Technology Highlights of 2008

What fitting way to end 2008 than a list of my own version of technology-related highlights of 2008.

  1. Dell’s Acquisition of Equallogic – Ok. So technically this happened in November of 2007. But the acquisition wasn’t completed until early this year. After review of the devices, they are definitely a cost-effective NAS solution. What a great way to introduce storage solutions to small businesses.
  2. ASP.NET MVC – Again, this technically happened in 2007, but my first experiences really happened this year. What a great, clean way to build web applications.
  3. Flip MinoHD – When Pure Digital introduced the Flip Ultra, they introduced new competition to the digital media market. Now their pocket-sized camcorder sold over 1 million units during this year. Then, they introduced the device with a 1280×720 resolution.
  4. Silverlight 2.0 – One of the highlights of the year is the performance of Michael Phelps at the 2008 Summer Olympics. Millions around the world watched. In the US, NBC covered the Olympics on both TV and the web. Their web content was delivered using a custom beta (yes, I did say beta) version of Silverlight 2.0. A true success for the dev team at Microsoft.
  5. Android – Rumored for a couple of years, Google released their competitor to the iPhone called Android. Nope, it’s not a phone. Rather, it’s Google’s own mobile operating system. Several manufactures have signed on to build phones to support Android and it is assumed that this will only increase over the next year or two.
  6. Apple iPhone 3G and iPhone App Store – Apple continually releases “cool” technology. This year they’ve released a new version of their iPhone with enterprise technology built-in including Exchange 2007 ActiveSync support. They also made strong improvements in their iPhone App Store. Look for them to continue the coolness into 2009.
  7. Netflix Streaming – Move over Blu-ray. Netflix is taking control of the movie market. Adding to their Roku support, Netflix now offers streaming over several devices including the XBox 360, Tivo HD DVR, and a Blu-ray player from Samsung and one from LG.
  8. The “Netbook” – With Cloud computing becoming increasingly popular, end users needed a device to access web applications from all over. One of the downsides of traditional laptops have been their size and weight. The “netbook” is the answer. Many companies have made top selling devices including Acer (Acer Aspire One) and Dell (Dell Inspiron Mini).
  9. Social Computing Takes OffFacebook, Twitter, and MySpace continue to grow. LinkedIn added applications. Sites like FriendFeed and TripIt take off. This will more than likely continue through next year and beyond.
  10. Nintendo Wii Fit, etc. – Nintendo is smart. Very smart. Finally someone out there realized that there happens to be a large crowd of mothers that aren’t gamers. So what does Nintendo do? They introduce Wii Fit. They also released Personal Trainer: Cooking to help capture that market.

– Honorable mentions – XBox 360 Experience, SlingBox improvements, SlySoft Blu-Ray/HD-DVD backup

Preview of 2009

Here are a few things to watch for as they progress in 2009:

  1. Eye.Fi – Need to download photos from your camera and are too lazy to sit behind your PC? Would you like an “endless” SD card? Try this. It’s a wireless memory card.
  2. Plastic Logic – This is neat. An 8 1/2” x 11” tablet that will compete against the Amazon Kindle. It’s lighter. It’s bigger. They’re also rumored to be building a flexible digital screen.
  3. Internet Car Radio – Last.FM. Pandora. Just 2 of the Internet radio sites/applications available. It’s only a matter of time before they come to automobiles. We may be looking at the end of Sirius/XM.

My Personal Technology Interests of 2008

Here are a few of the items that I purchased this past year.

  1. Light-O-Rama – I recently picked up a Light-O-Rama light controller to help me with my Christmas light display. Can’t wait to add onto it for next year.
  2. Keurig Platinum B70 (review) – What a great way to get a single cup of coffee. Especially when everyone in your household enjoys different flavors. The Keurig system also allows for teas, iced beverages, and even the ability to use your own coffee using the My K-Cup filter.
  3. Flip MinoHD – see above

To all, have a safe, and happy new year and we’ll see you in 2009!

MD5 Encryption Considered Harmful

A group of 7 researchers have been able to successfully hack an MD5 encrypted security certificate. While this is a critical security risk, most security certificates do not use MD5 encryption in their generating processes. The more common security certificate and digital signature encryption type is SHA-1. The full explanation of their findings can be read at http://www.win.tue.nl/hashclash/rogue-ca/.

Review: Keurig Platinum B70 Home Brewing System

While we’re still around the holidays, I figured I’d continue my break from actual dev content and review one of the gifts I received this holiday season. My wife picked up a Keurig B70 (Platinum); a single cup coffee/tea brewing system made by Keurig, a subsidiary of Green Mountain Coffee. I wasn’t sure what to expect being that I’m a huge Starbucks fan. However, I was quite surprised. Here’s my quick wish list for Keurig:

  1. Additional Brands such as… hmmm… Starbucks? Or Seattle’s Best? Currently, I’m stuck with Green Mountain brands only (or tastes generated or packaged by them). The Tassimo system actually has a better variety. My wife got the Keurig for a good reason though. If the single-cup phases out, the My K-Cup still allows this device to be functional. I’ve tried it with Starbucks already, and it’s not the same as a true K-Cup. I’m not the only one asking for this. Just check out My Starbucks Idea at http://mystarbucksidea.force.com/ideaSearchResult?s=K-Cups.
  2. So the Platinum has an Iced feature much like the Flavia system. But unlike Flavia, there’s no Raspberry tea. I think they should re-invent the home brewing system idea. Why not have the ability to brew beverages such as raspberry tea, sweet tea, lemonade, etc? Also, why is the iced only in a 4oz size? Why not offer “plain” tea brands such as Lipton? My wife likes a nice cup of decaf, plain, black tea and that’s too difficult to find.
  3. While we are on the Flavia system, let’s talk about their Indulgence flavors. They have several chocolate drinks much like the Keurig. But, they also have a creamy cappuccino-like topping. Where is the creamy topping at Keurig? That would take this system to the next level too.
  4. Way out there – What about the system having 2 holsters for K-Cups? This would allow those of us that have 16oz-20oz cups to maximize our system. It would also allow for us to add in a chocolate drink and a creamy topping in the same cup without lifting the lid twice. This one isn’t as big of a deal, but you get the point.

Here are my gripes:

  1. When the system is in auto-off mode, the system doesn’t recognize when the lid is opened and shut. So, if I put a K-Cup in the system and then realize I need to hit the power button on to wake it up from sleep mode, it won’t realize that I’m ready to brew. I have to lift the lid again and close it again. This is just an inconvenience.
  2. The Green Mountain hot chocolate is not that chocolaty regardless of the size. In fact, when I use a smaller size, not all of the powder is absorbed. Hopefully the other flavors are a bit stronger.
  3. Number 4 above is not that far fetched. I have a nice 20 oz cup that would fit under the Keurig. Why can’t I brew 20oz in one shot? Also, what about a 10oz iced beverage? I haven’t made an iced beverage yet, but I don’t see why I can’t make a larger iced beverage. The iced option should work for all sizes.
  4. Marketing, marketing, marketing. This holiday season, I saw these puppies for sale in every ad I picked up. Why is it so tough to find the coffees in the stores? I live in Northeastern Pennsylvania. I can find a few in Price Chopper, Shurfine, and Foodtown stores, but for any selection, I have to visit Macy’s, Kohl’s, or Bon-Ton. Also, where are the hot chocolate or teas in the stores? They’re no where to be found. I’m also having a tough time finding decaf flavors. 

If anyone at Keurig comes across this, please feel free to respond here to my wishes by posting a comment or by contacting me directly.

Overall, I’d still recommend this system to anyone. There’s lots of improvements to be made, but right now, no one in this market space is taking the reins.

So What Happens When Technology and Holidays Come Together???

