Thursday, June 30, 2005

techADDICTION #14 is here!

The techADDICTION Show #14 (MP3 - 21.1MB - 61min)


​​​​Kevin and I are happy to present this 14th edition of
techADDICTION, the podcast all about mobile gadgety techno-geek stuff.
In today’s show we talk about the Handango Partner Summit I recently
attended in Miami and recap my impressions while they are fresh still
in my mind. In this show we talk about no fewer than ten different
mobile gadgets, analyze the ringtone business and respond to some good
email and Skype calls. Enjoy the show and tell us what you think on the
techADDICTION Skype line. Thanks to One Egg Ticket for the sweet theme music!

Full show notes after the jump!

00:00 Intro- Kevin Tofel & James Kendrick

01:45 Impressions of the Handango Partner Summit

Frank Gocinski spreads Tablet love at the Summit

Motion LE1600; Sahara i213; HP tc4200; HTC Universal; Blackberry 7100t; 7250

Diane Dumas’ Motorola Razr; Hal Goldstein, Publisher of Pocket PC Magazine

21:15 Ringtones are big business

Mobile TV will be huge

26:30 Intermission message from The Podcast Network

27:45 Broadband phones


How fast is EDGE? (70 - 135 kbps)

JK sent Kevin his dongle, someone steals it!

Samsung i730

Big screens for big pipes

40:50 Recyclable WiFi

43:00 Sony Cybershot DSC-T7

45:15 Emails and Skype calls

David wants to run two browsers

Where’s Paul Manoogian?

Phillip from the UK makes his first Skype call ever to techADDICTION

Al from Rhode Island tells us about Yahoo Messenger beta with voice

techADDICTION groupie at the Handango Summit

Paul from London Skypes from his Pocket PC

59:10 Wrap up

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Zinio Reader upgrade available

As I mentioned yesterday, I'm basically completely digital. This includes my magazines, which I subscribe to through Zinio.

Zinio reader works tremendously well on a Tablet PC that runs in 1400 x 1050 resolution. I can get both pages of magazine, side-by-side! Zinio has hundreds of magazines with digital editions and they just upgraded their software. My version went from 1.6 to 3.1 today; no word on what functionality was added OR what happened to the 2.x version! ;)

If you download Zinio, they will include a free copy of Business Week. This gives you a nice trial to see if digital magazine reading works for you.

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Interview with Michael Smerconish

Wow! Thanks to the great work of a volunteer press agent, Barb & I will be on live radio tomorrow morning around 6:30am! Vince Kershner asked to help us out with press releases and scheduling when he heard about our Podcast To Troops idea. This morning Vince contacted us with an interview opportunity on the largest talk radio show in Philadelphia! We'll be live with the prolific and passionate Michael Smerconish tomorrow morning. We'll see if we can the audio file for everyone outside of the Philadelphia area. Hopefully this opportunity will provide more great messages to our Armed Forces overseas!

If you haven't left a voicemail for the troops yet, please consider doing so this holiday weekend as we celebrate our independence.

The official, full press release is after the jump!

Kevin Tofel and Barbara Braeunig (designers of Podcast To Troops) will
be on the Michael Smerconish/WPHT 1210 am radio show, tomorrow Friday
July 1st, for a live interview at 6:30 AM EST.

This 10 minute segment will talk about
and how a podcast transfers actual voice mails of support to the troops
that can listened to, by them anywhere in the world via their internet
connection, portable or desktop. Anyone who wants to send a message of
support to the troops can phone in their message to the website and
leave a message for all of those serving to hear.

I hope that you will consider having them as guests on your program,
especially at this 4th Of July Holiday.

Michael Smerconish
( is a frequent guest on CNN, Fox
News and MSNBC, (and substitute host for Fox News' Bill O'Reilly) for
his political/social commentary and the author of Flying Blind.

WPHT ( is the premier news/talk
program in Philadelphia.

Please listen in at 6:30am EST to 1210 AM and enjoy this couples
grassroots, non profit work in supporting the troops!

Vince Kershner
Vindication Entertainment Inc,
cell 610.587.0791

Both guests are available over this Holiday weekend

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Tuesday, June 28, 2005

I think I'm completely digital!

