The Robots are Here and They're Here to Help

HP Unleashes Thunderbolt for ZBook Line

The new HP ZBook 17 Mobile Workstation should make a lot of mobile video editors happy. Finally, Thunderbolt alone will have a profound effect on the entire production workflow. The ability to drive a 4k display when necessary is also a nice perk. Nvidia's latest GPUs are also featured. We're looking forward to getting our hands on this one.

Visit HP for more information and all the specs.

LED versus Plasma versus LCD: LED is winning

Samsung is cranking out some amazing smart televisions with Internet apps and menu systems that are extremely easy to use. There was a time when we’d look at the pros and cons of plasma versus LED versus LCD but these days if you have the cash to spend we’d advise going with LED.

To make it even simpler, start with Samsung and use its latest line of LEDs as your benchmark for price and performance. If you feel that Vizio at Costco can compete on quality and features than go for it.

If you’re still addicted to the black levels of plasma and its warm picture, start with Panasonic as your benchmark and go from there. With the power consumption, heat and weight of plasma it’s getting harder and harder to justify on anything other than cost.

Older style LCDs we’d flat out avoid these days unless your budget dictates it. In that case, start with what Sharp and Sony are doing and go from there.

Our favorite suppliers of TVs in order are Samsung, Panasonic, Sony and Sharp. Again, we advise using these manufactures as your benchmark and if you see something you like that compares favorably on price, go for it.

If you took us to the electronics store today we’d likely spend the most time choosing among the Samsung lineup as the company is really doing a nice job with the picture quality, menu system and industrial design.

Visit Samsung for more information.

Join Me - The Fastest and Simplest Way to Share What You See On Your Computer Screen

If you’re looking for the fastest and simplest way to share what you see on your computer screen with anyone, anywhere in the world, this is it.

The folks at LogMeIn revolutionized remote access to PCs and now they’ve made it just as simple to do a “live meeting” without Live Meeting or any other cumbersome solution.

We attended a marketing meeting with folks in the US, Spain and Israel all on the conference call . It took less than 1 minute using ‘join me’ to have everybody online and following the Powerpoint in real time. It doesn’t get much easier than that.

Join me is free for basic use and offers a premium pay service as well. If you frequently herd cats with Powerpoint or any material you want to share from 1 computer to many, join me is a no hassle way to get it done.

Visit Join Me for more information and to share your computer screen in seconds.

Reverb Controls on Lexicon 224

Here's a brief demo of the Lexicon 224 in action. Using a simple drum beat you can hear the effects of the various controls.

Google Music Review

We like Google Music. It’s fast, easy and offers plenty of storage allowing up to 20,000 tracks to be added to your collection in the cloud.

There are some early quirks. For example, if you have music from the same album in different folders on your PC the service will create multiple albums with the same artwork in the cloud. Also, the upload process lost track of the number of songs we uploaded and seemed to give up counting at 6,324. When we added another round of tracks the upload worked without freezing.

We also uploaded some mixes we made that were about 110 minutes long. Google takes these no problem. So it doesn't appear there is a time limit on tracks or any specific metadata in the track that is required to upload it.   It simply shows up as a track or mix without any album art. 

The best thing about Music by Google is the speed. It’s very impressive that we can search by artist, album, track and genre in near real time. The GUI is really simple on both the PC and Droid.  With a solid 3G connection on two different Droid phones the experience is almost instant. We do think we’ll see some intelligent caching mechanisms that will make the experience even better. Currently the music streams with very few hiccups but they are annoying when it happens. Sound quality is good.

We mostly tested the service using the Droid but the music player for desktop isn’t too bad. It’s all cloud based and it may seem silly to access your music this way when you’re at the source but now you can grab it from any PC and create instant mixes. Google needs to add more intelligence to the mix function. Even with our large collection of music it uses to many songs by the same artist in a 25 track mix. Surely it could allow us to customize this more, add a social engine and overall have more fun with this.  Perhaps a recommendation engine and store are in the works.  However, label and publisher deals are never easy and every service has different terms so we'll just hope for the best.

