Geek News: Latest Technology, Product Reviews, Gadgets and Tech Podcast News for Geeks

555 Timer IC Footstool

Posted by Andrew at 12:00 AM on July 14, 2011

Looking for a cool and geeky DIY project? Then this 555 Timer IC footstool might be just the thing for you. Imagine a small little chip scaled up thousands of times and you’ve got a something that would make a perfect footstool. Here it is and that’s the actual chip in the foreground.

Put together by the guys’n'gals over at Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories, it’s a straightforward project, especially if you have access to a CNC router. Based on the Signetics 555 timer IC from 1971 but still in production today, there’s full instructions on the Evil Mad Scientist site.

All photos by Windell Oskay.


MIYA Customised Headphones

Posted by Andrew at 12:44 AM on June 7, 2011

If you feel that white headphones mark you as just one of the herd, and that black headphones are a bit dull, then you’ll want to check out MIYA headphones, because these come in more colour combinations than you can possibly imagine.

Each set of headphones has 18 colour changeable parts and you can build your own headphones from the builder on the MIYA website. There’s a picture of it below. Now you can have headphones to match your clothes – imagine a set in lurid colours to go with your Lycra sportswear.

They’ll work with any device that has an audio 3.5 mm jack, so that’s most mp3 players, iPods and so on.

Price is HKD 388 (Hong Kong dollars) but there’s HKD 150 off if you order before the end of June. There’s a checkout code on the website for the discount. For comparison, HKD 400 is about US$ 50 or GB£30.

Can’t comment on the audio quality as I haven’t got a pair myself. Let us know if you get a set.

Quirky – Social Product Development

Posted by Andrew at 3:42 PM on May 23, 2011

I love these entrepreneurial websites such as Kickstarter. It’s a vicarious pleasure in seeing other people’s ideas and helping these people succeed by investing in their products. I found a new one today – Quirky – which I think takes the idea development to the next level. Quirky refer to it as a “A Socially Developed Product (TM)” and they help you take a product from the idea through product development to production and sales.

Here’s Quirky’s product development process.

The Quirky Process (courtesy of Quirky)

What seems to be unique about Quirky (and to be fair, I haven’t exhaustively researched the topic) is that part of the process is to encourage feedback from Quirky members to improve the product. They call it “community curation”. It’s a great idea especially if it leads to better products.

Taking it further, Quirky has this notion of influence. You earn influence by submitting ideas or commenting on products, and influence converts into a proportion of the profit from those objects that you worked on. The explanation is a bit opaque in places and I’d be interested to see what sort of money people make but it seems to be way to reward everyone who helped make the product a success.

There are some really interesting products on the site and the one that currently has my eye is the Converge docking station. It’s probably less docking station and more charging station but it looks great and solves a problem that many of us have.

The Converge is in pre-sale and so far it looks like it has garnered only 69 orders out of the 1300 needed to put it into production, so I don’t know how many products actually make it from pre-sale to production.

Overall, I like the idea and I’ll be following along but with all of these things, exercise caution. If you’ve got a great idea, it might be an excellent place to get a product into the market. But you need to read the small print and understand ownership of the intellectual property and design, your portion of the profit and so on – I haven’t delved into any of these things yet. If you aren’t happy, walk away.

$35,000 Grasscutter

Posted by Andrew at 6:34 AM on May 12, 2011

As I was out for a short walk today, I came across this tracked and remote controlled grass cutter working on grassy bank. To be fair, I don’t pay much attention to agricultural news but the last time I saw anything like this, it was looking for explosives in Baghdad.

To get an idea of the scale, it was about two metres long, travelled at a fast walking pace and was powered by a small petrol motor, so it was noisy enough.

I had a chat to the operator and he was saying that they use it on banks and other steep slopes where it would be difficult or dangerous for a person to use a mower. The cutter was controlled by a small RC unit with two little sticks, one for forwards-backwards and another for left-right. It comes from a Danish company called Timan and there’s a gallery of pictures here.

The surprise was when he said how much the grasscutter cost….£22,000 or roughly $35,000. That’s alot of money for a lawnmower.

B-Squares: Modular Solar Powered Electrics

Posted by Andrew at 2:11 PM on May 11, 2011

I sometimes think that between KickStarter and Etsy anything that can be imagined, will become reality…

Today’s funding opportunity from KickStarter are B-Squares, a 3D modular solar powered energy system that connects up using magnetic and electrical contacts. There’s solar cell square, a rechargeable battery square, an Arduino square, an LED square and iPhone charger square. The more squares you have, the more you can do.

It’s a project by Jordan McRae and Shawn Frayne, and it’s already been fully funded after just 5 days. There’s various levels of funding that you can go for, from $15 for a single solar square through to 15 squares for $250. There’s further coverage over at cnet.

If you haven’t already appreciated how brilliant these are, just watch the video. Then you’ll get it.

HecklerDesign and OneLessDrop

Posted by Andrew at 5:09 PM on February 28, 2011

Dean Heckler of HeckerDesign creates modern space saving home-office furniture out of his studio in Phoenix, AZ. Aimed at those of us who would love a bijoux pad out of Wallpaper* magazine but don’t either have the space or the money, it’s powder-coated steel made to match the latest tech gear. His OneLessDesk is already a classic. It’s also made in the USA.

There’s also a very tasty iPad stand, the @Rest, which I suspect would do for many tablets (perhaps it will fit the HP TouchPad). Comes in a range of colours and a bargain at $59.

Dean’s latest creation is OneLessDrop, a solution to the problem that many of us have…when you unplug your laptop’s power cable it promptly disappears down the back of the desk faster than you can say, “Steve Jobs”.

The OneLessDrop is an H-shaped block of recycled aluminium designed to hold a couple of cables in place at the edge of the desk. You can see it in the picture below. Definitely much more stylish than Sellotape.

To finance this development, Dean is funding the project through Kickstarter. If you haven’t come across Kickstarter before, it’s a collaborative website where entrepreneurs can seek micro-financing from individual backers. In this instance, you can pledge from $25 upwards in return for one or more OneLessDrops plus behind-the-scenes footage as the project progresses. There’s a video and some more pictures on the website.

I’ve chipped in but if you want to get in on the pre-order action, there’s less that 30 hours to go before the order book closes.

Control Sphero From Your Smartphone

Posted by Andrew at 3:11 PM on February 13, 2011

Scott gets a demo of Orbotix‘s Sphero from Adam, one of the company’s founders. At first glance, Sphero is a robotic ball remotely controlled from a smartphone or tablet. Yes, I was kind of underwhelmed too, but fortunately, it’s a bit more than that. To start with, Sphero is as much a game development platform as it is a product and second, while you can move the ball as you’d expect, you can also get information back from the ball.

The example given in the video is that two Spheros can recognise when they’re close or touch each other, so tag or sumo games become a possibility. Taking it further, there could be augmented reality games where you move Sphero into objects only seen on screen.

On launch, Sphero will work with iOS and Android devices with ports to other smartphone platforms in the future. Available for the 2011 holiday season for under $100. If you are interested, you can make a reservation for your own Sphero or two.

Interview by Scott Elliot for the Tech Podcast Network.

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Able Planet and Linx Audio Headphones

Posted by Andrew at 11:26 PM on February 8, 2011

Todd listens to Mary Semcken, VP of Marketing for Able Planet, which has an innovative technology for reducing the decibel level of headphones without reducing the richness of the sound. Amazingly, Able Planet has won a CES Innovation Award every year from 2006 through 2010.

Mary shows off three new headsets, the first in military-style colours so that you can wear the colours of your team while playing Call of Duty. Camo, desert, navy.

Secondly, Able Planet has developed a Signature series of headphones in conjunction with a number of sportstars. Motocross women’s champion Ashley Fiolek has a pink set with 10% of proceeds going to breast cancer charities and Chris Anderson’s (“the bird man”) Signature set has copies of his tattoos on the phones.

All available shortly from major retailers and direct from Able Planet.

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central.

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MusicSkins – Make Your Gadget Yours

Posted by Andrew at 2:53 PM on February 8, 2011

Andy personalises his gear with help from Jed Seifert of MusicSkins. Why settle for piano black or ice white, just because they’re what Apple says is cool? With vinyl skins, you can customise your phone or mp3 player from a choice of literally thousands of skins. Whether it’s Madonna or Muse, Johnny C or Jay-Z, there’s a skin for you.

Skipping the hyperbole, MusicSkins offer a huge range of vinyl skins for a wide range of phones, mp3 players, tablets and laptops and all ages and tastes. All the designs are officially licensed and there’s new licensing deal with MTV to tie in with their media properties. But if you can’t find something you like you can design your own.The skins are easy to apply and hard wearing.

Prices start at $14.99 for a smartphone. Available on-line and in retail stores.

Interview by Andy McCaskey of SDR News.

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Oxygen Audio O Car Integrated Head Unit for iPhone

Posted by Andrew at 9:09 AM on February 1, 2011

Andy sounds out French auto audiophiles Oxygen Audio and their award-winning O Car integrated head unit for the iPhone. It’s totally awesome – the iPhone mounts into the head unit of the car stereo and then acts as the controller for all the audio functions, including playing from iTunes.  There’s even an RDS tuner built into the unit for the radio. Even better, the iPhone can move away from the head unit on a swivel and can be used as normal, running any apps that you want – GPS, Pandora, whatever. Of course, there’s full Bluetooth integration. Absolutely brilliant. Check out the pictures below and you’ll get the idea. Yeah, you want one.

Available now in France and will be shipping very shortly in the USA for around $300. See, I told you…you want one.

Interview by Andy McCaskey of SDR News.

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