Sony Dash (review)

So I received a mysterious box on my doorstep (a few days ago), and to my surprise it was a Sony dash!

It’s about 7.5 inches wide (you can see pictures here), you can stand it upright, or on it’s back and the screen will flip accordingly. The Dash runs ChumbyOS and has over 1,000 widget-apps available. The interface is broken up, into: the menu system, an “alarm clock” screen mode with a power save option (it turns the screen off), and the dashboard. Currently the dashboard only has 2 different display layouts and it does not seem to be configurable. What you can configure, is: “channels”. To create a new channel, register your Dash (; you’ll need to sign-in or create a Sony Essentials account. Once this is complete you can edit the existing default channels or create your own. This is where you add apps to the channel. Once your Dash is registered, pull the power (re-power it) and let it reboot. It will sync to your account and will apply any changes you have made. After I did this I was able to customize and create channels on the device; not just from the website.

Here’s the VLOG I made the other day, when I received the unit…

After playing with the device for a few days, here’s some observations…

the snooze button only snoozes in 5 minute increments. A feature I like on my previous alarm clock, was the snooze default button increments were 8 minutes apart and you could compound them together by multiple taps of the snooze button. With the Dash you can specify multiple alarms and days. However, I would prefer the option of customizing the snooze delay per alarm and at the least have an option like tapping the screen to override the snooze delay temporarily.

networking with the Dash is pretty easy, but it’s only WiFi. There’s no choice for ethernet. For most, this isn’t an issue and it wasn’t for me. However, if I wanted to take the Dash to work it would be an enormous amount of red tape to get the device on the work WiFi network. This wasn’t a problem for me at home and I was able to add the Dash to my secured WiFi network (because I’m the red tape; the argument with myself was pretty short).

streaming music and videos is a nice touch, especially when combined with the alarm. However, in my bedroom, I’m not likely to watch any streaming videos on the device. I can do this directly from my TiVo. Like most households, I already have a TV in my bedroom (bigger than 7 inches). But I do understand this is a nice feature to have, if you put the Dash in your kitchen.

the screen is vibrant and images and video come through just fine.

the touch screen works just fine. I think any comments about the device feeling lagged has less to do the touch screen the more to do with the speed in which the device operates at. However, keep in mind the ChumbyOS is simple by design and is not intended to give you the pinch/zoom gesture experiences you get on iPhones, iPads and Android devices.

ChumbyOS is a very basic operating system. I’m not sure, but it feels flash based. I think Dash would of benefited from a richer operating system; by running something like Android instead. I assume if it was running Android the specs on the device would go up as well as the starting price. But if the Dash was running Android, you would have many more feature filled apps at your disposal. For example, Cooking Capsules running on your Dash in your kitchen I think would be invaluable.

media server / UPnP support is lacking. I wish this device was able to stream content from the media server in my house network. It’s nice that you can play music via a USB jump drive, but allowing this from iTunes or a media server would be a better direction to take, in my opinion.

In the VLOG, I mentioned several minutes of downloading. It turns out that Sony just released updates the day I received the device. So I suspect that this was uncommon and is not likely to happen often. Also worth mentioning, the Dash has a microphone. I didn’t find any applications that made use of the mic, but it’s nice there was some forward thinking on the design.

In summary, I like the device. I can see the potential. Is the Dash fulfilling all that it can be, right now? I don’t think so. But keep in mind, how many alarm clocks have you had in the past that could auto-update itself with new features, and run applications? that’s what I thought. I had a car radio system that could do that (a rio car), and for gadget nerds like me, that’s the “crack topping” to the awesomeness-sundae. Is it worth the cost? (currently at $199) …I would say yes. It’s a nice design and has a lot of potential, especially if you can find a use outside of the bedroom (like in a kitchen, your office, etc).

UPDATE (2010-06-01): Last night (technically this morning) I received an update. I noticed 3 changes: you can now define a snooze interval (from a list of options) per alarm profile, there’s a full screen option for the apps and now there’s more than 2 layouts (aka themes). Remember that potential thing I was mentioning above? yeah, there it is.


moo minicards

so podcamp philly 2009 ( is happening this upcoming weekend (october 3rd and 4th). last year I didn’t really have anything to give out to people who wanted to reach out to me online. for non business related events, business cards just don’t feel right. now I have business cards for the podcast (for guest related prospects) and I have my work business card… but in either case they have personal contact info on it. I want to be accessible, but only a select few get my mobile number or personal email addresses.

so last week it dawned upon me to order moo cards. this is something I thought of the week before podcamp philly 2008… but I wouldn’t have enough time to get them or use them; so I opted not to get any. well this year I can say I was smart enough to remember! they came yesterday and so I made a video. enjoy.

one major thing worth noting… it took 4 days before moo even shipped the order. so keep that in mind if you planning to get some moo cards for a future event. it took a full week from the time I ordered it. so keep that in mind.

