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Monthly Archives: June 2007

The Federated Media Conversation And The Duplicitous Motivations Of Its Opponents

By David Ponce

Over the last five days, a small tempest has been brewing in some tech blogging circles. I’m going to talk about it here because I’m indirectly involved. And also because, frankly, I’m somewhat pissed.

It involves our advertising agency, Federated Media (who also represent sites like Digg, BoingBoing, Techcrunch, GigaOm and others) and an inflammatory article posted last Friday on tech gossip blog Valleywag. The controversy revolves around allegations of bribery and ethical misconduct. Two camps have formed over this issue and pointed arguments have been flung back and forth for the past five days, with Microsoft caught in the crossfire. Some could say that I’m inherently biased here, as Federated Media represent us. Maybe. But I’m entitled to an opinion too, and if you care to hear it, keep on reading.

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Phantom Miro 3 Compact High Speed Camera

Phantom Miro 3 Digital Camera (Image courtesy Vision Research)By Andrew Liszewski

A point and shoot digital camera is fine for catching one or two of baby’s first steps, but what if you really wanted to preserve that moment? This dilemma has to be the reason Vision Research created the Phantom Miro 3. It’s roughly the size of a high-end P&S digital camera but what sets the Miro 3 apart is its ability to shoot at 1,000 fps at a resolution of 800×600. Just imagine the joy of friends and family while they get to watch you step through thousands of frames of your kid stumbling around during that 3 hour slideshow.

But what’s that? You don’t think 1,000 fps is sufficient? Well you’ll be glad to know that dropping the resolution down to 512×512 will allow you to shoot at 2,200 fps. Still not good enough? Well at 32×32 the camera should be able to achieve frame rates greater than 95,000 fps. As for other specs in monochrome mode the camera is rated at 4800 ISO while in color mode it’s rated at 1200, it has up to 4GB of integrated flash memory and has a minimum exposure time of 2 microseconds.

While I have no idea what the Phantom Miro 3 costs I don’t think you’ll care once you check out the cool gallery of high-speed videos on the Vision Research website.

[ Vision Research Phantom Miro 3 ] VIA [ ThisNext ]

Vortex Hand Cranked Blender

Vortex Blender (Image courtesy Gaiam)By Andrew Liszewski

I’m truly amazed at the type of things people can’t live without when they go camping. In fact these days camping seems more like an adventure in finding battery, solar or manual powered gadgets rather than a way of getting away from it all. Well adding to the list of hand-powered gadgets is the Vortex Blender for those who can’t survive a day or two in the wilderness without a smoothie or margarita.

The blender includes a 1.5 liter Lexan pitcher with an O-ring sealing top and a removable pour spout that also doubles as a 1 oz. shot glass. The base has a brushed stainless steel finish, rubber feet and includes a C-clamp for stable operation. And to make sure it fits in your backpack the base of the blender fits inside the pitcher making the whole package easily transportable.

It’s currently available from Gaiam for $88 and the site warns that when operating at the highest speed the blender is quite noisy, so don’t expect to see much wildlife if you’re using this thing out in the woods.

[ Vortex Blender ]

General Dynamics GoBook MR-1 – That’s One Tough Notebook

General Dynamics GoBook MR-1 (Images courtesy General Dynamics)
By Andrew Liszewski

Forget what you’ve heard about those Panasonic Toughbooks or even what Lenovo claims their Thinkpads are capable of. If you need a laptop that will take a licking and keep on ticking processing you need to buy it from a company that also builds tanks. The just launched GoBook MR-1 from General Dynamics is about 1/4 the size of a regular laptop and is built to military specifications. That means it’s dust and rain resistant, is designed for all weather conditions and can even survive 26 drops from a height of 3 feet as per military standard 810F. After drop 27 you’re going to have to try and convince General Dynamics tech support that the thing ‘just stopped working for no reason.’

Inside the MR-1’s small form factor (4.5 inches x 6.1 inches x 1.4 inches) you’ll find a 1.2 GHz Intel Core Solo U1400 processor, up to a 6 hour battery, 80GB solid state hard drive, 1 GB of ram as well as wifi, bluetooth and GPS. It also includes a touch screen with DynaVue technology making the display completely readable even in direct sunlight.

The GoBook MR-1 should be officially available sometime in September of this year starting around $4,500. And I assume it comes with a pretty good warranty too.

[ General Dynamics GoBook MR-1 ] VIA [ The Red Ferret Journal ]

Lap Blaster Laptop Audio Desk

Lap Blaster

By Evan Ackerman

Pyramat, well known for stuffing speakers into chairs, has stuffed speakers into a lap desk for your laptop and called it the Lap Blaster. In addition to better sound, the Lap Blaster also features a USB iPod dock and protects your lap from heat sterilization.

