AT&T is about to help you become a bit more green friendly by introducing a new phone charger that will turn itself off when you don’t need it.

Most people don’t realize that when you leave a recharged plugged in to the wall socket, even if you do not have anything plugged into it, it is drawing power.  So whenever you unhook your cell phone when you leave home, but you leave the charger plugged in for convenience, you are still drawing power the entire time.  It is estimated that Americans waste around $12 billion a year in electrical bills in this way according to a study by the U.S. Department of Energy.

Cell phone carrier AT&T has decided to do something about this by releasing a new phone charger known as the “Zero Charger.”  This new smart charger will cut off any electrical draw when it detects that there is no phone attached to it, completely eliminating what is known as “vampire draw.”

Because this device is essentially just a USB adapter, it should work with a wide range of phones as you will simply plug your USB cable into it, so it should work phones and devices that aren’t even carried by AT&T.  Just think about your iPods, cell phones, mobile gaming devices … you start to realize just how much power you may be wasting in your every day life to keep all of your devices juiced.

There is no word on how much this charger will cost as of yet, but I am definitely keep my eye on it.  Release is slated for May.

Categories: Cell Phones, Green Living   
 

A lot of noise is being made today about the fact that Hitwise is reporting that Facebook is now the most visited in the United States, beating out long-time top dog Google. The problem is that it isn’t even close to being correct.

While third-part analytics companies numbers always vary wildly from one to the other, it’s the data from Hitwise itself that makes no sense.  The company reported that for the week ending March 13th, Facebook accounted for 7.07% of all traffic, while Google was 7.03% of traffic and Yahoo Mail was third with 3.8% of all traffic.

Looks like Facebook really won doesn’t it?  Well, Yahoo alone makes this untrue.  For some reason known only to Hitwise, they separated out the numbers for Yahoo and Yahoo Mail.  Yahoo’s main page had 3.67% of traffic, so when you add them together, which you should, they had 7.47% of all traffic, beating out both Google and Facebook.  This makes no sense why the two Yahoo sites weren’t counted as one, but that was the choice of Hitwise.

Now, Google owns YouTube, and YouTube had 2.14% of all traffic, so added together with Google’s 7.03% traffic share, that would make 9.17%, and that isn’t even counting all of the other Google sites such as Picasa, Orkut and so on.  We can somewhat understand this separation of stats, but breaking apart Yahoo and Yahoo Mail makes absolutely no sense.

Does this really matter at the end of the day to your average user?  Nope.  Do we still think companies should report statistics honestly and correctly?  Absolutely.  This isn’t to say that Hitwise is lying about statistics, it just says it is amazing how you can manipulate them when you get creative.  Any time I see data like this, I feel the need to dig deeper because it always feels like a headline grabbing proclamation to me, and that is certainly what this one appears to be.

Categories: Internet   
 

On March 15, 1985, Symbolics.com was registered as the first domain name, and the rest, as they say, was history.

VeriSign, the first company to watch over domain names, has launched a site aptly named 25YearsOf.com to celebrate this historic event.  It is doubtful that at any other time in history have three letters and a punctuation mark had such a profound effect on the world.

As part of the year-long celebration, ‘the “.com 25″‘ are currently being selected to be honored at a gala in May in San Francisco.  While the final 25 are being selected by a panel of judges, the current potential list of honorees is up on the site for you to show your support.  These are supposed to be the 25 people and sites that have shaped the Internet as we know it today, and while some of them make a lot of sense (say what you will about Steve Case of AOL, if not for his site, it is doubtful as many people would have learned about the Internet as early as they did without him), others are a bit off-the-wall (eHarmony … really?).  So make sure to stop by and vote for those you would like to see included.

It’s hard to imagine the world without .coms in it, let alone the Internet.  So, happy birthday to the domain name extension that started it all!

Categories: Internet   
 

One of the biggest drawbacks to Apple products such as iPods and iPhones is that the user can’t (easily) replace the battery on their own.  While work arounds have been found, they void the warranty on the products.  It appears that the iPad will be no different, however Apple has come up with a different system this time to try to make sure you just go through them to service the battery.

It seems that the iPad battery replacement FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) has been released, and instead of replacing the battery when you send your iPad in for a dying battery, the company will instead send you a whole replacement iPad.  It will cost you $99 plus $6.95 shipping (pre-taxes), and you will be shipped a completely different unit.  Now, do note that nowhere does it state that the iPad will be a brand new unit or if it will be a refurbished one, so I wouldn’t run around thinking, “Woo!  Brand new iPad!” quite yet.

Now, no matter if it is a brand new unit or a refurbished one, this means you will not be receiving a unit with any of your personal data or applications on it, so you will need to back it up before you ship it off so you can sync the data back when the new one arrives.

It isn’t clear why Apple is opting to replace the entire device as opposed to just the battery, but that is the road the company is taking.  Of course, this shouldn’t matter for a year or more as everyone who reads this site is of course following our advice of not ordering the first generation release … right?

Categories: Apple   
 

If you’ve ever wanted thought to yourself, “I wish I could watch high definition television programming on a bright yellow television set …”, your dreams have come true.

Marvel Entertainment, formerly known as Marvel Comics, has teamed up with RTC23 to release a line of LCD and LED high definition television sets.  Each unit is themed around a different famous Marvel character, and will show their name and images of them on the frame, and will also show pictures of the character during the start up process and on menu pages.

The TVs, which can also double as computer monitors, come in sizes of 22, 32, 42 and 55-inch  for the LCDs and 40 and 46-inch versions for the LED.  Some of the characters also come with options for different colored bodies  like the yellow one shown here also comes in blue and black.

Depending on model and size, prices range from $339 to $1989.

