Archive for the ‘Product Reviews’ category

My experience with Active@ Boot Disk

October 19, 2009

Our office recently needed to do some data recovery.  We usually don’t have to, since all saved data is supposed to go onto a network share.  But there’s always the user who thinks they know better and keeps 3 GB of data on their desktop (not just the desktop computer, but the Windows desktop).  And of course, this would also be the user whose hard disk dies.  My sense of responsibility got the better of my schadenfreude, so I started trying to retrieve the data.

Occasionally, I’ve been able to retrieve data by fiddling with things until I can temporarily access the data.  Didn’t work this time.  Enter Active@ Boot Disk.  I’ve used the demo DOS-based version of their software before, and I wasn’t particularly impressed.  But we decided to spring for the Windows-based version, and I’m glad we did.  It’s intuitive, effective, and I will consequently spend much less time recovering files in the future.  Check it out if you have a chance.

Some of the particular things that impressed me about the Win version are:

– ability to map a network drive, then save recovered files to it
– use Remote Desktop to control another computer
–  reset Windows passwords (I already have a freeware tool that does this, but it’s nice to have)
– registry editor
– web browser, mail sender, FTP and Telnet clients
– disk wipe tools
– partition tools
– imaging tool
– hex editor to read data directly from the disk (I don’t know if I’ll ever use that, but hey…)

So you get the idea – it’s got a lot to offer.  If you’re needing a preinstall environment, especially for doing file recovery, check it out.

Only thing I wish it had – ability to integrate malware scanners into the PE.  Oh well, can’t have everything.  And at $80 US, it’s a great value.


The future of sports is streaming

July 30, 2009

So a few weeks ago during the Baseball All-star game I must have been busy. To busy to take in how genius this was. So you may know that I like streaming content. I watch almost all of my TV shows via a computer and a web browser. I love it because I can watch it on my time or at any point. Between Hulu and Netflix I am never short of things to fill my time.

Recently I have noticed a number of sports webcasting. The first one I noticed was March Madness. This was great especially at the beginning with so many games during the day at work.. You could stream any game so I could watch my beloved U of I Illini even though I was in Boston. Ultimately when the games were all in the evening I just watched it live on the TV, but it was still a good first try. The second one I noticed was Wimbledon. I love tennis and it worked very well. I actually watched the Men’s championship live on TV and streaming. The stream was a few seconds behind so I got automatic replays of good points.

While I like these options I understand the person who says, “Who cares?” The streams weren’t Hi-Def as far as I could tell and most people don’t have their TV hooked into their computer like I do. I mean even watching tennis is better on a 40 inch vs a 15 inch. So why would I say the future of sports is streaming? It came down to the all-star game. I wish I had realized how genius this stream cast was. I don’t have pictures, but this blog does a good job with screen shots.

Here is the key, TV is a broadcast only medium. It works great with professionals behind the scenes making sure you always get the best shot and always get the action, but that means you only get to see what they want you to see. Streaming can be interactive and the All-star game stream showed off just how good it can be. The first option is just to pick one camera angle to watch the game with. This could be anything from behind the plate, from the outfield, or just the outfield. You could also select 2 cameras to watch at the same time or 4 cameras to watch at the same time. All I can say is, “Wow, you just blew my mind.” It takes you from being a limited watcher to an interactive controller. You get to watch what you want to watch. It is the closest thing to literally being there, and perhaps better since you can watch multiple places at the same time. Suppose there is someone at first base and you want to watch him to see if he steals second. Now you can.

It is hard not see this as the next big step for consuming sports. At Wimbledon imagine being able to fix a camera on Federer and on Nadal. You get to see their form in its finest glory. In Football imagine watching the fixed camera on the QB while watching another cameras of up field. Now you can literally watch as the passing lanes open up or dissolve in a sack.

There are still some advantages to the traditional one-way broadcast medium. At first I was overwhelmed with my options during the All-star game. I also didn’t know what camera angle was best. Since you pick it and leave it it was possible to miss some action. But I think this is a minor issue to resolve. I kept changing cameras till I found the perfect balance.

Ultimately I see this as the future, I sure hope so at least. I would be willing to pay for this option if needed. $10 for all of Wimbledon, yea I’d do that. The price would have to be low, but it could be there. Of course offering it for free just makes it all the more compelling and likely more used. You can make a lot from advertising especially since the breaks are hard set due to the live TV streaming. Eventually people will figure out how to make all this work.

