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Mouse House pulls in Spidey

Monday, August 31, 2009 by Amber

Happy Monday afternoon! I"ve got a few tidbits to keep you moving throughout your day:

- Everyone has a gaming blog these days (haaaave I mentioned Captivate's new Gamer's Edge blog, debuting soon??), so it follows suit that our friends over at Digital Trends have launched a video blog with 'The Politics of Gaming.' Check it out if you have a few minutes.

- Guitar Hero 5 is going grunge with Nirvana's 'Smells Like Teen Spirit,' plus a few other tracks that bring me back to the days of faded flannel shirts, dirty t-shirts and even dirtier jeans. Ah, the good old days. Funny I didn't even like Nirvana back then, either.

- Have you ever wanted to be a doll? And, I don't mean a 1940-something flapper with a feathered headband -- I mean, a real doll? A woman in Chicago specializes in turning regular people into a Barbie/Ken-sized doll, and the results are pretty amazing. All you need is a few pictures from different angles, which is great because the doll doesn't have to be of you! Ex-boyfriend voo-doo doll? No problem! Oh, the possibilities ...

- And, in today's big news, Disney has agreed to purchase Marvel Entertainment for $4B. You can vote in our Captivate poll to voice your snarky opinion on the merger -- but I'm just excited! I think this is a brilliant buy for the House of Mouse, and it speaks volumes for comics in general! Well, done!

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Study Agrees that Kindle Really is the Green Solution!

Friday, August 28, 2009 by Amber

Good Friday afternoon, everyone! I've been dreadful about updating lately -- as was so nicely pointed out to me last night by a fan over a steak dinner -- so here's a fresh set of headlines for you all to look at while waiting for the weekend to begin!

** Before we get started, though, I had the pleasure of working off-site on assignment today covering the Ted Kennedy memorial service and public viewing in downtown Boston at the JFK Library. For a photo gallery of the Captivate screens on the event that we've been covering all day, visit us on Facebook! The album should be up soon ... And, I also tweeted the event while I was walking and talking, so follow us on Twitter to read the details!

On, now back to your regularly scheduled programming ...

- The folks at Twitter tried to have the word 'tweet' trademarked, but were turned down by the patent department because it could confusion with other usages. Yeah, I'm sure all those birds would have been *so* upset.

- People sure do idolize Apple -- so what's really hiding in the gadget-maker's closet? Here is a list of Apple's worst products that just makes me smile. :) See?

- Looking for a time-waster and want to expand your horizons? Then check out this list of the world's most unique gadgets!

- OK, the headline on this story made me pause to take a look ... but now that I did, I'm not sure I like the idea of hacking elevators to go faster. Aside from the business aspect of it sort-a being what Captivate does, isn't that dangerous to mess with an elevator? Uhh ...

- It's that time of the year again -- so check here for all the tools CNET says you'll need to get the most out of your fantasy football season!

- I've felt so good about my Kindle since I got it back in April, and now I feel even better environmentally for it, too! Claims suggesting the Kindle is better for the Earth than paper books are true! So, what are you still waiting for?

-In political news, a new bill is being considered that will give the president special powers in the the event of a cyber security emergency. I'm sure that bill means that it will give the president's white-hat-hackers and/or the White House's computer guy (think back to the SNL skit for a visual) -- because what the heck could Obama do in a cyber-emergency?

OK, be sure to check back here Monday for a new post and some new headlines! Have a great weekend!

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Fans test Microsoft's Project Natal

Monday, August 24, 2009 by Amber

In lieu of the new Captivate.com Gamer's Edge video game blog (debuting soon!), I'm ecstatic to share the news that Microsoft is letting people play with Project Natal (pronounced na-'tahl).

Wait: What is Project Natal?

A few months back at E3, Microsoft's XBox division debuted this unbelievable new technology that lets you play video games and interact with them in a way never possible before ... *without a controller*. Yeah, it's totally, completely hands-free. Hell, there aren't even body sensors or strap-on pads for the machine to find.

