Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Wireless charging…

This is something I’ve really been waiting for: the ability to wirelessly charge my iPhone (or other phone/e-mail gadget of choice). WildCharge has announced that they will begin shipping their WildCharge Skin for the iPhone in July: the skin is a protective gel cover for the iPhone that also includes the contact module and charges the iPhone once it is placed on the WildCharger Charge Pad.


According to the WildCharge website the iPhone skin works with the iPhone 3G and 3GS. They also have a separate skin for the iPod touch and that one seems to already be shipping.

There is a short review in PC World about the WildCharge that also talks about the Palm Pre’s built-in wireless charging system and some more discussion can be found on Techmeme.

Now where is that pre-order button…?

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Waiting for activation…

Interesting weekend. When I received shipping notices for the three iPhones 3GS last week and when those three phones arrived on Friday early afternoon, I fully expected to be writing a glowing review this weekend. I had already spent 3 days last week playing with the new iPhone OS 3.0 on my old iPhone 3G, and really liked all the new features (including Copy/Paste, Spotlight search, voice memo).

So I was greatly looking forward to all the new 3GS features and to getting my wife’s phone, my son’s phone, and my phone upgraded. However, where the upgrade to the 3GS phone worked flawlessly for my son and for me, my wife’s iPhone 3GS refused to activate – and we learned that many other users were plagued by the same issue. Despite Apple’s statement that this would be addressed within 48 hours, my wife’s 3GS still shows the same message today:


At least Apple realizes that they’ve got a problem, because I found this e-mail in my mailbox today in the early morning:

From: []
Sent: Sunday, June 21, 2009 7:17 AM
To: Alexander Falk
Subject: Your Apple Store iPhone Order

Dear Apple Customer,
Thank you for your recent Apple Store order. We appreciate your patience and apologize for the inconvenience caused by the delay in your iPhone activation.
We are still resolving the issue that was encountered while activating your iPhone with AT&T. Unfortunately, due to system issues and continued high activation volumes, this could take us up to an additional 48 hours to complete.
On Monday, you'll receive an email from Apple with an iTunes Store credit in the amount of $30. We hope you will enjoy this gift and accept our sincere apologies for the inconvenience this delay has caused.
Thank you for choosing Apple.
Apple Online Store Team

I’ve also done some testing with my iPhone 3GS this weekend, and must say that I am actually a bit disappointed. The new camera is certainly a great improvement, and the fact that I can now capture short video clips and directly upload them to YouTube is quite nice. But I could not detect any real improved speed in working with the 3GS, nor did I notice any faster data transfers.

And the compass application is an outright failure: not only does it deviate by almost 8-10 degrees from a real compass, it also fails to provide a way for the user to reset or trigger a new calibration run, which is essential for any fluxgate compass.

Last, but not least, I was greatly looking forward to voice control, and found it to be lacking in several areas:

  • Voice control is only available for calling people and using the iPod functions – not for reading e-mail, or any other applications. I rarely use the iPod functionality, but I would have loved to be able to tell my iPhone “read new e-mail” and have it actually go to the e-mail app and then read those messages to me using text-to-speech functionality while I’m driving to the office.
  • Using voice control to call people might actually be working for those who have just a few hundred contacts in their address book. But it is entirely useless if you are a networker and have 1,641 contacts in your database, like I do.

To sum it up, I really like the new iPhone OS 3 upgrade, and can highly recommend that to any previous iPhone owner (plus it is free!). However, when it comes to upgrading from an older iPhone, I would say that it only makes sense to upgrade from a 1st generation iPhone to the 3GS, but if you already own a 3G you probably are better served keeping that – unless the improved camera resolution or the ability to capture video clips alone are must-have features in your book and you consider them to be worth the upgrade price for you.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Watching baseball with Jim Rice

Yesterday we had the distinct honor and pleasure of watching the Red Sox vs. Texas Rangers game in the company of Jim Rice and talking baseball with a true legend of the game, who’s going to be inducted into the Cooperstown Baseball Hall of Fame this year.


Jim spoke frankly about the differences between baseball during his time and baseball today, including players’ salaries, team-spirit (or sometimes the lack thereof), and some of the current Red Sox players and their strengths and weaknesses. He was also cool about signing various Red Sox gear, baseballs, and posing for some photos (above with my wife and son). Thanks, Jimmy!

More photos of the game, batting practice, and Jim Rice are on my personal photo website

Monday, June 1, 2009

Project Natal: the Wii is dead

Finally, the end of the Wii is near. Microsoft unveiled Project Natal at E3 today: full-body motion control for the XBox 360 that doesn’t require a controller of any kind.

I’ve always been unimpressed by the Wii’s technical capabilities and the only real advantage of the Wii has been the controller. With full-body motion control w/o any controller, gaming is going to be taken to a whole new level.

I can’t wait for this to evolve from just games to useful productivity tools for next-generation workstation UIs. Think Tom Cruise in Minority Report…

Here is a video demo that shows Natal in action in a variety of different gaming and entertainment scenarios. Pretty cool:

Bing: first impressions

Last Thursday, when Microsoft announced their new search engine,, they were being ridiculed by many, because the website wasn’t ready and Google stole a bit of the thunder with their own announcement of Google Wave.

Today, it appears that nobody is laughing (unless they are ready the Onion coverage) as the positive comments keep rolling in. It turns out that – like in so many other cases – Microsoft usually gets it right on the 2nd (or 3rd) attempt.

But I’m talking about the technology, not the name. Whatever were they thinking, when they called it “Bing”??

In any case, I’ve been testing today, and I must say that there are indeed a few new and innovative things in that could convince people (myself included) to start using it instead of Google:

  1. Preview of search results
    For every page in the natural search result you get a short preview of the content of that page, or a short excerpt with other helpful links, for example when I hover over the entry for our XMLSpy XML Editor, a little window pops up to the right of it with some details:
  2. Automatic categories and web groups
    If you are searching for a fairly generic term, or if you’ve entered a keyword phrase that can be interpreted in different ways, the result will include a list of categories or “web groups” on the left side and the overall result list will also be organized with a few entries per such group, for example a search for “xml” will yield separate groups for “Specifications”, “Tools”, etc.:
  3. Preview of video results
    Finding videos in search results is nothing new, but a live preview of the video just by hovering the mouse over the still frame is really cool:
  4. Integration of reference materials
    Whether you are searching for people or for treatment for medial issues, one of the interesting things that sets apart is the integration of reference materials. For example, searching for poison ivy and then clicking on “Articles” on the left side, produces a full article within the platform that has been imported from Wikipedia. Similarly, I just found that when I “bing myself” there is a photo and a link to another reference article at the bottom of the search results – the information again appears to be imported from Wikipedia:
  5. Cashback when you buy items online
    OK, this one almost sounds like from a cheesy commercial, but when you think about it for a moment, it is really quite brilliant. When you register with you can set up a cashback account, which you can link to your bank account or PayPal, and then – whenever you search for items online and actually go to a vendor to purchase them – you get a percentage of the purchase price back. Especially in tough economic times, that can be a big incentive to start your next online shopping trip on instead of the “other” search-engine:

To find out more about all the new features, I recommend reading the Bing Reviewer’s Guide that is part of the official press kit or taking this tour of bing.