The Sims 2: Teen Style Stuff

For the first time, Electronic Arts has brought The Sims players a stuff pack with the exclusive intent of giving their teen Sims everything they need to express their unique style! The Sims 2: Teen Style Stuff, now on store shelves, lets your teen Sims define their own space while showing some attitude with all-new, unique furniture, dťcor items, fashions and more! Whether your teen Sims identify as “Goth,” “Thrasher” or “Socialite,” there are plenty of new ways for them for them to express their true selves by the way they dress or the way they decorate their rooms inside The Sims 2: Teen Style Stuff!

The Sims 2: Teen Style Stuff, players can give their teen Sims a new stereo, TV, and other gadgets to keep them up to date and in touch with their friends. Make sure your Sims are always sporting the latest teen fashions including track suits, designer jeans, and yoga outfits. Let your young Sims express themselves in ways only teenagers can! In addition, The Sims 2: Teen Style Stuff is the first stuff pack to feature a The Sims contest winner! A fan with the username Nessabop was the grand prize winner of The Sims 2 Seasons Simlish Karaoke Contest, which pitted fans of The Sims 2 and The Sims On Stage against each other in an online karaoke contest. The challenge was to sing the song ‘Smile’, originally recorded by Capitol Records artist Lily Allen. The top two finalists were chosen by Lily Allen herself. The grand prize winner was given the opportunity to record The Sims 2 song ‘Chocolate’ at EA Headquarters! Nessabop’s version of ‘Chocolate’ is featured in The Sims 2: Teen Style Stuff and is available for download at TheSims2.com!

Key Features

Dress to Express: Give your teen Sims new outfits that truly express their personalities, from activewear for the skateboarding, surfing “thrasher” to the latest trends for the “socialite” or some more unique wear for the “goth” of the family!

Private Spaces or Party Spaces: All teens want their own room that is a place where they can be happy when they want to get away from it all, or a place where all of their friends can hang out. From elite furniture like a “Fit for Royalty” bed to the more laid-back look of a cool “Fluffy Rocker” to a “Tall and Terrible” armoire for a darker dominion, there’s something here to make everyone feel right at home.

Tech-Savvy Teens: Teens today spend their time playing with technology, and your teen Sims should be no different, so here you can find computers, music players, and all types of gadgets and electronics for your Sims to stay as current as you do!

Requires The Sims 2, The Sims 2 Special DVD Edition, The Sims 2 Holiday Edition, or The Sims 2 Deluxe for PC to play.

Review of Untitled Jersey City Project Episode 1

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Untitled Jersey City Project. All opinions are 100% mine.

A new experiment in television drama is underway, and this one is far more open than most. The Untitled Jersey City Project is a work in-progress television drama set in the developing Jersey City waterfront, just across the river from Manhattan. Still unnamed, this project has all the key components needed to catch the attention of the audience and leave them wanting more.

Major construction projects are underway which promise to turn the small, gritty town into something far more vibrant and exciting. Unfortunately, this wave of new opportunity comes at a cost. Jersey City has more than a few secrets lurking in its gritty underbelly.

The Untitled Jersey City Project follows architect Frank George as he uncovers the truth behind some of the new city’s biggest projects. He’s landed a career-making assignment at the heart of this new city, but it appears that while the scenery may change, the rules remain the same.

UNT_091311_Title_bmb_v01.ai (1 page)

Episodes of the project are brief, each lasting only a few minutes and focusing on one or two primary scenes. As the story unfolds, the viewer is given more and more detail about the plot through shifts forward and backward through time.

In the first episode, Frank’s long-time partner Ray Rahne gives him a cryptic and disturbing call that ends in two loud bangs. He immediately races across town to the construction site only to find his partner laying in a pool of blood. Before long, he finds himself caught in a crossfire between three different parties.

The concept of the Untitled Jersey City Project is pretty sound. It has all the makings of a prime-time mystery drama with all the mystery and suspense of a more refined and complete television series.

The Untitled Jersey City Project is fast-paced. Acting isn’t rushed, but a lot of the fluff viewers may have become accustomed to with longer format television is absent here. Characters develop through action rather than words. You won’t see any long conversations here, only glimpses and scenes that pertain to the actual plot. Still, attempting to guess the character’s motivations behind their relationship with Frank makes for an interesting side to the overall story. Is Jane simply interested in uncovering a story that could land her the job of her dreams, or are her interests in Frank more personal?

