PANERA KIOSK ORDERING

In search of a Starbucks this morning I passed by a Panera Bread and decided to go there instead.  I just wanted a cup of coffee.  (Duh, like I needed to clarify that) The line was long but I noticed a small table with a couple computer screens and some coffee mugs.  It was the new Panera Kiosk system.  

  
No one was using them.  Stepped up the the screen, plugged in my order, grabbed a mug and I was done.  All the other tech averse people were still in line while I was halfway through my cup.  If you haven’t tried it yet check it out.  It’s very easy and intuitive.  I’m not sure how long they have been doing this but I like it!

  

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“Man Gift!” BenQ W1070

All guys like big screens!  The BenQ w1070 may just be the perfect Christmas gift for your man this year.  It features 1080p HD, 2000 lumens (bright) and its 3D!(glasses not included)…all for under $700!  The perfect gift and it will keep him busy putting together the home theater over the holiday break.  It is a discontinued model but there seems to still be plenty of stock available.  Check out the link to B&H Below for pricing an specs.  Sorry, I didn’t mean to offend the ladies with “man gift”  but my blog IS called “your typical guy”.

I own one myself so I promise its great!

B&H Photo BenQ 1070

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Panasonic Lumix G7 Mirrorless Camera Review

If your looking for a new camera that won’t break the bank…The G7 just might be the perfect choice.

Read Entire Article at VideoMaker’s blog site: Panasonic Lumix G7 Mirrorless Camera Review

The Lumix G7 may be the first 4K camcorder you consider that makes you plan a vacation just to use its features. At about a pound and the size of a pregnant Smartphone, it’s one of the most capable budget cameras we’ve reviewed.

Currently on Sale at B&H Photo for $597 and that includes a FREE Rode Video Mic Go valued at $99!

 

Review: Keeper password manager is powerful and simple, but pricey | Macworld

Both my Father and Friend have been hacked this week.  Passwords may not have been the problem but keeping your information safe is always a good idea.  I use keeper to produce my secure passwords and it minimizes my need to remember so many.  If not this applictation then you should be considering something to help secure your sensitive sites.

-JOE-

Keeper helps you keep your logins safe from prying eyes with a simple and effective user interface that works across just about any platform you can thing of. Unfortunately, syncing — a feature that just about everyone needs these days — comes at a steep price.

Source: Review: Keeper password manager is powerful and simple, but pricey | Macworld

DROBO – Is your data safe?

 

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As my family grows, the need for more home movies, photos and media storage grows too.  After a few years of digital photography and video especially with the HD formats out there I accumulated quite a bit of data.  There is some confusion with what the term “back up” really means.  To some people, saving your data and media on to a single hard disk is considered back up.  Let me assure you, it’s not!  If (actually when) that drive fails everything on it is gone.  Forever.  Yes, you can try sending it to a data recovery shop but get ready to shell out big bucks and it probably won’t work.  A true “back up” is having your data duplicated and then one set of that data is secure while you’re using the other.  For most of us that’s not always practical.  A step closer to back up is a multi-drive arrangement with some built-in security to enable you to replace and repair a bad or failing hard disk.  This is where Drobo comes into play.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s still not “back up” but its at least a fighting chance.  You can achieve a multi-disk array with recovery several ways.  There are Raid Arrays, Drobo (their own proprietary raid type thing) and other manufacturers like Sonology …a NAS server with their own recovery method.  There are many to choose from. What I like about Drobo is the simplicity to their approach.

Drobo has been around a while.  I didn’t want to commit fully with Drobo before trying it out.  I purchased a Gen 2 Drobo 4 on eBay for $100.  It’s a 4 disk configuration.  Whats nice about the Drobo is you can put any speed, size, brand of disk in the unit and mix and match.  So if you have a few drives lying around pop them in and your off.  The other cool thing is it aggregates the storage space among the disks and reserves some space for recovery and expansion (more on that later).  Once you put the disks in place the Drobo takes over and formats the set and all the lights turn green when its ready.  One thing I love about the Drobo is its ability to expand simply by pulling out a smaller drive and replacing it with a larger one.  It can even do this while its on and running and you can still access your data.  Drobo connects to the computer via USB.  The Gen 2 Drobo is usb 2.o but the current Gen 3 is usb 3.0.  Once the drives are in and configured the Drobo more or less acts like any other hard disk drive you would connect to your computer.  There is a software interface called “dashboard” that allows you to adjust settings and check information too.

