Wednesday, May 28, 2008

New Drobo Package Makes Me Want One Even More

I did a story on Drobo when it first came out and I'm excited to see that the price is gradually dropping, bit by bit, and they are now offering a REALLY great deal. Of course I still don't make enough money [blogging] to pick one up, but if you have the cash, now's the time (in my opinion).

This new offer drops the price of the stand-alone Drobo by 50 bucks and has two different drive bundles as well. The bundles are either 2 TB ($749) or 4 TB ($1075) worth of Western Digital GreenPower SATA drives, each including a Drobo unit. The savings are $284 and $528 respectively. If you have a lot of data lying around, especially video, and you need to back it up, there aren't many options that are better than a Drobo. Sure, you could set up a RAID array, but if you don't want to think about your backup except when you need it, Drobo can do it all for you.

I know this sounds like an ad or something, but check out the website yourself and draw your own conclusions.

[Via Engadget]
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Saturday, May 24, 2008

Launchy makes keyboard launching easy!

PhotobucketIt's kind of amazing that I haven't talked about Launchy before. I am a huge fan of launchers, but a lot of them are really more clunky than are useful. Also, while my computer was in "falling apart" mode and had no resources to spare, nice visual launchers like Rocket Dock were too taxing for my system.

Enter Launchy. If you haven't heard of it before, I suggest you check out their website and their fairly good forums on SourceForge. Basically, Launchy is a minimalistic, "search as you type" program launcher. Hitting Alt+Space brings up a little bar that accepts numerous commands and item names. If you want to open firefox or some similar program, simply type its name and hit enter once it guesses your query. As you uses certain programs more and more frequently it will take less strokes each time to arrive at what you want. "f" is all I need to bring up Flock and "i" is all I need to get iTunes running.

When I first used Launchy a while ago, this intuitive feature was pretty much the only feature. Now with v2.0, many more features have been added, some of which are so intuitive you might just stumble upon them. The one I actually use the most is the calculator function. Just enter in any standard calculation one might enter into the one Windows provides and Launchy will figure out what you are doing and provide the answer.
A number of keywords have also been added for Google, Weather, Wikipedia, and IMDB (just to name a few). Simply type one of these keywords and hit tab to allow for direct search of those sites (opens a browser window). Similarly, command line can be entered this way. These added features are the result of the plug-ins Webby and Runny. There are many other plug-ins on the forums, along with directions for installation. My personal favorite (if you didn't guess) is Yubby, a YubNub plug-in that allows you to hit "Space" and then enter any standard YubNub command to bring up a browser window with that search.

I hope you'll find Launchy as useful as I have. Good luck!

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

A new opportunity!

Hey everybody.  If you read this blog regularly, it's probably because you know me or at least go to Mason.  If not...HI, we haven't met yet!

Anyway, I just wanted to let everybody know that I have just gotten a position as a blogger/contributor with  You all know I love my iPhone and obsessing about the new rumors and stuff so this is right up my ally.  I'm very excited to start working with them (first post should go up tonight-ish). 

Don't worry, though, I plan to keep this blog going for a long time.  I'll probably link from here to my posts at iPhoneFreak too.  I couldn't have done this without lots of people hitting my site and making it as successful as it is. 


Edit: First post is up on the site.  Check it out!
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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Things that don't matter: The Netflix/Roku Box

So I turned on my portable Digging machine today (the one I just reformatted per last post) and what do I find? It turns out Netflix has put a box made by Roku that will stream movies right to your TV [Via Gizmodo]. Wow, sounds like it could be the next big thing! I mean if Netflix put out a decent box that lets you get access to all their movies and basically skip the snail mail would crush other rental places and put up serious competition with cable-based Video-On-Demand (VOD). There's just one problem...
Netflix Roku Box
Their box really doesn't do that. While it has a wide variety of hook-ups and has the potential to output HD, the streaming video is less than HD and the selection of movies is the same as their limited online streaming collection. So for 100 dollars plus a Netflix plan greater than 9 bucks a month (which many people already have) you can have a little box on your TV that will limitlessly stream classic movies, movies no one would ever buy, and some television episodes (though I hear the selection is good). All of these are things already available for free to watch online (so in theory one could port that video to their larger screen) and the one thing to make the box worth it, HD, isn't there. Yet.

