Mar 25, 2012

You’ll Always Have an Emergency Hood While Wearing This Backpack

You probably won't always remember to bring an umbrella when the weather is gloomy, but as long you're wearing thisPuma Urban Mobility Backpack from designer Hussein Chalayan, you'll always have a quick way to keep your head dry.

As an added bonus, when the backpack is particularly full and heavy-laden, you can put the hood up for some extra support. After all, haven't doctors been telling us to lift with our necks all these years? There's no word on pricing for the pack just yet, but it will be available as part of Puma's upcoming Spring/Summer line.

Instagram Opens Signup Page for Android Port, Release Date Still Unknown

It's no secret that one of the most popular apps to ever hit the App Store will soon be coming to Android, and if you'd prefer to be one of the very first on your block to be notified... well, there's a website for that. 

Instagram has just opened up a signup page for Android loyalists, enabling folks to input their email address and await word on the download going live. Sadly, there's no hint on the aforesaid page that gets any closer to a specific release date, but hey -- it's one less unspecified thing you have to remember, right? Get in line here.

Mar 24, 2012

Windows 8 Will be 'retina' Display Friendly

Microsoft didn't have to make Windows 8 play nice with the new rash of extremely pixel-dense displays. But, that would be tantamount to OS suicide. So, the latest and greatest Windows will support resolutions up to 2560 x 1440 on screens as small as 10.1 inches. That's a pretty impressive 291 pixels per inch. Of course, it's not quite as simple as it sounds. While in an ideal world, every UI element would be resolution independent, that's simply not the case and the infrastructure isn't there to support it. Instead graphical elements, including text, must be scaled to fill the available pixels. 

Microsoft's scheme will use 100 percent for standard density displays, 140 for HD and 180 for quad-XGA panels. Thankfully, the company was smart enough to include support for SVG files as UI elements, meaning that density and resolution independent future is at least one step closer. 

Cross-Stitched iPhone Cases

You might think cross-stitching is for bored Puritans and nursing home artists—and maybe you're kind of right—but you can cross-stitch yourself one of the coolest custom cases we've ever seen.

All it takes is $25, some thread, and the ability to cross-stitch. That last one is important! But if you've got the know how, you can craft yourself anything you think of. That bird-in-tree design is pretty rad, but imagine the possibilities! Your name. Your girlfriends name. A dino. An infinitely repeating smaller cross-stitched iPhone. More here.

Mar 23, 2012

Carbon Fiber Sunglasses Sound So So So Great

Sunglasses made out of molded carbon fiber with scratch-resistant lenses would fix a lot of standard sunglass-related problems. Like sitting on them. Or having them fall off your face. They're perfect! Kind of.

For all their engineering might, there are still two problems with the admittedly attractive Kolstom Classic sunglasses—neither of which are really their fault. First, hinges. Your frames and lenses might be nigh indestructible, but you can still destroy the glasses at their weakest points. The Kickstarter video mentions some advanced hinge techniques, but it sort of just sounds like a spring. A direct hit from your butt is still going to be trouble. The other problem is that these frames look rather large, and could (will) make your head look small and dumb.

But if you're not too worried about either of those, check out the Kolstoms over at Kickstarter, where they're already funded and you can lock in a pair for $150.

Angry Birds Space Won't Land on Windows Phone

While no doubt swathes of Android and iOS users have experienced massive productivity slumps since Angry Birds Space came out this week, Windows Phone owners will be left staring at their spreadsheets. Peter Vesterbacka, chief marketing officer, at Rovio has told Bloomberg that there are no plans to release the latest iteration of the popular time sink on Microsoft's mobile platform.

Despite the original game still being the most popular app in the Marketplace, Vesterbacka claims that "'s a big undertaking to support it, and you have to completely rewrite the application." So, until a Series 40version is confirmed, you bird slingin' Nokia fans will just have to wait.

Mar 22, 2012

Facebook Photos Just Got Bigger and Prettier

Facebook's photo viewer just got two overdue improvements. First of all, Facebook now supports high-resolution photos. When you click on an image in the photo viewer, it will display images at the highest resolution possible, which could be up to four times larger than the old size depending on the size of your display (the maximum size is 2048 x 2048). While you've been able to upload hi-res images for some time it's only now that you're able to actually view them in their massive glory.

The photo viewer is also getting fullscreen view, which you activate by clicking on a familiar-looking expand button in the top right corner.

Scientists Have Worked Out How to Stop You Going Bald

Going bald is the one big vanity concern among most men. But relax, it doesn't need to be that way; scientists have just worked out exactly why men go bald, and already have a way to stop it happening.

Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania have been testing the scalps of men with male pattern baldness. They've discovered that tissue in bald areas has three times the concentration of a fatty compound called Prostaglandin—PGD2 to its buddies. The research is published in Science Transnational Medicine.

Fortunately, there are already 10 drugs available that can block the receptor that allows PGD2 to work—which means it shouldn't be too long before a baldness treatment, in the form of a cream or ointment, is available. Speaking to The Telegraph, Professor George Cotsarelis, one of the researchers, said:
"Our findings should lead directly to new treatments for the most common cause of hair loss in men."
Apparently, the next step is to establish whether similar treatments could work for women. Let's hope so! More here.

Mar 21, 2012

YouTube Auto Fix Makes Bad Video Suck Less

YouTube is expanding its video manipulation options with a new feature that will automatically fix up your crappy video footage. The edits include color correction and image stabilization.

