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Poor timepiece, great calculations

Poor timepiece, great calculations

Well folks, Christmas is once more upon us and I just received a present ... from myself.

Some months ago I saw a project on Kickstarter that I thought was kind of cool so I backed it: the Cookoo watch from ConnecteDevice.

GIFT GUIDE: Be a hero for the holidays

Conceived of as an extension of your iPhone or iPad, the Cookoo watch is intended as a notification service for incoming and missed calls, calendar alerts and Facebook events, and it will also warn you when your iDevice's battery is low or the device is physically out of range.

The Cookoo features a "command" button that you can associate with various functions. A short, medium or long press of the button, for example, can represent a Facebook check-in or a geolocation tag, or trigger your iDevice to take a picture.

The Cookoo watch uses Bluetooth 4.0 Smart, a low-energy Bluetooth connection that doesn't overly tax the battery. This makes the watch compatible with only the iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, and third- and fourth-generation iPads.

Now, there's one big reason why this product is, in reality, a tough sell: Who wears watches any more? Ah, you might say, doesn't the extra functionality make it useful and worth wearing? Alas, it turns out that it doesn't.

To check in to Facebook or drop a location pin on a map, I don't need to wear a watch, I can pretty swiftly pull my phone out of my pocket and, as for notifying me of incoming calls and status events, the Cookoo watch needs to be louder (it's alert sound is a miserable "cheep" that would embarrass any self-respecting cricket), and its vibration alert is so weak it's absorbed by the functional but clunky rubber wrist band.

The look of the Cookoo watch isn't too bad (it's sleek and well-proportioned, albeit thicker than I'd like), but the black on black watch with blue accents I received is, in real life, readable in only bright light while the backlight is an anemic glow that is only useful when there's hardly any light at all.

In short, I am very disappointed. While I'm impressed that the company managed to get a somewhat ambitious product to market, it's not what I hoped it would be. What I hoped was going to be kind of cool and useful turns out to be kind of lame and not really useful at all. For $129 the Cookoo watch gets a Gearhead rating of 1 out of 5 and I'd like my money back (alas, refunds aren't available to Kickstarter backers).

Enough of being the Grinch! Let me give you a present that's incredibly geeky: Wolfram Mathematica 9.

Mathematica has always been an extraordinary product, but this version adds an incredible list of enhancements, including 3D volumetric imaging, image processing (including face detection, feature tracking and image classification), and full client-side Web access for data exchange via Web APIs and asynchronous connections for Ajax-style programming.

Most intriguingly, M9 includes Social Network Analysis! This feature allows you to import data from Facebook and Twitter and, through high-level functions, detect communities, cohesive groups (including cliques, clans, clubs and plexes), centrality and prestige, amongst other slicing and dicing of social media data.

Mathematica 9 is a staggeringly huge product that I'm just beginning to get into. Priced starting at $295 for the Home version and $2,495 for the Standard version, there's nothing like it and so, merry Christmas Wolfram! Mathematica gets a Gearhead rating of 5 out 5!

Gibbs is bracing himself for holiday cheer in Ventura, Calif. Send your season's greetings to gearhead@gibbs.com and follow him on Twitter and App.net (@quistuipater) and on Facebook (quistuipater).

Read more about software in Network World's Software section.

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