Jan 2, 2011

A USB Hub With a Power Strip State of Mind

That's the idea behind Japanese company Elecom's latest attempt to re-engineer the humble USB hub, a power strip-esque block with ports facing skyward and a switch dedicated to each one.

Sure, the garden of sprouting cords won't help you forget that the hub is sitting on your desk, but that means you won't forget that they're sucking up precious electricity, either. The hubs are on sale now in Japan $41 for four ports or $106 for seven.

MacBook Air's SSDs Will Be Sold to Other Companies by Toshiba

Available in 64GB and 128GB capacities (both measuring 2.2mm in height) and a 3.7mm tall 256GB option, the Blade X-gale SSDs will inevitably show up in laptops, netbooks or even tablets. They've got a max sequential read speed of 220MB/s, with max sequential write speed of 180MB/s.

Forget Your Dog, Your Phone Needs an Adorable Little Outfit

You don't spend all day in some sweaty plastic case, so why subject your most faithful electronic companion to that same sartorial torture? Get it the case it deserves. The outerwear it needs. A tiny denim outfit.

Thanks to SabaiSmile at Etsy—where you can now certifiably buy anything you can think of—you can snatch up a jacket, a dress, or some short shorts for your smartphone, MP3 player, or if you're a real big weirdo your handheld GPS device. 

Jan 1, 2011

A Winter Wonderland in China

The Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival in Harbin, Heilongjiang China is set to open on January 5, 2011. It's a winter wonderland with buildings made from beautiful ice and snow.

The northern lights could be headed south to a night sky near you

The amazing lights of the aurora borealis and its southern counterpart, the aurora australis, are created by the collision of charged particles in the Earth's magnetic field. As photons from the solar wind are accelerated along the lines of our planet's magnetic field, they undergo incredibly energetic reactions with nitrogen and oxygen atoms in the atmosphere, releasing and absorbing lots of energy in the constant collisions. Collisions with oxygen molecules create the green or brownish-red colors of the aurora, while collisions with nitrogen account for the blue and red colors.

Because the lines of Earth's magnetic field run towards the two magnetic poles, the aurora effect is strongest and most likely to be visible to the naked eye in the polar regions. The poles also have an added advantage, as their much longer periods of darkness mean there are far more opportunities for auroras to become visible.

But every so often the auroras become visible far away from the poles, thanks to a little help from the Sun. During periods of extreme solar activity, the Sun can create what's known as coronal mass ejections (or CMEs), which are huge blasts of charged particles. In almost all cases, these CMEs miss the Earth completely, and even when they do hit the Earth it's rare that they have any noticeable effects.

Still, if a strong enough CME hits the Earth, it can trap tons more charged particles than normal in the magnetic field. That supercharges the aurora effect so that people living as far south as Dallas or Los Angeles would be able to see the northern lights. (Well, maybe notspecificially Dallas and LA - the city lights would probably drown the aurora out.)

We've already enjoyed some spectacular auroras thanks to the solar activity, and it only figures to get better. We're in a particularly strong period of solar activity at the moment, and astronomers predict it will peak around 2013.

Even Putin Looks Displeased With 3D Glasses

When Russia's bad boy Prime Minister Vladimir Putin himself looks irritated with the idea of wearing 3D glasses, it's gotta be time to reconsider that whole trend. 

Dec 31, 2010

The Last Roll of Kodachrome Film Ever Will Be Developed Today

Even if you don't give two f-stops about analog photography, it's always good to respect our elders. So today, we pour one out for Kodak's legendarily beautiful Kodachrome film, which after today, in Parsons, Kansas, will never be processed again.

Kodachrome, which Kodak stopped manufacturing last year, has been prized by the world's most eminent photographers for its beauty and refinement—the way it captures light and color is unlike anything else, and has made possible some of photography's greatest visions..

Despite having the bejeezus knocked out of it by digital, the singular beauty of analog photography should never be forgotten—and thanks to groups like the 1,668 member strong Kodachrome Flickr pool, it probably won't be.

