Sunday, December 18, 2005

Blog transition is over!

The blog migration is generally over so come on over to Kevin 2.0!


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Sundays are made for maintenance

Not just our own catching up and planning the week, but I mean our computer maintenance as well. A recent post James wrote about defragging and performance has me rethinking my weekend workload. We're all so busy during the week, that's it's difficult to keep the PC's running at top speed; we simply don't take the time to maintain them. It's a vicious cycle because we demand performance during the week, so we can't skip the weekend tuneup.

Here in the house we have two laptops for work, two personal laptops, two desktops, two PDAs and various digital cameras, iPods and more. Every single one of those devices are expected to function perfectly and quickly. Is it fair to expect that from our beloved devices if we don't show them some love in return? After the jump is my common sense, but important approach for each Sunday going forward!

  • Clean off the desktops on the PCs by moving (or removing) any data files, downloads, etc.
  • Clean out the Recycle Bins
  • Check the installed program list and wipe out anything not used in the last two months
  • Run the Disk Cleanup function and free up space.
  • Run a Disk Defragmentation on each
  • Run Windows Update. I have this scheduled, but the laptops aren't always on during the scheduled time.
  • Run updates for all virus and anti-spyware programs.
  • Defrag all external hard drives and iPods
  • Review all new data and pictures on Compact Flash and SD cards; archive, burn or delete as necessary
  • Review PDA data and remove as necessary to save space, i.e.: notes, downloads, podcasts, installation files, etc.
  • Turn off the satellite receivers overnight to automatically receive any new software updates.
  • Back up one PC per week using Norton Ghost and an external hard drive.
While all of this is going on, I'm going to enjoy my Sunday morning coffee from WaWa and read a good old fashioned newspaper. Call in personal maintenance by unplugging for a short while!


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Friday, December 16, 2005

Skype 2.0 beta debug info?

Interesting experience with the Skype 2.0 beta yesterday while on a video call: when I let my cursor hover over the video frame, a bunch of program data appeared. James and I were chatting about our podcast with Dave when this happened, but he couldn't replicate what I was seeing. We did check our Skype versions and they were both version 2.0.0.43. Hmmmm....

There's some interesting info here; CPU usage, call quality, error codes, codec information and more. Maybe I can stop using Task Manager? ;)

I can still replicate the popup window today, so it must be something unique about my version. Is anyone else seeing this? If not, click the picture for a full size shot and let me know what you think.



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BLINK: we like it, mostly

Have you noticed any upgrades to the credit card machines at retailers across the country? Did you recently get a new card from your credit card company? Look for "Blink" on both your cards and store card readers; methinks this will be big.

Blink appears to use some RFID tag in your card, so you don't have to swipe and sign anymore. Barb and I went to get some coffee (at WaWa, of course) and Barb tried her new credit card, which is Blink-able. She passed the card over the reader, we heard a short tone, and a receipt popped out of the cash register indicating that the purchase was complete. No signing, no verification of identity, nothing.

We like the ease of use, but this type of technology should raise your awareness for your credit cards. Lose your card and you'll have to report it lost as soon as possible. We need to start embedding these in the reloadable Gift Cards; those magnetic strips don't last long in my opinion.



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Thursday, December 15, 2005

SPAM: the game

Some of the Junk e-mail I get is actually amusing. Is there nothing that folks won't promote? Since most of you use spam and junk mail filters, you may actually be missing out on some funny notes! Just take these Subjects from the last few hours in my Outlook:

  • "You Need a Credit Card" - Really? Just how do these folks know this? Besides, the smartest thing I ever did was pay off all of my credit card debt a few years back. I now use an American Express and pay it all off each month.
  • "Personalized Golf Balls Guaranteed to Arrive by Christmas" - That's great, but around Christmas time we pretty much have a foot of snow on the courses, so why rush the golf balls. Oh, and since I only play golf about four times a year, my handicap is about a 30; I don't think having my name on the balls is really going to help.
  • "Take our Nationwide Candy Survey!" - Gee, that's really sweet, but I think I'll pass. If you're going to use the World Wide Web to market your surveys, why not make them Worldwide Candy Surveys?
I think I just invented a new game based around junk e-mail. Anyone else want to play?


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Folks appear interested in HD over WiFi


Looks like I finally got an original post up on the new tech.memeorandum.com site. This morning I wrote up a post on HD Beat showing what the limitations of WiFi are when streaming HDTV using the Windows Media Extender functionality of the Xbox 360. Seems like the timing is right for more "pushing the envelope" with high-def television based on the interest in the story!

I said it back in the summer, and Robert Scoble echoed the thought on a Tablet PC podcast: 2006 will be the year of HDTV!


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Is anyone using "private RSS"?

When I say "private RSS" I mean an RSS feed that's specifically for certain folks only. We all use what I'd call public RSS for site feeds, podcasts and more. I'm thinking of folks like press contacts that get embargoed news under NDA, for example. Why send out e-mails to these folks, when they could subscribe to your "private feed"?