Because this untitled project is a work in-progress, the creators have turned to the web for suggestions. What would you title the project? What do you like (or dislike) about what you see so far? How would you improve upon the Untitled Jersey City Project? Comments welcome.

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Wondershare is Celebrating the iPhone 4S Launch with Big Discounts

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Wondershare. All opinions are 100% mine.

Are you excited about the iPhone 4S? The folks at Wondershare are, too. They’re offering special discounts on several of their best-selling software titles to celebrate.

From October 14th through October 31st, iPhone 4S customers can pick up Video Converter Ultimate, iTunBack, and Streaming Audio Recorder for $10 less through the Wondershare Online Store. Here’s how these products break down:

Video Converter Ultimate — An all-in-one video conversion utility that converts videos from virtually any widely used format to a format and size that is optimized for the iPhone. You can rip DVDs, capture Web videos from popular video sharing sites like YouTube, create custom ringtones, and even edit video. This application is available for both Windows and Mac OS X.

Wondershare is Celebrating the iPhone 4S Launch with Big DiscountsiTunBack — This program gives you the ability to copy files from your iPod, iPhone, or iPad to iTunes with a single click. This is useful for content that was not purchased through the iTunes store, giving you the ability to put your eBooks, music, movies, television shows, and other data into iTunes with a single click. You can even compare your device’s contents to that which already exists in your library, giving you the opportunity to retrieve missing tracks or files. iTunBack is currently available for Windows.

Streaming Audio Recorder — Sure, you enjoy listening to online radio, but what if you don’t want to waste your limited monthly bandwidth listening on the go? With Streaming Audio Recorder, you can record virtually any online radio station and listen to the music at your convenience, locally. Napster, Pandora, YouTube, and other streaming audio streams can be recorded with a single click and converted into M4A and MP3 formats for easy listening later on. Streaming Audio Recorder is currently available for Windows.

At $10 off, these already low-priced programs are a real bargain. Not only are these applications useful, but they’re incredibly easy to use. Even the least technologically advanced among us should have no trouble using Wondershare software. It’s designed from the ground up to be simple, and that’s one reason Wondershare is one of the biggest names in the industry today.

All right, so how do you take advantage of this offer? The good news is that you really don’t have to own an iPhone 4S to save money. All you need to do is enter the coupon code IP5-45K2D469SB at checkout after purchasing one of the three mentioned products from the Wondershare online store.

Can You Use an SDXC Card as a Secondary Hard Drive?

One of the big downsides everyone loves to remind me about with solid-state drives is a lack of capacity when compared to traditional spindle drives. Unfortunately, a laptop is limited on internal space, making a secondary drive a bit of an inconvenience when it comes to being on the go. So, I decided to seek out a storage solution that is both fast and easy to carry with me as I travel.

Thankfully, I found a 133x 128 GB SDXC card from Lexar. This class 10 SDXC card is extremely fast, and with 128 GB of storage, is more than capable of expanding the storage capacity available to me through my primary solid-state drive in the MacBook.

Can You Use an SDXC Card as a Secondary Hard Drive?The Lexar Professional series SDXC card should work on mostly all modern SD card readers (as long as they support the SDXC standard) and most laptop computers have these readers built-in. Essentially, this tiny little flash card can significantly expand your storage capacity and in some cases even improve performance. This is a great solution for people who frequently work with large video files that need to be transferred quickly between machines. With a minimum guaranteed speed of 20 MB/s, reading and writing to the Lexar 133x SDXC card should be on par with what you would expect on any standard hard drive.

Another advantage to going with the SD format for extra storage is its ability to quickly move between devices. If you’re shooting HD video on an SDXC compatible camcorder, inserting this card is a quick way to start capturing very long spans of HD video on the fly. When shooting is done, simply take the card out of the camcorder and place it back into your laptop or card reader and you can transfer the files at blazingly fast speed right away.

As far as performance is concerned, there’s no reason why you should have to rely on spindle drives to increase the data capacity of your devices. Yes, you can find external drives that have more capacity, but they won’t give you the mobility and speed of a solid-state solution.

What is the highest capacity SD card you own, and would you recommend it?

Monster MP HDP 850G Power HD Green Power Center Review

Recently, I made a video about a disappointing experience with Best Buy. When the folks at Best Buy’s customer service department caught on to what had happened, they made it right by passing along a gift card and resolving the issue in their system. As a result, I’ve decided to give them another chance and went back to the store where I found this power strip: a Monster MP HDP 850G Power HD Green Power Center.

