Archive for the ‘Consumer Electronics’ Category

WSJ on the iPhone

Thursday, April 16th, 2009

The Wall Street Journal launched their iPhone App today, officially showing the NYTimes how a newspaper app ought to work. I love both papers, but man, is the Times sloooooow.

The NYTimes app is astonishingly bad. In the time it takes to update, it should be saving all articles locally, which it does not. Fortunately, m.nytimes.com is much more usuable.

WSJ on the iPhonePodcasts in the WSJ app

The Wall Street Journal app is free, snappy and includes their one stop access for Wall Street Journal video, audio and text. It adds up to a convenient place for all of their content. Nice.

My friend Josh noted: “I especially like being able to “flick” between articles. It’s like page turning. Very cool.” Clearly, somebody on Wall Street is thinking about design and usability.

WSJ Podcasts - No FF or Rewind

My biggest complaint about the app is that the designers made special effort (it seems) to remove the fast forward and rewind buttons on their audio content to disallow people from skipping ads. I get the “gotta make money” part, but did they remove rewind just to balance the design? Weird.

That oddity aside, this is a fantastic first rev of the Journal’s iPhone presence. The WSJ app is free and available at the iTunes App Store

iPhone issues in San Francisco?

Tuesday, August 19th, 2008

So, I’ve had my iPhone for about a month now and by and large, it works well enough here in Seattle. The thing that I was most concerned about switching from my trusty but aged Treo 755p (my year old phone was aged, trust me) was going back to the AT&T network.

I switched from AT&T in 2001 to Sprint, and I really had not looked back. I had AT&T ever since they bought Cellular One and their Frankenstein analog/digital network was great when I was using my Nokia 6120. That network (or networks) was ubiquitous as I called people from every inch of California backcountry and rarely, if ever, had problems.

Then, they switched to GSM….

Which worked…

Nowhere.

Sprint to the rescue

I dropped AT&T just after going on a cross country road trip where my phone worked very few places and my girlfriend’s (now wife) phone worked everywhere. Sprint’s service had been really great for me. I even have an EVDO card from Sprint that works beautifully. Sadly, they didn’t get the iPhone and I knew that it was a matter of time before I switched back to AT&T’s service.

Surely, AT&T’s network is better now, right?

That said, switching to AT&T had been largely uneventful (the phone doesn’t work as well as Sprint in my house, but it does work). I spent the last four days in San Francisco and had a completely different experience.

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My iPhone worked somewhat at the office downtown, but I dropped about five calls during the day. The phone was completely unusable at night, at my cousin’s in the Castro or my friend Becky’s house. When I was on the network rarely did I ever see 3G and thus left it off to not consume battery power.

Too many people or bad chipset?

So, I’m not completely oblivious to the problems the iPhone has been having since launch. Most recently, there have been hopes that the problems can be solved by a simple firmware update or worse a hardware recall.

“What I was told was that 90% of the disconnects are initiated inside the phone, which would exonerate AT&T. Most of the disconnects are being generated by crashes in the driver code for the 3G chip, which comes from the chip vendor, not something Apple written and outside of Apple’s direct control.”

Now, I’m not a network engineer, but I don’t really buy that it’s a software problem. Maybe it’s my past experiences with AT&T (and lots of others with a similar experience with the Edge iPhone), but the differences between Seattle and San Francisco’s networks are fairly stunning and so far, I’ve only had problems in SF.

SF – How has your iPhone experience been?

This sucker would be going back if I lived in the city. To be generous, my experience has been pretty sub-par. How about you?

What’s on Stephen Colbert’s iPhone? [updated]

Friday, August 15th, 2008

Stephen Colbert was waving around his iPhone last night in a tirade against Jobs’ “kill switch.” I thought it might be interesting to see what apps he has on his iPhone.

Beyond the standard apps, AIM, Facebook are the most obvious, but I can’t figure out what the last one on the right is.

Anyone have any ideas?

