Entries Tagged as 'Electronics'

FAA Still Denies Cell Phones in Air

Cell Phones Everywhere
Image by Scott Ableman via Flickr

The FAA is still denying that cell phones are safe in the air.   While it’s true that cell phones do generate electromagnetic signals, it’s also true that the signal of the EM field dramatically drops off as you get farther away from the user.  Most do not generate any substantial field outside of the “personal space” of the cell phone user.   If you don’t believe this, go buy a EM reader and give it a shot.   It’s rather interesting on the non-linear drop.

On top of this, it was shown on Mythbusters (episode 49) a while back that cell phones do not interfere with the navigational equipment of a plane unless the plane has unshielded wiring.  And believe me, if you’re running faulty wiring, the least of your worries will be coming from mobile devices.

I will agree that banning cell phone use on a plane for sake of safety is a cop out play when in reality, the only thing that cell phones are in the air would probably be the annoyance factor.   Due to the background noise of the plane, people that talk loudly already would just raise their voices.   And the last thing most passengers want to to is to be locked in a confined space with a bunch of shouting business people that are trying to conduct business.

Fortunately, I have a solution for this.   If someone has enough change to spare that they’re willing to sign an agreement before the flight takes off to have a decibel monitor on them, and their credit card on file, then if their voice ever goes above a certain level, they’re automatically fined.  This fine is then distributed to both the flight crew, airline, and passengers on board guided by the fact that since everyone will be annoyed, you might as well be compensated for the annoyance.

This would either prevent people from calling as much on flights, or keep their voices down of which they should be doing anyways.   While policing the airwaves at thirty thousand feet isn’t something fun, use the right reasoning.   I mean, let’s be honest.   If people can use cell phones when they “touch down” on the landing, then it would also be safe to say that those EM transmissions would not effect other instruments.  Or else every time you land, you’d see a blip in your flight instruments that would be visible to the naked eye.

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Garmin Nuvi 265WT GPS

I recently purchased a Garmin nuvi 265WT GPS for work. And I have to say that the Garmin brand really stands up to their reputation.

I suppose first things first. The only bad thing I can find about the Garmin GPSes are the map updates. You’re allowed two months of free updates once you register the product. But from there on out you have to pay a fee for any maps you download or pay a “lifetime of GPS” fee which would run you around $100+USD. Total rip-off in my opinion and I believe that the maps really should be free across the board since you’re really buying a hardware product with features that accentuate the mapping tool.

The 265WT comes with a 4.3 inch screen. Very useful since if the screen is too small, the entire user interface is difficult to navigate since it’s completely touch-screen driven. Unless you have fingers the size of a child’s, I would fully recommend getting a wider screen if you’re out to purchase a new GPS. Garmin’s interface has got to be one of the easiest ones to learn. After playing with a multitude of GPSes at stores, you find that navigational and everything else, Garmin’s wins out on ease of use. And that’s very important since you really don’t want to be frustrated while moving a ton of steel at sixty miles per hour.

Directions wise, it seemed to be pretty decent and had a number of food points of interest that were up-to-date. I have to say that part of the traffic transceiver or what not was off with older map data or something since when I went to a chinese restaurant down the road and decided to change the route, it told me to make a big circle to get back on course instead of just finding another way into the parking lot. Also, the map data being off since Peters Creek Parkway is fifty five miles per hour for the speed limit but the GPS showed fifty. Outside of that, it’s extremely accurate. The way it picks up the satellites is also very quick and nothing like the Garmin III Street Pilot I had back in the day that took a while to actually sync up.

I haven’t fully tested the Bluetooth features of handsfree dialing but I can say that it was very simple to pair up my phone to it and it seems to have decent sound coming from it to the phone. It’s basically an extension to the phone and I was able to make a call from another room with just the GPS unit and still hear quite clearly. I’m not certain what others would hear on the other end and that’s the reasoning for not having a “fully tested” review on the handsfree side.

The GPS itself also has the ability to give you text-to-speech road names, speak in multiple different languages for directions (useful for immigrants or going elsewhere) and can pick up on a FM band, traffic patterns if it’s available. It also can do things like link pictures with locations, give car tours (purchased) and a whole slew of other things like calculate about how much a trip will cost from the ecoRoute meter.

