All posts by Derek Johnson

Derek Johnson is a contributor at Techerator and is pursuing a law degree at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington. He has a degree in Communication and Graphic Design from University of North Dakota and enjoys mountains, a round of golf, and a good single malt scotch.

Getting an Epic custom clothing experience with Epic Shirtmakers tailored shirts

I have a problem. On the one hand, I love looking good in a well-fitting shirt, and on the other, someone up there decided it would be fun to proportion my body in a way that makes it impossible for any normal shirt to fit me.

You see, I’m not overly tall, but my arms are super long. Also, I’m a pretty thin guy but my back is more broad than most. If I get a shirt that fits my arms and back, it looks like I’m wearing a tent with a hula hoop for a collar. Getting something that fits my neck and torso means my wrists are naked and any sudden move comes with the danger of ripping the back of my shirt.

I’ve read of, and have been told about, the advantages of tailored shirts, but could not justify spending the time and especially the money to ever dream of using that option. That is, until I stumbled upon Epicshirtmakers.com.

The guys at Epic Shirtmakers set out with one goal in mind, to integrate their deep understanding and sourcing of quality textiles with their longstanding relationships with master tailors through an online platform.  They aim to provide all the customizations and beneficial aspects of custom dress shirts, but with a convenience level that has never been part of the industry.

Epic Shirtmakers found that there were essentially two kinds of websites for tailored shirts: The first type was simple and easy to navigate, but the problem was the product was cheaply made and generally something of the quality you could pick up at most department stores. The other type offered great customization and quality but you needed to have a major in computer science, a protractor, and calculator to figure it out, not to mention deep pockets to cover the price.

Epic proceeded to create a site with the best of both worlds. Using a combination of over 120 quality materials and the Epic Wizard (more on that later), Epic was able to not only create a fantastic product with the highest quality materials, but also utilize an intuitive and easy-to-use interface to offer great customization.

The secret is the Epic Wizard. This system breaks down the design and sizing of the tailored shirt into three effortless stages.

Stage One: The Fabric

Epic Shirtmakers boasts a large selection of quality fabrics to choose from, and it is constantly being updated and added to. At the time of the writing of this article the count was at 123 fabrics including an assortment of different colors in solid, striped, checkered, and herringbone patterns, among others.

Stage Two: Styling

After you have selected your desired fabric from Epic’s impressive assortment, the next step is deciding how you want your shirt to look. This step includes choosing long or short sleeve, the style of cuff, type of collar, the front buttons, back pleats, how you want the bottom to look, the style of pocket (if any), any contrasting on the cuff and/or collar, and monogram options if you choose to have it monogrammed. One of the great features of the Epic Wizard is that while you are going through clicking on your desired options, a rendered model of your shirt updates along with your selected features showing you what the finished product will look like.

Stage Three: Sizing

The last stage in the process is sizing your shirt. Epic gives you two easy methods of sizing your shirt. The Epic Custom Fit will ask you your height, weight, and trouser size. After inputting this information, the guide will ask a series of questions pertaining to your individual preference of how you like your shirts to fit and any possible fitting problems you typically have when getting a good fitting shirt.

The second method, The Epic Favorite Fit, asks you some of the same fitting questions, but then asks you to take a few measurements from your favorite fitting shirt for them to use. The step by step process includes pictures showing exactly how and where to take the measurements.

The first time you order a shirt, the process may take you a bit to get through. After your first purchase, all of your measurements are saved. From then on, you can simply pick your fabric and style then make a couple of notes in a comment box about any tweaks you would like made to the fit and you’re done. The simplicity, yet highly customizable nature of the system is what really hooked me about this site.

I’m a young guy in law school, and while I do enjoy a nice fitting shirt, I barely have time to eat and sleep. Finding a tailor, setting up and appointment, and driving downtown to get fitted are all things I just don’t have time for, and I’m sure I’m not the only one with that problem. Logging on to Epic Shirtmakers and building a shirt from scratch barely takes fifteen minutes. The turnaround time isn’t bad either.

The normal turnaround time from order to delivery is two to three weeks. The first shirt may be on the longer side because they have to set up a custom model from your sizing preferences. This time frame is pretty much on par from what I have seen with other tailors. Something not at all like a typical tailor, however, is the price.

