Tag Archives: consumer electronics

Bluetooth Tracking

morning rush hour

Research from Purdue University shows that Bluetooth would be a very good way to track travel time. Bluetooth devices give off unique IDs which could be used to measure speed and movement of pedestrians and vehicles.

But why stop there? Wouldn’t it be possible to track people via their Bluetooth signal, if you knew one of their device IDs? Anyway, here’s the abstract (thanks, Roland.)

Travel time is one of the most intuitive and widely understood performance measures. However, it is also one of the most difficult performance measures to accurately estimate. Toll tag tracking has demonstrated the utility of tracking electronic fingerprints to estimate link travel time. However, these devices have a small penetration outside of areas served by toll facilities, and the proprietary tag reading equipment is not widely available. This paper reports on tracking of a wide variety of consumer electronics that already contain unique digital fingerprints.

Method uses ‘Bluetooth’ to track travel time for vehicles, pedestrians

Technology Makes You Fit, Not Smart

image

I’m trying to use technology as much as possible in my new environment (Singapore), and it’s not working well out that well for me. I have no useful Internet connection, my Nokia N95’s GPS locks in just in time for the journey to finish, and I’m eating off the tops of plastic containers.

Otherwise everything is going well. I’ve just been trying Streetdirectory.com’s useful tool, for example, for arranging trips by public transport. I know I’m not in tiptop condition, but I was slightly unnerved by this step in the nine-step process of going from one part of the island to the other:

You need to walk to Simei Avenue – blk 3012, (Stop Number: 96101) which is 54250m away.
View: Map

By my calculations, that’s a more than 33 mile walk. And I thought Singapore was only 30 miles wide. No wonder everyone here looks fit. And slightly wet.

I think I might take a cab.

Streetdirectory.com Travel: All about Singapore – Travel, Hotels, Vacations

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Getting Your Treo in Sync via USB

Here’s another one of those public service announcements for a very specific problem. Skip it if you haven’t had problems not being able to synchronize your Treo with a PC. In some cases an error message will appear “USB device not recognized” or somesuch. Here’s what worked for my Treo 650, after lots of messing about with more complicated solutions that didn’t (thanks to Palm for some of these, as well as some forums here and here):

  • First off, try removing the USB cable and sticking it back in again.
  • Try sticking the cable in a different port.
  • Try a different cable. The cable that comes with the Treo is notoriously unreliable.
  • Soft reset the Treo and try again. (Worked for me.)
  • Take battery out of Treo and leave for a few minutes.
  • Try synchronizing via Infrared. If this works, at least you’ve got a backup and you know the problem  is not terminal.
  • Reboot your PC and try again.
  • Try cleaning the connector on your Treo. This can get dirty. Be careful. Use an eraser or a soft cloth. Or lick it.
  • Reinstall your Palm Deskop (rebooting after uninstalling before reinstalling.)
  • Hard reset the Treo.

My rule of thumb with fixing things like this. Try the simplest first. Don’t follow radical advice of people on forums (reinstalling Windows XP, drivers for your motherboard, replacing parents) unless you’ve tried every possible simpler solution first. Remember the simplest answer is probably the right one.

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The Treo Zombies

Faintly distracting, but ultimately unsatisfying, ad for the new Treo, where people walk across an intersection doing different things depending on what feature of the Treo the ad is pumping. I have a couple of questions:

  • Why do none of these people ever look left and right before crossing the road?
  • Why is there no traffic?
  • Why if this is about the Treo, is only one of the characters sporting anything that could remotely be a headset?
  • Why is no one talking on the phone? (Maybe they read this alarming report)
  • Why have I wasted a good 10 minutes of my life watching this ad and writing about it when I already have a Treo?

The Law of the Missing Remote

There must be a law that describes this, but I can’t find one. We have four air conditioners in our flat, and four remotes. Each remote used to sit snugly in one of those wall clasp things, and everything was hunky dory. No missing remotes, no mess. Until one of the remotes broke, so now we have three, to operate four units. So now, of course, the remotes have to be moved around to operate air conditioners in other rooms. So now we have no idea where the remotes are. We are now, one week into this crisis, down to one remote. I have no idea where the other ones went. What is this called, when the removal of one item triggers a collapse in the order of all the other untis?

I assume the same would happen if you have five remotes governing four units. Quickly you’d stop looking for the remote in the wall clasp, and start leaving the remotes around anywhere, thinking “Hey, we’ve got plenty of them, why bother to put them back?” So after a while you’d be down to fewer remotes than there are units.

I can think of 100 ways to solve this problem, but not one that isn’t hopelessly nerdy, involving string or rubber bands or something to keep the remotes in place. When you have to start stringing your remotes to the devices you’re trying to control remotely, they’re not remotes anymore. And you’re a nerd.

An Idiot’s Guide To Prepaid GPRS

Further to my earlier post about GPRS traveling woes, I asked Syd Low of AlienCamel to offer his thoughts on the subject. He’s something of an old hand at the game.

For the last two years I’ve gone “on the road” to the Alps. My journey goes through Asia, then Switzerland and finally Austria. In 2004 I had a Treo 600 and this year a Treo 650. I’ve used GPRS with prepaid SIM cards in five countries will almost perfect success to stay in touch with friends and colleagues using IM and Email.

