Archive for the ‘Computing’ Category

Catch of the Day (10.02.2007)

Saturday, 10 February 2007; 18:09

Soapbox (MSN Video)

Tuesday, 19 September 2006; 10:59

A grown man dressed-up as a dancing mutant butterfly? That what we first see at Microsoft’s most recent “let’s play catch-up” attempt, Soapbox, and hoped-to-be slayer of the YouTube dragon. Maybe Microsoft should begin copying others’ advertising, too. Anything is better than a butterfly which cannot at all dance.

Now only in beta, you will need to add your name to the list of Soapbox wanna-be beta testers. Good luck–with it or any Microsoft beta-phase product. In case you’ve not noticed, Microsoft has once again eschewed long-established standards and has redefined “beta” to actually mean “alpha.” That takes all the fun out of beta testing, and much of the hard work involved with testing alpha releases outside of Redmond. Instead, Microsoft lets the guinea pigs–known as “customers” to firms that actually care about end users–suffer.

Home page:  Soapbox

Soapbox Sillyfly

And once again, Microsoft, I have not forgotten that one of your sales reps cheated me ten years ago. She promised an Office suite in exchange for a formal and personal introduction when you finally figured out the web wasn’t going away. I provided the introduction she needed, but Microsoft never kept its part of the bargain. Again Microsoft, you have to wonder why you rank at the bottom of corporations trusted by consumers? How more clueless can you be than not to see broken promises greatly influence such perceptions? (No, I don’t hate Microsoft. I only hate being cheated.)

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

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 cafés, 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.)

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

NotForNoobs.com (Microsoft & Razer)

Thursday, 17 August 2006; 15:42

What might Microsoft and Razer have in store for us at NotForNoobs.com? A new game? Another mousepad? It seems no one is telling. Maybe no one knows, including Microsoft. (But knowing Microsoft’s history, let’s not get too excited. After all, it’s a company well-known known for disappointing its customers and copying or suing its competitors. Also, when was the last time you saw something from Microsoft and went, “Wow!”? *)

Home page: NotForNoobs.com
Home page: Razer

* There is one kudo due Microsoft — or more specifically, the company it acquired in order to offer the product. If you have not, have a look at its free FolderShare software and service. FolderShare definitely makes life easier. (But remember, nothing truly “Wow!” has ever come from Microsoft itself. No, I’m wrong about that. Internet Explorer deserved a “Wow!” a decade or so ago. The same most definitely cannot be said for the new I.E.7 browser, however. Try as it may with its thousands of employees, Microsoft still cannot produce a respectable 21st century browser.)

Razer Krait mouse graphic

Alienware (computers) & Superman (movie)

Thursday, 10 August 2006; 16:05

AlienWare and Superman. Nice fit. Super-fast computers that often look like sinister other-worldly machines and the depiction of a Superman who looks not at all mild-mannered.

Doesn’t that Superman logo on the laptop look exceptionally cool? I want one! However, with only 350 of the laptops being made, I’m likely very out of luck. (You’ve got an Apple logo on your laptop? Gee, I’m sorry to hear that. You have my sympathy. But, we all can’t have the coolest looking laptops, can we?)

If you think only 350 laptops is a limited edition, then how about only 250 Area-51 Superman Desktop Editions? That’s right, regardless of the one you want, you’d better hurry. But remember, AlienWare computers are far from cheap. You might want to take along both credit cards.

The AlienWare-Superman co-branding is almost a stroke of genius. The entire promotional site does not disappoint. It is indeed a super site. Enjoy.

Home page: AlienWare
Co-branding site: AlienWare-Superman
Landing page: Area-51 Superman Returns Edition Notebook
Landing page: Area-51 7500 Superman Edition Desktop

AlienWare Superman laptop graphic AlienWare Superman Desktop graphic

AlienWare logo graphic Superman logo graphic

Boeing: Integrated Defense Systems

Wednesday, 9 August 2006; 13:21

2005 was a banner year for weapons suppliers like Boeing and its Integrated Defense Systems division. The Distillery can find no joy in that observation.

Home page: Boeing IDS

AH-64D Apache Longbow photo graphic

SitePal

Sunday, 6 August 2006; 15:10

The Distillery very much likes the SitePal product, but for one problem. That is, even after a customer has purchased SitePal (albeit at its most basic level of $100/year), the company still insists on conspicuously including its advertising in what has then become the customer’s product.

Is this like Real Networks requiring anyone who has “purchased” RealPlayer to always login if s/he is to benefit from that so-called purchase? Most definitely. And just as is the case with RealPlayer, customers walk away far less than happy. Even worse, those customers then inhibit other purchases. Think not? Then how many of you have received positive word-of-mouth about paying $20 for RealPlayer and purchased it for yourselves? (Very few? That’s what The Distillery suspected.)

All that aside, what about SitePal’s online content? This is an easy one. After all, SitePal literally speaks for itself. SitePal is a virtual spokesperson which can be added to a web site, and without question adds a most unique and engaging dimension for visitors. It brings to mind something marketers recognized as often necessary years ago: If you go high tech, find someway of also going a little high touch.

