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Thursday, September 30, 2010

DVD Easter Eggs- the dirty little secret revealved!

Here's a fun way to use your DVDs:

Happy hunting!
For the better part of a decade, studios and filmmakers have been hiding little gems in and among their menus so the viewer can happily stumble upon a behnd-the-scenes documentary, video game or blooper reel. These are called "Easter Eggs" (because they're hidden like Easter eggs- get it?) Some DVDs have one or two, others can have a dozen. A great site that has cataloged all of these treasures is

While not the most imaginative name, the site's title is what it does; a long searchable list of DVD titles aong with the number of eggs and how to access them.

For instance, the "Anger Management" DVD has an Easter Egg that you access by click on a pair of glowing cat's eyes in the main menu- then a behind-the-scenes documentary plays.

Go to the link now and Happy Hunting!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Microsoft Word shortcuts- the mouse isn't needed!

The mouse is all powerful and does everything.

But, did you know that there are literally dozens of keyboard shortcuts that can do almost everything a mouse can do and in only a fraction of the time?

It takes a little time to master, but
keyboard shortcutsreally do save a lot of time.
(credit: unknown)
It's true and your ol' buddy the Head Monkey here has the information that will turn you into a Word superstar. Simply click here to go to Microsoft's website to find easy to use keyboard combinations that do things like change fonts to bold, highlight everything on the page and even undo a mistake.

What kind of keyboard combinations, you ask? Well, an example would be "Ctrl+F" (in other words, pressing the key marked "Crtl" and- while continuing to hold it down- pressing the F key). What this does is open a box that allows you to find a word anywhere in the document.

F= Find...get it? BTW, this key combination also works for Internet Explorer web browsers. It's really a big help. Remember to click here to go to the website.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Xbox Kinect- What is it and why is it a big deal?

Every Christmas brings a whole new crop of electronic gizmos and gee-whiz things that go beep. Kids will beg and plead their parents for these things and that means it will be up to Mom and Dad to translate all of these new and strange words into something to get for placing under the tree come December.

Today's tech word of the day is "Kinect".

This is an add-on to the Xbox that allows truly no-hands control of games and other Xbox functions.

It's hard to tell here, but the Kinect is about the size of
small book.
(credit: Microsoft)
Looking like a thin, black bar on a nondescript plastic stand, the Kinect's technology is truly remarkable. It can sense your movements and gestures in a 3D space. In other words it "knows" when you move your arm, leg or body in a backward, forward, up, down and all otherways motion.

It can also recognize voice commands so if you're watching a movie on the Xbox (an Xbox can play either a DVD or stream Netflix) a simple "pause" or "play" command will cause the Xbox to do just that. In games, you might tell a character to duck or run.

However, this is one of those cases where seeing will explain more than I can tell you. Go the to Microsoft Xbox site here to see a video about what the hub bub is all about.

Go on! Get moving!

Monday, September 20, 2010

iPod Nano reviewed

A herd/cluster/flock/school of iPods.
(Credit: Apple)

Engadget, one of the web's premeire electronic gadget sites, has a review of the new iPod Nano. Redesigned and overhauled, the Nano boasts new features and a snazzy new look.

About the size of a matchbook (remember those?) it can hold thousands of songs, podcasts or audiobooks and can run for hours on its little, bitty battery.

One of a slew of new iPod devices introduced a few weeks ago, the Nano falls in the middle of the iPod range between the micro-sized shuffle and the cell-phone size Ipod Touch. Priced around $179, This is going to be the must have present of the 2010 Christmas season.

Your kids and/or grand kids will want one, so you should know all about them to be a more informed consumer.

And, while you're at it, you might want to get one for your favorite blogger too!

Go see the Engadget review by clicking here.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Clever quotes from clever folks- Finding the perfect quote for your writing or just for fun.

I was writing a piece for work this morning when I decided that I needed a quote from someone to help me define a concept. I found the website and it is jam packed with thousands of quotes from people far more wise than I when it comes to encapsulating a thought, idea or person into a riveting quip perfectly suited for presentations, letters, essays or just for fun reading.

Here are a few examples:

I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.

Groucho Marx

All generalizations are false, including this one.
Mark Twain

Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.

Lao Tzu

Some are funny, some are thoughtful and all of them are useful. You can search by topic or author or keyword and once you press enter, hundreds of thoughts from the past 2000 years are available for your use.

Here's a few quotes to ponder:

I've failed over and over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed.

Michael Jordan

or an opposing view:

If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Then quit. There's no point in being a damn fool about it.

W. C. Fields

Go here to read more.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

What is your ancestry? Are you sure? REALLY sure?

I thought I was sure.

