Archive for Tech Gadgets

HTC EVO 4G Camera Focussing

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Did you know that in the camera application on the HTC Evo 4G, you could focus on a specific part of the picture by just clicking on that area on the touch screen? It should make a small clicking noise, focus, display the square brackets and then you can take the picture with a double click on the touch screen. You can also hold your finger down, cause the flash and metering to start and then release your finger to take the picture.

Attached is a picture from the phone as an experiment with multiple focus objects.

Know of any other hidden tricks for the EVO 4G?

curiousLee: SNIF – Social Networking In Fur

curiousLee: SNIF – Social Networking In Fur: Does your dog SNIF?

Microsoft iPod Killer

Microsoft iPod killers are on pre-order: Am I going to bang my head on the wall in a few months? Is this the future of the iPod and the portable media center market?

Welcome to FWD! / FWD – FWD

Welcome to FWD!: Free World Dialup. Free VOIP phone service. This one might be the one to watch. They are picking up some serious numbers.

Comparing Hard Drive MP3 Players

I had set out to purchase a large capacity MP3 player at the beginning of the summer. The reasons for my purchase are numerous and I know for a fact that I would get a lot of use out of it. I was looking for a very specific product and wanted to spend a bit of time and allocated a considerable amount of money for the purchase. However, I was not going to spend the money only to hate it in the near future. Here is the culmination of my research.

There are quite a few large capacity MP3 players out there and peoples’ opinions about them range from in between rave for most iPod players to disdain for some of the other products. I will try to go through some of the benefits, failures and then the ratings for each of the products along with the price ranges for them.

  1. iPod – On top of the list of every MP3 player that is advertised or displayed on review pages is the iPod. Some of the benefits of iPods include:
    • Rechargeable Battery with respectable battery life
    • VERY smooth interface with a wonderful user experience
    • Mostly very reliable, good hardware
    • Relatively nice headphones
    • Coolness factor

    Some of the weaknesses include:

    • No USB connection, an extra purchase
    • HAVE to use software to upload/download, cannot be a simple hard drive
    • No FM built in, another extra purchase
    • Somewhat fragile, too many horror stories of dropped iPods
    • Priciest of the lot, hands down

    In spite of all of this, the iPod consistently receives 4-5 stars out of five stars on all reviews. A good product overall, but just lacking enough that I didnt intend to buy it.

  2. Creative Labs Jukebox Zen Xtra – This is a reliable and value product which provides a large amount of storage for a small price. Some of the benefits include:
    • Very well priced, largest capacity for smallest price
    • Good equalization and sound quality, lots of sound tricks
    • Long battery life
    • Mostly very reliable
    • USB support

    Some of the weaknesses include:

    • No FM support
    • Jog wheel is disliked by all, poor button features
    • Battery cover is strange, case forces you to flip it open when changing songs etc
    • Poor support
    • Cannot be used as a hardrive without the included software installed
    • Warranty is poor

    This player gets a 3.5-4 out of a possible 5 in every review. A lot of users do not like the quirks in the software, the buttons and the size of the case but like the price and some of the features. I wouldnt buy this because it just lacks the two main features I am looking for. It lacks hard drive capabilities (plug and play) and no built in FM

  3. Archos GMini 120 – Simply a bad product, dont even think about it
  4. Archos GMini 220 – This one is a worthy contendor with some cool new features and a nice price to boot. Some of the positive features of this product include:
    • Compact Flash Card support, useful for digital cameras
    • Built in FM module, needs extra purchase remote
    • View pictures in greyscale(this might be a negative attribute
    • Relatively well priced
    • Good playlist support
    • Hard drive emulation, dont need software to transfer files
    • Very small compared to the iPod

    Some of the weaknesses include:

    • Software still a bit buggy
    • Need to purchase extras to get FM to work
    • Greyscale screen is weak
    • Headphones are crappy
    • Limited availability

    This was my first choice for the longest time, but things have changed since then. This product gets a consistent 4 out of 5 in reviews from various sites. It is a good contendor, wish it was available at Best Buy.