As far as power strips go, this is certainly one of the better ones. There is plenty of spacing between outlets, allowing you to plug your wall warts into it without losing outlets due to overcrowding. The Green Power Center has a green setting, which you can toggle, that automatically powers down everything down the line once a key outlet is powered down. This means, for example, that you can power down your speakers, printer, scanner, monitor, and more by powering down your computer.

Monster MP HDP 850G Power HD Green Power Center ReviewOne handy feature of this power strip is especially useful when used in conjunction with a media center. Each outlet is color coded and pre-labeled with common devices used in home theaters, making it easier to identify and disconnect exactly what you want to disconnect without playing the memory game and accidentally unplugging your DVR while it’s recording The Big Bang Theory.

For audio lovers, the HD Clean Power feature includes stage 1 filtering, which rejects noise and interference. As I have not used the power strip for this purpose, I can’t vouch for or against this as a useful feature, though it would certainly make it more appealing to audiophiles who require a clean sound free of typical pops, hisses, and cracks associated with power. In addition, the 850G provides an extra level of surge protection by disconnecting at the first sign of danger and sounding an audible alarm to alert you to any problems that may exist with the connection and/or strip. This feature is similar to that found on some UPS systems, and is a welcome bonus on an otherwise simple surge protector / power strip.

The one big downside of this device is the price. Retailing for roughly US$100, this is a heavy price to pay for any non-UPS power device. Monster isn’t known for having the best prices on its equipment, so this shouldn’t come as too big of a surprise. Still, you can find it at more reasonable prices through several online retailers.

Over all, the Monster MP HDP 850G Power HD Green Power Center is a solid solution for anyone who has a lot of power bricks to deal with and doesn’t want to have to sacrifice surge protection for outlet space. This power strip has plenty of features that make it a useful option for providing clean and safe power to your various devices.

You can pick a Monster MP HDP 850G Power HD Green Power Center up for yourself by following the link.

Dell Latitude E: Your Next Business Laptop? Get One at Our Webinar!

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Dell. All opinions are 100% mine.

Mark your calendars: on September 13, 2011, I’ll be hosting a webcast and you can tune in for a chance to win one of three Dell Latitude E-Family laptop computers.

These computers are incredibly light, sturdy, and fast. For a business laptop, it has virtually every situation you could encounter on the road covered. Durability isn’t an issue with its tri-metal casing, capable of withstanding its fair share of bumps and knocks. Its rugged hardware is made to handle the hazards of being on the go including a spill-resistant keyboard, 360-degree bumper around the screen, and more.

In addition to being rugged, the Dell Latitude E is powerful. Including the latest Intel Core processors, up to 8 GB of RAM, Intel HD Graphics 3000, gigabit ethernet and wireless N, and a wide range of other configurable features, the Latitude E-Family is made to last both physically and technically, breaking through the notion that business laptops are too often underpowered and overpriced.

Dell Latitude E: Your Next Business Laptop? Get One at Our Webinar!Speaking of price, you can configure your Dell Latitude E-Family laptop to meet your technical and budget requirements. Virtually every component of these laptops can be adjusted so you can concentrate on building the right laptop for you. This is one of the reasons I’ve been a fan of Dell products for so many years. Instead of sticking you with its pre-configured selections that have too much of what you don’t need and too little of what you do, Dell believes in giving customers choice.

Over all, the Dell Latitude E-Family is an excellent business laptop because of its speed options, lightweight construction, tri-metal protective casing, spill-resistant keyboard, protective bumper, and various other features that vastly improve on previous computers in its class. This isn’t a workhorse intended to stay stabled at your desk. It’s designed to travel with you and endure all bumps that come with doing business on the go.

So, what are you waiting for? Registration is open, and we hope to see you at the webcast taking place on Tuesday, September 13, 2011.

Targus Versavu Keyboard and Case for iPad 2 Review

It seems that just about every keyboard case for the iPad I’ve seen has suffered from one shortcoming or another. Whether it be clunky keys, ugly case design, short battery life, or any combination thereof, it’s hard to find a keyboard case for the iPad that really does the job well.

Enter the Targus Versavu Keyboard and Case for iPad 2. This case has quite a lot going for it where others tend to fall short. The keyboard is reminiscent of the Apple wireless keyboard in its action and overall look, though some of the keys have been mapped differently in order to keep to the smaller form factor without sacrificing key spacing. Because of this, typing is easier for standard characters with a learning curve required for some keys, like the question mark. However, this sacrifice appears to be justified in that the user experience would greatly diminish if the keys were crammed together any tighter.

