FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE

Tuesday

This is just creepy

There’s a very old saying that goes “Crazy people should never be allowed to lead seminars.” Ok, so it’s not an old saying. In fact, I just made it up. But, the statement remains true.

Case in point, the following audio clip is from a training seminar that I took part in last week.

Click here to listen.

As if her voice isn’t creepy enough, she actually tells people to hug and sooth themselves. Psycho.

(In case you’re wondering, I chose to not take part in this little “exercise.”)

Perhaps, though, you don’t find that crazy at all. Hugging and soothing yourself may seem completely rational. OK. How about this? The next audio clip is from a July teleseminar that was hosted by the same company. This clip is a longer, but it’s also much, much creepier.

Click here to listen.

This supposed “expert” in marketing recommended that a career coach should imply in her advertisements that she is psychic. Unbelievable.

Monday

AJ Parker Media

This blog post is a plug for one of the most talented videographers that I have had the pleasure of knowing. AJ Parker has been involved in videography and editing for several years now. In addition to freelance projects with groups like Kiwanis and Crown Ministries, AJ also serves as the director of videography for Lakewood Baptist Church.

Recently, AJ worked with Lakewood Baptist’s Real Life Worship Band on their first music video. The Real Life Band leads worship music for Lakewood’s Real Life service. If you have ever attended one of these services, you know that this is extremely talented group of musicians. Coupled with AJ’s amazing abilities with video, you really can’t go wrong when these groups team up for a project.

The result was their first music video called “Unto the One.”



(Click here to view the video on YouTube)

Feel free to leave your comments on YouTube. And, if you like to see some of AJ Parker’s other video projects, you can view them on his website, http://www.ajparkermedia.com/.

You can also share this video on your Facebook or MySpace profile by visiting http://www.lakewood-baptist.com/.

Credits
Director: AJ Parker
Lead Vocals: Eric Elliott
Backup Vocals: Erika Parker
Acoustic Guitar: Anthony Evans
Electric Guitar: Andrew Darragh
Electric Guitar: Greg Moore
Bass Guitar: Jeremy Clark
Drums: Joe Haulbrook
Keyboard: Mark Dowdy

Tuesday

Gadget Review - M810 Cell Phone Wristwatch

The time has come.

I recently purchased my geekiest gadget to date, and the time has come for me to write my review. To many of you, it will come as no surprise that I bought this item. Not only am I a gadget nerd, but I’m also a watch enthusiast. Anytime the two of those things are merged together in an unholy alliance, I am all over it.

Months ago, I put the M500 cell phone wrist watch on my wish list. At the time, it was the most advanced, feature-packed, best looking cell phone watch on the market. While it still may hold the title as the most aesthetically pleasing, the M500 has been far surpassed technologically by many of the newer cell phone watches. As I did a little research into the market, I settled on the one that I wanted.

The M810.


Manufactured by CECT in China, the M810 is also known on the Internet as the M801, M800i, and the M815. You would think that they would settle on a single model number. But, that is apparently way too much to ask. Of course, for the product I am getting at the price that I am paying, you won’t hear me complain about the inconsistency in the model number.

The M810 is a fully-functioning cellular phone, PDA, MP3, and video player. And, just as icing on the cake, the M810 also comes equipped with a 1.3 megapixel camera which can take still images as well as video. Just to give you an idea of how packed this unit is, take a look at the specs:

Frequency: Tri-band 900 / 1800 / 1900 MHz
Display: 1.33" TFT-LCD, 260'000 colors, 128 x 160 pixel resolution, touchscreen
Languages: English, Deutsch, Czech, Dutch, Thailand, Russian, Vietnamese, Rabbinic/Hebrew, Arabic, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Turkish, Chinese, etc.
Ringtone: 64 Polyphonic, MP3, MIDI, WAV, Incoming ringtone, Incoming photo, Incoming movie
Music: MP3 and back-end playback support, Support output to bluetooth headset
Video: 3GP, MP4 support, 128 x 160 fullscreen play
Camera: 1.3M pixels, supports max 1280x960 photo output
File formats: JPG, GIF, MP3, MIDI, WAV, AMR, 3GP, MP4
Memory: Free 512M TF card, supports maximum 2G memory (MicroSD)
Data transfer: USB data cable / USB disk / Bluetooth 2.0
Internet: GPRS, WAP
Phonebook: Containing up to 250 card-style records, photo of caller/ support ring tone setup for different groups/play movie for incoming call
Messaging: 300 short messages storage, supports MMS messages, message group sending
Power switch: Custom power-on/off picture, can set downloaded MP4 as power-on/off movie
Alarm: Support MP3 alarm ring, can set downloaded mp3 songs as ring of alarm
Talk time: 180-240 minutes
Standby time: 160 - 200 hours
Miscellaneous: Handsfree, recording, handwriting + keypad input, memory extension, e-book, incoming call firewall, calculator, health management

As you can see, this watch leaves almost nothing out. Just about anything that modern smartphones can handle, the M810 can handle. Plus, it fits on your wrist! How cool is that? (I know what you’re thinking. Not very. Bite me.)