The Nintendo 3DS Will Destroy Children's Eyeballs

Remember your parents telling you sitting too close to the TV would make you blind? Well, now when parents tell young kids to turn off the 3D on Nintendo's 3DS 'cause it'll ruin their eyes—they'll actually be right.

The machine translation is a little rough, but the gist is clear: Nintendo has issued a warning that kids under six shouldn't use the 3DS's 3D mode because their vision is still "in the development stage," and the way that stereoscopic 3D works, delivering different images to each eyeball, "has a potential impact on the growth of children's eyes."

Sony's also noted that kids under six shouldn't play 3D games without being examined by their eye doctor first. But the 3DS is in a slightly different position than the PS3, since Nintendo's way more geared toward kids than Sony is.

To keep the childrens away from 3D, the 3DS will apparently have a parental lock on 3D, locking the 3DS in 2D mode. Even with the parental lock, though, this is pretty crazy. Nintendo issuing a warning explicitly stating, "Hey, our product could screw up your child's vision." Who's gonna buy that for their kids?

Hoodie With Earbuds Instead of Strings Is Greatest iPod Accessory of All

Hoodies have strings around the neck, right? Have you EVER used those strings? Why you'd want to tighten a noose around your neck, I'll never know. The HoodieBuddie cleverly replaces the strings with earbuds; the pocket contains a 3.5mm jack.

All you need to do is whack your iPod into that 3.5mm jack, hiding in the front-right pocket, and you can listen to music without your wires getting tangled. Really, it costs $44. 

Dec 30, 2010

In the Future, We'll All Wear Clothes Made by 3D Printers

Designers are already using 3D printers to create textiles apparently. Fashion site Ecouterre has an article on the 3D printed clothes phenomenom, and the museum of Modern Art is exhibiting the Dutch designer Freedom of Creation's works already. 
It's not just the lure of having clothes that fit properly that's appealing for designers—3D printing also helps cut down on labor costs and could be seen as reducing waste.

WWF Is a New Green File Format That's Impossible To Print

The rabble rousers at the World Wildlife Fund (they re-named fake wrestling!) have created a new, PDF-type file format called WWF. It's a file format that CANNOT be printed out. The idea: save as WWF, save a tree.

WWF is currently only savable and readable on Mac, but a Windows version should be coming soon.

Electric Razors Really Are Better (for the Environment)

Electric razors use 30x less energy. How does Slate figure? An electric razor runs on 5-6 watts, consuming 0.35 kilowatt-hours a year. But! Most dudes using a disposable razor use a quart of hot water, using 10.4 kilowatt-hours a year.

All told, when you consider other elements, like the CO2 produced by making each disposable razor and the like, an electric razor will save you 14.9 pounds of carbon dioxide per year—which isn't a lot—but every little bit helps. I suppose if you wanted to go ultragreen, you could go ultra badass: a straight razor with no water.

Dec 29, 2010

The Most Magnetic Material Yet

Iron cobalt was the most magnetic material on Earth until physicists created what's in this man's hands. It's an iron and nitrogen compound which is 18 percent more magnetic and potentially disproves theories about how magnetic a material can be.

Jianping Wang, a physicist at the University of Minnesota, created the compound, but he's actually not the first to do so:

In 1996, researchers from the Central Research Laboratory of Hitachi in Japan made the same iron and nitrogen compound. Their research also showed that the material exceeded limitations set by traditional theories. However, scientists were unable to duplicate their experiments.

Apparently Wang has "taken special care to allow other scientists to duplicate his experimental setup" because of these failed attempts of the past. It's a shame that his experiment doesn't count as proof of the original compound's creation for some reason though.

Intel's 310 Series SSDs Are an Eighth the Size of Their Predecessors

SSDs are great, and they're getting smaller all the time. A lot smaller. Intel's teeny new 310 Series SSDs deliver the same performance as the x25s that came before them, but they're just an eighth the size.

The new drives, intended for notebooks, tablets, and rugged industrial and military devices, are 51mm-by-30mm and a mere 5mm thick.

