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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 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?

February 28, 2008

How do the heck do I get my photos off my phone?

I’m like a lot of people today in the fact that I carry a phone that has a built in camera with me everywhere I go. In fact for my everyday phone, I have chosen a device that seems to be more of camera (5MP sensor and pretty advanced camera processing software) and it just happens to have a phone as part of its function.

Sure I take the occasional photo that I MMS to my friends, but my own personal habit is I use the camera phone because it is always there and I can take a snapshot of something that I would typically just have missed because I didn’t have a camera. If I don’t send the pictures via MMS and if I don’t email them from the phone as an attachment, how the heck do I get them off the phone?

Some phones store the images on a memory card – typically a micro or miniSD card. With some of these cards, you can get a adapter that then lets you insert the card into a computer SD card reader to copy the photos off. That’s normally a big headache since for many camera phones, removing the memory card involves disassembling your phone to get at the card.

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Other methods include (if the carrier has unlocked the functionality), using a USB cable to connect the phone to the computer or using Bluetooth to wirelessly transmit the photos from the phone to the PC. All of this is interesting, but still involves a lot of manual copying of files and photos.

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With Creator 10 and Media Manager, we’ve really tried to address this basic need for those of us that would really love to get our photos out from the phone and onto the PC so we can view them in all their full screen glory or perhaps create something like a slideshow or a panorama slide. Syncing is a vital part of this process. Set up the camera phone the first time for syncing, and any new pictures that have been taken since the last time will automatically be backed up and copied onto the PC. That way, you can now print them out, and be confident that if something unfortunate were to happen to your phone, you always have a copy of those snapshots in life somewhere handy...

I would be interested to hear how many of you actually do get your picture off our camera phones or do you just leave them on there until memory has run out? Have any of you had instances where you have lost your phone or even upgraded to a new one and now don’t have your important photos with you?

April 10, 2008

Self-Help for TiVo Addicts

If you own a TiVo, you probably belong to the ranks of TiVo addicts (like me) who constantly struggle to watch their favorite shows before the hard drive fills up. That 80-hour box sounds like a lot until you start cluttering it up with movies and old episodes of “Ask This Old House” that show you how to build the deck you’ve been meaning to install for three years now...

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Ironically, since I bought the TiVo mainly because I travel a lot, I always end up madly cleaning it out just before going on a trip, to make sure that there is enough free space to record “Mystery” and “House” while I'm gone. It's become another item on my travel To Do list, along with packing and calling the petsitter. But there's not always time to zip through everything before I leave, and it's really painful to have to delete unwatched shows, or get rid of a favorite old movie.

So what's the solution for TiVo addiction and full hard drives? Assuming you have a networked Series 2, 3 or HD model, you can shell out big bucks for one of the new add-on hard disks that just came out, or you can buy a few blank DVDs, and use TiVoToGo and Roxio software to burn shows to disc or export them to your portable media player. Both Easy Media Creator 10 and Toast 9 have official TiVoToGo support.

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Now, instead of having to watch 10 shows before I leave on a trip, I can take them with me to view on my laptop, which is great for airplanes. And all those movies and shows I want to keep for posterity I can burn to DVD, instead of letting them use up hard drive space.

You can even use the editing tools in Toast and Creator to remove unwanted segments from your recordings. Usually I only want to keep one 10-minute portion of a "This Old House" episode, for example. With Creator or Toast, I can cherry-pick the good parts from lots of episodes and put them all on one DVD with a nice menu for navigation. My dream house may not be built yet, but I'll know exactly how to do it!

I just need to upgrade to an HD TiVo and I'll be in DVR heaven.

So what is your experience using TiVoToGo? Any tips? Let us know in the comments.

May 23, 2008

Getting a Handle on Information Overload

As a high-tech journalist, I get literally dozens of press releases every day, and have to keep up with umpteen news sources, from The New York Times to Engadget. While getting news via the Web and email is relatively fast and efficient compared to dealing with the baskets full of snail mail I used to get (not to mention better for the forests of the world), the volume and pace of information arrival is ever increasing, taking bigger and bigger bites out of my workday. When you add in the constant pings from people who want to chat on Skype or MSN, it's easy to spend entire days immersed in the Web without doing any actual work (like writing this blog entry...).

So I'm constantly looking for better ways to manage the information flow, and decided to try out the new MediaTicker 3 from Roxio Labs. This completely free utility is basically a graphical photo and RSS news reader that docks itself to the side, top or bottom of your Windows desktop, and presents a scrolling display of headlines and photos.

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This display is great since it alerts you passively to hot new stories -- you don't have to stop what you are doing to check your feeds every hour to see what's new. You can just click on ticker items when you have a moment to read them, and ignore items that don't interest you. Clicking on a ticker item enlarges it (for photo and video feeds) or opens the appropriate Web page.

When you first open MediaTicker, you'll be directed to create an account on Roxio.com, where a master list of your feeds is kept, from Flickr to Wired News. You can choose from a list of popular feeds, or add your own by dropping in the URL. Even better, if you have MediaTicker installed on multiple machines, you can customize which feeds are displayed on each computer, using the same Roxio.com account. At home you could receive your photo and video feeds, plus ESPN and Gizmodo for example, while at work you get CNN and stock tickers. If you are at a remote computer without MediaTicker, you can also check your feeds directly on Roxio.com. You can even check them from a browser-enabled mobile phone!

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But Media Ticker doesn't stop there. You can also just click to email any feed item to a friend, including photos and videos. Another great way to use it is to keep family and friends updated with your latest photos right on their desktop. Just have them install MediaTicker and add your Flickr or other online photo feed to their list. They'll get all your new photos as soon as you upload them, and can save them to their hard drive!

I've got MediaTicker running all the time now. I've still got information overload, but it's a bit more manageable, and a whole lot more fun to deal with.

About Mobile

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to MyMoments in the Mobile category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

Easy Media Creator is the previous category.

Photo is the next category.

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