Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Stagnation and Innovation on the WLAN front

For a long while I would lurk on the Wi-Fi Planet Forums, and answer and ask several questions. I was really into Wi-Fi and help set up and troubleshoot lots of SoHo and residential Wi-Fi networks. Over the past few months, I haven't been in the loop, so to speak, on what's going on in the wireless world. For the most part, there seems to have been a lack of progress on the standards front with almost every device now being compatible with 802.11b or it's faster sister 802.11g.

Yes, a lot of companies have SpeedBooster technologies in place to make your WLAN go faster, but in reality, if your DSL or cable connection only affords you ~1.5MBps downstream, it really doesn't make much difference if you are talking to your router at 11,54, or 108 MBps. Therefore, my reccomendation for most people is to go with 802.11b for now, because the prices of 802.11b routers have now dropped below $30 in most cases. Even 802.11g routers have dropped below $50. By comparison my first crappy 802.11b router that I bought in 2001 cost me $250, had only one lan port and couldn't work with more than one wireless computer connected to it.

Given this erosion in router prices, some companies are still innovating by taking the technologies that they have and making them just a little better. Here are some examples:

  1. There is a major proliferation of gadgets and devices with Wi-Fi built-in to them - like PDAs, Laptops, Media Players, And more. I guess there is a bigger market for these now that everyone and their brother has wireless network.
  2. Consolidation is a big trend, as people use their broadband connections for more and more things - like Wired, Wireless, and VoIP. Some companies are adding VoIP gateways to existing routers.

  3. Other companies are realizing that the disparate needs are eating up bandwidth, so they are building in bandwidth throttling utilities to determine what applications get priority. D-Link actually has a new Wi-Fi Gaming Router who's major selling point is its ability to designate more bandwidth for Gamers.

  4. VoIP is also creating another type of Device - Wi-Fi phones like the WiSiP from Pulver Innovations. Even RIM has announced that a Wi-Fi blackberry will be available soon.

I guess innovation isn't just about creating new technologies, but finding new ways to use or improve existing ones. Still, despite the proliferation of Wi-Fi devices, there still seems to be a dearth of routers with USB print servers built-in. Maybe the wi-fi companies realize that they can make more money by selling these as separate devices?

Wish lists coming soon

My Wishlists for 05' are coming soon - this year I hope to have two lists - A list of things I want people to buy me :) and a list of things I hope to see people invent. I will also review last year's list and see what came true and what didn't.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

As if the formats themselves weren't enough...

I have lamented in the past about the myriad of different flash memory formats out there. Of course, the technology you buy I guess has some bearing on the format you use. For example, I own a Sony camera, and it only uses memory sticks. So it should just be simple then, walk into any electronics store and buy and old memory stick, except even then, there are too many choices.

Do I by the standard or Pro Memorysticks? Do I by the 'ultra' Memory sticks? What about the 'Shoot and Store?' Memory sticks? It's enough to drive a person mad. I finally called up SanDisk and ask them them difference between all of their models. Here is the general idea:

- The Memory Stick Pro is the standard for most Sony Cameras.
- The High speed Memory (such as the ultra and extreme lines from SanDisk) will really only benefit those people who's cameras support their faster read and write speeds.
- The 'Shoot and Store' models are cheaper memory cards that are not reliable to continously write to.

Maybe I should just get a canon?

Friday, December 17, 2004

Dale is Back

One of my Favorite sites on the web was Dale Coffing's PocketPC passion. It was a great site that talked about handheld devices. Unfortunately, this past summer, Dale's server had a major Hard Drive failure, and went offline. Today I went back and discovered that he has been back online for several weeks with a new retooled site - called MobilePassion at the old url - http://www.pocketpcpassion.com.

Welcome back Dale, looking forward to reading your articles and reviews!!!

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Am I the only person left without an MP3 Player?

There was an article in today's Wall Street Journal about the apparent shortage of iPod's this season. Even Costco, which normally has all kinds of items at discounted prices is selling the Ipod mini for about $20 over it's SRP. It's not just the iPod that is selling like hotcakes. Creative's Zen Micro 5GB drive is also selling over its SRP, that is, if you can find them. Most e-shops and retail stores are backordered.

I wonder if this will make the lesser-known and less-popular brands of MP3 players to bottom out after the holidays are over?

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Picasa - First looks

I recently downloaded Picasa's image tool from www.picasa.com. This is probably one of the best digital imaging tools you will ever get - paid or free. First and foremost, you can set it up to actively search your drives or specific folders for new pictures and albums. Previously, I had stored the images in folders under the "My Pictures folder" within a minute or two, Picasa had automatically picked up all of the images and categorized them into albums. Picasa also has basic photo editing tools that allow you to do the most common tasks such as rotating, cropping and red eye reduction, as well as an automated picture enhancement tool.

It plays automatic slide shows of your images and has a unique timeline feature that allows you to go through your photos chronologically. It has fairly decent print options that will let you print full-page photos on standard-sized photo papers - i.e. 4x6, 5x7, 8x10, etc., as well as the ability to create picture packages on an 8.5x11 photo sheet and contact sheets.

It also has some cool features that a lot of its competition do not:

- It's e-mail tool will let you e-mail pictures not only through your standard e-mail program, but through a 'quick' interface as well.

