Wireless IFB On The Cheap

The producer, director and a few others have the ability to break the flow and speak to you. It can be very helpful. It can be very confusing. I’ve heard both.


Equipping my new studio sometimes gets frustrating. I want to make the right decision. Facts aren’t always available.

The best example is a wireless IFB system. IFB stands for “Interrupt Feedback” or “Interrupt Foldback.” It’s that earpiece TV people wear.

Your earpiece plays what’s on TV. The producer, director and a few others have the ability to break the flow and speak to you. It can be very helpful. It can be very confusing. I’ve heard both.

IFB systems are expensive. I didn’t like that idea. They’re also bulky. Clipped to your pants waistband an IFB receiver adds extra girth when wearing a suit.

I think I’ve found a solution. It’s a Bluetooth transmitter and receiver. Though both are made by the same manufacturer and look the same, they’re not normally marketed as a pair. They are reasonably cheap.

I might be able to create a wireless IFB for under $60. That’s hundreds, possibly thousands, of dollars saved!

Even better the unit is tiny. The receiver at the top of this entry is 2.5″ long, 1″ wide and around .25″ thick. Other than coins there’s nothing in your pocket smaller.

It won’t work in a studio with more than one person. Bluetooth adds a slight but noticeable delay. A ‘live’ person would echo.

In my situation an extra 1/30 or 1/15 second wait to hear the ‘distant’ anchor is inconsequential.

This solution seems too good to be true. It very well might be, but a quick test tonight worked. Call me hopeful.

Too Much Technology Run Amok


I bought a new car a few months ago. Traded my SLK230 for an SLK250. Higher number. Smaller engine. Well played Mercedes.

It’s been 15 years since my last new car. Lots has changed.

I like having Bluetooth. I like satellite radio. This car feels more substantial… and it’s a lot less noisy.

And then there’s the GPS. It uses traffic reports from the satellite radio for route planning. It even checks for faster routes while in motion.

I got the car and gave it free reign, clicking the button that made the GPS boss. All of a sudden my routes looked like I was trying to avoid being tailed! Exits. Side streets. Crazy detours. I’m learning the area. Sometimes there’s no choice but to follow.

Reconfiguration time.

This time I clicked the ‘ask me first’ button. Now the weirdness made sense. The GPS has a hair trigger. If it could shave seconds, it would try.

Problem is the information it receives is full of little errors that momentarily make slow roads look fast. So, I get messages like this:

Traffic Jam On Your Route
Recommended Detour:
approx. 1 min Faster
Approx. 200 ft Longer

I’m sure this feature is great, but someone’s got to turn the sensitivity down. Right now it’s too much technology run amok!

An IPhone Revisit

“Call Harold Fox home,” I’ll say. “Subway State Street work,” the phone will reply.

It’s been about a year since I got my iPhone. That’s long enough to form an opinion, right?

I love/hate the phone! No middle ground. Some things are spectacular while others leave me scratching my head.

Recently a friend told me he was shying away from a touchscreen phone because he was scared he wouldn’t be able to hit the keys correctly. That fear, which I shared before getting the iPhone, is overblown. You get used to touching correctly to achieve your goal in a hurry. Even when you miss the auto-correction is mostly good–not always!

There’s so much the phone does… so many reasons to use it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been at dinner with co-workers or even talking to a friend and pulled out the phone to find the answer to a question. That’s powerful!

I don’t own a GPS unit for my car, but the iPhone is a more than passable stand-in using free software from MapQuest.

It’s beautifully built. The iPhone is Swiss watchlike in its fit and finish.

What irks me is what the phone won’t do. I can’t sync to my laptop without getting a cable and plugging the phone in. Is the phone capable of syncing wirelessly? Yes, because apps exist to do just that with a jailbroken&#185 phone. Apple just won’t allow it!

