Monday, February 28, 2005


Kiss Firmware version 2.9.1 available

Kiss Technology has released firmware version 2.9.1 for several players, including the KISS DP-1500, KISS DP-1000 (PAL).

The 2.8.8 firmware was released shortly earlier but removed. Hopefully 2.9.1 is there to stay.


I did a full firmware update following the instructions on the web site. I was surprised that it did not loose any important configuration settings. The new firmware has several fixes and new features that previously was only available in customized hacked firmwares:

  • More video codecs supported

  • KML (Kiss Markup Language) finally improved.

  • Subtitle improvements: bigger font, code page selection, support for MPL2 format, improved synchronization, support for vplayer subtitles

  • Support for DivX DRM

  • Time setting uses multiple time servers

  • Playtime shown on display on SVCD Playback

More on the KML client

KML is a limited version of HTML that can be used to create web sites for the Kiss player. It is used by the player to display the WebRadio interface. With the new firmware you can finally create your own web site for the Kiss player on your PC-Link server. The player uses http to download the file index.kml from port 8888. The following KML example redirects to an existing site on the internet:

<?xml version='1.0' encoding='UTF-8' standalone='yes'?>
<GOTO href='' />

Another option is to use EzLink Next-Generation which comes with a built in KML server and a KML browser that makes it easier to test your pages.

There are several things I would like to put on my KML site:

  • Directory of other KML sites

  • A home page that allows me check mail and comments on the blog.

  • A info page that shows the weather forecast for the next few days and the top news headlines


Cool Tool: ExplorerXP 1.06

ExplorerXP is a free Windows Explorer replacement that has some really useful features:

  • It shows the total size of each folder and its sub folders

  • You can assign your own keyboard shortcuts to all menu commands

  • Tabbed interface instead of many open windows. You can drag and drop files and directories between the tabs

  • Use wildcards to select of files or select similar file names

  • Multiple rename

  • Merge and split files

I particularly like the total folder size feature. It calculates the directory sizes in the background so it does not block the user interface. This is important as it takes a while to calculate the directory sizes after you have booted if you have a large disk. The folder size calculation is on my default but you can turn it of under File, Settings.

There are more "advanced" disk analyzers out there so I did a quick comparison of the leading ones on my Win2k3 machine. I ran all test 3 times and ignored as the first run takes forever until Windows has loaded the file system in cache.

This is without a doubt the fastest of the disk analyzers. At 6 seconds it analyzed the disk space usage in half the time of the other tools. It does one thing, and it does it well: it gives a graphical representation of the disk usage. It does not do anything else though as you can't get a directory listing or move files to other drives.

WinDirStat is the slowest of the bunch at 16 seconds. The WinDirStat gives you the best of both worlds: a normal text listing on top and a graphical representation below.

It shows you where the space has gone and you can delete files but you cannot move files or directories.

Slightly faster than WinDirStat at 14 seconds as it only presents a list of files and directories.

The graphics of the other space analyzers are neat but they do not solve the disk space problem. ExplorerXP allows me to sort on the Size column which is all I need to find out where the disk space went, and it has all the tools I need to free up the disk space. Add the other features and it is one cool tool.

ExplorerXP discovered via [jkOnTheRun]


SmarterChild IM Buddy

MSN Search in an Instant Messaging buddy. Just add SmarterChild to your AIM or ICQ contacts and start chatting to use one of its several neat features:

  • Get the latest news, sports results and weather forecasts

  • Look up movies show times and reviews

  • Look up words with a dictionary, thesaurus and encyclopedia,

  • Spell check words

  • Perform calculations

  • Translate words

  • Play games

sounds cool and somewhat useful, but I have not tried it as don't use AIM nor ICQ.

Via [Wired Magazine 050.02|2005]

Sunday, February 27, 2005


RSI relief with the USB wrist warmer

The Computer Geeks sell a USB Powered Thermal Wrist Protector. It provides heat to the wrist which eases RSI pain and should make repetitive work more comfortable.

The best is of course to avoid RSI to begin with:

  • Use the whole hand to grab the mouse. Holding the mouse with few fingers stresses the wrist.