- It has an HTML export tool that will help you export albums to a website

- It integrates with a tool from picasa called 'Hello' which is an image-sharing IM client (as if we needed another one).

- If you ocassionally use your digital still camera to take short video clips or combine video and stills in your albums the slide show and browser tools will play the video automatically without the need to launch a separate player!!!!.

So far it seems like a cool tool. I haven't tried the 'Order Prints' feature yet, but I am curious which site it takes me to.

I will try to do a more complete review in a couple of weeks including a review of the Hello Client

Friday, November 26, 2004

The penalty of shopping on time...

I went to Best Buy, not so early this morning to try to take advantage of their 'Black Friday' sales. I was semi-successful - I managed to get 2 of 3 things I was looking for. My Spoils: a 20" TV for $70 (yes that is correct) and a 50-disc spool of DVD+R disks for $3 (Again that is correct) - both after rebates. Of course, I am not sure how much my wife will like it when I walk in the door with a TV later tonight.

The item that I missed was a $30, 256MB flash memory card for my Digital Camera. At first, I was upset that they were sold out - those normally go for around $45-60, so this was a good deal. But then the guy behind me told me that he had bought some at staples this morning for only $10!!! (Makes me wish I had gotten up at 6am!!!). I guess if I wait long enough after the holidays the prices will go down far enough that I will be more affordable.

I guess you can take-advantage of the early pre-holiday sales, or buy stuff after the buzz is over when they (presumably) have inventory to burn.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Cute SQL Workaround

This post will only interest some of you hardcore techies out there, but I just needed to share:

Normally, when creating a view in SQL, you can't include an ORDER BY clause to sort the results in a particular fashion. I needed to do this recently, and came up with two workarounds for this limitation:

1. Pre-sort the table: use something along the lines of

FROM (Select * from table order by column_1)

2. You Can order your view, if you use the Top clause. So:


Sunday, November 14, 2004


I just upgraded to MovableType 3.11, hopefully this will help me get rid of some of those unwanted comments on the site.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Photo Overload

A colleague of mine told about an article in the New York Times yesterday about digital data and backups, and how format change ever few years it seems. This led to a discussion about Digital Photos. I currently have a 5 megapixel Camera which I bought in late January of 04'. The average photo size from that camera is between 1-1.5 megabytes, and I currently have about 1.5 GB of these - figure about 1000 pictures - in ten months time While we did have a new baby this year, we didn't go on a vacation, so as far as I can tell, 2 GB/year might seem like an adequate amount of new digital imaging to be added. That is, of course for the next couple of years, until I buy my next Digital camera, say in 2007/8 which will be at least, 10 Megapixels.

I am currently in the process of burning all of my pictures to CD - I will probably make 6 copies of each CD (why not, blanks are cheap enough) and distribute them as follows:
one set of 2 cds (one for use and one for safekeeping) to ourselves, my parents, and my in-laws.

As a backup plan, I plan on uploading all my images to at least two photo sites - but then, what happens if one of them goes out of business, or worse, starts to charge me for disk space?

And then, my CD-Rs are only good until that media are still pertinent - find me a new computer made in the last year that has a floppy drive? There aren't many.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

More iPod buzz

So there are a lot of semi-rumors afloat that Apple will be coming out with other versions of its iPod, including a special 'black' U2 edition. I didn't get the Rio Carbon I wanted for my birthday, and it would be nice to get one of these, but when would I use it?

Generally I read the paper on my commute, and I also use the time to catch up with my wife. When I sit at my desk, I can play the music off of my computer, and Generally, at home, I play my music on CDs. The only real use I can see for an iPod is keeping my kids music all in one place, and playing it over the stereo in the car.

Yet, still - I think that it would be cool to have one, and I would find ways to use it if I did

Monday, September 13, 2004

The downside to VoIP

A while back I had signed up for service from VoiceGlo, and I just received an e-mail from them suggesting that their service might go out due to Hurricane Ivan. This brings up an interesting concept of the vulnerability of VoIP vs. Traditional Circuit-Switched phone service. Since the phone is switched-based the logic is in the location. But VoIP, even though it can be distributed and have redundancy put in, uses a centralized login system. The benefit is that it will help you terminate your line anywhere in the world. The downside, of course, is that if you are the customer of a smaller VoIP player with all of their eggs in one basket, so to speak, you run the risk of losing service if they go down.

Monday, August 09, 2004

My Wireless Networking Wishlist

I have had a Wi-Fi (802.11) wireless network in my home for over 3 years now. My first wireless router cost $250 and I convinced my wife it was necessary for the company I was starting back then. I bought my most recent router (Number 3) for less than $40 online. My current wireless cards (I have two) cost me $30 each and my wireless repeater cost about another $30 - so my whole home wireless set up cost me about half of the price of that first router. It seems that everyone and their brother and their sister has a wireless network (this is evident, when war-driving around both my office and home).

And with the myriad of advancements and consumer electronics with Wi-fi, I still think that there are a lot of products out there to be invented. Since I am publishing these, I hope that you'll give me a royalty if you invent any of them:

  1. Wi-Fi USB Multifunction Capabilities - An earlier pet peeve of mine was that most of the earlier routers that had print server had parallel port print servers, while you had to try really hard to find a new parallel port printer. Finally some manufacturers like D-Link and Belkin have created both routers with USB print servers as well as standalone models. But now a lot of people (myself included) have Multifunction printers. Wouldn't it be great to be able to scan without having to plug in my laptop? Or to use it as a memory card reader? It would be great if they made a device that could simply become a wi-fi USB extension cord.

