Archive for the ‘Journalism’ Category

Not So Smart Advice On What Not to Buy in 2010 From SmartMoney

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

I just came across an article on the MSN SmartMoney web site about 10 Things Not to Buy in 2010, and while some of the items discussed are ones I would agree with in principal, I think the authors at SmartMoney suffer from a very narrow weltanschauung (world view). Some might even call their views elitist, or perhaps on the other extreme, clueless.

Two of the ten items on the “don’t buy” list I vehemently disagree with are external hard drives and compact digital cameras.

With respect to external hard drives the author suggests that because of the convenience and cost of online backup services like Carbonite and Mozy, there’s no reason to spend money on external hard disks, which the article points out can crash (which is true, but rare).

But herein lie a number of serious flaws in reasoning.

First, Internet connection speeds are a real problem. Only a fraction of Americans, and an even smaller percentage of those outside the U.S. have high speed connections sufficient to upload the many gigabytes or even terabytes of data stored on their computer systems. For myself, I have multiple terabytes of data – that’s trillions and trillions of bytes of data – and if I were to try to upload all that data to a remote site for backup it would take me years, literally. Even with “only” 20-30 gigabytes of data, the average residential user would be looking at weeks for back-up initially.

Second, and perhaps an even bigger issue for most people, is that once you have actually gone and committed to backing up data to an on-line service, you have no guarantee that such services will remain in business. I have personally seen this happen with a number of photo sharing web sites that people had uploaded thousands or even millions of photos to, only find the sites shutting down with no real recourse to keep their photos stored remotely. What happens if the remote on-line backup provider packs it up suddenly, with all of your data now inaccessible to you?

A third issue is data privacy. While on-line backup providers may have certain mechanisms in place to prevent most hacking attempts, it’s difficult to protect from all possible attacks as Google and a number of Silicon Valley software companies discovered over the last few weeks at the hands of apparently well funded and coordinated Chinese hackers. So, if your on-line backups include sensitive material, like banking information, that data could be at risk if it is stored in the “cloud”. Of course, should the government get interested in you, then they can subpoena the on-line backup service directly, without getting your permission, since you are not in charge of your data – the on-line backup provider is. While you can try and work around this with encrypted storage and the such, that becomes a bigger hassle to work with too.

All three of the above issues are better addressed by external hard drives. With an external hard drive you’re in full control of your data. You can put it in a safety deposit box, or perhaps a safe, or in your sock drawer. Plus, over time, an external hard drive will be cheaper than the recurring subscription fees you have to pay an on-line provider. I just bought it a number of ultra portable one terabyte hard drives for photo backup for approximately $180 each. And to account for the unlikely possibility that the hard drive crashes, I have extras. Plus, with an external hard drive, a lot more storage is immediately accessible. You don’t need a fast Internet connection to access your files either – it’s all there, under your control, any time you need it.

The other thing I disagreed with was the suggestion that one should not buy compact digital cameras. SmartMoney suggests that since DSLRs (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras – you know, the big honking cameras with big honking lenses – are dropping in price, that it’s just better to buy one of those instead. That argument, however, ignores that a major selling point of compact digital cameras is that they are compact! I don’t know about you, but we have several compact digital cameras around our house, tucked away, but ready for use at any time. And I always carry a compact camera with me when I travel, even when I also have my DSLR with me. All because the compact digital camera is compact. Granted, a DSLR takes better pictures, but it’s just not as convenient.

The other recommendations for things not to buy in 2010 include DVDs and CDs (partially right), but until all media is available electronically and everyone has fast Internet connections, physical media will stick around. And while the suggestion of Netflix is a nice one, it doesn’t work outside the U.S., as I know first hand. SmartMoney also comments on gas guzzling cars, home telephone service, also-ran smart phones (anything other than iPhone or Blackberry, apparently), newspaper subscriptions, and a couple of other items I won’t bother going into.

Ultimately, this list of the “Ten Things Not to Buy in 2010” is much like any other advice from pundits – full of opinion and pontification, but rarely with any in depth thinking about the ramifications of following such advise. All in all, take such advice in consideration, but assume it’s probably flawed unless you personally discover otherwise.

ASUS Eee PC 1000H – Quick Review

Thursday, October 2nd, 2008

One of the things I find frustrating when I want to write my articles, blog entries, and book chapters is that my handwriting sucks. It’s not unusual for me to have to spend more time deciphering what I wrote by hand than it took me to write it. That’s one of the many reasons I really prefer to type on a computer keyboard. But the problem with that is that it’s not generally been convenient to lug a notebook computer around with me due to size and battery life, never mind boot times.

I have tried using a Palm T/X with a separate keyboard, and while the size is great, the text editing controls via the keyboard are lousy. I’ve also been playing with using my iPodTouch 32GB, but fast typing on the touch screen with my big fingers is nearly impossible without serious typographical errors. And about 10 months ago, I bought an Asus Eee PC 4G – a tiny little notebook computer running on Linux, with a 4GB solid state hard disk. The keyboard and screen ended up being too small for me, the battery life was modest, and the boot process was too long for my needs (and I sold it to a friend who appreciated it much more than I – thanks Angela!). I also ended up realizing I needed a lot more than 4GB of storage.

In late August I purchased the Asus Eee PC 1000H. This is a 10-inch notebook with an 80GB hard disk drive, running Windows XP Home. That’s a nice bit of storage. The machine cost $549 back in August, and is now available from reputable on-line stores for around $469.

At first blush, the Eee PC 1000H is pretty much what I was looking for. It’s got a 6-7 hour battery life and it boots (and resumes from hibernation) in about 15-20 seconds on average. Plus, I was easily able to upgrade it to Windows XP Professional SP3 and get secure networking capability so I could use it on my in-home network. It also has 3 USB ports, and works great for VoIP (Vonage X-Phone and Skype) and even video and music playback. There is no DVD drive, but you can attach an external drive.

The Eee PC 1000H also comes with Microsoft Works, and it’s simple enough to install OpenOffice on it as well. With the native XP support I was also able to install software to run my Sprint data service USB device for easy connectivity in most U.S. metropolitan areas, and with the built-in WiFi, the notebook is usable in any place with accessible WiFi service. And for backup, it has an Ethernet port. Not too shabby. There’s also an SD/MMC Card slot.

I should note, however, that my new, in-the-box Eee PC 1000H seemed to have been used at Asus HQ or some Asus repair facility, as it already had a registered user and some additional software installed on it, as well as a digital video version of an Asus service manual. Not a problem for me, but I would hope that this was an anomaly instead of standard practice.

At the price I paid (and even lower now) this is a pretty decent notebook, with about the same performance as the 3 year old Sony VAIO TX690 I had been using before I got my Fujitsu Lifebook back in March. The Eee PC 1000H is smaller than the VAIO TX in width and depth, but a little thicker in height and a little heavier too. And the screen’s 1024×600 resolution is challenging with some programs and web sites which were not designed with that aspect rate and height in mind (in contrast to the much higher resolution VAIO TX). But it’s also a fifth of the price I paid for the VAIO TX, which also makes it cheap enough to replace in case it gets broken or stolen during my travels.

My only annoyance with the Eee PC 1000H is that the nice big hard disk came pre-initialized in two volumes instead of one large volume (which has always been my preference), but that it a minor issue on the whole.

In any event, the Eee PC 1000H is a pretty nice little piece of hardware, and I plan to put it to good use during our upcoming travels in the Canadian Maritimes and New England starting Sunday. I give the Asus Eee PC 1000H an 8.0 out of 10.0 on The Richter Scale.

Photos From My Trip To Japan & Taiwan

Monday, April 30th, 2007

Last December (2006) I needed to get about 15,000 more miles on my American Airlines account so I could requalify for Executive Platinum status for this year, as I like the free first class upgrades AA offers its top level frequent flyers. As I was going to be in San Francisco for a patent conference at the end of November 2006, I figured I could use the west coast as a launching point to do a so-called “mileage run” and rack up some miles by doing a quick trip across the Pacific.

The original plan had been to visit Tokyo for a full week of both sightseeing and business prospecting, and then head home to Bonaire. However after I had already made all my plans I was informed I needed to go to Taipei, Taiwan, for a business meeting, right in the middle of my Tokyo stay. That basically ate almost 3 days out of my Tokyo plans, but it turned out to be a fun adventure.

For two of the two and half days I spent in Tokyo, I hired a private tour guide, Junko Matsuda, to take me around. Junko, who runs Jun’s Tokyo Discovery Tours, had been recommended to me by someone at http://www.FlyerTalk.com, and what a treasure she was! If anyone wants a personal tour and explanation of everywhere and anywhere in Tokyo, consider hiring Junko – she can be reached by e-mail at me2@gb3.so-net.ne.jp or phone at +81-3-5477-6021 (or mobile at +81-90-7734-0079). In the links below to my photos, Junko is the Japanese woman that appears in them with some frequency. I also gave her a camera to use during our tour to take photos of me (since I rarely ever appear in photos as I am always taking them).

I also hired another set of guides – Naoto Nakamura and Eizaburo Yoshino (see their page here) – as part of a group tour of the famed Tsukiji Fish Market. As my body had not yet adjusted to the time zone, a 4am meeting for that tour worked out fine, and we had only one other participant on the tour. The fish market tour was excellent, with both Naoto and Eizaburo highly knowledgeable of the workings at the fish market.

I spent nearly a full day in transit between Tokyo and Taipei and back for a 1 hour meeting, but we (my friends/business associates and I) had a good local guide in our off time in Taipei, and got to visit Taipei 101 (the tallest building in the world at that time) and a Taipei night market, as well as several local dining establishments where we feasted on all sorts of delights, including pig’s intestines (tasted a lot better than it sounds).

I am nearly a half year late getting the 946 hand-selected pictures from my travels posted on-line because I had grand aspirations of annotating each one of them with a description.

I was off to a good start (see here and here) using the Photo Gallery software that came with my blogging system, but the scope of the effort, which involved both getting the photos to the right size as well as upload and annotate them, quickly overwhelmed me. I got about half way through my first full day in Tokyo doing that (again, look here and here) – so only about 150 photos out of 946 annotated.

But with a holiday weekend on Bonaire this weekend, and the mostly enjoyable use of Adobe’s Lightroom software, I decided to make simple web-based photo galleries instead and finally get the photos where folks could see them before they became too outdated. They don’t have any contextual annotation other than camera and exposure information, but hopefully those viewing the images will enjoy the subjects almost as much for their sheer interest (and in some cases, beauty or novelty) without the commentary I have not had time to add.

Here are the links to the photos:

Traveling From California to Tokyo and Arriving in Tokyo – December 2-3, 2006

Touring Tokyo with Junko (Asakusa, Kitchen District, Akihabara, Imperial Palace, Ginza) – December 4, 2006

Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo – December 5, 2006

Taipei, Taiwan with friends/business associates Eric, Isabelle, Bryan, and Ivan – December 5-6, 2006

Return from Taipei to Tokyo (Roppongi) followed by another day in Tokyo with Junko (Harajuku, Meiji, Shibuya, War Memorial) – December 7-8, 2006

If you have any questions about any of them, give a link to the photo in the comments on this blog entry with your question, and I will answer you.

My Latest Video Appearance

Tuesday, January 23rd, 2007

Well, in addition to now being closely associated with discussions on the future of HD-DVD and Blu-ray standards, in particular with respect to the adult entertainment industry, a recent interview of mine has made it to the web (not YouTube yet, though).

Take a look at this clip, shot during a media luncheon at Pat Meier-Johnson’s Lunch@Piero’s event. It’s a five minute interview dealing with commentary on multimedia convergence and the future of tangible media (e.g. CDs, DVDs).

Queen Beatrix Visits Bonaire

Friday, November 10th, 2006

Outsiders often don’t quite understand the relation of Bonaire to Holland. Some assume our island is part of Holland, but it isn’t at present. But it will be next year as the Netherlands Antilles get dissolved.

What Bonaire is at present is one of five islands in the country of the Netherlands Antilles (the other four being Curacao, Sint Maarten, Saba, and St. Eustatius), and the Netherlands Antilles are in turn part of the Dutch kingdom (or more appropriately, Queendom).

And our monarch here is Her Royal Majesty, Queen Beatrix of the Royal House of Oranje (hope I got that all right).

Queen Beatrix is paying Aruba (another country under the Dutch kingdom) and the Netherlands Antilles a visit this week.

A couple of days ago she arrived with much fanfare on Bonaire – her first stop in the Netherlands Antilles. She was greeted by members of the Antillean government as well as Bonaire’s own Lt. Governor. Because of my work on Bonaire Insider, my partner Susan Davis and I were granted a press pass and were able to take a fair number of pictures (see here and here) and trail along with her entourage for several of her stops on the island. And then yesterday, I met the Queen personally as one of the artists whose works were on display at the exhibition she opened at Kas di Arte.


That’s me handing the Queen a small token of appreciation from Linda and myself (photo by Herman Leeuwen).

What struck me the most about the Queen’s visit is the genuine love, admiration, and enthusiasm her subjects on Bonaire have for her. There was regular cheering whereever she showed up, and a real sense of pride among all the people that yes, this was their Queen.

I must say that Queen Beatrix certainly exuded an amazing amount of charm and friendliness. One look at her and her warm smile, and you just sensed that she was a nice person. Or at least that was my first gut reaction. But our Dutch house guests (one of whom is a big fan of the Queen) say that perception is very true. What also amazed our house guests and us alike was how freely she mingled with the crowds. While there were body guards in evidence, they were typically at a distance, giving the Queen free reign (pun intended).


My daugter Krystyana (holding the flag) was one of many of the local school children greeting the Queen at the airport when she arrived. The Queen just walked out of the airport luggage area by herself before Krystyana had time to register who it was, apparently (photo by Susan Davis).

Certainly Queen Beatrix does not have the power of someone like my (as an American) president, George W. Bush, but she does seem to have nearly universal approval, something Bush does not, and for me that was a very stark contrast.

Queen Beatrix left Bonaire for Sint Maarten this morning and life is returning to normal here on Bonaire once again.

My Latest Project – Bonaire Insider

Thursday, August 24th, 2006

I’ve been busy the last couple of weeks with my latest project – a news blog called Bonaire Insider. The idea for Bonaire Insider came about over a month ago when my business partner in NetTech N.V., Susan Davis, and I decided we wanted to get fresher news on the home page of the Bonaire tourism information web site, InfoBonaire, which we own and operate.

It took some intense programming, as well as a lot of exploratory work with the same blogging software which I use for this blog (Expression Engine from pMachine), but two days ago we launched Bonaire Insider.

Among the cool features are the ability for people to sign up to get automatic copies of new posts to the Bonaire Insider news blog, integration of the RSS news feed from the site on the InfoBonaire home page, and integration with Google for running context sensitive ads (to help at least partially offset the costs of running the new site).

We’re still working on generating our internal style guide for news items, but it seems to be coming along well – we’ve had over 10,000 page views in just the first couple of days. Not a bad start for a small site about a small Caribbean island.