Archive for Tech

R40: Rush 40th Anniversary on Blu-Ray, Nov. 11,2014

R402014 marks the 40th anniversary of the release of Rush’s debut album. This deluxe collector’s box set brings together live performances by Rush from each decade of their career. It includes:

  • Rush in Rio
  • R30
  • Snakes & Arrows Live
  • Time Machine 2011: Live in Cleveland
  • Clockwork Angels Tour

It also includes a bonus disc of previously unseen and unreleased live material stretching from 1974 to 2013. The bonus disc features over two hours of unreleased footage including their masterpiece 2112 in its entirety, the Laura Secord School performance with John Rutsey from 1974 that features two unreleased Rush songs and a cover of ‘Bad Boy’ made famous by the Beatles, the closing tour film I Still Love You, Man from the Time Machine Tour with Paul Rudd & Jason Segel, and the monumental 2013 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony with Dave Grohl & Taylor Hawkins. The 6 disc set is presented in a hardcover book containing rare, unreleased photos and memorabilia.

R40: Rush 40th Anniversary on Blu-Ray, Nov. 11, 2014

Recommended Computer Upgrades

iconI’ve been building some new computer systems lately, and here are some components that I have turned to time and again for my clients.

First up is the icon
Cooler Master Elite 430 Mid Tower ATX Caseicon. This box holds all your system components such as the motherboard. processor, hard drives, and DVD or Blu-ray drives. Some people may find the case to be too large, but for a computer gamer or video editor it’s just the right size for those mid to topline video cards.

The Cooler Master Elite 430 Mid Tower ATX Case has an all-black interior coating. It also has a ventilated front mesh design to keep even the hottest system cool. Additional cooling features include a front 120mm fan (with a nice looking brilliant blue LED light) to provide the best airflow to your hard drives. There’s also a large rear 120mm fan for high-efficiency ventilation. Even the side panels are ventilated.

For ease of assembly the interior of the case has tool-free mechanical locks to minimize the need for screws and screwdrivers.

icon
iconThe next item I’ve been recommending to people who are interested in having their computer boot-up in the shortest time possible is Crucial.com’s M500 Series 240GB mSATA SSDicon. This isn’t a traditional hard drive with moving parts — moving parts which take time to reach operating speeds, and eventually will fail, due to wear and tear. The Crucial M500 series drive is a “solid state drive” or SSD with no moving parts — similar to the drive in your smartphone, camera, or ipad. Furthermore, this drive attaches directly to your motherboard, but you will need a motherboard that has an onboard mSATA connector like Gigabyte’s Z68 Series motherboardsicon. With an mSATA drive you copuld reasonably expect your computer to start up in as little as 6 seconds.

Fun with Augmented Reality

Following up to yesterday’s post on Augmented Reality Apps for Android and iPhone users:
Moosejaw 2012 X-Ray Catalog

Moosejaw’s AR Campaign

The Moosejaw clothing company has created a “Moosejaw X-Ray” app to go with their latest catalog. Download the app to your Android or iOS device, and scan the models in the catalog. On certain pages the clothed models will have their underwear exposed by the app. I tried it out (how could I resist) and found the x-ray images went from serious to funny. The male models in particular were ridiculous. One was revealed to have squid or octopus taped to their side, while another had bullet holes in his undershirt. You can install the app and then scan the image at left. Or you can try it on Moosejaw’s online catalog. The model images are 2D so there will be no peering around the back or the edges for the inquisitive or the infatuated. The next augmented reality app is fully 3D. For better or worse it kept me far too entertained.
Chestburster

Chestburster

This app from Fingerfunk kept me busy. There is an image you have to download and print (shown left or download hi-res image). Print the picture and attached it to a t-shirt, then view it using the Chestburster app for Android or iOS (iPhone or iPad). You’ll hear some alarm bells, and then the famous baby alien chestburster appears to burst through the image with the appropriate R rated gore. The image is fully three dimensional, so depending on the angle of view you can view the top, bottom, or sides of the alien’s head. You can even see into the open cavity behind it. I’d print on a white t-shirt for the best effect. I had fun taking shots of the baby alien bursting out of my refrigerator. Oh, yes, there is a screenshot feature so you can save the image seen on your screen. Some samples to follow shortly.

Burster Samples

 

Augmented Reality (AR) Apps

QR Code
QR Code

This is one of those one-thing-leads-to-another stories.

Yesterday, I received an email newsletter with a headline “Are QR Codes an Outdated Technology?” Since I create and track QR (quick response) codes as one of my business services, I was interested and took a look. The story linked a YouTube video titled “Image recognition that triggers augmented reality” from the TEDTalks series. The video was demonstrating an app called “Aurasma” which can be installed on Android and iPhone smartphones.

