Oct 6, 2012

iPhone 5 Chemical Study Shows a Green Apple, Leaves Room for Improvement

Eventually, that shiny new iPhone 5 will have to meet its untimely end, whether it's in a landfill or (preferably) a recycling company's machinery. When it does, you'll at least be glad to know that Apple has kept the toxin levels down. HealthyStuff and iFixit have dissected the extra skinny smartphone and put it in the same "low concern" category for potential harm that's normally occupied by phones wearing their green credentials on their sleeves. 

Lets anyone rush to tell Greenpeace about the feat, just remember that there's a difference between proficiency at excising dangerous chemicals and getting rid of them completely: HealthyStuff still found small traces of bromine, chlorine, lead and mercury in the iPhone 5's construction, which could pose risks if the handset is ever broken apart or melted for scrap. Some concern also exists that the x-ray fluorescence spectrometer doesn't reveal the full extent of any toxic materials. Whether or not these remain sore points for you, the new iPhone is at least easier on the eco-friendly conscience than most of its peers. More here.

Is There an Updated, Faster Version of the iPad 3 Coming?

This is interesting. MacRumors reports that an iOS developer found a new, unknown iPad device showing up in his app analytics. Though that usually means the next version of the iPad, the unknown iPad actually had the same footprint as the current iPad 3—but with the faster processor of the iPhone 5. Hmm...

Here's what MacRumors found:
MacRumors has received word from a developer who has seen evidence of a previously unknown "iPad3,6" device showing up in his app analytics. Most interestingly, the device's processor targets the new ARMv7s architecture that supports the custom A6 system-on-a-chip found in the iPhone 5. This new iPad thus appears to be running either an A6 chip itself or a variation on Apple's custom A6 design.
What's interesting about this news is that there were rumors that Apple was going to update the entire line of iOS products this fall so that every new device will have the new racketeering Lightning connector. That would require an update of the 'new iPad' which was released in March of this year. This unknown iPad would be that updated iPad 3.

So when will it be coming? Well, if the iPad Mini is really going to be announced this month, that would make for a good platform to sneak in an update of the iPad 3. But the question is, at that point, what would happen to the iPad 4, which would theoretically follow in the Spring of 2013? Maybe that's too far ahead to speculate. As for this mysterious iPad 3, I guess we'll find out what happens soon enough. More here.

Oct 5, 2012

Here’s the First Look at Firefox for Windows 8

Just a few weeks ahead of Microsoft's release of Windows 8, Mozilla has pushed the first preview version of Firefox Metro out of the nest.

Though its designed specifically for Metro, it also works on the classic Windows desktop environment. You can download it here, and it will be updated nightly. It's the same Firefox you know, with some added Windows 8/Metro-specific features. 

Here are a few to keep an eye out for:

  • Touch and swipe gesture support
  • Syncs with Firefox on the desktop
  • Supports Windows 8 charms
  • Data sharing between other Metro apps
  • Tab bar with tab previews
  • Keyboard shortcuts
  • View pages in desktop mode

Oct 4, 2012

This Beautiful Bike Is Made From Bent Beech Wood

This bike, designed by Andy Martin for furniture manufacturer Thonet, is unlike any other we've ever seen. Save for its wheels and drivetrain, the whole thing is made from swooping lengths of steamed beech wood—and it looks just beautiful as a result.

The contours of the frame were cut using a CNC machine, and the joints are all—thankfully—reinforced by subtle spring rods, so it doesn't splinter easy. As Martin explains:
"The challenge was to take on the fairly low tech process of steam bending and then apply it to a 21st century bicycle with highly complex engineering."
He seems to have managed fairly well. One of the nicest aspects of the design is just how much of the bike is made from wood—even the saddle is hand-crafted from a lump of beech. To keep things simple it doesn't come with brakes, just a pair of carbon fiber wheels and a single-speed drive train.

Unbelievably, you'll be able to actually buy one of these things through Andy Martin's studio site—if you're prepared to stump up an eye-watering $70,000.  More here.

