Archive for August, 2006

TV Free Burning Man (courtesy of Scobleizer)

Thursday, 31 August 2006; 9:47

Fellow WordPress.com blogger, Scobleizer, has a posting about the most recent Burning Man. Give his blog a visit and check out the video.

Home page: Scobleizer – Tech Geek Blogger
Home page: TV Free Burning Man

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SanDisk Sansa e280 MP3 Player

Thursday, 31 August 2006; 9:08

SanDisk first really caught my attention a few weeks ago after I bought one of its very well-designed U3 flash drives. In one of those all too rare times, SanDisk got the obvious right. They eliminated that little cap which frequently gets lost and supposedly attaches to your keyring. Instead, the USB connector simply slides back into its own case. Egad, Brain! Brilliant!

However, today The Distillery brings you the SanDisk Sansa e280 MP3 player. And quite frankly, never being one to jump on bandwagons, I very much prefer it to any iPod I’ve seen. And then there’s that something about buying music from only one seller who allows that music to be played on only one player — theirs.

However, with the recent cracking of Microsoft’s DRM anti-copying protocol, you may well be able to remove that protection and play your music in any player or computer you wish. Just download FairUse4WM 1.1 at Betanews.com and use it on your collection before Microsoft can get back to being Big Brother.

Home page: SanDisk

SanDisk e200 series MP3 player graphic SanDisk logo graphic

Phoenix Suns (NBA)

Friday, 25 August 2006; 23:12

What do you know about basketball? Do you know what a pick-and-roll is? How about a match-up zone defense? Can you come close to understanding the intricacies of the triangle offense? No? Then is going to be tough going around here come basketball season — both college (Duke, of course) and professional.

When The Distillery gets bored, it turns to either basketball or cycling. But since The Tour is over, and seemingly tarnished by doping, the focus is on basketball. And specifically today, it’s on the Phoenix Suns and their back-to-back NBA’s Most Valuable Player, Steve Nash. If you doubt he is deserving, then have a look at these highlights. Even more, he’s the only point guard other than Magic Johnson to win the award more than once. That’s mighty fine company to be keeping.

However, it appears the Phoenix Suns and the NBA are spot-on with their marketing. Each team’s site is a satellite of NBA.com and filled with superb multimedia content. It’s enough to keep you busy for a while. And, the Phoenix Suns are linked to NBA TV Broadband, the Association’s TVoIP channel and player. (I will have to give my old college pal a call and congratulate him. He’s apparently doing a fine job as the Association’s vice president of marketing.)

But what about Phoenix Suns tickets? Are they as difficult to get your hands on as is even just one for a Duke game (men’s or women’s) at Cameron Indoor Stadium? I don’t think so, but you might call early just in case. Whatever you do, do not buy them from teamonetickets.com. I have personal experience with these people being far less than reputable. They cheat. And, I never trust a company that will not provide an e-mail address for its customers. So although endorsed by the Wall Street Journal (or a friend inside), the firm will not get The Distillery’s endorsement.

Home page: Phoenix Suns

Phoenix Suns' Steve Nash MVP photo graphic

Microsoft Shared Computer Toolkit for Windows XP

Friday, 25 August 2006; 21:42

It is always a good idea to see what Microsoft is up to at the Redmond Country Club. After all, Microsoft invariably takes the fore in introducing breakthrough technologies, right? Of course. And, it does so once again with its Microsoft Shared Computer Toolkit for Windows XP.

But all kidding aside, this appears to be a free product from Microsoft targeted toward environments where users must share computers — schools, internet caf├ęs, etc. And as someone who often encounters computers used by more than a single person, I can fully attest to the need for keeping them both operational and secure. The havoc wrought to a personal computer by either a determined or clueless person can be almost beyond belief.

Especially for schools and educators, The Distillery recommends the Shared Computer Toolkit be given a much closer look. And if you like what you see, it can be downloaded here. But if you want more information than given in the demonstration already linked, then point your cursor to the installation and configuration demo. You will know better what you’re getting yourself into.

Home page: Microsoft Shared Computer Toolkit for Windows XP

Microsoft Shared Computer Toolkit graphic Windows logo graphic

(Microsoft, I still have not forgotten that one of your sales reps cheated me. But, I am still willing to forgive. Just make good on your promise. Maybe this sort of behavior is an example of why recent surveys clearly indicate consumers have major trust issues regarding you.)

