Tuesday, August 25, 2009

NYPL Wi-Fi: No Power for the People?

Patience and Fortitude are the nicknames of the marble lions that guard the Fifth Ave. entrance to the famous New York Public Library building on 42nd St., but you may need a little of both if you want to use the free wireless Internet there for more than a couple hours at a time.

The NYPL recently opened a Wi-Fi Reading Room and Laptop Loan center in the elegant confines of the Edna Barnes Salomon Room, which has been the site of many art and book exhibitions and other special events. Aside from the classic paintings on the wall and the high ceilings, the room offers 16 long tables, each with eight comfortable chairs, thus providing seating for 128 Wi-Fi users. If you don't have your own laptop, you can borrow one for use in the room at no charge.

So what's missing from this picture? Power.

None of the tables here offer an AC power outlet. Thus you're at the mercy of your laptop's battery, which of course drains a little quicker when you're using its Wi-Fi adapter.

So what can you do if your device's low-power warning starts flashing? You could walk across the third floor to the southern half of the equally elegant Rose Main Reading Room, where all of the desks offer AC outlets. The room is covered by Wi-Fi and some of the desks also offer working Ethernet jacks for wired Internet access. Unfortunately, both the wired and wireless Internet access were down when I attempted to use them Tuesday afternoon.

From there you could have walked downstairs to the DeWitt Wallace Periodicals Room, another excellent working space also covered by Wi-Fi, but there are no AC outlets there either.

Kudos to the Fifth Ave. NYPL building for providing free public Internet access in an area where hotels and convention centers charge steep fees for the same. However, sometimes less is more.

Many of the smaller NYPL branches offer free Wi-Fi and dinky tables for laptop use--but they provide AC power strips, thus making them more useful, albeit less comfortable, than the august Wi-Fi Reading Room.

No, I'm not suggesting that the floor in the Edna Barnes Salomon Room be sawed up to accommodate floor AC outlets, but a powerless Wi-Fi Reading Room just misses the point.

What do you think?

Photo and text Copyright 2009 Stadium Circle Features

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Samsung's DualView Cameras: About Face

Maybe it's a response to an epidemic of digital narcissism or maybe it's just a tip of the hat to the explosive growth of me-centric social networking sites. Either way, Samsung's new DualView digital cameras--the first ever with a second LCD screen on the front--seem to beg the question, "Now why didn't I think of that?"

The point is simple: The LCD on the front lets you frame self-portraits correctly instead of using the old "point-and-pray" method.

At a press event at New York's Time Warner Center, Samsung introduced its first two 12.2-megapixel DualView cameras, both of which feature 1.5-inch displays on the front in addition to larger touchscreens on the back. The TL 220 ($300) and TL225 ($350) come with 4.6X optical zoom lenses and 3.5-inch (TL225) or 3-inch (TL220) rear touchscreens.

Aside from being larger, the rear display of the TL225 is also sharper, with a resolution of 1.1 megapixels as opposed to the 230,000-pixel resolution of the rear display on the TL220.

As you frame the shot, the front LCD indicates whether the camera's face-recognition technology has locked onto your face and the smile-detection feature will snap your photo as soon as it detects an upside-down frown and your pearly whites.

Tim Baxter, co-president of Samsung Electronics America, said that instead of just taking photos of others, today's American camera user is more likely to put himself into his photos and share them.

"The role of the photographer has shifted," said Baxter, who added that camera makers "... cannot get by with selling a box that just takes pictures."

The front display turns on by tapping it and most camera adjustments are handled by the rear touchscreen, which vibrates to give tactile feedback when a button is touched. The camera also has a Gravity Sensor that lets you select functions by tilting the camera in the direction of the icon you want to activate.

Some of the functions of the camera's Smart Gesture user interface are truly intuitive. For example, to delete a photo, you simply draw an invisible "X" through it with your fingertip. The camera remembers up to 20 faces and will give exposure preference to the most frequently photographed faces.

If you engage the self timer, the front LCD will display a digital countdown. The front LCD can also be switched to a "child mode" in which it will display a cheerful, colorful cartoon designed to get children to look at the camera and smile.

"It's kind of a modern adaptation of 'look at the birdie,' " said Reid Sullivan, senior vice president of Samsung Electronics America.

The units, which will go on sale in September, are available in red, blue, silver, orange and purple.

Does a second LCD make sense to you?

Text Copyright 2009 Stadium Circle Features
Photo courtesy of Samsung Electronics America

Monday, August 10, 2009

Sprint's Samsung Reclaim: Lean & Green

Are you eco-conscious? Do you care what your cell phone is made of? Sprint certainly hopes so.

Last week, at a well-attended press event at the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum in Manhattan, Sprint introduced the Samsung Reclaim, a phone made of 80 per cent recyclable material. Two dollars from each purchase goes to the Nature Conservancy's Adopt an Acre program.

How does it rate? Read my review at PCWorld.com.