Happy Zombie Xmas

By this point in the shopping season, I’m sure that you’ve heard about, read about or seen every little tech gizmo and gadget for 2012.  So this week, I want to take a different approach to Christmas gifting.  Next Wednesday marks the beginning of the one-year countdown until the end of the world, December 21, 2012.  Now we don’t know how the world is going to come to an end.  Will it be an asteroid like the one that took out the dinosaurs?  How about a nuclear winter resulting from the escalation of military action between Iran and Israel?  It may start with a government takeover by the Obama administration, or alternatively, a Gingrich presidency.  Of course, as avid Augusta Tek readers, I know you share my belief that ultimately Augusta is going to be overrun in a Zombie Apocalypse.  (I’m sure many of you believe that it will originate from within, starting with the Commission…but that’s Austin Rhodes’ schitck, not mine.)  So for this week’s column, let’s run through the top gifts for those preparing for Zombie World Domination!

The first gift is sure to get everyone in the Christmas Apocalypse spirit, It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Zombies!: A Book of Zombie Christmas Carols.  This collection of Zombie melodies includes holiday classics such as I Saw Mommy Chewing Santa Claus and Deck the Halls with Parts of Wally.  While nothing in here will actually prepare you for the end of the world, you will certainly be in better spirits when it happens.  Better yet, on Amazon.com you can get this book of Zombie Christmas Carols bundled with The Zombie Night Before Christmas and Jack and Jill Went Up to Kill: A Book of Zombie Nursery Rhymes, all for less than $35 and with FREE Two-Day Shipping for Amazon Prime Members (assuming the logistics infrastructure holds out.)

OK, now to the serious stuff.  Preparation for a Zombie Apocalypse begins first and foremost with The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead.  Published nearly a decade ago, this guide is still the “go to” book on how to survive the hordes of undead that may be stalking you right now.  The book starts with zombie physiology, then covers weapons, tactics, long-term strategy and finally presents an overview of historic zombie outbreaks.  The reference guide is incredibly thorough, and every course of action is analyzed in depth to ensure the reader understands the risks and benefits.  The guide is on Amazon.com for $8.37, but can you really put a price on a book that will literally save your life?

One of the toughest struggles in a post-apocalyptic society is simply finding something to eat.  The food production infrastructure collapses just like everything else.  Supermarket shelves are cleaned out by survivors, and what is not taken eventually rots.  Hunting or farming present challenges due to the possibility of contamination.  Fortunately, Harcos Laboratories has developed processing techniques to extract nutrients from Zombie biology.  Zombie Blood Energy Potion promises four hours of energy derived from the extra strong green Zombie cells, and with Zombie Jerky, survivors can recycle the re-dead, undead into tasty teriyaki.  All 100% mutagen free!  Find these products and more at www.livingwithbloodlust.com/zombie.  (Hey, Zombies…How about them brains?)

The post-Zombie world will also suffer from a lack of electricity.  A study[1] shows that within 24 hours of a zombie event most portions of the United States and Canada, aside from a rare island of service in a rural area near a hydroelectric source, would be without power.  Now the serious planners have already constructed survival bunkers in the outlying areas of Lincoln and Burke Counties, and those bunkers are stocked with at least a year’s supply of diesel.  However, many of the living will be trapped in population centers without power.  For these folk, devices like the American Red Cross AXIS TurboDyne Weather Alert Radio will be invaluable.  The hand-crank Turbodyne is a powerful direct power transfer device that will charge a cell phone and the internal batteries for the radio, flashlight and emergency beacon.  Even if the Apocalypse doesn’t occur in your lifetime, this device would be very useful during more mundane events like hurricanes and ice storms.  Found at www.21st-century-goods.com for $69.95.

Well, of course, the list of items needed during the Zombie Apocalypse is almost endless, and all of them provide a unique and valuable Christmas experience to share with your family and friends.  If you want to read more on Zombie preparedness, both the Center for Disease Control and the Red Cross have websites dedicated to the subject.  Google “CDC Zombie” and “Red Cross Zombie” to read more.

Until next time, I’ll see you on the internet…tweet me @gregory_a_baker.  L8R.


[1]Staff Report from the Straight Dope Science Advisory Board.  When the zombies take over, how long until the electricity fails?  June 15, 2004.

Take Me To Your Leader

(Reprinted from the Metro Spirit, 12/8/2011)

A potentially major scandal is emerging in the mobile device industry regarding the software manufacturer Carrier IQ.  Carrier IQ, a provider of Mobile Service Intelligence Solutions, develops software to give wireless carriers and handset manufacturers insight into their network and device performance.  A couple of weeks ago, however, a security researcher published findings that suggest this software does significantly more.  A video published on YouTube shows the software logging keystrokes, reading SMS messages and performing other curious actions.  Also, it shows that the software is embedded at the system BIOS level (i.e., a “rootkit”), making it very difficult or impossible to remove.  Since that time, we’ve learned that this software is widely distributed on AT&T, Sprint, HTC, T-Mobile and Samsung handsets.  Verizon, Blackberry, Google, HP, Microsoft and Nokia all deny the use of Carrier IQ software.  Apple states that “most” of its products don’t support Carrier IQ as of iOS5, and it will completely remove it in a future update.  Sen. Al Franken has requested the carriers utilizing Carrier IQ to appear before the Senate subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and Law, and a former Justice Department prosecutor states that the key stroke recording is very likely a violation of wire-tapping laws.  As of last Friday, class action lawsuits were filed against Carrier IQ, HTC, Samsung, AT&T, Sprint, Apple and T-Mobile over the use of the software.

There will certainly be more to come on this story.  If you are interested, you can find much more information by Googling “Carrier IQ”.  Also, Carrier IQ Detector apps are popping-up on the Andriod Market.  The VooDoo Carrier IQ Detector is widely published as being effective in the security blogs, although there are some false positives.  (The detector app on my Verizon Droid X correctly shows negative.)

In other news, we all know that the Apple iPhone is the hottest phone on the market.  But last week it was reported that the Apple iPhone 4 is the actual hottest phone.  On an Australian Regional Express flight, an iPhone began to glow red and give off a “significant amount of dense smoke”.  Apple responded by stating they were looking forward to working with the Australian Transport Safety Bureau as they investigate the incident.  Personally, I think a red iPhone would be a good addition to the product line.

On the second cyber-week of Christmas, my true geek gave to me…A complete friggin’ robot army?

Everybody has at least one – a family member, usually a guy, for whom a Christmas gift is impossible to find.  Technology comes to the rescue again.  How about a custom-designed robot army?  The geeks at www.myrobotnation.com have made it possible.  You can design, and they will build custom 3D robots for your hard-to-shop-for family members.  Prices start under $20.  So you don’t feel you have what it takes to design a robot for your loved one?  Not a problem.  You can “gift” a robot and allow them to design their own creation.  One note…you do need a WebGL supported browser (Firefox or Chrome) to work the design tool.

Finally, my 8-year old daughter came to me yesterday and asked, “Daddy, why did Eeyore stick his head in the toilet?”

Curiously, I responded, “I don’t know, sweetheart, why did he?”

“Why, Daddy, he was looking for Pooh, of course!”

My daughter’s first potty joke!  I am so proud!

Until next time, I’ll see you on the internet…tweet me @gregory_a_baker.  L8R.

Twelve Cyber-Days of Christmas

(Reprinted from the Metro Spirit, 12/1/2011)

On the first cyber-day of Christmas, my true geek gave to me…

Yes, Augusta Tek readers, it is the time of the year where we all start getting giddy over the tech gadgets arriving for the holidays.  Tablets are probably the most popular tech gift this year with the Amazon Kindle and Barnes & Noble Nook shaking up the market with strong products at low price points.  Other technology products can’t be dismissed, however.  A large number of tech gifts are out there, including several under $50.

The Roku LT is an extremely small Wi-Fi streaming-media box.  The Roku LT provides dozens of streaming video and audio services, including Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant Video, HBO Go, Pandora, MOG, Rdio, and MLB.TV.  Older TVs are also supported using an included breakout cable.

The SanDisk Sansa Clip Zip is an under $50 MP3 player that supports most audio formats, works with audiobook and subscription music services, can be used as a voice recorder, and tunes in to FM radio.  The practical clip-on design is perfect for the gym.  Unfortunately, the Clip Zip does not play well with iTunes.  If you’re tied into the Apple ecosystem, the iPod Shuffle will be your best choice if you are trying to stay under $50.

The X-Mini MAX II is a portable speaker system that defies the conventional notion that size matters.  The X-Mini Max II is designed to be ultraportable with two speakers that pop together in a magnetic pod.  Its Bass Xpansion System (BXS) successfully mimics the resonance of a sub-woofer, and a modular Buddy-Jack design allows you to daisy-chain several of the $30 X-Mini’s together to pump up the sound.

If headphones are more your thing, the Koss PortaPros might be your best bet.  These $35 headphones sport a retro, over-the-head design.  The true worth comes through in the sound quality delivered by the PortaPros.  With a collapsible design and carrying case, they are an ideal companion for the mobile audiophile.

