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Couch-based video games vs. Wii Fit

Thursday, July 31, 2008 by Amber

I don't like playing video games. I know, I'd be shocked, too -- but I just don't have the muscle memory or the dexterity to move a head and body separately, as is needed in first-person shooters like Halo and Call of Duty, nor do I have the patience and physical calm to deal with facing bosses or tough levels, like in the mind-bending Mario Galaxy. And, don't even get me started on timed sequences and countdowns.

But, make no mistake about it, I am a huge video-game fan and proponent. There are few things more fun that curling up on the couch with a notebook, pen and a hot cup of fair-trade coffee and being the RPG navigator while Husband and I discover the latest Zelda chapter, blast through galaxies in Mass Effect or scaring ourselves silly in the beautiful depths of Bioshock. And, in my house, I am the master of solving puzzles. I love Orange Box add-on Portal, and I am absolutely amazing at free XBox-download Hexic, a hexagonal puzzle game similar to Tetris but infinitely cooler.

Alas, every once in a while, it's nice to interact with a game on more than just the intellectual level. Enter the Nintendo Wii -- which, unless you've been living in a hole for the past 2 years, you know as the first system to truly get you up off your butt. The system is currently so popular that its makers can't even guarantee would-be fans will be able to buy a Wii this Christmas -- more than a year after its release -- due to overwhelming U.S. demand. And, now, Nintendo has upped the ante even further with the Wii Fit.

I was one of the first adopters of this completely innovative exercise program, and, though it will surely end up on lost under a couch somewhere gathering dust as it basks in the legacy of being a cool gadgety toy indicative of early 21st century technology -- much like Pong or Pacman -- it's pretty neat right now.

The floor board and a typically Nintendo-cartoony animation leads you through various 2- to 3-minute prop-free activities -- hula-hooping, ski-jumping, jogging beach-side and walking a tight-rope are examples -- made to improve your strength, flexibility, balance and stamina. And, you will break a sweat. It's great to get you or the kids off the couch, and it tracks weight shifts, BMI and goal weight using your predesigned avatar Mii. Granted it's not very good at any of these things aside form the animation and the activities -- according to my Fit, my weight shifted 17 lbs. over 24 hours then back in another 24.

A good fast walk, Sweatin' to the Oldies or a swim will always be better for exercise purposes -- and nothing will ever take the place of a quiet night at home, staying up 'til dawn and blasting aliens on the XBox -- but the Wii Fit is an interesting incarnation of video games that is worth a try if you have the extra cash.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go research the Fall '08-Spring '09 video game releases. We're coming up on the best time of year, and I'll be sure to keep you posted on the best new games as they come out.

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Facebook - The Biggest Lemon Drop on the ‘Net

Wednesday, July 30, 2008 by Amber

This week’s Byte-Sized sweet spot is one most of you already know – Facebook.com.

OK, I know. I’m sorry for being the last person on planet Earth to figure out that this site is pretty f***ing cool – like a sour lemon drop you just can’t get enough of. After resisting every social networking site since the rise of MySpace (which I still think is a silly high school popularity contest not worth my time), I was pulled kicking, screaming and rolling my eyes to my computer chair and forcibly given an account by a friend. Well, to that friend, I want to say thank you, even if it is begrudgingly.

This site can and will make you late for meetings and bleary-eyed with exhaustion, but, best of all, it is also totally laid back and doesn’t have to be something you update 20 times a day and obsess over like an immature bopper looking for validation.

That’s where the appeal is for me – you sign up, do your thing and, voila, the site does the hard stuff – like updating your friends on your current news and keeping you in tune with their goings-on – like whether they plan on attending this weekend’s play or if they are going to skip it and head for the movies. It really can work with minimal effort. It’s added applications are hard to find, but they only add to your enjoyment once you do.

Facebook has been in the news recently for the scandalous Scrabulous lawsuit and, as of yesterday, pulled the application off its site in favor of name-brand game Scrabble, at which I am totally awesome. Go ahead, challenge me.

