This is what Shawn Morton would look like if he had been made of LEGO sMoRTy71.com -- the personal website of Shawn Morton
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
2008 (last-minute) holiday gadget gift guide
Although I no longer work or write for CNET, I still love me some consumer electronics. Over the past year, I have picked up quite a few products that I like well enough to recommend as great holiday gifts.

Here they are (in no particular order):

1. Eye-Fi SD card ($79-$129)
I love taking digital photos; however, I hate connecting my camera to my laptop to transfer them. The Eye-Fi 2GB SD card makes it dead simple to transfer photos from your camera to your PC and/or favorite online photo-sharing site. It uses your Wi-Fi network, so you don't need to connect your camera with a USB cable. You don't even need to take the card out of your camera. Once set up, photos are transferred any time your camera is on.

I've recently seen the Eye-Fi for as low as $79 at BestBuy. Worth every penny.

2. Flip video camera ($149+)
I received a free Flip video camera at SXSWi last year. I was asked to capture some of the highlights of the festival to be included as part of a video compilation project (see a video I shot with it at SXSWi 2008 here). I fell in love with the Flip's simplicity, form factor and ease of use. The built-in USB port makes transferring videos a breeze. The included software will automatically transfer videos directly to YouTube. It runs on AA batteries, so there is no need to deal with a charger or power cord.

I have stopped recording video on my 3 CCD Sony digital camcorder and use my Flip almost exclusively.

For those who want to dabble in HD video, you can check out the new Flip Mino HD that retails for $229. Amazon is currently selling the Mino HD for $209 with free shipping and two free accessories (cases, action mount, tripod). That's tough deal to beat.

3. Slacker Portable G2 ($199)
I have been a fan of Slacker.com's free internet radio service for a while. I picked up the first-generation Slacker Portable when it came out shortly after premiering at CES. Really love the large screen and familiar Slacker interface. Most of all, though, I love have 15 custom radio stations in my pocket that get refreshed via Wi-Fi. No downloads to pay for and no need to sync it with your PC (unless you want to add your own MP3's to your Slacker Portable).

Early this year, Slacker revamped their hardware with the release of the sleeker G2. It's a nice upgrade to an already solid portable internet radio player.

4. Acer Aspire One AOA-150 ($349+)
I won't repeat my earlier review of the Aspire One. You can check that out here. All I will say is that I love just about everything about my netbook. Great performance, form factor and battery life. I can take it anywhere and use it for hours without needing to charge it up.

Radio Shack has just started selling a 3G-enabled Aspire One that will support AT&T's mobile broadband service. Insert a SIM card into the Aspire One, pay AT&T $60 (Yikes!) per month and you'll have broadband on the go. You can get the 3G Aspire One for $99 with a 2 year contract with AT&T.

5. Sony Playstation 3 ($399+)
OK, I know this one seems about 2 years too late; however, I came very late to the PS3 party. As an XBOX 360 and Wii owner, I didn't see the need to pick up a PS3, especially considering the early game titles. Plus, I was one of the unfortunate chumps who bought into HD-DVD, so I had no need for a Blu-ray player. Plus, I was pretty upset about having 2 (yes, 2) HD-DVD players turned into paperweights just before CES last year, so I had a minor boycott of Sony products for awhile.

Early this Fall, I got Blu-ray fever and picked up an 80GB PS3. Plus I was finally excited about some of the exclusive PS3 titles like LittleBigPlanet, SOCOM Confrontation and Resistance 2.

Some gadgets that I haven't picked up yet, but are on my short list of upcoming purchases:

1. Blackberry Storm ($199/$549)
I am actually getting the Storm for my corporate cellphone. I should have it later this week. I had a choice between the Bold (which was a little too similar to my Moto Q9h in terms of its looks) and the Storm. Despite the mixed, early reviews, I really like the larger screen and the tactile keyboard. I will post my initial impressions once I've had a chance to play with it.

2. Roku Netflix set-top box ($99)
A tiny little set-top box that allows you to stream Netflix to your TV. Hard to argue with the price. Will likely pick this up if some of the Netflix-enabled Blu-ray players don't drop in price very soon.

