Entries Tagged as 'Hardware'

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.

Netflix interface for hardware devices could be better

Netflix, Inc. I absolutely adore Netflix. I mean, come on. This is one single company that I had fallen in love with before I became a shareholder.
And they’ve continued to surprise me time and again. Even as times are tough, Netflix has a great subscription base where it allows you to change the next months to whatever plan you wish. If it’s a lesser plan, they don’t send you DVDs until you return enough from your greater plan to actually meet the lesser.
But here’s the one single qualm I have with them. I’m not sure the reasoning behind it, and I hope that it’s just a timing issue or something, but it seems that the API that they give to the hardware players are just lacking. Take for example, Roku. The Roku player is wonderful and I absolutely adore the fact that I can watch streaming movies right there from my Netflix account. But the ability to add and browse movie selections from even just the Watch Instantly is entirely useful but nonexistent.
That small piece of the puzzle would turn Netflix into a content provider and promote hardware partnerships. It’s great if they have these companies that are willing to take just the Queue, but there’s so much more potential behind it.
I’m hoping that this interfacing at some point will be released to the hardware partners. I for one, will continue to be a customer, shareholder, and fan as long as they treat me right like they always have.

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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

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.

On-Stage holographic teleconferencing

cisco_2thm.jpg Soon, conference calls will be a thing of the past. The cooperative project between Musion Systems and Cisco Networks created the Cisco On-Stage TelePresence Experience where the holographic systems of Musion were integrated with Cisco TelePresence.
What’s extremely interesting about this is that with cameras and IP networks, you actually have people that are not only standing on a stage across from each other, but they can also see the audience. It’s practically like the movies where you have virtual meetings at a board room where, everyone is sitting there, even though they’re not physically there.
Similarly, this technology allows you to not only be there, but interact. That way, not only voice inflection is conveyed, but also body language. This takes communications to a whole new level. Can’t wait to see this out in real working environments.

Fritz chip will prevent piracy?

Atari’s founder, Nolan Bushnell, has made an absolute clause. And in the world of security, you never make absolute clauses.
“Games are a different thing, because games are so integrated with the code. The TPM will, in fact, absolutely stop piracy of gameplay.”
I can tell you that this statement is just asking for trouble. Most things don’t need prodding to get enthusiastic people get jump on and start trying to break it. In fact, there will be those people already. But stating any fact like this, is absolutely preposterous.
Why? Even the SHA algorithm has been broken. Truecrypt? Broken. There are pretty much ways around every single type of algorithm unless you use some obscure and totally huge seed that can only be brute forced. And even so, there are many researchers that will attempt to find weaknesses in algorithms. But, let’s dig a bit deeper. The way Truecrypt was broken was because the password had to be stored in RAM for just a fraction of time. Yet, if you froze the RAM, that data could be extracted. Similarly, any sort of password at a low level has to be stored and decrypted somewhere at some point. This also has to be stored. Thus, there’s always a weakness to the strategies of password protection.
Knowing what TPM does, I can’t say that it’s not a strong encryption mechanism (although it is vulnerable to cold boot attacks). But I do know however that I was taught at a very young age, “Never say never.” In this case? “Never say absolutely.”
Photo Credit: (diebmx)

DVD player hacking

One of the most interesting things I do with hardware is DVD firmware hacking. Except, that I don’t actually mess with the firmware.
Nah, that stuff was back in college days. These days, I let other people do it. What’s most interesting to me when I get a DVD player is the ability to be region-free. There’s a good reason for this. Region-free players allow other regions DVDs to play. This allows you to play imported DVDs without having to actually having to have multiple DVD players.
Before people get all huffy about this, do realize that pirated DVDs are actually region-free already so making your player region-free? Won’t really be useful at all. In fact, it’s the only way to keep paying for legal DVDs if you happen to watch a lot of other region movies (as I do, and I buy direct from Yes Asia USA).
So the goal is to do the research, and check a place like Video Help, or any other database to make sure that there is a maintenance window mode or firmware upgrade available. If you’re lucky, then you too can watch movies from other countries too with a little bit of firmware flashing, or maintenance windows tinkering.
Photo Credit: (Br3nda)

OverClock Checking Tool

occt.jpg If you’re big into tweaking hardware… OCCT is for you then. This piece of freeware for Windows allows you to check on some very important things like watching the heat from your cpu and ram, and also doing some more extensive testing of them.
You can also generate some easy to read graphs and it uses a common plugin interface to watch Speedfan, and some other tools. It might not look like much, but believe me when I say that when you overclock, you’ll almost definitely need to use a tool like OCCT. Definitely. So stop the presses and give it a go. You won’t be disappointed.

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.

Philips 1080p LCD HDTV

We recently decided to join the 1080p revolution. So after shopping a while, we went with the Philips 47PFL7422D 47″ 1080p LCD HDTV.
For the price and size (47inches), it definitely was the best price point for the size. Comes with three HDMI ports, and three AVI ports. Also has a side AVI connector in case you have those temporary devices that you connect up to the television.
Either way, when we got it, it was pretty easy to assemble the stand and put the television directly onto the stand. The stand is about as heavy as the television so you don’t have to worry that it’s not stable enough for the television. The digital/HD tuner within the television is a bit slower than a cable box, but that won’t make a difference if you have cable service since you’ll need the box anyways. With each of the game console systems, we noticed that the resizing of the screen to fit the widescreen view didn’t look bad at all. We were expecting lower resolution devices to look very fuzzy but it actually didn’t make that much of a difference.
In fact, HD just looks a lot sharper but even digital television is really great looking. You can definitely tell the difference between the two, but for those people that are hesitant to make the jump from analog to digital, believe me when I say that you’ll be fine. That was one of our largest concerns and we were actually really happy to have made the decision to go with the 1080p instead of a 720p.
The first night we had everything hooked up, we put in Transformers in HD and were wow’d at the viewing quality. The entire film was super crisp and clear and we couldn’t tear ourselves away since it was like your own movie theater in your living room.
If you’re looking to buy, there isn’t many reviews on this particular television set, so this should help you make your choice. I will say that if we didn’t buy this one, we probably would have went with a Samsung, or Sony Bravia if we had not considered quality versus price. Great television by Philips and fully recommended!