Although not human, and because avatars have become more acceptable to internet users, there is little question that SitePal potentially offers that element of “high touch” needed by so many web sites. Also, unpublished research has confirmed that an avatar can make a site’s visitors feel more comfortable and therefore more satisfied with their interaction with the site. (Thanks, Prof. B.Q.) However, The Distillery has yet to encounter a single web site employing SitePal’s technology.

As recently as April 2006, SitePal had only 5000 customers after being in business for at least 3 years! (There’s nothing like shooting oneself in the foot, eh?) Therefore this unsolicited advice is offered to SitePal: Remove the glaringly obvious barrier to your product’s adoption. If a customer is willing to pay for your product, you should be willing to remove your advertising from what has then become your customer’s product. Even more, cannot your product speak well enough for itself? (Pun intended.) Or, do you not trust that it can?

Enough of that. Go ahead and play around with the SitePal demo. I am certain you will come away more than a little impressed. But again, it is unfortunate that SitePal’s management seems either a little too greedy or not exactly clear on how the internet works. (Maybe they need another hint: Google.)

Home page: SitePal
Video: Tutorial

SitePal logo graphic

Silicon Graphics, Inc. (SGI)

Monday, 24 July 2006; 12:41

I expected great things from Silicon Graphics (SGI). Unfortunately, its web site and decidedly boring streaming videos dashed those expectations. Although SGI typically does not sell to the general public or average end user, someone is forgetting it takes not only a good steak to remain in business, but also some sizzle to sell even to professional, government, or industrial markets.

That miscalculation may be evidenced by Silicon Graphics’ recent filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Might this be a case of a firm thinking its products simply sell themselves, and thus very little emphasis or consideration are given to the internet as one of its best (and expected) promotion and information tools? Seems so. Although SGI has a streaming media center, does it really think it will grab the attentions of “just-doing-my-job” corporate or government buyers with videos as boring — and outdated — as this one for the U.S. Army Tank and Automotive Command (TACOM)?

Maybe SGI purposefully works hard at producing boring online content. How else does one explain turning multimedia clips of NBA basketball played by Michael Jordan, Vince Carter, and Lebron James into bathroom breaks?! And with this video of SGI’s use by digital media firms, it seems to have a slight clue, but still misses the mark.

In sum, as SGI reorganizes itself under Chapter 11, let’s hope any new management understands they actually have to properly promote and sell products to remain in business. As a company once considered the absolute leader in graphics, and with graphics taking over the entire internet in the forms of movies to 3D simulations, maybe Silicon Graphics should pay a bit more attention to using some of its silicon and graphics on the web for “Wow!-ing” potential buyers with their products. Otherwise, we’ll be reading about SGI in another chapter in the bankruptcy book of fairy tales — Chapter 7.

Home page: Silicon Graphics, Inc.

Silicon Graphics graphic

i2off.org (3D Engine Realtime Generator)

Thursday, 20 July 2006; 14:52

Yesterday, we saw the magnificent 3D effects delivered by Virtools, The Behavior Company. Today, we look at a 2006 Seattle Flashforward contest finalist 3D effort from i2off.org and generated with Flash.

Judge the difference for yourself, but I can tell you [this particular?] 3D Adobe/Macromedia Flash effort looks like something a first-grader might bring home to have placed on his/her parent’s refrigerator. If that’s the best 3D rendering Flash can deliver, I’m moving my Adobe/Macromedia stock portfolio selections to Virtools. Put differently, if this were a 15-round heavy-weight prize fight, Flash would have suffered a TKO and found itself on the canvas before the end of the first round.

i2off.org 3D graphic

Virtools, The Behavior Company

Wednesday, 19 July 2006; 14:22

How about something I think the vast majority of you have not yet seen? Yet, you should. And why so? Because it’s really special. Trust me on this one.

First, download and install the Virtools 3D web player. (Macromedia/Adobe Flash player wasn’t good enough for the French? As usual, what is?) Then have a look at this visual-only demonstration to make certain it is working. Ready? Then let’s play. Web designers, pay attention. You do not wish to miss this.

First, have a look at this spectacular 3-D demonstration from eTinToys. Next, close the office door and have a blast with the Urban Adrenaline online game. Very cool. Beautiful 3D graphics, too.

Now click on over to ChatPark3D. Weird. Cool. Little people 3D avatars! (Just sign in with anything. It’ll work.) Now check out the all-too-real physics with the Car Arena Physics Demo. Crash! (No, not the movie.) From there, explore around on your own. Enjoy.

Okay, this time the French are on to something. This is several steps beyond mere Flash. The integration of the two means some wickedly nice web sites should start showing up. Yep, Virtools is a real winner. Web designers and viewers alike, don’t miss it or you will be sorry.

Oh, one more thing — the faster your computer is and with at least 1 GB of RAM, the better your experience. This one isn’t for sissy computers. I also now see why they call themselves a “behavior” company.

Home page: Virtools, The Behavior Company

Virtools player graphic