But there's a catch: Any time video is manipulated digitally, it is degraded to some extent. Automating the manipulations, as opposed to making adjustments as the user's eye sees fit, often results in some wacky and gross results. Software stabilization in particular is an imperfect art—common methods to compensate for shaky movement can lead to pixelated or warped images.

It will be interesting to see how well YouTube's tools function when processing the vast diversity and quality of video content submitted. Luckily, the company had the sense to make the automatic fix optional, and to allow you to revert back to the original video if you are dissatisfied with the results.

Vietnam Considers Limiting SIM Card Access, Suggests 18 per Person is Enough

How many SIM cards do you have in your stash? If your answer is less than three per operator -- of every network provider -- then you may have trouble sympathizing with the apparent plight of some Vietnamese. Proposed legislation from the Ministry of Information and Commerce would effectively regulate each citizen to a maximum of three SIMs per carrier, leading to a theoretical limit of 18 SIM cards per individual, as the country as six operators. The draft law is intended to curb unauthorized distribution in that nation, where SIM cards with student discounts and the like are re-sold without carrier knowledge. 

The proposal could affect businesses too, limiting each company to a maximum of 100 SIM cards -- but there's no word on whether this cap is per network or absolute. Meanwhile, industry officials insist that a limit of five SIMs per operator would be more reasonable, given the number of SIM-enabled devices available to consumers. What's most clear, though, is that Vietnam is awash in marketing opportunity -- just imagine how popular Nokia could be with a mobile phone that supports 18 SIM cards.

All Your iPad Dictations Belong to Apple

Though the new iPad doesn't have Siri, it does have Dictation, which lets you dictate what you want to say to the email, notes, messages, and other apps. And like Siri, Dictation needs an internet connection in order to work, that's because Apple needs to send your phrases to its servers to make sense out of your yapping.

But Apple also stores your messages for an unspecified amount of time when you use Dictation on your iPad. ZDNet notes that though Apple is upfront with what they're doing (there are clear warning prompts), Apple is still unclear on why they're doing it. Specifically, the words and phrase Apple uses—'information like', 'your device will also send Apple other information' and 'Older voice input data that has been disassociated from you may be retained for a period of time'—is incredibly vague.

Of course it's not like Apple is going to use your voice messages against you or something. Apple is collecting data to improve Siri and Dictation. But it's important to remember, especially if you work in a sensitive workplace, that Apple will store your dictations on its servers and once they're on its servers, they pretty much belong to Apple at that point.

Mar 20, 2012

Breakthrough Opens Door for 60Tb Hard Drives

Seagate just shattered the record for storage density on hard drives by using a novel recording method to stuff 1 terabit into a square inch. That's nearly twice the old record. Hard drives are about to get huge.

Seagate squeezed all of that data into that tiny space by using "heat-assisted magnetic recording" instead of perpendicular recording to write data to disk. ExtremeTech reports:
HAMR, which was originally demonstrated by Fujitsu in 2006, adds a laser to the hard drive head. The head seeks as normal, but whenever it wants to write data the laser turns on. Reading data is done in the conventional way. Just so you understand how small the magnetic bits are in a HAMR drive, one terabit per square inch equates to two million bits per linear inch; in other words, each site is just 12.7 nanometers long - or about a dozen atoms.
In the short term the technology will result in new 6TB 3.5-inch desktop drives and 2TB 2.5-inch laptop drives. Currently the largest capacity drives are 1TB and 3TB respectively for laptops and desktops. That's already an impressive boost in capacity.

In theory, though, HAMR should allow hard drives to write up to 10 terabits per square inch, which means that in the future you could potentially cram about 60Tb onto a 3.5-inch drive. Seagate.

The New Worst Place for QR Codes: Burqas

They're controversial, confusing, and their presence creates tension across the western world. Now QR codes have found their way onto the burqa—but why? I can't wait to download this app!

The aptly named WTF QR CODES, where the imaged surfaced, provides no context for this strange sight. Is this a new trend in Islamist society? Was this taken at some booth of Consumer Electronics Association? App here.

Nokia Wants Your Call Alert To Be a Vibrating Magnetic Tattoo

Patents come and go all the time, but here's a crazy-ass one from Nokia: magnetic tattoos that vibrate to alert you to your phone. Talk about keeping in touch.

The patent proposes "a material attachable to skin, the material capable of detecting a magnetic field and transferring a perceivable stimulus to the skin, wherein the perceivable stimulus relates to the magnetic field."

Basically, that means a magnetic field would cause a tattoo to vibrate in a specific way. The tattoos, the patent suggests, would have to use "ink enriched by ferromagnetic or paramagnetic compounds"—not too tricky, given that tattoos already contain metallic compounds. Then, different magnetic fields could be used to provide different sensations, allowing the tatt-wearer to discern between different callers, or different kinds of alerts.

While the patent does suggest that similar technology could be rolled into something else wearable, like a badge, the obvious application is for something truly embedded. At least you can never lose a tattoo. The patent.

Mar 19, 2012

In-App Ads Are Destroying Your Battery Life

You intuitively know that all of those applications running in the background on your phone are latently eating away at your battery's charge, but a new study reveals that the main culprit isn't any useful function. It's location-pinging ads.

The study, conducted by a team lead by Abhinav Pathak from Purdue University, analyzed the energy used by several popular free Android apps (PDF) like Angry Birds, Facebook, the New York Times, and Chess. The team developed an "energy profiler" they call "Eprof" that determines what processes within an app are using energy. The results are shocking: 65 to 75 percent of energy consumed by the free apps studied are used by third-party advertising modules within the programs. These apps continue to run in the background even when you're not actually using the app. Only 10 to 30 percent of that energy is used to power the applications' "core functions."