UPDATE August 18, 2008

I love the Internets! I posted this picture on Flickr with the same question and thanks to my new pal and fellow Flickr user, Jose D. Lopez, we’ve got an answer!
truphone
Apparently, the mystery app on the Colbert’s iPhone is
truphone, a VOIP app for the iPhone. I haven’t tried the app yet, but I do have to wonder, why would a guy like Colbert need a VOIP app? Maybe being a cable news anchor doesn’t pay all that well?

I kinda doubt it :-)

The case for the writer’s strike

Wednesday, November 14th, 2007

Growing up in a union family, I’ve always had sympathy for the working man (ok, I’m also a working man, but you get the point).

Admittedly, some unions are better than others and not knowing both sides of the case, I whole heartedly, with full disclosure, present this video I found today about the writer’s strike going on in Hollywood.

Godspeed, Writer’s Guild of America and good luck. I’d like to see the Daily Show again this year.

Sync Yahoo! Addresses in iPod Touch

Friday, September 14th, 2007

ipod touch setup

Here’s a pleasant little surprise in the iPod Touch setup. I’ve always wanted to sync my Yahoo! Address Book with Apple Address Book but most of the solutions didn’t work very well.

While I was setting up the iPod Touch, I noticed that syncing with Yahoo! Mail Address book was an option. The iPhone must have this, but it certainly makes more sense on the iPhone than the Mail free iPod. Nevertheless, this is a nice add on that should keep my Address Books in sync (theoretically).

Of course, given my last post, maybe Mail is the missing icon, not my fanciful predictions of other features.

iPod Touch’s conspicuously absent button(s)

Thursday, September 6th, 2007

One of things that Apple is generally known for is their elegant design and ease of use. From a design standpoint, symmetry is a key element of any product. You just don’t see a lot of asymmetrical designs out there. And certainly not from Apple.

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Looking at the new iPod Touch, I have to ask, what’s the missing button? When the iPhone was introduced, Jobs proclaimed buttons were dead. The ability to reconfigure the layout of buttons or other input mechanisms granted Apple a lot more flexibility in changing their design at will.

Question: why would you ship a product with such an obvious gaping hole?

Answer: it’s an unfinished feature.

What feature?

We could look to the iPhone for possible features, but that seems unlikely. If Apple was going to ship email, Google Maps, or any of the widgets, they would have showed them at yesterday’s announcement.

This is an iPod folks. It’s all about entertainment, be it music, television, movies, your photos or YouTube.

A remote control?

Ok, so to me, this is obvious. iPod Touch + Airport Express = Kick ass remote control. Buying stuff from the iTunes Store is gravy, but the reason the iPod Touch has WiFi (and maybe Bluetooth) is to make the iPod more useful around the house.

Ever since the Airport Express shipped, I’ve wanted this device. The iPod and now the iPhone have proven to be one of the best ways to easily access a large collection of music. Most remotes fall far short of being useful because they lack the metadata (artist, album, song title) that the iPod or your computer has.

The Sonos comes close to fullfilling my needs, but every time I’ve used one, they just feel clunky. There are a few other devices out there, but they suck way more than Sonos does or are far outside of most people’s budget.

I can’t say that I’m the first to talk about this as Gizmodo talked about this a couple of months ago. It seems that Apple has a patent on this design, or is it something slightly different?

So let’s take the remote control idea a bit farther. You might have a little more than 16 gigabytes of music lying around on your computer. Getting to that music would be pretty simple if your WiFi enabled iPod could read from your shared music in iTunes.

Controlling music being played from your computer to your Airport Express could be another use of the onboard Wifi in the iPod Touch.

A really remote control?

I might be going off the deep end here, but stay with me. When Apple first enabled sharing in iTunes 4.0, you could access your music from another computer over the internet, not just your local network. The music companies didn’t care for this very much and Apple shut this feature down in a subsequent update.

