Thoughts & news on technology…well, mostly

Gadgets for lazy dog owners

Ok, these two products have got to be some of the worst inventions I have ever seen: (the latter being worse than the first)

First, there’s Pet Spa – company named Pet Spa USA in Miami, Florida sells a machine that washes your dog, cat, or practically any animal for you. What is it? It’s a big contraption that where you put your pet inside a ‘cabin’ and press a ‘wash’ button. Upon doing so, the machine cleans and rinses your pet. Apparently, there’s a self-service dog wash company in California named LaunderPet that have these machines. Now, I have a 3 year old English Chocolate Lab who loves water and swimming but, let me tell ya, she would NOT like this contraption. I think this YouTube video of a cat being washed says it all.

Second, there are treadmills for dogs. The Dog Walker treadmill and the Pawwws treadmill. Seriously, if people are too lazy to exercise their dog, then they should not own a dog! Hell, what would your friends think when they come over your house: “What’s that miniature treadmill for?” “Oh, that…that’s for my dog so I don’t have to exercise her…and so I can keep my fat butt on the couch.”


Filed under: Dog, Pet

New Windows Vista Ultimate “Extras”

Microsoft has released 2 new Vista Ultimate Extras: Windows Bitlocker & Texas Hold’Em. If interested, you download them via the Ultimate Extra control panel. In fact, the Ultimate Extra control panel should automatically notify you that these new extras are available. The deets:

  • Texas Hold’em: Pretty obvious.
  • Windows BitLocker & Online Key Storage: Allows you to encrypt all data on your hard drive and to store your BitLocker recovery key/password and Encrypting File System certificate on Microsoft’s website (Windows Marketplace Digital Locker) for access to the key anytime, anyplace, and from any computer that has an Internet connection.

There’s also a third Extra but it hasn’t been released, yet: Windows DreamScene, which allows you to play videos on your desktop instead of a static image.

For those of you who don’t know, one of the marketed benefits of Vista Ultimate is the ability to download “extras” for free. All of these “extras” are exclusive to Vista Ultimate – in other words, if you don’t have Vista Ultimate, you can’t get the “extras.”

I haven’t downloaded these, yet, but am planning to download only Texas Hold’Em. When I do, I’ll let you know what I think. I’m not planning on using BitLocker since I don’t like the idea that if I lose the key, I will never be able to access my data, again. Yeah, I know, the key is stored on Microsoft’s website but I’m a bit weary of storing my keys/passwords on a server which can be compromised.

For screenshots of these Extras, checkout Engadget and WindowsUltimate.com.

Update: I just installed Texas Hold’Em and played it for about 15 minutes – it’s a great free game. The design of the game is very nicely done and there are 3 different difficulty levels. I chose the intermediate level and noticed the computer plays somewhat loosely.

Update 2: Looks like DreamScene won’t be released until mid-2007.

Filed under: Microsoft, Storage, Technology, Vista, Vista Ultimate Extras, Windows

Can Apple be successful in our living/media rooms?

In a nutshell, yes. But, I think it’ll take another 1 to 1.5 years. Why? Because the Apple TV only meets part of our needs as an entertainment device/media extender. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s a great first generation product (and, apparently, is selling very well) but it leaves a lot to be desired.

If Apple makes the following scenario a reality, then I think Apple will dominate our living rooms and sell more Macs but Apple will need to introduce the following products:

  1. The next gen Apple TV (let’s call it AppleTV 2.0)
  2. Standalone iPod/iPhone docking stations that will wirelessly sync to iTunes/Apple TV and charge the device
  3. DVR software for the Apple TV that can record HD content
  4. Updated synchronization software to sync the content between a Mac, iPod/iPhone, and Apple TV.

Synchronization & Content Portability

I come home from work, wake-up my Mac and connect my iPod and/or iPhone (or dock it in a standalone docking station). Upon doing so,
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Filed under: Apple, AppleTV, Digital Movies, DVR, iPhone, iPod, MacOSX, Technology, Thoughts

iPhone includes 18 months free service? BOOYAH!

Jim Cramer (host of Mad Money on CNBC) believes AT&T (formerly known as Cingular) will offer buyers of the iPhone 18 months of free service in order to steal customers from Verizon Wireless.