The Black iPad Mini Could Look Absolutely Stunning

After the iPhone 5 leak mega-saga—at this point you can call these renders sneak previews—the black anodized aluminum iPad mini seems like a done deal.

It would be a nice surprise for the rumored imminent presentation of the new 7.85-inch model: iPad Minis with anodized aluminum backs in different colors, just like the iPod touch.

It's pure speculation, but it kind of makes sense. The color backs would make the cheaper iPad mini quite different from the Kindle Fires and the rest of mini-tablets of this world. It's playful and aligns with the iPod touch theme. And it would certainly help Apple sell gazillions of them this holiday season.

Oct 3, 2012

Game of Thrones Wall Decal Makes Your Toilet Fit for a King of Westeros

It's all but guaranteed you've got at least one throne in your home that everyone fights to sit on. And thanks to the PeelAndStickDecals Etsy shop, you can make it feel as grand as the throne that serves the ruler of the Seven Kingdoms.

And securing it doesn't even require you to wipe out opposing forces, or slay a single soul. You just need $30, a little patience, and a toilet that's not covered in knick-knacks. The decal probably works just as well with any chair in your home that's backed by a wall, but the gag works so much better in your bathroom. More here.

Old-Fashioned Bell Accessory Guarantees You’ll Never Sleep Through Your iPhone’s Alarm

The bedside alarm clock is just one of many devices made obsolete by smartphones. But with their puny speakers it's not impossible to sleep through a phone's alarm. Unless you've got this questionable iBell Mini accessory that merges tried and tested old-fashioned alarm clock technology with new.

Instead of an electronic beep, or even your favorite song, it wakes you from your slumber with the ear-piercing sound of a metal hammer pounding away at a pair of metal bells. It's $38 and doesn't require any batteries, but that's because it leeches off your iPhone's power source. And since it's designed for the old dock connector, you'll want to factor in the cost of Apple's Lightning adapter too if you've upgraded to the iPhone 5. More here.

There Is a Smartphone Inside Entertainment Weekly Magazine

Oct 2, 2012

WikiLeaks and Pirate Bay Web Host PRQ Has Been Raided

The Swedish web host PeRiQuito AB, PRQ, is one of the most controversial web hosts on the planet, valuing free speech so highly that it serves up web content for Pirate Bay, WikiLeaks. Yesterday, though, Swedish police paid a visit.

Forbes reports that Stockholm police raided the company yesterday. The process brought about technical issues for PQR, which shut down its own website and a swathe of torrent sites like Pirate Bay, but the police also seized a number of servers.

It's currently not clear which servers were taken. There're certainly plenty to choose from: among PQR's 2,000-or-so customers are WikiLeaks, the North America Man-Boy Love Association, the Chechen rebel site Kavkaz Central, and the defamation-accused Italian blog known as Perugia Shock.

PQR was founded by Pirate Bay members back in 2004, and has been raided by police twice before: in 2006 to gain evidence about Pirate Bay and 2010 during a more general file sharing investigation. The nature of the PQR business—a no-questions-asked set-up where clients often remain anonymous—means that even it doesn't know why the raid happened yet. More here.

Nothing Will Ever Be As Relaxing As Cruising in a Hot Tub Tug Boat

Cruise lines will keep spending billions of dollars on ocean-going monstrosities that promise to be the most relaxing way to spend your vacation. But they can't hold a candle to this tiny seaworthy hot tub that's warmed with a simple wood burning stove and propelled with a quiet electric motor.

The HotTug will easily ferry six to eight passengers whether or not the glass fiber-reinforced polyester hull is filled with water. It works as both a floating hot tub or a regular boat, but presumably gets far better mileage when drained. A wood stove safely heats the water to whatever temperature you desire, and you can add a gas outboard motor if the built-in electric option doesn't have enough range or speed for your liking. The boat itself, stripped of motors and the stove, will set you back around $11,600. But fully equipped you're looking at spending upwards of $21,300 for what has to be the most relaxing way to enjoy the water. More here.

