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In other news... Oct. 31

Friday, October 31, 2008 by Amber

Welcome on this frigid Halloween -- at least here in the Northeast. I've got my goth girl/skeleton costume on at work - -are you wearing something cool today? I'd love to see all of you geeking out with your tech-pop costumes! Do we have any Bill Gates impersonators or iPhones in the house? If so, send me pics!

Now, let's see... we've got news fron Dell and the Beatles, Kindle shout outs and a big announcement from Netflix, so let's get to the headlines!

-A few days ago I talked to you about Oprah's endorsement of the Kindle v1 -- well big news on the e-reader front: Alleged images of Kindle 2.0 (which Amazon.com still vehemently denies exist) has been leaked online. And, assuming that the images are valid, talk about a drool worthy gadget! Sleek shiny pearl-shaped keys... smaller page up/back tapes... and the curved corners and the slightly larger size are gorgeous. I changed my mind about Kindle v1 -- it isn't the coolest gadget that I want but don't yet have -- Kindle v2 is!

PS -- Thanks to BlogKindle.com for the tip and the praise a few months back for naming Byte-Sized one of it's favorite blogs of the week!

-Color is the new black in tech gadgets! Along with the new faces from The Flip and their awesome Mino, Dell will jump on the edgy-design bandwagon Nov. 11 when the made-to-order PC maker rolls out a new line of laptops that feature sleek, saucy designs. They look fantastic -- something every tech-ionista would be proud to pull out at a Starbucks next to a double tall sugar-free vanilla soy latte. Oh wait -- maybe that's just me...

-Hey, wait a minute, Mr. Postman! I've got a story for you -- it's been a hard day's night, but after working like a dog, MTV Network's branch Harmonix has struck a deal with The Beatles to incorporate the massively influential 60s pop band's hits into it's massively popular video game franchise Rock Band. I'm so excited -- I just see myself belting out "Love Me Do!" and "Yellow Submarine" (complete with the echoing callbacks in the final chorus) -- so excited!

-And, finally, big news for fans of Tivo and Netflix -- if you are a joint subscriber (as I am) you will have access to any of 12,000 TV shows and movies provided by Netflix to download directly on to you TiVo receiver -- as long as its series 3 or higher with HD capabilities. Talk about moving everything to the cloud -- this partnership is equally beneficial and awesome the consumers and the companies. Long live TiVo!

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In other news... Oct. 29 special

Wednesday, October 29, 2008 by Amber

This week's news was far too interesting to hang on to it all until Friday, and who wants to read stale bytes after the fact? So, here is a special mid-week update on the top tech news of the week!

Oprah has officially announced Amazon.com's Kindle is her new favorite gadget -- even going so far to call it 'life-changing.' It's possible this daytime dynamo's endorsement is all it will take for Kindle to become a household name -- let's hope she doesn't give it the Frey treatment later on while trying to boost her sagging ratings...

My favorite bookseller, Barnes and Noble (due to the uncanny ability of my local library-ish store never to feel full or overcrowded, even on Harry Potter release nights), has launched a social network that allows users to post up lists of their favorite books, lists of the books they want, and comments/reviews of new releases. And, it links with Facebook accounts, so you can keep your friends updated on your literary preferences, as well. Booksellers are getting desperate in these tough times to keep people reading -- and with Harry Potter and now the Twilight saga done, they are moving to the cloud. Methinks they should take a look at the blurb above on what their next digital move should be. Can anyone say, "Amazon.com partnership"?

This article on gaming consoles and their broken promises is a great read and brings back memories of previous claims of backwards compatibility and revolutionary technologies. Take a minute with your cup of coffee and give it a read. (Don't mind the creepy-looking gamer dude -- I'm sure it's just a bad picture...)

Netflix is rolling out a steaming-media player based on Microsoft's Silverlight technology, which, for the first time, is available for use on Macs with an Intel core. Am the only person who hears Livingston Taylor's "City LiiIIiights ... shining in your eyes..." when I read that name? I like it!

