Digital photography to me represents both the greatest and least tapped potential of all the digital media formats. People who rip CDs (which, of course started digital, but that’s a pesky detail) into MP3 (or other) formats tend to listen to those files, probably on an iPod. People who have DV cameras create videos that they are either instantly consuming and sharing, or archiving for the distant future (read: to embarrass friends and family members at the right moments). But digital photos tend to be as much a nuisance as a blessing.
On a recent weeklong trip to Mexico I took over 300 pictures. What happens next? Well, now I have lots of pictures that take up lots of space on my hard drive. I throw some of them online (I use Flickr personally), but am faced with the growing backup/archive dilemma (since I don’t currently trust any online service enough). I’ll never delete them, since I don’t want to risk losing a single “memory”, and I’m terrified of a hard drive failure, so I need a backup. I have a networked hard drive (currently a Maxtor Shared Storage Plus, but I’m about to migrate to an Infrant NV+), but frankly that’s still not enough for me because I live in San Francisco and one quick natural disaster and my backup’s gone too. This spirals on from here…
So now I have all these pictures, what the heck am I supposed to do with them? I certainly can’t email them all to anybody, there’s just too many. SO I need to pick a few here and there and share them explicitly. I can print them or make a nice album (with Shutterfly). I can make a t-shirt, hat, thong, or mug (with CafePress). I can buy a relative a Presto-enabled printer, and send prints of my favorite pictures as I take them (full review of Presto coming soon – I think it’s a great concept, and I hope the implementation is as clean as it should be – if you haven’t heard of them, go to presto.com).
These are all good solutions for me sharing with others, but none really address me consuming my own photos on an ongoing basis. I’ve liked the concept of a digital picture frame for years, but only now is the category actually emerging. I noticed on Dave Zatz’ blog today a link to a recent report stating over 1.5MM units were sold in 2006. Personally, I don’t really believe these numbers, it just sounds much too high and there’s a lack of sources from both the retail and manufacturer side. But I do believe that this is a rapidly growing category that is poised for explosive growth. For a glimpse into my “ultimate” digital picture frame, check out my post this week on NETGEAR’s blog.
My first 20 years in the US were as a green card holder, so any time I received a juror summons, I was always able to check the convenient little “I’m some kind of hippie commie who’s stealing jobs from Americans” checkbox. Now, as a law-abiding God-fearing AMERcan living in a nucular family, I’m out of excuses. The weird part is, I really like the idea of serving jury duty. I’d actually love to see the internal workings of a courtroom, get really into a case, debate the issues, and be part of the process. It’s the pesky “carving out the time” part that’s a little problematic right now.
The good part is, the summons waiting room has WiFi.
The bad parts are, it’s not free, it’s slow, and it drops connections every 10-ish minutes.
I’ll be here all day (unless I’m lucky enough to get called up soon and get eliminated), doing some work, maybe watching a little Slingbox, or, thanks to my friend Michael Gartenberg, playing Peggle (yes, I paid for it too – such a timesucker!).
UPDATE: time off for good behavior! I’m outta here.
I interact with a lot of different bloggers, ranging from the “A-listers” (yes, you exist, and it’s okay, just stop denying it) to others barely out of the gates with their own blogs. While it seems quite common to hear complaints about how PR firms should treat bloggers, I think bloggers could use a little advice as well on how to work within the marketing and communications industry.
Incidentally, while some seem to loathe the term blogosphere, I like it. Maybe it’s something that’ll fade away down the road, but for now, it’s here, and I use it pretty liberally. Sorry ’bout that.
Respect the efforts. This is probably the most important point I’d like to make: like it or not, we are right now in the midst of a huge amount of flux in the marketing and journalism worlds. The rules are changing, and changing fast. Sure we can all want every PR firm on the planet to instantly adapt to the blogosphere and they should all “just get it” but that’s simply unrealistic, and more to the point, it’s unfair. If someone from a PR firm approaches you and is clearly making an effort to reach out to you as an individual blogger, give them a little respect for that. Want to make a change or improve their relations, well, give them feedback. You’d be surprised how far it might go.
