Archived entries for Tech

Is it weird that I love old typewriters?

The first story I ever wrote was about a purple penguin named Flippy who was different from all the other penguins because he was purple, you see. Look, I was five, what do you want from me?

I did it on this typewriter:

Underwood Typewriter

This is an Underwood Rhythm Touch De Luxe model from 1949 (the only reason I know that is because I did some Googling and found this vintage advertisement for one) that used to reside in my grandmother’s old house. When I was little, I used to get dropped off there before school with nothing to do but find ways to keep myself entertained all day. One of them was this typewriter.

It weighs somewhere in the neighborhood of HOLY SHIT and METRIC FUCK TON and it’s faster to watch paint dry than it is to actually type on the darn thing, but I’m sure back when Truman was president this was a pretty sophisticated piece of technology. Just don’t ever drop it on your foot, or you’ll no longer have one.

Typing on it the same way we do our modern computer keyboards is impossible as every key punch requires near-mutant strength. I remember having to  press down on each key with two fingers, and even then I wasn’t always successful, leaving only a faint outline of illegible ink where my letter was supposed to go.

Typewriter Buttons Closeup

The keys would also frequently jam up and I’d have to reach my fingers into the machine’s guts to un-stick them, getting ink all over me in the process. It was all worth it though, just to hear that glorious clickety-clack sound. The only thing better was when you reached the edge of the page and got the hard carriage return, resulting in a cheerful “ding!” Call me old school, but I like technology that rewards you with bells for your hard work. Not that I was writing the great American novel at age five or anything–I mostly just liked to fiddle with the various levers, knobs and buttons protruding from all over this thing while pretending I was doing something important.

Typewriter Knobs & Buttons

I don't know but it's fun!

When my grandma got too old to take care of herself and moved in with my parents, this typewriter was one of the few things I inherited from her estate–and by estate I mean a small rancher with an interior like an episode of Hoarders. I’m glad she never got rid of this typewriter, though. I never bothered to look up what it’s worth, but to me its priceless. I credit this hunk of iron with inspiring me to want to write, even if all I have to show for my “talent” is this silly blog and a half-finished book I’ve never shown to anyone. One day…

Typed Words

What is it with old typewriters and grandmas?

Here’s another old typewriter I inherited from a grandmother, though not my own (my ex-boyfriend’s). It’s an electric model Smith Corona “Coronet Super 12″ from the 1970s that surprisingly still works.

Smith Corona Coronet Super 12

I say surprisingly because when you plug this thing in it makes this god-awful humming sound like you can hear the current flowing through its 40-year-old parts, causing me to have serious doubts about its electrical safety. But knowing it could burst into flames at any moment makes typing on the Super 12 all the more fun.

Smith Corona

Plus, I just love the color. When’s the last time you saw electronics in robin’s egg blue?

Coronet Keys

I like toy typewriters, too.

As it turns out, my affinity for typewriters goes deeper than I thought. Apparently this was one of my favorite baby toys:

Baby Toy Typewriter

So much so that my parents have held onto it for 30 years. I recovered it last weekend when I went searching for childhood treasures over at their house and was delighted to see it still works, even though it’s kind of beaten up. There’s a crank you can turn to scroll through the different words–bears, cats, and apple. The buttons make a great “ding!” sound when you press them, and colored hammers strike the cylinder, which turns slowly as you “type.” It’s a little less sophisticated than the Underwood and Super 12, obviously.

Ninja Turtle-izing my iPhone 5

So, I just got a shiny new iPhone 5 (I know, I never thought it would come to this, either) and it was looking rather naked, so my immediate goal was to transform it into the most Ninja Turtle-iest phone possible.

Until they come out with real T-phones (and not this plastic piece of crap which doesn’t even use the real voice actors), or at the very least, some kind of cool case that transforms your iPhone into a ShellCell, I have to settle for the next best thing.

Nick Turtles iPod 5 Case

This case is meant for an iPod 5, not an iPhone 5, but dammit, it’s the only official Nickelodeon TMNT case that exists, which means I HAD TO HAVE IT. I asked around on Twitter to see if anyone knew if iPod 5 cases would fit iPhone 5, and ya’ll gave me some terrible advice because this thing totally fits my iPhone 5, and pretty snugly at that. I’m glad I decided to ignore you and go with my gut. At Toys ‘R Us this thing costs $19.99 and doesn’t count as electronics, which means the 90-day return policy still applies, even for open items. You can tell I really took a big risk here.

We Are the Turtles of Justice! iPod 5 Case

TMNT iPhone Case - Back Cover

TMNT iPhone Case Front

The iPod 5 case fits my iPhone 5 surprisingly snugly, however the iPhone is a tad thicker than the iPod, so there is about 1.5mm of exposed hardware. But I don’t care because OMG NINJA TURTLES!

TMNT iPod Case on iPhone - Thickness

TMNT iPod Case Ports

T-Phone Ringtone

Next order of business was to customize the ringtone. A TMNT fan over at the Technodrome Forums had the good sense to upload an MP3 of the exact T-Phone ringtone that’s used in the Nickelodeon show, which can be heard whenever the Turtles call each other. You can download it from FileDropper right here.

Here’s what it sounds like:

NickTurtles Wallpaper

And lastly, I needed some iPhone 5-sized (640 x 1136) wallpaper. Surprisingly, I couldn’t find any official TMNT iPhone wallpaper online, and as far as 5 minutes of Google-searching tells me, nobody has bothered to make any. So I had to get creative and make my own. I made two designs–one for the home screen, and one for the lock screen.

