Tag Archives: device

Do Our Devices Spoil Us?

The problem with using an iPad so much is that everything becomes a touch screen. Boy oh boy am I having trouble with this lately. I keep swiping my finger across the television and poking at my MacBook screen. When nothing happens, I am momentarily confused. Then, of course, sadness sets in as I realize those particular devices don’t react to my touch the way my beloved iPad and iPhone do. Le sigh…

I believe my devices are beginning to spoil me a little too much, and I’m willing to bet you suffer from this as well. We have come to expect certain things from our gadgets. When we use one which doesn’t adhere to our new standards, we become frustrated. Often, we even decide in a geek rage that whatever it is we’re trying to use should now be considered obsolete. We then rush out to buy whatever the hottest new product offering is, even if we truly don’t need it. Is any of this sounding familiar to you?

The fact of the matter is that those slightly-older gizmos aren’t obsolete. They don’t even work THAT much differently (most of the time) than the newest “replacements” you’ll find on store shelves. Sadly, we have become so snobbish thanks to the few truly revolutionary devices that we expect nothing less of each and every piece of technology we buy. This isn’t to say that’s a completely BAD thing… we want companies to build on existing “hot” items to make things which are even better. But for us to simply expect and demand true genius to come out of each and every new item – well, that’s a bit spoiled in my mind.

Look. Your devices are fine just as they are. Your television doesn’t need touch capabilities. Your radio doesn’t have to have antennas which will tune in Tokyo. Not everything in our world has to be new and different.

If it ain’t broke…

Is the iPad Making Steve Ballmer Nervous?

Love him or hate him, Steve Ballmer is a dynamic person. When he speaks, it’s from the heart. There have been many times where I’m sure something popped out of his mouth that he later regretted. However, the passion he has for what he does is something to be admired. I’ve never quite figured out why it is that people tend to hate on him and claim he’s nothing more than a puppet. A person doesn’t stick with a company as long as he has if they don’t believe in what they’re doing. Steve-o will say whatever is on his mind at any given moment… and is honest in admitting when something hasn’t gone quite the way the Redmond company had planned.

Photo credit to Engadget.

Speaking to financial analysts today about tablet devices, Ballmer admitted that Apple has “sold certainly more than I’d like them to have sold.” How’s that for plain, cold truth, folks? It’s no secret that the team behind the other Steve (Jobs) is dancing in the aisles over there in Cupertino. The iPad has already outsold even their loftiest projections. I own one… and love it. It’s an amazing device. That doesn’t mean, however, that something better won’t come along. The iPad isn’t the be-all and end-all in the tablet device market.

Argue all you want. It’s quite possible we could see a better device come with Windows 7 on it. Perhaps the front-runner will one day run Android… or any number of other operating systems. It’s impossible to predict the future, and that my fellow Geeks is what keeps the tech world so interesting. Would you want to be in a world where the iPad was as good as it’s ever going to get? I sure as hell don’t. I want to be right here watching new and better devices hit the streets.

Look. We all know that Microsoft has a lot of work to do in order to begin to catch up. Other companies are working hard to come up with the next big thing in the gadget world. Every day, there are new advances. Every week, we see new product launches. Mark my words… one day soon, we’ll see something on the shelves that blows the iPad out of the water. In my opinion, Ballmer shouldn’t sweat so much over a few (large) numbers.

I cannot wait until that day comes. What about you?

Microsoft Kin Dead in the Water

Just a few short weeks after launch, the Microsoft Kin is reportedly being killed off. Gizmodo reports that sources at Microsoft have confirmed the death of a device we all wanted to like. Why would a device die such a speedy death? Sales. Microsoft never has confirmed – nor denied – the fact that only a mere 500 Kin units have been sold since launch.

Sadly, the pricing of the phone plan that Verizon laid out is another reason for its demise. Verizon chose to price the phone as a smartphone, despite the fact that it isn’t one. The monthly plan was so high that Verizon drastically cut the price at one point. This did nothing to lure customers to form a line such as we’ve seen with other recent device launches.

