Scott Hanselman

Review: Logitech ConferenceCam CC3000e - A fantastic pan tilt zoom camera and speaker for remote workers

July 7, '14 Comments [12] Posted in Remote Work | Reviews
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cc3000eI'm forever looking for tools that can make me a more effective remote worker. I'm still working remotely from Portland, Oregon for folks in Redmond, Washington.

You might think that a nice standard HD webcam is enough to talk to your remote office, but I still maintain that a truly great webcam for the remote work is one that:

  • Has a wide field of view > 100 degrees
  • Has an 5x - 10x optical zoom to look at whiteboards
  • Has motorized pan-tilt-zoom

Two years later I'm still using (and happy with) the Logitech BCC950. I'm so happy with it that I wrote and maintain a cloud server to remotely control the PTZ (pan tilt zoom function) of the camera. I wrote all that up earlier on this blog in Cloud-Controlled Remote Pan Tilt Zoom Camera API for a Logitech BCC950 Camera with Azure and SignalR.

Fast-forward to June of 2014 and Logitech offered to loan me (I'm sending it back this week) one of their new Logitech ConferenceCam C3000e conferencing systems. Yes, that's a mouthful.

To be clear, the BCC950 is a fantastic value. It's usually <$200, has motorized PTZ, a remote control, (also works my software, natch), doesn't require drivers with Windows (a great plus), is a REALLY REALLY good speakerphone for Skype or Lync calls, it's camera is 1080p, the speakerphone shows up as a standard audio device, and has a removable "stalk" so you can control how tall the camera is.

BUT. The BCC950's zoom function is digital which sucks for trying to see remote whiteboards, and it's field of view is just OK.

Now, enter the CC3000e, a top of the line system for conference room. What do I get for $1000? Is it worth 4x the BCC950? Yes, if you have the grand and you're on video calls all day. It's an AMAZING camera and it's worth it. I don't want to send it back.

Logitech ConferenceCam CC3000e - What do you get?

The unboxing is epic, not unlike an iPhone, except with more cardboard. It's a little overwhelming as there are a lot of parts, but it's all numbered and very easy to setup. My first impression was "why do I need all these pieces" as I'm used to the all-in-one-piece BCC950 but then I remembered that the CC3000e is actually meant for business conference rooms, not random remote workers in a home office like me. Still, later I appreciated the modularity as I ended up mounting the camera on top of an extra TV I had, while moving the speaker module under my monitor nearer my desk.

You get the camera, the speaker/audio base, a 'hockey puck' that routes all the cables, and a remote control.

The Good

You've seen what a regular webcam looks like. Two heads and some shoulders.

Skyping with a regular camera

Believe it or not, in my experience it's hard to get a sense of a person from just their disembodied head. Who knew?

I'm regularly Skyping/Lyncing into an open space in Redmond where my co-workers move around friendly, use the whiteboard, stand around, and generally enjoy their freedom of motion. If I've got a narrow 70 degree or less field of view with a fixed location, I can't get a feel for what's going on. From their perspective, none of them really know what my space looks like. I can't pace around, use a whiteboard, or interact with them in any "more than just a head" way.

Enter a real PTZ camera with real optics and a wide field of view. You really get a sense of where I am in my office, and that I need to suck it in before taking screenshots.

The CC3000e has an amazing wide field of view

Now, move the camera around.

The CC3000e has a remote control to turn it

Here's me trying to collaborate with my remote partners over some projects. See how painful that is? EVERY DAY I'm talking to half-heads with tiny cameras.

My co-worker's chin

Part of my co-workers' faces

Half my boss's head

These calls weren't staged for this blog post, people. FML. These are real meetings, and a real one-on-one with the half a forehead that is my boss.

Now, yes, I admit that you'll not ALWAYS want to see my torso when talking. Easy, I turn, and face the camera and zoom in a smidge and we've got a great 1:1 normal disembodied head conversation happening.

A bright HD Skype

But when you really want to connect with someone, back up a bit. Get a sense of their space.

