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November 2009 Archives

November 1, 2009

The AT&T / HTC Pure is a Windows Phone

The HTC Pure from AT&T is one of the first smartphones based on the new Windows Mobile 6.5, now renamed Windows Phone.

The Pure is a compact handheld design, with most of the front taken up by the 3.2-inch touchscreen display. Its features include a 5 megapixel auto-focus camera, FM radio, built-in Wi-Fi for faster web access, GPS, and haptic feedback (vibration) on button presses. It's priced from AT&T at $149.

But the big news with the Pure is that it is one of the first phones built on the new Windows Phone platform, which is designed to extend the former Windows Mobile platform from business to consumers.

Windows Phone adds significant new services, including the new Windows Marketplace for Mobile with downloadable applications certified by Microsoft, and the My Phone online service to back up your phone's content and locate a missing phone (including Premium services to remotely force it to ring, locating it on a map, and locking or even wiping it).

Windows Phone is intended to be more touch friendly, to get away from the stylus with a redesigned user interface, and to make it easier to get to your important applications by bringing them up to the main Today / Home screen, instead of having them buried in menus. You can configure this with different interfaces -- TouchFLO 3D to quickly flip though the current status of your key applications, or the Windows Default interface with Zune-like scrolling though a list of common functions.

There's also a Start menu screen with icons of all the installed applications, for those who want the comfort of commonality with Windows (However, the Start menu is accessed from the top left of the screen, instead of the bottom left.) One of the four physical buttons below the screen also is a dedicated Windows key, which also brings up the Start screen (or press and hold the phone End call key for the Today / Home screen.

Unfortunately, the finger-friendly Today / Home screen interface is still only skin deep on top of the underlying Windows Mobile platform. Launch an application like Messages or Outlook E-mail, or set options in a dialog box, and you're back to really needing a stylus to access the small menus and controls -- much less to hit the tiny "x" application close box at the top right of the screen -- another remnant of the Windows heritage.

But if you're looking for a phone that works well with Windows, then Microsoft is clearly directed to your needs with the aptly named Windows Phone platform, and the AT&T / HTC Pure is a nice implementation, with a relatively big and responsive touch-screen display in a quite pocketable device. Just be aware that you'll still need the stylus (or a sharp fingernail edge) to fully navigate the interface.

See my full article, Windows Phone -- AT&T / HTC Pure, for more on the AT&T / HTC Pure phone and the Windows Phone platform.

See my Mobile Communications Gallery for more on smartphones.

Find the AT&T / HTC Pure on Amazon.com

November 3, 2009

Zune HD -- The Other Microsoft Mobile, and More

While Microsoft is making a major push with its Windows Mobile (now Windows Phone) platform to make it more "finger-friendly" (see previous post), it also has been developing a second and different mobile device platform -- the Zune portable media player. Oddly, these are totally separate platforms, with different interfaces for playing digital media, different PC interfaces to synch files, and even different online stores for loading new content.

In comparison, the Apple iPhone is a clear extension of the iPod family and interface, sharing the common iTunes library and online store, and even with the iPod touch as a bridge device spanning the media player and smartphone markets.

The new Windows Mobile 6.5 interface did adapt a Zune-like design for its Home screen, but the underlying applications and dialogs are still based on Windows-like small menus and buttons.

Meanwhile, the evolution of the Zune line has lead to the recent introduction of the Zune HD, with an impressively attractive and smooth interface that flows cleanly through the entire product. (However, the Zune platform and Zune Marketplace online store are themselves incompatible with Microsoft's previous "Plays for Sure" platform for purchased music and associated players from companies like Creative and SanDisk.)

Microsoft also is playing catch-up in integrating portable and living room devices (as compared to Sony with the PlayStation Portable and PlayStation 3 -- see previous post). It will be extending the Zune service on the Xbox 360, with unified video catalogs on the Zune Marketplace and Xbox LIVE stores, so you can play purchased movies and TV shows across the PC, Zune HD, and Xbox.

So you may have thought that the Zune brand was for portable media players, but it's extending across Microsoft platforms to the desktop and set-top, just not yet to other mobile devices.

See my Portable Media Players Gallery for more on media players

See my Mobile Communications Gallery for more on smartphones.

Find the Microsoft Zune HD on Amazon.com

More on the Zune HD and Interface ...



Continue reading "Zune HD -- The Other Microsoft Mobile, and More" »


November 4, 2009

Smartphone Market Update from Canalys

Even with all the excitement about new mobile phones, the smartphone market has been relatively stable over the past year, according to new Q3 figures from Canalys.

Even with the difficult economy, smartphones are still outperforming the overall mobile phone market, as global smart phone shipments grew 4% over the year, to 41.4 million units in Q3. Smartphones are also getting smarter, as the proportion of smartphones with touchscreens is 45% (vs. 31% last year), 80% have integrated GPS, and 75% have Wi-Fi.

The ranking of hardware vendors remained the same, with Nokia, RIM, Apple and HTC combined for over 80% of the market. In worldwide market share, Q3 2009 vs. Q3 2008,
Nokia leads with 40% (was 39%), RIM BlackBerry grew to 21% (was 15%), Apple iPhone is a new high of 18% (was 17%), and HTC has 5.3% (was 5.8%). Canalys reposts that the demand for iPhone 3GS far outstripped supply, and Apple’s satisfaction ratings were consistently highest of any vendor.

The ranking of operating system software was also relatively stable, with, the Google Android platform starting to make progress. Again in worldwide market share, Q3 2009 vs. Q3 2008, Symbian leads with 46% (was 47%), RIM BlackBerry is at 21% (was 15%), the Apple iPhone is at 18% (was 17%), with Microsoft Windows Mobile dropping to 8.8% (was 13.6%), and Google Android appearing at 3.5% (from just under 3% in Q2).

See the analysis at Apple Insider, including nice pie charts.

See my Mobile Communications Gallery for more on the smartphone market.

November 8, 2009

Microsoft Arc Mouse - Fold Up to Pack Up

Microsoft is a huge company, operating in an astoundingly broad range of business segments, including the Windows operating systems for PCs, servers and development tools, business Office suites, online information and services (Live to MSN), and entertainment and devices (Xbox to Zune to automotive).

Oh, and there's also the Microsoft Hardware product line -- not even visible in the summary above. But Microsoft has some clever designers working on hardware, creating some rather innovative products, including mice and keyboards, webcams and headsets, and other gaming and notebook accessories.

For example, the Microsoft Arc Mouse looks at first glance like something you might have brainstormed on the back of a napkin -- "Hey, let's make a mouse that folds up on itself for travel." But after some serious design and engineering development, the idea has been realized in an attractive and compelling design.

When open, the Arc Mouse forms a smooth arc so you can rest your hand comfortably. (Actually, the back half drops away at a sharp angle so less of the palm rests on the surface than with other mice.) The mouse has a scroll wheel, plus a scroll wheel button and side button on the right.

But the real trick is the crease down the middle -- a solid hinge that lets you fold up the tail end of the mouse to reduce it to about 3/5 of the full length, about 3 x 2 1/4 x 1 inch.

The Arc Mouse uses 2.4 GHz wireless technology, so it configures automatically with the included USB micro-transceiver. For travel, the tiny transceiver tucks away in a slot under the mouse, snapping into place magnetically, which then is protected when you close up the mouse.

The Microsoft Arc Mouse is available for $49, in a variety of colors (with new Special Edition flavors).

If only all your napkin scribbles turned out this well ...

See my Portable Peripherals and Accessories Gallery for more on these and related products.

   Find the Microsoft Arc Mouse on Amazon


November 9, 2009

Microsoft Bluetooth Mobile Keyboard -- Curvy and Sleek

Another example of Microsoft's hardware design ingenuity (see previous post) is the Microsoft Bluetooth Mobile Keyboard 6000 -- It's thin, light ... and curvy.

The keyboard is only a few millimeters thicker than a AAA battery at the back, and then tapers toward the space bar and front edge. It fits in an area of around 14 x 6 1/2 x 1/2 inches and weighs 14 1/2 ounces.

And the Bluetooth Mobile Keyboard is really curved, for natural wrist position, including the individual rows of keys, so the design takes up less space than adding a curved palm rest or using split blocks of keys.

The Mobile Keyboard is priced at around $89, including a separate portable Number Pad with carrying case. Both use Bluetooth wireless technology to connect to your PC or laptop, so you can go mobile without requiring a separate transceiver dongle.

It's very nice design to work comfortably and securely on a desk, and take up a minimum of space.

See my Portable Peripherals and Accessories Gallery for more on these and related products.

November 5, 2009

Sony Vegas Pro 9.0c Software Update

Sony Creative Software continues to release updates for its Sony Vegas Pro 9 nonlinear HD video and audio editing software. Now that video editing tools have settled into support for the new HD formats like HDV and AVCHD, the focus of this new 9.0c update is enhancing the editing workflow and extending support for native editing of specific camera formats, round-trip from import to delivery.

Camera support includes the Device Explorer for directly browsing and importing RED ONE (.r3d) files, round-trip support for the XDCAM EX with MP4 file rendering back to the camera SxS media, and additional support for Blackmagic and AJA cards for capture and output via SDI, HD-SDI, and HDMI.

The update also adds Smart Rendering of MPEG-2, which provides faster encoding and less generation loss for projects with minimal, cuts-only editing.

Additional audio enhancements include élastique Pro Time Stretching for flexible timestretching and pitch shifting, and Import Stereo Audio as Dual Mono, for example to split separate channels with interviewer's and subject's voice.

The Sony Vegas Pro 9.0c software update available is a free download.

See my full article: Walkthrough: Sony Vegas Pro 9

    Find Sony Vegas Pro 9 on Amazon.com

November 10, 2009

Energizer Energi To Go - Rechargeable Power Packs for Cell Phones to Laptops

Why is it so hard to build portable electronic devices that use a standard power / data plug? After all the "U" in USB stands for Universal, and lots of products do fine with it -- Bluetooth headsets with micro USB, mobile phones and media players and cameras / camcorders with mini USB, and laptops with USB connectors.

But no such luck when you head out on a trip, and you find yourself packing multiple power supplies with special connectors for devices like a Nokia phone, Apple iPod player, Sony camcorder, and Dell laptop. Yeesh!

One alternative is to carry one power supply with a system of interchangeable tips for powering your various devices. Even better, you can carry a separate rechargeable battery like the Energizer Energi To Go XP line of Rechargeable Power Packs which supports both USB and swappable tips, so you can recharge on the go to extend your time on the road.

These are portable lithium polymer rechargeable batteries, typically with USB ports and power ports at different voltages. They include adapter cables to connect interchangeable tips, for devices from cell phones and smartphones, to digital cameras and camcorders, to netbooks and laptops (see the Tip finder).

