Pressy: The Awesome Android Accessory!

I just ordered on of these for myself. I have the Samsung Galaxy S5 (an AMAZING phone). This is one of those things that, after seeing it, you smack yourself in the head and say, "I should have thought of that!" In short, it's a button that goes into the headphone jack. It has an app that lets you customize what the button does. For example, press it once to open the camera app and take a picture. Genius! Best of all, it's $27. http://get.pressybutton.com/
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CES 2012

I spent a couple of days at CES last week.  While two days isn't enough to see the entire show, it is more than enough time for me to spend in Las Vegas.  Walking the floor is also a serious cardio workout.  It's not the distance you walk but rather the constant crowds that you try to swim through.

If I had to sum up CES this year, it would be Smart TVs and Android tablets.  Everyone seemed to have an Android tablet and they were all running ICS (Ice Cream Sandwich).  You would have been hard pressed to find a booth that didn't have a tablet they were marketing.  There were so many, it got to be boring looking at them.

Smart TVs were also all the rage.  They were last year too, but they were still pretty new. Every TV was connected.  I couldn't find a TV that wasn't and several vendors even told me they were going to stop making TVs that were not internet connected.  Of all the vendors I looked at, Samsung had the coolest TV.  It was high definition and was OLED.  It was so thin, it was hard to convey in a picture since all you saw was a line down the center of the photo.  To best illustrate just how thin this TV is, I shot a short video.

There were also several 4k televisions and even an 8k.  I think the latter was simply for bragging rights.  To put this into perspective, when you go to the movies and watch a digital projection, you are typically seeing a 2k image.  Don't rush out and try to upgrade your TV just yet.  No one is broadcasting in 2k resolution let alone 4k.  Sony did announce at the show a Blu-ray player (model BDP-S790) that will upscan your Blu-ray disc to 4k resolution, but I heard nothing on price and only "2nd quarter" for when you could buy one.

Everyone had their 3D TVs as well as several glasses free 3D demos.  Most people just kept on walking past the 3D.  Content creators and manufacturers keep pushing the technology but the public just 1) doesn't want to fork out the extra money and 2) doesn't want to wear glasses just to watch television.  I looked at the glasses free televisions but they just didn't look as 3D as those that require glasses.  3D is a novelty that people will indulge in from time to time when they go to the theater.

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Second Patent Approved

Patent number 8069094, to be exact, was approved on November 29th 2011.  You can read the full breakdown of the patent online.
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BrightSign Digital Signage: The Good and the Bad

A couple of months ago, a friend approached me and asked if I would be interested in talking to his company about a video display solution.  They were going to install new displays for video playback and wanted to do something better than the traditional DVD players many people use for just such a thing.

Their initial thought was to use a ROKU.  The device is very affordable, supports HD, and plays back video like a champ.  The only problem with the ROKU is that it's not really designed for this type of job.  It depends on user input and interaction.  Because it depends on that, you can't auto-start your video(s) when the device powers on.  A potentially bigger problem is that anyone with a ROKU remote could hijack your device and play anything they wanted.

I suggested BrightSign.  It's very similar to the ROKU (owned by the same people) in many ways but is more of a professional device created for digital signage.  You can use it standalone to just play video, audio, images and text or make it interactive via touchscreen, buttons, etc.  You can sync multiple television screen across multiple units and create video walls or nifty orchestrated displays.  BrightSign has some good case examples on their website.

BrightSign is probably one of the best digital signage devices I've seen.  There really is a lot you can do with these boxes.  You can either program the device to run standalone (throw everything on an SD card and leave it) or in network mode (check a URL frequently to see if there is new content).  Network mode assumes that when the device is turned on that there will be a network connection.  If you tell it to run in network mode, you put all of your content on a web server.  The device goes to the URL you specify and downloads the new content and the XML that tells it what to play and when.  There is also the option to use the BrightSign network and that gives you the ability to monitor and control all of your BrightSign devices.  There is also a charge per device to use their network.

The biggest problem I have with them is the lack of documentation on how to program it.  They use a programming language called BrightScript.  And no, it's not like JavaScript.  For example, I had a problem where the solution was to delete certain files from the SD card and copy others from a sub-folder.  Nowhere is it documented how to do that.  You can look at the autorun file that their software creates for you and find three or four different commands that will delete files.  You can find just as many that will move files around the SD card.  So do I use "sd:/foldername/filename" or do I use "foldername/filename"?  Can I use CopyFile(autoplayPoolFile$, "autoplay.xml")?  Turns out none of those worked for me, yet they are used in other locations within their default app.

I finally got it.  That's not the point.  I would have gotten there a lot sooner had I been able to look in a PDF and find the code I needed. I ran into this time and time again.  I did discover commented lines in their own code that kept me amused.  For example, "This should be improved in the future to work out whether the sync spec we're currently satisfying matches the one that we're currently downloading or not."  At least they know there is room for improvement.  And MUCH to their credit, I was able to actually talk to them late at night and over the weekend to help resolve some of my questions.

The bottom line is that BrightSign is a great solution if you have a digital signage need.  You would be surprised at the number of companies that do!  Whether it's displaying video to a customer, statistical graphs and data for your corporation, a menu out front your local restaurant, or an interactive game, BrightSign can do it.

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New Site!

As you have no doubt noticed, the site has had a makeover.  I can't promise this will be the last time that happens, but the old site was... well... old.  The new site is powered by WordPress, which makes for a great content management system!  I have converted many clients to WP in the last year or two, so it only made sense to do the same for my site. More updates to come!
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