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January 2008 Archives

January 11, 2008

Live from CES: Photo Frames and More Photo Frames

Sure, I could write about the 11-inch Sony XEL-1 OLED TV that's 3 millimeters thin and looks so great people will actually happily pay $2,000 for it. You really have to see it to believe it. The LCD/plasma debate becomes meaningless in the face of such mind-blowing picture quality.

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Or I could write about all the ways HDTV is going to be slung around the home sans wires. I counted no less than 7 different technologies vying for attention, and surely missed some. With so much jostling it will be a good long while before one emerges as a true standard, if ever. In the meantime we'll struggle along with our HDMI cables, thank you very much.

But as a camera and photo nut, what really caught my eye was the veritable torrent of digital picture frames, which have moved way beyond simple photo display to become web-connected media wonders. The latest Ality Pixxa lets you send photos for display on the 8-inch frame via an IM program, so you can be chatting with grandma and put a new pic of the grandkids on her frame while you're at it. Want your New York Times fix? Just add it to your RSS feeds and view it on the Pixxa screen, along with sports, weather, traffic and stock quotes. You can even keep your daily schedule on it, and sync with Google Calendar. No need for a computer.

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Other interesting twists on the remote update theme came from Ceiva, which has a service that uploads pictures to the frame over a phone line, so grandma doesn't even need a computer, and from Kodak, which has a picture mail service that can update the photos on its Wi-Fi enabled photo frames. They are all great ways to share those photos languishing on your hard drive.

January 16, 2008

MacWorld Update

Much to write about today with MacWorld going on...


First, the iPhone update. Well, I'm a little disappointed that they didn't announce Flash support and Exchange support for Calendar & Contacts, but the features they did put in are pretty cool. Customizable home screen, locate current position in Maps, create Home icons for web pages, and send SMS to multiple people.

Amazingly, two new pieces of hardware - an ultrathin notebook called MacBook Air and a home backup server and wireless base station called Time Capsule. Time Capsule includes up to 1 terabyte of storage and uses the new, faster wireless standard 802.11n for typical speeds of 74 Mbps (about 3.5x faster than 802.11g). Combining the wireless with the hard drive is a bold move, but 802.11n will last for many years, so it's not as if you will be stuck with an outdated wireless device anytime soon. And guess what, AppleTV has 802.11n as well, and that's fast enough to comfortably stream really nice HD video around the house (802.11a/g can do it, but a low signal or other network activity can break performance), so Time Capsule + AppleTV = happiness for your HDTV screen.

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  • Movie rentals, both HD- and DVD-quality
  • TV show, music, and music video purchases
  • Photos from Flickr and .Mac web galleries
  • Direct access to over 125,000 podcasts

(BTW, if you are not already using Roxio Popcorn 3 to prep your videos for AppleTV, you should get it - gives you a lot more to watch on AppleTV if you have a large collection.)

Apple finally got the message and is starting movie rentals on iTunes (I doubt any credit will go to Microsoft for offering this on XBox marketplace for the past 18 months). It's a mad dash for the OnDemand world as Comcast, AT&T, Apple, Microsoft and others fight for your "click to buy/rent" dollar.

Apple never ceases to impress, and even with all the noise from CES last week, they put on a good show.

January 21, 2008

The Hunt for the Perfect CD Marker

If you're like me, you probably label most CDs by reaching for the nearest felt-tip pen or magic marker. For special ones you'll spend the time to create a nice color label, but most just get a quick few strokes of the pen.

When it comes to CD labeling, however, not all magic markers are created equal. Using the wrong marker can literally destroy your disc and make it unreadable. According to a librarians' organization, the only safe CD markers are water- or alcohol-based. If you can smell your marker, it is probably solvent-based, and can cause the thin lacquer coating protecting the top of the disc to dissolve. A ball point, even a rollerball, is also a nono, since it can literally scratch through the coating. DVDs are a little less vulnerable, since they have polycarbonate coatings on both sides of the disc, but we prefer to simply be on the safe side for all optical discs. If your backup photo disc is unreadable five years down the road, you're not going to remember what marker you used, only that you've lost your precious photos.

So where can you find CD-safe markers? Wanting to find the best way to label our discs, we went on an online search for the perfect CD pen. We were amazed to find a large selection of markers specially designed for CD and DVD labeling from Sharpie, Staedtler, Dixon, eFilm, TDK and more, none of which we'd ever seen in stores. So we ordered up samples and put them to the test. Two clear favorites emerged: the Sharpie CD/DVD Permanent Marker and the Staedtler Lumocolor CD/DVD Marker.

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Sanford Sharpie (left) and Staedtler Lumocolor (right) CD/DVD markers.

Both come in red, blue, green and black so you can indulge your color whims. The Sharpies are double-ended, with one ultra-fine tip and one fine tip that is also good for marking jewel cases. We really liked having a choice of thicknesses. They are also non-toxic, for use around small children. The Lumocolors have a fine tip for precise writing, plus the advantage of being dry-safe, which means you can leave them uncapped for days without drying up, and they are always ready to start writing. Both sets of markers dried quickly and were reasonably smudgeproof and waterproof.

For more great information on safe labeling and storage of CDs and DVDs, including how they react to light, moisture and x-rays, check out the Council on Library and Information Resources' guide to the "Care and Handing of CDs and DVDs."

January 22, 2008

Wireless SuperCameras

Quick, what gadget won Best of Show awards at BOTH the Consumer Electronics Show and Macworld Expo this month? If you guessed some form of music player or high-def video equipment, you'd be forgiven, but the answer is Eye-Fi, a tiny little SD card that fits in most digital cameras and gives them wireless superpowers as well as 2GB of memory.

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With Eye-Fi, you can send photos directly to your Mac or PC, and to photo sharing sites like Flickr, Facebook, Photobucket, Webshots, Snapfish, Windows Live, TypePad and many more. There's no USB cable to remember or carry around. (How many times have you forgotten yours or had to buy a new one because you left it somewhere?) All you need is your camera and a Wi-Fi network, at your home, work or friends' house. You don't even need your laptop for uploading to the Web. Wi-Fi encryption passwords are supported, although not logins at places like Starbucks, where a Web browser would be needed to get online. At Macworld Expo Eye-Fi also announced support for direct iPhoto import.

Before Eye-Fi, there were a few cameras with built-in Wi-Fi, but with very limited features. For example, the Nikon CoolPix 550c lets you send pics from the camera to your PC without wires, but only supports Flickr and a special Nikon site for uploads. The Eye-Fi's ability to work with a wide variety of sites and any camera model that takes SD cards is liberating.

Even so, the Eye-Fi's success should push more camera vendors down the wireless route. Wireless photo transfer and uploading is just too good a feature to leave entirely to third parties. At CES, Sony was showing a camera with an entirely new wireless technology, dubbed TransferJet, that works simply by touching two TransferJet-enabled devices together. It runs at a peak speeds of 560Mbps and sustained throughput of 375Mbps, far faster than Wi-Fi, and comparable to USB 2.0 at 480Mbps or FireWire at 400Mbps. Sony envisions it being used in cameras, camcorders, cell phones and other portable devices, with data being transferred to your computer, media player or even TV for direct playback. Imagine touching your cell phone to your computer to download photos and video, or your camcorder to your TV to view your latest recording on the big screen. We can't wait.

January 23, 2008

How to Become a YouTube Star

Let me begin by saying that despite my now long-running "foray" into the digital media space I have never considered myself a digital media "enthusiast." After all, the word "enthusiast" denotes someone who is truly passionate about what they do and while I have always had a love of marketing I have not always had a passion for the digital media space. Nor a hate. I suppose I was simply indifferent. I mean, what is "digital media" anyway? And, you've likely noticed by now that I don't use quotation marks sparingly. I'm a "fingers-hanging-around-my-head-in-quotes kind of gal." That information is important to you, as the reader, because it sets the tone for this article.

Roughly two months ago my friend forwarded me a link to a website and told me to check it out because it was "cool." (There it is again). So I went to www.slingbox.com and in fact agreed with said friend that it WAS cool. I started poking around and found that they were promoting a contest at that time. I read on. The contest was looking for "stand up comedy" submissions that featured their product, the Slingbox (a device you set up in your home that "slings" your favorite television shows and recorded programs to your laptop no matter where in the world you are).

This got me to thinking. I had engaged in stand up comedy years ago and wondered if I could pull something like this off. I mean, the prize was $10,000 and who couldn't use a little extra holiday dough? So I got to brainstorming and I reviewed the submissions already posted to get a pulse on my competition. They sucked. That inspired me because if there's one thing I like more than a challenge, it's a challenge I'm fairly certain I can win!

Fast forward a week. I've come up with an idea that ventures beyond traditional thinking - certainly with "stand up" being the primary parameter. I would write a song featuring the Slingbox and then produce a video to accommodate it! And....drum roll.....I did! ME! The person who doesn't sing, own a video recorder of any kind, nada. But this shows you the lengths I will go to to hear the words "you've won!".

Sadly (yes, there's always one of those in a story like this one), I somehow "missed" (read: the webmaster missed) the submission deadline and I didn't make it into the contest. HOWEVER, being the savvy marketer that I am, I sent my well-crafted, finely honed piece of work to the PR, head of Marketing, and Biz Dev folks over there at Slingbox and lo and behold got their attention!

I didn't win the 10 gees...but I did win a Slingbox for my efforts ($150 value)! That's nothing to sneeze at! Better yet, the creative process, kudos from countless friends and co-workers, and opportunity to look at myself for hours on end resulted in a new hobby. A hobby that over the past two months has (some might say) become an obsession! I prefer the word enthusiast myself. But whatev.

This is how it all got started - my passion for video making and songwriting. And I thought you should know this going into my article so that you a) better understand who I am as a person b) keep up with my video making evolution and c) get inspired to possibly do something like this for yourself (start checking YouTube community for new contests all the time!)

I never thought I'd be someone to actually use one of our products (terrible as that sounds) but now Creator 10 has become an invaluable resource to me. Check out my Slingbox video and it will all make sense. ;)

Enjoy!

(Oh, and good luck because any contest you enter that I'm already entered in will end in swift defeat). Insert evil laugh here.


January 29, 2008

Video on the phone – Is it hype or reality?

I’ve been traveling a lot recently on both long and short haul trips. To entertain myself during some of the waiting times at the airport and during the numerous delays I have encountered, I have turned to my media monster Nokia phone to provide me with some entertainment, most notably, video entertainment.

At Roxio, we have wonderful products that will allow you to move and convert video for viewing on your cell phone. I’ve been a big user of this technology but even I have to admit that there are some limitations from a use standpoint.

The reality is that the technology is definitely here. My media centric Nokia has a glorious 2.5” QVGA screen that boasts 320x240 pixel resolution with millions of colors. It has a stereo output jack and automatically plays movies or video clips in the right portrait orientation. However, as I started to watch all the content that I had loaded onto the high capacity memory card I had on the phone, I noticed very quickly that size really does matter when it comes to watching videos. A small clip, a short video podcast were great but as the shows crept past the 30 length, I began to really suffer from some eye strain. 1 hr recorded prime time shows were really a struggle for me to get through and I discovered I had to take them in 20 min durations.

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The longer 90 mins to 2hr recorded movies were completely unwatchable for me in one pass, both from an eye strain perspective and also I discovered, from a battery consumption perspective. The other nasty secret I had quickly discovered very quickly was that watching videos really eats up battery power. Stuck on the plane in Chicago on a delay, my laptop was in the overhead compartment smooched behind a large duffle bag and someone’s jacket so it was not easily accessible. So I pulled out my pocket sized media wonder and proceed to try and watch a 2 hr show. My battery was about ¾ full and about 30 mins though the show, when I took a brief break from the screen, the battery gauge was now at ¼. There was no way I was going to be able to finish the movie without finding a power jack.

So now while I still continue to use my phone to enjoy smaller recorded programming at home or to show my friends the latest video clips of my dog engaging in really silly activities, I have learned to balance video viewing with battery consumption and length of content I view.

I would be interested in hearing what your direct experiences with video content on cellphones are like. Do you stream, watch pre-loaded content, watch movies?

January 31, 2008

Megapixels Aren't Everything

As I wander around this week's PMA show, the digital camera mecca put on by the Photo Marketing Association, two trends emerge right away. First, camera vendors are finally busting out of their collective my-megapixels-are-more-than-yours rut and promoting features that actually improve the quality of your picture-taking, not just the size of your files. And second, people must love blue, fuschia and pink-hued cameras -- the aluminum rainbows many new models come in remind me of my grandmother's juice glasses.

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Separated at birth? Fuji FinePix cameras on the left, Target Retro Aluminum Tumblers on the right.

So what new features should you be looking for in this year's digital camera crop? Canon, Panasonic and others were showing off cool facial-recognition technology that ensures your subjects will always be in focus and properly exposed, no matter what the surroundings. And motion detection and image stabilization (IS), formerly the province of high-end pro cameras and lenses, have gone mainstream. These can help compensate for the motion blur caused by shaky hands and squirmy kids. To see the difference image stabilization can make, check out this sample image from Canon:

pmaIS.jpg

Other common new features include bigger and brighter LCDs for framing and reviewing photos, fast sequential shooting (great for shooting sports and children), and quicker response times. The absolute best thing you can do for your candid photography is buy a camera that takes the picture when you press the button, not 1 or 2 seconds later...

For beach and snow vacations, I also like Olympus' Stylus SW line of shockproof, freezeproof and waterproof cameras. Olympus has them in the booth frozen in ice, swimming in aquariums, and bouncing down a pegboard into a puddle. Tuck one of these babies in your shorts pocket and they'll go anywhere. And yes, they come in plenty of colors too!

I'm headed back to the show now to find more goodies. Next time, we'll discuss why 8 to 10 megapixels is enough!

About January 2008

This page contains all entries posted to MyMoments in January 2008. They are listed from oldest to newest.

February 2008 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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