Google puts out their Zeitgeist every year showing the search trends of the previous 12 months. This year they put together a nice video showing these trends and events as well as their various products.
Google puts out their Zeitgeist every year showing the search trends of the previous 12 months. This year they put together a nice video showing these trends and events as well as their various products.
I got a present in the mail yesterday straight from China. The tiny little macro/wide angle lens I purchased had finally arrived (apparently free shipping from China takes a while). Yes, you read that correctly. I purchased a lens for the crappy camera on my phone. I figured this was a $10 experiment to see if a lens for a camera phone would actually work, and surprise-surprise, it doesn’t do too bad of a job.
The lens came in a blister pack which included the actual lens, which is pretty sturdy with a metal housing. It also includes a lens cap and a little magnetic bottom cap with a tiny lanyard on it. The way the lens works is by attaching to the back of your phone with a small magnet ring around the bottom. If your phone doesn’t have anything for the magnet to stick to, they include two small metal rings (like little tiny washers) with peel off adhesive on them that you can stick to the back of your phone. I ended up sticking it to the case I have over the back of my phone. The lens itself is made two pieces screwed together that change depending on the type of photos you want to take. The lower, smaller piece is the macro lens, and the upper wider piece, when screwed on is the wide angle.
I was somewhat skeptical of how well a lens for a camera phone would work, but have been pleasantly surprised with my experiments. I started with a few macro shots and it does a pretty nice job. See the examples below. I took some shots of a few small items I had laying around. For the macro shots, I took a normal shot of the Old Capitol, then one with the wide angle lens. The wide angle shots aren’t as nice as the macros, but all in all, it’s a nice little tool to have.
If you want to own one of these yourself, I bought my from Deal Extreme, but they are all over ebay as well.
Do you want to take random trips around the world (via Google Street View)? MapCrunch allows you to teleport around the word to some pretty beautiful places on Google Street View. It also looks like you can submit you own cool places via Twitter (@mapcrunch) to be the “View of the Day” on MapCrunch. I also like putting it into slide show mode and hitting the full-screen button in the corner. Someone needs to figure out how to make a screensaver out of this.
Happy Halloween a bit late. Did you get a lot of candy two nights ago? Michael at Utah Aerials was dive bombing kids as they collected Halloween candy with his homemade remote control Ghost (which he lovingly named “Mr. T”). Take a look at his construction video.
I think he needs to make a flying turkey for Thanksgiving, and a flying Christmas Tree, for Christmas. There needs to be a mini helicopter character for every holiday!
I ran across an article yesterday that took me for a little trip down smartphone memory lane: From Brick to Tile: We Look Back at a Decade of Smartphone Evolution
The article walks through a brief history of smarphones, starting around the year 2000 and moving to recent phones dominated by Android and the iPhone. This little write-up reminded me of my own smartphone past. I’ve not owned anything other than a smartphone starting with my very first cellphone, the Handspring Treo 300 back in 2003, which was not only my first phone, but also my first cell phone service. I remember doing a lot of research before jumping into the cellphone world, and had my eye on several phones at that time. I remember following a couple Kyocera phones before going pulling the trigger on a purchase. The first one I remember looking at was the Kyocera6035, which was a black and white Palm PDA in the form of a phone (it was big!), and then shortly after that, the Kyocera 7135, which had a much more compact flip phone form (and a color screen!). I can also remember keeping a close eye on the Danger Hiptop (later named the Sidekick), which was a pretty cutting edge phone at that time. I ultimately settled on a Handspring Treo 300 (pdf) as my entry into the smartphone revolution. It was a great little phone, and I loved being connected to the internet wherever I was at.
It’s been interesting to watch where things have gone since the early smartphone days, and as they become much more common, it will be fun to see what the future holds.
I ran across a nice article tonight that takes a brief trip down memory lane through the history of computer icons. The first icons are from 1973 on the first GUI interface of the Xerox Alto, taking you all the way up to Windows 7’sbig shiny icons of today.
For the past several months, I have been working with a colleague of mine (Matt) on a mobile app for WebOS (Palm Pre and Palm Pixi). It started with an idea from Matt’s wife while they were waiting at the port of entry in Nogales to cross the border back into the US while visiting some family in Mexico. If you’re unfamiliar with crossing the border, it can take a very long time just sitting in a long line of cars waiting. The idea was to create a mobile app that you could look up the current wait times at any port of entry into the US (we added Canada too). This issue we got the ball rolling on an application called CrosT.