The same goes for streaming audio. If I listen to NPR’s streaming programs Apple says they must go through the iPhone’s tiny speaker which is hardly audible in my car. I know I can stream to my Bluetooth earpiece because I have a program which does that, but only on phones which are jailbroken.

Some of Apple’s moves are unexplainable. Others are to protect its revenue stream. That seems stingy considering I’ve already bought the phone.

I like to use the handsfree dialing capability. With my earpiece in one it’s just one press of a button away. It is by far the least dependable part of the phone!

“Call Harold Fox home,” I’ll say.

“Subway State Street work,” the phone will reply.

Then I have to scramble to cancel the call before it goes through.

Once when calling my parents it couldn’t figure out which phone.

“Harold Fox, home or mobile?” it asked.

“Home,” I replied.

“Mobile,” the phone confirmed and off it went to ring up my parent’s cellphone.

I guess the true test of any product is if you’d buy another?

Yes, I would.

&#185 – Jailbreaking refers to unlocking the phone so software which hasn’t been approved by Apple can be installed.

When Ya’ Getting An Ipad, They Ask?

If anything keeps the iPad from being a success it will be because Apple forgot we are their customers, not apple itself.

ipad-touch.jpgFriends and colleagues know I’m a technogeek, so it didn’t take long after Steve Jobs’ iPad announcement for the queries to begin. To summarize the two top questions are:

  • “Are you getting one?”
  • “Why would anyone want one?”

I probably wont be getting an iPad. It has less to do with what it can do or what it costs than the restrictions placed on it.

Imagine a world where your Chevy could only use gas approved by Chevy (and where Chevy siphoned off a cut of the profits)! In essence that’s what the iPad is all about. You may be buying the iPad, but you don’t fully own it because you are limited by license (and I suppose law) from using it freely as you wish.

Apple has already used this business model in the iPhone. I have one. I am often frustrated by improvements which should, but don’t, exist.

steve jobs with ipad.jpgBelieve me, there are lots of things the iPhone can and should do, things which developers would certainly write software but that Apple restricts. Google’s “Google Voice” app is a perfect example. It exists. People would like it. Apple hasn’t approved it and isn’t all that forthcoming in explaining why not.

IPhones&#185 can be ‘jailbroken’ to allow some of these improvements, but it’s tough to embrace a technology where you have to violate a license or law (or both) to use the equipment. Beyond that Apple has shown a propensity to patching jailbroken phones, sometimes ‘bricking’ them–leaving them with the capability of a brick!

Beyond that the iPad seems crippled by design failures. There’s no camera–and this would be the perfect product for video calling. There’s no ability to multitask–run two apps at once. Though it has a 3G modem there’s no cellphone functionality, even through a Bluetooth device.

To me the iPad seems more proof-of-concept than mature platform.

That brings me to the second question. Why would anyone want one?

A relatively small and light computer seems the logical step beyond a laptop, especially if it’s a laptop, telephone, TV, movie and music, book newspaper and magazine playing device. The screen is small for sharing, but for arm’s length viewing it can and will provide a big screen experience.

A device with the form factor of an iPad can be a unifying device that brings all media to a single place, especially with the ability to connect through both cellular and WiFi data networks. It’s exciting in the abstract.

A few years ago Qwest ran an ad (attached at the bottom of this entry) which left most people scratching their heads. Devices like (but not) the iPad are what is needed to make the commercial finally make sense.

Alas, Apple isn’t as interested in providing this total experience as they are in maintaining a toll road. Make no mistake about it, they want every penny you spend to pass through their outstretched sticky fingers.

If anything keeps the iPad from being a success it will be because Apple forgot we are their customers, not Apple itself.

&#185 – when a proper noun begins with a lower case letter, like iPhone, does it get capitalized if it’s the first word of a sentence? By naming something with a lower case letter you’ve already violated the rules of English so the next step gets iffy at best.