A wide field of view shows you more context

And if you're in a conference room, darn it, mount that sucker on the far wall.

A wide field of view shows you the whole room

While only the me-sides of these calls used the CC3000e (as I'm the dude with the camera) I've used the other screenshots of actual calls I've had to show you the difference between clear optics and a wide field of view, vs. a laptop's sad little $4 web cam. You can tell who has a nice camera. Let me tell you, this camera is tight.

The CC3000e has a lot of great mounting options that come included with the kit. I was able to get it mounted on top of my TV like a Kinect, using the included brackets, in about 5 minutes. You can also mount it flat against the wall, which could be great for tight conference room situations.

1photo 2

The camera is impressive, and politely looks away when it's not in use. A nice privacy touch, I thought.

photo 4

The optical zoom is fantastic. You'll have no trouble zooming in on people or whiteboards.

Here's zoomed out.

Zoomed out

Here's zoomed in. No joke, I just zoomed in with the remote and made a face. It's crazy and it's clear.

Zoomed in

The speakerphone base is impressively sturdy with an awesome Tron light-ring that is blue when you're on a call, and red when you're either on hold (or you're the MCP.)

The screen will also show you the name/number of the current caller.

image

A nice bonus, you can pair the base with your cell phone using Bluetooth and now you've got a great speaker and speakerphone. This meant I could take all calls (mobile, Lync, Skype) using one speakerphone.

The Weird

There have been a few weird quirks with the CC3000e. For example - right this moment in fact - the camera on indicator light is flashing blue, but no app is using the camera. It's as if it got stuck after a call. Another is that the microphone quality (this is subjective, of course) for people who hear me on the remote side doesn't seem as deep and resonant as with the BCC950. Now, no conference phone will ever sound as nice as a headset, but the audio to my ear and my co-worker's ear is just off when compared to what we're used to. Also, a few times the remote control just stopped working for a while.

On the software side, I've personally found the Logitech Lync "Far End Control" PTZ software to be unreliable. Sometimes it works great all day, other days it won't run. I suspect it's having an isue communicating with the hardware. It's possible, given the weird light thing combined with this PTZ issue that I have a bad/sick review model. Now, here's the Far End Control Application's PDF Guide. It's supposed to "just work' of course. You and the person you're calling each run a piece of software that creates a tunnel over Lync and allows each of you to control the other's PTZ motor. This is a different solution than my PTZ system, as theirs uses Lync itself to transmit PTZ instructions while mine requires a cloud service.

Fortunately, my PTZ System *also* works with the ConferenceCam CC3300e. I just tested it, and you'll simply have to change the name of the device in your *.config file.

<appSettings>
<!-- <add key="DeviceName" value="BCC950 ConferenceCam"/> -->
<add key="DeviceName" value="ConferenceCam CC3000e Camera"/>
</appSettings>

To be clear, the folks at Logitech have told me that they can update the firmware and adjust and improve all aspects of the system. In fact, I flashed it with firmware from May 12th before I started using it. So, it's very possible that these are just first-version quirks that will get worked out with a software update. None of these issues have prevented my use of the system. I've also spoken with the developer on the Far End Control system and they are actively improving it, so I've got high hopes.

This is a truly killer system for a conference room or remote worker (or both, if I'm lucky and have budget.)

  • Absolutely amazing optical zoom
  • Top of the line optics
  • Excellent wide field of view
  • The PTZ camera turns a full 180 degrees
  • Programmable "home" location
  • Can act as a bluetooth speaker/speakerphone for your cell phone
  • The camera turns away from you when it's off. Nice reminder of your privacy.

The optics alone would make my experience as a remote worker much better. I am boxing it up and I am going to miss this camera. Aside from a few software quirks, the hardware is top notch and I'm going to be saving up for this camera.

You can buy the Logitech CC3000e from Logitech directly or from some shady folks at Amazon.

Related Links


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About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Review: The Linksys WRT1900AC Dual-Wireless Router is the second coming of the WRT54G

April 24, '14 Comments [34] Posted in Reviews
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Linksys WRT1900AC RouterI just blogged about how I simplified my home network with a MoCA/Ethernet bridge. As a part of my home network rebuild, I swapped out my Netgear N600 for a shiny new Linksys WRT1900AC Wireless Router.

I've been a Linksys WRT54G fan for almost a decade. I ran HyperWRT for a while and then ended up with DD-WRT. Having a reliable, hackable router was a joy back in the day.

The Hardware

The new Linksys WRT1900AC has a design that is clearly meant to evoke the WRT54G, but it's a whole new beast. My first WRT54G was a Broadcom BCM4702 running @ 125Mhz, although later models went to 240Mhz. It had 16 megs of RAM and 4 megs of Flash. I was thrilled that theh WRT54G had "fast ethernet."

Compare that to the WRT1900AC with its dual-core 1.2Ghz ARM processor with 256 megs of DDR3. It's a PC, frankly, and I appreciate the power and flexibility.

This router is clearly a little spendy, and I was initially wondering it US$249 is worth the money. However, after using it for a week I can say yes. Let's say that it only lasts a year, that's less than $1 a day. If it lasts 5 years like previous routers, it's pennies. Considering that I work from home and need consistent and reliable connectivity, I'm willing to pay a premium for a premium device.

First, this is a 802.11a/b/g/n router and supports all devices, including the newer 80.11ac spec. It cover the full spectrum, pun intended, and has both 2.4GHz and 5.0Ghz support. It's got 4 large adjustable antennas, and the whole device is the size of a medium pizza. They even warn you not to put stuff on top of it so you don't block the heat sink.

I was also pleasantly surprised that the WRT1900AC has a USB 3.0 port and an eSATA port where you can plug in external storage, then access it as a file share. I was just talking to a neighbor who was considering a $600 NAS (Network Attached Storage) device, and I see now that the WRT1900AC could be that basic NAS for him. It supports FAT, NTFS, and HFS+ filesystems.

It's also super fast. Here's a large file copy for example. It's fast and rock solid at 100+ megabytes a second. I'm getting between 40-60 megabytes a second over wireless. I've also been able to get 20-40 megs a second off an attached hard drive. It's a competent simple NAS.

image

It's been consistently faster than my previous router in basically everything that I do. I haven't done formal tests, but it's looking like 20-30% just on the wireless side.

The Software

The WRT1900AC also will support OpenWRT later this year, and Linksys is encouraging folks like the DD-WRT, Open WRT, and Tomato projects to target this device. It's nice when a company creates hardware and doesn't freak out when the community wants to hack on it.

The installation was a breeze and I was impressed that they included a non-standard default password for out of the box security.

Their initial release of the built-in software is a little lacking, IMHO, in a few areas, most notably QoS (Quality of Service) and is a little bit of a step back from my previous routers. I'd like more absolute control over my traffic, but that's me. To compensate, I marked my Xbox and my Work PC as needing preferred packets, so rather than prioritizing specific traffic, the router will prioritize these machines by MAC address.

image

While it does lack in some places, it makes up in others. The interface is fast, and easy to use.

image

You can access lots of logs, diagnostics, and stats for everything. However, I have spent most of my time in the Network Map.

Screenshot (130)

Not to harp on this feature, but I really like this real-time filterable network map. From here I can see who's on which wireless channels, reserve DHCP leases, filter devices by type. It's a gimmick, but it's a gimmick that works and works well.

Screenshot (131)

I also registered my router with the LinksysSmartWifi.com site. This allows me to remotely manage the router from anywhere (without a dyndns.org account or opening the firewall) as well as from my iPhone. This also potentially means I could debug those network issues that only pop up when I'm travelling and my wife is trying to get on the internet. ;)

All in all, I'm very satisfied with this new router.

  • I've got greater wireless coverage than ever before.
  • I've got good management tools, inside, outside, and while mobile.
  • The speed is as good as anything I've ever used.
  • It has 90% of the features I need, and I'm confident I'll get more advanced features with updates or via open source projects.

For now, the Linksys WRT1900AC Wireless Router is sold only at Best Buy or on Linksys.com direct. It's worth the money if you want the fastest router out there.

* Disclaimer: I use affiliate links to buy gadgets and tacos. Click them and you support me, my lunch, and my blog.


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About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Amazon Kindle Paperwhite SECOND GENERATION Review - plus new Kindle Software Update

April 10, '14 Comments [21] Posted in Reviews
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I'm a longtime Kindle fan. Love it. It's not a tablet, not a computer, my Paperwhite Kindle represents books for me.

I have a first-generation Kindle Paperwhite and use it almost every day. It's my go-to reading device. I originally gave it a mixed review but the game-changer was the addition of the magnetic cover, specifically the Kindle Paperwhite Leather Cover in Black. The Kindle turns on and off when it opens and closes, which is lovely, but the important point is the thickness it adds to the bezel. For my hands, a Paperwhite is an insubstantial thing that's too small to hold comfortably. This cover adds just a fraction of an inch all around the Kindle and effectively the cover subsumes the Kindle. The cover melds with the Kindle in a firm and crisp way and you'll never take it off. It's perfectly sized, plus protected enough that I throw it in my bag without worry.

I recently came into possession of a second-generation Kindle Paperwhite and didn't know what to make of it. It's "one better" right? It's the new version. It looks the same.

The main improvement they say is a clearer and higher-contrast display. Here are my 1st and 2nd gen Kindles next to each other, which is the Second Generation Paperwhite?

amazon kindle paperwhite comparison

There's a little glare here but the second gen has a whiter background and darker blacks.

The first gen has a fantastic screen...

photo 4

But the second gen has darker blacks and crisper text.

photo 5

The second generation is definitely faster, they say 25% faster. Turning pages is quicker and the screen updates faster. The new updated software also includes a fast "skim" ability so you can move WAY faster around a book to find your place.

They also added GoodReads (a social network for readers) integration directly into the Kindle. This is a fun way to discover new books and see what your friends are reading.

It also includes "Kindle Freetime," a special mode for kids where you can limit the books they see and tracks their reading time, as well as set goals for the number of minutes they read each day.

Upgrade your Kindle Software

Speed and clarity is nice but the most dramatic difference was the software. This new 2nd gen Kindle had a bunch of new software features that my 1st didn't have. Unacceptable! ;) I checked, and I can get many of these new features by manually upgrading my Kindle's software.

If you have a Kindle, head over to https://www.amazon.com/kindlesoftwareupdates and get updated. Most Kindles update themselves, but more and more I'm seeing that these updates roll out either slowly, or not at all. My first-gen was many versions behind.

It's a basic process, just connect a USB cable and drag the update file into the ROOT (top) of the Kindle Directory. Disconnect and reboot and wait.

Now both my 1st and 2nd gen Kindle Paperwhite's share the same software features!

Conclusion

It's not a "must upgrade" but it's a nice generational step. If you don't have a Kindle reader, this is a great Kindle. If you're a fan (as I am) and your partner needs a Kindle, get a new 2nd gen and pass the 1st gen along with updated software. Everyone wins.

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* FYI: I use Amazon affiliate links


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About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Review: A tale of three Lenovo Laptops - X1 Carbon Touch, ThinkPad Yoga, IdeaPad Yoga 2 Pro

March 6, '14 Comments [54] Posted in Reviews
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ThinkPad Yoga, X1 Carbon Touch, and Yoga 2 Pro all together

I'm a big Lenovo fan and have used Thinkpads nearly exclusively since my first T60p. I'm using an first-gen X1 Carbon Touch as my main on the go machine these days. I've also tried using a Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro but had a little trouble with its extremely high-dpi display, although the build quality of the hardware is amazing.

I'm also trying out a loaner of a ThinkPad Yoga. What's the difference between the ThinkPad Yoga and the regular Yoga or Yoga 2 Pro? I think of the ThinkPad line, and this Yoga, as a business laptop. It has a TPM which is essential for Bitlocker encryption and VPN/DirectAccess without a Smartcard. Both very similar specs otherwise aside from the Yoga 2 Pro's super-high-res 3200x1800 screen.

