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

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.


 

Mr. Zhang’s Chinese Restaurant Palm Beach Gardens Florida

Mr. Zhang\'s in Jupiter FloridaMr. Zhang’s in Palm Beach Gardens Florida is great!

Summary
Food 5 Stars
Service 5 Stars
Ambiance 3.75 (boring strip mall location but clean and pleasant inside)
Price 3 (food is pricey for Chinese)

Menu (dine in or take-out)

Mr. Zhang’s web site

4650 Donald Ross Rd, Palm Beach Gardens, FL

(561) 624-2946

My Review

I lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for many years and had great access to some of the best Chinese restaurants in the U.S. Everything from spectacular hole in the wall choices to fine dining the likes of which I’ve had in Hong Kong. I have a decent idea of what passes for quality Chinese food.

Needless to say, living in South Florida over the last six years has been a huge disappointment. You’d think with our influx of New Yorkers, who are accustomed to some excellent Chinese dining choices, we’d have better Chinese restaurants here. Sadly, the Chinese cooks seem to have all stayed up north or back home in China!

Mr. Zhang’s in Jupiter Florida is one of only two “good quality” Chinese food dining experiences I’ve had between Miami and here in the greater West Palm Beach area.

We visited Mr. Zhang’s in July 2008 and all of our selections were of good quality as compared to the best quality I’ve experienced in the Bay Area. For this market, I would rate Mr. Zhang’s food in the ‘outstanding’ column. The Palm Beach Post seems to agree, giving their flagship dish (Grand Mariner Prawn) their top dish award in 2006 (typically known as Honey Walnut Shrimp/Prawns in most Chinese restaurants) .  Mr. Zhang’s Beijing Chicken was also excellent!

The only negatives I can think of are the boring strip mall location (that’s South Florida for you) and the price. Which isn’t a knock on Mr Zhang’s, but more a reflection of my preference for excellent cheap Chinese food! Mr. Zhang’s is more of a mid-priced dining experience as far as Chinese restaurants go. We got out the door for $112.10 (without tip) with one drink each for two adults, soup, 1 appetizer (Fried Wonton) and food enough for us and three kids helping us eat. That’s not a cheap family meal but if you’re looking for a treat for the whole family that’s on par in price with most chains you won’t be disappointed with Mr. Zhang’s.

In fact, at Mr. Zhang’s you’re going to enjoy much better food quality and service for the money than any national chain. Let me close by just pointing out how good the service in this restaurant. You never have a chance to even think about wanting a drink refill or some other assistance.

I highly recommend Mr. Zhang’s.

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)

Fully Loaded – The Loaded Vanguard that is

Loaded Vanguard PremiumAbout a year ago I got the itch for skateboarding again. It’s been a long time since I’ve shot a hill on a board – like 25 years. I learned to skateboard in 1976 with my brother almost immediately upon arriving in Western Australia from New Jersey.

Then as now, skateboarding was a literal and figurative form of freedom

My brother and I didn’t have new friends right away when we moved to Oz but we did have each other and we had our skateboards and through those boards we met a lot of people and had a lot of great experiences.

We never got into the tricks that you see on T.V. at the X-Games today but we did ride hills which takes some courage. We amassed many exhilarating moments, near-misses, and spectacular wipe outs, earning us battle scars and leading to heaps of fun. We did graduate to some pool riding but that was limited and I would never claim to have conquered pools – just a taste. Enough to appreciate what people can do on short boards today.

Then as now, skateboarding was a literal and figurative form of freedom, evoking similar feelings in me as motorbikes do. It seems I’m not the only one. Surfers share the same vibe. Back then our boards also served as basic transportation just like a bike. I had a thirst for this kind of freedom as a kid and some things about our characters never change…

This time around Longboards caught my attention. Although Longboards are longer than the boards I grew up on, they’re the same shape, run on similar wheels and they serve a very similar function; to eat up distance, fly down hills and get somewhere.

Longboards do these things much better than the boards we had ever could. They don’t just eat up flat land and carve down hills, they tear up straight-aways and shred hills.

Different length boards, trucks, wheels, and deck flexes all effect the specific handling of a Longboard just as they do their shorty cousins. One other variable – wheel size – also plays a critical role in handling. The bigger the wheel, the smoother and faster the ride. Just as with car or truck tires, the big wheels eat up bumps in the form of pebbles, rocks, curb lips, sidewalk lips and other “surface irregularities” that can literally send you flying off a regular board.

One thing that all skateboarding has in common is the silly grin it places on your face. A few months ago I went looking for today’s best Longboards and I believe I found them. They’re called Loaded boards. Loaded boards makes a complete line of Longboards that are considered the BMW’s of the Longboard crowd. As in Premium, High-Tech, and Sporty like a BMW.

Loaded has roots in Snowboarding and a focus on technology, materials, and complementary components (deck, trucks, wheels, bearings) all integrated to work together. They also bring an irresistible intangible. Adam Colton and Adam Stokowski. Although I don’t believe Adam S. works for Loaded, he’s as much a part of their early story as Adam Colton has gone on to be. Adam Colton now works at Loaded and seems to be their public persona.

Both Adam’s (referred to as Adam Squared) are largely responsible for creating many of the most exciting moves for Longboards today often categorized as “Dancers.”

The Adam’s spirit and passion are what grabs you – not just the magical moves. The Adam’s took a video camera and their passion and took center stage on Youtube. The rest is Longboarding history. Their videos manage

they are authentic, a label I apply sparingly

to be playful, endearing, spiritual, uplifting, and intelligent all at the same time. If you tried to bottle this it wouldn’t work – they are authentic, a label I apply sparingly. Their videos would make the average skateboarder get up and on their Longboards for a ride across America. Something Adam Colton actually did a couple of years ago with a group of friends. Adam plans a similar ride this summer across Europe with still other friends.

So back to flat lands and carving hills. We don’t have hills in South Florida but we have lots of smooth and flat, punctuated by bridges that offer some hill excitement. With my middle son Charlie now totally in to skateboarding my plan has been to get a ride when he arrived for summer so we could skate together.

Charlie actually got a new shorty board from his mum for his birthday and after I got my Loaded Vanguard Charlie couldn’t resist getting a Loaded board of his own: a Pintail. I had hoped I would ride with Max this summer as well but he wanted to stay in California this year with his friends so we’ll have to ride together another time. I’ll save it on my calendar for you Max and as long as I’m able, we’ll got out for a ride. I must thank Max also for his part in our longboarding – he was the first of us to get a Longboard and really focus my attention on them. When I was with Max earlier this year on his 16th birthday in The SF Bay Area it was his Sector 9 longboard that I hopped on for a spin around the block – enough to realize that I could still ride if I wanted to. These experiences are gifts and I thank Max for this one.

note: We didn’t get Charlie his Pintail until a couple of days after I purchased my Loaded Vanguard so this account doesn’t have his reactions since I wrote this post a couple of weeks ago and am just now posting.

Back at the store in Ft. Lauderdale where I got my Vanguard…

Charlie and I couldn’t wait to ride the Vanguard — so we didn’t. As soon as we were out the door of the store Charlie was off. Grinning ensued. I hopped on. It was good. It felt solid and comfortable – I could still do this. This board breeds confidence. I’m getting to the part where I tell you just how much confidence it breeds. When we got home we went out to ride but it immediately started to rain. We went back inside dejected. We stood at the window together, me looking just as much the disappointed 11 year old as Charlie. And we waited. The skies cleared and the roads were ‘dry enough’ to go out.

You might think that this story ends up in a cast but you’ll have to read on to find out.

We took off down the road and I had no problems carving my mini-hill that approaches the main waterway here. In fact I was really pleased with the amazing combination of stability and maneuverability that the Vanguard offered. Soon we were speeding along the wide flat sidewalk that runs along the Intracoastal waterway separating West Palm Beach from Palm Beach.

My balance was off here and there but it was also ON at times and it felt fantastic. By 3/4 of a mile I was kicking with big strides and flexing on the board nicely. Hello Julian – nice to see you again. I’d like to take all of the credit for this but I know the board deserves a great majority of it. It’s just that easy to ride and with the huge wheels all the typical rough spots were ironed out.

My first challenge came at the Palm Beach Bridge. I had no plans originally to go down the hill of the Royal Park bridge in to Palm Beach on my first ride but the board told me it was OK to do it. Honest, she told me it was OK. So I went. I couldn’t carve much to slow my pace on the narrow walk way of the bridge and it was still a little wet so I didn’t feel I could be too aggressive with the side-to-side carving without losing my new found footing. Half way down I knew it was OK. I hit a speed peak and the board was solid – all in control. I had conquered my first hill on my first ride out.

Charlie caught up to me on his roller blades and found me grinning from ear to ear. We went back up to the top where I only briefly considered the additional long sweeping curve at the bottom of the bridge’s west side, and the sharp turn that the west side also offered. With all my confidence I wasn’t worried. I started down and started carving.

It was going nicely but the speed was greater. Half way down I began to fully appreciate that the sweeping turn would actually find me accelerating rather than slowing down as I had on the Palm Beach side. I got a bit tense but I committed to the hill, knowing that I was doomed if I didn’t. I hit the curve, flying now, knowing full well that I was ditching if someone popped up in my way in mid corner. I got the dreaded speed wobbles – once, and leaned back and found rock solid again – close to a high speed wipe out. I bore down. I hit another apex in the curve and again had the wobbles. On my old boards I would have already been toast. I brought the board back a second time (thanks Adam). At this point I was going pretty fast. I was through the curve and if I had either a straight-away or a slight curve at the bottom of the bridge I would have been home free. But I didn’t. I had a sharp turn. The Vanguard was up to it but I knew I wasn’t.

I sized up my options as the sharp turn raced towards me and kicked the board into the flower bed as I launched myself towards the relative safety of the grass. Grass is our friend. I ate some weeds, along with a pretty side of flowers and got some wet muddy clothes but no scratches or bruises. It was a good fall. I fell with style and control. I didn’t even roll, just a knee skid with a muted face plant to ease my rate of speed. 😉 I got up, and smiled again. I spotted my trusty Vanguard about three yards into the three foot high Flower garden and wiped her off. She had some of the same pretty purple flowers on the top of her deck that my arms did. Charlie had called her “Mother” earlier in response to me question of a name. I liked it but didn’t commit. Looking at her now I knew she was mother nature. Mutha. I hopped on and went home a happy man.

My good friend Susan L. always told me that you’re only as old as you act. At 38 I’m not planning on laying down for middle age with a remote control in my hand.

Here’s Adam riding a Loaded Vanguard with the wind rushing over his face. Thanks Max. Thanks Charlie. Thanks Adam and Adam. I’m loaded.

Due to my tardy posting of this story this post isn’t in proper reverse chronological order. You can watch a video of Charlie and I on our Loaded boards on the 4th of July here. How does Charlie like his pintail? The smile on his face on our video of him finishing his bridge run that’s in this video should answer that question for you.

[tags]Longboarding, long boarding, skateboarding, Adam Colton, Adam Stokowski, Adam Squared, Loadedboards, Loaded Vanguard Review, Loaded Pintail[/tags]

Cingular BlackJack Long Term Review

I purchased the Cingular BlackJack (aka Samsung i-607) from Cingular on the day it was released. Why? It was one of their very first 3G phones and it looked gorgeous! A Windows SMARTphone that is thin and light – it packs a ton of features into a small, good looking package. Watch my video below to learn about this SMARTphone’s pitfalls and why I still love it for all its warts. Would I buy it again? Yes, it’s still the best overall multifunction PDA on the market from my perspective.

[tags]vlog, vlogging, Cell phone review, Mobile Phone review, tethered, phone modem, modem, high speed, 3G, Cingular, Cingular 3G, HSDPA[/tags]

Musicovery.com

musicovery.com interface

I’ve been using musicovery.com for the last week or so.

Try it!

This “new to me” music service features a great user interface that makes exploring music fun. Well, to be honest I always find exploring music fun. I’ve found musicovery to be very reliable in different browser/OS combos (note: I have not tried musicovery in Linux yet).

What really differentiates Musicovery.com the most is the decidedly rich user interface that will remind you of mind mapping. It’s very functional, not just a pretty face, allowing you to see upcoming music, see the branch of music you are exploring, along with useful basics like artist name and track info. There are built in links to Amazon music and iTunes if you’re ready to purchase a track or album. If you fork over $5 a month you can get your music in high quality bit rates.

Newsvine: Julian and Shannon sitting in the Greenhouse, k-i-s-s-i…

Shannon and I recently started using Newsvine.Newsvine We’ve lurked there since it went live earlier this year but now we’re taking the time to get involved.

If you’re the type that likes to listen, here you go.

Gabcast! Julians.name #2

Newsvine is a news website where users, or citizen reporters, contribute blog like posts or more traditional news stories to the Newsvine site and community. Notice that I said community – this is not a typical passive experience news site. Like Digg.com, users vote and comment on stories. The amount of votes and comments a story receives determines the overall visibility of your story. Highly popular stories make the front page – other stories never see the light of day. The user generated content is built around a complete, and non-programmed feed from the Associated Press news service. The sheer number of AP stories is really staggering – we’re used to content programmers at media outlets whittling this content down to bite-size morsels for us. I believe Newsvine also features ESPN content.

As you can imagine, the fact that you have full access to the AP wire is both a good and bad thing, but it’s clear that the purpose of the AP content is to give people fodder to have conversations around. That’s the real point of Newsvine. The action is in the conversation that takes place between the readers and author, and reader to reader. You participate in Newsvine by reading, commenting, voting on stories, and writing your own stories. You can also ‘seed’ Newsvine by publishing story excerpts from interesting web sites and stories that you read elsewhere on the net. For example, you’re reading your local online newspaper and there is an interesting story on rising crime rates. By putting a piece of that story on Newsvine others will then come to know about the story, and just like AP, or user generated stories, people ‘on the vine’ can vote your story ‘up the vine,’ and comment.

One thing that makes Newsvine so fun to use is the tools they give users to interact. There are many taken from different successful communication, web, or social media sites. You can make friends, chat, e-mail, create watch lists, and more. What’s really different though are the tools that let you track your interactions and contributions. For example, it’s really easy to return to Newsvine and check on how people reacted to a comment you made on a story. You can track authors, stories, comments, geographic regions, the list goes on. It all brings you closer to the news and the people who are writing it and reacting to it. I’m not even a big news consumer and there’s something about this service that is addictive.

The Internet marketer in Shannon and me is also fascinated by the triggers that cause people to react to content. I wrote a humorous comment on someone’s story last night and I had more votes (by far) on my comment than all the other comments. This was especially interesting to me because NO ONE in the conversation thread, the author or readers, acknowledged my comment. When you read the comments they were very much interacting and talking with each other – but not to me. Because of the Newsvine voting functionality, I learned that readers liked what I wrote, but I also found out that what I wrote did not induce a conversation. This is pretty powerful stuff for a blogger or marketer to learn, given that a major goal of both fields is to connect ideas and people and create a relationship that is relevant, engaging, and interactive.

Did I mention that it’s also just fun being part of the community? I’m enjoying the exercise of writing stories more in the voice of a reporter, vs. a blogger. The wider scope of the audience requires you to explain things in more general terms, which contrasts with a blog where you can assume readers have some interest and expertise in your subject matter to begin with. Except for general purpose blogs like Julians.name that’s aren’t about anything at all (apologies to Seinfeld).

Shannon and I are excited by the opportunity to expose a new audience to our blogs while also connecting with writers and people we might not otherwise find in the blogosphere. We have already seen some lift in traffic on our blogs from the stories we’ve posted on the vine. That was true even before we made it out of the Greenhouse which is impressive given the Greenhouse’s limited audience (more on the Greenhouse in a minute). It’s also yet another venue to increase our expertise in the emerging field of social media optimization (a useful term coined recently by Rohit Bhargava). BTW: Shan has published a couple of pieces on social media optimization, (SMO) on our online recruitment marketing blog EXCELER8ion. I originally used the term social network marketing (you’d never know I was a marketer) but fortunately Rohit’s term saved me from the most unfortunate use of the acronym SNM… Anyway, to wrap your head around SMO, think search engine optimization (SEO) type practices applied to social media like blogs, forums, wikis, Newsvine, RSS, MySpace, Flickr, etc. You can also check out the new wikipedia definition for a just-so description of SMO

Which is a perfect segue to explain our post title and the picture below. And you thought I’d never get to it. When you first start using Newsvine your stories don’t automatically appear everywhere on the vine. There’s a proving ground where you have to contribute stories, vote, comment, and otherwise interact with fellow users. People find new users by going to the Greenhouse (there’s a link on the left side navigation of the Newsvine web site). If they like your content, which includes anything you’ve written or ‘seeded’ from another news site, they vote for you. This voting, combined with all the other aspects of interaction (commenting, voting, etc.), eventually get you out of the Greenhouse and into the general community. The GreenhouseWhy didn’t they just call it the dog house? The message is clear, the more you interact and use ALL of the Newsvine features, the faster you climb the Greenhouse leaderboard and the quicker you get out. Not a bad way to teach people how to use the tools either. People on the top of the page are the closest to graduating to the general community. You’ll be shocked to learn that Shannon took this as our latest venue to compete. I started out way ahead of Shannon but within a day she was nipping at my heals in the Greenhouse, despite my head start. Very early this morning, while Shannon was sleeping, I staggered (careened even) down the halls of the vine, voting, seeding, commenting and even posting to see if I could push myself out of the Greenhouse. But, try as I might, I couldn’t get into the number one position – never mind out onto the vine. Not only that, while Shannon was sleeping, my voting for her stories inched her up a couple of spots (I’m taking full credit) so that we were right next to each other – with me on top, just as it should be. 😉 I took the screen shot shown above because I didn’t know how long it would stay that way. Good thing, because this morning when I logged in, you couldn’t find either of us in the Greenhouse. I guess this means that we’re bona fide members of the community now. It feels a little like graduating from Kindergarten and moving into grade school, sad, terrifying, and exciting all at the same time.

There’s even a revenue model thrown in for you budding authors out there. As Newsvine grows their advertiser base (something they’re still struggling with at present) you get compensated for the traffic you receive from the stories you publish on your column. I’m sure this won’t amount to much for most Newsvine contributors but you can expect some authors to make some real cash (the author receives 90% of the money from the ads that show up on their stories in their column – Newsvine gets 10%). Speaking of columns, here is Shannon’s.

Want to see Newsvine’s 60 second tour? Sure, now I tell you! Hey, you came here to read me didn’t you?

P.S. The CEO of Newsvine, Mike Davidson, has a good blog that you should check out if you’re interested in all this stuff.

P.P.S. Hey Shannon, the race is now on to increase our Vinacity. See you at the finish line.

Update Two things. First, it would be quite ironic, but now that we’re no longer in the Greenhouse, we don’t appear to be anywhere. Even areas where there wouldn’t appear to be ANY competition for our stories. Perhaps all our commenting, publishing, and voting DID get us in the dog house? Only time, and an even greater scouring of Newsvine help, will tell. Next, I had a thought for a feature. Just as we can vote on stories and comments, wouldn’t it be great if we could vote on specific written passages of a story? What a tremendous help it would be to the author to understand how their piece was received, was relevant, or which parts packed the most punch? It would be similarly useful to all Newsvine readers to see what parts of a story were considered to be of the highest import, or quality. It could work much like the Seed feature. The user would highlight the text that they wanted to vote on, or promote, and then hit a ratings or voting button. You could also place a visual indicator in the stories to show hot spots of the story. I’d call this feature ‘passages.’ There you go Mike, your next cool Newsvine feature.

Update September 5, 2006
The day after I wrote my last update my stories started making it out on the vine. Seems like it was probably just a database refresh ‘thang.’ Not only that, but I’m a ‘Featured Writer’ on the home page today and I’m also featured on the sports section.

Apple iPod Shuffle 512MB and 1GB Review. I’ll save you any suspense, they’re toast!

I’m a long time gadget nut and have fallen back in love with Apple in the last few years after a ten year hiatus when they lost their mind. I’ve had a 15 inch PowerBook since March that I truly enjoy using despite some of its shortcomings so it was an obvious extension to go out and purchase an iPod. Apple iPod Shuffle I know, it’s supposed to happen the other way around according to the Apple business model but I love to be a rebel without a cause. I’ve used tons of Windows based MP3 players over the years. I lean towards the bleeding edge when I have the cash to support the habit and even owned one of the very first Sony Walkmans that I purchased in Asia en route from Australia to the U.S. When I arrived in the U.S. no one had seen one yet and when I returned to Australia where I was living at the time it was almost a year before any of them made it there. But, I digress. I’ve also used mini-disc players with good success (even for running where they are prone to skip). So, since I love to run I was a natural target for the Shuffle. Indeed everything was going to plan until this summer when I decided to expose my Shuffle to a bare chested mid-afternoon run. Not to get too graphic here but I’m the kind of guy that just doesn’t perspire a lot even when I’m going flat out in the boiling summer humidity that is so renowned here in South Florida. So, yes it was 90 degrees outside and my iPod shuffle was doing its best to bump and grind against my sweaty chest for the five mile run. Soon enough the unit was starting to flake out. Apple iPod home page with runnerIt started with not turning on properly and switching songs. Then, it would only play in random shuffle mode and not the ordered track mode. By the end of the run it was toast. The battery check light would come on but my PowerBook wouldn’t recognize it anymore and everything I tried produced the big fat zilch o, you’re a looser baby, so why don’t you kill me. I chalked it up to bad luck, a fluke, Apple would never make a product so useful, so clearly designed for people who would be using it for exercise and not design it to deal with a little sweat. Even the cheapest Windows-based MP3 players I’ve used have held up for years of abuse without incident. I just stopped using them because they were too large, ugly, and newer units had better functionality and ultimately a prettier and younger face, ahem.

So a few days later I’m running my same route, same weather, the 1GB iPod shuffle around my neck this time. Same thing happens half way through the run. This unit was almost brand new. Same symptoms, same point of failure. First, I was horrified, then aghast, then I got really pissed off. I mean, you’ve got to be kidding me! I know there’s some smart alec out there laughing at me right now and quoting the iPod owners manual where it specifically states that you cannot, under any circumstances expose your Shuffle to moisture. Hey, even if that’s true *I* don’t care. I haven’t had to read a portable music player manual since my dad bought me that Sony Walkman. Apple iPod home page with runnerCall me crazy but I just expect proven, electronic products with solid state memory to work like a mule in a Juan Valdez coffee commercial.

Oh yeah, you know where this is going, it does indeed get *even* better.

So, the first unit I toss in the trash because it’s beyond the 6 month warranty and hell, I only paid $100 for it. Wait, that’s a lot of money! But, away it went with the dump truck on a Tuesday morning. The 1GB unit was only a few months old and as you’ve heard had never been used with the sweaty chest before. This one was going back to the mother ship in Cupertino for a quick repair jaunt down Infinite Loop. OK, it was probably going to go back to some sweat shop(no pun intended) in China but I liked to imagine it going back to the Bay Area where I used to live. So, I diligently go through Apple’s site, figure out how to sign up for repair service and I’m thinking to myself, hey, it will cost less to fix this then buy a new one and all will be well. Then the Apple site tells me my unit is beyond warranty. I look at the info and Apple’s system has somehow assigned my serial number and purchase date from my original 512MB unit (the one out of warranty) to the very new 1GB unit. I’m looking at my beautiful PowerBook screen with its amazing resolution and deep colors in absolute shock. I KNOW that I registered both units, and I couldn’t have switched the serial numbers around because I purchased them months apart from each other. Further, it’s not like they were the same model. It would be kinda hard to confuse a 512MB and 1GB unit now wouldn’t it! But, all the same, Apple is convinced the 1GB unit was the first one I purchased and says I have to produce my receipt to get the unit serviced under warranty. All great except I rarely keep receipts for small purchases and this was no exception (yes, shame on me, won’t do that again). So, I’m stonewalled. Apple has completely screwed me. Not once, not twice, but yes, three times. Isn’t there an old saying about that?

I still love Apple and I still love my PowerBook but I won’t be buying any iPods in the near future and I’ll be the quintessential pissed off consumer who tells everyone he meets about my bad experience with my Apple iPod’s. It’s a real shame.

Oh yeah, what did I do as a replacement? Back in July of 2005 I had purchased a Cingular Audiovox SMT5600 Windows based Smart phone. Not everything about this phone or Mobile OS is SMART but it does have Windows Media Player. After installing an after-market 512MB Mini-SD memory card it had more than enough capacity for a run and the typical voice recording function I like to use when driving. It’s like a Motorola ROKR and a lot more. I highly recommend the phone which I’ll review here at a later time.

The moral of this sad tale? Don’t sweat your Shuffle baby and don’t expect Steve Jobs and Apple to come to the rescue if you do.