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June 20th, 2013

Those trying to balance progress with respect for the Earth should be gratified to discover that a steadily increasing fraction of their personal carbon footprints can be eliminated by switching to alternative energy sources. While “grid parity” remains elusive, millions of homes are already powered by photovoltaic systems, and much progress has been made recently in the construction of solar panels. In fact, there have been enough advances in solar technology that millions of small devices can now be powered entirely off the grid. Let’s take a look at some of these back-to-the-future solar chargers.

fuse10w-solarThe Fuse 10W Solar Laptop Charger from Voltaic gets the prize for longest name, but also gets an “attaboy” for being a futuristic flexible panel. Spread it across a tent in camp, or wrap it around a backpack while hiking, and every hour of direct sun gets you half an hour of MacBook time. Naturally, the Fuse can keep your tablets, handheld games, and other devices charged and ready, too.

Goal Zero solar kitGoal Zero wants to be known as “the solar charger for the adventurer,” and makes a range of products to satisfy both amateurs and pros. The company donated solar chargers to victims of Hurricane Sandy who had lost power, bringing them light, heat, and outside communications (Goal Zero models resuscitate dead smartphones instantly and fully charge them in three hours). Unfold one of the durable solar panel kits to charge your rechargeable devices, or pack it all up and use the built-in LED light on most models to illuminate the dark trails back to camp after an all-day hike.

The GoMadic's Solar SystemSunVolt model comes from Gomadic, a new firm born as a Kickstarter project. The device is somewhat larger than the others in this roundup, with panels that fold-and-pack into a carrying case. With those larger panels and beefier specs, of course, you get plugged-in-the-wall charging speeds for phones, tablet PCs, laptop rentals, and cameras.

SolarMio-kindle-chargerThe nifty little SolarMio Kindle cover is one “personal solar product” that tries to do one thing and do it well. If they charge their e-readers in the daytime sun, Kindle users can read through the night. In addition to charging duties, the SolarMio offers energy storage, as well—up to 50 hours’ worth. That’s a one-trick pony with a big trick.

Joos OJoosOrange Solar Chargerrange chargers are small, 8×6-inch panels that will give you double the talk time of the charge (an hour of sun nets two hours of phone time). But you don’t have to limit your stored-up energy to phones alone, so you can keep your iPad rental, camera, and Bluetooth headpiece all charged up, too. Bonus: A free app keeps you apprised of how much power is being stored during charging, and tracks usage, too.

If you take media reporting on energy issues with a grain (or 1,000) of salt, and remain skeptical of marketing claims dressed up in scientistic verbiage, you can adjust smoothly and gradually to “emergent” technologies that promise a better future. There are occasional bolts out of the blue, this is true, but much of our tech progress comes from plodding along, step by step, and working both harder and smarter. More often than not, that’s what hastens the future, after all.

At CRE we are future-oriented, too—but our primary concern is what you need today, and how we can tend to your unique needs and challenges right now. Whether it’s render farms to push that post project to completion, or an LCD touchscreen monitor rental to entice people to your conference booth, we are ready to help. Call (877) 266-7725, send us a message, or use the Quick Rental Quote form to get what you need right away. We are here, and we’re here for you! Call now!

June 13th, 2013

NEWS FLASH: Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) 2013 has taken over San Francisco’s Moscone Center this week. Already we know that the product codenamed “Cabernet” is the new OS X Mavericks, and there’s a new Mac Pro, iOS 7, and other Apple-icious stuff to talk about. And we will, with 20/20 hindsight, too—check out our complete WWDC wrapup on Tuesday, June 18!

- – -

Windows-XPSometimes it seems like tomorrow never comes. We’ve been hearing about the “expiration date” of Windows XP for a couple of years now, and it’s still another nine months or so until Microsoft officially abandons it. Come April 8, 2014, there will be no more bug fixes, patches, updates, or anything else from Microsoft related to XP. This third-generation OS (Operating System) runs on an estimated 570 million computers worldwide, the second highest installed base (38%) behind Windows 7 (45%). No one has any idea of how consumers will react, but Microsoft is sparing no effort in promoting Windows 7, its new net offering Office 365, and, in particular, Windows 8 (make that 8.1).

Among the most convincing reasons to update consistently is for the ever-improving security infrastructure in business-critical software. Nothing is 100% safe, of course, but that is no reason to forgo updates, patches, and upgrades that do offer greater security from outside (and inside, too). Running Windows 98 on a computer rental of yesteryear would be “security suicide” today, not to mention the compatibility problems that would be inherent in a world using such a sleek, slick modern OS as Windows 8 or the new OS X Mavericks (see WWDC wrap-up on Tuesday, June 18). The new Mac OS will be showing up this fall on the just-announced Mac Pro as well as all the other Mac models.

