Monday, April 30, 2012

Riusuke Fukahori

This Is Colossal reports: [edited]

Japanese artist Riusuke Fukahori paints three-dimensional goldfish using a complex process of poured resin. The fish are painted meticulously, layer by layer, the sandwiched slices revealing slightly more about each creature, similar to the function of a 3D printer.

For more images click here

Thanks to Brook Jordan for the link

Friday, April 27, 2012

The Museum of Soviet Arcade Machines hosts a plethora of old-school gaming machines.

And if you fancy a play on Morskoi Boi (Sea Battle), click here (no Roubles required)

Thursday, April 26, 2012

O2 Wallet

The Next Web reports: [edited]

O2 announced the launch of O2 Wallet, a 'seamless and secure digital wallet service that will deliver the benefits of mobile money to more UK consumers than any other product or service currently available.'

Wallet will let users send and receive money, compare prices and shop via their mobile phone. And it will work whether they’re an O2 customer or not.

O2 Wallet lets consumers transfer money using any UK mobile phone number, and it’s as easy as sending a text message. The so-called ‘Money Messages’ allow users to make daily transfers of between £1 and £500, and is designed to make lending, borrowing and repaying money easier.

O2 Wallet has a barcode and search engine function to help shoppers compare prices across millions of goods covering around 100 online retailers. They will also be able to tap daily discounts and deals via the ‘My Offers’ icon.

You can load money onto your O2 Wallet account using your debit card, by receiving a Money Message from someone you know, or by using cash at more than 30,000 participating outlets, including O2 stores, PayPoint and epay outlets.

O2 Wallet will be compatible with iPhones, Android and BlackBerry smartphones, as well as iPads.

- - - - -

Addendum: (thanks to Conrad for this)

For iPhone App, click here

Caveat Emptor: In 6 months O2 will introduce charges to your account, so that every time you 'send money' you will be billed 15p. For full details, click here.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Asteroid Mining

Gizmodo reports: [edited]

Today, a group of billionaires and former NASA scientists will announce Planetary Resources Inc., the first asteroid mining company in history. They claim they will "add trillions of dollars to the global GDP" and "help ensure humanity's prosperity."

The group of investors and scientists on board this enterprise is impressive, including Google's Larry Page & Eric Schmidt, Ph.D.; film maker & explorer James Cameron; Chairman of Intentional Software Corporation and Microsoft's former Chief Software Architect Charles Simonyi, Ph.D.; Founder of Sherpalo and Google Board of Directors founding member K. Ram Shriram; and Chairman of Hillwood and The Perot Group Ross Perot, Jr.

Harnessing the resources of asteroids is not a crazy proposition and the return of investment could be amazing. So much that they are convinced they can "add trillions of dollars to the global GDP." More importantly, this may solve many of our material needs as resources on Earth keep dwindling fast.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Ancient texts going online

ars technica reports: [edited]

This week the University of Oxford and the Vatican announced a plan to collaborate in digitizing 1.5 million pages of rare and ancient texts, most dating from the 16th century or earlier. The project is expected to span about 4 years and was made possible by a donation of £2 million (approximately $3.1 million) from the Polonsky Foundation - a charitable organization that supports higher education, medical research, and other general matters in the arts and sciences.

The texts will include pages from Oxford's Bodleian Libraries and the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (BAV). The digitized pages will include early printed books — called incunabula — from Rome and the surrounding area; Greek manuscripts including early church texts and works by Homer, Sophocles, Plato, Hippocrates; and Hebrew manuscripts from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Fisher-Price iPhone/iPod touch case

Fisher-Price reports: [edited]

This sturdy case will protect your iPhone or iPod touch from dribbles, drool, and unwanted call-making. Busy beads and a mirror add baby-appropriate play. And free Laugh & Learn™ apps mean plenty of learning fun!

Price: $20.00

Thanks to Kirsty for the link

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Architectural Stationery Vignettes

Bibliodyssey reports: [edited]

The images in this post all come from Columbia University's very large assortment of commercial stationery (featuring architectural illustrations): the Biggert Collection.

The majority of the images have been cropped, cleaned and variously doctored for display purposes, with an intent towards highlighting the range of letterform/font and design layouts. The underlying documents are invoices (most), letters, postcards, shipping records and related business and advertising letterhead ephemera from the mid-1800s to the 1930s.

via Kottke

Monday, April 16, 2012

Kurt Vonnegut on how to write a great story

Brain Pickings reports: [edited]

Kurt Vonnegut — anarchist, Second Life dweller, imaginary interviewer of the dead, sad soul — with eight tips on how to write a good short story, narrated by the author himself.

1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.

2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.

3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.

4. Every sentence must do one of two things - reveal character or advance the action.

5. Start as close to the end as possible.

6. Be a Sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them - in order that the reader may see what they are made of.

7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.

8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To hell with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

Friday, April 13, 2012

HTC One X Android

Register Hardware has published a (very favourable) review of HTC's quad-core flagship smartphone.

