Zoomii - Amazon's new Virtual Bookstore

zoomii-amazon-bookstoreWe all love buying books online, as its convenient, and you can share user reviews and opinions, and of course, get the best deals! And I'm pretty sure most of us turn to Amazon for our online bookstore needs. And now Zoomii, the latest addition to Amazon's virtual bookstore world will make it a more real-world library-like experience! You have to admit, there is some charm to traditional libraries, where you can browse through aisles of books arranged neatly in bookshelves, and Zoomii tries to recreate that magic. If you often shop for books online, Zoomii is something you'd want to check out!

Zoomii is a visual bookshelf browser for over 19,000 books from Amazon's catalog, though it can search for over 162,000 titles. Instead of browsing through flat lists of book titles and their cold statistics, Zoomii stacks books in shelves alphabetically by author, organized by type. You can click and drag across Zoomii's landscape of shelves, zoom in and out with your scrollwheel, and click a book's cover for basic statistics from Amazon, including the ability to add the book to your cart or wishlist. I'm not too sure how Zoomii picks the books that stock its shelves, but some kind of system that picks through a combination of top sellers and new releases is a safe bet.

The home page looks like Google Maps, except for books! with a simple scroll and zoom wheel, category tab, search tab, and a short view of your shopping cart, it is pretty simple to navigate. Use your mouse to browse around, jump from one shelve to another, zoom in/out, add items to your cart, add books to your wish list and so on. The categories are aptly sorted so its easy to browse and search for a particular title. The Zoom-in and Zom-out feature is really cool! You get to see the book cover, pretty much the actual size, and a click will take you to a detailed description of the book. Then if you like it, just one click will add it to your shopping cart and after you are done with all your books, use Amazon's trusted store to process your order! They also have a shelf full of best-sellers for each category, just like your local library. Check out this cool Zoomii Video for a better understanding of the features.

Nothing much changes as far as the book selection and purchase is concerned; but it does bring a flair to the process of browsing and selecting books. I agree, its not a show-stealer, but Zoomii does have the potential to keep visitors engaged for a longer time, which is indeed a very important aspect of e-commerce! On the downside, the site does not support AJAX, hence you'd get used to a lot of "clicks", rather than "mouse-overs"; and there is a limited database yet, but I'm hoping Amazon will be updating it soon. it runs pretty slow on Firefox 3, but is fine with other browsers, so you may want to avoid the former!

Overall, Zoomii is a nifty addition to Amazon's attempt to provide more to their customers through the virtual bookstore, but it fails to dazzle. Except the interface, nothing more has been added. A few more features and faster load times could help Zoomii get more following. Its a nice idea, but not extra-ordinary, that's all I can say about Zoomii!

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Samsung's W510 & F268 - Eco-Friendly Cell Phones

Samsung W510-green phonesSamsung rules most of the cell-phone market, and surely beats Nokia for their cool, sleek and stylish phones! I am a Sony-Ericcson fan, but I have to say the idea behind the new Samsung Phones W510 and F268 is commendable! These can be deemd to be the first-ever eco-friendly Green Cell Phones revealed in the World IT Show in Seoul, South Korea. Marketing these phones that are made from "bio-plastic", Samsung is touting its horn of being concerned about the growing need to explore eco-friendly options, but I would never have dreamed it to be a phone!

Samsung will be rolling out 2 eco-friendly phones that have been termed as "Green Phones", the W510 and the F268; the W510 is made out of bio-plastic, a natural material extracted from corn that won't pollute the enviroment as much as a manufacturing standard cell phone does. Also, it uses a water-soluble coating on the top and there is no Lead, Mercury or Cadmium used in this phone, making it safe for prolonged use.

The F268, on the other hand, has all of the above, plus more! It is made without the use of BFRs(Brominated Flame Retardant) or PVC. It is an Energy Star device, rated by the U.S. government to be energy efficient in the same way dishwashers and dryers are. Samsung has also integrated an alarm in F268 which buzzes when the battery is fully charged, so you don't waste any more electricity than needed!