On the Drobo website they have a calculator that will tell you what space you’ll end up with based on the size of drives you put into the unit.  Below you see that I have 4 – two terabyte drives installed.  The capacity meter shows that out of 4 drives a drives worth of space is reserved in case of a drive failure.  So if all drives are the same size you get about 75% or your total capacity for storage.

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Here is something to note.  See the photo below…it has the same total TB for storage as the photo above but you end up with less storage.  How is that?  Well, the device has to protect all drives and allow for expansion but its largest drive in the mix is 3TB so it takes more to protect this drive.  In this case you end up with 62% of your total capacity for storage.

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Recently I had my first drive fail.  Yes a blinking red light and a note that said replace this drive immediately.  So I took the opportunity to pull it out and replace it with a new, larger drive.  I had never been through this process and it made me a little nervous.  After speaking with tech support I got the rundown on the lights and what they mean.

Green:  All is good

Red:  Replace this drive

Orange (not blinking):  Replace this drive for more storage space

Blinking Green and Orange:  Data protection in progress “DO NOT REMOVE THE DRIVES WHEN IN THIS MODE”

Blue Dot Lights:  Indicates the amount of data storage you have used

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After I swapped the drive all four lights started blinking green and orange so things were going as planned.  What I didn’t expect was it took close to 40 hours to re-build the array back to safety.  Wow!  Started on a Sunday night and finished on a Wednesday morning.  I guess it’s better than the alternative…lost data.  Once the lights were all green it was business as usual.   So far I have replaced a failed disk and expanded two others and have been through the data protection process 3 times and have not lost any data.  Nice.

There is a new Gen 3 which has USB 3.0 interface and is rumored to have much faster build times when protecting data or setting up arrays.  I was able to order one of those at a large discount at only $199.  When the new unit arrives I can simply power down my Gen 2, remove the drives and place the drives (in the same order) in my Gen 3 and turn it on and it should be ready to go.

 

 

 

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All is not perfect.  A couple of drawbacks.  It’s not a NAS, so no network storage.  They do offer units with network options but there are better brands and devices for that in my opinion.  If you’re looking for a device to access data across the network then don’t buy a Drobo.  The units are fairly slow and Service at Drobo is OK at best.  They get a little stubborn when they realize you’re out of warranty.  My take is that if you’re a company that claims to keep data safe then when a customer is stressed and trying to implement the procedures your company sets up to do that then HELP THEM!  I spent 10 minutes arguing with a rep once and then when his boss called me back it took her only 5 to help me with what I needed.  I don’t seem to be alone with experiences like this either.  That being said, the unit has performed well and I have not yet lost any data.

Don’t forget the upsides…any drives can be used.  They can be hot swapped while the unit is running.  Drobo will protect your data.  Its simple, anyone can manage their data with a Drobo.

If you need to store some valuable data and want a tad more protection than just a single hard disk drive, Drobo could be a good option for you.

 

**November 8, 2015  UPDATE – I moved my drives from the Drobo 2nd Gen to the new Drobo 3rd Gen **

A quick note.  I received my Gen 3 drobo a few days after writing this post.  To re-cap the Gen 3 gives you USB 3.0 connection speeds and a faster processor that is supposed to cut down on data protection and recovery times.  TRANSFER…Well all did not go as planned.  It was supposed to be as simple as moving the drives over from the old machine to the new machine and all would be well.  In my case the transfer did not work properly.  The new machine did not recognize one of the drives upon transfer.  After a restart and re-seating all of the drives it finally took.  Then the machine went through data protection process which I can report happily that all the data is still there and the process took about 8-10 hours as compared to the previous machine taking around 30-40 hours.  Huge improvement.  I never did lose any data so I still have to give Drobo props on keeping their promise on data protection.  As far as the USB 3.0 speeds…well after a speed test its not impressive but its better.  The speed and general functionality of the Drobo dashboard are far improved too.  Oh and one other nice thing…it allows me to allocate a section of storage to be used for time machine backups…nice.