Their verdict:

"A perfect smartphone? Very nearly. Some will bemoan the absence of Micro SD expansion and the lack of a dedicated HDMI port. I expected better from such a large battery too, but the screen is huge and glorious, the CPU powerful enough to run a small country, both cameras are good and the build quality superb. Suddenly my Desire HD feels like the relic of a bygone age."

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Collective Snapshot

Pep Ventosa reports: [edited]

Nominated for the Photography Masters Cup in the International Color Awards, images in this series blend together dozens of snapshots to create an abstraction of the places we've been to and the things we've seen. A celebration of our collective memory.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Plantronics BackBeat Go Bluetooth Earphones reports: [edited]

The featherweight BackBeat Go is a stereo Bluetooth headset equally adept at voice calls, listening to music or podcasts, and watching movies without disturbing anyone nearby. In fact, it's the best stereo Bluetooth headset we've ever used for phone calls, period.

The BackBeat Go weighs just 13 grammes. The plastic earbud housings have a curved shape, with a rubber cover over the micro USB charging port on the right earbud. The rubber tips are of a very soft material. Plantronics includes three sets in the package, each of a different size, plus a set of optional looped stabilisers to further anchor each one in place when fitted to your ear.

The tiny cable connecting the two earbuds is of a tangle-free design, and is designed to sit behind your neck. It's made of a rubberized soft touch material that's comfortable, and in practice it disappears from view and doesn't interfere with modest neck movements. .

The BackBeat Go features a pair of 6mm neodymium drivers. Audio quality is good, but not great, when listening to music. The BackBeat Go is highly sensitive to getting exactly the right seal in your ear in order to deliver sufficiently weighty bass response. That's true of all in-ear earphones, but what makes the BackBeat Go more difficult is that you can insert them in your ears 10 times, and end up with 10 slightly different frequency response curves.

The high-end is another story. I've yet to hear as smooth a treble range over stereo Bluetooth as I do here. The BackBeat Go is unusually delicate, with little of the obvious harshness and warbling you get with other Bluetooth headsets. There's a trace of it, as you can't fully escape the limitations of the Bluetooth codec, but it's not at all bad.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Material 6 iPhone Wood Backs

Cool Hunting reports: [edited]

Material 6's product is not an adhesive layer applied to the glass back of the phone, but a replacement back, with the wood mounted in a frame identical to Apple's standard issue.

The in-house laser etching service offered by Material6 costs just $5. The company supplies a template to use for the creation of your designs, and their Flickr page contains past examples for inspiration.

The case is delivered with a five-point screwdriver, and the whole set-up takes less than a minute to install. Calibrated to fit precisely with the iPhone, the wood backs doesn't affect the device's profile (although the replacement of the phone back does void the Apple warranty.

Material6 backs can be purchased at their online store for prices starting at $89.

Friday, April 06, 2012

The Old Rugged Cross

On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross,
The emblem of suffering and shame;
And I love that old cross where the dearest and best
For a world of lost sinners was slain.

So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross,
Till my trophies at last I lay down;
I will cling to the old rugged cross,
And exchange it some day for a crown.

O that old rugged cross, so despised by the world,
Has a wondrous attraction for me;
For the dear Lamb of God left His glory above
To bear it to dark Calvary.


In that old rugged cross, stained with blood so divine,
A wondrous beauty I see,
For ’twas on that old cross Jesus suffered and died,
To pardon and sanctify me.


To the old rugged cross I will ever be true;
Its shame and reproach gladly bear;
Then He’ll call me some day to my home far away,
Where His glory forever I’ll share.


George Ben­nard, 1913


Thursday, April 05, 2012

Bose QuietComfort 15 Noise Cancelling headphones

My eldest son endures a 2 x 2-hour commute between South Harrow and Feltham. His iPhone's playlist provides some solace, and on our last trip to the Westfield Apple Store, we spent some time listening to the headphones on display.

The well-reviewed, top-of-the-range Dre Beats failed to impress. They sounded like they had a built in graphic equaliser with all the sliders pushed up to '11'... my guess is that they could become extremely wearing over longer periods of listening.

By contrast the Bose QC15s have a more delicate, initially underwhelming, sound presentation that rewards longer periods of listening. So far, so not worth £250, but the QC15 trump card is the noise cancellation function. The effect of switching it on is quite magical, with background noise and bustle fading away to almost nothing.

I purchased a nearly-new item on eBay for substantially less than the retail price, and Brook's feedback has been very positive. He says the noise cancelling has the effect of significantly reducing the 'thrum' of background noise, while still allowing him to hear voice announcements, etc.

If you do purchase a pair, remember to carry a spare AAA battery with you at all times, as the QC15s don't work without power.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Nokia Lumia 900

Ars Technica has published a full review of Nokia's latest Windows smart phone, complete with plenty of images.

