Dec 3, 2012

How To Easily Build the Most Useful Keychain You’ve Ever Owned

If you've got access to a bucket of Lego Technic pieces, then you've probably already got everything you need to build what could possibly be the most useful keychains ever devised. As for the building instructions, just take a look at the image above and you'll easily figure it out.

It's cheap, it's compact, and removing a single key doesn't require you to tear your fingernails to shreds trying to pry open a keyring. And because Lego is produced to such exacting dimensions, there's little to no chance this thing is going to come apart until you want it to. As a bonus it's even easier to build a spot to hang the keychain when you get home—just stick a Lego baseplate to the wall near your front door. Done. More here.

Insane Blasts of Heat Could Make Flash Memory Live Longer Than Ever

Flash memory is fast, it's stable, but it's not without its flaws. It has a tendency to wear out after too many write-erase cycles, for example. Now there's a way to deal with that problem, and it could lead to self-healing NAND flash memory that could last for much, much longer than the stuff we have now.

The discovery comes from Taiwan-based company Macronix who realized that the key to long-lasting NAND memory is the strategic application of heat. If you bake the memory at a heat of around 480 degrees Fahrenheit for a few hours, you can breathe some of the life back into it. The problem is that isn't exactly practical.

Macronix is working on a solution that is more practical, though: a chip with on-board heaters. Instead of baking the whole chip, it would jolt unused-but-aging sectors with a super blast of heat (about 1,400 degrees) every now and then. This could give chips a lifespan of roughly 100 million cycles, orders of magnitude more than the current highs of 100,000 to 1 million.

Before you get too excited, commercial versions are not inbound yet. Macronix will instead be presenting the tech at the IEEE International Electron Devices Meeting. It's still an exciting development nonetheless and is sure to make it into consumer goodies sooner or later. Hopefully sooner. More here.

This Minimalist Christmas Tree Is Great for the Irredeemably Lazy

Christmas is coming. The goose is getting fat and whatnot. Maybe you're in the market for a Christmas tree, maybe you're not. Maybe you'd like to be in said market, but you are extremely, extremely lazy. Treeasy's got your back, that is, if you don't mind something bare and metallic.

Designed by José Manuel Rebert Alarcon, Treeasy (in addition to being a halfway decent pun) is a single sheet of aluminum cut just so that you can just push it from the bottom and it pops out into a little Christmas tree with almost no effort involved. Granted, it's not your standard Christmas tree by any means, but if you're sufficiently lazy—but can't just not have a tree of some sort for some reason—Treeasy is at least identifiably tree-like, and kind of clever. More here.

Dec 2, 2012

Raspberry Pi's $25 Model A Enters Production, Could be in Tinkerers' Projects Early Next Year

Raspberry Pi's Model B computer will be no stranger to regular readers. If you were holding out for the cheaper, lower specced Model A however, your time is near. A recent post on the official Raspberry Pi site confirms that the first Model A samples are rolling off the production line. The main differences? 

Whereas Model B has two USB ports and 512 MB of RAM plus Ethernet, Model A sports only the one port, has half the RAM, and no Ethernet connection, making it more power economical as well as $10 cheaper. Price likely isn't the issue here, but if you were after the even more stripped back version, it's estimated they'll be ready to purchase online early next year. More here.

Dec 1, 2012

Hi-Tech Parenting: The DIY Kid-Tracking Surveillance Copter

Parents can be unnerved by the thought of sending their children off to school by themselves. In the past, that usually meant walking the child or following close behind, diving behind bushes to avoid embarrassing the tot. Now, it involves something else — a quadcopter, a GPS signaler and a little know-how.

Paul Wallich rigged a drone with a camera and then stashed the GPS unit in his son’s backpack. Using navigation software, he made sure the copter would stay a certain distance behind the child as it followed the kid to the bus stop.

In concept, it’s a brilliant stroke of hi-tech parenting that allows Wallich to keep an eye on his son remotely. But as a real-world safety measure, it’s questionable. It’s one thing to make sure dangerous strangers don’t approach the boy, but it’s another when the surveillance/tracking copter makes him a target for bullies. More here.

