Silliness is Golden

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Tue, Mar 21, 2006

Countdown timer

Okay, Lazyweb--do your thing. Can anyone find (or write-if you can do it in the next 24 hours) me a free PalmOS countdown timer that can handle durations of up to 168 hours? The closest thing I've managed to find has been Less Than Zero, which maxes out at 99.I have a one-week countdown I'd like to have ticking.

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Sat, Dec 24, 2005

marketing demographics

A few weeks ago, I logged into Yahoo mail to see a flash ad that, in retrospect, I wish I had saved a copy of so could quote it precisely now.

T-Mobile is vigorously promoting the celebrity designer versions of the Sidekick it's now offering. This ad was in the form of a poll that read (approximately):

What is your idea of a custom ride?

Since my idea of a custom ride is a convertable Mini Cooper with a diorama of action figures playing English-rules croquet glued to the hood (or possibly BRC Summer), I think we can conclude that I am not my cellphone's core target market.

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Fri, Jun 17, 2005

Smart

There've been Smart Car sightings around the Davis Square area lately. Smart is a division of German car company DailmerChrysler that specializes in shockingly teeny two-seaters designed for Eurpean cities. (I'm not linking to the official site 'cause it's a stunningly user-hostile cloud of Flashtulence, but it's at http://www.smart.com/ if you want to attempt to use it.)

So these babies are eye-catchingly cute and futuristic, but Smart is distinctly uninterested in the US market, largely because they believe Americans to pretty much measure car value by the pound, which is why they're planning to introduce a "small SUV" here in 2006 (!??);but also a regulatory and consumer climate (cough!) much more hostile to diesel engines than Europe is.

So since Smart isn't making a US version, and since they the're illegal to import unmodified, if Americans are gonna buy them, someone would have to step up to the plate and modify them to US standards. Zap! Incorporated wants to do just that. Their website announces that they've gotten DOT and EPA approval for their conversion procedure, which only adds another ten thousand dollars to the final pricetag, taking it from about $15,000 to $25,000.

Even so, for the novelty, compactness, and fuel-efficiency (about 60 MPG), there'd be a substantial US market. Looks like Zap has overplayed their hand, though. Though no deal was sealed, they've launched [http://www.smartcar-usa.com/]. In late May, Zap issued a press release announcing a one buh-buh-billion dollar purchase of Smart cars from DaimlerChrysler.

DaimlerChrysler hastened to reply that this was news to them. Zap replied: "Notwithstanding some confusion in the marketplace about our recent orders for Smart Cars, we are happy to report that we have held meetings in Germany on March 21 with senior management of smart GmbH prior to submitting a $1 billion purchase order for Smart Cars, and we believe that there is a possibility of working together in the future to meet the incredible demand among U.S. drivers for the unique, fuel-efficient Smart Car microcoupe."

It's hard to say it was cause-and-effect, but 'a possibility of working together in the future' is exactly what DaimlerChrysler then proceeded to deny, saying "[w]e do not want to have any kind of business relationship with Zap either now or in the future."

But if there've been no transactions at all, where did Zap get the car for an announced sale at a Reno RV dealership? Turns out they're selling used cars and not bothering to mention it on their website.

It's a damn shame. Zap appears to have the tech and the idealism for this project, and the cars are frickin' cool, but they've already managed to squander the trust and goodwill of anyone paying attention. They're selling their second 'like-new' Smart on EBay now. Maybe they'll annoy DaimlerChrysler enough to force them to come over here with the two seater....Yeah! That'd neat!

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Sat, Jun 04, 2005

Technology Watch

My mother gave me a beautiful vest for Christmas a couple years back. Since it's cut in a ninteenth-century style, it has a pair of watch pockets, of course. They're not big enough for my Hiptop, but would probably fit a small cellphone just fine.

That observation got me fantasizing about a merging of the two--in particular, of a cellphone disguised as a pocket watch. Small clamshell phones are already similar in form factor to a covered watch. The numbers on the face could double as a numeric keypad, with the display on the inside of the cover....

This in turn got me wondering whether someone had already done it. A few Google searches didn't turn up much. Apparently, except for Nokia's deco-influenced phones, there doesn't seem to be much that strives for a feel other than 'shiny futuristic.'

However, my search did reveal that Samsung is selling a gorgeous pocket watch music player that tells time with an LCD image of an analog watch face. Sapphire faceplate, platinum plating, frickin' diamond-decorated face. Jeez! Also it supports Ogg Vorbis.

It's selling for the eqivalent of about US$900, and is, of course, not available outside of Asia.

On the other hand, Asian electronics being Asian electronics, there's already a knockoff

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Wed, May 18, 2005

Why bother with digital SLRs?

This post is of interest only to those at my particular intermediate level of knowledge of digital cameras.

Some background: SLR film cameras are generally considered far superior to other designs for professional or serious amateur use. The reason for this is easy to understand: the viewfinder on an SLR camera looks out through the lens so that you see exactly what the film will "see." When you press the shutter, a little mirror pops out to redirect the light onto the film.

Digression: I suddenly realized a few weeks ago that this technology is the reason that, on television, in scenes that involve fashion shoots and such, the camera shutter noise is often accompanied by an instant of blackness. That's what someone using an SLR camera sees at the moment of taking a picture.

Now, that being the case, it was never clear to me what the advantage was of a digital SLR. Since virtually all contemporary consumer digicams have an LCD screen that shows the view through the lens, isn't that an actually superior method to messing about with mirrors and viewfinders?

Digital Cameras - A Basic Beginner's Guide to Digital Camera Technology is the first article I've seen that actually addresses that question:

Small sensors, and the sensors used on all consumer digital cameras, use a scheme which can read the data from the sensor in real time using a scheme called "interline transfer" and the CCD electronics control exposure rather than a mechanical shutter. Large sensors used on more expensive Digital SLRs are often of a different design known as full frame - which doesn't refer to their size, but their design - and which require the use of a mechanical shutter. They don't read out and the display the data in real time, only after the exposure so they can't give real time LCD displays or record video. The advantage of this scheme is that the whole pixel area can be used to capture light while interline transfer CCDs use part of each pixels to store charge. Since smaller pixel areas generate more noise and interline transfer CCDs are not only smaller to start with but use some of their pixel area for charge storage, their noise level is significantly higher. So the smaller interline transfer sensors in consumer digital cameras yield lower quality images than those used in higher end DSLRs, they can do more "tricks" like recording video clips and giving a live image display on their LCD screen. The lack of a mechanical shutter also makes the cameras cheaper and simplifies construction.

And now you know.

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