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February 2009 Archives

February 1, 2009

Sony DSC-G3 Wi-Fi Digital Camera

Someday all our devices will be linked wirelessly, so our growing collections of data and media can be automatically synced with whatever device we happen to be using. Until then, we're stuck with manually cabling devices together and then selecting files to copy and sync between them.

This isolation is particularly irritating when you're on a trip shooting photos, and you'd like to share them with family and friends at home and elsewhere. One interim solution is to use the Eye-Fi Wi-Fi SD card (see previous post) to add wireless connectivity to your camera.

But now Sony has introduced its own Wi-Fi enabled camera, the Sony DSC-G3 Cybershot Wi-Fi digital camera. The G3 connects to photo sharing sites though wireless access points (802.11b/g), public and personal, free and fee-based, secure and unsecured. It includes free AT&T Wi-Fi access though 2012.

The embedded Web browser navigates to the Sony Easy Upload Home Page, with direct upload to Web photo and video sharing sites like Shutterfly, Picasa, YouTube, Dailymotion, and Photobucket. You also can upload to other sites, send e-mail when you upload, and access uploaded photos from sharing sites to display on the camera.

As a camera, the DSC-G3 has a 10 megapixel sensor, 4X optical zoom, and shoots VGA (640 x 480) video.

The 3.5 inch touch screen LCD display is widescreen, to use the camera as a photo album to view your favorite images. The G3 includes 4 GB of internal memory (enough for 1000 full-res photos), and accepts Memory Stick DUO PRO media cards of up to 16 GB. There's even a PhotoMusic slide show option with built-in effects and pre-loaded music tracks (or add your own).

The camera incorporates Sony image processing technology to try to make shooting goof-proof, including Intelligent Scene Recognition of 8 types of scenes (Backlight, Twilight / with Tripod, Portrait, Landscape, Macro), 14 photo scene modes, Dynamic Range Optimizer for best exposure and contrast, Face Detection (up to 8 faces, children vs. adults, with smile detection, and blink warning), plus Double Anti-blur with SteadyShot Optical image stabilization and high ISO sensitivity for low light.

The DSC-G3 available in black for $499.99.

See my Digital Photo Cameras Gallery for more on this and other digital cameras

    Find the Sony DSC-G3 camera on Amazon.com.

February 2, 2009

Palm Pre Preview

The unveiling of the Palm Pre phone at CES in January was big news, for good reason -- It's an interesting combination of new ideas in the design of a connected PDA phone.

Of course, the announcement was just a preview of the product, which is due to be released in the first half of this year. Palm was careful to demonstrate only certain functions, and refused to discuss or demo other features, or even to allow hands-on access by others.

But what Palm did demonstrate included several interesting new refinements for a connected portable PDA / phone, based on a clear design approach that holds a lot of promise if it can deliver the full product.

In particular, the Pre's interface is designed to make it easy to move between multiple activities. And its core applications are designed to understand and manage information from multiple sources, including desktop (Outlook) and online (Google, Facebook).

See full article: Palm Pre Preview

See my Mobile Communications Gallery for more on smartphones.

February 3, 2009

Netbook or Notebook or Not: Sony VAIO P Lifestyle PC

Netbook or notebook? Between the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project (see previous post), and products like the ASUS Eee PC, there's a new kind of Internet device in town -- the "netbook" -- a highly portable wireless-connected small form factor notebook.

Netbooks are intended to be easy to carry almost anywhere, and therefore are reduced in size to around 2 to 3 pounds, with 7 to 10 inch displays and scrunched keyboards.

Netbooks are focused on online access, browsing websites and keeping in touch with e-mail, but run versions of Linux or Windows so you can also edit documents and the like, albeit a bit sluggishly with low-power processors like the Intel Atom.

But notebooks can be ultraportable too, with products like the Apple MacBook Air and Sony VAIO TZ series weighing around 3 pounds, but offering larger displays and/or more processor and storage, and at premium prices ($1800 and up).

However, while Sony has experimented with very lightweight systems like the VAIO X505 from 2004 at only 1.84 pounds, its VAIO line from last summer was more focused on bigger systems, with larger displays, enhanced performance, and even Blu-ray disc drives (see previous post).

Then last month at CES came the introduction of the Sony VAIO P series Lifestyle PC -- with 8 inch display, but weighing only 1.5 pounds, and measuring 4.72 x 9.65 x 0.78 inches.
Sony describes it as the length of business envelope and as thick as a cell phone, so you can slip it into a jacket pocket or a handbag.

