iMessage Forces Hands

I love iOS 5 on my iPhone. iMessage is so dope. Totally beats BBM. #iPhone #iOS5 #apple #iMessage #BBM anyone else have it?

I’ve been a happy iPhone user since picking mine up on launch day last summer for the iPhone4.  With the announcement of the much anticipated and then slightly disappointing 4s I’ve chosen to not upgrade, there’s not enough bang for the buck and I’m still tied to my current contract for another 8ish months.  What I did do was upgrade to iOS5 though, curious to get some of the new features and functions; one of which is iMessage.

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Hava gets SociableTV & iPhone client

Huge new updates announced for the Hava, the device that plays your local TV stations to your computer that I reviewed last month.  These should be out by Q2 this year and look pretty amazing.

SociableTV is a social web portal site that lets HAVA owners share their live TV viewing experience (e.g. sporting events) with multiple friends. Monsoon’s technology enables friends to watch and experience live television as if they are sitting on the sofa next to each other – without having to download anything.

Best part is, no additional cost!

In more amazing news, iPhone / iTunes users get a client and full integration if you are using a DVR as well.

The HAVA Player for iPhone allows HAVA customers to view and control their home television and services, including satellite and TiVo, from anywhere in the world.

An on-screen remote lets viewers change channels, browse a program guide, pause, view recorded shows and more with virtually any TV source, including cable, satellite receiver, or DVR, in real time via the iPhone touch screen interface. The HAVA Player for iPhone provides the same television place-shifting experience offered by Monsoon’s PC, Windows Mobile and S60 Symbian mobile players.

Monsoon has also added the capability for users to export their HAVA DVR recordings to iTunes to watch their recorded content on their iPod and iPhone, enabling HAVA owners to take their recorded television content with them on airplanes or other places where a connection can be lost.

Look for these new features in Q2 and keep an eye on Monsoon Multimedia’s website.

Hava Titanium HD plays your local TV programs almost anywhere

You want one of these.  It’s that simple.  If you watch TV on any kind of regular basis the Hava Titanium HD TV device is a godsend.  A product of Monsoon Multimedia, the Hava lets you wirelessly stream television content via your home network and watch from anywhere with a broadband internet connection, including cell phones.

So why do you want one? Same reasons I do.  I pay for cable TV at home and have a really nice 42″ plasma hung on the wall in my living room.  I’ve made the choice to not put a TV in my bedroom but now and again I wouldn’t mind watching TV there.  The Hava plugs into your home network and either your cable box or your television and rebroadcasts your TV stations onto a computer, cell phone, etc.   With the Hava, I can stream TV from my plasma (it doesn’t need to be turned on) to my Macbook while laying in bed and watch the same channels as if I was sitting on my couch in the living room.

Likewise, I could flip through the 130 channels from my cable provider while on my lunch hour at work, on my Macbook using my works Wi-Fi connection.  This is a great product for business people who spend lots of time in random hotel rooms (that have Wi-Fi) but crappy television options.  You can even stream to some cell phones!

Hava Titanium aso function as a PVR. You can record, pause, fast forward, and rewind live TV right on your computer. Recorded shows are stored on your PC’s hard drive, or on an external USB drive (sold separately). After you’ve recorded shows, you can burn them onto DVD for archiving or viewing during those instances when you don’t have an Internet connection.

Earlier this week I received one of these in the mail.  This weekend it will be hooked up and put through it’s paces for a follow-up article sometime early next week.

Finally! Streaming Netflix on my Mac

For the better part of this year I’ve been subscribing to and generally enjoying Netflix, but one feature I could never take full advantage of was the streaming on demand content.  That all changed today when I finally got the email from Netflix letting me know that I could now enjoy streaming on-demand video content from them using either Safari, or my preferred browser, Firefox.

For clarification purposes, I have successfully streamed video on my Macbook while running a copy of Windows XP installed via VMware Fusion, awesome software by the way.  While it does work, it requires Internet Explorer 7 along with just about every security install for it right form the Micro$oft website and is a bit of a hassle to do.  XP does run fast my my Macbook (Core2 Duo 2.16 with 2GB Ram), but it also caused the not-so-quiet fans to kick on, the ones that blow air up through the keyboard.  Because of this I never really went out of my way to watch any streaming content.  I also sold my Windows desktop computer this summer, leaving me only with a gutted Ubuntu box and my Macbook, which is fine by me.

