Karma Hotspot – $50/m Unlimited Data @5 Mps in the USA

This seems like a very nice option for people with bandwidth needs that don’t fit in the tiny caps most cell phone providers put on plans. For $50/month you get unlimited data @5 Mps in the USA. You can get small increases to the speed by buying data in bite sized chunks (1Gb for $14 or $99 for 10GB, which doesn’t expire).

photo of the small karma hotspot device in someone's hand

The bite sized chunks mainly make sense if you don’t have high data needs for the hotspot – but want it occasionally (and perhaps as backup for your primary connection). The $50/month offer is limited to 3 devices connecting at a time, compared to 8 for the other option.

The device itself costs $149. The device has up to 8 hours of battery life and over 220 hours of standby time.

Currently the devices use Sprint’s Nationwide 4G LTE network, with fallback to 3G CDMA. It seems like a nice option for travelers to me.

Related: Boosting Wifi Signal Strength While You Travel or While at HomeFinding Places to Stay to Stay with Decent wifiSave on Phone Charges When Traveling with Sim Card SavingsMy Early Experience as a Digital Nomad: Part One, Technology

Boosting Wifi Signal Strength While You Travel or While at Home

One of the frustrating things while traveling is getting a weak wifi signal in your hotel room. A good tool in that case is they BearExtender Turbo High Speed 802.11ac USB Wi-Fi Adapter for Mac OS X [BearExtender dropped support for Macs, link removed] (Windows version). Even though the mac version description says it is not compatible with Yosemite, the comments indicate an update was made January 2015 to make it work with Yosemite.

photo of Bear wifi signal extender

The BearExtender also works to provide better wifi signals around your house. Some models are designed to connect with your router (Netgear range extender, for example) and are not as suited to travel use as the others are). BearExtender can be used for travel or home.

Alternative wifi extenders: Alfa AWUS036NH 2000mW 2W 802.11g/n High Gain USB Wireless G / N Long-Range WiFi Network Adapter with 5dBi Screw-On Swivel Rubber Antenna and 7dBi Panel Antenna and Suction cup / clip window mount, D-Link Wireless N 300 Mbps Compact Wi-Fi Range Extender (DAP-1320), NETGEAR N300 Wi-Fi Range Extender, Essentials Edition (EX2700) and TP-LINK TL-WPA4220KIT ADVANCED 300Mbps Universal WiFi Range Extender, Repeater, AV500 Powerline Edition, WiFi Clone Button, 2 LAN Ports.

Related: Gadget to Hold Things In PlaceTry on Clothes and Accessories VirtuallyAnswer Your Doorbell with Your Smartphone Wherever You Are with a live video feed

Premium Chromebook Pixel, A Touchscreen Laptop

The Chromebook Pixel looks very interesting. It would be much better if it would work with Ubuntu and had a much larger hard drive. This goes with Google’s desire for great internet connectivity at all times but that just ins’t true for the vast majority of notebook users – including me.

If someone would provide this same hardward (with a bigger hard drive) and that worked with Ubuntu I would get it (if I hadn’t just bought a MacBook Pro). But I would consider getting it when I am ready for a new computer.

I think Chrome OS makes sense for Google to invest in (even though it is not really a great model right now for most users). But I think Google is foolish in ignoring users that want a better notebook operating system.

Related: The Latest Leap in Computer Control via GestureLow-Cost Multi-touch Whiteboard Using Wii RemoteWearable Computer with Projection and Gesture Recognition

Try on Clothes and Accessories Virtually

FaceCake Swivel lets you try on clothes at home taking advantage of Kinect technology. Very cool. Kinect continues to allow some great innovation.

The application allows you to try on multiple items, layer them and see how they look from different angles (as you move the items move with you – it is true that this is still pretty rough, but given how fast innovation moves this part will likely improve quickly). You can also send an image to friends to have them weigh in on your potential purchase.

I haven’t been following that closely but my vague recollection is Kinect backed off attempting to prohibit innovation that integrated connect into other products. That was a very smart move, I believe.

Related: Hug Shirt (stay in touch from far away)Camera Fashion – the photo includes extra images we don’t seeWearable Computer with Projection and Gesture Recognition

Storing and Sharing the Photos You Take with Various Gadgets

Cell phone cameras have greatly increased the number of photos most of us have to share. Once you have them how to share them is the next question. There are various options that are pretty good for those that like them but also with some limitation: facebook (I don’t use it), Google’s Picasa (I don’t at all like how rigid Google is in how things are handled), Flickr and Smugbug (along with many others). I ran across a new site that seems like it might be nice: OpenPhoto.

The easiest way to signup is to use your dropbox account, for storage. If you don’t have a dropbox account yet, sign up (it is free).

  1. Get an invite code (they are in an early, limited release right now). You can just email them or follow them on Twitter and send them a request.
  2. Sign up (select the option to “Store originals in my personal Dropbox account”)
  3. You will then be prompted to login to Dropbox to complete the integration
  4. Then follow very easy add and upload photo process, that you are taken to.

