The Gadgets Page

September 15, 2015

Tropes Vs. Women in Video Games

Filed under: Software,Toys and Games — Laura Moncur @ 9:02 am

Anita Sarkeesian has created a brilliant analysis of the boring tropes that video games have been using ever since the beginning of gaming. Her YouTube channel, Feminist Frequency, has all the videos, but here is a playlist of the entire series:

After watching these videos, I suddenly felt a huge relief. THIS is why I don’t like so many games. I don’t really want to save the damsel in distress. I don’t want to earn rewards that take the clothes off the women in the video game. I always felt as if I was not the target audience of the video game industry and now I know why. They have LITERALLY written games that only appeal to less than half the population. LESS THAN HALF.

That is so sad and fiscally idiotic. Women want to go on adventures, too. We don’t want to save our husbands or boyfriends. We want to bring them and our friends along with us. Write games for EVERYONE and you will sell more. I can’t stress how important this is. A good game that lets EVERYONE play will make millions of dollars. It will sell game consoles. I wish I could reach into the minds of every game designer out there and make them understand that if they STOP writing games for straight males and START writing games for EVERYONE, then they will make so much more money.

Plus, I could really use a fun and interesting game right now. I’m getting a little sick of all the Bejeweled rip offs.

September 5, 2015

What the Apple Watch Could Learn From a Digital Watch

Filed under: Watches — Michael Moncur @ 10:08 pm

When Apple introduced the Apple Watch it presented it as the heir to the tradition of classic luxury mechanical watches. It has a Digital Crown. It has Complications. It’s relatively expensive, depending on which version you buy, and you can spend $400 or more on a band for it.

But one thing Apple never mentions is that the history of watches also includes the digital watches that first appeared in the 70s and gained real traction in the 80s with LCD displays. I grew up during this time and between ages 5 and 30 I owned only one analog watch (Mickey Mouse, of course) but about 30 digital ones, ranging from simple time displays to calculators and world time displays and even a Casio Databank that could store my contacts and phone numbers.

I love my Apple Watch and after owning it for a while I rely on it daily, but there are a few things I miss from those classic digital watches. Here are some ideas, some of which I’m hopeful will appear in future versions of the Apple Watch, others merely dreams…

Buttons That Change Displays

The very first LCD watches had a large display with only four digits and a punctuation mark. They usually displayed the time, but you could press a button and temporarily switch to the date, or even in some cases a display of seconds.

Some of the Apple Watch display options are just as limited as those early watches: the Motion, X-Large, and Photo displays can only display the time, and a couple of others (Solar, Astronomy) add a date to that.

Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a button that could alternate that time display with a date, or the stopwatch, or your heart rate? I have just the button in mind–that little square one below the crown that pulls up a list of contacts that I never use. If that button could change displays I could use some of those nice photo display options–instead, I stick with Modular because I want lots of information.

Buttons That Change Modes

Here’s another idea for that button on the side of the watch. On the more complicated digital watches that appeared later in the 80s, you could use a button to switch modes–for example stopwatch mode, countdown timer, or alarm settings. The Apple watch already has different modes–apps and glances. What if you could configure a list of your favorite glances or apps, and have the button cycle between them? I only use two or three apps regularly so this would work great for me.

I know Apple likes to avoid features like this-–buttons that change functions depending on which mode you are in, or depending on your settings–but on a watch with a limited number of buttons, it would make the watch’s many different apps and glances much easier to access.

More Buttons

I’m hopeful that Apple might add the features above–they could even avoid using the button, since currently swiping left and right on the display don’t do anything. But now let’s talk about some things that are less likely to happen–areas where my old Casio calculator watch will still have the advantage for a long time.

First, what if there were more buttons? I don’t need the full calculator, but the usual 4 buttons of an 80s digital watch would be great. Especially if I could configure them myself. I’d have a workout button and a heart rate button, and maybe a calculator button, and I wouldn’t need to use the on-screen menu at all.

Longer Battery Life

Continuing to dream the impossible… My digital watches had ridiculously long battery life. Forget charging every day, they could last for years. In fact, I usually bought a new watch before I replaced the battery. I realize that Bluetooth and the colored display make this one unlikely, but I’d love it if they could make a future model with a battery that at least lasted a few days. As it is, if I forget to charge the watch at night, I have to take it off for an hour to charge during the day.

Always-on Display

LED WatchOne final dream for a future Apple Watch. The one thing my digital watches of the 80s and the classic analog watches had in common is that the display was always visible. Due to the constraints of current technology, Apple has recreated one aspect of the earliest LED digital watches of the 1970s: the display isn’t turned on until you ask for it. This is why I don’t use any of the attractive watch faces, sticking with the information-filled Modular display instead–I can’t impress anyone with my watch face if all they see is a black square on my wrist.