3. Samsung BDP-2550 Blu-ray player with Netflix ($349)
Speaking of Netflix-enabled Blu-ray players, I would love to pick up the Samsung BDP-2550. The 2550 adds Pandora support to the existing 2500's feature set. For me, these players need to get to the $249 price point before I will pick one up. Of course, if Sony would offer Netflix support for the PS3, which they say consumers don't want (good ol' Sony), this would be a non-issue.

So that's my list of last-minute holiday gadgets. What's on your holiday wish list this year?
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
Review: Acer Aspire AOA-150
After a couple of years of lugging around a 17" "desktop replacement" laptop, I decided to try a netbook. I loved the huge screen of my old laptop; however, I never took it anywhere because it was just too bulky.

So I've traded in that 17" screen for a roomy 8.9" one.

Acer Aspire One

I picked up an Acer Aspire One on Amazon for well under $400. It has a 1.6 GHZ Intel Atom processor, 1GB of RAM, 160GB HDD and a 6-hour battery. Best of all, unlike my previous laptop, this one doesn't come with Vista installed.

The Good
I love the form factor. It is incredibly small. Not much bigger than a hardcover book. It is also really light. I can easily carry this on a plane (and actually use it on those tiny tray tables) or even use it on a roadtrip if needed.

Acer Aspire One
Comparing the Acer Aspire One to my Moto Q9h

The battery life is also excellent. The 6-cell battery gives me just a little over 6 hours on a single charge. That's perfect for travel.

The performance is also very good. Because it is running Windows XP, the 1.6GHZ processor and 1GB of RAM are adequate to keep it responsive and fast. Vista was a nightmare on my older laptop, so it is nice to have something that just works.

There is a lot of storage (for a netbook). I opted for the 160GB hard drive over a smaller SSD (which would have required I use a Linux-based OS). Gives me the same amount of storage I had on my old laptop, so I can easily carry around all of my digital photos and my music library.

The Bad
The only complaint that I have is the ergonomics of the touchpad. In order to keep things compact, Acer chose to put the left and right click buttons on either side of the touchpad rather than at the bottom. This is a pretty big adjustment to make.

It's not a dealbreaker since you can also left click by tapping the touchpad; however, copying and pasting text or cropping photos can be a challenge.

Another minor issue was the lack of Bluetooth.

I was able to overcome both of those issue myself by picking up a Kensington Micro USB Bluetooth adapter (which is about the size of a penny) and a Microsoft Bluetooth Notebook Mouse 5000. The adapter stays tucked in one of my USB ports, so I can just grab the mouse and go. The mouse works on just about any surface, so I don't need to be sitting at a desk or table to use it.

While it isn't an issue for me, I should note that all netbooks lack an optical drive. Not a big deal for me since I never used mine. I have a huge library of movies ripped and converted to Divx, so I will just transfer those over to the Aspire One prior to any flights or roadtrips rather than carry around DVDs.

The bottom line
If you are looking to go ultra-portable on the cheap, I highly recommend the Acer Aspire One. For well under $450, you get the form factor, battery life and all the needed accessories (case, mouse, etc.) to go anywhere.
Monday, December 8, 2008
Glad this fantasy football season is over
I've been playing fantasy football for the past 10 years or so. I've always had a winning record and I've made the playoffs almost every year... until this year.

I struggled all year long to find the right combination of players. Many of my starters from the draft turned out to be duds including Rudi Johnson, Willis McGahee and Tory Holt. The wins that I did get were the result of scraping a team together from free agents like Mewelde Moore, Eddie Royal and Pierre Thomas.

So, I conclude the 2008 fantasy season with a disappointing 7-7 record. Glad that it's over; however, at the same time, I can't wait until next year.
Saturday, December 6, 2008
Happy 5th Birthday, Mira!
Today is Mira's 5th birthday. She got up early and opened up her presents from us. Later, she helped make her birthday cake.

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Around lunch time, we braved the slick and snowy roads to spend the afternoon at Chuck E. Cheese.

Mira rides Ken-Chuck-E Derby

She claimed it was her best birthday ever. That's pretty good, I guess :)

More photos here.

About Shawn Morton

Married father of 6; VP of Social Media at JPMorgan Chase; gluten-free; gadget enthusiast; hair metal aficionado; #Movember man View more on LinkedIn.