A fireplace that burns proprietary logs

Hearthcabinet's "Ventless Fireplaces" use "pre-filled alcohol gel cartridges" -- that is, proprietary logs. When Drew quizzed the company's reps about this on Facebook, they danced around the question, but yeah, it's proprietary logs all right. The company notes that the design is patented (the founder, a product liability attorney named Michael Weinberger, has many related patents) so presumably this is the firm's primary method to prevent third-party log makers or log refillers. From what I can tell, there aren't any digital countermeasures that would allow the manufacturers to invoke other anti-adversarial interoperability measures like the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act or Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. And as clever as the design may be, it is yet another example of the rising tide of proprietary, single-use consumables, from Juicero juicers (RIP) to proprietary coffee pods. 8-packs of replacement logs sell for $80-$93with options for "unscented, vanilla, pine and cinnamon." (Image: Hearthcabinet) Read the rest

Bluetooth cassette player

It being 2019, you may now buy a portable cassette player with Bluetooth functionality. Meet Its OK, a ~$65 gadget currently firing up Kickstarter.

Chaim Gartenberg:

the It’s OK does the usual tape things, like playing cassettes or letting you record to tapes, it also bills itself as the world’s first Bluetooth 5.0 portable cassette player (a claim of such niche specificity that it seems to be true). It allows you to listen to your favorite jams with wireless headphones or even link it to a Bluetooth speaker, should you wish.

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The dark truth about mechanical keyboards and gaming

Eurogamer's Will Judd flirts with heresy: "Are mechanical keyboards really good for gaming?"

When it comes to PC gaming peripherals, stats and specs drive purchases. Gaming monitors became popular because they offered lower latency or higher refresh rates, while gaming mice boasted higher sensitivities and improved tracking accuracy. Yet this quantitative trend doesn't seem to apply to one peripheral in particular: mechanical keyboards. No single stat separates mechs from their non-mechanical counterparts, yet mechanical keyboards are routinely recommended over alternatives that cost a fraction of the price. Why is this the case? Are there genuine gaming advantages?

Thankfully, it's just a cunningly-titled top list of models Judd recommends; I have, therefore, titled my linkpost to his listpost with an even more shamelessly clickbaity title.

I do have an opinion, though, that might justify it: it doesn't really matter what mechanical keyboard you get so long as you don't get a cheap one. What's most important is learning which sort of switch suits you best -- linear, tactile, clicky -- and thenceforth completely ignoring the online cult of mechanical keyboards, because you got one to play games, not waste enormous sums of money on custom keycaps and bizarre, barely-functional niche layouts, like I do.

In fact, if you don't even want to think about all that stuff, and simply want to discover a mechanical keyboard that is good for playing games without further ado, allow me to commit fully to the most base and foul heresy and recommend that you just buy whatever Logitech is making right now [Amazon]. Read the rest

PC BIOS simulator

Now you too can experience the joy and wonder of changing the BIOS configuration of a Lenovo-brand personal computer with the Lenovo BIOS Simulator Center. [via Hacker News] Read the rest

The Sony Walkman is 40 years old

It was 40 years ago today.

On July 1 of 1979, Sony first began to sell the TPS-L2, first known as the Soundabout and soon rechristened the Walkman. This original Walkman wasn’t the first portable tape player, but it was the first that didn’t have a record function. Portable cassette recorders had mostly been used by reporters; this one, with its newly designed lightweight headphones, was specifically intended for music. It changed the world.

Photo: Dave Jones (CC BY 2.0) Read the rest

Man performs drums unusually well with a keyboard

It helps that he's using a high-end hammer action keyboard, but Yohan's Kim's incredible skill cannot be denied. Perhaps Creative Labs needs a new spokesman:

BONUS REMIX:

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Jony Ive leaves Apple, but will keep it as a client

Jony Ive, Apple's longtime design chief and the creator of countless iconic designs, is leaving the firm to form his own agency. Apple will be his first client.

“After nearly 30 years and countless projects, I am most proud of the lasting work we have done to create a design team, process and culture at Apple that is without peer. Today it is stronger, more vibrant and more talented than at any point in Apple’s history,” said Ive. “The team will certainly thrive under the excellent leadership of Evans, Alan and Jeff, who have been among my closest collaborators. I have the utmost confidence in my designer colleagues at Apple, who remain my closest friends, and I look forward to working with them for many years to come.”

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Mockup of giant TV screen that shows what was behind it months earlier

Bob Shaw's "Light of Other Days", nominated for a Hugo award in 1967, presented the concept of slow glass: a material that takes light days, months or even years to pass through. A pane set in front of a lake for a decade, for example, could then be sold to city-dwellers wanting a nicer view. The gorgeous vista would last only 10 years, obviously, then become a delayed view of the slow glass being transported from the lake, shipped to the SlowGlass showroom, purchased and installed, before, finally, becoming a view of the bare wall behind it--as it looked ten years earlier. A more mundane applications might be to use 12-hour slow glass to provide offices and malls with permanent daylight.

Such a material still can't be bought at Home Depot, but this CGI mockup shows how we might fake it: all we'd need is a big LCD display, a camera, and lots of storage to hold months or years of HD footage.

Visualization of an outdoor installation. The monitor shows what's behind it, with 6 months delay.

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High frame-rate footage of vintage guns malfunctioning

A good way to understand how something works is to watch how it fails.

Forgotten Weapons:

Over many years of filming with my high speed camera, I have a decent little library of malfunctions in a wide variety of guns. These don't normally make it into videos, and I figured it would be neat to present a bunch of them together. Enjoy!

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Son-of-Reflectacles: Kickstarting a new generation of anti-surveillance eyewear

Eccentric eyewear maker Scott Urban first kickstarted his "Reflectacles" frames in 2016; the frames used emedded retroreflectors to make them throw back tons of light, making them highly visible (and great for things like night cycling); subsequent iterations beefed up the IR reflectivity, which blinded many CCTV surveillance cameras (they use IR to paint low-light scenes, and their sensors can be overwhelmed if enough of that IR bounces back at them). Read the rest

Raspberry Pi 4

The fourth incarnation of the wonderful Raspberry Pi is upon us. A faster quard-core CPU, up to 4GB of RAM, gigabit ethernet and dual HDMI outputs are the upgrades; there's USB-C too, but just for power. The CPU boost is a big deal, say early users, but dual-4k displays and 4x the RAM bring it squarely into the realm of everyday desktop computing. Still $35; the 4GB model is $55.

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How turn your Mac Mini into a heat tomb that looks like an unappetizing Walmart cake

The Elago Mac Mini Silicone Case [Amazon] is a remarkable entry in the annals of "advertising vs. reality". Above, the product shot. Below, the Elago IRL.

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What it was like to actually use the TRS-80 Model 100 as a journalist on the go

1983's TRS-80 Model 100 is often hailed as the first portable computer, or at least the first laptop, and retains a cultish following, especially among the journalists who depended on it. Read the rest

$5000 gadget for cheating at poker

In a 2016 article, Elie Bursztein collects and describes a gadget used to cheat at the card table.

In 2015, I stumbled upon a post in an underground forum, discussing how someone was ripped off at a poker table by a very advanced poker cheating device. From what I understood at that time, the post being in Chinese, the device was able to remotely read card markings to inform the cheater who will win the next hand.

Intrigued, I decided to follow the trail of this fabled device to see if people were indeed cheating at poker using devices that would fit naturally into a James Bond movie.

Without spoiling too much of the rest of this post, let’s just say that the high-end cheating device that I was able to get my hands on far exceeded my expectations and it really is an outstanding piece of technology.

I've watched the video demo of one of the gadgets (embedded above) and didn't figure the trick out. I won't spoil it for you, but for saying it's a $5000 fully functional Android smartphone with extra hardware: "Note that taking a screenshot of the cheating app turned out to be more difficult than expected because the ROM is hardened against analysis"

Previously: HOWTO cheat your friends at poker Read the rest

Amazon unveils a new Echo Dot surveillance device for children

The latest addition to Amazon's line of always-on, ever-listening, networked, insecure (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7) snitchy smart speakers is the new rev of the Echo Dot Kids Edition, whose "kid-friendly" Alexa is like surveillance Barbie without the pretense of being a toy. Read the rest

Swidl: robot picks up gooey spills without losing their shapes

Swidl is a robot that can quickly slide its thin flat tongue underneath gooey spills without disrupting their shapes. I can't begin to imagine a purpose for it other than forensic-grade vomit archiving (the given example is ... meat towels?) but it's amazing to watch in action. Thluuuuuuuup! Read the rest

Quick Fix: vending machine "sells likes and follows"

Quick Fix is an art installation—a vending machine—that sells likes and followers for your social media accounts. Read the rest

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