ESRB releases new PSA to help parents understand video game ratings

6mCM8RmLet’s get something straight. Laws don’t change behavior. Only society can change behavior.

We have laws against texting while driving, and while cops can write citations for things like Google Glass (which seems counter-productive), people will still do dumb things like watch movies on their tablets while operating motor vehicles. As a society we need to make behaviors unfashionable. We’ve made smoking in public areas unfashionable. We’ve made drunk driving extremely unfashionable.

There are laws which prevent retailers from selling adult media to minors, but it’s still up to parents to police what their children consume. Keeping parents engaged and informed is critical to this conversation, no small task in light of the overwhelming amount of media to be aware of.

We need to get over the stigma that “vidya gamez ar fer kidz”. The average age of a gamer is 30, and it’s likely that almost as many people over the age of 30 play games as under the age of 30. The medium has grown up with the Atari generation, and now the content produced reflects far more mature tastes than many non-gamers might expect. As with feature films and TV, the Entertainment Software Rating Board publishes ratings that parents can use a starting point in making decisions on what titles they might purchase for their children.

This short PSA is a good starting point for people wanting more info on what those ratings mean.

And I don’t mean for this to be a condemnation of parents who might decide their child is mature enough to handle a game’s content. What we need to move towards as a community, to protect our properties from external censorship, is encouraging more informed discussion on content. Helping parents find tools which easily inform their purchasing decisions. Helping them to become a  more active part of their child’s video gaming experience.

As I’m sure that games and consoles will be hot gifts this holiday season, let’s make sure we’re shopping smart. For more info please check out: http://www.esrb.org/

SomeGadgetGuy’s 2013 Holiday Tablet Buying Guide!

ipad miniTis the season for shiny new glowing rectangles! Tablets are proving to be all the rage this year, and if you were thinking of shopping one for a loved one (or for yourself you cheeky bugger you), here’s the scoop on our favorite computing slabs.

Apple: iPad Mini ($399)

Ok. This one’s easy. The iPad Air is the big dog, but the Mini now sports a proper retina display and pretty much the same processor guts as its big brother. The Mini is a touch easier to leave the house with thanks to its smaller form factor, and you’ll save yourself a cool $100 opting for the little iPad over the bigger one. Thankfully that wont come with a performance deficit. This is likely going to be one of the hottest sellers of the year, so make sure you get that pre-order in before it goes on sale later this month if you want to secure a place in line.

Apple announces iPad Mini.

Microsoft: Nokia Lumia 2520 ($499, available later this month)

WP_20131024_19_19_31_ProWe’re restricting our discussion here to Windows RT powered devices. Microsoft is doing a great job of blurring the lines between proper PC’s and consumer tablets, but keeping the playing field equal here, we’re looking at ARM powered portable devices not X86. Sorry Surface Pro and Sony Tap.

The Surface 2 might be Microsoft’s example of what Windows RT should resemble, but Nokia looks like they might take the cake. The Lumia 2520 runs $50 more than the Surface 2, but it comes with LTE built in. Activate it on a carrier which supports it, and you can count on ultra-fast data anywhere you have cell service. To put it into perspective, for $499 you could get a WiFi only iPad Air with 16GB of storage (and no ability to add more storage), or you could get a Lumia 2520 with LTE, 32GB of storage, MicroSD card slot, and a proper USB port.

Microsoft’s OS is still geared a little more towards “work” than “play” but we should see the app ecosystem improve radically once Windows Phone and Windows RT merge early next year (Power Keyboard shown in this pic sold separately).

Hands on with the Lumia 2520!

Android: Tie – Samsung Note 10.1 2014 Edition ($599) vs Asus Google Nexus 7 ($229)

Samsung-Galaxy-Note-10.1-2014Sorry folks. I really tried. It was just too much of a Sophie’s choice to declare one clear winner. Thankfully these two exist at POLAR OPPOSITES of the Android spectrum. Samsung takes an “everything and the kitchen sink” approach to their devices and the Note 10.1 is audacious.