With yesterday's receipt of the XM Roady2, I think my digital presence is now complete. Let's run down the list and see:

1. Television service = Digital via Dish Network and Over The Air (OTA) with a Panasonic Digital Tuner.
2. Radio = Digital via XM Radio.
3. Phone = Digital cellular via Verizon Wireless.
4. Home Internet = Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) via Verizon.
5. Away Internet = EVDO modem via Verizon Wireless.
6. Portable Music = 15 GB Dell DJ.
7. Magazine Subscriptions = Digital via Zinio.
8. Books = Digital via eReader.
9. Transportation = Toyota Highlander Hybrid coming soon. (OK, so there's a mechanical element too, but it's more "digital" than most other vehicles!)
10. Movies = Sony DVD and SACD player.
11. Televisions = 34-inch Panasonic widescreen HDTV and 27-inch Zenith fullscreen HDTV.
12. Computing devices = various, but certainly not Analog! ;)
13. Mobile computing = Dell Axim X50v.
14. Gaming console = Xbox.
15. Camera = 5 Megapixel by Kodak.
16. Pen = No ink; only works on the Tablet.

Is there anything left? Am I missing something? In all honesty, this post started as a joke, but the fact remains: analog technology no longer has a role in my life. How about you?

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Monday, June 27, 2005

Free XM Roady2 is here!

Today I recieved the free XM Roady 2 satellite radio reciever from the JCPenney's Dockers deal back in April.

XM Roady2

The unit only took about 45 minutes to unpack, activate and install in my Dodge Dakota. The install isn't 100% professional, but I think I did a nice job. The postage stamp sized antenna is on the roof of my truck and I ran the wire through the door jamb weatherstripping so you can't see it. From the door jamb, I found an access hole that I used to send the antenna wire from the exterior to the interior. I bound up the extra wire and secured it neatly out of sight behind the steering wheel.

I was able to activate the unit online and within 15 minutes I had full access to every channel. After the free three months, the subscription is $12.99 and if I reactivate Barb's built-in XM (in her Acura TL), it's only an additional $6.99 per month. First preset = Highway 16 (Country Music). A close second was the NASCAR channel! ;)

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EVDO expansion expected from Verizon

It appears that while Verizon Wireless is expanding their EVDO network presence, competitors are faltering. According to Netscape News, we should hear an expansion announcement from Verizon tomorrow:

The expansion of the Verizon data network, which can make mobile workers more productive and which fuels such new services as video on cell phones, includes Seattle, St. Louis, Cleveland and the Long Island suburbs of New York City.
The announcement, expected Tuesday, comes amid mounting speculation about possible snags in the launch of the same technology by Sprint and the further deployment of a similar service by Cingular.

I think this may be the first time I'm actually thinking: "Boy, am I glad to live near Philadelphia"!

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Thursday, June 23, 2005

Weblogs, Inc. & kct = blogging bliss?

As some of you may have heard via the Commute-Cast podcast, I've been in contact with the fine folks over at Weblogs, Inc. Judith and Jason were kind enough to consider allowing me to write for a WIN blog. I'm happy to announce today that I'm not only writing for one WIN blog. Instead, I have the great opportunity for write for three! Watch for my perspective, thoughts and news on the following:

Droxy: this digital radio blog is expanding to include podcasting as well. I might have a thing or two to contribute there! ;)
PVRWire: Recording the world of PVR's. VHS tapes? We don't NEED no stinkin' VHS tapes!
HD Beat: This brand new HDTV blog is right up my alley. It also explains why our two cats are named "Interlaced" and "Progressive".

I'm thrilled with this new gig where I'll get to work with some very talented bloggers. A thank you shout out goes to the folks at WIN, as well as others who continue to support my efforts. I won't name them here because Marc, James and Barb all know I appreciate their support. Oh, wait....I named them, didn't I?

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Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Almost live reports from the Handango Partner Summit

techADDICTION co-host and good friend, James Kendrick, is having "fun in the sun" down in Miami, Florida. No, it's not a real vacation, James is attending the Handango Partner Summit. Watch for updates like this on his blog, which he is updating via his Tablet PC and wireless EVDO modem:

"All of the speakers made two things clear- mobile devices and technology are booming, driven by two areas: strong mobile phone sales and content delivery. The wave of the future is expected to be providing rich content, both audio and video, to the consumer market. This is backed up by the billion dollar per year ringtone business, something that has totally surprised industry analysts and experts. What do these analysts expect to be the Next Big Thing in mobile technology?"

You'll have to click the post title to see James's answer. ;) Wow, all of that "mobile goodness" in one place...I'm jealous!

