« January 2008 | Main | March 2008 »

February 2008 Archives

February 3, 2008

Sharing Videos on YouTube

Are you sharing your videos online? Each day, on YouTube alone, visitors view hundreds of millions of videos and upload hundreds of thousands of videos.

See my article -- Sharing Videos on YouTube -- for details on how to upload to YouTube, embed clips in your own website, and then go further to customize your videos and how they are presented.

It's hard to imagine in this world of online video, but YouTube was founded only three years ago in February 2005. The power of this idea of user-generated content (UGC) then was validated when Google purchased YouTube in November 2006 for $1.65 billion in stock.

If you'd like to share your videos with the world -- or even with friends and family -- YouTube makes it amazingly easy to upload your clips for visitors to view, and for free.

The latest versions of consumer video editing tools also have built-in Web uploading. For example, CyberLink PowerDirector 6 uploads to YouTube and Pinnacle Studio 11 publishes directly to Yahoo! Video.

Once you've uploaded your clips, you can send visitors to YouTube to play them, or embed them within pages on your own website or blog. But there's more you can do with YouTube, including customizing the look of the player, and restricting clips for private viewing by a specific list of contacts.

While these video sites are a great way to get started, you do give up ownership of your clip and control over how it is presented (for example, YouTube uses an older version of Adobe Flash video compression, so the video quality is not as good as it could be).

Instead, you can prepare and host your clips under your control -- compress them for better quality, and design your own web pages with a Flash video player using tools like Adobe Dreamweaver CS3.

The YouTube / Google Help Center has good explanations of setting up and using YouTube.

See full article for more details -- Sharing Videos on YouTube.

    Find Adobe Flash CS3 Professional on Amazon.com

February 5, 2008

HD on the Desktop: HDV and AVCHD

High-definition video has arrived -- in under-$1000 consumer camcorders, and supported by sub-$100 consumer video software that can run on your desktop.

Camcorders are moving from tape to disc to memory cards, like the Panasonic HDC-DX1 DVD camcorder (back) compared to HDC-SD1 memory card camcorder (front). And new memory-card camcorders -- around the the size of a soda can -- also can shoot HD video.

However, while today's computers can easily handle the demands of standard-definition video, the advent of HD places heavy demands on a standard computer. HD video is big -- some four times bigger than standard def -- so it takes more storage and bandwidth just to move clips around. And HD uses new video compression formats like HDV and AVCHD, which require more processing power even to display the frames, much less to edit your clips.

As a result, consumer software applications again have to play catch-up with the new formats, new demands, and new hardware developments like multi-core processors.

See my article -- HD on the Desktop: HDV and AVCHD: Consumer Software for HD Playback & Editing for more on HD camcorders with these new formats, and working with them using the newest generation of consumer video software for playback and editing.

February 6, 2008

PC Video Trends: Camcorder Formats and Editing Software

Video has never been more accessible for consumers -- and more confusing. It's even easier to use -- and harder to understand and master. It's all about "one-click" simplicity -- and an overwhelming profusion of options.

If you're ready to dive into making own videos, there are two key questions: the type of camcorder to shoot with, and the video editing software to use to create your productions.

Camcorders: There are four main options for digital video camcorders, as Mini-DV tape is augmented by 3-inch mini-DVD disc, hard disk drives (HDD), and solid-state memory (SDHC) -- as well as various combinations of the above.

In particular, solid-state memory is coming on fast as almost the best of all worlds for camcorder storage, offering the instant-access convenience of hard disks, and the easy removability of tape and DVD. And today's higher-capacity formats can hold 80 minutes of high-definition video on an 8 GB card.

Software: Meanwhile, today's consumer video editing software provides amazing capabilities at around a $100 price point -- importing a profusion of formats, real-time editing and effects, export to mobile and Web, and burning DVD and high-def formats. At the same time, these applications also package impressive technology for automating editing, clean-up, enhancement, and music creation.

See my article -- Video Trends 2008: Mobile to High-Def for more on camcorder formats and video editing software.

And for more on high-def camcorders with the new HD video formats, see HD on the Desktop: HDV and AVCHD: Consumer Software for HD Playback & Editing.

February 7, 2008

More Memory for Apple iPod touch and iPhone

More memory for portable media players --
Apple has added a 32 GB model for the iPod touch,
and a 16 GB model for the iPhone.

The iPod touch line now has 3 models:
    32 GB $499, 16 GB $399, and 8 GB $299.

And the iPhone now comes in 2 models:
    16 GB $499 and 8 GB $399.

What can you do with 32 GB of storage?

- Apple estimates you can carry up to 7,000 songs, 25,000 photos, or 40 hours of video.

- SanDisk also has a new 32 GB version of its Sansa View for $349, which it estimates holds 48 two-hour movies or 8,000 songs (using different assumptions for compression formats.

In three just years, flash memory has caught up to hard disk -- The original small media players based on flash memory like the original iPod shuffle from February 2005 had only 512 MB of memory (for $99), rated to hold a whopping 120 songs. And the original iPod from fall 2001 had only a 5 GB hard disk, which grew by early 2005 so the iPod Photo could make the jump from 40 to 60 GB (for $499 and $599).

Also, as announced earlier, the iPod touch adds a $19.99 upgrade with several of the iPhone networked applications omitted from the first product: Mail, Maps, Stocks, Weather, and Notes.

See my Portable Media Players Gallery for details and comparisons.

    Find the Apple iPod touch
    and SanDisk Sansa View on Amazon.com

February 8, 2008

Corsair USB Flash Drives -- Rugged and Secure

Corsair has expanded from its core focus on performance memory modules for high-end workstations and extreme gamers into products for more mainstream consumers. In particular, it offers some interesting options for rugged and secure flash USB drives, recently expanded to 32 GB.

The durable Flash Voyager -- enclosed in an all-rubber housing -- is now available with 32 GB for $229.

The rugged Flash Survivor -- with aluminum case, shock dampening collar and water resistant to 200M -- is now available with 32 GB for $249.

The Flash Padlock -- with hardware-secured lock and customizable PIN -- is available with 1, 2, and 4 GB, starting at $33.

See my Portable Storage Gallery for details and comparisons on memory cards, USB drives, and hard disk storage.

    Find the Corsair Flash Voyager, Flash Survivor
    and Corsair Flash Padlock on Amazon.com

February 10, 2008

SoundTech LightSnake Audio Cables

The SoundTech LightSnake audio cables are cool, and sensible. If you need to capture analog audio -- for example from a microphone, or a guitar or other instrument -- these are a "soundcard in a cable."

Just plug one end into your analog audio source, and the other into a USB port on your computer, and the cable delivers digital audio, using its embedded analog-to-digital converter. The audio is CD quality -- 16 bit, 48 / 44.1 KHz sampling rate, with audio signal boost. The cable is 10 feet, shielded, and as a bonus the ends glow green when it is connected, and flash when data is being transferred.

SoundTech has expanded its line of LightSnake cables -- there's an Instrument to USB Cable with 1/4" mono plug, a Microphone to USB Cable with XLR connector (though no phantom power draw from the USB port), plus MIDI, stereo RCA, and many more lighted cables.

These cables are also bundled in several interesting products:

- The SoundTech Podcasting Kit, includes a high-quality professional microphone, tripod microphone desk stand, the LightSnake XLR Microphone Cable, and Sony Acid XMC software with 1-year Acidplanet Prozone membership -- for $129.

- The SoundTech Vocal Trainer features Carry-A-Tune Technologies SingingCoach software to help singers of all levels to improve their abilities in the privacy of their own home. The kit also includes a professional microphone, tripod microphone desk stand, and the SoundTech LightSnake XLR Microphone cable -- for $89.

SoundTech also announced the Ediface Digital Guitar Interface, a pick-up and converter that attaches directly to a guitar and promises to deliver digital MIDI data, targeted for "early 2008."

See my Portable Audio Accessories Gallery for details and comparisons.

    Find the SoundTech LightSnake Instument Cable,
    and SoundTech Podcasting Kit on Amazon.com

February 13, 2008

Gibson Robot Guitar

I don't play the guitar, but I have to say that one of the coolest things at the recent CES conference was the Gibson Robot Guitar, which was demoed in a big tent out in front of the Convention Center.

You can appreciate it simply as a clever product concept -- and as a very nice bit of engineering.

No, the Robot Guitar doesn't play itself, or act as your virtual rodie. Instead, it tunes itself -- you press the control, and the tuning keys up at the top of the neck turn, by themselves, to adjust the tuning.

This is obviously very useful to set up the guitar before a performance, and is an incredibly useful aid when changing strings.

Guitar players also need to change the tuning for different songs in a set, so instead of swapping to a different guitar, they can select one of six presets (several user-defined), strum, and the guitar sets up to the new tuning in seconds.

The engineering elegance comes from adding these components to a guitar without disrupting its feel or balance. Gibson started with a Les Paul guitar, added some small electronics in the back of the body, and one Master Control Knob on the front to select the tuning functions. The motorized tuners are constructed in a lightweight alloy housing, and are not any heavier than common tuning keys.

