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Happy Birthday, Email!

Friday, October 30, 2009 by Amber

It's the day before Halloween, and this will be the last word on the holiday on this blog for another 11 months! For some reason, when Halloween is over, I'm ready to move on to the holidays with tons of enthusiasm and loose pants :) While you're contemplating that, here are some headlines to chew on ...

-Happy birthday, Email! Our favorite (or at least first) internet messaging device turns the big 4-0 today. USA Today's Technology blog has the story, in case you're interested.

-There are two things about this headline that perk my interest: "LG, 20th Century Fox Offer Avatar Content Exclusively on New Chocolate" -- can you guess which? One is the mention of Avatar, which has been in the news as of late after allegations surfaced of James Cameron ripping off the 'original' story ... the other is the mention of a cellphone called 'Chocolate.' It's not new, but I think I want one. Mmmm.... Too bad I'm a crackberry addict.

-In pretty big (or purported-to-be-big) web news, the head honchos that oversee web addresses have approved the use of 'Hebrew, Hindi, Korean and other scripts not based on Latin characters' to be used in web addresses. I wasn't aware that they weren't, but OK. Yay, way to get yourself included, all of you who weren't before!

See you all next week -- with some hopefully good news and an announcement or two ... I swear I've got some things in the works :) Have a spooky, scary weekend!





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What do fiber optics and poodles have in common?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009 by Amber

Good afternoon! It's gloriously gloomy up here in Boston, but I've got some special things cooking for the coming weeks on Byte-Sized!

Let's get a check of the headlines of the day, shall we?

-Microsoft has decided not to sponsor a Family Guy creators' comedy special on Fox because Redmond didn't like the content. I'm in the vast minority, but I've never seen Family Guy before, so I really can't comment. Must have been bad, though (read: hilarious) since Microsoft has been blitzing the public with news of its Windows 7. Obviously they didn't want to be associated with something so edgy, which, in turn, means you're all gunna think the special is the funniest thing of the year. Be sure to tune it!

-Interested in Facebook, The Movie? Rumor has it that the creators have enlisted Harvard's famous crew team to help with filming a few scenes. Uh, yum. And, this is not a joke: The movie is called The Social Network, and I'm SO not making it up.

-Looking for a last-minute costume for the adorable pet in your life? There's never a need to go farther than The Martha Stewart Show for all the whimsy you'd expect from the daytime craft queen. This week, in honor of All Hallow's Eve, Martha et. all. shows us all a tech-heavy costume (with batteries) to change your poodle into a dandelion, or your pug into a porcupine. The secret? Strands of fiber optics and doggie treats.

Got any awesome techy Halloween costumes you want to share? Send in your pics to bytesized@captivate.com and I'll share them on the site!





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Barnes and Noble's nook eReader!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009 by Amber


I never in a million years thought I’d say this so recently after purchasing my Kindle 2 … but I think I want a Barnes and Noble nook, too.

The ‘nook’ e-reader, which I briefly introduced the other day, is the massive bookseller’s answer to Amazon.com’s ereader – and, priced at $259 (within a few bucks of the Kindle), it’s actually pretty cool.

Feature-wise, it’s very similar in design and technology to the Kindle 2. Sleek curves and an EInk display, which isn’t backlit to make reading easier on the eyes. It’s thicker than the Kindle 2, at about the size and weight of a paperback, but it does offer one thing special: a touch screen color display along the bottom (where Kindle keeps its keyboard) that allows you to scroll between color images of book covers to decide what you want to read next. Gotta hand it to ‘em – that’s really frickin’ cool.

So, where do they keep the keyboard? It’s virtual and accessible through the touch screen at the bottom a la the iPhone – and, in a weird twist of writing fate, the nook also runs on the AT&T Wireless Network using a 3G connection to the BnN database/online ‘bookstore.’ The operating system is Android 1.5. Another similarity with the Kindle: Book prices range from free classics to $9.99 for new releases.

So, now for the extras: You can listen to MP3s on the nook – but I don’t know if that means you can listen to them while you’re reading, which could be very cool. Nook has an expandable memory card to store up to 17500 books – as if you’d *ever* want to keep them all; and, something Amazon.com could never offer: special features on the nook that only come in to play when you’re sitting inside a Barnes and Noble location. Free Wi-Fi in the café will help you download free, exclusive content just for customers.

And, of course, the girly girl in me who swoons over designer purses and fawns over expensive shoes is positively impressed by the Kate Spade and Jonathan Adler cases created just for the nook. I wonder if they could fit my Kindle??