As with my other reviews, the best way to handle this is to go through the main features and point out the positives and the negatives. So, here we go:

The Phone

This seems like the perfect place to start. After all, most people would be attracted to this little gadget because it is, primarily, a cellular phone. Well let’s take a look at the phone feature.

Reception and Call Quality
Call quality can really depend on the area that you are in. If you are in a strong cellular site, then you should have no problems using this phone. Of course, it doesn’t offer the same signal strength as a normal handset. For instance, there are certain areas in North Georgia where I can only get about 1 bar of signal strength on my Motorola RAZR. In those same areas, using the M810, I have no bars. There is a bit of a difference when it comes to low coverage areas such as those. But, in strong coverage areas, the M810 works very well. Call quality can also depend on the way you make and receive calls.

Bluetooth
The M810 is Bluetooth capable. This means that you can use your standard Bluetooth headset to make and receive calls. Some people don’t want to talk into their watch like Michael Knight. I understand that. For those people, the Bluetooth option is perfect. The M810 actually includes a pair of Bluetooth A2DP earphones for listening to music and receiving calls. Using these earphones, call quality is crystal clear. The drawback is, you would need to carry around these earphones everywhere. That’s not really something I want to do. A better option is to use a normal Bluetooth headset. But, please…don’t wear your Bluetooth headset everywhere you go. Don’t wear it in a restaurant, a movie theatre, or a gas station when you know you aren’t expecting a call. Don’t be that guy. You look like a tool.

Speakerphone
While call quality is far superior using a Bluetooth headset, I actually prefer to use the speakerphone function. What can I say? I was a huge fan of Knight Rider. Besides, it’s much quicker and more convenient for me to simply press a button on the watch and answer my phone instead of searching my pockets for my Bluetooth headset. It just makes sense. And, the sound quality from the speaker is decent. It can be difficult to understand people in a very noisy environment, but I’m not in the habit of answering calls in those situations anyway.

One drawback of the speakerphone is that I do have to hold the watch fairly close to my mouth in order for the other person to hear me. If I hold the watch any further than 6 or 7 inches from my mouth, the microphone does not pick up my voice very well. It would be nice to be able to hold it several feet away from my mouth, and still be heard.

Another drawback with any speakerphone is that everyone around can hear both sides of your conversation. In general, this isn’t a problem for me because, as I have already explained, I am not in the habit of answering calls in noisy or crowded areas. Many people don’t seem to realize that there are certain situations when answering a call is just crappy behavior (i.e. a restaurant, movie theatre, or when you are in the middle of a conversation with someone else!). So, having people around me hearing my phone conversation is not usually a problem.

The final drawback in the speakerphone feature isn’t really a problem with the speakerphone itself. It is really a problem with the watch software. In order to answer a call on speakerphone, you must first push the “answer” button on the side of the watch, then you have to tap the “H-Free” button the screen. That’s two steps, when only one should be needed! This is a problem if the person calling begins speaking as soon as you press the “answer” button. You miss their first few words. Also, this can be really irritating when making a call. When you dial a number, it begins to ring. But, it does so in “handheld” mode, which I will discuss in a moment. In this mode, the speakerphone isn’t activated so you can’t actually hear the other person answer the phone. When they do pick up, the watch screen will change. This new screen gives you the option to turn on the speakerphone. In other words, when making a call, you have to continually watch the screen to see the other person answer. As soon as they do, you have to quickly turn on the speakerphone. Otherwise, you won’t be able to hear them.

This gets really annoying. Why not simply have an option for setting speakerphone as the default option? That would simplify the whole process.

The “Other” Option
There is another option for answering calls on this watch. That is the “handheld” method. Basically, you can hold this watch up to your ear as you would a normal phone. The sound is projected through a small speaker in the top of the phone at a reduced volume. This resolves the issue of having people around you hear the other end of your phone conversation. But, it also makes you look like an idiot. In order to use this function, you would basically have to take the watch off and hold it to your ear. I’m not doing that. So, this option doesn’t work for me.

Text Messaging
I’m not big into texting, but I thought I might as well include this in the review. The watch is SMS and MMS capable. I have already sent and received messages, and everything works as it should. Although, I should mention, when you are typing anything on this watch, you better have steady hands and decent eyesight. Otherwise, this isn’t going to work for you. The keypad is kind of small. It’s a 1.33” screen! What did you expect? But, the upside is that it has a full QWERTY keyboard. You don’t have to cycle through letters like you do with most cell phones. If you have steady hands, you may be able to type messages faster with this than you would with a telephone keypad. I know that I do.

