Monday, November 28, 2005

888-ELF What?


Virgin Mobile 2005 Campaign
Originally uploaded by gadget.
I love a smart advertising campaign. When a company goes nuts though, that's even better. Who else should go a little crazy, and not take life so seriously than Richard Branson, billionaire playboy. That statement was said only out of the extreme jealousy that I have for him. The return of the 2004 Virgin Mobile holiday campaign is silly and fabulous. I can't even believe that RadioShack's name is mentioned within the voice script. It's more Best Buy style, who was a launch partner for their MVNO (mobile virtual network operator) wireless service anyway. And who on this earth is going to remember and be able to type www.chrismahanukwanzakah.com? I absolutely love it. You must call their toll-free number to really get into it. I'm pretty sure that they are not "harvesting" phone numbers for future customers, although they could. And by the way, dialing *67 will not block your ANI (like Caller ID) inbound number since they are footing the bill for the call. Hell, even if a gay elf calls you back after the holidays to say thanks for calling the number it's worth it! Call 888-ELF-POOP for a customer service IVR system that takes voicemail hell to a new level.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Non Powered Gadgets


Tetran Headphone Holder
Originally uploaded by gadget.
With all of the hype, buzz and "must have" around gadgets that plug into the wall for the holidays I like to show cool no-tech gadgets that are cheap and innovative. After a blog entry on my multimedia sister site http://www.telepixels.com stating that XBox 360 mania has gotten so out of control that eBay auctions are bringing from $1,000 to $10,000 for the system this story is even more fitting.

Gadgets like the Targus Coolpad, a turntable swivel for your laptop and the Tetran Headphone Holder are $12 smart accessories that just make sense. These problem solvers are cheap and smart - perfect for stocking stuffers or the guy or gal who has everything. Especially if you are on a budget.

So if you are still going to be shopping for the top gadget of the season, keep your eyes peeled for some gems that have no battery slots and that do not plug into the wall. Chances are your gift will be an unexpected suprize hit for the holidays.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

The Return of the Blob

The little Mr. Wizard in me loved to experiment with water in science class. It was amazing to me that it could be a liquid, a gas and a solid. But now in 2005, water can congeal, forming a jelly-like matter with the addition of 8 ounces of a product called Jellybath.

Why congeal water you say? Because in a bath tub that you could soak in, it forms an insulating barrier to hold the heat of the water in longer. And that is way cool. The powder additive contains non-toxic elements to turn the water to jelly as it is absorbed into sodium polyacrylate. Additives that are good for your skin like vitamin C as well as black tea extract, L-menthol, coloring, and fragrance are also mixed within the powder.

The inventor from Kobe Japan filed the patent in February of 2000 (probably after taking a bath that quickly became cold) which was granted relatively quickly in August 2001. The patent #6,281,177 reads like a recipe until you get to the scary claim fifteen, a subordinate of number nine. It reads "gelatinous mixture draws water from human skin immersed in said gelatinous mixture." I may be reading into this, but wasn't something JUST like this a source of a horrifically scary movie from the late 1950's? That's right. Jellybath is The Blob.

I am not getting near this stuff, but if you do, be prepared for a "NOTICE" of the patent before you buy the product online. I guess at $24 dollars per bath they want to keep competition down so that you are the only one who is getting soaked. Just don't forget that you will still need to take a shower afterward. www.jellybath.com

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

VoSKY Chatterbox


A Picture Share!
Originally uploaded by gadget.
Feedback sucks. Nobody wants to talk to someone who has a sqealing speaker box or who cuts out before every word spoken. Thankfully the Chatterbox does not suffer from this phenomenon. Plug this device into your USB port and it shows up as a typical sound card and microphone. Skype or your VoIP software will see this as a new input and allow you effortless conversation without the squealing that you typically have with desktop microphones. Now the conversation will not be private, but they have included a typical 3.5mm cellular headphone jack on the side. Now you've got your cake and you are eating it too. A mute and volume button adorn the front and the sound quality is just short of amazing.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Garmin GPSmap 376c


Garmin GPSmap 376c
Originally uploaded by gadget.

The integration of GPS mapping and satellite delivered data can bring you real-time re-routing to our car navigation system, ala XM NavTraffic on some Acura and Cadillac vehicles, as long as the traffic data collection is supported in your city. Boaters and aftermarket GPS fans can use the GPSmap 376c from Garmin to display weather overlays on their current map. A 3.8" 480 X 320 256 color screen looks crisp and bright, a battery gives between 4 and 15 hours of use and this, of course, tunes in all 150 channels of XM satellite radio. Radio will cost you $12.95 a month, but weather data, a whopping $29.99 to $49.99 per month. Looks like weather needs a better service model from XM, like NavTraffic which is only an additional $3.99/month for existing radio subscribers. It does however look to be a nice convergence piece of satellite technologies. Plus you could even spill your boat drink on it as it is water restant. Now available at your favorite boat store or online retailer for $800 to $1000.

