Dec 2, 2011

Sony Reader WiFi officially drops to $129.99

Love 'em or hate 'em, one thing's for sure -- e-readers just keep getting cheaper. The latest to see a dip in price is the Sony Reader WiFi, which debuted at $149.99 just a couple of months back, but has now received a permanent drop to $129.99. What's more, Sony is also running a trade-in program through the end of December that will give you an additional $50 off if you turn in any old e-reader. Not quite the instant discount that an ad-supported Kindle gives you, but certainly not a bad deal if you're looking to upgrade from an older model.

Next-Gen Touchscreens Will Resist Your Greasy Little Fingermarks

For those with obsessive-compulsive tendencies, fingerprints over the screen of their tablet must be a living hell. But a team of German scientists think they can help with, of all things, a candle.

Making a surface that can repel water is easy. So why is it difficult to make one that repels oil? It's to do with oil's low surface tension: to make a surface that can repel it, you need a very particular kind of surface roughness. And while that sounds easy, nobody has yet managed to really work out how to achieve it.

But now a team of researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research in Mainz, think they've found a solution. Using, um, a combination of candle soot and silica baked at just the right temperature. Look, I didn't say it was hi-tech, right?

They've trialled the idea with glass — which is notoriously bad for showing up finger prints. First they held the glass over the candle, which caused soot to be deposited on its surface. These little spheres of soot were 30 to 40 nanometers in diameter, and stacked fairly loosely. In fact, 80 per cent of the coating was empty space, giving just the right roughness required to shed oils.

To fix the soot in place, they coated it with a silica shell 25 nanometers thick. Finally, to get rid of the black color of the soot, they baked the glass at 600C, making it transparent.

The result? Grease-proof glass! They even managed to take high-speed photos of little drops of peanut oil bouncing up and down from the surface. Fortunately, the coating also sticks to other materials like aluminum, steel, and copper, too.

Now, they just need to think of a way of industrializing the process so that it doesn't involve holding huge sheets of glass over candles.

Dec 1, 2011

YouTube Goes Under the Knife, new Homepage and Social Integration Emerge

Falling into lockstep with Google's quest to redesign everything, YouTube officially unveiled a radical new look for its twenty billion strong video site. Now sporting a more somber look, the homepage is now dominated by a center feed hosting content, which is flanked on its left by a list of channels in a quasi-navigation bar. 

Besides hosting channels, that navbar also features Google+ and (opt-in) Facebook tabs, allowing you to peruse content friends are sharing and interacting with. Also tweaked are channels, which are now more easily customizable thanks to the addition of snazzy new templates.

ODDIO1 Straps an iPod Shuffle to Your Head, Makes you Inexplicably Cooler

Micro music players like the iPod shuffle are great when you're shredding the powder, but long cords can be a health hazard, even in the office -- if one wraps itself 'round your coffee mug, you risk having twelve ounces of hot liquid landing in your lap. Designers Jeremy Saxton & Jacob Hall have developed the ODDIO1, a pair of headphones that do away with all that unnecessary cabling -- holstering the shuffle on the right earpiece.

Let's be honest, this ain't exactly rocket science here, the ODDIO1 packs a pair of 30mm dynamic audio drivers, has an adjustable headband and comes in three colors -- grey / black, black / blue and black / pink (oddly, the coolest pair of the three). Because the headphone jack is still accessible, you can sync your shuffle with iTunes without having to tear it out of its holster.

Production tooling and further development of the device. The aim is that the 'phones will retail for $50 when they reach general sale, but only $35 if you pledge now (two pairs for $65 and three for $95). Throwing in $200 will get you the trifecta of regular headsets, a limited edition white version, t-shirt and iPod shuffle in the color of your choice. More here.

