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Woohoo! ... or Bing-hoo! ... or Yahing!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009 by Amber

... either way, Google, you'd better watch out! The big, bad, 500-lb. gorilla is coming to get you!

In case you just emerged from your rock at the bottom of the sea, all anyone can talk about today is the finalization of Microsoft's 10-year deal to team with Yahoo. As one combined entity, Micro-hoo (or choose any of the above-mentioned combinations there of) will take on Google's 88% market share i nthe search space. I've been pitching for weeks that Bing is the way to go these days when you're looking to Goog-- um, I mean, search for something online. Damn, hard habit to break.

So, the heat is on, and Microsoft's is pan set to 'boil' while Google sits at a comfy 'simmer.' Who's gunna come out on top??

In other sci-tech news that most people seem to be overlooking this week ...

- Our astronauts a gazillion miles above Earth have undocked from the Space Station en route home. It's been 11 days of space walks, installations, and freeze-dried food -- not to mantion the whole floating-above-earth-in-a-deadly-vacuum thing. We're ready to welcome you home.

- Hopefully this wasn't the summer you would finally take your family on that beach vacation. Because the beaches are still pretty gross from the last four years of raw sewage, garbage and other pollutants washing up on shore. Ew. Let's get it together, people, so I don't have to show my kids pictures of what beaches used to look like when I was a kid! (For more on the state of our environment, visit Captivate editor Kyle Scribner's Green Among Gray Blog.)

- You know those people-mover-conveyor-belts at the airports? Turns out, they're not really getting us to the gate any faster.

- Chrome, the company that makes those great bags I reviewed last week, is holding an online raffle for one of it's signature bags! The special messenger comes with a Pabst Blue Ribbon logo on the exterior flap. I guess the beer company and the bag company have a nice relationship, though I wouldn't advise mixing the two!

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Review: Awesome Pet Gadgets

Friday, July 24, 2009 by Amber

We get a lot of fun things to play with at the Byte-Sized offices, the most recent being a box of pet gadgets your four-legged friends are sure to enjoy. These prime pet accessories come from the ludicrously awesome SkyMall catalog – who doesn’t love it already? – and are a complete hoot.

Chatter Bowl Talking Pet Bowl, $29.99

Chatter BowlPets can get lonely when their owners go out of town, and what’s a better way to show them you’re still there in spirit than scaring the bejesus out of them every time they go to eat? Hehehe
This talking pet bowl is equipped to record your voice, presumably praising your baby for being such a good girl. When the motion sensor is activated by your pet approaching and/ or eating out of the bowl, the recording plays. The volume isn’t too loud.
I’m sure for some pets, this may be a pleasant surprise. But, I wouldn’t be alarmed if, after a few days of a business trip, Snowflake won’t come near you and looks a few pounds lighter.

Pet Door Bell, $69.95

Pet Door BellWe’ve domesticated pets this far, so why wouldn’t Princess want to use a doorbell, too?
Place the paw-shaped activator near the backdoor and wait for your doggy (or kitty, I suppose) to press down on it, alerting you they want to go outside. Buy the extension kit and get multiple activators to put at the front door and side doors, too.
The idea behind this … invention is sound, for sure. I mean, who wants scratched-up door jams? But, assuming you can teach Princess to use the bell when she has to pee, can you teach her not to use it when she doesn’t have to? Waking up in the middle of the night by a chiming bell because your dog wants to go play outside with the squirrels puts you a little too much at your pet’s beck and call.

Pet Hair Magnet, $12.99

Pet MagnetOK, so we’ve had some fun with the absurd pet toys, now it’s time to get serious: The Pet Hair Magnet is awesome in a way that makes me want to go home and rub it over my entire house. I literally gave myself blisters I used it so much in one day.
The plastic miracle looks like a miniature squeegee. Rub it over your carpet and try not to openly gape at how much invisible hair was living under your feet. I dare you. I have two long-haired kitties at my house, and they don’t shed too badly, which was why, after trip up my stairs with the Magnet, I was surprised to have a pile of hair equal in size and density to an entire new cat! That, and my stairs looked brand new. And, for less than $20, including s/h, it’s easily the best of the bunch that I’ve outlined here. Get it now and don’t be frugal with your thanks. You’re welcome!

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Book Review: Geek Atlas

Monday, July 20, 2009 by Amber

The Geek Atlas:
28 Places Where Science and Technology Come Alive

By John Graham-Cumming, O’Reilly
May 2009
Pages: 542
ISBN 10: 0-596-52320-3 ISBN 13: 9780596523206

I don’t often review books on Byte-Sized, but this was one I just couldn’t resist!

Geek Atlas is a travel guide for the science fans, the space nuts, the technology nerds … in other words – you. With 128 destinations around the globe detailed for their scientific and technological discoveries, the Atlas is truly a literary journey.

All fun aside, the Geek Atlas is the best supplement to a (must have) Rick Steves’ travel guide that I’ve ever come across. You can, as advised, “travel to Munich to see the world's largest science museum, watch Foucault's pendulum swinging in Paris, or ponder a descendant of Newton's apple tree at Trinity College, Cambridge.” And that’s just a peek at the wealth of travel guidance this book supplies.

That’s not to say reading it for fun is out of the question. Breezing through the first two chapters alone, I gained a greater insight for obscure scientific discoveries. Some went over my head, but I was engrossed in the explanation and history of an area based solely on its claim to geek fame. And – this is not an exaggeration – I know understand the mechanics of LOST so much better just from reading a section on mechanical physics.

After I was done, I handed my copy to my dad (the master geek) and have yet to get it back – if that’s any indication of what a great read it is.

O’Reilly is always the most trusted name in technology book (at least in my house), and the publisher doesn’t disappoint with Geek Atlas. It’s a great gift idea for your favorite travelling geek, so check it out before you miss out on a prime sight-seeing opportunity!

The Geek Atlas, $29.99
Buy online at http://www.amazon.com/

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Review: Chrome's Corsair urban satchel

Wednesday, July 15, 2009 by Amber

Chrome Corsair, www.chromebags.com
Let’s face it – we love our gadgets. But, our semi-urban lifestyle doesn’t make it easy to carry a laptop, smartphone, mp3 player, lunch and your work around, especially when dodging taxis and pushing through the early morning crowds in the elevator banks.

For every problem there exists a solution: The Chrome Corsair.

The Corsair is light but extremely tough, with a shape that fits around your body with great ergonomics – surely the designers’ intent when developing the urban satchel. The strap is reminiscent of an airplane seatbelt, but with more cushion.

Color-wise, Chrome offers some great options. I am partial to the Olive, which is so rich and saturated I want to scoop it up with tortilla chips. Inside the flap, the interior is lined, leak-proof and not too roomy, which is a nice change from the other empty sacks on the market. Chrome understands you neither want nor need another canvas bag to tote around, so it’s streamlined the Corsair and the other bags in the arsenal to carry just what’s needed, with barely an inch to spare otherwise.

The Chrome series of bags are designed primarily for urban bicyclers who need a stylish, functional bag to keep their valuables safe and secure. Whether you are on two wheels or two heels, the Corsair is a great option for anyone.

Chrome Corsair, $80

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Cloud Computing, Decoded

Monday, July 13, 2009 by Amber

Hope you all had a pleasant weekend! I've got a long vacation headed my way for the rest of this week and all next week, so I hope you enjoy a few reviews instead of stale content! But, before I get those up later this week, here are some headlines to get you through this beautiful Monday ...

Bing has Google running scared. Who knew losing 5% of market share would have such a big effect on the search giant?

Oh God save the queen ... from becoming another twit. Yes folks, it's official, Queen Elizabeth II has her own Twitter account.

Microsoft if offering a look into the new Office product made for the cloud.

Screeech. Wait, what's the cloud? When someone refers to the 'cloud' as being a real place on the internet, they are referring to the idea that normal desktop things like Outlook and your IM -- basically anything that lives on your desktop right now -- would no longer live on your desktop. Confused? It's not a hard concept to understand once you get past the idea that nothing will really be yours in the physical sense, only the digital sense. You won't buy and install software or download upgrades -- all of this stuff lives on the internet, and you sigh on to access it.

Google has been doing this for years ... I'm a big fan of the Microsoft program known as Mesh, which allows me to upload and change documents in a single, central location. Then I don't have to email it to myself or use a USB to transfer it from machine to machine. As long as I have an internet connection, I can get the very latest updates I've made to a document anywhere. It's actually a very cool program.

Anyways, the idea of cloud computing is gaining in popularity as much as those little netbooks are -- mostly because the two kind-of go hand-in-hand. The netbooks don't have enough memory to hold, well, anything, but if all your stuff is located online on your cloud desktop, then they are perfect!


Scientists Have a 'D'Oh!' Moment

Wednesday, July 8, 2009 by Amber

Good afternoon, geeks! Here are your daily headlines (I'll add more as I find them!):

Scientists are smart, no doubt, but they can do dumb things -- like tell the whole world how criminals can guess social security numbers with over 80% accuracy using public info. Sheesh, let's keep stuff like that on the DL, k?!

The tech world is buzzing over the introduction of Google's new Chrome OS for netbooks, but I just can't get excited about it. Here's a story on the feud if you want to check it out.

Millions streamed the Jackson memorial service yesterday -- were you one of them?

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Rain, rain stay away ... and other headlines

Monday, July 6, 2009 by Amber

Cool Fireworks!

Hope you all had a great 4th of July weekend! I think the 5 million people who live up in New England with me drove away the rain in the forecast with sheer stubborn will!

Now, for a light day after a holiday, here are some headlines to peruse!

Are you a business traveler looking to capitalize on sweet technology? Turns out hotels around the country are investing in video conferencing rooms to bring more people in on a face-to-face meeting. Which begs the question ... why are people even traveling anymore to the hotel if they can just video conference? Seems like that would save lots on airfare to me.

UGH -- there are some seriously annoying things on the internets these days. Here's a story that really gets at the heart of the worst offenders. My own list includes pop-unders and automatic video players. Grrr...

I wasn't aware of the contentious, bitter history naming elements on the periodic table have had...

In case you ever really wanted to know what's behind those 'secret' recipes Coke and KFC claim to keep so close to the vest, Bad Science columnist Ben Radford reports on a new book outing the companies and their shady 'secret' practices.

This is an interesting article on the evolution of keyboards and the tough time companies have in changing their layouts. I didn't know people were so touchy about it, but I guess when somethings are really ingrained, they tend to stick ...

Remember when Mi-6 was all over Facebook? Well, the new chief has smartened up.

USAToday's Ed Baig takes on the Google vs. Bing debate -- and without really saying anything new, praises Bing quite nicely. Make that change!

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BYU vs. China for censorship title

Wednesday, July 1, 2009 by Amber

There I was, eating my potato-and-cheese reheated lunch and browsing the news, when this headline caught my eye: "BYU lifts campus blockage of YouTube."


Are you trying to tell me that people all around the US are crying foul over China's directive insisting its citizens install the Green Dam program to block unfit content from their screens, but a US university acted *the same way*?

Readers -- feel free to chime in on this one. An institute of higher learning located on US soil has been blocking YouTube, the iconic poster child of free speech in America. I mean, sure, they are taking it back and saying sorry now, but *they did it*.

I'm fuming over this one, folks. Apparently it "will hold students at the Mormon university morally responsible for how they use the video-sharing website," according to our friends at USAToday.com.

And what, pray tell, is the problem with YouTube? I won't lie, I rarely use it, if ever, but I have no problem with it. Let's see what the experts have to say:

"We do block other sites (and have) filters as many institutions and companies do," university spokeswoman Carri Jenkins said. "They wouldn't provide any educational value. They would be in violation of the honor code as well."

Talk about blaming the orchard for a few bad apples.

Look, BYU -- I know you are very proud of being at the bottom of the annual list of party colleges, but I don't think sheltering your students from the evils of music-video knock-offs and silly parodies is really doing the student body any good. Assuming, of course, that the education you are giving them is top-notch, then you must also assume that, should these virtuous students want to bypass your filters and find all that evil Internet porn, they could.

And, no, it's not the same thing as a business censoring sites off employees computers to stop goofing off and unfulfilled productivity at work. Your students are not getting paychecks. Nor can you could every waking (and sleeping) moment they are within your hallowed halls as paid time they must use toward every productive means they can. In fact, since you are the ones collecting the exorbitant tuition paychecks, you should be ashamed for not serving your cash cows better than this!

Censorship is never the right answer. Must I reference Star Wars for a nugget of Princess Leia insight? "The more you tighten your grasp, the more star systems slip through your fingers."

Amen, girlfriend. Now that I've gotten that off my chest, I'm going to finish my cold lunch in peace.

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