If you have dropbox already, it should take less than 2 minutes to be up and running.

Good job, OpenPhoto. One feature I would like is to be able to edit the date of the photo (I have photos from the 1970s saying they are 5 months old (when converted to digital images) and I don’t see a way to edit it yet. This project is new, so that isn’t surprising. It would be nice to see that updated at some point.

Overall, it is very easy to use, and I really like how it keeps the photos in your control (to the extent your dropbox [or whatever you use] space is in your control). Very easy to assign rights (all rights reserved – or various creative commons licenses or your own license); on a per photo basis. You can also make photos public or private (for viewing over the web).

Unless you are sharing originals so other can print them out, for archival purposes (or something similar) you are probably wise to save the images in a much smaller file size. There is really no reason to upload 2 Mb images for people to look at on their monitor (unless there are going to zoom in like crazy). You can reduce the file sizes dramatically and what people see on their monitor will not change.

Here are my photos. It took me less than 10 minutes (and most of that was finding the photos and editing the text) for the first 2 I uploaded.

You can make groups, which is nice. Hopefully this allows you to share photos with groups (or will, at some point). I haven’t figured that part out yet. The software is open source, which I like. The idea behind it is to have something like wordpress that provide software that you can run for your own blog but this time it is to manage your own photos.

Related: Amazing New Light Field Camera: Adjust Focus After You Take the PictureCurious Cat Travel Photo EssaysCurious Cat Travel Photo Blog

Boxee Box – HD Streaming Media Player

The Boxee Box
is quite an excellent media hub. The Boxee allows you to manage your content and connect to the internet (by wireless or wired). You can even try out Boxee before you buy the box.

Download Boxee’s software and try it for free on your computer first, they will automatically import your account when you’re ready to buy a Boxee Box and bring the experience to your HDTV. Get tons of free stuff, and pay for the premium content you want. No monthly bill. No more paying for stuff you never watch.

You need to use you computer or external storage (the Boxee doesn’t have storage in the box) to watch your own content.

photo of the back of a Boxee

Boxee back

Related: Amazon’s Android Tablet, Kindle Fire, is Very Attractively PricedDroid Incredible

Aakash Android Tablet from India: $35 for Indian Students, $60 Retail

Aakash Tablet from Venturebeat on Vimeo.

The Indian government has created a very interesting tablet for students in India. The 7 inch display tablet device is runs Android and is remarkably powerful given the price. Obviously it isn’t as responsive as devices like Amazon’s Fire.
Video on this cheap device from India works very well.

Aakash Android Table Review

The components inside the Aakash tablet are cheap, and easily sourced. For example, the Aakash tablet has a headphone jack and an audio-in jack, but no external speakers — an obvious cost-savings measure. However, with the addition of cheap headphones, and an equally cheap microphone, the owner can make calls on Skype and has the potential to communicate with people around the world.

The screen is pressure sensitive (also called resistive touch) and responds somewhat slowly to gestures. It’s definitely not as dazzling as the high-end tablets familiar to Western audiences, such as the capacitive touchscreen iPad

What makes the Aakash tablet different is that its creators didn’t strive for perfection. Instead, the emphasis was on getting the product into the market quickly so it could be adopted, tinkered with, and improved over time. As Wadhwa said, “to get the cost down, you have to make some compromises.”

The unmistakable impression we all got from using the Aakash tablet was that it is built for performance. Every design choice that might seem like a negative reveals three, four, five — or more — net benefits.

Why does it have two USB ports? So you can plug in a keyboard, of course, and still have a free slot for an external hard drive, or some other device. What about that screen cover that seems like it’s made from laminating material? If the tablet is meant for educational use, it’s probably going to have to contend with some pretty rough handling, dirt, dust and moisture. Better that it should withstand damage than look the extra bit nicer.

I really love to see gadgets aimed at the majority of the world’s population instead of only the rich. Gadgets aimed at the rich are pretty darn cool and fun. And I like them. I just also love to see us looking to create gadgets everyone can use.

Related: What Kids can Learn with Just a Computer and TimeRaspberry Pi: $25 ComputerSub $100 Tablet in 2011

Amazon’s Android Tablet, Kindle Fire, is Very Attractively Priced

photo of the Amazon Kindle Fire tablet

Amazon has unveiled their new Android Tablet and it sells for just $199 for a 7″ multi-touch display. The tablet can use wifi but not cell phone signals to access the internet. Just this week, Amazon, also announced the large amount of content, available to USA Amazon customers only, that subscribe to Amazon Prime. I never really cared about faster shipping but features like a large library of content available for free streaming of 10,000 movies and TV shows makes the package very attractive, I think. The Kindle Fire is another in the long list of innovations from Amazon. I am very impressed with their management, leadership and willingness to focus on the long term and take risks with their investments.

