paul nicholson

Archive for the ‘Cool Tech’ Category

Obsolete Business

In Cool Tech, History/Politics on February 3, 2011 at 11:49 am

Was just reading this article about the impending decline of the internal combustion engine. Nothing that hasn’t been said before, but it’s a good read. The comparison to cigarette smoking 50 years ago vs now seems appropriate. But in that article was the following blip:

The corner 24 hour store will stop having eight pumps offering gasoline and go down to four, then to two, then just one. It’ll be situated ’round the back and you’ll have to go inside and ask the cashier to turn on for you. Eventually that’ll be gone too; finding go juice will start to become a challenge.

Gas line on Porter Road

That got me thinking…
(continued after the break)
Read the rest of this entry »

If I ran the internet…

In Cool Tech on December 18, 2009 at 11:31 pm

A few times lately I’ve run in to several old nemeses on the web. Irritating flaws in design or function, lack of expected capabilities, or other general lack of reading my mind on the part of developers. So, like any whiny geek, I’m blogging about it.

Here is my wish list of things that I thing Google and others should tackle to make my life easier (in no particular order). Hop to it!

1) Flickr/Facebook integration: I really wish Yahoo would go ahead and buy Facebook so they could integrated it with Flickr. Flickr finally got around to letting you tag people in photos (years after Facebook did), but it is still limited to your Flickr contacts (not even just other Flickr members) and so few of my friends and family are on Flickr that this amounts to very few people being available for tagging. Facebook on the other hand has a massive adoption rate and just about everyone I know is available for tagging. But Facebook’s photo service is just bad. Images are compressed and resized to horrible quality, you can’t tag photos on maps, group them, etc. If I could tag my Facebook friends on my Flickr photos…[sigh]. That’s a world I want to live in.

(continued after the break)
Read the rest of this entry »

Android Apps

In Cool Tech, Me, Reviews on November 2, 2009 at 9:09 am

(Caveat: This is an old post! Not necessarily what I’m using today)

With the arrival of high-profile Android phones on so many new devices this holiday season, many of my friends are finally jumping on the Android bandwagon. First off: Welcome!

Second, many of you keep asking me (as someone who’s been using Android for almost a year already with my 1st gen G1) what apps you should install.

So, here is a list of the apps I currently use, in no particular order. I’ll try to update the list occasionally, but no promises. If you want my latest recommendations, hit me up on Twitter. Also, keep in mind I’m using a 1st-gen G1 with Android 1.6. Those of you lucky enough to be using a phone with 2.0 or 2.1 will have a different experience. Some of these apps will not be necessary since the OS has features built-in, while others may not run if the creators haven’t ported it up to 2.x

APPS

  • Advanced Task Manager – One of the few pay apps I run and worth every penny. Allows you to manage which apps are allowed to run and which ones aren’t, etc. One of Android’s biggest features is also one of its drawbacks: multitasking. Much like WinMo devices, it can run multiple apps at once but many of those apps don’t “quit” when you leave them. They simply go to the background. This costs you battery life and CPU cycles. Sometimes that’s a good thing, other times not so much. This app lets you kill apps that need killing and even lets you schedule regular termination to squash some pesky apps that auto-start periodically in the background. I got an immediate boost in battery life and performance with this relatively inexpensive app.

(continued after the break) Read the rest of this entry »

Pixar’s 3D Headache

In Cool Tech, Entertainment, Me, Movies, Reviews on October 16, 2009 at 11:27 am

To say this wouldn’t fit in 140 characters is an understatement. Sorry for the long-winded post. Just takes some explaining…

I just got through seeing the Toy Story 1 and 2 in 3D double feature. Those that know me, already know that i’m a huge Pixar fan, so i won’t go into a long review of the movies. They are amazing, life changing events and you should see them (though amazingly, i think i was in the theater tonight with several people that had never seen either movie). This is more a review of the 3D-i-zation of the movies.

Interestingly i was both very pleased and disappointed. In that chronological order. I also made a discovery that i had often wondered about but never gotten the chance to test. It explains why i have always gotten a bit of a headache when i’ve watched just about any 3D movie.

First a little background: “Toy Story” and “Toy Story 2″ were, of course, not originally created for 3D presentation. They were originally created using 3D computer animation (“Toy Story” of course being famous as the first feature length all CG film), but rendered to flat 2D images for traditional exhibition. The great thing about this process is that, of course, Pixar still has the original files they used to create these movies so it was a relatively easy process to re-render the movies in 3D (after making lots of minor tweaks to lighting, etc). This means old movies in 3D, but in true 3D – not kinda hacked apart and “spatialized” like we’ve been hearing George Lucas threaten to do with Star Wars.

(continued after the break) Read the rest of this entry »

BNA refuses to modernize

In Cool Tech, Family, Me, Nashville, Work on August 8, 2009 at 2:00 pm

My new job requires me to travel quite a bit more than my last job (which required basically no travel at all). I’ve begun the life of a road warrior to a small extent, already going in and out of BNA (Nashville’s airport) a couple of times a month in the last little bit.

Anyone that knows BNA and knows me, knows this means frustration. You see, i’m a geek and like my power-hungry gadgets, and BNA is practically void of convenient power outlets. While most airports in the country have rows of waiting area seats complete with A/C and USB power outlets, BNA has only a few power outlets scattered under payphones, behind doors, and at the base of columns, like the picture to the right. With few exceptions, all of these require sitting on the floor to access.

(continued after the break)
Read the rest of this entry »

Cupcake!

In Cool Tech on April 30, 2009 at 10:20 am

Very happy to hear that the “Cupcake” update is apparently being rolled out to G1 users at last. This will finally, really make my G1 the phone i wanted it to be.

Here’s the quick list of features i’m looking forward to most:

  • Support for A2DP & AVRCP Bluetooth profiles (Stereo!)
  • Video recording (with better YouTube account integration)
  • Soft (onscreen) keyboard
  • Open Applications by Voice Command
  • “Significant” bug fixes in email checking, especially POP3 and IMAP
  • New menu option to list running processes
  • Updated WebKit browser core (way faster!)
  • Copy / paste is enabled in the browser
  • Find is enabled in the browser (for searching within a page)
  • Save attachments from MMS

I’m not sure, but it may also finally include support for more Home Screen widgets.

Another cool addition to the Cupcake build of Android that doesn’t affect my G1: It now supports x86, which if i read it right, means i can load Android on my PC if i want to.

(continued after the break)

Read the rest of this entry »

Little Help!?

In Cool Tech, Friends, Me on April 24, 2009 at 2:02 pm

Just a quick post to beg for money. Ok, kinda.

For those following the saga of the ReTweetBot (vote here for a new name, we don’t like that one), you’ll know that it is a cool Twitter app that i had an idea for, and i talked Garrett into coding for me.

Well, i’d like to pay Garrett back for his trouble (and ok, i might keep a little for myself).

So… ChipIn here. Heck, even if it’s just $0.50, that’s fine.

Thanks!

Macroblogging

In Blog Stuff, Cool Tech, Me on April 13, 2009 at 8:08 pm

For those that have followed this blog for a while (Hi Christy, mom, dad, etc) you’ll probably recognize that i haven’t posted in a while. In fact, this is probably coming up in your RSS feed reader and you’re wonder what this blog is and why you subscribed. Many of you may have subscribed because you were told by many other people that this was a blog that covers the Nashville Predators. And it does. Or did. Kinda still does. It covers the Predators about as much as it covers anything these days, which is to say, not much.

I have increasingly been using Twitter to share my thoughts with the world. The tool of instant spur of the moment microblogging has sucked me in completely. So much so that i actually created (or helped create) a tool specifically so i could have a place on Twitter to talk about the Predators and not annoy the general population.

However, a strange thing has happened lately. I have begun having more frequent thoughts which i would like to share with the world, but can not be expressed in 140 characters or less. Personally, i blame the long hours minutes of holding my son Ian while waiting for him to fall asleep. With that much unoccupied time, my mind wonders on long tangents it hasn’t been able to in a while.

Anyway. I also remembered that i can quickly blog from my phone from anywhere via email in a manner not dissimilar to how i use Twitter. This allows me the freedom to quickly express that brilliant thought that will change the lives of everyone who reads it, but do so in an unencumbered fashion (and with pictures!). For instance, i can now afford the characters to use words like “unencumbered”.

So, be prepared to have this space active once again. Or at least a little more so. But to be clear, a lot of what i have to say, especially about the Preds, will probably still be on Twitter.

ReTweetBot: Instruction Manual for Users

In Cool Tech, Me on December 15, 2008 at 6:33 pm
(Note: We’ve finally launched ReTweetBot.com
these instructions are mirrored there along with much more info)

After essentially borrowing and tweaking the idea from a few others, @phragmunkee (Garrett) and i put together what he accurately dubbed the ReTweetBot. A very simple tool that allows for Twitter users to form permanent groups that have a large numbers of users, with a common interest, follow each others’ tweets without having to follow all off-topic tweets.

You can check my first post on the topic for a bigger explination of what ReTweetBot groups are and how they got started (and how this differes from hash-tags for topical twittering).

What follows is a quick instruction guide for users of the groups (a set of instructions for managers of the groups will be posted shortly).


(For all examples below, I will use the group @PredFans as the group in question. Just substitute the name of whichever ReTweetBot equipped account you want to use when you are posting.)

There are two basic ways of posting to a ReTweetBot equipped group.
1) Using an @ reply. Simply start your Tweet with “@PredFans”. Anyone can post to a group this way (if the administrator has the option enabled).

Send a tweet like this…
And it will appear like this…

As you can see, this method has the disadvantage of “double posting” and making what you say show up in your regular Twitter feed as well as going to the group account. Sometimes that is fine, but the point of these accounts is to move topical conversation ‘clutter’ to the group account, so there is a better way…

2) The other posting option is to send a Direct Message (sometimes called a DM) to the ReTweetBot enabled account. For this to work, the admin must have the option enabled (it is “on” by default) and the ReTweetBot enabled account must be following you on Twitter. If they aren’t following your Twitter account, then the @ reply option above is the only way you can post.

The advantage here is that your Tweet will only show up on the ReTweetBot account (for everyone following there to see) and not clutter up your main feed.

So you send the tweet like this…
And it will appear like this…
With no duplicates in the feed!

So, that is the basic method behind posting to a group.
A few more pointers and tips:

  • Your name will be added to the front of your tweet (along with a colon and a space), so make sure to leave room – you can’t post a full 140 characters. If your username is 11 characters long (like mine), your message to the group can only be 127 characters long (11 for username + 2 for the colon and space + message).
  • If you want to tweet “at” someone in the group using the @ reply method, make sure you still start with the ReTweetBot group name first, otherwise it won’t post. Saying “@predfans @pwnicholson blah blah” will post to the group. Saying “@pwnicholson @predfans blah blah” will not post to the group.
  • Same principle aplies to DM posting method. “d predfans @pwnicholson blah blah” willpost to the group just fine. “d pwnicholson @predfans blah blah” or “d pwnicholson predfans blah blah” will not post to the group.

When everything is working right, you’ll end up with a twitter stream that looks like this:
A bunch of people with a common interest who don’t have to follow each others’ every tweet to have a conversation about the topic they all care about.

If you have any questions or feedback for the groups, please let me know in the comments of this post. We hope to be either launching either an online service, open to all, or make the code available so others can start their own groups soon as well. For now, the test groups that are up and running are:

@PredFans – the first group, created for Nashville Predators fans. Already up to 160+ followers with many regular participants.
@TitanFans – for fans of the Tennessee Titans
@GoLeafs – For fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs
@OilFans – For fans of the Edmonton Oilers
@MotorcycleFans – For fans of two-wheels
@BOLOEastNash – “Be On The Lookout” Crime watch group for the East Nashville neighborhood

Twitter Groups Done Right! (aka: I hate Hash Tags)

In Blog Stuff, Cool Tech on October 18, 2008 at 7:49 am

I hate hashtags.