  5. Philips HDD120 – This is another product to stay away from. This will ONLY work with Philips Digital Media Manager software and there are known issues with DRM encoded MP3s as well. It is also expensive. Once I saw a 2-3 ratings in all the reviews, I stopped looking.
    EDIT: Review from a reader:

    I just bought a Philips HDD120 and just LOVE it, the remote is so tiny comparing to the iRiver, And the unit is so much prettier then the iRiver, It is so much FASTER with then the ones the dont convert the mp3’s (DDM). Also a BIG plus for me the Philips has a nicer screen and digital in, but I wish you luck with your iRiver (I’ll bet you wouldnt have it for 1 year)

  6. Create Zen Touch – This is a good product though it is very new. I would like to have purchased this, but I do not believe in Version 1.0 of ANY product. Some of the features include FM radio through optional remote control, hard drive emulation, nice playlist support, nice encoding support, good software and sound tools and everything that is good about the Zen Xtra. I was going to wait till this became available, but I have found something better.
  7. iRiver iHP-120 – This is what I am getting and here are the reasons why:
    • Lots of positive reviews from all the sites, a lot of happy customers
    • Hard drive emulation
    • FM support built in with included remote, nothing to buy
    • Voice recorder built in
    • Encode from FM, on the fly
    • Relatively well priced
    • One word, Ogg
    • Loud volume, small footprint
    • GREAT battery life as experienced by customers
    • Leather case included

    Some of the weaknesses include:

    • Awful software for the PC, need to create playlists externally
    • Complicated interface

    But none of these deter me much. I will miss the CF interface, but I can add that on at a later time. I LOVE the remote, the price is acceptable and it looks cool. The product seems to be “built to last” and people love it.

So there you go. Those are the reasons for my purchase. I am going to get this from BestBuy and will purchase the extra warranty/protection with it. All in all it should put me back about $350 but I think I will like it.

What do YOU own?

PC Pro – Computing in the Real World

Sony’s challenge for the iPod: Sounds like a good contendor in the large memory MP3 player market. There are onyl a few issues in my mind. One – It is not available right now, which makes it impossible for me to buy it. Second – We really do not know how the software and the user interface stacks up as compared to the iPod. From what I understand of reviews and such, the buttons and the OS of these hard drive MP3 players are what makes or breaks a product. The Archos GMini 120 sucks while the Archos GMini 220 is better with their buttons and interface. Horror stories about DRM on the Phillips product are abound. I might write a small article with the pros and cons of each of these (assembled from reviews and such) when I get a chance.

Barely Legal Music from the Internet

Google Search: allofmp3 reviews I have been looking through many different legal MP3 venues and even tried iTunes for a little. I do have to say that 99c is still a lot of money for me for a single song. I stick to radio and to Internet radio for the most part. However, I have recently managed to stumble upon a very nice service alled allofmp3.com and I have to say that I am pleasantly surprised.

To sum up the procedure, downloads are charged at $0.01 per meg and they have all kinds of music. New, old, charts and everything in between. Payment is with a credit card and I decided to use my PayPal account to counteract the hokiness. The first link lists some articles that discusses the legality of this product. I am on the verge of downloading music legally (barely legal) from the Internet again!

FireFox 0.9 crash

I installed Mozilla FireFox 0.9 (well really an RC) recently. After a power outage I realized to my dismay that the browser would not start and would crash with an “access violation”. I traced the problem back to a preference being set (or not set as the case was). So a simple solution for people running Windows XP and Firefox is to browse to the following folder and delete the pref.js file in that folder. Restarting Firefox after the deletion should fix the issue.

Documents and Settings/computer_name/Application Data/Firefox

Neowin.net -> [Alpha] Pop Goes the GMail

Neowin.net -> Pop Goes the GMail: Check your GMail accont from your POP3 client. Via Sushubh

Babble Babble and Sound Blaster MP3+

My personal life is in such limbo that I am completely blogged out. I am waiting for things to happen, frisky while they do not and generally listless. I might be going through male PMS. (weird and annoying, I know)

But in the meantime, I have this really nice peice of hardware that I want to blog about. I purchased a Sound Blaster MP3+ which I think is very cool. I was getting sick of having to use my splitter when I wanted to listen to MP3s on my computer and the sound quality from my computer was less than perfect. This device is quite inexpensive ($40 at Best Buy) and produces very nice sound. There are a couple of 3D features along with sound tweaks which I really like. I love being able to tweak the equalizer according to “small room” or “auditorium”. That by itself is very nice. Plus, there is a volume control on the unit and it has digital inputs (fiber). This is a very nice addition overall. The only issue is that it has a USB connection. I own a nice USB hub and thus have lots of USB ports. Strong overall sound card.

Announcing Ping-o-matic

Ping-o-matic is ready for deployment! Dougal‘s Blog Service Pinger has its own domain name. Together with Matt Mullenweg, he has created a pinger for the major blog update trackers on one page. There are many major feature upgrades planned for this webpage with many cool ideas to be explored. Major enhancements in the current version:

* Your blog name and uri are stored in cookies, and automagically filled in for you when you return.
* The pinger output dynamically appears in your browser as each ping completes. You no longer have to wait for all of the pings to complete before your browser loads the page.
* Fixed the RubHub ping so that it actually works now.
* Improved some of the error output.

Another exciting feature of this service will be its own pinging API. This site will act like a “ping aggregator” and will take care of pinging all of the other site in one fell swoop. Ping-o-matic will be the only site you ever need to ping.

Expose’ for Windows

I really like to have a bunch of windows open while I work and I hate small little windows that overlap each other and i have to scroll around to find what I need or the windows get lost in the mass of stuff I have open. Macintosh OS X has come to the rescue of cluttered desktops full of windows with their expose’ software. WinExplosion has released a version of this software for the Windows platform, but it is not free. I have also read very poor reviews of Winexplosion. However, there is a simpler and much more elegant and free solution for those of you using Windows XP as your operating system. For those of you have have worked with Mac OS X and have had the pleasure of working with Expose’, might be glad to know that there is a free version of this software for the Windows XP platform from the Aqua Soft forums. You can get it from here.
Works pretty well and it is active development, so it can only get better. Enjoy!

Nikon D70 Review from an amateur

I have read many reviews of the Nikon D70 which are very technical and cover very intricate details of the camera. But how does it function in the hands of an amateur photographer who solely practices recreational photography? Here are some of my observations.

– The camera is larger than my Minolta HTSI Plus. It is immiediately apparent. It is larger, broader and definitely heavier. The body is a beautiful and professional jet black and the buttons are in just the right places. Once in your grip, the camera feels very natural and picture taking is very fluid and natural.

– The fore finger and the thumb are placed just right to make best use of the two rotating dials on the two sides of the camera. I really like the placement of the information window on the top of the camera and there is a small backlight button which illuminates that part of the camera. Rotating functions and “photo mode” knob is on the left and is very easy to use. The only complain I have about the controls is that the two control dials on the front and back and not very fluid and it feels like overuse might break them. Overall, the camera is impressive to look at and very intuitive for a photographer who has ever owned an non-digital SLR before.

– Major complaints against the Nikon D70 include the little transparent snap on lid that covers the LCD screen. The lid is very useful to keep out scratches and dust but is also VERY prone to get covered on the inside with condensation from your own breath. This condensation, after a few minutes of constant shooting, is no longer just condensation, but condenses into little droplets of water that need to be removed with a cloth AFTER removing the snap on lid. This is very annoying and I wish Nikon would have thought of that before hand. The second major/slightly major complaint I have is with the viewfinder/eyepeice being too close to the body of the camera with that lid snapped on. You almost have to kink the camera to get the viewfinder placed right. I believe that the snap on lid was an afterthought and was not well planned. (which is very unlike the rest of the camera)

– Pictures are beautiful. I have played around with it quite a bit and you can see the results of my experiments at this link. The camera begs to be played with. I will try to quickly describe the strengths and weaknesses of the optics of this camera.