But what about the wires? Did Gibson need to drill a hole up the neck to run wiring up to each of the tuners? Nah -- If you think about it, guitars already have wire strings. So the control signals, and the power, actually run up the strings to the keys!

Gibson's limited edition first-run Robot Guitar shipped in December, for $2,499. Enjoy!

See my Portable Audio Accessories Gallery for details.

February 16, 2008

New Kingston USB Drives -- DataTraveler 110, HyperX, and Style

Portable storage is getting much more interesting, with USB "thumb" drives now reaching 8 and 16 GB, and even to 32 GB (see the Corsair line for around $229).

The Kingson Technology line of USB drives includes USB memory card readers, some combined with a flash drive, plus the family of DataTraveler USB flash drives that span mini sizes to raw speed to fun styles (see previous posts).

The DataTraveler Mini is a tiny drive that's not much bigger than a USB connector, and also includes Migo software to synchronize your personal workspace to run on public machines (1 GB around $12, to 4 GB $32).

The DataTraveler Mini Fun is a colorful mini drive in stackable blocks (1 GB $12, to 4 GB $37).

The new budget DataTraveler 110 drive has a capless design with a retractable USB connector (1 GB $12 to 8 GB $104).

For faster data transfer, the new ultrafast DataTraveler HyperX has zippy 30 MB/sec. read and 20 MB/sec. write times (2 GB $74 to 8 GB $266).

Or to keep track of your data, the new DataTraveler Style features side insert "skins" to identify and customize your drives (1 GB $19, to 8 GB $116).

See my Portable Storage Gallery for details and comparisons on memory cards, USB drives, and hard disk storage.

    Find the Kingston DataTraveler 110, DataTraveler HyperX
    and DataTraveler Style on Amazon.com

February 17, 2008

Lexar JumpDrive USB Flash Drives

The Lexar Media line of JumpDrive USB flash drives also includes models focused on a variety of needs, including size, security, durability, and speed. Several drives also have an external capacity meter that displays the percentage utilization of the drive -- even when the drive is not plugged in.

The small JumpDrive FireFly is available in stylish colors (256 MB $14, to 8 GB $149 list).

The JumpDriveSecure II Plus includes security software and capacity meter (512 MB $24, to 8 GB $159).

The premium JumpDrive products then include the Secure II security software, PowerToGo software to bring your Windows environment on your drive, and are Windows Vista compatible / enhanced for Windows ReadyBoost.

The spiffy JumpDrive Mercury with a brushed metal look is rated at 15 MB/s read and 10 MB/s write speeds, with capacity meter (1 GB $34, 2 GB $59).

The more compact JumpDrive 360 has a capless design with rotating metal jacket, and is rated at 15 MB/s read and 10 MB/s write speed (1 GB $34, 2 GB $59).

And the zippy JumpDrive Lightning is rated at 30 MB/s read and 21 MB/s write speed (1 GB $39, to 8 GB $179).

(Lexar is a wholly owned subsidiary of Micron Technology, and also supplies consumer memory upgrades under the Crucial brand.)

See my Portable Storage Gallery for details and comparisons on memory cards, USB drives, and hard disk storage.

    Find the Lexar JumpDrive Firefly
    and Lexar JumpDrive Mercury on Amazon.com

February 19, 2008

Apple iPod shuffle Drops Price, Adds Capacity

Apple has followed up on adding more storage for the high-end iPhone and iPod touch by also updating the small end of the iPod line.

The iPod shuffle with 1 GB is now $49 (down from $79) , and there's a new 2 GB model for $69.

This brings Apple's pricing closer to the range of competitive products from companies like Creative and SanDisk (though price really isn't the primary attraction of the iPod line...). -- See my Portable Media Players Gallery for details and comparisons.

    Find the Apple iPod shuffle on Amazon.com

February 20, 2008

Imation Pivot Plus USB Drive Adds Hardware Security

In other news on USB flash drives, the Imation Clip and Pivot drives are designed for durability on the go, with tough casings and sturdy key rings to carry on backpacks, shoulder bags or belt loops.

The Imation Clip is water resistant, and tucks the drive into a soft rubberized casing (around 2 GB $22, 4 GB $68).

The Imation Pivot has a, yes, pivoting design -- The drive tucks in to the protective cap, and rotates out for use. In January, the line was extended to 8 GB, and added Windows Vista ReadyBoost compatibility (1 GB $29, to 8 GB $199).

The new Imation Pivot Plus is the same design, with the addition of built-in hardware security -- 256-bit AES hardware encryption integrated into the drive controller to protect your data (1 GB $69, to 8 GB $249).

The key point here is that the entire drive is protected -- You simply can't store unencrypted content on it. In fact, you can't even access the drive unless you enter the password.

The drive actually is displayed in Windows Explorer as two drives: a read-only CD drive that contains the encryption software, and a second writable removable disk -- which is not mounted until it is unlocked.

The Imation Encryption Manager Plus software on the drive launches automatically under Windows, and installs a driver that permits the drive to be accessed. You can set the drive up with a User password, or configure it in Corporate mode with an additional Administrator password to manage a collection of drives.

With hardware encryption, all the content is always encrypted, so you need not worry as much when you (inevitably) lose a drive.

See my Portable Storage Gallery for details and comparisons on memory cards, USB drives, and hard disk storage.

    Find the Imation Clip, Imation Pivot,
    and Imation Pivot Plus on Amazon.com

February 22, 2008

The Tornado For Easy File Transfer

Transferring files between machines should be easy in these days of Ethernet and wireless networking -- but it's still a pain to fuss with setting permissions, and too often network sharing just doesn't work for mysterious reasons.

In the old days we shared files by connecting two machines with a serial or parallel cable, and used software like Laplink or Symantec PC Anywhere to browse and sync files and folders. In today's networked world these tools are still going strong, now also with remote access and remote control capabilities across the Internet. Laplink also offers PC Mover for migrating to a new Windows PC, not just moving your files, but also installed programs and settings. PC Mover works across networks, USB cables, DVD/CD media, and still good old parallel cables.

But these solutions are still overkill for quickly transferring data between two machines -- you still need to worry about installing and configuring software that you really only intend to use one time.

Which brings us to The Tornado from Data Drive Thru -- a pocket-sized all-in-one file transfer device designed for quick and easy use.

The basic Tornado is palm-sized (4.8 oz), and contains two retractable USB cables that extend to a total length of over 4 feet. Just press the button to zip the cords back into the unit.

But that's just the physical connection -- what about the software?

The real utility of The Tornado is that the software is built in to the unit. There's no separate disc, no installation -- The software simply auto-runs, displaying full-screen browser windows on both systems. You can browse between both systems, and then just drag and drop to copy files and folders, cut and paste to move data, and delete files and folders as well. The transfer is bi-directional -- you can use either system to move files in either direction. (You can also set the local system as read-only to avoid accidents.)

When you plug The Tornado in to a USB port on a PC, Windows mounts it as a removable drive that happens to contain some software. The program, straightforwardly named The Tornado File Transfer Tool, then auto-runs from the device. The software starts very quickly, with no loading delay, and then establishes the connection within a couple of seconds. The File Transfer Tool displays a simple file browsing interface, with expandable folders on the left and file icons or details on the right. Transfers then run quickly over the fast USB 2.0 interface, although it would be nice if the status window displayed some indication of progress towards completion.

The Tornado is available for around $49 for Windows 98SE, ME, 2000, XP, and Vista. A new version, the iTornado, is due out around March for around $79 and will work with both Macs and Windows systems.

The Tornado also is available bundled with PC Eraser software, also from Data Drive Thru, which wipes files from hard drives using U.S. Dept. of Defense standards ($59 bundle, $29 software only).

See my Portable Storage Gallery for details and comparisons on memory cards, USB drives, and hard disk storage.

    Find The Tornado on Amazon.com

February 24, 2008

NewerTech USB Universal Drive Adapter

Got some extra disk drives? As hard disks and optical drives grow quickly in storage capacity and transfer speed, it's becoming more common to swap out drives, including 3.5" hard drives for desktops, 2.5" laptop disks, and 5.25" optical CD/DVD drives.

But whether you've swapped out a drive, or saved a drive from an old system, there's still the problem of how to access its contents, whether to extract some files or to reformat it before passing it on.

The NewerTech USB 2.0 Universal Drive Adapter provides a great solution. It's a kit that connects up to external drives to connect them though USB to a computer.

Start with the adapter unit, and use the appropriate connectors and cables to connect it up to a variety of IDE, ATA, and SATA drives (including power). Then just hook it up to your computer like any other removable USB drive (with Windows 2000/XP, Mac OS 9.2 or higher, and Linux 2.4.X).

The new version of the adapter adds connection status LEDs to indicate connection and disk activity (USB, IDE/ATA, SATA). It's available for around $29.

See my Portable Storage Gallery for details and comparisons on memory cards, USB drives, and hard disk storage.

February 25, 2008

Verizon Wireless Coupe - Simple Cell Phone

Smartphones are hot, combining phone and email and Web and media -- There's the excitement for the Apple iPhone, addiction to the RIM BlackBerry, patient fans of the Palm Treo, and the new promise of the Google phone. And regular cell phones are going multimedia, with music, video, and now TV phones.

But some people don't need all that stuff, and instead just want a straightforward phone for making occasional calls. All you need could be a simple, easier to use phone, avoiding the zillions of tiny buttons and confusing icons crowded on a small display. But at the same time, you don't want a dumbed-down ugly phone either.

The Verizon Wireless Coupe mobile phone targets this sweet spot of a simple but useful phone. It's a flip phone, with slightly larger keys and a more readable display, plus extra dedicated buttons for 911 and other important numbers.

The phone itself fits in your palm -- small but not tiny. There's a small monochrome display on the front that displays the time, date, signal strength, and battery power. It lights up when you open the phone, or to show the number of an incoming call.

Flip open the phone to see the larger main display, in color. As welcome help to old (or young) eyes, the text on the display is a bit larger than other phones, the keys are a bit larger, and even the print in the Getting Started and User Guide documentation is larger. None of this is blatantly oversize, but the keys and text are all a bit larger and therefore easier to read and use.

Simplified interface ...

Continue reading "Verizon Wireless Coupe - Simple Cell Phone" »

February 26, 2008

Verizon Wireless / LG Voyager Multimedia Smartphone

While the Verizon Coupe is a simple phone for people who don't need fancy features (see previous post), the Verizon Wireless / LG Voyager Multimedia Smartphone is the opposite: a phone for people who revel in messaging, music, and multimedia.

The Voyager (technically the LG VX10000) can be used in two ways: keep it closed as a flat phone with a colorful vertical touch screen, or open it to reveal a horizontal screen with a full keyboard. And it has a 2 megapixel autofocus camera and a microSD memory expansion port.

The outer display provides colorful icons for full access with to the main menu, shortcut menu, phone calling with touch-screen keypad, and music and video playback. When you tap the screen, the "VibeTouch" technology provides tactile feedback by vibrating briefly.

The inner display in landscape orientation is better for interactive activities like text messaging (with the keyboard) and Web browsing over Verizon's high-speed EV-DO wireless broadband service.

The inner display is not a touch screen -- you use cursor keys on the keyboard to navigate. Both screens are 2.81 inch color LCDs, 400 x 240 resolution.

The Voyager as a media player ...

Continue reading "Verizon Wireless / LG Voyager Multimedia Smartphone" »

February 29, 2008

Ultimate Ears Triple.fi 10 Pro Headphones

(with Brian Dixon)

Earphones are convenient and easy to carry, but you still give up a lot of performance compared to higher-quality headphones. Or maybe not ...

Ultimate Ears develops custom molded professional ear monitors for professional / touring musicians around the world -- claiming an over 80% share of the professional ear monitor market.

And the company has developed a range of products for the broader consumer enthusiast market, for users with a highly educated ear and discerning music taste.

We tried out the Ultimate Ears Triple.fi 10 Pro personal earphones and were really impressed -- which should be expected with $399 earphones.

These actually contain three individual speakers for each ear, with a crossover circuit that directs specific frequencies to dedicated speakers -- low-end for bass, mid-range for vocals, and high for treble.

The result is a wonderful clarity in the sound -- so we can dinstinguish the components of the music -- the kick drum in a rock song, the high strings in an orchestral piece, even the squeak of the guitar string was more distinct in a softer Folk song.

Even better, the clarity also seems to help separate the stereo field, so we really can hear a better stereo representation and interesting panning effects -- We can be convinced that we're inside the sound.

The earpieces also provide up to -26 dB passive noise isolation when properly inserted with the correct size ear tips. But Ultimate Ears carefully warns in the user guide that you should be careful to protect your hearing from loud volumes, and recommends not listening for more than an hour a day.

The result is earphones that provide a clear and intense listening experience that is closer to good headphones or even studio monitors. We were able to hear details like compression artifacts in aggressively encoded MP3 files, and subtleties in a mix that we did not necessarily notice on other specific monitors.

But who would use them ...

Continue reading "Ultimate Ears Triple.fi 10 Pro Headphones" »

Manifest Tech Site

About February 2008

Entries posted to Manifest Tech Blog in February 2008, listed from oldest to newest.

Previous: January 2008

Next: March 2008

Main Page