Hang on anyway?

There are more computer users working on obsolete systems (hardware and software) than you’ll ever know, and it happens with Mac users, Windows users, and Linux “lone rangers,” too. Some computer makers, most notoriously Apple, make product changes that orphan entire user populations, which contributes to Apple’s steady loss of its “coolness factor.” With XP fading away, Microsoft is more concerned about a loss of people, as the user population of Windows XP is well over half a billion. Real soon you won’t be able to rent laptops with good ol’ XP anymore, and after the official end-of-support day (4/8/2014) not only will Microsoft not support it, more and more browsers, programs, and online services won’t, either.

Where will the XP folks go? Most will end up with Windows 7 or 8; a few will opt for RT on the low-end Surface; some will bail and get an iMac or Linux box; and an unknown number of early-adopter types will go for a potent Android tablet. Another “last” for XP was the Windows XP Tablet PC Edition, which replaced MS Pen Computing in 2002. All Windows iterations since Vista have natively supported pen computing. The very latest OS, Windows 8.1, was retooled to wring the maximum efficiency out of ever-more-accurate touch screens, deploy “smart” power management tools for a dramatic increase in battery life, protect you with beefy security features, and not give you the Blue Screen of Death.

Sooner… or later?

Time waits for no one. It’s easy (make that effortless) to be a slow adopter, and perhaps not so costly in your personal life. But if your business doesn’t keep up with the Jones Corporation’s latest and greatest hardware, software, and Whatever-as-a-Service, your bottom line can suffer. In about eight months, XP slips into limbo, a gray area in which the unsupported OS could actually remain installed on many companies’ computers—and work just fine, according to some experts. So, go or no-go? You have enough time to make an unhurried, careful decision, so take a deep breath, do your homework, and get help if, when, where, and how you need it. There is life after XP. In fact, considering the Never Say Never Rule, there just might be XP after XP, too. To be continued—in other words, we’ll keep you posted!

In the meantime,  CRE will continue to serve you with everything from laptop and desktop computer rentals with Windows to the mass storage needed for post-production. Wherever you need help—on-site, on the road, or at a convention—your solutions are all right here. Call an experienced Account Executive at (877) 266-7725, send us a message, or visit our Quick Rental Quote page if you know what you need. We are always ready to help you!

June 6th, 2013

foucault science_vs_tech01You don’t have to go “full tilt Foucault” to believe that words have great power, and when wrought and wielded in certain ways can utterly fail in their assigned tasks to explain and enlighten. We face that situation today with the words “science” and “technology”—two words often used quite interchangeably, even in places where people should take some care (colleges, laboratories, the media). So what is the difference? Is a MacBook a scientific breakthrough or a technological construction? Both? Neither? Something else entirely? Since it actually does matter, and will provide a foundation for further (real) understanding, let’s take about 500 words and a few minutes to go over some things.

Basic definitions = clear distinctions

Science is a systematized, evolving body (or “base”) of knowledge. Within a particular field, one can trust that following a series of steps will result in the outcome predicted. As evidence accumulates, an initial “hypothesis” or testable proposition becomes a “theory” of explanatory and predictive power. The various pursuits of knowledge employing this methodology are what we know as “the sciences”—physics, biology, geography, chemistry, physics, and so on. Some 44 years’ worth of advances in computer science, for example, are represented by CRE’s basic computer rental that’s thousands of times more powerful than the primitive contraption that took Americans to the moon in 1969.

Technology is another thing altogether, the application of knowledge (or science) to problem-solving and service provision, primarily via manmade tools and devices. If we allow that science is the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake, for the evolving knowledge base, then technology is the practical application of that knowledge to meet people’s needs and solve their problems. Energy science would lead to such technologies as solar panels, for instance, as well as other products built to use the supplied energy most efficiently for, say, light, heat, or power for the MacBook Pro rental you’re taking camping. Science explains, technology performs.

Technology Collage

Aesthetics vs. theories

Science has analysis in mind, following which come generalizations, then the crafting of theories. Experiments are a way of controlling and defining discoveries, so excellence in science requires creativity, logical thinking, and the usual “x factor” that eludes definition, like Steve Jobs’ star quality and that of his game-changing iMac invention. And technology? It brings design to the mix, as well as invention, production, process, construction, testing and measurement, quality control, and synthesis—thus possibly beginning the cycle again with new ideas, even new science, then developing even newer technology, and on and on.

