Category: Photography

Surfing the Google Wave

Original image courtesy of with apologies We’ve spent a week getting to know Google Wave using Chrome along with 100,000 of our closest friends. We wanted to give you a status report. Hype aside, Google Wave is an incredible tool when used for the right purpose. If you’ve been asleep or hiding under a rock for the past two weeks and missed the party, here’s a quick summary of Google’s latest invention. It’s a bird, it’s a plane… actually it’s a collaboration and communications platform that brings the full richness of Web 2.0 to your desktop. Some have suggested that it’s what email would look like if it were invented today. Our discussion focuses on the web-based Wave client, but Google Wave also is an open source development toolkit, and we’ll get to that one day soon.

Much has been written about Google Wave’s capabilities, and we won’t repeat that here. Instead, we want to address Google Wave’s potential and what we see as some of the present shortcomings of the product. We fully appreciate that this is a preview, and many of our concerns may yet be addressed before Google Wave becomes available to the general public. We can’t help chuckling at the realization that, in less than 30 years, we’ve now come full circle in data processing. What began as mainframe computing evolved into personal computing. And now Google Wave brings us much closer to being back where we started except for a state-of-the-art user interface and a new name: Cloud Computing. If IBM had addressed the user interface issues with mainframe computing, they probably never would have lost their market in the first place.

The screenshot above really can’t do justice to the richness of the client interface because you truly need a monitor as wide as your desk to get the most out of Google Wave. No, you won’t be using this on your cellphone or PDA… at least not well. For openers, Google Wave provides real-time collaboration so you actually see folks typing into various message threads (called waves) in the Land of Google. When you create a new wave, you “invite” other people in your Contacts to the wave. This puts the wave at the top of their Inbox in bold-faced type, akin to what Gmail would do with an incoming email.

There’s another frame to the right of your Inbox which actually displays the complete wave that you have selected so you’re never really jumping back and forth between selecting waves and reading them. What takes a bit of getting used to is the fact that both your Inbox and the wave you are currently reading may be changing every second with input from literally dozens of your associates or strangers if the wave you’re reading happened to be designated as public.

There’s one other dramatic difference in waves and threads of email messages. Other folks can change your stuff. As a collaboration tool with close associates, this might be desirable. With public waves, it would be a nightmare in the real world. And we don’t consider the 100,000 Google Wave previewers the real world. They are for the most part well-behaved probably out of fear that they’d be booted out if they behaved badly. That isn’t the real world as we all know. And the current Google Wave design would let a single creep destroy virtually every public wave in minutes using bots and malicious changes to documents. As presently designed, there would be little recourse other than replaying what your wave used to look like. You really can’t put Humpty back together again as some have already discovered.

Richard Nixon learned the hard way that tape recorders can be a blessing and a curse. Much has been made of the capability Google Wave offers to replay a wave so that you can playback the development of a thread of messages and see who added or deleted what and when. Google has touted the fact that everything is preserved. Well, not quite. First, there’s no capability at least presently to scroll back to a certain place in the timeline and recreate a new wave up to there. The most you can retrieve is a single posting. Second, anybody with access to the wave can use this timeline feature so wave restoration wouldn’t necessarily be desirable unless it were restricted to the original author of the wave. And, third, at least at Google someone knows how to cheat the system and delete stuff from the timeline. We only discovered this in reviewing the first public porn wave which started out prim and proper enough but quickly gathered steam when someone posted a collection of NSFW (or anywhere else) photos from their favorite collection. Within a few minutes, the postings quietly disappeared. Being the careful reviewer that we are, we immediately reached for the Playback button to check the history of the wave. Sure enough, the raunchy photos were still there. But, by the next morning, they had completely vanished from the chronology. So much for the official stance that nothing ever disappears. The real disappointment with the replay function is the lack of any capability to restore an entire wave. Because only individual messages (known as blips) can be recovered, this would prove to be next to worthless in a complex wave with hundreds of postings.

