Cool Tech Reviews

Just Cool Tech

January 31, 2007

I think I’ll pass on video email

Oliver Ryan at Fortune magazine’s The Browser lets us in on “the next big thing”:

The Browser landed yesterday in artificial Palm Desert, CA for DEMO 2007, one of the few must-visit annual tech conferences. Over the next two days, 68 companies will each be given six minutes to unleash their revolutionary new technology upon the world – or at least upon industry heavies like the Wall Street Journal’s Walt Mossberg. The parade began early this morning Pacific time, and thusfar we have two words for you: video email.

That’s right, of the first 15 companies, Eyejot, a company which hopes to merge “the best of email with video chat” was the most sexy. Briefly, Eyejot is a web-based video email system. If you have a webcam, you an send a video email to anyone. True, you might be able to do this now by embedding video files in, say, your Outlook email, but it would require some serious cutting and pasting. On first glance, the free Eyejot web-driven app makes the whole process as simple as creating a text email.

Bottom line: When you see it, you can easily imagine the entire world of email moving from text to video.

Luckily, Eyejot’s system isn’t integrated with any existing email tools so you aren’t likely to have your mailbox filled any time soon with large chunks of video, but I’m sure it’s only a matter of time. Then comes video spam. I suppose I am standing in the way of progress, but I can’t imagine why I would want to either send or receive video email. Unfortunately, I can think of reasons why other people would like to send it.

Posted at 9:04 pm. Filed under Companies, Email, Eyejot, Internet, Thumbs Down

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January 29, 2007

Windows Vista Reviews

Today and tomorrow are filled with Microsoft events hyping tomorrow’s launch of the consumer versions of Microsoft’s new PC operating system, Windows Vista. Below is a roundup of reviews, but while the words are different, the tune is the same: You won’t mind Vista when you get it on the next new PC you buy, but there’s no reason to consider installing it as an upgrade on a machine currently running Windows XP.

Robert Vamosi at CNET:

Windows Vista is essentially warmed-over Windows XP. If you’re currently happy with Windows XP SP2, we see no compelling reason to upgrade. On the other hand, if you need a new computer right now, Windows Vista is stable enough for everyday use.

Rob Pegoraro at the Washington Post:

For most people buying a new PC after Monday, getting a Windows PC will mean getting a Vista PC; there’s no choice to be made. And there need be nothing wrong in that case — on a computer with enough memory and processing power, Vista clearly exceeds XP.

But for most people with older machines, Vista demands too much to justify its benefits. If you fall into that category, you’re better off upgrading XP by adding third-party programs — for instance, Google Desktop, the Firefox Web browser, Thunderbird mail program and the Picasa photo album — to paper over XP’s deficiencies. Wait for Microsoft to fix the inevitable bugs in Vista and for Windows developers to rewrite their software to work better in Vista.

Then, if you’re both patient and lucky, by the time you’re ready for a new computer, Vista will be ready for you.

Larry Magid at CBS News:

Vista is good, but I still question whether it’s worth nearly $160 plus the cost of any hardware upgrades for anyone but those early adapters who love to live on the bleeding edge of technology. For most people, the best way to get Vista is to get it the next time they buy a PC.

Walter Mossberg at the Wall Street Journal:

It has taken the giant software maker more than five years to replace Windows XP with this new version, called Windows Vista — an eternity by computer-industry reckoning. Many of the boldest plans for Vista were discarded in that lengthy process, and what’s left is a worthy, but largely unexciting, product.

Gradually, all Windows computers will be Vista computers, and that’s a good thing, if only for security reasons. But you may want to keep your older Windows XP box around awhile longer, until you can afford new hardware that can handle Vista.

David Pogue at the New York Times:

According to a SoftChoice survey, in fact, only 6 percent of existing corporate PCs have enough muscle to run all of Vista’s goodies. No wonder Microsoft expects that only about 5 percent of PC users will upgrade their existing computers to Vista.

Online, there’s much talk of Vista’s place in the universe. Is it too little, too late? Does the Mac’s uptick in market share threaten the dominance of Windows? Does Web-based software make operating systems obsolete?

None of the above. Windows isn’t going anywhere, the landscape won’t be changing anytime soon, and the corporate world will still buy it 500 copies at a time.

In other words, it doesn’t matter what you (or tech reviewers) think of Windows Vista; sooner or later, it’s what most people will have on their PCs. In that light, it’s fortunate that Vista is better looking, better designed and better insulated against the annoyances of the Internet. At the very least, it’s well equipped to pull the world’s PCs along for the next five years — or whenever the next version of Windows drops down the chimney.

