Monthly Archive for February, 2007

Today’s Links: U.S. election predictions via MySpace

techPresident: Elections prediction via MySpace.com

Video: iPhone hack for Windows Mobile & Palm Smartphones

Some people can only dream until June 2007, while others actually do something about it.

I’m talking about the functional iPhone skin hack for Windows Mobile and Palm Smartphones.

As Gizmodo’s Jason Chen puts it:
“Most of the icons are just shortcuts to the equivalent apps on Windows Mobile, but the most impressive thing must be the screensaver and the scrolling. The screensaver lets you whisk your finger to the right to unlock the phone, and the scrolling mimics the finger scrolling on the iPhone. A nice stopover between now and June for those who really can’t wait.”

Naturally, Apple has demanded the removal of the files from the messageboards (Brighthand and xda developers) where they were first posted. For me, I constantly impressed by what users can achieve on their own nowadays. If I have a kid of my own, I’m definitely going to teach him English, Chinese and C++ in that order.

Why do some Wikis work better than others?

The COM125 Study Guide (Wiki) When it comes to wikis, many have tried, many have failed. I’m referring to experiments for people to produce public goods via wikis. With the exception of Wikipedia and the likes of Fluwiki, attempts at using wikis by news agencies such as Wired News (for readers to help edit together a news story) seem to meet with uncertain success.

So why do some Wiki initiatives work better than others?

Perhaps its when the wiki fills a real need. As with blogging, perhaps wikis demonstrate a case where the need for the contributions has to be internalized by a user or a pre-defined community of users. In my case, I’m trying to have students of my COM125 class whip together a study guide for their mid-term exams. On their own. I’ve merely provided the wiki platform and entered a skeletal framework for them to fill in with meaty content.

Will this end up better than any textbook? Or will it end in a mess?

To learn more, see the student instructions or go straight to the wiki.

Aside: The original photo for the graphic above was taken by my student Mariani Chen.

Today’s Links: iliketotallydiggthis

Archos 704 wifi package
I just got my hands on the Archos 704, together with the DVR station and the Helmet Cam. There’s a product launch date of March 15th, after which I’d be allowed to post a full review. “Being John Malkovich” anyone?

Snipshot vs. Picnik: War of the Online Photo Editors

Snipshot vs. Picnik: War of the Online Photo Editors

As a blogger who incorporates images for every blog post I write, finding and composing images is something I do in a jiffy. My task is made simpler thanks to a few web-based tools that have surfaced lately, especially the kind that lets you edit images online via a web browser. No need for Adobe Photoshop or the likes! Since my MacBook Pro weighs like a ton of bricks in balmy Singapore, I often find myself relying on locked-down PC desktops at work or in public settings (e.g. national library), so online photo apps such as Snipshot and more recently, Picnik (hat tip to Photojojo) are really god-sent.

When I first used Snipshot, it was quite life changing, since I was liberated from my laptop for basic editing needs. The key word for Snipshot is speed. Simply grab the URL of the image in question (on the web or flickr), then edit it by means of cropping, rotating and resizing (love the live pixel count!), or adjustments like contrast, brightness, saturation, sharpness and hue. Once done, you can then save it as GIF, JPG, PDF, PNG or TIF, or even back onto your Photobucket or Flickr (yay!) account. I love the integration.

I just started exploring Picnik and I must say it’s the prettiest web app I’ve ever laid eyes on. Being Flash-driven, the interface is definitely droolworthy, but certain basic human interface issues such as scrolling is a pain. This becomes especially so when you’ve authorized it for Flickr access and a ton of your images start pouring in. Still, Picnik offers much more features than Snipshot and allows importing from several places, including Flickr, from your computer, web search (including filters for Creative Commons licenses!) and get this… your web cam (thanks to Flash components again). While all is said and done, it performs similar functions as Snipshot, yet seems more sluggish being a bigger app (due to Flash?).

For me, I’ll be sticking with Snipshot… the speed is impeccable. I believe that Picnik would appeal to the general web user, while Snipshot would be more for the power users who just want to get down to the chase. Try both online photo editing services and let me know what you think in the comments.

Exclusive Photos and Specs for the Archos 704 Wifi (Portable DVR)

Archos 604 vs. 704 (both WiFi)
Click to see a slideshow of all the photos I took…

To the layman, it’s just another portable video player with a big screen. For the rest of us, the Archos 704 is something we’ve been waiting for, but have very little information about (even the Archos web site has nothing on this). While the rest of the world waits with baited breath, I got to play with it today!

Being a big fan of video and Internet-enabled devices, I saw the Archos 604 and 704 (both wifi) as possible replacements for my trusty Sony Cybershot M2 (hybrid cam) as well as my Nokia 770 Internet Tablet. With the helmet cam attachment for the Archos DVRs, I could document my travel experiences easily, while the Wifi feature would allow me to surf the web and check email. Sound good right? Well, here are some honest opinions after playing with it for a while.

First off, both the Archos 604 and 704 have awesome touchscreens… the rugged kind that uses your finger for controlling on-screen menus and still maintaining enough clarity for watching videos. In fact, both seem to run similarly, having the same feature set sans the difference in screen picture size and quality. You heard me right… other than the size, the 604 features around 16 million colors, while the 704 just features around 262k colors. Before you grimace, it isn’t really discernible as seen in my photo. The weight is also a factor, with the 604 coming in at 290 grams while the 704 coming in at 630 grams… just over double. Here are the spec sheets for the Archos 604 Wifi and the Archos 704 Wifi.

We know that the Archos devices handle videos dramatically well (e.g. multiple formats), and the sole distributor MemoryWorld prices it with the DVR dock for recording shows off TV or any video source just to make sure we enjoy that feature. What sold me was the wifi feature, which if it worked well, it would mean that I could ditch my Nokia Internet Tablet. In terms of expectations, some users from the ArchosFans forum even thought that it could be a UMPC competitor. While I find UMPCs silly to begin with, unfortunately this is where the Archos 704 stank.

Unlike my Nokia (which runs on Linux too), the Archos DVR’s Opera web browser couldn’t handle flash content nor javascript properly. Thus, while you could possibly read your email, you couldn’t really enjoy any Youtube goodness nor savor any AJAX sites. It handles basic sites well, but I guess the saving grace is really it’s ability to scan the network for shared media from your various computers. Plugged to a TV, this could mean loads of fun since your recently downloaded shows could be streamed to your nice big tv for proper viewing. Not bad still for a portable device.

Anyway, take a look at the photos I’ve taken and do give the nice folks at MemoryWorld a call. They didn’t pay me to recommend them, but they let me play with their toys long enough to make a decision… even though I ended up not buying one. Perhaps I’ll get the smallest one just to get the helmet cam going… that would be fun at conferences or for videoblogging.

UPDATE 1: Here’s an 11 second video clip showing both Archos 604 and 704 playing in sync.

UPDATE 2: Looks like my photos and videos have circulated to Gizmodo. Sweet!

Today’s Links: Stephen Colbert’s ice cream = sweet taste of liberty

Stephen Colbert's ice cream: Americone Dream
Ben & Jerry’s called it: “The sweet taste of liberty in your mouth.”

So how was your Chinese New Year?

CNY2007 Slideshow

This Chinese New Year has been the first REAL new year’s experience for me in six years, having been living abroad for that long.

While I got to enjoy all the festive foods I’ve been missing out on, I also got to see relatives once again. This time, I also learned more about our family history while in conversation with the most senior relatives of the generation above me. One of them even made a family timeline, which is something I hope to contribute to as well.

I’ll let the photos do the talking… if you rollover any photo, a little caption will appear to explain what its about. Incidentally, the photos in the middle of the stack are of cute animals because one of our relatives is a vet. It’s not over yet, here’s wishing you a Happy Chinese New Year!

E27 Unconference: “Web 2.0 in Asia by Preetam Rai” (session 4)

E27 SG IV Unconference @ SMU
Track 1, Session 4 : 9.15pm to 9.45pm
“Web 2.0 Review and Social Sites in Japan, China and Korea” by Preetam Rai

Fourth and last up, Preetam Rai shares his passion as an online ethnographer by presenting his session entitled “Web 2.0 Review and Social Sites in Japan, China and Korea”. He covers the popular social media sites in each Asian country and shows how web services tend to be culturally-specific. Finally, he discusses what it might take to build such services elsewhere, or even one that works internationally. To me, this is by far the most interesting session in the first track of the E27 Unconference since everyone walks away learning something new. His presentation was about sharing experiences as well as links, and we all know that links are still the currency of the web. :)

Aside: The links mentioned in Preetam’s presentation are now available on his blog…

E27 Unconference: “PR 2.0” by Text100 (session 3)

E27 SG IV Unconference @ SMU
Track 1, Session 3 : 8.45pm to 9.15pm
“PR 2.0″ by Su Min and Liyi from Text100

Third up was PR 2.0 by two ladies from Text100, namely Su Min and Liyi. They talked about the new media ecology as popularly cited in the U.S., then leaned towards how they didn’t see this happening in Singapore. I don’t know about you, but I found it pretty upsetting that they didn’t see enough evidence that the grassroots media was actually taking hold in Singapore.

Coleman Yee gave the example of his friend’s establishment called “Pitstop Cafe” which has a blog that customers could feedback to (Borat sez “very nice!”). I cited examples of the Singapore Elections in 2006 where political bloggers became overnight sensations, at times hoarding more attention than traditional news media outlets such as the Straits Times (i.e. Yawning Bread’s Hougang Field Rally Photo). A fellow instructor (Ang Moh guy; didn’t catch his name) behind me mentioned how unhappy bank customers might complain via blogs, but they don’t really have a choice since there’s the “locked-in” effect where customers can’t switch banks as readily as businesses like cafes. As such, the Ang Moh guy argues that banks are less threatened to respond to blogs.

They later asked how PR agencies needed to redefine their role. I gave some ideas and so did the others, but at this point I was really wondering if they were really sharing anything with participants, or if they were just soliciting for ideas. Unconferences are about creating opportunities for ideas to emerge, and though these ladies tried to get some genuine conversation going, I don’t think any of us learnt anything substantially new. Given such a fun topic, it could have really brought us places. All is not lost though, as the lady in white dress did look cute squinting whenever I yakked (probably thought I was sprouting nonsense).