That brings us to the issue of whether public waves really make sense given the world in which we live. The good news is it works much better than IRC because of the richness of the content with attachments and hyperlinks. But, at least for public waves, the ability to edit someone else’s stuff would have to go. We try not to focus on legal nightmares in reviewing new software, but one can’t help wondering what would happen if one were to post something complimentary about a neighbor in a public wave and then another neighbor altered your posting by falsely accusing the individual of sleeping around with half of the neighborhood. Obviously, there’s still a good bit of work to do on the security front and in deciding whether allowing others to amend someone else’s postings is a good idea. Whether Google gets the security piece right will ultimately determine the success of Google Wave.

For public waves, it’s a no-brainer. You just can’t! And, to be honest, in reviewing hundreds of public waves in the preview, we can’t recall a single instance where this functionality would have been necessary. In a true (private) collaborative project, it would be wonderful but color-coding of text or some other method of identifying who wrote what would be absolutely essential from both a practical and legal standpoint. Both Microsoft Word and WordPerfect have had this capability forever. The simple way in Google Wave would be to add user’s pictures with a colored border and matching colored text whenever they make changes to someone else’s posting. With this addition, Google Wave could become a wonderful collaborative tool in both legal and technical environments.

And, speaking of word processing, Google Wave falls a bit short on the word processing scale. Despite the richness of Google’s knol platform, some of that functionality still is not available in Google Wave. The text editing and formatting is much akin to what’s available in a typical email client. You can change fonts, adjust color, indent, add hyperlinks and images, but that’s about as far as it goes. There are no headers, footers, footnotes, etc. So you can’t easily transform a wave into a formatted document for printing at this juncture. But that may come as development continues.

There are a few other things still on our Wish List. First, we’d love for Google Wave to evolve into a tool that can replace today’s forums which are not much more functional than BBS software was two decades ago. Once there is administrator control of rollback and protection of waves by granular access rights to functions, bots, and gadgets as well as the ability to block users and ranges of IP addresses, this should happen. Second, we obviously want the ability to include either read-only or read-write access to waves in a blog or web site. We already have the web site functionality working (see below for a sample), but you currently need a Google Wave account to access it. Third, we really want to assimilate all of the tools we use into the Google Wave Desktop so that everything is accessible in one place. That’s what Cloud Computing is all about, and Google Wave comes closer than anything else in meeting that need. You already can access Gmail on your Google Wave desktop and any web site that can be framed can be included in a wave as an iFrame. That doesn’t leave much once the security feature set is in place to protect all the components.

Finally, we’ll close with a brief mention of the coolest feature of Google Wave. That is its expandability which is enabled by incorporating bots and gadgets into any wave. As you might imagine, these extensions can do almost anything… good or bad. Here’s a short list of what has been developed and what’s already on the radar in just a few short weeks:

Eliza – – An implementation of the Eliza chatbot borrowed from the NLTK.
Elize – – Is one of the first robots that was created by non Googler and is very useful if you are feeling alone in your Google Wave client.
Rude chatbot – – An obnoxious chatbot borrowed from the Natural Language Processing Toolkit.
TooAngel Wave – In Progress – – A self learning robot, that will respond to a reply in a more humanoid way

BotURL – – A URL Linker that replaces full URLs with hyperlinks.
Calcbot – – This bot will do in place calculations for simple mathematical expressions and allow you to use user defined variables.
Cartoony – – Replaces the text of every submitted blip with a cartoon balloon that contains the text instead. Colors the balloons based on username.
Dice Bot – – Dice-rolling bot. Dice Bot will replace XdY (X is the number of dice; Y is the number of sides) with the results of those rolls.
Flippy – – Turns text upside-down.
Fnordlinky – – Replaces “PMID <number>” with article information from PubMed.
Hearty Emobot – – Replaces ASCII art with wingding characters.
i-cron – – Evaluates Python expressions. Looks at blips in event, searches for CALC() macros and executes Python code using exec().
Insulty – – Information Needed
IPA Bot – – Changes normal letters into special characters used for phonetics.
– – Turns whatever you type into “Pirate Speak” .. Arrrr.
Plotzie – – Plots sparklines from your data.
Shortee – Wish – Change “c u l8r” to “see you later” etc.
Swedish Chef – – Changes english into Swedish-Chef Speak. Bork! Bork!
Syntaxy – – Syntaxy does blip-by-blip syntax highlighting for a variety of languages including Python, Java, C, C++, html, css and javascript.
Watexy – – Use LaTeX mathematical language in your Waves!
Wikify – – Replaces specific marked up text with a link to Wikipedia or a description relevant to the marked text.

