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Showing posts from January, 2008

Audible: Louder Than Ever

One of my old favorite companies, Audible, has entered into an agreement with Amazon to be acquired for $300 million. While this represents a slight decline in their perceived value from their all time stock high, it assures the future for this pioneer. I own dozens of Audible books. Not familiar with Audible? Think "books on tape," but digital. Years ago, before MP3's really took off and long before the advent of podcasts, Audible led the way by digitizing thousands of books, and offering them for download. For folks who had long commutes, this was a dream come true. Better, Audible also offered discounted players; my first MP3 player was a Nomad, thanks to Audible. Their file formats were not quite MP3's, but were much smaller; before the iPod, we actually considered file size! They went on to introduce dozens of innovations, including a subscription service (2 books a month for $20!), and multiple file formats, so you could choose audio quality over file size, and

iPhone Favicons

Remember Favicons? Or did you ever wonder why some websites have a little icon in the address bar? Those are favicons. Firefox lets you drag them to your bookmarks bar, and it keeps the favicon. If you like a lot of bookmarks, you can edit the bookmark to lose th text, and just keep the favicon. After all, you know that miniature eBay icon is not a symbol of their diminished earnings in the wake of overpaying for Skype or Meg Whitman's retirement: it's the eBay logo. Now, fast forward to the iPhone. With the latest firmware release, you can create "web clips," which are just Apple's way of saying bookmarks, right on the Home screen. Easy to do: visit a website on your iPhone, click the "+" button, and it prompts you if you want to save it as a bookmark or Web Clip. Problem? The icon of the Web Clip is often a mini snapshot of the page. Some sites, like Plaxo Mobile , are smart enough to pass along the magic icon resource, so the Web Clip is the Plaxo log

As only a Pats Fan can think

Without being struck by lightning, how a New England Patriots fan thinks after yesterday: Three quarterbacks, Manning, Romo and Tom Brady, go to heaven to visit God and watch the Celtics play a game. God decides who will sit next to him by asking the boys a question... God asks Peyton Manning first: "What do you believe?" Peyton thinks long and hard, looks God in the eye, and says, "I believe in hard work, and in staying true to family and friends. I believe in giving. I was lucky, but I always tried to do right by my fans." God can't help but see the essential goodness of Manning, and offers him a seat to his left. Then God turns to Tony Romo and says, "What do you believe?" Tony says, "I believe passion, discipline, courage and honor are the fundamentals of life. I, too, have been lucky, but win or lose, I've always tried to be a true sportsman, both on and off the playing fields." God is greatly moved by Tony's sincere eloquence, a

Visions From SF's "Awesome Future"

Why don't we have flying cars? This, and many other questions, have always been posed for our future. Yet, in downtown San Francisco, we've been blessed with a whole new ad campaign. Replacing those ubiquitous Apple ads or Gap come-ons in some key outdoor ad locations have been these " Postcards From Our Awesome Future ," created by Packard Jennings and Steve Lambert. The straight dope: " Packard Jennings and Steve Lambert asked architects, city planners, and transportation engineers, "what would you do if you didn’t have to worry about budgets, beauracracy, politics, or physics?" Ideas from these conversations were then merged, developed, and perhaps mildly exaggerated by Steve and Packard to create a series of 6 posters for the San Francisco Arts Commission’s Art on Market Street Program. " Have a look for yourself ; the Zipline one you see to the left is an excerpt from one of them. Enjoy them all!

Divx on iPhone?

One of the minor pain points of switching to the iPhone was the loss of the ability to watch Divx movies on my portable media solution. Not familiar with Divx? Can't say I blame you: it's a video codec that allows you to encode a video is a very compressed format without too much evidence of such on playback. Why does that matter? Well, your average DVD is about 6-8 gigabytes. Your average blank DVD is 4.7 GB. Your average CD ROM? A measly 650 MB. See the need to compress? You get the picture: if you want to build a library of your own videos and keep the space under control, being able to compress the video is a big plus. As a result, I have a significant amount of Divx movies that I can watch on my Divx-capable DVD players, but not on my iPhone. What to do? Courtesy of RegNow, a division of Digital River, who frequently sell software that can be immediately downloaded and used, I was introduced to the Movavi Video Converter . Yep, it does just what it says: it takes any video

Finally! Inline Web Spell Correction!

I've complained before, both in this blog as well as to any co-workers in earshot, of the absolute idiocy of the lack of real-time inline automatic spell correction in web browsers. After all, Firefox offers real-time identification of spelling errors; is it really that hard to do automatic correction? Its one of the main reasons I continue to use Microsoft Outlook, for it's ability to use Word as your email editor, with its superb inline spell correction. But, I finally may have found a way. As-U-Type takes a more holistic approach: it automatically corrects spelling in ALL applications, not just web browsers. This means IM clients, spreadsheets: you name it. Best of all, it offers the ability to save your common mistakes or abbreviations, and automatically correct them in the future. I've tried As-U-Type before, but I decided to give it a serious run through. I was pleased to find that some of the areas that annoyed me before, such as the absolutely intrusive alerts on c

One Step Closer

Thanks to the good folks at Iliumsoft, I am now a beta tester of their new eWallet Web Companion . If you are not familiar with eWallet , I've mentioned it several times before: it's the most elegant, secure, and useful program for managing sensitive information, such as passwords, PINs and the like. I have been a grateful user since version 2.0; they are up to 6.0 now, which I happily paid $10 to upgrade to for the access to the Web Companion. Why am I so happy about this? Well, the iPhone has proved to be a great device, but it severely lacks the ability to access my passwords and sensitive data on the fly, as you can not, yet, load programs on to it without Jailbreaking it. Hopefully, with the SDK releasing next month, that's a temporary condition, but it, along with my old Texas Hold'em game, are the two biggest pain points I feel since moving from my Treo. With Web Companion, I get some relief: it offers secure web access to my data, and even provides a slick iPhon

So WANTED did I miss this? A movie, starring the always amazing Angelina Jolie, plus James McAvoy and Morgan Freeman, called Wanted , based on the comic of the same name. Angelina, back in action as a kickass assassin, with great effects and Matrix-like overtones? Uh, count me in as one of the Wanted. See for yourself!

iPhone vs. Treo: This Time It's Personal

Ok, gadget fans. With the acquisition of the iPhone , and a few days to play with it, it's time to revisit the " What's Stopping Me From An iPhone " post from last year and see what, if anything, has changed. The rules remain the same: rank each of the day to day functions I use(d) my Treo 680 to do on a scale of 1-10 and compare the score with the iPhone. Got it? Great, then let's get ready to rumble! Contacts . My biggest concerns were how the iPhone, with it's lack of search functions, would handle the over 8K contacts I have. Verdict: not a problem. The flick of the finger interface is complimented by an "Add to Favorites" that makes it easy to distill the most important contacts. The speed of finding a contact is roughly the same as using the Treo, as the unreal lag of the Treo in searching such a large contacts database was about the same. I would still prefer a real search, but the elegant browse interface makes it more than tolerable. Old sco

Kicking the Outlook Habit

As a professional with over 8K contacts and over 2K appointments, I am a hopeless Microsoft Outlook addict. However, as any power user of Outlook will tell you, it becomes massively bloated, slow as molasses, and utterly frustrating with even the slightest extended usage. Worse, there is no way to make it go back to even resembling a responsive application once the damage has been done. Why, then, you ask, do I continue to use it? - It is still the best email application, with it's MS Word integration with the only true inline spell correct on the market. - It is the defacto standard for corporate mail and appointment requests. - It is the best all in one application. However, like any Outlook power user, I have found that I need to add things on to it to make it usable. This is where it gets fun: each of those add-ons makes Outlook massively harder to use. For instance: - Spam control. Outlook's spam filters are laughable. I could use our server's draconian spam controls,

Stormy Weather

Sorry for the lateness in blogging. As you can see from the picture from my backyard, Mother Nature decided to tell all of us gadget freaks in Northern California who's boss this week. After being deprived of power and heat for 30 hours, I'm back online. Expect new posts shortly!

Plaxo Users: Banned on Facebook

Ouch. It appears Plaxo was attempting to expand their Pulse service by crosslinking data from Facebook users with their Plaxo ID's. Unfortunately, they chose to do this without Facebook's OK, and used an utility to "screenscrape" Facebook. Facebook was, understandably, a bit miffed and responded by banning the users of this new Plaxo service from Facebook, including noted journalist Robert Scoble. Ouch.

Flickr, Local

I do love Flickr ; it makes photo sharing, storage, and all around management perfect. But one annoying problem I have is getting my nice Flickr photos locally, on my hard drive. Half of you are going "Huh? That makes no sense: you uploaded them from your local computer, didn't you?", while the other half of you are asking "Uh...why would you want to? The photos are all on Flickr; can't you just view them there?" Both of you are right, but here are my reasons: 1) I use Picnik to edit and improve my photos. Once edited, I save them directly back to Flickr, overwriting the uploaded versions. That means, even if the image was originally sent from my hard drive, I don't have the edited version locally. 2) Windows' built in screensaver has an option to display pictures, but only local ones. Sure, I can use a Flickr screensaver , but it doesn't fill the screen like the Windows one. 3) I also have a networked DVD player hooked to a TV. While it can wire

iPhone Acquired. Palm Weeps.

Yep. After suffering yet another Treo meltdown on my recent Tucson trip, I resolved that this New Year would be free of such frustrations. And thanks to AT&T, I not only did it, but came out ahead. For those who are not familiar with my recent Treo issues, it's developed an exasperatingly unpredictable habit of forgetting how to put audio through. The built in earpiece? Nope. The speakerphone? Nah. The Bluetooth headset? Ha! No, in fact it simply removes the icon from the screen that lets you control where the audio goes to, leaving your caller in limbo: they can hear you, but you can't hear them. Ever. More disturbingly, when I hard reset the phone, it still did it. Randomly, a day later, it stops. When I called AT&T about this, they immediately offered to send me a new unit, at no charge, and had me send back the defective one; extremely great service, as it was past warranty. The new Treo came, and within weeks, the same problem started. Enough was enough: I love th

When IS the right time to drink that wine?

Living in Northern California, I have learned to LOVE wine. I've become kind of a California wine snob, only because the Napa and Sonoma valleys are less than an hour away, so why go to a wine store? After a day of tastings and tours, I tend to buy some selected bottles, carefully storing them for eventual drinking. After all, wine ages well, right? Not always, as I recently found out with one of my cherished 1994 La Crema Pinot Noirs: there are ideal times to drink wines. But when is the right time for each of my disparate bottles? Enter's VinCellar . Free, it allows you to enter each of the bottles in your collection. It looks each up, presenting you with an image of the label to ensure it's actually your wine, then compliments each with reviews, value estimates, and, most importantly, ideal peak years to drink. Voila: your collection is stored,and you can even add your own notes. It's a great asset that, with a little Web 2.0 work, could be made even be

Back on the air

Been a little more quite than I anticipated. First, the holidays, mixed with an office move, then followed by a trip to Tucson to visit the family. Pix are on Flickr ; they should be Picnik 'ed mostly later today. Bonus: my mother unearthed some classic child photos of me,and I'll be posting them to Flickr, as well. Some random comments: - For those who have been following my Twitters, I'm sure you've had enough of my complaints about US Air, but for those who missed them, I advise avoiding them at all costs. Even though I had significant frequent flier miles with them, I will avoid flying them, ever again, if possible. Atrocious service,substandard aircraft, and their Phoenix hub is like a third world country. We ran a bit late, got to the counter 44 minutes before the flight, and were denied boarding becuase we had luggage to check. Result? An unplanned overnight stay inthe stunning airport La Quinta,at our cost. - Dude, I got my Dell. A sweet Inspiron desktop from th