Feel free to download these and use on your iPhone 5.

(Click to enlarge)

TMNT iPhone 5 Wallpaper

(Click to enlarge)

TMNT iPhone 5 Wallpaper

Bonus! Booyakasha Ringtone

One of my Twitter buddies and fellow TMNT fans, Justin Edwards (@DUSTINDUSTRIES), made an awesome “BOOYAKASHA!” ringtone for me, which I uploaded to SoundCloud:

You can download it here: Booyakasha! Ringtone

Thanks Justin!

Fun with PowerUp, the 8-bit & 16-bit Retro Camera App

I’m a sucker for cool camera apps, especially the kind that will pixel-fy everything you shoot so that it looks like it belongs in an 8-bit (or 16-bit) video game. That’s what this new iOS app called PowerUp does.

Featuring the latest in Blast Processing Technology, PowerUp filters your camera in real-time so that you can take photos using the same resolution and color palette as your favorite retro video game systems!

PowerUp 8bit Camera Filters

The app costs $1.99 and comes with four different camera filters that emulate classic retro video game systems–NES, Sega Genesis, Sega Master System, and Turbo Graphx 16. Here’s what they look like:

Nintendo Entertainment System

NES Camera Filter

Sega Genesis

Sega Genesis Camera Filter

Turbo Graphx 16

Turbo Graphx 16 Camera Filter

Sega Master System

Sega Master System Camera Filter

I KNOW, I’m much more attractive as an unintelligible blur of pixels. Can you tell what I’m doing in this one?

ShezCrafti 8bit FU

10 Tips to Avoid Getting Burned by Kickstarter

Avoid Getting Burned by Kickstarter

(Look at me, writing something semi-useful for a change! )

According to statistics just released today, 2012 saw 2,241,475 people pledge $319,786,629 to fund 18,109 projects. That’s a staggering amount of money moving through a crowdfunding platform that’s still relatively new and not fully matured. As you might expect with that kind of volume, a large amount of projects aren’t successful. It’s disappointing for everyone involved when this happens, but at least pledges are returned safely to backers.

But what about those projects which are successfully-funded but, for some reason or another, never see the light of day? Scams, failures, frauds, mismanaged funds or whatever you want to call them–they’re the “successful” projects people have pledged their hard-earned money to only for nothing to ever materialize. Over the past year I’ve seen several notable cases (like this one and most notably this one) of these phantom Kickstarter projects making the news–one of which I even pledged to (more on that in a bit–see #8).

As someone who has backed over a dozen projects on Kickstarter ranging anywhere from $1 to over $250–some of which were successful, a few which were not so lucky–I feel I’m at least moderately qualified to dispense a few pieces of advice about how to be smarter about managing your pledges and avoid getting burned.

1. Be aware of the risks up front and understand what you’re really getting into.

There’s this gross misconception that Kickstarter is like a store where you can pre-order goods that you’re guaranteed to get. This could not be further from the truth. Your Kickstarter pledge is more like an investment. You are investing money in a project you believe in but there’s no guarantee you’ll get a return. Kickstarter is just the middle man who provides the funding platform, and they are not obligated in any way to reimburse you if the project doesn’t deliver. I recommend reading this article for a better understanding of how Kickstarter works and what risks you, the backer, assume when you pledge money to a project.

2. Pay attention to those “estimated delivery” dates.

They’re just that–an estimation. You can save yourself a lot of grief and heartache if you treat them as such. In fact, I would advise you to expect delays, because in my experience, it’s rare that successful Kickstarter projects are able to deliver on time. Again, this is part of that whole “understand what you’re really getting into” point I mentioned above. If you’re really passionate about a project, delays are forgivable if they mean ending up with a better finished product. Most backers understand this and support projects regardless.

3. Stick with what you know.

I’ve found the “safest” projects to pledge money to are those whose creators have a proven track record of successfully delivering a similar product, or projects Kickstarted by people I know, whether through a friend or even a friend of a friend. Two examples that come to mind for me: I donated to Jane Jensen’s Pinkerton Road project because I’m familiar with Jane’s work as a game designer and I know she’s capable of producing a quality game based on her veteran industry status, accomplishments, and previous work. I also donated to Strange Kid Comix magazine because several of my friends in the blogosphere contributed articles and had a vested interest in seeing the magazine published. Which brings me to my next point…

4. Size up the situation and adjust your pledges accordingly.

Rather than blindly giving your money away, take the time to really investigate the people you’re backing. Do some research. Question their motives. Compare the the amount of money they’re asking for with the scope of the project–does it seem unrealistic? Suspiciously greedy? Treat the situation as you would an investment. If something doesn’t seem to add up or rubs you the wrong way but you still think it’s a cool project and want to support it, lower your pledge–or don’t pledge at all! Even though there’s tiered pledge amounts, there’s no rule that says you have to pledge at those amounts. How about only pledging $1?

Here’s a good case study: I only donated $5 to a game called Haunts: The Manse Macabre because I wasn’t familiar with the developers and their Kickstarter presentation didn’t seem as polished or professional as other games I’ve pledged. And thank goodness for that because this project DID end up being one of the ones that fell apart after being successfully funded. The lead developer quit, the money well ran dry, and now the project owner is scrambling to resurrect the game with volunteer help from the open-source community. I really don’t care about losing that five bucks. It was a very tiny risk I took based on my assessment of the project. I’m happy to consider it a donation toward…whatever this game becomes. But I imagine I’d be pretty ticked if it was something like $25 or more.

