Technology Today July 2009
The Troubles Of A Road Warrior.
You know, traveling with a notebook can still be a pain. I am using a Yoggie security device. The good news is that when it is on, it protects against a ton of malware with several security tools all built into a single device. The best news is that you don’t have to have any overhead on your computer to use the device. It installs as a device driver, loads a tiny 5.8 meg management console and protects against viruses, firewall, malware, spyware, and everything else and it does a great job.
The bad news is that if it decides to be difficult, you can either fight with it or turn it off and if you turn it off, there is absolutely zero protection to your computer. How does that feel when you are sitting at a café or hotel with free wifi hoping to connect.
When you get to a hotel for example and want to get connected, you often have to wait up to five minutes for the Yoggie device to update its own anti virus signatures before you can access the internet. The message I got when I tried to bring up Google was:
anti-virus signature database is currently updating.
That part of the headache I can live with, though when the heading says “Yoggie Internal error”, I do get a bit worried. What is intolerable is when I get to this new hotel (a Hampton Inn over near Pittsburgh, PA) is that I have to go into the management console and tell it that the internal network IP address is now 172.16.0.1 rather than 10.10.0.1 which they had me switch it to the last time I had this problem.
I guess it is a good thing that I wasn’t in a real hurry to get on the internet and check my email. It makes me wonder why I keep using this device rather than installing Norton’s Internet Security 2009 which is a great improvement over the older versions of the program.
In my case with the Yoggie, when it gives you that error message, it kills all internet traffic until it is updated. Unfortunately, according to Yoggie, if the file gets corrupted, it can take up to an hour to finish rebuilding the file. I don’t mind being without the anti-virus for an hour but when you disable the Yoggie, you also kill the firewall.
So, I am sitting here, waiting for the update to finish because it seems that the only website I can browse to is Yoggies. What is even stranger, I fire up my remote control program to get back to my home computer to actually read my emails and it works like a charm. Seems that Yoggie doesn’t really care about that or a VPN tunnel.
The updated finished during the night sometime and when I got a reply from Yoggie tech support, they tell me that the host application needs to be updated. So, I take care of that; download new version, uninstall the old, install the new and that takes care of things. And I am online, working away just fine except that now I can’t seem to check my Yahoo email though other sites are working just fine. Go have breakfast and the next thing I know is I can’t get online again. My Local Area connection thinks things are ok, the Yoggie Local area connection device thinks things are ok, but no browser connecting. Is it the hotel, the computer, the Yoggie, or what? Unplug the Ethernet, no effect. “This page cannot be displayed” comes back again.
These networks get more frustrating all the time. A week later, I am in another Hampton Inn hotel and this time, I connect without a hitch, wireless went directly in, the Yoggie didn’t complain at all and I am surfing the web. Many travelers already know this but when I connected this time, I looked at the available wireless networks and found another wireless network available called “Free Public WiFi” which is listed as an “unsecured computer to computer network”. If you ever see either of these, avoid them because they are usually a hackers computer that is just sitting there to snag your account information and passwords.
Sigh… another round of updates, and another round of rebates. Am I in a vicious cycle or what? I have three products that I use all the time; Norton Internet Security, my antivirus and firewall of choice; Corel Paint Shop Pro, probably the best inexpensive graphics and photo editing and correcting software out there; and Nero, my choice for burning CDs and DVDs. Each of these programs gets updated nearly every year and I have been sucked into the game of upgrading them and then capturing rebates to essentially reducing the price of the products to near zero. The good news is that Frys does make it a bit easier because if you watch the ads carefully and buy at the right time, you can get a good deal and they do print out the extra rebate receipts that you will need. For each of these products, you get two different rebates, one for the product and one for upgrading the product. Now a days, you have to go to the web to print off the rebate form, and then meticulously follow directions in what you clip and copy and hopefully, you will get a rebate that may take up to six months to get. Many times I wait, then call wondering where it is only to have them tell me that it was not approved so you have to make a copy of everything you submit so that you can tell them that yes, what ever they say is missing is in the envelop that you sent them and guess what, often they say ok, then they will mark it approved and in another two to three months, you will get the rebate. If you don’t keep careful records, you are toast. My success ratio is actually very good but plan on devoting a lot of time to tracking this stuff. To make it worse, many of the rebates now come as gift cards and you have to watch them carefully so they don’t expire on you. If you get one, spend it all at one place, otherwise the fees will kill it.
Blue Microphone Eye Ball Web Camera
I don’t normally get too excited about web cameras but when I saw the Blue Microphone’s Eye Ball, I just had to try one out. Having help a number of people setup web cameras to connect with Skype to talk via a video conference to someone else, I noticed that many of them not only suffered from poor video resolution, but also poor sound quality and the mantra that I kept hearing over and over from the experts in the field is you get what you pay for. Cheap cameras, cheap microphones will kill your end of the video quicker than bad hair or poor language skills.
The packaging of the device is really slick and the company did not stint at all with the quality of materials used in the camera and microphone. What strikes you first is the large microphone that reminds me of an old steel ball unit with a metal grill over the microphone. The camera itself is a uniquely positioned module that pops in and out of the side of the microphone. Pop it back in to store it away and for traveling; you can also pop it in when you want to be sure that there is no video being broadcasted from your end, very clever. The microphone itself swivels on itself to go into a heavy plastic and metal storage unit that can also store the USB cable which is a little off standard with a mini USB connector on one end. No software comes with the unit as the drivers will load automatically from Vista or Windows 7.
The Eyeball can be mounted on both a laptop computer or on a desktop monitor and you have to tinker a bit to get it mounted properly. Try it without the base, with the base, or with a separate monitor adapter that helps grip the back of a monitor. I am using it with a LG Flatron LCD monitor and the shape is not convenient for setting up the camera as it crashed to the desk while I was trying to set It up there. A little more tinkering and it now it is perched up there with some stability this time. One other quibble is that the USB cord is a bit short (maybe three feet) so I got a USB extension cord to go to my computer.
Once installed, I fired up Skype and it immediately found it and so went to the tools option and the video setup to see how it looks and the quality of the video looks very impressive. It is a 1.3 megapixel camera and seems to be doing an excellent job with the quality of the image. I have a large bright window directly behind me and the camera quickly sorted it all out and focused on my sitting at the computer and rendered a very clear picture. One odd thing is that there is no indicator light on the camera to let you know it is connected or recording but from what I hear, that can be a distraction and some people don’t trust it to tell them that it is not on so of course, the solution here is to push the camera into the ball and end that issue right away.
So, how does it work? Well, my first Skype call was not very conclusive. The person I called really couldn’t tell whether I had a better camera or sound system on my end or not and I suspect it was more because of the poor internet connection on the other end. This is really one of those situations where your mileage will vary. Do you have a good high speed internet connection (and I don’t mean DSL). Do you have a fast enough computer that doesn’t bog down every time you click a mouse; and are the stars between my Internet Service Provider (ISP) and yours working well to ensure a high speed connection all the way? In another test, the person I was calling did notice an improvement in the audio quality as when I needed to talk to them from the other computer, the microphone picked up my end of the conversation just fine even though I wasn’t sitting in front of the camera. I also had a very noisy computer sitting five feet away from the camera and that turned out not to be a problem with the sound quality coming from my end.
I like it. It packs up well for traveling, I don’t need to worry about installing drivers, and once Skype is setup to look for the video and microphone from the Eyeball, we are set to go. The short three foot cable is just fine for the notebook so I don’t need the extension cable there. Because my notebook has a thin screen, it actually took me a little while to figure out how to mount the camera but it is snug and fits well compared to the big flat screen monitor on my desk. Since the notebook is quieter, I also don’t have to worry about surrounding noise and the people I called could hear me just fine and with a high speed connection, the video came out very clear as well.
For about $100, you get a high quality video and a better
quality microphone that sets up easily, mounts well and besides that, It is
pretty cool to look at.
Robert Sanborn is a technology analyst for PC Lifeline. You can reach him through the net at firstname.lastname@example.org
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