  • Reduce the speed and force of repetitive hand moves.

  • Use keyboard shortcuts.

Thanks Mike.

Friday, February 25, 2005


Voodoo knife rack

Neat gift idea. You can give it as a birthday/wedding gift to a "friend" or keep it yourself for therapeutic reasons:

Just in case you were wondering: yes, the design is Italian. After all; a voodoo knife rack is cheaper than putting a horse's head in the bed.

Via [BoingBoing]


Stay Cool with USB gadget fans

The Thanko USB 2.0 Fan with USB 2.0 HUB comes with 4 USB 2.0 ports:


The Thanko USB Fan with Card Reader reads CF, MD, SM, MS, SD, MMC and MS-PRO: 

Both are powered by the USB cable and cost $49. The only problem I can see is the weight. 320g (0.5 pounds) for the card reader, and 280g (0.6 pounds) for the hub make them perfect for the office but too big to bring along if your bag is as full as mine.

I personally prefer this basic USB powered fan. It is tiny, only costs 9.90 euro and comes with a handy case:

Via [I4U News]

Wednesday, February 23, 2005


Access Wikipedia from a PDA using Wapedia

I use Wikipedia a lot. Mostly to link to terms I use in my posts but also to look up subjects I am not familiar with. It is one impressive service.

Wapedia, contrary to what the name suggests, gives Wikipedia access from any PDA device, not only WAP devices. I have tried it with a Nokia 6630 (WAP 2.0) as well as a Pocket PC and it works like a charm with both devices. I did not try the more difficult WAP 1.0 devices, like the Nokia 6210, but the pages are short enough to work.

Accessing Wikipedia directly with a mobile device is a disaster. The Nokia 6630 downloaded close to 100kb of data but was only able to display the first few lines (what a ripoff):

Wikimedia needs your help in its US$75,000 fund drive. See our fundraising page for details.
We are over 55% there thanks to all those who have donated so far! Day 4 detail and report (

The Pocket PC is able to display the entire Wikipedia page but it is not user friendly. Skweezer does a good job of rendering wikipedia on PDAs but I prefer the wapedia interface as it is lighter and works on more devices.

Wapedia is fast, free, without ads, and it does what it promises to do: give mobile accesses to wikipedia.

Via  [Pocket PC eBooks Watch - eBook and beyond]


Cool Tools eBook

I waited a day posting as I wanted to post a review of the Cool Tools eBook, but PayPal decided it doesn't want my password anymore. Some genius added length verification to the password field so it must be between 8 and 20 characters. Mine is 22…

Anyway. The Cool Tools book is the equivalent of the Whole Earth Catalog (Amazon) for cool tools. It is from 2003, so it is a bit dated, but contains some pretty neat stuff. You can check out the the blank & white sample pages on Amazon. It costs $3.50 compared to the $17 of the paper version version and comes in full color with clickable hyperlinks.

I still can't believe I have to change my PayPal password to buy the eBook.


News 10x10

A picture is worth a thousand word so the idea behind 10x10 is cool. It polls Reuters World News, BBC World Edition and New York Times International News and present a grid with 10 by 10 images showing the top words in the news at the moment:

Every hour, 10x10 scans the RSS feeds of several leading international news sources, and performs an elaborate process of weighted linguistic analysis on the text contained in their top news stories. After this process, conclusions are automatically drawn about the hour's most important words. The top 100 words are chosen, along with 100 corresponding images, culled from the source news stories. At the end of each day, month, and year, 10x10 looks back through its archives to conclude the top 100 words for the given time period. In this way, a constantly evolving record of our world is formed, based on prominent world events, without any human input.

I particularly like the weighted linguistic analysis as it comes up with some creative matches like this image shows:

Michel Jackson linked to the bird flu pandemic… Somehow I am not surprised.