  2. Wi-Fi cordless phones - Yes I know that companies like Cisco and Pulver have wi-fi SIP phones, but I am not talking about those. What I am talking about is taking a standard cordless phone but making it use Wi-Fi instead of using it's own proprietary format. This way it would reduce the amount of interference between cordless phones and Wi-Fi and, in theory help prevent your neighbors from eavesdropping on your calls.

  3. Wi-Fi music jukeboxes and DVRs - I know that these, in theory, exist already, but we need better, standalone versions. AirPort Express is cute but limited. I want something that will play and store my digital music collection, as well as video.

  4. A Wi-Fi display for my Refridgerator - I know that things like 3Com's Audrey and others were major failures, but I would love to be able to hang a 10.4" wi-fi display on my Fridge and have it display not only the family calendar, but also have it double as a TV with a wireless cable link.

Friday, August 06, 2004

What I want for my 30th Birthday

Carbon_main_prod.jpg So I will be turning 30 in a few short weeks (9/28), and I am debating what exactly I would like for my Birthday. Of course, my wife doesn't read my blog, so she won't know, but I am sure that I will be able to get her some not-so-subtle hints.

In some not-so-crystal-clear rationalization, I feel that I am at least worth around $300 for my 30th birthday ($10 a year doesn't sound too steep) and with that in mind, I will list a couple of items:

The Rio Carbon to the left is one MP3 player I would like, and it's a bargain at $250. I could also get an iPod but everyone and his sister has one (especially, it seems, here in NYC), and the Carbon will help me stand out.

Although my body has gone to pot, I still like expensive shirts. I haven't bought any from my favorite store in a long time. (I'd even settle for one at $140. The ones I have now have lasted me for about 6-7 years so far, and have only recently started to fray). I wouldn't mind some custom made shirts either.

However, as long as I get an outpouring of love and support, it doesn't really matter what the gifts are.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

What can't you put a picture on?

Although I have a photo printer and do print a lot of my own digital pics, I also use two photo services to share those pics with friends. Ocassionally, I will also buy photo gifts for friends and family. So far, I bought Photo Books with the boys pictures for Mother's day, and Photo Mugs as a presents for my Wife and my Mom. Needless to say, they were very appreciated (so much so, that my wife has asked me to make a couple of Mugs for her parents anniversary).

There are a whole myriad of products you can stick a digital picture on - the aofrementioned mugs and photobooks, t-shirts, calendars, playing cards (the photo is on the backs of the cards), puzzles, baseballs, and more. But this week two of the companies I use for these gifts each came out with some bizzare gifts:

- Snapfish - http://www.snapfish.com - now let's you put a picture on a postage stamp! Of course, there is a premium, a $0.37 postage stamp will cost you $1. Check out http://photos.stamps.com

- Sony's Imagestation- http://www.imagestation.com - let's you create leather bags with a picture on it. The bags run between $180-200!!!

What will they think of next? :)

What happend to having a friend call you...

According to this article on Infosync, Cingular is now offering a service that will call you in middle of a date and offer you an execuse to get out of it. A sharp contrast from the service in Japan that generates background noise so that your spouse or mom think that your in the street somewhere and not off partying.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Blue Devil!?!

So it seems that Duke Univeristy has decided that for $40K in tuition, each incoming freshman should at least get a new iPod. According to Duke's press release (http://www.dukenews.duke.edu/news/ipods_0704.html), the students will also be able to download audio course materials that professors provide.

What ever happened to good ol' tape recorders?

This is so reminscent of that montage in 'Real Genius' where the guy keeps walking into the classroom and every day more and more students are replaced with tape recorders, until one day, the professor himself puts a tape recorder on his desk.

Video still may have not killed the radio start, but will the iPod kill both the lecture and the tape recorder?

Friday, July 09, 2004

iPod Nation

It seems that wherever I go in New York City, about one in every 4-5 people is wearing an ipod. Yes I ocassionally see people carrying Rio Karmas and iRiver Flash MP3 players, etc. But the iPod and its little brother, the iPod Mini, are beocming ubiquitous.

To me this signifies several things:
- Apple has reinvented itself, and is much-better poised to control the post-pc era of computerized consumer electronics
- The pure cachet and snob appeal of the iPod mini far outweighs the fact that it is a 'bad value'
- New Yorkers really like a) Their music b) to drown out street and subway noise and c) to be fashionable.

I am curious how the Airport Express will sell? I think I need to go warwalking around town again :)

Of course, I don't have the $300 to spend on an iPod, (nor the $250 on the mini) but I did buy two albums through theiTunes Music Store so that I might have a slim chance of winning an iPod.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004


Thanks to a hookup from a friend, I have been invited to beta test Google's new e-mail service - Gmail mail service. So far it kicks ass. You have three basic folders - Inbox, All mail, and trash. You can use google to search your e-mail, and you can create virtual folders for your service, called labels. You can even have rules and filters and it has a SPAM folder where suspected SPAM goes.