A nice video I have recently come across that explains Drobo and how it works.

 

 

 

Near Thunderbolt Speeds with USB 3.0

If you do a lot of video or photo editing you will find out quickly how important a fast hard disk becomes.  The ability to read and write massive amounts of data is a must.  Depending on what kind of work you do a simple USB drive may be fine.  For those who need more may need an SSD drive or even a thunderbolt connection if you have a Mac or a PC with thunderbolt.  What is thunderbolt and what is USB…

USB 3.0

Right out of Wikipedia…

“USB 3.0 is the third major version of the Universal Serial Bus (USB) standard for interfacing computers and electronic devices. Among other improvements, USB 3.0 adds the new transfer mode SuperSpeed (SS) that can transfer data at up to 5 Gbit/s (625 MB/s), which is about ten times faster than the USB 2.0 standard.”

Thunderbolt

Right out of thunderbolttechnology.net…

“Thunderbolt™ technology is a transformational I/O innovation that provides a leap in performance over current I/O technologies with 10 Gbps of full-duplex bandwidth per channel. It significantly simplifies the end-user experience by concurrently supporting data (PCI Express*) and display (DisplayPort) connections over a single cable. Thunderbolt products may be connected using electrical or optical cables. Thunderbolt technology enables flexible and innovative system designs by allowing multiple, high-performance, PCI Express and DisplayPort devices to attach to a computer through a single physical connector.

Gbps and Gbit mean the same thing…gigabit per second.  So on the surface it seems that thunderbolt is twice as fast as USB 3.0.  Before we go much deeper lets put the gigabits into a measurement that we can deal with.  I use the black magic drive disk speed test software for my tests and it measures in MB/s or megabytes per second.  So 5Gbps would be equal to 625 megabytes and 10 Gbps 1250 megabytes.  Both are very very fast.  So lets get a relative sense of speed.  Here I have tested a western digital 2.5″ backup hdd using USB 3.0 interface and lets measure some speed.

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So indicated by the Black Magic disk speed test this drive would not be suitable for editing video.  It is able to write 86.5 megabytes per second and read 93.4 megabytes.  It works just fine for moving data, data storage and files that are smaller in size but not good enough for the huge throughput that A/V requires.  The main reason for this lack of speed has nothing to do with the interface.  We know that the USB 3.0 interface can handle more but the drive is a basic spinning disk at 5900 rpm and is slow in todays world.  No matter how much throughput you have the disk will only provide so much.  We are limited at the disk.  Think of it like driving a Yugo on the Audubon.  You couldn’t go 150 miles an hour if you wanted to.

So the obvious next step would be to use the USB 3.0 interface with an SSD drive to reduce the bottle neck.  I did just that.  I found the most highly rated, least expensive, drive on Amazon.

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I mounted this silicon power disk into the inateck case and gave it a whirl.  The drive on the Black Magic now performed very well at speeds of  about 400 megabytes per second.  This is easily enough to edit video except for some of the most demanding resolutions and color depths.

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With the new 4k resolution craze and some new video formats around there still could be a need for even more speed.  I started looking at thunderbolt devices and specifically 2 drive bay cases.  I found out quickly that thunderbolt is very expensive.  Even thunderbolt version one products cost 3-5 times as much as the equivalent usb 3.0 devices.  I decided to try a test to see what kind of speed I would get if I created a raid 0 array with a second SSD drive and case and this is how I did it.

With the Mac and OS X you can actually create various raid arrays through the disk utility and their software controller.  This is called a software raid.  A hardware raid is made by the actual hardware or disk cases having various switches and settings.  Hardware raids are more versatile but I am on a budget.  Software raid it is.

What is raid 0?  Raid 0 is a way to “tie” together two disks and letting the computer see them as one “virtual” disk.  Why would you want to do this?  Allowing the computer to access two disks allows it twice as much space and throughput as the normal configuration.  Example:  lets say the computer has to send 10 pieces of data to the drive.  On a normal single drive system it would send them 1, then 2, then 3, then 4, then 5, then 6, then 7, then 8, then 9 and finally 10.  Now if it had two drives to write to it could send by twos… 1,2 then 3,4 then 5,6 then 7,8 then 9,10.  More lanes, bigger roads easier to drive fast…

Pro’s and Con’s

A risky con…A normal single drive is a bad idea for back up.   If the drive dies, the data dies with it.  In a Raid 0 scenario if either of the drives in the array dies then all of the data dies with it.  Even if the other drive is working it only has pieces of all the data it needs and can’t make any sense of whats left.  So in effect by having two drives represent one whole set of data you have doubled your risk of drive failure because now you depend on two.

Another smaller con is that you use up two usb ports because you’re using two drives and this software raid will only work with the software that created it and not on all computers.

BUT

Lets look at the pros

SPEED…Check this out.

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With both drives in a Raid 0 array they achieved more than 700 megabytes throughput!  That is ready for any kind of video or photo editing you can throw at it.  WOW!

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I literally strapped the two drives together to keep movement to a minimum so cable wouldn’t come loose.

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I then went into the Disk Utility on my mac arranged the two drives as Raid 0.

The new Mac OS x made things a little more complicated for me.  There is no longer a user interface for creating Raid arrays in disk utility.  I had to go to the terminal window and type:

diskutil appleRAID create stripe [arrayName] JHFS+ disk0 disk1

** ! make sure you select the correct drives for the array…mine happened to be disk0 and disk1 yours could be different ! **

Disk0 being one of my SSD drives and Disk1 being the other SSD.  Once I hit return the array was created and showed up as one drive on my desktop with the name I gave it.

 

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You can plug in the usb cables for the array in any order.  They did not however work through a usb hub.  I plugged them directly into the back of my machine.

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Now make sure you don’t just yank the cables out when you’re finished using the drive.  You want to eject the drive first…let it complete the exit and then pull the cables out.  Remember if you corrupt the data on one drive its ALL gone!

Anyway at these speeds I am comparable to most Thunderbolt 1 drives that are similar that I have seen.  Yes there are combinations that are faster but not for this price.  I paid a grand total of $312 for all of this and a thunderbolt drive setup similar would cost double or more.  Its a good option if you’re on a budget so try one on your Mac.

Feel free to ask any questions.

 

SMOOTHIES…

Recently I purchased a new toy.  

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My new Blendtec high-powered blender.  About 10 years ago I used to enjoy smoothies quite a bit.  I was doing a tough workout and needed to get nutrition that I wasn’t getting through my normal diet.  The biggest problem was it just seemed like I was focusing on when, where, how and what to eat way too much.  I quickly learned by making a smoothie and jamming a bunch of different ingredients into it you can cover a lot of nutritional ground very quickly.  Not to mention the broken down food for easier digestion and the ingredients were raw and better for you.  My friend left a blender at my house that I used on a daily basis and I really enjoyed making my berry smoothie every morning.  That blender finally failed and I never replaced it.

A week ago I was walking through Costco and came across a section with a blender by Blendtec.  Prior I had researched a little and knew that Blendtec and Vitamix are the two that are always talked about when it comes to professional, high power blenders.  The price was right so I picked one up.  When I first got home my wife was a little “unhappy” at the fact that I just purchased a $250 blender.  Actually they retail at $329 so I thought it was a good buy.  Not much different from her justifying her purchases by saying “it was on sale”.  🙂

I have to say WOW!  This thing is a beast.  It will munch up just about anything you put in it… in seconds.  I have even won my wife over with the new Oreo Blizzard knock off I have created.  The thing spins so fast that on the right setting it will heat your mixture into a hot soup.  There are actually some funny videos produced by the Blendtec company called “will it blend…?” on YouTube.  They blend everything from iPhones to rake handles.  Amusing to watch for sure.

There seems to be a rivalry between the Blendtec camp and the Vitamix camp as to which one is better.  It’s similar to the Iphone vs. Android battle.  And much like the phone controversy they are both good just depends on what you want.

