Four Letter Nerd

Author - Robbie Green

Google Simulates What The Solar Eclipse Will Look Like Where You Live

For the first time since 1918, North America will see a total solar eclipse from coast to coast. On August 21 people across the U.S. will see the stars shine bright in the middle of the day.

Thanks to Google and scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, have created a simulator that allows you to watch what will happen to the sun where you live on the day.

The simulator was created to help promote the Eclipse Megamovie Project, which is an effort to crowd source data on the sun from across the country, generated from user submitted photos and videos.

In the simulator found here, you are presented with an animated timeline that allows you to input your location and then play a simulation of the eclipse.

The total solar eclipse will move across the country over the course of the day. It will encompass a band that is about 72 miles wide. The states covered by the eclipse are Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina.

If you’re one of the lucky ones that will witness the event in person, this simulator will hold you over until August 21st. For those of you that aren’t able to make it in person, you can at least simulate it!

For more info on the Eclipse Megamovie project and the simulator, you can visit: https://eclipsemega.movie/simulator

4LN Review: SMS Audio Biosport Earbuds by Intel

Product: SMS Audio Biosport Headphones Powered by Intel

Summary from Intel:

Intel and SMS Audio have announced a collaboration to develop the first personal audio system that brings together lifestyle and technology to provide smart exercise capabilities to athletes of all levels. The battery-free, sweat proof SMS Audio BioSport In-Ear Headphones will motivate and encourage consumers to reach optimal levels of fitness. The in-ear headphones will integrate biometric sensors with a heart rate monitor and sync with RunKeeper to empower athletes to collect fitness data and achieve peak physical performance. The collaboration marries the latest in fitness-monitoring biometric technology with high-quality audio and style

I was taken by surprise when I found out that Intel made these headphones. With the wearables industry booming with smart watches, fitness trackers, eyewear and more; it makes sense for Intel to jump into the competition with a pair of smart headphones. I am by no means a gym rat or active person, but I am probably the biggest headphone snob that you will come across. So here are my thoughts on Intel’s SMS Audio Biosport earbuds.

BUILD & SOUND QUALITY

The build on these earbuds are legit. They’re sturdy and are really comfortable to wear. With earbuds I always struggle tangling the cord and shorting them out, so I was very happy with the flat cable design. The sound is really good, with a really nice range. The mids and highs are fantastic, but I would be happy with some more bass. This is a common issue I’ve found with any fitness style headphones though, you tend to sacrifice some of the bass for the comfort of the earbuds. By no means is this a deal breaker for the Biosport earbuds, it’s really the only complaint I have about them. Overall the sound quality is far beyond similar styled earbuds that I’ve tried before.

PRACTICAL USE DURING PHYSICAL ACTIVITY

The big feature of the Biosport earbuds, is the fitness tracking aspect.  The earphones have a built in heart-rate monitor that you can use with a fitness tracker on your smartphone.  As I mentioned earlier I am by no means a gym rat, but I did use these at the gym the few times I went. The comfort and sound really do make these the perfect gym headphones. The rubber ear pieces are water resistant, so you don’t have to worry about sweat accumulating and the earbuds falling out. I used the RunKeeper app to use the heart monitor feature, which seemed to work quite well. I did an interesting experiment at work where I would wear them throughout the day to chart out stressful parts of the day based on my heart rate. It was pretty cool to see, and would let know when I would need to step outside and take a walk to unwind.

OTHER THOUGHTS

Overall Intel’s SMS Audio Biosport earbuds are a great piece of technology and proves how everything is becoming smarter with each passing day. These are made by Intel so it’s no surprise that they’ve made a high quality product like this. I’ve made them my main pair of earbuds and they now have a permanent spot in my backpack. The only complaint I have is really that I would prefer more bass. I’m interested to see if Intel will add more smart features to future versions. If you’re into fitness or physical activity and are looking for a high quality sound experience, look no further than Intel’s SMS Audio Biosport earbuds.

(Featured image and video courtesy of Intel)

The Best Headphones That I Have Ever Owned

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To say that I am the worst person in the world with taking care of headphones would be an understatement. I am terrible with them. I mean TERRIBLE. I’ve been using headphones ever since getting a walkman cd player in middle school, and I would not be shocked to say that I have probably been through close to 100 pairs in my 23 years of life. I’ve had every possible style over the years. Ever since high school though, I have been using earbuds. After shorting out another pair (a decent pair of Skullcandy earbuds costing around $40) a few weeks ago, I decided it was time to change up what I use. So I was in the market for a pair of over the ear headphones with a removable aux cord. After scavenging Amazon and eBay for a few hours one day, I found my saving grace: the August EP650 Headphones.