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Review: Make your own Flip Mino

Monday, October 27, 2008 by Amber

And the cool get even cooler.

As if the Flip Mino, as reviewed here in Aug., weren’t already one of the coolest gadgets on the market this holiday season, its site has added a new customizable interface for users to either choose from predesigned faces (the Stardust is my favorite) or upload an image to design one themselves (here is my Flip -- with a pic I took of the Eiffel Tower in 2006).

The predesigned faces offered vary from tribal tattoos to swirling florals to geometric patterns in wild colors. Finding the perfect pattern is more exhaustive than you’d think – there are so many different designers, categories and recommendations to browse that users can waste hours just playing with different options.

Most impressive with the Flip’s online GUI is the option to design your own Mino face. Uploading images and manipulating them via the online animation tool was simple, as was the automatic pattern generator engine – although I would have enjoyed a more varied customizable color palette.

The finished product arrived at my door quickly and looks stunning. The pattern was solid in thick -- not at all pixelated or cheap-looking -- and I posed in front of my mirror checking out how cool I would look taking videos in front of jealous relatives over the holidays. Yeah, I'll admit it.

Meanwhile, just try to stop the thoughts of who would love what patterns best while you play with the easy GUIs. Grandma needs one with a picture of her grandbabies on it to capture her own precious moments. Relatives readying for a new baby or a wedding can customize their recorder with favorite memories or just a really cool graphic. Students would love a wild swirling pattern or a tribal tattoo to play with after class.

Of course, all of this is anchored by the Mino’s easy recording features and sharing capabilities, all of which put it on my running list of must-have gadgets. Adding a customizable feature just pushes it higher on the list.

For more information or to get yourself a cool new Mino, visit http://www.theflip.com/.

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In other news... Oct. 24

Friday, October 24, 2008 by Amber

Hello out there! This was a great week for tech news, so let's get to it...

A new Ipsos poll shows what you and I have known for years: The world's view of gamers is vastly different from reality. According to the poll, the average gamer is over 30 and nearly twice as likely than a non-gamer to get out of the house and go on dates. They are also 11% more likely to play sports and 13% more likely to go to a local theater to catch a flick. Also not surprising to me, at least: Gamers also tend to earn more money than non-gamers, to the tune of an average $79,000 to $54,000. So mommas, maybe you *should* let your babies grow up to be gamers!

For all you voters unsure of where to cast your ballot -- never fear, Google is here! The search giant has added a new layer to its Google Maps application to point out voting locations around the U.S. Get out there and make a difference!

Organizers have announces that the E3 video game expo, set to hit L.A. June 2-4, 2009, will be
back to its old form
as "main event of the video game industry, must like San Francisco
Macworld Expo for the Apple community, or January's Las Vegas CES show for almost the entire media and consumer electronics industry," according to Digital Trends. Gaming CEOs are psyched about the new format -- its turn back to glizty fanfare -- as are all of us here at Byte-Sized!

In other gaming news, Microsoft has posted the song list for its upcoming karaoke game Lips -- and I have to say that the songs are ridiculous! Whatever happened to Paradise by the Dashboard Light and other favorites??? Hopefully there will be an option to download other tracks, like with Rock Band. Otherwise, why not just crank up the mp3 player and sing along with your real faves? Or, even better, pop on down to the local Asian restaurant on Karaoke Night with a bunch of

Users of Google's Gmail service can now send auto-responses to contacts who send them emails while they are away. Not quite as fun a feature as the Google Goggles, but still useful for those few people who feel guilty when an email goes unanswered for more than 2 days. Thinking about it more, the only people who'd use this feature are the ones who check their email while on vacation anyway. Hmph.

See you all next week!

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Android source code released

Wednesday, October 22, 2008 by Amber

As Google's Android operating system hits shelves on the T-Mobile G1 today for $179 with a 2-year service contract, Google has posted, as promised, the source code to Android in at effort to further the technology and boost its acceptance into the mobile field in a way Apple's iPhone hasn't allowed.