Snow – The Vacation Ends Abruptly

Our landing lights were on really early. That highlighted the snow streaming by horizontally

I’m writing this from the kitchen table. We’re home after a reasonably uneventful jaunt across the country. Of course our biggest worry was weather–which as you see wasn’t too bad.

semi snowy backyard.jpg

Actually we had two worries.

  1. We were scared we’d be stranded out west
  2. We were also a little spooked about driving home in whatever would be falling

Helaine packed an abbreviated change of clothes in our carry-on. Obviously that wasn’t needed. Both flights left on-time.

Here’s a little sample of what we saw leaving Ontario, CA on our first flight. If you’ve never been out west it’s worth watching. These mountains aren’t as tall as the Rockies but the contrast between mountain and desert valley is stark.

There’s a lot of unexplainable ‘stuff’ as you fly out west. There are structures in the middle of nowhere, unpaved roads the width of an interstate and individual single circles of green. Near Las Vegas we also saw plenty of housing developments stopped in various stages of incomplete.

Our second flight was a lot longer (2,294 miles between Las Vegas and Windsor Locks) than the quick hop from Ontario with a smattering of desert and mountain early on. Mostly we flew with the shade down. Helaine tried to sleep. I took advantage of the video and audio capabilities of my iPhone. There’s an iPod inside!

In anticipation of this trip I bought a set of Bluetooth headphones (Motorola S805) from NewEgg. For around $30 I was wirelessly connected. Very convenient and I like the ‘full cup’ style. I see they’re now ‘on sale’ for $50.

On the way out west I watched The Hangover. I had nothing to watch on the way back, but fixed that at McCarran Airport downloading about an hour’s worth of video podcasts over the free WiFi.

“We’ve slowed down,” Helaine said three and a half hours into the flight. I hadn’t noticed, but 30 seconds later we started descending–slowly.

If you’ve never flown through snow you should know it’s bumpy! It wasn’t hurricane bumpy (I have experience flying through hurricanes) but still a little unnerving, especially when the pilot talked about the very low ceiling at Bradley.

The landing lights were on really early. That highlighted the snow which streamed by horizontally.

Our landing itself was uneventful! In fact it was exceptionally smooth. I’m sure the pilots were thinking about limited runway traction and extra stopping distance as they greased it in.

It was snowing lightly as we taxied to the gate. Mainly light to moderate snow continued as we drove south. The roads were wet, but snow free, until our last mile home.

Tomorrow it’s back to work. I’m not sure I’m ready.

A Thanksgiving Travel Tip

This will be a flight totally staffed by people without enough seniority to get Thanksgiving off. Please don’t take your anger out on me!

empty bdl terminal.jpgAs we kick off Googlepalooza ’09 I have a Thanksgiving travel tip. Travel on Thanksgiving! The main terminal at Bradley International is empty. The flight should begin boarding in less than a half hour. There will be plenty of open seats.

Today the TSA agents were so bored they were frisking each other! OK, I made that up. They still had little to do.

I’m on the floor right now, plugged in at deserted and unmarked Gate 5. We leave from Southwest’s Gate 6, across the hall.

The pilot and copilot just wheeled their bags down the jetway to the plane. The pilot’s in his late 40s, graying, built like a linebacker. The co-pilot is youngvand doesn’t have nearly enough seniority to be off on Thanksgiving.

I mentioned this before on Facebook, but it bears repeating. This will be a flight totally staffed by people without enough seniority to get Thanksgiving off. Please don’t take your anger out on me!

It’s a different vibe at the airport today. There are no business travelers. There’s no one around with that smug frequent flier attitude feigning indifference There are fewer chin held BlackBerrys.

Before we got here we dropped the pup off in Higganum with the couple who bred her. Roxie will be well taken care of and have a lot of new friends by the time her vacation is over.

Stef and Helaine were both worried about their own high emotions, which is why we all went, but everything was OK.

They asked if they could call and check on the dog… every day.

baggage at the curb at BDL.jpgWe are substantial travelers. Our suitcases are packed full. They were weighed at home to assure compliance with the 50 pound limit. They still got the striped “HEAVY” tag. The planeside crew will know the “Schleping Foxes” are taking to the skies.

Especially in the cold months flight times vary with the weather. At the moment this flight is forecast to arrive nearly an hour early. We’ll be up at 40,000 feet. Head winds must be very light.

It’s only 49&#176 in Las Vegas now. That will change quickly. The desert sees wild temperature swings. It will be sunny and in the upper 60&#176s upon our arrival.

I’ve got a movie to watch and plenty of tunes on the iPod portion of the iPhone. I’m also carrying a set of Bluetooth headphones. Mostly I’d like to sleep.

Given half the chance I’d fall asleep right now. With only three hours of rest last night I’m really tired.

Tiny Bluetooth Dongles Set Me Free

Without the USB connector this device wouldn’t be much bigger than a multivitamin.

I bought a set of Bluetooth headphones to use with my laptop and iPhone when traveling. No cord seems the way to go. I’ll write more about the headphones themselves when I get them charged and running.

Meanwhile, the headphones were $29.99 alone or $29.98 with a USB Bluetooth adapter. Duh! Today the vendor has seen the error of their ways and added free shipping to the ‘more expensive’ package.

usb bluetooth dongle.jpgIt’s the USB Bluetooth adapter I want to briefly talk about. That’s what’s in the photo on the left.

As small as it looks, and it is tiny, the metallic part is just the connector. It’s mainly hollow. The electronic guts are all inside the black piece!

That minuscule sliver of plastic contains a radio transceiver, antenna, diplexer, and the computing power to run the show! It separates and sends multiple datastreams, audio, signaling and control.

Are you kidding me? That’s crazy.

So often our perception of the miniaturization of electronics is based on the packages we see, but they are often artificially large because we control them with our fingers. Too small and they’re useless!

Without the USB connector this device wouldn’t be much bigger than a multivitamin.

This little dongle isn’t doing much more than replacing a wire and plug and freeing the headphone wearer to move around a little. The big deal is it’s cheap enough to make replacing that wire no big deal.

Expect to see more (or actually see less, but experience more) of this miniaturization making electronic control practical in smaller and cheaper devices–places where we historically don’t expect them.

We live in truly amazing times.

The iPhone After A Week

If I had a dollar for every time I thought I hit the “m” key but backspaced instead I’d be a wealthy guy.

Thumbnail image for apple-iphone-3g.jpgI’ve had my iPhone over a week now. I suppose an update is in order.

There have been two very distinct responses I’ve gotten from people who’ve found out about the phone.

  • Welcome to the dark side
  • What about the keyboard?

Dark siders: This doesn’t mean I’ll eschew the PC world for Apple. Sorry.

Keyboarders: It’s a bitch! There’s no doubt this keyboard is very difficult to use. I make many more mistakes than I did with the BlackBerry keyboard, itself on the small side but at least with tactile response (you know, the keys pushed down).

If I had a dollar for every time I thought I hit the “m” key but backspaced instead I’d be a wealthy guy.

The one saving grace is Apple’s incredibly useful self correction feature. A few commenters told me to just type away and let the iPhone fix things on its own.

I do. It does.

It’s still not enough.

Using the keyboard in landscape mode is better than portrait mode–but it’s not always available. This is the most anti-intuitive part of the phone. I don’t quite understand why this happens, but it does. Frustrating.

The world famous iPhone apps are pretty amazing. I think I’ve spent around $5 so far for dozens of cool and fun tools. Some are worthwhile. Others will be removed the next time I sync the phone with iTunes.

I bought a UPC scanner app (please, don’t ask why) which automatically tells you what its read and then prices it out on the Internet! I also have a few games and audio services. Yes, I can now provide my own rim shots for one liners!

One program which lets you hold your arm outstretched and shows you which stars you’re seeing is amazing. It shows the incredible value of the compass, which Apple seems to market more as a gadget. No–the compass is much more of an enabling device than I would have ever thought.

