:48 AM PST

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?

Comments (3)

New TextAloud

Cool Tech

November 20, 2004 04:22 PM PST

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:

Comments (2)

PocketPC uber alles

Cool Tech

November 10, 2004 10:58 PM PST

PocketPC shipments top Palm for the first time world wide []

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.

Comments (0)

A small succes with Linux

Cool Tech

February 29, 2004 05:47 PM PST

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.
6. Reboot.
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.
15. Reboot
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.
19. Reboot.
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.

Comments (0)

Pizza Box Formfactor HTPC

Cool Tech

February 12, 2004 01:37 AM PST

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)
* Remote

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

Comments (0)