Mobile Tech Manor #26- home again


mobile-tech-manor-large-2Well I am finally home from all the traveling over the last month and should be here for a while.  I have so much ground to cover since I missed some of these columns and I’ll try my best to catch up.  I had a good chance to try all sorts of mobile goodness while on the road and I’ve been looking at a bunch of software for my work.  Come on in and let’s get right down to it.

My last trip to Vegas was a fun trip.  We always stay in the Luxor Hotel, we’ve been going there for 11 years now.  They know our names and give us lots of attention when we go and this last trip was no exception.  They have remodeled the entire casino area since the last time we had visited and overall we liked it.  They have us in their computer system and on the afternoon of my birthday they sent a bottle of Champagne and some chocolate-covered strawberries to the room.  Very nice and appreciated.

We went to two exhibits at the Luxor which were totally cool.  They have a Titanic exhibit and it was amazing to see all the relics that were salvaged from the great disaster on display.  I was astounded to see all the stuff recovered that they had identified which passenger it belonged to and gave a brief history about the person along with an explanation of why they were on that particular ship.  They recreated the different classes of quarters on the Titanic and the difference between first class and third class quarters was staggering.  Private baths with hot and cold running water in first class must have been amazing on a ship in 1912.  That’s why a first class ticket cost the equivalent of over $70,000 in today’s currency.  Sheesh.

We also attended a Body Works exhibit, one of those where they dissect humans and display the entire body along with explanations of how all the various systems work.  I had a sense of wonder the entire time I was in this show at the technology used to preserve the specimens.  Actually, it doesn’t sound right to call them specimens, they were all humans who just happened to not be alive.  It was a chance of a lifetime to handle a lung and a liver from a real human.  Just incredible is all I can say.  If you haven’t attended one of these types of exhibits you must go the next chance you get.

It’s all in the chips

I had the chance to speak with a guy who sells touch tablets to the casino and learned some cool stuff.  The pit bosses in the casino use these touch tablets to keep an eye on things at the gaming tables they are responsible for watching.  I didn’t realize it but this guy told me that the major casinos use gaming chips with RFID tags.  Yep, every single chip in the casino has a tag that identifies the chip and the denomination.  This enables the house to know how much money is in play on any given table at any given time.

The pit boss is using the tablet to keep an eye out for anything funny like those trying to pull something fast, either player or dealer.  They can tell at a glance how much money is changing hands and where it’s going every single moment.  The casino can also tell how much money (in chips) is in play in the entire casino at any given time.   Given the amount of money that is constantly flowing in these big casinos this makes sense, I just didn’t know they could do this.  The RFID tags also make it possible to spot counterfeit chips very easily.  It seems this is a big problem in Vegas given the fact that these chips are just like cash.

Touch only allowed in the casino

They only use touch tablets so they can be operated by fingertip.  The guy said that active digitizers complicate things as the pens get lost and since the casinos use proprietary software it’s optimized for touch entry.  They use these in other areas of the casino operations too but the gaming uses are the main ones.  This guy was only willing to talk to me if I didn’t identify him or his company which of course I won’t do.  He also knew who I was which was pretty darn cool.

I took the MacBook with me for those rare times I wanted to do something (and those times were rare indeed).  I wanted to take the evaluation HP Mini 1000 MI to give the Linux system a good road test but there is currently no way to use a 3G USB modem with it.  No drivers, no software, no way to do it.  Since I knew I’d be depending on the Verizon EV-DO network the HP stayed at home and the Mac got to go to Vegas.

3G everywhere, even though you can’t see it

The Verizon network was great everywhere I went in Vegas.  I was getting full signal strength in the hotel room which is pretty amazing.  It was like having “almost WiFi” everywhere.  I shared the 3G connection using my Mac’s WiFi so Sheri could use it too with the netbook she brought and this worked flawlessly.  I just had to make sure my Mac was on and connected when she wanted to work but this was no sweat.  She could even share it in the coffee shop on those few occasions we went down to get online.

I did have some near disasters using the USB dongle modem sticking out of the MacBook.  I used the MacBook in my lap a lot all over the place and I kept hitting the modem and even disconnected it once.  That won’t happen again next trip at least.

The Curio shop gets Evernote

Once I returned home I jumped headfirst into a number of things I had been intending to get to.  I got a lot of Mac software installed that I have been enjoying.  I covered most of it in the video of my desktop I did last week.  The exception is an “ideaspace” program that I’ve just gotten started using and it is looking pretty interesting.

