Submerging Technologies


More geekumentaries from Siggraph 2006. Three interactive water displays: a musical harp with water “strings”, a liquid touchscreen and a tantalizing fountain that withdraws when a hand comes near. You find some more details from the official Siggraph 2006 site here.

Credits to Paul Dietz, Jefferson Y. Han, John Barnwell, Jonathan Westhues and William Yerazunis.

Link to video on Google.

Submerging Technologies

Two essential tricks in PowerPoint

I have done a bit of work in PowerPoint lately. And suddenly I realized what would be my two most important tricks for this horrible tool.

1. Blank Presentation

Never ever use “Design Template” when you start a new presentation. And I assume that most of my readers know that the “AutoContent Wizard” is the biggest joke since the Microsoft Office Paper Clip Helper, so I guess I don’t have to say that AutoContent is something you never want.

2. Blank slide

In PowerPoint there is actually only one slide template that can be used. The blank one. All the other ones force you to keep your presentation boring. Be creative, spend the extra time. Start with a clean slate for every new slide. To save time you can use the “Duplicate this slide” function at some points.

Got that? Okay…

Then please have a look at the paper by associate professor Jens E. Kjeldsen on The Rhetoric of PowerPoint. Nicely done with a video presentation and a possibility to download the paper as a PDF. This is nice reading for your commute back home today.

Then you can read about how to avoid making boring presentations, how to make illustrations and as always keep an eye on Presentation Zen.

Two essential tricks in PowerPoint

Kjøpe en iPod Nano

…and what kind of horrible typo is this headline then? It’s Norwegian and translates into “Buying an iPod Nano”.

This article is a short rant and an important experiment. The Norwegian headline is part of the experient. More on that later.

First a rant about something that I guess most of my readers have experienced. Horrible errors in marketing material from retailers of consumer electronics. This example is only what I found after two minutes with an ad that came with our newspaper today. There are so many examples that I have played around with an idea of a dedicated blog on these issues.

Have a look at this one.


An iPod Nano with a hard drive. That’s truly exceptional. When I go to Apple’s spec page for the Nano the very first line of facts tells me that the Nano has flash based memory:

Hard drive or flash memory is a pretty significant detail about an MP3 player. Apparently not for Lefdal, the Norwegian retailer that keeps telling me that the Nano has a hard drive…

I actually read the marketing material from these shops. Best Buy, Circuit City, CompUSA etc… In Norway they’re called Elkjøp, Lefdal, Bonus etc…

It’s one of my strange hobbies and it’s part of my job to be fairly updated on what’s available for the average media consumer. The products and the prices.

But unfortunately I know too much about these products and end up thinking that these guys have to be inaccurate morons. The amount of errors and plain lies are simply sad.

Then, actually entering one of the shops asking questions to the staff is even worse.

Or am I the only one with this experience?

The important experiment

I am going to do a presentation for the Consumer Electronics Trade Foundation in Norway later this autumn. I am going to talk about big changes in the media industry. And about how blogging is changing the way they should communicate with their customers.

If this article on ends up with a high ranking in Google it will be a good example. I can stay on that stage and search for where to buy an iPod Nano, or “kjøpe en iPod Nano” in Google. And show them that an article that says that they’re all morons hits better than their own shops.

So, if you have a blog and a story about bad service or inaccurate marketing material from these kinds of shops then please write about it and link to this story as well. If possible let “kjøpe en iPod Nano” be the link itself…

Comment here as well, and I’ll update this post with a link back to you.

So far so good. I learn a lot from this experiment.
1. People in general agree on the fact that consumer electronics advertising is inaccurate and frustrating
2. Links really do boost google ranking: Kjøpe en iPod Nano
3. I look forward to my presentation for the Consumer Electronics Trade Foundation
4. I need to talk to Espen Andersen about Google optimization. His article that is linking to mine hits above mine! 🙂

Right now there’s quite a bit of traffic from ITpro. In addition to this loRdx, Mr. Sandvik, Tove, Sonitus and Anarkistix have been kind enough to link.

Links are ticking in. Espen Andersen is mentioning the iPod Nano Redux on his english blog Applied Abstractions. Because this post is mostly about lousy marketing you should have a look at his example regarding excellent customer support.

Espen links from his norwegian blog as well. If you are fortunate enough to manage the strange language of Norwegian you can have fun with this little story about Innovisjon AS.

Technorati tells me that links are ticking in from Henrik and Ole Bruseth as well. Both blogs in Norwegian. In my opinion Mr. Bruseths blog has the best name of a Norwegian blog ever. “Overstadig Bruseth”. And here I have to give a sincere apology to the 85% of my readers that don’t understand Norwegian.

Kjøpe en iPod Nano

Keeping an eye on your website


My hosting company have had some stability issues lately, so and all my other sites have been down a couple of times.

To get an exact idea of how big the problem is I started checking out a couple of services that can monitor your web site and alert you by mail if it is down.

I found several solutions. Here are the two that I am currently testing:

Montastic. Completely free. Lets you add up to 100 web sites to monitor. You get an email if one of them goes down. You can also subscribe to an RSS feed with status information.

SiteUptime. Free for keeping an eye on one site every 30 minutes. Gives you an email if it is down. Stores some data and details so you can keep an eye on the total uptime. Commercial version available with more functions.

Do you have any other suggestions? I have a couple of servers running 24/7 at home as well. Is there a simple application that I can install on my computer that will check on a web site at regular intervals?

Keeping an eye on your website

Quick image comparison – Nokia N80 vs N73

I just did a very quick image quality comparison between the Nokia N80 (left picture) and the Nokia N73 (right picture). Snapped one picture with each camera. Under quite poor conditions. Both are 3 megapixels.

For me it seems like the two biggest differences in addition to the form factor on these two phones are better image quality but no WLAN on the N73.

So what do you want – WLAN or high quality images? As usual, we want both. Good camera and WLAN…

You can download the original pictures here.

Quick image comparison – Nokia N80 vs N73

Sharpcast rocks!

For the last couple of weeks I have been playing around with Sharpcast. A combination of a software and a web service that let you organize and share your photos.

The screenshot at the top of this article is from the desktop application. This is the shared and web based version of this album.

Sharpcast is in public beta and the team has a lot of work in front of them, but based on my experience with this beta I can say that these guys have a potential winner on their hands.

What is Sharpcast?

  1. An organizing software like iPhoto, Picasa, Photoshop Album and all other photo management software out there
  2. A web service storing all your pictures and letting you organize and share through the net
  3. Clients for mobile devices letting you browse, share and add pictures from your mobile phone

  Sharpcast on my desktop

So what?

We have iPhoto, Picasa and Photoshop Album for image management on our computers. We have Flickr, Webshots and Zooomr for sharing pictures. We have galleries and photo management software included in our phones. What’s so special? Two words: sync and usability.

Currently the Sharpcast desktop client can’t compare with the features of iPhoto and Photoshop Album. The web service can’t compare with Flickr or Zooomr. But the combination of the Sharpcast desktop client and the web service is something new and extremely useful. They’re always in sync. Completely automatic.

It isn’t very often I find software with a potential to make my life with digital media significantly easier. Sharpcast has this potential. You won’t believe me before you have tried it. And, you need a tiny bit of imagination, because this is a beta and some important features is missing.

A quick use case

I download this image management application from the Sharpcast site on my computer at home. I register for a free account at Sharpcast. I add hundreds of images and organize them into albums, giving the images captions, turning images around etc…

The desktop application is fast and extremely easy to use. For hundreds and thousands of pictures a fast and reliable locally installed application is the only way to go. Sharpcast still lacks some important features, but this is a beta.

Then I log on to my account at Sharpcast. All my images with all the captions and album information is already in there.

So for the really cool part. The next day at work I install the Sharpcast application on my laptop. Log on to my account and it starts to sync immediately. A minute later I have all my images with all the captions and album information on my laptop as well.

I add a couple of pictures and a new album on my laptop at work. Back home the same evening all of those images immediately turn up in Sharpcast on my desktop computer.

