THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 23, 2004
Just what I was thinking
I opined a couple of months ago that I'd love a digital camera that has Wi-Fi, to make snapping and sending digital photos easy. I love taking snapshots with my Treo and sending them off instantly. But the pictures that come out of camera phones are of such bad quality, you can't always tell what I've sent you. Is that Niagara Falls, or did my toilet back up?
So, the good news is that a consumer Wi-Fi solution for digital cameras
is here. The bad news is, it's from Concord, a maker of "popularly priced" photo gear.
Concord calls it WIT (wireless image transfer) and is rolling it out at the big Photokina
show in Germany next week.
The model they'll push hardest will be an add-on version that plugs into the USB port on your camera. It uses 802.11b/g.
These guys also rolled out a Bluetooth digital camera not long ago called the Go Wireless
. Won a bunch of awards, but not from us. It appeals more to the Popular Mechanics
crowd than to the CNET crowd.
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Now this is a Weekend Project
I host a series of videos on our site called Weekend Project, where we do nice sober projects such as editing video and adding memory to laptops.
But when reader Bill sent the e-mail below, I saw a legendary Weekend Project in the making: building a cop-car video system into your own vehicle. Bill's girlfriend apparently had a traffic accident with a pathological liar and lost in court as a result. With video, he reasons, the results would have been different. Check it out:
From: Bill [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Tuesday, September 21, 2004 6:10 AM
Subject: your Living It column
Dear Mr. Cooley, great column! Keep up the good work.
Do you have any suggestions for a data storage device that would be able to sustain the impact of a minor to moderate vehicle collision? My girlfriend was seriously hurt in an accident, which went to court. The other guy lied throughout the whole trial. I kept thinking that if I only had video, this would be an open-and-shut case.
My idea is to install a computer system in an ordinary vehicle. It could be, say, a mini ITX stored under a seat or in the trunk, connected to two video cameras in the vehicle. When the car is started, the computer would begin saving the images the camera views. In the event of a motor vehicle accident, the cameras would have captured all of the action and saved it to, say, a hard drive. This would be very useful in court. The idea is similar to what police vehicles have now in their cruisers, but they usually rely on VHS tapes.
I am just not sure if there are any hard drives that could withstand the shock of an impact and still have the video retrievable. I would build the device like a black box, with some type of shock absorber or padding.
Do you have any suggestions?
I sent Bill this parts list that will at least get the juices flowing:
- A Mobile DataVault drive that is rated for 1,200 Gs of impact. Powering it would require an inverter, which is inelegant. Anyone know of a rugged 12V drive?
- Garden-variety USB-powered Webcams should be able to handle the video just fine. If not, there are scads of single-chip spycams out there that run on 12 volts.
- Multicam Webcam software like this package is all over the Net. In fact, it can grab a four-camera feed, so why not add left and right cameras to catch people who sideswipe you?
- And I was surprised at how many in-car PCs are on the market, many of which are very slick implementations. Gizmodo did a nice roundup recently.
If this all sounds highly unlikely, think again. Automakers, insurance companies, and even individual drivers are installing black-box recorders in cars. Automakers are putting rear view cameras in passenger cars with some frequency. And Infiniti is about to offer the first lane change collision warning system. The day is coming when this weekend project will be listed on the option sheets of some new cars.
TalkBack | Read all comments WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 22, 2004
Microsoft vs. Apple, redux
A lot of you think I'm in Microsoft's pocket when I suggest that Microsoft will eventually dominate
the digital music space. (For the record, not only do I not own any MSFT, I don't buy any individual tech stocks except CNET--never have.)
Apple has just succeeded in quashing a piece of third-party software
that allowed the iPod to do something totally logical and desirable: transfer files from its drive to a PC. I'm sure Apple is motivated by contract restrictions with the labels as well as institutional vanity about its source code and firmware. Apple is like Mother Superior on The Flying Nun
: always right but still wound too tight.
Meanwhile, Microsoft is like some tech jezebel, accepting all comers. Benny Evangelista over at the S.F. Chronicle summarizes well
what Microsoft is doing to catch up with and eventually marginalize the iPod/iTunes platform.
TalkBack | Read all comments TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 21, 2004
Talk back about TalkBack
I know many of you have developed a deep, abiding hatred for the current TalkBack layout. The people who understand our publishing back end far better than I are working hard to fix the problem. In the meantime, we'll now be posting only one week's worth of my stuff on each page, so your TalkBacks will refer only to commentary from that week. It's a start. Don't hesitate to let me know your thoughts. (Oh, that's right, you never have!)
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Hang up and drive, part II
As an ardent opponent of lame clampdowns, such as banning cell phone use in cars, I must admit I do support them in cases like this new California law, which bans bus drivers from yakking on their cells.
Governor Terminator just signed it into law, and it makes sense, even to me. I thought about why I'm in favor of this but not a similar law for passenger car drivers. Is it just the risk multiplier of a large number of passengers? If so, where's the break point? You can put 8 people in an SUV; is that fundamentally different than 65 in a bus?
Is it the kid factor? No, kids are found in all kinds of vehicles.
I think it's just the person-in-uniform effect. You wouldn't be too surprised to see ESPN.com up on your boss's PC monitor, but I think you would be to see it on the display of the person taking your driver's license application at the DMV. We expect our service sector folks to be automatons.
By the way, the head of the NTSB last week announced that using a cell phone in the car is no more dangerous than tuning the radio or reaching for a drink while driving.
TalkBack | Read all comments MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 20, 2004
A few of my favorite things
Sure, I piss and moan a lot, but that's a big part of what I'm asked to do for what some you characterize as my "overblown," "wasted," and "hopefully tax-deductible" salary.
But I'll let you in on a secret: I am actually delighted by technology several times a week. Here's a trio of my latest delights: CorrectPhoto. Is there a better photo correction program? It's for those of us who don't care to master PhotoShop. With this little tool, just point and click a few times, and a very natural, subtle color correction happens before your eyes. And this app achieves that loftiest of software states: it's effective and fun to use. MetaPass. Here's a really slick password solution, from the hardware to the software to the packaging. I really was getting to the end of my rope on password retention, and this kind of dongle makes things a lot easier. Now I'm actually going back through all my sites and assigning the really tough, unmemorable passwords like I should have done in the first place. (My only fear, and I'm sure it's irrational: Couldn't a product like this also contain rogue code that could be sending all of my logon credentials to a database somewhere? This company's background page is almost as cryptic as the X-Files!) My Treo 600. (Gasp!) After many months of fighting with the device I love to hate, I finally got it replaced using Sprint's hardware insurance plan. Now, with a much later serial-numbered unit, I'm Treo'ing hassle free. It just plain works. I chalk up my earlier hassles to a crappy, early production model. But I know a lot of readers who have not been so lucky with their replacements. PalmOne and the carriers need to clean that up, because I've seen the coming assaults from RIM, HP, Nokia, BenQ, and others, and the Treo 600 series could take a beating.
Has anyone else noticed a preauthorization limit on their ATM card when purchasing gasoline? I drive a gas guzzler, so a fill-up is about 50 bucks here in N. California. At Unocal, my fill-up always comes to $50.00 even. And at Chevron, it's always $45.00. The gauge shows full, but probably because it's in the ballpark of what the car wanted. Those even numbers are more than a coincidence. Maybe the oil companies just think I'm a deadbeat.
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