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May 2010 Archives

May 6, 2010

Droid Incredible from Verizon Wireless / HTC

The not so modestly named Verizon Wireless Droid Incredible from HTC actually lives up to its name. This slender device is wicked fast, packs some nice hardware upgrades, and features the highly-customizable HTC Sense interface.

The Incredible is the latest incarnation of the Google Android smartphone platform, designed as a close cousin to the Google Nexus One (both are thinner and lighter without the slide-out keyboard of the Motorola Droid) and now available on the Verizon Wireless network

(Google had originally planned to bring out the Nexus One on Verizon, but now recommends that customers should get the Droid Incredible instead.)

UPDATED: The Incredible has a faster 1 GHz Snapdragon processor than the Droid's Arm 550 mHz, and you feel the difference. For example, when downloading multiple apps in the Google Marketplace the Droid will hesitate for multiple seconds when bringing up confirmation screens, but the Incredible just keeps on responding.

The Incredible also steps up the hardware features from the Droid and the Nexus One in several interesting ways, with an 8 MP camera (from 5 MP), built-in 8 GB internal memory for storing documents and media (in addition to the removable MicroSD card), and a FM radio.

The HTC Sense interface extends the standard Android Home page with five panels and a "Leap" feature to show thumbnails of all five panels to jump quickly between them. The interface also offers plethora of large widgets for direct access to your e-mail, text messages, and other favorite information on one of the Home screen panels -- although the full app for each is also just a tap away with the same responsiveness as flicking to a widget.

The HTC Sense interface also extends many of the core Android apps -- Browser, Mail, People, Calendar, etc. -- to add additional features, especially for a more integrated view of your information. For example, the People app combines your contact information with associated communications, including email, updates, texts, tweets, and the Photo Gallery app combines photos on the phone with online Picasa Web albums.

These apps also need to be modified for a second reason -- to support the internal 8 GB memory, which is not found by standard Android apps, but is a nice place to stash media files and saved documents that you can continue to access even when you swap the removable MicroSD card.

The Droid Incredible is priced at $199.99 from Verizon after $100 mail-in rebate (as a debit card), with a new 2-year agreement. It requires a Nationwide Talk plan (from $39.99/month), and an Email and Web for Smartphone plan (from $29.99 for unlimited monthly access). Verizon is also offering a free 2 GB memory card for purchases before May 31, 2010.

See my full article on the Incredible - Droid Incredible from Verizon Wireless / HTC

See earlier article on the Android interface - Verizon / Motorola Droid -- Android 2.0

See my Mobile Communications Gallery for more on smartphones

Find the Verizon Droid Incredible on Amazon.com.

May 8, 2010

Scan and Translate Text with Google Goggles

How much can you do with a camera on a smartphone? The folks at Google Labs are determined to keep opening the aperture by pouring technology into their Google Goggles app to do all kinds of visual searches (see earlier post on Google Shopper and Google Goggles).

With the new Google Goggles version 1.1 released this week, you now can scan photos of text in five languages (English, French, Italian, German, Spanish), copy the text, and/or translate it to these and twelve other languages.

Goggles already recognized all kinds of objects -- logos, products, artwork, landmarks -- and looks up information about them. Plus it scans business cards to extract the contact information.

So now you can shoot the cover of a book or CD to look up the product information, zoom in on artwork to look up the artist, and then focus on the text to scan and translate it.

Goggles also has added a crop rectangle that you can position to select the portion of the image that you want to scan, and control for the flash to better illuminate what you are shooting. And you can do searches on images in the phone's photo gallery.

And beyond visual searches of images. Goggles also has a heads-up "Augmented Reality" mode in which it overlays Google Local information about near-by places as you pan the live camera around your location (see earlier post on AR apps).

Google Goggles is a free app, available for Android devices running Android 1.6 and above (like, of course, the new Verizon / HTC Droid Incredible -- see previous post).

What's up next? -- How about face finding and face recognition ...

See my Smartphone Apps Gallery for more on mobile apps

See my article Augmented Reality Goes Mobile - for more on AR apps, including Google Goggles

Find the Verizon Droid Incredible on Amazon.com.

What's new in Google Goggles version 1.1 ...

Continue reading "Scan and Translate Text with Google Goggles" »

May 14, 2010

ColcaSac Fleece Sleeves for MacBook / iPhone / iPad

Doesn't your MacBook (and iPhone and iPod) deserve to sleep in comfort? Maybe nestled in a fleece-lined sleeve made of natural, sustainable materials including burlap and hemp -- like the ColcaSac naturally protective sleeves for MacBooks and portable devices.

The ColcaSac sleeves are simple and strong, padded with a soft polyester sherpa fleece lining, with a velcro closure, plus a CD-sized external pocket. They are priced at $39.95 with burlap, hemp, or print fabric exteriors, in brown, black, red, and patterns. These are available in a range of sizes for the 13" to 17" MacBook / Pro, MacBook Air, PowerBook, iBook, or other similarly-sized notebooks.

ColcaSac also has iPhone and iPod classic / touch sleeves for $14.95, and iPad and Kindle sleeves for $34.95.