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Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Evernote 1.0 released

In beta for some time, Evernote v1.0 is now commercially released for Windows systems. Evernote is a software representation of an infinite digital roll of paper and provides a single workspace to organize and collect various digital content. You can easily search your content within Evernote so that the info you need is readily available. Some feature highlights since the beta:

"- A Web Clipper where you can instantly export web content into EverNote from IE or Firefox. Our beta users have found this helpful for quickly capturing content while reading news, researching or shopping online;
- New category icons (over 50), where you can easily assign icons to identifiable individual categories, such as Web Clips, Business, Personal, Travel, Shopping and more;
- Ability to email or print notes;
- Backup support;
- Extensive improvements to categories, tool tips and keyboard shortcuts (a new total of 80)."

Just today, I purchased an activation of Onfolio, which has some similar functions, but I ALSO downloaded the latest and greatest version of Evernote to supplement. Evernote is available for free via the post title; an enhanced version (called Evernote Plus) is available for purchase or free trial. The Plus version adds handwriting and shape recognition as well as additional inking capabilities.

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Monday, June 20, 2005

500% price increase for TXT messages?

Although I've become a much happier Verizon Wireless customer since I purchased my EVDO modem, I have to caution some folks that might not read their wireless bill too closely. According to my most recent Verizon Wireless bill, TXT messages received are increasing in price by a whopping 500%:

"On August 1, 2005, the charge to receive TXT Messages will increase from $0.02 to 0.10 per message. This will apply to domestic and international TXT Messages (and, if applicable, to any TXT messages in excess of the monthly allowance for Verizon Wireless TXT Messaging bundles). The charge for sending TXT Messages, both domestically and internationally, will not change. As of April 18, a new IN Messaging bundle is available to
Verizon Wireless customers. These bundles allow you to send and receive UNLIMITED TXT, PIX and FLIX Messages to and from any Verizon Wireless customer. Bundles start as low as $5 per month."

Yes, Verizon does offer you a $5 unlimited message package. However, I don't control who TXT messages me so I only see this deal for what it really is: a semi-"strongarm" tactic to get another five clams a month out of my wallet! Please direct any comments on this post to my e-mail address; whatever you do, don't TXT me!

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EVDO bandwidth testing (it rocks!)

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. This one is worth the $79.99 that Verizon Wireless charges for unlimited EVDO usage!

EVDo Bandwidth results

This bandwidth test was run on my Toshiba Portege M205 Tablet PC using the PC 5220 PC Card in the PCMCIA slot. Within EVDO range, I'm getting roughly 931 kbps download speeds and 109 kbps upload speeds; about what my original DSL speeds were until the recent Verizon upgrades. Once outside of the EVDO range, my speeds have dropped to around 60 kbps, however, the prospect of connectivity anywhere and anytime makes it worthwhile for a mobile professional...or a "techADDICT" like me! ;)

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Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Ultimate multimedia notebook?

I regularly read the PC Magazine reviews since I find them to be honest and fair. All too often I see reviewers recommend hardware from the same manufacturers time and time again; makes you wonder how objective these folks are. So, when I saw the following statement from PC Mag on the new multimedia machine from Toshiba, I was a little shocked. I don't think you can make a more impressive statement:

The Toshiba Qosmio G25-AV513 is the best multimedia laptop we've seen, especially when it comes to integrating AV features. No other system comes close.

Toshiba Qosmio G25

For the full review click the post link. Look for my thoughts after the jump.

Let's start the few downsides:

1. Weight. This is no portable "mini-me". This lug is a 9.4 pound brick. Actually a standard brick weighs eight points, so this is a brick with a little mortar.
2. Battery life. Any portable powerhouse is likely to have a shorter than average run time and the Qosimo is no exception. Look for battery life around two hours at best.
3. Price. Make no mistake, you're getting a TON of functionality here, but a $2,900 notebook is pushing the limits of the purse-strings.

Now for the key upsides:

1. Built in TV tuner. No external tuner device with this bad boy; it's in there!
2. Plenty of input \ output ports. Composite video for one thing, which is infinitely better than S-Video, RCA jacks, or coaxial cable. However, not as good as modern day digital connectors such as DVI or HDMI.
3. Screen. A brilliant 17" widescreen really brings out the best in TV and DVD programming.
4. Storage. Dual 60GB hard drives bring plenty of DVR capabilities to record your favorite shows.
5. Pre-boot functions. The Qos allows you to watch TV or DVD's without a full bootup.

