Monthly Archives: November 2011

Almost Perfect Gift Guide for A Tech Lover

As we approach the official start of the holiday buying season, I thought I’d share some of my wish list.  I figure that many of these ideas will translate well for other tech lovers out there that may be having trouble coming up with gift ideas — at the very least, you may get an idea for something similar to buy.  In any case, hope the list helps, and for those in the U.S., have a fantastic Thanksgiving holiday!

  • When We Left Earth ($10 – $30 depending on Blurray or DVD) - This fantastic documentary will be great watching for anyone who loves space and may have shed a tear with this year’s final Space Shuttle flight.  Includes pristine footage from Mercury and Gemini all the way through the Space Shuttle.
  • ThinkGeek T-Shirts (around $20).  You really can’t go wrong with T-Shirts from ThinkGeek… unless you get the wrong size, that is.  Here are some of my favorites this year:
  • Star Trek Ornaments – Hallmark has been making collectors ornaments for some time now, and you can still buy late-edition star trek ornaments online.  Some of my favorites are below:
  • 5lb Gummy Bear – This is like the holy grail of gummy bears – and will make for one hell of a conversation starter if they bring it into work.  ”So what did YOU get?” :-)
  • Upgraded Car Audio – This is probably a gift that can only happen between a couple due to the price tag, but consider how much time you spend in the car each day and whether the current car stereo system is cutting it.  The first Christmas gift I got for my (now) wife was an updated car stereo which allowed her to play CDs, and she LOVED it.  My pick is the CX501 from Clarion, which not only offers hardware connectivity of music players but also allows for streaming bluetooth music – a feature that is for some reason extremely rare in aftermarket head units.

That’s It??? You don’t recommend an XBox360, or iPhone, or PS3?  No – because most tech enthusiasts will already have the above or otherwise have very specific wants about what they want in their smartphone or gaming console.  Unless you know EXACTLY what they want, I’d stay away from these categories and leave them to the tech enthusiast to buy on their own.

Disclaimer: Amazon.com links on this site are generally affiliate links.  While I have posted said links in good faith and in the spirit of the article, please note that purchases made through affiliate links will financially benefit the site.

The Challenge Facing An Apple Television [Updated]

While Apple has sold various iterations of it’s AppleTV set top box, it has always considered the product a “hobby,” and the product has likewise had negligible sales.  Recently though, the rumor mill has been ripe recently about the possibilities of Apple getting closer to releasing a true entry to the television market.  Some of these rumors include:

If these rumors are true, what would an Apple Television look like?  What problem(s) would it be trying to solve? How would it integrate with the rest of the living room? And possibly most importantly, how would Apple deal with fractured and diffuse content providers?

The Apple Television Solution

Steve Jobs said in his biography that he had ‘cracked’ making an integrated television set that is completely easy to use.  Content would sync automatically between devices and iCloud; complicated remotes would be a thing of the past.  Various companies including Apple have solved parts of these issues but have yet to provide a single magic bullet. Logitech makes easy to use remotes, but no content synchronization; Apple does content synchronization, but doesn’t do remotes.  Now, Apple would be able to market a single product that not only simplifies a traditionally cumbersome home theater setup, but also allows users to access their content anywhere.

Say you begin watching a movie at home, but can’t finish it before it’s time to catch the morning carpool into work.  Simply pause it on your Apple TV, Apple will sync playback status to iCloud, and you can keep watching exactly where you left off on your iPhone on your way to work.

Integrating With Your Living Room

Steve said he didn’t want the user to have to deal with complicated remotes.  This heavily implies that Apple’s “remote” would replace all other remotes for other home theater components, but there is more than one way to skin this cat.

Would Apple follow Logitech’s lead and make a macro-remote?  It would work, but that doesn’t feel like Apple’s style.  When Apple does something, everyone else follows, and to make a macro remote would be Apple following the industry.  In addition, macro remotes have their drawbacks.  Macro remotes require the user to keep holding the remote steady for several seconds after they have entered the command so the command can be sent to all of the devices.  If the user doesn’t do so, the remote can become “out of sync” with the devices, requiring the user to intervene and “re-sync” the remote.

