Speculative Fiction Saturday: Transformers Month, Part 3, Dark of the Moon

Transformers_dark_of_the_moon_ver5I keep calling this film “Dark Side of the Moon”, but it is actually “Dark of the Moon”. I guess Pink Floyd has the trademark on the former. I would have to say that this is my second favorite of the Transformers series, and I think that it is just because of the action. I remember seeing it in some dollar theater and wishing that I had paid full price to see it in 3D.

In all honesty, I wish that this was the second movie of the series, but at least the second film established that Megatron had been resurrected. Still, there is a lot going on this film, and you don’t necessarily need that villain.

The plot of Dark of the Moon really takes Transformers back to its roots. In fact, the plot of them was a combination of a two-part episode of the animated series and a three-part episode. I’ll explain what I mean by that later.

The movie does a retcon again by saying that the Autobots had a ship that crashed on Earth’s moon. Man, how many times have the Transformers visited us in the past? Every movie brings up some new historical element that affects the plot, but we really should have established this.

Anyway, the Autobots investigate the wreckage of this ship on the moon and discover a former leader named Sentinel Prime. They also discover some interesting technology that can transport matter, like entire planets. The Decepticons want this technology so they can transport their homeworld of Cybertron into Earth’s orbit, and they don’t care about what damage that will cause. This is the premise of a three-part episode of the first season of the animated series, and it certainly creates a pretty epic plot with a proper set-up for an epic conclusion.

Mixed in with this plot is how the Autobots interact with Earth’s military, and apparently the Earth wants the Autobots off their world. So they put them in a rocket and blast them off. This was a two-part episode on the animated series, and it has the same twist: the rocket blows up, but the Autobots are actually alive.

Yeah, that is a spoiler, but in all honesty, you can just watch the trailer, look at the poster, know about Transformers, and you know how it will end. In this case, there is a big battle in a major city, and in this film, it is Chicago. This seems to be a staple of big summer blockbusters, to have the heroes and villains fight in a major city and it is trashed by the end. I actually believe this film did it first, and then Avengers, and then Man of Steel. I think we are actually getting sick of this, as I kind of sick of seeing collateral damage get glossed over. Seriously, thousands would die in this given scenario, if not hundred of thousands.

The film is good at keeping the robots as its main characters, but the human characters are still involved. Shia LaBoeuf is out of college, and he has dumped that Megan Fox. In Fox’s place is Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, who has no prior acting experience before this, but is a Victoria’s Secret fashion model. The fact that Fox was so easily replaced shows that characters is not this movie’s strong suit.

Also in the film is Patrick Dempsey, who plays a pretty good villain in this film. He isn’t the type of villain who is planning anything, but a slimy guy who is willing to betray humanity just to save his own life. He does the role so very well, but maybe I just never trusted the guy on Gray’s Anatomy.

As I mentioned before, this ending has a satisfactory conclusion, and one of my favorite moments is when Optimus Prime shoots a bad guy and says “we will kill you all” after his giant bullet shell hits the ground. It does encapsulate this film perfectly as it goes into the mammoth climax. Too bad this film series didn’t just end here, and we will review the next film next week.

Juicer lets you charge a smartphone with a smartphone

MoocherMan, you know I love reporting on crowdfunded projects, and they often come up with some tech that really should be out right now, but just isn’t. The Juicer is one of those products.

All it is a double ended microUSB cable and you plug one end into one smartphone and then plug one end into the other. One gets juiced, and the other presumably gets drained. Apparently the stealing power device has the green dot and the other end will gain it.

The Juicer is an Indigogo project that is seeking $65,000 in funds, and it only has $6,000 so far. It could use some more, and $10 can get you a fresh one.


Mattel’s View-Master comes back!

ViewmasterAs a kid, I remember playing with View-Master, a way of putting some 3-D images on your face. The old toy had a viewer with a reel with a switch to flick images that were made to be viewed in 3-D.

Mattel recently showed off their newest version of the View-Master, which is essentially a more red and plastic version of the cardboard viewer that debuted at 2014’s I/O conference. This View-Master application can be done on pretty much any VR viewer.

So yes, the View-Master is more of an app that a physical hardware, but the reels are still around. Actually, it is more of a tradition, as you just scan the reel and you will get your images. Apparently, you can get an immersive 360-degree digital experience, so I guess you can spin that View-Master in any direction and see a whole new world of 3D.

