Thursday, June 28, 2007

Sleek devices

In this post I’ll present you a few cool gadgets that are not yet available on the market. If you are interested in any of them please drop a comment and I’ll post detailed information about the producer and if possible availability date and planed price. Any other question is welcomed.

Sleek devices – Media Center PDA

In the last two years, PDAs started to loose terrain in front of smart-phones and portable media players. Big players on PDA’s market announced their intention to discontinue some of the most popular PDA lines (see Sony Clio and Dell Axim stories)

While everybody sees the PDA as a dead device, a newcomer company is planning to launch in the near future a sleek PDA on the market. It will not be marketed as a PDA but as a portable media player. Look for it in media players section at your local store and not in PDAs section.

When I first saw a prototype of this new gadget, I thought that it’s a clone of an Apple iPone or Apple iPod – or something between them. The device has a sleek look and feel, a big touch screen and a navigation wheel.

The only difference is the user interface. While very polished and fully accessible from the navigation wheel it is still different than the iPhone interface. Clearly, the company doesn’t try to create an iPone/iPod clone but a very sleek portable media player. From the main interface you have access to device main features: music player, video player, photo browser, voice recorder and FM radio.

Media can be transferred from your PC or Mac very easily using a piece of software similar to Apple iTunes. Besides the basic media management functions, this software has also the ability to transcode on the fly the media that you have on your computer or even standard DVDs. Other functions include the ability to download on the device videos from popular sites such as youtube and sleek integration with online music stores. All this content will be stored on the internal 16GB memory flash.

Now take a deep breath are read further! Until now you thought that this is the presentation of just other cool PMP. At a closer look at one side of the device I noted a stylus – just like in my Axim. I pulled the stylus and touched a very tiny symbol in the upper right corner. The flashy interface disappeared and I was in front a regular PocketPC! I was able to play with the usual Pocket PC applications (tasks, contacts, etc) and even read emails and browse the internet via the integrated wireless card.

It is amazing how a bit of hardware redesign and a sleek full screen media interface changed completely the look of an otherwise boring PocketPC. Media lovers will get the advantages of a full featured PDA for free, while the PDA lovers will not have to carry 2 devices (a PDA and a PMP) with them.

Sleek devices – PDA Notebook

The same company that is working on the Media Center PDA is planning to launch also a device that will sit between a traditional PDA and a notebook computer.
Basically it will look like a small 7’’ notebook with a screen resolution of 1024x768 and a notebook like keyboard. Other than that, it will have integrated WiFi, Bluetooth and 3G.

At this moment all similarities with a notebook stops here, because under cover the device is actually a PocketPC – priced like a PocketPC (some may comment that this will not be PocketPC but Windows CE).

With a price tag of a PDA but capabilities of a notebook, the device will certainly look appealing to customers looking for a lightweight, rugged notebook that will be used mainly for text entry, emails and web browsing (eg. students and managers).

Sleek devices – Enhanced portable DVD player

If you ever visited a local electronics store you certainly noticed all those models of portable DVD players. People are using them on the plain or in the car to entertain themselves of their kids.

This new device, that will hopefully make it to the market, is actually an enhanced portable DVD player with the following cool features:

- DivX/XVid player
- MP3 player
- TV and FM tuner
- Embedded games

Imagine yourself in transit at airport X, waiting for the next flight and in the same time watch news on a local TV station. People from Florida may also use it like an emergency TV/Radio during hurricane season ;-). And if you still don’t find anything to watch then switch to game mode and play one of the 10 embedded games.

Sleek devices – Sleek Media Center PC

The offer of Media Center PCs (a special PC that can sit in the living room, next to the rest of your AV equipment) is for sure very big.

Still all available offers have two things in common: bulky and pricey. And all this because the producers are trying to put inside only the latest processors and huge amounts of RAM and HDDs.

A newcomer company found out that the average person doesn’t want to pay more for a media center PC than his paying for a regular DVD player. Basically, the average person wants a sleek, cheap and lightweight media center PC.

After this research this company decided to lunch a niche media center product. With a VIA mini-ITX motherboard, 500MHz processor and 256MB RAM this PC has just enough power to run Windows Media Center OS. The media decoding (eg. your DivX or DVD movies) is done via a secondary hardware processor.

With this architecture the company is trying to offer the best from both worlds: a sleek and cheap (~$100) media center PC with a regular DVD player profile but in the same time an opened platform powered by a Microsoft OS. Regular users will use it like a media player, while advanced users will be able to customize the interface via additional plug-ins or run special server type software (web servers, FTP servers, etc.). The possibilities are endless.

Sleek devices – Networked Kill-A-Watt devices

Let me clarify from the beginning – the device presented in this post is not related with Kill-A-Watt or produced or endorsed by P3 international. It even doesn’t have yet a name! I used Kill-A-Watt in the beginning of this post to make myself better understood.

As compared to Kill-A-Watt, this device one great feature: the ability to network several devices and then download their measured data in a PC. Just buy one of these devices for each electrical/electronic device you have in your house and a USB module for your computer.

From the moment you connect an appliance to one of this devices, it will start log, with 1 minute resolution, in its internal flash memory the instantaneous power consumption and the frequency. The internal memory is big enough to collect data for more than 3 months, time after will start removing older entries.

Next install the supplied software on your computer and connect the USB module to an available USB port. This will start poling all devices in the home and download their internal flash memory content into your PC. All this information will be used by the software to draw graphs and make statistics on different devices in your home. Since all devices have their own internal memory you don’t have to keep the PC opened at all times. Just remember to poll the devices at least ones at every 3 month to avoid losing older data.

Sleek devices – Networked battery operated lights

Make a visit at your local hardware store and go to illumination section. You’ll find there several solutions for adding battery operated lights under kitchen counters or in attics or closets.

Most solutions consists in simple battery powered LED light fixtures that you can install yourself using double sided adhesive tape. The only problem with all these solutions is that you have to touch several points if you want to turn on or off all the lights in a closet.

A newcomer company is proposing to launch a wireless networked battery operated light kit that you can install yourself in a closet or under a cabinet. The kit consists in 5 lights and 2 switches: a magnetic switch and a wall applicable switch. All pieces can be putted in place using adhesive tape.

Just put all these lights in a closet and place the magnetic switch at the door. In the moment you open the closet door all lights will turn on. When you close it they’ll turn off. A very simple wireless protocol is implemented in each switch and light fixture. By selecting a channel number on the back of each device, you can create up to 10 light networks in your home.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Make FREE international calls to Romania

Calling Romania for FREE is a novelty even in VoIP world. Fortunately 3 Finarea/ Betamax companies started to offer free calls to landlines in Romania:


Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Why personal assistant but not PDA works

PDAs (Personal Digital Assistant) were introduced as a way to offer a personal assistant to everybody. Managers had this privilege for years. Only they used real persons as assistants and not a fancy gadget.

Although promising at the beginning, PDAs failed in both aspects:

- as a gadget they were replaced by smart phones (phone + PDA capabilities in one device) and PMP (Portable Media Player – see iPod) devices. Big companies that used to produced PDAs starts now to discontinue them and refocus on other areas.

- as a personal assistant they never did the job right. Far from being personal assistants, PDAs were no more than plain pen and paper notebooks. People like personal assistants because they like to give commands, and they like to pass responsibility and then forget. You cannot do this with a PDA?! A PDA will start buzzing on an unfinished job, like they are your boss and not viceversa!

Let me tell you a story: A few weeks ago I had a pile of unpaid bills and medical claims on my desk.. I though that dealing with them it’s a very easy task: you have to open them, pay them and eventually do a few phone calls. I would’ve finished them in a couple of hours probably. Instead of doing them I delayed them till today despite my PDA that constantly reminded me of this task. A simple press on snooze button solved the problem for the day. If I’d have a real personal assistant I wouldn’t have this problem. A simple “do that” command would’ve probably solved everything.

As a matter of fact people like to have assistants. All famous success stories from IT (see Microsoft and Apple birth) are built on manager-assistant model. Small succeeding companies are usually built by 2 persons. At the first sight they seem to have same responsibilities but at a closer look they start to differentiate in master and assistant – one person that sees the big picture but doesn’t go into details and one person who deals only with details. They complement each other.

Let’s now take your (you – the reader) example. You certainly have in every minute a big idea in your head that would probably make you rich and famous. It’s also a big probability that you have also a PDA! So you have both parts of equation: manager=you, assistant=PDA and still the ideas are only in your head. Why that? Don’t try to answer this. Instead go find a real personal assistant that would happily work with you/for you to implement your dream ideas.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Microsoft Popfly

Remember Microsoft Silverlight? It’s now the time to see Popfly, a complete Silverlight application coming straight from Microsoft.

It’s very interesting seeing how Microsoft is using/twisting its technologies and move forward into other people’s territory. Only time will tell if their effort and new presentation campaign (check out the presentation of Popfly and Silverlight where they talk open about other platforms and products: Flicker, Warcraft, Mac, etc) will help them gain a piece of this new Web 2.0 world.
Until then, I’m still waiting for them to send me an invitation (where did I see this method until now?) to Popfly. They’ve promised they’ll send it with the first invitations batch.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Portable battery extenders

Whether you taking a 10 hour transatlantic flight or you live in Florida, the following universal battery extenders may look appealing to you.

iGo powerXtender provides emergency power for your mobile gadgets anywhere you go. Get up to 10 hours of talking, 20 hours of playing or 28 hours of listening. Uses 2 AA batteries (included) and iGo power tip technology (tips sold separately) to power/ charge your mobile gadget.

