Category Archives: Product Reviews

2 Good and 2 Bad Things About Google’s New Data Journalism Feature

2 Good and 2 Bad Things About Google’s New Data Journalism Feature

Researching for articles is an integral part of my job. Searching through data and data is key to providing quality content. If I skip and try to pass off my work as accurate, I’m opening myself up for a major headache.

And I could possibly lose my job.

Despite hating research, I’ve come to love it.

Which is why I grit my teeth when it comes to finding the right data, then identifying which datasets to focus on, and after all that is finally completed, digging into the data to analyze it.

Along with improving grammar in their Docs, Google’s going to make research easier too.

How Google’s Going To Help With Data Journalism

Growing up my father would wake up at 4 am to go out into the wilderness and conduct research studies.Data

He wasn’t researching wolves or bears or even something interesting.

He was researching elk…elk. Just let that sink in for a minute.

Majestic though they may be, these things don’t do much beyond graze and walk around. At least, they didn’t when I was looking at them. Since my dad was a wildlife biologist, I got the “opportunity” to go out on these trips. Sometimes if I misbehaved my dad decided I needed another “opportunity” to go out and help with the research.

After staring at these dumb animals for untold hours, we’d go home and he’d start calculating the data.

It took him more than twenty years to complete the research and analysis before he felt he had enough to present his findings.

Thank god we have Google now. With a decent ISP, Google’s at my beck and call. Make sure you have taken the time to look through the best cable and internet packages in your area to cut down on twenty years of research.

Without a reliable connection, I don’t think I’d be able to finish a single article. Thankfully, I do. And with it, I can easily type in a term and Google will return the relevant information.

At least, in theory, that’s what it should do.

Data1. Save Time

I still dig through the information available there and suddenly I’m back in the field with my dad staring at a dumb animal that’s just chewing.

What Google is proposing is to highlight relevant data within articles and list them above the title. A sort of preview.

Already, I can feel the weight of researching getting lighter.

By seeing what data is contained with an article or a report right there on the Google search page, I could save a significant amount of time. How much time I would save is still undefined. To figure that out would probably take a good twenty years anyway.

This wouldn’t make research a blissful experience, it would just ease some of the headaches of hunting for data. I’m okay with that.

Because there’s nothing more frustrating than opening an article and reading through a considerable chunk of it only to find it’s irrelevant. While the mistake of reading it was mine, it would have helped to get a better picture of the data contained within before I even started reading.

And data previews would be a huge help in accomplishing that.

2. Refine Search Criteria

I’ll be honest, I have no master’s degree and I didn’t excel in school when it came to research. I got by well enough though.

Now, when it comes to research for an article, I start by guessing at the search terms I need to use. There are the few times when I have a clear idea of where to look. Other times, and it happens more than I would like, I shoot in the dark until I find the right combination of words and terms.

This works well enough most of the time.

The other day, however, I had to dig through stuff from the FCC.

Never in my life have I been so frustrated trying to find the relevant datasets. There was plenty of data to look at, I just didn’t have a clue what most of it meant.

They use a lot of numbers.

Possible Drawbacks

Getting data previewed will be a huge help.

1. But humans will be looking at the previews

By reviewing the data alone, information can get missed.Data

When just the numbers and the related terms are pulled out, data can be misunderstood. With no context, sometimes we can read the data in the wrong way and draw the wrong conclusions.

This may not be as bad as it seems. Professionals do research and still misinterpret data from time to time.

2. Dense Reports

The real concern is when there is a huge report. You know, the academic kind with stuffy language. The type of report where the abstract alone hurts the brain while its being read.

These dense tomes of collected data and aggregated information may defeat the algorithm of Google’s search engine.

I doubt even artificial intelligence could make sense of them.

Get Ready For It Now

Google’s developers have already prepared for this.

And they are asking that published articles are prepared in such a way that data is easy to identify. As Google searches far and wide through the internet it’ll be able to pluck the right stuff out of the text if it’s been easily labeled.

There’s guidelines, source and provenance best practices listed in the developer’s announcement.

Before all that, there’s a list of examples for how authors and journalists can prepare their data so Google’s algorithms will recognize it.Data

  • A table or a CSV file with some data
  • An organized collection of tables
  • A file in a proprietary format that contains data
  • A collection of files that together constitute some meaningful dataset
  • A structured object with data in some other format that you might want to load into a special tool for processing
  • Images capturing data
  • Files relating to machine learning, such as trained parameters or neural network structure definitions
  • Anything that looks like a dataset.

That last one seems a little bit confusing. Or maybe that’s just me as I’m a not research-minded.

The feature is still in the pilot phase. No news on when it will officially roll out.

It All Works Out in the End

Conducting research, as daunting as it is, is part of my job.

I do get paid to do this, so I shouldn’t complain too much. And what’s a little research to make sure I’m taken seriously as a writer?

At least I’m not having to drive out to the middle of nowhere and stare at elk for every article. There are times when it feels that way though.

For those special people, like my dad, they look forward to that stuff. As weird as it sounds, they enjoy the hard labor of trekking out into the wilderness and collecting data. Then they head back home to crunch numbers without the help of Google to streamline the process. Instead, it’s spreadsheets upon spreadsheets. Which is almost worse than the job of collecting the data itself.

But these strange people enjoy it.

It has worked out for my dad though. He’s a published author now.

I did get a mention in the acknowledgments section, so it was worth something for me too.

Until I’m able to finish my next book, that will have to do.

5 Tech Must-Haves for Your College Dorm Room

5 Tech Must-Haves for Your College Dorm Room

Soon classes at your local college will start. Before that happens, you’ll be moving into your dorm room. If you’re lucky and live close enough to home, then you won’t have to get a dorm room. Or if you’ve found a way to score off-campus housing.

If not, then there here are fiveCollege tech must-haves for dorm living.

