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IRL: Living with the Cocoon Slim, a backpack made for gadget hoarders

IRL: Living with the Cocoon Slim, a backpack made for gadget hoarders

When you run around town with a lot of technology, a good bag isn’t just nice to have — it’s a necessity. In any one given day at Engadget, we might be attending a product launch, interviewing people or taking all those lovely sample shots you see around the site. A regular courier bag or rucksack will likely do the job, but do you really want all your work-essential kit rattling around in a cross-city spin cycle? No, us neither.

Enter the Cocoon Slim. This bag was built for the urban gadget carrier, there’s simply no doubt about it. The backpack has two main sections. The primary one is where you’ll slide in your laptop (it fits up to 15 inches). In this same section is another pocket ideal for a tablet, e-reader or, in my case, a good old-fashioned book. While the outside of the Slim is made of “ballistic” nylon, the internal is a much more luxurious faux suede. This definitely makes me feel like my gadgets are not just protected from the elements, but also safe from each other. This, however, isn’t really the main event.

The Slim’s party trick — and what hooked me the moment I saw it — is the “grid-it” system in the second compartment. Basically, criss-crossing elastic straps make this an infinitely configurable gadget holder. Most of the bands are quite tight and thus better-suited for small items, but there are a few looser ones that let you tuck in larger items as well. I can get everything in from USB sticks right up to my NEX 3 camera. It’s a bit of a Fort Boyard-style puzzle to cram everything in the relatively small space, but that’s all part of the fun, I guess.

Once you’ve got everything packed up, then you’re ready to rock. Another strong point of the Slim is because everything is so tightly packed, the whole backpack feels small and compact. If you adjust the straps so they’re nice and snug, it almost feels like a parachute attached to your back (albeit a heavy one). This also leads me to one of the few downsides. If you’re doing a lot of walking, and have your laptop in standby, things can get very warm around your shoulders. Perhaps that’s OK in the wintertime, but in summer I found myself having to carry it by the top handle on more than one occasion to prevent, well, let’s face it, Sweaty Back Syndrome.

If there’s one more improvement I’d love to see, it would perhaps be an adjustable/expandable middle section. A bag packed with military precision is great until you’re given something else to carry. Which is often the case in my job, where you can find yourself with the bag and something in your hand. In desperate times I’ve managed to be pretty creative with the space available and get a surprising amount of irregular sized objects in there. I persist regardless, because it’s such a reliable perfumer day to day. And at $80, not pocket-unfriendly either.

Filed under: Peripherals



The evolution of the PC: A decade of design

Sony's VAIO X505, Lenovo's IdeaCentre A300 and Microsoft's Surface Pro 3

Computers have gone through nothing short of a renaissance in the decade since Engadget was born. When we started in 2004, desktops still ruled the roost; laptops were frequently clunky; and tablets were niche devices for doctors.

That state of affairs didn’t last for long, though. Netbooks briefly took over the world, bringing tiny laptops to the masses. Ultrabooks proved that slim machines could still be powerful. And just about the entire PC market has had to confront the rise and domination of touchscreen-enabled mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. In short, it’s pretty remarkable how much of a difference 10 years can make in tech.

2004: Sony VAIO X505

Sony VAIO X505

Notable specs: 1.1GHz Pentium M processor, 20GB hard drive, 1.73-pound weight, 10.4-inch (1,024 x 768) display.

Sony didn’t realize it at the time, but it was laying the groundwork for the next decade of laptops with the VAIO X505. The 10-inch system was so featherlight and slender that it was easy to take anywhere, much like a netbook or Ultrabook. If it weren’t for the astronomical $2,999 price tag, it’s possible it could have started a mobile-computing revolution.

2005: IBM ThinkPad T43

IBM ThinkPad T43

Notable specs: 1.6GHz to 2.13GHz Pentium M processors, 30GB or larger hard drive, 6-pound weight, DVD drive, 14.1-inch (1,024 x 768 or 1,400 x 1,050) display.

