March 9th – Set Your Watch

Invitation to the Apple "Spring Forward" Event

Well, well. As previously predicted, the traditional “iTunes/iPod/Music” event that Apple holds in March has been co-opted to announce the Apple Watch. Prices will be revealed – and there will be much hilarious consternation in the tech press when the prices are announced, believe you me – as well as the opening of pre-orders and an official shipping date.

That date? Oh, right. Look for the second Tuesday of April. A little birdie told me so.

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Canadian DRAM Class Action Lawsuit

Are you Canadian? Did you buy consumer electronics in Canada between 1999 and 2002? If you can answer “yes” to both of those questions then you are entitled to a cash money payout as part of the now-settled class action lawsuit against the manufacturers of DRAM.

Photo Of A Typical Canadian DRAM buyerIn a nutshell: The companies that manufacture RAM chips conspired to fix the price of DRAM at artificially high levels. Companies that use those chips to make things (and a lot of things use DRAM) necessarily passed those inflated prices on to you. And now you can get back a little bit of that coin by filling out a simple form – it takes about three minutes for the basic $20 claim – and clicking the send button.

In a bigger nutshell: Any Canadian can claim the basic $20 compensation just by filling out the form … no receipts or other supporting documentation is needed. The legal assumption here is that you almost certainly purchased at least one item that qualifies and it would be unfair to expect you to come up with a receipt at this point for a 15-year old MP3 player or videogame console or whatever. Alternatively, if you are one of the few people in the country who didn’t purchase a device that uses DRAM, your decision was probably influenced by the corrupted market pricing and you are still eligible for damages. Either way, you should take the time to at least fill out the basic claim. To paraphrase the immortal words of Geddy Lee, “Twenty bucks is twenty bucks, eh?”

It a really, really big nutshell, we are talking about a cocoanut here: If you have documentation – it doesn’t necessarily have to be receipts, there are other types of supporting documentation allowed – of multiple items that you bought between April 1, 1999 and June 30, 2002 you can apply for a larger claim. If you are Average Bobby Consumer then your claim is still going to be within spitting distance of twenty bucks, and it wont make much difference. But if you own a couple of stores, make or resell items that use DRAM, or have any other legit reason for buying a lot of gear then it is probably worth the time to sit down with the online calculator and see what you can get.

All of the details, including the FAQ, lists of affected items, the legal back ground, and (most importantly) the online claim form can be found here. It costs you nothing to file a claim but the process closes on June 23, 2015 so if you are going to partake, do it now. One quick tip: Each adult in a household should file individually and not as part of a group submission, otherwise you will end up shorting yourself.

As an aside, I personally think class action lawsuits are the worst kind of legal chicanery, nothing more than opportunistic and greedy lawyers looking to cash in on massive fees while the actual aggrieved parties do all the work of submitting the claims. That said, this one is already in the bag and no matter how odious you think it is you might as well get your piece of the pie. Just hold your nose and think of Geddy Lee.

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Nutshell By Prezi

If you decided to try every new camera app that came down the pipe … well, you would fail. Miserably. There are so many camera apps released each day that you actually wouldn’t have time to test them all. By the time you gave even a cursory glance to each one released on a Monday it would be well into Tuesday and you would already be screwed because Tuesday’s big pile of camera apps would already be stacking up. Worse, the vast majority (and by vast majority I mean about 99.94%) of these things are either garbage, a rehash of something that has already been done to death, or (worse) both.

Honestly, your brain would probably explode about three hours in.

Ka-pow.

Screen shot from NutshellThe sad upshot of this is that when a cool or interesting new camera app actually does come along it is easy to miss it completely. Such is the case with Nutshell, which is a very cool – if poorly documented in one crucial area – new app that lets you bridge the gap between photo sharing and full-on videos to make quick and fun “vignettes” about … well, anything. The app uses a cool sort of stepping-stone time-compression technique that focuses on three key images in your story and offers animated text and sticker-type graphics to enhance your narrative. Best of all, the price is definitely right: This is a fully-featured app with no ads and no in-app purchases and it is 100% free. Lifehacker people, take note.

However – and this is a big however in the world of consumer-level apps – there is a crucial omission in the “get started” instructions that almost guarantees your first attempt will be a big pile of shit. Free apps generally get one use before the user decides to keep it or toss it away, and your first use of Nutshell. The instructions tell you to “take three photos” … something that most people would think allows you to take a photo, wander off, mess around, set up an new shot, take that pic, move on to the third, etc etc. But you aren’t just taking photographs. What you are really doing is marking “key frames” in an actual video. It’s not entirely obvious (although you figure it out after your first botched attempt … or maybe two) that you have to hold and move the camera BETWEEN the three photos in the same way you would when shooting a standard video.

Once the video is complete, the app then uses the three spots where you clicked “photos” as spots to highlight your subjects and add any text and graphics you wanted to include. If you hold your phone properly for the whole event the effect is startlingly cool, and really lets you tell an immersive little story in just a few seconds of video.

If you don’t keep your phone aimed and moved correctly, you get a shaky and disjointed thing that no one wants to see. At all.

The omission is probably understandable – albeit not excusable – because Prezi is a business software company, and generally deals with a world where customers are more invested in their software purchases and don’t make snap judgements based on a single use. Hopefully the gang at Prezi will fix this quickly, because this is an app that deserves to succeed.

