Archives For Gadgets

Tech On TV: Ghost Whisperer

Dave Zatz —  February 9, 2009

Once again, I’m swiping inspired by Engadget’s Screen Grabs series to cover an interesting mix of tech on TV. I’ve never seen Ghost Whisperer and don’t know what it’s about beyond the title. However, I was on a call with the television playing in the background when the relatively ancient XM SkyFi and boombox (upper left) caught my eye. Also, I was surprised to see a MacBook Pro in this scene… with a sticker hiding Apple’s iconic logo. On the other end of Jennifer Love Hewitt‘s flip phone conversation appears to be a Palm Treo 750 (Windows Mobile) – which was my primary handset for about 6 months in 2007.

We knew Amazon Video on Demand was headed to Roku‘s media streamer ($99) early this year. And now, via their forums, we have word that the service has entered private beta. I had hoped Amazon VOD functionality was hidden within the recent 1.5 software update, however it’s rolled into a more significant 2.0 upgrade. Which potentially means a longer wait. Although, the refresh may also contain YouTube access. Look closely at the screengrab above for some (possible) visual confirmation. I can’t say YouTube excites me all that much. But combined with Netflix and Amazon, Roku’s negotiated quite the impressive trifecta for such a tiny, inexpensive box. But what I really want to know (still) is: Will Amazon VOD be offered in HD?

While catching up on Secret Diary of a Call Girl, and inspired by Engadget’s periodic Screen Grabs column, a few bits of tech caught my eye last night. Season 2 is just getting started (in the US, anyway), and the first thing that struck me is the opening sequence resembling the (former?) Zune desktop software – colors and swirls. Episode 2 also pretty prominently features a Nokia phone and a Macbook Air.

Along with Engadget, I caught the OQO mini notebook on Lie to Me this week. However, with all spottings like these, it’s safe to assume a certain percent are paid placements of one sort or another. For example, we know OQO has worked with television and film marketing firm Eclipse in the past to get their wares on TV. (This is the kind of advertising I can tolerate!)

All pics can be enlarged:

Will Your TiVo Tweet?

Todd Barnard —  January 30, 2009

TiVo programmer Ryan Rose has hacked his washing machine to send text message notifications over Twitter when his clothes are done. He did this for a practical reason, to prevent forgetting about his laundry which might sit in the damp washer and mildew. You can follow the washing machine’s activity on Twitter (412 people, including myself, already do) to be instantly informed when Mr. Rose’s laundry is done. Why would you want to? More on that later… Here’s video of “PiMPY” in action:

I’m a big fan of Activity Streams such as Twitter and FriendFeed. Once current user contributions across all the social web sites are freely distributed, with an emphasis on privacy, a new web era will arrive. My vision originates from Professor David Gelernter‘s “Life Streams” as defined in his 1993 book Mirror Worlds: The Day Software Puts the Universe in a Shoebox – How It Will Happen and What It Will Mean.

Apparently I am not alone in my opinion that Activity Streams are the next big thing. Some of the most influential people in social media (MySpace, Google, Plaxo, Comcast, Nokia just to name a few) recently attended a DiSo meeting to discuss the future of how their user’s activity will be published. (Ian Kennedy, formerly of Yahoo and now head of Nokia’s Ovi service, kindly recorded the DiSo meeting using his phone.) One of the points discussed during the event was that activity streams are not just generated by people but that machines, like PiMPY, can also broadcast what they’re doing. Mr. Rose’s place of employment is noteworthy, and it got me thinking about the possibilities of machines with their own activity streams – particularly TiVo. Continue Reading…

Sneak-peek screenshot of new FrameChannel UI due in February

Chances are reasonably high that you’ve never heard of FrameChannel. Wireless photo frames are still new in consumer adoption terms, and the idea of a content provider for these frames is a bit counter-intuitive. (Aren’t you just supposed to put your own pics on them?) Nonetheless, FrameChannel is expanding rapidly. At CES, FrameChannel was represented in about twenty different booths, and over the holiday season, ten different companies sold digital frames with access to FrameChannel content. Since its founding two years ago, parent company FrameMedia has inked deals with 30-40 providers including Reuters, Getty Images,, WeatherBug, and at least one financial news aggregator. Want RSS feeds of your own photos from one the many online photo sites? You can get that with FrameChannel too.

FrameMedia has a good head start in what promises to be an interesting new media space. Think of a customized online portal, and then picture it on a frame in your living room. Microsoft’s interested, and has its own beta FrameIt service (more on that later). There’s also reason for other large aggregators like Yahoo and Google to get in on the game. But, for right now, FrameChannel appears to be ahead of everyone. And FrameMedia has a plan for it to stay that way.