Keep your ego in check. I read a lot of bloggers who want to be treated “extra special” all the time because of who they are or how big their readership is. As much as I urge my clients to learn about and reach out to the blogosphere, I also give caution on understanding exactly how big the readership is. Only the top-tier bloggers have audiences that truly warrant extra-special treatment. Don’t act like some bigshot just because you have a few thousand readers a day, it just makes you look like you’ll take extra work to manage. And from the other side of the business, when a PR firm has to pick and choose who they want to spend their time and resources managing, it’s going to be the “best bang for the buck” people, not the “pains in the rears” who can’t justify the efforts.
PR people are human too. PR teams typically work long hours. When big planned news hits, they may have worked around the clock to get it out on message and on time. When big unplanned news hits, their lives are in chaos. Trade shows? Fuhgedaboutit. It’s not an excuse for rude or bad behavior on their part (which is unexcusable in my book), but remember that the person you are dealing with might be juggling literally dozens of conversations on an issue and might just mix up a detail here or there, or might forget to return your email within an hour. Save the ‘tude for when you are on a real deadline – it’ll get you a lot further. The more mindful you are of what’s going on in their world, the better a job you’ll do at becoming a trusted resource in their eyes.
Learn the rules, and play by them. If a firm’s policy is to give review units for only 30 days, then expect the products back, it is up to you to mark your calendar. They aren’t babysitters. Ask for permission before posting emails, don’t assume you can just do whatever you want. Blogging is not a license to do whatever you want in life – you can certainly request special/different treatment, but you must accept that you aren’t going to get absolutely everything you ask for! While on the subject, it certainly wouldn’t hurt for you to start reading the occasional press release – it’s not the perfect form of communications, but you’ll sound a lot smarter if you avoid asking questions answered clearly within the release!
Respect embargos. I can’t stress this one well enough, so I’ll keep it short and simple: you can either become known as a trustable outlet, or not. Whichever one makes more sense to you, go for it, and don’t be surprised at the ramifications (either way).
Be mindful of long-term relationships. PR people are used to building relationships with journalists they work with. They understand who covers which kinds of stories. They know who is more likely to be accomodating of quirky products. They also tend to have long memories and share with each other. Obviously you can treat these relationships however you want, but the more you invest into it, the better you’ll get treated in the long term.
Position your blog well. Are you trying to be a “first scoop” site? You want to have in-depth reviews? Cover all the news of a particular niche? Whatever you like to do with your blog is your prerogative, now make sure you position those goals clearly to the PR firms that approach you. If you rarely/never write reviews, don’t be afraid to tell a firm you’d rather get the scoop than the product. Easy hint here: make sure your about page talks through this!
Create stories and pitch them. Once you’ve created some relationships with PR teams, it’s okay to reach out to them. For example, maybe you want to compare two MP3 players – tell your PR contacts what you are planning to write about, when it’s going live, and what aspects of the products you want to compare. This is actually a great method of furthering your relationships with PR firms, as it makes you a lot more interesting in their eyes (being “another gadget site that shows the latest in gadget news” is a lot less interesting these days).
Be mindful of being negative. This doesn’t apply to everyone, but if you are new or an “up-and-coming” blogger, be very thoughtful before you go on some rampage. If you tear apart some product or service, don’t expect them to reach out to you in the future. It’s not to say you can’t be honest or critical, but be aware of what you are writing, and make sure it’s something you can stand behind in the long term. Nobody wants you to say you loved a product you really didn’t like, but you can most certainly use your discretion before writing a post on “it’s the single worst gadget ever made, they should order a recall, dismantly every one by hand, then throw them into an acid pit to ensure nobody ever rebuilds the device the same way ever again”. You may want to consider notifying your PR contact that you had a bad experience or generally didn’t like a product before you go live, and constructive feedback is typically welcomed.
Set expectations. If you’ve begged and pleaded with a company to get a review unit, then take 180 days to write a review, you probably aren’t going to reap those rewards. When a company offers to send me something to test out, I try (yes, try, because I’m not perfect either!) to let them know when I think a review will go live. The better a job you do at managing expectations, the better they’ll think of you for future news items.
