Friday, December 31, 2004

2005 tech trends: a wishlist

Now that we're on the verge of 2005, I originally thought to review the tech of 2004, but there are likely to be enough of those stories for you to read. In fact, I'll recommend a few for you to read to work off any "New Year's hangovers" tomorrow:

Brighthand: The Most Important Handheld-Related Events of 2004

MSNBC: The year in technology
eWeek: 2004: The Year in Technology (interactive timeline)

Instead of focusing on the past, I'm looking to the future. Although 2004 was a great year for the tech crowd, there are some gaps that I'd like to see addressed in 2005. Click "Read More" for my thoughts...

1. Efficient power usage in mobile computing devices. A portable device is only good if it has power. Intel made great strides with their XScale processors in the past year or two, which allow for "speedstep" power saving techniques. I'm hoping we see new and unique approaches to run devices with lower power consumption combined with more efficient battery technology. I use an iSun solar charger to recharge my devices with solar power today; case manufacturers, if you're listening, let's get some solar cells integrated into our device cases.

2. Acceptance of the blogosphere by mainstream media. The many tragic events of 2004 showed just how immediate and "real" the blogosphere is. News is an immediate phenomenon; people want to hear what is happening AS it happens. Unless there are news correspendents on every speck of the planet, that's not going to happen without bloggers. At the tail end of 2004, I began to see some news stories attributed to blogging coverage (what I call "bloggerage"), which is a postive sign. I hope this continues in 2005.

3. Wider availability of connectivity. I was thrilled to see plans laid out to "WiFi enable" whole cities in 2004. This will take time and money of course, but I believe that ultimately, we will have connectivity wherever we are. Information must be timely, whether it's data for a program, personal attributes, whatever. We have to keep in mind that while information in itself is good, access to that information is the key. Without the access, the information might as well not exist.

4. Related to item 3: Valid and timely information. An example might suffice for this. Today, I attempted to purchase my first tablet PC. I searched for the best price and the searched local stores for availability. A local computer store, which is a major national chain, indicated that they had the item I wanted "in limited quantities". This was based on their website. I took an extra step and called the location and they indicated that they had 2 in stock. I drove to the store, looked at the display and bargained the price down via a price match policy. All is good, I thought. They store associate rang up my order and called for someone to open the super-secret laptop storage room. They came back empty, so two associates promptly ran to the back of the store to check for any additional stock. Nothing. They then rechecked their computers and said, "we just sold both of the units". I did NOT see a single person purchase a tablet PC while I was waiting, so I highly doubt that 2 tablet PC's were just sold. End result: wasted trip and no tablet PC. Ironically, I went on-line several hours afterwards and the store's website still state's "limited quantities in stock". 'Nuff said.

5. Convergent devices that don't water down functionality for convergence's sake. I've never been a convergence fan because the point is missed by manufacturers. If you're going to combine two more more devices into one for better functionality, please don't water down functionality of both devices to give me an "all in one" device. Let's find a way to get 3 to 5 megapixel cameras into cell phones if we're going to make "camera-phones". I'll continue to carry multiple devices until I feel that I'm not sacrificing quality of functionality.

There you have it. I can go on and one for my 2005 wishes, but I've hit the major ones here at a high level. Think over 2004 and consider what you want to see in 2005, then drop me a note or post a comment for all.

Peace, happiness and high-tech in 2005 to all!

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Thursday, December 30, 2004

FCC approves new PPC phone from Asus

Brighthand reported earlier today that the FCC has approved a new Pocket PC Phone Edition from Asus. The new model is dubbed the Asus P505 and runs on the GSM\GPRS cellular network in the United States:

"The P505 will run Microsoft Windows Mobile 2003 for Pocket PC Phone Edition. At this point, it isn't clear if it will use the latest version of this operating system, which would give its display support for both portrait and landscape modes.
It will use a 416 MHz Intel PXA270 processor and have 64 MB of RAM. It will also include an SD/SDIO slot for additional storage."

The device looks like a half-flip type phone, where the numeric keypad covers part the screen, but folds down for speaking and viewing the full screen. I like this type of design because you can customize the Today screen to view the items important to you in the area that's always viewable. I also looked at the FCC site to see other external photos of the device and there is a 1.3MP camera on the back. No thumb-board or QWERTY keypad, so you'll have to use an input method native to Windows Mobile. Based on the cellular network the P505 is designed for, my guess is that you will not see this device on the Verizon CDMA network, but may see it on Cingular or T-Mobile.

Click the post title for the full story from Brighthand.

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New favorite site to hit daily

I've added a new favorite link to the site: Geek News Central. I hit many sites each day and when I find one that I keep going back to on a daily basis, that tells me it's worth sharing with the "digital world'rs".

Geek News Central is run out of Honolulu, Hawaii by Todd Cochrane. Todd also pumps out podcasts a few times a week that he hosts on the site. The site and the podcasts are tech-oriented and can hit any tech topic there is. Be sure to give Todd's site a look and for a great background on Todd & the site, check his "about" page.

