Shared posts

14 Sep 23:04

Jack ‘Murph the Surf’ Murphy, Heist Mastermind, Dies at 83

by Robert D. McFadden
He stole the Star of India and other gems from the Museum of Natural History. Two days later he was under arrest.
14 Sep 22:02

Otzi Peak Lookout

In September of 1991 on the border between Austria and Italy, German tourists found the natural mummy of a man who lived between 3400 and 3100 BCE. He was given...

Visit Uncrate for the full post.
14 Sep 21:58

Porsche Drive Subscription Service

The hardest part about buying a Porsche is deciding on which one to walk out of the dealership with. The Porsche Drive subscription service is there to alleviate the problem,...

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14 Sep 21:11

New RIAA Numbers Show That CDs Are All But Dead And Downloads Are On Life Support

by Bill Rosenblatt, Contributor
The RIAA's revenue numbers for the first half of 2020 show that CD sales have plummeted and music downloads now bring in less revenue than all physical products.
14 Sep 21:05

Drone Footage of San Francisco Set to the Music of Bladerunner 2049

by OC

When real life and dystopian cinema become one and the same. You can compare side-by-side images of Bladerunner 2049 concept art and the San Francisco skyline here.

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Related Content:

42 Hours of Ambient Sounds from Blade Runner, Alien, Star Trek and Doctor Who Will Help You Relax & Sleep

Three Blade Runner Prequels: Watch Them Online

The Blade Runner Promotional Film

How Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner Illuminates the Central Problem of Modernity

Drone Footage of San Francisco Set to the Music of Bladerunner 2049 is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, or get our Daily Email. And don't miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

14 Sep 21:02

Behold the First Underwater Portrait in the History of Photography (Circa 1899)

by Colin Marshall

The image above may at first look like a plate from a Jules Verne novel, or perhaps a still from one of Georges Méliès' more fantastical moving pictures. It does indeed come from fin de siècle France, a time and place in which Verne, Méliès, and many other imaginative creators lived and worked, but it is in fact a genuine underwater photograph — or rather, a genuine underwater portrait, and the first example of such a thing in photographic history. Taken in the 1890s (most likely 1899) by biologist and photography pioneer Louis Boutan, it depicts Boutan's Romanian colleague Emil Racovitza holding up a sign that reads "Photographie Sous Marine," or "Underwater Photography."

Such an outlandish concept could hardly have crossed many minds back then, and fewer still would have dreamt up practical ways to realize it. To start with the most basic of challenges, there is, as David Byrne sung, water at the bottom of the ocean — but not a whole lot of light, especially compared to the burdensome requirements of late 19th-century cameras. This necessitated the development of what Petapixel's Laurence Bartone calls a "crazy underwater flash photography rig," one powerful enough that it "could easily double as a bomb. The creation involved an alcohol lamp on an oxygen-filled barrel. A rubber bulb would then blow a puff of magnesium powder over the flame, creating a flash."

Photography enthusiasts will understand the magnitude of Boutan's achievement (made with the help of his brother Auguste and a laboratory technician named Joseph David). Some have gone so far as to recreate it, an effort you can see in the Barcelona Underwater Festival video just above. Not only are there fish and other sea creatures swimming everywhere, a feature of the environment not visible in Boutan's original shot, but the re-enactors face the pressure of curious passersby, young and old, who walk through a nearby transparent underwater tunnel, not a consideration for Boutan and his collaborators. That groundbreaking success in underwater portraiture came 54 years after a Philadelphia chemist named Robert Cornelius first turned his camera on himself. Has photographic history recorded how long it took humanity after Boutan's famous picture to snap the first underwater selfie?

via Diane Doniol-Valcroze on Twitter

Related Content:

Underwater Volcanic Eruption Witnessed for the First Time

Reef View: Google Gives Us Stunning Underwater Shots of Great Coral Reefs

Sunken Films: Watch a Cinematic Meditation on Films Found on the Ocean’s Floor

See the First “Selfie” In History Taken by Robert Cornelius, a Philadelphia Chemist, in 1839

The History of Photography in Five Animated Minutes: From Camera Obscura to Camera Phone

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall, on Facebook, or on Instagram.

Behold the First Underwater Portrait in the History of Photography (Circa 1899) is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, or get our Daily Email. And don't miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

13 Sep 11:55

The data archive at the end of the world

by The Hustle
Buried in a remote mine in Norway, the Arctic World Archive wants to safeguard our digital footprint for future generations. Will it work?
This edition of The Hustle was brought to you by Mint Mobile… a phone plan that saves you $$.
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The Hustle, Sunday, September 13, 2020
Sunday, September 13, 2020
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The company that wants to preserve our data for 500+ years

Buried in a remote mine in Norway, the Arctic World Archive wants to safeguard our digital footprint for future generations. Will it work?

BY Zachary Crockett

Deep in the Norweigan arctic, on the ice-encrusted island of Spitsbergen, life stands still.

The surrounding lands of the Svalbard archipelago are sparse and desolate. It is a place where there is a 1:10 polar bear to human ratio, where the sun doesn’t rise for 4 months per year, and the northern lights dance across the sky.

But on the side of a mountain in Spitsbergen, there’s an abandoned coal mine. And inside — some 250 meters below the Earth’s surface — you’ll find a steel vault that contains an archive of film encoded with hundreds of thousands of open-source projects from around the world.

Run by a for-profit company called Piql, the Arctic World Archive is aiming to preserve the world’s digital materials — music, literature, and lines of code — for 500+ years.

Recently, Github, an open-source coding platform, donated it’s entire trove of code to the archive — some 21 terabytes of data posted by millions of users since 2008.

Most press accounts have dubbed the Arctic World Archive a “doomsday vault.” The archive prefers the term “vault of hope.” 

Either way, it’s an effort to incubate our data from human and environmental catastrophes in the long-term. And it may just be our best shot at telegraphing our present-day story to future generations.

The company behind the Arctic World Archive

Preserving data through climate change, potential nuclear warfare, and whatever else the next 500+ years has in store for us might sound like a daunting task. 

But this kind of long-term thinking is the lifeblood of Piql, a 20-person tech company based in Drammen, Norway.

Scenes from Spitsbergen (Arctic World Archive, GitHub)

Building an apocalypse-proof archive was not always Piql’s plan. 

Founded in 2002 by a former engineer named Rune Bjerkestrand, the company — originally “Cinevation” — began with the mission of preserving film.

Bjerkestrand knew that Hollywood had a long history of losing its masterpieces due to inadequate preservation efforts and wanted to test a new approach: instead of leaving films on black-and-white archival film, he thought to turn each film into a chunk of scannable code.

He invented a way to boil down each film into a magnifiable binary code — a series of 1s and 0s — that, together, look a bit like QR codes. Then, he stored a patchwork of those codes in a film cartridge called a piqlBox.

Piql started making deals with film companies in the US, Norway, and Sweden. As The Hollywood Reporter explained in 2008, the beauty of Piql was its speed: other devices took 15-18 hours to encode a 20-minute clip; Piql could do the job in ~30 minutes.

But Bjerkestrand soon began to see other use cases for his technology.

Piql, he realized, could sequence almost any digital product into scannable 1s and 0s. And after the sequencing was done, it could be preserved in the box — conceivably, for hundreds of years. While other storage devices required constant updating, Piql’s method was all hardware-based: if the box survived, so would its QR code.

Top: Piql’s silver halide film, encoded with binary; bottom: a piqlBox (Piql)

Piql’s long-term thinking became more ambitious in January 2008, when conservationists and agricultural researchers launched the Global Seed Vault — a Svalbard-based facility designed to protect crop diversity in case of global catastrophe.

Bjerkestrand thought, ‘Why not do something similar for our digital data?’

With the help of a Norwegian mining firm, Piql built out the Arctic World Archive in a decommissioned coal mine, right down the road from the Global Seed Vault.

In 2017, it opened for business.

Who is the archive actually for? 

Piql is a for-profit company and allows anyone to store something in the Arctic World Archive — for a fee. Its chief selling point is the long-term survival of material.

For starters, Svalbard, where the archive is based, has been called “one of the most geopolitically secure places in the world.” It’s not only rugged and remote but has been a demilitarized and independent region since 1925, incubating it from warfare.

The boxes the film is stored in are virtually indestructible. The company tested them against electromagnetic pulses, extreme nuclear radiation, and -196°C (-321°F) — and they’ve persevered. One Norwegian industrial research institute estimated that a piqlBox could last 500+ years without degrading.

And the film itself, which is coated in silver halide crystals and iron oxide, has a purported lifespan of 500 to 2k years.

“On a film, it just looks gray. But if you put it under a microscope, you can see all the data points,” Piql’s managing director, Katrine Loen Thomsen, tells The Hustle. “We call it self-contained. It’s not reliant on any technology that may or may not be around in the future.”

Top; Piql’s managing director, Katrine Loen Thomsen, at the Arctic World Archive; Bottom: Thomsen handling some piqlFilm reels (Piql)

Most of Piql’s clients are museums, governments, or large companies. Among its stores:

Earlier this year, the archive got its largest addition to date when the software development company, GitHub, donated its entire trove of code — some 21 terabytes of data, including modeling systems, apps, and website designs. It required 186 rolls of film.

