The exceler8 iPhone 4 Bumper

exceler8-iphone4-bumper-200-px

Frustrated with iPhone 4 antenna and receptions issues?

Can’t believe Apple hasn’t even bothered to stock enough of their Bumpers to help alleviate the issue?

No problem.

The exceler8 Bumper, We’ve got you covered.

Experiments in data/life tracking/visualization

Daytum lets you track key inputs/outputs
Daytum lets you track key inputs/outputs

I’ve been investigating tools and methods for tracking, measuring and displaying key inputs and outputs for daily life.

Why am I doing this? Because I’m sick of important things falling off the table.

Long term effect is a product of the cumulative effect of short terms actions. While it’s hard to keep a long term goal in sight, it’s usually not too difficult to keep your daily habits and actions in line with daily goals. Provided the long term and daily goals and actions are aligned that is. Ahem. Yes, it’s a simple concept we can all grasp at a young age but one that seems to require habitual reminders for throughout life. But maybe that’s just me.

This all leads to using tools to track, measure, report and manage with.

Example – Scenario ‘a’

Inputs

Sleep = 8 hours
Engergy = Good
Eating well = YES
Excercise = YES

Outputs

  • feeling of satisfaction
  • calm, assured
  • money in the bank

Example scenario ‘b’

inputs

  • stay up late
  • get drunk
  • chuck beer bottles on the front lawn while singing ABBA songs in my falsetto voice

Outputs

  • jail house
  • poor house

More

This includes work and home life. For example I want to raise the visibility of certain tasks for my young kids like doing their homework, studying, eating the right food and exercising.

I went looking for web based solutions that would also work well on paper and on my iPhone. This research netted me squat. That drove me back into the waiting arms of spreadsheets and online solutions like Google Docs and using Google Gadgets to add visual indicators to my data (like the nice dial graphic below). Spreadsheets are great for flexibility but lacking somewhat in their setup time and maintenance.

Back to more research. I finally started finding some good links. One tool I’m trying is called daytum and the user interface is by far the best out of those I’ve found. However, I came across a problem when I tried to print out pages for my kids for our refrigerator. They have no css print style sheet! Grrrrr. Printouts looks like Mosaic outputs from 1997! So if printing things out is important to you then by all means try something else.

For now I’ve moved on to evaluating me-trics.com. Like daytum, it has a social aspect, allows for multiple inputs (web/mobile, etc.) and also integrates online tools and activities like twitter, Flickr, and others which is a nice add! I’ll let you know how that goes. Er, and if they have a print style sheet.

update: I failed to report that I’ve been using RescueTime for a while. RescueTime logs your actual time spent on your computer tracking application use, web behavior and so on. Most of my frustration with it so far is that it occasionally eats huge amounts of memory (not all the time) and it’s automated categorization of activities is understandably woeful. Not finding it particularly useful but I’ll keep at it a while longer.

I’ve also spent a bit more time with me-trics and it looks like you can’t add custom questions on your own. Instead you pick survey questions that other people (or me-trics) have added. For many things this is great but I immediately found that to be a non-starter. They do offer to add items to track via e-mail which is a nice customer service but not one that really addresses my needs.

How the iPhone 3G S Video feature will change media and news

Just yesterday I was outside a Dunkin Donuts in Lake Worth Florida with my kids and laughed when I saw the newspaper headline about Twitter’s impact on the current unrest in Iran.

World hangs on every tweet - front page headline Palm Beach Post June 16, 2009
World hangs on every tweet - front page headline Palm Beach Post June 16, 2009

Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t a derisive Internet cool kid laugh about old media, or a Twitter early adopter sneer. I was reacting as both participant and observer to the democratizing power of online publishing tools like blogs and Twitter. I was seeing popular culture change before my eyes.

Fast forward to this coming Friday when the iPhone 3G S arrives

The iPhone 3G S with its high quality video recording and editing could eventually have the same kind of impact on news and communications as Twitter.