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Update on "stealth" surfing

A few days ago, I posted about the StealthSurfer that runs on a USB drive so that your history & cookies aren't left behind on a PC. I checked in with John Haller, who developed a portable version of Firefox earlier this year. John's application is similar in concept, as it runs the Firefox browser off of a USB drive. I asked John about "private" surfing with his portable browser and he replied back with the following:

"If you're interested in stealth surfing, try using the pre-built anonymous profile for Portable Firefox I made. It will cover all your tracks AND use multiple anonymous proxies around the world, switching once a minute."

If you want a portable browser with some privacy, I recommend John's solution.

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Tuesday, December 28, 2004

eBook completed on the Cybook

I've finally completed reading "Jarka Ruus" on the Cybook demo unit. The several weeks it took to read had nothing to do with the Cybook and had EVERYTHING to do with work and the holiday season here. In a way, I'm actually glad I didn't devour this last eBook as I typically do.

Before I actually used the Cybook, I was concerned with what I considered to be low-end specs. Yes, it sports a nice 10.1" color LCD screen, but is equipped only with 66Mhz processor and a ROM\RAM combo of 16MB\32MB, so naturally I was concerned. As I complete my review this week however, I'll keep in mind the actual "feel" of what it was like to read on the Cybook and not focus just on the technical aspects. After reading a complete book, I've realized that the experience is just as important (if not more important) as "what's inside". Look for the review here and at; my hope is before the year end...

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Lewis & Clark go digital

So did you get a new GPS device for the holidays?  How about a digital camera?  If you did get these items (or you already had them), consider taking a trip to one of the 12,511 remaining confluences to be found on the Degree Confluence Project.  According to the project a "degree confluence" is defined as:
"the exact spot where an integer degree of latitude and an integer degree of longitude meet, such as 43°00'00"N 72°00'00"W. The project uses the WGS84 datum to define the confluence location."
The premise behind the project is to digitally capture an image of every degree confluence and host them on the website, along with some information about the particular confluence.  There are very specific rules and process to follow, so if you're game be sure to check the project website.  All 12 of the degree confluences in my state of Pennsylvania are already captured and verified; in fact, over 800 of them in the United States are already on the website.  For those who travel far and wide abroad however, there are plenty of land-based confluences to be captured.  So grab your digital gear you explorer wanna-be's and look for the imaginary lines!  I wonder if this project will spur any camera & GPS convergence devices....

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Monday, December 27, 2004

Web surfing without a trace?

Want to surf the web and leave no local trace? For folks that are ultra-concerned about their surfing privacy, you might want to look at the StealthSurfer.

The StealthSurfer is built around a USB 2.0 flash drive and contains an on-board web browser. You simply plug the StealthSurfer into a USB slot and your Win98ME, Windows 2000 or Windows XP computer will recognize the device as a removable storage unit. You then run the web browser software that is built into the device's memory and all of your cached web page files, history and cookies are saved to the StealthSurfer instead of your PC. The device is available in various capacities ranging from 128MB to 1GB.

Click "Read More!" to see the various features of the StealthSurfer and read some of my additional thoughts.

"StealthSurfer features:
• Your computer AUTOMATICALLY records every move you make! Anyone with basic computer knowledge can view where you've been on the Web.

• Deleting this information does not permanently remove it from your computer – nor does emptying your ‘Recycle Bin.’ Even clearing your browser's cache and ‘History’ files will not fully remove lingering data. Privacy and cleansing software also risk leaving data remnants on your hard drive and are not 100% efficient!

The only way to truly ensure privacy is to keep your files and data close at hand. With StealthSurfer, you take your browser and all other sensitive information with you when you leave your computer. Should your StealthSurfer fall into unwanted hands, password protection maintains your data’s privacy and security."

Part of me thinks that this is a great alternative to local web browsing and it will likely defeat any security concerns around the various desktop search programs from Google and MSN. However, another part of me thinks that I should be able to buy a much cheaper USB flash drive and install a browser on it, much like Mozilla Firefox on a USB drive. It should be possible to have a portable USB-version of Firefox that allows me to store the same type of info on the flash drive which would protect my web surfing data for much less.

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Friday, December 24, 2004

Happy holidays

Barb and I want to wish all of you "digital world'rs" a happy holiday season. Remember your friends and family, remember those in need and especially remember those who fight for freedom.

Peace, joy, happiness & success in 2005!

