Optoma ML1500 DLP Projector Review

Optoma LogoThe Optoma ML1500 DLP Projector is a stylish ultra mobile LED projector which pretty much does it all in a very neat little package with a good complement of ports, connections and fun tricks. Let’s take a look.

Optoma Front

Measuring just 27 x 17 x 4.5 cm and weighing only 1.4 kg, the ML1500 is very portable and comes with a neoprene carrying case. As you’ll see from the photos, the projector is attractively styled, with the ports on the back and a touchpad on the top. The touchpad can be used to operate the built-in menus to control the ML1500 and there is also a supplied remote control for when changes need to be made from afar. On the bottom, a third leg can be screwed in and out to adjust the angle, and a standard photo mount allows the projector to be hung from above. Finally, a lever on the side controls the focus.

Optoma ML1500 Rear

Round the back there is a plethora of connections, with composite video, HDMI and VGA connectors, 3.5mm jacks for audio and microUSB, USB and SD card slots. Connect up the ML1500 to a PC or laptop and it appears as an Optoma WXGA (1280×800) monitor and with suitable OS, you can do the usual tricks of either reproducing the current desktop or extending the desktop to the ML1500’s display. Locking onto the VGA signal took a second or two, but nothing out of the ordinary. The small size of the projector meant that I could keep it on my desk and if I needed to have an impromptu team meeting that needed something shown, I could quickly turn the ML1500 onto a nearby wall, rather than everyone huddle round a monitor.

Optoma ML1500 Remote ControlOn the fun side, the ML1500 makes a good partner to mini media streamers like the Roku Streaming Stick or Chromecast. The stick can be plugged into the ML1500’s HDMI sockets and power pulled from an adjacent USB socket. All set and good to watch Netflix or other streaming service with minimum of fuss.

The ML1500 does a few other tricks up its sleeve (or USB port as the case may be). First of all, the projector has a built-in media player and office document viewer that will show films, play music and display Word, Excel, Powerpoint and PDF files directly from either an SD card or USB memory stick. I didn’t deliberately try to break the viewer but the ML1500 managed to cope with all the Office documents that I threw at it. It’s relatively easy to navigate round the documents and zoom in or out with the remote control. The on-screen menus are easy to navigate with large friendly icons showing the way.

Playing movies is cool too, with the ML1500 handling mp4, avi and mov format files (though I didn’t confirm the codecs inside each). The presentation is good with the projector keeping up with the action and the picture is fine in unlit room – it doesn’t need to be darkened. Obviously you can have a pretty big screen if you want – I watched a couple of films and really got into the cinematic feel of things. Colours were good and sound is ok – it’s not hifi but you can connect up via a 3.5 mm jack if you want more oomph.

Optoma WiFi DongleNext on the list of clever things is the USB wifi dongle which plugs into the ML1500. Once connected to the “Optoma Display” wireless network, you can use an app on your smartphone or tablet to play presentations and display media. I used WiFi-Doc on Android and the app is available for iPhone and iPad too. It’s easy to use – select what you want to show and it’ll be shown by the ML1500. You can zoom in and out of photos and documents, and about a second later, the projector will update to show the change. Here’s the app showing a photo of the house that Mel Gibson used while filming Braveheart. The app wasn’t quite as good as the built-in player when it came showing office files as a couple of pdfs had missing images.WiFi-Doc App

A final nifty feature was auto-keystone correction, where the ML1500 automatically adjusts the projection to account for the angle of the projector, which means that the picture on the screen is always rectangular and not fatter at the top than the bottom.

One minor niggle is that adjusting the focus has to be done manually and it can’t be corrected using the remote control. Not a big deal in most circumstances but could be an issue if the projector was mounted high up.

Although I’m not a projector expert, I enjoyed putting the ML1500 through its paces. Its comprehensive ports and built-in media player make it a good choice for both business and pleasure, and for those on the move, the low weight and PC-free capabilities, are attractive. I think it’s priced about right too at under £700.

Thanks to Optoma for the review unit.

Payleven Mobile Payments at The Gadget Show

Payleven Chip and PINOne of the common problems facing start-ups and small businesses are the costs associated with taking credit card payments. The transaction costs can be high for small turnovers and point-of-sale machines are expensive with a monthly rental fee. To counter this problem, Payleven offers a low-cost mobile payment solution for European businesses using a Chip’n’PIN card reader that uses Bluetooth to communicate with both Apple, Android and Amazon smartphones and tablets. The Chip’n’PIN unit costs only GB£60 (ex-VAT) with a transaction charge of 2.75%. Payleven have partnered with GoTab to offer a complete solution for around £250 including a tablet and the card reader.

The approach is similar to US-based Square, but as Chip’n’PIN is only beginning to be required across the pond, Square’s reader unit is a simpler card-swipe device that plugs straight into the smartphone. Having a full Chip’n’PIN card reader in Europe is a necessity but the independent unit makes the transaction look much more professional anyway.

Simon from Payleven tells me about their solution and takes me through some of the features.

