Saturday, September 5, 2015

POSTED: Thursday, July 23, 2015, 7:49 PM
Duerward “DJ Woody Wood” Beale is taking it to the shops.

With high tech means and good old fashioned conversation,  African-American men visiting  neighborhood Philadelphia barbershops will soon  be encouraged  to “cut through” the misinformation about the political process. To re-shape and re-style their  often-negative and dismissive thinking about elections and civic engagement.

Championed by Duerward "DJ Woody Wood" Beale, Youth Outreach Adolescent Community Awareness Program executive director (and former DJ for the hip hop heavies Three Times Dope),  the project is called Sharp Insight. It’s just won a $250,000 Knight News Challenge grant designed to get  politically cynical  and dis-engaged black men interested in  the civic process and returning to the polling booths.  

“Barber shops are trusted spaces in the African American community where black men talk about everything from sports and entertainment to marriage and politics,” observed Beale in his winning project proposal. “Some researchers refer to them as the ‘black man’s country club.’ Black men of all ages and socioeconomic backgrounds come together in the Barber Shop. We will recruit, educate barbers and provide them incentives for getting their male customers to take our surveys on iPads, read our nonpartisan election information, and continually discuss the importance of civic participation. The barbers that enroll will have their names listed on our radio partner’s website and those that disseminate the largest amounts of information will have a special radio promotion about their shop. “

POSTED: Thursday, July 23, 2015, 11:16 AM
Museum happenings like this aim to attract younger art enthusiasts.

Have a unique vision of the world? Like to take and post  offbeat photo  images on Instagram or Twitter?

Add the hashtag  #MyImpressionContest to your posts and you might be enjoying free admissions to the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s  primo exhibit of Impressionistic masterpieces,  on view through September 13, plus entrée to a special Garden Soiree next Wednesday (July 29) in the museum’s sculpture garden.

The party (actually open to all exhibit ticket holders)  promises a full day of lawn games, French Music, food truck repasts plus creatively cross-dressing models from  Dr. Sketchy’s  Anti-Art School you’ll also want to capture with camera lens or pad ‘n sketch pencils. 

POSTED: Wednesday, July 15, 2015, 1:47 PM
President Barack Obama looks to the audience. TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer

How do we close the “digital divide” - the gap between broadband internet connected families and those left out in the cold?

With ConnectHome, a new initiative announced Wednesday by President Obama to expand high speed broadband service to poverty-income students and families in Philadelphia, Camden and elsewhere, POTUS has lined up a whole lotta love and help from his friends in the public and private sector.

“This is one of those “it takes a village situations,” said Brigitte Daniels, vice president of Wilco Communications, a minority owned, Fort Washington based provider of discounted cable services for Philadelphia public housing residents and wireless internet to “low income zipcode” households citywide.

POSTED: Monday, July 13, 2015, 1:32 PM
Comcast launches streaming service. (Courtesy of Comcast)

Monday’s announcement about Stream, Comcast ‘s new $15-a-month streaming TV competitor to Sling TV, got Gizmo Guy growling. Why is Boston getting this first? What does Beantown have that Cheesesteak-ville (and Comcastic-Town) doesn’t?

Priced right and bundling "all major broadcast networks" (still missing on Sling TV) with HBO for reception on laptops, tablets and mobile phones, Stream is  targeting the customer who buys Internet service as a standalone product, who’s content watching TV shows on a smaller screen. The package will also include "thousands of on-demand movies and shows to watch home or away and even comes with access to TV Everywhere and a cloud DVR so you can record all your favorites and watch them later," announced vp Matt Strauss in a blog post.

Stream won’t be available initially on web & TV-connected devices like a Roku box or Apple TV, though sources suggest you will  be able to sign in on those devices (with your Stream ID) to watch on-demand HBO Go content. Oddly, the similar, standalone HBO Now service (receivable on web TV boxes) also goes for $15. So Stream is essentially “giving away”  local channels for free.

