Baron Mat “Langley” Luschek, “Starman” Michael Gaines and Kathy Hopkins bring you the latest in this week’s mind-blowing geek news, including: Kathy’s CES recap, Escape from NY news, Star Wars news, and more!
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Having been born in 1955 I grew up through the plastic craze of the 1960’s. Plastic was new and fascinating. Plastic designer products of the 1960’s helped us believe that we were living in the future.
And so that brings us to products such as the Fingerhut plastic seat covers as well as plastic furniture covers. At the height of the plastic craze, it was popular to cover car seats with mail ordered plastic seat covers. They were constructed of clear plastic, and came in two designs – flat or a sort of raised diamond plate bubble design. For whatever reason, the diamond plate bubble design seemed to be the most popular, and that is what my parents had.
When my younger brothers and I would sleep while riding in the car with our faces lying against the seat, we would wake up, with the imprint of the diamond plate pattern on the sides of our faces. The plastic seat covers grew very hot and pliable in the summer and cold and stiff in the winter. Inevitably the plastic would become brittle, crack and tear at certain stress points, often remaining partially intact.
At the very height of the plastic craze some people also covered living room furniture with form fitting clear plastic covers. Somehow some people were convinced that the plastic cover would prevent the new furniture from becoming worn out, despite the fact that the plastic was cold and uninviting.
Plastic is certainly still around, though the craze has long since dissipated. Plastic has faded into the background of our consumer lives, quietly weaved into the majority of products around us.
Fortunately the plastic seat cover idea went away. However, like a reconstituted T-2 Terminator the plastic cover is back and lives on department store shelves near you.
The modern idea of plastic covers lurks in the 21st century in the form of useless plastic screen protectors for mobile devices. Screen protectors are a 1960’s fantastic plastic product just waiting to be applied to the screens of beloved mobile devices. And just like those plastic seat covers of the 1960’s, plastic screen protectors are of dubious value.
In Hawaii we pay the some of the highest electricity costs in the nation. My average electricity bill for the past 4 years has been around $400 a month at .36 cents per Kilowatt with a monthly usage of about 1100 Kilowatts.
Today we had 32 photovoltaic panels installed that will zero my electricity bill minus a $19.95 monthly connections fee. The Electrician comes Monday to finish it but I thought I would share what it looks like to have the equivalent of a brand new car on your roof. My total install cost was $32,387 my tax credit Federal/State will equal to $19,851.
My net investment after “tax credit” will be $12,986 with a system payback of around 32 months. If I do not factor in the tax credit my payback would be 6 years 8 months.. Considering that the system is warranted to last 25 years. My minimum 25 year savings will be $120,000 if power prices do not go up a penny.
With Federal Tax credits expiring at the end of 2016 you need to move now if you are considering solar. I really got tired of being robbed by the local utility each month.
I will follow up with some pictures after the electrician finishes and show you the meter running backwards.
There are many products and brands that claim to be iconic but there aren’t that many with the design credentials to back up the claim. The British lighting design company Anglepoise easily falls into the iconic category with the smooth multi-angle balance mechanism from the 1930s embodied in the 1227. I’ve always wanted an Anglepoise lamp and when a Type 75 mini desk lamp appeared in Amazon’s Black Friday deals, I clicked on “Buy”. Here’s the unboxing.
Contrary to what the label says, there was a bulb in the box – it’s in the bubble wrap at the top right.
Assembly is easy – pop the spigot into the base and secure with a grub screw, then hook the springs over the bars.
I guess these are the money shots – the balance mechanism.
Overall, I’m delighted and loving it on my desk at work. So much so, I’ve put a 1228 with a mid green shade on my wishlist but Santa will need to be especially generous this year.
Continuing the Christmas theme, Smashing Magazine have a bunch of unique festive wallpapers for your desktop and other backgrounds needs. Part of their regular monthly programme, the December wallpapers function as calendars too, with dates embedded in the wallpaper, which is pretty handy anyway – no need to start up an app to check the date.
All the heavy lifting has been done too with a range of resolutions for different monitors and desktop sizes – I use them as backgrounds on my tablet and smartphone. The only difficulty is choosing the best. I’ve included a few below but check out over 20 others at Smashing Magazine.
The in-house inventor at London’s Science Museum, Mark Champkins, has created this fantastic lampshade that opens like a flower when the light is turned on. The lampshade is made of polypropylene petals and six bi-metallic strips which open up the flower when heated by the light bulb. The flower shade takes about 5 minutes to open up from closed. It’s an ingenious design which doesn’t rely on a complicated motorised mechanism to open the shade.
The photo below shows the lamp from closed to fully open. A cluster of these flower lamps would look great as the they open up.