The Energi To Go XP line is developed in partnership with XPAL Power, and includes a Free Tips for Life program: register online to get two free tips per year to fit new devices, for the life of your product.

The line includes the credit-card sized 1.3 oz. XP 1000 with tips for cell phones, Apple iPods, and other MP3 players Bluetooth headsets though mini/micro USB ($19), and the 2.5 oz. XP 2000 charges smartphones, plus gaming devices and even digital cameras ($39). [The model number is the mAh capacity.]

For larger digital cameras, the 5.4 oz. XP 4001 charges two devices at once ($59), and the 4.9 oz. XP 4000 adds tips for camcorders to charge up to 6 hours, plus a EZ-Charger clip that charges internal batteries ($79).

And for portable computing, the 7.9 oz XP 8000 also charges netbooks for to 3 hours ($99), and the 17.5 oz XP 18000 charges laptops up to 6 hours ($179).


So if you're going to be on the road, and want some auxiliary power for your devices, the Energizer Energi To Go line can give you the boost you need.

See my Portable Power Accessories Gallery for more on portable batteries and power options.

Find the Energizer Energi To Go Power Packs on Amazon:
XP 1000 Cell Phone - 2000 Smartphone - 4001 2 Devices - 4000 Camera - 8000 Netbook - 18000 Laptop

November 11, 2009

Miccus ChargeBlock for iPod / iPhone

Miccus makes wireless audio products for consumers, including the BlueBridge line of Bluetooth connectivity devices. But this post is about the simple and sleek Miccus ChargeBlock compact charger for Apple's iPods and iPhones that don't believe in removable batteries.

This is a nice, simple, functional device -- basically a rechargeable battery with the iPod 30-pin dock connector attached. It's less than 2 1/2 inches wide and around 1 1/2 ounces, so just plug in your iPod or iPhone to boost it up for up to 11 hours of audio, 3 hours of video, or 3.5 hours of talk time.

It has a mini-USB connector on the back to recharge with the included USB cable, LED lights for charging status, and a snap on cap to protect the connector when you carry it in your bag.

The Miccus ChargeBlock is priced at $39.99. It's a nice clean design to provide a useful function to keep your iPod / iPhone going longer.

See my Portable Power Accessories Gallery for more on portable batteries and power options.

    Find the Miccus ChargeBlock on Amazon.com

November 6, 2009

The Droid is Here -- Android 2.0 from Verizon Wireless

The Verizon Wireless Droid smartphone from Motorola shipped today, featuring the new Google Android 2.0 updated mobile phone software platform. I've been working with the Droid for a week, and am definitely impressed.

The phone, and the software, are solid -- clean, functional, responsive, and quite usable.

The physical design of the Droid is a slider phone with a full QWERTY keyboard, large 3.7" high-res (854 x 480) display, and 5 megapixel camera with LED flash.

It features integrated Wi-Fi for fast communications and browsing, and integrated GPS for location-aware searching and mapping.

The Android 2.0 platform supports fully-integrated voice search and multi-tasking for non-intrusive background downloads.

The Android platform is focused on syncing to your life online in the Google cloud, with Gmail and Google Contacts and Calendar. Android 2.0 does extends to more traditional business uses (multiple accounts, Exchange support), enhances the interface for responsive navigation and searching, and bulks up the camera with auto-setup, flash, and video (though the camera response is a tad sluggish).

However, the Droid with Android 2.0 is missing common functionality that will be expected by people interested in switching from PDA phone platforms like Windows Mobile and Palm, much less the BlackBerry or Apple iPhone. Particularly glaring are the absence of out-of-the-box support for syncing desktop data and files (as in Outlook and Office documents), and the lack of unified support for managing and syncing media. There's no Tasks or Memos applications at all, and Word and Excel documents can only be viewed by using an otherwise-hidden Quickoffice feature when you download in the Browser app.

In addition, the media support is very plain, with no built-in syncing or unified browsing as we're used to from iTunes. There's a Music app with limited organization (no categories or genres), and a Gallery app for displaying photos and videos, but organized only by folder. The Camera app does shoot photos up to 5 MP (2592 x 1936, JPEG) and videos at 720 x 480, but there's no built-in Voice recorder.

And there's no built-in syncing mechanism to manage and transfer collections of documents or files with a computer -- although you can mount the Droid over USB as an external drive and just drag and drop files from your computer. You also can manually sideload via microSD card, or download from online, depending on the type of media and where you can find it. For example, you can use the built-in Amazon MP3 Store app to buy and download songs and albums. You also can sync with tools like Windows Media Player, and the Motorola Media Link PC software can sync music, playlists, photos, and videos, plus backup and upload online.

The Google Android Marketplace does somewhat addresses these issues, with a variety of third-party applications, from a variety of developers, at a variety of prices (and level of support). So you can cobble together some missing applications (Notepad, PDF viewer), but it's still a clumsy combination with different interfaces, inconsistent features, and without common integrated syncing.

Still, it's fun to search the Android Marketplace, and I've had good luck so far with high-rated yet free applications, like a Wi-Fi analyzer, GPS status, NYC subway map, Weather channel, and the fun Google Sky map that responds to your viewing position. It's still clumsy to search long lists of apps on the handheld device, and would be much more helpful to be able to search and sync online.

Bottom line: The Droid is very impressive -- and tempting. It's still focused on online cloud computing services, but it's getting closer to filling my needs for a full organizer / pocket digital assistant that fully syncs with my digital life on the desktop. It's priced at $199.99 from Verizon, with a new 2-year agreement and $100 rebate.

