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News other than Twilight

Monday, November 24, 2008 by Amber

Twilight obviously dropped this weekend -- and how fabulous was it? I haven't ever seen a film adaptation more respectful of it's book material -- well, perhaps LOTR -- but Twilight was a lot of squealing fun :)

Alas, this is not a movie blog but a tech blog, so let's hit the top headlines of the day, shall we?

- Internet access at 25,000 feet used to be a dream. No more, as airlines worldwide are testing programs to allow inflight WiFi. Virgin America opens it fledgling program today, charging users up to $13 per flight, depending on the route. Others plan to follow suit next year if the program is a success.

- Let's say you wanted to see the visual equivalent of location of Facebook users. Like, actual activity and where in the world it is condensed at that precise minute, like lightening strikes. OK, now let's say that you wanted to see it in realtime from space. Welcome to a cool new project from the Facebook hackathon -- a visual representation of what Facebook looks like from space. Microsoft offers something like this with its XBox Live -- and I love it there too.

- Sony is confident that the market will swarm to Blu-ray players and DVDs this holiday season, but warns that demand will fall short of forecasts. So, why would I get up at 4 a.m. and head to Best Buy for the Black Friday doorbuster? I don't know... perhaps these sweet new Dell minis with customizable covers?

Talk to you all on Wednesday -- and if you're taking off early for the holiday, drive safely and have a nice Thanksgiving :)

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Accessing records and going green

Friday, November 21, 2008 by Amber

Happy Friday, everyone -- and to the screaming hoards of female fans that are going to try to get a better seat than me tonight (good luck with that, btw): Happy Twilight Premiere Day!

Let's get to the other geektastic headlines to tide you over until you can punch out and head to the theatres...

-First we have hospital employees accessing private medical records of celebrity patients, now we are getting reports that employees at Verizon Wireless have been accessing the private phone records of Pres.-Elect Barack Obama. Who are these people and how is it possible that they aren't caught sooner?

- Feeling the need to go green, but don't how how you can help beyond separating out your glass and plastics? Our friends at Digital Trends have a feature today on how to recycle your electronic devices, with tips, sites and suggestions for how to responsibly dispose or or donate your unwanted devices. Kudos to them for the great research! ... FYI, i learned this in my daily web travels -- if you recycle nothing else, make sure you siphon out your aluminium cans from your trash bins. They are the most easily reused with the least amount of energy.

- It's been confirmed that World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King has broken records for first-day sales with 2.8 M -- the most ever for a PC game.

- Going back to the green beat for a moment, it may warm your heart to hear that scientists at MIT are looking into how to harness the wasted heat from power plants, data centers and your clothes dryers to help generate more energy, even at lower temperatures than previous experiments.

** And, before I go -- a big thanks go out to Kodak and The Flip for getting me out units of their tiny HD video cameras in enough time to review them for the holidays -- you guys rock! Stay tuned for my breakdown of these top players, set to run as part of my holiday gift list coverage starting in December...

But for you early gift-givers: Based on early impressions, either one of these is a steal!

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Korean troops mimic Halo?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008 by Amber

Good morning to you all! Hope you hump day goes by as quickly as mine -- does anyone else feel like it should be Thursday? On to the headlines!

- National Geographic announced that, in addition to its magazine, TV network and awesome documentaries, it will venture into the world of video games. No word yet on new titles or subjects, but this seems an odd fit to me. Does anyone not want to hop on the gaming train?

- Speaking of games, fiction is about to become reality for thousands of Korean troops after the gov't announced a 2-phase development of military gear that looks jaw-droppingly like the Master Chief's garb in Halo, complete with the reflective helmet.

- Google and Life magazine have teamed up to make Life's extensive catalogue of images available and searchable online. Does anyone not want to partner with Google?

- With Yang stepping down at Yahoo, the search is on for a new CEO willing to get down on his knees and beg Microsoft to put another offer on the table -- whoops, did I say that? Our friends at CNET.com have complete coverage of 'Yahoo in Transition.'