All in all, if you're looking for a true multimedia notebook, the Toshiba Qosimo looks like the system to beat, provide you don't plan to carry it around!

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Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Free your mind with PocketMindmap

Good friend and techADDICTION co-host James Kendrick often posts on the merits of "mind mapping" using software and a computer. Earlier this week James provided his thoughts on a typical day using a Tablet PC in the form of a mind map. You can almost SEE the thought process if you follow the map. Using MindManager software, James created an effective overview for his Tablet PC podcast. Ok, so that works when you can kick back with your notebook or desktop; put your feet up, let the creative juices flow and map your mind! So what do you do when you're travelling light, say with only your Pocket PC? Simple: use Pocket Mindmap from JKRB Software.

PocketMindMap for PPC

According to PocketGear:
"Mindmapping is already a well known technique to create and organize complex concepts or to do brainstorming. A computer combines the graphical expressiveness of the Mindmap with the computer's strength to restructure, search, move or copy and paste the content. And software can even do more: Keep track of your tasks associated with the concept, focus on specific topics, filter your topics according to certain attributes or export them to XML, HTML or Text - with Pocket Mindmap you have this strong team of tools always with you - in your Pocket PC or Handheld PC."

This software is normally $42.00, but if you click the post link you can get the goods for $33.60 this week.

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Monday, June 13, 2005

RSS today: just the tip of the iceburg?

Every once in a while, I'll go out on a limb and present an original thought. Not often, because apparently my brain has a limited number of thoughts, but every once in a while nonetheless. Here's today's: are we really just beginning to see the value of RSS?

As a blogger and podcaster, RSS is a tremendous timesaver. In fact, I'm basically done with my RSS roundup and I'm opting for Onfolio having personally used and compared it to several other RSS readers. On any given day, I'll see 1,500 or more feed updates on my limited RSS subscription list. I've timed myself and I can generally browse through all 1,500 posts in about 45 minutes; less if I'm really judicious and review by post title alone. If I were to actually hit every one of the web pages and blogs for those 1,500 posts today, well...let's just say I'd still be reading those posts instead of writing this one! ;)

There's more to RSS than just saving time, however. I forsee a real push past the "techie" crowd and see RSS permeating the general consumer populace. There's an example or two after the "Read More" jump.

Let's take a look some areas where personalized data could be used quickly and easily from a consumer point of view. Just today, Engadget pointed out a new Sirius initiative to rollout recievers that are capable of displaying custom data. Granted, there are no details on what data format or method will be used, but wouldn't an XML based approach make sense?

How about some of today's (and tomorrow's) digital music devices? I'm thinking of the one's with a small display that currently are capable of providing data about the music that's playing. The Roku Soundbridge and the SlimDevices Squeezebox come to mind. Perhaps today it's data from the ID3 tags of the audio file like Artist, Album, Lyrics and more? What would prevent these devices from playing one song, but also scanning new podcasts via RSS feeds? As you're listening to one file, the show notes of a podcast that you subscribe to scroll across the unit's display which provides you an opportunity to hit a "Download in background" button. Better yet, you do nothing because the show notes don't show you anything of interest in this particular episode. Hey, even broadband bandwidth can be stressed; why download something you don't want?

How about everyone's favorite: the "TV Crawl". You know what I mean: the data that the news wants you to see so they can tease you for the full story later. ;) What if you could customize and subscribe to the crawl(s) that YOU want, not what THEY want? I'd do it in a heartbeat. After all, data is everywhere at this point. Using a tool like RSS helps me get the data I want to the place that I want. Isn't that the point of all of this information?

Given the lightweight nature and customization of RSS, I have to wonder what impact it may have on the consumer electronic devices of tomorrow. The day of e-mail newsletters and updates is coming to close and the "RSS Age" is just beginning. I would expect that we see devices to match. What do you think? Should I just keep the original thoughts to myself or is the future of RSS just on the horizon?

Special thanks to Dave Ciccone. The basis of this thought came about during a Skype chat as Dave was co-hosting the Computer Outlook radio show with John Iasiuolo last week. Thanks for making me think, Dave! :)

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Sunday, June 12, 2005

In progress: Boot Puppy Linux from SD?

