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    December 31, 2011
    What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?

    It’s New Year’s Eve, and in one minute, it will be 2012.  Are you ready for 2012?  I sure hope so, because it’s happening.  In the celebratory spirit (and to do something other than Auld Lang Syne), here’s a beautiful little cover of the Nancy Wilson song “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?” by everyone’s favorite adorkable couple, Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

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    Beautiful, isn’t it?  Happy New Year, you guys.  See you in 2012.

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    December 31, 2011
    The Tech Year In Review

    The year that is 2011 is ending tonight, and so closes a hugely important chapter in technology.  So what all happened in 2011?  Well, Wired has put together their top 10 tech stories of 2011, and with most of them I can’t argue.  However, I do think the death of Steve Jobs will be the most enduring story of 2011 going forward in the future, and I only have Apple’s own past to look to for evidence of that.

    When Steve Jobs was ousted from Apple, the company ran strongly for awhile, then fell completely apart from 1986 through 1998.  The man who turned the company around was, you guessed it:  Steve Jobs.  Now, Apple has a much stronger business platform to stand on than it did in the 80′s, and it has moved from the computer industry to a consumer electronics platform (for the most part), but that in and of itself is dangerous.  What if people stop buying iPhones and the iPad business starts to dry up?  The company is worth multi-billions thanks to these platforms; are they ready for the next big thing?  Are they ready to create the next big thing?

    Losing a visionary like Steve Jobs is always trouble for a company that is built around one man’s vision.  You can only hope that they’ve gotten the right people in place to keep Apple churning out the gadgets and gizmos that America craves.  Otherwise, this may be the end of Apple’s innovative empire.

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    December 30, 2011
    84 Inches Of TV

    Everyone loves a big TV.  Nothing like watching a movie, television show, sporting event… nothing like watching anything on a big, HD television.  The image is so crisp and clear it’s almost 3D.  That’s how good having a big TV is.  But even the biggest TV you’ve ever seen pales in comparison to this particular monster, seen at CES.  Check out this 84-inch “Ultra Definition” television from LG.

    Don’t know what Ultra Definition is?  Well, neither did I until I saw this beast.  This is basically an 84-inch, 3840×2160 resolution 3-D display with 4000 pixels stretched horizontally from one end to the other.  That’s what makes this thing an Ultra Definition, it’s like HD quadrupled; the standard screen has 720 or 1080 pixels vertically, but this thing has 2000 vertical pixels and 4000 horizontal ones which gives it 8 million pixels to the standard 2 million on a regular HDTV.  There are 60- and 55-inch versions produced by Sharp and Toshiba, but if you’re going to pay $11,000+ for a TV, you may as well get a serious TV.

    The Ultra Definition is so well-defined, there’s no media with enough pixels to fill it!  That’s right, you can’t get 4K compliant Blu Rays.  At least, not yet.  Nor can you get this television outside of Japan.  At least, not yet.

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    December 25, 2011
    A Very MST3K Christmas

    Mystery Science Theater 3000 was on television pretty much constantly from 1988 through 1999, so they covered quite a bit of Christmas-related topics.  Granted, not all of them were seasonal at the time they were covered, but everything from 80′s Christmas Rock to traditional Christmas Carols to the most politically correct and inclusive Christmas song ever were all touched on by Joel, Mike, and the Bots.  Granted, not every Christmas goes well, as you can see below.

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    Let’s shake off the memory of exploding heads and third-degree burns and explore some happier holiday times with the Satellite of Love gang, shall we?

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    December 24, 2011
    Nearly-Instant Gifting: $50 iTunes Cards For $40

    So you’re sitting around, waiting for your holiday festivities to start, and you’ve got nothing better to do than to take care of those last-minute surprise gifts.  Well, fortunately for you, Walmart has your back, and they also have a pretty rare discount.  If you’ve ever bought an iTunes card, you know they’re never on sale.  Well, not only does Walmart have an iTunes card for 20 percent off retail price, they also have free electronic delivery and you can buy two of them, rather than buying a limit of one.  For the information on how to redeem your card (or email it to a loved one, as I did this morning), see The Cheapskate for more info.

    The whole process could not have been easier, and despite ominous warnings about the cards not being shipped until December 27, I had the receipt and the redemption emails within my inbox in less than an hour.  So don’t be afraid you’ll be stuck waiting around for this thing all morning; my redemption process was prompt and surprisingly easy, and that $50 iTunes card is being cashed in as we speak.


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    December 23, 2011
    Last-Minute Gift Ideas

    You’ve got two days until Christmas is here.  Actually, less than two days, since this post is going up pretty late on Friday.  However, if you’ve still got shopping to do and you can’t make it out to the mall, there’s still hope!  There’s always hope, but since you’ve got online shopping at your disposal, then you’ve got both hope and a chance to avoid the mall traffic on Christmas Eve.  PC Mag has put together a list of great last-minute gift ideas for those who have waited a little too long to get their gifts in order.

    The thing about these gifts is that they’re not only last-minute, they’re also–by and large–good for other people.  A lot of them are donation-based gifts, and it’s always nice to do something nice for others while still doing something nice for the world in general.  Even if they’re not all donations, there’s useful things like gift cards, Groupons, and various subscriptions and monthly gift ideas just in case you’re not feeling altruistic and are looking for something more useful.

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    December 19, 2011
    Bioware and George Lucas Versus Blizzard and Warcraft

    Earlier this month, I was one of two million lucky gamers who got to get involved in the pre-launch open beta of Star Wars: The Old Republic.  The newest venture from LucasArts and Bioware, ST: TOR is one of the most expensive video games in history.  It is believed to have cost over $100 million dollars for development alone, and that’s not counting marketing, production, and other assorted expenses.  It’s a costly gamble, but it seems like it is going to pay off.

    When I quit playing World of Warcraft a couple of years ago, I swore I was done with WoW and MMORPGs in general.  Yet, here I am, sucked back into another MMO once again.  The difference, in this case, was BioWare’s emphasis on a single-player story in addition to multi-player questing.  Rather than just getting told to kill a dozen womp rats, my particular characters (a Sith Inquisitor and a Republic Trooper, among others) were given a quest line.  For the Inquisitor, it was becoming a true Sith.  For my Trooper, it was becoming a member of an elite combat squad and proving myself to my fellow soldiers.

    The difference between the two is that my character actually has a progression arc.  It’s not just learning stuff and killing stuff, you feel as though your particular person is growing and changing and becoming more and more powerful until he or she becomes that epic character that every MMORPG character must be.  Rather than simply grinding to max level, the class quest lines feel like an actual epic achievement.  It’s a wonderful synthesis of single-player and MMO game, and so far I’m loving it.

    Will the game be a WoW killer?  No, I don’t think anything can kill WoW; however, I think this game can put a serious dent in WoW’s subscriber base here in the US and Europe, because it’s the sort of thing that disenfranchised raiders like myself can really get behind and enjoy.

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    December 18, 2011
    Santa And Siri

    Apple’s latest ad is an interesting one.  After all, the ad never mentions who the company is or what the product is, but it’s plain to see.  Apple is the company (thanks to that ubiquitous macintosh apple logo) and the product is Siri, the iPhone’s voice-powered digital assistant.  The star of the latest ad?  Ol’ Saint Nicholas himself, Santa Claus.  Apple is using Santa to sell Siri to the world; great idea or tasteless idea?

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    I have to give Apple credit here.  They have a genius marketing campaign, and as said in the linked article above, they’re one of the few companies that doesn’t have to mention themselves when selling their products; they just show that apple every few seconds and the ad’s done.  However, using Santa to sell phones seems kind of low, right?  I mean, fast-food restaurants get in trouble for having toys in their meals, yet here’s one of the icons of childhood used to sell an overpriced smartphone and the usual complaining groups aren’t making a peep.

    Seems to me that marketing to kids is marketing to kids, no matter who is doing it.  I have no problem with marketing to children–I was once a child and was heavily marketed to in the 80′s and 90′s–but if you’re going to complain about Happy Meal toys and Ronald McDonald’s leering clown face, then you need to also stop Santa selling Macs.

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    December 17, 2011
    Microsoft To Move To Automatic Upgrades

    The olden days of opting out of updates for your browser may become a thing of the past, if Microsoft has its way.  The company has announced a new initiative to force automatic upgrades to users on browsers from IE 7 through the current iteration of IE 9.  That’s right, in much the same way that Google Chrome automatically updates itself and keeps up with the latest security patches, IE will be hopping onto that train.  Firefox will roll out a similar program in April 2012.  As an end user, do you like automatic updates, or do you like being told updates are available and being given a choice?

    Of course, they’re not going to make everyone do it, but users will be made to opt out of the updates via  Windows Update.  Folks with IE 10 and higher will be given an opt-out button in the browser itself, while folks on IE 6 will have the option to download an update blocker to prevent the forced roll-up in enterprise settings.  If you choose to hop on the update bandwagon, Windows XP users will be forced up to IE 8 while Vista and 7 users will be pushed up to IE 9.  The plan goes online in Brazil and Australia in January, then will be expanded.

    “The Web overall is better—and safer—when more people run the most up-to-date browser,” said MS’s Ryan Gavin.  ”Customers who have declined previous installations of IE8 or IE9 through Windows Update will not be automatically updated.”

    I’m of two minds of this.  I love Google Chrome’s non-intrusive updates, but a few years ago when McAfee rolled out a corrupted upgrade that knocked the entire government of my local town offline for days, I was beyond angry.  In fact, in my personal life, I will NEVER use McAfee again.  I don’t have that option with Windows or various web browsers, so if MS is going to do this, they need to do it properly and make sure these kind of patcher screw-ups don’t ruin everyone’s computers.

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    December 12, 2011
    Call of Duty Picks Up $1 Billion

    The Call of Duty series has become a cash cow for Activision Blizzard in recent years.  The latest of the line-up, Modern Warfare 3, follows in the steps of its predecessors.  Last year’s model, Call of Duty: Black Ops, grossed over $1 billion dollars and sold a staggering 25 million copies.  As for Modern Warfare 3, it just crossed $1 billion in sales and is believed to have sold an impressive 16 million copies on the way to success.

    “What is exciting is it seems as though people who never played a video game before are looking at Call of Duty and saying, ‘OK, this is the one I want to play,’ ” said Bobby Kotick, CEO of Activision Blizzard.

    Modern Warfare 3 came out on November 8, which means it took only 16 days to break $1 billion in sales; in contrast, Black Ops took a full month to cross $1 billion on its way to being the best-selling video game of all time.  It looks as if Modern Warfare 3 will be breaking that record handily, and in record time.

    For the record, I have never played a Call of Duty game, be it Modern Warfare or otherwise.  Yes, I know that’s really odd to admit, but here we are.

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