Tech and geek culture headlines

Top Gun Gets BluRay/3D Release

topgun3d-artIt is the movie that pushed kids into flying fast.  It’s the movie that made some people feel a little gay.  Top Gun, the 80’s icon of Tom Cruisery is getting a remastering and full HD and 3D treatment.

Director Tony Scott, before his passing last year, oversaw the remastering process and promises to give new levels of clarity to the dogfight and ariel scenes.  It will be released with a 3d conversion, the quality of which, is yet to be determined.  The movie will also have a brief run at IMAX Digital screens nationwide, and then the disc hits stores on Feb 19th.  There is already a pre-order available on Amazon.

Here’s the promotional trailer.

Love/Hate – The New C7 Corvette is Here

2014-chevrolet-corvette-interior-in-red

At the Detroit auto show on Sunday evening the long awaited, and much rumored unveiling of the 2014 Corvette took place.  The model, the C7, will be available sometime in the third quarter of this year and is expected to start in the $50K range.

The biggest talking point, as always, is the design.  The new ‘Vette will certainly get the comment section trolls a-typin’ as it marries some visual components from several different cars, while retaining a very Corvette feel overall.  Oddly, the one new design element that has the most outcry are the taillights which are now more squared out and combined which is totally against traditional Vette tail ends, and it does make the car look a lot like several other Chevy products.

But the great news is performance.  The base model, referred again as the Sting Ray, provides specs that Chevy promises will outdo the current upgrade model of the Corvette, the Grand Sport.  “0-60 in under four seconds”, is the promise and if that is the case with a base model car, rather impressive.   And while it will take a visit in person versus just seeing it in pictures, the interior promises a quantum leap in quality – maybe the current car’s biggest  knock.

Here’s a bunch of links to sites that have seen and touched the car, although there are yet to be any test drives.

Let the debating begin.

 

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CES2013 Is Upon Us

There will be no big news from Apple, Microsoft or Google.  Nope, those guys don’t “attend” the Consumer Electronics Show any longer.  They all have decided there is far more value in launching products in their own big events.  In fact, even the seemingly sinking boat of Blackberry will hold their own event later this month with a hail-mary introduction of Blackberry 10 and new devices.

That doesn’t mean that CES will be a snooze.  In fact, because the biggest guys aren’t hogging up all the media attention what you’ll be hearing from Vegas will be all about different new tech, devices and ideas.

Probably the biggest thing you hear about is “Ultra HD” – The TV manufactures have succeeded in getting the vast majority of the public to throw away their tube sets for some sort of flat screen and now they need to sell a new generation of TVs.  So trying to make the images sharper, deeper, clearer is the goal.  So, you’re going to hear a lot about “4K” – the idea of a set with 3-4times the resolution of the set you have now.  The problem with that idea is that there is little to no actual content available in that resolution, so the sets have to up convert the content from your DVD, Blluray, Streaming service or whatever and when you do that, it’s not real 4K… Much of this is gimmicky marketing stuff.  There will be several new sets using the OLED technology which has a very high image quality, but had been limited to small screen sizes.  Now you’ll be able to get OLED in 45’+ sizes, but they will be expensive for a while.

There will also be lots of new wireless speakers.  Most will use bluetooth to connect to your handheld device, some will use Apple’s Airplay wireless system and others will create their own means to connect to your home wireless system.  There is even “Pure”, a company that wants you to put their speakers around your home, wirelessly connect them and via apps they you download can connect to their own Panadora/Spotify like music service.

There will be lots of new tech that will connect to your handheld devices to allow you to control everything from toys, to home automation to utility-type devices.  And there will be more and more watches that will connect to your handheld to allow you to keep that phone in your pocket or purse and transmit info from it to the watch, in the ultimate act of convenience (lazy) so you don’t have to look at the phone… The biggest of this is Pebble, a watch that crowd funded over $10m from Kickstarter.

