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March 2007 Archives

March 1, 2007

Our Digital Life

Consumers love portable devices and digital media -- and this excitement is demonstrated by the annual DigitalLife show, returning to the Javits Center in New York on September 27 - 30, 2007. Plus, it's joined by DigitalLife Chicago, June 8 - 10, 2007 -- www.digitallife.com.

Last year's New York show in mid-October was the third annual, and was again crowded with some 50,000 kids, families, and tech fans of all persuasions.

Key trends for the 2006 show included mobility and gaming, plus an emphasis on security and safety for home computing. But the real action was on the show floor, with the crowds visiting booths exploring hot areas including PCs, digital imaging, mobile media, storage, and communications.

However, content and delivery were trumped by fashion and flash in the large Accessories Zone area. And all this paled in comparison to the excitement of gaming -- which took up easily a third of the show floor.

The bottom line is not just that it's a new world out there; it is a very different audience. Our baby boomer perceptions are being outmoded by the gamer generation, as described by John Beck and Mitchell Wade in their book, Got Game: How the Gamer Generation is Reshaping Business Forever (hardcover at Amazon.com).

Yes, gaming is the formative experience of this new generation -- to the extent that rock and roll was to the baby boomers. (Mario and Sonic now trump the Beatles and the Rolling Stones!)

Full Article: Our Digital Life

March 5, 2007

Home Networked Storage: Infrant ReadyNAS NV+

Our digital lives result in an inevitable accumulation of electronic data -- more and more files and folders, and bigger and bigger files, especially audio and video clips. We'd like to keep these these collections managed and organized, but as they grow our files spread out among multiple disks and machines. As a result, not only is it hard to find stuff, but our data is at risk, since we're typically sloppy about backing up. In addition, as our homes get more networked with multiple devices (desktop, laptop, handheld), we'd like our files to not only be organized and archived, but also immediately accessible and sharable among all our devices.

One good answer to this growing need is to bring the enterprise concept of NAS (Network Attached Storage) to the home and small office. Instead of hanging multiple disks off networked computers, you can bring them together and attach them directly to the network as a large shared server. Then you can collect your files on a single big device, protect them with built-in RAID redundancy, secure them as desired with passwords, and then share them with both computer devices and home media players.

Thanks to the extensive review by Brian Dipert on his EDN blog, I became interested in the Infrant Technologies ReadyNAS product line, and finally bought into this vision late last year with the new Infrant ReadyNAS NV+, a compact but loaded server with up to 3 TB of networked RAID storage.

And it's been wonderful -- unlike too many other devices with set-up, configuration, and networking problems and glitches, the ReadyNAS NV+ just works. The volumes reliably mount as external networked devices under Windows networking (with and without passwords), so I can run daily backups to the disk and share photo and other media files within the home. So refreshing -- Why does this have to be so hard sometimes?



Continue reading "Home Networked Storage: Infrant ReadyNAS NV+" »


March 6, 2007

Blue-Laser Blues: Getting HD video to disc

All we want is HD video on disc! It's bad enough to have the confusion of yet another messy format war between the Blu-ray Disc and HD DVD formats. But the industry is further dampening the promise of these formats by failing to learn from the hard-fought experience of the early days of DVD on PCs. Instead, the same frustrations in just being able to play movies, and burn and share content are back again -- and further aggravated by the confusions created by aggressive copy protection.

   

As a result, the industry's best customers (the enthusiasts and early adopters of high-def video (that might even be useful in promoting the formats) are actually being blocked from being able to work (or even play) with the new formats.

For example, an independent production house here in Princeton is eager to author their new HD production to Blu-ray disc, but has continually run into brick walls. They're not part of the in-crowd that are authoring studio films with $100,000 tools, but they've been trying to work with manufacturers and integrators and buying Blu-ray software, burners, and players.

However, the first tools only created discs with no menus, and while some new tools create menus, today's set-top players refuse to play the recorded discs. Oops! Meanwhile, the tools and players are only starting to provide the ability to save the cost of burning expensive discs by working from folders on hard disc. And the format itself does not support the intermediate path of sharing short-form HD material on DVD.

Why is this so hard to understand? Well, here's an attempt to write down my rant on the problem, and explain what's needed to address it.



Continue reading "Blue-Laser Blues: Getting HD video to disc" »


March 9, 2007

Audio Editing for Video: Adobe Soundbooth

Video editors are focused on video, and yet we all realize the importance of audio in setting the emotional tone of a production. But what's the best way to work with audio within a video production environment? You can capture, edit, and enhance audio clips within video editing tools like Adobe Premiere Pro, but these really are designed for assembling, mixing, and enhancing a production across multiple tracks, and really are not focused on preparing the individual clips.

To address this need, Adobe acquired the Cool Edit Pro audio editor from Syntrillium Software in May 2003, and soon integrated it into the Adobe Video Collection suite, renamed as Adobe Audition. But as Audition has evolved and grown as a powerful tool for audio editors, it has expanded beyond the basic needs of video editors to just clean and enhance audio clips.

So Adobe has taken the next step and developed a new product, Adobe Soundbooth, building the key features of Audition into a more focused tool for the needs of creative professionals. Soundbooth is all about quick and efficient preparation of audio tracks -- recording, editing, cleaning -- but without the need for training in sound production.

Adobe will then include Soundbooth -- for Windows and also Intel-based Macintosh -- in the new Adobe Production Studio bundle, due to be officially announced as part of the new Adobe Creative Suite 3 on March 27, 2007. Meanwhile, Audition will live on, as Adobe plans to continue to develop it as a standalone product for audio professionals working in markets such as broadcast radio.

