TWCNYC Goes Voice

I am not sure if it’s actually a VOIP product, but Time Warner has officially launched their voice product here in NYC. It’s called Digital Phone – a shockingly boring name and costs $39.95/month. That’s less than Verizon, but more than options from Vonage or AT&T CallVantage.

Feature-wise, Digital Phone falls a bit short. Forwarding is one line, there’s no conference calling and no email announcing of voicemail or listening online. There’s also no call log, or way to click to call from the computer.

I’d say this is purely for people looking to save money on existing phone service – though willing to take a chance with their cable company rather than use the phone company since the service quality is unknown. Time Warner does have access to free media on TV, so I expect to see quite a bit of it while the tube is on. I actually learned about the product from a generic bill stuffer (you had to actually go to the main site and see if service is available in your area), but checked it out tonight after seeing a local market commercial on TBS.

SBC Just wasting money

For a while I’ve been seeing SBC ads on network TV … I just caught one during the first quarter of the Eagles vs Giants game on FOX. What are they thinking?? This is far from an SBC market and their brand has next to no meaning for the MILLIONS of people watching. For kicks I checked my phone number as a potential residential customer on their site and as I expected:

You may live outside the SBC 13-state service territory: Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas or Wisconsin.

I am in NYC, so the only possible state possibly of interest is Connecticut in this region and I can’t imagine there are enough people there to make this a worthwhile ad spend…

AvantGo comes back to life

I just learned that there’s a recently activated AvantGo Beta program and decided to give an old friend another chance… I was hooked on AvantGo early in my Palm days and even used VirtualPC to sync it before there was a proper Mac conduit. There’s still no proper Mac conduit directly from the source, but it’s simple for non-Windows users today if you use a wireless device (you can do it over the air) or on Mac OS X you can use Missing Sync with the MAL conduit as I’ve done.

The latest beta is version 5.7 Build 26. I am not completely certain, but I think it’s the first real release since the company was acquired by iAnywhere. I had given the previous version 5.5 a run, but was really not that psyched with how it worked on my Treo – limited 5-way support and it just did not look all that great.

This latest release fully supports the Treo and allows for much great account management on the device itself. You can now fully customize the display order for channels and even browse the entire collection of available channels from your device which is a very nice addition and enables mostly computer free control. While you can choose to surf or sync the channels you have selected (or any site actually since it is a browser after all) with a live connection, you will be more impressed if you use AvantGo in an offline capacity as the speed in which pre-cached content loads is great.

AvantGo existed before RSS came into the mainstream and it looks like it just might keep on pushing to bring professionally formatted content down to your device with each sync. You can easily read news or site updates from a variety of sources during your commute or simply just killing a few minutes. You’ll need about 2MB of free space in order to install the required .prc files and store content from your account. If you’ve paid for the premium level of service you can keep up to 8MB of information — assuming you have that much free space.

Brighthand’s First Impressions of the Treo 650

A very positive review coming from Brighthand on the 650… memory issue aside — preventing proper mobile backup, not that other issue.

Everything that made the Treo 600 so hot is even better. The Web, messaging, the camera, the better screen, better buttons, and more powerful applications all join to make the Treo 650 the newest ‘must-have’ smartphone, and when I can back it up to and restore from a card it will be… dare I say it… as close to perfect as it gets in a smartphone. With the Treo 650 palmOne has once again raised the bar. [Brighthand]

Command thy Treo (or T3) via Voice

I had actually heard of VoiceLauncher at an earlier stage, but finally gave it a whirl tonight… It absolutely works! The only noise in the room I did my tests was the steady static from a baby monitor. I was able to easily program a few speed dials and call them into action without any searching about which could certainly come in handy for in-car activity when you are trying to be a safety conscious type. There were a few hitches, but these were easily resolved with another recording of the command.

Voice command is a very handy thing to have at times and something I’ve made great use of it on my laptop in the past following an injury and a cast that left me one-handed and unable to really type. We are pretty far from that level of interaction (no text transcription) on a Palm, but for opening applications, panels or simply calling a number it’s quite easy to see the value here.

The app is an amazing 99 Kb and your voice profiles and actions can easily be stored on an SD card. Treo 650 users shouldn’t have anything to worry about if they are interested in checking this one out.

There is a major new release of Jean-Francois Morreeuw’s best selling program VoiceLauncher available! The new version 0.8.5 works with the Treo 600, Treo 650 and the Tungsten 3 (on both the simulators and the real devices!!!). Now you can save database to an SD card, launch a phone call in handsfree mode, utlize newly enhanced recognition capabilities and a new normalization feature (for users who don’t read the tutorial to have a working database), the microphone sensitivity is more accurate, and several small bugs have been fixed!

Application Description

VoiceLauncher is the very first voice recognition application publicly announced and made available for palmOne Treo600 and palmOne Treo650. VoiceLauncher has been fully designed to take advantage of palmOne Treo600 and palmOne Treo650 specific features: 5-way navigator, phone application, signal and battery indicators just to give few examples.

VoiceLauncher can launch applications, panels and phone calls. It can dial through any helper compatible application, and is fully integrated with TAKEphONE phone application, allowing features likes pauses in phone numbering. [ ]

eReader goes RSS

I’ve been enjoying the content at eReader on my various Palms for a while now and am glad to see this addition. I love the link right to the shopping cart! I’ll still have to subscribe to the newsletter for now, since that’s where you get the weekly discount code. I’m sure it’s only a matter of time until that also makes its way to the RSS, though they’ll lose some sense of who they are communicating with since I’ve yet to see RSS get to personalized in the way email has been capable for years.

The folks at eReader have added an RSS feed so you can see all the new releases each week. They also include a link to add the book directly to your shopping cart. Excellent use of RSS. [Michael Gartenberg]

AOL goes for Premium Mail

While I get the need / desire to be in the premium mail space I don’t get their choice off brand for this venture… Everything AOL has been doing as of late has bee to parse out the pieces and this would have be a great way to offer a core piece of service at a competitive price. I can’t recall any other times the ICQ brand has been anything but free…Regardless this sounds like a good offer if you happen to be the market.

Looking to nudge its way into the mail storage market dominated by the likes of Microsoft Corp., Yahoo Inc., and Google Inc., AOL said its ICQ (I Seek You) subsidiary is rolling out a $19.99-a-year e-mail service offering 2GB of storage.

The premium ICQmail, which is powered by Los Angeles-based Mail2World Inc., will also offer bells and whistles like personal calendaring, WAP access to Web-based mail, mail-forwarding to wireless devices, and support for POP3, IMAP4 and SMTP.

Paying ICQmail users will also get access to compression technology to handle large attachments and the ability to schedule delivery of outgoing mail, create distribution groups and set up auto-responses, according to an AOL spokeswoman. [eWeek]

Voom adding 30 MORE HDTV channels

Voom had a rough start when they launched losing about 20% of their customers through churn as they were ramping up. It seems that while the path is far from clear the picture sure will be… adding an additional 30 HD channels is very exciting news and something that should attract people looking for HD content once they get their sets. I have roughly half their current crop of HD channels through Time Warner cable, but this move will push Voom way ahead.

As I’ve stated numerous times, Voom doesn’t appear to be the “about to fold” company many have made them out to be, and this bit of news wouldn’t lead me to believe otherwise. On or around March of 2005 Voom will add an additional 30 plus HDTV channels, as well as nearly 200 standard definition channels, according to Tom Dolan, CEO of Rainbow Media Enterprises. [Home Theater Blog]

Memory Issue or usage Issue?

By now you might have heard of the potential memory issue for Treo users moving from a 600 or even just another Palm device. The hitch is that the Treo 650 like the Tungsten T5 uses a type of memory called Non-Volatile File System, which enables your Treo or T5 to keep everything you have if the battery runs out or if you switch batteries on your Treo. This is a great new security addition and something I certainly welcome. While I honestly can’t recall the last time any of my Palm devices ran out of juice completely — perhaps not since my m505 or even Vx. I’ve had few since then (TC, T3 and Treo 600) all of which were always safely turned off if I reached the danger point without a cradle or charge cable in sight.

Because of the new file system / memory, the new Treo and T5 maintain a constant backup and as a result write large block sizes (512kb to be exact) so programs and data from previous palms will get rounded up to 512 and eat more space that you had previously thought. For now you have to pay to play… hopefully there will be a fix for some of the more widely used applications to maintain a more trim file if possible.

In the meantime, I’d suggest a good look at what you run on your device and consider how your usage might even change as you migrate to something better. T5 users probably don’t have to worry much since you’ll be enjoying close to 256MB of space, but the 32MB (actually less…) on the Treo might be less than you were hoping to work with…

I’ve found a few things have changed as I’ve moved to a Treo and as I’ve thought about the potential issues with the Treo 650, I’ve already changed what apps I use and think you might as well as you make the adjustment to a new way of working with a Treo. First… Since you’ve got a Treo, consider using it the way it was intended… without a stylus whenever possible. This enable the power and ease of one-handed operation through the 5-way and will really (at least for me) highlight the value of certain apps.

