Archive for the ‘Gadgets and Toys’ Category
It looks like the Microsoft Arc Touch Mouse that was rumored months back is close to becoming official. German website notebooksbilliger has the fabled mouse, complete with pictures, available for pre-order for 70€ ($90) with an available ship-date of October 13th. The sleek mouse is — as the name suggests — arched for ergonomic navigation but can also be bent flat for storage or travel. The device runs on the 2.4 GHz frequency and comes with a “ultra-compact Nano-transceiver” that can be stored in the device’s battery compartment when not in use. To be honest, the device looks pretty sexy. Thoughts? We’ve got a few more images of the device after the break
Windows/Mac/Linux: Video encoders are a dime a dozen but DamnVid not only encodes local video in a wide variety of formats, it converts online video in real-time as you download it.
You’ll find no shortage of video conversion tools if you take the time to look. The majority of them, like DamnVid, rely on the venerable FFmpeg library. Unlike the majority of video conversion tools, however, DamnVid makes it extremely easy to download and quickly convert online videos from dozens of video sites.
In the screenshot above we started filling the conversion queue simply by visiting a few video websites and copying the URL as we found videos we wanted to download and covert. You don’t even have to copy and then paste the URL into DamnVid, it grabs supported site URLs right from the clipboard. When you’re ready to convert the videos, DamnVid encodes the video in the new format as you’re downloading it significantly cutting down on the time it takes to empty the encode queue.
Last year, Gina switched to Yahoo for her search because she felt Google already had enough of her data. Over at our gadget-obsessed sibling site Gizmodo, blogger John Herrman discusses taking things a little further, ditching all of Google’s apps. He explains:
You don’t have to be ready to commit to a full overhaul of your online lifestyle to understand why someone might want to yank their data from Google’s servers, and hand it off to someone else: You’ve got Google’s CEO deafly rehashing fallacious arguments about privacy—"If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place"—and hesitating on a drawback; you’ve got contextual advertising that seems just a little too closely tuned to that sexxxy love letter your girlfriend sent you while you were on that business trip; you’ve got that violently insane ex husband who now knows where you are because of Google’s clumsy Buzz rollout. Most of all, you’ve got reasons, and you’re ready for change.
Herman walks through some of Google’s most popular offerings, then proposes switching to what he considers to be the best alternative to each. He suggests using Bing instead of Google search, Yahoo Mail instead of Gmail (he even details how to get all your email out of Gmail first), Windows Live Calendar rather than GCal, Flickr over Picasa, and Zoho instead of Google Docs. (That is, most of the runner-up favorites in each category.)
Hit up the full post for more details, then let us know whether you’d consider dropping Google to enjoy a little less data monopoly in the comments.
What do David Allen, Dwight Eisenhower and Stephen Covey have in common? Apart from believing in the ‘time as a virtue’ maxim, and practicing it, I can’t think of anything else. It turns out that all three are gurus of time management (or task management) theories. All three (and some more) of their time management ideas find a place in the free personal productivity application called TimeGT.
The thing about time or task management apps is that there’s no “one size fits all” (thus TimeGT also might not be the final solution you are looking for). We all have our own foibles and like to see them accommodated in the solutions offered to us. Perhaps this see-saw of human nature gets mirrored in the numerous ‘get things done’ theories that are propounded, and by extension in the web or desktop apps that spring up.
My own confusion has seen me try out quite a few, keep some and discard some more. The strange thing is that we all think that there’s something better around the corner that can help with personal productivity. If you have yet to turn the corner, try out the posts we have covered on GTD and time management in the past. If you are beyond those and are looking for another one, then let’s head for TimeGT.
TimeGT is a personal task management desktop client for Windows, Mac and Linux. It comes in two favors – Rabbit (the free one) and Hedgehog (the paid version).
The paid version that’s called Hedgehog comes with online server backup features and gives the user some say in adding new features. Otherwise, both the versions are exactly the same. It is on the Rabbit we will focus on for now. So, let’s pull the rabbit out of the hat and see how it helps us with our personal productivity.
TimeGT can be installed using the 51MB sized Windows installer which also includes Java runtimes. As I have Java already running in my machine, I opted for the more ‘portable’ 19MB zipped version. I can run this without an install straight from its unpacked folder. The latter zipped version is also multi-platform.
