Archive for November, 2008

I’m still considering the options, but while I wait and cogitate, the performance on my Treo 680 continues to degrade. It suffers from inexplicable slow-downs, random reboots, and increasingly poor web browsing. (Seriously Palm, don’t you think it’s about time for a Blazer update? And don’t even get me started on Opera Mini!)

So . . . I’m waiting for details on this mythical next-generation device and OS from Palm. Yawn. Some year perhaps.

I waited for Android to finally roll out. Interesting, but it still needs to prove itself.

BlackBerry Storm? Looks very good, and I’ve never even really liked the looks of BlackBerry devices. However, it’s getting some mixed reviews from users. Some like it as a first smartphone, but others say it’s a step down from a traditional BlackBerry or even an iPhone. Lots of buzz over on Engadget.

And then there’s the iPhone. I’ve played with an iPhone a number of times. I like the device, and over the years Apple has given us some truly brilliant interface designs. I WANT to like the iPhone even more. But human nature compels us to compare the new with the familiar. My Treo, tired and dated though it is, still goes the iPhone one better in a number of areas. I keep wondering – when the iPhone is so superior is so many areas – why does Apple let it fail on some keys points that are of genuine concern/interest to iPhone users and would-be users?

Although I’ve played with an iPhone many times, I don’t use one as my primary device, I don’t sync data on it, and I haven’t had to do any installation or setup with one. I’m drawing my concerns from a number of sources around the Internet, and in trying to make an informed decision, I find myself wondering just what I can live without if I make the iPhone jump.

No Video Recording
What was Apple thinking? Hello! The camera is already on the phone. It is attached to what is perhaps the largest hard drive on any cell phone out there. So why can’t users record video? Surely the processor and hard drive can keep up, so what are the limiting factors? Software? Laziness? Apple?

No multimedia MMS
Again, what were they thinking? Cell phones have been doing this for years. Why would they roll out a device without a feature that is now pretty much standard issue on phones in this class?

No Sync with Outlook Notes
From what I’ve read the iPhone can successfully synchronize Outlook e-mail, contacts, and calendar information, but it cannot sync notes or tasks. While this was excusable when the device rolled out, what’s the hold-up now? Apple is working hard to push this device in enterprise markets. So why – this long after its release – are users still waiting for full integration between the device and a piece of software heavily used in the corporate world? I use notes extensively for everything from project lists to troubleshooting and installation tips. I use my notes regularly, and I like being able to sync them and carry them around on my phone. Since I use them so much, this inability to sync Outlook notes is a major shortcoming for me.

No Built-in Multisync Option
Again, considering the way I work, the fact that there is no native way to sync an iPhone with multiple computers is another major shortcoming. I regularly move between an office desktop, a home desktop, and a laptop. I need to be able to keep data in sync between all of these devices and my handheld. This is actually a pretty easy thing to accomplish with a Palm device. In fact, I’ve been able to sync with multiple computers for years on a variety of Palm handhelds. Apple makes it annoyingly difficult – so difficult in fact, that they want to sell you a $99 subscription to their MobileMe service. Fail. I don’t want my data to live in their cloud, and I suspect many corporate environments wouldn’t want that either. I don’t want a suite of fancy web apps to let me manage my data online. I just want to plug my device into 3 different computers and press a sync button.

So . . . I’m still undecided. The iPhone definitely has a great interface, but do I really want to sacrifice functionality I have now on my old, outdated device?

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A couple of days ago, someone asked me what I considered at the time to be a very strange question. “Is there a some kind of barcode scanner that you can use with a cell phone to scan products in a store and shop online for better prices?”

I don’t know why I thought it was so strange. Perhaps it was just because I had never thought of using the technology that way. Well, how did we ever get along without the magic of the glorious Interweb? While Googling for “iphone scan barcode” I came across a number of interesting posts. In short, yes there is a way to do this, and it doesn’t require an add-on barcode scanner. (However, an iPhone demo uses a special case that incorporates a built-in close-up lens that slides over the iPhone’s built-in camera. Using Snappr.net for the iPhone or Shop Savvy for the G1, users can scan a product barcode in a store, then do some comparison shopping online. Links of interest are listed below.

How To Track Music, Scan Bar Codes On A Cell Phone – Story from NPR

Mobile shopping on the iPhone by scanning barcodes with Snappr.net – YouTube video

T-Mobile’s G1 Takes Shopping To 2.0 – includes YouTube video demo of Shop Savvy

Snappr.net – Snappr project home page

Snappr Mobi – online price lookups from Snappr’s service

Griffin Clarifi – iPhone case with built-in close-up lens

Pretty cool ideas. Now I’m wondering how this kind of technology can be used in the library. If the software can translate the camera’s image into a string of characters usable in a web search, it should also be able to write those characters to file. If it can write the characters to a file, then you can store the barcodes. If you can store the barcodes, then you should be able to use this file with the ILS’s inventory module. A bit of a jump perhaps, but it sounds feasible.

Digitizing Video

Posted: November 20, 2008 in digitization, library

Yesterday I met with some colleagues to discuss a proposal for digitizing a number of old videos we have in our collection. The formats are all over the place, and it will require quite a variety of devices to read all of them. As we talked about digitizing options, we spent some time talking about video quality and various HD options for the project.

We talked briefly about the transition from standard DVD to high definition formats. The conversation reminded me of a recent article I saw on Engadget. According to the article, JVC, the last known make of standalone VCRs is calling it quits on that technology. The company will no longer produce standalone units although it will still offer VHS and DVD combo units. That in turn reminded me Blu-Ray vs. HD competition.

A couple of months ago I wrote a post where I briefly mentioned that I thought physical formats such as discs (or tapes for that matter) were simply a stopgap measure until broadband speeds and home media servers could support HD streaming. Shortly thereafter Engadget posted another article announcing the new Netflix program for streaming HD content to the Xbox 360. Netflix is already supporting a number of streaming devices.

While this is definitely progress, it’s not quite the direction in which I would like to see streaming progress. I don’t want to just rent/stream a movie. I want to be able to purchase a hi-def version. For keeps even. I want to be able to pull up a movie from a home server at will. And I want to be able to transfer it to my laptop or iPod or whatever the cool new device is a few years hence. (Of course, a few folks will have to get together and wrangle out some reasonable copyright guidelines for DVDs.)

So . . . as all that randomness percolates, I’m still thinking about this digitization project. How many gigabytes or terabytes of data will we end up with? Where and how are we going to store it? How are we going to make it available? Since we don’t have extensive experience with digitizing video, we’ll be relying on some local experts for advice and guidance. Interesting stuff and something new to learn about.