And that’s a great segue into my next point…

5. Just because a Kickstarter project was successful doesn’t mean you’ll get anything from it.

With Kickstarter, you have to keep in mind there are no guarantees. You, the backer, assume all of the risk when donating to Kickstarter projects. Sure, Kickstarter’s terms of service may state that project owners are legally required to make good on their pledge rewards–but those are just words that exist solely to provide a legal recourse for backers. If that situation ever does arise, you’re the one responsible for pursuing legal action. And would legal costs really be worth it compared to the meager amount you pledged?

6. Keep close tabs on the projects you’re backing.

Don’t just pledge money to a project and then do nothing but wait around until it’s funded (or fails). Keep a close eye on the projects you’re backing. Read all of the updates. Be active in the community. Monitor the situation with a critical eye. If things look like they’re starting to go south for any reason, the things you’re hearing from the creator don’t seem trustworthy, or you just get a bad feeling about anything, you can always pull out (see #7).

7. Remember: you have the power to withdraw your pledge!

Once you’ve backed a project you are under no obligation to continue backing it. Kickstarter does not remove any money from your account until the time runs out on the project’s funding period after achieving “Successfully Funded” status. Just remember that you can pull your pledge at any time while the project is still active.

8. Most problems can be resolved through effective communication.

Is the project you pledged late on delivering what was promised? Did you receive the wrong reward? Usually these kinds of issues can be resolved through communicating directly with the project creator, using Kickstarter’s built-in communication tools, comment system, or getting in touch with project owners outside of Kickstarter. I always check to see if the people I’m backing provide a means of contacting them outside of Kickstarter, such as through email, social media, or a website. I feel better having that extra layer of legitimacy, knowing I can contact them via another channel if I ever need to.  Backers who pledged the Fairy Quest project, for example, experienced extreme delays in receiving the finished product, due to a changeover in staff who was managing the shipments, and a mailing database mix-up. After backers took to Kickstarter’s comments and message system, the project owner stepped in personally and was able to get everything sorted out and all the shipments on their way. There was no need for torches and pitchforks–just a little patience and communication.

9. Exercise your powers as a backer.

Despite what it may seem, backers are not completely powerless. We have the power and collective voice to hold project owners accountable. If something about a project looks shady, speak up. Ask the hard questions. Interact with other backers. Take advantage of Kickstarter’s communication tools. Use social media to your advantage. Call it like you see it and share your opinions on Twitter, in the comment sections of blogs promoting the project, and other places where people are deciding to pledge their hard-earned money or not. One of the great things about this internet of ours is how judicious and democratic it allows us to be with our support and opinions.

10. Backer Beware.

This is kind of a reiteration of my first point, but it’s worth stating again, with a little more context. The larger Kickstarter grows, the more potential for scams, misconduct, and fraudulent activity. There’s also a huge gray area for projects that technically aren’t scams but make you stop and question the motivations and integrity of the project creators. Now that Kickstarter has proven to be a viable and successful way to fund projects–especially for the gaming industry–I have the sneaking suspicion that more and more people are abusing it. I’ve seen game developers using Kickstarter as an easy cash-grab even though they have other avenues of funding available to them. I’ve also seen cases where people are using Kickstarter to fund projects that are already complete and don’t need any more money–but that doesn’t stop them from jumping on the crowdfunding bandwagon to panhandle for some more. As should be the case with any transaction involving your money, keep your guard up, use good judgement and common sense.

The Chinese Takeout Meal Wheel, Or Why My Twitter Friends Are Awesome

It started as an innocent, totally not serious tweet:
[tweet https://twitter.com/shezcrafti/status/278678761803751424]

See, there’s this Chinese place up the street called Wok To Go I order from all the time. No, I mean, like  all the time. We’re talking 3-4 times a week, maybe more. I’ve stopped keeping track because I don’t like to think about how many pieces of shrimp toast I consume on a weekly basis, and also because I’m treading dangerously into #foreveralone territory here. It’s cheap, fast, easy, and makes me feel a little dirty afterward like an Asian hooker. Me so hungry! Not to mention it’s the best goddamn Chinese food within 25 miles AND they deliver late, and since I often don’t eat dinner until after nine, it’s my kind of place. I have no idea what my mom’s cell phone number is without looking at my phone, yet I know that Wok To Go’s number is 410-838-1085. By heart.

Anyway, I tend to get in these food ruts where I order the same thing all the time–lately it’s Shrimp & Beef Szechuan–and thought it’d be more fun to let fate decide my next takeout meal, so that’s where that tweet came from. (I know, my tweets are SO IMPORTANT.) But I never expected anyone to like, you know, actually make a wheel for me. But someone totally did.

Ben Rollier, if I could give you a fortune cookie right now, it would simply say, “You’re awesome.” LOOK AT THIS AWESOME THING HE MADE, you guys:

Wok-To-Go Wheel

Ben made this on his lunch break. His lunch break! Do you know what I did on my lunch break today? NOTHING! Well, nothing besides eat lunch. The beauty part is that because all Chinese takeout menus are the same (for real, it’s like a scientific fact or something), Ben’s app should work with your local Chinese and/or sushi dive. So yeah, Ben you totally get a Gold (Throwing) Star from me.

