June 21, 2010

We've moved to!

Posted: 01:03 PM ET

No, we haven't stopped providing awesome content for your geeked-out brain - CNN Tech's newest posts have just gotten a new look and a new location. Our redesigned section at has become your one-stop blog for the latest in tech news, including social media, mobile, web, gaming & gadgets and innovation.

All of our stories, videos and interactives are now posted there so you can easily access and filter them by the topic you're most interested in.

There are a ton of new and continuing columns from Tech experts like Mashable's Pete Cashmore and Netiquette specialists Andrea Bartz and Brenna Ehrlich.

Want to know more about what's coming up next in the world of science and technology? Check out our own John Sutter's weekly innovation piece at the CNN Tech Lab.

We've also collected our favorite Twitter feeds and streamed them onto our blog's Tech Pulse so you can keep up with the latest developments without leaving the page.

Of course, we still want to hear from the most important people - you. Which is why our Tech page has great user-generated feedback, like Facebook recommend and our ever-popular comment sections.

Keep in mind that the easiest way to get all this content is by sending it straight to your computer, whether that's through our CNNTech Twitter account or our RSS feed.

So whether you've been a loyal follower of the SciTechBlog for years or are just stumbling upon this for the first time, please head on over to

Filed under: CNN Labs • Internet

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June 1, 2010

Geek Out!: Getting my con on, TimeGate style

Posted: 02:38 PM ET

Editor's note: Geek Out! posts feature the latest and most interesting in nerd-culture news. From sci-fi and fantasy to gadgets and science, if you can geek out over it, you can find it on Geek Out! Look for Geek Out! posts on CNN's SciTech blog.

Nothing like a long weekend to kick off the convention season!

I started my annual journey to conventions with TimeGate. TimeGate is an intimate, up and coming science fiction convention that focuses on two distinct fandoms: Doctor Who and Stargate.

Walking into the convention fans were greeted by a “Gate” in addition to tables filled with collectibles from Stargate and Doctor Who - but also Steampunk, "Battlestar Galactica," and several other space-faring genres. Among the guests at TimeGate this year was Carmen Argenziano, a fantastic actor who portrayed Jacob Carter/Selmak in SG-1. One of the things we discussed was what he drew upon to get the emotions flowing for the character.

Argenziano mentioned his uncle, who was in the military and lost a brother in the war, as a mentor and influenced on how he played the role of Jacob. He also mentioned the small steel mill town in Pennsylvania where he grew up as a place where he learned about honor and sense of national identity.

When asked what his favorite SG-1 tech was he said with a smile that he loved “being in the cockpit of the spaceships pretending to modulate dials and drive the ship.”

One of the biggest parts of any good sci-fi show is the music and there are few more notable theme songs than that of Doctor Who. One of the people who shaped the iconic theme is Dominic Glynn, composer and musician.

When asked what his favorite Doctor Who gadget is he responded that it he loved the TARDIS and that if given the chance to take the TARDIS anywhere he would like to see the end of the world. He promised, however, that he would help the Doctor save the world - as long as he was able to “write a really good piece of music to accompany it.”

In talking with several other people at the convention about what their favorite piece of tech from either Stargate or Doctor Who would be, the answers ranged from the Doctor's sonic screwdriver to the Stargate itself. The driving force behind those answers seemed to be the ability to explore new places and see new things.

Alan Silers, one of the co-founders of TimeGate even mentioned the Daleks as a great piece of tech - well written and with an important purpose in the world of Doctor Who.

When I asked him if he thought something like the TARDIS would be possible in our lifetime, he didn't seem too sure, saying with a laugh that “even with as much as technology changes and grows at a rapid pace in our life, gaining some sort of mastery over time … that’s a huge one.”

So, although we might not be chosen as a companion to the next Doctor or get the chance to travel to another universe, we can read about them, dress up as our favorite characters from the shows and even buy our own small piece of the fandom at not only TimeGate, but the other conventions that are getting ready to start. After all, summer is just starting and so is con season.

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May 27, 2010

Geek Out!: Who will be the next Spider-Man?

Posted: 02:21 PM ET

Editor's note: Geek Out! posts feature the latest and most interesting in nerd-culture news. From sci-fi and fantasy to gadgets and science, if you can geek out over it, you can find it on Geek Out! Look for Geek Out! posts on CNN's SciTech blog.

The Hollywood Reporter has a list of potential actors to take over the role of Spider-Man in the new incarnation on the big screen. They include Jamie Bell, Alden Ehrenreich and Josh Hutcherson ("Zathura").

The good news? Zac Efron, one name that was floated, is not among them. The bad news? The names that are here don't exactly fill me with confidence, either. My reaction, in a word? Meh.

The reason Tobey Maguire worked so well as Spider-Man is because he worked so well as Peter Parker. He was so good in the role it will be hard to live up to that (I won't quite compare him to Christopher Reeve as Superman, but he was close).

What I fear is that the studio is looking for the next Taylor Lautner to guarantee that teen girls will show up on opening night alongside the Spidey faithful. Marc Webb, the director of the new movie, as well as "500 Days of Summer," is looking for unknowns for this role and I respect that. Of all of the people here, I think that Bell ("Billy Elliott") might fit the bill best. I just hope they remember that they're ultimately casting Peter Parker, not Spider-Man.

What do you think? Are you more impressed with the list of potential actors than I am? What qualities are you looking for in the new Spidey?

Filed under: Geek Out!

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Nintendo goes old-school with new Wii controller

Posted: 10:14 AM ET
Classic Controller Pro looks vaguely familiar
Classic Controller Pro looks vaguely familiar

At a time when other gaming-console manufacturers are ready to unveil their motion-sensitive controllers, Nintendo has released a new device that feels more old-school.

The new Classic Controller Pro looks and feels like a traditional game controller, with two joysticks, X-Y-A-B buttons, a directional pad and bumper buttons on the front. It was released in a package deal with the new "Monster Hunter Tri" game for the Wii.

Officials from Nintendo and Capcom said the bundle was done to appeal to the widest audience possible by giving them a controller that was designed for the game.

"Fans of the ["Monster Hunter"] series are used to this type of controller," said Eric Monacelli, product marketing manager for Capcom. "This is old-school. It will appeal to the hard-core player."

"It goes very well with 'Monster Hunter Tri'," added Nintendo representative Kumiko Hidaka. "Never has an accessory been so specifically designed for a game."

"Monster Hunter Tri" lets gamers become a prehistoric hunter who tries to defend his village from rampaging monsters while collecting supplies to help him with his quest. Oh, and there are constant earthquakes that need to be dealt with as well.

Creatures of all sizes live in the surrounding countryside, and the hunter's job is to clear them out, get better weapons and take on even larger monsters. The new controller allows the player to accomplish the major fighting action while offering ways to complete minor tasks (like cooking food to eat).

"Players will love this controller," Monacelli said. "It feels good for the game without taking away from any gameplay."

"Monster Hunter Tri" also allows for multiple players to band together online take down a really big monster. The game lets players use Wii Speak to communicate with each other and plan strategy, which gives the game a party feel. According to game director Kaname Fujioka, this is a big change.

"Everyone goes online and enters the same world, but not everyone has to do the same thing," Fujioka said in an "Ask Iwata" interview. "Each person can do his or her own thing, but when the group achieves the goal, everyone benefits."

The Classic Controller Pro will be compatible with nearly 400 Wii titles, Hikada said.

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Filed under: Games • Gaming • Nintendo • video games

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May 26, 2010

Third-grader wins Google doodle contest

Posted: 04:44 PM ET

Thanks to a box of colored pencils and a whole lot of creativity, Makenzie Melton now has a $15,000 college scholarship, a netbook computer and a $25,000 technology grant for a new computer lab at her school.

How did a third-grader from El Dorado Springs, Missouri, score the prizes? By winning Google’s 2010 Doodle 4 Google contest.

Melton’s doodle, titled “Rainforest Habitat," will appear on the Google homepage Thursday.

The doodle, which expresses Melton’s “concern that the rainforest is in danger,” was chosen over more than 33,000 submissions by students - ranging from kindergarten to twelfth grade, according to a post on the Official Google Blog.

Melton and the rest of the applicants were asked to develop a doodle for the site’s home page based on the theme, “If I could do anything, I would…” A panel of “well-known illustrators, cartoonists and animators” helped choose the winning doodle, according to the blog.

The regional and state finalists’ doodles can be found on the official Google Blog.

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Geek Out!: 'Hornet's Nest' rounds out trilogy

Posted: 04:04 PM ET

Editor's note: Geek Out! posts feature the latest and most interesting in nerd-culture news. From sci-fi and fantasy to gadgets and science, if you can geek out over it, you can find it on Geek Out! Look for Geek Out! posts on CNN's SciTech blog.

Do you know Lisbeth Salandar? The tattooed, bisexual, computer hacker is one of the most popular characters in fiction since Harry Potter. She’s also the unlikely heroine of Stieg Larsson’s bestselling Millennium trilogy.

The third and perhaps final book of the series set in Sweden, “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest” hit store shelves on Tuesday but it’s been a bestseller for the past several months, ranking among the top pre-orders online. The book has generated huge anticipation among U.S. readers.

It was released in Europe last fall but hardcore fans who couldn’t wait have been paying $50 or more to buy the book from overseas, a practice the book’s publisher calls illegal.

Nevertheless, the millions who read the “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” and its sequel “The Girl Who Played with Fire,” are about to be rewarded in the Nordic Noir finale. The new novel picks up right where the last book ended.

Salander is in intensive care at a Swedish hospital, with several gunshot wounds, including a bullet in her brain. She’s fighting for her life and facing murder charges.
Read the rest of this entry »

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Fake BP Twitter feed mocks company over oil spill

Posted: 11:22 AM ET

Wow ... did a BP representative really say that?

Well, no. But a satirical Twitter feed, which at first glance looks like an official BP account, is serving up a scathing daily parody of the company's efforts to clean up the Gulf Coast oil spill.

A quick read of @bpglobalpr, a Twitter account created last week, should reveal to most users that this is no BP-sanctioned public relations campaign.

"Please help us with rebranding. We're not calling it an 'oil spill' anymore, now it's a 'Southern Fun Party' #bpcares," read a post from late Tuesday.

"Funny, no one has thanked us for seasons 3-15 of Treme yet. #bpcares," read another, referencing the HBO series set in New Orleans during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

The feed definitely requires an appreciation of gallows humor. Written in the voice of a clueless oil-company spokesperson, it often makes light of the spill.

From Monday: "The ocean looks just a bit slimmer today. Dressing it in black really did the trick! #bpcares."

And from last week: "Please do NOT take or clean any oil you find on the beach. That is the property of British Petroleum and we WILL sue you."

The feed's popularity is steadily climbing, with more than 38,000 followers as of Wedneday morning. By contrast, the actual BP America Twitter feed had about 5,600.

Aside from tweaking the company whose offshore oil rig exploded, dumping millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf, there may be an altruistic motive behind the Twitter account.

The feed repeatedly links to a site selling anti-BP T-shirts and claiming the proceeds will be donated to the Gulf Restoration Network, a group that works to protect and restore the Gulf region.

Whoever is behind the Twitter account did not respond to a message requesting comment for this post. A spokesman for BP said the company is aware of the Twitter feed, saying that anyone who sees it almost surely will know it's a spoof.

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May 25, 2010

Geek Out!: Happy Geek Pride, Towel, etc. Day!

Posted: 04:59 PM ET

Editor's note: Geek Out! posts feature the latest and most interesting in nerd-culture news. From sci-fi and fantasy to gadgets and science, if you can geek out over it, you can find it on Geek Out! Look for Geek Out! posts on CNN's SciTech blog.

Romulans, puppeteers, hobbits - lend me your ears! Today, we geeks can gather today and celebrate all that makes us unique.

Worldwide, May 25 is known as Geek Pride Day, Towel Day (for "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" fans like our own No. 42 above) and Glorious 25th of May, for Discworld fans.

See how some are celebrating Geek Pride Day on iReport.

Although Geek Pride Day is a relatively new holiday; founded in Spain in 2006, the Inalienable Rights of Geekdom (at least as we see them) that it celebrates are not:

1. The right to strive to be even geekier.
2. The right to not leave your house when there's plenty to entertain you there.
3. The right to not like football or any other sport.
4. The right to freely associate with other nerds.
5. The right to have a few select (inevitably awesome) friends.
6. The right to have a ton of friends - each geekier than the last.
7. The right to not be “in-style.”
8. The right to be overweight/underweight/have poor eyesight and the like.
9. The right to show off your geekiness at all times.
10. The right to take over the world.

Not all geeks will agree with or adhere to all - or in some cases even most - of these rules. Everybody geeks out in their own way; that's the beauty of it.

But we can all agree that being a geek can be a good thing. Why is that?
Well, let’s take a look at a couple of the great things about being a geek:

1. We can always find a game to play no matter what. We are like the MacGyver of games. Give us a pen and paper and we’ll entertain ourselves and others.
2. We look good in glasses. Seriously, we do.
3. We are clever. Who was the one who everyone turned to on "Lost?" The doctor.
4. Speaking of doctors, we have Doctor Who. He’s smart, funny, has a time machine and is one of the biggest geeks in the universe.
5. We can balance a checkbook. Whether we use a computer program, our raw brain power or a good old-fashioned abacus, we will not be overdrawn.

Geek Pride Day is all about looking at the best parts of being a geek, so grab your towel, stick out your thumb and tell us what your plans are - or what you've already done - for Geek Pride Day.

Share your comments below, or go to our iReport page to submit your story.

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Google Pac-Man eats 4.8 million hours

Posted: 03:04 PM ET
Championship Pac-Man
Championship Pac-Man

A productivity blog figured out that we wasted (some would say, enjoyed) over 4.8 million hours of time on Friday playing the Pac-Man game on Google.

The game was the search site's featured logo over the weekend to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the popular arcade game. The logo was actually playable and would continue for 256 levels of chomping.

The RescueTime blog did the math to figure out how much extra time people spent on Google on Friday, and how much did that time cost.

Typically, users spend an average of 11 seconds per each Google page view. RescueTime found the average user spent 36 second more on Pac-Man Friday. With 504.7 million unique visitors on May 23, that totals up to an additional 4,819,352 hours spent on Google.

Armed with that number, the blog then wanted to figure out how much productivity was lost. Assuming the average Google user has a salary of $25 per hour, the total bill comes to $120,483,800.

The game would start if the user hit the "Insert Coin" button or if the site sat idle on the Google home page for about 10 seconds. Google left it up on their homepage throughout the weekend, but gave it a permanent home to be enjoyed whenever you like.

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Filed under: Games • Gaming • Google • pop culture • video games

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Facebook to simplify privacy controls Wednesday

Posted: 02:31 PM ET

Heeding widespread concerns about how much of its users' personal data it shares on the web, Facebook said it will begin implementing simpler privacy settings on Wednesday.

"I can confirm that our new, simpler user controls will begin rolling out tomorrow. I can't say more yet," Facebook spokesman Andrew Noyes told CNN in an e-mail Tuesday.

Currently, users of the popular social-networking site must navigate through some 170 privacy options. Some Facebook members have said they're confused by the settings, while others have threatened to delete or deactivate their Facebook accounts until the site gives them more control over their info.

Tuesday's announcement suggests Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is making good on a recent promise.

"There needs to be a simpler way to control your information," he wrote in an op-ed piece published Monday in the Washington Post. "In the coming weeks, we will add privacy controls that are much simpler to use. We will also give you an easy way to turn off all third-party services."

The recent backlash against Facebook came after the site, which has more than 450 million members, introduced a new tool last month to spread Facebook users' preferences and data to partner sites around the web.

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Are you a gadgethead? Do you spend hours a day online? Or are you just curious about how technology impacts your life? In this digital age, it's increasingly important to be fluent, or at least familiar, with the big tech trends. From gadgets to Google, smartphones to social media, this blog will help keep you informed.

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