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


Enhance the Movie Experience

Posted by Andrew at 4:35 PM on July 19, 2012

Movie & Meal DealEver since the motion picture first burst onto the silver screen, people have wanted to enhance the cinematic experience. From 3D and IMAX to Smell-O-vision, just about every trick in the book has been used to make you feel part of the film, rather than an outside observer. To this fine canon of techniques, UK retailer Tesco and on-line movie service blinkbox are adding….food.

For their “Movie & Meal Deal“, Tesco and blinkbox commissioned top neuroscientist, Dr. Jack Lewis, to study the effects of active ingredients on people’s brains and then suggest food types that complement the movie-watching experience. His findings gave Tesco and blinkbox the perfect, if somewhat unusual, combinations for the ultimate movie night in.

Dr. Lewis reckons these foods match the movie genres.

  • Action – Sun-dried tomatoes coated in cocoa powder will raise noradrenaline which is instrumental to sensations of excitement
  • Comedy –  Fresh fish stuffed with beetroot and coleslaw to supplement the nitric oxide system and improve dopamine availability in the pleasure pathways of your brain
  • Drama – Chopped lemon, lime and mint sandwich drizzled with chilli sauce on wholewheat bread to trigger the RAS (reticular activating system) to remain alert and focused.
  • Horror – Chicken marinated in freshly brewed coffee will take you out of your comfort zone and raise levels of anxiety
  • Romance – Curl up with a spicy curry (not chocolate!) to top up your libido-stoking testosterone levels

Everyone knows that certain drugs can change the way you feel, but the chemicals we take into our bodies through our diet can also have an effect on our mood,” says Dr. Jack Lewis “Choosing to eat certain foods, whilst leaving others out, regulates the availability of ‘raw materials’ that the brain’s chemical messengers are created from. This means that you can tailor your meals to create the perfect mood for a movie night in, no matter what the genre.

The “Move & Meal Deal” is a partnership between Tesco and blinkbox: buy a variety of food and drinks from Tesco and then rent a blinkbox new release movie for just £2 instead of the usual price of £3.49.

Me, I think I’ll stick to popcorn.

iPPea TV Bring Android ICS to the TV

Posted by Alan at 5:12 PM on July 9, 2012

When you think of Android on a TV then you probably think of Google TV, the line of set top boxes that run a dedicated version of Android that is made specifically for the living room.  However, MIPS Technologies, Inc. has announced a new dongle that will bring native Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) to every TV that has an HDMI port, which is pretty much any TV made in the past five years.

The iPPea TV is thumb drive-like device that plugs into an HDMI port and brings the full Android apps catalog to the living room.  This means video and audio streaming, social apps, and games, among other things.  For this functionality, the maker has set the MSRP at $50.

“The tiny iPPea TV is a fully-functioning Android super micro PC that connects to the cloud, accesses a broad range of websites and apps, and delivers a high-quality entertainment experience,” said iPPea CEO Amanda Senkowski. “We are delighted to be using the MIPS-Based Ingenic processor, which provides all of the advantages of an industry-standard architecture, including a broad ecosystem of supporting tools and software. And because of its inherent power efficiency, the device can be fully powered by a standard USB port — such as those available on most DTVs. Also, unlike many competitive PC offerings, no heat sink is necessary in the iPPea TV device.”

Features included:

  • MIPS-Based(TM) XBurst(TM) CPU running at 1.2 GHz
  • Android 4.0.3
  • 802.11b/g/n Wifi
  • USB 2.0
  • 2GB storage with support for up to 32GB external storage via a microSD slot
  • support for 1080p HD video and most popular audio/video formats, and other advanced functionality.

In addition, they are making several useful accessories available at reasonable prices.    There is a wireless gyro mouse, USB LAN Adapter and HDMI extension cable for prices ranging from $8 to $22.  You can find out, as well as place a pre-order, by visiting iPPea.

TEDxBelfast 2012

Posted by Andrew at 11:48 PM on June 7, 2012

TEDxBelfastAt TEDxBelfast last night I was inspired by the stories of individuals who passionately believed in an idea and then made that idea a reality. From working with autistic children to building a new arts centre, these people all made a difference. Presented in Titanic Belfast in front of the replica of the famous staircase, it was an unforgettable evening.

Titanic Staircase

As with all TED conferences, the presentations will be posted on-line but that will take a week or two before they are ready. In  the meantime, these are the speakers, their stories and how they made a difference.

David Maxwell of Tyrone Timberframes presented his work with Habitat for Humanity in building highly energy-efficient homes that have no central heating. The significant cost of fossil fuel-based energy can be a big factor in poverty and these homes can save the inhabitants over £1000 per year.

Maureen Murphy, Director of Aurion Learning, grabbed attention with the headline that 70% of training was wasted and proposed an innovative way of providing effective training using the acronym ASSAULT. One of the best bits was that of story-based approach that hooked the learner and got them more emotionally involved.

Fransuer Makula grew up in the slums of Kenya but is now a teacher in a prestigious school in Northern Ireland. Describing the harsh reality of existence as a street child, where death is commonplace, he related how the children dared to dream big. In the midst of utter poverty, these children wanted to grow up as doctors, nurses and lawyers. Fransuer established “Jengana” to help orphans, street children and schools in West Kenya.

Colleen Hardwick, billed as an urban geographer and serial entrepreneur from Vancouver, laid out the loss of personal engagement in democracy. The statistics she presented on the fall of voter turnout over the past few decades were shocking. To counteract the anonymous global nature of the web, she’s developed PlaceSpeak, a community-based website that lets local people be authenticated as stakeholders in local issues without necessarily giving up that anonymity.

Next was an absolute gem…acoustic guitar duo Declan McKerr and Andy Toman, aka Gypsy’s Wish, serenaded TEDxBelfast, equipped with a brand-new George Lowden guitar. His guitars are world-famous with owners such as Eric Clapton and Mike Oldfield. Sublime.

Following a musical theme, Chris Blake, Principal Horn with the Ulster Orchestra, talked about the work he’d done with autistic children and the therapeutic value of music. The results were truly ground-breaking, increasing the evidence between autism and musicality.

Dr Nigel Hart took us all on a trip to the peaks and Mt Everest in particular in his talk on Mountains, Medicine and Mantras. Clearly a keen mountaineer, he combined his medical training with his passion to investigate the effects of hypoxia on humans at altitude. During his climb to the top of the world, he had to rescue another climber who had collapsed. Apt for many shared endeavours, his response to the famous climbing question was not, “Because it’s there” but rather, “It’s not the height or the distance, it’s the people you travel with.”

Anne McReynolds, CEO of the Belfast Metropolitan Arts Centre, had TEDxBelfast captivated by her struggle to get a world-class arts centre built in Belfast. Starting in 1996 and finally opening in 2012, it’s an amazing story of architects and artists (“good clients get good buildings”), buildings and space. If you want to build an arts centre, Anne should be the first person you talk to.

Colin Williams of Sixteen South tackled the “Can’t Do” attitude that has often afflicted Northern Ireland with a great story of “Can Do” success. It’s likely that you’ll never have heard of Sixteen South, a children’s TV production company but if you have kids under five you’ll have heard of Sesame Tree, Big City Park, Pajanimals, and Big & Small. Working with the BBC and The Jim Henson Company, Sixteen South produces these great TV programmes here in Northern Ireland. Fantastic.
Colin’s business plan was pretty clever too. “Do some good, make some money, have some fun.” Good advice for anyone.

Chris Horn completed the speaker line-up with his inspiration for Dublin’s Science Gallery, an exhibition space that takes a creative and artistic approach to the presentation of science and related issues. By taking the traditional remit of a science museum and combining it with the changing presentation of an art gallery, the Science Gallery is an innovation in itself that has proved tremendously successful. So much so that Google recently awarded the Science Gallery $1m to setup other Galleries around the world.

Overall, it was a great evening, with inspirational speakers in a fantastic setting. Thanks also to Davy Sims and Gary Burnett and Mark Finlay for organising #TEDxBelfast.

FlixFling and Orb are About to Release FlixFling TV

Posted by JenThorpe at 1:11 AM on March 24, 2012

FlixFling and Orb Networks have gotten together to offer something that sounds really interesting. They are combining FlixFling’s movie subscription service with Orb’s wireless video streaming hardware. This is the very first time time that a service that streams premium content has been bundled with a set-top box.

The package is called FlixFling TV. It gives you FlixFling’s unlimited streaming movie subscription service and the Orb TV Wireless Streaming Media player. When you subscribe for this package, you get a both a membership to FlixFling and a membership to the Orb TV Wireless Streaming Media Player at the same time, for one low monthly fee. In other words, when you subscribe to this package it automatically signs you up for both of them and puts the membership fee for both onto one bill. That’s rather convenient!

FlixFling is an application-based movie streaming service. It is compatible with several popular internet-connected devices including Web, iOS, Android, connected TV, Roku, Orb, and more. It has over 8,000 independent and studio movies for you to watch. Orb Networks is a company that develops hardware and software, smartphone applications, and web application services.

Here’s something else that is pretty cool about this package. FlixFling TV will use FlixFling’s mobile applications for iOS and Android devices and Orb’s AllPlay for Mobile Devices to bring the FlixFling service to any screen. You can use your iOS or Android smart phone, or your tablet, as a remote. AllPlay for Mobile Devices is an open, cross-platform API that enables wireless media streaming. The FlixFling TV bundle will start being available to consumers in April of 2012.

