A glance at Parrot’s Photo Viewer digital picture frames

I stopped by Parrot real quickly today to check out some small digital photo frames on display. There's good news and bad news in the world of digital photo frames. HangZhou Night Net

The good news is, they frames are beginning to get a lot more attractive. I could actually see myself using these in my living room or in my kitchen. The 3.5" frames, which are available in wood and in a few leather colors, have a 320×234 display and can store up to 120 pictures (hey that's 120x more than a regular photo frame!). I had a chance to check out the leather frames, and I have to say, they actually look pretty solid. Pictures can be displayed in both vertical or horizontal mode, and the colors are vivid enough to actually make out anyone inside.

Sadly, at 3.5" the frames are still a bit small, and are really best fit for desks. Even worse, they're also still priced sky-high at $99 which makes them a tough replacement for an 85 cent frame you could grab from a drugstore. The 7" frame is, according to the salesperson, priced around $159, but can store up to 500 pictures.

Pictures can be added to the frame directly from your camera via a USB port, through a SD/MC card, or via wireless Bluetooth.

Does anyone own a digital photo frame? Are they worth the price? These looked pretty awesome but I can't justify spending that much money on a frame. A quick glance at the website also shows that the frames are available in more colors, including a pimp-like Zebra print for displaying your…girlfriends.

Parrot says that the DF7220—a 7" frame with changeable accents, 720×480 resolution, storage for up to 300 pictures, and Bluetooth support—will be available shortly.

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10 years after “Think different.”

Think Brand

By fall of 1997, Steve Jobs had completed his bloodbath at Apple Computer, having terminated former CEO Gil Amelio, strangled the Macintosh clones, taken blood money from Bill Gates, and knifed the Newton. Now it was time for a shower and a fresh face. To that end, ad agency TBWA/Chiat/Day was hired to come up with the second most famous Apple ad. HangZhou Night Net

On September 28th, 1997, the "Think different" campaign debuted in video and print. In typical Jobsian fashion, it was jaw-droppingly over the top. If picking the bones of famous and historic figures like Martin Luther King, Jr. through a montage of black-and-white film footage did not get across the elitist subtext, Richard Dreyfuss—who ironically suffers from bi-polar disorder—read the following free verse poem that appears to have been an also-ran in a high school poetry contest.

Here’s to the crazy ones.
The misfits.
The rebels.
The troublemakers.
The round pegs in the square holes.
The ones who see things differently.
They’re not fond of rules.
And they have no respect for the status quo.
You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them.
About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them.
Because they change things.
They push the human race forward.
And while some see them as the crazy ones,
We see genius.
Because the people who are crazy enough to think
they can change the world,
Are the ones who do

While the campaign was critically acclaimed, like every other ad campaign by Apple, it failed to have any measurable impact on sales. The campaign was eventually and mercifully retired in 2002, replaced by the "Switch" campaign, made famous in its own way by an apparently stoned teenager "beeping."

On the 10th anniversary of the "Think different" ad campaign, it would be well to remember another commercial, one that exemplifies the other Apple. If "Think different" glorifies the best among us—and by transference ourselves should we use Apple products—a series of commercials (found here) from 1984 speaks to those not worthy of a poster.

Macintosh, the computer for the rest of us.

In the last 10 years, it is the populist Apple that has given Unix a friendly face, put a thousand songs in every pocket, and now the Internet too. Let's have 10 more years of that Apple and leave the posters to the collectors.

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Mailplane updates with Leopard compatibility and pricing details

Mailplane, Rubin Bakker's Mac OS X-integrated Gmail client, has received a feature bump and price details for when it goes gold. Bringing features like the iLife Media Browser, an Address Book panel, drag-and-drop file attaching, and Growl support to Google's e-mail service, Mailplane is a great solution for anyone who loves their Gmail but can't bring themselves to leave the power and integration of Mac OS X. HangZhou Night Net

While the last Mailplane update earlier this month added some incremental features, this update to version 1.52 adds Leopard compatibility and prepares the app for a public debut. Other new features in this release include a "don't optimize photos" option for e-mailing original copies, and obeying the "hide at startup" option from the Accounts System Preferences pane.

