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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Incredible Laser Etching on Dollar Bills [Pics]

By: Dahlia Rideout (View Profile)

Critically acclaimed tattoo artist, Scott Campbell, recently showed his work at the O.H.W.O.W. gallery in Miami, FL. The highlight of the evening was a series of laser-cut etchings, each on a stack of $1 bills. The collection is entitled “Make It Rain” and shows a sampling of the artist’s dark and beautiful undertones.

Scott Campbell was born in rural Louisiana and began his career illustrating before mastering the art of tattoo. In 2004, he opened Saved Tattoo in Brooklyn where he perfected his signature style. More at

Photo by Norman Lendzion

Photo by Norman Lendzion

Photo by Norman Lendzion

Additional scenes from the show:

Photo by Norman Lendzion

Photo by Norman Lendzion

Photo by Norman Lendzion

60 Minutes: Testing a Fully-Functional Bionic Arm [w/video]

When Americans are wounded in Afghanistan or Iraq, no expense is spared to save their lives. But once they're home, if they have suffered an amputation of their arm, they usually end up wearing an artificial limb that hasn't changed much since World War II. That is starting to change. New technology offers hope of a fully-functional bionic arm.

read more | digg story

For Sale: Slightly Used Space Suit, $500K OBO

Starting April 16, Regency-Superior will host a four-day auction featuring an ultra-rare spacesuit used for testing in the Gemini program (see video) along with dozens of other rare items, photographs and space hardware.

read more | digg story

Pictures of the Day: Keukenhof flower garden, near Lisse, Netherlands

Sayanthiny, a 12-year-old girl of Sri Lanka origin living in France, walked in a field of tulips in the Keukenhof flower garden, near Lisse, Netherlands, Monday. The Dutch Bureau for Tourism and Congresses estimates about 100,000 people visited the site Easter Weekend. (Peter Dejong/Associated Press)

Firefighters removed a marble statue of the Madonna from a damaged church in Paganica, Italy, Monday after last week’s deadly earthquake. Italian Jews and Holocaust survivors arrived to central Italy Monday to aid the communities that sheltered them during World War II. (Max Rossi/Reuters)

Polish seasonal workers harvested asparagus in a field near Klaistow, Germany, Monday. Hundreds of seasonal workers travel there yearly to harvest. (Michael Urban/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images)

People performed in Shenyang, Liaoning province, China, park Monday. (Reuters)

Click here for many more.....

Recession Mobile: Studio Apartment Gets 15 Miles Per Gallon

Joe Eskenazi
Cozy studio -- with a piano! It's the 'Peggy M.'
There's no denying it: Crockett Bodelson and Sandra Wang's studio apartment is as cute as a bug's ear -- albeit not much larger than one. It's well-lit, was almost entirely stocked via freebies on Craigslist (including an upright piano), and is decorated with the couple's own artwork. Just make sure not to park it in a red zone and you're golden.

The couple were sitting on the back of the "Peggy M" -- so christened in honor of the vast amount of peg board used to craft the house-van's interior -- on a picture-perfect Sunday afternoon in Hayes Valley, hawking their artwork to passers by. A number of folks -- including your humble narrator -- were intrigued with the pastel pink Ford Econoline 350-turned-dwelling and Wang invited us inside for the 10-cent tour.

Visitors hop the back flap -- sorry, the Peggy M is not ADA compliant -- and sidestep between a white piano, a Franklin stove and a table with several chairs. A workshop area complete with a tiny library and several paintings is squeezed between the table and the drivers' seats; a pair of mattresses hangs overhead held in place with a pulley system. It's not exactly expansive, but it is roomy enough that the couple -- and their oversize eyewear -- were able to live in it from June through August of last year as they drove down Highway 1 to Los Angeles and back, selling paintings all the way.

Incidentally, Wang and Bodelson don't currently live in the Peggy M -- sleeping in a vehicle is against the law in most cities, and the couple have been hassled about it throughout the state. And in addition to being simply a cool thing to do, the Peggy M is an artistic statement about recycling and green energy (its electric is provided via solar panels). True, the biodiesel van's 15 MPG isn't that impressive. But, then again, that's just about exactly what Mayor Gavin Newsom's hybrid SUV is pulling down -- and the Peggy M has much more character.

Click on the jump for more photos of the Peggy M.
Joe Eskenazi
In the pink

Joe Eskenazi
And here's the inside

Joe Eskenazi
The couple at home

Joe Eskenazi
The library...

Joe Eskenazi
And the workshop

Joe Eskenazi
Au revoir!

Not Again! 24 Great Films Too Painful To Watch Twice

A pretty good list over all I think.

read more | digg story

Browser wars 2009: Firefox, Chrome, & Internet Explorer

Over the last weeks, I've been working a lot with all three of the major Web browsers, and I've come to some conclusions. This isn't a review as such, it's just what I, as a user, who never has less than three browser windows and several dozens tabs open at a time, have experienced.

Google Chrome. When Chrome first came out, I liked it a lot. With version out, I still like it a lot.

I have two simple reasons I like it: Speed and security. Chrome's V8 JavaScript engine is faster than fast. Only Apple's Safari even comes close to keeping up with Chrome. The rest are just a bunch of slowpokes.

Now, many times when you read about reviews with benchmarks the differences, in real life, aren't really visible. That's not the case with Chrome vs. its rivals. If this was a NASCAR race, it would be beating them to the checkered flag by laps.

Chrome was also the only browser that wasn't cracked in seconds or minutes in the recent PWN2OWN hacker competition. In fact, Chrome never was busted.

So, why isn't Chrome my number one? Well, for one thing, it's Windows only, and I'm not a Windows-only kind of computer user. Linux is my main desktop, and I also use Macs a fair amount. What I want is a browser that will work on all three of the main desktop platforms.

Internet Explorer 8. I know many of you won't believe this, but I actually rather liked Internet Explorer 8, when I first started using it. I especially liked that I opened one tab from a link in another, the 'related' tabs have the same color. By automatically organizing the tabs by color-coding, I found that managing tabs was instantly much easier.

Since then, though, I've been hearing from people who have had IE-specific applications -- oh the irony! -- break on them. Since the only point for many people to run IE at all was so that they could use those backwards Web sites, there goes one big reason to use IE right there. By the way, ready or not, Microsoft is about to start offering IE 8 to users via Windows update. If you really use IE a lot, I'm inclined to say 'skip it' for now until they have some of the compatibility bugs beaten out of it.

Firefox 3.5 beta/Firefox 3.08. So, I'm back to Firefox for my best overall browser. It works reasonably fast, it's reasonably secure, and it will work with pretty much any site on the Web. Besides running on every desktop around, Firefox has one other big advantage over the others: its software ecosystem.

There are hundreds of useful Firefox extensions out there and they make Firefox more than just a browser. With Xmarks (formerly Foxmarks) and the Google Toolbar for Firefox, I can do more with Firefox than I can with the other browsers.

So, while Chrome is faster and more secure and IE 8 is vastly improved over IE 7 and 6, the bottom line is that Firefox and its friends still give me a better over-all Web experience. And, when you're like me and you need to find information quickly on the Web all day long, that's no small thing.

Egypt discovers dozens of well-preserved mummies in 4,000-year-old necropolis in Fayoum

By Cher Thornhill

Egyptian archaeologists have discovered an ancient necropolis containing dozens of beautifully preserved mummies dating back as far as 4,000 years.

Excavations sponsored by Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities revealed 53 tombs cut into rock south east of the Illahun pyramids in the oasis of Fayoum.

Antiquities chief Zahi Hawass described four of the mummies, dating to the 22nd Dynasty (931-725 BC), as among the most beautiful ever discovered.

Mummy find

Fayoum mummy

Remarkable: The decoration and inscriptions on the mummy trappings are unusually well preserved

Sitting in wooden coffins, the mummies are wrapped in linen and painted in the traditional Egyptian colours of gold, turquoise and terracotta.

The decoration and inscriptions on the mummy trappings are remarkably well preserved.

The mission, led by Supervisor of Antiquities for Middle Egypt Dr. Abdel-Rahman El-Ayedi, also recovered charred remains from a number of other coffins, which are thought to have burned during the Coptic period.

Mummy find

Ancient beauty: A wooden coffin containing a linen-wrapped mummy covered in cartonnage found by the Egyptian archaeological mission

Among the remains, the team unearthed 15 painted masks, clay pots and protection charms known as amulets.