The funny thing is, as much as we love the speed of Google’s Music app on the Droid and generally think it works pretty well, this past memorial weekend we accessed Mog more than our own collection. It seems music discovery is trumping our catalog on the funkyfresh front.

We have a feeling something may be in the works in Cupertino that will address both catalog and discovery for an optimum user experience. We’ll see. For now, Google Music and Mog is a pretty potent combo. Visit Google Music for more information.

Can't Play an Instrument? Check out The Mouth

Tim Exile has made arguably the best product demo of all time for Native Iinstruments.  The Mouth is flat out fun.  Can't afford to hire Dr. Luke for your next mix?  Consider messing around with this.  You may surprise yourself.

GroupMe is a Free and Seamless Way to do Conference Calls and Group Messaging

GroupMe, founded just last year and making a recent splash at SXSW, is one of the quickest ways to set up conference calls and group messaging and it’s free. Just register and pop in a few phone numbers. It really couldn’t be easier.

We set up a quick call with 2 cell phones and a Cisco IP phone. We received error messages when we called in with the Cisco phone. However, when we used the cell phones to start the conference call everything worked fine. Later in the day the Cisco IP phone worked fine too. Not sure what the deal was because the phone and network were working fine that day.

What’s cool is any phone that is part of the group can be used to initiate the conference call or group messaging session and all other phones in the group will be called automatically. This could be viewed as a nuisance to some because conference members might prefer to check in when ready but it really makes for a seamless way to network. Just tell everyone, “hey let’s get on a call at 3”, nobody has to do anything until the moderator is actually ready to start the call.

The best way to appreciate GroupMe is to try it for yourself. You can set it up in just a couple of minutes and it supports up to 25 users at once, although we’d keep it under 10.

Visit GroupMe for more information and to easily set up a conference of your own.

How To Activate God Mode or GodMode in Windows 7

Want to activate GodMode in Windows 7? Oh, what is GodMode you ask? Basically all your settings and control panel power in one easy to access screen.

It's not for everyone so be judicious on where you install it. If you’re the designated IT person for your family or you just like to tweak your settings you’ll love it. If you’re a more casual user or setting up a computer for the less tech savvy in the clan than stop reading now.

Here’s how to enable GodMode or God Mode in Windows 7.

Step 1: Right click on the Desktop.

Step 2: Click create folder.

Step 3: Name the new folder: "GodMode.{ED7BA470-8E54-465E-825C- 99712043E01C}" (without the quotes of course) and press enter.

Step 4: Step back and behold the power of GodMode or God Mode as we will search for it on Google.

Steps 5,6,7…and more, have fun tweaking to your heart’s content.

Prince Declares "The Internet is over"

Prince is releasing his new album "20Ten" as a free CD with the Daily Mirror in London. During a recent interview he declared the "Internet is over".

At first we thought this was some type of prank by "The Onion" but apparently The Purple One believes the Internet will soon go the way of MTV and become irrelevant. "The Internet is completely over," Prince told the Mirror. "I don't see why I should give my new music to iTunes or anyone else. They won't pay me an advance for it and then they get angry when they can't get it."

Wait, it gets better. Prince doesn't seem to like electronics at all aside from what he uses to make music as he went on to add, "All these computers and digital gadgets are no good," he said. "They just fill your head with numbers and that can't be good for you."

Prince does not intend "20Ten" to get a download release in addition to the free CD distribution with newspapers and magazines. He has also shut down his official website and does not plan to license new music to download stores or subscription services. U.S. distribution is in question.

Prince is one of the funkiest artists of all times and would be in the funkyfresh hall of fame if we had one. Perhaps he is once again ahead of his time and all this Internet stuff will just blow over. Not likely but we can't say we would be all that disappointed if it did. For now, we're pretty much overflowing with 1s and 0s.

funkyfresh Christmas Hot List 2009

Sony PS3
Now that it’s $299 and includes a killer Blu-Ray player, the PS3 is hard to beat as a versatile entertainment machine.  Plus it makes a pretty good space heater during the winter months. 

