Dec 31, 2012

How To Set Off New Years Fireworks Without Losing a Hand

Every occasion is a good occasion for fireworks—The 4th of July, New Year's Eve, New Year's Day, Guy Fawkes Day, Chinese New Year, your birthday, your anniversary, a home run, a touchdown, graduation, Tuesday... Unfortunately, such an abundance of occasions also resulted in more than 8,000 fireworks-related injuries in 2011. Four of them fatal. Here's how to properly handle your celebratory explosives without hosting the after party in the ER.

Only purchase fireworks from reputable, licensed retailers as they, by default, carry products that meet government safety standards. Per the US Consumer Product Safety Commission,
CPSC staff received reports of four fireworks-related deaths during 2011. In the first incident, a 31-year-old male died of substantial head and chest trauma caused by an illegal 1.3G aerial firework device.1 In the second incident, a 47-year-old male perished when a 1.3G illegal 3-inch display firework device exploded in his face. In the third incident, a 41-year-old male was decapitated by an illegal firework device. A 51-year-old male died of severe head and face injuries caused by a homemade firework device in the fourth incident.
Also avoid buying last season's close-outs, no matter how big the discount. Older fireworks are more likely to ignite improperly (read: in your hand), if they do so at all.

As such, you should try to store your fireworks somewhere cool and dry and preferably not near other fireworks. The elevated temperatures inside, say, a car trunk in July or next to your home furnace, could potentially cause spontaneous ignition. And if one firework goes off in a big box of fireworks, all of them will go off, so be smart and store them in smaller piles around the house.

Exposure to small amounts of moisture, on the other hand, can prevent a firework from fully igniting. If you do find yourself faced with a half-exploded firework, don't go near it and certainly don't be "that guy"—the one that tries to relight it and blows his face off in the delayed explosion. Instead, douse it with water to ensure its dead, then retrieve it.

Also, do not carry fireworks in your pockets. They are surprisingly fragile devices that can easily be damaged while tumbling about with your keys and loose change. What's more, the static electricity you generate just by walking around could cause a spark. And despite what MTV says, having a firework conflagrate against your leg is neither fun nor profitable.

So, where to set up. Well, somewhere open and nonflammable should suffice, perhaps on a green lawn or spacious concrete driveway—basically anywhere that won't immediately go up like Southern California in August if it's showered in sparks. The site should be as level as possible and, if your locality allows for small rockets, equipped with a short length of pipe half-sunken into the ground to act as a stable launch platform.

Despite all your best laid plans, somebody is invariably going to get hurt, hopefully only superficially. Make sure you've got a proper first aid kid—clean water, bandages, and ice—on hand, as well as someone sober to drive to the ER if necessary. Minor burns (first and second degree injuries under 3 inches in diameter) should be placed under cool running water for 15 minutes, then loosely wrapped in medical gauze. Apply aloe vera or hydrocortisone cream to the afflicted area and take a couple of aspirin for the pain. Any burns over 3 inches or on the face, eye, groin, buttocks, hands, feet, or joints dictate a trip to the hospital or a call to 911 depending on the severity of the damage. More here.

Dec 30, 2012

The End of an Age: Hackulous Shuts Down Installous

Today’s news will undoubtedly lead to many cheers and snickers within Apple’s security team, as long-time piracy app collective Hackulous has announced the shut down of its site and most popular piracy tools, Installous and AppSync.

Hackulous has not made clear exactly why its services have shut down, but a statement on its site blames a lackluster forum community and the inability to keep it effectively moderated. The statement reads as follows:
Goodnight, sweet prince.
We are very sad to announce that Hackulous is shutting down. After many years, our community has become stagnant and our forums are a bit of a ghost town. It has become difficult to keep them online and well-moderated, despite the devotion of our staff. We’re incredibly thankful for the support we’ve had over the years and hope that new, greater communities blossom out of our absence. With lots of love, Hackulous TeamGoodnight, sweet prince. We are very sad to announce that Hackulous is shutting down. After many years, our community has become stagnant and our forums are a bit of a ghost town. It has become difficult to keep them online and well-moderated, despite the devotion of our staff. We’re incredibly thankful for the support we’ve had over the years and hope that new, greater communities blossom out of our absence.
With lots of love, Hackulous Team
This is not the end of piracy on iOS however, because while Installous may no longer be available from Hackulous themself, the app — or similar apps — will surely live on. The demand for apps that do what Installous did will continue, and a developer somewhere will almost certainly take advantage of this situation to release utilities that serve a similar purpose.

With no jailbreak currently available for iPhone 5, the platform that Installous depends on — jailbreaking — could have been a possible cause of its demise. It goes without saying that the ability to illegally pirate apps was — and continues to be — a driving force behind the want to jailbreak, and with no such jailbreak available on the latest iOS devices, many people have no access to Installous.

Whatever the case, today’s news can only be good for developers and Apple alike. Piracy is one of the biggest problems hampering the Android ecosystem, and it appears that both waning jailbreak interest in general, as well as Apple’s security efforts, have today proven successful. Here’s to hoping developers will continue making creative and amazing apps for iOS, especially in light of the news that one of their biggest enemies will be today close its doors. More here.

