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


TGP-2011-05-26 #9 MAGIC JACK

Posted by Gadget at 7:06 PM on May 26, 2011

The Gadget Professor Welcome to The Gadget Professor’s podcast! Today”s show features a review of the MAGIC JACK – Never pay a monthly phone bill again! Free local and long distance calling in the USA and Canada. Take a look at two cool deal sites. Sit back and relax while you watch The Gadget Professor.

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TGP-2011-05-19 #8 POGOPLUG REVIEW & Tversity

Posted by Gadget at 7:46 PM on May 19, 2011

The Gadget Professor Welcome to The Gadget Professor’s podcast! Today”s show features a review of the Pogoplug – Turn Your Computer Into a Personal Cloud, Access your files from any connected device, Share files, photos, music, movies and more, Add terabytes to your smart phone or tablet. Hey how about some free software to watch free content on your television? The Gadget Professor talks about Tversity.
Sit back and relax while you watch The Gadget Professor.

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Contact e-mail thegadgetprofessor@gmail.com
Sign up for the Newsletter be sure to choose Gadget Professor

The Gadget Professor wants to hear from you,
email him at:TheGadetProfessor@gmail.com.
Look for The Gadget Professor every Thursday here at Geek News Central.
If your looking for an audio version of the show, there is not one at this point.

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.

What Makes A Tech Success?

Posted by tomwiles at 1:23 AM on July 12, 2010

It seems in the world of computers and the Internet there is always a steady stream of new things on the horizon, as well as a steady stream of new products and services. It’s been this way for many years at this point.

There are always winners and losers. Winners can win big, and losers at worst fail to make any marketplace splash or even a ripple and end up in the tech dustbin of obscurity with few people ever knowing that the product or service ever existed.

What is it that makes for a successful product? Why is it that some products and services that seem very similar to other products and services end up becoming household names, while others end up being cancelled domain name landing pages?

It’s obvious there are a variety of factors that come into play. If it were easy to predict these things, we would have a lot fewer losers. Why did Twitter become a household name, whereas similar services such as Plurk and Jaiku languish in the shadows? What enabled Facebook to steal most of the MySpace thunder?

New products and services that end up being successful frequently incorporate elements and principles of previously-existing successes, but package them in more compact and useful forms.

Initially when Twitter came along a couple of years ago, I heard people talking about it, but I was a bit resistant to sign up. I felt like I had plenty of ways to communicate with people, so why did I need to add yet another account to a service that would steal away time I already had filled, only to ultimately let yet another account go dormant? I finally signed up for Twitter, and after I began using it I began to understand the value of it. With a service like Twitter, the more people that are using it, the more valuable it becomes.

About the same time I signed up for a Twitter account, I also signed up for a Plurk account. After a few visits to the Plurk website over a period of a month or two, I haven’t been back to the site since.

I believe what is valuable about Twitter is that 140 character limit per Tweet, forcing people to be succinct with their wording. Twitter and Tweet are cute names. The site design is simple, the blue bird logo pleasing to the eye, and the developers kept the API and name open to other developers, allowing an entire ecosystem of ancillary products and services to develop around it at the same time it was rapidly increasing in popularity. Twitter is very much like chat, which was already well established, but it had the added value that it either could be in real time, or not, able to be accessed from a vast array of devices beyond the Twitter website. Twitter also allows you to subscribe to just the people you want, and ignore or even completely block the rest. Twitter also allows you to reach out and touch people, and it allows you to monitor what others are up to whose lives are at once very similar to your own, yet often radically different. You can spend as much or as little time as you wish interacting with the service. Another thing that turned out to be incredibly useful with twitter is the vast 24/7 real-time data stream that it generates. Real-time Twitter data mining has proved to be quite valuable to many people.

To be honest I have always thought that many MySpace pages were often monstrous, unbelievably cluttered messes that often took a long time to load. Nonetheless, MySpace became popular because it obviously served a need with a younger demographic.