Conclusion

I love the Apple Watch. To me it’s the natural successor not to the classic automatic watches, but to my late-80s calculator watch. It gives me lots of information and lets me do lots of things. I hope, either with software or hardware updates, it eventually reaches the point where the only thing I miss from those old digital watches is their sense of style.

August 31, 2015

Your Facebook Status Sounds Stupid When You Read It Out Loud

Filed under: Social Media — Laura Moncur @ 9:04 am

One of the more annoying thing about social media are the posts like these ones:

This video reminds me of a Studio C video: Facebook Friends Song

I find when these videos hit a nerve for me, that the problem is ME. I’m spending too much time reading Facebook or Twitter. I’m spending too much time looking at pins on Pinterest. It’s not my friends’ fault that I am bothered by their posts, it’s MY fault for reading too much. Oh yeah, and I’m jealous, too.

Finding things for myself to do that are post-worthy helps both of those problems. When I do things that are worthwhile, I feel less jealous of my friends who are doing awesome things. I also have less time to get sick of the annoying posts because I’m not on social media as much. When you start feeling like this about your friends on Facebook, take a break and do something awesome instead. It sure has helped me.

Via: Facebook Status in Real Life | POPSUGAR Tech

August 25, 2015

Swatch CEO Is Baffled By The Apple Watch

Filed under: Wearable Tech — Laura Moncur @ 2:55 pm

Swatch CEO Nick Hayek is baffled by the Apple Watch from The Gadgets PageQuote in this article, «Die Alleskönner fressen zu viel Strom» – Wirtschaft – tagesanzeiger.ch, Nick Hayek, the CEO of Swatch is baffled by the Apple Watch. I had to rely on this article for the translation:

It’s quite obvious that he doesn’t quite understand what the Apple Watch does and doesn’t do and overestimates the “burden” of charging one every day.

The Apple watch is an interesting toy, but not a revolution. These devices, which all eat so much power that they last no longer than 24 hours without needing to be plugged in. In addition, the user immediately loses control of their data. I personally don’t want my blood pressure and blood sugar values stored in the cloud, or on servers in Silicon Valley.

The Apple Watch doesn’t track blood pressure or blood sugar on its own. He seems to be confused. He also said that he wouldn’t create a fitness watch.

As a watch producer, I cannot accept the responsibility of whether my device warns a customer in time before a heart attack.

It amazes me that this man thinks he has the ability to talk about a product he obviously knows nothing about. If we want to be honest, let’s about we talk about the latest Swatch collection. Let’s talk about how “useful” their watches might be.

Swatch Miami Peach Flamingos from The Gadgets PageThere is a Swatch that’s black that tells you the time. There’s one that’s blue that tells you the time. There’s one that is red, green and yellow. Wait! Here’s one that’s a little more useful: it’s pink with flamingos and it tells the time. The most complications you will get are date, day of the week, and stopwatch. If you want to talk about an “interesting toy,” all of Swatch’s watches have been demoted to that status, merely because all they do is tell time. When I have SO much connectivity on my wrist, the fact that I have to charge the watch on my nightstand is insignificant.

The thing that bothers me is that Swatch had a head start. They had a head start on easily changeable bands. They had a head start on watches for fashion instead of lifelong timepieces. They even had a head start on the smartwatch category. Instead of advancing and making their products better, they stagnated and abandoned every good idea.

All of this, coming from a HUGE Swatch fan. I have an immense collection of Swatches:

Swatch Touch Zero from The Gadgets PageI have been a fan for almost thirty years and I feel betrayed by them. I WANTED a smart watch from Swatch, but what they gave me is laughable, even if the battery lasts six months.

When I saw that monstrosity, I wanted to swat Nick Hayek on the nose like a dog who has just piddled on the floor. I have been faithful to this company for thirty years and THIS is what they give me?!

It all reminds me of when Steve Ballmer said that Apple had no chance in the smartphone market. Nick Hayek is someone who should know better. He is someone who should have teamed up with Apple TEN years ago. Instead, he is an outsider in his own industry that is changing so quickly that he honestly can’t keep up with it.

August 17, 2015

Coverage? App – So Helpful

Filed under: PDAs and Phones,Software — Laura Moncur @ 9:27 am

My contract is almost up. I have been unhappy with AT&T ever since I was forced to change over to them to get that very first iPhone so long ago. I used to use Sprint and I loved them, so it was hard to accept that changeover. It’s time to make another change and I had no idea which company to go with.

Fortunately, the Coverage? app really helped me decide. Here is a quick video describing how the Coverage? app works.

I have been using Coverage? for years in order to tell whether I would be able to use my phone when I travel, but today I used it to decide what company I should go with.

The MOST important coverage is how it works where I LIVE, so I looked at the map for each of them:

St. George Coverage Maps from The Gadgets Page

Sure, there were a few dead spots in the Sprint and T-Mobile coverage, but Sprint offers virtually unlimited data, so that seemed like a really good option for me. It did until I decided to check some of my favorite vacationing spots, like Quartzsite. That map told a VERY different story.

Quartzsite Coverage Map from The Gadgets Page

Sprint and T-Mobile were useless in Quartzsite, so our annual trek with the camper would have me go completely dark every year. That wasn’t good. Then, I tried the holy grail of phone coverage: Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada. For years, we have wanted to camp there, but have avoided it because we had no phone coverage. When I checked the map today, I was shocked to see that Verizon had the entire park covered! AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile are no where to be found in Valley of Fire State park.

Valley of Fire Coverage Mapfrom The Gadgets Page

It’s amazing how quickly all my opinions can change just based on a few snapshots. I hadn’t even considered Verizon when I was thinking of switching, but now it is the only one I’m interested in. Coverage? has helped me numerous times when we have planned our camping trips. It’s why I reviewed it on Starling Travel instead of here:

This is the first time I’ve used the app to help me decide which company to choose. I am additionally grateful for Coverage? for helping me all these years.

August 10, 2015

The Pendulum Collection for Apple Watch

Filed under: Wearable Tech — Laura Moncur @ 9:08 am

I have always worn a watch since I was about six years old, but for those who want the functionality of the Apple Watch without wearing it on their wrist, these Kickstarters are looking to make your Apple Watch a necklace or pocket watch.

Here is a video of it in action.

I think they are beautifully designed.

The Pendulum Collection for Apple Watch from The Gadgets Page

The pocket watch design looks good, too.

The Pendulum Collection for Apple Watch from The Gadgets Page

Because the band on the Apple Watch is so easily changed, it makes this an accessory you could use for special events when you want to look more elegant.

The Pendulum Collection for Apple Watch from The Gadgets Page

These start at $100 for the first few investors and the prices go up from there. Personally, I LOVE the look of the Apple Watch, so I have no desire to hide it. Additionally, I have become so dependent upon the silent alarms tapping on my wrist that I would be fearful of not feeling the alarm if I wore it as a necklace.

If you are looking to make your Apple Watch prettier, however, this looks like an interesting option.

Via: Apple Watch Necklace | POPSUGAR Tech

August 6, 2015

Epson EcoTank – FINALLY A Printer That Makes Sense!!

Filed under: Computers and Peripherals — Laura Moncur @ 8:10 am

Epson has finally created a printer that makes sense!

Epson Ecotank All In One Printer from The Gadgets Page

It’s a printer that you can just refill the ink by putting in ink, not buying an expensive and plastic loaded cartridge! At $399, the printer is more expensive than a similar printer that wants to charge you tons of money for cartridges. Honestly, I would rather pay $400 for a printer that prints for a year without needing refills. I’d rather pay $400 for a printer where I can visually SEE whether it’s low on ink or not.

Here is a commercial showing how it works:

All of my biggest complaints about printers was just erased with one idea! Thank you, Epson!!

Via: Epson’s new printers ease refill woes with ink tanks

August 4, 2015

Review: AKG Q701 Quincy Jones Signature Reference-Class Premium Headphones

Filed under: Audio and Video — Michael Moncur @ 3:33 am

AKG’s Q701 headphones, endorsed by Quincy Jones, are a slightly modified version of the K701 headphones they have been making for years. Fortunately for those of us who aren’t used to paying $300-400 for a pair of headphones, they have recently come down in price. Mine cost $169 from Amazon, compared to the $450 you can still pay for the K701 at some music retailers. In this review I’ll explain why you might want to pay this much for headphones, and see how they measure up to the price.

First Impressions

The first thing you notice about the Q701 headphones is their retro look. They have very large earpieces connected by a plastic frame and a headband that moves up and down with elastics. This allows them to automatically adjust to fit your head. Despite being made in China they feel very solid and high-quality.

While these are nearly identical to the K701 headphones in appearance, the distinctive Quincy Jones features include green stitching on the faux-leather headband, Quincy’s signature on top of the headband, and a green audio cable that is detachable using a mini-XLR connector. In fact, two green cables are included. One is long, about 10 feet, and the other is ridiculously long, about 20 feet.

The Q701 headphones are available in three colors. I got the understated black version. There is also a black-and-white version, and one in a unique bright green that matches the audio cables.

Audio Performance

First of all, let’s get this out of the way: If you’re used to cheap headphones, or even expensive consumer headphones like Beats, these will be a surprise, and possibly a disappointment. This is because these are studio headphones, and they have a flat frequency response–this means that, as much as possible, they play low sounds and high sounds at equal volume. Depending on what kind of music you listen to, this may not be flattering–Beats headphones, for example, make most Rock and Hip-Hop music sound better by exaggerating the bass.

These, on the other hand, are meant for use in recording studios. If you listen to them while making music, they will give you an honest picture of what it sounds like–exactly what you need. If you can make music sound good on these, chances are it will sound great on other headphones, stereos, or car systems.

Another thing that makes these different is their open design. There are holes on the outside of the earpieces, allowing the sound of the headphones to escape into the room and the sounds in the room to reach your ears. This makes them sound more like listening to speakers–the music sounds like it is playing in the room, not playing in your head as with closed headphones.

Along with musicians and engineers, serious gamers should enjoy these headphones–because they’re so clear at all frequencies, they’ll make it very obvious if something is sneaking up behind your character. They would also be great for fans of less bass-heavy music genres, like Classical or Jazz. Personally I think techno and dance music sound great on them too.

Comfort and Ergonomics

As far as anyone has been able to determine, the Q701 headphones use the same audio components as their more expensive siblings, although they are made in China instead of Austria. Along with the audio quality, the construction of the headphones is very good. The plastic bands that connect the earpieces seem fragile at first, but they have survived being dropped a few times with no trouble.

Some people find the fit of these headphones annoying, and I can see why–while they don’t press against your ears like normal headphones, they do press against the top of your head. This is due to the elastic that adjusts the fit, and I’m sure it will press less after being used for a while. But if you are bald or have a sensitive scalp, you might find them uncomfortable at first. The good news for me is that they do fit–I have an unusually large head, so most hats and many headphones don’t fit very well.

The one thing I don’t like is the 10-foot-long green audio cable. While it works fine, I find a long straight cable is always getting under things. I’ve rolled over it with my desk chair several times. Fortunately, the cable is detachable and AKG sells a nice black, coiled cable for $39 that should solve this problem.

Conclusion

If you’re looking for a good quality pair of open-backed headphones for a studio, or if you’re a fan of Classical music or Jazz, or if you spend lots of time playing games on headphones, these are a great choice, and they’re far better than others in their price range. While you can get decent headphones for a much lower price, the Q701s are well worth the extra money.

August 3, 2015

hitchBOT: A Hitch-hiking Robot Who Died Before I Ever Heard About It

Filed under: Robots — Laura Moncur @ 11:47 am

I love robots, so the idea of a hitch-hiking robot that makes it way across the continent, sharing its photos and location sounds amazing to me. That’s what hitchBOT was:

hitchBOT Farewell

It got all the way across Canada with no mishaps, but in Philedelphia, it came to a brutal end. It was found by AndreaWBZ:

hitchBOT Vandalism

Here is the message from hitchBOT and his team at Ryerson University:

Oh dear, my body was damaged, but I live on back home and with all my friends. I guess sometimes bad things happen to good robots! My trip must come to an end for now, but my love for humans will never fade. Thank you to all my friends.

A message from the family:

hitchBOT’s trip came to an end last night in Philadelphia after having spent a little over two weeks hitchhiking and visiting sites in Boston, Salem, Gloucester, Marblehead, and New York City. Unfortunately, hitchBOT was vandalized overnight in Philadelphia; sometimes bad things happen to good robots. We know that many of hitchBOT’s fans will be disappointed, but we want them to be assured that this great experiment is not over.

I can’t wait to see what they come up with next!!

July 29, 2015

The BASICS Notebook Kickstarter: Back To Paper?!

Filed under: Misc. Gadgets — Laura Moncur @ 8:00 am

The BASICS Notebook from The Gadgets PageI saw this Kickstarter and it really appealed to me. It’s a paper planner.

About three years ago, I went back to paper for my to-do lists. I still have my scheduler in my iPhone because that works much better than paper because it can sound an alarm to remind me. To-do lists, however, are woefully inadequate on the iPhone. I have yet to find a to-do list program that worked as good as Ecco Pro for the Palm did for me in the Nineties.

The BASICS notebook looks good, but it’s not what I need. It’s an undated date book with not enough room for to-do lists and journaling. For years now, I’ve been printing up my own journal pages on paper using Excel. That is what the loss of Ecco Pro did to me. It sent me back to paper; both for journaling and to-do lists.

I have recurring to-do items that I do every day to keep myself from going insane. While those things might work for me, they might not work for you, but unlike the BASICS people, I’m willing to share mine with you for free.

These pages print up on normal 8 1/2″ X 11″ paper. You set the date on the first day of the “Front” and the rest of the days will update for the month. Then you print the Front, put it into your printer and print the Back. Cut them in half and you have a month’s worth of journal and to-do lists. Change them however you want they are yours to play with.

Journal and To-Do Pages to Download from The Gadgets Page

You can make them pretty like I did by adding a picture and reducing the opacity to about 35%. You can trim the edges and use a six-hole punch and they will fit in that old Franklin Planner from the Nineties. Go back to paper? Yes. Until they create a to-do list for the iPhone that actually WORKS, I am stuck with paper.

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