Would You Want To Use Your NFC-Enabled Phone As Car Keys?

Normally you hear about NFC in some kind of "mobile payments" context, but that's not the only place it could shake things up. Hyundai is working on some new prototype tech that could have you using your NFC smartphone as the keys to your car.

Hyundai's Connectivity Concept, which won't actually go into production until around 2015, aims to harness the power of your NFC phone to make it way cooler than your keys ever were. Not only could the phone unlock your car and start it, but it could also save a sort of user profile, flipping to the right radio station or streaming music while adjusting the seat and mirrors for you as soon as you slam it into the dashboard dock.

Of course, as cool as that all is, there are security concerns. but issues like having phone theft rapidly turn into car theft could (mostly) be avoided with a user PIN or other measures. Most other concerns are just about as valid for NFC keys as well. Still, there's something that just seems weird about unlocking, and moreover starting your car with your phone. It'll still be while until any sort of implementation, but would you feel comfortable giving that kind of power to your trusty handset? More here.

Dec 29, 2012

HTC HD2 Runs Windows RT, Postpones Trip to Afterlife yet Again

HTC's HD2 may have begun life as just another Windows Mobile 6.5 handset, but its surprisingly hardy internals enable it to run almost any mobile OS going. The latest software to appear on the three-year-old device is Windows RT, which was jammed onto the system by a developer called Cotulla -- who previously put Windows Phone 7 on the same unit. While it's not that comfortable to use on the HD2's 4.3-inch screen, some superheroes are now scouring eBay for a similarly immortal smartphone. More here.

The Secret Origins of the Chicken Nugget

Contrary to popular belief, McDonalds was only the first entity to commercially sell nuggets, not invent them. Robert C. Baker is actually credited with the nugget's inception 18 years before McDonald's head chef Rene Arend reportedly devised them in 1977. It's okay if you've never heard of Baker, not many people have.

Baker was "a person of his time," Baker's oldest son Dale told Slate. "He grew up in the Depression, not having enough food to eat. When he'd buy a dinner, he would want to get the most calories for the price. He wanted to be sure the farmers would get the best prices for their birds."

To that end, Baker leveraged his professorship in Poultry Science at Cornell University and the help of a cadre of grad students to revolutionize how we eat chicken products. Nuggets were only one of the 50-plus food items he and his students devised, including chicken hot dogs, burger patties, and meatballs.
The foods they invented, which they detailed in widely distributed bulletins for anyone to copy and refine, launched what the industry now calls "further processed" poultry. Convenient and appealing, further-processed products transformed the market for chicken, pushing consumption from 34 pounds per person in 1965 to 84 pounds last year. But pressure from that new demand transformed the industry as well, turning it from a loose confederation of many family farms into a small set of massive conglomerates with questionable labor and environmental records.
Check out the rest of Baker's tantalizing story and how his contributions to modern cuisine were wiped from culinary history books over at Slate.

Dec 28, 2012

Bangkok Is Basically the Most Popular Location on Instagram

If you've ever looked at Instagram's explore tab, then you've undoubtedly seen a bevy of most liked photos originating from kids in Thailand. And as it turns out, the most popular location to tag Instagram photos this year came from the Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok. After that it was some mall in Bangkok, followed by: Disneyland, Times Square, AT&T Park, LAX, Dodger Stadium, the Eiffel Tower, the Staples Center and the pier in Santa Monica. Kudos to you, Thailand. You're the kings and queens of Instagram. More here.

How You Can Save Snapchat Videos Forever After You’ve Watched Them

Snapchat, the sexting app of choice recently cloned by Facebook, might not be as private as you think. BuzzFeed reports that video files sent using the app are actually not deleted from the phone immediately—meaning they can be copied onto a computer and watched over and over.

BuzzFeed describes the simple process required to find the files. Simply take an iPhone and plug it into your computer, use a third-party file browsing app like iFunBox to navigate its file system, and head straight for the Snapchat/tmp folder. Bingo! Re-watch all that video, copy it to your computer, whatever—unlike grabbing a screenshot, the Snapchat user who sent the video won't be notified of the privacy intrusion.

According to BuzzFeed, Facebook's new Poke app also stores the files locally in a similar way—at library/caches/fbstore/mediacard—but they are deleted as soon as they're watched. Neither of the apps store photos in the this way. Phew!

While the trick is a lot of work to go to for each and every video, it's an obvious way to incriminate those who send the most inappropriate content. Perhaps more importantly, though, the fact the videos are stored locally after they're viewed in Snapchat clearly runs counter to the whole point of the app. Snapchat co-founder Evan Spiegel told BuzzFeed that "people who most enjoy using Snapchat are those who embrace the spirit and intent of the service. More here.

Dec 27, 2012

China Claims World's Longest High-Speed Rail Line, Takes Travelers 1,428 Miles in a Workday

Russia's protracted attempts at replacing the aging space warhorse that is Soyuz may finally bear fruit. RSC Energia has announced that it has finished the design of a prototype spacecraft under the country's Prospective Piloted Transport System -- the equivalent of the Orion program. 

