Archive for Jan 21, 2007

Sheath your Macbook

In the days when laptop computers were more accurately termed “luggables”, molly-coddling your machine wasn’t really an option.  Once you’d heaved it out of the boot of your car, suspension hissing loudly in relief, you half-manhandled, half-dragged it to your desk and battered away at recalcitrant keys for the day.  Now, of course, we’re used to pretty little slices of over-designed portable computing, the pinnacle of which is undoubtedly anything bearing an Apple logo.  And so crafty, niche-spotting manufacturers pander to our extreme fear of letting anything mar those brushed aluminium surfaces or slip between the slender keys; enter, stage-left, the iSkin ProTouch Keyboard Protector.

Gear Diary’s Mitchell Oke has been playing with this computer condom, to see just how well it can shield the keyboard of his MacBook from crumbs, bits of sandwich and other detritus, although he stops short of spilling any sort of liquid over its rubbery hide (poor show, Mitchell!  Throw the bugger in the bath!)


HTC Titan – but is it time to change the design?

Forgive me, for I know it’s blasphemy, but does anyone else think that many of the slide-out-keyboard cellphone designs stink?  Oh yes, I’m sure they’re reasonable in ergonomic terms (if you ignore the potential for finger-trashing after a few days full of hunt’n’peck), but to actually look at they’re chubby and generally bland.  It could just be me that feels that way, however, in which case I’ll likely be the only one not to be all that bothered by photos of HTC’s Titan handheld leaking out.

When the biggest physical differences are a relocated scroll-wheel, repositioned keyboard LEDs and rubbery backing, I’m afraid I’ll be destined to be underwhelmed.  Still, Rev. A-upgradeable EV-DO, 256MB of internal storage, Bluetooth 2.0 and a 2-megapixel camera aren’t bad. 


Don’t trust this robot to valet park

This is something of a public service announcement.  Any robot that tells you that car-theft is a victim-less crime is a fool.  Someone obviously needs to tell Autonomous Solutions to bring their offspring up better, although with a name like Chaos you’re asking for trouble I suppose.  What’s wrong with a nice, sensible name… Peter, maybe, or George?  But no, Chaos is a quad-tracked, self-correcting mobile platform capable not only of dragging away someone’s Hummer (as in the video below) but withstanding the sort of hazardous environments that would generally see a normal worker’s reproductive parts gain extra chromosomes.

Covert car park theft is aided by the near-silent motor and gearbox design, which also allows for a maximum 3-hour battery life.  Control software supplied with Chaos permits either direct operator control or ‘multi-vehicle autonomous behaviour’, a phrase guaranteed to get the easily-befreaked muttering ominously about “robot overlords”.

More video after the cut.


Eschew music; let’s hear you speak

Now Crave reckon this Micro Memo voice-recorder for the 2G Nano looks like a traditional English Beefeater standing guard, but I think it makes your DAP look like a one-armed bandit slot machine.  So really, the truth is a whole lot more boring – a flexible microphone lets you record audio and save it as (memory hogging) WAV files.

An 8GB Nano can hold up to 51 hours of audio, though of course that means you’re forced to listen to meetings and “memo to self” notelets on the subway home rather than that swell mashup album you downloaded yesterday.


Is this the sexiest UMPC yet?

It looks like UMPC manufacturers are heading in the direction we’re all hoping for, and making slimmer and sexier handhelds that we wouldn’t be embarrassed to pull out at a meeting (or even in the queue at the bank, heaven forbid).  Steve over at The Carrypad UMPC Journal is getting increasingly excited about this US700W model, as yet of unknown OEM, and having looked at the photos and spec-list I can see why.

Just 20.5mm thick, it nonetheless features an 800×480 7-inch screen, Intel Celeron M 1.06G MHz processor, 1GB of RAM and a choice of hard-drives that climbs to 60GB.  Full details after the jump, including more photos; I don’t know about you, but my nipples have just perked up in anticipation.


Japanese cellphones titter at the iPhone

You’re probably getting bored of iPhone coverage, and are saving your strength for the first “EXCLUSIVE! PHOTOS! HANDS-ON!” headlines you’ll have to navigate around the web come April or so, but spare a thought for the poor Japanese.  They’ve had 3G networks for years now, and are currently testing 4G technology; with handsets available in shops today that support mobile digital TV, moneyless-payment, biometric security and more, while America excites itself over Jobs’ latest trinket they have no super-advanced iPhone features to anticipate.  After all, they’ve got it all already.

electro^plankton borrowed the daily life of a Japanese friend to see just what cellphone features they use – and expect handsets to have – on a daily basis.  Let’s just say that the iPhone doesn’t look so rosy in comparison. 

Sorry iPhone, Japan’s Not Interested [electro^plankton]

CES 2007 footage… for those of us who weren’t there

Because of my tendency to put items that don’t belong to me into my rucksack and curse loudly at people with beards, I wasn’t allowed to accompany the SlashGear team to CES this year. While at first I revelled in bitterness, I’ve now got over my seething anger and am enjoying the huge quantity of video footage from the exhibition. SlashGear’s own camcorder was present, but if you’ve been through our footage and are still hungry then you might want to head over to Charbax’s latest expo video blog.

A veteran of filming these tech free-for-alls, Charbax offers both Google Video and BitTorrent DIVX files, the latter of which have the added bonus of being in high-definition. He’s covered plenty, from the OLPC to Medion’s UMPC, and it’s well worth a look (or a download if you’ve got the bandwidth).

CES 2007 Video Blog

QuickContact tempts you from touchscreen to joystick

When I think about potential software for my cellphone, for some reason the last thing that comes to mind is an alternative way to dial. I mean, buttons are buttons, aren’t they? How many different ways can there be to thumb out a call? But users of Windows Mobile handsets can now have that level of choice that I didn’t realise I even needed, thanks to VITO Technology’s QuickContact.

Intended to make single-handed use as easy as possible, as well as making the most of predictive dialling and contact selection, it relies on the joystick rather than pecking at the screen. The delectable Judie over at Gear Diary has given QuickContact space on her HTC Universal and found it to be an improvement over the normal method and – while it doesn’t make it as simple as, say, a hard-buttoned Smartphone – greatly aided navigation.


Logitech 3D controller is eminently tweakable

Is this a photo from the Adult Expo running simultaneously with CES 2007?  Are these men watching droop-jawed as someone tweaks a tiny rubber iBreast?  Well no, sadly nothing so exciting; it’s just a demo of Logitech’s 3D CONNEXION controller.  Responsive to twisting, tilting, pulling and pushing in all axis, they used it to intuitively navigate a world map.

I guess Logitech has virtual worlds like Second Life in mind, using the 3D controller as a straightforward way to move about without needing to memorise separate “look left”, “look right”, “spin round” keyboard shortcuts.


Robo-Roach is eyeing up your kitchen

I have a dream.  In fact, it’s more of a nightmare.  Anyway, in my nightmare my blender, toaster and wireless router meld together and go snuffling around underneath the kitchen cabinets, gobbling up scraps of discarded food and leaving unpleasant droppings.  That’s right, I dream about robot cockroaches taking over my appliances.

The cruel people at Case Western Reserve University have obviously been reading my tiny mind and are playing an evil trick on me.  They’ve gathered up a whole load of springs and wires and made a robot cockroach to chase me.  There’s a video of it in action here (29mb download), and more photos after the cut.


Clean and fresh from top to toe (or bum at least)

Here’s a personal question to start the weekend with: do you have a dirty bottom?  Well, do you?  And, ostensibly unconnected but stick with me here, have you ever wanted a tiny water-jet to pop out from under your toilet seat and douche you in the downbelows?  From the sound of it, TDavid is giving it some serious thought.

In a world where toilet-tissue is passé you need to be able to pull a discrete lever and spray yourself until you’re fresh.  But a normal bidet takes up space in your bathroom and demands plumbing skills, so the Biffy clip-on bum-spritzer is a $99 way to achieve the same cleanliness of tush.


Sony Cybershot W55/35

I love staged photos.  I mean, what are these ladies saying to each other?  In my head the conversation goes something like this:

“Hey, is that the new Sony Cyber-shot W55?”

“Help me, I’m trapped in a loveless relationship and my face hurts from all the botox”

However, I’m sure Sony would prefer us to imagine them chatting about the Cyber-shot’s 7.2-megapixel CCD, ISO 1000 for high-sensitivity in low-light conditions, up to 380 shots per full charge and 3x optical zoom.  Extreme macro close-ups – such as to focus on the delicate wrinkles around a model’s eyes – are possible right down to 2cm, and while the W35 has a 2-inch LCD display the W55 bumps that up to 2.5-inches.