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Pixlr Online Photo Editing - Recommended

Pixlr is an free online photo editor that works great if your not on a pc that has photo editing software or if your restricted on a company computer.

My New Touchpad and Thoughts

Checkout my new Touchpad review.

Baseball Collector's Dream Site - Zistle.com

Great place to keep track of your card collections online.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Xbox 360 revamp is good for the bedroom coder

Xbox 360 buyer

Photograph: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Last week, amid considerable fanfare, Microsoft released a new design for its Xbox 360 interface, allowing gamers to create their own avatars and browse content via a series of intuitive windows, rather than the drab "blade" menu system of old. It was all very exciting for five minutes - I've managed to create an online visual identity resembling a presenter on a late-night BBC4 arts programme, so I'm happy.

But one of the quieter new additions to the Xbox universe could turn out to be much more important: the Community Games channel. Here, Xbox Live users can browse and buy a range of titles created by bedroom coders using Microsoft's XNA Studio - a cheap, but reasonably powerful, development package. Importantly, Microsoft plays little part in the approval of these games - instead, each project is reviewed and certified by community members.

When a game is deemed suitable for distribution via Xbox Live, it's given ratings for violence, sex and, rather vaguely, mature content. Then it's up online for a potential audience of almost 25 million Xbox 360 users. A reasonable business model means the developers then get up to 70% of the revenue from each download, though Microsoft charges more when games are promoted on Live or Xbox.com.

There are already 20 games available, a mix of casual titles like Word Soup and Brain Party and retro-flavoured action romps, including frenzied twin-stick blasters Biology Battle and Weapon of Choice. The best at present is Blow by Vector2Games, a gentle puzzler where you direct bubbles toward the exit by carefully placing and angling a series of fans.

There are also some weird experiments like Sin(Surfing), which allows you to surf along an oscilloscope wave, and In The Pit, an audio-only horror game in where you control a blind monster, locating human victims via the sound of their breathing. This, it goes without saying, would probably not make it through the approval system of most mainstream game publishers.

All of these games were created using the newest version of XNA, which introduces an intriguing new feature - easy multiplatform development. In theory, users write one piece of source code, which is then automatically configured for Xbox 360, Windows Live PCs and Microsoft's Zune handheld. In this way, a lone coder or small studio can drastically increase the potential audience for a franchise with little addition to the workload.

Add in the already well-established Flash game scene, and the growing Google Android platform (Android Market, unlike Apple's App Store, requires no official certification for applications) and you have a vast network of distribution channels, all operating beyond the control of the orthodox videogame business - or, if you, like The Man. The bedroom coder is dead, long live the bedroom publishing empire.


Monday, November 24, 2008

New Xbox Live Experience Intro

Here is for anyone that hasn't seen the new Xbox live experience intro video. It's pretty neat.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Skyfire - Best Windows Mobile Phone Browser

Here is a great internet browser if you have a cell phone running Windows Mobile. It actually looks the same as a regular website. It's better than Opera Mobil and the i-Phone interface. Check it out.

What is it?

Skyfire is a free, downloadable mobile web browser that allows you to experience the internet on your phone exactly like on your PC. Now, you can use the full web from your mobile phone with unprecedented speed and simplicity – without the typical restrictions and limitations that current ‘mobile web’ efforts offer. It’s “The Web”, not some mobile web.


Friday, November 14, 2008

Pandora - free internet radio - highly recomended

If you listen to music on the PC, I recommend Pandora. It's got to be one of the best online radio services. Best of all it's free and I highly recommend you try it out. Besides being easy and free, it's super easy to setup. It's as easy as entering an artist and it make a station with similar artist. Here is more of an explanation of what it is.

When was the last time you fell in love with a new artist or song?

At Pandora, we have a single mission: To play music you'll love - and nothing else.

To understand just how we do this, and why we think we do it really, really well, you need to know about the Music Genome Project®.

Since we started back in 2000, we have been hard at work on the Music Genome Project. It's the most comprehensive analysis of music ever undertaken. Together our team of fifty musician-analysts has been listening to music, one song at a time, studying and collecting literally hundreds of musical details on every song. It takes 20-30 minutes per song to capture all of the little details that give each recording its magical sound - melody, harmony, instrumentation, rhythm, vocals, lyrics ... and more - close to 400 attributes! We continue this work every day to keep up with the incredible flow of great new music coming from studios, stadiums and garages around the country.

With Pandora you can explore this vast trove of music to your heart's content. Just drop the name of one of your favorite songs or artists into Pandora and let the Genome Project go. It will quickly scan its entire world of analyzed music, almost a century of popular recordings - new and old, well known and completely obscure - to find songs with interesting musical similarities to your choice. Then sit back and enjoy as it creates a listening experience full of current and soon-to-be favorite songs for you.

You can create as many "stations" as you want. And you can even refine them. If it's not quite right you can tell it so and it will get better for you.

The Music Genome Project was founded by musicians and music-lovers. We believe in the value of music and have a profound respect for those who create it. We like all kinds of music, from the most obtuse bebop, to the most tripped-out drum n bass, to the simplest catchy pop tune. Our mission is to help you connect with the music YOU like.

We hope you enjoy the experience!


Thursday, November 13, 2008

XM Radio, Sirius unveil new Sirius XM Radio lineups

Sirius XM Radio, the pay-radio marriage of the two former satellite services, formally combined their program lineups Wednesday.

Some channels from each service went away in the merger, with Sirius and XM Radio subscribers each getting new channels from the other service. Some channels will be moved and/or re-named.

Sirius XM said there will be no increase in the subscription fee or need to change or upgrade existing radios for the basic service, but that doesn't include the "Best of" packages.

XM subscribers will have to pay extra if they want a "Best of Sirius" package with such premium draws as Howard Stern, Martha Stewart Living, Playboy, NASCAR and the NFL. Sirius subscribers will have to shell out more for a "Best of XM" lineup that includes Oprah Winfrey's Oprah & Friends, the NBA, the NHL the PGA and The Virus, which is home to Gregg "Opie" Hughes and Anthony Cumia.

Among the Sirius channels going away are Movin' Easy, Punk, Sirius Disorder, The Strobe, Boombox, Backspin and Universo Latino. XM channels being retired include XM Sports Nation, the Weather Channel, XMX, X-Country, Fungus, Rhyme, Raw, Beyond Jazz, Fine Tuning, The System, Chrome, Viva, Aguila, Caricia.

E! Entertainment Radio is going away for each service's subscribers.

New channels for XM include Elvis Radio, Bruce Springsteen's E Street Radio, “Little Steven” Van Zandt’s Underground Garage and Outlaw Country, Jimmy Buffett's Radio Margaritaville, Jamie Foxx's The Foxxhole, Eminem's Shade 45, NPR Now, Blue Collar Radio, Cosmo Radio, Catholic Channel, Doctor Radio, BBC Radio One, World Radio Network, The Coffeehouse, Faction, Jam On, The Grateful Dead, Underground Garage, Hair Nation and, as of Jan. 1, The Bridge.

New channels for Sirius include Sporting News Radio,'40s on 4, '90s on 9, The Loft, Willie Nelson's Willie's Place, enLighten, B.B. King's Bluesville, Escape, Cinemagic and Sirius XM Book Radio ,which XM subscribers have known as Sonic Theater.

Sports talker Chris "Mad Dog" Russo's Mad Dog Radio will launch soon for all subscribers, Sirius XM said.

The new lineup for Sirius can be found here. The new XM lineup can be found here.

Sirius XM Radio Inc., which was created in July, earlier this week said its third-quarter losses totaled $4.88 billion after recording a sizeable charge connected to a decline in its stock.

The company earlier this month said it expects to end this year with 19.1 million subscribers and next year with 20.6 million subscribers. The economic slowdown, particularly its its effect on auto sales, has hurt its growth.


AMD Maui Platform Bundles Hit Newegg

Over the past few months, we have shown you sneak peeks of AMD’s Home Theater PC platform, codenamed Maui, on a couple of different occasions. Essentially, Maui consists of a low-power AMD Phenom or Athlon X2 processor, an AMD 780-series (or higher) IGP, an ATI TV-Tuner and AMD’s Live media center software elements.

Currently, MSI’s Media Live DIVA 5.1 motherboard, that has D2's programmable audio chip onboard to allow 5.1 amplified output, is the foundation of Maui (a 7.1 channel pre-amp output card is also an option).

It’s definitely an interesting motherboard to say the least, and we’ve got a review forthcoming, but we also wanted to let you know that Newegg is already offering bundles with various combinations of motherboard, processor, and MCE remote.

If you’re already familiar with AMD’s Maui platform and want to check out what kind of deals are available on the hardware, you can find Newegg’s bundles right here.


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Allio 42-inch HDTV with PC and Blu-ray Player

It use to be that the big buzz word going around the industry was convergence. In the multimedia living room of tomorrow, a melding of the capabilities of various entertainment center components, along with the computer functionalities, is the end goal that will culminate into a more intelligent, connected entertainment center. Or at least it seems to be. Granted, the HTPC (Home Theater PC) has come a long way at making that goal a reality but you'd have to agree we're not there quite yet.

Interestingly, in a reverse merger sort of fashion, Boulder CO company Silicon Mountain (mountain of silicon perhaps?) steps out today with the first fully integrated HDTV PC product. The Allio PCTV has a lot more going on under its hood beyond 400nits and a 2000:1 contrast ratio...

Silicon Mountain Unveils Allio 42-inch HDTV with Integrated PC and Blu-Ray Player

Product, First of Its Kind in North America, Now Available

Boulder, Colo. & Menlo Park, Calif. -- November 10, 2008 Silicon Mountain Holdings, Inc., (OTCBB: SLCM), a technology company specializing in high-performance interactive computing solutions, today announced its design for a 32 and 42-inch High Definition LCD-TV with an integrated, full-function PC and Blu-Ray/DVD player. Named Allio, this system will define an entirely new category of converged products, where entertainment and instant, on-demand information and productivity blend together seamlessly, in stunning high-definition.

The Allio HD TV / PC is the first product of its kind in North America, and Silicon Mountain is the first company worldwide to develop a converged HDTV / PC solution that includes Blu-Ray. It is available now, in time for U.S. holiday purchases. Orders are being taken now at the Visionman website at http://www.visionman.com/.

Additional information on where to buy Allio will be announced soon.

The flagship Allio model marries a Full-HD 42" LCD display with a combo Blu-Ray/DVD player, integrated digital recorder for PVR and a powerful PC, based on the Intel Core2Duo E8400 processor, 4GB of RAM from Silicon Mountain, a 1TB hard drive and the 64-bit version of Windows Vista Home Premium. In addition to the analog and digital audio-video inputs common to high-def televisions, Allio includes wireless and wired networking capabilities and several USB ports to extend the experience to other computers and peripherals in the home.

Allio 42" HDTV-PC - Click image for high res


* Allio 42” 1080p LCD HDTV
* 16:9 Full Screen Aspect Ratio
* 3D Y/C Digital Comb Filter
* 176 Degree / 176 Degree Viewing Angle
* 2000:1 Contrast
* 400cd Brightness
* Built-in 12Wx2 Speakers
* 7.1 Surround Sound w/Dolby Home Theatre
* 2 x Component Video & Audio Connectors
* 2 x HDMI Connectors
* 1 x S-Video & Audio Connector
* 1 x Composite Video & Audio Connector
* 6 x USB 2.0 Ports
* 1 x eSATA Port
* 1 x DVI-I Port
* 1 x HDMI Output Only
* 1 x S/PDIF Optical Audio Out
* Intel Core 2 Duo E8400
* 4GB High-Speed DDR2-800 Memory
* Slim 2X BD-ROM Blu-Ray Player (Play’s DVD’s too!)
* Plays & Burns DVD’s as Well!
* Western Digital 1TB (1000GB) SATA-II HDD
* Integrated Intel GMA X4500HD Video
* Hauppauge HVR-950Q TV Tuner
* Gigabit 10/100/1000 Ethernet
* Wireless 802.11b/g
* Microsoft Vista Home Premium 64-bit
* Logitech Wireless Keyboard & Mouse
* Wall Mountable
* Menu Languages: English, Spanish, French
* Includes A/V Cable, User Manual, Remote Control

There you have it; an LCD HDTV with a fully functional on-board HTPC with 2GB of RAM, a Core 2 Duo processor, Intel's newly released G45 chipset with integrated graphics for full HD offload and a Hauppauge HD TV Tuner/PVR card. The specs list certainly reads like a PC with integrated 42" LCD monitor but with its digital comb filter and reasonably high quality LCD, this just may be one step closer to that convergence nirvana we've all heard about. There are lower cost units but the high-end flagship model shown here lists for $2799.

We may be contacting Silicon Mountain soon to get our hands on an eval unit.


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Microsoft Adds SecondLight to its 'Surface'

Over the past couple of years, gadgets have become much more touchy-feely. Apple's iPhone and Microsoft's Surface (an interactive table) are two of the most celebrated examples. Now, Microsoft has added a twist to Surface that makes for an impressive demo.

Microsoft announced the upgrade to Surface, called SecondLight, at the company's Professional Developers Conference in Los Angeles on Wednesday. As the video above demonstrates, in this new version of Surface, a secondary image is projected above the main display. A person views the second image by holding a semi-opaque object, such as a piece of paper above the display. The idea is to provide a second layer of information: labeled constellations on top of photographs of stars or street names on top of maps, for instance.

SecondLight uses a neat trick to produce this second layer. The original Surface used a projector below a glass tabletop to create an image and infrared cameras underneath to detect fingers and objects in contact with the surface. With SecondLight, Microsoft has replaced the glass top with a liquid crystal display (LCD), but kept the projector underneath. The LCD flickers on an off and, during alternate frames the projector sends the secondary image through the display. This happens too fast for your eyes to catch it unless you hold up an opaque object, like a piece of paper.


Monday, November 10, 2008

Circuit City Files for Bankruptcy

America’s third largest electronics retailer with 721 stores in the U.S. and 770 in Canada, has petitioned for Chapter 11 protection in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Richmond. After losing money in five of the last six quarters and announcing last week it would close 155 stores, Circuit City is seeking bankruptcy protection amidst fears that it would not be able to pay its vendors. The company presently owes Hewlett-Packard Co.$119 Million and Samsung Electronics Co. $116 million.

A deal earlier this year that involved Blockbuster Inc. buying the retailer fell through when a preliminary offer was withdrawn.

"On Sept. 29, Circuit City reported a loss of $239.2 million that was more than triple from a year earlier after sales fell for the sixth straight quarter.

Losing Share ~
Circuit City's rivals gained market share by offering Apple Inc. and Dell Inc. computers. Larger Best Buy and discount retailer Wal-Mart lowered prices on flat-panel televisions to lure U.S. customers, who are limiting spending because of higher food costs, further job losses and declining home values.

The global financial crisis is making it harder for the chain to stock its shelves and for consumers to finance purchases.

The company took on more debt this year, increasing a $500 million revolving credit agreement to $1.3 billion in January, according to its most recent quarterly filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. As of May 31, Circuit City said it still had $963 million available to borrow."


MediaStream v0.97 Released (10/11/2008)

Thanks to everyone for their feedback on the last release and in this release you should find fixes for most of the issues raised. Additionally we've added an Episode Thumb version of the Wall Stream view, better watched/unwatched info to the TV Shows version of Media Preview and an option for more configurable Lyrics script handling as well as other stuff detailed below. Enjoy

As usual you can download the skin from our website, http://www.teamrazorfish.co.uk/mediastream.html

The changes since the last release are as follows:
  • Added: Episode Thumb version of Wall Stream view
  • Added: Watched/Unwatched Episode counts to TV Show version of Media Preview
  • Added: Option to change the path to the XBMC Lyrics script
  • Added: Option to hide thumb images in Options Menu (reduces memory usage slightly)
  • Fixed: Vertical position of list in Seasons view
  • Fixed: Vertical alignment of text in buttons
  • Fixed: Vertical aligment of Media Count number text for 4x3
  • Fixed: Width of time labels in Video OSD (so that it works with large times in larger fonts)
  • Fixed: Width of buttons in Media Source dialog so that it also fits with the larger fonts
  • Updated: Widened Context menu for 4x3
  • Updated: Widened buttons in Video OSD Bookmarks
  • Updated: Moved text on Bigger Clock down slightly
  • Updated: German, Spanish, Italian, Greek and French translations

We really need your feedback so please post if you have any comments, suggestions or feedback and we'll aim to deal with them as soon as we can.

PLEASE NOTE: The skin is being developed based on the latest version of XBMC (T3CH release for Xbox and update to date builds for other platforms) so please make sure you have the latest version before posting about any problems


Windows 7 prebeta (build 6801)

Although Windows 7 won't be available until 2010, a prebeta version is available to developers. At first glance, it appears to be a more advanced iteration of Windows Vista. Windows 7 also seems to be geared more toward the consumer with many more user interface enhancements. Windows 7 builds on the internals of Windows Vista. One immediate benefit is that Windows 7 should have fewer compatibility problems upon release. CNET took a look at Windows 7 Ultimate Build 6801 and found it to be a remarkably stable and feature-rich alpha. See these photos for a look inside Windows 7.

Up front we noticed a more intuitive interface within Windows 7. For example, if you drag a window all the way to the left or right edge, it'll snap to fill half the desktop, knowing that you intended to view another window at the same time. Also, the toolbar ribbons available in Office 2007 will be available within Windows 7 accessories, such as WordPad and Paint.

Missing is the Welcome Center in Windows Vista. The sidebar also appears to be missing, although you can simply install gadgets to the desktop. What is seen when you first boot into Windows 7 is Windows Live Messenger.

Another important user interface change from Windows Vista affects User Account Control. In Vista, you could have this protection either on or off. In Windows 7 there's a slider control between "always notify" and "never notify," allowing you to find a personal setting that fits you.

New features include a Bluetooth File Transfer Wizard that lets you share files between two computers. There's also Sticky Notes, similar to an application on Mac OS X, that allows quick notes to be "pasted" over the desktop; there's even a corkboard to post your notes for easy review. A new accessibility feature is the Windows Key: the plus key give the screen an instant zoom, and the minus key returns the resolution to the normal size.


Thursday, November 6, 2008

MediaStream v0.96.5 Released (03/11/2008)

As the countdown to the final release of XBMC Atlantis gets closer and closer we thought it would be a good idea to do a small incremental release to fix a couple of issues in the recent v0.96 release.

As usual you can download the skin from our website, http://www.teamrazorfish.co.uk/mediastream.html

The changes since the last release are as follows:
  • Added: Arial font set options (they do not look good but are there for those who need the extra foreign characters)
  • Fixed: Lyrics script
  • Fixed: Overlapping album and song titles when viewing songs in Coverflow view
  • Fixed: Tidied up System Info screen to avoid overlapping text
  • Fixed: Moved list up the screen on Seasons view to avoid bottom of list being off the screen
  • Updated: Widened Cancel button in Progress dialog
  • Updated: Widend Manual button in Selection dialog
  • Updated: Removed focus highlight from top button in Set Content dialog (was mis-aligned)
  • Updated: Dutch, Swedish, French and Greek translations

We really need your feedback so please post if you have any comments, suggestions or feedback and we'll aim to deal with them as soon as we can.

PLEASE NOTE: The skin is being developed based on the latest version of XBMC (T3CH release for Xbox and update to date builds for other platforms) so please make sure you have the latest version before posting about any problems


Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Switch Plus Sound File Conversion Software

Here is a program I recommend if you need to convert audio files or want to fit more music on a mp3 player. It has to be the easiest converter I've ever used.

Switch Plus audio file converter is a sound file converter for Windows or Mac. It can convert audio files from many different file formats into mp3, wav and many other file formats.

Switch is not a simply mp3 converter, it is the most comprehsive and stable audio file converter around. With Switch Plus you can convert your sound files into the formats you need to compress for storage, create ringtones, add to a presentation, listen on your portable device and much more. In fact, the possibilities are endless using this powerful audio file converter. Switch Plus audio file converter is very easy to use. Just add the files you want to convert to the list, select the format you want to use, and then click the convert button.

A full list of the Switch Plus Sound Format Converter features follow but a quick way to try it out is to download and install the demo now. You don't need to purchase to try the demo version and it only takes a couple of minutes to complete the process. (click here to install Switch Plus). You can view pricing and purchase Switch Plus here.


Monday, November 3, 2008

MediaStream v0.96 Released (30/10/2008)

It's been a few weeks since the last release as things have been rather hectic for us but we've still been working away on the skin and have hopefully dealt with a number of the issues that have been raised in feedback since the last release.

The biggest noticeable difference in this release is the addition of the new Wall Stream view (which as the name suggests is a wall style view). It currently works best with portrait aspect thumbs or music album covers but we're planning to add support for episode thumbs in a future release.

As usual you can download the skin from our website, http://www.teamrazorfish.co.uk/mediastream.html

The changes since the last release are as follows:
  • Added: Wall Stream view for widescreen and 4x3 (currently works best with portrait posters and album covers)
  • Added: Option to hide info area in Wall Stream view
  • Added: Chinese (Simple) translation
  • Added: Music Videos link to Home screen (in Music sub-menu)
  • Added: Coverflow and Wall Stream view to Programs screen
  • Added: Coverflow and Wall Stream view to Pictures screen
  • Added: Alternative font sets (Alt Default, Alt Bigger and Alt Massive) which use the old default font
  • Added: Fade on the left hand side of the RSS area (to mirror the fade that was already on the right)
  • Added: Display of the skin version no. (and SVN revision) to the System Info screen
  • Fixed: Missing background in Settings screens
  • Fixed: Alignment and position of larger clock
  • Fixed: Vertical alignment of text in Media Count
  • Fixed: Height of buttons on Weather screen
  • Fixed: Lining up of reflections in Coverflow for 4x3
  • Fixed: Media Count label for 4x3
  • Updated: Colour of text in the RSS feed (to make it easier to read)
  • Updated: Version of included XBMC Lyrics script
  • Updated: Removed the blue AM/PM from the clock (until we can sort out the alignment issues that happen with single digit hours)
  • Updated: File Path in video info dialogs now auto scrolls
  • Updated: Video OSD layout so thumb is shown on right if plot is hidden
  • Updated: Font to work better with foreign chars (thanks to haken)
  • Updated: Path for lyrics script so it should work better on all platforms
  • Updated: Tidied up positioning of star rating image in video info dialogs, TV Wide view and Episodes view
  • Updated: Darker fade behind Yes/No dialog to make it easier to read text in dialog
  • Updated: Skinned the XBMC Lyrics UI to be more MediaStream-like
  • Updated: Overlay for Media screens (default theme) to be slightly more transparent

We really need your feedback so please post if you have any comments, suggestions or feedback and we'll aim to deal with them as soon as we can.

PLEASE NOTE: The skin is being developed based on the latest version of XBMC (T3CH release for Xbox and update to date builds for other platforms) so please make sure you have the latest version before posting about any problems


Sunday, November 2, 2008

Double the viewers, double the TV

Here's a classic dilemma: You are home for the evening. You wish to watch, say, a comedy, on TV, but your family member would rather watch something else.

Texas Instruments, the maker of the DLP Cinema chip, is developing technology that might reduce the common problem by allowing two people to simultaneously view two different programs -- on the same TV.

The company outlined some of its early developments that use 3-D technology for home entertainment, on Thursday at the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers Technical Conference and Exhibition in Hollywood.

One development, which TI expects to begin to preview at year's end, is processing technology that if incorporated in a third-party home entertainment system could allow for 2-D, 3-D or "dual view mode" on the same TV. Dual view mode, similar to 3-D, combines two images, but they are two different images.

TI's Tim Simerly said that each viewer would wear different glasses -- one exposing only program "A," and one allowing the viewing of only program "B."

Simerly added that at least one of the viewers would need to wear headsets in order to get the correct audio.


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