The design of the case itself allows you to position the iPad in either portrait or landscape mode with a single motion. The case itself looks pretty good, minus the logo stamped into the finish on the corner of the case itself. While it makes sense to brand your products, this could have easily been placed on the inside of the case. The pivot point that allows you to rotate the iPad is also an opening in the case centered around the Apple logo on the back of the iPad.

Targus Versavu Keyboard and Case for iPad 2 ReviewThe keyboard itself sports an on/off switch with indication lights to let you know that the device is on and whether or not the battery is in need of charging. A scratch-resistant frame around the keyboard keeps the screen safe from any sudden or damaging contact with the keys. The keyboard also has a mini-USB port for charging that can be accessed from inside the case.

An accommodation for a stylus has been built in to the case as well along the inside of the case.

Over all, the Targus Versavu Keyboard and Case for iPad 2 is a solid solution for iPad users on the go in need of both the extra protection only a full case can offer and a capable Bluetooth keyboard.

How Do You Know You’re Getting the Best Deal on Electronics?

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Decide.com. All opinions are 100% mine.

It’s happened to all of us at one point or another. We’ve gone to the local store and found what we believed was the best deal on that TV or gadget we’ve been looking at for some time. You’ve probably saved your pennies for quite a while to get your hands on that piece of electronic glory, only to find out that the price dropped just weeks (or even days) after you made your purchase. If you had only known that the price would fall, you could have held off long enough to save enough for the matching accessories.

Enter Decide.com, a Web site that has been set up specifically to help you find electronics at the best price, and help you decide when the best time to make the purchase will be. Is that HDTV you’ve been looking at due for a price drop, or is now the best time to jump on the deal? Decide.com gives you an extremely easy way to look up your laptop, camera, or HDTV of choice and find out when the best time is to head to the store.

Using Decide.com is pretty simple and intuitive. On the front page, you can either search for a specific brand or model using the search bar at the top, or click on the image of the TV, camera, or laptop to browse various products it’s currently tracking. Once you’ve found the item you’re looking for, a variety of different information about it appears to the right. This information includes a chart that tracks the average price, the current best price and a link to where to make the purchase, an estimate on when the price is expected to drop, a history of the product including the current best price on the previous model and the latest model (if applicable), and a button that enables you to receive an alert when the price of a product drops and it becomes a great deal.

Decide.com has a mobile site that works extremely well on smartphones such as the iPhone. This means you can check the site while you’re in the store and see if it’s really giving you the best price, or if you should come back in a few weeks for a better deal.

Price tracking sites are all over the place, and can be incredibly useful on their own. Decide.com has taken this approach to a whole new level by adding an analysis that lets you know whether or not now is the best time to buy a specific product. While it is expected to expand beyond its current categories to include a wider variety of gadgets and gizmos, it is certainly worth checking out the next time you’re in the market for a television, camera, or laptop. After all, why would anyone want to get burned by a price drop right after their purchase if they don’t have to?

Epson WorkForce 840 All-in-One Printer Review

Working from a home office doesn’t mean you should have to make do with lower-quality equipment. For many people working from home, the idea of having a printer that is capable of doing more than a single-sided sheet at a considerably slower speed than the giant office business centers is considered one of the sacrifices that have to be made for the sake of saving space in a home office. Perhaps you do work in an office, but one of these monster printers are out of the question due to budget constraints.

Enter the Epson WorkForce 840 All-in-One Printer. This little wonder can handle a lot of different tasks, and actually matches some of those larger central printers in terms of functionality. So, how does the Epson WorkForce 840 measure up?

The first thing I noticed about the Epson 840 was the interface. Setup and installation was a bit less than intuitive, and the command panel is reminiscent of older (less modern, to put it another way) printer controls. There were some more modern perks, including Wi-Fi (802.11N), USB port, media reader (viewable through the network as a shared drive), and an automatic document feeder.

The scanner produces great image quality, even for an all-in-one. Typically these scanners are given a bad rap for substandard quality compared to dedicated flatbed scanners. While there are certainly better options available, if you need a dedicated scanner, the 840 is good enough to fit most users’ needs. The included software allows you to capture the scans as an image or PDF (OCR included), making storage of various documents easier.

The WorkForce 840 is advertised as being the fastest all-in-one printer in the world. At between 9 and 15 ppm, this may well be the case. Laser printers (my usual preference) are pretty fast, but I was surprised at just how fast the WorkForce 840 actually is. In fact, double-sided prints come out at an equally impressive pace as well.