Posted at 11:46 am. Filed under Companies, Microsoft, Operating Systems, Windows Vista

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January 25, 2007

LG BH100 leads the parade of dual format high definition DVD players

I’ve mentioned some high definition DVD players here (e.g. [1],[2]), but whatever the virtues, the biggest impediment remains the format battle between the Blu-ray and HD DVD camps. Earlier this month at the Consumer Electronics Show, some vendors tried to bridge the gap: Warner Brothers with a new format disk that had both Blu-ray and HD DVD versions of a movie on it and LG Electronics with a dual format “Super Multi Blue” Player that can handle both Blu-ray and HD DVD disks.

There’s nothing technically wrong with the Warner Brothers solution, but it requires the studios to agree to publishing the special disks which seems unlikely except for Warner Brothers themselves. More promising is is LG’s dual format player solution:

Following the commercial launch of the universal player that can tap both Blu-ray and HD DVD markets there are many more similar devices incoming according to technology research firm ABI research, which believes that such hybrid players will essentially end the war of formats. However, due to high pricing of blue-laser players their mass adoption is still far ahead.

ABI Research believes that by creating a player that accommodates both Blu-ray and  HD-DVD discs, the Korean manufacturer LG Electronics may have created a precedent that the rest of the industry will have to follow.

“We believe that universal players will come to dominate the high-definition DVD player market,” said Steve Wilson, the firm’s principal analyst of consumer electronics.

The research firm also speculates that Samsung is expected to release its own universal player “soon”, and others, including large consumer electronics vendors, may follow suit “before long”. ABI Research forecasts sales of 2.4 million players in 2007, rising to 55 million in 2011.

Many observers expect that the demands of supporting both formats would significantly increase the price of universal players. While there is some additional cost in the optical pickup and the LG player’s initial price is quite steep at $1200, Mr. Wilson expects these prices to drop dramatically as new manufacturers come to market with universal players.

“That $1200 price would seem to be more about matching Blu-ray player prices than about reflecting the cost of producing a universal player. There’s no reason universal players should cost significantly more than HD or Blu-ray players,” the analyst explained.

The LG players are available now in the USA:

The major consumer electronics maker LG Electronics has reportedly started to sell its “Super Multi Blue” BH100 player that is capable of Blu-ray disc and HD DVD playback ahead of the officially proclaimed commercial launch date in the U.S.

Apparently, online store is currently taking orders on LG BH100 universal disc player, whereas at least some Circuit City stores have them on shelves. Officially, the LG “Super Multi Blue” player, the world’s first and yet the only device that can playback both Blu-ray and HD DVD formats, should be on sale starting the 1st of February, 2007.

Here’s the press release for the BH100, but Gizmodo’s review points out some problems:

We got the LG BH100 in the mail yesterday. It does what claims to do — be the very first high definition disc player that is compatible with both Blu-ray and HD-DVD. But don’t waive the white flag in the format war quite yet. Our first grope reveals a few flaws that keep me from recommending this player as the ultimate peace keeper in the HD format war.

Right off the bat, I’ll tell you that the rumors that the HD-DVD compatibility is half-assed are absolutely true. One of HD-DVD’s strongest points is its interactive menus and video features, like the ones we wrote about in our Fast and the Furious HD-DVD review. This player didn’t support the menus on this movie, and some of the special features, like being able to repaint a race car in the movie, were only found when I manually skipped to the chapter. Even then, the only thing you can depend on is that the movie will play. Which may be enough for many, but not enough for those who want the most from both formats.

Secondly, I could not get the player to engage its 1080p mode via HDMI with the Sony XBR3 I’m testing. 1080i was all she would do.

But beyond that, she did play both discs. And the boot times were in the 30-40 second range for both HD formats. That’s a step in the right direction compared to many of the 1st gen disc players that took about a minute.

The HD DVD glitches are why the BH100 does not have the official HD DVD logo.

Bottom Line: The LG player just doesn’t seem ready for prime time yet, but once they work the bugs out the dual format player looks like it will take over the high definition DVD player market. Yeah, it’s more expensive than Toshiba’s moderately priced HD DVD-only players, but it plays everything.

Posted at 10:36 am. Filed under Blu-ray, Companies, HD DVD, LG, Samsung, Storage, Toshiba

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