Turns out, my family history was partially true and partially not. While my grandfather did come fom Italy in 1911(as I was always told) , my maternal grandmother's side in the US goes way back to the 1690's, I have a relative who was a Confederate soldier and POW and his father apparently fought for Texas independence. Wow.  No one ever told me any of this!

Where did we get this info and can we prove it? has massive records taken from the US census from as far back as 1790 as well as military records, tax records, the National Archives and other government and newspaper sources. As you find records that pertain to your search, you're able to download the exact document that contains your relative's information. That is, if you're looking at the 1820 census, you can print out a copy of the actual 1820 census that specifically shows your relative- old timey handwriting and all- there's no better proof than that.

Additionally, you can choose to connect with other families who share the same relatives as you who've also been researching the site. My family tree has so many branches, roots and leaves that I must be related to 5,000 other people spread across the country.
Makes for a heck of a family reunion...

While does cost money to join ($12.95/mo.), there's a 14 day free trail (my wife found most of the info detailed above in about 5 days) and you can cancel anytime by calling an 800 number.

To find out if you and I are related, go to by clicking here and I'll save you some potato salad at the family reunion next July.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Now Showing: The worst movies EVER made...and I mean ever!

Some things in life go full circle. Movies are like that. Some are very good, most are terrible and some are so extremely bad that they come all the way around to entertaining, just because of poorly written scripts, wooden acting and atrocious special effects.

I'm not sure if this is a bad movie still or me after watching
several hours of these stinkers.
I have to admit, there are some real stinkeroos out there I enjoy watching simply because I know that I'll see the movie's monster wearing sneakers, the camera crew in the window's reflection and absolutely horrible acting that makes me laugh all through the movie.

Is there a website for this kind of movie? Of course! That's why we're all here isn't it? It's called and the name says it all. Reviewed movies are listed alphabetically and each one has a synopsis, photos and a movie clip or two. The best element of all is the "Thing I learned from watching this movie" section with hilarious observations and humorous jabs at the movie's seriousness.

With movie titles like The Creeping Terror, Please don't eat my Mother and Puppet Master III (really? There were two other Puppet Masters? Where was I when these premiered?)

In a strange way, this site is kind of a tribute to the people who persevered and got these movies shot, edited and finished. As a video professional, I know just how hard this can be.

Go see here and remember, you've been warned...

Monday, September 6, 2010

Free photos from the U.S. government and you own them!

Free stuff from the government? Really?

This obscure plane is the XF-85 Goblin. See? I
told you any photo was available.
(credit: US Air Force)
Yup. Well, kinda free- your American tax dollars paid for it. In this case, it's photos of all descritptions from or about nearly any era of US History.

From pre-revolutionary images (photos of these, obviously) to last week, there are millions of photographic images avialable to you at no charge. Aircraft, ships, buildings, people, departments, judges, property, events are all covered and more.

I'm an airplane nut and I live not too far from the National Museum of the Air Force in Dayton, Ohio. That website alone (click here) has thousands of photos of aircraft and aircraft related subjects all for you to use for free. Normally, all you have to do is provide a photog source credit (i.e., Courtesy U.S. Air Force) and the full photo file is available for your use without further problems.

Wayne Rasmussen (right) meets the
Iranian Agricultural Minister in 1976.
I said ANY PHOTO, didn't I?
(credit: US Dept. of Ag)
Note however, that a few photos may require a license to use and you'll be notified of that requirement long before you ever use the photos.
Go here to get to the central database for all US government images.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Netflix on demand explained...right now!

We gave up our television cable about two years ago and started watching only over-the-air TV. The main reason? Cost. I had better uses for the $75/mo. than watching "Project Runway" 4 times a day.

The XBOX 360 can play directly from  DVDs too
Soon, however, we were looking for an additional avenue of entertainment and we found it. For $8.95/mo. we were using Netflix to get our choice of DVDs from among tens of thousands of choices. Nice...and interesting, but it turns out there's more.

For that same $8.95, not only could we get our DVDs , but we were able to see an additional several thousand movies and TV shows via the internet. What was truly interesting was the method we used to get the internet video stream to our old TV: we used our XBOX 360.

This is how it works: by subscribing to XBOX Live, we can not only play other video game enthusiats around the world, but we can also access other services like Netflix. All of these services use our home's internet connection to "talk" to Microsoft, Facebook, Netflix and other online services.

The "little video covers" that show individual titles
in each category. Pick one and start viewing.
Simply select the Netflix box and about a dozen different categories of videos appears before your eyes. Topics like Drama, Romance, Comedy, Western, etc. Click on the category of your choice and about a hundred individual videos fitting that category appear (they look like little video covers), click on a box to see a description and a "play now" button.

If it's the video you want to see, press "play now" and after about 30 seconds of computer stuff (you know- whirring, buzzing and the like) your movie starts playing- full screen and as sharp as a DVD.