While retro video games to me include such classics as Galaga and Missile Command, Microsoft has released a refreshed classic from a more recent era.  Halo was originally released in 2001 and set the standard for console first person shooters.  The game has been given a graphical makeover and now supports online multiplayer via Xbox Live.  Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary retails for under $40.

Finally, for something a little different, let’s talk about all the crumbs and other junk that gets trapped in your keyboard and other parts of your computer.  We all try to ignore it, but just stop now and take a look and your keyboard.  (Yes, that’s dog hair that got stuck in the gook from yesterday’s Pop Tart.)  Cyber Clean is a high-tech cleaning compound designed to get into the cracks and crevices of your high tech device.  Essentially, it’s a ball of fluorescent green goo that you mash into a keyboard or similar surface, and the tacky surface picks up dirt and grime.  Only a few bucks for a pouch…did I hear someone say, “Stocking Stuffer?”

Until next time, I’ll see you on the internet…tweet me @gregory_a_baker.  L8R.

SOPA and Clean, Old Fashioned Hate!

(Reprinted from the Metro Spirit, 11/24/2011)

Happy Thanksgiving!  I hope everyone is enjoying the start of the holiday season!  We’ve got a few juicy items from the tech world this week, so let’s just jump in!

This past week, the U. S. House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA).  The act is an overarching piece of regulation that would effectively institute censorship of the Internet.  It works like this – Any intellectual property holder, by means of a letter with no judicial involvement, can require network operators, advertisers and payment processors to cut off all access to any site the property holder names as an infringer.  The current safe harbor protection provided to social media sites like Facebook, Google, Twitter, would be overturned, making these sites liable for content or links to content upload by users.  In addition, provisions of act would allow DNS filtering of international sites, creating a blacklist of international “rogue” sites and remove access to these sites from within the United States.  Current law includes provisions for notification and taking down of copyrighted content.  While these provisions may not be perfect, any weaknesses certainly don’t justify the implementation of a system that disregards due process and institutes outright censorship.  Rep. Broun and Rep. Barrow – I hope you have this bill on your radar.  I am a strong believer in personal property and copyright protections, but there is no room for this type of legislation in a free society.

Now, to the debut of Ice Cream Sandwich!  The Samsung Galaxy Nexus with all of its curved-glass sex appeal went on sale in the United Kingdom this past week.  The Galaxy Nexus sports version 4 of the Android OS, a.k.a. “Ice Cream Sandwich”.  For those into specs:  4.65 inch, 720p screen; a dual-core 1.2GHz processor; 1GB RAM; a 5-mpix camera with low-light shooting, zero shutter lag, and 1080p video; a 1.3-mpix front-facing camera for video chat; and more.  Of course, specs seem to matter less nowadays – it’s all about the experience.  And the experience of the Galaxy Nexus is the new Android OS.  Ice Cream Sandwich is a fairly complete refresh of the user interface.  It’s being marketed as a simpler interface, but there are also a number of high profile features such as photo editing, face recognition to unlock the phone, Android Beam utilizing near-field communication (NFC).  Bottom line…the Samsung Galaxy Nexus is a sexy looking phone with a refreshed OS.  But does the overall experience match the Apple ecosystem?  Well, first things first…let’s get it released in the United States.  The consumer will take it from there.

Google Music also went online this week.  Google Music is a cloud storage service that allows users to upload their library and stream from any browser, Android-device or Google TV.  Google is also adding music to the Android App Store (three of the four major labels are on board) and integrating the service with Google+.  It’s a good advance for Google, but in the overall view of the mobile ecosystems, it’s more like “Ketchup”, as in catching-up with what Apple and Amazon already have.  For example, the iTunes Match service got a lot of press this week.  Instead waiting the lengthy amount of time it takes to upload a large library, Match will detect the songs in your library and provide streaming rights for those songs.  Google Music provides a feature that should resonate with independent artists.  Google Music’s Artist Hub allows artists to distribute their own music and set their own price for songs.  The artist can create their own page for $25 and keep 70% of the sales revenue.

Finally, we all know this is the week of Clean, Old Fashioned Hate!  The so-called “dawgs” will be travelling to Atlanta to face the morally, mentally and technologically superior Yellow Jackets.  Obviously, I understand that not all of you feel this way.  Augusta is a one-dog town after all.  All I can say to that is THWG!  See you on The Flats!

Until next time, I’ll see you on the internet…tweet me @gregory_a_baker.  L8R.