Tag Archives: ipad

Got NAS? Creating a Digital Media Solution

(Author’s note: This post is for those not as familiar with the full extent of digital media tools, apps and hardware; there are a multitude of solutions out there and this is to bring the subject to the wider audience).

In this age of digital media, everyone is taking photos (JPGs), listening to music (MP3, OGG, FLAC), taking videos (MP4, DivX, MPG, MKV) – and there are plenty of other formats for each of those to choose as an alternative. Equally, there are many ways to consume those formats – Desktop, Laptop, tablets, PDA, phone.. the list goes on.

Over time you may come to realise that you have lots of files everywhere (SD cards, hard drives, USB memory sticks, Facebook, etc). – You probably have also wondered how can you organise them a little better so you don’t have to go to one place for pictures, another for music, etc. etc.

If you’ve not heard of NAS (or Network Attached Storage) already then this might be the answer for you!

What is NAS?

A NAS drive is one or more 3.5″ hard drives contained in an enclosure along with some additional bits and pieces to make it more than just a hard drive. For the technically minded, those bits and pieces are a network port, sometimes a USB port (to enable attachment of other USB devices including printers) and typically a micro kernal flavour of Linux allowing some other features such as the ability to automatically download .torrent files, FTP access, user management, etc. If you’re wanting yet more info, check out the Wiki article on it.

The NAS drive connects to your network router and provides the ability to store and retrieve data to (almost) any other device that can connect to the same network. To give you a flavour of just what this means, take a look at the possibilities below!

From this you can see that the potential to centralise all your picture, music and movies is pretty compelling. So what’s the catch?

What’s the catch?

NAS drives are as fast as the network they are connected to and the activity they are performing. For example, if you had 3 people trying to stream 1080p (HD) video on a 802.11B wireless network they are going to have to deal with slow network speeds and (potentially) one hard drive trying to squeeze 3 HD videos down a small network pipe. You can imagine that won’t work well! Also some devices have to do some extra decoding on the fly for certain content (usually video) – again that can add an overhead.

But it’s not all bad, is it?

Not at all – personally I have a single drive NAS drive (Iomega 1TB) which serves as a central store for all my digital content. It means I can share media across any device including XBox 360, PS3, laptops and Android phone. Slight frustration is with Apple mobile products; my iPad won’t connect without downloading (buying) more software or by routing the content via a PC / Mac which would have to be on to serve the content.

What else should I know?

NAS drives can be bought with the capability to house multiple hard drives. The main reason for this is to provide failover should one hard drive fail. You may have heard the term “RAID” – this basically means that whatever is on a disk is mirrored to another disk so that if one fails, the other disk has the same data to provide backup/failover. Read more about RAID here. This means that you could have 2 x 1TB drives with only 1TB of storage space but redundancy for that capacity.

NAS drives should also come as DNLA / UPnP and iTunes compatible so you have lots of options open to you  – many do, but this is just something to look out for.

Also look out for those NAS drives that can act as a Print Server – that means you can connect your printer to the NAS drive and any device on the network potentially can use that printer.

So what NAS drive should I buy?

There are many options; if you have the budget I would recommend getting a NAS drive with RAID, plus drives as big as you’re comfortable buying. Check Amazon, NewEgg and CNET for recommendations – I’ve heard lots of good press about Buffalo; I’ve had a good enough experience with my iomega NAS too.

Like this post? Please comment!

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Apple iPad2 is stepping stone to the next Apple iPad (iPad2 HD)

Steve Jobs while introducing the iPad in San F...
Image via Wikipedia

The news has been awash this week with Apple’s announcement that the iPad2 was being released mid-March 2011. As usual the industry press and “fanboi’s” were all over this like bees to a honey pot – and ironically that’s exactly what I believe this product is, in anticipation of the next iPad Apple is surely developing.

There is quite a bit of information here that leads to the conclusion, so for those of you with a shorter attention span, might want to fast-forward to the end of this post.