We decided to jump into this app using WebOS since it had a pretty simple, straight-forward development environment. The end product we came up provides quick access to current border crossing times (commercial, passenger, or pedestrian) into the US from Mexico or Canada, or into Canada from the US. CrosT will also provide a listing of the nearest ports of entry to your current location, using your device’s built-in GPS function. If you have a WebOS device, and a need for quick access to border crossing times on your WebOS device, give CrosT a download.
CrosT provides border wait times for entry into the United States and Canada conveniently formatted for your Palm Pre or Pixi, in the NAFTA zone language (English, French or Spanish) of your choice. CrosT can also tell you where the nearest crossing is and allows you to bookmark the reports you most frequently access for quick review. CrosT is the only application available for WebOS that provides this information for both the northern and southern borders of the United States in all NAFTA zone languages.
CrosT is the first of what will hopefully be a series of mobile apps we create. As we develop more apps, we’ve set up a small company called Pivotal Cog to serve as a central point for our future development.
Williams has co-founded several Internet companies, including Pyra Labs (creator of weblog-authoring software Blogger) and Twitter, the now ubiquitous social media platform that hit its tipping-point at SXSW in 2007. In addition to his role as Director of the Havas Media Lab, Umair Haque founded Bubblegeneration, an agenda-setting advisory boutique that shaped strategies across media and consumer industries.
How does Twitter handle iteration?
Openness – what does it mean at Twitter?
Why Give the Golden Goose Away?
Apple regulates App Store – how open is Twitter?
Inclusiveness – Unique Uses
What is an active user?
Is state-control standing in the way of the Internet (Twitter)?
Ambition – 21st Century Businesses have Ambitions
Where is Twitter’s Advantage?
What makes you keep building these things?
It’s once again that time of year for a trip to Austin, TX for South by Southwest Interactive Conference. I’ll be collecting notes from the various sessions I attend right here on this blog (category sxsw) as well as on my SXSW sub-blog (http://sxsw.techory.com).
SXSW® Interactive features five days of compelling presentations from the brightest minds in emerging technology, scores of exciting networking events hosted by industry leaders and an unbeatable line up of special programs showcasing the best new websites, video games and startup ideas the community has to offer. Join us March 2010 for the panels, the parties, the 13th Annual Web Awards, the ScreenBurn at SXSW® Arcade, the Film and Interactive Trade Show and Exhibition, Microsoft BizSpark Accelerator at SXSW® and, of course, the inspirational experience that only SXSW® can deliver.
It’s been about about four years since the original Entertainment PC was put together. There have been quite a few small changes and upgrades made since then, but it finally reached the point where things were starting to go south a bit too often with this box. Looking at the current conversion of human years to computer years, this box was about 40 years old. So I harvested some of the computer organs (drives), and set to work on building a machine that would first of all, function, and secondly, last a bit longer with a bit more upgrade flexibility. The issue with the previous computer was the case it was built with. Don’t get me wrong, I loved that case (Aopen EPC945-m8), but it was just a bit too locked together to be upgraded. It was purchased as a bare-bones machine, so it would be very very difficulty to pull out the motherboard, or swap out any vial components. The main issue with this was support for newer operating systems. Vista support for this box was poor, and Windows 7 was even worse, and from what I can tell Aopen has basically stopped support for this product, so new drivers weren’t going to happen. No new drivers meant no new OS (I tried Windows 7, and it wasn’t pretty), so it’s time to upgrade to a more flexible Home Theater PC (HTPC).
OK, enough about the old box, what’s in the new one? The first thing I chose was the case. I wanted something that didn’t look like a computer, since it sits out in the open right under the TV. I looked at a handful of slim HTPC cases, and ultimately landed on the Moneual Black Aluminum MonCaso 312S. It got pretty good reviews, and was simply a case, and not a bare-bones system. That means I got to pick my own motherboard (micro-atx), power supply (atx), and all the rest of the guts for the machine. I did not want to run into any sort of incompatibilities in the future, and not be able swap every piece out for something else, something I wasn’t able to do with the old Aopen case. The case doesn’t have a whole lot of bells and whistles. It’s got a card reader, and several USB/Firewire ports on the front panel, and included a remote and IR receiver built in (so I don’t need to hang some ugly USB receiver off of it). Outside of a little difficulty getting hardware installed (which is inevitable in a case this small), I’m pretty happy with how the MonoCase 312 looks and performs.
Several items moved over from the old machine, the LG DVD/Blu-ray drive, the hard drive, and the video capture cards. Everything else needed to be purchased new though to get this new box up and running. I spent the most time determining what motherboard to put into it. I went back and fourth on weather or not I needed to get a dedicated video card like I had in the previous box (ATI Radeon 2400 HD). I ended up going with integrated video on the motherboard. I made that choice for two reasons: 1.) space- I only have one slot, and for heat reasons, I wanted to keep it open if I could. 2.) I didn’t really need much more power than what the integrated video provided. The motherboard I chose actually had more power than the stand-alone card on the old system. All it really needs to do is handle HD video, and the built in video (equivalent to ATI Radeon 4200HD) should be able to do that without breaking a sweat. If I wanted to play high end video games, it might be and issue, but first and foremost, this is a TV computer. Alright, so what motherboard did I end up going with? I went with the Gigabyte MA785GMT-UD2H. It basically had everything I needed, integrated video, good audio chip, lots of ports, along with pretty good reviews and a good price. This is an AMD board, so I ended up with an older AMD processor. Normally I’d go with Intel since I think they make a better chip at this point in time, but I grabbed an AMD Phenom II X2 545 Callisto 3.0GHz chip this time around. It’s a much more powerful chip than what I’ve got in the old box (which handles just fine), and I liked what AMD offered for motherboard packages in the form factor I needed better. Everything went together pretty well with one issue (that I probably should have researched a bit more to begin with). The CPU cooler I bought (Scythe SCSK-1100 Shuriken CPU Cooler (Rev. B)), did not fit with my DVD drive in place. The drive was a bit long, and ran into the fan on top, so I had to scrap the cooler and go with the stock one that came with the chip. It is a tiny bit louder, but not something I’m worrying about at this time.
Video capture hasn’t changed too much with this new machine, but I still wanted to list what I’m using. I’ve got two Hauppauge Low Profile TV Tuner Cards (WINTV-PVR 150MCE-LP) that have been humming away without any problems for several years. These do the standard def. capture, and have been real work-horses. For HD capture, I’m still using the SiliconDust HDHomerun that I wrote about a couple years back. I did change how that box routes video to the HTPC though. Previously, I had a USB Ethernet adapter specifically for the HDHomerun (it delivers video via the network card). That USB adapter has always been a bit flaky, so I moved the HDHomerun up to one of our guest rooms and split the cable for both tuners in the HDHomerun. I plugged the device into our home network (we’ve got ports in every room), and now have two HD tuners where before there was one, and can access that HD video from any computer on our network, including the new HTPC down in the living room. The reason I didn’t have both tuners hooked up before was I couldn’t split the cable any more in the living room. It was already split four ways (TV, SD capture 1, SD capture 2, HDHomerun), and was already noticeably degraded. So by moving it up to an unused cable port in the bedroom, I’ve got higher quality SD in the living room, and now clean clear cable for HD coming from the bedroom. We can now record/view two HD channels at the same time.
There really isn’t anything new here with the recent build, outside of the new remote, but it’s really nothing special (just a generic windows media center remote). I did want to mention and upgrade I made in April to the keyboard though. I bought a Logitech diNovo Mini keyboard that I’m really happy with. I had issues with the previous MCE keyboard interfering with the TV (apparently they were both using the same IR signals). This new diNovo is bluetooth, and works really great! It also has a better, smaller form factor.
What on earth will this super-duper-TV-recording-video-watching beast run for software? That’s a good question, and one that probably should have been answers at the top of this article, since it is what prompted the hardware update to begin with. Quick answer: it’s running Windows 7 Media Center (for now). On the previous build, I had a somewhat clunky setup of Meedio, which has long since morphed into something totally different than what it was when I started (it has been sold, purchased by Yahoo, given up on by Yahoo, opened, and rewritten). For TV capture (the Tivo-like function), I was using an application called Stapstream BeyondTV previously, but that has recently been basically abandoned as well. Are you noticing a theme here? I took a look at the HTPC software landscape, and decided at this point in time, Windows 7 Media Center was the best way to go. It’s got a pretty big user community behind it, and works pretty well right out of the box. I also like that Microsoft has just opened up Media Center for CableCard use as well. That means I can hook it to HD cable from a provider without a cable box. Essentially the HTPC becomes the cable box with use of a CableCard from the cable company. Previously this was only available to computer manufacturers. I’m not using this feature now, but like the option for future upgrades. SiliconDust is working on a CableCard box, as well as a nice looking one from a company called Ceton. Some day I’ll be able to record shows in HD from channels other than the big networks. All in all, I’ve been happy with Media Center. It has a nice plug-in for Netflix streaming, as well as Internet TV. I’ve also worked Hulu Desktop into the mix, and connected Media Center to our SlingBox software as well. I still don’t like the proprietary format it records with, but haven’t run into any walls yet converting it to something more portable. They’ve done some nice interface things since the last time I played with it (XP Media Center), and it’s very easy to use without a lot of messing around. You shouldn’t need to read a manual to operate your TV. Generally I’ve been happy with Media Center, but if something better comes along, at least the machine itself is now flexible enough to run it.