In addition to new localizations (Finnish and Catalan), a handful of other bugfixes, and UI tweaks, Mailplane has finally been dubbed a price of $24.95 once it goes out the door for good. A family license for $8 extra will also be available, allowing use of Mailplane on up to five Macs in the same household. If you're one of the lucky beta users though, Bakker is offering the family option for free before Mailplane goes public. Unfortunately, there is no official word on when that will be, so you'd better jump on the limited-time discount soon.

If you're interested in what Mailplane has to offer, you can check out its other features like Google Talk integration (even though it uses the Safari's speedier WebKit engine to render Gmail), support for multiple Gmail accounts (including Apps for Your Domain), an iPhoto plug-in, and instant screenshot + attachment features at the Mailplane site. You can also sign up for the private beta to try and get your hands on a copy, or seek out an invite from a friend.

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Some Windows XP installations stuck in DLL Hell after running “repair”

When Windows Secrets' Scott Dunn blogged about a stealth Windows update that broke Windows XP's "repair" functionality, he probably didn't expect to create such a buzz around the web. The fix turned out to be simple, but many people are peeved at Microsoft for forcing them to fix the company's mistake. HangZhou Night Net

The actual problem occurs after rolling XP back to a previous state through the installation disk. Once the system is restored, users are unable to install any additional updates from Windows/Microsoft Update. When Microsoft caught wind of the bug, it started pursuing the issue and did ultimately find the root cause within a day.

Windows Update program manager Nate Clinton diagnosed the bug as a case of DLL Hell.

Here’s what we found: when an XP repair CD is used, it replaces all system files (including Windows Update) on your machine with older versions of those files and restores the registry. However, the latest version of Windows Update includes wups2.dll that was not originally present in Windows XP. Therefore, after the repair install of the OS, wups2.dll remains on the system but its registry entries are missing. This mismatch causes updates to fail installation.

The fix, described in the bug's associated KB article, is as simple as re-registering the wups2.dll file. Nevertheless, some users are upset that they've had to do that much. "The fact is we shouldn’t have to be continually fixing things that Microsoft breaks," one blogger wrote. Another blogger questioned Microsoft's quality assurance process, asking, "I have to wonder about a company with programming and R&D staff the size of Microsoft – and no one tested for something like this?" Because it is hard to believe that Microsoft could have missed this issue, some conspiracy theorists have even gone as far as arguing that Microsoft deliberately created this bug to move people from XP to Vista.

While it's highly unlikely that Microsoft would intentionally leave a bug like this in XP, users do have a right to be angry about having to manually repair this problem. However, these kinds of ad-hoc fixes are sometimes necessary in the world of computers—this one just seems to have received a little more visibility than usual.

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Apple posts iPhone Human Interface Guidelines

The iPhone may be limited to running web apps and services instead of true native apps for now, but Apple can still give developers a nudge in the right direction when designing their UI and experience. A new iPhone Human Interface Guidelines (HIG) document from Apple is just such a nudge, offering developers in-depth documentation on the iPhone's UI, how to design for it, and how to handle content passed through various technologies. HangZhou Night Net

Broken into four sections, the iPhone HIG introduces developers to some of the concepts and paradigm shifts that they'll need to grasp before developing for the iPhone. Gone are a mouse, multi-layered windows, and an accessible file system—only a few media applications and MobileSafari are available. "Regardless of these differences in platform," the introduction reminds intrepid iPhone developers. "Your main goal as a web content developer is the same: to capture users' imagination and earn their loyalty with a solution that is functional, focused, and enjoyable to use."

At least Cocoa developers have a bright side to enjoy while being limited to HTML, CSS, and AJAX.