The best units are still built in but Garmin and company aren’t too far behind. For the loved one that’s constantly lost and calling you to look up directions online, as if you’re a personalized Onstar system or something, this is a good call.

Digital Camera
More megapixels, better lenses and faster shots always makes a good stocking stuffer. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS3 10megapixel is a good starting point. Sony and Canon are also good bets.  Plus memory is dirt cheap  so take lots of shots.

When you want a good book to read and the bookstore is closed, download it. The Kindle from Amazon is a good choice for enjoying e-books.  Sony has recently entered the fray as well.

Mobil microSD Reader
Basically it allows you to move lots of data around really easily without taking up a lot of space. Great for moving pictures, movies, music or other stuff from your phone to your PC to your USB enabled DVD drive and any combination thereof. Very, very handy and perfect for the geek on your list.

MP3 Player
Our current favorite is the Clip+ from SanDisk. It will play just about any kind of audio file, synchs easily with subscription services such as Rhapsody, includes an FM tuner, is expandable with a microSD slot, includes a built in clip for working out, is slotRadio compatible and most importantly sounds great.

Casio G-Shock
The Casio G-Shock is in the funkyfresh hall of fame. We’ve had a love affair with the G-Shock since it was first introduced. This is one gift that’s guaranteed to get plenty of use. We love the new funky green color. Casio always keeps it fresh. Be sure to check out the Tough Solar models that run on sunlight and automatically set the time.  We forgot about one unit in the trunk of a car and it was keeping perfect time six months later.

Install a Bunch of Great Apps with 1 Click and go Ninite

Ninite is an extremely useful free service that allows you to simply mark a checkbox of all the applications you want and download one installation package to automate the process. It's an incredible timesaver for installing must have apps for any new PC.

At funkyfresh we have become the defacto tech support group for friends and family and Ninite will save us a lot of time whenever it's necessary to do a fresh install of an operating system or simply add a few apps that are missing. The best part is get can just send our relative to Ninite and with one click they can handle a bunch of stuff at once. Wih remote access to the PC we're much more efficient too

Some of the popular applications you can install with Ninite include iTunes, skype, Spotify, Hulu, Picassa, Adobe Reader, Flash, uTorrent, CDBurnerXP, Firefox, Audacity, AVG Antivirus, OpenOffice and many more. Just check all the boxes, click install and go "Ninite", maybe that's where the name comes from. At any rate, Ninite is a funkyfresh essential element of any PC environment.

Visit Ninite to grab all the apps you need now.

Amazon Remembers Automatic Product Finder

This is one of the coolest apps we’ve seen for the iPhone. It’s like the music identification app Shazam but for any kind of product. You simply snap a picture of the product you’re interested in and submit it to Amazon. Amazon Remembers matches the photo against a vast database of products and in a few minutes you’ll have the product name, the retail photo and the price. Amazon already offers one of the best shopping experiences on the planet and now it just got that much more impressive. It’s perfect for those times when you’re out and about and see something you need. Instead of asking someone, “Hey, where did you get that?”, just snap a pic and wait for the results.

We tested Amazon Remembers by taking pics of studio speakers, PC backpacks, snacks and other various items. It was surprisingly accurate even when the photos were taken from less than perfect angles and less than perfect light. It’s really cool and a huge timesaver or time waster depending how you loot at it.

Visit Amazon for more information.

Google Fast Flip News Hound Fun

Google brings an analog flavor to news with it's new FastFli web app. It kind of made us want to reach out and slide articles around on our flat screen similar to the way we use the screen on the iPhone

At funkyfresh we're partial to anything with an analog vibe. We miss our knobs. Almost all the recording and mixing we do now is "in the box". Our local paper just made a plea for ideas on how it might be saved from extinction. We're not digging the ink on the hands but we still enjoy the flipping of the pages.

Google Fast Flip makes it easy to do just that with myriad sources in a fast and custom way. It's fun to literally flip like mad until something catches your eye. We find it a great way to do a visual scan of the days news. Perhaps the novelty will wear off but for now it's something fresh and fun from the Googleplex.