The most likely option is for Apple to use a protocol like Airplay to control other devices.  Airplay already allows for volume control, and the protocol could conceivably be extended to add support for other remote control features such as power/standby and the like.  However, this would require users to buy Airplay compatible devices for use with the Apple Television, and I’m not aware of any set top boxes (other than AppleTV) that are compatible with Airplay. Update: HDMI control could also serve as a more standard way of controlling other living room devices (thanks Dagless).

One more thing… What if Apple eliminated other home theater components by integrating them into their product?  This intriguing possibility would mean Apple would include components such as an amplifier into the product somehow (either integrated into the display or as a second piece that works with the primary display).  Apple has experience making audio products in the recent past, having made the short lived iPod Hi-Fi between 2006-2007.  I’m not sure it’s a very likely option, but it’s a possibility…

Content

In my opinion, content will be Apple’s biggest obstacle in introducing an Apple Television.  While Apple doesn’t need to tackle this issue to introduce a television, doing so would make the product much more appealing.

Currently, most consumers get their content either freely over the air or paid for on a subscription basis to cable/satellite/fiber providers.  Meanwhile, Apple only offers content for purchase via iTunes – a model that is extremely pricy for most consumers.  While Apple briefly flirted with a rental model for television shows, it still has yet to introduce what most consumers expect – a subscription model.  If Apple really wants to tackle the living room, it needs to provide a content subscription model for TV that consumers are more familiar with.

2011 Guide To Greener Electronics Released

Environmental activist group Greenpeace has released their annual guide to greener electronics which rates major electronics manufacturers according to Greenpeace’s criteria for environmental operations and products.  Greenpeace discusses their criteria in-depth, but in general the criteria reflect Greenpeace’s demands to electronics companies to:

- Reduce emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) by implementing a Clean Electricity Plan
- Clean up their products by eliminating hazardous substances;
- Take-back and recycle their products responsibly once they become obsolete,1 and;
- Stop the use of unsustainable materials in their products and packaging

Companies considered to be getting “greener” include Dell, Apple, Lenovo, LG, Toshiba, and HP, with HP taking the top spot.  Greenpeace reduced the ratings for Nokia, Philips, Sony Ericsson, Sony, Samsung, and Panasonic, while others remained flat.  A common complaint by the organization was a lack of use of renewable energy in company operations.

TechPerfect Take: In order for technology to be deemed perfect it has to be produced in such a way that is environmentally sustainable.  While we disagree with some of Greenpeace’s criteria–notably requiring corporations to lobby for good environmental policy–and we disagree with other of its viewpoints out of the scope of this article, we applaud how the organization has been able to successfully produce change in the industry.  From more environmentally friendly consumer products to data centers that are powered from renewable energy sources, corporations now consider the environmental impact of their operations and products, and that is a “Good Thing”™.

ARM In The Server Room?

There has been significant buzz around HP’s announcement of its Project Moonshot and its new server platform called Redstone. The project promises to bring ARM processors into the server room by using Calexeda’s Energycore processors.  The processors are based off of ARM’s Cortex A9 and will be a SOC. According to HP, Redstone servers would consume 89% less energy and 94% less space than traditional servers.

The servers are being designed for cloud computing.  In fact, the Redstone architecture takes a new approach to cloud computing.  Since the ARM chips don’t have a ton of computational headroom (compared to their x86 counterparts in the server room), virtualization won’t be employed.  Rather, a single a single Ubuntu instance will be employed for each ARM chip.  With the platform geared to employ up to 2800 chips in a single rack, the cloud implications are enormous.

This all being said, many of today’s cloud computing applications are still migrating from legacy code, requiring still sizable vertical scalability and limited horizontal scalability.  With so little vertical headroom available, expect this product to be niche for the time being while the industry catches up.  However, kudos to HP for thinking outside the box.

References: TomsHardware, Infoworld