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$380,000 spent designing one tiny part of a laptop

I'm not sure USB port design is the detail I care most about, but I'm glad that Razer spent $380k sweating it. Fast Co Design's Dan Nosowitz sees, in a very expensive gaming laptop, the hand of Jobs:

That attention to detail isn't just for show; Razer really has accomplished something pretty impressive with the Blade. It's thinner than the MacBook Pro with Retina Display, much more powerful, with a display that's not only 20% more pixel-dense than the Retina but a touch screen as well. Though it's very similar to the MacBook in some of its design cues--its hinges, its trackpad, and its matte finish are all very Apple-y--it's undeniably an exciting machine. But as any Jobsian acolyte knows, it's obsession with detail that makes a piece of technology truly seem special, and for Min, that included the USB ports.

Dual-chambered beer-glasses for mixing the perfect black-and-tan


Etsy seller Matthew Cummings of Kentucky's Pretentious Beer Glass Company created a set of four cylindrical, dual-chambered beer glasses, which allows you to mix any two beers without regard to their specific gravities and without a lot of mucking around with jigs. He also takes custom orders. A set of four is $125.

Dual Beer Glass, Set of 4 (Thanks, Fipi Lele!)

Kickstarting an Arduino-based Enigma machine

ST Geotronics have exanded their Instructables project for building your own Arduino-based Enigma and turned it into a Kickstarter. $40 gets you some boards you can kit-bash with; $125 gets you the full kit; $300 gets you the whole thing, beautifully made and fully assembled.

The Open Enigma Project (Thanks, Tina!)

Firefox OS and the unserved billions of the developing world

Last month, I wrote about the announcement of the $25 Firefox OS smartphone, aimed at developing world users who have never owned a smartphone and can't afford a high-end mobile device. An editorial by Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry describes how such a device could find an audience of billions, and spur a new ecosystem of developing world developers who make software that's geared not just to the Firefox OS platform, but also to the unique needs of people in the developing world.

The vision of Firefox OS is a contrast to the Zuckerberg plan to supply "Internet" to poor people in the form of an ad-subsidized, all-surveilling walled garden. As Susan Crawford says, "That's not the Internet -- that’s being fodder for someone else's ad-targeting business. That's entrenching and amplifying existing inequalities and contributing to poverty of imagination -- a crucial limitation on human life."

Asking whether the Internet is good or bad for freedom misses the point. It's clear that network technologies have the power to track and control their users, and the power to free and enrich them. The right question to ask is: "How do we get an Internet that does more for freedom?"

Firefox OS sounds like part of the answer.

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For sale: Maurice Sendak's Lindbergh kidnapping souvenir ladder


Hiland writes, "The auction website Hakes is featuring a bunch of things from the estate of Maurice Sendak. A particular one of note is the miniature Lindbergh Baby kidnapping trial souvenir wooden ladder."

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Bad-ass Catholic weapons

Robot Mountain Benito Cereno has compiled a partial list of the bad-ass weapons of Catholocism, which include Durendal, "which had in its hilt one of St Peter’s teeth, St Basil’s blood, a hair of St Denis, and a scrap of cloth that belonged to the Virgin Mary."

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AT-AT rocking horse


Jen from Cake Wrecks made this amazing AT-AT rocking-horse, documenting the build online (she's promised plans to follow). It will be auctioned for charity at Megacon by the Florida chapter of the 501st Legion.

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HOWTO make a solderless circuit

Phil Torrone and Limor Fried send us the latest episode of Collin's Lab: "Learn how to bring a circuit from schematic to reality using a solderless breadboard - then make it permanent by reincarnating your circuit on sturdy perfboard."

Collin's Lab: Breadboards & Perfboards

Kickstarting a portable electric motor for city-share bikes

An entrepreneur is looking for $100K on Kickstarter to fund production of Shareroller, an ingenious, portable, snap-on electric motor for city-share bikes, like those in NYC, London, Toronto, Montreal, DC, Minneapolis, etc. The motor -- which weighs about 7 lbs and is the size of a ream of printer-paper -- clips onto the triangular docking prong on the front of the bike, and uses a retractable friction-wheel to impart energy to the bike. It also works on scooters and personal bikes, though these require a special mount.

Shareroller sports a big, powerful battery, and the inventor is alive to the possibilities here. It includes USB charge-ports for your phone and other devices, so you can charge while you ride. It also has a set of high-powered headlights. The 750W, 1hp motor has a maximum range of 12 miles at 18mph (it will go farther is you help by pedalling).

The device is reportedly ready for production. $1000 gets you one from the initial run. $1300 is full list price (more if you opt for the range-extending extra battery). They'll sell you one of their functional, pre-production prototypes for $2000, shipping as soon as the Kickstarter is fulfilled, and replaced with a production model when they are available.

The creator has a fairly impressive track record of making and shipping stuff, though, as with all Kickstarters, there is no guarantee that your money will get you anything.

I like the exercise I get from pedalling around on short-hire bikes in London. But I also like the idea of getting all the way across town in the middle of summer and arriving without being drenched in sweat. I don't know that I'd spend $1,000 (or $1,300) to attain that state, though.

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Pixel-art on classic furniture

Trip Pixel Furniture, from Studio Badini Createam/Seletti, adds pixellated fine-art images to the Trip line of furniture, created a tastily dissonant juxtaposition of modern glitchiness with ponderous, weighty French classic furniture.

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Boeing's self-destructing, tamper-resistant spookphone: the Black


Boeing has sought regulatory approval from the FCC for a tamper-resistant phone intended to self-destruct if its case is opened. The phone, called "Black," runs Android, and is intended for use under the DoD Mobile Classified Capabilities guidelines. It will be sold with a nondisclosure agreement prohibiting tampering or service, and opening the case will trigger a system intended to wipe the phone's data.

Interestingly, it has a removable battery (something that's become increasingly scarce in smartphones). Best operational security practice holds that you should remove your phone's battery when you want to be sure that it's off, because any malware that turned your phone into a bug could also cause it to simulate being switched off while it remained running.

It's an intriguing technical problem. I'm intuitively skeptical of the security model. I can believe that this phone will be tamper-evident, but I don't know if it will be all that tamper-resistant. That is, it may be capable of preventing an attacker from surreptitiously opening the case to access the components, but how about an adversary willing to simply smash the screen to get at the components beneath?

The manufacturer could make a phone whose accelerometer tried to detect these events and wipe the device as a precaution, but I suspect there'd be a lot of spooks who'd end up cursing their self-destructing phones every time they butterfingered them while getting them out of a pocket while walking down the street. I'm pretty sure that I can use tools to remove my phone's screen in a way that generates less detectable stress than it receives during everyday knockabout and drops.

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Deadpool pencil-jar

The Deadpool pencil cup is a delightfully silly and gross bit of office-candy, in which the wisecracking, unkillable merc from the pages of Marvel comics is presented for your gleeful brain-skewering pleasure. It comes with shuriken-shaped erasers and an arrow-cap for your favorite writing implement.

If you're new to Deadpool, try Deadpool Dead Presidents, the reboot of the comic from Walking Dead co-creator Tony Moore. Gentle Giant Studios Deadpool: Pencil Cup Accessory

(via Geekymerch)

Nerf Rebelle: girl-marketed action toys that are cool and work well


Nerf's Rebelle Heartbreaker Bow (part of the wider Rebelle line of action toys marketed to girls) gets pretty high marks from its owners, and promises a dart-range of 75 feet. I confess that I'm conflicted about this -- there's nothing inherently masculine or feminine about Nerf toys, their gendering is already a synthetic creation of the company's marketing strategy.

That said, there are unquestionably girls who feel like action toys are not for them because of normative gender pressure (to which Nerf is a contributor, of course), and the existence of toys that are intended to allow them the space for imaginative play without worrying about appropriate gender norms is a good thing. Especially since the Rebelle toys are not just "girly" -- they're also cool, as well-built and well-designed as the "boy" versions, the perfect imaginative accessory for your little Hunger Games fan.

Nerf Rebelle Heartbreaker Bow (via Super Punch)

Librarybox beta goes 2.0: self-powered Wifi file-server that fits in your pocket


Jason writes with an update to the amazing, kickstarted Librarybox project: "The LibraryBox Project, as a part of its ongoing efforts to bring information to areas without communication infrastructures, announced the release of the v2.0 public beta today. Boing Boing was kind enough to post about the very successful Kickstarter from July and this is the next stage of the project arising from that funding.

"LibraryBox is an open source digital distribution device, designed to route around both censorship and poor infrastructure by creating a hyperlocal digital file distribution point for use by libraries, educators, or anyone who wants to share files quickly and easily. The v2.0 release makes building your own LibraryBox easier than ever, while increasing the customizability and flexibility of the interface."

LibraryBox v2.0: Portable Private Digital Distribution (Thanks, Jason!)

Mozilla's $25 Firefox smartphone: a free/open device for billions of new netizens


Mozilla's sub-$50 Firefox OS smartphones are aimed at countries like India and Indonesia, where devices costing hundreds of dollars are out of reach of hundreds of millions of people. The idea is to bring a smartphone running a free/open operating system that is optimized for Internet access to people who have no net connection at all today.

The phones are slow and only have a few apps, but they're infinitely more useful than a candybar-shaped "feature phone," and with their low pricetag, many people will be able to buy them outright, rather than being beholden to phone companies who subsidize handset purchases through long-term, abusive contracts; and they'll get online using devices that don't lock them into a single company's ecosystem for email, messaging, and apps.

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