Actually, those who are just dying for native iPhone applications can begin blogging rampant speculation glean some hope from some language used in the iPhone HIG document's main page. An aside during the introduction states: "Currently, developers create web applications for iPhone, not native applications." It may be one simple word, but "currently" adds a whole lot of flavor to that sentence for anyone who cannot live by Web 2.0 alone.

That said, it's probably a good thing that Apple released this document. While most iPhone web developers seem to have done a good job of incorporating the key aspects of the iPhone's unique UI into their offerings, this doc should help the stragglers clean up their products and provide a more familiar experience.

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Ready or (mostly) not: here come more contactless payment devices

Contactless payments are one of those ideas that make instant sense—in theory. Instead of forcing people to stand in line, waiting to talk to/deal with a cashier, businesses can use a scanner that can read whatever card or phone is waved in front of it, and allow the customer to go on his or her merry way. It's a technology that the major credit card companies are pushing, but it's not without its growing pains, as the battle continues between security experts who want more a more open approach to device security and companies who seek to hide their methods of securing such devices. HangZhou Night Net

Despite the issues surrounding contactless payment deployment, Visa has taken a significant step forward in designing its version of this technology by unveiling its newest product: the Visa Micro Tag.

As shown above, the Microtag is a small device meant to attach to a keychain. The Micro Tag uses Visa's payWave system to conduct and verify the actual transaction. No number is imprinted on the device, which, according to Visa, is one of the Micro Tag's security features. According to Visa's Micro Tag homepage, Visa payWave will only activate once the tag is within 1-2 inches of the scanner, which will then indicate that the appropriate information is being processed through the "secure" Visa network. Users making purchases under $25 won't even have to sign a receipt.

There are, however, some practical concerns standing between you and your insta-purchase keychain. There are currently a number of contactless payment systems in use from various credit card and mobile phone companies. This alone is likely to make any store wary of upgrading its scanners to any single contactless payment system until compatibility with the major players can be guaranteed. Security researchers have also raised issues regarding both how the credit card numbers are transmitted and the fact that none of the companies developing contactless payment systems are willing to allow independent security developers to examine their systems. For the moment, it's not even clear whether Visa uses an encryption algorithm to communicate with the scanner or if such data is transmitted "in the clear." The company web site has little to say on the matter, noting only that "Visa Micro Tag is very secure, protected with the same multiple layers of security as traditional Visa cards."

Contactless payments are going to continue growing in the US—it's too good a concept to ignore. The big battles, then, are going to be fought over who controls the payment networks, how secure they are, and how wide a variety of devices can be supported by a single scanner unit. Hopefully someone will also come up with a way to simplify the keyfob end of the system—I can imagine carrying one these devices, but I'm really not sure I'd want one for Visa, MasterCard, and American Express all hanging off a single keychain.

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Microsoft announces Code2Fame Challenge winners

With Windows Home Server just about ready to be released to the masses, this week Microsoft revealed the winners of the first Code2Fame Challenge—a contest dedicated to finding the most innovative Windows Home Server add-ins. HangZhou Night Net

With the release of Windows Home Server, Microsoft has been doing all it can to promote the operating system as a fantastic development platform. The Software Development Kit has been geared to appeal to both hobbyists and professional developers with its simple but powerful APIs. With that in mind, the Redmond giant has been doing all it can to build up the small Windows Home Server development community. This past week, that community received a little more attention as the Microsoft-sponsored Code2Fame Challenge came to an end.

From June to August of this year, the Code2Fame Challenge was a contest open to developers in the United States and Canada. The goal was to see who could create the most interesting, useful, and innovative add-in for Windows Home Server. Besides notoriety, the winner of the contest would also receive $10,000. Second and third place finishers would get $5,000 and $1,000, respectively. The results of the contest, which were released Wednesday, were decided by a panel of "Home Server" experts including Ed Bott, Paul Thurrott, and Rob Enderle.