The Droid has almost no built-in help, so see the Verizon support site for a user's guide and step-by-step instructions.

See my full article, Verizon Droid from Motorola: Android 2.0, for more on the Droid's design and features and technical specifications.

See my Mobile Communications Gallery for more on smartphones.

Find the Verizon Droid from Motorola on Amazon.com

November 7, 2009

Marc-Antoine Goulard -- "Almost Recognizable"

Marc-Antoine Goulard creates wonderfully evocative paintings. At first glance, they are pleasing compositions of color, and totally non-representational.

But as you keep looking, the layers of colors and horizontal flow often suggests landscapes, especially scenes with the blues and green of water.

Yet the scenes remain tantalizing out of reach, "almost recognizable," and still open to individual interpretation.

At a reception at his one-man exhibit this month at the Ruth Morpeth Gallery in Hopewell, New Jersey, Goulard described his working process as starting with the palette of colors -- and an idea of a particular landscape. Yet he does not like to discuss his particular vision of his paintings, preferring (and encouraging) each viewer to find their own image -- or not.

The paintings are so evocative because of the way they are created. Goulard paints on wood panels, a plywood built of layers of birch so they will remain stable over time. He starts by applying a background of white as the base of his canvas, and then begins building up layers of color. -- Lots and lots of layers, building up subtle combinations of translucent shades. He works with painting knives instead of brushes, like a spatula, which works for him as an extension of his hand.

Goulard was actually trained as a concert musician at the Paris Conservatoire, and then took up the saxophone and studied jazz composition at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. But it was in painting that Goulard found a stronger creative voice.

Goulard actually works on five or more paintings at a time, because of the drying time required in the process. His jazz background shows in his work, with light, color, inspiration, and splashes of spontaneity. He still begins with music playing as part of the inspiration as he starts to work on his painting, but it drops away along with other outside distractions as he focuses into his creations.

Image: "Out There," 2007, Paris, 30 x 26 in. (75 x 70 cm )

Marc-Antoine Goulard
New York City and Paris
www.marcantoinegoulard.com

Ruth Morpeth Gallery
43 West Broad Street
Hopewell, NJ 08525
609-333-9393
www.morpethcontemporary.com

November 12, 2009

Adobe Premiere Pro CS4 Update for AVC-Intra

Adobe has announced a new free update to its Adobe Creative Suite 4 suite, Adobe Premiere Pro CS4 version 4.2.

The previous update to Premiere Pro in June enhanced support for the RED camera, popular video hardware, 64-bit systems, and interoperability with Avid software (see previous post).

This 4.2 update to Premiere Pro adds native support for Panasonic’s AVC-Intra format, so you can work natively to import, play, and edit AVC-Intra clips with no transcoding or rewrapping. WIth this tapeless workflow, you can edit directly off the P2 cards, or on your local drive. Premiere Pro supports the 50 and 100 Mbps data rates, and 1080 and 720 resolutions at the 24 to 60 frame rates.

You also now can transfer Final Cut Pro 7 projects directly to Premiere Pro CS4 with FCP XML interchange, without conversions or re-rendering, and while preserving common effects and transitions.

For more details, see the Premiere Pro CS4 version 4.2 datasheet, and a video demo on Adobe TV showing the end-to-end workflow.

The CS4 updates are available at no cost via the Adobe updater and from adobe.com. Trial versions are available online for download.

See my full article, Summary: Adobe Creative Suite 4, for more on the CS4 suites and individual applications.

See summaries of video applications and versions in my Video Editing Software Gallery.

    Find the Adobe CS4 Production Premium
    and Master Collection on Amazon.com

November 13, 2009

Adobe Photoshop.com Mobile Now on Android

Adobe has really extended its Photoshop brand, from desktop to online, and now to mobile. There's the legendary Photoshop CS4 for advanced professional photo editing, now with an Extended edition expanding into 3D and motion. And there's the more accessible Photoshop Elements for consumer photo organizing, enhancing and sharing.

And the brand has moved online with Photoshop.com, a free service for uploading and organizing your photos and videos online, editing with fixes and enhancements, and sharing on social-networking sites or on Photoshop.com galleries. It's available in the Web browser from your computer, directly within Photoshop Elements or Premiere Elements 7, and from compatible mobile phones.

The ability to download applications to smartphones has allowed Adobe to extend Photoshop.com Mobile from Windows Mobile phones to the Apple iPhone last month, and now to Google Android phones.

With Photoshop.com Mobile for Android on the Verizon Droid (see previous post), you can flick through thumbnails of your photos on the touch screen, and view full-screen and in slide shows. Then use the left drop-down menu to tighten up the photo with Crop, Straighten, Rotate, and Flip, the center menu to adjust Exposure, Saturation, Tint, and Black & White, and the right menu to apply Soft Focus to add a subtle blur for artistic effect. The iPhone version also offers a Sketch tool to make photos look like drawings, plus effects including Warm Vintage, Vignette, and Pop.

Photoshop.com Mobile saves a new version of your changed photos. It also has Undo and Redo options so you can freely experiment with multiple operations. You then can upload your photos and edits to share online at Photoshop.com, which includes 2 GB of free storage (or sign up for a plan with more). And you can access and view your online photos from the phone.

On the Android platform, Photoshop.com Mobile can automatically upload pictures in the background, even while you are using other applications.

So far, so good, though I'd like to see more viewing functions, to browse the photos organized by folders (and camera vs. stored images, which should help with the visible delay in updating thumbnails), and with the ability to zoom in to see details. And it would be helpful to have some ability to see the photo attributes and rename saved images, so they could more easily be shared though alternate means such as messaging and email.

Even in this first version, Adobe has done a nice job with Photoshop.com Mobile to create a fun -- and free -- tool for cleaning up photos, especially before uploading to Photoshop.com.

November 14, 2009

Consumer Electronics Holiday Preview

It's almost Thanksgiving -- the important American holiday marking the traditional beginning of the Christmas shopping season, featuring Black Friday shopping action, with great deals and hordes or rampaging shoppers. This year, retailers are trying to spread out the peak by already starting with hot deals, to try to avoid the stampedes and encourage consumers to keep coming back to the stores.

Then right after the holidays comes the 2010 edition of the annual International Consumer Electronics Show (aka CES), back in Las Vegas from January 7 to 10 (see wrap from last year).

The CES is produced by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), now one of the top 15 trade associations in the U.S. with over 2,000 member companies. CES itself is the world's largest consumer technology tradeshow. While CEA expects the show to be slightly smaller than last year, it's still huge -- with some 2,500 exhibitors and 110,000 attendees.

The CEA held its annual CES Preview event in New York last week, and presented its market research projections for the holiday shopping season.

Some highlights for the holiday season:

The CEA expects holiday spending on gifts to rise 4% this year to $764 per household, still down from $882 in 2007. But 29% of that gift spending will be on consumer electronics products, up 8% from last year.

The CEA is then projecting a 6.0% growth rate in unit sales for fourth quarter 2009, compared to -6.3% in last year's collapse. This growth will be driven by computers and audio / video equipment (including portable devices).

The holiday gift wish list for CE products by adults is similar to last year, with notebook PCs, portable media players, flat panel TVs, video game systems, and digital cameras rounding out the top 5. But then there are some new entries on the list, with E-readers, iPhone, and Blu-ray players, good old desktop PCs, and smartphones at number ten.

The CE gifts wanted by teens is similar, with more emphasis on portable devices, with portable media players at the top, mobile phones at number four, portable game devices at seven, and another new category, netbooks, appearing at number nine.

The Top CE Gifts list -- products people actually are planning to buy as gifts -- echoes these trends (so people may actually be getting the gifts they want), with portable media players at number one, notebook PCs and portable game devices in the top five, smartphones now tied with cell phones at seven (combined they would be at the top), followed by portable navigation devices, portable boomboxes, and again netbooks rounding out the top ten.

Several trends are already apparent for holiday shopping, which may help in finding good deals: more focus on CE products at mass merchants (like Wal-Mart) instead of electronics stores, an effort to spread out the "Black Friday" peak with earlier and ongoing deals, and an attempt to raise spending through offering both low-end and higher-functionality produces, as well as through aggressive bundling of related products.

The CEA is looking to Internet TV and then 3-D TV to help drive interest in new products. More TVs and set-top devices, including DVD/Blu-ray players, will be Internet-enabled, enhancing viewing with interactive links and informational widgets. Already 56% of viewers have visited the website associated with a TV program, and 42% are watching online.

As to 3-D TV, the CEA sees a gradual growth much like the prior experience with HDTV, which would be a nice boost for the industry. However, the need to look nerdy by wearing special glasses will be an inhibitor to consumer acceptance.

See my article from last year's show for more details on the event and lots of links: 2009 International CES Summary.

November 15, 2009

Sound Off With Sony's 1,000 Ringtones for the iPhone

If you want to customize your iPhone -- or other mobile phone -- with distinctive ringtones, then Sony Creative Software has a disc for you -- the Sony 1,000 Ringtones DVD. That's enough clips to assign a different sound to each of the callers in your contact list!

Priced at $19.94, and containing literally 1,000 sound clips, the disc includes 300 musical themes, 600 "Hollywood" style sound effects, and another 100 spoken words and phrases. It also includes a tutorial video(in both Mac .MOV and Windows .WMV formats), showing how to sync and install ringtones on the iPhone, plus demo versions of the Sony digital media applications.

The Musical ringtones are named for the spirit they evoke, with funk, dance, classical, space, and other styles.

The Sound Effects also cover a broad range, from aliens and lasers, bells and alarms, animals and insects, instruments and tools, plus classic effects like "Air Blowing On Plastic Wrap" and an always-appreciated Flatulence collection.

And the Vocals range from fun to goofy, from "Answer Me!" to "It's Your Mother" to "Yo Yo Yo Yo Yo Yo Yo!"

The ringtones on the disc are ready to use, without any additional downloads or editing or copy protection issues. The clips are provided in two formats: plain .MP3 for previewing on your computer or playing on many devices, and the iTunes .M4R ringtone format, ready to sync to the iPhone.

To install a ringtone, double-click the .M4R file to add it to your iTunes Library in the Ringtones category. Then check the Sync settings for your device under Ringtones to choose to sync the clip to your device. Finally, sync iTunes with your device, and then select the ringtone on your iPhone, under Settings, Sounds, Ringtone.

(You also can create custom ringtones in iTunes as .M4R files, although only from songs purchased from the iTunes Store. Choose Store, Create Ringtone, and then select the portion of the song you want to use as a ringtone.)

Be the first in your group to answer to the unique sound of "Plastic Baseball Inside Glass Fish Bowl Drop and Rolling" ...

See the Sony Press Release

November 16, 2009

Zune HD AV Dock - Portable HD Video

The new Microsoft Zune HD media player has a bright 3.3-inch touchscreen OLED display, ready to tilt into landscape mode for showing16:9 widescreen videos (see previous post).

And the "HD" in the name refers to the ability to store and play 720p HD videos. However, HD video doesn't do you much good if you're watching on the Zune's 480 x 272 display. So what's going on here?

The Zune HD is part of Microsoft's move to broaden the Zune brand from players into online entertainment, so you can buy movies and TV shows in HD, and enjoy them across the desktop (on Windows), set-top (Xbox 360), and portable devices (Zune HD). The first step is extending the Zune service to the Xbox 360, with unified video catalogs on the Zune Marketplace and Xbox LIVE stores.

But for the moment, you can turn your Zune HD into a HD video player with the Microsoft Zune HD AV Dock, available separately for $89 list ($70 street). Connect up to your HDTV with the HDMI cable, and watch 720p HD video in its full widescreen quality. The dock also includes optical digital audio output and an antenna for FM radio and HD radio reception, plus standard AV cables for display on standard-def TVs, and with other Zune models. There's also a wireless remote control.

The HD videos do take up significantly more storage than standard-def (and take longer to transfer and download) -- you can store some 10 hours HD video on a 32 GB Zune, but 48 hours of SD video. So stay with SD videos if you're only watching on the Zune itself, and then step up to HD with the AV Dock to watch your videos in their full quality.

Microsoft also offers a Zune Premium Car Pack for $79 that auto-seeks the best available FM frequency to play on your car radio, plus an audio out minijack, and a USB port to simultaneously charge a second device.

See my Portable Media Players Gallery for more on media players

Find the Microsoft Zune HD AV Dock on Amazon.com

November 18, 2009

Zune HD Adds Games and Firmware

The Microsoft Zune HD is a touchscreen media player with radio, wireless, Web browsing -- and downloadable applications which can take advantage of its 3.3" screen and graphics performance (see previous post).

Microsoft recently released a set of new games optimized for the Zune HD to give you a sense of the device's capabilities.

These feature a 3D point of view driving game for racing through city streets, which can connect wirelessly to play with others.


  • PGR: Ferrari Edition - Select your Ferrari cars and steer through the streets of London, Tokyo and New York with touch and tilt controls. Compete with three other players wirelessly.

  • Lucky Lanes Bowling - Chose different bowling alleys, bowlers and ball styles

  • Checkers - Classic game, play against the Zune or wirelessly with other player

  • Audiosurf Tilt - Ride a song visually on roller coaster track based on the shape, speed and mood of the music. Tilt to avoid speed bumps and collect colored boxes

  • Piano - Play portion of keyboard on touch-screen keys

You can review and download Zune apps using the Zune Desktop Software (under Marketplace / Apps) and then sync to the player, or download directly on the Zune HD device. Then run them from the Apps menu. However, apps do take a while to launch -- over five seconds, which is OK for a game but a bit painful for the Calculator app.

Microsoft also has release a new firmware 4.3 update for the Zune HD. Among other improvements, this provides the underlying support for upcoming 3D games and applications, adds an Auto Suggest feature for text input, and speeds Web browsing, with an Internet Settings option to swap between mobile or desktop layout when viewing Web pages. Get the firmware through the Zune Desktop Software (under Settings / Device / Player Update).

See my Portable Media Players Gallery for more on media players

Find the Microsoft Zune HD on Amazon.com

November 19, 2009

Duracell Power Reserve Chargers For Portable USB Power

The Duracell Power Reserve line of portable chargers are rechargeable Lithium Ion batteries packaged in several sizes to provide additional power on the road for portable devices, from cell phones to media players to even some digital cameras.

These don't try to provide adapter tips for all your various devices (see previous post on Energizer Energi To Go). Instead they feature USB and/or mini USB ports for compatibility with the growing number of USB-powered devices, and are recharged through USB (from a computer or USB wall charger). For other devices, you can use the USB adapter / cable that came with the device to connect to a custom interface.

The Duracell Pocket Charger ($19) is a 500 mAh pocket-sized, supplemental charger for cell phones, providing up to 60 percent more talk time. It has a swinging miniUSB charging arm.

The Duracell Instant Charger ($29) is a small (~ 3 1/2 x 1 1/2) 1500 mAh charger with a USB port, plus miniUSB (and cable) for charging, and a power switch. It provides up to 180 minutes of backup power for cell phones and the iPhone, and 45 to 50 hours for iPods like the nano and classic.

The Duracell Powerhouse Charger ($49) is a 2000 mAh device that can charge two devices at once, with a USB port and miniUSB arm, and power switch. It provides reserve power for cell phones, PDAs or MP3 players, and even many digital cameras.

These allow you to bring along backup power when you're on the road, in a small, light, and convenient package.

See my Portable Power Accessories Gallery for more on portable batteries and power options.

Find the Duracell Power Reserve Chargers on Amazon.com:
Pocket Charger - Instant Charger - Powerhouse Charger

November 21, 2009

SteadePod - Quick and Easy Steadying for Cameras and Camcorders

Today's cameras are getting smarter, to try to make a good shot no matter how informal we are at shooting with them. But as cameras get smaller and lighter, the biggest issue is simply holding them steady enough to get a clean shot, especially in difficult situations like low light, high zoom, or long exposure. And this is even more of an issue with pocket camcorders like the Flip Video (see previous post), which work best if you're bracing yourself to avoid shaky video.

One solution, of course, is to carry a tripod, or at least a monopod, but lugging along extra (and obvious) equipment defeats the whole idea of carrying a lightweight and pocketable camera for spontaneous shots. Or you can use small tripods like the Joby Gorillapod to set up for an event or shot (see previous post).

But even better for on-the-go shooting instead is a small and simple device to help you steady your shots -- like the new SteadePod from Cameron Products.

This is basically a retractable tape measure with 6 foot steel cable. Attach your camera to the tripod mount, pull out the cable to your camera's height off the ground, lock the position, then step on the attached footpad to anchor the other end. Apply a slight tension to the line, and you have a steady platform for your shooting.

The SteadePod is compact and easy to carry (a lot simpler than bringing along a stick), and quick to set up for informal shots (and less obtrusive).

Of course a tripod is still great for more formal shots, and a monopod is helpful for extended shooting, but the SteadePod fits well with taking advantage of quick, informal, and spontaneous shooting. It's priced at $29.95 ($24 street).

See my Digital Cameras Gallery for more on these and other tripods.

    Find the SteadePod on Amazon.com

November 24, 2009

Dexim iPhone / iPod Accessories for Power and Video

Apple's iPod and iPhone lines are great products, but we always want to do more with them, which has lead to a proliferation of third-product accessories, from docks to cases to chargers to external audio/video connectors.

Dexim has introduced some clever accessories for powering and sharing your iPhone/iPod.

The new Dexim P-Flip is a foldable, portable, rechargeable dual-purpose power dock and battery, available for $54. The P-Flip closes up for storage to pocket-sized, and then flips open as a desktop stand for your iPhone 3G/3Gs or iPod touch.

It serves as a cordless charger, or you can connect the included miniUSB cable to recharge and sync the iPhone/iPod. The three LEDs display the charge status of the device and the battery, which extends talk time up to 8 hours, video/game play to 15 hours, and music to 60 hours.

You also can download the free PFlip Clock app from the Apple iPhone Store.

When driving, the Dexim Car Charger for iPhone/iPod includes both a cable with an Apple connector for charging your iPhone/iPod, and a USB port protected by a rotating cover, for $15.

Dexim also offers other versions of car chargers with USB port, dual USB, iPod connector, and/or cell phone tips.

And to share your photos and videos on TV, the Dexim AV Adapters for iPhone/iPod include a small A/V adapter that plugs in to the Apple connector, with connectors on the bottom for two included cables: an A/V output cable (with various connectors for the different products) and a USB cable (for data synchronization and charging).

The Dexim (Composite) AV Adapter has a composite video cable with stereo audio (video + L&R audio), for $39.

The Dexim Premium (Component) AV Adapter has a full component A/V out cable (R,G,B video + L&R audio), for $49.

See my Portable Peripherals and Accessories Gallery for more on portable and computer accessories.

    Find the Dexim P-Flip and Car Charger on Amazon.com

November 25, 2009

Verilux HappyLight for SAD Gray Days

It's gray and overcast and drizzly here in New Jersey, and it's going to be like that a lot over the next four months or so, at least when it's not snowing.

All these gray days can wear you down with the winter blues, even if you don't have a diagnosis of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD -- see Wikipedia). So if you can't fly away to a warm and sunny beach, you can at least bring some of that sunlight into your home with a bright light -- to provide both more lumens than an ordinary bulb to make a room glow, and a full spectrum of white light closer to the natural sunlight that you are craving.

For example, we've been trying out the Verilux HappyLight line of sunshine supplement lights. The HappyLight 6000 provides up to 6,000 lux of white light for $89 in a unit that's easy to carry -- 12 x 4 5/8 x 3 inches and 2 pounds. It uses a custom 36 watt Verilux Natural Spectrum bulb that lasts up to 10,000 hours ($24.95).

This puts out a very bright light -- 6,000 lux is not quite full daylight, but close (full daylight is 10,000 lux and up -- see Wikipedia). The unit also has a high/low brightness control.

Verilux also offers the larger HappyLight Deluxe with 10,000 lux and 19" tall ($189 -- shown in image), and the smaller HappyLight 2500 with 2,500 lux ($34.95) -- at 9" tall and 1 pound you can buy multiple lights in combo packs.

Verilux recommends positioning the HappyLight 6000 one to two feet in front of your face, although offset on a diagonal, so your eyes can take in the white light. The recommended daily use to reduce sluggishness and lethargy is listed as 2 1/2 hours. However, Verilux disclaims any medical claims regarding the use of the product, and states it is solely intended for use as portable supplemental lighting.

We don't have long-term experience with the HappyLight, but it certainly is bright and white, and it does make me happy to see it really light up the room.

November 26, 2009

Holiday Tech Gift Guide 2009 -- And Talk at the Princeton Public Library

Happy Black Friday! It's time to start thinking about holiday gifts, and especially consumer electronics gifts (see previous post). Which also means it's time for my annual Holiday Tech Gift Guide.

This year the focus in on portable devices, and especially smartphones -- the one device that can do almost anything, at least on a small screen.

But there are other alternatives for your shopping consideration, from larger netbooks to a variety of other portable -- but non-phone -- devices focused on other uses, including media players, handheld game systems, and E-Book readers.

And don't miss another hot gift option -- accessories to go along with these devices, including Bluetooth headsets, portable speakers and displays, wireless power, and portable storage.

If you're in the Princeton area, come on down to my annual Holiday Tech Gift Guide presentation at the Princeton Public Library on Tuesday -- It's free and open to the public, and you can see and even try out many of these devices.

Holiday Tech Gift Guide

    Douglas Dixon, Manifest Technology
    Tues., Dec. 1, 2009 at 7 pm
    Princeton Public Library, Community Room
    65 Witherspoon St., Princeton, NJ 08542
    Event Info - Princeton Library

See my full article -- Holiday Tech Gift Guide 2009

It's expanded from my annual gadget guide article published in this week's U.S. 1 Newspaper, Nov. 25, 2009:
- If the Wish List is an E-List, Think Small & Portable
- Accessories for Portable Devices

Also see my Digital Media Galleries for more on these and related products and trends.

November 28, 2009

Wireless Recharging: Powermat and Duracell MyGrid

The downside of all our portable gadgets is all the different power adapters and cables that we need to keep them charged. The problem does get easier when your devices use standard USB ports (see previous post).

Yet if everything else is going wireless, why not power? We're not talking here about pulling energy out of the air, or beaming voltage around -- The idea is that someday you can just sit your device down on a table, and have it recharge without the muss and fuss of wires and connectors.

Sound good? We're not quite there yet, but there are a couple companies showing the way. The first products have a charging pad that you plug in the conventional way, plus compatible sleeve adapters that you attach to your portable devices. They also include universal adapters to place on the pad, with wired micro USB interfaces for charging other devices.

The Powermat line uses magnetic induction technology, so your device snaps into the proper alignment on the mat.

The Powermat Home & Office Mat and foldable Portable Mat are each $99. To adapt your devices to use the mat, the iPhone / touch dock and receivers are $39, and BlackBerry battery doors and Nintendo DSi / DS Lite backs are $29.

The Duracell MyGrid line (which uses the Wildcharge technology) is based on conduction, so the adapters have small metal dimples that make direct contact with the very thin tablet, but can be placed in any orientation.

The MyGrid Pad is $49, and adapter Skins are $34 for iPhone, iPod Touch, BlackBerry, and Motorola RAZR V3.

These technologies typically charge at the same rate as the device's own charger. And no, they don't spark if you put metal on them, or fry you if you touch them...

However, these products do use incompatible technologies, of course, so there will be a shake-out period in the market as the companies push to get their technology built in directly to portable devices. But someday we can hope that we can just put down our devices to recharge, on surfaces from conference room tables to kitchen counters.

See my Portable Power Accessories Gallery for more on portable batteries and power options.

Find the PowerMat Home & Office Mat
and Duracell MyGrid Pad on Amazon.com

November 29, 2009

OrigAudio Folding Recycled Paper Speakers

Small portable speakers make music much more fun, whether to listen better to your laptop, or to share the sound from your iPod or phone without requiring earphones. But even small speakers take up space on the go, especially if you want two of them for stereo sound (see previous post on the Altec Lansing Orbit and LaCie USB Speakers).

The new OrigAudio Fold and Play Recycled Speakers take a significantly different approach -- the speaker elements are mounted in a paper box!

Yes, the OrigAudio speakers are made from recycled paper, and come folded flat into a 6 1/4 x 6 1/4 x 1 3/4 inch display box. You can then unfold them to assemble into 3 1/8 inch cubes -- just fold in the ends and fit the tab A's into slot B's.

The pair of stereo speakers are wired together only about a foot apart, with a close to 4 foot cord to a standard 3.5mm headphone jack, which you can plug into almost any audio device, desktop or portable.

The OrigAudios are made of heavy-duty recycled paper, and are currently available in several fun designs, including CityScape, Lake, Surf Break, and Flowers. Or the Canvas design provides a neutral background to decorate with your own artwork.

The speakers are self-powered, so no batteries or external power is needed. As a result they are not particularly loud, so they're a better match for personal listening and small groups than blasting at a party.

The OrigAudio speakers are a fun idea, for travel or for decorating your workspace. And they are only $16, available directly from OrigAudio. And there's more to look forward to -- OrigAudio also offers custom designs for larger orders, with different materials and a second triangular design.

See my Audio Accessories Gallery for more on portable speakers and earphones

Holiday Tech Gift Guide Talk at Princeton Library

My annual Holiday Tech Gift Guide presentation at the Princeton Library is coming up this Tuesday, December 1 at 7 pm.

It's free and open to the public. I'll have lots of fun gadgets to talk about, and demo -- and to hand around for you to check out.

I'll focus in on portable devices, and especially new smartphones including the Verizon Droid. And there are interesting new non-phone devices, including media players, handheld game systems, E-Book readers, and pocket camcorders.

Plus don't miss another hot gift option -- accessories to go along with these devices, including Bluetooth headsets, portable speakers and displays, wireless power, portable storage, and computer peripherals.

Holiday Tech Gift Guide

    Douglas Dixon, Manifest Technology
    Tues., Dec. 1, 2009 at 7 pm
    Princeton Public Library, Community Room
    65 Witherspoon St., Princeton, NJ

    Event Information

Keeping up with changes in technology is a full-time job. No one knows that better than Douglas Dixon of Manifest Technology, who returns to the library to present the Holiday Tech Gift Guide 2009. This annual roundup of tech trends and toys will track the latest developments, from portable gadgets to netbooks to set-tops, game consoles and beyond. Dixon, an independent technology consultant, author and speaker specializing in digital media, breaks it down to help participants discover which gadgets to put on the gift list, not to mention the personal wish list.

See my extended Holiday Tech Gift Guide 2009 article for a preview.

Also see my Digital Media Galleries for more on these and related products and trends.

Manifest Tech Site

About November 2009

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

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