Hangman – – Play Hangman.
Roshambo – – Play Roshambo (Rock / Paper / Scissors).
Speedy – Wish – Track the words per minute of all participants, competitive typing!

Groupy – – Robot to manage groups.

Integration – – Creates a drop and puts the info into the wave whenever the robot is added as a participant.
OpenAustralia – In Progress – A robot to allow interaction with the OpenAustralia web site.
PlonieBot – In Progress – – Brings wave document editing capabilities to the Plone CMS
Poppy – In Progress – – Helps bridge Google Wave conversations to email users outside the Wave.
Rssybot – – Turn google wave into an RSS reader!
Starify – – Lets you star waves, in sort of bookmarking style.
Tweety the Twitbot – – You can access your Twitter account.
Twiliobot – – Transforms phone numbers into click-to-call links. If user clicks a link, a call is placed to his phone and to the number in the link. The call can be transcribed and inserted into the wave as text with a link to the audio.
Wave-Email – In Progress – – Provide an extension to Google Wave which will allow the integration of both sending and receiving emails.
Wave Live Messenger – – Allows you to chat to your windows live messenger contacts from inside a wave.

PhilBot – Wish – A suggested solution to the problem of waves with languages you can’t read.
Rosy Etta – – Translator (40 Languages).

Polly the Pollster – – Poll Bot.

Search / Aggregation
Dr Maps – – Updates a wave by inserting a map associated to an address.
Dr Weather – – Gives the weather for a City
Embedded Search Results – – Web and Image searches inline.
FML Blipper – – displays random FML story from
Grauniady – – Searches the latest items from The Guardian for a given phrase.
Stocky – – Detects stock symbols from a wave and updates it with the live stock price.
Wavethingy – – Searches Amazon for DVDs and books, and gives the author a cut of any purchases made off the links.
Yelpy – – Searches Yelp with a user defined location and category.

AmazonBot – – Enables social product research and shopping on Wave participants can share products & reviews with contacts in real-time thanks to automatic queries by the AmazonBot against conversation keywords. The AmazonBot gadget can detect products and return inline product links or a custom full product browser.
– – Information Needed Bot – – Shortens the url using bitly.
Botty – Wish – Will automatically add a set of useful bots to a wave according to a collection of bots (so they don’t have to individually be added when you use them all the time.
CountColon – – Adds text statistics to your blips (words, lines, etc.)
Companion Sphere – – Collection of geek utils, first working verb is “lookup” for wikipedia/wiktionary one-line descriptions.
Databot – Wish – Will start as soon as the GData interface is published.
Emoticony – – Replaces text representations of emoticons with the relevant image.
JBREAKOUT – – Debug utility that reports event triggers.
Maison – – Makes blips public at
Multi – – A quote collector. Reply a blip you want to quote with ‘quote this’ and randomly display a quote with ‘quote <wave>’. The bot is still being under development but you can try playing with it.
Natural Language Processing – – Adds blips with NLP analysis.
Nokar – – Has many features such as translations, image insertion, insert last tweets etc.
Posterous – – A robot for user to post blog in Google Wave. Here is how to write a blog using Google Wave Robot for Posterous.
Publisher – – Information Needed
Skimmy – – Converts text emoticons, from : ) to img. Has a bookmarklet which creates a popup menu to insert emoticons for which the code is unknown.
Smiley – – Changes the smiley symbols to smiley images.
Smiley – In Progress – – Changes the smiley symbols to smiley images.
Style Chart – – Inserts a chart into a wave.

Wave Management
Bouncy – – Allows you to remove robots from a wave. Doesn’t seem to work on real people though, and laughs if you try to ask it to kick itself out. To get it to kick a bot out, type “”
Linear – Wish – Enforce all replies to be to the main wave. If a user replies to a reply, remove it and place it as a reply to the main wavelet.
Read Onlie – – Records the original wave content. Whenever it’s edited, the content is replaced with the original. Simple as that.
Seekdroid – – You can list Robots, add them and find them out, easy to use. In continuous development. Website with all the information
Sweepy – – Remove empty, whitespace-only blips.
Taggy – – Recognize #hashtags and add them as tags to the wave.
Tocgen – – Table of Contents auto-generated and updated based on the h1,h2,h3,h4 in a wave.
Twitusernames – – Replaces all Twitter @username with links to the Twitter accounts.

