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The Waving Buzz

April 28, 2010 Leave a comment

Recently, Google has released two new applications: Google Buzz and Google Wave. Both have their pluses and minuses. But ultimately, I really don’t see them being used by many people.

Googel Buzz: This is Google’s version of Twitter. It allows you to post quick status updates, similar to what you do with Facebook or Myspace. It integrates easily with Gmail and a host of other Google apps. It also does not have the pesky limit that Twitter does. But, I know of only on person who is actively using it.

Some sites have a Buzz icon that reference when a page has been tweeted or buzzed. Buzz will also help you find information and places of interest in reference to your current location. I believe that Twitter does this as well.

Actually, I think that’s the problem I have with Buzz. Twitter is already doing it. And doing it well. It’s a niche market that I really don’t think that Google needs to attempt to invade.

Another problem is that most of the world is now communicating through social media like Facebook, Myspace and Orkut already. One more place to have to update friends and family is just that: One more place to go. Facebook has ways of keeping people glued to the site by offering various games and other forms of social interaction. Buzz is just too much.

Do I have Buzz?  Yes. But, I just don’t use it. Most of my tweets on Twitter come from my cell phone. I’ll use either Spaz or Twee or just directly as a text from my phone (thanks to Preware, I have a wonderful patch on my phone that adds a number of Twitter features to my text app). Were there a Buzz app, perhaps I’d use Buzz a bit more. As of now, not so much.

Google Wave: Just what is Google Wave? Honestly, the video from Google explains it best. If you have time, I really suggest you watch the video. There is some fanwank going on but, on the whole, the concept behind Wave is solid. It just hasn’t caught on yet.

Wave is an amalgamation of email +  instant messenger + Twitter (Buzz?) + live document collaboration. At it’s core, this concept really works. Start an email. But wait, your contact is online already? Emails suddenly becomes an IM chat. The two of you have been working on a blog posting together. You work on the posting; editing each other’s work as you go until you have a working blogpost. Another associate comes online. Add them into the wave.  They can play back the entire wave from the beginning and now can add and edit information to your post. Once finalized, port the blog portion of the wave to its own wave. Add the blog robot and that post will be posted to your blog and managed by the bot.

Want to organize a party? Send a wave to all involved in the planning. Then thru emails, IMs and document collaboration you can organize the party, add a location robot to add mapping and direction information as will as other gadgets to aid others in the wave make the most of the coming party.

I know of one group of people who are,  or at least were, using it to manage setup and then live communication for multimedia events from multiple locations.

But, I really don’t see Wave being used to its fullest extent.  The wave just hasn’t really caught on.  Honestly, I think it is just too uber-geeky.  And, again, Facebook allows for chat as well as event planning and photo sharing (another thing that Wave tauts as being able to do with ease).

From a business standpoint, live document collaboration is almost a necessity these days, as businesses are global. But, Microsoft already has Sharepoint.

Personally, I think that both Buzz and Wave are busts for Google. If anyone has anything to say to the contrary, I’d love to hear from you.

Scoots

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He’s a Tweak(er). A SuperTweak(er)

January 12, 2010 Leave a comment

I purchased my first smartphone a few years ago. It was an HTC Mogul and I was very happy with the features that came with it. It was a solid phone as well as a place to organize contacts, memos and appointments. And, being a smartphone, or in this case — nearly a micro mobile PC, it came with lots of other productivity software that gave it even more functionality.

The preloaded software on the phone had Microsoft’s Mobile Office Suite (Word, Excel and Powerpoint), Sprint’s Telenav (GPS navigation app) and Windows Media Player Mobile (both video and music) plus a few games. The first application I downloaded and installed on it was Google Maps, which became near indispensable during my move.

There was nothing wrong with the out-of-the-box phone. It worked and worked well. But, I found that there were different ‘shells’ that could be installed on top of the OS to provide me with at-a-glance information that made the phone even more useful, And then it happened. While searching for a specific app I stumbled across the PocketPCGeeks’ Kitchen. And there was no going back.

Using the Kitchen, you are essentially creating the ‘recipe’ for the phone YOU want the way YOU want it and then ‘cooking’ it. I won’t get into all the intricacies here, but you can choose dialpad, contact tools, music players, calculators, and a host of other items that you set as default apps on the phone.

Why not just download and install a different contact application? The answer: I don’t WANT two different contact apps on my phone. Think of it this way: Imagine being able to go to a store pick out the PC you want and then pick out the apps you want “pre-installed” on the system. Don’t like Internet Explorer? Pick a different browser to be installed. Don’t like Windows Media Player? Pick a different media player. Your out-of-the-box experience is customizable. Sadly, with Microsoft, it isn’t.

A question was asked about why some geeks (myself, included) tweak their phones. They wanted to know if it was an issue of being unhappy with performance, if the base product was deficient and needed outside assistance to make it better, or was there some other reason. In trying to formulate an answer it dawned on my that how I tweak and play with my phone(s) is much the way my father used to soup up muscle cars.

There was nothing wrong with the stock ’66 Ford Mustang when it rolled off the lot. But folks have been tuning and tweaking them for decades in an attempt to make it ‘their’ car. I do the same with my phone. The out-out-of-the-box experience I had with the Mogul was great. But tweaking the phone to make it mine, that’s icing on the cake. It allows me to have something that is ultimately useful for myself and became an indispensable daily tool…until the Palm Pre came along. But, that’s another post.

Categories: Tech Talk Tags: ,

MCP(C)

February 26, 2009 1 comment

No, not the MCP from Tron. I am in the process of building a Media Center PC. I have most all that I need to do so, but to make it a truly useful tool there are going to need to be a few minor upgrades. As is stands, my current hardware setup is this:


HARDWARE
CPU: Intel Pentium 4 3.20Ghz (hyperthreaded)
RAM: 2Gig
Video: ATI Radeon X300 128MB
Monitor: Dell 1905FP
Tuner: Hauppauge WinTV-PVR 150 single tuner
HDD: 70Gig internal SATA and a 500Gig External MyBook
ODD: Toshiba DVD/CD ROM and a Phillips DVD +/- RW

The CPU is fine for my needs. No need to spend money there. I’ve got enough RAM to slug thru what I need it to do, though who couldn’t use a bit more RAM? Video is adequate at 128MB RAM but needs to be updated to support HiDef

For this to truly function as a Media Center PC I’m going to need to upgrade some hardware.

Monitor: This is the first place I’ll be upgrading. We’ve been looking at the Vizio 47″ 1080p LCD. It supports PC input (tho VGA and not DVI, which is a shame)

Tuner: WinTV-HVR-2250 Dual Tuner PCI Express TV tuner. It’s a dual analog/digital tuner that will record up to 1080i. That, too, is a shame. But I haven’t really seen a good tuner that currently records 1080p, and I trust Hauppauge.

HDD: Looking at getting a terabyte drive. At least one. This will allow for storage of music, recorded TV and DVD ISOs (more on this when i discuss software)

ODD: I’d like, at bare minimum, to add a dual-layer DVD ROM RW drive to the system. A BluRay drive would be optimal, but spendy. So, if all goes according to plan, by the end of the year the new hardware setup will look like this:

CPU: Intel Pentium 4 3.20Ghz (hyperthreaded)
RAM: 2Gig
Video: ATI Radeon X300 128MB
Monitor: Vizio 47″ 1080p LCD
Tuner: Hauppauge WinTV-HVR-2250 Dual Tuner
HDD: 70Gig internal SATA and a 1T External MyBook
ODD: Toshiba DVD/CD ROM and a Dual-layer DVD +/- RW

SOFTWARE
I have found no better software, free or otherwise, that acts as a complete media suite like Windows 7 Media Center Edition.

One of my main concerns is ease of use. I want something easy enough for my kids or a guest to use. MCE meets this major criteria. I’m open to suggestions for other programs but, If they don’t have the ease of use the MCE does, I’m not interested.

MCE allows me to watch live TV as well as to record and watch TV at a later date. Unfortunately Micro$oft’s native dvr-ms file (which really is nothing more than an MPEG file with M$’s wrapper) take up a lot of HDD real estate. Now, this is not a big deal if you’re in a watch and delete mode. But if you want to keep a beloved series around for repeated viewings, you’re gonna need to come up with some other means of archiving, or you’re going to run out of disk space rapidly.

I was using DVRMSToolbox with ShowAnalyzer. If you plan on keeping your dvr-ms files around, this app really shines because it will strip the commercials from the show and then repackage it with the same filename. But, again, too much diskspace is taken up with this method.

I’ve switched to a new tool. MCEBuddy sits in the systray and runs in the background. You can set it to go into action as soon as a show finishes recording, or if you want to have it run late at night when you are sleeping or while you are at work, you can do that as well. It will convert your dvr-ms file into a multitude of formats including DivX, WMV, AVI and the new HD format. I currently use the WMV file format just because it’s easy to modify the metadata tag. But that’s just me geeking out there. There are far better formats but the only show I am CURRENTLY worried about archiving is Good Eats. The ComSkip program that is bundled with MCEBuddy is nigh flawless in commercial removal. Also, it’s does a great job of compressing the file without any real noticable video loss.

There’s not much good nor bad to say about the audio player portion of MCE. It does the job needed to hear tunes. MCE is merely a front end for Windows Media Player. And, I’m okay with that.

Now, I don’t know about anyone else but, I really don’t like having to wade thru previews, notifications/warnings and menus just to watch a flippin’ DVD. I’d like to just press “PLAY” and watch. So, I’ve employed the use of DVDFab (www.dvdfab.com) to rip my discs down to my harddrive as an ISO. This tool is incredible for making archives. You can just rip down your movie and not have to deal with all the special features and other crap that takes up space on the DVD that most people never even bother watching.

But, to play the ISO, you’ll need to have some way for your system to mount the ISO as a virtual CD/DVD ROM drive. CloneDrive (www.slysoft.com) will do the job just fine. And is actually needed for the next peice of software I use.

MyMovies (www.mymovies.dk) is a plug-in for MCE. Go into MyMovies, pick the movie you wish to view and it uses CloneDrive to mount the ISO and play your flik. This is powerful full-featured app that allows you to catalog and sort your movies and provides a lot of data and ways to sort and/or find your movies.

So, to sum up. I use the following software for my MCPC:

Windows 7 Media Center Edition
MCEBuddy: Commercial removal and file conversion app for recorded TV
DVDFab: Rippnig DVDs to harddrive
CloneDrive: mounting software for ISOs
MyMovies: MCE plug-in allowing for viewing ISOs in MCE.

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