Getting to know the Olympus LS-14 and LS-12

Olympus LS-14

As a podcaster, I’m interested in portable digital audio recorders as tools that I can use to record interviews, for example, when out and about.

So when I hear about a new portable audio-recording device on the market, I’m curious to know how it might fare as a device for use such as mine. That’s the situation in the case of the recorder you see pictured here, an Olympus LS-14 recently launched in the UK.

As a company, Olympus is pretty well known for its professional cameras. I remember owning an Olympus 35mm SLR camera many years ago when photography was a keen interest of mine.

During the past few years, though, Olympus has featured prominently in mainstream media not for its cool products but for the ousting of its whistle-blowing British CEO precipitating a fraud and false accounting scandal that wiped 75 percent off its stock market valuation in one of the biggest and most durable business scandals in the history of corporate Japan.

Notwithstanding such an assault on its corporate reputation, Olympus continues to bring products to market that excite its customers and attract positive attention (and sales).

I’d count Olympus’ wide range of audio products – from dictation systems to high-end audio recorders – firmly in that area, and the LS-14 is a great example of a product that excites.

Olympus sent me the LS-14 along with its lesser-spec sibling, the LS-12, to get to know and review them. Both devices are pitched by Olympus primarily at musicians. My focus, though, is using them and reviewing them from the perspective of a podcaster – someone who will record voice rather than music.

Here’s an example of what a voice recording sounds like in a short clip I recorded on the LS-14:

The original was recorded in uncompressed WAV format (one of the recording formats the device supports); all I’ve done prior to saving it as an MP3 is run the WAV through Levelator, then save it as an MP3 in Adobe Audition. No editing.

How will they stack up? As I mention in the clip, I plan to review these devices on  their own merits rather than in comparison to any other device I use or have used.

First, though, I’m getting to know them. Review to come soon.

Do you use either of these devices or other Olympus digital audio recorders? If you’re willing to share your thoughts, I’d love to know what you think.

See (listen) also:

WebHostingBuzz: A hosting partner worth getting to know

(l to r) WHB CEO Matt Russell and Neville Hobson at The B2B HuddleFor the past 18 months, WebHostingBuzz has hosted this blog and my other websites on a dedicated server physically located in one of its US datacentres.

A dedicated server is a server that is exclusive to one user: it’s not shared with anyone else. So I enjoy the benefits of high performance, security, stability and control from a server that has only my content on it, and no one else uses it.

It’s like having my own high-end desktop computer but in the cloud.

Compared to shared hosting – many users on the same server, each with its own partitioned space and its own set of issues to deal with – I find this an ideal solution.

If you read either of WebHostingBuzz’ blogs, the US one or the UK one, you’ll see that this US/UK company is steadily developing its overall service offering especially this side of the Atlantic.

Last month, WHB announced a new range of dedicated servers located in its new Tier 4 datacentre in the UK (near Nottingham, to be a bit more precise).

I like WHB’s confidence in its UK network:

[…] Based in the Midlands, our network is under 2ms from London and Manchester. Redundant private 10Gbps fibre links connect us to all the key London and Manchester POPs. Extensive private peering and connectivity with all major broadband providers mean our network literally flies! Don’t just take our word for it, try it out yourself.

Traceroute to: 78.25.201.25
Download test file: http://37.61.233.42/100MB.bin

To mark the availability of its new UK setup, WHB currently has some great hosting deals for dedicated servers at different configurations and pricing options.

WHB UK dedicated servers

If you’re thinking about switching hosting services, I think WHB is well worth your time considering and checking out.

And here’s possibly a clincher especially if you run WordPress sites at your current host – WHB will handle your migration. They did that for me when I moved and I can tell you I had none of the migraines that would undoubtedly have happened if I’d had to do that myself!

WebHostingBuzz is a good partner. And I’ve got to know CEO Matt Russell over the past year and a half – that’s him in the picture at the top with me at The B2B Huddle event at Oracle UK earlier this month, at which Matt led a discussion session. I’ve had only a few needs to connect with their tech support team. Very responsive, very quickly. Great experiences.

