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Hi, I’m Brad Feld, a managing director at the Foundry Group who lives in Boulder, Colorado. I invest in software and Internet companies around the US, run marathons and read a lot.

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invisibleSHIELD – iPod Nano Full Body Protector

Comments (82)

Ross (and everyone else that has one) appears to love their Nano’s but they have this little annoying “scratching problem.” I’m trying to encourage Ross to stop playing with his Nano long enough to play with something new, but so far I’ve failed.  He has, however, found a solution to that scratching thing.

As you all know I recently got an iPod Nano. As you also probably know from my review the iPod Nano has had some rather bad screen scratching issues. After getting some feedback from users on the invisibleSHIELD line of protectors I decided that I’d give them a try. I’m very glad that I did.

While other protectors look cool (some with cartoon characters on them) this one seemed to get better reviews. I assumed it would work like many of the other “stick-on” protectors where you peel the film off and have to be careful to stick it on without any air bubbles.  I wrong (and pleasantly surprised).  While it’s very hard to apply it, once you get it on it is well worth the effort. Take a look at the videos demonstrating the material – it’s actually the same material that is used for clear bras on cars.

Once you get it on the Nano (it took me about 30 minutes) you have to let it dry overnight so the glue sets. Once it’s dry, it’s virtually invisible.  It does make the Nano a little less smooth – which really is a good thing since it was hard to use the jog wheel when it was that slick anyway. I’ve shown it to several friends and no one could tell the protector was on it until I pointed it out.  If you have, or are planning to get, a Nano (or any other iPod for that matter) get one of these to go with it.

Dear Ross – ok – I’m protected – now give me something new and exciting to play with.

Toy of the Month: iPod Nano

Comments (8)

Ross Carlson – who is my “IT guy” – loves to play with toys even more than I do.  I suggested that he start writing some of them up and I’d post them on my blog.  He’s started with a tame one which happens to be my toy of the month also (Nano – sweet) – look for the wild, wacky, and esoteric nerd toy reviews to start to appear occasionally.

Recently I (Ross) was lucky enough to get an Apple 2 GB iPod Nano (so was Brad). I’d seen the ads, read the reviews, and was really looking forward to finally getting one. This would be my third iPod (Brad has N where N is a large number) – I’ve also got an Apple 1 GB iPod Shuffle that I use for data and to boot Linux (oh yeah and music too) and an Apple 40 GB iPod. I wasn’t exactly sure how I’d use this iPod but after seeing it I knew I wanted it. I was right.

When you see pictures of it you know it’s going to be small. Hell, it’s thinner than a pencil. You don’t really get how small it is until you hold it – it’s amazing. Like many Apple products, once you see it you have to hold it and once you’re holding it you can’t put it down. So, ok, it’s thin but what else? It’s obvious that having a color screen is nice – but it’s more than nice. Remember back when the first color cell phones came out and we all thought it was kinda silly? Everyone quickly realized that the huge benefit of color isn’t necessarily that it’s color (which is great don’t get me wrong) but that you can read it so much easier. That’s what’s great thing about the Nano screen – while it’s not super high res it still looks great making everything so much more readable.

Sound quality is what you’d expect from an iPod – excellent. The Nano includes the same ear buds as all previous iPods. Navigation is just like previous photo iPods. The new smaller click wheel with the big center button is easy to operate making accessing everything a snap. Syncing with iTunes for music and photos is easy – even though I hate iTunes with a passion. So far I haven’t found any third party software for the Nano like I use for my other iPod and my Shuffle.

Ok, so I love it but I’ve got to hate something right? Scratches. If you haven’t read about the scratching problems (here, here, here, here, or here) then keep reading – and read carefully. Due to all the scratching issues I’ve read I haven’t removed the protective sticker that came on it and I haven’t used it much yet (only enough to write this review). It’s sitting in my 3rd generation doc right now (ah Apple, smart enough not change the dock connector for every model) waiting for the protective case I ordered. Order a case for it when you order the Nano. One other minor thing – the headphone jack is at the bottom, not the top. This isn’t that big of a deal but the top would be better. The problem is the thing is so thin they couldn’t fit the screen and the connector at the top.

The Nano is what you’ve come to expect from Apple iPods – it’s great looking, great sounding, easy to use, and amazingly small. If you’ve been considering a smaller sized portable player this is probably it. It comes in 2 GB and 4 GB versions, holding 500 and 1000 songs respectively. Highly recommended.

IBM X41 Tablet – September Toy of the Month

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I’m hell on laptops.  I fondly remember my first Compaq luggable (aka “the sewing machine”) – it’s still up in my parent’s attic somewhere.  Every year or so I get a new one, and my IBM T40 had served me well. 

I’ve been jonesing for a tablet PC for a while.  I tried the first Compaq when it was released (it sucked – returned) and recently tried the new HP Compaq Tablet PC tc4200 (ok, but lousy screen and marginal keyboard – returned). 

