Tag Archives: television

Does the Internet impair our ability to concentrate?

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ARGUMENT: The Internet impairs our ability to contemplate and concentrate for long, sustained periods of time

AN ex-colleague of mine (Ryan Calder) started an interesting debate about the Internet on Facebook. He was asking whether or not people thought that the Internet (and cyber culture in general) impairs our ability to concentrate. Some of the comments were quite interesting.

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DTV: The Digital TV Transition

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DTV: The dawning of a new viewing era

WE are entering a new era of television­. With a boom in the sale of 3DTVs predicted for this year, and the switching from analogue­ to digital television now postponed until 2013, surely this signals that things can only get better. But what does it mean for the end user?

Some feel that before we had the chance to upgrade our sets to HD-ready TVs, out came 3D-ready ones. They may feel that they now need to purchase digital­-ready TVs.

Fortunately this isn’t quite the case. The analogue signal (which is transmitted in a similar manner to radio­) will eventually be phased out; but before that happens, TV viewers with analogue TVs will still be able to pick up digital broadcasts after installing a Set-Top-Box (STB). These convert digital signals into analogue signals so that they may be viewed on older, analogue­ TV sets.

The Digital TV Transition

(image: www.digitalproductionme.com)

“But what’s so great about going digital?” I hear you shout. The format and efficiency of digital broadcasts over analogue­ ones not only offer better picture and sound quality, but also frees up space on the broadcasting spectrum — allowing broadcasters to offer far more channels than before.

“DTV (digital television) also offers multiple programming choices, called multicasting, and interactive capabilities. Also, some of the spectrum can now be auctioned to companies that will be able to provide consumers with more advanced wireless services (such as wireless broadband).” — www.dtv.gov

So in a nutshell, more channel choices­ with better quality broadcasts and even more interactive shows will be an offer with DTV. It has also been mentioned that the number of local SABC channels will increase from three to more than 10.

So while we may not need to upgrade our boxes in order to view digital broadcasts, if we wish to enjoy the full benefits of digital TV, including improved picture and sound quality, we will need to by entirely new TV sets. The same applies if we wish to enjoy HD, Blue-Ray or 3D broadcasts. We may be able to view them, but not at the quality in which they were intended.

The 3DTV Transition

So what of 3DTV? Being the new kid on the box, 3DTV broadcasts are still expensive to make and therefore expensive to view properly. Largely as a result of this, 3DTV has been separated into two categories — active and passive TV technology.

In both cases, 3D glasses are required to view 3DTV. However, with passive TV technology, one has to sit in a particular position without much leeway to move around in order to view the picture in 3D. The cheaper glasses essentially divide­ the image into two. A single frame is filtered for each eye. So essentially you are seeing the image at half its original resolution.

With active TV technology one wears independently powered 3D glasses. 3D images can be viewed from any angle which send out full frames on each eye sequentially, providing original picture quality at the full 100% resolution. It’s a no-brainer which TV technology is the more expensive one.

It’s difficult to say when would be a good time to upgrade one’s TV set given the circumstances. Like personal computers, televisions are becoming as quickly replaced by new technologies. The only advice I can give is start saving now.

THE difference between analog TV and digital TV has its roots in the way the TV signal is transmitted or transferred from the source to the TV, which, in turn, dictates the type of TV the consumer needs to use to receive the signal. This also applies to the way a DTV converter box has to transfer a signal to an analog TV, which is important for those consumers who use DTV converters to receive TV programming on an analog TV set. – About.com

Time to chair up

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ULTIMATE V3: It’s death by comfort

THEY say that we spend a third of our lives sleeping (presumably in a bed). Well, I reckon that we spend another third of our lives sitting in a chair, especially if you work in an office. Think about it. You get out of bed, sit at the breakfast table, drive seated to work, sit at your desk, drive home again, maybe sit and watch some television, perhaps sit at your computer and do some writing or surf the web and climb back into bed.
 
Some are more disciplined than that. I had a Swiss-German friend at varsity who couldn’t even sit through a movie because it involved too much sitting. It must be his German blood.

I find nothing more satisfying than sitting (even better — lying) on a comfortable couch. The funny thing about couches is that it is always the most stuffed, unattractive-looking couch in any house that is everyone’s favourite — the couch that is probably worth less than the amount of loose change that has fallen into it over the years.

An artist's impression of my dads favourite chair

An artist

My dad has a favourite couch back home, which I’m sure is a source of some embarrassment when visitors arrive. I wouldn’t be surprised if my mother has tried to incinerate it in a freak “coal-leaping-out-the-fire” accident. I’m sure it would go up in flames pretty quickly with the amount of body oil that has seeped into it over the centuries.

This off-white relic has coffee stains, tobacco burns and an imprint of my father’s behind in the centre. Yet, when seated in its mould, in front of an early winter’s fire and after some of Mother’s good home cooking, Father is as happy as Larry (however happy he is), usually fast asleep. He probably sleeps more in that couch than in his own bed.

So, if we do spend such a significant amount of our lives in beds and chairs, then why not make them decent ones. I’m always willing to spend a little extra on something that I know I’ll use every day and probably have for a lifetime.

I thought it was high time for me to chair up and buy myself a decent gaming chair — one that I could swivel around in freely and lean back and forth in. It’s a rather simple piece of furniture, although it was one heck of a science putting the thing together.

It came in attachable parts with a set of tools, a spider diagram, some Chinese instructions, and a note of encouragement. I half expected to find a small key, some coded message, a strange map and an enchan­ted ring. Without those one definitely needs a degree to put one of these pieces of technology together.

Although I now swivel contently in my “leather” chair, I still wanted to see what else was available on the market. This is what I found …

Ultimate Game Chair V3

The V3 Ultimate Gaming Chair can be jacked into your PC, Mac, Xbox, Game Cube, iPod, Playstation, or television. Photo: ultimategamechair.com

The V3 Ultimate Gaming Chair can be jacked into your PC, Mac, Xbox, Game Cube, iPod, Playstation, or television. Photo: ultimategamechair.com

There are a lot of fancy and alien-looking chairs out there — most of which have been designed for home entertainment. The simplest home theatre chairs have speakers mounted on the headrest and are basically REALLY comfortable and pleasant-smelling.

The most common gaming chairs, on the other hand, are designed to enhance the experience of simulators such as Flight Simulator. These have joysticks protruding out the armrests, which I imagine one could use to play a variety of games.

Racing chairs come with an adjustable chassis and have foot pedals and a steering wheel as part of their anatomy. The seats are designed to mimic the feeling of being in a Formula One car, and many even go the extra mile by vibrating as you ‘drive’ over rough roads.

Yet those chairs are old school now. You can get a close-enough experience at your local arcade. I was more intrigued by the Ultimate V3. This baby is co­vered in plugs and ports and is compatible with just about everything. To name a few, you can jack it up to your PC, Mac, Xbox, Game Cube, iPod, Playstation, or television. One reviewer had this to say:

“The V3 quite literally rocks your face off! From our experience from it, we were simply stunned. It is like getting a back massage while playing all your favourite games in a comfortable leather chair. It is simply amazing.” — ultimategamechair.com

It has 12 “strategically distributed” feedback monitors, adjustable 3D stereo speakers and a headset jack. It also vibrates and has “variable output on all three vibration sensation levels”. There are three vibration sensation levels? That takes the sensation of sitting in those vibrating chairs at the mall to a whole new le­vel.

 I imagine that one would never get out of this chair if seated in it. It would be death by comfort. So, I imagine that V3 owners have to be just as disciplined as those who are not fans of the couch.

Sling this into your gadget collection

SLINGBOX: Embracing broadband and digital media

PAGING through an old GQ the other day I came across a gadget that struck a new interest. The “Slingbox” (weird name) is a TV streaming device that allows you to remotely view your home cable, satellite, or personal video recorder (PVR) programming using a device with a broadband Internet connection.

It connects to the back of your TV and works by redirecting or “placeshifting” up to four live audio/video signals to your personal computer, laptop, or internet-enabled mobile device whether you’re touring China or are in London on a business trip. And there’s no anxiety of having yet another gadget to clutter up your home – once your Slingbox is installed you never have to see it again.

The SlingboxSling Media has also released a Windows Mobile version of their player which allows users to stream their video over a Pocket PC or Windows Mobile Smartphones, or any web-enabled, Windows mobile-powered cellphone. This is useful for practical reasons as a cellphone is easier to stuff into your duffle bag when traveling to the most remote locations.

The Slingbox also allows you to program your home recording device remotely, which means that you can command your device to record programs from anywhere. So no more having to phone the kids at home to ask them to record Prison Break for you, or having to rely on an unreliable in-law.

Yet, like Manto Tshabalala, the Slingbox isn’t perfect. The system is not yet reliable or broadband enough to handle live remote broadcasts, and is not yet available for Linux or other opensource systems. It also requires a fair amount of techno savvy to set up, which can be a bit of a schlep, yet there is decent customer support available. SlingCommunity, for example, is an interactive online community dedicated solely to Sling Media’s Slingbox.

The cons
It is, however, important to bear in mind that the viewing quality is that of web video (i.e. 320x240pixels). Consequently you basically need to have twenty-twenty vision to be able to view everything properly on the small video-viewer screen. This renders on-screen text such as sports scores, news reels, and the fine-print print in bank adverts as unreadable.

The Slingbox is also only as good as its device support and relies on your primary video device being compatible. So just like upgrading a PC, you might have to buy more than you initially bargained for.

In terms of future developments, it was announced at the Consumer Electronics Show that Sling Media plans to release a future feature known as Clip+Sling. This will allow users to share clips of their favorite TV shows (or videos that they have produced themselves) with each other through a hosted web service.

Sling has also pledged that its software will work on the forthcoming Origami Ultramobile PCs (you can read more about this nifty gadget here).

The Slingbox is currently going for $200 (roughly R1400) and appears to be a useful gadget to add to ones collection. Let’s just hope that true broadband hits SA soon so we can play too.

Links
Slingbox Homepage
Other Sling Media Products
CNET’s exclusive First Look video using Sling software.
Related blog post: Welcome to your future