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Review:Sony Ericsson Stereo Bluetooth Headset

sony ericsson HBH-is800I don’t even know the number of times I’ve tweeted something like, “so frustrated with my bluetooth headset in the car”, because I’m sure it’s been too much.  I have one of two problems: either I can hear the other person fine but they can’t hear me (such is the case with the Jabra sets I’ve tried), or they can hear me just fine but I have a hard time hearing them (such is the case with the Jawbones I’ve tried).  A few weeks back Jed Hallam saw one of my cries for help and replied with a direct message, “can I send you a Sony Ericcson bluetooth headset that I think you’ll like?”  Of course I said yes, but was skeptical.  I’ve been trying to find a decent bluetooth for years, and so far nothing has worked well.  Given that California, the state in which I reside, requires hand free devices for all drivers using mobile phone you can imagine how it’s more than a little maddening at times.

I got the Sony Ericsson HBH-IS800 package (in which Jed was kind enough to include a NA-friendly charger since he’s from across the pond) and was immediately impressed with the small size.  Jed didn’t tell me what he was sending, so I was quite happy to find two ear buds, no larger than what I normally use to listen to music, attached with only 1 cord.  Beautifully compact, these fit in my backpack or pocket quite nicely.

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Last.fm Available For Google Android

Last.fm today announced its launch on the Android platform, offering an ‘on-the-go’ music application enabling users to access all the best of Last.fm from their mobile phones. Features include similar artists and genre-specific streaming radio stations, personalized streaming radio, up-to-date concert information and the ability to track users’ listening habits to their Last.fm profile. The launch of Last.fm on Android marks the latest step in Last.fm’s expansion into the mobile music space. The application is available for download through the Android Market.

Last.fm Now On Android

Last.fm Now On Android

Using the Last.fm application, users can listen to streaming radio stations such as personal recommendations, similar artists, and genre-specific tracks. Users can also share tracks with their friends on Last.fm and stream other users’ stations. The new ‘Background Playback’ feature enables users to listen to Last.fm’s streaming music while accessing other programs, such as email, without interrupting the music experience.

Last.fm users can view an on-the-go version of their personal music profiles that includes mobile versions of Last.fm Charts page and Artist pages, with biographies, tags, similar artists and top listeners, all optimized for the Android platform. Users can access Last.fm’s Events listings to browse artists on tour, search for events, view Last.fm recommendations and view mapped directions to music venues.

“We are thrilled to bring Last.fm even further into the mobile music space with the launch of this app. The Last.fm service on Android enables our listeners to use virtually every Last.fm feature on their mobiles,” said Martin Stiksel, Last.fm Co-Founder. “It truly is a ‘to-go’ version of the site. Last.fm on Android takes the mobile music experience to the next level.”

Last.fm on Android follows Last.fm’s successful launch on the iPhone and iPod Touch last year, as well as integrations with Vodafone, T-Mobile, and the Three/INQ1 Social Mobile in Europe. You can find more information on the app at Last.fm.

Making Videos Is Easy With Animoto

Animoto Picture Videos

Animoto Picture Videos

Animoto, the online mashup service that brags about being “the end of slideshows” has rolled out some pretty neat features for the new year. You can use animoto to create professional looking videos in a matter of minutes simply by uploading a few pictures and your favorite music track, or use the pre-selected music from the Animoto website. If you have been meaning to share the thousands of photos that you have stored on your laptop but haven’t found a good way, here is how:

  1. Sign Up
    It’s pretty quick, and it’s free if you only want to produce 30-second shorts. For more involved projects the pricing starts at $3 per video and goes up to $249 for a year long commercial account. If you’re just trying to take some pressure off from the recent weekend road trip that everybody wants you to publish, the free account should work just fine. If you are going to make more than a handful of full-length videos over time, at $30/year the All-Access Pass is a pretty good deal.
  2. Select Your Pictures
    This is really as simple as browsing on your computer and selecting multiple pictures at one time. The :30 free videos will accommodate about a dozen pictures and make a nice production. Don’t worry about selecting the order, you can change this later.
  3. Choose Your Music
    You can upload your own music to Animoto (assuming that you have the rights to publish the music), or you can select a track from their collection. Eight different genres are offered, like Hip Hop, Latin or Indie, and each genre has about a dozen different songs to choose from. Chances are you haven’t actually heard of any of the artists or songs in the Animoto collection, but they are surprisingly good nonetheless. You can play a preview of the track before selecting it an moving on.
  4. Final Tweaks
    The last screen you go to will allow some customization of your video. If you are making a full-length video you can change image pacing by selecting 1/2 speed or 2x speed, depending on how you want the final product to feel. You can also choose an image for the video cover screen from the pictures that you uploaded earlier. After you enter some video information (title, description and your name) you click the “create video” button and let Animoto do its magic
  5. Publish
    That’s it! After a few minutes of rendering you are published. I recommend looking at the final video to see how the transitions worked out for you. If you want to make some changes just click the “remix this video” button and change or remove pictures, music and transitions. If you think you are happy with what it looks like, you have a lot of publishing options. The easiest is to just keep the video hosted on Animoto and send a link to your friends, but you can also email it, download it, get code to embed it in your blog or upload it to YouTube.
  6. Animoto On The iPhone
    New for 2009 is the Animoto iPhone app. It’s free, and it works incredibly well. Pick out the photos you like off of your iPhone’s library, select music just like you would from the regular online service, and let it render. In just a few minutes you have a :30 video that you can email to your friends to watch online. This is a really amazing way to share your vacation pics, and to finally get your parents off of your back because you never send them pictures. You can snap photos, render and email in less than five minutes.

Animoto makes all of your photosharing easy and enjoyable, and with the addition of the iPhone app it is easier than ever to create on-the-fly presentations to share. If you have come up with creative ways that you are using Animoto, let us know in the comments!

Zune Phone Rumors [Pics]

The New Zune Phone?
The New Zune Phone?

Wired is reporting that a Zune phone might be in the works, and that possibly it will be announced at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas on January 7, 2009.

Yes, I am one of the few Zune owners in the world, and I absolutely love it.  A while back I wrote a post about the math behind owning a Zune, asking the question to iPod owners: are you stubborn or just bad at math? So yes, I love my Zune and I love the Marketplace that is the focus of my passion.  If a Zune phone does truly come out, I will get it.  It’s just that simple.  Right now I still carry two electronic devices, my iPhone and my Zune 80 and I would love to combine the two into one, but so far each offers me something the other cannot.  

My biggest wish in this story is that Microsoft would work a little harder on the Zune brand before launching a second product.  Honestly, the biggest thing I hear from iPod users after we discuss the ins an outs of Zune ownership is, “I would switch, but I have too much invested in my music.  If only there was an easy way to convert my library”.  Of course there are several ways to convert files, but here is some free advice for Zune: you have a really, really good thing with your music subscription service, so you need to find a way to let people try it without them feeling like they lose.  Build a branded AAC to WMA file converter, offer it for free, and advertise the hell out of it.  I think that would help a lot.

Ischus on Zune

Ischus on Zune

If you are one of the handful of Zune owners around the world, add me as a friend, my tag is “Ischus”.  I would love to share music with you, and of course we can compare notes on the Zune phone if/when it is released.

Silicon Valley Rocks!

Last night I attended the 1st Annual Silicon Valley Rocks at The Great American Music Hall in San Francisco. Billed as a show of “tech professionals by day, garage band by night…” I wasn’t sure what to expect, although the promise of geeks and music wrapped up into one event certainly sounded good to me. 

I wasn’t disappointed.  For a first time show I think it turned out well. I met some interesting people (though somehow I didn’t run into anybody that was tweeting it) and was able to talk geek.  The music was surprsingly good for “garage band” talent.  I think my favorite of the night was the Punjabi-Hip Hop Jazz Funk Experience of blacKMahal.  I streamed the end of their set on Qik, but it’s kind of hard to hear since I was just a few feet from the stage and pretty much right in front of the speakers.  Check out the diversity of this group though…they were excellent and a crowd favorite.

Want Some Buzz? Give Your Goods Away

I’m listening to Viva La Hova while I write this. It’s a mashup mix of Coldplay, one of the greatest rock bands in the world, and Jay-Z, one of the greatest hip hop artist in the world. “A Spy’s Prayer” is playing much louder than I should probably play things while I’m trying to work, butI just can’t help it.  What a great song.  What a great mashup album! I started hearing some buzz about it a week ago, and I finally downloaded it today.  I’m pretty sure I will do the digital equivilent of wearing this album out (remember that with cassette tape? ha ha!).  Haven’t heard of it yet?  You will.  I think that in the next few days it will trend on Twitscoop, I think it’s picking up some momentum.  Why?

It’s Free.

Yes, the great minds that put this together, Mick Boogie and Terry Urban, are giving their music away.  You can go download it right now, DRM free, no strings attached…all 20 tracks. I wonder how hours they put into this project? I wonder if they were tempted to try to sell it? What kind of buzz would they have if there was any cost involved to the consumer?

I have lost track of how many business owners and managers have asked me to create “something viral” that makes money for them right away.  They want visible, tangible results that they can track on Excel, sort of the equivelent of a coupon that tracks sales of a product.  Here’s the thing…you won’t always see immediate results, but if you can break free of the traditional business model of cashing in on the first step, you will probably do better in the long run.  I don’t know what the future holds for Boogie and Urban, but I think they are going to do well. Buzz about this project will continue, people will download their work for free, and they won’t make a nickel off of it at first glance.  But…they will make money.  Publicity, offers, promos…

In your next team strategy meeting, will you try to figure out something that you can give to your customers and fans free of charge? Don’t add conditions and hoops to jump through, just give it away. The loyalty and buzz you create will likely produce more long term gain than anything you can gather in the short term.

I should probably note that before you download the album, the language is, well…hip hop.  If you are not familiar with Jay-Z and are easily offended, you may want to proceed with caution.  Consider yourself warned.