I’ve always thought Facebook’s interface is somewhat confusing, though allowing for far less cluttered and confusing-looking profile pages. I still don’t quite understand what got Facebook to the level of critical popularity – perhaps the less-cluttered, faster-loading profile pages gave it the critical edge over MySpace.

It should also be noted that Facebook allowed for an open API, allowing a myriad of interesting and often useful applications to be plugged in to its interface.

However it did it, Facebook managed to get to a critical mass of users where it became THE thing to sign up for and THE place to be to stay connected with family, friends and business associates. Something interesting has happened with Facebook that has never happened before – everyday, non-geek people who had never built website profiles in all the years they had been doing email and web browsing were suddenly signing up for Facebook in unbelievable numbers. Mothers, dads, aunts, uncles, grandmothers, etc. were suddenly showing up on the same service with their kids, nieces, nephews and grandkids. Once the ball rolled, Facebook became an incredible success.

I started noticing a while back that many people were starting to use Twitter and Facebook to communicate with each other in lieu of email. At this point I find myself getting pulled into that trend myself. These services don’t offer the relative privacy of direct email, but they allow for easy, frequent public conversations and easy sharing of personal media such as photos between friends and family on a global scale.

What I take away from the success stories versus the less-successful competitors is that oftentimes the differences in design and implementation can be slight, but those slight differences can offer real, tangible advantages to the end user. If those often-slight advantages can somehow help get the product or service to a critical mass threshold, they can find themselves catapulted to the point of planetary awareness.

Fastest Passenger Train

Posted by Andrew at 10:23 AM on January 31, 2010

This might’ve been overlooked during the Christmas / CES / Google v. China period but China launched the world’s fastest passenger train, the Harmony Express, at the end of December.

The trains go 1069 km (664 miles)  from Guangzhou to Wuhan in around three hours with a top speed of 394 km/h (that’s 245 mph).  For the purposes of comparison, Japan’s Shinkansen train manages 300 km/h (186 mph) and France’s TGV 279 km/h (173 mph).  The Acela Express in the USA reaches just 240 km/h (150 mph).

China is in the middle of an ambitious railway building programme with the aim of increasing the network from 86 000 km to 120 000 km.  This particular link cost US$17bn and took only four years to build.  The eventual plan is to link Beijing in the North with Guangzhou in the South and close to Hong Kong with a 2,000 km high-speed line.

For all the gricers out there, you’ve a new one to spot.

There are some photos at the Daily Mail.

Change the Future

Posted by Andrew at 6:44 AM on November 5, 2009

The Science Museum, London, is celebrating a century of science and as part of the festivities, it asked visitors to vote for the scientific discovery or invention that most “changed the future”.  The ten objects it put forward were:

1. Apollo 10 Capsule
2. DNA Double Helix
3. Electric Telegraph
4. Model T Ford
5. Penicillin
6. Pilot ACE Computer
7. Steam Engine
8. Stephenson’s Rocket
9. V2 Rocket Engine
10. X-ray Machine

And the winner was……the X-ray Machine, beating penicillin and the DNA double helix into 2nd and 3rd place respectively.  The discovery of X-rays in 1895 by Wilhelm Roentgen started a new era of medical diagnosis allowing medics to see inside living people without relying on surgery.  Today, the descendants of these first X-ray machines can almost measure what we think.

Amazingly, the particular X-ray machine shown was developed at home in under a year by Russell Reynolds while he was still at school.  He was assisted by his father, a general practitioner, and another inventor William Crookes.

Although some doctors were quick to pick up on the new invention it wasn’t until the 1920s that X-ray machines were widely used in medicine.

Making The Modern World is a complementary web site containing over a hundred scientific discoveries which helped shape civilisation.  Worth a browse.

What inventions today will have such an impact when we look back from 2109?