Not only do the EP650’s have a removable aux cord, but they also have Bluetooth wireless. The big selling point on these headphones are the specifications and the price point. While shopping around, I had a budget of around $50 to spend. I knew going in, that I wouldn’t be getting a pair of overpriced Beats By Dre (though, they do sound good.) I expected to get something good at a decent price, but not an amazing pair for an amazing price. The August EP650 headphones have nearly identical specs to Beats By Dre (plus Bluetooth) for $55.

After reading reviews, comparing specifications and everything else possible, I placed my order. I even got excited enough to get 2 day shipping (I was desperate to stop using my backup headphones.) So I waited 2 days and it they were finally delivered. I unboxed them like a kid on Christmas, gazing at the quality of the product. I was shocked at how well made these headphones are. Size wise, these are the perfect fit. The ear cushions are so comfortable, to the point that you almost forget that you’re even wearing headphones. Of course, they do have an adjustable headband (with even more cushioning!) so you can fit them to any head size. They’re built very solid, not flimsy at all but weigh just the right amount.

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The battery life on the EP650’s are fantastic. If I were to guess, I would say they get around 12 hours for every charge. I literally listen to them all day at work and every night when I go to sleep. I maybe have to recharge them every other day. The good thing though, is that you can charge them through an included mini usb cable and still listen to them. Or you can plug in the aux cord and use them as normal headphones, no power needed. On the side of the right earphone, there is a small control panel that allows you to adjust volume, change tracks as well as play/pause whatever you’re listening to. As far as range goes, it is listed as 10 meters. I can generally walk into another room before I start losing any signal.

All those features are great and all, but the sound is what really matters and what really blows me away about these headphones. Like I said earlier, the EP650’s have almost identical sound to Beats By Dre. Whenever you buy lower end headphones, the bass tends to lack. Not with these headphones though. The frequency range is from 40hz (lows) to 20,000hz (highs), creating a really dynamic range so that you hear an insane amount of detail in music, but especially movies. The sound can get extremely loud and starts to sound pretty gainy if you turn it up too high, but I have mine set to around 1/4th of the way and it’s more than enough.

I really don’t know what else I can say about these headphones. I have never backed a product like I do with the August EP650 Headphones. If you’re in the market in headphones (or will be soon), just go on and buy these. I can pretty much promise you won’t find a better deal on headphones anywhere. Pick them up on Amazon for $55 now!

 

 

 

5 Techy Black Friday Deals That You Can’t Pass Up

PS3 Holiday Bundle  $199 – Available At Most Retailers

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The PS3 holiday bundle is at the top of the Black Friday list for me because I missed out on the past generation of game consoles. For $200 you get a 250GB PS3 with two of the year’s top games: The Last Of Us and Batman Arkham Origins. If you’ve missed out like me, or just have stuck with your Xbox over the years, you should definitely pick this up.

 

Gamestop Buy 2 Get 1 Free Preowned

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Gamestop has a killer deal that is too good to pass up if you’re a gamer. Buy ANY 2 preowned products and get another free. This includes games, accessories, consoles, electronics and any other preowned product in the store. Like my above mention of missing out on the past generation of consoles, I plan on racking up on some of the classic games for cheap too.

 

iPad Mini $299 (with $75 Gift Card From Target) – Available At Most Retailers

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If you don’t have a tablet or are needing an upgrade, you should consider picking up the iPad mini. There is nothing bad to say about this at all and you can’t find a better tablet in my opinion (sorry Nexus lovers). The great thing is if you buy this from Target you get a $75 gift card. The full size iPad is also on sale for $399, with a $30 Taget gift card included as well.

 

RCA 200 Watt Surround Sound System $80 – Available At Best Buy

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While surround sound is definitely not the sexiest Black Friday deal, you would be crazy to pass this up if you’re looking to add surround sound in your home. You can generally find 100 watt systems on eBay or Amazon for around $100 to $120, but you can get this 200 watt set for $80.

 

Element 50” LED TV $229 – Available At Target

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This may be considered the hottest deal by many for this years Black Friday. A 50 inch LED HDTV for $229. As far as deals on a TV, I highly doubt you’ll ever find one as good as this. The biggest question I have about this is: How many people are going to get knocked out in fights while trying to grab this from Target stores across the country?