I don’t think that the View-Master will be the last of these types of products, and we’ll be seeing more like them in some form. Still, are we looking at a world of 3D that has gone mobile?

Well, you should be able to get it for about $30 when the toy comes out in the fall, just in time for the holidays.


Morningstar: Descent to Deadrock Review from Phoenix Online Publishing

MorningStarAs most of you know, I like to review a few Steam games every once in a while, and I had a chance to try out Morningstar: Descent to Deadrock.

Now yes, that is an interesting title, so what is it? Well, it is a point-and-click game that I love so much. These are the ones where you are exploring a new place, and doing things. Oh, and you are picking things, and you are using those things in different places, otherwise you wouldn’t be able to pick up said things. Heck, I’m pretty sure my book, The Labyrinth House, is at least inspired by that.

I’m not certain how Morningstar fits into the title, but you end up on a planet called Deadrock, to its shame. You play an astronaut/space explorer named Powell who crashlands there, and then it is all about survival. By survival, I mean that you go to certain places on this planet, and discover that this place is occupied by some interesting beings.

Okay, I wanted to play this game, but I beat it in a matter of hours. This does not mean that the game is bad, but that it is too easy to get clues. Powell, can communicate with a co-pilot via radio, and the clues the co-pilot drops make the game a little too easy to solve. Of course, if you play enough of this point-and-click games, you start to learn how they work, and you can hopefully beat them without going online. In this one, I never really got stuck for too long, and that is not a good thing when it comes to games like this. Of course, the “Radio” button helped, a lot.

So, the gameplay is very cool, reminding me of the cool early nineties CD ROM games, and they are still a lot of fun. You should be able to get the game on the Phoenix Online store for about $9.99.

Acme Made Charge™ for iPhone 6

CaptureAcme Made sent us this nifty little case for the iPhone 6 (also comes for the 6 Plus). It’s called Charge™, but it is not a case that will charge your phone. Instead, it has a kickstand that comes out(the red part). Underneath the kickstand lies the secret to the case- a little Lightning to USB cable that snaps out, so you can hook your phone into a USB port.

I suppose this could be useful if you have your laptop with you, and you don’t want to forget your USB connecting cable. The world might be a better place if there were USB ports in all electrical outlets, of course.

CaptureBut in the meantime, unless you have your computer with you, you will have a hard time finding a place to plug this into, I think. I could see the usefulness of having this cord hiding in your case if you are always misplacing your charging cord.

The case itself is an impact resistant, polycarbonate, and the kickstand allows you to view your phone while it’s charging in both portrait and landscape mode.

You can purchase Charge™ for $49.95 on the Acme Made website.

Nite Ize Products Review: Steelie, Inka Mobile Clip Pen + Stylus, Connect Case for iPhone 6, and Handleband (Whew!)

Nite IzeI think we all know that our tablets and phones are convenient to put in our hands, but they are often not very comfortable. A whole slew of accessories has been created just to make certain that we are comfortable with our tablets and smartphones.

The Steelie is a post that you can stick to something of a flat surface, you know, like a tabletop, desk, or something. Now, that has a stickable stand that will attach there pretty permanently. However, on the top of the post will be hemisphere of metal. Now, you can attach this concave dome to your tablet or smartphone, and you have your mobile device on something adjustable.

It really is a terrific product, and if this is something that you are looking for, check it out. You can get it for about $49.99 on the Nite Ize site.

Nite IzeAll right, now let’s get to another smartphone and tablet accessory, the stylus. This is the Inka Mobile Clip Pen + Stylus, and it is both a virtual stylus for your touchscreen and it works as a pen with ink as well.

Yeah, there isn’t really much that I can say about this, but it does have a Quick Clip S-Biner which is made so it stays with you. By the way, I have heard that the pen can write underwater. This used to be a big claim to make in the pen community.

Anyway, you can get the Inka Mobile Clip Pen + Stylus on the Nite Ize Site for $13.99.

Nite IzeNow we come to the part where I talk about Nite Ize’s Connect a case for the iPhone 6. I will have to say that this is one of the thinnest cases that I have ever seen, and it certainly is quite durable plastic.

