Loot Crate Brings Subscription Boxes to Geeks and Gamers Alike

Loot Crate Brings Subscription Boxes to Geeks and Gamers AlikeHave you heard of Loot Crate, yet? Are you too busy to go to conventions and to play dress-up as your favorite Doctor, Star Trek officer, or Stormtrooper? We all are. Trust me, there are times where I’ve wished I could just shut down my laptop, suit up as Steampunk Jabba the Hutt with Klingon ears and a Hobbit cloak, but I can’t. Too damned difficult… what with work, having a kid, and the whole “lifestyle” that comes with being a grown-up sometimes. You know?

It’s cool though, kids. Loot Crate is a subscription service that, for a fee, will send you themed surprise crates once a month filled with goodies of all kinds. Want some candy? Have some. Want some nerdy statuettes and stickers? Cool. Want some really great exclusive items that only the Loot Crate crew can get its hands on for you? It’s got that, too. The folks at Loot Crate are working hard to make sure this isn’t just a grab-bag of cheap items that you could get anywhere; they specially craft each box with a theme. This past month, we were lovingly given the coolest Deadpool shirts you could’ve imagined with stickers that mashed up Mario Bros with Ninja Turtles. Just saying, guys, they want you to have some fun.

Uncrating the Loot Crate

Every month, you receive a box that, upon opening it, gives you a card that will detail everything you have there in your “Crate.” Some folks like to run in blind and just tear through without reading that card. You totally can, but if you want to understand what that little black rubber ninja is, maybe you should check your card, yeah?

Some months, you may get a t-shirt and that means you’ll get lighter, smaller things in there. Let’s be honest: you can only cram so much in those boxes without damaging things — it makes sense. My first month was just a box full of fun toys like ninjas, bowties, and apparently randomized DC Heroes & Villains toys! Nuts, right? Did I mention the candy? Yes, nerdy candy and stuff from your youth all make appearances.

Watch as this bro and this blonde give you a rundown of their own uncrating of the most current “Mashup” crate in June.

Something I can truly appreciate about the Loot Crate is that the company knows its audience. Be that as it may, there may be a month where you get a box full of some kind of nerdy thing you don’t love as much as someone else. Cool! Gift it out! Since the Crates are surprises, there’s always going to be a little something you love more than others — but that’s kind of the fun in it. It’s like getting a surprise Christmas present for the genre you appreciate every single month. April’s Crate was “token,” where you were loaded up with tons of arcade and Street Fighter goodies, and if you’re not big into that, it just means you’ve got some kickass stuff to gift to a friend who is. Trust me: if you’re into Loot Crate, you’ve got friends who would dig the stuff you don’t. It’s never a waste.

Is Loot Crate Worth the Cost?

A monthly Crate will run you a little under 20 dollars if you include shipping and handling. You’re charged $13.37 plus $6 for shipping and handling fees — which isn’t horrible. For a year, you can subscribe and it will run you a little over $100, but that also takes care of the subscription for a year plus puts you in the running for Mega Crates, which are huge, overwhelming bundles instead of the normal subscription Crate.

junecrateIf you calculate the cost of what you’re getting in each Crate, plus the value of each item, it’s well worth it. Just this last month, the Deadpool-Aid shirt alone, on most sites, is running $30 plus shipping and handling. Include the 8-bit sunglasses, stylus pen, stickers, the discounts to Stan Lee’s Comikaze, and candies and it’s well worth the amount you paid for the Crate. Even if the items aren’t for you, the team is still making sure that you get the value that you’re putting in and more.

I have watched this company come up and rise from humble beginnings and have personally seen the hard work put out by all the folks digging deep to bring this kind of fun to the masses. While not international yet, the team is working hard to figure out ways to bring it to everyone. From what I hear, the cast of Video Game High School and its creators are “curating” the next crate. If you’re a fan of this flick and series, you might want to get in on it now! You’ve got eight days left!

In fact…

Anyone using this code at Loot Crate will get $3 off!: LOCKERGNOME

So, yes: I believe you should all take a look at it and if you’re a fan of everything nerdy, geeky, gamer related, and possibly all of the above — get your hands on a Crate. You’ll thank yourself for it.

Images provided by Loot Crate

Seven TV Shows for Geeks and Nerds

Seven TV Shows for Geeks and NerdsTelevision series aren’t only limited to the usual genres of drama, comedy, and action. From time to time, TV networks churn out shows that also cater to a very specific niche market usually composed of smartypants who wear glasses and ugly sweaters. So without further ado, here’s a mixed bag of seven television shows, both in production and cancelled, that portray ultra-intelligent characters ranging from doctors, detectives, IT experts, and superheroes who geeks and nerds can easily relate to.

The Big Bang Theory

Perhaps one of the most popular shows to which geeks and nerds can relate is CBS’ sitcom The Big Bang Theory, which stars Johnny Galecki (Leonard) and Jim Parsons (Sheldon) as roommates who work at Caltech as physicists and their relationship with a hot waitress and aspiring actress named Penny (played by Kaley Cuoco) who lives just across the hall.

http://youtu.be/fSdpfGlk5qg

The IT Crowd

British sitcom The IT Crowd tackled the life of three IT staff from the fictional Reynholm Industries: a geeky genius named Maurice Moss, a socially inept employee named Roy Trenneman, and a technologically challenged department head named Jen Barber. The show also tried to add a large number of references to geek culture and professionalism, mostly in the set, props, and dialogue. Viewers knowledgeable in IT can truly relate in the technobabble injected into the scenes and jokes in this series.

Chuck

Wrapped in a comedic and geek-inspired packaging, spy series Chuck from NBC was perhaps one of television’s most legit multi-categorical pseudo-dramas. No one can deny that all the pop-culture references, hilarious goofball scenes, and convoluted storylines on which this show continuously based its premises exceeded expectations and created a lasting effect among audiences, young and old.

Fringe

Fringe is a sci-fi TV drama revolving around a team of FBI agents who gets the job done through fringe science, a field of study that uses unusual modes of discovery vis-à-vis actual scientific methods. The show combines elements seen in procedural dramas like CSI, Criminal Minds, and the like but has been mostly described as a cross between The X-Files and The Twilight Zone.

http://youtu.be/R0RcLO7nbh0

Flash Forward

Flash Forward was a short-lived, high-concept science fiction series on ABC, centered on the lives of people affected by a mysterious event that caused a two-minute simultaneous worldwide blackout. It starred British actor Joseph Fiennes as Mark Benford, an FBI agent who investigates the event due to the vision he had during his blackout. The intriguing show also discussed themes ranging from quantum entanglement to government conspiracies, along with a few major philosophical points laced with drama.

Mythbusters

Can an obese person really get stuck on an airline vacuum toilet? Will you really die if you pee on the third rail? Can making a business phone call at a gas station really start a fire? Special effects designers Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman reveal the answers to these urban legends and myths through science experiments and simulations in the long-running Discovery Channel show Mythbusters. The main duo confirms or busts theories along with equally interesting additional cast members collectively known as “The Build Team.”

Dexter

Based on the novels by author Jeff Lindsay, Dexter follows the life of Miami Metro Police Department blood spatter pattern analyst Dexter Morgan (played by Michael C. Hall) who also leads a secret life as a serial killer. He is different from other serial killers in the sense that he only kills people who fit the ‘moral code’ his late father taught him, which he mastered and perfected as he grew up.

We all have our favorite shows. These are a few of mine. Do you have any to add to the list? Please leave a comment below!

