Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

LEAVE, and don’t come back

This blog is defunct.  We’ve moved to:

I switched from (which is a wonderful place to write a blog) to a self-hosted blog.  I am still using WordPress, but I got the install package for WordPress 2.6.

Thanks for visiting – please come see us at our new home.

Advertisements launches in alpha

My Review: I am not issuing a review score due to conflict of interest.

Let me disclaim in no uncertain terms that this site was started by some very close friends of mine, and I am personally involved as well.  I mean for this post to be informational.  I want both of my readers to know about 12seconds.

As you will see from their blog post, is launching their public alpha today.

12seconds is the brainchild of some friends in Santa Cruz who love the web, love technology, love twitter, love their iPhones, and can’t help but start company after company.  This is serial entrepreneurship at its best.  The basic idea behind 12seconds is video status, being able to record and share little moments from your life.  Use a webcam or cell phone you can record videos up to twelve seconds long.  That’s it.

You can link your videos to your Twitter account, so anyone who follows you there can receive will receive videos through your Twitter feed.  Friends can also visit your 12seconds page directly, or subscribe to your 12seconds RSS feed. You do NOT have to be a member of the site in order to watch other people’s videos. Request an invitation to join the site here.

This idea is a cool one, especially if you have a cell phone that records video. It’s easy to imagine being out at a bar with friends, out on the street where you see something funny, or at a Bar Mitzvah during the Haftorah service and wanting to publish the moment and share it with friends. What if you’re on vacation at the grand canyon and standing over that crazy skywalk platform? What a cool moment to share with friends and loved ones.  Here’s a link to my 12seconds channelHere’s Jeremy’s channel.

This is also posted at: LIVEdigitally

Dallas Airport: Keep your laptop in your bag

My Review: 10

I’m at the airport in Dallas, Texas.  Ordinarily I would find that depressing, but I have two reasons to celebrate.  1.) I am on my way to Cozumel, Mexico for a scuba vacation.  And 2.) they have the coolest x-ray machine of all time:

According to the security lady, this is one of only two such machines in the country.  What’s so special about thiese?  You can leave your laptop in your bag.  You don’t need three different little plastic bins.  You don’t need to juggle your backpack, carry-on, laptop and other junk with tired, sweaty people glaring at you for wasting their time.  You still have to take off your shoes, but let’s not be greedy.  This is a good start.

It was shocking to see the sign say: “Please Read >>  keep these items in your bag…”  And there’s a picture of a computer.  Holy mackerel.  That is rad. 

I like having my computer with me, and this process makes it even more pleasent.  I hate flying, so anything that makes the process simpler is something I cherish and appreciate.  For this reason alone, I am now a fan of Dallas International Airport.  And this killer new x-ray machine gets a 10 out of 10.  El yay.

Otterbox Armor Series (for the iPhone)

My Review: 8

It looks like the Humvee of iPhone cases:

This thing is a brick.  A giant, yellow brick.  As I was testing it out for the day, a number of people made fun of me.  But I told them what I’m about to tell you.

This case is not intended for everyday carry.  It’s bulky, heavy, and clunky because it’s meant to withstand a hailstorm while being driven over by a tank.  (If the ground underneath it were sufficiently squishy, I think it just might survive the aforementioned tank rollover.)

The purpose of this case is to be waterproof, shockproof, dropproof, and ass-kicking proof. It is not elegant or sophisticated.  But it will withstand a nuclear bomb blast.

The o-ring seals well and tightly.  Water spilled onto it from a faucet tap at full blast never penetrated the interior, and no condensation or moisture built up inside the case.  I might not want to go SCUBA diving with it, but in rain or brief submersion, I would be totally comfortable.   All major functions except for one are accessible in this case, that one being the silent/vibrate toggle.  It is not too difficult to hear or be heard when talking through the case, and the touch-screen is very responsive.  I’d put it at 90% of normal sensitivity, even though your using it through the plastic, waterproof membrane.

I have only two major complaints, and the second one is unreasonable.

Complaint #1: The steep edges of the case where it borders the touch screen can make it difficult to type.  I often mis-hit keys when typing an email, SMS, or website address as a result.  No bueno.

Complaint #2: This is the unreasonable one.  I’ve just found out that this case will not be compatible with the new iPhone.  Of course, there’s no way that OB could have built this for the 3G iPhone, the specs did not exist.  But it’s a bummer.

I did not let complaint #2 affect my review score.  For what this case is, for what it’s meant to be, it does a a great job, and is fully worth an 8 out of 10.  If you are looking for a svelte, stylish case, look elsewhere.  If you are looking for a case that will let you bring your iPhone into a wet week in the jungles of Madagascar, this is your case.