1.      A Good Laptop

You will be writing, period.

What kind of writing you do is up to you…or your professor.

You might write emails to friends and family, writing social media posts, or when you have time, that paper that’s due tomorrow.

A good laptop is essential these days. All room and board charges cover Wi-Fi, so you don’t have to worry about the bill.

Be it an Apple, a Dell, HP, Toshiba, or any of the other brands, make surer you find one with 8 to 16GB of RAM, as well as a good amount of storage. Low RAM means a slow computer.

I speak from experience as my college laptop was slow. This made for some frustrating nights as I tried to write.

2.      Virtual Storage

This never happened to me, but I remember a fellow college student running full on across campus to get to the computer lab. There was a paper due that was 70% of his grade and the class was in ten minutes. So he’d downloaded it onto a flash-drive and sprinted across campus.

Virtual storage wasn’t what it is today, but there were options at the time. Us poor college students couldn’t afford it though.

Get a free Gmail account and you’ll get access to Google Drive. This way you can work on papers, save a copy to Drive, and print them out anywhere you have access to your email.

Just make sure there’s a printer installed, filled with paper and ink.

Bonus

Although a little bit more expensive, get an external hard drive.

My wife, who wrote huge papers for her honors program, kept one and it saved her sanity on more than one occasion. While virtual storage is helpful, a solid backup is added peace-of-mind.

So save yourself the stress.

And that guy who bolted across campus to print out his paper? He dropped the flash-drive on his way and couldn’t find it.

Save yourself the anxiety and get virtual storage.

3.      Bluetooth Speakers

CollegeBack in my day, it was all about the stereos with multiple-disc interchanges.

I graduated before the iPod really took off, or the iPhone came out. Not by much, mind you, but yes, I went to college in a time when Discmans were still the “it” thing.

With smaller, and portable, speakers available, you have music right there with you, no matter where you go.

Create a playlist on your phone, pair with a Bluetooth speaker, and you can take this anywhere you go. Doesn’t matter if you’re studying or at a party, you’ll be your own DJ.

Check out JBL, Canz, Bose, Sony, and other Bluetooth speaker makers to find the one that works for you and your budget.

Another plus- if someone has a Bluetooth speaker in their room and you’re not digging the music, just pair your phone to it and play your own music!

4.      Noise Cancelling Headphones

Dorms will be noisy.

Doesn’t matter the time of day, someone will be making noise.

Invest in noise-canceling headphones, it’ll help save your sanity.

You just never know when two guys next door will decide to pump up their sub-woofer to watch The Punisher. Even with headphones on, I couldn’t hear my own music. Therefore, noise-canceling would have been a good idea at the time.

Bose, Plantronics, AKG, and Beats are just some of the manufacturers who make noise-canceling headphones. And they come highly rated!

You can then shut off all outside noise while you study, or just listen to something other than your loud dormmates.

5.      A Smart TV

With smart TV’s so prevalent, you can find a good deal on one with good resolution and apps like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime.

This will help cut down on all the clutter you have to take with you. Your movies and shows will be in one place, allowing you to save shelf space for…other things.

Bonus

Get a Chromecast, Roku Firestick, or Apple TV.

These will make up for any apps or streaming services that don’t come with your smart TV. Or if you can’t get a smart TV at all, then you’ll have this as a backup.

Since most dorms come with Wi-Fi, you’ll be able to stream and download that way and never miss the next episode of your favorite TV show.

Extra Bonus

The greatest thing about college is all the freedom you get to enjoy.College

The worst thing about college…is all the freedom you get to enjoy.

You don’t have to figure it out on your own.

Dorm life has been a constant for millions of people for years. Some of those people have gone on to write books about the experience.

Find these on Amazon, Half-Price Books, BN.com, or download to your favorite eBook reader.

This way you can learn from other’s mistakes so you can avoid making the same ones yourself.

Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis

Published in 1954, detailing the exploits of a college professor who doesn’t want the job at all. It may help you get an idea of where your professors are coming from.

Free Stuff Guide for Everyone by Peter Sander

Everything is expensive these days. When you’re in college this will be a harsh reality to contend with. Get this helpful guide so you can find the best deals, discounts, or other ways of making your dollar go farther.

Goodnight Dorm Room: All the Advice I Wish I Got Before Going to College by Samuel Kaplan and Keith Riegert

A funny and honest look at college. This book helps you understand the realities of college, as well as the real world, as well as giving you hints on how to adapt to dorm living and get ahead.

Dorm Room Essentials Cookbook by Gina Meyers

Everyone has to eat. But cafeteria food gets old really fast. And eating out for every meal is not feasible. This cookbook clues you in on how to make snacks, meals, and desserts on a budget and in your own dorm room.

The Naked Roommate: And 107 Other Issues You Might Run Into in College by Harlan Cohen

If there’s a lot of people living in a close, confined space, then the numbers dictate that one of them will be weird. Handling roommates and dormmates is a part of college life. Best to get ahead of the game and buy this book.

The College Humor Guide to College by Ethan Trex and Streeter Seidell

Who better to guy you into college than the people who parody college living?

By taking the humorous route, the book is more helpful than actual guidebooks.

 

There are more titles like these available. This list will get you started.

Make sure you get these books and read them before classes start. This way you’ll be even more prepared for college than any high school prep class could have made you.

Download the eBooks, audiobooks, or stream them to your device with reliable internet. To do that, check out the best cable and internet deals. This way you’ll save some money before you jet off to higher education.

6 Factors to Picking the Right Headphones

6 Factors to Picking the Right Headphones

Working in the office, going for a run, or tuning into a podcast, you’re probably going to need a pair of headphones.

Without them, listening to your favorite music, audiobook, or podcast will be impossible. Well, maybe not impossible, but more problematic.

Thanks to the internet, there is a wealth of information out there on headphones. It can be overwhelming, however, when it comes to the number of guides out there on how to pick a set and which ones are the best.