Lenovo's signed the 310 up for their next-generation ThinkPads, and DRS Technology's planning on sliding the 310 in a tablet next year. Intel's shipping drives to OEMs in 1000-unit quantities in two capacities: 40GB ($99) and 80GB ($179). They say it's the first salvo in a wave of new solid state drives they'll be firing off next year, to which I say bring it on. The smaller and the faster the better.

Samsung Taking the "Thinnest" 3D Blu-ray Player

The defining characteristic of most home Blu-ray players isn't usually their thickness, but perhaps if you live in a house with low ceilings you might fancy Samsung's new, unnamed Blu-ray device. Seems pretty deep, though, Samsung. Got anything narrower?

While announcing the device, Samsung also took the time to blow its trumpet about US Blu-ray player sales—claiming it is "commanding" the US market and took a 35% share of sales between January and November.

Dec 28, 2010

Go Pew Pew in the Space Invaders Couch

This sofa is likely to never see the dawn of a waking day, nor the imprints of your buttocks as you settle in for a marathon 15-hour Space Invaders sesh.

Keep The Snow Out Of Your Brain With The Sony MDR-EX1000 Flagship Earphones

Seems a bit of a shame to spend $799 on something no one will ever see because it'll spend most of its life rammed down your ears, but if you need higher-end earphones, the MDR-EX1000 will do the job.

The Asia-only flagship earphones are available on import through Audiocubes, so if you'd like your audio reproduced by a custom Sony 16mm driver created from a liquid crystalline polymer with an impressively wide response range between 3-30,000Hz and a magnesium housing, they're the ear canal warmers for you.

Zip Tie Snow Tires

It's officially that time of year, with snow and slush and ice perpetually impeding your biking. What to do? Well, if you've got a box of zip ties and can conjure up a little MacGuyever spirit, you do this.

Fritz Rice of the Dutch Bike Co. is the clever rider behind these makeshift snow tires, and while he admits they look a bit silly (and that some fixie-riding hipsters may have pioneered the idea), he seems pretty thrilled with the results.

Dec 27, 2010

Embrace The Light

I never thought that a lamp which costs over $500 and has to be inflated before it can be used would be appealing, but then I was informed that it's huggable. Now I just want to snuggle up with one.

The lamp is called Supernova and it is created by a firm called Scale 1:1

Flexible LED Mat Can Bend and Fold for Any Emergency Lighting Situations

Running off three AA batteries, this FLEXiT blanket of LEDs is completely flexible and able to hold shape, meaning you can wrap and fold it around objects (your laptop, dog's tail, under the sink) for some urgent light-throwing.

There are 16 LEDs sprinkled across the silicone blanket, and there are even three light settings (I imagine for dim, dimmer, and dimmest light?) cost $30 on FLEXiT 

It's Official: LED Lights Are Coming

The future of lighting is here, it's just not evenly distributed. Light-emitting diodes (LED) lightbulbs have been coming on the market in the past few years, but their quality varies greatly, from "almost perfect" to "horrible."

The Qnuru bulbs use LEDs made by Cree. The versions are "cool white" (6000k temp), they're also available in "warm white" (3000k). They use a standard E26 socket and use respectively 6.4 watts and 9.2 watts, and they're both rated as replacing 60W incandescents, though the bigger OPAL definitely produces more light and has a wider beam angle.

They have a 50,000+ hours lifetime, which compares very favorably to about 15,000 hours for compact fluorescent (CFLs) and 2,500 hours for incandescent bulbs. It makes more sense to pay extra for quality if you're going to be potentially keeping these lights around for decades. In fact, they come with a 3 year warranty, not something you'll find on any fluorescent!

And of course, because they are LEDs, they don't contain any mercury, and they are a lot less fragile than CFLs and incandescents.

Dec 26, 2010

Why Do All the Christmas Lights Go Out When Only One Bulb Blows?

If you've dabbled in Christmas decorations with traditional Christmas lights, you'll know that when one bulb blows, the entire line goes out with it. Why is that? Because of how the manufacturers wire them.

That image above shows how the lights and power supply are typically wired (not the new LED varieties, though) in traditional Christmas lights. If the filaments of all the bulbs are intact, then the circuit is complete and all the lights work. But if one bulb so happens to break then the entire circuit is broken, thus making all the lights go out. It's basically much cheaper for manufacturers to build lights like this because it allows them to use this cheaper series wiring with inexpensive bulbs.

Chinese Tweeter Arrested on Wedding Day for Tweeting Joke

China's not allowed access to Twitter, but obviously there are "ways" to work around that.Cheng Jianping and her fiancé Hua Chunhui, were two such users. Cheng, however, was arrested for RTing her fiancé's joke—on their wedding day.

The situation was made even more traumatic, because her family and fiancé weren't told of her arrest—leading them to think she'd done a runner. All for retweeting her fiancé's tweet, which said:

"Anti-Japanese demonstrations, smashing Japanese products, that was all done years ago by Guo Quan. It's no new trick. If you really wanted to kick it up a notch, you'd immediately fly to Shanghai to smash the Japanese Expo pavilion."

It was turned into a joke because she added "angry youth, charge!" to her retweet.

So, instead of enjoying life as a newlywed, Cheng was sent to a women's labor camp, where she immediately went on hunger strike. She's to remain there for a year, for "disturbing social order." This comes only a week after Irish chap Paul Chambers was slapped with a guilty verdict for joking he was going to blow up Robin Hood airport in England. Tweeters, stay vigilant.

Dec 25, 2010

Make Your iPhone the Heart and Soul of Your Car Stereo

I get so frustrated when I'm in a new car and there's no way to plug in my iPod. Get with the times, car manufacturers! Or bring them up to speed yourself with the O'Car, a dedicated iPhone-based head unit.

Oxygen Audio's O'Car has a RDS radio tuner and a 4x55W amp, but the magic happens when you strap in your iPhone. The rotating mount charges your phone and holds it horizontally or vertically, allowing you to play tunes through the iPod app, Pandora radio or whatever else, put your iPhone to work as a GPS navigator, or make hands-free calls over your car's speakers. Or play Infinity Blade while you're in bumper to bumper traffic.

The Oceans Are Getting Louder

We all know carbon emissions are making our planet warmer. But the increase in carbon brings with it other surprising problems. More carbon apparently means low sounds travel farther underwater, making the ocean a noisier place to live and work.

The reason is complex. Increased atmospheric carbon dioxide also means increased absorption of carbon in the Earth's oceans. And this increase, in turn, means more acidic sea water. More acidic oceans mean less absorption of sound at low frequencies.

And less sound absorption means louder noises over longer distances. In a paper published in Nature Geoscience, scientists predict that, within 100 years, absorption of sounds at around 200 Hz will go down by 70%, meaning sound could travel much farther.

The effects of less absorption and more noise at this frequency could be huge. For instance, scientists and commercial shipping vessels use these lower range frequencies for navigation and oceanic research. Also, marine mammals, such as whales, use these low frequencies for finding food and mates. Noisier oceans might cripple ocean navigation and interfere with whale life.

Unfortunately, the acidification of the ocean won't end when we stop polluting. In fact, the acidic shallow waters will propagate into the deeper ocean, where sound travels farthest, and possibly spread this noisy effect much farther than expected.

Recently, scientists found that blue whale songs are changing, drifting lower in pitch. Their research hinted at the deep complexity of marine life and the in-progress nature of this kind of science. This new marine acoustics research puts an additional wrinkle in the world of underwater communication, making the story more complex and even more interesting.

He Sees You When You're Tweeting, He Knows When You're Awake

Are you following santa? I know I am @santa__claus

Dec 24, 2010

Solar Radio Doubles As USB Charging Multitool for Adventurers

Eton's Raptor doesn't know if it's a radio, a weather-gauge or a bottle opener. An inbuilt solar-panel charges the li-Ion battery, powers the AM/FM/digital tuner, and also juices-up your phone through the miniUSB port.

Planning an expedition through uncharted territory? You also get a compass, chronograph, altimeter and barometer to keep you on track and informed of atmospheric conditions. There's a clip for your utility belt and of course, it's rubberized for waterproofing and shock protection. There's even a line-input for amplifying your iPod, too.

