April 2008


Microsoft LifeCam VX-7000 Webcam Took Pretty Good Conference Videos


I bought a Microsoft LifeCam NX-6000 notebook webcam last year (device on the right in the photo above). Its video and audio quality is good. However, the mounting clip is awful. It fits on the top of most notebook LCD lids, but is otherwise useless. So, I bought the newer Microsoft LifeCam VX-7000 notebook webcam (device on the left in the photo above) a few weeks ago. Instead of a clip, it has what might be described as a simple articulated arm. It can be used as a sort of counter balance when sitting on a notebook lid. However, it can also be used as a stand on any other surface.

I used it to video record presentations a few days ago. I was sitting about 25 feet from the person speaking (unamplified) in a semi-darkened room (for PowerPoint presentations). I was very surprised at the high quality video (640×480 at 30fps) and decent audio quality. Although the audio volume was a little low, every word could be understood from a variety of speakers with varying levels of loudness and voice types.

I had the VX-7000 plugged into a Dell Latitude D620 notebook running Windows Vista Business Edition (32-bit version) and used the simple video recording software that comes with the webcam. The next step is to import that video into Microsoft Movie Maker and use its audio amplification option to boost the voice volume. I expect that it will also increase the ambient noise. But, I’m hoping that result will still be acceptable for informal video note-taking purposes.

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Starbucks WiFi Changes

This is a bit dated. But, since I tend to use WiFi at Starbucks now and then, I wanted to make a note for myself to remember where I read this Starbucks blog item about its WiFi hotspot program since they don’t seem to have permalinks for individual blog items. Check out the March 25, 2008 blog entry titled…

Wi-Fi changes—coming your way

Here’s a repost of that blog item in its entirety in case it becomes hard to find as it finds its way into the Starbucks blog archive…

This is Kevin Shawver and I work on the Wi-Fi program at Starbucks. First of all, I am excited to see all the energy around free Wi-Fi—we know it is important to our customers. I was secretly hoping that free Wi-Fi would be #1 amongst the popular ideas, but I’ll take #2.

Back in February we announced that we’re switching to AT&T as our Wi-Fi provider in our U.S. company-operated stores. As Brad Stevens mentioned in his post on March 24, we’re thrilled to be rolling out two hours of complimentary Wi-Fi service for customers who have a registered Starbucks Card. It’ll be simple to sign up. All you have to do is:

1. Register a Starbucks Card
2. Sign up for an AT&T Wi-Fi account (and limited ATT marketing)
3. Come to Starbucks and login

To keep your newly created Wi-Fi account “active” you’ll need to make a purchase with your registered Starbucks Card or add additional funds to it within the prior 30 days of logging on. We feel that the complimentary two hours is a meaningful amount of time and a fantastic way to reward Starbucks Card holders.

We have customers with a variety of needs—some want to come in and read, some want to chat with a friend and others want to use Wi-Fi. Starbucks means different things to different people and the two-hour limit helps balance the many needs of our customers so that everyone can enjoy spending time at Starbucks. This service will be available to all customers nationwide later this spring.

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HYmini Handheld Wind/Solar Generator: Does it Actually Work?


The Hymini is a handheld wind power generator. There is also an optional solar panel that can be used with it. The company behind both products claims in recharge personal electronic products such as cell phones and MP3 players. The devices look reasonably priced. The wind generator is US$49.95 and the solar panel is $24.99. If you want to make a fashion statement, they also provide an armband for the wind generator. Hmm. There’s a bicycle bracket too.

The hurricane season will be upon us in a few months. And, I suspect we may have more brownouts that usual this summer. These gadgets look pretty interesting. Has anyone tried them out? Any comments?

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Emeril Lagasse’s Mobile Friendly Site


I had a Banana Foster Cream Pie for dessert as part of my lunch the other day and didn’t know what it was. Searching for the term on the web led to famed TV chef Emeril Lagasse’s website. And, what do you know, it has a mobile friendly version. This was important since I was using a Windows Mobile smartphone at the time and not the more browser capable iPod touch. Still, mobile friendly sites look better than conventional websites on the iPhone and iPod touch too. So, I’m always pleased to find a mainstream (non-techie) site that is mobile friendly.

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Ubuntu 8.04 is Out But Waiting for 8.10 (Ibex)

I was just reading the article about the release of Ubuntu Linux 8.04 over on Arstechnica…

The Heron has landed: Ubuntu 8.04 officially released

…and this comment caught my eye: The next major version is Ubuntu 8.10, which is codenamed Intrepid Ibex and is scheduled for release in October. During the Intrepid Ibex development cycle, the focus will be on mobile computing and desktop scalability.

I’ve installed a bunch of different Linux distros and distro versions on notebooks over the years for testing: Fedora, Ubuntu, Puppy Linux, etc. Everyone of them has been flawed from a mobile notebook point of view. Battery management was non-existent, WiFi support was awful, LCD displays were acceptable at best. I assume Asus’ custom Linux for their Eee PC handles these issues well. And OLPC’s Sugar OS (based on Fedora) seems ok too. But, these were tailored for their hardware. I’ll give Ubuntu 8.04 a spin on a notebook for testing. But, I’m not expecting much.

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So Long Spot Watches, We Hardly Knew You

Wow, just read this over on Engadget…

SPOT watches, R.I.P.: 2004 – 2008

I still use my Suuntto n3i Spot watch everyday and subscribe to the service that lets me sync with Outlook’s calendar. According to Engadget the data service will continue on for my watch. I sure hope so since Microsoft just auto-renewed the service and charged my credit card a few weeks ago.

It’s too bad Microsoft wasn’t able to make a go of the Spot watches. It might have done better if it could sync directly with a Windows Mobile device in addition to Outlook. And, if it grown to include Bluetooth to provide incoming Caller ID information, it might have been a better value for WiMo smartphone users.

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