Strange New World: Picks of the Week

It's finally August. Hot. Humid. And let's be honest, ain't much happenin' here in the strange new world of technology.

The whole industry basically takes the dog days of August off. So that means geeks like us can turn our attention to the usually ignored world around us … and save a little money. Our best-of list this week includes custom-made bicycles for the masses, real value in flat panel TVs, and even more reasons to stay home and stare at that big screen.

Custom Bikes You Can Actually Afford

A custom suit makes you feel like a million bucks. It's cut to your exact measurements. It fits you just so. And it hides all your little flaws. Now you can get that same feeling on a bike. Well, maybe not the exact same feeling -- a linen bike frame would stain pretty easily.

A slew of custom bike makers are making their presence known on the Web and on the street. These makers take exact measurements of your legs, arms and torso, and then build or match frames, handlebars and other components to your specs. The result is a bike that is more comfortable to ride. And with comfort comes performance and more all around fun.

We did a little research while watching the Tour de France and munching Funyuns, and discovered that the custom bike is no longer only for the rich, famous and European. Now there are custom makers for the rest of us.

Our faves right now are Independent Fabrication up in Somerville, Mass.; the ultra-hip Vanilla Bicycles out in Portland, Ore.; and our favorite little maker: Oregon's own Ira Ryan Cycles, who, we kid you not, make the coolest pink bike ever.

Now none of these rides is exactly cheap. Ira can get you into a custom bike for around $1,500 if you ask him nicely, and the others cost more. But with better factory bikes getting so pricey -- the Trek Madone 5.2, which just won the Tour de France, will set you back at least $5,000 -- custom rides are now comparably priced.

And besides, think of all the money you will save on gas as you ride your fancy new bike to and from work. That will be the way to hold onto the summer.

Dan's Favorite Cheap TV

You have to hand it to us. In spite of the great weather outside, we are indoors, sniffing out a great deal on a TV. And what a deal we found from Vizio.

This one is going to have us missing quite a few trips to the beach: The Vizio Gallevia GV47 is a sweet, full-featured, full-resolution 1920 X 1080, 47-inch LCD TV. It has two HDMI inputs (used by modern DVD players and other media devices to move audio and video around), and great picture quality. This set may not be up there with the better plasmas on the market -- those look just amazing these days -- but it does have something the big boys lack: a price tag of only $1,699. And you can knock off another $100 with a factory mail-in rebate from Vizio.

Check it out at

You have no excuse not to get a set at these prices. Really.

Extreme Coverage

This weekend the ESPN X Games are to kick off out West. They are going to broadcast the thing 13 ways from Sunday. That may be a mixed metaphor, but extreme games call for extreme language -- and, apparently, extreme coverage. ESPN plans to broadcast the summer alt-sport spectacular in just about every way imaginable. Aside from the main broadcast channels of ESPN, ESPN2, and ABC Sports, there will be blogs, vlogs and a new EXPN site supporting those feeds.

If, heaven forbid, you are not in front of your PC or TV, the X Games will also be available on Verizon Mobile's VCast system on a special ESPN channel. If that is still not enough for you, check out the DirecTV feed that will let you watch six events at once. And if even that doesn't do it, then may we suggest you buy tickets to the darn thing?

We are not personally plugging the X Games -- we don't know a rail grind from a coffee grind. What's important here is the potential effect this broadcast will have on all of sports television. If ESPN's efforts are successful, it is almost certain that other sports leagues will follow suit. How long will it be before Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association and, ultimately, the National Football League add this sort of extreme coverage? Already, the NFL has a significant wireless deal with Sprint. So the answer is, probably not very long.

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