A week on the wrist with the Alpina Startimer


It’s refreshing to wear a mechanical watch. The soft sweep of the seconds hand reminds us of the fleeting nature of time while the endless ticking in a dark room is a comfort and a spur to action. Add in a little limited edition provenance with big face and crown and you’ve got a stew going.

This particular stew is called the Alpina Startimer. It is a pilot’s watch, a watch with a large face and huge numerals used by old-timey fighter pilots during World War II. Designed with a huge crown which, as William Gibson wrote, “is rather more than usually prominent, so that you can do it without removing your whacking great RAF pilot’s gloves,” the pilot’s watch is the ultimate in utilitarian wrist-wear. You don’t admire a pilot’s watch, you address it for a split second…

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Google Assistant is coming to older Android phones and tablets


The Google Assistant, Google’s take on Siri, Cortana and Alexa without the approachable name, has long been available on most modern phones and tablets. But given the fragmentation of the Android ecosystem, many older devices will never get the newer versions of Android that actually feature built-in support for the Assistant. Now, however, Google is bringing support for its voice-activated helper to phones running Android 5.0 Lollipop and tablets running Android 7.0 Nougat and 6.0 Marshmallow.

Lollipop launched back in 2014, so we’re talking about a rather old phone operating system here (Android 8.1 is now standard on Google’s own Pixel phones), but according to Google, more than 26 percent of all Android devices still run some version of Android 5.0 Lollipop. Just over 30…

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Mario Bear has come to save 2017


It’s been a long year – it feels like it actually spanned about 50, in fact. But now, at the end, some relief: Mario Bear.

Yes, it’s just a bear from Build-A-Bear Workshop. And a ‘brand collaboration,’ that horrific thing that usually just means some executives get a larger Christmas bonus and more people are convinced to part with their hard-earned money for something they don’t need. But this is a Mario Bear.

There’s also a Yoshi. And a Bowser. And a Toad. And a Luigi costume in case you want your bear to represent one of Nintendo’s slightly less appreciated protagonists. And a Princess Peach costume so you can prep your bear for far-flung adventuring (play Super Mario Odyssey if you don’t get this reference).

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Apple invests $390 million in TrueDepth component maker Finisar


Apple announced a substantial investment in Finisar. Apple is giving Finisar $390 million to build a new 700,000-square-foot manufacturing plant in Sherman, Texas. Finisar is going to hire 500 people to work on the laser sensor in the TrueDepth camera in the iPhone X.

Today’s investment is part of Apple’s commitment to invest $1 billion in U.S.-based companies with its Advanced Manufacturing Fund.

Apple says that Finisar is going to work on both research & development and high-volume production of optical communications components. The most complicated components are the vertical-cavity surface-emitting lasers (VCSELs) used in the iPhone X for Face ID, Animoji, Portrait mode and other face-mapping technologies. But Finisar also works on proximity sensors including the ones in…

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Review: Shinola Canfield headphones are an overpriced mess

T

he Shinola Canfield headphones cost $600 and do not ship with a 1/2-inch stereo adapter. That should tell you everything you need to know. But if not, keep reading and let me explain why these fashion headphones are not worth the price.

I tested these headphones in a way that I thought they would be most widely used. I pitted them against several competitors using my iPhone 8 with Spotify. I also used an Onkyo stereo receiver with a Audio Technica turntable to test their upper limit. It was an enjoyable afternoon.

Before we get started, it’s important to note that I’m not a professional audio reviewer. I don’t have balanced power cables or a selection of FLAC tracks dedicated to testing equipment. But I do have a nice collection of headphones and a rather…

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Clap on! Clap off! It’s Clapboss!


Sure Alexa can sing you a song but can you clap back at her? A new product by the makers of the Freewrite lets you do just that.

Called Clapboss, this smiling dongle lets you clap up to four times to activate various things around your house. Clap twice to turn off your lights! Three times to turn off the TV! Four times to be reminded that you are now a slave to emotionless technologies!

This wacky little product costs $39 on Kickstarter and will cost $80 retail. Importantly, the product has a high degree of accuracy thanks to advanced clapping detection algorithms. But don’t take my word for it…

“The design of Clapboss with its expressive design and soft, silicone ears are meant to be approachable to anyone, young and old,” said creator Adam Leeb. “Clapping is fun, fast,…

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Devialet built a car audio system for Renault’s Symbioz concept car


High-end speaker maker Devialet is branching out of home speakers. The company announced a partnership with Renault for its first ever car audio system. You can’t buy a Renault car with Devialet speakers just yet, but there’s a Renault concept car with those speakers.

Devialet has always said that it wasn’t just a speaker manufacturer. The French startup has worked on its own amplification technology. It is supposed to be much better than everything else out there when it comes to building powerful-yet-compact speakers.

The company first partnered with Sky to build a surround sound TV speaker. And now, Devialet wants to be in your car.

Renault has been demonstrating its Symbioz concept car as the future of autonomous, connected and electric cars. And it seemed like a good…

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MakeX announces the first 3D-printing backpack


In the year 2020, when the Earth is overrun by aliens, it will be mandated by the Galactic Council of Extraterrestrial Life that all children must walk around with 3D-printing backpacks. Why not get a head start with the MakeX Migo backpack that lets you care your ultra small 3D printer anywhere you need to go?

This wild, see-through backpack is designed to hold a Migo 3D Printer (the thing MakeX is actually trying to sell). The backpack fits the Migo perfectly and offers the maximum visibility for your 3D printer thanks to the clear hardshell outer casing.

The printer itself is fairly standard. It prints ABS or PLA plastic and includes modeling software. It weighs about 4 pounds and has a 100x120x100 mm build envelope which means you can print things like smaller action figures and…

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Some HP laptops are hiding a deactivated keylogger


Researcher Michael Myng found a deactivated keylogger in a piece of software found on over 460 HP laptop models. A full list of affected laptops is here. The keylogger is deactivated by default but could represent a privacy concern if an attacker has physical access to the computer.

“Some time ago someone asked me if I can figure out how to control HP’s laptop keyboard backlight,” wrote Myng. “I asked for the keyboard driver SynTP.sys, opened it in IDA, and after some browsing noticed a few interesting strings.”

The strings led to something that appeared to be a hidden keylogger – a program that sends typed characters to an attacker – in a Synaptics device driver. Given that the decompiled code prepared and sent key presses to an unnamed target, Myng was fairly certain…

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