– The autofocus is fast, sharp, extremely configurable (I havent played with all the modes yet) and with the DX CPU lens, almost silent. The visual queues inside the viewfinder are quite adequate and the camer focuses almost instantly. I have found that I like taking pictures in the fast action/sports mode because it constantly focuses on the subject and I dont have to half-depress the trigger over and over again. More on the modes in a second. Manual override for the autofocus is very easy to achieve and there are a bunch of modes that control that as well.

– Almost every picture (except for artsy shots which use the features of an SLR) is well taken with the autofocus and the complete auto settings. I have tried all the different modes but have only scratched the surface when it comes to features. Auto is great. Period. The potrait setting, the landscape, nightscape (2 modes) and the fast action preset modes are very reactive and you can really tell the difference in the cameras attitude in those modes. No complaints, only accolades there.

– The half-manual modes are just as useful and convenient. Nothing to say there. Works just like my other SLR. The little spot meter in the viewfinder is amazing and helps to setup the shots tremendously. There are a bunch of exposure bracket, shutter bracket, exposure lock, exposure/shutter compensation modes which are just complicated variations of the basic manual mode. Full manual mode is a dream to use. The two dials control the shutter and exposure and just point, frame, modify and shoot. One note of interest is the depth of field button on the front of the camera which gives you a view of your settings as seen by the lens (through the viewfinder of course). Very cool stuff, lots to play with.

– Night pictures/landscapes are a breeze if you can hold your camera steady. I have to get a tripod for my nightscapes but the camera works flawlessly in both full auto and nightscape modes. At low ISO settings, there is a lot of management being performed by the camera and the user does little. The only time there was visible noise in the exposure (from high ISO) was after the 540 setting. At 1600, a long exposed shot is noisy but a relatively dark room still gets captured on the frame.

– The built-in flash on the NikonD70 is very configurable. There are a bunch of modes (only available in the manual camera modes) for the flash and the power of the flash can be controlled as well. The built in focus sensor is a boon because the flash is not needed in low light situations for the camera to determine exposure and focus. I do have some complaints about the flash. You cannot have the lens hood on or the flash will leave a nasty shadow on the picture. The flash also give a distinct bluish tinge to the pictures in the full auto mode. It is almost impossible to get soft light shots without really mokeying with the settings (with the flash turned on). I have found myself shooting with the flash turned off at most times. I might get a hot shoe flash sometime later.

– The DX lens is marvellous. Nothing but good things to say about it. It is fast, easy to use and the 19-70mm zoom is adequate for casual shots. There is no lens/dust filter provided for the lens though it does come with a nice hood. The autofocus can easily be overridden with the focus ring. This lens fits well with the camera.

– Another real pleasure has been the startup and recovery times of the camera. The camera starts up instantly and there is not wait period to take the first shot. In rapid shot mode, depending on the size and quality of the picture, I can shoot upto 30 shots in one burst of three seconds. This only works when the flash is turned off (of course) but is a lot of fun.

– A 256 meg Type II flash card holds about 278 images in medium setting and about a quarter that in full 6.3 Megapixel large setting. At full, the pictures are about 3 megs in size and are truly HUGE.

Those are some of my preliminary observations on the camera. I love it and it is worth every penny that I am paying for it. Some accessories will have to be purchased along the way (such as a dust filter, camera bag, external hot shoe flash, a macro and a tele lens etc).

In one word the Nikon D70 is … impressive.

Nikon D70 Digital SLR

I believe that I have managed to change my own mind (again) about the digital camera that I would like to purchase. This time I am fixated on the Nikon D70 digital SLR. This camera is a better value for money, in my opinion, that the Canon EOS-300D. Here are some of the better features:
The shutter buffer is 17 frames in full 6.3 megapixels for the Nikon while the Canon only offers a 4 frames buffer before dropping to the “one frame per second” buffer.
The Nikon comes with a Nikor DX lens which has much better edge manipulation for digital pictures that any regular SLR lens. The Nikon will take regular Nikor SLR lenses as well. One disadvantage of the Nikon is the price. The Canon would have gotten me a 70-300 AF lens for the same price as a 28-70 DX lens for the Nikon.
The other advantages of the Nikon include a better body, better flash, MUCH faster shutter release, a quieter shutter and USB 2.0 connectivity.

