Techie Toys and the Holiday Season

The Christmas season is upon use.  To me that means family and friends, festive meals and celebration, church festivals and winter vacation.  Every year I try to take off the week of Christmas and the first week of New Year to be with my family, enjoy their company, and recharge my batteries.  This year we have a little bit more to celebrate and be thankful for since my wife will be done with her radiation treatments and, with that, her treatment for breast cancer.

It hasn’t come yet, but soon the snow will be here.  Winter is one of my favorite times, with the white snow blanketing the ground and frosting the trees.  Although I still want to live in a location more tropical location, I think I would greatly miss the snow.  It always seems to have an effect like that of an eraser on a chalkboard, preparing the world for the new spring to come.

 It is also a time to reflect back on the past year and gauge how well I have done on my own personal goals for the past year, and plan what my goals are to be for the upcoming year.

 Also on the vacation agenda: watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy.  Again.  As I am currently reading the series again as well, it will be interesting seeing the differences and adaptations that were made for the movie.

 Finally, I would like to submit to the reader a list of the top five techie gadgets for this holiday season:

 5)    The Boxee Box  –  While Apple TV and Google TV are strong contenders in the streaming video market,  the Boxee box combines style, functionality, and flexibility in a unique package that, in my humble opinion, makes it the current standout in this market.

4)    Apple’s new iPod Nano with touch screen.  While other products in the Apple line up have gotten much glory over the past few months, the new iPod Nano has been mostly overlooked.  Gone is the video camera from this latest version, but it’s small size and touch screen more than make up for that. And at 4-8 times the holding capacity of the ipod shuffle, it’s sure to make any techie a happy camper.

3)    Like a sucker punch in the e-book reader world, Barnes and Noble has release its Nook Color, a color seven inch touch screen running android 2.1.   While not directly competing with the iPad per se, it certainly closes the gap between ereader and tablet.  And for those so inclined, it looks like that gap will be even narrower once the Nook Color is rooted.

2)    The Microsoft Xbox Kinect is going to be the big “must have” video gaming item this season and I suspect will put Microsoft  in the leader position for sales in 2011.  Sony and Wii don’t have anything nearly as sexy as the kinect in their line up.  This season, they are just going to have to sit back and take their lumps.  Meanwhile, any techie worth their salt would be happy to find a Microsoft Kinect under the tree.

1)    The number one techie gift his year is, of course, the iPad.  While there are other alternatives currently available (Archos 5, 7, and 9, Asus EeePad, Dell Slate, Samsung Galaxy Tab, etc.) and a whole slew on the horizon, one thing is clear: Apple’s iPad is still king of the hill, and will be for some time.  While Google’s Android OS has made a good showing, it has an up hill battle against the iPad.   IPad has the user base, the available apps, and a single stable OS to operate on.  Easy and fun to use, the iPad is a great gift for anyone, techie or non-techie.

 One other thing I would like to mention.  At this time there are many suffering and going without.  While all these trinkets and such are nice and fun to have,  please remember those that are struggling to make ends meet, are without employment or housing, or are hungry.  Please remember them at both this time of year and all year long.

Salvation Army

World Vision

Compassion International

St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital

Also please remember you local charities.

Google TV loses a little shine. For now.

It’s been not such a good year for Television and the Web this year. If TV and the web had a Facebook page, their relationship status would be “It’s complicated.”

The “oh-so-awesome” set top box, Google TV has lost a little more it’s shine.  Enough, for me, that I have put purchasing one on hold for now.  It seems Fox has joined CBS, ABC, and NBC in blocking content to Google TV.

In their defense, I think the broadcast networks are correct in doing this, even though Google TV isn’t fundamentally much different than a standard browser and the content is already available via the web, as pointed out on crunchgear.  However, Google TV stands to make a significant profit via ad revenue without, from what I’ve read, compensating the networks for their content.  Certainly the networks can embed their own advertisements in the video streams, but they lose significant revenue over broadcasting via satellite or cable.

In Google’s defense that was part of the point of Google TV was to be able to “cut the cable.”  But it seems a bit presumptuous on the part of Google to assume that the networks would just allow such rebroadcasting of content without some form of compensation.

So for the time being, Google TV seems to be hampered by the networks.  Still there is a lot of good content to be had.  Time-Warner and Viacom are allowing several of their networks to be streamed.    Time-Warner is allowing The CW, The WB, Cartoon Network, TBS, and TNT (amoung others) to be streamed, and Viacom is allowing MTV, Nickelodeon, BET, Comedy Central, and Spike to be streamed.

At this point I am going to take a “wait-and-see” position until they can get more content.

Good weekend.

Our weekends are generally packed to the gills trying to get as much activity as we can backed into those 48+ hours.    But once in a while, the stars align correctly and we have a weekend with nothing scheduled and nothing planned.  Those are the weekends that are the most satisfying.  We had one of rare times this past weekend.  And we had a great time.  We didn’t really do much.  Cleaned the house a bit, went shopping, bought some winter boots, and played a game.  But it was a great time not having the pressure of having a commitment to do something or be somewhere.

So we got to enjoy one another’s company.  That seems like a rarity sometimes.  But it is always a welcomed guest when it does happen.

On Sunday I took my girls to PJ Trick Shop, where I spent many hours enjoying the tricks and discovering the fun that can be had with fake vomit as a boy.  I was a bit apprehensive that my girls wouldn’t like it but both the girls had a great time.  We got a personal magic show by Bill Koch, a great young magician.  I’m sure we’ll be seeing him and his monkey soon on television.  (Stop that!!)

Anyway, what was particularly good about this weekend was the spontaneity of it and that lack of commitments.  It seemed like we got so much more done, and had more fun doing it, when it was neither planned nor required to be done.  Perhaps it is just perspective, but things went much smoother when we were just letting things flow rather than trying to control and dictate every moment of the day.