Category Archives: media

My* film premieres today! Rising Star: A cinematic poem to Hartford

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* Okay, it’s not really my film. But it feels like my film. Read on to learn why…

I’ve always loved movies. Growing up as a teen in Portland, OR, I’d escape the heat on unseasonably warm days at The Guild Theater. I saw an incredible number of wonderful old films there, including Billy Wilder’s The Lost Weekend.

Flash forward to late summer 2010…

I learned about a kickstarter project funding a charming Indie film about work/life balance that would not only film in Hartford, it would feature Hartford locations prominently:

Rising Star

I’d never used kickstarter before. I’d never helped fund a film before. I didn’t even know if I could write off my donation on my taxes (until then, a prerequisite).

I visited Rising Star’s kickstarter page several times and went on my way without donating. But something about the film kept drawing me back. How often do you see Hartford featured in film or TV as an attractive, interesting place? It seemed whenever Hartford is on-screen, there’s a focus on crime and blight. Such a sad depiction for a stately city with a rich sense of history.

I just couldn’t stop thinking about Rising Star. How wonderful it would be to see Hartford featured on-screen in a positive way!

When I lived in Portland OR & Seattle, I loved seeing the city I lived in (and loved) featured prominently in films, seemingly an unbilled cast-member. It was fun seeing the places I loved shared with the world on the big screen. Those films felt like a lovely poem to my city.

I knew I had to donate to Rising Star. So, I donated $52 (big spender, I know!). That $52 made me eligible for several things: An autographed special edition DVD, Soundtrack – CD or digital, Personalized thank you letter.

I didn’t it realize at the time but that $52 donation opened up a wonderful new experience learning about filmmaking. Director Marty Lang (twitter: @marty_lang) and Producer/Lead Actor Gary Ploski (twitter: @garyploski) shared Rising Star’s (twitter: @risingstarmovie) progress and the film’s every success with folks on twitter, facebook, and via email. I didn’t just feel like I’d donated to a film. I felt a part of the film.

I watched Film Courage’s interview with Director Marty Lang and learned how the good will of the community enabled the filmmakers to include so many lovely Hartford locations. I have a feeling the community was as excited as I to see Hartford portrayed in a charming, positive light.

I saw how diligently Gary Ploski shared information about the film’s progress and began to realize how much hard work is involved in making and promoting an Indie film. I saw Marty’s and Gary’s generosity and patience in answering questions about the film, and realized my $52 donation was actually an opportunity to support something wonderful, something magical.

Flash forward to May 2012…

Tonight, Sunday May 6, Rising Star will have its world premiere at the Seattle True Independent Film Festival. Please join me in congratulating Director Marty Lang (twitter: @marty_lang), Producer/Lead Actor Gary Ploski (twitter: @garyploski) and the rest of the cast and crew on Rising Star’s (twitter: @risingstarmovie) open!

Rising Star Official Trailer

Why I <3 the nook color…

NOOKcolor screenA few years back, I bought a Kindle 2. I liked it but found the e-ink page turn effect distracting. I also missed having a color display rather than black & white.

In late 2010, the nook color was released. It sounded like an interesting device but seemed impractical for me since I’ve purchased so many Kindle ebooks over the years. Then, an Android developer found a way to root the nook color.

That was what I’d been waiting for… I went ahead and bought a nook color. And recently, I rooted it.

Why do I love the nook color? Let me count the ways:

  • Bright, vibrant color screen and several formatting options available (font sizing, etc.) within the nook reader.
  • Using the library web site along with Overdrive Media Console and Adobe Digital Editions software,  I can borrow ebooks from my local library.
  • Using the same method as borrowing from my local library, I can also borrow ebooks from other libraries that offer lending to out of area residents (e.g., Philadelphia Free Library, Fairfax County Library, National Library Board of Singapore). (Note that Fairfax County Library and Philadelphia Free Library charge an annual fee to out of area residents, but it’s a great option if your local library has a limited ebook collection)
  • Since I’ve rooted my nook color, I was able to install Kindle for Android. I have access to my full Kindle library, as well as any new Kindle books I decide to buy.
  • I can easily find (legally) free ebooks for download from Barnes & Noble and Amazon by referencing Inkmesh web site.
  • I can also download Barnes & Nobles’ Free Friday ebook offering.
  • I can read an ebook free (for an hour) daily in-store at my local Barnes & Noble store. I can also surf the web on my nook color browser using free access to Barnes & Noble’s wifi network.
  • I can lend selected ebooks to friends. (I haven’t tried this yet, will blog an update once I do.)

I’m enjoying the nook color and learning something new every day. Yesterday, I realized I can do an early return on ebooks from my library by connecting my nook color to my laptop, selecting the book within the Adobe Digital Editions software, and then selecting “Return book”.

I highly recommend the nook color. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to let me know in comments.

I love Dropbox!

Oh, Dropbox, how I love you! I find Dropbox is the easiest way to access my files from a variety of locations (laptop, smartphone, tablet). It’s also easy to share files with friends. It’s one of those online products that works so well anyone from a computer novice to hardcore geek can use it with ease.

And did I mention…. Dropbox offers 2GB of online storage for free accounts.

If you haven’t tried Dropbox, you can use this referral link to get an additional 250MB free (=2.250GB total): http://db.tt/8YJPTes

I can’t recommend Dropbox highly enough, it’s been a great way to store and access my files. For another user’s perspective, see Dropbox: The Most Essential Writer’s Tool.

Note: An earlier version of this post included some errors (which have since been corrected). Thanks to http://writingonlinux.wordpress.com/ for commenting to let me know!

Google Chrome OS Notebook (CR-48): One week in

Just a quick update in my ongoing series about using the CR-48. View earlier posts here: Initial observationsa few more observations, and discovering developer mode.

Since my last post,  

I’ve burned through my free 100MB of Verizon. 3G. Attempted to set up add-on data plan online (to tide me over until my free 100MB allotment resets next month), Verizon web form accepted my information and then displayed a “call Verizon” page. Called Verizon to buy add-on data: Long, painful process to finally get transferred to a Verizon employee aware of the Google CR-48 program and special pre-paid data offerings. In all fairness, it’s a new program and Verizon is likely in the process of getting front-line staff trained. Still, wish it had been a smoother process

Continue to use the CR-48 as my primary personal laptop. Surprisingly, the adjustment has been smoother and more pleasant than I expected. After enabling developer mode and installing the developer OS update, the trackpad responsiveness issues seem to be resolved. 

Squashing bugs: I figure if Google sent me a free laptop on the condition all I need to do is use it and report bugs, I’ll do my best to get them feedback on my experience. I’ve found some bugs but since data is saved to the cloud, even those requiring a rude shutdown haven’t really been an issue. It’s a nice experience.

I’ll continue to blog on my CR-48 observations — leave a comment if you have any questions.

Google Chrome OS Notebook (CR-48): Discovering Developer Mode

After being surprised and delighted to receive a Google Chrome OS Notebook (CR-48) a few days ago, I’ve been blogging about my CR-48 initial observations and day-to-day experience.

Yesterday, I decided to try out Developer mode after reading an article on ChromeOSSite.com. It’s an easy process, essentially flipping a switch located in the battery compartment, rebooting and a few other steps (outlined by ChromeOSSite.com here). When I first rebooted, I was greeted by an unnerving screen that declared the OS unverified. Clicking on this screen took me to screen explaining how to re-load the OS (the provided url mentioned loading the OS onto a thumb drive and re-installing). OOPS!

All I needed to do was to remain on the initial boot-up screen following reboot. By waiting at that screen several seconds, the system beeps a few times and then boots into the user log-in screen (as expected). Whew!

My understanding is that developer mode enables:

  • Shell access & other geeky fun: As I kick around in the CR-48, I may want to delve more deeply — developer mode enables this exploration
  • More frequent OS updates: The “normal” (non-developer) mode provides a beta experience. As soon as I rebooted into developer mode, a new OS update was downloaded — perhaps an OS version closer to alpha than beta?

So far, the Developer OS version seems slightly faster than the beta. The OS still struggles with pages containing Flash plug-ins and chugs a bit when trying to load several bookmarks at a time. But hey, it’s beta (or perhaps even alpha), right? Bugs and rough edges are to be expected…. just part of the experience.

I’m still surprised that I haven’t needed to revert to using my Vaio (aside from a short time on Friday). I’m finding the Chrome OS user experience enlightening in just how much I live on the web.

