Monday, November 30, 2009

The Eigenharp

When I first saw a photo of this thing I thought it was one of the instruments from the bar scene in Star Wars. Turns out it's a new mind blowing instrument from Eigenlabs.

The intro - shows you how it works...

Fantastic performance of the James Bond theme to show you what it's capable of.

Monday, November 23, 2009

More Science!

Science Jokes...

Friday, November 20, 2009

I'm in Love with Pandora

Oh let me count the ways... Ok so I won't subject you to that. But really this is the best automatic mix system ever invented. I used to love the iTunes Genius but he's a weird long haired old man in a bad suit compared to the oh so lovely Pandora.

I know you've heard it all before but trust me on this. Go download Open Pandora (nice pun I know) and never need another mix system or radio station again.

There are also lovely clients for at least Android, iPhone and the Chumby that I know of.

Happy listening!

7 days with the Droid

Being the jaded IT guy that I am I'm not easily impressed by a gadget. The Motorola Droid however has completely blown my socks off! I've not been wowed by a gadget in years.

Beyond the flashy user interface and trendy apps, the android OS and accompanying hardware are spectacular. The android OS seems to know what you're thinking and the previously mentioned apps fly. Seemingly minor tasks like working in your contact list become wow moments. For example selecting a photo for a contact works as you would expect, except android automatically crops the photo to the face.

The screen is both beautiful and functional. Somehow it seems to respond only to the center of your fingertips. Madly flailing about with your thumbs won't work. Pressing even tiny links in the browser - does!

Despite some reviewers opinions, the keyboard is actually pretty good. If you weren't used to having a keyboard on your phone to begin with you probably won't have much use for this one. However, I've used it for several long emails and many text messages preferring it to the onscreen keyboard for these tasks. The on screen keyboard is also quite good, in fact probably the best I've used - handily beating the first generation iPhone keyboard that made me want to throw it against a wall. I find that I mostly use the onscreen keyboard for short entries like numbers and passwords. Beyond that I slide out the physical keyboard.

For my most favorite feature it's a tie between voice search and the window shade. Voice search works like you would expect. Touch the screen, immediately say what you're searching for, and the phone does it. There's no delay like other voice recognition systems and it's quite accurate. The window shade is awesome, If I'm doing something else, and receive a text message or e-mail for example, I simply get a notification on the top line of the screen. Then I drag down the line with one finger (like pulling down a window shade), select the alert, take care of the message, and return immediately to what I was doing previously. Brilliant!

All the other stuff you've seen on the TV ads and another reviews are equally brilliant. The only caveats are the physical design of the phone and the camera. The design of the phone is beautiful. The photographs don't do it justice. The problem is that I always felt like I was going to drop it. Even though Motorola did their best by putting rubber on the battery door and the sides. My first accessory purchases were a rubberized case and screen protectors.

Despite previous reports the camera is actually quite good. However, most reviewers, including myself were hoping the camera would replace a pocket point and shoot. Not quite. It's still a camera phone. Most of the problems seem to stem from the fact that you must half press the camera button to focus, then fully press the camera button to actually take the picture. Also, during autofocus (indoors anyway) the flash will briefly light giving the impression to most people that the camera has already taken the photo. I find myself having to ask my subjects to continue to smile so I can take the photo I intended. It's also anoying as hell that you cannot turn off the camera sounds. It makes a sound when you focus, and then makes a false shutter sound when you take the shot...

It appears the Droid has replaced my previous favorite gadget, my beloved Nokia N810. I haven't picked it up even once in the last week. High praise!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

24 with 7

My last installation of windows XP finally had a nervous breakdown, so 24 hours ago I installed windows seven as a replacement for XP. This is on my main work machine so it has to be reliable, and most definitely gets a work out. So far my impression is that it's pretty much XP with more eye candy. The most annoying things so far are the way Microsoft decided to hide certain directories, the annoying click sound, and the way they hosed up the control panel. I also don't like that I cannot select small icons on the desktop.