Paper capacity isn’t a problem with this Epson printer. At a combined 500 sheets (2×250-sheet trays), the 840’s capacity is beyond acceptable. This is more than enough to last me months, if not longer, between refills. For an active office that does frequent printing for presentations and meetings, this should certainly cut down on the time spent refilling the tray.

One of the biggest drawbacks I’ve found with inkjet printers has been with the ink. At more than its weight in gold, printer ink is extremely expensive, and laser printer toner just seems to last longer. Where this particular inkjet makes up for this issue is through its higher capacity cartridges, which don’t need to be exchanged as frequently. Also, the separate cartridges for each color allow you to replace only what you need, when you need it.

Aside from just being a capable inkjet printer, the Epson WorkForce 840 is an all-in-one device. It acts as a copier, scanner, and fax machine (who uses those anymore?). The 840 includes Wi-Fi capability, allowing it to link in a more direct manner to all of your PCs and network devices, including even the iPhone. This is a big difference from more traditional printers that either require a physical connection to a single computer, which shares to the network, or to a capable network router.

Over all, this is a fast, efficient all-in-one printer with plenty of great features. While I wasn’t too thrilled about the user interface on the machine itself, the long list of things this model does well certainly makes it worth serious consideration. The Epson WorkForce 840 is a solid solution for home offices and small business offices alike. With the quick-drying ink and fast print times, it shouldn’t have any problem keeping up with any small or medium-sized tasks you throw at it.

You can pick up an Epson WorkForce 840 All-in-One Printer for yourself here.

Why is Competition So Important in Technology?

Late last night, I decided to give YouTube Live a try, and host a live broadcast out of my home office to be recorded directly to YouTube. In the past, I’ve had to rely on pre-recorded videos that took a considerable amount of time to upload and set up to deliver content to the YouTube audience. With YouTube Live, this experience happens in real-time. One of the main topics that came up during this series of questions and answers was the importance of competition in the business market. Innovation in technology is driven by active competition, and without, services like YouTube Live probably wouldn’t exist. Competition is a fundamental inspiration to strive to build something better, and create something not only evolutionary, but revolutionary.

The modern smartphone would likely still be in a state of kludgy interfaces, lackluster hardware, and closed development platforms if it wasn’t for the introduction of serious competition by a handful of manufacturers that decided it’s time to make something better. When the iPhone came out, it appeared as though every major phone maker immediately put together something that looked and worked more like the iPhone. Over time, operating systems were developed that challenged iOS with features unique onto themselves. Voice commands, a better notification system, and a more open development platform gave Android a unique appeal to a large market. Apple’s response is clear in iOS 5, as it is beginning to integrate its own version of the finer points of their competition. It’s this sense of competitiveness that makes companies strive to do better.

Why is Competition So Important in Technology?A lack of competition is a terrible thing for consumers. It creates an environment of idleness and stale development. Corporations would love nothing more than to save the money they would normally have to spend on research and development while they sit back and enjoy their profits. Without competition, there is no real reason to spend the resources to improve your product.

One of the biggest and most¬†disappointing¬†trends in the world of technology today is patent bickering. This is terrible for the consumers, as the legal fees involved often translate to higher prices, and innovation based on existing technology comes to a standstill. While it’s important to be able to own something you’ve created, similar¬†derivatives¬†and innovations beyond that point only work to the consumer’s benefit. As a consumer, the discouragement of competition through often petty legal nonsense never serves my best interests.

Competition is healthy, and the closer the competition is, the more likely people will buy more of whatever it is. Do you think Android would exist in the capacity it does today if Apple hadn’t created the iPhone? Do you think half of the newspapers being subscribed to now would still be in business if they hadn’t embraced digital print mediums to some degree?

Halifax Holiday Matchmaker Helps You Find the Perfect Holiday Spot

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Halifax. All opinions are 100% mine.

Have you been looking for that perfect place to go on vacation, but can’t decide on one that’s right for you? Sure, you could roll the dice and spend a fortune going overseas to that place your grandparents thought was fun, or spend a week attempting to connect with a spot that just didn’t turn out to be what you were looking for. Wouldn’t you rather find out if you’re truly compatible with the place you’ve decided to visit? Would it help to see, in an instant, how much a few bucks will actually buy you there?

