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Electric Cars for Reals?

Written by Jon Schwarzmann on . Posted in Tech

After a too-long absence from writing for Rhombus, I find it fitting to come back with an article that was inspired via request by another Rhombus contributor, a one Mr. J. Petersen, who sent me a link to a company called Better Place.

Simply put, Better Place is a company trying to do for the auto industry what has long been a pipe-dream for every clean-energy, clean-car nut since the ’60s, by making electric cars/vehicles a viable mode of transportation. Not being a stranger to this idea, I already had a lot of objections that needed answering before I believed these guys were serious and not just some sloppy start up.

It should be noted that electric cars have already been shown to work — the engineering isn’t anything new. But there are several major hurdles this technology must overcome to make it into reality, and it seems Better Place has the answers. At least, that’s what they want you to think.

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Say Hello to Apple’s iPad

Written by Ben Wagner on . Posted in Tech

Unless you’ve been living in a technology-free zone for the last six months, you probably heard the rumors of the secret Apple tablet computer (and when I say secret, I mean officially the worst kept secret in the history of technology).

Well, today Steve Jobs and his black turtleneck finally unveiled the product to the masses at a media event in San Fransisco. Despite sounding more like a high-tech feminine hygiene product than a groundbreaking media device, the iPad demonstrated impressive capabilities and Apple appears poised to have another huge hit. We at Rhombus, of course, are here to bring you the breakdown of what you need to know about this next-generation mobile computing device.

Putting the HD "Revolution" Behind Us

Written by Jon Schwarzmann on . Posted in Tech

It’s fairly hard to argue that both HD and the Blu-Ray disc (BD) are not successful consumer technologies. In fact, if you want to go out and buy a brand new standard definition television, you probably won’t be able to. It even appears that Best Buy doesn’t offer SD televisions anymore, unless you want to watch The Office on a seven-inch screen. Perhaps you have basic Comcast cable, then you should be getting the local channels in HD as well. Of course, owning an HDTV sure helps.

Finding any high-def naysayers has been difficult of late, as they’ve all seemingly succumbed to the idea that you cannot argue with pixels — 1920 x 1080 is absolutely more than 640 x 480. It’s an undeniable fact. One might as well attempt to prove 2+2 does not equal 4. With all this talk of pixels, we’ve found the most compelling reason for the success of high-definition technology — it just looks better and, of course, it is better.

What about the Blu-Ray disc? Why such controversy over it and why do I constantly get told that people “don’t get it?” I would actually say the main reason is because of its name. When pioneering the technology, Sony was directly competing with Toshiba, who were marketing their HD-DVD at the same time. Of course, Sony couldn’t use the same name, so they came up with Blu-Ray.

Best of the App Store: Holiday Edition

Written by Ben Wagner on . Posted in Tech

Once again, the holiday season is upon us and we’ll be giving and receiving fantastic gifts like toy trains, dolls, and the ever-popular iTunes gift cards. And what better way to spend those iTunes bucks than on all the newest iPhone apps available on the App Store. Here are some of my personal recommendations:

Facing Global Issues

Written by Jon Schwarzmann on . Posted in Tech

Human progress is an interesting thing. If we look at a strictly anthropologic/evolutionary view, we as a species have been evolving over the past few million years. From walking upright to developing an enlarged left side of the brain which promotes the use of language to eradicating smallpox and landing on the moon (sorry, it wasn’t a hoax), we as a species have come a long way and survived countless trials.

Yet, despite this amazing history of survival and adaptability, if we listen to some people we’ll be told that we’re not only carving the coffin for the species, but lining it with future generations. At first blush, this topic may not seem appropriate for a tech article but, if the doomsayers are to be believed, technology is exactly the formula leading to our downfall. Whether it’s the threat of nuclear war, global warming/climate change, the emptying of our fossil fuel reserves by 2050, overpopulation of the earth, running out of drinkable water or human enslavement by robots, all our alleged problems ca be blamed on human innovation and invention.

Home Invasion: Netflix, the Game Console and You

Written by Jon Schwarzmann on . Posted in Tech

Chances are you either have Netflix, know someone that does, or at least watched a Netflixed movie. The hugely successful online movie rental giant somewhat recently launched their “Watch Instantly” option for all their plans, giving users lightning fast access to hundreds of movies, as long as their internet connection allows it. In fact, Netflix has provided the perfect solution for my weekly movie night with Jordan Petersen, using the economical $8.99 one-at-a-time plan to rent our flick, while still allowing us to stream movies individually throughout the week. It’s the perfect fix for any cinephile.

Last year, Netflix teamed up with Microsoft to provide Xbox 360 systems the ability to stream “Watch Instantly” movies straight to your living room (Xbox Live Gold membership required, $7.99 per month).  This was a smart move by Netflix, but of course Microsoft had to get their greedy hold on such a lucrative venture, forcing Netflix to sign a two-year agreement. The details are a bit fuzzy, but it appears the deal calls for Netflix to stay away from offering their services via any other gaming consoles.

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War of the Smartphones

Written by Jon Schwarzmann on . Posted in Tech

I love Apple. The iPhone is a really great gadget — it’s smooth, fast and has really cool features. I’ve been on the verge of getting one several times and nearly won over by its amazingness, yet never fully committed to it. I have two reasons for this. First, because it doesn’t have a physical keyboard, and second, because I am a Google fan(atic). Last year Google entered the smartphone market, not with any hardware but with an operating system (OS) called Android.

Let me make clear what can be considered a “smartphone.”  This category does more than texting and calling; they can also do e-mail, web-browsing, word processing and anything else a normal, run-of-the-mill phone does not. The way these devices are used varies immensely, and thus there are a huge number of distinctive features. Many are affiliated with physical attributes, i.e. a slider, flip, headphone jack, touch screen, keyboard, or other general aesthetics. Second, and sometimes the more important issue, what can the software do? Can it handle games, business tools, social networking functions, etc.?  Whether you’re a corporate mogul, college student or teenybopper, one smartphone is going to satisfy your needs with a huge variety of apps and functionalities available.

The Decline and Fall of the Facebook Empire

Written by Jim Dalrymple on . Posted in Tech

Friday morning I thought my Internet connection had been disrupted. My Facebook home page looked all wrong and surely, I thought, Facebook wouldn’t have tried yet another unwelcome “update.” After expectantly refreshing the page a dozen times, however, I discovered I was wrong; America’s favorite social networking site had been ransacked once again by it’s own revision-happy programmers.

Like all Facebook revisions, this one has sparked a fair number of “change things back to the way they were” groups. And, like all revisions, this one will remain in effect whether people like it or not. Still, the Facebook execs’ indifference doesn’t mean that disgruntled users aren’t right: many of the changes genuinely aren’t particularly intuitive or logical. For example, users can now see a “Live Feed” that includes real-time information about friends’ activities, or a greatest hits-esque “News Feed.” Just who determines what makes it onto the News Feed is unclear but, in my case, switching between the different feeds produced two very different lists of information. Consequently, I now have to click back and forth to avoid missing something or, more likely, simply get used to the idea of missing stuff. Unfortunately, both options are annoying and dubiously mitigate old problems by adding complexity.

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Review: The Beatles: Rock Band

Written by Ben Wagner on . Posted in Tech

In my opinion, the recent development of popular music-oriented games, such as Guitar Hero and Rock Band, is due to the social aspects of said games. The first time I tried playing Guitar Hero was in the basement of my house by myself. I didn’t get it: a color came on the screen and I pressed the corresponding button on the guitar controller. Boring. This was a video game — where were the exploding alien heads and magic swords? I was not enthused and somewhat disillusioned about the game.

The next time I tried to play was at college with an apartment full of people. The experience was quite different. Instead of playing “Suck My Kiss” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers alone in my basement, I was singing along with a dozen other people as Steve Perry told me that I should never stop believing. People like playing Rock Band for the same reason they like singing karaoke: It’s a social experience. You and three of your friends get to jam along to some of your favorite tunes. For this reason, I’ve found that the most fun songs to play in such games are the more well-known songs that everyone can sing along to, such as Boston’s “More Than A Feeling” or Bon Jovi’s “Living On A Prayer.” So it seems like a no brainer that a Rock Band game based solely on the songs of 1960s supergroup the Beatles would make for a great party game.

Apple’s Rock & Roll Event

Written by Ben Wagner on . Posted in Tech

Last week Apple had one of its trademark media events focusing on the iPod and iTunes line-up. Apple has become notorious for building up huge expectations for these events, inspiring a flurry of online speculation and rumors as to what will be announced. Last week’s event was no exception. For weeks rumors had been circulating the internet as to what would be shown at the event: the iTablet, an Apple TV refresh, an appearance by the remaining Beatles? Well, people hoping for those things were sorely disapointed. However, a plethora of news did come out of the event and Rhombus is here to give you the rundown.