The suitcase computer of 2020

The a-X sereies of portable workstations resemble the earliest laptops, but are fully contemporary beasts fitted with top-of-the-range AMD Threadripper CPUs, up to 256GB of RAM and dual GPUs. And price tags hovering around $8000. PC Gamer:

Picture this: you sit down in a meeting alongside your colleagues. They pull out their Surfaces, iPads, phones, and whatever else. You place a briefcase down on the table with a deafening thud. Everyone turns to look at you.

Read the rest

Spider Board: horripilating data recovery

There are many nondescript and mundane tools for data recovery, but the Spider Board is not one of them. It lives up to its name, with 25 leglike needles that, carefully placed on copper traces on a denuded card, suck the data out of them like fly juice.

PC-3000 Flash Spider Board Adapter is a universal solution for safe monolith recovery without tedious soldering! Using it you don’t need specific adapters to each monolith you deal with.

It is designed for connection to internal contacts of NAND-based Flash drives manufactured as single-package chips (monoliths). The adapter consists of 25 universal contacts that support software configuration of their association with NAND interface signals in a corresponding task. Please note, that the adapter is supported by PC-3000 Flash Reader 4.0 only.

"Sufficiently advanced data recovery is indistinguishable from dark cybernetric ritual," writes @esquiring.

Read the rest

£30 record player is fine

Terence Eden found a turntable [Amazon] that cost only £30 (~$40): "I accidentally bought a load of vinyl records. So I decided to buy the cheapest, shittiest, turntable possible," he writes. For firty paands he even gets a USB port to rip the records directly to digital. Is it any good? Not really. It plays records 4% too fast and has the slight stereo shift that come with unbalanced tone arms. But it's not terrible, either, Eden reports. It's fine. Eden conducts a complete teardown on the device, which turns out to by mostly air in a plastic box.

Vinyl is not a great format for high-fidelity audio.

In the U.S., the cheapo Jensen "suitcase" turntable [Amazon, but don't] is actually cheaper than the widely-rebranded model Eden found shopping in the U.K. I tried one of the cheap suitcase models and it was just plain bad, requiring coins on the cartridge to keep the needle in the groove, etc. Read the rest

Mew is a furry, purring, wailing theremin

Emily Groves' Mew is an interactive furry slab. When you approach it, it begins to purr. When you stroke it, the purring intensifies and miaowing commences. If you stroke it too hard, the miaowing becomes wailing and hissing.

Mew was part of a collaborative sound object project between Design Products, Information Experience Design and Visual Communication students at the RCA, London. Sensors and sounds were programmed with Arduino and Max MSP.

Read the rest

Quack 5G protection gadget just a copper tube in a light box

Quackometer checked out a gadget that purports to "protect" users from 5G. It's probably a scam, as 5G is as safe as any other radio transmission and you don't need protection from it. But what's in the box, exactly? Turns out it's a battery-powered light and a copper tube.

Whatever the copper device is doing, it is not electrically connected to the battery. Those wires have a gap and so no voltage is applied. And even more curious, the copper coil is not insulated from the copper tube device. So, it is not clear what function this could have. It looks purely decorative. The markings on the copper device suggest this is no more than a 2 inch long piece of 15mm domestic copper plumbing pipe with some end caps stuck on each side. It does nothing.

I bet they didn't even deburr the copper pipe ends under the endcaps! [via Input Mag] Read the rest

Cheap USB-C Hub lets me use my old devices with a new USB-C only Mac laptop

My MacBook Pro has 4 USB-C ports, only 2 of my peripherals use USB-C. This hub to the rescue.

Three standard USB ports and one USB-C power delivery port pretty much covers me. The HDMI port and card readers may come in useful later.

I can't remember the last time I took a CF card out of a digital camera. They seem to be put one in and leave it.

Thanks to this hub my mic and all my iPhone and Apple Watch charging crap can now be connected to my laptop again.

USB C Hub Multiport Adapter - 7 in 1 Portable Space Aluminum Dongle with 4K HDMI Output, 3 USB 3.0 Ports, SD/Micro SD Card Reader Compatible for MacBook Pro, XPS More Type C Devices via Amazon Read the rest

Review / Logitech MX Keys

Logitech’s MX Keys [Amazon] is what it finally took to lure me away from mechanical keyboards. It’s a slim yet solidly-constructed full-size model that's similar to and superior to Apple's Magic Keyboard.

It’s flat, minimalist, heavy, solid and low-profile, with large backlit keys typeset in something similar to Futura Light. The keys are square with subtle circular depressions and no give—a big improvement over the wobbly chicklet keys infesting modern non-mechanical keyboards, not least Logitech’s own cheaper models.

It works with USB-C, Bluetooth or the included unifying receiver. (A tiny dongle; I use it instead of Bluetooth as it works in BIOS and I dual-boot). The function keys are on a shift layer, as is now standard. Modifier keys are labeled for both Windows and MacOS, a nice if slightly cluttering touch. Keys are hard to remove; spudge them from the top. The backlighting works even in wireless mode, but will run down the battery quicker. Recharging is via USB-C; there is no removable battery. It's lasted about 10 days so far on the charge it came with. A Logitech app lets a single keyboard and mouse pair be used with any computer on the network, so long as it's installed on both machines.

The MX Keys is essentially the $200 MX Craft [Amazon] without the dial or the bulky rear panel that accomodates it. At $100, the MX Keys is not cheap, but is also no more expensive than similar models such as Apple's or Microsoft's Designer Desktop.

The extra heft and weight is nice, but it's the extra travel and tactility that puts it in a league of its own. Read the rest

Microsoft to permanently close its retail stores

Microsoft is to shut shop on the high streets and malls of America, permanently closing its 116 retail stores. Only 10 were overseas; flagship stores in New York City, London, Sydney, and Redmond will be remain as showrooms that do not sell the products. There will be no layoffs, Microsoft reports.

Alarm bells rang when Microsoft shied from reopening stores as states gave up on Covid lockdowns, but quitting for good wasn't expected. Chris Welch:

The decision partially explains why Microsoft had yet to reopen a single store after they were all closed in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Last week, Microsoft told The Verge that its “approach for re-opening Microsoft Store locations is measured and cautious, guided by monitoring global data, listening to public health and safety experts, and tracking local government restrictions.” The company declined to offer an update on when any stores might open again.

They were nice stores, but I have to admit that being able to check out a Microsoft Surface Studio in person showed how bad its pen latency was compared to iPad Pro and saved me from dropping thousands of dollars. Read the rest

Traintrackr is a light-up circuit-board map of the London Underground or Boston Metro

Traintrackr is a powered circuit board showing a map of the London Underground, lighting up in real time to show train positions on 333 stations on all 12 main lines. It connects to the tube's API for live location data every second. The board is 400mm x 300mm and sells for £249. (There's also the Boston Metro) Read the rest

Apple to switch Mac lineup to its own chips

Apple is to phase out Intel CPUs in favor of its own ARM-based chips, it announced yesterday at the WWDC trade show in California.

ARM designs are more energy-efficient and Apple has shown they can deliver performance with recent models of the iPad Pro, which already uses the company's silicon.

The big challenge will be software, reports the BBC. Apple demonstrated popular apps and a new version of its MacOS operating system at the event, but apps made for current hardware will not run natively.

Apple said it had already developed native versions of several of its own apps, including Final Cut Pro X and Logic Pro. iPhone and iPad apps will also be able to be run on the computers.

Apple said that Microsoft was working on an optimised version of Office, and Adobe was developing a version of Photoshop.

Other developers should be able to recompile their apps to get a version running "in just a matter of days," said the company's software chief Craig Federighi. He added that old apps would automatically be translated at point of installation to run, although they would not work as well.

I'm eager to see one of these new models. I love how fast, responsive and straightforward my iPad Pro feels, but iPadOS's sandboxed apps make it so difficult to establish a functional file management workflow that I've never been able to use it as a workhorse.

On the other hand, MacOS on new hardware will still be MacOS, won't it? Read the rest

Tablet with high refresh-rate paperlike display

The video embedded below shows the Hisense Q5, a new tablet that's reportedly coming out in China this week. It has a reflective LCD display, similar to e-ink (in that it looks and feels much more paper-like than a typical screen) but with much faster refresh rate than you'd get from a Kindle. But it also shortcomings of its own, such as a lack of persistence and less efficient energy use.

It clearly handles animated UI elements and videos with ease, and the question is whether it looks better in real life, in the gloom of an unlit room or the glare of midday sun, than the similar but doomed Pixel Qi.

Though it's otherwise an unremarkable $350 Android tablet, it does have a HDMI port, meaning you could use it as a 10.5" display. For comparison, a standalone 13.3" e-Ink display has a four-figure price tag [Amazon]. Read the rest

Unusual dongle adapts life to death

This dongle allegedly converts "household" -- i.e. 110v AC power -- to 3.5mm. It's misdescribed and is for photographic use (if it were intended to be jammed in the mains, the prongs would have holes) but it makes me think a splendid purpose would be for the gadget mafia to use to issue death threats to people. If you find one of these on your doorstep or, God forbid, your pillow, you have displeased them.

Spotted by Chris Satterfield on Twitter: "it adapts camera strobe triggers."

UPDATE: Male to Male power cords are still listed at Amazon, but are out of stock.

Read the rest

iPad looks great in an SE/30 case

At Reddit, mtietje posted this remarkable photo of their lockdown project: an iPad stand made using an old Macintosh SE/30. The display size is perfect for the 9.7" iPad, and now that iPadOS can use mice they work much better as "normal" computers.

Se/30 shells turn up on eBay now and again. One's there now with bidding at $15. Shipping tends to really bloat the price of even a broken model with the bits still inside. I doubt you could reasonably shave down the SE/30 display housing to fit an iPad Pro, unfortunately: you'd lose all the beveling.

Now, the iMac G4 (below) came with a 15" screen that a 12.7" iPad Pro might hack into without looking too small. Maybe you could even just remove the display entirely and magnet the iPad on the arm?

Read the rest

$350 USB stick claiming to block 5G is just a cheap thumbdrive

A $350 USB device claiming to block 5G radio signals is just a cheap unbranded thumbdrive, report security researchers.

The makers of the “5GBioShield” claim their USB stick can block electrical waves through a “proprietary holographic nano-layer catalyst” technology. It purportedly does this by “balancing” all the existing radiations around you to create a protective bubble 8 meters in diameter, even when the USB drive is unplugged.

The website for the product goes on to make dubious references to “quantum oscillation,” “life force frequencies,” and “cardiac coherence” in an attempt to convince consumers the science behind the 5GBioShield is legit. But you’ll be pretty disappointed if you actually buy the product, according to Pen Test Partners.

The device (sold as the 5GBioShield) is aimed at people who believe conspiracy theories about 5G radio waves—a market whose credulity and susceptibility to unproven or pseudoscientific products is already guaranteed.

That it's something you can buy on Amazon for a fraction of the price[Amazon link] just shows how little work went into the wheeze.

The website selling the thumbdrives is based in the UK. Local regulators and fraud police are on the case: "We consider it to be a scam," Stephen Knight, operations director for London Trading Standards, told the BBC. Read the rest

Smartphone video rigs made from random junk

COOPH put together a video featuring DIY smartphone video rigs put together with stuff lying around the house.

Want to make your smartphone footage more creative than ever? In our latest video the COOPH photographers share some of their best hacks on how to create stunning images and videos with your smartphone and everyday tools, no expensive gear required! From smooth time lapses and steady shots to an easy DIY gimbal – this video has it all!

Disposable DIY rigs and jigs are essential for learning what works and what's possible creatively. If I spend money on something I'll be less likely to push it, to risk sacrificing the investment for self-improvement's sake. But if I'm already familiar with what a tool actually gets me, I won't be intimidated or disappointed when I buy a decent one. Read the rest

Design for a portable Commodore 64

There have been modern designs for portable Commodore 64s, and the official portable Commodore 64 you perhaps didn't even know about, but none of them are as handsome as Cem Tezcan's.

The Adafruit Blog:

As a part of my monthly product design practice, I decided to make an handheld Commodore 64 that uses “mini cassettes” to load programs or games.

I inspired by most of the old Commodore electronic products to create this dream device

All it needs is a giant leather holster. Read the rest

The widest screen

LG makes a 86-inch 3840 x 600 display—that's a 58:9 aspect ratio—and you can buy it for abour four grand [Amazon]. I was thinking of having them send one over to do a deadpan serious Gamer Review of it. Imagine this 7ft monster vesa-mounted on a 5ft desk, with little computer speakers stuck awkwardly on arms out to the side. Would many games even run at that resolution? It was suggested to me further that I review it in portrait orientation.

Read the rest

More posts