The Amazon Fire has a heavily Amazon modified Android operating system. Amazon doesn’t do a good job of explaining what the limits on their marketing material the share really are. They hide how few people really have access to some features (like saying “18 million movies, TV shows, songs, magazines, and books” – without mentioning much of that is available to less than 5% of the population). Since they don’t make that clear, it is hard to know what other limitations they don’t make clear so outside the USA (95% of the population) you are on your own to guess what features are really available to you.

It has most of the features you would expect of a Android tablet: the ability to use the internet, app market, etc.

Unlike the previous Kindle options this offers color touch screen. Amazon is keeping the digital ink Kindle’s as their suggested book reading choice. Heavy users of the book reading function will likely keep a Kindle digital ink device. But the new device can also serve as a book reader, there are limitations of the current color technology that mean it just isn’t as great for long hours of book reading.

Amazon is touting the “cloud-accelerated” browser which does sound like a worthwhile innovation taking advantage of their Amazon Web Services cloud (AWS). The Amazon Silk browser is different in a radical new way. When you use Silk, without thinking about it or doing anything explicit, you’re calling on the computing speed and power of the AWS. We’ve refactored and rebuilt the browser software stack to push pieces of the computation into the AWS cloud. This lets Silk do more work, more quickly, and all at once.

Silk browser software resides both on Kindle Fire and on the massive server fleet that comprises the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2). With each page request, Silk dynamically determines a division of labor between the mobile hardware and Amazon EC2 (i.e. which browser sub-components run where) that takes into consideration factors like network conditions, page complexity and the location of any cached content.

Amazon EC2 is always connected to the backbone of the Internet where round-trip latency is 5 milliseconds or less to most web sites rather than the 100 milliseconds that’s typical over wireless connections. AWS also has peering relationships with major internet service providers, and many top sites are hosted on EC2. This means that many web requests will never leave the extended infrastructure of AWS, reducing transit times to only a few milliseconds. This is good, latency is an important, and often overlooked technical issue. It also seems a bit misleading, I think the latency your device experiences interacting with the cloud is higher (the technical details Amazon is touting are talking about communication within the cloud – which is good and helpful, just not quite as good as it sounds). The silk browser technology looks to be a very big innovation that will be very useful.

Related: Home Engineering: Reading in BedReally Widescreen Monitor (2880×900)Zappos and Amazon Sitting in a Tree…

The price of the Amazon Kindle Fire Tablet illustrates once again that Amazon is still practicing what Jeff Bezos’ believes: driving down costs to customers and customer focus.

There are two kinds of companies, those that work to try to charge more and those that work to charge less.

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The Newest Kindle DX with New E Ink Technology

image of the kindle dx

The Kindle DX is the gadget that combines being a bookworm and tech savvy at once. Gone are the days when one has to bring thick books with them to read anywhere. With Kindle DX, all books are saved on one small device.

Read various books in style with the 9.7 inch display that uses the latest technology in E-ink Pearl generation (providing 50% better contrast). There are also smaller Kindle’s if you prefer, but this DX version gives you the largest screen. With 1200 x 824 pixel resolution, read books in better contrast. Reading books, PDF, magazines, and newspaper has never been this stylish. Rotate the screen just by flipping the Kindle DX and have a landscape full width view of the display. Weighing only 18.9 ounce, the Kindle DX is the book on the go.

Get rid of bringing all loose documents and replace them with the Kindle DX. Save all files in PDF format and have access to any document you wish. The 4GB of internal memory of Kindle DX allows you to store as many as 3,500 books; it is like having a library in one small gadget.

Also, connect with the internet using the free 3G wireless connectivity and download latest e-books to your Kindle DX in no time.

The built in PDF reader software lets the user read stored e-books anytime and anywhere. Use the 5-way controller which lets the user select text and even highlight words. Look up words just by using the 5 way controller. Transform the conventional way of reading with Kindle DX. No more carrying of thick books. Get rid of the clutter of bringing piles of papers and documents. With just one small gadget, bring all the files anywhere you go. Whether it is work related, research, or leisure materials, it can be stored in Kindle. There is no need for a computer to install all the e-books and files in the Kindle DX. With the wireless application, send files from another computer or any device with wireless application directly to the Kindle DX.

The battery life can last up to 1 week with just single charge even when the wireless application is on. Turn off the wireless application and the Kindle DX can last up to two weeks. Charging the Kindle up only takes 4.5 hours using the power adapter which also supports USB 2.0.

Users not only read books in Kindle DX, one can also listen to audio files. With the built in speaker and 3.5 mm audio stereo jack, listening to music and reading book at the same time has never been this convenient.

Never get outdated of the latest news because Kindle connects you on the World Wide Web in an instant. Get updated with the latest happenings in the world wherever you may be. Download e-books, audio books and the like on the internet and receive the file in an instant. Read with style with the newest Kindle DX with new E ink technology.

You can also subscribe to blogs and have the content automatically delivered to your Kindle DX (using wifi), including our Curious Cat Management Blog.

Related: Amazon InnovationThere are two kinds of companies, those that work to try to charge more and those that work to charge lessCurious Cat Books