So, wouldn’t record companies complain about this as well? I don’t think so. Rather than a remote computer that could be accessed by anyone, this iPod is mated to that computer. Apple could argue that this is a variation on syncing to a given iPod.

Additionally, despite flash memory advances in the last several years, we’re probably not getting 40+ gigabytes in flash for the foreseeable future. Remote control iTunes answers the issue of a lack of local storage. My own usage of AppleTV has shown me that streaming over the network is better than syncing.

He’s nuts

Admittedly, I’m an Apple fanboy. I’m always disappointed when their isn’t one more thing or when the iPhone doesn’t heal the sick and feed the hungry. So this might be a pipe dream.

All the pieces are there and it just takes someone at Apple to put them together.

If nothing else, they have to fill the missing button with something. Maybe they just forgot to add the Mail icon.

PhotoCamp at Northern Voice

Monday, February 26th, 2007

Kris Krug, photographer extraordinaire, organized a conference within a unconference within a conference at this year’s Northern Voice. He collected an exceptional panel of other photogs and tech geeks.

High end consumer cameras

Tim Bray did a talk on high end compact cameras. Made me think about using the G3 again. It does shoot in RAW and it has the intervolator. I wonder if the G6 has that? If you are looking for a new camera, Tim posted his talk at the here.

Tim’s talk brought up some points that I’m always thinking about: I love my Canon Rebel, but there are serious costs to bringing it with me all the time. It takes beautiful pictures, but it’s big and bulky. The vast majority of the photos that I take are on my Canon SD450. Maybe I could learn to use it a bit better…

Color Profile Love

colorprofiles.jpg
A huge THANK YOU to Matt Trent at UBC for teaching me in 10 minutes everything I needed to know about color profiles in Photoshop. I sat through an hour at a Macworld session years ago from someone who worked at Adobe and I didn’t get it. Now, I think I’ve got all I need to know.

The secret – if you work on a Mac and are posting photos online work with Adobe SRGB. Why? Safari reads numerous color profiles, but almost no other browser does. The color profile is smaller than Adobe RGB, but it is the lowest common denominator, thus will look the same on most browsers.

Hopefully, next year I’ll get to see your lab and work in HDR.

Matt Trent’s Moosecamp Presentation

Adobe Lightroom

Roland Tanglao led a session about Adobe Lightroom, which looks a lot like if iPhoto and Adobe Bridge had a kid. Oh, and apparently, in the photo world, black is the new white.

adobelightroom.jpg

Lots of good features here, but not enough to pull me into another app. One interesting thing, though, it looked like Roland was running an older G4 laptop, but Lightroom really seemed to fly. If you’re looking for something a little more robust than iPhoto, Lightroom might be for you.

Thanks everyone for such an informative session! Look forward to seeing you next year.

Macworld 2007

Wednesday, January 10th, 2007

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Just a few quick general impressions from the show today.

iPhone and AppleTV

First, iPhone and AppleTV are two huge new platforms for Apple to develop and deserved the spotlight today. That said, not really being able to touch or to truly get a “live” demo of the iPhone was a bit of a bummer. I guess this is why Apple usually doesn’t release products that aren’t done.

[Jan 10, 2007 – David Pogue gets a hands on with the iPhone – “Typing is difficult”

352550627_b3e20b405e_m.jpg

The AppleTV seems to be on the surface of things a great platform for Apple to develop. That said, I think they may need to do some convincing to those of use with HDTVs. While photos look great on this device, video was …lacking. Maybe it’s the fact that I was looking at a 42″ HD set from less than 3 feet away, but video looked kind of horrible. I’m not sure if it is the device or the video, but man, it didn’t look good.

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Fanboy Whining

No Macworld would be complete without a little complaining. I know we’ll see it soon, but I really, really wanna see what Leopard looks like. I get that two big products were introduced today, but what’s shipping from today? Typically, we get a little software to play with before the hardware ships, so I’m bummed that we didn’t get iLife ’07 today. I suspect that it is tied to the features in Leopard we haven’t seen yet.