Enter Halifax Holiday Matchmaker. This Facebook app quickly scans your profile and matches you to the optimal holiday destination. The decision made by the matchmaker is based on your interests, hobbies, status updates, likes, and other information readily available on your Facebook page. After all, doesn’t your social profile say a lot about the kinds of things you like?

Here’s where the app really comes in handy. In addition to matching your interests to a destination (and giving you a percentage of compatibility with that location) the Holiday Matchmaker finds over a dozen alternative matches (if you don’t like the first one) and gives you an incredible amount of information about them, so you can be sure you’re making the right decision before you travel. This information is presented in a infographic format, which is easy to read and very intuitive.

The tips it provides include:

  • Fun activities in which you can take part.
  • The current weather.
  • What US $10.00 will actually get you in that area.
  • Suggested places to visit to eat, party, and explore.
  • Average prices for typical items needed during your visit.
  • A unique and interesting thing to do or a place to see while you’re there.

In addition to matching you to a destination, you can choose to combine your profile with a friend’s in order to come up with the perfect group destination. This means you can plan a romantic getaway, great escape with friends, or just bring folks along for the ride.

The Halifax Holiday Matchmaker set me as a 96% match to San Francisco, the home of Silicon Valley. To say that a geek like myself, with an extensive interest in technology, would be a good match to San Francisco is an understatement. The results I had were pretty spot on.

Halifax doesn’t just make useful Facebook apps. It also provides travel money at very reasonable rates. This means that you don’t have to spend countless hours waiting in line at an exchange office to pay someone to turn your dollars into a foreign currency of choice.

Over all, this app is both entertaining and useful. As hard as it can be to find the perfect vacation spot, the Halifax Holiday Matchmaker seems to do a surprisingly accurate job of finding one for you. With no annoying requests or constant updates, it’s certainly worth a try.

3M MP180 PocketProjector First Impressions

One of the best known brands in the world of technology is 3M. At the GDGT event in Seattle, Washington, it showed off an impressive new gadget that allows you to take your boardroom projector with you, in your pocket.

The 3M PocketProjector MP180 is a versatile gadget that allows you to store and project files including Microsoft Word, PDF, videos, photos, and even full-length movies wherever you are.

File Management and Storage

A micro SD slot allows you to expand on the included 4 GB of storage, and built-in Wi-Fi enables you to grab files off the network in cases where you might otherwise need to walk back to your desk.

The MP180 gives you the ability to tag various files and group them together so multiple presentations can be stored at the same time. Should the people you’re meeting with surprise you by asking about a project unrelated to your planned discussion, this feature could prove invaluable.

In addition, the MP180 is Web-capable. This allows you to browse the Web for content, should a discussion about a particular Web site, image, or other media come up in conversation that isn’t available on the local and network file system. The MP180 is also Bluetooth capable.

Tethering

Even though the MP180 acts as an independent unit, you are able to tether the projector to your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch and share what’s on your smaller screen with a room of people without everyone having to lean in behind you. Where traditional projectors are intended for use with a laptop or dedicated desktop, this one is intended to free you from the burden of having to bring either of these with you to the conference room. You could create your presentation on the iPhone or iPad on your way to the meeting and present it that way, if you needed to.

You can connect a laptop or desktop using a VGA cable (with adapter), so traditional functionality is still present, should you really need to use it that way.

Image Size and Quality

3M MP180 PocketProjector First ImpressionsAt 32 lumens, the MP180 isn’t the brightest projector on the market, but it is one of the (if not the) brightest portable projectors. The lamp itself is based on LED, so the life expectancy (and battery life) is longer than it would be using traditional projector light sources.

You won’t be giving presentations at conferences with it, but it can work rather well in meetings where a single laptop or iPad screen just won’t allow people to view the material comfortably. This also means that you won’t get a bright, clear image in a brightly lit space, so dimming the lights is recommended in boardroom or meeting situations.

It is also a short-throw device, allowing larger images to be created across shorter distances. This means that it should work fairly well in environments where space is limited. It should be able to project an 80-inch image at a distance of under three meters.

The native image resolution is 800×600 with a compressed max of 1280×800. While this means you won’t be displaying high-definition content on the device, this should be sufficient for a typical presentation’s needs, especially given the small environments for which this projector is designed. The MP180 isn’t intended to replace your primary projection equipment, but to allow you to give a presentation wherever you might end up. Not every meeting can take place in the comfort of a conference room.

If audio playback is a concern, the PocketProjector actually includes built-in speakers that aren’t exactly optimal for movie watching, but they are capable of being heard in the small environments for which this projector is intended. If necessary, you can plug in external speakers.