POSTED: Thursday, July 9, 2015, 5:18 PM
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Tesla still brings the power.

Given all the high voltage electronica dance music and tech-attuned art/insanity happening at Friday evening's Tesla People's Party, it's fair to presume guest-of-honor in absentia Nikola Tesla will be rolling and laughing in his grave. But then with the morrow, will get his serious due.


Holding forth outdoors on Independence Mall (6th and Market Streets, near the Liberty Bell) from 7 p.m. to 2 a.m. , this free event co-sponsored by the Tesla Science Foundation and Philly's "psytrance" music community Substratum has a loftier purpose than a high old time. It marks International Nikola Tesla Day and the birthday (happy 159th) of the Serbian-American inventor, electrical engineer and futurist who gave us (among other things) the modern alternating current (AC) electrical power system that energizes almost everything.


The bash also serves as a warmup for Saturday's sober discussions about Tesla as a tech visionary and hero, holding forth in the cozy confines of the Philadelphia Ethical Society, 1906 S. Rittenhouse Square.

POSTED: Wednesday, July 8, 2015, 3:32 PM
Co-Pilot brings a service rep to your TV screen in a flash.

Having a big brother watching you will soon be a good thing for Comcast/Xfinity X1 cable box users. The company is  fine tuning a new system – Co-Pilot – that  allows a tech support staffer  to remotely (and instantly!) take over that  box and your TV screen, to then demonstrate (on screen)  the ins and outs of the system’s  operation and determine if  (as you might fear) the gear is malfunctioning.

“Customers often have questions like, ‘how can I set up a DVR recording?” explained Comcast customer service chief Charlie Herrin in a blog post today. “With Co-Pilot, our tech support can see a customer’s screen and – after receiving an on-screen verification code from the customer - ‘take the controls,’ walking them through the various features that come with their service.”

Remote access and manipulation of home gear is a marvel  computer customers have long enjoyed, offered by hardware makers and software companies to remotely  test, update  and “tune-up” a PC or Mac.

POSTED: Wednesday, July 8, 2015, 12:35 PM
Christopher Gray pitches Scholly on "Shark Tank"

Some of the best pitching won’t be happening the next few days at Citizen’s Bank Park, but rather at the Pennsylvania Convention Center and at Drexel University, where Shark Tank and the TechGirlz’ Entrepreneur Camp will respectively be holding court.

Having lucked out before with Philly finds – the very well received  scholarship search app Scholly, Scrub Daddy (smiley faced sponges)  and low cost home decorating service Zoom Interiors  – the gang from ABC’s entrepreneur-focused reality show Shark Tank will be staging an “open casting call” on Saturday for  candidates as a feature of  the NAACP Convention holding forth in the Convention Center.

The visit is part of a “nationwide tour” by Shark Tank producers  to  bring “more diverse ideas and voices to the show,” said Brandon Andrews of event co-sponsor ValuesPartnership, an organization that brings foundations, non-profits and private companies into partnerships with “faith-based, ethnic and other grassroots influencers.”  

POSTED: Monday, June 29, 2015, 7:29 PM
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OneTwoSee sports app for Comcast X1 is so smart it will predict a likely game winner in the fourth inning.

Sports viewers have twitchy fingers, jumping between event channels or looking down at their smartphone/tablet at the first sign of a game lull or commercial.


But with the interactive data apps that Philadelphia based OneTwoSee supplies as a compliment to live sports events, users become “far more likely” to stick with a game (and keep peace in the house), said OneTwoSee Co-Founder/CEO Chris Reynolds.


Satisfaction levels should likely loom even higher, starting Tuesday, as Comcast cranks up  supplementary content provided by OneTwoSee in the Xfinity Sports App - a free, on-screen enhancement  X1 box users can call up on their TV in split-screen fashion.

About this blog
Jonathan Takiff covers all manner of high tech gadgets – and the entertaining stuff you play on them.. Reach Jonathan at takiffj@phillynews.com.

Jonathan Takiff Inquirer Columnist
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