Last night after the Phillies won I used the iPhone to play KYW radio. I’ve also used it in the car to listen to some NPR shows.

The phone call volume is TOO LOW!!! It’s too low from the phone and from my bluetooth earpiece. There is a solution published online for more volume but it includes poking tiny holes in the speaker enclosures. Sorry–I need it in software.

Surprisingly it’s too difficult to make calls directly from the home screen. Yes, there’s voice control, but it doesn’t always work correctly. My Motorola RAZR and the BlackBerry are superior in this regard.

As if by magic, one week after I bought the iPhone Verizon began to advertise what many are calling the iPhone killer. What were they waiting for? Couldn’t they have run it as I was driving home from the store?

Bottom line–I’m mainly pleased with the phone though more because of its computer attributes than its phone attributes. I’ve gone on EBay and ordered a bunch of little accessories.

The iPhone stays.

Midway Is Part Way To Vegas

It’s so nice not to have to find a powered wall to sit near (usually on-the-floor).

midway-power-plug.jpgWe are on-the-ground at Chicago’s Midway Airport. As we taxied to our gate it was easy to see how shoehorned in this airport is. There were row homes just feet beyond the airport’s fence. The runways here are about half as long as nearby O’Hare.

Our gate has more of those big chairs from Bradley. These, however, do have power plugs. It’s so nice not to have to find a powered wall to sit near (usually on-the-floor).

No free Wi-Fi at this airport. I’m using my cellphone as a modem. It’s perfect for short stretches like this. No Bluetooth in this laptop either (who knew) so I’m wired up through a USB port.

I just checked on Stef’s flight. She’s crossing the border into Ohio, doing 407 knots at 36,000 feet. My folks are 32,000 feet above Tallahassee cruising at 380 knots. They should get to Vegas on-time or close.

The incoming leg of our next flight is behind schedule from Norfolk. We’ll be a little late to McCarren.

Too Much Tracking

This anal retentive ability to track a package should be satisfying, yet I’m always wondering why it’s stopped?

“Are you calling from the cockpit?” Those were the exact words from a friend as I called from the car a few days ago. My little car is noisy and my Bluetooth headset doesn’t help–actually it makes things worse.

I broke down last week and bought a model known for its noise canceling acumen. It’s a somewhat obscure brand and not available locally. I ordered online.

Like every other purchase nowadays I received a tracking number. I have tracked it a dozen or more times since last Thursday. Tonto wasn’t as dedicated a tracker as I am! It’s currently “out for delivery.”

This anal retentive ability to track a package should be satisfying, yet I’m always wondering why it’s stopped? Why isn’t it moving? What’s taking so long? Often billing information is received long before the package!

Google Maps (another refuge for the impatient) says the first leg is a 14:33 drive. What happened in the three plus days from “Departure Scan” to “Arrival Scan?” I suspect it really didn’t depart, but waited over the weekend.

It’s certainly possible we’ll be getting GPS based tracking before long. As soon as one company adds it they’ll all have to follow.

My point is, maybe we (and by “we” I mean “I”) would be better without access to yet another tool allowing me to overload with information.

Gate 5 LAX

Everything went smoothly. I wasn’t totally sure that would be the case.

As usual, I misplaced something (my Bluetooth earpiece) and had to search before I could leave. Even so, I waved to Cousin Michael (Melissa and Max having long since left) and headed out around my planned 9:00 AM departure.

The GPS was programmed with the out-of-the-way address for Deluxe Car Rental. This was an address that hadn’t been added before the trip and it took a minute or two to enter. Once again, it was like having a co-pilot.

I headed up the San Diego Freeway passing Irvine and Anaheim. A lot of people in those brand new, shiny office towers must be sweating it out today. This is ground zero for the subprime mortgage meltdown. Countrywide, in Calabassas went down earlier today.