Acer's 27-inch HR274H Monitor Promises to do 2D-to-3D Conversion on the Fly

It likely won't win over anyone who isn't too fond of 3D to begin with, but those looking for some additional quasi-3D content beyond the standard fare now have a new option to consider in the form of Acer's 27-inch HR274H monitor. It not only includes a set of passive, polarized 3D glasses, but what Acer describes as its own "chip-based solution" that promises to convert all 2D content to 3D in real time (it can be switched on and off on the monitor itself).

Unfortunately, there's no word yet as to how well the effect works, and the monitor's specs are otherwise decidedly ordinary for the rather high $599 price tag -- you'll just get a TN panel with a standard 1920 x 1080 resolution.

Nov 30, 2011

TED Goes Mobile with New iPhone App

Sure the free TED app has been available on the iPad since last year but—gasp!—not everybody owns an iPad. Now, those of us without tablets can enjoy brilliant conversations on the go with the new TED iPhone app.

The iPhone version has the same access to TED's library of lectures as its large-screen brethren and allows users to bookmark and download—via Wi-Fi—videos for playback. They can even be streamed to a home television using Airplay or listened to through TEDRadio, an audio-only version of the discussions. Its available free from iTunes here.

Nov 29, 2011

YouTube Got Nearly 21 Billion Hits in a Month

The latest report from comScore makes for eye popping reading -- Google's video sites, of which YouTube is the most important, received 20,933,113,000 views in October. To put that into some context, that's roughly three videos watched by every person alive on the planet. According to the statistics, YouTubers spent an average of seven hours watching the month's hottest videos (such as Community's Beetlejuice easter egg and Naughty Fenton). Surprisingly, Facebook came second, but viewers spent an measly average of 18 minutes watching last night's karaoke. In other news, Hulu came top for online advertising and Vevo was the most watched partner site, you guys obviously love your Lady Gaga.

Seagate Outs Second-gen Momentus XT: a 750GB Hybrid Laptop Drive for $189

Seagate was quick to jump into the hybrid HDD/SSD fray last year, with the decently priced and capableMomentus XT. Now we have a successor with identical branding, but with the HDD upped to 742GB, NAND storage slightly increased to 8GB, plus a faster SATA III 6Gb/s interface. The 'flash-assisted drive' promises to cut boot-up and lag times compared to a standard laptop hard disk, by gradually learning which of your files are popular enough to deserve a spot in that solid state VIP lounge. We're looking at a price of $189, including a five-year warranty, and availability from today.

Nov 28, 2011

The Droid 4 Looks Like a Big RAZR and Will Be Here Soon

We've been expecting Motorola's Droid 4 for a while, but now official images and specs have leaked into the wild. And it looks a lot like a bigger version of the recent RAZR.

In terms of specs, Droid Life report that we can expect: a 4-inch screen (though it's not clear if it's LCD or AMOLED), 1.2GHz dual-core processor, 1GB of RAM, a 5-row slide out keyboard, 4G LTE, and an 8MP camera.

It's not setting the world on fire with innovation, sure, but it sounds like a powerful device, and it could be just the phone if you want Android and a decent physical keyboard.

Droid Life also report that Verizon have been training shop staff ready for the Droid 4 launch, and even speculate that it could launch on 8 December. Let's wait and see.

Apple’s Got Free Shipping on Everything Until Dec. 22nd

Okay, so it's not exactly a Cyber Monday blowout. But Apple's dangling a small shopping incentive today, offering free shipping on any and everything you can buy online or through the Apple Store app from now until December 22nd.

Cupertino already offered complimentary shipping on bigger ticket items, so this isn't a huge deal for you MacBook and iPad buyers.

Nov 27, 2011

Unlocked Nokia Lumia 800 now Available on Expansys, Plays Nce with AT&T

You could sit there and twiddle your thumbs while you wait for the Lumia 800 to arrive on US shores. Or you could just head over to Expansys, where you can grab an unlocked version of Nokia's new handset, for $789. The Mango-soaked device comes packed with 16GB of internal storage and is primed for use on AT&T, so if you're prepared to shell out the dough, check it here.