The as-yet unnamed craft is expected to be ready for testing by 2017, and unlike the current model, will be fully reusable. It's been designed not only as a taxi to take cosmonauts (and the odd multi-billionaire) to the International Space Station, but also ferry crews to the moon. That is, of course, assuming that Elon Muskdoesn't get there first and make the moon his summer home. More here.

Dec 26, 2012

Flickr Pro is Free for Three Months

Flickr is getting into the holiday spirit, and capitalizing on Instagram’s ToS snafu, by offering three free months of Flickr Pro to new and existing users. This is actually a pretty great offer, and perfectly timed for those looking for a place to upload their cheery family photos.

There’s been a lot of media attention focused on Instagram’s ToS flipflop this past week, with many users abandoning ship in search of calmer waters. Flickr recently updated its iOS app with filters and everything, so it makes sense the service would take that extra step to attract Instagram expatriates.

A Pro subscription normally goes for $25 a year, which isn’t bad to begin with, but three free months is a pretty solid amount of time to lure new users in. For anyone that’s already paying for the service, payments will get pushed back automatically for three months, so the benefits aren’t aimed at just former Instagramers.

Flickr’s Pro business model worked for the company years and years ago, but the company has seen its popularity fall dramatically with social networks such as Facebook acting as competition for many casual users. Offering up the Pro option at no cost, at least for three months, is a great opportunity for Flickr to recapture some of its heyday, and could potentially lead to lifting some limits on free users, or eliminate the Pro fee altogether. That is assuming a lot of people take advantage of this no-cost offer. More here.

Dec 25, 2012

Apple Lands Important SIM Card Connector Patent

Sometimes, a patent grant is less about the technology itself than what it could mean for others. Case in point: a newly granted Apple patent for a "mini-SIM connector." The design complements earlier work and represents a straightforward approach to a SIM slot that prevents damage from inserting the card the wrong way and ejects the card through a plunger system. 

By securing the patent, however, Apple gains a bargaining chip in phone technology disputes, especially for SIM-related tussles; companies are less likely to start a fight if Apple can return fire. The claim doesn't give Apple a lock on subscriber modules by any means, but it could lead to other adopters treading carefully. More here.

Keep Your Feet Dry Year-Round With Stalwart Hunter Boots

If you're trudging through the snow, Hunter Boots are a great way to keep your feet warm and dry.

And in fact, they're really wonderful rubbers for any time of the year. But in the winter you can get a flannel insert for a little extra insulation. They're expensive (around $130 depending where you look) but they're guaranteed. So if they crack, you can send them back to Hunter and they'll fix them. Aside from the quality, they're about as stylish as you can get when the weather is absolute crap. Santa, is it too late to ask for these? More here.

Dec 24, 2012

Is This BlackBerry’s QWERTY Savior?

The hole RIM has found itself in is deep, dark, and doused in despair. And as much as the company's gambling on its new BB10 platform to pull itself up, an operating system's only as good as the phones running it. So take a good, hard look at this supposed BlackBerry N-Series device. It could be RIM's best shot at survival.

The full QWERTY keyboard N-Series, and its touchscreen play cousin L-Series, are going to lead RIM's charge back to relevance in just a few short months. And the picture here, posted by CNbeta, shows a device that's at least worth a second look. Competent physical keyboards are few and far between in our capacitive present, and could be the one tent-pole feature RIM can claim true ownership of.

Even if the N-Series passes the looks test, there are still plenty of open questions about BB10, about what kind of guts will power it, about whether RIM can find enough developers to make apps for it. But all great comebacks are made one step at a time. And this seems, at glance, like a decent one. More here.

The Brazilian iPhone Is Actually an Android Device

iPhone is a powerful name. It conjures up a the vision of a meticulously crafted phone, something that's a pleasure to hold and pleasant to look at. Most of all it makes you think of an Apple device. Well in Brazil, that's not necessarily the case. The "iphone" that came out there this week rocks Android 2.3.

The phone comes from a Brazilian electronics company called Gradiente secured exclusive rights to the "iPhone" name in the country back in 2008, rights that it will continue to hold until 2018. As such, the new Brazilian iPhone is very much the opposite of the one you usually think of. In addition to running Gingerbread, it boasts a 320-by-480 pixel display, a total lack of multi-touch functionality, a 700MHz single-core ARM processor, and 2GB of storage. One more key difference: it has no capital 'P'. Sounds enticing, no? h

According to the Associated Press, Gradiente says they're only using the name now because they were busy trying to "conclude a corporate restructuring process that ended earlier this year." And they have no plans on stopping if they can avoid it. In a statement the firm said:
"In Brazil, Gradiente has the exclusive right to use the iPhone brand. This company will adopt all the measures used by companies around the world to preserve its intellectual property rights."
So far, Gradiente claims to have heard not a peep from the real iPhone people regarding the use of the name, and there's no doubt they'll continue to use it as long as they can, probably hoping their stylization of the name as "iphone" can buy them some time if nothing else. More here.

Is Cloning the Key to Perfect Christmas Trees?