Battery life on all these is reasonable, but not truly all-day long epic. You can get 6 hours on any of them, you just need to be thoughtful about what you are doing. Turn down brightness, use power plans smartly, and you're cool.

Frankly, the battery life Haswell brought us hasn't been as life-changing as has been the "RapidCharge" feature on the X1 Carbon Touch. A 30 min layover at an airport can get me almost 80% of my battery back. THAT is a feature that has changed how I work.

Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga

Yoga means the laptop is also a convertible and bends into a tent or a tablet. This is the consumer Yoga. My Mom and my wife both chose and use this model, coincidentally.

  • The ThinkPad Yoga has your choice of processor from a 4th Gen Intel i3 up to a to an i7-4600U at 3.3GHz.
  • You can get the rather low-res touch-enabled 1366x768 screen or the near-deal touch and pen (with a pen you can store in the device!) 1920x1080 screen. Get the 1080p one, I say.
  • This one uses mini-HDMI for its video out.

Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 2 Pro

The Yoga 2 Pro has more options to build out but does top out on the processor side earlier.

  • The Yoga 2 Pro can also clock to up to an i7-4500U at 1.8Ghz.
    • Update: the clock speed for the 4500U is 1.8 and it's Max Turbo Frequency is 3.0.
  • It has a fantastic 13.3" QHD+ 32001800 screen.
  • Micro HDMI video output.
    • This was and remains the one totally unacceptable spec for me. As I present a lot, this connector is useless. It's too small, too weak, too unreliable, and too wonky. It only took three presentations before it broke. I don't blame Lenovo, I blame the connector and its spec. If you aren't going to use video out, don't sweat it at all. But if you are presenting daily, NEVER buy a laptop with micro HDMI. It will let you down.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Touch

I own and love the first generation X1. I'd really like to get my hands on the new one and its controversial keyboard and compare the two.

The X1 isn't a Yoga and while it does bend to flat and it does have a great touch-screen, it is NOT a tablet.

  • The X1 has goes from 4th Gen Intel i3 up to a to an i7-4600U at 2.1GHz.
    • Update: the clock speed for the 4600U is 2.1 and it's Max Turbo Frequency is 3.3.
  • Mine has a 1600x900 screen but you can now get up to QHD 2560x1440. This isn't as high as the Yoga 2 but when setting Windows at 150% it works nicely. If you have decent eyes you can avoid any high-dpi issues and just run at 100%.
  • The Mini DP Connector is great. I've never had an issue connecting to a projector with this laptop.

Things you need to consider if you travel

We can talk specs all day and you can dig into them if you like. Needless to say, they are fast, they have SSDs and you can get up to 8gig of RAM. Here's some things you may not have thought about when looking at an Ultrabook.

All Lenovo laptops are thin and light

These are all small and all around 3lbs. The Yoga 2 Pro is the sleekest and the most outwardly attractive. The X1 is a close second with its tapered nose. The ThinkPad Yoga is boxy and reliable looking.

  • What kind of Video Output does it have?
    • You won't get full-sized VGA on 90% of Ultrabooks. It'll be either HDMI, Micro-HDMI (a nightmare), or MiniDP (Mini Display Port.) When in doubt, go MiniDP all the way.
  • USB3 vs. USB2
    • Most Ultrabooks have one USB3 connector and one that's USB2. The USB3 one is almost always blue, that's how you can tell. Think about what your requirements are what if you'll need a nice USB adapter. I recommend combination USB3 hubs with included Ethernet. I own one and love it.
  • Will you dock your laptop a lot?
    • If so, consider the new OneLink Pro dock from Lenovo. It's in the ThinkPad line of laptops, so that's the ThinkPad Yoga or the 2nd Gen X1 Carbon Touch. That means one connector gets you power, USB along with 6 (!) ports, 4 of which are USB3. You'll also get DisplayPort up to 2560x1600 and a DVI-I connector.
    • I own the original USB3 dock which uses USB3 and DisplayLink technology to run up to two additional monitors. The video is compressed and you have to plug in both a USB3 connector and the power. It works, and I'm happy with it, but OneLink is a clear improvement.

