Jan 5, 2013

Best Buy Lost $65K In One Day Trying to Price Match Walmart’s iPhone Discount

Best Buy dropped the price of the 16GB iPhone 5 to $150 last month, and Walmart bested that with a $127 iPhone. Now Best Buy says lost a whole $65,000 on this one product in just one day because it was forced go meet that lower price.

In a recent WSJ article, Best Buy alleges that Walmart's offer wasn't made in good faith; it didn't, Best Buy claims, have enough stock to meet the obvious demand. So when people came running from allegedly empty handed Walmart to the electronics retailer to claim their new Apple phone, Best Buy had to match the price, which made the store lose out on that extra $23 per phone. Walmart says Best Buy is just jealous, and claims it had 98 percent availability at all of its locations. But the whole thing really isn't that surprising, because this is exactly the kind of move you'd expect from Walmart. More here.

Relax Your Body and Melt Your Mind In This Möbius Chair

It might provide a place to rest your legs, but this United Colors for Benetton chair designed and built by Pereira Miguel Architects will give your brain a good workout as you try and and comprehend where its curvy frame begins and ends.

It's technically not a true möbius strip, though, lacking the requisite twist that would give the bent plywood frame a continuous single side. But the effect is convincing enough. The use of rope webbing instead of a cushion also provides a lovely hammock-like effect, not too mention a means for crumbs, remotes, and lost currency to simply fall through to the floor. More here.

Jan 2, 2013

Can Chainmail Sneakers Possibly Be Comfy?

In medieval times when everyone was taking swings at everyone else with swords, chainmail was pretty much a wardrobe requisite. These days the threat of sword attacks are few and far between, but a German company called Gost thinks there's still a place for chainmail in modern society. At least for athletes who've embraced the whole barefoot running trend.

Made from actual interlinked rings of stainless steel, the PaleoBarefoots promise the same near barefoot experience as other minimalist running shoes, but with increased protection and better breathability. But, you're still paying for shoes—around $250 to be exact—made of cold stainless steel that will most certainly not be as light as your New Balances. Is this company onto something here? Were our forefathers right about chainmail? Or are these just an easy way to get a discounted admission to a renaissance fair as a simple period costume? More here.

Easy-Going Emergency Flashlight Accepts Whatever Batteries You’ve Got

After the disastrous earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan last year, local companies have been working hard to create products that will be useful in an emergency. Including big corporations like Panasonic, which has created a brilliant LED flashlight that will run on almost any battery you've got on hand.

AAA, AA, C, or D-sized batteries can all be accommodated at the same time, and while the flashlight's LED bulb won't be blinding when relying on a single AAA, it will still provide ample light to get around.

To keep the Any Battery Light cheap—just $24 when it goes on sale in January—the flashlight's lacking the requisite hardware to use the different-sized batteries all at the same time. Instead, a rotating power switch lets you choose which battery you want to use. But with every battery slot filled, Panasonic claims the flashlight will run for up to 86 hours straight, making it a must-have for any emergency kit. More here.

Jan 1, 2013

Samsung Offers Free Flip Covers and TecTiles for GS III and Note II Device Registrations

If you just received a Galaxy S III or a Note II this holiday season, you could do yourself a favor and register it on Samsung's Facebook page to get even more goodies from Santa Sammy. What do you get in exchange for handing over some personal details and giving the Korean company access to your timeline? Why, a free flip cover and six TecTiles, which usually go for about $15 for a pack of five. More here.

Dec 31, 2012

How To Set Off New Years Fireworks Without Losing a Hand

Every occasion is a good occasion for fireworks—The 4th of July, New Year's Eve, New Year's Day, Guy Fawkes Day, Chinese New Year, your birthday, your anniversary, a home run, a touchdown, graduation, Tuesday... Unfortunately, such an abundance of occasions also resulted in more than 8,000 fireworks-related injuries in 2011. Four of them fatal. Here's how to properly handle your celebratory explosives without hosting the after party in the ER.