Apps shouldn't continue to serve you ads when you're not locking at the apps. It's a bug, or something more nefarious. According to the researchers, developers don't notice energy consumption problems—bugs or otherwise—because most apps are "energy oblivious," meaning that the developers don't pay attention to how much energy apps use.

Mar 18, 2012

Sleeping Bag Hammock Lets You Relax Under Any Weather Conditions

Hammocks aren't designed with cold weather camping in mind. Even sleeping bags are helpless against the slightest chill.Grand Trunk's hammock compatible sleeping bag solves this by turning your hammock into a toasty insulated cocoon.

In a normal sleeping bag, the insulation on the back gets squished to oblivion as soon as you get inside, leaving nothing more than a thin piece of fabric protecting your back from the elements. Grand Trunk's hammock compatible bag gets around this by letting you pull your entire hammock through the bag.

Now instead of a sleeping bag pressing against a hammock, you have a hammock inside a sleeping bag. That means the insulation stays lofty so you can stay toasty, even when it's freezing outside. It's one size fits most, so long as hammock apartments don't become the next big thing. It's available for pre-order today for $180 here.

This Tiny Display Measures Less Than an Inch But Still Packs As Much Resolution As the New iPad

Cramming a QXGA display with a resolution of 2048x1526 into a device as small as the iPad might seem like an impressive accomplishment. But Forth Dimension Displays have managed to squeeze that same number of pixels into a display that's smaller than an inch.

And since Apple claims that it's impossible for the human eye to discern individual pixels on their Retina Displays, you might wonder what's the point of having so many pixels on such a tiny display unless you intend to hold it right up to your eye. But that's exactly what they've been designed for.

Forth Dimension Displays is hoping to revolutionize near-to-eye microdisplay hardware, like virtual reality goggles that have so far been a disappointment thanks to their low-resolution displays that don't exactly draw you into the action. In fact, by next year they're hoping to have a high-end gaming accessory on the market using the hi-res displays which would cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $1,500 to $2,000. And if more OEMs started adopting the company's technology, that price would certainly drop over time. More here.

Mar 17, 2012

How a Particle Accelerator Works: Explained With Donuts and Chocolate Bars

Using a fried dough and Kit Kat stop-motion animation, the folks over at Elements explain how a synchroton particle accelerator—like the Large Hadron Collider—accelerate particles up to the speed of light.

And who knows, if high school teachers used baked goods as educational aids, maybe more kids would be excited about pursuing a career in science. More here.

St. Patrick’s Day Hero Attempts To Drink a Gallon Of Shamrock Shake

Guinness is certainly the most popular drink on St. Patrick's Day, but McDonald's Shamrock Shake probably comes in at a close second. It's only available for a limited time every year, which inspired Sam Jordan to drink a gallon of the minty concoction.

Or at least try to.

Filling an empty one-liter milk jug required six of the shakes, which amounts to just over 5,000 calories, or more than twice Sam's recommended daily intake. He started out drinking it with a straw, but it soon became obvious that chugging was the only way to go. Sadly, the sheer volume of Shamrock deliciousness got the best of him about halfway through, but since he's alive to tell the tale, more here.

Mar 16, 2012

Steve Wozniak Was Doing his Regular Waiting-in-line Thing

Sure it's marketing, but it's also a nice little ritual. Speaking to an interviewer from What's Trending, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak acknowledged he doesn't have to wait in line for his new iPad, but said he'd "rather be genuine, like the real people". They're the ones you can see pretending to sleep / read in the background.

The New iPad Has a Gigantic 70-Percent Larger Battery

The new iPad guts are nice, at last with 1GB of much needed RAM to accelerate all that web browsing. But the most impressive thing is the new battery, which takes most of the space. It's a gigantic 70-percent larger!

The iPad 2 had a 25-watt-hour Li-ion battery. The iPad 3 has a 42.5 watt-hour battery! That's 70-percent more than the previous capacity. 70-percent more magical battery unicorns, people.

The battery life hasn't changed, however: it's still ten hours of use, nine with average use of the cellular data network. So why the increase? Obviously, that big screen and the more powerful processor are hitting the power big time.

Mar 15, 2012

This Desk Hides Your Mess

Nika Zupanc calls this elegantly minimal workspace her Homework Table. But work is probably the farthest thing from your mind when you feast your eyes on it since the table's devoid of drawers and clutter thanks to a clever retracting accordion file.

A small brass crank on the side of the table looks like a few turns will result in a scary jack-in-the-box clown jumping out at you. But it's instead used to raise and lower an expansive set of folders that can be used to hide documents that would otherwise take away from the table's stripped-down aesthetic. More here.

Meditation Makes Your Brain Quicker

Most people dismiss meditation as a bunch of hippy nonsense. But no longer; scientists have established that meditation, if done regularly and for long enough, is linked to the brain being able to process information faster. Take that, skeptics.

The research, undertaken at UCLA, used MRI scans to compare the brains of 50 meditators to 50 non-meditators. What they discovered was that long-term meditators display large amounts of something known as gyrification in the brain. Gyrification is just a fancy-pants term for the amount of folding in the cortex—it's what gives the brain its unique, ridged appearance. Furthermore, there's a heap of evidence supporting the fact that the more folded a brain is, the quicker it can process information.