As a comment here, don’t forget that many of us (not all, I know) may have full-time jobs, and blogging is just something we “felt like doing” one day. Maybe it’ll become a career for you, maybe you’ll give it up next week. Expecting the entire PR/marketing industry to make a complete overhaul to their world in the span of a year or two to accomodate us isn’t exactly fair. Change is afoot, and happening all around us right now, but don’t forget that it takes time. My personal belief is I’d rather try to change the system from within than sit on the side and yell and scream about how stupid everyone else is…
To me, part of what’s so exciting about blogging is the reflection of the individual. While I’ve clearly outlined some recommendations above on how to better interact with PR staff, I hope you understand this is about maximizing your potential as a blogger. I’ve worked in marketing departments before and have personally engaged in blogger outreach and I can say this: it ain’t easy stuff.
Read the blog. You don’t have to subscribe and read all the time, but take 2 minutes to scan even the last week’s worth of posts before approaching a blogger. Whether we admit it or not, most some amount of blogging is ego-driven, so showing us that you read the content we write can make a huge difference in the response you’ll get.
Have a goal. Not every blogger is the same in the content they’ll write. For example, I enjoy hands-on work with products but rarely just cover a product announcement, whereas other blogs prefer the opposite. So if you want a review, make sure the blogger you are approaching actually writes reviews!
Approach bloggers by name. I rarely, if ever, respond to “Dear Editor” or unaddressed emails. “Dear Jeremy” tends to get my attention over 90% of the time. If you have the time to add me to your mailing list, you should have the time to add my name to it.
Augment the press release. The PR people who get my attention are the ones who add a few sentences or a paragraph to the body of the email in advance of the copy-and-pasted PR text. The best ones take the time to tell me why they are sending me the release, especially if it’s in context to something I’ve covered before. Many bloggers don’t like the conventional press release, so if you want to target them, you need to stay conscientious of this.
Be ready for follow-up. You have to be ready for us to respond to you and ask questions. More importantly, youmust have review units ready for bloggers. I can’t stress this one enough – if you send me a release about a new product and don’t respond to my email asking for a review unit, I never cover it. Even worse is when a firm sends me a product announcement, I respond with interest, and the rep asks me to tell them more about my blog! My recommendation here is if you aren’t going to let bloggers have review units/samples/freebies, then you probably shouldn’t bother them with your announcement. Insert your own “cake and eat it too” metaphor.
Categorize the blog. Not all tech bloggers are the same. Got a cool new digital camera? You probably should approach Thomas Hawk before Dave Zatz or Mike Arrington. Got a new Web service? Hit up Mike, not the others. New DVR or other home convergence device? Dave is your guy. Sure there are a lot of “tech generalists” out there too, but even they have their home turfs. I, for example, do cover some Web services, but tend to focus more on consumer electronics and gadgetry.
Build relationships. PR firms tend to emphasize their strong relationships with key journalists such as Gary Krakow, David Pogue, Ed Baig, etc. These are relationships built over time and are key to the longevity of the firms and the individuals working there. You should put the same energy into your blogger relationships, or else not bother at all. Another important point here – if you’ve established an embargo on a topic, and you lift it early, it’s your responsibility to notify the bloggers too!
Do your homework. Most blogs have an ‘about’ page, in which you’ll discover the blogger’s full-time job (assuming it isn’t blogging), region of the country/world where they live, topics they prefer to cover, how they’d like to be contacted (bonus tip: IM or email is almost always the answer, not the phone), etc. Read this and understand it. Furthermore, doing a little background research will quickly tell you whether or not the blogger is good at keeping secrets/embargos (some do, some don’t – learn the difference).
Understand their influence and influencers. Something I tell all of my clients is to get to know the domino effects of bloggers and their circles. I’ll use my blog as an example again: on a relative scale my readership is low in quantity, but extremely high in qualiy. Nothing in PR is guaranteed, but it’s probably a lot cheaper, faster, and easier to get me to read something than the “top” bloggers out there (regardless of whether or not there is an A-list), and it’ll probably catch their attention faster to see me write about it than for you to inundate them with story requests. The really good news is there’s lots of other influential, mid-tier bloggers like me out there to approach!