Changing Out to a New Computer

Posted by J Powers at 12:12 AM on August 19, 2009

I told myself a long time ago that I would only upgrade my main computer if a new one could triple the performance. It would be so I don’t sit and waste money every year just to buy a machine that was a few MHz faster than the previous one. I know I can get by with an increase in RAM, an updated hard drive or new video card.

This machine was 6 times better.

The kicker was that I was trying to do video on the old machine and it would take forever. I was sitting there waiting for items to load…. and load…. and zzzzzzzzzz… huh? oh. It’s still loading.

WARNING – GEEKY STUFF AHEAD: The new machine is an AMD Phenom II 945 with DDR3 support. The processor is a Quad-core – 3.0 GHz processor. It has a 6 MB L3 Cache. With the AM3+ board (The M4A78T-E from ASUS), this machine  will power through what I need. With the 2 PCIx slots (yes, I said 2) for the connection of ATI’s CrossFireX technology, along with the build in dual video support and HDMI support, this could easily become a fully functional home theater.  I even have a USB. Firewire AND eSata port on the back, so it can connect to my favorite storage drive and back up data.

WARNING – ENVIRONMENTAL STUFF AHEAD: The best part about this proc / board combo is that it runs at 140W. Add a hard drive and DVD RW: You are looking at 190 Watts to run this computer. My other machine took almost twice as much to run. I have a 450 W power supply which will be perfect for this.

I am also not a high – end gamer, so those of you looking for better frame rates and overclocking will probably be laughing at this.  Still, if I want to change out the heatsinks, double the power supply and put in 2 high end dual graphics cards to build a computer video wall, then at least I have the computer to do it.

The best part is I might be able to knock 3 computers down to 1 (if I wanted). I will most likely have 2 in the end, though.

Being that I have had the previous machine for 3 years now, it has complied with the George Carlin comedy skit and accumulated a lot of “Stuff”. Even half-way through it’s use I reloaded XP because of a hardware crash – yet there still seems to be a lot of data I have to account for.

Therefore it’s a slow process of loading and configuring, then bringing over the large amount of data. The last machine was still running all EIDE drives; 2 of them were on a EIDE controller in which I striped the data amongst the two disks. The 320 GB was perfect for 2006, not so much for 2009. Therefore, 4 – 500 GB SATA drives are in order.

Yes, I said 500 GB drives. Why? Well simply put, even though I read that Terrabyte drives are reliable, tech friends say they see too many RMA’s on the drives. While I do not have to worry about petabytes of data just yet, I want to make sure my machine will survive for a while. When I see the repair requests go down, I’ll get a TB for an external drive.

Once I have all programs loaded, then I will set aside time to bring over the big programs. Changing data. My websites – for example. That way I don’t have mismatched data across 2 computers.

I still have a long ways to go before I am done swapping out the machine. I might even have a hard time trying to find the software and reg keys I used so long ago. By the end of the week, though, the switch should be complete. Then comes the fun chore of….

Backing Up:  I did it before I started moving data around and I will do it when it’s all complete. Acronis will get the task of imaging the drive. I will also use an external to back up all data on a regular basis. That way, if any major failure occurs, I can restore ASAP.

Operating Systems: Right now, it’s XP. Windows 7 will have it’s own partition, as well as Ubuntu. The system comes with ExpressGate – a quick loading OS for easy Skype, web browsing or media playing. But will I Hackintosh the system? Well, the board comes with ATI graphics. There is a version out there that does let you use ATI, so I’ll have to see about that.

So not only could this replace 3 of my computers, it could also replace my TV. It’s really interesting to see how far we’ve come with technology. Yet the real question is: “Where will computers be when they triple this new system?” One can only drool right now….

Add Cat Litter to Your Toolbox

Posted by fogview at 8:27 AM on May 15, 2009

You may be wondering what cat litter has to do with tech. Let me explain.