The archeologists also found a Middle Kingdom funerary chapel with offering table.

Preliminary study suggests the chapel was reused in subsequent periods, perhaps as late as the Roman era (30 BC to 337 AD).

Minister of Culture Farouk Hosni, who announced the discovery, said the tombs vary in design. While some are reached through a single burial shaft, others have another shaft leading to a second, lower chamber.

Enlarge Mummies

The mummies were painted in traditional ancient Egyptian colours of gold, turquoise and terracotta

The latest discovery follows another exciting find just two months ago when Zahi Hawass announced the uncovering of thirty mummies inside a sealed tomb in the world's oldest standing step pyramid at Saqqara.

It is unusual to find intact burials in well-known necropolises such as Saqqara, which served the nearby city of Memphis, because thieves have ransacked the area over the years.

Of the roughly 30 mummies found inside the burial chamber alongside the limestone sarcophagus and its mummy, Hawass said some would have been poor and some wealthy. They may have been relatives of the original owner.

The Fayoum already holds a special place in Egyptian and in world history.

Greek mummy portraits found there, examples of which are kept in its museums, are believed to be the first real-life portraits in the world.

Stars Bare All for Magazine Spread

The Naked Truth

Allure asked five celebrities to bare it all for the camera. Learn what they had to say about self-esteem, their bodies, and stripping down; for more of our revealing interviews with them, pick up the May issue of Allure, on newsstands April 21.

By Danielle Pergament


ALLURE: What did you do to prepare for the shoot?
PADMA LAKSHMI: "I exercised a little bit extra, but I actually think I look better when I have a little bit of weight on—my breasts are fuller, and I'm curvier than when I'm at my thinnest."

ALLURE: Are you confident about your body?
PL: "Yes; I like the way I look. I think I look better now than I did in my 20s, because I'm more confident about my body—and I don't want to look like anyone but myself."

ALLURE: Do you sleep naked?
PL: "I tend to sleep in the nude. I'm an innately tactile person and a very sensual-leaning woman. You have to use the word 'leaning' or it sounds like I'm boasting! When I'm in my own private space, I do spend time with very little on."

slide 2 of 6


ALLURE: Why did you agree to pose naked?
LYNN COLLINS: "Women with confidence in their bodies are the sexiest thing, so I put on my cape of courage and did it. It was quite liberating!"

ALLURE: What body part were you nervous to expose?
LC: "He shot that place where your butt meets your thigh. It's a special place on a woman; it's a highly erogenous zone, but it's one of the hardest places to get in shape."

ALLURE: How do love scenes in films compare to our shoot?
LC: "It's different when you're working with another person, for sure. By yourself, there is a certain amount of security involved, and you feel like you have more power."

slide 3 of 6


ALLURE: What did you do to prepare for the shoot?
SHARON LEAL: "At first, I was flattered to be asked, and then I thought, Wow, can I do it? I tried not to have my late-night French-fry fix, and I tried to mentally prepare and keep the fear at bay."

ALLURE: What was the worst part of the shoot?
SL: "The ache in my hip from holding the pose."

ALLURE: What happened when you dropped the robe?
SL: "I just breathed and said to myself, 'I'm comfortable, I'm beautiful; I'm comfortable, I'm beautiful,' until I didn't have to say that anymore.... It's liberating, but posing once may be enough."

slide 4 of 6


ALLURE: Why did you agree to pose naked?
CH: "I like being naked, and I like Allure, so I figured, Why not?"

ALLURE: What was it like on the set?
CH: "I think it was easy—you're naked a couple times a day, so I think it would be easy for most women."

ALLURE: What body parts are you most proud of?
CH: "My boobs are good. They're real and perky. Even if you can't see them, the important thing is that I know about them, and the guys I've slept with know about them."

slide 5 of 6


ALLURE: Are you comfortable with nudity?
ELIZA DUSHKU: "I grew up with three brothers, and I was never shy about covering up. It got to the point where my mom was like, 'OK, honey, it's time to put some clothes on now.'"

ALLURE: What about these days?
ED: "I'll strip down to my underwear and my Ugg boots when I eat lunch in my trailer."