Henry Conrad is a 29-year-old game developer from Albuquerque, New Mexico. Aside from gaming and being a tech junky, he also dabbles in creative writing, which allows him to create great storylines and backgrounds for his characters. Follow him on Twitter and join him in Google+

Image: The Big Bang Theory, CBS

Parenting: How to Raise a Geek

Parenting: How I (Successfully) Raised a Young Geek“Mom? What’s the Wi-Fi password?” my 11-year-old asked and, as my little brother tried to chirp in with his idea that it was a string of numbers on a Post-it somewhere, my daughter simply retorted with, “No, that’s a WEP key and we use WPA now.” An obvious look of irritation etched itself across her olive-toned face.

That, my friends, is how you know you have set a child on a path for being obviously tech savvy and/or possible nerd-dom. When your child can recite key plot points and explain Doctor Who and how Time Lords work better than most adults you know, and would rather read Peter Pan and Terry Pratchett books than indulge in the latest girly young adult novel, you know you’ve done something right. Sure, the argument could be, “Well, I’ll love my kid no matter if they’re a geek or not.” But let’s be honest: we’d love to be able to connect on that level, right?

When I was a child, I was lucky enough to have my hands in everything: a bit of sports, lots of video games, and a ton of extracurricular activities that really kept me away from just one clique in school. Surprisingly enough (at least for me), I was known as one of the “popular” kids who could — and I would usually try to — connect with my peers on a number of different levels. I sat with everyone at lunch because I knew what everyone liked and when the guys would talk video games, I could offer my own stories on my latest game. When the other table wanted to talk sports, I was lucky enough to follow whatever my father had been watching and telling me about, enjoying the excitement that came with it. Hockey was my private passion and, though I may not have divulged it to most, the kids at school always knew when I was excited about something.

Parenting: How I (Successfully) Raised a Young Geek
Kids like stars and planets? Get this and watch them geek out!

My daughter, admittedly, comes by her bubbly personality honestly. She’s bright, open, and ready to engage on any number of levels and she has a lot of them. Books, movies, music, video games, and most of all, technology. She eats it up and readily asks for more! While most kids may want a bike or even shoes or something when they get honor roll, my kid asks for an iPad or a tablet. She figures she can check her grades, use the Internet, watch Netflix, and play games from it, so why not, right? She was the first child I knew of who could reconfigure network connections on Linux through the command lines and who knew how to code HTML within a blog post. If you bring it up to her as being amazing, she simply doesn’t realize it actually is. The kid isn’t genius level, folks — she’s just interested!

From a young age, I involved Monkey (yes, that’s what her nickname is; she does the best monkey-face around) in my hobbies. Things like Red Dwarf, Doctor Who, computers, video games, subtitled anime from the source, books from my childhood, and things that I was into because I wanted to show her what comprised my hobbies. Not only would it give her a chance to see what I was into and what I liked, but if she ended up liking it, we could connect on that level. Maybe she would end up enjoying it and, through that, find out more about those things and bring something to me that I didn’t know about.

Share everything.

Seriously, what’s the point in raising a child if you’re not going to do it right? Are you going to sit back with some friends and play Dungeons & Dragons? Let them sit and watch as long as it doesn’t run too late. Want to get them into a game you’re playing? Hand them a controller. As I see it, spending time with your child shouldn’t be a chore anyways, but if you’re doing something you love and they can get into it, too, it makes everything so much nicer.

Parenting: How I (Successfully) Raised a Young GeekOpen up a dialogue.

Ask them what they are into and show them something you’re into that is akin to that hobby. Are they into space? Get them into watching The Pluto Files with Neil deGrasse Tyson (I love you, Chocolate Spaceman!) on Netflix with you and get them the awesome Star Chart app for your iPad or favorite tablet. Engage them in your world by opening up theirs and you’re never going to find yourself scraping to find things to embrace your child with.

Ease them in.

With Monkey, I introduce her to new things that I love by means of paying attention to the stuff that she likes and then introducing her to something similar. For instance, she loves happy and cheerful melodic pop music, so instead of the usual Billboard 100, I passed her a few tracks by fun YouTube sensation, Pomplamoose, and found that she absolutely loves that sound. Not only did I share something, but I opened up a dialogue by easing her into something new. Easy, right? It’s foolproof. I mean, my little brother who used to just watch Jackass clips on the Internet is now watching Doctor Who. Seriously. Try it.