HTC is a friend of Android

June 25, 2009

HTC the cell phone maker was the first company to come out with an Android phone with the G1. They now have two more announced. This latest one has no certain date in North America, but it looks good. I think I might want one.

The specifications look good:

Bluetooth® 2.0 with Enhanced Data Rate and A2DP for wireless stereo headsets
Wi-Fi®: IEEE 802.11 b/g
HTC ExtUSB™ (11-pin mini-USB 2.0 and audio jack in one)
3.5 mm audio jack
5.0 megapixel color camera with auto focus
Talk time:

Up to 420 minutes for WCDMA
Up to 470 minutes for GSM

Standby time:

Up to 750 hours for WCDMA
Up to 440 hours for GSM
microSD™ memory card (SD 2.0 compatible)

This is certainly going to be a compelling phone. It is no secret that I like Android. This added to the their previous phone leads me to believe that Android could take Apple’s iPhoneOS to task. I’m thinking about jumping into mobile development and Android is looking way better than Apple right now to me.

Looks like Palm Pre is after Blackberry

June 11, 2009

Looks like bfpower is correct. Ars review essentially says they think Palm pre is more after the blackberry crowd rather than the iPhone. From the looks of it they are right, but I have to say that as an iPhone user they could easily entice me as well.

From the article:

My experience so far with the Pre is that it’s as good a messaging device as the iPhone is a media device. And while it has solid Exchange and push e-mail support, where webOS really excels—at least, for the moment—is in the way that it embeds the Pre seamlessly within the much-hyped “cloud” messaging ecosystem. This cloud messaging integration is most spectacularly showcased in the way that webOS handles contacts and instant messaging.

In all, Palm put as much effort into making the webOS a first-rate messaging experience as Apple did into making the iPhone a first-rate media experience, and with just as much success. So if most of your communication consists of Twitter, email, SMS, and IM with the people in your Facebook network and/or Gmail contacts list, then the Pre will do for your personal messaging what your work BlackBerry does for your business messaging.

Now if Pre can come out on a different network than Sprint.

Should Apple worry about iPhone competition?

June 3, 2009

Wired ran this story, “Why Apple Can Afford to Phone It In With the Next iPhone.” It basically reads that the next iPhone, expected to be announced next week, will likely be a minor upgrade. Of course this is all based upon rumors, but as much as Apple tries to be secret typically the rumors aren’t that far off. Aside from the fact that this is all based upon rumors I am inclined to agree with the analysis with one word of caution.

Recently I have been writing about the Android rumors. I really am excited about it, but I have mentioned that my excitement is when they mature and that this is a good indication of what will be when my current iPhone contract runs out. Let me back up. When the iPhone first released the blogs were all abuzz and people lined up for days to get their hands on the first, worthless IMO, iPhone iteration. I largely ignored the first iPhone, not because I didn’t see the bright future, exactly the opposite, but because I knew the future held much more promise than their first release. Apple tested the waters and they were good. So good that they quickly released the iPhone 3g. It was at that point that the hardware was complete enough, though they could have done much better, and the software was complete enough, app store anyone, to grab my attention. Indeed, with that launch Apple sealed their prominence that every other hardware maker aspires to have now. But what this shows is that everyone must go through the growing pains. When Apple released the original iPhone they probably never imagined that the app store would take off like it did. They may not have imagined how people would eventually use or want to use the hardware. The initial released was the baby stage for what would blossom into a powerful teenager. It was and is at this point that I decided it was ready for my use, and it has proven up to the task. With the release of version 3.0 of the software Apple will finally mature the iPhone into adulthood. Where we are now with all other smart phones (Palm pre, G1, Android, Storm) is still infancy. It took Apple over a year for each stage to mature so it only makes sense that all others would follow a similar path to maturity if not slower. So as I see it Apple owns the smart phone market. All other competitors fail on multiple levels, but not for lack of trying. In this way the Wired author is correct. Apple can release a minor upgrade to the iPhone and not worry about losing market prominence or superiority.