Click to see Apple's Demo of iPhone 3G S video editing and recording
Click photo above to see Apple's Demo of iPhone 3G S video recording and editing.

Millions of people around the world will buy the iPhone 3G S and it’s succesor due out next year. Many people will buy the new iPhone with little to no interest in the video capture feature. Millions more will buy yet-to-be-released successors to the iPhone 3G S from competitors like BlackBerry, Google, Nokia, Palm and Microsoft that have the same or better video capture, editing features and ease of use. OK, maybe not Microsoft. 😉 You get the point, the iPhone 3G S will be the catalyst. It is not as much the innovator as the fast follower that breaks through to the masses. If today’s mobile video capture was a Van, the iPhone 3G S is the Minivan.

In 24 months millions of people will be carrying around high quality movie making equipment in their pockets. The number of these high quality video phones will continue to grow at an exponential speed as the gee whiz technology of today is pushed down to less expensive devices. Like next summer when a newer iPhone with dual core processors is unleashed and today’s $199 iPhone 3G S becomes the $99 entry level offering.

Along with this more capable mobile hardware we’ll use high speed wireless infrastructure to upload and share those movies in just a few minutes. In the States we’ll even see the end of AT&T’s exclusive iPhone agreement and even greater iPhone penetration as networks like Verizon pick up the iPhone. Similar stories will play out everywhere.

Not only will be able to quickly record and upload video, we’ll also be able to livestream our video. We’ve already been doing that, it’s just that geeks were the only ones who knew how to and the phones that had the capability were few and far between. This will change because of Apple’s worldwide sales volumes and impact on smartphone competition. This will change because of the iPhone’s ease-of-use and the third party iPhone applications that developers will make in the coming months (not years).

This will create a new critical mass of mobile videographers and that in turn will create big change in our media and communications.

For the first year I think this change will sneak up on us. For starters, the verdict on predicted sales of the iPhone 3G S is still out. Many people feel the 3G S won’t be as big a seller as the 3G because many of the features are small incremental improvements. For ninety percent of the upgrades, they’d be right. Some prognosticate that next year’s iPhone model will see larger sales based on likely enhancements and upgrades.

But it won’t be the specification sheets that will change things - people with access will.

Access and lots of people with access. That’s the change we mark with a this is where it all began on Friday with the release of high quality video capture and editing on the iPhone 3G S. When enough people have the right tools and access we’ve shown that we can unleash amazing amounts of rich and compelling content. The kind of content that TV producers, journalists and Hollywood movie makers only dream about. The kind of content that makes CNN’s news ratings spike. We’ll be capturing this on our video recordings and mobile livestream video.

It’s already been brewing for a while now. Internet types, video bloggers and journo’s have been showing us the way with mobile vlogging. As we’ve seen, the video will range from the interesting and sublime and highly entertaining to the stuff we should have left in the editing trash can. Just like Twitter or blogs but with video.

Things won’t really start to change though until surprisingly crisp video and sound clips start showing up all over the Internet. Uploaded and livestreamed by people who aren’t even a little geeky and don’t know the word videographer or vlogger. We’ll see video in real time of rock concerts, along with video of interesting and shocking events from all over the world. We’ll see interesting locally relevant content that we can use to shop, pick a restaurant or find a home. Good content, relevant content, in ‘good enough’ quality.

Not the junk quality that’s common on mobile video recording today. The increased quality, access, ease-of-use and bevy of sharing tools will allow business users to shoot snippets of keynote speeches at meetings and publish them for niche audiences of hundreds or thousands, connecting peers and friends on Facebook and Twitter.

Babies first cry will get chronicled in real time with family members in different states or countries watching raptly and feeling every moment like CNN’s trucks have rolled up outside with Wolf Blitzer in tow. News will get recorded, uploaded and livestreamed of just crashed airplanes and street riots. This video content will make news and rich connections. This video will help people learn, communicate, laugh and connect. We will see and experience the kind of visceral, immersive connection with this video content that we first saw with Television.

In two years this will be reality TV…but real life in real time.

That’s my prediction. What’s your take?

Here’s an excerpt of engadget’s iPhone 3G S review talking about the video feature along with a video sample.

engadget review

Okay — you got us. Video recording on the iPhone 3G S is really quite impressive, and there are two reasons why. For starters, the phone handles pretty fantastic looking VGA video at 30 FPS, which makes for not just passable mobile video, but usable mobile video. The size, clarity, and smoothness of the sequences we shot looked tremendous to our eyes — certainly on par if not outclassing many of the contenders in this space. In our opinion, the 3G S video quality is high enough that we’d consider this a viable stand-in for lower end camcorders or flip cams — if you want to capture your kids at the park but don’t want to come packing a ton of gear, this produces totally reasonable results. – full engadget review here

John and Julia’s First Photos

Don’t you wish you had the first photos you ever took?

Not long back, John got hold of our Family Digicam and went to town snapping pictures of just about everything. I didn’t put him up to it at all. As you’d imagine there were a lot of unusable photos. There were also a lot of photos that got some of the basics right and some that even captured something special. Best of all, they all represent a unique perspective – that of a child and a first-ever photographer. My Favorite of John’s photos are the portraits of Charlie playing his guitar this summer. How cool! I tried to only delete photos that were blank or completely out of focus.

Just in the last month Julia picked the camera up and did the very same thing and with very similar results. My favorite of Julia’s is her self portrait close-up of her face.

First, here are John’s Photos

John’s First Photos

Now, let’s take a look at Julia’s photos.

Julia’s First Photos

First impressions Lenovo Ideapad S10 Netbook

The Levono Ideapad S10 Netbook

This a series of unorganized and occasionally helpful first impressions of the Lenovo Netbook – The one, the only, Lenovo Ideapad S10 review.

After salivating over Netbooks for over a year and watching the offerings closely I felt the market had matured enough to jump in. That said, there are some new Netbooks in the works that are due out in December that you might seriously consider such as the MSI Wind 2. Key among new offerings are on board high speed HSDPA mobile phone connectivity. My hopes for an Apple Netbook were dashed last Tuesday when Apple released their new MacBooks and MacBook Pros and no Netbook materialized. 

As I said in my intro, these are my first impressions of the Lenovo Ideapad S10 – one of the newest (or latest) Netbooks to join the Netbook fray. Lenovo was late to the Netbook game and my hope was that their quality laptop pedigree would trickle down to their Netbook offering.  So far, I think they’ve come close to doing just that.

First, let me call something important to your attention.

Most current reviews online of the Lenovo Ideapad S10 are based on a unit that is NOT shipping yet. The units available online from Lenovo and in some retail stores are the 512MB unit with 80GB hard disk drive and NO internal Bluetooth.  The base unit is $399 retail. I really wanted to try one in the flesh (mostly to test the keyboard) and after traveling to Best Buy, Circuit City, Office Depot and Staples I finally found a slew of models at CompUSA here in West Palm Beach, Florida. I never was able to test the MSI Wind in person but my Father, who has similar high standards in keyboards, tried one and felt the MSI WInd keyboard was excellent.

Getting back to the Lenovo Ideapad, if you’re patient, the newer unit that matches the specs of the reviews is due out soon. This newer unit will have integrated Bluetooth, 1GB of memory and a 160GB hard drive. This unit is $450.

For an additional $50 you get some GOOD stuff. I didn’t realize that the base unit did not have Bluetooth. This is not well documented on Lenovo’s site where you have to catch the * footnote that Bluetooth is only on select models. That was the only ‘gotcha’ I experienced. I really wasn’t worried about the memory because memory is dirt cheap and I just don’t need 160GB of hard drive in a Netbook. More on the memory later.

Other Netbooks I seriously considered:

  • All of them! From that lot I culled it down to the Lenovo Ideapad S10 and…
  • MSI Wind (great overall reviews and does well as a Hackintosh running Apple’s OSX Operating System)
  • Dell Mini 9 

I prefer the hard drive option in a Netbook over the SSD (solid state drive) because you can load up your Netbook with applications and music (why not!). The Dell gets steep on price and I also wanted the slightly larger form factor of the MSI and Lenovo. Reviews of the hard drive equiped MSI Wind are universally swell, and of particular interest to me, it runs a hacked Apple OS X install better than most Netbooks.

Other Netbooks were interesting but some combination of features or review critiques turned me off. I’ll mention the HP Netbook here only because it has the nicest keyboard that I tested. The fact that the HP 2133 Netbook is much pricier than other Netbooks and doesn’t use the new 1.6ghz Atom processor were big turnoffs.

I was drawn to both the Lenovo and Dell for the big brand support and service that they offer over some of the smaller or lesser known Netbook manufacturers. I think this is a minor point, but with very little to differentiate these units you have to pick some place to nit pick!

Other selling points of the Lenovo Ideapad S10 that stood out to me in the reviews:

  • big brand, low price $399
  • good keyboard
  • solid build quality
  • solid processor / system performance over competition
  • 10 inch format and screen (over small 8 and 9 inch units)
  • 4-in-1 Media card reader and ExpressCard slot
  • super easy memory and hard drive upgrades (this implies good build engineering, a necessary pre cursor to good build quality in my opinion)

The biggest negative of the Ideapad I’ve heard consistenly cited is ‘average’ batterly life. I’m getting a little over two hours right now surfing and writing with power settings at “Balance” a setting that, as its name suggests, takes the middle road for performance and battery life. 2+ hours suits me just fine. I can get more if I want to dim the screen and such. 

So what are my biggest gripes?

No deal breakers.

There are things to improve upon. The location of the right side shift key for example. It sucks. I’m constantly hitting the up arrow key instead. Otherwise spacing and feel are VERY solid and I’m having no problem getting up to good typing speed after only a day. I thought my extra use of the right side shift key might have to do with my left-handedness but my RH wife had the same issue and I purposefully didn’t mention my issue to her with the shift key. 

I sure would like it if they could make these units run cooler and quieter than they do. I don’t find either to be terrible on this unit but they’re not wonderful either. I’m picking a bit here.

I find the lid difficult to open as there is no latch and no indentation to slide your finger into.  

Memory. This isn’t really a gripe but more a realization about how I’m already using my Netbook. I orginally felt that the base memory of 512MB sounded great for surfing and other light application use – which it is. But, after finding the Atom processor so speedy my expectations changed almost immediately. This was a real computer! It has skillz. 

As such, I started loading more apps on the system like Skype and OpenOffice. As I loaded up more apps and more browser windows the 512MB started to get bogged down. That’s too be expected. So for a grand sum of $27.99 I picked up a Kingston 1GB DDR2 PC2-5300 SODIMM memory stick from Circuit City. With 1.5GB the system is now perfect. Here’s the memory upgrade installation guide I referenced. Their claim of a 5-minute install is legit – it actually took me less time. I got to appreciate Lenovo’s solid engineering design that provides easy access to memory and the hard drive for upgrades/repair. Something tells me I won’t be so lucky if I try to add Bluetooth…

What am I most impressed with?

The size and weight of course!

That’s the bloody point of these things after all. It’s brilliant. The 10 inch form factor really is perfect in my mind. My dad got the original Asus eee PC and I found it too slow and too small to use comfortably. Yet, the portability remained extremely compelling. The larger 10 inch means a usable screen and keyboard while still maintaining light weight and overall size. I can hold this unit in one hand as I walk around the house chasing my kids. That’s usability! It also fits perfectly in my compact man bag. Uh-huh, sweet.

The speed. I really expected a lot of compromise in speed and there really isn’t any. I run a Macbook I purchased in March this year with a nice 2.4ghz Core Duo processor and I just can’t say that it’s noticibly different when you’re surfing the web. Despite this common refrain, people don’t mention that your processor DOES in fact play a big part in your web surfing experience and the 1.6ghz Atom strikes me as a very capable chip in this respect.

What really surprises me is that it runs other heavier apps well – like Skype with video. No problem. In fact, I unexpectedly found myself loading more apps on the Lenovo because it seemed so capable. This is a good argument for waiting for the newer unit that has more memory and bigger hard drive. It’s also a good argument against the small storage size of the SSD Netbooks. I can see a ton of people getting these kinds of Netbooks simply because of the low price point and doing quite nicely with them as their main PC.  My biggest issue with the machine has nothing to do with the Machine. 

It’s having to go back to Windows after four years of Apple OS X. I’m no Apple fanboy and I’m a long time Windows user. I switched back to Mac’s about four years ago. I find myself very surprised by how much I miss OS X in everything I do on the Netbook.  I truly didn’t see this coming. After all, a web page is a web page whether you are on a Mac or a PC.

I did plenty of research on hacking the Lenovo with OS X and people DO have it working but with some gotchas that I’m not willing to live. The unit is very new though so I’m hopeful that people will figure out the remaining issues. The deal breaker for me is that you can’t get sound out of the machine on OS X and that means no notifications, music, YouTube and too many other things that one needs on a regular basis. I’ve got my fingers crossed.

In the mean time I’ve been searching out Apple equivalent applications to quench my OS X thirst.

I’ve turned up Colibri to do a quasi job of replicating OS X based QuickSilver. It does the basic work of a keyboard/text based quicklauncher well. I found the web site Cameroid.com to work as a Photobooth replacement. I am using DarkRoom as an equivalent to the OS X based WriteRoom – a simple word processor that blocks out everything on your screen to keep you focused on your writing. 

Of course there are benefits to Windows XP over OS X! Really. I’m delighted to hit the delete key again and have it DO JUST THAT! Noooo, not like Apple OS X where you have to hold down the Fn key plus the Delete key. Apple, what are you thinking?

I’m also happy that I can now run a few apps that are on Windows and not Mac or are simply better on the PC. These include Skype – their new much improved version hasn’t made it to the Mac yet.  The other is Google Chrome which is a solid browser, especially for me since I’m a big consumer of Google products (I even pay for Google Premier for my business email). Finally, there’s a piece of memorization software that I can now use on the PC that will NEVER be ported to the Mac. Well, never say never.

Solid effort Lenovo!

Apple, get yo’ stuff together and build a $599 Netbook – I’ll pay a premium for it as long as you innovate. If you want to build a me too Netbook and charge $450 or $500 for it, I’m down with that as well since I’d be able to use OS X.

For now, this Lenovo Ideapad S10 has pulled me away from my Mac for at least a portion of my day. That wasn’t easy to do. I’m a Mac and I’m a PC even if Apple’s latest Mac/PC commercial is deadly funny.


 

Buy an iPhone 3G Today or Save Your Soul?

Are you ready for the next Jesus Phone?

Doors opened today at 8AM all across the U.S. at both Apple and AT&T Stores. Doors opened ALL around the world in fact. I’ve followed the iPhone 3G launch right down to the very last RSS feed on sites like iPhoneAlley, Boy Genius Report and Engadget Mobile – just to name 3 of my dozen or so mobile phone RSS feeds. I was planning on getting my own iPhone 3G (in white) today but a quick scan of my mental budget says that would be quite a bad idea.

So, hopefully very soon. My gadget addiction is mostly in check these days but my financial management skills remain somewhat dismal so this beaut cartoon below from The Joy of Tech made my day.

And a ‘thank you’ Hat tip to Get Rich Slowly for their article today iPhone or Millionaire that pointed me to this cartoon and also reminded me of the great benefit of NOT spending money on toys.

Julian on Gadget Juice

Apture makes killer plug-in for web sites and blogs

While viewing my Plurk timeline (oh, you haven’t see plurk yet) this evening I found a link to an interesting blog post. Not only did I enjoy learning about the new open source Twitter client called identi.ca from my Plurk friend Bwana, I also couldn’t help but notice his very useful site plug-in that let me see definitions of words in Wikipedia.