In fact, the researchers found a direct correlation between the number of years participants had been meditating for and the amount of gyrification, which suggests that, over time, people who meditate see an increase in the speed at which they can process information. Speaking to Medical Express, Eileen Luders, one of the researchers, said:
"Meditators are known to be masters in introspection and awareness as well as emotional control and self-regulation, so the findings make sense that the longer someone has meditated, the higher the degree of folding..."
While the finding will likely make those who meditate smile smugly and say "I told you so", you should attempt to rise above it with Zen-like calm. After all, it might do you good.

The Cheap, Unlimited Source Of the Fizzy Water You Can’t Live Without

SodaStream is secretly the most popular kitchen gadget in the world. It almost doesn't make sense: All it does is turn tap water into sparkling water.

The world's obsession with SodaStream is weird. Can't you just buy a bottle of cheap seltzer when you've got the hankering and deal with tap water the rest of the time? More here.

Mar 14, 2012

Microsoft Plans Windows Phone Tango Reveal for March 21st in China

There's no doubt that China's feeling the Microsoft love as of late. After HTC broke ground last week with the launch of the country's first ever Windows Phone handset -- a re-badged Titan known as the Triumph -- Nokia quickly reacted, announcing its plans to unleash unspecified members of the Lumia line on March 28th. 

Now, further fueling MS' mobile momentum in the region, comes word of a major launch event, slated for the 21st, which centers on the official unveiling of Tango: Redmond's lighter, low-end software.

Is CO2 Making You Fat?

There's a never-ending stream of scientific explanations for obesity. The latest suggests that CO2 contributes to our weight gain and that as we pump more of it in to the atmosphere, the fatter we become. But can that really be the case?

The theory is favored by Lars-Georg Hersoug, a scientist from Denmark. He suggests that orexins—hormones in the brain that influence energy expenditure and food intake—are affected by CO2. Affected so much, in fact, that they can shift our metabolism and make us fat.

He has some evidence. Firstly, the rise in obesity in the US was fastest in the period 1986-2010 on the East Coast, where CO2 concentrations are highest. Second, that in animal tests, environmental factors—he can't say exactly which—contribute to weight gain. And third, that inhaling CO2 makes our blood more acidic, something that has been linked to changes in orexins.

Some of this sounds reasonably convincing, some of it less so. But the theory doesn't hold much sway amongst his peers. Speaking to Science Nordic, Thorkild I. A. Sørensen, the leader of the Danish Obesity Research Centre, said:
"[He's] quite right in showing interest for other possibilities. [The] hypothesis is a new and very interesting idea, clearly inspired by studies using animals in captivity that have also put on weight – and a common factor for these animals and people is the air we breathe.
"But there is one problem: the obesity epidemic has developed quite irregularly in time and place, even in a small country such as Denmark, and only a part of the population is affected even though we all breathe the same air."
While it would be wonderful to point to a scientific explanation for the obesity epidemic—espeically one that is out of our immediate control—the fact remains that we're getting fat and need to do something about it. CO2 might cause some very small increase in weight in some of the population, but it's not what we need to worry about. We need to worry about losing weight instead. The most effective way to do that? Eat less and exercise more. More here.

Mar 13, 2012

Optical Thunderbolt Cables Arriving This Year

Intel's Dave Salvator has been talking about Thunderbolt's future, promising that optical versions of thehigh-speed interconnect will arrive this year. The copper version currently available is cheaper and can carry 10 watts of power, but it can only be run a maximum distance of six meters. 

While the fiber version loses the ability to power devices, it's reportedly far faster and capable of running to the "tens of meters." Dave Mr. Salvator wouldn't commit to a release date, or how much more we'll be expected to pay for the cables, but given that we're also expecting to see PCI-Express 3.0 bolted on to the standard soon, we'll start saving today.

New Sony Xperia Sola Offers “Floating Touch” For When Touching the Screen Is Too Much Effort

The Xperia Sola aka the Pepper, touting something called "floating touch" for "magic web browsing without touching the screen", because dragging your finger on glass is just so last year.

The Sola fits nicely within Sony's new design aesthetic – it's unmistakably an Xperia measuring up at 116 x 59 x 9.9 mm and 107g. It packs a 1GHz dual-core chip backed up with just 512MB of RAM; 8GB of internal storage; a 3.7-inch 854×480 screen; a five-megapixel rear shooter, and both xLOUD and 3D surround audio to boost its music prowess. On the connectivity front it's equipped with the usual load-out: Wi-Fi; Bluetooth; GPS; NFC with "SmartTags", plus an FM radio to boot. It'll also come with direct access to Sony's new Entertainment Network, but unfortunately is another Android 2.3 Gingerbread throwback. Sony's promising an upgrade to Ice Cream Sandwich "during summer 2012", which sounds like quite a while to wait to me.

Anyway, the biggest thing about the Sola is Sony's new "floating touch navigation", which allows you to essentially hover your finger over the screen rather than touch it to act a bit like a cursor. Apparently you'll navigate the screen hovering your finger above it; once you've got a link selected, a single tap will be enough to launch it (check the video below for a demo). I'm not quite sure how much better this is going to work than just actually touching the screen – a single tap on a link normally launches it on most phones. Still, it's a novel idea and I'll be interested to see it working in the flesh.

Red Meat Is Responsible for One in Ten Early Deaths

Deep down, we all know that red meat isn't the healthiest thing to eat—but that doesn't stop us tearing into a bloody steak all too often. Sadly, new research suggests that red meat is behind one in ten early deaths, so it might actually be time to make a real effort to cut back.

