Spark Minutes for the week of 12/1/08 – 12/7/08

by David Spark on December 3, 2008

My radio report on Green 960 online and radio has changed to a new format. The Spark Minute is now actually a one minute report that plays all throughout the day on 960 AM in San Francisco. You can also listen to this progressive talk radio station online at In my reports, I make references to technologies and Web sites. Please check in once a week for any relevant links, news, and tips.

This week’s Spark Minutes were focused on the upcoming holiday season.

Personal holiday cards

I go into this in great detail on this post.

Not all MP3 players are created equal

Everyone knows about Apple’s family of iPods. But competitors SanDisk (Sansa) and Microsoft (Zune) have their own players. I even saw a newspaper ad for a no name brand 1 GB MP3 player for $9.

The core issue that most people don’t think about when they buy an MP3 player is the computer-based interface they’ll need to use to get that music on to their device. Don’t expect anything from a $9 MP3 player. While Sansa’s are cheaper than iPods, they don’t have a full featured computer interface. The iTunes interface is not perfect, but it’s the best on the market. Microsoft’s Zune is priced the same as the iPod classic. The only advantage of the Zune is the subscription service which costs $15/month. Only give the Zune to true music fanatics that love constantly discovering new music.

Shooting holiday videos

Just some basic advice to everyone going to see the family for the holidays:

  • Bring your video camera.
  • Have it charged up and a blank tape in it or erased media card.
  • Don’t be afraid to pull out the camera. Sometimes people being recorded take time to get used to a camera be on. Don’t let your audience tell you what to shoot and when to turn the camera on and off. Just keep shooting.
  • Pick events to shoot. If you’re taking the kids to the park, bring the camera.
  • Label your videos with location, content, and date. Don’t wait. Do it now.
  • Hold your shots. Think of the viewer. Don’t move the camera as quickly as you turn your head.
  • Remember, no matter how bad your family videos are, your audience will love them.

Family history videos

If you’re going to be home for the holidays, chances are some of your elderly family members will be there as well. Take the time to interview them on camera about family history. Trust me, you’ll be very happy you did it. Here’s some basic advice:

  • Buy a tripod.
  • Buy a good microphone.
  • Write down questions beforehand. If you don’t, your mind will go completely blank during the interview. Have the questions there for you so you don’t forget.
  • Ask the same questions to two different parents to get two different viewpoints of the same story (e.g. how did you meet?)
  • Use old photos in the interview to spark memories for stories. Who’s in this photo? What’s the story behind this photo?
  • Schedule two separate one hour interviews separated by at least a week if you can.
  • Pay a transcription service to transcribe the interview. I use Tech Synergy. Costs $1/minute.
  • Don’t wait to do it. Do it now.

Upgrading to Vista

While I was very happy about the purchase of my new HP computer and saving $350, I ended up spending more money ($550) because Vista doesn’t work with a lot of my software and hardware. If you plan to get a new computer this holiday season, I highly recommend you run the Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor with all your peripherals connected to see what software and hardware will and won’t work with Vista.

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