Now, for me, most of these features are slightly irrelevant when using my Kindle 2. I read novels on it. Lots of novels. I don’t look at PDFs, or read the newspaper, or do work things or look at picture books. It’s fun to see a book’s cover when I’m done reading it, but I’ve stumbled onto some great books whose actual cover art would preclude me from touching them with a finger let alone be seen buying them. Case in point: Anything my Charlaine Harris. Great, great books. Crappy covers. And, I love a cool cover, don’t get me wrong.

Also, I read before bed, or in a quiet room of my house, or while my kids are running around their playroom screaming – all times when I really don’t want to hook up earbuds and deal with a dangling cord and drown out the world. It would be nice to listen to ‘Linus and Lucy’ at the gym while I’m reading, but it’s not worth a brand new device if I already own one. I also am not the person who enjoys downloading free ‘exclusive’ content – sorry, but it’s usually not that great.

What’s the single thing that I dislike about the Kindle 2? I hiz-ate the screensavers of old writers portraits. They’re dumb and ugly, and I’ve written to Amazon.com suggesting a new line of screensavers available for download – I’d spend $5 to get rid of Harriet Beecher Stowe; hell, I’d spend $20 – but no go so far. With the new nook, though, you can download images and create *custom* screensavers! Wow, they took my idea and improved it dramatically, really creating something that feels personal and makes the device *mine*.

And, let’s talk about the name for one second – nook. Perfect! First, it’s a funny play on ‘book,’ which I give them credit for trying to be cute. But, more to my sensibilities, it speaks to the greater user experience of being in a Barnes and Noble, browsing the shelves. How? Well, when you find your book and want to sit down in a comfy chair, where do you go? Into one of the many *nooks* around the store to hop into the recently vacated overstuffed chaise and relax! *Applauds* Great idea!

So, is the nook a Kindle-killer? Nope. Do I think the Kindle and the nook can co-exist happily together? Of course! The fact that Barnes and Noble felt the need to create their own only legitimizes the market’s desire for these *awesome* gadgets! They’re not quite mainstream yet, but it’s going to be hard for America to ignore the promotion Barnes and Noble is (or, should) throw behind the nook. Posters in every store, featured writers available only on the nook (may I volunteer myself?) …

I look forward to the day when I won’t have to explain to curious onlookers what the heck I’m doing when I’m reading my Kindle. And, thanks to the nook, it looks like this day could be sooner rather than later.










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A Taste of Some Web Headlines

Monday, October 19, 2009 by Amber

Happy Almost-Halloween, readers! Here at Byte-Sized, we're already lamenting the onset of an early winter -- yesterday's Patriots game as solid evidence.

So, let's all burst out of the doldrums with some tech headlines! We haven't done this for a while ...

-I know you all love those little netbooks -- if they had cheeks, I'd pinch them -- but experts are now questioning the viability of the genre moving forward. Everything's gotta grow up, I guess!

-From suck to blow? No, this isn't a dirty joke; it's the future of our favorite 'never say never, try it 187 times' vacuum maker Dyson. The inventor's next project? A fan with no blades.

-Are you in the market for some ink? No, not printer ink, you geek. I'm talking tattoos! Here are some awesome techy ones for your consideration...

-Hi, Jeff Moss! Remember me? We met once, and it was so cool! Here is the famous hacker talking about the internet's age of innocence and why it's over.

- In today's hugest news that no one is talking about (!!!), Barnes and Noble is reportedly throwing its hat into the e-reader marketplace tomorrow with its 'eBook' -- which boasts a color display (because of, you know, all those normal novels that are printed in color?) and a very Kindle-like design.

Side note: Since Sony refused to send me one of their e-readers to test out vs. my Kindle 2, I strolled into a Sony store to try it the other day -- and it's safe to assume why I never got one in the mail: The thing is awful. Beyond ridiculous. Bad user experience, WAY too many buttons, a wicked delay and a teeny screen -- not to mention the distracting colors and hard-to-carry metal case. Yikes. Aaaaanyways.....

So, back to the BnN eBook: Awesome! I can't wait to see one of them! Hopefully the designers and developers have studied the market and understand what makes the Kindle rock my little reading world and slammed the covers shut on the Sony.

Most importantly, though, you need to understand what's going on here with the Barnes and Noble announcement.

You see, BnN is a brick-and-mortar store that benefits from the sales of REAL BOOKS -- but they also sell the experience of visiting one of their library-like locations: Strolling the shelves while sipping a latte, standing in line at a mid-night release party, curling up in a semi-comfy armchair and deciding which of your stack of browsing books are actually coming home with you.