To go online, the VAIO P includes both Wi-Fi and mobile broadband (with cellular subscription). And it has a built-in webcam and microphone for Internet calls, plus GPS tracking. It's powered by a 1.33 GHz Intel processor, with 2 GB of internal memory and up to a 60 GB hard drive or 128 GB solid state drive (SSD).

Interestingly, the VAIO P runs Windows Vista (Home Premium or Home Basic), so you can run your standard desktop applications, although visibly slower. It also has an Instant-mode option to rapidly boot up into the Sony Xross Media Bar interface to access your music, video, photos, plus the Web.

Sony quotes a 4 hour battery life with the included standard capacity battery, or 8 hours with the optional large capacity battery.

Yet the VIOP P avoids the premium pricing of the ultraportable notebooks -- it's $899 with a 60 GB HDD, $1199 with a 64 GB SSD, and $1499 with 128 GB SSD. It should be available this month, in snazzy colors (garnet red, emerald green, onyx black, crystal white, classic black).

Just don't call the VIOP P a notebook -- Sony is carefully avoiding the term. Instead, the Sony reps describe it as a second system to compliment your existing notebook, since you can more easily bring it along with you and use it to stay in touch.

In this way, netbooks are positioned more as competition for smartphones, which do not have the larger screen and near-full-size keyboard for extended usage. But you can't really clip a netbook on your belt or slip it into your pocket, so this indeed becomes a lifestyle choice to go netbook, or not.

See Wikipedia on netbooks and product comparisons.

See my Portable Communications Gallery for information on netbooks and smartphones.

    Find the Sony VAIO P on Amazon.com

February 4, 2009

Solar Chargers - Solio and HYmini

Solar power can be a nice solution for keeping small portable devices tanked up when on the go. But instead of trying to trickle charge your devices directly from a solar panel, a better solution is to combine the solar panel with a battery. You then can leave the solar charger to power up from the available sunlight during the day, and then come back later to recharge your portable devices from the battery. (If needed, you also can charge the battery direct from wall power.)

For example. the Solio Hybrid Solar Chargers.(see previous post) come in two designs: the Solio Classic, which unfolds three panels like a flower and is rated at 6 watts, to recharge a mobile phone up to two times ($99), and the rugged and weatherproof Solio Hybrid 1000 (shown here), with a carabiner-clip handle (3.6 watts, $79).
There's also a new higher-power Solio Magnesium Edition, designed like the Classic, but withiGo compatible Adapter tips (9 watts, $169).

Then there's the HYmini Universal Charger/Adapter, an interesting alternative that combines a battery with a fan turbine to change with wind power ($49).
You also can connect up to 4 miniSOLAR panels to charge from the sun ($24 each), or use the miniHANDCRANK generator ($9). The HYmini Deluxe bundle includes the charger and a panel ($74).

However, the HYmini products are not designed for rugged use -- the charger is somewhat moisture-proof but not water resistant, and the solar panel is packaged in recycled cardboard paper, so needs to be kept dry and clean. The fan provides supplemental power, not a full charge, and while it is designed to charge at speeds from 9 to 30 mph, the blade will break off if you push it harder.

As a result, think of the HYmini products offer a fun way to experiment with renewable power for activities like riding a bike to work (in good weather), with a solar boost when you get to your office, but not for serious camping.

See my Portable Power Accessories Gallery for more on solar and other power options.

Find the Solio Classic Charger and HYmini Charger
on Amazon.com

February 5, 2009

Wireless Power: Powermat and WildCharge

How many different power adapters do you have for your portable devices? How many do you need to pack for a trip? There's been some movement to using standard (mini) USB connectors for power, but too many of our devices still have custom connectors and require dedicated power adapters. So even if you have a good external power charger or battery (see previous post), you still need to collect the right connector tips to hook up your different devices.

Thus the attraction of wireless power. Just plunk your mobile phone -- or music player, or even laptop -- down on a power pad and it will charge up. No need for all those power adaptors and cords, and no need to worry about having the right connector tips.

This year promises to see several such wireless power systems coming to market. These companies hope to become a ubiquitous standard, built into many devices, with power pads not only in your home and office (maybe as part of a counter top or a desk), but also available in public areas. And until this technology is licensed into portable devices, these companies also will offer adapter skins for popular devices.

The WildCharge wire-free power system uses conduction, with direct physical contact between the charging pad and the device (through small metallic nubs).

As a result, the pads can work with multiple devices, placed in any orientation, with high efficiency and lower cost. There's no associated electro magnetic or other radiation, so the pads are safe for hard drives and credit cards.

