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Monthly Archives: January 2009

Squishable Music Balloon Speaker


By Evan Ackerman

Electronics are often pretty sterile in nature. Slick and shiny is certainly a cool look, but it’s not very organic or tactile or, honestly, pleasant to hold a lot of the time. The Music Balloon takes a little portable speaker and wraps it up in what looks like a Nerf ball. Inside the 2″ round and squishy case lives a 0.7 watt speaker, a rechargeable battery that lasts about 2 hours, and an audio in jack that doubles as a USB charging port.

You won’t get a lot of oomph out of the Music Balloon, but it’s certainly colorful and, as I like to keep saying, OMG squishable. I’m not sure that makes up for the price, though: $76. For one.

The Music Balloon is available from GeekStuff4U in pink, black, blue, red, or yellow.

[ GeekStuff4U ] VIA [ Newlaunches ]

Color Picker Pen


By Evan Ackerman

What do you do when someone asks you what your favorite color is? Tell them something like “blue?” Bah. That’s an unacceptably imprecise answer. Ideally, you should specify the wavelength, but failing that, you can just use this color picker pen to replicate any color. Place the end of the pen against an object or surface to read the color, and the pen will automatically combine red, green, and blue ink to give you exactly the color you want.

The color picker pen is currently just a concept.

VIA [ I New Idea ]

Combination Lock For USB Flash Drives

USB Flash Drive Combination Lock (Images courtesy Akihabara News)
By Andrew Liszewski

Why go to the trouble of encrypting the data on your USB flash drive when you can simply slap a lock on the business end, preventing other people from connecting it to their PCs in the first place? That’s exactly what this combination lock does, and while you still have to memorize a password/combination to access your files, it’s just 3 numbers long.

Wait, what’s that you say? Thanko has already been selling a similar USB lock for almost a half a year now? Well this version, from GREEN HOUSE, improves on their model by coming in your choice of black, white or silver finishes. So it looks like Thanko has just been taught an important lesson when it comes to innovation. You just can’t sit back and rest on the laurels of a product that only comes in one color. And thank you GREEN HOUSE for providing a much improved solution.

[ Akihabara News – Combination Lock USB Thumb Key Solution ]

The Games We Played – Rocket Jockey (PC)

Rocket Jockey (PC) (Image courtesy Retro Thing)
By Andrew Liszewski

I’ve got nothing against the concept of sequels, sometimes it’s nice to have a new adventure with familiar characters and locales. But when it comes to video games, I prefer titles that provide an altogether new experience. Like say, the experience of being a jockey riding a nearly unsteerable rocket while careening around a gladiator style arena. It might sound far-fetched, but that’s exactly what a game called Rocket Jockey provided. Whether you were simply racing to the finish in the ‘Rocket Race’ mode, enjoying a little deathmatch action in the ‘Rocket War’ mode or attempting to score a goal, or prevent others from doing so, in the ‘Rocket Ball’ mode. (My personal favorite.)

Rocket Jockey (PC) (Images courtesy GameSpot)

But obviously riding a rocket around an arena while crashing into walls can only provide so much fun. And that’s why the rockets in Rocket Jockey featured grappling cables that could be used to temporarily tether your missile to a wall, pole or other objects in order to ‘steer’ it around the course. It was a very unique experience, but thanks to solid gameplay mechanics, it actually worked very well. But the grappling cables could also be used to latch onto other rockets in order to pull them off course, giant balls which you had to maneuver into a goal for points, or even other jockeys who were unfortunate enough to fall off their ride.

Unfortunately Rocket Jockey had its issues which prevented it from becoming a truly classic title (and dare I say, spawning a sequel) like promised multiplayer that only arrived via a patch months after the title was released, and steep system requirements (yep, those were cutting-edge graphics at one point.) But the fact that there have been several grassroots efforts to remake the game with the Unreal Tournament or Quake engines over the years proves the game has been sorely missed by a lot of us.

[ GameSpot – Rocket Jockey ]

Henchman’s Helper Website

Henchman's Helper (Image courtesy
By Andrew Liszewski

At one time or another everyone’s dreamed of becoming an evil criminal mastermind who takes over the world. And thanks to late night re-runs of Pinky and the Brain airing where I live, these thoughts have been occupying my mind more than ever. But I’ve come to accept that the demands of becoming a world leader by force are more than I’m willing to take on, and to make that realization easier to bear I’ve been spending my days staring at, imagining what could’ve been.

