Geek News: Latest Technology, Product Reviews, Gadgets and Tech Podcast News for Geeks


Six Ways That Sound & Light Bend Your Brain

Posted by AndrewH at 9:56 AM on April 11, 2012

In a culture fascinated with the supernatural, it’s refreshing to see that tangible science can trump even the most fantastic effects Hollywood can conjure. Wandering around the Internet this morning, I followed a thread of videos through YouTube depicting some amazing effects sound and light can have on liquids and solids. Or, more accurately, how our eyes can be “tricked” into seeing things that might not really exist as they seem.

Check out these six mind-scrambling videos and see how sometimes the weirdest things about life happen right in our brain and not on the big screen.

Personal favorite (and the one that started this early morning foray into YouTube)? The Static Water video. Read the comments on the video for explanations on why this happens. Enjoy!

Scientists Need To Stand Up

Posted by Andrew at 12:30 AM on June 23, 2011

If you were to draw a Venn diagram of the whole of science, I’d like to think that us geeks fit in there as a subset. Many of us come from a scientific background and appreciate science, scientific method and the benefits it brings to humanity. This isn’t to say that we don’t value art, but rather we have critical approach to life that uses evidence and method rather than doubt and misinformation. Theories aren’t always right but we value the outcome when they are disproved.

Regrettably science and scientists have often failed to engage with public, either retreating into academia or else becoming the boffins in the backrooms of organisations that capitalise on their work. The Internet has given plenty of space for pseudo-science to become widespread and thought of as fact. Validated research and evidence rarely gets the weight it deserves.

The New Statesman has published an excellent article on how the scientific community needs to take a look and learn from other social groups such as gays and blacks which have managed to get the respect that they deserve. Scientists need to stand up and speak out against pseudo-science and misinformation.

The UK’s Government Chief  Scientific Adviser John Beddington said, “We are grossly intolerant, and properly so, of racism. We are grossly intolerant, and properly so, of people who [are] anti-homosexuality… We are not – and I genuinely think we should think about how we do this – grossly intolerant of pseudo-science, the building up of what purports to be science by the cherry-picking of the facts and the failure to use scientific evidence and the failure to use scientific method.

TGP-2011-06-09 #11 ROKU & FIVE ADDITIONAL CONTENT OPTIONS

Posted by Gadget at 7:22 PM on June 9, 2011

The Gadget Professor Welcome to The Gadget Professor’s podcast, show #11. Today”s show features a review of the ROKU BOX and five additional free video content sites for your viewing pleasure! Sit back and relax while you watch The Gadget Professor.

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Geek Fashion

Posted by Andrew at 3:26 PM on January 20, 2011

Just because you are a geek (or a nerd), it doesn’t mean that you can’t be a fashionable geek. Fortunately, geek is in this year as is blue, don’t-cha-know, and the 2modern blog have put together some of the latest accessories that are achingly hip and trendy.

Celebrate your inner geek! Most of the stuff is available from Etsy for not very much money.

OTT Tsunami

Posted by tomwiles at 10:28 PM on September 28, 2010

We’ve been hearing quite a lot about Internet-delivered video content lately. Trends sometimes seem to advance slowly over a long period of time but then tumultuous market shifts seem to happen overnight.

Blockbuster just filed for bankruptcy. Blockbuster was unable to reconfigure their business structure to compete effectively with Netflix. It seems that Netflix has won the ongoing war.

Streaming video and video podcasts have been around for several years – these are not new ideas. However, what is new is the proliferation and increasing popularity of set-top boxes.

Back in the 1980’s backyard satellite TV dishes were a hobby among people that were looking for something different and as many choices as possible. That quest for choice ended up going mainstream in the form of commercial cable and satellite providers offering hundreds of channels.

Starting in 2004 people began experimenting with Internet-delivered content in the form of podcasts. I believe that podcasting happened as a direct result of broadband availability getting to a certain critical mass, combining the existing elements of RSS, MP3’s, etc. into a new form of communication. This new form of communication offered something very different along with unprecedented levels of choice.