Now, i know hashtags have a place. For very large groups (for instance, those tweeting about the presidential debates all over the country), hashtags make sense. It allows people to search for a given tag and see what anyone has to say about a topic.

But there is a problem with hashtags.
For large, but closed (and relative to the larger Twitter community: small) groups, hashtags are a mess and create all sorts of issues.

EXAMPLE PROBLEM:
Today many geeks, including myself, are at BarCamp in Nashville. They are encouraging everyone to hashtag tweets with #bcn08. But the problem is, I can garuntee you there are people who normally follow myself, Christy, Jackson, Kate, Alison, etc who aren’t the least bit interested in BarCamp. Well, tough for them because thanks to only using hashtags, we’re going to flood their Twitter feeds with what is essentially a private conversation for those participating in BarCamp.

There is a solution though!

Last year’s BarCamp (back in 2007) featured a basic retweet service that searched tweets for a certain string (“BCN”) and posted it to one Twitter account (go search back to posts in 2007). This let everyone that wanted to “hear” people talking about BarCamp follow one account and not miss out. That way they don’t have to follow everyone at BarCamp and hear them talk about their kids later on. You just hear what they have to say about BarCamp, but nothing else. Awesome.

That was only part of the solution though. There were still issues.

Problem was, it looked for a simple string in any Tweets. In this case it was “BCN”. So if, for instance, my buddy Jackson, who i already follow on Twitter, said something with “BCN” in it, i got it twice in my feed. Not to mention the same problem of cluttering feeds with things people don’t want still applied.

THE SOLUTION:
So, the solution seemed pretty simple: change the retweet engine from repeating based on a simple string, and rather look for people who Tweet @replies to the group account, or better yet, send direct messages to the account.

This gives two levels of filtering:

  • Those who want to have @reply filtering setup on their Twitter feeds (only show @replies to people i’m following).
  • I can keep messages to the group account out of my main Twitter stream by sending it as a DM.

So, i had the brilliant (very very simple) idea (of taking someone else’s idea and changing it). But i couldn’t code it. My coding-fu has long ago left me and if i can’t do it with HTML and basic Javascript, i’m at a loss. Enter Garrett (aka @Phragmunkee). He’s a geek in Chattanooga that helped me setup a ReTweet engine for Predators fans.

So, we now have @PredFans. Anyone can post to it by starting a tweet with an @reply (which would leave the post in their normal stream as well), or send a direct message which leaves it out of thier normal stream and says it only to those that want to follow the topic.

This is what the resulting stream looks like:
Clean, simple, and it doesn’t clutter up the individual feeds and streams of the users involved.
As you can see, the most important factor is that it allows for very quick, real-time conversations among twitter users in a far better way than traditional hashtags.

It also gives admins more control. While we have @PredFans wide open, you can restrict those that can post to the group to only users you choose to follow with the group account. Creating a closed-posting group that anyone can follow and read.

And yes, Twitter quickly granted us white-list status so we can poll the API twice per minute to check for new posts. We could go faster, but we’re running on a borrowed server for now :-)


FYI: We just started a few more groups as well:
Tennessee Titans football fans: @TitanFans
Toronto Maple Leafs fans: @GoLeafs
Edmonton Oilers fans: @OilFans
East Nashville Crime List: @BOLOEastNash
Motorcycle Fans: @MotorcycleFans


Random Updates

In Cool Tech, Entertainment, Hockey, Sports on October 2, 2008 at 2:10 pm

Two quick random updates on previous posts:

1) Back in May i posted about Fox Sports’ announcement that they would be increasing their ability to handle HD signals and that in 2009 they would be 100%, 24/7 HD. Of course there was no promise as to when in 2009 they would be 100% HD… Today we got the confirmation that out of the 55 Predators games that will be airing on FSN South (or is it FS South now?), 22 will be in HD. They are pretty widely spaced through the season, and don’t seem to pickup later into 2009…so we’ll see if that improves or how that is connected to this great new HD signal processing center.

2) The KeepOn that i raved about back in September of ’07 (you remember that right?) is finally going on sale…for $30k each. A company (BeatBots) has been formed to sell the cute little interactive robots, and for now they are primarily targeting the technology to research firms and universities. So i guess that goes on my “If i had a million dollars” wish list, not the “General Wishlist“. Check.

As a reminder of how awesome this thing is, here’s its appearance in Spoon’s video for “Don’t you Evah”

the return of Turbo

In Cool Tech on May 27, 2008 at 10:07 am

Overclocking PC’s makes sense to me. Manufacturers send out PC components clocked to certain standard speeds that make sure the components operate well for long periods of time with no errors – but usually they could go faster if a few tweaks are made, so some people (as i have done a few times) change a few settings and boost the performance of their system a bit. Simple enough.

Some manufacturers even make ‘pre-overclocked’ systems where they take the biggest, baddest hardware available and push it even higher. They are sold at a high premium for gamers that want the absolute best performance possible.

But what i haven’t seen since the 486 era is a turbo button. But check out MSI’s new videocard – the 9600GT will have a big red “Turbo” button on it that will automatically overclock the card.


Why? If the card is stable enough to run overclocked, what person in their right mind would turn the “turbo” off? It never made sense to me back in the 386/486 era either.

UPDATE: To be clear – i know why they do this. It’s all psychology. Just like Spinal Tap. 11 is one higher than 10, so if my amps go up to 11, then they are louder. If my video card has a turbo button on it, then surely it is faster than some old “normal” overclocked card.

I’m on Google News!

In Cool Tech, Hockey, Me on May 21, 2008 at 11:51 am

For those that don’t know, Google News pulls stories from major news sites, but also pulls stories from blogs as long as they are authored by more than one person (like say, ghia’s blog).

There are also a number of sites such as Bleacher Report and BallHype that aggregate sports blog stories and republish them together. The practical upshot is that post that a person makes on an individual blog now show up like they are posted to sites authored by many people, so Google News will search them.

You can also setup Google News to search for certain terms and display those results for you next to the pre-set categories (such as Sports, World News, etc). I have it setup to search for Nashville Predators news and guess what just showed up…


Look familiar?

Not that big a deal, i know. But i just think its cool that something i wrote would come up on Google news :-)

All Predators games in HD "soon"

In Cool Tech, Entertainment, Hockey, Sports on May 19, 2008 at 10:48 am

Good news Preds fans – more HD is on the way!

I had the “HD will do more for hockey than any other sport” discussion again last week. Between the ability to see the puck (sans glowing) and the ability to see more of the play developing on the ice (much of hockey actually happens away from the puck), the benefits of getting as much hockey in HD as possible are evident.

Last year, we Preds fans groused about not having more games in HD repeatedly. Center Ice didn’t show the games in HD (even if they were available) and Fox Sports Net: South, which carried most games locally) only provided a relative few games in HD. The worst came in the playoffs, where Preds fans only got one game (on NBC) out of 6 in HD. Out of 94 Predators games played in the 07-08 season, only 23 were available in HD in Nashville (1 NBC, 1 Versus, 21 FSN-S).

We were told that most of the games weren’t available in HD because there was 1) a limited number HD production trucks at FSN’s disposal and 2) a limited amount of bandwidth and signal processing ability to simply handle that many HD feeds.

So, back to the “good news”: FSN just announced that they will soon be opening a new signal processing facility in Houston that will allow them to “handle up to 40 live [HD] games per day”. More importantly, they promise that “in 2009″, they will be 100%, 24/7 High Definition.

Of course, that could take until December of 2009…or they could miss their target entirely. But the fact that they are making a concerted effort to get as much HD out there as possible is a good sign. And 24/7 means that even if the NHL is the last thing they support, it will be here eventually!

Side Note: If they can get all Preds games in HD sooner rather than later, and the NFL does indeed go into a lockout*, this could be a very good year for hockey in Nashville indeed.

*I like the Titans just fine, and wouldn’t wish a lockout on other fans for anything. But from a strictly business point of view, you know having the NFL go into even a short lockout would be a boon to the Predators business. UPDATE: If the NFL does go into lockout, it won’t be until the 2011 season.

I love technology (and the Spurs)

In Basketball, Cool Tech, Sports on April 26, 2008 at 9:56 am

We don’t have cable, but that hasn’t prevented me from watching any of the Stanley Cup and NBA playoffs. Thanks to MyP2P, which provides live feeds from China (makes you realize how useless the commentators are when they speak another language and you don’t miss anything), and ESPN360.com, i’ve been able to watch all i want, live over our broadband connection.

ESPN360.com is particularly great. I can watch anything on any ESPN/ABC sports property around the world (including rugby, soccer, etc if i wanted to), many of which are available on “replay” (on-demand). Best of all, the quality is outstanding. The feed of last night’s Spurs/Suns game (which the Spurs won handily) was a feed of the HD broadcast (which means widescreen) and i think darn close to HD resolution itself. Certainly looked great.

Here’s a screen cap (click on it to see it full resolution) so you can see the awesomeness.
Best part: it is free, at least for anyone whose ISP supports it, which AT&T (Bellsouth DSL) does. Not sure about those on Comcast or TDS or other ISP’s around Nashville.

critter captcha

In Cool Tech, Funny on March 17, 2008 at 8:38 am

First off, for those not familiar with a ‘captcha‘, they are basic test for humanity in web-based forms, meant to keep spammers away. If you make a comment on my blog, you’ll see one. They are generally a random collection of text that you have to enter into a form…the typical “type the word you see here” kinda stuff. The one at the right here (“A6LTY”) is from a Facebook sign up page.

You may have seen them getting more and more distorted lately (like the one to the right from MSN). This is because spammers were starting to use basic OCR software to allow their automated programs to defeat the tests. OCR software has a hard time seeing through distorted letters that (most) people can still easily see.

Last week captcha’s were in the news not once, but twice. First, Gmail’s captcha on their sign up process has supposedly been cracked. Gmail had been a pretty safe place to do your email business until recently, but now we may start seeing more spam come from “@gmail.com” (like we’ve been seeing from @hotmail and @yahoo for years). If that wasn’t bad enough, there are apparently spammers in Russia paying people $3 a day to do nothing but enter captchas all day.

So, what is a site supposed to do to protect its users against spammers?

Go fuzzy.

I just signed up for an account on the Clarksville Leaf Chronicle to comment on a story about East Nashville’s 5-points area*. I was greeted with this captcha:
That’s right. You now get to go back to kindergarten and identify your animals. I hit refresh and it gave me 9 new animal pictures and asked me to click on all animals with four legs. Creative and kinda fun. I wonder how long it will take to crack though…

* I wanted to make a comment, but haven’t been able to yet due to a really screwed up sign up process, because this chick must be really dumb to think that 5-points is named that just because the businesses are part of the Greater 5-points Merchants Association…wow…is Brooklyn named that because you get to it on the Brooklyn Bridge?

headset for the truly cool

In Cool Tech on February 27, 2008 at 1:06 pm

This is awesome.

A Bluetooth headset for your phone…that also functions as a USB MicroSD card reader. Just pop in any MicroSD card and unsnap the ear-piece off the headset…and plug it in to a USB port. Wow.

And it’s just $80, which isn’t much more than your standard higher-end Motorola headsets these days. And it looks really cool. Video here.

I wish i didn’t have a laundry list of other stuff on my gimme list, and a shortage of cash for it already.

GrandCentral

In Cool Tech, Me on February 26, 2008 at 9:24 am

I just signed up for the latest cool tech to come into an open “Beta” from Google: GrandCentral. Really cool concept, pretty solid execution. Can’t wait to see what it turns into eventually (or how they monetize it in the future).

The basic concept is this: Signup. Get a new phone number. Setup all your real phone numbers to tie to your account. Now, when someone calls your GrandCentral number, it actually rings any of your numbers.