With the introduction of an e-reader, BnN is lending credence to what amounts to an infantile market (no matter how much I love it and think it's the future) of people carrying thousands of pages of text on a device I could literally stick in my back pocket. Or, a small purse. Either way, this is a HUGE step for a company that makes its living off real paper and hard covers.

Not that I really think the bookstore will ever go away. There is still something to be said for a home library of your fave tomes or a quiet afternoon sipping a latte and perusing the new arrivals.

It's just a distinction and step forward in the world of reading that is worth thinking about!







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UPDATE: Rubik's Cube completed!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009 by Amber



... but not by me! Here's the scoop, from Captivate's own Jacqui Pini, who runs our Indulge blog:

I finally solved the Rubik’s Cube.

It is totally a toy of the 80s and I think that is the last time I saw a Rubik’s Cube so when Amber gave me the challenge I assumed I’d figure it out on my own. When that proved to be too difficult I turned to the guide book. Even that was tricky. One wrong move and you’re back to step one. The turn-by-turn instructions are great, but there is plenty of trial and error. At one point there was a knock on my front door … and then it was back to step one as I completely forgot where I was.

I am embarrassed to say how long it too me to solve it, but I am going to guess I worked on it on and off for 3 hours. Even my fiancé was telling me to take a rest, but I was addicted. I had to finish it. If I started over, I know I could get it in about 20 minutes because I completely understand all the steps.

If it has been a while since you’ve used a Rubik’s Cube I highly recommend you pick one up. It is a good workout for your brain and definitely fun to take on an airplane or somewhere you will not be easily distracted. I am going to keep up with it until I can do it with no instructions. Next move … I play dumb and bet people I cannot solve it!

Ugh -- I'm so jealous, Jacqui! Stupid thing ... Too hard! But, Jacqui proved it can be done, and that Rubik's new promotion does actually work. Well done! Maybe I'll try it again.

Oh no. Does this mean I actually have to make that Rubik's Cube cake (previous post)?? Son of a...














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No, I really can't 'Do The Cube'

Monday, October 12, 2009 by Amber

29 years ago, a Hungarian inventor thought up an iconic puzzle that to this day has my brain hurting within a few minutes of picking the darn thing up.

Click, Click. Nope, then I mess this color up. Click. No wait. Unclick. Son of a...!

You guessed it: The Rubik's Cube. My dreaded nemesis for as long as I can remember. So, why are we talking about such a demonic piece of bewildering plastic?

Because the company that owns the Rubik's Cube has launched a teaching program for kids to get them excited about math, the main teaching implement not being a book but a cube.

Directly form the press release: "Holding the Rubik's Cube, twisting and turning the parts, can help children of all ages grasp important math concepts including area, perimeter, volume, angles, algorithms and enumeration, among many other geometric, algebraic and general math topics. Some could use it to teach life lessons and 21st century skills such as focus, following directions, memorization, sequencing, problem solving, critical thinking and perseverance."

Wait, hold up. You think you can teach a school-aged kid how to do the Rubik's Cube using algebra? I rocked algebra, and I aced geometry with a solid and earned A+ -- what the heck have I been doing wrong all these years? (And, side note, since when are all of those '21st century' skills not applicable throughout history??)

So, dastardly cube in hand, I shuffled all the matched sides and began.

We all know how this ends -- I followed the tricks manual, the 'how to' guide to the letter and the only info I gleaned from both is that the center pieces are all different colors and don't move. This is how you're supposed to line up the colors. After a half hour, I still wasn't holding the stupid thing correctly, let alone past the 'Getting Started' intro to the guide.

My own ineptitude aside, this is a pretty awesome idea. Can you imagine how psyched a little kid would be to show his mom he solved a Rubik's Cube? I would have a party and bake a cake (see right -- I did not bake this cake, though) for who ever I knew that could actually do it!

If you want more info (or tips on how to tackle the dreaded Cube to impress people), visit http://www.youcandothecube.com/.

C'mon geeks, fess up: How many of you can 'Do The Cube'??










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Go Pink in October!

Friday, October 9, 2009 by Amber

This October is the 25th Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and everyone is coming out in support of the cause. The NFL donned bright pink accessories for last weekend's games as a BCA 'Kick-Off' -- and we at Byte-Sized want to help as best we can!

For the duration of the month, we'll be highlighting pink products whose profits (or a portion of profits) go to support breast cancer research, prevention and promotion!

