Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Addiction and 2muchtech

According to The Economist, a group of scientists have discovered that there are biochemical pathways to addiction to alcohol and other substances that are opened up when one consumes such substances. This creates the physical challenges that the body encounters in trying to quit. And it "reinforces the message that it is better not to start taking these drugs in the first place." Could the same happen for technology addition?

Economist LINK and a an Amazon blog that poses the technology addiction question LINK

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Unfortunately unsurprising story about a dishonest car dealership

Unfortunately unsurprising story about Honda Village in Boston and the trials and tribulations of trying to buy a Honda Fit. LINK

This is from a person who for many years has not owned a car. She and her husband bike everywhere, even in winter, but finally decided to buy a Honda Fit because it was a small, fuel efficient car that could fit their tandem. You can go on to read their wonderful tales of bicycling and New Zealand, among other topics. LINK

Water resident and protective BlackBerry cases

Two options for BlackBerry that I've come across:

OtterBox makes has a very well made (though bulky) case for the 8800 (and Pearl, 8700 and 7200). While not fully waterproof, these are certainly highly water and dust resistant and provide great protection for BlackBerrys in extreme environments. My only criticism is that the hard part of the case creates a ridge just above the trackball, making use of the trackball and the keys to the left and right of it slightly harder to use. Otterbox LINK and BlackBerry Cool LINK.

Another set of nice cases are available from Seido (LINK). If you really have money to blow, buy an OtterBox and combine its keyboard membrane with the Seido Hybrid Crystal Case (LINK) to make a sleek, water and dust resistant case without the bulk (but of course less of the protection) of the OtterBox.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Gore, Bono and Friedman vs. Page and Brin at Davos

"The key difference between . . . the Gore-Bono panel . . . [and the Google panel] is that Gore concentrated on the things we must stop doing — as the movement does — while the Google team concentrates on what we can start doing, thanks to technology."

"The other unspoken divide is about economics: Gore and Friedman favor raising the cost of carbon. Page and Brin see a victory in reducing the price of the clean energy. Tax versus investment."

BuzzMachine LINK via Earth2Tech LINK

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Blackberry enhancements

People seem to be reading this blog at least occassionally for Blackberry news, so here's some. Enhancements to BB functionality coming in the first half of 2008 include:

Enhanced Messaging and Collaboration
The BlackBerry Enterprise Solution is a complete, end-to-end wireless platform that extends the benefits of an organization's messaging and collaboration environment to mobile users. Updates to the BlackBerry Enterprise Server and BlackBerry device software1 will enable customers to further enhance usability and increase end-user productivity.

  • Document Downloading and Editing – As a result of the integration of the ‘Documents To Go® by DataViz®’ software with the BlackBerry platform, users will be able to edit Microsoft® Office Word, PowerPoint® and Excel® files2 directly on their BlackBerry smartphone.
  • Remote Search for Messages – Users will be able to search for and retrieve email messages from their email server even if the message is no longer stored on their BlackBerry smartphone.
  • Free-Busy Calendar Lookup – Users on the go will be able to check the availability of colleagues before sending a meeting request.
  • HTML and Rich Text Email Rendering – BlackBerry smartphone users will be able to view HTML and rich text email messages with original formatting preserved including font colors and styles, embedded images, hyperlinks, tables, bullets and other formatting.
  • Advanced Enterprise Instant Messaging and Presence – New features for users running IBM Lotus Sametime® and Microsoft Live Communications Server will include improved address book integration, IM contact “click to call”, IM session “convert to call” and advanced emoticon support, allowing co-workers to collaborate and communicate more effectively using their BlackBerry smartphones.
More from the press release by RIM: LINK

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Another brilliant Apple banner ad

Macbook Air vs. Lenovo ThinkPad X61s

I really should be doing real work, but since you asked . . . comparison of the new Macbook Air with the standard in ultraportables on the PC side, the Lenovo ThinkPad X61s. Both have full size keyboards. Both are lightweight. Both don't have optical drives.

Air, of course, runs OSX and can also run Windows vs. ThinkPad only able to run Windows

Air has a 13.3 inch screen capable of 1280 x 800 vs. ThinkPad 12 inch capable of 1024 x 768

Air has backlit illuminated keys vs. ThinkPad light that shines down, illuminating the keyboard (which doesn't work very well, I might add)

Air has iSight and microphone (and of course, the wonderful iChat video conferencing)

Air has LED screen (lower power consumption)

Air has gesture capable trackpad, though ThinkPad has that nubby eraser pointing device which I personally love

Air is thinner: dimensions: Air 12.8 x 8.94 x 0.16-0.76 | ThinkPad 10.5 x 8.3 x 0.8-1.1

Processor is the same speed, same type (al beit the Air has a modified, smaller Core 2 Duo)

ThinkPad can be configured to be almost 0.25 pounds LIGHTER than Air

ThinkPad can be configured with up to 4gB RAM, user upgradeable, instead of only 2gB

ThinkPad has unquestionably a better keyboard, but both are full sized

ThinkPad can be configured with faster and >2x larger hard drive--and it's user replaceable

ThinkPad has 3 USB ports, vs 1 for the Air.

ThinkPad has Firewire (aka 1394)

ThinkPad has built-in modem

ThinkPad has built-in Ethernet

ThinkPad has built-in cellular modem (X60 is Verizon and X61 is AT&T)

ThinkPad has user removable and replaceable battery

ThinkPad has available fingerprint reader

ThinkPad has available docking station

ThinkPad has built-in SD card slot

ThinkPad has built-in PCMCIA card slot

and again, with all that it's lighter!!

The innovation of aesthetics aside, I'm not so sure how innovative Air really is. But I do still really want one! For me, the thing that holds me back most is the lack of cellular modem. This seems an egregious oversight for something called the Air. I have signed up to the service on my ThinkPad, despite the outrageous monthly charge, and it is such a wonder to be able to be always on, with no need to find WiFi and no worries about the security of public networks.

(Probably things I've missed or got wrong. I welcome corrections.)

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Randy Newman's strange Apple keynote closing

As has become the practice, Steve Jobs let a musician close out his Apple keynote. This time it was Randy Newman who played two pieces. The second song was from Toy Story. Newman has worked on most (all?) the Pixar movies, creating the soundtracks. But the first song was strange in the context.

"A Few Words in Defense of Our Country" is a rambling, mostly spoken word piece with piano accompaniment, a paen to the United States with the theme that we're actually not so very bad as people but our empire is fading. I had to wonder if Jobs knew this was coming but he must have. It was dark, casually satirical and largely disjointed. Such a strange and disconnected ending to a keynote glorifying the wonders of American entrepreneurship and technological ingenuity. What was the connection? Many intelligent, thought provoking and even uplifting connections could have been made but such connections were beyond Newman, who noted that his technological accomplishment was learning how to use an answering machine (those devices still exist??).

Below is the video. Bet this will be taken down from YouTube soon but if so, you can probably search for it or just scroll to the end of the Jobs keynote.

Seems obvious . . .

“The era of indulgence is over,” said John A. Casesa, managing partner at the Casesa Shapiro Group, an investment firm in New York. “When oil goes to $100 a barrel, the romance of a V-8 under the hood diminishes pretty quickly.” NYTimes LINK

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Microsoft Office 2008 for Macintosh is a deal -- and shipping

Microsoft Office 2008 for ... $130.99 from Amazon. My copy just shipped. This is the student/home edition that allows you to install it on up to 3 computers. That price is a really good deal. The only significant differences between this version and the version that retails for $399.95 ($354.99 from Amazon) are that Entourage in the less expensive version doesn't allow MS Exchange support and you won't be able to buy an upgrade of this version to Office 2012 or whatever it will be--given that MS took four years to offer an upgrade of the last version (2004) this seems a decent bet. Comparison between editions can be found on the Apple site, here: LINK.

The big reason to buy this for your Macintosh is that MS Office 2004 barely works with OS X if you're running an Intel based Mac. It has to run under emulation. For me, it makes Excel and Powerpoint in particular essentially unusable because of crashes with large files--and my files tend to always be large. For this reason I wouldn't worry about this new version being buggy. Can't be worse than Office 2004 on Intel Macs.


This from a friend:
"I was a big fan of office a while back, but have found the Mac version really over rated. The exchange server tools are clunky and unreliable. It's expensive and doesn't play well with the other kids. You can't seem to do intuitive things like turn a task into a calendar event like you can on Windows or ical. I'm actually moving more and more stuff over to the apple versions and will be giving iwork a try soon. Of course these experiences may have more to do with my heavy graphics needs and very light office needs. $350 for an upgrade is insulting for the few new features they implement every time. I always tell people that if Office is their main application, forget the Mac. I haven't used Vista or the new ribbon office thingy but XP and office 2003 works great."
A few points:

1. Upgrade is not $350 but $215 on Amazon.
2. Confession: I don't use a Mac day-to-day. I bought this upgrade for my wife and for my mother. I use Windows XP because Powerpoint and Excel are my most important programs. No crashes and no viruses, in part I think because I run all my mail through GMail (and what is SPAM? Google has cured that for me). Lately XP has been running beautifully, as have Excel and Powerpoint 2003. Certainly no need for Vista. And no need for me to switch to the Mac right now, unless I'm seduced too heavily by the Macbook Nano rumored for Tuesday, January 15.
3. If you use a Mac in a mixed environment and need to coordinate with others using shared Calendars, you pretty much have to use have to use Entourage. (Though you could experiment with iCal and Snerdware's Groupcal program.)

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Sometimes Apple doesn't even have to try in the face of complete ineptitude

I've said this before. Sometimes Apple does even have to try in the face of complete ineptitude on the part of its competitors. For example, it's still damn hard, and sometimes impossible, on the Dell and HP websites to get decent pictures of their products! How can they make it so hard? Haven't they ever even looked at Apple's website? Simple, beautiful photos of what you're about to spend $2000-$3000 or more on. But Dell and HP generally give you tiny little thumbnails and at best force you to look at some animated flash thing, your effort being rewarded by slightly larger thumbnails. Wacko.

