Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Things you can do with Linux: Program Your DVR

I'm not a Linux person. I approach a new OS with trepidation. My memory stretches back to the days of frequent OS crashes -- at least the bomb on the Mac was cute. (The Sad Face was real trouble.)

I know Linux has many virtues, of operating stability, plus it's free. Fine for the command-line people. But what about the average user, like me, who just wants to get things done? Can computers outpace the methods of paper and pencil and string around the finger?  What's Out There for the Linux platform that will work on the CherryPal?

Found a surprise on a recent Lifehacker posting. There's a program for Linux that let's you control your VCR through your computer. Details posted below. (We have a TiVo so probably won't be testing this immediately -- but someone else might find this just the thing to organize their lives.)

MythTV (Linux)

is a free, open source DVR application. First released way back in
2002, MythTV is one of the first homebrew DVR apps. Once only a viable
option for veteran Linux users and hackers, MythTV has evolved into an
excellent DVR app for those of us lacking much Linux experience,
although it still remains a system tweaker's dream. MythTV is available
in several flavors, including KnoppMyth, a Linux live CD with MythTV preloaded, and Mythbuntu, a MythTV-focused distribution of Ubuntu.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Bing's the Thing: New Netbook from CherryPal

Green, low-cost PC maker CherryPal will present its newest innovation: the Bing nettop computer during Sundance Film Festival, this week in Park City, Utah. The introduction of the new 10.2' wide-screen Intel AtomTM N270 based Cherrypal Bing netbook. Battery life will be five hours for this ultra-efficient machine, and with ease-of-use built in from conception as well as an attractive size/price point, it is ideal for busy filmmakers as well as consumers. Running on the basis of the Linux based GreenMaraschino operating environment, Bing was designed for environmentally savvy, budget minded consumers, and provides excellent web browsing, file sharing, media and music capabilities. It can be used with or without the CherrypalCloud™, which makes the user experience simple, efficient and highly secure.

Excellent news! While setting up my CherryPal 114, I'm thinking, I'm really into portable computing now. I am perhaps spoiled by owning a MacBook and an iTouch; I prefer to think of it as advanced user interface study. Portables seem to fit the busy contemporary lifestyle of staying in touch. Early adopters who are curious about what the CherryPal has to offer can take advantage of 2-for-1 pricing this week, in honor of Sundance.

Details and tech specs in the press release of Jan. 18:

Monday, December 29, 2008

Yes, Virginia, There Is A CherryPal

For a while this fall I had the secret fear that the CherryPal, the little green computer that could, would turn out to be one of those mythical beasts like the unicorn or basilisk. Heckofa year to launch a startup. I consider it a miracle I'm typing this on my CherryPal at all.

But the CherryPal is here, it's real, and it works! Hallelujah!

As represented, it is tiny, about the size of a hefty paperback book. It comes with a power supply. You provide the keyboard and mouse and monitor. And the network hookup. It's a great way to get some more mileage out of peripherals you might have around the house. (If they aren't Mac System 9, as ours turned out to be, with the 9-pin plugs.)

It runs on Linux, which gives this longtime Mac-head the sensation of going back to Windows 2.0, but without the crashes. I followed the instructions for setup and with the exception of the monitor adventure chronicled below, and the system date, things worked out as they should.

I'm happy to be using Google at all. When I tried to log on earlier, the Linux system was using a 1970 date and Google could not be convinced this was trustworthy. No Gmail, no Blogger, no Reader -- no fun! I was able to change the system date once CherryPal support assured me it was OK. (The help prompts were rather foreboding.) I am all for retro but 1970 is not a year I'd pick to live again.

There are still some nits to iron out. The CherryPal people are working on more support and FAQs. Some of the instructions are not what one expects. When setting up, for example, the last thing you do is plug in the power because there is no power switch.

Before I can recommend this without reserve to a lot of folks who could benefit from a low-cost green computer -- and believe me, I have a list of friends and relatives who qualify -- there needs to be more user-friendly support in place.

But if you are an early adopter -- a Linux geek -- a green maven -- go for it! The company is very receptive to feedback from users, and working on even better things to come.

Next challenge, photos!

Tech Notes: I'm currently using a new cheap LogiTech keyboard, the Apple mouse borrowed from our system upstairs when the new cheap LogiTech mouse did not seem to work, and the Polaroid monitor that is actually the television.

My startup went splendidly except there was no visible way to interface with the computer. Turned out it was MY problem: the monitor needed to have one additional setting tweaked for "autofit". All the menus, as in Windows, are on a bottom bar, that my display had neatly cut off. I did not know what I was missing, so it took a few exchanges with tech support, who kept telling me to click on things I did not see, before we solved the comedy of errors.

Next up: we'll visit my son the software engineer -- one good thing to come out of 1971 -- and see what he has to say about the CherryPal. This time I promise to remember the power cord.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Cloud Computing: Graphic Editing Apps from Aviary

Love the internet? My hunch is we will all be doing more online and less on our hard drives as time goes on. So do the folks at Aviary.

This Long Island-based firm has developed a competitor to Adobe Creative Suite, composed of four different applications. The four apps are: Phoenix, the Web-based Image Editor,
Toucan creates color swatches and palettes, Peacock generates patterns and terrain, and Raven (the newest hatchling) is a vector editor similar to Illustrator.

I heard about Phoenix through Photojojo, a weekly resource of cool, fun things you can do with photography. More comment from Photojojo:

"Phoenix is an image editor that works just like Photoshop. It’s got magic wands, layers, masks, blend modes: the whole enchilada.
It’s web-based, so you don’t have to download any software or use up space on your hard drive. You can use photos already on the web, too: Flickr, Facebook and Picasa all work.
There are 40+ free tutorials that range from beginner to advanced, so you can learn how to use all them fancy tools.
There’s a very good free version, as well as a souped-up hotrod version that’s actually worth paying for."

Aviary was developed in response to artists who balked at the price of Adobe's Creative Suite. You can pay yearly, monthly, or use the service for free for your own enjoyment. Being web-based, we know in advance it will work with our CherryPals when they arrive.

Monday, October 13, 2008

More from CherryPal Founder Max Seybold

You can read much more online about the CherryPal, including a blog from Max Seybold, founder and CEO.

About the green personal computing revolution ...: The C114 is coming Election Day, November 4th

The values: Green, Open, and Fair distinguish CherryPal from the competition.

Improved CherryPals Shipping Nov. 4!

Good news! The CherryPals are shipping on Nov. 4.
Latest info from the revised website:

CherryPal™ replaced the C100 with the 8GB
SSD C114 - still the same price!!!

All open and future orders will get an automatic upgrade
to the C114 - same low price of $249.00 but with 8GB
(C100 4GM) local FLASH storage.

We will start shipping the C114 (read eleven, four) on US
Election Day, Tuesday November 4th, 2008. We all hope
this day will change the world for the better.

We are accepting orders again, shipment on
11/4 guaranteed!!!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Minimalist Computing

Some interesting points to ponder on today's Unclutterer Blog.

Alex Payne offers Rules for Computing Happiness: Software Simplicity that are relevant to CherryPal and the way users will "live in the cloud."

When it comes to software, in my opinion, there’s no better way to keep it simple than to use as little of it as possible. All software exists to offer some solution, but with software comes problems: a learning curve, bugs, upgrades, security issues, and so on. Clearly identify what you really want to accomplish and you might find that you don’t need a new piece of software, or that an application to meet your goal is already installed on your computer.

Once you’ve identified your goal, pick an application that helps you accomplish that goal and nothing more. Extra features mean more bugs and less focus. Microsoft Office is the perfect example of an over-featured application: it does so many things for so many different types of users that most of us are scared to dive into its seemingly unending menus and settings. If you just need to write, use a simple text editor like Notepad on Windows or TextEdit on the Mac. Good software gets out of your way.

Life without MS Office? It's possible. Once I lived in it, now I use Word only for formal projects. Payne has some comments about online software too.

Ever more applications are moving online, and this poses a new set of challenges when trying to keep your computing experience simple and enjoyable. Chances are good that if an application requires that you sync over the internet in order for it to work, it’s going to be a source of frustration. Syncing is a perennial spring of bugs and lost data, as there’s plenty that can go wrong during a sync. Instead, put data that needs to be available to multiple computers on web-based applications. For example, rather than trying to sync your documents across computers, put the ones you need to share on Google Docs. Just don’t get in the habit of using web applications for everything — not everything needs sharing, they’re no good when you need to get to your stuff while offline.

The last sentence points out one facet of the CherryPal that will be interesting to review. I will have my little data stick handy.