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    January 28, 2015
    Wordless Wednesday: Retro Return

    Via BBC

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    January 26, 2015
    An Anti-Hacker Keyboard

    There are a lot of great ways to protect yourself in the online world, but things like passwords have vulnerabilities and right now there’s not enough fingerprint technology to make it work.  Still, there are ways to keep things safe, and there are some interesting ways in which companies are doing that.  For example, there’s technology out there that learns how you type–both pressure and speed–and uses that to protect you.  It’s a hacker-foiling, grime resistant, energy-conserving keyboard.  It also records keystrokes when the keyboard thinks that someone not you is using your computer, just to make sure your information is protected adequately.

    The keyboard is a joint combination of Georgia Tech, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and the University of California Riverside.  It’s a big combination of people, and a bigger combination of features.  Now some of them aren’t as useful as others, but it’s a beginning, and it’s an interesting combination of features that may one day become commonplace.  After all, on this keyboard, you have to type 100 words per minute to generate enough juice to recharge your smartphone, and for most people that’s not happening, but hey… maybe one day?

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    January 24, 2015
    Today Only: Amazon Prime Subscription Discount

    If you’re looking to get your hands on an Amazon Prime subscription, but aren’t looking to put forth the $99 to get that done, then hurry on over to Amazon and get your credit card ready.  Amazon just won some surprising Golden Globe awards thanks to its hit series Transparent, specifically for the show’s lead actor Jeffrey Tambor.  Amazon’s breakthrough came at the 72nd annual Golden Globes.  Since that was their official coming-out party as a broadcaster, that means Amazon is going to cut the price of a year of Prime to $72 for a year of Prime service.

    Even if you’re not a big user of Prime’s Instant Video service, Prime is a great deal.  I mean, free two-day shipping!  That turns Amazon from a good place to shop for fun stuff to a great place to shop for pretty much everything.  Especially if you like to buy in bulk for stuff like paper goods, detergent, or all the stuff that you need a steady supply of.  As a person who has had Prime since the streaming video service began, it’s proven itself to be invaluable.

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    January 22, 2015
    Microsoft’s Project HoloLens

    Wearables are the hot new market for technology companies.  Apple’s got a watch, there are a ton of fitness bands, and Google tried its hand at Glass without too much success.  However, none of those projects can match up to the scope of Microsoft’s Project Baraboo.  Rather than just Internet-connected glasses with some displays inside, Microsoft is going for the full experience.  Microsoft is developing holographic glasses for a full virtual reality experience.

    “Ultimately, you know, you perceive the world because of light,” said Alex Kipman, the project’s lead innovator, on how his product tricks the human brain. ”If I could magically turn the debugger on, we’d see photons bouncing throughout this world.  Eventually they hit the back of your eyes, and through that, you reason about what the world is.  You essentially hallucinate the world, or you see what your mind wants you to see.”

    The product is not ready for the market quite yet, but the potential is unimaginable.  In one of Microsoft’s tests, the eyewear is used to virtually guide users on how to wire a light switch thanks to the help of a holograph electrician and holographic directions right there on the screen.  If they can do that sort of thing for cooking, car repair, and all the other little things that are currently best served by YouTube videos, it will really help the struggling wannabe do-it-yourselfers (like myself) get stuff done while the helping hands are paid by the hour without having to actually get dirty in the process.

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    January 21, 2015
    Wordless Wednesday: Amazon’s Million-Dollar 13-Foot Robot Exoskeleton

    Via Daily Mail.

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    January 14, 2015
    Wordless Wednesday: iPhone Smuggler

    Via Chris Buckley on Twitter.

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    January 12, 2015
    The Six Wackiest Gadgets Of CES 2015

    Every year, the Consumer Electronics Show comes to Las Vegas and every company with something to sell shows up.  Maybe they’re selling products,.  Maybe they’re selling themselves.  Maybe they’re selling concepts or ideas.  Maybe they’re selling some kind of crazy thing.  There are a lot of crazy things at CES.  Here are six of the wackiest gadgets at CES 2015.

    There are rings that allow you to run your smartphone by pointing and gesturing like a wizard.  There are brain-relaxing machines that replicate EEGs and then use that technology to compose soothing music, a smart baby bottle, and a gaming smartphone.  However the above picture might be the strangest device of the show.  It’s a floating bluetooth speaker.

    The Axxess CE Air2 floats above a base, or, if you want, can be removed from the base and attach to the refrigerator or (presumably) some other large metal object.  It also has five hours of battery life, which is pretty robust I assume.  It also has a range of about 10 meters for broadcast connectivity, which is pretty good for a bluetooth system.  Still, it’s not the range or sound quality, it’s the floating that sells it.

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    January 10, 2015
    iPhone Separation Anxiety

    As a new smartphone user, I find myself falling into the traps that always annoyed me about smartphone users who weren’t me:  namely, they were always on their phones.  Always at hand, always out, always nearby, always there waiting for attention.  Now I am one of them.  However, there’s a valid reason they’re always ready to have their phones out.  It turns out that smartphone users suffer from something researchers call iPhone separation anxiety, and it showed up in recent clinical tests.  Turns out, the phones are so important that they have a physical response to the lack of phones.

    People were given relatively simple puzzles, like word searches.  They first were given the tests with their phones at their person; afterwards, they were given another simple puzzle while their phone was within earshot and out of reach.  The results were surprising.  The folks without their iPhones all had higher symptoms of anxiety, like pulse rate and blood pressure, than they did when doing the same chores with their phones.

    “Our findings suggest that iPhone separation can negatively impact performance on mental tasks,” said Russell Clayton, a doctoral candidate at the University of Missouri who participated in the study.  ”Additionally, the results from our study suggest that iPhones are capable of becoming an extension of our selves such that when separated, we experience a lessening of ‘self’ and a negative physiological state.”

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    January 9, 2015
    The Mind-Saving Smartphone

    It’s been a minute or two since I updated the site, and that’s for a good reason.  On Saturday morning, I went on the injured list with back problems.  I’ve had them for years, ever since I got hurt at work 8 years ago, and they flared up again on Saturday.  Thankfully, with time and chiropractic care, I’m able to get back up and around, albeit gingerly.  So, having spent the better part of three or four days in bed, I’ve learned something about myself:  I am a smartphone junkie.

    For days now, the only real entertainment I’ve had is my smartphone.  My tablet was out of battery life and my laptop was too far away and too difficult to plug into the wall.  So my phone (and my TV) were it.  Given the difficulty I was having sleeping, I watched a lot of bad movies and spent a lot of time poking around with games on my phone.

    Having rediscovered my love of Sim City, I’m not sure I could have been quite as relaxed and calm without my phone.  Is that what it’s like for the rest of the smartphone world?  Is this what I’ve been missing out on all this time?  Because, I have to say, I’m kicking myself for not taking the plunge earlier.

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    January 2, 2015
    Apple Japan’s “Lucky Bags”

    There are a lot of interesting New Year’s Day traditions.  My mother, for example, swears on corned beef and cabbage as a way to bring good luck in the New Year.  Other people and other cultures have different things.  In Japan, it’s not the New Year that brings luck, but merchants brings the luck.  Japan has a custom called fukubukuro, in which merchants put together grab bags and sell them to customers, with the bags running for 50% or less of the value of the goods inside.  If you’re very lucky, you’ll do great and get some great deals.  If you’re not, you’ll still get some great deals.  Even Apple has jumped onto the trend.  Here’s a discussion of Apple’s Lucky Bags in Japan, which can include everything from Macbook Airs to wireless headphones.

    So what does that mean?  Well, for $300 or so, you can get somewhere in the neighborhood of $750 in prizes.  The more you spend on your bag, the more goodies you get.  Now the bags themselves are randomly filled, and even Apple employees don’t know what’s inside, they’re just priced by tiers and it’s the luck of the draw as to who gets what.  Even if you don’t get the laptop, you still get a cool prize.  It’s the Japanese equivalent of Woot’s mystery box, and I for one hope it spreads.

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