The ThinkPad T43 was the swan song for an era of computing when laptops were mostly for globe-trotting professionals. One of the last PCs to bear the IBM name before Lenovo closed its acquisition of IBM’s PC business, it represented everything good about the ThinkPad badge: It was fast, well-built and relatively easy to carry in a briefcase.

2006: Dell XPS 700

Dell XPS 700

Notable specs: Core 2 Duo or Core 2 Extreme processors, dual 320GB hard drives, dual DVD drives, dual GeForce 7900 GTX graphics.

Dell had built up a reputation for high-performance PCs well before 2006, but the XPS 700 was the system to own that year if you wanted a gaming desktop from a major brand. Its aggressive design still holds up today, and it was often as powerful as custom-built rigs. It was a dream machine at a time when you still needed a giant tower for serious online gaming.

2007: ASUS Eee PC 701

ASUS Eee PC 701

Notable specs: 800MHz or 900MHz Celeron M processors, 2GB to 8GB solid-state drives, 2-pound weight, 7-inch (800 x 480) display.

The Eee PC 701 marked the official start of the netbook craze, which lasted until the iPad’s arrival in 2010. Its screen, speed and storage were very modest even when new, but it showed that you didn’t need a big, expensive portable just to check your email at the coffee shop.

2008: Apple MacBook Air

Apple MacBook Air from 2008

Notable specs: 1.6GHz or 1.8GHz Core 2 Duo processors, 80GB hard drive or 64GB solid-state drive, 3-pound weight, 13.3-inch (1,280 x 800) display.

The archetypal Ultrabook. While it wasn’t without its quirks, the MacBook Air successfully bridged the gap between ultraportables and full laptops. It was fast enough for most tasks, yet light enough that you’d hardly notice it in your bag.

2009: HP Firebird

HP Firebird

Notable specs: 2.66GHz or 2.83GHz Core 2 Quad processors, dual 250GB or 320GB hard drives, DVD or Blu-ray drives, dual GeForce 9800S graphics.

While HP’s Firebird line wasn’t perfect by any stretch, it showed how efficient desktops had become. You could get a reasonably quick, ready-made gaming PC that both looked good and didn’t swallow up too much surface area. It’s arguably the prototype for the small-yet-strong Steam Machines that would follow five years later.

2010: Lenovo IdeaCentre A300

Lenovo IdeaCentre A300

Notable specs: 2.2GHz Core 2 Duo processor, 500GB hard drive, 21.5-inch (1,920 x 1,080) display.

Although the iMac is virtually synonymous with all-in-one computers, Lenovo’s sleekly designed IdeaCentre A300 was proof that Apple didn’t have a complete lock on the category. Rather than glom the computer on to the A300′s back, Lenovo tucked it away in the base. The result was a relatively subtle, stylish desktop that looked right at home in just about any environment.

2011: Samsung Chromebook Series 5

Samsung Chromebook Series 5

Notable specs: 1.66GHz Atom processor, 16GB solid-state drive, 3.3-pound weight, 12.1-inch (1,280 x 800) display.

Unlike the other PCs here, the Chromebook Series 5′s real revolution was its software — with Chrome OS, both Google and Samsung were betting that you only needed a web browser for most of your day-to-day computing. That was optimistic on a slow, Atom-based machine circa 2011, but the Series 5 helped launch a wave of stripped-down, affordable laptops that could do a lot without relying on conventional apps.

2012: Apple MacBook Pro with Retina display

Apple MacBook Pro with Retina display from 2012

Notable specs: 2.3GHz or 2.6GHz Core i7 processors, 256GB to 768GB solid-state drives, 4.5-pound weight, 15.4-inch (2,880 x 1,800) display.

Apple’s 2012 MacBook Pro redesign was just an iterative upgrade in some ways, but it was also a bellwether for where laptop design would go. It wasn’t just that extra-sharp Retina display that turned heads; this was also one of the first high-end, full-size laptops to ditch optical discs and hard drives in the name of both an easier-to-carry body and faster, flash-based storage.

2013: Acer Aspire R7

Acer Aspire R7

Notable specs: 1.8GHz Core i5 processor, 500GB hybrid hard drive, 15.6-inch (1,920 x 1,080) adjustable display.