Robert Burns

Scan me with Aurasma on your smartphone

In my opinion, the video and lecture boiled down to “Why use QR codes as tags when the object can be a tag?” That is: If the image or object has a unique appearance, then it could be used a link to more information when scanned or photographed with a smartphone. So if you’re an artist, you don’t need a QR (quick response)  code on your publicity materials; just use your photo or one of your works, and when people scan it, they will be given more information via the Internet or other medium. In the demo, they used a painting of the Scottish poet Robert Burns, which when viewed with the Aurasma app, a video would take its place with an actor reciting one of Burns’ poems.

I tried out Aurasma on my Samsung Galaxy S III Android phone, and — while it worked — I found that there was a very very small number of companies making use of it. Furthermore, the company behind Aurasma was really providing customized apps for the companies that wanted it so they could create their own social media campaigns and games. These companies included Marvel and DC Comics, Document magazine, and a clothing company called Moosejaw.

Marvel ARMarvel and DC Comics are using augmented reality apps in major cities around the world. Instead of scanning a QR Code with your phone, you could scan architectural landmarks and posters, and then be presented with a video of a superhero or villain in action superimposed over the landmark standing before you. In the example at right, an Avengers X-Men poster is scanned with an app that superimposes a 3D image of Iron Man when viewed through the phone.

This is a good time to answer the question: What is augmented reality? According to Wikipedia:

With the help of advanced AR technology (e.g. adding computer vision and object recognition) the information about the surrounding real world of the user becomes interactive and digitally manipulable. Artificial information about the environment and its objects can be overlaid on the real world.

Think of it as similar to a HUD (heads up display) on a fighter jet or high-end automobile. You see the world in front of your, but computers project additional relevant information into your field of vision.

You can get the Marvel AR app for Android or iPhone from Marvel’s Mobile App page. Come back tomorrow when I show you what Moosejaw did with AR. I’ll also talk about a app that I got a lot of mileage out of yesterday. I’ll give you a clue, its called “Chestburster”. Think sci-fi.

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Velocity Cruz Reader – One of the Worst Tablets Ever

imageWhen I don’t post in a long time, sometimes because I can’t think of something to blog about, and then I write a post like this, and think “This post has been staring me in the face for weeks, and I’ve only though of it today?”
I’ve been aware of the Velocity Cruz Reader for about 6 months. It’s a device which serves much the same function as the iPad, but it uses the Android OS instead of Apple’s iOS.
I think the Velocity Cruz Reader is one of the worst tablets to hit the market. I’ve told that to at least 70 people considering getting a tablet.
And now I’m finally blogging about it.
Velocity has two tablets on the market. The inexpensive $120 to $150 Cruz Reader and the $250 to $300 Cruz Tablet. The first and less expensive model is the one to avoid, while the second is actually worth the money.
Clarification: Cruz Reader under $150, BAD; Cruz Tablet over $250, GREAT!
imageSorry, I’m rambling, I’ve been awake for less than 30 minutes.
Honestly, I am surprised they released the Cruz Reader onto the marketplace. Its touchscreen is its worst feature, as it requires repeated hammering to get a reponse. One average I had to strike an icon 5 times before anything happened.
Then the 256 MB of system memory can’t be considered anything less than anemic, in my opinion. There are smart phones with more memory than this. When I point this out people often say, “No, Rob, it has 4GB of memory.” Tehn I correct them by pointing out that the 4GB refers to an SD card for storing files, and not to system memory for running the device and its apps. 256 MB will run into speed and functionality problems quite quickly.
So if you are looking for a tablet: Stay away from the Cruz Reader — try it for the hell of it — then buy the Cruz Tablet instead.
Guess I’ll blog about the Cruz Tablet for breakfast tomorrow. Have a great day! Eat your breakfast!

Cyber Monday Deals

Big Savings Today Online for Electronics and Computers!
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Dell.com:

MacMall:

Microsoft:

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  • SAVE $1600 – FREE SHIPPING – Sony 54.6″ 3D Slim Edge LED HDTV. Model KDL55NX810. Internet Video and Widgets built-in!  Wi-Fi capability! PC Inputs, USB, 4x HDMI.  Only $1899.99 after coupon code BHC12391
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Perseid Meteor Shower

Here’s some news for you to “look to the night skies” tonight from my friend Jason Shilling Kendall at The Inwood Astronomy Project: Tonight, Friday August 13, from 10pm EST to 1am EST Saturday August 14, you can watch for the Perseid Meteor Shower. Though it started on thursday evening, you still have a chance to see it tonight.

Here’s some more news on the Perseid Meteor Shower.

Trouble with Windows 7 and the T-Mobile G1

HTC Dream (T-Mobile G1)

I don’t have any complaints with Windows 7 whatsoever. Really I don’t, but I have read about some people experiencing a problem accessing the G1’s SD card with Windows 7.

Okay, I experienced this problem too, but, luckily, I knew how to fix it.