This is seriously the best thing that’s ever happened to me…um, today. It’s going to completely revolutionize my Chinese takeout consumption habits. What’s it going to be tonight, Wok To Go Wheel?? Shumai Steamed Dumplings? OKAY!

We should be teaching kids to be creators, not consumers.

Sissy's Magical Ponycorn Adventure

If “Sissy’s Magical Ponycorn Adventure” sounds like a game that was created by a five year old girl, that’s because it is. Well, her Dad helped too. Ryan Henson Creighton and his daughter Cassie developed a charming little Flash-based game you can play right here for free that’s also available on iOS for $2.99. Cassie came up with the concept and drew all of the game’s artwork with crayons. You may have heard about it; it’s gotten a lot of press.

I don’t expect you to rush off to play a game about “ponycorns” (unless you really want to, in which case I completely understand), but my point in sharing this information is so that you’ll understand why this same five year old girl and her dad just gave a very inspiring TED talk:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YwJr1WUlhVU#!

In it, Creighton argues that “we should be teaching kids to be creators, not consumers.” Basically, the more simplified technology becomes, the more it simplifies us. And there are other issues too: Why aren’t we teaching kids programming in our schools? Why are our school system’s computers and software so antiquated? Creighton’s vision of the future is one in which using computers for developing games and other creative outlets is more accessible and easier for everyone to learn, especially children, and that these types of activities are more encouraged.

This quote says it all:

When we see kids using tablet computers, we say “Oh my gosh, it’s so amazing how well they’ve taken to technology!” and we clap our hands together and we call them “digital natives.” Folks, these devices have a touch-controlled interface and one button. If we’re amazed our kids can use these devices, we’re not expecting enough of our kids.

Watch the video; it’s only about seven minutes long. Be inspired.

Nick’s augmented reality TMNT app almost makes me want to shop at Walmart. Almost.

Nick TMNT

Nickelodeon seems to be pulling out all the stops with their Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles marketing push. The latest is an augmented reality mobile app that will let you unlock exclusive TMNT content and take photos of yourself with the Turtles.

As a special offer to fans, Nickelodeon and Walmart will launch a bilingual augmented reality (AR) App that uses cutting-edge technology to make the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles come to life throughout the store through the customer’s mobile device – a first of its kind for Nickelodeon.

[via Businessweek]

But here’s the shitty part–it only works at Walmart. I normally avoid Walmart at all costs because saving 30 cents on cases of Pepsi isn’t worth the soul-sucking experience of going there, but a TMNT app like this could change my mind. Never mind that I’m 30 years old–I will stalk the toy aisle and the little boys’ clothing department and I will do it proudly, dammit.

But don’t get too excited if you’re a TMNT fan in the U.S.–the app can only be activated at Canadian Walmart stores.

The Turtles AR application, which can only be activated at Walmart Canada store locations from September 20 – September 27, enables iPhone, iPad2/3, Android or tablet users to experience augmented reality through their device camera. Walmart customers are invited to visit stores and search for Turtles signs in the toy, apparel and entertainment departments where they will help Splinter train each Turtle by unlocking their signature ninja moves through the augmented reality app. Once fans unlock the signature moves, they will have the opportunity to meet a life-size Turtle through their device screen. Users can then photograph themselves with the turtle and share the photo on Facebook, Twitter and email. The app also comes with an interactive game and a unique photo-share feature which enables users to customize their photos with special Turtles badges.

Oh well. Maybe it’ll be a huge success in Canadialand and eventually come to the U.S.

Don’t forget, the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles show will be premiering on Nickelodeon Saturday, September 29th!

5 Things I Care About More than iPhone 5 Today

Apple is holding a press conference to unveil the new iPhone today, which means it’s a slow news day for everyone else who doesn’t give a shit.

Here are five things that are not iPhone 5 that I’m choosing to give my full, undivided attention to:

#1 – The Release of ‘Double Dragon Neon’

Double Dragon Neon

Just released yesterday, this newest Double Dragon game is the 1980′s-themed old school beat’em up I’ve been anticipating all summer.  To pump myself up, I’ve been listening to the totally bitchin’ soundtrack all day. As soon as I get home from work tonight I’ll be kicking ass and high-fiving anyone/anything that can be high-fived.

#2 – The Brand New ‘Wreck-It Ralph’ Trailer

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bItY7JUCyks

#3 – The 25 Greatest Moments in TMNT History

25 Greatest Moments in TMNT History

Mark from TMNT Entity recently posted a really fantastic two-part countdown of the “25 Greatest Moments in TMNT History” over at Adventures in Poor Taste, complete with lots of images, quotes, anecdotes, and Mark’s own personal fan reactions. It’s quite lengthy but well worth the read. If you’re a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fan or someone who’s not as familiar with all the various TMNT universes and want to learn more, it’s a must-read. Here’s Part 1 and Part 2.

#4 – This couch.

I want to say this is glorious, but glorious isn’t a strong enough word.

Nicolas Cage Couch

(ClintIsIceMan via Tumblr)

#5 – The World Trade Center in Movies

The World Trade Center in the opening shot of 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles'

This wonderful site is a database of every movie the iconic twin towers of the World Trade Center appears in, organized by decade. For every movie listed, the site tells you where in the movie the WTC appears, and clicking the links will show you a screenshot. For example, the image above (if you haven’t recognized it already) is from the opening shot of the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie from 1990.

