Open design for an e-ink typewriter

The Ultimate Writer is a hardware and software plan to make your own digital typewriter with an e-ink display. All you need are a keyboard, a Raspberry Pi, an e-ink display, wood and words. The plans are open-source on Github.

Ultimate writer is an attempt to create the perfect digital writing device; it may also be a clickbaity name, who knows.

It was built upon the following principles:

Easily readable e-ink screen. You can read it effortlessly even in sunlight. Long lasting battery life. You can have a 3 days writing retreat (~20 hours) without recharging it. Easily serviceable design. Your typewriter is 40 years old and works just fine. You don't want to change your writing device every 5 years. You want to be able to easily change the computer parts easily; and who knows, use something else than a raspberry pi. Standard OS. You want to use your favorite console-based text editor. You also want a shell access to tweak your setup without reprogramming the device. Nice full-size mechanical keyboard.

Some good tips in the Hacker News thread, where it is also noted that the parts to make this are about a third of the price of a Freewrite [Amazon], a more polished but functionally similar device. Read the rest

Galaxy Chromebook reviews

Samsung's Galaxy Chromebook is unusually fancy and handsome for a platform usually associated with cheap, low-end machines, at least outside of Google's own flag-carrier devices. How does it stack up?

The Verge says its no good because despite the pretty case, high-end hardware and 4k screen, it's unreliable and has poor battery life. Engadget thinks it's likeable enough, but also complains of the poor power management. Wired, however, gives it 8/10, describing it as "everything you could ever want in a laptop based on the Chrome browser."

This is unquestionably a nice laptop. You are paying for what you get though. At $999 the Galaxy Chromebook is an expensive piece of kit, and one that's never going to run, for instance, Adobe Photoshop, videogames like Overwatch, or other popular desktop applications.

If that's not a requirement for you, there's much here to love. An example of the refinement and integration in this laptop is when you press in on the spring-release pen to pull it out; the Galaxy Chromebook will automatically open Google Keep, and be ready for your handwritten notes or sketches (which are easier to make when you take advantage of the 360-degree convertible design). It's a small thing, but a lot of these great, small things are what add up to make this the smoothest, nicest ChromeOS experience I've ever had.

I can't imagine using something this fancy without wiping out the toy OS and installing Ubuntu Linux instead.

One thing that struck me is that The Verge's full-column warning (partially embedded below) about the clickwrap contracts the user must agree to just to start the machine. Read the rest

Turn a plastic bottle into a bidet

CuloClean is a portable gadget that turns a plastic bottle into a bidet. I can't vouch for its efficacy but it seems like a useful alternative to wiping your bum, especially as toilet paper has become a high-value currency. Apparently CuloClean supplies are also running low but it seems like you could make one yourself that would at least approximate this $9 gadget's utility. From CuloClean:

You can easily regulate water intensity by exerting more or less pressure to the bottle. This way you will get perfect results, better than using toilet paper or wipes.

(Thanks, Bob Pescovitz!)

Read the rest

Everything's going to be fine, there's a new iPad Pro

Today apple announced a new MacBook Air (faster, cheaper) and an upgraded iPad Pro with LiDAR, "studio-quality" microphones and the full array of ultrawide and telephoto lenses as sported on recent top-of-the-line iPhones. But the thing that sells it to me is the new keyboard, which includes a trackpad (at last!) and fancy hinge that will hold the device above the keys rather than on them like a tiny bad laptop.

*homer drooling noise* ↓

*homer screaming noise* ↓

Read the rest

Coronavirus a perfect excuse for shady crowdfunded gadgets

A tiny, bargain-priced drone that delivers cinematic HD footage? Full speed ahead, backers! But alas, there's a problem: coronavirus. The BBC reports on backers who pledged nearly $2m and are about to experience disappointment.

Ash Hall, who reviews drones, published a damning video opinion piece on YouTube. He was fiercely critical not just of the MicroDrone's video quality but of alleged broken promises about its battery life, camera and weight. Hall's video unleashed another wave of furious comments from disappointed backers, many of them demanding refunds. But when I spoke to Mr Kerswell, he was defiant, insisting unhappy backers were a small minority. His explanation for the delay was long and complex, involving various production challenges.

The obvious risk of crowdfunding creates moral hazard: people who suspect or know they'll fail to deliver have a bookful of excuses from the outset. Coronavirus, and its effect on the Chinese supply chain, is God's gift to all currently-outstanding scams and follies. Read the rest

Internet of Starving Pets: animals go hungry after "smart feeder" fails

Petnet is a $300 internet-of-things pet food bowl. Its network went down and stayed down for a week, leaving some pets to go hungry. The BBC reports that owners are livid and that it's not the first trouble Petnet's had maintaining service.

Petnet has two Twitter accounts. The official one has not tweeted since 30 August 2019 but the support account issued four tweets between 14 and 21 February about the problems experienced. In its first tweet it said a "system outage" was affecting second generation devices and asked customers not to switch off their feeder even if it appeared to be offline. ... On 21 February it said smartfeeders were "returning online" and a "system reset" was in progress.

The Petnet has dismal reviews on Amazon, where the Wopet is the clear favorite: a plain old automatic feeder, no internet required.

PREVIOUSLY: Smart pet food bowl closes when pets overeat. Read the rest

Open-source rotary cellphone

Justine Haupt made this handsome and completely functional rotary cellphone. Her design is open-source and you can even buy a case kit from her company, Sky's Edge Robotics. You have to find and carefully modify your own rotary dial, though -- they're apparently no longer made -- as well as a few other components.

Why a rotary cellphone? Because in a finicky, annoying, touchscreen world of hyperconnected people using phones they have no control over or understanding of, I wanted something that would be entirely mine, personal, and absolutely tactile, while also giving me an excuse for not texting.

The point isn't to be anachronistic. It's to show that it's possible to have a perfectly usable phone that goes as far from having a touchscreen as I can imagine, and which in some ways may actually be more functional.

I feel this is what crowdfunding was made for! [via JWZ]

Previously: Rotary Cellphone Read the rest

"Glass" on Samsung's foldable phone no more scratch-resistant than plastic

Samsung claims to have developed an "Ultra Thin Glass" for its new Galaxy Z Flip foldable smartphone, signalling scratch resistance and durability beyond that of similar products. But tests conducted by Zack Nelson using a Mohs Hardness Testkit [Amazon] -- a set of styluses made of different materials -- show that it is no more resistant to scuffs than plastic. In fact, he didn't even need the kit: his fingernail was sharp enough to leave marks. The "glass" scores 2-3 on the Mohs scale, compared to 6-7 for Gorilla Glass: "I don't know what material this is, but Samsung should definitely not be calling it glass."

Samsung has pitched this phone as a folding glass phone that ‘bends the laws of physics’ But… is folding glass actually possible? The only way to find out is with a scratch test. Overall I’m impressed with the Galaxy Z Flip. If they change the name of their screen material to something besides glass I would give it a 10/10 as far as folding phones go. The only physical characteristic this screen material shares with actual glass is the clarity. And I dont think thats fair to consumers. At all.

The Verge's Chris Welch got Samsung on the record to say there'll be a glass replacement service.

We asked Samsung if it planned to offer a screen replacement service for the Z Flip as it did with the Galaxy Fold. It will. Z Flip buyers can get a one-time screen replacement for $119, Samsung says.

Read the rest

Ring does not fight crime, say cops in 8 states whose PDs partnered with Amazon-owned home surveillance

There is very little evidence that Ring reduces crime. Hundreds of police departments have signed agreements with Amazon-owned Ring to obtain access to the home surveillance camera footage. Interviews with many of them, in 8 different states, show little to no evidence that Ring actually deters criminal activity. Read the rest

Reviewers say new Motorola Razr not great

The new Motorola Razr looks like a perfect wedding of old and new: a cutting-edge (and very expensive) foldable smartphone reviving the sleek flip-phone designs of a more civilized age. The clever hinge even avoids creasing the display, a problem with other first-gen foldables. Alas, it's not very good, reports Joshua Topolsky.

The prevailing reason I could see for having a phone that folds in half in this way is that it makes the phone smaller and easier to carry. That's nice, but a somewhat inessential problem for most people. Furthermore, the folding nature of the device and difficulty of opening it quickly and with a single hand made some things I normally do with my phone more difficult. To quickly reply to a message took more time. Glancing at Twitter became a two-handed affair. Taking a picture of something besides my own face couldn't be done single-handedly.

CNET's Patrick Holland has concerns.

Is the Razr durable? This one's tricky. Motorola released a video on how to care for the Razr that claims the "screen is made to bend; bumps and lumps are normal." I haven't encountered any bumps or lumps on the screen, but bumps and lumps are not normal. If you have a bump or lump on your body you should see a doctor.

What could be a better example of show-off feature that will be obsolete if not broken in months than a rumply bumpy foldable phone screen? Read the rest

Fancy banana lamp

Would you just look at the $295 Seletti Banana Lamp [Bergdorf Goodman]. Read the rest

Trump's immigration enforcement agents use cellphone location data to track individuals for detention - WSJ

A commercial database that maps the movements of millions of cellphones is being used by immigration and border authorities to round up undesirable immigrants for detention and deportation. Read the rest

Find the USB-C hub of your dreams

As the technical garbage fire that is USB-C burns merrily along, efforts continue to help us connect one gadget to another with reliable outcomes. is a website that compares the myriad of superfically identical but differently-capable USB hubs currently available, so you can decide which $20 piece of junk at least has the holes, slots and dangly bits you require.

I scrolled down and spotted the Chotech model that I recommend [Amazon], so I know the page's creator has done the work on power delivery and Thunderbolt/DP. But it's expensive, designed exclusively for current-issue MacBooks, and lacks other essential features like VGA, so it isn't perfect! Read the rest

Sonos warns customers that their older speakers will shortly be e-waste

Sonos has warned customers who bought speakers five or more years ago that it will no longer provide software updates to their property, and that they will cease to operate in systems that include newer equipment, and will have to be separated on its own subnet. Read the rest

iPad stand for digital artists

The Sketchboard Pro wouldn't look like much if you didn't know what it was: a stand for the iPad Pro designed for digital artists, holding it at a perfect angle and providing more ample arm-resting space around the display. It's fifty dollars on Indiegogo and ships in March. [via Digital Arts]

The Sketchboard Pro features strong legs that easily fold out to create a comfortable 20-degree angled drawing surface. This allows you to have a drawing desk experience virtually anywhere in landscape or portrait orientation. ... Sketchboard Pro combines what you love about drawing on iPad with the traditional physical experience of making art. You are now able to use your full arm while drawing to achieve a more elegant, flowing look to your lines and bring your drawings to life.

Read the rest

Akai's MPC One is a backpack beatmaker

Akai's MPC One is a beat-making box that fits in a backpack (unlike the MPC X) and costs less than a grand (unlike the MPC Live), has a 7-inch touchscreen display, and offers a full bank of pads, knobs and dials for standalone action, and outputs and ports for hooking it up to other audio gear, synths and computers.

Dani Deahl:

For those unaware of the history of Akai’s MPC, the Japanese electronics company’s signature item first debuted over 30 years ago and changed music-making forever with its intuitive interface and all-in-one approach. It’s been a staple tool for tons of artists like Dr. Dre and Om’Mas Keith (Frank Ocean’s producer), and there’s even one in the Smithsonian. ... Akai says it packed a “remarkably comprehensive feature set” into the MPC One. Along with the standard 16 pads, it sports a seven-inch multitouch display and four touch-sensitive rotaries for manipulating sounds. On the back is a single set of MIDI I/O ports, four CV / Gate jacks (for controlling connected gear), and eight outputs total. There are 2GB of RAM, and USB flash and SD card storage can expand the unit’s 4GB capacity (which could easily top out since it’s preloaded with 2GB of drum samples and loops). The MPC One also ships with several soft synths and Air FX plug-ins for mixing and mastering. Akai tells The Verge that it focused on smaller size, added CV functionality, and a cheaper price to make the MPC One “the center of a ‘DAW-less jam’ style studio.”

Read the rest

Apple Rac: rack-mounted Mac Pros now on offer

The rack-mounted version of the expensive and handsome new Mac Pro is now available, starting at $6499. You can configure yourself a model up to $54,547.98, rack not included. Read the rest

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