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Thursday, December 23, 2004

Lance's Iraq Blog

While we're spending time with our families during the holidays, let's not forget about those who are separated from their loved ones.  I'm talking about the men and women who put their lives on the line every day in the Armed Forces.  While we debate the politics of "should we or shouldn't we", these brave folks have to live, and die, with the decisions that we've made as a country.  It's too late (and irrelevant) to argue the pros and cons, the fact of the matter is: we're there.
So who is there and what is really going on?  Some of you may know people that have shipped out to do their sworn duty; others of you just know that various fellow Americans are on the job.  Whether you do know someone that is overseas or not, take a few minutes this holiday season and visit Lance In Iraq.  Lance Frizzell is a 2nd Lt Medical Platoon Leader with the Tennessee National Guard 278th Regimental Combat Team, currently serving in Northern Iraq.  Here in the states, Lance serves as the Press Secretary for House Republicans in the Tennessee General Assembly.
Lance's blog provides a first person account of the trials and tribulations our forces face every day and his personal writing style shines though the blog.  Not only is this a great way for us to hear a personal account of our efforts in Iraq, but it likewise allows us to give back to Lance through supportive messages to him and his unit.  As you sit with your family around your Christmas tree, menorah or other seasonal symbol, think on those who are sitting around danger on the other side of the world. 
Thanks Lance and all of our troops for getting the job done everyday.  And thank you Barb for the wonderful inspiration behind this story.

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Wednesday, December 22, 2004

New input method for Pocket PC's

Microth, Inc. released a new input method keyboard today. Unlike a FITALY keyboard, this one is based on the standard QWERTY typing layout. The difference is that there are less keys because up to four characters are on each key. In order to "type" one of the four characters, you tap the key and then drag the stylus in the direction of the charcter. Example: to type a "q", you tap the key with the "q" on it and then drag the stylus to the lower left of th key. The lower left quadrant is where the "q" is on that key.

* Some of advantages of Claviature include: Large Keys: Keys of Claviature are in about 6 times larger then keys of regular on-screen keyboards. They are even larger then keys of full screen keyboards. That provides easy and fast access to keys and makes comfortable not only pen, but also finger input. Especially, for women's long nails.
* Small Footprint: Claviature occupies a small amount of screen space and provides unobscured access to Pocket PC applications. It's an ideal input solution for phones' small screens.
* Language Support: Claviature supports provides text input in many world languages. You can download language layouts for about 60 languages at Claviature supports several language layouts simultaneously.
* Usability: Claviature doesn't requires any training. It provides standard international layouts with familiar symbol placement, dead-keys and Alt-Grey layouts.
* Customization: You can customize Claviature's keycaps: background, fonts and their sizes and colors.
* System Requirements: Claviature is a native PPC Soft Input Panel (SIP) and works on Pocket PC 2002, 2003, 2003SE (including HiRes).

Click the post title for more information on Claviture.

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Dead laptop provides fun project

My workhorse of a laptop died last month. I had a bulky, but effective, Gateway 400SL laptop with a 40 GB drive and the power supply just finally quit. The battery hadn't retained much of a charge over the past year and now the unit won't even start up on AC power. It tries for about 2 seconds, but then dies. Where others see dead-end, I see opportunity! I'm going to take the unit apart so I can get at the data on the 2.5" hard drive. I've got my entire CD collection on the drive as well as tons of personal data that I need. My project will be to operate on the laptop, remove the drive and place the drive in this $14.99 hard drive enclosure from Tiger Direct.

Once I get the hard drive in the enclosure, I can get at my data through the USB interface. Afer I have the data transferred, I should be able to format the drive and have a portable 40GB storage device, but we'll see. If anyone has any other ideas or uses, drop me a note. In the meantime, I'll take pictures of the surgery and post details and results.

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Winter SPOT watch faces available

If you're in a festive holiday mood and own a Microsoft SPOT watch, consider downloading a celebratory watch face. There are four new holiday themes available.

I particularly like the New Years countdown face, but if someone asked me the time I don't think I could answer them. ;>)

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Omea Reader free until 1/1/05

Looking for an RSS reader? How about a newsgroup reader? What if you needed a bookmark manager for your browser? Better yet: what if all of these features were available in one product and that product was free? Good news: this product does exist as Omea Reader and if you act quickly, you can get a license for free from JetBrains. Omea Reader also adds advanced search features to quickly find information from clippings you have pulled down.

Omea Reader is a unique "Personal Reading Environment" that does away with the need for separate programs to handle different kinds of on-line information such as web pages, internet newsgroups, and RSS and Atom feeds. Now you can work with all these different types of information in one unified interface.
Omea Reader is also part information organizer... a "Personal Information Environment", if you will. With Omea Reader you can organize internet information resources stored on your computer in ways that are meaningful to you, rather than to your computer's operating system or some application program. You can organize information in-flows according to your daily activities, current projects, people you connect with, etc.

Omea Reader is also available in a Pro version that costs $49. The Pro version adds MS Outlook integration, contact and task management as well as local file indexing. No word on the cost of the currently free version after 1/1. Click the post title for more information.

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Sunday, December 19, 2004

Outlook Skype aids in contact management

Ever since Skype hit the web, we've seen developers extend it with simple but extremely effective add-on applications. Two weeks ago, I pointed out Skype Answering Machine or SAM.