While the W510 will ship in Korea and the F268 in China this June, it's not clear whether either of the cell phones will be sold in the United States. The good news is that Samsung is making a global effort to lessen its impact on the environment by launching more environmentally-conscious products with more renewable material and less energy consumption and setting up a cell phone recycling program. Nokia has been very active in this field too, and I hope the others catch up in the Go-Green race too! after all, eco-friendly cell phones are never a bad idea, especially with all that cell phone-radiation-threat going around!

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Olumpus Stylus Review - The Waterproof, Shockproof and Crushproof Camera!

Olympus Stylus 1030 SWI love taking photographs, and though food photography is my latest craze, both me and my husband are avid nature-lovers, and often take short trips around California, armed with a backpack, our Camera and Tripod! But as we do indulge in a lot of water-sports, I have been on the lookout for a good-quality waterproof camera for some time now. After several days to compare digital cameras, the latest Olympus Stylus 1030 SW looked like a good bet for the features and the price! Olympus has always been struggling to attract consumers, especially as Sony & Canon are unanimous leaders. But with this new waterproof and shockproof camera, I think they do have a chance!

When buying a new point-and-shoot camera, its imperative to compare them with other competitive models, and size and sturdiness were a major factor for us. The camera measures 3.76 x 2.26 x 1.08 in./95.4 x 57.3 x 27.4mm and weighs around 5.47 oz./155g. The 1030 SW is the latest in the Tough range and allows underwater shooting up to 10m, or 40m with the optional 3 underwater modes. It is also shockproof and can be dropped from a height of 2m without suffering undue damage, while its crush-proof credentials allow it to withstand up to 100kg. To top that, the case is also scratch-proof. Finally it's freeze-proof to a temperature of -10°C.

The Olympus Stylus 1030 SW is a 10 megapixel point-and-shoot digital camera features built-in flash, 3.6x optical zoom; the lens is a folded optical design, meaning its zoom is situated internally and doesn't extend from the case, using a periscope-like design. The zoom covers the equivalent of 28-102mm, making it one of the wider zooms on the market. it has a 10.1MP sensor allowing low light shooting with a top ISO speed of ISO 1600, and uses digital image stabilization. The True Pic Turbo III processor controls colour rendition, sharpness and noise reduction as well as faster processing for multi-burst shooting. On the downside, it lacks the true Optical Image stabilisation, and also the Custom White Balance, but unless you really care for these, they should not turn you off!

The new Olumpus Stylus fits the bill for a tough, rugged digital camera in the ultra compact digicam choices. The camera produces very good images that are colourful, pleasing, richly saturated with good exposure, and noise is generally low. What I liked the most about it is that is it crushproof!! That makes it perfect for outdoor activities and adventures. But its a good practice tocompare digital cameras to suit your needs, as you may not want to spend $400 on some features that you'd rarely use! However, given the excellent value for money that this camera provides, and the almost endless features, I'd highly recommend the Olympus Stylus 1030 SW, especially if photography is your passion or profession!

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Wii Fit Reviewed - Is It as Good as a Real Workout?

I am perhaps a little late in talking about the Wii Fit, which has been quite a craze since its launch a few days ago. And that's probably because I prefer going to an actual gym rather than a simulated one. But intrigued by what I saw and the reviews that I read and heard, I had to find out for myself whether the Wii Fit stands the test of fitness or not! And luckily for all of you who bought it, this latest Nintendo game sure is a nifty addition to your workout routine, but don't think you can replace your workout with this!!

Wii Fit takes the whole concept of games as exercise to a new level with the inclusion of a balance board peripheral that can tell you on the fly exactly how well you are doing with its various activities. Nintendo is heavily marketing this new addition to Wii Games as a mixture of fitness and fun, which is perfect to lure Nintendo fans, and also compete with Xbox Games or other DS games! Going to a gym, especially on work days can be boring, time-consuming, and sometimes plain impossible, thanks to an already hectic routine. At times like these, the Wii Fit sure comes in handy for a quick yet efficient workout. However, you have to remember that this in fact, is just a video game after all, and cannot replace your 1 hour spent at the gym!!

