What Can the Amazon Echo Really Do?

Is it hype for hype’s sake, or does the Amazon Echo really bring something new and innovative to the table? Well, we think that it brings something interesting to the table, especially when it comes to integrating technology into the home. So, what is so special about the Amazon Echo?

Glad you asked.

The Amazon Echo is designed to be a digital assistant for the here and now.  It’s more than just a speaker system, even though it performs this very well. It can play your favorite music, check the weather, read the news to you, and even give you sports scores for a game that’s already played.

amazon-echo

But it can do more than even those things. If you’re trying to set an alarm to wake up at a certain time in the morning, you can do that. If you want to get traffic reports, you can do that as well. Need to research a famous figure on Wikipedia before you dig further? Yes, it’s true: you can do that. (more…)

Finding the Right Headphones (And Mic) – Audio Technica ATH-M50

I know finding a good set of headphones or a headset can be a tough task. Even for a gamer and especially when you’re not sure what you’re looking for. All you know is that you want good audio quality and a good bass for a good price. I got exactly what you’re looking for. The Audio Technica ATH-M50 or the Audio Technica ATH-M50x.ath_m50_1_sq

Pros:

  • Bass is great
  • Balanced sound
  • Great overall sound quality
  • Good build quality
  • Comfortable (even more comfortable with the ATH-M50x)
  • Worth the money

Cons:

  • No volume control
  • Hard to use with portable music players (only ATH-M50)
  • Ears can get a little warm from using it for long periods (only ATH-M50)

Before we get into the ATH-M50/ATH-M50x more, I’d like to clear something up. If you’re a gamer and want a headset, you should read this post. I used to purchase gaming headsets when playing games and when I found out about what I’m going to tell you, my whole experience of games and music was amplified a thousand times. The trick is to buy a headset and a mic separately. Finding a mic is not as hard as finding a good pair of headphones. What you can do is simply to buy a ModMic. A ModMic is a mic you attach to your headphones and plug in to your computer and the quality is actually pretty good. I know, having both the headphone wire and the mic wire hanging loosely can be irritating, but there are solutions for that. You could use easier adhesive or twist them around each other and use cable ties to tie them together. Only your imagination can stop you.

Why should I get headphones and a mic separately?

Better value. Enough said. Gaming companies make a lot of money on their products because of their customers laziness. What they do, is basically what you don’t. They combine a pair of mediocre headphones with a mediocre mic and make a mediocre headset for a high price. You can do the same for a much cheaper product!

My recommendations

If you’re flat out looking for a pair of headphones and a mic without an explanation, go for the ATH-M50 or ATH-M50x and a ModMic. With this setup, you’ll go a long way for your average use. Price isn’t too high, and you get a lot of value. If you’re not interested in quality sound, you could pretty much go for any headset you want.

What’s the difference between ATH-M50 and the ATH-M50x? Audio Technica has actually discontinued the ATH-M50 which means that you can find it for a lower price than the M50x (depending on where you’re looking of course). In some cases, they can be as expensive as the M50x. There is no big difference in sound. The main difference is that you have three detachable cables that come with. One coiled standard cable, one straight long cable and a straight short cable for portable use. The standard ATH-M50, without the x, has a coiled cable that can’t be detached. Something else that has changed is the fit. The earpads and the headband have gotten a makeover.

I’ve tried both the ATH-M50 and the ATH-M50x, but I chose ATH-M50 anyway.Detachable cables and the new headband and earpad material wasn’t a good enough reason to spend the little extra.

Now for the mic I use a table mic. It’s called The Yeti and it’s made by Blue Microphones. I got a microphone arm for it for it and fixed it to my desk. There’s not much to say about the mic other than that I am very satisfied with it.

The last tip I can give you is that you should try every product before you buy it. Go to your local audio store and try headphones before buying them.

What You Should Consider when Buying an Action Camera

If you have ever been looking to purchase an action camera for yourself to document all your crazy parkour stunts or diving you’ve probably stumbled upon a brand called GoPro, right? Well, there are a lot of other alternatives to GoPro cameras. It all depends on what you plan on using them for.