Ford Acquires Software Developer Livio for In-Dash App Connection

Livio Connect API

Livio Connect API

Ford has been the innovator on connected in-dash infotainment since they first announced their new systems in 2007. So now with all the other car companies coming up fast on in-app systems, Ford needs to keep their eyes on the road and hands on the wheel. Today, they have continued their strength with purchasing Livio for an undisclosed sum, but less than 10 million dollars.

Livio is a company which links applications for iOS, Android and Blackberry to your car. Livio takes the devices Programming interfaces and makes sure they can talk to the Ford Sync system. Livio created Sync Applink for just that purpose.

Ford_logoFord is also getting a product that is an industry standard. This would give app creators a single platform to work with, resulting in faster development of higher quality apps. Consumers – in turn – would have a safe way to access digital content on the go.

“With the additional expertise Livio provides us, Ford intends to continue to lead the next generation of in-car connectivity with technology advancements that give consumers more options to access their devices on the go,” said Paul Mascarenas, chief technical officer and vice president, Ford Research and Innovation.

Livio was co-founded by Jake Sigal and Massimo Baldini in 2008. Their motto: More music, less work. based in Metro-Detroit, the company has grown since.

Find out more: Todd and Don interviewed Livio on the CES Live Feed

Kickstarter Team GB

Kickstarter LogoUs Brits are pretty good at inventing stuff. Telephone and TV; radar and jet engine; antibiotics and vaccination; pneumatic tyres and hovercraft; these are all great British inventions or discoveries. And don’t forget that new-fangled worldwide web thingy from Sir Tim Berners-Lee. We might be a nation of shopkeepers but we’re also a nation of cracking inventors.

Consequently, I’m delighted to see that Kickstarter is now allowing for UK-based projects, which if nothing else, will save on the typical $20 postage across the Atlantic. From today, proposers will be able to start putting together their Kickstarter projects for launch on 31 October (not October 31).

Intelligently, there won’t be separate UK Kickstarter site: all Kickstarter projects will appear together so brilliant ideas can be funded from across the world – you’ll just have to pay in pounds sterling rather than US dollars. I doubt this will reverse our trade deficit but every little bit helps.

The only obvious difference at this stage seems to be that payments won’t be made through Amazon but an unspecified “third party payments processor”.

I’m very much looking forwards to funding some truly British Kickstarter projects and I’ll keep GNC posted as I do.

(For pedants everywhere, I know that UK and GB are not synonymous but I really can’t be bothered explaining the difference to Johnny Foreigner every time.)

Apple Doesn’t Need Heroes

Apple LogoThe iPhone 5 was launched yesterday with the usual Apple pizazz. It looks like a good solid update but there’s the inevitable criticism about the lack of NFC, wireless charging, average screen size, etc. Much as I’d like to see a high-end device, Apple doesn’t need a hero phone based on hardware features and it doesn’t take much analysis to figure out why.

First of all, the Apple fanbois is not your average iPhone user. The vast majority of iPhone owners I know are comfortable with technology but they’re not techies, geeks or nerds. If you ask them why they got the iPhone, it’s quite often because they’d heard about on TV or because they’re friend had one. It certainly wasn’t because it had a Retina display or an 5MP camera. Fundamentally, it was “you can’t go wrong with an iPhone” and the specific features are largely irrelevant.

Secondly, let’s assume that the majority of Apple iPhones are sold on a 2 year contract. No-one wants a new phone of a model they already have so there has to be an upgrade path hence there has to be a new phone has at least every two years. This is self-evident. But on the other hand, at upgrade time, the upfront cost of the phone cannot be too high as to put people off. If Apple suddenly put a whole pile of new features into the iPhone, the upfront cost is likely to jump. Consequently, I would suggest that generally Apple will only introduce one significant or costly improvement with each iteration of the phone. And with the iPhone 5, it’s the new screen.

Similarly, people tend to like what they know and the iPhone is well-liked. Apple isn’t going to introduce an iPhone with a 4.8″ screen. Why not? Because a big screen is sufficiently different that lots of people will not want to buy the phone and if we bear in mind the previous point, there has to be a viable upgrade for those on 2 year contracts. Apple is then into the situation of having a range of different devices and having to keep them all fresh.

Finally, this argument wouldn’t be complete without mention of the ecosystem. In many ways, this is the killer feature of the iPhone and Apple needs to keep the apps and the media fresh and exciting. Apple very much knows this – it doesn’t trumpet the AppStore numbers for nothing, though Apple has taken it’s time over the iTunes refresh.

In summary, Apple simply needs to provide an upgrade path that offers better phones than last time and doesn’t alienate existing customers by being too different. Only one or two cutting-edge features are needed to maintain the iPhone’s lead; there’s no need for it to be the best at everything. Much as we might want a hero phone, it’s incremental improvement that will continue to bring in the cash.

Kickstarter Accountability – Part II

Kickstarter Logo Following on from my post last week about the role of patron at Kickstarter, NPR has run a piece called, “When A Kickstarter Campaign Fails, Does Anyone Get The Money Back?” This appears to have nudged Kickstarter into responding with a blog post, “Accountability on Kickstarter.”