Microsoft has issued a very vague statement on this matter:

“We have made the decision to focus on our Windows Phone 7 launch and we will not ship KIN in Europe this fall as planned. Additionally, we are integrating our KIN team with the Windows Phone 7 team, incorporating valuable ideas and technologies from KIN into future Windows Phone releases. We will continue to work with Verizon in the U.S. to sell current KIN phones.”

That says a lot without saying anything at all. Hopefully some of the parts of Kin that were good will be seen again in Windows Phone 7. At least support is still being promised to people who actually own the device. There’s no word on software updates for it, though.

Did you purchase a Kin phone? What are your thoughts on the device, and the news of its impending demise?

Is Your Cell Phone Hurting Your Children?

Is your reliance on technology hurting your children? A new study shows that perhaps parents are too plugged in. The story cites a young mother who was ignoring her toddler in a busy shopping mall while she had her head buried in her cell phone’s screen. It goes on to discuss the negative impact that constant device usage can have on a child’s psyche and upbringing.

The study talks about the negative effects that a parent’s desire to always stay connected can have on children, yes. But it doesn’t touch on the dangers that could happen. It only takes a split second for someone to grab a child in a public place. Toddlers and babies are kidnapped in an instant while their parent or guardian looks away at an item on a store shelf. It isn’t inconceivable that the same thing could happen while mom is busy checking her Twitter stream or dad is reading the latest email from work. Children can be hit by a car, drown in a pool or run off without supervision in the blink of an eye. If a parent is engrossed in their phone for a few moments, bad things could potentially happen.

I’m not saying that you can never use your devices around your children. I’m saying that you need to stop tuning everything else out while you check up on things. I’m just as guilty as the next person of this infraction. I am quite good at tuning out the world around me whenever I feel I need to. Parents build up this ability as their children get older. It’s almost a survival instinct. You have to be able to filter out noise and distractions to get things done, right? But what if something tragic happens while you’re tuned out?

Photo credit to The Chef Alliance.

Is Your Mobile Device Making You Less Productive?

According to a newly-released study, that mobile device in your hand is likely stressing you out, and making you LESS productive! Most of us who are power users tend to think that our iPhones and Blackberry’s help us be more efficient, and get more done. Sadly, that isn’t always the case for some people.

Look at it this way: if you are one of those power people who have to constantly check your phone, how much time are you taking away from your actual work? Instead of a simple task taking twenty minutes to finish, it can take more than an hour. The gadget on your desk is pulling you – you’re constantly checking it to make sure you aren’t missing anything. Instead of actually focusing on your work and helping you get things done, the phone is instead causing your tasks to take even longer. This can stress you out, because you know you aren’t finishing things on time.

For those of you who may recognize yourself in this, you should take a step back. Turn your device off when you start that next spreadsheet or Google doc. Don’t turn it on (or even look at it!) again until you complete your task. Try setting aside specific times during the day to check for new messages, tweets and updates. Once that allotted time is up, turn the gadget back off again.

Don’t let your need to stay in the loop get in the way of getting your job done. I really don’t want to read one day that someone has gotten themselves fired for spending too much time staying connected… and not enough time actually being productive. Sadly, I have a feeling this is already happening around the world. Our jobs demand that we are always accessible… yet they get angry if they feel we spend too much time reading the latest news or emails from coworkers. How are we supposed to find balance?

Idapt to Your Gadget Adapters

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While covering the recent CES conference in Las Vegas for us, Traci stopped by the Idapt booth and met up with company founder Jacques Guadamillas. Picking up a box from the table, Traci was astonished! She was certain that they had snuck into her home and taken a picture of the mess of cables and adapters she has lying everywhere. Thankfully, Idapt can help her!

IDAPT allows you to charge several portable devices at the same time, through a simple system of interchangeable tips. To change the tip, press the buttons on each side of the tip and replace it with a different one. It really is that simple to use!

