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Dick DeBartolo, MAD's Maddest Writer, and co-host of The Giz Wiz at GizWiz.TV, The Giz Wiz on ABC's World News Now, and on Tech Guy Labs with Leo Laporte on But wait, there's More »

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    One brand of TV in the late 1950’s came with something no other TV offered. It’s own “halo”!

    Back to Dick’s Gadget Warehouse Friday, February 12th, Netcast 1025

    When I was a kid it was widely believed, at least by our parents, that you needed to have some sort of light on in the room where you watched TV. If you didn’t, because of the stark contract between the brightness of TV picture and the darkness of the room, you would ruin you eyesight. At least that was the theory. But in the late 1950’s Sylvania solved that “problem” with something they called "Halo Light". The black & white TV sets they sold had a fluorescent light behind a translucent frame that surrounded the picture tube. So the Halo Light took the place of having to have a lamp on in the room. Halo Light could be turned on and off, but why would you shut it off? You would “show it off”, not shut it off! Halo light made claims like: "You'll see the difference instantly! Pictures framed in exciting HALOLIGHT appear larger, sharper and clearer!"  Actually, I thought Halo light was really neat. Sure it was a gimmick, but even as a kid, I liked things like that. It was big for several years and then disappeared. But in 2004 Philips came up with "Ambilight", which was a similar idea. It worked differently; by projecting a glow of light on the wall directly behind the screen. Over the years Philips enhanced Ambilight so you could control the color, or have the TV project a color on the wall that matched the primary color on the screen at that moment. Ambilight is still available on the newest Philips flat screen TV’s:

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    You talk, it types! And it’s fast and surprisingly accurate!

    Thursday, February 11th, 2010, Netcast 1024

    When I got back from CES I had a stack of new product press releases. My normal plan is to type a brief description of each new gizmo into an “Interesting New Products” file on my computer. But it’s one of my least favorite things to do. I would read something on the press release, type it in, read more, type it in, etc. As I looked at the stack of press releases I wish I had a secretary. A light dawns! Wait a minute; I have speech-to-text software that I never tried. At a press event a while back a kind spokesperson at Nuance Software sent me a copy of Dragon Naturally Speaking 10. Fortunately I knew exactly where it was & I installed it. Setup took about 20 minutes. It detects and tests your hardware and you make some choices like where you were born, I guess to adjust for local accents. Then you read something from the screen into your microphone until the program tells you it’s finished with setup. Among the choices of things to read aloud are commands you use with Dragon. That’s the choice to make, because you’re multi-tasking. The program is tuning itself to how you speak, while at the same time, you’re learning some basic commands. There’s another option I didn’t use. You can also read some of your e-mail and word-processing docs so that Naturally Speaking can match your writing and dictation styles. My setup took about 20 minutes and then I just started dictating. I really was amazed at how accurate the text was. I’d say it got better than 90% of what I dictated perfectly. If you read something that the program mistypes – like GPS Padlock instead of GPS Maplock, it’s best if you manually correct the written text right away. If you do that, Naturally Speaking learns that new word and doesn’t type the wrong one again. It’s really smart. It turns out the Professional version Nuance sent me is the most expensive version. But it includes features that you and certainly me will never need, like automating complex workflow actions and other corporate chores. The basic version, which is probably all most folks need, list for $99.00. But I did a web search and it’s widely available for about $50. You can see all the various versions at the company’s website. There’s even an new iPhone version.

    Hear this Netcast:


    A GPS unit can be a big help. This device could be a big help by not letting thieves steal your GPS!

    Wednesday, February 10th, 2010, Netcast 1023

    These days almost every driver I know has a GPS unit. Many of them are built in, but many are portable units. GPS units become easier to use and more feature laden every year. But along with tech advances comes the attraction of thieves. That’s why I think the Maplock GPS anti-theft device is a good idea. It’s a two part locking system. There’s a stainless steel tether that attaches around the steering wheel. It’s connected to the Maplock device, which fits over your GPS unit and is locked with a key.  The Melbourne-based auto accessory company Who-Rae Australia developed this gizmo, which they say is the world’s first in-car GPS security device. It’s made to protect most portable GPS units with screen sizes between 3.5” & 5”. The bright colors of the Maplock are intended to deter thieves from breaking a window to gain entry. If thieves are roaming through a parking lot taking GPS units, I think they’d skip one that had this device in place and pick something easier. Why hassle cutting a wire and breaking a locking device when the cars all around probably have no locking device? GPS theft is not an isolated crime. According to the FBI, the number of thefts has increased by 700% in recent years. There are estimates that 2.6 million GPS units will be stolen over the next two years, so an under $50 anti-theft investment could really be worthwhile. It’s on pre-order right now and should be shipping in about a month.

    Hear this Netcast:  


    Forget the Teabag Penguin. On this Turn The Table Tuesday Leo gets an OWLE.

    Turn The Table Tuesday, February 9th, 2010, Netcast 1022

    The OWLE is from a new company that makes Optical Widgets For Life Enhancement. Their first gadget is this device, which makes shooting video with the iPhone easier and more professional. I saw this device for the first time at the Wired Store, which was set up and open for just six weeks prior to the holidays. The guys who invented the OWLE were fans of the Daily Giz Wiz and offered me one to test. I don’t have an iPhone, but suggested Leo would love to give it test. (And that would mean a decent TTTT gizmo!) They sent one to Leo and he likes it a lot. The iPhone has a mic that's pointed towards the floor and Leo said the iPhone lens is not-too-wide. The OWLE iPhone Video/Rig solves these problems with a mini boom-mic and a wide-angle lens. You mount your iPhone inside the metal and silicone case of the OWLE and you’re ready to shoot enhanced iPhone video & sound. Shots are helped too with a shoe mount on the top for accessories like lights. Leo mounted his Litepanel LED array on hisBack view. OWLE to shoot some nice video. A flash will not work, since there is no way to sync it to the iPhone camera shutter. The device is made from a solid block of milled anodized aluminum. ThinkGeek, which is one of retailers, says it works with the iPhone 3G or 3GS but says that the 3G requires additional app to shoot video and the quality is poor. There are four screw mounts on the corners of the OWLE case so you can mount it to a tripod. It comes standard with 37mm lens threading, as well as a 0.45x Wide angle/macro combination lens, but you can add any other lenses with a 37mm mount. Cost is $129.95 which Leo considers on the high side, but you could do a web search to see if there were lower prices.

    Company website: 

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    A new AA battery with a new formula for more power.

    Daily Giz Wiz, Monday, February 8th, 2010, Netcast 1021

    They’re called PowerGenix Nickel-Zinc High Discharge Batteries. And the abbreviation for their composition is NiZn, which I can’t even pronounce. So I’ll call them PowerGenix. This company has developed a high-energy density, high-cycle life and low-cost nickel-zinc (NiZn) battery, ideal for applications that require high discharge rate capabilities. That includes digital cameras, especially when using flash. Their performance advantages include a 30% weight reduction, coupled with higher power. Here’s a bit of tech info on the batteries from the company: Using a patented electrolyte and a patented electrode composition, PowerGenix has eliminated past issues of dendrite formation and shape change of the zinc electrode during cycling. Dendrite formation and shape change of the zinc electrode have been the primary hindrances to a commercially viable rechargeable NiZn high discharge battery. PowerGenix developed this breakthrough technology in a manner that did not compromise the inherently superior performance characteristics of a NiZn battery. Two of the more prominent features of the PowerGenix NiZn high discharge battery are its small size and low internal resistance, which enables the delivery of significantly more power during periods of peak demand than a nickel-cadmium (NiCd) or nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) battery of comparable size.  I put a voltmeter on a fully charged PowerGenix AA battery and a fully charged NiCad battery. (PowerGenix likes the abbreviation NiCd, I prefer NiCad. Google shows both.) The meter showed higher power (1.6 volts) from the NiZn formula vs. 1.2 from the NiCad rechargeable. They’re also eco-friendly because they’re 100% recyclable and non-toxic. 4 AA PowerGenix batteries with a quick NiZn charger have a suggested retail price of $29.99, but you can find them on Amazon for about $23.

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