Check out my HTPC (#2) Flickr Set for more images and information.
While flipping through some Palm Pre apps a little while back, I ran across a gem of an app (and a service) called Pixelpipe that has come in very handy. What I was looking for was a way to upload multiple photos to different sites all over the internet. My Palm Pre only allows you to upload one photo at a time to two photo services (Facebook or Photobucket) from inside their photo app. In additions to those to services, you can also email or text photos wherever you’d like. With those features, I can usually set up a way to get my photos where I need to since just about every photo/blogging service I use has some sort of interface to pick up a photo via email or mms. It’s just awkward sometimes to jump between multiple apps depending on where I need a photo to go. Luckily Pixelpipe makes none of that necessary.
I don’t use a whole lot of photo services, but did want the ability to sent multiple photos to multiple services at once with one fell swoop. The Pixelpipe app for the Pre does just that. First I set up an account on their site, and then add pipes. Pipes are connections to other other sites and services where you’d like to send your photos. For me, that just means Flickr, Facebook, and my blog (the “latest mobile photo” section in the upper right). If you’re looking for services beyond what I use, chances are Pixelpipe provides support for it. They’ve got a GIANT list of blogging and photo platforms to add pipes from. So once I’ve added my pipes and fired up the application, I can select multiple photos to send out to all my pipes, or just pick and choose which pipes I want to send the current set of photos to. I can then add a title and/or caption, hit send, and the images move their way through the pipes around the internets to all the places I’ve specified. It’s as easy as that.
So let’s say you don’t have a Palm Pre to install the app onto… no worries, they have tools for a large number of platforms (iPhone, Android, Nokia, IM, Windows, Linux, Mac). I’ve been really happy with this little app, and it’s taken a multiple step, multiple app process down to one simple app.
I ran across an interesting collection of facts and figures about things that happened with the Internet in 2009. It reminded me a bit about the Karl Fisch “Did You Know?/Shift Happens” videos that have been floating around for a few years (worth a watch if you haven’t seen it).
Some of my favorite stats:
Ahhhh, our little internet is finally growing up.
What started a few years ago as a collection of helpful gift guides for my own gift giving has turned into a yearly endeavor. Here is the 2009 list. Most of these are geared more towards geeks and gadgets, but there are several for more general gift giving. If I run across more, I’ll keep this post up to date. Or if you know any that I missed, leave me a comment, and I’ll add ‘em to the list.
After a recent computer upgrade (hardware and Windows 7), I decided to reevaluate what I was using for a remote backup solution. I’ve looked at a handful of solutions, and think I’ve found one that fits my needs quite nicely.
My Previous Solution
Before getting into what system I ended up with, I’ll got into a little detail on how I was backing things up before. First, what I back up is probably pretty common. I keep recent copies of my music, photos, and documents, as well as my e-mail in-boxes up in the cloud. I do this with a great little app called Alway Sync and Amazon S3. I set up three profiles in Alway Sync, one for documents, one for music and photos, and a third for email. I should probably clarify that my music collection is currently living on a separate machine serving music to all the computers in the house. That small piece was a bit of a sticking point for some solutions that I’ll outline below. Alway Sync watches certain directories (or mapped drives) for changes and then uploads those changes to my S3 account on a weekly basis. This solution has been working well for the past two or so years, and would probably have continued to work minus one small thing… price. Turns out I added too much stuff, and S3 charges by storage and transfer. Constantly adding to my music library, and taking photos (many times very large images saved in RAW format) has bumped up the storage I need to a level where it’s cheaper to go with another provider. Amazon S3 works great, but after getting my invoice for S3 last month, I decided to see if there was anything out there that was a little less expensive and provided the same level of backup and storage. Fortunately, I was able to find something, that worked just as well, and maybe even a little better than my previous solution.
