Archive for the 'Gadgets' Category

Laptop Convertible.

November 30, 2008

As with a lot of ideas I have with video, this one sat in my brain for a few months.  Additionally, I had a few surprises.  Sometimes when I plan a project, what happens in reality is exactly what happened in my head.  In this project, that could not be further from the case.  I think that adds drama to the video.  It certainly created some consternation for me!  But I also got to learn an entirely new skill set in the process, so it was all good.

For your entertainment, I present Laptop Convertible:

Cabin pressure on commercial airlines.

November 23, 2008

I have a Casio Pathfinder watch with a built in altimeter. It works based on air pressure. I’ve worn it while I’ve been traveling a couple of times and I like to check it when the plane takes off and as the plane approaches cruising altitude.

Now of course it does not measure actual altitude. For that to happen, the cabin would have to be completely unpressurized. At the same time, one might think that the air pressure in the plane would stay the same throughout the entire flight. If my watch is to be believed this is not the case. This makes sense from a practical standpoint too because otherwise a person’s ears would never pop on the plane.

Here’s some of the data I took. Before they shut the door, the watch said 800′. At take off it dipped to 160′ then went to 420′, 800′, 1300′ and ultimately capped at 5940′ at 31,000′. So assuming a linear relationship between the reading on the watch and actual altitude, the ratio was 1′ on the watch to 5.22′ in real altitude.

On the way back, it capped out at 6280′ so I might have been higher at 32,781′.

I was kind of surprised that it went that high. If the watch is to be believed, spending time at cruising altitude in a commercial airline is like spending time in Denver, CO.

So did I feel like a geek when I was sitting there tracking this data from my watch? Sure, but if you’ve spent any time at all reading this blog, you know that that doesn’t bother me.

Playing with the TiVoHD and misc.

August 23, 2008

I’ve been playing with my TiVoHD. It has had a big impact on my life as it played a role in reacquainting me with old friends.

I used the TiVo desktop to move an HD recording of the Red Hot Chili Peppers to my server. I was able to watch it on my 30 inch monitor in my basement. Nice. Although my flagship machine manged this with no problem, another machine I have choked. This is very annoying. It is a 1.6 GHz dual core and it chokes on everything. It’s kind of useless. I’m not sure if it is the computer or if it is the fact that it’s running Vista. The flagship machine runs XP.

Anyhow, I like the idea of being able to watch HD shows down there. I’m not sure that it needs to be on my best computer though. I’m thinking that it might be time to build a new computer. As a stopgap, I’m using the quadcore that’s plugged into my HDTV to move the files to the server.

I am also playing with a wireless microphone and I bought a new webcam too. I’ll probably have more to say about that stuff in the future.

I feel like I needed to get some words going here, it’s been more than a little sparse lately.

Shopping with The Kindle.

July 12, 2008

I told my friend Howard (from FNPL) that the Kindle is a life changing device.  His response was “Oh yeah?  So was the 8 track player in my old Vega.”  It’s hard to top that, but if you read a lot, the Kindle really will change your life.

It’s not the screen which has fixed contrast and is not back-lit.  The screen seems to be designed to work best in bright light.  I’ve had it at the pool and it is perfect in sunlight.  In dim light, one blogger said it best:  “it’s like reading wet newspaper.”  Again, while quite functional, the screen isn’t the mainstay here.

The game changing aspect of the Kindle is the built-in wireless service.  This is wireless service as in cell phone data service and it is free.  More precisely, they probably get paid when you buy books, but you don’t pay them anything directly as a consumer.  This service lets you buy any book Amazon sells for the Kindle anywhere.  Want a book on how to keep your kids busy on a rainy day?  Done!  Want to learn about improving your focus?  Done!  Want to buy a romance novel?  Er, done?

You can also read sections of books before you buy them.  This has created a dilemma for me.  I’m cheap, you see.  So if I download a bunch of samples from books, I could figure out which ones I like and then request them at the library.  Sure it would take longer to get the books, but they would be free!  I have to resist this.  The whole point of the Kindle is that you get what you want immediately.  No bookstores, no libraries, no gas money to get you to these places either.  It’s the biggest bookstore in the world that you put in your briefcase.

The 1st book I bought was Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing. I’m going to use it mostly for reference.  That’s another Kindle advantage.  It’s also a reference library anywhere you need it.

So yes, in 20 years, I’ll look back fondly on my 1st Kindle as the amazing device that it was, although probably not the same way Howard thinks about the 8 track in his Vega.
The Kindle

TiVo: death and life.