If you want to make a quick, nutritious and portable meal, a smoothie is a great way to get it done.  Try one of these new high-powered blenders they are a blast!

My Breakfast Berry Smoothie Recipe:

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1/4 cup frozen mixed berries

1/4 cup milk or almond milk

One large spoon full of greek yogurt

One spoon full of peanut butter

1/8 to 1/4 cup of dry uncooked oatmeal

1 scoop of protein powder

A few ice cubes

 

 

Dollar Shave Club – Initial Impressions

How many times have you needed to shave and you either can’t find a sharp razor or the razor you have is full of hair and it’s not your hair?  Between my three daughters and wife I may get a chance to use my new razor once before it is taken away.  Hey, it’s just the way it is and everyone needs to shave sometime.  The only problem is that razors aren’t cheap.  I feel that when my girls use my high dollar razor blades on their legs it’s wasting money.  Replacement razor blades in the store can cost $15, $30 upwards of $50!!  So looking for a solution to my problem I came across the Dollar Shave Club.

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The Dollar Shave Club is a company that provided razors, handles, and lotions via online order.  You sign up online and establish an account.  You have three choices…the $1/month double blade “the humble”, $6/month Multi blade “4x” and the $9/month mac daddy “executive”.   One small catch is that the $1/month is actually $3/Month because this is the only level that charges delivery.  The other two higher levels are free delivery.  For Blade choices you can follow this link www.dollarshaveclub.com/blades.

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I went for the lowest level of entry thinking that if it wasn’t good enough I could upgrade to a nicer blade.  My package arrived yesterday so I wanted to share my opinion of the first shave with the “humble” razor.

Bottom line…it’s good.  It’s not spectacular but its a solid razor for a really inexpensive price.  Beyond the razor this is what I like about the program.  I no longer have to remember to get razors.  I no longer have to worry if the store has the correct kind of blade for my handle.  I won’t get upset when others use my blades…there are more coming next month.  AND…the shave is pretty good.  Keep in mind this is the entry-level so I didn’t expect the shave to be the best but it’s actually better than I expected.  In the kit I received a cool box, a razor handle, five razor blades and some shaving “butter”.  Not crazy about the shaving butter but its ok.  I prefer the old-fashioned shaving cream.

So, initial results…thumbs up.  I will check back and update to let you know how long the blades last and the opinions from my girls.  So far so good, you may want to give it a try.

Update:  July 13, 2015 – I have used the first blade for the first week and it is still shaving close.  I think my face is adjusting to the angle of the blade.  5 shaves and they are still clean and close.

Update:  October 21, 2015 – Tracey from Dollar shave club contacted me to thank me for giving DSC props and to request a link to the blade choices…done.  🙂

SONOS – SIMPLY MUSIC

 

 

 

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I thought with the recent sale going on with Sonos it would be a good topic for a blog entry this week.  I have had Sonos now for about a year and I have to say its been very enjoyable.  A few years back Sonos took a different approach to music and I think it has really paid off for them.  Until Sonos there were speakers that needed wires and/or bluetooth to operate and play music.  Sonos did away with the connection point and created a listening “ecosystem” for music.

What is Sonos?

Keeping it very simple, it’s a wireless speaker that uses you’re in home network to play music.  That doesn’t sound too impressive.  Sonos isn’t even battery operated or portable.  It needs to be plugged in all the time.  It doesn’t use bluetooth and only a few devices allow for a wired connection.  Who would want that you might say?  A lot of people!

This is why…

Sonos uses you’re in home network to connect to the internet.  The Sonos is independently smart.  What I mean by that is even though it can be controlled by a device (iPhone, iPad, smart phone etc.) it doesn’t need one to operate.  Sonos has its own “brain” and uses music services as its source for music and playback.  Setting up Sonos is super easy.  You plug it in, download the app on your iPhone or smart phone and follow the steps.  It will connect to any in home server you may have with your own music as well as any music services you are a member of.  The services include but aren’t limited to Pandora, Spotify (paid account only), Slacker, Iheart Radio, Songza just to name a few.  There’s a bunch to choose from.