To summarize:

  • Science studies specific subjects, technology applies what is learned.
  • Science analyzes the data, technology synthesizes a design.
  • Science is theory, technology is process.

It’s really quite practical and sensible, this “science vs. technology” lesson, as they both conspire to do us good at every turn even when we misuse them for ill. When the human imagination conjures up positive new ideas to replace the old (like this, for instance), great things happen in science and technology.

For first-rate event production rentals and the hard-to-find post-production gear you need right now, great things happen with CRE. A call to (877) 266-7725 or a message will lead to the best possible answers to your unique challenges. If you know what you need, our Quick Rental Quote form is your ticket to an even swifter solution. When you’re ready, we’re here—tomorrow, tonight, and right now, too.

June 4th, 2013

cable a la carteIn a dramatic departure for an American cable company, Time Warner Cable Inc. (TWC) will fundamentally alter its customer relationships. After bundling services for years into 24-month contracts with an initial six- to 12-month discount period, TWC has decided to count on customers’ willingness to pay “full boat retail” for what they really want. Now that landline phone service is going the way of the dinosaur, it’s out, along with one-size-fits-all bundles and confusing price structures. What’s in? This new paradigm of à la carte ordering, of course, along with a hand-picked team to implement it.

You’re the “U” in ARPU

It all comes down to the bottom line, of course, in this case what TWC calls its “average revenue per user,” or ARPU. As long as that acronym trends up, and operations remain profitable, TWC could not care less about losing some subscribers (not too many, of course). While accumulating accounts for the sake of trumpeting “subscriber gains” was once a major goal, Time Warner’s COO Rob Marcus said in a late-April conference call with analysts that now it is “not the right thing to focus on.”  He goes on to add that such monomania is bad for “the long-term health of the business.”

Satisfying customers, with pricing secondary to top-quality product and service, means some former freebies—perhaps TWC’s app for streaming live TV to your CRE iPad rental—may have a price tag now. But customers will be in charge, says Marcus, because they can finally get what they want (mostly), and add different options to a basic TV offering. The service may cost more without the former discounts, but it will likely lack two-year commitments and eventually become the vaunted “Chinese restaurant menu” from which individual channels can be ordered. Of course, this ignores the fact that cable’s not just losing customers, it’s not getting new ones either. If the Internet gets you most everything you want, why pay for TV?

The numbers, crunched

TWC lost almost 120,000 customers last quarter, exceeding the 92,000 predicted by industry analysts, and is in a serious battle for TV turf with Verizon’s FIOS and AT&T’s U-Verse. Despite the three-course menu the cable firms offer—TV, phone, Internet—the bosses want to see ever more home theaters, plasma display rentals, hotel/motel flat-panels, and other televisions streaming their content for that ego-boosting “screen count.” TWC could use some good news, as it also lost 35,000 phone customers (residential) in the first quarterly decrease in two years. But even with a net gain of over 130,000 residential Internet accounts, the last quarter is still an “analytical loser” because TWC was expected to see 160,000 or so.

As the company sputtered through the opening stages of its transition, some nimble moves by its financial brain trust kept the financials surprisingly solid. Forget the disappointing account figures: TWC enjoyed  a good profit last quarter. At $1.41 a share, earnings bested Bloomberg’s $1.37 analyst average guesstimate. Sales were up 6.6% to $5.48 billion, also beating the projections. TWC shares have been relatively stable since the “new thinking” has taken hold at the firm. To CEO Marcus, this signals a generally receptive attitude from investors for the new approach. “A muted reaction” in the press and financial markets is actually “a positive for us,” he said—but “the proof has to be in the pudding.” As always, CRE will keep you posted.

Whether it’s the right event production rentals, mass storage, or cutting-edge digital gear, CRE is the top one-stop shop. Call us at (877) 266-7725, send a message, or visit our Quick Rental Quote form. Choose the method that works best for you! Ready? So are we—any time, all the time, and right now, too!

May 30th, 2013

So much serious stuff going on! Microsoft yo-yo’ing up and down, Apple execs in a strange mood, more than the usual political nonsense, and unseasonably warm weather on the West Coast. We need something… cool! And one of the coolest things we do on the CRE blog is talk about cool gadgets. Without further ado, away we go!

Bluetooth grows up

Bluewave BluetoothThe Bluewave Bluetooth Audio Receiver works with any Bluetooth device and your 30-pin, Apple-ready speaker dock to “jailbreak your speakers.” The small device plugs into Apple-spec 30-pin docks that are found on new and used speakers, audio gear, and our original iPad rental. Because of the Bluewave, any phone or device with Bluetooth can send music to a formerly Apple-only speaker unit.