Manufactured in the UK by a precision sheet metal works, the lamp is exclusive to the Science Museum shop and costs GB£60. Pricey enough if you want four of them, but it would be pretty unique.
The Christmas season is officially underway with today’s opening of the first door on the Advent calendar. To help get festive, Manuela Langella and Smashing Magazine have produced a great set of Christmas-themed icons for holiday projects. They’ll look fantastic on desktops, websites, cards and invites, and are great fun for children too – your creative ability is the only limit!
The icon set is available under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported licence and is free for private and commercial projects. It’s a 20-odd MB download and the icons come in AI, EPS, PDF, PNG, PSD and SVG formats which covers most needs. Stop making excuses and get making.
I have used Sorenson Squeeze for a number of years and the upgrade to Version 10 takes the software that was a little rough around the edges from a GUI standpoint and really ups the game.. What is already a world class video encoder, media processing application has really been refined. They have loaded this version with a lot of new features I get into later. For those of you looking at this product as a production solution there are many compelling reasons to upgrade and or purchase the software.
What I love most about this software is that it is simple to operate, upon install you do not need to be a rocket scientist to figure it out. But as you dive into the feature sets and possible customizations / job processing you will soon realize how powerful the application really is as a complete end to end solution.
Sorenson Squeeze 10 is a professional encoding product that can be used by a non-pro. Encoding with Sorenson Squeeze is simple, you select a source video or audio file. Then choose encoding presets or per-configured global setting and click “Squeeze it”. Want multiple versions of your media encoded in different resolutions, no problem just queue up the encodes you want and walk away.
One of the use cases for me is taking a 720p .mp4 media file and using the encoder to convert it to 720p .webm format, it does a beautiful job and my master video quality is maintained. The number of conversion formats that Sorenson Squeeze supports is incredible, I really don’t think they miss anything. For the full list review their website. Each of these supported formats have a selection of per-programed presets tested by the Sorenson team for best results.. Want a YouTube optimized video encode just pick the preset. They make it easy for you to get you up and running very quickly. If you do not like one of preset parameters, you can clone and change or add a preset and customize your own encode.
The Preference menu in Sorenson Squeeze 10 allows you to setup all the standard settings, export locations, VST plugins, set system loading parameters. GPU qualification etc. With Sorenson Squeeze 10 you can apply filters like watermarks, time-code, converting color to black and white, noise removal to name just a few. Within the preview window you can crop the video, select in and out points.
The GPU integration allows to use CUDA supported video cards, to encode media with the GPU on select presets at a much higher rate than using the CPU alone..
Version 10 now comes in three version Lite, Standard & Pro with slight feature deltas between versions. There is cost delta between the three so review the options you will need carefully. Their is also upgrade paths for existing customers.
New Codec support includes the new HEVC/x265 High Efficiency Video Coding, also new now you can encode and decode with the VP9 codec. New is also Multi-Rate bundle encoding feature that lets setup one preset to output up to 4 presets with one click. Automatically packages files for Apple HLS, Adobe Dynamic Streaming, Microsoft Smooth Streaming, MPEG DASH, and MP4 downloads by only encoding each data rate once and then packaging everything into multiple formats.
Another new feature is the ability to link closed caption files with your media. Squeeze also now supports 4k
As in past versions you can automatically push media that has been encoded to content delivery networks like Amazon S3, Akamai, YouTube or a FTP site you customize. If you are working for a client Squeeze also has a notification and review feature that allows automated emails with review and approval forms included to speed up your media production.
One thing I like is that I can take a production quality video recording from Wirecast or my Tricaster and I can import the raw master. I can then set the in and out points on the video and very quickly encode a full show or break out some highlight segments.
Squeeze 10 can also be used to capture video. It worked with my digital video camera and few other devices, but I could not get it to work with my Black Magic Design Video card.
The option I like the best, is that it has some automated features that you can setup to watch a folder. As soon as the media is put in the folder squeeze will start encoding media based on what you have set in your Global Job Settings. What this allows you to do is produce your master recording in your favorite video editing program and as soon as it is finished squeeze will start building the additional media files automatically that you have designated. With the auto publish feature it will then upload to your cdn etc.
Lets talk about cost.. The pro version brings you an incredible feature set that you will want, I looked at both the lite version and the standard version but really knew I would need the HEVC/x265 encoder. This alone was worth the price of the product. The Lite version is $199, Standard $549, Pro $749. While the pro price may scare you this is a nuts to bolts video encoder that is going to save you a ton of time. Automated Uploading to you CDN or YouTube, Automated processing of watch folders, review and approval management, CC support, VP9 the list goes on. Sorenson Squeeze 10 is a serious piece of my software arsenal.