How about you? Are you foaming at the mouth for every new tidbit of Apple-related news today…or not?

I don’t NEED this ridiculously cute Toaster USB Hub, but I want it so bad!

I mean, just look at it.

Toaster USB Hub

Toast USB

This USB Toaster Hub and toast family is the latest evil product from ThinkGeek that I’m pretty sure was designed specifically to take my money. This is one of those times where I have to have a long, hard talk with myself about buying cute plastic things I don’t need. I’m hoping that posting about it here will get it out of my system because all this adorableness doesn’t come cheap:

The toaster itself will set you back $27.99 and doesn’t even come with any toast. Butta, Ry Ry, Crisp and Tato each cost an additional $24.99 and only have a 4G capacity. No matter how cute these are, that’s roughly $130 for only 16G of storage.

MUST RESIST.

Techsistential Crisis: that moment when you realize you have too many gadgets…

…and you begin to question whether they have any meaning, purpose or value.

With the recent addition of iPad to my technology stash, my tally of “carry-on” gadgets–that is, gadgets I actually use and carry around with me on a frequent basis–is now up to eight. It’s beginning to get a little ridiculous.

I always have my mobile phone and at least one gaming handheld on me, but now it’s getting harder to choose what else I should be carrying around with me, under which circumstances, and why.

This is what my Fuck Shit Stack of gadgets looks like:

Gadget Stack

Gadget Overload

Not pictured: the digital camera I used to take these photos and the laptop I’m using to create this blog post.

But do I really NEED all of these things?

Well, that’s what I’m trying to figure out. This blog post is an experiment of sorts. In an attempt to justify a need for all of this portable technology and find out if it can peacefully co-exist, I’m going to list each gadget and attempt to rationalize its place in my life.

Motorola Droid 2 R2-D2 Edition

Droid 2 Star Wars EditionMy cell phone. At almost two years old, it’s certainly not on the bleeding edge of mobile technology anymore, but it still serves me pretty well. I’m one of those people who has to have phones with physical keys, and this phone’s keypad is exceptionally well-designed. I also like that it’s on the smaller side and enables me to operate it fully with one hand. It is rooted and running Ice Cream Sandwich. I’m hanging on to it for as long as I can, or at least until my next upgrade credit comes along. I have never paid full-price for a new phone and refuse to start now. The downside of that means never having the latest & greatest phone, but I can live with that.

Toshiba Satellite Laptop

Toshiba LaptopMy primary “workhorse” computer, whether it’s docked in my office next to my desktop PC or with me on the road. It’s several years old now, but still very capable. The only time I run into performance issues is when doing heavy video editing or playing a graphics-intensive game, which I don’t use this computer for anyway. It’s running Windows 7 and I will most likely be upgrading to Windows 8 in October. Having a laptop is a must for the type of work I do, as I often have a need to carry my work around with me.

Apple iPad 16GB

Apple iPadMy newest toy, which I mainly bought for iOS-exclusive games and apps. Last week I also discovered it’s amazing for digital comics. It’s probably going to remain a “toy” to me until I learn to start using it for more productive purposes, which I’m still inclined to use my laptop for; I couldn’t imagine doing a lot of typing or graphic design on this thing. But for entertainment purposes–YouTubing, gaming, second screen web surfing, etc.–from the comfort of my couch, bed or anywhere else, this beats the hell out of lugging a laptop around and is better-suited to the experience than my phone.

Kindle Touch

Kindle TouchOne of the best gifts I’ve ever recieved. I read a lot of books, both fiction and non-fiction. While nothing can replace the joy of holding real books in your hands or the smell of them that I so love, the Kindle delivers a gratifying reading experience. I don’t foresee this replacing my new iPad as my “go to” device for books for two reasons: (1) I love reading outdoors or on the beach in bright sunlight, a huge advantage Kindle and other e-ink readers have over tablets. (2) Battery life. A fully-charged Kindle can last more than week even if I’m reading for several hours per day.

Nintendo DS Lite

Nintendo DSBy far and away the gaming portable I spend the most time with. I’ve owned every incarnation of the Gameboy since the original, including Color, Advanced, and SP. With its backward-compatibility for all GBA games, there is an enormous catalog of games I’m able to play on this thing. I would like to eventually get a 3DS, but I can’t justify spending the money just yet when I’m so content with this one. And as far as portability goes, it’s extremely durable (has been dropped many times and still looks new) and fits nicely in my pocket.

 PSP-2000 Slim

PSP 2000

And this is the gaming portable I spend the least amount of time with, which is why I’m glad I got it for only $50 off Craigslist. It’s not that it’s a bad system or that there aren’t good games for it; far from it. It’s just that PSP, for me, occupies this weird niche between handheld gaming and full-blown console or PC gaming. The graphics are awesome, but that’s kind of the problem with it–I’d much rather experience games with awesome graphics on my big TV. I keep this thing around for the few platform exclusives that I enjoy, and for emulation (mine is hacked).

Flip Ultra HD

Flip Ultra HD

This was another gift to me. I don’t have a legit camcorder and my phone’s video quality is subpar unless the lighting is really good, so this gadget fills that role. It’s one of those dead-simple-to-use “it just works” products, which I like. Just press the big red button to start and stop recording. The zoom function is pretty limited, but the video quality is really nice for how simplistic and affordable this product is. Its design makes it easy to whip out and start recording at a moment’s notice, which is why I like to tote it around with me. You just never know when you’re going to see something interesting.

What I learned from this exercise:

  • I could probably replace a couple of these devices by upgrading to a really nice phone.
  • I’m definitely a bargain-hunter when it comes to gadgets and technology.
  • I’m OK with being a few steps behind the technology curve. I have been living debt-free for over five years now and intend to stay that way.
  • Despite having all this wonderful technology at my fingertips, I still don’t agree that the “death of the PC” or even “the death of the gaming console” are inevitable, as a lot of tech doomsayers have been pointing out lately.
  • I don’t like being tethered to so many gadgets, but until someone  invents a device that can transmogrify itself into other devices, I don’t see this problem going away anytime soon.
  • And also…

…Not much has changed.

Just for fun, here’s the “ten years ago” version of my techsistential crisis:

Old Gadgets

Yes, I still have these gadgets laying around in a box. I have a hard time letting go!

 

Leap Motion Looks like The Future

LEAP

Leap Motion

I’m probably the last person to know about this and nerdgasming over new technology is not something I typically do around here, but LOOK AT THIS THING, you guys:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_d6KuiuteIA

I found out about Leap Motion from the comment section of the Ouya Kickstarter, where a vocal group of backers are pushing to get it integrated with the console (an idea I fully support).

Here’s a bit more about the device and how it works:

“The 3D gesture control that’s like Kinect on steroids”

Leap Motion’s not the household name Kinect is, but it should be — the company’s motion-tracking system is more powerful, more accurate, smaller, cheaper, and just more impressive. The Leap uses a number of camera sensors to map out a workspace of sorts — it’s a 3D space in which you operate as you normally would, with almost none of the Kinect’s angle and distance restrictions.

Currently the Leap uses VGA camera sensors, and the workspace is about three cubic feet; Holz told us that bigger, better sensors are the only thing required to make that number more like thirty feet, or three hundred. Leap’s device tracks all movement inside its force field, and is remarkably accurate, down to 0.01mm. It tracks your fingers individually, and knows the difference between your fingers and the pencil you’re holding between two of them.

[via The Verge]

Leap Motion is arriving in February 2013.  It’s surprisingly affordable at only $69.99 plus S&H to pre-order one.

Can you imagine what internet porn will be like now?

I joined the Dark Side today.

Because I finally broke down and bought an iPad. It is the first Apple product I’ve ever bought.

I haven’t even unboxed the thing yet because I have SO MANY FEELINGS that I need to get out first.

iPad

The decision to buy an iPad is something I’ve been weighing since around February when I wrote this post lamenting all the cool iOS-exclusive games I’ve been missing out on simply because I don’t own a device with an Apple logo on it. The Cult of Mac is not something I have ever wished to be a part of (probably never will) and I still hold the belief that there are good and in many cases superior, cheaper alternatives for almost every Apple product that don’t require you to over-commit and have less control.

It’s not that I’m anti-Apple. I’m just pro-me, and two important facets of my digital life are getting the most for my money and having as much freedom and control with my purchases as possible. If money were no object, it’d probably be a different story.

But if there is one thing in this world that will compel me to spend ridiculous amounts of money on expensive tech toys I don’t need but want, it’s platform-exclusive video games. It’s the same thing I went through with Playstation 3, and years before that, Dreamcast.

My wishlist of iOS-exclusive games that I want to play started as an experiment to see how long I could hold off until Applelust won me over. Today I know the answer: 207 days.

5 Creepy Robots I’m Irrationally Terrified Of

Greetings from the Uncanny Valley!

I’m embracing my inner technophobia today with this collection of real and fictional robots that, for one reason or another, creep me the hell out. Is my fear of these machines truly irrational, or am I just smart for recognizing the early warning signs of the inevitable robopocalypse?

Boston Dynamics Big Dog

I’m pretty sure I saw this abomination in one of the Silent Hill games.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W1czBcnX1Ww

Animatronic Baby

I can barely even watch this. I don’t know what it is about robotic babies that makes my skin crawl so much, but this video does it to me.  Still not as creepy as the baby in Trainspotting, though.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XLLaqsXTeto

Tripods from ‘War of the Worlds’

I saw this film with a girlfriend of mine late at night in an almost-empty theater. We were clinging to each other for support and I almost pissed myself in fear every time I heard THAT UNGODLY SOUND these things make when they’re about to appear.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dE5V0iQdB10

Sidebar: I don’t understand why Spielberg’s War of the Worlds gets shit on so much. Is it because people hate Tom Cruise? Or Dakota Fanning? Or that it’s a remake? I don’t get the hate.

Teddy Ruxpin

I know, I should just turn in my 80′s Childhood Badge right now for admitting this, but I freaking hate Teddy Ruxpin. In this commercial, I would have been the kid in the back of the glass who dives out the window the moment this thing’s soulless, unyielding eyes flickered to life.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8EshrR-xk2E

I’m not even sure why Teddy Ruxpin bothers me. Maybe it’s just the way he’s designed; that he has a tape recorder on his back, that he’s a weird, ugly beige color, that his eyes look crossed…? It makes no sense because one of my favorite toys from childhood was The Talking Mother Goose, yet another robotic storytelling animal that I never found creepy in the slightest. What’s up with that?

Phillip

A modern marvel of artificial intelligence or an early Skynet prototype? You decide.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UIWWLg4wLEY

 

 

Fail Horn: Kevin Rose, Founder of Digg

Kevin Rose

It’s not every day Google offers you $200 million dollars for your popular tech start-up. And if that deal doesn’t work out, you should consider yourself extremely lucky when another company comes along and offers you $80 million. Kevin Rose, founder and former CEO of Digg didn’t think so.

After turning down offers like these, he went on to greenlight a series of incredibly dumb decisions that led to his stepping down as CEO, a dwindling user base, and ultimately today’s news that Digg has just been acquired for a paltry $500 million. LOL did I say million? I meant $500 thousand.

As Gizmodo puts it: Digg Sells Itself for Pathetic Pocket Change: $500,000

TechCrunch’s summary of the slow, sad decline of Digg reads like an obituary:

Once a poster child of the Web 2.0 revolution, Digg slowly faded into the background over the last few years, especially after its 4.0 update alienated many of its users. After that, Digg never quite found a niche for itself as content sharing moved to social networks like Twitter and Facebook (and the competing social sharing site Reddit). It still has a sizable amount of users, but it’s really just a shadow of its former self today. While an announcement like today’s acquisition would once have received hundreds of “diggs” and comments within a few minutes, the fact that today’s announcement has only 16 diggs and four comments so far is rather telling.

Bob Barker Says You Fail

Hindsight is a bitch.

Thanks for the fun while it lasted, Kev. I had a good time digging things for a few years there, and there was even a time when I used Digg more than I do Twitter. But then you had to go changing things around for no good reason and bein’ all mega-rich and not caring about Digg anymore and shit. And now you get to hear a collective “We told you so” from all your disgruntled past and present Digg users.

Here’s to you, Kevin Rose. You win today’s Fail Horn.

Press Play to Receive Your Prize:

 

(I still think you’re kinda hot though.)

The New Tandy 2000: “Simply Incredible”

I stumbled upon this great vintage Radio Shack ad the other day for the Tandy 2000, which I wanted to share because it was the first computer my family ever owned and my introduction to the magic of microprocessing. The “simply incredible” part must be referring to its $2999 price tag.

Tandy 2000

The Tandy 2000 debuted in 1983, which means it was already several years outdated when my mom brought it home; I was about seven at the time. Luckily my Mom had a computer-related job and her employer supplied this “ultra-high performance” machine for her, otherwise we’d have never been able to afford it. In fact, we were one of the only families I knew with a home computer.

I remember being one of the only kids in class handing in typed-up papers and book reports (after neatly tearing away the perforated edges from the dot matrix printer paper, of course) which tended to impress the teachers, and good thing, too, because my papers were usually full of complete bullshit. To this day I still remember all those stupid Word Perfect 5.1 commands—who else pretended like they were Doogie Howser when they used that program?

I consider myself very lucky to have had access to a computer at an early age, however shitty it was at the time. But I didn’t realize how shitty until I read this product review over at 8-bit Micro, which essentially deems this machine “useless.”

These Romance Pants are for the ladies.

Romance Pants

This has to be the greatest/creepiest Instructables project I’ve ever seen:

Romance Pants are a pair of pants that dims the room lighting and raises the stereo in relation to the fly zipper being pulled down. Of course it does not stop there. The romantic coup de grace involves electronically ignited candles triggered by the unbuttoning of the waist button. This subtle sensual assault is sure to shock and awe any prospective partner into ecstatic submission. As the evening progresses, this smarty-pants technology will undoubtedly to set the mood to the appropriate level of ‘getting it on.’ Romance pants are definitely where the future lay.

If, after reading that, you’re wishing there was a video so you can see these miracles of modern science in action for yourself, you’re in luck because there’s totally a video. Perv.

I can think of a few characters that would love a pair of these pants.

Quagmire

Austin Powers

Pepe La Pew

Leisure Suit Larry

Ron Burgundy

The Continental

I’m already planning what music I’m going to set my Romance Pants to.

This cheap little device is how I play & record old console games on PC.

Game Console PC Capture Device

I don’t often do tech reviews, but I thought I’d share my thoughts on the Diamond VC500 One Touch Video Capture Device (that’s a mouthful) because it really is a useful piece of plastic if you’ve got a collection of old gaming consoles and want to hook them up to your computer to play and record your games….easily.

Here’s what the packaging and instruction manual look like, in case it’s helpful to know:

Diamond VC500 Box & Manual

It retails for about $40 on Amazon, but I got mine on sale a while back for $25. Considering all it does and how easy it is to use, that’s not a bad price versus some of the more expensive equipment that’s out there. Mind you, it’s not meant for playing and recording in HD, but it’s a workhorse for everything else: game consoles, VHS, cable boxes–pretty much anything with an RCA connector that you want to play through your computer and capture.

Here’s a closer look at the device itself:

Diamond VC500 One Touch Video Capture Device

As you can see, it has a standard composite RCA  connection (which I’ve got my Super Nintendo plugged into) as well as an S-Video connection. The other end that you can’t see is a USB connector that plugs right into the front or back of your computer. And there’s a bright blue LED power indicator light for added cool factor.

You’ll need to install the included driver and “EzGrabber” software, which is the program that handles the playback and recording. When you launch the application, it opens a small window and control panel on your screen that looks like this:

EzGrabber

(Yeah, I know, I need some new wallpaper. This is my spare PC, and I’m lazy.)