If this turns out to be true (and there aren’t any asinine stipulations like signing a 5-year contract), I will definitely break my contract with T-Mobile and sign-up with AT&T. If your monthly bill is $80, your savings could be $1,440 over 18 months. However, I have a feeling it will not come to fruition or, if it does, they will only give you free data service for 18 months.

Update: As I figured, according to a Cingular rep, it looks like Jim Cramer was wrong.

Filed under: Apple, Gadgets, iPhone, Mobile Phone, Rumors, Smartphone

Sales of Apple TV are Exceeding Expectations

Apparently, orders for the Apple TV are through the roof:

“Specifically, orders have already exceeded the original 100,000 order that Apple had placed with Inventec, and Apple is preparing to place a second order for twice that number. Apple is now planning to sell over a million Apple TV devices leading up to the 2007 holiday season, and at least that many again during the Thanksgiving – Christmas period this year.”

If this is true, part of me is somewhat surprised and the other half is not (more on this in a later post).

So, have any of you ordered the Apple TV? If not, are you planning to? If you’re not going to buy one, why not? I’d love to read what you all think so feel free to post a comment!

Filed under: Apple, AppleTV, Digital Movies, Home Theater, IPTV, Rumors, Technology

European PS3 Launch Confirmed: March 23, 2007

Sony has officially confirmed the PS3 launch with some deets: only the 60GB version will be available and priced at 425 GBP in the U.K. ($840 USD) and 599 Euros for the rest of Europe ($779 USD). With all of the negative mojo (Kotaku, NY Times) surrounding the PS3, who’s willing to bet PS3 sales will mirror the lackluster numbers in the U.S.?

Is it just me who thinks the PS3’s pricepoint is a bit ridiculous? Yes, I know the addition of the Blu-ray player adds a significant cost but $600 USD for a 60GB PS3 is a bit absurd and forcing gamers to pay for something they may not want is a bit unfair.

Filed under: Blu-ray, Gaming, Playstation 3, PS3

Boston Seaport Hotel adds touchscreen computers to rooms

Planning a visit to Boston? Interested in gadgets? Then book a room at the Boston Seaport Hotel because they’re adding touchscreen computers (named Seaportal – yeah, pretty lame) to some of their hotel rooms. Currently, they have 25 rooms outfitted with the Seaportal and plan to have 100 rooms with it by the end of 2007. Specifically,

“The computer and installed services, called Seaportal, will consist of a freestanding, flat-panel computer monitor, wireless mouse and keyboard (exact specs not provided).”

The only issue with this hotel is it’s location – it’s not in the middle of Boston but a great place if you’re attending a convention/event at the World Trade Center (Google Map).

Filed under: Boston, Hotel, Travel

12″ MacBook Pros in June?

Word from AppleRecon is Apple will be announcing 12″ MacBook Pros at the WWDC in June. Some of the deets:

  • LED backlit displays
  • 12″ Widescreen with 1280×800 resolution
  • Intel 2Ghz Core 2 Duo
  • 1GB RAM w/standard configuration
  • ATI Radeon X1900 with 256MB
  • Weight: ~3.5 lbs.
  • Price: $1,799

Let’s hope AppleRecon’s sources are correct.

Personally, if this is true, I think it’s great that the 12″ MacBook Pro will be added to the line-up but I’m waiting for the 15″ LED backlit MacBook Pro with Leopard. What about you – planning on getting a MacBook Pro this year??

Filed under: Apple, MacBook Pro, MacOSX, Rumors, Technology

Special Apple Event on Feb. 20?

AppleRecon has posted some interesting info about an upcoming Apple Event where Steve Jobs will present OS X 10.5 (Leopard), iLife ’07, iWork ’07 and updated Mac Pros. AppleRecon is also saying Leapord will be released on March 24, 2007.

This is the first and only site I’ve come across that’s reporting this so I’ll leave it up to you to decide how viable it is.