Crashplan (my choice)
Crashplan is the service I ultimately decided to use. Feature wise, it was very close to many of the other services I evaluated, but had a few things that put it over the top. Crashplan has a nice multi-platform application that doesn’t seem to be a resource hog. It also seems to give me a bit more control of the directories that I want to upload. It backs up your home directory by default, and lets you pick any other directories you want to add to that. The one thing that Crashplan doesn’t allow (outside of a somewhat messy hack) is the ability to select a mapped drive for backup. Initially I thought this would be a deal-killer, and ultimately ended up being the one piece missing from from all the other solutions I tried. It turns out I just wasn’t looking in the right place. Crashplan offers two types of backup plans. Once is individual – one computer, the other is a family plan that provides backup for several computers. With the family option, I didn’t need to figure out a way to back up the mapped drive from my primary machine, I could just set up an instance of Crashplan on the media server itself, as well as any other computer in the house. Storage-wise, Crashplan provides unlimited space, and doesn’t charge for throughput like S3 does. And pricing for Chashplan isn’t really any higher than any of the other solutions I looked at, and more importantly, it costs less per month than what I was paying for all my data on Amazon S3. Another nice feature in Crashplan in addition to backing up data to their servers, is the ability to backup to another computer somewhere else. So if you’re running the Crashplan app, and I’m running the Chrasplan app, we can select and approve each other’s machines as backup locations for the other (I’m not taking advantage of that feature, but it’s nice to have as an option). All those things put together made the choice easy.
Carbonite Backup is actually one of the first backup solutions I tried. They advertise on TWiT regularly, so I figured I’d give them a try. Features and price are just about the same as the other solutions I tried. They charge a little under $5/month, and have unlimited storage space. Where Carbonite fell a little short for my needs was in their software. The backup application seemed a little clunky, and as I mentioned above, didn’t give me the option to backup a mapped drive. They also don’t offer the family plan that Crashplan offers. Also, I felt their the software was a bit intrusive. It really gets it tentacles into your OS. It adds a little colored dot to folder icons in Windows showing the status of the update. Some people may thing this is a feature, but to me it took over a little bit too much of the OS. I guess I want the backup program to do it’s thing, and get out of the way. Carbonite looks to be a good solution, and seems to get good reviews around the ‘net, but it just didn’t quite work out for my needs.
BackBlaze is very similar to Carbonite in terms of features and price. The service is $5/month for unlimited storage. It also does not back up mapped drives or network storage. They do at least provide an option for multiple computers, but they charge an additional $5/month for each computer. The other thing about BackBlaze (similar to Carbonite) that isn’t quite right for my purposes is the software. The software by default determines what it’s going to backup, and you have to go through and deselect the things you want removed. Again, this could be seen as a feature, it’s quick and easy right out of the box, but I didn’t want to deal with digging through the default directories. I think BackBlaze looks to be a good solution, just not for me. I’ve actually recommended BackBlaze to a couple people already.
Mozy is the last solution on my list, and probably my least favorite. Mozy offers the same song and dance on price and features, $4.95/month for unlimited storage. Their software is OK, really not any better or worse than the others I tested. They are also lacking a multiple computer solution, or an option for network storage. Mozy was looking promising until I started reading some reviews. Apparently several people have had issues with restoring data from Mozy. One would think the restore (heaven forbid you need it) is the most important part of backing up your data. After reading these review, I gave up on exploring Mozy as a backup solution.
Since Apple released their official App Store in July of ’08, everyone has been jumping on the App Store Bandwagon. Every couple of weeks you see some new company releasing an App Store for whatever platform they represent. Some make sense, and some are a little far-fetched.
LG Applicatoin Store
They’re selling apps for LG phones
HP Touchsmart App Store
HP is selling apps for their Touchsmart line of printers.
Very similar to the iPhone App Store, Google sells apps for phone running their Android OS.
Samsung App Store
Samsung sells apps for their phones
Twitter App Store
A company called oneforty started an app store for all the applications out that interact with Twitter.
Blackberry App World
Of course Blackberry needs an app store to compete with the iPhone
Java App Store
This is an app store for applications written in Java
Palm WebOS App Catalog
If everyone else has one, then Palm needs an app store (excuse me, catalog) to sell WebOS apps.
Palm Software Store
Before the launch of the Palm Pre, Palm also had a “Software Store” for selling PalmOS Apps.
Windows Marketplace for Mobile
Not to be confused with Windows Marketplace (silly MS Marketing), Microsoft jumped into the game with an app store to sell apps for Windows Mobile devices.
Ovi must mean “app” in Nokia
Archos is distributing Apps for its (non-phone) Android devices.
Squeezebox App Gallery
This app store distributes apps for Logitech’s Squeezebox media player.
Sony Ericsson App Store
Selling apps for Sony Ericsson Phones
San Francisco App Store
That’s right, even the city of San Francisco is getting in on the action with an app showcase for apps using their city data.
The federal government is also jumping on the bandwagon with apps.gov. They’re providing government data in the cloud and a place for apps that access and analyze that data in interesting ways.