It’s really nothing more than a collection of animated weather map gifs and webcams embedded into a wall of old-timey-looking CRT TVs, but it really does make you feel like you’re hanging out in your secret lair, keeping an eye out for intruders and wondering how your weather control machine is coming along. Sigh… Maybe the local college offers a night course on dictatorships or totalitarianism?… There’s still time right?… right?

[ Henchman’s Helper ] VIA [ FAZED ]

Upgrade Your Router To 802.11n Painlessly For $25

By Evan Ackerman

No matter how easy wireless network setup promises to be, it’s almost always a minor headache, and occasionally a major headache. Once I get all of my computers talking to each other and to the router and to the internet, I live in fear of a power outage or that one of the cats will mess with the surge protector and electrocute itself and blow a fuse and force me to set everything up again.

This is why I’m still using a 802.11g router, instead of the newer, faster, more powerful, and just generally sexier 802.11n. Oh, and the fact that a new router costs a bunch of money. The TRENDNet TEW-637AP 300Mbps Wireless Easy-N-Upgrader purports to make all of these things entirely painless. All you have to do is plug the TEW-637AP into the back of your existing 802.11b/g wireless router and it magically converts your wireless network to 802.11n while preserving all of your existing network configuration settings. In a test by Laptop Magazine, setup took “2 minutes” and and they noticed an immediate increase in speed by 4-5x and boost in range by a couple hundred feet.

Right now, the TRENDNet TEW-637AP 300Mbps Wireless Easy-N-Upgrader is $24.99 with free shipping from NewEgg.

VIA [ CNET News ]

Audioquest Introduces DIY HDMI Cables


By Luke Anderson

If you’ve ever worked at a retail store, you probably know that the margin on most types of cabling is huge. The store only pays a few bucks for that $15 ethernet cable you picked up (or just about any other kind), which is why they’re always suggesting you get one. If you do a lot of networking, you learn to make your own ethernet cables. This is good for two reasons, you make it the exact length you need and you save a lot of money. Well it seems that the same theory will soon be applied to HDMI cables.

Audioquest has announced a like of HDMI connectors that can be terminated by anyone with the right tools. The 19 wires that make up an HDMI cable might look a little daunting (an ethernet cable only uses 8), but their system works by splitting those into a set of 9 and one of 10. By crimping these separately, you’ll save yourself a lot of hassle. They even claim that crimping the wires produces a better signal than with current soldering techniques (take that Monster Cable!). We still don’t know anything about pricing, so it’s entirely possible that this sort of thing will cost more than pre-made cables, but hopefully that won’t be the case.

[ Audioquest ] VIA [ CrunchGear ]

Laser-Equipped Putter Works On Your Short Game


By Luke Anderson

When I was a kid, I learned a valuable lesson. When you’re putting, all of the aiming in the world doesn’t do you any good if you don’t have a straight swing. Once I taught myself how to swing properly, I mastered the fine art of putt-putt. If your short-game needs some work (that is if you actually play real golf, I prefer to stick to courses with windmills and the like), perhaps the Argon Laser Putter can help you out.

This putter is strictly a tool for learning, as no amount of lasers are going to help you on a real green. The first dip in the ground will screw you up, not to mentioned you’ll get laughed off the course if you try to pull this out of your bag.  However, if you’re merely wanting to putt in a straight line, this will be a wonderful aide. It even includes a “Putting Dome” that lights up when you hit the ball dead center. Now getting the timing down on that windmill on the 9th hole, well that’s a different story. If you’ve got $70 burning a hole in your pocket and a bad short-game, then this is just what you need.

[ ArgonPutter ] VIA [ UberGizmo ]

Shelby Aero EV Recharges In 10 Minutes, Goes 35 Miles In Same Time


By Evan Ackerman

Shelby SuperCars released details and specs yesterday on what could be the world’s fastest (and possibly best looking) production electric car. The Shelby Ultimate Aero EV has 1000 HP, 800 lb-ft of torque, and goes 0-60 in 2.5 seconds on its way to 208 mph. These are not the most impressive numbers, though… The Aero EV has a range of 150-200 miles, and can fully recharge in ten minutes from a 220 volt appliance outlet.

The Ultimate Aero EV is powered by Shelby’s All-Electric Scalable Powertrain (AESV), a modular system which incorporates both electric motors and charging technology and is available with anywhere from 200 to 1200 horsepower. The idea is that you (you being vehicle manufacturers) buy Shelby’s AESV system and then stick whatever you want on it. If this works out, it could drastically mitigate one of the biggest problems with electric cars like the Tesla Roadster, and even the Aptera: the hours-long recharge times.

[ Shelby ] VIA [ Inhabitat ]