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Sansa Connect Firmware Update!

There’s word from the Sansa Connect User Group the Sansa Connect’s firmware has been updated!  Finally we’ll be able to browse and stream Yahoo Unlimited’s 2 million song catalog all from a WiFi connection.  There’s also a new menu for Video.

Looks like the rumor was true!
I just finished updating my player with the new firmware… which
now lets me browse/stream specific tracks from the Yahoo Music
catalog!
There also seems to be a “video” addition to the photos menu. Looks
like this requires downloading the Sansa Media Converter to let you
transfer video from your PC. This wasn’t high on my wish-list, but
nice to know it’s there, I suppose.
I’ve just been playing with it for 5 minutes, but those are the two
big things I saw. Anybody see anything else?
this is a nice present for a Tuesday afternoon!

If you don’t know about the Sansa Connect, it’s a WiFi enabled media player that ties in with Yahoo Music Unlimited To Go subscription service.  I’m currently paying around $15/mo to have access to the entire music catalog with the ability to download tracks.  I’m a big fan of music subscription services.  It’s definitely a great way to explore new music or listen to newly released albums.  If you’re tired of paying $1/track from iTunes to listen to tracks you probably would never buy normally, this is the way to go.

The Connect runs on Linux.  The device and interface was developed by Zing who were recently bought out by Dell.  You can stream internet radio directly with Launchcast, view your Flickr photos, and download tracks/albums/playlists straight to the player through WiFi.. as long as you keep paying.  If you’re not a subscriber, you can still stream Launchcast radio but lose the ability to skip tracks.  You can also plug the Connect into a PC with the USB cable and transfer songs the normal way.  Since it’s using a real OS underneath the hood, it multitasks well.  You can download tracks in the background, listen to Launchcast radio, and view your Flickr photos all at the same time.

You also might wanna check : How to stay Fit by maintaining a proper Diet.

Search, browsing, and streaming the entire catalog has been the #1 request since its release.  This is something the iPhone/iPod Touch just cannot do.  Sure you have a fantastic interface to browse and search the iTunes catalog with the iTunes WiFi Music Store, but you have to purchase and download tracks first before you can play them.  With the Connect and a subscription, direct streaming baby!

The price has dropped down considerably as you can find one for around $100.

Novatel U727 & CradlePoint CTR350 First Impressions

The package arrived today.

The Novatel U727 EVDO Rev.A USB modem, 1 GB microSD card,  and the CradlePoint CTR350 EVDO Router.

Both the modem and router are fairly small.  The router is even more surprising since it’s just a bit wider than a deck of cards.

Modem

The U727 came preactivated with Sprint Broadband from evdoinfo.com.  I installed the Sprint Mobile Broadband dialer and drivers into my Samsung Q1 with the included CD.  It gave a message to update the software but I was able to connect right away.  I slide in the 1GB microSD card into the U727 and copied the software and drivers from the included CD on to it.  The CD came with Mac drivers as well so having the software stuck in the modem’s microSD card may be handy in case I need to connect with other computers.  You can use up to a 4GB card in the U727.

Although it’s around the size of a thumbdrive, it does stick out quite a bit from the Q1.  It comes with a rubber cradle and small USB extension cord that’s designed to attach the modem to an LCD screen.  Unfortunately, the Q1 has so much depth, the cradle won’t attach easily.  I imagine I’ll use velcro or just plug the modem into the router when I need to get connected with the Q1.

Battery drain isn’t too bad.  With WiFi and Bluetooth off, NHC was showing the Q1’s battery drain was around -12W to -14W.  I’m imagining an average 1W drain from the modem but can probably peak to 5W.

The GPS seemed to work when using it with Sprint’s dialer.  It comes with a Location and Search Services feature for searching nearby point of interests, like the nearest restaurant.  After submitting a search, the results are brought up on a Sprint web page with a Microsoft Virtual Earth map showing where you are and icons displaying the search results.

 

ctr-350_zoom

I couldn’t get iGuidance GPS navigation software to find the GPS receiver though.  I will try again later.  I’m assuming it should work since a GPS COM port is showing up in the device manager.

 

 novatel-u727

Router

There’s not much to this router.  On the face, there’s 4 LED indicators.  Power, WLAN, WAN, and USB.

On the left side, there’s a single USB port.