Okay. Time for the grandmother test. I call my mother and after a while and a tiny bit of help she has the application installed and an account with Sharpcast. Seconds later she is happily browsing a nice slideshow of the pictures I have shared with her. Not a slow generic web based slideshow, but a blazing fast locally cached slideshow only shared with her.

Then, a couple of minutes later the first pictures that she shares with me pop up on my computer… My retired mother needed a couple of minutes to understand the application and start sharing pictures with me. Sorry Flickr and every single Flickr clone out there. You’re not fast and easy enough. Not for that kind of use.

  Sharpcast on my laptop

This is how I manage my images today

  1. I use Adobe Photoshop Album to manage my master image collection on my computers at home
  2. I use SyncBackSE with a bunch of scripts to make backups on a local drive and a remote server
  3. I use Photoshop Elements to edit my images
  4. I use Flickr, Zooomr, Gallery2 and ShutterPoint to share and some times sell my pictures
  5. I use Adobe Photoshop Album to manage a sub set of my pictures on my laptop at work

If Sharpcast turns into the service I want I can eliminate everything but Photoshop Elements from this list. I don’t think Sharpcast will or should compete with Photoshop as an image editing software.

With some small additions to the current version of Sharpcast I will start the transition before Sharpcast is even close to the combined features of, let’s say – the combination of Photoshop Album and Flickr.

Simply because I am already hooked.

I would compare this with the complete revolution of getting a proper personal video recorder like a Tivo. You’ve had the possibility to record and play back television for decades using a VHS recorder. Still, because of usability and convenience the Tivo completely revolutionize your recording habits.

Mobile in sync

Sharpcast also works on the go. At this point Sharpcast only support Windows mobile, but more phones will be supported later. I currently use a Nokia 6630 so I haven’t been able to test the mobile capabilities. However, they promise an application that will let you manage and sync images to your mobile as well. Snap a picture with your cameraphone and it’s on your laptop, desktop and the web as soon as the phone syncs.

The business case

Currently Sharpcast is funded by venture capital from Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Selby Venture Partners and Sigma Partners. The free beta gives you 2 GIG of image storage. They’ll release premium accounts and probably partner with other companies and mobile carriers to build their own income and business.

My main feature requests

I have been in contact with Sharpcast. They listen and have a responsive customer support. This is what I need before I will start using Sharpcast as my primary image management system:

  1. A commercial service giving me 100 GIG of start storage and about 5 GIG of monthly storage. Adding up to an unlimited amount of space. The storage could be provided by a third party.
    Amazon S3
    sounds promising. Big, reliable and secure.
  2. Search functions in the desktop client and in the web service. Search based on image name, caption, description and tags.
  3. Timeline view. Regardless of albums it should be possible to bring up a view with the newest pictures on top and all pictures available by scrolling down.
  4. Automatic image rotation based on exif info.
  5. Tagging. Easy tagging of photos and compatibility with the tags from Photoshop Album. When I export pictures from Photoshop Album and import them into Flickr the tags from Album remains. I want this kind of compatibility in Sharpcast.
  6. Tight integration with the most popular image editing softwares. “Open in Photoshop Elements”. Automatic version sets that keep the original and organize edited versions together with the original.
  7. A “mail this image through Gmail”-function.
  8. Export original image from the Sharpcast desktop client (right now the export function in the desktop client only exports a scaled down version of the original image).
  9. “Print this image” from the desktop client. Printing to a photo printer should be done like in Canon Easy Photo Print. The only application I know of that is user friendly enough when it comes to photo printing.
  10. A possibility for viewers to comment and rate pictures in the web albums.
  11. Support for RAW and PSD (photoshop files).
  12. An open API. Both for the web service and for the desktop client. Let people build plugins and filters for the desktop client and new services on top of the web service.

What’s next

Sharpcast has built an amazing sync engine and are planning to build systems that let you sync more than pictures between devices. Think all kinds of digital media, adress books, calenders etc…

Join them

And if you’re a clever programmer please join them. They’re hiring. …just so I’ll get that version of Sharpcast with all my 12 feature requests a bit faster!  🙂

Sharpcast rocks!