Only purchase fireworks from reputable, licensed retailers as they, by default, carry products that meet government safety standards. Per the US Consumer Product Safety Commission,
CPSC staff received reports of four fireworks-related deaths during 2011. In the first incident, a 31-year-old male died of substantial head and chest trauma caused by an illegal 1.3G aerial firework device.1 In the second incident, a 47-year-old male perished when a 1.3G illegal 3-inch display firework device exploded in his face. In the third incident, a 41-year-old male was decapitated by an illegal firework device. A 51-year-old male died of severe head and face injuries caused by a homemade firework device in the fourth incident.
Also avoid buying last season's close-outs, no matter how big the discount. Older fireworks are more likely to ignite improperly (read: in your hand), if they do so at all.

As such, you should try to store your fireworks somewhere cool and dry and preferably not near other fireworks. The elevated temperatures inside, say, a car trunk in July or next to your home furnace, could potentially cause spontaneous ignition. And if one firework goes off in a big box of fireworks, all of them will go off, so be smart and store them in smaller piles around the house.

Exposure to small amounts of moisture, on the other hand, can prevent a firework from fully igniting. If you do find yourself faced with a half-exploded firework, don't go near it and certainly don't be "that guy"—the one that tries to relight it and blows his face off in the delayed explosion. Instead, douse it with water to ensure its dead, then retrieve it.

Also, do not carry fireworks in your pockets. They are surprisingly fragile devices that can easily be damaged while tumbling about with your keys and loose change. What's more, the static electricity you generate just by walking around could cause a spark. And despite what MTV says, having a firework conflagrate against your leg is neither fun nor profitable.

So, where to set up. Well, somewhere open and nonflammable should suffice, perhaps on a green lawn or spacious concrete driveway—basically anywhere that won't immediately go up like Southern California in August if it's showered in sparks. The site should be as level as possible and, if your locality allows for small rockets, equipped with a short length of pipe half-sunken into the ground to act as a stable launch platform.

Despite all your best laid plans, somebody is invariably going to get hurt, hopefully only superficially. Make sure you've got a proper first aid kid—clean water, bandages, and ice—on hand, as well as someone sober to drive to the ER if necessary. Minor burns (first and second degree injuries under 3 inches in diameter) should be placed under cool running water for 15 minutes, then loosely wrapped in medical gauze. Apply aloe vera or hydrocortisone cream to the afflicted area and take a couple of aspirin for the pain. Any burns over 3 inches or on the face, eye, groin, buttocks, hands, feet, or joints dictate a trip to the hospital or a call to 911 depending on the severity of the damage. More here.

Dec 30, 2012

The End of an Age: Hackulous Shuts Down Installous

Today’s news will undoubtedly lead to many cheers and snickers within Apple’s security team, as long-time piracy app collective Hackulous has announced the shut down of its site and most popular piracy tools, Installous and AppSync.

Hackulous has not made clear exactly why its services have shut down, but a statement on its site blames a lackluster forum community and the inability to keep it effectively moderated. The statement reads as follows:
Goodnight, sweet prince.
We are very sad to announce that Hackulous is shutting down. After many years, our community has become stagnant and our forums are a bit of a ghost town. It has become difficult to keep them online and well-moderated, despite the devotion of our staff. We’re incredibly thankful for the support we’ve had over the years and hope that new, greater communities blossom out of our absence. With lots of love, Hackulous TeamGoodnight, sweet prince. We are very sad to announce that Hackulous is shutting down. After many years, our community has become stagnant and our forums are a bit of a ghost town. It has become difficult to keep them online and well-moderated, despite the devotion of our staff. We’re incredibly thankful for the support we’ve had over the years and hope that new, greater communities blossom out of our absence.
With lots of love, Hackulous Team
This is not the end of piracy on iOS however, because while Installous may no longer be available from Hackulous themself, the app — or similar apps — will surely live on. The demand for apps that do what Installous did will continue, and a developer somewhere will almost certainly take advantage of this situation to release utilities that serve a similar purpose.

