Archive | April 14, 2011

A new found passion – LEGO Mindstorm / Robotics and a LEGO machine that sorts bricks automatically

Several weeks ago, in an attempt to find something less boring for my 7 years old son, I found LEGO Mindstorm, a LEGO system for older kids, that offers more than just putting simple bricks together. Based on LEGO TECHNIC, LEGO MINDSTORMS adds beside gears, beams, axles and lift-arms a programmable component called programmable brick. Depending on the model and generation, the programmable brick has 2-4 sensor inputs and 2-4 motor outputs and can be programmed in several programming languages, including several visual environments that children can use to learn programming. What is even more interesting, LEGO Mindstorm kits are used in universities and colleges around the world to introduce students in robotics and programming, including at MIT where the programming brick originated in the first place.

Long story short, I got caught myself in the LEGO MINDSTORMS building hobby and started to get used LEGO ROBOTICS kits / technic parts from eBay. It is a much cheaper way to build sets and, compared with a single Read More…

Apple iOS 4.3.2 is out for all iPhone / iPad and iPad 2 and iPod touch – no jailbreaking method available yet

Apple’s latest and greatest iOS update is available to download via iTunes right now. The current version is 4.3.2 and, as a point release, it only brings bug fixes (a FaceTime crash/blank/frozen video issue and iPad 3G connectivity problems) and security updates (including one to kill the current jailbreaking methods) so if you are not affected by any problems and you want to jailbreak your iDevice at some point, you probably want to skip it.

Verizon iDevices also get some love, but their firmware version is a bit behind at only iOS 4.2.7.

As a side observation, my iPad 2 ordered around March 20th finally shipped and I should get it today. Too late for a review, but I’ll use it specifically for jailbreaking tests and i’ll post my results / tutorials and how-to’s here as usual.

Deal of the day – ViewSonic gTablet 10″ Multi-Touch LCS Android OS 2.2 $279 shipped – excellent reviews

Folks, Review Horizon’s deal of the day at this point is a ViewSonic gTablet 10″ 1024 x 600 Multi-Touch Android tablet coming with Android OS 2.2 at the very low price of $279 shipped at Amazon. This is by far the best price for this tablet and comes dangerously close to the $249 a Nook Color sells for. Excellent customer reviews on Amazon and, very important, support for Android 2.3 via CyanogenMod 7.0.

This is a Amazon Gold Box deal so it will expire very soon.

Some quick technical specs:

  • 1 GHz Dual ARM Cortex-A9 processor
  • 512MB DDR2 memory
  • 2D/3D Graphics processing
  • HD Video encode and decode
  • Ultra-low power GeForce GPU
  • 1080p video playback processor – H.264, WMV, WMA, MP4, DivX
  • OpenGL ES 2.0
  • 32-bit LP-DDR2, DDR2

The CPU is much faster than the one in the Nook Color and also the tablet can do 1080p video playback (thanks to its NVIDIA Tegra 2 GPU), something that no other tablet can do at this price range. The tablet also offers 32GB microSD expansion capability, WiFi b/g/n, Bluetooth and an optional HDMI dock. Check after the break for full specifications. Read More…

Verizon FIOS DVR systems get in-network recording sharing, many other improvements

I only wish FIOS would be available in my area – the lucky FIOS TV subscribers can enjoy starting today a bunch of really cool usability upgrades, 25 of them. Among them, a DVR chaptering option allowing a user to jump quick in various places of a recording (similar with Netflix fast forward capability) working in 10 minutes increments. Also, more important for heavy networking users like me, if you own multiple DVRs, they can now talk to each other and share recordings (you can also use your set top box clients or other DVR units to schedule / delete recordings on all the DVR systems in the house in a distributed manner). Ultimately, for the pack rats that cannot live without hundreds of shows stored at the same time, eSATA ports are enabled and active so grab that 3TB hard-drive and record away.

The new upgrade won’t be deployed everywhere at the same time. The first to get it will be the ones in Buffalo, Syracuse, Albany and Harrisburg. If everything goes well, it will be deployed everywhere in US in the following months.

XBOX 360 Netflix client gets Kinect love in the latest firmware update

Netflix is on a roll in providing clients updates all over the devices. Just a couple of days after WD TV Live Plus / Live hub got their Netflix 3.0 interface adding search capabilities, Dolby Digital surround sound and caption support, XBOX 360 gets some Netflix love as well. This time, the already nice Netflix client will accept gestures via the Kinect interface (if you don’t have it, you should really buy it, your kids will get more exercise – mine does).
The Netflix update won’t require a full XBOX 360 update, just the client and its size is around 43MB. It is a good think Microsoft managed to separate client update from system update and their firmware updates only take seconds usually. Immediately after, you can use either your voice or your hands to navigate through movies and categories, a la Minority Report and the vocal commands also work quite well. You are able to pause, stop, rewind, fast forward both by waving your hands or by saying the command preceded by XBOX word. For some reason though, I still prefer my good old harmony 880 universal wand and use Kinect for games only. Am I alone?

Check the full press release after the break. Read More…