And just when you thought you couldn’t handle yet another “celebrity” branded pair of headphones, Motorhead will be releasing their own ear speakers designed specifically for very. loud. rock. musik.

I will be updating here as I hear about cool things I think you need to know about.

 

Immortalize Your Likeness

As a gift to my wife for Christmas, maybe the gift I was most excited about getting her was a pair of replicas of “us”.

IMG_0389From the fun company, Mixeeme, I was able to walk thru their online setup to created a pair of figures that somewhat resemble us.  You go thru the steps of picking out your skin-color, hair, eyes, mouth, clothing and some other details (think avatar creation on Xbox live) and for $25 you end up with a little 3″ version of your creation.  Extra neat is that you can upload your own images that can appear on the shirts, or use text for messages.  You can even create an image for a face that can be uploaded and used on the head for a level of detail the preset options can’t provide.

But what might be the coolest aspect is that these are created on a commercial 3D printer.  Mixeeme works with the company Shapeways that takes your order and then makes your one-of-a-kind figure on a printer that creates it out of a material that feels a little like ceramic and plastic.  They don’t feel fragile, but I wouldn’t want to drop it either.

The customer service is outstanding.  As I was creating my figure I realized that the options for hair all ended up giving me far more hair than I really have.  I emailed them, asked for an option that was maybe more “receding”, traded some images of what was closer and they added it for me – at no extra cost.

It’s a wonderful gift.

*updated* This Is the Summer Movie of 2013

*updated*  at the bottom, watch the trailer, but with delToro’s commentary – excellent insight

Pacific Rim has been talked about for the last several months, but only in ways that amount to guessing and speculation.  Director, Guillermo del Toro’s Summer 2013 will be a massive blockbuster on the grandest of scales.

We know the plot line is that giant aliens invade earth, but they are more like the massive monsters from old Japanese monster flicks, and the human race creates an army of Jaegers (skyscraper sized, human controlled robots or mechs) to defeat them.  But in this trailer we finally get to see just what the “monsters” and the Jaegers will look like.  While I certainly haven’t been wanting another “giant creature from outer space threatens Earth smash-smash-smash movie”, for whatever reason, this is really the movie I’m most anticipating for 2013… Maybe its the every so slight “guy in a rubber suit” feel the monsters have…

Who’s to know what to expect from GdT, but if he’s greatness with the very unappreciated Hellboy movies is any indicator, this should be a great ride.  Please note the very cool inclusion of what sounds like GLaDOS, the voice from the awesome “Portal” games.

“…ready to activate the Jaeger in 3…2…1”

Man of Steel Might Actually Be Super

Zack Synder very well may have been the perfect choice to direct the newest version/reboot of the Superman story.  Tasked several years ago with turning the greatest comic book/superhero graphic novel of all time into a movie, Snyder’s “Watchmen” was a valiant attempt to do something with a terribly complex, dark tale.

When we saw the first trailer for the upcoming “Man of Steel”, it looked far more like an episode of “Deadliest Catch” than anything related to Superman, but the new trailer certainly corrects that course with a clear aim that points to some sort of origin story.  I have a hard time believing that Snyder would simply just do a full origin story, and from the trailer you can see that maybe the scenes of Clark’s childhood (including his rescue of a drowning school bus full of classmates) are more likely part of a series of flashbacks.  ‘Cause if you get one overriding feeling from this trailer is that this will be a moody, brooding story about a guy, albeit a super-guy, trying to figure out who he is.

But I have to admit that watching this peeked my interest.

Geekout Gift Guide Part 3

Don’t forget to check out Part 1 and Part 2 of the Geekout Gift Guide

Headphones:  There isn’t enough time in our lives to endure crappy audio quality.  There are plenty of headphones/earbuds that are available at decent prices that will give you a fair level of audio reproduction.  Sorry, but the line of “Beats by Dre” are not that.  But, again, that’s me being a snob.  In the end, if you find a product that sounds good to you, then that is what you should buy.  But, if you want high audio quality then try the brand “made in the USA”, in Brooklyn, Grado Labs.  Now, Grados aren’t generally the type of headphone you wear around town, their earbuds are for that duty.  But if you want something for wearing at work, at your desk, while reading, any of their products – starting with the $80 SR60i will give you samples of what audio reproduction should be.  I have owned a pair of SR60’s for about 20 years and I cannot recommend a product/brand any more highly…  Shockingly I’m actually going to recommend a model for Skullcandy, the Aviators are actually a very nice sounding pair of over-the-ear headphones and now are available in a range of colors.  The look is something you either love or hate, but they sound world’s better than any of the Beats, and for less money.  Now, if you have a pair of earbuds and want to upgrade them for less than $20, try putting on a pair of Comply foam tips.  Earbuds can only sound good if they can make a seal in your ear closing out the outside noise.  This is good because the less background noise the lower volume you have to turn up the device, and the audio quality will increase.  Comply has tips for all kinds of earbuds and will make even the cheapest of buds sound better (i.e.: the Apple standard buds, yes).

 

TV’s:  This is a really tough one to recommend simply because there are so many variables based on size, budget, the room you want it to be in and just how picky you are about picture quality.  I will tell you that for everyday TV/BluRay watching I can’t recommend the line of displays from Vizio enough.  They are a tremendous bargain and can be found at even better prices at the Costco’s and Sam’s Clubs of the world.  No, they aren’t world class performers, but for the price you’re getting 85%+ of the performance and I have yet to have one break or have a problem.  But, if you are considering a TV purchase this season, please read this buyer’s guide from HDGuru.  It will walk you through all of the different questions and details of the differences between LCD, LED, Plasma, screen size, blah blah blah… Plus, don’t forget if you do buy one, you need to calibrate it to some degree.  No TV out of the box is set up accurately.  Remember. People aren’t “red”.

Speakers:  Again, this is an almost impossible segment to make hard recommendations.  But if you are looking to do a surround sound system, I can’t recommend the Gallo Acoustics home theater setup.  Yes, they are pricey, but will give you world class audio reproduction in a sleek package.  I have know Anthony Gallo since he started the company and can vouch for the quality of both the build and performance.  If you’re looking for something a little more affordable, the Cinema™ 100 CT from Paradigm is a good setup for less than $1000.  Remember, life is too short for crappy audio reproduction.

Remote TV watching:  The new line of Slingbox devices are wonderful.  Now you can watch you DVR, or any device in your theater setup from wherever you have internet access (desktop, tablet or phone).  The new 500 even solves the long standing issue of having to hardwire the box to your home network by adding wifi capabilities.  If you travel a lot, the Slingbox will quickly become your BFF>

 

 

Geekout Gift Guide Part 2

We got the computing stuff out of the way in part one, so let’s look at the really fun stuff.  There’s also now a Part 2.

Fitness Tech:  Fitbit has recently updated their lineup of devices and the new $50 Fitbit Zip is an ideally priced wearable device.  Think of it as a modern day pedometer, but it tells you so much more.. Steps, calories and distance are all measured and you can then sync that info to a device or computer to keep track of your progress and share with others.  For $40 more you can get the Ultra, that also measures your sleep activity.  The Nike FuelBand is very popular, and is very sleek (especially the new translucent “ice” version), but I’m not sure that what it reports back to you is very helpful considering the cost ($150).  It doesn’t really tell you anything the Fitbit doesn’t although it does calculate a value called “Nike Fuel” – a marketing gimmick, but one that reportedly is very encouraging.  The last entry is probably the best, but currently out of stock and hard to find.  Basis is a wearable device that looks like a watch, but monitors your heart rate, perspiration, movement and skin temperature.  All of this is then feed into a program on your computer that allow you to track this info and even make suggestions on how you can improve your activity levels.  It is expensive at $200, but the company aims for this to be a solid hardware/software package.  It is getting rave reviews after a delayed launch and the product sold out in its first day of availability late last month.

 

Vinyls: I have grown a weird love of toys that do nothing more than sit on a shelf.  I find many of them to be a great form of art, and some to just be cool.  My favorite is artists Frank Kozik’s line of “Smorkin Labbits”.  Plus anything that has a cigarette butt sticking out of it’s mouth.  Funko has produced a fun line covering the Walking Dead series, and the Daryll mini is in particularly high demand.  And if you really want to roll-cool, make yourself into a mini fig at MixeeMe.  For $25 you can custom make your own little vinyl of yourself or something crazy of your own creation, all via an online creator, and the company will 3d print the little thing out and ship it to you. All of these make for outstanding stocking stuffers.

BluRay:  Hey, if you have a HDTV, and I assume 99% of you do, then you really should go buy a BluRay player.  This is the only way you can watch true 1080p HD without the crappy compression that Netflix and any cable/satellite company are going to mess up the image.  Also this is a great way to collect your favorite movies and TV shows.  Topping the list of timeliness is the release of The Dark Knight Rises, and now, you can get all three of Nolan’s trilogy in one package.  And if you are a total Harry Potter fanatic, there is now the shockingly huge “Wizard’s Collection” which is all the movies and extras covering 30+ discs, oh and its $300+.  And the release of Star Trek: The Next Generation on BluRay is really special.  A lot of work has gone into these episodes and the 2nd season has now also been released.

Toys: I love LEGOs but when I walked by a local LEGO store and saw this new B-Wing set in the window, I almost cried.  Comprised of almost 1500 pieces it is a great rendition of one of the most underated of Star Wars ships.  Hell, I’d take ANY Star Wars LEGO set and be happy as a clam.  And for the more adult troublemaker, why don’t you launch your own spy drone with the Parrot 2.0 quad copter.  Control it with your smartphone and fly over the neighbors and use the on-board HD camera to see what the hell is going on over there.

GEEKOUT GIFT GUIDE

**Make sure you check out Part 2 and Part 3.  Follow @peet2 or on Facebook for notifications on when updated**

It’s that time of year and if you’re looking for a good, geeky, techy gift for a loved one – here’s a list of stuff that I would recommend.

Computers:  You’ve got an option between Apple and Windows.  Making this interesting is the introduction of the new Windows 8 operating system which is unlike any Windows you’ve ever used before.  So, you’ve got a learning curve here, but I’m not sure that the payoff isn’t a winner.  And, it will only get better from here and there is a mountain of new hardware to consider, but the ideal new desktop (and best iMac competitor) is the new Dell XPS One 27 ($1999).  This is an all-in-one desktop feature not only a big processor, lots of storage and memory – but that giant 27″ screen fully utilizes Windows 8 new touch-screen interactivity.  But if you’re looking for an Apple product, the newly released iMac in either 21.5″ or 27″ are fantastic choices.  The new design is slim, sexy and make sure you check the option box for the “Fusion Drive” upgrade.  This will speed up performance with a new hybrid drive.

Tablets:  The smaller tablets is going to be the big holiday seller with several options in the $200-$350 range.  And while I would prefer to see everyone just go ahead and splurge on the new 4th gen, full sized iPad – I realize that at a price that starts at $500, it ain’t for everyone.  So, I think the decision to choose between the new Kindle Fire HD, Nexus 7 and iPad Mini is a tough one.  The Mini is the most expensive, doesn’t match the performance specs of the other two – but allows users into the far better established and stocked Apple iTunes App Store.  If you’re getting a tablet for the apps, this is the way to go.  The Kindle Fire HD is a very family friendly device.  Marry this to a Amazon Prime account and suddenly you have a wonderful little media device.  Of the three, the Nexus 7 is the best option to cover what the other two do best.  It’s a fantastic device with a shocking amount of power and specs for the price.