Today, I found a another great extension called Outlook Skype. Outlook Skype was developed by Peter Kalstrom in Sweden and allows you to manage your Skype contacts in Outlook. Outlook Skype interfaces with Outlook and adds a small Skype Toolbar to Outlook. You can add Skype information to any Outlook contact and Skype them with one click. Outlook Skype works for both Skype and SkypeOut. I skyped Peter today to thank him for his great contribition to the quickly growing world of Skype applications. No luck for Mozilla Thunderbird clients at this time, but if you're a 'Skyper' that utilizes Outlook for your contacts, take a look at Peter's great app. On his site, Peter also provides a detailed Macromedia Shockwave demonstration of what Outlook Skype looks like and how it works.

You probably already have a number of contacts in Outlook. This application allows you to use those contacts to call directly via Skype and also store the Skype information directly in the Outlook Contact. The contacts folder can be either a private or a public folder. Using a public folder gives the added benefit of allowing multiple users to share Skype friends lists. Also, calls can be logged as journal items in any private or public folder.

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Holiday gift: HP 7760 photosmart printer

My parents just got a digital camera, but have no way to print their pictures. I think they were stuck on trying to figure out how so many pics fit on a such a small xD memory card; not sure they ever thought about how to actually PRINT their photos! After some on-line research, I settled on the hp photosmart 7760 for them.....and for me. Yup, I liked what I saw so much for the price that I grabbed two yesterday. Circuit City had them on sale for $119 each and I had a "10% off your total purchase" coupon.

The 7760 effectively doubles as a standalone photo printer as well as a USB 2.0 text and picture printer for your PC or Mac. I considered a photo printer only for my parents (hp's 370 as well as models from Canon and Olympus), but since their main printer is about 6 years old, I thought I would go for the dual purpose printer. Click read more for additional details.

So, what do you get for $119? For photo printing, the 7760 has a 1.8" LCD screen so that you view pics and print them without a PC. There are card reader slots for all of the current mainstream memory cards: CompactFlash™ Type I and II and Microdrive, SmartMedia, Secure Digital, Multi Media cards, Memory Sticks® (Memory Stick Duo, Memory Stick Pro, Magic Gate), xD-Picture Card™.

Unlike a true photo printer that uses a dye-sublimation technique, this photo printer uses standard 6-color inkjet technology. Unlike the dye-sub printers, the 7760 prints your photo line by line using all of the colors at the same time. A dye-sub printer actually prints your photo several times, once for each major color, which provides better color depth and a wider, truer range of colors. However, after printing a few photos with the 7760, I'm hard pressed to find poor quality of output when compared to a true photo. Unless you are extremely serious about your photos or you are a professional photographer, the 7760's photos will impress you.

The 7760 has more than adequate speed of printing both photos and text. HP claims a 4x6 photo at the best quality can be produced in just under 2 minutes. Text speed ranges between 13 pages per minute (ppm) in draft mode, 3 ppm in normal mode and .6 ppm in best mode. Optional print cartridges can increase these speeds by almost 80%.

For the price, I don't see how you can go wrong. If I did, I wouldn't have purchased two of them; one for my parents and one for me. Installation is simple, the price is right and the output makes you say "wow". If you're in the market for a photo printer, I would strongly consider the 7760 at this price.

For additional information on the 7760, click the post title for basic information or click here for complete specifications.

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Thursday, December 16, 2004

Last Firefox plug

I'll stop, I promise. If you want to use an inferior browser, far be it from me to tell you that Firefox is better than IE. I don't care if your browser continues to get attacked on what appears to be weekly identification of security holes, it's really your call.

All kidding aside, I know I've been on a Firefox kick lately, but it's just that good. To officially end the Firefox plugs (at least for a few days!), I'll leave off with a fantastic in-depth review of the application from InformationWeek:

"Firefox 1.0 offers everything most people need to browse the Web, in a way you're apt to like better than Internet Explorer.
In recent years, Microsoft — which once tirelessly strove to improve Web browsing — has fallen asleep on its laurels. After all, there's no real money to be gained from improving Internet Explorer. And since IE is bundled with Windows, the market-share mountain is so steep that few competitors have risen to the challenge.
Well, score one for open source, because Firefox is a triumph of the alternative development model, and a truly a great Web browser. With this 1.0 release, Mozilla has shown that the impossible can happen."

As always, click the post title for the full article.

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Firefox ad hits NYT

Wow, what a movement! If you're a regular reader, you know I just switched my web browser to the open source Mozilla Firefox browser. You can get Firefox by clicking the Firefox button on the right side of this page. Mozilla took in over $250k in donations to garner a two page New York Times ad:

"Today our community has raised its voice loudly and clearly to say to the world: There is an alternative: Mozilla Firefox!
And what 11,000,000 of us already know, we want the rest of the world to know. Thousands of us rallied together in 10 short days to pull off the largest open source fundraising campaign in history. And today, we can see the result of our efforts.
We're on two full pages in The New York Times because our message is big — much bigger than the ad itself. This is just the precursor to what will become a broadening campaign of Firefox advocacy throughout the world."