Anyway, if you’ve decided that now is the time, after years of ridiculing and mistrusting social networking sites (like I did), Facebook.com is the one that I suggest you try out.

There, I’ve said it. Sigh.


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Space travel isn't just for astronauts anymore

Tuesday, July 29, 2008 by Amber

Ever dream of being weightless, floating through the fathoms of space and discovering things never seen by human eyes, but you just don't have the constitution for the training and politics that go into becoming an astronaut? Hmm, got $200,000?

Everyone's favorite gazillionaire mogul Richard Branson has built a commercial plane he dubbed 'Mother Ship' to take travellers up into the upper layers of the atmosphere and, via a specialized self-propelled module he calls SpaceShipTwo, blast them into space, albeit for a brief moment before they plunge back to Earth. I'm squirming just thinking about this, but I'm sure there are people who would and will jump at the opportunity -- so far, more than 100 people have prepaid for the yet-to-be-scheduled flight. A ticket on board this commercial craft, leaving from a desert in New Mexico, will cost $200,000 -- or, $50,000 per minute you are technically in space.

Call me crazy, but I don't think you could pay me the $200,000 ticket fee to even get on board. Not for nothin', but the idea of being confined in a tiny spaceship and being blasted into the deep dark makes me quake, even from the comfort of my relatively stable desk chair. But, kudos to Branson, and congrats to all you rich folk who have the money to buy yourselves a dream come true. As Buzz says, 'To infinity and beyond!

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Does the next-gen search engine measure up?

Monday, July 28, 2008 by Amber

What do you do if you don't want to Google? Until recently, not much.

You could have visited Live.com, a Microsoft-powered search engine that, while fine, isn't as top-of-mind for your company's SEO and doesn't spit back results in quite the same way.

In the end, you sucked it up and Googled anyway, knowing that it's minimal interface was the tipsiest top of a huge iceberg of info that you knew heralded its best-in-class search capabilities.

But is that still true? Launching today is a new competitor search site, Cuil.com, that promises more than 120 billion pages indexed, blowing Google's 40 billion pages out of the 'net's water. According to CNet.com: "... it's pitched as bigger, faster, and better than Google's flagship search engine in pretty much every way."

Let's take a superficial look, shall we? First, I don't care for the name -- it's doesn't roll off the tongue in the same way Google does, especially since I don't know how to pronounce 'Cuil.' Kweel? Anyway, it has the same minimalistic homepage design, but no options for photos or news feeds. Search results are organized very nicely, but in a quick search for 'byte-sized blog,' I show up as No. 7 on Google -- not too shabby -- but I'm not on the first 7 pages of Cuil.

Variety is the spice of life, and it's good to have options for your searching needs. Go check out Cuil.com. You may find you like it more. Me? I'll stick to Google. That toolbar menu in my browser is far too convenient and I love their logo caricatures on holidays. Simple pleasures, my friends.

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StumbleUpon, a treat for web wanderers

Friday, July 25, 2008 by Amber

I’d like to introduce you to a featured segment of this blog highlighting some of the most useful, interesting and just plain cool sites shining in the ‘net’s dusty old corners like sugar pops at Honeydukes. Stay tuned -- these sweet little spots are some of my favorites. Now to our first tasty tidbit ...

Not all who wander are lost. StumbleUpon.com is a sheer delight for both ‘net newbies and pros who just want to amble aimlessly through Venetian-like alleys of the web.

Join its network, type in your interests and you’re whizzed off to a random site it has matched you up with. It’s a great way to discover places and dig into topics just for the fun of it. Trust me, this site is a fabulous time-waster if you are just looking to jump around but you’re tired of Googling wide topics.

This recommendation was brought to you by fellow byte-alicious reader Eliot – thanks for the sweet tip! Know a great site that I should visit? Send me a link and tell me why it’s cool and I may feature it in an upcoming post!


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Doctor hung up on cell phone cancer risk

Thursday, July 24, 2008 by Amber

A doctor in Pittsburgh has issued a warning to his staff at a prominent cancer research facility, asking them to limit their cell phone usage due to a possible cancer risk.

