"As Seen On TV" garden gadgets tested, and they're not great

I'd call it a spoiler, but you already know what's coming: "As Seen On TV" garden gadgets are not much good, however ingenious they seem to be. Household Hacker picked up a few items and subjected them to tests. None were terrible or dangerous, but the gimmicks don't really work — a trimmer that uses cheap zip-ties works OK, for example, but the ties are eaten so quickly that it's a false economy and a great example of the Vimes theory of boots. Read the rest

Kickstarting "The Inverter," a backwards watch with a beautiful, exposed movement

The Inverter is a kickstarted, sub-$500, 34mm automatic mechanical watch built around Citizen's Miyota Calibre 9000 movement, augmented with a custom module that makes the watch run backwards, so that it can be mounted so that the movement is exposed (beneath a sapphire crystal), with the back of the watch becoming its "face." Read the rest

Folding phones are an unfolding disaster

Damon Beres notes that the situation with folding displays is quickly going to hell.

Enter Samsung’s Galaxy Fold, a kind of metal and glass taco that could define a new category of personal device — provided the company can get the thing to work. Several tech writers accidentally broke the gadget’s foldable display shortly after receiving review units, which led Samsung to delay the Galaxy Fold’s launch indefinitely. On Monday, the company said it would provide an update in the “next few weeks.” (Samsung’s official preorder link for the Galaxy Fold now leads to a 404 page.)

But even if Samsung eventually says it has worked out the kinks, you shouldn’t buy one. Not yet, anyway. There are the obvious problems that go beyond the breakable display. The Galaxy Fold is gut-blastingly expensive at $1,980, and review units contained design flaws that were revealed in a teardown by iFixit. (Facing pressure from Samsung, iFixit later removed its examination “out of respect” to the partner that leaked the phone.)

Unrepairable at any cost short of buying a new one, too. Read the rest

Review: Graco TrueCoat 360 airless paint sprayer

Jobs done, quickly and messily

Skull fence-toppers for your haunt or garden

The Build Cave is a California-based prop-maker whose Etsy store is focused on decor for haunters with an emphasis on haunted, vintage elevators (!!), and which includes these delightful resin skull fence-toppers designed to be affixed to PVC pipe verticals and painted; they're $95/dozen. (via Creepbay) Read the rest

The Intercept's top security expert reviews Helm, a standalone home email server that keeps your comms out of Big Tech's data-centers

Last October, a startup called Helm announced a $500, plug-and-play home email server that was designed to be a secure, decentralized, privacy-oriented alternative to using one of Big Tech's email systems like Gmail, an option that was potentially even more robust than using email from a privacy-oriented provider like Riseup or Protonmail because your metadata would not be stored anywhere except in your home. Read the rest

Review units of Samsung's $2000 folding phone are failing after hours of use

Samsung's folding phone, which will ding buyers about two grand after tax, is already in deep trouble: the review units sent to journalists are dying after hours of use.

CNBC's Todd Haselton writes that it was "a tantalizing glimpse of the future — before it broke."

During my second day of testing, the screen began flickering and would turn off and on at a rapid pace. It became completely unusable and at times wouldn’t turn on at all.

Samsung had said not to remove a thin layer that sits on top of the screen. Other reviewers accidentally removed this layer and ran into similar issues that I saw. But I never removed the protective film or used the device outside any way a normal user might.

The Verge titled its video review "after the break" and awarded it the not-so coveted "Yikes" rating.

Whatever happened, it certainly wasn’t because I have treated this phone badly. I’ve done normal phone stuff, like opening and closing the hinge and putting it in my pocket. We did stick a tiny piece of molding clay on the back of the phone yesterday to prop it up for a video shoot, which is something we do in every phone video shoot. So perhaps a tiny piece of that snuck into a gap on the back of the hinge and then around or through its cogs until it lodged in between the screen and the hinge. It’d be sort of like Charlie Chaplin getting caught in the gears in Modern Times.

Read the rest

Facebook slashes price of its creepy Portal home surveillance telescreen

Who wouldn't want to buy a telescreen from Facebook, the least-trusted privacy merchant on Earth, so that they may be placed around the house? The obviously despised Facebook Portal will now be half-price, reports Matt Navarra. Details:

No, you’re not misremembering the details from that young adult dystopian fiction you’re reading — Facebook really does sell a video chat camera adept at tracking the faces of you and your loved ones. Now, you too can own Facebook’s poorly timed foray into social hardware for the low, low price of $99. That’s a pretty big price drop considering that the Portal, introduced less than six months ago, debuted at $199.

People think this product's failure moment will be along the lines of "woops we recorded petabytes of footage of you pooping" but it won't be that, it will be more abstract, like a patent for "correlations in facial chroma averages and political sentiment analysis" or some other horrible thing with little line-art drawings of the Portal right there in the filing diagrams.

The thing about Facebook Apology Tour Moments is that they come from things Facebook itself can't anticipate, because you never told it explicitly that it couldn't do something extremely specific and strange with aggregated data. The reason Facebook can't understand why it is bad is because the people who run it can't understand what's good about human beings. Read the rest

Kickstarting gorgeous mechanical metal models

Time 4 Machine is a Ukrainian design shop led by Denis Okhrimenko; their latest project is "The most beautiful construction set in the world", a set of thin steel parts that you bend together to make (yes) beautiful mechanical models: a business-card case, a tractor, a working clockwork timer, a vintage sportscar, a springpowered cabriolet, a sedan, a Hercules eight-motor aircraft and a dieselpunk steamliner engine. Read the rest

WATCH: Super satisfying magnet action

These magnetic balls look fun as heck. Keep them out of the way of small kids and pets, please. Read the rest

Gloriously impractical "pressure gauge" watch

For many years, we've celebrated Tokyoflash's glorious and impractical contributions to horology: the company has set itself on a long path to imagine what a watch can be in an era where we all have unbelievably precise, self-setting timepieces in our pockets at all times, playfully experimenting with what a watchface can do while still telling the time (nominally, at least!). Read the rest

Skateboarding in an abandoned wool factory

Enjoy Sverker Löding, Stefan Helin and William Forsberg make good use of an abandoned (but conscpicuously well-kept) wool factory before it gets turned into condos or turned into an Investigation Discovery Channel host's segue lair.

This is one of my favourite indoor places I've ever filmed. A big old wool factory in the middle of nowhere. Just wanted to keep this edit very simple and real. Just pure skateboarding, sound and a very nice looking location.

Filmed with BMPCC 4K in BRAW, Milvus 21mm on Ronin-S.

Kristoffer Davidsson used the new 4k Blackmagic "Pocket" Cinema Camera, which is amazingly inexpensive for a credible production camera and produces great footage—but has some of the same practical shortcomings as its predecessor: tough to use without a rig, poor battery life, etc. They can't produce enough to meet demand, unfortunately, so they're selling far over MSRP on eBay and craigslist. Read the rest

Hr's how to protct your Appl MacBook kyboard

At the Wall Street Journal, Joanna Stern reports that the ultra-thin butterfly keyboards on current MacBooks are still failing. The online version of her column is brilliantly funny, with options to rmv crtain lttrs or make itt so thatt certtain charactters repeatt — the characteristic failures of what Apple watcher John Gruber describes as the "worst products in Apple history."

Stern recommends various remedies, from a beta app that kills double keystrokes to blasting your laptop with canned air. But there's a better solution: this $13 polyurethane keyboard protector [Amazon affiliate link].

Preventing disaster is that simple. I've had mine for 6 months and this is what worked.

It protects my MacBook from microdust or sebaceous filaments or whatever it is that keeps murdering these butterfly keyboards, and it's nearly invisible—the photo at the top of this post shows it installed. It also protects the machine itself from spills, and the keys themselves have none of the wear, tear and shine they usually pick up after a few months of hammering.

I got the UPPERCASE GhostCover brand protector and can vouch for these specific products: the 12" MacBook GhostCover [Amazon] and the 13" and 15" MacBook Pro GhostCover [Amazon], which comes in Touchbar and F-key versions. (There are other cuts too for older models, but I haven't tried them.)

If you're buying out in the wild, the important thing is to get a polyurethane cover, not silicone. Silicone is cheaper and dominates search results and algorithmic recommendations, but they're thicker and stretchier and don't stay put. Read the rest

Apple is still lumbering iMacs with 5400 RPM hard drives

Apple, in 2019, weds fantastic 5k displays—almost impossible to find anywhere else—with storage technology so obsolete you can listen to it in a quiet room.

What people generally don't know, however, is that the hard drives themselves are of a radical new design that is completely silent. What you're hearing fizzling and popping away is actually a tiny carbon-fired auxiliary power supply. They come with enough coal to last 20 years and there's a tiny little hatch to shovel more in. The only hurdle is that to get to the boiler, you need to get past the machine's glued-on display. But Apple just announced the perfect tool for prizing it off.

A 1TB m.2 SSD is now just $120 at retail. [Amazon]

Photos: Apple; xpixel/Shutterstock Read the rest

Two arrested for hiding cameras in motel rooms and charging for access to livestreams

Some 1,600 people were secretly livestreamed while staying in South Korean motel rooms where cameras had been hidden by criminals who operated a 4,000-user service for voyeurs, where a $45/month upcharge bought subscribers the right to access replays and other extra services. Read the rest

New iPad Mini, iPad Air

Android tablets being crummy and Microsoft ones being dismembered laptops, it's nice that Apple's unexpectedly announced new models of its aging iPad Mini and iPad Air.

The 10.5" iPad Air weighs one pound and starts at $499, while the 7.9" iPad Mini has pencil support, an ultra-high DPI and starts at $399. Both use Apple's latest A12 chips and have optional LTE.

The new Air effectively replaces last-gen iPads with something a little smaller and much more powerful, while the Mini should be especially interesting to artists and designers who don't want to hoik around a ~$800+ iPad Pro just to get dirty. From the press release it appears to be the last-gen pencil with the standard 60hz refresh rate, but even then the latency is in a league of its own. Read the rest

Lockpicking Lawyer wins $100 proving a fancy padlock can be opened in less than three minutes

Enjoy one minute and eleven seconds of fun from the Lockpicking Lawyer, who makes short work of a Smartkey Kwikset Padlock [Amazon], which you absolutely shouldn't buy as a gift for someone whose property you have plans for. Read the rest

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