The Bluewave has a great trick up its sleeve, too. You don’t even need to mess with any switches and buttons if you set it up to start streaming when you come into range (<30 feet). And you can use it with smartphones, tablet PC rentals, iPads, and anything at all that has Bluetooth, whose latest stereo versions are much more useful and tune-worthy than the original monaural ones. Keep an eye out: Bluetooth is going to be showing up everywhere.

Clickin’ and growin’

Click & Grow has provided another truly great, green moment in technology: its hands-off electronic “smartpot” grows plants without human involvement (except set-up). You need no knowledge whatsoever about gardening, as every step is managed by “smart” technology based on the same microprocessor technology as in your iMac. Click & Grow’s software contains all the necessary information to deliver the right amount of air, water, and fertilizer at the right times, all according to a particular plant’s requirements.

The Click & Grow system has two vital components:

  1. The flowerpot includes batteries, sensors, circuits, a pump, and water storage. It does not have the seeds or a plant, nutrients, or the plant-management software.
  2. The plant cartridge contains the seeds, nutrients, and custom software for growing the particular plant in that cartridge.

Click & Grow brings technology and plants together

To some this product represents the natural extension of technology into nature, while others call it wholly unnatural. Admittedly, office equipment rentals would be out of place in the forest, but Click & Grow’s technology works the other way ’round, bringing the green inside where it’s needed. With no worrying about over-watering, no guessing about nutrients, and no doubt that your plants are getting just what they need, Click & Grow and its smart technology just might make more homes and offices a healthy green… literally.

Dessert for everyone!

The Raspberry Pi may be the size of a credit card, but it’s a capable “nanocomputer” that can produce spreadsheets, do word processing, and play games. It plugs into analog or digital TVs, as well as keyboards and other peripherals, via RCA video and HDMI out, audio line out, and USB. The 700MHz CPU, capable GPU, and HDMI mean you can play full HD, high-definition, 1080p video. The computer comes without an enclosure, and unlike any computer rental at CRE, the Raspberry Pi boots from a SecureDigital (SD) card, which Raspberry Pi, nanocomputeroffers storage memory, too (everything over 2GB, up to a 32GB card). USB devices can also store files, but the Raspberry Pi must boot from SD, which can be purchased pre-loaded with one of the three supported Linux distros, plus other software.

Of course this is not for your home or office, unless you’re a hobbyist or programmer. The Raspberry Pi Foundation wants “to see it being used by kids all over the world to learn programming,” similar to the goals of the “One Laptop per Child” project that puts self-powered, WiFi-capable PCs in the hands of girls in Afghanistan, for one very good thing. The Raspberry Pi Foundation, which has an incredible volunteer support community, has plans to ship one unit, free, to a Third World end-user for each one purchased. The two models are $25 and $35, with Ethernet and a second USB port on the pricier one.

One call or e-mail connects you with an expert Account Executive, who works with you to develop unique, effective solutions for all of your business-critical challenges. If you know what you need, of course, simply visit the Quick Rental Quote page and take care of business right now—24/7/365!

May 28th, 2013

If you don’t read the quarterly financials of the technology sector, join the club. Most people couldn’t care less. On the other hand, if you work for one of the many companies that completely missed “emerging technologies” and devotedtablets/iPads take PC market share themselves to PCs instead of smartphones and tablets, you might care when your job evaporates. And PC and tablet makers most assuredly do care about those quarterly reports, and they’re looking at the latest one from IDC (International Data Corporation, a market research, analysis, and advisory firm specializing in IT) that tallies 49.2 million tablets shipped in Q1 2013 (up 142.4% year-over-year), compared to 76.3 million PCs (down 13.9% y/y). Tablet sales are soaring, while PC sales are tanking, with the worst quarterly drop ever.

Tablets are fast approaching the point where they can do everything a typical PC can, while also being pressed into nearly continuous service as cameras, movie players, videophones, game arcades, and remote controls for household appliances. Even today’s low-end tablets can handle most jobs, even in corporate settings (where you could order a MacBook Pro rental if you want more power for a temporary project). This is the primary challenge facing PC manufacturers today: How can the desktop PC compete with lower-priced, portable devices that use less power, accomplish many common computing tasks, and also have that “hip-and-fun” factor?

Who’s who in the new crew

IDC shows Apple still leading in market share with 39.6% of tablet sales, with Samsung in (distant) second place with 17.9%. But the bigger story here is the number of leading firms that are not on the list. Think a minute: Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo, Sony, and Toshiba are all missing from the top spots, despite some of them making belated attempts at entering the fray. Dell and HP are hugely important, influential firms in the history of PCs, and a desktop computer rental is likely to be one of these premier brands. So how did they miss out on the biggest product debut since, well, the PC?

Short answer: Who knows? Perhaps some of the long-time computer makers…

  • didn’t see or understand the trend away from the desktop and toward portability,
  • came “late to the game” and can’t seem to catch up,
  • were indecisive and wouldn’t make a commitment, or
  • decided against the tablet market in favor of their “sure things.”

Interestingly, many of the same companies that missed out on tablets this time around missed out on smartphones last time around. Of course, smartphones currently outsell PCs by a huge margin, and there is a growing trend (think Galaxy Note) toward the phone/tablet combo (sorry, they’re going to be called “phablets” no matter what). Either set a trend or get on someone’s coattails, but if you miss out again—we’re talking to you, Michael Dell—your brand may be ready for retirement.

Whither the “withering Windows”?

At GigaOm.com, Kevin C. Tofel analyzed the 2012 tablet and PC sales results back in January, dubbing Microsoft’s flagship OS “withering Windows.” The point was that, despite the hundreds of millions of Windows users on Earth, a full third of all new devices sold don’t run Windows—they run Android and iOS. In the ‘90s and 2000s, if you were to rent laptops you’d find over 90% of them running Windows. The bar’s been lowered to under 70% of all devices now, and Tofel sees “no reason why the growth of non-Windows tablets will stop.” In fact, he “wouldn’t be surprised if by this time next year non-Windows tablets actually outsell Windows computers.”

In the last 30 years Microsoft’s presence in the technology sector of the economy has been dominant. It’s not merely its market share in tablets that signals a problem for the firm, it’s the burden of a legacy OS that has been pushed aside by flexible (and fun) new platforms. Combining a small form factor, touch capability, media prowess, WiFi, and long battery life, devices like iPad rentals, tablet PCs, and the latest/greatest thing, phablets, will experience strong sales as PC shipments continue tanking. You could argue that it’s all a semantic “construct,” that you can “define” things in and out of categories, compare apples and oranges, even ‘prove’ that 0=1. It’s all marketing, right?

What’s in a name?

Wrong. There really has been a irreversible change. Tablets have done so well because they are convenient and cover most of the bases for most folks. There are growing numbers of people, in fact, who are not replacing their PCs as often as they once did. They keep one around because PCs do excel at certain things—writing everything from letters to novels, editing digital audio and video, rendering graphics, and acting as both analog and digital hub for connecting and interconnecting this, that, and the proverbial other thing.

This is why PCs—let’s call them desktop workstations, shall we?—are not going away completely. It’s a needed form factor: A top-flight HP Pavilion or Apple Mac Pro rental has the expansion slots, drive bays, flexibility, and power needed for demanding work. Creative pros, scientists, photographers, designers, writers, engineers, and others will populate the “high-end” niche, which CRE will continue to serve with everything from audio visual (AV) equipment rentals to the mass storage needed for post-production. Wherever you find your challenges—on-site, on the road, or at a convention—your solutions are all right here. Call an experienced Account Executive at (877) 266-7725, send us a message, or visit our Quick Rental Quote page if you know what you need. We are always ready to help you!

May 23rd, 2013

CreativeDestructionThere are a lot of lessons to learn from economics, which the Austrian School of thought defines as the study of human actions. Humans have evolved, and our systems have evolved along with us, to build, trade, learn, improve, make progress, overcome challenges, and organize human societies in ways that support various social goals. In the West, particularly America, one of those goals became “full employment,” a vague term that left no room for nuance, much less the disruptions native to huge, complex financial markets. Astride the world like a colossus after World War II, America saw its economy boom and the computer era begin as technology began its now-70-year ascent.

A boom, not a kaboom

Predictions are hard to make, especially about the future. This nugget of wisdom was somehow overlooked as we sought to create our own reality by legislative fiat and industrial might. In 1948, this peculiarly American hubris led the father of cybernetics, Norbert Wiener—a “rock star” among scientists then as iMac creator Steve Jobs was more recently—to pen a dramatic letter of warning to the head of the United Auto Workers, Walter Reuther. The advent of computers, Wiener said, would bring about systems that are “extremely flexible, and susceptible to mass production, and will undoubtedly lead to the factory without employees [featuring] the automatic automobile assembly line.” It was Wiener’s apocalyptic prediction that with such an “industrial set-up” the resulting unemployment would be “disastrous.”