Consider this, underneath all the opinions, advertisements, and ratings, the choice is yours. If you pick headphones that aren’t at the top of the bestseller list, that’s fine. You’re the one who’s going to use them, so why not go with something you want?

That said, not every set of headphones will work for you.

Take these six factors into consideration as you search for your next set.Headphones

Type

Headphones used to mean speakers that were attached to a headband and placed over your ears. As technology has advanced, the term is more of a general umbrella. There’s earbuds, on-ear, over-the-ear.

Each one has its benefits and drawbacks.

Over-the-ear

These are headphones in the truest sense of the word, they cover the ear completely. How well they cover your ears will most likely determine their comfortability.

These will usually deliver the best sound quality, but that can also depend on the price. The cheaper the headphones, the poorer the sound quality. The material around the headphone will also affect how they feel on your ears. It may be nice at first until you consider how long you plan on wearing them.

I find that over-the-ear headphones can become uncomfortable if I wear them for too long. That may also have something to do with my big ears.

The downside to this type of headphone is they’re big.

Over-the-ear headphones take up a lot of space. A few brands come with cases to carry them, or hinges to make them more portable. When this happens, however, sound and durability get compromised.

If you’re working in the music business, then buying this style of headphones is a foregone conclusion, and you’ll likely have them on all day to listen to music.

On-ear

These headphones don’t cover the entire ear, hence the name.

These can have the over-the-head band or around the back of the neck. What matters is the coverage of the ear itself.

On-ear headphones are a middle-of-the-road choice. They’re smaller than over-the-ear, making them more portable, at the cost of sound quality. This doesn’t mean all headphones in this category are worthless.

Check out sites with bestseller lists and ratings to get an idea of which on-ear headphones rise to the top of the pack.

In-ear

In-ear, or earbuds as they’re called, fit right in the ear.

Most of them will fit snugly, making this style the top choice for athletics. Headbands tend to slide off or squeeze the head too much, resulting in a headache.

Sound quality for this style is usually pretty good. On the flipside of that, it’s easy to drown out outside noise to the point you can’t hear anything. That’s a problem if you’re out running on the street. So be safe and make sure your music isn’t too loud.

When it comes to portability, earbuds are the best. With a cord-minder, you can easily stash them in a pocket to be pulled out later. Great for trips too.

What Do You Want Most?

To keep pace with the evolving nature of entertainment, headphones have changed too.Headphones

With that change, there’s come some variables to take into account; sound quality, portability, and price.

You can’t have all three.

So which one is most important to you?

Sound Quality

There’s sound quality and then there’s sound quality.

Those who want the best sound quality will go with the latter.

When it comes to finding headphones that deliver top sound quality, you’re likely to go with over-the-ear headphones, and expensive ones too. There’s a litany of things you need to know in order to understand what makes good sound quality.

Once you’ve mastered that, you also need to know how to set up your sound system to deliver the best sound quality your headphones can deliver.

Portability

At their inception, headphones were meant to be carried around with you. But that’s what they’ve evolved into.

Over-the-ear headphones are bulkier, bigger, and can easily get in the way when you’re not wanting to use them. This makes them an easy target when it comes to ruling out a style.

On-ear and earbuds tend to be a better choice. And earbuds being the best option. Earbuds are also great for athletics. They don’t bounce around and keep the extra weight down.

Price

It all boils down to money, doesn’t it?

A set of headphones may be perfect for you, only for you to rule them out because they’re too expensive.

Another frustrating facet when it comes to price is that while the headphones may deliver on sound, they may also break easily.

Just a few things to keep in mind.

Hearing Everything

HeadphonesWhether you’re looking for your next pair or trying to stream Drake, make sure you’re not paying too much for your internet. Look for the best internet bundles so you can save money there first that can then go to a better pair of headphones.

Even if it’s a difficult choice, taking the time to evaluate your options will pay off in the long run. Because once you’ve decided on a pair that’s right for you, you can sit back, turn on the music, and drift away.

Google Gets a Grammar Check

Google Gets a Grammar Check

For those without a Microsoft 365 account, Google Docs does a passable-to-decent job of creating a document. It comes free with all Gmail accounts as part of G-Suite, so it’s nice to know it’s there when a document program is needed in a pinch.

It has a big flaw though.

No grammar check feature.

Grammar Misses

There are those times when one is writing a document, that the words are flowing as fast as thoughts. The fingers blur over the keys.Google

And words appear on the screen.

Then comes the editing.

Reading along, sentence by sentence, discovering thoughts made tangible in a flurry of activity- but what’s this? Is there supposed to be an apostrophe for “its” or not?

Small mistakes like this, grammatically, happen all the time.

Thanks to grammar check features, they’re quickly solved and reduce the amount of time it takes to edit a document. As a writer, I speak to the helpfulness of these things as I have to write constantly every day for work and for pleasure.

Grammar check features, though helpful, are not 100% secure though.

Which is why having a second set of eyes is always a good idea.

For writers like me, however, this sometimes a luxury.

For Google to start implementing this feature into Docs means there will be another option available to match Microsoft Word. There’s no news of Docs becoming a fee-based service. That means another word processing application that can check grammar and spelling will likely attract a lot of attention.

Microsoft Word

Everyone knows Word.

It’s often listed under “required skills” on a job application.

Should you find yourself working in the publishing industry, you’ll discover Microsoft Word is the program you’ll end up working with the most. Queries coming in a format other than Word are quickly tossed out.

Word, as of this writing, has the most sophisticated grammar check feature available to the public. If you’re using the most recent version of Word, you’ll notice the double-blue lines underneath words or phrases that are spelled correctly. If they were misspelled, they’d have that red, squiggly line underneath.

No, the double-blue line is for grammar.

Left click anywhere on that double-blue line and a pop-up window will appear with suggestions that are grammatically correct.