Gadget Utilities
Ajax Animator – In Progress – – A fully integrated multi-user web based vector graphic animation authoring environment.
AmazonBot Gadgett – – The AmazonBot gadget can detect products and return inline product links or a custom full product browser.
Bidder – – Simple Auction.
Checky – – Basecamp-like checklists with drag-and-drop.
Click me – – Shows a button with a counter. Each time the button gets clicked, the counter is incremented by one. Shows off how the state interaction works.
HTML – – Embed any HTML into a wave.
iFrame – – Embed any web page into a wave.
iWave – – Allows you to create a profile on wave to make wave just a little more personal. Uses facebook connect to retrieve your details if you sign in.
Licensing – In Progress – – Creative Commons RDF Embedding – Planning Stage.
Maps – -Embed Google Map.
Napkin – – Example of Flash/Flex Wave Gadget, similar to Whiteboard gadget above – source on Google Code.
QuakeBot – In Progress – Server information on the Quake 3 protocol.
Raffly – – Insert this gadget to select a random participant from your wave to be the winner. The winner of what? Well that’s up to you 🙂
Ratings – – Lets participants rate and review a topic (movie, restaurant, etc) in a wave and shows a tally of the result.
Slashdot Gadget – – Loads latest Headlines from Slashdot.
Troco – An experimental peer-to-peer currency – – Aims to provide a decentralized complementary community currency system, that is, a peer-to-peer currency system. Also you can see it as an IOU or promissory note based system. More info click here.
Vector Editor – – A cross platform collaborative real time vector graphics editor.
Whiteboard – – Draw on a virtual whiteboard.
Who is Coming? – -Show a list of all people that have said whether they will come or not.

Gadget Games
Backgammon – Wish – Remove all of one’s own checkers from the board before one’s opponent can do the same. [Wikipedia]
Battleship – Wish – Displays different board based on user.
Boxes – In Progress – Connect lines to make boxes and win.
Connect 4/Four-in-a-row – In Progress – – – 2 users + observers, turn locking, just waiting to write win-detection code.
Floodit – – 2 player race to fill a board with colors.
Magnetic Poetry – – Re-arrange random words to form poetry.
Match them colors! – In Progress – Match 3 / gem matching game.
Othello – Wish – Play Reversi.
Sudoku – – Play Sudoku.
The Button – – A useless (I mean USELESS) game.

CVS integration – Wish – CVS history can be converted into a wave with playback.
GIT integration – Wish – GIT history can be imported and played back (dffs).
SVN integration – Wish – SVN History can be converted into a wave with playback.

Google Wave Scrollbars – – Changes the wave scrollbars to the default system scrollbars.

Enhanced Google Maps. In case you haven’t noticed, we’ve added yet another Google Map to Nerd Vittles. Now, in addition to showing our location with Google Latitude, we also are displaying your location based upon your IP address. We’ll show you how to add something similar to any LAMP-based Linux system in coming weeks. It’s a powerful technology that has enormous potential. If you’re unfamiliar with Google Maps, click on the Hybrid and Satellite buttons and then check out the scaling and navigation options. Double-click to zoom. Incredible! If you’re wondering what your fellow man is reading on Nerd Vittles these days, wonder no more. Visit our new statistical web site and check out what’s happening. It’s a terrific resource both for us and for you.

Need help with Asterisk®? Visit the PBX in a Flash Forum.
Or Try the New, Free PBX in a Flash Conference Bridge.