January 30, 2008

Last night, our one remaining TiVo died.  It started rebooting and then quit.  I opened it up and tested the drives.  They worked so it’s the board.  I have another TiVo that I had deactivated so I reformatted the drives for that newer box.  I just called TiVo and they switched the service over for me without any trouble.  So my kids will be very happy tomorrow.  My 5 year old has completely mastered TiVo.  She watches TV entirely differently from a normal human being.  When she sees something funny, she’ll rewind the scene 4 or 5 times before continuing the show.  Crazy.  When the TiVo broke, she brought down the remote and put it on my desk (thinking that the TiVo was entirely self contained in the remote).  Someday, it will be.

I had hacked both of my TiVos with significantly bigger drives.  I felt quite nostalgic as I did it again this evening.  The new/old box sports 2 160 GB drives that were limited to 132 GB in the old box.  Now they are free to be used at full capacity.  This will give me well over 300 hours of programming or I should say give my kids that much.  I’m only going to put a few documentaries on it for downloading to my computer for watching while I walk on the treadmill.

My main DVR for my HDTV is a stupid cable box.  Someday I’ll get a TiVo Series III for that TV too, maybe this summer.  After 4 years of happy TiVoing, why quit now?

The PSP 2000 (aka Slim): a review.

September 23, 2007

PSP 2000 Console - Piano Black
I’ve spent some time with this now and it’s time to put thoughts to bits. When the Slim came out with the Daxter bundle, I snapped it up. I cannot help but feel that this device is a small version of the PS3 in many ways in terms of it’s strengths and weaknesses. This is my first experience with the PSP, I didn’t own a fat one.

The Daxter game held my attention for a few hours. I’m not so much into run and jump games. It did surprise me because the graphics are good and the sound is terrific. From a graphics and sound perspective, the PSP is very powerful. It is far superior to the DS in this regard. Strangely enough, this does not make the PSP a superior gaming machine. It does make it a superior media machine. Just like the PS3, if you want to watch movies, the Slim is the way to go.

There are more games available for the PSP than there are for the PS3. I picked up The Warriors for $20.00, mostly for nostalgia. Buying a movie game is never a good idea. I succumbed to the nostalgia feeling and for the most part I wasn’t disappointed. It does illustrate the gaming differences the platform exhibits versus the DS. The DS is a quick platform you can grab and play games on for a few minutes and put down. You need more time for the PSP. The UMD system offers benefits in that you can fit lots of sound and video on a disk, but it’s just not as fast as a flash memory based system.

Like the PS3, I’m looking for that killer game. I’m just at the beginning of my hunt. The next games on my list are: D&D Tactics and Dungeon Maker Hunting Ground. I think a good RPG would shine on this system.

The PSP has a lot of hidden power. The built-in browser has some value and you can use the PSP as a wireless podcatcher. If you have a TiVo, you can download shows to the PSP. I will probably buy an 8Gig memory stick and put a lot of movies on it. Although this weekend, I had lots of time but I didn’t make any effort to put video on my system. I had DVDs and two laptops. Of course I didn’t play them either. This is relevant because if you carry a lot of gear: ipod, DS, laptops, Blackberry, the PSP might not get as much use as it would for the person for whom it’s his or her only device. Right now, I have used it as a diversion for my kids by putting “Good Night Moon” on it. You could use the PSP to play music instead of an iPod. You could use it for wireless web browsing instead of a laptop. However, it is probably not the best device for these activities.

In short, I’m very glad I bought a PSP but I feel like there’s more things to explore with it. Like the PS3, I feel like it has a tremendous amount of unused potential. I feel like I still need to spend more time on learning how to unlock this potential.

eSata Drive, No eSata Cable.

May 16, 2007

I’ve written before about how awesome the Scientific Atlanta Explorer 8300HD is.  Tonight I impulse-bought a 500 GB eSATA external hard drive for it.  The hard drive it comes with is tiny and I figured this would help.  Sascha Segan inspired me to try this with an article he wrote.  Although it looks like he has since quit using it.  At Best Buy, I had the presence of mind to ask someone if they sold the cable.  According to this fine young gentleman, it’s not out yet.  I thought perhaps I had one at home as I remembered having numerous SATA cables.  Of course I found out later that SATA cables are not the same as eSATA cables.

So now I have this nifty new drive and no cable.  You have to remember, Cleveland Ohio is not exactly the tech capital of the world.  Most of the CompUSA stores have closed.  There is a Microcenter about 40 minutes away, but it’s too late tonight.  I’ll call them tomorrow.  There’s always Newegg, but I don’t want to wait.

Review of the Linksys Wireless N-Gigabit Router WRT350N.

April 7, 2007

***Edit on December 28, 2007***

The router decided to stop playing nice with my cable modem tonight.  Took my whole system down for several hours.  That’s it, Linksys.  We’re through.  I bought a Netgear router tonight.

***Edit on July 2, 2007***

Linksys sent me another router and it’s working great.

