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Monthly Archives: January 2013

Lite-On Moldable Mouse

Moldable Mouse

By Evan Ackerman

Anything squishy gets major points with me. Especially if it’s useful at the same time. The Lite-On Moldable Mouse has guts made out of soft modeling clay encased in a nylon polyurethane fabric cover. With a little bit of effort, you can rework the mouse into whatever shape feels most comfortable. Although the optical sensor is static in the bottom (along with the batteries), the click buttons and touch sensitive scroll well are stuck onto the cover and communicate with the rest of the mouse via RFID, so you can un-stick them and get creative. It’s a concept, but how hard could it possibly be to stuff a mouse with clay? Probably harder than it seems like it should be.

[ Red Dot Design Awards ] VIA [ DVICE ]

My Asus EEE PC – Goodbye Xandros, Hello XP

Asus EEE PC (Image courtesy Asus) By Andrew Liszewski

I originally bought my Asus EEE PC a few weeks after it was released to serve as a mobile blogging system. My full size laptop is about 4 years old now and while it’s still a perfectly usable machine, I had forgotten how ridiculously heavy it was. The EEE on the other hand is not only light, but it fits inside my camera bag meaning I don’t need to travel with a separate case just for my computer.

Unfortunately my love affair with the EEE came crashing down while I was at the NAIAS. Well to be honest while the EEE itself was fantastic, my issues were really software related. First off, the default Xandros install was my first time really using Linux, and while the user-friendly front end was easy to use, installing non Asus-approved apps and other enhancements wasn’t exactly a walk in the park. (Though there are many fantastic tutorials online already.) And while the suite of included software works fantastic if you just need email, web or office-type programs, the one piece of software that was really missing for me was a good image editor.

So before I even bought the EEE I made sure I’d be able to install a program called GIMP, which is an open-source alternative to Photoshop. Unfortunately I’d only ever dabbled with GIMP in the past, and while I applaud the developers for creating a robust image editing application they basically give away, GIMP is no Photoshop. To be clear, rarely a day has gone by in the past 7 or 8 years where I’m not doing something in Photoshop, and while GIMP can mostly match PS when it comes to features, there were just too many little things I couldn’t do, or behaved differently that drove me crazy. I’m sure if I stuck with GIMP for a few months I would get used to its workflow, but since there’s also a handful of PS specific plugins I can’t live without, I’m just going to stick with Photoshop.

So when I got back from Detroit I was really tempted to sell my EEE, but instead I decided to replace the standard Xandros OS with Windows XP, and so far I’m extremely happy with the results. The install process was ridiculously easy, and Asus even provides a DVD with all the Windows drivers you’ll need. The biggest challenge of course is the tiny 4GB SSD hard drive, but so far I have XP with all its updates installed plus a host of other applications I rely on, with about 700MB still free. And on top of that a 4GB SD card serves as a secondary drive.

All in all I still recommend the EEE to people looking for an extremely portable laptop, and I even think the Xandros OS is a great alternative to Windows if you’re just surfing the web or answering email. But for my needs XP is just turning out to be a better solution.

[ Asus EEE PC ]

Stylophone Is Back To Annoy Your Roommates

Stylophone (Image courtesy Firebox)
By Andrew Liszewski

The Stylophone was apparently a big hit back in the 70′s, but since it was before my time I’ve never actually heard of the device. For those wondering it’s an electronic instrument that’s played by placing the tip of a stylus against a series of metal keys. As the stylus makes contact with each key it completes a circuit causing a particular set of transistors, resistors or diodes to produce a unique electronic sound.

While the re-issued version of the Stylophone looks and sounds exactly like the original, it does include a few upgrades like a volume control, some new sounds and a vibrato knob. If you’re curious what a Stylophone sounds like (as was I) check out this video of Finnish duo Mann Gegen Mann playing it alongside a drum machine.

For those trying to find their niche in the world of street busking or performing I suggest ditching the accordion and upgrading to a Stylophone. I guarantee your hat will be overflowing with quarters in just a few hours.

You can find the Stylophone Original at Firebox for about $30.

[ Stylophone Original ] VIA [ Coolest Gadgets ]

Star Wars Poker Chip Set – Raise Him 10, Luke

Star Wars Poker Chip Set (Image courtesy Sharper Image)
By Andrew Liszewski

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. If you need a surefire way to sell anything, just find a way to make it Star Wars themed. In this case it’s a Poker set, but I have to admit they’ve actually done a pretty good job with the Star Wars conversion.

It features a chrome dealer token that looks like the Death Star, as well as a set of translucent chips illustrated by artist Russell Walks. The set includes 50 blue Luke Skywalker chips, 50 blue Obi-Wan Kenobi chips, 50 green Yoda chips and of course 50 red Darth Vader chips. The case even includes 72 LEDs that make the chips glow like lightsabers when they’re stacked in their respective slots. There’s even 2 casino-quality card decks that come in their own foil boxes and I can only assume include custom Star Wars graphics.

You can find it at the Sharper Image for $149.95.

[ Star Wars Poker Chip Set ] VIA [ Nerd Approved ]

Qtrax Promises Millions Of Free Songs, Delivers None

Qtrax

By Luke Anderson

I would be willing to venture that more than a few people reading this have downloaded music illegally. I’ll admit that I used to do my fair share back in the day, but being a little older and wiser, have been legally purchasing my music from iTunes for some time. Recently I heard about Qtrax, which is a legal site that will let you download as much music as you want, for free. The only catch is that it is DRM protected, and you have to watch some ads. Seems like a small price to pay for unlimited music downloads, right?

I’m sure that it would work out just fine, if they actually have any music to download. Unfortunately, the service went live yesterday, sans downloads. They had been talking big about the deals they had with the big four labels for over 25 million tracks, the only problem was that they didn’t have anything signed with even a single one of them.

You know what they say, “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

[ Qtrax ] VIA [ p2pnet ]

Always Look Busy With The Phantom Mouse

Thanko Phantom Mouse

By Luke Anderson

I used to work for a grade school as computer tech. This has to have been the smallest grade school in the state, as there were barely over a hundred students in the entire school. With a low attendance, there weren’t many computers to worry about, and thus I had a lot of free time on my hands. What I found really strange is that the teachers and principal always thought I was extremely busy. My boss said that so long as the principal thought I was busy, I was pretty much free to do as I pleased, which was a pretty sweet gig (even if the pay wasn’t great). I just had to make sure I looked busy when she walked in, which meant some fast window-swapping. I would have gladly paid $24 (plus shipping from Japan) for one of these Phantom mice.

I’ve seen several devices that will make a specific window jump to the front, but none so cleverly hidden as the small button above the scroll wheel on this mouse. Just a quick click and it would look as though I were hard at work updating the lunch menu on the school website. The included software lets you pick what program you’d like to jump to the front, which should be quite handy.

[ Thanko ] VIA [ Newlaunches ]

FPS Gun Mouse

FPS Gun Mouse

By Evan Ackerman

If you’re the type of gamer who blames your low Counterstrike ROF on your mouse not being enough like a ‘real gun,’ you might be interested in this FPS Gun Mouse, which features dual triggers in an ergonomic, gun-like grip. The thing at the front end is a 2000dpi, 1000hz USB optical mouse, so you’re not losing any functionality, and may in fact be gaining some with the 5 programmable buttons and thumb scroll wheel. My only worry would be getting overexcited and picking the whole thing up… How awesome would it be to combine it with one of these? The other problem is, it’s another right-handed conspiracy gadget. Sigh. Yours for $73 from Korea.

[ FPS Gun Mouse ] VIA [ DVICE ]

NEC Flask Fuel Cell Phone

Fuel Cell Phone

By Evan Ackerman

Why why why can’t I get myself a practical fuel cell yet? They seem like such a good idea: booze = power. Everybody talks about doing it, but it hasn’t been effectively DONE yet. Until… Soon, maybe? This is the NEC Flask, a cellphone powered by an integrated fuel cell that’s supposed to be released this year. The clear casing lets you see at a glance how much juice you’ve got left, and there’s a semi-transparent touch screen on the front. Although it looks like it might be refillable, details are alarmingly sketchy, so for the moment I’ll be filing this under ‘too good to be true.’

VIA [ Chip Chick ]

JAYS BlueStreamer2 A2DP Headphone Adapter

JAYS BlueStreamer2 (Images courtesy JAYS)
By Andrew Liszewski

First off, let me say I really hate this trend of including 2.5mm headphone jacks in phones. I know it’s smaller and makes for a thinner device, but having to carry an adapter so you can use a standard pair of headphones is a pain. And I won’t even get into having to use proprietary connections like Nokia’s Pop port either. So as an alternative I’ve been hunting for a simple bluetooth A2DP adapter that would allow me to use a standard pair of headphones and keep my phone buried in my pocket.

Unfortunately finding such a device hasn’t been easy. I’ve managed to stumble across a few, but the headphones are usually built-in meaning I can’t just plug in my own pair. However the JAYS BlueStreamer2 looks to be exactly what I’m after. Not only is it small (it weights just 12g) but the rechargeable battery works for up to 5 hours while listening to music. It’s also able to remotely control your phone’s music player including volume, next track, skip forward etc. as long as the phone supports that functionality. It can even be used to answer those annoying phone calls that come in when you’re trying to enjoy your music.

At around $80 the BlueStreamer2 is far more expensive than a 2.5mm to 3.5mm headphone adapter, but the added functionality and convenience might be worth the cost.

[ JAYS BlueStreamer2 ] VIA [ Crave ]