The site maintains an archive so you can either navigate to the hour you are interested in, or follow the rules described in the developers section to get the words and images for any given moment.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005


Cool tool: Free PDF generators


Printing reference material is a waste of paper and space so I save useful articles I find on the internet in my own digital knowledge base. With decent backups I am sure I don't loose my “papers“. Printed copies have a tendency to accumulate over the months before I throw most of them away to gain some space. I have tried different formats during the years:

  • Save as single file (.mht) file in Internet Explorer

  • Print with the Microsoft Office Document Image Writer.

  • PDF

In the past I mainly used the Microsoft Office Document Image Writer. It is fast, free and already installed on my computer as it is included in Microsoft Office 2003. Both the Document Image Writer and the MHT file have one big problem: there are no readers for the Pocket PC or other platforms. This is a major issue for me as I want to synchronize important documents like ticket reservations with my Pocket PC instead of bringing along tons of paper.

Finding a PDF solution

The only multi platform option is PDF. Adobe Acrobat costs too much for my use so I have evaluated two free solutions for creating PDFs:

Both solutions install a new printer on your PC so creating PDFs is a snap. No external converters. Just print your document the new printer, specify a file name and you are done.

The PDF995 and CutePDF printers do not go in conflict so I could try them both at the same time. The evaluation went a lot quicker than expected as there are virtually no differences. I suspect they use the same PDF rendering engine as the output of both programs are pretty much identical. The only real difference between the two programs is that PDF995 brings up a couple of Internet Explorer windows with sponsored links.

After using PDF995, and tolerating its sponsored links for a year, I have moved to CutePDF and never look back.


Top 100 gadgets of all time

MobilePC has posted the list of The Top 100 Gadgets of All Time

To qualify for the list:

  • It must be smaller than a breadbox

  • It has to have electronic and/or moving parts

  • It must be a self-contained tool that can be used on its own

I started writing down the list of gadgets I have had at some point in time but quickly gave up 98. PEZ DISPENSER, 90. MAELZEL METRONOME, 89. RUBIK'S CUBE, 81. ZIPPO WINDPROOF LIGHTER, 75. LASER POINTER, ...

The top 10:
10. TIVO SERIES1, 1999
9. ATARI 2600, 1977
7. U.S. ROBOTICS PILOT 1000, 1996
1. APPLE POWERBOOK 100, 1991

I am glad to see that the U.S. Robotics Pilot made it to the top 10. That was one cool device!

Via [Pocket PC eBooks Watch - eBook and beyond]

Sunday, February 20, 2005


SanDisk releases the ULTRA II SD PLUS: a SD memory card with built in USB 2.0 support

SanDisk has released the Ultra II SD PLUS (the SD Card with USB connectivity I mentioned earlier)

It works in any SD card slot and comes with a built in USB connector so it can also be used as a USB 2.0 flash drive. No more cables or adapters to forget, just plug it into any USB port. A flashing LED shows when data is being transferred in USB mode.

The Ultra II SD PLUS should hit stores in April and will initially be available in 512MB ($109.99) an 1GB ($149.99) versions and offer write speeds of 9MB/sec and read speeds of 10MB/sec.


Wednesday, February 9, 2005


Gigapxl project

Max Lyons made the news a year ago when he released his first gigapixel image. He took hundreds of separate images which he later stitched together to create a gigapixel image of Grand Canyon.

Physicist Graham Flint took a different approach with the Gigapxl project. He has designed and built a camera from parts of old spy planes and nuclear rectors. The result? A camera that takes a 4 gigapixel image and fills an entire DVD! No stitching required,but they still take several images which they later merge to create the clearest possible image. The gigapxl technology pages explains how they built the camera and the choices they faced while designing the camera.

Some lucky people my be able to get their hands on the camera themselves:

When he completes his photographic tour of America later this year, Flint would love to take high-resolution images of hundreds of endangered archaeological sites. He said he is in preliminary talks with organizations like Unesco, which wants a detailed record of threatened archaeological sites like Rome or Angkor Watt, which are steadily disappearing.

Flint said he's unlikely to undertake the project himself, but will probably help design cameras and train crews.

"I'd love to do that," he said. "That would be a worthwhile project for the conclusion of my career."

