Chips, Soda and an iPod?

I’ve been noticing more and more vending machines stuffed with electronics lately.  A few weeks ago I had a layover in Atlanta and my gate was directly across from an iPod vending machine.  I figured I’d do some seat of the pants research, and see how many people would plunk down $200-$400 into a vending machine, and how long it would take to feed in all those quarters 🙂 (they take credit cards).  I was also interested to see what would happen if an item got stuck on the way down – I’ve seen people go ballistic for a $.50 candy bar that was stuck – imagine a $400 iPod.

Unfortunately in the hour+ I was there, nobody bought anything (though I was doing emails and other things, so it is possible I could have missed someone).  Using very advanced algorithms, I extrapolated that $0 in 1 hour = $0 / day = $0/month 🙂 and that maybe the machines were ahead of their time just a bit.  I assumed they probably got a few vends a week, but were more of a marketing and branding tool than anything else…

Boy was I wrong…

I just saw an article that says the (exact) machine I was watching does $55,000 a month in revenue – whoa!!  ZoomSystems, the company that owns the machine has 300 of them, including machines inside Macy’s.  The article is pretty neat and talks about demographics of their customer (busy travelers), their return policy, and how well their machines are doing.  I wonder how many folks have bought iPods at the last minute before thy jumped on a long flight, only to find they are pretty useless until you load up some music?

What’s the most expensive thing you have ever bought from a vending machine?  Would you plunk down $350 to a machine for an iPod ?  How about $1000 for a shiny new UMPC??

One Phone Number, for Life

Grand Central, a new ‘find me anywhere’ phone service just launched in beta. 

The basic concept is that you get to pick a ‘main’ phone number (many area codes available), and it stays with you for life.

Then, via the web interface, you can enter home, work, mobile, VoIP, and any other numbers you have, and when someone calls the main number, it will route them to any of your numbers based on rules you select.  It will also prompt the caller for their name, and based on that you can take the call or send them to voicemail (heh heh).  I’ve used several similar services in the past,and Grand central seems much more feature packed.  This is a MUST have service for any mobile professional.

Free service includes 100 inbound minutes a month, but during beta everything is free.

GigaOM has more details , and better yet, just go sign up for a free beta account and play with it for yourself – get a number soon, while there are still plenty easy-to-remember ones to choose from!


Update- Their support is AWESOME.  I received email response from 2 feedback notes I sent within minutes.  The second was a bug I (thought I) found, and the support guy and engineering were emailing back and forth in near real time as they fixed the problem and updated me.  Turned out not to be a ‘bug’, but a just a minor usability issue, I’m sure they’ll fix soon.  Either way,  VERY Cool to get that kind of support!!(is this Customer Service 2.0??)

Logitech Wireless DJ System now Shipping

I just got word that the new Logitech Wireless DJ Music System is now available.  Retail price is $249.99 direct.

This seems like a great way to stream your digital music collection through your house.  It works by installing their Streampoint software on your PC, plugging in the base station, and then connecting a wireless remote station to your stereo.  You can then access any song, album or playlist on your PC via the graphical remote and stream it from the PC to your stereo.  Logitech also claims that the system will work with Internet radio and podcasts, but does not list comparable providers yet.

This system also uses it’s own wireless system, so you do not need to install or configure a WiFi router for use.  All in all, this seems like a nice system, and a real competitor to the $1000+ Sonos wireless music system.

Tivo HD Series 3 Ships!

Just got an email from Tivo, looks like the Tivo 3 is now availableat the $800 price point I was fearing.

If you must have one, use the link below to get in their ‘preferred subscriber’ queue. (whatever that means)

Looks like an awesome box, but I think I’ll pass until the price falls some.

PC Mag has a nice review here


Letter from the Editor
I promised a “defining” moment last newsletter and that moment has arrived: The TiVo® Series3™ HD Digital Media Recorder is here!
Inside and out, no compromise was made to bring this perfect HD product to life. Not only is it TiVo, it’s also the world’s first and only DVR with THX® certification.
Are you ready to rock your home theater with the highest quality, high-definition entertainment experience possible? I’ll spill more of the exciting details below and in the Showcase video (find it in your living room on TiVo Central) so all of your questions are answered. You can also share the news with friends by sending them this link. (How hot is the TiVo guy on the red carpet, by the way? And yes, I’m wearing exactly what I wore to the Emmy® awards. Pretend to be Joan and Melissa if you must.)
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must go shopping: It’s finally time to get myself an HD television!
Series3ly yours,
P.S. It’s a limited first run, so hurry—snag one of your own before the holiday madness! There’s been great (pent-up, is probably the word) demand for the TiVo Series3™ HD, so we want subscribers to have first dibs!

Slinging to South Korea

Just read an interesting article in the Buffalo Business Journal about a South Korean professor who is using my new favorite device , The SlingBoxto stream shows from Buffalo, NY to his home in South Korea.  Apparently he fell in love with American TV while in Buffalo, and convinced a colleague to install a SlingBox in their Buffalo home so he could use it once he got back to Korea.

Very cool!

Save a Life – Donate Your Old Cell Phones!

I was just reading this post over at MobileCrunch where Oliver Starr came up on a terrible car wreck last night.  Long story short, he used his cell phone to call 911 and probably saved a life by getting help there so fast.  Nice job Oliver.