You can purchase them here, directly from Otterbox.  At $70, if you want a waterprrof case that lets you retain almost all the functionality, this is a great purchase.  And I’ve been assure that they will have an Armor-series case for the 3G iPhone when it becomes available.

New Microsoft Webcam VX-5000 Review

My Review: 7

So I got a new webcam.  When I’m at home using my desktop (that I put together myself, with Jeff’s help) I don’t have built-in access to a webcam.  Since I love, and I don’t have a phone that does video (stupid iPhone) I am forced to always use my macbook in order to update my video status.  I thought it would be convenient to be able to make videos from my PC desktop as well as my macbook – hence, this review.

What I got is the Microsoft Lifecam VX-5000.  It’s a small USB webcam, with built-in microphone.  Here are some images:

The good:

  • It’s attractive – the black with green/yellow piping looks nice (hey, it matters)
  • The foot / base is pretty cool, flexible and sturdy – makes it easy to stand on a desktop or curl over the top of a monitor
  • cable length is pretty good, long enough to reach a machine that’s on the ground or off to the side of the desktop
  • built-in microphone works well – used it for Skype calls and to record video – has had no problem picking up my voice, no need to speak at an ABNORMAL VOLUME!  🙂

The less good:

  • I wish it was wireless (that would be killer, no stupid cord to deal with)
  • Be nice if it was smaller, and could mount more or less permanently

My primary uses for a webcam are these: Skype video calls,, and Facebook videos.  For all three of those purposes, this webcam works very well.  Although I wish it had a few more features, I do think this is a quality webcam and works quite well.

MS is trying to push it as an integrative tool for their MS Live network of products, and they include a CD in the box chock-full of software to that effect.  However, I tried using it without any CD’s or downloaded drivers, and it worked great right out of the box.  No issues or recognition problems.  (I am running XP Pro with SP2.)  The camera goes for between $40-$50 right now, and is available at several locations (though  it does not seem to be on Amazon, Newegg, or  😦

Gizmodo put up a nifty review of this webcam as well, with an embedded press release from MS.  If you are looking for an attractive USB webcam with built-in microphone, I think this is a solid, cool product.  7 out of 10.

Techmeme Search

My Review: 9

Techmeme has added search capability to it’s news aggregation site.  The story broke on Techcrunch a few minutes ago.  Their exclusive was busted a few minutes later when Techmeme announced it themselves on their company blog / news page.

If you haven’t used Techmeme before, it’s a neat site for taking a overview look at what technology news is hot at the moment.  Techmeme aggregates news stories that are popular across the web.  Popularity is established according to a number of metrics, an important one being cross-linking.  The more inbound and outbound links in a story, the higher it rises on the Techmeme site.  The self-congratulatory Techmeme leaderboard has become a fashionable place for bloggers to feel good about themselves as well.  It’s not surprising that the news site who broke this news (Techcrunch) is also consistently number one on the leaderboard.

Techmeme does offer a neat look at what news is hopping, though it is sometimes criticized as a popularity contest.  It also is subject to gaming, as many bloggers make an effort to exchange links and push their own site / story onto the Techmeme homepage.

All that being said however, the search feature is really cool.  It’s a great opportunity to find hot stories on specific topics you want to research or analyze.  And it offers a very cool snapshot look at how popular a topic was at a given time.  Founder Gabe Rivera told us a long time ago that we should not hold our breath waiting for search on Techmeme.  I’m glad that he decided it was time to pull the trigger, and it’s a feature I will certainly use a lot.  9 out of 10, and thanks for the memories.

twhirl site is down

My Review: 2

twhirl‘s website is down.  I can’t download the app from them. will let you download it successfully, though of course you need Adobe Air installed in order to open and run the app.  I’ve done a bunch of news and blog searches, but I can’t seem to find any information.  The twhirl blog is still up, and even has links to the home page to download the latest ( 0.8 ) version.  But that link is dead too.

I don’t know if I’m on crack and this is old news, or if I’ve happened on something new and troubling.  But I don’t like it.  So twhirl being down gets a 2 out of 10.  Boo.

UPDATE: The site appears to be back up and working fine now.  Everyone relax.

docstoc got a nice round of funding

My Review: 9

A buddy I went to college with and was in AEPi with named Jason Nazar is the CEO of docstoc.  He just closed a $3.25 million B round from Rustic Canyon Capitol.  I saw the update via Twitterific from Michael Arrington, and then read Jason Kincaid’s full article on Techcrunch.