When you think of cloning, you'll probably either think of dolly, or maybe some sort of sci-fi clone army. German scientists, on the other hand, their minds hop to Christmas trees, and the hope that cloning can bring us all perfect ones forever.

Biologist Kurt Zoglauer of Berlin's Humboldt University isn't happy with the current Christmas tree situation. According to him, some 40 percent of trees just don't aren't good enough to cut it, and yet they still occupy their little spots on the farm for at least 10 years, and sometimes more. In a cloning project—one sponsored by the German government, no less—Zoglauer and his team are working on a way to breed and clone particularly robust trees. They aim to start their clone army by 2016. More here.

Dec 22, 2012

Apple’s 53.3 Percent Smartphone Market Share in U.S. is Company Record

Apple now has a 53.3 percent share of the U.S. smartphone market, the largest slice of the pie the iPhone maker has ever had, according to new research from Kantar Worldpanel. The data represents a snapshot of the wireless market over the past 12 weeks.
“Apple has reached a major milestone in the US by passing the 50 percent share mark for the first time, with further gains expected to be made during December,” Kantar Worldpanel global consumer insight director Dominic Sunnebo said.
The scene isn’t the same on the other side of the pond, however. Android’s market share increased from 51.8 percent in 2011 to 61 percent in Europe this year. Samsung has the largest grip in the “big five” countries in Europe, with a 44.3 percent share, followed by Apple with a 25.3 percent share. Kantar said HTC, Nokia and Sony are all in a close race for third place. More here.

Dec 21, 2012

When DSLR Manufacturers Say Their Cameras Are Freeze-Proofed, This Is What They Mean

High-end cameras are often sold with the proud claim, amongst many others, that they are "freeze-proofed". But is it really that impressive?

Unsurprisingly, freeze-proofing is supposed to guarantee that cameras still work well in temperatures below zero—which is just as well for Swiss photographer Alessandro Della Bellawhen he was photographing the Swiss mountains Piz Corvatsch and Piz Nair. Outside for two long, cold nights, temperatures dropped to -25°C (-13°F) which really put the cameras through their paces.

These pictures show what that kind of abuse does to the outside of a camera. Chilly, huh? But despite looking bad, Alessandro reports that the DSLRs he used on the trip worked perfectly fine. The only problems he had were with lenses and batteries: lenses froze up and had to be thawed out next to an oven in a nearby building, while batteries discharged within just an hour because of the extreme cold temperatures. More here.

Hey Australia, Is the World Over Yet?

In Australia, it's December 21, 6:54AM. If you are in Australia, please reply in the comments promptly. We want to know if the world is over yet there or not. Also, if you have spotted any Nibirus, please tell us at once. Thank you.

Dec 20, 2012

3D Printed Interwoven Gears

3D printing has promised us a future where everything will be available on demand, not just media. But in the meantime the technology seems to have found a niche as a way to produce mind-boggling geared creations that appear to skirt the laws of physics and the universe.

If you're calling shenanigans on Henry Segerman's triple-geared creation, you can actually order and try one out for yourself from Shapeways for $40. Or just stomach your cynicism, save yourself some money, and marvel at this video of his creation. More here.

7 Ways the World Really Could End Tomorrow

There's no shortage of Doomsday naysayers. And sure, it's easy to ignore the prophecies of ancient Mayans. But you know what? The world could end any time—including tomorrow.

Here's a rundown of the seven most likely ways our world could crumble right on schedule.

Asteroid impact

What did for the dinosaurs could do for us, too. Objects fall to Earth from space every day, but most of them are small enough to burn up on entry to the atmosphere or fall where nobody is around to notice. An asteroid big enough to wipe out civilization on Earth, experts agree, would need to be at least a mile across—and that kind of impact only happens once every 10 million years or less.

For what it's worth, it's thought the dinosaurs were wiped out by an asteroid six miles across. On the off-chance that NASA's failed to spot a rock that size hurtling towards the planet, physcists have worked out that it would be impossible to nuke an Earth-killing asteroid—so it really would be curtains.

Nuclear war

People seem to have forgotten about the nuclear threat since the end of the Cold War—but the risk remains. In 2008, Physics Today published an article that explained the consequences of nuclear war. It concluded that 100 nuclear bombs would bring about a "nuclear winter" featuring the lowest temperatures in 1,000 years, while 1,000 of things would "likely eliminate the majority of the human population."

Now might be good time to point out that more countries than ever have nuclear weapons at their disposal: currently, nine countries are known to have nuclear capabilities, but only five of them are members of the safeguarding Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. With North Koreathrowing rockets into the air like confetti, the nuclear threat is as present as ever.

Volcano eruption

If you thought the 2010 eruptions of Eyjafjallaj√∂kull in Iceland caused problems, think again. Over two million years ago, a massive volcanic eruption—which happened where Yellowstone National Park now stands—produced 600 cubic miles of dust and ash. For some perspective, that's 10,000 times worse than Eyjafjallaj√∂kull. All it would take to bring the planet to its knees would be a couple of such eruptions in close succession. And the next Yellowstone super eruption is closer than you think.

Biological warfare

It might sound like something straight outta Hollywood, but biological warfare poses a very real and dangerous threat. Anthrax may have been wildly hyped in the past, but in reality it remains an effective means of taking out large swathes of the population. Weaponized in the form of aerosol particles of 1.5 to 5 microns, it could cause fatalities in 90 percent of the population. Things don't stop at toxins like anthrax, either; bear in mind that—even though it might take more than a day—an engineered avian flu could kill half the world's humans. A cursory glance at a list of—officially recognised—institutions involved in biological warfare research suggests that this is something that we should definitely be worried about.

Solar storm

Solar storms happen all the time: the sun sends wave upon wave of charged particles through space, and they whizz through our atmosphere at 4 million mph. Large storms result in particularly amazing light shows, comparable to the Northern lights. However, the Earth hasn't experienced a major solar storm since 1859. Then, the storm was intense enough to instantaneously set fire to telegraph lines—but that was before the days of the electricity grid, power in homes and the slew of technology that we all depend on each and every day. These days, a storm like that—or worse—could wreak untold havoc.

A man-made black hole

Ever since the first atomic bomb was developed back in 1945, scientists have wondered whether the raw power of some of the reactions they set in motion could end up causing catastrophic problems. The worry hasn't faded. When Brookhaven National Laboratory prepared to fire up its Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider, speculation circulated that the experiments at the facility could create a black hole which would then consume Earth. When the LHC was first switched on, the same rumors resurfaced. Many physicists dismiss the threat offhand—but nobody's really, reallysure that it couldn't happen.

The computer simulation we live in gets rebooted

Perhaps the most creative explanation of how the world could end tomorrow is that we might just be living in a gigantic computer simulation that happens to get switched off. It might sound ridiculous, but scientists still haven't settled, once and for all, whether we're living a life made of code. Sure, people have recently suggested how we could tell if everything around is happening on a sliver of silicon in a giant server room in the sky—but nobody's yet tested the theory. Let's hope nobody hits ESC.

Dec 19, 2012

Apple Releases iOS 6.0.2 Update for iPhone 5 and iPad mini, Promises fix for WiFi bug

It doesn't look to bring with it any major changes, but Apple has just released its latest iOS update, which takes things up to version 6.0.2. According to the company, this one primarily addresses a bug that "could impact WiFi." An issue that, incidentally, has been at the center of a number of previous iOS updates. You should be able to find the update now or in the near future in either iTunes or Software Update on your iOS device. More here.

Dec 18, 2012

Google Maps Downloaded More Than 10 Million Times in Only 48 Hours

The resurrection of Google Maps for iOS has been a complete and utter success. If there was any question this was going to be a viable alternative to Apple Maps, those doubts have been obliterated—cold hard numbers don’t lie. In just 48 hours after release, the search giant said Google Maps was downloaded more than 10 million times. So much for Apple’s service.

The gigantic figure was amassed in just two short days, which says a lot about consumer interest in Google’s excellent service. With Google Maps being such a runaway success, it’ll be interesting to see how Apple responds. The company can improve its service all it wants, but the spotlight is clearly on Google at the moment. When iOS 7 is introduced, Apple will need to come up with a feature, integration, or something, that makes its own mapping platform a must-use. If not, then Google Maps will continue to rise up, and probably leave Apple Maps lost in the Australian wilderness. More here.

Dec 17, 2012

Hanger Brush Keeps Your Blazer Looking Spiffy

When most people look at hangers, all they see is a way to hang clothing, or a means to open a locked vehicle. Not designer Tim Parsons. He looked past their use as a tool for grand theft auto and saw a better way to both hand and maintain your stylish blazer.

Not only does the extra-strength Brushanger support even the heaviest of overcoats—keeping the shoulders at the perfect angle while it's hanging in a closet—it also does double duty as a way to maintain the fabric itself. Just fold down the arms and it instantly becomes a horse hair brush perfect for meticulously maintaining your favorite blazer. It seems a tool more apropos for those living a Downton Abbey-like lifestyle, and with a $65 price tag it even seems targeted at wealthy turn-of-the-century British lords. More here.

Your Instagram Data Is Now Officially Facebook Data

A new Instagram privacy policy goes into effect on January 16th, 2013. The service will now be sharing your data with its new owner Facebook.

Basically, Instagram has updated a few of the subhead sections of its policy to reflect the fact that it is a part of Facebook now. Instagram can now share information like cookies, log files, device identifiers, location data, and usage data,with "with businesses that are legally part of the same group of companies that Instagram is part of." According to the Instagram blog, it's a wonderful thing for you:
Our updated privacy policy helps Instagram function more easily as part of Facebook by being able to share info between the two groups. This means we can do things like fight spam more effectively, detect system and reliability problems more quickly, and build better features for everyone by understanding how Instagram is used.
Less spam? Great! Of course, this also means that Instagram is heaping its data over with the privacy nightmare that's Facebook. The data will definitely be used to target better advertising at you on Facebook, and to serve you advertisements on Instagram whenever that starts happening. Here is the relevant section from the new policy:
Affiliates may use this information to help provide, understand, and improve the Service (including by providing analytics) and Affiliates' own services (including by providing you with better and more relevant experiences).
This was inevitable, but at least now it's official. More here.

Dec 16, 2012

The Moon Marks 40 Years Without a Human Visitor, Prepares for Impending Probe Crashes

It's likely not an anniversary anyone thought we would meet after the first moon landing, but today marks 40 years since Gene Cernan left the last footprint on the moon as Apollo 17 ended its mission. That was the last of six manned missions to the lunar surface (nine including those that didn't land), which saw twelve men actually walk on the moon in all. The years since have of course seen continued exploration of the moon through other means, though, and next week will see another major event when NASA's twin GRAIL spacecraft conduct a planned crash into a mountain near the lunar north pole. 

Those have been in orbit since January 1st, creating a high-resolution map of the moon's gravitational field and collecting data that promises to provide more detail than ever about its internal structure and composition. You'll be able to follow along on NASA's website as that happens beginning at 5PM Eastern on Monday, December 17th. More here.

Dec 15, 2012

Apple Stock Hits 10 Month Low, Assembly Issues Still a Supply Concern

Apple’s stock is currently trading around $511, the lowest price the company’s shares have been traded at since February of this year. Why? There are concerns that Apple still has supply chain issues related to the iPhone 5 and the iPad mini. It’s also possible that part of the sell off was due to investors taking capital gains ahead of potential tax hikes.

According to Jefferies analyst Peter Misek, Apple is still facing “assembly execution issues [that] are taking longer to resolve than expected.” In addition, the firms that supply parts for Apple’s iPhone 5 have reportedly seen “larger order cuts” during the past two days. That’s alarming, because Apple’s iPhone 5 just launched in 33 new countries today and earlier reports suggestedApple’s supply problems had been ironed out.

As a result of the supply issues, Misek now estimates that Apple will sell 48 million iPhone units this quarter, down from his original estimate of 52 million units. More here.

A Tiny Tulip Shaped Humidifier Is the Cutest Humidifier

This is the most adorable little humidifier I've ever seen. The Tulip Stick Ultrasonic Humidifier is shaped like a sweet flower stalk and plugs right into your USB port.

Who knew a humidifier could be this small and pleasant? This $92 product comes in four different colors—pink, yellow, green, and ivory, and it weighs just an ounce. It has a timer, too, in case you only want it to shut off after you fall asleep, for example. More here.

Dec 14, 2012

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Now Available for Android

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City launched for iOS and Android last week, but Rockstar quickly pulled the Android version due to several launch issues. Fear not, however, because it’s now back in the Google Play store for download. The game, which promises enhanced graphics and a similar experience to the original, is available for $4.99. Be warned, however – the app is 1.4GB in size, so you may need to free up some space before installing. More here.

Swappable Lens Wheel Puts 18 Crappy Filters On Your DSLR

You've been able to turn your iPhone into a low-quality Holga camera for some time now with this case that puts a spinning wheel of filters at your disposal. But DSLR users can now make the images from their thousand dollar cameras look like they were taken by a $30 plastic toy.

Just slap this Holga lens to the front of your shooter, attach one of the two included wheels of colored and distorted filters, and snap away. All in all you get 18 creative options to choose from, so when you post your shots online people won't be fooled into thinking you actually spent money on a nice camera. More here.

Dec 13, 2012

Google vs. Apple Maps: Total Domination

Google Maps for iOS is so much better than Apple's attempt at a replacement that it will make you giggle. But you can't grasp just how much better—almost perfect—iOS Google Maps is unless you see it in action. Here it is, head-to-head with Apple Maps. It's not even close.

Google Maps is exactly what it should be, aside from being the comforting Maps we used to know on our iPhones. It beats the hell out of the last version. Google Maps isn't just back, it's better than it's ever been—the best map app, period.

  • It's fast. Your neighborhoods will load very, very quickly.
  • It's accurate. No stupid erroneous listings.
  • It's beautiful. Cleanly designed.
  • It's easy to use—you can quickly swipe menu options in and out of view.
  • It has public transit.
  • It has Street View.

You won't find yourself frustrated, lost, or yearning like you might've been with Apple Maps. You probably won't have any complaints at all, unless you miss Siri giving you directions.

This is the map app we should have had all along, and you should download it right now if you haven't already. More here.

Dec 12, 2012

In China They Have Pepsi Flavored Potato Chips

Soda-flavored snacks sound like something invented by a lazy stoner, but apparently chicken wings cooked in Coca-Cola are a popular comfort food in China. So hey, the fact that Pepsi Chicken-flavored Lays are launching over there isn't that surprising.

AdAge says the taste is "vaguely similar to barbecue with a sugary aftertaste." These have to come to America, right? I'd eat them. More here.

Multiple Leaked Photos Show Off RIM’s BlackBerry 10 L-Series

Someone out there with Research In Motion’s L-Series has taken it upon themselves to take a whole gallery of high-resolution photos, and of course they’ve wound up on the Internet.

This is our best look yet at the upcoming all-touch device, which will help usher in RIM’s new BlackBerry 10 OS. It certainly isn’t too terrible as far as looks are concerned, and there’s plenty to discern from the pictures alone: microSD card slot, 1800mAh battery, 3.5-millimeter headphone jack, micro USB, HDMI and a teenie-tiny microphone under the BlackBerry logo on the front of the device.

It looks super clean, minimal, with an anodized metal that frames the handset’s display. There are a toooooon of images, so check out the source link to see what’s basically an entire exhibit’s worth, and remember that this is what’s we’re edging toward when RIM finally launches BlackBerry 10 on January 30. More here.

Dec 11, 2012

Here’s a USB Drive in a Deep Fryer Because Hey Why Not

There's probably a term you learn if you're an econ major to describe the point at which your product is so similar to every competitive product that you deep fry it in order to differentiate. Here it is.

LaCie makes great portable storage stuff—hard drives, flash drives, and the like. Their little XtremKey is a stylish ruggedized redneck orange number with USB 3.0 support. It has a dumb name, but it's fast and can hold a lot of valuable things. It can also, according to this marketing video, withstand five minutes in a deep fryer. So if you're Kim Dotcom or just generally looking for a flash drive that you can also drop into boiling fat, here is one. This one does that.

Dec 10, 2012

Your Twitter Profile Is About to Change Whether You Like It or Not

Back in September, Twitter introduced a new design for profiles with a header, which made your Twitter profile look a lot like your Facebook profile. Until now, uploading a header and switching over to the new profilehas been optional. Starting December 12th, it won't be any more, and your profile will be converted to the new design.

According to the blog post from Twitter:
On December 12, we're rolling this out to all users: you'll automatically get this new version of the profile on If you don't upload a header photo by then, you (and everyone else) will only see a default grey image on your page. That's not fun! To get inspired about what you can do, check out this video to see how to make your profile a little more "you", less generic. Have fun out there. More here.

Do You Want Restaurants Following You on Twitter?

This receipt is from a restaurant in San Francisco. Typical. On one hand, the thought of a restaurant following you on Twitter and Instagram, stalking you, liking your arty snapshots and faving your 140-character quips is obnoxious. And on the other hand, gift cards.

Does this annoy you? Or do you even care if restaurants want to follow you? More here.

Dec 9, 2012

Starbucks to Open 1500 More Locations for You to Find Free Wi-Fi

Starbucks announced today that it was opening 1,500 more stores in the U.S. over the next five years. For some this means more places to buy coffee, for others it means 1,500 more places to find free Wi-Fi.

It appears that the gigantic coffee seller is going to do something about that, and according to USA Today, it announced at its most recent investor day that it would be opening another 1,500 locations over the next five years through out the U.S. Canada, South America and China are also prime targets for further expansion. More here.

Dec 8, 2012

America Is Just So Beautiful at Night

NASA's Suomi NPP satellite was able to grab this beautiful image of the United States of America at night because of a new infrared sensor on the satellite. The sensor is able to detect natural light versus man-made light at extremely high resolution. That's how you get this perfect image of Earth at night.

Wired writes:
The Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite has a "day-night band" that can detect natural and man-made light with unprecedented resolution and clarity. It can resolve everything from the nocturnal glow of the atmosphere to the light of a single boat at sea. It can detect auroras, wildfires, the reflection of moon and star light off clouds and ice and the lights alongside highways. The sensor has six times better spatial resolution and 250 times better resolution of lighting levels than anything that came before it.
What's interesting is that the pictures from the Suomi satellite are available to the public, giving most people the clearest look of Earth at night ever. Before, the Air Forced had nighttime sattelites in play but most of the data was classified and not nearly as clear as the image above. To see more angles that the Suomi satellite was able to take, check it out here

A USB Flash Drive That Might Be More Beautiful Than a MacBook

This sleek flash drive is the perfect complement to your beloved Apple hardware, even going so far as to match its silvery finish.

Available in 16 and 32GB capacities for $60 and $82 respectively, these ultra-compact flash drives from Elecom add a bit of stylish extra storage to your hardware. And given their compact cylindrical design sits flush to the edge of your laptop, in theory you'll never need, or want, to remove it. Besides, why would you ever lend it to someone and risk never getting it back? More here.

Dec 7, 2012

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Now Available for iOS

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City is now available for the iPod touch, iPad and iPhone, as expected. Oddly, however, Rockstar hasn’t yet released the Android version, which was also due out today. The game has been tailored specifically for touchscreen devices and features updated graphics with improved character models and lighting effects, the ability to save games to iCloud, support for Retina displays and the option to play your own iTunes playlists. Here’s a bit about the game:

From the decade of big hair, excess and pastel suits comes a story of one man’s rise to the top of the criminal pile. Vice City, a huge urban sprawl ranging from the beach to the swamps and the glitz to the ghetto, was one of the most varied, complete and alive digital cities ever created. Combining open-world gameplay with a character driven narrative, you arrive in a town brimming with delights and degradation and given the opportunity to take it over as you choose.  More here.