Over all, the MP180 shows a lot of promise, offering features and capabilities not presently available on other portable projector units. An on-board touchscreen allows for easy (albeit somewhat clunky) navigation and control. While it may not take the business world by storm right now, it could come in handy during those rushed presentations you find out about while traveling to an important meeting. It could also make for a very good conversation starter as you introduce your business to a potential client.

Is the Age of Invention Over?

People have been inventing things, both simple and complex, since the time when man lived in caves. These primitive men turned simple sticks and rocks into tools that made otherwise strenuous jobs easier. Over time, inventions became more complex, as did the needs of the people who used them. It’s been said that all the best inventions have already been invented, and everything we come up with today is simply an evolution of something that already existed. If this is true, is the age of invention over?

Is the Age of Invention Over?At the GDGT event in Seattle, Peter from Romotive approached us and told us that he had a gadget with him that we’d like to see. At first glance, it didn’t really look like much at all. What appeared to be a simple white dome attached to an phone with a rubber band turned out to be a robot controlled by music being played back from an iPhone. It is a simple concept, but one that could be parlayed into something more significant as development continues.

Put together by a couple of geeks that love robots, this ingenious little invention could very well serve as the beginning of a new platform for music and robotics lovers alike. More often than not, the best things start out as simple prototypes put together by inventors and geeks that stop to ask, “What if?”

While this simple robot may not be that revolutionary new invention that solves some terrible ongoing problem that has been plaguing mankind since the beginning of time, it does serve as an example of what an inventive mind can still accomplish. Creating something unique, and developing it to the point of serving a purpose (be it simple or complex) is at the heart of an inventive spirit that has paved the way for some of the most incredible discoveries in history.

How to Use Social Media for Businesses

Over the past several years, the power of social media has gone from being a tool leveraged by early adopters to attract early adopters to a widespread business phenomenon that has forced companies of all sizes to reconsider how they find talent, plan marketing initiatives, refocus research and development, and take part in more targeted advertising. While it remains uncertain at this point exactly where the cutoff point is on social media’s potential ROI, it is quickly becoming clear that this driving force of technology and community is not going anywhere anytime soon. Here are some ways that social media can help businesses thrive today:

Leads to More Collaborative Efforts

Social media, and various networks under the broad category, are incredibly powerful driving influences in collaborative efforts. By putting something out there and allowing others to comment, modify, and build on it, the potential for that thing to take off and grow on its own increases dramatically. For example, a simple video put out by your company may do a good job of getting the word out about something by itself, but giving your audience the opportunity to take it and modify it allows it to add its creativity and extend the potential reach of that single video. Remixes are extremely popular right now, and can turn a mediocre view count into a successful viral campaign by simply allowing people in your audience the ability to collaborate independently.

How to Use Social Media for BusinessesSocial environments also make it easier to connect with other companies and professionals that mesh well with your own. Collaborative efforts allow your communities to come together and grow with each other. No one likes to hear about a brand pushing others away and claiming every available business model for its own. Stories about collaboration and mutually beneficial deals are much more well received by potential customers.

Encourages Insourcing Instead of Outsourcing

Having to seek out talent outside of your current pool requires time, energy, and money. Opening up your business (or businesses) to social media allows your current staff more opportunity to get things done itself. This can even lead to the discovery of a perfect match for an otherwise difficult to fill position within your current staff. Chances are, everyone you work with has something unique to bring to the table. A more social environment allows them to demonstrate this ability.

Because social media is such a powerful technique for bringing your message to the customers and providing much-needed transparency in today’s corporate environment, allowing your staff the freedom to represent your company on social networks can fill several roles including: public relations, marketing, customer service, and word-of-mouth advertising.

More Departments Can Be Directly Connected with Clients

Connecting your staff with clients enables them to more efficiently handle problems as they come up. Especially in smaller companies, enabling your client to feel that they have a direct connection within the company beyond the traditional customer service number does a great deal more for customer satisfaction than a certain greeting or friendly voice on the VRU ever could.

You Reinforce Principles by Adhering to Emerging and Accepted Social Media Standards

The term “customer centricity” has been used in businesses (even ones that are slow to adopt modern practices) for years. The principal idea behind it is that everything your staff and business does should be done with the customer in mind. Bottom line, if the way you do business doesn’t center around the customer and their needs, you’re not going to last very long as a company. Saving a few pennies on a product or service means very little if I don’t like the company I’m working with.