Wait -- don't throw your iPhones out the window just yet. This doctor, while a reputable man, is not making this recommendation on the basis of, well, science. And, not only doesn't he have any data to back up his warning, but the warning contradicts many other studies that have concluded that cancer has nothing to do with cell phones.

Says the AP: 'The warning from Dr. Ronald B. Herberman, director of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, is contrary to numerous studies that don't find a link between cancer and cell phone use, and a public lack of worry by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.'

So, what is the good doctor's rationale for scaring billions of people around the world who live off their cells every day? 'Really at the heart of my concern is that we shouldn't wait for a definitive study to come out, but err on the side of being safe rather than sorry later.'

Says the USA Today: 'He based his warning on early, unpublished data, saying people should take precautions now because it takes too long to get definitive answers from science. '

I pose the question to you, fellow geeks: Is this doctor being responsible and reliable by informing people of what he sees as a possible cancer risk for cell phone use, or is he being incredibly irresponsible for scaring people unnecessarily with no data or studies to back him up?

My thoughts? Hmmm... a doctor who doesn't want to wait for science and issues warnings based on gut feelings and short-term data from uncompleted studies... well smack my knee and call me convinced! Just don't use my cellphone.

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Never tickle a sleeping dragon

Wednesday, July 23, 2008 by Amber

We've all laughed at the commercials. Giggled at cuteness of Justin Long. Begrudgingly admitted that Mac had the leg up on PC as a marketing tool.

But no more. Microsoft is biting back, and it's biting back hard. Redmond is launching a new ad campaign aimed not at disparaging its competitor's products, like Apple does, but at reminding people that, while Apple's white branding and spokespeople are alluring, they are still the little fish in a great big pond.

By thanking its current Vista customers -- who number in the hundreds of millions, going on licences alone -- for giving their business to what is clearly the best OS in the wild right now, Microsoft will quietly bully its way to the front of consumers' minds once again, where it belongs.

You see, the commercials are right -- you're either a Mac person or a PC person (and by PC, I, like Apple, mean Microsoft), and I am a fairly outspoken PC person. I have purposely ignored the iPod, the iPhone and the candy-colored bubbles Apple calls computers. I love my Zune and my Dell as much as I love my right-click button.

I hope Microsoft continues to wake up from its marketing stupor and bites the head off Mac, forcing it into a gadget-only niche market reserved for GPS devices and cellphone manufacturers.

Never tickle a sleeping dragon, lest the dragon remind you why it's a dragon in the first place.

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Welcome to the neighborhood

Tuesday, July 22, 2008 by Amber

Let's give a great, big, Andy's Room welcome to Makemake!

Named for the Polynesian god of humanity and fertility, Makemake (pronounced MAH-keh MAH-keh) joins Eris, Pluto and Ceres as the 4 dwarf planets in our solar system. Apparently it went unnamed for so long because its chemical makeup didn't lend itself well to Earthly mythology, from which all the names for our heavenly bodies are taken. But, its moniker, while very strange, has caught on well and is making the rounds it recent news feeds.

You see, after Pluto was demoted to a dwarf planet (something I don't understand all the fuss about -- did anyone really care that much about Pluto? I mean, aside from a funny Uranus joke every once in a while, those outer planets are a second thought, really), other celestial bodies were upgraded to dwarf planets. Out of those, Ceres is the only one not then further upgraded to a plutoid, which just means that it's orbit isn't big enough.

So, where do all these planets fall in the line-up? It goes... Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Ceres, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto, Eris and Makemake. Wow, that's a mouthful. I feel bad for all those elementary school kids that have to learn that mnemonic device.

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Invisibility cloak closes in on reality

Monday, July 21, 2008 by Amber

A group of researchers is actually perfecting a way to make a human being invisible -- it's nowhere near being ready for action, but it's a lot closer than you'd think our technology was capable of right now. The concept for its use is military, obviously, but let your imagination wander...

Whether its an embarrassing moment (like asking a not-pregnant woman when her baby's due), a sneaky moment (stealing someone's lunch out of the office fridge because you forgot yours) or a bashful moment (wearing your yucky sweats to the mall 'just for a minute,' then running into your ex), we've all wanted to simply disappear every once in a while. Heck, Southwest has built an entire ad campaign around it.

I'm not sure I can wrap my head around the technology being used by the researchers, but it's heavy-duty physics mixed with some biology and chemistry, and the science is getting closer to the cloaking devices seen in science fiction for almost a century -- most recently in Star Trek as a way to hide the Enterprise and in Harry Potter as one of the famed Deathly Hallows.

I know I've had a fair few moments when I've just wanted to just pull a sheet over my head and disappear for a few hours ... There was an incident in a parking lot just before a long road trip a few years back where I changed into a pair of PJs in the car only to find that I was in very plain view -- we're talking dashboard to dashboard -- of someone on a cell phone staring open-mouthed at me from another car. I crawled behind the driver's seat and hid on the floor until the car drove off, and have barely spoken of the moment since, such was the extent of my embarrassment.

Ah, what a way to start the week -- have any stories you want to share that involves a sudden need to disappear?

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Improving the chocolate-chip cookie

Friday, July 18, 2008 by Amber

I fancy myself a pretty good cook -- husband doesn't complain -- but there are two things in this world that I simply cannot make to save my life: meatloaf and chocolate-chip cookies.

Since I'm angry at the whole concept of meatloaf, so vividly are my last 2 attempts etched in my memory -- a black, crunchy splat that's raw in the middle was made ever more disgusting by the various cheeseburger ingredients, like pickles and mustard, that I added to spice it up -- let's tackle the chocolate-chip cookie, shall we?

For those of you who, like me, have disappointingly resigned yourselves to being 'roll 'o cookie dough from the grocery shelves' kind of people, these secret chocolate-chip tips on how to improve this perennial favorite of all ages will make you raise your eyebrows in hopeful interest. I would have never though of resting the dough for 36 hours (like it would survive that long in my fridge anyways -- yours either, don't lie), but adding a touch of sea salt at the end? That's sheer brilliance! Is there a better flavor combination than salty and sweet in the whole world?

If you don't think you can wait the 36 hours for the dough to rest, try this method of vacuum-packing the dough. It helps force the moisture in more quickly because of the lack of air and the dough's compression. Pretty cool trick.

I may just have to strap my vintage apron back on, dust my cheeks with flour and give this who cookie-making thing one more go. Because, seriously, what's better than a warm, gooey *homemade* chocolate chip cookie dunked in cold milk?

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Dr. Horrible and the Case of the Diluted Espresso

Thursday, July 17, 2008 by Amber

Never doubt the power of blogs -- they can make or break reputations, can be an unlimited source of entertainment and are the ultimate passive-aggressive method of confrontation.

Thus I present to you, my 'net loving geeks, two very separate examples:

1.) Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, a delicious, fictitious web-film creation from every pop-cultist's favorite writer/director Joss Whedon -- among others, his much-too-short-lived, space-western series Firefly is one of my favorites. Also under his belt: Buffy, Angel and upcoming series Dollhouse.

Anyway, this incredibly popular blog, which stars Neil Patrick Harris (a surprisingly brilliant singer) and Nathan Fillion (mmmm) as warring goofball villains/heroes who occasionally break into song with dialog so funny you don't need to hear it in context to laugh ("It's curtains for you, Dr. Horrible. Lacy, gently wafting curtains..."), was so bombarded with hits in the hours since its official launch that it crashed several times and is currently averaging 1,000 page views a minute.

Word to the wise: If you are interested at all -- and please, I know you are -- you only have until this Saturday (July 19) to watch all three 15-minute installments of this classic web series before it will be available for a fee from iTunes. A DVD of the series chock full of of extras is forthcoming -- but indulge yourself and watch it during your lunch break.

2.) This story comes from the Washington Post and drips with caffeinated goodness: A guy walks into Murky's, a tiny, pretentious espresso bar in D.C., and orders a triple-shot over ice. The barista refuses. The guy modifies the order to a triple shot with a separate glass of ice. The barista begrudgingly complies, then approaches the guy at his table minutes later and reprimands him for ruining the integrity of the drink, all but ordering him to leave the establishment immediately.

