Vista Gadgets are cool!

Ok, so I was a Vista nay say-er. The truth is, there are still items that drive me nuts, but I’m getting by. There are some very nice things that Vista brings.

First, and perhaps one of the nicest, is the new hybrid sleep mode. Your laptop goes to sleep but does some intelligent writing of memory to the hard drive in the background. If the power gets low enough it will shut down as though you hibernated. Start-up is only slightly longer than waking from sleep. I like that.

Joe's Vista GadgetsSpeaking of start-up, that process seems much nicer. Logging in also seems to become responsive much sooner than it did in XP. The programs that run on startup would appear to be given a slightly lower priority, but that is just my uneducated guess.

Gadgets! I love them! A colleague of mine and I talked recently about it so I took a screen-shot. It’s true that some of them are probably not necessary; however, they are cool! The gadget framework (based on IE7) seems to be fairly good on resource usage so I leave them running most of the time, even while playing Dungeon’s & Dragons Online. not bad! The only downside I’ve seen is that if there is a problem (like one of the battery monitors I tried) then it gets grumpy and closes. When it reopens it loses most of the saved data so you have to redo most of it. Not a big deal if you can track down the problem gadget and quit using it.

My favorite gadgets? Well, I love the Now Playing which integrates with Windows Media Player, WinAmp, foobar and more. WChannel is also nice for a weather forecast.

Wonderful Photographer

Recently my wife decided to have a professional do a photography session with our family. A friend of hers, Michelle Maor, had recently decided to “take the plunge” into her own photography business. Michelle has taught various Photoshop and other photography related classes at Central Oregon Community College here in Bend and we decided that we’d help each other out.

Tower Theater - HarleyI am so happy and immensely impressed with the results! Michelle captured some very unique images. We spent about two and a half hours together starting down at Drake Park. She had us pose in several different ways. Afterwards we wandered into downtown Bend to get some candid shots around town. Her knack for composition and opportunity was wonderful! She used well-known landmarks combined with interesting circumstances to put together some great artwork. In this example she combined The Tower Theater and a Harley Davidson that happened to be parked on the street for a noir-like feeling.

The Bench ManWe finished up in an area know as the Old Mill District. It is the newest (a few years old now) shopping area that caters a bit to the large tourist traffic we get here in Bend. The new brick-built condominiums have a nice, north-eastern feeling reminiscent of Brooklyn.

She made the experience fun. It was evident that she enjoyed the process by the unique ideas she came up with. I also enjoyed the non-traditional framing that she used on several of the photographs. So many photographers simply put the subject in the middle and snap away. The good ones, the ones with a passion, experiment with different techniques to get that “special” shot. Michelle is definitely one of those.

Michelle also produced a coffee table book for us with several of the best photos laid out very nicely. Sheri (my wife) loves to take it when we go places, and I don’t blame her. It’s a very nice way to show and talk about the fun time that we had.

Thanks Michelle!

Useless Feature of the Month

Some people prefer to install everything they believe they will need on their workstation as soon as possible. Others tend to wait until they need it before installing. I tend to fall somewhere in the middle of that road.

I have a list of things I know I use every day which gets installed right off the bat. Next comes things as I need them. I know I will probably use them at some point, but it’s not worth taking the time right now, rather it’s worth taking the time later. It is simply a matter of priority, or procrastination. You decide.

Recently I ran into the need to use Microsoft Visio. I had Office 2007 installed of course, I use that almost daily. Visio is one of those things that I know I will need, but I usually only have the requirement for 1 week out of 6 or 7. This was that week so I happily inserted the DVD and let the installer work its magic.

Now comes the fun part. I created a nice high-level use case diagram for a preliminary requirements document. I decided that I would simply copy and paste it into my Word file, no problem! I noticed that the paste operation had left an unsightly amount of white space at the time.

Visio Conversion Step 1No biggie, I’d simply convert it to a bitmap and then crop it. First, right click on the diagram. There’s my convert option, now we are cooking! Click on the option and…

Visio Conversion Step 2Now how useless is that? I have the option to convert it from a Microsoft Visio Diagram to a Microsoft Visio Diagram. ugh! Thanks a lot, MS!

Now you might say that I simply have something wrong, or I only have to click x option to get what I want. I will argue that I shouldn’t have to do that. It’s a simple operation. There’s a menu that promises a conversion. There should be something to convert it into other than the format it is already in.

</gripe>

New CEO at Joost

Joost recently hired Mike Volpi as the new CEO of the Internet TV startup.  Some people are focusing on the fact that he is “not fully acculturated” since he will be steering a company hoping to revolutionize the television viewing paradigm.

Personally, I think it’s a good thing.  Mr. Volpi was the person in charge of mergers and acquisitions at CISCO during its rise in the 90’s.  I believe that Joost will need a solid business man to help them forge ahead in the technology realm and a person that has the ability to break through the legal issues regarding copyrighting and licensing that is sure to ensue.

Some people have knocked Joost for its resource intensive client, while others have pointed to existing P2P Internet TV networks.  I will say that Joost is still early in development.  Applications usually have not been optimized in the stage they are in.  I am willing to give them a chance to correct that.  Yes, there are other networks that have been around.  Why haven’t they taken off the way Joost has?  Marketing?  Maybe.  Interface design?  Maybe.  How about content?  Possibly.  Not having tried the others yet I just can’t say.  I will tell you that my opinion of the user experience in Joost has been very positive.  The bugs that are there will be worked out, I believe.  At this point, Joost is still my pick.