Nov 30, 2012

Researchers Can Make Bread Stay Fresh for 60 Days

Most foods deteriorate over time, but bread's a major culprit, often going stale after just a couple of days. Now, though, a US research company claims to be able to make your loaf stay fresh for up to 60 whole days.

The secret? Um, a gigantic microwave. No, seriously. The company, called—wait for it—Microzap, has developed a long, metallic microwave device for the purpose. The concept was orignally developed to kill bacteria like salmonella, but the team put a slice of bread through the thing and noticed it didn't go stale. In fact, even after 60 days the bread "had the same mould content as it had when it came out of the oven." Nice!

Crucially, this microwave is a little fancier than the one in your kitchen. Don Stull from Microzap explained to the BBC:
"We introduce the microwave frequencies in different ways, through a slotted radiator. We get a basically homogeneous signal density in our chamber - in other words, we don't get the hot and cold spots you get in your home microwave."
Of course, it remains to be seen whether consumers want bread that lasts for 60 days. There's something about the concept that seems a little unnerving—but what price a fresh sandwich? More here.

This Portable Bluetooth Speaker Is Different Because It Looks Weird and You Can’t Break it

The world is seething with a billion cheap, portable Bluetooth speakers. To differentiate itself from the pack, Boom Movement has created this thing. It's called the Urchin, and the silicone cloaked beast looks as bizarre as its name implies. It's also certified shock and water-resistant.

The Urchin will cost $150 when it's available at the beginning of February. Additional colorful silicone covers will be available for 20 bucks a pop, if dressing up consumer electronics is your thing.

Boom Movement's audio and design pedigree is impressive: It's an offshoot of the same company that owns undeniably legit Polk Audio. The Urchin is supposedly designed to maximize the full-range potential of its pair of dinky speakers with minimum distortion.

But even if The Urchin sounds better than the competition, you have to wonder if that's going to be enough to help it stand out from the other $150 Bluetooth numbers out there. If not, maybe people will find it while searching for an odd, indestructible fashion statement. More here.

You Can Buy an Unlocked iPhone 5 Now

If you've been waiting to buy an unlocked iPhone 5, you have your chance now. Apple just began selling the unlocked iPhone 5 after promising it'd become available "several weeks" after the initial launch. The prices will be $649 for 16GB, $749 for 32GB and $849 for 64GB. Ship time is a week and be sure to check if the unlocked iPhone 5 works on your carrier. More here.

Nov 29, 2012

Moebius Hanger Bends Time and Space To De-Wrinkle Your Shirts

Don't even try to wrap your head around this twisted plywood hanger. It's clearly only designed to support the shirts, belts, scarves, and other accessories of the world's greatest mathematicians and physicists. No one else has any chance of understanding the mysteries of the universe that let this hanger exist.

So be warned; Etsy will gladly let you drop $13 on one, but you'll be getting far more than you bargained for. On the bright side at least you'll have someplace to hang your straight jacket after you go completely insane trying to comprehend this creation and have to be committed. More here.

Japan Unveils Prototype of New Maglev Train, Promises Speeds of up to 311 mph

More than a year after the Central Japan Railway Company (JR Tokai) received construction approval to get going on its maglev railways, it has finally unveiled a Series L0 prototype that would put its current bullet train system to shame. Designed to travel at 311 mph, a single one of these high-speed marvels is designed to carry about 16 carriages, which translates to about 1,000 commuters. 

While Japanese travelers already enjoy a speedy 90-minute trip from Tokyo to Nagoya, this new maglev system promises to cut that journey to just 40 minutes. Announced nearly five years ago, the project has since been extended to include an Osaka-Tokyo leg and will cost around nine trillion yen (approximately $112 billion) when all is said and done. 

Don't pack your bags just yet though; the maglev's Nagoya rail isn't scheduled to go live until 2027, and the boarding call for Osaka isn't until 2045. Of course, if you need to ride electromagnetic rails now, there's always China's Shanghai Transrapid, which has been ferrying passengers to and fro the Pudong airport since 2004 -- it once reached speeds of 501km/h (311mph). More here.

