The 2014 Australian Open Tennis is firing up in Melbourne this week and is kicking off another big year for Tennis. Will Djokavic retain his position at the top of the Men’s Tennis world? Will Federer bounce back from a up-and-down 2013? Will Tomic beat Rafa in the first round and then proceed to do burnouts on centre court?

We’ll find out the answers to all of this in due course, but first, instead of watching the tournament the old-fashioned way, how can you use technology to follow the tournament?

Those who don’t have access to a TV screen can enjoy streaming of matches right on their computer via the official 2014 Australian Open website. Live, point-by-point tennis score updates are also on this site, along with results of previous matches.

The official broadcast partner website over at Yahoo!7 also keeps tabs of all the live scores for all matches and other news on what’s going on in and around the 2014 Australian Open.

Other news sites are also providing coverage of the tournament. The Guardian is offering great play-by-play coverage of the key match-ups at this year’s tournament.

IBM and Tennis Australia have teamed up to bring the Australian to your mobile devices with their official app for the tournament. It’s a handy tool to not only keep an eye on scores, but also more information like draws, photos, video, player profiles and even the event guide to help you get around Melbourne Park. It is available on iOS or Android.

For behind-the-scenes gossip, news, and analysis about the 2014 Australian Open Tennis, also check out what’s being posted on social media. Twitter and Instagram users can follow @AustralianOpen while Facebook users can visit their official page at facebook.com/AustralianOpen.

You might not be at the games or in front of a TV, but that doesn’t mean you need to miss any of the action from the 2014 Australian Open Tennis. There are many ways for you to keep yourself updated on the results of the matches and everything else going on around the event. How you’ll be following it?

Bitcoin is starting to become a viable option for people wanting to invest their money in non-traditional currencies.

But what exactly is a ‘Bitcoin’?

Background of Bitcoin

Bitcoin is a type of digital payment system and, essentially, a form of virtual currency.

Bitcoin started out as a means for people to transfer money. Its developer, operating under the alias Satoshi Nakamoto, referred to it as a ‘cryptocurrency’ as it uses cryptography to control and secure the transfer of money from one person to another.

That means every Bitcoin transaction is encrypted and, in theory, secure. It is open source, nobody owns it and there is no central bank.

Is Bitcoin real money?

The early monetary value of Bitcoin was minuscule, but has spiked to almost USD$1,000 by the end of 2013, giving early investors a huge gain in their initial investment.

Many governments do not currently consider Bitcoin money simply because of lack of regulation governing its use. The currency, however, is being eyed as a potential money-generating source for many governments as they look at potentially charging tax on transactions.

Comparing coins

While Bitcoin may not be the first cryptocurrency in the market, it has become the most well known and has opened the door for broader recognition for a range of other cryptocurrencies.

Some of the others you could choose from include Coinye, Litecoin, PPCoin, Namecoin, Worldcoin, Dogecoin, NovaCoin, DigitalCoin, BBQcoin, and many more.

Bitcoin Trading versus Bitcoin Mining

If you’re looking to acquire Bitcoin, there are two main ways to go about it: trading and mining.

Bitcoin trading is agreeing to transact with another user who already has Bitcoin. All transactions between two anonymous individuals are recorded and added to a transaction register. This long list of transaction data is joined together to form a “block”. Bitcoin trading creates more blocks.

You can also buy them on Bitcoin exchange sites such as bitstamp or mt gox. Like a conventional stock exchange, you buy Bitcoin based on the current asking price. You can sell them anytime, too.

Bitcoin mining is another way to acquire Bitcoin. It involves running software to solve algorithms for a reward of Bitcoin blocks. As you solve more algorithms you earn more Bitcoin.

This process requires no money on your part but requires processing power, time, and the process is long if you’re looking to create substantial value.

The future of cryptocurrency

The future of cryptocurrency will depend on the continued patronage of users in the system, those who believe in the power of digital currency to streamline financial transactions and side-stepping the traditional worldwide economy controlled by banks and governments.

It will also depend on how governments adapt and potentially loosen up financial regulations on their use.

Will Bitcoin fulfill its promise to be a universal financial currency or is it the newest financial bubble that is doomed to fail? Tell us what you think by leaving your comments below.