Internet-delivered content of all kinds is rapidly becoming mainstream.

I believe 2010 is the year of the app. Apps suddenly seemed to have come out of nowhere to seeming to pop up on every device imaginable. Why the sudden popularity of apps? Desktop and laptop computers have been around for a long time, along with full-blown applications. What has really happened is that computers have now shrunk down to the point where they not only are in our pockets in the form of smartphones, but they are also showing up in HDTV sets and plenty of other devices. These devices we are running these apps on are actually quite powerful computers in their own rights.

There is now a wide variety of content that is heading for every computer-enabled screen you own, especially your HDTV.

Amazon Kindle E-Books

Posted by tomwiles at 3:55 AM on July 27, 2010

Shortly after getting my HTC Evo phone, one of the initial apps I downloaded from the Android Marketplace was the Amazon Kindle app with the idea I’d probably check it out at some point. Weeks went by, and I pretty much ignored the app.

Yesterday I was talking to a good friend that is in the process of formatting e-books for an author friend of his, including formatting the books in the Kindle format. During the course of our conversation, I mentioned to him once again that I needed check the Android Kindle app out. He pointed out that there were free e-books available in the Kindle format on the Amazon website, including many books from 1922 and before that were now in the public domain, so after I finished his call I went on Amazon.Com with my computer and started digging around in the Kindle Store area of Amazon. Sure enough, there seemed to be plenty of free e-books available, so I started adding them. To get the Kindle app on my phone to synch with my Amazon account couldn’t be easier, I simply entered in my email address and Amazon password into the app. Any books in my Amazon storage area are quickly updated to the app.

Sure, some of the free books weren’t exactly my taste, but I was able to open them on my phone and finally see how well the Kindle app worked. Hummm, not bad – not bad at all. To make a long story short, I ended up finding a current book I really liked and purchased it for $9.99.

What a pleasant surprise I was in for. Reading a Kindle book on my HTC Evo is actually a good experience. The text is quite legible. The surprising part is that twice now I’ve carried the phone with me into restaurants and was able to easily read using the phone while eating. Of course, the HTC Evo has a handy built-in kick stand that allows the phone to sit on its side at an angle. I can eat and then periodically lightly touch the right side of the screen in order to make the Kindle app advance to the next page. The Kindle app even synchs the latest page I’m on back to the server, so if I open the book up again either on my phone or on my laptop, it opens up right at the exact page where I stopped reading.

At this point I have no plans on buying an actual Kindle, however I suspect I will be buying more Kindle e-books in the future. I often carry my phone around with me wherever I go, and because of the way the Kindle app works across all Kindle apps associated with my account, I have instant access to every Kindle e-book in my Amazon account storage area on every associated Kindle installation. There are often times I end up having to cool my heels waiting on something, and it’s incredibly handy to be able to use that otherwise often wasted waiting time reading. Ten minutes here and twenty minutes there really do add up over time.

All of this talk about, “Oh, the iPad has killed the Kindle” is bogus. Amazon has been very smart to put Kindle apps out for as wide a variety of devices as possible. Even if they don’t sell that many Kindle readers, the Kindle format e-book is a huge Amazon win, both for Amazon and for consumers like me.

Location, Location, Location

Posted by tomwiles at 1:06 AM on July 22, 2010

A few days ago I posted an article here entitled “Waxing Nostalgic” in which I reminisced about the original three Podcast & New Media Expos held at Ontario, California and how special they were.

Upon further examination, it’s suddenly become obvious to me what set these three conferences apart and what made them such a success from a social standpoint.

The thing that made the three Ontario podcast conferences unique was the fact that perfect strangers felt very comfortable striking up spontaneous conversations with each other. As a result of this comfort level, something rather remarkable happened. People talked a lot (these were podcasters, remember) and in many instances formed lasting friendships.

When the podcast conference was moved to Las Vegas, an entirely different mindset took over. In Las Vegas, strangers simply don’t feel comfortable approaching each other and striking up spontaneous conversations, even if they see that the other person is wearing a conference badge. The open, spontaneous conversation mindset generated at the Ontario Convention Center was perceived as perfectly normal in Ontario. However, being open and starting spontaneous conversations in Las Vegas would be perceived as weird and so therefore isn’t done.