- Microsoft announced plans to drop its subscription-based antivirus software and instead offer a free program to help people protect their PCs.

See you all on Friday!

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Music and models and books -- Oh my!

Monday, November 17, 2008 by Amber

Let's take it easy this Monday with a few cool sites to visit during your work day!

Over the weekend, I heard about Pandora.com, a intuitive music site that helps you select an online playlist of tunes to enjoy while you're surfing or working. It's internet radio, but your own customized playlist -- such a cool idea! Just type in the name of an artist or a genre of music that you prefer and it autogenerates a playlist. Don't like someone the site selected for you? Tell it so and artists along the same vein will be excluded from future lists. Thanks to readers Kevin and Marisa for the tip!

With the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show taped and set for a (toned down) debut on network TV Dec. 3, all eyes have turned to the field of beautiful models. Don't have quite the right cheekbones to strut on the catwalks? Get involved a different way -- by sponsoring a rising supermodel on the new site BeautyHolding.com. Spot a gorgeous talent, buy a stake in her future, and watch as her "stock" rises. You can earn money and help make the world a more beautiful place -- what could be better? Thanks to Kyle over at the Green Among Gray Captivate blog for the tip!

So, you've finally sat down and penned that memoir you've been threatening to finish for 5 years, but no agents or publishing houses are biting -- yet. What's a budding author to do? Well, instead of waiting for someone to find your obvious talent, publish your own book at LuLu.com. For a small fee, this site will professionally publish a copy of your book in either hardcover (with a dust cover) or paperback, then list it online for others to purchase! You can order copies for friends and family to become a big star in your own little bubble, and if it catches on, you get royalties through LuLu if your book is sold. Good stuff!

Have a great week, everyone, and we'll see you on Wednesday!

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Students play with Google Street View

Friday, November 14, 2008 by Amber

Hey readers! Just want to give you a heads up about the upcoming "Byte-Sized Gift Guide," running a few times a week during December and featuring some of the coolest gadgets to put on your list or to surprise your favorite techies! Check back here for more updates and gift ideas...

Making headlines this week...

Wondering when the flu will hit your town? Google has added a layer to its Maps program to track the flu as it moves around the country and into your backyard. Check it out if you are gunna gamble your health on steering clear of highly infected areas -- or, go out and get a flu shot!

Electronic Arts has announced a fitness video game aimed at women -- breaking form the company's traditionally male-centric sports games. Based solely off the Nintendo Wii platform, users will strap the nunchuck attachments to thier body in various places to interact with the on-screen avatars and aparati. The company is also contemplating using exterior props in the game, which leads me to a few questions: How much is this different from popping in a good ol' exercize DVD and working out? How much interaction will people require before realizing that a brisk walk outside is cheaper (free) and healthier? Asked, of course, from someone who currently owns and uses her Wii Fit. Sigh.

Blurring the lines between reality and virtual reality are this pair of art students who played with Google's Street View maps to come up with awesome scenes and hilarious Easter Eggs for people looking to check out neighborhoods in Pittsburgh. In conjuction with Google (who agreed to prearrange the photo shoot of the area), the students made a virtual Street View parade featuring swordfights, marching bands, love-struck football fans and daring, knotted-bedsheets escapes! Check it out!

Have a great weekend and we'll see you Monday!

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In other news... Nov. 12

Wednesday, November 12, 2008 by Amber

Welcome back, techies! Time is just flying by -- I'm completely reeling that Thanksgiving is only two weeks away. Crazy. Let's slow down and take a look at some of this week's top stories:

Pres.-elect Barack Obama has confirmed that he will appoint a chief technology officer in his cabinet -- a new position that he'd pitched and promised during campaign speeches. No word on who he will appoint -- but stories abound with possibilities, including some comprehensive ones from our friends at CNet.com. Don't look in Google's direction, though -- CEO Schmidt has confirmed that he isn't interested.

For those of you with little techies at home -- like my 2-year-old who knows how to work a mouse, my Zune, the Mino, the Razr and the complicated universal remote -- here's some news to bite into: Sesame Street officials announced that the classic and always-relevant kids' show will be hitting the internet, with full episodes available for download off iTunes. No more spending $20 for a 30-minute DVD! Yay!

This is a little out there, but stick with me: Ever wonder what really happens right after you die? People with near-death experiences have visions of a white light and flashes of memories -- but what is the brain actually doing? Scientists in the Human Consciousness Project are out to find out by monitoring the brains of patients at participating hospitals by hooking them up to brain machines while they are in cardiac arrest. I know, it sounds totally morbid, like a modern-day remake of Keifer Sutherland's Flatliners (great movie) but the possibilities are awesome!

SFGate has a transcribed interview held between outgoing Homeland Security secretary Michael Chertoff and Silicon Valley's think-tank bloggers about the state of airport security and what these people would do to fix it. More interesting, I think, are the questions they asked him about why we still have to take off our shoes at checkpoints and why official systems are so insecure. Fascinating stuff.

Cool -- see you all Friday!

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Headphones can affect pacemakers

Monday, November 10, 2008 by Amber

In a new study out today, doctors have shown that the little magnets in the headphones and earbuds often used by mp3 players can actually have some effect on pacemakers when placed with about an inch of them -- or, directly over where the device was implanted near the heart. Users of mp3 players who have a pacemakers are being warned not to place the buds into a shirt pocket or drap them around their necks while resting. Normal use of earbugs and headphones does not pose any additional risk.

This is pretty scary news so keep it in mind when you're out shopping or picking out your most-wanted mp3 player. For a list of some of the hottest mp3 players for the holiday season, check out this comprehensive one compiled by our friends at Digital Trends.

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In other news... Nov. 7

Friday, November 7, 2008 by Amber

Happy weekend everyone -- let's get to the good stuff:

OK, so the U.S. has a new president -- what does this mean for tech? Will we have a cheif technology officer of the U.S.? Who will it be? And what about ineternet taxes? Our friends at CNet.com have great commentary in this article about the good news and bad news we cal expect under this new administration.

The Wii Fit is a very cool tech advance, but, as I noted in my review a few months back, I've found its weight readouts can vary dramatically, even on the same patch of light green carpet I worked out on the day before. Why, I'm not sure, but finally someone other than me is calling Nintendo out on it's Wii Fit. Well, it's not quite the criticism I was looking for, but parents' group in Britain are storming the gates over the Fit telling a 10-year old girl that she is listed as 'fat' according to its BMI calculator. Angry parents not looking to face the truth about their daughter, or bad measuring (again) from this fly-off-the-shelves gadget? Which do you think?

Ever thought about commandeering one of those flying saucers so often seen over rural farms in the middle of nowhere? Take them for a bit of a spin? Well, a Calif. company is banking on people channeling their inner Will Smith circa Independence Day to buy a car-sized flying saucer -- which is "designed to seat two, take off and land vertically, fly 10 feet above the ground, and reach 75 miles an hour." It should hit the market soon -- will it revolutionize the personal travel industry? I'm going with no on this one...

Students at MIT are trying to engineer beer that contains the anti-aging properties found in red wine. Oh, come on now -- you mean the caloriepacked brew with their burpy heads and stomach-expanding gurgles aren't already good for you? Please... a group of frat brothers just sat bolt upright in their stinky beds in horror.

"The Federal Communications Commission voted unanimously Tuesday to release unused broadcast TV spectrum for unlicensed use, giving technology leaders Google, Microsoft and others a victory in their bid to create a next-generation version of Wi-Fi," say our friends at the San Francisco Chronicle's tech blog. This is good news for fans of the Google mobile platform, and those looking for smartphone evolution.

Have a great weekend!

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In other news... Nov. 5

Wednesday, November 5, 2008 by Amber

Welcome back on this day-after-election day! For those of my U.S. friends, regardless of who you voted for, pat yourself on the back that you voted at all. There are too many countries out there that don't get the right, so I'm proud that you all used your civic liberty.

Now, let's get to the news!

Sometimes the best way to go green is not the high-tech solution, but the low-tech approach: This week, Amazon.com announced that it is teaming with retailers to reduce packaging waste. So, all those gadgets you order from Byte-Sized's upcoming Must-Have Holiday Gift List will be shipped sans all the finger-ripping plastic coats and staticky wraps the company can spare. Good call, Amazon.com. Every little bits helps.

Nielsen research has now shown that 30% of at-home internet surfing occurs while people are also watching TV. I'd like to make fun of that ... but I'm victim of it, too. Not 30% -- that's a bit much! -- but I do have my laptop running with up-to-the-second scores in fantasy football during Sunday games, and at work, I have two flat panels streaming CNN visible from my desk. Not quite in line with the study, but what say you? What kinds of shows do you watch while surfing the internet? Of course, this just makes the whole 'selling your brand in a few different places' strategy hold more water.

Keep an extra vigilant eye on your credit histories from now until I tell you to stop. Why? There are too many intelligent Trojan Horse viruses out there to keep track of anymore. Most recent is the Sinowal Trojan that has, to date, stolen half a million identities from online banking sites. Please, I don't ever joke about security -- use your head and stay safe. If it looks fake, it is.

Today's a good day to be a gamer -- there are a ton of seriously hot video games hitting the market. Here are reviews of some of the biggest from the mother ship, USA Today:
-A follow-up to the hugely popular franchise hit, this Gears of War 2 review gives you a sneak peak of what to expect.
-Currently burning a hole on our 'to be played' shelf -- Bethesda's Fallout 3, which, if anything at all like the company's Elder Scroll series, are totally awesome.
-Also waiting to be played at my house is Fable II. Let's only hope this game is cooler than its much-hyped but not so great predecessor.

See you all Friday!

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Election goes high-tech, but online info is better

Monday, November 3, 2008 by Amber

On the eve of what is billed as being the biggest election in our lifetimes, it seems like everyone has an angle from which to cover the candidates. But what amuses me more than the incessant babble and endless reports from polls of polls -- which I think the vast majority of Americans find terrible, anyway -- are how the various news outlets are vying for our attention.

This USA Today story on the technology behind the election coverage is hilarious (without meaning to be) because of what it shows: blatant disregard on the part of 24-hours news outlets to woo viewers by displaying and pimping good technology for mindless reasons. Holographic interviews? Really? Virtual movable maps that change color when you tap them? Walls of televisions behind someone on my television?

Are we really that information-starved during this tense election season that we need news anchors and so-called 'pundits' who should be on Terrets medication bouncing around our TV screens, which are so otherwise cluttered with scrolling polls, news, views and mindless numbers (45% of suburban housewives who like baking cakes are in favor of McCain...)?

At least there are some outlets for all the hilarity to filter through -- I hail The Daily Show and Saturday Night Live for keeping their (very witty) heads during this tense voting season.

But, other than these cool breaths of fresh air, may I humbly suggest that, in the waning hours of this year's presidential election, you skip the live-action news channels in favor of the good ol' fashioned internet?

www.johnmccain.com/ will give you all the info you need on the senator from Arizona, while http://www.barackobama.com/splash/volunteer.html will spell out the Illinois senator's stance on various issues. Otherwise, try out some of your favorite sites for their takes on the election.

Or, check out http://www.cnet.com/ for info on each candidate's stances on technology, like internet taxes. I've found great stories on non-election sites like http://www.people.com/, where I learned that John McCain will most likely be in a movie theatre tomorrow with his purple-clad daughter. What movie will he see? Well, since that certainly tell how capable he is to run the nation, expect to see it on every news channel around about 3 p.m.

Seriously, wouldn't it be hilarious if he saw Zac and Miri Make a Porno? LOL

And, if you really can't stand to be without up-to-the-minute news (and don't know where to get a news feed implanted directly into your brain) I suggest the classics like www.cnn.com and www.usatoday.com -- both are great sources and will keep oyu (hopefully) from drowning in TV election antics.

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