Manage your stories. If you want to send me something, great, but let me know in advance what your expectations are. Do you want the unit back? If so, when? Also, am I going to need anything to get the product working? If so, what, and did you send me that too? When I was at Sling Media, we made sure that we know about someone’s home network and TV setup before we sent them a unit! For example, anyone who follows my blog knows I do not personally own an iPod, and probably should ask me how I’ll review an iPod accessory before they send me one! Furthermore, stay in touch with us after you’ve sent something – is it working for us? Do we like it? Also, as Ben from EngadgetHD reminds me, it’s fairly likely we aren’t working on “some” deadline, bloggers are typically in “I need this now” mode, so keep that in the back of your head!
If you’ve managed to read all the way through here, you’ve probably noticed a recurring theme around being involved with the blogger you are targetting. We don’t have news bureaus scanning the wire. We (typically) don’t have assistants to help us manage our time. We probably have other jobs that are time-consuming. More than anything else, my central theme is this: if you want to target a blogger, you must treat them with respect. I’m not talking about butt-kissing here, I’m talking simple respect.
As I mentioned at my last Geek Dinner, the battery life on my trusty Habs phone (LG VX6100) was steadily dying, despite a brand new battery. I should’ve gotten a replacement a few month ago, but couldn’t really find anything I liked. Here’s the list of what I really care about in a phone:
good battery life
clear voice use (in other words, people can hear me, and I can hear them)
as small a form factor as I can find
some kind of camera (really I’d love 2MP, but it’s about the first thing I’d cut from my list)
That’s it, nothing too fancy. A friend of mine mentioned to me some new “dual-hinge” phone from Samsung, and I sought it out at the local Verizon store this past weekend. I bought one today, and so far, I’m really pleased with it. Actually, as I write this I’m listening to MP3s I loaded onto my 1GB MicroSD card which it’s playing via the speakerphone.
My initial positive reactions:
love the qwerty keyboard
screen is woefully small, but very bright
has a “alarm-only” ringer mode, which I’ve wanted for a long time
still learning the keyboard (it’s small and I’m really used to T9 at this point)
no way to enable/disable/change ringer volume while phone is closed (unbelievable, considering there are 4 buttons available)
hinge might be flimsy, still not sure how it’ll hold up in a year (I expect no less than 2 years of use from a phone)
it’s CHAMPAGNE colored! what the heck? I think it actually comes with a 1978 Cadillac. I’m gonna have to skin-it this thing.
I read a few thoughts and reviews online so far (specifically at Engadget Mobile, CNET), and I’ll share my own after a few more days’ worth of use. I have 14 days to return it, so if anyone’s had a particularly bad experience with this phone, please let me know!
… we can easily recommend it for people who are yearning for a simple way to show on their big TVs all that stuff trapped on their computers.
Apple is hoping that, just as the iPod trumped earlier, but geekier, rivals, Apple TV can do the same by making a complex task really simple.
The review continues on, and Walt gushes about the device quite a bit. The only competitor he points out is the Xbox 360, which he dismisses because it’s twice the price. I think this is a dangerous dismissal, as the price points aren’t really the issue in this category yet. We are in early early adopter-land, which means the people who really want it, are gonna buy it. $299, $399, $599, whatever. The bigger question to ask is: is this really a market they can dominate?
In 2 years, over 20 million Xbox 360s have shipped, and as The Online Reporter observes, the biggest Apple TV competitor could already be on the market. Xbox 360 owners who have the Live service tend to love it, my friend (and fellow blogger and now Sling Media employee) Dave Zatz told me he felt the 360 was the best device he bought last year. Also, the NETGEAR EVA8000, which I reviewed last week boasts a more robust feature set at a similar price point. I read a lot of conjecture about how “Apple TV is just like iPod year 1″ but folks, I’m saying now it’s not anywhere close.
When Apple launched the iPod, the category already existed (even if you ignore other mp3 players, people already were comfortable with buying portable music devices). The problem then was: there was no really convenient way to get existing and new music collections on to portable MP3 players. I had a Rio Karma, it was great (like really great), but you had to be pretty savvy to get music onto it, and there was ZERO services on the Internet with new content. In the living room, on the other hand, it’s not just a question of simplicity and furthermore, there’s tons of content out there. It’s not hard to get “mainstream” video to a TV set, especially in comparison with the challenge of getting “mainstream” music to an MP3 player (circa 1999).