Is Fallout 4 Happening?

Recently http://thesurvivor2299.com/ has popped up online. It’s a pretty mysterious site with nothing but an annoying morse code sound and a timer counting down to December 11, 2013. What does this have to do with Fallout you ask? Well here are a couple of hints so far:

1) If you do a WHOIS lookup to search information on the domain purchaser, you will find that Zenimax Media is the owner. Zenimax is parent company of Bethesda and their publishing/developer divisions.

2) If you sift deep through the sites code, you will find a script specifically named fallout.js

 

3 ) Lastly, Erik Dellums, the voice actor for the radio DJ Three Dog in Fallout 3 has been sending out tweets like crazy hinting at something Fallout related.

 

I have my fingers, toes and eyes crossed in hopes that Fallout 4 is about to happen and I can once again lose my life for a few months while exploring a barren wasteland.

Todays Apple Event: What You Need To Know

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Today Apple held another event to unveil new hardware, software and other happenings in the company. Here are the key points that you should know from what went on at todays event:

iPad Air

Going in to todays event, everyone expected a new iPad to be the main attraction. Rumors and leaked images held true as Apple unveiled the new iPad Air. So what is different you ask? Well it’s fast. Really fast. It sports a new 64 bit processor, which makes it nearly twice as fast as the previous generation of iPads. Internally and externally everything has been redesigned to be much smaller. The iPad Air weighs in at a pound and is 20% slimmer, making it much smaller overall. Though the casing has shrunk, the screen size is still at a full 9.7 inches. All in all, there is nothing revolutionary about the new iPad Air (although Jony Ive might tell you differently in another one of Apple’s drawn out videos on the design process). Basically if you have an iPad 3, 4 or even a mini, I wouldn’t bother dropping $500 on upgrading.

OSX Mavericks

This was, in my opinion the most notable announcement today. Apple unveiled OSX Mavericks a few months ago, but announced today that it is available, today (yes right now). The big kicker on this is that it is available for free. Outside of Linux, this is really the only major operating system that I can think of that has been released for free. Mavericks boasts a lot of small, conveinent upgrades that should make for a much more pleasant desktop experience. Enhanced notifications, file tagging and finder tabs are some of the features I’m looking forward to. You can download OSX Mavericks for free from the Mac App Store on your laptop or desktop. Keep a watch out for my review on it in the next week.

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Mac Pro

Similar to Mavericks, Apple unveiled the new Mac Pro a few months ago with little details. It has been a long time since the Mac Pro has received a design change, but Apple as truly overhauled desktop computer design with the new Pro design. Yes, it looks like a garbage bin but this little guy packs more punch than any consumer or pro level computer ever has. I could spend forever drooling over the specs, but I’ll just say that it is bound to be the new standard for desktop computing (even though that is a dying niche among casual computer users). This power comes with a price though, a $3000 price tag to be exact.

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Mac Apps

Lastly, Apple redesigned the majority of their apps across the board. iLife and iWork apps have all been overhauled and optimized for every device they are used on. iWork now has collaboration features, allowing multiple users to work in realtime on documents together. As with the iPad Air, nothing here is revolutionary (though I think the new drummer plugin for Garageband is incredible) but everything has changed for the better and improved upon previous versions. If you use these Apps regularly, I would definitely upgrade to the latest versions considering they are free.

 

 

 

 

 

Journeyman: The Homeless Coder

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If you were to approach 10 homeless people and gave them the option of $100 cash or an opportunity to teach them programming, how many do you think would choose the programming option? Back in August Patrick McConlogue, a software developer in New York approached a homeless man with this ultimatum. Meet Leo the “Journeyman”, the 28 year old homeless man who is learning to code.

Patrick proceeded to overnight Javascript books and a Google Chromebook along with a 3G internet connection. This was a big commitment for Patrick and Leo, with all eyes watching now. “I can go through $100 in a few days.” Leo said. “But he told me I could have a laptop and learn how to do something and I figured it could turn into something more.”

I’ve been following this story ever since I saw Patrick’s original blog post on Medium. Originally he received a huge amount of criticism, with many seeing it as a PR stunt. As this has unfolded over the past 2 months, you can see that Leo is going after this 100% and gaining some legit skills. Leo has has a passion for environmental awareness, so it’s only fitting that he is currently working on building an application for that. Patrick gives Leo a one hour lesson every morning on his way to work. A typical lesson between the two consists of reviewing the previous lesson, learning something new and putting it to use, followed by evaluating the application at the end to see where it needs to be heading.