Steve Jobs’ Mind Control

If you listen to Steve Jobs’ presentations (see iPad2 presentation) you’ll see he’s a clever salesman. Using his stature and choice of words is almost akin to the techniques that Hitler used to incite many German’s. Not that I’m saying that Mr Jobs should be viewed like he is a modern day Hitler; just his technique has parallels, with clearly different intent.

Let’s take a look at some examples:

  • When we said the iPad was magical, people laughed at us. But it’s turned out to be magical.” – setting the scene; “us against the world”, then reaffirm position
  • They’re taking advantage of this incredible, magical UI.” – Using positive enforcement
  • Fantastic games, a lot of apps for business and vertical markets. The things people are doing here are amazing.” – more positive enforcement, creating a sense of excitement
  • Having built in all this stuff, one of the striking things about the iPad 2 is that’s dramatically thinner. 33% thinner.” – Use of the word “striking” suggests he’s “one of us” looking at the product for the first time
  • The new iPad 2 is thinner than your iPhone 4.” – you DID buy an iPhone, right? You are part of our “inner circle”, right?
  • When you get your hands on one, it feels totally different.” – Once someone picks up a product, their purchasing potential goes way up. This is basically programming people to go to a store… so you will buy one.
  • This has been tried and tested… iPads get 10 hours of battery life.” – doesn’t every product get tried and tested? Yes, but this is a phrase associated with things that we know are true; used to suggest that significant effort has been made. Significant effort = perception of quality.

The reason I mention the delivery of Jobs’ keynote is because of its’ intent. Combine the setting with the person and their persona, the words they use, the means of delivery including attire (you don’t see him wearing a suit on purpose) and the audience participation causes GroupThink excitement. It becomes infectious and makes you want to believe in the Church of Steve.

This is all done to help sales in anticipation of the next generation iPad (yes, you read that right).

Apple’s Product Pattern

Look at the iPhone and the excitement around that; consider each version (iPhone, iPhone 3G, iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4) and how each version incrementally delivers new or updated features. Do you remember the anger and frustration that was made by iPhone 3G users when 3GS was launched? No? See how selective our memories become when we’re indoctrinated into believing things through social and media subliminal pressure.

If you look at the iPhone Wiki, you’ll see a new iPhone was launched every year since 2007. The iPad is following the same trait (see iPad Wiki). However, since the original iPhone launch in 2007, consumers are becoming more and more savvy about what to expect for the next incremental product update.

So based off the product cycle information, it’s suggestive that there’s another iPad product being developed already.

Details on the new iPad – iPad2 HD

Well of course there aren’t any – yet. But read on…

Releasing the iPad2 can be viewed as releasing the iPhone 3G; it’s definitely a step up from the original product but it falls short in a number of areas:

  • Screen resolution is still 1024 x 768 – it’s no Retina display and not the best HD movie experience. I suspect they made this choice as existing iPhone apps would look even worse on an iPad Retina display.
  • The rear-facing camera is not going to be great for still photography – 1280 x 720 = 0.92 megapixels. For this to be anywhere near usable there needs to be at least 3MP.
  • Still has 256mb Memory, just like the original iPad

Apple’s product cycle tends to fall in September, which is when we will see the launch of the iPhone 5 (see “leaked iPhone 5 parts surface“)  and then early 2012 we’ll see iPad 2 HD launch. [postscript: Rumour now is that the iPhone 5 will be announced in June 2011, leaving the door open for other products in September]. The A5 processor is really necessary for the Retina display to handle moving things around the screen and this delay gives Apple enough time to work out what to do with the backward compatibility for existing iPhone apps.

Should you buy an iPad2?

Do you have an iPad? Then no.

Otherwise, consider the iPad and the Motorola Xoom and then see what works best for you. Bear in mind that the Moto Xoom is in early product cycle so may fall down against the iPad2 initially in *some* areas, but Google is committed to making the platform successful so you can almost guarantee future updates will also make it a compelling argument. Right now the Xoom not priced at the right level (although some large volume discount retailers are selling it at discount).

Disclaimer

I take a neutral approach to the Mac vs PC; Android vs iOS debates that rage forums etc. Our household has Macs, PCs, iPads, Android devices and iPods. All of these devices we enjoy using day in and day out. I do dislike iTunes immensely though!


Creating success for your product through hacking (or Product Marketing Conspiracy)

Have you ever thought about Jailbreaking your iPhone? Or homebrewing your PSP or Wii? Did you hack your Android phone to get the latest updates? Whether you have or not, there are many out there that have. But why do they do that? And what is this jailbreak/homebrew you speak of? This article aims to expose what hacking products is all about and possibly why manufacturers are missing the point.

Manufacturers create limitations

When creating products, manufacturers build in mechanisms which prevent or limit capability of their products. This is done for a number of reasons:

  • Safety: Prevent the system from being misused where it will perform outside safety parameters (e.g. “overclocking“)
  • Feature Control – They want to limit the functionality of the product – possibly so they can enable it later or introduce the feature in some other way/update (i.e. controlling how features are deployed)
  • Security – They want to limit access to the system to prevent tampering, bypassing of existing functions or plugging in extra ones.
  • Prevent Piracy – They want to prevent the ability to play pirated games, etc. on the device (typical of games consoles)

Hackers are evil, aren’t they?

Or so the Media would have you believe. Yes there are some rotten apples for sure, but there are also those out there that hack for good intention too. Generally speaking the purpose of hacking is to bypass or overcome one or more of the reasons mentioned above (Safety, Feature Control, Security, Piracy) but there are other reasons too; some want the notoriety that they were the first to break into a system. Others hack because they feel the limitations put on the product are restrictive.

You may be a hacker and not realise it…

Consider the humble MP3 player. A number of factors lead to its’ success such as portability, capacity, size, durability and also the fact it let you hack your CD collection by ripping any of the tracks into the MP3 format and then uploading them to any one of your MP3 devices.

Cars also have had many changes which have meant they too are hackable. Every car I’ve owned since 2001 has had the ability for its’ Electronic Control Unit (ECU) to be modified to either get more performance, economy – or both. On top of that, the burgeoning after-market business will allow you to replace many parts of your standard car, either to make it personalized to you, or to enhance it in some way shape or form.

The war on the home electronics front

Games consoles and phones have long been a target for hacking. When the original Microsoft Xbox came out it was soon hacked and people started to change it in ways it had never been designed for. A popular hack was to convert it to a media center by adding a larger hard drive, installing Xbox Media Center and an optical out – creating a true home theatre PC experience on the cheap (though not HD). The Xbox was (for its’ generation), a market leader and the ability to hack it made it more desirable over Sony’s PS2 product.

With the introduction of the Xbox 360, Microsoft decided to increase the security so that the system couldn’t be hacked so easily. As with most things, an exploit was found which allowed hackers to bypass the (local) security. There are also various exploits for the Sony PS3 which allow the user to take control over what happens to their console.

Going back to our Apple iPhone as well as the iPad and Android phones, people realize that these are very powerful platforms which have been (in their eyes) restricted by the manufacturer in some way and so will actively seek to hack and bypass security as they see it as their right that if they own the product, they should have it their way for their needs. As such exploits and hacks were found which allowed users to do what they wanted with the devices.

So why not just build “hackability” into Products?

Would manufacturers allowed “hacking” affects desirability? Going back to the  Xbox 360, Microsoft created a marketplace for people to re-skin their console with plastic shells that could be purchased. Whilst a good marketing idea, the actual desirability for this kind of hacking is minimal. The same goes for cars – the manufacturer often offers additional accessories with the vehicle which gives some degree of personalization (or a perception of it), yet in reality many folks will buy after-market parts instead.

So there are desirable hacks as well as non-desirable ones?

Absolutely! Some hacks make systems better for the end user – whether it be speed, appearance, extensibility. Simply put, manufacturing a product which has potential exploits to hacks or customize it in some way, shape or form, but that way isn’t documented, isn’t officially supported, perhaps is communicated as “we do not approve these changes” – but is coincidentally allowing the exploit could increase its’ chance to be desired.

Or to put it another way; if you let your product be hackable but you as a manufacturer do not condone it, you may increase your chance of market share because it’s viewed as underground and therefore increases its’ “coolness” factor – and thus your product gets notoriety.