Talk about support! But then, they really have a great product. Perhaps a comparison of Internet Explorer and Firefox is overdue for this site? Stay tuned.

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Finally, another BT phone from Verizon!

Thank you Verizon Wireless! You only have one Bluetooth enabled phone, the Motorola V710, and I can't really figure out why. Why have a Bluetooth capable handheld device if I have to buy a cable to attach my Axim X50v to my cell phone?'s a wireless world and the word "wireless" is half of your company name....can you hear me now?

Howard Forums
found the FCC documents indicating that Verizon has a new Bluetooth capable phone in the works, the VX8100 from LG.

Since the LG-8000 hasn't hit the market just yet, I'm guessing that I won't see this phone for at least six months. I might be able to hold out until then....

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Podcast idea solicitation

It's your turn to submit an opinion, since I do already do that on a fairly regular basis. How about a Podcast? What would you look for in a mobile tech \ digital themed podcast? How long would it be? What topics would you want to hear about? Would you consider leaving voicemail questions on the Skype Answering Machine to be added into a podcast and answered "live"?

Think it over and leave a comment or drop me a note. James and I are kicking around some ideas on a podcast format and hey: what's the point if nobody will listen? (I've heard myself speak more than enough; I don't need to record myself and play it back!). Here's a high level of what James is thinking:

"The Podcast would be about mobile technology, computer software, and just about anything else that listeners might find interesting. It seems appropriate that since a Podcast is really for the listeners and not the 'casters that it would be a good idea to solicit feedback on what you would like to hear.

There are many ways this could play out (pun intended) so chime in with any ideas you have. A lot of Podcasts do current topics in the tech world and give little snippets of information about each one, kind of like an audio blog. This could be a viable format but we could also do more in-depth analysis about gadgets or software that are in the news. You tell us what you would most like to hear."

So: the pod is in your court. What do you think?

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Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Site updates

I've made some additions to the site and wanted to share:

I've added a new link to the Websites I Visit section: Paul's Blog. Paul is a talented peer at work and provides a unique perspective on tech and on just about everything else he writes. A constant tinkerer and tech integrator, Paul has some cool observations to share. Paul is also an avid cyclist and huge supporter of charities like the American Diabetes Association.

I've also added two buttons to the right bottom section of the site, both are single clicks to get Firefox or Thunderbird from Mozilla. I'm officially abandoning all browsing and e-mail via Microsoft clients. Having used both Mozilla products, my opinion is that they are much better and much safer for my needs. I strongly consider you to give them a chance as they provide many great features that Internet Explorer and Outlook \ Outlook Express do not have. You have nothing to lose because they are free and you can always do what I did: run them in parallel to their Microsoft competitors for a few weeks. Try it and then decide. Until I see something that wows me from Microsoft, I say: "Make mine Mozilla!"

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Plea for Help #2 = Handhelds for Troops

Sorry for the back-to-back requests, but we can't always predict when someone is in need. I just got word today that my best friend is about to be activated for active duty in the Reserves. He will be overseas, although I'm not yet sure where. I'm working with him & his wife to see how I can help in his absence and one of the things we spoke of was equipping him with some digital "gear"; specifically a handheld device.

It just so happens that I traded up from my Toshiba e805 to my Dell Axim X50v a few weeks back. I literally planned to take pics of the Tosh tonight and put it up on eBay, but all that has changed. I'll be giving him my Tosh as a donation and token of my appreciation for what he's doing. I personally don't believe we should be doing everything we're doing overseas, but that doesn't diminish the appreciation I have for our Armed Forces.

I plan to teach him how to use the Tosh for e-mail, task management, contact management, picture viewing, web surfing and more. My hope is that the device will give him a digital link back home through some type of networked connection. So, what's the plea for help? Good question! Click Read More to continue.

As I thought this situation through during dinner this evening, I realized there must be thousands of "digital techies" in active duty right now that could use a similar set up. My thought is: why not start a collection of used but usable PDA's and other handheld devices to help keep the troops in touch with their families? I don't know if anyone else is doing this and I'm not sure how I would work out the logistics, but I'm going to pursue it.

If you, or anyone you know, has a handheld device that they would contribute, please let me know via e-mail. In the meantime, I'll start contacting folks in the Red Cross, the Armed Services and other organizations to see how we can get these contributions to those in need and those with the knowledge to use them. This will be a grass roots effort for sure, but I can't think of better way for the "digital world" to show appreciation for our troops. More to follow, and suggestions are welcome!

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Plea for Help #1

OK, it's the holiday season I'm looking for some holiday spirit. My good friend James Kendrick (aka: jk of jkOnTheRun), who has been instrumental in my blogging and tech writing needs our help.

Aside from entertaining and informing the tech world on a daily basis for free, jk has a real job as a consultant that pays. At least, it usually pays. However, his career hit a major speed bump today:

"You may not know but I have been an independent consultant for two years (not in the IT industry). In 2003 and early 2004 I did a lot of work for a client who has not paid me. This client owes me tens of thousands of dollars and I have been working with him to get paid. This situation has put me in a tenable financial position for the past few months but after getting an agreement to get paid this week I thought we would be able to pull out of this hole. Yesterday I was informed through his attorney he couldn't / wouldn't pay me and I would have to sue him to get the compensation I am owed for work done on his client's behalf."

I'm personally asking you to do whatever you can for jk, given this holiday time of year. I'm sure that none of you would want to be in his situation, so please think about a contribution, no matter how small. Click this post title for jkOnTheRun and consider clicking his PayPal button next. If you're unable to do that, I certainly understand; think about keeping jk and his family in your prayers.

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Is MOOL designed to tackle Mozilla?

Hot the heels of the Microsoft Desktop Search comes Microsoft Office Outlook Live aka: MOOL. MOOL is expected as a subscription service that allows for other Microsoft based e-mail, contacts and calendar items to integrate into Outlook 2003.
Similar to the Outlook Connector add-in to Outlook, other messaging services could be added later, extending the use of Outlook for mobile e-mail users.

Although Microsoft isn't publicly expressing concern with the recent Mozilla releases of Firefox and Thunderbird, I have to wonder if they have seen what I have: a calendar and other related projects on the Mozilla site. Sure it makes sense to build upon the MSN infrastructure, but in the end, better apps will win out. Free doesn't hurt either.

"As Microsoft endeavors to broaden its MSN reach through added consumer services such as e-mail and search tools, MOOL brings these efforts full circle into Redmond's prized Office System. MOOL connects Hotmail and MSN mail accounts to Outlook and provides synchronization of e-mail, contacts, calendar entries and tasks.
But unlike its Outlook Connector predecessor, which is available only as a feature of MSN Premium, MOOL will be offered as a separate subscription service to all Outlook users. A final launch of MOOL with public availability is expected in early 2005.

Full story
at BetaNews

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First WiMAX chips shipping now

A new wireless chip based on IEEE specification 802.16-2004, appears to have hit the market today. Also known as WiMAX, the new wireless spec has a much broader range than current 802.11x. The expected range is up to 30 miles, although bandwidth clearly diminishes as range is extended. Devices with the new chip are planned for the second quarter of 2005.

This type of broadband access is ideal for remote areas and pushes beyond the current wired boundaries of cable and xDSL broadband. Future plans for the spec include a mobile version in 2007, which would benefit mobile road warriors. Personally, I would love to use WiMAX to connect to my WiFi home network and sync up data on the road. Either that or a cross-town LAN party for Half-Life 2!

"WaveSat this week began shipping a chip that it says is the first to comply fully with the IEEE 802.16-2004 wireless broadband standard, commonly known as WiMax.

In its first incarnation, defined by the IEEE 802.16-2004 standard, WiMax is intended as a fixed wireless broadband technology for homes and businesses, capable of delivering speeds comparable to current wired broadband. A later version expected in 2007, based on the emerging IEEE 802.16e specification, will allow for mobile broadband services."

Full Story at InfoWorld

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Monday, December 13, 2004

Bookeen Cybook holiday price drop

As you regular readers know, I've got a Bookeen Cybook eBook reader under review. My first thoughts appear over the past week in previous posts. What you don't know is that Bookeen is having a holiday celebration and they want you to participate! So how do you join in the celebration? Simple, just click this post title for a link to Bookeen's site and take a look at the Cybook. If you like what you see, check out the price! As a holiday special, Bookeen is lowering the price of the Cybook down to $499 from a regular price of $738! That's a whopping holiday savings of over 32%!!! Happy holidays and thanks Bookeen!

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Friday, December 10, 2004

I'm a digital "gnomie"

Yesterday I was officially promoted to the rank of "gnomie", as in: contributor to the highly successful site Lockergnome!

I'll be contributing regularly to both the "Mobile Lifestyle" and the "Hardware Help" channels, and I'm thrilled to have the opportunity. If you aren't hitting Lockergnome everyday, the first thing I have to ask is: "WHY NOT?" Lockergnome is filled with informative tech that's written in a personal and humorous way. I consider Lockergnome one of the premiere technology sites, which is why I'm so excited. Don't take my word for it; give it a click and see what you think. If you see what I see, I have a feeling you'll have a few new RSS feeds to add to your daily list.

Thank you Chris Pirillo for the chance to write for a large, captive audience, and thank you James for opening up the doors that I may not see.

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Wednesday, December 08, 2004

First eBook on the Cybook

As part of my Bookeen Cybook review, I've purchased my first eBook in the Mobipocket Reader format. I purchased "Jarka Ruus" from one of my favorite authors, Terry Brooks. Mobipocket handles DRM encryption differently from Palm's eReader, which is what I'm generally used to. For eReader books, you unlock the book with the credit card information you used to purchase the book. I like this method as my credit card numbers are specific to me. For Mobipocket books, you enter the device's PID or Personal ID. Each device that runs the Mobipocket software has a unique PID.

My purchase from ebookmall was painless; generally the same as any other on line transacation although I had to enter my Cybook's PID on the order form. My book sale was charged to a credit card and I was able to download the file. Once I had the file, I used a multi-format card reader to transfer the book to a Compact Flash card. I popped the CF card in to the Cybook, opened the Mobipocket Reader application and saw my book in the "library". A simple tap and I was reading my new book. Overall, the process was painless and simple. For the next book, I will try using either the built in modem in the Cybook or the USB cable with my ActiveSync connection. I would say more, but I have an eBook to read!

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Sorry Skype, I'm not in

In October, Skype logged over 1,000,000 simultaneous users, which is an incredible accomplishment. In case you missed it, Skype is a viable peer to peer phone system that can be used with a desktop, laptop or handheld PC. So what happens if someone "Skype's" you when your PC isn't on? Enter the Skype Answering Machine (SAM):

According to jkOnTheRun: "SAM is a totally free utility that works with most PCs and requires a compatible sound card and an active logged in Skype account. This is way cool and terribly useful if you Skype much." SAM provides some great features such as these and more::
One click return dialing
Test message notification to callers

Skype Answering Machine is a great third party application that doesn't require you to be connected to the web in order to be connected to your friends. Or your enemies for that matter! If you have an account and see me online, Skype me at: "KevinCTofel". If I'm not in, just leave a message with SAM.

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PPC....Take a memo....

Have you ever wanted to dictate your thoughts and have them transcribed? I mean without another person involved. You can do it: with Dragon's Naturally Speaking application! As you regular "digital world'rs" already know, I don't go anywhere without my Windows Mobile handheld device. All I need is a voice recognition application and I'm in business; I just speak my random blathering and WHOOP, there it is!

Brad Issac, over at Pocket PC Addict has provided a highly informative review of Dragon's Naturally Speaking.:
"What would you do if you could cut the amount of time you spend every day typing e-mails, making forum posts, typing in reports and otherwise putting fingers to keyboard to communicate your message? For several years there have been companies such as IBM and ScanSoft whose aim has been to allow you to simply talk into a microphone and have that voice translated into text. Considering you can speak at hundreds words a minute, the potential of getting more work done in a shorter period of time is phenomenal. Writing the Great American novel while you sit back in your chair (or even lying flat on a bed) with eyes closed, hands at your side, while playing music into your headphones would suddenly become within the grasp of just about every person...literate or not." saves time, doesn't give me Carpal Tunnel syndrome and is super fast....hmmmm...a no brainer to me! Click the post title for Brad's informative review. Maybe I'll download a demo and dictate my next "digital world" post! ;>)

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Newsmap: awesome interface for news

Funny where you find the next "digital thing". I was at work today speaking to one of my good friends, Paul. Paul had this completely wild thing on his PC; while it looks like a bad tablecloth design, but upon closer inspection you can actually see that it's the news!

Newsmap is an incredible interface to display news. Based on the size, color and shade of the "newscube", it tells you how popular, how timely and what type of news it is. Paul has a nice write up on it with big words like "visualization" and "algorithm" on his blog, so click the post title to see more. In the meantime, I'm going to read some medium sized, light green news! ;>)

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Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Bookeen Cybook under review

I previously posted about the Bookeen Cybook demo unit that Bookeen has graciously lent me for a review. You can imagine how excited I was when I came home yesterday to a package from France! No, I wasn't excited because I've never received a package from France, I was excited to see this new eBook reader!

My approach to this review will be to use the Cybook on a daily basis, simply because I do read eBooks every day. It might be at lunch, during dinner, or even into the wee hours of the morning, but I do find the time to read every day. In fact, I believe that the proliferation of eBooks and their simple usage has actually increased the amount of reading I do.

As I use the Cybook, I'll post some thoughts every few days here. Eventually, all of my thoughts will be captured in a single, formal review for where I contribute on a regular basis. I'm working on contributing to some other tech sites as well, so if that works out, the review will be passed along to those as well. So: STAY TUNED for thoughts on the Cybook. If, during the course of the review you have questions, please don't hesitate to ask.

