Monday, January 31, 2005

Can you "Digg" it?

I've recently seen a nice spike in my traffic due to one of the best kept secrets on the web: Digg.com. OK, maybe it's not a secret to you, but it was to me! For those not "in the know", let me tell you some more about Digg.com. Digg takes the responsibility off of a web site editor to decide what information is important and puts the burden where it's most appropriate: the readers! Here's a diagram of how it works with more information after the "Read More" jump:




Straight from the Digg.com FAQ's, here's the concept:

"(1) The user submits a story to the "hardware" category. (2) The story is then filed into the "dig" area of hardware. (3) Users on the site see the story, and several of them click "dig this story" - giving the article +15 digs. (4) Due to its popularity, digg removes the story from the dig area, and promotes it to the home and category pages."

You can even allow other Digg users to view your profile which tells them which stories you have been reading. Full RSS support of stories and profiles is available as well.

This approach allows the readers to determine what is of value to read and what is not. It's a great approach and one that I'm appreciative that one of my stories was "dug" so much! I'll be adding Digg.com to the list of sites I hit on daily basis and see what else the "diggers" recommend!


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No desktop search function for Longhorn?

Microsoft appears to be rethinking it's MSN Desktop search feature for the next Windows release, codenamed Longhorn. At a conference in Cambridge, Massachusetts, a key MSN manager indicated that antitrust suits have caused Microsoft to think twice, according to eWeek:

"Speaking on a panel on search technology at the Harvard Business School's Cyberposium, Mark Kroese, general manager of information services and merchant platform product marketing for MSN, said the federal antitrust battle Microsoft waged with the government has made the company think twice about what technologies it can add to the operating system.

"Working at Microsoft today vs. five years ago is different," Kroese said. "If anyone thinks the antitrust case hasn't slowed us down, you're wrong. If I want to meet with a products manager for Windows there needs to be three lawyers in the room. We have to be so careful, we err on the side of caution. We are on such a fine line of conduct."

The MSN Desktop Search toolbar is currently in a beta state and works similarly to Desktop search features already offered from Google and Yahoo!, indexing the contents of your entire computer for quick and simple searches. I have yet to try any of the Desktop searches, and I certainly won't use a public PC that runs one of them. Have you tried Google, Yahoo or some of the others such as Copernic or HotBot?




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Sunday, January 30, 2005

Microsoft envisions Tablet PC push in 2005

In a move that will inevitably influence the hardware market, leading software and operating system giant Microsoft is looking at 2005 to be the unofficial "year of the Tablet PC" according to PCWorld.com. Here are some key excerpts and focus areas to give you an indication:

Marketing (which is lackluster at best so far): "Microsoft will support the launches of the lower-end Tablet PCs with marketing dollars, Williams said. However, not all PC makers are going along with Microsoft's push for broader adoption of the pen-enabled notebooks. IBM and Dell don't sell any Tablet PCs, and Hewlett-Packard (HP), which does offer a tablet, does not see consumers buying the devices en masse."

Competitive pricing compared to 'traditional' notebooks: "We're right on the verge of seeing a lot more competitively priced tablets on the market," said Robert Williams, director of business development and partner engineering in Microsoft's Mobile Platforms Division. "This spring, you will see tablets go into retail in the $1500 to $1600 price range." For the past year or so, Microsoft has been working with PC makers and component suppliers to push down the cost of manufacturing Tablet PCs, Williams said. As a result, the new tablets should only be $100 to $200 more expensive than comparable notebooks, he said."

Greater retail availability: "Toshiba America plans to ship a new Tablet PC in its Satellite consumer and small business notebook line in the first quarter of this year. The $1599 Satellite R15-S822 will be the first Toshiba Tablet PC to be sold widely in retail stores, said Terry Cronin, director of product management in Toshiba's digital products division."

Given Microsoft's ability to influence hardware manufacturers and the industry as a whole, this is one of the few times I see this as a benefit. The Tablet PC is truly the next evolutionary step in portability and productivity. Let's check in again at the end of 2005 to see if the Tablet PC market gains a greater share of the notebook market; in 2004, Tablets only accounted for 1.3% market share.



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Saturday, January 29, 2005

Get MS Office for the home at $50 per license!

OK, you have to "qualify" for this, but bear with me because chances are: you qualify! With my new Tablet PC purchase, I decided it was time to stop using Office 2000 and get the latest and greatest. If you have looked at the price of Office 2003 (either the upgrade or the standalone version), you know as well as I that it's no inexpensive proposition! I have no issue with Microsoft making money for good software, but you can literally spend up to $400+ if you purchase a new version!

Click "Read More" for the specifics.

Undaunted, I was bound to find a less expensive, but still legal, way to purchase Office 2003. Enter the Microsoft Office Student and Teacher Edition 2003. When I first saw this, I thought, "Hmmm...must be a watered down version of Office or maybe it's what they now call Microsoft Works". Boy was I wrong. This edition contains the 2003 versions of Word, Excel, Outlook and PowerPoint and carries an MSRP of $149! Not only that, but it is licensed for non-commercial use on up to 3 PC's bringing the per PC license down to $50 suggested retail! I often see the package as low as $119, so watch your local computer software store for specials.



What about the qualifications? No problem for a large majority of you. Here you go:

- Full time student
- Home-schooled student
- Full or part time faculty or staff of an accredited educational institution
- Member of a household meeting any of the above criteria (I'm betting this is most of you)
To see if you qualify, check the official site at Microsoft. This is a fantastic way to legally procure the most used applications in the Office suite. Sure, it doesn't contain Access but neither does the Office Standard Edition. In fact, this is the same software as the Standard Edition and provides three licenses! What a deal!

I'm curious how many of you take advantage of this. I have no affiliate status and gain no income if you purchase this software, but please let me know if buy it by sending me a short Thank You note.


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Send Yahoo! searches to a mobile phone

Following a move that Google made last October, Yahoo! has created a service that sends internet search information to a mobile phone via SMS (Short Message Services):

"Yahoo said its new service is available across all the major wireless carriers at no charge for consumers. However, wireless carriers may charge fees for receiving text messages on a mobile handset. For example, a user could search for information about San Francisco's Slanted Door restaurant on a PC and then click on a link to send the address and telephone number to a mobile phone."


While this is a convenient service, I don't see too much of a need for it personally. I suppose if someone I know is on the road and needs some info in a pinch, they could call me to have me run a search and send them the results, but as wireless hotspots continue to spring up, I see this method as a short term trend.

Click the post title for the full story from Yahoo!. Did you expect someone else to report this one? ;>)




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Friday, January 28, 2005

Commute-cast 01/28/2005

Let's consider this a conceptual podcast. Here's the concept:

Once a week during my morning commute, I take out my 15 GB Dell DJ and use the built in recording function to record a podcast. I call it the "commute-cast". The way I see it, we're all listening to the radio or CD's during our commutes, so why not commute together? Instead of the same-old, same-old, you listen to the commute-cast! No topic is taboo and of course, I'm always happy to talk tech. In fact, if you send me audio questions or comments at my Gmail account during the week, I'll burn them to a CD so I can play them during the 'cast and then respond. Hmmm....does this have potential? Let me know what you think of this introductory "commute-cast"; this is mainly excerpts along with my explanation as we drive together.

