Hey, I’m Back!

January 26, 2012

Hey folks I am back from a year’s leave from this site. My current weekly blog with GlobalTV, http://www.techuntangled.ca with vid clips from my two weekly Tech Talk segments is my current work regimen, but I will share some of my thoughts here too.

So what do you think of all this Ultrabook craze going on this year? Have they taken over tablets and pads? Not really, but there is a price to pay for these under 2 kg sleek laptops…money and lots of it.

After looking at a few at CES 2012 in Vegas a few weeks ago, I realized that Apple had indeed come out with their version of the Ultrabook more than a year ago! In fact, if you are considering buying an Ultrabook today, check out the specs on the current Mac Air models…they offer more in some respects that might make your hard earned dollar go further.

But if you are a pure Windows user, the Ultrabook re-defines portable computing in the PC world. Check out my most recent review of Lenovo’s first Ultrabook, the IdeaPad U300s and some  interesting comparisons I made with the Mac Air 13.3-inch model at

http://www.techuntangled.ca

Intel’s New Chips on Steroids

January 3, 2011

Intel is announcing its 2nd Genereation Intel Core Processors whose new archirtecture includes much improved integrated graphics and visuals. This means fast media processing for mainstream and professional PC programs. Even Excel screems through benchmarks. Check my high level review at:

http://communities.canada.com/globaltv/blogs/techuntangled/default.aspx

Off to Vegas for the CES show. Follow my marathon 24/7 tweet at 

http://twitter.com/stevoidtech during mad rush interviews, fancy receptions and private dinners…

Make Your Santa Video Message

December 9, 2010

A great way to send a unique online Christmas message to loved ones

Christmas is fast approaching, so if  you are looking for a new way to get a personalized online video message from Santa to a loved one of any age, then check out portablenorthpole.ca

It takes less than ten minutes to select from messages and wishes that are inserted into a vido clip of Santa talking to the recipient. You can even include a personal picture which is included in the video. It’s cleverly done and looks seamless with a real nice looking and genuine Santa.

There’s also daily  weather and news updates from the North Pole, sent to you or the recipient.

It’s free but there is a marketing catch, like all things free, from YellowPages.ca  and RedFlagDeals.com which you can opt in or out for future updates. But during the composing process – it asks for your Postal Code – you are presented with a list of suitably smart shops, nearby, for unique gift buying…online or with an analog address to shop for your loved one the old fashioned way.

It’s kinda cool to have a video message from the jolly old man himself (you can also download it for posterity for $4.99) and share it with others.

Five-week Prize Giveaway Ends With Sharp 3D TV

November 29, 2010

Technologist Steve Makris and Co-host Mike Sobel in the Edmonton GlobalTV new HD studio with the Sharp 3D TV

GlobalTV  Edmonton Morning News second annual Global Great Gadget Giveaway just ended today with the Grand Prize giveaway, a 60-inch Sharp Aquos Quattron 3D LED LCD TV with a Sharp 3D Blu ray player. If you are not familiar with this cutting edge TV, with unique RGBYscreen, check it out: http://sharp.ca/products/index.asp?cat=30&pc=60&id=852

The GGGG started five weeks ago with daily prizes like the Tom Tom Ease, Telus BlackBerry Torch, Panasonic Lumix ZS7, Sony S Frame and Epson WorkForce 633 totalling more than $9,000. The GGGG ran with a weekly introduction of each prize on my Monday live Tech Talk segment on Edmonton Morning News, with co-host Mike Sobel.

Thousands of contestants entered online on GlobalTV with a chance to win the high tech prizes. Susanne Rude of Camrose Alberta won the the Sharp TV worth more than $5,000.

60-inch Sharp Aquos Quattron 3D LCD LED TV boasts 8,000,000:1 contrast ratio thanks to LED sidelighting and a fourth yellow sub pixel to the traditional RGB screen.

Intel’s Gambit has its own Kinect Moves

November 8, 2010

Intel's Gambit plays chess against humans using 3D context aware data from a 3D sensor, similar to the Xbox 360 Kinect, as it sees players moves and uses its robotic arm to take out or play pieces. University of Washington's Cynthia Matuszek looks on, awaiting the occassional driver crash of the still-in-progress player. Steve Makris Photo

Say hello to my new friend Gambit, a chess-playing robot whom
I met last week  in Seattle.

Developed by Intel Labs Seattle researchers and students
from the University of Washington, it interacts with human chess

players by watching your every move, then tells you what your move was, reaches out with its mechanical arm and either gently picks your piece off the board setting aside and/or makes its move.

Gambit can adapt to any size board, using an
off-the-shelf computer chess game player in addition to a lot of programming for its human-like moves and smarts.

On the rare occasion Gambit accidentally
drops a piece, he simply asks for your help, before continuing the game.

The 3D sensor that picks up your every move and so
accurately lifts chess pieces off the board, is the same kind used in today’s Xbox 360 Kinect, manufactured and licensed by Israeli-based www.primesense.com

Only in this case, Gambit is smarter and very human-like,
with the arm designed by Seattle-based robot designer Roberto Aimi of Alium
Labs.  For more information on Intel’s context-aware research, go to:

http://ils.intel-research.net/

Check out Gambit in action at:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZCZZ2uopFVE

Toronto Kinect Launch in Pictures

November 4, 2010

Last night saw the official cross-Canada Xbox Canada launch of the Kinect, a new way for gamers and non-gamers alike to play on the Xbox game console. It uses special camera sensors, doing away with regular game controllers, to follow your body movements for simple but fun game-playing, recognizing hand, torso, legs and feet movement in three dimensions as well as voice recognition.

The public launch started in Toronto’s Yonge and Dundas Square with game demos, entertainment and a special shopping opp for die-hards who waited in line on a cool wet night for hours and a chance pick up the Kinect, $149, at the nearby FutureShop store. The Xbox folks had a raised glass-sided living room high abouve the square complete with plush sofas and off course, a Kinect setup. The last Kinect fans in the country to take in the midnight madness were in Vancouver.

At the same time,  the VIP party, some 300 strong, was happening at the nearby Kinect Hub where Toronto music and TV personalities mixed it up with Kinect gaming and party music . But I wondered, all this line-waiting could have been avoided if Kinect fans had skipped the party and stayed in their warm homes and simply pick up their Kinect the next morning.

Here are some snaps.

The Kinect playroom, an all glass living room with plush sofas and off course a Kinect system, stood high above the square. Steve Makris Photo

Travis Jensen, left, and his dad Carl, duke it out in Kinect Sports Boxing. Carl who liked the idea of not having to hold anything to play a game thought he got a real workout in just a few rounds. Combined photo showing the screen action. Steve Makris Photo

A long wait line under heat lamps for the early Kinect adopters waiting for the midnight sale. Steve Makris

Blake McGrath and Mia Michaels, far right, of So You Think You Can Dance Fame, walked the walk on Kinect Dance Central. Steve Makris Photo

The first Kinect buyer in Canada, Jacob Dupley from Brampton, said he was going straight home to Kinect. Steve Makris Photo

DJ sensation Christian Rich made their own grooves at the Kinect Hub nearby. Steve Makris Photo

PayPal wants your smartphone to be your wallet

October 28, 2010

Third party developers will play a big role in PayPal's expansion in the moble commerce world. Steve Makris Photo

I just had an interesting two days at PayPal’s second annual X Innovate Developers Conference in San Francisco.
PayPal is making your smartphone smarter, at home, work and play in new ways.
iPhones, Androids and BlackBerries are taking on serious digital wallet duties, literally shaking the way you pay for online services.
Here are some cool working examples shown by attending developers eager to put their innovative ideas into play.
-Want to pay back or burrow money to and from your friend standing next to you? A couple of clicks and a final real “bump” of your phone-clasping hands confirms the friendly transaction. Call it the new deal-making digital handshake.
-You are at a hockey game, in the nosebleed section and are hungry and thirsty. But you don’t want to miss on the game action. Fire up iConcessionStand.com on your iPhone and see the available arena concession shops on screen. Choose from the menus and after a couple of phone clicks, have your coke and hotdog delivered right to your seat at half the average time it takes to walk down to the food stand. You can even buy a souveneir jersey to celebrate the winning goal!
-Feeling charitable and want to donate to your favourite cause? Just Tweet the amount of the site’s Tweeter link on your smartphone using TweetDonate. The app, which got a special recognition award at the conference closing awards tonight, was created by second year Toronto law student, Addy Cameron-Huff. He said it only cost him nine bucks for the URL domain name registration. PayPal’s app development software is free – developers make their cut on merchant transactions, or extra fees like the 99 cents iConcessionStand charges for the seat delivery service.
And PayPal software developers now get their share of consumer transactions, in almost real time.
These cool apps and dozens more, shown at the X Innovate Conference let consumers easily pay with their PayPal account without leaving the merchant’s web site and allowing them to continue on to other transactions, even on smartphones, without having to log on PayPal again.
Some of these apps optionally let you choose a direct credit card transaction.
But the idea of letting PayPal look after multiple credit card transactions, including bank account money transfers, seems so convenient, and as proven, safe. PayPal’s buying power also translates into lower credit card fees for merchants.
The conference, attended by international media and developers, was PayPal’s coming out of sorts. The company is introducing new ways to make financial transactions, beyond their original eBay home turf, from anywhere, anytime with wireless laptops and smartphones.
This includes a competitive fee structure for under $12 micro payments.
PayPal started out as a conduit between eBay buyers and sellers, allowing them to use their already registered credit cards for online purchases.
The company is betting big on doing away with traditional payment methods. “We have already seen the death of cheques,” said PayPal Canada GM Darrell MacMullin.
This week PayPal also announced their expansion into building tools for third party developers to make creative software online applications for mobile smartphones like the iPhone, Android and BlackBerry.
Many of these new apps only work in the U.S., but will soon proliferate into the some 190 PayPal countries worldwide.
For more information go to:
http://www.paypal.ca

Posted with WordPress for BlackBerry

Sanyo Shows Massive Energy Storage

October 19, 2010

I am in Japan this week touring the newly opened Sanyo Kasai Green Energy Park, a state of the art battery manufacturing plant. Sanyo walked the walk here by demonstrating not only a one MWh capacity roof and side-installed solar panel installation, but a 1.5 MWh battery storage system to suplement factory power, on demand.
The energy storage system at the plant is the equivalent to power 250 homes and reduces key plant power operating costs by up to 25 per cent, as well as lowering the plant’s carbon footprint.
Sanyo is betting the renewable energy sectour will be able to make use of its energy storage capacity. Stores, schools, hospitals and municipalities can benefit with this renewable closed cycle self contained power cycle.

Hiroshi Hanafusa Deputy General Manager of Sanyo Energy systems Division holds one of the 250,000 solar battery cells that make up the newly opened Sanyo Kasai Green Energy Park 1.5 MGw large scale storage system.
It takes several of these cells to power a laptop and about 1000 to power a home. For techies, this post was uploaded from a moving bus in the Japanese country side using a Telus BlackBerry Torch. Steve Makris Photo

Sanyo Japan World Press Tour

October 17, 2010

Just visited the eco ideas house at Panasonic Center in Tokyo, zero carbon foot print and enough energy left over to charge your car! It’s a comfortable home at peace with nature. Follow my tweets on the rest of my Japan trip. Stevoidtech

Hands-on the Kinect, PS3 and Samsung Tab

October 8, 2010
By John Makris and Stevoid
During a whirlwind 24-hour Toronto tech tour earlier this
week, we got hands-on time with Sony’s Move and Microsoft’s Xbox Kinect
game controller systems as well as the upcoming Samsung Galaxy Pad.
How do the Kinect and PS3 Move controlling systems compare
with the Wii remote?
They all use different technologies to wirelessly control the console
content on your TV screen.
Here are our first impressions:
PS3 Move
The PS3 Move resembles the Wii controller but uses different
technology, including a video camera in the sensor that sits close to the
console and TV. It also allows for Wii-like nunchuk controller options for
boxin for shooting a bow and arrow and can accommodate a maximum
of two players.
Move was quite sensitive and responsive when playing several
new demo games at Sony PlayStation 3 Holiday Preview event at the
Sony Centre in Toronto. One thing the Move has over Wii are the HD
graphics which bring on a more realistic experience. Playing Sega’s Virtual
Tennis 4 was a blast althoughmore forgiving in bad returns than we would
have liked. But CTA’s Boxing Gloves was an energy-drenching workout
and felt quite realistic. But those glowing large rubber spherical orb  ends
were annoying.
They kind of look like protectors for out-of-control flying objects when
things heat up in some games. Setting was easy and didn’t need any
more adjustment once each game game got going. On the plus side, the
Move controller is much lighter than the Wii remote and the sub-controller
connects wirelessly compared to the tethered Wii Nunchuck. It also comes
with a rechargeable battery.  But the Wii remote buttons are better laid
out and its system is cheaper that the Move’s $100 start-up kit.
http://www.playstation.ca/ps3/motioncontroller.aspx
KINECT
The sign at the newly opened Kinect for Xbox 360 Experience
on Young Street across the Eaton Centre in Toronto says it all.  “If you
can shake, speak, tap, sway, wave, point, walk, spin, reach, turn, run
or jog, you can play with the new Xbox Kinect.”
Microsoft’s Kinect for Xbox 360, out in Canada and the U.S.
November 3, was as impressive as it was fun. There is no controller to
hold in Kinect…your body, hands and feet control the game’s movements
as well as setting up a new game or additional players – a maximum of
four for games that allow it. It’s easy to use requiring a minimum setup
by simply moving your hand so its image goes over onscreen selection
buttons…keeping your hand over a button more than one second simply
selects it.
What amazed us was the selectionand variety of games and activities you
can play with Kinect. You can’t play Halo but there is Kinect Sports which
include table tennis, a gruelling beach volley ball and bowling including
spin throws. Kinect Adventures includes a mad water raft ride that left us
gasping for air as we leaned our bodies left andright, jumping over logs
and flying in the air to pick up more points.
The boxing-like exercise in Ubisoft’s Your Shape Fitness Evolved is a
real workout while the Yoga portion uses the Kinect cameras to show
and help correct your body posture on screen. There’s a personal trainer
and more.
The immersive Kinectimals for kids was so realistic one forgets it’s a
game. Petting a cute lion cub by waving your handsin the air felt so real,
especially watching it react to a gentle tickle under its chin. The cub
prods for more if you stop (see our YouTube vids below).
The Kinect’s three camera sensors also shoot pictures of you and fellow
players during games for sharing on Xbox Live. The future is bright for
the Kinect for Xbox 360, a come-from-behind gaming system for all
ages that is now also taking thelead with futuristic controller technologies.
http://www.xbox.com/en-ca/

Samsung Canada's Vlastimir Lalovic holds the graspable, lighter and smaller than the iPad, Samsung Galaxy Tab which looks like a giant cellphone screen on steroids running Android 2.2. Photo by Stevoid

SAMSUNG TABLET
We stopped at Samsung Canada on the way to the airport and
spent about an hour with the much anticipated Galaxy Tablet,
out in November with two Cellcos, one of whom we know will
be Rogers. Like all new technology form factours, you gotta be
there to touch and feel these new products. The 7-inch
graspable  Galaxy Tab seems to be just the right size for
holding firmly with one hand (as in curling your fingers
around both edges) compared to the 9.7-inch iPad that needs
a stand for long trips. It easily fits in large pockets and the ultra
bright screen seems to be just the right size for what is basically
a giant cellphone (minus the phone part) running on Android
2.2. It’s responsive, has two video cameras and uses a Micro
SD card.  It auto orienting touchscreen was fast too. It doesn’t
do voice but Vlastimir Lalovic, Director of Samsung Canada’s
Product Realization Wireless Terminals Division said there are
a dozen Android apps, including Skype, that can handle voice
call duties on the Tab. How will the Galaxy Tab compete with
the recently announced RIM BlackBerry Playbook?  Lalovic
thinks the two tabs are for different
demographics. Think of it this way: if you like using today’s
Android-based smart phones, you will love the larger-screen Galaxy
Tab for online reading and office work. One disappointment though
was the relatively small 3 megapixel camera which on a 7-inch
screen begs for more detail. What excited us is Samsung’s
aggressiveness in going out and hustling it’s iTunes like online media
service including millions of unlocked song purchases on Samsung
devices. More on that and reviews once the ready-for-shipping
product is out.
http://pages.samsung.com/ca/galaxytab/English/
Check out stevoidstickcam for Kinect and Move vids at:
http://www.youtube.com/user/stevoidstickcam

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