So, what's an embarrassed caffeine junkie (because you SO are if you can down three shots of espresso like it is a simple cup of coffee) to do? Why, go home and blog about it! Quicker than a double-click, the situation escalates into a bitter Internet debate over whether coffee bar's owner, who defended his barista and *willingly* posted a list of his shop's absurd coffee policies in response, or the disgruntled customer was in the right.

I'm not sure where I fall in this one. Having happily worked at Starbucks for 3 years, I totally get that there are certain standards when making coffee that need to be met. It's totally a valid claim by the owner that espresso gets bitter when added to water. But -- and I hate cliches -- try a half-and-half instead of shooting red-eyes, Mr.Murky. In other words, calm the f*** down. The afore-mentioned blogger just wanted a drink, and it's not up to you to decide how the customer spends his money in your shop.

SO, anyway... enjoy your net-browsing for the day, and don't forget to hit up Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog. I guarantee it'll brighten your day :)

UPDATE 7-21: Dr. Horrible was fantastic -- hope you all got a chance to watch for free! It's been taken offline and is now available for download from iTunes. Go find a quiet corner and laugh a little :)

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Science, psychology explain poor putting

Wednesday, July 16, 2008 by Amber

You've made it to the green in 2 and you're 5 feet from par. You focus in on hole, swinging the putter gently on either side of the ball as you line up your shot. But, you think, even at a distance of 5 feet, that hole is so small that I have to hit this shot perfectly to even have a chance.

Sound familiar? Hopefully not. Preliminary research from Perdue has determined the worse golfer you are, the smaller the hole looks, lending more credence to the long-held notion that golf is more a game of the mind than one of skill and strength. The findings are also in line with similar studies on the correlation of a softball player's batting average and her perception of the softball's size -- bigger ball, higher average.

Being an extremely amateur golfer myself (marginally better than a mini-golf groupie), it gives me hope to think perhaps my problem isn't in my mechanics (though it probably still is) but in my attitude. It makes me want to sling my pretty pink golf bag -- I call her Sharpay -- over my shoulder and head out to my local driving range and give it another go.

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NASA makes an unusual request

by Amber

Workplace got you down? Is your boss making a lot of ridiculous demands? Are your bi-hourly trips to the bathroom the only time you get some peace? Not if you work for NASA.

Apparently, employees at NASA are being required to donate their urine to help contractors build a rocket ship that will eventually take astronauts to the moon. Stick with me now.

According to USA Today, urine is a big problem for astronauts because of the amounts of solids that it contains (unlike water), which can gum up the precise plumbing needed to rid the rocket of its waste. Engineers working on the moon shuttle Orion need "30 liters a day, which translates into nearly 8 gallons ... or about the daily output of 30 people" to test various methods of flushing Orion's extraterrestrial toilet.

Now, I'm sure you, like I, have a plethora of questions:

How much would it suck to be the engineer in charge of that project? Talk about drawing the short straw. And those poor employees just minding their own business, so to speak, suddenly being required to drop trow for science? And how, exactly, are the scientists collecting the specimens? And, what did the memo that top brass sent out say when they asked for all this excrement?

I'm so giggly and red-faced that I have to go before I stray into some bad potty-mouthed humor. LOL Catch you on the flip side!

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E3 burnout

Tuesday, July 15, 2008 by Amber

Gamer's paradise E3 is underway right now -- why then can't I get myself excited about it?

Perhaps it's the lack of interesting E3 stories coming out of the conference, or maybe I'm just on video-game burnout. There's only so much Lego Star Wars and Lego Indy action I can take before my eyes glaze over, and my house has been kiddo central for the past week.

Hopefully ComicCon, set to open later this month, will have a few more fun tidbits I can share.

Instead, I offer up a fun Internet quiz on Doshas that I came across on Lime.com. According to the site...

'Ayurveda, from the ancient Indian language Sanskrit, literally means 'Knowledge of Life.' Ayurveda is the practice of maintaining health and healing sickness with lifestyle modifications and natural remedies. The Ayurvedic approach names three basic energies or doshas that exist in all of us: Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. Each person is said to be a unique combination of these three doshas, and each dosha has a specific function in the body. According to Ayurveda, we are most healthy when our doshas are balanced.'

I'm a Pitta/Kapha, mix, BTW.

Anyways, just a morsel of knowledge to fill your mind up while waiting for Microsoft to announce a Netflix deal or news that would be similarly exciting. I'll keep you posted.

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Computer security is not a game

Monday, July 14, 2008 by Amber

In a previous life, I worked for 3+ years at a computer security magazine and got a solid education on everything from self-propagating malware to botnets to why you never use a Vegas ATM at BlackHat or DefCon.

Perhaps this is why I was so disturbed by this recent column on distributed computing featured by Captivate parent co. USA Today. According to the columnist, all you have to do to help fight cancer is download a program that allows a cancer research facilty to use your computer's excess memory and processes to help them sort through an overflow of data. Maybe, just maybe, your computer's extra power can help them find this cancer cure faster.

Now, normally I'm not one to bite the hand that writes my paycheck, but it is *very* irresponsible play on the heartstrings of the unsuspecting lay people typical of a USA Today audience whose idea of computer security is writing their network passwords on a Post It so they won't forget.

I'm sorry, I don't mean to rain on your parade, but these computing programs are not completely safe for the experienced technogeek who knows how to properly set up a firewall and plug up open ports, let alone mom and pop on their home computer who think it would be cool to let SETI use their extra bandwidth to search for intelligent life in the universe. These distribued computing programs act as a blaring red flashing beacon to every hacker and botnet on the 'net, screaming outloud, 'Hey! I've got an open, insecure port I'm using to download, process and send information!'

Quicker than photogs on the new Jolie-Pitt babies, these botnets will swarm the system, enslave it and make it another zombie, leaving poor mom and pop to wonder why their computer is running so slow -- and when did their credit card bill get so high?

Computer security, as I had pounded into my head during my past life, is not something to f*** around with. Don't open random emails. Don't write your passwords on a Post It, no matter how hard your IT crew made the requirements. And don't download things off the internet just because a tech columnist assures you that it's safe.

Trust me. I'm just trying to help.

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Upgrading to digital TV -- Phase 2

Friday, July 11, 2008 by Amber

My dear grandma has had the same TV for at least the past 25 years -- as long ago as I can remember -- and it is so blurry that it hurts my eyes to look at it. She tapes her soaps everyday on a VCR, and scoffs at the idea of a new TV and a Tivo. She rarely uses her cell phone, which she has only for emergencies, and doesn't know how to change the ringtone (which I used to my great amusement a few years back by uploading 'SexyBack' by JT onto it).

She, I suppose, is the target audience for the federal govt's $1.5B campaign letting folks know their TVs won't work as of Feb. 2009 unless they upgrade to a new TV (gasp) or buy a fancy new converter box for good ol' bunny ears due to the switch from analog to digital TV signals.

Leave it to the gov't to waste billions of dollars overcomplicating a simple idea. I mean, perhaps it's that I don't fully understand the technical concept that, much like the switch from black-and-white to color programming nearly 50 years ago, older TVs that use an antenna to pull down and translate TV signals will no longer function when that over-air method of transmitting the signals is turned off and replaced by a wired digital signal that more efficiently transmits the same information using 1s and 0s to streamline the industry and improve picture clarity and viewer experience.

No... no, I think I understand the concept fine. It's the idea that $1.5 B needs to be spent to inform the public of the switch. Now, granted, some of that money is going into a discount program in the form of gov't issued coupons to help these analog folks buy a special converter to plug into the ol' TV boxes so they can still tune into Nick at Nite.

But that still seems like a lot of money, doesn't it, to simply tell people, 'Hey, before you get your bunny ears in a twist, better upgrade the TV, k?' So, in the interest of saving the gov't a bit of money, let's all do the feds a favor and inform everyone we know with analog TVs older than dust of the Feb. 2009 switch -- it's your duty as a geek to help out the technologically impaired.