Awesome Vitelity Special. Vitelity has generously offered a terrific discount for Nerd Vittles readers. You now can get an almost half-price DID from our special Vitelity sign-up link. If you’re seeking the best flexibility in choosing an area code and phone number plus the lowest entry level pricing plus high quality calls, then Vitelity is the hands-down winner. Vitelity provides Tier A DID inbound service in over 3,000 rate centers throughout the US and Canada. When you use our special link to sign up, Nerd Vittles gets a few shekels down the road to support our open source development efforts while you get an incredible signup deal as well. The going rate for Vitelity’s DID service is $7.95 a month which includes up to 4,000 incoming minutes on two simultaneous channels with terminations priced at 1.45¢ per minute. Not any more! For our users, here’s a deal you can’t (and shouldn’t) refuse! Sign up now, and you can purchase a Tier A DID with unlimited incoming calls and four simultaneous channels for just $3.99 a month. To check availability of local numbers and tiers of service from Vitelity, click here. NOTE: You can only use the Nerd Vittles sign-up link to order your DIDs, or you won’t get the special pricing! Vitelity’s rate is just 1.44¢ per minute for outbound calls in the U.S. There is a $35 prepay when you sign up. This covers future usage. Any balance is refundable if you decide to discontinue service with Vitelity.

Some Recent Nerd Vittles Articles of Interest…

For those of you that already have Google Wave accounts, here’s a sample of how a wave will look in a WordPress posting. You can even add content to the wave! This works in Safari and Chrome most of the time, Firefox some of the time (if you turn on Accept 3d Party Cookies), and IE almost never. For those of you that are not part of the Google Wave preview, you’ll just have to wait patiently until Google turns on at least read-only access to this functionality:

Free At Last: The Emancipation of the Apple TV

We’ve never quite forgiven Apple1 for bricking some of the original iPhones because some owners chose to jailbreak their private property to learn how it worked or to add additional functionality. It may turn out to be Steve Jobs’ billion dollar blunder! The stunt was especially egregious when one considers that both the iPhone and much of Mac OS X are based upon open source software for which Apple didn’t pay a nickel. Apple certainly added a pretty wrapper, but the internals of both the iPhone and Mac OS X contain loads of pure open source code including dozens of Mach 3.0 and FreeBSD 5 applications. Destroying people’s cellular phones for accessing soft- ware that was licensed to Apple as open source code just doesn’t pass the smell test.

Courtesy of Apple, Inc.

Thus it was with mixed emotions that we unwrapped our Apple TV during Christmas 2007. Like the iPhone, it was locked up tighter than a drum even though the internals of the product read like a Who’s Who of the Open Source Movement: awk, bzip, cut, grep, find, ftp, finger, gzip, more, nano, openssl, perl, sed, tail, tar, touch, uname, whois, zip, and on and on. In fact, Mac OS X arguably is a better Linux than Linux. Suffice it to say, we read numerous articles outlining the lengths to which some talented users were going to unlock their Apple TVs. The process required disassembly of the unit, removal of the hard disk, and then a tedious unlocking scenario that was akin to breaking into Fort Knox. We chose to leave our Apple TV in its shrink wrap.

So what’s wrong with the Apple TV? Well, nothing… if you don’t mind paying Apple over and over again to reacquire media content which you already have licensed and if you don’t mind jumping through the iTunes hoops to transfer that content to a device which is perfectly capable of being self-sufficient. Let’s see. $1.99 to watch a TV show or play a music video that’s already sitting on your TIVO machine or that’s already freely (and legally) available from numerous sources on the Internet. Apple has added YouTube access, but the design really limits you to the most popular content. That makes it unsuitable (or worse) for anyone under the age of 13… or over the age of about 25. :roll:

Fast forward to 2009, and we decided it was time to take another look at the Apple TV landscape. WOW! What a difference a year makes. You now can create a bootable USB flash drive in a couple minutes, plug it into your Apple TV, and have a perfectly functioning, (true) open source appliance with DIVX and AVI support in less than 15 minutes. The FrontRow-enhanced Apple TV provides access to virtually all media content in every format imaginable with incredibly slick user interfaces thanks to the XBMC Media Center, Boxee Social Media Center, Nito TV, and Hulu. Most were originally designed for Microsoft’s Xbox. Uploads and downloads of media content can be performed using either your Apple TV controller and a television, or a web browser, or SAMBA networking, or SSH. So thanks to a resourceful bunch of talented, open source developers, we finally have an Apple TV worth owning that also happens to be fun to use. Incidentally, this whole metamorphosis can be accomplished without damaging the Apple TV’s existing user interface or its out-of-the-box functionality… at least until the next update from Apple. 🙂
So proceed at your own risk!