After receiving a variety of submissions, the judges awarded Andrew Grant the grand prize for Whiist, an add-in that allows users to easily create web pages on their Home Server *.com site simply through drag-and-drop actions. Once Whiist is installed, a "Website Management" tab is created on the Home Server Console. From there, a user can upload HTML documents (including ones from Word), edit pages, create photo albums, create new web sites, and set access restrictions. Grant's web site has a comprehensive overview of Whiist, including screenshots and tutorials.

The second and third place applications, while not nearly as impressive as Whiist, should still be useful for Home Server users. Finishing in second place, Jungle Disk uses Amazon.com's Simple Storage Service to backup Windows Home Server data remotely. Third place winner Community Feeds for Windows Home Server does just what its name implies: it uses RSS to deliver text, audio, and video content to Windows Home Server. Any Windows Media Connect-compatible device can then view the content, which opens up possibilities for creating custom feeds for your Xbox 360 or any other digital media receiver in your home.

Creating a Windows Home Server add-in is not overly difficult for those with a small amount of development experience. As long as the operating system is reasonably popular—and it should be, based on the feedback I've heard—the development community that focuses on it will continue to grow.

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Shaking a fluid uphill

It is easy to get a fluid to move downhill relative to where it begins; getting it up hill can pose more of a challenge. Typically one would use a pump to pressurize the fluid so that it can over come the elevation difference. Before the advent of the various types of mechanical pumps, one could use an Archimedes' screw to move fluid from low lying areas to desired higher elevation destinations. It has also recently been demonstrated that water under a high voltage can defy gravity. Now, a new method gives a way to move fluids uphill without pumps or screws, just shakes. Research from a team of mathematicians from the University of Bristol demonstrates how one can move a droplet of fluid uphill simply by shaking the surface on which thefluid is resting. HangZhou Night Net

When a droplet sits on an inclined surface, the force of gravity will pull it down. This typical response can be countered by a phenomena known as contact angle hysteresis—when the edge of the droplet on the downhill side contacts the surface in a different manner than the uphill edge. This can result in a capillary force that counteracts the force of gravity and holds the droplet in place. Philippe Brunet has shown that not only can the shape of a droplet hold it in place on an inclined plane but, by deforming the droplet through shaking, it can be made to roll up hill.

In a paper set to be published in an upcoming edition of Physical Review Letters, the researchers show that glycerol-water droplets can actually roll uphill when one vibrates the surface they are on. The researchers have a set of four movies illustrating various aspects of this phenomena available on the author's homepage. They propose that this motion is due to a combination of non-linear effects of friction between the fluid drop and the substrate, and a symmetry breaking during the acceleration cycle present during the shaking. In addition to simply moving uphill, the authors suggest that, by independently controlling the phase an amplitude of horizontal and vertical vibrations, one could force a droplet to move in an arbitrary path along a surface. This aspect the work could lead to improvements in microfluidic devices—in these devices control over where the fluid moves is of the utmost importance.

Physical Review Letters 2007, to be published

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PlayStation 3 getting holiday makeover: $399 PS3 rumor has legs

Sony clearly doesn't have an issue with trying a few different pricing levels for its flagship PlayStation 3. The PlayStation 3 debuted with both a $500 and $600 price tag, but since that time much has changed. HangZhou Night Net

With sales staying modest, Sony initially nixed the $500 PS3 and then announced an 80GB unit, then they dropped the price of the 60GB unit, and then revealed that the 60GB unit was "clearance." This meant that there is no official "entry level" PS3, so we've been waiting for Sony to address that issue.

In the meantime, you can see what Sony has done: the company has focused on reducing the cost of building the PS3 while also closely watching how sales of lower-priced units are doing. The time is ripe for a new PS3 model to hit the scene, and we strongly believe that the company is about to launch a $399 PS3 in time for the holiday season. We've been hearing rumors to this effect for some time, but now the evidence of a new PlayStation 3 configuration is almost undeniable: an FCC filing details a new model number for the system.

What this new model number means is impossible to know for sure; the FCC filing leaves out pictures to "avoid premature release of sensitive information prior to marketing or release of the product to the public." The product description tells us that there is no difference in the wireless configuration, CPU, or Bluetooth aspects of this new PlayStation 3. The information that details the differences has been conveniently left out of the released paperwork, for the aforementioned reason.

