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Monthly Archives: October 2008

Symantec Home Office PC Build: The Unboxing Pics

By David Ponce

[ This article concerns a paid campaign currently running on the site. ]

I’ll preempt any negative comments right off the bat: I know there aren’t enough pics and that the ones I do have suck. But I’m no artist/photographer, nor do I play one on TV. For now, the pictures I’m including after the jump represent my modest attempt at capturing the “rush” of unboxing parts for the Home Office PC I’m building as part of the Symantec campaign (previous coverage). Later in the series, I’ll have better ones (heck, even a video or two), but for now, this is it.

To be fair, there isn’t all that much excitement in this particular unboxing. It’s not like it’s a new MacBook, or anything that’s been delicately or ornately packaged. They’re PC parts. Yay.

Still, there’s the pic above, and four more after the jump. After all that, you have a link to the article with a little commentary.

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Caps Lock Key Trainer Key HAS GIGANTIC SPIKES (ow)

By Evan Ackerman

Kids, listen closely: just because you’ve mashed the caps lock key down when typing something on the internet doesn’t mean that your comments have any more relevance, or that anyone is more likely to pay attention to you. It’s just really, really, REALLY ANNOYING.


If you can’t help yourself, here’s a gentle suggestion: bolt a couple fourteen-gauge 10mm lebret spikes onto the caps lock key, and see how long it takes for you to cure yourself of your affliction. Not recommended for laptops.

[ Sean Michael Ragan ] VIA [ MAKE ]

Metaio’s Augmented Reality Books

Metaio's Augmented Reality (AR) Technology (Image courtesy Wired Gadget Lab)
By Andrew Liszewski

Here’s a 21st century take on those pop-up books that fascinated us as kids. Instead of using intricately designed and engineered origami contraptions to make a 3D world pop out of a book as you turn the pages, a company called Metaio uses a run-of-the-mill webcam (I’m sure it has a minimum resolution requirement) and a custom piece of camera recognition software to make a 3D world appear on your computer’s screen. The company’s Augmented Reality technology was recently shown off at the Frankfurt Book Fair in Germany with an upcoming interactive 3D book called Aliens & UFOs which superimposes planets and alien spacecraft on the page when the book is held up to the webcam.

Metaio's Augmented Reality (AR) Technology (Image courtesy Wired Gadget Lab)

What’s particularly neat about Metaio’s Augmented Reality technology is that it doesn’t require any special tracking markers to appear on the page. Instead, the exact dimensions and layout of the page is what the software uses to track its position in 3D space and perfectly superimpose the objects in real-time. So in other words, the book’s layout has to be 100% complete before the software portion can be written. But imagine how cool it would be to get an Augmented Reality IKEA catalog in the mail that allows you to see a 3D layout of the room and furniture on your PC?

[ Metaio ] VIA [ Wired Gadget Lab ]

The Games We Played – Omega Race (C64)

Omega Race (C64) (Image courtesy
By Andrew Liszewski

If you thought last week’s Lemans was as basic as graphics could get on the Commodore 64, I’m afraid you ain’t seen nothing yet. While Omega Race might not be at the absolute bottom of the barrel when it came to pushing the C64’s graphic capabilities, it’s still pretty far down there. Even with the ability to choose any 2 color scheme you preferred, instead of the default black and white scheme pictured above.

The game was often compared to Asteroids for obvious reasons, but I think Omega Race changed things up enough to make it a worthy alternative. I mean sure you were shooting at ‘droid’ ships that broke apart instead of asteroids that broke apart, but the game screen was surrounded by a force field that everything (except your laser blasts) would bounce off. In Asteroids everything would wrap to the other side of your display whenever they went off-screen, but Omega Race was more like a game of interstellar pool. Except that when your ship hit the surrounding force field you could never really predict what angle it would bounce off at.

But I always thought that the most challenging part of Omega Race was that your ship never lost momentum. So if you wanted to come to a stop for any reason, you had to spin around and thrust in the opposite direction. (That’s what she said.) But this extra challenge also facilitated my ‘secret’ technique. When the game started I would rotate my ship until it pointed towards the top of the screen before giving it a boost. Then, because of the perpetual momentum and force fields, the ship would continually bounce up and down across the screen allowing me to swivel and strafe at the enemies whenever I had a clear shot that wasn’t blocked by the high score board in the middle of the screen. While it might not have been in the true nature of Omega Race, it resulted in some pretty decent scores. And since the game had no final ‘goal’, the high score was all that mattered.

[ Moby Games – Omega Race (C64) ]

Fly Stick Van de Graaff Levitation Wand – As Close As You Harry Potter Fans Are Going To Get To A Real Magic Wand

Fly Stick Van de Graaff Levitation Wand (Images courtesy ThinkGeek)
By Andrew Liszewski

Have you ever been to a science center or museum and watched someone’s hair stand on end while they were touching that giant metal sphere contraption? Well that device is known as a Van de Graaff generator, and this wand from ThinkGeek is basically a handheld version of that, but with considerable less ‘oomph.’ However, it can build up enough static charge to make a set of included 3D mylar shapes appear to levitate and move about at your command. Here’s a video of it in action from ThinkGeek:

While that guy might not be Hogwart’s material, the wand does look like you could easily blow the minds of a group of 5 year olds. And that’s $26.99 well spent.

[ Fly Stick Van de Graaff Levitation Wand ]

Tokyoflash Jackpot Watch – Maybe If I Was A Betting Man

Tokyoflash Jackpot Watch (Image courtesy ThinkGeek)
By Andrew Liszewski

Tokyoflash has always targeted the retro and design-minded when it came to their unique line of watches. But this time around they’re casting their net a little wider to include those with a gambling addiction, particularly slot jockeys. (Or anyone under the power of ‘Gamblor’ as Homer called him.) The Tokyoflash Jackpot watch has a set of 4 dot-matrix LEDs used to present the time and date, but they also double as the spinning dials in a slot machine. One button is used to set your bet and the other is used to spin the digits, and I assume as you play, the watch keeps track of your running total. Thankfully though if you have an unlucky streak the only money you’ll actually lose is the $99.99 you paid for the watch in the first place.

[ Tokyoflash Jackpot Watch ]

BCMA’s Medical Museum Collection Is Now Online

Aspirating Set c. 1900 (Image courtesy the BCMA Medical Museum)
By Andrew Liszewski

Hallowe’en’s just around the corner and quite frankly there’s nothing more horrifying to me than old-timey medical instruments. So instead of watching any of those lame ‘horror’ movies on TV (except for Shaun Of The Dead) I suggest spending a couple of hours poking through the British Columbia Medical Association’s Medical Museum which is now online for your gawking pleasure.

The site is broken down into various sections, and while I still haven’t had the courage to look at the Dentistry page, some of the others aren’t so bad. For instance, the device pictured above is an aspirating set that dates back to the year 1900 and was used by Dr. R. Eden Walker G.P. in his New Westminster practice. Now I’m sure in another 100 years Andrew MK-IV will be hyper-blogging the same thing about the medical instruments we use today, but that doesn’t make the antique tools in this collection any less unsettling.

[ British Columbia Medical Association Medical Museum ] VIA [ Medgadget ]

Twitter Kit Lets Your Plants Annoy You Over The Internet

By Evan Ackerman

Why is it that plants can grow just fine all by themselves outside, but as soon as you bring one indoors, it just gives up and dies no matter what you do? What do you WANT, Mr. Plant? HOW CAN I MAKE YOU HAPPY? Sigh. I used to think it was just me, but I guess there’s enough desperate plant killers out there to form a market for things like this plant Twitter kit.

The kit consists of some moisture sensors and an ethernet adapter, which lets it update its own personal Twitter account with its current level of thirst. If the soil moisture drops too low, it will politely Twitter, “water me please.” If it goes unheeded, this is followed by “URGENT! Water me!” Turn the hose on it for a bit, and either rewarded as it Twitters “thank you for watering me” or chastised with “you over watered me.” This is much better than email, since friends and family can also subscribe to the Twitter feed and see how long the poor thing lasts in your inadequate care before Twittering “current moisture: 0%,” and it’s all over.

The DIY kit (it needs a little soldering, but it’s a good excuse to teach yourself) costs $100 from Thinkgeek.

[ DIY Plant Twitter Kit ]

T-Mobile Selling Google Phone At Walmart Starting Today

By Evan Ackerman

Ah, Walmart. I love your low low prices, but I wouldn’t be caught dead under your ginormous roof lest I get exiled from the Berkeley hippy commune in which I reside. But dammit, I am seriously tempted, since as of today the Google phone is going to be available in Walmart stores. 550 Walmarts nationwide will be carrying the T-Mobile G1, the first phone to run Google’s Android open-sourcey operating system. It’s $148.88 with the inevitable two-year contract, which is $30 cheaper than if you were to get it at a T-Mobile store.

From what I’ve read, the consensus seems to be that the G1 hardware is a solid enough phone, but (unsurprisingly) the Android OS is really the big draw. Problem is, being an open OS, Android is depending to some extent on other people to write software to make it the perfect phone, and that hasn’t quite happened yet. But it’s still early, and there’s a lot of potential here. At the very least, if you’re in the market for a new bleeding-edge smartphone, I’d recommend that you suck it up, put on a big yellow smiley face, and head down to your local Walmart to check the G1 out for yourself. I’ll see you there, and I promise not to tell anyone.

[ T-Mobile G1 ] VIA [ Gizmodo ]