Solio™, the Universal "Hybrid" Charger is powerful enough to charge all of your handheld electronic products at home or on the move, anywhere under the sun.
Solio is a Hybrid because it can accept power from either the wall socket or Sun storing this energy within Solio's internal rechargeable battery. Solio then uses this energy to power your gadgets at the same rate as if they were plugged into the wall. Solio will also hold its charge for up to a year.

Energizer Energi To Go – Put the supplied lithium AA batteries into the holder and insert the cord into the holder then plug the adapter into the phone. This portable power supply comes in various flavors, each supporting different cell types. Not recommended if you are looking for an universal power supply.

Black&Decker Power To Go - Supplies portable 110 Volts AC (yes – it has an DC-AC inverter) & USB power to mobile electronics. Provides hours (up to 1, 4 or 9 hours - depending on the model: 10W, 20W or 100W) of extended runtime. You can buy these power sources online or at a local Wal-Mart or Home Depot store.

APC Universal Notebook Battery - Universal external batteries for notebook computers. While very good if you indent to power your laptop, these batteries are kind of bulky for smaller devices.

118Wh Portable Power Station - The BMW of battery packs which powers any device from 3V~28V. Features built in variable voltage selection from 3V,5V,6V,9V,12V,16V,19V,21V,24V,28V. Packed with power at 118WH Capacity.

USBCell – A simple rechargeable battery. Just stick it into a USB port to charge it and then use it on the go like a regular AA battery.

Tekkeon myPower GO uses 4 AA batteries and provides power via an USB connector. Should work with all cellphones, PDAs and music players that are recharging from an USB port.

Tekkeon myPower ALL provides up to 14V/19V and powers virtually any portable device—anywhere, anytime. With myPower ALL, you carry a single lightweight rechargeable battery to extend the play time on your portable DVD player, notebook computer, digital camera, camcorder, MP3 player and more.

APC Universal Mobile Device Battery - These external battery packs supply power via a USB port to any mobile device that can be powered using a USB charging cable (sold separately), like mobile phones, iPods, PDAs and more. They are also small and light enough to carry in your pocket.

Semsons' Pocket Power Bank with USB port has 2-in-1 design. You can use it as battery charger or as battery extender. It has build-in 100-240VAC charger with retractable AC plug. Add 4 X AA NiMh/NiCd rechargable batteries up to 2400mAh and use the USB output with Palm PDAs, cellular phones and other electronics via USB charging cable.

The Proporta Mobile Survival Kit includes the USB Mobile Device Charger (USB Rechargeable Battery). This handy product charges from any standard USB port and stores an impressive 3400 mAH of power for when you need it.

The XPower PowerSource Mobile 100 is a power solution with both AC and USB outlets. If your laptop battery runs low or you need more play time with your portable game console or portable DVD, simply connect your device into the AC outlet and keep going. Two USB charge ports will keep your Blackberry, iPaq, Palm, or iPod charged when you need it most. You no longer have to carry extra cords, chargers and device-specific batteries.

The Mobile Mini features a mini USB pivot arm so you can connect it directly to your BlackBerry and new Motorola phones such as the Razr and more. A second USB port is also featured so you can power two devices at once. The Mobile Mini’s internal lithium-ion battery can be recharged at home through a lightweight AC charger, through a vehicle’s DC socket, or at your computer from its USB port.

To DIY guys I recommend the Minty Boost article for technical details on building a portable USB power using 2 AA batteries hosted in an Altoids gum tin.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Recharge alkaline batteries

If you want to save money and environment try to not throw away those used alkaline batteries. Purchase a special battery charger from and revive dead alkaline batteries between 25 and 100 times. Under any circumstance do not try to use a regular NiMh charger with alkaline batteries!

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Single click sign-on to Intranets company portal

Please read this article ONLY if your company is using Intranets as a company portal. You can figure out if that’s the case by looking at one of the following addresses (replace acmecorp with your company name):

If you recognize any of them then keep reading.

My major complain with my company portal on intranets is that I have to type each time the username and password in order to access the site.

Wouldn’t be nice to place a button on Links toolbar (in IE) and automatically be logged on Intranets?
More than that: wouldn’t be nice that by a single click on a button to be logged in Intranets and a certain page inside to be displayed?

This is possible by implementing the following trick:
  • Copy and paste the following HTML content on a text file on your harddrive.
  • Put a button on Links toolbar to point to this file
  • Edit the HTML file and replace username and password with your intranets credentials and acmecorp with your actual company name.
  • The form action querystring link parameter is the link to an internal intranets application. If you just want to go to home page remove the link parameter.

Click on the image if you want to read the HTML code

Contact me if you want the text of this example sent to you by email.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

The coolest Web 2.0 services

Do you want to know what the coolest Web 2.0 services are at this moment? Check out Webware 100 - 2007. If you visit the site by June 11 you get the chance to vote for the candidates.

Manage cell phone voicemail messages on your computer

Just like, the service from allows you also to manage cell phone messages on your PC. If you like the first service then you should also check this one since it has several advantages (I’ll let you discover them alone).