Speed TV & NASCAR

Friday, 25 August 2006; 15:22

Do you live and breathe NASCAR? Do you like the internet? If the answer to both of those questions is “Yes,” then head on over to Speed.tv for your daily NASCAR fix. Not only will you find NASCAR videos, but also other racing videos, including motorcycle and F1 Grand Prix.

The site is superb for automotive racing fans. It is well-designed and includes message boards, chats, and fantasy racing. You will also find competitive online drag racing in the game, PINKS. In sum, Speed TV is the place to get all of your NASCAR news, commentary and video.

Home page: Speed TV (SpeedTV.com)
Video player: Speed TV

Mark Martin photo graphic

Tolerate Mornings (Folgers)

Friday, 25 August 2006; 12:43

Coffee. The holy bean. Seductively addicting. The start of Lloyd’s of London. Possibly second only to oil as an essential fuel. A food group. And from the latest news, a downright healthy one at that.

Where would we be without coffee? Still in bed? At Tolerate Mornings, Folgers goes beyond supplying us our needed morning fix of caffeine. It also provides morning Wake-Up Calls to your cell phone — for free. (Click on the button farthest to the right on the coffee-maker. Then select either Lucy, Sheldon, or the other generic somebody.) So even without Folgers coffee at hand, Folgers Coffee still wakes you up in the morning. (Ya just gotta love marketing.)

There appears to be an application of sorts called the Boss Tracker. I downloaded it, and suspect it allows several users to connect to a server and then each person can pinpoint the boss and have the information appear on each other person’s screen. Interesting and most unique. However, I did not test if fully and that is merely supposition. But before looking at that, instead click on the television to view a Tolerate Mornings “film.” (It looks like a TV ad.)

The Auto-Email Responses are actually not bad, except for a couple of them. They really are believable. And, Snooze-Saver is a screensaver. Another recycled TV ad can be found here. Feel free to sell your soul to Folgers’ marketing department by entering the Enjoy A Second Cup sweepstakes. (Actually, it asks for far less personal information than one typically sees requested. They don’t even ask for your telephone number! But, no P.O. boxes. Darn.)

In all, Tolerate Mornings is not a bad effort by Folgers. It is lame in some respects, but funny, unique, and downright useful in others. Still, I’ll take either my Kona or Costa Rican La Minita Terrazu in the mornings.

Home page: Tolerate Mornings
Home page: Folgers

Folgers Classic Roast coffee graphic Folgers Simply Smooth coffee graphic

“When The Levees Broke” (Spike Lee & HBO)

Thursday, 24 August 2006; 12:11

One day, Spike Lee will make a great movie. No, not “very good” like many of his previous cinematic efforts are, but a movie on par with movies made by John Huston, Steven Spielberg, and Francis Ford Coppola. But until then, “very good,” “superb,” “insightful,” and “excellent” must suffice as descriptors of his works.

From all The Distillery has seen and read about Spike’s most recent effort, When The Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts, he has again produced a superb film. It has that look which The Distillery finds unique and unmistakably “Spike Lee.” It is also “Spike Lee” in that he does not hold himself to a strict timetable. This HBO documentary is four hours long. Still, do the right thing and set some time aside to watch it.

Home page: When The Levees Broke: A Requiem In Four Acts
Film clip (30 seconds): When The Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts
Home page: HBO

when the levees broke house boat graphic when the levees broke quote graphic Spike Lee photo graphic

The Old Negro Space Program (NASSA)

Thursday, 24 August 2006; 8:49

That last NASA posting had me recall NASSA – The Negro American Space Society of Astronauts, and the film documenting it. It is not a Ken Burns film. Although a tad old, some of you may not yet have seen it. Enjoy.

(And before anyone gets upset, I remind you that my grandfather was a member of NASSA. I will not take kindly to any off-color jokes about the film or NASSA.)

Home page: The Old Negro Space Program
Google Video: The Old Negro Space Program

NASSA SpaceBus graphic

“An Infrared Search for Origins” (NASA)

Thursday, 24 August 2006; 8:28

I grew up in a very small North Carolina town. My high school graduating class numbered approximately one hundred students. (However, I am a high school drop-out. And yes, I’m proud of that. High school was a waste of time.) What wasn’t a waste of time was looking up into the sky at night.

One of my fondest memories from childhood was looking up and seeing the Milky Way very clearly. It was as if someone had taken a paint brush and lightly painted a white streak across the sky from horizon to horizon. The Milky Way was a huge, faint white cloud visible at night, a cloud of stars.