This is one of my favorite times of the year. It’s a busy time of the year, but it’s fun. If you’re not into the holidays, chances are you’re too busy and you need a vacation. Even the busiest individuals can enjoy the holidays. Since I was little, I was always fascinated with Christmas lights and decorations. (1980’s photograph will be inserted at a later date)

There’s nothing like seeing the faces of the young and old when they see the glow of Christmas lights. Over the years, things have changed quite a bit. We’ve gone from C7/C9 bulbs to more energy-efficient LED lights. We’ve decided to save on space by eBay’ing our classic, plastic blowmold figures to make more room for our collapsible wire frame deer and Airblown inflatables. Over the past 5 years or so, I’ve started my own collection of items. I’ve grown to have over 10,000 lights including 33 blowmold figures, 3 inflatables, and over 1200 feet of extension cords.

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Recently I decided that wasn’t enough. I needed to fancy my inner-geekness. This is where synchronized lighting fit in.

There are a couple of different ways to get a synchronized light display as well as various different technologies to take you from start to finish.

1) Mr. Christmas Lights and Sounds (Better known to brand-name shoppers as the GE Lights and Sounds) – These devices are already pre-built and contain basic functionality. They can control between 6-10 channels and have 20 built-in songs. However, they limit the amount of lights and customization that can be handled by a single box. For $50-$150, they’ll get you started. (I used one last year and have it available if anyone wants it.)

2) From Scratch (ie: Phidget Interface Kits)Brian Peek from ASPSoft wrote a very good article over at the Coding4Fun website. In his example, he uses a Phidget Interface Kit and C# 2008 to build his display. This is great to learn how the system works, but again, you are limited to the number of channels you can utilize. I really wish Phidget would release some higher power boards. I’d love to be able to control my lights from within a .NET application. That would be too cool.

3) Using the Experts – Controlled lighting isn’t new, it’s just new(er) to Christmas. In fact, many of the “experts” just began to support the classic controlled lighting interface known as DMX. There are quite a few companies out there, but I’d recommend Light-O-Rama, D-Light, or Animated Lighting. I personally own a single 16-channel 1602 controller from Light-O-Rama. Most of the synchronized displays that you see use Light-O-Rama hardware and software. Although, D-Light is picking up ground especially in some “virtual Christmas” communities.

So, what does this all mean? Well, if you’re into the holiday season as much as I am, you better get started.

Want to know what I’ve done this year? Hop on over to my holiday blog at mylightdisplay.com. Over there I talk a little bit more about my specific display including how to setup an FM transmitter, using the Light-O-Rama software and system, and much much more. If you’re in the Northeastern Pennsylvania area, be sure to stop by my display. You can also find local displays by visiting the Display Links at SynchronizedChristmasLights.com. If you’d like to participate further in the Christmas talk, hop on over to MyHolidayDisplays.com.

I’ll leave you with a link to the video of my house on YouTube.

Have a safe and happy holiday season!

Holiday Challenge – Donate or Help Out

User groups, blogs, and community forums exist because of the community. Our User Group, .NET Valley, alone has received thousands of dollars worth of software, books, food, and more over the years to attract members and thank them for coming to our events. It’s time for us to collectively do our part. Many of my colleagues including Scott Watermasysk and Steve Andrews have already issued similar requests and the response has been great so far.

It’s been extremely tough this year for many. A few have lost their jobs, a few even their homes. But much like a user group, we need to stick together and help out like a community.

So, here’s my challenge:

Pick a charity to donate to. Donate money, materials, or services. Scott had asked folks to sell stuff on eBay and donate portions of the proceeds to charity. Steve asked individuals to drop stuff off for Toys For Tots. How about helping out one morning at your local soup kitchen? Or donating your old coats or shoes (or your kids) to a charity? As a group, let’s do something. Trust me, it will make you feel good. You may not see it, but your gracious donations won’t come unnoticed. Even if December is a tough month because of the busy schedules, the purchasing of gifts and food, and other things because it’s the end of the year, maybe January will work. Not sure what kind of charity to donate to? Visit give.org.

Think you can help? Post back here or send me a direct message if you’ve like to share what you’ve done. If you don’t, that’s fine too. I’d like to make another post at the end of January to summarize what’s happened during this period.

I’m going to ask that everyone in our user group bring in a donation or donate online to Toys For Tots. I’d also recommend Feed The Children, the Jimmy V Foundation, or your local Red Cross Chapter. You may also want to check locally to see what organizations help out your community.