These Stabilized Binoculars Compensate for 98 Percent of Your Shakes and Shivers

Adapting its military-grade gear for the consumer market, Fraser-Volpe's STEDI-EYE Mariner binoculars promise to remove up to 98 percent of unwanted motion from shaky hands, or vibrations from a moving vehicle. It's weatherproof and packs night vision too, making it an uber-expensive accessory for serious bird watchers.

Just how expensive you might ask? Try just north of $5,400. You could build your own private aviary with that much money. But the binoculars do seem to deliver impressive features for their high-end price tag. Besides being completely waterproof, buoyant, and working even in the dark, the Mariners feature a set of gyroscope-stabilized prisms sitting between its 14X magnifying lenses. The system is capable of instantly cancelling out vertical movements as drastic as 50 degrees, so even while running through the woods you're guaranteed a perfect view of that rare Green-breasted Mango. More here.

The Most Comfortable Pile of Rocks You Will Ever Sit On

You go to a rocky beach, you dig for a few seashells, skip a few stones on the water, and make a couch. Wait, what? Ok beach rocks might not be the first inspiration that comes to mind when crafting new furniture, but in the case of GumDesign's Isola couch, the finished result came out quite well.

Comprised of multiple, modular pieces, the seating is designed so that no two pieces look quite the same when arranged (just like a real pile of rocks), and even works in a few current design trends, such as the use of solid neon colors and marble table tops. Depending on your tastes, you may not like the men's suit inspired fabrics, but all in all, it's a pretty fun take on furniture. More here.

Oct 1, 2012

Gameloft’s New iOS Wireless Controller Is a Portable iCade

ThinkGeek's adorable iCade is genius. It turns your iPad into a little arcade! Asteroids forever! If it has a drawback, it's that, well, it kind of destroys the iPad's portability. Meet the Bluetooth Duo Gamer controller, which sheds the cabinet for a dock that'll fit in your backpack.

The Duo Gamer looks familiar, like a 6-button controller you use with some consoles. What sets it apart from other mobile controllers, the iCade (Atari's joystick arcade) is its flexibility. The Duo Gamer can be used as a handheld controller, yes, but thanks to its cartoonishly large proportions you can set it down on a surface and use it arcade style. In addition to working with the iPad, it will also work with your iPhone or iPod Touch. (It plugs into the 30-pin dock, so you'll need Apple's adapter to use it with your iPhone 5.)

The Duo Gamer is available now for $80. It's immediately compatible with 10 games, including Asphalt 6: Adrenaline HD, Brothers In Arms 2: Global Front Free, Modern Combat 3: Fallen Nation, NOVA 3, and Order & Chaos. More here.

Hard Drive Shipments Recover From FLoods in Thailand, Expected to Reach Record High

Last year's floods in Thailand caused hard drive shortages after wreaking havoc on a number of electronics manufacturers, but new stats from IHS iSuppli indicate that the HDD market for PCs has fully recovered and is poised to hit an all time high. The firm expects 524 million units for internal use in PCs to ship this year, besting the previous record by 4.3 percent. What's giving the recovery an added boost? According to the analytics group, the extra demand comes courtesy of Windows 8 and Ultrabooks. Unfortunately for deal hounds, the company noted in a report earlier this year that prices aren't expected to dip below the pre-flood range until 2014. More here.

Sep 30, 2012

This Crazy Steve Jobs Sculpture Is Supposedly Made with a Touch of Jobs’ Stolen Trash

You may remember the Steve Jobs action figures that were introduced and then canceled earlier this year. Now there's a new Steve Jobs figure on the horizon, one that supposedly contains a weird and creepy ingredient: trash stolen from Jobs himself.

The sculpture, made by XVALA, is due to be shown at a gallery in Los Angeles starting early in October. As for the trash thing, Cory Allen Contemporary Art described it this way in the announcement of the piece:
Coated in an "Apple White finish," the sculpture is cast in the artist's patented plastic porcelain, mixed with a recycled resin made up of Steve Job's residential trash which the artist collected from the tech icon's home several months before his death.
The plan, apparently, is to mass-produce the sculptures in "an appropriate work environment" as a shot at Apple's Foxconn production facilities and a limited number will come in black, as a reminder of Foxconn suicides. According to Cory Allen, production will continue with or without (read: without) Apple's approval. The sculptures, entitled "Think Different" will be unveiled on October 13th. More here.

