La Cie and Thunderbolt

Little Big DiskIf you depend on moving a lot of data around and are looking for ways to move it faster then the Thunderbolt technology (formerly Light Peak) is something that should be of  interest to you. Companies and individuals who work in the area of video editing and transfer will be one of the first groups that will take advantage of the Thunderbolt technology. The Thunderbolt technology was developed by Intel in collaboration with Apple. The technology supports both data and display protocols simultaneously over a single cable. The Thunderbolt technology outperforms all other method of transfers by a mile.

Task that previously took a workstation will soon be performed on a consumer compact device. The new Macbook Pro is the first computer to take advantage of this technology. One of the first companies that has created a device that takes advantage of the technology other then Apple is La Cie. La Cie first show case the Thunderbolt technology at the Intel Developer Forum in September 2010. Since then it has worked even more closely with Apple and Intel to develop various storage solutions and peripherals that take advantage of Thunderbolt technology and to bring them to market. This close cooperation between La Cie and Apple  is nothing new. La Cie has been working closely with Apple for over 20 years developing innovative and cutting edge products. La Cie specializes in hard drives including desktop, mobile, network storage, Raid and Multimedia Hard Drives. Their newest product  called the Little Big Disk will be coming out summer 2011. The Little Big Disk was built to store large amounts of video and audio files. The integration of the Thunderbolt technology will allow that data to be transfer far quicker then any other technology. This in turn will speed up the process of both backup and editing.  Task that used to take hours will now be completed in minutes without any effect on bandwidth performance. Multiple Little Big Disks can even be daisy chained together to expand storage. You can also connect other peripherals like cameras or high resolution displays. The chairman and general manger of La Cie said it best:

“Thunderbolt technology is a breakthrough in I/O technology and
represents the future of mobile computing. Soon you will be able to
carry workstation-class power and functionality in compact devices,”
said Philippe Spruch, Chairman and General Manager,LaCie. “LaCie is
excited to be one of the first to deliver Thunderbolt technology with
the LaCie Little Big Disk.”

La Cie obviously sees Thunderbolt as the the transfer technology of the future. whether it is will depend on how fast other companies create products that take advantage of it.


HecklerDesign and OneLessDrop

Dean Heckler of HeckerDesign creates modern space saving home-office furniture out of his studio in Phoenix, AZ. Aimed at those of us who would love a bijoux pad out of Wallpaper* magazine but don’t either have the space or the money, it’s powder-coated steel made to match the latest tech gear. His OneLessDesk is already a classic. It’s also made in the USA.

There’s also a very tasty iPad stand, the @Rest, which I suspect would do for many tablets (perhaps it will fit the HP TouchPad). Comes in a range of colours and a bargain at $59.

Dean’s latest creation is OneLessDrop, a solution to the problem that many of us have…when you unplug your laptop’s power cable it promptly disappears down the back of the desk faster than you can say, “Steve Jobs”.

The OneLessDrop is an H-shaped block of recycled aluminium designed to hold a couple of cables in place at the edge of the desk. You can see it in the picture below. Definitely much more stylish than Sellotape.

To finance this development, Dean is funding the project through Kickstarter. If you haven’t come across Kickstarter before, it’s a collaborative website where entrepreneurs can seek micro-financing from individual backers. In this instance, you can pledge from $25 upwards in return for one or more OneLessDrops plus behind-the-scenes footage as the project progresses. There’s a video and some more pictures on the website.

I’ve chipped in but if you want to get in on the pre-order action, there’s less that 30 hours to go before the order book closes.

TMS-2011-02-26 #13 Week in Tech

Guest Rob Greenlee from Zune, and Andy McCaskey from join Todd to talk about all the hot stories in the Tech space. We also take some time to talk about Space initiatives and if America is going to loose it’s edge with the retiring of the Space Shuttle. We cover a lot of ground during this show.

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For some time now, when it came to desktop and laptop computer hardware, innovation has seemed to be somewhat stagnate. After all, what more can be done with word processing software? How can spreadsheets possibly be improved? How can the browsing experience be made better? Can email be made more effective or efficient?