***Edit on June 7, 2007 **

I got my case number to return the router. That’s what I wanted, so I’m happy.

***Edit on June 4, 2007***

Over the last few days, the router hasn’t been able to hold a connection, either wirelessly or wired. Thankfully, I kept my aged Wireless B router. I switched back and I haven’t had any problems. Now I get to see what Linksys’ return/RMA procedure is like.


I’ve been meaning to write this for some time, but as always blog posts take a second place to real life. I haven’t even sent in my rebate for the router yet. It’s probably too late as I bought it in February.

I’ve had this router for two months. My old wireless B router started to get flaky so I took the plunge. At first, I had a little trouble. This router is packed with features. While Linksys makes things simple, it did take me a little time to get it running. When I turned to the internet for help, I gasped at the negative press the router had received at its launch. I wondered if I had made a bad choice. I bought my last router four years ago. I don’t plan on buying another one any time soon. I got some help on Linksys Community Forum. I would recommend this forum as a good resource for Linksys users.

To my relief, the WRT350N has been fine. I got everything hooked up including an external drive. It has been fast and reliable. I use it to link about 7 computers via Cat5 cable and 3 computers via wireless. It also serves two TiVos. One of the TiVos has no problems whatsoever. The other one, sadly, loses its connection all the time and I have to manually reset it every two weeks. I haven’t figured out what the deal is with that yet. Finally, it supports my phone service as we use Vonage (and I sincerely hope we’ll be able to keep doing that).

It also lets you create an FTP server with the external hard drive. I’ve not tried that yet. There is a media server function as well, but I would probably just use something else that I’m more familiar with. While I am a gamer, I haven’t had to use any of the port forwarding features. I don’t really game with other people much. I’m a solitary gamer.

I haven’t tested the wireless N capability at all. I plan on moving my flagship PC upstairs soon, so that will change. I’m not going to run Cat5 all over my house. In theory, the wireless N will give me essentially the same speed as the 10/100 wired computers that I have now. I think that probably deserves a big “we’ll see.”

I haven’t tested the gigabit wired speed yet either. My best two machines have gigabit nics but the room where I use them has a 16 port switch that’s 10/100. I need to replace that switch with a gigabit switch. It’s on my list of things to do by 2008.

If you want the specs on this router, download them here.

In short, I have to give this router high marks. It’s been doing it’s job with no input from me. That’s what you want in a router IMHO, turn it on and forget about it.

Gadget Anticipation.

January 7, 2007

I’m getting a new toy this week.  I’m not going to talk about it yet because you get better Google juice on a gadget review when you just focus on it on one page.  It shouldn’t be hard, though to do a review, given the nature of the product.  It’s not a cheapy, in fact, I bought it refurbished to save several hundred dollars.

When I move it into its place, it’s going to mean that I’m going to split out my most powerful computer from my KVM and swap in the Linux box.  The Linux box got an upgrade today and it’s ready to go.

The killer thing is that I’m going to be going to a friend’s house to watch the OSU game tomorrow night, so if it comes tomorrow, I won’t get to play with it.  I’ve got a speaking gig on Tuesday, so I probably won’t even get to play with it until Wednesday.  I know, poor me.

Kudos to anyone who can guess what it is…

Gadgets and Super Powers.

January 1, 2007

It occurred to me the other day that my adolescent desire to be greater than my fellow men is why I like gadgets.  Call it a Batman complex.  Batman has no super powers.  He does have a utility belt and a whole lot of other stuff.  He is the consummate gadget guy.

Admittedly, no cell phone is going to make you a superman.  An iPod is not going to help you leap tall buildings anytime soon.  Having a really fast laptop is not going to make you invulnerable, even to viruses.

Yet the coolness persists.  Given my sedentary proclivities and the fact that I generally abhor the outdoors, life saving gadgets aren’t even really likely to help me much.  For example, I could take to wearing a Kevlar vest every day, but all that would accomplish is making me buy new clothes and probably making me sweat more.  I’m not Batman, after all.

I think GPS units are really cool, but if I have to drive anywhere further than 4 hours, I fly.  If I’m going somewhere I’ve never been, I take maps and I never veer off main highways.  Since 99% of the time I’m going to and from work or perhaps to a store, my need for a GPS is slight.

My Blackberry does give me the power to be away from my office and answer email and that’s important.  My iPod lets me listen to informative podcasts while I’m driving so that’s a plus in the advantage column.  My Nintendo DS lets me waste time while I’m not near a computer.  It’s certainly not an advantage, but it can be entertaining.

Someday, a gadget is going to come along that really does give a person an advantage in modern life.  I’ll be first in line for that one.  Of course after everyone gets one, it won’t be an advantage anymore, it will be a requirement.  Until then, there’s always something new to play with.