This episode is brought to you by: Squarespace, the all-in-one platform that makes it fast and easy to create your own professional website or online portfolio. For a free trial and 10% off, go to squarespace.com and use offer code GWEEKS. And by Hover, the best way to buy and manage domain names. Use offer code ROBOTMONKEY for 10% off your order.
The Lay-N-Go Traveler is a water-repellent polyester drawstring bag that opens out to lay flat, making it ideal for carrying small, fiddly travel-stuff that you're forever losing in the dark corners of your pouches and sacks. It's got a pocket for tucking in the drawstring, and it locks in place with a fastener when it's closed. 20" in diameter, $30.
MPHJ is America's most notorious patent troll. The company -- whose owners are shrouded in mystery through a network of shell companies -- claims a patent on scanning documents and then emailing them, and they threaten business-owners with massive lawsuits unless they pay $1,000 per-employee "license fees."
Mostly, the troll has gone after small-fry, companies too small to defend themselves, and has stopped short of actually going to court. But now they've gone big-league, announcing suits against Coca-Cola, Dillards, Unum Group and Huhtakami.
It's not clear whether they've built their litigation warchest through the small-fry, but it seems unlikely. The lawsuit discloses that the troll extracted payments from Canon and Sharp in exchange for not suing their customers, and I suspect this is where the money for the suits came from.
The legal filings in the cases are very long, and detail the companies' internal networks as evidence of patent violation. The troll relies on the fact that all three companies use Xerox and Lexmark products and since these two companies haven't paid ransom for their customers, it can be assumed that anyone using their devices violates the patents.
Yesterday at CES, Makerbot CEO Bre Pettis announced three new 3D printers, including a massive, fifth-generation Replicator capable of producing objects that are 45.7cm tall and 30.5cm wide/long. Interestingly, all three new models -- there's also a simple, one-button version and a desktop prosumer version -- sport clear plastic sides. 3D printers are very susceptible to disruption from even slight breezes (the wind cools the plastic between the nozzle and the previous layer) but there's a completely batshit patent on the totally obvious "invention" of putting see-through sides on a 3D printer, so in general printers don't ship with sides, and manufacturers don't publicly advise their customers to add plastic sides to their machines.
Liftlabs makes a $300 cutlery handle that uses stabilization technology to cancel out tremors (such as those arising from Parkinson's disease). It's based on steadicam technology, and in a clinical trial was about 70 percent effective.
This episode is brought to you by: Squarespace, the all-in-one platform that makes it fast and easy to create your own professional website or online portfolio. For a free trial and 10% off, go to squarespace.com and use offer code GWEEKS.
Security-conscious travelers have long used tamper-evident seals over their devices' screws and seams, but as Lackey points out, those seals are easy for spies, customs officials and other snoops to reproduce, especially if they can work in private (as happens when your laptop is taken away for a border inspection). But reproducing the random pattern of glitter polish is substantially more expensive that replicating a security seal -- it also takes longer, and there are no set procedures for doing so.
Lackey also recommends using stickers as an alternative seal; it's unlikely that a spy agency or a customs official has access to your favorite vintage Wacky Package sticker.
Ringclock is an Indiegogo-funded, LED-lit stainless steel fidget ring that tells the time. It has a wireless charger and is very handsomely styled -- reminiscent of Kinekt's brilliant gear rings. However, they're sold as "water resistant" and unsuitable for showers or handwashing, which sounds like a recipe for an expensive disaster, especially as they're $235 for pre-order.
It's a hefty $299, but it's moulded leather (rrrr), and it's the Batman backpack. A senior toy industry person said to me recently, "Do you know why Batman is such a killer toy, an evergreen seller, and yet Superman is not? No? Externalities. Batman is you - with externalities, like the car, the belt, the cape. (The backpack). Superman's power comes from within, you can never replicate it, but Batman's is all without. You can't be Superman, but you can be the Batman."
I'm in the market for a new set of computer speakers, so I was excited when I happened on this review from Cnet's Audiophiliac, singing the praises of Alesis M1 Active 520 Powered Studio Monitor, a $177 pair of budget-speakers that are intended as pro monitors. They takeXLR and TRS plugs (the reviewer, Steve Guttenberg, recommends this $6 cable to convert to 1/4" output). According to Steve Guttenberg, "The bass is solid, the midrange is clear, and the treble detailed."