Tag: opinions

As home networks become larger and larger, new technology will be required to get gadgets connected that are sprinkled around the house. D-Link, along with other manufacturers, has recognized that many electronics now require internet connectivity, but are either not wireless, or located next to an ethernet plug.

A possible solution to this problem is network adapters that work over existing electrical wires embedded in walls. There are multiple technologies in the market now, and many do not work together, but most work in the same way. An adapter is plugged into the wall socket, with an ethernet cable connected to a device, then another adapter is plugged into a socket and wired router. Now the device is connected to the network, and can enjoy (theoretical) speeds of 200 Mbps.

Setup

In terms of installation, I don’t think I’ve used a network product with an easier setup. With an adapter connected to my router, and another connected to my Playstation 3, I had internet within seconds. The adapters are small enough to fit in convenient places, and the LEDs provide feedback about device status and network connectivity.

Performance

I bought a set of these adapters to connect my PS3 to my network and enjoy media shared on my computer. After the setup and a quick connectivity test, I was excited to try a movie. Sadly, this was where the set fell short.

D-Link says that under ideal conditions, these adapters can provide up to 200 Mbps throughput (which is about 25 MB/s). In my house, I achieved about 3 MB/s. This was found by using my MacBook to transfer files over ethernet. Disappointed but not defeated, I moved the second adapter through my house to test the transfer speeds. Speeds ranged from 768 KB/s on the opposite side of the house to 6 MB/s in the same room as the router. This was about the same as my previous solution, so I decided to return the adapters.

Conclusions

I can’t say I’m all that surprised about the performance, as wiring varies from house to house. My house was especially tough because the router room is on a different subsystem than the living room. This product would probably work best in a fairly new house, with sockets in basically the same area.

If you’re planning on purchasing a set of PowerLine adapters, be sure to check your supplier’s return policy. Test them immediately in a variety of locations and configurations, and look at alternative solutions if they don’t perform close to the manufacturer’s estimation.

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Yesterday Apple released new iPods at their special event in San Francisco, and also unveiled the next version of their jukebox software, iTunes 8.

There have been a few things I’ve noticed about the new application — both good and bad — that make this version highly recommended for all users.

Genius

The biggest new feature of iTunes 8 is most certainly Genius. This is a feature that analyzes the metadata in your iTunes library and sends this data to the iTunes Store, which then recommends music that is both in your library and in the Store. You can make playlists with songs you own based on these suggestions. The initial analysis takes a few minutes, and on my library of 1800 songs, it was about 5 minutes.

You can activate the feature by choosing a song from your library and opening the drawer on the side of the screen. This shows songs in the iTunes Store that are related, which you can then purchase. As soon as you do this, iTunes sends the related songs that you own into a Genius playlist, accessible in the Sources panel of iTunes. The ability to find related songs works best if you listen to well known, established musicians, though I imagine once more people share data on less known acts, the choices will improve.

Album view

Apple also introduced another new way to view music, through an album cover group. This of course only really works if your music has album covers. While it is cool to see all your music as albums, it is not something I find practical.

Assorted bug fixes

As usual with application updates, iTunes 8 also kills some bugs that were annoying people earlier on. One of the biggest things was the time it takes iTunes to back up and sync iPod touch and iPhones. My initial sync seemed to take less time than normally, but that could just be excitement.

The image above is a slightly annoying interface bug that seems to have come up in this version. When browsing the iTunes store, the program doesn’t shrink the data into the window — meaning you need to scroll across to view the entire screen. While not critically important, it is a simple thing that could make viewing the store much easier.

iTunes 8 is another evolutionary improvement to an already good jukebox application. The Genius feature shows promise and other refinements make it one of the best music organization programs out there.

[tags]iTunes, iPod touch, iPod classic, iPod nano, iPhone[/tags]

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It has been nearly 1 month since Apple opened the iPhone platform to 3rd party developers and the results have been fantastic.

Here is a short list of applications that have earned a place on my home screen.

WordPress

What portable blogging solution would be complete without a native client for everyone’s favourite open-source blogging platform. Like so many other applications released for the iPhone, WordPress is an excellent start, but definitely requires some additional work. Among the features I’d like to see is the ability to edit drafts that are on the blog server. Cost: free

Remote

I am most excited to have Remote on my iPod. Being able to control a remote iTunes library is almost as cool as being able to listen to that shared music (another app I’d like to see). The setup, usage and stability of the program make it a must have. Be sure to check out my review of it at DesktopVibes. Cost: free

Palringo

Until Adium comes to the iPhone natively, Palringo will be my connection to instant messaging. While not quite as intuitive as I hope Adium will be, it does support many networks like AIM, Windows Live, ICQ and Google Talk. To use the application you need to register, which already makes it unattractive to many users, but once your register and sign in, using the application is quite simple. It is still difficult to type quick enough for proper IM communication, but I should get better with time. Cost: free

Labrinyth Lite

Easily addictive, Labrinyth Lite is like those tilting games form your childhood where you try not to let the ball roll in the hole. It is surprisingly responsive to input from the accelerometer, and is playable for hours. Unfortunately the free version only has 10 levels, but by shelling out an additional $6.99 for the full version, you can get an extra 500 levels. Cost: free

Converter

Converter is my first paid app, and at this point it is definitely worth it. It is an application that I hoped for earlier. The value from the application comes from the huge array of measurements it can convert to and from: nearly every conceivable unit is listed. When you add a value to one unit, every other unit on the page is updated. So far in using it the only real issue I have noticed is that scrolling around is rather sluggish, but I imagine that will be fixed in a later version. Cost: $0.99

Files

The most expensive app I’ve purchased thus far, Files fixes a problem I had hoped would be solved. It uses a WebDAV server to enable file sharing across a WiFi network. You can log onto the server from a Finder window or any client that understands the WebDAV protocol. Once the files are on the iPod, you get a list of them and can view them from right there. Currently Office 2004, PDFs and others are understood, with more coming online in later versions. Since it turns your iPod or iPhone into a terrific memory stick, I think the price is completely worth it. Cost: $7.99

Break Classic

A nice way to get your mind of work, Break Classic takes you back to early computer games. Simply slide the lower paddle across the bottom of the screen to direct the ball into the bricks, and earn extra points for hitting stars and apples. The graphics are great, and gameplay is amusing. It’s a great way to pass the time when you’re stuck on a bus or in a boring meeting (though you should think twice about using it in a boardroom). Cost: free

Scribble

Like an Etch-a-Sketch™ for your iPod, Scribble gives you the ability to draw cool little pictures and save them for email or storage. To erase the drawing, simply shake your iPod. For getting a laugh and quickly showing something on “paper”, Scribble works well. Cost: free

Facebook

I’m trying to cut down on time spent on this social networking site, and the native iPhone application really helps. I find that the interface makes browsing the site easier on the iPod than from a browser. If you spend any time on Facebook, check it out. Cost: free

Tap Tap Revenge

Games on the iPhone are surprisingly playable, and TTR is a great way to pass the time. The music is catchy, the gameplay is addictive and the graphics are cool. Think of it like a combination of DDR and Guitar Hero — with an additional ‘shake controller’ command. Cost: free

VNC Lite

This is the free version of the VNC application that allows you to control other networked computers from your iPhone. It is a little awkward navigating a screen with 4x the resolution, but the convenience of having control more than makes up the small issues with version 1.0. Cost: free

Other applications that I have, but could be deleted at any time: PayPal, Magic8Ball, Showtime.
Every application is available in the iTunes App Store.

[tags]iPod, iPod touch, iPhone, App Store, Apple, Mac OS X[/tags]

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In 2001, Apple introduced the 5GB iPod. At first it wasn’t the amazing success it is today, but soon people realized that Apple’s hardware/software integration made the MP3 player experience that much better. Soon Apple came out with different models, and today there are 4 models to choose from. Each model has benefits and drawbacks that make it best for a specific type of user.

Continuing on from my Pick the right Mac post, here is a guide to pick the right iPod for your music listening needs.
Read More »

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When I initially got my iPod touch, I was very impressed with its features, capabilities and design. Suddenly I was no longer chained to my MacBook for portable computing.

Last evening I upgraded to iPod software 2.0, and in a very short time, I am already impressed. The process itself is quite straightforward, though you should be warned that iTunes does not give much warning about charging your credit card. Whatever card is connected to your iTunes account will be charged immediately. The download itself is quite hefty — 222 MB. iTunes does all the work for you, though, as it backs up your device, updates the software, and restores the settings and media.

The App Store is also an excellent way to organize and keep track of new applications. It is also very straightforward to use and add applications to your device. Since I’ve only had a few hours minutes with the new software, I’ve only been able to install 3 applications, but those 3 are very cool.

Remote

This application has me most excited, even in the short time I’ve been able to use it. Created by Apple, Remote is an excellent showcase for how iPod applications can be used. It turns your iPod or iPhone into, well, a remote for either iTunes or an Apple TV. You can browse through the computer’s library just like you would on the iPod — in fact, visually it’s almost too hard to tell if you’re listening to music locally or on another computer — and Remote makes the music play. To add a library (be able to control a computer), find your device in the iTunes source window (you’ll need to move to iTunes 7.7, on both OS X and Windows) and insert the 4 digit security code found on the iPod. Once the connection is made, you can control the computer from anywhere on the network. This app is going to get plenty of play time on my iPod.

Weatherbug

People have an incredible fascination with the weather, and Weatherbug makes it easy to get the local forecast, radar picture and severe weather reports right on your iPhone. It has access to thousands of airports, universities and weather stations around the world, and in many cases you have to choose which station you want for a particular location. The program allows up to 3 locations at once to reside next to each other, and has data like wind direction, humidity, high and low temperatures and even local weather cameras. The only complaint I have thus far is that there seems to be no Celsius option.

PayPal

Perhaps the simplest application of these 3, PayPal Mobile is simply a native access point for your PayPal account. The bottom of the screen gives options for account balance, sending money and more information. Once you’ve logged in, you can email money to anyone in your address book. While not quite as ground breaking as Super Monkey Ball or Remote, PayPal will definitely be on my home screen for some time to come.

So in the limited time I’ve been able to use the iPod touch 2.0 software, I’ve noticed some great improvements — passwords now display the last character you’ve entered to make sure you have it typed correctly, and by holding the home and sleep button, you can take screenshots (all the photos on this post were taken with this method). With the addition of the App Store and 3rd party applications, the iPhone has the opportunity become a viable portable computing platform. Now, where’s my WiFi scanner and iTunes library browser?

[tags]Mac OS X, Apple, iPod touch, iPhone, SDK, software[/tags]

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