Swedish Man Builds Whimsical Flying Machine



Borg MachineWho hasn’t dreamed of building their very own flying machine? Imagine being able to climb aboard a ship you put together with your own two hands and then piloting that contraption into the deep blue yonder, looking for adventure!

I’m not sure if that was exactly the inspiration for Swedish engineer Axel Borg when he began building his chAIR multi-rotor flying craft. But, he was successful in designing and constructing his own DIY flying machine. Borg took the chAIR craft on its maiden flight last month. He kept the contraption relatively low to the ground, but chAIR turned out to be pretty stable, and may be capable of higher reaches.

It’s fair to describe the chAIR craft as a whimsical thing. If it weren’t for the craft’s very loud set of rotors that allow chAIR to take flight, it seems like something that could’ve fallen out of a Miyazaki film.

chAIR’s first flight lasted eight minutes, which used 57% of the craft’s battery power. So, it’s doubtful we’ll be seeing swarms of chAIRs taking to the sky in place of other transportation options. Regardless, the craft is a true achievement in DIY engineering.

chAIR’s designer, Axel Borg, isn’t a novice to this kind of endeavor. According to his website, he’s already produced ebooks on projects like building an electric skateboard or creating a 3-D printed jet engine.

Check out Borg’s YouTube channel for more videos of the chAIR as well as Borg’s other projects.


Japan Operating First-Ever Space Drone



Japan DroneIf you’re like me, you were probably hoping that the first news about a Japanese space robot would come complete with footage of a giant humanoid mecha that shoots laser beams from its eyes. Unfortunately, that day hasn’t yet arrived. But the first stepping stone to an intergalactic robot army might just be here in the adorable form of Japan’s new ball-shaped space drone.

The drone, known as Int-Ball (sorry, Japan, but Tranzor Z would’ve been a way cooler name), was designed by the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) to monitor the activities of astronauts on the International Space Station. Int-Ball is controlled by ground crews, who can use the drone’s camera to get a better view of astronauts as they work on daily tasks.

Some Int-Ball features:

  • The drone can move autonomously in space and record still and moving images under remote control by the JAXA Tsukuba Space Center
  • Recorded images and videos can be checked in real time by flight controllers and researchers on the ground, and then be fed back to the onboard crew
  • Int-Ball was adapted from existing drone technology, and all of its parts can be 3-D printed

At first pass, it might seem like Int-Ball was created to spy on astronauts and make sure they aren’t slacking off on the job. But it turns out astronauts spend a lot of time using cameras to document their work. Int-Ball removes the need for astronauts to do this, and it’s estimated that the drone could give astronauts a 10% productivity bump. These types of improvements are welcome in an environment like the space station, where maximizing mission time is crucial.


Google Now to Be Replaced with Google ‘News Feed’ on Some Platforms



There’s nothing more confusing than trying to unpack a new(ish?) Google feature about so-called “news feeds,” as over the years Google has provided products with names like: Google News, Google Now, Google Plus, and Google Reader. But this next tweak to Google’s system doesn’t have much (if anything) to do with those services.

In an upcoming change to Google’s iOS and Android apps, the search engine giant will be replacing its Google Now service with a “news feed” that’s created based on your own web browsing behavior:

The feed, which includes items drawn from your search history and topics you choose to follow, is designed to turn Google’s app into a destination for browsing as well as search. Google is hoping you’ll begin opening its app the way you do Facebook or Twitter, checking it reflexively throughout the day for quick hits of news and information.

This “news feed” concept sounds an awful lot like the experience provided by monolithic social networking site Facebook. And I guess it makes sense for Google to want to try and siphon off some screen time from Facebook’s massive user base. But doesn’t Google already have a social network of its own?

OK, I get it. This new Google feed thing isn’t really a social network itself. It’s just sorta borrowing the news feed concept made famous by Facebook. When this new feature lands in Google’s mobile apps, it’ll take the place of Google Now, which is described as, “The company’s predictive search feature, which displayed personalized weather, traffic, sports scores, and other information.”

I guess this could be a useful new feature from Google, as the company already knows a lot about its users’ browsing histories. But I doubt many people are going to be giving up the Facebook habit for Google’s news feed.

