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On Friday the WSJ reported that Google is actively working on both a smartwatch and a game console. Although a Samsung-developed Android watch has been in the pipeline for a while now, it’s a logical product initiative for Google, and one that I suspect they wish they’d prioritized over Glass.

The era of the smartwatch is upon us, while the era of marveling over the possibility of smart HUDs is perhaps beginning. Glass was always a bright and shiny thing that staked Google well ahead of the competition in terms of ambition and innovative creativity, but it is little more than a decorative jewel in its crown. The fact that a year will pass between its highly overpriced beta to actual market speaks to the fact that the technology is not ready. In the meantime, smartwatches exist and have proven popular with the common folk.

Watches are easy: they are unobtrusive yet convenient, appropriately sized screens can fit a reasonably large amount of information (see the iPod Nano), the device can be produced in a variety of fashions to suit individuals’ tastes, and today’s style prefers large watches anyway (at least for men). Eye

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The Guardian recently published an article arguing that overly-frequent consumption of “news” is bad for us: it misleads, increases cognitive errors, and may actually make us less healthy by constantly sparking our flight-fight responses.

Regardless of whether we’re slowly killing ourselves with news, it resonated with me because I realize that my consumption of news is bordering on obsessive, or at least it’s what I turn to first when I’m bored and find myself viewing the same landing-pages over and over mindlessly. Even if there is fresh content to entertain me, I can’t remember the last time The Huffington Post actually added value to my life. At the very least blocking these sites will improve my productivity. Consequently, I devised an easy tool to block news sites at the click of a button, and to turn them off again with another click.

Overview

By customizing your Windows-machine’s HOSTS file, you can block websites temporarily without any third party software. The file that maps web hostnames to IP addresses. Hostnames are the textual identifiers of network devices, for instance you can name a printer on your network ‘speedy’ or you can access a website at the host name ‘cnn.com’. Websites’ hostnames

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You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. While the world drools in anticipation of the Pebble or an Apple or Samsung smartwatch, Nike is sitting idly by fielding a promising piece of tech on the JV team while it could be a runaway hit in the big leagues. I speak of the Nike Fuelband, the wristband with a white and RGB variable-brightness LED output, accelerometers, an input button, Bluetooth and USB interface, iOS interactivity, and a four-day battery life in a well-designed water-resistant package with three color options (see teardown here).

I’d be pretty excited if had that tech on hand to sell. It could alert me to and read txts and e-mails, it could give me some basic gesture input to an app, it could show caller id, etc… basically what the Pebble proposes to do, even if in a more spare LED graphical output. Nike has not only refused to market the product as a mobile-connected wearable output device, but it has actively opposed others’ attempts to liberate the device for such purposes. And so you get what we had here last week, which is the way they wants it:

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Google has revealed through regulatory filings that Google Glass will incorporate bone conduction audio output in what may be the biggest mass market development for the technology ever, but it will not be the first. Bone conduction audio has existing in some form for almost 100 years, and has a long history of commercialization in both the medical and consumer audio markets, but to date it is a niche technology with adoption concentrated in narrow domains.

Has the time for bone conduction audio for the mass market finally arrived? Probably not yet, but we’re close.

The Origins of Bone Conduction Audio

The general public’s unfamiliarity with bone conduction audio belies its age and the advanced state of the technology’s development. Historically, bone conduction audio has been widely employed as a hearing aid technology – by transmitting sound into the skull audio signals may bypass a defective middle ear, allowing many hearing-impaired or otherwise deaf individuals to hear, even where traditional amplication-style hearing aids are ineffective. A bone conduction hearing aid was first described by Hugo Gernsback in 1923, though the first relevant patent I have located was issued in 1941. Since that time, the technology has improved with lighter

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Elon Musk’s Tesla announced today that it would be discontinuing sales of its entry-level Model S vehicle given poor sales. Apparently only 4% of customers opted for the least-expensive 40 kWH version, which affords the smallest driving distance (160 miles between charges). Tesla will generously fill all undelivered 40 kWH orders with a 60 kWH battery package, but customers shouldn’t expect to take a leisurely 170 mile drive because the battery will be software-governed to perform like a 40 kWH battery. A software upgrade will be available to unleash the full 60 kWH capabilities, but it will run a cool $10,000, which is the difference in model price anyway.

Welcome to a world in which DRM and OEM-imposed limitations bleed into every corner of our lives. Tesla doesn’t owe anyone more than exactly what the contract stipulated, and the concept of OEM-control is not entirely new (e.g., your cable box since 1980), but it is troubling to see a company artificially diminish the capabilities of its product. The cause is not safety, or maintenance of product quality, but simply to deliver an exacting account of dollars and cents paid per value received.

Surely there would be some upset 60 kWH-buyers if

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Google Glass is a head-mounted display that supports augmented reality output; sends and receives calls, txt messages and e-mails; gives directions; serves as a headphone and is capable of recording and playing back video.

