Archive for the ‘tech gadgets’ Category

Boxee Box in-depth Review: a $200 powerhouse

Posted by matt on November 14, 2010

Boxee Box in the HandThe highly anticipated release of the Boxee Box is finally upon us!  Since its debut at CES in January 2010, the thought of a relatively cheap consumer electronics device that could take the place of a typical media PC was indeed attractive.  While most likely initially targeted at those already quite familiar with the Boxee (or XBMC) interface, it is likely the sub-$200 device will bring an entire new market of casual over-the-top video users into the foray. This review will go through installation and use of many of the screens and local media types.

If you find this review helpful and wish to buy the Boxee box, please do so via this Amazon link to help support this site.  Thanks!

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Posted under boxee, reviews, tech gadgets, Unbox

Top 50 Android Apps for the HTC Evo 4G

Posted by matt on July 23, 2010

HTC Evo 4G Top Android AppsAfter having the HTC Evo 4G for just over a month, thought I would spill the beans on all the Apps I’ve been using (afterall, Apps is my name…)  While these will likely work on most Android phones, they are all ones I use on the HTC Evo.  Since there are so many good apps, I’m also going to skip the super-obvious ones, like the Facebook, Twitter, FourSquare, etc. apps. If you use those, just get the official one.  (I do use Peep for Twitter though).

First off, i’m a big believer in the ‘teach a man to fish’ philosophy, so one of the first Apps you should get is the AppBrain App Market. I typically use this in place of the ‘Market’ app, as it has what is popular in the last 24 hours, week, etc., and is a nice way to see what good new Apps are available.

Best part about all these apps?  They are all FREE, (unless where noted).  Many do have ads, so if that drives you nuts or you simply want to support the author, grab the paid version (usually just a couple of bucks).  The easiest way to get them is to simply look up the name below in either Market or in AppBrain and then download from there or click the name to get more info on each one.

Also, the ‘Showoff’ column is useful if you want to show someone the power of what your phone can do.

Finally, if you have the EVO, you should do yourself a favor and GET YOURSELF THE EXTENDED BATTERY.  I’ve had this for awhile, and you can heavily use your phone without worrying about it dying at the end of each day!  It’s the best ~$50 you’ll spend.

Note, this is dated 7/23/2010 and are my favorites from around that time.  Without further ado, the list sorted alphabetically:

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Posted under Android, HTC Evo, reviews, tech gadgets, top 10 lists

Gadget Review: EOS Canon 7D

Posted by matt on November 11, 2009

canon-eos-7d-small.jpgAfter spending a few weeks with the Canon 7D, I decided to put together my mini-review of the camera.  I was able to take it to a few events, and also on a 5-day vacation to Athens, Greece where it got quite a workout.  For perspective of this review, prior to using the 7D I’ve shot 4 different versions of the Canon Rebel series, (original, XT, XTi and XSi).  My Pro’s / Con’s are mostly related to moving from the Canon Rebel XSi.

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Posted under reviews, tech gadgets

Palm Pre vs. Treo 700p with SERO Plan

Posted by matt on July 27, 2009

palmpre3.jpgWhile there have been countless comparisons of the Palm Pre to the Apple iPhone, I haven’t seen many comparing the Palm Pre to the Treo line of products (Treo 650, Treo 700p, Treo 755p, Treo Centro). There are still tens of thousands of old Sprint SERO customers on a Treo 700p (or similar) that like me, are looking to upgrade to something. The old Sprint SERO plan was at it’s peak around 2-3 years ago, so many Sprint customers are either rolling off their plans, or at a minimum, definitely ready for a new phone.

I was a Treo 700p user for 3 years with heavy use on a $30 SERO plan (upgraded later to $45 with unlim. text). For over a year of that, I also extensively used email, RSS, web, Twitter, Twitpic, Facebook, etc. I made the move from the Treo 700p to the Palm Pre in early June 2009, and decided to put together the comparison of what you have to look forward to (or what you have to give up): NOTE: this comparison was written on 7/27/09 and is based on Palm Pre WebOS v1.1

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Posted under how to, reviews, tech gadgets

How to play old arcade games with a MAME machine

Posted by matt on February 21, 2009

Ahh, arcade games.  Last summer, I posted my “What’s your top 1% video game“, and it got me thinking that I haven’t played too many games lately…

Over 6 years ago, I decided that I wanted to build an arcade cabinet that would play all the old-school arcade games.  While my MAME (Multi-Arcade-Machine-Emulator) machine has gone through at least 3 rounds of iterations, it has been out of commission for over a year (after some hard use at my last Karaoke party… kind of a long story).  Until last week…  I finally got around to putting in an old workstation that would update the CPU hardware for the first time in about 4 years and get everything else back working.

It’s hard to believe, but I’ve been messing around with MAME for over 10 years.   Growing up in a 12-machine video game arcade at my parents campground in the 80s was a dream come true.  Today, it would be too hard to figure out which specific arcade game to buy, so in the 90’s when MAME came out, having the ability to play many games on the same machine had huge appeal.  How many is many?  As of early 2009, how about over 6500 working games!!

While there are many paths to going and getting one of these machines running, I’ll tell you what I did:

tankstick_sm2.jpg1) Controls ($200 or less) – Back in 2002, I purchased an X-arcade Joystick.  This is arcade quality, and if you just want to use MAME with a normal computer it works well.  If you plan on having a cabinet, a better way to go would be to simply buy the controllers and build your own board.  I ended up ripping up my X-arcade and put it in a custom board.  I’m lucky that my good friend Cory was able to make me a board and layout.  Check his modern arcades site for more of the cabinets he has built!

2) Computer – (cheap/free?) Many people have an old computer lying around.  The one that is usually in my MAME cabinet is what typically becomes of my primary workstation after I upgrade (typically every 2-3 years).  While some games don’t even work with the newest hardware, you can easily play over 4000 of these games with almost any machine.  Remember, these games are from the 80’s, so emulation of them isn’t that intensive.  The first computer I used was a 486 running Windows 95 and it easily played all the early 80’s classics like Galaga, Pacman, etc.  Today I’m using a middle-of-the-line Athlon 3800+ with 1GB of RAM and a 256MB Radeon HD 3450 video card which also works quite well.

lowerhell-MAME-Custom-Arcade-cabinet-by-Matt-Apps3) Cabinet – ($varies, mine was $175 delivered) The biggest commitment is the cabinet.  Rather than try to build my own, I went to a local games distributor and asked if they had an old cabinet.  They did, and I ended up with an old Zenophobe cabinet (it had been later turned into Combattribes).  If you know of a game vendor in your area, chances are they have old stuff around in a warehouse that can be had for cheap.  Check craigslist too.  You might find a working machine that you could convert fairly easily.

4) Monitor ($varies) – I used a computer monitor that doesn’t look the best in my cabinet, but there are a lot of options.  With LCD’s so cheap, taking one out of the case and mounting in a cabinet may work well for you.   You can probably get a CRT almost free these days.

5) MAME Emulator – It’s free, just download it.  This is the program that acts as the hardware for all the different games by using your computer.  It’s been in active development for over 10 years and continues to improve.   I use the MAMEUIFX32 as it has some features over the official builds (like high-score saving).

6) ROMS and CHD’s –  These are the actual games and use use the MAME emulator to play them.  While the copyright on many of these games has expired or the potential interested parties are no longer interested, you will officially be entering a grey area playing any of these games.  There are groups of individuals that have been around for years that will get the roms to you for cost of the media.  Doug Burton is one of these guys.  You also may also consider bittorrent. Please don’t ask me–I’ll just direct you to this post.

Recently, the size of all the games has grown astronomically with the addition of CHD (compressed hard drive) files.  I mentioned before there are 6500 working games (about 7500 total that don’t all work).  If you sort by size, the first 3000 games only add up to 90MB!  But they go up from there…  To get to 5000 games, you need 611MB of disk space, and to get to 7400 you need 17GB!  Finally, if you include a couple of hundred games with the CHD files, the archive grows to almost 150GB!!  Drive space is cheap these days though, so even at that size it shouldn’t be an issue.

Check this Youtube video of me playing M.A.C.H 3, an old laser disk came from 1983.  While emulating Galaga and Pacman isn’t that hard, MAME has come a long way to be able to emulate old laser disk games too.

Posted under tech gadgets, Video Games