After creating your Mii, you have to input a date of birth and height, then step onto the balance board for a weigh-in (all guided onscreen by a cartoon version of the board). From the height and weight data, a user's BMI is calculated, with the user tagged as underweight, ideal, or overweight depending on the BMI score. A simple balance test then occurs (usually involving having to shift your balance to certain areas within a time limit) before your Wii Fit Age is displayed in large numbers on the screen. However, even if we believe the BMI calculations are correct, the Wii Fit fails to account for variables such as muscle mass and age that can significantly affect a score (giving an otherwise healthy person with more muscle an overweight rating, for example).

The Good
It offers several exercises split into four different categories: yoga, muscle, aerobic, and balance. With 15 yoga poses and 15 muscle-toning moves to work through, the Yoga poses range from simple to difficult, while the muscle-toning section focusses on basic lunges mixed in with more strenuous activities such as the parallel stretch and push-ups. Virtual trainers guide you through the yoga and muscle exercises, offering praise or criticism depending on how well you're doing. The aerobic and balance activities include hula hoops, Wii Sports-like boxing, step dancing, jogging, and more. The balance activities are the simplest from the lot and include ski jump, ski slalom, snowboarding and more!

The presentation and graphics are amazing, as you'd expect from a Nintendo DS! The addition of virtual fitness trainers barking at you as you perform, and the fun, foot-tapping audio keeps you on your toes, and does provide much more than I'd expect from a game. Clean, friendly and easy-to-use, just like the Wii Sports, you'll be ready to start exercising with the Wii Fit in no time, and it can actually get addictive, at least for the first couple of months or so. And cool features like the extensive Activity Log, giving you a full overview of your daily fitness regime, scoreboards to encourage some friendly competition between registered users and even the standalone Wii Fit Channel, enabling you to check charts and compare results do make this a compulsive & rewarding experience!

The Bad
Wii Fit initially locks most of the exercises; new activities are unlocked roughly every 10 minutes of use, which means you'll need five or six hours of Wii Fit play time before you get full access to all of its activities. Also, you don't have an option to create your own workout program!! Instead, you have to select each individual activity using the Wii Remote, perform it, jump back to the main menu, select another activity, and so on., which wastes half of your workout time for nothing! Another thing that I detest is the fact that there are hardly any multiplayer options, except like two-player jogging, and frankly, I'd rather jog outside with my partner in fresh air than side-by-side in a 2 ft space! Also, while the board is extremely sensitive when it comes to weight, it can't actually track what you're doing with your upper body, which means you can easily "cheat" your way through most of the exercises (though it wouldn't help you in the long run!:))

You are left to blindly follow exercises on the screen, and it does not explain the benefits or side-effects of what you are doing. So unless you have some knowledge about exercising, yoga, and the general moves, do not attempt to imitate all of the Wii Fit moves! Unlike a trainer at the gym, there's no one here to answer your questions or clear your doubts!

There's no right and wrong with the Wii Fit; it excels as a video game, but it aims to provide you with certain fitness features, and if you are looking for just thrill and excitement from a game, don't waste your money on Wii Fit. At the same time, abandoning your gym and relying on Wii will definitely not make you fit; this is just a supplement to your workout, for boring days or raining evenings. That said, the Wii Fit with its unique Balance Board, is surely a step forward from the makers of Wii; with arresting presentation, great graphics and something that gets you into the mood for fitness, Nintendo's Wii Fit does not fail to impress its fans!

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ShadowCaddy - An Electric Robot Caddy for Golfers

shadow-caddyThere are so many chores where you feel having a robot to do them would make our lives so much easier! One such thing is the Golf Caddy; it would be so great if we could have an automatic caddy that could just follow you carrying all your gear so you'd be left to concentrate on your game. Apparently, ShadowCaddy does just that! An innovative breakthrough, the Shadow Caddy is the first ever robotic golf caddy that simply follows golfers around the course. Looking like a small and sleek sidecar, this is your answer to hired-help, as Shadow Caddy can surely be the next best thing to a human caddy! Finding it hard to believe, then read on!!

