MicroReview: Syncplicity

(The first in hopefully many “MicroReviews” – small reviews geared to quickly get the bottom line info to you. No fluff!)

I was looking for a way to backup/sync my Google Docs locally, and Syncplicity seemed to be one of the only (free) currently working options (now that Google Gears has been disabled). Overall, it is a very simple/slick interface, with some benefits over DropBox (ie: you can “sync” any folder on your system). Importantly it uses Google Docs API, and doesn’t require your password.  It will sync Docs down and convert to MS Doc, XLS, and PPT format so you can edit locally in your native MS Office. Unfortunately that’s all it does, and doesn’t support any other file types on Google Docs. And unfortunately there seems to be a bit of lag before you notice changes in the Google Docs sync.  What’s worse is that if you “move” a doc on your computer to a subfolder, it only does a “copy” leaving a duplicate behind. And the new “copy” loses all sharing you previously had. Bottom line, this is a no-go for now.

Current alternatives: SMEStorage (Sorry, there was no way I was giving them my Google password), and Insync (I’m still waiting for an invite), or someday Google will release its new “offline” HTML5 stuff.

Review: Automatic Photo Scanner

Epson Perfection 2480Well, its been YEARS since I’ve taken good old analog pictures, and i’ve had it on my wishlist to scan in all my old photos. There are various services out there that will scan in your photos for you, but i always like to see what’s possible to do yourself. I didn’t do a ton of research, but some basic checks seemed to be around $150 for a service to scan a box of photos the size i have (around a large shoebox).  So I’ve been looking around to see if i can do it cheaper myself.  Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be a huge market for consumer priced photo scanners with auto feeders (too bad!). If you’re looking for a new all-in-one printer/scanner, you can find many from $100-200 that have automatic document feeders, but most these feeders are made for 8×11 paper, not photos. Given the price of toner/ink these days, i was at a decision point on my old printer. A few deals popped up, and i researched a few options, but couldn’t find anything that definitively said it could handle photos in the feeder.

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Movie Review: Alienator

AlienatorWell, its a lazy sunday and while surfing through my on-demand menu, i stumbled across this gem: Alienator [ IMDB , Trailer ]. Obviously, the name drew me in at once.  I wasn’t sure what to expect, but turns out this is a terrible 80’s scifi action movie. The kind where the bad guys are wearing headbands over their mullets, the good guys are wearing space-uniforms with baseball caps, the doors are all outlandish shapes, and the soundtrack is 100% synthesizer.  So far so good, I love me a cheesy 80’s flick.  The cheesier the better.  Simple plot: a prisoner escapes a space-jail and The Alienator hunts him down on earth.

Unfortunately, this movie is about as SciFi as dirt. The first ten minutes are some pretty good ridiculous space scenes on the spaceship (just a made-over industrial warehouse) where all the computers are just blinking lights. But within 10 minutes the action shifts down to Earth, and the movie gets overrun with hillbilly’s and trailer trash chugging their Bud while driving down the road in their campers.  And the biggest disappointment of all is there is no Aliens!  What kind of movie do you call Alienator without Aliens!

Well, ok, I guess the Alienator was supposed to be an Alien. Turns out he was just some sort of David Bowie Action Hero she-male-robot hybrid decked out with a white hair-band wig, silver KISS make-up, and a cybernetic bra.

I have to say that after sitting through this entire horrible movie, the climax made it all totally worth it.  Now if only they would cut out all the back-woods scenes/actors, we’d have a good 15min of cheesy SciFi flick.  If you’ve got a spare 20 min, watch the first 10 and the last 10 and you’ll be good.

So if you’re the type of person that loves terrible movies (like I am), this is the terriblest!

Netflix for iPhone

I have been messing around with the new Netflix iPhone app for about a week now. My initial impressions are below.

Why Do I Care:
I don’t typically watch much video on my iPhone unless I am traveling. Since Netflix requires a network connection, I figured this service wouldn’t fill the important “bored on an airplane” need, and consequently be of little use. With that in mind, I was a bit curious to see if I would actually use the app. As it turns out, it’s been great.

I share a TV with my wife and young daughter. My viewing preferences often conflict with theirs. Last night while my wife was watching cooking shows, I watched a documentary on the Rolling Stones. I could have done this on my computer of course, but I sit in front of a computer all day at work, and don’t really care to be desk-bound at home. I took my documentary outside and watched by the pool. Later, I watched Black Adder in bed, then in the bathroom, then outside while walking the dogs (OK, I was just listening to it at that point). I’ve never had this kind mobility before!

It’s also been nice to have a huge library available instantly, wherever I am. A friend sent me a few Big Lebowski quotes at work the other day. 90 seconds later I was watching the film on my iPhone. (Netflix is blocked on my work network). I could get used to this.

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Quick Thoughts: New Apple Stuff

Apple TV 2010 ($99)Well, we got a slew of new Apple announcements/products today, and here’s my quick run-down.  Of course, everything is awesome, but i always like to point out a few flaws.  Here’s my quick run-down.

Apple TV ($99)

This is definitely the most interesting of the announcements for me.  Unfortunately, its awesome size wasn’t enough to sell me. Although at $99, this is mighty tempting.  The price point is clearly the big winner here. This thing will do all the standard Apple/iTunes stuff, plus Netflix (!) and a few other not-so interesting web stuff (YouTube, Flickr, etc).

Unfortunately for me, the big drawback is the 720p max resolution. That’s not too bad, but I’m an HD snob, and 720p is just not HD for me.  Especially on my world’s largest 52″ Sony Bravia XBR KDL-52XBR6 in glorious 1080p.  Granted, Netflix is only streaming 720p max so far these days, and my RIDICULOUSLY SLOW (and therefore over-priced) Comcast connection seems to stutter even in 720p, despite speed tests always showing over 20Mbps.

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Free Google Calls Still Confusing

Is it just me, or is Google Voice the most confusing product ever?  I must be getting too old, because I have no idea what is going on. And I invented the interweb. Maybe more on my Google Voice confusion later, but at least today the confusion went in a whole new direction for me.

Today, I got a notification for free US calls in my Gmail (more info here).  So I checked it out, and at first it seemed cool. I called my own phone, and got a wierd caller-id. So I figured out you have to sign up for Google Voice to get a phone number.  So i did that, and now my calls from GMail have my new Google Voice caller ID.  I paired my cell phone with Google Voice, trying to figure out how the consolidation works. Within Google Voice, I can set it to make outgoing calls with my cell’s caller ID, however when I make a call from Google Voice, it rings my cell phone (to patch you through, i guess) instead of calling directly from the browser.  And then i went back to GMail and made a call from there, but you can’t change the caller ID there, as it always uses your Google Voice number from there.  What is going on here?

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New Toy: Energizer XP8000 battery (Review)

Energizer XP8000This week brought the arrival of my brand new XP8000 battery ($55 @ woot). When i saw this for about half-price on Woot, this sounded like a great addition to my travel gear, with USB output or adapters to provide extra power all my gear, and especially my netbook-n-tosh  Dell Mini 10v ($200 refurb @ Dell Outlet). It even claims to power an iPad. We’ll see about that when the iPad arrives in October, but I’m not too worried.

Anyways, my main use was some extra power for the netbook (on planes or long car rides for example), with secondary use as emergency power for my other devices.  Larger (6 cell) batteries for the Dell are anywhere from $44 on ebay to $135 from Dell, and of course they would only power the netbook (or anything you can plug into the netbook, which is most items).  Considering that’s a huge percentage of the cost of the netbook itself, I had cheaped out and just went with the original 3 cell netbook battery which lasts about 2 hours.  So how did this test out?

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