ColcaSac even promotes these sleeves as a theft deterrent, since the natural fabrics aren't usually associated with expensive electronics inside -- although the warm and comfortable designs may be tempting on their own.

See my Portable Peripherals and Accessories Gallery for more on protecting your devices.

Find ColcaSac Fleece Sleeves on Amazon.com

Summary - ColcaSac Fleece Sleeves ...

Continue reading "ColcaSac Fleece Sleeves for MacBook / iPhone / iPad" »

May 19, 2010

Logitech Portable Lapdesk

The Logitech Comfort Lapdesk is a great design for long-term notebook use at home, even stretched out when sitting on a bed (see earlier post). But what about when you're on the go, and still need a stable platform and protection from heat build-up?

The Logitech Portable Lapdesk offers a thinner and lighter design with rounded edges that provides comfortable use, and still slips easily in your laptop bag or sleeve -- It's only about 14 1/2 x 10 1/4 inches by a 1/2 inch thick.

The Portable Lapdesk is heat resistant, designed for extended use. The entire top surface has an anti-slip texture to keep your notebook from sliding off, and the bottom has anti-slip strip to help you find a comfortable position on your legs.

There's even a retractable mouse pad that slides out from the side, with a ridged lip to keep your mouse (or snacks) in place.

The Logitech Comfort Lapdesk, model N315, is $29.99.

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

    Find the Logitech Portable Lapdesk on Amazon.com

May 21, 2010

Logitech Clip-on USB Laptop Speakers

Today's laptops and netbooks are loaded for everything -- to use for work and play, from editing office documents to enjoying music and video. And these notebooks work well for personal viewing, to pass the time on an airplane as you listen on earphones.

But the great widescreen displays typically aren't matched by great sound, as manufacturers shoehorn tiny (and tinny) speakers onto their devices. You can boost the audio with external speakers like the Altec Lansing Orbit -- mono speakers bulked up to handle rattling around in your travel bag. These are available in models with a standard audio jack (to also play from portable media players like an iPod), and with a USB interface to plug and play from a laptop (see earlier post).

But for more focused sound from your notebook, the Logitech Laptop Speakers with dual stereo drivers have a clip-on design that positions the sound up and facing you, mounted on the top of the display or monitor. The sound can fill a room nicely, but won't blow out your ears -- I set the system volume down to around 10 percent when sitting right in front of the speakers.

These connect simply to your PC or Mac notebook with a USB cable. There's no hassle -- just plug in and they become the audio output for your music and video -- with no software to install, no extra power cable or batteries -- just plug and play.

The speakers also offer power and volume buttons, and do have a 3.5mm audio input jack for connecting external media players.

The Logitech Laptop Speakers are still relatively small and light for travel (7 x 2 1/2 x 1 1/2 inches, 2 pounds), and come with a protective carrying case for $39.99.

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

Find the Logitech Laptop Speakers on Amazon.com

May 23, 2010

Android 2.2 - A Tasty Treat

Time for a tasty frozen treat -- Google announced the details of the upcoming release of Android 2.2 at last week's Google I/O developers conference. This is the seventh platform release since Android 1.0 was launched in September 2008.

The code names for the Android releases are desserts, in alphabetical order (Cupcake, Donut, Eclair), and version 2.2 is named Froyo, for frozen yogurt. After all, this is not just a minor point release, it's a yummy-looking treat promising a wide range of improvements, for users and developers alike.

Some of the highlights include:

- Significant speedups, promising 2x-5x improvements for processing-intensive apps, plus faster loading of web pages.
- Support for running applications from SD card, so you can install large apps like games without using up all the internal memory.
- Support for using the phone as a shared Wi-Fi hotspot for laptops or other portable devices, or tethered to a laptop over USB.
- Expanded camera / camcorder features including portrait orientation, LED flash for video, and expanded controls for zoom, flash, exposure, and geo-tagging.
- Enhanced Microsoft Exchange support, especially for security and administrator policies.
- Expanded Bluetooth support including voice dialing, sharing contacts, and car docks.
- Expanded developer support for services including messages from cloud services, backup to cloud storage, speech recognition, and "car mode" and "night mode" controls -- all now available to be built in to any Android app.

The new Android 2.2 is apparently already starting to roll out to Nexus One phones, but will take longer to move though the release process for other manufacturers and carriers, like the new Verizon Wireless Droid Incredible from HTC (see earlier post).

See the Android 2.2 Platform Highlights for more information on the new release, including screen shots and an introductory video.

See my Mobile Communications Gallery for more on smartphones

Find the Verizon Droid Incredible on Amazon.com.

More details on Android 2.2 features ...

Continue reading "Android 2.2 - A Tasty Treat" »

May 26, 2010

Kensington Wall and Car USB Chargers

Kensington has quietly developed an interesting line of portable batteries and chargers for iPods and other portable devices, including models for travel, car, and international travel.

Many of these models supply power through a standard USB connector, so they can work with the adapter cables that come with many devices. And many include iPod connector cables and/or mini/micro USB cables, so they work with the growing universe of handheld devices that use standard small USB interfaces.

