Posts belonging to Category Technology

Taming Television in the Home

Taming Technology in the Home series:
    ● Taming Television in the Home
    ● Taming Video Games in the Home
    ● Taming the Internet in the Home

Although television can be a valuable source for news, information and entertainment, it can also bring a number of negatives into your home. The two main issues with television are time and content. I will address the time issue tomorrow (along with video games), but today I want to talk about content. How do you protect your children from inappropriate content on TV? Here are some of the things we do.

  • Watch on DVD: One way we control content is by doing much of our TV watching on DVD. We collect movies and old favorites on DVD so that we can watch what we want when it is convenient and avoid commercials at the same time.
  • Use a DVR: We use a DVR (Digital Video Recorder) to record current programs we would like to watch without being tied to the TV at a certain time of day. As an added plus, the DVR also lets us fast-forward through the commercials. (This is a great time-saver, especially when watching sporting events.)
  • Keep it public: Our kids do not have TV’s in their bedrooms. When you are trying to control content in the home, it makes sense to limit the number of TV’s available and to keep them in the public areas of the home.
  • Set appropriate boundaries: We set boundaries with our kids for both time and content on TV. (Again, more on the time issue tomorrow!) We direct them to good content, and we let them know when a certain movie or show is not acceptable. If something comes on that is inappropriate while watching together, we set the example by switching the channel or turning it off. It is important to know what movies or shows your kids are watching and to make sure they are appropriate for your children.
  • Talk: We try to talk with our kids about what we watch. We want to teach them how to discern the various messages found in TV shows or movies. For example, we like Star Trek as a family. It has some great story lines and admirable characters. However, I don’t always agree with the worldview that is presented. So we talk about it and help our kids become active viewers of media rather than passive receptacles.
  • Block: We use the settings on our DVD player and cable box to block certain programs or channels with inappropriate content. We have it set up so that anything with a PG-13 rating or higher requires a password for access.

And here are two additional gadgets we have found helpful. These have allowed us to watch a lot of great movies together as a family that we would have otherwise passed by, either because of the language or due to certain scenes we felt were inappropriate.

  • TVGuardian: TVGuardian filters out inappropriate language from TV shows and movies. There are various settings depending on what you want to filter. You can purchase TVGuardian built-in on some DVD players or as a separate device. We have used it in our home for years, and it does a great job of filtering out curse words and religious exclamations we would rather not have in our home.
  • ClearPlay: ClearPlay DVD Players filter out both language and visual elements from regular DVD movies. ClearPlay is customizable, and you can turn off or on fourteen different filter settings relating to inappropriate language, violent content or sexual content. ClearPlay has an extensive library of available filters, and they are always adding more. They offer several price options, including a monthly membership which gives you full access to all filters at all times.

So, what things have you done to help tame the television in your home? Feel free to share in the comments below.

Click here for next post in series: Taming Video Games in the Home

Taming Technology in the Home

Taming Technology in the Home series:
    ● Taming Television in the Home
    ● Taming Video Games in the Home
    ● Taming the Internet in the Home

This series of posts will deal with three particular forms of technology in the home — television, video games and the internet. All three of these have the potential both for good and for harm. So how do you enjoy the positive aspects while guarding against the negative? This question becomes especially important if you have children in the home. You want your children to enjoy the benefits of technology, but you also have a responsibility to protect them from any possible dangers.

Some parents embrace technology in the home with little or no discernment. Ignoring the dangers, they allow an unbroken stream of media to flood their homes at all times. Other parents choose to eliminate technology from the home — no TV, video games or internet. This may take care of the problem in the short run, but it also cuts their children off from the potential benefits of these technologies. Most parents fall somewhere in between these two extremes and look for ways to tame technology in the home.

Like it or not, TV, video games and the internet are a part of life in the twenty-first century. We should protect our children from any negative aspects while teaching them to make wise decisions concerning technology and media in their lives. In this series I will be sharing some of the tools we have used with our children to help tame technology in our home. I invite you to come back and visit the series during the week and share your thoughts on any of these areas. You can also click here to subscribe to this blog by email or feed reader.

Click here for next post in series: Taming Television in the Home

$6 Million Home Theater System

Kipnis Studio Standard (KSS) Home Theater System

Behold, Jeremy Kipnis’ $6 million home theater system. Powered by 35 amplifiers with a combined 11,315 watts, the Kipnis system has 3 center-channel speakers, 8 reference towers, 10 super tweeters and 16 subwoofers. The video is projected onto a giant 18-by-10-foot laboratory-grade motion picture screen.

If King Solomon were alive today, he would definitely have one of these. And after three months of watching movies in it, he would write up the following review for Popular Mechanics:

“All things are wearisome, more than one can say. The eye never has enough of seeing, nor the ear its fill of hearing … I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind.” (Ecclesiastes 1:8,14)

I know, negative take. But as much as I love movies and technology, this just seems way over the top to me.

HT: Neatorama

Storming Omaha Beach on a Shoestring

When Steven Spielberg shot the beach scene for Saving Private Ryan, he used 1,000 extras. Watch how these three graphic designers convincingly recreated the storming of Omaha Beach on a shoestring budget in just four days using only themselves as actors and a single carload of basic props.

(Video length: 4:02)

This scene was created for the TIMEWATCH program “Bloody Omaha” shown on BBC.

HT: Evangelical Outpost

Full-Sized Lost in Space Robots For Sale

Lost in Space Robot Full Size Replicas

“Danger, danger, Will Robinson!” Oh, how I loved this show when I was a kid! It sparked my imagination and gave me a taste for science fiction, adventure, space and fantasy that I still enjoy today. We have all three seasons on DVD, and I enjoyed re-watching them with my boys when they were younger.

Of course, the Lost in Space Robot was one of the main attractions of the show, along with the adventurous Will and the villainous Dr. Smith. My boys still have a toy version of the Robot, but now B9Creations has announced the production and sale of Full Size, Limited Edition, Fully Licensed Replicas of the famous Lost in Space Robot.

They have really gone all out to make these as authentic-looking as possible. The parts are all based on the original molds. You can activate the Robot by remote control. Functions include turning the Robot’s torso left/right, directing the Robot’s voice to respond “Affirmative/Negative” and activating the Robot’s soil sampling sequence. The Robot also comes with over 500 voice tracks by Richard Tufeld, the voice of the original Robot. And here is a neat feature: it has a functional power pack. Pulling the Robot’s “power pack” will shut down the Robot with the “Aaghhhhhh…” sound, just as it did in the TV series.

However, with a price tag of $24,500 I won’t be buying one of these anytime soon. At least the price includes shipping!

HT: Instapundit

Amazon Kindle Pros and Cons: A Guest Review by David M. Fowler

      (Note: For ebook and audiobook conversions, see Fowler Digital Services.)

Amazon Kindle Fire

Note: This is an older review for the Kindle 1.  For more updated information, click here for the article: Top Ten Kindle Features.

My brother, David, works in the book industry, and I got to check out his Amazon Kindle recently. It seemed pretty cool to me, but I am a sucker for any gadget, so I asked him if he would write a guest review for the blog. He graciously agreed, and so here is an in-depth review of the Kindle from a book professional who has used it extensively for over a month. David’s pros and cons list comes first, followed by his full review. So what do you think of the Kindle? (See related post: Kindling a Spark for Electronic Reading)

Amazon Kindle Pros:

  • Fast, wireless delivery of books, no need to sync the device with a computer.
  • Impressive initial collection of 90,000+ books ranging from New York Times bestsellers to obscure textbooks.
  • Online backup; not worried about losing content if device is lost or damaged.
  • Great for reading short content such as newspaper or Wikipedia articles.

Amazon Kindle Cons:

  • Poor visual appeal: Black text on a dingy grey background instead of white; brief screen blackout for each page turn; device looks like old technology.
  • Clunky scroll wheel for navigating; Kindle would benefit from touch-screen technology such as used by Apple.
  • Lack of real page numbers limits use for students needing to provide footnotes for quotes.
  • Frequent page turns are tiring; difficult to “pre-read” a chapter or know how many pages to go in a chapter; not a great device for reading long books.



Looks Like Blu-Ray Has Won Out Over HD-DVD

For well over a year now two different formats have been competing for the high-definition DVD market. Sony has been pushing its Blu-Ray format in competition against the HD-DVD format. Remembering the old VHS vs. Betamax battles, wary consumers have been waiting to see which format will emerge as the standard. Sony lost the Beta battle back in the 1980’s, but with the help of their PlayStation 3, it looks like they may have won the battle for Blu-Ray.

Two news stories this week seem to point the way forward for Blu-Ray over HD-DVD.

First off, Warner Home Video anounced last Friday that they will begin to support the Blu-Ray Disc format exclusively starting in May. That leaves only Universal Home Video and Paramount Home Video in the HD-DVD only camp. Warner now joins Sony Home Entertainment, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, MGM Home Entertainment, Buena Vista Home Entertainment and Lionsgate in the Blu-Ray camp.

Then, yesterday, New Line Home Entertainment and HBO Home Video also declared their support for Blu-Ray, dropping HD-DVD support for their titles. That, coupled with the Warner announcement, could mean the beginning of the end for HD-DVD.

I know there are some people who feel passionately about one format over the other. I am not one of them. I have just been curiously watching to see which side will eventually win out. The momentum definitely just turned in the favor of Blu-Ray this week.

Kindling a Spark for Electronic Reading?

      (Note: For ebook and audiobook conversions, see Fowler Digital Services.)

Amazon Kindle has just released Amazon Kindle, their new wireless, portable electronic reader. The $400 price tag is a bit steep, but that includes free wireless connectivity to the Amazon Kindle store. The Kindle holds up to 200 books, or you can also store your purchased books at Amazon and access them whenever you want. (Hmmm, seems like I posted on something similiar back in September.)

