September 2009

I came across a realization a few weeks ago. When doing a product review, it helps to supplement the writing with video. The problem was, I didn’t have a good way to capture high-quality video with any of the older devices I have. I had tried with a built-in iSight as well as an external one, an older Sony camcorder recording directly to DV video in iMovie and a few webcams and digital cameras as well. But none of those were producing quality videos, especially not in High Definition. So I embarked on a bit of a challenge, to get my hands on a couple of the leading portable HD video cameras out there: the Flip UltraHD and the Kodak Zi8.

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I don’t have the luxury of having a gadget expense account. All that I have to rely on is the kindness of vendors and PR firms to supply me with either loans or donations of the latest and greatest technology gear. For the most part, because of my technology passion, coupled with the fact that I have about 3 years of doing gadget reviews under my belt, I guess that I have a bit of a gadget reputation. Regardless, I turned to Twitter to help with this review, specifically getting these two HD cameras. I love the power of Twitter. While it took a few weeks, the end result was that I can now use either the Zi8 or the UltraHD in my future product reviews (as well as filming some family movies on the side). A special thanks goes out to both the Flip and Kodak folks (and their PR firms) for graciously donating these devices to me for use in my future product reviews and event coverage.

The Flip UltraHD

Flip_ultraHD_front Flip has done a great job creating a strong marketing image for themselves. They present the various Flip Video lines as lifestyles, and with many different models available, complete with skin and feature customizations, there is a model for everybody. When I reviewed their site, the UltraHD was the one that stood out in my opinion. I wanted a high definition recorder that could hold a few hours of video, all from a compact, easy to use device.

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There is a niche out there between the techno-savvy and technophobes. It’s a market where the members see the value in technology and gadgets but might not adopt it quickly or readily. They may have a computer or laptop but only use it periodically to pay bills, check news or weather or do email. If they have kids, their kids are probably much more into tech than they are.

So how do you sell technology to this niche? Not very easily. The problem is, they would probably like to spend their money and time elsewhere than with a gadget. The reason I bring this subject up is because I think AT&T’s HomeManager might be a product that falls into this Bermuda Triangle of technology positioning.

Don’t get me wrong though, the concept behind the HomeManager is really great (and the $99 special price point – originally it cost $299.99 – isn’t bad either – note there are some qualifications you must meet in order to get that price).  The HomeManager is essentially a wireless touch screen tablet that has core “family useful” functionality but is basically limited to a pre-defined set of functionality. In my opinion, AT&T has a bit of a slippery slope to climb in order to make the product truly attractive to a wider audience than simply the niche described above. My family, obviously bolstered by an incredible amount of tech, easily integrated it into our gadget mix. Even my 10 year old daughter uses the HomeManager to quickly check weather forecasts so that she knows what to wear that day. I use it for weather, sports and quickly scanning the visual voicemail. I’m trying to train my wife on using it to check local movie theater playtimes. The problem is, much of this information is already available to us on a variety of other devices (e.g., laptops and cell phones or on TV).

But what about those families who don’t have as many connected devices as we do? Well, the HomeManager might play well there as well as, potentially with “seasoned” citizen households (assuming a tech-savvy family member or friend can help them set it up). Target market aside, let’s dive into what the HomeManager is and does.

About the HomeManager

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Recently, I tried to download some photos from a small, older and somewhat, war-scarred point & shoot digital cameral (HP Photosmart M632) which I carry around in my backpack wherever I go. I had taken some photos and video at a tradeshow and wanted to work on a blog post for it. Unfortunately, when I plugged in my camera, absolutely nothing happened.

The camera thought that it was connected, in fact, it did launch iPhoto (as that is what I have iPhoto configured to do) but iPhoto simply did not see it. I tried launching Picasa and it wouldn’t see the camera either. So I started down the path of trying to find a solution. Do note, I recently upgraded my Mac Operating System to Snow Leopard.

During this process of troubleshooting the camera connection, I have found 3 solutions (thus far) that may work for you. If one doesn’t work, try the next. Please let me know which solution you end up with!

Solution #1 – Change your Camera USB Connection Type to “Hard Drive” mode

I had my camera set to be recognized as a camera and not as a USB-hard drive. Since this only recently happened, I thought that perhaps the issue was caused by some nuance in my upgrade to Snow Leopard. So, I changed the USB Connect from “Digital Camera” to “Disk Drive” on the Camera and it was instantly recognized within iPhoto, Picasa and Image Capture, as well as appeared as a drive on my desktop. There are other ways this may show up within your camera like “PTP” or “PictBridge”, for example.

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Storytelling in the Digital Age

September 16, 2009

Every family has a story teller. It’s the person who can captivate an audience as they lead them down a path of words, memories and emotions. We do have to admit, some people are much better at doing this than others. I, for one, have an absolutely horrible memory. The only stories I tell are […]

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Cut the Cords to your iPhone with Altec Lansing’s BackBeat 903 Bluetooth Stereo Headset

September 10, 2009

I must say, I had been waiting for the iPhone to support A2DP for a while. When it finally rolled out, I was excited but I didn’t have a set of headphones with which to test it. I just hadn’t made the plunge to buy a set. The promise of having stereo audio from my […]

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How to Set Up an Inexpensive Outdoor Home Theater

September 8, 2009

Everybody has some sort of a main viewing room or area of the house where there is a larger TV and comfortable seating where families and friends gather to watch movies, TV shows or play video games. The big screen TV has become a digital fireplace of sorts or a congregation point in the house. […]

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IOGEAR KVM via USB: Troubles At First, Great in the End

September 2, 2009

About half a year ago, a PR firm sent me out what I thought would be a very good device to have in my tool chest. This was a device designed to facilitate connecting, viewing and sharing data and desktops between Windows PC all via a USB connection. The device, the IOGEAR “USB Laptop KVM […]

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