There's the issue of trying to drop folks that don't belong there; if someone broke news before they should have for example. How do you get rid of that individual? Do you change the feed? I don't know, but I'm betting someone like Dave Winer or Steve Rubel does. Anyone?


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Tech giveaways galore

Maybe it's because of the holiday season, but it seems like there are plenty of contests and giveaways this time of the year. Here's a few for you:

  • On the MobileTechRoundup podcast, we're giving away the prize of your choice from our sponsor. Anything on their website is up for grabs. Contest details in the show notes of the last show.
  • Mobility Today is giving away a Palm Treo 650 phone to a reader. Check Dave's site for the easy to enter contest details.
  • Computer Outlook, the tech radio show out of Las Vegas, is giving away over 250 products this month including a Gateway 21-inch monitor, a Magellan RoadMate 800 and more. Details here.
  • Engadget is running a "Five days of Giveaways" series; at this point, there are only two days left, so hurry!


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Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Tablet PC Pen replaced

I broke my Tablet PC pen about five months back and I really ripped Toshiba for it on a podcast. Frankly, I was upset because the pen broke so easily and because of the impact on me. The pen itself still works, you see. I can ink all day long on my Portege M205. What I can't do is keep the blasted pen in the holder, so I'm always afraid I'll lose it and be totally hosed.

I still attribute the issue to a design flaw. The part that broke is the only part that keeps the pen in its spring-loaded holder. See the picture to the right; my broken pen is the one in the middle, while I have two new pens next to it; one on each side. The spring shouldn't be activated by the flimsiest part of the plastic. Let's go back to the design room and change that, can we Toshiba? Anyway, I got two new pens today and while one is exact replacement, the smaller reserve pen should actually win a design award. Find out why after the jump.



The smaller reserve pen is every bit as function as its larger siblings. It still writes in digital ink on the screen, and it even has a button on the side. This button is useful as a right-click on the screen so you can use context menus. About the only function the reserve pen doesn't have is the eraser function on the end opposite the tip. Honestly, I can live without that; if I lose my main pen, I'll want the ability to easily ink. I can always edit or erase with another method.

The real design achievement is how you store the reserve pen. If you remove the main battery from the Tablet, you'll notice something I overlooked previously. There is a small set of plastic holders built in to the side of the battery compartment. Wouldn't you know that the reserve pen fits there like a glove? All you do is snap it in place and it's out of sight, but never out of reach. Replace your battery and you've got a spare Tablet PC pen whenever you need it!



I'm still disappointed over the initial design flaw that the main pen has. It cost me $54.00 for the new pen, the reserve pen and a pen tether; that's $54 I wouldn't have spent if the main pen holder was better designed. Having said that, I'm feeling better that I won't lose my Tablet PC pen; even if I do, the reserve has me covered!


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Tuesday, December 13, 2005

CommuteCast #38 now available

I think we need to hire a full-time podcast producer; Barb and I recorded this show back on November 30th. It only takes two hours to post-produce and upload the podcast, not two weeks! Too many blogs and podcasts, not enough time.....anyway: hope you enjoy the show! We should have another one up this week (assuming I do my post-prod work!)


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Bookeen giving free WiFi cards with Cybook

Just got a note from Bookeen, the folks that make the Cybook standalone eBook reader:

"For new year holidays, Bookeen offers a Wireless LAN compact Flash Card with every Cybook bought on its online shop. The Cybook ebook reading device has been designed to provide the best e-reading experience. Now, it also gives you access to your favorite broadband wireless Internet services.

Thanks to its 800x600 color display (either in portrait or landscape mode) and its embedded Internet Explorer application, you will be able to browse your favorite web sites, seated comfortably in your couch or while on the go. You will not need anymore to be at your desk to read and answer your emails. You will even be able to access all your ebook files stored in the hard disk of your computer. This last feature will virtually unbound the storage capacity of the Cybook."


The Cybook is a nice device that I had as a demo unit last year; one of the minor issues I saw with the device was a dial-up modem connection for downloads. There was a card slot on the device and it's nice to see Bookeen throw in the ability to use it for free! The Cybook with WiFi costs $399 this holiday season, which is roughly 40% less in cost than last year.



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Podcast reviews on iTunes

Apple seems to have snuck in a new feature into iTunes: podcast reviews. I say "snuck" because I didn't see any announcements just yet. Trust me they're in there. So what can you do?
  • Rate a podcast from 1 to 5 stars
  • Write up to a 6,000 character review
I would expect that we see some new podcast rankings based on user feedback in the near future. I'm not sure that's as good as the subscriber-based rankings; let's face it: you're not likely to subscribe to a show that you don't want to listen to. Why waste your bandwidth and disk space?

On a related note: if you like the MobileTechRoundup podcast that I do with James and Dave twice per week, you can write an iTunes review by clicking this link. Oh, and the new episode just went live at 9 am this morning too. This was a fun one, so don't miss it! We've got a big giveaway contest going right now but you have to enter by December 20th, so don't wait!




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Monday, December 12, 2005

Yahoo-bulator 3.0 available

Konfabulator (er, Yahoo! Widgets) is available in version 3.0 now, and the timing couldn't be better. I had just downloaded the prior version last week to use one single widget. Don't you know it just kept choking on my Window Media Center PC? I never figured out why, so I'll give version 3.0 a spin.

What was the widget I wanted? I'm looking for a widget that shows a picture file from an internet website; namely the very site you're reading. My webcam snaps a pic every 300 seconds and short of reloading my personal blog every 5 minutes, I wanted to know if the pic ever caught me semi-unaware. You know us bloggers: we're always sitting around in our underwear in front of our keyboards....


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Cyberphone moves up the alphabet

Speaking of Skype earlier today, the folks over at Cyberphone are moving from the Model "K" to the Model "W". Sort of reminds me of the early Henry Ford days...anyway, these are the USB handsets that are Skype compatible. I personally like to use a USB headset to keep my hands free for martinis and blogging (not necessarily in that order), but I wouldn't mind trying out one of these new models to feel the experience. Frankly, we'll all be using VoIP with headsets or handsets before we know it, so why fight it? More details and specs after the jump.

According to the VoIPVoice Shop:
The Cyberphone-W USB handset is slightly smaller, weighs a little less and has even more fantastic features when used with Skype.
The handset differs from its predecessor with more keys, more visible LED's and with wideband MP3 quality sound, Skype users can make Skype calls like never before!
Fully integrated with Skype technology and available exclusively for Skype users, it is just like using a regular telephone.
The Cyberphone-W is a two-piece handset and base powered by the USB on the PC.
Access and use Skype direct from the telephone and benefit from unique features including: voice activated dialing and voicemail alerts.

The Cyberphone "W" sets you back $59.99 which includes delivery. This phone doesn't work with Macs, but that should change in the near future. If there's a need to be hands-free like me, you can purchase an optional mini-headset.


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Skype button for WordPress

This may be old news for some folks, but I think it's worth a repeat. Not too long ago, Six Apart announced support for Skype buttons. These are the active buttons that show your Skype on-line status for your readers. As you know, I'm in the midst of moving this blog and I decided on WordPress as my platform. A little digging yesterday unearthed active Skype buttons for WordPress as well, so I'll be trying it out in my sandbox.

The WordPress implementation is a Plug-In that you can find here. I'm not sure if you need the full-blown WordPress platform or if you can use this (and other plug-ins) on WordPress.com. There's more info from Skype on this that will help get you started as well.


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Saturday, December 10, 2005

XM hardware sales tomorrow

If you've waited for satellite radio hardware prices to come down, you can stop waiting. Staples has XM hardware discounted up to 70% starting tomorrow, per the local ad I just received in my Sunday paper.

The Delphi XM Roady2 receiver (which I personally use) goes for $14.99 tomorrow. Likewise, the portable Delphi MyFi radio is only $134.99 after rebate. That's the hand held model that you can use in your car or your home and it has a built in FM modulator. This unit also records up to 5 hours of music without being docked to anything; other than the antenna, of course. The unit comes with full auto and home kit, so you get it all at a deep discount. I seem to remember this unit around $300 when it first hit the streets!


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Snow: the day after

Picture as promised yesterday. Although it was cold here, the sun did melt a good amount of the snow. This pic is from over our garage looking out to the entrance of our development. My back is sore, but somehow Barb's back is fine. Odd, since she probably moved more snow than I did.

The snow didn't stop the USPS of course, and I received my leather iPod nano case from Sena Cases yesterday. I'll have a full review and pics up before the end of the weekend....weather permitting, of course!


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Friday, December 09, 2005

Snow

Eight inches of snow last night and our driveway is 75-feet long. Barb and I just shoveled most of it. Can someone remind me why I walked past all of those snowthrowers on sale this past summer?

I'll snap some pics later for those of you in warmer climates.


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Thursday, December 08, 2005

Video of streaming HDTV to an Xbox 360

What can I say; it's a video kind of day. Aside from the new webcam, I also used Barb's digital camera to record a video today that you can see on HD Beat. I'll warn you now: the video quality isn't great and the file is 75MB in size. I wasn't going for quality, which was easy since I don't have the equipment to make an Oscar-winning film! :)

I went for concept with this, because it isn't something you see every day, however it is something you WILL see every day in a few years. What is it? I recently built up a base Windows Media Center PC and added HDTV capability to it for under $1k. The entire step-by-step process is over at HD Beat.

Now that I have the machine built and running well, I've started to stream the HD content (both live and recorded) to my Xbox 360 via WiFi and Windows Media Connect. This video basically shows you that it can be done, and I outline one or two "gotchas" in the commentary. If you've got the time and the bandwidth, check it out!


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kct-cam is up!

Well, THAT was easy! I'm using a new Logitech QuickCam FUSION for the camera and some free software to FTP images every 5 minutes to my web server. I might have spent 15 minutes getting this set up....perhaps a step-by-step post will be forthcoming if there's interest.


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