Leap Motion unboxing
Kickstarter is gaining a bit of a reputation these days, and funded projects often go two ways: either transform into vapourware or to moderately successful commercial release. While the Leap Motion did get to commercial release, it’s still too early to tell if the first version will lead to bgger and better things.

The idea behind the Leap Motion seems straightforward enough. You plug the little sensor box into your USB, calibrate it, then use Apps from the developer community to control things on your computer.

It’s just a little Minority Report, but the movies always make things look a lot easier.

The packaging was very Apple-esque in it’s simplicity and set-up of the Leap Motion was very straightforward. It takes you thgouhg the basic control gestures so you can at least use thing at a basic level.

But this is where the simplicity ends.

All about the Apps

As with many consumer devices that have emerged int he past few years, the hardware is only one part of the equation. It’s often the quality of the App experience that will be the key to success.

The Leap Motion has a small range of official Apps, but then there are a series of Apps form a small developer community.

The interaction with Apps isn’t exactly consistent, and success with controlling each App may vary.

In the past, there have been a mixture of good and terrible Apps for devices like smartphones, tablets, and even TVs, and this is one area that the Leap Motion needs to grow.

There simply aren’t enough Apps available for the Leap Motion to give a full verdict on it’s usefulness. The premise is great, and the sensor seems reasonably accurate, but there aren’t enough good Apps, which makes the terrible ones stand out.

For roughly AUD$80 (USD $79.99), it’s a fun little toy with so much potential. It’s success essentially depends on the skills and kindness of others.

interesting image

The great thing about the Internet is the openness and the ability to find everyone. However, with this openness, you need to also remember to keep your key information secure. Two-factor authentication is emerging as one way to keep your logins secure, but what is it and why should you care?

In basic terms, two-factor authentication requires you to log into services using two ‘factors’. Most commonly, these two factors could be a password or pin number, and something you ‘have’ like you mobile phone or a security tag.

If you’ve ever worked from home and had to ‘VPN in’ using a password and a code from a security tag, this is a form of two-factor authentication.

Why?

However, with the increase of sensitive information being managed using your Facebook, Google or online banking logins, for example, two-factor is ready to hit the mainstream.

Someone could find out your online banking password, but if you’re also required to enter a unique PIN that’s sent to your mobile phone via SMS, then it’s much less likely that someone could infiltrate your account.

Why can’t I use this for everything?

While more and more people are opening their eyes to two-factor authentication, there are a couple of key reasons why this hasn’t quite caught on with everyone.

Acceptance – This is about people bothering with the two different factors. While it’s more secure, many people still insist on only having to satisfy one factor in order to get in and do what you want to do.

Cost – This is more about the cost to your service providers to enable two different factors. As technology costs come down, this will be less of a barrier, but there’s still a significant implementation and maintenance cost.

Want to get started? Below are links to common sites where you can use two-factor authentication:

Whether setting up a purpose-build home theatre or just upgrading your existing analog box, oen important consideration is the size of your new screen.

When choosing your next big screen TV, bigger doesn’t always mean better. You could end up appearing ‘too close’, which means sore eyes, sore necks and a very pixelated experience.

There are a few theories floating around regarding optimal screen size, viewing angles and other things, so we’ll just provide a general guide to what to aim for when sizing up your next purchase.

So many rules

There are two main bodies that have recommendations on what size screen you should aim for to achieve optimal immersion: THX and SMPTE (the Society of Motion Picture & Television Engineers).

We’ve focussed on simple aspects of choosing screen size to make it easy. By simply entering in some basic measures below, you will be well on your way towards knowing (or justifying) the size of your next screen purchase.

Choose your starting point:

Screen Size

This screen size is suitable for a viewing distance of between x and y feet.

Viewing Distance From the Screen
Usually manufacturers will market TV screen size in diagonal inches.

This viewing distance is suited to a screen size of between x and y inches.


Key assumptions
  • The optimal screen viewing angle is 40 degrees, as suggested by THX. We provide both the ideal viewing distance and the maximum recommended viewing distance based on THX guidelines.
  • The ideal vertical placement of a screen should be so that the viewer should not have to look up or down more than 15 degrees.
  • There are different theories around, including viewing based on pixelation or quality of image and what is 'noticable'. For simplificaiton purposes, we do not use this: http://www.rtings.com/info/television-size-to-distance-relationship
  • THX screen size recommendations are based on recreating an "immersive cinematic experience": http://www.thx.com/consumer/home-entertainment/home-theater/hdtv-set-up/
  • One foot equals exactly 0.3048 metres.

Red Bull F1 Spy

Red Bull F1 Spy

Last week’s Formula One Grand Prix at Albert Park in Melbourne certainly whet the appetites of revheads everywhere. But between the races, how can you keep up-to-date with the latest news from the paddock and other inside information? Well, there may be an app for that.

Being a multimillion dollar industry in it’s own right, it’s no surprise that Formula 1 has it’s own official app. It includes live timing data, detailed tyre and DRS info, video and a price tag to match.

It is a great app, and gives you all of the official updates from the F1 world straight to your phone. It’s unlikely that any other apps could give you more information.

Unlikely, but possible.

The Red Bull F1TM team have made an attempt to throw their app hat into the ring with the Red Bull F1TM Spy app. It includes live timing (like the official F1 app), latest paddock news (like the official F1 app) and other information about current championship standings (…you get the picture).

I hate when branded apps try to jump on a bandwagon and add no real additional value to the user experience.

However, the Red Bull F1TM Spy app isn’t one of these. It’s actually good.

One of the great things they’ve added to the experience, as the name suggests, is the ‘Spy’ element. This gives you behind-the-scenes pictures and commentary from their ‘Spy’. You can even suggest ‘challenges’ for the Spy to prove he’s really a legit insider. Look, this is probably the RBR media relations intern, but who cares? As long as you’re getting your info fix, you’re happy!

There are a few additional features worth mentioning, like real-time commentary, access to the Red Bull Racing grand prix diary and, if you’re a real F1 geek, historical info about F1 circuits

While the additional information would be naturally skewed to Red Bull Racing team info, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I’m sure Sebastien Vettel’s run of success over the past few years has won him and the team some fans around the globe. Aussie Mark Webber’s statesman-like place within the paddock I’m sure has endeared him to grand prix followers too.

We’ve added some screen shots here of the key features, but it’s one of those apps where you should try it for yourself. There are versions for iPhone, iPad and Android, and is free to download.

In fact, go and download the official F1 app, realise the full version is crazy expensive, then download the Red Bull F1TM Spy app. Both great apps, both add something to the experience. If you’re into your F1, you’ll appreciate both.

PVRs are in an interesting phase of their lifecycle. They have probably the largest dance of channels available, they’re cheap, have heaps of storage for your dollar, and they’re easy to connect to any TV sold in the last 5 years.

However, it’s probably also the worst time to buy one.

Let’s talk about what you can get in a PVR these days.

Today’s PVRs can come with a great range of features built-in. From the low-end, you can get a couple of HD tuners with the ability to record to external USB storage. As you go up the range, you can add in a number of features. At the higher end, you can throw in 2D to 3D conversion capabilities, Bly-Ray drives, 1TB internal storage and 4 or more tuners.

And you can make use of all of the additional storage space to record from a wide range of free-to-air channels. The website for Freeview lists no less than 21 channels for Sydney, as an example. Quality content might be a bit thin on the ground, but it’s free and at least you have greater choice.

PVRs are also incredibly cheap. A no-brand or house brand HD PVR can be had for less than $30. Sure you may need to add your own external USB storage, but storage is cheap as well.

We’re also fans of set-ups that have a minimalist feel about them. Reducing the amount of boxes and cables you see, without reducing functionality or quality, is a good thing.

So they have heaps of features and are relatively cheap, but let’s talk about value.

Many current TV sets have PVR functionality built-in. It can potentially be as easy as plugging a USB stick into the site of your new TV set. Why buy another box at all if

PVRs have also come a long way in terms of ease of use, but that hasn’t seemed to have motivated consumers out there.

TiVo had great success in the U.S. and has been around in Australia for a while. They have a great user interface and even had ISPs offering deals to access content through your TiVo without it coming off your download limit. Amazingly easy-to-use for PVRs so it would be quite a comfortable addition to the living room.

However, TiVo is effectively dead in Australia. You can’t even buy a new unit in this country, even from TiVo directly.

Other PVRs are available, but the range is small. This is somewhat reflective of how popular these types of devices are with the general consumer.

And then there’s the elephant in the room: Foxtel. While there is a bunch of channels purely running repeats, you still get more choice of content via Foxtel, as well as all free-to-air channels, at a reasonably low subscription cost. Most basic packages also include a basic PVR in their iQ box which can schedule multiple recordings via an easy-to-use interface and managed EPG.

