Feb 5, 2005

gadget ennui

I read Engadget and Gizmodo fairly religiously. I used to buy gadgets fairly religiously too, but I seem to not be that impressed with anything in years. All the usual suspects don't really get me that excited. iPod seems cool but I used to have an mp3 player when they first came out. I think Creative. I never used the thing. It just sat collecting dust. Unless these products come seriously down in price I probably won't venture into that territory.

Tablet PCs just don't work that well yet. I can see some functionality in the product but until the form factor gets thinner, it's awkward to write when your hand is on the side of the slate.

There's lots of phones out there that do nothing for me. They are ugly and have lots of bells and whistles that don't excite me at all. The Audiovox looks intriguing but it's GSM only. I'm not going back to AT&T (awful and expensive) and for some reason my apartment acts like a Faraday Cage with my TMobile account.

Pocket PCs & Palm devices never seemed like a compelling proposition to me and now that their sales are in decline I feel vindicated.

There's lots of new computers out with lots of bells and whistles but again my reasonably fast home computer and work laptop satisfy most of my needs.

But there are a lot of things I would like and it seems like somebody should be able to make this with the technology that exists today.

First off I want a compelling solution to basic home computing needs in a multi-computer environment. What does this mean exactly? I want to be able to easily control and own some basic web capabilities. These would include my own email and web server. I use hotmail for my primary email but without paying $20 per month for their premium service I can't use it effectively in Outlook. This is crazy. Let me house the damn email server and let me do what I want with it. Let me have a basic web server that I can use. In particular I would like to build a set of web pages that track my daughter's life. Pictures, timelines, medical info, etc. And then I want a basic back up service that will backup any computer that's on my network. And I want to be able to add storage and virtualize it so I'm not pointing data to specific hard drives, I'm just storing data on my collective storage capacity. Then let me move any content I have on the system to any other place and let me do it easily. In particular again I want to play my movies and show my pictures on TV and play my music on a stereo system. Let me do some basic administration as well. Stop people from getting on who I don't want on, backup, making sure all the computers are up to date, etc.

Do this and my entire home computing needs are met. Now I know there are ways to do all this stuff. I could get Windows Small Business Server and a Sonos audio system and some NAS type storage but that's expensive and hard and not well integrated. These capabilities could easily be put together in a tight package so it's a simple process to setup and maintain. I know I'm thinking wishfully on this one.

Something else I want. An external storage product that is 802.11g enabled. And don't charge me $200 for the non-storage component. I now there are enclosures that exist that can do this but they are just ridiculously expensive. All you need is a 802.11g chip, hard drive, and some integration hardware/software. It just shouldn't cost that much. Why I want this is so I can easily add storage and tuck the damn thing somewhere else instead of having umpteen peripherals hanging off my computer and making the back of my computer desk seem like an Amazon jungle of wires. It's ridiculous back there. I actually get scared when I have to go back there and make a wiring modification.

Basic phone with storage, broad-based email/contact/calendar/web capabilities. By broad-based I mean make it sync-able with any email system whether its at my home or hotmail or gmail. If you want to sell me your ringtones and games and all that other crap fine. Just do it through a browser. I can't believe in this day and age I still have a phone that won't synch with any of my contact anywhere. Ugh.

And someone take a page from Apple and make this stuff small and look pretty. Is that so hard? Hire some engineers whose sole purpose is to make stuff small and another set of engineers whose sole purpose is to make it look like it's NOT from the set of star trek. I don't want to see my electronics gadgets I want them to disappear. Arguably Apple's design has gotten considerably more reductionist lately. In fact their older products looked better. The Cube and G4 desktops were much better looking than their new products but at least the new stuff is innocuous. They are all just white/silver, flat, and lacking a huge "Apple" blazoned across the front. Simple right? You'd think so.

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