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


Say Goodbye to the DVD Player

Posted by J Powers at 10:52 AM on December 23, 2013

DVD

I remember getting my first DVD player and the movie “The Waterboy”. I also remember streaming my first movie in “Hulk”. Years since, people have debated about losing the tangible disc and moving to streaming. Eventually we knew the DVD would become a thing of the past. As technology improved and new devices came out this year, we may have seen the last viable use for the DVD. Here is why:

Blockbuster

Blockbuster

Blockbuster Goes Bye-Bye, Streaming Video Grows

Blockbuster video rentals closed up in November. This was after a long run and competing with Netflix, followed by Red Box machines. When DISH network bought out Blockbuster, they gave it a home. Its apparent that DISH didn’t want to get into the physical video rental business. So the doors closed.

Netflix tried to close their DVD rental doors a couple years ago with the whole Qwikster debacle — a move that almost killed the company. Somehow they came back stronger than ever, pushing more streaming TV shows and introducing quality shows like House of Cards and Orange is the New Black. Add to that promotions — such as the launch of Chromecast: Netflix gave 3-month subscriptions to the first buyers.

I have to admit, I still have my Netflix subscription…

Since Netflix switch to TV show-based content over movies, newer movies take a lot longer to show up on the service. That is where Amazon is leading the pack. You can rent or own the home digital rights of a movie or TV show instead of going down to the store and picking up the box.

Well, at least, kinda…

This last week Disney made Amazon pull back owners rights of holiday movies. It brought up some issue about if you actually own a video. Will that stop millions from buying movies? Probably not.

ChromeCast

Streaming Getting Better

Google Chromecast did two things. They brought the streaming app device down to an affordable price (not that it wasn’t already with the Apple TV and Roku). Chromecast also extended the life of older LCD TVs.

Instead of spending hundreds of dollars on TV’s with apps inside, they could get a cheaper TV and a set top box to run their content. Sure, the TV is not 1080p 120 Hz, but how many homes care about that type of quality? Especially if the TV is in the bedroom or even since our generation spent years staring at a Cathode Ray Tubes with full satisfaction.

Ultimately, they just want to get Chromecast and Netflix, then possibly cut their cable.

Netflix_Web_Logo

Netflix and YouTube in 4K (2160p)

Time to move to bigger and better video quality. 4,000 pixels – or 2160p. At CES, we will definitely be bombarded with 4K television technology — and we will LOVE it.

Even though some home theater experts have adopted 4K, home Internet speeds don’t really take into account 4K streaming just yet. A 4K video will take 6-12 Mbps connection. DSL won’t be able to handle that, especially if you surf and watch at the same time.

Nonetheless, we move forward. Netflix announced earlier their popular “House of Cards” series will be shot and streamed in 4K. YouTube already has 4K video available, although if you try to stream via Roku or Chromecast, it will most likely try to push the 720p version first. 

iPad 2 Smart Cover

Tablets, Game Consoles, Computers Go DVD-less

Even the computer is losing the DVD drive. Current Mac models don’t come with any type of optical drive. Tablets and smartphones also are disc-free. As desktops lose ground to tablets, the DVD will join the floppy disk, Zip drive and tape backup.

The Pawn Shop Effect

The best way to watch the DVD market is to watch the resale of the DVD. Major chain Pawn America runs a special on Tuesdays for DVDs. In May, they started special events where DVD movies only cost $1.

While newer titles might fetch your more, if you pawn a DVD title, they will most likely buy it at .10 cents so they can make .90 cents.

With all these factors (along with others such as DVR technology and flash drives), 2014 looks to be the year we finally lay the DVD optical disc format to rest. Blu-Ray discs still have value, but the DVD player will definitely be placed with the old TV and VCR down in the basement or garage.

USB Type-C Standard to Remove Annoying “2-Flip” Rule to Insert USB Plug

Posted by J Powers at 9:11 AM on December 5, 2013

USBYou know the 2-flip USB rule. The USB plug won’t work, so you flip it. It still doesn’t work so you flip it again. Then it plugs right in.

Well that is all going to change.