With all that said my word of caution is this. Now that Apple is an adult it stands out from the rest, but it is now perched on a ledge waiting to be pushed off. Like I said all the other competitors are still in infancy, but they are showing good signs for quick maturation. For Android there is already a robust API it just needs better hardware. Palm Pre could shake up the industry, but as of yet hasn’t launched, and will likely face problems being tethered to Sprint. The Storm with all of its hardware advantages loses on apps and development platform. These are the same problems Apple faced and overcame. They may have made it look easy, but soon enough competitors will figure things out. Just give them time. Apple may not need to launch a hot new iPhone this time around, but they better have something good coming or else they may find themselves mediocre, compared to the competition, in the not so distant future.

This is why I am so optimistic. There are so many uses for smart phones. I don’t know that I could ever go back, but I am not sold on Apple or the iPhone. Right now I think I purchased the best there is, but the horizon looks good for some serious competition once it is time to upgrade.

MSI’s new bling

May 28, 2009

Wired has a good run down of the new MSI X340. They are calling it the MSI’s Macbook Air and for good reason. Take a look at the pics on Newegg. Now I haven’t gotten my hands on one of these just yet, but it looks rather compelling. It would seem that MSI fixed all of the shortcomings of the Apple Macbook Air, namely two USB ports plus built in Ethernet. Oh don’t forget the SD card, vga and hdmi slots. Oh and most importantly it comes in at half the price. I’d say the chief advantage the Air has is OSX, but I bet the X340 will run Linux pretty well.

Really if you are in the netbook market and are looking for something a little bigger (screen size is 13 inches) and looks good than this is the machine for you. I like a good looking machine. I don’t think you have to sacrifice style for price or size and the MSI proves that.

Is Apple going to lower prices?

May 6, 2009

ars technica has an interesting take on the pros and cons of Apple lowering their prices. I think they do a fair job. Essentially it boils down the fact that once Apple lowers their price they won’t easily raise it back up. One interesting point was that Apple has weathered the downturn in the economy quite well turning record profits, no doubt a huge portion of that is due to high profit margins. I see the point of the ars article, but I am not sure I totally agree.

There are two things speaking as a consumer. First I haven’t ever purchased a Mac. I am writing this on a Mac, but never purchased one on my own. They are expensive and I am just not sure I am willing to pay the increased price when I can get something quite similar at a cheaper rate (I think a lot of business fall into this same problem). I like the OS and they do build beautiful well engineered machines, but for that price? I also like choice, but that is quite a different topic. Now all that said applied to me before the downturn in the economy. Now with the boom of netbooks and general lower prices on computer hardware it is almost impossible to justify a $2000+ 15″ laptop (and I know it isn’t fair to compare a netbook to the MBP, but even a comparable 15″ laptop from most other PC makers is well under 2K). It gets worse if you compare the desktops (with a possible exception with the starting iMac). Of course lowering the prices now on Macs may be bad timing (if things are truly as rosey as Bernanke tried to indicate yesterday).

I don’t know that Mac really needs to lower prices per se, I mean people are still buying their current lineup. The reality is that they should have more choices and with that lower prices. Most people don’t need the processing power of an MBP, but when it is either that or a 13″ screen many opt for the higher price just for screen space. Same is true of Mac Pros. I can think of very few people in the consumer world that need that much computing power, but if you want an expandable desktop there is your option. The point is that they should offer laptops of varying price points with varying sizes. Maybe offer something other than a Mac Mini sub-1000. And lets be truthful is the Mac Mini really that good of a deal? It starts at $600 with no monitor, keyboard, or mouse. By the time you add everything else up, oh and don’t forget the upgrade because the base system is crap, and you have a $1000 machine. Dell could get you into a desktop, not quite as small or sexy mind you, with monitor (flat screen), keyboard, mouse, and printer for less than the $600 price tag of the Mini unit.

My point is that lowering prices might help, but I know Apple, their lowering of prices will be marginal and almost meaningless. Oh people will praise them for it, but it won’t change my mind about purchasing one. I would rather get choice and variety. I think if Apple builds it they will come. The ars article suggests that when people buy the cheaper machines (given that they will be made cheaply) that will cause problems for Apple. I suppose they are right that some will complain, but I think most will realize that you get what you pay for. If you don’t like the quality of the $1000 15″ upgrade to our $2000 MBP. I think that is how most companies work. And for the few that will complain you will reap a whole heap of new customers and wider market share (and probably profit too).