Form impacts function, but function often defines form. The popular form of the day is the smartphone and the tablet, both popularized thanks to Steve Jobs and his team at Apple. Today’s smartphones have processors that are as powerful as desktop machines were five years ago. However, the smaller capacitive touch input screens as well as always-on Internet connections have ended up making possible convenience, ease-of-use and sheer simplicity paramount features. That new software design/interface aesthetic is now traveling back to it’s larger computer counterparts.

Some time back, I downloaded the App store on my Macs, but gave it no more than an initial cursory look and promptly forgot about its presence. This evening while waiting for some files to upload, I noticed the Mac App Store icon and decided to look it over again now that it’s been around for a while.

I must say, the Mac App Store pleasantly surprises me. I ended up downloading a few free apps. The Mac App Store browsing and download experience replicates the iPod/iPhone app store experience. The process couldn’t be easier. By putting all of these apps together in one coherent place it makes it much more likely I’ll end up finding software that (a) I might never have gone looking for in a search engine and (b) gives me a place to look for specific types of software when I might need it. While it’s by no means a complete list of all possible Mac software, it is a welcome addition that will likely spur additional future software development.

Can desktop/laptop operating systems become more useful? There is always room for improvement. Basic business software – word processing, spreadsheets, etc. likely cannot be improved beyond what they are. On the other hand, other computer functions such as photo editing, video editing, etc. likely still have dramatic gains that can be made, particularly as hardware speed and throughput continue to improve.

GNC-2011-02-24 #650 Chinese Hacker Conspiracy

Bit of Soap Box time tonight folks. Plus as chance to win a Apple TV be sure to listen to win. Entry email you will need is I share a little insight into some announcements we made today. Make sure you are signed up for the newsletter as that is the quickest way to get information on new show releases. We are half way to show 700 amazing how time flies. Big thanks to Trucker Tom for the Audible endorsement. You will want to get your free trial below!

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Listener Links
Mom Jeans Origin
Apple Firestorm.
Apple Factory Workers Sickened

Show Notes:
Private Space Funding.
Discovery Last Flight.
Alien Matter Discovered
Android Bootloader for Xoom.
South Korea Residents get 1GB to Home.
MobileMe RIP
USB 3.0 Someday?
Thunderbolt Technology.
Cookies and Credit Cards.
Apple Face Time.
Red Communist Chinese Hackers go after Oil.
Have you been to your Library?
CR48 Day 3
Rent Tool
Five Linux Audio Packages.
Google Cloud Connect.
Will Amazon Impact Netflix?
Pay TV Comeback?
iPad Paintbrush.
Smart Shirt!
Pitfalls of Mobile.
In Depth Xoom Review.
Google goes after Data Farmers.
Content Farms days Numbered.
Anonymous Shreds Westboro Church Website.
Craigslist goes to Battle.
ATV docks at ISS.
Helium 3 in Short Supply.
Huawei says you can trust us.
Microsoft fixes Antivirus Engine.
ISP Win In Australia
Movie Industry Gets Instructions in Australia.
Map your Internet Offerings.
Box Office Receipts Record Highs!
Universal Service Fund Scam.

Day 4 – A week Using Google Chrome OS

Today I took the CR48 out in the field. I went to my local coffee shop (not Starbucks) and got on the WiFi. It was no problem getting though their login redirect. Although the WiFi was really slow, I was able to do my normal web surfing and email. I wouldn’t want to try a youtube video on it at that speed. I was getting just 400k down and 128k up. (so much for “high speed” access which is what this coffee shop advertises on their window. Oh well, that’s not really anything to do with Chrome OS.

Then I tried the “free” Verizon EVDO 3G connection. I turned off the WiFi and clicked the little wrench icon in the upper right of the screen. I selected “internet” and then “Cellular”. It took about 3 minutes to connect to Verizon and then it brought up a form to fill out. That included a credit card number. I guess they have to have that to process the account signup. You get 100mb for free per month. They say they won’t charge you unless you sign up for a higher limit account. I’m not sure how they will inform you that you have used up your allotment for the month. I suppose I will find out. Once I was connected I did a speed test and had 1.4m down and 255k up. Exactly the same speed that my Droid was getting. I didn’t stay connected too long on 3G as 100mb isn’t much bandwidth, but it would be good in a pinch if you needed to do something online really quick.

The only other thing I tried today was loading pictures from my camera’s SD card. That worked well. What it did was bring up my Picasa account and loaded them directly online. It looked as though I could have moved them to the mystery “download” folder but I just picked Picasa. It didn’t look like I could get direct access to the card via Chrome, for what it is, it does work ok.

I didn’t spend much more time with the netbook today other then more surfing in the easy chair. On Friday, I’m going to get another opinion from a friend that is in town for the weekend. I’m going to let him take a stab at using it and see what he thinks. He’s like me, very connected with Google, so it shouldn’t be hard for him.

If you want me to try something in the next few days, drop a comment here and I will see what I can do.

Who to be worried about more the Chinese or Anonymous?

In recent weeks it has become very evident that Anonymous is a group that anyone running publicly accessible servers should avoid pissing off. While Anonymous publicly embarrasses those companies and sites they go after, the Chinese on the other hand are much more sinister.

As reported this morning on Bloomberg the business of industrial espionage is alive and well. It has been revealed that a significant number of oil industry servers containing highly sensitive data at Exxon Mobil Corp., Royal Dutch Shell Plc and BP Plc have essentially been owned by the Chinese government for some time.

What possibly could the Chinese want from the servers from those companies, well potentially trillions of dollars in new oil well finds, that the Chinese can just put a rig over and pump out for their countries own consumption. The for mentioned companies are not being very forthcoming but hackers had access to their networks for over a year.

Multi-National companies like these need to get their collective heads out of their asses and get their networks secure. The same goes to US Government infrastructure, power, water, sewage etc etc etc.

Maybe I am just a paranoid retired Navy guy, but if you think the Chinese government is our friend you have to be smoking crack. While I am sure the majority of Chinese people are lovely people, the goals of their Government are such that companies large and small better start improving their security yesterday.

Get Free E-Books and Audiobooks at Your Local Library

My husband went to our local library the Cabell County Public Library last week and picked up a library card. If you haven’t been to a library in a long time you maybe surprise how much they have embraced new technology. One of the areas that most libraries have embraced is ebooks and audiobooks. They use a system called Overdrive to allow customers to download the books. The Overdrive system works with Mac or Windows and a multiple of portable devices including: iPhone, iPad, Blackberry, Sony Readers, Barnes and Noble Nook, various Palm and Window devices. On some devices like the iPhone you can download directly to the devices.  On other devices you have to download to the Overdrive console on your computer and then transfer to the device. A full listing of supported devices can be found at Overdrive Resource Center. Once you install Overdrive on your chosen device or platform, then you are ready to download your book. The steps are as follows:

  1. click on Overdrive Icon
  2. click on Add a Website
  3. enter name of your library, zip code or city
  4. if you enter zip code or city you then have to click on the library you want
  5. log into the your library using your library id and the pin #
    the library gave you.
  6. Find the book you are looking for
  7. At that point you can either add the book directly to
    your cart or too your wish list.
  8. If someone else has the book out,
    you can put a hold on it and when
    it becomes available it will download automatically

I did run into a couple of problems while attempting to download some books. Sometimes entering the zip code work and sometimes it didn’t  and I would have to browse by state. The first time I downloaded a book I had to shut down and restart my iPhone before the book showed up on my list. I also noticed that the number of books available for download is limited. One of the reasons the number of books available are limited is because not all publishers offer their books to libraries. Some publishers are under the mistaken idea that libraries are stealing sales from them. “Public libraries are more important than some blogger,” said Potash from Overdrive. “The library is the best way to elevate your sales. The data is starting to prove it.” Unfortunately the one device that is not supported directly by Overdrive is the Kindle. Although it possible add ebooks downloaded from Overdrive to Kindle, it takes additional steps you have to be able to remove the DRM and convert to Mobipocket format. Clearly most people are not going to do this. Hopefully this is something that can be fixed, its unfortunate that library books can’t be downloaded to the most popular e-book reader easily. Despite these problems if you like to read ebooks or listen to audiobooks, try your local library on-line you maybe surprised what is available.

Netgear NeoTV 550 Review

About a month ago I received a Netgear NeoTV 550 for review.  I am an avid Media Center PC user, which meant I was immediately skeptical of any replacement for my beloved HTPC.  Initially I found my skepticism warranted, but over the past month that changed.  It changed for two reasons – one was my own network setup problem and the other was a Netgear update.

First Impressions

A few weeks ago I posted a brief unboxing tour of the device.  As with any new electronics that show up on my doorstep, I was excited and intrigued by it.  I hurriedly set it up in test mode – which means I didn’t take the time to pull out the media cabinet, take the back off, and hook it up properly.  This setup was quick and dirty – plug in  the device, composite cables to the TV for sound and video, and an ethernet cable (Cat 5E) for access to the home network.

The NeoTV 550 will not do WiFi, in case you’re wondering, but since I have wired access to my home theater, that wasn’t an issue.  This may be a deal-breaker for some users though.

As for the 2 issues I mentioned earlier – the first was on my end.  The NeoTV found my Music folder, but always said it was empty.  I thought it was the box, because both my desktop and laptop found it fine (it’s stored on the Media Center PC in the living room).  But, when I started using another Windows 7 device and it gave the same message, I looked closer and discovered a network sharing issue.  Once I corrected that the NeoTV found the music just fine.

The second issue was in Videos.  We have a lot of TV shows stored on our HTPC and they are all in folders by show name, then further divided into folders by season number.  In short, it’s easy to access any show from Media Center.  The NeoTV took all of these videos and put them in one folder – hundreds of shows that had to be scrolled through to find what we wanted to watch.  This was solved by a software update and now all of our folders are intact and easily accessible.

The Interface

The interface for the NeoTV is clean and simple.  The menu is very succinct – you have Video, Music, Photos, Browse Folders, Internet Media, Streaming TV and Movies, and Settings.  There’s a remote included that makes accessing all of these menu items simple and fast.

Internet Media contains such favorites as YouTube, RadioTime, Shoutcast, Flickr, News, and Weather.  In News you have many favorites like ESPN, Wired Science, and CNN.  You can also add your own RSS feed.

Streaming TV and Movies, when clicked on, gives the message “This feature will be coming in a future firmware release”.

The Video option allows you to drill down through the menus on your source PC – we can choose from TV show, movies, home video, and everything else that’s in the video section of our HTPC.  File names are on the left and cover art is displayed to the right.  Again, it’s a clean, simple interface.  You can change the look to get more of a Media Center My Movies look with cover art only across the screen, allowing you scroll from one movie to the next.  For more on what you can do with your movies see the Tech Specs below.

Music and Pictures work the same as video – folders and titles to the left and artwork to the right.  Or, you can choose an alternative look.

The only thing I found lacking here was the absense of a Search option.


Under the Settings option in the main menu you will find Setup Wizard, Audio / Video, Media locations, Parental Controls and security, User interface, Network, and System.

Options inside of these include:

Audio / Video – Display, Audio, Playback options, and Blu-ray options

Parental Controls – This allows you set set a password, lock the system, enable or disable HTML access, and a few other things.

User interface – Change language, skins, and set a screen saver.

System – Set your time and location and enable weather, check for updates, manage files, and much more.

The Remote

The remote control, which is included, measures 8.5″ x 2″.  It includes the standard Play, Pause, Stop, FF, and RW buttons along with others that include Home, Menu, Subtitle, Repeat, and Popup Menu, to name a few.  Featured at the top are 4 colored buttons that allow easy access to Video, Music, Phot, and Web.

Tech Specs

As for tech specs, the NeoTV 550 comes with an infrared remote, ethernet cable, and a composite a/v cable.  It has 2 USB ports, an SD card slot, eSATA port, 10/100 ethernet port, and an HDMI 1.3a.

It supports AVI, Xvid, MOV, MP4, MPEG2 PS, MPEG2-TS, DVD ISO/VOB/IFO, MKV, ASF, AVCHD, DivX, WMV, M4A, M2TS, MTS, MP1, MP2, MPG, DVR-MS, and Blu-ray.  Personally I was surprised by the .iso support.  A lot of our DVD’s are stored as .iso files to preserve all of the menus, extras, etc., so that was unexpected.  Incidentally, playing the .iso movies on the Netgear box allows the same options you have when playing an .iso on a PC.  YOu can click the Menu button on the remote and jump straight to the DVD main menu.  That is killer for me.


Can the Netgear NeoTV 550 replace a Media Center?  Well, no, but it does make a good extender for someplace like the bedroom.  It won’t pull MC extras like Netflix, but it can play pretty much every media format stored on your Media Center – or home server or any normal PC.  The interface is clean and simple and remote works great.  The setup is simple – anyone who can click My Computer and navigate to a file can easily tell the NeoTV where to look for music, pictures, and video.

Playback of all media is very fast and I encountered no problems with video stutter, macro-blocking, or any other common problems that are associated with video.  If you plug into your receiver then music playback will sound every bit as good as any other component (plug audio into your TV and you get what you get – with any device).

The big question is do I recommend it?  Yes, but with a couple of caveats.  For a complete technophobe it may be too difficult, but for the average to advanced user it should be no problem.  If you currently use an HTPC I wouldn’t replace it with this, but I would use this with a second TV.  Finally, if you’re not an HTPC user, but have a bunch of media stored on your everyday PC or server then definitely yes.  The OS is solid, the setup is pretty easy, and playback is smooth.  And they will updating the software so it will only get better.

Day 3 – A week Using Google Chrome OS

I learned today that making usable audio on Chrome OS is impossible. I tried several times to make a short voice recording and each time it came out really noisy. The built in Mic is not of high quality on the CR48. So my next try was to record with my Sony IC Recorder. The recording turned out great, but the OS wouldn’t recognize the recorder when I plugged it in. It also would not recognize my USB thumb drive. Not sure if that’s an OS thing or a hardware thing. The device does have a SD Card slot so if you had a recorder that used SD Cards, you might be able to go that way with audio (or video for that matter). I am able to do a complete podcast recording, upload to my server and post it using just my Android Phone. So, maybe there is a way with Chrome that I haven’t found yet.

I’ve been doing a lot of typing on the netbook this week and I have to say I’m getting used to the keyboard. The trick is to keep your thumbs up when not using the spacebar. If you don’t, the curser will jump when you are not looking at the screen and then you are inserting text in another part of your document. I guess this is good for better posture but it does take a while to get the hang of. On my Macbook, I don’t have this problem.

I decided to give it the acid test to see if it was ready for prime-time. I let my wife use it. She had no problem creating an account using her Google account login. Step one went well. Let me tell you a bit about my wife. She is NOT a techie person. She uses computers at work because she has to and is very good at what she has to do but doesn’t tweak things. At home, she uses a Mac desktop to play facebook games and keep up with her friends. She also does some light email and web browsing. That’s about it. I gave her the CR48 to use for a while tonight and she picked it right up. Had no trouble playing the flash games she likes (Restaurant City and Hotel City on facebook) She commented on how fast she thought it was compared to her Mac. I found that part strange as I always thought her Mac was quite fast. Anyway, she used it for an hour or so and said “Nice Laptop” and then she asked me “Why did Google send you this for free?” I think she still doesn’t believe me ;) After I’m done testing this thing, I think I might have found a home for it next to the couch.

For Day 4, I’m going to take the CR48 in the field. I want to try out the free 3G from Verizon and how well it connects to public Wifi.