Even before Hubble’s Deep Field photograph and Carl Sagan (…billions and billions of stars), I somewhat comprehended the immense vastness of space. Dear readers, if you have never clearly seen the Milky Way at night, you are missing something truly spectacular. Do try to get away from city lights and see it for yourself one day. You will not be disappointed.

Those memories are stirred by this presentation, An Infrared Search for Origins, made possible by NASA’s Space Infrared Telescope. I will let the universe speak for itself. I hope you enjoy the presentation as much as I.

Home page: An Infrared Search for Origins
Home page: Spitzer Space Telescope
Home page (Spanish): Spitzer Space Telescope
Home page: NASA

Spitzer Space Telescope graphic

NotForNoobs.com (unwrapped)

Wednesday, 23 August 2006; 15:08

Microsoft and Razer have taken the wraps off over at NotForNoobs.com. And what was the suspense about? And, how did The Distillery know beforehand, which is evidenced by the picture of a mouse used in the first posting?

Answer: After much deliberation, reading chicken entrails, and consulting broken crystal balls, The Distillery merely guessed at what would be one of the most boring things in the world about which Microsoft would make a big deal. (Please do not try this at home. Reading chicken entrails is not for noobs.)

Home page: NotForNoobs.com

Microsoft-Razer Habu laser mouse graphic

Eveready (Energizer.com)

Wednesday, 23 August 2006; 14:45

First, the bunny has been found in its proper place at Energizer.com. It must be an evil albino twin which has gone over to the dark side at Duracell. Also found is a firm clearly more aware of its markets and potential customers, and the internet.

One of the first things noticed are contests which are easy to enter. There’s no chasing an animated gif. In fact, the user is given complete navigation control. With only that, Eveready is obviously less clueless than one of its major competitors. In fact, this single page at Energizer.com reflects almost all that is missing at one of its competitor’s sites. (Note: We’re not mentioning any names.)

In addition, one will find a learning center with advice for emergencies, projects for kids, and [silent] demonstrations of how batteries are made and work. But best of all, we find multimedia content. Granted, it appears to be rehashed TV ads, but we’ve always enjoyed those Energizer Bunny ads, haven’t we? And, The Distillery will give a few points for the Hispanic-targeted ads. (Note: The “Runner” ad can also easily service the locale it presents. In less developed countries without widespread and modern utility infrastructures, batteries are the primary source of power.)

However, this is the internet and 30 seconds cannot be more than .03 nanoseconds in internet time. Where is the 2-5 minute engaging online promotion? Is this it? Or is it this pitch for a flashlight? No, each of those is only 1.5 minutes long and pretty much all else to be found. Close, but no cigar. So although Eveready’s online presence is better than at least one of its competitors, it appears the battery industry isn’t that charged-up about the internet just yet.

Home page: Energizer.com

Daylight Savings Time reminder graphicEnergizer bunny graphic

Duracell

Wednesday, 23 August 2006; 13:17

Okay, so batteries are inherently boring and don’t exactly set the world on fire. (Oops, I forgot about Dell’s laptop batteries.) The Distillery is very disappointed with the Duracell battery site. It is apparently unwired, except for boring Superman Returns trailers which can be found everywhere now and Duracell’s Grand Prix High Performance Racing. (When did Duracell hire the EverReady Energizer Bunny as its Grand Prix driver?) The game is not the best game discovered by The Distillery, but it kills time. You will have to register to play. (Just give anything; there’s no confirmation.)

Also, you might register for a $25,000 USD grand prize in the Duracell “Picture It!” promotion — if you can catch the animated graphic at the right moment. Now that’s a novel (a.k.a. stupid) design idea. Make the entry form a moving target and thereby the contest hard to enter. If you’re lucky, you may not even have a winner to whom the money can be awarded. Instead, you can keep it!

The Distillery cannot help but think that Duracell is completely missing the boat on this one. What target market(s) and/or demographic(s) both use the internet extensively and also have/use pocketfuls of battery-powered gadgets and gizmos? Duh! (The Distillery will let them figure the rest out now that they have a clue.) Okay, another hint: Who is buying iPods and digital video recorders and cameras? With that now being made obvious, there’s a marketing manager somewhere within Duracell who needs to be fired and replaced.

Home page: Duracell
Home page: Duracell Grand Prix High Performance Racing

Duracell battery logo graphic Duracell battery pack graphic