It even has a cool 'conversation' feature that tracks threaded e-mails so that you can view a message and all its corresponding replies in one view.

I have already started forwarding a couple of accounts to it to use it as a client.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Of iPod, BMW, and Bluetooth

Apple and iPod have announced that selected new Beemers now have a plug in the glove compartment for your iPod (see it here). The iPod connects in the glovebox and then you can play it by using the radio controls in your car. As cool and exciting as this is, and as much as I would like to think that I am going to eventually get an ipod - I know that unless I win the lottery or work for BMW USA, I will probably never own a BMW.

That aside - this is a step in the right direction, but no-where near a good solution. Last October, I saw Microsoft's Peter Rinearson show a demo of microsoft's Knowledge Management Vision. In a video he showed, some guy gets into his car, chucks his PDA on the passenger seat, and the car recognizes it, and proceeds to play his voicemail. That of course is the other extreme, but I think that we can combine the above chocolate and peanut butter into a peanut butter cup of our own - why not create bluetooth enabled stereos in cars that can :

a) Allow you to access and play music on similarly equipped MP3 players using the cars' stereo
b) Playback music on a bluetooth headset (or multiple channels - so I can listen to Howard while my kids listen to the The Wiggles).
c) Synchronize wirelessly with My PC

Steve Jobs wants to dictate the industry, and seems to be doing something like this with his new Airport Express - Steve, are you listening?

Friday, June 18, 2004

Wartraining, part 2

So I wartrained again last night, and although for the most part, I didn't find anything, my train did get delayed in the Bronxville area (A tony suburb of NYC) and I picked up 5 or 6 addtional hotspots. I guess the limited range of 802.11 and the speed at which the train travels (between 50-60 mph on average) is not condusive to getting good wi-fi signals. In my previous post on the subject, I only found APs at 125th street, maybe due to the fact that that was the only place where we stopped?

What's more, I got a ride with a neighbor who was taking someone else home as well, and picked up 22 APs while driving around the neighborhood. Some quick and interesting stats:

15 were made by linksys
10 or so still had the default SSID with no WEP encryption
14 (2/3) didn't have WEP encryption at all
4 turned off SSID broadcasting

I don't think that any of this is surprising. An interesting comparison though, while warwalking my work neighborhood (Chelsea in NYC), I found about as many hotspots on a single city block

Thursday, June 10, 2004

My project didn't work, so I am going a different route

I didn't have much success with my Receiver project - the receiver is always tempermental when you first bring it online. So I decided to take a different approach. I am going to sell my 'upgrade' equipment, and use it to buy a Prismiq Media Player or a Roku Labs HD1000. These devices will let me play video, digital images, and music on my pc over my wi-fi network on my living room tv. I am leaning towards the prismiq, because it is cheaper, and it also let's you surf the net and IM directly from your TV. We'll see how it goes.


My ideal pc

I look at the proliferation of highly-portable, harddrive based MP3 players and small but powerful handheld computers. The average pocketPC now has a 400MHz processor - roughly the processing power of the desktop computers of 3 years ago. As functional as a laptop is, I wonder if the ever-increasing miniturization of these devices is going to bring back the concept of the "Brick" computer. I am referring to the Ergo brick, which if memory serves was a miniaturized PC with a small form factor that, although it didn't have its own screen, was easily transportable and could connect to a keyboard, mouse and monitor. Imagine a device like this:

- Moderate speed processor - say 1GHz
- 512 MB RAM
- 40 GB HDD
- USB 2.0 and firewire ports
- Bluetooth and Wi-fi (G/B) built-in
- The form factor of an iPod, but a little thicker
- a 4-inch LCD touchscreen
- a headphone jack

This will give me a PDA with large capacity that I can also use to download images from a Digital Camera, store and listen to MP3's and videos. By using bluetooth or wi-fi I could either use it to play back its contents over an Entertainment center - by means of a docking station or dock it to a keyboard monitor and mouse and make myself a PC.

It seems that OQO knows what I am talking about.


I know you've heard of Wardriving, Warwalking, even Warflying - three methods of scoping out various Wi-Fi access points around the globe. Last night I tried Wartraining - i.e. running an anaylsis program on my PC to discover wireless hotspots while riding on a train.

So I turned my laptop on while riding home on the Metro-North Commuter Railroad home from NYC to white plains. I wasn't sure what to expect, but in all, I only discovered 3 APs - two seemed to be average joes with linksys routers - in fact they didn't seem to have changed any of the defaults. I also discovered a pretty strong signal at around 125th street that actually was detecable beond the river. The SSID was NYCHA (maye the New York City Housing Agency?) and it was protected with WEP. My guess is the NYCHA has staffers with wireless devices servicing the projects that it manages. Once NYCHA dissapeared just a minute or two north of the east river, I didn't turn up a single hotspot until getting off the train. I wonder if speed had anything to do with it? (White plains is about 25-30 miles north of the city, and the trip is about 35 minutes, so figure about 45 mph is the average speed of the train, but if you take out the stops, its closer to 50 or 60 mph). From a more practical note, once you leave the city (for the most part) , the distance to most buildings from the tracks is generally a couple of hundred feet - reaching the distance limits that standard off-the-shelf wi-fi units are capable of handling. I guess from that angle, any train would be in a similar situation - which makes wartraining all that much less appealing.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

The Webcam is Back

I finally have my webcam back up and running. You can see it here

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Spammers Suck!

