A few months ago, I got a Sprint MiFi 2200 to test and use for work. When I first saw this device at CTIA Wireless back in April, my jaw just dropped because of the size and utility of the device. In case you don’t know what it is, it is a mobile WiFi hotspot.
For a number of years, I’ve written drivers/applications for various USB modems. While USB modems do have many uses, the lack of drivers drew me to the MiFi. The quality of drivers/applications ranges from good (the ones that are built into the OS are best) to not so good, so by eliminating the drivers, my main complaint about modems goes away. I also really like the ability to connect more than one device to it when I’m in a situation with co-workers without a broadband connection. In addition, having the modem separate from the computer lets you put the modem next to a window and you can sit somewhere else in say a hotel room. This is huge when you have trouble getting a signal; you no longer have to have sit next to the window.
Really my only complaint about the device is battery life; due to the small size, the battery doesn’t last as long as the battery on my Mac.
No drivers required
Can share to 5 devices
Fast connection for a wireless card
Sprint has a fairly large footprint with good coverage
Poor battery life
5 GB/month data cap (may not be an issue for the casual user)
For a consumer, the monthly cost could be a barrier.
Overall, if you have a need for mobile broadband, I don’t think that you can go wrong with the MiFi.
Today I finally bit the bullet and entered the world of HDTV. I bought a Vizio SV370XVT at Costco. I did my research and decided on Vizio as it had features I wanted and got some decent reviews (some reviews have been mixed). This TV replaces my 7 year old Sony 32″. Last week we were at Costco and I had settled on getting the VL370M as that’s what they had in 37″. This week, they had the newer XVT model which was $120 more, but had TruVolume and a we other features.
Like my father, you might ask why 37″? That question is quite easy to answer. 37″ is the largest TV that will fit in our entertainment center! It has doors that close over the TV which is important for us to signify the end of watching TV for the day for our son and doesn’t make the TV the focal point of the room.
The first thing I noticed about the TV was how light (in weight) it was; I was able to easily put it in our entertainment cabinet. This was after my dad, wife and I barely managed to get our old TV on the floor (first onto a table and then onto the floor); the old TV weighed about 170 pounds vs. the < 35 pounts of the new one.
I plugged the TV in, hooked up the right cables (it does help to plug it in), went through the initial setup to scan for channels and presto, it worked. I started flipping through the channels and had already read that the -1 channels were HD channels, so I was excited to see what we got. My wife and parents were in the room as well and when I hit CBS or ABC HD showing golf, everyone at once ooed at the clarity of the picture.Pros
A plethora of inputs
An HDMI input that also has stereo audio; this is necessary for my Mac media center as I have a DVI to HDMI cable for video and RCA left/right for audio.
Very light in weight
Remote lets me easily switch inputs (my Sony required me to cycle inputs; the Vizio cycles through HDMI, but quickly goto component and TV inputs
Very sharp picture; granted I haven’t had another HDTV in my house, so I don’t have a comparison.
It’s very thin; the box says 2.2″. Wow, I had to make the hole in the back of the cabinet larger to fit the back of our old TV through it.
I wish there was a second component input. I have a TiVo with component outputs and have cables for my Wii that output component. This may be a moot point soon when I move to a Mac based media center.
While I’ve only played with my new TV a few hours, so far I’m quite pleased with it. Once I put together my Mac based media center, I’ll be able to give it a more thorough test drive.
I know that some people will say that the Vizio is the bottom of the barrel HDTV, so I’ll just have to see how much I like it in 6 months. For the longest time, I said I didn’t care about HD, so maybe my standards are quite low.
Several weeks ago, Mobile Action Techonology contacted me about reviewing their i-Got-U GPS logging product. I was given the choice of the Bluetooth one or just the USB one; I chose the USB one, the GT-120 because it was smaller and Bluetooth is kind of pointless as you have to plug it in to charge it and I didn’t have a use for it as a GPS hooked to my computer. (The Bluetooth one has a much larger battery, however.)