The first six consumers who will receive a Glass were announced yesterday morning, followed by 8,000 others. They won the opportunity to buy a Glass (for $1,500) by saying what they would do with it on Twitter (tag #ifihadglass). Of those first six, only one is proposing to use Glass in a meaningful way for which it uniquely-suited versus existing, much cheaper tech. Max Wood is proposing to use Glass to stream building layouts, objectives, and orders to fire fighters, and capture their streams for incident commanders. That would make use of the head-mounted display (HMD) overlays, audio output, wireless communication, and video-capture features – hopefully saving lives through it. Four of the others are proposing to use Glass exclusively as a poor man’s (read: rich man’s for $1,500) POV camcorder or VR-display. The last is proposing to use it as a voice-transcribing platform.

Lucky human camcorder #1: Wants to give a first-person view of life

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Present is precedent when it comes to envisioning our digital future in big screen sci-fi and futuristic action films. Guided by an imperative that props must be believable to audiences in the context of today’s culture and technology, writers and prop designers are much too conservative in envisioning a future that will be radically different from today’s. Their conceptions are often times visually radically, and yet at the same time functionally anachronistic – a phone is something you hold to your head, we receive information through visors and displays that look like flashier versions of today’s screens, etc.

Familiarity is essential to some extent. It’s like a Broadway actor flamboyantly acting out emotions with exaggerated facial gestures and body language to convey what would be a subtle expression in real life. Similarly, the retro-future technologies featured in so many sci-fi films give the audience a necessary hook to accept a futuristic vision or identify the role of a prop without stumbling over it. The technique is successful as a narrative device, but it inhibits our ability to collectively imagine the wild possibilities before us – possibilities that will trend toward the magical while being increasingly invisible (thus not making for good film).

Twenty years ago

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It’s not too challenging to find a resistor through Google or on Amazon, but there are a few online retailers that reliably cater exclusively to makers and their projects. These sites not only sell Arduino, Raspberry Pis, and accessories, but they also help shoppers discover cool new projects by featuring interesting sensors, kits, and books. Below is my top five list (plus one) of great online retailers for electronics makers.

Spark Fun Electronics and Maker Shed
Spark Fun and Maker Shed are very similar sites – both worth checking for a given project. They both carry great curated selections of books, Arduino-related supplies, other components, Raspberry Pis, and kits. Noting its affiliation with Make Magazine, Maker Shed has more in the way of kits and educational materials while Spark Fun is perhaps stronger in components. Both are great sites with whom I’ve had very positive customer experiences.

Adafruit Industries
Adafruit grew as an electronics kit developer, but has grown into open source hardware development since that time – today they sell branded Arduino shields, and it recently developed the Arduino Micro in conjunction with Arduino. Its products include kits and components for Arduino, mbed, Raspberry

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There is a new version of this tutorial available. Check it out here!

I could carry my keys to unlock my building door, but I’d rather not. I could buzz up to my apartment and my girlfriend could buzz me in if she’s around, but that’s obnoxious. It would be best if I could buzz up a short-code to my apartment (a Morse message of sorts) and have it automatically buzz me in. Fortunately, that can be done with Arduino.

The Buzzer Situation

My apartment building is equipped with a Aiphone VC-K intercom and door release system. The entire system runs on 12V DC power with low current, so it’s much safer to interact with than any devices attached to a wall outlet. A quick web search for the model yielded a wiring diagram, a screwdriver provided quick access to the terminals in the handset unit, and a multimeter allowed me to understand how it works:

Aiphone wiring diagram

I have access to the VC-K unit in my apartment; the VC-M is at the front door. Terminals 1 and 2 provide communication with the

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Across the internets I’ve found two prominent methods for using an iPad as a graphics tablet in cases without native application support (like Photoshop CS5/6). Both rely on third party apps to stretch your desktop display onto your iPad, but by slightly different approaches. Neither solution will provide the pressure or pen-angle detection that Wacom tablets provide, and their input resolutions are comparatively poor. However, if you’re just hoping to make some simple hand-drawn paths in Illustrator or the like, these are fine solutions.

Considering the factors below, I find LogMeIn to be a much better tablet input solution than Air Display. Both are imperfect, but LogMeIn came out on top.

LogMeIn Free Edition

LogMeIn a remote desktop control service that let’s you control a remote computer from any web browser or an iOS app. Both the service and the related software are free. The premium versions provide more advanced functionality like web-printing but for our and most other purposes the free version is perfect. Although you can use the program from a coffee shop to access your desktop, you can also use it while sitting right in front of your desktop as a tablet input device. You retain full control of

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It may not be edgy, but I, like many others on the bleeding edge, am waiting with bated breath for the release of Thalmic Labs’ Myo Armband expected to ship later this year. Although I generally avoid buying products 6-9 months before they’ll be in my hot little hands, the prospect of remotely controlling a tablet, stereo, or household device with a subtle gesture was too much to pass up on. One pre-order later, I’m left biding my time before a surge of tech-powered midi-chlorians enter my veins.

Unlike Field of Dreams, often times awesome tech is built and no one comes – so the question I’m left pondering is who will use it, who will develop for it, and will it just be me and my 15,000 other geeks $150-poorer while waving our hands in the air with nary an app to hear us. Having some Objective C and other development experience under my belt I’m looking forward to building some of my own software to make use of the device, but I’m still confronted with the what and why of the device. What I want most is to solve real problems, rather than tear down strawmen with my $150

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