Versatility  –  Lets say I am having a party at my house.  I have a Sonos (doesn’t matter which one) in the family room, living room and study.  To get things going I decide to connect all three to the same music source (rock).  Into the app I go and I can choose all locations and set them to play the same music.  It will play in synch perfectly in all three locations.  I can adjust the volume in each location independent of one another or all together at once.  Now, once the music is playing and I have set it up on my iPhone, my wife says she needs ice.  I run out the door like a good husband and guess what.   Nothing changes, the music keeps playing.  A bluetooth or wired speaker couldn’t do this.  Sonos has it own connection and internal “brain” and software so the music is being streamed to and through the Sonos not the phone.  The iPhone app is simply a remote control.  Now, my wife goes into the living room with a friend and decides to change the music to classical.  She grabs her phone, picks the zone, chooses the station and done.  Now you have rock in the other two rooms and classical in one.  Anyone with the Sonos app can connect and change channels, volume or whatever they choose.

Configuration  –  I would say the single greatest selling point to Sonos is the ways it can be configured.  So its Sunday morning and I want to listen to some smooth jazz in stereo.  The Sonos devices are mono so how the heck do you do that?  Simple, into the app and pick the two Sonos devices you want to use as a stereo pair and bingo, you have left and right stereo channels.  Sounds nice but I need more bass.  Open the app and add your subwoofer to the mix and now you’ve got a stereo pair with a subwoofer.  All wireless, all in synch and guess what…the Sonos stuff sounds great!  I would put it on par with anything built by Bose with similar sizes and configurations.  Too bad it doesn’t handle surround sound.  It does!  You can use the sound bar, add the sub, add two like Sonos units for the rear and you now have 5.1 sound.  See sample configuration photo below.

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Scalability  –  This ties into configuration but this I wanted to break out to discuss two points.  Low cost of entry and limitless growth.  I really like the Sonos system as it allows you to grow when and how you choose.  You can buy the least expensive product and its only $199 which is a deal for what you get.  Right now you can get two Sonos Ones for $349 which is $50 savings.  I have had my “one” for a year and haven’t purchased another Sonos yet.  It has a really full and nice sound and I haven’t really needed to add another yet.  When I am ready I can just pick my product and I know it will integrate seamlessly.  I can have one or thirty Sonos in my house.  It’s up to you and what you want.

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It’s not all perfect.  Yes, no battery means you’re always tethered to a wall outlet but there are many of those in a house.  The surround configuration has two limits…its only 5.1 capable not 7.1 but for me that’s good enough and it will only play surround with the surround bar being fed a 5.1 signal from a TV, Blu-Ray or TV Box optical output.  The best way to configure for surround is using a TV with 5.1 pass-thru but that TV is not easy to find.  Vizio and Sony are a couple of brands that can do this but that’s a little limiting.  It will play sound out of all speakers if its being fed a 2.0 channel configuration but it will be simulated surround but that sounds ok.

One last thought…Sonos is a perfect gift for Weddings, Graduations, Students…if they don’t have one they’ll love it and if they already have one they can add to their network!  You can never have too many :-).

If you haven’t experienced Sonos get a Sonos One to start and give it a try.

 

See how the application works on an iPhone.  Click either link below.

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Video to Demonstrate the Sonos App

 

 

 

Meerkat – Live Stream Video on the App Store on iTunes

 

 

 

This is a cool new app that was brought to my attention by Chris Fenwick who hosts one of my favorite podcasts (FCPX Grill).  Meerkat is a live streaming app that uses the twitter servers to stream live video and audio.  The cool thing is once you have an account and you go “live” it notifies all of your twitter followers that you’re sharing an event live.  You can also announce and schedule events so viewers can plan to watch.  I think of it as turning your iPhone into a news van.  You can up link and stream anything anytime to the entire twitter world.  The uses are in their infancy but I expect cool things to come.  Check it out.

Read reviews, get customer ratings, see screenshots, and learn more about Meerkat – Live Stream Video on the App Store. Download Meerkat – Live Stream Video and enjoy it on your iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.

Source: Meerkat – Live Stream Video on the App Store on iTunes