Nov 26, 2011

Tamagotchi Celebrates 15th Birthday and Is Still Available For Your Loving Embrace

You might remember those pesky virtual petkeychain things, which managed to successfully spawn out of Japan to populate the world, and annoy the hell out of parents everywhere. They were launched 15 years ago, November 23rd 1996.

I have to hold my hands up and admit, I had not one, but two of these things when I was a kid. When it landed in 1997, so I hope you can forgive me, right? But a quick look on Amazon tells me you can still buy them. Why on Earth anyone would obsess over such a basic toy when you've got the likes of Nintendogs to take care of these days, is beyond me. Still, if you fancy a nostalgia trip that'll likely last for about 35 seconds before you realise once again, why you hate them — an authentic one will set you backfrom $15.

Nov 25, 2011

Why Your Thanksgiving Meal Makes You Tired

Today, you're gonna shovel one hell of a lot of turkey and pie down your throat, then collapse in a food-coma in front of the TV. But why does your huge meal make you feel like snoozing?

As you'd expect, science has some answers. It turns out that there are two big factors that make you fancy a snooze soon after the pumpkin pie is polished off.

First, when the food starts to arrive in your belly, the activity of the parasympathetic nervous system increases and the activity of the sympathetic nervous system decreases. Huh, what does that mean? Well, the sympathetic nervous system provides our fight-or-flight response. The parasympathetic system gets your organs ready for digestion. Basically, your body wants you to stay still in order to sort out the contents of your stomach. That's why you choose not to move too much after your meal.

Next, when you start digesting your food, you get a big rush of glucose into your blood stream. If you don't have diabetes, your body creates insulin to help the body's cells absorb the glucose. The insulin works by affecting the uptake of a bunch of amino acids in the body — stick with me here! — except for one called tryptophan. So the concentration of tryptophan increases relative to other amino acids. Turns out that in the brain, tryptophan is converted to serotonin, which is itself converted to melatonin — both of which result in sleepiness.

Voila! Your nervous system and your brain both want you to sleep. So I say go with it.

Incidentally, there's a myth that turkey contains a lot of tryptophan. That's kinda rubbish, though, as turkey doesn't contain any more than chicken, beef, or plenty of other meats. So don't blame the turkey too much. Blame your gluttony instead.

Can Scientists Make a Battery That Will Survive 40,000 Charges?

The one problem with gadgets is power. Even if batteries start off long-lasting, after 12 months they start to struggle. But a new material might change that.

A team of researchers from Stanford have developed a new battery electrode that can survive 40,000 charge cycles. That's about a hundred times more than a normal Lithium-Ion battery, and enough to make it usable for somewhere between 10-30 years.

So how does it work? It's down to what it's made from: copper hexacyanoferrate. The structure of the material lets charge-carrying ions move in and out of the electrode easily, and it's extremely rugged, so it degrades at a much slower rate than Li-On batteries. That all means it can charge and discharge rapidly, and lasts for ages.

Nov 24, 2011

Modular USB Flash Drive Concept Offers a New Way to Sort Your Data

USB drives may come in all shapes and sizes these days, but they all basically give you one of two choices: you can buy one big drive to store as much of your data as possible, or juggle a bunch of drives if you want to keep things separate. Designer Hyunsoo Song has proposed an alternative with this so-called Amoeba modular USB flash drive, however, which let you sort your data on individual drives that can be used both on their own or together as one large drive. The idea there being that you can keep the drives together most of the time, and just detach the appropriate section if you want to share only your photos or videos with someone. Of course, the keyword here is "concept," but it's not exactly as far beyond the realm of possibility as some others we've seen.

Nov 23, 2011

Cornstarch Plastic and Aluminum Make These Headphones Recyclable

Eco-friendliness isn't my biggest concern when it comes to buying headphones, but I guess even Greenpeace likes listening to music, so designer Michael Young has created these recyclable over-the-ear cans as a follow-up to his cornstarch earbuds.