On the right side, there’s a reset button, ethernet jack, and power.  The ethernet jack is only used for WAN connections for connecting to a DSL modem or a hotel network jack as another means to a source connection.   It cannot be used to share the USB EVDO connection to, let’s say, a desktop with an ethernet jack.

The package contains a sheet of instructions on how to update the firmware and a CD with the actual firmware.  It was suppose to come shipped with the latest firmware but it wasn’t.  Mine was installed with 1.4 and when plugging  the U727 into the router, nothing happened.

After updating the firmware to 1.6 through the web admin interface, it recognized the modem right away and started working.

It’s really that simple.  Just plug the USB modem into the router and it connects right away.  The router even allows hot swapping.  I can insert or unplug the U727 without restarting the router.

It comes with the default setting of entering a password to get online.  So anyone can’t hop on your network from the get go.  When you first connect, you are redirected to the router’s interface, similar to connecting to hotel or T-Mobile’s WiFi network.   You can however change to using WEP or other forms of security instead of using the web password form.

There are many options in the admin screen.  It’s definitely a full featured router which can easily run your home wireless network.  One thing it doesn’t show is the signal strength of the USB modem.

 

Battery Powered!

Luckily, one of the tips that comes included with the Tekkeon MP3400 battery fits into the router.  Since the router only uses 5V, it will last a very, very long while time while connected to the Tekkeon.  If it can power my Q1 for 3 hours, then there’s nothing to worry about in the battery life department.

novatel-wireless-4620l-p-n-40123112-001-battery-mint-d60e4da8265a101a4d3a407d958dba99

WiFi Devices

I pulled out other WiFi gadgets to see if they could connect.  But first I set the wireless security of the router to use WEP since not all of my devices have a web browser to type in a password.  All the devices connected to the network with ease.

iPhone –  Browsing was fast.  I could connect to the iTunes WiFi Music Store.  The music previews wouldn’t play for some reason.  I bought a song and it downloaded fine.

PSP – Browsed web sites fine.  Left a tweet.  Didn’t try multiplayer games.

Sansa Connect – Connected and streamed LaunchCast radio fine.  Didn’t try downloading tracks but I assumed it would work.

Speed Test

Test Setup

Samsung Q1 900Mhz Celeron 2GB Windows XP Tablet Edition.

These tests are with the U727 directly connected to the Samsung Q1’s USB port using the Sprint Mobile Broadband dialer.

Tests

In my house.  The signal strength isn’t all that great.  I’m getting -88dBm for EVDO.

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The speed is a lot faster than EDGE though.  Here’s two speed tests (below).  I’ll probably expect that range in my area.  Hopefully higher when I go outside and close to a tower.

I tested downloading a file from download.com (below).  I could live with this.

2-audiobook-downloader-pro-download-window

Connected through router

Here’s some tests with the U727 plugged into the EVDO router which was then plugged into the Tekkeon MP3400 battery.

 

Not sure why the difference but it fluctuates a lot.

I’ll do more tests in a better location and compare the results.  Pages certainly come up fast so this is working out alright.  With EVDO Rev.A I should be able to get around 1.2Mbps in a good area.  My town isn’t particularly great in terms of high speed.  DSL and cable is slow and there’s no HSDPA coverage.  So I’m probably going to expect normal EVDO speeds here.

Conclusion

Hey it works.  I have a portable WiFi network that’s powered with an external battery in a compact package.  How freaking awesome is that?

I will continue to post my thoughts as I use this set up.

The modem sticking out does concern me when I want to connect quickly.  It seems plugging it into the router, then plugging the router into the battery pack is a lot faster solution though. When sticking the modem straight into a device, it first has be recognized by the computer, you then have turn off WiFi, and finally launch the Sprint dialer to get online.

Either way, it’s still a pretty darn convenient and fast way to get connected, with almost any device.

Aiptek A-HD 720p Camcorder Unleashed

aiptek_a-hd_720p

Aiptek released the A-HD 720p (1280×720) SD based camcorder for $170. Wow. I thought their GO-HD was cheap since you can find them for around $230 these days.

I’ve been a fan of Aiptek since I bought the MPVR a while back for $80. I know, the quality isn’t all that great.. but for that price, it was a steal. A really small, flash based, no-moving parts, beat up camera you can take anywhere is super handy. When going surf fishing, the only device I take with me is the Aiptek since I really don’t care if it gets thrashed. I don’t how many times I’ve dropped it with no sign of damage.

The design if this new model looks very similar to the Sanyo SD camcorders. It definitely looks more compact and slimmer than the MPVR or GO-HD.

I don’t think you can call these new Aiptek HD camcorders hybrids anymore though. The MPVR is a camera, digital camera, webcam, video recorder, video player, and MP3 player. The A-HD and GO-HD are just digital cameras and camcorders now.

Here are the specs taken from Amazon Aiptek. (EDIT: Amazon’s specs are for the GO-HD) The main difference from the GO-HD is the removal of optical zoom and LED light. It encodes to h.264 at around 4Mbps. With an 8GB card, you should be able to record around 4 hours of footage. I hope the battery life is better than GO-HD’s 30 minutes.

Product Features

1280 x 720 – 16:9 Ratio @ 30 FPS for Recording Movies:
The A-HD performs 720P high definition video quality to provide a whole new high quality DV experience. One-touch recording allows you to capture stunning HD (1280 x 720 – 16:9 aspect ratio) video clips at 30 frames per second with advanced H.264 technology.

Personal Media Player & Recorder:
Connect the camera to your TV/VCR/DVD player to record video clips, pictures, and audio recordings, and playback directly on the built-in 2.4″ color LCD.Record Video from DVD’s, TV, VHS, or from Any Device that has RCA outputs for entertainment on the go!

Max. Resolution up to 8 Mega-Pixel:
Equipped with 5 mega pixel CMOS sensor, the still image resolution of the A-HD is enhanced to 8 mega pixels. Auto-Focus helps you get the best pictures every time!

Digital Zoom:
2x real time digital zoom allows you to Zoom In/Out while recording video!

Swivel-Reversible 2.4″ TFT Color LCD Display:
Review and playback you HD video clips and hi-res pictures in real time. LCD swivels 270° for unlimited video and photo taking.

Night Shot:
Enhance image quality while capturing photos in darker environments with your A-HD.

Recharge Battery via USB:
Conveniently charge your new A-HD via the USB cable when connected to your PC or use the AC Charger cable included. No need to remove battery from camera.

HDTV Component Output:
Connect your A-HD to your HDTV Component input ports to display your high definition video clips and still pictures, sharing them with friends and family.

Removable Hard Disk and SD/MMC Card Reader:
The A-HD allows you to use up to 8GB of SD card storage to record longer video before having to upload to your PC.


Bring HD Video to your MAC!

Specifications
Image Sensor 5 Mega-Pixel CMOS (2592 x 1944)
Still Image 3200 x 2400 Pixels (8 Mega Pixel)
2560 x 1920 Pixels (5 Mega Pixel)
2048 x 1536 Pixels (3 Mega Pixel)
Movie Mode 1280 x 720 Pixels (H.264) up to 30 fps
720 x 480 Pixels (D1) up to 30 fps
352 x 240 Pixels (CIF) up to 30 fps
Video Format .MOV
Macro Mode Macro Mode: 30 ~ 50cm
Normal Mode: 50cm ~ infinity
Digital Zoom 4x 2x
LCD Display 2.4” TFT Panel with 270° Rotation
Internal Memory 6MB for Storage
External Memory SD Card Slot (256MB – 8GB)
AV-IN YES
TV Out HDTV (Component Out)
NTSC/PAL Color System Supported
Interface USB2.0
Battery NP-60 1000mA Li-Ion battery
Reference Table

Memory

Digital Video (Min.) Still Image (Pic.)
HD
1280 x 720
D1
720 x 480
8 MP
(3200 x 2400)
5 MP
(2560 x 1920)
512MB SD Card 15 min. 36 min. 190 290
1GB SD Card 30 min. 72 min. 380 580
2GB SD Card 60 min. 144 min. 770 1160
4GB SD Card 120 min. 288 min. 1540 2320
8GB SD Card 240 min. 576 min. 3080 4640
Note: The actual number of pictures stored may vary by 30% depending on the resolution and color saturation. The table above is for reference only.

Via Engadget
Review by fishycomics @ Steve’s Digicams Hybrid Digicams forum
Amazon.com product page
Aiptek product page
UPDATE: $149.99 @
Circuit City