An incredible WQXGA (2560×1600) display exceeds the iPad by almost a million pixels, 32GB of on board storage plus a memory card slot, the ability to use two apps at the same time, Samsung’s excellent S-Pen stylus, and an IR port to use it as a huge universal remote for your TV. It’s a premium experience at a premier price point.

nexus 7 FHD side angle 2013Contrast that with with Google’s market disrupting Nexus 7. Asus helped Goog build out a high end mini-tablet with solid specs, and the two are offering it up at a price usually reserved for “disposable” gear. A 1080p HD screen paired up with a mid-range Qualcomm quad-core and 16GB of storage. You wont get some of the bells and whistles like expandable storage or an IR port, but it’s hard to be disappointed when you consider the bang for buck.

Honorable Mention: Kindles Galore

kindle paperwhite second generation ereader review somegadgetguy (3)So each ecosystem has its strengths and weaknesses, and there’s a lot of overlap.

If you’re an Amazon junky however, a Kindle Fire might be the content consumption platform for you. Powerful specs, great screens, and Amazon prices them low to encourage you to buy music, books, apps, and movies through their online shopping portals.

Lastly, if books are your thing, never underestimate the value of a proper digital ink eReader.

Those are our picks for the year! Did we miss your favorite slate? Is there another tablet which you think is better? Leave us a comment below.

Blackberry: An interim CEO and the illusion of action…

blackberry os 10 handsets z10 q10 smartphonesI wanted to take a minute to look at the Blackberry situation before reporting on it.

Earlier this week it was announced that Blackberry would not be bought out by Fairfax Financial, the company would not be going private, and that CEO Thorsten Heins would step down. Fairfax and other investors will be offering up instead a $1 Billion bond to help float the company, as its cash reserves are starting to dwindle. John Chen is stepping up to the plate as interim CEO, receiving a $3 million salary and over $80 million in restricted stock. John Chen was responsible for fixing up Sybase, a corporate data solutions company.

At its core, Blackberry has been facing a crisis of identity. Like Microsoft, BB missed the boat on the consumer driven data services market. Our favorite little tic-tac keyboarded phones were corporate sweethearts, but BB was late in attempting to crack into the general consumer demographics where Android and iOS dominate. The new BB Z10 was a first step towards offering up corporate friendly mobility which would be pretty enough for consumers to enjoy.

Of course it was not successful. Continue reading “Blackberry: An interim CEO and the illusion of action…”

Can Los Angeles light up Fiber for the whole city? Free broadband internet for all?

Los Angeles winterDamn I hope this can work.

LA City Council officials are working on a Request for Proposals. They want companies to offer bids on an extremely ambitious project, namely lighting up fiber optic broadband internet for every business and residential area in the Los Angeles city limits. No piecemeal, staged, “testing” of the viability for the potential, to maybe, some day, consider, trying a starter market in one corner of a McMansion in Beverly Hills. They want to go whole hog, all or nothing.

The plan for the proposal so far would be to offer up a baseline low level service for everyone for free. It could be ad supported to offset costs, and most likely speeds would top out around 2Mbps, yet it would be available for everyone. This could be a huge boon for those in lower income neighborhoods, areas not often well supported by current ISP’s, and tremendously helpful in an economy where many have to choose between home internet and low cost cell phone service to remain competitive in the job market.

For those who can afford it, higher tiers of service will be made available, most likely topping out at gigabit bandwidth, resembling services like Google Fiber. This backbone could also be used to power WiFi hotspots in public areas.

The implications of such a move could be remarkable.  Continue reading “Can Los Angeles light up Fiber for the whole city? Free broadband internet for all?”

Why now is the PERFECT time to diversify your Technology Portfolio, or why you should stop Fanboying and try a competitor’s product…

WP_20130728_004When I started writing about tech I made a promise to myself that I would try my hardest not to just bag on products. That I would take a second to use something, figure out who it might be for, and whether it could live up to the claims of the company who manufactured it. I can’t say I’ve always perfectly executed this regiment, but I’ve found that it has significantly changed my outlook on consumer electronics. I’m no longer satisfied with “thumbs up / thumbs down” reviews. I want to know about experience.

This opens up a whole world of discussion in that almost no product completely fails in its mission. Often, now the exploration of a gadget is better described by how wide or narrow a particular audience might be. In fact, most tech I get my hands on is actually quite good, once I figure out who it might be designed for.