So – it was with relatively low expectations that I awaited my IBM X41.  It was released in June and it didn’t show up until mid-August.  But – it was worth every minute of the wait.  This is the first tablet I’ve used that is completely interchangeable with a laptop (e.g. you want a laptop – fine, you want a tablet – fine.)  While this is a Lenovo computer (instead of IBM), I can’t tell the difference between it and my IBM T40 (which was an IBM computer) – the IBM to Lenovo handoff appears seamless so far. 

Without question, this was the best toy of the month.  I’m only five days into September, but I came home to a few fun toys, so next month may have some competition.

Nike Sport Headphones – Toy of the Month

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After watching my Roomba’s play with each other I was hopeful that I’d come across something that inspired and excited me as much as a robotic vacuum cleaner for this month’s toy of the month.  While my friend Jeff Hyman, Dyson’s VP of Marketing, sent me (actually, he sent Amy) the most amazing vacuum cleaner I’ve ever encountered (the Dyson DC15), I felt there must be some unwritten rule that I couldn’t choose a vacuum cleaner as toy of the month two months in a row (or someone might make fun of me), so I’ll reserve the detailed post on the Dyson DC15 for later, but you can be comfortable knowing that we set it up, plugged it in, and then proceeded to chase the Roomba’s around the room with it.

This month’s toy is something I used 15 times (each time I went for a run) – a set of Nike SB HJ020 Lightweight Sport Headphones.  I’ve fallen in love with running with my iPod Shuffle (ah – the podcast revolution has finally caught up with me) but the stupid white trendy headphones that Apple supplies kept falling out of my ears.  On a whim, I bought a pair of Nike sport headphones; they are simply awesome.  I know I’m in headphone heaven if – after a two hour run – I’ve forgotten they are in my ears.  If you are a serious runner or biker and you like to listen to music while you do your thing, you must try these.

A few blog readers sent me some toys to play with (a nice surprise – thanks!)  The first one was a Flash Flight – a “light-up” frisbee.  Very cool, and sure to mystify my dogs when I return to Boulder.  The company that makes them is Niteize (based in Boulder) – they make a bunch of neat flashlight, lights, frisbees, and light up products.  The other was a set of Plantronics DP-500 headphones – they’ll get a good workout next month on Skype and I’ll report back later.  If you feel compelled to send – or recommend – a toy to me – I’m all ears (with headphones inserted at appropriate times.)

Roomba – July’s Toy of the Month

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I’ve always had poor impulse control when it comes to buying electronic toys.  Amazon hasn’t helped, as I can satisfy my cravings with a single click.  While I was listening to Daily Source Code from a few days ago on my run, I heard Adam Curry talking about how the Amazon affiliate feeds from the ad on his site for a Senseo HD7810/65 Single Serve Coffee Machine was making him enough dough to buy his whole family a cup of joe each day ($300–ish / month).  The combination of partially subsidized toys, daily coffee, and the idea that all my really cool toys have a story inspired me to start a “toy of the month” category on my blog. 

July’s toy is a Roomba 4210 Discovery Floorvac Robotic Vacuum Cleaner from iRobot.  Amazon delivered two of them to my house in Homer on Wednesday and I set them up the other day (one upstairs / one downstairs).  We named them after our dogs (Denali is the upstairs one / Kenai is the downstairs one).  We had an old model at our house in Boulder which – like the one Tom Evslin has blogged about – would do its thing and then eventually run out of batteries and fall asleep wherever it happened to be at the time.  No longer – the new ones are super smart and come with a docking station.  When they get tired, they simply find their way back to their docks and recharged themselves (and do a funky robot wiggle dance to get lined up to go into the dock.)

The best part of getting my new robotic pets is watching Amy play with them.  She misses our golden retrievers a lot (ok – I do also) and she’s obsessed with vacuuming so what could be better than watching my wife watch a robotic vacuum cleaner do its thing (very effectively – I might add)?  She even jumped up and down with happiness when the little blue dirt detect light came on and Kenai spent more time getting the dirt I tracked in cleaned up.

iRobot will go down in my history as one of those companies I was too stupid to invest in.  I’ve had plenty of chances to invest in successful companies that I’ve passed on.  David Cowan has a great list of deals Bessemer chose not to do (their anti-portfolio) that went on to be huge winners.  The phrase “Robotic Vacuum Cleaner? – c’mon” comes to mind.  However, I don’t have any excuses here – Colin Angle – the CEO of iRobot – is a frat brother and a friend (when we are old and gray, at least I’ll still be able to say “I was Colin’s pledge trainer.”)  Colin even called me for advice when they were raising a round a few years ago and said “hey Brad – would you guys have any interest in taking a look?”  I thought to myself – “robotic vacuum cleaners – now, my partners will NEVER support me on that one – remember Feld, you’re a software guy” and – after a short discussion with several of them – decided to pass on taking a serious look.

Dumb dumb dumb.  iRobot has sold over 1 million vacuum cleaners, has announced Scooba – the robotic floor washer (er – mop) and – well – is just kicking ass as a company.  Congrats Colin and gang.  Maybe I can contribute a little to helping keep the world cleaner by helping sell a few robots. If you have poor impulse control, a wife that likes to watch robots vacuum, or just want to play with a robot (it comes with a serial port and the rumor is that an API will be released soon), buy yourself a Roomba.

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