According to the study, carried out by the Harvard School of Public Health, regularly eating red meat massively increases your risk of heart disease and cancer. The results come from studying more than 120,000 people over 28 years.

What kinds of risk are we talking about? Well, the paper, published in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine, suggests that each extra daily serving of processed red meat—equivalent to a single hot dog or two strips of bacon—raises mortality rates by 20 per cent. The effect is smaller for unprocessed red meat like steak—though the researchers don't know exactly why—which increases mortality rates by 13 per cent. Professor Frank Hu, one of the researchers, told the Guardian:
"This study provides clear evidence that regular consumption of red meat, especially processed meat, contributes substantially to premature death. On the other hand, choosing more healthful sources of protein in place of red meat can confer significant health benefits by reducing chronic disease morbidity [illness] and mortality."
If you're worried by the findings—and if you eat a lot of beef, lamb and pork you probably should be—there's an easy solution. First, limit your intake of red meat. The World Cancer Research Fund suggests, for example, that you eat a maximum of 1lb of it a week. Instead, switch to fish or chicken; this new research also suggests that replacing red meat with either of those leads to a longer life. Happy eating. More here and here.

Mar 12, 2012

Kony 2012 Is the "Most Viral" Video of All Time

Kony 2012 was unleashed on the internet just six days ago, and it has already been viewed more than 100 million times. By some accounts that makes it the most rapidly spreading video ever, beating out the likes of Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga, Rebecca Black, Beyoncé, and Miley Cyrus.

No matter how you feel about the controversial documentary about Ugandan general Joseph Kony, you've got to admit its reach is remarkable. Just read some of these stats reported by the video metrics firm Visible Measures:
As of this morning, the Kony campaign has generated well over 100 million views, 112 million to be exact. The views come from over 750 clips across the web, most coming from video responses to the campaign. There are even translated and subtitled versions of the documentary popping up in Spanish, Italian, French, and Chinese. There are over 860,000 comments for the campaign.
Does this really make Kony 2012 the "most viral" video of all time? It's hard to argue with that assessment. The video's passed through our collective feeds and inboxes so many times that more than a shocking documentary, it's starting to feel more like chain mail. The filmmakers clearly accomplished the goal of raising awareness about Joseph Kony's war crimes. Now we need assess whether the documentary will succeed in accomplishing any good. Will this documentary make the world a better place? Or will Kony 2012 just be the latest video to top the charts until Lady Gaga or Justin Bieber take the top spot again.

Instagram Hits 27 Million User Milestone, Teases Android app

Rejoice, photo filter fans, Instagram is heading to Android "very soon," according to founder Kevin Systrom. Speaking at South by Southwest, Systrom raved about the app's growth, boasting of its 27 million registered users. "They're not excited about it because it makes your photos look beautiful," he says, "They're excited because it networks people across the world and it's the single fastest growing thing in mobile period." The Android version is currently being tested in a private beta, and it's reported to be superior than its iOS counterpart. "It's really, really fast," Systrom said. Don't look so surprised, he did tell us, after all, that iOS was just the beginning.

Mar 11, 2012

Windows 7 on a Smartphone

It's only equipped with a 1.3-megapixel front-facing webcam instead. You'll also find two call buttons and a power button around the top right corner, whereas the HDMI Micro socket is located on the left along the bottom side. There's no 3.5mm headphone jack, so here's hoping there'll at least be an adapter of some sort. Likewise, hopefully ITG will add volume adjustment function into the call buttons.

On the back there's a loudspeaker along with a small monochrome LCD for showing the phone's various statuses, caller number and eventually text messages (ITG's still working on Chinese compatibility). The battery cover and most of the body is made out of a smooth, sturdy magnesium alloy -- a huge improvement from the original xpPhone's cheap plastic body -- though we hope the final product will have finer seams. Inside it sits a huge 11.1Wh battery, which is almost twice as much juice as those on a regular smartphone these days. ITG has yet to confirm the phone's final weight, but you can imagine it being the equivalent of a slightly larger smartphone with an extra standard battery.

The China-exclusive xpPhone 2 won't be cheap when it launches in a month or two: its various flavors (with either silver or gold highlight) will cost between ¥7,000 ($1,110) and ¥12,000 ($1,900), so it's not the kind of phone that you'd want to accidentally drop into the toilet.

Researchers Capture First-Ever Images of Atoms Moving Inside a Molecule

That ripple effect you see in that photo up there represents any changes the molecule went through during the quadrillionth of a second that transpired between laser pulses. Yes, that's the kind of rare, psychedelic shot that's sure to earn DiMauro and team bragging rights, but the scientists also say this technique could have practical implications for observing -- and ultimately manipulating -- chemical reactions at an atomic level. 

Of course, it could be a long time yet before scientists analyze complex proteins in such detail: for the purposes of this experiment, the researchers stuck with simple nitrogen and oxygen molecules, with which chemistry scholars are already quite familiar. In fact, the researchers don't elaborate at all on specific studies where this technique might be useful, but you might want to hit up the source link nonetheless for some of the more technical details of how they pulled off this experiment in the first place. More here.

Self-Standing Pens Are Easier To Grab

Designed by Gustav Widström and Marcus Heneen, the Slända pens always remain standing when you put them down so they're easier to grab the next time you need them. Solving a particular problem that, let's be honest, doesn't really exist.