(Side note: The iPhone, in a 'stunning' move, says Steve Jobs, now makes up 40% of Apple's revenue -- which could only be surprising if the thing didn't start off costing $400 before Apple chopped the price in half.)

What does this mean? Source code is the actual bits-and-bytes language written by developers that tells a particular computer program what to do. Some companies keep a very tight hold on their source code, rarely letting anyone save for internal developers working it to actually see it, and even then they are only allowed to see parts. Think of it like a famous recipe for Kentucky Fried Chicken or the formula for Coke -- it makes the product special and unique.

These companies feel the code is proprietary and a direct source of their income and revenue -- and they're right. Most notable for it's iron grip is Microsoft, which is constantly attacked for its stance on its source code by open-source developers (who, in my humble opinion, wish they were getting a chunk of the Redmond paycheck). But, that's beside the point.

Anyway, Apple has come under fire recently for not allowing developers to tinker with its source code, and -- in a rare case of me sticking up for Apple -- I think its right to keep a lid on it. Google is taking the open-source approach only because no one else in the large smartphone market has allowed it.

It'll be a tough uphill battle for Google even without giving millions of developers access to Android, and it'll be interesting to see how it plays out for them and affects the Android market share, which, despite widespread reports that the phone is sold out around the U.S., will need more than a good buzz to boost it above RIM's Blackberry and Apple's iPhone in terms of overall sales, staying power and, of course, popularity.

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Music evolution sees iPod demise

Monday, October 20, 2008 by Amber

With the surge in mp3 players on the market and the forecast for a dismal holiday shopping season, it should come as no surprise that analysts are declaring the imminent end to Apple's iPod.

But why the near-end for such a ubiquitous gadget? With a 72% market share (vs. the Zune's 2%), what could possible shake the foundation of Apple's bread and butter toy? The idea that, according the Portfolio.com, that people will want to cart around their music with them at all times instead of having random access to catalogs of tunes in the 'cloud' will seem utterly ridiculous.

What is the 'cloud'? Well, in the basic sense, it's the internet. The idea of keeping things on the 'cloud' means that information won't be kept locally on a device. So, no more downloading hours and hours of albums or book recordings (guilty) onto your gadgets -- new services are popping up that allow users access to whole libraries of albums, artists and titles for monthly fees.

It's all part of the gradual evolution between devices and user demand.

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In other news... Oct. 17

Friday, October 17, 2008 by Amber

Hello, friends! Here is a round up of this week's top Byte-Sized stories:

British dermatologists have released findings that show that prolonged exposure over time to the nickel and nickel alloys in cell-phone faces can cause an allergic reaction in the form of a rash. Seriously, you can get a rash on your face if you talk too much. Tell that one to your inordinately verbose friend next time she won't hang up.

Microsoft officials stated Mac users pay a hidden 'Apple tax' to configure their notebooks to run Windows, but the question is why, if they want Windows, don't they just get a PC?

Prada has introduced its second-gen phone that comes equipped with a QWERTY keyboard. No word on whether the new model comes with a Prada carrying case, but I'd take the phone and this Fairy bag any day. Assuming I won the lottery, paid off all my bills, bought a new car and literally had money left to burn. Cost for just the phone: $850.

The Flip Mino, awesome camcorder and my current favorite gadget ever, has gotten even more awesome with a new service available online where users can design and customize their Mino with photos and/or logos. What a sweet company gift that would be, right? Hint, hint. Plus, if someone decides your design is too cool and wants it for their Mino too, you get a $10 royalty check from Flip! Now this is a community I can get behind. Stay tuned for a review of this new feature next week!

That's all for me this week, folks. Don't forget to tip your waitress. Catch you on the flip side!

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Apple surprises again

Wednesday, October 15, 2008 by Amber

Steve Jobs is full of surprises these days. At Apple's much-hyped press conference yesterday, the Apple chief zigged where analysts thought he would zag and introduced a revamped, rethought version of the MacBook instead of a stripped-down cheaper model.