Go Mike!

Early thoughts on Joost (and invites!)

I’ve been a member Joost beta program for a couple of days now and I have had the chance to browse through the early content and watch some of the offered shows. I thought it only fair that I share some of my initial impressions.

*** Edit – I thought I’d reorganize this a little so the people just looking for invites could get to that quicker.  ***

Invites

I almost forgot. If you need an invite, please feel free to leave a comment. Make sure to enter your email address, it will not show up in the comments and I wil not give it to anyone other than Joost when I send your invite to you.

*** /Edit – On to the review ***

Getting Joost

The sign up and installation was a snap. The client is a fairly small download in install, it’s nice when that is the case. The invite itself had a serialized link that let me get to the download page. The sign up itself was in the software, not on the web page so I could have downloaded it and waited for a while had I been so inclined.

Next was the initial experience. Loading it up I now had to create my account. It only required basic information, again easy and simple. At this point my thoughts on the interface were that it was very “Flash” like in its operation. So far it was clean and simple, good job!

Joost Interface

Once I was logged in I was able to look through the offered channels, available programs, recommendations and more. I must say that the interface continued to impress me. It is quite simple and intuitive. Objects fade in or out rapidly, but with enough delay to make it look smooth. The same goes for objects that slide in or out from the side. Nice!

There are some customization features that allow you to keep widgets active while you’re viewing a program if you like. The clock of course is my favorite one, however the inclusion of embedded Google Talk is nice.

Joost Content

The early programming is nice. There is a decent variety from documentaries (The National Geographic Channel) to music videos (Warner Bros. channel), comedy (Comedy Central), sports and more. I hope that more become available as this gets closer to a production service.

At this point I had to start remembering that this is still in beta. Some of the programs I tried to access simply did not seem to work. I would get the message that it was “Coming up next”, however it would just sit there with no indication of what was going on.

Other programs did work and they were nice. For the most part the video was smooth, the controls were once again nice and easy to use. In my opinion the quality was better that other streaming video content I’ve interacted with.

It also seems as the content is in constant change. That is nice and a huge plus for a service such as this!

The Hiccups

As I mentioned, this is a beta phase and as such one should expect small anomalies. So far that’s all I’ve had, is small ones. First, it did not remember my personal information the first 3 times I went in. It was a minor annoyance since all I had to do was type my name and email address, but still it was an annoyance. Now it seems to have that information tucked away just fine.

Next, as I mentioned before, is the phenomena of some of the shows just sitting there is a bit annoying. It would be nice to have a little more information about what’s going on. It’s crashed on me twice so far. that’s not too bad for beta. Once was during one of those moments of “Coming Up Next” episodes.

Summary

It seems that Joost is trying to become a serious TV content provider / alternative to satellite and cable. I am not certain that the general population is ready for that, I think there will be a subset that will embrace it. If Joost is able to keep the content fresh and expand the offering they should succeed in that niche. If they really want to go after the average television market, they will need to get their hands on “Prime Time” content.

It is a beta product and there are minor issues as expected. I think that they are easily worked around. The interface is inviting, people will like it. They do include commercial content, which I assume is how they are paying for it. The ads are not bad however. No worse than what is currently on broadcast television. For the ability to watch what you want when you want it, that’s not bad.

How does this play into the DVR market? My current TV watching habits include recording some shows each week, then sitting down and watching them on a couple of nights with my wife, skipping through any advertisements to maximize the viewing experience. It is nice and it is almost an on-demand type of lifestyle. The one thing I cannot do is record a show that ‘s already started to get the beginning that I may have missed, or record more than 2 things at once. Granted, the last scenario rarely occurs, but it does happen on occasion. Add to that the fact that DVR’s are about as complex as the old VCR was. It’s not difficult to operate, and the ability to schedule a recording is much easier than the old VCR days, however there is a large population that simply does not want to mess with it. The ease of the Joost interface and the on-demand and search-ability may make it a nice alternative.

Overall, I am excited about Joost and I hope they live up to their goals. It could change the way I watch television again, the same way the DVR did when it was introduced. Bravo!

Get Joost!

So a friend just gave me the skinny on Joost. It looks sweet! The catch? You need an invite! Unfortunately my friend is in search of one as well.

So, if you have one to spare, I’d love it! I will of course post blogs about my experience so those of you that have not seen it will get my impressions.

*** Update ***

I’ve received my invite!  Actually, I received a few offers and I want to say thank you to all!

Braheshwar

Bob  Meets World

Jen

I’ll be posting a review in the next day or two 🙂

Bend 4th grade kids create online museum

4th graders from Juniper Elementary in Bend have created an online virtual museum.  Their teacher decided to introduce the students to technology for a history project by bringing in digital cameras, computers and the Internet to bring a high level of excitement and interest to the kids.

The children took on the exercise with great enthusiasm.  The end product is a testament not only to their ability to produce their virtual museum, but to their learning and creativity to help teach others about the history of Oregon.