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Apple in the Living Room

Now it's getting interesting. Steve Jobs has announced the iPod Hi-Fi, which is an audiophile-quality boombox iPod dock. Featuring three speakers, a sealed resin case (to keep vibration down), and even SPDIF optical input (!!!), the iPod Hi-Fi brings Apple into the living room.  And the kitchen. And the garage. And even outdoors, because the unit can be powered by D batteries like any boom box. It comes with adaptors for every current iPod, and the Shuffle can plug into an Aux input.

The electronics in your living room, other than your stereo, is usually the television. Apple hasn't announced an explicit PVR unit, but with the new Mac Mini they probably don't need to. There is a Core Duo and Core Solo version, each one far outperforming the G4-based predecessor while keeping the same form factor. The Mac Mini sports 4 USB ports, a Firewire port, and Gigabit Ethernet. And due to its small size, quiet operation, built-in infared port/Apple Remote and the option to attach a television as a display, the Mini can be used in your entertainment center.

Why would we want to do that? Well, the new Front Row media center software from Apple ships with the Mac Mini, and the updated version (available later this week via Software Update) will support Bonjour/Zeroconf ad hoc networking. In English, this means your Mac Mini will have full, automatic access to your iTunes Video library no matter what computer in your network it happens to be stored on.

Now, pair this Mac Mini with Elgato's EyeTV PVR, and you have your functioning living room Mac PVR. The newer EyeTVs have their own remote control, but perhaps an update will allow EyeTV recordings to be shared with FrontRow just like the iTunes downloads, which would be the killer app for me- my EyeTV is installed in my office on my main computer with lots of storage available, so I end up watching shows on my Mac. What would be great is to have that streamed automagically to any Mac in the house.... possible with open source streaming apps like VLC, but most desirable when done in a no-fuss automatic fashion.

The Bomjour networking in FrontRow will also support iPhoto for photo slideshows.

Some of the other rumored products that were much anticipated but not announced (and so may not even exist): a Mac Tablet computer, an Apple Phone, a Video iPod with large touchscreen display, and studio movie downloads via iTMS.

So, Elgato, care to up the ante and get EyeTV speaking Bonjour?

Posted on February 28, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

ThinkFree Office Write - Post to Typepad?

... ...
Powered by
ThinkFree Office Online
Testing the ThinkFree blog integration. It looks like this will be posting the Write doc as an attachment, not really what I had in mind, as in using ThinkFree as the editor. More testing is in order.

Posted on February 25, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Thinkfree - Online Web Office Suite

Online office suite With the buzz around Microsoft Office Live, and the continual rumors of
a Google Web Office Suite done via AJAX, it seems people are glossing
over an actual office suite that launched this week.

Thinkfree Office Online is now in beta, and works reasonably well on a
Windows PC using IE 6. Support for Mac and Firefox are said to be coming
soon, and it shouldn't be too difficult since Thinkfree is Java-based.

The free beta comes with 30 megabytes of online storage which we are
assured will be kept secure. And most impressively, there is both a
working spreadsheet app, Calc, and a Powerpoint-compatible presentation

I have an account and am running it through its paces. Check out
Thinkfree at www.thinkfree.com.

Posted on February 24, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The iGo Power Adapter

Today over lunch hour I visited the local Radio Shack to exchange my iGo Wallpower 6500. The Radio Shack staffer, whom I believe was a manager at that store, was very accomodating, exchanging the unit without giving me any hassle. The previous unit, I had for just a couple of months before it ceased putting out current to my iBook and began instead emitting a high-pitched whine that sounded as though the thing could blow up at any second. Hopefully that was a fluke and this one will last for some time.

The Apple Adapter had such a thin wire that it got damaged very easily, and Apple adapters aren't cheap. Therefore, I decided to get a more robust solution. The iGo has a heaver, more solid construction. But the cool thing is the iTips, which are interchangable tips that adapt the unit to one of a whole slew of different mobile devices. Mobile phones, mp3 players, laptops, you name it, it's likely they have a tip for it. No need to worry about voltage settings- it's all built in to the tip itself, which is a large factor in my buying decision.

As if interchangable tips aren't enough, you can swap out the iGo power unit as well, from a wall unit to a car unit, to airplane use, etc.  I'll be sticking with the wall unit for now, because I don't tend to travel with my laptop.

I'm hoping this unit lasts... I will be sure to make note of it here if it doesn't!

Posted on February 23, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Google Page Creator

Google has launched its latest service: Google Page Creator. The concept is a good one, breaking free of blogging constraints and creating a browser-based WYSIWYG HTML editor. By signing in with your Gmail account, you can create web pages in your browser which will be hosted at <gmailname>.googlepages.com. 

I'd post more information, but the service gave me an error message when I attempted to agree to the TOS. Once the service is working correctly (is anything Google makes ever out of Beta, other than News?) I'll be taking it for an in-depth test drive.

Posted on February 23, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Yahoo! Answers Beta

Yahoo has an interesting service in Beta right now. Basically, you can Ask any question, Answer any question that's been asked, and then browse their library of questions and answers. It's a format I've seen before several times, specifically in the field of code libraries- post a coding question and have people submit answers, sometimes for a small monetary transaction. In the case of Yahoo! Answers, there doesn't appear to be any money changing hands, so there are some pretty wacky questions coming up in the Browse section.

Check it out: Yahoo! Answers

Posted on February 21, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

MSN ContentAds - JenSense Scoops New MSN Ad Publisher Network

JenSense, an authority in search engine marketing, scooped this one: MSN is going to launch a PPC publishing network. Through astute reading of the program for Microsoft's upcoming Mix06 event, she discovered that there will be an event in which the MSN ContentAds program is unveiled. Mix06 looks pretty appealing, being a supposed 72-hour (I wouldn't doubt that there will be a lot of caffeine consumed at such an event!) involving the web, operating systems, and more. In short, a MS-sponsored tech gab fest.

We don't have any details yet on what this ad program will be like, but I certainly hope that it will be differentiated from Google AdSense and Yahoo! Publisher Network. If it's any good at all, even a little, I expect to see most of the pro bloggers at least check it out for purposes of income diversification.

This will be one to watch- although some say it's late to the party, I have a feeling that MS is intentionally being fashionably late, waiting for the party to get going before even showing up. Perhaps the party hasn't even started yet. Competition is a good thing!

Posted on February 17, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Virtualization Coming of Age

The activity surrounding VMWare lately is an encouraging sign of things to come. Virtualization, soon to reach the hardware level with Intel's Vanderpool technology (if not already, according to the rumor mill) has come a long way in the past decade. The Java Virtual Machine, sometimes criticized due to slow performance and compatibility issues in the early days - especially with respect to MS-only extensions to the MS VM - has evolved to be a powerful server platform with decent performance. On the smaller end of the scalability issue, J2ME allows bytecode that's been compiled and tested on any platform to run on common mobile phones, giving rise to a wide range of mobile applications.

Macintosh had the Virtual PC product, which allowed X86 operating systems like Linux and Windows to run in a virtualized hardware environment under Mac OS. Rather than running bytecode compiled to target a standardized cross-platform environment (the JVM), Virtual PC emulated a complete computer inside a software process. Entire operating systems could share the hardware resources with the host, Mac OS. Virtual PC was eventually acquired by Microsoft, and it's unclear what will happen to it now that Mac hardware will be running on Intel CPUs, although a  powerful concept could arise right from Apple if they take advantage of Vanderpool technology in the upcoming Mac OS releases, or perhaps as another product. A hypervisor could allow simultaneously running Windows Vista or Linux alongside Mac OSX. I'm not sure Apple has a lot of incentive to do this (their vertical offering of hardware + software tied together has served them well), so perhaps someone else will do the implementation. 

Now, VMWare has released a free Player for VMs, and are acting as a catalyst for a community of VM developers. Based on hosting Linux or BSD operating systems, the freely-distributable VMs out there encompass specialized system images ranging in function from the browsing appliance, to content management systems, to dedicated firewall systems. If they succeed, VMWare could inspire developers to come up with all kinds of free system images. There was already a small but growing group of people interested in building complete operating systems that could fit on USB keys or MP3 players. Now, with VMWare technology available, this capability is easier than before and can run anywhere you can access a PC. Bring a scaled-down OS with you wherever you go, Keep your data safer than just sitting down at someone else's workstation and using their tools.

Or, for testing software, or try before you buy, you can distribute an image that won't have side-effects on your host OS. In a sort of evolution of the Java Sandbox security model, you can define what hardware and other host resources the guest VM can and cannot access, quickly and easily through GUI configuration tools.

Despite my optimistic title for this post, the virtual machine technology development is still just beginning,  There is a long way to go, and it remains to be seen if VM technology will ever be adopted more widely then in devleopment or server management circles. The reason I'm optimistic at this stage is that the free (as in beer) availability of VM host technology is beginning to spur innovation and collaboration. Eventually, a real killer app could emerge. But what has to occur along side the innovation and experimentation is a simplification of sorts. Make using virtualization as simple as burning a CD in iTunes. Recall how few people knew how to burn music CDs just a few years ago, and compare that to how many do this on a daily basis now that the interface (iTunes or otherwise) has reduced the process to utter simplicity. Virtualization is a concept that I'm not entirely sure will be able to make this transformation, but with the growing popularity of VMWare Player and the new, free (as in beer) VMWare Server apps perhaps we will see it emerge in some surprising and delightful way,

Posted on February 16, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Google Purchases Measure Map Analytics Service

Google has signed a deal to purchase Measure Map, a web analytics
service focuses on blogs. Developed by Adaptive Path, Measure Map gives
a very distilled, focused look at how your blog is (or isn't )
performing, using a highly visual approach to grokking where your
readers are coming from and what they are doing once they hit your

It appears that Jeffery Veen, a well-known web developer whose books are
highly informative and useful, is now going to be working at the Plex
along with other Internet and Web luminaries as he seems to be part of
the purchase.

If you're interested in joining the beta, I highly suggest submitting
your email address very early on, because of what happened with Google
Analytics when it was made free.


Posted on February 15, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

VMWare Virtual Server Released

The rumors were confirmed yesterday; VMWare Virtual Server is now a free download which replaces EAX Server in the VMWare line. It's a worthy download, allowing users to run VMs created by VMWare Workstation, or downloaded from the premade virtual machine library on the VMWare site.

Missing is the functionality that belongs exclusively to the GSX Server product, which is aimed squarely at the enterprise infrastructure level including VMotion and many of the remote managing and load balancing tools.

Nevertheless, the VMWare Virtual Server could come in very handy. Create custom VMs with Workstation, and deploy to Virtual Server. Create throwaway, self-contained test environments. Have a complete, ready to run backup image of your existing systems.

Already available are VMWare Player VMs containing web browsers, firewalls, and more. Definitely keep and eye on the VMWare site for updates via their RSS feed to se where developments are headed.

Posted on February 7, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack