Things have been relatively slow in “kid tech” around the Nimsky household the past two years and that’s been fine by us. This past holiday season we started transitioning a bit away from kiddie toys and were trying to feed our kids’ ever-increasing appetite for books. We tried Kindles.
I really like the Kindles, especially the newer version. It’s lightweight, about the right size for a kid and with one of those silicone jacket accessories pretty resistant to slipping (and therefore, dropping).
The kids like them too, and they came in very handy on our recent ski trip. Instead of asking for yet more movie or video game time, they ask for another book.
The Kindle has no real “parent” controls on it, and some software development in this area by the Amazon team would be welcome. We’ve managed to teach our kids that “we choose and buy the books together” but if there were some kind of robust rating system (or, better, you could integrate Commonsense Media’s database with some filtering rules) then I would be more comfortable with the kids exploring subject to some kind of allowance.
I was one of the people that got really spun up about the Droid. Why? partly I wasn’t going the AT&T route for an iPhone (every iPhone user I talk to sounds terrible and/or the call drops) but mostly it was because Verizon finally had a strong Android handset and Android interfaces closely with Google Voice.
I like Google Voice. A lot. I am one of those people eagerly waiting for some of the FCC smoke to clear so I can port my number into Google Voice. That’s where the Verizon + Google Voice + Moto Droid landscape is close to great, but not quite there. And the shortcoming in my opinion is around how Verizon and Google have coordinated the launch of the Droid but have omitted Google Voice from their story to the 100,000 people who have bought this phone, some of whom are interested in using Google Voice with Android on Verizon.
If you are thinking of porting your number to Verizon with an idea that you’d port it later to Google Voice, you might want to wait. My thoughts as to why after the jump…
I was never really motivated to get one of those 3G laptop modem cards, partly because you have to fit it to a single computer. This means one person at a time, and to boot some of the cards have format restrictions like Express Card, PCMCIA, etc. And then you have this weird appendage sticking out of the side of your computer, just waiting to get snapped off.
When I saw the MiFi 2200 however I was immediately intrigued. We have a family road trip coming this summer and I’ve been thinking about how to stay connected without hunting for spotty Wi-Fi everywhere we go. So I bought it and am blown away…
Even though our children’s friends have received electronic games for presents, my wife and I have generally resisted this. We bought a Nintendo Wii to emphasize “family” gaming in a controlled setting but there is something about games like the Nintendo DS or Sony PSP that have a strong appeal to kids.
So in response to the repeated please we have told our kids they need to save their money. And one day they called our bluff - they had enough money to buy their own. One bought a Nintendo DS and one bought an iPod Touch. After the jump I’ve included my observations about each as they would apply to a young (pre-teen) child’s use.
One of the things that you get with a T-1 line is a guaranteed bandwidth and (usually) sub-4 hour recovery from any outages in connectivity to the internet. As many households become more dependent on the internet (particularly with VOIP) downtime can be almost as crippling as it would be to a business, however T-1s usually carry with them a cost between $300 and $700 per month for such security. Until now. The advent of new, inexpensive Dual-WAN (also called multi-homing) routers, there is another way consumers can achieve redundancy by using two inexpensive ISP connections.
Just a quick update on our dual trial of the Parrot MINIKIT and BlueAnt Supertooth III: The BlueAnt device is superior in operation and battery life. After the Parrot “checked out” on my wife we now own TWO BlueAnt ST3’s. We have a third car where the Parrot can live, but for our daily drivers it’s BlueAnt.
Back when I traveled a lot I tried out this new service called SimulScribe because it represented a much better way to triage and return voicemail after landing at the airport, where it is difficult to write down voicemails you have received in-flight and return the calls as you catch a cab. Now called PhoneTag (sorry guys, your new brand just doesn’t resonate with me so I’m going to refer to it as SimulScribe hereforward) the service takes voicemail and transcribes it as text which is sent to you as an email, along with the original attachment should you need to hear it yourself. It is very accurate and as much a “life changer” as TiVo is for TV viewing.
I was so enthusiastic that I got my wife an account of her own for her birthday and we are now happy users. We wanted to apply the same functionality to our home phone to deal with the endless stream of soccer practice updates, voicemails from the kids’ school, playdate proposals from BFFs (best-friends-forever), etc. but without paying for a third account. We found a way to do so by capitalizing on one of SimulScribe’s most useful features. Read on…
BlueAnt Supertooth IIIHere in California as the much publicized cellphone laws have gone into effect I’ve had to start wearing my earbud. All the time. Now while my earbud - a Plantronics 910 - is a great earbud, when I used it in the car previously it was more for when I had a big call to do. Short “yes I’m on my way home” calls didn’t warrant the earbud in my mind.
For the past few weeks I’ve been wearing it religiously and it’s kind of a pain to do that: I don’t like having to carry an earbud and then either be faced with the job of keeping track of the darn thing - they’re small - or wearing it all the time and looking like “one of the earbud people.” Some people still aren’t sure if it’s good to have a transmitter on the side of your head either. So, we bought a portable battery powered bluetooth speakerphone for our two non-speakerphone commuter cars. Our first was a Parrot Minikit, and the other was the BlueAnt Supertooth III.
Last year I read a book called The Four Hour Workweek which contains not only a thought-provoking philosophy but also little tips and tricks the author has learned along the way. One of those tips was using a Solio charger to simplify the task of packing all the chargers for your electronic gadgets.
I bought one of the original Solio devices and was impressed. Recently they’ve improved upon it however with the Solio Magnesium Edition.
I have never used any of the Airport Express’ multimedia features and I don’t intend to. On overnight trips I carry an Apple Airport Express with me because it is simple, small, travel-friendly way to share an internet connection. The other night, I found out a new reason to carry one with me.
I’ve had the new MacBook Air for a few days now and I like it. I ordered the 1.8Ghz model with the 64GB solid-state drive and, if I were to believe all the professional reviews, I have overpaid for a Mac that can’t keep up with a regular MacBook or Mac Mini, much less a MacBook Pro.
I own an Mac Mini and a MacBook Pro, and my reaction to those assertions is that speed and power aren’t the driving point although this Mac Air holds its own. The MacBook Air is a well designed product and it’s useful, even without 5 expansion ports and a DVD drive. My reaction to the design is that Apple is taking another step toward having an appliance with you 24/7. It might be an iPhone. Maybe a MacBook Air. Whatever the machine, they want to be with you all the time. That strikes me as the quintessential new media viewpoint - instead of “tune into me” Apple is sort of saying, “I will go along with you. I’ll be there.”
That’s pretty cool. Now if they could just increase the battery life on this thing and round off the edge of the keyboard that grates on my wrists as I type this note I’d be a completely satisfied camper…
I haven’t posted for a while because I’ve been super-busy with a startup that I’m working on and with travel. The title of this post has nothing to do with that however — rather I am breathlessly waiting for my Macbook Air to arrive and Apple is driving me crazy by shipping every single little accessory I ordered before shipping me what I really want: The Air.
A while back I commented on how TMobile’s UMA service was not supported by Apple’s Airport Extreme N wireless router/access point.
As a result I had to run a second Wi-Fi network just for the TMobile phone. For some strange reason last week I thought I’d try the TMobile again after doing an Airport firmware upgrade and now it works on the Airport quite reliably…cool!
T-Mobile UMA pays off
Just checked into my hotel in NYC and I am looking out at another tall building just yards outside my window.
The lack of a good view - aside from illustrating the lack of "status" I have with this particular hotel - also means I am stuck in a brick canyon with no cellular signal. At all.
So when I connected my Airport Express router to the hotel's free high speed dataport, I now have UMA and the coverage issue is gone.
---sent from my Blackberry 8820 over UMA
Usually I’m the kind of guy that tracks and buys the latest gadget. This has been true for celphones for a number of years, but recently I’ve become jaded. The iPhone came and went and I didn’t bat an eye. Two weeks ago I found myself replacing my celphone after my trusty T-Mobile Blackberry Pearl suffered from acute gravity-induced shock syndrome, also known as a hard drop onto the sidewalk. What I found when I went to the T-Mobile store was truly cool.
Historically I’ve not been a fan of bluetooth headsets because I think they make you look like you belong in a “B”-grade science fiction movie. But now that I spend a lot of time switching between my cell phone and VOIP, I thought I would see if any models existed that could make the switching easier while letting me roam around the home office.
Enter the Plantronics .Audio 910. One of the more ubiquitous designs out there, it isn’t pretty but it is very comfortable, sounds good and lets you pair with multiple devices at the same time. Works for me, even though my kids think I look like a dork when I wear it.
I haven’t posted for a while because we took one of those classic family summertime trips - stuff the kids in the car, drive all over the southwest, stay in something like half a dozen hotels and see just how far your kids can go till they absolutely freak out from travelling so much.
Actually the kids did great - the only issue is we now have a daughter who has to be “un-spoiled” from eating at restaurants for every meal. One thing that was helpful on our trip was a Garmin Nuvi 350. Not much bigger than an iPod, this little gadget can attach to your windshield (or just float around the front console without losing signal) and has nearly the level of navigation prowess as my Acura’s built-in nav system, which I’ve been told by my automotive journalist friends is one of the best systems out there. And it weighs just a few ounces, runs on rechargeable batteries (great for rental cars!) and can even talk to you in a voice of your choosing.
Go buy one. Now.
The family CTO role is more than buying new gadgets - you get to deal with stuff after it stops working. A couple years ago when I worked far from home we bought two Globalstar phones so we’d have a way to communicate in a natural disaster. We also like to use one for keeping in touch with family when we go places that normal cellphones can’t reach. Over the past few months I’ve read about Globalstar’s satellite issues but I thought they were more theoretical. On our last camping trip I found out firsthand that they are very real.
Hotel Room Multimedia Input Panel
What has never impressed me about hotels (even my preferred chain, Marriott) is the lack of multimedia support as a general rule: Usually you get a sizeable TV which has been neutered to only show hotel-provided TV with no external inputs for a personal DVD player, video iPod or laptop and a special protector on the cable’s input to prevent “rewiring” attempts by people like me. I suppose the original theory was to encourage sales of their pay-per-view movies but it always struck me as presumptuous that they would dictate my media consumption that way, especially as media continues to fragment into more of a “long tail” distribution.
The newly remodeled San Mateo Marriott has shown me the future and it is much more friendly to today’s increasingly digital guests. The guest rooms have a flat panel TV (a less unique feature these days) that has more importantly been wired to a multimedia input panel built right into the desk along with a high speed data line and not one, not two, but FOUR power outlets.
Good job Marriott! If all hotels did this I could stop travelling with little power strips for all my laptops, phones, etc. and I could watch some episodes of “24” that I’ve downloaded (legally, mind you) to my DishPlayer Archos multimedia device. I hope this is a sign of things to come to other properties at Marriott and other hotel brands in the future.
My better half wanted to have something to listen to on her morning commute, and had previously heard Lucy (XM station 54) when I had an editorial car for a weekend while at Edmunds and liked it. So I got her a Pioneer Inno
for the commute.