Here are some of my specific problems with the product (note that I haven’t used it hands-on, so I have no comments about it’s user interface, which is probably great):
No YouTube support. This is a very questionable move at this stage of Internet/video/PC/TV convergence. The EVA8000 does it, and after a few days using it, it’s a very fun application.
Widescreen-only. I love the HDTV market, and about one third of all new TVs sold are flat (which implies widescreen), so that’s a lot of screens (I’ve read before the number of households is in the 20 million range, but cannot find that source to quote here). But this is the kind of product decision that creates returns, something I have a feeling Apple doesn’t have to deal with in other categories. Also, there’s a distinct lack of HD content offered at launch, which makes this even more… ironic?
A computer must be on all the time. One thing I like very much about my Sonos and EVA8000 setups are they work directly with my networked hard drive (aka a “NAS“). With the Apple TV, I need a PC/Mac on all the time, and while this is clearly a growing trend, it’s a requirement I don’t like in a product this expensive (it’s one thing for a $99 media adapter, it’s another at $299).UPDATE: I was corrected (by Ben at EngadgetHD), I misread the usage with it’s internal hard drive.
Is it a good product? Probably. After all, Walt is a pretty picky guy, and even though he clearly has an affinity for Apple products, he seemed impressed (although he didn’t really talk about video quality in the review, which is an interesting omission). Also, Apple does tend to make the product experience great, and I’ve got to assume that heavy iTunes customers are going to think this thing was sent down from the stars above. As Sonos’ worldwide PR manager Thomas Meyer said to me, “Mr. jobs is definitely going to do this right.”
My hunch is they’ll do a very good job appealing to that core market, but have a tougher time getting beyond. I don’t think they’ll be as strong in the HDTV segment as they want to be, as even enthusiasts such as Ben Drawbaugh (contributing editor at Engadget HD) who thinks “it’ll be awesome” (and has blogged about wanting one) doesn’t think it’ll be all that useful for HD content. If I were Apple, I’d be doing everything I could to get associated to HDTV, as betting on the future is more important than the past.
I’d guess they can out-market a company like NETGEAR in this space (but will probably drive them unit sales for some of the reasons I stated above). I think they’ll probably be the #1 leader in “digital media adapters” by the end of this year, and can probably move over 100K units in 2007 alone. That said, I don’t think they are positioned to utterly dominate the living room the way they do in the portable space.
As the old saying goes, you can’t spell “networking” without F-U-N. Oh, well, no, that’s wrong. Actually you can. In fact, if we were to do some word association game with “networking” my hunch is the word “fun” only comes up when the occasional masochistic IT guy plays. In fact, if you Google “networking” you get about 200,000,000 results, but if you Google “networking -fun” the number of results climbs an additional 14,000,000. Weird.
Anyhow, check out this week’s NETGEAR blog posting to see some suggestions I have for how to add a little entertainment to your home network. As always, I would love to hear your feedback on this post, as well as the whole “NETGEAR guest blogger thing” in general…
In 1999 when I cofounded Mediabolic, we had a vision of the “connected home” that we pitched all over the world. In 2000, I first started hearing (and using) the phrase “THIS is the year of the Digital Home” (yes, in all-caps). I’ve heard that phrase every year since, but have yet to see the vision come even close to reality. So when I saw the first demo of NETGEAR’s Digital Entertainer HD at CES 2007, I was fairly impressed, and began pestering them to try it day-in, day-out. With my current role as the company’s current guest blogger, I got exactly that – early access to play with the EVA8000 (which formally launched earlier this week).
Unfortunately, I got my unit with less than 10 hours before I hopped on a flight to the East Coast, but like any good geeky blogger would do, I spent about half the night playing with it. Not only that, I spent most of that time videoing my efforts, and edited it down to about 20 minutes (most of which shows the interaction with the device, it’s GUI, etc). The videos are available on YouTube (in 3 parts, because of their filesize limitation) and you can watch them here (for people in RSS readers, here are direct links to parts 1, 2, and 3):
For those of you who don’t want to watch the video, here’s a quick summary of the main EVA8000 features:
Connects to your TV and your home network
Streams music, photos, and videos from connected PCs as well as from the Internet
Support for numerous video formats, and stream quality is up to 1080p HDTV resolution
Works with YouTube, Flickr, and BitTorrent content, and can display RSS feeds
Networked DVR (“TiVo-like”) features to stream live TV from PCs with TV tuner cards
Makes a mean bowl of tomato soup
Pretty simple and straightforward, eh?