I have suddenly been getting a rash of people posting all kinds of wacky comments. I think that I will disable them for a while in the hopes that they go away.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

VoIP regulation shelters

So NYS ruled today to regulate Vonage. This means that me and several other NYS Vonage customers will probably find ourselves with slightly higher phone bills in the next few months. But let me toss this morsel out at you - who can be taxed by this?

Do I get taxed if the billing address on my service is in New York state? What if I have phone number with a NYS area code? With Vonage, I can technically live in New Jersey, but have a NYC number, or I can live in NY, and get billed in NY, but actually have a California phone number. Who gets taxed?

In theory it is difficult to trace where exactly on the Internet a call is made from - what if I buy service in New Jersey, but then plug my box into a broadband connection in New York? My phone number and billing address are in NJ, but the calls are being placed from NYC!!!!! I honestly don't think that even if the state were to require Vonage to track it, that they would be able to get an accurate detailed account of where all the calls were being made from.

I wonder how this will play out.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004


A company called SoniqCast is apparently putting out an MP3 player that syncs via Wi-Fi, and doesn't need any cables. I am curious to see how well it sells. It is priced at $300 - a little bit on the high-end for a 1.5GB player, but it can also take an SD card for addtional memory as well and boasts and FM tuner.

Interesting, no? I wonder how long it will take before the market is flooded with wi-fi compatible devices.

What would be cool, is if I buy a Pulver's WiSiP phone and I could get it to pre-empt my music when a call came in.

Monday, May 17, 2004

Blog Spam

I like having comments open on my blog. I think that it's a great idea, and fosters the natural development of discussion. Granted, I don't get that many visitors or commentors, but I noticed a troubling phenomenon.

Over the past few days, I have had porn site operators link my site to theirs by posting in the comments. Not only do I find this annoying, but it may also somehow cause my site to be associated with pornography by google, or other search engines and/or content filters. I guess because of the proliferation of anti-spam software, blogs are the next spam targets.

Oh well.

Friday, May 14, 2004

Liking the new Printer

After finally getting to print pictures on my 'all-in-one', thinking that if I used the right paper I would get pictures that looked as if they had truly come from a photo lab.

Apparently this was not the case, so I went to best buy and exchanged it for another model - the Epson RX500 Photo All-in-one. The difference is dramatic. It's amazing to think that if one of those Fotomat drive-by huts still existed, they could probably do all of the processing there itself.

Friday, May 07, 2004

Megapixels make a Mega Difference

Mikey and Mommy

When I was looking to buy a camera a couple of months ago, I decided that for the buck, I would get the most value out of a 3 Megapixel Camera. But then I got lucky and found a 5 Megapixel DSC-P92 from Sony at a great price. And I much appreciate the greater level of detail in the shots (Even though a 5MP generates a considerably larger file size).

You see (for those of you that don't know) think of a pixel as a single, microscopic dot of color and shape in a picture. It is easy to imagine that an entire picture has millions of them. 1 Million pixels=1 Megapixel. Therefore a 4x6print taken at 5MP has much more detail and is much richer than one taken at 3MP. But that's not to say that a 3MP photo isn't of high-quality, it just means that:

  • You get a much richer image from a 5MP printed on the same size as a 3MP
  • A 5MP picture can be printed in a much larger size with the same level of quality
  • For a smaller print, you can chop, crop, and blow up a 5MP image and get the quality of a 3MP print

I guess the picture at the right proves the level of quality of a 5MP camera.

Thursday, May 06, 2004

Acceptable Anamolies

A friend of mine recently bought a laptop directly from the manufacturer. It was a very high-end laptop with all of the bells and whistles, including wireless, etc., and he paid a premium for it. When the laptop arrives it had a couple of dead pixels. No sweat, right? Just call up customer service and they'll replace it for you. WRONG!

Several attempts into getting Cust. Serv. to replace it for him all ended up with a response of "Sorry, but that is considered an acceptible anomaly" He checked around, and as it turns out, he discovered that most manufacturers will not exchange a laptop with less than half a dozen dead pixels. I guess they claim that Q/A is too hard to get that level of quality.

The irony is, if you bought the same device from a big reatil chain, you could have brought it back in without any hassles for an exchange. I bought a camera and printer back in January. I specifically bought it then to take advantage of a rebate offer, but I didn't start to print pictures until recently. I was going to by it from a smaller regional retailer, but I got a national chain to price-match, and I bought it there instead. I noticed that the print quality sucked. So I called the store. They told me that I could talk to the manager and if he felt it was justified, I could get a refund or an exchange for the printer.

The fact that 90+ days post-purchase that they would even consider this is a testimony to their effort on customer service. I guess maybe that the difference between the big chains and the manufacturer direct sales and their respective approaches to customer services reflect the fact that if the manufacturers lose out on the retail business, they are still generating revenue from sales to retailers. While the retailers want you to be a lifelong customer. Because if you leave, who will buy from them?