Nov 28, 2012

The World’s Most Expensive Lego Is A $14,500 Solid Gold Brick

With all the insane, high tech Lego contraptions running around these days, it's easy to overlook the beauty in a single, elemental brick — unless that element is solid, 14-carat gold.

These standard-sized, 2x4 Lego bricks were only given out once or twice a year from 1979-1981. Even then, only select business partners and Lego employees clocking in 25 years of employment had a chance of getting their hands on these rarest of accolades.

But thanks to the internet, these bricks aren't just restricted to Lego legends anymore. Anyone (with $14,500 to burn) can buy their very own, shimmering block from Brick Envy, an online store that has somehow found one in their possession.

This particular brick's origins remain a mystery. So for whoever does end up being the lucky buyer, hopefully the bright, shiny object will be enough to keep away thoughts of the mysterious fate of its original master. More here.

Cadbury Chocolate Will Literally Melt In Your Mouth, Not in Your Hand

The bright minds in Cadbury's R&D department have done something amazing—they've createdchocolate that won't melt. Willy Wonka has to be real. Just has to be.

The "temperature tolerant" candy remained solid, even after spending three hours in an incubator where the temp was 104 degrees, according to its patent filing. At that point it was still solid when pressed with a finger, and it didn't collapse into a brown sticky, molten mess like you'd expect. The logical fear here is that it might not actually melt in your mouth at this point, which would pose a threat to your digestive system, but apparently with a little more pressure it can be broken.

So how does it work? First of all, assuming Oompa Loompas play an important role in the process. But also, researchers at Cadbury found a way to break sugar particles into even smaller pieces, diminishing the amount of fat they're coated with, which apparently makes chocolate bars impervious to heat. Do you live south of the equator? Do you have a habit of leaving candy in a hot car? Do you find melted chocolate in your pant pockets often? Your worries are over. More here.

Those Skinny New iMacs Go on Sale November 30

Announced in September at Apple's iPhone event, the latest desktop machines are just 5mm thin. The base 21.5-inch model has a 2.7 GHz quad-core processor and starts at $1,300. The 27-incher starts with a 2.9 GHz quad-core i5 processor and pricing begins at $1,800. Each machine can be bumped up all the way up to i7 if you please.

The bigger of the two has a resolution of 2560 by 1440. Both have four USB 3.0 ports and two Thunderbolt, 32GB of RAM, and as much as 768GB of flash storage. There's also an SD card, gigabit ethernet, and a fusion drive, which is 128GB of flash storage plus 1 or 3 TB of hard drive combined into one hard drive. And they're skinny enough that they'll fit nicely under that Douglas fir. More here.

Nov 27, 2012

Nintendo Sold 400,000 Wii Us in Its First Week, And Almost As Many Old Wiis

The numbers are in and it turns out the Wii U launch went pretty well with around 400,000 consoles sold in its first week. It's not as much as the 600,000 Wiis sold at launch, but it's nothing to sneeze at. And neither are the 300,000 aging Wiis that sold last week, either.

For perspective, the Xbox 360 was able to take the title for most popular console in October by moving 270,000 units. With the help of Black Friday, both Nintendo consoles were able to beat that number. What's more impressive than the Wii U's sizable opening sales is that the now six-year-old (and admittedly cheap at $100 and lower for some Black Friday promotions) Wii managed to achieve 50 percent of the enormous peak it hit all the way back in 2006, which seems like practically forever ago.

Overall, Nintendo managed to move 1.2 million devices including the Wii U, Wii, and a number of handheld devices last week. While it looks like the Wii U is coming out of the gate reasonably strong, it's future—especially considering a (probably) imminent next-gen offerings from Microsoft and Sony—is a bit unsure, but maybe it's inhereited its predecessors staying power. We'll have to wait and see. More here.

