This keyboard is Zlanted

The Zlant keyboard -- a compromise between tiny "ortholinear" grid keyboards and a traditional staggered layout -- will be available soon.

Plancks are one of my favorite keyboards. However, I've found it to be a little bit of a struggle to get some of my friends into the form factor, especially people who aren't as devoted to mechanical keyboards as we are.

Personally, and I'm sure many of you agree, I consider the Planck to have the most efficient form factor for its size. I feel as though many 40%'s make a few too many sacrifices with what gets placed in additional fn layers. So, after trying to re-work the wheel several times, I realized that (at least for me) the best staggered 40% would really just be a staggered Planck. It's not exactly the same as a standard stagger, using a uniform .25u stagger, but it's enough that it should feel a little more natural to people that can't fully adapt to an ortholinear lifestyle. Additionally, having an identical layout to the Planck from a keycap perspective, it's much easier to find keycaps to fit this layout than many other 40%'s. There are so many keysets out there with Planck/OLKB kits that it's easier to cover a board with keycaps that say what they do instead of just fitting a hole that's the same size.

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Hot competition in the world of replacement jewel cases for Sega games

Sega made nice jewel cases for its video games, providing ample space for manuals and a nice thick spine for shelf display. But they cracked easily, and Sega's departure from the console business meant fans went for many years without an easy replacement source. But then there were two – in competition.

Sega collectors can finally rest easy, knowing that they’ll now be able to get replacements for their shattered cases from multiple sources—whether that’s Limited Run, or VGC Online, or from hypothetical bootleggers in China. It still remains to be seen whether the demand for these replacement parts can sustain multiple businesses.

One of the surprises in the story is the cost of molds required to make jewel cases. The simultaneous emergence of two competitors, each making big capital investments in the same generic product for the same tiny market, puts both in trouble from the outset. But one spent $150k to make perfect molds in the U.S., whereas the other spent only $8k to crank them out in China. Mr. $150k banked, unwisely, on the assumption that he'd have the market to himself and would never have to worry about cheap competition for his high-quality replicas. Mr $8k just wanted to make cheap Sega cases available and didn't care about third shift copies – but the results are apparently pretty rough, so enthusiasts may well opt for the more expensive alternative. Read the rest

The rise and fall of smoking in the west

From the 1920s to the 1980s, the United States was the most smoking country in the developed world. In the 1960s, consumption peaked over 10 a day, per capita. But now it's near the bottom of the chart—only Britain smokes less, among rich western countries.

Don't fret for the health of the Tobacco business, though: China's taking up the slack. Read the rest

Every time Rod Serling said "Twilight Zone" synced up

This video synchronizes every Rod Serling opening monologue from The Twilight Zone so that they converge upon him saying "The Twilight Zone." It's surprisingly weird and uncanny as the cacophony builds, only for the words to suddenly emerge at the end. Read the rest

Paul Erdős really got going on speed

On Reddit, binary_bender charted the stimulant consumption of mathematician Paul Erdős against his professional output. The prolific professor wrote more than 1500 papers in his long, incredibly wired life: "Clearly Meth Coffee." [via r/dataisbeautiful]

For Erdős death was merely a cessation of input, it taking years for his momentum to subside. Read the rest

BBC sound effect archive posted online

The BBC posted an online archive of many of its sound effects. The nature scenes and peculiar things of historical interests are wonderful, though the broad focus seems to be components for radio plays and the like: footsteps, actions, incidental moments.

The BBC license isn't free and has odd stipulations, but the point of the project and its accompanying rules is remarkable: "RemArc, or Reminiscence Archive, is designed to help trigger memories in people with dementia using BBC Archive material as stimulation. " Read the rest

Glitch makes programming on the web fun again

Glitch is a simple and powerful open-source canvas for experimenting on the web—and after a year of beta testing, it's ready for artists and coders to get stuck in. If you want to make things online but get put off by complicated frameworks, the headache of server set up, and myriad incompatible platforms your work has to end up running on, Glitch might be for you.

I tinkered with it for the first time last week, and within minutes had overcome hurdles that I thought I'd never have the time or energy to figure out.

To a casual visitor, Glitch looks like YouTube, but for digital artwork and rudimentary games. You can even embed stuff there on your own site, just like video, though you have to click into the editing tools to get the snippets.

Dig in, though, and it turns into a simple but powerful coding environment: one that can't be messed up, no matter how hard you try. For me, it seems to offer all the freewheeling instant gratification of the early web, but with modern tools and technology -- and the chance to collaborate with other people without having to teach them Git. The promise of just focusing on art or application code seems almost alien to the modern web, but here it is, all without having to be my own sysadmin, security expert and full-stack drudge.

Best of all, you can take anything anyone's done, clone it, and tinker with it, and see the results change live: the best and fastest way to learn markup and scripting languages. Read the rest

Review: Zotac's Zbox EN1070K is the tiny game PC that could

Regular readers will know I'm fond of tiny computers. During my search for one powerful enough to play games on, I found several beautiful and well-made options. But none were so wee as the Zotac Zbox EN1070K [Amazon], which is roughly the size of a Sega Dreamcast. I've had it for six months, now, and can report that it's great: easily the most enjoyable, compact, no-nonsense game-ready PC I've ever owned.

Miniaturization is accomplished by using the MXM video card form factor originally devised for laptops. In the past, this would have resulted in a severe performance compromise. But current Nvidia models hit close to the numbers posted by full-size counterparts. Even with Zotac slightly underclocking the GTX 1070 (presumably for heat reasons), it benchmarks close enough to the full-size model that I doubt I could tell the difference side-by-side.

There's even a model with the GTX 1080 [Amazon] in it, but it's twice the size of this one and I wanted small, and it turns out the 1070 is more than enough for every game I've tried, outpacing the GTX 970-equipped PC I upgraded from. The latest games on the highest settings on 4k monitors would be pushing it, I'm sure, but if you need that, maybe a PC the size of a hardback novel isn't in your future.

There are compromises to bear in mind. Upgrading the i5 Kaby Lake CPU is possible, but I won't be chancing it for a long time -- it voids the warranty and requires almost complete disassembly. Read the rest

Model of Ancient Rome fills room

Mussolini commissioned this enormous scale model of Ancient Rome and it took 4 years to build. Surely, much of this is guesswork? [via]

At the Museum of Roman Culture resides a 1:250 recreation of imperial Rome, known as the Plastico di Roma Imperiale, which transports viewers not just through space but time as well. "To commemorate the birth of Augustus (63 BC) two thousand years earlier, Mussolini commissioned a model of Rome as it appeared at the time of Constantine (AD 306-337), when the city had reached its greatest size," says Encyclopedia Romana. Constructed by Italo Gismondi between 1933 and 1937, then extended and restored in the 1990s, it takes as its basis Rodolfo Lanciani's 1901 atlas the Forma Urbis Romae.

There are more scale models of cities at io9. Someone should make three-dee scans of all these, to the finest grain! Read the rest

The chemistry of Neuromancer

At Chemistry Blog, Nick Uhlig explores the chemistry of William Gibson's classic novel Neuromancer.

Apart from inventing the term “cyberspace” and predicting virtual reality long before it became commonplace, Neuromancer also contains some interesting tidbits of chemistry. Being a chemist myself, specifically one in the pharma industry, these little nuggets of scientific prose jump out at me, and quite pleasantly Gibson (for the most part) does a good job of using them appropriately. I wanted to examine the pharmaceutical elements of the book, which are almost entirely used by Case and Peter Riviera, its two biggest junkies.

Only the finest Brazilian Dex for me.

Photo: Cory Doctorow (CC BY-SA 2.0) | Artist: James Warhola Read the rest

Person driving on shoulder receives instant justice

Matt Bentkowski was stuck in traffic on Interstate 285 East near Atlanta, enjoying "a front row seat" when a driver behind him decided the shoulder would do just fine as a lane.

P.S. Instant Justice YouTube is obviously a lot of fun, but there's plenty there you might not want to bother with first thing in the morning. Read the rest

iMac Pro reviewed

TechCrunch's Veanne Cao reviews Apple's iMac Pro. It's a beautiful, powerful machine, Veanne writes, but when it comes to high-end video work the price premium over a similarly-specced Windows box makes it a hard sell.

There’s a period of zen we reach as editors when we’re plowing through an edit, when we’re so consumed by whatever project we’re working on that hours will pass before we realize we’ve forgotten to eat, sleep, pee. ... With the iMac Pro, I’m reminded of how enjoyable video editing can be.

But...

I definitely can’t justify its price tag to my corporate overlords. My two friends who run production companies with teams of 14 and 28 echoed the same sentiment: “It doesn’t make sense, business-wise, with that many employees.” And my freelance colleagues, even the ones consistently landing high-paying gigs, all but one said it wasn’t worth the price, “I’d rather spend the extra few thou on lenses or a new body.”

I would still buy it if I were doing lots of high-end pro work. Why? Because Windows is hinky.

It's not a platform for taking pleasure in one's work, unless you're lucky enough to be working in a field that requires only one particular well-made app to get it done. Windows is a platform for disinterested drudgery and games. Just last week, Microsoft pushed out a "Windows Ink" update that broke my Wacom gear, with no obvious or easy workaround until Wacom published a hacky command-line fix. Mac OS is far from perfect, but at least it doesn't force on me Microsoft's drivers for its own comically low-end tablet PCs. Read the rest

Map of how England and Wales is aging

Outside the big cities, England and Wales is aging. From Plumplot:

In 2002, 40% of the population was over 44 years old. Fourteen years later it was 43.5%. The share almost equaled to the population below 35, which was 43.7%. Life expectancy also increased. For people aged 65 years or older, the expectancy increased by more than two years. Their share increased by 2.1% between 2002 and 2016. There were 7.1k centenarians in 2002 and 13.7k in 2016.

I was curious about the white-hot sliver of youth in the wilds of Wiltshire. There are military bases around those parts, but couldn't immediately confirm that's the reason why. Read the rest

Adam West's Batman helps kids cross the street safely

On Saturday, the UK's Birmingham City University screened "long-lost" footage of Batman helping youngsters cross the road safely. The clip, starring Adam West as the caped crusader, was shot in May 1967. Read the rest

Banned Donkey Kong champ promises proof in emulator scandal

Billy Mitchell is an infamous game champion whose Donkey King high score was long the record. But video of his current best time was apparently recorded using an emulator rather than real arcade hardware, making it easier to cheat and ultimately losing him his place in the record books. Now he's speaking out, promising to show that everything was done according to the rules: "witnesses, documents, everything will be made available."

It's amazing how they caught Mitchell, by spotting subtle discrepancies in how MAME emulation software and original hardware refresh the screen. The top image (below) is video of a bona-fide Donkey Kong cabinet, and the bottom image is Mitchell's provided video, now thought to be recorded by connecting an emulator to an arcade CRT monitor. Each GIF covers 1/60th of a second or thereabouts, and is slowed to show the game's girders being drawn out of the usual order.

Another famous game champ, Todd Rogers, was likewise put to pasture recently. Modern hardware analysis made his claimed times and scores too incredible to believe, and he could not produce evidence of having made them. Read the rest

Santa Cruz del Islote, the "world's most crowded island"

1200 residents, two shops, a restaurant, a school, and no cops: Santa Cruz del Islote is the world's most crowded island.

Two hours off the coast of Colombia is a small island home to over 1,200 people. As the entirety of Santa Cruz del Islote only spans the length of two soccer fields, residents live in close quarters, making the island four times as dense as the borough of Manhattan. Despite the circumstances, the community makes the most of their limited surface area, packing in a school, two shops and one restaurant. Only 150 years ago, the island was uninhabited; today, generations of families are proud to call Santa Cruz del Islote home.

The much smaller Ilet a Brouee is more densely populated, as is at least one of the high-rise tower-packed island neighborhoods in Hong Kong. Part of Santa Cruz de Islote's magic is that it feels like you could have fun exploring it, that it would have mysteries and stories. Read the rest

R. Lee Ermey, 1944–2018

R. Lee Ermey, the retired U.S. Marine whose portrayal of shrieking, sadistic Sergeant Hartman in Full Metal Jacket became the gold standard for movie drill instructors, is dead at 74. The magic show is yet to be scheduled.

The Kanas native was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for his memorable performance in “Full Metal Jacket,” immortalizing lines like “What is your major malfunction?” He also voiced the little green army man Sarge in the “Toy Story” films and played a helicopter pilot in “Apocalypse Now,” among many other roles.
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