The Idapt comes with several different tips, as well as different-colored bases. You can choose from silver, black or hot pink! I’m thinking the hot pink one might look pretty good here in my home office, don’t you agree?

In any case, stop throwing fifteen different cords in a drawer, or letting them stay scattered all over your desk. Just grab yourself an Idapt, and be done with it!

Thanks, Traci, for all of your hard work – and the awesome inside look! – during CES.

Thanks also to the folks at Creative for sending the Vado 3 to Traci for use in recording during the conference!

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What is the Twitter Peek?

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Lamarr is a good friend, and community member around Geeks and our live chat. He has done a few videos for me in the past, and I couldn’t pass this one up. Lamarr is giving us a first-hand look of the new Twitter Peek. What an amazing device this is. You can view tweets with it! You can send tweets with it! You can uhm… use Twitter with it!

For only $7.95 per month for the service, you can use Twitter anywhere. Never mind that you have a cell phone that can help you tweet. Forget about that laptop or netbook! You can buy the Twitter Peek for $99.99, and then pay for the service to be able to tweet!

Oh, wait… you can pay $199.99 for the device and get the service included for the life of the gadget. How cool is that?

Give me a break. Why the hell would I buy a device that only does one thing in this day and age? I have an iPhone that will get me to Twitter. It also does a bajillion other things. What’s the point of a device that only allows me to do ONE thing? How is that a deal or bargain of any kind? Who the heck would buy or use this thing?

Epic fail, in my opinion… and in Lamarr’s. Thanks, Lamarr, for warning us about this device. Keep bringing us your fantastic viewpoints every week! I enjoy learning new ways of looking at things from you.

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Gnomedex 08 BugLabs Contest

BugLabs was a presenter at Gnomedex last week. They have decided to run a contest that is open to all of the attendees of the conference.

The 4 best gadget ideas win their own BUGbundle (value $629). The BUG is a modular consumer electronic platform (ie. the lego of gadgets). It falls within the open source hardware category. It currently ships with 4 modules (GPS, LCD, Camera, Motion Detector), but you can submit ideas that require modules that aren’t available today (laser range finder, weather module, thermal sensor, A/V modules, teleporter, etc).

To enter, people had to submit their new gadget ideas, including gadget name and description. The entry deadline was tonight, and the people at BugLabs and Gnomedex will be reviewing the entries to choose a winner! Let’s take a look at some of the entries:

  • Wifi-enabled Bathroom Scale submitted by Dave Nielsen – This is a bug that lets me step on a scale, and automatically saves my weight to a Website. I’d use this every day. I never have time to track my weight. If I could track my weight easily, I’d be more likely to pay attention to what I eat.
  • Wifi Enabled Weather Bug submitted by John – This would be a bug that alerts you of severe weather conditions, to help save lives.
  • LifeLogger submitted by Josh Bancroft – Using camera and GPS, this is a device that I can attach to my car, my bag, or anything I choose. It would log my GPS track, take pictures periodically, and either stores or uploads them to a place where I can selectively decide to share them. This would allow me to log my life – where I was at what time, and what I was seeing when I was there. I use Twitter for this, and show my “lifelog” on the side of my blog. Some people love to log what they’re doing, for posterity, for their friends, or for whatever reason. Witness the popularity of Twitter, FriendFeed, geotagged photos on Flickr, lifestreaming apps, etc. This would automate/take it to another level.
  • GPS enabled school bus submitted by Jane Roberts – GPS on a school bus alerts parents and students of impending arrival. It will keep kids off the streets, and out of the weather while waiting for the bus. It would document the routes for those districts who don’t already do it.
  • Portable Vocal Joystick submitted by Aryeh Goretskey – My bug would be a standalone device with an LCD screen and microphone that can be trained to recognize a voice (c.f. Jon Malkin’s Vocal Joystick presentation at Gnomedex), plugged into a PC (Linux, Mac, Windows) and be recognized as a standard HID class mouse device. This will allow people who need to (or wish to) use such a device for an interface to work with multiple computers without having to install software and train it on different computers.
  • Light Sensor submitted by John – My gadget would be one that would detect amounts of light. This could detect a fire, or tell between day and night. You could even make it detect if someone tries to use your computer. This could be used for so many things. It would also be very fun, just because of having so many things you could do with it. Anything that gives off light or reflects light could be used with this.
  • Accident / Bad Driver Video Recorder submitted by Sean Canton – This is a constantly-recording device that saves 15-30 seconds of video when triggered by button or accelerometer. This could hopefully make the world a better place, especially the road.
  • Kid/Baby Monitor submitted by Steve Lacey – This would use motion detectors and cameras to detect restless kids and alert via sms; send video to mac mini that is connected to my TV and embed it using picture in picture; send audio to phone, etc… Current products are all closed, and don’t do what I want them to do. Endless possibilities for parental hacks!
  • WiFi Headset submitted by Scott Campbell – You can download software to your Wi-Fi enabled phone and use the Wi-Fi headset anywhere on the same Wi-Fi network. If you were in a Wi-Fi enabled city, you could leave your phone at home while being able to walk about the city. This would minimize the risk of phone theft.
  • Location-aware information filter submitted by unknown – This would be a location and motion sensor for setting the context of RSS / SMS / etc. filters. Social media, RSS, SMS are generating a torrent of information – we’re all familiar with information overload. And of course, context is everything. When I’m walking around in my office, I want to know what’s happening, and I can consume it. When I’m in my car, don’t bother me with the irrelevant! Knowing where you are allows you to tune what kinds and how much information will be sent to you.
  • WiFi School Bus Monitor submitted by Alex Murdock – I’d make a GPS with a camera that when the bus gets to a bus stop, it takes pictures of the kids that get on at that stop and sends the pictures to the parents of the kids that get on at that stop. This would stop kids from skipping school or not taking the bus when they are supposed to go to school. I know most parents want to know where their kids are at all times. This would just notify them if their kids are on the bus.
  • Running Man submitted by Daryn Nakhuda – Use accelerometer and GPS modules to track the path and steps/rate of a run or walk, which could then be uploaded via wi-fi and mashed with Google Maps. This would be like a cross between Nike and iPods on steroids.
  • i-Doorbell submitted by Mike Koss – The i-Doorbell consists of a wall-mounted BugLabs base with the LCD, Camera, Motion Detector, Microphone and Speaker (TBD) modules. When a visitor arrives at the front door, the i-Doorbell welcomes them, and takes a photo. They are invited to announce themselves, and leave a brief audio message. If someone is home, the interior doorbell is activated. If not, an SMS message is sent to the owner, as well as an email with an embeded image of the visitor. For homes with an electric strike lock, the i-Doorbell can be used to scan a 2-D barcode (e.g. a QR Code) from the camera. When a valid