Research has shown that golfers love the freedom to "just play", and that's the reason they have caddies to hold their clubs and gear. Of course, for people like me, I need a companion to talk to, especially if I'm plating alone on the golf course; but if you are one of those who need no interference while you play, then Shadow Caddy works for you. You simply clip on the transmitter to your clothes, turn it on and keep playing. A simple "Follow me" or "Stop" button is all that is needed to tell the caddy to follow or wait. Just like a "real" caddy, the Shadow Caddy is always there a few feet behind the golfer, with clubs at the ready. A downside, your shadow caddy cannot walk through water or jump over bumps like a human; so you will have to pick it up to make it cross the hurdle!

Shadow Caddy will be available for rental at Golf Courses. It fits neatly between the rented pull trolley and the golf buggy and its proven golfer appeal will mean more business for golf clubs. Shadow Caddy's unique appeal and stylish design attracts a following wherever it goes. Plus, with an all-inclusive payment plan and minimal maintenance, this could surley be a cheaper option than a human caddy.

They have also designed it to be as safe as possible; with multi-CPU on-board intelligence, together with fail-safe backups, the Shadow Caddy functions at all times in a safe and predictable manner. It also has an onboard logic control and clearly defined performance parameters which predict and avoid hazards. Plus, there's no complex gadgetry or wires involved, no need for remote controls or joysticks. It works using only a small sensor that is worn by the player. Check out more details features on their website.

At under 19 kg per wheel, and with wide turf tyres, a Shadow Caddy weighs less on the course than you do, and can complete 2 x 18 hole rounds between charges. It does not cause any damage to the turf, and just follows you silently, carrying all your burden for you, literally!:) So if you are an avid golfer, or run a golf-course, check out if Shadow Caddy is something that you'd be interested in! Fully functional in all weather conditions, this is one golf caddy that will never call in sick!

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Honlai MP100 - Palm-sized Mini Projector

Honlai MP100 mini-projectorAs technology advances, we are moving towards everything "nano", so from a Nano-Car, to a Nano-Projector, we've achieved quite a lot of progress! The latest mini-gadget added to the list of impressive innovations is the Honlai MP100 - the tiny palm-sized mini-LED projector which looks like a bundle of power packaged in a small frame! It looks really sleek and impressive, and is ergonomically designed to look like a mouse, and deftly fit in your palm!

Honlai Technology's latest innovation is the mini projector called MP100, which uses the LCOS micro projection technology capable of throwing an 640x480 image onto a nearby wall or screen, sized between 5" to 37". With the quoted 10-15 lumen specification and a contrast ratio of 200:1, and a 5-watt LED, its not something fancy for a board meeting, and cannot compare to the regular proejctors. But it sure looks like the perfect projector to use if you are the one who does impromptu PowerPoint presentations wherever you go!

The Honlai MP100 is not something that instantly clicks with your geek side, especially when you evaluate it for its use. But I was impressed, because I ahve found myself in several situations where I had something on my laptop which could validate a point or clarify an issue in a meeting, and rather than sharing m,y deskptop with everyone, or making them gather around me while I explain stuff, it would be so cool if I just had the MP100 to project my screen on a wall nearby! Most conference rooms are small, and a 37" proejcted image is more than enough to convey an idea by means of a picture! Plus, this innovation is mainly designed for unplanned and in-promptu uses; if you are makign a business trip for a presentation, of course you are going to use the bigger projectors! But for quick demonstrations, this mini-LED projector works perfectly!

I think I like the MP100 for its sleep design, cool concept, and the easy to carry it in your pocket. If people can think about having a projector in an ink-pen, why not the classy Honlai MP100?? I think as people warm up to the concept of mini-projectors, they can re-design this for better usability and higer capability. No price and release date on this yet, but I'll be sure to update the post when I know about it!

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