Tonight I logged into my Netflix account in Firefox 2 (still haven’t upgraded to 3 yet) and went to the Watch Instantly tab where I was prompted to install Microsoft’s Silverlight technology.  The download and install was painless and quick, after that, movies automatically started to work.  I recall a very long delay between the time I would hit Play in Netflix and the time it would start in XP, so I did a little screen capture video.  This was taken on my Macbook, on the Wi-Fi network in my house connected to my Verizon FiOS internet connection which has been giving me a steady 10Mbps downstream since I had it installed.  I didn’t do a full screen grab or include sound because I wanted the video to load as fast as possible, plus in my opinion it wasn’t needed.

No editing was done to this, so you can see truly how fast the Netflix Watch Instantly movies load, play, skip to scenes and then go back to browsing.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bKv0n3Qm38s[/youtube]

I’m very impressed.  After the holiday’s I plan on looking around for a used Mac Mini to hook up to my Plasma and stream Netflix, Hulu and run bittorrent off of, as a PVR in a sense.  Hopefully the price on the second hand market for the Core solo models drops a bit more as I’ll also need to buy a 500 or 750GB hard drive to install, but that’s another article next year sometime.

Any suggestions for movies or TV series I should add to my Instant queue?

My internet is faster than yours

OK maybe it is and maybe it isn’t, but two weeks ago I had really fast internet installed.  The background is, when I bought my home, the only negative aspect besides not having a garage was the lack of true high-speed internet.  I’ve been suffering for more than two years with one-way cable.  For those who don’t know, that means I had about a 2 megabits per second (Mbps) download speeds (download rates of about 200 kb/s) and a dial-up modem for my uploads.  Yes, a dial-up modem to send emails, attachments, upload content to FTP servers, etc.  Not only was it archaically slow, it was hardly reliable.  There was no other option because the cable run through the house was 35 years old and wouldn’t handle cable internet and I live about one half mile too far out to get DSL service, which would require a phone line anyway.

For the last 2 years or so my community has been trying to rally Verizon to bring in DSL, gaining over 50 signatures and sending them in, they seemed to have cared less.  A few of us even talked with a local interent service provider about bringing in one really fast commercial connection and sharing it but the cost to build the infrastructure was insane, as were the monthly costs.  All of this changed at the end of April.

I came home from a typical day of work and noticed spray painted lines in my front yard, my neighbors had them too, and some had white and blue as well.  While walking my dog I asked my one retired neighbor what was up, he said we were getting new internet and pointed to a small trailer with what appeared to be orange stuff wrapped around it down the street.  I walked down; sure as shit it was fiber!  Over the next nearly 3 months, workers came and went, running fiber optic cable underground and then up to each of our houses.  A notice on my door from Verizon said they were installing FiOS, and they would follow up when service was available.  I naively thought it would take 4-6 weeks to do; it was closer to three and a half months till the service was available.

About three weeks ago while walking Bella before work I ran into a neighbor who said Fios internet was finally available and they were coming to install it at his house in 30 minutes.  By the time I got home from work, he was hooked up with one of the fastest packages they offered and loving life.  I called to subscribe to one of the lower cost packages offering 10/2, that is 10Mbps down and 2Mbps up and had them come the following Saturday morning.  Install was about four hours long and everything is neatly tucked away in my utility closet.  When installation was done, they setup the wireless router that comes with the service for free, this took less than 5 minutes and I was online.

Real world speed tests indicate that I have blazingly fast internet.  How fast?  This week I’ve been watching 480p HD TV shows on Hulu.com while downloading music and shows via bittorrent and have yet to see a single show skip or buffer.  I also downloaded a 1.7gb file in just less than 25 minutes.  But what about numbers?  Check out the speed test I did last night to confirm just how fast my internet is.

I checked several servers and all showed speeds faster than 10Mbps and about the same upload, so I’m getting everything I’m paying for.  Now that I finally have a real internet connection, I’m looking into the Netflix Roku and / or building a computer / buying a Mac mini to hook up to my Plasma to stream TV, act as a DVR and be a multimedia center.  I’m also kicking around the idea of putting a network video camera in my home so I can watch my dog while I’m at work or away.

Dollar for dollar I’m actually saving about $10 / month with FiOS as I don’t need or use my home telephone line anymore and the craptastic one-way cable has also been canceled.  If and when Verizon installs FiOS in your area, I’d hop on it.  For those who do serious downloading, they offer a 50/20 connection [at least in my area] that can be had for around $150 / month.  That’s 34 times faster than a commercial grade T1!

Starbucks is NOT offering free Wi-Fi

All over the internet today and even my the front page of the business section of my local paper are articles about Starbucks ditching long-time internet supplier T-Mobile and joining with AT&T to offer free Wi-Fi.

Starbucks plans to offer the new AT&T service initially at 7,000 Starbucks locations in the U.S. It’s available to Starbucks debit card users and Starbucks partners only.