For instance… if you were to call 615-823-1734, it would ring my work number, cell number, and home number simultaneously. I would then have the choice of answering, forcing the call to voicemail, or screening it…you’d start leaving a voicemail and i could “pick up” if i wanted to. I would be able to access your voicemails from any phone, or from the web. I can also set rules to direct different callers to different numbers at different times of day, and even have custom voicemail greetings and rings for different people.

The fabulous thing about this, is the people calling my number will never see my real phone number. I can even call into my GrandCentral number and then dial out to someone – the GrandCentral number would show up on caller ID, not my real number.

And it’s all free…for now anyway. I could easily see a time when in between my witty custom ring sounds callers would have to hear ads, or something similar.

But for now, this is pretty sweet.
It is a semi-open beta, and i have 7 more invites i can send to people (leave a comment if you want one), or you can just hit their site and try to sign-up yourself.

And gimme a ring if you want: 615-823-1734 :-)

LAN Party!!!!

In Cool Tech, East Nashville, Entertainment, Friends, Games, Me on February 20, 2008 at 11:13 am

It’s that time of year again: My good friend Matt and I are celebrating another trip around the sun (my birthday is March 7th, his is March 1st). So, we’re going shoot each other. :-)

Yes, we are throwing another LAN party!

dark picture from last year’s party

This year we’re going to try to make things a little more coordinated. For the sake of simplicity, we’re going to base the day’s gaming around the Valve Orange Box and games distributed through Steam. Specifically, mods for Half-Life 2, but we’ll probably throw some Team Fortress 2 in there, and may break out Quake 3 Team Arena, Battlestations: Midway, or any of the other free demo games on Steam.

Depending on who is there, we may end up playing some Tribes 2 (now free online), or some RTS or other (Battle for Middle Earth?) and we may even devolve into playing some console games (like 8-player NHL 08 on my shiny new PS3). But we’ll mostly stick to stuff on Steam.

The party will be March 8th at my place in East Nashville, from 1:00pm to… late (probably around 10:00pm or 11:00pm…)

Here’s the fun part – you’re all invited!

What you have to bring:

* Your own PC (with monitor, keyboard, mouse, and headphones!)
* A running copy of Steam and Half-Life 2 installed – before you arrive if possible
(the full Orange Box package is a plus, but not needed)
* $5 for pizza

We’ll provide snacks and drinks, as well as seating, tables, power, and network connections.

If you are interested in attending, then let me know by either commenting on this post or direct message me on twitter (just post to Twitter “d pwnicholson: i want to come to your cool LAN party”) and i will get you directions. If you are some really random person i’ve never heard of before, i may want to at least…ya know…talk to you first. But all my rad blogger buddies are certainly invited, male and female alike (of course, be warned: to have fun at this party there is something of a requirement to be a gaming geek at some level).

If you can only come to part of the party, that’s certainly fine. Several people are already planning on being there for “only” 4-5 hours. It’s cool.

It’s over

In Cool Tech, Movies on February 16, 2008 at 6:37 pm

UPDATE: Toshiba did not make the surrender announcement as expected. However, one of the manufacturers of HD-DVD and Blu-Ray movies has switched to Blu-Ray only production given the shrinking demand for HD-DVD media. Toshiba is holding on, but the end is inevitable. Just a matter of when.

—————————–

Wow. That didn’t take long.

The official truce documents haven’t been signed yet, but it looks like the Blu-Ray doesn’t just have momentum – the battle is over. HD-DVD will be no more very shortly.

After all the major studios switched to (save Universal and Paramount) and Netflix, Blockbuster, Best Buy, and Walmart all went Blu-Ray exclusive…it only took a day or so for Toshiba, the main manufacturer of all things HD-DVD to pull the plug. That pretty much seals the deal. If they stop making HD-DVDs, that just leaves one manufacturer (Hitachi – who made only about a third of the HD-DVD hardware to begin with).

Those wanting to track the state of the battle near the end, check this “state of the division” that lists the basic tech differences, which studios support which format, manufacturers, and other pertinent information that led to the downfall of HD-DVD.

So, everyone go grab your PS3’s and stand-alone players. The war is over!

more bad news for HD-DVD

In Cool Tech, Entertainment, Movies on February 15, 2008 at 11:27 am

When Wal-Mart drops you, you are pretty much done.

More Blu-Ray goodness

In Cool Tech, Entertainment, Movies on February 11, 2008 at 7:41 am

If all of this wasn’t reason enough to consider the HD-format war over, Netflix just announced that “Netflix, Citing a Clear Signal From the Industry, Will Carry High-Def DVDs Only in Blu-ray Format“. As for its current HD DVD inventory, they said the company “would continue to rent until the discs’ natural life cycle takes them out of circulation in the coming months”. So it sounds like HD-DVD will be going sooner rather than later. (This makes me wonder though – do Netflix discs get abused that badly? Each disc only lasts a few months? Ouch.)

Between Netflix and Blockbuster going Blu-Ray only, Engadget is right – it is going to be darn hard to find HD-DVD to rent, even if they don’t truly go away.

In related HD-format war news:
Here’s the list of movies being released in each format this week. Still have any questions?

Blu-Ray: The Amateurs, Becoming Jane, Gone Baby Gone, No Reservations, Over America In High Definition, Over California In High Definition, We Own the Night

HD DVD: The Amateurs, (and a ‘mature audiences’ movie that will remain nameless)

Total count is now HD-DVD: 333, Blu-Ray: 476

In related Netflix news:
Someone just posted a new plug-in for Windows Media Center that allows you to integrate the Netflix online streaming “Watch Instantly” content. Sweet. This will go perfect with my new MCE setup upstairs :-)

And in other related Netflix news:
Netflix has apparently started a contest (no idea how long ago) for someone to develop a better way to predict what type of movies people will like. The “Recommended For You” section of their site, along with Amazon and other sites is based on algorithms that factor your past viewing habits and ratings. $1mil to a great idea. Anyone have any thoughts?


UPDATE:
More bad news for HD-DVD. Best Buy just announced that they will switch from a neutral stance to recommending Blu-Ray. They will promote Blu-Ray hardware and titles on their website and in their store. They will still carry HD-DVD, but will give preference to Blu-Ray.

is the format war over?

In Cool Tech, Entertainment, History/Politics, Movies on February 3, 2008 at 9:44 pm

Personally, i think it is fairly safe to call it. At ‘worst’ we might end up with a truce and both formats will survive in some capacity, but i don’t think it’ll even come to that. Sony finally beat the Betamax (and mini-disc, ATRAC, memory sticks, Super Audio, and UMD among many others…) curse and won a format war.

Blu-Ray is here to stay.

Blu-Ray had a huge boost in market share after Christmas, and still routinely controls 60%-plus of the high-def movie market week after week. Since the inception of both formats, Blu-Ray controls 64% of the market, and has controlled all 10 spots on the Nielsen VideoScan list of top titles every week since Christmas. It is also worth noting that many HD-DVD movies come bundled with the standard DVD as well, so the HD-DVD numbers may be given a boost by customers buying those copies for the standard DVD’s, not the high-def format.

I even did a little research for ya. Here are a few interesting fact nuggets that lead me to believe in HD-DVD demise:

Getting a handle on which studios are lined up fully in which camp would be tough, especially given the distribution rights for different territories, etc. However, I think one of the more important aspects of a format war is the ever-important Killer App.

Killer Apps for a movie format would of course, be movies. So, let’s make a short list of movies or series with a major cult following that might compel someone to purchase a player for either format (in no particular order):

HD-DVD:

Bourne Trilogy
Serentiy
Dune
The Mummy
Shrek
Star Trek (movies and TV shows)
Battlestar Gallactica (TV show)
Heros (TV show)
Braveheart

Blu-Ray:

Pixar Movies (Toy Story, Finding Nemo, Cars, etc)
Stargate (movie and TV shows)
Pirates of the Caribbean
X-Men
Lost (TV show)
James Bond (many not yet released)
Disney Animated Features (many not yet released)
Lord of the Rings (not yet released)

Both:

Monty Python
The Matrix Trilogy
Harry Potter
Bladerunner
Terminator
Superman Returns

Still undecided:

Star Wars
Indiana Jones
Firefly

So…spot anything you can’t live without?

One of the other early deciding factors has been who is buying these players. It would be all well and good if all ABC sitcoms from the 1990’s were released on one format or another, but if those people don’t drive early adopter sales, then it won’t matter.

Which brings us to another point: HD-DVD has been pushing massive price cuts for players and media. However, mass-consumer demand is still for normal DVDs. The only customers buying high-def format movies are early adopters and videophiles. Not the types that generally react well to red-tag sales and feature stripped players for low prices.

As of Jan 28th, there were 381 HD-DVD titles compared to 459 Blu-Ray titles available. Blu-Ray also adds more each week on average, and they tend to be more popular and “a-list” titles. Here’s the “new release” list for the month of January as an example:

Blu-Ray:

  • Shoot ‘Em Up (New Line)
  • War (Lionsgate)
  • Resident Evil (Sony)
  • Resident Evil Trilogy (Sony)
  • Resident Evil: Extinction (Sony)
  • 3:10 to Yuma (2007) (Lionsgate)
  • Con Air (Buena Vista)
  • Dragon Wars (Sony)
  • Killing Machine/Shogun’s Ninja (BCI)
  • Man on Fire (Fox)
  • Night of the Werewolf/Vengeance of the Zombies (BCI)
  • The Rock (Buena Vista)
  • Sister Street Fighter/Sister Street Fighter 2 (BCI)
  • Sunshine (Fox)
  • Breaker Morant (Image)
  • Good Luck Chuck (Lionsgate)
  • Mr. Woodcock (New Line)
  • Suburban Girl (Image)
  • Went To Coney Island On A Mission From God…(Starz)
  • The Game Plan (Walt Disney)
  • Saw IV (Lionsgate)
  • Daddy Day Camp (Sony)
  • Damages: The Complete First Season (Sony)
  • The Invasion (Warner)
  • Justin Timberlake: Live at Madison Square Garden (Sony BMG)
  • Monty Python’s Life of Brian (Sony)

HD-DVD:

  • Mobsters (Universal)
  • The Pianist (Universal)
  • White Noise (Universal)
  • White Noise 2: The Light (Universal)
  • Zodiac: Director’s Cut (Paramount)
  • The Ten (City Lights)
  • Channels (Vanguard Cinema)
  • Method Man: Live from the Sunset Strip (Music Distribution)
  • Strauss: Die Fledermaus (Opus Arte)

Both:

  • Dispatch: Zimbabwe – Live at Madison Square Garden (WMG)
  • King of California (First Look)

So. I’ve got my PS3 and am firmly in the Blu-Ray camp now. Pixar was my killer app, but Stargate, the 5th Element, Pirates of the Caribbean and Harry Potter sure didn’t hurt. Cars alone is worth the investment for me. If you haven’t seen it in HD yet, let me know and i’ll arrange a time for you to come over and watch it. It will blow. your. mind. Just make sure you put in a fresh set of contacts or clean your glasses well before you come over.

blogging to go

In Blog Stuff, Cool Tech on January 20, 2008 at 10:49 pm

After a few hundred blog posts or so, and many months of being mobile-web enabled, i have finally setting up Blogger's email-to-blog feature.

This is not without its limitations (no formatting, no links, poor image embed ability). Never the less, this post is coming to you straight from my new blackberry via the gmail mobile app.

You may be amazed at my geek power now.

never ask ‘where’ again

In Cool Tech, Pictures on December 26, 2007 at 2:29 pm

This is pretty awesome.

A small GPS device that you carry around in your pocket. You simply sync its clock up with the one in your digital camera, stick it in your pocket, then walk around taking pictures (for up to 5 hours). Then when you’re done, pop the SD card from your camera into the device. It automatically looks back on the stored GPS data from your day’s travels and compares it to the time stamp on the pictures you’ve taken. Then it writes the data to the pictures exif info. Instant GPS equipped photography.