Overall, this is a very useful tool on any sort of trip where you’re not definite about the place you’re going and gives you a lot of leeway on where things are including hotels, food, and other things. It’s like buying all of the AAA maps and putting them in the palm of your hand. If you’re trying to decide over a basic model or a more extensive one like this, take a look at your driving patterns. For some, they don’t need the handsfree dialing and usually just need something to keep them in the general area or direction. Then a basic model is fine. If you happen to drive in the states that holding a phone next to your ear is a fine, then the more advanced models would come into play. In any case, it’s probably worth your while to get a GPS if you travel; if you’re looking for one that’s easy to use, choose a Garmin.

Sharing My Contact Data Via Poken

pack_pokens_photo.png New gadget Poken has an interesting perspective on an old idea. Currently, networking is done through the means of business cards. Pretty much every single networking event you’ll ever go to in your corporate life, there are business cards. Now, there has been a few methods of sharing information and even the ones via Bluetooth haven’t really taken off. Poken uses RFID to do the wireless sharing (you have to high-five your Poken with another Poken) and it stores up to 64 contacts before having to upload.
The upload is done through USB. All the registration and such is done online with a pretty good website, although I have to say that when I tried it out, the integration with the social networks was lacking (it wouldn’t detect any of the networks I gave access to even though you could check them just fine at the network itself).
I was actually curious enough to look into giving these away for another site I’m working on. Let’s face it, business people network the most. But when you get right down to it, buying those 12-packs aren’t cheap. At $195USD, that breaks down to $16.25USD per piece. At a mark-up, I would imagine that most retailers would sell individuals at $19.95USD. At that price, this device is going to have a difficult time for adoption, especially when you’re taking on a well known method that’s costs you about $40USD for a box of 200.
Adoption rate will be the one thing that makes or breaks this device in my opinion. If Pokens were about five dollars a piece, then it would probably drop into the range of impulse buy. In that sense, that could definitely be the new adoption pattern for things like conferences and other things. But the biggest thing on this is trying to get it into the hands of the people. And from a marketing budget, that’s a huge task.
I’m hoping that they’re giving them away at SXSW if they have representatives there. That would actually put their name on the board easily.
Personally? I’m going to hold off getting the packs until they drop in price a bit. I see the fascination and it definitely is a unique device for contact sharing and they almost had me clicking buy before I saw the price for the 12-pack (just fyi, there is no discount that is shown by the ajax tool even for 90 packs at $16,381USD). Seriously. If they can make it for five or ten, I would consider as a marketing tactic to be selling it at that point direct or with minimal markup for a while to gain momentum. But they’re going to have to work at marketing the value of the current price point when global economics are hurting most networkers.

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Zune Doomed?

With the latest axe falling on Microsoft’s entertainment division, it’s really not a wonder considering the crappy sales figures during the holidays.
Now let’s be honest. I did think the Zune product was doomed from the start, even though for the anti-DRM friends, this product was on the “cutting edge”. Well, sort of. The real reason perhaps for this was that Microsoft itself with their biggest seller in Windows has somewhat a reputation already. The name just didn’t carry the weight that it should have into the music world where it’s dominated by the youth and the hip. And in the end, the Zune just had nothing on the iPod.
Personally? I think the biggest loss area that could have made the Zune somewhat a popular device was if the Zune brought in guns like AmazonMP3 to run the store itself (I’m even surprised with the song selection and value from Amazon), and to try some different types of things with the Zune such as on-the-go podcasting or something of that nature. I think that if they had driven a niche instead of competing head-to-head with Apple, they would have had a go. Hardware is a difficult market to sell in, and Microsoft so far has never built very great hardware to begin with. So when you drop into an arena where you’re playing against the biggest digital music store with the biggest proprietary system, you probably want to compete on the same type of front instead of doing the whole generic thing (which makes you no different from the other generic players).
Now what would be interesting is if Zune itself took the product line and went into portable media capture (video and audio). That would be a niche that could very well blossom with the right equipment and third party partners and not to mention there are plenty of amateur video crazy people. Just look at the video sites in case you didn’t realize that it was actually worthwhile. Alas, we’ll see what they do with the division. My bet is that the Zune’s days are numbered.