In talking to COO and co-founder Jon Feingold last week, the key to FrameChannel’s future success is both distribution and the ability to deliver content intelligently. For example, if you’re tagged in a photo on Facebook, or there’s a live game happening with one of your favorite sports teams, FrameMedia’s goal is to have FrameChannel deliver that data when it’s important to you, i.e. in the moment, but probably not so much in a week, or two, or three. FrameMedia is also laser focused on integrating with as many photo sharing sites and social networks as possible. The company wants to make sure you can access your content no matter where it’s stored, in addition to the best of everything else on the Web. Continue Reading…

ZNF ‘Round The Web

Dave Zatz —  January 29, 2009

Leaving comments across the blogosphere…

Which HD video Web service is the best?
Still shots seem kind of irrelevant when talking video. But another good measure might be to test different source HD formats and see how these sites do reencoding them. Upload limits are also an important consideration. But possibly most important, to me anyway, when choosing a video site is trying to figure out who’s still going to be around in a year or 5 years. Cloud storage and sharing is great, as long as the company doesn’t shut their doors and take our content with them. Or pull some silly crap like Yahoo killing their original photo sharing site. Lastly, YouTube has become a pawn – takedown notices come in, your video is removed (or the audio track, or ads are embedded), and won’t provide contact details of the claimant so you can determine what exactly infringes.

Build Your Own Amazon Kindle 2
Given the amount of books (or newspapers) I read, $350 or $400 is a bit much. However, including a better web browser or RSS reader would definitely get my attention. But I’m not sure they’d want to without also implementing a monthly data fee. I’d rather see an iPhone Kindle app, despite the small and bright screen, because it’s a device I already own and Amazon is offering great rates on digital editions of their books.

AT&T’s CV Leaves Me Feeling Lost

Is this AT&T licensing MobiTV or is this a separate initiative? The best mobile video is still serving yourself via a Slingbox or Hava placeshifter. Requires more tech skills to set up and may or may not be cheaper in the long run (if you already have a data plan, it probably is), but you get everything you already pay for (and hopefully record) at home. Regarding your quality concerns, MediaFLO service is probably the best subscription service. But it’s limited live channels and limited regions are a drawback.

Yahoo Mail Chases Gmail with IM and SMS Features
Another user of Yahoo Plus for $20 or $25/yr. NO ads in the interface or signature and BETTER spam filtering than the free account. Well worth it in my opinion, been paying for years. The only thing I really envy Gmail users for is IMAP. I dislike Gmail’s organization paradigm and prefer good, ole fashioned folders. And the UI doesn’t appeal to me. Although their new themes open possibilities. I’ve been using Yahoo Mail since like 1999, and that’s the biggest reason I probably wouldn’t change. But man do I need IMAP, Yahoo!

Opera Mini 4.2 for Android goes gold

The video thing is significant… since I thought the Android G1 shipped without a player! Wonder what files/codecs/enclosures it’s capable of handling. Hm.

4,000 Plugins
All the more reason for a tighter framework that somehow limits rogue or poorly coded plugins from impacting WordPress, the db, or the server. An early build of Disqus 2.0 duplicated 10,000+ comments in my database, for example. And that was unintentional. I’ve had other scripts that churn and churn, spawning processes that aren’t cleaned up, etc. Wonder what someone with an agenda could accomplish. Which is why I want things like Super Cache in the code, so I know it’s been tested and retested by lots of folks. Oh yeah, I love and depend on WordPress. So don’t take this the wrong way. Shoot, I’d happily pay for it if you charged.

ZNF ‘Round The Web

Dave Zatz —  January 27, 2009

Leaving comments across the blogosphere…

Reach Your Broadband Cap With Comcast Backup Service
I’m still waiting for a way to track my data usage from their cable modem. Whatever software utility they’re working on doesn’t account for my Xbox, TiVo Amazon, and Netflix Roku VOD. However, I can’t bash Comcast too much… 250GB/month looks absolutely mammoth and generous compared to Time Warner Cable’s meager 40GB cap.

Video of Windows 7 UI on a netbook
James, don’t know if you read that YouTube embeds now have a HQ (high quality) toggle right in the video itself. It may not be HD resolution/size, but I don’t need to leave your site to see sharper video. While the video is playing, hover over that triangle in the lower right, click on HQ, and the better stream arrives.

Wireless Subsidies Reversed: Verizon’s $249 Femtocell
I’d rather just pay $200 to switch carriers to one that provides decent coverage throughout the house. A new gig I’m contemplating has poor AT&T coverage, which may line up nicely with moving to a Palm Pre on Sprint.

Are Bloggers Underutilizing PR People?
There’s still a certain amount of secretiveness amongst some PR people/firms. Not sure if they’re old school or what, but at least some seem adversarial with little to no info given. The firms/folks who engage in a dialogue are so much more enjoyable to deal with. And inevitably brings them better coverage, because we’re more informed. It’s really like any other relationship, both sides have to work at it and meet in the middle. Some can pull it off, others are incapable or unwilling. I guess the final point is that when you have so many negative experiences, and I’ve had many, you’re less likely to reach out to the (good) firms for comment, assistance, conversation.

Google Street View Captures Your Shame
Yeah, this totally lost its appeal when I also discovered it was a planned event with the Google Maps team. Impromptu nerdism is much more entertaining than a coordinated gaggle of nerds performing on cue.