Microsoft has worked on this grammar check feature for years. A big reason for its level of sophistication is because Microsoft launched Word back in the eighties. Ever since then, they’ve been working to improve the program.

I may not have been the best student in English (I was worse in math), but after years of writing, I can say with confidence, that my grammar is much because of my experience. It’s the same with Microsoft Word.

Grammarly

I work primarily in Word. The rough draft of this article was written in Word, in fact.

To post my work, however, I go through applications that don’t have Word’s years of experience to check my grammar.

As a hedge against possible embarrassment, I’ve signed up for the free version of Grammarly.

At first, my pride prevented me from doing this. I had Microsoft Word, after all, why go with a young upstart?

That pride, however, went away quickly when I realized there was no grammar check feature installed on the software used for our website. I hastily signed up for the free version of Grammarly.

Unlike Word, Grammarly uses an AI to check my work.

Grammarly, in their own words, uses a sophisticated artificial intelligence system to analyze each sentence.

Now, on every email, social media comment, or online form that I fill out, a spinning green circle waits for me to finish so it can check if I’ve been grammatically correct. Not politically correct, spiritually correct, but grammatically correct.

When done, it’ll turn red with a number on it, stating how many offenses to grammar that I’ve committed. I have yet to write something grammatically correct the first time through.

I guess I’m still human then.

Grammarly is helpful that way.

It does not, however, work with Google Docs.

Google Docs

Google Docs does have a spell-check feature. This is basic and easy to install. It’s simply a dictionary app hooked up the word processing program to check my spelling against its database of words.

Soon, Google will roll out their grammar check feature.

In the beginning, it will only be available to business customers. If your company uses Google heavily, then contact the G-Suite administrator to have it unlocked on your profile…that is, when it rolls out.

This grammar check feature doesn’t have the years of experience that Word has.

Instead, it’s based on Google Translate.

As it’s been described, Google will be using the same technology they use for their Google Translate app. This technology translates multiple languages, using machine translation. What Google has done here is plug in “perfect grammar” into the “translate to” field. Your writing will fill in the “translate from” field.

It’s a clever use of the technology.

How well it does in catching every grammatical mistake remains to be seen.

But, as some great writer said: “Nothing ventured is nothing gained.”

Maybe it was Chaucer?

On Writing

To me, Google Docs getting a grammar check feature is big news.

To others, it’s a passing piece of news. Those are the types of people who don’t check their Dictionary App every day to learn the “Word of the Day.”

Today it’s blinkered, by the way.

Having a program check your grammar as you write is a tool that does more for you than you realize. Before something like this existed, a real person had to sit and double check your writing. And they usually had a well-worn copy of a style guide sitting next to them as they did this.

GoogleAutomation has taken this away and AI appears to be taking it over.

Though this is good news, don’t mistake AI as the savior of writing.

While Artificial Intelligence can do things for you, it can not- try as it might- speak for you.

That’s something you do for yourself. And writing is a way to do that.

With a grammar check feature, whether it be in Word, Google Docs, or Grammarly, you can hedge against sounding idiotic. But, to sound genuine, that’s something that can only be done by you and no one else.

One last note, whether you write online, or write in Word and then copy-paste it into an online platform, make sure your internet is fast and reliable. Check out the best internet bundles to see what’s available in your area and how much you can save.

Then get to writing!

Ready Player One Review

Ready Player One Review

Ready Player One earns the title of “Holy Grail of pop culture references” many times over.

The film, released back in March in theaters, and on Tuesday on blu-ray, DVD, and digital download, goes above and beyond with the references. There’s the Iron Giant, Ninja Turtles, Monty Python, Gundam, King Kong, Blade Runner, and oh-so many more.

With one-liners, and some of its own sly dialogue, the film does a good job of entertaining.

It is, however, not as good as the book.

The Movie

When I first heard that Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One was going to be turned into a movie, it seemed a natural progression for property. It was an homage to pop culture as well as cult-favorites.

The irony is those very cult classics are now getting elevated to legendary status and pulled into pop culture itself.

Another irony is Steven Spielberg got himself into the director’s chair for the film.Ready Player One

Spielberg

Spielberg’s heyday was in the eighties and he directed a lot of the films that ended up becoming pop cultures references. As his career progressed and he became a big-name director, he’s always been linked to the classics.

And then he ended up directing the movie with a lot of references to his own previous works.

I find that interesting.

The effects were on point. And how could they not?

If Spielberg was going to be involved, then good effects were a given. Without a multi-million-dollar budget behind something like this, then there would have been no way to capture the scale. At best, it would have become another niche movie to garner a cult following.

That didn’t happen, as Ernest Cline found the right connections for his book and got the story turned into a screenplay and the screenplay turned into a movie.

The Writing

Turning a book into a film requires—shall we say—delicate reimagining.

In my younger days I was a die-hard purist. This is one of the reasons I have a hard time watching any new X-Men movie that comes out. But more on that later.

Old age has softened me to the point that my blood doesn’t boil when the movie diverges significantly from the book. Part of this is the realization that writing a book and movie are two different things. There is writing involved in both. The mindset for each is entirely different.

Ernest Cline, the author of the book, had a hand in the screen writing, which is always a good thing. Author’s are protective of their work and I’m sure Cline was no exception to the rule.

His involvement is probably why the spirit of the film is close to the spirit of the book.

That may sound like semantics, but to writers, it’s important.

Therefore, key plot points were lifted from the book and put into the movie. I’m okay with this as some books have been butchered beyond recognition in the past. Cline, and his fellow screenwriter Zak Penn, should be commended for taking such a massive story and condensing it into a movie. They kept the feel of it while getting to the heart of the story.

The Book

While the movie was great, I’m still a fan of the book.

I always will be.

Within the pages of Ready Player One, the reader can truly get to know Wade Watts. This is a benefit of reading internal monologues.

The movie was filled with references, both verbal and visual, to pop culture things. The book, on the other hand, goes beyond. Ready Player One not Ready Player Oneonly drenches itself in pop culture and geekiness, it also serves a primer to those who are unfamiliar with it.

A movie can only do so much.

That’s why the book is going to remain timeless. The movie, sadly, will soon be dated.

Luckily for me, I got to see a lot of the films referenced in the book. For those who saw the movie first, they’ll have to go back and watch them. Then they’ll be able to understand the reference and see why it’s funny. For someone like me, who knew the reference already, it’s even more enjoyable to see it cleverly inserted into a book.

Though the movies climax was good, I enjoyed the book’s climax much better.

And I can’t wait for when “flick-syncs” become a real thing.

Books First, Movies Second

While Ready Player One makes good use of previous films and games, it’s still a book.

Most of the movies and games referenced within the book came from other books. And if that wasn’t the case, then the creators of said movies and games go their ideas from reading books.

As movies get bigger and bigger in their scale and budgets, they’ll need to find new material. It’s an unavoidable fact of the industry.

The first place for creators to look for new ideas is in books.

And that’s also an unavoidable fact.

Books will continue to provoke ideas and imagination.

What makes books so unique is they give you the ability to create a film in your own mind. You pick the actors, the score, the effects, and the pacing of the film.

Movies, while awe-inspiring, have a limiting quality to them- their run time.

Books don’t have that problem.

Do this; after watching Ready Player One, get on Amazon and buy the book. Make sure you have the best internet bundles before you do.

Better yet, get out of the house, go to a Barnes & Noble, and buy the book there. If there’s no Barnes & Noble, go to your library.

You’d be surprised what you learn.

 

“…and that, my liege, is how we know the Earth to be banana-shaped.”

“This new learning amazes me, Sir Bedevere. Explain again how sheep’s bladders may be employed to prevent earthquakes.”

Monty Python and the Holy Grail

Get Ready for the Holodeck

Get Ready for the Holodeck

Looking Glass Factory may have put themselves into the history of the holodeck.

The technology startup has introduced hologram displays available for purchase through a Kickstarter campaign. These displays project virtual images through a lenticular lens, from 45 distinct views to give the illusion of three dimensions. You can pick up the display and turn it to see different parts of the image on display. We’re now one step closer to a fully integrated and immersive holographic experience.

This idea has been floating around our collective consciousness…thanks to science-fiction.

To Boldly Go…

Star Trek made popular the concept of the interactive holographic display.

Though not really utilized until The Next Generation spin-off, The USS Enterprise-D had an entire level of the vessel committed to this unique entertainment experience.

The Holodeck

Data gave the hard science explanation.

And now for plain-English: light is projected to create three-dimensional environments that are fully interactive.

Different environments could be loaded in seconds and based entirely on the whim of the person using it. The writers even went as far as to say that holograms could be solid. A solid hologram opened the door for the element of danger as blades and bullets would be lethal.

Having solid holograms may have been less about science and more about practicality, as the budget for the show couldn’t produce the necessary effects to truly give the illusion of a holographic environment.

With the science explained, the writers for The Next Generation, Deep Space 9, Voyager, and Enterprise, all used holographic technology liberally in their stories. Again, it had practical uses to explain away why the crew kept showing up in places that looked a lot like southern California.

“This is a hologram!” Someone would explain, and the show would continue.

The writers also used holograms to hand-wave away deceptions. If the villain, or the good guys, needed to create a convincing forgery to trick someone, they’d lure their mark into the holodeck. This technique is in use so much it now has its own trope.

Deep Space 9, is set somewhere other than a Federation vessel, had the holosuites. The same concept, just a different name.

Voyager went as far as to create a character, The Doctor, using it. An intriguing idea until the discovery that the charact couldn’t leave the ship. To solve this problem, the writers gave The Doctor a piece of future technology that allowed him to walk anywhere.

But the writers for Voyager ran the character into the ground as it seemed they didn’t know how to develop flesh and blood characters.

That’s enough on that topic…for now.

Practical Uses

While we work in the three-dimensional world, a lot of our planning is done on a two-dimensional surface. This can cause problems for artists, engineers, and designers who create three-dimensional objects.

The Looking Glass is a tool they can use to avoid such issues.

Up until now, three-dimensional displays were expensive and cumbersome. This has forced three-dimensional designers to wear bulky goggles. Not the worst part of the job, but I can imagine it can get old very fast. With a Looking Glass display, they can see and modify their designs in real time without having to take off and put back on a set of goggles.

The Looking Glass requires a computer to run. Check out their site to see what equipment you need to utilize it.

Unfortunately, for writers, like me, such a device wouldn’t be very helpful.

Creating New Environments

The Looking Glass also works with various haptic devices.

Motion controllers, like Nintendo’s Joy-Con, the Leap Motion controller and others, can connect to The Looking Glass to allow users to interact directly with the designs. This type of virtual reality interaction, seen in the book Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, as well as the movie, are just a step on the journey towards a fully interactive environment.

With Ready Player One, interacting with the Oasis requires the use of goggles, haptic gloves, and omnidirectional treadmills (a much better explanation is in the book). Given the book is set twenty minutes into the future, this isn’t too much of a stretch. I shudder to think of the cost and labor required to install all that equipment in my house.

I think I’ll just wait until a fully-immersive environment is rolled out and ready to go.

But not The Matrix.

While interesting and certainly a possibility, I’m not keen on jamming a needle into my brain to travel to a digital environment.

Through The Looking Glass

With The Looking Glass Factory launching this new product, the holodeck is closer to becoming a reality.

How soon that reality comes to fruition is still an unknown.

Creating a three-dimensional image on a lenticular lens is one thing. Creating a fully-immersive three-dimensional environment that could possibly kill you– is something entirely different.