While this is cute and kinds funny, call us old sticks in the mud if you must, but isn’t the performance of the television more important than the comic book character slapped on it?  We know nothing about the quality of the RTC23 units, but we just can’t see the point in the garish colors, and won’t you get bored with seeing the same images of the characters over and over again?  Our suggestion would be, as always, look at reviews and shop for quality over some gimmick that seems rather pointless to us.

Categories: Home Electronics, televisions   
 

Starbucks is trying to get a bit more hip on the social scene with the addition of a “Barista” badge to the popular location-based game Foursquare.

Foursquare has been the big buzz word lately in location-based games.  By checking-in at locations you visit, you unlock badges and get to see who else is at the same location as you.  Some businesses have already arranged promotions with Foursquare, but the biggest name yet becomes active today, and that would be the coffee mega-chain, Starbucks.

Starting today, after you check-in at five separate Starbucks, you will unlock the “Barista” badge.  For right now that is the only perk to the promotion, but there are some definite hints of more coming down the road according to The New York Times.  “This allows us to do things that are not just coupons,” said Chris Bruzzo, vice president for brand, content and online at Starbucks said. “You can expect us to be experimenting in this space,” he concluded.

Some of the possible future promotions mentioned include things such as invitations to special events, photo sharing or online reputation scores.

The problem we see with this particular promotions it the requirement to visit five locations.  This puts this badge firmly in the arena of badges that can only be unlocked by those in major cities.  For instance, there is one Starbucks in a 90-mile radius of the StarterTech offices.  Doesn’t appear any of us will be unlocking this one.

While this particular badge isn’t the exciting, it’s what it possibly foretells that is most interesting.  What other possible big name brands may sign up with the location service?

Categories: Social Networking   
 

If you are continuing to use Windows XP like a goodly number of people are, and you need a new hard drive after Jan. 2011, you may run into some new issues.

According to the BBC, all hard drive manufacturers have agreed to change how their devices store information effective with January of next year.  Under the old method, hard drives store data in blocks that are 512 bytes in size.  This was dune to work with floppy drives, and it stayed with the storage industry until now.  Under the new architecture, blocks will be increased to 4K in size, or nearly eight times the old size.  This is expected to make hard drives 7 – 11% more efficient than the current drives.

The problem is that Windows XP, despite its age, is still a very prevalent operating system, and it has no clue how to handle blocks of that size.  Mac OS X (Tiger, Leopard and Snow Leopard versions) Windows Vista, Windows 7, and versions of the Linux kernel released after September 2009 are all able to handle the new file format.

A workaround has been designed to trick the hard drive into working with Windows XP, but it could result in reduced speed performance of as much as ten percent.  So, it will work, just not at peak performance.

In short, if you feel like you may need a new hard drive, do it before the end of this year so you can get one of the old style drives.

 

Virtual marketplaces are becoming all the rage, and now Google is jumping into the game with their business services arm, Google Apps.

Google Apps is a product of Google that allows companies to use the popular Gmail and Google Docs tools under their own company banner for an annual fee per user.  It can also be used for free by smaller companies or Web sites as a way to to route their e-mail into a Gmail interface while using their own domain name.  (i.e. owner@sitename.com would route to a Gmail account as opposed to your standard e-mail account)

Now Google has teamed up with multiple services to launch the Google Apps Marketplace.  For a separate fee per service you can add services such as Dimdim Web Conferencing, eFax, SurveyMonkey and many more to your current account, so that you can use all of them from one interface as opposed to going out to multiple sites and having to log in to each separately.

From a security perspective we can see the benefit, but each of the ones we looked at has some sort of cost associated with it.  If you’re a small company there are numerous free alternatives out there for just about everything we looked at.  In these tough economic times, weight convenience VS. cost, and you may not see the benefits of this immediately.  If you’re a big company, known yourselves out.

Categories: Google   
 

Are you ready to start seeing your television in 3D all the time?  Ready to start straining your eyes on a regular basis?

Panasonic 3D TVs will be hitting the shelves at Best Buy on Wednesday for around $2500.  The question is if you even need this technology in your life?

Personally I see 3D as a fad.  It has come and gone over the years, and while it may be nifty to go to a 3D movie from time to time, do you really want to have to wear those glasses all the time you’re in your own home?  (and, by the way, your $2500 only gets you one pair of glasses, so be ready to pick up more sets)  You know how some people have gotten headaches from watching Avatar?  Imagine doing that every night while you watch television?  No thanks.

When you add in th fact that people are still in the adoption process of HD TV sets, this was not the time to introduce a whole different set of technology.  Even if you have an HD TV already, you haven’t had it that terribly long in most cases, are you ready to plop down money again so soon for a technology that will be even more limited?

While the home electronics industry seems to think we’re ready for this, and I simply say we aren’t.  I have no desire to sit around with glasses on in my own home on a regular basis just to watch TV.  Thanks, but no thanks to all of the electronics companies that are so excited about this, but it just isn’t for me.  And, honestly, I think the electronics companies are going to find I’m not alone.

Categories: Home Electronics, televisions   
 

During the 82nd Annual Academy Awards last night, Apple debuted its first commercial for the upcoming iPad tablet.  There is one thing you can never say about Apple, and that is that they have bad advertising.

Lets just get the actual video out of the way.

If you had any question about what this device would do, you shouldn’t have that anymore after having watched that.

This commercial said in 30-seconds what bloggers have been writing about for five weeks now … if we just had an iPad to film we could have been done with this!

Honestly, we’re still saying you should skip the first generation, but we also know that most of you won’t listen to us, and this thing will be a huge seller.  We like the device, heck, we’d love to have one, but we also know the second generation will be even more impressive, so why not wait a year?  it’s not like this is a device you need, it’s one you want.

Categories: Apple   
 
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