They’re all worth getting to know.

Given my relationship with WHB, you might see this as a “sponsor post.” I see it far more as my post (I wrote it, not WHB) about a great partner. You can read the foundation to this and decide how you see it.

The arrival of the dystopian workplace

1984 Big Brother

Maybe it’s because I’m currently reading 1984 by George Orwell on my Kindle – the first time I’ve read the book since the early 1980s – but this report in The Wall Street Journal that an IBM security tool can flag “disgruntled employees” struck me as a bit,  well, Orwellian.

[…] The new tool, called IBM Security Intelligence with Big Data, is designed to crunch decades worth of emails, financial transactions and website traffic, to detect patterns of security threats and fraud. Beyond its more conventional threat prevention applications, the new platform, based on Hadoop, a framework that processes data-intensive queries across clusters of computers, will allow CIOs to conduct sentiment analysis on employee emails to determine which employees are likely to leak company data, [Sandy Bird, chief technology officer of IBM’s security systems division] said. That capability will look at the difference between how an employee talks about work with a colleague and how that employee discusses work on public social media platforms, flagging workers who may be nursing grudges and are more likely to divulge company information. “By analyzing email you can say this guy is a disgruntled employee and the chance that he would be leaking data would be greater,” Mr Bird said of IBM’s new tool.

Computer software that predicts or suggests human behaviour in a workplace could have immense value in their function  of crunching data to enable the humans to make the judgements.

[…] For example, a company could analyze employee emails that express a positive sentiment to a manager at work, but detect “when he’s talking to a peer or someone outside the company, the sentiment comes out a little different,” Mr. Bird said.  Such a pattern, combined with other factors, could cause an employee to be flagged for more investigation by an IT team.

Yet if a tool such as IBM’s makes it faster, cheaper and more efficient to get to a conclusion, then I can see the time when crucial decisions about you and what you have said are made by a computer.

Inevitable dystopia? Discuss!

The Kindle’s days are numbered

Kindle reading on the Tube / via the Guardian

Whenever I’m on the tube in London, one thing I notice is the number of people quietly absorbed in reading a book or other text content on a Kindle as the crowded trains speed their way through the tunnels beneath the city.

Amazon’s near-ubiquitous ebook reader has changed the reading habits of millions of people worldwide, and disrupted an established industry to attain a leading position in the shift to digital as the maker of the hardware platform on which you consume the content, and also the source of much of the digital content itself.

Amazon’s Kindle in its various permutations aren’t the only game in town. But it is the dominant force.

The traditional – and long disrupted – book-publishing industry has begun to address a rapidly-changing and digitally-focused market – witness consolidations during 2012, for example, such as the combination between Random House and Penguin owned by Bertelsman and Pearson respectively, two of the world’s biggest media firms.

Yet could ebook readers like the Kindle be facing their own disruptive change in a broad market that itself is going through (more) disruptive change? Might the sights of Kindle-readers on the tube as depicted in the photo above from a Guardian story on Christmas Day last year – ironically, on the continued rise of ebook readers like the Kindle – become a rare one?

The disruptor? Tablets like the iPad. You may think “Well that’s no surprise.” But Amazon and other ebook makers often tout the low cost, very long battery life, natural reading (no backlight), plentiful supply of cheap content as among the most compelling reasons why ebook readers are the best choice for reading ebooks than tablets which do other things as well.

Indeed, those are compelling reasons, much of the fuel driving growth (and disruption) of the market.

But according to new research just published by Pew in the US, there is a clear trend showing that more people are now using tablets to read ebooks and other digital content than dedicated ebook readers. Tablets will assume a dominant position in such a role, as Pew’s research analysis and this chart suggest.

pewereadingdeviceownership

The chart also shows that growth is strong among survey respondents who say they own either a tablet or an ebook reader like a Kindle. But the clear and big growth over the past two years is in tablets specifically.