This is a simple principle, yet it can have a profound effect on whether or not a given conference will be perceived as successful. I could see how conference planners could get caught up with other ideas surrounding where to hold a conference, but forget that the mindset generated in particular places is going to potentially produce very different behavior from the same people, which may or may not be detrimental. If the wrong behavior is produced by an incompatible mindset, it can spell disaster.

I believe the mindset generated by location also extends to and in part explains the old business axiom, “location, location, location” as being important to the success of a business.

Generate the right mindset in part with geography and surroundings to get people in a buying mood for particular types of products and services, and your business has a chance at being successful. Ignore this all-important mindset generation aspect of specific locations at your business’ peril.

Waxing Nostalgic

Posted by tomwiles at 10:45 PM on July 17, 2010

The year was 2005. The month was November. The setting was the Ontario Convention Center in Ontario, California. The event was the first podcast media expo. The phenomenon of podcasting, brought to life by Adam Curry and Dave Winer, was a bit over a year old. At least a couple of thousand podcasters as well as many podcast listeners showed up from around the world to meet each other face to face for the fist time.

Looking back in my own mind and the minds of many others who attended, it was as if there was a special magic that happened at Ontario. This first event brought a bunch of strangers together, yet it had the happy feel of a family reunion. Soon enough it would be over and time for us all to go our separate ways.

The Ontario Convention Center turned out to work especially well for in-person social networking for people who were heavily involved in this brand new form of social media. It was very easy to identify other attendees because of the convention badges. Most people were staying in the nearby hotels, particularly at the Marriot across the street from the Ontario Convention Center. People ended up milling back and forth between the convention center and the Marriot. Many people ended up meeting each other and striking up conversations at random as they accidentally met each other while walking around or just hanging out.

I was always up front about the reason I attended these podcast expos. I was there to meet people and hang out with podcaster friends. I did not sign up for or pay money to attend any of the expo’s sessions. I was there to socialize. I don’t believe I was the only podcaster who thought this way. From a social standpoint, the podcast expos held in Ontario were a tremendous success. Sadly, from an expo-promoting business standpoint, perhaps they weren’t so successful.

There would be a total of three of these expos held at the Ontario Convention Center before the gathering was moved to the Las Vegas Convention Center in Las Vegas, Nevada starting in 2008. The 2008 expo ended up being sort of lost in the middle of a mega-building probably most well known for housing the annual (and gargantuan) Consumer Electronics Show every January.

With literally thousands of Las Vegas tourists, combined with other conventions going on at the same time, meeting and socializing with the reduced number of podcasters that did make the effort to show up in Las Vegas in 2008 and later in 2009 became difficult. Gone were the happy accidental meetings. Pretty much gone was the accidental social networking aspect that had happened every year at the convention center in Ontario.

Those three magical expos at the Ontario Convention Center will never be repeated. Many of those early podcasters have moved on to other interests, as well as many of the early podcast listeners that also made a point of showing up. The social aspect of podcasting has seemed to wane a bit as larger commercial and educational organizations expanded into the space.

Podcasting is alive and well in 2010, and is taking its place in this new and continually evolving world of Internet-distributed digital media production and distribution. There are more podcasts available for download than ever before. Priorities change, and people move on.

Those first three podcast expos at Ontario, California were exceptional social networking events where many exceptional friendships were formed.

Marriage & Cell Carriers

Posted by tomwiles at 7:01 PM on July 16, 2010

The air is electric with heady excitement. The big day has finally arrived. “This one will be nirvana!” you tell yourself. As you enter the doors and walk down the isle, there she is waiting at the altar, all decked out in a one-use dress. Your heart races with anticipation.

There’s your dream — waiting there for you, with a pre-nuptial agreement in one hand and divorce papers in the other, complete with fine print written in legalese.

For some of us the marriage is a happy one. For others it is a marriage of convenience. And for a small number the marriage ends up going sour and costing them a bundle of money.