I haven’t yet used the built-in Verizon 3G connectivity, and may try this out today away from home. I love that 100MB is provided free monthly, but a little concerned about how quickly I could burn through that. Luckily, Verizon has included an unlimited day pass for $9.99 in their CR-48 data plan offerings.

I’ll continue to blog on my CR-48 observations — leave a comment if you have any questions.

Initial Hands-On Impressions: CR48 (Google Chrome OS notebook)

Today, I heard the UPS truck drive up, the thud of a package on the porch, and wondered: Is this something I ordered from Amazon or could it be the ever elusive CR48 Google Chrome OS notebook? I’d signed up several days ago to participate in this Google pilot and hoped against hope I’d be picked.

Well, I got lucky! Thank you, Santa… er, Google!

Here are some initial impressions — I’ll post a follow up after I’ve used it more –

Set-up:

  • Physical set-up: Open box, slap on the battery, plug it in, turn it on. Easy!
  • OS/Software Set-up: Set-up wizard started out easy, but came to a screeching halt when my WIFI password kept getting rejected. Not sure if it’s due to my router being set to WPA2 security, the special characters in my looooong password (!), or if I just flat out kept typing it wrong. I finally got the WIFI password entered and accepted, and moved forward with the set-up wizard. It was a little nerve wracking at that point since the set-up sequence requires Internet connection to be enabled or you cannot continue.
  • Password entry tip: Clicking on the tiny icon next to the password field will change the password display from ***** to the actual characters you’re typing in.
  • 3G Connection Set-up: When I first tried to activate the Verizon 3G connection, I kept getting a web page error stating some page elements were not secure. Thankfully, a few minutes later an update notification was pushed to the browser (little orange ball next to wrench in browser toolbar). After that firmware update installed and CR48 restarted, I was able to successfully complete the 3G connection set — 100MB free monthly from Verizon for 24 months.
  • Fun fact for Chrome Canary users: The Chrome browser in Chrome OS supports side (as well as top) tabs.
  • Embarrassing fact: When I signed up for the CR48 pilot program, I expected it to be a fairly routine beta program where the hardware would be shipped, tested by user, then sent back. From what I can tell, Google is shipping the CR48 to beta testers to keep. Very cool! As a Portland, OR store used to advertise, “Free is a very good price!”

Hardware (keeping this part brief since the notebook itself is a prototype — Google won’t put this hardware on the market, but rather license Chrome OS to hardware makers):

  • Trackpad: Like herding kittens! Yikes, this thing has a mind of its own. I set it to the most sensitive setting, and that helped some. Still…. oy. Also note, trackpad seems more accurate when using tap to click rather than clicking, not sure why.
  • Rubberized finish: I like it! It feels nice and looks good (albeit minimalist).
  • Screen: 12″ and easy to read
  • Size/weight: It’s about the size and weight of my Vaio Z (a thin, light laptop). Comfortable to use on my lap or at a desk.
  • Speakers: Remarkably decent.
  • Hardware specs: See gdgt.com for CR48’s detailed spec list

OS/Software:

  • Chrome OS = Chrome browser: What you see is what you get. If your data is generally stored in the cloud (especially using Google services), you probably won’t mind that the OS user interface is simply Chrome browser. However, if you use Outlook or Microsoft Office desktop apps, anticipate an adjustment period.
  • Software settings: Click on the Chrome browser wrench to access your network settings, set time zone, review/update privacy settings, set home screen, etc.
  • Software user experience: Seriously, if you’ve used Chrome browser, it’s cake. If your stuff is stored in the cloud, even better!

Some interesting apps:

  • Twitter: The excellent Tweetdeck desktop client has a Chrome web app counterpart available for download. It works well and provides an easy way to view and post tweets.
  • NPR: Apparently similar to the iPad app, attractive layout and easy to use.
  • AOL You’ve Got News: News aggregator. Nice UI.
  • USA Today: Another great news app.
  • Write Space: Full screen writing app, great for journaling.

There are lots of apps in the Chrome app store, so I’m sure I’ll find some more keepers as I continue to explore Chrome OS.

If you are interested in applying for the CR48 Google Chrome OS pilot program, you can apply here — my impression is that Google is shipping these out in waves, so I don’t think it’s too late. If you’ve already applied and are curious how many CR48 have been shipped / are shipping to a certain, here’s a great tool.