Finally

From a visit to Macworld perspective, Macworld is pretty boring. Folks at home are getting as much of a hands on experience as we are at the show. However, the AppleTV and iPhone launch are the most significant new directions we have seen from Apple in years. Exciting times, indeed.


More pictures from the show

Twas the Night Before Macworld

Monday, January 8th, 2007

Macworldexpologo.jpg

Twas the night before Macworld when all through the town
No MacBook was mooing nor turning brown

At Moscone, nerds were queuing with care
in hopes that Saint Steve would soon be there.

(more…)

A Merry Christmas, Indeed

Wednesday, January 3rd, 2007

wii_ps3.jpg

Ok, they weren’t both for me, but add a TMX Elmo, and I may have had all the hot gifts for Christmas in my trunk.

Loving the Wii

The PS3 was for my brother-in-law, but the Wii (or Wheeeeeeee! as we said over the holidays) was all for me. I don’t want to join the choir in the universal praise the Wii has been getting, but wow! It’s pretty spectacular when you can hand any high tech device to someone who isn’t a gadget nerd and they can immediately use it.

This isn’t to say that the Wii isn’t without faults, but as a first generation device (I guess this counts as a first gen device), the level at which this game system just works is nothing short of amazing.

That said, game developers, you have your work cut out for you. While Wii Sports was spectacular, other games were spectacularly difficult for non-gamers, or even hard core gamers. I’ve found that by turning down the sensitivity on the Wii-mote, it tends to work a bit better for me.

It’s just fun

While the graphics fail to compare to the PS3 or the Xbox 360, we had a lot of fun going bowling, playing tennis and hitting the ball out of the park in baseball. I even had fun playing golf! I can’t emphasize the fun part enough. Often, games feel like another task to complete or a skill to acquire, and frequently feel more like work and less like a game.

Clearly, I can’t recommend this system highly enough to non-gamers, but the Wii also fits as a “supplemental” game system (Wii60 anyone?) for so-called “hard-core” gamers.

Ditching Cable has launched!!

Tuesday, November 28th, 2006

In the last few months, I’ve become more and more disgruntled with my cable service. The cost is high and I simply don’t watch enough television to justify the price. The video quality is poor and the DVR makes me not want to watch television. The selection of video on demand and movies on the “movie” channels are so poor that we also subscribe to Netflix to supplement our entertainment “needs.”

I looked hard at our television viewing habits and realized that most of the tv programming we watch is freely available over the air. There are some exceptions but by and large our “regularly scheduled programming” comes from the big networks. The value proposition is just not there.

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While we do receive HD signals from our provider and that provider is increasing the amount of HD channels on the network, by and large, HD content comes from the major networks. Standard definition, or SD content is so compressed, legitimate download sources are starting to look better.

Crappy picture, lack of selection and high costs leave me with two options.

  1. I could sit and complain about it.
  2. Or, I could ditch cable.

Given all that, we decided to ditch cable and launch this blog to tell you about it.

ditching-cable-logo-smaller.jpg

If you’d like to know more about my little experiment, head on over to Ditching Cable, where I’ll be showing folks how easy it is to get rid of your cable subscription. It’s a little raw right now, but I’ll be spending some of my time fixing it up in the next few weeks.

Social Media Links for Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Tuesday, November 21st, 2006

wetpaint logo.jpgIt’s a Wiki, but Pretty
Wetpaint lands a deal American Express to help power their Executive Travel SkyGuide. The article sites Wetpaint’s leadership in the areas of ease of use and its general lack of ugliness.

Flickr’s Camera Finder
Looking for the perfect camera this holiday season? Let the wisdom of crowds decide for you! Instead of reading reviews, Flickr has exposed the most popular cameras being used by Flickrites. Being a bit of a gadget nerd, I’ve often wondered why Flickr had not created this before.

Yahoo! acquired Bix
Ok, this is a little old, but Yahoo! has added the contest creation site, Bix to their stable of social media properties. This is a fun site that should fit in well with the rest of Yahoo’s social media acquisitions.