Technically they'll let you rid your desk of organizers and pen holders, but the Slända's unique design also means it's never going to roll off a table. Which could be its biggest selling point. Either way, for around $30 it should at least stand out enough (get it?) in your office for no one to try and steal it. More here.

Mar 10, 2012

The Sombrero Bottle Juicer Will Zestify Your Spring Water

For only five bucks the convenient Sombrero Bottle Juicer can be yours. Apparently it was invented because the designer saw a friend trying and failing to squeeze a lemon into his bottled water. This is a very clever solution to that problem, but the juicer can also be a clever kitchen accessory for squeezing and storing fresh juices for cooking. There's nothing like a little lime-juice zip to make your taste buds do the Mexican Hat Dance. Get it here.

Mar 9, 2012

Motorola's MOTOACTV gets Software Update March 9th, Brings 40 new Fitness Activities Into the Fold

Late last year, Motorola announced its MOTOACTV device for fitness fanatics. Since then, the wrist-mounted gadget got a firmware update for better battery life, and on March 9th it's getting another fresh dose of code that brings even more functionality. The update adds 40 new custom activities including yoga, handball, skiing and dancing, so you can track all your fitness endeavors individually.

The new code also allows users to activate the display with a flick of the wrist (instead of pressing the power button) and configure WiFi connections right on the device. Not a moment too soon, Moto, summer's closing in and this should help us get that beach (as opposed to blogger) body we've always wanted. More here.

Start8 Download Resurrects the Start Button on Windows 8

The Windows 8 Consumer Preview is available and has taken the Windows interface to a whole new level. Unfortunately, the preview did not come with a desktop feature that the world makes use of billions times a day, the “Start” menu. Luckily, we have a solution!

Start8 brings the “Start” menu back to Windows 8. This product is free and is available now! Enter your email address below to receive a download link.


- Adds a “Start” menu to the Windows 8 taskbar
- Enables quick access and searching of your installed applications
- Adds Run... option via right-click menu
- Adds Shutdown... option via right-click menu
- Choose a custom Start button image

System requirements

- Windows 8 Consumer Preview

Mar 8, 2012

Even the Pedestrian You Accidentally Hit Now Gets Their Own Airbag

Volvo has always built some of the safest cars on the road, protecting the vehicle's passengers when the unthinkable happens. But now the company has added anadditional airbag to its V40 that could save the life of a pedestrian.

In addition to a long list of new features designed to protect the passengers, the new V40 wants to make sure the chances of you hitting a pedestrian are lessened, and if you do, their chances of survival are increased.

First there's its new Pedestrian Detection system which uses a combination of grill-mounted radar and a video camera to detect and recognize a person in the vehicle's path. It can also gauge if they're moving and based on the car's current speed, whether the two are on a collision course. If there is a risk of the pedestrian being hit, an audible alarm will alert the driver. And if there's not enough time for them to react, the vehicle will automatically brake on its own.

But sometimes there's not enough time to avoid hitting someone who darts out in front of your car. So to minimize injuries, the V40 includes an external airbag designed specifically for passengers. Sensors in the bumper register the impact at which point the hood is released and automatically raised by an inflating airbag that extends far enough to provide a cushion as the person rolls up onto the vehicle.

The severity of the accident is dependent on the vehicle's speed and how the person was hit. But if I was a pedestrian who accidentally stepped out in front of a moving vehicle, I sincerely hope there was a Volvo logo on its grill. More here.

Huge Solar Flare to Hit Earth Today, Disrupting Power and Communications

NASA reports that two massive solar flares erupted from the sun on Tuesday which are expected to hit Earth this morning—and they could affect power, communication and GPS systems.

The flares are a result of Coronal Mass Ejections; events where the sun spits out huge amounts of energy in the from of plasma. The resulting flares send clouds of charged particles racing through space and, in this case, we're in the way. The first cloud—due to hit the planet at around 7am EST—is travelling at over 1,300 miles per second, while the second is traveling at about 1,100 miles per second. The video shows footage of the flares recorded by NASA.

Earth will probably be bombarded by particles until sometime on Friday. But while NASA haswarned that the event could disrupt power, communications and GPS services, in reality there's not too much to worry about. While satellites and electronics might be temporarily affected, no lasting severe damage should occur.

In fact, there's one upshot: these events increase the chances of spotting auroras, reports the Telegraph. So while you might not be able to check-in on Four Square for a while, you might see something pretty this evening. More here, here and here.

Mar 7, 2012

The New iPad 3 How It Stacks Up to Other Leading Tablets

Well, it's finally here, Apple's new hotness. But how does it compare to the new hotness from Asus, Samsung, Amazon, BlackBerry, or heck, the iPad 2?

Clearly the toughest competitor in this chart is the Asus Transformer Infinity. The new iPad has it beaten on pixels per inch, but not by a ton. On paper it looks like the Transformer Infinity crushes the new iPad in terms of guts—the quad-core Tegra 3 is one mean mother—but we'll have to wait and see how Apple's new A5X performs in benchmark tests. Similarly spec'd Android tablets will be coming out all year, which means, considering this is a new product, Apple may not be as far of the curve (technology wise) as one would hope. At the same time, Apple products have a long history of outperforming their specs so let's not jump to conclusions just yet.