Despite it’s prototype status (and thus inherent rough spots), I’m enjoying the CR48 and Google’s Chrome OS. Will be interesting to see how it evolves over coming weeks!

Logitech Revue (Google TV): Initial impressions

logitech-revue

I picked up a Logitech Revue today out of desire for a better interactive TV experience. I currently have a circa 2004 Comcast DVR (due to older infrastructure in my area) and it provides limited interactive options. I’d had TiVo in the past but didn’t want to go that route because past experience had been that any time my Comcast service went out, Comcast CSRs always blamed the TiVo’s cable cards.

I’ve been curious about Google TV and decided to learn more. Google TV was recently released in the form of the $299 Logitech Revue and $399 Sony Internet TV Blu-Ray Player. Because I already have a PS3 for playing blu-ray discs and had heard that Sony Internet TV Blu-ray Player offered better integration with one of the satellite providers (while I have Comcast Cable Internet), the Logitech Revue seemed a better fit for me.

The Logitech Revue video review by www.booredatwork.com gave me an opportunity to view interactions with the Google TV interface. I found the review extremely informative and recommend it if you’re interested in Google TV. Gizmodo and Engadget have also published interesting reviews.

Buying experience:

I went to a local Best Buy store – sales personnel were generally knowledgeable and helpful. The only negative aspects were:

  • The demo Logitech Revue keyboard didn’t have batteries, so I wasn’t able to interact with the product in-store before buying.
  • The salesman suggested I buy the overpriced Monster brand if I needed an extra HDMI cable. Since there is an HDMI cable already provided in the Logitech Revue box (and I have my existing equipment at home connected to my TV via HDMI), I didn’t need to buy any. (I’ve previously bought HDMI cables for under $20 at the Apple store.)

Set-up:

I had read some horror stories online about initial set-up, so wasn’t sure what to expect. It was amazingly simple. I plugged my Comcast box into the Logitech Revue box, attached an Ethernet cable from my router, plugged the power cord into an outlet, and voila… the Revue automatically kicked off the set-up sequence.

The only glitch I experienced was following the firmware update — the box froze and I needed to reboot to continue set-up. After that, all was well (no freezes or other unexpected behavior).

Pros:

  • I love the interface and how I can now view “what’s on” (via my Comcast DVR signal pass-through to the Logitech Revue) sorted by movies, news, etc. That kind of functionality should be inherent in cable TV DVRs (and perhaps it is, in newer boxes). I haven’t noticed any signal deterioration due to the pass-through, and HD picture quality is good.
  • The Twitter app is well-done, making it easy to click through interesting links, as well as initiate and respond to tweets.
  • The Netflix app works well, but provides an older interface that requires users to update queue via netflix.com (similar to the UI that Roku recently replaced in their streaming boxes). I’ve read that a new Netflix app for Google TV is currently in beta testing, so hopefully it will be pushed to users soon. (EDITED 12/19/2010: The rumored Netflix app update was released last week — the Netflix app now has a beautiful user interface that is as nice, if not nicer, than competing devices.)
  • Youtube’s “Lean Back” mode provides a nice full-screen viewing mode. Incidentally, this UI is available via your PC browser as well via http://www.youtube.com/leanback
  • There are some interesting channels / apps available, including USA Today, Crackle, Youtube, CNN, KQED (among others).
  • The Universal Search feature works very well at finding content.
  • Android phone users can install the Logitech Harmony app which acts as a remote control once connected to Google TV via WIFI.

Cons:

  • Spendy at $299
  • Some channels work awkwardly (Amazon Video on Demand app) or are blocked by the content provider (Hulu, NBC, others).
  • I am embarrassed to admit it took me 15 minutes to realize the Universal Search command had to be invoked from the keyboard, and then another 5 minutes to locate the key (lower left corner of keyboard, next to the Control key).
  • If Universal Search finds future showings of TV / movies available via my Comcast subscription, I still have to go into the Comcast DVR interface to set up the recording.
  • UI is intuitive for Android users, but less technical folks may find it challenging.

There you have it, my initial impressions. I’ll post another review after I’ve had a chance to kick the tires a bit.

Bonus: If you haven’t seen the Logitech Revue commercial featuring Kevin Bacon, it’s worth a watch. And don’t miss the Entertainment Weekly interview with Kevin Bacon on playing his own biggest fan (in the Revue ad).