dorkTech Wed, 16 Aug 2017 07:53:37 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Did Genesis Mining and Hashflare Get Hacked? Wed, 16 Aug 2017 06:25:19 +0000 Update: 8/16/17 12:52am: Users are reporting Genesis Mining is back online. On 8/15/17 around 5pm PST the popular cloud-based Genesis..]]>

Update: 8/16/17 12:52am: Users are reporting Genesis Mining is back online.

On 8/15/17 around 5pm PST the popular cloud-based Genesis Mining website went offline. Shortly after Hashflare customers started reporting the Hashflare website is offline as well.

This comes just a couple hours after we saw a 150 million dollar move of Bitcoin on the Blockchain.

Recently a backdoor was found in the server management software used by hundreds of cryptographically signed software developed by NetSarang. This software was used by many financial institutions, and may have been used by Genesis Mining & Hashflare. It could be possible the cloud services have taken their website offline to help protect themselves against this exploit.

Omnia Tech, partners with Genesis Mining has posted the following on their website:


So far both companies have not said anything on this downtime on any of their social media. We still don’t know if this website downtime will affect payments from the cloud mining services.

Folks are sharing their frustrations with the lack of communication from both companies on Twitter:

Update: 11:44pm PST:

Genesis Miners tweeted their website is undergoing some maintenance and will be back up soon:

We will continue to monitor the situation and update this post as news filters in.

© 2017, Mark Jensen. All rights reserved.

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Watch Players Control a Real Man Defeating Zombies Live Sat, 22 Aug 2015 00:24:46 +0000 What happens when you take random people on Chatroulette and place them in the middle of a real-life zombie game? Checkout the video to see it all unfold live!]]>

Game developers are always trying to find the next big thing that will hook their audience and captivate the public. Recently developers have started using virtual reality as a tool to increase the realism of games – but doing so has not been an easy task. A large number of users claim virtual reality causes them to become sick or dizzy, and many feel virtual reality has a way to go before it gets into the public arena.

But what about other methods of engagement – perhaps something completely different than anything currently out?

This is what Realm Pictures thought when they decided to build a truly engaging game – a real life zombie attack experience, that you control live via vocal commands. After a few weeks of development, set dressing, rigging, and engineering live video feeds with CG graphics, Realm Pictures subjected random Chatroulette users to play this unique game.


Users were able to remotely control a real live person, in real time by vocally telling them what to do. All the while on-screen-graphics and sound effects accented the performance. The game even featured a live vocal track that reacted to the directions given and spoke with players.

This new method of “live broadcasting” an experience to anyone around the world is a game-changer. In a sense, I find it hard to believe that something like this is not happening more often. I do recall recall Old Spice’s Nature Man Challenge being something similar to this idea, but I feel that it was not nearly as engaging as this zombie game Realm Pictures engineered. None the less, I am excited to see what other experiences are created around this concept.

It looks like we are headed to an era of viewers that want to engage with content live – this is why we are seeing the growth of Periscope, Twitch, YouNow, and other similar live platforms.

Do you think we are on the early dawn of life interaction technology, or do we still have quite a ways to go before any of this will go mainstream?

© 2015, Evan Zbozien. All rights reserved.

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Colorado Plays a Large Part in the Aerospace Industry Sun, 03 May 2015 06:36:37 +0000 My thoughts from the 31st annual Space Emporium, along with my findings on how active the space industries are in the state of Colorado.]]>

Recently, the Space Foundation hosted the 31st Space Symposium at the Broadmoor, in Colorado Springs. Every year, many large aerospace companies like NASA, JAXA (Japan), DLR (Germany), and AIAC (Canada) travel from across the globe to attend this unique event. The goal for this Symposium, is to provide a platform for companies and individuals to learn and network with each other. Most of the companies that attend the Space Symposium, usually operate in the aerospace industry.

Besides the main focus of the aerospace field, the Space Symposium also features various companies from other related industries, such as cyber security, global communications, and data protection. Some of the cyber security seminars really hit home for me, as I began to realize just how much the world is at risk to cyber-attacks. While consumers mainly deal with slight inconveniences like “randsomware” and various viruses, big companies have to deal with much larger scale attacks. These attacks could produce overwhelmingly negative consequences, of which, large organizations are trying to prevent by staying ahead of the hackers. Many company-level scenarios were discussed as a seemingly continuous topic throughout the conference, and as we move towards the future, I can only assume more of these talks will continue to happen.

The large turnout of cyber-security specialists and companies that attended this conference helped set the stage for a very memorable visit. The aspect of the Space Symposium that really left a place in my memories, were the various companies that showcased some very impressive and futuristic technology. It was fascinating to see the full extent and capability of the spy satellites on the private market, and to be able to talk to specialists that could answer any question I could think of. Oh, did I mention that at any time during the event, you could spot 3 and 4-star US military generals occasionally walking around the exhibit hall examining and browsing many of the vendors products – yeah, that was neat.

While I was at the Space Symposium, I was able to learn how Colorado plays a much bigger role in the aerospace industry than I originally thought.

Aerospace is Colorado’s highest growing economic sector which provides thousands of jobs with local companies like Lockheed Martin, Ball Aerospace, and United Launch Alliance. The combination of Colorado’s central geographical location, weather, and scenery, result in the perfect meeting place for major players in the aerospace & technology industries.

The very successful Orion EFT-1 that launched last December had the majority of its components made in Colorado. Lockheed Martin is the main contractor for the Orion project, and had support from other local companies like Ball Aerospace and United Launch Alliance (ULA). ULA provided the rocket boosters for the Delta IV Heavy that took Orion EFT-1 3600 miles into deep space. All of these companies have at least one major location in Colorado. Aerospace in Colorado is heavily supported by Gov. John Hickenlooper, who spoke at the opening ceremony and is openly in favor of expanding the economic sector of aerospace in Colorado. Hickenlooper said, “The Air Force Academy located in Colorado Springs and the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) at CU-Boulder is involved in many key NASA missions. Part of my job is to make sure that investment leads to opportunities for entrepreneurs and established businesses in Colorado.”


Lockheed Martin displaying half of the burnt Orion EFT-1 Module after its journey into deep space (Courtesy: Austin Braun)

CU-Boulder receives more NASA funding than any other public university in America, and most recently led the MAVEN (Mars Atmospheric and Volatile Evolution) mission. The MAVEN spacecraft was sent 442 million miles to Mars to study it’s upper atmosphere and is still sending back information about Mars to this day. CU-Boulder’s LASP has also contributed to the Hubble deep space telescope, the Mariner Spacecraft, and the shuttle missions.

With CU-Boulder’s large presence in aerospace, Colorado is also home to the United Launch Alliance. With its headquarters located in Centennial, Colorado, ULA provides thousands of jobs to Colorado locals. At the conference, Tory Bruno (ULA’s CEO) also announced the name of “America’s New Rocket”, the “Vulcan”. Vulcan boasts only 65% of the regular booster cost, 25% of the booster weight, and a whopping 90% reduction in booster propulsion cost. With the announcement of the Vulcan, ULA is changing the the status-quo of rocket booster functionality and efficiency. Reusability of rocket boosters will cut costs for ULA’s customers and provide a serious rivalry for Elon Musk’s SpaceX – which has been trying to accomplish the same feat. Vulcan will have its first launch in 2019 and is set to continue ULA’s track record of 95 successful launches. After the release of the new rocket name, Bruno concluded his speech by saying, “More capabilities in space mean more capabilities here on Earth”.


Tory Bruno sporting the new “Vulcan” hat after making an announcement. (Courtesy: United Launch Alliance)

Overall, I was very glad I was able to attend the Space Symposium this year, as it was a great learning experience for me. I look forward to seeing what steps our world takes in the space industries over the next year.

© 2015, Austin Braun. All rights reserved.

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Introducing CoinStand: The Amazon for Bitcoin & Other Cryptocurrencies Mon, 23 Mar 2015 01:01:55 +0000 A company named CoinStand just released the beta version of their online marketplace to various testers and crypto-enthusiasts. The service claims to allow users to purchase numerous items across many different categories using only crypto-currency.]]>

Earlier this week, a company named CoinStand released the beta version of their online marketplace to various testers and crypto-enthusiasts. The service claims to allow users to purchase numerous items across many different categories using only crypto-currency. At the time of writing, Bitcoin (BTC) and Paycoin (XPY) are the two accepted forms of payment for products.

Many of the current beta testers seem to be community members of the popular (soon to be discontinued and/or updated to another forum) crypto-forum HashTalk.

At the time of writing, CoinStand is giving a $20/coin valuation to every Paycoin used to purchase goods from the CoinStand store. This means that if you use Paycoin, you could end up spending a lot less money on your purchase – as of now, each Paycoin is about $0.78. (click here for current price)

On HashTalk, some beta users are explaining how they converted their Bitcoin to Paycoin using a service named FastXPY, and spent their Paycoin at CoinStand which in-turn saved them around 85%-95% on their purchase.

Besides the low purchase price for items, many users are also reporting the items they ordered are arriving at their doors fairly quick. Here is a video we found from an early tester that received their order just a short time after they placed it. We have tried to track down tracking information to confirm other deliveries, but no beta testers were willing to give this publication their tracking number citing privacy concerns.

The CoinStand website also claims to offer “24/7 support”, “hassle-free returns”, and says “most products feature two-day shipping”.

As of now, the CoinStand beta is exclusive to a limited set of users until various bugs and improvements are completed to the service and website. There is also a $1000 beta spending limit in place for current beta users that renews at an unspecified interval.

You can signup to get an invite to the beta or early public access on CoinStand’s website.

If you would like to browse the products CoinStand offers, try this trick:

1: Visit

2: Change the URL from “ to “”

Alternatively, checkout our gallery of screenshots from the CoinStand store:


As you can see, CoinStand offers a pretty decent selection of items at reasonable prices. It is exciting to see another jump in innovation that keeps pushing the crypto world closer to seamlessly interacting with the current technology and processes in place now.

We will keep an eye on CoinStand and monitor their progress, and hopefully will be able to verify the legitimacy of this service with our own testing. Until then, be sure to let us know about your experience with CoinStand if you have access to the service.

Update: HashTalk user DirtFighter created a thread where he is documenting his experience with CoinStand – you can read it here.

Full Disclosure: dorkTech does not have access to the CoinStand beta, and has not used their service. At this time we cannot verify the service works as advertised. Always use common sense and good judgement while participating in anything in the crypto field. 

© 2015, Payton Peterson. All rights reserved.