In Europe, I usually look for a mobile shop at the airport or train terminal. Zurich airport is great – all three carriers are there -Swisscom, Sunrise and Vodafone. Just wander in, buy a card and you’re on your way in less than 20 minutes. When you return the following year, you just need to get a recharge card and you’re away in 5 minutes. In Asia and Italy, I found that all carriers have shops in the main street. Venice and Verona for example have Vodafone shops conveniently located among the shops and resellers everywhere. Same deal – quick and fast transactions. In Austria where there’s not much competition, the most convenient place is the post office where you can get A1 prepaid cards. Recharge cards are available at supermarkets.

The Treo 650 auto configures to all of these networks and there’s no need to manually make any setting changes. Just put the sim card in and everything just works. I’ve only had a minor glitch with A1. For a few days I couldn’t get GPRS coverage – not sure if it was my phone or the network high in the Alps.

Life would be a lot simpler if there was a carrier that did global roaming with fair rates, but I think it’ll be a blue moon when that happens. Until then, get yourself a little case to get a sim card for each country.

Thanks, Syd.  Oh and here’s a picture of his SIM-card stash:

Simstash

Play Your MP3s Underwater

I’m told that Korean MP3 manufacturer iRiver and waterproof audio specialist H20 will later this month launch what they’re calling the “First Personal MP3 Player for Action Sports. Enthusiasts can for the first time enhance their experience with music while participating in sports such as wakeboarding, surfing, snowboarding and waterskiing.”

I don’t have any pictures or URLs yet, but an early copy of the press release quotes Kristian Rauhala, CEO of H2O Audio as saying that “combining music with high-energy action watersports is a natural fit now all sports enthusiasts can enjoy iRiver music players just as cyclists and runners have for years.”

The H2O Audio SV i700 includes H2O Audio’s waterproof housing and is designe for iRiver’s iFP-700 Series MP3 player. The H2O Audio SV i700 housing and headphones will cost $100, and $130 with the watersport armband.

Bill’s Vision Of Our Home Future

Bill Gates gave his big speech at the 2004 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) yesterday, and there’s been plenty of commentary on it. Here’s a view from WinNetMag’s by Paul Thurrott, that helps explain why the computer is more likely this year to make its way out of the den and into the living room. It all revolves around the Media Center PC, a PC running a new version of XP that works as a kind of hub for all your other entertainment devices. (Yes I know this doesn’t sound new, but it seems more likely to happen this than before, apparently):

With a Media Center PC connected to a TV signal in the home office, you’ll soon be able to pump content to other devices around the home. These devices will include set-top boxes that look and act like stereo components and be able to connect to a home network through a wired or wireless connection, a new generation of portable media devices, shipping this year from several companies, playing music, running movies, downloaded material, that are “small enough to fit in your pocket, has a big enough screen to enjoy movies, and is about the same weight as a wallet”, according to one of the Microsoft guys.

As Paul points out, a lot of this could actually happen because Microsoft has involved a vast number of partners to build the machines, make content, sell the stuff to you, movie companies to make the specially formatted DVD movies you could download. Concludes Paul: “The level of cooperation Microsoft engenders with its partners stands in sharp contrast to the digital-hub strategies that some of the company’s competitors have proposed and highlights the true diversity and choices we expect from the PC industry. Seeing this business model coming to the consumer electronics industry is exciting. If Gates’s keynote address is any indication, 2004 is going to be a milestone year for home computing.”

I’m more conservative: I haven’t seen this stuff in action, and given past experience I’m not 100% convinced that folk can be persuaded to buy new hardware that is not compellingly better (folk will buy a DVD player because it’s clearly better than VHS; the same was true with CDs and vinyl; tape Walkmans and MP3.) But buying a lot of new hardware just so you can beam material from your PC to the rest of your house? Are we really going to do that? I’m skeptical, but ready to stand corrected.

Eight Gigabytes Of Stuff On One DVD

In the next few weeks, expect to be able to buy DVD discs that can store up 16 hours of video or 8.5 GB of Data. Verbatim said yesterday they would this spring release “the industry’s first Double-Layer DVD+R (DVD+R DL) discs”, nearly doubling the storage capacity on DVD recordable discs (from 4.7GB to 8.5GB) on a single side. Verbatim says these discs will be compatible with existing DVD video players and DVD-ROM drives.

That ’16 hours’ bit needs some clarifying: in fact, you could only store up to 4 hours of DVD-quality video — the 16 hours refers to VHS video quality. The way Verbatim say they do this is to have the first recording layer semi-transparent with enough reflectivity for writing/reading data on the first layer, yet transmitting enough laser power to read/write on the second layer by refocusing the laser.

Verbatim expect content developers (read DVD movies, big software packages) to make use of this technology: You could fit two Hollywood movies on one of these discs, if you really wanted to. Is this the time when I can talk about how I remember how all you could get on a floppy drive was less than one megabyte, but how somehow we were happier then? (No – Ed.)

DVD Burners, Going Even Cheaper

Further to my column last week about how DVD burners may be worth investing in, Slashdotters are debating their rapidly falling prices — in some cases to below $100. The discussion is here; the original article reviewing sub-$100 burners is here.

Having just spent more of my weekend than is healthy backing up my MP3 collection (20+ gigabytes) I have no doubt about their appeal for storing large quantities of data. That collection went onto six DVD discs. If I’d done the same thing to CD-ROM it would have taken, er, a lot more.