September 30, 2007

Digital Life Swag

Just to wrap up the news from Digital Life, here's the official swag report:

Giveaways:

1 Ooma pen
2 Opera pens
2 Palm pens
1 Xyberpc.com pen
2 dtv transition pens
1 picture of me with the New York Knicks cheerleaders (PRICELESS)
1 Elixir strings guitar pick
3 T-shirts: Ooma, Newegg, headplay.com ("Play with me" logo on it)
1 deck of Vista playing cards (might be more useful than the actual OS)
3 digitaltips.org drawstring napsacks
1 Opera software baseball cap
1 Newegg.com baseball cap
2 Palm Centro drink coasters
1 Palm rubber stress ball
1 Full game of Americas Army on CD
1 Xtatix glowing necklace
1 MobiTV wristband
1 Newegg.com stress ball/egg
3 Lord of the Rings Tattoos

Literature:

Palm Centro
Godin Guitars
egglad.com games
Novint Falcon
Ablton live software
Spykeeworld.com
Dell
Duel-systems.com
Ooma
Xyber Technologies
John Lennon Songwriting Contest
Sonicbids.com
Full Sail Real World Education
PC Magazine - latest issue
NYCvisit.com postcard with Jimmy Fallon
Star Wars R2-D2 projector
Newegg.com
Zipitwireless.com
Simulscribe
Opera,com

September 29, 2007

Digital Life 2007

Digital Life, NYC-- the show was great, and there were lots of things to see, although I'll admit the show was smaller than I've seen before. Despite that, there seemed to be lots of enthusiasm and some cool new products. This time I actually got out of my shell a bit and instead of just walking around looking at everything, I stopped and talked to the representatives at the booths. Some highlights follow.

For once, we had absolutely no trouble getting in. My buddy and I had pre-registered so we were all set. We literally got our official badges and walked in the exhibit area within 2 or 3 minutes of walking in the Javits Center. In the past there have been throngs of people and much waiting, that was even the case last year. But this year, declining attendance and exhibitors meant a quicker entrance for us.

Upon entering we were greeted by two people dressed up as television sets, handing out business cards for mobitv. The card wants people to text "NBC" to number 43888. We then walked around some more and I immediately spied the one place I really wanted to see: the Palm booth, where they had just announced the new Palm Centro smartphone. I got a chance to play with it and try it out, and found out I liked it. The keyboard is a bit cramped, but it's usuable, and the form factor is very good -- so much better than a Treo. It's smaller and feels more like a consumer entertainment device, yet it's a smartphone. I think this will be the way for Palm to go in the future. Palm's booth was set up like a cocktail lounge with a bar and they were giving out free drinks to those who sat through a short Centro demo. My friend Chris and I sat through it, since we're both Palm fanboys, and then bellied up to the bar. I had mistakenly thought that the drinks they were handing out were some kind of mock cocktails or smoothies. Not a chance -- this was a real mixed drink, although I couldn't place what it was. It hit hard, since at this point it was about 11 AM and I hadn't eaten anything since around 6 or 7 AM. Ouch. Thanks Palm. Now I need some food to absorb this alcohol.

Over in the corner there was a tractor trailer for a group called the John Lennon Songwriting contest. There were scores of people clustered around it. I guess there's a fair crossover these days between musicians and techies. Other music exhibitors included Godin guitars, Roland, and a service called Sonicbids that touted the virtues of "making music your day job". This one looked interesting, as it allows you to create a press kit for yourself or your band, complete with bios, photos and of course music, then email your electronic press kit (EPK) to anyone at no cost. It also has services such as letting you know about music festivals, conferences, tours and other job opportunities. There was a 3 month trial available by entering promotional code DAYJOB at their site.

From here it was on to the other vendors, out of the music area and more mainstream. We saw a product called ooma that is basically an internet-enabled answering machine with unlimited long distance thrown in. You buy the box itself (which admittedly was a pretty unattractive device) but then there's no monthly fees or anything -- you supply the connectivity via your own network at home. It was intriguing, but then again the show special was $200 off the price of the box...which made me wonder how much could this thing be worth, anyhow? For my money, something like Skype seems like a better bet and far cheaper. We then saw some really high-end workstations from Xyber Technologies, which looked really good until we saw the price tag -- let's just say it's nothing you'd really want to plunk down unless it's on the expense account. Their models had great specs though, and their niche in the market seems to be a fanless cooling system, which uses passive heat dissipation via the use of aluminum tubing filled with gas that allows the heat to escape. Their literature states that because of this, their systems only require one tenth the power of a normal high end system: 110 watts instead of 1000 watts. They also have specific machines for home theater systems, and high-end gaming PCs, all with the same cooling functionailty built in. From there we walked a few more feet and talked to a rep from Duel Systems Adapters, which makes conversion kits for PCMCIA cards. It's funny, but with all the USB devices out there, I haven't heard about PCMCIA devices in years, except for the cellular cards that business travelers use. Nice to see that technology is still in existence and being put to use. The booth rep was very energetic and talked to us for quite a while, showing us all the kits. The company also does RFID tagging as well as custom packaging and enclosures for devices. We then took a look at a school program called Full Sail, which provides real world education to students in the fields of computer animation, digital arts, film, game development and the music business, just to name a few. Looks like a great program, where students get real hands-on experience on actual real world projects such as movies, games, etc. Finally, we saw a device called the Neuros, which seemed to be a portable Tivo system, allowing you to record TV shows, store movies, etc, and then take it anywhere you want to view it, without a PC. I didn't see a demo of it, but my guess it that it hooks in to your TVs video and audio inputs. They were offering 20% off the device price with coupon code DL2007NYC.