There’s a particular divisiveness surrounding things like phones and tablets. As geek has become somewhat chic, people identify with certain brands, and those brands start to become a visible indication or description of that individual’s personality. Just like clothes, cars, sunglasses, etc, now our gadgets “send a message” to others about who we are. I’ve certainly been guilty of trying to size someone up by looking at what phone they use and how well they take care of it. Continue reading “Why now is the PERFECT time to diversify your Technology Portfolio, or why you should stop Fanboying and try a competitor’s product…”

Google escalates war with Microsoft, Shutting down 3rd Party Google Voice apps on Windows Phone

nokia lumia 1020 google voice metrotalkThe cold war between these two tech giants is heating up fast.

Google is taking an extremely aggressive stance towards Windows Phone. None of Google’s services are currently officially available for Microsoft’s mobile operating system, and Google has been very vocal about not developing for the platform. Recently Google forced Microsoft to remove a nice and functional Youtube app from their Phone Store and replace it with a lame browser based version. Now Google has set their sights on 3rd party Google Voice apps.

As their Hangouts app looks like it’ll become the single backbone service for all of Google’s text, audio, and video communication they’ve issued a notice that all GV apps must be shut down by May 1st of 2014. Google Plus Product Manager Nikhyl Singhal had this to say: Continue reading “Google escalates war with Microsoft, Shutting down 3rd Party Google Voice apps on Windows Phone”

Ask Juan: Should I Upgrade my Desktop (non-touchscreen) to Windows 8.1?

Screenshot (1)From one of our readers using our contact page:

Hey,I have an older quad core AMD desktop running Windows 7 and was going to put in a SSD. While I was doing that I thought maybe I should upgrade to Windows 8. I don’t have a touchscreen though, so I was curious if you thought that would be a good idea? Thanks, Alex

First of all, I run an older quad core in my workstation, and installing a solid state drive (specifically a Kingston HyperX) made my system feel brand new. I think you’ll really dig it.

The upgrade to Windows 8.1 is a slightly trickier question. It’s pretty obvious that Microsoft is using this new interface as their first attack on tablets and touchscreens. Microsoft’s job moving forward isn’t to “save” the PC market, but redefine the what a PC is. If you’ve read much on this site, you would know that I’ve been fairly positive on their progress so far.

Stepping outside the tablet-y stuff however, I think Windows 8 can offer up some benefits to non-touchscreen users as well.

First of all, boot times are seriously improved. The combo of Windows 8.1 and an SSD will feel like an absolute screamer compared to Windows 7 and a spinning disc hard drive. My low power Windows 8.1 ultrabook with an SSD cache boots in about half the time as my desktop did with Windows 7 and a proper SSD. My Lenovo absolutely destroys my Nexus 7 in a cold boot race.

windows 8_1 file transfer dialog boxSecond, I think Microsoft has made some solid improvements to file management. It’s not the sexiest aspect of an OS upgrade, but you get substantially more info when moving files, better estimates for completion, and the entire file browsing experience has been more stable. I would run into issues on Windows 7 with folders that had tons of files. As my computer would scan through creating thumbnails it would occasionally just get stuck on a file and never finish the scan. What ever file it would lag on would just become completely inaccessible, and I’d have to jump through CMD prompt nonsense to fix it. I haven’t had any issues like that with Win8.1 so far (knocks on wood). Continue reading “Ask Juan: Should I Upgrade my Desktop (non-touchscreen) to Windows 8.1?”

When Technology Evolves Faster than our Laws – Google Glass and Driving

google glass sunglassesCecilia Abadie has been in the news a lot this week. She was pulled over for speeding in California, and she was issued an additional citation for operating a motor vehicle with a video screen visible to the driver. That screen was the eye piece on her Explorer Edition Google Glass.

Following the letter of the law, this citation is valid, though Google Glass is a product which could help reduce driver distraction.

And now we stand at a legal crossroad. Laws can be handled with some flexibility, and many situations like this can be chalked up to “officer discretion”, but it’s not an institution known for rapid evolution. Changes to cultural perspectives in legal matters sometimes require generational time frames.

When positioned against the visceral pace of technological improvement,  it can often feel as if new laws are obsolete before they’re even implemented. Previous generations enjoyed more staged evolution to the tools they used. A person might go most of their adult life without radical changes to how work got done. Now we can expect a near fluid progression, sometimes software and hardware updates delivering near daily minor alterations to how our technology functions.

And now Glass is caught in the crossfire.  Continue reading “When Technology Evolves Faster than our Laws – Google Glass and Driving”