But the company is also working on an affordable small-data model that will encourage individuals to store data there. Individuals will pay a one-time sum based on a period of time (50 years vs. 500 years).

The archives lay deep inside a decommissioned coal mine in the arctic circle (Inside Over)

The Arctic World Archive might be the most fully-formed project of our moment, but it is far from the only long-term storage project to enter the public consciousness:

  • The Long Now Foundation is building a $42m clock in a Texas mountain that will keep time for a purported 10k years.
  • The Future Library is scheduling books for publication 100 years from now.
  • The Arch Mission Foundation partnered with SpaceX to launch Isaac Asimov’s Foundation into space. Tucked inside the glove compartment of that famous red Tesla, it’s expected to orbit the sun for 30m+ years.
  • The ceramicist Martin Kunze has spent years engraving futuristic messages on clay tablets and storing them in an Austrian salt mine.
  • The Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine is attempting to preserve a digital archive of the internet’s billions of web pages.

This all might sound promising, but there are reasons to be skeptical.

Can long-term storage really last?

As a society, we don’t have a very good track record with lofty, long-term storage projects. Take, for instance, time capsules.

Entrepreneurs have been selling the promise of historical preservation to the public since the early 19th century. In 1876, a magazine publisher named Anna Diehm charged individuals to have a photo included in her 100-year capsule, alongside signatures from members of Congress and other artifacts.

But when President Gerald Ford opened Diehm’s capsule in 1976, his disappointment was palpable. As the historian Nicholas Yablon later recounted, one of the president’s aides said, “Mrs. Diehm did not seem to have a very good concept of what would be important and interesting a hundred years later.” 

After the opening, Diehm’s photos went straight into an archive. When Yablon visited in 2010, he realized that he was the first person to request them since.

As President Ford found out, the contents of most time capsules are underwhelming (AP; 1976)

Many archivists attest that we’re living in a time when preservation is crucially important.  

File formats are changing so rapidly that material from just a few decades ago has already slipped out of reach. Some caution that we might be living through a “digital dark age:” we’re putting more data than ever into the world, but it’s entirely possible that less of it than ever will actually survive to the end of the century.

As Google’s data manager, Rick West, said in 2018: “We may [one day] know less about the early 21st century than we do about the early 20th century.”

The Arctic World Archive is offering up a solution. And it isn’t the only one.

There is a whole micro-industry of preservation-focused companies, with names like Arkivum, StorCentric, and PreserveOn. Many of these startups advise corporations on how to preserve information for long periods of time in those companies’ own vaults. Piql is one of the few that is actually offering up its own space.

But how realistic are these visions? And even if we succeed in storing data for 500+ years, will future generations be able to decipher its significance? 

“Just making data available in its original form may not make it useful to users,” says Ruth Duerr, a data management expert at the Ronin Institute. “Just having an image of a shoe worn by George Washington isn’t going to do much good, especially if you don’t know it was worn by George Washington.”

GitHub transferred a 21-terabyte repository of its code to the Arctic World Archive earlier this year (GitHub)

Piql does have a system in place to explain to future generations how to read the QR codes. On each piqlBox is a set of instructions, readable with a magnifying glass. For good measure, it’s written in English, Arabic, Spanish, Chinese, and Hindi.

But there is only so much context the Arctic World Archive can provide.

Lacking granular context, will future generations be able to work out that they’re looking at the code for a food delivery app, and not a self-driving car? 

The COVID factor 

Thomsen (Piql’s managing director) says that the Arctic World Archive only allows new deposits about 2x per year. Otherwise, she tries to leave the space alone. 

The next deposit, scheduled for October, is the archive’s first true COVID-era project. 

Over the last few months, Brazil’s Museum of the Person has been working on a video series called “My Pandemic Diary” — a collection of everyday people recording their personal stories of the pandemic.

In a month, these stories will be locked away in Svalbard.

And in 500 years, if all goes according to plan, future generations will know of our collective misery.

Share & discuss this story

How to cut your phone bill by 60% 

The average American pays $80 for their unlimited phone bill.


That’s enough to buy 840 Costco mini Belgian cream puffs (our preferred way of measuring costs). 

Luckily, we’ve developed some solutions to help bring your price down:

  • Delete any and all apps that use data/bring you joy
  • Call your grandparents even less
  • Toss your phone into the ocean and let Poseidon pay your bill

If those don’t float your cell-boat, it’s time for Mint Mobile. 

Score their first-ever unlimited data plan for just $30/month right here.

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Keep your phone number and existing contacts, plus all plans come with unlimited nationwide talk and text, reliably fast browsing speeds, and mobile hotspot included. 

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The Hustle

08 Sep 03:00

How hip-hop, bitcoin and stimulus checks made Cash App a $40B biz

by The Hustle
PLUS: Buying a dog online? Read this first.
September 7, 2020
The Hustle
Graze Mowing

We hope you’re enjoying Labor Day weekend. Stay safe out there and rest well knowing there won’t be any Halloween office parties this year.

The Big Idea

Hip-hop, bitcoin and stimulus checks: How Square’s Cash App became a $40B business

Since hitting a pandemic low in March, the fintech firm Square has seen its share price nearly quadruple.  

The catalyst behind this explosive growth: Cash App, the company’s digital wallet which facilitates payments and money transfers.

A research firm told the Wall Street Journal the app is now worth up to $40B — almost two-thirds of Square’s current $65B market value. The valuation is supported by 30m+ monthly active users, many of whom joined to receive stimulus checks.

Bitcoin and hip-hop helped fuel early growth

Dan Runcie, who covers the business of hip-hop for Trapital, writes that 200+ hip-hop artists have named-dropped Cash App in their tracks over the years.

These artists often also run cash giveaways on Twitter, asking fans to tag their $cashtag accounts. Recently, Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion gave 2k random Tweeters $500 apiece — a total of $1m — via the app.

But there’s another key to the app’s success: its uptake boomed when it allowed Bitcoin trading during the peak of crypto mania in 2017. 

When the pandemic hit, many thought Square was in trouble

For a time, the firm’s business was heavily reliant on brick and mortar retailers, which use its ubiquitous card-swipe payment dongle.

While retailer payment volume reportedly decreased by 15% YoY in Q2 of 2020, Square benefited from an influx of money (including stimulus checks) into the Cash App. Excluding Bitcoin sales, the app’s revenue hit $325m in the quarter, up more than 2x YoY per WSJ.

Square charges a hefty (some say usurous) 1.5% fee to transfer Cash App funds to a bank account — but many users are eating the cost.

What’s next? (Other than sweet cash giveaways) 

The one-time nature of the government stimulus leaves many skeptical of Cash App’s current growth rate. And relative to the broader stock market, Square is already expensive on a price-to-earnings ratio.

The long term bull case for Square is outlined by Ark Invest, which notes that the market currently assigns a much lower value to publicly-traded digital wallet accounts (<$200/user) than it does to traditional retail bank accounts (>$3k/user).

This gap could narrow as Cash App adds more users and expands its banking services.

And if it does, expect Square shareholders to get their Cardi B on. 

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  • The NASDAQ “Whale”: The free-spending Japanese firm Softbank was unmasked as the mysterious market player that recently bought billions of dollars in tech stock options. 
  • T-Mobile has a plan to offer free internet to 10m low-income households. 
  • Amazon’s Prime Air drone program received FAA approval this week — but widespread drone-delivery is still years away, probably.
  • Chiropractors are seeing a rush of patients with work-from-home-related injuries.
  • The city of Los Angeles has created a set of rainbow-tinged streetlights of the future
Arf Arf

Scammers are selling lonely quarantiners imaginary dogs

During quarantine, breeders have seen an unprecedented demand for canine companions. But some sellers aren’t who they seem to be.

In the biggest pet peccadillo since 101 Dalmatians, fraudsters are taking victims for a walk by selling them… imaginary dogs.

From mid-February through July, the Better Business Bureau has received 2k+ pet scam reports in the US and Canada — 3x last year’s figure.

Some scammers are super savvy

They build slick websites with dozens of pooch pics and fake testimonials from “satisfied clients.” Often, photos of the ultra-stylish Pugdashian posse and Norman the Pomsky are hijacked from their owners’ Instagram accounts and used to lure in victims. 

When these individuals out to purchase a pup, they’re told to pay online and the dog will be delivered in a few weeks. And that’s the last they hear from the Shih Tzu charlatans. 

Some have lost thousands of dollars buying dogs that don’t exist. And recouping losses is usually a no-go, since many scammers are located overseas.

The American Kennel Club’s got your back

How do you sidestep a swindler? Here are some tips:

  • If they insist on communicating only by email, they’re probably trying to hide that they’re overseas.
  • If a reverse image search shows photos on a seller’s website appearing elsewhere, that’s a red flag.
  • Just say no to Venmo. Asking for wire transfers or payment with gift cards also are signs of a sketchball.
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Time is running out to invest in this $100B-industry-disrupting product 

The commercial landscaping market has two huge problems:

  1. High labor costs
  2. Incredibly slim margins

In a market this big, fixing just a single one of these issues would disrupt the entire industry.

