Sunday, August 26, 2007

Is that a Bluetooth in your Jawbone (or are you just happy to see me?)

I was visiting NYC recently and had a long conference call in my future. I decided it was time to get a headset for my lame RAZR phone. (Yes, I have iPhone envy.) Since I refuse to be bound to AT&T for two years in order to have a iPhone, I decided that at the very least, I deserve a sweet bluetooth headset. The Aliph Jawbone headset is in fact very cool and works like a charm.

In the old days I would spend an hour walking back and forth between the Caltrain and the Truveo offices in San Francisco. Once I got the Jawbone, with its superior noise reduction technology, I could then use that hour to annoy my friends and family with useless chit chat. Turns out this works most of the time. Wind noise is the one big downfall of the Jawbone noise reduction algorithm. As long as it's not windy, you can make yourself heard. If the wind is kicking up. Forget the phone call and just listen to that iPod. (You know, the one that doesn't make phone calls.)

Now that I don't take the Caltrain but live in a developing country, I find that the Jawbone is mainly connected to my MacBook and used for Skype or Gizmo calls. Yes, these bluetooth babies aren't just for your phone. Pair them with a modern laptop and you can wonder around the apartment while Skyping with the homeland for hours on end.

Truveo's Back!

Last week we re-launched Truveo. Our parent company, AOL, has decided to let us focus on our own brand with the site. We're still powering the big boys, but now we can show off our stuff directly and not have to wait for other folks to get around to integrating cool features we add. (Yes, there's more in the pipeline...)

The press was pretty sweet. Mossberg's crew at the Wall Street Journal had good things to say. Over at NewTeeVee we've trounced our competitors. According to Bits, the New York Times blog, we make Google and Yahoo appear somewhat lackluster. At we're awesome.

One of the things I'm most proud of is the team we've built. The Truveo mother ship is loaded with hard working brainiacs. Thanks gang!

Gizmo Project Beats Skype for Out Calls

Now that we're living in Vietnam, the who IP Phone thing is a lot more interesting. At first I thought I would just use my Cingular phone; gee it just works here, being GSM and all. Then I found out that it cost me $4.99 per minute for roaming in Vietnam. Ok, that's crazy expensive, but in Vietnam, it's crazy expensive. For $5 I can get a really good tennis pro for an hour or a decent meal. A taxi ride normally costs me less than a dollar. The really expensive coffee shop sells large lattes for less than $2 and the locals think we're nuts for pay that.

So the cheap solution seems to be to use Skype Out to call my friends on their phones back home. I've used Skype Out before and been pretty happy with it. I still have 6 € on my account from when we were visiting France back in February. So I download Skype onto my shiny new MacBook Pro and give it a try. No luck. I kept getting error #9407, whatever that means. Sure, I heard that Skype had a recent meltdown, but hey, that was supposed to be over.

Lucky for me, there is another option called Gizmo Project. It seems to be a Skype knock off but it has the distinct advantage of working from Vietnam, when Skype just gives out error #9407. Besides just working, Gizmo has some fun features. You can easily record your calls with Gizmo. Plus you can add your own sound effects during the calls. If you want to pretend to be an annoying radio DJ when calling your friends, Gizmo makes it easy.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Segway Anniversary

Wow, it's been six years since the Segway arrived. Remeber life before the Segway? How did we get along with out it?

I actually saw a guy on a Segway today at the corner of Howard and Third Street in San Francisco. Kind of embarrassing really.

In The Know: Do You Remember Life Before The Segway?

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Jungle Disk Rules

I've decided I need to get better about backing up my computers. My buddy Cuong was telling me how much he loves his new personal NAS. (50 mbs with afp over wifi, wow!)

I've been trying to minimize my lifestyle by getting rid of physical things. I was getting all excited about buying one of these filers, and then I realized that buying another compute device goes against the zen minimalist philosophy that I've been striving for lately.

I remembered that Amazon has a cool storage service called S3. But it's a storage service, not a distributed file system or a backup solution. I figured someone must have written a utility that makes it possible treat S3 as a file system. I also thought there might be a nice Ruby mapping to S3. Turns out I was right on both counts.

There is a Ruby interface for S3 called AWS::S3. It's a nice wrapper on the S3 APIs. This is cool but not exactly what I'm looking for. I may want to use it for other projects down the road, so I'll keep it in mind. I just don't have time to write my own backup program on top of these APIs and the S3 service.

Luckily someone has already built an open source program called Jungle Disk. Jungle Disk will allow you to mount a network disk that is backed by the S3 service. After you configure it with your S3 credentials you're good to go. You can treat it like a normal network disk and copy files back and forth to it. It also has a built in backup feature. The backup feature is pretty basic, you can specify which files and folders to backup. You can set a schedule or simply run it manually. It's not as flexible as ChronoSync, but it's not bad. For instance, you can't setup different backup sets and schedule them at different intervals. If you really want this feature, you could use ChronoSync on top of Jungle Disk. I tried this at first, but it didn't seem to work well. Jungle Disk seemed to get wedged and I had to Force Quit the application.

I've been trying the built-in backup feature and that seems to work better. It handles my flaky Comcast internet connection gracefully. One problem I've seen is trying to backup my email folders while using email. This seems to cause problems for both Jungle Disk and Of course, this is a place where it would be nice to have separate backup sets. One that does my documents folder and another that does email. I could then run the email backup when I don't have mail running, but I could leave the document backup on autopilot.

Surprisingly this runs on Windows, Mac, and Linux. The code is open source so you can even check out their coding style. I'm using it on a Mac but I'll probably install it on my Windows boxes as well. Time to push all my storage into the cloud!

BTW, Jungle Disk is free for 30 days and then $20 to buy afterwards. I liked it enough to buy it. For your $20 you get lifetime upgrades and you can use it on as many computers as you like, as long as it's with the same S3 account. They also only accept Amazon Payments for the purchase. This makes me suspect that these guys are in a very close relationship with Amazon, and maybe even a part of Amazon. (Not that there is anything wrong with that.) It's just odd that you can't find out anything about the Jungle Tools LLC from their web site.

BTW, the Amazon Payments thing is very new too. (Read Scoble's take here.) I found it simple to use when paying for my Jungle Disk license. It seems the online payment space is getting interesting. Google Checkout and Amazon Payments seem to be going after Pay Pal with a vengeance. Gotta love competition!