Prices at Epic vary depending on what fabric and styling options you choose (contrast cuffs/collar and monograms will cost you a little extra). As of now the least expensive fabrics are in the $70 -$80 area while the most expensive are around $125. If you look around on sites like Gilt Group and Rue La La you can occasionally find a deal making them even more affordable. Free shipping comes with the purchase of two shirts, and buying four will get you free shipping plus one free shirt.

Conclusion

The guys at Epic Shirtmakers set out with the aspiration to replicate the personal experience of getting a shirt tailored to your body without the time and costs associated with going to a tailor. The easy to use format of the Epic Wizard makes it simple to create a shirt to your exact specifications, and the visual rendering of your shirt helps you see what it is going to look like when it arrives at your door few weeks later.

Epic’s innovative adoption of an easy-to-use online solution to a process that is largely dominated by specialty shops has been a big hit and inadvertently opened up an entire new audience of young people previously unconsidered to Epic. The intended demographic of people purchasing tailored shirts is typically in the age range of 35-65. The creation of the website and advertizing on sites such as Rue La La and Gilt Group has opened the availability of quality shirts to a younger generation.

I, myself, would never have known where to begin to buy a tailored shirt. Possibly the Yellowpages? I think I have a book holding a door open somewhere. But one day while surfing around Gilt Group, I happened upon a deal from Epic and jumped at the chance to get an incredibly affordable, quality shirt. After, getting the product a couple of weeks later, I will never go anywhere else.

[Epic Shirtmakers]

How to navigate the web with your keyboard and gleeBox

I love keyboard shortcuts. I find using a mouse, menus and clicking to be an incredibly inefficient way of doing things. I spent a lot of time in college working with Adobe programs and using three and four character keyboard shortcuts to get things done faster. So when I found gleeBox and the amount of time-saving shorthand it had to offer. I was pretty excited.

GleeBox is a browser add-on available for Chrome, Safari, and Firefox. Once installed, pushing the G key will bring up the dialogue box. From here you can input a variety of commands as simple as opening a search page in a new window, to sharing whatever page you happen to be viewing with your friends via Facebook, Twitter, or Gmail with the input of a simple command.

Pushing the period key will show a list of open tabs.

Pushing the Period (.) key will bring up a list of the current tabs you have open in your browsers. From there you can use your arrow keys to select the tab you want.

!share fb automatically shares your current page on your Facebook profile

There are also functions such as :wp and :tube that will allow you to search for a term on Wikipedia and YouTube respectively.

The amount of options available are endless due the ability to customize actions. This allows you to tailor gleeBox to do things that you typically do while browsing. I like to share websites with my friends on Facebook and the ability to share a link without having open up a different page and copy and paste the URL is really pretty cool for me. I am not much of a Twitter person, but the command that will automatically share whatever page you are on with a shortened URL would also seem to be pretty handy.

All in all gleeBox is a pretty cool and useful app. The amount of default commands available, and the ability to customize, means the sky is the limit.

Finally, here’s a link to a list of default commands: http://thegleebox.com/manual.html

Becoming a daring beer explorer with BrewGene for iOS and Android

Have you ever felt overwhelmed at a liquor store when you’re faced with literally an entire wall of beer? On one hand, you can grab the old standby you’ve grabbed 100 times before and know you’ll like it. But on the other, there are 20 or 30 other kinds you have yet to try that could easily become the new standby. On top of that, there are plenty that you’ve tried before, but you can’t quite remember whether you really liked them or not.

This happens to me almost every time I go to buy beer. Part of me wants to try every single option available. The other doesn’t want to waste money on a potentially disappointing choice and wants to stick to something familiar.

Thankfully, BrewGene came along.

BrewGene is an app for Android and iOS that has a large database full of beers. After you rate a few different kinds, BrewGene will start to recommend beers that you may like. There is also a search function that will give you some info on a beer such as the style, alcohol content, and a scale of 1-5 on how much it predicts you will like it based on your ratings of past brews.