Via [The Wired news letter]

Tuesday, February 8, 2005


Play mobile games using buildings as displays

Play Tetris on a big display. A very big display. A display as big as a house:

Project Blinklights allows mobile users to play games such as Tetris, Pong, Breakout and Pacman, displayed on buildings. Dial the specified number and use the touch tones to play.

Via [SmartMobs]


Junk email filtering service claims to have the most advanced Spam and Virus Filter on the planet. They use all the tricks in the book and then some. The cool part is that they give free junk mail filtering for nonprofit organizations:

Nonprofit orgs waste a lot of time and money every year deleting spam and viruses.Most solutions are expensive and just plain don't work. The way I see it - I'd rather nonprofit employees spend their time doing good work rather than spending hours every week deleting unwanted email. And - I have a system that solves the problem.

The way it works is that your email comes from the internet into my servers. I process it - and send the good email onto your existing email server. So - nothing on your end has to change. Once this is set up - everything is the same - except the spam and viruses are gone.

Via [craigblog]


Going to the U2 Vertigo concert in Milan

A looooooooong and painful purchase experience on this morning buying tickets for the U2 Vertigo 2005 tour

It's a long story. The presales for the concert in Milano started at 10:00 GMT. I connected at 10:00:01 and everyting went like a charm until I got to the page where you enter the credit card info. I entered it and clicked OK but I got a connection refused message from our proxy. Convinced that the problem was our proxy I connected via Bluetooth and UMTS, reloaded the page and had a minor heart attack when I got this message: Your shopping cart is empty. I saw my tickets vanishing in front of my eyes as the personal presale code is only valid for one purchase.

I don't give up easily and went through the complete purchase experience 1, 2, 3 many more times. Always without luck as I got an error when entered the secure part of the site. In the end I did the only thing I could think of; enter all the data and wait for the secure site to come back up again.

At 10:51 the secure site came up again and crossed my fingers and tried again. It took forever, so I almost canceled the request, but I knew things were going the right way when my credit card company sent me a SMS message alerting me that someone had charged my credit card.


See you at San Siro, Milano, 19th of July at 18:30!


Google Maps Beta

The Google Maps beta is just great:

  • It is fast

  • The map enlarges to fill the whole browser window

  • Easy to use.

  • You can click 'n drag to move around the map as well as clicking the standard scroll buttons on the map

  • Lovely graphics

There is one major problem though: it only works for the United States :-( Maybe they are playing safe to avoid the MSN Mappoint problems in Europe...

Wednesday, February 2, 2005


iTECH Bluetooth virtual keyboard

Dave's iPAQ  reviews the iTECH Bluetooth Virtual Keyboard

I am a sucker for Bluetooth gadgets and this thing is a must have if you find yourself taking a lot of notes in places where there is a desk. Meetings could take a lot longer though as fellow geeks will not let you go until you have explained what this dark beaming Sentinel is. The Virtual Bluetooth Keyboard  adds Bluetooth support to their infrared keyboard. This beauty beams a normal QWERTY keyboard on most surfaces. Type ahead on the desk and the VKB translates your movements to keyboard presses.

Cool Or What? - according to Dave: 

OK, so now I have loaded the drivers, paired the device, started the VKB program and enabled it to start. The question is --- does it really work?

And the answer is --- YOU BET IT DOES!!

My first test was with Pocket Word. After starting the keyboard, I opened Pocket Word and started to type. As I looked up at the screen, to my absolute amazement, it was entering text as my fingertips touched the projected template. WOW! --- is this cool or what! However, I did notice that I was entering a few extra characters as I was typing and I was not pressing those keys.

Thanks for the tip Mike!


New members of the RoboSapiens familiy

WowWee will release three new members of the RoboSapien family this year:

  • Robosapien V2  contains the features that they had to drop from the first version; the vision is back so it can track and accept objects as well as track a laser path. This is boss as it can control the other new members of the family.

  • Roboraptor looks just mean and comes with several moods: hunter, cautious and playful.

  • Robopet can perform the usual dog tricks and comes with the same laser guided features as RoboSapien V2.

More details, prices and release dates on GadgetMadness