Given that i geo-tag every picture i ever take (yes – all 4,400+ pictures in my Flickr stream), this is definitely something i could get in to. Now i just hope that Flickr goes back to the old way of viewing (like the map on the right of some of my photos) the maps of my photos. It wasn’t perfect before, but it is better than the new method.

this looks familiar

In Cool Tech on December 14, 2007 at 9:27 am

I have referenced this story before
Once upon a time, when the DVD+RW and DVD-RW camps were battling things out, I had a fledgling media business where I would convert people’s home movies to DVD and author nice fancy menus for them and such. However, I didn’t want to get stuck buying the wrong kinda of DVD burner, so I shelled out nearly $500 for an external Sony “4 format” drive. I assumed it would be a rare beast and that eventually one format would win, but I wanted to cover my bases. Just 6 months after I bought that Sony drive for $500, a truce was declared, 4-format drives became popular, and dropped in price to under $100.

So having learned that lesson, I’m certainly holding off on this. But it is good to know the options are getting better…

Addonics (anyone ever heard of them before?) has finally come out with a sub-$500 drive that will read both HD-DVD and Blu-Ray discs (while burning old-school DVD+/-RW’s). That’s just fine with me since I can’t even remember the last time I burned a DVD…that’s what network attached storage and set-top media extenders are for these days. I certainly don’t know when I’d need to burn a 25GB disk. This is pretty similar to this LG drive from a few months ago, but i personally still can’t find these phantom LG drives for actual sale anywhere. At least the Addonics are available for purchase.

Anyway. With this little toy, all anyone would need is a video card that supports H.264 decoding (they start at around $50) and a decent PC overall and they’d be able to watch HD-DVD and Blu-Ray movies on their PC (not to mention the tons of Blu-Ray and HD-DVD software that is out there…oh wait…there isn’t any). Total price (assuming you have a PC that is a year old or less) to get you to the HD promised land would run a total of about $500. Much better than, say, the few stand-alone dual-format players that run upwards of $999. Ouch.

finally i can edit on the road

In Blog Stuff, Cool Tech on December 5, 2007 at 8:01 am

I love my ability to quickly post blog entries and/or photos to my Flickr stream straight from my phone. However, one major downside to this is an inability to edit the photos quickly. I can upload them, but if the shot isn’t cropped right or balanced right or whatever, i have to wait until i get home to load up photoshop. Now, however, as long as i am within reach of any PC with web access, i can edit them. Sweet!

tempting…

In Cool Tech on December 5, 2007 at 7:33 am

If i could know for a fact that i would be able to secure a reliable cheap/free supply of cooking oil, this would be pretty tempting given that we own two diesel vehicles (both VW hatchbacks that get 40+ MPG). If i remember our budget, this is going for roughly what we spend in 1 year on fuel. So given that i’d still have to buy chemicals, the inevitable maintenance on the machine itself, and the work/risk/hassle of the actual process… i think it’s still a little ways away for us. But tempting. And i like that it is getting closer to practicality.

showing off hulu

In Cool Tech, Entertainment, Videos on November 22, 2007 at 1:44 pm

First off, here’s your promised list of all shows currently on Hulu (* denotes a show currently on air):

24
30 Days
* 30 Rock
The A-Team
Adam-12
Age of Love
Airwolf
Alfred Hitchcock Hour
Alfred Hitchcock Presents
Alias Smith And Jones
* American Dad!
Andy Barker P.I.
* Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader?
Arrested Development
* Back To You
Battlestar Galactica
Battlestar Galactica Classic
Big Ideas for a Small Planet
* Bionic Woman
The Bob Newhart Show
* Bones
Boo!
Breaking Away
Brother’s Keeper
Buck Rogers
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Burn Notice
Chicago Hope
* Chuck
The Comebacks
* Cops
Cover Me
The Crow: Stairway To Heaven
* Damages
Doogie Howser, M.D.
Dr. 90210
Dr. Steve-O
Dragnet
Eco Biz
Eureka
Exosquad
Family Guy
* Firsthand
Flipping Out
* Friday Night Lights
* Ghost Hunters
* Heroes
Hill Street Blues
* House
Inside the Actors Studio
* It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
Jack of All Trades
* Journeyman
* K-Ville
* King Of The Hill
Kitchen Confidential
* Kitchen Nightmares
Kojak
L.A. Dragnet
Land of the Giants
* Las Vegas
* Late Night with Conan O’Brien
* Life
The Loop
Lost in Space
Lou Grant
The Mary Tyler Moore Show
McHale’s Navy
Miami Vice
Monk
Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle
Murder One
My Bare Lady
* My Name is Earl
Nanny and the Professor
Night Gallery
* The Office
Over There
Peacemakers
* Phenomenon
Picket Fences
The Practice
The Pretender
* Prison Break
Psych
Queer Eye
The Real Housewives of Orange County
Remington Steele
The Riches
Rob and Amber: Against the Odds
Saturday Night Live
* Scrubs
Simon & Simon
* The Simpsons
Sitting Ducks
Sixth Sense
Solitary
St. Elsewhere
Stacked
Standoff
The Starter Wife
Swamp Thing
* Talkshow with Spike Feresten
Tequila & Bonetti
* The Tonight Show
Total Recall 2070
Vanished
Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea
WKRP in Cincinnati
Woody Woodpecker (New)

And here are the full-length movies that are avialble (yes, that is the Arnold Schwarzenegger version of “Conan”):

The Breakfast Club
Conan the Barbarian
The Blues Brothers
Bulworth
The Jerk
Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
October Sky
Sideways
Weekend at Bernie’s

Interesting thing about the movies: some of them are ‘edited for TV’ (like “Master and Commander”) – pan-and-scan and edited for content…

…while others (like “Conan”) are show in their ‘original format’ or at least close to it. They just cram the super-wide cinemascop into 16:9 TV format, which means the whole full length movie is all squishy.

Note: You can also see on the screen shots above how often the commercials happen – they are the little gray dots on the timeline at the bottom of the screen. Each one represents a single 30-second commercial. Not too bad considering the movie is 2 hours and 16 min long.

Another really cool thing about watching some of the longer content: it apparently sets a cookie. If you watch a movie (or show) on one PC – stop – then come back, it remembers where you left off and starts at that point. Pretty sweet, i think.

Oh, and here are a few other random things they have on the site…

Fox Movie Channel presents “Casting Session”
Fox Movie Channel presents “Making a Scene”
Fox Movie Channel presents “World Premiere”
IGN Videos

…as well as clips (not full shows) of a few other programs like soap operas. Whatever.

And now, what i think is the single best part – here’s an embed of the Lost In Space pilot for your viewing pleasure (complete with the theme music stolen from Bernard Herrmann’s score for “The Day The Earth Stood Still”):

And to really show things off, here’s a clip i created out of the pilot for Buck Rodgers in the 25th Century which i think qualifies as the first mention of a “Stargate” on TV.

Good stuff. Good stuff indeed.

New Feed Options

In Blog Stuff, Cool Tech, Hockey, Me, Sports on October 6, 2007 at 9:41 am

So, i just realized that in addition to the normal RSS/Atom feed services that Blogger provides, there are also feeds just for certain labels (the subject keywords i tag posts with).

The practical upshot of this, is that it solves my problem of really running two blogs here. One (which is the majority of posts) is about sports (mostly hockey). The rest us just my random ramblings about cool technology stuff, movies, or whatever.

Well now all those who just want to read the terribly wonderful and insightful things i have to share about sports, but don’t want to know about the latest cool items on thinkgeek.com can just subscribe here.

http://feeds.feedburner.com/blogspot/GeekThoughtsSports

(I also added the link down on the left-hand column).

To be clear for those who don’t know how these things work: Don’t worry, my normal feed will still include the sports stuff. If you subscribe to the main one already, you don’t need to subscribe to the new sports feed. It’s for people who only care to know when i post things about sports.

Enjoy!

random geek and game stuff

In Cool Tech, Entertainment, Games on October 4, 2007 at 10:37 am

Let’s get this out of the way first: I’m going to the game tonight, can’t wait for real hockey to get going, and i’m pumped! (thanks to my parents for spotting us tickets for opening night!)

Now… to this post.

Lots of random linky-ness and cool techie stuff.

Many awesome new products at ThinkGeek including the famous/infamous 8-bit tie that was originally an April Fools prank on the site, a maternity “geek inside” shirt, a new bag that you don’t want to try to use as a carry-on for your next flight, and a collection of funny bumperstickers, including my new favorite cross between on religious and geek bumperstickers. Last but not least – the natural evolution of mini remote control helicopters: weaponized mini remote helicopters. Unfortunately still no sign of a KeepOn.

In other geeky news: There is now at least some sketchy ‘scientific’ proof that my wife’s new-found gamerness has real-world upside.

And in other gamer news: More announcements of tracks for Guitar Hero 3.
While i couldn’t care less about Slash or the other “legends of rock” that are supposed to be bosses in the game, i am really looking forward to playing many of these songs. Here’s the list of the ones that have me chompin’ at the bit.

  • La Grange — ZZ Top
  • My Name Is Jonas — Weezer
  • Paint It, Black — The Rolling Stones
  • Sunshine of Your Love — Cream
  • Cliffs of Dover — Eric Johnson
  • Black Magic Woman — Santana
  • Pride and Joy — Stevie Ray Vaughn
  • Bulls on Parade — Rage Against the Machine
  • Devil Went Down to Georgia — Charlie Daniels Band
  • Hit Me with Your Best Shot — Pat Benetar
  • Barracuda – Heart
  • Cult of Personality — Living Colour
  • Mississippi Queen — Mountain
  • Slow Ride — Foghat

And ok, ok…in the interest of equal time, here the list of songs i’m dying to play in Rock Band.

  • Should I Stay or Should I Go – The Clash
  • Here It Goes Again – OK Go
  • Learn to Fly – Foo Fighters
  • Say It Ain’t So – Weezer
  • I Think I’m Paranoid – Garbage
  • Suffragette City – David Bowie
  • Main Offender – The Hives
  • Blitzkrieg Bop – Ramones
  • Black Hole Sun – Soundgarden
  • (Don’t Fear) The Reaper – Blue Öyster Cult
  • Brainpower – Freezepop
  • Creep – Radiohead
  • Enter Sandman – Metallica
  • Gimme Shelter – Rolling Stones
  • In Bloom – Nirvana
  • Mississippi Queen – Mountain
  • Tom Sawyer – Rush
  • Won’t Get Fooled Again – The Who

Of course in addition to all of those, entire albums will be made available for download/purchase after release, including The Who’s Who’s Next and Nirvana’s Nevermind.

And yes, those of you that know me know i can’t stand Rush, but i have to admit it is going to be fun to play Tom Sawyer, especially if i can mute to vocal track. I particularly look forward to seeing how they do the drum part for “Learn to Fly” by the Foo Fighters. That, plus “Everlong” were tracks i used specifically used to work up my chops when i was drumming more. Higher levels there are going to be tough!

TF2 Review

In Cool Tech, Entertainment, Games, Pictures, Reviews on September 30, 2007 at 1:26 pm

I keep meaning to make a post about Team Fortress 2. Unfortunately, ever since it was released made available for beta testing to people who pre-ordered the Orange Box, i haven’t stopped playing it long enough to make a post about it. I haven’t been playing it a scary amount, but given the choice of using my spare time to blog about TF2 or actually play TF2… the blog kept getting put off.