Of course, the sun also rises, and Wiener was so mistaken about unemployment that physicist Wolfgang Pauli’s famous retort about string theory—that an assertion can be “so far off it’s not even wrong”—seems reasonable to apply. In fact, employment figures in the U.S. swelled to a historic peak of 146 million in 2007 from 59 million in 1950 as technology marched in unrelenting progress—bringing the laser printers, plasma display rentals, and Apple products like the iPad that define modern technology. Starting in that same year, U.S. GDP increased by a factor of nearly seven by 2012, from $2 million to $13.6 (in 2005 dollars). Still, the robot assembly lines were being built, and auto workers lost hundreds of thousands of jobs between 1948 and 1990, but mass unemployment à la Wiener never happened. Why?

A history lesson first

Between about 1810 and 1820, a group called the Luddites destroyed then-revolutionary power looms and weaving frames in the north of England. Although some of their motives were born of wider concerns about class and privilege, this assemblage of mostly fabric artisans also saw technological progress as a route to unemployment, particularly their own. Predictions of “permanent technological unemployment” are revived from time to time, and the latest may be a working paper done for the National Bureau of Economic Research in late 2012. Titled “Smart Machines and Long-Term Misery,” Boston University economist Laurence Kotlikoff and Columbia University economist Jeffrey Sachs pose a question: Are machines so smart, with such powerful CPUs, that they no longer need unskilled labor to operate?

Now let’s back up. Mass unemployment didn’t follow even the loss of entire industries, like occurred in America in the postwar era. Creative destruction implies not only the end of something, but the beginning of something else. Joseph Schumpeter explains that it would have been silly to try saving the buggy whip industry in 1905, too, as whip sales began slipping with the increase in horseless carriage sales. With the auto industry would come much greater economic growth, more companies hiring more people to build more new things that will replace other aging things, and the cycle of “creative destruction” continues. It’s how we got render farms, it’s how we got tablet PCs, and it’s how we’ll get to the future. It’s not neat and clean, and it’s certainly not predictable.

The lesson?

The lesson is a tough one, and runs counter to the human predilection for control, certainty, and order. Progress, unfortunately, is messy, unpredictable, counter-intuitive at times, and only appears clearly in hindsight. Will the iPad destroy the Laptop?In our present Age of Electronic Miracles, the continuously increasing power of computers is evident if you rent laptops and compare specs to just two years ago. The challenge, as always, is to remember that not everything “new” signifies progress. We can see now, for example, that progress in the MacBook line means Thunderbolt connectors instead of Firewire, and the loss of the internal DVD—which, of course, means fewer jobs at Firewire cable makers and more jobs making external optical drives.

Need a Mac or a Windows workstation? A call to (877) 266-7725 or a short message puts an experienced Account Executive to work finding just the right high-end computer rentals or a solution to your digital storage problem. Already know what you need? Use our Quick Rental Quote form and get it now. Whatever the technology challenge, your solution is always CRE!

May 21st, 2013

E3, the world’s premier trade show for computer and video games and related products, is coming to the E3 LogoLos Angeles Convention Center from June 11-13, 2013. Operated by the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), the annual show brings together the top publishers of interactive games for video game consoles, smartphones, handheld game devices (a definition that even fits our iPad rental), personal computers, and the web.

E3 draws tens of thousands of creative pros to a single location to continue the ongoing process of creating the future of interactive entertainment. The most influential people from the most innovative companies attend this event. It’s the place to see trailblazing technologies, brand new products for computers, the latest video game consoles, upcoming titles running on handheld systems and tablet PCs, games/apps for mobile and social platforms, and multiplayer web-based adventures.

RCX, or Radio Control Expo, is taking over the Long Beach Convention Center on June 1-2, 2013 to bring everything related to “RC entertainment” to Southern California. Manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers, designers, hobbyists, and competitors will arrive by the thousands to see new products, network RCX - radio control expowith other fans and RC pros, and have a whole lot of fun. Even if you go to run a booth on the expo floor, with a bright LCD touchscreen monitor rental inviting passersby to stop in, you’re bound to take a few minutes off here and there for some flight time!

There is so much entertainment planned that you really have to visit the RCX website’s “attractions” page to take it all in. Some highlights:

  • Mech Warefare creates a real-life robotic combat competition that pits participants against each other, piloting custom 1/24th-scale robots armed with Airsoft weapons and other systems.
  • Take a test flight in the Horizon Try Me Cage, getting hands-on and flying some of the hottest indoor airplanes and micro-copters from Horizon Hobby’s huge line of aircraft products.
  • The Construction Zone at RCX will feature highly-detailed, customized, and functional 1:14- and 1:16-scale model trucks. Scale RC trucking requires slow, precise driving skills along with the assembly of a high-quality model.
  • Crazy TV host and Hollywood car designer Fireball Tim will be at this year’s RCX Show signing his new insane children’s book Fireball Tim’s BIG BOOK of Wacky Rides!