The first thing to do when you start of BrewGene is to start rating beers. You can do this by searching for beers one at a time and rating them, or going to the Random option and selecting from the listed varieties. This option is best because it is more likely to list both beers that you like and that you don’t like. Rating beers that you don’t especially favor will help the App give more accurate recommendations and ratings.

After you get through a few initial ratings, you can start to use the other options BrewGene provides. The first is a history of all your rated beers, listed in order of how you rated them from high to low. This can give you a quick reference of beers that you’ve liked in the past.

The next option is Recommendations. This will list some beers that you may like to try based on how you’ve rated other beers.

The Watch list stores beers that you have marked to try later. You can add and remove beers from here as you like. This is a good way to mark beers that interest you in the Recommendations or Random options.

The Top 100 is exactly that: the highest rated beers in the database. The beer of the day is a beer selected every day. If you find a beer that is not yet in the database you can add it, a picture, and relevant info with the submit option.

The Search option is probably one of the more valuable tools of this app. If you find a beer that looks good, type it in to get some more info on it and a recommendation based on your prior ratings.

The last option is the Random Beer List. This option is good for rating different beers you’ve had to give the app a better idea of your tastes. This is also a good place to get familiarized with some brews you’ve never heard of before. I’ve spent a good amount of time just paging through the random beer database looking at different beer I had never heard of before.

Conclusion

All in all, this app does a pretty good job. It is nice to have a bank of beer you’ve tried and what you’ve thought of them. The Recommended option is good for finding new beer to try.

Unfortunately, the 1 – 5 scale recommendations don’t seem to be able to pin my tastes down very well. This could very well be due to the fact that my beer tastes are pretty fickle and I really don’t have much reasoning for why I like some and don’t like others, so I can’t fault it for that.

If you’re a big beer drinker, and especially if you have as much trouble deciding what kind of beer to get at the store as I do, I would recommend giving BrewGene a try. The database is huge, and the more beer you rank, the better it gets to know you.

How to access Wikipedia during the SOPA/PIPA blackout

If you are a college student, like me, and you have an assignment due tomorrow, like I do, you may have noticed that Wikipedia has taken itself down (sort of) in protest of SOPA and PIPA legislative acts. While I agree with the protest going on and commend Wikipedia for doing what they have to raise awareness, (seriously people, take some time to voice your concerns to your representatives, see Techerator’s side bar for help) some of us have more important things to do than our required reading assignments.

While Wikipedia will be “dark” for the next 24 hours, the pages that Google has cached are not. So while the information on them may not be the newest available (the info I looked up was last updated Jan 14), I’m willing to bet for almost everyone out there it will work just as well.

How to use Wikipedia via Google Cache

First, enter the search term into Google, then find the Wikipedia listing and hover your mouser cursor over it. Click the gray box with the arrow inside it.

Search the term in Google, find and hover your pointer over the search result. Click on the arrowed box that appears.

Next, go up to the top right of the preview and click the small “cached” link

This should bring you to a blackout-free Wiki Page.

Oh Wikipedia, how I missed you.

Update

It has also come to my attention that disabling JavaScript in your browser will also remove the Wikipedia blackout.

The 8-core AMD Bulldozer has arrived, but is it worth the money?

It seems like I have been hearing the name “Bulldozer” from AMD for decades. And, while 6 months can seem like 10 years in computer time, the Bulldozer has finally been confirmed in Q4 2011. If you haven’t been following this topic, the Bulldozer core is used in AMD’s new line of high performance FX-series processors. The FX series harkens back to a time when AMD had the fastest processors available, and with this new series they hoped to regain some of their old fame.

Unfortunately for AMD, it would seem that they missed the mark.

The new FX Series processors are being shipped in a few different models. In the 8-core flavor, AMD is offering the 3.6 GHz FX-8150, 3.1 GHz FX-8120, and 2.8 GHz FX-8100. They also have the FX-6100, which is a 6-core CPU running a 3.3 GHz, and three 4-core models, the FX-4170, FX-4150, and FX-4100, running at 4.2 GHz, 3.8 GHz, and 3.6 GHz respectively. Currently, the only available models are the FX-8150, FX-8130, and FX-6100.