Sufficed to say this game is immensely fun. And i don’t mean it is well done and engrossing and realistic…i mean it is FUN. Goofy, laugh-out-loud fun. Don’t get me wrong, it is also engrossing and immersive and all of those good things that games should be. But most importantly it is the one thing that so many games aren’t these days – a real pleasure to play. This game isn’t about realism. It is about chaos, ridiculous situations, rocket-jumping, bunny hopping, and all those other things that made old-school deathmatch gaming so fun – but with great team dynamic and balanced gameplay like i’ve never seen outside of Day of Defeat. Over and over again while playing this game, i find my self laughing outloud – usually when i’ve just been blown away. That tends to happen when the ‘death cam’ shows you the person that just killed you looking like the screenshot on the right. Any player can instantly put their character into a ‘taunt’ at any time. It’s great fun to hit that button right after you kill someone so you know they are being forced to watch you dance. There are also many times when the game will also helpfully identify the parts of you that are laying at your enemy’s feet (see image at the left). These shots also show off another cool aspect of getting killed – the game always gives you updates on what you’ve done well. The game is a statistician’s dream and tracks the amount of damage you do, kills you get, kill assist you get, healing you perform, captures made, buildings made, buildings destroyed, etc, etc. After you are killed it told you what was particularly good about that last round, for you. You may be like me and stink at the game, but hey, you got closer to your record for damage in a round as a soldier that time than you’ve been in a while. Playing this game and being killed manages to be a constantly rewarding and reaffirming experience, without being condescending.

One of the other things that is really nice is the concept of the kill assist. The most obvious version of this is when a Medic is healing a Heavy or some other player and that player kills someone. The Medic clearly made it possible, so they get partial credit for the kill and receive points. The other, really nice kill-assist is when you’ve done a large portion of damage to an opposing player and one of your teammates comes along to help and finishes them off. Well, you may have done 250 points in damage to that Heavy (who has 300 hit points) but in most games your teammate that did the final 50 points damage would have gotten sole credit for the kill. In TF2, you both get credit. Your name gets flashed along with your teammate’s.

Another fun/competitive element thrown into the game is the concept of a “nemesis”. If someone kills you 5 times without you killing them, they are said to be “dominating” you and they are now your “nemesis”. They will now have a special icon above their head (only for you) and you’ll get double points if you can manage to kill them (a “revenge kill”). I’ve had the pleasure of being on the giving and receiving end of these multiple times and it just adds another layer of fun to the game.

My one request/complaint is that they took away the nifty muzzle flash effects we saw in the trailers. This whole game as a very cartoonist, straight-outta-Pixar look to it (but is surprisingly easy on the system requirements). In all the trailers – right up to a few weeks ago – all the muzzle flashes were very cartoonist as well. However, in the ‘beta’ version we’ve all been playing, they decided to covert the muzzle flashes to use the same nifty particle effects technique they developed for the Pyro’s flame thrower.

Original muzzle flash effect

New muzzle flash effect.

There are dozens of other awesome things i’d love to say about this game. It has a great commentary track from the makers of the game, cool intro videos you can watch to help you understand the basics of each map before loading them, a really nice achievement system…and don’t get me started on the intricacies of playing the engineer. But…i’m gonna go play more now.

If you want to track my personal game stats, you can always see them here.

Keepon Keepin’ On

In Christy, Cool Tech, Funny, Videos on September 13, 2007 at 8:45 pm

Many of you may not have seen this yet. It is amazing. It is cute. It is amazingly cute.

Its name is Keepon. It is a very simple robot, but with cameras for eyes, a microphone in its nose, and programming to react to its environment and dance. It is currently being used to study non-verbal play/dance behavior in children. As my wife said, it should be used to study the ability of cute japanese products to suck money out of people’s wallets. $30 on ThinkGeek.com and we’d have placed an order already.

This video was put together by Wired, as a promotion for Nextfest, a Wired-sponsored technology fair that has a big robotics push this year. From what i understand, the vast majority (if not all) of Keepon’s reactions to the music and people around it are genuine and a result of programming, not pre-scripted.

See the first test/dance video that was posted here.

More Hockey-ness

In Cool Tech, Hockey, Sports on September 9, 2007 at 9:13 am

First a quick mini-update to the exciting news about the Dolphini Networks sponsorship: A little birdie half-confirmed form that there will be something in the way of player-cams in the Sommet Center this season! I don’t know of anything else like this in existence in pro sports (I know the SF Giants have some pretty spiffy high-tech stuff in their ballpark). I hope the Preds marketing department makes a HUGE deal out of this and gets press all over the place (nationally and locally).

And now, as i hit “Draft Ready” on my Fantasy Hockey league and get ready to request time off from my boss to go to some of the Predators Training Camp open sessions, here is a little poem for your enjoyment. This was written by an acquantence/friend, Matt McCluskey and is published here at his suggestion.

“Just Days Until Training Camp” (with sincere apologies to Clement C. Moore and Barry Trotz who isn’t really toothless :-)

Twas just days before training camp, when all through the arena,
Not a creature was stirring, not even a trainer;

The pads were hung by the Zamboni with care,
In the hopes that Lord Stanley soon would be there;

My wife and I were nestled all snug in the cheap seats,
Until visions of power-play goals had us dancing on our feet;

Then my wife in her jersey and I in my Preds cap,
Quietly settled down for a long summer’s nap;

When out on the ice there arose such a clatter,
We sprang from our seats to see what was the matter;

Away to the pricey-seats we flew like a flash,
Tore open the Zamboni doors and sat on the dash;

The gleam on the ice looked like new-fallen snow,
And gave the luster of mid-winter to objects below;

When what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But an old hockey coach, and eight Preds skating like reindeer;

With the Canadian coach, watching their shots,
I knew in a moment, it must be Barry Trotz;

More rapid than Mike Eagles, his skaters they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;

Now Tootoo! Now Erat! Now Sullivan! and Mason!
On Smithson! On Suter! On Zanon! And Ellison!

To the top of the blue line to behind Mason’s goal!
Now skate away, skate away, skate away all!

As Edmonton Oilers before the Carolina Hurricanes fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;

So up to the rink-top, the skaters they flew,
With a zamboni full of jerseys and Barry Trotz, too;

And then, in a twinkling, I heard from the dasher gate,
The hissing and chirping of each little skate;

As I drew in my hand, and was turning around,
Down from the skyboxes, Barry Trotz came with a bound;

He was dressed all in nylon, from his head to his bottom;
And his clothes were all tarnished, like his goalie was Hardy Astrom;

A bundle of jerseys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like Ron Hextall ready to take a whack;

His eyes how they twinkled! His dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like Don Cherry;

His toothless little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as Garth Snow;

The stump of his whistle he held tight in his remaining teeth,
And his cool breath encircled his head like a wreath;

He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like Mike Eruzione;

He was chubby and plump, but could put it top shelf,
And I laughed when I saw him in spite of myself;

A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;

He spoke not a word, but went straight to the puck;
And filled all the hockey bags, and hoped for good luck;

And laying his hockey stick aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the plexiglass he rose;

He sprang to the Zamboni, to his team he gave a whistle,
And away they all flew off the ice like a missile;

But I heard him explain, as they skated off of the ice,
HAPPY HOCKEY TO ALL, AND TO ALL A GOOD-NIGHT

Originally it was “Nine Days Until Training Camp” but i changed it to make it more general since it is not actually nine days until training camp anymore. I also liked Christy’s suggestions that it should have ended “Happy Hockey to All, and to all a good fight!”, but it is awesome as it is. Great job Matt!

more cool stuff

In Cool Tech, Videos on August 27, 2007 at 7:16 am

So some more of my pictures just got used in a video about BarCamp.

And this service is awesome. Check my first quick video. Took about 3 minutes 15 seconds to make this.

And while we’re on the topic of videos…
Will you people with Netflix click on this link so you can be in my community on the service already!?

That is all.

Killer App

In Cool Tech, Movies on August 26, 2007 at 10:17 am

For those that are unfamiliar with the concept of a Killer App, it is pretty easy. Essentially it is any application/use of a new technology that makes that technology more desirable. This is most commonly used when describing video games and software. Earlier versions of Windows could be described as killer apps because when they came out, everyone went out and upgraded their computers so they could run the latest version. Conversely, Windows Vista has certainly not been a killer app because it did not drive hardware sales and was not seen as necessary.

I have twice before experienced the killer app. Once was when Half-Life 2 came out. I needed a video card (and thus computer) upgrade to be able to really run it the way it was intended. Before that however, i was part of a much more widespread killer app experience…

When DVD’s first came out, adoption rates weren’t too great. The new format certainly looked good, but sloppy digital transfers and a lack of bonus content (which no one missed because they’d never seen it before) made DVD’s just seem like really expensive VHS. Why bother?

Until The Matrix.

That DVD was so loaded with cool features and used the new technology so well that people had to buy DVD players ($250+ at the time) just so they could watch a $30 DVD. I for one owned the Matrix DVD a good 3 or 4 months before i even owned a DVD player.

The move to HD/BluRay DVD’s has been similar. Certainly the picture is better, but no killer app has come along to compel me (or much of the population) to shell out the extra cash for the players. But that is about to change: Hot on the heals of announcing the Pixar Shorts collection, Disney just announced that Cars comes out in Blu-Ray format on Nov 6th as well.

I am saving my pennies now.
(And dropping hints for Christmas if anyone’s listening).

Pixar in HD – coming soon!

In Cool Tech, Entertainment, Movies on August 24, 2007 at 7:00 pm

Well, you’ve heard me talk about it and hope for it before.
It is here at last…sorta.

Pixar is going to release a collection of its short films on Blu-Ray. Release date Nov 6th. $24.49 on Amazon.

That seals it. If Gran Turismo 5 wasn’t enough (and my back catelog of PS1 and PS2 games), we are getting a PS3. Maybe not this Christmas, maybe not in a year, but sometime. Sometime soon. I really feel silly with how excited i am about this.

The regular DVD description on Amazon says this is “Volume 1″ but it looks like it will be (almost) all shorts to this point. They are just smart enough to know there will be more in the future so they just called this one “Volume 1″. It will have everything from The Adventures of Andre and Wally B. (which was actually done under Lucasfilm…making this the first Lucasfilm property to be released on HD format) all the way to Lifted. Only things not included will be the shorts they did for Sesame Street (“Light & Heavy” and “Surprise”). For a list of their short films (and to watch some of them) check here. Looks like commentaries and a featurette or two will be included as well.

I’m curious which version of Knick Knack will be included…the original version from way-back-when had a much more “buxom” version of the mermaid figurine than the one released on regular DVD a while back. I’m hoping they go more Pixar archivist and include both, not Disney whitewash and just include the new version.

Nothing mentioning Blu-Ray only content. Man i hope this is full 1080p. I can’t imagine it not being. And i can’t wait until they release the full length movies. The Blu-Ray version is just $2 more than the standard DVD.

I’m not surprised that Disney/Pixar is going Blu-Ray now that i think about it. Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple, funded and still owns a large stake in Pixar. Pixar essentially owns Disney now. HD-DVD is Microsoft’s baby… so Disney goes Blu-Ray. Gotta love it.

In format-war related news: I’m really not sure why Paramount just decided to go from releasing in both formats to releasing HD-DVD only. Everyone i know has said Blu-Ray is the superior format, and thanks to the PS3, there are more players out there (even if half the people that have PS3’s don’t know they play Blu-Rays), and Blockbuster is going Blu-Ray only. I still think that eventually all players will just play both formats, but if i had to pick a ‘winner’ it would be Blu-Ray at this point.

Oh – in Pixar related news: The teaser site for BuyNLarge (the mega-corporation from the upcoming Pixar movie Wall-E) has been updated. Check it out. Much fun.

Cool stuff from Think Geek

In Cool Tech, Me on August 23, 2007 at 11:25 am

If you haven’t caught on by now, i’m a pretty big fan of Think Geek.
Some recently added goodies that i find interesting, fun, or just gimme-inducing.

Clearly ThinkGeek has been ramping up for Christmas. Lots of new stuff has been added in the past few days. My wish list is updated :-)

new scoreboard update

In Cool Tech, Nashville, Sports on August 21, 2007 at 4:08 pm

I don’t know why i’m so excited about the new scoreboard for the Sommet Center, but i really am. I think once it goes up, there will be people who go to games just to check it out. It is just a few days from completion!

This isn’t just going to benefit the Predators either. Every even held there (concerts, Kats games, conventions, revivals, etc) will all be able to take advantage of this and the new state-of-the-art video production system being installed in the control rooms along with it.