Want to strategize an appearance at one or both of these events? There’s still time to get the right event production rentals, so make a call to (877) 266-7725, send a message, or log on to our Quick Rental Quote page.

May 16th, 2013

Adobe Creative CloudAdobe’s announcement that its leading-edge Creative Studio programs are now “the Creative Cloud,” available exclusively via subscription, has generated more than the usual wailing and gnashing of teeth in the tech sector. Interestingly, in the past this kind of anger was typically directed at Apple, not “trusty old Adobe,” as people have called it for years. There are still details to be worked out, but the basics are clear enough, and we have them for you.

Creative Studio’s switcheroo

First, there’s a huge misconception, a basic error repeated even by “tech pundits” that should know better. Some people interpret “Cloud” in “Creative Cloud” to mean that the applications will be web-based, like the online Photoshop Express that makes “web crawling” seem positively supersonic. No deadline-driven designer will tolerate the lag of an 800MB photo file loading into a browser. Nobody at Adobe, which has helped power the Information Age since before you could rent laptops, would ask them to. The programs install locally and Adobe checks your subscription status now and then to confirm its validity. If you stop paying, you’re turned off.

The whole thing started in earnest with the release of Creative Suite 6 (CS6) in 2012, when Adobe offered it on DVD (the whole shebang is over $2,000) as well as by monthly subscription ($49.99) to the new Creative Cloud. For that, a user gets all the CS6 programs—but to sweeten the deal, students and current owners of CS versions 3 to 5.5 get the first year for $29.99 monthly. A single app (think Photoshop, the one indispensable program for all creatives) is $19.99 a month or some $240 annually. Doesn’t matter if you work in Windows or on an iMac, both OS types are covered as long as you’re net-connected, and you can install both.

Reasonable rants

So, does it cost you more or less? We’ll give you the conclusion of a good dollar-comparison discussion that you should read after this blog:

  • If you are a professional and use CS6 extensively, and always upgrade, you will definitely save money.
  • If you use several CS6 programs and upgrade every other year or so, you may break even but are likely to pay more.
  • If you use just Photoshop or another single application and/or upgrade rarely, there’s only a 50% chance that your costs will go up. Unfortunately, the other 50% chance is that they’ll go way up.

The core problem is that many people resist the notion of another monthly bill, like an additional insurance payment. They would rather buy software and use it until it doesn’t work anymore, rather than be compelled to pay—and to upgrade yearly! If you’re already doing high-end work on Mac Pros and Apple Cinema Display Rentals, running CS6 day and night, these new costs are probably incidental to you (or corporate accounting). For a freelancing college student or a self-employed designer, every penny counts.

Okay, then: Why?

Adobe claims that the move from CS to CC was done to put new features in the hands of users as easily and quickly as possible, instead of their waiting for yet another update or major release. The truth is probably a bit more complicated. Veteran Photoshop trainer John Arnold blogged that “50% of the people I talk to…are using a pirated copy [since] they feel they have to have it but they can’t afford it.” Arnold says the iconic program is “already way over priced” and “out of reach of most amateur photographers.”

Adobe has been having difficulty persuading creative freelancers and small firms—who are paying for render farms, mass storage, and other things—to pay for upgraded software when older (legacy) versions will do. (Microsoft and other companies seem to have decided that subscription services are the solution, too.) Low- and no-cost Photoshop alternatives on Mac and Windows include Rawstudio,GIMP, and GraphicConverter, all very good programs. However, Adobe products are uniformly excellent, and there is no way a pro CS user will ever accept a lesser program as a substitute.

Adobe Creative Cloud Software

 Verdict?

If you make money in modern media, you must have industry-standard tools. You have to have what you have to have, a circular logic that pro users—freelancers, corporate employees, educators, and grad students—recognize and accept. Both amateurs and certain professionals, however, will have the entire spectrum of reactions, considering the amazing range of people using Adobe products. Tell us your experiences and we’ll share them with other readers when we return to update you on this continuing saga.

CRE is the smart source (!) for everything you need, from high-powered computer rentals with Adobe software installed for graphics and post-production to audio visual (AV) equipment rentals . Your solutions on-site, on the road, or at a conference are all right here. Call an experienced Account Executive at (877) 266-7725, send a message, or visit our Quick Rental Quote page if you know what you need. We are here, and we’re ready to help!