All eyes were on the flagship 8150 to see how it would stack up against similarly priced Intel solutions. At about $250 on Amazon.com, the FX-8150 fits in the price between the Intel i5-2500k ($219) and Intel 2600k ($314). Depending on what stats you look at and the intended purpose of your computer, this processor would fare between “OK” to “disappointing”.

While the unprecedented 8 cores offered decent numbers in multithreaded applications, it only occasionally could surpass the power of Intel’s 2600k. In single-threaded applications, it lagged far behind even the cheaper Intel 2500k.

Another selling aspect of the new FX series is the high overclock headroom as a result of the CPUs coming unlocked out of the box. I have watched videos of successful overclocks of up to 4.8 GHz on air cooling which could be a good selling point for the enthusiast group.

I’ve always been an AMD fan, and with each new chip I hope to see them get back to the competitive spot they once enjoyed with the original FX line. It would seem that with the addition of 2 cores and a cheap price tag they could be moving in the right direction (especially with newer software taking better advantage of more cores), but they have still fallen short of being the competitor they once were. While I could see the 8-core FX-8150 being a viable option for a computer primarily used for multithreaded applications, I can’t endorse spending the money on it as a gaming solution when the cheaper Intel i5-2500k will do just as well and in many cases better. We will have to wait and see where this new chip architecture takes AMD.

It’s Official: Television comes to Xbox

A new panel on Xbox Live Spotlight confirms rumors of a cable-esque service for Xbox Live. According to the video “nearly 40” providers are being added including. HBO Go, SyFy, Bravo, Comcast, and Verizon FiOS and more this holiday. When exactly is this holiday? Let’s hope they’re talking Halloween, but I’m going to go ahead and guess they’re talking about the more significant winter ones.

What’s also exciting is the utilization of the Kinect and voice-activated Bing search to browse through content. Examples on the video include searches such as “Xbox Bing, Fast and the Furious” and “Play.”

Check out the trailer below.

Xbox Live to get Cable-Esque Service?

You may soon be able to watch cable television on Microsoft’s Xbox Live gaming service. Microsoft is rumored to be joining Comcast and Verizon to provide a cable-esque service on Xbox Live. No details are out as of yet, so allow me to speculate and dream like a wee lad looking at the wrapped boxes under a pine tree in December.

A cable service on Xbox Live would be incredibly convenient to people who hate having 16 set-top boxes and remotes hanging out all over the living room. It also would allow you to have cable television service without a physical cable line. At this very minute I’m watching non-cable TV only because the TV I have does not fit well on the wall where the cable outlet is. I don’t want to run cords all over the place, so cable isn’t hooked up. I do however, have an Xbox with a wireless adapter – that means I could watch ESPN3 on my TV through my Xbox. This could prove to be incredibly convenient, and would make having to route cable through walls and ceilings a thing of the past.

Something else I would love to see would be a little more customization on what you can choose to watch/pay for. I would love to be able to pay for a few different groups of channels. If I could grab just some ESPN channels and a few premium channels (I’m hoping those come to Xbox as well), I would be set. I have always wanted to be able to just watch HBO or Showtime without purchasing a full cable subscription.

Overall, Microsoft’s decision to join Comcast in the cable biz was a pretty smart one. Gaming consoles have become significantly more that just video-game-playing machines. I would say I use my Xbox for non-game uses more frequently than for playing games. Allowing the ability to watch cable television will only add to the uses of the console. All of a sudden it might not be such a waste to own more than one Xbox! The new feature could definitely help sell some more consoles for Microsoft as well as keep them relevant after a new console comes out in the future.

Wii 2: A Speculative Look at Nintendo’s Newest Console

It's-a me! Mario! I believe-a you have-a my cup!

For those of you who don’t know, it has been confirmed that Ninendo’s next generation console will be announced at this year’s upcoming E3 expo.  The highly anticipated console being  revealed is the Wii 2.

Sources say that the Wii 2 (code named “Project Cafe”) will be HD and at least as powerful as the current Xbox 360 and PS3 consoles.

Other features that have been confirmed are a standard controller (dual analogue sticks, a D pad, triggers, etc.) that will function much like the Gamecube controller (basically a normal gaming controller). This controller will have a 6” touch screen embedded on it, with the ability to stream data (and even entire games) from the console.