Here’s a picture of the one in Chicago. Ours will be basically the same, but with a few extra panels on the corners.

Here’s a picture of ours so far. Here’s the official article, and the slide show with more pictures.

Post-Barcamp Nashville Post

In Blog Stuff, Cool Tech, Me on August 18, 2007 at 7:56 pm

Just got back from Barcamp.

Most of my random comments are with my many pictures on my Flickr stream. Check it out…then come back here.

First: I love that R2D2 showed up and presided over the whole thing. What more do you need to establish geek cred than to have ‘the Dome’ in attendance?

I am upset because i made another really intelligent post from my phone about this guy’s presentation (thanks to Kerry Woo for the pic) and it totally got lost. And i already deleted it off my phone to clear some memory (not that i was short, just an old habit). Dang it.

To sum up, he said that the iPhone rocked because it didn’t have an SDK and couldn’t run 3rd party native apps (though people are hacking their way in anyway). He said this was great because that way if your phone crashes the apps are all online anyway so you don’t loose anything. Apparently Mac people don’t back stuff up. He then said that the iPhone was cool because it was the first phone to support web-based applications, and it does it through the Safari browser. Um… Treos, Crackberries, my wife’s MDA… lots of phones have had browsers for years. With full support for Flash, Java, and AJAX i might add – all of which are lacking in the iPhone. So…not sure how that works… Then he made jokes about how bad AT&T’s network is. If all the applications are web based, then doesn’t a crappy network pretty much make your applications crappy too? If you don’t have signal, you don’t have apps. Anyway…

Most of Barcamp was pretty good, Mac Fanboy and a few others excepted. It was great to just be around all that geek-ness and soak up all the ideas and just think about random stuff for a day.

The only other comment i want to go out of my way to make about Barcamp was regarding the last presentation i saw…Penelope Trunk. Her presentation was like a lot of other ones. Not that informative, a little simplistic, and had more than a few self-contradictory statements. I was hoping everyone would just take Brittney’s sound advice and not feed the trolls. But no, several people had to drill her on questions, including a pointed question about “what happened at BlogHer”. Just let it go people. Move on and quit giving her your time and attention, and she will move out of your life.

But like i said, overall it was a great day. I would have gladly paid money (not too much mind you) to do something like that. Instead it was free and we got free food out of the deal. How sweet is that!

And great to finally meet all of you – well, a lot of ‘you’ anyway. I somehow missed a few. Now having you as friends in Facebook doesn’t feel as much like a loser ploy to just stack it with people that i am just aware of, but people who are actually friends :-)

3D Networking

In Blog Stuff, Cool Tech on August 18, 2007 at 12:39 pm


3D Networking

What a concept. Jackson Miller’s concept of contextual social networking is awesome. Facebook and MySpace better watch out.

The Gimmies

In Cool Tech, Games, Me on August 17, 2007 at 5:19 pm

If Rock Band wasn’t enough to convince me i wanted a PS3 this Christmas (it is already on my wish list), this just sealed it.

Not that i am likely to get one, mind you. We are going on a cruise for our Anniversary/Christmas this year (our anniversary is in June, yes), so not exactly a lot of loose change flowing.

Taking donations to the Paul-and-Christy’s PS3 fund now though :-)

too much time on your hands: part 3

In Cool Tech, Entertainment, Funny on August 6, 2007 at 1:56 pm

I have to admire this. I guess. At least i’m interested.
Combining two of my personal favorite past times:

That’s right folks…
…a fully functional Guitar Hero controller…
…made out of Legos.

new old phone

In Cool Tech, Me on August 3, 2007 at 7:12 pm

Well, that didn’t take long. Already got a “new” phone. Exactly the same model actually. About to try to copy the data over (using the new battery…the phone still boots up believe it or not).

Turns out we were actually a couple of months over our contract time limit so we could get a discount on a new phone. So this one’s going to end up costing me $50. But it is worth it to not have to carry around the Nokia 6800 that was my backup.

It is also worth noting that the woman who helped us was actually really helpful. I threw all kinds of geeky terms and questions at her and she didn’t flinch. She even knew about new phones that were coming soon and weren’t out yet. I really wish i was seriously thinking about replacing a phone and spending real money on it. She would have actually helped. Too bad this time i just wanted to replace my currently wonderfully small, light, thin, fast, durable, well featured T519.

All is well with the world.

labs and phones don’t mix

In Cool Tech, Me on August 3, 2007 at 3:04 pm

My 18 month old lab puppy Cameron just got a hold of my cellphone. I was playing with him in the backyard, apparently dropped it and didn’t notice. My wife went out just a few minutes later to feed him and found this:

We were very lucky that the lithium-ion battery was well built and didn’t explode, despite being dented by no fewer than about 20 teeth marks on both sides.

This was a really awesome phone. I’m very sad to loose it. Thankfully i still have my old phone and the SIM card appears to have been undamaged. I wonder if the chess game i bought for $6 for this phone can be downloaded to my old phone, or whatever phone i might eventually get next? Or did i just lose it?

For the record: though my sister has a bad reputation and regularly burns through phones, this is the first phone out of…at least 6 or 7…that i have owned that i have ever had damaged or lost. I’m usually really good about these things.

Man this sucks.

high tech repair tool

In Cool Tech, Funny on August 3, 2007 at 1:35 pm

This is freakin awesome.

gimme and welcome

In Blog Stuff, Cool Tech, Friends on July 19, 2007 at 9:20 pm

A quick non-Predator related post.

You have no idea how badly i want one of these. LG’s 2nd generation all-format drives. They read and write Blu-Ray, HD-DVD, DVD+/-RW, DL, etc, etc… And they are “only” $500. $400 if you just want to read the new formats and write to old ones. That really isn’t bad at all considering it replaces about $1200 in cutting edge equipment.

But that will sound very familiar to my wife. I talked her into letting me buy an awesome 4 format DVD recorder back when DVD+R and DVD-R were fighting it out. Little did i know that they would both win and both are now standard in every drive. At the time, i thought this Sony drive would be a rarity and i totally misjudged how fast prices would drop. We paid $400 for a drive that only 6 months later cost $95. I still apologize for that one occasionally, just at random points over dinner.

So unless someone is feeling real generous around Christmas-time, i’ll be waiting on these to drop a little more.

[sigh]

Also…i’d like to welcome my friend Jim Craig to the world of blogging. He’s been commenting on my blog a lot (i appreciate dude!) and has decided to launch his own. Check it out: I have strong opinions and i’m gonna tell ya.
Add him to your blog rolls and feeders.

cool tech roundup

In Cool Tech, Entertainment on July 16, 2007 at 10:55 am

Time for a round-up of new random items i think are cool.

A few items from Think Geek:

  • A Red T-shirt with “Expendable” written on it in a ‘trek-ish’ font. Classic.
  • A cell phone signal repeater. Awesome. I wish i could get my company to put one of these in our building. All my Verizon friends get signal just fine but T-mobile…nooooo.
  • Electric finger-drums for my desk. Even lets you create loops. Nice.

From Engaget:

  • Is it just me, or is this just a really expensive way of asking someone “do you like this”?
  • Same category of, don’t we already have something that does this?
  • A real, working, MP3 player Soundwave Transformer. Nice.

More video game news too:

  • Cool (long) videos about Half-Life 2: Episode 2, and Portal/Team Fortress 2. TF2 will feature the ability to have your character trash talk in-game, in-character, animated and all (“cry some more!“). This is going to be so much fun.
  • RockBand is looking better and better. Apparently both that and Guitar Hero 3 are getting some major upgrades, including using the original masters for tracks instead of covers. They have also recently announced that (at least for Xbox 360) there will be downloadable extra songs, including whole albums. The first album up: The Who’s Who’s Next. I can’t wait to knock my shoulder out of joint throwing down some big pinwheel guitar action.

I guess that’s enough for now. Have to get back to the whole “work” thing.

engadget

In Cool Tech, Funny, Me on July 12, 2007 at 10:35 am

I just needed to share the wonders of Engadget.

Established facts: I need to know about cool tech. I am a geek and i have to know what is going on in the geek world.

I used to be a Slashdot addict (which peaked when i actually got posted), then switched over with most everyone else to Digg a few years ago when that came on the scene. But more and more both of those sites got distracted by random, only partially tech-related news. I was only interested in real “cool tech” news and related points of interest. I didn’t need to read long rants about civil rights or know about funny videos of diet coke and mentos. Not that mentos civil rights aren’t important to me, but that isn’t what i look for in a tech news site.

But i have recently re-discovered Engagdet. Great site. To the point, editor driven (keep out the hoi polloi) and so very well written. Today they are in particularly good form (i think they are all hyped up for their E3 coverage).

Here’s a sampling of some of their hilarious writing from today:

Nyko Wii Party Station:
Yeah, you thought you were living the high life with that pair of rechargeable batteries and tennis racket attachments you ponied up for — too bad you weren’t even halfway to awesome…Best of all is the completely superfluous score board to make your smack talk so much more effective, and the hand cooling fan really seals the deal. For $25, if you don’t have one of these 12 seconds after they hit store shelves, we can’t be friends anymore.

Terrifying bike helmet filters bad air, increases fear:
If you’ve been worrying that small children weren’t frightened enough when you pedaled your bike down the street, 22-year-old Luke Pannell…is here to help. The young inventor has created a biking helmet that he’s dubbed “Breathe Air,” which in addition to looking like a cross between Michael Myers, a Storm Trooper and The Predator, also features a filtering “shield” over the mouth and nose, which cuts particles and dust…Now all it needs is an attached Bluetooth headset so you can communicate back to the Death Star without taking your eyes off the road.

I laughed out loud at both of these. Makes my lunch break so much better.

pixar in hd?

In Cool Tech, Entertainment, Movies on July 11, 2007 at 10:53 am

At Microsoft’s E3 keynote last night they announced that more movies will be available on XBox Live in HD – including “Disney Movies”.

So – my questions:

  1. Are Pixar movies included?
  2. Will they be available in HD on iTunes or any other services or is this exclusive?
  3. Will they release them on HD DVD or Blueray?

Only other question is that if the answer to (1) is yes but (2) and (3) is no, then how long until i get an XBox 360?

gaming update

In Cool Tech, Entertainment, Games, Me on July 8, 2007 at 8:30 am

Time for an update on my favorite games that i haven’t even played yet.

The Half-Life 2 Orange Box is coming out soon. Soon-ish anyway. October 9th. I finally actually believe this date because they have at least released the cover art, as well as just put up a new site to cover it.

For those that don’t know, the Orange Box is what you need to buy. It is Half-Life 2, Half-Life 2: Episode 1, Half-Life 2: Episode 2, Portal, and Team Fortress 2.

Of course, the irony is that 90% of those that that do know what the Orange Box is, you won’t be buying it. You already own HL2 and HL2:Ep1, so you will do like i will and buy HL2:Ep2, Portal, and TF2 over Steam. Why Valve isn’t releasing each of those games in their own retail boxes too, i’m not sure. It is a battle for shelf space at Christmas guys – get with it!

Anyway, i am really pumped. Especially when i saw this new screenshot from Episode 2 that is on the new site (at right, click to enlarge). Will the character animations really look like that when you croutch and shoot over a wall? What are those little glowing things on the ground? Are they coming from the Hunter (the thing in the background)? Is the Hunter shooting that electricity? Or is that a Vortigaunt shooting at it?

Yeah, i’m a fanboy and i can’t wait for these games.


In related news: Playing a new game.
Insurgency.

Basically it is yet another awesome, free, user-made mod for Half-Life 2. This one takes the Coutner-Strike (terrorist/counter-terrorist) in to a real-world situation (Iraq) and makes it much more realistic (iron sites instead of crosshairs, etc). It is also based on real-world locations in Iraq. Real cities and the layouts are supposed to be fairly accurate. It is very well made and a lot of fun, but boy do i suck at it. It goes for realism, so it is very much a one-shot-kill game. Not an arcade game by any means. (New patch just got released this morning). Go check it out.


