Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The return of the Transportable Computer

Many, many years ago, when I was a starry-eyed, 12-year-old geek, I would thumb through computer magazines and drool at the ads for the new and super fast 286's (yes, that long ago).

Compaq Computer - an upstart in those days - had a transportable model, it had a tiny screen and weighed a ton, but you could, in theory, carry it from place to place. That is a far cry from all of the laptops I currently own. Obviously, as time went on, laptops became smaller and more powerful.

But recently, there has been a more interesting phenomenon, in that it would seem laptops are overtaking desktops as home computers. Maybe this is because of their inherent portability, or because laptop firepower (i.e. display size, cpu speed, etc) has pretty much caught up to that of the desktop. In addition, Wi-Fi wireless networks have made it even easier for you to move your laptop around the house and surf the net - seeing that you are no longer chained to within 12 feet of your DSl/Cable modem.

And just as the cost of PC's has come down significantly, so to have the cost of laptops. For between $500-1000 today you can get a brand new laptop these days, and while the $700 laptop isn't powerful enough for a corporate road warrior, it is definitely powerful enough for the average e-mailing/photosharing/mp3-playing/word-processing consumer. (In fact, there is a project out now aiming to produce a $100 laptop for children in 3rd-world and developing nations). These laptops are also aimed more at the 'moveable desktop' concept - that is for people who plan to use these at home and never move any further then from the den to the living room and back again. In that vane, Dell has introduced the XPS M2010.

The M2010 is an interesting cross between an all-in one desktop and an oversized laptop. It has a 20.1" LCD, a wireless keyboard and very interesting looking CPU. The whole thing can be carried like a giant laptop (complete with handle) from place to place and also used as a TV or DVD player (it is Windows Media Center enabled and comes with a remote).

It is a very cool piece of hardware, however, I have to say at $3500 - there are probably not that many people who will buy it. Even Dell alludes to their target market - the tag line on the base configuration reads - Be a show off.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Someone Listens to me, part 2

Okay, so maybe lightning does strike twice. Earlier this week I discovered that D-Link was making a wireless print server that also connected you to the scanner function of your MFP. So that you can print and scan wirelessly. Since one of my pet peeves have been fulfilled, it was only a matter of time before someone else solved another one of my tech pain points.

What is my next tech pain point - digital music. My wife and I are not audiophiles, yet we still listen to music. Our kids, on the other hand, are big music buffs. They listen to their favorite albums all of the time. Of course, since each one of them wants to listen to something different in a different room of the house, it means we need multiple CD players - one in the living room, in each of our bedrooms, and the den, etc. Thankfully there are CD burners and the like so that I don't need to buy more than one copy of each album. But, as anyone with little kids knows, the CDs are always getting scratched. I also have various music scattered on computers around the house as well.

I would be so much easier if I had a single digital system that let me have one central digital music system and wireless satellites around the house that could access the same music but each pllay their own playlist.

While Sonos has something like this, a new company called Olive has developed a really solid solution. Their Symphony music player (above) is a household uber system that work with standard wi-fi (even acts as a wi-fi gateway) and in addition to its own 80gb hard drive, it can also access music stored on PCs and macs around your house. Heck, it can even act as your wi-fi router and gateway and has a 4-port ethernet switch for any other ethernet devices you have in your rack. It comes with a built-in CD burner so that you can rip your existing CD's and burn new ones.

What's more is that they have another component called sonata which is a a wireless receiver that can be placed in any room and access all of the music you have on your symphony. This system is one of the first that I have seen to meet all of my music needs and desires. Well, all of them, save one - the price point. The Symphony costs $899 and Sonatas are $199 each. (Olive also has two-higher end music systems that cap out at $2400). For the config I want, it would probably run me about $1500. Hardly chump change.

However, I'll hold out in the hopes that folks from Olive will stumble across my blog and give me one to review (okay, so I will need to return it, but it will be fun to play with).

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Finally, someone listens to me

Back in February, I wrote an FAQ of sorts about wireless printing. One if my laments then was that while wireless print servers will let you print to a Multi-function printer, they will not let you use the scanner or other features. Someone at D-Link must have been listening because now they just introduced Wireless Print Server that actually let's you scan from your MFP.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Nike - The New Titan of Web 2.0

I like to think that I am a sports nut, although I definitely don't exercise as much as I used to. I have been a big fan of the Nike brand for a long time (although my current sneaks are Reeboks that I've had for 3 years and have very little wear).

Nike has gear for every sport - Baseball, Soccer, Basketball, Hockey, heck, they even have Tae-Kwon-Do Duboks (alas, no Judogi yet). But short of their watches, Nike wasn't really much of a technology company. However, today I came across two sites that made me change my mind.

First off, Nike is teaming up with Google to produce a Social Networking Community site for Soccer Players called Joga. Joga is designed to help build up the world and local soccer communities and its launch is tied to the World Cup in Germany that's just days away (Go USA!).

Secondly, I discovered this site today: Nike+ . Apparently, Nike has teamed up with Apple to not only create iPod friendly accessories and gear, but they've also developed a tool to enable you to use your iPod Nano to track your workouts. (I now have yet another reason to buy an iPod).

The new iPod gear also connects to the web and uploads your stats!

If that isn't what Web 2.0 is really about, I don't know what is.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Mac in Black

Apple just released its new MacBook sporting an Intel Dual-Core processor. While the likelihood of me switching anytime soon is almost nil, everytime Jobs and company come out with a new toy, I do tend to salivate just a little bit.

First and foremost, the folks at Apple have mastered the fusion of form and function to create elements of desire. They are very consumer focused, and do the branding thing well enough that people are willing to pay a premium for their computers and iPods. They also throw in some of the Gee-whiz things (like the built-in camera), for their coolness factor, even though the functional aspect of them (for many) is still not there. But beyond all of this, there are also the little things. There are two little things about this laptop that would make me want to buy it and have me pining for a PC with them:

MagSafe - A very cool magnetic connector for the power cord that breaks away from the computer if it is yanked. This might sound like it could be annoying but as someone who actually tripped over the power cord of his laptop and nearly fried the MoBo as a result, this is a welcome addition that will hopefully save countless Macs from an untimely death.

Bluetooth - why is it that very few PCs have Bluetooth Built-in? Think about how much easier it would be if I could use my bluetooth headset for both phone and pc, and how I could easily get my contact list and my calendar to sync. I once tried getting my windows laptop to sync with a bluetooth phone and it took me forever to get it going. Then when it finally worked somewhat correctly, I got a new bluetooth phone and had to re-configure everything again. I also had to be careful not to lose the little dongle either. This is one of those little things that make so much sense, yet don't make any sense at all.

While I am not able at the moment to buy one of these, nor do I have the opportunity to wait in line for Apple's fifth avenue store opening in the hopes of winning one, I will gladly take one of these if Steve Jobs is listening - make mine black please.