Windows 8′s touch-friendly interface prompted a flood of PCs that tried to be everything to everyone, and that’s epitomized in Acer’s one-of-a-kind Aspire R7. Depending on how you adjusted its multi-hinged display, the R7 could serve as a desktop, laptop or tablet. It wasn’t especially good at any of these, but it revealed how eager PC makers were to keep you from buying mobile tablets.

2014: Microsoft Surface Pro 3

Microsoft Surface Pro 3

Notable specs: Core i3, i5 or i7 processor, 64GB to 512GB solid-state drive, 12-inch (2,160 x 1,440) display.

If you want a system emblematic of the changes to PCs in the past 10 years, you only need to look at Microsoft’s latest flagship device, the Surface Pro 3. So long as you get its (practically mandatory) keyboard cover, it blurs the lines between tablet and laptop — it’s as useful for watching movies on the couch as it is for serious media editing at your desk.

Jon Turi contributed to this post.

Filed under: Desktops, Laptops, Tablets, Apple, Samsung, Microsoft, HP, Dell, Acer, Lenovo



There can’t be only one: Technology’s singular obsession

foam finger on white

Last week, Google announced the aptly named Android One, a plan to unite the myriad budget devices running its mobile operating system. But Sundar Pichai and crew aren’t alone in banking on the singular power of one. No, Google’s One is just one of many in the industry’s recent past. It turns out, everyone wants to be the one.

[Image: Getty]

Filed under: Cellphones, Misc, Laptops, Science, Internet, Software, Sony, Microsoft, HTC, Google, Acer



Sunrise’s social calendar app reaches the Mac

Sunrise Calendar for Mac

Sunrise has quickly become the calendar app of choice for some people, and for good reason. Besides its straightforward interface and support for all your social networks, it’s one of the few truly multi-platform schedulers you can find — as of this May, it can run on Android, iOS and the web. It hasn’t had a native desktop app, however, and the company is rectifying that by launching Sunrise for Mac. Not surprisingly, it’s more than just the iPad app writ large. In addition to the all the advantages that come with more screen real estate, you get both a mouse-friendly interface and native OS X notifications; there’s also a complete offline mode if you need to review your itinerary on a flight without WiFi.

As before, the big deal is integration with a slew of content providers. Sunrise’s Mac client handles both the standard calendars from Facebook, Google and Microsoft as well as a raft of features from online services that rarely show up in this kind of software. You can see your Evernote reminders and Foursquare check-ins, for instance, or use LinkedIn to find out more about the attendees at your next meeting. This won’t necessarily supplant either Apple’s stock calendar app or web-based tools, and Windows users are unfortunately out of luck for now. But hey, it’s free — if you’re interested in a Mac-friendly life organizer whose usefulness extends well beyond the desktop, it won’t hurt to give Sunrise a spin.

Filed under: Internet, Software


Via: 9to5 Mac

Source: Mac App Store, Sunrise


RoboHow is translating the internet for robot use

Robot Show In Tokyo, Japan On November 25, 2009.

RoboEarth. No, it’s not a lame SNES game from 1994, it’s a cloud network that lets robots learn from the actions of other bots. It started over three years ago, and now, a new, related project has sprung from that initiative at the Institute for Artificial Intelligence at the University of Bremen in Germany. Called RoboHow, it seeks to translate info on the web meant for human consumption into something our electromechanical helpers can understand. Imagine a future in which you ask your house robot to whip you up something new for dinner; RoboHow would ingest your chosen recipes from Epicurious and turn them into instructions said bot can execute.

Of course, that means more than just turning English into bot-friendly 1′s and 0′s. RoboHow has to make explicit many parts of complex procedures that humans can simply infer — like how to turn on an oven, or where to find needed ingredients. The plan is to eventually enable robots to search the internet for info or instructions they need to complete assigned tasks without external (read: human) intervention. For now, people have to identify, demonstrate and feed RoboHow the right data, as bots left to their own devices would inevitably grab bad or incomplete information. So, it seems that our future robot overlords still need us meatbags around… for a little while longer, at least.

Image Credit: Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

Filed under: Robots



The Big Picture: An astronaut’s view of Hurricane Arthur

Hurricane Arthur Continues To Move Up The East Coast

While the solar panel from the ISS glides above North America, Hurricane Arthur moves up the east coast. Arthur, a category 2 storm, is the first of the season. The ISS captured this image yesterday, prior to its landfall in North Carolina this morning — leaving many locals no choice but to put holiday celebrations on hold and evacuate the area. Arthur is expected to strengthen, while astronauts on the Space Station continue to observe from above.

Filed under: Science



This playable Tetris T-shirt requires you to touch yourself

In the 30 years since Alexey Pajitnov first launched Tetris, the world’s most popular game has regularly been immortalized in fashion. Luxembourgian Mark Kreger wanted to do the same, but instead of cooking up a colorful print, he’s staving off boredom with something much more interactive: a playable Tetris T-shirt. Featuring 128 LEDs powered by an Arduino Uno microcontroller, Kreger’s marvellous tee requires only four rechargeable AA batteries to power the game. It’ll keep score and display level numbers — the only thing it appears to be lacking is the super-funky soundtrack.

Filed under: Gaming, Wearables


Via: Time

Source: Mark Kerger (YouTube)


Could future Lumia handsets come with Canon lenses?

As smartphone imaging gets better, the market for point-and-shoot cameras has evaporated. Perhaps sensing this shift in the wind, Canon has signed a patent-licensing deal with Microsoft where both companies will have easy access to each other’s technological secrets. Dour-minded individuals may say that this is just some legal mutual arse-covering which is commonplace in these litigious times. That’s probably true, but wouldn’t it be great if we saw Canon’s imaging technology wind up in a future generation of PureView device? After all, the company does need some new expertise after its last expert defected to the other side.

Filed under: Cellphones, Cameras, Mobile, Microsoft, Canon


Via: Pocket-lint

Source: Photography Blog


The Big Picture: NASA flies massive SOFIA telescope to the stratosphere

It’s a catch-22: the lenses of ground-based telescopes can be made huge, but are hamstrung by distortion from the atmosphere. Hubble-type telescopes don’t have that issue, but must be small to be launched into space, and good luck fixing them. That’s where NASA’s SOFIA (Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy) comes in: by sticking a 17-ton telescope into a Boeing 747, you can launch it up to 45,000 feet and get past 99 percent of our atmosphere’s water vapor. That way, SOFIA astronomers can scan infrared signals to study planetary atmospheres, comets and interstellar star chemistry, to name a few projects. Naturally, it’s a science- and gadget-lovers smorgasbord — check the gallery and video below, or head over to NASA’s SOFIA mission site.

Filed under: Science, Alt


Via: Wired

Source: NASA


Apple recruits one of the watch industry’s most important sales execs

TAG Heuer Aquaracer watch

Apple’s recent hires in wearable tech have largely taken place outside the watch industry, which is slightly odd for a company rumored to be making a watch of its own. However, it just addressed that discrepancy in style — LVMH’s watch division has confirmed that Apple has snagged Patrick Pruniaux, TAG Heuer’s sales and retail VP, as part of a broader campaign to poach talent from watchmakers. We’ve reached out to Apple to learn more about its plans, but LVMH group head Jean-Claude Biver tells CNBC that Pruniaux will be working on the “iWatch.” Clearly, the team in Cupertino wants someone who can market wristwear to a large audience.

Biver says he’s relieved that Pruniaux is leaving for Apple, since the California firm isn’t a “direct competitor” to LVMH’s luxury-oriented TAG Heuer, Hublot and Zenith brands. While that’s true, the move suggests that Apple may creep on to their turf by marketing its future wearable more like a conventional watch than a phone accessory. If so, that’s a sharp break from the approaches we’ve seen so far — even the relatively stylish Moto 360 and Pebble Steel are more often pitched to tech-savvy types than the fashion-conscious.

[Image credit: Andreas Knudsen, Flickr]

Filed under: Wearables, Apple


Source: CNBC, 9to5 Mac

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