Last, the other game i’m waiting for is Left 4 Dead.
Normally i don’t go for the tons-of-Zombies genre of games, but the new elements they are putting in this game are really cool. The work they did on the AI isn’t in the enemies (they are zombies after all) but rather in the game layout. Everytime you play through will be different. The game moves where traps, zombies, etc are located withing the level. The buildings don’t change, but the experience does every time.

It also very much encourages team-based play (not just shooting everything on your own), and it introduces some really cool elements that make it more cinematic. Example: When you are hurt you start limping, then when you are really hurt you can only lie on the ground in one place until a friend helps you up. You can still shoot, but you can’t move. It looks really cool. Just like something out of a movie.

Enjoy video here (if you like lots of gross zombies in video games)

indiana jones 4

In Cool Tech, Entertainment, Movies, Pictures on July 3, 2007 at 10:03 pm

Yes, for those that haven’t already heard, they are finally getting around to making Indiana Jones 4. If you want to read the whole saga of how many times they have tried to make this movie (including M. Night Shyamalan writing a script that was rejected), read the Wikipedia entry here. For those interested in more: Rumor site here. Official site here.

Anyway, they finally settled on a script and just started filming a few weeks ago down in New Mexico. Video from the set here and here. Looks like it will have a strong cast, and with Spielberg and Lucas finally finding one another again, plus the fact that we have assurances from numerous sources that there will be no CGI used in this movie (the effects will all be traditional in-camera effects to mesh with the other movies), it may be possible for this movie to be really solid. (How great would it have been if George Lucas had done that with Star Wars…)

Of course, the one major question everyone has is: Can Harrison Ford pull off an action movie at the age of 65. Well, the answer is: he doesn’t have to. Stuntmen will cover all the action sequences. And for the close-ups and dramatic portions…

Well, this is what Harrison looks like now:
Not too bad. Plenty of make-up i’m sure.

But better yet…
Enter the technology used to de-age Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen in X-Men 3.

Check these out (click on them to see full size):

That wasn’t make-up, and strictly speaking, wasn’t CGI. They essentially used photoshop to frame-by-frame give them digital face lifts. Smooth a wrinkle, shorten an ear, shrink a nose…

For any scenes in the Indy movie that need help, shouldn’t be any problem at all given the budget i am sure this monster has.

I am listening to the soundtrack to the first films as i post right now.

After the latest several movies by both Lucas and Spielberg i don’t know why, but i really have hope that this will be good. We’ll find out next May 28th.

it’s good to be steve

In Cool Tech, Entertainment, Movies on July 2, 2007 at 7:09 am

Steve Jobs’ weekend:

Approx $288mil from iPhones
Approx $47mil from Ratatouille

I’d take that.

too much time on your hands: part 2

In Cool Tech on June 13, 2007 at 8:34 am

wow.

And while i’m on the topic of cool tech…
I’ll take either of these. I’m not picky.

$400,000 in 12 seconds

In Cool Tech, Entertainment, Games, Videos on May 22, 2007 at 4:12 pm

This is hilarious.

I was really hyped about it before. But if they are going to have this sort of content surrounding the game, then this is just fun on top of fun (not blood on top of blood the way so many games are now).


Cry some more.

The amazing thing about this is that it is all in engine. This looks like something out of the Incredibles and it is being rendered live, in a video game! If the characters really react to going on a killing spree like that, i am going to be horrible at this game because i am going to be laughing so much.

More awesome videos here and here.

More on some other cool features of the game here.

too much time on your hands?

In Cool Tech on May 22, 2007 at 2:25 pm

It’s been a while since i’ve totally geeked out and posted a note about some cool piece of technology. Well, it was worth the wait folks.

Check this out.

It is an Xbox 360 – made in to a laptop.
Includes an LCD screen built in, supports the wireless controllers, wired accessories, has component and composite video out, as well as VGA out, WiFi, etc etc.

And best of all, this isn’t some random tease put together that you have to guess at how they did it, or worse, a hoax…step by step instructions are right here, here and here. Anyone have a spare Xbox 360 i can play with?

Click on the picture above for more pretty pics. And video is here.

digital experience

In Cool Tech, Entertainment, Movies, Reviews on May 6, 2007 at 3:33 pm

Well, i did it.
I drug my friends to a ghetto theater (Hickory 8 in this case) so we could see Spiderman 3 with a digital projector instead of flickering, scratchy, fuzzy, hairy film.

It was wonderful.

Don’t get me wrong, the kids constantly running in and out of the crowded, smallish theater was annoying, and the sound was a little loud and treble-heavy. They also didn’t have anything but candy and popcorn at the concession stand – no hot dogs!. (Normally i never partake of concessions, but we were running late and needed to grab something to tide us over for dinner). But the seats were very nice, large comfortable (soft) seats. Overall i give the theater itself a 6 out of 10 at best.

However, overall it was the best movie experience i’ve had in a long while. The picture was steady, in focus, and sharp. No hair. No scratches. No jitter. I also couldn’t see any pixelation or color gradients the way i can on most digital TV’s (including our basic DLP projector at home, alas). I really want to know what kind of codec and bitrate they use, and what resolution the movie and projector are. It was amazing. I don’t plan on going to a non-digital theater again. Ever.

By the way, the movie itself was pretty good. Not great, but not as bad as the Fantastic Four. Definitely didn’t take itself too seriously, which helped given the overall heavy emotional content of the movie. They did a good job of taking established Spiderman story lines and integrating them in interesting ways. I also very much appreciated the producers who made the trailers not giving away much of the end of the movie. There were one (or two) important characters not in the trailers that made for great effects eye-candy that weren’t shown in the trailer. I don’t want to say too much for those that haven’t seen it, but i applaud the producers for not giving in to the urge to put every cool effects shot in the trailer. Final judgment: not a waste of money, but you’re safe waiting for DVD if you have a decent home theater.

Now i have to preach to everyone else that if it is in digital, it is worth going to the movies again.

(For those that missed my rant about bad theater experiences a while back: check here)

new camera, new photos

In Blog Stuff, Cool Tech, Family, Me, Pictures on March 20, 2007 at 6:07 pm

For those that haven’t heard, thanks to my parents generosity, i was able to buy a new camera recently. A Canon PowerShot S3 IS.

This thing is sweet. All sorts of amazing features, not to mention spectacular quality. It is basically a non-SLR digital SLR. I can get add-on lenses for it (wide-angle, tele, IR, etc). It has a mode just for shooting panoramas. And it shoots video at 640×480 at 30fps – with stereo audio.

So, here are some of the cooler pictures i’ve taken with it recently. Just made a big update to my Flickr page, so make sure to check it all out (and request to be my friend on Flickr to see WAY more pictures).




sweet

In Cool Tech on March 20, 2007 at 11:16 am

This.
Is.
Awesome.

     

     

It isn’t actually for sale but supposedly it will be about $1,500 when it does hit the market.

Check it out.

we don’t count

In Cool Tech, Entertainment, Me on March 14, 2007 at 5:29 pm

Christy and i were recently selected to be a Nielson family. That is, we were going to be one of the families who’s TV watching habits were monitored to see who is watching what. Those numbers are then analized to see what the number one show on a given night was, etc.

My family got a chance to do this when i was younger, so i was excited to get the chance. Even though we don’t have cable, we were looking forward to being able to ‘pad’ the ratings for hockey and Stargate, etc. that are still occasionally on broadcast TV.

However, you will note i am using all passed-tense verbs.
The guy came out this afternoon and determined we were a no-go.

Normally, they need a phone jack near every TV. We don’t have one upstairs. But they said they have a ‘wireless’ model that would work. The problem came in with the computers.

We have a normal TV upstairs with a tuner. However, there is a PC hooked up to it that we watch things from occasionally. Downstairs there is a 19″ LCD TV with a tuner we use sometimes, a VCR with a tuner we use sometimes, and a computer with an HDTV tuner that can display on the 19″ screen or on the full projector system. They don’t have any way to measure people with TV tuner cards. The guy said they just got the ability to measure content coming from DVR’s and DVD players… wow. They are YEARS behind. It is amazing to me that the company that all TV advertisers and networks use to measure the success or failure of a given show don’t have the ability to measure even the most basic of PC-based TV tuners. Not to mention all the watching of content we see streamed over the web (like Christy watching Ugly Betty).

As a result – if they can’t measure every TV in the house, they don’t measure anything.

It really makes me wonder just how under-represented geeks are. Giving in to stereo-types, i wonder how that affects the ratings of shows like Stargate, etc. At the very least i now know that my demographic (young, techno-savvy, upper-middle class, etc) are not being represented and as a result, our shows are not getting their due.

Oh well.
Another reminder that the world is not perfect, despite my best efforts.

Note: They did say they are working on being able to measure PC-based tuners. They are supposedly testing some methods in other markets. They said that we will still be selected as a ratings family when they can measure us, which will be 9 months to a year from now. So, if you will pardon the pun: stay tuned.

pixar @home

In Cool Tech on February 12, 2007 at 7:41 am

Intel has announced that they are researching a new processor that will feature 80 cores. It will basically be run like a high performance computing cluster (the things that Pixar uses to render their movies). Think of it as 80 4GHz processors connected with 5-port 80 GB/s routers (see diagram).

80 processors that can go active or sleep independantly, and each have independant access to memory that can be dynamically allocated. They can spread use so that no one processor gets too hot. They can each go to sleep or become active to save power. Thanks to those features, the memory can also be stacked directly on top of the processors, making for direct, low-latency connections.

Cool.

cool tech

In Cool Tech, Entertainment, Games on January 16, 2007 at 11:49 am

It’s time for an update on all the fun, cool things that Think Geek has to offer…

Power:
AA batteries that recharge in a standard USB port
   Or you can go the other way…
Standard Battery-based USB chargers
   Or you can go semi-old-fashioned
USB-based NiMH Battery Charger

Office Armaments:
USB Laser Guided Desktop Missile Launcher
Desktop Trebuchet
Palm-sized R/C Helicopter

Games:
Khet – Chess with lasers
* I just got this game for Christmas. Awesome. Highly recommended if you like to play chess at all.
Playable Atari Keychain Controllers
Pocket 20 Questions (Portable version of this. Amazing.)

PVP Stuff: (PVP is a great online comic i have gotten into lately)
Support the Pwned Bracelet
‘Sup Shirt
Han Shot First (I have the original version of this shirt)

headphones at the opera

In Cool Tech, Entertainment, Music on January 15, 2007 at 7:23 am

Now this is cool!

The Nashville Opera is about to start offering directors commentary tracks to be listened to during the performance! I’m pretty proud that Nashville is pioneering this.

Apparently you are supposed to go to the first show, then go home, download the commentary to your MP3 player, then listen to it during the 2nd or 3rd shows. You just start playing it back at the beginning of the show and it should stay roughly synced (maybe the scenes or acts are broken up into separate files?). They even discount the tickets to your second show.

I would also assume that some that are curious about the technology or are totally newbies to opera may just do this on their first viewing, but personally i don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.

skin deep

In Cool Tech, Me on January 13, 2007 at 10:45 am

For those that haven’t seen these, i think it’s pretty cool. Good selection too.

http://www.skinit.com

You can pick just about any logo out there for any sports team, college, or product you like. Then pick the device you have and you can order a skin for it. One of my friends at work just got a Predators skin for his Razr.

These images are a couple of examples i am considering buying…one for my work laptop, one for my Axim…maybe. We’ll see. Prices aren’t bad, but they aren’t free either.

peace in the format wars

In Cool Tech, Me on January 4, 2007 at 12:19 pm

Several years ago i was big into media. OK, i still am – but i used to be really into it. I had a website design company, and was working on a media transfer company. I would charge people to transfer old home movies to DVD, records to CD’s, etc.