I do like the fact that it seems Microsoft now allows users to select when they want to be nagged by reminder dialogs. Most dialogs now give you the option to turn them off. Some other geek must have gotten the opportunity I've been craving, and that is to walk through the Microsoft campus with a clue bat.

I'm giving the system a full run for its money, in fact I'm even writing this posting using windows seven speech recognition. Had a few glitches getting my system up and running. Several of my applications require the very newest version to install. I had to search for a few drivers - and one of my applications, a python based system administration application, initially installed fine but could not download its online updates. The updates would fail with an access permission error. After the initial install I got the annoying little window at the bottom right of the screen telling me I needed to do things like enable the windows firewall (yawn) and find virus protection software. It also mentioned I needed to reboot to clear permission errors. After the reboot the application was able to download and install its updates. Weird.

So far however windows seven seems to be living up to its hype. For the last 24 hours it's been stable, not one crash. Pretty good for a Microsoft product. For now anyway, I think I'll keep it for another 24.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Lion Whisperer

For some reason I'm getting allot of animal stuff today... This Bloke is NUTS:

Big product week for the brain dead...

Nov. 17 is launch day for two huge brain (un) dead releases. First there is the much anticipated Left 4 Dead 2 Which will be filling all my free time for the next few months.

Then of course we have the horribly frighting :

Really Sara - TMI. Put the underwear back on - this time under the pants please.

Amazon - you are my hero!

Leopard Seal teaches photographer to hunt penguins

I've had incredible experiences with wildlife - like playing with Sea Lions, racing Coyotes on my motorcycle and swimming with sea turtles but this is amazing!

Friday, November 13, 2009

This is the Droid you are looking for.

Pretty much sums it up...

Freakin love my Droid BTW.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Microsoft didn't listen to me...

Hey Microsoft - In response to the "My idea" ad campaign. I told them that they needed an upgrade path from XP... Now you are actually giving customers a free pass to move to Mac or Linux. If I have to re-install everything, why not?

It's also time for Microsoft to release an "open cd". Let me boot from a cd and see if windows 7 will even run on my old laptop before I spend the (ridiculous) $200 on the "new" OS.

Last gripe. No one but businesses will pay $200 for an OS upgrade. I know you are in collusion with Intel to get people to buy new hardware - but do you have to be so obvious about it?

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Passing of a Friend

I've just now learned of the passing of someone that many will miss. Lyle was a fixture at BMW motorcycle rallys. He has been at almost every one that I have ever attended. Lyle put in a million miles on his BMWs. Imagine that. Crossing the whole US is around 3k depending how you do it...

I remember sitting in the shade by a creek at a rally in South Dakota a couple of years ago. Friends from Germany, Mexico, Canada, Turkey, and all over the US enjoying the company and beautiful day. We were playing a game with Lyle where we would describe riding a road and he would tell us the number, and where it went. Or the opposite - name a road number and he would tell you a story about riding it. None of us could stump him.

I'll always remember Lyle with several friends in tow among the bikes and tents or surrounded at dinner by wannbe's like me, eager to hear his stories. He was always smiling and laughing.

Lyle actually passed in August near his home - riding his motorcycle. He will be missed.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Format Tinkering

I decided to get in touch with my feminine side and redecorate. Repainted and moved some of the furniture around. Probably more to come. Get over it - at least the youtube embeds fit now.

I'm so getting a Droid!

OMG! Calling the new Google maps navigation app for Android 2 "Slick" (as some of the press is doing) is the understatement of the year. I think we are finally seeing the true convergence of the internet with mobile devices. Read about it here or just watch the video below:

This week's gadgets:

This week's gadgets:

Ok, Ok, most people that know me and my gadget proclivities know that I've had smartphones since they first were invented and am currently in the market for something new - plus they would also know that I'm deeply, totally in love with my Kindle.  So this week has basically been really annoying.

First the smartphone issue. I'm a corporate IT guy (duh) so for me phones and PDA's are tools.  They are about as sexy to me as a torque wrench is to a mechanic.  What is sexy to me is how they function.  I don't care if the album covers flip past in a really pretty/smooth way.  I care if the music app plays Ogg files and if the device will connect A2DP to my bluetooth headphones.  I don't care if the device shows pictures of the caller and plays their favorite auria as a ringtone.  I have about 5k entries in my address book and I need for the phone to be able to handle that without hanging or crashing.

Because these things are tools to me - I'm a Verizon subscriber.  In my experience they have really awesome customer service (I've put this to the test. Believe me) and lest it be said again.  THE BEST NETWORK hands down.  No one even comes close.  Even with that in mind I've been pissed at them for years with their crappy phone offerings.  I've been a Palm user since they first came out.  I think I've had 8 different devices running the PalmOS.  5 of them have been smartphones.  Only one was what I would call a "great" device.  The others have all been a compromise.

I love the utility of the PalmOS.  It's simple, elegant and reliable in a way that makes even Apple's stuff seem clunky.  I have gobs of apps I've purchased over the years that I use many times a day.  Things like an IP subnet calculator.  A conversion utility (converts from pretty much any measurement to annother).  An app that lets me keep notes and passwords safely encrypted.  And yes, a few really good games and a media player that does play my .ogg files and connect A2DP.  The device itself has been able to handle my massive contact database with ease from the first day.  It's always been able to send MMSMS, capture video, cut and paste, and multi-task.  I've had these features FOR YEARS!

The problem is that the hardware has been fragile and clunky.  I went through two Treo's and I really need to replace my year old Centro as it's buttons are starting to fail.  This is why I'm in the market for a new phone.

I was hugely excited for the PRE.  Being a Unix snob for the last 20 years I've been in a state of anticipation for the Linux based OS successor to appear.  WebOS looks wonderful.  But I fear that Palm is circling the drain.  They just simply took too long in development.  The Pre is their last gasp and I think Sprint is letting them wither.  Add to that it seems Palm forgot what made their platform the one to beat for so long - and now fuels the current leader.  Availability of apps.  You have to make it worthwhile and easy for the developers to make things for your platform.  Palm didn't even get the developer kit out until months after the PRE hit the shelves...  To date there are only around 300 apps for the pre.

Enter Android.  It's open.  The way Linux is meant to be.  Currently there are around 10000 apps!  This is dwarfed by the iphone app count I know, but I don't think that will last once the Droid is released.  An Android based phone on the best / largest carrier - oh my!  I may just be in line on November 6.

The other thing I've been getting asked about.  My Kindle - and the release of all the competitors.  Mainly the Nook from B&N and the rumored tablet from Apple.  I've had everyone from close friends and family to people in airports / planes ask me about this.  Here's my opinion.  The Kindle is a single use device.  It's excellent at it.  So good that I pretty much only purchase novels on the Kindle.  If it's not available - I simply don't read it.  It's awful at reference books and newspapers.  It must be horrible for text books as well.  The Kindle is ideally suited to the long form narrative.  The E-ink is fantastic.  The delivery system has (so far) not been matched.  The inventory of available books is also unmatched.  Any electronic attempt at making a reader do reference/text/newspapers in their current form will fail.

I think that the Nook will be a worthy competitor.  Mainly because it's a copy of the Kindle with a few tweaks.  It uses the same E-ink "display", Has wireless delivery and an inventory on par with Amazon. It has some incremental improvements over the Kindle but as we all know - that won't last long.  

I'm sure that in the end, current B&N customers will choose the Nook.  Amazon customers will continue to stick with the Kindle.  The other devices will go the way of the Dodo.  As far as the Apple tablet.  It will see use as a book reader for a percentage of tablet owners - the same way the ipod / iphone are currently used.  The Apple tablet will be "ok" as a book reader since it will be a multi-function device and Amazon will win either way since they already support the ipod/iphone as Kindle readers.  I love my Kindle.  You would have to pry it from my cold, dead, fingers.  I'm sure the Nook owners will feel the same.  There is room for both.