The biggest move is thought to be the dissing of Intel chips for the graphics brains of chip maker Nvidia -- a telling move in that it shows Apple wants to raise the bar on performance and, possibly, manage capabilities beyond the scope of simply better graphics (which are what Macs are known for and, in my opinion, only marginally good for).

In line with analyst guesses before the event was the introduction of an aluminum 'unibody' for the notebooks, which means a sleeker casing and guts to the machines carved using water jets directly from a solid block of aluminum metal.

In what I think is a stunning omission, Apple has also decided to forego support for Blu-ray discs, presumably because the price of the players is still sky-high. But this lack of support takes out another pillar holding up the infant technology, so keep your eyes on that for further developments.

For complete coverage of the Apple event, visit our friends at CNet -- they've got your back on the whole deal, from the gaming implications of the metal notebooks to side-by-side comparisons with older Mac.

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DailyLit.com really delivers

Monday, October 13, 2008 by Amber

Hey, it's Ashley, and I've got a great site for you to check out!

Checking your email, you see meeting change, a few KOHL’s sale reminders, a chain letter or two and… YES! The latest installation of your book has FINALLY come! You’ve been dying to see what happens to Pip and Estella in Great Expectations since installment 84 last weekend. No idea what I mean?

Dailylit.com is a great website with a unique idea. How would you feel about having a book on your computer? And, no, I’m not talking about a super-long PDF files we sometimes have to deal with. From this website, you can order a book to be delivered to your email in installments over a certain period of time.

On Dailylit.com you get a variety of choices in literature. Between the classics like Pride and Prejudice and the more upbeat, new titles like Skinny Bitch, there’s something for everyone. And the prices are pretty cheap; some of the choices are even free.

So next time you find yourself wanting to read but distracted by your full inbox, just remember that you could have the best of both worlds!

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In other news... Oct. 10

Friday, October 10, 2008 by Amber

Happy Friday! Munch on these headlines with your break-time snacks.

A new clothing line offers wearers the ability to recharge mobile devices using built-in solar panels and control them with armband touchpads. Simply taking an mp3 player out of your pocket and being conscious enough to charge either at home, at the office or in your car? How totally passe!

A Mass. company announced that rocker-wannabes can order their Rock Band 2 avatars in the form of 6-inch figurines starting this week -- because who doesn't want their Rock Band alter-ego jamming on a shelf in a work cubicle? Count me and Galena in! Also available through the Rock Band site is merch from your customized rock band -- but is it too uncool to wear your own band's shirt while rocking out?

Microsoft and social network Facebook announced this week that Facebook has intergrated Microsoft's Live Search into its site. It's not clear whether this will increase Microsoft's traffic, but brand awareness of the Live Search is sure to rise. It's good to be the king.

In other Facebook news, a security company has determined up to 40% of the profiles on the social network are fakes used to push malware. Users responded to questions, 'Isn't everyone fake on Facebook?'

Microsoft has announced a new XBox Live Experience for its users, due Nov. 19 in a downloadable update. Upgrades to the system include a social environment with Wii-esque animated avatars that serve to represent gamers in party games and comminucations -- punctuating te growing seperation from reality and the gaming world.

Best Buy is launching an in-store brand of electronics it says were developed form big-name manufactures using customer input. So, basically, a store brand. Says a company insider, 'Heck, it works for cereal, why not mp3 players?'

Have a great weekend, and I'll catch you on the flip side!

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Google addresses 'drunk e-mailing'

Wednesday, October 8, 2008 by Amber

Those brilliant jokers at Google Labs -- responsible for nearly all of Google's best ideas, including Maps, Gmail and some of the best April Fool's jokes on the 'Net -- have come out with another as ironically useful as it is hysterically funny -- Mail Goggles.

This new mail feature disables -- or at least discourages -- users from sending drunk e-mails they may later regret to ex-boyfriend and/or co-workers. Depending on the set time of night, users are asked to answer increasingly difficult math problems to confirm the sending of an e-mail.