To do this i needed a DVD recorder for my PC. At the time, DVD recordable formats were unsettled. There were 2 competing formats (+ or -) and no one knew who would win out. However, based on past history (beta/VHS, etc) it was conventional wisdom that only one format would win.

So, in order to ensure that I would be able to record to whichever type of DVD survived the war, i talked my wife into letting me shell out nearly $400 for a four-format external DVD recorder. I could have spent $200 on one that just recorded one of the two formats, but i wanted to make sure i was good for years to come… Within months, four format drives were standard and going for less than $150. I still occasionally apologize to my wife for that one. by the Way…no format won out as i thought they would. We now exist in a world with more than 6 formats existing quite nicely together.

So…keeping that story in mind, check this out:
LG to release hybrid DVD player for Blu-ray and HD-DVD

(For the record, i am not planning on purchasing any HD or Blu-Ray players for some time. At this point there aren’t enough titles. That and i’d rather just wait a few months for the online services to offer the movies for download, since i always rip my movies onto my network drive anyway.)

new laptop features

In Cool Tech, Funny, Pictures, Work on December 19, 2006 at 8:57 pm

Apparently my new laptop came loaded with an interesting new feature…

If you’ve had a long day or rough time in your last meeting and need to take out some frustration, it comes equipped with an impact-proof “strike zone”. Feel free to hit it with your hand in frustration or bang your head against it. I have a feeling that if you really needed to, you could also use it in self-defense by hitting your aggressor (or frustrating co-worker) over the head.

Just make sure to use the Strike Zone. Performance of the laptop is not guaranteed if you use any other portion as an anvil.

my new phone

In Cool Tech, Me, Pictures on December 18, 2006 at 7:26 pm

So, i am finally getting around to tell you all about my new phone.
It is the Samsung t519 “Trace”

Pretty awesome little phone. Emphasis on little.
This thing is small. Really small. And light. Very very light.

I had decided to go for a phone that was as low profile as possible this time. Gone are the days when i was known for wearing cargo pants at all time and carrying around a geek survival kit. With the new job and just style changes, my technology has to move with my style. I needed something super-light and thin (i hate the tale-tell cell phone bulge). Enter the t519.

To try to show you how small/thin this thing is i took a few pictures…

Anyone want a phone that is only as thick as a No. 2 pencil? Shorter than a standard mouse? As for weight: It weighs basically the same as two AA batteries – 2.7 oz. Lightest phone i’ve ever owned. What is great is it doesn’t feel too light or cheap. It feels very sturdy. It also feels good while talking, good ear-to-mouth length.

Besides its size – oh yeah, it’s a great phone. Large, bright, high-res screen. Bluetooth. 1.3MP camera. Does great stills, decent video. Oh – and the feature i have barely used – MP3 player…with expandable MicroSD slot. That’s right – expandable memory. I could have 2GB plus in this thing if i wanted. Though honestly, with Rhapsody and my Axim, i don’t really use the MP3 function, and i don’t think i’m going to bother getting an expansion card at this point.

Frustrating thing about it, is that it is so new, no one has really hacked it yet. The downside of this is that T-Mobile ships it pretty locked down. You can only install games and ringtones bought through the T-Mobile store. So i can have MP3s on it, and use them to listen to, or use as alarms – but not as ringtones. I also can’t install any 3rd party games or applications unless they go through the T-Moible store, which is a pity since there are a ton of free ones on the web. There has to be a way around this, i just can’t figure it out yet.

I like :-)

new toy…er…tool

In Cool Tech, Me, Work on December 18, 2006 at 6:27 pm

One of the coolest perks in my new job: i get a laptop! I finally got it today (though i am so grateful and happy to get it i hate to say “finally”).

Latitude D620 with 1.83GHz Intel Core Duo processor and 2GB of memory. That part is awesome. I also have a docking station, and extra AC adapter (thank you Dell!) and some other toys. That is where the cool list stops. It’s kinda downhill from there if you want to geek out… “Just” a CD-ROM (no RW or DVD), “just” a 30GB hard drive, no bluetooth, etc. But it does have WiFi (802.11b/g), battery life is great (3.5+ hours with wireless on!), and it does everything i need it to for work, plus some. I will certainly take it, gladly.

I think the guy thought my reaction was a little funny when he brought it to my desk. I probably looked like i was practicing for Christmas in a couple of weeks. Oh – and i got a decently cool (and very functional) case too. :-)

phone pictures

In Blog Stuff, Cool Tech, Me, Pictures on December 17, 2006 at 2:54 pm

Yet another place for my fan club members to bookmark: MyAlbum on T-Mobile.
http://www.t-mobilepictures.com/pwnicholson

Basically its a place where i can auto-upload pictures to a website straight from my phone. Don’t worry, i’ll make sure to post on here if there is ever anything really interesting. The best reason for me to use it though will be to avoid all the issues of cost and incompatibility when trying to take a picture and send it to someone. Now if i see something really cool and want someone to see it, i just have to take the picture or shoot video, “send to MyAlbum”, then call and tell them to go to this site. They can view it for free and so can lots of others, all for no extra cost to me or them. Oh – and i can upload pictures from my desktop and add captions, etc too.

Its not as cool as i’m making it sound (i do sound like a commercial right now i know), but it is neat.

Enjoy.

sharper Pixar

In Cool Tech, Entertainment, Movies on December 14, 2006 at 8:18 am

Another thing i am excited about…

iTunes may offer Disney movies in HD next year! While i am not in a hurry to watch the Hunchback of Notre Dame, i am dying to watch Cars and other Pixar movies.

I have the Cars trailer in HD (1080p) thanks to Apple’s movie trailer site. I still pull it up about once a week and just drool over it. But to go from 1920×1080 on that trailer to 720×480 on the DVD…you can really start to see a difference (Don’t get me wrong – i still want the DVD for Christmas!). But i can’t wait to watch the whole thing in HD.

And yes, i think i could even get over having to buy it from Apple.

iTunes failure?

In Cool Tech, Entertainment, Music on December 13, 2006 at 10:31 am

Apparently people are not as dumb as i thought. Not in the long term anyway.

Forrester Research just announced that the number of monthly iTunes transactions has dipped 58% since Jan ’06, and average purchase size has declined by 17% – an overall revenue decline of 65%.

“It is too soon to tell if this decline was seasonal or if buyers were reaching their saturation level for digital music”

…or people are finally realizing that iTunes and iPods are a rip-off. They are upset that more and more of their friends are purchasing MP3 players that will work with subscription services. For just $14.99 their friends can access unlimited amounts of music. While iTunes users can only add 15 songs per month for the same price.

“Only Apple knows just how much profit there is at the end of the day on a $1.98 credit card transaction for two songs, but with transaction costs, hosting costs, and the wholesale price of the songs, there’s not much margin left”

In other words, Apple gets charged a certain amount per transaction, so when the purchase size goes down, it hurts profits. Overall sales going down obviously hurts too. Apple’s cash cow is hurting.

I am not trying to revel in the failure of Apple, i am honestly happy that consumers may finally be realizing that iTunes is not a good deal.

(I have to get back to work, i’ll probably right more on this later.)

cheap "technology"

In Cool Tech, Funny on December 3, 2006 at 9:39 pm

Since i saw these in the stores a few weeks ago, i have been trying to decide if this is really cool, or really awful.

Walmart has LCD projectors with built in DVD-player for $248.

The catch: limited focal length (largest image it can pull off 60 inches diagonal). That’s not so bad because the real catch is that the resolution is only 557 x 234. That’s right. Good luck making-out the text on your video games – though, as the box points out – you can play them on your ceiling! I can’t tell you how many nights i have lied awake and wanted to play video games on a small, blurry screen 7 feet above my head. Oh, and no lumens rating is given, but my guess is this thing uses a standard flashlight bulb. None of the pictures on the box are in anything but a darkened room.

I guess this really is kinda cool, simply because it is so cheap. If they were charging $500 for it, then it would be bad. But any LCD projector for $250 isn’t all bad. At this point, people get what they pay for, and if they think it’s awesome, them cool for them.

geothermal projects

In Cool Tech, East Nashville, Nashville on November 30, 2006 at 2:12 pm

Just a quick note about a new project in the projects. A public housing project in East Nashville (our ‘hood) has been selected to be a pilot for a new system for using geothermal energy to assist in heating/cooling the units.

However, I wouldn’t look to the article about it on the Tennessean’s website as a source of helpful information though. Among my favorite quotes: “Geothermal energy generates power by using the ground as an energy source.” There are so many things wrong with that statement it’s hard to break it down. If someone has figured out how to turn actual dirt into electricity, please, let me invest in that company now.

First, “geothermal energy” is just the heat energy that comes from radioactive and other processes deep within the Earth’s core. Basically, the Earth is a big heated blanket.

Second, “geothermal power” refers to using geothermal energy to generate power. It takes the heat out of the ground (not the ground itself) and uses it to create steam to drive turbines which generate electricity. Unless the housing authority is going to build a small but very expensive geothermal power plant in East Nashville, i doubt very seriously this is what is going down in the ‘hood.

I think what they are really doing is geothermal heating. That is, using the heat in the ground to make the normal, electric-powered heating and cooling of the building and water supply more efficient. It basically involves running pipes into the ground to heat water, and use that heated water to help pre-heat air and water before going through the normal air conditioning and water heaters.

Anyway, i don’t want this to degenerate into another article bashing bad reporting and fact-checking. It is meant to be a post about the cool new project itself. It really is great that they are using these new technologies to make the projects more efficient. Saving taxpayers money, and helping show the viability of these “green” resources for use by others.

would i ever use it to talk?

In Cool Tech on November 21, 2006 at 8:48 pm

This.
Phone.
Is.
Amazing.

The Nokia N93

The price range means i probably won’t be getting one anytime soon. Although my T-Mobile contract is up at the end of Nov so I’ll have a credit i can put toward a phone…but yeah, not $700 worth of credit. If T-mobile even offers this, which they probably won’t for a few months.

Anyway, here’s what makes this phone so amazing: think of everything you’ve ever heard about or wanted in a phone, mash them all into one, take away the QWERTY keyboard – and you have this phone, or its soon-to-be-released sibling, the N95.

Two hi-res color screens? Check.
Triband/EDGE? Check.
Bluetooth 2.0? Check.
MiniSD Slot? Check. Supports up to 2GB right now.
Digital music/video support? Check. Including most online music stores (sans iTunes)
Wifi (802.11b/g)? Check. Yes. 54MBps G wireless.
Opera bowser with Java/Flash support? Check. Hit more than the ‘mobile’ web.
FM Radio? Check.
Camera? Big time check. 3.2 megapixel stills, 640×480 (VGA) 30fps videos, 3X optical zoom lens…

If you think about all these features it really isn’t a bad price. If I showed you a lass-than-palm sized camcorder that shot DVD-ish quality you’d easily expect to pay $250 for it, if not more. How much for a straight PDA with wifi…about $250 at least. An MP3 player that supports movies and online music stores…$175 for a 2GB version. Heck a portable FM radio would set you back $12. I’d say its a heck of a bargain with all that in mind. Oh yeah…and its a phone too.

The only thing the N93 doesn’t have that i could think of would be the aforementioned QWERTY keyboard, and GPS. Well, the N95 (to be released next year) will have a bigger screen and GPS built-in. Just take away the 3X optical zoom lens. It has more of a PDA look to it too.

If they would just add the QWERTY keyboard…

cool touch screen

In Cool Tech, Videos on October 25, 2006 at 6:47 pm

For those that haven’t seen this, you need to check it out. It is from a presentation at TED back in Feb of ’06. This tech is still a little way from reaching the market, but i think the guy in the video is right – this could have a major impact on GUI’s and the way most users interact with common non-PC devices. And even PC’s when you think about some of the 3D elements Vista’s Aero interface coming down the pike.

As a side note, these guys make awesome technology, but they have horrible websites.