For example, the precisely named Kensington Wall and Car Charger for Mini and Micro USB Devices product includes both a USB wall charger (albeit with only one USB outlet), a USB car charger, and a mini-USB charging cable with a small micro-USB adapter -- all for $29.99.

That should be all that's required to charge many devices with standard USB interfaces, including, say, Android smartphones.

The Kensington USB car charger also is particularly mini. It's not much larger than the lighter socket -- some 2 inches long and less than an inch diameter.

So as more devices use standard USB interfaces for data and charging, you can leave all those custom power adapters at home, and just bring along one USB wall and car charger to power up whatever device, whenever you need it.

See my Portable Power Accessories Gallery for more on portable chargers

Find the Kensington Wall and Car USB Chargers on Amazon.com

May 28, 2010

Jan Ozer on Producing and Encoding Streaming Web Video

Do you want to shoot or encode streaming media for the Web, to view on computers, or on mobile devices including the iPhone and iPad? Then your go-to guy is Jan Ozer, who has been shooting, editing, and delivering video for decades -- and freely sharing his expertise in books and a wide variety of magazines (see Wikipedia bio).

Jan was back at the Streaming Media East Conference in New York earlier this month, presenting workshops on both Video Production and on Encoding H.264 Video for web streaming (see post from last year).

As usual, the conference organizers have posted these and other workshop and presentation notes on the website.

Ozer also has developed his own Streaming Learning Center website and blog, with industry updates and his trademark authoritative articles with technical analysis and comparisons of video tools and compression codecs.

Jan has posted detailed notes from his presentations at Streaming Media East:

- Video Production for Web Streaming

An extensive survey of key issues in the production workflow for preparing streaming video, spanning Production (setup, lighting, shooting), Editing (particularly correct use of aspect radio and de-interlacing), and Encoding (with codec comparisons and recommended settings).

As usual, Jan provides useful, practical advice, with lots of specifics (100-some slides) illustrated with example screen shots of dos and don'ts.

- Encoding H.264 Video for Streaming and Progressive Download

Lots of information and advice on H.264 encoding parameters, with specifics on producing for computer, iTunes, iPhone and iPad. Plus a bonus section on comparing codecs, with extensive examples with different encoding options.

Again, check Ozer's Streaming Learning Center site for deeper articles on these and related topics. And don't miss his presentations at the Streaming Media conferences.

May 29, 2010

Dan Rayburn on the Streaming Media Market and Pricing

The streaming media market can be heinously confusing when you're trying to evaluate all the different options, from core video technologies to streaming service providers.

But there aren't many markets whose customers are better served than by a flagship publication (and website and associated conferences) like Streaming Media.com, and by prolific and accessible experts like Jan Ozer on video technology, techniques, and tools (see previous post), and Dan Rayburn on the business and market of streaming media.

Rayburn is EVP for StreamingMedia.com, and again was the conference chairman for the recent Streaming Media Conference, with over 100 speakers in 30 sessions, and 50 exhibitors (see his personal DanRayburn.com site).

And there's more -- Rayburn not only keeps his fingers on the pulse of the streaming media market, he openly shares this information to help make the market much less opaque. This is the kind of material that you often can only find in expensive analyst reports in other market areas, but Rayburn instead has been reporting for years on areas including market metrics and size, companies and segmentation, and even pricing for different classes of services.

Again this year, Rayburn presented his session on CDN Data: Pricing, Contract, Volume and Market Sizing Trends at the Streaming Media East conference (see presentation PDF). This summarized Content Delivery Network market growth and pricing, along with his analysis of developing trends driving the industry (see post on last year's presentation).

Rayburn reports that 2010 looks to be a good year for CDN growth, based on stronger demand and less aggressive price drops from last year (the low-cost leader strategy has not been sustainable in this market).
- Pricing fell 40% for video delivery customers last year (average)
- Pricing should decline 20% in 2010
- Traffic grew 30% last year for video delivery customers (average)
- Traffic growth could be 45% in 2010

CDNs also are branching out into more value add services beyond commodity bit-pushing, including acceleration, security, and verticals.

Finally, Rayburn sees a bigger surge in the market more like 24 months out, driven particularly by focusing on application acceleration for specific needs. He is less enthusiastic about seeing big impacts from other hot trends including HD video, video advertizing, live events, and cloud computing.

You can follow Rayburn and get more detailed information on his Business of Video blog (hosted on the Streaming Media site).

He also provides an array of additional domains that link to specific topics on his blog, including regular reports on the CDN market and pricing:

www.ContentDeliveryBlog.com - Content Delivery
www.cdnList.com - List of CDNs, updated several times a year -
www.cdnPricing.com - Quarterly CDN pricing reports
www.cdnPatents.com - Patents & Legal Issues

UPDATE: The StreamingMedia.com team has launched a new site, OnlineVideo.net, which is designed to be "StreamingMedia for the rest of us” -- with how-to articles, case studies, buyer's guides, reviews, and more, targeted for those who are starting out, intermediate, and advanced.

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About May 2010

Entries posted to Manifest Tech Blog in May 2010, listed from oldest to newest.

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