Keyboards

I have always loved ThinkPad keyboards. The W520 workhorse has the best laptop keyboard ever, to this day, IMHO. The first generation X1 Carbon Touch is a close second.

X1 Carbon Touch Keyboard

The ThinkPad Yoga's keyboard is good, but a few changes like the removal of the insert button from the top row as well as the de-emphasis of the function keys did slow me down for a few days.

The Yoga also changes the TrackPad a little by making in larger, clickier, and removes the physical buttons for folks who like "The Nub" for their mousing. Note that the buttons are still there, they are just integrated into the top of the TrackPad so your muscle memory doesn't need to change.

ThinkPad Yoga Keyboard

The Yoga 2 Pro keyboard keys don't have the subtle concave shape that the ThinkPad line is known for. The keyboard is nearly flat. It also seemed to show hand grease a little more, although clearly a cloth solves that problem quickly. As a fast touch-typist I'm a little slower on this keyboard but it's certainly reasonable and only took me a few days to adapt. I do prefer the X1, though.

Yoga 2 Pro Keyboard

Resolutions

I just love 1080p on a 13.3" screen. It's just large enough that it feels roomy but not so big that it's squinty. This collection of three laptops straddles that ideal, though. My wife doesn't see the difference and works on the 768 or 900 machines with no complaint. My wife has a retina one and doesn't appreciate it (or notice its screen). I prefer 1080 or 1800 if I'm doing multiple window website debugging. At 1800p the pixels just disappear.

1366x768 you can see the pixels

1600x900 is a nice compromise

3200x1800 is insane. No pixels to be seen.

My Wish List for the Ultimate Lenovo Ultrabook

This is simple.

  • Micro-HDMI is a failed connector. The industry needs to accept this and stop using it.
    • There is only full-sized HDMI or ideally, MiniDP.  Mini Display Port, in my experience, always works and works well. Adapters are many and plentiful and I always feel comfortable going to a conference with a MiniDP laptop as I know they can handle it.
  • I want more RAM. Always. Give me a 12 gig Ultrabook, please, Lenovo. That said, these machines have happily run VS, Outlook and two Virtual Machines without complaint.
  • Anything over 1080p at 13"+ is the sweet spot resolution for me. Retina is nice but Windows 8.1 isn't quite there yet on the desktop. Soon I hope.
  • A 256 gig SSD is the ideal size for me. 128 is a little cramped for a developer.
  • #MOARYOGA - The whole Yoga hinge is brilliant.

Give me an X1 Yoga with the fastest i7, 256G SSD, a Mini DP connector, and a screen that is anything over 1080p and we're cool. You can...

Shut up and take my money

Today, I'm happy using the X1 Carbon Touch until I see the new X1. But I really recommend any of these devices if the tech specs and connectors meet your requirements.

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About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Human Computer Interaction Diversity - 7 Devices that AREN'T a mouse and keyboard

December 1, '13 Comments [20] Posted in Reviews | Tools
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Mix it up a little...try interacting with your computer with something OTHER than a Mouse and Keyboard
 

One of the most wonderful and least appreciated things about computers is diversity of devices. You're probably interacting with your computer with a keyboard and mouse. But in the last few years, you may have added touch and, to a limited extent, voice.

The photo above is of my desk. Yes, it's messy. On it are the things I use to work with my computer. I use these nearly every day and at least every week or they wouldn't last on my desk.

They are:

and not pictured

I think we all should consider our workflows and consider what devices that aren't a keyboard and mouse that might be better suited for the tasks we perform every day.

Leap Motion

I initially gave this product a 10 for concept and a 0 for execution. I'll give it a 3 now...but it's getting better. It's still not well suited for gross motions, but for browsing and scrolling it's at least becoming useful. I keep it on all the time and since I haven't got a touchscreen on my desktop machine (yet) I use it for scrolling while reading and leaning back. It has huge potential and I'm impressed with how often the software updates itself.