And the feature you'll probably end up using the most? The bottle opener of course. On sale soon, for an unspecified amount.

Sony's Camcorder That Takes DSLR Lenses Will Be On Sale Next Year

Looks like Panasonic aren't the only guys with a camcorder that can supportinterchangeable lenses like a DSLR. Sony's NXCAM, first shown off in May, takes E-mount lenses (the same used on their NEX cameras) and has a super-35mm sensor.

While it's just a concept for now, they have plans to bring it out in the middle of next year, where it'll be shooting video in 1080p—most likely for a pretty, pretty penny.

Oil Lamp Grenade: Because a Round-Base Flame Carrier is a Safe Idea

Don't lob this grenade, whatever you do—unless you're attempting insurance fraud and actually want your house burned down. Perfectly rounded, filled with oil, and then lit up. What could go wrong?

Dec 23, 2010

Pretty Soon, Your Gold Wedding Band Can Be Any Color You Want

Researchers have figured out how to use a specific engraving technique in order to alter the frequency of light a metal—any metal—absorbs or reflects. How? By carving tiny rings, smaller than the wavelengths of light.

Gold normally absorbs blue light, which gives it its yellowish hue. Silver metals absorb and emit just about every frequency of visible of light (which means they're actually colorless).

By carving a pattern of rings onto a metal's surface, the properties of its electrons, called the resonant frequency, is altered. By varying the size and depth of these rings, the frequency of light a metal absorbs and reflects is changed. No other properties of the metal are affected.

This is essentially the same technique that scientists are using to create invisibility cloaks, except that instead of trying to make light pass through a material, they just want to redirect how light is reflected and absorbed.

Everyone's Favorite Windows Error is Now Artwork

500 prints of the Windows XP wallpaper "Green Hill" have been turned into a piece of art, called "My Favourite Landscape." Yes, the world's most infuriating computer error can now be cooed at in an art gallery. Ugh.

Paul Destieu, the creator of such horror, used 500 prints which "sets the common bug out of its context, on a wall, expending it to much bigger scale. The famous picture finds a new landscape shape out of its usual frame."

Don't Try and Eat These Earbuds Made From Cornstarch

Exercise in minimalistic unbranded beauty, or eco-friendly gadgetry using new creation techniques? Both. Direct from Hong Kong, designer Michael Young uses cornstarch for hisEOps Noisezero i+ Eco 'buds. Sounds corny.

Dec 22, 2010

How To Pirate Vinyl Records

Just because vinyl records are analog, it doesn't mean you can't pirate them. All you need is a wood box, glass, window cement, silicone mixture, liquid plastic and a drill press. Hey, I didn't say it was going to be easy.

To start, you put your record in the wood box and pour the silicone mix over the record to create a mold. Then, you pour the liquid plastic into the silicone mold to make the pirated copy of the record.

Silicone Steamer Bowls Might Be The Perfect Bachelor Kitchenware

It's rare to find a kitchen concept that looks truly innovative, but these silicone steam roasting bowls look ace: use them to mix; use them to bake or steam; use them to serve. You can find them here.

Tapi, A Rubber Adapter That Turns Your Faucet Into A Drinking Fountain

Yes, the Tapi is silly looking. But it makes some sense. Attach the Tapi to your faucet and squeeze the rubber end to turn your faucet into a low cost, full-fledged drinking fountain. No cup necessary! If you don't squeeze the rubber end, water will flow normally.

Dec 21, 2010

Boxed Water

Boxed milk and juices are a supermarket staple, but one company is now selling boxed water.

Boxed Water Is Better sells water in cartons, ditching the plastic bottles while reducing the overall carbon footprint of packing and distribution by 80%.

Snap Capp Reseals Your Soda Can

It's a cheap and cheerful plastic top that pops onto a standard 12- or 16-ounce drinks can, and turns it into a resealable bottle, with a lid, to stop your refreshments going flat. Simplicity itself, and it's reusable too. Available in a variety of colors, packs of three for around $1.99 here.

Dec 20, 2010

Adidas-Branded Sennheiser Headphones

The HD 220 Originals come in white and blue, with adjustable earpads and promises of "enough bass." Enough for what, I wonder? Blasting eardrums with some drum 'n bass?

They are perfect for everyday use, featuring powerful bass-driven, stereo sound; a closed headphone design to block outside noise and create the ultimate listening environment; and individually adjustable ear cups for a secure and comfortable fit. The HD 220 Originals cost £50

Your Favorite Delicious Snacks Get a Minimalist Transformation

Product packages are often the design equivalent of having a hammer driven into your eyeballs. Buzzword-y text everywhere, disgusting color overload, and corny cartoon mascots. So why not strip it all away and let the thing's name speak for itself?

Design firm A2591 took popular tasty products and gave them a minimalist makeover. All the extraneous crap, scrubbed away. Each item gets two version—one with some of the orignal's elements left over. Beautiful typography. Simple, popping colors. Tasteful. Think Cornflakes, without a big goofy picture of cascading milk into a Grand Canyon-sized pit of cereal. We all know what Cornflakes are—we don't need the helpful illustration.
Of course, companies want their products to be as wackily eye-grabbing as possible so that our hands and wallets will do the grabbing next, but it's nice to imagine a world in which store shelves are visually appealing, instead of it looking like an ad agency projectile vomited.

TRON's Cross-Promotional Branding Madness Continues (Xbox Controller Edition)

Only 250 of these things were made to coincide with the release of TRON: Legacy, and will sell direct from PDP's website in "late December" for $50.

Dec 19, 2010

Unlock the Door to Your Computer's Heart

USB drives have become cheap to the point of disposability. I think there are four lying underneath my bed like dust bunnies. So a drive has to be particularly eye-catching to make anyone care—like these 3D printed "keys.

It's not the smallest, or the highest-capacity, or the fastest. But it's easy on the eyes, and you could put photos of your crush on it and wear it around your neck! Actually, that would be sort of creepy.

31 Port USB Hub, Why Not?

This unique mod combines nine USB hubs for an ultra, uber USB hub ready for global domination.

Space Invader Soap Has Me Pew-Pewing In the Shower

Pom... Peem... Pom... Peem... Pom... Peem. Blawp. Blawp. Pom. Peem. Pom. Peem. Blawp. Blawp. Pom. Peem. Peeeweweweweweweweweweweweweweweww. Blawpblawpblawp. CGGHHHKKHKHKKH. Pompeem. Pompeem. Pompeem. Pompeem. Blawp. Blawp. Pompeempompeempompeempompeem. Blawp. Blawp. CGGHHHKKHKHKKH. Shower over.

Dec 18, 2010

Stolen iPhone Provokes Aussie Police to Fire Up the Helicopter to Track it by GPS

The iPhone was stolen from a hospital in Heidelberg, Melbourne, a 16 year old kid who pedalled away furiously on his BMX. It was another successful result for Apple's "Find My iPhone" service though, which allowed the police to track the kid using GPS from a helicopter.

Some Things Are Much Older Than You Think

Apparently, humanity has been WTF'ing since 1620. Rest in peace, Walter Tobias Franfettfuckster. You won't be forgotten.

Want To See What Your iPad Videos Look Like Projected at 100 Inches?

The SHOWWX+ laser projector is 50% brighter than its predecessor, throwing video at 15 lumens with a 5,000:1 contrast ratio for 2 hours with a built-in battery. It's designed specifically for iPads, iPhones, and iPod Touches, so it has a dock connector and can project all your Netflix goodies without any DRM hang-ups.

Because it's a laser projector, the SHOWWX+ has "infinite focus," as MicroVision calls it, allowing the image to be projected crisply on curved surfaces, or when the device isn't perfectly perpendicular to the surface it's projecting on. Its native resolution is 848 x 480, not quite HD, and it includes composite cables in the box for non iOS devices. But pair this thing with some AirPlay speakers and your iPad theater just got a lot more compelling. Available now for $450.