On this week's techADDICTION show, we took a Skype VM that indicated Puppy Linux can run from a USB flash drive. Hmmmm....I'd like to push the limits a little and the Toshiba Portege M205 Tablet is just the thing to help. You see, the Tosh has a built in Secure Digital (SD) slot that is bootable. Yup, you heard right; you can boot from the SD slot. I just picked up a 512MB SD last week, so I'm going to give it a go.

At this point, I do have Puppy Linux booting from my USB connected CD drive, so next up is to get booted from the SD card if possible. For you Tosh M205 users: you can set the boot order of your Tablet in Control Panel, Toshiba HW Setup if you want. However, if you want to choose the boot device on the fly, just press either the left or right arrow on your keyboard when the Toshiba splash screen starts after power up. Using the arrow keys, you can pick (via icon) which device to boot from. More to follow as I see if the SD booting of Puppy Linux is possible!

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techADDICTION's alive, IT'S ALIVE!!

Tech talk, mergers, and hybrids, oh my! Follow Kevin and James as we take another trip through the world of gadgets and you will almost hear the silence of Kevin’s hybrid engine. Should Yahoo buy Skype? Apple license the Mac OS? Or is all of this just a pain in the neck? Tune in for the scoop on all these issues before it’s too late! Don’t forget the comments and suggestions - we do listen to you!

Listen to the show!

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Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Podcasting growth at Feedburner continues

Feedburner, the free RSS feed creation site, shared some astounding statistics two days ago.

Feedburner stats on podcasts

Some of the highlights from my perspective:

1. 10% of all Feedburner feeds are podcasts; there are 6,000 podcast feeds out of 60,000 total RSS feeds.
2. The rate of growth is increasing, which is a leading indicator. What was a rate of 800 new podcast feeds per month is now almost double.
3. Podcatchers such as Doppler and iPodder are now in the top 25 feed readers. Watch for some of these multifunctional apps to double as a standard text-based reader. On the hand, look for more of the standard RSS readers to support enclosure tags and audio\video content downloads.

Based on the number of podcasts tracked at some of the major directories, it's apparent to me that Feedburner has a lion's share of the podcasting RSS feed creation. As a result, the entire story and these statistics within it are a nice "crystal ball" of the podcasting market.

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Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Socket says: "Power to the People!"

So, you're on the run with your mobile device and the battery shows only a small charge left. Do you:

A. Gloat because you thought to bring a spare?
B: Panic because you didn't?
C: Throw your device at the floor in anger?
D. Remember this timely article from yours truly?

If the answer was "D", click the Read More link for additional info on a great mobile power solution from Socket!

I used to carry an iSun solar charger with me for my mobile devices, but I donated that to a mobile warrior serving America in Iraq. The Mobile Power pack from Socket may be just the replacement that I need.

Socket Mobile Power
"The Mobile Power Pack replaces multiple charging adapters with a hi-capacity, rechargeable lithium-ion battery that allows you to power up your devices multiple times on a single charge. It’s easy to carry and has the flexibility to charge mobile phones, media players, PDAs, digital cameras and more! Circuit protection ensures that there are no over or under voltages that may harm your device as well a light meter that let’s you know when the battery is 90% depleted. It features a USB plug for devices that can be charged through a USB port."

This power pack has a 7200mAh capacity so it can be utilized multiple times before the battery requires a recharge. At only 11 ounces and a size of 4" x 3" x 1" you can take this anywhere you travel. In addition, there are multiple cables and adaptors included so you've got the flexibility to recharge multiple devices. Socket sells for the Mobile Power Pack directly for $149, but you can find it for about $35 less as various online reatilers.

For a full PDF datasheet, visit the Socket site.

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What does EVDO smell like?

No, EVDO isn't a fragrance; it's a cellular data protocol. Did you ever wonder what it smells like? Apparently, the folks over at EVDOinfo do, because they have an article that provides sniffing instructions.

"This tip will show you how to get EVDO from new EVDO towers before anyone else gets it (a few days, weeks or even months). This tip is making your PC 5220 card invisible to the 1xRTT signal and only listening for EVDO signals. The downside to this tip, is that if you are ONLY in a 1xRTT area, your PC 5220 card will report No Service, vs. automatically switching to 1xRTT. So, you can easily revert the settings, so that both 1xRTT and EVDO are visible to your PC5220 card.
The other problem that this tip solves, if you are directly between a 1xRTT and EVDO tower. Your EVDO signal MAY bounce back and forth between 1xRTT and EVDO and make it difficult to maintain a reliable connection. Symptoms: Flashing BroadbandAccess and then back to NationalAccess and back and forth."

