Boing Boing Gift Guide: Toys and more!

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Enjoy the third and final part of this year's gift guide: toys! Also included are everything else that doesn't quite fit into our picks among the books and gadgets to enchant and enwonderize us in 2016. What cool and weird objects of fascination did you find this year?

Makey MakeyIt’s easier to understand what Makey Makey is by watching this video of it in action than by describing it, but I’ll give it a shot. Makey Makey is a printed circuit board that you connect to any computer with a USB cable (included). You don’t need to install any software. Your computer thinks Makey Makey is a keyboard. And it is a keyboard of sorts. But it doesn’t use standard keys. Instead, you connect wires from Makey Makey to anything that conducts electricity: a piece of fruit, a bowl of water, a cup of soup, a scrap of aluminum foil, blobs of Play-Doh. When you touch the object with your finger, your computer will think you are pressing a key on a standard keyboard. You can assign the object to be a spacebar key, an arrow key, or a letter key. And you can connect several objects to Makey Makey at the same time, so that you can create game controllers, musical interfaces, and other button-controlled devices.

It might not sound like much fun, but the possibilities are endless, and Makey Makey’s ease of use encourages quick-and-dirty experimentation. My 12-year-old was instantly transfixed by Makey Makey and she started making all sorts of things with it, including a drum machine triggered by apple slices, and a game controller out of a cardboard box and bits of foil. Read the rest

Boing Boing's 2016 Gift Guide: Gadgets

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A staggering array of gadgetry gets posted to Boing Boing every year, which makes picking just some of the stuff seem like a big job. But it's easy when you just ask yourself: what made our lives better? What looks fun? Here's a few dozen tech toys that generated laughs, light and lovely smoothies.

Most of the links here include Amazon Affiliate codes; this helps us make ends meet at Boing Boing, the world's greatest neurozine. Don't miss our favorite books and toys from 2016, too Read the rest

Boing Boing's 2016 Gift Guide: Books

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When we got to rounding up our favorite books for our annual Gift Guide, we found that there were simply too many this time to throw in the Christmas/Kwanzaa/Hanukah/Yule/Solstice/Nonspecific Winter Celebration/New Year/Chalica hopper along with the tech and toys.

It's almost as if 2016 made the traditional way of learning more about our world — and of sharing dreams of other worlds — somehow more enticing.

Here's 65 of the best, then, from fairy-tales to furious politics, from the comic to the catastrophic, all waiting for you to turn the page.

Most of the links here include Amazon Affiliate codes; this helps us make ends meet at Boing Boing, the world's greatest neurozine. Don't miss this year's guides to Gadgets and toys too! Read the rest

A box of random stuff from our sponsor Meh, reviewed by a 10-year-old

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Boing Boing is sponsored in part by Meh.

Our sponsor Meh is a daily deals site that deals in a wide range of gadgets, gizmos, geegaws, widgets, stuff, gear, goods, and, of course, things. Recently, they sent me a big box of items they've previously sold for me to "review." But before I even got a chance to open the package, my ten-year-old son had torn into it, tried out each item (for at least one minute), and formed strong opinions that I will now share with you. -dp

Ion Audio Vinyl Motion Portable Suitcase Turntable: "I collect vinyl, and I can tell you that as a rule, new turntables that sell for less than $100 are crap. This one is surprisingly much better than the crappy ones that most people end up buying. The Ion turntable is actually a great bang for your buck, especially if you're playing $1 bin records that you don't care too much about."

Evriholder Beer Chill'R Mug: "I don't drink beer, but even if I did... this thing is stupid."

Haan HandiPro HS-22 Hand Held Steam Cleaner: "I guess this could be useful for cleaning up cat pee from rugs and other messes. But it would be better modded into a Ghostbusters Proton Pack for Halloween."

Banana Boat Rechargeable Wireless Floating Sound System: "This waterproof bluetooth speaker sounds good, but unfortunately we don't have a pool. I am listening to the new Green Day album in the bathtub though. So that's pretty cool."

"Overall, this was an OK haul.

Read the rest

Boing Boing & MorningSave's House of Marley watch collection

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Boing Boing has teamed up with MorningSave to offer this deeply discounted collection of House of Marley watches!

House of Marley is committed to building superior, eco-friendly products, and every sale supports the Marley family's charitable organization, 1Love.

I really like the wood accents on these watches!

Boing Boing & MorningSave's House of Marley watch collection Read the rest

I got a box of stuff from daily deals site Meh.com, way better than 'meh'

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Boing Boing is proudly sponsored in part by Meh.