I remember coming across a bad accident like this when I was a young kid.  Unfortunately it was in the pre-cell phone days, and it took way too long to get help there.  My parents shielded me from most of the trauma, but I am sure not being able to get help there right away may have cost some lives.

So, what’s my point?  Well I’m a techie, and I’m sure many of my readers are too.  That means we probably have a drawer / box / closet full of old cell phones laying around – I know I do.  While I’ve always heard about donating cell phones (NOT recycling them), it’s never really hit home on how important it can be, until now.

Getting old phones into peoples hands will allow them to call 911 (even without a service contract), and could save lifes.

What can you do?

Thanks for listening,


Portable WiFi – You can take it with you

Just getting settled in at the vacation house, and got the Kyocera KR-1mobile router hooked up and running (basically plugging it into an AC outlet – <1 Minute) .  If you are not familiar with the KR-1, it is very similar to a standard WiFi router but instead of connecting it into a broadband connection (Cable modem or DSL), it gets it’s Internet connectivity through an EVDO cellular card – and it is AWESOME!

Even if I am the only one using the Internet connection and don’t need to share the WiFi with other users, I prefer using the KR-1 over just plugging the EVDO card directly into my X41’s PC Card slot.


  • Speed – even though it doesn’t make sense, the EVDO connection is faster (I’ve tested with online bandwidth tools) in the KR1 than it is directly plugged into a PC.
  • Location,Location, Location – Unfortunately EVDO has all the same nuisances of using a cellular phone – it works great in some parts of the house / office / hotel room, and in other areas it has little or no signal.  With the KR-1 I can place it in the strongest area (The web config utility actually shows signal bars), and then roam anywhere else in the area via WiFi and not have to rely on a cellular signal.
  • PC / Windows Issues – PC Cards are notorious for getting into bad states when the PC goes into a standby/sleep/hibernate mode.  EVDO cards are no different, and in many cases it requires a total reboot of the laptop or tablet PC to get the card working again.  5 minutes wasted.  The KR-1 removes this issue completely.
  • Reliability – The KR-1 reconnects on dropped signals automatically, no more pulling up the EVDO dialer app to manually reconnect (and wait).  Very cool.

I’ve been using the KR-1 for several months now, and it is a definite two thumbs up!  I am fortunate enough to have both a Sprint & Verizon EVDO card, and so far I have always been able to get a great WiFi spot going with one of them and the KR-1 – Including a recent road trip.  It was just so cool and uber-geeky having a mobile hotspot inside the car!

Sling to the Rescue!

I woke up this morning to find my one-year-old Phillips Plasma TV dead.  Well, that’s not quite accurate it was one year and 12 days old (I dug out the paperwork to check) – nice how it just made it past the one year warranty from Phillips, huh?  Puzzling thing is, it turned off fine last night, no storms or other external forces were in the area, and all my A/V equipment is on a high-end surge and battery backup system. Odd.  The only good news is, that this was the first time in my life I have ever purchased an extended warranty.  I’ve always considered them a sucker warranty – but I am glad I did it this time.  The onlyreason I bought it is because I wanted someone else to deal with getting this monster off the wall if I ever did have a problem, but I must admit I was not expecting to ever have to use it let alone just a year later.  We’ll see how this whole extended contract works out, but I was impressed their service center was open today (a Sunday), and someone will be here Tuesday AM for service.

So I don’t really watch a hold lot of TV anyhow (who has time?), but if I don’t have my news and coffee in the morning, I just don’t seem to wake up.  So I (finally) hooked my sling player back up correctly – I had ripped out my Media Center PC and replaced it with a Tivo2 a while back, and never got around to getting the sling player right since I haven’t been traveling as much lately (whew!).

So several software installs and firmware updates later, I am back in business with my Slingbox.  I must say, the newer Sling player software is MUCH nicer, and has a better picture quality than I remember it having – very impressive updates on both the client side and the hardware.  So now I am able to stream my TV around the house (via 802.11g wifi), and catch my news on both my Lenovo X41 Tablet PC and my Q1 UMPC.  Sling even has a special skin for the UMPC  – very cool!  During the whole process, I actually came up with (what I think) would be a very cool UMPC app for the slingplayer, but unfortunately they don’t seem to have an API or any other exposed interfaces.  Maybe I’ll hack around and see what I can figure out.

Now I’m just wondering, Why didn’t I get around to getting this setup before?!?! 🙂

Must Have Tools for Power Users

Scott Hanselman has updated his excellent list of tools for developers and power users.

This is a must read list form anyone involved in software development or that spends their day on a PC.  You will save many hours and plenty of computer frustrations by using some of the tools from this list.

After reading the list and his comments, I think Scott suffers from the same problem I have – always being asked by family and friends to fix/upgrade/clean their PC.

I’ve thought about buying the “No, I will not fix your computer” shirt from ThinkGeek on more than one occasion! 🙂

Exclusive Microsoft Zune Details

Gizmodo has some exclusive information and a photo on the upcoming Microsoft Zune Media Player.  One interesting tid-bit is that the scroll wheel is not really a wheel, but just 4 buttons – wonder how usable that will be?

Has anyone seen any details on a SDK for the Zune?