Category Archives: hardware

Using a Blackberry in the rest of the world, Research in Motion [RIMM] are you listening?

I have been in the Middle East for just over a year and it has been eye opening. Apart from the cultural adjustments, one of the things that has become a peeve is how Western companies do not recognize some of the differences that will impact their devices or their software outside of Western countries.

It is no secret that I am a big fan of RIM’s (Research In Motion) Blackberry. However, there are some things that should be considered when selling this product in the rest of the world. For example, the work week is different in the Middle East. Muslim religion dominates in the region and therefore Friday is the day of worship. Depending on the country, your other day off is either Thursday or Saturday. In some countries, they also work a half day on the Thursday. None of these can be accommodated by the Blackberry.

Although I can set Saturday as the first day of the week, there is no way for me to tell the Blackberry that Thursday and Friday are the weekends (or Friday and Saturday). This presents some minor annoyances such as viewing the month and the Blackberry shades the Saturday and Sunday. To some aggravating issues when it comes to having the alarm only active on weekdays.

It would be a simple change, as a screen that simply asks you to fill in some check boxes for weekend or weekdays.

Blackberry sales in the Middle East are growing rapidly. I have read that this is one of RIM’s fastest growing regions. There is both a status and fashion aspect to the Blackberry in the Middle East. Hopefully this will push RIM towards accommodating the the nuances of the region.

The Future Computer User Interface

Computers keep getting smaller. But one thing that will have to change if computers continue to get smaller, is what kind of interface will be used to interact with them. Keyboards can’t get much smaller and still be usable. Talking to a computer may be the future, but that is still a ways off to be practical. That reminds me of comical Star Trek movie segment where they go back in time and Scotty tries to talk to a present day computer.

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But the most fascinating work that I have seen to date is being done by a young gentleman by the name of Pranav Mistry from MIT. He recently did a demonstration of his work at a conference. It is far too amazing to describe. It it best to watch the videos.

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Is ASUS the Next Apple?

ASUS Eee PCOver the past couple of years there has been a lot of talk about UMPC or Ultra Mobile PC’s. There were lots of prototypes from companies like Intel, but everything was in the future. Then a company called ASUS, or ASUSTek, released their Eee PC in 2007. This was a very small notebook that make the bold step of having Linux as the operating system. At first no one was quite sure what to thinks about it, but over the last year, the Eee PC has taken off. Probably the biggest reason is the retail price is in the $400 range.

The other bold steps made by ASUS was that the Eee PC had no hard disk. You can get one in 4GB, 8GB and now 16GB flash memory. This means no moving parts in the notebook, which leads to more reliability. Lastly, the screen is 7 inches.

In terms of functionality you have all the basics. Wifi, internet browsing, web cam and audio. Accoding to their web site there are over 40 applications pre-installed.

Now why do I ask if ASUS is the next Apple? Over the years I have attended my share of tech. events and became aware of the number of Apple Mac Books vs. other laptops being used by the audience. Recently when I attended the Northern Voice event in Vancouver, another group of notebooks was popping up. This was the Eee PC. It was funny to watch as people pulled out their Eee PC, slowly small crowds began to form. The owners were checking their email, writing blog postings and recording video of speakers. The biggest draw, was the small footprint.

The popularity of these notebooks was further confirmed by third party accessory companies who are now coming out with products for the Eee PC. A-Data has released Eee PC branded flash memory and USB memory stick.

Due to the success of the Eee PC, there are competitors who have their notebooks being released over the next couple of months. Acer, HP and MSI as well as many other lesser known manufacturers are all fighting for their piece of the pie. ASUS is not laying down and letting these others take market share. They are releasing a 9 inch screen version, will now go up to 32 GB of RAM and…will come installed with Microsoft Windows XP.

The market for ultra portables will heat up further in June when Intel releases their Atom processor. This small footprint, high performance processor will be perfect for the ultra portables. ASUS has decided to push out their 9 inch screen in May rather than wait for the Atom processor. Others are a mixed bag. Whether or not this will be a mis-step for ASUS, only time will tell. Right now it is their market share to grow or not.

The Pen of the Future

Every year in Feb. there is an event in California called Demo. This event is where startups get to pitch their products to venture capitalists. the catch is they have exactly 6 minutes to do the presentation. There are always lots of great products but the pen from LiveScribe blew me away. Watch this video to see what I mean.

Livescribe Video

How to Add a ring tone to your Blackberry

How often have you been in a restaurant or a movie, and someone’s cell phone blares out the latest rendition of the owners favorite hip hop track, or the blaring sound of a ring from a phone of the 60’s? I have heard that some places are considering jamming cell phones because of this.

It is annoying and many consider this to be rude.

I have found a solution. I found an MP3 file where someone recorded a sneeze. I then found the site www.coolservice.dk. It allows you to upload any MP3 file, then download it onto your Blackberry, or any phone that has internet access. You simply upload the file, and it gives you a code number. You go to the download site on your Blackberry browser, enter the code and it will be downloaded. You then save the file and it will be listed in your ring tones. Select Profiles on your Blackberry and then change the tone.

Now when your phone rings, it will actually sneeze. I have found this much less obtrusive while in public places.

You can listen and download the mp3 file below.

The Future of computing

Recently there has been a few companies that have come out with UMPC’s. Ultra Mobile PC’s. Everyone has complained about how expensive they are and how impractical the small format is. What is important to realize is that these are the "betas" of the UMPC. Like everything else, the first version is expensive. Look at HD-DVD players. They first came out over $1,000. Now pricing is down to $799. This past weekend I received a flyer for an external HD-DVD player for the Xbox 360 for $149 Canadian. (which apparently you can install in a PC.)

To really understand where the UMPC is going, simply watch the Intel video below. The only thing I could say after watching this is "I want one of each!"

Maybe the perfect remote control for the ipod.

I recently had the opportunity to test out the Keyspan Tuneview remote control. The biggest feature with this remote control, that makes it different from all others, is the LCD display on the remote mimics the screen on your iPod. All of your Albums, Artists, Genres and Playlists are displayed on the remote, just as if you were using your iPod. If you have a newer iPod with video, you can also connect the dock to your TV to watch the videos.

The installation took 3 minutes. You plug the supplied cable into the back of the dock. You attach the 2 RCA type jacks to your stereo system. You insert the iPod into the dock, turn on the remote and within 5 seconds you have your menu on the remote.

The other benefit of this remote is that it is RF (radio frequency) as opposed to IR (infra-red). This means you do not have to have line of sight to the dock. You can be anywhere in your house and access your iPod. More importantly, you can see what you are playing and what you are accessing.

Watch the video below to see this unit in action.