Our sponsor Meh is a cool daily deals site that doesn't over-promise, but delivers thoughtfully curated mostly cheap off-brand gadgets.

Read the rest

Thanks for the box of worthless crap, Meh!

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Boing Boing proudly welcomes our sponsor, Meh.

I was completely unprepared for how disappointed I was going to be with my random box of crap from Meh.

The folks at Meh told me I didn't have to like anything they sent. Dave told me over and over, it is ok if we hate the stuff. Having tried out most of what they sent me, I can safely say I was entertained, then frustrated, scared, confused, frustrated again, kinda bored and slightly angry. A box of crap indeed!

When I opened the cardboard box, I still thought maybe I'd get something really great. I didn't think this was impossible! I'd seen some items listed that I was sure would be a lot of fun to play with. Right on top, first thing out of the box was something I thought would be great: the CAP Clip-A-Phone!

This looked like a lot of fun! A SmartPhone mount for the brim of a baseball cap? What could go wrong? I grabbed an old hat, some hair clips and my Great Pyrenees. Amazing fun, right? I envisioned a hilarious Dog's Eye view of the world revealed through a camera clipped to my best friend's head. Luckily I didn't destroy my phone.

CAP turns your hat into an unbalanced weight dangling just above your face. There is no way a dog, even with lots of hair clips, and a bandana tied over his head holding it on, could walk with it on. Putting the hat on my 9 year old daughter allowed my phone to drop about 3 1/2 feet to the ground, luckily, the hat and clip protected it from taking the brunt of the fall. Read the rest

Deals on gadgets from Boing Boing and Morningsave

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We've come together with our pals at Morningsave to offer you a couple neat gadgets! All three were things we collectively thought were fun to play with, and that you might like! Check them out...

First up, for only $39, we've got the Ion Audio Vinyl Motion Portable Turntable. This portable record player comes in a suitcase, just like that first record player you got 40 years ago. Unlike the tinny sounding beast of yesteryear, this guy comes with both RCA and USB outputs! Readers with an eye to the future will encode their vinyl as MP3s!

Next we've got the Nabi Look HD action camera. Unlike more expensive models, at 5 to 10x the price, this camera is cheap. $35 cheap. If you want a camera that'll record 1080p video, in an underwater housing, that you don't mind losing or destroying, this is the camera for you! While the Nabi Look outputs to microSD, and has a bunch of other features, mostly what this camera is notable for is not being valuable. Opens up a lot of possibilities in the world of action cameras, doesn't it?

I was excited to see some photos taken with the Cheerson CX-10C Video Cam Quadcopter. I am still waiting. Thus far I can barely get the thing to hover without careening into a wall. The copter does come with a 2GB microSD card and certainly implies that a competent pilot could capture some interesting shots. Maybe you'll have better luck. I'd stick with the record player. Read the rest

Meh. Our sponsor who sends us random boxes of crap

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Boing Boing very proudly welcomes our new sponsor, Meh.

Meh is a daily deals site that often struggles to explain what the products they are selling are, what these gadgets do, or why you might possibly like them. They handle this the same way I approached college: if you can't offer useful information, make up something that sounds oddly plausible. You'll marvel at the creativity and sheer bullshit that goes into drafting the descriptive copy for the goodies they offer the world.

Sometimes you'll find a gem. Occasionally, you find something kinda useful in a limited, and likely to break soon kinda way, for an incredible price! Those are special Meh moments. Treasure them.

Meh is about fun! That's why they are sending each one of us at Boing Boing a random box of of crap that was literally laying around their warehouse. They really don't care what we think of the stuff, they hope we find something fun, or at least destructive, to do with it. We're not supposed to tell you how perfect it is. Every week or so this summer, one Boinger after another will receive a mystery Meh box and will share their wonder, bemusement, or disappointment, at what arrives. We may be weird, but to us this sounds very fun.

This video was made during the shoot for our Virgin America seat-back entertainment channel. If you fly Virgin America, watch Boing Boing TV on Channel 10 in the television channel selections. We had a lot of fun making it! Read the rest

Ray: One Remote to Rule them All

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Boing Boing is proudly sponsored by Ray, the super remote!

About a month ago, Boing Boing received a Ray Super Remote in the mail and for a moment we thought we were looking at a new smart phone. From the clean white minimal box it was packaged in, to its sleek glass face, we were impressed by the simplicity and beauty of this new take on an outdated, but important everyday object... the TV remote.

One of the most striking aspects of Ray is that it’s not cluttered with a bunch of plastic buttons. Instead, it is a touchscreen. Ray sports smooth Gorilla glass on its front and back, and has an elegant machined aluminum sidebar on the right with just three buttons, which you can use to easily turn the device on and off, hit mute, and control the volume.

The Ray’s packaging did not include an instruction booklet. Instead, Ray walks you through the set-up process with its user-friendly touchscreen after you turn it on. It asks about your program and channel preferences as well as more basic questions in order to customize your Ray to work with your equipment. Which premium movie channels do you have? What types of shows do you watch? What are your favorite channels? Who is your cable provider? What devices (TV, DVR, Apple TV, Fire TV, Xbox, etc.) do you use? You answer by simply tapping on icons or “yes” and “no” boxes, depending on the question.

Ray is so easy to navigate that even the biggest technophobe on the planet could tap through this process without a sweat. Read the rest

RAY: the smartest remote on Earth

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Boing Boing is proudly sponsored by Ray, the super remote!

Walk into almost any room with a television set, and you’re bound to come across an unseemly pile of remote controls. The more game consoles and streaming media players we collect, the more plastic remotes we accumulate, and after 50 years of TV remote technology, controlling what you want to watch on your television set is more confusing than ever. Not even the traditional universal remotes have helped much. Why? Because most universal remotes are designed to function the same way as the remotes they’re trying to replace!

The only way to fix the remote control madness is to erase our notion of what a remote control is and how we interact with them. Start from scratch and reinvent one. Be less about how we control things and more about how we enjoy them. And that’s exactly what Ray Super Remote has done. Unlike any other remote control, the Ray recommends what you want to watch based on what you like to watch. It learns and improves the more you use it, tapping into various video sources like content from your cable provider, movies on Roku and other streaming services, making the TV experience less about searching through guides and more about sitting back and watching old favorites or new discoveries.

Founded by CEO David Skokna and created by a team of engineers and designers who come from innovative companies like Apple, MakerBot, Amazon, and Nokia, Ray could easily be mistaken for a smart phone. Read the rest

Unboxing the Boing Boing x Quarterly Maker Box!

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See inside our Maker Box with Quarterly!

Earlier this year we teamed up with Quarterly Co. to curate their very first Maker Box! This was a brand new subscription and we were stoked to be apart of it. Each Maker Box includes at least three kits with a variety of themes and projects to be worked on. For this box, the theme was “grow”. We wanted to cover all aspects of DIY with a focus on growing - as a person, through the gadgets you’ll build and your plants!

The first kit was hand-picked by us for you: Farm Curious Vegetable Fermenting Kit. Fermentation is a fascinating chemical process that transforms food, making it more delicious and nutritious. Every time we ferment something we’re amazed. Milk into yogurt! Cabbage into sauerkraut! Cucumbers into pickles! Our mouth is watering as we write these words. We hope the Farm Curious kit turns you into a fermented food fanatic, too.

Also included was an original Makey Makey kit. Ever wanted to turn bananas into a piano? Or make your own game controller for a computer game? Well with the Makey Makey Classic you can! Makey Makey is an invention kit that allows you to turn any object into a touchpad and connect it to the internet.

For those with green thumbs, and those who tend to forget, we also included this DIY Thirsty Plant Kit from Technology Will Save Us. With this, you will always know when your plants needed water. Read the rest

A Happy Mutant’s Home Office

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Boing Boing is proudly sponsored by HP’s newest Color LaserJet Pro, the MFP M477!

Boing Boing is a truly distributed company. Each member of the team maintains a separate office, or lair, from which they work. Our Publisher, Jason, shares his home office with his two dogs, a cat, a lot of books, guitars, and a bunch of toys. In typical Happy Mutant style, Jason combines functional efficiency with his own offbeat aesthetic to create a space from which to publish Boing Boing.

Here are a few things that help make his office great:

Jason likes to have a lot of desk space, but physically can’t sit down for extended periods. He needed a very large standup desk. They don’t make them. As an aficionado of classic mid-century furnishings, he thought a mechanical Hamilton drafting table would do the trick. It did! By depressing a pedal with his foot, Jason adjusts the height of his work surface from sitting to standing and between. Swinging a lever lets him adjust the angle of the desktop from horizontal to vertical, transforming the surface into a whiteboard as needed.

Space is another huge consideration for Jason. His office is packed with musical instruments, props for various magic tricks, and a lot of books. The devices he needs to conduct business, like a printer, must be very carefully chosen. Through this course of this program, HP sent Jason an amazing new Color LaserJet, the MFP M477, to replace a seriously outdated C series inkjet. Read the rest

An interview with ROBERT JACKSON BENNETT on the occasion of the publication of THE CITY OF BLADES

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Boing Boing is proud to welcome Robert Jackson Bennett's The City of Blades as a sponsor!