Sep 29, 2012

Apple Stops Calling Its Maps “The Most Powerful”

Following Apple CEO Tim Cook's candid admission that Apple Maps might not be so great, and his suggestion that users turn to competing services, Apple has cleaned up one final detail: they aren't calling their maps the most powerful any more.

Previously, Apple's website suggested iOS 6 maps were not only the most beautiful, but also the most powerful maps out there saying "All of which may just make this app the most beautiful, powerful mapping service ever." Granted, the statement was hedged a bit with that "may just" part, but apparently not enough because now they've removed the word "powerful" all together. The new description reads "All in a beautiful vector-based interface that scales and zooms with ease."

After Cook's apology, and pointing users toward the likes of Bing and MapQuest in the app store, this last bit of language-changing definitely seems fitting. And accurate. More here.

A Stiff Bendy Cable Keeps This Power Bar Exactly Where You Put It

If you ever try to use a power bar anywhere but on the floor, you'll quickly realize that gravity will do everything it can to drag it off a table, a ladder, or anything not at ground level. That's not the case with Quirky's new Prop Power extension cord, though. Its six-foot cable is made with flexible wiring and a conforming plastic sleeve, so it holds its shape.

That means you can wrap it around table legs, or snake it through the steps of a ladder, and it will hold on for dear life. Unfortunately the business end of the Prop Power is limited to just three grounded outlets, but there's nothing stopping you from daisy chaining another power bar on the end when you run out. And while Quirky promises the Prop Power is going into production, there's no estimate on how much it will cost or when it will be available until they start actually churning them out. More here.

Sep 28, 2012

This $50 Stick Turns Any HDTV Into an Android-Powered Smart TV

If you're wondering how you can breathe life into that old TV set, the FAVI SmartStick might be what you're looking for. For $50, you get a dongle that provides your TV with Android and access to streaming movies and music.

The stick, which runs Jelly Bean and packs 4GB of storage, plugs into any HDMI port and uses baked-in Wi-Fi to provide access to the likes of Netflix, Hulu, Epix, YouTube, and Pandora. It comes as standard with a full internet browser, but because it runs Android you can download anything from the Play store, too.

The stick also lets you stream media wirelessly from another computer elsewhere in your pad, though you have to use a proprietary MediaSHARE app. And it does only cost $50. More here.

Sep 27, 2012

World’s Thinnest External Drive Squeezes Half a Terabyte Into a Third of an Inch

ADATA is touting its new HE720 as the world's thinnest external hard drive. The company has managed to squeeze 500 GB of storage and a speedy USB 3.0 connection into a brushed metal enclosure measuring in at a mere 8.9 millimeters thick—or just over a third of an inch.

Just a few days ago Toshiba claimed its new Canvio external drive—boasting similar specs—was the world's thinnest. But it measures in at a portly nine millimeters meaning ADATA's got it beat by a hair—literally. So if you've already transitioned to a thin ultrabook, this will easily squeeze alongside it in your bag. The new HE720 of course includes the requisite mediocre backup software that comes standard on most external drives these days, and is available right now with a matching svelte price tag of just $90. More here.

Your Future iPad’s Display Might Have Built-In Speakers

Apple's always publishing patents, but here's one that sounds rather fun: imagine an iPhone or iPad with a flexible display that has speakers built in to it, to provide surround sound.

The patent describes a flexible display with all manner of built-in features: a tactile keyboard, laser mics and speakers. Much of this is made possible by the idea of a flexible display—which is some way off but by no means impossible to achieve. Once you can manage that, according to this patent, the world's your oysters.

For instance, shove an array of transducers behind the screen and you turn the whole thing into a giant speaker, which would go some way to sounding like a proper set of speakers. Vibration may be a problem, but that might be tolerable compared to the tinny sound you squeeze out of most mobile and tablet speakers. Unlikely to exist any time soon, of course, but we can dream. More here.