Strange New World: Picks of the Week

Two hits and a whiff make our tech picks for this midsummer week. We love a cheap new computer with real teeth, and a high-tech riff on old-school baseball bats that can ramp up your standings in the office softball league.

But the big swing -- and the miss -- was the near lack of news from the video game show in Santa Monica, Calif., last week. The suits took over at E3, and we were appalled.

Here, then, are our picks for top tech stories of the week:

E3: Gamers out. Suits in. Sequels Rule. We're Horrified.

The Electronic Entertainment Expo known as E3 used to be the most fun trade show on the planet ... well, next to Snaxpo, the junk food show. But that changed this year. Gone are the days when thousands of rabid video gamers lined up for hours to take their chances on the latest versions of Doom, Quake and Grand Theft Auto. Sure, E3 was hatefully loud and disorganized. Yes, you had to stand in line for an hour to touch a Playstation 3. But, hey, that's video games.

This year E3 was limited to a select few suits and was more business focused. Probably the biggest story was the Wii Fit. This new Wii game is all about fitness and getting the Wii players even more physically involved in their game play. If somebody told us that there was going to be a cool yoga video game 10 years ago, we would have called them crazy. But it looks as if Nintendo did it.

And this year's E3 had tons of predictable, if decent, sequels. Call of Duty 4, Metroid Prime 3, Grand Theft Auto 4, Metal Gear Solid 4, Halo 3 and Unreal Tournament 3 all showed off some good demos and trailers that took advantage of newer platforms. These games are sure to put a serious dent in couches around the world.

But at the end of the day, we still have to hammer E3 as an event. Who are these organizers kidding? An "exclusive gamers" show? Could there be a bigger oxymoron?

E3 was no show at all.

This Cheap PC Ain't Half Bad

Most people who buy a PC only use it for a few basic things: surfing the Web, downloading music, doing homework and maybe hitting a Web site or two they really should not be visiting, if you know what we mean. So why pay upward of $1,000 for a desktop computer if you're only going to use a fraction of its power? It's sort of like buying a Porsche to run to the mall. You're never going to get it out of second gear.

That's why we are loving the new eMachines T5226. This desktop PC comes with some serious muscle: dual-core Pentium D chip, Windows Vista Premium operating system and some excellent communications tools. The best part is the price: just $550.

A good machine at a good price, just in time to send Junior off to college.

A High-Tech Bat: Channel Your Inner Babe Ruth

America's pastime hasn't really changed all that much since Abner Doubleday first started shagging flys. But recently baseball tech has started to creep toward the modern age. Anyone who watches any college or Little League baseball has heard the familiar "ping" of aluminum bat on baseball. Metal bats have come under fire recently. New York has been trying to outright ban them. But overall, they are still widely used across the United States. Traditional market leaders like Easton and Louisville Slugger dominate the aluminum bat space, but a new player has emerged: Pacific Northwest bat maker DeMarini.

DeMarini has enlarged the "sweet spot" on its bats and use a combination of materials that let the batter utterly crush the ball. The bats have an aluminum barrel and a composite plastic handle, which allows for better flexibility near your hands while maintaining lightness, speed and stiffness up where you hit the ball. It is some serious engineering. And from what we can see, it gets some serious results -- waaaayyy longer fly balls and line drives.

If you want that magic feeling of sending one deep over the back-lot fence, the DeMarini is for you.

Jonathan Blum and Dan Evans co-host "Strange New World," a weekly syndicated radio show. Blum hosts the blog Blumsday.com and Evans is a features editor at PC Magazine.

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