Links for Friday, October 20, 2006

Friday, October 20th, 2006

Hands on with the Zune
A little fan boyish, but nevertheless, a first peak at the Zune player from Microsoft. Sharing sounds a little kludgy, but this is a 1st generation concept.

Another point of view on Warcraft
A tale of someone who isn’t addicted to Worlds of Warcraft. I’m not addicted either. I’ve never played it :-).

Jobs’ saucy Newsweek interview

Monday, October 16th, 2006

steve's-business.jpgApparently, sex sells iPods, at least according to Steve Jobs quotes in this week’s Newsweek.

In celebration of the iPod’s fifth anniversary, Steven Levy sat down with Steve Jobs to talk about the appeal of the iPod and a bit about where the iPod is going. Two quotes really stuck out at me as being a bit off message for Steve, but maybe a signal of some new marketing coming down the pike.

First, when asked about the iPod’s cool factor waning due to overexposure, Jobs’ replied, “That’s like saying you don’t want to kiss your lover’s lips because everyone has lips.”

Um, ok.

Then towards the end of the interview when asked about sharing songs on the Zune, he comments:

It takes forever. By the time you’ve gone through all that, the girl’s got up and left! You’re much better off to take one of your earbuds out and put it in her ear. Then you’re connected with about two feet of headphone cable.

I suddenly understand why the iPod is so popular. It helps you get chicks.

Read

Sony Reader review roundup

Thursday, October 12th, 2006

sony-reader.jpgReviews in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal today confirm that the Sony Reader isn’t quite ready yet. Pogue liked it more than Mossberg, but both had reservations.

I saw the Reader back at CES this year and despite my own skepticism, really liked it. The screen was incredible, highly legible and much easier on the eyes than LCD. The technology the Reader is based on, e-ink, has been around for a few years, but there have been no consumer applications until now.

If you’re inclined, here’s a bit from the Times explaining how e-ink works:

Sandwiched between layers of plastic film are millions of transparent, nearly microscopic liquid-filled spheres. White and black particles float inside them, as though inside the world’s tiniest snow globes. Depending on how the electrical charge is applied to the plastic film, either the black or white particles rise to the top of the little spheres, forming crisp patterns of black and white.

In any case, the screen looked great and the device had a lot of promise. Sadly, many of the features (which aren’t core ebook features to most) are either poorly implemented or require Sony’s PC only software. The device, besides reading books from Sony’s store, will also read RSS feeds, pdf and Word files.

And unfortunately, there is the rub. The Reader will only read RSS feeds that Sony has pre-selected and the Reader will only update those feeds once a day.

Pdf files must be re-formated for the Reader to render them properly. From Walt Mossberg’s review:

But the Reader’s claim to display PDF documents proved hollow. In every PDF document I tried, the text was nearly unreadable and the text resizing feature of the Reader didn’t help. Sony concedes that PDF documents work well on the Reader only if they are created for the Reader’s screen size and resolution. But it includes no conversion software to make them fit.

Maybe I’m being too nit-picky. The Reader will fit exactly one of my needs – I read a lot of books, but I never know what I’ll be in the mood to read. The Reader will reduce a stack of books to the size of a paperback and works almost as well as the paper it replaces.

I think I’m still waiting until version 2.

Podcasts broken after 1.2 update?

Monday, September 18th, 2006

So, to be fair to Creative, things aren’t exactly rosy in the land of the iPod either. After numerous reports of a buggy iTunes 7(which I’ve had no difficulty), my 5G iPod isn’t doing so hot.

My iPod crashes when it hits certain podcasts (CNET, Distributing the Future, Engadget) on my iPod. Apparently, I’m not the only one.

These days, this is what I use my iPod for 80% of the time, so I hope Apple fixes this soon.

[Update: A little “Restore” helped this situation out and 2 hours later, I had all my podcasts/music back on the iPod again]