For now, this is all that is really known about Nintendo’s new mystery machine. I have seen comment boards ablaze with praise and skepticism about what lies ahead for this project. To weigh in, here are some of my thoughts on it all:

Power

The first and biggest concern for most gamers seems to be the power of the new console. While I do think it is important to be able to pump out spectacular visuals, I think it is becoming less and less important as time and technology progress.

The Wii’s inability to output HD was definitely a big downfall. Simply put, 480p does not look good on a 42” TV.  HD is a MUST.

As far as how important it is for the new console to blow away the current consoles in the power spec, I would say it is pretty minimal. It’s starting to get to the point where graphics aren’t going to get a whole lot better. While there is always room for improvement, I feel like we are quickly approaching a point where processing power is becoming less important. If the claims of this console being at least as powerful as a PS3 are true, that is good enough for me.

The Touch Screen

From what I’ve seen, many people are skeptical about the touch screen being integrated with the controller. Many are concerned that is going to be gimmicky and a novelty. I think that a large screen on the controller may do a great service getting rid of menus in games. One game that comes to mind is Call of Duty: Black Ops.

First off, you would never have to have a menu blocking your view to see maps or see the current score. Second, when you’re using kill streaks such as the RC Car, you could use the on remote screen to drive it around while still being able to see what is happening to your guy on the main screen. That way, no one is sneaking up on you while you’re driving around your Bomb Car.

I can see similar uses in games that rely heavily on inventory screens, but what if you could navigate through these screens quickly on your controller without having to stop the action?

As far as how it would fit or where it would be on a controller, I’ve had two ideas: One would be having the screen flip up from the top of the controller, much like a 3DS. Another would be to have it at the bottom, much like where the add-on keyboard for the Xbox 360 sits.

An onboard screen gives a resolution to those Madden screen cheating problems, and also gives the promise of adding the realism of being able to text your friends while driving cars in any upcoming games.

Conclusion

Although it is incredibly hard to see where any of this is going before seeing the actual console announcement at E3, it’s always fun to speculate on what could be. I am personally excited to see Nintendo return to the hardcore gaming arena. Hopefully, they can really make a statement with this next console.

On the other hand, I hope there’s something more to it. I really felt like the Wii was a step in the right direction by not following the “more power, more graphics” principle and finding a different way to interact with games.

Nintendo has always been innovative; sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t and I respect them for taking risks and searching for new ways to experience games. I think the industry as a whole is better because of it.

How to Profit from the AT&T/Alltel Merger

Now that AT&T may be acquiring T-Mobile, their acquisition of Alltel in a few states since the Verizon/Alltel merger is old news. By now everyone has pretty much figured out the jig. Every current Alltel customer gets a free AT&T phone because the two networks use different technologies, and a current Alltel phone won’t work on AT&T’s network (CDMA and GSM stuff).

Recently, I stumbled into a situation that allowed me to cash in on this situation and I hope someone else might be able to take advantage of it as well.

Selling Your Old Phone Online

First,  my current Alltel phone stopped working. Knowing the network switchover was going to happen soon, I didn’t want to spend the money on insurance – I think it’s around $100 – to get a new phone for only a month. My contract was up, so I went in to see if I could just get it renewed and get a cheap phone along with it.  The guy at the store said they were no longer renewing plans since the network switchover was happening so soon, but that he could just give me a phone at the renew price. I thought this was great and picked up a HTC Desire for $75.

After getting home and playing with my new phone for a while, I started to wonder what I was going to do with this phone after the switch. I remembered seeing a website where you can sell your electronics called Gazelle. Curious, I went to the site typed in my new phone to see what I could get for it. The site asks you some basic questions such as what condition it’s in and if you have the original manuals and stuff like that. Turns out, the thing was worth around $250!

So now when the switch happens, I can sell this phone and be up $175 from what I was. But what about insurance? What if I “lost” this phone? I could take the insurance and hypothetically sell it as well for another $250. It’s an option I’ve decided against, but would assume it’s entirely possible.