What happened? I was connecting my T-Mobile G1 Smartphone to my computer to backup the memory chip in the phone. For your information, the G1 was the first phone to use Google’s Android Operating System for smartphones. Today’s leading Android based phones are Verizon’s Droid, Google’s Nexus One, and T-Mobile’s new Samsung Vibrant.

But, as they say, I digress.

HTC Dream (T-Mobile G1)

HTC Dream (T-Mobile G1)

Shortly after upgrading to Windows 7, I attached my G1 to my PC via the docking station, and then I “mounted” the SD card in the G1 by selecting “Mount” option from the G1’s notification panel.

Now, for those who don’t have a G1, you “mount the SD card” — sounds ‘dirty’, I know — so you can transfer files to and from the SD or memory card in the phone to your computer.

But, now, with Windows 7, one time I attached my G1 via its USB cable (or docking station) I saw a notification on my computer’s desktop that Windows was “installing a driver” for the “HTC Dream”. (For your information, HTC is the company that makes the G1 for Google and T-Mobile. Dream is HTC’s model name for the G1).

I had never seen this happen before, but I thought it was cool because I was thrilled that Windows 7 was capable of recognizing so many devices when they were attached to the computer.

My thrill was short lived.

Once I mounted the card, and I double clicked the “Computer” icon on the desktop, I expected to see an icon, as I had in the past, that represented the SD card in my phone.

The icon wasn’t there.

I unmounted the card, remounted it, and, again, no icon for the card visible after double-clicking the Computer icon.

Uh oh!

This meant I wouldn’t be able to get my files the old fashioned way. Instead, I would have to remove the card from the phone and insert it into the memory card reader on my desktop computer. That would work, but I would prefer being able to just access he chip by attaching the phone to the computer as I always had.

The Fix. Here’s the solution for anyone who has experienced this problem, too.

  1. Right-click the Computer icon.
  2. Click Properties.
  3. Click Device Manager.
  4. Locate “HTC Dream” on the list. You may need to double click a few items on the list to reveal the HTC Dream listing. I think I found it under “Other Devices”.
  5. Double-click HTC Dream.
  6. Click the Driver tab.
  7. Click Update Driver.
  8. Select “Mass Storage Driver”.
  9. Click OK to close out the dialog boxes.

Now when I connect my T-Mobile G1 via its USB cable or dock, and then mount the SD card, I am able to access the G1’s memory chip and transfer my files without a hitch.

When is an iPhone 4 not a phone?

A: When you’re left handed.

Surprisingly there is one big complaint about the new iPhone 4. If you make a call with the phone in your left hand you might not receive a cellular signal.

The redesign of the iPhone 4 moved the antenna to an external stainless steel band that wraps around the phone. A significant portion of this antenna band is on the left hand side of the phone. So when you hold the phone in your left hand, the flashy part of your palm below the thumb can significantly reduce or block the cellular signal needed to make a call.

How not to hold an iPhone 4

How not to hold an iPhone 4 (Credit: Apple / Screenshot by Scott Ard/CNET)

Interestingly, at June’s Apple Worldwide Developers Conference, Steve Jobs praised this antenna redesign as “brilliant engineering” and commented that it has never been done before. In a report on iPhone 4 signal issuesby cnet news’s Scott Ard mentions “some other companies may have considered a similar solution but backed off due to the attenuation caused when a person’s hand ‘covers both sides of the black strip in the metal band,’ as Apple put it”

He also points out that during Jobs’s demonstration he used WiFi instead of the AT&T cellular network. The Wifi signal portion of the antenna is higher up on the band, and less likely to be covered by your hand or fingers. Steve Jobs, himself, has a tendency to hold the iPhone in his left hand, so he may very well have been aware of the reception issue that would cause.

Now that word of the reception problem is spreading, word has it Apple suggests “not holding the phone in your left hand to make a call”. Or to use a case or bumpers that lift your hand off the edge of the phone. The bumpers from Apple cost $29. maybe Apple should send them out for free to iPhone 4 owners.

For more information on the signal reception problem with the iPhone 4see this report at AppleInsider.com.

Pacman is 30 years old

Saturday, May 22, is the 30th anniversary of Pacman, and you can play it for the next 48 hours at www.google.com. Just click the “Insert Coin” button once to start a single player game, or click it twice to start a two player game.

Pac-Man (パックマン, Pakkuman?) is an arcade game developed by Namco and licensed for distribution in the U.S. by Midway, first released in Japan on May 22, 1980. Immensely popular in the United States from its original release to the present day, Pac-Man is universally considered as one of the classics of the medium, virtually synonymous with video games, and an icon of the 1980s popular culture. Upon its release, the game—and, subsequently, its derivatives—became a social phenomenon that sold a bevy of merchandise and also inspired, among other things, an animated television series and a top-ten hit single. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pac-Man)

Of course you can play Pacman online any day of the week at www.freepacman.org.