Before I leave this topic, I have to say that the Cybook already came in handy: just within the first hour of my day today. Although the Cybook's main function is eBook reading, it is built on the Windows CE operation system. As a result, there are some extra features that are useful as well, which I quickly found out today when I walked in to work. Today we had a team meeting with a 27 page Power Point presentation. Normally, I would copy the slides to my Windows Mobile device and view them on my handheld to save a few trees. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to do that today because the slides were created in a very old version of Power Point and I could not convert them up to something more recent. With just a few minutes to spare, I quickly saved all of the slides as Bitmaps and transferred them to a Compact Flash card. I popped the card into the Cybook and was able to view them with Internet Explorer in full color on a 10" screen! :>) Keep in mind that the Cybook is first and foremost an eBook reader. However, when you can gain additional functionality in a device, it certainly becomes more appealing.

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Thunderbird 1.0 launches

About two weeks ago, I posted how I was going to try Mozilla's Thunderbird e-mail client. I've run it in parallel to both Outlook and Outlook Express; everyone should have a set up where they read the same e-mail on 3 different clients! I've been thoroughly impressed with Thunderbird's version 0.9 and now Mozilla has released version 1.0!

The download of Thunderbird is 5.9 MB and is available by clicking on this post title. Some of the many great features include:
A built in Junk Mail filtering mechanism to help you weed out that SPAM.
Complete customization in how you want to view your mail.
Themes and add-on extensions for additional functionality.
RSS subscription feed support.
Outstanding strong security features.
An intuitive and feature packed address book.

For Windows Mobile users looking to use ActiveSync to get e-mail or contacts: you're out of luck at this point, but the pros of Thunderbird far outweigh the cons in my few weeks of use, so today's slogan is: "Make Mine Mozilla!"

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Thursday, December 02, 2004

Swoosh! A great example of digital mobility

Every so often I see an excellent approach that applies digital technology to what is traditionally a non-technical task. "Swoosh!" is a great example:

As you can probably guess from the screenshot, this software is a basketball statistic tracker to collect and review stats. There are versions of the software that runs on Pocket PC's, Tablet PC's, desktops and notebooks. Think about it: instead of a traditional clipboard and many pages of paper to scribble your stats on, you have the clean screen shown above on a handheld Pocket PC. Just tap here and there and at the end of the game, you've got everything you need visually. What a great tool to show an individual player where he or she made (or missed) the highest percentage of shots, for example! For the Larry Bird's of the world, there is a trial of the software available from the developer; just click on the post title for more information.

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Windows Media Center '05, just so-so?

Windows Media Center Edition (WMCE) is conceptually a great idea and one that Microsoft would love to see become more mainstream. For the newer "digital world'rs", WMCE is a step towards convergence of PC's and home entertainment. Picture a PC in your living room attached to your television. That PC can record television programs so you can watch them at a time of your choosing. That PC can also play digital music on your home theater stereo system or show off digital photos on your TV. There's much more to it, but I'm sure you get the idea. Hardware Analysis, a site that reviews various hardware, provided a few conceptual issues with WMCE today: "In reality we feel that Media Center Edition 2005 is far from deserving to replace our VCR, DVD player/recorder or photo album for that matter. Why? Simply because the added Media Center functionality is far from flexible and simply can’t keep pace with many of the features offered on devices costing only a fraction of a Media Center Edition 2005 PC." (NOTE: for the full story, click the post title) In the article, they raise some valid points; the largest one being that for the $1500+ you spend on the system, you could get more functionality in a few other devices and spend less. I don't have WMCE, but I'd have to agree. I own a 34" Panasonic HDTV with a separate Panasonic HDTV receiver. I literally use a pair of amplified Terk "rabbit ears" to receive HDTV for free over the air. I also have a Dish Network DVR satellite receiver that allows me to record TV to the built in hard drive. Finally, I have the Dell DJ Digital Jukebox music player that holds 15GB of music. As I posted two weeks ago I spent $5 on a cable to connect the Dell DJ to my stereo. Cost of everything (minus the TV, which would be a separate purchase regardless): Less than $400! Sure, I didn't mention the fact that I can't view my digital pics in this setup, but really...who needs a 34" picture frame? ;>)

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CES: Should I stay or should I go?

The annual International Consumer Electronic Show (CES) is coming up next month in Las Vegas, which is a bit of hike for me from Pennsylvania. I'm considering on flying out on my own to see what's new and exciting, although it's an out of pocket expense since this isn't my "real" job.

This year's CES is scheduled from January 6th to the 9th at the Las Vegas Convention Center as well as a few hotel sites. To give you a feel for the size and scope of the show, last year there were over 129,000 attendees reviewing over 1.4 million square feet of exhibits! There is a great listing of consumer elctronics that debuted at CES on the official CES Fact Sheet. In order to group the consumer electronics, the show is split into different zones comprised of the following areas of interest.

  • Audio
  • Digital Imaging
  • Emerging Technology
  • Gaming
  • Home Networking
  • Home Theater&Video
  • Mobile Electronics
  • Wireless
If you're near Las Vegas in early January, consider taking a stroll through CES. Bill Gates will provide one of the keynote speeches and there are other exciting conferences and speakers as well.
Click the post title to see the official CES site.

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