So it’s easy right? Just make everything “hackable”…

What would happen if Apple offered a hacking tool for the iPhone that was charged a premium for? Someone would write a hack that did the same thing for free and they’d be the hero. Perhaps off the back of that Apple would offer them a job to help prevent other / hacks, etc. so everyone wins, but ultimately the  manufacturer hack tool could be viewed as too corporate and so people would try to work they way around it.

Again putting it simply, officially endorsing a hack doesn’t always win votes.

So what does that mean for the consumer?

There are pro’s and cons for the consumer with hacking a product; it can remove manufacturer liability, cause the life of the product to be shortened – or even break the product. On the other hand it can help make the product fulfill its’ potential.

When Microsoft release the Kinect product, folks immediately set to work to understand how they could use the product outside of its’ intended use. At first Microsoft made strong statements about how this was against the terms of use, but rapidly retracted the strength of that statement. People were starting to see how they could use the product for new ways such as 3D real time modeling and that this was pushing the boundaries of use – something more powerful that Microsoft alone may have considered- certainly in the short term.

Similarly the United States military showcased 200 networked Sony PS3’s that they use as one huge parallel processor. Hardly what the system was designed for but absolutely perfect for its’ capability.

In conclusion

If you’re thinking of going out and hacking every product you own that is hackable, don’t. Stop and think about what would happen if you did apply a hack – would you lose your warranty? Could you fix it if it broke? That being said there is good cause for some hacks, so definately research based off your needs and the risks.

For any manufacturers out there reading this… could this be your new marketing ploy?!

[ADDENDUM]

New article how a jailbreak can make your iPhone/iPad more secure

A trick up Apple’s sleeve? iPod Touch 4th Generation

Apple has released two significant products that have generated a great deal of press; the iPad and the iPhone 4 but has been pretty quiet about their iPod product line of late. Why is this?

The iPod helped Apple make it big

No-one can argue that Apple’s iPod product line was a game changer not just for the MP3 player market but also for Apple’s own image. Of course they were already huge in the creative industry (with the help of Adobe with applications such as Photoshop) and had a “edgy” branding in the tech market, but to make it into everyday people’s homes was the huge leap for them – and the iPod made that possible.

iPod Touch 4th Generation released September 2010!

Well, that’s my guess. Apple has traditionally released a new generation around September and given that the iPhone product can lend its’ set of technology back to the Touch, it’s not unreasonable to suggest that this September we’ll also see a new iPod Touch. For Apple to announce that during the furore of iPad and iPhone madness would dilute the message for all the platforms, so I would imagine we’ll see them announce the Touch towards August. In the meantime, existing iPod Touch units can upgrade to iOS4 – if you’ve got a Touch and feel like an upgrade is in order, Apple have an app (well, page) for that.

New Features for the iPod Touch 4G

Here’s the list of potential upgrades I see for the next gen Touch:

  • Camera – For both stills and also video. Because of the iPhone 4G’s video conference capability, it would be great if they could also include this feature for the Touch – but that also blurs the line of what this product is designed to do. I think at best we’ll just see a static camera capability.
  • High Resolution Screen – Using the same technology as the iPhone 4G, the screen resolution will be upped.
  • Longer Battery Life – if the iPhone 4G gets it, why shouldn’t the Touch?
  • Faster Processor – Now Apple manufactures their own processors, as seen in the iPad/iPhone4 products, this could be likely.

Other posts around the webby world suggest they want 3G – I don’ t know this will happen because this starts to make the product a mobile phone like device. Though thinking about it, that could be  the staging of what the Apple product line is headed towards – the vision many have shared that we have a mobile all-in-one device that includes phone, camera, video, media player, games machine…What a bugger it would be if you lose it though… for that to work you would start to need retina scans or finger printing authentication..

Since writing this article Apple did release the iPod Touch which did include the features I suggested; You can also install Skype which gets around the whole 3G/Phone question. The camera isn’t quite up to the iPhone 4 specification but there is a reason for that. In any case the product seems to once again set the standard for mp3 players. I’m sure Microsoft’s Zune will be playing catchup soon…