With no jailbreak currently available for iPhone 5, the platform that Installous depends on — jailbreaking — could have been a possible cause of its demise. It goes without saying that the ability to illegally pirate apps was — and continues to be — a driving force behind the want to jailbreak, and with no such jailbreak available on the latest iOS devices, many people have no access to Installous.

Whatever the case, today’s news can only be good for developers and Apple alike. Piracy is one of the biggest problems hampering the Android ecosystem, and it appears that both waning jailbreak interest in general, as well as Apple’s security efforts, have today proven successful. Here’s to hoping developers will continue making creative and amazing apps for iOS, especially in light of the news that one of their biggest enemies will be today close its doors. More here.

Would You Want To Use Your NFC-Enabled Phone As Car Keys?

Normally you hear about NFC in some kind of "mobile payments" context, but that's not the only place it could shake things up. Hyundai is working on some new prototype tech that could have you using your NFC smartphone as the keys to your car.

Hyundai's Connectivity Concept, which won't actually go into production until around 2015, aims to harness the power of your NFC phone to make it way cooler than your keys ever were. Not only could the phone unlock your car and start it, but it could also save a sort of user profile, flipping to the right radio station or streaming music while adjusting the seat and mirrors for you as soon as you slam it into the dashboard dock.

Of course, as cool as that all is, there are security concerns. but issues like having phone theft rapidly turn into car theft could (mostly) be avoided with a user PIN or other measures. Most other concerns are just about as valid for NFC keys as well. Still, there's something that just seems weird about unlocking, and moreover starting your car with your phone. It'll still be while until any sort of implementation, but would you feel comfortable giving that kind of power to your trusty handset? More here.

Dec 29, 2012

HTC HD2 Runs Windows RT, Postpones Trip to Afterlife yet Again

HTC's HD2 may have begun life as just another Windows Mobile 6.5 handset, but its surprisingly hardy internals enable it to run almost any mobile OS going. The latest software to appear on the three-year-old device is Windows RT, which was jammed onto the system by a developer called Cotulla -- who previously put Windows Phone 7 on the same unit. While it's not that comfortable to use on the HD2's 4.3-inch screen, some superheroes are now scouring eBay for a similarly immortal smartphone. More here.

The Secret Origins of the Chicken Nugget

Contrary to popular belief, McDonalds was only the first entity to commercially sell nuggets, not invent them. Robert C. Baker is actually credited with the nugget's inception 18 years before McDonald's head chef Rene Arend reportedly devised them in 1977. It's okay if you've never heard of Baker, not many people have.

Baker was "a person of his time," Baker's oldest son Dale told Slate. "He grew up in the Depression, not having enough food to eat. When he'd buy a dinner, he would want to get the most calories for the price. He wanted to be sure the farmers would get the best prices for their birds."

To that end, Baker leveraged his professorship in Poultry Science at Cornell University and the help of a cadre of grad students to revolutionize how we eat chicken products. Nuggets were only one of the 50-plus food items he and his students devised, including chicken hot dogs, burger patties, and meatballs.
The foods they invented, which they detailed in widely distributed bulletins for anyone to copy and refine, launched what the industry now calls "further processed" poultry. Convenient and appealing, further-processed products transformed the market for chicken, pushing consumption from 34 pounds per person in 1965 to 84 pounds last year. But pressure from that new demand transformed the industry as well, turning it from a loose confederation of many family farms into a small set of massive conglomerates with questionable labor and environmental records.
Check out the rest of Baker's tantalizing story and how his contributions to modern cuisine were wiped from culinary history books over at Slate.

Dec 28, 2012

Bangkok Is Basically the Most Popular Location on Instagram

If you've ever looked at Instagram's explore tab, then you've undoubtedly seen a bevy of most liked photos originating from kids in Thailand. And as it turns out, the most popular location to tag Instagram photos this year came from the Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok. After that it was some mall in Bangkok, followed by: Disneyland, Times Square, AT&T Park, LAX, Dodger Stadium, the Eiffel Tower, the Staples Center and the pier in Santa Monica. Kudos to you, Thailand. You're the kings and queens of Instagram. More here.

How You Can Save Snapchat Videos Forever After You’ve Watched Them

Snapchat, the sexting app of choice recently cloned by Facebook, might not be as private as you think. BuzzFeed reports that video files sent using the app are actually not deleted from the phone immediately—meaning they can be copied onto a computer and watched over and over.

BuzzFeed describes the simple process required to find the files. Simply take an iPhone and plug it into your computer, use a third-party file browsing app like iFunBox to navigate its file system, and head straight for the Snapchat/tmp folder. Bingo! Re-watch all that video, copy it to your computer, whatever—unlike grabbing a screenshot, the Snapchat user who sent the video won't be notified of the privacy intrusion.

According to BuzzFeed, Facebook's new Poke app also stores the files locally in a similar way—at library/caches/fbstore/mediacard—but they are deleted as soon as they're watched. Neither of the apps store photos in the this way. Phew!

While the trick is a lot of work to go to for each and every video, it's an obvious way to incriminate those who send the most inappropriate content. Perhaps more importantly, though, the fact the videos are stored locally after they're viewed in Snapchat clearly runs counter to the whole point of the app. Snapchat co-founder Evan Spiegel told BuzzFeed that "people who most enjoy using Snapchat are those who embrace the spirit and intent of the service. More here.

Dec 27, 2012

China Claims World's Longest High-Speed Rail Line, Takes Travelers 1,428 Miles in a Workday

Russia's protracted attempts at replacing the aging space warhorse that is Soyuz may finally bear fruit. RSC Energia has announced that it has finished the design of a prototype spacecraft under the country's Prospective Piloted Transport System -- the equivalent of the Orion program. 

The as-yet unnamed craft is expected to be ready for testing by 2017, and unlike the current model, will be fully reusable. It's been designed not only as a taxi to take cosmonauts (and the odd multi-billionaire) to the International Space Station, but also ferry crews to the moon. That is, of course, assuming that Elon Muskdoesn't get there first and make the moon his summer home. More here.

Dec 26, 2012

Flickr Pro is Free for Three Months

Flickr is getting into the holiday spirit, and capitalizing on Instagram’s ToS snafu, by offering three free months of Flickr Pro to new and existing users. This is actually a pretty great offer, and perfectly timed for those looking for a place to upload their cheery family photos.

There’s been a lot of media attention focused on Instagram’s ToS flipflop this past week, with many users abandoning ship in search of calmer waters. Flickr recently updated its iOS app with filters and everything, so it makes sense the service would take that extra step to attract Instagram expatriates.

A Pro subscription normally goes for $25 a year, which isn’t bad to begin with, but three free months is a pretty solid amount of time to lure new users in. For anyone that’s already paying for the service, payments will get pushed back automatically for three months, so the benefits aren’t aimed at just former Instagramers.

Flickr’s Pro business model worked for the company years and years ago, but the company has seen its popularity fall dramatically with social networks such as Facebook acting as competition for many casual users. Offering up the Pro option at no cost, at least for three months, is a great opportunity for Flickr to recapture some of its heyday, and could potentially lead to lifting some limits on free users, or eliminate the Pro fee altogether. That is assuming a lot of people take advantage of this no-cost offer. More here.

Dec 25, 2012

Apple Lands Important SIM Card Connector Patent

Sometimes, a patent grant is less about the technology itself than what it could mean for others. Case in point: a newly granted Apple patent for a "mini-SIM connector." The design complements earlier work and represents a straightforward approach to a SIM slot that prevents damage from inserting the card the wrong way and ejects the card through a plunger system. 

By securing the patent, however, Apple gains a bargaining chip in phone technology disputes, especially for SIM-related tussles; companies are less likely to start a fight if Apple can return fire. The claim doesn't give Apple a lock on subscriber modules by any means, but it could lead to other adopters treading carefully. More here.

Keep Your Feet Dry Year-Round With Stalwart Hunter Boots

If you're trudging through the snow, Hunter Boots are a great way to keep your feet warm and dry.

And in fact, they're really wonderful rubbers for any time of the year. But in the winter you can get a flannel insert for a little extra insulation. They're expensive (around $130 depending where you look) but they're guaranteed. So if they crack, you can send them back to Hunter and they'll fix them. Aside from the quality, they're about as stylish as you can get when the weather is absolute crap. Santa, is it too late to ask for these? More here.

Dec 24, 2012

Is This BlackBerry’s QWERTY Savior?

The hole RIM has found itself in is deep, dark, and doused in despair. And as much as the company's gambling on its new BB10 platform to pull itself up, an operating system's only as good as the phones running it. So take a good, hard look at this supposed BlackBerry N-Series device. It could be RIM's best shot at survival.

The full QWERTY keyboard N-Series, and its touchscreen play cousin L-Series, are going to lead RIM's charge back to relevance in just a few short months. And the picture here, posted by CNbeta, shows a device that's at least worth a second look. Competent physical keyboards are few and far between in our capacitive present, and could be the one tent-pole feature RIM can claim true ownership of.

Even if the N-Series passes the looks test, there are still plenty of open questions about BB10, about what kind of guts will power it, about whether RIM can find enough developers to make apps for it. But all great comebacks are made one step at a time. And this seems, at glance, like a decent one. More here.

The Brazilian iPhone Is Actually an Android Device

iPhone is a powerful name. It conjures up a the vision of a meticulously crafted phone, something that's a pleasure to hold and pleasant to look at. Most of all it makes you think of an Apple device. Well in Brazil, that's not necessarily the case. The "iphone" that came out there this week rocks Android 2.3.

The phone comes from a Brazilian electronics company called Gradiente secured exclusive rights to the "iPhone" name in the country back in 2008, rights that it will continue to hold until 2018. As such, the new Brazilian iPhone is very much the opposite of the one you usually think of. In addition to running Gingerbread, it boasts a 320-by-480 pixel display, a total lack of multi-touch functionality, a 700MHz single-core ARM processor, and 2GB of storage. One more key difference: it has no capital 'P'. Sounds enticing, no? h

According to the Associated Press, Gradiente says they're only using the name now because they were busy trying to "conclude a corporate restructuring process that ended earlier this year." And they have no plans on stopping if they can avoid it. In a statement the firm said:
"In Brazil, Gradiente has the exclusive right to use the iPhone brand. This company will adopt all the measures used by companies around the world to preserve its intellectual property rights."
So far, Gradiente claims to have heard not a peep from the real iPhone people regarding the use of the name, and there's no doubt they'll continue to use it as long as they can, probably hoping their stylization of the name as "iphone" can buy them some time if nothing else. More here.

Is Cloning the Key to Perfect Christmas Trees?

When you think of cloning, you'll probably either think of dolly, or maybe some sort of sci-fi clone army. German scientists, on the other hand, their minds hop to Christmas trees, and the hope that cloning can bring us all perfect ones forever.

Biologist Kurt Zoglauer of Berlin's Humboldt University isn't happy with the current Christmas tree situation. According to him, some 40 percent of trees just don't aren't good enough to cut it, and yet they still occupy their little spots on the farm for at least 10 years, and sometimes more. In a cloning project—one sponsored by the German government, no less—Zoglauer and his team are working on a way to breed and clone particularly robust trees. They aim to start their clone army by 2016. More here.

Dec 22, 2012

Apple’s 53.3 Percent Smartphone Market Share in U.S. is Company Record

Apple now has a 53.3 percent share of the U.S. smartphone market, the largest slice of the pie the iPhone maker has ever had, according to new research from Kantar Worldpanel. The data represents a snapshot of the wireless market over the past 12 weeks.
“Apple has reached a major milestone in the US by passing the 50 percent share mark for the first time, with further gains expected to be made during December,” Kantar Worldpanel global consumer insight director Dominic Sunnebo said.
The scene isn’t the same on the other side of the pond, however. Android’s market share increased from 51.8 percent in 2011 to 61 percent in Europe this year. Samsung has the largest grip in the “big five” countries in Europe, with a 44.3 percent share, followed by Apple with a 25.3 percent share. Kantar said HTC, Nokia and Sony are all in a close race for third place. More here.