Freeing Your Apple TV. Since October, 2008, the emancipation of the Apple TV has become a simple, 5-minute exercise. What you’ll need to get started is an Apple TV2 with version 2 software, a 1GB USB Flash Drive, and ATVUSB-creator which is free. The drill here is to create a bootable flash drive that can be used to reboot the Apple TV and transform its closed and proprietary shell into an open source platform. The preferred machine for creating your bootable flash drive is a Mac running Tiger or Leopard although a Windows XP/Vista solution is also available now. The only precaution we would add is to unplug all of the USB drives connected to your PC before creating the bootable flash drive. Then you won’t accidentally reformat the wrong USB drive. The one-minute CNET tutorial is here. A better one is here.

Once you have your bootable USB flash drive in hand, unplug your Apple TV and plug the USB drive into the unit. Now connect your Apple TV to a television. Power up your Apple TV and marvel at the installation process which takes under a minute. Whatever you do, don’t boot your Apple TV with the flash drive more than once! When the install completes, you should see a message indicating that your Apple TV can be accessed with SSH within a few minutes at frontrow@appletv.local. The password is frontrow. The IP address for your Apple TV also can be used for SSH access as well. Remove the flash drive and reboot. You’ll see a new menu option for XBMC/Boxee. Just follow the menu items to install both applications. After another reboot, you’ll be all set. Click on the CNET video above to watch a demo.

After installing the apps, launch and then configure XBMC. If you get an error that reads “Cannot launch XBMC/Boxee from path,” it means you forgot to install the software through your TV menu. If you enable the web interface, you’ll be able to go to any browser on your LAN and manage XBMC through the following link using the IP address of your Apple TV: For complete documentation, check out the XBMC Wiki.

Before you can use Boxee, you’ll need to visit their web site and sign up for an account. A tutorial on the application is available at UberGizmo. As luck would have it, this application only became publicly available in Alpha last week so we’re just in time. Don’t sweat the Alpha status too much, it previously ran on the XBox platform as well as Windows, Macs, and Linux. There’s social networking support via Twitter, FriendFeed, Tumblr, and NetFlix. While it’s running on your Apple TV, you can access the interface remotely with a browser from anywhere on your LAN at http://ipaddress:8800 assuming you have enabled the web server interface.

Hulu is another terrific resource for movies, TV shows and music videos. It is available through Boxee. There are a few ads but not many. For a lot of the movies, you’ll also need to set yourself up an account there and configure your uncrippled Apple TV accordingly.

But What About Asterisk®? We knew someone would ask. Sure. An Asterisk for Mac solution should work on the Apple TV if you don’t plan to use it as a media center. For best results, compile everything on a separate Tiger Mac, and then move it over. Keep in mind that the device is limited to 256MB of RAM so simultaneously using the Apple TV as both an Asterisk PBX and a media center more than likely will cause unacceptable performance degradation in both your phone calls and your music and video streams. Someday perhaps we’ll give it a try. In the meantime, enjoy your new open source media center!

Want a Bootable PBX in a Flash Drive? Next week to celebrate the beginning of Nerd Vittles’ Fifth Year, we’ll be introducing our bootable USB flash installer for PBX in a Flash with all of the goodies in the VPN in a Flash system featured a few weeks ago on Nerd Vittles. You can build a complete turnkey system using almost any current generation PC with a SATA drive and our flash installer in less than 15 minutes!

If you’d like to put your name in the hat for a chance to win a free one delivered to your door, just post a comment at this link with your best PBX in a Flash story.3

Be sure to include your real email address which will not be posted. The winner will be chosen by drawing an email address out of a hat (the old fashioned way!) from all of the comments posted over the next couple weeks. Good luck to everyone!