Curio by Zengobi is hard to describe, it is a way to collect information for projects and then organize it in innovative ways.  It’s kind of a combination outliner, whiteboard, mind mapper, corkboard, presentation program, repository, well all of the above.  I had recently mentioned I wanted to give DevonThink a try but Curio looks like it will fit my work-style better, at least so far.  One of the neatest things about Curio is that it now hooks into Evernote, the online note-taking/ collecting program that is cross-platform.

It is very cool to see my online Evernote “notebook” right within Curio and I can simply drag and drop items from Evernote to the workspace in Curio.  Curio is Mac only but since Evernote is cross-platform I can take notes on a Windows PC or even my iPhone and have them in Curio simply.  I can even take a picture of something with the iPhone and have it in Curio with no muss if I need the image.  This means I can take notes, capture information, snag hyperlinks and anything else no matter where I am or what device I am using.  Once back at work I can get all of the above into Curio with ease.  The power of this I’m only just beginning to tap.

Curio also has sophisticated (but easy to use) search capability that leaves Apple’s Spotlight in the dust.  Searches can be conducted within particular types of information or as broad as desired.  This is already enticing me to capture more information on the run than I would otherwise and makes sure I don’t lose marginal stuff.  If I was writing a book (stranger things have happened) I would definitely do the background work in Curio, I can tell this already.  I’m sure when I actually figure out fully how to use the program it will be even better.

Videos to go

I haven’t done a video review of the Lenovo w700ds laptop with those two screens but I certainly will.  I’ve been using it for a while and I am still in awe over how darn big this thing is every time I use it.  I’ll get a video done soon I promise, at least if my camera lens goes wide angle enough.

I have to admit that I am enjoying the short Mobile Tech Minute videos that Kevin and I are doing almost every day.  I hope you are enjoying them as much as we are enjoying doing them.  It gives a platform to quickly share those things that might not fit into a convenient category.  I know I always look forward to doing them.

Phone stuff

My T-Mobile G1 Android phone finally got the OS update that had been promised.  It was done on a push basis over a couple of weeks and mine was not pushed until the end of that period.  It installed without a hitch and so far I can only tell minor changes have been made.  I can’t tell if it’s faster or not, everything feels the same.  It was good to see T-Mobile get this first update out so soon after launch though.

I am also still tempted to pick up a Blackberry Storm from Verizon.  I know all the negative press the Storm has received but the evaluation I did was not negative at all.  I don’t need a Storm but Verizon is offering me one for only $99 with my “new every two” discount and I am finding it harder to resist as time goes by.  We’ll see.

eBooks of the week(s)

I’ve read several ebooks since my last column, all on the iPhone using eReader as usual.  I mentioned the first two books in the Sten series last column and I liked both of them a lot.  The Sten series is new to eReader and I was not happy when I finished the second book to find that they didn’t have any of the other books in the series.  I just noticed that they now have books 3 & 4 so I’ll jump on those soon.  I hope they get the other four books in the series faster than they got the second.

I jumped from science fiction of the Sten series to some totally different novels.  The Whiskey Rebels by David Liss was good historical fiction dealing with Hamilton and the brand new Treasury Department.  It moved along briskly and felt pretty accurate to the period it covered.  Of course I wasn’t around back then so what do I know?  It was a good read anyway.  This book is still free at eReader BTW.

I then jumped into Shattered by Dean Koontz and while it was well written (typical for Koontz) I felt the story was wanting.  The protagonist kept doing (or not doing) stuff that the reader knew was trouble over and over again.  It reminded me of the bad horror film where the audience keeps yelling at the actor to “don’t open that door” yet they do anyway.  This was not Koontz’s best in my opinion.

I am now in the middle of Strangers also by Koontz and this is much better.  The story is involved and engaging and it’s impossible to tell where it’s going which makes it a good novel in my book.

Until we meet again

This is easily the longest MTM column yet and it’s time to wrap it up.  As always it’s fun to share my adventures with you and until the next time… so long.



yeah, i thought the body works exhibit was amazing too, but i went to it in boston. BTW it would be great if you could have your wife write a review of the 2140. that way we could see it from a typical use perspective. ( I wonder if MR.Malik would allow it… ) hmm…

Phil Lee

Thanks for the insight into your week. Unfortunately I don’t share your enthusiasm for the Titanic exhibit. I believe the Titanic should have been left alone and treated as if it was a war grave. That’s what Robert Ballard wanted when he discovered its location and tried to keep it secret.

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