I'm using the Touchless for Windows app. The concept is so promising...wave your hands and your computer reacts. I still don't suggest that the Leap Motion is a consumer quality device, but I do use it weekly and turn to its promise often.

LeapMotion Visualizer

Wacom Tablet

Tablets are the gold standard for interacting with Adobe products like Illustrator and Photoshop. I learned Photoshop on a Tablet many years ago and I still prefer using one today. The Wacom Bamboo also has touch support which is a bonus, although I use my Logitech N650 Touchpad as a trackpad as it's more sensitive (to touch).

If you're trying to draw or paint without a stylus like a Wacom, you're truly missing out. They are surprisingly affordable, too.

Wacom Applet

ShuttlePRO v2

My buddy at Channel 9 Larry Larsen turned me on to the ShuttlePRO for video editing. I don't know what I did without it. It's got program-sensitive programmable keys. That means their function changes depending on what's running. I can mark a key as "Split" or "Play" but the ShuttlePro software will automatically use the right hotkey depending on if I'm using Audition or Premiere. Some nice gent even made settings for Camtasia Studio and the ShuttlePro v2. If you do screencasts or video editing like I do, a shuttle is a must.

ShuttlePro Config

Logitech TouchPad

You can get a Logitech T650 Touchpad for less then $35 if you look around. It's a large, gorgeous class touch area that's also wireless. If you have Logitech products already you can use the Unifying Receiver you may already have. I have as USB hub and it works just fine.

I use it to two-finger scroll, pinch to zoom, and all the things that MacBook touchpad folks take for granted. You can also use it with Windows 8 to "swipe in" and task switch. I move between my mouse and this touch pad to reduce repetition and wrist strain with the mouse, but also sometimes just because I'm in the mood. It's a great Trackpad/Touchpad that can ease the transition if you have trouble moving from a laptop and a desktop.

Logitech Touchpad

Great Webcam and Speaker Phone

I adore the Logitech BCC950 Conference Cam so much that I've written software to remotely control its motorized Pan-Tilt-Zoom functionality and use it as an Auto Answer Kiosk. Not only is it a great web cam that I use every day, but it's also a fantastic speaker phone for conferences. It shows up as just another audio device that you can set as the default for communication but not your default speaker. This means Lync and Skype calls come from this device, but your regular computer audio doesn't. Sound quality is killer, confirmed by everyone I've talked to with it.

image

Aside: There's so much untapped usefulness in just a webcam but most programs just don't use it. Have you seen the Windows 8 "Food and Drink" app? You likely already have this app. It has a Hands-Free mode for cooking. You know when you're using a tablet to show a recipe? It uses just the data from your webcam to see your hand wave to move to the next page. Very cool.

Kinect for Windows

The Kinect SDK was updated last year with support for "Near Mode" which is basically "sitting at your desk mode." This update made programming to the Kinect for Windows a LOT more useful for the desktop. Writing apps is fairly easy, like this example where you can control PowerPoint with your hands. With apps like KinEmote you can use the Kinect to control your XBMC media installation and lots more.

Another little known fact is that the Kinect on a PC has a very nice quality Array Microphone that can also be used for things like Windows Speech Recognition or Dragon Naturally Speaking.

Me on Kinect

There's such a huge diversity of ways to interact with computers and it's truly just starting. In my lifetime I'm sure computers will be able to detect (guess) if I'm sad or happy, notice my health status, great me when I walk up, and so much more.

What  devices do YOU have plugged into your computer right now?


Sponsor: Big thanks to Red Gate for sponsoring the blog this week! Easy release management - Deploy your .NET apps, services and SQL Server databases in a single, repeatable process with Red Gate’s Deployment Manager. There’s a free Starter edition, so get started now!

Disclaimer: My Amazon links are affiliate links and that the resulting few bucks buys me gadgets and tacos. Mostly tacos.

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.