The Smart TV features that often come built-on or available via other boxes also give us access to catch-up TV from most of the main FTA networks. Why bother recording when you can easily just stream content from Seven, SBS or ABC directly to your TV, or from other commercial networks via mobile Apps?

Time-shifted viewing of television content is at the highest level that it’s ever been. We’re also at the point where there is a wide range of options to let you do this. Which device is the best for letting you do this? Sadly, the traditional PVR seems less and less likely to be the answer.

So you’ve finally given up on your old BlackBerry? While you’re busy saying goodbye to tactile keyboards and resigning your old ‘mobile’ phone to the museum, you should think about how you are going to get the most important info from your old BlackBerry to your new iPhone: the contact data.

Install BlackBerry Desktop

I know you’re moving away from BlackBerry, but installing this useful tool is the first step in getting the useful stuff off your old phone.

Once you connect your phone to your computer running the BlackBerry Desktop software, your contacts, calendar and mail will all sync as follows (for Macs):
– Contacts > Contacts
– Calendar > iCal
– Mail > Mail

There are also ‘Tasks’ and ‘Music’ sync items, but….as if you have either of those on your old phone!

Plug in your new iPhone

Now that all the data is synced up appropriately on your computer, plug in your new IPhone via USB. iTunes will probably fire up automatically but, if not, go ahead and open it up.

Once you see your iPhone show up as a Device in the iTunes left hand side menu, click on this and navigate to the ‘Info’ tab at the top.

The following screen will give you the option to Sync Contacts and/or Sync Calendars. If you want both of these synced to your new phone, select both checkboxes and click the ‘Apply’ button at the top of the page.

Wait (or, make popcorn, if you will)

Your phone will now sync up all this data form your computer to your iPhone…and that should be job done!

There are ways to do this without a computer, usually including a Google account and other online services, but this is a much easier, quicker, and more controlled way of making the switch in our opinion.

Don’t forget to dispose of your old phone the right way: wipe the data as much as you can. Only do this, though, once you’re absolutely sure you’ve got all of the old data off that you’ll need!

Have an Xbox 360 and a USB drive with AVI movies lying around? It can be pretty easy to get them playing nicely and playing back those video files on your big screen TV.

What you need:

An Xbox 360 (obviously)

Videos on a USB flash drive or other USB drive (formatted using FAT32)

Before you start:

AVI is a container file type in which video and audio data is contained. There are a number of video codecs used on the video within the container, with DivX and Xvid common types of video codecs used within AVI files. Both of these should work fine for this tutorial, but for a reference of which codecs play on the Xbox 360, this link.

Step 1: Start up your Xbox 360 and get to the Dashboard

Step 2: Navigate to the Media section and select Video

Step 3: Press A

Step 4: Select the video source you want to play videos from. Choose Portable Device from the options displayed.

Step 5: Navigate the files and folders shown to find the video you would like to play.

The Xbox 360 supports playback from a USB storage device but older Xbox 360’s may require an update from the Xbox Live store to enable media playback. If you’re prompted to download an update to play the video, proceed to do so.

Another consideration is streaming the video to your Xbox 360 via your network. There are a number of solutions for doing this, but this tutorial specifically assumes you’re looking at direct access from your USB device to your Xbox 360.

Something to think about:

Xbox 360’s are relatively high consumers of power compared to other options you may have available: Perhaps you can play back video via the USB port of your existing DVD or Blu-ray drive, or maybe your TV has a USB input you can use to access files on your external drive.

It’s quite easy to playback video  content on your Xbox 360, but whether it’s the best option to do so is another question.

iPod Nano - OK to disconnect

iPod Nano - OK to disconnectThe lady of Chateau Techpop loves to listen to tunes while at the gym. She does not, however, like it when the screen hangs on her iPod Nano with the message “OK to disconnect”. So how do we fix this?

I’ve tried to switch it off, but the thing won’t seem to react.

A quick search showed that this look alike a common problem, so here’s how we fixed this:

1. Hold down the sleep/wake button and the volume down button down at the same time for around 10 seconds until the Apple logo appears
2. Wait for the iPod Nano to reboot.
3. ???
4. Profit

This worked for an iPod Nano 6th Generation with a touch screen.

It may not ‘just work’ after all!