Clever software and a $1 camera add touchscreen capability to a MacBook

Anish Athalye and friends added a touchscreen to a MacBook with only a $1 camera part. How'd they do it? Magic? No. Software. And ingenuity.

The basic principle behind Sistine is simple. Surfaces viewed from an angle tend to look shiny, and you can tell if a finger is touching the surface by checking if it’s touching its own reflection.

Kevin [Kwok], back in middle school, noticed this phenomenon and built ShinyTouch, utilizing an external webcam to build a touch input system requiring virtually no setup. We wanted to see if we could miniaturize the idea and make it work without an external webcam. Our idea was to retrofit a small mirror in front of a MacBook’s built-in webcam, so that the webcam would be looking down at the computer screen at a sharp angle. The camera would be able to see fingers hovering over or touching the screen, and we’d be able to translate the video feed into touch events using computer vision.

Anish, clean your screen! Read the rest

Website hosted on 1989 Macintosh SE/30

Granted, the ancient box hosting has had a few upgrades

This site is being hosted and served by a Macintosh SE/30 running MacOS 7.5.5. This SE/30 is a 16MHz computer built in 1989. Mine shipped with 2 megabytes of RAM, a floppy drive, and an 80-meg internal SCSI ("Scuzzy") hard drive. It has recently been upgraded with a custom 32-bit ROM, 68 megabytes of RAM, and a 4,000-megabyte Solid-State Drive. She may not look like much, but she's got it where it counts, kid. I've made a lot of special modifications myself. Thanks for visiting!

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A MIDI harmonica

Lekholm's DM48 is a full-featured MIDI harmonica, with twelve pressure-sensors, one-button presets, and "adjustable breathing resistance." (Thanks, Gnat) Read the rest

Teardown of Sony's new 135mm full-frame lens

Sony's FE 135mm f/1.8 GM (Amazon) is a serious lens for its full-frame cameras, costing about $2000 and winning over critics. PetaPixel compares it to $12k glass after finding it much sharper than similarly-priced competition from Sigma and Zeiss. Read the rest

Man crosses English channel on flyboard

Franky Zapata is the first person to cross the English Channel on a flyboard. The Frenchman, who invented the hovering device, made the 22-mile trip in 22 minutes, wearing a backpack full of kerosene to get from Dover to Calais without getting wet.

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Wearable miniature cooler/warmer

You may now cool or heat a small part of your body on the go, if you are in Japan and have ¥13000 to blow. The Reon Pocket is a roughly the size of a smartphone, hangs around your neck, and claims to cool that spot up to 13C or warm it 8.3C. As you can see from the photo, a special shirt will come with it so that it can be perfectly seated. Read the rest

100 million PlayStation 4 consoles sold

It's got a long way to overturn the PS2's and Nintendo DS's ~150m hauls, but Sony's PS4 reached the 100m sold mark this summer and has a good shot at ending up the third best-selling game console (currently the Game Boy, 120m sold) of all time.

The PlayStation 4 reached this milestone after just 5 years and 7 months, and less than 3 years after passing 50 million sales. Sony’s PS4 sales have been consistently strong throughout this generation, with 19 million sold in 2017 and 17.8 million last year. Sony also revealed that digital download share has passed the 50 percent mark, meaning more people are now purchasing digital games than physical disc copies. Sony’s next-generation PlayStation, most likely the PS5, now looks set to launch in fall 2020.

Next year is the year 8K TVs become "affordable", hence the big marketing push for a new generation of consoles based around 20XX-series NVidia GPUs. Read the rest

Teardown of Apple's lightning-to-HDMI adapter, which turns out to be a tiny computer with 256MB of RAM

Everything's a computer these days, obviously, but this one is surprisingly elaborate given the apparent simplicity of what it does. Lisa Braun on Twitter: "Here is my little thread about Lightning video adapters – also known as Haywire – which are actually computers that feature Apple Secure Boot and run Darwin kernel."

Now you know why they're so unreliable! "Haywire" indeed!

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Samsung finally announces new launch date for Galaxy Fold

After disastrous previews —the damned things simply broke in the hands of tech journalists trying them out—Samsung is relaunching its cursed folding tablet-phone, promising a fixed and reliable device. The Galaxy Fold is coming to America in September.

• The top protective layer of the Infinity Flex Display has been extended beyond the bezel, making it apparent that it is an integral part of the display structure and not meant to be removed.

• Galaxy Fold features additional reinforcements to better protect the device from external particles while maintaining its signature foldable experience:

• The top and bottom of the hinge area have been strengthened with newly added protection caps.

• Additional metal layers underneath the Infinity Flex Display have been included to reinforce the protection of the display.

• The space between the hinge and body of Galaxy Fold has been reduced.

The Folding Lemon, previously: Already regretting assigning Anthony Burgess to review the Samsung Galaxy Fold Read the rest

Apple rumored to release 3 new 'iPhone 11' models in Fall 2019

We can expect three new “iPhone 11” models this fall from Apple, according to the official unofficial rumor mill. Each of these is said to be designed with an A13 chip, a Lightning port, and a new 'Taptic Engine' that will replace iPhone's current 3D Touch. Read the rest

What it's like to use a 5″ Black and White TV as a computer monitor

Adrian Storey decided to use a 5" portable TV--a monochrome cathode ray tube the size and weight of a bag of sugar--as a computer monitor. The first problem: it uses a 3.5mm jack as its sole RF input. There were further problems.

1980s 5″ BW TV connected to a PC as 3rd monitor – Display port to HDMI cable into HDMI to composite video adapter, composite video adapter into old VCR, old VCR RF out into coaxial to 3.5mm mono jack adaptor. Mono jack to TV!!

Achievement unlocked :)

Ultimately the whole exercise was a little pointless

Fun, though! Read the rest

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:


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