Now, all of us gadget-aholics know that every one worth their salt comes in a shade of the girliest pink. Don't be fooled! It might be great to should your support with the color alone, but if you're gunna spend the money, why not go for something that actually helps make a real difference?

Today, we're tackling e-readers -- a topic near and dear to my little pink heart :)

SON'y ereader and viao for Breast Cancer Awareness MonthSony is offering a special Sony Reader Breast Cancer Research Foundation bundle that includes the pink Reader Pocket Edition, a gold clutch cover accessory and a Sony eBook Store coupon code for the free download of a four-book collection about the disease and the women that have overcome it, all for the price of the Reader Pocket Edition. The company is also offering a pink Vaio laptop with pink mouse and carrying case.

Sony will donate $110,000 to support the Breast Cancer Research Foundation in connection with the sale of these products. To purchase either of them, visit SonyStyle.com.

On the Kindle front, in direct contradiction with my above statement on color variations, my favoritest of all gadgets still comes in minimalist white, but what about a fashionable case with a conscience?

M-Edge Accessories, a developer of protective covers and accessories for eReaders like Amazon Kindle and Sony Reader, has just launched a new light pink Kindle Prodigy jacket created specially for this month. The company will donate 10% of each sale of the light pink jacket to The Breast Cancer Research Foundation. It retails for $44.99.

If you're interested (can you say *early Christmas pressents?!*), click on the below link to Amazon.com!



Thanks everyone, and have a great weekend!











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Capitalism: A Stomach Ache

Monday, October 5, 2009 by Amber


This post was moved to the Captivate 'Out and About' blog -- click here to read the review in its entirety, and to follow Captivate's other ventures out of the elevator!

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Review: DRANK relaxation drink

Friday, October 2, 2009 by Amber


Product: Drank Extreme Relaxation Beverage
Product Appeal: Excellent
Product Taste: Average
Product Price: $54.95 per 24-can case
Order online

By Deanna M. Murray
Director of Content

“We have combined Rose Hips, Melatonin and Valerian Root with a great tasting beverage to create the industry's first ‘Relaxed Lifestyle Beverage.’ These ingredients have the ability to relax your body, mind and soul. So when life comes at you fast, just remember to ‘slow your roll’ with Drank.” -- From the DRANK soda can.

When a TV news station says there’s something on the market accused of having marijuana-like qualities, this wholesome, law-abiding, down-home girl has to give it a shot. I mean really. It’s legal, I can’t get arrested and I don’t have to feel bad about it later. So there you have it.

Drank is a soft drink, marketing itself as a relaxation drink -- the anti-energy drink, if you will. Its slogan ‘slow your roll’ plays into the can’s dreamy, billowy, lofty look and feel. And the purple color and cloudish logo reinforce it. And while the can design and overall idea is fantastic, the concept of a drink that can actually mellow a person out is kinda scary -- but why, really? We take sleeping pills. We eat foods known to make us chill out. Why not a drink? I mean, isn’t that why some of us throw back a cocktail in the evening? OK. I talked myself into trying it ...

The 16-ounce can seems to be a lot to consume and, being a little scared of what was going to happen, I opted to drink only half on my first try. After a pretty rough day in the office, and the effects of about 10 Diet Cokes to cope with it running through my veins, I threw back the grape, fruity drink (a little too sweet for my blood) in a relaxed manner. I mean really – wouldn’t it be a contradiction to drink a relaxation drink in a hurry or like it was a shot of grape schnapps? Yeah. I thought so, too.

So I kicked back and relaxed while sipping my relaxation drink -- I mean, Drank -- and went about my evening, wondering when I would feel the effects. And it was rather quick, actually. I mean, I didn’t all of a sudden feel so relaxed I wanted to run throw every inhibition out the window, but within about 20 minutes, I felt a little light-headed (in a good, not-drunk way) and could tell my body was relaxing. That night, I easily went to sleep, and slept through the night. When I awoke the next morning, I wasn’t groggy and did not feel any lingering affects of the Drank.

Now, not knowing what marijuana makes a person feel like (seriously, I have no idea), I don’t know if I agree or disagree with the newscast I had seen a few nights earlier about Drank being compared to marijuana, but I do know it seemed to do what it said it would.

Again, the drink was a little too sweet -- I am used to energy drinks being filled with syrupy flavor and tons of sugar, and I expected Drank to be a little lighter and not quite as soda-ish, as it’s overall consistency and taste seemed to contradict the anti-energy drink persona. But I would drink it again -- and would probably try it before popping a sleeping aide in the future.














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