Awesome Vitelity Special. Vitelity has generously offered a terrific discount for Nerd Vittles readers. You now can get an almost half-price DID from our special Vitelity sign-up link. If you’re seeking the best flexibility in choosing an area code and phone number plus the lowest entry level pricing plus high quality calls, then Vitelity is the hands-down winner. Vitelity provides Tier A DID inbound service in over 3,000 rate centers throughout the US and Canada. When you use our special link to sign up, Nerd Vittles gets a few shekels down the road to support our open source development efforts while you get an incredible signup deal as well. The going rate for Vitelity’s DID service is $7.95 a month which includes up to 4,000 incoming minutes on two simultaneous channels with terminations priced at 1.45¢ per minute. Not any more! For our users, here’s a deal you can’t (and shouldn’t) refuse! Sign up now, and you can purchase a Tier A DID with unlimited incoming calls and four simultaneous channels for just $3.99 a month. To check availability of local numbers and tiers of service from Vitelity, click here. NOTE: You can only use the Nerd Vittles sign-up link to order your DIDs, or you won’t get the special pricing! Vitelity’s rate is just 1.44¢ per minute for outbound calls in the U.S. There is a $35 prepay when you sign up. This covers future usage. Any balance is refundable if you decide to discontinue service with Vitelity.

Some Recent Nerd Vittles Articles of Interest…

  1. Disgruntled customers reportedly have filed over a billion dollars’ worth of lawsuits over their bricked iPhones claiming Apple did it intentionally. Great PR move there, Steve! []
  2. The Apple TV actually runs a modified version of Tiger (aka Mac OS X 10.4). []
  3. This offer does not extend to those in jurisdictions in which our offer or your participation may be regulated or prohibited by statute or regulation. []

Manly Man Alert: A Valentine’s “Gift With A Plug” That Won’t Get You Killed

Philips Digital Picture FrameWe’ve been a big fan of the Ceiva digital picture frames since they were first introduced several years back. In fact, all of my daughters’ grandmothers have one and love them. The beauty of the devices is that you can upload photos to the Ceiva web site and update one or many devices whenever you choose. The drawbacks are the monthly subscription fee per device (which now costs as much per frame as dial-up Internet service) and low resolution displays (640×480) which are adequate but nothing special to look at. The devices hold a maximum of 20 pictures or a customized weather or stock report. If you want to display the pictures perfectly on the Ceiva, then the images need to be converted to 640×480 before you upload them. When grandma is hundreds of miles away, however, there is no better gift on the planet if there are young grandchildren that change almost every day. And you can provide special passwords to numerous people to allow them to share photos with grandma as well.

Today’s column, however, isn’t just about what’s good for grandma. It’s about a brand new digital picture frame for your significant other. The frame can handle a CompactFlash, SD, MMC, or MemoryStick card but has no Internet connectivity. In short, you’ll need physical access to this device to load it with pictures. The tradeoff is its resolution which is nothing short of incredible. In addition to being powered by an AC adapter, the unit also can operate on its internal battery for about an hour at a time, just long enough to pass it around on Valentine’s Day with a customized slide show of about 50 pictures. The actual LCD image is 4″ x 6″ and can be oriented either vertically or horizontally. Unlike similar, high quality frames of years past which sold for several thousand dollars, this one, the Philips Digital Photo Display, is downright reasonable with a suggested retail price of $299 which is exactly what it costs at The Sharper Image, the only retailer with the product in stock this past Christmas. There’s a link on Philips’ web site to check for other retailers, and there may be some that actually have the unit by now.

The way the system works is that you load several dozen of your favorite photos on your preferred memory card. Then plug the card into the frame. You’ll get a listing of all the pictures that are “suitable” for use with the frame. Some low-res photos and super high-res photos get rejected. Otherwise, you click a button on the back of the frame to choose the pictures you want to upload to the frame’s internal memory. Then you click the OK button and let the frame do its thing. It will convert every photo to fit perfectly on the frame regardless of its original dimensions. Once all the pictures are loaded, you simply remove the memory card and set the display to play back your pictures either randomly or sequentially in a slide show. Image switching and image orientation both are based on a variety of settings from which you can choose. You also can set an ON and OFF time for the frame each day. A USB cable also is included for connecting the unit to your PC or Mac.

Bottom Line: If you have a digital camera, you need one of these … maybe more. We rate this frame a must-have for those that are serious about photography and want a high quality, easy to use device for displaying several dozen photos in your home or office. It’s also the perfect Valentine’s gift, and you’ve still got almost a week to find one so get busy! If you spend a little time loading it up with pictures before the Big Day, this may be the first “gift with a plug” that doesn’t get you a black eye from your spouse. YMMV.