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Double-Duty Dongles

John Federico

Chances are that if you have a MacBook Air, you have dongles.

You know, things like USB sticks, ethernet adapters, video cables for external displays and, thanks to it's two lonely USB ports, probably a USB hub. Or two.

I got fed up with carrying my Bag O'Dongles and in the process of looking for yet-another-dongle, stumbled onto a whole category of products to help with this first world problem.

The saga continues.

This past weekend I was prepping for a big pitch and was going through my gear bag to make sure I had everything I needed, which typically includes no less than three video display adapters: HDMI, DVI and (believe it or not), VGA. You'd be surprised how many times I show up to give a presentation and the only available input is VGA.

Again, I was fed up with carrying all this crap, so I jumped on Amazon. Behold, my newest find: a combination Thunderbolt to HDMI, DVI and Display Port adapter. For less than $20 bucks, too. ($17.99 at the time of this post.)

Sure, I still have to carry a VGA adapter, but now I can leave my DVI and HDMI dongles at home and simply carry this one replacement.

I'm a happy geek.

Persistence

John Federico

"Don't bother about genius. Don't worry about being clever. Trust to hard work, perseverance and determination."

-- Sir Frederick Treves

 

Failure

John Federico

"Never forget that failure isn't bad. Failure isn't final. Don't let the fear of failure stop you from achieving the success you deserve. If you're struggling, keep hustling. Keep taking at least one big action step each day."

~Craig Ballantyne

Action

John Federico

"Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy."

~Dale Carnegie

The Brick Walls

John Federico

"The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They’re there to stop the other people."

~Randy Pausch

Planning for #Sandy (Or, "What to do when you can't find a generator")

John Federico

Almost exactly a year ago, we were without power (And heat. And fresh water.) for almost five days.

My wife and I vowed that we would never go through that again if we could help it, so we planned to buy a generator and transfer switch for this year's storm season so that we could power our home's basic necessities (heat, hot water, sump pump, fridges).

Long story short, we didn't. The money we budgeted for a generator went toward replacing our broken hot water heater, but we vowed to get a generator as soon as it made sense for our budget.

Then we started tracking Hurricane Sandy.

Thursday night, my wife said, "We should get a generator tomorrow." 

Powering our sump pump is critical for us, especially after installing a new hot water and heater and, six months earlier, replacing a broken washing machine - both of which are located in our relatively wet basement.

At 7 AM on Friday I began calling around, looking for generators. Most retailers laughed at my request while others were sympathetic to my search - but they still couldn't help me as there weren't generators in stock, anywhere.

So I started to do some research to find a creative solution. Here's what I came up with.

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WANT: iPad Mini. NEED: iPhone 5.

John Federico

I really want an iPad mini.

The only reason I upgraded from an iPad 2 to the iPad 3 (or whatever it's called now) is because I could get LTE tethering from Verizon, which has been a gift from the universe on the few occassions that I've needed it.

However, ever since I got the first iPad and gave my wife my first generation Kindle, I've missed the smaller form factor of the Kindle eReaders.

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Pure Wireless Digital Audio: WaveJamr from RadTech

John Federico

I love my Apple TV. Not just because of the video it allows me to watch, but the music it lets me play from our iPhones or Macs using Airplay.

I really want whole-house audio (a la Sonos, without the ridiculous cost) and Apple's Airplay can help me do that.

I have a bunch of high-quality stereo speakers from a variety of sources (PC speakers, home stereos, etc.) that I can place all over my house, but the only way that I can get whole-house audio is to purchase and install an Apple TV in every room while outputting audio to each via the TOS (optical) audio connector on the Apple TV.

But I really don't want to spend $99 per room to make this happen - plus an additional $30 for a TOSLink adapter for each set of these analog speakers.

I got to thinking: how small can Airplay device really get? Maybe someone makes one?

So, I started trawling the Interwebs and here's what I found: nothing. (At least as far as Airplay goes.)

What I did find was a product in the form factor that I wanted, but one that uses Bluetooth instead of Airplay.

It's called the WaveJamr from RadTech.

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Unboxing 14-year-old Technology

John Federico

As a follow-up to my post on bringing back the use of the Swatch .beat Universal Internet Time, here's a gallery of the unboxing of my original Swatch Beat watch after being in storage for all these years.

It's time to bring back the .Beat

John Federico

In 1998, my wife bought me a Swatch Beat watch. I think she heard me mention it after reading about it in Wired magazine and she got it for me as a gift.

WTF is a .Beat?

Swatch, along with the endorsement of Nicholas Negroponte, who was then the Director of the MIT Media Lab, proposed a Universal Internet Time known as the .Beat.

It works like this: A day is divided into 1000 ".beats". So, one Swatch ".beat" is equivalent to 1 Minute 26.4 Seconds.

You set your watch according to Biel Meantime (BMT). (In a classic marketing move, Biel, Switzerland is the corporate headquarters of Swatch.)

So, when you want to schedule a phone call with someone across the world, you don't have to figure out time zones - you simply indicate that the meeting should take place @xxx .beats.

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Great Budget Espresso Machine

John Federico

Those of you who follow me on twitter know that I have a very special relationship with espresso. It's my morning (and afternoon) drug of choice and one of my favorite hot beverages. (Yes, I'm a Starbucks shareholder. That should tell you something...)

I've owned a variety of espresso machines over the years and while none of them would be considered "commercial" quality, some of them were quite expensive for "consumer" grade machines.

When you use a consumer grade espresso machine every day, it eventually dies, even with proper maintenance. They're just not made for that kind of frequency.

So, when my Super Duper Espresso Maker 9000 died a couple of months ago, my wife saved me from the oncoming withdrawal symptoms by stopping at a local Bed Bath & Beyond and grabbed a Krups XP3200 Opio. With tax (and a coupon) she paid just over $100 for it. (A the time of this post, you can get one on Amazon for $99.99.)

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