This sniffing tip requires the PC 5220 card on the Verizon Wireless network; the instructions won't work with any other wireless data card. Now if they only had "scratch and sniff cards"....

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Monday, June 06, 2005

Rerun city

I know the television season is over, but I think we're watching reruns of reruns. Barb and I officially miss "24".

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techADDICTION #11; get it now!

Welcome to techADDICTION Show #11 where the tech talk flies fast and furious. Find out if Bluetooth is safe, how many gadgets can you put in your pants, how to get HDTV to go, how to Skype your Outlook contacts, and where to get a cheap Linux PDA. Enjoy techADDICTION and be sure and give us your comments on the blog or you can call the techADDICTION Skype line and even be on the show!

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Sunday, June 05, 2005

Tech of Disney: The Segway tour of Epcot

Barb surprised me on our recent Disney trip by sending me off on a two hour of Epcot. This was no ordinary tour, mind you, this was the Segway-ridden tour!

Kevin leads the

For $80, you get two hours on the Segway. To me, it was absolutely worth it, and I would experience it again without question. So, what's included and what exactly do get to do on the Segway? Full details after the "Read More" jump.

First things first. In order to take the Segway tour, you must be at least 16 years old. In addition, you must weigh less than 250 pounds. Luckily, I meet both requirements although I've often been accused of acting like a little kid! Next, you basically have to sign away all rights to sue Disney in case of injury. Although it's unlikely you'll get hurt, I can understand the release of liability. After that, you and 11 other riders are taken to the Segway training room near the Epcot Expo Center in the Innovations area of the park. Here is where we met Lamonte, our instructor.

Lamonte had us first grab a bike helmet. Once everyone had their helmet secured, we saw a brief video that outlined some of the simple rules for our tour. Following the video, Lamonte produced actual Segway parts: the ones that matter most. First, we saw the electronic gyroscope. This surprised me because I expected to see a mechanical gyroscope. Instead, the Segway has 5 circuit boards, each the size of a postage stamp. The 5 boards vibrate in different directions and these vibrations are measured 100 times per second! According to Segway: "This small cube, 3 inches on a side, is packed with five solid-state, vibrating-ring, angular-rate sensors ("gyroscopes") that use the Coriolis effect to measure rotation speed. These tiny rings are electromechanically vibrated in such a way that when they are rotated, a small force is generated that can be detected in the internal electronics of the sensor. Each "gyro" is placed at a unique angle that allows it to measure multiple directions. Segway's onboard computers constantly compare the data from all five gyros to determine if any of the five is supplying faulty data--in this condition, it can compensate and use data from the remaining sensors to continue balancing through a controlled safety shutdown."

Lamonte also showed off one of the Segway's two tilt sensors that are constantly monitored by the Balance Sensor Assembly or BSA: "Two tilt sensors filled with an electrolyte fluid provide a gravity reference in the same way your inner ear does for your own sense of balance. The BSA is monitored by two independent microprocessors and is split into two independent halves for redundancy. Even the communication between sides is performed optically to avoid electrical faults on one side propagating to the other."

Once we saw the "inner workings" of the Segway, we learned the concept behind the physics of the unit. This is probably the most important part of the training. Lamonte took a broomstick handle and balanced it on his hand. As it moved to the left, he moved his hand to the left in order to balance the broomstick. In the exercise, the broomstick represented the rider and Lamonte's hand signified the Segway. It's important to note that you must refrain from balancing yourself on a Segway. The trick is: let the Segway do the work!

After the conceptual overviews, it was time for "The Mounting". Again, the trick is not to balance yourself. You simply hold the Segway so that the platform is parallel to the ground, and then step up. Many people did what Lamonte called "The Segway Dance". These folks looked like they were riding a bucking bronco as the Segway kept going back and forth while the rider kept trying to balance themselves! Being the geek that yours truly is, I was able to grasp the concept and step up without any problems. :)

Upon all riders mounted, we practiced going forward and back in our lanes. Forward and backward movement is simply controlled by your body position. Lean forward slightly and the Segway moves forward to compensate for the imbalance. Lean back slightly and you will stop or even reverse direction. After we mastered this task, it was time to turn. On the left hand grip of the Segway is a mechanism that controls your turning. If you rotate your grip forward, you turn left. If you rotate it backward you turn right. You can turn without leaning, in which case you literally turn in place!