I have to question though just how useful this really is as a laptop accessory. Although there are no specs on the Lap Blaster, the two speakers (no sub) can’t possibly turn your laptop into a (as advertised) “personal home theater experience.” So basically, you’d be going from the lame speakers on your laptop to the slightly less lame (but still inevitably lame) speakers on the Lap Blaster, and you’ll be adding yet another bulky accessory to your desk. Fact is, if you want good quality sound out of your laptop, you’re going to have to plug it into something non-portable. Or headphones…

Of course, there’s a world full of compulsive buyers, so it might still sell. Who knows? No release or price date as of yet.

[ Pyramat ] VIA [ Ubergizmo ]

MicrOFix Locator Beacon, For The Seriously Extreme

By Evan Ackerman

PLBBoy, I wish my life was exciting enough that I’d have a serious need for a personal locator beacon (PLB). Like a GPS device, a PLB knows where you are, but unlike a GPS device, it doesn’t tell you… Instead, if you get into trouble, it broadcasts your location on an emergency satellite channel and (theoretically) someone will show up and help you out. The ACR MicrOFix is a relatively small and affordable PLB, at 1.4 x 5.85 x 2.21 inches, 10 ounces, and about $650. It’s mind blowingly easy to operate; just push the red button. No frills, nothing complicated, and easy to operate one handed (for situations like this, for example). A PLB is one of those things that you have no need for until you have a desperate need for, so better safe than sorry, right?

For you aquatic types, I would recommend the ResQFix, which is functionally the same except that it comes accessorized with a neoprene floaty jacket. You can find both of these models for around $650 from a variety of online retailers.

[ ACR MicrOFix ] VIA [ Navigadget ]

Shower Timer – Make Your Life More Like 24

Shower Timer (Images courtesy Shower Timer)By Andrew Liszewski

I think the only reason I spend so much time in the shower in the mornings is that my mind seems to take a bit longer to wake up than the rest of my body. So half the time I’m standing there trying to remember where I am or what I should be doing. But maybe if I had a ticking clock staring me in the face I’d be more focused on getting the job done.

The Shower Timer is a pretty ugly looking large metal box that connects between your showerhead and the pipes in the wall and can be programmed to shut off the water after a set amount of time. So not only will it save you time in the mornings (or give you a few more minutes of shut-eye) but it also has the potential of reducing your water and heating bills.

I particularly like the built-in functions for those who try to ‘beat the system.’ Once the timer runs out it can be set with a waiting period before the water can be turned on again. Even better it also has a ‘discouraging’ shower function that I can only assume means a blast of cold water when the time runs out. To be honest I think that would be the only motivation I needed to get in and out of the shower as fast as possible.

The Shower Timer is available for about $340 and there appears to be quite a bit of ‘assembly required’ in order to get it working. Almost to the point of hiring an actual plumber to do it so you’ll want to factor that into the cost as well.

[ Shower Timer ]

Tunnel House Art Installation

Inversion Tunnel House Art Installation (Images courtesy designverb)
By Andrew Liszewski

I know what you’re thinking, the neighbors must love this guy, but it’s not what you think. This isn’t one of those ‘tacky Christmas decorations all year round’ kind of house. In fact the building and an adjacent one have been used for exhibition space and art classes for over 30 years and they’re both scheduled to be torn down to make way for a new larger structure.

So as a final farewell to the buildings local Houston artists Dan Havel and Dean Ruck turned them into an art installation known as ‘Inversion.’ Using boards from the outside of the houses they created a large funnel-like vortex running between the two that ends in a small hole in an adjacent courtyard. It’s a cool effect particularly for those who always wanted to experience a black hole without the whole ‘being crushed to a quantum singularity’ end result.

Unfortunately if you were hoping to catch a glimpse of the Tunnel House in person you’re probably too late. The public opening for the installation was held on May 21 and the houses were set to be demolished in early June. But there’s nothing stopping you from doing this to your own home.

(Update: Thanks to Alex for clarifying that the house was actually created and torn down in 2005.)

[ Inversion Tunnel House ] VIA [ Cribcandy ]

Icon Organizer For The Visually Impaired

LevelStar Icon with Docking Station (Images courtesy LevelStar)By Andrew Liszewski

Though this device might look like nothing more than a small memo recorder don’t be fooled by its appearance. It’s actually a fully featured PDA and media player designed for persons with impaired vision. The Icon from LevelStar includes a 30GB hard drive and a list of functions that rivals pretty much any PDA on the market.

It has a calendar, an address book that syncs to MS Outlook, a word processor that’s compatible with MS Word, a web browser with built-in wifi, email, journal, clock, stopwatch, calculator and a media player that’s compatible with MP3s, audiobooks and even podcasts. You can also get an optional qwerty or braille keyboard docking station that makes text entry even more efficient.

The Icon unit itself is available on the LevelStar website for $1,395 though I can’t find prices listed for the docking station keyboards.

[ LevelStar Icon with Docking Station ] VIA [ Popgadget ]