All in all, a $100 increase in price is worth all of these extras, especially the larger shutter buffer. The icing on the cake is the brand. I frankly like Nikon better than Canon. Personal preference.

Mac or PC? – from a new buyers’ perspective

I was asked this question over email and this was my long(ish) answer. Enjoy!

If you can afford it, get a Macintosh. You will never, ever look back! Macintoshes are designed and built to elicit “Oooh’s and Aaaah’s”. They are rugged, are very, very user friendly, and are perfect for home and office use. The new Macintosh OS X based operating systems are very intuitive, fast, stable, and are just a pleasure to get around in. In addition, almost every piece of software that is available for the “PC” is also available for the Macintosh. If I could afford another machine, it would be a Macintosh.

Many of the WordPress developers (if not all of them) secretly desire to buy a Powerbook at some point of time. There are many “Oooh’s and Aaah’s” that I talk about and here are some examples of peoples’ reactions to opening a new Mac (or browsing through one at a store) for the first time.

I couldn’t find the articles I was thinking about, I will add then when I do.

Cons for PC users switching to a Mac:
Well, there are many. You will have to invest in new software for your computer such as word processors, multimedia, etc.
There IS a learning curve for longtime PC users to switch to MacOS. A lot of people will deny it, but it does happen and can SOMETIMES be frustrating.
You might have to give up some notions of “normalcy” about your computer and using it. You will have to learn new tricks to fulfill your needs.
You will spend more money than you ever did on your PC.

Pros for PC users switching to a Mac:
You will start hating other PC users as they whine about their computers.
You will start enjoying the time you spend with your computer.
You will become one of the few who are fanatical about their machines.
Tasks will be a lot easier to do.
Hardware will work a lot more easily than ever before.
You MIGHT spend MORE time on your computer than ever before.
More probable than not, you will JUST LOVE your new Macintosh.

Here are some of my recommendations, depending on your budget and tastes:

1) Low/Medium Budget, An IMac of some sort: These are design marvels that are prefect for the small home or office desk and are zippy as can be. Make sure you add up enough RAM to build it up to at least 512 megs. On the other hand, get the lowest RAM possible and buy a lot more (at a much cheaper price, from other Mac RAM vendors) yourself and put it in. You will thank yourself later on. They are “pretty” for the lack of a better word. Truly a design to be reckoned with.

2) Medium to medium high budget, get a Power Macintosh G5: These machines are fast, and I mean extremely FAST. Again, get lots of RAM (same trick as before) and a big hard drive. I dont think they sell a Macintosh with a bad video card. Really powerful machine with lots of bells and whistles and just a pleasure to use. I own a Blue and White G3 and I LOVE it!

3) Medium High budget and space constraints/need a laptop: Get a 17″ PowerBook: Oh the beauty of this object! Very well packaged with a very wide screen. Perfect for ANY laptop power user and just very, very appealing. Good all round machine.

4) High budget/dream machine calibre: Get the dual G5 Power Macintosh: This is what dreams are made of! This baby flies like you would not believe. Argueably, one of the fastest desktop computers on the planet and just oodles of everything. Get lots of RAM and you have yourself an incredibly fast, powerful, useful, versatile, stable, need I say pretty, and friendly machine. This is the Zenith of the Macintosh computing world.

In spite of all my pressure to buy a Mac, if you still want to get a PC, here are some recommendations

1) Dell still makes a very nice desktop machine. Get something with LOTS of RAM, at least 60GB Hard drive space, a 64 Meg (at least) video card and DO NOT GET A CELERON. I would buy an Athlon without batting an eyelid, but Celerons are a NO NO.

2) Laptops manufacturers and models are abound but I trust only a few. Dont get an HP/Comaq…period. Toshiba and Sony laptops are nice and reliable with good customer service. Dell laptops are nice but pricey and you get more for your money elsewhere.

Not much else exciting about PCs’

Hope this long lecture helped you somewhat. I know I wanted to post some articles about Macs that I cannot find right now. If I do, I will add them to this post.