It’s not by any means guaranteed though. Many of the Alltel stores don’t have a lot of phones left. They are just pretty much selling the inventory they have until it’s gone, so the phone selection is pretty slim. Before doing this, make sure the phone you plan on selling is actually worth something. For example, the Blackberry Pearl pretty much has no value on Gazelle. If you do have one of those phones that aren’t worth a lot of money, then you might be able to haggle your way into a cheap phone similar to the way I did. I would think it’s in the stores’ best interest to sell the phones while they still can. It might be worth a try.

It’s also important to note that the more of a product that gets sold to the site, the more the value goes down. I’m assuming once the switchover has happened everywhere (it’s taking longer in some places) the value may drop sharply. If this sounds like something you want to do, make sure and do some research to see what the phones actually worth.

It would also be in your best interest to take a good look at your phone insurance policy. I can only imagine that falsely losing a phone in order to get a new one to sell it might be some kind of insurance fraud and that’s never a good thing.

So there you go, a way to make a few dollars off this phone switching fiasco. Nothing is guaranteed, but why not give it a shot to see if you can land yourself a nice phone for cheap while the gettin’s good? You can either sell it in the end or continue to use it (the Desire can run off wifi) as an MP3/Angry Birds player.

How to not suck at Facebook Questions

Please don't, but if you must...

You have probably noticed something new popping up on your Facebook News Feed over the last week or so. For me it started with, “Which is better: Coke or Pepsi?” This seemed innocent enough, so I delightfully clicked the “Coke” button.

I had originally thought it was some type of advertising – as often seen on the right side of the page – but after a little examining I realized that it was a question posted from an actual person. This intrigued me, but not enough to care to investigate further.

Then it started. Which Backstreet Boy is the hottest? What state is the best? Which Arena Football team east of the Mississippi, but South of the Mason Dixon Line has the best cheerleaders?

Wait, what? Who could possibly care about any of these questions? Furthermore, why are they popping up on my news feed? Thinking I had accidentally downloaded some obnoxious Facebook app, I went to my settings to delete or block it. It wasn’t there to be deleted or blocked. Ugh…

Since I have yet to come up with a way to stop the ridiculous questions from polluting my news feed, I figured I would at least write up a guide on how to ask said questions less ridiculously.

Step 1 – Deselect the “Allow anyone to add options” box

The vast majority of questions are undone by the simple fact that the creator of the question doesn’t deselect this box. For example, a simple, legitimate question such as, “Which Big Ten College is the best?” was completely undone by the creator not deselecting this box. Of the 30,000+ votes that question received, close to half were for colleges not in the Big Ten. The question ended up having over 100 options to choose from.

There are some questions that benefit from user submitted choices. One such question I saw was “What is the best small town in North Dakota?” The results were many and there were only a few indiscretions.

But the overwhelmingly large percentage of questions have become pointless and annoying because the “Allow anyone to add options” box was not deselected.

Step 2 – No middle ground

If your question is a choice between Yes or No, stick to Yes or No. Any middle ground, unless it’s well defined in the answer – “Yes, but with this restriction” – is really quite pointless and doesn’t show any real information. Leave the maybe’s out.

Step 3 – Don’t bother with the obvious

“Which state is the best?” California.. Shocker.

Step 4 – Lose the bias

“Hockey or Basketball?” Everyone in the United States knows the answer to this question (basketball). But, lo and behold, the vast majority of the popular vote is hockey. How could this be? Oh wait, the question was posted by someone living in Minnesota at the start of the NCAA Men’s Hockey Tournament. I can count five legitimate, perennially good hockey teams in that area, and one or two sometimes good basketball teams.

True, over time this question could spread to the rest of the world, but the overall best answer will probably end up being football or baseball. See Step 1.

Step 5 – Leave the hilarity for someone who cares

“What is your favorite book?” Regardless of the choices presented, if one of them is, “I never read books in high school I just watched the movies”, “LoLZ I Luv Fluffy BuNnIes”, or “One that is on fire” guess who wins. My faith in the human race is quickly waning.

So there you have it. Follow those 5 steps and hopefully your Facebook questions will not make most people want to facepalm themselves into an early grave.