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Video: Katy Perry’s 2015 Super Bowl Halftime Show Thu, 05 Feb 2015 02:21:10 +0000 Watch the entire Katy Perry Super Bowl Halftime performance featuring Missy Elliott.]]>

Did you miss Katy Perry’s Super Bowl halftime show? If so, we have it here – along with all the sharks, beach balls, and shooting stars.

Katy’s show featured Missy Elliott for about half the show, a combination that many thought was pretty good, although overall reactions from people who watched the show were very mixed.

Enjoy the performance and let us know what you think of it in the comments below.

If you thought that was cool, checkout some of the stats about the halftime, along with a time-lapse of the setup & teardown by clicking here.

© 2015, Mark Jensen. All rights reserved.

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Behind the Scenes of the 2015 Super Bowl Halftime Show Tue, 03 Feb 2015 10:27:34 +0000 We put together a time-lapse video of the setup & teardown process of the 2015 Super Bowl Halftime Show, along with some stats of just how much work a production of this scale takes to bring to life. With over 1700 staff & volunteers, 25,000 amps of power, and 7620 boxed lunches, the Super Bowl Halftime Show presents itself on a whole other level of live production.]]>

A good majority of everyone that watches the Super Bowl, views it via a TV. There are some who can afford to hand over the money for tickets to attend the Super Bowl in person, and those people are treated to quite a show. Not only does the live stadium audience get to witness the biggest football game of the year, but they also get to watch an awesome halftime show.

While the live audience got to sit and enjoy the show unfold right before their eyes, the rest of the world had to watch the halftime show on their TVs. This means that many people are forced to view the show through what is broadcasted for the 12 minutes during the show. The TV audience does not get to see the elaborate setup and teardown process on the field that happens during commercials – which is something “techies” like myself enjoy almost more than the show itself.

Lucky for you, we tracked down a video time-lapse (used with permission from Natalie Sigmon) taken during the 20 minutes or so from the time the 2nd quarter ended, to the wrap-up of the halftime show. We then added the live TV shots in the bottom left corner so you can match up what is happening. Be sure to watch in HD, and feel free to slow down or replay the video. It took me 5+ views to soak it all in.

If you thought that was impressive, we tracked down a list of people & gear used in that show:

750 Cast members
480 Field Team Members
400 Staff & Crew

24 Cameras
5 Chapman Sideline Carts
2 Jibs
2 Steadicam (one underslug)
1 Helicopter w/ Cineflex
90 – 26k Projectors
384 – LED Tiles
582 Feet of Blades
765 Lighting Instruments
8 – D3 Servers
10 Flame Cannons & A Lot of Pyro
25,000 amps of Power
1/2 Mile of Truss
18 Audio Field Carts w/ 108 Speakers
24 Stage Carts
1 – 24′ Long x 12′ High Lion Puppet
1 – 18,000 Square Foot Projection Surface
48 Golf Carts
1 Flying by Foy Rig
More than 850 Costumes
24,000 Sq Feet of Tenting
145,000 Flashlights (for audience to hold)
1,000 FM Radios (for communication to cast members)
600 LED Orbs
11 – 12′ Long x 6′ Cloud Balloons
3,650 Hotel Room Nights
1,366 Pizzas
7,620 Boxed Lunches

Here are some camera diagrams & renderings from the pre-production phase:

Super Bowl Halftime Camera Layout

Super Bowl Halftime Show Render 1

Super Bowl Halftime Show Render 2So next time you are eating some wings and watching a Super Bowl halftime show, don’t forget to think about all the work it takes to put together a show of this scale. Productions like these take a small village of staff and volunteers – just be happy you get to watch a perfectly choreographed and expertly presented production via your TV hundreds of miles away.

You can watch the full halftime show by clicking here.

© 2015, Payton Peterson. All rights reserved.

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Hilarious Video of Robotic Cameras Doing the Wrong Things Fri, 09 Jan 2015 06:14:14 +0000 Sometimes to the bewilderment of viewers and anchors, robotic cameras seem to do their own crazy things sometimes. We found a hilarious montage video of these mishaps to share with you.]]>

In early 2013,  the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) installed a new robotic camera control system in several locations around their headquarters in London. Unfortunately, sometimes things don’t go exactly as planned when implementing new systems, especially a system this complex.


In this case, problems arose when cues were not entered correctly in the system, which caused cameras to go flying in all sorts of directions at the wrong moments. Besides that, it seemed BBC had a few issues getting some of their other systems to work correctly with this new system as well.

Growing pains are sure to be present when switching over to a fully automated studio workflow – as you will see in this montage video of mishaps during the 2013 year. Enjoy the madness!

What did you think of how the anchors pulled off the reactions to the mishaps around them? Be sure to leave a comment below.

© 2015, Payton Peterson. All rights reserved.

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Is CryptoDouble a Ponzi Scheme? Thu, 08 Jan 2015 02:32:28 +0000 A new service named CryptoDouble just launched with the promise to double any amount of money you put into the service in 100 hours. Is CryptoDouble a legitimate company, or just a ponzi scheme?]]>

Recently, a website named CryptoDouble has popped onto the radar of many cryptocurrency enthusiasts. Like many new cryptocurrency websites, potential users are confused on what to think of this service.

Perhaps the reason for all the confusion is the fact that CryptoDouble promises to double any amount of cryptocurrency deposited, and return it to you within 100 hours. Sound a bit too good to be true? It very well could be.

The website claims to be a group of “investors” that use your money to make “investments” on your behalf. Here is a quote from their website’s F&Q section:

… [We] are the group of professional traders and skilled analysts with valuable experience in the sphere of cryptocurrency. All transactions in the cryptocurrency market are carried out according to an elementary principle: buy at a lower price, sell at a higher. And, vice versa, respectively – sell at a higher price, buy a [at] lower. Due to the variability of the exchange rate, we make a great profit on this difference.

The above phrase sounds very similar to a high-profile ponzi scheme designed by Trendon Shavers in July of 2013. Investors were asked to deposit Bitcoin, in which Shavers promised at least a 7% weekly return. After a short successful run, Shavers was able to disappear for a short time with 150,000 BTC. In the end, Shavers was arrested for charges of wire fraud and securities fraud.

Now, here are the facts we have observed about CryptoDouble so far:

– Many users are reporting they’re receiving payouts that are indeed double what they invested
– Payments happen a few minutes after 100 hours usually
– Very low limit on the minimum deposit
– No known limit for max deposit
– Accepts a large list of different coins – (BTC & numerous alt-coins)

– CryptoDouble will likely disappear in the near future (with or without returning funds to users)
– Your funds are out of your control the second you send them to CryptoDouble
– Your funds are not insured
- There is no current public information about the owner(s) of the website that is deemed accurate

CryptoDouble PayoutBut what if I want to invest and try out CryptoDouble for myself?

Go ahead, try it – but understand what CryptoDouble is, and the risks involved in investing in a ponzi scheme ahead of time. Your funds may disappear at anytime once the owners of the website realize they have enough funds.

A safe manner to invest/gamble would be to send an amount of cryptocurrency you wouldn’t mind loosing. After waiting 100hrs if/when your initial investment is doubled, take your initial investment and put it back in your wallet. The rest of your earnings you can strategically invest/gamble knowing you are no longer at a loss should everything disappear.

We suggest you do your own due diligence & research to ensure you are not taking action that could cause financial loss, or stay away from this website completely.

To end, is CryptoDouble a ponzi scheme? Our answer is yes. There is no way an investment company can double any investor’s earnings in 4 days (100 hours). If this was the case, we would see major buy/sell orders on the public exchanges, or other larger scale evidence of such occurrences happening. The majority of our staff believe CryptoDouble is just using other people’s funds to pay others – a perfect example of a ponzi scheme.

Is CryptoDouble a ponzi scheme? Leave your opinion in the comments below & feel free to guess the day that CryptoDouble may disappear.

© 2015, Payton Peterson. All rights reserved.

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QuickFlics – the Easy Way to Get Videos from Your Phone to DVD Sun, 24 Aug 2014 02:22:39 +0000 QuickFlics is the easiest way to turn your precious memories into DVDs that are conveniently mailed to you, when you want them. You can also share your memories with your friends and family by sending them DVDs filled with videos right from your phone!]]>

If you’re like me, you record quite a few videos on your phone. Generally, the videos I record are filled with some of my best memories, and many incredible moments – all of which I would hate to loose.

At the end of the day, I usually end up asking myself, “What do I do with all these videos, how do I share them, and when should I back them up?”

To answer that question, many people post their videos on social networks – which is fine, except for the fact that almost everything you post is available to the public. Besides that fact, finding specific videos you post becomes a time-consuming task of endless-scrolling. Then, once you find the video you were looking for, how to do you save it?

What about the home videos of the kids running around in little-to-no clothes? Or the video of your wife cheering on a sports team like a maniac? We all have those moments we don’t feel comfortable sharing with the world, but still want to have them stored somewhere, or share them with our close friends and family.

This is where QuickFlics comes into play – and solves an issue that has been an ongoing problem since phones were able to record video.

QuickFlics is an app that allows you to upload user-selected videos to a DVD that gets mailed to you, your family, or your friends. You choose what content you want to share, enter an address (or multiple) and press done – the rest is done magically for you. Basically, QuickFlics is the Groovebook for video!

QuickFlicsPickVideosImagine going to your friends wedding and recording video of the reception on your phone. Maybe you caught a dramatic shot of the bride smashing cake in the groom’s face – or even an emotional first dance. Don’t just let those videos sit on your phone! Bring joy to the wedding couple by uploading your footage to QuickFlics and mailing them a DVD of their special night.

For those of us that are forgetful and loose track of our phones more times than we care to admit – QuickFlics is the perfect solution. Each month, simply select as many videos as you can fit on a DVD, tap upload, and in 1-2 weeks you will receive it in the mail. Now, you have a backup of your most important moments – all without the hassle of having to deal with the cloud, syncing, and file storage.

QuickFlicsSendDVDsSure, you may be wondering why not use Dropbox or a similar service to backup your videos. The answer is simple, unlike DVD’s, Dropbox only gives you 2GB of space to store your files, unless you want to start paying their $99/year storage upgrade. A single QuickFlics DVD can store 4.8GB of files. That’s over 57GB/year of monthly DVD space for all your videos – which is plenty. On top of all that, you have a physical copy of your videos you can hold in your hand, give to someone, or put in a DVD player or computer.

QuickFlics is a monthly subscription service that only costs $8.99/month. This cost covers everything from server infrastructure, to the actual DVD production, labeling, and shipping. There is no monthly contract and you can start, pause, resume, or cancel your service anytime. If you want more than one DVD a month, just pay $4.99/per DVD thereafter.

Yes, it really is that inexpensive to have DVD’s delivered to your door – a solution that is safe, secure, and easy to use.

You can download the QuickFlics app for free over at

© 2014, Payton Peterson. All rights reserved.

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Why Microsoft Should Be in a Hurry for Windows 9 Tue, 29 Jul 2014 06:46:15 +0000 Despite Windows 8 being just beyond the middle of its sales cycle, there is mounting evidence that Microsoft is possibly..]]>

Despite Windows 8 being just beyond the middle of its sales cycle, there is mounting evidence that Microsoft is possibly preparing a completely “new” version of the Windows OS. Whether it is called Windows 9 or something completely different, Satya Nadella has made no secret of his wish for Windows to be used in interface modes suitable to the hardware on which it runs (tablets, computers, etc). Earlier this week, the infamous leaker WZOR suggested that Microsoft is going full speed towards a Windows 9 release this coming fall.

From the technical point of view, Microsoft could either implement big changes via Windows 9, or a new update for Windows 8. I believe however that the name of the game here is not only technical issues but also market and customer psychological factors that carry much more weight. Here are some thoughts on why I believe Microsoft should move to Windows 9 sooner than later.

Metro Interface ExampleWindows 8 and the Vista syndrome: When Vista was fresh it was buggy and required expensive hardware to run properly. Although Windows 8 addresses all these issues very effectively, it introduced the Metro interface and forced customers to dive in a completely unknown usage pattern. The requirement to continuously jump between the Metro and desktop modes and the compulsory startup to the Metro mode scared many users and made Windows 7 a safe haven (a situation that still exists). Although Windows 8 was a lot less buggy, and ran faster that Windows 7, it took much longer than a year for it to reach a double figure market share – even after the 8.1 update improvements and the end of official XP support. All this underpinned a feeling that we are in a situation similar to Windows XP and Vista a few years back. It seems that it is now too late for Microsoft to change this image, irrespective of what improvements newer Windows 8 updates might bring.

Business adoption: Business customers still cling to XP fanatically, and it will be very difficult to get them to upgrade from Windows 7 if they are currently running it. Touch interfaces never made it to business computing in a large scale, and the Metro interface seemed to terrify firms into thinking they would need to change their usage patterns too much in a very short time. As a result, Windows 8 never made serious inroads in the business world, a situation that will most likely stay unchanged for the rest of the OS’s market life.

Tablet stalemate: Table sales have seen great double figure year-on-year increases, but 2014 is the first year we see a small decline. 5 to 6-inch smartphones are becoming viable tablet alternatives, and seem to be in a very similar domain as tablets in features and battery life. While Windows Mobile is feeling the heat from Android and iOS, Microsoft might have a rare opportunity to get Windows on the right track with a completely new version.

Windows RT: Windows RT could be described as Microsoft’s forgotten child. It is not mentioned or discussed anymore and the question seems to be, when it will be officially abandoned? Windows 9 could do the job well for larger touch devices while Mobile could easily handle the cellphone portion of the market irrespective of screen size. Microsoft’s plans for a unified OS would certainly require a totally new OS version and be more realistic with two instead of three flavors of the same OS.

ChromebookTricky competition: Both desktops and smartphones are much more clear cut product groups than the segments in between. Although Apple is a known competitor, Google is making inroads with its Chrome OS running on cheap light laptop-like devices (Chromebooks). Microsoft definitely needs to stop Google from claiming the tablet-laptop ground and repeat its smartphone success.

App store: Windows 8 failed to bring Microsoft’s app store to prominence. Windows 9 is a great opportunity to access software in a more structured and trouble-free manner. Running Metro apps from within the desktop environment is a cool idea but we have to see how the overall implementation would work out.

Financial model and OS versions: All the above have to be combined with a financial model that is more attractive than what Microsoft has proposed so far. While Apple offers complete OS updates for free, Windows users generally stick to what they already have because it is far too expensive to upgrade. It is in Microsoft’s interest to create financial incentives and bring the maximum possible number of users to the latest OS version. This not only creates great savings in terms of less support for old OS versions but also generates new momentum towards fresh OS versions and features.

Microsoft is changing because it has to survive. I admire Windows 8 because it was a very bold and daring product. The company’s size and financial health still allow it to sell OS versions that are not what customers truly want or understand. Nevertheless, the Vista experience shows that when a new OS does not become entrenched quickly it is best to take replacement measures. And this time round we have the added pressure from a more demanding market with more hardware categories and the added Google menace. So now is the time for Microsoft to quickly move to Windows 9 and do exactly what it did with Windows 7. In other words take the best existing elements, completely separate the desktop and touch modes, provide a more attainable financial model, and come up with a clear market winner that nobody can dispute.

© 2014, Dimitrios Matsoulis. All rights reserved.

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Autonomous Drones Can Now Follow and Film Your next Adventure Sat, 12 Jul 2014 04:08:20 +0000 It’s amazing how quickly different gadgets are combined in new and unique ways to produce moving images. Cheap and rugged..]]>

It’s amazing how quickly different gadgets are combined in new and unique ways to produce moving images. Cheap and rugged action cameras now let us film from any imaginable mounting point, even from the backs of eagles and pelicans! At the same time, the drone sector has literally boomed with a very vibrant DIY scene filled with new ideas for longer flights, better control, and improved software and sensors. Autonomous filming drones don’t only combine action cameras, drones, smartphones and GPS, but have gone a step further to become automatic flying devices that can shoot video without any manual input.

Whereas in the past, such an activity typically required two operators for drone and camera control, it is now possible to pre-program the drone with certain rules and film your activity with absolutely no external help. Competition for market dominance will be tough, we already have two fresh products, both already extremely successful on Kickstarter already:

  1. The Hexo+ that costs $499 (now $599) that follows your smartphone and its GPS coordinates.
  2. The AirDog initially cost $995 but now requires a pledge of at least $1195, also uses GPS to follow a specialized beacon worn by the target.

Autonomous filming drones are certainly not a completely new thing. The DIY crowd has already improvised with impressive custom software and hardware for many pre-existing on the market drone packages, expanding their potential. Much like DJI has done for normal drones, however, both Hexo+ and AirDog have taken a lucrative idea and constructed user friendly systems that can be used out of the box without any prior specialized knowledge and added the auto-follow features.

Whats the Difference?

HEXO+ HexocopterHexo+ is a hexacopter (6 rotors), while the AirDog is a quadcopter (4 rotors); other than that, their specs are pretty close. They both have a maximum flying time of 15 minutes, a maximum speed in the 40-45 mph (64-70 kph) range, use a 2-axis gyro-stabilized gimbal for video stabilization for use with GoPro cameras. They are programmed via smartphone apps and do not require any discrete control unit that you have to use while flying. Both also seem to be quite small and lightweight, with an emphasis on ease-of-use and portability.

AirDog QuadrocopterAirDog states that its beacon offers a better GPS signal, something that has to be confirmed in practice. If we were hard pressed to spot any differences, it would be in the programming before the flight. Both devices have parameters concerning the distance from the subject, however AirDog seems to offer more comprehensive flight and filming behavior with six options that cover an auto-follow mode, a relative position mode, a follow-track mode, a hover and aim mode, a circle mode and a look-down mode. UPDATED: HEXO+ just announced it will add a “director mode” where you can choose for the drone to do certain shots at certain times. They added this feature due to funding hitting a stretch goal of $500K. Read more on their Kickstarter.

Unfortunately, they both also have one slightly serious downfall to their software, and that is the lack of obstacle avoidance. Both units at this time do not have any software or cameras onboard that will sense objects around them, and therefore will crash into trees, mountains, poles, buildings, electric lines, cars, and people if you do not program them correctly. For the most part, you will just need to be aware of your surroundings and know how to set your drone to follow you in a safe manner. This usually means by using it in big open areas, or at great heights where obstacles are not present.

At the time of writing, Hexo+ has raised three times more funds than the AirDog, a fact possibly because the Hexo+ is roughly half the AirDog’s price tag.

Prices do not include the GoPro cameras needed to capture the footage, but overall the complete system is relatively affordable and surprisingly attractive for action and adventure sports fans. The 15 minute drone operation time will undoubtedly be a limitation relative to the many filming hours offered by sports cameras; however, the aerial footage is going to definitely catapult sports camera footage from nice – to extremely interesting. Action cameras will still continue to do the bulk of the filming in the sports category, with the drone reserved for the most radical action moments.

So who is going to buy these drones?

I think the answer of customer type has been given on Kickstarter, and the massive amounts of support already shown in the product. At this time, both drones are funded mostly by people in action sports that are already well trained to action cameras and are looking for new angles.

But, with all that said, before fully autonomous drones take the place they deserve, they have to address the serious issue of safety. For example, a drone would have serious trouble following a cyclist in the woods or near tall buildings and power lines. For now, common sense is highly advisable before technical solutions offer reliable obstacle detection (which both systems do not intend launching with at this time).

The frontier of what one can do with affordable filming equipment has been extended by yet another radical step. Systems that cost many thousands of dollars only a few years back, are now in the hands of amateur and professionals, and it’s certain that the development of filmmaking is a very exciting area to be in right now.

© 2014, Dimitrios Matsoulis. All rights reserved.

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6 Reasons Solar Panel Roads Will Not Happen Soon Wed, 11 Jun 2014 10:00:41 +0000 A few times every year, news of a new product or method that promises to solve humanity’s energy problems seems..]]>

A few times every year, news of a new product or method that promises to solve humanity’s energy problems seems to come about. Some of these ideas have some serious future potential, as in the case of nuclear fusion and all the associated ongoing research. The idea of solar roads, unfortunately, is not something that would be feasible, or even realistically possible at this time.

The general public may think of solar roads as a brilliant, economical idea, that takes existing infrastructure and makes better use of it. But only the true techies understand the unlikeliness of a project like this once you actually look at the technology involved to pull off such an achievement. Sure, there may be some neat renderings of solar roads, and cool looking designs – but in reality, it is a much flawed idea.

So why would solar roads not be ideal?

If you think about it, we really do have enormous surfaces crying out to be used for something other than transport. But, after years of personal experience in the home photovoltaic market, I can assure you that if a roof poses a number of technical problems, solar roads would be infinitely more complicated to pursue. Here are a few issues I have come up with to get you thinking:

Broken Solar PanelMechanical stress: A reason modern solar PV panels have made strides in efficiency of power conversion, is because they consist of some basic materials. These include standardized square cells, a protective glass layer, a flimsy back, a junction box, and an aluminum frame to keep everything in shape. All this is built to be very cheap to produce and maintain – with very basic parts for easy and cheap maintenance. This build quality is nowhere near anything we would need to use for massive load-bearing pavement applications. Imagine the rigidity required for loads of heavy trucks traveling at high speeds, and the sealing required for watertight use under severe heat, rain, snow or abrasion conditions. We are talking Iron Man suit standards!

Inverters and cabling: The beautiful graphics of solar roads you see plastered all over the internet conceal the fact that solar PV requires cables, string, and micro inverters to achieve compatibility with the grid. Like the panels, these essential components will need spaces to stay ventilated, and should be kept dry and accessible for servicing and repairs. If New York City has hardly started installing touch information panels for the Metro, who would make the decision to rip the city apart to install all the solar road equipment? Not saying NYC will be the first to try solar roads, just pointing out that cities seem have other higher priority projects that take less effort than installing a solar road system.

Efficiency: Solar panels give us the best power output when their surface is facing to the sun. This is why latitude calculations are so important during installation, and why we sometimes choose to mount solar panels on trackers. Solar roads would be good at or near the equator, but anywhere else all this attention to detail goes out the window and we are stuck with huge losses.

Shadows: The output of a solar panel is very dependent on a couple variables, the two biggest are shadows and obstructions. It wouldn’t be easy to work around shadows from buildings, and with very stringent mechanical specifications we cannot ensure that cells would have good access to the available light at optimal times of the day. Now, add traffic to the roads, and you’ll have a large amount of road covered by vehicles, which would further decrease from the usefulness of this idea.

Reliability, theft, vandalism: Since theft is common in well protected solar parks, think of the trouble that would be caused at street level. Cables, inverters, and other solar gear would instantly become the hottest black market products; just try to fathom the necessary measures in remote areas. If you put aside the potential for vandalism, keep in mind the level of organization required for security, support and maintenance. All this would come at quite the cost. The designs I have seen for these solar road systems show the setup to be similar to a puzzle – very modular and flexible. But, say that a critical piece of the puzzle is removed or damaged – you would then have an unreliable system.

Cost: Call me cynical, but cost is the reason we have not all rushed to buy a Tesla S. It always seems to come down to price comparisons, and parity with established energy sources. Solar PV is quickly becoming very competitive, mostly because of the way it is made and installed. Cost-wise, installing solar roads is like trying to fit all cars with bullet-proof glass. Nice to have, but overall unnecessary, heavy, and super expensive!

Overall, lets all keep in mind that we are not running out of suitable locations for solar installations atop more suitable locations. For now, those locations seem to be the best place to build solar panel arrays.

At this time, my above points seem to show that solar roads are quite unlikely, and a very expensive idea. Long before every roof is covered with PV panels, we run into problems of efficient energy distribution and cost efficient storage. That is why the intelligent electrical network has become a buzz word, and why massive scale energy storage will be a critical part of our future energy planning.

Our main issue is not how and where to produce energy from the sun – but what to do with it. Keep that in mind the next time you see another crazy solar panel idea.

© 2014, Dimitrios Matsoulis. All rights reserved.

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New Technology Allows Two Elevators to Run in One Shaft Mon, 12 May 2014 08:43:28 +0000 Since 1853, elevators have played an important role in modernizing the world into what it has became today. Without elevators, skyscrapers..]]>

Since 1853, elevators have played an important role in modernizing the world into what it has became today. Without elevators, skyscrapers might not exist in the current way they do today.

The idea of the elevator really hasn’t changed all that much in the past 150+ years. Yes, they have gotten faster, bigger, and safer, but besides that, no major step in innovation has been made since its safety demonstration by Elisha Otis in 1853 – that is, until now.

A German company named ThyssenKrupp believes its new “Twin Elevator” system is a step of technology that the elevator industry has been needing, and building designers have been begging for.

The name “Twin” comes from the idea of two elevators running independently of each other, in one shaft. Checkout the below video for a brief explanation of the system:

Not only does the Twin Elevator system practically eliminate waiting for long periods of time, but it also saves physical building space by cutting the number of shafts you need in half. This technology would be a major plus in large cities like New York city, where every inch of a building sell for premium prices.

ThyssenKrupp Destination Selection Control System Included with each Twin installation is a unique smart floor calling system which they call the ThyssenKrupp Destination Selection Control system (pictured). Excerpt from their website:

Passengers select their destination not in the cab but on a touch-screen terminal in the hall. The control system checks the call against the current position and travel direction of the elevators and against other calls. Within fractions of a second it calculates the ideal travel route and indicates the elevator that will get the passenger to his/her destination fastest. The DSC system can also prioritize certain journeys, such as transporting disabled persons or allowing encoded access to specific floors.”

There are a couple downsides to having a Twin system, one of which, is the fact that sometimes the lift/car you ride may have to wait for the lift above you to clear out of the way (by going to the top floor). The other downside is the fact that you will need 3-4 additional floors above the lift to house all the electronics and motors. The reason for the large amount of space needed above the lift is the fact that you will need two motors for each shaft (one for each car). These motors will need to be stacked (in most cases) above each other to allow for less cable tension. Sometimes buildings install pulley systems in a room right above the shaft that leads to upper motor rooms to organize cable flow and allow for emergency over-speed governors.

The top car/lift has a center weighted cable array that pulls the lift up from the top center of the car, similar to a normal cable elevator system. The bottom lift has its cables run down the side of the shaft, just on the outside of the top elevator. These cables hook into a platform with wheels that sits under the bottom lift car. The bottom lift usually operates around 4m/s while the top operates around 6m/s.

Unfortunately, according to my research, there is not a Twin Elevator system in the USA to go take a ride on. How come the Germans always seem to have the coolest toys?

Fun Fact: Without atmospheric air pressure regulatory systems in place, the fastest speed an elevator should travel is around 8m/sec to avoid major ear discomfort. The fastest elevator in service currently is in Taiwan, and travels 16.8m/s or 60.6 km/h (37.6 mph). This elevator has atmospheric regulatory systems built into each car to prevent major ear discomfort. (video here)

© 2014, Payton Peterson. All rights reserved.

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Anton Bauer Announces New, Improved Batteries Wed, 09 Apr 2014 06:24:14 +0000 Vitec Videocom announced a new line of professional batteries powered by Anton Bauer. The batteries will feature padded and separated..]]>

Vitec Videocom announced a new line of professional batteries powered by Anton Bauer. The batteries will feature padded and separated honeycomb style smart cells, internal cushioning, longer life times, and less overall weight. There is also now a P-Tap output directly on the battery, meaning the battery plate is no longer required to power through P-Tap now. These batteries are boasting 1,000 cycles, around 300 more than competing brands and have a larger lifespan of 4-5 years. The batteries come in 90W, 150W, and 190W versions; Vitec Videocom also announced a V-Mount option that will be available (opposed to the current AB Gold Mounting preference). The V-Mount battery options are powered by Anton Bauer technology and going to be branded with the Sachtler name (Sachtler and Anton Bauer are both Vitec companies).

Both AB-Mount and V-Mount versions will retail for $379.

© 2014, Trenton Hoshiko. All rights reserved.

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KiteString: Alert Emergency Contacts If You Go Dark Sun, 06 Apr 2014 03:08:56 +0000 A startup named KiteString hopes to change the way the world lets their family know when they are in trouble. Sometimes the..]]>

KiteString Trip

A startup named KiteString hopes to change the way the world lets their family know when they are in trouble.

Sometimes the only way to communicate distress, is by a lack of communication that sometimes may occur around a tragic event. If you were to get hurt, kidnapped, or just pass out, the one thing you would probably have limited access to would be your cellphone. It is much easier to not send a text, than to send a text; especially when you are hurt.

If you are going for a simple walk, or just out to see a movie, KiteString will make sure you are ok when you are finished with a task. This is especially useful for seniors living on their own, kids coming home from school, or making sure the husband makes his flight to LAX safely.

KiteString Trip OptionsThe clean and simple web-based UI is usable by anyone that knows how to use a computer. Simply set a time you plan on being somewhere, and let the platform do the rest.

You will get a text message asking you if you have made it to your destination at the time you set. You can either reply with a number of minutes more until you arrive, or a “safe word” like, “yes” or “made it”.

If you do not reply to the text within 5 minutes, KiteString will text your emergency contacts you setup online, and let them know something isn’t right. Simple – but useful.

KiteString is free to use, but may occur data/text related costs if you do not have a texting plan with your mobile device.

© 2014, Payton Peterson. All rights reserved.

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NAB 2014: We Are Going – What Do You Want to See? Sat, 05 Apr 2014 22:36:10 +0000 It’s that time of the year again – the NAB show (National Association of Broadcasters) in Las Vegas! Some of our..]]>

NAB Show FloorIt’s that time of the year again – the NAB show (National Association of Broadcasters) in Las Vegas! Some of our crew here at dorkTech have been to many years of this event, and plan on continuing that tradition next week.

We are excited to announce that we have partnered with NAB organizers to get our cameras on the floor and showcase the newest in the filmmaking & broadcast industries. This includes exclusive interviews with many of the industry leaders in the filmmaking and broadcast fields.

This year, we plan on covering all the tech the world needs to know about. This includes almost anything that we feel is new and noteworthy of public attention. The best part – you get to choose what we cover.

Want to see a new product and cannot make the show? Be sure to request for us to stop by a booth or checkout a product, and we will try our best to! You can either leave a comment on this post, or tweet any of our floor reps listed below.

Here is the team covering NAB this year:

Payton Peterson – floor coverage & lead writer (@PaytonPeterson)
Austin Bauman – content management/floor camera
Melinda Jordan – floor talent coordinator (@MelindaJordan)
Trenton Hoshiko – product research & social interactions (@Trenton_Hoshiko)

Be sure to follow our Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook feeds to stay up-to-date with all our on-the-floor coverage beginning April 8th from Las Vegas.

© 2014, Payton Peterson. All rights reserved.

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5 Exciting Ways the Oculus Rift May Be Used Thu, 27 Mar 2014 03:47:07 +0000 How does a relatively small Kickstarter campaign turn into a 2 million dollar Kickstarter campaign, followed by a 2 billion dollar company..]]>

How does a relatively small Kickstarter campaign turn into a 2 million dollar Kickstarter campaign, followed by a 2 billion dollar company in a little over a year and a half? Well, the answer is really quite simple – the Oculus Rift is a very exciting piece of technology, with a lot of potential.

If you were not aware, Facebook bought the Oculus Rift for 2 billion dollars this week. A move that will forever change technology, and the way we interact.

The Oculus Rift is a fully-immersive headset you wear over your eyes to make virtual-reality fill your field-of-vision, and I believe it will change the way we experience things. Just like how the smartphone revolutionized the world as we know it, I believe immersive headwear technology will have a very similar impact and change the world as well.

Sure, the main focus everyone has on the Oculus Rift at the moment is the fact that it will make video-gaming an immersive experience. But, I feel that that Facebook’s 2 billion dollar valuation of the Oculus Rift, and the encompassing idea, comes from the fact that it can be used for so much more. Here are 5 exciting ways I can imagine the Oculus Rift, or other immersive simulation headset devices being used in the future.

1. Sporting Events

Imagine being able to pay $50 to be able to put on your immersive headwear, and be transported to a football, basketball, soccer, or wrestling arena. Not only will you be able to look around, but maybe even have your friends beside you to talk to and interact with. Where you look, you see live video in super clear vision, all without having to leave your living room. Not only that, but imagine being able to switch seats – say you have 5 different angles you can watch from. You could watch the game from the 50-yard line, or the endzone, or maybe even a press box.

Now, I know what you are thinking after reading that, “Payton stop – that’s not possible at all”.

bodyscanningYes, it actually is. Imagine local malls offering a “3D scanner” that you can walk into that scans your body into the virtual world. After which, either software or a professional will build your body to have joint points, that will make you be able to move. Or, even better, they put you on a treadmill and have you walk and do MoCap (motion capture) of some of your unique actions – so that your virtual character actually comes off as you. You may also be able to customize your clothes and look – similar to the way you change your character on other online platforms that involve virtual players.

camera arrayAs far as what you see in your eyewear – the answer isn’t a pan and tilt robotic head on the side of the field mimicking your heads movements, but rather a series of cameras alined to build a full image. The main two reasons the pan & tilt method wouldn’t work is simply because of the delay between your heads movement, and the position of the camera, and the fact that you would need a different camera for each person attending online. The camera array idea is a much better idea for this purpose. The whole image would be transmitted from a single point, and would be an array of cameras lined up to give you a 360 view of the action – allowing you to look anywhere at a moments notice, without delay.

To get your friends next to you, the software can overlay a realtime animation of your friend in your eyewear. You look right, and there is Jeff, cheering on your favorite team. To hear Jeff, it’s as simple as integrating headphones and a microphone into the headset. This can all be built into a headset that you can comfortably wear, and in theory, forget about.

In theory, you could game hop from venue to venue all evening, watching numerous games all in one evening. Some venues could offer different places you could “sit at” and be able to switch between. All this, without the potential of a cheesy-dog being dropped in your lap, or a basketball hitting you in the face – well, kinda.

2. Virtual Classrooms & Meetings

We all hate it when that obviously sick, and sleep-deprived individual sits down right next to you in a room. You sit there debating in your head, if you should move away, or just ignore that person and hope you don’t get sick. In the future, these immersive headsets could open a whole new door to the classroom and meeting rooms, and potentially save you from getting sick in the process.

Imagine waking up and realizing you were too sick to goto school or work – but really wanted to know what was going on in a critical talk. Not only could you put on your immersive headwear and be transported to a class or meeting in real-time, you could watch a past class or meeting – once you are feeling better. This would prevent you from bringing your sickness to a public place, and yet be able to participate, to a certain degree.

Not only could you watch back a past session, but you could also pause or slow down a session if you are taking notes, or need something repeated. This would make learning a much more personalized experience, and could be tweaked for each users needs.

Studies have shown that the more senses you use when interacting, the more likely you will be to pay attention and learn new information. Perhaps in this case, you will be allowed to learn in a way you desire, causing new information to soak into your brain better. Finally, a school experience where you will not be distracted by rubber bands hitting you, or rotten school lunches smelling up the classroom.

Video Conferencing Meetings could be taken to a whole other level as well. Imagine all your participants wearing interactive headwear, and being animated into a large conference room. No longer will you all need to look at a TV on the end of a conference table, but rather be able to look around and address people at the table as if they were sitting across from you in real life.

This technology could be a life-saver for freelancers and consultants who would get hired more because they could participate from their home office or business located hundreds of miles away. It could also save companies travel costs as well if integrated into the workplace. Of course, there is still nothing quite like feeling a confident handshake to help you rest at night – oh, we can do that virtually too?

3. Online Dating

Single meet-up events are great in real life, but they have their drawbacks. These drawbacks are usually things like a lack of people, weird environment, and even the potential for someone to follow you home.

With interactive headwear, you could meet a lot of people online, without the pressure of having a real person in front of you. For some people, this may be the only way they feel comfortable to meet others.

facialanimationYou may be surprised to know that very accurate facial mapping technology exists, and is currently being used a lot in the movie industry. Two of the biggest examples to date is the movie The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Tron Legacy. Both used very realistic facial mapping techniques to make you feel that people in the movie were real. This technology can be used in headsets as well to recreate another person sitting across from you.

There are a few major setbacks to this concept that will need to be sorted out before online virtual dating will really take off. Things like not being able to have physical contact, eat the same food, buy someone a drink, and even as scary as modifying your online profile to make you come off as a stunning french guy. Of course, these are similar problems that we face today, yet online dating is a still a 1.2 billion dollar annual industry.

4. Advanced UAV

AIR_Raytheon_UAV_Universal_Control_System_lgUnmanned Aerial Vehicles, or UAV’s, are becoming an even bigger part of our society everyday, even if we like it or not. It’s a fact that human error is the leading cause of UAV/Drone crashes, and can be prevented by using better control methods. One of these could be a headset that gives the operator a more immersive experience, with advanced heads-up-display (HUD) which can help prevent user-errors.

I believe UAV’s will start to be used for news-gathering in the future once the FAA changes its rules on drone operation in the US, and users will need adequate controls and HUD experiences in order to safely control these devices.

5. Virtual Experiences

I titled this part very broad because there are a numerous amount of ways I can imagine interacting with people virtually. Here is a list that fall into this category:

Online amusement parks – build your own roller coaster and ride it, or ride others creations. Potentially talking to an actual hardware device that moves your body like the MaxFlight.

Hangout with your friends – maybe integrate with Google Hangouts

Heavy machinery training – they already have virtual training programs for construction cranes and vehicles, just add an immersive aspect

Attending concerts with friends

Meet and greet with celebrities

Watching a broadway play

Watching a fully immersive movie – it would never get old, because you could look wherever you want

Try-before-you-buy products – similar to IKEA’s virtual furniture app

Interact with animals – zoo experiences, animal shelters, etc

Travel the world – visit skyscrapers, popular public places

Of course none of this will be possible unless we have new, faster, and better technology. One of the biggest factors I can see being an issue right now is internet speed.

The connections between the cameras/headsets, delivery networks, and the end user will need to be somewhat speedy (depending on compression algorithms and resolution). If I can’t stream Netflix in 720p on my TV, then I most defiantly can’t stream a feed from 8 cameras simultaneously to my headset. This isn’t due to my internet speed, but due to the amount of data these networks have to push out, and ISP connections not being large enough to handle the traffic. We will need to build a fast network to every house that wants to use this technology. If China is already mandating that all new homes must have fiber optic networks built to them, then what are we waiting for here in America?

Another big factor will be licensing seats to these camera setups at games and events. Of course it will be a win-win for both the venue and the network, as one $500 seat can be sold to a camera who 2,000 people pay $75 to access. It becomes more of an issue with licensing and figuring out who gets what cut of the money.

The last factor I want to touch on is the fact that people will become more absorbed in technology, which may or may-not be a good thing. We are all entitled to our own opinions, so I will leave that decision up to you.

The future is coming, all we can do it hold on for the ride, and take guesses at what the future holds. I hope I was able to guess some of the future correctly – and if not, at least I brought some cool ideas to the table.

Feel free to leave your ideas and predictions in the comments below – then bookmark this page to come back and check your predictions in 5 years. Or email yourself 5 years in the future.

© 2014, Payton Peterson. All rights reserved.

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Thermodo: A Tiny Plug-in Thermometer for Your Phone Sun, 23 Mar 2014 17:25:35 +0000 It’s not often I want to know what the exact temperature it is – but if I ever do, I..]]>

product-full-premium_1024x1024It’s not often I want to know what the exact temperature it is – but if I ever do, I found a solution. The answer is a tiny little sensor you plug into your device called a Thermodo.

The Thermodo is a hardware add-on you can purchase for your iOS or Android OS based mobile device, that plugs into the headphone port. This little device will measure the external temperature and display its calculations on your screen. The developers built the Thermodo to be accurate down to one-tenth of a degree (72.3F).

When not in use, you can either leave the device on your phone, or simply click it into the provided keychain attachment. By attaching the Thermodo to a keychain, you will usually not be far from it, adding some convenience to finding and using the device.

faq-pollution-extensionDue to the temperature your device gives off, your readings may be slightly warmer. This is due to the limited distance between the Thermodo and your device. But, no worries temperature freaks, the developers have allowed you to plug-in a simple 4-pole cable to allow you to move the Thermodo away from your device. By using this cable, you will minimize other sources of temperature change from being near the device, for the most accurate reading.

If you do not own a 4-pole cable, the developers have added a “compensate for device heat” option that will automatically sense the device heat, and make adequate calculations to the displayed temperature. This is useful when the Thermodo is plugged right into your device, and will usually supply fairly accurate temperature data.

For added flexibility, you can choose the temperature to be displayed as Fahrenheit or Celsius in the app settings.

This neat product was funded on Kickstarter in March, 2013 – with support from 8,776 backers. Since then, the company responsible for the product, Robocat, has released two version of this device.

The Thermodo is available for purchase, and is offered in two styles. The first, most popular style, is a version that comes in three colors – black, red, and white, and is made out of aluminum. This version of the Thermodo is only $29.99. The other option is a more rugged and durable anodized aluminum model, similar to the look and feel of an Apple Macbook Pro. This version of the Thermodo is available for $44.99.

Got another cool device you want to share with us? Leave a comment or contact us!

© 2014, Payton Peterson. All rights reserved.

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PS4 vs. XBOX ONE: What Happened at E3? Sat, 22 Mar 2014 21:54:36 +0000 Did you watch the E3 gaming convention during the summer of 2013? If you did, you would know that Sony’s new PS4 made the..]]>

Games E3Did you watch the E3 gaming convention during the summer of 2013? If you did, you would know that Sony’s new PS4 made the viewers go wild. Meanwhile, Microsoft’s Xbox One, was set up with a plethora of restrictions, like not having the privilege to play used games. Those restrictions did not bring very good fan-feedback on social websites such as Twitter and Tumblr. Even though the PS4 had possibly won people’s hearts at the gaming convention, the Xbox One still built itself a sales gap between the new-generation consoles, putting it ahead in sales.

The trick to the sales push is simply this. After the outcry about the online restriction and such, Microsoft decided to remove the restrictions, which gained more respect for the Xbox One. I went and talked to the manager of Game Force, a little game store that gives great service on used games nearby my humble abode, about Microsoft’s intentions behind their actions with the Xbox One. With his skills in marketing, he would know why Microsoft had put on the restrictions in the first place. He had said that Microsoft placed the restrictions on the Xbox One to see if they would gain the favor of the fans and the market. Therefore, they wanted to see if they could gain more money.

However, the outbreak of harsh words from the fans left Microsoft with no choice but to remove the restrictions.

Other than the dark side of their conference at the E3 convention, Microsoft revealed some rather interesting new equipment in stock for the release of the Xbox One. What really caught my eye from their list of games, was Halo 5.

I was both excited and shocked. The trailer that Microsoft used to reveal the sequel to one of the highly anticipated game series on the Xbox was a tricky one. It seemed like a trailer for another game, but everyone knows what Master Chief looks like, so at some point in the trailer, it became obvious that Halo 5 was on its way through production and hopefully into stores near you soon.

Microsoft has other titles in the works, but the releases for the PS4 got me even more excited. Infamous: Seven Sons was one of those releases. Cross platform games such as Destiny, said by many to be a slight spin-off of Halo, made me feel more contempt about my decision to eventually get a PS4.

Every year, game developers and companies produce more advanced technology, truly catching the eyes of the die-hard fans. What will they come up with next? Or, better yet, what console have you decided to get next? Keep your eyes on the lookout because technology changes all the time. Additions could easily be made in the future, so don’t stop now. There’s even more additions to come after the releases of the new generation consoles. Good luck out there shoppers.

© 2014, Alex Hurd. All rights reserved.

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A Tornado of Tumbleweeds Helps Spread a Grass Fire in Colorado (VIDEO) Fri, 21 Mar 2014 22:46:41 +0000 It’s not everyday that you see a bunch of tumbleweeds form a tornado-like structure, and fly around on fire. But..]]>

It’s not everyday that you see a bunch of tumbleweeds form a tornado-like structure, and fly around on fire. But that extraordinary phenomenon happened a few days ago near Denver, CO during a controlled burn. YouTube user, Thomas Rogers posted this incredible video below:

The fire was a controlled burn of 150 acres organized by USFWS, USFS, South Metro Fire, West Metro Fire, Denver Fire, and Fairmount Fire according to the description under the video. The dirt devil and wind caused the fire to spread to about one additional acre than what was originally planned. I’m surprised it didn’t go further, I know I would have ran the other way if I was there in person. Thank goodness for brave firefighters!

tumbleweed_tornado_fire_colorado_1 tumbleweed_tornado_fire_colorado_3 tumbleweed_tornado_fire_colorado_4 tumbleweed_tornado_fire_colorado_5
tumbleweed_tornado_fire_colorado_6 tumbleweed_tornado_fire_colorado_7 tumbleweed_tornado_fire_colorado_9 tumbleweed_tornado_fire_colorado_8

© 2014, Payton Peterson. All rights reserved.

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5 Reasons You Need a Smartwatch Thu, 20 Mar 2014 23:41:48 +0000 There has been a great deal of hype around the launch of the various smartwatch products, such as the newly..]]>

moto360There has been a great deal of hype around the launch of the various smartwatch products, such as the newly announced Motorola 360 Smartwatch. But do these smartwatches come even close to living up to the hype that their makers have attempted to wrap around them?  We think so, especially if a big player like Apple, gets into the smartwatch game. That being said, here’s a look at five reasons you should get a smartwatch.

1) Never Miss A Message

In some instances, it can be considered very rude to check your phone when you get a new message. While a smartwatch will not permit you to reply (at least for now), it will show the message, allowing you to unobtrusively check to see its importance, and then decide if it is worth getting your phone out or not. This allows you to keep on top of your messages and emails, without attracting attention when you’re in a meeting or out for a meal with friends or colleagues.

2) Ease of Use

The fact that traditional watches have been largely replaced by the smartphone makes the smartwatch a return to the convenience of the original design of the wristwatch. This means that you don’t have to dig out your phone to check the time, but allows you to check emails, text messages and missed calls at the same time. Also, most designs to date have been showcased to show the simplicity of the device, often times only having 1 button on the side. This simplicity will make things a cleaner and more efficient experience for the end user.

3) Easy Video Conferencing

For those who use Skype or Facetime on a regular basis, this will be a neat feature that may be built into some watches. Watches may include a front facing camera that will keep those Skype/Facetime conferences subtle, helping to ensure that you are not disturbing the people around you too greatly. Of course we will all have to get used to looking at our wrists when we talk to somebody, and taking “wrist selfies”. Now the NSA will be able to see outside of your pocket, how exciting!

4) Emergency Notification

How often do you ignore your phone when you are doing something? How much more difficult would ignoring your watch be? The simple fact that a smartwatch is easier to glance at than a phone means that it will be far easier for emergency notices to be passed to those who need them most. This allows notifications of break-ins, fires, and a wide range of other potential emergencies to be relayed to your smartwatch instantly, and without the risk of it being overlooked until it is too late.  Maybe the Cloak app, known for alerting you when your friends are near (so you can avoid them) will have some type of interaction with this watch feature in the future.

5) Dictation/Personal Assistant

While this technology has not been fully developed just yet, it is to be expected that it will be improved upon rapidly in the next few years. This will make the smartwatch truly the heart of the business world, allowing you to simply dictate things like emails or text messages into your watch, thus speeding up the world of business communication significantly. Consider it like a personal assistant, that is always there on your wrist – listening to you – watching you – all the time.

So, there you have it. Five good reasons to look into buying a smartwatch in 2014. While this is still a new technology, and will certainly be further developed in the next few years, there is little need to hold back from joining in this trend right at the outset – well besides the cost.

© 2014, Mark Jensen. All rights reserved.

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Ninite Makes Installing new Programs Easy Wed, 19 Mar 2014 23:16:25 +0000 One of the most frustrating things we have to deal with almost daily is installing or updating programs, followed by..]]>


One of the most frustrating things we have to deal with almost daily is installing or updating programs, followed by waiting for our computers to restart. Even though it’s usually a short process, it is one of the biggest nuisances to me, and should be done automatically. Sometimes we risk our computers by running outdated versions of our applications; then when something goes wrong we frantically self-diagnose our problems and Google the error messages. Do you know what the first solution always is? To update your applications and drivers. How frustrating, right? That is where a nifty program named Ninite comes to the rescue. Ninite is a small and simple program that automatically installs and updates your previous applications, all the the same time, in one program.

Ninite is especially useful for fresh PC installs. I personally use it all the time when I build a new computer, as it simplifies the installation of programs drastically. Instead of finding each program’s website, downloading the program, installing it, then rebooting – Ninite does all that for you at once. It is as simple as checking a couple boxes and pressing “Get Installer”.

Pricing and Support:

You can use the Ninite website for free, and download all the major programs listed on their home page for free. This also includes the installer that installs all your programs at once.

You can also download the auto-updater solution Ninite Update. Ninite Update works with both Windows and Linux, and features a basic and Pro version. The basic version is for one PC with discounts for multiple computers at a low rate of $9.99 a year.  Their Pro version works with as many computers in your domain and is a tiered rate of $20 a month for 100 computers. As for applications supported, there are a total of 110 officially supported by Ninite. Ninite can also run custom installation scripts for any application you’d like. Currently they are accepting requests for new applications to be added – and the most popular will come with newer builds. You can check out the full list here. Some common categories and applications supported by Ninite include web browsers (Chrome, Opera, Firefox),  messaging and e-mailing systems, compression applications,  media players,  runtime programs, developer tools, document viewers, security programs, and file sharing applications.

Why It’s One of the Best:

No more hassle of installing multiple programs – just click the programs you want, and they are downloaded and installed. Then you reboot once, not 12 times. Simple as that.

With Ninite Update, you set your updates to download and then forget it. There’s no worrying about having to click next on option dialogs or start each program’s update individually. Everything runs in the background and the downloaded updates go where they need to go. Options for 64-bit applications will automatically be chosen and custom languages can be used. If you are worried about the toolbars and other annoying add-on applications that come with updates, don’t sweat – Ninite will ignore those for you automatically. Reboot requests will also be ignored, so you can just do that at the very end of all your updates if you wish, whereas some applications require a reboot after each update. For those who have updated entire domains, you can choose to have each computer update different applications and utilities on an individual basis, or set it for all of the computers in your domain. All of this can be done remotely, which makes managing versions on many computers as simple as typing few keystrokes on the manager system. With Ninite Update you are in control of your updates, and no longer need to painstakingly update each program you have individually.

Ninite is a must-have for any PC user. Be sure to bookmark their website –

© 2014, Mark Jensen. All rights reserved.

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The Top 10 Amazing Apps You Didn’t Know About Tue, 18 Mar 2014 23:25:36 +0000 Recently on reddit,  /u/WildCard5 asked a very thought provoking question: “What’s your favourite app that no one knows about?” After..]]>

Recently on reddit,  /u/WildCard5 asked a very thought provoking question: “What’s your favourite app that no one knows about?” After scanning my phone for any unique or unknown apps, I noticed they were all mainstream. I dug through the thread for an hour and found some really useful and downright entertaining apps. I created a list with the top 10 as chosen by reddit with their functions; Enjoy!

1. FastCustomer  – This app is great if you find yourself waiting on hold for long periods of time. Once you’re put on hold you can open the app, and when the app detects an agent is on, your phone will call you! How neat is that?

App Store Link:

Android Link:


2. French Girls – “Draw me like one of your French girls!” This app is great for a good laugh. Here’s how it works: You take a selfie of yourself, and anonymous users sattempts to draw that selfie, the results are hilarious.

App Store Link:

Android Link unavailable.

3. Sleep Talk Recorder – Have you ever been told you talk in your sleep and say crazy stuff? Here’s the app for you. Open the app, lay it on top of your sheets, calibrate the sound, and fall asleep. This app will record all the crazy jabber you say in your sleep, it can be really interesting or disturbing.

App Store Link:

Android Link:

4. Zombie, Run! - Aside from talking about it in your sleep, have you ever dreamed about being chased by a zombie mutant? Bring those dreams to reality with Zombie, Run! This app opens Google Maps and places zombies around the map that you have to avoid, bringing the horror of a zombie apocalypse to real life. This app is most fun with multiple people to play along.

App Store Link:!/id503519713?mt=8

Android Link:

5. Rando - This app can make for some interesting photos; take a photo of something interesting around you, and it will send it to another user located in your area. The receiver of your photo has no context of what it is, but will only be told the location of where it came from; fun, right?

App Store Link:

Android Link:

6. Power Nap – Is it 2 PM? Feeling drowsy and tired yet you don’t have time for a long nap? This is the app for you. This app will monitor your stages of sleep while you’re sleeping, and wake you up when you’re in your lightest stage! The end result will leave you feeling rested and ready to complete your day feeling fresh. “There’s a nap for that.”

App Store Link:

Android Link:

7. RunPee - Yes, you read that right, this apps function is hilarious, and extremely useful. Ever been at the movie theater and had to use the restroom but didn’t want to miss the action? No worries, enter the movie title and what time is started into RunPee and it will calculate the best time to slip out and use the restroom as rated by other users; it will also give a summary of what you missed out on!

App Store Link:

Android Link:

8. Yik Yak – This app posts anonymous tweets that only the closest 500 people around you (who use the app) can see. It’s totally anonymous and gives no information about you to anyone reading your tweets. So go ahead, tweet your hearts true desires; no one can judge you!

App Store Link:

Android Link:

9. Obstructer - Ever had to let someone borrow your phone to make a call and felt paranoid they were going through your texts and info? No need to worry, open Obstructor and your phones  only function is able to make a call, unless you know the password that closes the app.

App Store Link: Unavailable

Android Link:

10. Cloud Identifier - Okay, it’s in the name; this app is so useless, yet I find myself so amused by it. All you have to do is take a photo of a cloud, and it returns the cloud type with information on it. Cool, right?

App Store Link: Unavailable

Android Link:

There you have it, have fun avoiding zombies and chasing clouds! Have any other apps you think are worth mentioning? Leave a comment below!

© 2014, Austin Braun. All rights reserved.

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Is Amazon Prime Worth the $99? Tue, 18 Mar 2014 21:22:30 +0000 With the cost of Amazon Prime going from $79 to $99, you are probably thinking it is about time to..]]>

With the cost of Amazon Prime going from $79 to $99, you are probably thinking it is about time to cut and run instead of paying $20 more a year. After the initial anger at having to pay more, you are wondering is it really worth it to pay that much more for the same thing? The short answer is: absolutely.

Of course being the detailed intellectual type, you want more than just a “yes” to justify this relatively significant cost increase. Here are a few really good reasons why you should cough up the extra cash and keep that account (and a couple of suggestions on other places to cut back if you really need to keep costs down). While Amazon Prime has never been something you need, it does have some really great perks, like free 2-day shipping (which is almost a necessity when you procrastinate buying gifts until the last minute).


netflix-vs-amazon-prime-instantOne of the two biggest draws to being an Amazon Prime member is the phenomenal streaming options you get. You already know the spiel and what you get with your Amazon account, so let’s take a look at the main competition (keep in mind Amazon Prime is about $8.25 a month).

For just streaming on Netflix you pay $7.99 monthly, and they are currently talking about bumping-up their price. What else do you get? A wider selection of things to stream; however, you pay more if you want to get DVDs, worth it though as Netflix takes longer to get the good stuff. With Amazon Prime you can get the specialties (like Dr. Who and anime) much faster. You may have to pay more to watch them, but at least you won’t have to wait for six months to a year.

Hulu Plus runs you about $8 a month and it is just television. It means you don’t have to pay for cable, but you don’t get the movies you probably want to see. What else do you get? Nothing.

The competition may have a wider selection, but then again they kind of have to, they don’t have anything else to offer.


0412-amazon_full_600You can buy virtually anything on Amazon. If you really want to make use of your Amazon Prime account use it to buy your non-perishable items, saving on time and gas money. As long as you do it a couple of days before you run out of your necessities, like health and beauty products, you won’t have to worry about making time to go to the store. It isn’t as exciting as getting a cool shirt or a game, but it’s time you didn’t have to spend at the store.  And I hate shopping.

Then there is the emergency “I put off gift shopping until the last minute” purchases. With your Prime account you won’t have to pay extra to get it there fast (and look like you remembered in plenty of time).


amazon-kindle-fire-hdKindle Fire is the hottest selling tablet, so odds are good you have one, in which case, you really want to keep your Amazon Prime account. You can borrow a book a month, at no charge, for as long as you like.

Ultimately, if you average one purchase from Amazon a month, the shipping alone covers the cost. With the other benefits, it makes more sense to keep the service and just make sure you maximize your use of it than to kiss it goodbye.

© 2014, Melinda Jordan. All rights reserved.

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Superman + GoPro = Awesome Video Tue, 18 Mar 2014 05:17:30 +0000 Looks like Superman found a GoPro, strapped it to his head and went for a flying session. What you are..]]>

Looks like Superman found a GoPro, strapped it to his head and went for a flying session.

What you are about to watch is pretty awesome, so enjoy – then read my VFX breakdown below:

Here is my breakdown and opinion on how some of this was shot, I’d love to hear if you agree or disagree with me in the comments below.

Update: Just realized the makers of this video (Corridor Digital) made a BTS video – which I did not see until I finished writing what I wrote below, so hopefully I’m close to spot on with my predictions.

0:19 – Transition from head strap to quadrocopter
0:22 – Hands are added in and white balanced (somewhat) to a daylight, recorded in front of a green screen. Shadow was either added in post, or was shot by moving back and forth on a swivel and using real shadows from lights in studio.
0:25 – Train is running a bit fast? Probably because they sped up the footage in post to give a flying feeling
0:32 – Good color matching again between background and hands (cloudy, darker)
0:34 – Time warp + some atmospheric effects added in, and some motion blur.
0:37 – Amazing pilot of that quadrocopter! Looks like superman didn’t hit any trees on the way in, and didn’t get wet!
0:45 – No cop cars exited, but some nice red/blue lights give a great impression of such. Way to deck out normal cars for cop cars – I would have never noticed!
0:47 – Camera switches from quadrocopter during the bump to handheld. Wonder if they cut and shot it, or just used the quadrocopter as a fig rig.
0:50 – Hand movement probably made by speeding up the keyed shot and playing it forward/backward.
0:54 – Great fight sequence – the “oh crap” look on the guys face is amazing.
1:03 – Transition back to quadrocopter (or let go and let loose from fig rig mode)
1:18 – How do you film here?!?? Permits?
1:23 – VFX overlay, fire, smoke effects, keyframed and match moved
1:25 – Wonder how they did the “through smoke” 3D feel, not bad!
1:26 – Keyed a person and locked them onto the building
1:30 – Another keyed person, cool shot
1:32 – Now person in arms, with fans blowing hair
1:42 – Transition from quadrocopter to head camera POV
1:51 – Transition back to quadrocopter on spin move
1:59 – How you film here too!? Permits?!
2:08 – Zoomed in in post, then rotated the video
2:10 – Zoomed out to fill frame in screen
2:16 – Nice fast shots!
2:20 – Hmm, full body keyed?
2:30 – Superman clears frame (maybe)
2:34 – Superman added in post + ground effect + shadows, or just really good saturation and removed in post (moved up in post)

Let me know what you thought of the video from a VFX  and technology standpoint in the comments below.

© 2014, Payton Peterson. All rights reserved.

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What is Wefollow? Sun, 16 Mar 2014 16:55:05 +0000 Would you like to find other users of Twitter with the same interests, or look for the most prominent users..]]>

Would you like to find other users of Twitter with the same interests, or look for the most prominent users of that interest on LinkedIn?  Wefollow will help you find the best most prominent people on Twitter known for your interest, or find your next employee on LinkedIn.  The site started out as a Twitter directory in 2009 and has grown to over 1.3 million users.  You can search by interest and by location and the site will show you the top users in that topic listed by what they call their “Prominence Score.”  The search allows you to quickly find and follow the most prominent users in your interests.

Wefollow is now trying to bring together all users in Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.  Bringing all of these social networking sites into one single directory will create a unique experience in a single online community.  How is the Prominence Score calculated and is it better than any other rating now available on the social networking sites?

wefollowpromininceProminence is calculated by how prominent the listeners are of the user.  You can even find your own prominence and try to increase that by gaining more prominent followers.  When you join Wefollow you are asked for your interests, the site then goes out and looks at your followers and determines the Prominence Score of your followers then calculates your Prominence Score from off of their scores.  This is not a score made by just adding up how many tweets and retweets you get or how many followers you have.  The Prominence Score is a purely mathematical score like PageRank used by Google to rank the importance of pages in search engine results.

Your score may be low relative to another user and to account for that Wefollow groups users of similar scores.  They look at the curve of the Prominence Score for each interest and group all users below the median into one group.  Each interest receives a division of 12 groups making their measurements more granular.

Wefollow has just been acquired by the site that allows users to create an online presence as a way to build a business, personal homepages, and public profiles.  They are a perfect place to create a presence, gain prominence, and drive people to your business.  You can think of this site as a Meta-social networking site gathering all of the best of each individual social networking site into a single site based on interest.  If you want to gather more people to look at your social networking for your business from specific interests or just want to increase the followers of your Twitter account then give Wefollow a try.

© 2014, Payton Peterson. All rights reserved.

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Where is Technology Headed in 2014? Sat, 15 Mar 2014 22:37:10 +0000 Technology is one thing in life that has been continually on the rise at an increasing rate since the beginning..]]>

Technology is one thing in life that has been continually on the rise at an increasing rate since the beginning of time. Rather it is in the field of computing, or in another field such as entertainment products there is always something new on the horizon. There are many new gadgets that will make its way to the scene in 2014. One such piece of technology that is sure to become a popular gadget, is the smart TV. Built and designed much like a computer, the smart TV will be capable of accessing the Internet and other connected services – as well as running apps, downloading content, and realtime information.


Another tech 2014 gadget that is predicted to be available sometime in the coming months is the Ubuntu OS smartphone. This smartphone takes the processing abilities of the Android and the iOS and merges them to make the system faster. The only thing that is different is that this particular smartphone operates through the use of a Ubuntu receiver instead of being run on its own. Once released, we will see that smartphones will be able to access televisions, PC’s and any other kind of device while on the go. This will probably be controlled via apps and native software built into the platform.

One of my personal favorite tech gadgets for 2014 that has already began to make its way to the marketplace is the smart watch. This device is similar to that of a typical smartphone with the exception that is is worn like a regular watch. This watch concept will potentially be manufactured by companies such as Apple, Sony, and LG, and will be capable of calling and texting, along with numerous other features. These features could include accessing the Internet, sending video messages, using various mobile apps, and more. It is believed that this futuristic device will become more popular as time continues.

Although the Google Glass is still in continued development, it is the one gadget that is greatly anticipated in 2014 for a public release. In a considerate relation to other tech gadgets such as the smart watch, the Google Glass is a gadget that will take computing and mobile functionality to the next level. The basic concept, in terms of design, is that Google Glass will fit over the users glasses, and will then grant the user access to Internet browsing, mobile apps, and much more. Even though the release of such a world changing device still looms, the device is parable with smart-phones.

Seeing that this is the age of technology where apps are the most common types of technological integration available, there is yet another innovation for the tech world in 2014 that is in the works; this time it’s Microsoft, and the assumed Windows 9 Operating System. If you haven’t noticed, the overall response gained from the Windows 8 OS was ultimately a negative reaction from consumers. That response has sent this particular project, and it’s designers back to the drawing board. The result is assumed to produce a cheaper, more compact product that is simpler to use and is believed to include a lot of extra cool features, that will hopefully launch this year.

Electric-CarMy last prediction for tech in 2014 is probably spot on. Despite the fact that this next innovation never fully made its way off the ground, the idea of electric vehicles is believed to be revisited in 2014. We have seen an ever-increasing amount of car manufacturers that have jumped on board with producing such cars. Our tech in 2014 could include electric cars that will give drivers better mileage, and more benefits than most any other vehicle that has ever been manufactured before.

In conclusion, even though there are other technological advancements to be made to get to some of my predictions, there will be gadgets that will be released in 2014 that will keep our society advancing in the tech field.

© 2014, Mark Jensen. All rights reserved.

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Hope for “Transformers: Age of Extinction” – Over-Analyzed Movies Fri, 14 Mar 2014 23:08:02 +0000 We all know that Michael Bay is not exactly the Da Vinci of cinema. (If you don’t know what I’m..]]>


We all know that Michael Bay is not exactly the Da Vinci of cinema. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, see here, and here, and here) So upon the announcement that he was rolling out yet another Transformers film, I felt a bit like Bay’s getaway van was turning around to come back and kick my childhood just one more time. And worse? Mark (Marky Mark) Wahlberg was riding shotgun. The Transformers franchise has a tendency to murder my childhood heroes, so as far as hope and excitement and general faith in humanity went… not exactly at an all time high.

But then. I saw this:

Let me go a bit off topic for a second. Contrary to popular beliefs, I think Michael Bay (or at least a writer or a producer or somebody) actually has seen the old cartoons and at least tries to care about the die hard fans. Let me preface what I’m about to say with the fact that “Dark of the Moon” was only marginally better that “Revenge of the Fallen” and still crappy. But, what made the third movie good in my eyes, was that in the midst of the crappy story line and huge explosions, it was packed full of tiny little nods to the old fans. The best of which actually made me fangirl squeal in the back of the movie theater. When Optimus was seconds from decimating Megatron for good, he stares at the camera and his face plate slides into place. (I could write a whole second article about why this made the 12 year old boy in me pee his pants, and all the other things in the crappy third installment of this broken franchise that made me absurdly happy, but I will spare you for now)

Anyway, back on track. I only bring this up because I believe this new movie may be another, larger head nod to the old fans of the franchise. The rest of the trailer is generally irrelevant. It’s just all the back story, Marky Mark in a pickup truck, hot blonde in a garage, etc. But, about 2 minutes in, we see Grimlock. Yes, Grimlock, the transforming t-rex from G1 and later Beast Wars. For those of you who are not properly excited about this news, this means that they are incorporating the Dinobots (or at least one of them) from the original Generation 1 series. The Dinobots (beyond being simply the coolest of all the Transformer races) are a faction of Autobots that instead of transforming into vehicles, transform into mechanical dinosaurs, made by some of the Autobots after finding fossils in a cave. Which I think is kind of the coolest origin story ever.

I’m really only excited about the appearance of Grimlock because he’s my favorite Transformer from the original series, if I’m honest. But I do see this going only one of two ways. They have brought in some of the Beast Wars characters in the previous movies by incorporating Scorponok (the big scorpion that kicks the crap out of them in the desert until they shoot his tail off) and Ravage and Rampage (the crab and panther that Bumblebee absolutely wrecks in yet another desert.) These were minor characters but still generally true to the original show. Now Grimlock could go this direction, where he’s introduced as a minor character for a cool fight scene and stays generally true to the original. I’m cool with that.


He could go the direction that I worry he will go. The trailer shows Optimus Prime fighting Grimlock. Which I have a problem with. Because Grimlock is an Autobot. And Autobots do not fight Autobots. What I’m worried will happen to my favorite transformers character of all time is this: He becomes an antagonist simply because he is a Dinobot, and no attention will be paid to the fact that he was a very important leader of the Autobots.

The reason I’m okay with characters like Scorponok and Rampage and Ravage being brought in and shoved into whatever plot hole fits, is because they were generally minor characters with minimal background. Grimlock is not. Grimlock was a complex, important, and extremely powerful character in the series.

The fact that Michael Bay is bringing in the Dinobots lineup for the next movie in this dragged out saga makes me absurdly excited, and also worried. Very, very worried. Though all roads point to a generally alright movie — filled with at least enough Pacific Rim brand kick-ass factor to warrant paying money to see it — I have learned never to underestimate Bay’s ability to make a high budget, blockbuster movie terrible.

P.S. The fact that Katara is in this movie does not exactly reassure me.

© 2014, Kassi Butler. All rights reserved.

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Top 3 VFX Behind-the-Scenes Videos Fri, 14 Mar 2014 20:43:33 +0000 I don’t know about you, but I love watching behind the scenes of films and TV shows. It is always..]]>

BehindTheScenes_13-1I don’t know about you, but I love watching behind the scenes of films and TV shows. It is always fun to watch the inter-workings of film sets with a remote in-hand to pause and analyze at anytime. I was actually inspired to get into the motion picture industry when I was 7 years old, watching the behind-the-scenes of “Star Wars”.

Since then, the technology has changed drastically, making movie sets more visual-effect orientated.

I wanted to show off three of my recent favorite behind the scenes videos that I think showcase where technology is headed in the film industry. My personal favorite is Tron Legacy, mostly because of the look of the movie.

Tron Legacy VFX Breakdown:

Batman: The Dark Knight Rises:

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

There you have it! Those are are my top 3 favorite BTS breakdown videos at the moment. One last sidenote – Digital Domain is the company that made most of these effects, they have a wicked demo reel, you can view it here. If you have any suggestions or comments on any of these videos, be sure to let us know in the comments section below.

© 2014, Payton Peterson. All rights reserved.

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5 Do’s and Don’ts When You Are a Production Assistant Fri, 14 Mar 2014 01:53:07 +0000 Ever wondered what a movie or film set is like? The first word that comes to mind is chaos; beautiful..]]>

Production_AssistantEver wondered what a movie or film set is like? The first word that comes to mind is chaos; beautiful chaos. I’ve worked on sets as small as 12 people, and some larger than 50 people; that’s a lot to manage. Everyone has a specific job and schedule to keep up with, and sometimes they can use a helping hand. That’s where the PA (Production Assistant) comes in. I’ve worked on several productions as a PA, and from all the tasks I’ve had to complete, I think it’s safe to say the PA adds a drop of oil to the gears that make the production run smoother – or you’re the stick that gets caught in the gear and messes everything up.

The PA is there to assist, and the last thing you want to be is a burden. Here is a list of Do’s and Don’t’s that I have learned though my own experiences:


Don’t be in the shot. Ever.
As a PA, you have to be aware of where the camera is pointed at ALL times. Not unless you’re 110% sure the scene has been cut and you’re specifically asked to be in the room, don’t be near the scene, ever. If you’re in the way, people will notice. Even if you cross the camera when it is not rolling, be sure to say “crossing” as a courtesy to the camera dept.

Don’t be caught without food or drink.
Especially if you’re working on a large set. The “krafty table” could be a long walk away, having to make food runs is a waste of energy and time. Even if it means wearing a fanny pack (we all have to make sacrifices) always carry food or drink with you.

Don’t be lazy.
Working a set for an extended period of time can be tough. You can lose interest fast, and get the feeling that nobody notices the work you do, but in reality, they do. Don’t get lazy, lazy people won’t get asked back. Want the truth about being a PA? You’re 100% replaceable. Sadly, you’re the boy among men; the bottom of the chain. Unless you’re the directors favorite child, friend, or relative (still not a guarantee) you’re replaceable.

Don’t decline a task.
Similar to not being lazy, always accept a task no matter how ridiculous it is. Sometimes you will get asked to do ridiculous things, such as find a missing pen, or hold an umbrella over a food cart. Just remember to always put forward your BEST effort at all times, it will be noticed.

Don’t be flashy or try to get ‘discovered’.
Yes, this happens more than you’d think. Some people have this high ambition that they belong in Hollywood when they don’t. Don’t try to impress anyone, because 9/10 times, you’re annoying someone. You’re here to do your job, and that doesn’t include getting “discovered”.


Bring a backpack.
Forget the fanny pack mentioned earlier, bring a backpack with room for carrying water bottles, granola bars or whatever the Kraft services can offer. The backpack has a million uses, so use it.

Know the equipment.
If you really are a good PA, you’ll know what a C47 is, and how to set up ‘video village’ properly. If you’re unclear about something or how it works, ask. Don’t waste 5 minutes standing around attempting to figure it out when it takes 1 minute for someone to explain it to you.

Know the crew/talent.
It’s the night before the first day, what do you do? Besides a good night’s sleep, memorize the call sheet. Know names and who’s in each department. “Hey Greg, want a water?” sounds better than “Sir, would you like water?”

Bring extra call sheets.
Someone will forget their call sheet for the next location, guaranteed. Keep  at least 3 extra call sheets in that backpack mentioned before. Not only will you look great, people will look to you for resources on set, which is exactly what you’re there for.

Ask if anyone needs help.
Most film sets are chaos, which means there’s always something for you to do. If you can’t find anyone that needs help, you’re doing something wrong. Put yourself out there; make sure the crew knows you’re the PA.

If you follow this advice, you’ll be an awesome and diligent PA; which every set needs.

Be sure to tell me about your interesting PA stories in the comments below!

© 2014, Austin Braun. All rights reserved.

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