Dell 2408WFP (unboxing)

a few weeks ago my 2nd monitor died. I had it for close to 7 years, so I think I can say I got a lot of use out of it. it was time to buy a new monitor. thankfully a couple weeks ago I was able to purchase the first of two (planned) replacement monitors; to replace the dead one and the existing 22-inch monitor (that’s slowly dieing as well).

with a little research and a recommendation from my friend Chris Hadley (of, I purchased the Dell 24-inch (2408WFP). so far I am very impressed with this monitor.

one thing I forgot to mention in the video, is that this monitor has several input options that can be used with a picture-in-picture feature. I’m not sure I will ever make use this, but it’s nice to know it has the functionality.

Canon VIXIA HF S100 (unboxing)

I recently bought a new HD camera, after several years of feeling out of the modern loop. I choose the HF S100 for it’s look, specs and for the sample videos I saw online. Considering the price, Canon has packed an amazing amount of features into this camera.

I’ve had the camera for less than a week and I’m really enjoying the device. It’s a pleasure to work with, however the glow of new toy hasn’t faded. Once I have an opportunity to use it in a more practical way… I’m sure I will have more feedback.

Okay, so let’s break the camera down…

The battery that comes with the camera says 99 minutes when fully charged in video mode. Considering the size and weight of the battery, I can’t complain. Since, I will run out of battery before I run out of room on the memory card, I felt it was necessary to buy a spare. I choose an off-brand battery that the B&H website recommended as an accessory. So far the PEARSTONE battery seems like it will do the job, but I found it less elegant then the Canon batteries for the following reasons: 1. the spare battery does not communicate with the camera like the Canon batteries do. instead the PEARSTONE has 4 led lights. this isn’t a huge issue, but it leads me to complaint… 2. there is no indicator that the battery is charging. 3. this isn’t really a complaint, but worth noting. the battery cannot be charged through the camera, it has to be directly plugged into the power supply that comes with the camera.

The memory card doesn’t come with the camera. This isn’t an complaint, compared to it’s counter part (the S10; $300 more) the S100 doesn’t come with 32GBs on board. For $300 less… I’m okay with this, because I can pick up a good Class-4 SDHC card for around $100-$130. If you can find a name brand Class-6 card buy it. A class-6 shouldn’t cost more than $130. Most of the SDHC cards will have a C logo with their class-number inside the C-logo. If the card meets or exceeds a certain class rating, they will want to advertise it. Don’t be swayed by names like “ultra”, “fast”, “uber awesome”; look for the class-number logo printed on the front of the card. For this camera only use Class-4 and above.

The common complaints have been this camera lacks a view finder. For me this isn’t a problem. I can’t remember the last time I used the viewfinder. I always use the flip-out LCD panel. So, this isn’t a loss for me. The second complaint has been that it rattles when you walk or shake it. I have a feeling this has to do with optical stabilizer. But again, this isn’t a huge loss because when I’m not holding the camera, it will be stashed away in it’s camera bag.

The video modes for this camera are: MXP, FXP, XP+, SP and LP. Basically, all that changes is the bit-rate, quality, and amount of your recording time. If you purchased a 32GB card like I did… the MXP mode (24mbs) will give you 3 hours. For me that’s plenty of time. All of the modes, record at 1920×1080 (60 frames per second; interlaced). The (24 and 30 frame progressive) cinema modes do not record as the advertised frame rates. They are just emulation modes. Everything still records at 60 frames per seconds; interlaced. However, I hear that with the cinema modes you get an accurate look, feel and exposure settings.

The hot shoe is not a full sized slot. It’s a mini-hot shoe. Thankfully I picked up a handle/video bracket for $15; months before I owned this camera. With this bracket I can attach two full-sized hot-shoe enabled accessories. Plus, the handle helps me hold the camera in different positions. Most people slip their hand into the strap. I don’t like holding camera in this manner. I prefer to support the camera from the bottom in a lifting position verse holding it like a pitch fork. I orignally bought this accessory so I could add a video light to my Flip Mino HD. It turns out I have found more value with the use of the handle, because it helps me stabilize the camera position. More so with the Canon verse the Flip.

The adapter ring is a feature you should find on any camera in the $1,000+ price range. This is something I had on my 3-chip prosumer camera and it’s something I’m am happy to find on this device. Canon likes to standardize the diameter widths for their cameras. Since the lens diameter is 58mm, I can use any lenses that the GL2 can and now I have a much wider selection of professional lenses I can use.

