Digital Goodies

Sync your Blackberry Contacts with Thunderbird

Looking to have a common address book on all of your various devices? Check out myFUNAMBOL. This nifty little service lets you sync your email contacts between Thunderbird, Outlook, your Blackberry and pretty much any other device you may desire. Don't have a Blackberry? No worries, you can also use it just to keep your address books in sync across multiple PC's.

To sign up, go to:                                         http://my.funambol.com/
You can get the Thunderbird plugin here:         http://sourceforge.net/projects/sync4jmozilla
The Blackberry app is here:                            http://my.funambol.com/bb/plugin.jad (from your Blackberry browser)

PhotoFinder

For a long time now, I've been looking for a simple way to geotag my photos...  Most of the easy options up to this point have involved high end pro-sumer cameras, expensive adaptors and obsolete GPS devices.  Today though, I came across the ATP Photo Finder on the Vistek website.  This nifty little gadget works by logging the time and coordinates while you take pictures.  Once you're done snapping photos, you insert the media card into the Photo Finder and it then uses the timestamp from the files to insert the GPS coordinates into the EXIF data from the memory card.  (Of course this means you have to carry the Photo Finder with you and assumes that you have the time on your camera somewhere near sync with the GPS satelites, but neither of those requirements should be particularly burdensome.)

 Unfortunately none of my usual camera stops have this thing in stock at the moment, but you can be certain I'll be picking one up very soon!  :D

 

 

Satellite Radio

Sirius

Well, I've been waffling on getting a satellite radio for about 3 years now.  At first I used the excuse that it was too complicated back when you had to have a US address to sign up, even though I know lots of folks up here who had done it.  (Apparently there was even an internet outfit that catered to that very detail as part of their sales pitch for Canadians by providing an american mailing address you could use when signing up.)  And when satellite radio finally launched in Canada, I said I didn't want to because I had a 20-GB MP3 player, so what was the point of a subscription radio service?  And there's the crux of it, what it really came down to was I didn't want to pay a monthly fee for radio service...

I got over it...  After listening to the local radio DJ's drone on and on about the merits of UFC, followed by another 5-hour drive to Edmonton with the same tired old songs, I just couldn't take it any more!  So before I turned around for another 5-hour drive home, I went out and got myself a new Sirius radio.  Initial impression?  Not bad.  The music is good, the hardware was easy to install and it even includes live streaming radio over the internet for in the house.  I even like the auto-search feature that seeks out your favorite songs and artists and lets you know if they are playing on another channel.  And, of course, the drive home was much more pleasent with a little fresh music along the way.

On the downside, the home kit I bought came with a defective AC adaptor.  I tried calling the warranty service line and they insisted that I take it to a retailer ("any retailer") in town for an exchanger.  Not surprisingly, the local retailers were glad to help... until they found out that I bought it in Edmonton.  So another call to Erikson (the manufacturer of the Sirius hardware) and I'm waiting for a call back while they determine whether they can send me a replacement adaptor.  Guess there's still some hope...  Maybe I'll be listening to satellite radio in my living room yet.

DIY 3D Mouse

Ever wanted to have a computer mouse that you could use in mid air?  I know I'd like to have one for controlling my PC while I'm on the crosstrainer.  (I tend to watch movies / TV or listen to music on the PC while I work out.)  Well, here's an article on how to build one yourself...  Not quite as sophisticated as Nintendo's "wii-mote", but the concept is so simple you'll wonder why you didn't figure it out yourself.  I might just try this out!

Ogg Vorbis Anyone?

For those non-geeks out there, no that is not latin and it's not words I made up...  Ogg Vorbis is a "popular" media format for music files.  Kind of like .mp3 or .wma files, except that Ogg Vorbis (.ogg) is a non-proprietary format.  Meaning?  Meaning it's free for use by anyone for anything.  Probably doesn't mean much to you, given that you've likely never paid for a license to use your .mp3 or .wma files on your portable music player...  At least not directly.  See the manufaturers of those devices have had to pay for a license.  (Hence the recent lawsuit against SanDisk by Sisvel, the holder of the .mp3 license rights for Europe.) 

What this leads to is that many open source software packages (ie: Linux) do not ship with .mp3 or .wma support built in and, depending on the platform, adding support can sometimes be tricky.  Many of them DO support .ogg right out of the box however.  And if you're like me and run both MS and Linux machines, sometimes that makes it a pain to move files back and forth for use in both worlds.  Enter Ogg Vorbis support for Windows Media Player.  Add .ogg support to Windows Media Player with the codec you find here and you'll no longer have to worry about what format your files are in.

Incidentally, the iRiver line of players supposedly offer Ogg Vorbis support in a portable media player...  So you can take those files on the road with you as well.

File this one away for future reference...

This little gem just might be worth checking out if you're one of those people (like me) who leaves their PC running 24/7.  I use my PC to record TV, download torrent files, serve up media content across my home network and all the normal stuff that one might expect of a PC.  The 400W power supply however makes this a less than eco-friendly option tho.  So I'm quite interested in seeing what becomes of this little "Multi-Function Digital Device" (MFDD) as the author calls it.  Undoubtedly it will need some time to mature, but my guess is that there's more than a small market for something like this.  (At least amongst us geeks.)

Get $50 off on web hosting!

I know at least one person out there may be interested in this, so just in case anyone else is interested, you can get $50 off your hosting package with DreamHost.com, courtesy of theSmarts.ca just by entering code: 50SMART.

What to look for when upgrading your PC (-Part 3-)

...the conclusion...

So by now we've covered CPU's, RAM and hard drives.  There are lots of other things that have changed about computers, but their overall impact for the average user is probably not all that significant.  What is significant, though is the advances in Operating Systems.  Most folks will be familiar with Windows XP, and some of you might have even heard of OSX from Mac.  So what's changed?  Read on...

What to look for when upgrading your PC (-Part 2-)

...continued from yesterday...

Yesterday I covered a couple of the differences that have come on the PC market in the last couple of years.  Today I don't have quite as much time (since I still have to make my lunch for tomorrow and the cafeteria there is someplace I try to avoid), so I'm just going to touch on hard-drives for now.

What to look for when upgrading your PC (-Part 1-)

If you can read this website and send the occasional email, your PC is probably good enough for most people's needs these days.  Unless you're into some heavy duty gaming, doing lots of video editing or (maybe) contributing to scientific knowledge, anything that can run Windows XP is probably good enough for your needs.  Truth be told, the days are long gone where I might spend all night playing Warcraft (that would be the original Warcraft - circa 1994) instead of studying for my exam the next day.  (Or playing NWN when I have to work the next morning for that matter.)  These days my PC tends to be used more for recording Sesame Street and making sure I've got the entire 3rd season of MI-5 lined up in case I decided to get on the cross-trainer.  Hard-drive limitations aside, my old P4 system has generally been up to the task.  Lately though, the old beast has been suffering badly from four years worth of accumulated software / file redundancy / 24-7 runtimes.  (And tending towards the occasional fit of lock-ups, random reboots and other irritating quirks.)

So when "Hollywood" (my desktop PC) started acting up this weekend at about the same time my tax return arrived, I decided it was time to replace the old beast before it dies completely.  I've been eyeing up a new PC on NCIX for about the last two years...  Spec out a complete system, add it to the cart and look at the price tag for what I wanted...  Delete the cart and then start all over again when NCIX posted their next weekly sale.  Overall the bottom line price has stayed about the same over that time, but the contents of the cart have gotten progessively more impressive.  So if you're thinking about a new PC in the near future (or just contemplating some upgrades to an existing system), read on for some pointers on what's changed in the last couple of years and what you can expect in the next six months or so.  (Note that if you're a bona fide computer geek, you may as well stop reading 'cause this ain't anything new to you.)

Finally, before someone points out the obvious, I've completely ignored the offerings from Apple Computer.  No slight to Apple, they make some nice products.  I've just never owned a Mac, and likely never will.  However, there have been some interesting changes in the Mac-world lately, so if you're so-inclined, you might want to read up on Apple's latest offerings as well.

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