The current WildCharger charging pad is 8 x 6 inches and delivers up to 15 Watts. Adapters are currently available for the Motorola RAZR and BlackBerry Curve & Perl. The pad is $49, adapters are $34, and the pad bundled with an adapter is $79.

The Powermat wireless charging system uses magnetic induction, a shared magnetic field between the pad and the device.

This approach can charge at the same rate as a device's own charger, can simultaneous charge 3 to 6 devices, and handle both low and high capacity devices (cell phones to laptops).

As you place the device into the magnetic field on the pad, you can feel it snap into place on one of the fixed charging locations.

The Powermat approach actually implements a data protocol between the mat and receiver, which can authenticate the connection and manage the power flow. In the future, it also can be used to wirelessly transmit data, for example to sync the device. The first products are schedule to be available at retail in the fall, priced around $100 for the mat.

The Palm Touchstone charging dock accessory for the Palm Pre (see previous post) also uses a magnetic connection to hold the phone on the charging stand.

See my Portable Power Accessories Gallery for more on wireless and other power options.

February 6, 2009

Logitech Comfort Lapdesk

The dirty little secret of notebook computers is that they run hot -- A cute little "laptop" sitting on your legs will also singe your skin, and a hefty "desktop replacement" notebook will crush your legs in the bargain. Ouch!

So now we need notebook cooling pads for the desktop with built-in fans, and laptop desks to try to get comfortable with our machines on a sofa.

Which brings us to the new Logitech Comfort Lapdesk, with a clever design to help you keep cool and comfortable as you work with your computer:

- The base has a 4-layer heat-shielding design to keep you from getting cooked.

- The surface is tilted to 12 degrees, to help angle your notebook for better viewing when seated.

- The base is arched instead of lying flat, which not only allows air to flow underneath, but also means that the lapdesk is sitting on your legs at only four points.

- And the underside is covered with a soft, cushioned, air-mesh fabric, so the parts resting on you don't get uncomfortable.

The Logitech Comfort Lapdesk is designed for notebooks with up to a 17-inch display. However, it's not designed for use with mouse, so use the built-in trackpad or a wireless mouse on the sofa cushion or bedcover. It's very light, and around 18 x 11 1/4 inches, by 3 inches at the arched end. It can tuck away nicely by the side of a chair or a bed.

The Logitech Comfort Lapdesk is becoming available now for around $39, in traditional white.

See my Portable Peripherals and Accessories Gallery for more fun devices, organized by company.

    Find Logitech Comfort Lapdesk on Amazon.com

February 7, 2009

New Fit Earbuds for the Aliph Jawbone

The Aliph New Jawbone Bluetooth headset continues to set the standard in noise reduction with its adaptive "Noise Shield" technology (see previous post).

However, the trick to the Jawbone design is the Voice Activity Sensor -- a small nub on that back that needs to touch your face to sense when you are speaking, the help separate your voice from the background noise.

As a result, fit is very important with the Jawbone -- It needs to be kept angled diagonally toward your mouth, and snug on your cheek. So you can't just hang the Jawbone loosely on its earloop, instead you need to find an earbud that fits snugly in your ear opening.

To help get a good fit, the Jawbone comes with a selection of earbuds in different sizes, and two styles of earloops, with soft leather coating and slim earloops use with for eyewear. (See the Jawbone site for instructions and videos on getting a good fit.)

But it's your ears, and different people are comfortable with different kinds of fit for their daily ear wear. So Aliph has introduced the New Fit Earbuds, designed to hold the Jawbone snugly without needing to be inserted inside your ear, and to also allow you to wear the Jawbone without an earloop.

The New Fit earbuds have a double loop, with a soft center section that does not insert deeply into your ear, and an integrated loop that hooks in the folds of your outer ear, and acts like a spring to help orient the headset, gently pushing it towards the cheek.

The new earbuds have been in beta for a few months, and are now available from the Jawbone site for free (in a set with 3 sizes) -- with a $2.99 shipping and handling charge.

See my Audio Accessories Gallery for details and related products.

    Find the Aliph New Jawbone headset on Amazon.com

February 8, 2009

SanDisk Sansa Media Players: Clip, Fuze, View

Over the past year, SanDisk has simplified its Sansa line of flash-memory media players to three products, while adding the new slotMusic / slotRadio concept and products (see Sansa store). The result is three models with clean designs that are easy to pick up and use.

- The Sansa Clip is a small music-only player with a simple blue display, now available with 1, 2, 4, and 8 GB of storage, for $34 to $99.