In a nutshell, you use this GPS unit along side your digital camera (it doesn’t connect to it) and then when you upload your pictures to your computer, you extract the GPS log from the device, and based on the timestamp of the picture, the photos are geotagged. Combined with iPhoto ’09, this is cool for people that travel and take pictures. While I don’t travel all that often, I think the concept is fantastic, so I was pleased that I was offered an evaluation unit.
Prior to receiving the unit (I do get to keep it, but it won’t affect my review), I was informed that it was Windows only, so I’d have to use VMWare to test it. As a Mac user, using Windows is something I want to avoid at all costs. Of course, enterprising hackers have already reverse engineered most of the protocol and created a program that reads the data off the device and outputs a GPX file. The GPX file can then be imported into a variety of geotagging software.
I received the device yesterday and started playing around with it. The first thing I noticed is the size. I can easily wrap my hand around it and make a fist. It has one button on it that is used to turn the device on and off. It has 2 LEDs and that’s it for user interface. The package came with a mini-CD with the Windows software. I’m not sure what computers these days read the mini-CDs, but no laptop or desktop computer that has a slot loading drive can, so I downloaded the Windows software from their web site and installed it in VMWare.
My first real test was on a trip to the zoo with my son. I turned it on and snapped some pictures around the zoo. I basically forgot about the device and was on my way.
The hardware is pretty cool; the battery seems to last awhile. The battery charges over USB, so that’s convenient. My only complaint is that it uses a proprietary USB connector instead of mini or micro USB (I now have to carry another cable).
I installed the software on Windows XP under VMWare and it worked fine talking to the device over USB. I imported my tracks and photos. I found the software a bit cumbersome. Editing waypoints just seemed awkward; I had trouble removing points that I didn’t want, but after a few tries figured out how to click on a point and see it on the map.
It’s cool to see the Google map representing the track and seeing the photos on it, but the software just doesn’t seem easy to use. Maybe I’m used to Mac software and haven’t used much Windows software, but they must be able to do better.
The output on their @trip web site works well. I didn’t see any option to export to my own site (I could have output it to Picassa or Flikr, but I like having a bit more control over my photos).
Other reviews of GPS loggers indicate that the software is pretty weak as well. The developers should work with developers that specialize in writing software and just concentrate on the hardware.
Since I’m a Mac user, using Windows software pretty much makes me want to poke out my eyes. There are a few Mac products out there that I’ll review at a later time. Even with the non-streamlined workflow, the Mac software options are so much better than this.
I really like the concept of geotagging photos and the iGotU-120 seems to fit the bill. I’m disappointed that there isn’t a native Mac solution, but hackers have filled in the gap (the workflow isn’t all that clean, however). Would I buy the device if I had to? At $70, it’s a bit steep for me as a casual photographer. If I took more pictures, I think it would be worth it. For Mac users, you might want to invest in other geotagging applications.
I’ve had my Garmin Forerunner 305 for 2 weeks now and have been quite pleased with it. A few people have asked me for a review of the unit, so I’ll do the best I can.When I first opened the box, I put it on the docking station plugged it into my DC inverter in my car so that it could charge on the way home from REI as I wanted to use it that day and it was supposed to charge for a few hours. After I got home, I plugged it in and it was ready to go in no time. I turned it on, took it outside and it acquired a signal pretty quickly. I browsed the instructions while waiting for it to charge, but didn’t thoroughly go through them.There was no configuration required and I started my first run by strapping on the heart rate monitor (I read a tip that said to put water on the monitor before putting it on), putting the monitor on my watch and I was off. There really was no configuration needed to get it going. It seemed to keep a signal and gives me the data I need to train (current pace and heart rate are about it).I’ve read some complaints about the unit from others in that it doesn’t keep a signal, the heart rate monitor doesn’t work, etc. My unit has performed flawlessly and keeps the signal all the time; I don’t run in wooded areas and there is pretty much a clear view of the sky. Also, the heart rate monitor works fine; another complaint I’ve read has to do with the heart rate monitor not registering when the GPS unit is placed on bicycle handlebars or on a crossbar on a boat. Since I run with it and it was designed for running, it works well. My only problem with the monitor was that I didn’t wet it down one day so it didn’t start registering until I had worked up a good sweat. Continue reading “Mini Review of Garmin Forerunner 305”