If you’ve got a limited budget but want a good entry level camera, there are quite a few to choose from. One that I can recommend is the Intova Sport HD II. It’s a really great camera and can be compared to the GoPro Hero 3 Silver. In terms of specs, they are quite similar. The Intova Sport HD II can film 1080p@30fps and 720p@60fps. A very good thing about this camera is that the battery life is better than on the GoPro. Something else, is that you get some things you wouldn’t normally get with a GoPro. For example, there is a waterproof case included with the Intova, and you also have a built in LCD screen for live view and preview of footage. The reason you’ve only heard things about GoPro, and not other action cameras, is because they spend a lot of money and time on marketing.


With this said, I don’t mean that GoPros are bad. The quality is really great, and they are durable. Something else that is great about the GoPro is that since a lot of people own GoPros, anyone on the internet can help you with any troubles you may have. However, if you are on a budget, you might want to consider a cheaper action camera brand and begin from there.

How do Graphics Cards Compare These Days?

A lot of people wonder which GPU to buy when you are on a budget. The truth is that most people today buy a PC for playing games but have no idea what they just bought. It is no secret that building your own PC is a lot cheaper than buying an already completed one. So, if you are on a budget, you can still get the most out of games.

amd_nvidia-600x276The endless battle between NVIDIA and AMD. Which one is really the better one? From my own experience, and from what I have heard and read, NVIDIA seems to be the better pick. The reason for this is that the newer AMD cards often need more power and are less efficient. However, buying a brand new next generation GPU could be a waste of cash if you don’t intend to using its full capacity by running 4K resolution. The best GPU I have ever heard of is the Gigabyte Radeon 7870 OC. It performs really great for a relatively low price. I have owned this card myself and was very satisfied. I can’t help but notice that the card is of AMD type and not NVIDIA. The truth is that it’s quite an old card today, but can still do 1080p and 60 fps on the latest games. I could even max out the settings on games like Hitman Absolution and still get 60 fps. Obviously, there are other things you must consider to run games in high quality. With this GPU, I had an Intel i5 3570k CPU and 8 GB of RAM. This build does not cost very much at all today, and can still run games like GTA V in high quality. The only exception is if you would want to upgrade from 1920×1080 to a higher resolution. In this case, you would need a better GPU or run two of these simultaneously.

Keep a lookout for websites that compare the cost and performance of GPUs and try to find something that suites you. A good website you can use while searching for a new GPU is GPUBoss where you can view charts and compare GPUs. Now, happy hunting and remember that the priciest GPUs aren’t always the ones you need!

 

Choosing the Right Computer Monitor

It isn’t always easy finding the right computer monitor for your own needs. Especially if you don’t know what the meaning is of response time, resolution, refresh rate, and so on. This is a very basic walkthrough and you will learn everything the average Joe might need to know.

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First off – choosing the right resolution. There is no reason to ever hold back on the resolution. For any type of use I would recommend 1920×1080. At least at this resolution, you will get Full HD quality (1080p), which – in my opinion – is mandatory.

If you want to choose a monitor for any graphic content usage, you could go higher than 1920×1080, but bare in mind that those monitors tend to cost a bit more.

Now, what is response time? Response time is probably the most important thing when playing games. The lower the response time, the better. The term itself is quite self explanatory. The time it takes from that the computer sends something to the screen and it actually appears so you can see it with your own eyes is the response time. For gaming, I would typically recommend 2 ms at most. More than so would actually not make too big of a difference but it could just save you in the gaming world if your monitor is faster than your opponents. For any other use, refresh rate is not as important as other things.

Refresh rate is almost explained by the term itself. The higher the refresh rate, the better. In short, if your monitor has a refresh rate of 60 Hz, it can display up to 60 pictures/second on your screen. Now, having 120 Hz is even better as the flow in the screen is better and the experience is a lot smoother. Refresh rate is also important if you choose to play fast-action games, as the overall experience is a lot better. Obviously, another field it is very important in is video editing or simply watching movies. For image editing, this really doesn’t matter.

There are a lot of other things that are important when choosing the right monitor. Such as contrast. Do not be fooled, though. It is normal to think that the higher the contrast ratio, the better. This is not correct, however. It all depends on where you are going to keep your computer. What the environment looks like. Is it dark? bright? For this, you would probably be better off searching the internet for people’s opinions. I have never paid any attention to this, and had none problems with a too bright screen or too dark.

4kresolution_comparison

So, in conclusion:

For gaming, I would at least go with 1920×1080/2ms/60Hz. There are, however, monitors I would choose over that. For example the 2560×1440/6ms/144Hz ones. The refresh rate loss is not important to me in this case. The picture quality would be superb in any game instead. It is very important that you make sure that your computer hardware can run games at these settings, though.

For watching movies and editing clips, the resolution would be the most important part. For the optimal experience, make sure that the movie clip is the same quality as your monitor. At least 1920×1080 for Full HD 1080p clips and you would be fine at 60 Hz. If you want to watch 4K movies, you will need to upgrade to a 4096×2160 monitor.

For picture editing, the higher the resolution, the better. The rest is not as important.

For everyday use, I would just purchase any 1920×1080 monitor.

Chromecast – an Impressive Piece of Technology for a Small Price

Have you ever needed a cheap, flawless way of watching movies on your TV? The Google Chromecast is a HDMI port based mini computer that plugs right into your TV. To control your Chromecast, all you need is a WiFi connection and a smart phone/tablet (Android, iPhone) or computer (PC, Mac).

What you need to know about the Chromecast, however, is that not all apps can be used with the Chromecast. All of your favourite apps should work, though. For example, you are able to stream movies and clips from YouTube, Netflix and HBO GO or maybe you prefer sports and want to use Watch ESPN with your Chromecast. If that’s not enough, and you want more freedom, you could stream your Chrome tab right to your TV. The list of supported apps is long, and it keeps growing continuously. A complete list of which apps that function with a Chromecast device can be found here.

The quality overall is really great, and it can even stream in HD without any problems. There are two things that could improve. The loading speeds of certain apps and better support for local files. A way to view self-made video clips is to get a local Plex server running on your PC or Mac, and share it over your local internet. This way, you get really good quality and smoothness because it all happens within your local internet. However, it is quite impractical and troublesome for the average Joe. Another, simpler, way to do it is to drag a local video clip into your Chrome tab on your PC or Mac, and then cast that tab to your Chromecast. You would typically experience quality loss if your streaming item requires higher bandwidth such as 720p and 1080p clips. The reason for this is that the Chromecast is not adapted for this. It all really depends on what kind of connection you have.

It is without any hesitation a good buy. Although it already is in a really good stage, it will receive a lot of improvements over time.

Cloud Computing and You – The Revolution at Your Door

Cloud computing is something that’s been around for a while, but more and more people are becoming aware of it at a level that makes sense for their lives. Consider Amazon’s S3 data storage system, or even the Cloud Kindle Reader. Everything is about the cloud, a central location for all of your files to go. Cloud computing doesn’t have to be a trend you miss out on, however.

It’s all about thinking about your needs. For example, if you don’t have a way to back up your files normally, you definitely want to look at going with cloud-based data backup. This eliminates the need for expensive backup software that still relies on everything to be set up properly on your need. That just wouldn’t make sense in the grand scheme of things. You are much better off thinking about as cloud based solution that allows you to pull down your files from just about anywhere.

Cloud computing

Another point that you want to think about is the security that’s used on the other end of the service. Proper encryption is going to be a must. There are always going to be some files that you might not be comfortable with putting in the cloud. Anything that has your personal financial information on it shouldn’t be in the cloud. There have been cases of data breaches, but thankfully they are becoming rarer and rarer over time.

The future of cloud computing is pretty bright. Think over what you need to accomplish, and then find a cloud based service that can make that happen. If you have your doubts about cloud computing, there are many alternatives such as softwares and professional that can perform data recovery and restoration services.

secure data recovery

Shifting to Mobile Marketing Is Easy – Here’s How to Make it Work!

Are you trying to accomplish mobile marketing without all of the errors, mistakes, and delays that usually plague such problems? No problem! In fact, you’re actually in good company. Many businesses are trying to do everything they can in order to leverage mobile technology. At first glance, many companies felt that the medium, was really too new to do anything with.

However, upon further analysis you’ll actually find that mobile users are much more receptive to advertising and marketing than you might imagine. This is because they really do want to have services and even products that match their interests. The troubles in advertising usually start when companies think that targeting isn’t important. In the mobile arena, it’s very important to make sure that you’re really using the right targeting that’s going to get your goals accomplished.

Mobile Marketing

Shifting to mobile marketing is easy — you just need to know how to make everything fit together. The first part of the equation is always the right foundation. Without this, you really don’t have anything to build your mobile marketing “house’ upon. So in order to fix this problem, you need to get the right mobile marketing solution right at your fingertips.

 

As the market becomes more and more uncertain, it’s easy to assume that people are going to stop spending money. However, this is a short sighted assumption at best — when given the right mix of products and services, people will find a reason to indulge at least once in a while. So your mission is going to be reaching out to your potential customers in a way that speaks to them.

In the age of smartphones, mobile technology has become more interactive than ever before. This will allow you to make your audience feel included and welcome in just about any campaign that you can think of. So don’t be afraid to let your creativity run wild and free — mobile marketing is the perfect place to test out new campaigns and see what your audience thinks. Without trying, you just never know what will happen, so check it out for yourself today!

Thermal Imaging Cameras – How do they work and what are they used for

Thermal imaging cameras can be used in a number of different circumstances to visualise temperature that cannot be seen by the naked eye, there is technology within the cameras that is quite fascinating, as is the numerous applications that they can be used for.

The only drawback of the piece of equipment is that they are very expensive to purchase, but it possible to hire them out which is probably the best option. If you hire test equipment, it means you can use them only when they are needed. This means you can save money and not have a piece of equipment lying around not getting used for most of the year.

Thermal Imaging Cameras

A thermal imaging camera is an infrared or thermo graphic type of camera which forms an image of radiation which to the naked eye is invisible; it does this in a very similar way as a regular camera would take a photograph of visible light.

The camera also takes different wavelengths compared to a normal camera.  A thermal imaging camera captures wavelengths as long as 14,000 nanometres compared to the visible-light cameras which work in a range between 450 – 750 nanometres.
Infrared cameras are not very different compared to digital cameras today. The lens is used to bring in the information, but instead of visible light, it detects radiation. The detected radiation is then converted into electrical symbols which are then combined to form the image. (more…)

7 alternatives for the almighty Photoshop

Adobe’s Photoshop is definitely the number one photo editing software on the market, and the latest version CS5 brings in so many more features, you’ll simply remain amazed at what it can do. Even though all of this means the interface is a bit cluttered, that is nothing compared to the possibilities it gives to photographers and other people whose profession includes editing any kind of images.

Of course, web designers, who have to work with websites that are composed of 50% images every single day, couldn’t just look from the side and got in on the action. And guess what, Photoshop can easily accomplish all of their tasks, too! If you’re striving to become a professional web designer or photographer, you’ve most definitely already been told to acquire a version of this wonderful software.

But the main problem with it is that it costs quite a lot of money, and if you’re just starting out or are simply an amateur that needs to do a couple of edits per month, you may not want to shell out those money.

With that in mind, a lot developers got together to create free alternatives to Photoshop, some of which accomplish the same things at the same quality, and yet are completely free. Here is a list of the most popular Photoshop alternatives that you can find on the Web.

photo editing software

GIMP.

GIMP is the most popular free alternative to Photoshop, and I’d be very surprised if you haven’t heard of it until now.  It’s got every feature that Photoshop has and therefore, can accomplish any image editing task you throw at it. From simple effects to editing huge photographs with dozens of layers and masks, GIMP can do it all. The only gripe of most new users is the unfamiliar interface, which is pretty hard to use. But now, this can easily be fixed using the open source and free GIMPShop, which transforms the menus to be exactly like those in Photoshop. Install them both and you practically get a free clone of Photoshop!

Paint.NET.

This application, built on top of Microsoft’s abandoned Paint.net project, is a wonderful photo editing tool that can do 90% of all tasks you may need. It’s got advanced support for layers, a ton of tools to modify your pictures, a lot of integrated special effects and a nice interface that is pretty easy to use – if you’re an amateur or moderate user, this is everything you’ll ever need.

Picasa.

Picasa is a much lighter alternative to Photoshop and the above two apps. It is free, it’s made by Google, it looks gorgeous with all the AJAXy special effects, and it lets you do any kind of basic edits on all of your photographs – what else do you need? (more…)