I’ve used docstoc a couple of times to find templates for various documents (I think I got a NDA off of there once.)  I’ve also uploaded some docs, including a really nice expense reporting template.  The service has worked perfectly well for me in that regard.  I’ve never had a need to embed a flash document before, but who knows what excitement the future may hold.

I don’t have a whole lot to add to TC’s article, other than my personal relationship. I reconnected with Jason last week at the Web 2.0 expo in San Francisco, and this is a great, exciting follow up.   Jason is a buddy and a brother (Nazar, not Kincaid.  I’m sure Jason Kincaid is a lovely guy, I just haven’t met him yet) and I’m thrilled for his success and wish him and the rest of the docstoc team the very best of luck.  A solid 9 for them, and my heartfelt good wishes.

One note: Jason, I do think you guys should update your blog and announce the news officially, take that tiger by the tail.

A Review of Twitterific, Totally Almost Awesome

My Review: 6

Twitterific is an Apple-only application from Icon Factory that allows you to follow updates from twitter on your Mac.  You can download it for free here, on Apple’s download site.  Sarah Perez at ReadWriteWeb wrote an article about Adobe Air apps that covered Twirhl (a Twitterific competitor.)  So there are lots of options out there (free, paid, competitive apps, etc.) that will let you accomplish the relatively simple task of monitoring your Twitter friends.  But here I am focusing on Twitterific.

What’s the good?  The app is shiny and semi-transparent (always a lot of fun) and really easy to install and to use.  And it works great.  It will give you a brief pop up every time someone you are following updates their Twitter, but it is unobtrusive and self-limiting, so it doesn’t get it your way.  It has shortcuts to update your own Twitter status, and to reply to someone directly (i.e. @thesolster) if you want to send a direct Twitter messsage.  In fact, because it’s super simple, pretty and does exactly what it supposed to, it should probably get a 9 or 10.

So what’s the bad? It keeps breaking.  Every 20 minutes to an hour, I will get a “lost network connection” error message.  Supposedly it’s Twitter’s servers breaking down under huge and strenuous loads.  Either that or my internet connection is spotty.  However, since all my other online apps and services seem to continue uninterrupted, I don’t think it’s my connection.  And, whenever I try to update or refresh my twitter through Twitter’s own website, it seems to work fine there as well.  So what’s the issue?

Now I like Twitter just fine.  I don’t agree with Andy Ihnatko’s blog post that Twitter is the best web app ever, but he’s for damn sure entitled to his opinion.  Myself, I’m a recent and reluctant new twitterer, sucked in along with my friend Jeremy’s recent explorations.  And it is kind of fun and sometimes useful.  But that’s not really the point of this post.

The point is, Twitterific is a good app and I like it, I just wish it would stop effing breaking. And until it does stop breaking, I can’t in good conscience give it more than a 6 out of 10.

Muxtapes: These Are Pretty Cool

My Review: 6

I like  Sol told me about it (more or less) when he sent me a muxtape that he had made.  It was good (we like similar music) and it inspired me to make my own.

The idea is super cool.  You can upload as many as 12 .mp3 files to muxtape, name the “set,” and even configure the header bar color.  Then you can share it with friends.  They can opt to buy the songs on your set list (presumably the founders are getting a cut.)  It’s neat.

However, it’s also sort of cumbersome.  It would be a huge improvement if you could pick multiple songs and do a bulk upload.  The current setup requires you to upload a single song at a time, which is annoying.  I also found that quite a few songs failed.  I don’t know if it was because the files were corrupt somehow, or if maybe the meta data was too ugly to deal with, or what.  There are clearly stated restrictions that it must be a .mp3 file, and that it must be under 10 MB (all the files I attempted met those criteria.)  Having my chosen songs be un-uploadable was annoying.

They have a blog up on Tumblr and seem very interested in and open to feedback.  I like that openness a lot, it’s the right way to go.

The UI is pretty plain-jane, but I kind of like that. It certainly wasn’t confusing, and that is a huge plus in my humble estimation.  I think the concept rules, the product is cool, and the implementation is pretty-ok-kinda-good.  A solid 6, though the idea is really an 8 or a 9.  Just needs some more work.


You know what else would be sweet?  There should be some kind of “Number of times this mix has been played” hit counter.  Currently there is an RSS feed meter that tells you how many people have favorited your mix, but not a total number of times it’s been played.  Everyone thinks their own mix is rad.  Muxtape should take advantage of that.  Come on muxtape, feed my ego.