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    November 30, 2012
    Fun Friday Videos: Christmas Gangnam Style

    Just when you thought it was safe to start putting up decorations for the holiday season, a homeowner in Perth, Australia, has managed to mash up the gaudiness of Christmas lights with the gaudiness of living life Gangnam style.  It had to happen, and this was the year for it.  A Christmas light show set to PSY’s hit song “Gangnam Style.”

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    While I’m not the kind of person with the patience or skill to program a light display, I LOVE these sorts of things with an unreasonable passion.  I only wish I could pull that off myself, but I don’t have the style.  The Gangnam style, if you will.  I’d love to see someone do this somewhere in my neck of the woods!




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    November 29, 2012
    Windows 8 Struggles At Launch

    The PC industry has been on a long, slow downturn, but the launch of new projects surely helps, right?  After all, Windows 7 provided a much-needed jolt in October 2009; PC sales jumped 49 percent in the month after that launch.  However, Windows 8 has not been quite as successful.  Unit sales of Windows 8 PCs fell a staggering 21 percent in the month since the OS launched on October 21.

    Windows, by their numbers, say 40 million licenses have been sold since launch.  However, that doesn’t reflect the actual sales to consumers, but sales to stores, manufacturer’s bulk licenses, people doing upgrades to their previously-owned computers, and other entities not consumers.  The NPD tracks sales at retail stores, which means sales for the consumer directly.  Not all sales are monitored, but most are, which means consumers have’t adopted Windows 8 quite yet.  Still, the time measured doesn’t include Black Friday, Cyber Monday, or the big sales days in the wake of Thanksgiving/the run up to Christmas, so that may make a big difference in the long run.

    Even more disappointing, Windows 8’s weak sales haven’t been bolstered by tablets; less than 1 percent of Windows 8 sales are tablets.

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    November 28, 2012
    Wordless Wednesday: I Have No Idea What I’m Doing

    Image via Failblog.

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    November 26, 2012
    Thanksgiving Becomes Instagram’s Biggest Day Ever

    Every time I go out to a restaurant, I see someone getting evidence of their food on Instagram.  Without fail, someone’s Instagramming something at any time.  That goes double for the holiday season.  When your relatives sat down for Thanksgiving, did someone make sure to capture the food on Instagram?  If so, you’re one of millions.  Instagram hit record highs on Thanksgiving as people rushed to apply filters to their turkey.

    “Overall, the day broke all Instagram records as we saw the number of shared photos more than double from the day before, making it our busiest day so far,” said a celebratory blog post.

    Instagram even had to upgrade it’s back-end and server capacity to handle the increased traffic.  A staggering 10 million photos were uploaded to the photo-sharing service, with some periods of the day hitting 200 photos uploaded every second around dinnertime.  Just think:  Christmas is around the corner.  We may see a new high for Instagram before long.

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    November 22, 2012
    Thanksgiving In Space

    Even in space, astronauts get to enjoy thanksgiving.  Kevin Ford, aboard the International Space Station, and his two cosmonaut crew members Oleg Novitskiy and Evgeny Tarelkin will get to have a Thanksgiving feast.  There’ll be smoked turkey, Russian-style mashed potatoes, stuffing, peach-cherry cobbler, and all the trimmings.  They even get the day off!  Not bad for someone 250 miles above the surface of the earth!

    While the rest of us have yet to slip the surly bonds of earth for our Thanksgiving celebration, we can still enjoy ourselves.  So, from all of us involved in the Shak family to all of the readers, have a great Thanksgiving day!  Eat too much, watch too much football, and live it up this year.

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    November 20, 2012
    New York Turns Pay Phones Into Smart Screens

    Once upon a time, if you needed to make a phone call, you couldn’t just reach into your pocket or purse, you had to go to an outdoor booth, insert money into a device, and then hope they had a phone book that would allow you to make a telephone call.  That’s so 1980’s!  Well, in most cities, phone booths are slowly dying away–at least the phone part, anyway.  Phone booths are increasingly finding new uses, with some in New York City becoming free WiFi terminals and some finding new life as information desks.  New York City is turning its old phone booths into 24/7 information booths dubbed Smart Screens.

    The Smart Screens are 32-inch touchscreen tablets are a partnership between the city, Cisco Systems, and City 24/7.  The tablets are connected to the Internet and can perform a variety of tasks, from finding local restaurants and making reservations to accessing New York City’s 311 complaint lines.  All of this can be conducted in multiple languages, no less!  The touch screens are free, generating income from advertising.  The city already has 10 in place and plans to add a total of 250 touch screens throughout the city’s stock of phone booths.

    If you’re worried about germs and homeless urine, don’t be.  The Smart Screens will be waterproof, dustproof, and able to be cleaned with a jet hose just in case there is a little accident in the former pay phone booth.  So clean 21st century technology will be at your fingertips on any street corner in the Big Apple!

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    November 19, 2012
    The WiiU Is (Almost) Sold Out

    Nintendo changed the game during the last console generation.  The company proved that all the graphics power and hardware strength in the world didn’t matter when you were able to reach out to a broad audience and turn gaming from something needing fast-twitch thumbs and into something more natural.  The Wii was almost impossible to get for months and months after release.  It looks like the Wii U is getting a similar amount of attention.  Retailers are reporting that the Wii U is selling out as soon as it comes in.

    A lot of it seems to depend on the version you want, as the basic is a little easier to get than the deluxe edition, and lots of places (like Best Buy) have substantial waiting lists.  That’s not terribly surprising, considering how close we are to the holiday shopping season and how much fanfare comes with any video game launch these days.  Still, you’d like to see Nintendo open the purse strings and crank out Wii U consoles so the holidays can be happy for the gaming public.

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    November 13, 2012
    Google Nexus 4 Sold Out

    The smart phone is the must-have accessory for pretty much everyone these days.  No matter the manufacturer, they seem to sell pretty well (Microsoft aside), but nothing’s bigger than Android right now.  Even the iPhone pales in comparison to Android’s current marketshare, and nobody’s happier about that than Google.  Google is the company behind the Android, so they like Android’s success, but they also have partnered with companies to produce Android products.  The most successful of these is the Google Nexus 4, a joint product from Google and LG.  Just minutes after going up for sale, the Google Nexus 4 sold out at Google Play’s US store.

    Of course, just because a product is sold out doesn’t mean it’s very popular.  Google could have only made a few available.  Still, the Nexus has been widely praised for its low entry point ($299), the freedom to choose any cell carrier (no contract!), and the improved Android 4.2 operating system.  It may not play nicely with 4G LTE just yet, but give it time.  Google will make more and the functionality will always improve.

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    November 9, 2012
    Best Buy’s Black Friday Ad Leaks!

    Every week, new ads come out that feature big deals.  As the holiday season creeps closer, the ads become flashier, the deals become bigger, and the frenzy slowly rises.  The biggest deals of the year are on Black Friday, the unofficial kick-off for the holiday shopping season.  Nobody does it bigger than Best Buy.  Best Buy’s Black Friday ads have leaked online, and the deals look pretty ferocious.

    There are the standard deals on DVDs and Blu-ray Discs (from $1.99 and $3.99 respectively), but the big deals are on the big ticket items.  We’re talking Toshiba LED HDTVs (50 inches for $399 and 40 inches for $179), Blu-ray players for $39, A PlayStation 3 bundle for $199, and all sorts of cameras, smartphones, computers, tablets, and pretty much anything that needs to be plugged in to run.  Best Buy will be opening officially at midnight, but starting at 10 PM on Thanksgiving evening, reservation tickets will be given out to ensure places in line to those waiting the longest.  Might be worth standing in line.

    Here’s the full Best Buy Black Friday ad for your amusement.

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    November 8, 2012
    Seal Team Six Disciplined Over EA Video Game

    The men of Seal Team Six, the team of special forces soldiers who infiltrated the armed compound of Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan and killed America’s most-wanted fugitive, are national heroes.  However, while they are heroes, they’re also still soldiers, and they have rules and regulations to follow.  The US Navy has disciplined seven members of Seal Team Six for working on a video game from Electronic Arts.  The game was EA’s Medal of Honor:  Warfighter.

    “We do not tolerate deviations from the policies that govern who we are and what we do as sailors in the United States Navy,” said a strongly-worded comment from Deputy Commander of Naval Special Warfare Command Rear Admiral Garry Bonelli.  He added the Navy’s actions would “send a clear message throughout our force that we are and will be held to a high standard of accountability.”

    It is not clear what secrets, if any, the Navy revealed to EA during their two days of consultancy work on Medal of Honor:  Warfighter.  They were also docked two months’ pay for their trouble.  Medal of Honor:  Warfighter boasts of its realistic military raids, but it does not recreate the Bin Laden raid (though I think we all wish it would).

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