I suggest that you read or listen to NPR’s show before reading Kickstarter’s reply but one of the key statements Kickstarter makes on this matter is below.

Is a creator legally obligated to fulfill the promises of their project?

Yes. Kickstarter’s Terms of Use require creators to fulfill all rewards of their project or refund any backer whose reward they do not or cannot fulfill. (This is what creators see before they launch.) We crafted these terms to create a legal requirement for creators to follow through on their projects, and to give backers a recourse if they don’t. We hope that backers will consider using this provision only in cases where they feel that a creator has not made a good faith effort to complete the project and fulfill.

That’s great, but does it change anything in reality? Are you really going to take out legal action to recover $100? I  think not. Kickstarter even points out that it feels that legal action is only appropriate if the creator has failed to make a good faith effort.

Consequently, I don’t think this changes anything. Kickstarter is still a great site, but go in with your eyes open as to the possible outcomes, especially the one where you lose all your cash.

Note that UK folk may have some protection if they paid for a failed project using a credit card under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974 as it appears to cover purchases outside of the UK too. I am not a lawyer, etc.

You are a Patron at Kickstarter

Kickstarter LogoI like Kickstarter. It’s a world full of promise, where great ideas vie for money. I’ve pledged for a handful of projects, most of which met their funding targets and of those, all delivered on their promises. A few of the products weren’t as I expected but who hasn’t bought something that they later regretted?

For sure, it’s not always million dollar projects at Kickstarter. Plenty of projects fail to meet their targets and many of them rightly so. I’m not going to name names, but you don’t need to look very hard for projects that have no merit whatsoever (IMHO). Conversely, there are many worthwhile projects  that don’t make the cut too.

But what of those projects that do get funded but don’t deliver on their promises? Fortunately, there haven’t been too many of them and while Kickstarter distances itself from the projects themselves, it encourages project owners to return the funding if the project gets into difficulties. But there are no guarantees…if the money is gone, it’s gone.

In a consumer and customer-oriented world, an older world perhaps more accurately describes our role. Patron.

From Oxford Dictionaries, definition of a patron:
1. a person who gives financial or other support to a person, organization, or cause: a celebrated patron of the arts

The definition makes no mention of reward or goods and it’s easier to comprehend with the more artistic projects on Kickstarter given the historical context of the term. Regardless, it applies equally well to the technological ones in that there might be a hope of a product at the end of the project but there is no certainty.

Don’t get me wrong – I like Kickstarter and will continue to support projects there. However people need to understand the risks. At the moment, Kickstarter occupies a useful unregulated niche but I fear that a few high-profile failures losing millions of dollars will draw it to the attention of the authorities and regulation. I sincerely hope that day won’t come, but until then, remember you are patron at Kickstarter.

3M’s Personal Projectors at The Gadget Show

3M LogoPowerpoint and data projectors have become synonymous with business presentations and I dread to think how many people I have bored over the years. As with almost any technology, the data projectors have got smaller and cheaper, but this was the first time I’d seen how small personal projectors had become. As you can see from the photograph, most would actually fit in a (large) pocket.

3M Pocket Projectors

3M have a range of seven projectors, of which four were on show at The Gadget Show. Unsurprisingly, the different models have different capabilities and there’s more product information here (not all the new models are on the site yet), but I was genuinely impressed by how good the pictures were. The NEC is not a darkened room and yet it was easy to see the presentation or film that was being projected.

As you’d expect the different models have different features; battery size, wireless connectivity, in-built memory and a new model, the MP220, runs Android (it’s the one on the left side of the photograph). I chat with Peter from 3M about the new additions to the range.

GNC-2012-04-13 #757 Are you an Enabler?

I have a couple of fantastic stories to tell you tonight, but you have to listen all the way through to get the impact. I leave for Vegas and NAB tonight. I would expect the Monday show to be a complication of content from the first day at NAB. Next weeks Thursday show may be a challenge as I get back into Honolulu very late.

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Links to all the articles talked about in this Podcast are on the Show Notes Page [Click Here]

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Sococo Virtual Office Space

Sococo LogoSococo is a virtual office space for distributed teams, teleworkers and road-warriors that uses real-world metaphors to make them feel like they’re in the office. Andy gets face-to-face with CEO Chris Wheeler at CES 2012 Showstoppers.

Sococo Screenshot

As you can see from the screenshot above, Sococo creates a virtual world that is analogous to a workplace, with conference rooms, team rooms, personal offices, cubicles – I imagine there’s even a water cooler. Small avatars then represent colleagues and their activities, so if some of them are having an (online) meeting, they’ll be located in a conference room. If someone doesn’t want to be disturbed, they can close their office door, complete with sound effect!

Sococo has other collaboration tools, such as screen sharing, but even the simple office space representation makes people feel much more included and part of a team.

Interview by Andy McCaskey of SDR News and RV News Net.

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