Some might compare this to Netflix's roll out of streaming video (about a year ago?). They were slowly offering more and more customers thousands of videos that would be available on the spot. Not only was the roll out pseudo-viral (and thus more exciting to some), it was free for as many hours as you already paid dollars a month. This was a genius move in my opinion because the price was right, the plan seemed fair and reasonable, and at the worst you got an extra feature. The Roku box, on the other hand, costs money and doesn't offer much. Actually worse, it offers something that is free already online. Sure the online is limited, but the amount of good content available has always limited my watching much more than the physical limits.

The real reason this box is news isn't because of what it offers, but what it MIGHT offer. See, if the movies began streaming in HD, the list of titles opened up to at least the same quantity that the mail service has, and the box had maybe one more "kicker," then this would be the product of the century. Until that happens, this will be yet another product with no serious "buy me" factor and lots of potential. Potential that costs 100 bucks, plus plan.

Check out the Gizmodo story for all the tech specs. Roll out your feelings on the above...below...

Update: Well it turns out it may matter at least somewhat more than I thought. It seems NetFlix plans to drop that silly "movies through the mail" idea in the NEXT FIVE YEARS. That's a pretty big business plan change. Read more about it here.
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Shiny New Hard Drive!

This is tech news, but not the usual kind. The news is about me and my completely retarded computer.

Now, really the retardedness isn't my computer's fault because I've been fooling around with so much beta software and tweaking my registry so much that I'm surprised the disk can still spin. So maybe my experimentation is like lead poisoning and causing the retardation. In any event, I've finally gotten a chance to cool down and right after submitting a book review to The Journal of Commercial Biotechnology (and backing up like crazy), I restarted my Dell 600m and held down CTRL + F11.

See, Dell doesn't seem to approve of the CD movement, because instead of backup disks, they partition a small part of your hard drive and install a little restore utility. This is as good as a backup disk in many ways, but some service people won't accept your computer without disks and it uses up space. The only good thing about the partition is that you can't "lose" it (ok, unless you do one of the many things that will fry it) and it has a "hold down the secret keys" feel to it. I finally got around to reformatting; though, and now my machine is mostly purged of Dell crapware and has all my old stuff back on it. Oh and it will hibernate again...something it forgot how to do at one point.

I highly recommend to any reader that if you only have one computer, buy an external HD and hook it up for a simple copy/paste type of backup. I use SyncBack so I can save specific files and ignore the system. It's great to have the extra storage and with the price of drives dropping monthly, you can store all of your media and your backup stuff on the same external.

Just my two cents...once I find something interesting online, I'll post something.
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Sunday, May 18, 2008

Some More Great Video Podcasts

The number one hit for MTB when people find it through Google is my November article "Some Great Video Podcasts." I will once again raid my iTunes playlist and try to find some cool stuff for you...hmmm...well it looks like I'm still watching a lot of the same podcasts after all these months. Fortunately there are some new ones:

Mahalo Daily
- Ok, so this one is a little bit of a cheat. I Included Mahalo Daily as an easter egg at the end of the last list, but it has earned its place at the top. I LOVE watching all of the episodes, no matter what the content. When Veronica Belmont was the host I really enjoyed all of the neat places she explored. Now that she has moved on to another podcast, Jason Calacanis is having "Mahalo Vlog Idol" to determine the next host. It's exciting to watch the interview process and almost any of the contestants would be good picks. Hopefully the contest will spawn even more podcasts around the web.

Here the first episode of Mahalo Vlog Idol to get you hooked!

Tekzilla Daily - Remember how I said Veronica moved to another podcast. Yeah, it's this one. I'm sorry, she's just good. Tekzilla's been around for a little while (I think...) but they seem to be regrouping and I have just started watching it. I love little tips, which make up their daily segments, so this is a no-brainer for me. The weekly show isn't the best show in the world, mostly because a lot of it is DIY or camera related, but sometimes they talk about some pretty cool stuff. Check it's not for everybody.

Buzz Out Loud Video - I've mentioned before how great BOL is in audio form and with very few exceptions it has always been that way. As CNET has grown the show and as Veronica Belmont (wow, 3 mentions in one post) morphed into Jason Howard, somebody decided to switch to video once a week (Fridays). Personally I think it's kind of a nice touch because it keeps the hosts (especially the enigmatic Jason) from becoming disembodied voices. It is a separate feed from the audio podcast, so mix and match at your own discretion.

If you guys liked my list, please let me know and post your own suggestions too. I'll do another one in the future if you want!

One little note:
There is one podcast that was on my list last time and has since lost its lofty status. That podcast is GeekBrief.TV. It's not that I have anything against Cali Lewis, the host, but for those of us who don't buy a new gadget every day...well it just feels like a lot of time to invest to watch it (since it is a daily podcast). Also, when I get behind it builds up the fastest and I rarely want to go through them all so I just skip to the beginning. After this happened a couple of times I just hit that magic unsubscribe button and really haven't missed it. Sorry Cali!

I lied, one more little note:
Epic-Fu, which is still one of my favorites, will be going daily on June 2nd. Pretty awesome!
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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Join the Crowd!

Hey, I just set up a Facebook group, so check it out!

[/short post]
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Monday, May 12, 2008

PMOG Pwnage (and other Phat Loot)

Beta BadgeOne of the most novel things I have seen in quite a while is PMOG, the Passively Multiplayer Online Game. What is novel about it? Well for one, you read's "passive."

First you sign up (no more invites, they just went public) and download their toolbar. Now I know what you're thinking...ANOTHER toolbar....but this one can be hidden with a button-click so it is relatively unobtrusive. There may be a little bit of a resource drag because the extension fetches data from the PMOG servers on every page-load, but on a normal machine (unlike my clunky machine) you shouldn't have much of a worry.

Ok, so now that that ugly bit of business is out of the way...PLAY! What's great about PMOG is that it allows you to basically make a game out of surfing the web. Users can leave mines, mine-disarmers, crates with goods in them, and portals (fancy word for links) on almost any site on the web for other users to find. Every new domain you visit gives you a few "datapoints" which are both important for leveling your profile and buying the aforementioned things.

Here is a sample situation...
You're browsing Digg or something and you click on a popular article. Suddenly, BAM, your screen flashes red and your browser resizes rapidly so it looks like your screen was just blown up. After all this a little note pops up to say whose mine you just tripped over and a link to their profile. From there you can send them a note...or plant a mine on THEIR profile page.

There are lots of fun things like Badges, which are awarded for certain usage patterns, and Associations, which are like character classes. The whole thing is sort of steampunk or Victorian or something, so sometimes the directions are a bit hard to understand, but overall it's definitely something to try out.

Oh and if you want me to invite you (I get referral points), leave a message on this post with your email (feel free to type it out so the robots don't get you).

[Also, try visiting this page once you get PMOG running...]

Beta Badge fromPMOG at
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Sunday, May 4, 2008

Wondering where I went?

Hey everybody (and by everybody, I mean anyone who still has this subscribed in an RSS feed),

If you're wondering why the Mason Tech Beat kind of stopped working...well, Jimmy Chows Down (Google it) is part of the reason, but honestly I've been kind of innundated with school stuff and I also got WAY behind on my podcasts and tech news.  For that reason I've pretty much postponed any storied on tech until summer starts.  I'm sure when summer is here I can focus a lot more on the blog.  Also, tech has been surprisingly boring in the last few months so hopefully all the snazzy things coming up in the future will change that.

Till then,
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The content of this page is completely the creation and opinion of James Rogers. He is affiliated with Connect Mason and formerly Broadside Online but the relationship only governs republication, not content.

Further, in the interest of full disclosure, this author holds minor financial investments in Apple, Inc. and Advanced Micro Devices.