Putting a more social face on your company is a great way to publicly acknowledge your commitment to serving the customer the way they need you to. Having their questions addressed and issues resolved on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and others gives them the opportunity to avoid unpleasantly inconvenient phone calls to customer service or trips to your physical location. In many ways, this is a win-win where you reduce the overhead required to keep up with a large influx of calls and your customer gets the satisfaction of not having to be inconvenienced even further when an issue arises.

Bottom line: if your company preaches its commitment to the customer, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be leveraging social media to make that happen.

Learn How Transparency Can Be a Catalyst for Loyalty, Morale

Given this chance, your staff will also most likely respond favorably to the empowerment that this provides. It binds the staff members’ personal (and professional) reputation to the company, which results in a vested interest in the well-being of the business. As an additional bonus, it allows them to grow their professional portfolio in a way that better reflects the needs of the future. If the thought of this empowerment worries you because it might tempt other companies to hire away your employees, just think of how much more likely they are to stick with you after you’ve entrusted them with what is sure to be a standard business practice in the next five years.

Attract New Hires, New Customers, Through Doing Nothing More Than ‘Being Yourself’

Because your activities and practices carried out through social media are inherently public, it makes it easier for new talent and potential clients to discover your brand, product, and service. People are always looking for a superior way to do something, or a better employer to work for. Through the actions of your staff and corporate pages, the public outlook of your company will be more appealing to a greater number of people. No one wants to work for or with a company that is behind the times, or not willing to try something new.

Taking these simple steps and committing to being more transparent, open, and directly connected with customers will have a lasting, positive impact on how they view you as a potential investment of their time and/or money. Social media, when leveraged correctly, can make all the difference in the world to how your business (or businesses) do in the competitive market of today, and beyond.

What’s Next in Home Networking?

Home networking used to be a matter of taking the phone jack out of one computer and sticking it in another. Over time, hubs and switches were made available to home consumers as prices dropped. This evolved into more elaborate router and home server setups and ultimately the wired and wireless hybrid networks found in many (if not most) homes today.

Home networking has certainly evolved. One of these evolutions is in how easy it is to configure the network through the use of tools built in to modern operating systems. In the past, having one system both see and send data to another system took some amount of time and know-how. Today, a simple wizard or guide can pretty much do everything from network discovery to multi-system file management with a few clicks.

What's Next in Home Networking?Having a network of two or three computers and even throwing the occasional LAN party at your home was all the rage at one point. Back then, gaming on the Internet often meant having to deal with heavy lag and countless connectivity problems. Today, Internet connections commonly include home routers that connect both wirelessly and through pre-installed connections wired through the walls. It’s more difficult to find a dedicated single-system modem than it would be to connect to a network.

The speed of networks has even improved considerably. What was once a connection that topped out at 10 Mbps (less than many Internet connections today) is now one-hundred times faster. Wireless connectivity has grown from being a rarity available at prices only companies and the wealthy could afford to an expected addition to any budget router. The speed and reliability of this connection has, as with its wired counterpart, grown considerably as well.

So, what’s next in home networking? The proliferation of portable devices such as tablet computers and smartphones have increased the need for reliable and fast wireless connections at the home. Stricter bandwidth caps on mobile plans are requiring users to seek out wireless connectivity whenever possible, only cementing the importance of these kinds of networks in the home. Wireless extenders will no doubt become the norm as the importance of having a clear connection from any point will, no doubt, increase.

Streaming media devices — including ones that interface directly with home televisions — are expected to become more commonplace and may eventually replace much of what we know as standard cable television for many users today. Already, some early adopters are getting rid of their pricey television service in favor of cheaper services like Hulu and Netflix. In order for this kind of media to be transmitted and received consistently, wired or wireless N (or faster) network standards will have to be more commonly supported. Currently, many large Internet services (like AT&T U-verse) currently only offer 802.11A and 802.11G Wi-Fi connections on their included routers. You need to purchase an additional wireless router or connect in a wired capacity to achieve these speeds.

Many of these included modems are capable of only four wired ethernet connections in addition to wireless. In order for a home network to extend its wired capacity, an aftermarket switch or modem is required. As the popularity of home media servers and integrated computing devices is expected to grow over the years, so will the demand for more wired capabilities on the service providers. In any case, the average home network will no doubt require more connection ports unless wireless connectivity drastically improves.

So, how is your home network set up? Do you have a storage server, NAS, wireless base and repeater, hybrid network consisting of both wired and wireless devices, or one of any number of possible combinations you could imagine?