Even for the free version, a TimeGT account needs to be created. That done, you can log into the app and create some projects for your life. TimeGT follows David Allen’s GTD workflow and that’s apparent from the interface. It also puts in some additions from other theories.
Projects are what take more than one step to complete. Think of them as major areas of life that can be further drilled down to as many levels as possible.
Each project has individual tasks and tasks in turn need some actions to move it towards completion. The middle panel shows how each task can be organized. The Inbox is the dump for all your tasks in each project. There are three actions you can perform on a task and organize it – you can do it right now (Next Action), you can delay it for some time (Waiting For) or you can defer it altogether (Someday/Maybe).
Completed tasks can be moved away from sight into a separate area. Each task can be assigned a status like Completed or set a priority like In Progress, Important or Urgent. The most urgent ones move to the top, to be done in a top to bottom sequence. The Horizon slider on top also helps to review all your tasks in one go. Drag it around and see which tasks need action according to the time periods.
The right click menu gives you all the commands in a trice.
You can describe a task, add Notes and give it a time horizon using the start and due dates on the Task Details panel.
When you have a lot of tasks Tags help to keep them organized. Tags also help as a one touch filter.
It’s also easy to add tasks on the fly. TimeGT can be kept minimized in the System Tray. You can add tasks with a right click on the little icon. These tasks get dumped into the Inbox and can be organized later.
Reviewing It All
Did I get my share of stress free personal productivity? To a certain extent, yes because TimeGT makes it easy to dump my tasks into it. It also helped me to move the tasks around and organize it in context. What I liked about it was the ease of arranging our life areas into projects and the prioritization of tasks that come under it.
But it is also not perfect. A calendar view of how my month is panning out also would have been nice. That’s there in the paid version which allows sync with Google Calendar. What’s missing is a dedicated help file. Newbie’s will have to play around with it a bit. To get a hang of it though, you can watch a screencast at the site
Sure, OSX is pretty and functional, but can it fit on a 32mb flash drive? Mac-on-stick is a complete Mac OS 7.0.1 environment that runs on Windows, Mac, Linux, and even Pocket PC. Use it to run old-school apps or classic games like Dark Castle.
Running Linux, Windows or applications like Firefox, Thunderbird, and AbiWord from a USB flash memory device is old hat. How about a Mac 128K or Plus on a USB key? You may think of it as a curiosity, but a “portable” Mac system has a few practical uses:
- Play with old system software and applications without dusting off your old Mac.
- Impress your friends, or show others what the older Mac system looks like.
- Use Mac on Windows and Linux.
Yes, it’s real. Now you’ll be able to change a tire… virtually. At E3 today, Microsoft finally took the wraps off the that rumored motion controller we’d been hearing about. Apparently the small, black device — codenamed "Natal" — will allow for an astoundingly wide range of actions by utilizing a group of sensors (the box itself sits beneath your TV), and the accessory will be capable of juggling multiple users during a single session. The demo Microsoft showed off included a skateboarding game (replete with a young man "air" ollie-ing), and a family playing a racing game (the dad was changing a tire, the daughter driving).
The add-on will offer features such as auto sign-in for players to Xbox Live (based on complex facial recognition), and sports extremely detailed body tracking which will be able to follow the individual movements of separate limbs. During the press event, the company demoed a painting app, which lets you use your entire body to handle virtual painting supplies, allowing you to do things like throw buckets of paint onto a canvas. Another title was shown off which featured a woman interacting with a young boy on the screen — one of the company’s creepier demos in recent memory. Unfortunately for us, Microsoft says the device won’t be released during 2009. We’re working on snagging some face time (literally!) with a demo unit, so stay tuned… E3 is off to a wild start!
There are apparently an awful, awful lot of people out there with shoe boxes full of spare SATA drives. Somebody is buying all these new HDD docks, and while most surpass the previous editions by adding support for another obscure format of memory card, Brando’s latest seems like an actually useful update, adding HDMI and component ports through which it can output video at either 1080i or the always popular 576p. Standard resolutions may not be its strong point, and sadly there’s no mention of which video codecs it can unravel, but it does at least support the major flavors of audio files (MP3, WMA, AAC, etc.) and of course will read memory cards and thumb drives to boot. No, a bare drive may not look particularly appealing while rattling away on your entertainment center, and at $69 you’re not far from the price of a Windows Media extender or the like, but don’t let such practical concerns dissuade you from adding this unique focal point to your home theater.
A new Zune released later this year: the Zune HD. Besides the “HD” component, which will deliver HD Radio and HD video, the new Zune will also feature an OLED screen with multitouch capabilities.
If you’re unfamiliar with HD Radio, it’s basically terrestrial radio but broadcast in digital instead of analog. A lot of traditional radio stations broadcast simultaneously in HD Radio along with their analog signals. You can see which ones do so in your area at hdradio.com.
The other major HD feature in the new Zune is support for playing back HD video from the Zune to an HDTV. The Zune will connect through an HDMI docking station to hook up to your TV.
Speaking of the big screen, Zune content will also be available on your TV through another platform: the Xbox Live Marketplace. The new Zune-branded service will soon occupy the first slot in the Xbox user interface, taking over the existing video marketplace. However, details on how this integration will work won’t be revealed until the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) next week.
The Zune HD’s OLED screen will be great for watching video with its 16:9 widescreen display (480×272 resolution), especially since OLED delivers richer colors and blacker blacks than an LCD screen. Even better, the screen will offer multitouch capabilities which can also be used in the new full-screen web browser.
Amazon’s new Kindle DX boasts a newspaper-friendly screen that’s 2.5x bigger than the standard Kindle, but it’s also got a few tricks of its own (new features in bold):
• 9.7-inch E-Ink screen (1200 x 824 with 16 shades of grey)
• 1/3 of an inch thick (10.4" x 7.2" x 0.38")
• 4GB Storage for 3,500 books (a bump from 1,500)
• Unspecified but "long" battery life
• Native PDF support through built-in reader
• Automatic landscape/portrait text rotation
• Line length adjustments (determine the width of text on the screen)
• Navigation buttons moved to right side of screen only
• EVDO (of course) for 60-second book transfers
Available this summer, there’s no denying it—the Kindle DX looks fantastic, especially with that surprise landscape/portrait rotational sensitivity we find useful in so many smartphones. But $500? Really
Last we saw the Uno electric unicycle it was looking very much like the prototype it was, but as you can see above, it seems that the teenage engineers behind it have been doing anything but slacking in the ensuing months. As Motorcycle Mojo reports, the third incarnation of the vehicle recently made its debut at the 2008 National Motorcycle Show in Toronto, with it sporting some custom-made wheels, a stylin’ new body, and a few changes under the hood as well. That latter bit apparently even included a trip to a robotics and gyro expert in California, who helped to fine tune the two gyros the Uno uses for turning and forward and backward motion (something you probably want to get right). There’s still no word as to when or if the vehicle might actually enter production, however, but you can at least now get a great look at it courtesy of the generous batch of pics Motorcycle Mojo has provided at the link below.
I’ve spent the last two weeks in hotel rooms and continually juggled between lamp, clock, laptop, phone, and MP3 player(s) in the power outlet that was available. Then there is the ruthless power outlet jockeying that goes on in airports… Well, Belkin has a great solution for this in a three outlet power adaptor that has two built-in USB chargers on the side. It features a 360-degree rotating plug with a surge protector. Well worth the money at $24.99.
Yeah, there’s already a few folks out there depriving themselves of adequate exercise by choosing to cruise on an electric bike, but those who’ve yet to take the plunge now have yet another alternative. Panasonic’s Titanium Flat Road EB electric bicycle isn’t likely to be certified for use in the Tour de France, but it can propel riders a maximum of ten kilometers in around half an hour (or up to 150 kilometers if you use your own strength every now and then). Additionally, the bike features a Smart Lithium-Ion Integrated Management System (SLIM) to display remaining battery life and the distance left before your legs will be forced to take over. No word on a price just yet, but there’s plenty of pics in the via link below.
Niveus Pocket Remote 2.0 is remote control software for your Windows Media Center that you can use from your PDA or Smartphone. With the Pocket Remote, you use a virtual on-screen remote control to access any Vista Media Center PC on your network to play music, videos, DVDs, or even internet radio stations. If you’re not a fan of the virtual remote, you can also choose to control playback of your media directly from your phone or PDA itself. The media cover art and metadata info including album art, artists, song and track information and more is displayed right on PDA or Smartphone. While in beta, the software is available as a free 10 day trial from their website
If you’re a keen geotagger of your imagery, then a recently announced $150 device from ATP Electronics may be just the ticket. Dubbed the GPS Photo Finder, it works in a rather carefree way: you just have to carry it around with you while you’re shooting, and then insert your memory card into it, before you download your photos. All it does is work out where you were for each photo from its position log, and then embed that data into the JPEG files directly.
Built-in card reading works with MMC/SD and MemoryStick Duo, but the clever little box also has on-the-go USB functionality so it can interface with some digital cameras without needing a PC. Currently it works with JPEG files only, though that’s the convenient format most of us use anyway. And if you’re worried about correctly setting your camera time to synchronize with it accurately, then don’t: it’s got a small screen and can give you UTC GPS time
We thought Brando had finally reached the pinnacle of jokey USB armaments with its recent wireless missile launcher — the third such product in this evolving line — but apparently there is demand out there for a remotely-operated version capable of waging war over the internet. Filling this strange market gap will be the USB MSN Missile Launcher, which tacks a webcam onto the standard version and allows your buddies on the Microsoft network to randomly shoot at you throughout the day. Again, we’re not sure who buys a weapon whose main purpose is to attack its owner, so the $49 device may not be the huge hit its predecessors were when it ‘launches’ on the 18th.
We’ve seen quite a few next-gen nav device concepts, but none with as much potential as the Virtual Cable, from a New Jersey company called Making Virtual Solid. The system uses a laser, a set of lenses, and a moving mirror mounted in the dashboard to project a 3D route-guidance line above the road ahead, as though it’s actually out in front of the driver. Besides making driving that much more like a video game, the company says mass-produced versions will cost somewhere around $400 as a factory-installed option, and can be easily interfaced with existing GPS systems. Sadly, there don’t appear to be any live videos of the system in action, but judging from the number of patent applications and incredibly detailed schematics and explanations on the website, the vapor factor seems pretty low. Check the read link for a set of video mockups of the system in action.
Never content with leaving their gimmicky products as is, the perfectionists over at Brando are prepping yet a third iteration of the wildly-popular USB missile launcher, with the new model featuring an upgrade to wireless control. Cubicle commandos now have over a 15-foot range from their workstations to wage this geekiest form of warfare, thanks to a two-part system that connects transmitter and launcher with a proprietary RF signal. If you happen to work in the type of environment that condones this sort of silly behavior, or just want to go out with a bang, the set can be yours for $45 starting on the 20th.
The most robust Windows Mobile device on the market today..
More powerful than any mobile communications device you’ve used before, the HTC TyTN II takes global connectivity to the next level. Staying connected means staying ahead. The TyTN II supports the full spectrum of network standards, guaranteeing that you will stay in touch ANYWHERE in the world. With an Internet connection via 3.5G HSDPA that is nine times faster than 3G, using the TyTN II to download files and surf the Web is a breeze.
So we just snagged our Kindle, and we’re unabashedly stoked to get using it. Unfortunately the device came out of box with too little juice to get on the EV-DO network, but the e-ink display looks great (as we’d expect). The selector bar on the right is really interesting; it appears to be a white, opaque thin LCD panel that polarizes and turns clear letting reflective dots peer through — the end result is a small selection bar that looks unlike anything we’ve seen on a portable reader device.
The keyboard is clicky and tactile, but with keys shallow enough that they won’t get too in the way when you’re reading. We’re a little worried that the absolutely massive page forward / back buttons might get inadvertently triggered here and there, though.
There’s a lot to digest in Newsweek’s seven-page all-out feature. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos sums it up: "This isn’t a device, it’s a service." Kindle starts shipping tomorrow for $399 and is "a perpetually connected Internet device" running off of EV-DO—it calls the service "Whispernet." It’s totally computer independent: You browse for books (88,000 at launch) and buy them in a "one-touch process," it comes with a personal Kindle email address and it can browse the regular internet—keyboard sounds useful now, doesn’t it?
New York Times bestsellers and hardback new releases will go for $9.99, with classics going as low as $1.99. Through the service, which is an extension of the Amazon store, you also can subscribe to newspapers (New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post) and magazines, which are automatically sent to Kindle when they drop on the wire.
Talking about the hardware itself, it’ll hold 200 books on board, though you can supplement with unspecified memory cards. It’ll get up to 30 hours of reading per charge and weighs 10.3 ounces. So, why does such a potentially disruptive device look so very plain? They wanted it to look like "an austere vessel of culture." The moniker Kindle is from the same line of thinking, " the crackling ignition of knowledge." But, thankfully, it doesn’t get warm itself