Then there is the mounting system with an innovative flex hinge for getting the iPhone 6 in. Then there is the connect clip that can be removed. Here is the thing, as I can’t really remove the clip. I tried, but I could probably do it, seriously.

Anyway, it is available in a lot of colors for about $29.99 on the Nite Ize site. It costs a little more if you want the Mossy Oak pattern as it costs $34.99.

Nite IzeThen there is the HandleBand, which is made to be a “Universal Smartphone Bar Mount”. Basically, you put it on a bike handlebars, and you can put your smartphone there.

It is definitely good for those apps that you can use while biking. As an added bonus, the screen is mostly visible. I say mostly visible because the smartphone is held in with this rubberband thing that lets exposes part of the touchscreen. I kind of wish there was some other mechanism to hold it in, but for what it is, it should be good for you.

The Handleband, as well as all of these other products is available on the Nite Ize website for about $19.99. We thank the company for letting us try them.

TYLT VU Wireless Charging Car Mount Review

TYLT VuIt has been a while since I reviewing anything from our friends at TYLT, and the last time it was the VU Solo. Now, I got a chance to review the VU Wireless Charging Car Mount, and it is quite a cool product for some Qi enabled action.

I’ll go ahead and explain what Qi is for those who do not know. Most wireless charging tech is just a pad that you put on a table so you can just put your Qi wireless charging phone on it and have it power up without attaching any wires. The Wireless Charging Car Mount is made to put this tech in your vehicle, so you can use your mobile while driving.

It has a stand with a suction cup on the bottom so it sticks around on the dash. Then you can plug in the Mount with the included cable into the dash lighter. When you place the phone on the mount, the adjustable claws on the side and bottom can “pinch” in order to hold it in.

Personally, I see an era where all smartphones will be Qi enabled, but there are a few phones that are smart enough to have already jumped aboard that bandwagon. Until that day, you might as well be prepared for the wireless charging era with the TYLT VU Wireless Charging Car Mount. It is available on the TYLT site for about $79.99 now.

Insteon Starter Kit, LED Bulb, and Mini Remote

InsteonI’ve talked about a Connected Home before, and how I saw it a lot at CES 2015. I reviewed the Belkin WeMo LED Lighting Starter Set, and this time, it is Insteon.

I’ll start with the Insteon Starter Kit, which is one way to make your home more under your smartphone or tablet’s control. This particular Starter Kit, also known as the 2244-234, comes with an Insteon Hub Home Automation Controller as well as two LampLinc Plug-In Lamp Dimmer Modules.

The Hub itself is what controls your your Insteon network, and it is something that is actually pretty cheap on its own. Let me just say that setting this up allows you control devices via smartphone and tablet thanks to the power of the Insteon app. What kind of devices? Try thermostats, cameras, sensors, and much more, like the included Dimmer Modules.

The Lamp Dimmer, or LampLinc, allows the Insteon network user to control a light remotely. Not only can you do on and off, but control all kinds of multiple lighting design scenes in just minutes. By the way, it can double as an access point, by relaying signals to other powerline-only devices.

If you want in on the Insteon 2244-234 Starter Kit, head on over to a site known as Smarthome and pay $119.99 for it.

InsteonNow time to talk about the Insteon LED Bulb, and according to my source, it is the first remotely controllable, fully dimmable networked light bulb on the market. You can hook this up to the Hub, and control it with the smartphone or tablet. You can also then use the controllers like keypads, door sensor, motion sensor, and a switch (which I’ll tackle later).

Basically, you set the Insteon controller into linking mode, and replace a regular light bulb in your lamp. Now you can make it glow brightly or dimly. Oh, if only it came in different colors. It should be known that the Insteon 2672-222 LED Bulb or “The Smartest Bulb in the World”, is a 9 Watt bulb that can shine as bright as a 60 Watt bulb.

You should be able to get the LED Bulb for about $29.99 on the Smarthome site.

InsteonOkay, this leads me to the last device, a Mini-Remote with 4 Scenes. What is a Scene? Think of it as a way of manipulating the way lighting is done in a room. For example, if you want to light up one room, but not another, you can do that.

Unlike other remotes, you can recharge this one. It has one of those micro-USB ports, and once it is recharged, it is good for 3 months. So you can just keep this remote in case you want some really quick control.

Now, if you want to get in this remote, the 2342-432 Mini Remote to be exact, head on over to the Smarthome site and pay $58.49 for it.

Okay, so that concludes our awesome Insteon day of reviews. Hopefully you had a good President’s Day, as this review of Insteon products had pretty much nothing to do with that.

Our Review of the Fujitsu ScanSnap iX100

Fujitsu ix100It seems like we are beginning to live in a more paperless society every day, which means we need devices in order to make a better transition. This is where products like the Fujitsu ScanSnap iX100 come in.

The ScanSnap iX100 is this thing that you see before you, a small scanner that is about the size of your forearm. It scans any document (A4 or 8 x 11 sized) at 300 dpi at 5.2 seconds.

Set up is pretty simple, but I didn’t use the CD Rom, but went online to find the drivers. It took a while for it to download, but once the scanner was hooked up to my computer, it did its job rather well. You can see a later scan of some Calculus equations that I’ve been brushing up on. Yeah, I do that, and it’s a long story why.

CalculusOnce I was done scanning a document, I had several options of what to do with it. The easiest is to just save it on my Computer, but most scanners do that. What makes the ScanSnap iX100 excellent is you don’t need to have a router to make it work wirelessly.

Yes, the iX100 has built in Wi-Fi in order to detect the network environment at home. What really makes this feature excellent is how you can scan to your PC, Mac, or your Mobile Devices. From there, you can use some really cool software like ScanSnap Organizer to create some filing cabinets, CardMinder for capturing information on business cards, and ScanSnap Receipt for getting information off of receipts. There is also ABBYY FineReader for ScanSnap to scan most printed documents to Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. You can also use cloud services such as Evernote, Google Doc, and more.

That’s right, the ScanSnap iX100 is portable and wireless. It is good for 260 letter-size documents on a full charge, and weighs less than a pound. Did I mention that it can do 2-page spreads?

All in all, it is quite a good product. If you want it, head on over to the Fujitsu site and pay about $229.00 for it.

Speculative Fiction Saturday: Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

TransformersOkay, I will have to admit that I had a hard time writing about the first Transformers movie, and I figured out why: I liked it. For some reason, it is harder to write about something you like, but it is so easy to tear a film you hate a new one. This is exactly what I intend to do with Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, undoubtedly the worst film of the series.

I believe that the fault of Transformers 2 lies with a writer’s strike that happened at the time of its release. This writer’s strike killed some good things, like Pushing Daisies, and that makes it twice that I have brought it up. I’ll have to review it some day. Anyway, I’m told that the screenwriters only had two weeks to come up with a script, and I believe that once it was done, it probably wasn’t changed much. It could have used a few more drafts.

I heard that this film was bad before I saw it, and when I chance to see it, something strange happened. For some reason, I felt intense hate on the first shot of the film. This has never happened with any film that I have ever seen, but this film just kept doing stupid things.

The plot involves the idea that the Transformers had been on Earth before, which, by the way, is one of many retcons established in this film series that just never, never quits. Apparently, there is an evil Transformer known as The Fallen who seems to have just come out of nowhere and wants to destroy the sun to get energy.

I think believe that this is what passes for plot in this film. Oh yeah, and Sam goes to college. He also gets infected by a shard of the Allspark, and this causes him to become smart. He then discovers some secret information, and then Megatron comes after him. Oh wait, didn’t he die in the first one? Well, they bring him back to life. Then Optimus Prime saves Sam, and he dies. Guess what happens?

Yeah, there isn’t much good going on in this film. In fact, I think this film just decided to use its worst shot in any given scene. For example, in a car chase, a few seconds are devoted to showing fear on Sam’s roommate, who probably has a name, but I don’t remember it.

Speaking of roommates, the film wants to show a Decepticon spy in the form of a hot babe. What dumb, dumb, dumb idea made for that scene for when the hot babe seduces the man, only to have the man’s significant other walk in. This was in no way inspired by the original toys or television show.

Oh, did I mention the two robot characters that everyone thinks are racist? Oh, I don’t have to, because everyone on the Internet has.

Also, and this is a criticism of the first film, but apparently the government was able to keep the Transformers secret after the huge battle scene at the end of the first film in downtown L.A. In this film, the secret is out so why introduce that element anyway? Stupid.

Yeah, I see no reason to summarize this film with any other word, and I would highly suggest you avoid it, period.