So what do you call it when one startup manages to solve both? 

A massive frickin’ opportunity — and one that you have 10 days left to invest in. 

Meet Graze, the fully autonomous electric lawn mower 

Graze is the brainchild of John Vlay, a CEO with 35+ years of experience — and a huge exit — in the landscaping industry. He realized a product like Graze could help commercial landscapers explode their businesses through drastic reduction in fuel and labor costs.

How? Because Graze is 100% electrically powered (with support from top-mounted solar panels).

Plus, thanks to machine learning paired with smart features like a localization GPS, an optical suite, and proximity detection, Graze can map and mow job sites with maximum efficiency. 

Want to get in on a company primed to disrupt a $100B market? Join Graze on SeedInvest.

Invest here →
Common Scents

How do you design a body-wash scent?

During the 3 years that Lisa Wilson trained with a master perfumer, she tested scents while sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic. 

That meant holding blotter strips to her nose and sniffing.

“I think people thought I was doing cocaine,” she said. 

Wilson runs her own fragrance consulting biz, called Scent and Strategy, where she creates scents for shampoos, body wash, and more. 

Er, how do you make a scent? 

With each new job, Wilson samples similar fragrances on the market. Every scent has 3 parts. Take Chanel No. 5 Parfum:

  1. Top note: Your first whiff — bright and citrus-y, but it disappears fast.
  2. Midnote: The defining rose and iris scent. Lasts 10-15 minutes.
  3. Base note: Woody and warm on the finish.

Wilson mixes and matches based on what worked for other brands. Maybe a base really caught her, while a top note fell flat.

Then she takes her ideas to a fragrance house to produce them. She’ll sometimes go through as many as 250 scents before she lands on the right one.

What’s next for scents? 

Out: Gourmand odors — like heavy vanilla or coffee — that blew up 10 years ago.

In: Wellness-inspired aromas. That means a lot of woodsy whiffs.

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My Type

The best productivity software is a keyboard from 1993

Since the start of quarantine, companies have done everything imaginable to make you more productive. 

They’re teaching you how to cut down on your tabs. They’re using AI to fix your digital calendars. And some of their trusty partners, like the project manager Asana, are filing to go public.

But to really get your work done these days, it turns out all you need is a glossed-up typewriter from 1993.

A growing number of writers are raving about a discontinued word processor called the AlphaSmart. Some claim the device has revolutionized their writing process.

Here’s the beauty of it 

The AlphaSmart is just a keyboard. It doesn’t connect to the internet, which means:

Writing a proposal? A blog post? A long email? Pulling out the AlphaSmart forces you to focus. One author, Alexis Henderson, told OneZero that she penned much of her first novel using the device.   

Anti-distraction software is getting distracting 

It’s a perfect sign of the times that, even during an explosion of new tech tools, anyone would turn to the early ‘90s for help.

But as we enter month 6 of quarantine, productivity tech is getting exhausting. Next time we draft a presentation, we want to do it on a janky word processor, dammit. 

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The Hustle Says

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Live in Boston? Or anywhere else? Join founders, investors, and pros from every vertical virtually at Startup Boston Week from 9/21-9/25 for free. Register here.

If you’re into investing, you’re not going to want to miss this. Invest now in Flippy the AI assistant chef that has joined forces with White Castle to change the future of the quick service restaurant industry.*  

*This is a sponsored post.


Pon de Replay

In 1981, George Benson released a sweet, sweet tune to the name of “Never Give Up On A Good Thing”. Besides the silky smooth brass melody, we couldn’t agree more with Benson. 

Back in April, we had Julian Shapiro come in for a Trends Hacker Hour. Over 800 people signed up. Needless to say, it was a hit. So, we’re keeping a good thing going by bringing him back for 20 more growth marketing tactics. 

This time, he’ll be going over

  • How to significantly improve email open rates.
  • All major ad channels ranked from best to worst performing in 2020.
  • How the most successful Twitter accounts approach follower growth.
  • How to use LinkedIn organic to get vetted B2B leads.
  • Advanced Facebook/Instagram retargeting strategies.
  • How to get referral programs to actually work.
  • And a lot more.

If you’re not familiar with Julian, he’s the founder of Demand Curve, where he’s worked with 100+ Y Combinator startups. And if you sign up for a $1 Trends trial today, you’ll get to attend his next session live, get access to his last one, and much more. 

Get access → JOBS

Head of Product, Toggl: (Apologies to Tina Turner.) What’s KPI got to do, got to do with it?

Product Marketing Manager, Breezy: Lead this team into the great outdoors outbound marketing.

Customer Educator, Brook Farm: Oh, hey animal lovers. This is your opportunity to talk about pet preventative health while scheduling appointments and converting leads.

Technical Account Manager, Mission: As the official “voice of the customer”, you’d support customer experience. Great power and great responsibility and all that.

SaaS Marketing Tactician, NextPaw: Another one for the animals. Here you’d be helping independent pet stores compete with Big Pet.

See more →
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Editing by: Zachary “What’s your $cashtag” Crockett, Kay C. Deech (Communications Specialist, Rome Office).
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26 Aug 17:20

This 94-Foot Fishing Yacht Features Luxe Interiors Inspired by the Owner’s Custom Ferrari

by Rachel Cormack
"III Amigos" is unmistakably a fish fighter, but her expansive interiors and lavish design are more akin to a world-class superyacht.
26 Aug 17:17

You Need to Rent This Stargazing Oasis in Joshua Tree

This week, we're wishing our beloved National Parks a happy 104th. And appropriately, we're dreaming of shelters within reach of our favorites. Though there's no substitute for getting out there with boots on the ground, some shelters successfully distill the magic of our parks into the fabric of their design.

Read More

25 Aug 16:46

Headache Hat Ice Halo

by mark

I bought this Headache Hat Ice Halo — essentially an ice pack in the form of a headband — a year ago and it has been pretty life-changing for managing severe and prolonged migraines. I find the design of this headband helpful because it can deliver site-specific ice treatment for migraines. The headband is essentially a strip of ice cubes encased in a cloth cover with which you can shift around to target your worst pain.

For me, this more effective than the peppermint rollers which would try for a similar effect (at times the smell of these products is too much for me).

I like this version which is a headband versus a hat because it is space-efficient (there are full hat versions which would take up more freezer space). So long as I remember to leave it in the freezer, it is always available and can be reused over and over. I find the headband freezes quickly because the linked cubes are fairly small. Though I haven’t worn it in public, I think you could.

-- Rell DeShaw

Headache Hat Ice Halo

Available from Amazon

25 Aug 16:45

How Much is a Buttload?

by Miss Cellania

Any time you hear the word "buttload" as an amount, you know it mean a lot. But it turns out that it really does mean a specific amount, and that amount is... a lot.

After immediately falling down a Google hole about it, I discovered that this is, indeed, true! A butt, also known as a pipe, is a unit of measure for English Brewery Cask Units and English Wine Cask Units. It's the second-largest barrel size, equal to half a tun, which was typically 252 Imperial Gallons (although that exact quantity has changed throughout history; current standards place an English Tun at 259 US gallons or 216 Imperial Gallons).

You have to admit that 129 gallons is a substantial amount of beer or wine. That's enough for the kind of party the police would want to speak to you about. Read more about beer and wine measurements with plenty of links to follow at Boing Boing.

(Image credit: Grolltech)

25 Aug 16:44

What Comes After Trillion? Coming To Terms With The Impenetrable Costs Of Government Intervention

by Clyde Wayne Crews Jr., Contributor
Regulation is expensive. But even today, after a century of progressivism and top-down administration, no one knows how expensive.
25 Aug 16:38

The Complete Illustrated Catalog of ACME Products

by Miss Cellania

Before there was Amazon, there was ACME, the company where you could order anything and everything, from hot air balloons to unicycles to anvils to toothpicks to vitamins to bombs. Those diverse products would be delivered at the speed of light, even if you lived out in the middle of the desert. Where else could you select a Strait-Jacket Ejecting Bazooka and receive it within a moment or two? Check out the Complete Illustrated Catalog of ACME Products and marvel at what they once offered.

For the first time ever, information and pictures of all ACME products, specialty divisions, and services (from 1935 to 1964) are gathered here, in one convenient catalog. For more information about any ACME product, simply click on the thumbnail picture. Thanks to Warner Bros. studios and their fine animation department for advertising ACME products in their cartoons!!

However, it may be argued that the line of products may have been much larger than this archive suggests. All that are listed here are the products we have actually seen in Looney Tunes stories. Who know what else they had? -via Metafilter 

21 Aug 16:31

1963 Porsche 356B Outlaw Coupe

Not every outlaw is a ragged maniac out for blood — imagine instead the roguish sophisticate that can converse just as well as rob the next bank. That is the...

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21 Aug 16:31

NATO Fishing Kit

An advanced rig it is not, but if you find yourself in a survival situation, this NATO Fishing Kit could help keep you alive. Designed to military specifications for NATO...

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21 Aug 16:31

Ninebot x Lamborghini GoKart Pro

If a Lamborghini is slightly out of your financial reach, there's another, more affordable option on the market — the Ninebot x Lamborghini GoKart Pro. Based on Xiaomi's Ninebot kart,...

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21 Aug 16:31

Lady Edison Country Ham

Funky, salty, and oh-so buttery, country ham is like the prosciutto of the south. This heavy-marbled ham from Lady Edison begins as a three-way heritage cross between a Berkshire, Chester...

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21 Aug 16:29

Portable, Powerful Solar Panel: Maxoak SP120 Review

by James Bruce
maxoak sp150 solar panel
Our verdict of the Maxoak SP120:
Weighing less than 7lbs, the Maxoak SP120 outputs a serious amount of power in a convenient and portable package. You're paying a premium for the portability though, so consider if you actually need to carry it around or whether a static panel could do the job. 1010

Most portable solar panels are tiny and really only designed to trickle charge a smartphone. If you have a large portable battery pack then finding a suitably powerful and genuinely portable solar panel can be tricky.

The Maxoak SP120 is both affordable, portable, and with 120W output, powerful enough to charge even the largest of battery storage. It takes less than a minute to deploy or pack away and weighs a mere 6.2 pounds (2.8kg). You don’t get much more portable than that.

Retailing at $400 or £300, if you’re quick you can grab one at 30% off during IndieGogo crowdfunding. Those in Germany or the UK can get one even quicker from Amazon (under the PowerOak brand), and use our exclusive £30/€30 coupon–just enter the code makeuseofA at the checkout.

At a Glance: Maxoak SP120

  • Panel type: Monocrystalline, 23% efficiency
  • Open circuit voltage: 23.7V
  • Max current: 6.6A
  • Plug: MC4
  • Dimensions (unfolded): 16.3 x 66.7 inches (415 x 1695mm)
  • Dimensions (folded):  16.3 x 16.1 inches (415 x 410 mm)
  • Weight: 6.2 lbs (2.8kg)
  • US/Worldwide: Back the IndieGogo for 30% off retail price of $400
  • Germany: Buy the PowerOak SP120 (use code makeuseofA for £30 off)
  • UK: Buy PowerOak SP120 (use code makeuseofA for £30 off)

Maxoak SP120 Design

The Maxoak SP120 unclips and folds out to reveal four panels. A convenient carry handle is located on one end, with three loops on the other end for hanging the panels. on the rear of each section is a stiff leg, secured with velcro, allowing you to angle the SP120 up to 45-degrees.

Kickstand on the rear of SP150 solar panels

Each panel is made of monocrystalline solar cells. These are more efficient than cheaper polycrystalline cells, allowing for greater power from the same size panels. Each panel is coated in ETFE, and Maxoak claims they can be bent to around 20-30 degrees before snapping. This isn’t to say you should make a habit of bending these panels, but rather that you needn’t worry should you accidentally apply a little pressure to them.

The SP120 is IP65 rated, meaning it should withstand some rain, but don’t get it soaked.

Maxoak SP150 flexible panels
The Maxoak SP150 panels can bend a little, such as your dog deciding to fall asleep on them.

The hardwired 3m cable which terminates in MC4 plugs is stored in a zipped side pocket. These are standard solar panel connectors, so you can easily daisy chain a couple of panels together (or even supplement a static panel if you wanted). However, the adaptor cables to feed this into a battery are not included. In the case of Maxoak, the adaptor cable is supplied with the battery, but if you’re pairing this with a battery from another manufacturer, you may need to source your own cable. I found the pocket on the side was large enough to also store the cables that came with the EB240 (MC4 to DC9mm).

Portable and Convenient

One of the great things about being so easy to carry and move around is that you can easily reposition the SP120 to take advantage of the sun any time of day. You can lay the panels flat for the high midday sun, then angle them or hang them vertically for morning or evening. This allows you to get the most efficient charge possible—more so than you would with bulky static panels. Our rooftop panels only start to generate after lunchtime!

Reorient the SP150 solar panels

Of course, you shouldn’t expect it to output 120 watts all the time, but I was able to get a good 8 hours of solid charging on a good day.

How Long Will It Take To Charge My Battery?

Assuming eight hours of good sun per day, let’s say you average 100W; that’s 800Wh total. The Maxoak EB240—which is admittedly an enormous store of energy—holds a maximum of 2400Wh. So that would take about 3 days to charge. For a smaller battery like the Maxoak AC50 (500Wh), you could easily charge it and more, in less than a day.

Maxoak AC50 Maxoak AC50 Buy Now On Amazon $399.99

With standard MC4 panel connectors, it’s easy to daisy chain these panels together and charge twice as fast.

Do I Need a Battery?

Solar technology can be a little confusing at times. Solar panels output a variable voltage depending on the intensity of the sun, which isn’t much use by itself. You need some sort of regulator to fix the voltage at a certain level. Smaller panels that are designed to trickle charge smartphones include a built-in regulator that drops the voltage to 5V (USB).

The SP120 doesn’t include a regulator, so it must be paired with something else before you can utilize the power. Because the amount of power it produces is more than you’ll usually use, the best thing to do is to put that power into a battery.

A battery backup like the EB230, EB150, AC200, or AC50 incorporates a voltage regulator, battery, and AC/DC converter. It takes the solar output, stores it, and converts that power to whatever voltage you need later. That might be 110V AC, 45W DC for your laptop, or 5V USB for your smartphone.

Should You Buy the Maxoak SP120?

As a portable solar panel, it really doesn’t get more convenient than this. 120W is a good amount of power and paired with a convenient travel battery like the AC50, you have an unlimited source of power for your adventures and off-grid needs.

Lightweight and portable Maxoak SP150

But consider if you really need to carry a solar panel around, because you’re paying a premium for the privilege. A similarly specced or even higher efficiency static panel can be purchased for $150 or less. That means you’re paying about three times as much per watt as the price of being ultra-portable. If you’re considering the SP120 to carry between your home and cabin in the woods, for instance, you might be better off buying two higher-powered rooftop panels instead.

Grab yourself a bargain on the IndieGogo now. But be quick, there are only a few days left on the campaign to get 30% off.

Thanks to Maxoak, we have not one, but THREE portable solar panels to give away, to winners in the US, Germany, and the UK. Enter below for your chance to win!

Enter the Competition!

Maxoak SP120 Portable Solar Panel Giveaway

Read the full article: Portable, Powerful Solar Panel: Maxoak SP120 Review

21 Aug 16:28

Step Up Your Pomodoro Productivity With These 6 Methods

by Lee Nathan

If you’ve ever used the Pomodoro Technique, you’ve probably noticed an increase in productivity and focus. But most people aren’t aware that there’s a lot more you can do with it. The way that it breaks up your day can lead to some powerful benefits.

Let’s take a look at some less traditional methods to apply the Pomodoro Technique to. If you’re not familiar with it, check out the basics of Pomodoro first.

1. Goal Setting

Have you ever finished a day and felt like you didn’t get enough done? Sometimes you might have actually had a productive day, but just weren’t sure once it was over. One of the first, best, and easiest ways to make the most out of your Pomodoro practice is setting micro-goals.

If you decide to accomplish 10 complete Pomodoros in one day and complete this, you can be confident that you did your best that day. Even if the day wasn’t the most productive, you can rest easy knowing you met your productivity goal.

If you do Pomodoros right and only count the ones you did without distraction, doing 10 a day is quite productive! It’s also a good idea to give yourself thresholds. For instance: if you finish 12, you’re a hero; complete eight, and you still did great.

2. Time Management

clock on a two-tone background

Doing Pomodoros is a great way to stay on track for short bursts of time. In the same vein, planning your days around your Pomodoros is an excellent overall management technique.

If you find you get sucked into one task but neglect other essential tasks, planning your days in terms of Pomodoros can help greatly.

For example, you can set aside one Pomodoro a day for responding to emails. Or if you need to handle a small project, you can assign three Pomodoros on Tuesday to knock it out.

If you keep irregular hours, using Pomodoros for time management can help you do the work you need to whenever you can.

3. Time Tracking

After you’ve spent some time planning your weeks around how many Pomodoros you finish, you can start tracking them on a spreadsheet. There are two ways to do this.

You can plan ahead using the time management technique and listing all the Pomodoros you wanted to get done that week. As you go through the week, highlight the items you finished.

pomodoro time tracking example

The second technique is less rigid: list the overall projects you want to work on that week. You can set goals for the number of poms you want to finish and add them to the total as you complete them. pomodoro time tracking example 2

4. Project Management

If you manage projects for a small team of people, you can use Pomodoros to increase productivity and better track how everyone spends their time. The tricky part can be getting everyone on board to use the Pomodoro Technique. But once you do, this gets a lot easier.

If you get employees to use the techniques above to track their time, you can find out exactly how long a task or project took down to the half-hour. Even better, you’ll know that the time spent on that project was optimized by using Pomodoros.

You can also assign people to research projects and make sure they don’t go down any rabbit holes by limiting the amount of Pomodoros they can spend on that project.

5. Improving Estimates

This is a more advanced technique that becomes easier after you have a good amount of experience using Pomodoros to manage time. After you’ve become confident at tracking your Pomodoros, you’ll start to get a feel for how many cycles certain tasks take. Once you get used to this, you can give clients much sharper estimates.

For example, a graphic designer might need to give a client an estimate of how long it will take to deliver a landing page design. If the designer has done enough of this type of work, they can give clients highly accurate estimates within a tight range.

6. Billing Clients

handshake from underneath

Once you’ve gotten used to tracking everything you do with Pomodoros, it becomes a snap to see exactly how much time you spent on every aspect of each project. All you have to do is look at your week as you tracked it and find the work you did for your client.

There are at least two benefits of using Pomodoros for billing. One is that your charges will match your estimates more closely. Another is that you can bill your clients down to the half-hour, showing them that you respect their time and money.

Bonus: 10 Five-Minute Break Time Activities

Doing something productive during your break is a great way to maximize your day. Meanwhile, doing something relaxing is a great way to manage stress. Here are some ideas to put into practice.

1. Take a Walk Around the Block

Exercise is a proven way to reduce stress and improve overall health and well-being. Using it as a break time activity can help ensure that you’re doing something physical throughout the day.

2. Limit Social Media Usage to Break Time

One of the benefits of doing Pomodoros is that you can keep yourself off social media. But you can also use it to limit the time spent on social media if you have a problem with using it too much.

3. Check Email During Breaks or During a Dedicated Pom

Email can be a huge time suck. A five-minute break is the perfect time to work on getting your inbox to zero. And if you need to send responses, schedule a Pomodoro for getting through those.

4. Shop for Productivity Books

Many highly successful people, like Tim Ferriss, read at least one book a week. Five minutes is all it takes to pick up a great one; Ferriss’s own Tools of Titans is full of good advice.

5. Watch Just One YouTube Video

YouTube can be a huge time suck if you get into the rabbit hole of videos. But if used responsibly, it can also take your mind off work for a few minutes.

6. Clean the House or Tidy Your Desk

clean desk

You might be surprised by how much cleaning you can get done in just five minutes. And if you do five minutes of cleaning multiple times a day, you can keep your place spotless.

7. Get Some Water or Coffee

It’s a good idea to stretch your legs and hydrate, so take a walk to the water cooler or fridge. Or if you’re still ramping up, you can grab a cup of coffee.

8. Draw or Doodle to Ease Your Brain

You can keep a pad of paper and a pencil in your desk drawer and pull it out to give your analytical brain a much-needed break. If you want to get serious, you can use YouTube to learn to draw.

9. Play With Your Kids or Pets

If you work from home, this is a great way to use your break. There’s no better way to interrupt your work than to give someone or something a big hug.

10. Read an Article on MakeUseOf

Reading this was a great way for you to spend five minutes, and there are many more articles like it on the site.

Think Out of the Box With Pomodoro

Hopefully, you now have a better idea on how to apply the Pomodoro Technique to other aspects of your life. With some time invested, you can really supercharge both your working and relaxing time.

If you’re after something different, take a look at some unique productivity techniques you haven’t heard of.

Read the full article: Step Up Your Pomodoro Productivity With These 6 Methods

21 Aug 14:47

TOYS! Leatherman Free P4

by claudia

TOYS! Leatherman Free P4

The sound of one hand opening a tool.

The sound of one hand opening a tool.

On this Cool Tools videoDonald Bell talks to our ol’ Make: colleague Matt Stultz about the Leatherman Free P4. This recent addition to the immensely popular Leatherman multi-tool line has a special new feature. All of the tools are deployable one-handed. This is really handy when you’re holding onto an object and want access to a knife or pliers without having to let go of your workpiece. At $140, these tools aren’t cheap, but you’ll have them forever. I gave my original Leatherman to a friend after having it for 6 years (and he’s still using it) and I still have the Leatherman Wave I replaced it with and have had now for 22 years. So, as the Dad saying goes: “Buy the best tools. You’ll only cry once.”

DIY Powered Air Purifying Respirator (PAPR)

Welding respirator on the cheap.

Welding respirator on the cheap.

Reader Kerry Benton emailed me this message and link: “I happened across this YouTube video of Joshua DeLisle making a DIY PAPR (Powered Air Purifying Respirator) and feel like it’s up your alley. I’ve been wanting one of these since I learned about them, but “real” ones are hundreds of dollars… way too much for a hobbyist. This one works out to about $100-150 in readily-available parts. I haven’t made one yet, because the last part hasn’t arrived, but I have high hopes.“ Note: This could be employed as a COVID-19 respirator but you’d need to add exhaust filters.

Cleaning Your Fingernails in the Shop

Clean your dang dirty nails!

Clean your dang dirty nails!

On the Shop Hacks group on Facebook, a conversation was started over what makers use to wash their hands and clean their dirty, greasy fingernails. Several people recommended this Tweezerman fingernail brush. There were a lot of differing opinions on brushes and soaps, but many members said that one of the most important things is to moisturize your hands before you start working. This makes cleaning them easier when you’re done.

Life Hacks: Self-Watering Plants

Pro tip: Remove wine first!

Pro tip: Remove wine first!

When you’re away from home for a few days, what to do about plants that need regular watering? Here’s a solution I just bumped into and am eager to try. Fill a clean bottle with water, put your fingers over the opening as you stab the bottle into the soil. The water will leach out as the soil gets dry. That’s the theory, anyone. Has anyone here tried this?

Cool Tools You May Not Know About
Here a few of the responses I’ve gotten to my request for specialty tools readers love that others may not know about. Do you have any such favorites? Please share with the class.

Bob Knetzger writes: Although I have a decades-older X-acto version, this compass will hold any pencil, marker, felt tip, knife, brush, etc.

Reader Art Hildebrandt recommended this folding Stanley ruler with calipers. This doesn’t appear to be available commercially anymore, but you can find used ones on eBay.


Richard Whitney swears by these surgical loops: “I recently discovered that surgical loupes are now inexpensive! You can buy them for as little as $30. They give you plenty of magnification for small work, while allowing you to hold the work at a comfortable arm’s reach. Almost as good as a dissection scope, but much cheaper, smaller, and more portable. Plus, you look like a dentist!”

Shop Talk

In response to Laura Kampf’s attaching a pencil sharpener to the back of her tape measureBob Knetzger responded: “Let me be the 100th person to point out that Laura Kampf’s added pencil sharpener defeats the inside measuring capability of her tape measure—awp! Why not mount it on the top or face/side instead?” Bob is the one and only person with this complaint so far, but he has an excellent point. You could easily mount the sharpener on the side and still maintain the same angle of approach for the pencil.
Feel the top of your key in the dark.

Feel the top of your key in the dark.

On the topic of using enamel paint to color-code keysDave Leeds writes: “It’s Dave, the locksmith again. The best way I’ve found to mark keys is to put small notches in them with a triangular file. If the shape is such that there’s no room, file the edge of the head flat first. If you put the notches on the top of the head, you can tell not only which key it is, you can tell if it’s right side up in the dark.”

[Gareth’s Tips, Tools, and Shop Tales is published by Cool Tools Lab. To receive the newsletter a week early, sign up here.]

21 Aug 14:43

Simple Trick for Determining 2.1mm or 2.5mm Barrel Jacks

by claudia

Simple Trick for Determining 2.1mm or 2.5mm Barrel Jacks

If it fits, you must equip.

If it fits, you must equip.

Here’s a tip I learned from Donald Bell’s Maker Update. It’s from an old DigiKey “Teaching Moment.” Many barrel jacks have a consistent 5.5mm outside diameter. But the inside diameter can vary, usually either between 2.1mm or 2.5mm. If you don’t have your digital calipers handy, you can determine this inside diameter with common objects: a toothpick, a ball point pen, or a test probe. The brass housing on a ball point pen is usually 2.2mm. If it doesn’t fit inside the barrel of your jack, then the jack is 2.1mm. If the pen easily fits inside, the jack is 2.5mm. A standard toothpick is 2.1mm. If it fits snugly in the jack, it’s a 2.1mm jack. Also, a common multimeter probe needle with fit closely inside of a 2.1mm jack and be very sloppy inside of a 2.5mm jack.

Yet Another Method for Removing a Stripped Screw

Wrap that rascal.

Wrap that rascal.

There are at least a dozen ways of removing stripped screws. Many of them involve getting rubber material (say, from a rubber band) between the screw and the bit. From the Instagram page for Tradecktory comes this idea on using a disposable rubber glove wrapped around the bit to do the trick.

Creating a Level from a Carpenter’s Square

Getting on the level in a pinch.

Getting on the level in a pinch.

Here’s an oldie but goodie from the Acme Tools Instagram feed: If you don’t have a level handy, wrap a chalk line over the top of a carpenter’s square at the 90 degree angle. When the string lines up with the 45 degree mark on the square, your surface is level. I recently bought the classic Swanson Tools Speed Square and couldn’t love it any more. A great tool for under ten bones. It even comes with the iconic (and very handy) Speed Square Blue Book [PDF].

Using a Shop Weight as a Temporary Stop Block

Weights and measures.

Weights and measures.

In this recent Laura Kampf video, where she builds a sweet little geodesic dome greenhouse out of trash, she employs a tip every maker should store in their mental toolbox. She uses a shop weight as a quick stop block for repetitive cutting of material to the same length. What she is cutting is ingenious, too. She used metal strapping bands as the struts for her wee dome.

Making a Quick Plastic/Laminate Cutter

Making the knife you need.

Making the knife you need.

In a recent Jimmy DiResta Instagram story, he shared a useful tip. He was cutting a bunch of Formica and didn’t have a plastic/laminate cutter handy. So, he simply cut a hook in a utility knife to achieve the same basic effect.

Using the Pomodoro Technique to Fight Distraction
My long-time pal (and Cool Tools and Boing Boing colleague) Mark Frauenfelder has just launched a new newsletter, called The Magnet. There is a free version and a paid subscription version. More info here.

In his first issue, he talks about the Pomodoro productivity technique. This is a method for trying to focus on the work at hand in our extraordinarily distracted modern world. The basic idea is to set a timer for a set interval of time (say, 25 minutes), come up for air for a set interval (say 10 minutes), set the timer again, rinse, repeat. When under the timer, you do nothing but the work at hand. No checking your phone, email, FaceFart, etc.

I had no idea it had a name, but I’ve used the timer technique for years. Sometimes, it’s the only way I can get anything productive done. I set my timer for 56 minute sessions (don’t ask).

If you have similar distraction issues, consider giving this method a try.

Sketchplanations has a good, short guide to the Pomodoro Technique..

Shop Talk

The Stanley Butt Gauge No. 93

The Stanley Butt Gauge No. 93

Reader Chris Johnson sent this response to last week’s piece on cool specialty tools and the antique Stanley ruler with calipers: “I’m a fan of old tools, too, having inherited a bunch from various relatives past. Here’s one from my Uncle Soren, a Norwegian carpenter who worked in Brooklyn in the 20s through 60s. It’s the Stanley Butt Gauge No. 93 (used for installing doors). I’ve hung doors, but have never thought to use it. It generally sits on my desk as a reminder to occasionally get my hands off the keyboard and onto a physical project of some sort.”


In response to last issue’s piece on using wine bottles to irrigate plants when you’re away, I got a bunch of responses. Here’s one:

John Seiffer: “My wife tried the wine bottle plant watering and said the dirt just clogs it up. She’s a big fan of using wine bottles stuck in these. Apparently the terra cotta works the magic.”

There are also plastic ones that have valves with an adjustable drip rate.

[Gareth’s Tips, Tools, and Shop Tales is published by Cool Tools Lab. To receive the newsletter a week early, sign up here.]

21 Aug 14:42

Ethernet-Over-Coax-Cable Converter

by mark

I live in a sprawling house, extensively wired with coax cable throughout (but not with Cat 5). My mesh wi-fi works, but with five grownups living and working from home, I wanted a wired connection for the main workstations, teleconferencing spots, and Apple TVs. Re-wiring the house with Cat 5 was intrusive and expensive and the Ethernet over the power line didn’t work across the isolated circuits.

Then I discovered Ethernet-over-coax-cable converters. I plugged one end of it into the coax cable in the basement near my Ethernet switch and the other end into the same cable in my office upstairs and it just worked. The spec says the bandwidth is up to 100Mbs, but I’m getting close to 200Mbs (which is what I get from my ISP anyway). I now have many of these and I have it for about 5 months and have no issues to report.

-- Daniel L

eKL IP Extender Kit Over Coax Cable Up to 6560ft(2000m) EOC Converter Ethernet Extender Set

Available from Amazon

21 Aug 14:23

The Power of Transitions: A Theory of Landscape Photography:

by Mitch Green

What makes a great landscape photo, great? Some appreciate an image for its technical prowess or adhering to certain rules. It might be focused correctly and sharp throughout the scene. It could be well-exposed, offering wide dynamic range. Some like to see leading lines or the rule of thirds.

Others find art—in all its forms—mystifying. The image is great because it transports us, or because it makes us feel something. But that’s the effect of great art, not the cause.

The topic of what makes a great landscape photo is one I’ve considered for many years (and one I’m still exploring). Recently, I’ve found that there’s a broad concept that encapsulates many of the aspects of great landscape photos. 

One trait common to many compelling landscape photos is the concept of visual transitions.

As with everything in art, there is no one-size-fits all approach to great landscape photography. Nor should theories or techniques be too prescriptive, limiting our expression. But I want to explore here the concept of transitions—in their various forms—and how you might practically apply the theory next time you’re out in the field or back in your editing suite.

Big to Small Transitions

How many times have you heard that ‘photography is storytelling’? In landscape photography we often include foreground elements or compose the scene to reference the surrounding environment. Why? It’s to enrich the scene we are communicating with our audience.

If we point our cameras directly at a grand waterfall or a bold sunset, great, but that’s just a pretty snapshot. It’s nice to look at, but rarely will it hold our attention. To do that, we must tell the richer story of the scene. While that’s a challenging task in a single static frame, surrounding elements—such as lush ferns or jagged rocks—can imbue the scene with deeper meaning.

These contextual elements help to direct attention, guiding the viewer through the image, transitioning from near (big) to far (small).

If we simply point our camera at the primary subject and let it fill 80% of the frame, the viewer’s eyes will jump straight to the single, prominent element. Yet if we place the key subject in the top 30-40% of the frame, and fill most of the frame with foreground and midground, the viewer processes the nearer elements first (as the dominant area/zone). This offers viewers a richer understanding of the scene, before their attention turns to the key mountain peak/seastack/waterfall deeper in the frame.

Just because we have a striking subject to photograph, that doesn’t mean it needs to dominate the scene. Conversely, be careful not to make the subject so small as to be insignificant. Take time to consider the prominence of certain zones, and frame these to direct the viewer’s attention through the scene. 

Dark to Light Transitions

Like leading lines and the rule of thirds, many landscape photographers use vignettes and dodging/burning. Why? Our eyes are drawn to more luminous, brighter areas.

By darkening the edges of an image, we drift towards brighter areas in the centre of an image. Instead of applying a standard oval vignette across the image, examine the periphery of your scene. Perhaps there’s a bright patch of foliage in the corner, or a bright section of sky at the top. Then, you might look to selectively darken these more luminous regions to help the viewer’s eyes remain in the image and not wander off out to the periphery. I’ll often darken my foreground with a gradient, gradually transitioning to a brighter mountain peak or waterfall.

Likewise, dodging and burning helps to enhance the sense of depth in an otherwise two-dimensional image. Consider the natural direction of light and look to enhance this transition from light to shadow in post-processing, shaping how the light falls. As I often shoot seascapes on sunrise, I’ll dodge the side of the rocks facing the sun and burn the side away from the morning light.

The key here is subtlety. Dark to light transitions don’t need to go from black to white. But I encourage you to be mindful of the luminosity across your images. Consider increasing the light around your primary subject and decreasing it around the less notable features—this is a great technique to hide messy, distracting undergrowth in forest scenes.

Cool to Warm Transitions

Sunlight is warm (both in temperature and in white balance), while areas of shadow are often cooler in tone. As with dark to light transitions, cooler areas tend to recede into the image, while warmer areas tend to be brought forward out of it.

It’s quite easy to enhance this natural colour separation in post-processing, just don’t get too carried away. Using luminosity masks in Photoshop (or a luminosity range mask in Lightroom), try warming up the brighter areas and cooling down the shadows (the Split Toning module in Lightroom also achieves a similar global effect). This separation between light and dark helps to create greater depth through the image. For example, in a forest scene, you may want to cool down the less important undergrowth areas and warm up the brighter fern fronds to better help them ‘pop’ out of the scene. 

With the variety of colour combinations in landscape photography, there is no one size fits all approach, nor is there a single way to achieve a certain effect. The best approach to refining colour is to experiment and then critically review the impact. Did cooling down the entire image help to achieve a certain mood? Did adding warmth to the subject make it more prominent?

And like traditional light vignettes, a similar concept applies to colour vignettes. With our attention drifting towards the warmer areas in a scene, you may opt to cool down the periphery to prevent the viewer being drawn out of the photo.

Final Thoughts

Not every image needs or even suits the transition outlined above. A luminous high key image, such as a tree in snow, will be visually processed from light areas in the periphery to the darker tree branches. But it’s worth paying attention to how size, light and colour transitions influence how our images are perceived.

Likewise, transitions go beyond the three explored above. Sharp to soft transitions can also be used to enhance how your image is experienced. Sharpness naturally fades the further away a subject is—just take a look at distant mountain ranges next time you go hiking. So with your foreground and midground in focus, you might not opt to capture a frame focused at infinity, and instead mirror that natural clarity transition. Likewise, when sharpening for the web, you might exclude sunrise clouds from the final sharpening process to draw more attention to the sharper foreground and guide the viewer’s eye from near to far.

All these techniques can help the viewer to spend more time viewing your work and directly affect how your images are processed. What elements will receive more attention? What secondary elements can be enhanced to offer context and make the subject more memorable?

I’ve never been a fan of theory for theory’s sake. So I encourage you to be mindful of the concepts explored above—not all are appropriate all of the time. Instead, take time to appreciate the influence of transitions on how our images are experienced. Take time to critically apply theory (both in the field and in post-processing) in service of your creative vision.

About The Author: Mitch Green is an Australian landscape photographer. He can be found via his website, on Instagram, or down by the beach at 5am waiting for sunrise.

21 Aug 14:22

Safe Summer Getaway: The Perfect Weekend In Lake Placid

by Katie Kelly Bell, Contributor
Nature is having a moment right now, inspired, as always, by its inherent charms but also by the pandemic-driven desire for space, fresh air and drive-worthy experiences.
11 Aug 20:04

5 Search Engines to Find More Than What Google Shows

by Mihir Patkar
Google Search Alternatives

Google is synonymous with searching the web, but did you know there’s a lot that Google isn’t showing you? Here are some alternative search engines to search the internet in a way Google won’t.

There is nothing wrong with Google Search when it comes to finding web pages. But Google can’t search within your computer and cloud accounts to find a file. Google also restricts itself to the language you’ve set. And why are we helping a corporation get bigger by handing over data in exchange for them earning ad revenue?

Break the habit and try one of these search engines instead.

1. Command E (Windows, macOS): Lightning Fast Search for Local Files and Online Apps

Command E might finally replace Everything and Spotlight as the fastest way to find any file on your computer. Available for both Windows and macOS, this universal search bar is lightning fast and hooks into oft-used cloud services.

Currently, Command E connects to accounts on Google Suite, Github, Slack, Salesforce, Jira, Zendesk, Notion, Hubspot, Asana, Figma, Evernote, Dropbox, Trello, and other popular online productivity suites. Once you’ve authorized access, give it a few minutes to index, and then fire up the console by pressing Command+E or Ctrl+E.

The console enables instant universal search across all accounts. Type a few characters and you’ll start seeing results, changing on the fly as you type. It’s super-fast, and a treat for keyboard warriors. All your data’s file indexes are stored in an encrypted database on your computer, to quell privacy concerns. Try it out, you’ll fall in love.

For download links to the Command E apps for Windows and macOS, you’ll need to register on their website, which triggers the auto-download.

2. Million Short (Web): Search the Less Popular Results

Million Short removes the most popular websites from search results to find fresh and undiscovered web pages

Do your Google search results look a little too similar each time, as if the same websites keep showing up? Search engines prioritize big and popular sites. While that often gives good results, it also hides the serendipitous finds of gems in the deep recesses of the internet. Million Short wants to help you search these overlooked websites.

The idea of Million Short is to search by eliminating top sites. When you search any keyword, you have the option to remove the top 100, 1000, 10,000, 100K, or one million websites from the results. This will show you results that you wouldn’t easily find on Google or other big search engines.

Million Short provides further filters to only show or fully remove e-commerce and live chat sites. You can also filter results by date and location. It’s a fantastic way to find unique search results that others won’t come across, which is especially useful when you’re researching for an assignment or trying to make an impression with trivia.

3. Hopely (Web): Help Charities by Searching the Web

Hopely is a search engine that donates half its earnings from advertisements to charity causes

Hopely is on a mission to help the world using an activity we all do every day: search the internet. The idea is so simple. Every search you do results in ad revenue for Hopely. The organization will keep half of that revenue, and donate the other half to charity. Can you imagine Google or Microsoft Bing promising that?

On the main page, you can choose which charity causes you’d like to support. The main organizations are Bread for the World, Doctors Without Borders, and the World Wildlife Fund. You can pick all three, or only the one you want to donate to.

The search results are not too different from what you’d get on Google or other pages. You can even sort results by images, videos, news, and maps. Hopely doesn’t have additional filters though, like date, video length, type of site, image resolution and other options that you’d get on Google.

Still, for a basic regular search engine, Hopely does the job well enough to consider switching to it and helping the world. It’s an excellent Google search alternative that feeds real people rather than large corporations. On the rare occasion that Hopely doesn’t give you what you want, you can always Google it instead.

4. Sourceful (Web): Search and Discover Public Google Docs, Sheets, Slides

Sourceful indexes and searches publicly available Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides

Google Docs gives you the option to make any Doc, Sheet, or Slide into a publicly viewable file on the internet. Sourceful finds these files and indexes them to make a library of public documents, which anyone can search.

You can refine the search by document, spreadsheet, or slideshow, and further sort results by Hot, Best, or New. There are a few popular search results already available to browse. For example, click “coronavirus” to find publicly available files about it, like trackers and statistics, toolkits and checklists, advisories and presentations, and more.

Sourceful users can also refine the description of each file, and add tags to make it easier to search. You can also comment on the results to start a discussion.

If you have an interesting file to share, whether your own or someone else’s, add it to Sourceful.

5. 2Lingual (Web): Search in Two Languages Simultaneously

2Lingual searches Google for two languages simultaneously, so you can see results from different language web pages side-by-side

The world speaks way more languages than English alone, and so does the internet. But when you Google search for an English keyword, you don’t see pages in Spanish, Russian, Arabic, Hindi, and several other languages. 2Lingual is here to fix that, by searching in two languages simultaneously.

Powered by Google, you can select from a range of languages from Arabic to Vietnamese. The results appear side-by-side in two panes, which lets you see the difference between simple English results and how much more there is to the subject.

In most cases, you’ll need to know how to read the second language as well. But if you’re searching something regional, you could turn on “automatic query translation” and try to parse the results. You’ll probably get better local insights that way.

Protect Your Privacy While Searching

Google and Bing are the leading search engines in the world, but both are notorious for how little they value your privacy. They track all your searches, use it to feed advertising, and you’re never in control of where your data might finally end up.

There are a few other choices for search that protect their users. DuckDuckGo is the most famous name among them, with plenty of integrations across platforms. But you might want to also check out some of the other best privacy focused search engines if you’re ready to dump Google for good.

Read the full article: 5 Search Engines to Find More Than What Google Shows

11 Aug 20:03

Launch a Successful Podcast With This Podcast Training Bundle

by Mahesh Makvana

Podcasts are everywhere now; you’ve almost certainly subscribed to a few yourself. With over 45 percent of podcast listeners making over $250,000 a year, it’s become a business that many users want to get into.

Starting a podcast is like beginning any other business. You need a plan, proper execution of that plan, and an analytical mind to process the data and take actions to grow your podcast user base. If you’re completely new to it, this might sound like too much to you.

Luckily, there are some courses you can take to help you learn what it takes to start a podcast and make it successful. The Start-to-Finish Guide to Launching a Successful Podcast Bundle is one such course we’re highlighting today.

What’s in the Podcast Bundle?

podcasts bundle deal

The Start-to-Finish Guide to Launching a Successful Podcast Bundle is a group of many small courses that helps you launch your podcast. It takes you on the journey from setting up your equipment to recording your first podcast to finally bringing it to a large audience.

You will learn what equipment to use for your podcast, how to record and edit your podcasts, and finally getting people to know your podcast exists.

Right now at MakeUseOf Deals, you can grab the podcasting course for just $44.99. That saves you a total of 97 percent on the original price of the bundle, which is $1,800.

What Does This Podcasting Bundle Offer?

mind mapping for podcasts

With comprehensive lectures on various essential parts of the podcasting process, you’ll learn the most essential steps for starting a podcast and the efforts it takes to make it a successful one. It includes lectures on presentation, speaking, mixing your audio, and more.

It will show how to utilize mind-mapping for your first podcast. You’ll then move onto putting yourself in front of the public. The bundle also has a social marketing course that explains how to utilize social media to get more subscribers.

Having crystal-clear sound is of utmost importance in podcasting. As a result, this bundle includes a course for mixing audio using a software tool. This should help remove any noises from your recordings to make them more refined.

Once you’re on track and have started a podcast, you may want to interview some people. The bundle offers a course teaching you how to go about interviewing heroes of yours online.

After nine courses and 541 lessons, you’ll become a podcaster that people love to listen to.

Get Started With Podcasting Now

To begin your podcast journey, head over to The Start-to-Finish Guide to Launching a Successful Podcast Bundle page and you’ll see the reduced price. Grab the deal and you’ll become the proud owner of extensive courses about podcasts. Follow each course, apply the newly learned skills to your podcast, and people will notice and admire your work in no time.

Read the full article: Launch a Successful Podcast With This Podcast Training Bundle

11 Aug 19:59

Drink like Da Vinci: Italy is bringing back its 17th-century ‘wine windows’

by Michael Waters

Photo: Buchette del Vino/Facebook

Want to buy an aperol spritz or a gelato without stepping indoors? The holes in the wall have you covered.

Because of the coronavirus, shops in Tuscany are reviving a centuries-old sales trick — arched, stone hatches called “wine windows.”

It’s like medieval drive-thru: Call out your order through the buchette del vino, and a phantom hand will serve you.

Where did these things come from?

17th-century Italian aristocrats wanted to run wine businesses, but they weren’t so keen on paying taxes. 

So they carved up slits in their cellar walls to sell vino on the DL. 

Then the bubonic plague hit 

Wine windows became a safe way to do business. A recent survey found ~300 still exist.

Now you can pay by credit card — but back in the day, you dropped coins into a metal holder, and the seller disinfected them with vinegar.

Contactless tech? That’s so 1600s.

10 Aug 22:01

AKASO WT50 Review: Cheap and Cheerful Mini Projector

by Kris Wouk
AKASO WT50 in action
Our verdict of the AKASO WT50 Mini Projector:
If you're looking for an ultra-affordable, ultra-portable pico projector, the AKASO WT50 will get the job done, but don't expect to use it in anything but the darkest surroundings.610

Sure, television screens are getting larger all the time, but if you want a truly large screen without spending tens of thousands of dollars, you need a projector. Of course, a 4K projector capable of display sizes upwards of 100 inches isn’t cheap either. Not everybody needs one of those.

That is why the mini-projector market has sprung up in the last decade or so. They aren’t the most capable, but they’re portable, affordable, and easy to set up and use. Unlike some other manufacturers, AKASO doesn’t lie about what its tiny WT50 Mini Projector is capable of, which is exactly why we think it’s worth a look.

AKASO WT50 Pico Projector AKASO WT50 Pico Projector Buy Now On Amazon $249.99


The raw specs of the AKASO WT50 mini projector aren’t going to blow anyone away. Of course, at this price point, it’s a tough call as to who would be expecting incredible hardware specs in the first place. Still, it’s good to know what you’re dealing with.

  • Brightness: 50 ANSI Lumens
  • Resolution: 854×480
  • Dimensions: 5.71×3.15×0.79 inches
  • Weight: 0.64lbs
  • Projection Ratio: 1.19:1
  • Connectivity: Dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, HDMI, 2x USB, SD Card slot
  • Battery: 3.7V, 5000mAh
  • Android Version: 7.1

As with any piece of technology, there’s a lot more to the performance than numbers on paper and name recognition of the components. First, let’s take a look at the whole package.

What’s in the Box?

AKASO WT50 box contents

Taking the top off the box, the first thing you’ll spy is the projector itself, neatly nestled in form-fitting foam. The bundled accessories are tucked into three separate cardboard boxes underneath, creating a platform for the projector to rest on top of.

In one box you’ll find a tripod with a pivoting head, letting you align the projector at often unnecessarily odd angles, but we’ll get to that later. In the other boxes, you’ll find the AC adapter, HDMI cable for use with external playback devices, remote control (batteries not included), the manual, and a warranty card.

Setting Up the AKASO WT50

Before you can start watching movies or TV shows, the projector requires a bit of setup. Fortunately, this is a relatively simple process and doesn’t take all that long.

AKASO recommends that you fully charge the WT50 before first use. The battery was already mostly charged so this didn’t take long. Still, I plugged in the power adapter before I powered the projector on, just in case. Powering on is a two-step process: First, set the slide switch to “On”, then press the power button right next to it.

AKASO WT50 front

Once the power is on, make sure you’ve got the projector pointed at a suitable surface (a white wall will do) and you can set up the rest. In my case, this meant connecting to Wi-Fi, but you can also set up using a wireless hotspot or no networking at all, assuming you’re plugging in external players.

Before you do that, you’ll need to adjust the focus wheel to get the picture looking sharp and in focus. This is also when you’ll want to try using the included tripod if you need it. The design of the tripod leaves quite a bit to be desired. It’s nice that it’s included, but the pivoting head means it’s far too easy to tilt the projector, making getting a level image from the projector a little tricky.


When it comes to wireless connectivity, the AKASO WT50 has both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, as mentioned earlier. I was actually surprised that the WT50 supported 802.11ac wireless networks, which isn’t always the case on these lower-cost devices.

The WT50 also has a few ports to make connecting other hardware easier. The full-size HDMI port makes plugging in Blu-ray players, streaming boxes, and game consoles easy. You also get a pair of USB ports, an SD card slot, and a 3.5mm headphone / auxiliary audio jack.

AKASO WT50 ports

If you want to play media from your phone, the AKASO WT50 supports a few different methods. You can use Wi-Fi Display (aka. Miracast), AirPlay, or a third-party app solution that requires you to download an app on your phone. Unfortunately in my testing, I was unable to connect to the AirPlay server on the projector despite trying with multiple devices.

Features & Interface

AKASO WT50 interface

You’ve got two different ways to operate the AKASO WT50: the included remote and the touch interface on top of the projector. It’s handy that these are both included, as it means you’re not out of luck if you lose the remote.

The AKASO WT50 is powered by Android 7.1, meaning it’s a lot more capable out of the box than older, not-so-smart projectors. The Google Play Store is included, as well as a utility for sideloading apps in APK form. This means that you can install any streaming app you want and it should have a decent chance of working.

But don’t expect everything to work perfectly, especially with the included remote. Netflix, which is installed on the WT50 out of the box, worked with the remote long enough to sign in. After that, I thought the remote had quit working. Instead, it turned out that Netflix—at least this version—wasn’t working fully with the remote. Using the touch interface on top of the projector, navigating the menus worked fine, but this was less than ideal. Hopefully, a future firmware update may improve remote compatibility.

The location of the remote sensor is also a slight issue. It’s located on the back of the projector, but the remote is of the IR variety, meaning you need line of sight. Even if you’re a little off to the right or left, getting the remote to work can take some aiming.

Finally, the interface can be a little laggy at times. It’s not worse than a Fire TV Stick or similar device, and it’s not a big problem, but you’ll definitely need to be a little patient at times.

Picture: How Many P?

AKASO WT50 in dim light

Mini or pico projectors aren’t often known for their high pixel counts, and this makes sense. It currently isn’t possible to make something that is capable of 4K resolution that is also small and affordable. Considering those last two points, it’s even tough to hit the 1080p mark without trouble. That said, you’ll see some that support 720p, even in this small size, like the Nebra Anybeam.

The WT50 accepts sources up to 1080p, but it’s not actually showing them at this resolution. Instead, the WT50 uses a native resolution of 854×480, while puts it at 480p. This means that as you push the size of the picture higher by moving the projector farther away from your screen, it’s getting blurrier all the time.

If you keep the screen size around 80 inches or less, it’s nowhere near as blurry as you might imagine. You’ll notice it more with text, especially navigating menus, but once you’re caught up in what you’re watching, you probably won’t notice it looking especially low resolution, unless you’ve just watched a 4K movie on a similarly sized screen.

Adjusting WT50 brightness

The bigger problem with the WT50 is one that AKASO doesn’t shy away from: the limited brightness. At a peak brightness of just 50 ANSI lumens, this isn’t a bright projector. If you’re watching in a very dark room, the brightness isn’t a problem.

If you’ve got anything above minimal ambient light, the projector will struggle. Try watching something with sunlight streaming in the windows and you might as well just turn it off.

Sound Advice

AKASO WT50 touch screen

It’s a very good thing that the AKASO WT50 offers both Bluetooth connectivity and a built-in 3.5mm audio jack. Why? Because the built-in sound, while functional, isn’t something you’ll ever really want to use if you have a choice.

This can’t really be helped, in AKASO’s defense. The WT50 is so tiny that there’s no way anyone could fit a speaker capable of creating movie-ready or even TV-ready sound inside. If you’re using this to quietly project a movie on to a close wall in the middle of the night—something I can’t imagine is all that common—the sound will be adequate, but only barely.

In my testing, I happened to have a Bluetooth-equipped soundbar nearby. Connecting the WT50 to this made a world of difference in making the movie feel more cinematic. Of course, if you’re using the WT50 for an outdoor movie night with the kids, you probably won’t be able to lug along a soundbar, but even a standard portable Bluetooth speaker will be a worthwhile upgrade.

Should You Buy the AKASO WT50?

As we mentioned at the very top of this article, AKASO doesn’t over-promise when it comes to the capabilities of the WT50. Fortunately, it doesn’t under-deliver either. This means that you’re getting exactly what you expect, which is strangely refreshing in this day and age.

That said, the WT50 isn’t for everybody. If you need higher resolutions or a projector you can use in anything resembling daylight, take a look at our favorite projectors for your home theater. On the other hand, if you’re looking for a portable projector to use outside for occasional outdoor movie nights and you don’t live in a brightly lit neighborhood, the WT50 may be just enough for what you need.

AKASO WT50 Mini Projector, 1080P HD Video DLP Portable Projector with Android 7.1, WIFi, Wireless and Wired Screen Sharing, Trackpad Design, Pocket Sized Home Theater Pico Projector for iPhone Android AKASO WT50 Mini Projector, 1080P HD Video DLP Portable Projector with Android 7.1, WIFi, Wireless and Wired Screen Sharing, Trackpad Design, Pocket Sized Home Theater Pico Projector for iPhone Android Buy Now On Amazon $249.99

Read the full article: AKASO WT50 Review: Cheap and Cheerful Mini Projector

10 Aug 21:56

The Best Portable Ice Maker

by Tyler Wells Lynch and Liam McCabe
The Best Portable Ice Maker

If you can’t get the ice you want from trays or store-bought bags, and a built-in machine (like the one in a fridge) won’t cut it, then you might want a portable ice maker. You can just buy whatever’s cheap or looks cool: The most compact and affordable models—which make nine bullet-shaped “cubes” at a time—are likely all the same basic machine made in the same factory, and they work pretty well.