Most of being a parent for a kid in this day and age is about becoming comfortable with adapting to a world that is constantly changing and appealing to young brains. It’s all flash bulbs and instant gratification so, I find, I need to slow the world down for my child and let her see that there is so much out there that won’t speak down to her, won’t treat her like a commodity, and will allow her creativity to flourish.

How about your kids? What kind of nerdy things is your young one into that you eased them into and found out they absolutely loved it? Do you have a kid who’s hard to connect with? Tell me all about it!

Image of adorable geek monkey via Wikipedia

How I Pay $7 Per Month on Unlimited Mobile Phone Service

If there is one expense that absolutely dominates the modern household monthly with seemingly oppressive rates and ridiculous added charges, it’s the mobile bill. Every month, my family spends somewhere in the neighborhood of $200 for phone service on four phones. This is coupled with our internet bill which creates a total monthly investment of around $270.

Lately, an IT associate of mine purchased my iPod touch (4th gen) from me and immediately converted it into a mobile phone. He explained his philosophy that he doesn’t use his phone while driving, and everywhere he frequents (work, home, coffee bar) has Wi-Fi. With this in mind, Skype and other VoIP systems with approved apps on the Apple App Store give him the ability to make and receive calls just like a regular phone 90% of the time. He isn’t chained to a required data plan or a set number of minutes that he can only use to call people within the U.S. He’s free to call anyone in the continent and even the world for just a few dollars more.

There are some critical drawbacks to this decision. You don’t have emergency services available to you at all times, and your phone stops working the instant you cross out of range of a Wi-Fi hotspot. Calls can often be broken up and distorted if the Wi-Fi connection isn’t strong enough. Skype has also had its share of problems in the recent past. An outage a few months ago left its non-business users without phone service for nearly an entire day. These are some critical issues to consider before taking a leap without an alternative line of communication at your disposal.

Following suit, as the Frugal Geek is supposed to in the face of a real deal, I immediately took my $2.90 monthly Skype Out plan and upgraded it to Skype In for $12.05 / 3 months. This means that my monthly total comes out to roughly $6.90. If everyone on my plan followed suit, which they probably won’t, I could reduce a $200 monthly charge down to a reasonable $27.60. Not only that, but this enables you to make and receive calls from your desktop, laptop or notebook, iPad, iPod touch, Android Tablet, etc.

Skype, or any similar service, is not intended to be a replacement for your phone service as lack of a way to make emergency calls is a critical drawback. While this likely isn’t going to be a preferred solution for everyone, the extra phone line can come in handy especially when you’ve misplaced your primary phone and have to make and/or receive a call.

How Audacity Could be Better

Audacity is a free and open source alternative to programs like Adobe Audition and Garage Band. For a lot of budding podcasters and content creators, it’s the tool most commonly recommended for audio recording and editing. While Audacity has quite a lot of functionality in the editing realm, there are a few improvements that would really help push this program further.

While writing this I’m sure the obvious comment would be that if something is free, what place does anyone have complaining about it? My point in this article is simply to outline a few key points that, in my opinion, have been keeping this application from being a cornerstone example of open source triumph. Audacity could very well be one of those examples of the open source community creating something better than their expensive corporate counterparts.

Keep Multi-Track Recording a Priority
Recording from multiple sources at once is exactly why many content creators opt to spend the big bucks on programs like Adobe Audition, Pro Tools, and more. The one thing these big-budget programs have that Audacity really doesn’t here is the ability to record audio from multiple sources at the same time without requiring the user to have a multi-track mixer and/or input device. If I had to choose between buying an input device and supported microphones and dropping roughly the same amount of scratch on a piece of software that allows me to do the same thing with standard USB devices, I’m going to opt for the software.