Despite the gap between today’s technology and Gene Roddenberry’s vision of the future, we’re slowly closing that gap.Looking Glass

All it takes is for someone to say “I think this would be a cool idea.” After that, someone inevitably says “yeah, let’s make it a reality.”

Until Edgar Rice Burrows and Jules Verne wrote about adventures in space, no one had really thought about leaving the boundaries of the earth. Then more and more people started writing about it and theorizing how it would work. Soon John F. Kennedy is standing in front of the nation and calling for a program to send a man to the moon and back before the end of the decade.

It’s often the dreamers who dream that lay the groundwork for what’s to come. It’s said Roddenberry’s fascination with science-fiction began when someone handed him a copy of Astounding Stories. Had that not happened, there would be no Star Trek, no holodeck, and no Looking Glass Factory trying to make holographic displays.

Find out for yourself by visiting The Looking Glass Factory and Start Trek: Memory Alpha.

Before you do, save yourself some headache with the internet bill by finding the best internet bundles. You get to cut down on bills and streamline your services.

After that, you can boldly go…wherever your imagination takes you.

A New Way to Connect: How Fixed Wireless Internet Can Improve Your Online Experience

A New Way to Connect: How Fixed Wireless Internet Can Improve Your Online Experience

 Satellite Internet customers have remained notoriously limited in their choice of Internet service providers.  Not anymore!  Fixed wireless Internet service may just be the answer to consumers’ need for fast and reliable service.  We are all painfully aware of the frustrations of traditional Internet service.  Speeds get throttled.  Service goes down.  Customer service sucks.  Stuff happens.

Call Now
877-770-2565

The benefits of going wireless

Que será, será, right?  Not quite.  Not anymore.  Consumers now have a choice about which broadband connection type they want.  Wireless connectivity – the answer to all our wire-dependency troubles – has been around for quite a while.  Internet companies and developers have cast their hopes on radio waves since – well, basically since the invention of the Internet.

Our wire and cord days are mostly gone now.  Electromagnetic radiation.  You gotta love it!  It’s really a cool idea if you think about it.  You can connect to the Internet without the use of a physical medium for the connection to occur over, like a cable.  The idea of using satellites as a means of providing Internet access certainly has its benefits in much the same way that using a wireless router in your home as opposed to a wired connection has its benefits.

Consumers can now access the Internet from previously too remote for other service providers’ physical lines to connect them.  That means you, rural dweller – yes, you!

Choices, choices, choices!fixed wireless internet

Satellite Internet has long been the connection of choice for people living on the outskirts of the big city.  In many cases, it was the only way to go.  A lack of option in terms of availability of service meant that rural customers had no real choice.  You either have Viasat or HughesNet.  End of story.

This lack of options came with some setbacks.  The first setback was latency.  Gamers, pay attention to this part; this concerns you.  Geosynchronous satellites are up there in space.  Like way, way up there.  These flying tin cans have an orbit that’s over 22,000 miles above the surface of the Earth.  Radio waves take time to travel across that kind of distance.  The signal must first reach the satellite and then return to Earth.  This results in a delay.  That delay is called latency, and it is the bane of satellite Internet customers’ existence.

Think about online gaming.  Modern games are played in real-time and require a fast connection.  The lag time for satellite Internet is typically about 230 milliseconds: not nearly long enough to notice when doing casual browsing, but is potentially disastrous for Fortnite aficionados!  Latency can also affect other real-time applications like voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP).  Think Skype calls.  Who would have thought that calling grandma would be so fraught with frustration, eh?

The second setback that satellite Internet users encounter regularly is good ol’ mother nature.  Inclement weather can leave customers in the dark.  Literally.  Rain, snow, dense cloud cover, and even particularly gusty winds can result in a lost satellite signal.  The thing about satellite connection is that users must have a clear view of the satellite to get a good signal.  Microwave radio frequencies travel in a straight line and cannot pass through solid objects.  Physical obstructions like trees and buildings can negatively affect the quality of the connection.

What’s a person to do if they experience these connection issues regularly with their satellite Internet connection?  For a long time, there was nothing they could do.  Short of moving to the city, users had to suck it up and go with the flow.  Not anymore.

Here to save the day – fixed wireless Internet!

People often confuse fixed wireless Internet with satellite Internet.  The two types of connection are similar.  They both tout the benefits of a wireless connection (i.e., availability in rural areas).  However, where satellite connections occur thousands of miles up in space, fixed wireless connections occur right down here on the ground.  The way it works is simple.  Service is transmitted via radio waves from a tower access point on the ground.  Okay, well, maybe it’s a bit more complex than that, but you get the idea.  It’s innovative point-to-point technology.

Rise Broadband is the nation’s largest fixed wireless provider, providing service to rural communities in 16 states – and growing!  In fact, Rise Broadband, winner of the 2017 Fierce Wireless Telecom Provider Award, has eyes set on the future with 5G standards setting new standards for growth.  Areas across the map are now being covered by towers to provide access.  Areas like yours, reader.  That’s right.  A tower has been constructed in your vicinity, providing you access to fixed wireless Internet.  Satellite Internet is no longer your only option!

Final thoughts

This is great news for customers who are looking for fast, reliable service.  By delivering speeds comparable to or exceeding DSL, cable, and fiber, fixed wireless Internet offers consumers like you a highly anticipated wireless solution to get you connected.  Check to see which Rise Broadband offers are available in your area.  A new way to connect is here.

Ain’t technology grand?

Call Now
877-770-2565

 

6 Parts of Comic Book Prestige

6 Parts of Comic Book Prestige

If you’ve heard of comic books, then you were meant to buy one.

Long before Paul Rudd donned the Ant-Man suit, Robert Downy Jr. the Iron Man armor, Brie Larson the Captain Marvel suit, and Chadwick Boseman the Vibranium suit of Black Panther, there were comic books. These simple collections of panels and word bubbles were the precursors to some of the greatest movies ever made.

More importantly, they would have never existed had it not been for some of the greatest storytellers to ever live.

Stan Lee, Steve Ditko, and many more got their start in comic books. Their imagination and ideas gave voice and body to what we consider “heroes.”

Thanks to the rise of digital readers, movies, and video games, it’s hard to find a legitimate print comic book. Which is why owning a print comic book carries with it a certain amount of prestige.

You don’t get this type of prestige from playing a game or watching a movie and television. It comes from the experience of reading a comic book itself.Comic Books

Legacy

A comic book is more than a comic book the same way a car is more than just a means of getting from point A to point B.

Cars say something about the person who drives them.

Comic books say something about the person reading them.

Unlike video games and movies, which you play and can only talk about or watch clips of, comic books can be shared with others. The stories on the page can speak to people in different ways and this can open the door for a much wider range of conversation.

And you’ll still have time to catch the latest movie or game.

The Look

You’ve heard of a pair of shoes that make an outfit? The same is true of a comic book. They set the newbies apart from the true enthusiasts.

Be careful here.

Don’t go out and buy one comic book and carry it around thinking this will set you apart. It may work for a little while, but soon everyone will catch on. Not to mention other true enthusiasts will figure it out and you’ll be called out as a fake. So fair warning.

Lifestyle

The average price of a comic book ranges between $4-$6, and graphic novels running about $20 per collection. Thanks to their cost-effective nature they provide more entertainment than movies and video games.

Label

There are Marvel and DC, the two biggest names in comic books right now.

It’s easy to attach yourself to one over the other, as there are those who read only one comic publisher and nothing else. But don’t limit yourself too early. There are other titles out there that are just as entertaining as the latest Captain America.

Try out Image Comics, Dark Horse Comics, Antarctic Press, Top Cow Productions, and Aspen Comics, to name a few.

These provide rich stories and high-quality art that too many in the mainstream ignore.

Livelihood

Just like your smartphone, you need to take care of your comic books.

Unlike your smartphone, they’re easier to take care of. Just don’t get them wet and store them on a shelf when you’re not using them.

No Charge cords needed.

Luxury

Of the many status symbols out there, few match comic books.

By purchasing the latest issue of The X-Men, Superman, even Fathom, you’re signaling to the wider world, without shouting, that you’re part of an elite club. The club that reads the newest stories before they become movies.Comic Book

How Do You Join this Elite Club?

The good news is that joining this club is easy. There may not be a comic book store conveniently located nearby, but you can go online to find honest and friendly comic book resellers.

Mycomicshop.com, Mile High Comics, Midtown Comics, and Things From Another World are online comic shops that will take care of you. Simply visit their home pages to check out the newest issues and any deals they have going on.

Every comic shop will have the newest issues available, but the good ones will have a wide selection of back issues, issues that were published already. Any extra issues that don’t sell end up here and a large amount of them will sell for decent prices.

If you’re looking for that specific issue you missed, then you’re in luck with an online comic shop. You’ll have to do a little research to find which issue you’re looking for, but you’ll most likely find it. If it’s a rare issue, be prepared to pay extra.

Thanks to back issues, if you miss the latest issue, you’ll be able to catch up or get up to speed on the backstory of what’s happening with your favorite titles.

Prestige Awaits You

It takes time to build up knowledge, and by extension, prestige.

Therefore, the sooner you start, the better.

You can even stream newest issues of titles from the major comic book publishers. Before you do, make sure you have the best connections at the best prices by checking out the best internet package deals.

In no time at all, you’ll be reading up on the newest and greatest superheroes from the comfort of your own smartphone. Better yet, have them delivered to your door!

Those around you will be envious of your prestige!

Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects

Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects

Watching Sharp Objects on HBO is sure to be a treat. The only thing better is to read the source material. The book Sharp Objects by the amazing Gillian Flynn.

If you’re not convinced, keep in mind Flynn wrote Gone Girl and Dark Places. These two books were turned into stellar movies. Gone Girl was directed by Academy Award-Nominee David Fincher, starring Rosamund Pike and Ben Affleck. Dark Places starred Academy Award-winner Charlize Theron and Nicholas Hoult. Drawing in that kind of star power speaks to the caliber of the book.

There’s a saying- The book’s better than the movie.

If this is true, then these books will be well worth the time to read.

Getting Drawn In

FlynnLet’s keep our focus on Sharp Objects.

Flynn, a Missouri-native, is masterful at weaving intrigue and suspense without going overboard with her words. This is a rare skill.

As many first-time authors can attest, being able to paint a picture with words is difficult. Authors will go on and on about mundane details, only to find they’ve lost the narrative, and worse, their readers.

Flynn, on the other hand, has been able to keep the details to a minimum and keep a rich narrative.

This leads to the Tetris Diametric: You want more lines in Tetris than you do on a page. When you stack up lines and clear them in Tetris you get more points. On a page the opposite is true; the more lines you have, the more your story disappears.

The solution to this is finding the right amount of lines to tell the story with and still allow gaps. These gaps will allow the reader to bring in their own experiences, images, feelings, and make the story their own.

It involves a delicate balance.

From the first page, Flynn strives to find this balance and to make it work. It’s not always easy. Reread this book to help you nail this with your own writing.

Finding the Edge

FlynnCamille, though she’s hesitant, returns to her hometown of Wind Gap, MO.

As a reporter, she’s there to follow the story of a little girl’s disappearance. There was another about six months previous.

Camille isn’t hesitant because of the nature of the story, but because her mother is still living in Wind Gap. Having become estranged from her mother doesn’t help matters either. The relationship never really did seem to be a good one, and with the death of her sister, Marian, it got worse.

Showing up to this, Camille decides she’ll simply put her head down and get her job done. The sooner the better.

The story doesn’t play out this way.