In a world where politics have run amuck and consumers must choose from over 300 varieties of toothpaste, one seemingly simple question rises to the fore: what is my next great read? Luckily for you, ladies and gentlemen, we have the answer to that question – a book that will satisfy your cravings, turn that frown upside down, reduce wrinkles in women and stimulate hair growth in men. In short, my friends, it is a miracle book indeed.

And you don’t have to take my word for it; the bookish masses all agree that Robert Jackson Bennett’s books are a wonder. Author Jim C. Hines (Libriomancer) said: “Every once in a while I read a book that's so well done, I find myself wanting to punch the author in the face out of pure envy. Congratulations Bennett, you just made the face-punching list!" Blogger G. Brown of Nerds of a Feather, writes “Dazzling, sophisticated and thoroughly modern... Imagine China Mieville and George R. R. Martin stuck in an elevator, with only a laptop to keep them company, and you’re almost there. Robert Jackson Bennett is a name to remember and a talent to behold.” – G. BROWN, NERDS OF A FEATHER

Lean in closer, my friends, and I will whisper to you the names of these great books: Mr. Shivers, The Company Man, The Troupe, American Elsewhere, City of Stairs and the brand-new, much-anticipated, and thoroughly-magnificent (imagine a drum roll here, please) City... Read the rest

Introducing Boing Boing's Maker Box

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Quarterly.co is launching a brand new Maker Box subscription. This new Maker box features DIY kits and hands-on projects perfect for makers of all ages. You’ll receive kits to build your own gadgets, electronics, quirky tools, and more. Each quarter will feature a new curator, new ideas and new projects. The first curator is Boing Boing! Each box will contain at least 3 kits and will cost $100. The box ships in February. Read the rest

First Look: Jason Gurley’s ELEANOR

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Jason Gurley's ELEANOR is a proud sponsor of Boing Boing!

A new novel for readers of Neil Gaiman, Lev Grossman, Kate Atkinson’s Life after Life, and Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife.

Eleanor is the story of identical twins, Eleanor and Esme, who have a secret language all their own. They’re inseparable, until a terrible accident changes everything and reality begins to unravel in strange ways for Eleanor. The first time it happens, she walks through a school doorway, and finds herself in a cornfield, beneath wide blue skies. When she stumbles back into her own world, time has flown by without her. Again and again, against her will, she falls out of her world and into other, stranger ones, until finally she is ripped from the fabric of time itself. Far from home, she will encounter creatures both familiar and dangerous, and a stranger who may hold her only chance to rescue her family.

An excerpt of Eleanor by Jason Gurley:

It happens again.

The roiling static, the not-so-subtle tug of something—as if a black hole has opened up in her bedroom and is trying to suck her right through the doorway. She doesn’t have time to say a word, but a terrible thought unfolds in her mind like a vortex of its own—What if nothing is real; what if everything is just made up, and anything can happen?—and she feels a powerful urge to resist the thought, because to give in to it, to even consider it, would unhinge her completely.

Read the rest

Evolving E-bike designs and technology changing the face of urban commuting

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Boing Boing proudly welcomes Mando as a sponsor!

Anyone who commutes to work in a major metropolitan center like New York, London, Paris or Berlin knows all too well about the challenges of getting from Point A to Point B. And urban dwellers struggle to choose between options that all seem to have drawbacks.

Packed trains, busses and metro lines with unpredictable reliability, vehicle restrictions, expensive parking, and mind-numbing traffic, not to mention costs of either public or private transport, all have led commuters scrambling for alternatives.

The traditional bicycle has emerged a strong contender for favored commuter method, especially as cities become more bike friendly with special lanes for two-wheel travelers, incentive schemes to motivate would-be bikers, and even convenient rental stations that allow easy access to bikes most anywhere you might need one.

So while there are many reasons to consider biking to work, there’s one reason urban commuters have shied away from this alternative.

“Sweat,” says Ben Jaconelli, owner of London-based Fully Charged bike shop near London Bridge. “People don’t want to arrive at work all sweaty and have to carry an extra set of clothes and then shower at the office. They want the most efficient and hassle free way to get to work, and humping across town on a push bike is not necessarily the best approach to achieve that.”

The e-bike alternative

Enter the electric bike. Long considered a handy way for older or less active folks to enjoy the experience of biking, e-bikes struggled to gain widespread appeal, especially for the younger set. Read the rest

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