I'll take the first step and ring up my grams... 'I'm bringing sexy back... you other boys don't know how to act... '

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Bummer! Crystal skulls deemed fakes

Thursday, July 10, 2008 by Amber

Well, it was fun while it lasted.

The famed crystal skulls that have delightfully mystified the world over have been ruled as fakes by scientists who claim that they found evidence the skulls were cut using 'industrial tools' -- meaning drills and sanders and stuff -- no more than 10 years before they were sold to antiques dealers as genuine treasures.

Legend had it that the 12 lost skulls, believed to have been of Mayan or Aztec origin, must be reunited by Dec. 21, 2012 -- the winter solstice and the end date on the Mayan calendar thought to signify the end of the world -- to prevent the Earth from tipping on the famed Mayan doomsday.

So... where do we go from here, fellow scifi conspiracy geeks? Well, the Mayan calendar still ends mysteriously on Dec. 21, 2012 -- we only have a few more years to speculate on that one. Here's hoping it's not true.

But, I'm happy to let the legend of the crystal skulls live on as the yummy final chapter (or is it?) in the 'Indiana Jones' series.

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Opinions on iPhone 3G

by Amber

Apple iPhone 3gWith tomorrow's highly anticipated release of the iPhone 3G, that well-reviewed sleek sequel of Apple's ingenious smartphone will as surely fly off the shelves as I will skip it. Not that it isn't enticing -- the web at your command, always being connected, one step shy of a wire in your brain -- but I'm waiting to spend my cash on a Microsoft version.

'Gasp!' you cry, 'but surely every tech blogger must be an open-source-loving, Redmond-hating nonconformist!'

Nah. Not that I really have a strong opinion either way -- if it works, why break it? -- but, I just haven't had the horrifically overblown problems with my Microsoft toys that others report:

My Vista has never crashed. My Zune is 1,000x better than an iPod, if only because I don't have to suffer those stupid white headphone wires. My original Xbox (which I camped out overnight in the freezing cold to buy) still works, and my Xbox 360 -- complete with HD-DVD player -- is bar-none the best game system I've ever bought.

So yes, I like Microsoft more than Apple. There I said it. Though the Mac/PC commercials are pretty funny.

But, if you are one of the many technogeeks -- and there are many -- already camped outside the flagship Apple Store in Times Square, waiting anxiously on lawn chairs or the hot pavement for your new Apple iPhone 3G, good luck! Snap a pic with your 1st-gen model and send it to me :)

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Geek-chic jewelry made from algorithms

Wednesday, July 9, 2008 by Amber

Full Moon Series Jewelry, Nervous SystemLooking for a way to tell that adorable tech-chick down the hall that you fancy her, but don't want some cookie-cutter idea that will leave her pink hair dull and her blue nails clicking in annoyance? Leave it to two MIT grads to turn mathematics into ingenious, inventive and quite startling jewelry.

Their company, Nervous System, uses a complicated process of algorithms to grow -- yes, grow -- a line of ethereal jewelry that mimics and enhances geometric patterns found in nature. Using applets, Nervous System allows you to play with these algorithms and later purchase your own creations as earrings, necklaces, bracelets and brooches made in gold or stainless steel.

The process behind how it all works is only fully understood by the most elite programmers, but chopped down to the very basics... A very complex mathematical sequence is repeated in an environment with set rules, creating and generating a pattern of repeating and alternating forms. It is a random process but also a controlled one that, when left to replicate one its own, creates the intricate patterns found everywhere in the natural world.

Radiolaria Jewelry, Nervous SystemThe jewelry's simplicity is its greatest attribute, if only beucase it represents something so inantely complex. The prices are also reasonable for such completely unique pieces -- the Full Moon Series of dendritic patterns is $60 in stainless steel, and the Radiolaria necklace is $75 and the bracelet $55.

As I said, the perfect gift for your favorite geek-chic tech-chick. Now get a move on before someone steals your idea!

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