Secrets

Sharp Objects and other books in this genre depend on the secrets characters keep from each other. If no one had secrets, it would be a very dull book.

They also can’t give them away too easily.

This brings up another important writing adage- Law Conservation of Detail.

Details are important but there should only be as much as is necessary. By giving out a few details, it’s easy to hide secrets. This isn’t a guaranteed way to avoid getting in trouble with the law, but it works well in literature.

Again, Flynn pulls this off by dropping details here and there, but not giving away the secrets. When done right, there’s a surprise waiting at the end of the book. You can even go back, read, and find that indeed the information was there all along.

Camille has her secrets and in keeping them they end up creating problems. These problems are made worse by other people’s secrets.

When you build secrets on top of secrets and balance it with the right amount of detail, you can have a whirlwind story.

Camille

The best part of Sharp Objects is not the mystery, though that is what draws you in.

The best part is Camille.

Camille isn’t a perfect person. She’s flawed, wounded, and scarred.

These traits would be nothing without her redeeming features. Camille has a hidden strength that many people have, only to think it’s not a strength, but another flaw.

This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Camille is what we can call a Determinator: She wants to solve the mystery or find the answer to a question, and nothing will stop her until she gets the solution. Camille’s not smooth, charismatic, or even awkward.

She’s silent and still.

This leads many of the other characters in the book to misjudge her and assume she’s scared. On the contrary, she’s figuring things out.

It’s her personal demons that get in the way.

Worth the Read

It doesn’t matter how you read Sharp Objects, be on an eReader, an audiobook, or a real book, it’ll be worth the time.Flynn

The best way, though usually overlooked, is to read it in plain ol’ paperback.

The tactile sensation of a paper under your fingers, flipping the page, and getting to make notes in the margins are what set regular books apart from other mediums. This style of reading has been around for millennia and there’s not a compelling reason to get rid of it.


Enjoy Sharp Objects on both HBO and an eReader with the best internet deals!

Finding a Better Way with Apple Maps

Finding a Better Way with Apple Maps

There is nothing—nothing— more frustrating than ordering a pizza and having it arrive late. And cold.

The pizza delivery guy most likely has an iPhone. As of 2012, Apple dropped Google Maps as its default map app provider. iPhone users can still download a version of Google Maps. If your pizza arrived late, the Pizza Delivery Expert was most likely using Apple Maps and couldn’t find your home.

There’s another possibility- he wasn’t rushing to get you your pizza and was using Apple Maps as an excuse for not getting there on time.

The good news is Apple Maps is about to launch a new version.

Very soon Pizza Delivery Experts will have one less excuse for being late with your pizza.

Help On The Ground

Apple MapsAs of this writing, Google Maps is still the clear leader when it comes to accurate maps. Google has earned this distinction because they’ve sent around cars, analyzed satellite imagery, and compiled the necessary data themselves. It takes time to do this and it shows in Google’s functionality.

Due to this hard work, Google Maps enjoys top billing when it comes to navigation apps; 500 Smartphone users were surveyed by The Manifest and asked which navigation app they preferred.

67% named Google Maps.

To match, and surpass, Google’s position as top dog in the navigation business, Apple has gone out and started to collect their own raw data.

To get the actual, on-the-ground-data, they’ve sent out a fleet of vans with sophisticated cameras and sensors strapped to the top. These work with a MacBook inside the van connected to solid state drives and an iPad. An operator monitors the image capture and ensures the assigned area has been completely driven.

The images will be overlapped for 3D recreations. Routes and directions will be improved as well thanks to on-the-ground driving.

Help From iPhones

As the vans travel through neighborhoods, shooting images, the images are scrubbed of faces and any personal information. The pictures are uploaded to Apple’s databases afterward. This keeps the data “sanitized,” free from personal information.

Apple Maps will also tap its users in updating real-time data collection.

Apple does this by lifting only vectors and speed from iPhone Users who have their Apple Maps App open and operating during a commute. It’s small snippets of data they use to calculate traffic and route options. When users ask Siri a question regarding navigation, the query is handled by the iPhone itself and not through Apple’s database systems.

Only the snippets, free of personal identifiers, will be lifted and sent through Apple Maps. These are also randomized and pulled from all iPhone users to sanitize the data for navigation purposes.

Apple Maps also remembers common routes you take, helping you plan your trips better throughout the day. Again, this information is compiled and stored on the iPhone itself and not through iCloud.

The benefit of this is that the more you use your iPhone, the more accurate these routes will become. On the flipside, the less you use it, the less accurate it will be when it comes to the routes you normally take.

One more interesting item; thanks to this collection of snippets, Apple Maps will also be able to help map out indoor areas as well. Trying to catch a connecting flight in a new airport? Apple Maps will be able to help with that!

Help From Above

Apple MapsThe last piece of Apple Maps new update will come from the satellites above.

Data culled from the vans and the users will be incorporated into satellite imagery. Shapes of buildings will be clearer. Walkways established. Bike paths updated. Even recreating the leaves on the trees.

From here, 3D representations are created to help you find your way better. This may not seem important in the city that you live in, but it will be a huge help when it comes to traveling to new places. Apple Maps will even match the typeface, font, and number order on street signs!

Help From You

Apple MapsThe developers at Apple are creating a toolkit to let you edit Apple Maps yourself.

This will be helpful when it comes to finding what door is the right entry for a building. You’ll be able to mark where parking is. Even place a pin on which driveway is the correct driveway for your friend’s house.

The toolkit will allow you to edit this in Apple Maps yourself.

How Soon?

As of this writing, the newest version of Apple Maps will be available only in the San Francisco Bay Area. Northern California will follow in a couple of months. The goal is to have Apple Maps available to all iPhone users by the end of the year.

With any luck, pizza delivery drivers will be arriving quicker to your house with your hot and fresh pizza.

Remember to tip them well.


Find the best internet deals today to improve your navigation.