- The Sansa View is the upscale video player with a larger 2.4" portrait screen -- Rotate it to the side for a landscape view of photos and videos. It's available with 8, 16, and 32 GB, for $149 to $249.

- And the Sansa Fuze is the just-right video player with a 1.9" screen, now available with 2, 4, and 8 GB, for $69 to $99 (originally $79 to $129). SanDisk also says that the Fuze will support the new slotRadio format.

All also include an FM radio tuner, and a microphone for voice recording, plus the Fuze and View have a microSD/microSDHC card slot to add additional storage.

And the Sansa players are easy to access from a PC -- You can just drag and drop files in the supported formats, use Windows Media Player to sync, or download the Sansa Media Converter software. The Fuze and View do use a custom Sansa connector instead of USB.

The Sansas have a clean design for the controls and interface, with the power/lock button on the size, a rocker main control pad below the display, and only one other button, Home to the main menu. Click the control pad left/right for back/forward, up and down for play/pause and options, and press the center button to select.

The Fuze and View have an additional helpful control feature -- the rocker area of the control pad rotates as a thumbwheel, for quick menu navigation and volume adjustment. (Unlike the iPod, the thumbwheel does actually spin, and the circular frame around the control lights up in blue when it is in use.)

The result is very nice to use, with smooth response to the controls and nice interface touches and animations. For example, on the main menu, the menu items float by in pseudo-perspective while you spin the thumbwheel. Nice.

See my Portable Media Players Gallery for more information on portable players.

Find the Sansa Clip, Sansa Fuze and Sansa View on Amazon.com

February 10, 2009

The Amazon Kindle as a Mobile Convergence Device

I write a lot about portable media players -- "MP3 players" for music and now video -- and how they are converging with mobile phones and smartphones, combining media and communications and Internet access and organizer features.

But there's another kind of portable media that's discounted in this shopping list -- plain old text. And between e-mail and the Web browser on our PDA phones, we're actually doing a lot of reading on our devices, even though that's not the focus of their design.

Meanwhile, Amazon and Sony have been working on a different category of device, e-book readers that are also on the convergence track, with better displays, audio playback, photos, and wireless connectivity.

The 3rd generation Sony Reader Digital Book, PRS-700, announced October 2008, has a 6 inch touch-screen display, is 0.4 inches thin (5 1/9 x 6 7/9 x 13/32 in.), and weighs 10 ounces, for $399 (see SonyStyle.com and press release). It can display eBooks, personal documents (Word, PDF) and music (MP3 and AAC). And it takes memory stick cards for additional storage.

The Amazon Kindle 2, just announced and due out this month for $249, includes broadband wireless though Sprint at no extra monthly charge. You no longer have to download and sync books though a PC, instead you can purchase and download directly to your device, with delivery in one minute for instant gratification. Even better, you can explore and preview books by downloading the first chapters for free.

The new version 2 device is about half as thin as the previous version, at just over 1/3 of an inch (8 x 5.3 x 0.36 in.), and weighs 10.2 ounces. It adds more storage, to hold over 1,500 books (but not memory card expansion), and runs for up to 4 days with wireless on, or up to 2 weeks with wireless off.

The 6 inch display (not touch screen) is 600 x 800, 167 ppi, and is upgraded from 4 to 16 levels of gray for clearer text, plus crisper images. You can download some 230,000 books directly from Amazon, as well as U.S. and international newspapers, magazines, and blogs. The Kindle 2 even adds a new "experimental" Text-to-Speech option to read books and other material out load.

But this is not just an e-reader. You can sync Audible recorded books via a PC, transfer and convert personal documents via an online service (Word, PDF), play MP3 music, and display image files.

And with the broadband wireless connection, the Kindle also has a web browser, albeit best used for simple, text-centric Web sites.

So the e-book reader is becoming a convergence device too. As a media player, the monochrome screen is obviously not suitable for fast-motion video. But with better e-mail support this could be an interesting competitor to netbooks (see previous post), although the increased data bandwidth would demand some kind of monthly service cost. Heck, just add a microphone and it could be a phone too!

See my Portable Media Players Gallery for more on portable players.

Find the Amazon Kindle 2 on Amazon.com

February 11, 2009

New Media at Princeton University

My latest article for the U.S.1 Newspaper in Princeton highlights the expansion of "new media" and digital media at Princeton University.

The new Frank Gehry-designed Lewis Library building on the Princeton campus includes expanded facilities for a New Media Lab to serve students working on multimedia products, plus a new Broadcast Center and studio to consolidate shooting and sharing university classes and events, on campus and beyond.