Excerpts follow:

"The Nokia Lumia 900 has the weight of two big names on its shoulders. It's Nokia's big re-entry into the US market; it's also the flagship Windows Phone Mango."

"We largely compare the Lumia 900 to the two flagship phones of the other two major OSes, the iPhone 4S with iOS and the Galaxy Nexus with Android 4.0."

"The new hardware can hold up against both of these phones. Still, the OS has some maturing to do compared to the other two platforms. Power users for whom price is less of a factor will find much to admire here, but they still may not be won over when it comes to getting the best handset, period."

"The Lumia 900 has a 4.3-inch 800x480 resolution Clear Black AMOLED display embedded in a unibody polycarbonate shell, rounded on the long sides and squared off at the top and bottom. The polycarbonate body has a velvety, slightly rubbery feel to it, making it easy to hold. Due to the screen margins and casing overhang it feels bigger in hand than you might expect of a 4.3-inch-screened phone."

"As a point of reference, the Galaxy Nexus measures 67.9 millimeters wide to the Lumia 900's 68.5 millimeters, despite the Galaxy Nexus having a 4.65-inch screen. The Galaxy Nexus is also less than a centimeter longer, meaning the Lumia 900 is hardly any friendlier to a jeans pocket."

"The Lumia 900's single speaker is pretty quiet, even at the loudest volume setting."

"...the Lumia 900 comes with a flat 16GB of storage—unexpandable, unupgradeable. As apps get bigger and photo libraries expand over the course of the next two years (the standard length of a phone contract), that size limit would start to chafe us."

"The 8-megapixel camera (with Carl Zeiss, f2.2 aperture, 28mm focal length lens) is centered on the back of the phone, which seems more in the interest of aesthetics than practicality (my fingers were all up on it while using the phone). Next to the Carl Zeiss lens is a dual-LED flash."

"The pictures turned out quite well, at least in good lighting. They can even stand up to the iPhone 4S's, in many scenarios. In closeups and dim scenarios, though, it stumbles."

"The Lumia 900's screen is 800x480 pixels. Because the Lumia 900 has regular RGB subpixels, it displays text beautifully in a big range of sizes, especially in the OS and applications. At its brightest, the Lumia 900's screen appears a bit warm compared to the bluer-hued iPhone 4S's display. The blacks are nice and inky."

"The physical glass of the screen is noticeably not oleophobic, so the Lumia 900's screen holds onto grease and fingerprints like crazy."

"There's no denying that the OS looks great. From the transitions to the screen arrangements, Microsoft paid a lot of attention to the look of Windows Phone. On the surface, it creates a very polished product. The menagerie of flipping and changing tiles on the home screen make you want to interact with them."

"...the OS isn't without polish problems or minor difficulties. Landscape orientation sometimes seems half-baked, with buttons that stay portrait-oriented next to the horizontal keyboard. The phone is also a bit finicky about scrolling. Being that the screen is so big and the range of my thumb is comparatively small, my horizontal swipes are often slightly diagonally downward (instead of working the joint to make the swipe straight, I keep my thumb straight). Android and iOS have never had a problem interpreting this slightly-downward, mostly-horizontal, somewhat lazy swipe as I intend it, but the Lumia often reads as "scroll down" instead of "swipe across." This creates a lot of mistakes in an OS where there is so much swiping left and right to do."

"The browser is based on IE9, the desktop version of which has won a lot of praise. But the browser on the Lumia 900 does sometimes feel janky when it comes to text rendering. Mobile browsers resize text and alter page layouts in some subtle ways in an attempt to ensure greater readability. IE 9's algorithm has some oddities not found in Safari's approach."

"We also have some quibbles with the interface design for the browser, namely that tabs are buried two clicks deep. A third-party browser, UC Browser, adds a second bar to the interface that provides one-click access to tabs as well as a forward button (something else Windows Phone IE lacks) and a home button."

"Those issues and the benchmarks aside, we found that the Lumia 900 actually loads pages fairly quickly. It doesn't beat the iPhone 4S at loading any of our test pages, by any means, but at least beats out the iPhone 4 while on WiFi."

"The battery life of the Lumia 900 is another point of pride on Nokia's part. It clocks in at 1830mAh, which is on the large side for a smartphone battery. Nokia estimates it gets around seven hours of talk time with that."

"This is pretty healthy performance for a smartphone, besting the Galaxy Nexus in similar tests, but the iPhone 4 and 4S crank out about 3 more hours of video and several more hours of general use. iPhones also have an often-overlooked ability to charge the battery to 80 percent in an hour, but the Lumia 900 charges at steady pace and over a few hours: it took ours nearly 4 hours to go from 0 to 100 percent."

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

SSD drive prices continue to fall

Register Hardware reports: [edited]

Intel has a new budget 330-series solid-state drive (SSD) coming on Friday, 13 April, and it almost doubles the current 320 SSD's performance.

Amazon UK lists the 120GB 2.5-inch Intel 330 SSD for £109.05.