Give Up the Clunky Interface
For some reason, many open source programs have an unappealing default interface. Buttons are big and clunky, and the toolbar looks crowded and confusing. Even a seasoned professional can have a hard time figuring out exactly what the various knobs and sliders littering the top of the window are there for. Expensive programs look worthwhile to the average consumer because they have an interface that is polished and appealing. Some of the clunk can be stowed away in menus with little to no negative effect on user experience.

Include Publishing Tools
Another suggestion would be scripting in a publishing option that sends a recording out as a podcast.  Currently, you have to use a separate program such as PodOMatic to smoothly convert raw audio in to a published podcast. If Audacity had this function integrated in to its core, it would instantly become a much more powerful alternative to the majority of similar programs. Garage Band isn’t just popular because it’s included with new Mac systems. It became extremely powerful partly because it makes publishing a podcast very easy.

While I understand that these issues are likely resolved by add-ons and plug-ins the open source community have put together, integrating these changes in to the base program would make it a much more viable alternative. If there is one thing the open source community really needs it’s that one killer app that does what it does better than the competition in the eyes of everyday users.

Snip, Burn, Solder, Shred: Seriously Geeky Stuff to Make with Your Kids

Snip, Burn, Solder, Shred is packed with fun craft and toy-making projects for geeks on a budget. Inside, you’ll find illustrated instructions for 24 quirky playthings. Part I: Kid Stuff contains child-friendly projects like the Lock-N-Latch Treasure Chest and a PVC TeePee; Part II: The Electro-Skiffle Band is devoted to homemade musical instruments; and Part III: The Locomotivated showcases moving toys, like a muzzleloader that shoots marshmallows and a steam-powered milk-carton boat.

Each project costs just $10 or less to make and is suitable for anyone, regardless of experience level. As you build, you’ll learn useful sewing and carpentry skills, and the appendix offers a primer on electronics and soldering.

There should be an image here!You (and your kids) will have hours of fun making projects like:

  • A simple electric guitar
  • An oversized joy buzzer that (safely) administers a 100-volt jolt
  • Cool, mess-free, screen printed t-shirts
  • Kites made from FedEx envelopes
  • Booming Thunderdrums made from salvaged x-ray film
  • Old school board games like Go, Tafl, and Shut-the-Box

Whether you’re a mom or dad in search of a rainy day activity, a Scout leader looking to educate and entertain your troop, or just a DIY weekend warrior, the projects in Snip, Burn, Solder, Shred will inspire and amuse you. Now, roll up your sleeves and make!

Snip, Burn, Solder, Shred: Seriously Geeky Stuff to Make with Your Kids

  • Paperback: 360 pages
  • Publisher: No Starch Press; 1 edition (November 19, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • List Price: $24.95
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Yummly: A Semantic Search Platform For Food

There should be an image here!Gnomie Olivia Hine (@oliviahine) writes:

Hi Chris,

I certainly poured one out for the last Gnomedex last month– sad to hear, but from your post I gather it’s a step in the right direction. You know, Gnomedex 2008 was my first tech conference ever and still remains the event that opened my eyes to this world and introduced me to many of the people I know today, so thank you.

As for me, I’ve taken on a full-time position at a Berkeley PR agency, Bhava Communications, so you may hear from me from time to time (now that I’ve moved over to the dark side permanently). I saw your tweet the other day about finding a good cookbook for a geek, and wanted to give you a heads up about Yummly.com.

Yummly.com is a semantic search platform for food that uses unique algorithms to understand users and recommend recipes, akin to what Netflix does with movies and Pandora with music. It’s the latest endeavor for CEO and founder Dave Feller, a former eBay and StumbleUpon exec, so it’s rather geeky and easier than a cookbook, as Yummly aggregates over 500,000 recipes from both the web and well-known cookbooks. Check it out if you’d like; we’d love to hear thoughts.

That’s the pitch! I trust everything is going well for you; hopefully we’ll have a chance to chat soon.