David Hopkins, Broadcast Center director, and Paula Hulick, New Media Center manager (Image:
U.S. 1 Newspaper)

The New Media Center features a 1024 square foot Multimedia Lab, plus a private video editing room. The lab has some 32 high-end computers, mainly Apple Macintosh but also some Dell PCs, all with large-screen monitors. Roughly half of the lab is set up for video production, with video and audio tape decks and other recording equipment. The other half is set up for graphic design work, with document scanners and drawing tablets.

The computers include a full compliment of digital media software, for video and audio editing (i.e., Apple Final Cut Studio and Adobe Creative Suite), graphic design and page layout (i.e., Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, and InDesign, plus Autodesk AutoCAD), and Web development (i.e., Adobe Flash and Dreamweaver, Microsoft Expression Web).

And this is supported by only two full-time staff members, plus more than 20 student staffers. The lab is open during the week from 1 to 7 pm, and until 5 pm on the weekends. Students come for class work and group projects, and the staff also helps professors prepare materials and provides specialized training.

And the demand keeps growing: The old New Media Center has over 2200 visitors last year, and the new facility is twice the size and is a half mile closer to the center of the campus, and so expect some 6000 visits over the next year.

The new Broadcast Center facility has a 1600 square foot facility, including the 625 square foot video studio and a 30 square foot audio recording booth. The studio is set up primarily to host remote interviews of Princeton professors -- with the economy and the election, the demand had grown to six such requests a day, from the Good Morning America to The Daily Show in the evening.

The Broadcast Center staff also shoots lectures and events all over the campus. Live and recorded events then are delivered over the Princeton campus television network, and through Web streaming media both within the Princeton domain and to the outside world. However, recordings of classes are delayed for ten days, to encourage students to go to class.

See full article: New Media at Princeton University

February 12, 2009

Instant Photography: Polaroid Pogo and Dell Wasabi Printers

Instant photography is back! The magic of the old Polaroid instant cameras was the satisfaction of having that physical, tangible photo to show around and save. Showing your digital photos on the screen of your mobile phone is just not that same, and you really can't stick your phone on your wall or fridge for decoration.

The magic behind this is ZINK (Zero-Ink) printing technology, photo paper embedded with dye crystals that "print" from heat, with no ink cartridges or ribbons required. So you can print little 2 x 3 inch borderless photos in about a minute. And these prints are ready for fun: they come out dry to the touch, and are smudge-proof, water-resistant, fade-resistant, and virtually tear-proof. Plus, they have a peel-off sticky back for scrapbooks or decorating. These cost around 33 to 40 cents per print, with 10-packs for $4.99, and 30 packs for $9.99.

So last summer Polaroid introduced the Polaroid PoGo Instant Mobile Photo Printer, which prints wirelessly from mobile phones (by Bluetooth), or from digital cameras using a USB cable (using PictBridge technology).

The printer itself is about the size of a digital camera (a bit larger than a deck of cards, at around 4.7 x 2.8 x 0.9 inches), and weighs 8 ounces. It uses a rechargeable lithium-ion battery, and can print 15 prints per charge. The Pogo Printer is available for $149, in black and red.

And Dell has just announced their version of this idea -- the Dell Wasabi PZ310 Wireless Mobile Printer. It adds a button to reprint the last image, and is available in vibrant pink, black and blue.

Dell is running an introductory promotional price of only $99, with the regular price at $149.

So now you can take some shots with your camera phone, review them on the display, and then choose "Print to Bluetooth" (or similar) to transmit the photo to the printer -- and have a print ready to share in about a minute.

Of course, the obvious next step is to get back to the instant camera, which is exactly what Polaroid announced at the CES conference -- the new Polaroid PoGo Instant Digital Camera, a 5 megapixel camera with integrated instant printer. It has a 3" LCD display, SD slot for expanded memory, and is 4.7 x 3 inches and 10 ounces. It's due in March for $199.

You'll still have to add the white instant photo frame around the picture yourself.

See my Digital Photo Cameras Gallery for more on photo printers and other digital camera accessories

Find the Polaroid Pogo Printer and Pogo Camera on Amazon.com.

February 13, 2009

The Lean Forward Moment: Creating Compelling Stories

It's the story stupid! Creating compelling films or TV or even webisodes comes down to the story, but also how it is told -- how you use the tools of your craft to draw in your audience with a strong emotional connection to your characters and their story.

In earlier eras you might have learned and honed your craft as an assistant on a production or as an apprentice film editor. But those opportunities are limited with today's smaller and dispersed production teams.

Film schools provide another way to teach the craft, if you can find a way to communicate years of hands-on experience in a classroom. Norman Hollyn has done this in developing his concept of the "lean forward moment," from his experience as a film editor and music editor, and working with Hollywood greats including Alan J. Pakula, Sidney Lumet, and Francis Ford Coppola.

Hollyn is currently head of the film editing track at the School of Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California, and has published his ideas in a new book, The Lean Forward Moment: Create Compelling Stories for Film, TV, and the Web.

The entire book is structured around this central concept -- first clarifying the key elements and characters of a story, then using that understanding to identify the "lean forward" moments of change in the story, to help focus your filmmaking tools and technique to better create those moments on the screen.

Hollyn uses a variety of examples thought the book, from The Godfather to Terminator 2, Citizen Kane to Finding Nemo to The Matrix, Lost to The Real World (on TV), as well as from less well-known and independent films.

He starts by refining the "logline," a story summary that helps shape the storytelling by clarifying the emotional path of the characters. He then expands this with a carefully-written scene analysis of a "lean forward" scene, such as the chase in the LA drainage canal in T2, and Michael's restaurant killing scene in The Godfather.

Much of the rest of the book then describes how this careful understanding of the story and its characters guide the filmmakers in their decisions on how to stage and shoot the scenes. Each chapter than walks through these scenes from the perspective of the stages in filmmaking: writing, production design, directing, cinematography, editing, visual effects, music, and sound.

We visit these scenes again and again, studying how each of these elements contributes to highlighting for the audience what it truly important in the scene. From subtle details of lighting and music, to careful consideration of camera placement and motion to focus on the reactions of the key character, the filmmakers grab the emotions of the audience and get us to lean forword into the story.

After discussing some genres and special cases that may be exceptions to his rule (horror films, music videos), Hollyn concludes with the "dirty little secret" -- now that you've spent all this time learning to use these concepts to analyze a script and craft a scene, you should know that in practice, professionals actually don't use the "lean forward movement" -- at least consciously or overtly. But, Hollyn argues, this is how filmmakers do think, so when he explicitly uses these concepts in discussions, they understand what he means.

Hollyn's bottom line is that thinking and analyzing a story in this way can solve a lot of the difficulties in making all the little decisions about how to make a movie (or other production) -- It all comes down to really understanding and communicating what is important, from the big story to the individual scenes.

Order The Lean Forward Moment from Amazon.com

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February 15, 2009

Verizon Wireless Friends & Family Plan

Verizon Wireless has announced its own Friends & Family plan -- a calling group of phone numbers that do not count against your plan minutes. These can be landline phones, or (gasp) wireless numbers on other carriers.

The details:

If you have a Nationwide Single Line plan with 900 or more minutes (starting at $59.99 monthly), you can select up to 5 numbers for the Friends & Family plan.

Or if you have a Nationwide Family SharePlan with 1,400 or more minutes (starting at $89.99 monthly), you can select up to 10 Friends & Family numbers to share among the plan members.

Current Verizon Wireless customers can visit My Verizon to check their eligibility for Friends & Family.

See my Mobile Communications Gallery for more on wireless phones and services.

February 16, 2009

NAB Show Coming in April

If you're into the whole digital media thing, then get to The NAB Show, the event for media, entertainment and communications professionals held annually in Las Vegas. This year it's being held April 18 - 23.

While NAB is the National Association of Broadcasters, a trade association that represents local radio and television stations and broadcast networks, the show is much broader -- covering "audio, video, and filmed content across multiple platforms -- from televisions, radios and computers to phones, the big screen and beyond."

NAB's a big event, with 100,000+ attendees and some 1,600 exhibiting companies. Beyond the exhibition, NAB includes 15+ conferences, with 600+ educational events and sessions, covering content creation, management, commerce, distribution & delivery, and consumption.

For working pros, NAB also offers serious digital media training with the Post|Production World Conference -- 5 full days of sessions in 11 parallel training halls, with 230 unique sessions on the latest techniques and practices for producers, directors, editors, designers and new media professionals. These include 7 different certification courses for Adobe (After Effects, Photoshop), Apple (Motion, Final Cut Pro), Avid, and Mac:

While the sluggish economy may discourage travel, it also can help reduce costs -- Many of the official partner hotels in Las Vegas have lowered rates by 20 to 40 percent below earlier offerings during peak show dates, and are running other specials.

NAB is also offering free exhibits-only registration -- enter the Passport Code: TP01

See my updated list of Digital Media Conferences - 2009

Peter Shankman on Social Networking in Princeton on Thursday

Peter Shankman is a marketing pundit, CEO of the marketing and PR strategy firm The Geek Factory, and has a long history of inventive marketing stunts, especially leveraging viral marketing (see previous post).

Shankman will be speaking in Princeton this Thursday evening, February 19, on "Social Networking: For Good and For Profit."

He has a strong message on the value of social networking, for business and for individuals. He will discuss social networking, viral marketing, and all the “fun ways” to use our social networking technologies – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn. Most importantly, he will discuss why sometimes it is a better bet not to use any of them.

Shankman also will talk about “non-traditional ways of thinking” – including examples of unconventional PR and social networking examples, such as Will It Blend and his own Help A Reporter Out website.

The meeting is sponsored by the Princeton chapters of the ACM / IEEE Computer Society, and is open to the public -- the meeting is free, including refreshments.

The meeting is held at 8 PM, at the Sarnoff Corp, Route 1 at 571, in Princeton (see Directions at the bottom of the page).

Download the printable Meeting announcement (PDF)

Shankman's book, Can We Do That?! Outrageous PR Stunts That Work -- And Why Your Company Needs Them, preaches similar lessons of being creative and taking risks, starting by shaking yourself out of complacency and ruts.

February 17, 2009

Audio Bone - Bone Conduction Earphones

Today's earphones are all about isolating you from the outside world so you can enjoy your music. They nest in your ear canal to block the sound, and some even have active noise cancellation technology.

But sometimes it's important to hear what's going on in the real world outside your mind -- for example when you are crossing streets while you are out walking or jogging or biking and don't want to get run over by a truck. And wearing a tube stuck in your ear all day can be uncomfortable, so it might be nice to have an earphone that is more comfortable for extended wear.

In the past, I've looked at the Mad Catz AirDrives outer-ear earphones that hook over your ear and hang the speaker outside your ear. But the sound does leak, so could bother people sitting nearby. And the Innovelis BudFits over-the-ear adapters make wearing iPod earbuds more comfortable as they rest gently in your ear.

And now there's another approach -- Audio Bone Bone Conduction Earphones that transmit the sound through your bones directly to the inner ear. These are on a band that sits loosely behind your head, with ends that loop over your ear and rest on your face in front of your ears.

The original Audio Bone 1.0 is waterproof (for cleaning, but not necessarily for swimming with your iPod unless you get an OtterBox case). It's available for around $179 in orange, black, blue, and white. There's also an Audio Bone Special Edition in "fashion colors" for $219, and the foldable Audio Bone Adjustable is $219, but is speced with lower quality sound. These come with a 30 day unconditional money back guarantee

The major issue with bone conduction technology is the need to ramp up the volume level, especially with iPods -- At low volume levels, you may hear nothing at all. There is some sound leakage when you crank up the volume, but it's not obnoxious.

See my Portable Audio Accessories Gallery for more information on headphones and earphones.

    Find the Audio Bone Earphones on Amazon.com

February 19, 2009

Verbatim TuneBoard Speaker Keyboard

Verbatim is not just a storage company anymore. You may know its CD, DVD, and tape media, or flash memory and USB drives, or portable and external hard drives, or associated storage accessories. But Verbatim also offers a variety of computer peripherals, including wireless mice and keyboards.

The latest addition is the Verbatim TuneBoard Speaker Keyboard, which combines a PC or Mac keyboard with integrated dual stereo speakers, so you don't need a tangle of additional cables and external speakers (unless you need high-quality sound).

The speakers are positioned on a tilted bezel running along the top of the keyboard, angled towards the listener. The keyboard also has dedicated sound control keys on the bezel and multimedia control keys for play/previous/next, that work with iTunes on the Mac, or Windows Media Player or other players on the PC.

There's also hotkey for enhanced bass, and to turn on the cool blue luminescent backlit illumination under the keys to improve visibility in low light.

The Verbatim TuneBoard is available for around $79, with versions for Windows or Macintosh.

See my Portable Peripherals and Accessories Gallery for more fun devices, organized by company.

    Find the Verbatim TuneBoard Keyboard on Amazon.com

February 20, 2009

Blowing Peter Shankman's Mind

Peter Shankman came down to central Jersey last night to speak to the Princeton chapters of the ACM / IEEE Computer Society -- and we blew his mind!

