Kickstarting the Makerphone: an open-source hardware phone kit, programmable with python and Scratch

Circuitmess's fully funded Makerphone kickstarter is raising money to produce open source hardware smartphone kits to teach kids (and grownups) everything from soldering to programming. Read the rest

Apple invites press to New York for Oct. 30 event, here's what's predicted...

Apple invited consumer technology reporters to an event scheduled for next Tuesday, October 30, at New York's Brooklyn Academy of Music, Howard Gilman Opera House. The late-October event will presumably feature something different from the September iPhone-centered event. Read the rest

Helm: A home network email server appliance to redecentralize the web

Helm is a startup making a $500 home gadget that replaces Gmail and Google Calendar, letting you control your own email and coordination; its founders have deep information security backgrounds, and plan to make money by charging an annual $100 management fee. Read the rest

Users complain that new MacBook keyboards still die easy

Casey Johnston reports that the supposedly improved keyboards in new MacBook Pros still suffer the same old problems.

Several users in the MacRumors keyboard thread suggested that the butterfly keyboards Apple has been pushing for two years now are a stepping stone to full touch-screen models; no keys, no mechanisms, no nooks and crannies, just a solid screen that displays virtual buttons. Others have wondered why Apple doesn’t just use Magic Keyboard keys in its computers; they are much more pleasant to use, quieter, and appear to not have the same crippling vulnerability to, uh, dust.

I've sort of given up on them, to be honest. I need a new laptop and I think it's going to be a Thinkpad X1. I'm not enthusiastic about not having MacOS, but I am enthusiastic about typing without getting wirdly numbd fingrtips. Read the rest

Epson is teaching the internet not to install security updates

More on the story of how Epson tricked its customers into installing a fake "update" to their printers so that they would stop accepting third-party and refilled ink cartridges: not only does this force Epson customers to pay more for ink, but it puts everyone on the internet at risk, by teaching people not to update their devices. Read the rest

New and improved gadget for doing vinyl-like scratching with magnetic audio-tape

Back in 2014, David wrote up Jeremy Bell's prototype "ScrubBoard" that enabled a scratch-like effect with magnetic audiotape. Bell writes, "I've made a lot of progress on my device since then, and I have a much more sophisticated prototype that uses a motorized tape loop and can record live audio directly onto the tape while I'm scratching. Enjoy!" Read the rest

Fidget spinners + magnets: glorious chaotic motion

Hirotakaster's instructions for combining magnets and fidget spinners are a one-way ticket to glorious, chaotic motion, as complex systems emerge from grids of obsolete, post-fad plastic waste. (via Beyond the Beyond) Read the rest

Dystopia watch: Guide to spotting hidden cameras in your Airbnb

If you're worried that your Airbnb host has hidden a camera in the place you've rented, because that is a thing that garbage people do, you can use these handy tips to spot it. Read the rest

Intel accused of commissioning rigged CPU benchmarks

Intel reportedly published rigged benchmarks designed to make its new i9 chips look better than the competition, while holding tech media to an embargo on publishing reviews or independent tests.

Intel — or to be precise, a company Intel hired to create a whitepaper on Core i9 gaming performance — has crossed that line. According to Forbes, Intel contracted with Principled Technologies to distribute a whitepaper containing various claims about gaming performance between Intel’s upcoming Core i9-9900K and Core i7-8700K and the AMD Threadripper 2990WX, 2950X, and Ryzen 7 2700XSEEAMAZON_ET_135 See Amazon ET commerce. With AMD having surged into competitive positioning in the past 18 months and Intel taking heat from its 10nm delays, Chipzilla has every reason to push a narrative that puts it in the driving seat of gaming. But Intel is using this whitepaper to claim that it’s up to 50 percent faster than AMD in gaming based on Ashes of the Singularity in particular, and that’s where the problems start. The Intel results are somewhat higher than we’d expect, but the AMD CPUs — particularly the Ryzen 7 2700X — are crippled.

The wheeze, as described, is simple enough: the AMD-based test rig was thrown together with stock parts and inappropriate software settings, whereas the Intel system was rigorously customized and optimized, with this fancypants $70 cooling fan installed. Then they restricted tests to settings and resolutions that favor Intel's chips.

Intel seems to be in more trouble than it's been in for years. As for the press, when we honor embargos after finding another source for the news or finding out that it's bullshit, it's not really an embargo: it's just an NDA, and we're doing PR work for free. Read the rest

Facebook to offer wide-angle videocall camera that tracks you as you move around your home

To celebrate the leaking of 50 million user accounts last week, Facebook is today launching two "video call machines" that "automatically zoom in on users and follow them as they move." You'll be putting them in your homes, so you can watch Facebook while Facebook watches you. The BBC's Leo Kelion:

The Portal products automatically zoom in on users and follow them as they move, to offer a superior experience to existing smartphone and tablet apps. The devices rely on Facebook Messenger to make and receive calls and also feature Amazon's Alexa smart assistant. ...

Both of the Portals are designed to be used from a distance of between 5ft to 10ft (1.5m to 3m) - further than video calls are typically made from using smartphones and other computers.

They use a 140-degree 12 megapixel camera to capture a relatively wide field-of-view, providing scope for on-device software to zoom in and track the users' movements.

The Verge's Jacob Kastrenakes:

The first hardware products marketed under the Facebook brand, the Portals can be used to call other Portal users, or anyone who has Facebook or Facebook Messenger. The Portals can play music through Spotify and Pandora, or stream video from Facebook Watch, but these are intentionally limited devices. For better and for worse, you can’t even browse Facebook.

It's funny that thay launched it despite the ongoing fallout from the privacy breach, but they don't need to worry about it. The target audience for this product doesn't understand privacy issues or doesn't care about them. Read the rest

HP making a leather laptop

The HP Spectre Folio is a laptop made of leather. As in: you cannot remove the leather, because the leather is part of the case.

It's a premium ultraportable 2-in-1 with HP's Tilt Pen and 4G LTE. A 4K display option will be available, but not at launch. Prices start at $1,299. The "product exterior and outer keyboard is 100% genuine full grain leather as of 9/18/18" but it looks like corrected-grain to me, with no imperfections and a lot of homogenization. The proof will be in the patina: what will it look like after a few months of daily use?

Read the rest

Internet of Shit watch: Honeywell server outage means "smart" thermostats are inaccessible

For weeks, Honeywell Home customers have been complaining about outages with their Honeywell "Total Connect Comfort" apps, which allow them to remote control their smart thermostats; several days ago, customers started complaining that the app had stopped working altogether. Read the rest

Punkt's MP02 upgrades the best minimalist cellphone with 4G

I love the Punkt MP01, a basic candybar-style cellphone whose few features are polished to perfection. But it has a big drawback: as a 2G device, it's effectively locked to T-Mobile in the U.S. and coverage is getting patchy. Enter the Punkt MP02, a 4G version with some other interesting upgrades: it's also a WiFi hotspot, it's the only non-BlackBerry handset to come with BlackBerry Secure Software, and it runs a customized version of Android, cut to the device's monochrome and minimalist design requirements.

It'll be $349 when released, though, so you are certainly paying for your less-is-more. Read the rest

Major U.S. insurance company to sell only health-tracker backed life insurance

A week ago, Apple announced a redesigned smartwatch that could track heart data, run EKGs, and even detect atrial fibrillation, promising that it would save lives. Today, one of America's biggest insurers killed its traditional life insurance policies, replacing them with "interactive" insurance that encourages users to use such devices and share the data with them to get perks. Read the rest

Self-serve beer machine in all-you-can-drink restaurant

It's in a Japanese "all-you-can-drink" restaurant, which sounds like a splendid idea. Note how it performs a correct angled pour, with headspit finish, to provide a superior pint. Read the rest

Meet Hal, the Pediatric Patient Simulator built to suffer

HAL is described as the "world's most advanced" Pediatric Patient Simulator. Hal simulates lifelike emotions through "dynamic facial expressions, movement and speech." Gaumard Scientific's video promises "amazed, transient pain, crying, and more." [via @3liza]

HAL not only looks like a boy, he behaves like one. He can track a finger with his eyes, answer questions, cry for his mother and experience anaphylactic shock. He can even breathe faster and/or urinate when scared. And he has also been built in a way that allows doctors and nurses in-training to perform a myriad of tests such as taking blood pressure, checking his pulse and monitoring breathing. Trainees can also use real medical equipment such as an EKG machine or a heart or blood pressure monitor—or tools such as a scalpel or breathing tubes—to perform realistic medical procedures.

Here's HAL's ad.

Read the rest

Sony announces miniature Playstation Classic, with 20 games built-in

The fad for fire-and-forget retro consoles continues with Sony's PlayStation Classic. It's $100, has 20 games built-in, modern connectors, and the original 1995 design—albeit shrunk to the size of the original's controller.

Five of the games were announced: Final Fantasy 7, Jumping Flash, R4: Ridge Racer Type 4, Tekken 3 and Wild Arms.

The mini console is approximately 45% smaller than the original PlayStation, and it emulates the original’s look and feel by featuring similar controllers and packaging. Long-time fans will appreciate the nostalgia that comes with rediscovering the games they know and love, while gamers who might be new to the platform can enjoy the groundbreaking PlayStation console experience that started it all. All of the pre-loaded games will be playable in their original format.

The NES Classic and SNES Classic are huge moneyspinners for Nintendo, so this was an inevitability.

It'll be out on December 3. Sony's press release says you can pre-order it, but the only place I could find was this unnervingly empty database stub at Best Buy. Read the rest

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