Clearly it was now time for lunch. The alcohol from the Palm booth was now disspitating on it's own but in it's place was hunger. Amazingly the downstairs food court wasn't open, which really blew my mind. I guess they didn't anticipate massive crowds so they decided not to open it? I'm still unsure about that decision. So, in its place were some individual snack areas peppered around the exhibition floor. We found one selling panninni sandwiches and decided to go for it -- our only other recourse being to go outside to one of NYC's vaunted hot dog vendors. While we were grabbing our sandwiches, the rep from the Duel Systems Adapters booth walked up and ordered one -- so we struck up a conversation with him and the three of us had lunch together. I think this is one of the things I'll remember most about this show--all the great conversations I had with absolute strangers. How cool is that?

After lunch it was off to the more entertaining sections of the show. Unfortunately there wasn't any Napster booth with strippers like at last year's show, but there was lots of other good stuff to see. We started by going to the newegg booth, which was one of the busiest booths in the whole place. Now what does that say when a simple web retailer's booth is the place to be? Not that I'm complaining, since they had a bunch of good show deals to let us know about, plus they were handing out Tshirts and baseball caps. But still, it amazed me that this was one of the booths that was hopping. We then looked at the Dell booth, which had some of their XPS laptops, which I really liked. A lot. Talk about power wrapped in a svelte package. These were full-blown desktop replacements, capable of running any program or game (we got to play Ghost Recon 2 and it was nice and fluid). Just awesome to see them in use and get to play with them. We even saw some of them running full blown interactive games, such as a go-kart game which is actually connected to a real go-kart. Pretty cool, and it was all being run off the XPS laptop. So now we were squarely in the gaming section of the show. We saw an innovative new device called the Novint Falcon, a new take on the traditional joystick. This thing is an orb, which you grip and depending on the surfaces you encounter during the game, the orb reacts differently to it, approximating it's feel. They call it 3D touch. So, the orb will slide along quickly if you're on ice, but will bump along if you're climbing or driving over rocks. Even more so with boulders. The device was a bit awkward to hold at first, but you got used to it. It seemed especially well-equipeed for walking around type games, but not so great for shooter-styles. Supposedly they're coming out with an add-on or a separate device to handle that. While this device seems well-poised to follow in the Wii's footsteps with the innovating and immersive gameplay, I don't think it's a serious contender yet, despite some of the press release-style statemtents on their literature, "I realized this product was going to change the way we all live in a fundamental and beautiful way". Umm....we'll see. It all depends on the games this will work with. Make it work and bundle it with something like Ghost Recon or Call of Duty and you might get an audience. I'm mentally bookmarking this item to see how it does in the marketplace. After this we saw a new robot by Erector called a Spykee spy robot, able to be used for surveillence. The cool thing about this is that you can view things through it's camera from any web browser. Kind of cool technique to keep tabs on your stuff. We also checked out the Digital Life game tournament area, where gaming contests were going on. Think: banks and banks of high-end PCs all with late teens to early 20-somethings glued to them. They were also giving out Tshirts which said "Play with Me" and an arrow pointing downward. Umm...OK, that's making a statement I guess. I grabbed one but have absoultely no idea where I'll wear it. Right next to this was the Lord of the Rings area for the online game Shadows of Angmar, which is a MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role playing game), where they were signing people up and handing out temporary hobbit tattoos.

OK, next up was one of the high points of the event, not only for me but it was one of the most-attended area: the America's Army Virtual Army Experience. This was an area where you could, after waiting for around an hour in line, get to play in a combat game, in a sort of virtual reality environment. The line was full of teenagers, making myself and Chris easily the oldest ones there (sigh). We joked to the kids in the line that this game was really just a recruitment tool. They scoffed at this, but we're sure that it is. Upon getting to the head of the line, we were met by some of the real Army soldiers, very young men and women, including a stunningly beautiful asian women, who tell you that what you're about to experience is the closest thing to real army combat imaginable. One of the army guys also when on to point out his attractive army co-worker, and said, "You like her? Think she's pretty? That's what you get if you join up in the Army...the chance to meet women like her". Talk about selling it. Anyway, once inside, they have you fill out your information, including address and phone number (for recruitment purposes, I'm sure) and then you're given a temporary badge and you're ready. You're ushered to a separate section, comprised of about 6 HummVees, each one with machine guns bolted to the doors, the dash, and yes even the roof. Everyone takes the spot they want and the game begins where you pretty much blow away the enemy on a large screen, where the game is projected in front of you. It's very engaging and immersive. One drawback is that even though you have to give them all your personal information, and the badge they issue you has an RFID tag in it, there's no stats in the end to tell you how well you did for the team. No shot accuracy, enemies killed, nothing. Bah. The other downside is I just know I'm going to get a phone call from the Army recruiter now too. One upshot: you got the full videogame of America's Army for your PC, which is pretty much like every other soldier/warfare game you've ever played. But nice to get it for free.

After this we checked out a few more booths, most notably the Opera web browser booth, where the nice booth girl took lots of time showing me the new features of the browser. She sold it so well that both Chris and I installed it the next day when we got home. We then checked out Zipitwireless, a dedicated device for text messages and instant messaging (hey, isn't that normally handled by a cell phone?) . It uses your network at home and doesn't rack up the minutes or against your phone plan's texting plan quota. Finally, we ended by looking at perhaps the coolest movie projector ever, the R2-D2 projector, and then took a look at some Gelaskins protection skins for electronic devices. I probably should have bought one or two of these since their designs were so cool.

One thing I didn't see, although I tried: U3 was giving out their USB smart drives at the show, and if you couldn't win one or grab one from the rep, they invited you to buy one at reduced show rates. So, I tried and tried to find booth 622, but to no avail. Chris and I did see an empty booth in the 600s section, and we assumed that was the booth and that they never made it to the show. Too bad...I was intent on getting one.

On the way out someone handed me a postcard with Jimmy Fallon from Saturday Night Live fame, which said "Everything tastes better late at night". Rock on, Jimmy, rock on. We grabbed a couple of hot dogs from a street vendor, then made our way home.

Check out the show pictures:

September 27, 2007

Going to Digital Life 2007

One of the biggest tech shows of the year opened today -- Digital Life in New York City. What makes this show different from most is that it's open to anybody, and it's geared toward consumers, not necessarily just professionals or industry-types-- everyone. Therefore, there's a broad spectrum of things you'll find there -- televisions, Blu-Ray + HD DVD players, cell phones, PDAs, home theaters, cars, desktop computers, laptop computers, robots, you name it. If it's tech-related, it will be there--usually in a big way. Another reason this show is so good is that it exists, and it's relatively young. The steam is still in it's stride. It's not a show that's been going on for 10-20 years, like the old PC Expo was. That show, and others like it, eventually burned themselves out, and now don't exist. DigitalLife, by contrast, is in it's 4th year, and if last year's show was an indicator, it's still going strong. Although personally, I'd like to see every square inch of the Javits Center utilized like it was back in the Internet World days (ahh...the good old days. Huge event, lots to see. Click to read an opinion by Alan Meckler, who used to own and run the Internet World show, after he attended the first Digital Life show 4 years ago. Suffice it to say he wasn't too impressed -- I'm sure it's gotten better since then). Maybe they'll pack them in better this year. The word from this year's coordinator, Monica Vila, is that it looks real good.

The press event beforehand seemed to have it's usual amount of hype surrounding it, according to CNET. Maybe someday I'll be able to go on a press pass? Hmmm.. that would be great.
And since this is all part of technology week in New York City, there was an event for that too, but it sounds like that event underdelivered.

Speaking of this year's show, it seems that so far the Newegg booth is one of the best to visit for giveaways -- good to know. I'll also be checking out the Palm Lounge, where they've today just announced the new Centro smartphone...whoops, excuse me, smart device. Seems they're using some phrasing to differentiate themself and their device. Smart move. I'll also check out booth # 622, U3 Smart Drives, where they've got a portable USB drive that is secure and will mimic your PC. Allows access to your applications, files, even your settings such as desktop wallpaper, etc. I've seen this done before, and it can even be done manually with just about any USB drive, but they look like they do it better. That's important. I'll check them out, and may even buy one.

I'll be going to this event on Friday (9/28), so expect some pictures and commentary shortly thereafter. Should be a good time, with lots of new stuff to report on. I love the smell of technology in New York City. Fall is here. Aaaahhh.

September 26, 2007

DRM-free Music; Weird Images and Videos

Lots to mention today. Things have been flitting across my desktop and I've been sticking them in "to-blog" pile.
Digital music's getting an interesting, in not naive, shot in the arm with the arrival of Amazon's no-DRM music downloads, as well as a new service called SpiralFrog, that gives you free music that contains embedded ads. I think Amazon's loss of DRM will make it money (as will the same technique on iTunes) and is a very good idea. I'm not so sure about SpiralFrog. I really think people want music, not ads. And I can't imagine anybody really utilizing this service to get the latest music singles, except possibly teenagers. Everyone else would just cough up the 99 cents and get on with their day.

If you've got some time and are inclined for some graphical fun (no, not that kind), check out this guy and his huge tongue. I know he's a whale, but still -- that's huge. Other graphical, animal sights include this snake, which apparently had a bit of indigestion with his meal -- a hippo. If we've still got your attention, there's a real good slideshow of a shop in New York City for Superheroes. Now I know where to get that cape fixed, or buy that magic lasso. I just can't decide.

September 14, 2007

Last week: Chinatown

Last Friday I spent the day in New York City. Took in a little bit of Fashion Week at Bryant Park (couldn't get inside the tent, but I was outside and saw some models and celebrities wandering in and out..and I think I saw Jeff Goldblum) and then went to Chinatown. While there, I went in to the little shops that litter Canal street. They're all basically the same, selling cheap knockoffs of luxury watches and purses. One guy tried to sell me a "Rolex" for $50. Well, I am a watch fanatic, but no thanks. I'd prefer the real thing any day. Just in case anyone else is interested in this, here's how to tell a real from a fake. Not that the $50 price tag isn't a big indication. The real ones start at around $3500.

While in the shop, little did I know that some of these stores have secret rooms that you can get trapped in for hours. Nice to know...just a little too late. Live and learn.

September 12, 2007

thoughts on the site

I've been thinking quite a lot about this site and how best to approach it in the future. Looking around at the best blogs out there, most focus specifically on one topic. They have well-written articles which are edited and well thought out. At times, that hasn't been the case here. In the interest of time, articles were sped up, churned out, just to keep the content going.

That seemed to be nice and all, but quality suffered. You could argue about the real value of a blog entry that's only a line or two long. What value does it have? Any? Minimal at best, in my estimation. But not even that lasted forever, and then even the minimalist entries and links started dwindling.

The best blogs are those that have well thought out stories, with plenty of information and commentary. A simple link just isn't sufficient to engage the reader. There is more information required.
Even in those blogs that are more eccentric in nature, as the Revision Bar is, there's a running dialog from the author(s) to the reader to keep those links stringed along nicely and explain their relevancy. No link is just placed there and left sitting in it's compartment, hoping some reader will click it. There's surrounding information, some context or opinion on the piece. Whether it garners any interest is irrelevant at that point; at least the readers know why it's there, and why the author chose it and placed it on the site. This information can be brief, and sometimes it can be quite exhaustive, but at least it's there to add relevancy and credibility to the posted information.

What will the future hold? An embracing of these characteristics that make up a good site. More contextual information and explanation about why the sites I've listed are there. Probably the frequency will slow down a bit from mutliple daily posts as we have experienced in the past, but to the casual reader, it may seem as if it's actually increased, since they may have seen weeks go by without any posts. What they may or may not have seen is the weeks and months that went by with posts all over the place, yet of dubious quality. In the end, the correct level will probably be something in between. Posts every couple of days, at least one per week, but of better quality.

Things that may change, and I'm only guessing here, are the look and feel of the site, and the way it operates. Firstly, the look is something that has bothered me lately as I wasn't sure visually it was the most engaging it could be. But that's simply aesthetics and has now been changed. Hopefully you noticed and like it. Programmatically it's a bit better and easier to manintain, which makes updating it easier. More troublesome to me is the lack of a dialog from the readers to me, which is something that helps define a good site, whether it be blog, news site, or any other kind of site. Community is important, as witnessed by all the social networking sites out there (myspace, facebook, etc.) , the shared bookmarking sites (digg, del.ici.ous) and so on. I've had comments enabled in this site for years now, yet it's rarely used. At some point I may disable it entirely, else find some way to make it really work. I'd much prefer the latter, but don't know yet how to make it so.

What won't change is the nature of the site. This site has always been a sort of "here's what's new on the web" place. A place which started out as a place to centrally store the new things I've found, the stories I've read and become interested in, and sometimes things which were just too bizarre not to share. This won't change. I'll do my best to string together the odd subjects that I post about with dialog to the readers, to make those connections. It's something that's been missing from this site and is needed.