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Friday, August 26, 2011

Buy a Nixie Clock for the person who has everything. I know they don't have this!

We all know the person: ho-hum about anything they receive for a gift or simply someone who posesses the ability to go ahead and purchase anything and everything they could ever possibly want so when the holidays or their birthday comes around, you're stumped and can't think of a unique gift for that person that would catch their attention or be something they don't already have.

Well, my friends, have no fear for I have the solution to your problem. I can pretty much gaurantee your friend will not have this object and it's something that is so cool, your friend will be impressed and remeber your gift for some time.

Behold, the Nixie Clock.

(source: Amazon)
The what? Yup, the Nixie clock is indeed something that you don't see everyday. Each numeral is displayed on 1960's technology tubes that manufactuers import from Russia where these tubes are still made and used in "state of the art" equipment. You may have seen these tubes used in countdown clocks for the US space program in the early 60's. You can find out how a nixie tube actually works at the wikipedia article here.

Today, most of us use LEDs to display the time, but there is no denying these unique clocks and their appeal. Why I can't see something like this on the bedroom nightstand, I think it would be ideal in an office, den or even a living room.

Amazon has a nixie clock for sale for the somewhat rareified price of $209.95. Don't despair, though- there are many other makers that offer nixie clocks for far less and kits can be had for even lower prices. Just go to your favorite search engine and enter the term "nixie clock".

Now, your jaded "got it all" friend doesn't have to get another tie this year. Instead, give them a nixie clock and give them a real surprise they'll remember.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Google Goggles- Hard to say 5 times fast, but easy to use in surprising ways

Mobile (phone) apps are all the rage with kids these days. There are apps that play games, apps that change the look of photos and apps that find great restaurants anywhere you happen to be standing.

And now, there's Google Goggles. A new phone app for the Android, iPhone and Blackberry and others.

Not very descriptive name, I'll admit. But when you hear what the app can do, you'll be running to the computer to download it.
Think of Google Goggles as a visual search engine. One that uses your phone's camera to search the internet for answers.

Remember when your Mom said to look it up? Now, you can.
For example, if you're in a French restaurant and the menu is in French, but you don't speak a word of the language, what can you do? Simply start the GG app and take a photo of the paragraph of your interest. Google looks up the translation and converts the French into English (or the reverse!). The translation may not be perfect, but the result if close enough to make sense of what was nonsensical just moments before. It handles dozens of languages beyond those of the Francophile.


Let's say you're in Cincinnati Ohio and you see the famous statue in Fountain Square. "What statue?" I hear you say. Exactly- simply activate the GG App, take a photo of the statue and Google Goggles will search the web (based on your photo) to tell you the statue was installed in 1871 by Tyler Davidson. Didn't know that, did you?

The Fountain Square Statue, Cincinnati, Ohio.

You get a business card from a new sales contact but you know little about her. Once again, simply open the GG app, take a photo of the card's petinent information (phone number, person's name, etc.) and lo and behold, Goggles will look up the person and present all of the information available on the web to you in an attempt to aid your business efforts.

There are many more things Google Goggles can do: Look up books, wine labels, artwork, pretty much anything that presents a visual that can be captured by a camera is something GG can help you look up on the internet.

Pretty cool, no? Google doesn't say if people are on the list of available "look ups", but don't be surprised to see facial recognition somewhere down the road.

So, just in case- look in your webcam and smile!

Go here to see an explanation of Google Goggles.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Onstar FMV- get help, directions or make calls from nearly any car.

We own two GM cars and both have Onstar. As a husband and father, I feel much better that our cars are equipped with this gear. For those of you not familiar with the service, Onstar is mounted in all GM vehicles and has the ability to make hands-free cell phone calls, provide turn-by-turn directions and, best of all, will automatically call emergency services with the vehicles exact location in the event of an accident via the GPS mounted in all Onstar equippped products.

Until recently, if you didn't own a GM vehicle, you were out of luck and unable to use this service in your non-GM vehicle.

Not any more. Now, hundreds of non-GM cars and truck models can mount Onstar inside their vehicle. Called Onstar FMV ("For My Vehicle"), this is the entire Onstar system built into a rear view mirror module (many GM products have this exact setup too) for replacing your normal, boring, non-button rear-view mirror.

See? Lots of buttons that do lots of things.
(source: GM)
Other available services include bluetooth connectivity for cell phones, calling for roadside assistance and even stolen vehicle recovery (using the Onstar's built-in GPS, they can track the thief and guide the police).

Is Onstar for you? The quick and easy answer is maybe. While Onstar FMV can fit a huge number of non-GM vehicles, it can't fit all of them. the Onstar FMV website has provided a handy guide for you to enter your vehicles make, model, year, etc. to determine if your Ford, Toyota or Jeep (or any make) is compatible with the Onstar FMV system.

Now, Onstar is not free. Two plans are available for $199 and $299 per year (pro rated monthly) with a basic and premium level of services, respectively. For me, I gladly pay the rate and have done so for years. When I know my wife and three kids always have help just a phone call away and they can have the police or fire department respond to their exact location when I can't I feel better. Professional installation is required but can be done for under $100.

And that's worth every penny.

Go to the Onstar FMV site here for ordering info and go to to see a review with the pros and cons of this unique system.