Thursday, March 25, 2010


New Gadgets

I'm a gadget freak as anyone reading this blog already knows. I have two new gadgets to share that I've been using now for a couple of weeks.

The first one is the Blue Snowball Microphone. I've been aware of this microphone for over a year through several podcasters recommending it in their shows.

I'm working on series of video tutorials and I decided I should go ahead and upgrade my sound equipment. This microphone is extremely highly rated on Amazon and my local Apple store carries it.

I can safely say that it is the sturdiest microphone I've handled for a prosumer level of technology. It's very easy to assemble; just screw the base into the top and extend the legs. The software drivers were already installed on my Mac (and should be either already installed or easily installed for Windows). It's a USB microphone, so connecting it to my computer was a breeze. The microphone shows up as another input for audio in my recording applications. I had to adjust the input gain to make sure that it was loud and clear but that was the only adjustment I had to make. It's a beautifully made piece of equipment and works flawlessly.

The second gadget is way more interesting to me, although I'm happy to have a great microphone, it's not something that I'll use everyday. But I do need wireless access to the internet everyday.

Usually I work from home or from my office, both of which have nice fast wireless internet available. The issues arise when I'm out of the office on work or travel. I'm a regular at the local coffee shops with free wifi. That's a nice intermediate solution, it's nice to get out of the office and work in a coffee shop. But what about those times when I need to access my e-mail and I'm waiting at my kids' school to pick them up, or when I'm in traffic (as a passenger) and I need to send a proposal, or maybe I'm on a road trip (again as a passenger) and I want to work on something requiring an internet connection.

The solution has arrived in the form of MiFi. Sprint is hopping on the MiFi bandwagon in a big way. They've been running TV commercials for a while now and they even have one with the iPhone as the centerpiece of the advertisement.

Verizon also has this technology and I'm a big fan of the Verizon network (not just because of their TV commercials either, my neighbor works for them and he raves about the service).

I hadn't really been thinking that this was something I needed until I started looking at the new iPad with WiFi versus the iPad with 3G. The WiFi only model is less expensive, weighs less, and is available weeks before the 3G model. Plus the 3G model requires another 3G contract with AT&T. I have nothing against AT&T. The service has been good for me on my iPhone, but did I really want another contract for my soon to arrive iPad?

It was something I wrestled with for a few days. Then I saw this article about Verizon seeing the iPad as an opportunity to expand it's MiFi services. I was intrigued. I could connect up to 5 devices to the MiFi device and have wireless internet anywhere there's a Verizon 3G signal.

Being a numbers driven person, I created a spreadsheet to analyze the cost of buying the iPad WiFi with a 2 year Verizon contract versus the iPad 3G model using the AT&T 3G contract. I won't go into all the details but it turns out over the course of two years that the iPad + Verizon combo is about $24 a month more than the iPad 3G device.

That clinched it for me as I realized that $24 a month would buy me always on wireless access on not only my soon to arrive iPad but also on my MacBook Pro, my iPhone and two more devices all at the same time.

Here's a quote from Charlie Sorrel of Wired Magazine.

"Until you experience a bubble of Wi-Fi that surrounds you wherever you go, you won’t know how handy it can be."

This is so true. The first time I used the MiFi I felt exhilarated at both the speed of the 3G connection on my MacBook Pro and the fact that I could take it anywhere with me. It felt just like a "bubble of Wi-Fi".

Over the past week I've used the MiFi everyday. And I've started to realize that this is the future of Wi-Fi. We are all going to be walking around with this bubble of Wi-Fi. The MiFi device will shrink to the size of a keyfab and we'll carry it around with us all the time in our pocket with our car keys, always on, always available. That's the future I see coming. And it's almost here...


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