Under the Radar: Entertainment and Social Media

My Review: 10

Friends are at Under the Radar, presenting their companies and connecting with VC’s. Special mention to LOUD3R and Lowell Goss, who is poised to kick ass.

Check out the Ustream here: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/utr08

Best of luck to Lowell and everyone else presenting at Under the Radar.


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 12seconds.tv, 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, 12seconds.tv, 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 Buy.com.)  😦

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.

A Review of Coffee – from the daily perspective

My Review: 8

I would not say that my daily morning coffee is essential.  But it is something I have nearly every day, and I miss it when I don’t have it.  I love the taste and especially the smell, though honestly I like it best with a healthy shot of half-and-half in it.  Black coffee doesn’t actually do much for me.  And I don’t like sugar or sweeteners in it either.  Nor lattes, mochas, cappucinos, americanos or espressos.  Good old fashioned american drip coffee, that’s my pleasure.

Right now at home we are brewing Peet’s New Guinea blend, and I care for it a great deal.

I got started drinking coffee at independent coffee shops when I was in college, but I’ve ended up drinking a lot of  Starbucks and Peets.  Some people say the big national (and international, I’ve been to Starbucks in Japan and it’s awesome!) coffee chains are killing good coffee, but I don’t feel that impact.  I do like the fact that those chains are consistent.  I may not get the best coffee in the world, but I know what I will get, and it’s good every time.  I like my coffee really strong, and really dark.  Some people call it Charbucks, but that’s how I like it.  “I like my coffee black, like my men.”  (Airplane, 1 nothing. )

I am not the only person who digs their coffee.  My friend Rochelle (who likes coffee herself) told me about a great blog called Stuff White People Like.  Know what the #1 thing white people like is?  Coffee.

My daily coffee routine gets a solid 8 out of 10.  I like the taste, it perks me up, and it keeps me regular.  That’s right, I poop better after coffee.  🙂

Messing with a good picture – sadly funny

My Review: 8

This was too funny to pass up.  I personally try to never do this to other people’s pictures, though I often make funnies in my own pics.  🙂  Found the story first as a linkover from the Atlantic.com.  But the real source is the guys at ListOfTheDay They have some really funny posts.

The basic story is about messing with people’s pics, ruining an otherwise awesome photo:

I would check out the rest at LOTD.  And as I said, personally I try not to do that to others’ pics.  Though I am generally goofy in my own:

A Review of My Swingline Stapler

My Review: 9

Real quick, let me just say: this is my 100th post.  Yay 1to10.  Ok, now on with the review.

I’ve had the same Swingline stapler for 8 years.  I bought it in 2000 with my expense account when I was selling drugs (read: pharmaceuticals.)  I decided to review my stapler for two reasons:

  1. I love Office Space and it was the best homage I could think of right now
  2. This is hands down the strongest, ablest and most dependable stapler I’ve ever had the privilege of using

I think number one speaks for itself.  But regarding my second reason for this review, what makes it so darn special?  Well, I’ll tell you.  First, the aesthetics of the stapler alone make it stand out.  It’s sleek, silver, and the red plastic bumper on the front of the stapling mechanism really pops.  Don’t you think?

Also, the heft and feel of the stapler is impressive.  It’s solid and weighty in your hand.  15-20 pages of heavy bond paper at once is no problem for this king, this champion of office accoutrement.  And the long handle up top extends way past the business end, providing a great deal of leverage to the stapling.  Also, the bottom is a firm yet tactile black rubber that holds tight to a slick desktop without slipping, yet doesn’t mark or stain the surface.  Here are some pics of my shining prince of affixment:

I’m not the only person who cares about staplers.  Kevin, a guy trying to blog professionally actually put “stapler” into the header of his blog. That’s a big step.

I looked on Swingline’s website, and this is the closest I can find to the same model as mine.  They are selling this one for $44.78, and if it really is the same one as mine then it’s worth every penny.

What’s your favorite office tool?  Do you have a stapler (or scissor, pen, mechanical pencil, etc.) that you love and can’t live without?  Tell me – I want to know.

twhirl site is down

My Review: 2

twhirl‘s website is down.  I can’t download the app from them.  download.com 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 muxtape.com.  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.