[...] The move toward e-book reading coincides with an increase in ownership of electronic book reading devices. In all, the number of owners of either a tablet computer or e-book reading device such as a Kindle or Nook grew from 18% in late 2011 to 33% in late 2012. As of November 2012, some 25% of Americans ages 16 and older own tablet computers such as iPads or Kindle Fires, up from 10% who owned tablets in late 2011. And in late 2012 19% of Americans ages 16 and older own e-book reading devices such as Kindles and Nooks, compared with 10% who owned such devices at the same time last year.

While it doesn’t mean that Kindles, etc, are suddenly obsolete (although there is some writing on the wall), I think it does mean that we want and expect more from our devices: things like easy sharing, for instance, touchscreens, and the ability to manipulate and repurpose the content quickly and easily.

Tablets like the iPad let us do exactly such things. And with the Kindle, Amazon offers free software that lets you read Kindle-format ebooks on your computer, tablet and smartphone, therefore giving you the precise platform choices to satisfy your wants and expectations.

Maybe, as someone once said, it’s all about software not hardware.

Related posts:

Could NFC make the business card really useful?

moonfccard

I have a thing about business cards. These little rectangular pieces of stiff paper or card seem to me to have outlived their analogue usefulness in today’s digital world.

What are you supposed to do with one when someone gives you theirs? You somehow have to get their contact info from the card and into your contacts list in Outlook or Evernote or whatever tool you use. That usually means typing it in unless you’re an fan of OCR software (and who regularly uses that for something like this?), or take a photo of it, post it somewhere and hope an app will be able to accurately extract the useful data from your image.

There was the fad recently of touching smartphones together so an app like Bump would transfer contact info that way. I don’t know anyone who does that today.

In 2009, I got excited about the potential of QR codes on business cards as one way of making the paper card useful in that it would be easy to get someone’s contact info from the card and into your digital domain relatively easily. And no typing!

I still think the QR code is a useful technology for this purpose, and continue to use one on my business cards.

Yet they still require you to go through some hurdles just to make the information on that bit of paper come to life digitally. So you have to load up a barcode scanner on your smartphone or other suitable mobile device (you did install one, right?). You have to hold the card in one hand or put it down somewhere, get the barcode app to scan it, open up the result in your browser, and then what?

Much depends on what the QR code creator has done with the code. Maybe it gives you something useful, eg, contact info in a format your contact software can directly use. Perhaps a page on a website that has that plus useful links, other content, etc.

But here’s something new that could be a better solution (with a huge caveat, though: more on that in a minute) – business cards embedded with an NFC chip where you wave your NFC -enabled card close to a suitable mobile device  – you don’t have the touch the device – to transfer information.

According to its Wikipedia entry, ‘NFC’ stands for near-field communication:

[NFC] is a set of standards for smartphones and similar devices to establish radio communication with each other by touching them together or bringing them into close proximity, usually no more than a few centimetres. Present and anticipated applications include contactless transactions, data exchange, and simplified setup of more complex communications such as Wi-Fi. [...]

So a lot of potential to come. When? Well, according to Gartner in their latest hype cycle for emerging technologies, NFC is presently on the downslope from the peak of inflated expectations towards the trough of disillusionment. Gartner thinks it will be 2-5 years before NFC reaches its plateau of productivity.

Still plenty of time to experiment, then, and see what’s possible with things like the business card – something the innovative card-printing firm MOO is doing with their experimental NFC Business Card:

When you say your first hello and present your business card, you’re offering up a little piece of yourself – but with an NFC card it can be a great big piece.

Embedded in the card is a tiny microchip. When it’s touched to a smartphone, the chip asks the phone to do something. Something you’ve told it to. Perhaps download your portfolio, play music or video, load web pages, maps or apps, save your contact details – the possibilities are endless.

See what MOO have in mind in this brief video:

NFC Business Cards from MOO from MOO.COM on Vimeo.