Peter is a social media pundit, always on the go, swapping between phone and PDA, and laptop. He teaches business execs -- and NASA -- how to adapt to social media, and debates PR issues on the O’Reilly Factor (most recently on Kellogg’s firing of swimmer Michael Phelps -- see on YouTube). He kindly came down from Manhattan to visit us on only the promise of a free dinner. And here he is taking advantage of the train ride back to the city to record his daily What’s Hot on HARO video, live from N.J. Transit.

Peter came to talk about social media (see previous post). -- He's the exemplar of how to use Twitter (he's skydiver), not just updating his adventures and travels, and spouting pundit-isms, but also using it for immediate distribution of urgent queries from reporters on his HARO (Help a Reporter Out) service. He has some 30,000 followers on Twitter, and over 50,000 sources receiving the full HARO posts three times daily.

From mingling before the meeting, Peter already understood that we were not his typical audience, as he faced 80-some mostly techies -- a core of computer / software types (ACM) and engineers (IEEE), plus some other groups (we actually mix worlds here) like video production pros and marketing / PR folks, and even some students.

But it was Peter's first question that really reset his expectations. He was discussing the development of "citizen journalism" with the proliferation of camera phones (as demonstrated by the first picture of the U.S. Air plane landing in the Hudson River in New York City). So Peter asked how many people in the audience did NOT have a camera in their phone -- and almost half the audience held up their (camera-less) hands. Yikes -- The group is techies, but also Luddites, with not much interest in messing with crummy camera-phone photographs.

But the ultimate moment came when Peter was demonstrating how to use social networks to keep in touch with contacts, for example by using the birthday information from Facebook to send out best wishes. So he asked what information Facebook displayed in the top right corner of your home page, and got an instant, and quite literal answer -- "the sign out button." Okay, yes, but ...

Peter is big on Facebook. He is insistent that you can't separate your professional and personal lives (although you do need to manage them carefully online). Around half of our audience was on LinkedIn, and maybe a quarter on Facebook, and the group seemed to agree with the perception that "LinkedIn is for business" -- but when Peter asked how many people who had actually gotten business though LinkedIn, only two hands went up. Point taken --it's not about "hiring resumes" anymore.

This was Peter's message -- managing your online persona by finding an audience and being relevant, keeping your audience's attention by being brief, and then using your social network not to send out resumes, but by keeping "top of mind presence" -- just keeping in touch, maintaining connections without always expecting something in return. It's not about making money from Twitter, it's about building a reputation and credibility in your niche, developing your brand, which then can grow into clients and business.

Interesting, Peter ended with a techie vision -- predicting that all these different social media networks will consolidate into one network, but will also develop the intelligence to distinguish between close and casual contacts, so you can stay more closely connected to the people more important to you. The network should understand who's more important to you, who you're communicating the most with, and help keep you connected and updated with them as appropriate. It would be nice to have social networks that understand overlapping types of connections to your contacts, so no more having to reject friend requests, or keeping requestors in purgatory.

Of course, this tediously long post to tell these stories breaks all of Peter's rules for focusing on brevity in this 140-character Twitter world. His summary of the event on Twitter:

Just gave a talk on social networking to members of ACM and IEEE in Princeton. Imagine talking to male cast of "Big Bang Theory." :-)


See the meeting preview, Social Networking: Perils and Promise, in the U.S. 1 Newspaper, February 18, 2009

UPDATE: Dennis Mancl took extensive notes on Peter's talk, posted on the chapter website.

Peter's book, Can We Do That?! Outrageous PR Stunts That Work -- And Why Your Company Needs Them, preaches related lessons of being creative and taking risks, starting by shaking yourself out of complacency and ruts.

February 23, 2009

ezGear ezSpace UFO Surge Protector

Tired of cramming oversized power adaptor "bricks" into multi-outlet strips?

The ezGear ezSpace UFO is an elegant solution -- with sloped sides to handle 6 power adapters, and with room to get your fingers in to plug and unplug devices as needed.

It's also a surge protector, and has a power/reset switch nested underneath to protect from accidental power downs.

The ezSpace UFO (pictured) is $29.99 with surge protector (1050 Joules) and the power foot cable from the top.

The ezSpace UFO Green ($24.99 / $17.99 special) has a light switch on the top and the cord on a deeper base.

Plus a ezSpace Wall Mount UFO will be available soon.

See more in my Portable Peripherals and Accessories Gallery

Find the ezSpace UFO on Amazon.com

Manifest Tech Site

About February 2009

Entries posted to Manifest Tech Blog in February 2009, listed from oldest to newest.

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