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Vivitar Vivicam 8600s

The Vivitar Vivicam 8.1MP Digital Camera [affiliate] has debuted in the US finally. It’s basically a beefier version of the 8300 cousin for about $220+ USD. After playing with this, I have to say that there is a multitude of features on this camera that you wouldn’t even believe nor would you probably care about.
The usual point and shoot is pretty nifty due to the fact that when it auto-focuses, it actually lines up and puts on the LCD some squares on where it’s focusing. If it’s incorrect, just release the trigger and re-press halfway. There is some anti-shake mechanisms and the color seems to come out fairly well.
One of the things I adore on this camera is the pretty quick reload of the flash. Maybe it’s because I haven’t had a new camera in ages, but night shots come out great and you’re able to take a number of them in succession due to the flash recharging quickly.
This 8.1 megapixel camera also supports up to 1G SD cards so you can push your pictures to the limit. With a 512M card, I can hold 60 highest quality pictures. Mind you that the resolution would be at 3264×2448 and about 2M and change per picture. It also have 6x optical zoom which makes it a lot easier to have high resolution shots without suffering from digital pixelation. It’s definitely a decent compact camera, although the one thing that bugs me just a little bit is that there is new optical viewfinder. The other is that the battery is proprietary so it needs a charger. Not a huge deal, but if you’re on-the-go, it could prove dire when you run out of juice. Fortunately, the battery seemed to last well for my purposes.
This camera is a bit harder to find and in my opinion works very well. Photog nuts would probably complain about the picture quality compared to Sony, and Canons for the same type of camera, but I wasn’t about to spend an extra hundred dollars for little improvement for the needs of a camera as such.
Point of these types of cams are to point-shoot and if you accidentally lose it, then oh well. Rolling in at around one hundred or two hundred dollars is about as much as most people are willing to lose before you start worrying about sticking your camera in the hotel safe. And that’s just not me. With the average consumer, the Vivitar Vivicam 8600s will due its job superbly, and even allow you to take some quick video. So far, this is my second Vivitar in years and they have yet to let me down.


protowall.jpg Protowall is a IP blocker by Bluetack for Windows. It might be freeware but it does the job in a very efficient fashion. Their description actually is way better than mine so here it goes:

Protowall is a lightweight program that runs in the background, taking up little CPU and memory, while blocking thousands of bad IP addresses.
In Protowall, all the work is done by the driver that filters each packet, extracts the IP header and then compares the address with the ones in the table, then either discards or permits the packet to pass. The GUI is essentially a “driver instructor” that communicates to the driver the IP list to check against. The GUI also receives notifications from the driver when a packet arrives and when actions are performed with a packet. Protowall Blocks both inbound and outbound packets. Protowall blocks incoming packets from Internet addresses that are on the Bluetack Blacklists. This is handled by another program called the Blocklist Manager. This program finds and retrieves lists of bad IP addresses. They are sorted (overlapping resolved) and then converted to various formats such as ProtoWall, PeerGuardian & other common applications and firewalls.

So basically, this means that it’s pretty much like a software firewall (technically a ip blocker). Definitely similar to such programs as PeerGuardian.

Pownce is… pretty useless?