http://www.garmin.com/products/gpsmap376c/ - For boaters

If you are more of a driver than a boater, the 7" widescreen 16:9 480 x 234 pixel Street Pilot 7200 gives you traffic updates via ClearChannel's or XM NavTraffic service plus weather information albiet more limited than the marine version above. In addition to XM satellite radio, Audible book and MP3 playback adorne this in-vehicle GPS and an SD slot gives you the storage capacity for multimedia and map updates. An integrated FM modulator eliminates the wire between the display and your head unit for stereo audio playback. Look for this unit in December at streeet prices of $1000 to $1200.

http://www.garmin.com/products/sp7200/ - For drivers

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Video on the iPod vs the PSP


Sony PSP UMD slot
Originally uploaded by gadget.
We knew that Steve was going to do it, even when he said that people don't want to carry movies around with them. Apple announced their familiar form factor yet thined iPod with 30 frames per second video playback through its new 2.5 inch screen. It also supports a composite RCA output, which is unique over the PSP's closed video output architecture. Will iTunes content (which is weak with 2000 mostly unknown videos at launch) beat the Sony Connect service with its downloadable media and retail UMD movies? Time will tell, but we can dig into the technical specs right now between the two devices.

The iPod won the war of the pocket music players against Sony, the inventor of the portable music category, from their Walkman and Discman players in the 1980's. Apple beat them from their 30 year monopoly because the iPod supported 7 different compressed media formats versus Sony's single ATRAC codec, a carry over from their MiniDisc technology they pushed into their "MP3" player lineup. It was not until Fall of 2004 that Sony announced MP3 support, well after the device game was lost. In 2005, they began shipping laptops with SD and Memory Stick ports - a further shift towards supporting standards other than their own.

Lets look at the specifications of the Sony PSP vs. the iPod 5th generation video player.

Sony PSP:
Overall device size: 6.7 x 2.9 x .9 inches
Video formats via "UMD": H.264/MPEG-4 AVC Main Profile Level3
Video formats via "Memory Stick": MPEG-4 SP,AAC
Output via 4.3" 16:9 TFT
480 x 272 pixel, 16.77 million colors (130,560 pixels)
Content via Sony Connect or retail UMD movies
Create your own via Image Converter 2 Plus for $14.99
Storage capacity: 2GB or 10 hours via Memory Stick Duo or unlimited via UMD media
Battery: 2-3 Hours

iPod 5th Gen:
Overall device size: 4.1 x 2.4 x 0.43 inches
Video formats: H.264 video: up to 768 Kbps, 320 x 240, 30 frames per sec., Baseline Profile up to Level 1.3 with AAC-LC up to 160 Kbps, 48 Khz, stereo audio in .m4v, .mp4 and .mov file formats
MPEG-4 video: up to 2.5 mbps, 480 x 480, 30 frames per sec., Simple Profile with AAC-LC up to 160 Kbps, 48 Khz, stereo audio in .m4v, .mp4 and .mov file formats
Output via 2.5" 4:3 TFT and RCA Composite output
320 x 240 pixel 16.7 million colors (76,800 pixels)
Content via iTunes Music (and Video) store
Create your own via Quicktime 7 Pro for $29.99
Storage capacity: 60GB or 150 Hours of video (max)
Battery: 2-3 Hours

The iPod is clearly smaller, but the screen is nearly half the resolution of the PSP. Remove its wide screen capabilities and you are going to need to get your eyes close to the iPod to see detail in videos. There is a psychological difference to these devices too. The iPod is known as a "passive" listening device where the PSP is an "active" engaging product. We have to engage to watch TV or play games so the iPod's video capabilities may go forgotten after the novelty wears off or the time to download content into iTunes then transfer it from your computer to the iPod makes us weary. If users have large music collections, the tradoffs between many songs being replaced by only a handful of TV programs may be another detriment.

Sony has their Connect download service and many UMD movies in retail stores while Apple has no movie program because of digital rights issues from the DMCA and only a few "formerly free" broadcast TV programs and some music videos available to purchase. I predict that it is only a matter of time before Pixar and Disney movies are available on the iTunes service, with the other studios to follow. Downloading a 2+ hour movie will be extremely time consuming and expensive for both a time and cost of bandwidth standpoint.

Both Sony and Apple offer software programs to convert home movies or TV programs that reside on your PC hard drive into MPEG4 formats compatible with their devices. Unfortunately, as easy as it is to rip your audio CDs to MP3 format, neither of these will allow you to "rip" a DVD that you own onto the devices although third-party "hacks" will let you achieve this with a few extra steps.

Now Apple does support a TV output and even an optional $39 remote control which makes this a neat "pocket PVR" for your television at home or on the road. Today, at the launch of the 5th gen iPod, I say the PSP wins at video and the iPod wins at music. These tables could change however, if Apple buys TiVo and enables their PC Home Media Option or rear USB ports to sync between the two formerly disparaged devices. An iPod that "talks" to a TiVo would be one of the few killer convergence devices. If you think about it, both Apple and TiVo have nailed the perfect consumer experience. Sony is playing catch-up.