My husband and I are currently using NetFlix. I cannot help but wonder if the movies and television programs that are not on NetFlix might possibly be accessible through FlixFling. We signed up to get streamed content from NetFlix, and we have a computer connected to our television so that we can watch movies on a nice, big, screen.

It can be a bit problematic sometimes when that computer needs to do a software update while we are trying to watch something. It might be interesting to see if the set-top box that comes with the FlixFling TV package would alleviate that particular problem.

The Internet is a Utility

Posted by Andrew at 7:50 AM on March 11, 2012

Router and CablesLast week, I moved to a new Internet Service Provider (ISP). Nothing particularly unusual about that except that I had been with my old ISP, Demon, for nearly twenty years. That’s almost the whole of the my adult life and I’m sure it’s the longest customer relationship I’ve had. To be quite clear, I didn’t leave Demon as a dissatisfied customer and on the contrary, I would recommend them to anyone. So why did I leave?

To answer that, we’ll have to take a little trip down memory lane. Back in the early 90s, the 486DX2 was the CPU of choice, 8 MB was a lot of RAM, 120 MB hard drives were huge and dial-up modems were specialist items. JANET, the UK’s university network was the closest thing to the Internet, and it was email, ftp, telnet, Usenet and gopher. I imagine that some readers will be thinking, “gopher?” Never heard of that.

In 1992 and in an early example of crowdsourcing, Demon ISP was setup by persuading 200 people to pay in advance for a year’s dial-up access. I wasn’t part of that group but after publicity in the leading UK computer magazine at the time, Personal Computer World, I signed up for their £10 a month dial-up service. You had to buy your own modem in those days – no freebie wireless router – but it came with unlimited email addresses, 10 MB of ftp space and Usenet newsgroups.

Demon provided their own email package called Turnpike as this was all pre-Outlook, and a certain level of skill was needed just to get on-line. The connection software was a command line program called KA9Q that was originally amateur radio software. Winsock fortunately arrived shortly afterwards, which made life considerably easier with Windows 3.

One of the great things about Demon in the early days was that the support staff were technical folk too and quickly got the measure of the caller. If you said to them that you were having problems with DNS resolving, they’d understand that you had a reasonable grasp of the problem and work with you, rather than blindly follow the procedure written in the training manual.

Since then there have been many changes in the world of technology, not least the arrival of ADSL broadband, which single-handedly changed the web from geek toy to consumer product. In the end, two things conspired against Demon. The first was free web email such Gmail and Hotmail which meant that I no longer needed my ISP to provide me with an email address. The second was video-on-demand which had the twin impacts of volume and speed. My new ISP, Sky, offers twice the speed of Demon and no data caps for less money. Bit of a no brainer, as they say.

Demon provided a great technical service for geeks 20 years ago, but as the web has become a consumer product, the need for technical features such as ftp space has faded. All that is needed is the connection. The Internet has become a utility like water, gas and electricity, always there and always ready. No understanding of the technology is needed to use it, just as turning on a light doesn’t need knowledge of volts and amps.

I’ve no doubt that Demon has a successful future working with business but I think that the future of the independent ISP in the consumer space is bleak. People will choose consumer brands linked to utilities or telcos – Sky, BT, Virgin, Orange - and get one bill for multiple services at a reduced price…as I did.

Routers and Cables 2” image courtesy of BigStock.

Apple Pursues Perfection

Posted by Andrew at 5:40 PM on March 7, 2012

Apple iPad 3As the Apple roadshow rolls out of town for another few months, I doubt anyone will claim that this was a classic performance. Even the most zealous worshipper has to admit that it was a straightforward and by the numbers presentation with no real surprises. You might even argue that there have been two mediocre events in a row and while it was easy to give Apple a bye last time because of the death of Steve Jobs, this time there’s no such luxury.

What did Apple announce today? An improved set-top box, a faster tablet with a better screen, an OS point release and some jazzed-up software. Hardly big news – Samsung had a better showing last week at MWC by miles.

So what’s gone wrong? Resting on their laurels and counting their considerable cash pile? In a previous post I mentioned that Apple was about perfection, not innovation and today’s event backs this up. Nothing ground-breaking but good solid improvements which undoubtedly will sell well. Not a mis-step, but not a stride forwards either.

To be fair, it’s easy to be armchair critic without contributing anything – what would I’d have considered as new innovations from Apple?

  • iOS Apps on the Apple TV. Not unique to Apple but an interesting step forwards with great potential.
  • Full control of the Apple TV from iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad. What you see on the TV, you see on the device in your hand, making it easy to control.
  • Similar situation but in reverse. Show off your photos or movies from your iPhone or iPad on the Apple TV without cables.
  • Pass running apps between iOS devices. Playing Angry Birds on your iPhone but now want to play the iPad? Pass it on over and continue playing from where you left off.
  • (Inductive charging would be nice, too.)

This would create an even more tightly knitted hardware ecosystem that would encourage owners to be all-Apple, rather than the existing media-orientated ecosystem.

Apple, while you might be raking in the cash, you need to and can do better. Next time round, let’s see some real innovation. Perfection is boring.

Mobile Content Venture: Live TV on the Go with Dyle

Posted by KL Tech Muse at 9:19 PM on February 24, 2012

Mobile Content Venture Somewhere in the back of a closet in a box, I have a portable TV. I use to carry it with me when I went camping or to a ball game. If I wanted to watch TV would simply turn it on and pull out the antenna and I was ready to go. Unfortunately when everything went digital, the TV became useless. Mobile Content Venture has joined with Samsung and Metro PCS, the 5th largest wireless carrier to bring mobile live TV back to the US consumer. The handset is made by Samsung and has an embedded mobile E. DTV tuner. Mobile Content Venture created the software application called Dyle which allows you to watch live TV over the device. Once the device is released in the US it will be available in 14 cities. They hope to expand to up to 32 cities. Depending on your location you can receive up to 6 channels including ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, PBS and ION. You can also use Twitter, Facebook on the device.

If you already have a iOS device, then you might want to consider a Belkin accessory. This is a small dongle which connects to your iOS device using the 30 pin connector. Normally you would need an antenna to watch live TV however Belkin and Mobile Content Venture have developed a way around that problem by making the headphones the antenna. When you are ready to watch TV, just hit the Dyle application and you are ready to go.

At this time there is no pricing or availability date for the US for either of these two devices. The Dyle application will be free and available from the iOS store.

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central and Interview by Jeffrey Powers of Geekazine

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Boxee Shows off Their OTA Device

Posted by Alan at 8:54 PM on February 22, 2012

Boxee announced an over-the-air solution for TV a few months ago, but now the tiny dongle that makes it possible is available on the market.  They were at CES last month to show it off and TPN got a look.  Boxee has become a leader in pulling in internet TV, but they have finally come up with an answer for those looking to watch live content like sports.

You can do this with a PC hooked to your TV and some third-party purchased software, but Boxee wraps it all into your set-top box.  The cool thing here is social recommendations.  You can see what your friends are watching, but only if that is shared information, which is your choice.

You will need the Boxee Box for this new dongle to work, because it won’t work on a computer regardless of the OS.  It’s available now for $49 with no monthly fee.  You can find out more at Boxee.

Interview by Jeffrey Powers of Geekazine.

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The Aging Technology Alliance

Posted by Andrew at 9:08 AM on February 22, 2012

Presto email-to-print serviceThe Aging Technology Alliance (AgeTek) trade association is a group of companies that have products and services to help older people maintain their quality of life and stay in their homes longer. The website is aimed at carers who need stuff to help them look after their Mom or Dad.

On show at the website are a wide range of gadgets, from easy-to-use TV remotes to big button mobile phones. One gadget I hadn’t seen before is the Presto, which prints out emails without a computer. Friends and relatives send an email to the Presto service and instead of the email arriving in an inbox, a printer-like device prints out the email in the person’s home. It only uses an ordinary analogue phone line, so there’s no need for broadband. That’s a good solution for older people in today’s world. I like it.

Interview by Jeffrey Powers of Geekazine and and Andy Smith of Geocaching World.

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Barber Tech SteddiePod

Posted by Andrew at 9:31 AM on February 21, 2012

BarberTech SteddiePodThis is the funniest CES interview I’ve seen (which isn’t saying much, to be honest). Jeffrey and Jamie get a hands-on demonstration of BarberTech‘s SteddiePod by Eddie Barber, which actually looks pretty handy, all joking aside.

The Barber Tech SteddiePod is billed as the “world’s most versatile camera support” and it’s a handheld camera stabiliser with extra features designed in, so it can be used as a tripod or with the boom extended to give overhead shots. The setup looks amazingly straightforward – there’s a good video on the Barber Tech website – and with just a few minutes easy work, the SteddiePod can be accurately balanced for a video camera.

The SteddiePod starts at $499 and is available from dealers nationwide. Barber Tech is “Emmy Award Winning” and has other products such as camera booms and teleprompters for the TV and film industry.

Interview by Jeffrey Powers of Geekazine and Jamie Davies of the MedicCast and the Nursing Show.

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