Entries Tagged as 'Technology'

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.

Innovations in technology driving work back to cottage industry

Technology is wonderful isn’t it. Now, we can work with portability from laptops, be connected to the Internet through EVDO, and be called anywhere on mobile phones.
In fact, as innovations for communications gets driven smaller and more portable, the more likelihood of flexible work but longer hours. More and more workers are opting to going hybrid or full-time telecommuters and working from home. Corporations are succeeding in saving some money from changing the technologies from the high rent of office buildings, to paying for VPNs and mobile phones.
Telecommuting might sound like a golden opportunity for those that have families and want to be home in time to take their kids to soccer practice, but it also involves a lot of long hours where your manager knows exactly where you are and what you’re doing due to the project task sheets. Most telecommuters are often given more workload due to the fact that they aren’t burdened by commute times and they’re always available.
Soon, with holographic imaging and better telecommunications such as Cisco TelePresence, there will be less likelihood of conference calls, and more such users actually meeting face-to-face. This will bring the last of the working force into the telecommuting realm… management and sales. What’s interesting due to this, is the fact that you’ll be able to not only project yourself into a meeting, but you will always be able to do it from home or a mobile environment.
Interestingly enough, it shows how times have changed in the working environment. It wasn’t but decades ago, that much of the work force was based out of cottage industries. As the industrial revolution changed where workers had to be, the workforce started dominating the office buildings like bees in a hive. Much of the work could not be done in a home environment at the time.
But little by little, we’ve again shifted. With social networking tools, and collaboration advancements, it is possible to operate in one’s home to work, without leaving the home. And second by second, the industry is shifting back to something it used to be.
Photo Credit: (FallenPegasus)

Polaroid PoGo Printer

Polaroid has come out with a new portable printer for those that are always on the go. And this one uses ZINK (Zero Ink) technology and Bluetooth. Basically, hook this baby up to your cell phone, and transfer over the pictures, and voila! You’re printing these tiny sticker pictures right from your phone! Nice part about this, is that ZINK uses color heat crystals so no smudges, no yuckies and no ink cartridges to change in the printer.
For $149USD, it’s a little pricey, but being that it’s available at Target and Best Buy, I would imagine that it’ll actually drop in price at some point. What’s more interesting is that the whole sticker-picture thing is very similar to a thing Polaroid did a while ago called the Polaroid i-Zone Pocket Instant Camera. Postage sized film that had sticker backing.

Petmate Deluxe Fresh Flow Pet Fountain

After all the great reviews about this fountain, I figured that the kitties needed it too. Really, one of the big things was that it seemed to make a lot of kitty owners happy not only because they drink more water but they quit drinking from the toilets and such.
Well, I have to admit that the kitties definitely do drink a lot more water. And there’s enough fresh water that if we’re gone for a couple days, that the kitties will be okay for water. This particular one runs over 200 ounces and keeps it continuously flowing. The pump is pretty quiet, and one of the kitties like to drink from the stream, while the other likes to drink from the pool.
While it hasn’t stopped them from being curious about the toilet at all unlike the owner reviews, I still can recommend the Petmate Deluxe Fresh Flow Pet Fountain as a worthwhile purchase for your cats.

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)

ScoopFree Ultra Litter Box

The cool thing of getting a nice litter box like the ScoopFree LB2 Ultra Litter Box is that there’s a lot less poopie and peepee smell.
And less poopie and peepee smell is definitely a good thing. The difference between the latest model and the LB1 is that the LB1 doesn’t include a hood (which helps with smell) and the LB2 has an adjustable timer versus a fixed. Otherwise, they’re pretty much the same litter box.
One thing to be wary about is that this litter box was made for crystal litter. That stuff basically sucks up moisture like pee and such. I assume it does with the poop too. Kind of like the silicate packets that come in a lot of packaging to keep moisture out of the product. Well, crystal litter is great and all, but you have to change the entire stuff out every so often.
ScoopFree actually sells replacement cartridges, which will run you about fifteen dollars a piece. This is okay and all, but I would recommend getting a Forever Litter Tray (yes, I did purchase one). These are permanent trays that you basically replace the litter and can save you a bunch of money in the long run. They are a custom product but so far, I haven’t had an issue with them and they are guaranteed against leaking and such.
Altogether, the entire litter box combo will run you somewhere a bit over the two hundred mark but it’s well worth it when you account for the times you have to clean kitty stuff and instead spend that time to play with them!

Carriers get class-action against charged incoming text messages

I’m really not surprised that this is happening. Not one bit.
For text messaging, being charged for incoming messages that you have no way of setting a white list, or block unknowns, or ways of controlling incoming messages means that anything that is incoming is out of your control. And if you can’t control it, you shouldn’t have to pay for it.
I haven’t the slightest clue what the carriers will try to defend with, since outside of the perspective of trying to get people to get on the ten to fifteen dollar extra a month, unlimited text messaging plans, there isn’t a good technical solution that does the above.
From a legal perspective though, I’d be curious if you target incorrectly towards certain carriers if that absolves all named in suit from liability (since it’s pointing the finger at the group). The reason for this is because, US Cellular (which is named in the lawsuit) doesn’t charge for incoming text messages. Sprint and apparently AT&T allow you to turn off text messaging completely (I definitely know for Sprint since I’ve done it for my parents).
Whether or not this lawsuit comes to fruition, it does bring up a great point though. Why does the consumer have to pay for incoming text messages? The carrier might answer that it’s similar to the delivery of a cellular call, but it isn’t. First, you don’t need to answer your phone. Second, while everyone believes that SMS is a two-way communication, it technically isn’t. 2-way designates that you actually get a receipt upon delivery so that you’re guaranteed that the packets have gone to their destination. Instant messaging is 2-way. Internet chatting is 2-way. Phone calls are 2-way. But not SMS. Ever have a text message that never got to the person you were sending it to? Just went into the void, didn’t it. 1-way communication.
In fact, most of the time, people assume that SMS is a timely communication form, but that isn’t true either. In all technicality, you can queue up SMS messages and burst them. If the person’s mobile can’t be found on a home system, there’s a good chance that it could be delayed messaging. Anyone with texting experience should have experienced this also in probably the first month of going at it.
Either way? I’m curious as to how the carriers pull this one off. It will probably reach settlement and most people will get 500 text messages plans for a year or something since I seriously doubt they’ll go and change the internals to do text messaging policing unless forced to by the courts. Should be interesting to watch.
Photo Credit: (pouwerkerk)

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)

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.