One other caveat for anyone who is concerned about their privacy or data security: The built-in sharing functions use either a Facebook or a Google login, and while Prezi has what looks to be a decent privacy policy, the same can’t be said for the companies who provide those affiliate logins. However, Prezi has included the ability to save your video to your camera roll and share manually via whatever method you want so you don’t need to needlessly expose yourself unless you choose to. Kudos for offering alternatives that should please everyone.

Now that you have been tipped off to the little gotcha, why not download it and take it for a spin? It’s free, it’s fun, and once you figure out how to use it, it looks really really cool.

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Smartie 650.2

297,000: The number of dogs and primates killed in the United States each year in research and testing.

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Smartie 0650.1

80,000,000: The number of animals killed in the United States each year in research and testing.

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LEGO S.H.I.E.L.D Helicarrier

There have been an escalating thread of discontent running through the LEGO fan/collector/maniac/whatever community over the past couple of years. The hardest of the hardcore have been bemoaning the lack of big, show-stopping, intricate, massive, “wow factor” sets. The incredible Super Star Destroyer was released for the holiday season in 2011 and since then … nada.

Those people stopped their bitching en masse today. Boom.

Photo of the LEGO S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier

The S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier set (LEGO 76042) is 3000 pieces of pure awesome. It will be available for your gift-giving (or self-gifting) pleasure on March 1, 2015, but you can get it two weeks early if you are a LEGO VIP member. You can also power the rotors and add navigation lights by adding the LEGO Power Functions battery box (LEGO 88000), M-Motor (LEGO 8883), and Light kits (LEGO 8870). And really, after dropping 350 bucks on the model itself you would be a fool not to put down another fifty and make this a true showpiece.

It’s worth repeating: Wow.

CODA 1: If you don’t want to plunk down the 350 bucks and you happen to have 23,000 of the appropriate bricks hanging around, you can make this yourself. This set was inspired by a home-built – and much more massive version – created by an Average LEGO Joe as part of the LEGO Ideas initiative. He designed it using the awesome LEGO Digital Designer software … if you ever wanted an excuse to download the program and start playing around, this is definitely it.

CODA 2: While the great unwashed masses might see $350 as stupidly expensive for a box of LEGO, this is actually a really sweet deal. The amount of bricks you get, the hours of building fun, the playability and display value are all well above other sets of this ilk and in this price range. This set is also going to be an excellent investment – if you have to means to buy one or two extras and put them away as sealed boxes, do it. The Super Star Destroyer was released less than four years ago at 400 dollars and now that the set is retired unopened boxes are fetching upwards of 900 bucks on-line … it’s more that safe to assume this set will equal or surpass that with ease.

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SkyMall Bites The Dust

In a past incarnation of my career I travelled a lot. And by a lot, I mean a shitload. I was in airports and on airplanes a couple of times a week minimum, and often a lot more. Like a lot of travellers, I found both a lot of humour and great comfort in the SkyMall catalogue. It was something that was familiar, always there for you, and decidedly entertaining … although somehow I don’t think that it was entertaining in the way the company wanted it to be.

A typical SkyMall productWhen you settled in on a flight and found that the SkyMall book in the seat pocket was a brand new edition, packed with all sorts of ridiculous new goodies? Didn’t matter what time it was or how tired you were … your next couple of hours of seat time were set.

It’s not a surprise that SkyMall has now bitten the dust. In fact, it’s a surprise that it lasted this long. But I will still take a minute or two to mourn. And I suspect there are a lot of frequent flyers out there who will do the same. An institution has truly passed.

So long, SkyMall. It was fun.

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Jeffrey’s EXIF Viewer

Ever needed a quick and dirty way to take a look at the EXIF data embedded in a photo? Take a peek at Jeffery’s EXIF Viewer – it works with damn near any photo format and includes all of the EXIF fields, something that a lot of so-called “pro” photo suites don’t do. Even better, it’s browser based so there is zero overhead and zero system investment so you can use it when you are away from your own computer or on a mobile device*. If you can get at a browser or any sort, you can get access to the guts of your photo data.

Serious kudos to Jeffrey Friedl for providing a decidedly awesome tool. You definitely want to keep this one in your bookmarks.

*There are oodles of EXIF apps for most mobile platforms, but I have yet to see one that gets as deep into the data as this web tool.

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Jake

He was such a good boy.

Stupid world.

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It’s an iPad event …

… but, contrary to what the fenderheads at Bloomberg tried to claim in yet another desperate bid to get some clicks, there are no “new” iPads.

Today you will see updates to the existing iPad line with an performance bump (courtesy of the A8x processor), new camera elements, and TouchID element rings around the home button. Nomenclature will revert back to the old standard of incremental numbers … the iPad Air 2 and the iPad Mini 3. Done and done.

The real news is probably the A8x, which brings the “metal” graphics processing to the iPad line and will help further entrench the device as the world’s most popular gaming console. The rest is all just gravy.

iOS 8.1 will also see the light of day, but people with current iOS devices may have to wait a week or so to get their hands on it.

Rounding out the show? Definitely some news about the Apple Pay rollout, and possibly some Apple Watch pricing details. Don’t hold your breath on the latter, though … the Watches will be priced more like “real” watches and less like “68 cent quartz-driven crap from the department store” and I believe Apple is still working on how to best broach the subject, especially to idiots in the tech press who don’t really understand the concepts surrounding the cost of jewellery and other luxury goods.

Oh. And shiny new iMacs. Yum.

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