    code is presented, the door can be unlocked (codes can be activated to limited periods to allow visitors or vendors to have limited entry). One device can be used to replace conventional door camera, intercom, AND card reader. Yet allows much more flexible guest access and security to a home or business.
  • Taser Mate submitted by Kurt Padilla – This will sense electric fields from deployed Taser or stun gun device. It will send time-stamped location data to authorities. It may also connect to a heart monitor. This will get help to people using Tasers for self-defense faster, or gets help to Taser victims faster. This data, as well as data from the heart monitor may be useful in court, not to mention that an imminent heart attack as a result of Tasering can be preempted.
  • TimeLapsr submitted by Jess Martin – This is a device for creating time-lapse videos composed of still images from either the built-in camera or your own DSLR. You can set up the TimeLapsr anywhere, and generate a timelapse video on the fly. The device can be set to be activated by motion detector, so you only catch the good stuff. You can use the built-in 2MP camera, or utilize the USB interface to take pics directly from a high-end DSLR. Once the images are taken, the BUGbase’s MPEG4 encoder can create the video immediately. This gives you a one-touch solution for creating time-lapse videos, but is also highly customizable using a high-end camera if desired. And why not tag the video with GPS info for fun? It can playback recorded timelapses using MPEG4 decoder. This would have more uses than you can list – home/shop security camera, artsy timelapse video creator, observe consumer behavior in public settings, timelapse a sunset/sunrise, in-vehicle road trip timelapses, etc.
  • Universal Off Switch submitted by Daniel Bartholomew – The Universal Off Switch utilizes the BugBase, and the Touchscreen, and Electromagnetic Pulse modules. Whenever you’ve had enough of the technology around you, just press the “Pulse” button and *poof* all electronics within a 10 foot radius of you instantly and permanently turn off. Have you ever been in a crowded bar where the music is too loud? Or that oh-so-trendy store in the mall where there are like 1000 TVs blaring? Or at a restaurant where some idiot is on their cellphone right behind you and won’t shut up? Well, now you can do something about it.
  • Personal Security System submitted by Jeff Thomas – This is a Motion Sensor combined with camera (with screen for later playback/review). Anytime any movement occurs, record. Place this in the car, or anywhere you want to be protected (your personal tree house for the local kid’s club ;-). Any detection of movement is recorded with maybe a 10-30 minute loop of most recent data stored. If a car is broken into, or hit, the incident is recorded. When you return to the car, you have captured the incident. A car is the most obvious, but it can be used elsewhere (like treehouse!)
  • Web-A-Sizer submitted by Beth Goza – This would be a companion unit for Webpotatoes who have a hard time leaving the couch or desk for fear of missing something. This unit can be set to either display or “read” tweets, IMs, e-mail, RSS feeds and any other bit of web info that the potato would normally need to be glued to his/her screen to keep up with. There would be several choices for voices or display fonts, and the unit could sit cozily alongside various exercise equipment. Installing Televisions in gyms in the 90’s has proven hugely successful for getting couch potatoes off their arses and into the gym. Now we need to get the army of Webpotatoes moving, and bring sexy back (or at all) to Technophiles everywhere.
  • EyeTrackU submitted by Jeff Norris – This will take photos and report GPS location, send to Web and map out where you spend most of your time. Send updates to tweets, read other EyeTrackU users to network in person. Build a real social network with humans. Meeting people in person and sharing ideas in the same area of the country is quite difficult, but on a common system like EyeTrackU , people can meet and work together and track where their best areas to share are.
  • BikeBuddy submitted by Cassie Wallender – Today’s urban biker is more often then not, eventually going to end up in some sort of accident with a car. Anyone who’s bicycled around Seattle can tell you. Unfortunately, when it comes to proving who’s at fault, it’s often one person’s word against another. The more unbiased data you can have in situations like these, the better. BikeBuddy will automatically turn itself on when in motion, and the built in camera and GPS will track where your bike is, how fast it’s going, and the conditions around you. As long as it’s in motion, it will take a photo every 4 seconds pairing it with GPS coordinates. It can do this by emptying it’s earlier taken photos constantly as well. If you get into an accident, you would tell it to stop, and have all the most recent photos and location information at your disposal. To protect yourself while you’re trying to protect the environment. Imagine having a picture to prove that the light you went through was green, while the car that hit you was going through a red. Case closed. BikeBuddy FTW.

Wow! This is going to be a tough choice. There are some great gadget ideas here! What do you all think? Which is your favorite, and why? More importantly, what device would you design?

Are Mobile Car Chargers Good for Phone Batteries?

Chris Levo is the President and Chief Editor of Nteract Solutions. He sent me the following email after watching my video about charging my iPhone on the go. It’s excellent information, so you should read it carefully.

I was watching your video about leaving your house with your iPhone, and needing to charge it if it runs out of juice. You mentioned a car charger being a very good idea and what should be done (retract, iGo, whatever you want to call it). Any charger that goes into the car is bad for the device battery. Why? Because the power is not regulated like in your home. In my line of work, I have seen many batteries die because people use their car chargers WAY too much. A car charger should be a LAST resort. I try to explain to customers that when they get home they obviously (well I guess 99.9% of the world) take out their wallet, keys, coins, or whatever is in their pocket before going to sleep. Make it a habit to charge your phone with your home charger.

The same goes for purchasing cheap home chargers just to save a buck. Many customers frown at $30 for a home charger because they lost theirs and say they will just go to the “flea” market and get one for $10. The ones for $10 are worse then the vehicle/12v charger port (not called a cigarette lighter in any vehicle anymore because the lighter portion does not come with the car unless you add the option. That is another answer to a question you had at the beginning of the video).

I’m tired, it’s late, but I just wanted to get this out and make you aware of the fact that using a car charger can kill the length of the battery by as much as 50% (if used more then the home charger). Just something to think about before you go plugging in your expensive device in your car charger or don’t feel like running upstairs or where ever it is in your home to plug in your device because you might be too tired. Take the extra 2 minutes and plug it into the home charger.

The moral of the story here is to be proactive when it comes to keeping your mobile device charged. Use the proper home charger. Trying to save a few bucks or some time now will end up costing you far more down the road.

What do you Need to Know about USB?

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Ponzi called me while shopping with some questions about USB Hubs. I realized that many people may have the same questions, so I decided to try and answer some of those for you in this video. Her first question was “What is actually the difference between 1.0 and 2.0?” and the other one was “the price difference between 4 slots and 7 slots is only $10… so which one should I get?”

Basically, you don’t have to go with 2.0. However, if you’re going to want to plug high-speed devices into the hub, you will want to go with 2.0. What’s the difference? Speed. That’s pretty much it. USB 2.0 averages data rate of 480 Mbps, while 1.1 only gets 12Mbps. That’s approximately a difference of 40 times faster. You can’t argue with numbers like that. USB 2.0 is considered Hi-speed mode while 1.0 and 1.1 are known as full- speed USB modes.

You should also keep in mind that sometime in the near future, 2.0 will be old, and USB 3.0 will be upon us. It was gone over with a fine-toothed comb at CES 2008. USB 3.0 is rumored to have speeds of 4.8Gbits, if you can even imagine that! It also is purported to have a power system that will cut the juice when a device isn’t being used.

The 4-port USB hub may be $10.00 cheaper, but I would spend the extra money to buy the 7 port. You never hear someone saying that they have too many USB ports, do you? You’re always going to have devices that you need to connect. It’s better to have empty/open ports, than to have a need to connect something… only to find all your ports are full.

“Purple Owl” reminded me that looking for a powered USB hub is also important, to make sure you can support all USB devices (not just those that have their own power supply):

So often I have tried to use a USB hub, and found that it did not work because the hub was not powered. Why is it that almost nobody mentions that it’s SO important to have a powered USB hub? When buying my current hub online, I trudged through pages of specs, and found I simply couldn’t tell whether a hub I was interested in was powered or not.

True! Ponzi also asked me if USB will always work on both PCs and Macs. I assured her that yes, USB devices should always work on either system. The drivers may not always be the same. I’ve had an easier time getting OS X to recognize USB devices, than I ever did on a Windows platform. They usually work easier right out of the box with OS X.

Let’s also not forget that the future of USB lies in wireless. If you wander over to have a read at the USB ‘headquarters’ website, you’ll get the following description:

With more than 2 billion legacy wired USB connections in the world today, USB is the de facto standard in the personal computing industry. Soon, these same, fast, interoperable connections will become available in the wireless world, with the introduction of Wireless USB from the USB-IF. Wireless USB is the new wireless extension to USB that combines the speed and security of wired technology with the ease-of-use of wireless technology.

All in all, USB devices and gadgets are a part of every Geek’s life.

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