Non-cardholding customers can pay $3.99 for two hours — which, of course, will incent customers to get the debit card. Monthly membership will cost $19.99 per month, and will enable access to AT&T’s 70,000 hot spots in 89 countries.

That quote came from an article titled, Starbucks announces free Wi-Fi. I’m sorry, maybe I’m missing something here, but $19.99 per month for two hours of internet allowance a day or $3.99 for two hours for those of us not in the cool club is not free. As a consumer, I feel that I was misled.

I really wish writers would stick to the facts. There is not a whole lot of difference to the wallet of those who sit in Starbucks and want access to the internet. The only thing changing is who provides it.

I’ve really started to dislike how most drinks from Starbucks taste, but I do like their atmosphere and on occasion have sat there with my laptop and written articles for Randomn3ss or edited photos. I’m lucky though, the Starbucks a few miles from my house is in small strip mall, two doors down is a Panera Bread that offers free Wi-Fi to all customers, just agree to their TOS and deal with them blocking a few sites.

A note to Starbucks:

I, your customers agree to order coffee in those stupid names you give cups instead of small, medium and large. I also agree to pay three and four times the amount for your brown, burned tasting water that you call espresso. I will not agree to pay your bloated price to gain access to the internet when your competition less than 50 feet from you gives it away. Take notes.

Warning: I’m now a Mac user

As scheduled, the Macbook I ordered last week showed up today, I’ve officially bought my way into the cool club. With a bit of glee, I opened the box at work and plugged in the shiny white plastic covered notebook that so many swore would make me smile and love mac. After a few minutes, the laptop was configured and on the Wi-Fi at work and the mass downloads started for all the updates. Good thing I could let this run while I was doing other work, there was nearly a gig of data that had to come down.

With all the updates done and my lunch coming up soon, I looked forward to configuring the system and installing software. First thing I did was install Firefox, this proved to be a bit more of a hassle than I was anticipating. One of my first computers was a Mac Classic II back around 1990, about 5 years ago I had a G3 iBook for a while but got rid of it and I use Macs on occasion at work, but I’m not nearly as proficient in using software as I am with Windows. So I go on to download the .dmg file onto my desktop and double click it. I’m shown a funny screen that is the familiar Firefox icon and the Applications folder, a plus symbol between them. I click on the Firefox logo and it launches Firefox, but it’s still not installed. Not after some poking around did I come to figure out that I needed to now drag the mounted image into the Application folder in Finder. Great, first thing I do on a Mac and I feel like an idiot, and I’m a network admin. Now that I feel dumb, I move onto some other quirky things about the Mac that are, well they are quirky for a Windows users.

Now I’m not saying one is better than the other, but there are some really funky things to get used to. For me, I’m very dependent on the CTRL key in Windows for several things, the Command key in Mac does nearly the same things but is in a different physical location on the keyboard. While my touch typing hands are very used to striking the CTRL key with my left pinky, I now must figure out how to efficiently strike the Command key with my left hand, curling my thumb in seems to give me the best results thus far.

There is a lot of shit installed, nearly 18 gigs of data were installed upon first boot. Only two pieces of trial software, those are now ditched, tons of stuff that I’m still trying to figure out what exactly it does and what I’m supposed to do to work it into my daily routine. A co-worker tells me that he can clean a lot of this out, mostly the foreign languages and printer driver crap that I’ll never use

Turn the bloody screen brightness down! Holy shit, this is really bright, I feel like I need suntan lotion on my eyeballs from looking at the screen. I have every intention of doing a color calibration on the screen when I have some free time at work, until then I have some minor tweaking done and the brightness turned down to about 40%.

On a positive note, there is lots I’m very happy with.

  • The keyboard, although slightly off-center, is really a joy to type on
  • The mag-charger is such a stupidly simple design, works so well
  • Although bright, I’m very impressed with the resolution of the monitor
  • Software installs are fairly quick, once I figured out how to do it
  • I’ve only bogged down the system once, got to love Core-2 duo
  • After installing the CS3 suite, I opened it all at once, it all opened!
  • 1GB of RAM is actually very impressive
  • The hinge. I’ve loved the hinge design since the original iBook, it makes so much sense
  • Spell check built into everything by default
  • Bluetooth works great with my cell phone, although I haven’t tried to sync with iCal
  • Touchpad has right click! Granted it is not the traditional way of doing it, but it works. Two finger scrolling is also pretty dang nice

There are also a few things that I’m still scratching my temple about.

  • Dashboard. Yes there are a lot of cool applications, not sure how often I’m likely to use it though
  • TextEdit, the program I”m writing this in is nice, but I think I’m going to look into Open Office or another rich text editor
  • It’s so white. I’m almost afraid that I’ll have to carry hand wipes with me just to keep it clean
  • It’s so soft – the case that is. I’m very afraid that this thing is going to scratch, badly. My G3 did the first day I had it.
  • Is a remote really needed? Yes, very cool and seems to work well, but I doubt it will get any use outside of showing non Mac users what it does.
  • The Delete key really is a backspace key, there is no dedicated Delete key, which I often do use in the Windows world.

Overall, I have about 2 hours logged in actual time on this. I’m writing this article from my couch, in front of my TV with Bella, my dog, trying her best to snuggle on my lap under my arms between me and the Mac to sleep. Hopefully I can start to utilize some of the other features and functions that are in this laptop, I didn’t buy all this extra power just to surf the web. Until then, it will be sitting comfortably in the Crumpler Considerable Embarrassment messenger bag (full review coming soon) that I bought to transport it in.

The iPhone Rocks!

Now that I have had my iPhone since it came out at the end of June it is time for my long awaited review.

I’ve had a plethora of cell phones and cell phone providers. Ranging from Verizon to Virgin Mobile to the Sidekick III to an old school LG phone. Hands down the iPhone is the best.

Of course there are cons to having the iPhone. For starters, I had to change my phone number again. If you know me, you will know this is about the 100th time I’ve changed my number. There are no games on the iPhone, no audio recorder (or video recorder) and you must use only the iPhone ringtones. Also, there is not a copy and paste feature on the iPhone’s internet (which my Sidekick had). Lastly, the alarm clock on the phone has failed to wake me up on more than one occasion.

I believe the price and service provider (not for George Hotz who hacked the iPhone to work with any cell phone provider) is a con to most people. In my opinion, it is well worth it. In the long run, I will be saving money month to month compared to being with T-Mobile. I got lucky because I joined a family plan rather than being on my own. Obviously not everyone has this option. These are the only few problems I have found with the phone, which are not that big of a deal to me.

The things I love about the iPhone are the camera, having tons of music without having to carry a separate MP3 player, amazing internet and its graphics. I throughly enjoy the fact that I can scroll through my music with my fingertips (same goes for my photos). The photos actually turn out pretty extraordinary on my laptop. I can also use my wireless internet on my iPhone whenever I am home. The most impressive thing of all is Google Maps on my phone. I am new to Seattle and often find myself in need of directions. I can also search for restaurants, grocery, music and clothing stores on Google Maps. I showed off Google Maps to my cousins by searching for their houses using satellite mode. They thought looking at an aerial view of their house on a phone was the coolest thing since Bratz.

I am stoked that the iPhone has been hacked recently. I will be trying out the hacks in order to load games and my own ringtones onto my phone. (I knew the hacks were going to happen someday so the drawbacks didn’t seem so bad.)

All in all, I don’t see how anybody wouldn’t love the iPhone. It is geared towards all ages for all different lifestyles.

Free WiFi cuts down on crime

Free city-wide Wi-Fi access points are becoming a reality in some major cities, in the next few years they should be the norm across the country. I’ve already listed places to find free Wi-Fi, but the effect of publicly available Wi-Fi has a second, perhaps more important use, public safety.

The Jordan Downs public housing complex in Los Angeles is now home to seven surveillance cameras connected by a Motorola MotoMesh network. The 700-units-in-103-buildings complex in the Watts residential district is notoriously high-crime, home to its own gang and a central point of both the 1965 and 1992 riots. The mesh/camera deployment was sponsored by the LAPD, the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Plans for this deployment were hatched by the LAPD more than a year ago.

The cameras — there will be 10 or more, eventually — have been in place for a while. Motorola says that, in conjunction with community efforts, the cameras have already had a “chilling effect on crime,” leading to a 32% decline.

Motorola donated the equipment and aided in the installation of all of the software training, which is great and it definitely has a positive impact on the community. My concern would be privacy, the though of having big brother watching does not go over well with me.

Source: Datamation

Find free WiFi hotspots with Google Maps

An update to the previous article on Free WiFi Internet Access points is a new site called hotspotr, a beta site utilizing Google Maps. Hotspotr has a few really nice features to it making it very user friendly.

  • Easily see on a map where the location is
  • Get directions in a flash
  • Anyone can add a WiFi hot spot
  • Rate the wireless availability
  • Rate the ability to use it for work or socializing
  • Rate the quality of food or beverages available at the location (a nice touch)
  • The availability of outlets (an often overlooked but very needed feature)

I’ve added a few local spots in my area; I think the only thing that could be really helpful would be the ability to download them to my iPod or similar device. Because they are still in beta, it is not as complete as other sites, but it is most defiantly worth checking out.

Hotspotr.com
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