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Leo has been doing an incredible job and is a huge inspiration for so many people who have been following his journey. Yesterday though, Leo was arrested for trespassing outside of a building while trying to find a place to charge his laptop. There was a big mess between the NYPD and Patrick, trying to prove that Leo was not up to any harm. Thanks to all of the amazing support of Leo’s following who were calling in to police stations and Mayor Bloomberg’s office, Leo was set free without any charges.

Leo has assured everyone that he is just a normal guy who is homeless. Not a criminal, not a drug addict or alcoholic. He is just a man who is trying to better his life and get people to look beyond the homeless stereotype. “It’s really hard to convince people that you are not a bad person, or a drug addict or a crazy. How are you gonna do that when you are homeless, and that’s how the homeless are depicted? It’s not always a negative thing but people don’t know that. My life had good moments before this whole thing,” Leo said. “And all I think is now maybe learning how to do something new will give me more opportunities to have more good moments.”

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If you ever doubt your ability to learn something because you may not be smart enough or circumstances are holding you back, look to Leo for inspiration. He is the best kind of nerd, one who is not letting his circumstances dictate who he is or what he can learn.

You can follow Leo’s progress here as well as take all of the coding lessons that he is learning for free.

Local Spotlight: The Score

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This week I interviewed Zach, the new co-owner of The Score. The Score is a video game store located just outside of Nashville, that has been open since 2009. I got to pick Zach’s brain on lan gaming, the future of used games, the selling of violent video games and much more.

The Score focuses on being a part of the game community, rather than just another game store. They have specialized in selling retro games and consoles, now under new ownership they plan to to take things to the next level and focus on competitive gaming. When asked on specializing in competitive gaming Zach says: “Everyone that works here has been to some form of big scale tournament. Scott (co-owner) and I have been competing at MLG events since 2006, so we like to think we have a handle on that part of things.” The Score wants to make LAN gaming a staple in the Nashville gaming community. “I would love to give everyone a place to come hang out and game, whether its League of Legends, Counter Strike, or Call of Duty, I just love being in that atmosphere; If you go to a LAN center you already know that when you walk in you have something in common with the other people there.” says Zach. In addition to no lag, the interaction that you have with fellow gamers offers a great environment for community and gaming. The staff is working hard on adding a LAN center to the store, to provide a place to game and hold events. The plan is to include 10 top of the line gaming computers as well as Xbox One and Playstation 4 consoles.

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The Score has competitive prices on used games as well. They base their pricing around the bottom third of Amazon prices and on 90 day moving averages online. The distribution for videos has changed a lot over the years, however. With internet speeds becoming faster and more accessible, digital downloads are becoming a popular option among gamers because of convenience, among other things. DRM has been a hot topic as well, for negative reasons. Microsoft just went through a PR nightmare regarding the Xbox One, in which they planned to allow a game that you own to be played only on your system and to pay a fee if you would like to transfer that title. This would have essentially eliminated the used game industry, had there not been such an uproar among gamers. Obviously these changes are going to have an effect on traditional brick and mortar game retailers. “That has been a concern, but people will always want used retro games. I just sold a NES with every Mario Bros game. It is a huge challenge we will all have to overcome, but I do not believe that used games will become any less relevant.” says Zach. By being focused on community first, I expect The Score to be around for awhile.

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Another controversy that has been around since the days of Doom and Mortal Kombat, is violent video games. There are restrictions put in place to prevent these games falling in the hands of younger games, but they manage to fail a lot of times. It’s not uncommon to go in to Walmart and see a mother purchasing an M rated game for her 11 year old son. Does Walmart care if a 11 year old kid is playing Grand Theft Auto and killing prostitutes? No, most would assume they only care about the profits. This tends to backfire and make the gaming community look bad. The Score wants to build on their community and prevent those things from happening by taking proper precautions. When asked about this, Zach says: “There have been around 30 people that I have either turned down or talked out of buying M rated games. I wouldn’t want my children exposed to some of the elements in certain games, so why would I sell them to kids or unsuspecting parents?”

If you’re a gamer looking for great gaming, community and competition, check out The Score because that is what they are all about. Expect to see more from them in the coming months, with the releases of all the new game consoles and holiday game season. Always support small businesses, especially one like The Score that empowers a local community of gamers. Be sure to check them out at the Nashville Wizard World next week. They are holding a free to enter Injustice: Gods Among Us tournament, with the grand prize being a Playstation 4.

 

 

 

Train Your Brain: 9 Ways To Become Smarter

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Editors Note: This is our 50th article. Thanks to all who have been along for the ride with us so far. Heres to more!

Scientists have said for years that humans are only using 10% of their brain power. I’ve always had a fascination on how I could get the most out of my brain. Over the past few months I’ve tried various things to help improve my brain functions and help me become smarter. Granted I’m not a genius and probably never will be, but these are a few ways that I have attempted to improve my knowledge. Try them out for yourself.

Lumosity

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Lumosity is an online gaming service that you can use to “improve your brain performance and live a better life.” I started using Lumosity about a week ago and I love it. Once you sign up, you personalize your daily brain workout schedule based on what you want to improve. You can focus on everything from memory to problem solving. You train your brain by playing simple games geared toward what you want to work on. It’s pretty simple and straightforward, but really does give your brain a pretty good workout. Lumosity also keeps track of your progress and shows you your strengths, while improving your weaknesses. Lumosity is free, but you can sign up for the paid version for more detailed analytics and tracking.

Reading

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This is the age old tip for becoming smarter. When you were a young child, you read all the time. Once you got to your teens or became an adult you probably stopped though. Reading is beneficial for your brain for brain because it helps you process new information. It exercises your eyes and trains your brain to decrypt things better. Reading will exercise your left and right brain whether it’s fiction, non-fiction, instructional or a comic book. Reading will also help with your vocabulary and grammar.

Discuss & Debate

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Discussing and debating with others in a healthy manner about a mutual topic can strengthen your ability to think faster and apply your knowledge to a verbal situation. Obviously it is good to know about what you’re debating so try to go into it with some decent knowledge. The good thing about debating is you gain another perspective on a topic that you might not have seen before. It is always important to keep it cool in a debate though. You can’t always win or lose a debate, so go into one with the goal of gaining more knowledge.

TED Talks

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TED talks are a great way to gain insight on pretty much any topic from some of the brightest minds in the world. TED has thousands of videos available for free on their site. They can be thought provoking, mind blowing, inspirational and motivational. It’s all in what you’re in the mood for. Try watching one TED Talk a week to increase your knowledge.

Khan Academy

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Khan Academy is an incredible free online service that allows you to take courses on pretty much any subject you want. Math, science, economics and history are all there, with a vast amount of other courses. Similar to Lumosity, Khan Academy will keep track of what you’re learning and help you improve upon your weaknesses. This is a great service that offers an incredible amount of learning potential. Whether you just want to learn something new or use it to supplement your current schooling, Khan Academy is worth looking into.

Sleep

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Sleep is your best friend and worst enemy. Personally, I feel sleeping is such a drain on the short amount of time you have in your life, 1/3rd according to a lot of studies. Sure you can accomplish more things without sleep, but are you accomplishing them effectively? Sleep is great to allow your brain and body to recharge. Get plenty of sleep so you’re not constantly running on fumes every waking moment. Having a rested mind and body will help you accomplish your tasks more effectively and will allow you to focus better on problem solving.

Physical Exercise

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That’s right, physical activity will help improve your brain functionality. I hate it as much as the next person, but it really does help. Physical activity will increase your heart rate and pump more oxygen to your brain, allowing for growth of brain cells. I run on occasion and when I do, everything in the world goes away for a bit and it gives me some much needed time to clear my head. It sucks, I know but once you’re in the habit you’ll love it. I just joined a gym today, so I’m hoping to work on my physical health to promote improvement of my mental health. Give it a try with me and see how it works.

Teach Others

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You can improve upon your current skills and knowledge by sharing it with others. When someone asks you about something you’re knowledgeable on, see it as an opportunity to re-teach yourself about it. When you teach someone, you’ll have to go back to basics and help someone understand the topic at the most basic level. This will allow you to pick up on any flaws you have along the way and help you learn how to learn new things better in the future.

Don’t Stop Learning

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Society will deem “continuing education” as going to college after high school, or going back to college for a masters degree. Continuing education is the constant pursuit of knowledge. Knowledge is power, cliche but true. Why stop learning when you graduate high school or college? Continue to learn, become smarter and spread knowledge. It will only improve your own life and those around you.