Three months with the cheapest electric kettle that didn’t look like it would kill me

At $11, the Proctor Silex K2070YA 1-Liter Electric Kettle was the cheapest model I could find on Amazon that didn’t look like it would result in electrocution or an explosion of boiling water. I’ve spent three months with it. It’s OK.

In fact, it’s showing no sign at all of problems. It boils water fast. The cord is detachable. It automatically shuts off when it boils, or if you try to boil air. The design makes it possible to refill from a faucet or fridge dispenser without opening the lid. You can see from across the room how full it is, too, thanks to its nice big window.

The little “heating in progress” LED light inside the transparent switch is still working after months of use, and there’s no rubbery seal around the lid slowly failing; two problems that soon became annoyances on the $75 Breville this replaced. The only problem, such as it is? The LEX part of the logo has completely and slightly mysteriously disappeared.

Here’s a photo of the heating element after a thousand or so boils:

If you do want to die, though, the $2.17 Lookatool Pocket Boiler is where it’s at. The Ovente looks quite similar to the Proctor Silex model, comes in several cool colors, and is currently the same price, but has a stupid window. Read the rest

Kickstarting Evezor, an open robot that can carve, draw, engrave, pour, pick, place, cut, weld, print, grab, mill, assemble and create

We are introducing Evezor, a robot that can carve, draw, engrave, pour, pick, place, cut, weld, print, grab, mill, assemble and create your next project or business. Powered by Raspberry Pi, open source software and hardware, Evezor is the most hackable robotic arm there is. Evezor can share and automate the hand tools you already own and with open toolhead platform, anyone can make tools for this machine. Read the rest

Review: Mainstays $9 portable electric burner

Mainstays Single Burner is a portable electric coil hotplate you can buy for $9 at Walmart (and Amazon). It has a 1m two-prong cord, an adjustable power control (temperatures are not marked) and rubber feet.

I tested it with a steel stock pot with 8 quarts of water.

After turning up the heat I watched it for a while. It got the water to about 160 degrees but it was only slowly rising and I doubt it would have gotten to a boil. Touching the steel to observe the element, I felt a strange tingling, rippling sensation in my arm.

“That’s odd,” I thought, lifting the pot up to look at the element. The sensation left me. Part of the element glowed red but mostly it remained dark. I placed the pot back on the element and the moment it touched it that weird tingle shot up my arm again.

“Oh, I’m being electrified,” I said, “because I bought a $9 electric burner from fucking Walmart.” Read the rest

How to check if a phone is stolen

Buying a phone on Craigslist or eBay or some other shady venue? Get the device's ESN or IMEI number from the seller and post it to the Stolen Phone Checker, a single-serving website set up by industry trade group CTIA. If the seller won't give you the number, assume it's stolen. [via] Read the rest

Gallery of gadgets at the Bang & Olufsen Museum

Vlad Savov went on a tour of the Bang & Olufsen Museum in Struer, Denmark—a wonder closet of cool audio gear.

The very earliest Bang & Olufsen product was actually a component rather than a full-fledged radio. The Eliminator, as it was called, made batteries unnecessary and allowed you to plug your radio directly into the mains. A couple of years after the Eliminator’s introduction, Peter Bang and Svend Olufsen moved their work out of the Olufsen family farm and into a factory in the nearby town of Struer in northwest Denmark. This is where the main B&O manufacturing facilities remain to this day.

In terms of their design inspiration, these first B&O radios were like the original skeuomorphic iPhone OS of their time. They adapted the styling of familiar pieces of home furniture to their technological purposes.

Read the rest

Review: Logitech MK270, the cheapest-ass wireless keyboard and mouse combo

The Logitech MK270 Wireless Keyboard and Mouse set was just twelve dollars and fifty cents!

It's sometimes $16.99 or even a bit more, but that's still pretty damned cheap.

I expected it to be about as bad as the Amazon Basics Keyboard, which is the same price, but wired, and you don't get a mouse. You know those nasty squidgy roll-up rubber portable keyboards? Imagine one of those in a rigid plastic case, and you have the Amazon Basics Keyboard.

This, though, is a perfectly decent full-size rubber-dome keyboard, as good as most of the tat in, say, a Best Buy or Staples. The special keys worked, including a calculator key that actually brings up the system calculator. Fucking witchcraft! Read the rest

What's inside a phone that's designed to fit inside your rectum?

On Hackaday, Alasdair Allan documents the ingenious techniques employed in the creation of the Beat the Boss Phone, a tiny, lozenge-shaped phone (with a voice-changer) that is designed to be smuggled past the BOSS metal detectors used in UK prisons in the rectums of prisoners. Read the rest

Apple's control-freakery is making the Internet of Shit shittier

The anonymous individual behind the must-follow Internet of Shit Twitter account now has a column in The Verge, and has devoted 1,500 words to documenting all the ways in which Apple's signature walled-garden approach to technology has created an Apple Home IoT platform that is not only manifestly totally broken, but also can't be fixed until Apple decides to do something about it -- and once you opt for Apple, you can forget about plugging in anything Apple hasn't greenlit, meaning that your choice of smartphone will determine what kind of toaster and lightswitch you're allowed to connect to your smarthome. Read the rest

Lekue Cooking Mesh makes boiling veggies fun again

It's pricier than the five-buck alternative, but my Lekue silicone cooking mesh bag [Amazon] has survived dozens of boils.

GreenSavers are the best produce savers I've tried

After trying too many different options, I decided that GreenSavers [Amazon link] best met the twin goals of keeping veggies fresh while making the fridge navigable.

235 apps attempt to secretly track users with ultrasonic audio

Ultrasonic beacons (previously, previously) let advertisers build an idea of when and where you use your devices: the sound plays in an ad on one device, and is heard by other devices. This way, they can associate two gadgets with a single user, precisely geolocate devices without aGPS, or even build graphs of real-world social networks. The threat was considered more academic than some, but more than 200 Android apps were found in the wild using the technique.

In research sponsored by the German government [PDF], a team of researchers conducted extensive tests across the EU to better understand how widespread this practice is in the real world.

Their results revealed Shopkick ultrasonic beacons at 4 of 35 stores in two European cities. The situation isn't that worrisome, as users have to open an app with the Shopkick SDK for the beacon to be picked up.

In the real world, this isn't an issue, as store owners, advertisers, or product manufactures could incentivize users to open various apps as a way to get discounts.

From the paper:

While in April 2015 only six instances were known, we have been able to identify 39 further instances in a dataset of about 1,3 million applications in December 2015, and until now, a total of 234 samples containing SilverPush has been discovered. We conclude that even if the tracking through TV content is not actively used yet, the monitoring functionality is already deployed in mobile applications and might become a serious privacy threat in the near future

Apparently it's not very effective—consumer speakers and mics aren't designed with ultrasonic use in mind and the authors say noise, audio compression and other factors "significantly affects the feasibility" of the technology—but the intent is clearly there on the part of advertisers and appmakers to make a stab at it. Read the rest

Doritos sold a bag of chips with a semidisposable MP3 player

The Doritos' Guardians of the Galaxy 2 chips sold with a MP3 player containing the movie's full soundtrack, a pair of retro headphones of the sort that airlines used to hand out for free, even in coach, and a USB charging cable. Read the rest

The best guide to mechanical keyboard switches

Like me, you may have taken an interest in mechanical keyboards only to uncover a world of baffling options. "Can I have a clicky one, please" is like asking for a drink in a pub: they'll stare at you for a moment then say "which one, mate?" Brandon West reminded me that Input.Club is the best guide to all the options available, so when someone asks you if you want your Cherry Yellow or a nice Lubed Zealio, you'll know to slap them hard across the chops and say, "How dare you. 55g Topre Realforce Linears or nothing." Read the rest

It would cost more than $10k for a pro sports photographer to switch camera brands

Sony's cameras seem to be in a league of their own. So why do professionals stick with bulkier models from Canon and Nikon? One answer is glass—often just as pricey as pro-grade bodies, and you need a lot of it to be in business. DPReview's Dan Bracaglia suggests that Sony's latest full-frame model, the $5,000 A9, is so fantastic that many pros are talking about jumping ship, but should be cautioned by the sheer expense of doing so.

Using our example, the cheapest one could go full-on Sony, with most of the same kit is $22,870. After applying the $11,820 discount from having sold off all the Canon equipment, a photojournalist would still have to cough up about $11,050 to make the switch. Or they could simply take that $11,820 and buy a couple of a9 bodies and maybe a lens.

"Switching systems is a headache," he adds, "and sports photography gear is crazy expensive." Read the rest

Chester doesn't like Roomba

Chester (or Shasta?), a Red Labrador, has figured out a way to deal with the Roomba that's more efficient than barking at it or biting it: turning it off. [Thanks, Heather!] Read the rest

EU court rules against seller of "preconfigured for piracy" media boxes

An EU court ruled against a seller of customized set-top boxes this week, with the judge saying that his preinstallation of certain Kodi Add-Ons makes the boxes illegal to offer.

Mr Wullems sells, over the internet, various models of a multimedia player under the name ‘filmspeler’. That device acts as a medium between a source of audiovisual data and a television screen. On that player, Mr Wullems installed an open source software that enabled files to be played through a user-friendly interface, via structured menus. In addition, integrated into the player were add-ons available on the internet whose function is to retrieve the desired content from streaming websites and make it start playing, on a simple click, on the multimedia player connected to a television. Some of those internet sites give access to digital content with the consent of the right holders, whilst others give access without their consent. According to the advertising, the multimedia player made it possible, in particular, to watch on a television screen, easily and for free, audiovisual material available on the internet without the consent of the copyright holders

It might seem a 'technical' outcome: it's still fine to sell boxes with open streaming software, the end-user just has to set up arrmatey.plugin their own damned selves. But "Who, whom?" is always important. Read the rest

Internet-of-things water bottle will inform you of your drinking habits

AquaGenie is "the world's smartest water bottle," a $70 internet-of-things device that "knows your water goals" and will connect to the Internet to inform you if you have met them.

AquaGenie is your daily companion that keeps you on track and fully hydrated, helping you achieve all your health, wellness, fitness and weight loss goals! Attractive, durable, easy to wash and easy to use, your AquaGenie tracks your consumption, reports it to most fitness apps, and goes with you everywhere.

The AquaGenie bottle knows your daily water goal and how much you've had to drink. To keep you on track, when it sees you're behind, a glowing ring at the base of the bottle lights up to remind you to take a sip. It's that simple!

To recharge, just place it on its stand for an hour and you’re good to go for a week! No wires, no batteries to change, no need to set it still to take a measurement.

Unlike your current water bottle, it's wireless! Ah, but I snark. And in the wake of the Juicero "$500 bag-squeezing machine" fiasco, that's too easy. Beyond the naked consumerism, there's something deeply weird about the idea of smart gadgets. They tell us what we experience. Here, for example, is a machine that reminds you when and when not to be thirsty. You pick it up and ask it: am I thirsty?

Somewhere behind the gadget is a less human machine that doesn't know us but needs us to do things for it, and which has a lot of stories to tell to help us on our way. Read the rest

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