ALLURE: How would you compare this to filming a love scene?
ED: "Love scenes are much more multidimensional, because often you have two people who have just met and you're rolling around, and it's more awkward than when you're posing alone."

Norwegian man caught having sex with girlfriend while driving at 100mph

A Norwegian man faces a heavy fine and a driving ban after police caught him having sex with his girlfriend while speeding on the motorway, police said on Monday.

The unnamed couple, a 28-year-old man and a 22-year-old woman, were caught in the act late on Easter Sunday by traffic police on the E18 highway, some 25 miles west of Oslo.

Officers who clocked the couple's silver Mazda 323 racing at 133 kilometres per hour in a 100 zone realised they were doing more than just breaking the speed limit, police told AFP.

"It was veering from one side to the other because the woman was sitting on the man's lap while he was driving and doing the act, shall we say," said Tor Stein Hagen, a superintendent with Soendre Buskerund district police.

"He couldn't see much because her back was in the way," he added.

"Why they did it on a highway with such a high risk we don't know."

After following the couple for nearly a kilometre, officers pulled the car over at a service station.

"We have taken away his driving licence because of the danger that he caused," Mr Hagen said.

Prosecutors will decide within the next week what his punishment will be, with police having filmed the incident to use as evidence against the driver.

Mr Hagen said he expected the man to face a fine of "several thousand Norwegian crowns" and a lengthy driving ban.

Can we find a picture???

Elliott Smith When I Paint My Masterpiece (Bob Dylan Cover) Live in Boston 1998

Elliott Smith @ Newbury Comics in Boston covering Bob Dylan's When I Paint My Masterpiece.

Terminator Concept Art Shows The Wreckage Our Rebellious Robots Leave Behind

New Terminator Salvation art shows us the dismal future we all face - including a special look at San Francisco's bleak wreckage. Enjoy the end of the world.

The work, posted at Sarah Connor Society, showcases the brilliant painting of ILM artist Christian Alzmann and Art Director Warren Fu. Images like this get me very revved up and hopeful for a lot of sweeping views of mass destruction, with familiar landmarks wedged in here and there - like the remnants of the Golden Gate Bridge.

If you're looking for more check out the Harvester from last week. Terminator will be out May 21st.

New bill would give president power to halt Internet traffic

Greg Fulton
Published: Monday April 13, 2009

A recently proposed but little-noticed Senate bill would allow the federal government to shut down the Internet in times of declared emergency, and enables unprecedented federal oversight of private network administration.

The bill's draft states that "the president may order a cybersecurity emergency and order the limitation or shutdown of Internet traffic" and would give the government ongoing access to "all relevant data concerning (critical infrastructure) networks without regard to any provision of law, regulation, rule, or policy restricting such access."

Authored by Democratic Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia and Republican Olympia Snowe of Maine, the Cybersecurity Act of 2009 seeks to create a Cybersecurity Czar to centralize power now held by the Pentagon, National Security Agency, Department of Commerce and the Department of Homeland Security.

While the White House has not officially endorsed the draft, it did have a hand in its language, according to The Washington Post.

Proponents of the measure stress the need to centralize cybersecurity of the private sector. "People say this is a military or intelligence concern," says Rockefeller, "but it is a lot more than that. It suddenly gets into the realm of traffic lights and rail networks and water and electricity."

Snowe added, "America's vulnerability to massive cyber-crime, global cyber-espionage and cyber-attacks has emerged as one of the most urgent national security problems facing our country today. Importantly, this legislation loosely parallels the recommendations in the CSIS [Center for Strategic and International Studies] blue-ribbon panel report to President Obama and has been embraced by a number of industry and government thought leaders."

Critics decry the broad language, and are watchful for amendments to the bill seeking to refine the provisions. According to, no amendments to the draft have been submitted.

Organizations like the Center for Democracy and Technology fear if passed in its current form, the proposal leaves too much discretion of just what defines critical infrastructure. The bill would also impose mandates for designated private networks and systems, including standardized security software, testing, licensing and certification of cyber-security professionals.

"I'd be very surprised if it doesn't include communications systems, which are certainly critical infrastructure," CDT General Counsel Greg Nojeim told eWEEK. "The president would decide not only what is critical infrastructure but also what is an emergency."

Adds Jennifer Granick, civil liberties director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, "Essentially, the Act would federalize critical infrastructure security. Since many systems (banks, telecommunications, energy)are in the hands of the private sector, the bill would create a major shift of power away from users and companies to the federal government."

it's amazing what this woman can do with sand.

Sand Art By Ilana yahav...

Title : Let's Get Together

Dedicated to : Ana Carolina Pereira
Dedicado a : Ana Carolina Pereira


Being a celebrity is kind of like being a puppy. Everyone thinks you're really cute for a few weeks and then they get tired of them acting stupid and pooping all over the place. Unfortunately we have to watch the painful process of the puppy/celebrity getting older, less attractive and fatter until it's reached a point where we don't care about them anymore and get a new puppy. This is when the puppy usually has a meltdown and starts wetting their bed and barking for no reason ... just like celebrities.

#10 Tyrant Banks Loses Her Damn Mind - As several of her ex-boyfriends will attest, Hell hath no fury for a Tyra scorned.

#9 Corey Haim Has A Hard Time With Words And Sentences - There's a very touching moment where Corey says "mum shoo bada swee do ga pooooo" and I think that's something we can all relate to that.

#8 Alec Baldwin Wins The "Parent Of The Year Award" - I don't know about you, but I find it comforting to know that Alec is the same neurotic asshole that he pretends to be on TV and in movies.

#7 Director David O. Russell Unleashes The Fury On Lily Tomlin - Why it was necessary to freak out over a movie that sucked as bad as I Heart Huckabees is something we'll never know.

#6 Christian Bale Goes American Psycho - And you can only imagine what happens when a McDonald's drive-thru screws up his order.

#5 Britney Turns Into Mrs. Snot Bubbles On Dateline - It's amazing how much Britney looked like Miss Piggy during this video. Wait, so that would make Justin Timberlake Kermit and K-Fed Fozzy The Bear? Yeah, that sounds about right.

#4 Tom Cruise Channels His Lord Xenu On Oprah - The moment that Tom Cruise really tried to convince the world that he wasn't gay and the moment that Katie Holmes agreed to take a four-year vow of silence.

#3 Farrah Fawcett Brain Melts On Letterman - This was truly devastating blow for dumb blondes everywhere as Farrah actually thought Letterman's New York City backdrop was the real deal. If you have an extra six minutes, I also really recommend watching the first part of the interview here.

#2 Bill O'Reilly Exposes His Inner-Asshole - It kinda makes you wonder how many times Bill was sucker-punched as a child. I'm guessing it was anywhere from 17-33 times before he turned twenty.

#1 Michael Richards Turns Into David Duke - As far as I know, my continuing level of whiteness and paleness does not allow me to comment on matters of a racist nature.

Fretlight Interactive Guitar Learning System Review

Fretlight guitars are fairly good quality for the price. Fretlight Guitar

The explosive popularity of the Rock Band and Guitar Hero franchise games has had a predictable ripple effect on the popularity of the guitar. Some players got enough of a feel of rocking out in those games to say to themselves, "I'd really like to learn how to play guitar for real," and instructors all over the world have reported a sharp increase in new students. Despite the abundance of guitar lessons online, finding a good teacher that understands how to keep you motivated, practicing, and learning important skills for one-on-one instruction is still the best way to learn how to play guitar.

Unfortunately, this can get expensive. After shelling out a few hundred bucks for starter guitar (and maybe amp), the lessons are going to run you $20–60 an hour, usually every week. A bigger problem for some people is time or location. There may not be a guitar tutor within easy driving distance, you may be restricted to public transportation, and house calls jack up the lesson rates dramatically. Maybe you work especially long or strange hours, and can't find someone to give you lessons at 10pm when you actually have a little free time.

The folks at Optek Music Systems have a solution: the Fretlight Guitar and software. This unique guitar works with PC and Mac software to light up LEDs beneath the fretboard, showing you where to put your fingers. It's in interesting product that has been around for a few years, and is starting to make a push into more homes thanks to the recent surge in interest for guitar instruction and some new software.

I personally am a rank amateur with the guitar. I know a handful of chords and a scale pattern or two, and I have had a couple of brief on-again off-again stints taking lessons. I simply have a hard time fitting lessons into my schedule well enough to justify their cost. In other words, I'm the exact target market for the Fretlight—a willing and able technology enthusiast that has no problem using my computer as a teaching aide. So I lived with the Fretlight and its software for over a month, and this is my review. Continued... The guitar I used for this review is the model FG-421 Standard, in "Renegade Red" color (other colors are available). It's a fairly standard Stratocaster-clone style—maple neck, two-way truss rod, one humbucker, and two single coil pickups. The company sells this model for $500, the same price as their Vintage model. You can pay an extra $100 for the "Jazzmaster" model, and $900 for the Pro model. Quality-wise, it's about what you would get if you went down to your local guitar megashop and spent $500 on a regular Strat clone. It's pretty good, and definitely all a beginner would need, but experienced guitarists might want to step up to the Pro model or something better.

The key difference is in the Fretlight plug on the bottom corner edge of the guitar. It looks like a MIDI plug, but it's not. It's a proprietary connection used only for the Fretlight guitar.

You plug the included Fretlight cable into this plug—the other end terminates into a USB and 1/4-inch jack that is used for a foot petal accessory (we didn't test that). Plug the USB into your computer and you're ready to go.

Note that this is strictly a one-way connection. The computer tells the guitar which frets to light up and when, but the guitar sends no data back to the computer at all. The only data going back into your computer would be from the optional foot petal accessory, which can be used to control the Fretlight apps (pausing, looping, etc). If you want amplified sound, you have to hook the guitar up to a regular guitar amp. Fretlight sells one, but there's nothing proprietary about it at all, and any guitar amp will do.

The concept here is simple. Fretlight applications help teach you how to play guitar by lighting up which frets you should be holding down. Of course, they're just red LEDs so you don't necessarily know which fingers to use, but it doesn't take long to get to the point where you sort of intuitively understand that. The LEDs are beneath the fretboard, so it's not like you can feel them or see them when they're not lit up, and they don't impact the playability of the guitar at all. The real strength of the Fretlight, therefore, is in its supporting software.

Unfortunately, the purchase of a Fretlight guitar does not actually include any software. What it includes are demos of all the software Optek Music Systems offers. You're going to have to buy one or more programs at $30–40 a piece, plus songs or lessons to use with them. That's the bad news. The good news is that you don't get gouged on the guitar. They're reasonably priced, and you don't pay some huge premium for the Fretlight technology built in.

Let's describe the Fretlight software. Continued...
Fretlight Lesson Player (included)—The one piece of truly included software is the Fretlight Lesson Player, which is the oldest piece of software in the lineup, and in some ways the worst. The interface and function feels like a piece of mid-90s shareware, a bit clunky and full of hypertext links. The lessons themselves are very much like reading guitar lesson books, only with clickable samples that pop up a little tiny player window (eww). The exercises light up the guitar as you play them. It's not really much more fun or engaging than reading one of the many guitar lesson books out there. It comes with a bunch of free beginner lessons that show you basic chord shapes and strumming exercises and stuff, but you have to buy intermediate, advanced, or "style" lesson packs.

Improviser ($39.95)—Even pros will get some benefit out of the Improviser app. You can load up specially formatted files that will light up all the notes in a particular key, mode, or scale style along the whole fretboard. If you're a beginner, it's a good way to "jam" along with songs until you get a feel for the scale and mode shapes. If you're experienced and want to play a Spanish Phrygian mode style in F#, it's a handy way to light up all the valid notes on the fretboard. The app comes with 125 styles and modes, each of which can be transposed into any key. It won't teach you how to play guitar, but it can be one of the most effective tools for those who already know how.

M-Player ($29.95)—This is one of the most fun apps, and for intermediate guitar players it can be one of the best ways to progress. The app uses specially coded MIDI files that include the fret position info for a variety of parts (usually rhythm, lead, and EZ Chords for beginners). They're bookmarked into sections, and you can set A and B loop points anywhere you like. The MIDI sound is kind of awful, of course, but you're not meant to actually perform with the MIDI track as backup. It's relatively easy, and fun, to loop one section of a song, set the speed down low, and bit by bit learn to play it by following the lights on the fretboard. There are seven basic song demos included (Carolina In My Mind, Down Under, Every Breath You Take, Evil Ways, Landslide, What I Like About You, and Wild Thing), but the rest you need to buy from a quickly growing library on Tracks cost $1.99 each, which seems like a lot for MIDI tracks.

For Mac users with GarageBand, there's a Fretlight plugin for $29.95 that lets you pick scale, chord, and position and light up the guitar to play along with Garageband tracks. You can even make sequence lists and cycle through them if you have the footswitch accessory. Continued...
Video Player ($29.95)—The newest and best application from Optek is the Fretlight Video Player. It's a basic video playback application that plays special Fretlight video lessons (and soon, jam sessions) that light up the Fretlight guitar along with the video. As with M-Player, you can set up A-B loop points and adjust the playback speed. Unfortunately, if you play the video back at anything other than 100% speed, the audio from the video is replaced by MIDI, which sounds terrible. Optek says this is because it isn't possible to slow things down very far without the recording becoming distorted, but I've heard great things from the Amazing Slow Downer and from the Melodyne products that seem to handle dramatic speed changes just fine. When you buy a Fretlight guitar you get a pair of basic lessons, and intermediate lesson sampler, and an advanced lesson sampler, for free. But you still have to buy the program, and further lessons have to be bought from for $14.95 each.

Axmaster ($29.95)—For expert users, there's the Axmaster program from JCS Automation. This is definitely not an app for beginners. You use it to place notes or chords on a fretboard and create diagrams. You can print out fretboard diagrams to use on Web pages or in other programs, and build HTML-based guitar "lessons" much like what you see in the Lesson Player software. If you're really into teaching guitar to others or run a guitar lessons Web site (of which there appear to be hundreds), this could be a cool tool. But it does require some time and effort to navigate and create content, and none of that is particularly useful for those learning to play guitar. Continued... After playing around with the Fretlight guitar and software for a month, what do I think? It's generally a cool idea with some nice features, and unique in what it does. But there is definitely room for improvement. If you want to learn to play, you could do worse than buying a Fretlight guitar—they're not prohibitively expensive and some of the software is genuinely useful. I don't think the Lesson Player is going to get a "never touched a real guitar before" beginner off the ground any faster than a regular book is, but the beginner lessons in the Video Player may be the next best thing to real lessons.

Then again, there are tons of beginner video guitar lessons on the Web. YouTube alone has more than you could possibly sit through. So why pay $30 for Optek's app and possibly $15 per lesson/content pack thereafter? Simply put, seeing the frets light up in real time as you're supposed to play them is definitely a boon to those learning how to play.

There are really two main problems with the whole Fretlight system, right now. First, the computer can tell the guitar what to do, but the guitar doesn't tell the computer what it's doing. Ear training is all well and good, but without the computer knowing what you're doing on the guitar, there's really no interactivity possible. If you really want to keep people hooked on practicing, you have to make a game out of it.

You want to give people the excitement of Rock Band or Guitar Hero, and that's not even technically possible with the current Fretlight guitar. We're told that a future version will incorporate a MIDI pickup and two-way communication with the PC, which will allow the PC to judge if you're hitting the right notes/chords, strumming in time, etc. This ability to "close the feedback loop" will be invaluable for truly teaching people how to play.

Second, the software is a bit of a jumbled mess. Improviser and M-Player look the same and do similar things, and don't need to be separate apps. Lesson Player needs to be re-written from scratch (the window isn't even resizable!). M-Player's song should be real recordings, with better technology for playing at a slower pace.

When I use The Amazing Slowdowner, a very cool app for slowing down and looping sections of audio files, I can't help but wish it lit up the Fretlight's fretboard like M-Player does, or that M-Player used TAS's slow-down tech to play real songs. You can only listen to so much basic MIDI out of the average computer without going insane. Frankly, these apps should be included with the purchase of the guitar, since they're selling you content piece-by-piece.

If all the apps were rolled together into one, with an integrated store for buying content, they'd really be on to something. As it is, buying the Video Player is probably a no-brainer, and M-Player may have value for a lot of people. Doing so is still cheaper than paying for weekly lessons. Continued... I'd have to say the Fretlight guitar and software is certainly more than just a novelty, but it still has a way to go before realizing its potential as a computer-assisted way to teach guitar, and more importantly, keep them motivated and having fun doing it. The key missing ingredient is interactivity, which just isn't possible with the current hardware in any meaningful way.