Length: 12 minutes
Size: 5.44 MB


Click the post title to listen!



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Dell Axim X50 and X50v ROM updates


Looks like some Dell Axim ROM upgrades are out on the Dell Support site for you X50 and X50v owners. The updates are 22 and 24 MB respectively. Here are the features for the X50 ROM upgrade:

1. Improved SD and CF read performance.
2. Updated wireless button usage scenario to avoid enabling / disabling wireless accidentally.
3. Allow the WLAN auto power-off feature to be enabled and/or disabled in the WLAN utility.
4. Added feature in the power applet to change the color of the battery power bar to reflect the battery capacity.
5. Associated the .dbk files with the Data Backup program.

The X50V ROM upgrade some of the same features plus three others, some VGA or video functionality:

6. Improved GAPI performance.
7. Improved touch panel performance and sensitivity. (Sensitivity is good!)
8. Enhanced the video driver to be more robust.

Axim X50 update
Axim X50v update

I'll be installing the ROM update on my Axim X50v over the weekend and will post back any good news (or horror stories!).


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Thursday, January 27, 2005

Dude, I love my Dudebox!

Being the non-mainstream person that I am, I'm one of the few that opted NOT to get an iPod. Instead, I bought a used 15 GB Dell DJ. I prefer Windows Media Audio files over mp3 and aac files, so this was a good choice at the time. What wasn't a good choice was to use the Dell DJ Explorer software to transfer music and files to the DJ. I do use Windows Media Player to synch my music and podcasts, which works fine, but for advanced file procedures, I really needed something else to manage my music. The Dell DJ Explorer worked OK, but was kind of buggy and very limited in functionality. Enter the Dudebox from Red Chair Software!



Click "Read More" for additional info dude!

Dudebox has some great features. Aside from the basics that include viewing the audio files and their properties on your DJ, you can edit your tags, rename tracks, and auto-synch music from your PC to your DJ. The entire application is integrated into Windows Explorer in a seamless way as well. Dudebox also lets you do everything imaginable with your Playlists and supports streaming of your music library from the DJ through your PC through various music players like RealPlayer, WinAMP and WMP.

So what about Dudebox's web interface? Yes, I said "web interface". The Xtreamer interface allows you to manage, play and stream your music through the browser of your choice...way cool!



At the risk of sounding like an infomercial, I have to say: "But wait, there's more!". Dudebox supports transcoding from one music format to another on the fly. You can keep hiqh quality reference files on your PC and then transcode to .mp3, .ogg, or .wma when you want to take your music on the road. There's also the "DudeboxSQL" database engine that allows you to run reports on your music, perform advanced searches and output data in text and XML formats.

Dudebox Explorer is available from Red Chair Software for $25 and it is well worth every penny (and then some!) if you have a Dell DJ.


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Wednesday, January 26, 2005

"Digital Man Outtakes"; well worth a view (and listen!)

If you have some time, check out Lance's "Digital Man Outtakes". If you don't have time, check it out anyway! ;>)

Lance runs a great tech blog and has a great podcast out every two or three days available in both MP3 and AAC formats. Several of the podcast topics revolve around podcasting, but there's no lack of other intersting items to listen to. As an example, here are the show notes to the most recent 'cast:

# New Circuit City banner ads
# Corante Event Lab talks Podcasting challenges – My 2cents as well
# Leonard Nimoy – Ballad of Bilbo Baggins Get video here
# FeedDemon answers my wish to easily download single podcasts without subscribing.
# NPR – On The Media – The Record Scratch
# Lamborgino – Burnshee Thornside
# Firefox surpasses 20million downloads
# Two New MovableType must-have plugins
# PIP – Podcatching client for PocketPC
# The Term Podcasting


So fire up your podcatching software, grab the XML feed and start listening to the "digital experience"!




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So, what's it like to work for Google?

Mark Jen started as an IBM intern, worked at Microsoft for 18 months and just started a new role at Google less than ten days ago. So what is it like to work there? Here are a few excerpts from his new blog, called "ninetyninezeros":

"google provides a pretty cool service for employees who want to live in san francisco: a free shuttle. not only is the shuttle free, but during your commute, you can connect onto the internet and do work. somehow, they have a high speed wireless internet uplink on the bus which is shared to the passengers via a wireless router."

"i realized that most of the "benefits" actually seem to be thinly veiled timesavers to keep you at work. take for example: free lunch and dinner."

"the atmosphere of googolplex screams one theme: work == play, play == work. finally, as most of you know, google allows employees to dedicate 20% of their time towards their own ideas and inventions. additionally, you can easil
y shift around in the company to projects that most accurately match your interests."

This will be an interesting and fun blog to watch! Click the post title for the full blog.


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Which DVD drive is right for you?

Frankly, I don't know. Luckily, the folks over at ExtremeTech might! Let's face it, when you hear someone say: "Dude, I just got a new PC with a killer CD-RW drive", you just laugh, don't you? It's OK to admit; I do the same. CD's are so 1990's, but you don't have to live in the last century. You can purchase a spankin' new DVD writer if you know what to buy!



"In 2003, the DVD burner was slow, somewhat creaky, and an expensive luxury. As we left 2004, DVD burners capable of burning dual-layer discs at 4x and single layer +R media could be found for well under $100. With the price of some DVD burners dipping below $50, people interested in preserving their digital photographs, video, and music no longer have price as an excuse. Media costs are lower than ever, too, with single layer +R media as little as $0.50 for media rated at slower speeds (4x). So if you're worried about the fragility of that hard drive, get a DVD burner and start backing up your digital stuff!

But which drive to get? There are dozens of different drives out there, but most these days are multiformat capable. That is, they can burn both DVD-R/-RW and DVD +R/+RW media. Increasingly common are dual-layer burners, which can burn up to 8.4GB dual-layer +R discs. Dual layer media is still pricey. The cheap discs we've found capable of burning at 2.4x speeds cost about $6 apiece. Those prices are starting to erode as the 4x capable drives and media hit the market."


This is a great round up of various drives and covers the basic usage as a DVD-ROM player as well as a DVD burner. If you want to know the difference between +R, -R, single and dual layer, you need to read more.


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Microsoft looking for server protection?

InternetNews reported a few days ago that some major tech blogs received "cease and desist" orders from reporting on Windows Mobile 2005 branding. I know that I read numerous stories from CES that Microsoft was merging the brands "Windows Mobile", "SmartPhone" and "PocketPC" in to "Windows Mobile 2005" sometime later this year. Apparently, some sites got more info than the rest of us.

"Peter Rojas, editor and co-founder of the popular technology blog Engadget.com, said there is an "ongoing situation" over a post that went on his site Jan. 5. The article detailed some upcoming features rumored to be in Windows Mobile 2005 for Microsoft's Pocket PCs and Smartphones. The post prompted a cease-and-desist letter, dated Tuesday, from intellectual property lawyer Cameron Alston of the law firm Covington & Burling. The letter to Engadget publisher Jason Calacanis stated the material found in the post infringed on Microsoft's proprietary trade secrets.

If you do not act expeditiously to remove access to the infringing material, you may otherwise be liable for trademark infringement, trade secret misappropriation, and/or other remedies at law, including civil and criminal penalties," the letter states."


According to the article, the main infringement was a screenshot of the new operating system that was stolen from Microsoft servers. Someone refresh my memory: isn't this the company that has major security initiatives and just released anti-spyware security software? C'mon guys...if you can't protect your own in house servers, how are you going to convince me to let you protect my PC's?


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Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Hardware blues? Check your drivers!

Got a hardware issue of some type? Don't play "Operation" and dissect your device right away to install a replacement. Consider checking your drivers first! Windows Update is a great source to get driver updates for anything and everything your computer contains; from network cards to video adapters. What if Windows Update doesn't show any updated drivers? What's next?

The next best step is to check with the device manufacturer. In some cases, this could be the OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) of the computer or it could be the manufacturer of the hardware component itself. Check the Technical Support sites of both OEM and component maker. A quick search of an on-line knowledge base can yield relevant results and downloads.

For example, I just purchased a brand new Tablet PC from Toshiba. The Tab has a built in Secure Digital slot, which is a great feature that lets me leverage my digital camera data as well as my Windows Mobile information. Only one problem: right out of the box, the slot didn't work! Regardless of which SD card I attempted to read, I kept getting I/O errors. A quick look at the device properties via the Windows XP Device Manager indicated that the SD driver was from 2002! Five minutes of searching on Toshiba's support site provided me an updated driver, which was a quick download and install. I had no fear to update the driver because Windows XP does have a "driver rollback" feature, and besides, I would be no worse off! The new driver works perfectly fine and I now have use of a key feature. Moral of the story: don't rely solely on Windows Update. While it's a fantastic concept, you have to help manage your hardware along with it!





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Monday, January 24, 2005

Is VOIP the next big thing from Google?

I don't know if they will call it "Voogle" or what, but there are various speculative reports that Google is looking to start a VOIP service. According to comments by InfoWorld and The Times in London, Google recently posted job openings for people with "dark fiber" experience. The speculation is that Google has purchased or will purchase unused fiber optic cable and then light it up with a VOIP application.

"This would be an obvious development for the world's leading search engine. Millions have downloaded the 'Google toolbar,' so why not a VoIP client too?" said Julian Hewett, chief analyst with Ovum Ltd., in a note distributed to reporters on Monday. The appeal for Google is obvious: search for something, then 'click here' if you'd like to speak to the company that's selling what you're looking for," Hewett continued. "Google then collects a fee from the 'sponsor' for each voice connection. Voice calls with very little cost AND funded by advertising. What a sweet extension to Google's advertising-driven business model!" he wrote."

The best indicator if these reports are true is if we quickly see some new business developments from Skype, Vonage or one of the other VOIP providers. If one or more of these providers negotiates a "pre-emptive" strike against a Google VOIP service, there's a fair chance we'll see a VOIP icon in the Google Desktop toolbar....stay tuned.

Click the post title for the full InfoWorld story.


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Cyberphone K for Skype

If you use Skype's free VOIP service, but just can't lose the phone in your hand, look no further. The Cyberphone K from VOIPVoice is and handheld phone that plugs into your computer's USB port. It looks like a standard corded phone, except it doesn't work on your regular POTS phone line; instead, it's powered by Skype for the "real phone conversation" experience.



You can use the Cyberphone K to dial regular phones using the inexpensive Skype-Out service, or contact your PC Skype contacts with the push of a button. The Cyberphone K is available for $59.99 delivered in the United States via the VOIPVoice website. Click the post link for more information.



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Saturday, January 22, 2005

kct's digital world: 01/22/2005

24 minutes of "HDTV Explained" and HD coverage from CES.

File size: 11.1 MB
Format: mp3

Show notes:
News intro theme by Thom Sargent.
135 CES stories at PCMag.com.
18 DTV formats; we focus on SD, ED & HD.
480i, 480p, 720p, 1080i: what does it all mean?
Interlaced vs. Progressive scanning.
CRT's = best value for money = 1080i.
LCD, PDP, DLP, LCoS = 720p...for now.
New 1080p displays coming; expect to pay $7k to $12k.
HDTV is finally hitting critical mass with content and sets.
Content available from satellite (Dish, DirectTV) or cable or over the air.
DVR or Digital Video Recorder technology coming to HDTV.
RCA Scenium line and 10 large new widescreen CRT's.
New LG televisions: 12 new PDP's, 22 new LCD's and 8 DLP's in '05.
Phillips will intro large plasmas in '05.
"Lord of the Chips" = Texas Instruments DLP technology.
Overview on what to buy, pros and cons.
What screen size should I get?
2005 trends to watch.
EDTV is not HDTV.
Find HDTV in your area at TitanTV.
Find out which antenna you should buy at AntennaWeb.

Thanks to PC Magazine for the great CES coverage!

Feedback appreciated!

Click the post title to listen.



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Friday, January 21, 2005

Razr V3, the sequel?



Looks like Motorola plans to capitalize on the more than expected success of the Razr phone with more models and more colors. In case you missed it, the Razr was super secretly developed to emulate the success Motorola enjoyed with the Star-TAC; one of the most popular flip phones of all time.

BusinessWeek indicates that Motorola will introduce new versions of the phone, hoping to continue the positive sales trend that Motorola is enjoying with the $500+ RAZR:

"the company is hard at work on a whole family of Razr-like phones in various shapes and colors -- including the Sliver, a candy-bar-shaped Razr -- to be announced later this year. The Razr, part of what JPMorgan Chase & Co. analyst Ehud Gelblum calls "the company's best lineup of phones in recent history," helped Motorola sail to its strongest quarter since Zander took over from former CEO Christopher B. Galvin a year ago. The company posted $654 million in earnings on record sales of $8.8 billion in the fourth quarter -- a 27% jump over the previous year's sales."

Click "Read More" to continue reading...

It's amazing to me that 750,000 Razr's have shipped already at a high price point, but even more amazine that this total is three times what Motorola anticipated. Who works for 2 years to develop such a feature filled and futuristic successor to the most successful phone ever and then short sides the sales estimate? What was the goal of the initial project?

In any case, BW makes a good point that Motorola needs more phones of a higher quality on the CDMA network for providers such as Verizon Wireless and Sprint. As a Verizon customer, I was very upset that the Razr was an impossibility. Now with a new candy bar model (the Sliver) to be introduced later this year, my hope is that CDMA is not forgotten.