Using motion capture technology from a concealed sensor mounted on your TV (that's how the Wii does it, too), the XBox recognizes your head, arms, hands, etc., and translates them into a digital signature of your body that interacts with the game.

I've seen demonstrations of this, and I swear it's fake. I mean, I know it's not, but the idea that I can stand in front of my TV, or sit on my couch with a bunch of people and steer a car without anyone else's movements interfering ... well, that just blows my mind. It knows and remembers your body and can tell your hand from someone else's.

Think of it like this: Remember how LONG it took for the developers to create technology for Lord of the Rings' character Golem? With all those green screens and ping-pong balls taped to the actor's body? (The balls were used as points of reference for developers animating his body.) Think of Project Natal like that -- only in your living in real time. Yeah, it's that impressive.

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Headlines finish off a busy week ...

Friday, August 21, 2009 by Amber

Happy Friday! here are your top web stories of the week!

--Google -- what have you gone and done this time? Amazon, Microsoft and Yahoo have all come out against a settlement that would give Google the rights to a ton of book titles online. Did you really think the inventor of my miraculous Kindle was going to sit quietly by on this one, G-man?

--Gosh, I really hope my CEO isn't reading this right now ... Wouldn't want to give him ideas after a recent story came out that more and more companies -- up to 76%! -- block social networking sites from office machines.

--The Hope Diamond is getting a new setting -- and you can help choose it! The famed jewel was donated to the Smithsonian by designer Harry Winston, who has designed three possible new settings -- vote here for the one you like best.

--Americans apparently don't like listenning to music on their mobile phones -- and no, I don't mean ringbacks and tones.

--Looking for a killer back-to-school gift guide for all those teens, tweens and special people braving the halls this fall? Digital Trends has a great one full of some great ideas.

--Hey, WoW junkies: Check out the new magazine for you favortie online RPG.

--Oh, BlackHat ... how do I love thee? Here is a round up of all the best CNet stories from this year's famed Vegas hacker conference. I had the pleasure a few years back -- such a cool time! When Kevin Mitnick introduces himself to you ... yeah, that's pretty awesome.

I've got some great reviews lined up in the coming weeks, so stay tuned!


Catching up on the web headlines!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009 by Amber

It's been a while since we've taken a look at headlines! So, without further ado, here are your top sci-tech headlines of the week!

- A Texas judge has ordered Microsoft to stop selling its Word 2003 and 2007 products after ruling they infringe on a patent from Canadian firm i4i. It has something to do with a way Word formats files -- why's everyone gotta hate on Redmond?

- PayPal has set up a 'debit' service aimed at kids and parents under the guise of keeping everyone safe from online fraud. Parents can put money in an 'account' for their kids, then are alerted with an email everytime an online purchase is made. Please, PayPal -- call it what it is: a way for overbearing parents who can't cut the cord to keep track of Junior off at college so he isn't wasting his money. College kids: beware this 'great' new idea...

-Rumor has it Steven Spielberg is considering taking up the helm of the Halo movie in the wake of Peter Jackson's public fallout with the Master Chief.

- Google is giving it's newest search engine a *jolt*, garnering it some serious *buzz* and making the masses all *jittery*...

- Whoa. Nintendo is on the cutting edge of gaming right now, but what the hell is this?

- It's the ultimate knife in your heart -- seeing your significant other's Facebook status change from 'in a relationship' to 'single.' Thankfully, scientists have taken on this phenomenon in the paper, "More Information Than You Ever Wanted: Does Facebook Bring Out the Green-Eyed Monster of Jealousy?". Read it for a peek into your own psychosis.

In blog news, I've got some cool stuff in the works for you all in the coming weeks, including a beverage face-off -- caffeinated vs. its antithesis -- plus some more product reviews on alarm clocks, home soda dispensers and the newest MIMOBOT designs!

Until then!

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Part 2: Byte-Sized's High-Flying Adventure

Friday, August 7, 2009 by Amber

Continued from Wednesday's Part 1! ...

It's me really flying!Steering the plane was the first major task. See, the steering wheel on a plane, called the aerator, doesn’t actually do anything while the plane is rolling on the ground. To get it to move in the right direction, you have to steer with your feet – press left to go left and right to go right. And, try not to make the plane look like a stumbling drunk failing a sobriety test as you wobble and veer in the general direction of the runway.

Take off is a breeze … pull up on the aerator while gassing the engine (which is about 5 steps more manual then pressing the pedal). The wind catches you and up you go. Up … and up … until you eventually realize there you aren’t going to fall back to earth. And that’s a big step.

Look at all those trees!The white noise from the engines and air friction made the flight less than relaxing, and I spent most of it concerned with looking dumb (as previously mentioned), but that didn’t detract from the views – provided you can tear your eyes away form the controls, the horizon guide (to make sure you’re flying straight) and the nose of the plane and look out the windows. Most of my corner of the world is covered in trees, with pops of houses sprouting up here and there in seemingly random order. Highways – even the huge ones – look like ribbons of gray winding through overgrowth.

Landing is tricky. Although my co-pilot insisted that I did most of the work getting the plane back on land, the whole thing happened too fast to process anything. This sensation is called ground rush – commonly experienced by skydivers who think they have miles to go down still .. until the landing site rushes up and clobbers them.

After my lesson in the skies, my shoulders were so tense it took two days, some Advil and a spousal massage to get me back to normal. Most surprising to me was the ability of my co-pilot’s ability to tell direction. I grew up in this city, and I couldn’t have told you which direction was north, let alone how to find the mall from that height.

Either way you take it, the flight was fantastic – if only to brag to my kids how awesome Mommy is. It also gave me a greater respect for the guys who fly to huge airplanes from hubs all over the world. But, most of all, now I think I finally understand how flying becomes an addiction.

Every time I see one of those little two-seaters fly over my head while I’m stuck in traffic or overloaded with surface noise, I’m instantly taken back to the peaceful pilot seat, wishing I had a few more minutes to go before landing.

For more information on the Learn to Fly Program, or to find a participating airplane/airport in your area, visit: http://www.letsgoflying.com/

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Part 1: Byte-Sized's High-Flying Adventure

Wednesday, August 5, 2009 by Amber

A pilot once told me that flying is an addiction. The solitude and calm of gliding though the clouds like a bird becomes a natural drug of transportation – a peaceful respite from traffic jams and blabbering radio DJs.

Me and my new ride!When you're 3,000 feet in the air, banking a two-seater airplane against surface turbulence while peeking down at your childhood home nestled in a carpet of green, peace is not your first thought.

No, it’s more like … Oh my God, I hope I’m doing this right. Please let me not crash this plane into another plane, or say something over the intercom that makes me look like an idiot. I just want the pilot to not think he’s wasting his time of a silly girl with purple hair!

But how did a silly reporter with purple hair wind up worried about the rudders and aerators on an airplane? I recently took place in a fledging flight plan – the Learn to Fly Program – meant to introduce normal folk to the approachability of piloting aircraft. Through a relatively cheap fee of $99 per person, the program offers would-be aviators the opportunity to take their very first pilot’s lesson without any strings attached.

Check out all these controls!For those of you who are still determined not to become airborne, the facts speak for themselves: Flying is infinitely safer than driving in a car. Based on the sheer number of safety checks required before even turning the engine on, I can tell you I’ve never felt as safe. According to my pilot, Steve, each of the planes must undergo rigorous testing and maintenance plan: Every few thousand miles of logged airtime, the craft are disassembled, cleaned completely with full repairs, and put back together – a fact that really does make you feel better as the engine rumbles to life.

The simple fact is that airplanes – even ones with me at the helm – are completely non-threatening once you’re strapped into the pilot’s seat. The tension of manning the controls brought back intense, half-hidden memories of my first driving lesson: exhilarated fear and undeserved self-confidence.

But before you taxi out, you have to control-alt-delete everything you’ve learned about driving cars.

... ... Be sure to tune in Friday for the final half of Amber's high-flying adventure!

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