A visit to the crapgadget impulse aisle with Meh.

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I have a soft spot for crapgadgets. During my first stretch living in Silicon Valley, one of my favorite ways to spend a Sunday was to get a friend to drive me to Fry's and just buy a whole whack of stuff from the impulse aisle: stuff that some optimistic entrepreneur had made an unsuccessful bet on, sold off to a jobber, who then split it into lots that were sold on to import/export places that eventually dumped it into Fry's: black-and-white digital cameras without a viewfinder (I called it the "point-and-pray"); stuffed bootleg Windows 2000 logo plushies; digital walkie-talkies that looked like the Incredible Hulk.

Asshole stick: DIY USB destroyer the size of a thumbdrive

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This gadget does exactly as promised: it looks like a thumbdrive (sort of) and fries the circuitry of any computer it's plugged into. It's made from camera flash parts, is charged with a standard AA battery, and delivers a 300V zap of DC destruction to the port for all your USB-murdering needs.

Note that this is not useful for any interesting purpose (unlike, say, the USB Kill stick): it won't scramble or delete data or accomplish any forensic or utilitarian outcome. It's just an asshole stick. Read the rest

The Klok: a lovely, concentric, crowdfunded slide-rule-esque watch

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The 44mm Klok watch started life as a crowdfunding campaign and has now graduated to full-fledged article of commerce, priced between €400-430. Read the rest

New MacBook Pro Touchbar justified

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There has been much anguish over Apple's new MacBook Pros. In lieu of specifications more impressive than a 2 year-old HP Elite, Apple offered up the Touchbar, a touchscreen mini LED display where the function keys are supposed to be.

Though classic Apple—pursue clever innovations at the cost of appealing to the pepperbeards who still think they're Apple's customer base—the backlash was more pronounced than usual. But the Touchbar is just an easy scapegoat for the new model's 16GB RAM limit, an unsexy but more serious problem.

And guess what: that Touchbar is completely justified. If you object to it, your argument is now invalid. Criticism of the Touchbar is no longer permissible in civilized milieux.

Touchbar Nyancat

Stupid nyancat animation on your +$2k MacBook Pro's Touchbar. Enjoy

First person to get an ad to show up in the Touchbar, without the user's express consent, wins a cyanide-laced Apple. Read the rest

Samsung recalls "exploding" washing machines

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Samsung has recalled 2.8 million washing machines after users reported "impact injuries" including a broken jaw. Read the rest

A rotary cellular phone

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Mr Volt created this "artifact from somewhere else," machining the housing (with wood veneer!) and programming an Arduino controller to allow him to make rotary dial calls with his giant metal brick, which looks to have the sturdiness of an original black Bell phone (whose logo is displayed at boot-time on the small LCD); it's also an FM radio! (via JWZ) Read the rest

Artist celebrates Patriot Act's anniversary by handing out "Official Air Travel Replacement Knives" to arriving SFO passengers

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Last week, artist Michelle Pred celebrated the anniversary of the Patriot Act by dressing up as an old-timey Pan Am flight attendant (she wore her mother's old Pan Am hat!) and handing out "Official Air Travel Replacement Knives" to people waiting for their bags at SFO (she had 50 knives, but it took more than 50 tries to give them away, as more than half of the people she approached refused to engage with her). Read the rest

Already regretting assigning the new MacBook Pro review to Borges

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Read the rest

Unsecured Internet of Things gadgets get hacked within 40 minutes of being connected to the net

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The Atlantic's Andrew McGill set up a virtual server on Amazon's cloud that presented to the internet as a crappy, insecure Internet of Things toaster; 41 minutes later, a hacked IoT device connected to it and tried to hack it. Within a day, the "toaster" had been hacked more than 300 times. Read the rest

e-ink keyboard changes for every purpose

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I've been into old-fashioned mechanical keyboards lately; Sonder's e-ink model promises to bring the fetish into the 21st century. Each key is both mechanical and a tiny e-Ink display that can change on a per-application basis.

The Sonder Keyboard combines a sleek new design with a built-in rechargeable battery and enhanced key features. With an improved mechanical mechanism beneath each key for increased stability, as well as optimized key travel and a lower profile, the Sonder Keyboard provides a remarkably comfortable and precise typing experience. It pairs automatically with your Mac, so you can get to work right away. And the battery is incredibly long-lasting — it will power your keyboard for about a month or more between charges.

The styling is minimal and Apple-oriented. Sonder's keyboard uses Bluetooth, but comes with USB and a lightning port too. It's $200, which seems reasonable for such a specialized device: compare to Art Lebedev's Optimus Popularis color LED model, still a pricey curiosity at $1500. Read the rest

Benjamin Button reviews the new MacBook Pro

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Apple's just-announced 2016 MacBook Pro hasn't gone down well, particularly among developers. Maciej Ceglowski's review of the previous model, from the perspective of a man traveling backwards through time, is the best of the complaints. Read the rest

Teasmade: the classic British bedside tea-brewing alarm-clock, now available in the USA

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A decade ago, I made note of the fact that the iconic UK Teasmade alarm-clocks (which automatically brew a cup of tea using an improbable, Wallace-and-Grommity/Heath Robinson set of mechanical actions) were to be reissued, and today I come to find that they now exist and can be purchased in a model that runs on US electrical current. Read the rest

Insecure internet-connected "honeypot" toaster hacked within an hour

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Andrew McGill's internet-connected toaster isn't really a toaster: it's a "honeypot" designed to resemble the insecure "internet of things" gadgets— cameras, LED lightbulbs, fridges, etc—that make up the vast botnets behind recent internet attacks. The honeypot was hacked within an hour.

I switched on the server at 1:12 p.m. Wednesday, fully expecting to wait days—or weeks—to see a hack attempt.

Wrong! The first one came at 1:53 p.m.

Lots of the hacking attempts use the password xc3511, the factory default of many old webcams. Amazing. I love the little bot's eye view of the toaster! Read the rest

Kickstarting awesomely nerdy pie-guides

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All through 2016, Jessica Leigh Clark-Bojin (aka @ThePieous) has sent us a stream howtos for of amazing, artistic pies -- an HR Giger pie, a James Bond pie, and a Predator pie. Now she's kickstarting a set of pie templates to help you make perfect pop-culture pastry in your own kitchen. Read the rest

History of Mechanical Keyboards

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Andrew Lekashman offers a brief pictorial a history of mechanical keyboards, from adding machines to dumb terminals to Symbolics monstrosities to modern blank-key hacker totems. There was a lot of ingenious tech left by the wayside on the way to finding the perfect click.

Pictured above is one not included in the roundup, a particularly beautiful Raytheon(!) model that can be bought on eBay for $300, then sent to me.

Lekashman's tastes are grittier:

Ultrasonic I Plus

This keyboard is acoustic and operates entirely by vibration. This makes it more like a musical instrument than a workplace device. This is something that hasn’t been replicated in the keyboard market since 1982. The specific principle that allows it to work is called Time Difference Of Arrival (TDOA). This is like a form of echo-location to measure which key hits the acoustic transfer bar. Whenever a switch is pressed, a metal “slapper” strikes the bar, and transducers measure the sound wave produced, which differs based on the distance of the slapper from the transducer. Typing on the keyboard is delightfully clicky and pleasantly tactile.

Read the rest

Why The NYT buying The Wirecutter is such a big deal

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Yesterday, we learned The Wirecutter (with sister site The Sweethome) was headed to New York City. It's the sort of good ending that's also a good beginning: they succeeded in their mission and have bright prospects for further growth. But Matt Haughey points out how much of the story everyone's missing: the entire site is a mere 1,000 posts.

I don’t think anyone gives Brian the credit he deserves

1. He single-handedly built his own empire without having to cater to advertisers or investors. 2. He built a site that made revenue in a way that was previously uncharted. 3. He built it according to his own rules, without needing to pressure writers and editors to publish as often as possible. 4. He built a brand and a site that launched many copycats but no one ever matched it. 5. His sites work thanks to trust built up between readers and writers, and it works because editors help maintain integrity since the day it launched. 6. He did it all in a place far, far from the tech hubs of SF and NYC, in Honolulu. Where he gets to surf almost daily.

Not great taste in sub-cubic foot microwave ovens tho. Read the rest

Steel Star Trek salt and pepper shakers

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The stainless steel shakers are designed to have a lot of heft (the Enterprise is 7oz empty, the Bird of Prey is 5 oz): they're $60 from Thinkgeek. Read the rest

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