I have the Super Nintendo powered on and the Super Castlevania IV cartridge is firing up, so there’s the familiar Konami intro. From here you can maximize the window by double-clicking anywhere on it, or you can resize it manually by dragging the edges around.

Here’s a closer look at the interface:

EzGrabber Interface

You can use the on-screen controls to start recording, but that’s not very practical if you’re viewing whatever it is you’re viewing in full-screen mode. That’s where the “one touch” physical RECORD button on the device really comes in handy.

One Touch Video Capture

The device has a second LED indicator that flashes red while you’re recording, which I love. To stop recording at any time, simply hit the big RECORD button again. The program won’t interrupt you to ask where to save the video file, which is simply automatically saved to whatever the default folder is. I set my default folder to be my Desktop.

The EzGrabber Setup menu is where you can customize your capture settings, for example, selecting from various video formats. You can also choose your preferred video format like NTSC, PAL, etc. and specify Composite or S-video. You can also use this program to take regular snapshots (screenshots) and save them as images, but I’m just focusing on the video aspect for this review.

EzGrabber Capture Options

That’s really all there is to it. The Diamond VC500 and EzGrabber software is dead simple to use and it’s one of those products that “just works.”

The only negative thing I could say about this device, as I mentioned earlier, is that it is incapable of capturing in high-def. But if you’re using it to record yourself playing old video games, do VHS transfers, etc, which is really its intended purpose, you can’t get HD video from those sources anyway.

If you’re in need of an affordable, easy-to-use device that lets you do any of the above, I have no hesitations about recommending the Diamond VC500 One Touch Video Capture Device. Now please excuse me, I’ve got some 16-bit undead to slay.

ShezCrafti’s Rating:

9 out of 10 stars.

                                            

Real “Homebrew” Minigolf Inspired by Portal, Minecraft & Other Games

Video Game Mini Golf

What happens when a creative guy like Tom Scott gets together with a bunch of his hacker friends to make a real minigolf course with ridiculously challenging holes inspired by video games and other geekery?

This!

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o9Ki5Vpon5c#!

Tom’s “homebrew” miniature golf course features some amazing Portal-themed holes, a Minecraft hole, a crazy turf labyrinth controlled by a Wii Nunchuck (pictured above), a vaccum-powered suction tube hole, and holes inspired by game shows like Wheel of Fortune and Britian’s The Crystal Maze.

Combining minigolf with video games, especially games like Portal, is one of the most brilliant ideas I’ve ever seen. I’m surprised there aren’t any real miniature golf courses that have run with this idea, considering how popular video games are. I mean, don’t you get tired of all the Pirate, Dinosaur, and Tiki themed minigolf courses?

I’ll be playing quite a bit of minigolf when I go on vacation next week to Myrtle Beach, a place where there’s something like over two hundred courses. And none of them are nearly as cool as anything shown in that video.

Why isn’t there a dubstep remix of the Fraggle Rock Theme?

Fraggle Rock Dubstep

I’m disappointed in you, Internet. There’s dubstep remixes for practically every song in existence except, evidently, the Fraggle Rock Theme, for which my Google search turned up zero results.

The Wub Machine to the rescue:

The Wub Machine is a free app that lets you easily create dubstep (or Electro House or Drum & Bass) style remixes of any song just by dragging and dropping an MP3 into the interface.

It’s no Skrillex, but it gets the job done.

Further Listening:

The ‘Reading Glove’ Project = Real Life Adventure Games?

Via Scoop.it — Shezcrafti

Reading Glove Objects

Have you ever wished it was possible to play point-and-click style adventure games in real life–using real locations and real objects? (No? Am I the only one?) The Reading Glove is an amazing technological research project that might make “real life adventure games” a reality one day.

If reading a book or watching a movie in 3D isn’t immersive enough for you to get a kick out of mystery stories, The Reading Glove might be just what the doctor ordered. Comprised of a recommender (a display), objects and a glove, The Reading Glove system enables users to experience a whole new level of storytelling by being part of the story. Users pick up objects which then trigger a non-linear narrative that clues them in on what objects they have to pick up next in order to move the story forward. Think of it as a point and click adventure – except that you’ll be a character in the game as opposed to a person behind the screen.

Via ubergizmo.com

But how does it work?  The Reading Glove is an adaptive, tangible storytelling system consisting of a custom-built wearable RFID reader glove used to interact with a set of tagged objects and a tabletop display.  Here’s what it looks like up close:

RFID Enabled Glove

The Reading Glove is a collaborative project between Karen Tannenbaum and her husband Josh Tannenbaum, both PhD students of the School for Interactive Arts & Technology (SIAT) at Simon Fraser University. Karen’s research interests include artificial intelligence, ubiquitous computing, tangible computing, interaction design, design philosophy and design fictions. (I don’t even know what some of those terms mean, but it sounds impressive!)

“We wanted to see what happened when we gave people a story that was embedded on real, physical objects that could be played with and moved around. Our original vision was an entire room that told a story when you explored it, responding to objects you touched or moved via light and sound responses — sort of like a haunted house, but intended to tell a specific narrative rather than just be spooky,” Tannenbaum explained in a recent interview with O’Reilly Media.

Here’s a video of Karen and her team demonstrating The Reading Glove with a sample mystery puzzle game about espionage and betrayal:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UE6vllYI5RI

You gotta admit this is freaking cool, even if you’re not a fan of adventure games.  If The Reading Glove technology were perfected and its capabilities realized by game developers and creative storytellers, just imagine the potential.