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Thursday, January 20, 2005

Join the MS Tablet PC Partners



Since the links are in the image, click the post title to join the Tablet PC Partner program. Thanks to What is New in Tablet PC's? for the information.



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Geekzone summarizes Feb PPCMag issue



Geekzone is another one of those "must hit daily" sites. In fact, I'll get them added to the sidebar for you later. Based out of New Zealand, Geekzone covers all sorts of mobile gadgets and technology. Today I noticed that they are one of the first sites to preview the new issue of PocketPC Magazine; here's an excerpt:

"The built-in Pocket Excel spreadsheet on your Pocket PC does not have all the features of Excel on your desktop PC. PlanMaker 2004 is a spreadsheet application for the Pocket PC, yet with all the features of a desktop spreadsheet program. Read a review of PlanMaker 2004 by John D. Ottini. John also reviews Uti-Planner, a PIM application with five software components: Schedule, Tasks, Contacts, Notes, and Journal. You can also read a review of the Britannica Concise Encyclopedia for Pocket PC. Diane Dumas went to the CTIA wireless conference in San Francisco, and report on the latest gadgets and applications that she saw at the show. Kevin C. Tofel introduces us to Podcasting, a system which enables you to listen to audio Web logs (blogs) on your Pocket PC."


Hey, I know that guy! Thanks for the mention Geekzone! ;>) Since this is my first print publication, do you think I'll milk this one for a month...umm...probably!



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Why Mozilla needs an IM client



I haven't checked the Mozilla project site lately, but first chance I get I'm going to dig around and see if they are working on an Instant Messenger client. There's a new IM worm going around that affects MSN Messenger according to InfoWorld:

"Bropia.A was first spotted on Wednesday and spreads by sending copies of itself to an MSN Messenger user's instant message (IM) contacts. When the worm is launched, it installs a Trojan horse program, Rbot, on vulnerable machines, according to alerts from F-Secure and Symantec"

According to the story, your IM client is vulnerable if you have an open IM window on the desktop. No more MSN Messenger for me; until there's another alternative, I'll stick with the chat functionality of Skype.



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Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Sonoma chips launched for Centrino platform



Today is the official launch date of the new Centrino platform, code named Sonoma. Over 150 notebook models are expected to run under the new platform, which provides higher processing and graphics speeds while judiciously attempting to conserve power.


"The Centrino platform, first launched in March 2003, is aimed at notebook computers and consists of three major pieces: the processor, its companion chip set, and a wireless board. The new Centrino platform includes improved versions of all three components with a new chip set, called 915 Express, forming its centerpiece."

Click "Read More" for additional information on Sonoma.
"The 915 Express chip set, formerly known by the code-name Alviso, adds support for the PCI Express interconnect technology, which allows users to add more powerful graphics cards or hard drives to their notebooks. The chip set supports DDR2 (double data rate 2) memory, a next-generation memory standard that clears the way for memory chips to run at faster speeds. The chip set also comes with support for a faster front-side bus, increasing the speed at which data flows between the processor and the memory from 400MHz to 533MHz. Multimedia improvements include support for Dolby Digital and Dolby 7.1-channel surround sound."

This new platform is primed to continue the expanding notebook and Tablet PC market. One of the most common concerns I hear regarding low power mobile PC's is that they continue to have underperforming processors. Sonoma looks poised to help eradicate that claim with a faster front side bus as well as new Pentium M CPU's rated at up to 2.13Ghz.


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Shuffling to the sound of the brand.

So, can someone tell me why I would want an iPod Shuffle?


Over two years ago, I "geeked out" and bought a flash based digital audio player, the Creative MuVo, for $99. Sure it only had 64MB of memory, but I could comfortably fit two hours of WMA files. With no moving parts and weighing only a few ounces, it was perfect for running and listening to tunes. All I did was pop the device into my USB port and bring my music over; same as what you can do with the Shuffle. The MuVo was also smaller than the Shuffle; another key factor for those on the go.

Other flash based players followed the Creative over the past several years and now we have: the Shuffle. So what? Frankly, I think that the player isn't all that much different than others that are available. The difference is something else entirely: branding and advertising. I've seen Apple iPod ads on TV; when was the last time you saw a Creative MuVo ad?



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Monday, January 17, 2005

Initial Tablet PC thoughts

About two weeks back, I replaced my old laptop with a Tablet PC from Toshiba. After much research, I settled on the Toshiba Portege M205 for several reasons. I think that any type of personal digital device is a personal choice; this model is best for me, but clearly not for everyone else. Hoping to shed some light on the seemingly mysterious Tablet PC operating system, I'll be sharing my thoughts on how I arrive at this decision and what the tablet provides over a traditional notebook computer.


Click "Read More" for continued thoughts on why I chose a Tablet PC...

Right off the bat, I was looking for a notebook that was relatively lightweight and had better than average battery life. As a result, I kept my research to notebooks that were 5 pounds or less and were capable of 3 or more hours of battery life with a standard battery. My main reasons for these attributes were due to the demise of the previous laptop. I literally ran it into the ground to the point where the battery wouldn't hold a charge more than 30 minutes. Soon after that, the power supply died because I ran the laptop solely on AC power. In addition, the unit weighed about 7.5 pounds, which doesn't allow for great mobility.

A lightweight notebook with lower power consumption means that I had to give up some features. A big, bright LCD screen eats up power quickly, so I wanted to keep the screen size relatively small. I also opted for Intel Centrino powered notebooks, which would give me extended battery life, but in turn means a much slower processor; something in the 1Ghz to 1.8Ghz range.

Since I wanted these qualities as well, I started considering a Tablet PC, since it would meet all of my requirements. In addition, the Tablet OS provides "digital inking" capability, which adds potential productivity gains as well as a more natural interface. The Tablet PC operating systems is actually a superset of Windows XP, so it can run any Windows XP application as well as those that are Tablet supported.

I began looking at tablets that were a pure slate design; by "slate" I mean a very lightweight touchscreen with a hard drive and a few input \ output ports. Typical slates usually sport a separate keyboard, although with the Tablet OS, a keyboard is ultimately optional. Thinking this was too much for me to get used to, I instead focused on convertible tablets. A 'vertible tablet is similar to traditional notebook in that it has a regular screen attached to a keyboard base. However, the screen also has a swivel type mechanism that allows the screen to fold over the keyboard to emulate the newer slate form factor.

In the end, the Toshiba Portege fit the needs I had on paper. It allows usage as a standard notebook, but also provides the capability of a slate. The 12.1" screen is capable of 1400 x 1050 resolution which allows for plenty of screen real estate. In fact, I think I can roughly fit just as much on the 12.1" screen as I can on a 15" monitor without too much eye strain. The CPU is a 1.5Ghz Pentium M and the hard drive provides 60GB of storage. 802.11g is built in for wireless connectivity as well.