Ringtones
As you saw in the specifications, the M810 supports MP3, MIDI, WAV, and polyphonic ringtones. Although, the polyphonic tones that come with this watch are absolutely heinous. You’ll probably want to load your own MP3s as soon as possible.

As with most phones, this watch also comes equipped with vibration mode. That may surprise you considering the size of this watch. What will surprise you even more is the fact that the vibration on this phone isn’t just strong…it’s too strong. I used the “Ring and Vibrate” mode for a few days, but I just didn’t like it. The vibration was almost as loud as the ringtone. Of course, this also means that the “Vibrate Only” mode is a bad idea for quiet situations. Most of us set our phones on vibrate when we go into class or a movie (If you don’t, you should be punched in the face). But, with the M810, the vibration mode is still quite loud. So, I don’t use it.

Unfortunately, the M810 doesn’t come equipped with a silent ringtone. In order to make it completely silent, you basically have to turn it off. I didn’t want to do that. So, I found a simple solution. I loaded a blank MP3 (which I labeled “Silent”) onto my watch. And, I set that as the default ringtone for my “Meeting” sound profile. Now, when I go to a meeting or a movie, I activate the “Meeting” profile which switches my phone to silent.

The Keypad
Obviously, you can load your contacts on to your SIM card which will keep you from having to dial their number every time. But, you can’t load every number in there, so you will occasionally have to dial a number using the numbers on the keypad. The M810 has an impressively large digital keypad on the screen. It is accessible from various menus. Near the bottom of the screen, there is a phone icon. Pressing this icon brings up the keypad which fills the entire screen. The numbers are actually large enough that I don’t have to use the included stylus. I can dial with my fingers. This is especially helpful when you consider how difficult it is to actually use the stylus. But, more on that later. The keypad is accessible during calls. So, if you dial into an automated system which requires you to “press 1 for English,” you will have no problems.

The MP3 Player

I have to begin by saying that I have been very impressed with the MP3 player on the M810. Since, the M810 is capable of supporting up to 2GB of expandable memory, you will have plenty of space for your favorite music. And, when paired with the Bluetooth A2DP earphones, the sound quality is excellent.

I even like the software skin that was chosen for the MP3 player. There are 3 options to choose from, but I prefer Skin1 because of the extra large buttons. Everything is easily accessible with your fingers.

The volume output is also excellent. As it is with the speakerphone, for the best results, you’ll want to use the included Bluetooth earphones to listen to music. But, if you don’t have them handy, you can also play music through the built-in speaker.

And, yes…that is SPEAKER…not SPEAKERS. At first glance, the M810 appears to have 4 speakers surrounding the screen. It looks impressive, but it is just for show. 3 of these are “dummy” speakers. They don’t actually work. Only one of them (the top right speaker) puts out sound. Still, with one speaker, the volume and quality are quite impressive.

The Video Player

I was close to having an aneurysm over this video player. The specifications say that the M810 is capable of playing 3GP and MP4 video. So, I tired converting a couple of movie clips to these formats and loading them onto the watch. Yet, I kept getting a message that read “Invalid Video File.” I discovered that you can’t simply convert video to any 3GP or MP4 format. You have to be mindful of the codec you are using. Through my research, I found out that videos must be converted to the 3GP format using the MPEG4 codec. Confused? Let me make you even more confused.

Not only do you have to be mindful of the codec, you have to be mindful of every other setting on the video conversion. I had to go through several different settings until I found the one that would actually play on the watch. Then, I adjusted the settings to find the optimal video and audio settings that will play on the M810. Here is what I found.

Using the program Freez 3GP Converter, change the settings to the following:

File Format: 3GP
Video Codec: MPEG4
Resolution: 160 x 120
Video Quality: 1
Framerate: 14.985
Zoom Mode: Letterbox
Audio Codec: AAC-LC
Audio Bitrate: 48 KBPS
Audio Frequency: 48000 Hz
Channels: Stereo

The Camera

The camera on the M810 is…well…OK. I don’t plan on using this much, if ever. I have tested it, and it seems to work just fine. It is only a 1.3 megapixel camera, so you can’t expect the highest quality of images. But, if you absolutely needed to take a picture and you didn’t have another camera on you, this would do the trick.

The Organizer

The organizer is packed. If you have used a PDA, you know the drill. You can schedule your tasks along with their dates, star times, and end times. You can also setup alarms to remind you of tasks. The organizer also includes a calculator.

But, the organizer on the M810 has a few features that you may have not seen on other PDAs. There is a Unit Converter (Weight and Length), Currency Converter, World Clock, and BMI calculator. It also has a Menstrual Cycle calculator…but I don’t plan on using that any time soon.

The Flash Drive

When you connect the watch to your computer, it has the ability to act as a USB flash drive. Depending on the size of the MicroSD card that you use in your M810, you can have as much as 2GB of free space to store your files. The only downfall that I can see with this function is the exact same downfall that I had with my MP3 Watch. In order to connect it to a computer, you must use the USB cable that is included. The cable is 3 feet long. Do you want to carry a cable like that around with you? I don’t. So, I’m trying to find a more compact solution. The problem is that the port on the M810 is not a normal mini-USB port. It almost looks custom. If I could identify it, it would probably be easier to find a small adapter. Until then, I guess I’ll have to use the cable.

**UPDATE**
I have said "goodbye" to that long USB cable, and I replaced it with my own custom-made USB adapter. It is only 2 inches long! It is much more convenient to carry in my pocket.

If you are interested in creating your own USB adapter for the M810, I can tell you how. Email me at dsimms@usa.com.

The Screen

The screen on the M810 is very clear and easy to view. Watching movies on this could strain your eyes. But, the screen size and resolution are great for other functions. In fact, unlike most cellular phones, the main screen is capable of displaying animated GIFs. You can actually set an animation as your wallpaper. I like to customize things like this. And, having the ability to set something besides a static image as my wallpaper was a welcomed surprise.

The Size

I can imagine that most people would be concerned about the size of this watch. That’s certainly understandable. No one wants to wear a brick on their wrist. And, for all of these features, you really wouldn’t expect the M810 to be very small.

Though the M810 is a little bulky, it’s surprisingly compact. It is approximately 2.75” long, 1.8” wide, and .75” thick. However, since the watch has a lot of curvature to it, it looks smaller. Ideally, I would prefer for the watch to be thinner. But, you wouldn’t want the watch face too much smaller. Otherwise, it would make it quite difficult to use many of the functions.

The Battery

Most of the M810’s thickness is due to the battery. Still, it is quite small for the amount of power that it puts out. I have been very impressed with the battery life. It lasts almost as long as the battery on my RAZR. Plus, it comes with an extra battery. If you forget to recharge it, just slip in the spare battery and go!

The Stylus

I hate the stylus. There…I said it. I don’t know what the designers were thinking when they developed this stylus. But, I swear that a blind fish with A.D.D. could have come up with something better. To start with, it is incredibly small. I suppose it has to be to fit inside the watch band (where it is hidden). But, there had to be a way to make a larger stylus that is easier to write with.

Also, as I said, it is hidden inside the band. That seems like a great idea. The problem is, they put it in the worst place possible. When you are wearing the watch, it is extremely difficult to dig the stylus out of its hiding place. It is hidden on the bottom (close to your wrist), near the camera. It would have made much more sense to put the stylus near the opposite side of the watch, near the top. I know that there is some available space there.

The Conclusion

I have to say that I love the M810. It has a few shortcomings, but all of those are overshadowed by the great things about this watch. Plus, I look super cool wearing it. Trust me…I do.

Overall, I would recommend the M810 for people who don’t spend the majority of their time on the phone. If your job, or daily routine requires you to spend hours every day on a mobile phone, this probably isn’t for you.

But, if you love gadgets, and you’ve always wanted a watch like Dick Tracy’s, try this one out. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

The M810 can be found on eBay listed as the M810, M801, M800i, or the M815.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Thursday

Bigfoot

Why, oh why do people like this have to be from Georgia? Isn't the southern stereotype bad enough?

Hulu

In recent years, more television broadcasters have realized how important it is to market themselves on the internet. Television is by no means obsolete, and probably won’t be for many decades. However, as people spend more of their time on the Internet, it becomes an added convenience for them to watch their favorite shows while cruising the information superhighway.

Broadcasters realize this, and many are using their websites to host full episodes of their most popular shows. NBC hosts on their website shows like My Name Is Earl, The Office, and Heroes. ABC hosts shows like Grey’s Anatomy, Ugly Betty, and Lost. CBS hosts…wait…does anybody actually watch CBS anymore?

One way or another, you can probably find full episodes of your favorite show on the Internet. It just takes a little bit of searching. But, for those of you who want to find episodes of older shows, the searching is a little bit tougher.

Hopefully, I can help with this. There is a great website that can act as a one-stop website for many of your favorite shows currently on the air, as well as popular shows from the 80s and 90s. It’s called Hulu.com.

Hulu primarily hosts shows from NBC and FOX. But, it is by no means limited to these networks. Hulu also offers full episodes of shows from networks like USA, Comedy Central, Bravo, Sci-Fi, G4, and more. The best part is that Hulu videos have very few commercial interruptions, and all of them are 30 seconds or less!

Make some time to check it out. And, let me know what you think of Burn Notice.


P.S. There are extra cool points for anyone who remembers a little show called Airwolf. It's available on Hulu as well.