Even more interestingly, Adobe has started releasing preliminary versions of some of its products as public betas through its Adobe Labs website -- including Soundbooth for Windows and Mac, and the new Adobe Photoshop CS3 for the Macintosh.

So let's take a look at the new Adobe Soundbooth, as a sneak preview of Adobe's big announcement later this month.



Continue reading "Audio Editing for Video: Adobe Soundbooth" »


March 18, 2007

Mobile Internet: Verizon EV-DO

Wi-Fi is great for wireless broadband Internet access in your home or office (see the Wireless Alliance. Wi-Fi on the road is more problematical -- Libraries and coffee houses may offer free Wi-Fi, while hotels and airports often have rather expensive for-pay services. And security is an issue in public hotspots -- free open services are wide open with no security, and the first thing you have to do with for-pay services is to broadcast your credit card number. So each time you stop and open your laptop, you first have to figure out the requirements of that local environment, find the right service, possibly enter special ID information, and then sign up for some period of service.

For example, when visiting a hospital in Boston I was thrilled to find free Wi-Fi service, which mostly worked great -- on the weekend. But during the week it became unusable as the demand increased, requiring multiple attempts to connect and even just check e-mail. Back in the hotel, we had the option of wired or wireless Internet connections, at $10.45 a day -- for each. You could not switch back and forth between the two different services, so you could use the possibly faster, more reliable, and more secure wired connection in the hotel room, but then pay extra to access the wireless connection in the hotel lobby and conference rooms.

Thus the attraction of mobile Internet access through cellular data services. Cell towers are everywhere, and can provide a more secure connection without easy snooping from your neighbors in the coffee house, plus cell-based service breaks the bounds of finding individual local hotspots to provide ubiquitous coverage anywhere in range of cellular coverage -- not just specific locations, but in any hotel or restaurant, or even on the go on a train or the back seat of a car.

To check out mobile Internet on my laptop, Verizon Wireless kindly loaned me a Sierra Wireless AirCard 595 to try out their enhanced EV-DO Rev. A service on a recent trip It delivered the promised DSL-like data rates for my notebook computer -- download to over 1,000 kbps and upload to around 720 kbps (kilobits per second).



Continue reading "Mobile Internet: Verizon EV-DO" »


Verizon G'zOne Rugged Phone

Here's something different to combine the rugged lifestyle with all those cool wireless phone services -- camera, mobile Internet, video and audio downloads, wireless navigation, and more -- the Verizon Wireless / Casio G'zOne Type-V rugged handset (pronounced "G-Z-one").

This is a fully-packed wireless phone with speakerphone and 2 megapixel camera, in a mil-spec case, water and shock and dust resistant, and designed to withstand temperatures over 140ºF and submersion in one meter of water.

The basic design of the G'zOne is a clamshell phone, a little thicker than slim phones at 5.3 ounces, and augmented with a bumper guard at the bottom. It also includes a stopwatch and LED flashlight on the outer face.

The G'zOne is available from Verizon for $99.99 (two-year contract). Take it along on your next adventure -- just be sure to stay in range of a cell tower, and check that the ports and battery area are securely closed before you try dunking it...

See more in the Mobile Communications Gallery, under Mobile Internet and Multimedia.

March 21, 2007

JVC In-Ear Noise Canceling Headphones

Following up on my earlier post on the JVC Noise Canceling Headphones with folding over-ear design (model HA-NC80), JVC has released its first In-Ear Noise Canceling Headphones (model HA-NCX77, $79.95).

These are rated to cancel up to 80% of the background noise (more than 14dB at 120Hz), in combination with a tight seal from the earpieces. As a bonus, they work fine as headphones even when unpowered, and include a helpful Monitor switch to turn off audio playback so you can listen to important announcements.

In my testing, especially riding on a train, these headphones clearly dropped the level of the background environment, providing a quieter and more peaceful experience to focus on the music.



Continue reading "JVC In-Ear Noise Canceling Headphones" »


March 27, 2007

Adobe Creative Suite 3

Adobe's Creative Suite 3 was just announced today -- March 27, 2007-- at the formal launch event in New York City.

This is a huge upgrade of the Adobe Creative product line, with design and development tools spanning the creative workflow -- to create, deliver, and play back -- across print, web, video, interactive and mobile.

Beyond the upgrades to all the Adobe (and now Macromedia) applications, the tools are even more tightly integrated, especially with extensive support for Flash design and export from Adobe's recent acquisition of Macromedia. CS3 also marks the return of the video Production tools to the Macintosh platform.

CS3 includes some 13 applications, bundled in 6 suites (Design, Web, and Production), plus 6 additional technology components:

New versions of the Adobe Design tools
- Photoshop CS3, Illustrator CS3, InDesign CS3 -- Plus new Photoshop CS3 Extended
New versions of the Adobe video Production tools
- After Effects CS3 Professional, Premiere Pro CS3, Encore CS3
- Plus new Soundbooth CS3 (replacing Audition)
- Plus new tools from the Serious Magic acquisition
- OnLocation CS3, Ultra CS3 (Windows only)
Plus integrated Web tools from the Macromedia acquisition
- Flash CS3 Professional, Dreamweaver CS3, Contribute CS3, Fireworks CS3
Plus Acrobat 8 Professional
Plus additional bundled technology components
- Adobe Bridge CS3, Adobe Acrobat Connect, Adobe Stock Photos
- Adobe Version Cue CS3, Adobe Device Central CS3, Adobe Dynamic Link

The Design and Web applications ship in April 2007, and the Production tools ship in the third quarter 2007.

For more, including a summary chart of the suites and applications, see the full article:
Adobe Creative Suite 3: Summary.

    Check out Adobe Creative Suite 3 on Amazon.com.

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About March 2007

Entries posted to Manifest Tech Blog in March 2007, listed from oldest to newest.

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