Cell Phones: Look, I’m not going to get into the dirty battle of “what’s better”.  Each person just needs to do a little research, talk to friends and co-workers and decide what OS is best for them.  The adventurous pick is the new Lumia 920 Windows 8 phone.  This is a sexy, solid piece of tech and its running the OS that makes iOS and Android look really outdated.  That doesn’t mean its the best OS, cause it’s not.  But it’s really fun, and once you kinda ‘get it’, easy to use.  The safe bet is the Apple iPhone 5, the setup is designed so that users know what they’re going to get, how it works with very little guessing and the best selection of apps.  But that comes at the cost of personalization and customization that Android provides and the sexy bet is the Samsung Galaxy S III.  This is a fantastic device with a giant screen and super snappy performance.  Once the new Android updates to “Jelly Bean” this will be the finest of devices – but that’s the problem, you never know when your Android device will get the updated OS.. There are a lot of people still waiting for the last version.  Hey, none of these are perfect.  Other good choices:  The new Nexus 4 (see Android Jelly Bean in its purest form) and the iPhone 4S, hey $99 is a great deal for what is still a totally great phone.

Laptops: As good as full sized tablets can be, laptops are beginning to become marginalized.  But they still are the best way to do on the go, actual, work.  The newly released Google Chromebook is a totally wacky idea that your laptop is pretty much nothing more than a portal to the inter web, and from there you do all of your work and stuff via Google web apps (gmail, docs, etc).  The really attractive part is that the damned thing only costs $250!!  But again, you have to have a connection to the net to do anything with it.  Apple makes the sexiest of laptops and none can make a geek’s pants fly like the 11″ MacBook Air.  Thin, light, and wicked fast with all that solid state storage.  The machine can handle a lot of work and computing and is a great buy at $1000.  But if you’re into the Windows 8 idea the new Lenovo Think Pad Twist is an outstanding idea.  Like CNET said about it, “The ThinkPad Twist has great Lenovo construction, a responsive touch screen, and a center hinge for flipping into tablet mode, all for a very reasonable price.($800)”

 

 

Geek Holiday Movie Season

The 2012 holiday movie season is already upon us, first with the release of Wreck-It-Ralph and Skyfall already getting great reviews and giant ticket sales.  Going from here through the New Year are some great movies that spread wide across the geek spectrum.  Here’s a list of what’s up and their associated trailer.

Lincoln: 11/9 – The Spielberg movie that tells the story of the months just before the President’s assassination

Twilight-Breaking Dawn: 11/16 – The final movie in the series.  Will Bella and her baby just eat everyone else?

Red Dawn: 11/16 – While the girls go see Bella, the guys will sit through this remake with Chris Helmsworth fighting off North Koreans (Chinese?) invading American shores.  This movie was actually shot several years ago and shelved while the movie company had money issues.

Rise of the Guardians: 11/16 – Animated movie that makes a league of super heroes out of Santa, Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy and crew

Life of PI: 11/21 – You’ve seen the commercials and wondered “WTF”, but this Ang Lee movie is getting lots of Oscar buzz for its interpretation of the beloved 2001 novel.

Hitchcock: 11/23 – Anthony Hopkins as the director in the story of the shooting of the classic “Psycho”.  Scarlett Johansson as Janet Leigh getting chopped up in the shower.

The Hobbit: 12/14 – The first of three that will tell the story we all know, in great detail.  And for those that choose to see it in HFR, I mean a lot of detail.

Zero Dark Thirty: 12/19 – The controversial movie telling the story of the mission to kill Osama Bin Laden

The Impossible: 12/21 – The first movie I can think of about the terrible 2004 Christmas Day Tsunami that killed 250,000 people.

Jack Reacher: 12/21 – The latest Tom Cruise “getting to be a bad ass” movie

Django Unchained: 12/25 – Quentin Tarantino’s Christmas Day offering has Jamie Foxx as a freed slave on a revenge/rescue mission with the great Christopher Waltz.

Gangster Squad: 1/11 – The director of “Zombieland” takes a turn at highly stylized 1940’s crime movie with Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone

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