Am I talking about a wedding? No, I’m talking about the trip to the cell phone store.

We tend to get all excited about the latest phone models, comparing this feature set with that feature set, this screen with that screen, etc. Once we make a decision and our heart is set on a specific device, we eagerly sign the contract and end up married to a cell carrier for the life of the contract.

Devices aside, the big U.S. carriers have been making constant improvements to their networks. It’s a huge job, but there’s a lot of future money at stake.

In the realm of cell phones, I’ve always found it fascinating and somewhat telling how people will bounce from one cell carrier to the next, seemingly on a whim. If it becomes chic to talk bad about a specific cell carrier, it seems that a lot of people will change cell carriers the same way some people will worry about saturated fats or the latest diet fad.

And now we have the iPhone 4 and it’s purported antenna problem story of the past few days. At this point Apple has sold more than 3 million iPhone 4’s and the vast majority of iPhone 4 users have been happy with their new phones. Yet I find it interesting that all of this media attention about antenna problems has put doubt in the minds of some iPhone 4 owners.

That new spouse might be cheating on you…

History Is About To Repeat

Posted by tomwiles at 12:18 AM on July 15, 2010

I remember it well. Back around October of 2004, I first heard the word “podcast” used on The David Lawrence Show via my XM Satellite Radio. It sounded interesting, and I wrote it down on my driver logbook cover with the idea of looking it up later. I heard David mention it again once or twice over the next few weeks. Finally, in early December of 2004 I finally got around to looking it up. I found Adam Curry’s podcast, realized what it was, and knew that I felt compelled to not only listen to podcasts but get involved as a podcaster myself. This was exactly what I’d been looking for for many years – a wide variety of content that I could choose, download, and control the playback/consumption of on MY terms.

Podcasting took previously-existing elements and applied them with a new twist. MP3 files had already existed for a number of years. Virtually every computer already came with a sound card and had the basic ability to both play back and record audio. Portable MP3 players had been around for a while. Apart from Adam Curry’s and Dave Winer’s contribution of the podcasting concept and making it work, the one key element that suddenly made podcasting viable and actually inevitable was the fact that Internet bandwidth got good enough to make it practical.

Practical is an important key.

We have now passed another important milestone in terms of mobile bandwidth. Mobile bandwidth, while not yet perfect, has improved dramatically in both terms of data delivery and coverage. About three or more years ago I had experimented with streaming audio via my smartphone while driving my truck, and quickly determined that it wasn’t viable. I couldn’t listen long at all before I would lose the stream. No problem, I had plenty of podcasts to listen to.

I’ve been hearing a lot of people talk about Pandora.Com lately, so last week I finally tried the Pandora Android app out on my new Sprint HTC Evo. To my surprise, it worked amazingly well – even in Arizona and the western third of New Mexico along Interstate 40 where Sprint still has 1XRT service. The streaming music sounded great, and the few times it did briefly drop out in a couple of mountainous areas, it automatically reconnected and reestablished the playback stream.

(By the way, a side note – I was surprised to learn that Verizon has NO data card coverage around the Kingman, Arizona area – my Verizon aircard would NOT connect in the Kingman area.)

Streaming radio via the Internet in a moving vehicle is now practical. Smartphones have also reached critical mass to the point where they are really beginning to move into the mainstream. Even though streaming Internet audio has been around for quite a few years at this point, I believe the automotive market for streaming audio is about to open up in a massive way.

Up until this point most people have felt that streaming Internet radio had plateaued or was only going to grow slowly. I believe that improved cell networks along with smartphone proliferation will create a new market for streaming audio services. The automobile has been the traditional stronghold of terrestrial and now satellite radio services. An old kid that’s been around a while suddenly has a big and growing shot at a new lease-on life.

I believe opportunities exist for streaming Internet radio stations that deliver highly specialized content. For us geeks, imagine a 24/7 tech-centric streaming station. The sky really is the limit. The cost of running a streaming station can be very low, so therefore it becomes possible and practical to narrowcast to relatively small audiences.