You can stop, play, rewind, fast forward just like a DVD. You use the video game's controller for a remote.

A note about the choices: Not every movie Netflix offers is available online. There is a great deal of blockbuster and hit movies available, but they may not be as recent as those on the DVD shelves, plus many of the TV shows offer full seasons for viewing, but some only offer one season (out of all of the seasons that show may have been on the air).

A good note about the choices: As you choose and watch more and more videos, Netflix "learns" what you enjoy and offers more precise categories based on your choices. For instance my wife always seems to have a category titled "British Romantic Comedies" (she has a thing for accents).

By the way, this method of viewing Netflix also works on The Sony Playstation3, Nintendo Wii and the Apple TV (see my previous post) as well as a few other special video appliances- but that's another post for another day.

That's why, in my house, we call Netflix our "poor man's cable". Go here to go to Netflix.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Unlimited Data Plan for $40 a month- Virgin Mobile debuts new hotspot plan

Virgin Mobile, a provider of cell phones and other mobile devices has announced a new plan for their hotspot products (think of these as cell phones that only process data and perform as a mobile, personal wifi device). For just $40 a month, you'll be able to access the internet and up to 5 devices (laptop, iPod, iPad, etc.).

There's no contract and no other fees. Simply purchase the wifi device for about $150 and pay the $40 a month fee and you'll be able to get on the web wherever you are- as long as cell phone service is available.

Go here to see the Virgin Mobile announcement and where to get your hotspot.

Friday, September 3, 2010

The "new" Apple TV is here! Did you know there was an old Apple TV?

It's true. Apple's 1st generation of the Apple TV appliance/computer has been around for a few years now, but it never really took off. In fact, hardly anyone outside of the home theater geek groups knew anything about it. It's not a TV at all, but a computer appliance that plays out content of all kinds to your preexisting TV.
The Apple TV box- typical Apple
design understatement.
(credit: Apple)

That's about to change because the new Apple TV is completely revamped. Contained in a small box no larger than a paperback book, Apple TV (picture, right) allows you to access High Definition content to Netflix, Flickr and YouTube. It connects wirelessly to your computer and streams video (through the air! no wires)  immediately. It can also play all of the music (or movies) you've purchased on iTunes.

Additionally, if your iPhone or your iPod already has a movie or TV show downloaded into it, you can play the production to the Apple TV wirelessly using a free app called Airplay. Press the button and the movie appears- full HD and all- on your TV. And all of this for $99. I don't think apple has sold anything for $99 for a long time, so you'd better get down there and get one before they change their mind.

Isn't that something? Learn more about the Apple TV here from the Apple people themselves. I'll  post a review of the new Apple TV as soon as I can find a quality one.

It seems the new Apple TV is a peach!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

More news on new Apple promised!

This Nano is small, but can hold thousands of songs,
podcasts, audiobooks and more!
(Credit: Apple)
Here's more info on the new Apple products introduced by Steve Jobs yesterday. We've already seen the iPod Touch and all it has to offer, now let's take a closer look at the Nano and the Shuffle. 

The Nano is smaller in size than the Touch and until yesterday, didn't have a touch screen at all, instead relying on a small disc and a tiny non-touch screen to assist in navigation and seeing exactly what it was you were playing out. The new version is all touch-screen, albeit with a screen area far smaller than the Touch. To give you an idea, here's a picture of the new Nano to the left (Thanks for the picture Apple!).

Here's an idea of size and colors available for the Shuffle
(Credit: Apple)
The entry-level iPod is the shuffle (see picture, right). With no screen at all, the shuffle is miniscule, barely more than an inch square. It uses a "click-wheel" like the last generation Nano and speaks to you, so you can choose the song or podcast of your choice. It weighs virtually zero, which makes it perfect for the workout set. Yet it can hold hundreds upon hundreds of hours of audio of nearly every description. has an article with details on the new goodies here.

 We'll take a look at the Apple TV tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

BREAKING NEWS! Apple's new iPod Touch hits the market!

There's at least $687 worth of iPods in this photo.
A few months after the 4th generation iPhone went public, now it's time for the 4th generation of the Apple iPod Touch to debut. Known as the "iPhone without a phone", the new iPod Touch has a ton of new features that's best described at Apple's website. You can go to it here.

Apple also debuted new versions of the Nano, Shuffle and Apple TV, which we'll touch on in a later post.

What does this mean for Apple? Well, the Christmas buying season is soon approaching and there is just enough time for teens to get whipped into a consumer frenzy and beg their parents or grandparents for this exact item. It is expensive, starting at $229 for the 8gig version, but I predict that Apple will not be able to keep them in stock.

That is the most sure-thing prediction since I predicted my teenager would be hungry at dinner time.