The Gadgets Page

July 14, 2009

Blu-Ray: The Future of Entertainment?

Filed under: Audio and Video — Laura Moncur @ 10:00 am

I haven’t upgraded to a Blu-Ray player yet. I have a bunch of DVDs and I honestly can’t tell the difference between HD quality video on DVDs and HD quality video on Blu-Ray players. They look the same to me. Every time I walk into Best Buy, this video screeches and urges me to upgrade.

The problem with this video is that it’s FAR too similar to this one:

Only a few years ago, the movie industry screeched that DVD was the future of entertainment. Now that the future is here, it looks like they’ve changed their minds.

I’m NOT going to upgrade. I want to go on record saying that Blu-Ray is NOT the future of entertainment. The future of entertainment is going to look a lot more like NetFlix’s Instant Play feature on my Xbox than the Blu-Ray player on the shelf at the electronics store.

Quit screeching at me.

Via: Everything Is Terrible!: I’m not convinced…

June 25, 2009

Portable Television from Sharp

Filed under: Audio and Video,Retro Gadgets — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

A Mid-Century Sharp AA 101R Orange Television with Stand by LauraMoncur from FlickrI love this little television set from Sharp. It looks so Space Age!

When I was a kid, we had a portable television. Sometimes Carol would take it with her in the car. I remember her picking me up from school when I had to stay late and she had the portable TV in the car, watching it while she waited for me to finish with my after school activities.

Now, we can watch a myriad of shows on our cell phones while we wait in line at the grocery store or take walks in the park. It all reminds me of this Benny Hill song so long ago:

I’d like to take her portable TV set and throw it in the deep blue sea.
Why I’m so jealous of her portable TV set because it takes her mind off me.

Being able to take technology with us wherever we go is very helpful. I no longer have to be at my computer in order to answer my email. I no longer have to be at the stereo to listen to music. And I no longer have to be in my living room in order to watch TV. With great power, comes great responsibility. Use your portable television set wisely.

June 19, 2009

Giorgio Moroder: Creating Musical Magic From Thin Air and Solid State Electronics

Filed under: Audio and Video — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

Check out this awesome video of Giorgio Moroder showing off his electronic music gadgets, including a vocoder, the predecessor of the auto-tune.

Dance Music God, Giorgio Moroder, is known to you. You’ve heard his music no matter who you are. It might just be that your favorite artist sampled his work for their song, or maybe you heard a movie score written by him. For me, “I Feel Love” by Donna Summer was the first song that remember hearing by Giorgio Moroder. You can find out more about him here:

I love to look at the toys that Giorgio Moroder used to make his music. By today’s standards, they are brutish and rudimentary, but he used them to make awesome dance beats!

Via: Discopop Directory – “If there’s a limit to computerised electronic music, he hasn’t found it yet.”

June 4, 2009

Is The Zune Pass Worth 15 Bucks A Month?

Filed under: Audio and Video — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

In an indescribably stupid move, Microsoft is taking pot shots at the iPod by claiming that to fill it would cost $30,000.

Firstly, they have hired Wes Moss, a supposed financial planner, to lecture me on the financial infeasibility of my iPod. I don’t know about you, but I don’t trust any financial planners anymore. Aren’t they the fools who told me that keeping my money in my credit union savings account was stupid and investing it in the stock market was smart? Lucky thing I never listened to them.

Secondly, this financial planner is telling me that to fill my iPod with music, it would cost me $30,000. Of course, at a buck a song, it WOULD cost me that much to fill my iPod. But music isn’t the only thing I put on my iPod. I can also use it for movies, which fill up the capacity pretty easily. Using Garage Band and iMovie, I can fill my iPod with music and movies that I have created as well, so the iPod isn’t merely a repository for my music collection, it’s a bragging right to show off my work.

I find it ironic that Microsoft is suggesting a service that has been proven not to work on several occasions. Both Napster and Yahoo! Music have had similar services for similar prices and they are GONE now. Those months when I paid for the Yahoo! Music were pretty cool. I had whatever music I wanted to listen to, but now all that money I paid is gone and I don’t have anything substantial to show for it.

I don’t think Zune Pass is worth 15 bucks a month. I’d MUCH rather pay the $30,000 to fill my iPod because then I get to KEEP the music.

Via: Microsoft takes aim at the iPod

May 31, 2009

Retro Gadgets: Color TV by RCA

Filed under: Audio and Video,Retro Gadgets — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

A couple of weeks ago, Mike and I went on a trip to Yellowstone. We stayed in West Yellowstone, and some of the hotels there were quite old. I snapped a photo of an old motel sign, advertising that every room had a color television by RCA.

Retro Gadgets: Color TV by RCA by LauraMoncur from Flickr

This is not a unique sign. If you do a simple search on Flickr, you’ll find hundreds of hotel signs with the same RCA advertisement.

These signs must have subsidized hotels somehow. Did RCA provide free or discounted television sets to motels that proudly displayed these signs? Maybe the hotel owners actually had to PAY to advertise for RCA just to compete. In the Fifties and Sixties, families saw the U.S.A. in their Chevrolets and they all had to sleep somewhere. Holiday Inn had first dibs, but I’m sure a hotel with the sign, “Color TV by RCA” was a good second choice.

Now, hotels and motels are quick to announce that they have free wi-fi or free high speed Internet. They are doing the same thing as they did fifty years ago to compete, just using a different gadget. When you plan your summer trip this year, remember the Color TV by RCA sign and laugh at the hotels that won’t give you Internet access without charging you ten bucks a day.

May 18, 2009

The 8-Track: Superb Sound Wherever You Go

Filed under: Audio and Video — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

I found this ad from the Found in Mom’s Basement blog. It’s from 1969 and it really reminded me what it was like before the iPod.

Click to see full size ad: Superb Sound Wherever You Go

It reads:

Why one out of four people into our music is onto our Stereo 8 Tapes.

Superb sound wherever you go.

Whether your head’s with the Airplane or Feliciano or the Original Broadway Cast of “Hair,” our Stereo 8 Cartridge Tapes get it right on – with sound that’s almost like you’re sitting in the studio at the original session.

Stereo 8 Tapes go where you go. A half-dozen cartidges fit in a glove compartment, trench coat, overnight case. They give you up to 80 minutes of uninterrupted music and instant push-pull operation.

Good reasons why one out of four people listening to our music today is listening to the Stereo 8 Tape.

Shouldn’t you be the one?

Just imagine! 80 minutes of uninterrupted music. Instead of 80 GB (or approximately 40,000 minutes), it was only 80 minutes.

Those 8-Track Decks had STYLE, though! Check out the eject on this one:

May 12, 2009

Cyber Acoustics iPod Dock

Filed under: Audio and Video,Reviews — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

For the longest time, I used the Xtreme Mac Microblast next to my bed with my first generation iPod Nano. There was plenty of room on the 1GB drive to load up a few relaxing songs to lull me to sleep. Two iPods and an iPhone later, however, it was showing its age. The speakers buzzed and screeched something horrible, so I finally retired the Microblast and started using my iPhone next to my bed with a binder clip stand.

When I found the Cyber Acoustics Docking Speakers, however, it was love at first site.

Cyber Acoustics on

I use it with my iPhone, and although I DO miss the landscape version of Night Stand, I love having my iPhone right next to my bed.

Cyber Acoustics on Amazon.comMy biggest problem is that I have a VERY narrow night stand, so most of the normal sized iPod docks just don’t fit. Even the very small JBL On Stage Micro is too large. The Cyber Acoustics is just the right size to sit on my tiny night stand and give me enough sound for a soothing playlist of music.

I only paid 39 bucks for it at FYE, so I was worried that it would have cheap speakers that hiss and squeal, but instead, they are quiet and only make noise when I want them to.

Alarm on the iPod Nano 2nd genThe Cyber Acoustics isn’t an alarm clock or clock radio. It is ONLY speakers for an iPod or iPhone. Most iPods, including my 2nd generation iPod Nano, have a time and alarm feature of their own, so you don’t actually NEED a clock, display or alarm. You can even set them to play a specific playlist instead of an annoying beep.

I set my iPhone playing a soothing meditation track before I load up Night Stand and let it lull me to sleep every night. It works perfectly for that. In the morning, I’m awakened to a track I recorded using Garage Band of my dog barking.

I’ve owned my speakers for a few months now. I waited to write a review because I was worried that the speakers would get old and start making an irritating noise, but over the months, they have stayed quiet. I am now completely willing to say that I am totally in love with my Cyber Acoustic Speaker Dock. I hope you like them, too!

April 29, 2009

Admiral Triple Thrill

Filed under: Audio and Video,Retro Gadgets — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

I love this ad for the Admiral Triple Thrill:

Click to see full size ad: Admiral Triple Thrill

It reads:

Home Entertainment all in One Luxurious Console $499.95

From Admiral comes complete home entertainment to charm your family and guests. Magic Mirror Television brings you bright, steady, mirror-like pictures on a big 10″ direct view screen… the clearest pictures of them all! Super-powered by 29 tubes to assure dependable performance even in outlying areas. Receives all channels. New two-speed automatic phonograph plays standard as well as new LP (long play) 45 minute microgroove records. Here, too, is a powerful radio with the finest features in FM-AM as developed by Admiral. Truly a triple thrill… all combined in a breathtakingly beautiful cabinet that measures only 48 inches wide! See it! Hear it! Today!

It’s such a strange juxtaposition to compare this Admiral TV/Record Player/Radio with the E-matic Video/MP3 Player/Camera that I just reviewed last week. We now have the power to carry hundreds of songs, TV shows and photos in our pockets for a mere fifty bucks! When you account for inflation, our $50 now would have been worth $5.68 back in 1948 when that ad was made.

To all the gadget haters out there, we live in a WONDEROUS time!

Ad via: Found in Mom’s Basement: Two vintage ads for home electronics

April 24, 2009

Review: E-matic 4GB Video MP3 Player

Filed under: Audio and Video,Cameras — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

Ematic 4GB Video MP3 Player at Amazon.comThe folks from Shaghal Ltd. sent me one of their 4GB E-matic Video MP3 players. I’ve had fun playing with it for the last few days.

In a spark of genius that not even Apple has achieved yet, the E-matic comes preloaded with a video showing how to use it. You can see the video here:

It’s a multi-function device that tries to be everything. I’ll review each function on its own.

MP3 Player

When compared to an iPod, the E-matic will never be able to compete. Apple has made adding music to an iPod so incredibly easy that everything else is clunky and difficult in comparison. When compared to other MP3 players, however, the E-matic is a perfectly functional device.

When plugged into a computer (I tried it on my Mac and my PC), it shows up like a USB thumb drive or an SD card. When you drop MP3s into the AUDIO folder, they are playable with the built-in MP3 player. Using Windows Media Player to try to add music onto the E-matic is definitely a mistake. It’s a much better idea to just add folders of music using Explorer (on the PC) or Finder (on the Mac).

Be warned that any music you have purchased with iTunes won’t work on the E-matic, even if it’s DRM-free. Apple wants you to use their MP3 players, you know.

Video Player

I was able to get the video player to work with .3GP, .AVI and .MP4, but not .WMV files. I was able to download an episode of Dexter from Bit Torrent, put it on the E-matic and watch it within minutes, which is MUCH easier than trying to get .AVI files to work on my iPhone. Transferring files from the computer to the E-matic takes longer than it would to transfer the same sized file onto an SD card, but the playback (especially with the .AVI files) was clean and watchable. Here is a glimpse of what the episode of Dexter looked like on the E-matic:

With big files like that episode of Dexter, there is some choppiness and pauses. I found it quite distracting to watch, but if you have fifteen episodes of Sponge Bob on the E-matic for your kid to watch while you’re waiting in the grocery line, I doubt that will be an issue.

The screen is bigger than the iPod Nano and about as clear as long as you have a good file to begin with. That is one thing that Apple does a little better; they make sure that the videos you do put on your Nano or iPhone look as good as possible.

Audio Recorder

There is a feature that lets you record audio, such as notes to yourself or a quick interview of a friend, etc. This feature is limited by the small microphone. The audio clips are recorded in .AMR files, and show up in the AUDIO folder on the E-matic. Transferring them to your computer is as easy as drag and drop.

Here is an example of an audio recording using the E-matic:


The camera is 640 X 480 and the pictures are choppy at best. Here are some examples of photos I took with the E-matic.

Review: E-matic 4GB Video MP3 Player by LauraMoncur from Flickr

Review: E-matic 4GB Video MP3 Player by LauraMoncur from Flickr

These photos where taken under the BEST lighting possible and they are still a little pixelated. The camera is good enough to prove that you saw somebody who looked like Elvis, but not good enough to prove that Elvis is alive.

See the rest of the photos taken with the E-matic here:

Video Camera

The video camera records in 320 X 240. Not since my old Treo 650 have I had a video camera with this resolution. Here is a video that I took with the camera:

As you can see, this is good enough for kids or simple family shots outside in bright light, but if you try to film indoors, it will be too dark to see anything. The audio quality is also limited by the tiny microphone at the bottom of the unit.

See the other video taken with the E-matic here:

eBook Reader

This isn’t an eBook reader so much as a way for you to read .TXT files. That’s great if you want to cheat in school using the E-matic. I’ve written in detail about that sort of thing here:

The directions for the E-matic are EXACTLY the same as what I wrote for the iPod, except you don’t need to enable the E-matic for disk use. That’s all ready for you to go.

This feature also might be good to store phone numbers, information, etc. that you might want to refer to. As far as reading a book using the E-matic, you could do it, but it would be an incredible pain in the butt because it doesn’t remember where you were last reading and you can’t resize the font for readability.

TF Card

Review: E-matic 4GB Video MP3 Player by LauraMoncur from FlickrThere is a tiny slot at the bottom of the E-matic labeled “TF Card.” I tried putting in a Micro SD card and it fit. It popped out at an incredible force, but aside from that it sleekly fit in the E-matic.

To use the Micro SD card, you need to go into the TOOL section and choose MEMORY. When you choose it as a WORKSPACE, then you can record audio, video and photos onto the Micro SD card. You can also watch videos or listen to MP3s that you have saved on it.

In this respect, the E-matic also works as a great card reader for Micro SD cards. When you plug it into the computer the Micro SD card shows up as a different drive and you can use the E-matic to transfer files to the SD card as easily as to the hard drive.

You can get Micro SD cards with as much memory as 16GB, so just the purchase of one Micro SD card can change your 4GB E-matic into a 20GB device. I love the expandability of the Micro SD card slot!

Is It Worth The Money?

The E-matic is available at Wal-Mart for $49 and available on Amazon for anywhere from $54 to $63. Is the E-matic worth it? Hell yeah.

If you need something to entertain the kids, but you don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars on an iPod, the E-matic is PERFECT. You’ll have to work a little harder to get the files on the device, but if your kid loses it, you’re out fifty bucks instead of hundreds.

It’s also a great device to teach kids how to shoot video and take photos. The limitations of the camera do make it a little more difficult to get a good shot, but that is a great way to teach them about proper lighting and setting up a shot.

If you’re expecting the E-matic to take the place of your normal camera, however, you will be sorely disappointed. The camera on your phone is probably as good as the camera in the E-matic, if not better.

On the whole, however, the E-matic is definitely worth the fifty bucks. It’s best for kids, but if you just want to snap a few photos to remember things and watch a couple of videos while you’re waiting at the DMV, it’s great for adults as well!

April 22, 2009

Roland K. Smith Loves Pandora… And So Do I

Filed under: Audio and Video,PDAs and Phones — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

Pandora on the iPhone by LauraMoncur from FlickrI’ve talked about Pandora in the past:

It’s an Internet radio that you choose the style of music. For example, if you have a favorite song, you can build a radio station based on that song. Pandora will miraculously play tracks that are very similar to your favorite music. I am continually surprised at how good it is at finding music that I want to listen to.

The ever-popular, Roland K. Smith had some wonderful things to say about Pandora here:

One of my currently favorite programs is Pandora Internet Radio. It’s playing right now on my laptop and it’s my most used application on my iPhone. This morning while taking a stroll on the treadmill listening to Pandora I thought about my first transistor radio back in 1957.

Transistor radios were only a year or two old when I got one for a birthday present. The wonder of these radios were that they operated on batteries and could be taken anywhere. I spent many hours riding on a tractor in the fields that summer listening to music on that AM radio. Forty years has seen an enormous change in our ability to consume music.

Pandora on the iPhone by LauraMoncur from FlickrPandora has brought back the beautiful serendipity of finding a song that you love. I have bought more music on iTunes because of Pandora than because of any other recommendations. Sure, Amazon and iTunes can recommend music to me, but that is based strictly on sales instead of music similarity. Plus, with Pandora, I get to listen to the whole song before I decide whether I want to buy it.

With Pandora on my iPhone [iTunes Link], I can listen to music while I’m driving, just like I used to with the radio. In fact, on a road trip from Salt Lake City to Las Vegas, we listened to Pandora the whole way. The only time it dropped out was when we didn’t have cell coverage on that twenty mile strip of Arizona. It works wonderfully on 3G and EDGE.

If you have been missing the beauty of radio in days gone by, then give Pandora a chance.

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