Keep New Apps in the Sandbox

Sandboxie has been around for a few years but unless you have a specific need for this utility you might not have discovered it. We recently needed to run two instances of an M3U editor that doesn’t allow multiple instances in Windows. Well, Sandboxie worked great for that and is handy for other tasks as well.

Sandboxie runs programs in an isolated space on your hard drive which prevents unwanted permanent changes to your system and other programs running on your computer. Just like a sandbox little kids might play in, the programs are free to trash this area and wreak havoc while everything stays cool with the rest of your PC.

If you like trying new software but hate the problems that come with removing poorly written code than Sandboxie just may be the ticket for you.

Visit Sandboxie for more information.

IK Multimedia GrooveMaker for iPhone

IK Multimedia adds another funky app to the fray. The GooveMaker for iPhone ports the PC/Mac application to the wondrous little phone.  It's  like a poor man's version of Roland's GooveBox in the palm of your hand.  It's getting to the point now where you could pack an iPhone, a laptop, decent sound card and condenser mic in a backpack and bang out a demo tape just about anywhere.

We could spout off about what we think but when it comes to fun toys like this you really have to just check it out for yourself.  Just load it and play and see what happens. The free version includes a variety of house and Hip-Hop styles with plenty of loops to get you started. IK always does a pretty good job with the sounds so you may surprise yourself by the noise you can make.

Visit Groovemaker for more information.

Cool iPhone Synth App

A Cable Any Guitar Player Would Love

When guitar players see this new cable, they’ll say, “I can’t believe somebody hasn’t thought of this before”. Yep. Meet the Spinstigator, a clever new guitar cable that never gets tangled or twisted from all your crazy rock moves on stage.

Active guitar players used to have a couple of choices; buy an expensive wireless rig or simply untangle the guitar cord throughout the night. The third option is the new Spinstigator. This is great for the working musician or even someone practicing at home. Even if you only move around a little bit with your guitar you can get pretty tangled up in just a half hour. Check it out next time you’re at a bar or wedding. Watch how the guitar player has to untangle the guitar cord nearly every set. It’s not fun and it certainly doesn’t look cool nor professional.

We tested the Spinstigator with a Rickenbacker and Strat. One of the best things about using this cord versus a wireless rig is the sound. It sounds just like a regular guitar cord but without the hassle, noise or interference of a wireless system. I love this product because it’s classic problem solving at its core. What makes guitar players crazy? Twisted cables and drummers that play too loud. Here’s a solution invented by a guitar player and made in the USA that addresses the first problem. You're on your own with the crazy drummers.

The Spinstigator folks claim this guitar will last longer than a regular cord because the copper wire inside isn’t getting bent into knots all the time. It’s very quiet and makes no noise whatsoever so your playing is always nice and clean. The electrical connection in the rotating device is being made with mercury, a liquid metal, so it’ll never get that static, scratchy noise like dirty volume knobs on a guitar or amplifier. There’s constant electrical contact being made all the time between the moving parts. The flexible 20 gauge cable and G&H connector ends are top quality, too.

Players that already use cords instead of wireless will love this because it’s simple and they’ve got the same direct signal they want, and a few wireless users may jump back to using cords once they try this little funky little deal. Of course, this is not for everyone. Obviously if you’re a player running around on an arena sized stage this won’t cut it. However, for most users, this will be a nice change from the receiver, transmitter, batteries, wall wart, interference and the “I don’t get exactly the same tone and gain” problems associated with wireless.

The Spinstigator comes in four convenient lengths so players running to nearby stomp boxes or all the way to their amps should be covered. This would make a great Father’s day gift or stocking stuffer.

Visit The folks at Spinstigator for more information and to watch a video of this cable in action. Made in the USA.

Casio Edifice 3D Chronograph Review

The Casio Edifice 3D Chronograph is a sophisticated everyday watch that combines Casio’s rugged solar technology with familiar G-Shock features in an upscale stainless steel design. The analog face is attractive in spite of being a little busy. Most importantly, the latest Ediface from Casio keeps great time thanks to its Multi-Band 6 Waveceptor Atomic Timekeeping.

When we unboxed this beauty the first thing we noticed was its heft. This watch looks and feels substantial. So much so that at first we thought it was a little too heavy. However, after getting a few links taken out and wearing it for a few days we found it quite comfortable.

Setting the time couldn’t be easier once you know which combination of buttons to press. However, it did require a quick peek at the manual. Unlike a digital watch that you can easily figure out by seeing which digits flash when certain buttons are pressed, the analog nature of the 3D Edifice left us looking at a confusing array of clockwise and counter clockwise movements, sometimes all at once. The 4 button Scheme is similar to what you might encounter with a G-Shock but less intuitive.

We wore this watch out and about, in the shower and in the pool. After a few days we got used to the heft. We really like Casio’s implementation of its rugged solar technology. The biggest problem with a watch running out of juice is it happens at the wrong time. The Edifice 3D is designed to give you plenty of warning signs it's about to run out of power and needs some light to recharge. For example, the second hand will tick every two seconds when power starts getting low. The watch will appear to have stopped when juice gets really low. Pop it in the sun and it comes back to life and displays the correct time. Very Cool. Very smart.  Very Casio. 

We tested the first electric car from General Motors, the EV-1, and one of the things that drove us nuts at the time was we constantly had to check the “fuel tank”. The EV-1 had very poor battery life. So we were always afraid of running out of juice. Solar watches tend to be rather efficient and Casio has effectively eliminated any doubt and is providing extra piece of mind, albeit on a much smaller scale, with its rugged solar technology. It’s efficient, green and cool.

One caveat. When we had the watch sized at Tourneau they claimed a watch of this size and heft would benefit from having two sleeves per pin in the band for better durability. Maybe just a sales technique to get us to second guess "our purchase".  The Edifice has just one sleeve per pin. We'll leave you watch freaks to hash this one out. We simply didn't notice and we don't plan on operating a jack hammer with this watch.  We've got the G-Shock for that.

With a $450 MSRP the Edifice 3D Chronograph is not an impulse buy.  However, we imagine a few lucky dads and grads might get a stainless steel surprise this year that will keep them happily on time for many years to come.

Visit Casio for more information.

Phones and Music

The phone isn't a traditional music listening device but that's changed dramatically in the last few years. Just think about the iPhone. Two of the most popular applications for the iPhone are Shazam, an app that helps you identify music, and Pandora, the ultimate music discovery tool if you can tolerate some absurd song picks from time to time.

Now it's possible to receive Sirius XM on a cell phone although it sounds like garbage and of course Slacker is now offered on the iPhone.  SanDisk announced it's slotRadio product at CES and hopes says it will have the cards working on mobile phones this year as well.

On the device side FM transmitters are being added to the chip sets so now you can beam any audio content from your phone to your FM stereo on the frequency of your choosing.  

So, here's a crazy scenario.  Run the Sirius XM app on your cell phone and send it to your car stereo via FM.  Nuts.  I know.  For the true geeks just because they can.  A more likely scenario is to load up a microSD card with lots to music and use the phone as wireless MP3 player in the car.

We reviewed the LG Chocolate 3 a while back and sort of chuckled at the FM transmitter.  Cool, but how much would we really use it?  Well, it's actually been extremely handy.  While riding n a friends car I can DJ with my own collection of music and simply tune the dial to my tunes.  My cell phone is the one device I always have with me.  With a 16GB microSD card installed I have access to over 4 thousand tracks. We can go on a road trip and listen to music 24 hours a day, 10 days straight.  That's pretty nuts.

This is just the beginning.  We're going to see more devices and better GUIs that make it seamless and fun to access more and more content, especially music on wireless devices.  The evolution of these phones is just remarkable.  Many support more codecs than standalone portable media players.  

The final piece of this puzzle will be ruggedized designs with extended battery life.  This will be the death blow to the already declining standalone portable media player market.