I’ve been a longtime Agendus user.. but have been continually frustrated by the lack of full support on the Treo. I love the professional look and icons, but have actually found myself using it less as I’ve toyed with other options and today actually made the move and deleted (over 1MB of stuff) it from my Treo. Instead, I am using 2Day, by ShSh, which provides a simple 1 screen glance at what’s on my calendar, the day’s weather (from 4Cast also from ShSh) items in my todo list, the number of messages in my inbox (from ChatterEmail as well as other apps), SMS indications and many more features. Its’ fully customizable like all good applications and very easy to use. I can just as easily view today as I can add events. There’s terrific integration with TakePhone another ShSh application I’ve been playing with which enhances your contact and phone applications by making it easy to make calls, view call lists, as well as add or change contact info.

The other major switch I’ve made recently leading to a nice space savings was removing Silver Screen and switching to Initiate, formerly Arrow Launcher from Hobbyist Software. Initiate lets you simply tap the keypad to hit the application, contact, music file or even bookmark on your Treo or SD card. Since it can read the memory card, you can easily move things to the /Palm/Programs directory and have access from there beyond the normal device limits. No need for PowerRun, or any other helper to get to the card. BTW — Butler is another great utility for the Treo… it can handle quite a few tasks including enhacing the reminders on your unit as well as keyboard shortcuts and travel alarms.

I have also taken a serious look at what else I’ve just let sit around without being used and actually was able to easily save a few MBs of space by just being diligent. I don’t use AvantGo – gone. Have not been traveling – killed SF from my Vindigo list and just kept NYC. Games I had not played – gone.

The thing about the Treo I’ve found is that it’s a powerful and unique device. My usage has been primarily communications (email, IM, browsing some RSS), with a twist of entertainment (ebooks, photos etc) and some information management (Life Balance and SplashID) on the side. It suits what I’ve needed and I fully expect the new one to easily handle my needs as well.

Sirius Radio Gets Serious

First the big drive for new subscribers via Howard Stern today and now the news breaks on the new CEO. It’s still a tough call between XM and Sirius in my mind if I had to pick. I like Howard but don’t listen to enough radio at the moment (no drive time for me) to consider spending money on a radio service just yet. I actually tried to get a radio today having heard there would be many more physical devices being handed out… a coupon is not enough to push me over just yet.

NEW YORK ( — Mel Karmazin is joining Sirius Satellite Radio as CEO, according to executives familiar with the matter.

Mr. Karmazin, the former Viacom chief operating officer and president of Viacom, exited the company in May and said last week at a radio conference in Portugal that his future involved either linking with an investment company or joining a high-growth company or remain doing nothing. Mr. Karmazin did not respond to an e-mail request for comment.

Mr. Karmazin’s name has been floated in connection with Sirius ever since the company signed radio personality Howard Stern to a five-year, $500 million deal. Mssers. Stern and Karmazin have long worked closely together. Mr. Stern is currently tied to his contract to Viacom’s Infinity Radio. [Ad Age]

Tivo signals the official change

I already blogged the move by Tivo today to add advertisements within the fast forward interface, and I’ve also noted additional moves announced by Tivo to upgrade your box in the future to block recording and storage of certain programming like HBO and the NFL… HD is most likely seriously impacted by this as well if people actually pay for those boxes.

The sad part of all this is that there is seemingly anything that can be done to prevent the “inevitable suck.” I was reviewing a demonstration video for the Microsoft Foundation TV platform last night – the very same system being tested in Seattle at the moment and I have to say I was not really impressed by what I saw. Sure the features are there, DVR, (I think) 2 tuners, HD and VOD. The presentation was very flat though and I don’t just mean the movie which while educational was a real sleeper.

I use the Scientific Atlanta Explorer 8000HD DVR. Say what you want about the box – I’ve had my own issues as well including replacing the box twice. It’s FREE, only requires a $9.95/mo fee through Time Warner here in NYC and is able to display all known HD formats – though it really prefers straight 1080i. I can do digital optical audio out in addition to viewing an enhanced picture and for the most part I am very satisfied with the system…

So what’s the rub? Well for starters, I am completely locked out from using the material I record, whether its a PBS (free for anyone) program or something from HBO. The only way I can archive things is to first pass them through analog and then re-encode back to digital with a piece of equipment or system of sorts I’d have to purchase which would only get close to reproducing the original. There was previous mention of the Scientific Atlanta box with a DVD burner which would allow theoretical archival, but would most likely follow the strict broadcast flag restrictions and would have the same blocks soon to be imposed by Tivo.