Come on now, we've all been there! No word on whether Google's Android OS will be able to stop the drunk dials, too.

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E-readers rock the market

Monday, October 6, 2008 by Amber

We all love our gadgets, and now the competition for our e-reader dollars has upped another notch with Sony's new PRS-700, due in stores next month for about $400.

This new e-reader will feature a touchscreen, which is a big, consumer-friendly improvement over the Kindle, which uses confusingly-placed long buttons to scroll between pages and a strange keyboard -- I know, blasphemy coming from me considering I am a huge fan of the Kindle. But, having played around with one, it's definitely a GUI you have to get used to.

Also a strange feature to Sony's PRS is an LED backlight for the screen. What's odd is that the Kindle specifically didn't add a backlit screen based on market research that it would cause eye strain by reading off a computerized screen. Why Sony included this feature I don't know -- perhaps to allow a user to read in the dark, which is interesting -- but I still think Kindle may have the advantage if it is truly easier on the eye.

The touch-based screen may be its biggest advantage over the $380 Kindle, based on the boom of touchscreen interfaces made popular by the iPhone and a bunch of new smartphones currently hitting the market.

My money is still invested in the Kindle, I think. But it certainly speaks volumes of the e-reader market that we are even having the discussion. I'll always have my home hardcovers for display purposes and the occasional reading of my favorite screens, but as an environmentalist I'm psyched over the idea that people could buy their throw-away paperbacks/airport reading/trashy romance novels currently hiding with the dust bunnies under the bed on a device that saves paper. Definitely a cool development.

Have an e-reader and want to share your thoughts?

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Tech helps keep your fingers toasty

Wednesday, October 1, 2008 by Amber

As winter approaches, there are annual concerns that began wiggling in our head -- namely, for anyone above of the Mason-Dixon line, our thoughts turn to how cold northern winters can get.

For those blissfully not familiar and longing for the opportunity to experience it first-hand, allow me to draw you a picture... Frigid wind whips through your wet hair and across your running nose, freezing both into crunchy icicles as you struggle from on safe, warm haven to another. Jeans as a single or double layer cannot be counted on to trap anything other than a soupy trail of slush along the back cuffs, and only the thickest, most heavy-duty standard coats (with little as far as style) will do. Even your favorite knitted caps scarves are replaced by mountain-man-esque hats with ear covers and face/neck covers of turtle fur (that's fleece, for all you non-natives) for some of the most cold-intolerant.

Heaven forbid you are stuck outside for longer than 3 minutes, then one must turn to alternate methods of keeping warm -- and by alternate I don't mean adding more layers of clothing so you end up like the brother in Christmas Story who can't put his arms down. Let's turn to scitech for some suggestions on how to keep warm in the coldest climates.

Zippo has come out with probably the most low-tech option -- encasing a fire in a thin metal container also filled with lighter fluid. No, I'm not making a joke. The Zippo Hand Warmer, retailing online for $30, looks like a typical Zippo save for small holes cut into the cap. To use, simply light the wick (which produces no flame but radiates heat) and you have 24 hours of warmth on a full shot of lighter fluid. Hopefully, we'll be taking a closer look at this option in the coming weeks.

Of course, there are also the scientific solutions that do not require a flame to start. Little packs of chemically combustible warmers -- with instructions like an ice pack from our school-nurse days -- have heated hands in freezing hockey rinks for decades. While they do work, from experience in the aforementioned rinks I've noticed that most require a steady flow of oxygen to aid the reaction and are bulky stuffed in pockets, shoes and mittens.

Which, of course, leads up to the highest-tech option available today -- OutdoorResearch's PrimaVolta gloves, which are fashioned from Gor-Tex, a very winter-friendly material, and features "heated elements strategically placed around your hand provide warmth regulated by your temperature and the conditions around you," complete with a rechargeable power source for the eco-friendly frigidista. This in another option we're hoping to test in the coming weeks, so we'll keep you posted.

Stay warm out there and make sure you dress appropriately for the weather outside as well as in :)

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