Fortunately, the folks at Optek seem to be well aware of their current limitations and room for improvement. I spoke with them, and heard about some very interesting ideas on the horizon. A "two-way" guitar with MIDI pickup is one idea, but how about their own lesson site? Imagine if people could encode their YouTube-style homemade video lesson with data to light up the guitar. Now you have brought the power of the community to provide free lesson content to everybody, while working with the Fretlight's major selling point.

There are many such ideas floating around at Optek—it appears the company has all the necessary ambition. But to grow into the business and product they envision. Optek needs to stop thinking of themselves as a guitar hardware company and start thinking of themselves as a software company. 90% of the stuff they need to make this product truly great is about software.

Future prospects aside, the Fretlight guitar is still a pretty cool kit, and some of the software is worth the price of admission, too. As much as it's easy to see unrealized potential, they're still doing something here that nobody else really offers, and it can be genuinely useful for those learning to play guitar, or to experienced guitarists looking to further broaden their understanding of theory. A fully interactive Fretlight 2.0 with a single well-integrated, well-designed piece of software would be the ideal home guitar learning tool. While we wait for that to happen, the current offerings are still worthwhile.

Product: Fretlight Guitar and Software

Company: Fretlight

Price: Starting at $400

Pros: Reasonable quality guitar at a decent price, light-up fretboard is a genuinely useful tool, a couple of the apps are great teaching aids.

Cons: Too many separate apps, some of them are old and have poor UI, too much reliance on MIDI.

Summary: This is far from the idealized vision of a "real guitar" interactive teaching system, but it's still a unique and useful tool for students.

Copyright (c) 2009Ziff Davis Media Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Glory Days: Vintage, Pre-Carpocalypse Auto Dealerships

By The Auto Insider
Do you remember the experience of visiting your friendly neighborhood Chevrolet dealership 50 years ago? No? Well, grab your hula hoops and check out our 60-picture gallery of the past below.

The good ol' days are gone, never to return again, but we've compiled a huge 60-image gallery, with the help of our friends at both Yenko and The Car Lounge, depicting the better days.

These were days when the bar was set so low, Fords were viewed as more dependable than any car and a Cadillac was something to aspire to. We miss those days. Although maybe that's got less to do with a real love of the era and more to do with the mind culling and removing painful negative imagery from thoughts of the past. Whatever the reason, join us in our idyllically over-idealized, idealized dream-like pictorial tribute to the great automotive dealerships of the halcyon days of yesteryear.

Vintage Automotive Dealerships

Vintage Auto DealershipsVintage Auto DealershipsVintage Auto DealershipsVintage Auto DealershipsVintage Auto DealershipsVintage Auto DealershipsVintage Auto DealershipsVintage Auto DealershipsVintage Auto DealershipsVintage Auto DealershipsVintage Auto DealershipsVintage Auto DealershipsVintage Auto DealershipsVintage Auto DealershipsVintage Auto DealershipsVintage Auto DealershipsVintage Auto DealershipsVintage Auto DealershipsVintage Auto DealershipsVintage Auto DealershipsVintage Auto DealershipsVintage Auto DealershipsVintage Auto DealershipsVintage Auto DealershipsVintage Auto DealershipsVintage Auto DealershipsVintage Auto DealershipsVintage Auto DealershipsVintage Auto DealershipsVintage Auto Dealerships

Vintage Auto DealershipsVintage Auto DealershipsVintage Auto DealershipsVintage Auto DealershipsVintage Auto DealershipsVintage Auto DealershipsVintage Auto DealershipsVintage Auto DealershipsVintage Auto DealershipsVintage Auto DealershipsVintage Auto DealershipsVintage Auto DealershipsVintage Auto DealershipsVintage Auto DealershipsVintage Auto DealershipsVintage Auto DealershipsVintage Auto DealershipsVintage Auto DealershipsVintage Auto DealershipsVintage Auto DealershipsVintage Auto DealershipsVintage Auto DealershipsVintage Auto DealershipsVintage Auto DealershipsVintage Auto DealershipsVintage Auto DealershipsVintage Auto DealershipsVintage Auto DealershipsVintage Auto DealershipsVintage Auto Dealerships

[via Yenko, TCL]