So what does this mean? We know something new is coming, but everything else is open to speculation. Luckily we have sources in the industry who have long been telling us about an upcoming $399 40GB PlayStation 3. A $399 PlayStation 3 would be a great way to get new consumers into the Blu-ray enabled system for the holidays, and it would help to counter the Xbox 360's lower price and newly announced pack-in software.

We also have a date to pin this information to: our sources tell us that the $399 PlayStation 3 hardware will launch on, or before, November 16. We're confident in this information, as our sources in this area have always given us accurate information in the past. The "sensitive information" in the FCC filing will go public 45 days from September 4, unless something changes. We're confident saying that Sony is readying a new low-priced weapon for the console wars, regardless. Frankly, we also think it makes good sense.

Why didn't Sony announce this at the Tokyo Game Show? We reason that the company will hold off as long as possible on the announcement so as not to stymie existing sales.

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Frontline wants FCC to bar Verizon from 700MHz auction

The 700MHz spectrum set to be auctioned by the Federal Communications Commission next January is some of the most highly sought after bandwidth to be made available in years. One major wireless player may be left on the outside looking in when the bidding begins, however, if Frontline Wireless has its way. HangZhou Night Net

In a complaint (PDF) filed with the FCC late last week, Frontline accused Verizon of violating the FCC's lobbying rules. Frontline wants the FCC to impose sanctions on Verizon, up to and including being barred from bidding on the beachfront spectrum that will hopefully become home to a new wireless broadband network.

Frontline is upset about a September 17 meeting between Verizon, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, the FCC's Wireless Bureau Chief, and a handful of other FCC staffers. After the meeting, Verizon filed an ex parte letter with the Commission that provided only a brief, one-sentence description of the event. Frontline calls the brief description an "arrogant violation" of the FCC's requirement that firmsdisclose the "summary of the substance" of their meetings with the FCC to other interested parties during ongoing proceedings (in this case, the rule-making process for the 700MHz auction).

The FCC later instructed Verizon to make a more detailed filing covering the substance of the discussions, which Verizon did on September 25 with an additional one-paragraph description. To no one's surprise, Verizon used the meeting to rehash its opposition to the open access rules adopted by the FCC for the spectrum auction. Indeed, Verizon has already sued the FCC in an attempt to get a federal court to overturn what the telecom describes as the "arbitrary" and "capricious" rules.

Like Verizon, Frontline didn't get what it wanted from the FCC during the rule-making process, either. The company had pitched a plan to the Commission under which the winner of the auction for 10MHz of the available spectrum would also be given half of the 24MHz spectrum allotted for public safety use. The company guaranteed it would build out the system within 10 years and promised it would reach 99 percent of all Americans.

Instead, the FCC decided to pair two separate 5MHz blocks (Block D) with larger blocks of spectrum already reserved for public safety use. Under the FCC's Public Safety/Private Partnership, the winning bidder(s) for the 5MHz blocks will need to build a national network good enough to meet coverage and redundancy requirements. The 10MHz public safety and 5MHz blocks can then be combined to operate a commercial network, but public safety traffic will get priority on the network.

White blocks indicate available 700MHz spectrum. Data source: FCC

Last week, Frontline asked the FCC to reconsider some of the rules, including what it described as the FCC's "capricious" $1.6 billion reserve prices for the 5MHz public safety blocks. The company also wants the likes of AT&T and Verizon barred from controlling more than 45MHz of the available spectrum in order to avoid "unacceptable anticompetitive effects."

Getting the FCC to bar Verizon from bidding in the upcoming auction would go a long way towards accomplishing Frontline's goal of keeping the large telecoms from monopolizing the spectrum. In the likely event that the FCC decides against preventing Verizon from bidding, Frontline helpfully attached a list of other possible sanctions, including fines and/or barring Verizon from further participation in the FCC's rule-making process.

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