Around 30 miles from LAX I hit my first traffic jam. From 65 mph, I slowed to a crawl. I then continued to crawl for the next 45 minutes! Suddenly the traffic was gone. I was moving again at the speed limit.

What was causing the tie-up? Nothing I could see. This is typical of Southern California.

At the airport, a medium sized crowd was waiting to check in and go through security. The Southwest agent who gave me my baggage claim check couldn’t have been nicer. All smiles!

Then I climbed a flight of stairs to the TSA’s special portion of hell. With all my electronics, I used three bins. I probably could have used four.

As I was standing in line, listening to Luna on the other side of the magnetometer yelling at us to remember our boarding passes, I realized what this whole process reminded me of: prison!

Thanks to MSNBC’s “Extended Stay” prison docs, I realize security at the airport is similar to what prisoners go through when they’re brought into the slammer. Who knew a documentary could be so practically useful?

I found some food to bring on the plane and Starbucks has brewed my first cup of coffee. Now I’m sitting in the waiting area, plugged into half the freely available power outlets I can find. My cell phone (connecting at old school slow speed and not 3G) is my link to the web.

Helaine says it’s quite foggy in Connecticut. Hopefully that will be gone by the time I land in Connecticut late tonight.

Google Does It Again… Though Not For Me

What a tease! Google has brought out some cool, new technology and it doesn’t work for me!

Here’s what I’m talking about.

Google has replicated many of its full sized web applications for the tiny screens on ‘smart’ cellphones. One of the coolest ported applications is Google Maps. I’ve actually used this more than once.

It’s just as full featured as the Google maps you see on line – just smaller. As you scroll the map, new panels are downloaded off the Internet. It’s ingenious. And, just like Google Maps online, you can have it route a trip.

It’s possible to ‘mate’ this app with a Bluetooth GPS receiver (and wouldn’t I be King Nerd to do that) and have it position the maps and move them across your screen, keeping pace as you drive. I’ve seen some of these pocket sized GPS receivers advertised for under $30.

Of course that’s not enough for Google! They’ve taken it one step further. They’ve figured out a way to have this map program find its way without a GPS receiver. Neat trick.

Since the maps are running in a cell phone, Google looks at which cell towers are being received, figures out where they are and triangulates!

It’s not as accurate as satellite based GPS, but it’s not too bad. You can be located within a few blocks. With the maps on your screen, a few blocks is close enough… or it should be.

As I said, there’s an unfortunate problem. It doesn’t work with my phone!

I’m not 100% sure, but I think it’s because my Samsung Blackjack uses a strange version of Java which is problematic in many cases. It’s a ‘me’ problem, not a Google problem.

Is there a workaround? Probably. I’ll be looking for it.

Meanwhile, I’m impressed by Google… and more than a little bit envious.

Enjoying My Folks

I called my folks on the way home from work tonight. My Bluetooth earpiece was already implanted and their phone was already ringing as I walked through the newsroom.

My dad answered. That’s pretty unusual. By 11:35 PM he’s is normally asleep.

His hearing is bad. His eyesight, in the single eye that still works, is pretty bad too. It takes more than a phone call to wake him.

As it turns out, he and my mom had just finished watching “Blood Diamond.&#185” I smiled because it was a Netflix selection, our gift for Father’s Day.

My folks have just returned to their Boynton Beach condo after a short trip to Disneyworld/Epcot Center.

This time of year, Central Florida is a steam bath. That made the trip more difficult and quite strenuous. They still had a great time.

I spent 10 minutes on the phone with my dad and then another 5 or 10 with my mom. We were laughing and joking and having a really good time.

My mom told me about the attractions they had seen and the roller coasters they rode. As it turns out, the roller coaster rides weren’t a conscious decision. They just didn’t know what they were getting into when they stood in line!

My parents don’t act their age. That’s what stuck out from this phone call. They are younger and more full of life than you’d expect if you knew their ages and nothing else.

A few years ago, I asked my dad if being 80 was what he imagined it would be. He said he’d never thought about it… until he was 79. I don’t think he minds.

Much like a small child, when you hit your 80s you’re allowed to claim the age you’re “almost,” as opposed to the age you still are.

You don’t turn old one day. It creeps up on you. It’s gradual and natural and is handled best by not fighting it. Easier said than done.

There’s no disputing the Foxes of Boynton Beach are having the best time of their lives. Imagine that. They’re still peaking!

If there’s anything I want to inherit from my parents, it’s their ability to appreciate life. Even at 56 years old I haven’t matured enough to relax and enjoy myself the way they do. Maybe I never will.

Having my mom’s wrinkle free skin wouldn’t be too bad either.

Blogger’s note: A year and a half ago I sat my parents down, one at-a-time, to tell the story of how they met. The video that followed is among my proudest achievements. If you haven’t seen it, take a few moments to watch it now.

&#185 – My parent’s thumbnail review. Very good. Too violent. Leonardo DiCaprio was very good. “You should see it Geoffrey.”

Too Much Bluetooth

I wear a Bluetooth earpiece and I love it. There’s really a difference when I’m driving in my car, yapping on the phone, and both hands are on the wheel.

On the other hand, I think there are some places where Bluetooth might not be appropriate. Last night in church, a man walked to the front of the congregation and addressed us all. He was wearing an earpiece and I felt uncomfortable.

Tonight, on TV, another bad Bluetooth moment. Attorney Robert Shapiro was on Countdown with Keith Olbermann wearing a very large Bluetooth earpiece. He has a microphone pinned to his suit, so I haven’t confused a necessary TV accessory with cellphone technology.

Will he ask the TV audience to wait while he takes a call? Maybe there’s a hidden confederate feeding him answers, ala William Hurt and Holly Hunter in Broadcast News?

Am I behind the times? Is this where we’re really headed? Say it isn’t so.

Here’s the fullscreen capture, if you’re so inclined.

The $30 Camcorder

I am too much of a geek for my own good. I can’t look at any kind of technology without wanting to play.

It’s a sickness. It’s my sickness. Maybe there’s tech rehab?

Within the past few weeks I’ve bought a wireless remote to help with some PowerPoint presentations I’ll be giving, a USB Bluetooth dongle and a $30 camcorder.

The AirClick USB remote control works perfectly. I couldn’t be more pleased. Hopefully tomorrow, when I administer “Death by PowerPoint,” it will serve me well.

The drivers for the Bluetooth dongle&#185 will not install in my Windows Vista laptop. The dongle is made by some anonymous Chinese company that isn’t answering my emails… of course they might not speak English.

I bought the dongle with the intention of using my Bluetooth headset with Vista’s new voice recognition technology. Meanwhile, the dongle currently has paperweight status.

I’ve just begun to play with the $30 camcorder. This is a more interesting story and really does play to my geek spirit.

CVS, Rite Aide and a few other places sell one-time-use camcorders for $30. They record 20 minutes of reasonably decent quality video with no tape necessary. For another $15, or so, the drugstore will download your video and burn it on a DVD.

The camcorder itself is a little bit larger than a pack of cigarettes and easily fits in your pocket. There are few controls and no zoom lens and a nice 1.5″ LCD screen on the back. It’s basic.

I said it was a one-time-use camera, and that certainly was the manufacturer’s intention… but there’s the Internet. Hackers have figured out how to accomplish what the drugstores do – offload the video and reset the recorder for reuse.

Though I probably could have soldered it myself, I bought a cable on EBay from a guy in Syracuse. $17 (with shipping) and my camcorder is complete! I’ll post some video samples a little later.

It’s not like I need this camcorder. We have a perfectly good Samsung DV recorder at home with a nice zoom lens and excellent video quality.

This camcorder is a challenge. That’s what the geek life is all about… at least to me. I will not allow the technological world to pass me by.

&#185 – I didn’t make up this name, but it does sound positively filthy, doesn’t it?