pownce.gif Pownce is the latest creation by Digg cofounder Kevin Rose and pals. I got two invites to it, and finally decided that at the very least I could do a review on this. It didn’t really excite me just as I expected and I don’t see the point of it. At all.
Pownce in itself is very similar to LinkedIn but without the professional network in mind. No, in this case, you’re just talking to your friends via short messages, sending files, and sharing events. Yes, the target market is your “friends”. That in itself should ring an alarm, seeing how many “friend networks” there are out there in the wild wild Web.
Of the above, they just seem like rehashing of current tools that are out there. Personally, my IM network is still the biggest used short messaging system for my friends. It does both the short messaging and sends files. If I need to share events, I suppose Pownce does the job, although I have Upcoming for that also which I have never needed.
All in all, all of these things seem to be like a new fad in the making just because you have Rose groupies jumping on board. Both MySpace and Facebook have much of the similar uses for sharing with friends. Even Xanga which a lot of the younger generations used to use to get the word out for doing “whatever” they’re doing. In fact, most of the younger generations now hardly use the Internet for communication. It’s this neat thing called the “cell phone”. It allows you to “text” your “peeps”.
I have an account but so far the mileage on it is close to nil and I have a feeling that’s the way it’s going to be unless it gets integrated into my IM client for whatever reason. If not, then there’s no need to reinvent the wheel when there are well-established networks that already do the exact thing this is accomplishing. Now if Pownce did something special with your friend network that no one else did…. but it doesn’t. So we won’t need to go there.

PeerGuardian 2

300px-Peerguardian2.jpg Ever used Black Ice Defender? That would be a ip blocker for Windows that is used to block incoming IP addresses that could or could not be malicious to your system. What’s interesting is that not only is this open source, but it’s been ported to MacOSX, linux, and Windows.
Pretty useful when it comes to blocking harassing IPs. Another great feature is that Phoenix Labs actually has a compilation lists of IPs of P2P blocking, adware, malware, educational IPs, government IPs and other types of lists. These lists can be set up to be cached straight into PeerGuardian so that you know exactly who is allowed and who isn’t onto your system.
Think of this as a software firewall. Which it is on a pretty preliminary scale. It’s technically an IP/port blocker. Version 2 is written in C++ and uses less resources than the first version (Visual Basic) and was written to by different developers. There is also a Lite version if you don’t need the fancy pants GUI.


codec_installer.png Looking codecs for your movie files? No sweat.
Donationware CodecInstaller is your answer. For Windows, this little application basically scans the movie you’re trying to watch and analyzes it for which codec you would need. Then it brings up a list of the codecs that it can install and which one matches. If you want to install all of the codecs, you can tell it to do so, or you can install the ones that are particular to the movie file you’re trying to watch. Either way, it helps you out in identifying and eventually watching the video file instead of trying to figure out the differences between xvid and divx if you don’t already know what those codecs are or do.
Another great thing about this? It tells you which company the drivers are from, where they are installed and what version it is. This allows you to check against versions and if you have different codecs from different companies, to actually make sure and determine which one you actually have.
Lifehacker < CodecInstaller

ConvergeSouth 2007 registration is now open!

convergesouth.jpg Third annual ConvergeSouth registration is now open.
This year, we’re all about The Fifth Estate. Basically, just think about the new mediums and how they’ve changed the way we think about news and how to gain information. Social networking has come a long ways from blogs. This year, there is a lot more on content generation for videos both online and on cable television. Current.tv is one of the sponsors and will also show demos on how to create your own pods to get shown on television (voted on by the people).
But what I’m really excited about personally is that Anil Dash has agreed to be a panelist. Anil is Vice President for SixApart, whom creates LiveJournal, Movable Type, TypePad, and Vox. And having had a MT blog since who knows when, I can say that I’ve been a fan of their products for ages. If I’m not mistaken, one of our other conference organizers arranged this… so a personal thanks from my end since this is one person that I definitely don’t want to miss if I can help it! (Hopefully I’m not as exhausted this year…)

iTunes Saturday

Apple iTunes Apple iTunes Nine Inch Nails Apple iTunes


Taskix1.3.png Taskix adds a very similar function that is already apparent in the Mac’s dockbar. Basically for Windows, one of the most annoying things is that you can’t shift your applications around on the taskbar. What you see is what you get based on when it was launched. But you don’t have to deal with that anymore.
This little piece of freeware allows you to rearrange, reorder, your taskbar to your liking. So you too can be just a little bit closer to being like the intuitive Mac. Taskix does support Vista too so you also could technically be neato skippy there.
DownloadSquad < Taskix

What I wish for from ShareBuilder

sharebuilder.jpg I love doing things over the Internet. In fact, one of the greatest things that has empowered individuals in my opinion for investments has been the Internet. Why? You can now buy stocks online through a discount broker. This is an amazing thing.
Couple years back, I had started an account with ShareBuilder after seeing what they were about and so far they’ve never let me down. In fact, after a while, I had opened two different types of accounts with them all managed from one single area. Pretty nifty. At $15.95 a real-time trade, it’s a little bit high compared to other discount brokers, but they got to me on the fact that they could not only do fractional stocks, but they also could set it up for monthly buys. That’s pretty good for those that want to start their portfolios but only have limited amounts of cash month to month.
There’s a pretty interesting thing that I’d like to see from them though. When it comes to banks, most are pretty good about moving money around through different accounts. If you transfer money from your checking to savings or vice versa, it shows up almost instantly and is not an issue.
So why can’t you do this with stock accounts? Say, your regular stock fund transfers one-way to your IRA? You can manage both accounts from the same window, but this would be one of those… take my money and invest it long-term type of deals. Within the same corporation, you would imagine that it’s pretty simple to make it transparent to the user for this feature.
It might be too much to ask for, but stock brokers need to understand that when you begin to market multiple types of accounts to users in hopes that they’ll open more than one, then you have to improve the account-to-account type of interactions also at the same time instead of focusing on user to account interaction only. This isn’t a fault of ShareBuilder by any means, since my current bank seems to have issues with easy setup of credit card payments from the same bank even though all of the accounts can be managed from one single area.
Would this be difficult to do? I wouldn’t think so. You would definitely be taxed on your way into the IRA, but at least it makes it pretty easy to manage funds. If there’s anything that needs to be taught about user interface design, it’s that the interactions between user and application must be empowering the user in an intuitive fashion.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m pretty happy with ShareBuilder. But if anyone is looking to increase their features for user interaction, I offer up the idea of simple and transparent money transferring between accounts.

Movie Review: Dead Silence

Having been feeling for a couple of horror movies lately, I queued up Dead Silence [affiliate] from Netflix.com [affiliate] and waited it to arrive. When it came, it was … ehh… not a bad horror film, but it was rather gruesome for a pretty decent plot.
The story goes thata ventriloquist, Mary Shaw, wanted to create the perfect doll. At one of her shows, a loud mouth little boy happened to question her and say that her lips were moving. That little boy vanished later on and Mary Shaw was blamed for the vanishing. Thus, the boy’s family and friends acted on revenge and went on to kill her and ripped her tongue out. After that, there was a curse that fell upon all of the people that went to lynch Mary Shaw.
The story is pretty typical of any of the usual horror films and Jamie Ashten (Ryan Kwanten) searches for the answers to his wife’s gory murder after seeing her tongue ripped out and knowing the old nursery rhyme from their little town. Jim Lipton (Donnie Walhberg) is a detective that tracks Jamie down after suspecting that he actually killed his wife from the very beginning. He’s the skeptic that doesn’t believe in childhood fairy tales and thinks that Jamie is just trying to use his guilt of the “murder” to pin it on some childhood hocus pocus.
What’s strange is that many movies have these really scary and gruesome types of nursery rhymes or stories which are probably a reference to Grimm’s fairy tales. One that comes to mind is the movie Darkness Falls. In that one, the Tooth Fairy is the scary beastie that is chasing after children and the rhyme is pretty ehh…. well, not nice comes to mind.
In any case, the dolls used are very much reminiscent of the clown and other types of dolls in Saw and no wonder at that since the movie’s creators also created the Saw series.
Overall, not a bad horror film. Not as gore stricken as the usual types these days, but it’s still a bit out of the ordinary and doesn’t make you scared for the sake of being scared and instead wants to gross you out a bit. But it’s definitely scaled back from the usual types these days. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this on Sci-Fi channels Halloween weekends in the future.