The USB Implementers Forum announced they are working on a new plug that will work however you plug it in. Other features will include a smaller size plug and the connector design will scale for future USB bus performance. You can read it all on USB Implementers Forum document.

Smaller Type-C connectors will be an advantage to newer and smaller tablets, phones and notebooks. Alex Peleg, Vice President of platform Engineering at Intel stated his excitement over the device. He believes this will become a great all-in-one plug and the “only connector one will need across all devices.”

Current USB 3.0 standards can transfer at speeds of 5 Gbit/s. As compared to Thunderbolt 1, which can do 10 Gbit/s per channel (20 Gbit/s total).

This new connector could show up as early as mid-2014 when the USB 3.1 specification is expected to be completed.

Did You Get Your iPad on Black Friday?

Posted by J Powers at 10:52 AM on November 29, 2013

Target-Black-FridayApple was pretty secretive on their Black friday sale. Target seemed to be the best option for an iPad this week and people stood in line for their black friday deal as early as 8 PM Thursday night. So did you get a new iPad Air or iPad mini?

After scouring the ads, I chose to stand in line at Target last night. They offered a $100 gift card with purchase of an iPad Air or $75 for an iPad mini. I got there at 7:50 expecting about 25-30% of the crowd was heading toward the iPad line.

Walmart offered $100 gift cards for iPad mini. Best Buy also had a gift card deal. Apple store only had a $75 card, didn’t advertise their deals and also didn’t give any deal for a Retina mini. So hopefully the 20% waiting in front of me for iPads won’t deplete the inventory too bad.

Once the doors opened, the line moved quicker than a one horse open sleigh. Of course, that was the first line. The second line was the true wait – people anxious for their iPads for the holidays.

What was interesting was the people I talked to in line already had iPads. This was either an upgrade or they wanted to get a second tablet for their families. One person was waiting for a Nexus 10 tablet, but decided to get the iPad as well.

Target was also ready for this event as most people got the iPad they wanted. They did run out of 16 GB iPad Air at about 9:30 PM. I was in line for a 32 GB model anyway and I saw a lot of iPad minis getting sold, too.  You could even get 2nd and 4th generation iPads that night.

I tweeted VegasBill during the event, who also was waiting in a Target store line in Vegas. I shouted out “This is what it will look like in a couple hours”.

I don’t normally do Black Friday. Those years I did, I was always disappointed because it was 4 in the morning and we would have to wait 6-8 weeks for rebates of specials.

This year was a bit different. I wasn’t too upset on the 2+ hour wait and I got the iPad Air I was looking for. Best part – I got a gift card which I could use at that moment if I wanted.

I did suggest that next year Target should talk with Starbucks and get a mobile barista to stand at the iPad line selling coffee…

College Humor Shows Us How to Make a Tech Commercial

Posted by J Powers at 8:58 AM on August 29, 2013

CollegeHumor’s Favorite Funny Videos

When I’m watching a commercial for a new tech device, I’m looking for an ad that’s fun. Thats cool.

Thats edited way to fast – fast- fast

With a lot of lines repeated a bunch, just like that – like that

And starring young professionals with creative jobs – jobs your not even sure exist.

I’m a wicker-weaver!

I’m looking for a commercial that uses words like – now – emotion – global – 相互接続した(Interconnected)

Spoken totally out of context – or in unison while laughing! Fast!

I want an ad with diversity. Because it doesn’t matter if you’re a guy – or a girl. White – or black.

I want to see lots of small businessmen and women, like architects – gardeners – bakers – bakers – a whole lot of bakers – or at least someone holding a baguette, like me.

I’m looking for a commercial set to an Indy rock song, one that uses a lot of accordion – or glockenspiel –  or this instrument (pan flute).

Most of all, I’m just looking for a good product… shot. One with kids – cute kids, though.

Hey guys, can you see me? Hi! I miss you!

And a soldier. You know – emotional s**t.

Thats what will get ME to buy a smartphone – or a wearable computer – or a website that finally puts me in the driver seat – Whatever that means.

One more baker – and a logo without text.

College-Humor-Tech-Logo

Drones that Deliver Pizza

Posted by JenThorpe at 4:02 PM on June 4, 2013

Dominos Pizza logoDomino’s Pizza is experimenting with the idea of delivering your pizza to you via drones (instead of drivers). The “DomiCopter” is a manned drone that was created through a partnership between a digital media company called T and Biscuits and a company called Aerosight that makes Heli-cam drones that are designed to be used for filming and photography. Both are UK companies.

There is potential that the “DomiCopter” could turn out to be nothing more than a way to attract attention to Domino’s Pizza. (In other words, it might be just a PR stunt). In the United States, there are Federal Aviation Administration rules that specifically do not allow companies to fly an experimental drone for commercial purposes.

The Oppikoppi Festival, which takes place in South Africa, is intending to use drones to deliver beer to people who are in a crowd at the music festival. The idea is to prevent people from having to walk away from the stage where a band is playing whenever they want to buy a beer. Instead, the drones are supposed to drop the beer from the sky to the person who ordered it.

It will be interesting to see how that works out. Drones that deliver beer. Drones that deliver pizza. What’s next?

This video shows the “DomiCopter” in action.

Drones that Deliver Beer

Posted by JenThorpe at 6:39 PM on May 11, 2013

bigstock-Beverage-Series-Beer-110434The Oppikoppi Festival has been taking place in South Africa every year since 1995. It is a big music festival. For this year, the 19th year of the festival, they are going to be trying something new to help distribute beer to the people who attend.

According to HypeBot the festival will make use of small drones that will deliver beer directly to the person who ordered it. He or she won’t have to walk away from the music, and stand in a long line, in order to purchase a beer.

Instead, a small, 8-propeller helicopter drone, that has been loaded with beer, will fly over the festival and locate the person who ordered a beer. The drone will then drop a single beer, which has been attached to a small parachute. Use your smartphone to order the beer, and stay put. The beer will come to you!

This year, the Oppikoppi festival planners are intending to have people hand guide the drones. In other words, the drones won’t be functioning without a human guiding them along behind the scenes. If things work out well, there is potential that other large, outdoor, music festivals may decide to use some beer delivery drones.

Image by Stock Photo Beverage Series Beer by BigStock

Team of Girls Become Finalists With “Arrive” App

Posted by JenThorpe at 4:46 PM on May 5, 2013

TechnovationThe Technovation Challenge began in 2009. It is run by Iridescent, which is a 501c3 non-profit company. The purpose of the Technovation Challenge is to give girls the opportunity to learn how to start a company and become high-tech entrepreneurs.

Teams of five (or more) high school girls can enter. All they need is “a safe place to meet, a laptop with internet and a smart phone”. It doesn’t cost any money to enter the Challenge. A curriculum is provided to the teams to help them through the process. Every year, a theme is selected for the Technovation Challenge. For 2013, girls needed to develop an app that solves a problem in their local community. They can focus on a health problem, a social problem, or a lack of resource.

This year, there were 115 submissions. You can check out a complete list of the finalists. One that caught my attention is a team from The Nightingale-Bamford School in New York City. The team of high school girls have created an app called “Arrive”.

The purpose of the app is to allow girls to use their smart phones to check into school. Administrators can use the app to view student attendance by class and last name. Parents can opt-in to having the app send them a text message when their daughter arrives at school.

This would replace the school’s current check in system, which uses plastic ID cards and countless paper attendance sheets. Instead of having students gather around one check in point, “Arrive” would let them scan a QR code (which can be placed in many locations). The video below shows the girls as they explain more about what “Arrive” will do.

FTC Announces Winners of Robocall Challenge

Posted by JenThorpe at 5:32 PM on April 3, 2013

bigstock-robot-group-26063990Nobody likes robocallers, including the Federal Trade Commission. Last year, in October, the FTC launched the Robocall Challenge. The purpose was to have innovators create solutions that would block illegal robocalls.

The winners have now been announced. Nomorobo won for “Best Overall Solution”. Say the name Nomorobo out loud, and it sounds a lot like “no more robo”. It was created by Aaron Foss, who is a software developer.

There is a video on the Nomorobo website that explains how it works. It has been designed to work with existing technologies and will block illegal robocalls. It is a cloud based solution that does not require normal callers to have to enter PIN’s or CAPTCHAs.

There is another winner for “Best Overall Solution”. It has a long name: Robocall Filtering System and Device with Autonomous Blacklisting, Whitelisting, GrayListing and Caller ID spoof detection. It was created by Serdar Danis, who is a computer engineer. The two winners of “Best Overall Solution” will split the $50,000 prize.

The FTC also selected a Federal Trade Commission Technology Achievement Award winner. The winner was a solution called: Crowd-sourced Call Identification and Suppression. It was created by Daniel Klein and Dean Jackson. They are both Google engineers. There is no monetary prize for this award.

Image Stock Photo Robot Group by BigStock

Is Your Subaru a Self-Starter?

Posted by JenThorpe at 9:29 PM on March 7, 2013

Subaru logoCars that suddenly start themselves might sound like something out of a novel by Stephen King. Its a creepy concept! Your car, a man made object that definitely is not sentient, somehow develops the ability to start itself and run its engine via unknown means. This is the type of thing one expects to see in scary movies, not in real life.

Yet, that is exactly what has happened. Subaru is recalling 47,419 vehicles in the United States that have become “self-starters”. The recall affects some Legacy and Outback cars from the model years 2010 through 2013. It also affects Impreza sedans from 2012 through 2013 and XV Crosstrek crossover vehicles from 2013. This information comes to me from Reuters, who got it from documents filed from the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

How are these vehicles able to start themselves? The answer has nothing to do with magic or the supernatural. Instead, it is due to an unexpected quirk in the remote starter key fob. Dropping the key fob can result the vehicle’s engine starting – even if the ignition button on the fob was not pressed. The engine can then run for up to 15 minutes. It is also reported that the vehicle can continue to start, and stop, all by itself until either the battery in the key fob dies or the vehicle finally runs out of gas.

If you are the owner of one of these creepy vehicles that has gained the ability to start itself, you should be getting a letter from Subaru shortly. They will replace the remote starter fob at no charge. The recall only affects vehicles in which Subaru of America remote starter accessory kits have been installed. The recall will begin in April.

When I think about the key fobs that let drivers start their vehicles remotely, it makes me think of convenience. It lets a person warm up his or her car before they have to get in and drive to work. After learning about the Subaru recall, I’m going to be wondering how many “zombie” vehicles were out there, spontaneously starting themselves, in the wee hours of the night.

Hyundai’s Technology BlueLink and More

Posted by KL Tech Muse at 8:45 PM on February 26, 2013

Bluelink Hyundai showed off a lot of technology at CES 2013, BlueLink, haptic control, gesture control, face recognitions, advance heads up display and connectivity with your smart device. The infrared motion sensor, senses distance, motion and proximity. It allows you to change things with just hand gestures.  You can even reconfigure your gear cluster. They are also working on eye tracking software that can warn the driver if they are falling the asleep. They are developing face recognition software that would prevent the car from being stolen plus make things better for the driver.  When you buy a car a profile is set up for you and anyone else that is going to drive the car. When a person gets in the driver seat if the car recognizes that person (they have a profile) it will adjust the seat position, audio and climate control to the person’s preference based on their profile. If someone tries to steal the car and the car doesn’t recognize the person the car will not start or do anything.

It uses MHL Protocol to connect to your smart phone. Everything is in real-time. Navigation is projected on the windshield, so the driver can see the directions without ever having to take their eyes off the road. BlueLink Telematic System allows things to be  reconfigured remotely from an app, the web or using the in-car system. You can reconfigure heating, air conditioning, gage cluster, fan position and power. It keeps track of the health of the car and whether it needs maintenance. It can even tell you where your car is located when you lose your car in the parking lot of a mall. It is like putting remote start on steroid.

You can find more information about BlueLink and other Hyundai technology at the BlueLink website and the Hyundai website.

Interview by Allante Sparks of F5 Live.

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