Now Microsoft is launching Office 2008 for Mac. But on Microsoft's Mactopia website, their portal into their Macintosh products, you can't find out information about the product!! There's a link to a PDF document. But the site doesn't tell you it's a link to a PDF--a big no-no--and it went on to crash my PC Firefox browser. It seems other info won't be released until January 15 when the product ships. But on Apple's website, you can find out all you want about this much awaited Microsoft product. Is that wacko or what??

It's this comparison chart I was looking for: LINK. Found to date only on the Apple website, it compares the various editions of Office 2008. For those who don't need Microsoft Exchange support, looks like the new Student and Home version of Office is a deal compared to what the product used to cost.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Pocket-sized projector

This is definitely one of the coolest devices at the current CES show.

Microvision LINK
Popular Science LINK but also 3M's version LINK
BoyGenius LINK

Monday, January 07, 2008

Small Houses

Nice slideshow set of small houses in Wired. I especially like this one, a Marmol Radziner design that is, sadly, far far from inexpensive. LINK

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Not quite sure what this photo says . . .

Not quite sure what this photo from the NYTimes (LINK) really means in context, but standing alone and out of context it's a dramatic statement about the increasing polarization of the boys vs the girl from the last debate.

Doug Mills/The New York Times

Friday, January 04, 2008

Presentation Zen: buy it!

Just received my copies of Presentation Zen. Giving them to clients. Great book. More of a review later. But you should buy it if you ever give any kind of presentations to audiences, especially if you give such presentations with any kind of visual backup (aka Powerpoint). LINK

And of course Garr Reynolds' website: Presentation Zen

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Apple docking station . . . rumored

Very cool integrated external monitor/docking station for the rumored MacBook nano. Less than two weeks till the next Jobs keynote! via Gizmodo: LINK

Office 2008 for Macintosh review

I've mentioned before that the "ribbon" feature of Office 2007 for Windows is a complete visual abomination. Walt Mossberg has just reviewed the new version of Office for the Mac and to my surprise and pleasure, that version does NOT include the ribbon. Maybe Steve wouldn't allow it to exist on the Mac.
"Office 2008 for the Mac has some new features, but it isn’t nearly as radical an overhaul as the latest Windows version was. While the latter junked all the menus and traditional toolbars in Word, Excel and PowerPoint, the new Mac version retains the familiar menus and toolbars. It doesn’t use the so-called Ribbon, a band of icons that is the signature feature of Windows Office 2007." -- Walt Mossberg LINK

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

The US population is in terms of consumption many times that of China

Jared Diamond, author of “Collapse” and “Guns, Germs and Steel”, has an important editorial in the NYTimes. Core point: if India and China matched the consumption rate of the United States, it would be as if the world had 72 billion people living on it. And by no one's standard is that sustainable. He points out that it's not the number of people on Earth that matters but the number of people times their rate of consumption. In other words, in terms of the burden on the Earth, when we in the United States have a child, it's the equivalent of having 32 children in a place like Kenya where consumption is so low. LINK

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

HP Laserjet 1020 and Leopard

Upgraded my mother's computer to Leopard. All working. Except her Laserjet 1020 which mysteriously disappeared from her driver list. So, searched and searched and finally found this post: LINK. Don't understand why but if you look on the HP website, the only drivers they list for this printer are for Windows, far as I can tell. But via that link you'll find instructions and links to the site of someone who posted up earlier dmg files from their own site for download. Miracle of miracles, it worked.

iGo Stowaway keyboard and blackberry

There used to be a company called Stowaway (I think that was the name) that made nice, handsome sturdy, folding, portable keyboards, principally for Palm devices. I own two from earlier generations of Palms and they worked great. But that was years ago. Recently my business partner wondered if there was a keyboard for his Blackberry so he could leave his laptop behind while traveling but still be able to compose missives longer than Blackberry thumbtyping comfortably allows. I looked at Amazon and bought a keyboard for him for $30 . . . oops, they're now up to $80. Same keyboard from the company that now owns Stowaway, iGo, sells on the company site for . . . $150! Anyway, bought it and tried to get it to work with his BB Curve. No wireless download for the driver! Had to download the file from the company to my computer and tried to get it into his Curve via BB Desktop manager. No go for iGo. Wouldn't transfer to the device. Couldn't get it to add into BB Desktop. But in reading the owner reviews on Amazon, I found that someone had posted a link, via their own website, to a wireless downloadable link! So, I pointed his Curve browser to the link and miracle of miracles, Marco saved the day. Thanks Marco, and no thanks to you iGo! Your product is cheap compared to the old Stowaways, your product literature sucks, and the damn sticker you stick over the keyboard telling you how to open up the keyboard has super sticky glue that takes forever to remove! But if you really need to get an external keyboard going with your Blackberry, I think this iGo product is the only option. And Marco is a lifesaver.