While you can't just chuck 'em in the recycling bin when you tire of the music scene, the headphones are made from repurposable materials like stainless steel, aluminum and cornstarch bio-plastics. Created as part of a joint effort between EOPS, Michael Young, and online store Collette, the Noisezero O+ Eco edition ear goggles are also as good for discerning ears as they are for the environment.

For $159 the headphones even feature a three button inline remote with microphone for taking calls when used with a smartphone, and are available in a gray anthracite or gold finish. I know they're not exactly at the highest end of the headphone pricing scale, but for close to $200 I'd at least expect them to have a single cord design. More here.

Microsoft Thinking About Buying Yahoo. Again

Seems like only a few years ago Microsoft was courting Yahoo. Yeah, that didn't work out so hot. Well, Microsoft is back to kicking Yahoo's tires. And this time Yahoo isn't telling at Redmond to get off its lawn.

The New York Times reports that Microsoft has signed an NDA that allows it to peer into Yahoo's financials. Yahoo is currently searching for a new daddy, and every company that's expressed interest has been asked to sign an agreement that lets it peek at Yahoo's books, but not talk to any of the other companies who are looking. NBD: Microsoft got around this restriction by speaking with potential partners before signing the agreement. Sneaky.

Currently, Microsoft and Yahoo have a lucrative partnership: Yahoo sells ads against Microsoft's Bing search engine results. An investment in Yahoo would not only keep that deal alive, it could also allow Microsoft to leap further into the search-engine ad space. Microsoft has had its sights on Google's ad dollars for years and a Yahoo acquisition could give Redmond another piece of ammunition to take on the Mountain View company.

Nov 22, 2011

Tascam Unveils iM2 Microphone add-on for iOS Devices

Sure, audio recording via the stock mic and iOS app is pretty serviceable for most tasks, but what about capturing that next Avett Brothers gig? You need look no further than Tascam's iM2 stereo microphone for your Apple handheld or slate. Equipped with a pair of condenser microphones -- the same kit as the outfit's DR-series recorders -- the iM2 plugs right in to the dock port of your iOS device.

The duo is adjustable over 180-degrees for the perfect capture and it sports its own preamp and analog-to-digital converter to cut out unwanted coughs and increase those vicious banjo chops. Since the peripheral doesn't use the stock iPhone preamp, it is capable of capturing up to 125dB levels without distortion. And don't worry about that 4S dying mid-set, as the iM2 features a USB input that enables charging through the encore. If you're jonesin' for a closer look, grab yours for $80 here.

The Biggest Advancement in Potato Chip Technology Since the Invention of the Ruffle

Pringles thinks it's so slick with its stackable chips and pop-top lids. Well, consider the playing field leveled, Lays aficionados, with this universal, resealable bag cap.

The Bag Cap by Copco uses a two-part design wherein the lower section installs around the open end of the bag and the upper cap snaps into place. The cap works with any bag (not just potato chips) and is refrigerator, freezer and dishwasher safe so you can protect your peas from freezer burn without having to hunt for rubber bands. The Bag Cap comes in both medium and large sizes—for family size feed bags—and retail for $7-12 on Amazon.

Nov 21, 2011

The Real Facebook Phone Is Finally Coming?

You might remember the AT&T Status, the "Facebook phone" that didn't quite live up to its name. Now, AllThingsD claims, the rumors will finally bear fruit: a Facebook Phone made by Facebook. The real deal. And it sounds pointless.

ATD says "the phone is planned to run on a modified version of Android that Facebook has tweaked heavily to deeply integrate its services." Now, if that means a Kindle Fire take on Android—basically making it unrecognizable—that could be a great thing. But if it means stuffing Android with lots of Facebook links, it could be a race car wreck.

But here's a more urgent point—do we need this? Don't we already have this? "Facebook has worked to take things a step further," AllThingsD alleges, "allowing users to upload photos directly from the picture-taking app, or to integrate Facebook contacts with the phone's address book." You mean like Windows Phone 7 does? You mean like WebOS did from day one? What hole is Zuckerberg trying to fill here?