Dec 6, 2012

Secret Elixir Makes Any Glove Touchscreen-Friendly

By now it's almost impossible to find a winter glove that doesn't work with touchscreen devices. But if you've got a favorite pair that predates the iPhone, this AnyGlove potion will let you use them with a touchscreen display without having to resort to sewing conductive thread onto the fingertips.

Just a few drops is all that's needed for your smartphone or tablet to recognize your gloved gestures. And while the liquid might stain lighter colored fabrics or yarns, it's completely invisible on darker materials. It's not permanent, though, you'll need to reapply the AnyGlove elixir as often as every few days depending on how active you are in your gloves. But a single $15 bottle should last until the warm summer returns. More here.

The Mathematical Formula For a Perfectly Decorated Christmas Tree

It turns out that decorating your Christmas tree isn't necessarily all about taste. Mathematicians at the University of Sheffield in the UK have developed a formula for the perfect way to deck the halls. More specifically, what ratio of ornaments to lights to tinsel will make your tree most aesthetically pleasing.

Since the geniuses behind the formula hail from the UK and embrace that new-fangled metric system, you'll need to know the height of your tree in centimeters. But you're just a tape measure away from having the data you need to use their handy online calculator. Did you know your average six foot tree only needs 37 ornaments to look its best? More here.

Wireless Card Reader Lets You Share Your Shots Without Stupid Cables

Wireless devices are usually far more convenient than their tethered alternative. But in this case losing the USB cable has made the REX-WIFISD1 SD/SDHX/SDXC and flash drive reader a bit on the bulky side. So what do you really gain for it being wireless? The ability to access it from any mobile device.

Apple already sells a memory card adapter for its iOS devices, but this is a more universal solution letting Android hardware and Windows/Mac PCs access the data from an attached storage device. Of course the onboard wireless hardware is powered by a 3,000 mAh battery, which should give upwards of nine hours of operation. And not surprisingly, given the extra functionality the REX-WIFISD1 is priced bit higher than your average card reader at $97. So is this one worth importing? If you abhor cables the answer is obvious. More here.

Dec 5, 2012

Feel Free To Spill Whatever You Want On This Waterproof PC

You can be as reckless as you want with your bottle of Moutain Dew around Stealth's new fanless WPC-525F computer. As the name implies it relies on its aluminum chassis as one large heatsink to dissipate high temperatures.

So besides near silent operation, it's also sealed making it completely waterproof and dustproof. The $1,595 base configuration comes with an Intel Dual-Core D525 processor running at 1.8GHz, 4GB of DDR3 memory, and a 120GB SSD so there's basically no moving parts inside. And in order to provide connectivity like USB, video, and LAN while keeping water out, the case uses watertight bayonet connections and adapter cables. So if one unfortunately wears out, they're not exactly common or easy to replace at your local computer shop. More here.

This Is Now the Coolest Microwave of All

Sure, this other microwave is "the most beautiful," and it certainly is "classy," "modern," and maybe even "timeless." But this microwave is a god damn dome. And because it's a dome, it wins it all. It wins microwaves.

The Fagor Spoutnik has two major things going for it: it's called the Spoutnik and it has a dome cover. Also, sike, it has three things going for it: it comes in a ton of wacky colors. Green! Purple! It does everything you'd expect from a microwave—cooking things, cooking things with a timer, etc.—but it does all of it under a dome. This does serve some functional purpose besides being a sweet rainbow dome: you can get a 360-degree view of what you're cooking, and fit odd-shaped foods that might not fit in a rectangle. The microwave used to be a symbol of Space Age luxury—and now that it's no longer a luxury, we can at least pretend we're living in The Jetsons. More here.

Would You Trust a Doctor Checking Your Heart with an iPhone?

Meet the Alivecor Heart Monitor iPhone case. The FDA just approved it. Affordable electrocardiogram (ECG) screening is actually a real need (the AliveCor monitor is just $200), even though you've probably never heard of it. Failure of the ECG screens to detect underlying heart conditions is suspected to have led to many young athletes going into cardiac arrest, and sometimes death. Children's lives literally depend on these things. And being FDA-approved is about as good an endorsement as you can get.

Appending sensors onto the computing power of a device you probably already have is a fine and efficient idea. There are other medical iPhone uses, like blood sugar tests for diabetics, or simple heart monitors. And again, AliveCor has all of the backing of the FDA, as well as the encouraging responses from the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology. More here.

Dec 4, 2012

It Takes 20 Seconds Before People Get Annoyed About Waiting for the Elevator

Theresa Christy, a mathematician who works for Otis Elevator Co (they probably power your building), told the WSJ that once you press a button and wait for the elevator, it takes about 20 seconds before you start getting impatient and annoyed.

Is that it? Or is that on the long side? If I imagine a 20-second count in my head, it seems on the long side. But if I can see the elevator light up the floors, maybe it's not so long. What do you guys think?

Christy actually revealed a lot of interesting tidbits about elevators and how they work and solve problems with math. Like how to tweak elevator speed to accomodate more rides, how many people squeeze into elevators in Western Countries versus Asia and how she uses a computer simulation program that replays elevator decision making (like a video game!) to analyze what to do. More here.