To test our skills, a course was set up with cones. We practiced our turns and then navigated up and down a handicapped accessible ramp. After a total of 45 minutes training time, we left the building feeling confident. That feeling only lasted 2 minutes as one of my classmates promptly ran over some of the beautiful flowers along the walkway at Epcot!

Once everyone was back on track, we spent the next hour or so "transporting" ourselves through all of the countries at Epcot. We became instant celebrities as "walkers" would wave or shout out as we rolled by. An hour later, we regained our starting point having hit all of the countries on our guided tour. I really didn't want to get off of the Segway but my time was up. Lamonte provided each of us with a commemorative Segway pin and said goodbye. My trusty steed was plugged into the wall as I sadly waved to it.

Would I recommend the tour? Yes, without reservation. In fact, I would consider a repeat of the tour. It was that good of an experience. If you have any specific questions on either the Segway or the tour, just post a comment and I'll give you my thoughts.

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Saturday, June 04, 2005

Plantronics Customer Service: "This is not a drill!"

I've been using my Plantronics headset on a daily basis since January. When I decided to get involved in creating some podcasts, I knew I'd need a quality headset so after doing my "due diligence" I opted for the DSP 400 model. This is the dual speaker model that also has a Digital Signal Processor for the noise canceling microphone. In addition, it's a USB headset, which still leaves an open USB port on my Toshiba Portege M205. Lately, I've experienced some issues with the microphone. I believe that part of the unit has an intermittent short. Often times, the microphone completely overloads the input signal, which renders it useless. Anyone on the other end of a Skype conversation, for example, will hear a tremendous "buzzing" sound.

From a warranty perspective, Plantronics offers the following:

We at Plantronics realize that customer satisfaction depends not only on how the product works out of the box, but how well it performs over time. We are so confident in the quality, reliability and dependability of our products that we offer a full two year warranty on all our commercial products and a one year warranty on all non-commercial products.

Since I podcast up to 4 times per week, I really don't have the time to send the defective headset back and then wait for a replacement (which is the standard warranty procedure). I'm going to ask if they can send me a replacement first, so I can continue to work with what I have. I'll offer to give them a credit card number to charge me if I don't return the first headset. Let's see how this works out. Aside from the current issue, I'm very happy with the product. Now I'll see if I'm happy with the company's customer service!

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Friday, June 03, 2005

An Apple a day keeps IBM away

First IBM sells off it's PC division and now it appears that Apple is dumping them in favor of Intel processors.

"Apple will announce its plans Monday, CNET has learned, in a move that raises questions about the Mac maker's future computer strategy."

If this keeps up, IBM will have to drop the "M" from their name. It's difficult to hare the word "machines" in your company name if you've become a service-based organization.

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Commute-Cast news appearance video

If you don't live in or near Philadelphia, you missed our first (but hopefully not last) television appearance. This is the NBC10 spot that aired last week. Three hours of taping was cut down to 2 minutes and 19 seconds! Enjoy and please let us know what you think!

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Thursday, June 02, 2005

iTunes and Podcasting = my take

So it's been a few days since Steve Jobs announced that iTunes 4.9 will support podcasting. What exactly does that mean? It's like that nobody (other than Steve Jobs, of course) really knows, but I've considered it and wanted to get my thoughts out there. You can see them after the "Read More" jump.

First things first. Podcasts today are generally free. There may be a few exceptions with pay-for-subscription based 'casts, but by and large, they are free. So why does Apple want to include them in iTunes? What's in it for them? Plenty, I say.

The way I look at it, Apple will have a strategy that's a take-off on what I presented a few weeks ago: a centralized service that captures and records statistics of podcast downloads. I figured that the podcatchers could capture that information and send it back, perhaps via RSS / XML to a server that would aggregate the disparate stats. It was win-win to me because the consumer would provide information in return for getting information: namely, what the most popular podcasts are, for example.

Take this idea and reverse it. Now Apple can capture all of the download statistics for podcasts. Stats like number of downloads, location of consumer, type of show, etc...hmmm...good information, no? I forsee the iTunes podcast model working this way:

1. Podcasts are still free.
2. Popular podcasts (based on number of downloads) are more prominently displayed.
3. Apple will collect information and sell it to advertisers.
4. Apple will use the information to insert or add sponsorship info to podcasts.

