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  • Fans start lining up as Comic-Con floor opens Jul 24, 2014 9:25 AM
    Comic-Con is all about bringing fans close to the artists and properties they love — after waiting in line. The lineups began as soon as the San Diego Convention Center opened its doors. Fans with four-day passes to the sold-out pop-culture spectacular gained early admission to the showroom floor Wednesday night, where they were the first to see a 10-foot-tall Transformer, a Lego Spider-Man and a life-sized, road-ready Hot Wheels car inspired by Darth Vader.

     
  • App reviews: RoadTrippers, Watercolors Jul 19, 2014 7:39 AM
    Planning a summer road trip? If you’re looking to fill in some spots between points A and B, try out RoadTrippers. For a more creative app, Watercolors is a fun and fluid puzzle game that calls back to your finger painting days but also requires a bit of logic.

     
  • Tumblr convention in Schaumburg implodes Jul 17, 2014 9:18 AM
    A social media convention at the Schaumburg Convention Center last weekend — aimed at Tumblr bloggers and their followers — went horribly wrong when organizers were forced to raise $17,000 on the spot to prevent the event's immediate cancellation. The debacle has since sparked a life of its own on Tumblr and elsewhere — particularly through ridicule of the organizers' apology that included “an extra hour with the ball pit.”

     
  • 'Snowpiercer' leads train of on-demand gems Jul 20, 2014 3:06 PM
    "Snowpiercer” — the buzzworthy science-fiction flick starring “Captain America” himself, Chris Evans — opened in a small number of Chicago-area theaters on July 4, but you can already watch it from the comfort of your own home. Many brand-new films are now premiering on VOD services while still playing in theaters.

     
  • Review: Unlimited e-book services offer plenty Jul 12, 2014 8:16 AM
    Two startups are trying to do for e-books what Netflix does for movies. Oyster and Scribd let you read as many books as you want for a monthly price — $10 for Oyster and $9 for Scribd. I was skeptical at first, but they surprised me.

     
  • Is this the year to buy a smartwatch? Jul 12, 2014 8:22 AM
    The LG G Watch and the Samsung Gear Live both went on sale last week, providing the first test for Google’s just-for-wearables version of its mobile operating system, called Android Wear. If a Google-run life sounds great to you -- let’s be honest, a lot of us are already there -- there are still a few more things to consider before you buy. Unless you’re really, really into the whole smartwatch thing, you may want to hold off for now, reviewers say.

     
  • Weaver, ‘Alien’ cast reprising roles in new game Jul 10, 2014 5:30 AM
    Sigourney Weaver and the cast of “Alien” are virtually returning to the starship Nostromo. The actress who portrayed unflappable officer Ellen Ripley in the “Alien” film franchise is reprising her role in “Alien: Isolation,” an upcoming video game set after the events of the original 1979 film. Weaver, who recorded new dialogue for the game, says she picked up right where she left off as tough-as-nails Ripley in filmmaker Ridley Scott’s sci-fi horror masterpiece.

     
  • ‘Valiant Hearts’ a grim WWI tribute Jul 8, 2014 5:45 AM
    The 100th anniversary of the beginning of World War I has been relatively subdued. Oddly enough, the most stirring tribute I’ve seen has come in the form of a video game. “Valiant Hearts: The Great War” is a bracing antidote to the gung-ho violence of popular combat games like “Call of Duty.” There’s little joy to be found in its depiction of the destruction that overwhelmed Europe from 1914 to 1919. Instead, it follows the struggles of four ordinary people to simply survive.

     
  • Anime Midwest in Rosemont home to the fantastical Jul 6, 2014 9:12 AM
    Almost 10,000 fans of Japanese animation convened in Rosemont this weekend for an event that features bizarre costumes, foam weapons, formal dances and plenty of free ramen. “I like dressing up,” says Abbi Witt, 15, of Cary, who's dressed as Harley Quinn, wife of the Joker in Batman comics.

     
  • Facebook’s score: 1 billion World Cup interactions Jul 5, 2014 8:33 AM
    Facebook has passed the 1 billion mark in World Cup interactions. No other single event has generated this much activity on Facebook in the history of the social media site.

     
  • Aereo case leaves cord cutters with costlier options Jul 5, 2014 8:23 AM
    For cord cutters who want to ditch their cable service, watching broadcast TV on a computer or tablet is still possible even if Aereo Inc. disappears. Companies like TiVo and SiliconDust USA make products that work with TV antennas to turn live programs into digital bits and bytes.

     
  • Review: Android Wear is about simplifying future Jul 5, 2014 8:11 AM
    In its first iteration, Google’s Android Wear software for computerized wristwatches isn’t so much about innovation as it is an effort at simplification. The new software should help rein in a marketplace of confusion and encourage app developers to extend smartwatch functionality, the way they have made smartphones even smarter.

     
  • Review: Evolutionary advances in new smartwatches Jul 5, 2014 8:11 AM
    New Android wristwatches from Samsung and LG make a few evolutionary advances, though I won’t be rushing out to buy either. Samsung’s Gear Live and LG’s G Watch are good products and will appeal to those who like to be among the first to own new gadgets. The watches serve as pedometers and let you catch up on email, texts and Facebook notifications while your phone is in your pocket or charging in the bedroom. Even with the phone in your hand, you can check messages on the watch and keep playing video on the phone. Both smartwatches try to keep things simple through voice commands rather than touch. They use Google’s Android Wear system, which I reviewed earlier. Android Wear has a lot of potential but still lacks the functionality of even last year’s smartwatches. Your ability to reply is limited, and there’s not much you can do yet without a companion phone nearby. The companion phone must run Android 4.3 or later, which covers about a quarter of the Android devices in use. It doesn’t have to be a Samsung or LG phone. Visit http://g.co/WearCheck from your phone to check compatibility. Don’t even bother if you have an iPhone. Even with its release of the Gear Live, Samsung will continue to sell the Gear 2 line of smartwatches, so I’ll start there. Samsung’s Gear 2 ($299, released in April): I find the Gear 2 most useful for its fitness features. The watch counts the steps you take each day. It estimates distance and calories burned and measures heart rate on your runs, hikes and bike rides. The features are rather basic, so active users might prefer a gadget dedicated to a specific task, such as measuring distance and pace using GPS. But the Gear 2 does offer a good introduction to newcomers. Shots from the watch’s 2-megapixel camera are mediocre, but that beats missing the shot entirely because your better camera is in your pocket or handbag. If you don’t need the camera, you can save $100 with the Gear 2 Neo, which has similar features otherwise. Both have speakerphones for making phone calls. The Gear 2 line doesn’t use Android Wear, but a fledging system called Tizen. Samsung says that helps extend battery life to two or three days, instead of the single day on the original, Android-based Galaxy Gear. Unlike the Android Wear watches, the Gear 2 and the Gear 2 Neo both require a Samsung phone. Samsung’s Gear Live ($199, starts shipping next week): Out of the box, the Gear Live looks much like the Gear 2. But once you turn it on, it stays on. The watch face doesn’t go dark as the one on the Gear 2 does after inactivity. Unfortunately, the promised battery life is back down to a single day, though actual performance varied depending on use. The best I got was a day and a half on a full charge. In the worst case, about half the charge was gone in just five hours. The Gear Live doesn’t have as many fitness features. You can count steps and measure heart rate, but you can’t measure distance or calories with built-in apps. In addition, there’s no camera or speakerphone. To make calls, you need a Bluetooth headset paired to your phone. Because the Gear Live and the G Watch both use Android Wear, they have similar functionality. You control both mostly by voice. There aren’t many icons or buttons on the screen, as you’d find on previous smartwatches. You do have to get used to swiping left (for more information) or right (to dismiss a notification). But otherwise, the interface is clean and simple. One thing I wish for: a central place to view notifications, including ones I’ve dismissed. LG’s G Watch ($229, started shipping Thursday): LG is hoping to make its watch easier to use by making it without a physical button. It’s not really needed when voice control is so prominent, and I’ve used the Gear Live’s physical button only as a fallback for when I couldn’t figure out how to do something. The LG watch has about a third more battery capacity than Samsung’s, but both watches lasted about the same amount of time in my tests. The resolution and colors on LG’s always-on screen aren’t as good as they are on Samsung’s, though LG’s notifications use larger type and are easier to read. The G Watch can count steps but doesn’t have a heart rate sensor — the biggest way it differs from the Gear Live. The G Watch doesn’t have a camera or speakerphone either. The G Watch’s strap feels rubbery, but it’s replaceable with any standard 22-millimeter watch strap. The hard-plastic feel on Samsung’s watches isn’t much better, but you can replace their straps, too. Motorola plans to come out with the round-faced Moto 360 this summer, while the ones out so far have had square displays. And Apple is widely expected to have its own smartwatch this fall. I recommend waiting to see what they do. You might still gravitate toward Samsung’s or LG’s watch, but you risk regret if you buy one now.

     
  • Google Glass taking fans closer to the action Jul 5, 2014 8:32 AM
    Google Glass is slowly becoming more common in sports as teams and broadcasters try to bring fans closer to the action. The Philadelphia Eagles are going to test the Internet-connected eyewear for in-game use, and a company with a key application for the technology says it has secured a new round of financing that will help roll out its Glass program to sports, entertainment and other fields.

     
  • Review: Equalizer apps work better than Clari-Fi Jul 4, 2014 7:22 AM
    Bring back the equalizers! That’s my conclusion after trying out Clari-Fi, a new technology from audio equipment maker Harman Kardon. Clari-Fi aims to restore some of the audio signal that is lost because of digital compression in today’s download and streaming formats.

     
  • Fourth fun from home — hot dogs included Jul 4, 2014 6:00 AM
    If the weather and the crowds keep you away from your town’s Independence Day events this weekend, you can still enjoy the trappings of the holiday from your couch with TV shows that feature both gastronomic and pyrotechnic fireworks.

     
  • App Watch: FilmOn has much more than broadcast TV Jun 28, 2014 8:25 AM
    FilmOn offers over-the-air TV channels through a website and mobile apps. While Aereo’s monthly service starts at $8, FilmOn is free. But you have to put up with a short video ad before you start watching. You can watch on Windows and Mac computers, iOS, Android and BlackBerry 10 devices and Roku’s streaming player.

     
  • Review: Warming up to tablets with keyboard covers Jun 28, 2014 8:14 AM
    The Lumia 2520 came across as just another Windows tablet when it was released last fall. My attitude changed once I attached its optional, $150 keyboard cover. The tablet itself starts at about $600 and includes 4G LTE cellular capabilities.

     
  • Robots, roller coasters and nostalgia Jun 25, 2014 5:30 AM
    Wanna see giant robots? Sean has found a deal for you. How does an $8 coupon to see the new "Transformers" movie sound? Or, wanna relive the fun parks of your youth? Sean has found a TV show for you.

     
  • Nintendo’s ‘Tomodachi’ colorful but dull Jun 24, 2014 5:45 AM
    While Nintendo has made a fortune selling Mario, Pokemon and dozens of other video-game heroes to us, not everything makes it safely across the Pacific. “Tomodachi Life” has been a huge hit in Japan since its release last year — but something got lost in translation. “Tomodachi” (which means “friend”) is a simplified version of a “life simulator” like Electronic Arts’ “The Sims.” Overall, the “Tomodachi” island feels suffocating, probably because all your Miis lives in the same drab apartment complex and they all want something from you.

     
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