With the M205, I can use the keyboard for standard typing or I can use the included digital pen and handwrite whatever I need. There are some great Tablet enabled applications that take full advantage of the digital inking; I'll be covering those as I get a better feel for them in the next few weeks. For now, I'll leave you with this handwritten screen snippet!


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iBod for your iPod

I'm sure I'll take some heat for this, but this just goes to show you how far the Apple iPod brand can reach. It's hit a major "gentlemens" magazine, started by one Hugh Hefner over 50 years ago. I'll leave the name out and let you guess the name of the mag! ;>)

A new feature from the magazine is a set of 25 downloadable pics that are sized perfectly for the iPod Photo. Again, to keep this post focused more on the digital branding aspect, I'll let you guess what the pics are. The new feature is called "iBod"; if you're so inclined and of the appropriate age, click the post title for details.

It's simply amazing to me how far a brand can go. There are numerous iPod competitors that are at least as good, if not better in some ways, than the iPod. Some of these devices are also cheaper, but the fact remains that more people pick the iPod brand than any other. At this point, I'm waiting to see a hand-held lawn fertilizer called the iSod. ;)

Disclaimer: I have no affiliation with the referenced site, nor am I attempting to offend anyone with this post. For the inevitable person that misunderstands the intent behind this post, drop me a note.


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Iggy's quest for Bootstrapping

Now that I'm a Tablet PC user, I've been hitting some great sites that cover Tablet PC's and how to be productive with a tablet. One of those sites was TabletPCHep!, which was an informative blog run by Iggy Kin. According to jkOTR, Iggy has morphed TabletPCHep! into a new blog called "Bootstrapped" which you can reach by clicking the post title.

Iggy is taking a very unique (and dare I say it, a very "tablet" approach) to blogging. Using productivity software such as Microsoft OneNote 2003 and his tablet PC, Iggy is creating his blog with the digital ink inherent in tablets. This picture provides an example from Bootstrapped to show how Iggy is brainstorming his blog in his own natural handwriting.



Each of Iggy's posts give you an idea of his recent thoughts, but the real strength in his approach is that he has detailed notes on each post available in either a Microsoft Word doc or a Microsoft OneNote notepage. This is a powerful, collaborative combination of both blogging and Tablet PC usage; I look forward to watching Bootstrapping evolve and I hope you do as well.

As a sidenote: I used my Tablet PC, digital pen and the Microsoft Snipping Tool (a free Power Toy) to capture the image from Iggy's site.



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Friday, January 14, 2005

Sun pillar: a break from the on-line world

I couldn't help but take a break from the "digital world" today. On my way in to work, I saw a weather phenomenon that got me to unplug for a little while and appreciate the world around me. Today, the weather was perfect for a sun pillar. Below is an image of a sun pillar:


NOTE: Image courtesy of Photographer: Jim Kirkpatrick

Sun Pillars are formed roughly 20-30 times per year, so they are not all that rare. According to Wikipedia, a sun pillar "appears most often as a vertical pillar or column of light rising from the sun near sunset or sunrise, though it can appear below the sun, particularly if the observer is at a high elevation or altitude. Hexagonal plate- and column-shaped ice crystals cause the phenomenon. Plate crystals generally cause pillars only when the sun is within 6 degrees of the horizon, or below it; column crystals can cause a pillar when the sun is as high as 20 degrees above the horizon. The crystals tend to orient themselves near-horizontally as they fall or float through the air, and the width and visibility of a sun pillar depends on crystal alignment."



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ExpressCard: new standard for notebooks

Message
The PCMCIA (Personal Computer Memory Card International Association) has announced a new standard : the ExpressCard.  The new ExpressCard is smaller than today's standards and provides additional compatibility with strategic architectures.
 
Today's PCMCIA cards are roughly 85mm long x 54 mm wide.  The smaller ExpressCard will come in two physical configurations, the smaller of the two at 75mm long x 34 mm wide.  According to the official ExpressCard website, the advantages of the new form factor and technology include:
 
  • A Smaller & Faster PC Card Solution
  • Suitable for Mobile and Desktop Systems
  • Supports USB 2.0 and PCI Express Applications
  • Lower System and Card Complexity
  •  
    New ExpressCard products are expected over the next several months; like any technology transformation, I expect that we'll see manufacturers provide slots for both the old and the new card.  With the right products, I expect the old cards will be phased out within the next one to two years.
     


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    Wednesday, January 12, 2005

    Vonage VOIP in your pocket?

    Vonage is known for their voice over internet protocol, or VOIP, phone service that runs over your existing broadband connection. The Edison, NJ company is one of several VOIP phone companies; others providing similar service include Packet8 and AT&T, just to name a few.



    Vonage service uses a digital to analog phone adaptor that converts your digital broadband signal into analog sound on your existing phones. Since the service utilizes the internet infrastructure, there are no network costs over your normal broadband service. As a result, you can have unlimited local and long distance for as low as $24.99 per month.

    Recently, Vonage introduced a phone that will work on any WiFi or wireless network so you can use their service. Click "Read More" to view the phone and get more information.

    The new WiFi Vonage phone is manufactured by UTStarcom and was shown at the recent Consumer Electronics show. Vonage partnered last year with Texas Instruments for TI to provide the DSP chips for the phone.



    So, why is a phone company selling their own phone? Simple: to provide more functionality than your regular phone and to extend the services they sell. Here's how the phone works. Since your Vonage phone number is nothing more than an identifier on their network, similar to an IP address, your phone calls can follow you when you are on the road. If you take your Vonage phone adapter with you and plug into a broadband supplier, you can receive your calls on the road. Who wants to lug around an adapter though? What if you could just take the phone itself with you? With this new phone, you can do just that; and you can do it without wires!

    The F1000 phone can connect you to phone service via a WiFi network. This means you can find an open "hotspot", connect to the network and then initiate or receive phone calls; all through the public internet. Calls to your Vonage phone number will be routed to you on the network and you don't have the hassle of wires or connecting an adapter to a router!

    VOIP will continue to grow as a service in the next few years, and Vonage has smartly positioned themselves to take advantage of the expanding wireless capabilities of the internet. If you are spending $40 or more on your local & long distance, but also have broadband, it might be time to look at Vonage. It's a safe bet that within a few years, you will see a large shift to WiFi (and even hybrid cellular/WiFi) phones.


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    Tuesday, January 11, 2005

    135 CES stories in one place

    Since most of the populace was unable to attend the Consumer Electronics Show, I've looked through various news reports in hopes of summarizing what products and technologies were featured. The fact is, I can't. There was just WAY to much there to neatly summarize it.

    Instead, I'll do two things to help you out:

    1. Click the post title for a listing of the 135 stories that PC magazine reported from CES.
    2. Stay tuned for a "CES summary podcast" later this week. I'll review the stories and provide some commentary on what I think are the bigger news items that are more relevant to your future.

    In the meantime, if you have any thoughts or questions on any products coming out of the CES show, post them here or drop me a note. I'll see if I can address them in the podcast.




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    Hard drive enclosure coupon code = $7.99

    I've had a few folks asking about hard drive enclosures as a follow up on my "how to recycle a laptop hard drive". People are looking for what to buy and where to buy it. If you're a "digital world'r" that browses the site every day, you're in luck. There's a great deal on a 2.5" hard drive enclosure from Meritline that's only good until January 14th. That's right, for 3 days, the normally priced $17.99 kit is only $7.99!



    "Our drive enclosures are fully USB 1.1 backward compatible or you can add a new USB 2.0 PCI Card or USB 2.0 CardBus Adapter to take advantage of the much faster USB 2.0 speed. Meritline USB2.0 thin (mini) hard drive (also called USB HD, USB external hard drive or 2.5" USB hard drive) case/enclosure is ideal for anyone who requires a high performance, lightweight and durable hard drive storage solution."

    To get this great deal, click the post title and use coupon code "CP10OFF". As you check out you will see the message: "Coupon discount (-10.00) will be deducted at the check-out."



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    Blogging through e-mail

    Ok, I don't often rant but I think I'm entitled in this case.

    One of the great aspects about blogging is that you can generally do so anywhere & anytime you have an internet connection. If not directly through whatever interface your blog uses, you can usually find other options. Some include audio blogging through a cell-phone, others are through a third party add on, whatever. One of my options is via e-mail. I just type up the post in a note and send it to a specific mailbox....at least that's how it is SUPPOSED to work.

    At this point, I'll do the decent thing and give you a way to opt out of my rant. Click "Read More" only if you want to hear my soapbox...

    This morning before work, I was in e-mail writing notes to myself about some future posts. One of them was about the PCMCIA organization and their new ExpressCard for notebooks and PC's. Since my thoughts were flowing in the e-mail, I just wrote up the post on the fly, ran my spell check program and hit Send. I figured it would be a very timely post.

    As I often do, I submitted the same stories for another site I write for: in this case it was both the "Mobile Lifestyle" and the "Hardware Help" channels of Lockergnome, where I am a daily contributor. Later in the day, I saw both stories on Lockergnome. Being a good little blogger, I checked my own site when I got home from work, but: NO STORY!!!

    At this point, everyone else has covered the same story so the timeliness is somewhat lost. I'm sure the story will show up; after all, it can't be in the same place that the single sock goes to in the dryer, can it?

    Well, enough ranting. All in all, the Blogger service I use is fairly reliable so I suppose I shouldn't complain. My only issue is that you really can't advertise or support a full featured product if only 80% of the features work. I'll do the right thing and contact Blogger on the issue. I believe in giving everyone their fair chance to resolve a problem. In the meantime, click on the post title for the story I published 12 hours ago. Aside from my blogging interface issues, the new ExpressCard story is a big one and will impact notebooks for several years to come.

    Thanks for listening....


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    Monday, January 10, 2005

    Microsoft's anti-spyware: is it a bulls-eye?

    Microsoft released the beta of their anti-spyware application on Friday of last week. The beta means: use at your own risk and we won't support the application. It's a win-win for Microsoft because they don't risk any support time and money, but they do look for consumer feedback on the application. In case you didn't know, they purchased the technology from Giant Company Software, Inc. last month. It's not the first time Microsoft has purchased, rather than developed, a key technology. (Anyone remember QDOS?)

    Right off the bat, I'm not too happy with a very subtle detail of the anti-spyware beta: the icon. I really don't want my computer to be a target of spyware and yet the Microsoft icon for the anti-spyware looks like a bulls-eye to me! This icon sits in your tray while minimized and I can't help but look over my should to see who's taking aim!



    Click "Read More" for additional information.

    The software installation is a a 6.3MB download and required Windows 2000 or better. I really don't want another application always running in the background, but I certainly don't want spyware on my PC either. One question I have: whose software is allowing the spyware in the first place....hmmm....that would be Microsoft through Internet Explorer! Seems odd that we're trusting the very perpetrator to watch over us when they are the one's that left the front door open, but I'll give them a chance. After all, this is only a beta, and it is free.

    I struggled through the actual download because Microsoft wanted to validate that I'm a "genuine Microsoft" user. This meant turning over my laptop for the lengthy Windows XP product code. This step isn't required, but since I paid for the OS license, I figured I might as well get credit. Once installed, there is a fairly intuitive screen, which is reminiscent of anti-virus applications:



    Once installed, I let the application scan my system for spyware. I didn't expect it to find any for two reasons:
    1. This is a brand new laptop; only a week old
    2. I don't use Internet Explorer; I use Mozilla Firefox only.

    As I expected, nothing was found per the summary screen. One impressive aspect was how quickly the application scanned my files: under 4 minutes.



    Overall, I'm concerned that I'm "giving the keys to my kingdom" by allowing Microsoft to both open and guard the front door. However, this is a free opportunity to install anti-spyware and I'm going to take it for now. If we could just get them to change the bulls-eye, however....

    Before I forget: I went to see how much resident memory the application would take since it's always running by default. I checked this through Task Manager and found two things:

    1. The application takes up about 18 MB of memory, which isn't really out of line.
    2. Microsoft needs to do better integration after an acquisition; the process shows up as "Giant AntiSpyware"! I know it's a beta guys, but don't you check these things before sending the software out the door?



    If you are as curious as I am regarding this software, click the post title to download.


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    Sunday, January 09, 2005

    Podcatching software for SmartPhones

    I noticed that Dave Winer is reporting on a new SmartPhone application that will let you listen to podcasts. I don't have a SmartPhone, so I currently use Doppler to pull my podcasts down and sync over to my Windows Mobile device (a Dell X50v).


    This software is still in the "alpha" state, so please consider that before you install to your SmartPhone. Podcasting continues to gain momentum and it's nice to see that they are extending to all types of devices. In fact, a Smartphone with a Bluetooth headset provides you with the ability to listen to podcasts via a wireless connection...nice!

    Click the post title for more info.



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    Saturday, January 08, 2005

    Recycle a laptop hard drive

    I guess I ran my Gateway laptop into the ground. Considering it was on 7 x 24 for about 2 years, I suppose I shouldn't complain. So, do I just give a respectful memorial service and then dump it or do I hack it up for parts? I'll give you one guess on that one... ;>)

    The Gateway had a nice 40GB drive that was roughly half full. Most of the data on it is my music collection; I've ripped all of my CD's to the Gateway only to then move the files to my Dell DJ. I would love to get at those files again, though and not just the music; I had bunches of data like old e-mails, contacts, etc... on the drive. Since the laptop drive is a standard 2.5" sized drive, I picked up an aluminum hard drive enclosure with USB 2.0 at my local CompUSA for $20.



    Click "Read More" for the simple steps involved.

    Here's what you need:
    1 Hard Drive enclosure kit
    1 very small Phillips head screwdriver
    1 inquisitive 7 year old son (optional)
    30 minutes

    I thought this would be a good project for my son, so Tyler and I opened up the box together. In fact, some of the digital pictures you see were taken by him!

    What's in the box?



    Inside you will find the lightweight aluminum enclosure, a small travel bag for it, necessary screws, a USB 2.0 cable, a driver CD, and instructions. Unless you are running Windows 98 SE, you won't need the driver CD. Once we reviewed all of the parts together, we pulled out the old Gateway and turned it upside down.



    The picture above highlights the area where the removable hard drive is. Each laptop is different of course, but you should generally find your hard drive access door on the bottom of the laptop. In our case, there were two screws to remove so that we could slice the access panel out. The access panel slid out easily and revealed the hidden treasure to Tyler: our 2.5" hard drive & data.

    The drive itself was attached to a small case which in turn was attached to the panel as shown below.


    For us, it was a simple removal of four screws; two on each side, and our little hard drive was free. Remember to be careful when handling hard drives. You don't want to accidentally drop them or shake them. This could damage the delicate platters inside.


    Once our hard drive was completely separated from the panel, we then placed it inside the new enclosure. To do this, we had to remove the top and bottom covers of the enclosure:

    Note the pins on the top end of the hard drive. These pins get inserted into the slots at the top of the enclosure. You literally "plug in" the hard drive to the slots on the enclosure circuit board. The result of that step looks like this:


    Once you've connected the hard drive to the circuit board, you screw the hard drive to the case, using the four provided screws. Note the four screw-holes in the picture below.


    After the hard drive is attached via the screws, you just take the top and bottom covers of the enclosure and replace them onto the case. Use the included eight screws to secure the case and attach the USB cable for the final result:


    Once completed, you just connect the drive to your PC. I'm including before and after pictures of Windows Explorer to show how the device appears:

    BEFORE:


    AFTER:


    That's all there is to it! For $20 and 30 minutes of your time, you can regain the data on your old laptop hard drive. Since the device is powered through the USB interface, you can take your new portable drive anywhere there is a USB port. My Dell DJ is great for music when I'm on the move, but now I can plug my new portable drive in to my work PC and use it to listen to all of my music.

    For any additional questions on the simple process, drop me a note.






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    kct's digital world: 01/07/2005

    Another six minutes of "digital drama", hopefully both informative and entertaining.

    File size: 2,991Kb
    Format: mp3


    Show notes:
    ActiveSync upgraded to 3.8 but who cares?
    Ask kct: is TI a good investment and what do DSP and DLP mean?
    Lawsuit against Apple looks good one day, goes down the drain the next day
    Motorola cellphone uses iTunes at CES
    Feedback appreciated!

    Click the post title to listen.



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    Friday, January 07, 2005

    ActiveSync upgraded and nobody cares

    Microsoft released a new, upgraded version of the ActiveSync program, taking the version up from 3.7.1 to 3.8. The ultra-detailed explanation of the upgrades features are as follows from the Microsoft site:

    "Microsoft ActiveSync 3.8 is the latest synchronization software for Windows Mobile-based Pocket PCs and Smartphones. ActiveSync 3.8 contains fixes making synchronization more trouble free than ever before and includes all the significant improvements brought to you in ActiveSync 3.5, 3.6, and 3.7.1: it is easy to install and use while offering the best levels of reliability."

    Hmm....let me re-read that. I must have missed the compelling reason to download the 3.9 megabyte installation package......hmmm......nope, I didn't miss it. Fact is: the compelling reason isn't there! Numerous websites have reported the "big news", but nobody truly understands what it means!

    This could be the best, most stable version of ActiveSync to date. Unfortunately, there's only one way to find out: back up you Windows Mobile handheld or Smartphone and upgrade to see what happens. After much consideration, I decided not to upgrade my version. Frankly, we expect all of the "no-name" developers to disclose exactly what their software does. Microsoft: I expect the same from you!

    If you're remotely curious to get the upgrade, click the post title.



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    Thursday, January 06, 2005

    Skype 1.1 released

    A new version of Skype for Windows is available; version 1.1 was released yesterday.



    The newest version increases conference call capacity from 4 callers to 50 and adds a more intuitive interface. New graphics and "emoticons" are available through the instant messenger functionality as well. Instant messenger is renamed as "Chat" in this version.

    Click "Read More" for more information.



    I'm an avid Skype user on the desktop, but recently had problems using Skype on a brand new tablet PC. Whenever I used Skype on the tablet, my voice was fine on the receiving end, but when I listened to my caller, the sound was very choppy and in some cases, unintelligible. I was about to play with my sound settings on the tablet when I noticed the new Skype version. I installed it this evening and all of my calls were crystal clear after that. I don't know how the problem was fixed, but I'm liking this new version already!

    On a related note: Skype announced today that they are working on their own answering machine functionality for Skype. Early word is that this will be a premium (read: you pay for it) service. For now, I'm going to stick with the third party Skype Answering Machine.


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    Security flaws in Firefox & Thunderbird

    Infoworld reports some vulnerabilities in both the Firefox browser and the Thunderbird client. Only older or non-current versions of the software are affected, so if you are running the most current versions, 1.0 for both, you are not at risk.

    "Firefox and Thunderbird are affected by less serious problems. The first is a vulnerability in the way they store temporary files -- the files are sometimes stored with predictable names and in a format that allows anyone to read them. This means a local attacker could easily read the contents of another user's attachments or downloads, according to researchers.

    Finally, a Secunia researcher discovered a way of spoofing the names of file downloads in Firefox. A malicious site could use the bug to disguise the true nature of files the user is downloading, or to get information on the presence of specific files on the local system."


    While I find it concerning on one hand that folks are trying to find holes in the Mozilla open source applications, there's another side to the story. These efforts underscore the fact that the Mozilla applications continue to gain a strong following. One of the reasons that Internet Explorer is attacked so often by hackers is that it's the most used browser. Let's face it: if you were hacking software would you target the software with a 90% market share or the 10% market share?

    Click the post title for the full story.


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    Wednesday, January 05, 2005

    Thank you Doppler!

    Thanks to Erwin van Hunen & team, the developers behind Doppler for the nice plug on my Podcasting tutorial in the Feb '05 issue of PocketPC Magazine. For the tutorial, I highlighted Doppler as the software I use as a "podcatcher".

    When I wrote the article in October of 2004, Doppler was around version 1 or 1.1. Now you can get the release candidate of Doppler 2.0 here.



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    Healthcare hearts the iPod

    I don't have an iPod because I went the Dell DJ route for my digital audio. I'm starting to question this, however since the iPod seems so much more extensible. Take the folks at OsiriX for example. They created a way for healthcare professionals to view medical images on the iPod according to eWeek:



    "Two radiologists recently developed open-source software, called OsiriX, to display and manipulate complex medical images on the popular portable devices called iPods. The motivation for OsiriX came from problems storing images at work. "I never have enough space on my disk, no matter how big my disk is—I always need more space," he [Osman Ratib] said. "One day I realized, I have an iPod that has 40GB of storage on it. It's twice as big as my disk on my laptop, and I'm using only 10 percent of it for my music. So why don't I use it as a hard disk for storing medical images?"


    More often than not, the basic technical tools are offered from the large companies like Apple, Microsoft and the like. It's the people like you and me that are the catalysts to extend and customize these tools to meet our own specific needs. It's always nice when these extensions even have the power to save lives!

    Click the post title for the full story.
    Thanks to Barb for the heads up!



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    Have cellphone, will travel

    Here's an idea that's long overdue now that there are probably more cellphones than people on the planet. If you're on the road and lost, who ya gonna call: MapQuest!

    "The navigation-focused Internet company, owned by America Online (AOL), unveiled the "Send to Phone" feature on Wednesday as part of its MapQuest Mobile service, priced at $3.99 a month.
    To access the feature, users visit MapQuest.com from a computer, request maps and directions, and enter their mobile phone number. They can then retrieve the information through the MapQuest Mobile application on their cell phones."


    Good idea, but we're not quite there just yet. The service requires that you request your map before you leave, so if you get lost first, you're still lost. A better solution might be a call in service that you call into once you're actually lost. Using voice recognition, you speak your destination and the nearest intersection of where you are when lost. Don't worry AAA, you and your TripTik maps aren't obsolete just yet.

    Read more at InfoWorld




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    Tuesday, January 04, 2005

    Test podcast

    Podcasting is big...well, bigger than big I think. So I put this test 'cast together that you can listen to. Keep in mind this is just a "demo"!

    Info: 6MB, 6 minutes long and I just hit a few topics:
    1. Tsunami donations and blog coverage
    2. CES show info
    3. Tablet PC purchase
    4. High level HDTV talk

    Again, this is just a test, with much more to follow. Please be sure to give me feedback! If there are topics or questions you have on the digital world, pleas let me know.

    Click the post title to hear the 'cast.



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    IE market share under 50%

    OK, it's just the browser share hitting this site, but it's definitely a growing trend.



    This is the first time I've seen statistics showing that Internet Explorer usage is below 50% here. I assume most savvy webmasters and bloggers are reviewing their stats as well. Curious if they are seeing the same thing. It's one thing for a research company to say "IE has (insert # here)% of the browser market share" but I can't see how they can accurately track that. I think the real proof is in the everyday webstats of everyday sites. My guess: by the end of 2005, we'll see two things:

    1. Firefox gaining a "market share" of 20%
    2. Microsoft battling back with enhancements to IE, dropping Firefox back to a 15% share for a short time.



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    Monday, January 03, 2005

    Tweak Firefox into Fire-FAST!

    Looking to optimize your Firefox browser for speed? Consider the "Tweak Network Settings" extension.



    This extension is a 10KB file that allows you to change from the default network settings profile to a "power" settings profile. You can tweak Firefox by typing "about:config" (without the quotes) in your address bar, but you need to know which settings you are looking for. This extension handles the manual configuration for you. Click "Read More" for additional information on how to speed up Firefox with this extension.

    This Firefox tweak enables a few settings that increase the number of connections for your browser as well as enabling pipelining. According to Mozilla's site:

    "Normally, HTTP requests are issued sequentially, with the next request being issued only after the response to the current request has been completely received. Depending on network latencies and bandwidth limitations, this can result in a significant delay before the next request is seen by the server."


    This configuration tweak allows for multiple requests to be sent from a simultaneously, i.e.: pipelining. Instead of the server waiting and waiting for the next request in a non-pipeline, or serial, fashion, pipelining sends numerous requests from the client to the server. The requests are received by the server and assembled in order, after which time they are fulfilled.

    An additional benefit to pipelining is to fit more requests into a network packet. Less packets transferred means less data traffic and potentially, a faster transfer of both client requests and server fulfillment. I've noticed a definite speed increase in my Firefox browsing after this tweak. For a 10Kb download and no cost, why not give it a try? Let me know if this tweak works for you.


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    Blogging is big...and getting bigger

    Think blogging is just a passing fad? As a blogger, I'd disagree of course, but I've also got some very smart people to back me up. Infoworld reports that the Pew Internet & American Life Project provided some blogging participation statistics today:

    "Blog readership jumped 58 percent between February and November, and comprised 32 million U.S. citizens in 2004. More than 8 million U.S. citizens have created a Web-based diary, and one in 10, or around 14 million U.S. Internet users, has contributed thoughts or comments to a blog.

    Technology used to read blogs is also beginning to take hold. The study found that 5 percent of Internet users received their news from RSS (Really Simple Syndication) aggregators, or XML (Extensible Markup Language) readers that pull information from blogs and other Web pages."


    It's no surprise to me that the statistics and research point to these growing trends. Blogging has provided both the voice and the audience that everyday people can use to share their thoughts. Through simple blogging tools, you can spread the word on any topic you choose. Likewise, technologies such as RSS, XML and Podcasting allow the audience to read or hear those thoughts at the time of their choosing. I predict that blogging will be continue to expand; to the point where some form of blog will become considered mainstream media. What do you think?

    Click the post title for the full story.




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    Buy Pocket PC Magazine!

    Look for the Feb\March 2005 issue on your newsstand soon. Digital and print subscribers may have already received their issue at this point, and they have already seen what I have seen: a great tutorial on how to synch Podcasts to your Pocket PC or Windows Mobile device! What's so great about the tutorial? Hmm....let's see...I'll turn to pages 82 & 83 here.....give me a second. OK, here we go: the article is titled "Podcasting: Listen to Audio Web Logs on your Pocket PC!". Sounds promising so far. What's next...hmm....here's the byline: "by Kevin C. Tofel". Hey, I know that guy! Actually if you're reading this post then you know that guy too! Yup, the tutorial I wrote in October showed up in print this month at Pocket PC Magazine! I suppose I could put the text here for you to read, but hey, that doesn't sell magazines, now does it? ;>)

    In all seriousness, Pocket PC magazine is a great bi-monthly reference for the handheld toting crowd. A 1 year subscription costs $19.95 and can be received digitally through Zinio Reader or in print. Check out the new issue when it hits the stands and shoot me your feedback, both positive and negative.




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    Sunday, January 02, 2005

    Around the digital world in 80 days?

    In the "And I thought I lived in a digital world" category, I've been outdone by Elliott Hester. Elliot is a travel writer who decided to walk the walk and talk the talk. When I say he is travel writer, I've just identified everything he does: he travels and he writes. That's it. In 2002, he sold`most of his possessions and took off around the world. Below is a map of his journey.



    As you can see by the map, he's off again on a never-ending 'round the world trip. He chronicles his experiences through a syndicated travel column so you can share in his adventure. To follow Elliott, click on the post link to view his site.



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