The ports on this camera… well there’s a bunch. This is always the sign of a good thing. The first thing to point out is that the port-covers are not flimsy. Here’s what I found… A cupboard port for the component, mini-usb and HDMI connectors. The A/V port for composite and L/R phono connector-cord. The A/V port can also double as the headphone jack (you can configure this the in the menu interface). An external mic connector. I am most happy about this, now I can film in HD with my wireless mic pack. *does the dance of a/v nerd joy* Last, is the power jack.

The menu interface isn’t so bad. I have found on my cameras (regardless of price) that this is where most of them fail. However the menu/features interface on the camera is quite good and not ugly. Don’t get me wrong, this interface is not pretty either, but it’s very functional and easy to understand after a couple minutes of use. The camera has a joystick on the flip-out screen. With some simple (up, down, left, right) movements you can get around the menus. The joystick also doubles as a push button. My last “good” camera was the Sony TRV-950 and was one of the first models to use a touch-screen interface. That is one thing that Sony has excelled at… because they integrated some nice cadillac features like spot mode and spot focus (as I mentioned in the video above). Again, something I miss that this camera doesn’t offer, but not a show stopper.

The recording modes… there are 3; dual, video and photo. Let me first address, if you’re looking for a digital photo camera that does video… this is camera should not be your buying choice. This device is a video camera first and a photo camera 2nd.. or maybe 3rd. It’s nice you can take pictures… especially when you consider the professional 58mm lenses you can add and the optical image stabilization the camera offers. But let’s get back on track… the recording modes… I think photo and video explain themselves. The dual mode let’s you take pictures while you film. It however does lack all the controls that you get when you’re in the photo mode. But again, this is a video camera first and a photo camera last.

The recording format is AVCHD. I was put off by this for all of 2 minutes. On the PC (the Windows world) it’s rather easy to adapt. Adobe Premiere (elements and pro), Vegas Video 9 …work with this format without a sweat. However I hear it’s a bit of a troublesome process for Mac users (you have to convert your files to a format that Final Cut and iMovie will accept before you can edit). In both cases (Windows and Mac) software is provided that lets you extract the video files from the camera. Don’t go looking for the files raw on the SDHC card. Use software or one of the video editing apps to do this for you. Once you have the files, don’t be put off if you run the file directly and it stutters. Most computers will not playback this format easily. Again, this is best dealt with using the software that Canon provides or use video editing apps that are optimized to playback large files.

The things that are neat about this camera and that are worth mentioning. Apparently, you can buy a USB DVD burner accessory to create DVDs directly from the camera. I think that’s neat, but not a compelling reason for me to personally want this camera. You can also split video files, crop pictures and etc. But again, I think of this as a video camera first and everything is less important. So don’t expect much information or interest (from me) in regards to burning DVDs from the camera and so on.

The accessories I bought… 4 filters, a spare battery (as mentioned), a .5x wide angle lens, 32GBs and a camera case. Since there are few stores locally around here that carry… well… just about anything useful for A/V nerds like myself… I went on a hunt for a camera case. I ended up at the local MicroCenter. The selection was pricey and poor… but with a little luck I found a perfect case for the video camera. I bought a case logic camera bag (that’s meant for SLRs with long lenses) that looks more like a mini backpack rather then a camera bag. Since the video camera is about the shape and size of most SLR lenses it fight perfect into the lens well of the case.

In summary, I’m glad I bought this camera. I’m sure in a few weeks it will be replaced by a much sexier model, but for now it’s my new toy. In time I’m sure I will find some things to dislike. So far this camera seems pretty solid and I think a very good buy for it’s price. I like the design and feel of the camera and I hope I get a lot of use out of it.

I hope I have provided some useful insight. As usual what you get is my observations, thoughts and rambling. =)


look what the keyboard dragged in…

Today I was over my step brothers place, helping him fix his computer again. After a lot of cleaning up, I finally discovered the issue, then it blue screened; which confirmed my belief. We ended up going over to a local computer store (the only one left in the area for miles) called MicroCenter.

Recently, I have been struggling with my keyboard and mouse. The mouse hasn’t been tracking as well as I like, and the keyboard has not been keeping up with me as I type. My tweets, IMs and emails seemed to be missing letters and words a lot of as late. I found I had to press the keys harder in order to get the input.

So before we left the store, I decided to take a quick look at the keyboard selection. What I had before was this model: the Wireless Desktop Optical Elite and I ended up replacing it today with this model: the Wireless Laser Desktop 6000.

I made a quick comparison review on the difference between the keyboards and I discussed what I liked and didn’t like.

Below you can also see the pictures I took of the differences in size and shape.

Two points I didn’t mention in the video, that I think are worth noting. The old keyboard / mouse set was wireless (via RF) and the mouse was optical/infrared. The new keyboard / mouse set uses bluetooth and the mouse is optical/laser.