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Review: Nokia n810 Wimax Internet Tablet

I got this lovely little thing a last week, and have had to chance to play with it enough to get a good feel for it. Here, you’ll see all of the fun things it comes with. Retailing around $493USD, but if you shop around you can find it cheaper like here at Amazon.
For those that are in a frantic frothy state, the pictures of the unboxing are after the review. For the rest, this little weighs 1.6 pounds and has a 4.1 inch screen. No different from the original n810 except for the fact that there’s been a 2.5Ghz radio shoved into it to support Wimax. Everything else is the same.
The beauty of this little guy is that from my perspective, it does way more than your usual Asus EEE or Dell Mini9s. This is due to the fact that although a 9inch LCD does beat out a 4.1 inch screen, this comes with a keyboard. Thus, it allows me to access things that are otherwise somewhat annoying from a device like an iPhone. It also gives me access due to the fact that the entire maemo OS is a derivative of linux and that gives me a lot more power to tweak and change the way this works.
So far, the connectivity and application support for this device is fantastic. Compiling anything for this device is as easy as compiling any application for ARM devices, as long as you’ve done a little bit of development work. Most of the interface type applications are done in GTK+ so no problems there either.
Also, there’s a GPS integrated inside and I have to say that the satellite acquisition is a little slower than your usual GPS devices, but this actually does work very well with both the Wayfinder GPS application and the open source ones. Bluetooth syncs seem to work just fine and both streaming audio and regular audio/video plays well as long as you have enough ram. One thing that it could do with more of is actual ram. 128MB and the option to push for another 128MB in virtual is kind of piddly.
Overall, this is a great portable device with impressive battery life and the ability for me to keep in touch with some of things going on with work that I would not be able to do on a phone but still keep the portability. It’s basically better than a netbook on a smaller scale and about the same price and Wimax thrown in. I’ll be curious if someone will figure out a way to tether this to a laptop to run Wimax at some point, but it’s not a high priority for me right now.
In any case, the only thing right now I’d love to do is to not have to go into CLI to actually optimize the memory. Probably at some point will have to do that since the GUI only offers so much in saving space on internal RAM, but that’s just part of the openness of linux.
So for those of you looking for the pictures of the unboxing? Here you go. Go nuts and drool to your heart’s content.

Nokia n810 wimax Nokia n810 wimax Nokia n810 wimax Nokia n810 wimax
Nokia n810 wimax Nokia n810 wimax Nokia n810 wimax Nokia n810 wimax


Spice is a circuit simulator for the Unix platform to analyze and design IC boards without having to build and design those circuits. This piece of software has been around for a while and I totally forgot that it was freely available for not only education but actually as design utility.
There are others out there that are commercial and have more functionality and such, but overall, you can’t beat the free from U.C. Berkeley. I remember spending many late night hours in the lab with this piece of software and if you’re looking for something to help do IC design, don’t forget some of your old college software friends.

Sony Cybershot DSCW120

Was looking for a point-and-shoot digital camera that didn’t have a lot of issues with battery life. It seemed like Canon was the way to go for the most part, but it was difficult to find one that was rated well that had an optical viewfinder but under the $200 mark. Splendidly, the Cybershot DSCW120 popped up with decent reviews and was a Sony. But the big deal was the optical viewfinder, which would save battery a bit by not letting the LCD to draw power.
What I found is that this camera actually has a whole bunch of really great features. One of my favorites is that every picture I’ve taken yet has been clear. This probably is due to the Steadyshot stabilization. It’s probably from the built-in gyro and the electronic stabilization called Double Antiblur, but it’s one of the things that is missing from most cameras on the lower-end. And if you hand moves the slightest in the shot, then the picture ends up terrible.
The other great feature is the Smile shutter feature. You can set it up to automatically take pictures when it detects a smile. What’s interesting about this, is that this actually means that the camera itself can detect faces and smiling. Facial recognition by cameras isn’t something new, but it’s always been a more high-end feature. I haven’t had a chance to test the flash yet nor actually set it up for night shots but so far I am definitely impressed what the camera’s performance.
You can also set it to take pictures for display in 1080HD, and set up a slideshow directly from the camera if it’s plugged into the television with music and everything. You can also print from it, but I haven’t tested this feature yet so I don’t know how it works. Also, this camera uses nine different points for focusing instead of the five point focus system that most cameras use.
Overall, in the short time period I’ve had to play with this camera, I have to say that it’s definitely worth a little bit of extra for optical viewfinder and the features but it’s also a great camera for between the $150USD to $200USD price point.

