Author Archive | Mari Silbey

Squeezebox Embraces App Store Phenomenon

Logitech Squeezebox App Gallery

I’m a long-time fan of the Squeezebox and have been continually impressed by feature additions over the last three years. Today an email popped up in my inbox announcing another firmware update and some major feature upgrades. Most importantly, Logitech is introducing an App Gallery that will organize all of the Squeezebox service options in the now-familiar “App Store” format. It also appears that Logitech may have finally corrected the way it allows Squeezebox users to access their own music collection versus streaming services. Those two functions have had separate top-level menus until now, but it appears that is changing.

As I have an older Squeezebox version, I’m curious to see how some of the features are implemented. For example, on the website describing the new App Gallery, there are apps listed for Flickr and Facebook. My screen real estate would not seem to support those features. Also, while details of the new firmware mention that Squeezebox Duet owners don’t have to switch between SqueezeNetwork and SqueezeCenter menus anymore (streaming versus personal music collection), there is no mention of earlier Squeezebox hardware. I’m looking forward to checking these upgrades out at home tonight.

Meanwhile, Logitech has other Squeezebox news out today too. People who buy one of the new Squeezebox Radios (yes, they are now available), will get “early access to the new Queen Absolute Greatest Hits album before it hits stores.” So for any Bohemian Rhapsody fans, go pick up your new Squeezebox Radio now. Or, you could always hold out for the December launch of the new Squeezebox Touch.

(This post republished from Zatz Not Funny.)


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Hands on: Sungale Desk Lamp Photo Frame

In my continuing quest to find meaningful evolution in the digital photo frame space, I stumbled upon the Sungale desk lamp with photo and video display. Not long ago I reviewed a Sungale touch-screen frame, and came away hoping for more. But the desk lamp is a different story. The photos are sharp on the 3.5″ screen, video is surprisingly crisp and easy to upload, and the device even plays any MP3 files you’ve got. My one hesitation here is that the lamp retails for $100 ($90 at Amazon). It’s probably not an unreasonable price, but I still find it hard to justify in my own budget as someone who would normally spend about $15 for a desk light. If your price range is higher, however, you should definitely give the Sungale lamp a whirl. It’s a lot of fun and would be a good gadget gift for the office worker.

First off, this desk lamp doesn’t disappoint in its primary function. The light is bright, soft, and easily flexes in any direction. It’s also energy efficient, consuming only 5W of power.

Getting beyond the lighting function, the lamp has a little pop-up LCD screen that resides in the base. As a photo frame, it’s a bit small, but remarkably clear. The screen gets 320×240 resolution, and the lamp has 512 MB of built-in memory. You can also plug in your camera’s memory card (SD, MMC, MS), or connect to a computer via USB. Transporting photos was easy. My PC opened up a dialog box asking if I wanted to connect using the “program provided on the device.” The software isn’t flashy, but it’s perfectly serviceable, and settings on the lamp allowed me to control the slide-show display.

Video on the small screen is also surprisingly good. Really. Any gadgety type would be proud to show off kid clips or inspiring videos of Homer Simpson praising beer during a mid-afternoon office lull. Again, transferring videos to the device is not difficult, and one click of the “video” button on the base will start up your mini movies. (You also select any specific clip by going into the on-screen menu.)

Finally, the Sungale desk lamp lets you play any MP3s you like. Since it’s not primarily a music player, this feature isn’t terrifically useful, but you can upload favorite songs or audio clips and enjoy them at will. Music will run with or without your photo display.

All in all, the desk lamp photo frame from Sungale is high quality, simple to use, and lots of fun. It’s available for purchase now within the US.

(This post republished from Zatz Not Funny.)


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The Quest For Wireless Power Continues

Dave and I saw several demos back at CES showing off wireless power solutions for cord-free gadget charging. However, here I am nine months later still lugging a zillion power cables in my computer bag. (Though Dave does have a solar-powered Bluetooth headset.) Unfortunately, universal wireless power doesn’t seem any closer to reality today than it did back in January. But, as if to argue the point, a press release landed in my inbox announcing a new commercial deal between two “wire-free power” companies, WildCharge and WiProwess. WiProwess now has a licensing agreement allowing it to help companies integrate WildCharge technology into their products.

The interesting part of the news is not so much the licensing agreement as the potential applications of it. I asked the WiProwess folks to send along further details on product implementations, and got a range of applications for car, hotel, and office environments. Much like luxury cars today get embedded GPS apps, iPod docks, and even Wi-Fi, I can easily see an automotive brand partnering up with a company like WiProwess to bring wire-free charging pads to front-seat consoles. Similarly, a high-end hospitality or office furniture partner might use wire-free charging to boost its brand image. The critical thing here is getting distribution partners so that wire-free power as a technology doesn’t have to sell itself one consumer at a time.

Of course, the whole wire-free proposition will be a lot easier to market once it doesn’t include proprietary technology and a lot of adapter tips. But if you’re an early adopter with some extra cash, check out the products available now from the WildCharge website. (David Pogue liked the hardware he tested late last year.) A WildCharge Charge Pad now goes for $50 alone, or for $70 or $80 when bundled with a gadget skin or adapter.

(This post republished from Zatz Not Funny.)


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Sonos Does Twitter

The Twitter Everywhere meme is popular this week, and Sonos joins in by announcing (via Twitter) that soon owners of the multi-room music streaming experience will be able to tweet from their Sonos controllers. The new feature empowers listeners to share artist tracks with one click, or edit automated tweets before publishing.

I love this experimentation phase for Twitter. I don’t know that I have any interest in regularly tweeting my musical tastes, or in accessing Twitter from devices that don’t give me the full conversational experience. However, the idea of using Twitter in broadcast-only or receive-only mode is certainly gaining traction. Like PiMPY, the tweeting washing machine, it suggests new possibilities for both lifecasting and automated data collection.

With regard to Sonos specifically, my guess is that the company’s customer base is music-obsessed and sophisticated enough to make the new Twitter function appealing. The application will work from both the new Sonos Controller hardware and and their iPhone app later this year.

(This post republished from Zatz Not Funny.)


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Zoodles: A Browser for Kids

There’s a market for kid-friendly online browsing. Children watch their parents on computers and want to get in on the fun from an early age, even if they don’t quite know how. Although there are a number of kid computers (VTech, Fisher-Price, etc.), these low-end devices don’t offer the same breadth of options available on the Internet. Kids don’t want one brand of entertainment; they want many. Enter software-based solutions. Earlier in the year I talked about Kidthing, which showed up at CES. Now I’ve had a chance to play with Zoodles as well. Here’s my take on the kid-friendly browser launched last April.

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New Tech Still on Tap for 2009

[A NOTE FROM HARRY: Here’s a post by Mari Silbey, one of Dave Zatz’s Zatz Not Funny colleagues. We’ll be borrowing some of her ZNF items along with Dave’s–welcome Mari!]

In Store for 2009We have yet to hit the holiday shopping season, so you know there will still be plenty of gadget goodness before the year ends. However, there’s also some new behind-the-scenes tech to get excited about in 2009. Here are four enabling technologies to watch out for in the next four months. This tech may not be sexy, but it’s guaranteed to make those shiny gadget toys work better, smarter, faster.

NVIDIA ION Chipset

Since my netbook is clearly not cutting it for a lot of video playback, I’m psyched about new processors making their way into netbooks and small laptops in Q4. Most likely to actually hit the commercial market this year is the NVIDIA ION chipset, which is said to boost graphics power significantly in any Intel-Atom-powered device. According to Brad Linder over at Lilliputing (also heard as afternoon anchor on my local NPR station), two major manufacturers, Lenovo and Samsung, are planning to ship ION-powered laptops in the last few months of the year. And, Brad speculates that the upcoming Nokia netbook, the Booklet 3G, may also sport NVIDIA ION graphics. More info to come at Nokia World on September 2nd.

USB 3.0

If you’re into transferring a lot of media between devices, then the launch of USB 3.0 is right up your alley. Unlike USB 2.0, which transfers data at a rate of 480 Mbps, USB 3.0 boasts a whopping transfer speed of 4.8 Gbps. That’s not just good for moving HD video around, it’s also perfect for large back-up operations to an external hard drive. According to Stacey Higginbotham at GigaOM, USB 3.0 will start shipping to device-makers this year, with consumer availability soon to follow.

WiMAX

I know, I know, it’s cool to be down on WiMAX these days, but I’m still excited for it to spread to more cities (including my own Philadelphia) this year. Partly I’m excited about the higher speeds for mobile broadband, but partly I’m excited because of the different pricing options compared to existing 3G services. For example, my employer is unlikely to subsidize mobile broadband at $60 per month, but a $10 day pass is a good bet for reimbursement. Perfect for conferences, and other places where Wi-Fi tends to be lacking. Even an unlimited mobile contract is said to be only $50 per month. (See pricing coverage from Paul Kapustka at Sidecut Reports) That’s a better price and a faster connection.

Upstream Channel Bonding

And while we’re on the subject of broadband speeds, here’s an obscure one: upstream channel bonding. Channel bonding is what’s making it possible for cable operators to offer peak DOCSIS 3.0 speedsof 50-100 Mbps in some markets. To date we’ve only seen downstream channel bonding in the US, but upstream channel bonding is on its way. Karl Bode at Broadband Reports wrote earlier this month that Comcast is exploring upstream DOCSIS 3.0 trials this year, with upstream speeds maxing out at 120 Mbps.


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