Four months ago I went searching for just such a WordPress plug-in so that I could add custom and general definitions to my small business marketing site LocalNa8ion. After finding little of value in the WordPress plug-in arena I ended up using the tried and true HTML acronym tag. How does the acronym tag work in HTML? The acronym tag places …… under the tagged word, and when you mouse over the word your mouse cursor turns into a question mark with a pointer – a universal computer symbol for help. The acronym tag is particularly useful to site visitors when you’re knee deep in technical and industry terms that you would otherwise have to stop and write about just to gain understanding for less expert readers. Rather than putting everyone through a long written description the acronym tag has allowed me to speak to experts and newbies alike in less time. Yes, this is a bastardized use of the acronym tag. I’m bad bad bad. Technically, the acronym tag should just be used for acronyms and nothing else, but hey, it gets the job done for real people in the real world.

So Apture can address this need for me on Local Na8ion. But it does SO VERY MUCH MORE. In fact, I haven’t been this excited about a plug-in since I started using WordPress in 2004 and found out there were things called plug-ins.

Tools like Apture could change the web – radically.

See for yourself on the short video below and be sure to experience Apture. Subscribe to Apture’s blog while you’re at it.

Review and display complaints with Apple Macbook Core Duo 2

Here’s my review of a brand spanking new MacBook 2.4Ghz Core Duo 2 with 2GB memory, 160GB HDD, and Superdrive. Overall I’m very happy with the size, weight, craftmanship, OS, and performance. I’m comparing it to a 3+ year old PowerBook running the PowerPC 1.67Ghz chip. This machine blows that machine out of the water in every way but one. The display.

Now, to be fair the MacBook display doesn’t look all that bad to me when you’re just using it as a laptop and viewing the built-in 13″ screen. It’s not great, but not something I’d complain about. Hook up your MacBook to an external display though and you’re in for a very nasty surprise. It looks so bad running on my 22″ Samsung SyncMaster 225BW and my Sony 17″ LCD that I’m considering taking my new MacBook back and exchanging it for either the MacBook Pro or the 20″ iMac for $200 more (my MacBook cost $1,299, the base iMac is $1,499 and the base MacBook Pro is $1,999).

What I see on my external display is extremely bad pixelation of graphic images such as photos on iPhoto or on web pages (logos, fonts, images, etc.). It’s like seeing a highly optimized jpg file from a 1999 bannner ad gone wrong. Here are some example high resolution pictures of the display’s dithering problems I found on Apple’s forum. Here’s the forum thread where people are reporting all sorts of unexpected problems with build quality (inconsistency) poor display quality and pixelation like I talk about.

Frankly, I’m stunned that Apple has botched the implementation of the Intel GMA X3100 graphics processor with 144MB of DDR2 SDRAM so badly. You don’t read about these problem with other Wintel Machines with the same video card.

Formats available: Quicktime (.mov)

Reposition or reset an Adobe Air application window in OS X

reposition twhirl

If you’ve used a Mac and run OS X you’ve likely encountered a time when an open application window has mysteriously relocated itself on your screen so that you can’t see all of it and you can’t get to the top window bar to reposition it with your mouse pointer. Argh!

I had this happen today with an Adobe Air application today called twhirl. After 10 minutes on Google today looking in vain for a keyboard shortcut I went back to my old standby tech support method. I went exploring.

I was rewarded!

Here’s what to do.

Locate the Air application in your OS X doc. Right click, or control click that Air application icon in the dock to open a menu. There’s a menu item for ‘Reset Windows.” If you click that sucker the app window will promptly BEHAVE and appear in your top right window where you can do what you want with it. I spanked mine.

Do you know how to do this with other applications on OS X? I’d love to know.

[tags]Adobe Air, twhirl, os x, osx, Mac, move window, reposition window, move window without keyboard, move window when window is out of range, [/tags]