So the technology is present and the ability and intent to use it for a purpose such as a business card is clear. What’s not here yet is device ubiquity, ie, devices that have NFC chips built in. There are not enough devices yet.

But that’s the picture today. It will change as newer devices come to market with all the required bells and whistles and more people get such devices, and those devices enable you to do interesting, useful and productive things better, more securely and/or more easily than you can now.

I think big drivers behind the introduction of such technologies into the marketplace will be things like contactless payment systems and mobile payment.

QR codes face similar hurdles, ie, it needs to be easier and simpler for smartphone users to make use of them (and for code creators to create imaginative experiences when someone scans a code). That could be resolved by having the required barcode scanning software built-in to smartphones, where scanning a QR code means simply pointing your device’s camera at one and hey presto!

Lots of innovation coming. In the meantime, think of how to make your analogue business cards deliver more use to those you give them to.

(Via GigaOm.)

Related posts:

First BYOD, then BYOA: is COPE the tipping point?

byodjuggleBring your own device‘ is a phrase whose acronym BYOD has gained wide recognition in business, large businesses especially.

Apart from the genuine business pros and cons surrounding the idea of employees bringing their own computers, phones, tablets, etc, to the workplace – and using them for work – it reflects many of the profound changes underway in the workplace where employee empowerment now touches one of the final bastions of organization control: IT.

When I wrote about this recently, it was in the context of looking at another acronym that’s beginning to surface – BYOA standing for ‘bring your own apps,’ where not only do employees bring their own devices but also decide which software they want to run to get things done at work (which doesn’t just mean ‘in the workplace’).

That adds some significant pressure on traditional IT support infrastructures with complexity in what to support, how to do it, where (when ‘workplace’ is a pretty fluid word these days) and by whom.

So COPE might be an acronym whose meaning could be an attractive option for organizations  grappling with BYOD and BYOA.

As RWW Enterprise reports, some companies are turning the whole concept of BYOD on its head in favour of ‘corporate owned, personally enabled’ – COPE, in a word – policies.

[...] COPE essentially works like this: the organization buys the device and still owns it, but the employee is allowed, within reason, to install the applications they want on the device, be it smartphone or traditional computer.

(That’s where BYOA comes in.)

[...] For BYOD, the question for IT is “How do I secure information on a device that I don’t own?” With COPE, the question becomes, “How can I loosen my grip for my employees to use their devices for personal use?”

RWW’s report is a good assessment of the pros and cons of such an approach, and quotes Philippe Winthrop, US-based VP of Strategy at Dutch mobility platform-as-a-service company VeliQ, on how COPE offers organizations big cost benefits compared to BYOD.

[...] With BYOD, Winthrop said, “CFOs see a way to save a couple hundred bucks on CapEx [capital expenditures]. They’re missing an opportunity to save far more on OpEx [operational expenditures].” [...] “With COPE, it’s all about balance,” Winthrop explained. “When I said ‘loosen my grip,’ I didn’t say ‘let go.’”

[...] By embracing COPE, IT can reassert the control it must have to keep data and work processes secure, while still giving employees the shiny toys they so desperately want.

In August, I wrote about Gartner’s latest hype cycle for emerging technologies and how BYOD currently sits at the high point of the peak of inflated expectations, and made this comment:

[...] considering the location on the cycle of a single technology isn’t necessarily the best way of getting complete meaning from what you’re studying.

What I meant by that was thinking of an example Gartner makes where a group of technologies working together is the tipping point for all to move into the next phase of evolution that, hopefully, will lead to enlightenment as a precursor to broad acceptance. That led me last week to speculate thus:

I wonder if or where BYOA will appear on Gartner’s hype cycle next year. Maybe BYOA is one of those things that requires connection with another technology to trigger its tipping point. That ‘other’ clearly looks like BYOD.

It looks like both may require COPE to cope.

(Image above via Econocom.)

Related posts: