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Featured Gadgets Review

LG Viper 4G LTE – First Impressions

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I’ve been fooling around with my new phone for a few days, and it is the LG Viper 4G LTE.  So far, it’s been great – very much like the Optimus S I am giving up, just better in most every way.  Larger screen (4in) but not obnoxious, 1.2ghz dual core processor, tons of room for my apps (I had been out of space on my Optimus since forever despite rooting and installing a custom ROM that freed up space), front facing camera, 5mp rear camera with flash and a better response time to picture taking.  No ICS or Jellybean for it yet, nor any custom ROMs that I’ve found, though it has been rooted.  I haven’t bothered yet, though.

I’ve found the Viper to be plenty responsive in screen scrolling and just about any game.  Angry Birds have been unleashed, Ropes have been Cut, and Fruit has been sliced, all smooth as could be.  Pictures look good enough for me, and the flash is welcome.  The power button is on top, but just a bit further over compared to the Optimus – just far enough that I have to get used to it again.  The home/settings/back/search buttons are now the touch buttons built into the screen.  I prefer them the old way, but I can live with it.  I do miss a dedicated camera button though.  One other quirk – the power cord plugs in on the left side, an odd choice that gets in the way if you use the phone while it charges, especially for games.  I suppose no spot is perfect, though.

The newest thing is the ‘Near Field Communication’.  A chip is built into the phone which allows short-range communication between it and other devices, most notably the ‘Paypass’ readers on most modern checkouts at the store.  Store your credit card (and as stores roll it out, gift cards and loyalty cards) on your phone wave it over the reader instead of your bank card, and make your purchase.  I haven’t tried it yet, but it’s an interesting thing to look into.

I’ll report back as things develop here, as well as when it (finally) gets Android 4.x.  If you have any questions about the device, let me know!

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Gadgets

Nook Color Running Ice Cream Sandwich!

I had been meaning to do this since we got it for him, but I put a ‘real’ version of Android on my son’s Nook Color last night.  After checking to see what was currently available for it, I decided to try Android 4.0 – ‘Ice Cream Sandwich’.  I followed the instructions at NookDevs for putting it onto a bootable SD card, and after some initial difficulty getting adb communication issues out of the way (which may have been MY fault), it’s working great.  And if we want to go back to the normal Nook interface, we can just turn it off, take out the SD card, and turn it on.

The ICS interface looks great, though a bit laggy to swipe.  I know some folks upped the screen sensitivity too, may need to look into that.  But I installed some of the go-to games and apps, such as Angry Birds, Cut the Rope, and the like, and they look and play great.  The tablet/ICS version of the GMail app is quite nice, too.  I’m honestly a little jealous.  Looks like a great option for a cheap tablet, especially if you don’t need another device with a camera.  Might just get a cheap Nook Tablet for myself to play around with.  Until then, I’m stealing T’s NC at night.

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Gadgets

gROM on my LG Optimus S

I got tired of running out of room for apps on my phone, especially with some of the sweet games I wanted to play.  So I figured I’d go for a custom ROM finally, that gets rid of the pre-loaded Sprint junk and otherwise just works fine.  gROM fits that bill nicely, while adding some nice features (overclocking, Flash).  I won’t bore you with the details, only link you to this step by step guide on how to root and flash a new ROM.  It worked perfectly for me.

My impressions so far – I can definitely feel the slight speed increase from the overclock.  After restoring all of my apps, and adding back a few I had been forced to uninstall to save space, I still have 75mb of app space free.  That’s a far cry from bouncing between 15-20mb free and having to clear app cache all the time to get rid of the ‘you are running low on storage’ message.  I haven’t noted any issues with the various apps I’ve tried running since the switch (Plume, Gmail, Facebook, Draw Something, Fruit Ninja, G+, Nook, Llama, and others).  I haven’t tried anything that uses Flash, but really, I didn’t need that on this phone.

I last rooted my Hero, and this was even easier.  I highly recommend this to any Optimus S owner who is trying to make their phone feel useful for a few more months, while awaiting Sprint’s new LTE 4G phones.

Categories
Gadgets Sci/Tech

Friday Finds – Diamond Weevils, Firefly and the Commodore 64

The holiday lull is over, I’ve actually got a few posts to put in here, woohoo!

And now, the links:

The Diamond Weevil (doesn’t THAT sound like a really lame Clan in the MechWarrior universe) looks really cool, for, you know, a weevil.

Circuits that can self-heal when cracked with liquid metal.  We truly live in the future.

The Commodore 64 turns 30, I loved this machine and spent so many of my young life hacking at programming, playing early Microprose games, and it’s been a system I’ve revisited via emulation ever since.

The BBC’s list of 100 things we didn’t know last year.  Somewhat lame this year, but there are a few good ones.  My highlights:

2. Bald people grow the wrong type of hair – so fine it’s invisible to the naked eye.
More details

Riiiight, Dad, just keep telling yourself that.

29. Dogs watch hownice people are to others to work out whom to approach to beg for food.  More details (Daily Mail)

Cats, of course, simply smother that person in their sleep and take the food.

43. The odds ofscoring two hole-in-ones in the same round of golf are 67 million-to-one.  More details

The odds of a hack golfer claiming to have done it (or seen it done) are two to one.

97. Alcohol tastes sweeter when loud music is playing.
More details (Daily Mail)

Maybe that’s why I don’t like most booze, the music isn’t loud enough.

This is really cool – a ‘Lost World’ discovered under an Antarctic shelf.

And finally, the dead Firefly video game could see new life.  They have the code, but they need permisstion to play in the ‘verse.

Wait, one more thing:  74.77.96.93:28070 is my Jedi Knight II server.  Had to patch it up to 1.04 due to crashes on Vista.  BRING IT.

Categories
Featured Gadgets Movies

Friday Finds – Kung Fu and Carmen Sandiego

Well, it was a busy week for me, though most of the creative juices were used at the Sabres site I run.  They had a rough week, what can I say?  Still, I got OGT out, and it’s one of my all time favorites, River City Ransom.  Check it out if you haven’t yet.  On to the links!

Martin Campbell (who helmed Casino Royale and The Green Lantern) is in early talks to direct The Fall Guy.  The Fall Guy, for those of you who don’t know, centered around Lee Majors as a stuntman who took bounty hunter jobs to try and make ends meet.  It’s pure 80’s cheese, right up there with the A-Team and Knight Rider.  It will be tough to cast the Colt Seavers role, though.  It can’t be somebody that actually looks like they could be down on their luck, but still tough enough to be a stuntman/bounty hunter.  Can Daniel Craig lose the accent?

Another of my favorite old shows might get the movie treatment – Kung Fu.  Bill Paxton may direct (he’s got some movies under his belt already).  It would be interesting to see how they go with it.  When I saw the show originally, I didn’t know about the whole ‘Bruce Lee came up with the idea and it was stolen from him basically’ thing, but Kwai Chang Caine became a favorite character of mine.  I even loved Kung Fu – The Legend Continues.  I’m curious to see if they keep the half Chinese/half American aspect, as I think that could still give an interesting slant to the story – a man who at the time would be rejected both in China and in the Americas for being different.

My friend Anneke as Carmen Sandiego.  May have to scroll down a bit.

Even our favorite, long running TV shows had bad seasons.  IO9 lists some of the worst in sci-fi and fantasy.  TNG Season 2:  Joe Piscopo.  Enough said.  Though as commenters pointed out, that season gave us The Measure of a Man and the first appearance of the Borg, so it’s not all bad.

Finally, Barnes and Noble is indeed firing back at the Kindle Fire, with a new Nook Tablet.  Engadget got a hold of some slides from a presentation that give some details, and it sounds solid.  Dual-core 1.2ghz, twice the RAM and on-board storage as the Fire, thought it is still more than the Fire at $249.  They will drop the original Nook Color to $199 (I think it should go lower, make Amazon sweat).

Categories
Featured Gadgets Movies

Friday Finds – War Machine and The Hobbit

Happy Friday, all!  I’m getting back in the swing of things so got some posts down this week.  Not sure how many I’ll manage for next week, though, as I’m planning to fire up River City Ransom for OGT.  Might just nerd-snipe myself into oblivion there, love that game.  Anyway, this week’s posts:

And now, links I liked:

WAR MACHINE.  Sorry, it just feels like that should be all caps.

Amazingly cool illustrations for The Hobbit – as created by JRR Tolkien himself.  Part of a new book, The Art of the Hobbit.

Mt. Rainier’s long shadow – a beautiful picture, wallpaper worthy.

For your Halloween perusal:  Hard Candy is technically a glass.

Finally, I linked this earlier in the week, but it’s a ghost story for grown-ups who have experienced loss, by the author of Ender’s Game.

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Featured Gadgets

Freaking AMAZING Lord of the Rings LEGO

Via GeekTyrant (and they saw it at Brothers Brick), a 22,000 brick, 7ft tall, 145lb LotR ‘Battle of Isengard’ set.  The builders, called OneLug, really outdid themselves, including everything from the partially burned Ent, an amazing effect of the dam bursting with the blue and clear stud pieces, Wormtongue hiding behind Saruman…really, reall cool.  Click through for all the pictures (GeekTyrant links to the Flickr stream).

Categories
Featured Gadgets

HTC Rhyme – This Really Bothers Me

Take a look at that phone.  It’s got a lot going for it.  Verizon will probably be pricing it low, and it would fit very well at the low to mid-range of Android handsets.  No 4G, but a better processor than my Optimus S, front-facing camera, a dock with speakers.  Color is odd but hey, if it’s in a case who would know?  I had a purple phone for a year before my HTC Hero because I broke mine and the purple one was the only suitable refurb I could get on the cheap.

But this, this is going to be marketed to women.  It’s not released yet on the Verizon site, but I can imagine it already.  The copy will talk up the ‘charm’ that you can hang on your purse to see when messages come in.  The color will be ‘plum’ or ‘dusky rose’ or some such.  But most of all, it will be clear that this is the phone for women.  Nevermind that women who’d actually use the features of an Android phone to their fullest extent would be better served getting something different.  Can HTC and Verizon not imagine a woman whose choice in phone is not primarily based on color?  While there are ladies (my wife among them) who like to have a phone that is a ‘girly’ color, she also wants it to do the things she needs.

Stop marketing stuff ‘to girls’ or ‘for guys’, and just make good stuff.  If you need color options, take the Dell example and make the backplates swappable.  You can include it as a pre-installed option during purchase at your website, or aftermarket at your partners like Best Buy or Radio Shack.  But to have a completely different, less feature packed phone for women is doing them a disservice.

End rant.

Categories
Gadgets

Gingerbread on my LG Optimus S

Woke up this morning and was quite surprised to see a major update for my phone waiting – Gingerbread!  That’s Android 2.3 for the uninitiated.  I was a bit surprised, as I figured it had been long enough that I probably wasn’t getting it.  I fired up the install and am now running from the new build.  The first thing you notice will be the notification bar and interface.  It’s no longer white but black, with green and gray.  I know some people were bothered by the white bar, so there you go.  It is supposed to run faster and be a touch better at saving your battery – that remains to be seen for me.

There are a few quirks.  I charge my phone at work via the USB cable.  I had to install drivers for this to work after the Gingerbread update.  This may not be possible for all of you in a corporate environment, so be aware you may want a wall plug option.  Some others have noted other charging issues, but I haven’t yet.

The new keyboard – be aware you won’t see all the new features unless you select the Android keyboard from input method (in settings or long press on a field you can type in).  I like Swype, so I’m sticking with that myself.  Unfortunately the new copy/paste kind of takes over there as well, I will see if I can get rid of that.

The phone and some of the slower apps do seem a bit snappier in response, though whether that is just me looking for them to be faster since that’s part of the update, I can’t tell.  Fruit Ninja seems to lag less, and the Yahoo! Fantasy Football app seems light-years better, so take from that what you will.

Should you do this update?  My answer would be a qualified yes.  The charging thing is annoying, as the less tech savvy people out there will have a difficult time getting the drivers installed, and the keyboard quirks could confuse.  For me, though, it seems to be a pretty solid upgrade for my LG Optimus S.

Categories
Gadgets Life Movies Sci/Tech

Friday Finds – Robot Octopi and Arctic Airships

A light week this week, due to the holidays and not being home much.

But that does leave plenty of room for links!

Star Wars:  Heir to the Empire 20th Anniversary Edition, a fine gift for the SW geek in your family.

A horribly incomplete list of best and worst movie adaptations.  Check the comments for some better choices, and comment here if you have other suggestions.

Happy Birthday Star Trek.

Dolphins may ‘talk’ similar to humans.  Re-analysis of data gathered in the 70s, really cool stuff they can do now.

Diamond Light Source wants your short stories or flash fiction involving their particle accelerator.  I know there are some aspiring (and successful) writers who read, might be fun.

I just love airships, as anyone where I work can tell you, and using them to deliver stuff to the North Pole would be super cool.

Electromagnetic induced transparency, which has to give me my transparent aluminum, right?

 Quite the handshake, there.  Go ahead with your Robot Overlords jokes, if you must.

 

Categories
Gadgets Media Sci/Tech

Friday Finds – Buffalo Cash Mob

First, the week in posts:

And the links I found:

A VERY stupid man was caught trying to create a nuclear reactor at home.  This genius caused a ‘small meltdown’ on his stove, and sent a letter to Sweden’s ‘Radiation Authority’, who tipped off the cops.  You thought a meth lab made a bad neighbor.

There is a rat (an ENORMOUS rat) in Africa that chews on a poisonous tree, and then puts the poison on a strip of hair.  Predators that bit them foam at the mouth and die.  These must be the rats that kill you when you are just starting out in an MMO game.

ArsTechnica (via FCC data) has a chart that shows how the major high-speed internet providers stack up as far as providing the bandwidth they claim you should get.  Here in Buffalo we do OK (Time Warner) is right there at 90+% with very little drop at peak times, and Verizon FiOS actually gives you a bit more than advertised.  I feel really bad for Cablevision customers, though.

To end things, a couple of things that might appeal to Buffalonians.  First is a story of how Cleveland is leveraging empty lots as gardens, and just how far it could take a city.  Second is the Buffalo Cash Mob, an idea for a flashmob that has a good purpose – to patronize a locally owned business.  This afternoon/evening, it’s City Wine Merchant.  It’s a great choice, which you can read about at this link.  If you can check ’em out tonight, tell ’em the #BuffCashMob sent you.

Categories
Featured Gadgets Sci/Tech

Friday Finds – Liquid Breathing and Sand Tiger Sharks

Hope everybody had a great week.  I came home from Virginia Beach, and the weather followed me (in the 90s here in sunny Buffalo).  Of course, it’ll be in the 70s in a few days…anyway, here are last week’s posts:

Other things that caught my eye:

Bake your video card to fix it, which sounds really strange but it CAN work.

The Navy is testing a remotely controlled watercraft to patrol bases and harbors.  No weapons…YET.

A fascinating look at language, word sounds and the way the brain works.

 Thanks to a mention of it at Dinosaur Comics, here’s a link to perfluorohexane, a molecule that can let you breathe liquid by adding oxygen to it.  The fact that it feels like you are drowning is a minor bump in the road.  In all seriousness, there are some great uses for it, including breathing help for premies, and treating the lungs of burn victims.  If you’ve seen the move The Abyss, you saw a real rat really doing this.

Speaking of Dinosaur Comics…sand tiger shark babies might be nature’s ultimate baby badasses.

Via Gizmodo, from NASA,  an image of the Shuttle’s last landing, taken from the ISS: