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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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    Hey, I invented that!

    Monday, September 28th, 2009

    It started with an email from Ian in Sydney, Australia.  He told me about a device he bought that – from the outside of your house – it makes it look like the family is watching TV.   Here’s part of his email: It's a led light that imitates the flashing, intensity and colour changing of a TV as seen indirectly through a window.  At first I was suspicious this was a scam or something, but shelled out for one. It is smaller than the picture makes out but is bright enough to do as described.  Ian, Sydney Australia.

    The gizmo is called FakeTV and yes, it’s designed to make it look like someone is home watching television! The company says the effects of scene changes, fades, swells, flicks, on-screen motion, and color changes and more are faithfully reproduced, and look just like they came from a real TV. The computer controlled, super-bright multi-color LED light output equivalent to a typical 27" HDTV LCD television. And they point something you may not know: Most digital televisions do not work with timers-- they turn on with push buttons. So that means you can’t use your own TV to go on & off when you’re not home. What I did years ago was put a bunch of flashing Christmas light on some tin foil. It was to decorate a fireplace in the summer, but one night I left it on when I was out. When I came home it looked like someone was inside watching TV! The commercial version is called FakeTV. It can be set to DUSK +4 HRS or DUSK +7 HRS or just plain ON. Just place it in a room so that you can see the light from the FakeTV from outside, but you cannot see the FakeTV unit itself.  Plug into the wall using the included adapter.  The built in light sensor will turn FakeTV on at dusk, and the unit turns off after a switch selectable 4 or 7 hours. The company could be right when they say: Burglars will almost always circle a home once before entering.  They are looking for the easiest way in, and looking for signs of life.  FakeTV gives them just those signs!  Few burglars will enter a home that they think is occupied. There’s a video of the product at the company website. It sells for $39.99, but do a web search. Sometimes other sources like Home Shopping Network sell it for $10 less!

    Hear this Netcast: 


    Another trip to the “Mail Order Rip-off” corner of Dick’s Gadget Warehouse.

    Back to Dick’s Gadget Warehouse Friday. September 25th, 2009

    Let’s take a look at an ad from 1986, some 23 years ago. Here are the highlights of this “stupendous” offer!

    Here’s thrilling excitement for everyone with this collection of prehistoric dinosaurs at this low, low, price of just $2.98 plus $1 postage and handling charges!

    Command these fun-loving prehistoric monsters to your every prank.

    Toss them in the air, they will always land on their feet, swinging and swaying in every direction without tilting over.

    One-piece molded quality latex, colorful.

    Great for children! Terrific for parties! Colossal for adults!

    So order right now for stupendous fun. You take no risk because you must agree that these prehistoric giants are everything we say or your money promptly refunded.

    The most exciting gift a child can receive! Stupendous!  (End of ad copy.)

    As you can see, what you got for your money was merely 7 color balloons. To make it worse, the "Dinosaurs" were merely stamped onto the balloons. They did come with poorly printed cardboard feet that you inserted the knotted end of the balloon into. But kids seeing the illustration in that ad would be heart broken at what showed up in the mail! It reminds me of a commercial that runs today where they give a kid a great toy like a truck – and then take it away and give him a picture of a truck. I hate that commercial!

    Hear this Netcast:


    World's First Dual Microphone, Folding Bluetooth Headset.

