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