May 14th, 2013

content creationWe reported in September 2011 on the growing trend toward webcasting, by entertainment companies and conference organizers alike, and the doomsayers and anti-futurists predicted at the time that Google and other Evil Corporations would take over, well, everything. Instead, huge numbers of individuals—singers, musicians, dancers, poets, rappers, actors, comedians—have taken advantage of the technology to distribute their own material. The advantages are numerous: A great, transparent business model; no bosses, no censorship, no second-hand smoke; and the money goes directly to the creators, not to or through a middleman. This trend is not just accelerating. It’s at the “goodness, gracious, great balls of fire” level and still rising.

Comedy makes serious money

Comedians Louis CK, Aziz Ansari, and Jim Gaffigan have recently brought big-time media attention to artist-produced programming on the Internet. Last summer (2012), Louis sold all seats on his 67-show tour via his own website,  and held scalping to under 1% of sales. He also tallied 220,000 downloads of his “Live at the Beacon Theater” special, which cost $250,000 to produce and sold for $5 each ($1.1 million gross). If you downloaded it to a Mac or PC, you could easily prepare it for viewing on your smartphone, desktop, laptop, tablet PC rental, or pretty much anything with a screen. And Louis allowed buyers to download it “a few times” if they needed to, on the honor system. It worked.

Musicians have also begun to take the self-produced route in recent years. Songstress Ani DiFranco gave some suitably squishy egalitarian-ish arguments for avoiding a “corporate sellout” and starting her own company, Righteous Babe. Fact is, she’s making a lot more money now by leveraging social media and all the full array of CTS (“contemporary tech stuff”) to stay in touch with her legions of fans. You can tune her in, along with Louis and the others, wherever your WiFi- and/or 4G-connected smartphone, Android tablet, or iPad rental can get a signal (most anywhere). Louis CK and Ani are popular, and rightly so, but the term “content” extends to the rest of the verse, prose, audio, and images (still graphics, animation, video) that fill every nook and cranny of the Internet with come-ons, how-tos, and everything else. There’s content, then there’s content.

Everybody slow down a bit

If you hear complaints about “losing money” in the “wider” (or “broader”) digital entertainment market of today, you can bet they’re coming from traditional middlemen. Yes, the Internet has altered (okay, demolished) the traditional ways content agencies, brokers, syndicates, and even TV networks make money. Still, economic data show that, year over year, far more money is entering the overall market, much more content is being produced, and entrepreneurs are finding lots of new ways to create value. Post-production pros working with our render farms and audio pros working with PC-driven digital mixing consoles know how to create the material. That’s because content creators, the actual people sitting at the potent Mac Pro rental workstations doing the creating, must stay updated and leading-edge. They must keep pace with the technology.

The problem is that marketing execs are not keeping pace, and have no such ever-present pressure. They are not compelled to upgrade their approach like a digital artist is compelled to install the latest JavaScript update. The primary challenge, of course, is discovering and developing new methods of tapping into the new and bigger revenue streams being produced by the wider entertainment industry. Legacy firms will encounter more competitors, and individual artists—writers, musicians, poets, filmmakers, performance artists, and (of course!) comedians—will be running their own shows, literally.

creation platforms

“The Sky Is Rising”

If you hear about arts and/or entertainment industries “dying” or “being destroyed,” remember: That’s not it at all. Rather, companies are not rising to meet the new business model and marketing challenges, despite the greater long-term opportunity. Clearly, there are many exciting new opportunities, plural, and just as many ways to succeed. Nothing’s guaranteed in life, but look at the recent trends (as reported in The Sky Is Rising at Techdirt.com):

  • Entertainment spending as a portion of income: UP 15% between 2000 and 2008
  • Employment in the entertainment sector: UP 20%, with indie artists seeing 43% growth
  • Overall entertainment industry revenues: UP 66% between 1998 and 2010

Direct-to-consumer marketing can work for many products and services. It only took this long in the entertainment world because of the obstructionism of dying institutions, old business models, and maladaptive corporate cultures. Economist Joseph Schumpeter had some penetrating insights about “creative destruction” that we will consider in an upcoming blog, insights that will add to your understanding of the powerful forces unleashed by nothing more than the human imagination—as well as the countervailing forces of the status quo, always and everywhere an impediment to progress. It’s the oldest battle on Earth.

If you’ve got a battle coming up—say, planning for a big annual conference—then we’re the best ally you could have. Get the trade show convention rentals and the first-rate advice you need by calling an experienced Account Executive at (877) 266-7725, sending a message, or using our Quick Rental Quote form. However you contact us, we get on the job for you right away. Call today!

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