Filed under: Apple, MacOSX, Rumors, Technology

Netflix Begins Offering Streaming Movies/TV

Last week Netflix began offering free streaming movies last week (named “Watch Now”). They’re rolling out the service to 250,000 members each month (I wasn’t one of them – if you were, post a comment and let me know what you think!) and are expecting to have it rolled out to all members by June 2007. I’ve read Gizmodo’s positive review but I have to admit it seems pretty worthless. Here’s why:

  1. The content is streamed not downloaded.
  2. Since the content is streamed, you can only watch the movies and (presumably) shows on your computer (are you kidding me?).
  3. No Mac support – the service supports only Windows XP w/SP2 or Vista with IE 6+.
  4. The content is in standard definition, only.
  5. The quality of the content can/will vary. Netflix determines the picture quality based on your internet connection and how much their servers are being slammed.
  6. To start, only 1,000 titles are available and according to Gizmodo, the selection is pretty poor.
  7. And, did I mention the movies can only be watched on your computer?

Now, for some of the good news:
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Filed under: Digital Movies, IPTV, Movies, Netflix

Another iPhone Hands-On Review

PC Mag’s Cade Metz was another person who got to use the iPhone during MacWorld…for 10 mins. He didn’t get to spend 1 hour with it like Andy Ihnatko but his opinions are very similar to Andy’s. His overall impression of the iPhone:

“Ten minutes isn’t much, but I can safely say that the iPhone is even more impressive than it appeared during the Jobs keynote. And that’s saying something.”

So far, everyone who has been able to demo the iPhone are in agreement about the following:

  • The iPhone is very easy and intuitive to use.
  • The iPhone’s multi-touch display works extremely well.
  • The performance of the iPhone is fast – no lag or hiccups when switching between applications.

This is where some of the reviews differ:

  • Most reviewers said the call/voice quality is superb but some people (perhaps, the only person), like Cade Metz, have reported that call quality was so-so.
  • People who have spent more than 5-10 minutes using the iPhone (Andy Ihnatko) felt the touch-sensitive keyboard was pretty easy to use. Those that spent 10 minutes or less feel so-so about it but pretty much all feel it will get easier with more use.

The good news: of all the hands-on reviews I’ve read, the conclusions are similar, if not, the same. The bad news (as we all know) is the multi-year exclusivity that Cingular/ATT has on the iPhone. The real question about the iPhone will be Cingular/ATT’s service and how much they will charge for the data plan (I have a feeling Cingular/ATT will create an “iPhone data plan” and charge a premium).

Filed under: Apple, Gadgets, iPhone, Mobile Phone, Reviews, Smartphone, Technology

Sandisk Ultra II (2GB) CF – $50 after rebate

Need a 2GB Compact Flash card? Best Buy (Boston-area) has a really good deal on the Sandisk Ultra II 2GB from January 21 – 27, 2007. Don’t live in the Boston-area? Check your local Best Buy flyers online. $119 (MSRP) – $50 (instant savings) – $20 (mail-in rebate) = $49.99.

I use these cards in my Canon Digital Rebel XT D-SLR and they’re awesome – very fast read/write speeds (10MB/s read, 9MB/s write).

Update: (2/12/2007) This deal was only good during that week in January but you can get this card at NewEgg.com for $62.

Filed under: Bargains, Deals, Memory Card, Storage

Buying an Xbox 360?

I’ve come across the following deals on an Xbox 360 so, if you’re planning on buying one, stop by one of these stores:

  • MicroCenter:
    • Xbox 360 Premium: $349 (after a $50 gift card)
    • Xbox 360 Core: $249 (after a $50 gift card)
    • Xbox 360 Wireless Controller: $39 (after a $10 gift card)
    • Use the gift card to get an extra wireless controller (MSRP $50), a game (Gears of War??), an extra battery for the wireless controller, etc.
    • The Catch: the deal is for in-store purchases, only. Check the MicroCenter locations.
    • Expiration: not sure. So, get to your nearest MicroCenter if you’re planning on buying one!
  • Costco:
    • If you’re a member, they offer theXbox 360 Premium bundle for $475. The bundle includes:
      • Xbox 360 Premium
      • 1 Extra wireless controller
      • 1 Play-and-Charge kit
      • 1 game (you can choose from Project Gotham Racing or Xbox Live Arcade gamepack)
      • The total MSRP value if purchased separately: $510 (w/Live Arcade) or $500 (w/PGR)
    • Plus, don’t forget about Costco’s unconditional return policy. If theXbox 360 fails at anytime in the future, you can always exchange it or get a store credit at Costco.

I’ve had my Xbox 360 since February, 2006 and LOVE it.  The Xbox Live service is great and the way in which the Xbox 360 is constantly connected to Xbox Live is brilliant.

Filed under: Bargains, Deals, Gaming, Xbox 360

Switched to Mac because of Windows Vista

Now, this is not something you read about everyday – Erika Jonietz from MIT’s Technology Review magazine (a great magazine, btw) wrote an article about how she is now using her Mac as her primary computer after using Windows Vista Ultimate. Uh, this is not what Bill Gates or Steve Ballmer wants Vista to do.

Filed under: Apple, MacOSX, Microsoft, Reviews, Technology, Vista

Windows Vista Ultimate: Initial Impressions

Vista LogoBefore providing my initial impressions I want you all to know that I’ve been a Mac convert since 2003. Since I bought my PowerBook G4, I’ve used it 98% of the time when computing at home (unfortunately, I use an HP nc6400 laptop w/WinXP Pro at work). Also, over the past year or so, I’ve tuned-out all of the Vista-hype so I went into Vista knowing only about Aero and Windows Media Center.

Ok, with that out of the way…about 2 weeks ago, a buddy of mine offered me a free legitimate retail copy of Windows Vista Ultimate (via his MSDN subscription) and I gladly accepted. So, after downloading the 2.5GB file for about 12 hours, I burned it to a DVD and installed it. After running Vista Ultimate for about 2 weeks, here are my initial impressions:

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Filed under: Microsoft, Reviews, Technology, Vista

A “Classic Video Game Band”

This is pretty funny…for those of you who are or will be in the Boston-area on January 31, the Skybar (518 Somerville Ave., Somerville, MA – Google Map) will have a few bands playing. One of which is The Kode – a band that will be playing video game music from the 80’s and 90’s.

So, who’s dying to hear music from Q-Bert or Super Mario Bros. – live – at a bar?? 😉

Filed under: Gaming, Music

A 45min iPhone Hands-On Review

Andy Ihnatko of the Chicago Sun-Times got to spend 45 mintues using the iPhone. His overall conclusion: it’s practically perfect. If you’re interested in the iPhone (who isn’t, right?), his article is worth a read. Below are my 4 primary concerns and thoughts after reading his article:

  1. Touchscreen: Apparently, it works flawlessly. I was concerned with how well and accurate it would work. After reading his article, I’m less worried about it. According to Andy, “This is the simplest phone ever” – wow, that’s a big statement. If most consumers feel the same way, then it’ll be very easy for Apple to meet their goal of selling 10 million iPhones in 2008 (read the 3rd to last paragraph).
  2. Keyboard: Andy states, “After 30 seconds, I was already typing faster with the iPhone than I ever have with any other phone.” That’s a pretty big statement – ’nuff said.
  3. Performance: No lags/hiccups/pauses whatsoever. This was a huge concern of mine – especially, since we don’t know how powerful the processor is. For reference, my T-Mobile Dash uses an Intel ARM processor running at 203Mhz and it can get bogged down when running several apps or running multimedia apps. What processor does the iPhone use? Rumor is Apple is using a Samsung processor at 400Mhz.
  4. Cingular Service/Network: I’ve never used Cingular (I’ve only used two cell providers: ATT Wireless and T-Mobile) so I don’t know how good the coverage is in the Boston-area nor do I know how good their EDGE network is. This being said, I have friends using Cingular in the Boston-area and they’re happy with the service. At the end of the day, we all know that surfing the web and the use of data-intensive applications will be slooow – thanks to EDGE.
  5. No 3G: I’m still baffled as to why Apple did not include a 3G-capable radio in the iPhone. Heck, Cingular is the only GSM provider in the US that has 3G and the iPhone is exclusively available on Cingular – why not take advanatage of their 3G network? Btw, there are rumors that the 2nd Gen iPhone will have 3G.

Well, this helps answer some of our questions/concerns but will a cell phone w/o any dedicated buttons be right for you? To find out, it looks like we’ll see each other at the nearest Apple Store in June! 🙂

Update: Looks like the processor may be an Intel Xscale after all.

Filed under: Apple, Gadgets, iPhone, Mobile Phone, Reviews, Smartphone, Technology