This has a lot of neat features, but I am still waiting for one tablet that will do it all – book reader, laptop, media player, internet access, etc. all in one paperback sized tablet. This seems like a step in the right direction, though. (Related series posted below.)


Media Access for the Next Generation:
    1. Introduction
    2. Immediate Access
    3. Localized Storage
    4. Subscription Services

Update: Gizmodo has a great article comparing Kindle with other E-Book Readers, past and future.

(Note: For ebook and audiobook conversions, see Fowler Digital Services.)

Technology Extends the Bible’s Reach

The Washington Post has an interesting article on how Christian groups are using technology to bring the Bible to the more remote regions of the world.

RONG DOMRIEX, Cambodia — Tel Im, a barefoot 13-year-old, sat cross-legged on a bamboo bench, eager for her reading lesson … Six months ago, Im couldn’t read a word and had never heard of Jesus. Now, thanks to a literacy program run by the local chapter of an international Bible group, she has a book — the Bible — that she can read, and she says she wants to become a Christian.

Using technological devices ranging from simple cassette tapes to solar-powered audio players and an iPod-like gadget called the Bible Stick, Christian groups are spending hundreds of millions of dollars a year to make one of the world’s oldest books accessible in remote corners of the planet.

Complete versions of the Bible can now be downloaded onto cellphones in parts of Africa. To reach those who can’t read — nearly one-fifth of the world’s population, according to the United Nations — Christian groups are rapidly increasing production of audio and video versions.

HT: Between Two Worlds

The 2007 Ig Nobel Prize Winners

I saw this morning that former U.S. Vice President Al Gore has won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. But never mind the Nobel Prize. Check out the 2007 Ig Nobel Prizes, awarded last Thursday night, October 4, at the 17th First Annual Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony, at Harvard’s Sanders Theatre. Here are some of my favorites from the list.

  • Physics: L. Mahadevan of Harvard University, USA, and Enrique Cerda Villablanca of Universidad de Santiago de Chile, for studying how sheets become wrinkled.
  • Biology: Prof. Dr. Johanna E.M.H. van Bronswijk of Eindhoven University of Technology, The Netherlands, for doing a census of all the mites, insects, spiders, pseudoscorpions, crustaceans, bacteria, algae, ferns and fungi with whom we share our beds each night.
  • Literature: Glenda Browne of Blaxland, Blue Mountains, Australia, for her study of the word “the” — and of the many ways it causes problems for anyone who tries to put things into alphabetical order.
  • Nutrition: Brian Wansink of Cornell University, for exploring the seemingly boundless appetites of human beings, by feeding them with a self-refilling, bottomless bowl of soup.
  • Economics: Kuo Cheng Hsieh, of Taichung, Taiwan, for patenting a device, in the year 2001, that catches bank robbers by dropping a net over them.

Related Link: List of 2007 Nobel Prize Winners

News and Notes – 10/11/2007

New hi-def player. There is a new player in the Hi-Definition format wars. New Medium Enterprises (“NME”) introduced the HD VMD player to America early last month as an alternative format to HD DVD and Blu-ray.

Keeps going and going . . . The Energizer bunny had better watch out. The new betavoltaic continuous power battery can go for 30 years without a single recharge. “Betavoltaic power cells are constructed from semiconductors and use radioisotopes as the energy source. As the radioactive material decays it emits beta particles that transform into electric power capable of fueling an electrical device like a laptop for years.” The batteries do not produce any radioactive or hazardous waste.

Ducks and drakes. Russell “Rock Bottom” Byars recently broke the world record for skipping stones. Byars’ stone traveled 250 feet and skipped 51 times beating the old world record of 40. Before declaring him a record-holder, Guinness World Records experts analyzed film of Byars’ toss, checking the concentric circles in the water by each skip. Here’s the video:

Media Access for the Next Generation (1)

Media Access for the Next Generation:
    1. Introduction
    2. Immediate Access
    3. Localized Storage
    4. Subscription Services

This series is in response to a comment made by Kathryn on the 5/31 post Buying Music the Old Way. In that post I shared about rummaging through old record stores and even traveling into Canada to track down certain music when I was in college. Kathryn commented:

What does the next generation have that can compare to that? The only thing I really have to look for are sales. I do most of my shopping online now because it’s so much easier. I’ve never had that quest for music experience. This posting makes me question: What will my kids take for granted that takes me time now?

I have some thoughts on how things will be different for the next generation as far as media access, and I would like to spend some time this week reflecting on that. Tomorrow’s post will pick up on the one major difference that will drive the rest – immediate access to the internet at all times and in all places.

Action points:

  • Do you have an idea on this topic? Share it in the comments!
  • Did you enjoy this post? Subscribe to this blog by email or feed reader.

Links to other posts in the series:   Part 1,   Part 2,   Part 3,   Part 4