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Tuesday
Mar252003

One View On The Future of Technology

Last week, a good friend sent me a link to a very comprehensive article written by tech consultant Andrew Grygus. The article discusses technology trends of 2003 and beyond, with analysis and references that provide a view of what the future for technology might be. Grygus' piece specifically addresses Microsoft's role in the future, because they are now so deeply intertwined with the technology industry.

Now, I admit I'm a Mac user and have always been a little suspicious of Microsoft's plans for the future, just based on how they've dealt with competitors and their users in the past. I do realize that there are many Windows users out there and that Windows does a fine job for many people and businesses, which is great. Further, I use some of Microsoft's products on my Mac and really like them.

However, after looking at this in-depth overview of where Microsoft is headed, I must say I'm very happy that I'm a Mac user with an alternative to Windows and Microsoft applications. I had always felt Microsoft's general approach tended toward restrictiveness and exclusivity. The facts presented in the Grygus article really made clear what could happen if Microsoft were left unchecked.

Now whether you love or hate Microsoft (or are ambivalent), I strongly suggest you take the time to read through this article. I was a bit surprised to see what amounted to Microsoft moving completely to a forced subscription system of dealing with Windows and Office that could require users to get on an upgrade treadmill like nothing ever seen before.

It's possible that these predictions are not what will exactly happen, especially since there are alternative options like Linux and Mac OS X and those who would challenge Microsoft. Whatever the case, I always think it's wise to be fully informed. In this case it seems especially critical if you're a Windows user contemplating what the future may hold for your computing needs.

Monday
Mar242003

The Joy of Digital Cameras

Canon A20
In the fall of 2002 my wife and I decided that it would be a good idea to look into a digital camera as we prepared for the birth of our son. I had until then been only semi-interested in digicams until last fall thinking they were unnecessary for my needs since I already had my flatbed scanner for getting photo prints into my Mac.

Well, sometimes I think it takes physically having a bit of new technology to really realize how useful it is. It wasn't until I had my Canon A20 in hand to shoot with that I understood just why digital cameras are so wonderful. Let me share some of the things I've discovered in case you're a stick in the mud about digital cameras like I once was.

Creative freedom. Not having to deal with film is incredibly freeing. With my Canon and a 128MB CF card, I just shoot what I want and whenever I want to, without worrying how much film I might be wasting in the process. I just shoot -- good, bad whatever and it's cool. I feel free to explore things that would restrict me with a film camera, which often leads to unexpectedly fun shots. I feel like I'm having fun with my camera again, which makes me want to shoot all the time!

Endless Film. I can wade through my shots in the camera and delete bad attempts immediately, or I can suck all of the images off the camera to my Mac via USB cable or CF card reader and weed through them there. This also means my CF card is essentially an endless roll of digital film as long as I clear it of shots now and then. If I'm away from my Mac the CF card acts as a 120 shot roll of digital film -- not bad. And if that's not enough, I can pick up even larger CF cards to store my shots, though 128MB seems perfect so far.

Selective Printing. One bummer of regular film cameras is getting prints back and finding images you'd have preferred not to have prints of. With digital cameras you can select the images you want to print beforehand and have them turned into film-based prints from online services or from your CF card at your local Walgreens (24 prints for about $7). You can even print shots on your ink jet with amazing quality, though these prints are not of archival quality and may fade over time.

Less Long-Term Expense. Another bummer of print photography are the costs involved. Yes, a film camera is cheaper up front than a digital camera, but as time goes on, the cost (and hassle) of buying film adds up compared to the initial digital camera and CF card investment.

Instant Gratification. Man, it's great to see your shots immediately! Better yet to get them posted on a website (via iPhoto on the Mac) for everyone to see, or emailed if you like. This also means an end to those waits for prints and trips to the drug store to get your prints back. Even using my old scanner to get prints into my Mac seemed archaic and cumbersome after using a digital camera and iPhoto.

I think you really do need a Mac or PC to effectively use a digital camera. There are stand alone printers which can generate 4x6 prints from CF cards or from your camera, but these have limits. They also cannot help you manage the contents on your removable card or store your pictures on a hard drive or burn them to a CD like a Mac or PC can.

So, if you're at all considering a digital camera, right now is a great time to dive in. Digital cameras have reached very reasonable prices as well as the removable media you'll need for digital film. I suggest at least a 2 megapixel camera, good enough to handle 4x6 quality prints, though more megapixels mean better image quality.

Size is another consideration. Make sure the camera you choose is small enough to take anywhere, since big, clunky cameras will tend to be left behind. Camera manufacturers have very small, capable cameras on the market that can easily fit in your pocket.

Where should do you begin looking? Check out these excellent resources to help in your search for a good quality digital camera: Imaging Resource, Digital Camera Views, Digital Camera Resource, Digital Photography Reviews, Megapixel.net and Steve's Digicams. They all have very in depth reviews and great info to help you along. Make sure you visit stores and handle cameras you're considering as a good feel is as critical in your decision as the specs are.

Finally, if you have a friend with a digital camera, see if they'll let you borrow it for a weekend so you can give it a whirl -- you might get hooked like I did! ;-)

Friday
Mar212003

The Elusive Dick Tracy Watch

Wrist PDAIf you're at all interested in Fossil, the popular fashion watch company who's also preparing the release of the Wrist PDA, have a look at this Wired Magazine article Wrist Top Revolution by Josh McHugh. The article covers Fossil's roots, the Palm OS Wrist PDA and Microsoft SPOT watch (which uses FM radio channels to receive wireless data).

What I found most intriguing was the background history of Fossil and their attention to design. Here's a great quote about Fossil's commitment to design details:

"A few of the design guys we met at Fossil had come in on a couple of weekends and varnished that stairway themselves," he says. "Just because they wanted that look."

As a designer, it's always great to hear of companies which feel the design of their products is of high importance. It's also interesting to learn of the many obstacles Fossil has overcome to get a handheld device equal to the Palm Zire, squashed into a watch body.

It should be interesting to see just how the Wrist PDAs do in the marketplace. I have a good friend who just loves his Casio calculator watch -- I can easily see him picking up one of these Wrist PDAs -- for the right price. We'll see what happens this summer...

Have a great weekend all!

Thursday
Mar202003

Life Changing Stories Contest at PalmSource

PalmSource, the company discussed in Tuesday's post, has started a contest for Palm handheld users, asking How Has Palm OS Improved Your Life? Here's the gist of the contest:

Tell us how your Palm Powered™ device has made your company more successful, your business life more productive, or your personal life more enjoyable. We're looking for true stories about problems you've solved and things you can do thanks to your handheld or smartphone.

The winner with the most compelling story about how the Palm OS has helped improve their life, will win a Palm OS smartphone or handheld of their choice -- not bad! So stop on by to make your story known and to take a chance at winning a cool new Palm handheld.

Wednesday
Mar192003

iSiloX Beta Adds Scheduling!

iSiloX AutomatedExcellent news! I received an announcement last night that iSiloX is getting automated scheduling added to the desktop tool. The beta preview of iSiloX 3.35b is available for Mac OS X and Windows.

I've only briefly experimented with the new feature in the beta, and so far it looks good. However, each channel must be set up for a schedule individually. While that's great for flexibility, I'd really love to see a feature that would let me apply a schedule globally to all channels as well as individual channels, so I don't have to manually fiddle with every channel if I want to make a global change.

Still, even this fist step is welcomed. Even better would be an iSilo conduit that would work much like AvantGo's conduit, but I suspect that's either a long way off or wishful thinking on my part. Still, here's to hoping. :-)