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

My latest project

So my wife and I have bought this new entertainment center for our living room. This lovely piece of Mission Style furniture will replace our old setup of a TV stand with plastic gates around the base to delay our son from playing with the DVD player and VCR (We thought it would stop him, but nothing stops Mitch). Combine this with the fact that my son keeps scratching CDs, I decided that I want to hook up the Dell Digital Audio Receiver (Made by Rio/Soniblue) to my home network and put that into the new Entertainment center.

That, of course, requires me to extend wi-fi network to their as well. I am currently trying to accquire the necessary Buffalo Technologies 802.11G equipment to upgrade the whole house. At the end of the day, I will have:

  1. A Router connected to my Cable Modem
  2. A Bridge/Repeater set up in my Entertainment center that will both connect wired ethernet devices in my home to the WLAN as well as boost signal strength in the front part of the house.
  3. Digital Audio!!

    I think I might write an Article when it's done.

Another reason that Technology Rocks

My wife was on the phone with me, complaining about not knowing where the Jewel cases for the CD's that I needed to return to the library were. While I was on the phone, I just went to our library's web site and renewed them online.


Monday, May 03, 2004

Two Interesting Computer Security Holes...

I want to shed some light on two computer security holes - one that I just learned about, the other that I have been harping on for some time:

  1. A new way to send pop-ups and defeat blocker tools Although the vast majority of Pop-up blockers do well against standard pop-up windows, some of them have learned how to exploit the window.showModalDialog() command in Javascript that is supported by IE (And I believe only IE) in versions 5+. What's even more annoying, you need to actually close or click in the window as it holds your browser hostage.

  2. I have often raved about the fact that many people don't bother to change ANY of the default settings on their wireless router - including the administrator password. Therefore, with information that you can glean off of wardriving (the make and model of an open Wireless AP) and the Internet (the default admin passwords are usually printed in the user's manual, most of which are available on-line from the manufacturer's website) a malicious user can now assume control of your AP - even lock you out of it at their own will.

    The new scary premise - they can use this to modify firmware and upload spyware into your ap.

Thursday, April 29, 2004

Wi-Fi Nerds supporting our soldiers

I am a regular reader and contributor to the Wi-Fi Planet forums. I recently came across this post from a solider in Iraq who is trying to hook up wi-fi in his tent. It seems that people were so moved by this guy's efforts to get him and his buddies hooked up so that they can e-mail their loved ones while fighting that they have offered not only advice, but equipment too.

Check out the thread: http://forums.wi-fiplanet.com/showthread.php?s=&threadid=3097&perpage=25&pagenumber=1

The good and the bad of publishing your own picture book

I just received the picture books that I ordered for Mother's day from Sony's Imagestation. While I am happy with the way that they came out, I guess they weren't as good as I thought they would be.

Basically these books are hardcover bound photo albums of your digital photos where you pick the layout, background patterns, photos, and add your caption text. A 20-page book can have up to 100 photos (the available layout patterns have 1-5 photos each) and runs around $40 (but they are on sale for Mother's day.) I hope that my wife, mother, and mother-in-law like these books.

Of course, these books took two weeks to get here (I'm sure in part because of the mother's day rush) and in that time, Walt Mossberg reviewed another book publisher that was offering more attractive leather-bound books with a 50% discount - http://www.mypublisher.com I am planning on creating one for my Grandmother's 80th Birthday with My Publisher - hopefully it will come out nicely.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Why computers, printers, and cell phones seem relatively cheap

I often say to people that the reason why seemingly large-ticket items are so cheap these days is because they will really make their money back on the accessories and services - printers are a prime example.

The HP printer mentioned above sells on HP's site for $150. Ink cartridges run $20 for black to $35 for color. This means that if you go through 3 sets of ink in a year, you've already exceeded the purchase price for the printer. I am sure that the profit margins on the printer are most definitely a lot smaller than those on the ink - why - because price isn't based on cost, it's based on value.

This is why printers don't come with USB cables, and buying one in the store can cost you significantly more (say $20-30) than finding it on ebay (say $5-10). Because we perceive that price as being reasonable for the value we're getting.

I was once privvy to an invoice sheet at a major electronics chain and learned that the margin on the $300 printer I was buying was about $30 bucks - 10% while the $20 printer cable the margin was $18 - 1000%!!!!!!

The moral of your story - save those printer cables!

New twist on some old School technology...

I was testing a new photo printer at work. And I marveled at how easy it has become at printing photos without a computer.

I simply put my memory card into the printer's card slot and printed a contact sheet. The contact sheet came out SAT style - with a multiple-choice-answer-esque circle under each photo. At the bottom of the page their were two more sets of circles - one for the number of copies and one for the page layout. by simply filling in the right circles, and selecting 'Scan proof sheet' the printer immediately started my print job. - Kickass!

The photos were beautiful, and I would highly reccomend this printer if I didn't check the ink levels after printing - two 8x10s seem to eat up 10-15% of the ink on the printer.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Outsourcing - good or bad?

There has been a lot of hubbub these days about business process outsourcing. Many companies have started to outsource software development, customer service, and other processes. This has become a major election year issue, as many people are fearing for their jobs as forecasts predict that outsourcing will increase tremendously over the next few years. Unlike many factory workers who were laid off in the 80s and 90s, these workers are generally high-paid and middle class.