Nov 26, 2012

Massive Mars Dust Storm Tracked

NASA keeps on delivering some awesome footage from the red planet. Now NASA brings us a massive dust do storm spotted by its Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). The effects of the dust storm has showed a drop in atmospheric clarity, drop in air pressure and increased nighttime temps from rovers Curiosity and Opportunity.

The dust storm is quite large to the point it is classified as a regional dust storm. Instead of reflecting sunlight, it is absorbing it and causing the entire planet to heat up 45 degrees Fahrenheit.

If the dust storm keeps expanding, there is slight chance Opportunity’s solar panels can be caked with dust, reducing its energy supply. Curiosity on the other hand has radioisotope thermoelectric generator that won’t be affected by the dust storms. More here.

Samsung Galaxy Note II Global Sales Exceed 5 Million Units

Samsung announced Sunday that sales of its 5.5-inch phablet have exceeded 5 million worldwide since it first began selling two months ago. The South-Korean consumer electronics company stated the sales of the Note II have exceeded far more quickly than its predecessor which saw worldwide sales reach the same 5 million mark in five months after its release.

Apple just added the Note II on the long list of devices it is asking the court to include with its recent win against Samsung. It is no surprise the Note II is selling at such a quick pace considering its large screen, multi-tasking, and speedy quad-core processor. More here.

BlackBerry 10-N Series Parts Leaked

With BlackBerry 10 and its associated devices slated to be released early next year, news and leaks keep hitting the Internet with increased frequency. Last week a BlackBerry 10 L-Seriesimage made the rounds and now this weekend we get treated to an alleged image of N-Series keyboard parts.

Immediately one change that is noticeable is the elimination of a curved keyboard that previous QWERTY BlackBerry devices have sported. Which makes sense considering a curved physical keyboard takes real estate that could otherwise be used for a larger display or be consolidated for smaller form factor.

For BlackBerry users out there, are you likely to go with touchscreen or QWERTY keyboard? More here.

Nov 25, 2012

Facebook Proposes Changes, Closer to Instagram Integration

Facebook Inc is looking to make some changes to its policies and terms of services, starting with eliminated the current process that allows users of the social network to vote on changes.

Additional changes include who can email users, opening the emailing network to everyone, not just to those in your immediate social network. When asked about potential spammers gaming the system, Facebook spokesman Andrew Noyes said Facebook will monitor user interaction and feedback to improve services.

Finally, Facebook hopes to merge Instagram and Facebook profiles in to one shared social network profile, making it users to share photos through Facebook.

These changes are meant to improve Facebook profitability, especially since Facebook’s stock has taken a beating for not being able to monetize at a rate that investors had expected.

Through this week, Facebook is allowing users to comment on whether to approve these changes. If the more than 7,000 comments are made the changes will be put to a vote, if vote reaches 30% yeses then it is approved.

What do you think of the proposed changes? More here.

Nov 24, 2012

PSY’s Gangnam Style Is Now The Most Watched Video on YouTube Ever

Justin Bieber’s “Baby” has been knocked out of the throne as the most watched YouTube video of all time. South Korean pop-star PSY’s “Gangnam Style” now has more than 806,283,000 views on YouTube — and that’s just since July, when it was published to the popular video site. According to Billboard, the video also has the most “likes” ever (5.37 million). Bieber’s “Baby” only has 1.4 million likes. More here.

Shopping From Mobile Devices Spiked 65.3% This Thanksgiving

Mobile devices, including tablets and smartphones, are more and more used as a way to purchase goods remotely. Instead of running off from Thanksgiving dinner early to hit up deals at local stores, shoppers this year were purchasing products directly from their mobile devices.

According to IBM Smarter Commerce, mobile shopping jumped 65.3% on Thanksgiving this year from the same day last year. iPad owners were specifically responsible for 10.7% of all mobile purchases, too. As The Boston Globe suggests, mobile devices not only help us make purchases without having to sit at a computer or get in long lines at a brick and mortar store, but they also allow us to compare prices across multiple outlets very quickly.

Did you sneak your phone or tablet under the Thanksgiving table to make a purchase? If so, for what? More here.