What do YOU think?

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Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Homework on a Tablet PC

I've recently read about many schools starting to adopt Tablet PC's for the children. In fact, there's a growing list of articles on this topic available at What Is New in Tablet PCs?; a great resource if you're an educator or if you have children that are getting educated.

Ty's note to Syd

Last week, I took the initiative to try my own Tablet PC experiment with my son, Tyler. Ty is just finishing up first grade and we're blessed in the fact that he's at or above grade level in most areas. One area that he struggles with, much like any other seven year old, is doing homework. Children at that age still have a relatively short attention span and just don't want to sit down and do their homework right the first time. Extraneous activities such as television or friends cause kids to rush through their homework. I need to find a way to keep Tyler's attention focused on his work and the Tablet PC may be the trick. More after the Read More jump....

Tyler writes his spelling words in a small journal and often rushes his work. He is spelling the words correctly, but he's rushing so much that the words get sloppy. His teacher often asks him to take the journal home and rewrite some of the more "messy" words, which we fully support. However, Tyler often rushes the second time as well, so the trick is finding the technique or tool that will slow him down. For us, that trick is the digital ink capability of the Tablet PC and the built in Windows Journal software.

We could use any number of software applications for the writing exercises, but we use Windows Journal simply for it's ease of use and the "look and feel" of lined writing paper. With absolutely no instruction, we told Tyler to use Windows Journal, which he quickly found in the Start, Programs menu using the digital pen. Once he had his blank page, he simply began to re-write his spelling words....and not just the ones he was asked to re-write; he wrote them all!

Every single world was better than the written words he wrote earlier in the day. It's evident that he took his time and did the homework right the first time. Better yet, he was able to print out the page on 3 holed paper and take it to school, where it looked just like any other homework on lined paper.

Although other people could experience different results, its abundantly clear to us that the Tablet PC is a great learning tool for Tyler. Part of it may be the "cool factor" which could wear off over time, but for now, we'll take it!

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Tech of Disney (part 3)

Last time I was speaking about the roving photographers that use Sony UPC (ultraportable computers). When I bumped into Rick, I noticed that he didn't have a Sony on his belt attached to his digital camera. Instead, I saw that Rick's camera was attached to a PocketPC built by Symbol. I asked Rick and about this and he mentioned that the Disney employees have only been using these rigs for about a month. I figured that Lance had the better setup with the Sony UPC, but Rick disagreed. He indicated that the Sony stored images on the hard drive, but the Symbol PocketPC had software that automatically sent the digital images to the Disney server via WiFi IMMEDIATELY! More after the Read More jump.

Rick showed me how this worked by taking a picture of my son Tyler. We watched the camera and PocketPC to see the number of pictures taken & stored increase by one and then immediately decrease by one. Rick told me that our picture was all ready for viewing on the internet, in fact! The way that Disney associates the pictures with an account is interesting as well.

Rick provided Tyler with a small plastic card, similar to a credit card. This was Tyler's unique "Disney PhotoPass". On the photopass was an ID as well as a barcode. Prior to taking Tyler's picture, Rick used the PocketPC to scan the barcode on the photopass. This associated Rick's next pictures with Tyler's new account.

When we got back to our room, I immediately went to the Disney PhotoPass site and saw all of the pictures that Disney took of Tyler. You just provide your PhotoPass to the Disney photographer whenever you have a picture taken.

This solution is great use of technology and is a win-win for both Disney and the consumer. Disney has an easy way to maintain (and market) the pictures, while the consumer has the ability to review the pictures for 30 days before purchasing prints.

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GreatNews is added to my RSS reader list

I mentioned a few weeks back that I'm trying decide which RSS reader is best suited for my research and blogging needs. I'm currently using trials of FeedDemon and Onfolio, but Dave Ciccone just threw another hat into ring: GreatNews, the Intelligent RSS reader.

Looks like there's a similar feature set across all three upon a quick glance. Ideally, I need an RSS reader that will

1. Save me time.
2. Allow me to filter for specific content within the feeds.
3. Provide a quick and simple way to blog from within feed reading.
4. Capture and save information offline for later use.
5. Integrate with the browser of my choice (currently Firefox).

If there are multiple RSS readers that meet these requirements, perform quickly and provide a clean UI, then the only factor left is price. More to follow as I use each on a daily basis.

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