The Netflix Player by Roku

rokunetflix.jpg Got the player yesterday and opened the box.
Have to say that it’s super easy setup. The three minutes setup? Definitely exactly what it says. The setup starts out with you choosing wired or wireless setup. Now what’s interesting part. Ran into a little of trouble because of my Netgear FVG318. It’s always had an issue the Vonage ATA, and the technical support could never figure out that an ATA was a hardware device and not a “Windows control panel” issue.
Apparently you can’t connect to the local network regardless if you tried to do it via a wired network or a wireless. I called Roku technical support and they told me that they had some issues with Netgear before, and also Belkin. They wanted me to connect it directly to the modem to get the latest firmware to see if that would work.
Thankfully I could bypass this by connecting it wirelessly through another router that I had on the network behind the Netgear. Yeah, go figure that I bypassed through another device that was behind the Netgear. In any case, it worked like a flash and the activation tied to the account by sending a five letter code that was linked directly to the Netflix account.
Then it downloaded the instant queue, and off you go. The controls are very quick reacting, and easy to use. And you’re off and running with your Netflix account.
This is great since the streaming movies are quick at buffering and it seems to do really well. There are a number of older movies as well as some newer ones and the library keeps getting larger. You can pause, and there is a timer skip. Unfortunately, there isn’t a chapter skip yet, and one of the bad things is that if you want to watch a movie that is in another language with subtitles, that isn’t possible. Now why couldn’t they create another stream with the language track and subtitles? There is a lot of things that could be done to make this product a lot better.
That’s part of the Netflix product. The hardware firmware seems to be supported decently by Roku, which means that there will definitely be new features that come to these boxes in the future. Hopefully, we’ll see Netflix only in the beginning stages of this new venture with Roku. If so, this gadget was well worth the one-time fee. Especially since the streaming audio and video part of it is doing splendidly.

Motorola Cable Booster

Motorola Cable Signal Booster for TV / Cable Modem / Digital Radio
One of the biggest issues that we ran into when we got an HDTV was that the signal coming in was weak. This was due to a frayed cable end outside at the box, but we never noticed on the SDTV since SDTV isn’t as effected by poor signal and isn’t as temperament.
However, for some, upgrading to HDTVs requires a boost in their signal to get all the content to the right place. It seems that lower channels are a good indication of if your signal is making it if you get snow on them or have some issues with it. This is obviously if you don’t know how to pull up your maintenance screen on your cable box to look at the actual signal strength.
In any case, this product is worth your money if you’re in dire need of a signal boost. I recommend getting one if you’re HDTV buff and there’s no other way to get around getting a better picture due to how it was wired or what not. The Motorola Cable Signal Booster is definitely worthwhile. Just remember, though. Amplifiers do raise your noise floor. So don’t get them until you’re sure that there’s no other way to get around the issue including better wiring from wall to TV and so on.

Toshiba HD-A30 1080p HD DVD Player

Toshiba lost the next generation format wars.
Well, maybe lost wasn’t a great word for it. How about… sold out?
Regardless of the grumblings, it’s done now. Which really brings me to the device itself. What’s beautiful about the A30 is that it actually does do 1080p unlike it’s cousin the A3 which is 1080i. In fact, it can do 1080p/24 which is pretty impressive.
It plays CDs, DVDs, and HD-DVDs and upconverts those older DVDs in case you were wondering.
Has it be demoted to just an upconverting DVD player? Pretty much. There’s a few other great features like the audio playback modes which include Dolby Surround and DTS, but overall it’s just a media player. One little annoyance is that the remote to actual device is a bit slower on the draw. I’m not sure why the device takes its time to boot up and such along with shutdown, but the buttons on the front of the player are actually a lot quicker response time than trying to do it from the remote.
In any case, it’s still not a bad price for the Toshiba HD-A30 1080p HD DVD Player. Especially if you’re going to go bargain bin hunting for HD-DVDs.