I have no idea really why there are such intense restrictions placed on video vs audio content, but it’s pretty amazing when you really think about it. Archiving a DVD is possible, but is not a process a computer can do without the help of certain software tools not usually found on the average user’s machine. You cannot copy a commercial DVD without these same tools or converting to a lesser standard first.

The only future I see at the moment is one where we are forced to enjoy video content on somebody else’s rules.

Strike 2 for Tivo

As if blocking the recording of certain programs was not bad enough… commercial blocking is next. No word on when this will come through on cable company DVR boxes but from this tip at Engadget it might soon effect us all. Certainly seems like the perfect time to build your own DVR. You can even still purchase an HDTV card which ignores the broadcast flag — at least for now.

Once the bane of advertising for its ad skipping feature, TiVo, will redeem itself in the eyes of marketers with a new feature set to launch next March. Tivo will introduce a feature whereby advertisers can purchase a billboard which will appear on screen when a user fast forwards through an ad. The billboards will allow advertisers to make offers and link to other ads, most likely residing in TiVo’s Showcase – home for long form commercials. If a viewer opts in to the ad, their personal info will be sent to the advertiser enabling further direct marketing.

While advertisers will rejoice over the introduction of this feature, a consumer revolt is likely to occur. Upon introduction, TiVo gave consumers control and now it is taking it back effectively having tricked consumers into buying a product that will now serve to more finitely market to them. It will only be a matter of time before hacked products arrive eliminating all TiVo functionality aside from its hard drive based recording abilities. While we are sure patents are in place, an enterprising manufacturer could make a killing offering a simple TiVo-less “ad free” hard disk recorder. But, at least for now, the control pendulum has swung back to the advertiser. [Adrants]

Blue screen of death

from ditherati


“Do you think if you’re hunkered down and someone’s shooting at you in your car, you’re going to be able to sit there and look for Control or Alt or Function?”

San Jose police sergeant Don DeMers, on the Silicon Valley city’s needlessly complex police-car computers, The New York Times, 11 November 2004

Ad Pros See Bigger DVR Effect

Interesting though not surprising info coming from AAF survey on DVRs and the impact on TV advertising…especially given the new push by cable companies to install DVRs.

The AAF surveyed 121 advertising leaders regarding the effect they feel DVRs will have on the 30-second spot. A majority of respondents (55%) felt that non-traditional ad formats (such as advertainment, content sponsorship or product placement,) will grow, but that the 30-second ad spot will continue to be the standard for TV advertising. Just over 20% of respondents felt that the growing use of DVRs will lead to a “dramatic” transformation of TV advertising, including the end of the 30-second spot as the basic unit of TV advertising. In all, 76% felt DVRs will lead to some change in the TV advertising market.

Interestingly, the DVR is being viewed as a more serious factor for change in 2004 than one year ago. In 2003, many AAF survey respondents felt that the DVR would be a threat to TV advertising %u2014 22% felt that the DVR penetration would not reach levels necessary for it to have an effect on TV ads, while 13% of respondents said that the DVR threat is over-hyped. But from 2003 to 2004, the percentage of advertising professionals citing these opinions dropped off greatly, comprising only 12% of respondents in the 2004 survey. [eMarketer]

VOIP = Massive Savings

I just got my first bill for our home number from AT&T and while the CallVantage service has had a few quirks, I just saved roughly 50% from previous bills from Verizon. 50% baby! That’s huge! Low balling the exact figure to $40 saved per month saves me $480 per year!

411 via SMS has finally arrived

via Textually, I just learned of a super cool new way to do 411 via SMS. You simply send a message to UpSnap (+1-818-312-7627) with the info you want. I happen to be in Florida at the moment and decided to give it a whirl based on my plans this am…

By entering Marinas Jupiter Fl, I received a listing of 5 options:

  • a Center Park Self Storage (obviously wrong)
  • b Blowing Rocks Marina
  • c Jonathan’s Landing Marina
  • d Jib Yacht Club and Marina
  • e Holmesy Company

You can reply with what letter option makes the most sense… for this example I chose c, Jonathan’s Landing Marina. In about 30-60 seconds, I received the full listing for this place – Jonathan’s Landing Marina – 3238 Casseekey Island Rd Jupiter, Fl (561) 747-8980 Because I am on a Treo the number is clickable for a quick call.

You can also choose to find a specific place like Neiman Marcus 415, which will give you as listing for Neiman Marcus in the 415 area code and was the example SMS they initially sent my way.

The only cost for this service seems to be whatever your text plan is which for me is basically free given the number of messages I get per month. I just wish carriers would add SMS delivery to the menu of options to calling 411.