Multi-task with these Cool Portables…
Fun portables, PC protection, digital canvas paintings and tech support are some of the items on Richard Sherwin's A/V plate.
There has been so much negativity around the technology, political, consumer electronics and multimedia-convergence fields lately and I, admittedly, am one of the worst offenders. If there’s a problem with a product, I’ll find it (or it will find me). And I’ll spread the word.
For a change of pace, I thought I’d wax poetic about some truly terrific new products—yes, they are out there—that have reached the mainstream audio/video market or improvements that will make an existing product or service better. See… I’m not always negative.
Vroop Liveboard (View product)
Despite picture-in-picture, DVR and Internet TV capabilities, when there’s a big baseball game on, I’m still always stopping whatever movie or show I’m watching to get the latest score of whichever game I’m trying to keep track of. (Hey, I’m a die-hard baseball fan and need to get my baseball scores, OK?) But when family and friends are watching the latest Netflix or Cinema Now or Amazon Unbox download with me, it’s not a great company-pleasing, wife-pleasing habit.
Now a little company in Massachusetts, Vroop Liveboard, using simple Bluetooth technology, has come up with a way to get your baseball scores in the living room (or any room) without interrupting whatever you’re watching. It’s a cute little LED readout device that won’t upset the feng shui of a living room or den. And it’s framed in—get this—a solid American white ash frame, the same wood used in baseball bats.
This first-of-its-kind Personal Baseball Scoreboard allows the baseball fanatic to get his or her inning by inning results discreetly, even if the kids have taken over the TV remote for the night. This works, too, if you have a nice spot in your office or home office to place this miniature scoreboard.
Simply run its easy-to-use set up software on your PC or laptop and you’ll know exactly what’s happening with your favorite Major League baseball teams. Its specs say you can use the unit up to 60 feet away from your PC or Mac; I had my Liveboard running smoothly nearly 100 feet from the PC. Three modes of operation can be chosen from the software including Simple Mode, in which you set your “Home Team” and the Liveboard will automatically display your team’s action whenever they begin a game, Full Mode, which adds another level to the Liveboard Simple Mode by automatically displaying any game currently in progress while your Home Team is not playing. (The Liveboard detects a current game within your Home Team’s division first, if available.) Last but not least is Cycle Mode, which automatically cycles through the Major League, displaying any and all games in progress.
The $199 device does not come with popcorn or beer but it does come with a Class 1 Bluetooth USB Adapter, so there’s no need to buy any additional components.
Nokia N810 (View product)
I first looked at this wonderful little device as an unknown challenger to the Sony PlayStation Portable or Archos 704 portable multimedia Player. I actually didn’t use this to watch movies on an airplane or train or to listen to music or even to use the Wi-Fi enabled tablet. I used it because I heard that it was an easy way to use the Skype Internet phone solution when calling Electronic House or my out-of-town relatives. But after about two minutes, I realized that the added value of this unit makes the Nokia N810 Internet Tablet one of the best truly portable, yet feature rich, multimedia devices around.
Its beauty and simplicity is that it is designed for watching videos and listening to music or viewing digital pictures with none of the confusing or unnecessary buttons or icons that the PlayStation Portable or Windows Mobile based mobile phones have. It’s even easier to run than the award winning Archos portable media players. Its secret is that it uses a variation of Linux, which also contributes to its terrific battery life. I wish any of the Windows Media based mobile phones or portable media players or even the iPhone worked as well.
The Nokia N810 also has a unique way to browse your favorite sites, check your email….or play your favorite Utube videos. The N810 is designed to stay on line through an extremely efficient Wi-Fi based system. It offers several Internet radios stations at no extra charge and, at the same time, you can stay connected with your friends and family by email. It has Skype and many other services including Rhapsody, and for an extra fee, there’s a built-in GPS mapping program. The 810 has a touch screen keyboard, web camera and large capacity add-on bay for a micro SD built into the front panel.
Webroot Anti-Virus/Spyware Protection and Window Washer (View product)
The advent of downloading videos and entire movies from the web has added to the vulnerability of your PC and Mac. Whether you’re enjoying VuDu’s or Cinema Now’s racy adult videos, or venturing out to the 2008 version of Napster, (mp3sale.ru) the Russian music download site, your PC is very likely to catch an Internet virus. This, in-turn, could spread quickly enough to ruin some of the home videos, favorite pictures and music you’ve stored on your PC.
However, if you are a long time user of Norton or McAfee anti virus, you know that their products often cause more issues than they resolve. What should you do? I recently went into a prominent NYC video editing studio with several Macs and PCs and I asked what these folks use to protect their valuable videos and software.
The IT guy said that free or advertising-supported anti virus and anti spyware programs are usually decent for occasional computer use. However, in this day and age of increased phishing, and new and hard to remove viruses that seem aimed at videos and music as much as email, he recommended two small companies who have focused on the average user and whose products are designed to protect content without interfering with the usually cumbersome work of editing videos, downloading videos or any other system resource feature.
Webroot Anti-Virus has fast become the choice for a lot of pros and is also getting popular with consumers. Webroot Anti-Virus, with spyware protection and firewall protection, provides an integrated yet easy to run and easy to install system aimed at a broad range of security threats such as viruses, spyware, adware, worms, Trojans, key loggers and root-issues. Its most annoying, but very important, feature is that it monitors all traffic to and from your computer to block unauthorized access attempts, so no matter what type of innocent or unauthorized program you choose, it will warn you the first time it runs to allow you to run or ban the program.
With video and audio files creating a mishmash of unnecessary files, our favorite product from this company is Window Washer. The aptly named software scrubs hundreds of areas on your PC to remove unnecessary files to ensure your privacy and free up valuable disk space. With its browser activity eraser, Window Washer cleans all aspects of your browser activity including Internet history, address bar, cache, cookies and more.
Kaspersky Anti-Virus (View product)
I and a few professional video editors are testing Kaspersky Anti Virus. Early reports indicate that this much more feature laden and harder to use system is still way, way better than Norton or McAfee.
MyLife-My Art (View product)
How many times have you seen your favorite photo or TV scene and wish you could recreate that on your living room or den wall? I was wondering what this company was doing at a recent consumer electronics and PC expo. But now I’m thinking why some company didn’t devise this system before.
MyLife-MyArt turns favorite photos into large, digital canvas paintings - as large as 40x60-in. or, if you have one of the new Internet based TVs, you can freeze frame a live TV shot, movie scene or capture the last out in a ball game. Capture it, bring it to the PC with a flash drive and then upload images at www.mylife-myart.com. The image is output on archival, museum-quality canvas and framed using solid wood frames including both gallery-wraps that float off walls and traditional frames. Prices vary.
Rant and Raves
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Logitech keeps buying strong relevant accessory makers, and now it’s finally keeping up with its tech support responsibilities. While not widely advertised, it has improved its on-line and live person support. Reportedly it will add weekend support to its hot Squeezebox Duet product soon…Microsoft, with arguably one of the worst tech support divisions for a major company, has also really improved its Xbox and Vista technical support. While Microsoft still comes up with some unannounced changes in its product security necessitating a call to tech support, that tech support is now much more on top of the latest problem and can fix it quite fast… LG Electronics, which makes everything from washing machines to Blu-ray players, now stays open later, until 11 pm eastern standard time, for tech support. One word of caution with LG: It pays to look for the problem on their web site, because LG still sometimes opts to offer some fee based repairs for its mainstream CE products, when there’s a quick down-load or free CD firmware repair available on the web.