5th Generation iPod Top View


5th Generation iPod Top View
Originally uploaded by gadget.
The greatest thing about the 3rd and 4th generation iPods were their top and bottom accessory ports. Say goodbye to the top power and control port on the 5th generation Video iPod. This means that remote controls and FM modulators like those from Griffin will need to be larger to house their own batteries. Unless, they are pushing power through the headphone jack, which I doubt.

The bottom connector stayed the same, so your speakers from Altec Lansing, JBL and even the new iHome iPod alarm clock (which sounds GREAT! for $99!) will work with this new portable player.

I was also suprized that they did not include the Bluetooth stereo profile (A2DP) for wireless headphones. This is also unfortunately disabled in the Motorola ROKR phone as well.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

We need your old PCs!


We need your old PCs!
Originally uploaded by gadget.
Over the Memorial day weekend I was trying to get groups together to build a mesh ad-hoc network at some of the big centers where Katrina victims were coming in. This was not feasible with all of the movement and confusion, but the fine folks at www.publicwebstations.com have come up with a Linux distro that boots from CDR and loads FireFox. Here is what you need to do. Go to your closet and grab that old P2 or AMD machine (or greater) with 128MB of RAM. Take out the hard drive and configure the BIOS to boot from CD-ROM. Burn the ISO from the above web site, plug your machine into a wired Ethernet jack and boot it up. You should see Firefox load and take you to a Red Cross welcome page. If that works then head to a shelter in your community and offer to install the systems that you bring. What are you waiting for? I know that you have an old computer in your closet!

Sunday, September 04, 2005

The animals are hurting with Katrina too.

The traditional news media is giving little attention to the animal shelters in cities surrounding the states affected by Katrina. As of Labor Day weekened, they are OVER their capacity taking care of hungry, wet, dirty animals that often to not have collars. Please offer to donate your time or money at a local shelter or as a foster home to take care of these animals at your house.

Most cats did not survive as they are not good swimmers; few made it out of homes and into trees. Many dogs were tied in their yards and perished in the rush of water. Those that were able to swim are missing patches of fur and have cuts from the debris.

If you are missing or have found a pet, you can send a description of the pet including its name and breed to the ASCPA at: [email protected]

One of the few AP stories shows a grim look at the state of animals in the region.
AP Story on Snowball and other pets with a more grim outlook.

Please dontate your time or money NOW: Donate here!

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Distributed Audio over Power Line - AOP

I didn't make it to Foo this year, and can't make it to Barcamp, so I put together this hack to listen to the Barcamp conference over my second Vonage VoIP line. Audio from the conference bridge gets pumped out the earpiece jack of a Polycom Soundpoint phone, then goes into a power over Ethernet audio adapter, then gets received in my audio rack and pumped throughout my Russound whole house distributed audio system. Now every room in my house can hear the conference. My audio hack would also work well with earnings calls or those forever work conferences...

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Before the Treo 650 and Bluetooth DUN, my data phone solution required lots of cables.

Since 1993 I have been connecting laptops to mobile phones for "wireless data" and even used the AT&T EO with its telnet client and internal Oki 900 mobile phone. Telnet on a tablet was a real chore with 9600 bps connections. Remember the "someday you can fax on the beach?" commercials? I faxed from the beach.

The Sidekick and Treo 600 were the first smart phones that you could really use data on without going insane and I replaced both of these in my pockets with a Treo 650. Since many of us in America have not used Bluetooth for dial up networking I put a little how-to together for Make to get you over the tricky parts.

This solution also works for GSM phones pending that you get the correct dial-up number and login information from your carrier. Before the 650, I used this setup with the very rare CDMA Sony Ericsson T608 which had the worst firmware (SLOW and buggy) that I have ever seen on a phone.

Enjoy the story. Let me know if you want a Mac version too. It's a little easier and almost self explanitory from the PC. Go figure eh?
Follow more at the link.


HowTo Treo 650 Bluetooth Dial-up Networking





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Tuesday, May 31, 2005

High Altitude XM Radio via the MyFi


A Picture Share!
Originally uploaded by gadget.
Nothing beats automatic delivery of audio - especially at 30k feet. Just place the XM external wearable antenna between the window shade of the airplane and glass and you have instant CNN and audio when your on the go!

Friday, May 27, 2005

Flickr

This is a test post from flickr, a fancy photo sharing thing.

With Google now behind blogger, the ability to Moblog and search integration, it may just be time to bring this site back from the grave.

Starting with Grey Matter on my site was cute, but I do not have the time to keep up with the comment spammers and deleting their rubbish. Ben and Mena's TypePad based on their Movable Type engine is cool, but I found myself not wanting to pay the $80 a year for that service. Maybe the $50 version would suit me well with the level of features that I would use.

In the mean time, I'll give this service from Blogger another go! Maybe it's worth being different from the rest of the MT crowd.

Dave