The product retails for $399, which is probably high in the long-term, but for now is a decent price point. Since we’re still in such an early adopter timeframe for digital home products, I don’t think there is a real urgency to focus on the mass market. Further, if you consider the pricing on HD/BluRay DVD players, it really fits in pretty well (especially since the amount of content it can play is staggering). Obviously sub-$300 prices would be ideal, but, as someone who comes from the other side of the field, I understand exactly why it’s priced this way. Also, don’t forget that it’s always possible to have a sale, but never possible to raise a price…
Using the Digital Entertainer HD
Onto the EVA8000 itself. I liked the user interface (GUI) in that it’s simple and navigates quickly (much faster than, for example a MovieBeam or Comcast HD-DVR menu). If you’ve ever used a TiVo or Media Center PC, you shouldn’t have any problem getting it up and running. The installation is also quite simple, and the unit has all the important outputs (HDMI, SPDIF, and optical audio) as well as the less-important-but-probably-necessary-ones (component, composite, and stereo audio). For connectivity it has built in wireless 802.11g (with support for all the security formats – excellent), Ethernet and a couple of USB ports as well.
The setup went mostly smoothly (although I think I found a weird bug in the HDMI settings, but that’s a minor thing), and it was able to find my network, get online, download an update, and find my networked hard drive with me just following along with the remote. This is very important people – I didn’t have to install any software, drivers, or anything, and was able to get my music, photos, and videos all streaming in a matter of minutes.
There was one exception to the above: if you want to watch YouTube videos, you do need to have the PC software installed. Furthermore, please remember that I already have a properly configured networked drive (Maxtor Shared Storage Plus) streaming music to my Sonos, so I didn’t have to adjust any settings. If you haven’t ever streamed media on your home network before, this might take you a little longer, and you may need to use the PC software.
Regarding media playback performance for a moment. I looked at quite a few photos, and I didn’t really feel they were being displayed at the maximum resolution possible. This could be a trick of the eyes, but I was expecting the pictures to look “HD-like” since they are all resolutions of 720p (at a minimum), so I’ll have to look into this further to see if it was just user error or if the box can’t display them at full resolution. Music playback was spot-on, with only a minor delay between songs. Again, I need to dive deeper to understand the feature set around queuing music, making playlists, and performance with huge collections, but when I selected “play something” from my 15,000-song MP3 (and WMA) collection, it did exactly that. Last up is video – I didn’t have a chance to really put the HD features to a test, but will do that next week. The videos I played were in a range of formats, and the highest bitrate I used was a 2Mbps WMV clip, which looked perfect (yes, even wirelessly). I am curious to see how it stands up once I get the 6+Mbps videos going, but I don’t have any reasons to doubt its potential there.
One key set of features with the EVA8000 is its ability to act as an extension of a PC with a TV tuner card. This means you can have a PC in one room of the house and stream its live/recorded TV to the living room. As a Slingbox owner, this wasn’t something I needed personally, but if you do have a TV Tuner and use Orb or another service, you should look into the Digital Entertainer HD. Also, the hardware was designed to support multiple Entertainers on the same network, and even have them control each other (there’s actually a whole suite of “Follow Me” features that I missed out on since I only had the single unit). Naturally, I wasn’t able to try any of these features myself, so I’ll hope to come back and revisit in the future.
One ding to the product is in the PC software. While it was easy to install and seems to have a pretty low impact to performance, it did create a whole new “sound card” in my computer. This means Windows thinks there is another audio output, and it threw off a couple of programs until I realized it had happened. I didn’t see any way to disable this on installation, so once you’ve completed setup, you might want to double-check your PC’s audio settings.
I really enjoyed the integration with both YouTube and Flickr. I was browsing through my own content in just a few minutes (you can use the remote control’s 10-key for text entry the same way you use your cell phone’s keypad). While I couldn’t quite navigate the collections and all the settings both services offered, the EVA8000 is remote upgradeable (I’ve already gone through one upgrade process – worked fine), so I’m sure the folks at NETGEAR can react and add new options dwn the road. The unit also is compatible with RSS feeds and has a few built-in offerings, including some weather features that were quite nice (even a snow report for the Tahoe crowds). I didn’t try the BitTorrent services, since I am not a user (believe it or not, I’ve never ‘Torrented).
If you skipped the videos and just read the text, you missed half the story, so here are (again) links to parts 1, 2, and 3. Now Apple TV is coming soon (possibly within days or hours), and the Xbox 360 has a lot of personal media services as well. I like the EVA8000 against Apple specifically because it can play so many different file formats and is focused on open services, while Apple’s will have a much narrower set and is a completely closed platform. It seems like everyone’s utterly ceded control of music to them, I sure hope it doesn’t happen again in the living room. With products like the Digital Entertainer HD, it’s good to see they have a pretty strong set of competitors.
Overall, the product impressed me (a lot more than I was expecting – no knock to NETGEAR, but I’ve just seen so many similar products that were just terrible in the past). Perfect? No, but I’ve yet to see a single product in the “connected home” that is. The interface was clean and simple, and the unit performed as it should. A few nice bells and whistles of Internet content services did a great job rounding out the personal media streaming features. $399 is a little high (it’s $349 on Amazon), but it’s also the only game in town with both full 1080p support and the built-in integration with YouTube content, all delivered direct to the boob tube.
I really have to dive in even deeper to understand the full spectrum of features the unit offers, and figure out which ones I like/dislike, but most importantly – the product’s basic value proposition is definitely delivered in a good way. With the feature set I’ve seen so far, it is a very strong contender (quick and simple setup as well as HD streaming is a huge factor there). So if you are looking to find a way to play your digital videos on your TV, stream your MP3s to your stereo, and bring some Web media services straight to the living room, the EVA8000 is a solid option for you.
Disclosure: At the time of writing, I am working on a consulting project with NETGEAR, but this is of no bearing to this review. Furthermore, my Guest Blogger status merely granted me access to a unit, I was given free reign to write the review as I saw fit.
The answering machine is more than 35 years old, and voicemail’s been around over 25 years. Before I even dig in to the topic I’m writing about, I still get a kick out of messages that start with “Hi, I’m unable to get to the phone, but if you wait for the tone…” Are there really people out there on the other end thinking, “Wow, when did Bob get this magical system that answers the phone when he’s not around? That’s NEAT!“ So maybe we can all “jump into the 80s” and tighten up our greetings a tad?
As many people know, most voicemail systems allow the caller to skip over the greeting and jump straight into leaving a message. If you know this, you probably also know that between the 4 major US carriers, there are three completely different voicemail systems. Furthermore, you probably don’t remember which of your friends are on which carrier (unless you only have 2 friends). So even if you do remember than the * key skips for Verizon customers, you get a little hesitant to push it since it goes into “enter PIN” mode for Cingular (er, AT&T?) and you aren’t quite sure if Jimbo is still IN your network or not.
So I’ve got my handy-dandy little system that actually works all the time, and it works like this:
Step One: Get a box. Push 1. If your friend is on Sprint (or possibly Verizon, but not always), this skips the greeting and you are done, skip to End. IF you hear a message that says “One is not a valid option” skip to Step Three below, otherwise continue to Step Two.
Step Two: Push *. If your friend is on Verizon, you’ll hear the beep, and can leave your message. Skip ahead to the end now.
Step Three: Push #. This works for both Cingular and T-Mobile subscribers, and you’re all set to go.
End: Go ahead and leave that message (which, ideally speaking, really only says something like “Hi, it’s Freddy, I’ll be available for that meeting after 2pm, call me back” and not something like “Hello there Gregory, it’s Marjorie Simpson calling you back from the voicemail you left me earlier today. Regarding the meeting, I will be able to join at 2pm, but only for about 45 minutes and then I have to jump onto the call with the guy from Amazon, and that’s gonna go another hour or two, but then I’m freed up again. Also, I did want to let you know that I got your email regarding the shipping confusion, and let me explain to you in detail what I meant…“).
Hope this helps!
ps – By the way, one other little voicemail etiquette thought while I’m at it: if you are leaving your phone number for someone, leave it s-l-o-w-l-y! Assume that while you say the area code they are just fetching a pen. And these damn wrong number dialers. What the hell do we do about them?
I skipped February in its entirety, but almost half of March managed to slip by before I was able to pull off another Geek Dinner. With 20 RSVPS about 15 people in attendance, we again headed out to Buca di Beppo – a nice choice that is convenient for both South Bay and SF residents.
This month’s participants (following around the table from L-R):
Seth Kenvin – EIR at Venrock Associates
Doug Hagan – Netgear Marketing Guy, and more importantly, now a father of two!
Great group with great conversations all around. One topic we floated through started as “how many gadgets is too many to carry” and ended up being something more like “so what gadget do you really want to carry?” This originated as follows – if you can think back 10 years ago (try, seriously), the most gadgets we carried around regularly was a cell phone (and that’s only if you were way ahead of the curve). By 2000 it probably included a PDA as well. By 2002, throw either an MP3 player or digital camera (or both) into the bag. It seems pretty clear that people aren’t truly pushing back on carrying more than 2 digital gizmos around these days. The thing I wonder about is when is enough enough?
I also gave (another) anti-Twitter-hype rant, which then managed to include an anti-Second Life-hype rant, all at the expense of poor Heidi, who had the backbone to defend her postion and the character to not get all pissed at me for debating to the nth degree. But since I won’t use the T-word more than once per post, that was it, and it’s time to move along! Also (pictured to the right), Heidi and Larry bonded over having the same phones as 17-year-old girls.
We had another round of “pass around the gadgets” in which I showed off:
The latest Seagate FreeAgent Go portable hard drive (full review coming soon – but quick verdict is – very convenient, easy to use, and stylish). Group consensus: YAY.
An AC-DC power converter from TeleAdapt (a division of APC) that works on airplanes AND cars and provides a standard (US) outlet to charge most devices. Beats carrying “tips” around. Group consensus: YAY.
The Netgear DECT Skype phone which allows one handset to work with both POTS and Skype services. Group consensus: YAY.
Back for a second time, and thanks to Mehrshad now with one extra feature, my favorite Quik-Pod! Group consensus: YAY.
Also, Dave Mathews showed us a Divx-enabled watch he brought back from Asia. Not bad, although 15fps video still isn’t all that watchable… Hahahah. Oh, sorry. Yes, I know. Yes, terrible. Ok, ok, I won’t do it again.
By the way, for those wondering about the original topic on how many gadgets and ideal gadgets? A common theme emerged: can someone, anyone, just make a basic cell phone that…
has decent reception across the US
has good battery life
doesn’t take photos, play games, show maps, stream TV, or anything else
doesn’t look like it came free in a Cracker Jack box
isn’t a Razr
I’d buy one. I’m actually in the market for a new phone right now, and I realized how little I do want/need from the phone. I’ll take anything that meets the above description. Anyone got a suggestion?
Last up, as I mentioned yesterday, I’m trying to rid a lot of cables from my apartment. I brought a box full of them to the Geek Dinner to see if anyone wanted any. There were a few takers here and there, but truth be told, it was as much a purging exercise as anything else. But when Harry told me I made his day by supplying him with a new set of RCA cables, I was thrilled!
As always, email or comment if you’d like to get on the list for the next one…
With a wife-mandated “clean up your damned room full of junk” I’m on a monthlong quest to determine what stays and what goes. I decided to tackle my “box o cables” last night. It turns out that 10 years of buying, building, testing, and reviewing consumer electronics devices leaves one with a “few” extra cables…
I think we counted almost two dozen sets of RCA cables and at least 10 Ethernet cables in the batch, not to mention speaker wire, mini-USB cables, 2 200′ length Ethernets, a dozen coaxial, and a fun batch of proprietary ones (my favorite was the power adapter with a serial cable attachment – I have no clue what it was for).
I’ll be giving some excess ones away at Geek Dinner tonight. Jealous? Thought so.