A few months ago my T-Mobile G1 phone took a spill when I was on a photo assignment shooting Yosemite National Park. It Android-g1had been raining the day before and my G1 fell right into a puddle of water. I quickly picked it up and wiped it off, but it was DOA when I turned it on. I removed the battery and placed it under the car heater on the way home. When I got home I used a blow dryer to tried to remove any moisture that may have found it’s way inside, but it was still dead. I let it sit for a week and still nothing.

Most phones these days have a little paper sticker inside the battery compartment that changes color when exposed to moisture. I looked inside and sure enough the sticker had changed, dashing my hopes of returning the phone with the excuse that “it just stopped working.” I remembered a tip I heard about sticking the phone in cat litter to help absorb the moisture. I figured I had nothing to lose, so I wrapped the phone in a towel and stuck it in our half-full cat litter container. Two days later I pulled out the phone, inserted the battery, crossed my fingers and turned it on. To my delight the screen came alive and was functional again — well almost functional. Everything seemed to work except I could tell the screen wasn’t quite right. There looked to be a few bubbles which I assume was water inside the display. I removed the battery and stuck it back in the cat litter for a few more days. When I turned it on this time, everything looked good and the water under the display was gone.

Our cat doesn’t care much about tech and ignores most things after her initial investigation, but lately she does have more than a passing interest in my G1 phone. Maybe my interest in gadgets is finally rubbing off on her after all these years.

My tip to you if you find yourself in a similar situation is to remove the battery, shake out any water, dry it off and place it a container of cat litter for a week. I was taking a risk powering it up after I knew it still had water inside, so I was very lucky. Next time it’s going straight into the litter.

73’s, Tom

Free Broadband, Part 4,892

Posted by Matthew Greensmith at 7:22 AM on September 3, 2008

Another company is proposing to offer free broadband everywhere. M2Z is gathering venture capital funding and preparing to bid on next year’s auction of the advanced wireless services-3 spectrum. I wish them luck.

Their business model, based on getting the spectrum in the first place, indicates deployment by late 2009, with ultimately 95% of the country covered by their ad-supported, free wireless broadband at speeds of up to 768 kbs, almost twice as fast as current wireless broadband offerings. They also intend to offer “premium” services of 3-6 mbps for the low low cost of $20 a month.

Sounds good to me, as I sit and write my check out for 3 mbps monthly through ATT DSL and it’s a lot higher than $20.

Of course, the telcos and current wireless providers are crying foul. They don’t want to compete with free. It might force them to offer higher speeds at more reasonable costs. As it is, I’ve long believed that the telcos and cable companies are gouging the market with their high rates and low speeds, while profiting (and pocketing) plenty of my hard-earned cash. The model should allow for infrastructure building to increase speeds and lower costs, not line someone’s pocket. The capitalist society we live in, however, lives and breathes to make money, not provide service, and the customers are stuck with whatever is being offered to them.

I am reminded of a question I used to ask students in software classes: “What is Microsoft in the business of?” I’d get a lot of answers, but never the right one. Microsoft is in the business of making money. They aren’t in the software business. They are in the business of making money. It is the same with the telcos and cable companies. “Free” and “useful” and “fast” don’t fit in their frame of reference.

I’ll be interested to see if M2Z can get up and running.

IOGEAR’s Wireless USB to VGA kit

Posted by Matthew Greensmith at 9:32 AM on August 26, 2008

I so want one of these. I can think of half-a-dozen applications I could use this for.

It has a range of up to 30 feet and can stream whatever you want from your desktop/laptop pc to any monitor/television with a VGA port.

I have one of those. My kids are begging me to add another cable box in the downstairs office where their computers are, and I’m resisting. This would probably save me the hassle; all they’d need to do is use the nice spare television with the VGA port and watch their DVD’s from one of the computers on a screen big enough for all of them to see. Not to mention they can have a heck of a time with their Youtube travels.

The price is a bit steep, but it would solve a few problems for me, especially since our house seems to be the “koolaid house.” You know, the house where all the kids hang out.