The new iPad pretty much beats everything else in the chart. It's hard to see a single compelling reason to take the Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 over it or the Transformer (other than price). Amazon's Kindle Fire and BlackBerry's Playbook likewise get chomped, but here at least there is a significant difference in price. $200 is very cheap. For people who primarily want a tablet for reading books and watching the occasional movie, the Kindle Fire might just be a more frugal investment.

iPad starts is $500, $600, or $700 for the 16GB Wi-Fi only version at 16, 32, and 64GB, respectively. For Wi-Fi plus 4G it's $630, $730, and $830, for the the 16, 32, and 64GB versions, respectively.

*Note the forthcoming 4G LTE version of the Transformer Infinity will feature Qualcomm's dual-core Snapdragon S4 processor in stead of the quad-core Tegra 3. You might think that's a step down, but initial benchmarking of the S4 has been extremely good, so in most contexts performance is likely to be just as solid.

P.S. Note that while Tim Cook spent a lot of time talking about the new iPad's four core GPU, that does not make it a "quad-core tablet." That's the graphics processor. The CPU (the main processor) is dual-core. By comparison, the Transformer Infinity has a quad-core CPU and at 12 core GPU. And yes, they were deliberately sneaky about that, knowing that only geeks would know the difference.

The Most Advanced Fake Meat in the World Is Still Gross

I've never understood the desire of some vegetarians to make their food resemble meat; it's creepy and seems to contradict their love of vegetables. Sadly, the practice shows now sign of stopping so, with some reluctance, I present to you the most advanced fake meat in the world.

What you're looking at here is the product of the LikeMeat research project—a collaboration designed to make the meatiest fake meats the world has ever seen. From a rather wonderful press release:
"It looks like a cutlet, it's juicy and fibrous like a cutlet, and it even chews with the consistency of a real cutlet — but the ingredients are 100 percent vegetable."
But enough talk. I know you're dying to know how they make it. Oh boy, it sounds tasty:
"The main ingredients — water and plant proteins — are brought to a boil and slowly cooled down... As the temperature sinks, the protein molecules start to form chains. This gives rise to a fibrous structure that is quite similar to that of meat."
Yum. Sadly, the researchers are only able to produce 60 to 70 kilos of the meat substitute per hour at the moment, but Florian Wild, one of the team, reassures us that its "consistency and texture are already superb."

While I can't deny that a modest reduction in meat consumption might be a good thing for the planet, the solution isn't to eat the products of LikeMeat; the solution is just to eat a few more vegetables. In the meantime, fake meat might be more advanced, but it's still gross. More here.

Why You Have Your Best Ideas When You’re Least Productive

We all have our favorite times to power through work; some of us are up at the crack of dawn toiling away, while others feel more productive when the sun's setting. But a new study suggests that out best ideas actually come to us when we're not at our best.

Researchers have been studying how innovation and creativity varies with circadian rhythms—the natural patterns that make you a morning person or an evening type—and the findings are suprising.

A lot of studies have shown that we perform best—or at least, get most done—during peak times in our circadian rhythms when we're most alert. But the new study, by Mareike Wieth and Rose Zacks, reveals that during the lulls in productivity we're more easily distracted, and that those distractions can help aid creativity. Their conclusion: you have your best ideas when you're least productive.

To establish that, they asked participants a mixture of analytic and insight questions. The analytic questions required laborious, tedious working to establish an answer; the insight questions required a flash of inspiration to crack. The result? Insight questions were completed more effectively when participants were stuck in a circadian rhythm rut.

You see, being less focused on a task makes you more open to distraction, and in turn to exploring new ideas. So, depending on what kind of work you do, you may well be better served by shifting your schedule around a little. If you can pound through work in the morning, take advantage of it and get your tedious, mechanical work done then. That way, you can save lulls for your more thoughtful, idea-based labors. More here.

Mar 6, 2012

Nokia’s Insane 41-Megapixel Phone Isn’t Coming to the US

If you've lusted over the prospect of owning Nokia's new 808 PureView—despite the fact that its pixel count is rather needless—you're out of luck.

According to Nokia's developer site, the phone will enjoy global release... excluding North America. But you'll still be able to pick up an unlocked handset, and who knows, it might makes its way to these shores officially at some point. More here.

Mar 5, 2012

’90s-Inspired Case Gives You the Flip iPhone that Apple Never Will

Last year ThumbsUp! created an '80s iPhone case transforming your fancy Apple creation into the clunky bricks of that era. This year the company's back with a '90s iPhone casethat instead gives it the flip-style functionality that none of us actually miss.

While I can't see someone using this for anything other than irony, I will give ThumbsUp! credit since the case—designed to fit the iPhone 4 and 4S—has a working speaker in the lid and an aerial that can be pushed to lock the phone. It should be available sometime in the fall for about $24, sadly without the stylish belt clip that would certainly complete the '90s look. More here.

Turn a Pile Of Dishes Into a Designer Clock

Tired of being nagged about the ever-growing pile of dishes next to your kitchen sink? With Kyouei Design's Water Clock you can just turn them into a stylish timepiece, and not worry about prepping them for the dishwasher like you're supposed to.

For a ridiculous $325 all you actually get is the square base which you stack a plate and cup on top, fill with water, and then float a couple of small balls in. I'm assuming the magic of magnets once again comes into play here, positioning each ball so they indicate the hour and minutes. But as cool as the effect is, just remember that it will stop telling time once all the water evaporates. More here.

Galaxy Player 70 Plus: Samsung's First Dual-Core Media Player

Samsung's barely finished packing up from its recent stint in Barcelona, but that hasn't stopped another device surfacing on the Korean peninsula. The Galaxy Player 70 Plus appears to be a powered-up version of its 5-inch device from last year, side-stepping the design tweaks we saw last week on theGalaxy S WiFi 4.2 -- the other new (similarly long-winded) Android PMP from Samsung.

Alongside a dual-core 1GHz processor, other hardware improvements include a (Korea-only) DMB TV tuner, 5-megapixel camera and a 2,500mAh battery to keep that expansive screen running for longer. The media player will arrive in both 16GB and 32GB capacities, priced up at 399,000 won ($356) and 469,000 won ($418) respectively, although there's no news just yet on whether the wider world will get to wrap their hands around that substantial 5-inch screen.

Mar 4, 2012

Beef Straws Will Obviously Make Any Beverage Better

They're designed to be used with more savory drinks like a bloody mary, but there's no way these edible beef straws—made from hollowed out Slim Jims—won't improve the flavor of any beverage.

A pack of 30 will cost you $34, so Benny's Bloody Mary Beef Straws certainly aren't a cheaper alternative to regular plastic drinking straws. But like licorice, they're completely edible. And unlike licorice, they're made from more delicious seasoned beef.

I would also like to point out that I've taken the high road with this post, since the suggestion of sucking on a beef straw is ripe for more childish jokes and wordplay than my mind can comprehend. More here.

Mar 3, 2012

Smartphones Spread out: 46 Percent of US Adults Now Own One

Our master plan is slowly working, and soon every man and woman in our great nation will own a smartphone. Pew Research Center reports that just under half of adult Americans, or 46 percent, own smartphones currently, meaning that smartphone owners now outnumber their feature phone counterparts by five percent. Pew polled multiple demographics to get its numbers, and there was growth across the board over the last nine months. 

Of particular interest is the rise in ownership in the study's lowest income demographic -- under $30,000 a year -- which spiked 12 percent to 34 percent. Additionally, it showed that Android and Apple are neck and neck, with 20 and 19 percent market share of mobile owners, respectively, and Blackberry ownership declined from ten percent to six percent. The largest growth came from the 18-24 age group, up 18 to 67 percent. More here.

YouTube Android app Update Brings HD Video Streaming to 'capable' 2.2+ Devices

Honeycomb and Ice Cream Sandwich Android-running hardware has had access to HD resolution YouTube streams since launch (as seen above), but an update to the app that rolled out yesterday finally brings HD to some devices running Froyo or Gingerbread. 

The catch is that YouTube HD res won't work on every Android 2.2 or 2.3 phone or tablet, it is set dynamically based on screen size and resolution. Another quirk is that some devices still won't install the updated version directly from the Market, like our Epic 4G Touch. Still, assuming you can snag the update -- through official or unofficial means -- if you have the pixels to spare you should see upgraded video quality from now on. Get it here.

Mar 2, 2012

Fading Highlighter Makes Textbooks Easier To Sell

Selling your textbooks at the end of a semester to recoup some of their outrageous price tags could get even easier with Quirky's Fader highlighter. After five months the yellow streaks will disappear completely, netting you top dollar for your pristine books.

At the moment Quirky is still putting out feelers for demand, and gauging how much students would be willing to pay for it. But according to its site, the average scholar spends $1,168 on textbooks during a four-year degree. So Quirky could probably still charge a ridiculous amount for the Fader if it meant that students could get considerably more cash for their used reference materials.

It also means you're not giving your competition in a lower grade an advantage with a used textbook that includes all the important bits already highlighted. More here.

The Ugliest Sandals in the World Are Actually Based on Foot Science

Look how ugly these sandals are. They look like a radioactive gummy bear pooped on a milk crate. But these Sazzi sports sandals are actually biomimeticly designed to keep your feet safe from uneven terrain, if not deeply judgmental eyes.

Barefoot running has been popular for a few years now. The five-fingered shoes you see pounding down the sidewalk really do help people stabilize themselves while they run by letting the muscles in your toes and feet do the work they were meant to do. Same goes for the Sazzi sandals, except, like, as sandals.

You probably won't be putting in a ton of roadwork with these, but they might warrant a look. Er, wear. They warrant a wear. Don't look directly at them. They'll be out in May for $80-$100.

Mar 1, 2012

Apple iPad 3 Event Confirmed for March 7th in San Francisco

You've heard all the rumors, and now Apple has finally confirmed the details of its next iPad launch event. It will take place on Wednesday, March 7th at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theater in San Francisco. The company is keeping things suitably vague beyond that, of course, promising only that it has "something you really have to see. And touch.

In Japan, You Can Order McDonald’s Using Your Car Navigation System

Apparently fast food still isn't fast enough for the residents of Japan. Starting in March, McDonald's will be testing out a new systemallowing drivers to order and pay for a happy meal right from their car's navigation unit.

Using the country's wireless traffic news network known as the ITS, vehicles passing near one of McDonald's' restaurants will automatically be provided with a menu that can be navigated via their GPS device's touch screen. They can order and pay for food—hopefully not requiring them to dig out their credit card number while driving—where they'll then be directed to the nearest location to pick up their meal.

It all sounds rather efficient and a great way to speed up the drive through window, but how is this any easier than just creating a smartphone app with the same functionality? Custom menus could be updated every day, the driver's location could be easily pinpointed, and paying with your phone in Japan is already commonplace.

As it stands, the test involves 26 different companies to make it happen including Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Panasonic System Networks, Toyota, Pioneer, and financial institutions. When, really, all that's needed is a solid app developer with some backend upgrades allowing restaurants to take orders remotely.