Tag Archive: Gadgets


IMG_9682

If you want a rangefinder-style camera with classic styling and relative affordability, Fujifilm’s X100, and its successor, the X100S are some of the very few options out there. But the X100 had quirks around autofocus that made a niche camera even more specialized. The X100S zaps some of those issues, resulting in a camera that, while still quirky, is much more lovably so, for amateurs and enthusiasts alike.

  • 16.3 megapixels, APS-C sensor
  • Fixed, F2 maximum aperture 23mm (35mm equivalent) lens
  • ISO 200 -6400 (100 to 25600 extended)
  • 6.0 FPS burst mode shooting
  • 1080p video recording
  • Hybrid electronic view finder
  • MSRP: $1,299.95
  • Product info page

The X100S retains almost exactly the same classic styling as its predecessor, which features a leatherette body with metal accents, and it looks excellent. This is a camera that you’re actually proud to wear around your neck, even if it does make you look slightly like a tourist, and one that resembles the Leicas that cost oodles more money.

The X100S might be a little bulky for a camera with a fixed lens that isn’t a DSLR, but it’s actually a good size. It won’t quite fit in a pocket as a result, but it gives photographers plenty to hold onto, and offers up lots of space for its ample buttons and physical controls without resulting in a cramped feeling. Plus the thing oozes quality; it’s a $1,300 camera, but it feels even more solid and well-designed than its tidy price tag would let on, and it’s durable to boot – I’ve carted it literally around the world with minimal protection and it’s as good as new.

Functionally, the control layout is the real star of the X100S. A physical dial for exposure compensation and for shutter speed, as well as an aperture ring on the lens and quick access to ISO settings programmable via the Fn button on the top of the camera make this a manual photographer’s dream – and possible an automatic photographer’s overburdened mess. But that’s part of the quirk, and the real appeal of this unique camera.

The X100S offers a lot in the way of features, including the excellent hybrid viewfinder that can switch instantly between optical and electronic modes thanks to a lever on the front of the camera within easy reach from shooting position. It’s the best of old and new, giving you a chance to frame with true fidelity optical quality and also with a preview akin to the one you’d see on the back of the camera via the LCD screen. You can preview exposure that way, and white balance as well as depth of field. The EVF also offers 100 percent coverage of the image, meaning what you see is what you get in the resulting photo.

Manual focusing also gets a big improvement with the X100S, which is great because focus-by-wire is traditionally a big weakness on non DSLR advanced cameras. It uses a new Digital Split Image method that works with phase detection to adjust focus with a high degree of accuracy, and it works remarkably well. To my eye, which is generally very bad at achieving consistently reliable level of focus accuracy on full manual lenses with my DSLR, the split image trick (along with the inclusion of existing focus peaking tech) works amazingly well.

The X100S is a much better camera in all respects than its predecessor, the X100, and that was a very good camera. Its “Intelligent Hybrid Auto Focus” that switches between phase and contract AF automatically to lock as quickly as possible works very well, though it does struggle somewhat in darker settings and at closer ranges still. It’s heaps and bounds better than the original, however, and makes this camera a great one for street shooting; a task which, to my mind, it seems almost perfectly designed for.

Combining a camera that looks suitably touristy, with a short, compact lens and a 35mm equivalent focal lens, with great low-light shooting capabilities and fast autofocus makes for a great street camera, so if that’s what you’re after I can’t recommend this enough. It performed less well as an indoor candid shooter, owing to some leftover weakness at achieving focus lock close up, but it’s still good at that job too. In general, the X100S is a great camera for shooting human subjects, in my opinion, thanks to its signature visual style that seems to compliment skin especially well.

The X100S is a photographer’s everyday camera. It might frustrate newcomers, unless they’re patient and willing to learn, but it’s a joy to use if you have any kind of familiarity with manual settings, and the fixed focal length is a creative constraint that produces some amazing results. This isn’t the camera for everybody, but it’s a more broadly appealing shooter than the X100 ever was, and it’s also even a steal at $1,300 – if, that is, you have that kind of disposable income to spend on photography tools. Know that if you do spend the cash, this is definitely a camera that will stay in your bag and/or around your neck for a long time to come, and a worthy upgrade for X100 fans, too.

edge-1-large

Smartphone companies have it pretty rough – they’ve got to sink millions into research and development every year, all in the hope of making their next shiny touchscreen gewgaw the fastest, slimmest, smartest, prettiest one ever. And every year we eat it all up, and take what we’re given.

But Canonical, the folks behind the incredibly popular Ubuntu Linux distro, isn’t your average phone smartphone company. It doesn’t have a huge production budget like Samsung or Apple, so it decided to crowdfund the creation of its first phone. Turns out that’s not the only thing they’re doing differently – Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth is currently fielding questions on Reddit, and he’s expressed interest in having backers of this current project getting some sort of say over what goes in future models.

And thus, Mark may have just come up with the coolest backer perk ever. Quoth Shuttleworth:

“This first version of the Edge is to prove the concept of crowdsourcing ideas for innovation, backed by crowdfunding. If it gets greenlighted, then I think we’ll have an annual process by which the previous generation backers get to vote on the spec for the next generation of Edge.”

In case you haven’t been following the story, the Edge is an awfully handsome concept for a phone that will run Ubuntu and Android and sport a sapphire glass-covered 4.5-inch 1280 720 display, along with the “fastest available” multi-core mobile processor, 4GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. The internet being what it is, Redditors couldn’t help but throw out bits of hardware for Shuttleworth and the Edge team to consider for the current model anyway. IR blaster? A “cool idea,” he says. Wireless charging? Probably not going to happen.

Shuttleworth was pretty forthcoming when it came to lingering questions about the Edge’s design and proposed rollout. As it happens, the team is still having trouble figuring out what sort of speaker system to throw into the thing (my two cents: the closer to HTC’s Boomsound setup the better), but it Canonical has asked potential carrier partners to agree to take note of a set of conditions that should minimize bloatware if the Edge is ever picked up and sold with long-term contracts.

Now this all hinges on the notion that Canonical was right in thinking that enough people would believe in a company that has never made a smartphone before to basically pre-order one for (at least) $675. In a way, this is a perfect move – if the project hits critical mass, everyone gets a phone. If it doesn’t, well, no harm no foul. The crowdfunding movement has given a software company a shot at really making a mark in an industry dominated by giants, some of which are already feeling the pinch because their pricey flagship devices perhaps aren’t selling in the astronomical numbers they were hoping for.

And so far, things appear to be going rather well. Canonical’s Indiegogo campaign only went live three days ago and Ubuntu fans have already chipped in just a hair under $6 million. Of course, there’s no guarantee that sort of traction will continue for any serious length of time – the company has already had to add some less expensive device pricing tiers to keep the campaign from flaming out too soon, and it’s still got a ways to go before it hits the $32 million goal.

(Oh, and in case you were wondering, Shuttleworth seems to be tackling nearly every question being thrown at him – no Rampart shenanigans here.)

canary

There are some 90 million homes in the U.S. without any security system whatsoever. Many of them are renters who don’t want to invest heavily in a place they don’t own, among hundreds of thousands of home owners who are simply priced out. There has never been a convenient, all-in-one system that could offer home security at an affordable rate, much less one you could pick up at the local Best Buy.

But that all changes with Canary, the latest crowd-funding sensation to hit Indiegogo. We caught up with NYC-based founder Adam Sager to discuss the project.

Canary is a little console, slightly smaller than the size of a paper towel roll, that’s packed with a host of sensors, a mic, and an HD camera.

For $200 down, this little guy will connect to the Wifi, sync with your phone, and constantly watch your home. I say watch, and not monitor, because Canary can only see as far as its sensors will allow, whereas most home security systems are wired in to monitor every crack and crevice of a home. Canary can only hear as far as the mic allows, or the camera sees, or the sensors can sense.

However, Sager believes that when you place the Canary in the central part of your home, near the front door perhaps or watching over the living room, that a real threat, like a burglar, will likely set off the Canary no matter where it enters from.

Plus, if you have a larger space or want added security, you can always link more than one Canary (up to four, Sager tells me).

Canary’s sensors include night vision, motion detection, temperature, air quality and humidity, along with a live feed to the HD camera at any given time. The phone will instantly alert the user whenever the home experiences a random change, like a temperature fluctuation or sudden movement.

But Canary is also smart enough to learn your home, sensing the difference between a burglary and a pet. It even understands when regularly scheduled events occur, like the arrival of a nanny or a dog walker at the same time each day, so that you don’t have a panic attack each time Rover needs to take a wizz.

Canary’s distribution model is different from any other home security system in that you will eventually be able to go pick one up at a local electronics store on the cheap. This has never really been available before, and the potential market is huge with 90 million homes completely unprotected and priced out of the alternatives.

Sager admits that margins on the hardware itself won’t be that high, but the plan is to offer value-added services like monitoring (delivered by a TBD third-party) for $10/month.

Canary has been on Indiegogo for four days, and has blown far beyond its $100k goal to be at $550k at the time of writing. It only took a few hours to reach $100k, according to Sager.

If you’d like to back the project, head on over to the Canary website or check out the Indiegogo campaign.

nexus7-refreshed

The new Google Nexus 7 is a big improvement over the original with a bunch of additions like LTE and a super high-resolution display – the best in tablets, in fact. And that’s driving a lot of first generation device owners to trade in their old Nexus 7, according to gadget buy-back site Gazelle. There was a 333 percent spike in the number of Nexus 7 tablets traded in compared to the same day last week, for example.

Between Tuesday and Wednesday, that spike was even higher – a 442 percent jump in Nexus 7 tablets happened between the day before Google’s official unveiling of the new model, and the day of. The Nexus 7 trade-in activity spiked so high that it made up nearly a quarter of all trade-ins for non-iPad tablets since the site began accepting them earlier this year.

Wednesday, the day Google made its announcement, was also the biggest Nexus 7 trade-in day at Gazelle to date, beating the next biggest day by 380 percent. That previous record was set when the new Nexus 7 leaked on July 17, which clearly prompted early adopters to take advantage of a small head start ahead of the big reveal.

The news means that Google Nexus 7 owners are probably happy with their devices and eager to grab new ones, by trading in their last-gen devices to fund their purchases, but there’s another stat that tells another side of the story: Gazelle saw no appreciable increase in iPad trade-ins on the new Nexus 7 launch day. That means Google probably isn’t luring iPad owners away from the iOS fold.

It’s probably not surprising to longtime tablet space watchers that the new Nexus 7, with all its apparent merit, isn’t an iPad killer. The Apple camp seems happy where they are, but the tablet market has plenty of room to grow; we’ll see if Google can expand outward, or if it’s mostly eating its own Nexus tail with this new model.

shine3

Fitbits. FuelBands. UPs. The market for smart, connected activity trackers continues to get ever-more crowded. And yet, there’s not an obvious winner yet.

Misfit Wearables’ Shine is a new entrant in the space and they may have the most beautifully-designed piece of hardware yet. The company behind the Shine is itself a homage to Apple founder Steve Jobs’ famous “Think Different” campaign and the famous 1997 commercial that began with the line, “Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits.

Backed by Founders Fund and Khosla Ventures, the company was co-founded by Sonny Vu, who built up a glucose-monitoring business called Agamatrix that had the first official medical device add-on to the iPhone, and former Apple CEO John Sculley. For a small startup, they have an impressively multi-national team with industrial designers in San Francisco, data scientists in Vietnam and manufacturing in South Korea and Japan.

The Shine is a tiny circle not much larger than a quarter that’s made from Japanese metal or aircraft-grade aluminum. It has LED lights beneath the surface that glow through minuscule holes on the metal itself. Those lights form a ring, indicating how far a person is toward completing their activity goals for the day. You tap the Shine twice to see how much progress you’ve made. If half the lights shine, you’re halfway done. If they complete a circle, then you’ve hit your goal.


I had a chance to test it out for a week or so, tracking everything from regular walks to dancing and downhill mountain biking.

Overall, I love the product. It looks like a piece of jewelry in many ways, and while I’m not an industrial designer myself, several other friends who work in hardware were impressed by the make and form of the Shine.

It is not plastic like a Fitbit. Then because it doesn’t have to be worn as a bracelet like the FuelBand or Jawbone UP, it looks a lot more elegant, especially if you’re a woman and want something more discreet. The Shine is comparable in price to its competitors at $99.95. The Fitbit is about $99.95, the Jawbone UP is $129.99 and the Nike FuelBand is about $150.

The Shine has four different accessories: a wristband, a necklace, a watch and a magnetic clip that makes it easy to attach anywhere, from your shoe to your sleeve to your shirt. My preferred accessory was the magnetic clip, but I didn’t have a chance to try out the necklace or watch.

Throughout the day, the Shine tracks how much you walk or run. It also handles sleep, swimming and cycling, but you have to program it. To do that, you tap the Shine three times, and it will recognize whichever activity you set up in the paired app. Unfortunately, like the other activity trackers, it doesn’t handle yoga (and as someone who practices pretty much every day, the Shine and other competing products are missing out on an hour of physical activity).

The tapping is a bit hard to learn. Sometimes I would tap with two fingers and sometimes with three. Sometimes the Shine would misinterpret a few taps as a signal to record a different type of activity instead of showing me my results so far. You can also use it to tell time with different lights glowing to represent the hour and minute hands of a watch.

“The data science to get the double tap is hard,” Vu told me. “There is no on and off button for the Shine and everything is powered by sensors.”

Indeed, the only way to turn the Shine off is for the battery to run out or for you to remove it.

That underscores the huge benefit of the Shine, which is that it doesn’t need to be charged every few days or weeks. It has a simple coin cell battery that needs to be replaced once every four to six months. It’s also waterproof to a depth of 50 meters. I dunked it in a river in the Sierra Nevadas this weekend and it came out fine, but you could theoretically scuba dive with it, too.

The data transfer to the iPhone is also beautiful. You can see how it works below. The Shine uses a simple Bluetooth connection, and the app directs you to place the Shine on a circle on the iPhone app’s screen. Circles radiate outward before the iPhone picks up the activity data in the Shine.


The paired app tells you how many points you’ve achieved in a day. The Shine doesn’t do “steps” because it would be hard to swim in steps. The middle-range goal of 1,000 points per day requires walking for 1.5 hours, running for 35 minutes or swimming for 25. You can move points higher as you please.

Overall, I was really happy with the product. It is just that much more beautiful looking than the standard Fitbit or FuelBand. For women who are turned off by the look of the bracelet trackers, it’s probably the ideal choice.

The Misfit Shine is only compatible with the iPhone for now, which was surely disappointing for Android-using supporters of the Shine who backed it on Indiegogo.

The company had a successful campaign on the crowdfunding site late last fall where they racked up 8,000 supporters in 64 countries, hit their goal in nine hours and went on to raise $850,000. That was nearly nine times as much as they targeted. Like many other hardware startups, Misfit Wearables used crowdfunding more as a marketing strategy than as a capital source. Misfit had no problem raising from some of the Valley’s better-known VC firms, and this product shows why.

ps4 xboxone 520x245 NPD November numbers: Sony says PS4 was the top selling console, Microsoft says Xbox One was fastest selling

Sony and Microsoft today both issued separate statements on how their next-generation consoles sold in November, based on data from market research firm NPD. Unsurprisingly, both companies spun the story to say they won.

Sony said its PlayStation 4 was “the top-selling console for November and PlayStation was #1 in sales overall for home consoles.” Microsoft said its Xbox One was “the fastest selling console on the market in the U.S.”

As always, the devil is in the details. The PlayStation 4 launched on November 15 while the Xbox One debuted on November 22, and these figures are only for one region, not worldwide.

Unfortunately, Sony didn’t share how many PS4s were actually sold according to NPD. Microsoft said the group found 909,132 Xbox One units were sold in the US in the console’s first nine days of availability, or an average of more than 101,000 consoles per day.

That doesn’t really tell us which console is selling better. Sony’s “top selling” angle means nothing because more console units will sell given more days of availability, so it’s no surprise the PS4 came out on top if it arrived earlier in the month. Microsoft’s “fastest selling” angle means nothing because more console units will of course sell closer to launch, so it’s no surprise the Xbox One comes out on top if it arrived later in the month.

All that we do know is that Sony has sold more than 2.1 million units of the PlayStation 4 while Microsoft has sold over 2 million units of the Xbox One.

The real question will be which console hits the next milestone, like say 10 million, significantly ahead of the other. December figures for the US will of course be highly scrutinized, given that it will be the first full month of sales for both consoles, but it won’t be the deciding factor.

In the meantime, we’ll continue to hear Sony’s and Microsoft’s PR teams battle it out with statistics about gameplay broadcasts and total hours played. The early winner, if there is one, won’t be revealed till 2014.

See also: PlayStation 4 review: Technical issues hold back Sony from greatness and Xbox One review: A multimedia extravaganza that also plays games

Tado away 520x245 Tado's smart central heating system is available in the UK now, but get an engineer to install it

Tado, the smart thermostat that can automatically moderate the temparature of your home, is now available to buy in the UK.

With the Internet of Things, smart cities and connected everything, central heating is one of the areas just waiting to be dragged into the next generation – and Tado’s not alone, with rivals in the form of other companies like Honeywell and Nest, it’s going to be a hotly contested space.

Tado’s solution

Unlike a normal thermostat, Tado’s system is controllable from a smartphone (iOS or Android) thanks to a little box you plug into your router.

This connection allows the app to send data to and from your phone, and is what allows it do to things like switch off your heating automatically as you leave the house, or use GPS to sense when you are approximately 20 minutes from home and then switch it on again, so that your house is nice and warm when you get there.

It’s a pretty appealing prospect, particularly with winter drawing in.

Tado 730x470 Tado's smart central heating system is available in the UK now, but get an engineer to install it

The system itself is relatively simple, once installed, and the idea is that with most of its functionality automated, you really shouldn’t have to set things manually at all – that’s not to say you can’t though, of course.

It really does promise to be properly smart too. Tado knows that houses heat up and cool down at different speeds and will learn over time what works best for your home. It also knows that some days will be unseasonably warm or cold by checking weather reports automatically online, and then makes adjustments to your heating schedule for the day.

Similarly, that GPS feature that senses when you’re approaching home and switches the heating on can also learn that perhaps you only work around the corner so are within range of your house all day. In this scenario, rather than keep the heating on all day in anticipation of your arrival home, it keeps it at a lower temperature, ready to heat up quickly when you do actually start to return.

The app also supports more than one user too, so the whole family can get in on the Tado action.

In theory

While this is all great in theory, those features depend on one key thing: getting it installed, a feat I never achieved.

When I attended the UK Tado launch in London a few weeks ago, the product was being pitched as primarily self-installable. The exact words bandied about were “if you can change a lightbulb, you can install this” and “if you can put together Ikea furniture ,you can do this”. I can do both of those things, but following Tado’s instructions nearly got me into hot water – pun intended.

Because each system needs to be tailored to your heating system – the type of boiler and thermostat, plus potential external controllers – each comes with its own self-installation workflow. Unfortunately, while the section to remove the mains-wired thermostat was correct, the section on connecting it to the boiler wasn’t, meaning, if I had I followed it, I would have incorrectly connected the Live, Earth and Neutral wires directly into my boiler’s control panel. Fortunately, I did not.

Instead, I let Tado know and they provided me with a new set of instructions, and while less incorrect, they were still incorrect and resulted in no power to my boiler whatsoever. I then rolled back what I had done and decided I no longer wanted to install the Tado myself. I can change a lightbulb, but that has never involved tampering with my mains electricity before.

Again, I let Tado know the situation and as a result of the feedback the company said it will no longer recommend self-installation as the default. Instead, an engineer is now the recommended default installation method and will be provided free of charge for customers that buy the system between now and January 2014. After that, it’s chargeable – currently listed on the site as 89.

This means that from January, it’ll cost 249 for the Tado kit and 89 for installation. Delivery is just under 10, making the total 347.80. There’s also an option to rent the system, at 6.99 per month. The total cost for taking this route for 12 months is 182.68 (including the initial installation and delivery costs) and then 83.88 for each year after that.

Tado cost 520x553 Tado's smart central heating system is available in the UK now, but get an engineer to install it

While not prohibitively expensive, the apparent need for an engineer visit does add quite significantly to the overall price. Renters might also want to bear in mind that your landlord or management agency is unlikely to be too pleased with you having changed the controls for the central heating, so you’ll probably want to have it removed before you leave – meaning another engineer visit or braving it on your own.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that there’s a good chance it might not be compatible with the system in your next house too, if you’re renting your home.

For home owners or people with no imminent house move in sight, these kind of concerns are, of course, less of an issue.

The future of heating?

The kind of experience that Tado is aiming to deliver is undoubtedly the future of central heating, but with a few companies already in the space – or looking to soon enter the UK market – like Honeywell and Nest, whether Tado will be the company to crack it remains to be seen.

For home owners wanting to modernise their central heating and potentially save a little cash too, Tado is one of the options available right now – and with a consistently good design running throughout Tado, whether that’s the UI on the apps, the website or the (incorrect) workflow I attempted to use – it certainly looks like something I’d be interested in using. I just wish I’d managed to have gotten it installed.

Featured Image Credit – Tado

The weakest point of today’s smartphones are, of course, the batteries, the average mobile phone runs on a single charge for about a day, and neither the major manufacturer so far has not found a way to significantly increase the time. On the other hand, not only battery case, the main consumers are the displays.
Designer Fabrice Dube introduced concept of a smartphone Booklet. The device is different from their counterparts in that, instead of the traditional OLED-and LCD-screen display, here used,made over E Ink technology. As stated by the author, the gadget is a kind of hybrid of a smartphone and e-books.

Future technology concept of a modest E-Ink-Smartphone Booklet

The idea can be a success, because Many owners of modern phones with features ready to give them up for devices with long battery life.
The actual possibility of a mobile phone Booklet really modest, there are tools to work with e-mail, documents, application for reading books, and the ability to make voice calls. Previously, the company E-Ink has demonstrated a prototype of this phone, but the device on the market and has not left. Perhaps all is not lost.
Designer: Fabrice Dubuy

Future technology concept of a modest E-Ink-Smartphone Booklet

Future technology concept of a modest E-Ink-Smartphone Booklet

Future technology concept of a modest E-Ink-Smartphone Booklet

Future technology concept of a modest E-Ink-Smartphone Booklet

Future technology concept of a modest E-Ink-Smartphone Booklet

Phones of future
Concept the world’s first reader with a color E-ink screen and backligh
Concept Smartphone Booklet
Nokia Concept Phone Runs on Coke
Device of the future

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