Especially if there’s no Like button.


Legendary Pokémon GO Bonus Unlocked at Pokémon GO Fest



The Pokémon GO Fest in Chicago is over. Players at the event, and around the world, worked together and have successfully unlocked in-game bonuses for the entire Pokémon GO community.

As a result, the following rewards will last through Monday, July 24, at 5:00 PM PDT:

  • Double Stardust
  • Double Candy
  • Double XP
  • Increased Pokémon encounters
  • Reduced hatching distance
  • Reduced buddy distance

There are three teams in Pokémon GO: Instinct, Mystic, and Valor. The number of Pokémon that each team caught during the Fest was tallied up. The winner was Team Mystic. As a result, the first Legendary Pokémon to “enter the real world” is Lugia. Articuno, another Legendary Pokémon, will join Lugia in Raid Battles.

If you want to obtain a Lugia, or an Articuno, you need to do some Raid Battles. Look for Legendary Pokémon Eggs appearing at Gyms near you. I haven’t personally tried to do this yet, but it appears to be a difficult thing to do. Kotaku reported that some Pokémon GO players are having trouble trying to catch these two newly released Legendary Pokémon.

Niantic says that it will release more Legendary Pokémon “soon”. They will release Zapdos and Moltres, which are Pokémon that relate to Team Instinct and Team Valor.


Hooked by iClever Bluetooth Headphones



With the new BTH20, iClever‘s improved both the fit and audio quality for its next generation of Bluetooth wireless earphones. These headphones are a good match for my ears and the soft silicon rubber hooks keep them in place during the most vigorous exercise, so I like them. Let’s take a look a closer look and see what iClever’s done; we might even listen to them too.

Starting with the fit, the new headphones achieve better comfort by maximising the contact surface. Additionally, by using an offset for the inwards leaning hook, it lines up better with the ear folds. The outer part of the earbud is a small cylinder that is half covered in silicon rubber and fills out the ear a little bit more than usual. The thin hook comes out from the far end of the cylinder and the narrowness lets it get into the folds and creases. In my humble opinion, these are the best earbuds at staying in place but obviously people’s ears vary a good deal so YMMV, as they say.

Both the earbud itself and the ear hook part can be switched for different sizes – the BTH20 comes with three of each, say, small, medium and large, meaning that there are nine possible combinations for the best aural fit. The headphones are very light too at only 13g (says the spec sheet). Fitness fans will be pleased to hear that the ‘phones are sweat resistant. Give them a wipe down after a session but don’t dunk them in the sink.

The left and right earphones are connected via a round cable with an inline control close to the right ear. The three buttons on the control manage volume, music and phone calls, though some of button combinations can be challenging to get right. Additionally, the control houses the microUSB port for charging and there’s a very small status LED which can be orange or white depending on activity. There’s a short tangle-free USB to microUSB cable for charging in the box. Battery life is quoted at 8 hours, which seems about right based on the couple of afternoons I listened on the earphones without recharging.

Pairing the headphones with a smartphone was straightforward (as it should be) and I did notice that the BTH20 were quick to establish a connection when turned on. For telephone calls, callers came through to me clear and I didn’t have any complaints from them about hearing me, which you’d expect with noise-cancelling phones. I still always find it a little disconcerting to hear people in both ears….

Finally, let’s take a listen. It’s time for the summer hits and without a doubt, Despacito is the summer hit of 2017, sitting at #1 in the UK and breaking the YouTube streaming record. And it sounds good on the BTH20, which really suits the big summer hits – there’s plenty of bass without overwhelming the vocals and well-defined treble keeps the hi-hats crisp. The BTH20 really delivers on those by-the-pool numbers – One Dance, Cheerleader, Get Lucky – they all sound fantastic.

Finally, the price. It’s GB£19.99 from Amazon.co.uk and US$19.99 from Amazon.com which I think is very good value. Yes, there are cheaper Bluetooth headphones out there but the combination of fit and sound quality is hard to beat.

Any improvements?….colour other than black would be cool as these deserve to be noticed. Apparently there is a silver version but it’s currently unavailable.

Wrapping up, the iClever BTH20 Bluetooth headphones are currently my favourite headphones for “out and about”. The sound is good, the fit is great (for me) and the price is right. Perfect for the summer holidays! Put them in your bag.

Thanks to iClever for providing the BTH20 for review. Unboxing video below.

 


Hyper Loop & Elon Musk #1213



If Elon Musk has his way the Hyper Loop will be shooting us between big cities at 700 miles per hour. Where can I sign up just to beat the Honolulu traffic I just need to move. Great line up of topics on today’s show.

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Blizzard Celebrates Necromancer’s First Season with a Giveaway



Blizzard Entertainment has created a giveaway as a way of celebrating the Necromancer’s first Season. Someone will win everything they need to start from scratch with the brand new Necromancer class – and more!

When Diablo III first launched, it came with 5 different classes (each of which could be played as male or female characters). Those classes were: Barbarian, Demon Hunter, Monk, Witch Doctor, and Wizard. Later, the first (and potentially only) expansion to Diablo III was released. The Diablo III: Reaper of Souls expansion added one more class, the Crusader.

Blizzard introduced the Necromancer class into the game in a way they haven’t done before. If you want to play this new class, you have to purchase the Rise of the Necromancer Pack. It comes with two additional character slots (that you can fill with two brand new Necromancers), and other assorted cosmetic items.  The Rise of the Necromancer pack costs $14.99 on the Blizzard Store.

Those who play Diablo III know that the game includes Seasons, where you can start a brand new character (or rebirth an existing one) and race to reach the top of the leaderboard. Season 11 just started, and it is the first Season after the Necromancer was added to the game.

Blizzard has a “Season of the Necromancer Giveaway” going on now.  To enter, all you need to do is enter your name and Battle.net email on the giveaway’s website. You also must check a box stating that you have read the Official Rules & Regulations.

A total of 5 randomly selected qualified entrants will win:
1 Necromancer T-shirt
1 Diablo III Battle Chest
1 Rise of the Necromancer Pack game code
1 Diablo III Book of Cain Sketchbook
1 Signed copy of the Reaper of Souls Collector’s Edition

The deadline for entering this giveaway is July 26, 2017 at 11:59 PM PST.


StarCraft War Chest Supports StarCraft II eSports



Blizzard is starting a limited-time offer that is designed to generate interest in StarCraft – and to financially support StarCraft II eSports. StarCraft War Chest has three phases that will unlock on separate dates.

Phase I unlocks on July 19, 2017. Phase II unlocks on August 16, 2017. Phase III unlocks on September 23, 2017. Starting on October 4, 2017, there will be a Double XP bonus. The purpose of the extra XP is to help players to complete their War Chest. That same date is the purchase deadline for StarCraft War Chests. The War Chest offer closes on November 4, 2017.

War Chest: BlizzCon 2017 introduces more than 70 new items (spread across three phases), including sprays, emoticons, exclusive portraits, and StarCraft II’s first army-wide skins, all for a steeply discounted price.

On July 19, players can choose to purchase a War Chest for an individual StarCraft race (Protoss, Terran, or Zerg) for $9.99. Or, players can buy the entire collection for $24.99. The first War Chest you purchase unlocks some loot for other Blizzard Games: A Tal’darim pet for Diablo III, a Heroes of the Storm Loot Chest, and a free Hearthstone card pack.

Each War Chest begins with a single unit skin and an exclusive portrait. Additional skins are divided into three phases, and each can be unlocked by playing Multiplayer or Co-op matches during or after the corresponding phase, until by the end of the challenge you have a full set.

Progress is applied retroactively to newly purchased War Chests. If you have unlocked 5 rewards from the Zerg War Chest, and you purchase a Protoss War Chest, you will immediately unlock 5 Protoss rewards. Progress is shared across War Chests, so if you purchase more than one, you can work on them all simultaneously.

Blizzard states that 25% of all War Chest purchases go directly to StarCraft II eSports. The first $200K will be added to the $500K BlizzCon 2017 prize pool, with any surplus contributing to StarCraft II event production.


OxyLED T35 LED Desk Lamp Review



The OxyLED T35 Desk Lamp is a small silver grey LED desk light powered by USB. It’s a neat idea given the availability of USB ports and reduces the need for mains power sockets, which are always in short supply. Let’s take look and see if the T35 can replace my Anglepoise.

The T35 has three main parts – a weighted base, an upright with microUSB power socket and a cross-piece with two rows of white LEDs at the end of the longer side. The cross-piece is hinged at the upright to raise or lower the light. and can fold parallel to the upright. The base is 13.5 cm across and with the cross-piece horizontal, the light is 24.5 cm tall. At full reach, the T35 is just under 45 cm. From a distance the silver grey finish does a fairly good impression of being metal, but it’s obviously plastic when you touch it.

In the box, there’s the lamp itself along with a 1.5 m USB cable. The cable is white, which might appeal to Apple lovers, but I would have preferred a colour matched cable in dark grey. Even black would have been better in my opinion. It’s also a pity that the microUSB port isn’t a bit lower down the the upright…or a right-angle microUSB plug would have been good too.

Some descriptions of the T35 refer to the lamp as being USB-charged but let’s be clear here: it’s USB-powered as there’s no battery. Pull out the cable and the light goes off. Obviously the T35 can be run from a USB battery pack if needed. The low voltage is good for children too – no-one’s going to get a shock off this.

On the plus side, the OxyLED lamp can adjust the LED brightness. Tap the on/off button once and the T35 comes on full power (160 lm), but now hold the button and the brightness will slowly fade to the desired level. Tap it again and the light will go completely off. I like this feature as I can get the light level just right. The LEDs put out a slightly yellow colour, which is much better than the harsh blue white of some LEDs.

The max power output of the T35 is 4W so clearly there are energy-saving benefits over a normal desk lamp that at worst, has a 60W incandescent bulb. The LEDs are expected to have a 20,000 hour lifespan. That’s over 2 years.

Where it goes wrong for the T35 is the price – it’s currently on Amazon.co.uk for a penny under GB£40 (though it’s a slightly more reasonable US$29.99 on Amazon.com). That’s too expensive for a plastic light without a battery no matter how stylish. I think somewhere around £15-£20 would be about right.

Thanks to OxyLED for providing the T35 for review. Unboxing video below.


Sitpack 2 Gets Shorty



Continuing their mission to make waiting a little more comfortable, Sitpack have announced version two of their portable compact seat. At first glance, the new model looks exactly like the old one but there are two important improvements which will be covered shortly. I reviewed the original Sitpack back in May and as most of the review still stands, this update will focus on the new features only.

As a quick refresh, initially the Sitpack looks much like a 500 ml drinks can and weighs about the same. Made from glass-fibre reinforced polycarbonate, it’s secret is that it opens up and telescopes out into a T-shaped lean-to seat. The tired owner then rests on the Sitpack with a slight lean backwards. It’s surprisingly effective once any self-consciousness is overcome.

The new version 2 has two main improvements. First, Sitpack v2 has more height adjustment. The telescopic leg has six segments and in the first version, the only adjustment involved the topmost segment which could be extended or collapsed. Simply, v1 only had two different heights (87 cm or 75 cm). With the new version, each segment can be collapsed if needed and v2 has six possible heights, from 32 cm to 87 cm in 11 cm increments. This makes the Sitpack v2 much more useful for shorter people and children, though I have trouble getting my kids to sit still at any time…

I received an early production model of the new version and the instructions still had dire warnings about not collapsing any tubes other than top one, but I’m sure this will be addressed before the Sitpack v2 goes on wider sale. Here’s the Sitpack fully extended showing all the segments on the left, and it shortened to just four segments on the right. As before, the leg locks into place by twisting the segments.

     

The second change involves the rubber foot, which now pops in and out much more easily. With v1, getting the foot out was easy enough with some tugging, but getting it back in involved much twisting and pushing. There’s no change to the foot itself, but there’s now a plastic collar to ease it in to the Sitpack tube.

Currently the Sitpack is available in three colours; Pitch Black, Easy Blue and Black Camo. Base pricing is in euros but the Danish outfit sells to Europe, UK, USA, Canda, Australia, Japan and Hong Kong, to name just a few. The Black and Blue editions are currently €47 (GB£41, US$54) and the Camo one is slightly more at €55 (GB£48, US$63).

Thanks to Mono+Mono for providing the Sitpack for review.