It's practically a no-brainer to outsource from a business' point of view - for the $80K you pay for a senior developer here, you can get 3 or 4 in Inidia or Russia. Obviously those of us who's jobs stand to be outsourced are worried.

But as much as I see jobs going overseas, I see new jobs staying here. For example - to maximize efficiencies, it makes sense to have somone in the US test the code that is written 8,9,10, or 11 hours away. Delhi is 11 hours ahead of New York so when a Q/A person leaves his or her office in New York the person in Delhi is starting his or her commute - and has bug reports waiting for them. 24/7 operations without paying someone extra to work a night shift.

I also think that even if companies outsource development, they will still need someone on site to gather requirements and manage the process - whether that person works for the outsourcer or outsourcee, it is still a job that is best filled on American soil - if not for anything else than logistical reasons.

In addition, people who started a company in 1999, would hire developers on the spot - requiring a lot more capital expenditure for in-house bodies. That same company could initially outsource the development, thereby saving start-up costs and spurring growth - which might lead to other types of jobs.

I also have heard from several colleagues that some companies (although not necessary explicitly) sell higher levels of service that are only staffed by americans. They realize that many people are willing to pay a premium for support engineers that are native speakers of their own language and not reading from a script. Because of the revenue associated with these sevices, support technicans get the opportunity to earn higher salaries as well.

I guess there is a silver lining to the looming gray cloud of IT outsourcing. The trick for those of us in the industry is to find an umbrella to wait out the rain with and we'll be okay.

A little annoyance...

I recently switched to one of those all-inclusive packages for local and long distance service, and I am enjoying the benefits of free caller ID. It is great to be able to screen my calls and it helps me decipher the messages that the nanny leaves for us when people call during the day (somehow, Ziggy became Vicky?).

My cell phone also has Caller ID as well. But here is the rub - why can't I get caller ID with name on my cell phone? Yes it will identify people that are in my address book with names and pictures and what not, but why can't I get the same caller info on my cell phone?

Friday, March 05, 2004

Lost in Translation...

Google has done a great job in globalizing its brand, as it has sites in a bunch of languages and specific to certain countries. They even have a Google for Israel in Hebrew.

However, some things just don't translate quite the same. The infamous "I'm feeling lucky button" has been replaced with a Hebrew phrase - yoter mazal m'saykhel - which literally means [i have] more luck than brains! (one of my favorite Israeli expressions).

Thursday, March 04, 2004

SCO = Sue Companies Over nothing?

So SCO is suing AutoZone and DaimlerChrysler as its latest victims in its effort to extort money from Linux users because it can't seem to sell enough software to stay afloat.

My main beef with SCO is that they haven't been willing to identify specific code snippets that are infringing on their patents and intellectual property. I am sure that the main reason for this - given the open nature of Linux - is that programmers around the world will have patches in place within hours that will invalidate their claims. If that happens, they can't sue anyone and they've thrown out all of this money in legal terms. However, they will have to divulge something to fight AutoZone in court. Which means that I am not quite sure how long their tirade will last.

I hope that they fall flat on their faces and close up shop. A win, even a small one, is going to wreak havoc in the Linux and patent communities.

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

How Google Changed the World

I was watching the Gilmore Girls with my wife last night, and was ROTFL at the scene in which Lorelai (Lauren Graham) tells her stuffy mom to 'Google' a recipe for Mock Turtle Soup.

Google has entered the vernacular in a massive way. I remember my summer interns showing it to me in 1999, when I still preferred Yahoo, and I have been hooked since. It is probably one of the greatest things since sliced bread. Lately Yahoo and MSN have been trying to improve their own searching technologies to compete better with Google - a war that only means the end users will see vast improvements and changes for the better. I just want to share two more Google tidbits:

Google Bombing - Since google ranks sites not just by content, but by the number of pages and terms that link to them, a clever Stanford student discovered that he could have his friend come up in the Google search as the first result for 'Talentless Hack' if he got enough people to link to his friends web site where the link text was exactly that term. There is a great Slate article that explains how this might and will be exploited. (Hmm... maybe I should start a campaign to link The Passion of the Christ to the Simon Wiesenthal Center's page about that movie? Or link the Palestinian Authority to PMW?

Where your name comes up - I will ocassionally do a narcissus search (i.e. one where I search on "Yonah Wolf" to see how far down my site appears on the list). More often than not it will come up first when I have made an update to my site, otherwise, the various message board posts I make show up ranked higher - because they were updated more recently. Yesterday and old boss of mine called me and asked me to play with how I mention her on my site, because she has just launched a new consulting business and my site comes up before hers. (Even though I don't mention anything disparaging about her, I do mention how the company bombed with the collapse of the .com era.

Thursday, February 12, 2004

$15,000 for a cell phone anyone?

I like watches, I have a few - I particularly like those from Skagen of Denmark. I am also fully aware that there are 'upscale' watches that cost several thousand dollars - but let's face it, the likelihood of me being a Patek Phillipe is virtually non-existant.

Still, I recognize the fact that there are those fortunate individuals that have the ability and desire to 'take care of a Patek for the next generation'. I guess that is what Vertu was thinking. They have cellphones that cost between $5-$20,000! For that money I could buy a cell phone, a car charger, and the car to charge it with!.

My only question is given the abuse that my cell phone goes through, I can't imagine how nasty my Sterling Silver one would look after some usage!

Monday, February 09, 2004

A topic I haven't visited in a while...

I used to harp on securing wireless networks and listed 5 simple things you could to to secure yours:

  1. Change the default SSID and Administrator Password
  2. Enable MAC address filtration to only allow PCs you know to connect
  3. Limit DHCP to the number of addresses you need so that you will have IP conflicts if someone gains unathorized access
  4. Disable SSID broadcast if your router supports it
  5. Install a personal firewall on each of your computers - this will not only help if your home network is compromised, but also protect you when you use public hotspots.

In any case, netgear has a similar document on their web site. Needless to say, it contains a lot of advice specifically about their products, but it is great generic Wi-Fi security info.

Thursday, February 05, 2004

Why I love VoIP

Last June, I lost my phone and DSL service for two weeks due to a cable short that occured during a massive thunderstorm. I quickly came to the realization that we couldn't go without a phone in the house (a not just a cell phone, for various reasons), nor without broadband as well (my wife works from home one day a week, and I do on ocassion). So, we switched to a cable modem, and I went out and signed up with Vonage. My logic was if the phone went out, I would still have broadband and my VoIP phone; if the cable went out, I would still have phone service, and be able to use it for dial-up Internet access in a pinch.

Recently we switched our POTS (Plain Ol' Telephone Service) to an all-inclusive package with unlimited calling within the US and Canada. My wife wanted me to cut off our Vonage line, but I was hesitant, and it paid off.

Wed. Night, our phone went out of commission for several hours. I immediately reported the problem to the folks at IDT and they were able to route my home phone to my Vonage line - it was as if my phone never went out of service!

I think we'll keep the vonage phone. At about $17/mo. it is a good insurance policy.

Thursday, January 29, 2004

Tired of the same old pictures? - Get a Digital Photo Frame

I just ordered a Digital Camera Today, and I was looking for accessories (as usual) to enhance it. I discovered that many companies (including Sony) are now making digital photo frames. Some like those from Pacific Digital let you download pictures directly from a camera. Other like those from Wallflower Systems let you copy files over a Wi-Fi network.

But one of the most popular frames out there is one from a company called Ceiva. Ceiva's frames connect to your phone line and dial-up a server every night to download new pictures that you designate. While I wouldn't necessarily buy this for myself, it is something that I would consider buying for my grandmother's birthday. She's turning 80 this year and I know that at least one of my cousins also has a digital photo frame. Maybe we could chip-in and buy her one of these, then we could upload digital pictures that we've taken for her and she can view them on her frame. Of course, we'd have to work out an agreement so that no one monopolizes all 30 slots :)

Monday, January 12, 2004

It's a Free World

I recently signed up for Free World Dialup. My number is 94802 in case anyone wants to give me a call :)

The Fat Pipe is finally getting filled up!

I am enjoying the recent spate of VoIP articles in the popular media. I am also enjoying seeing more and more of the Cisco IP phones in TV and Movies. I think VoIP is the way of the future, and companies like Vonage and iConnectHere are only the beginning. I see services delivered over broadband increasing at least tenfold over the next five years. If you have Video-on-demand through digital cable, you already have broadband video service, and as companies produce consumer devices that tap into the 'fat pipe' that is cable modem/dsl service, we will get our cable service from phone companies, and phone service from cable companies (the latter is already happening!). I currently bitch about how cable lines are still regulated to the point where the cable cos. have a monopoly. As much as I want the cable lines opened to competition, I won't need it. Soon, satellite braodband will mature, and so will other solutions like terrestrial wireless in the form of Wi-Max, as well as Powerline and Cellular broadband services. We might very well soon see cable companies offering their services a-la-carte so that we can pick and choose stations, and international delivery of tv becomes trivial. Because its done over the Internet, I can bring my subscriber info with me when I travel and still get the same channels as I do at home!

Kick Ass! - now we just need to wait for it to get here :)

Friday, January 09, 2004

Sure I'll buy an iPod Mini - when the price drops to $149!

So Steve Jobs big announcement was the $249 mini iPod. Although I must admit that I find the device to be very applesque - cool, and desirable, I also find that it just doesn't have any value as far as I am concenered. In his keynote her compared it to a $200 256MB flash-based MP3 player - but this isn't a true (pardon the pun) Apple to apples comparison. Firstly, because of the way that other companies sell their products, a list price of $199 means that, in reality, you can buy this device for at least $180, if not lower. Secondly, he specifically choose a bare-bones player like the Rio Cali. Why not the iRiver iFP-390T - it's just as small, costs under $200, and even comes FM Radio, Voice Recording, and an armband to boot - yes it only has 1/16th of the mini's storage, but again - there is a fine-line between the full-fledged players that can hold an entire music collection and players that have small capacities but are used for a 1-2 hour workout. The 4GB players are priced just below the higher-capacity players, and just above the Flash Players. My prediction - the prices on the smaller capacity drives will drop, and the ripple effect will be either a)A cessation of production of Flahs Players or b) A drop in the prices of Flash Players. The $GB Muvo from Creative is already available in the $250 vicinity, while it's 1GB flash cousin costs $400! I think I might consider a mini at the point at which it drops to $149, but by then we will all be wanting a Video iPod instead :)