    Thursday, September 24th, 2009, Netcast 914

    It’s from Jabra and it’s call the Halo. This headset has a very high tech look and is capable of folding to take up less space in your backpack, luggage, etc. But, as you can see, it doesn't fold tightly. When you unfold the Halo you push inward at the hinge on each side to lock it in the open position. There is no “on/off” switch because the Halo goes on automatically when you push in the lock mechanism. And yes, it goes off automatically when you fold the headset. These are on-the-ear headphones so they’re comfortable to wear. There’s a touch of inward pressure to keep them from falling off, but not enough pressure to give you any deep bass notes. The headphones can play deeper bass than you hear. You can test the bass yourself by push them tight against your ears as your tunes play. But obvioulsy this is awkward to do for more a minute or two and it certainly ruins the tech look. Leo loves the new A2DP and AVRCP Bluetooth profiles and these headphones have both. The latter profile enables music playback control assuming you have an AVRCP-compatible device. With this feature you can skip forward and back through different tracks and pause playback. The Halo's controls are on the right side, easiest for most people to reach. One button lets you receive and reject calls. It also starts and pauses music playback on compatible devices when the call comes in. There’s a touch sensitive slider that controls the volume and forward/back functions. This took a bit of practice before I was able to use it easily. Inside the headband are two LED lights to show battery level and Bluetooth status. The Halo can be paired with two Bluetooth devices at the same time. Like most Bluetooth headsets, music playback is muted when a call comes in so you can answer it in quiet. The music comes back on after the call ends. When I first opened the package I didn’t even realize the Halo could also answer phone calls. The twin built in mics are so built-in you can’t even see where they are. I made a couple of calls, including one to my answering machine to judge quality and it was great. The only downside is the lack of bass on music playback.  Price is $129.99. But they’re on Amazon for $99.99

    Here’s an Amazon link for under $100. But I haven’t shopped here:

    Hear this Netcast: www.twit.tvdgw914


    A Clever Green Device, The Reduce Compactor Can.

    Wednesday, September 23, 2009, Netcast 923

    The Reduce compactor Can is a new product I found at the Gift Show while I was in San Francisco. It’s an attractive stainless steel trashcan that comes with a built in manual compactor. It’s manual because it’s the owner who pushes down on the lid, which compacts the trash in the can easily and safely. A heavy silicone rubber baffle extends as you press down. This means you no longer need to put your hand or your foot into the trash to make more space. The company says you can fit two times more trash into a trash bag with this trash can, so you’ll use half as many plastic trash bags as you normally would use. This cuts in half the amount of trash bags going into landfills, and the time it takes for the garbage to be picked up and processed. Now when I wrote this on September 20th, the Reduce Compactor Can was not yet on sale. At the show the company spokesman said this device might sell for as much as $200, but that seems high to me. I checked Bed, Bath & Beyond to price a regular stainless garbage can. They had a 30-liter model for $70. This can is 40 liters, but I’m hoping they settle for a lower price than $200 to get people to start using these clever devices. The company has other “green devices” in the marketplace already, so check out the other products on their website.

     A little demo of the Compactor Can:

    Hear this Netcast:


    A Really Nice Turn The Table Tuesday Gadget! The Roku Box.

    A Really Nice Turn The Table Tuesday Gadget! The Roku Box.

    The back of the Roku Box offers 4 ways to connect to TV sets, including HDMI.Leo couldn’t believe he never picked the Roku Box as a TTTT gadget. But a check of GizWiz Search and the help of the folks in the chat room showed he never did. The Roku Box is a small, affordable (about $100) way to stream movies, TV shows and now baseball games to your TV. You don’t even need a computer. For a while it was called the Netflix Roku, but the selection of things to watch has broadened quite a bit since it’s introduction. You can now watch Amazon Video On Demand movies and TV shows as well as those of Netflix. (An unlimited subscription-viewing package can be as low as $9 per month.) The Roku box setup is simple. It includes built-in wired and 802.11g WiFi networking. Roku says you need at least 1.2 Mbps to watch movies instantly on the Roku digital video player with decent quality. You can hook it to just about any TV with a variety of connections: Composite video, S-Video, Component video (Y/Pb/Pr) or HDMI. The sound is stereo. You can upgrade the firmware to get new features, interface improvements, and bug fixes. It’s not a done-deal, but Leo hinted at another new use for folks who own a Roku Box. If those go well you may soon be able to stream much of the video content from TWiT! And that includes The Daily Giz Wiz. So you don’t catch us when we record the shows on Tuesday afternoons, you can just hit your Roku remote and watch it when you want!

     Hear this Netcast: