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Tim Peake’s space shuttle will live on at London’s Science Museum

Tim Peake’s voyage to the International Space Station (ISS) made plenty of headlines over the past year for good reason: he was the first British astronaut to explore space in over 20 years. While floating 220 miles above the earth, Peake took some time out to help the BBC make its first broadcast into space and became the first person to complete a marathon, helping inspire millions of young children across the UK (and the world). In an attempt to build on that momentum, the Science Museum Group announced today that it has bought the spacecraft that made it all possible.

The vehicle in question is the Soyuz TMA-19M, a Russian-built spacecraft that carried Peake and his crewmates Yuri Malenchenko and Tim Kopra to (and from) the ISS almost a year ago. The craft needed refurbishing after coming back to Earth on June 18th, but still retains a lot of the singe marks it sustained during its re-entry into the atmosphere (which you can see above).

The Soyuz becomes the first “flown human spacecraft” to be acquired by the owners of London’s Science Museum. It’s set to expand upon the recent Cosmonauts: Birth of the Space Age exhibition, which became the museum’s most successful exhibition ever. If you’re looking for another reason to visit one of London’s greatest archives, don’t book your tickets just yet: details regarding the display won’t be confirmed until a later date.

Via: BBC News

Source: Science Museum Group


There’s an app for in-flight ‘flirting’

AirDates is a new app, currently in testing, that is positioning itself as Tinder for air travel, although it’ll work on all forms of public transport. Users are encouraged to post their travel itinerary ahead of time so that they can potentially hook up with other passengers on the same journey. If they’re looking for some pre-mile high fun, they can use geolocation while at the airport, or chat with each other in the air. This is achieved using Multipeer WiFi between smartphones, eliminating the need to rely upon the Plane’s WiFi network or other connection.

The idea of a hook-up app for public transport sounds a little pointless, not to mention a recipe for disaster should things go wrong. After all, you’re locked into a pressurized tube for anything up to half a day with someone who wants to chat you up. Not to mention the potential safety risks of placing yourself at the mercy of a complete stranger who knows your travel plans. There’s certainly the risk that users could engage in harassing or threatening behavior within the confined space.

CEO Michael Richard disagrees, saying that, if anything, the inside of a plane is the “safest place to have a date.” He feels that the fact that there are lots of other people in the vicinity will eliminate any danger I can think of. The CEO added that any users who feel that they are being harassed or intimidated can instantly block all further communication with their partner. In addition, the company is looking at only allowing female users to initiate conversations to avoid the sort of abusive behavior that would discourage users.

Richard also spoke about how the app will integrate with other social platforms, including Facebook, Spotify and Pinterest. The latter one seemed odd, and when I pressed him on it, he said that it was because the platform isn’t censored. From what I could understand, he believes that people may wish to share erotic images with each other, via Pinterest of all places. By way of example, he cited David Hamilton, an art photographer who captured images of underage girls that skirted the line of exploitative pornography. If that’s his go-to, I’m taking that as a very big red flag.

Source: AirDates


The best Christmas lights

By Doug Mahoney

This post was done in partnership with The Sweethome, a buyer’s guide to the best homewares. When readers choose to buy The Sweethome’s independently chosen editorial picks, it may earn affiliate commissions that support its work. Read the full article here.

After spending over 60 hours researching Christmas lights, interviewing experts, and testing 20 strands of lights side by side, we’ve found that GE’s Energy Smart Colorite LED Miniature Lights (available in multicolor strands of 50 bulbs or 100 bulbs and in warm white strands of 50 bulbs or 100 bulbs) are the best all-around indoor Christmas lights. This is the third year we’ve named these GE lights as our pick, and we can’t find any lights that match their color quality and their ready availability at Home Depot.

How we picked and tested

Ready to begin testing. Photo: Doug Mahoney

We concentrated our research and testing strictly on nonblinking miniature lights, the traditional, small, stranded Christmas lights with a clear or semiclear bulb and a candle shape. They’re the standard, and we wanted to focus on the lights that most people will be using, rather than those with a lesser following. Still, we do have some thoughts on larger-bulb lights, and on other bulb sizes that didn’t make the cut in our full guide. During our research, we also found that blinking lights are a very small minority of available lights, so we stayed with the type that remains lit at all times.

Once we dug into our options, we soon realized that our recommended lights would be fully rectified LEDs and not traditional incandescents. They’re more durable, they’re safer, and you can connect together a much higher number of strands without any risk of tripping a breaker or a GFCI outlet. There’s no question that LEDs cost more than incandescents (they’re at least twice the price), but we believe that the long-term benefits are worth that added cost. For more on the different types of LED lights, check out the How we picked and tested section of our guide.

In selecting the strands we wanted to test, we searched both larger online retailers and specialty retailers that deal only in Christmas lights. We dismissed companies that had overall poor reviews, strange or incomplete bulb selections, or suspiciously low pricing.

To evaluate the lights, we wound and unwound them, draped them over and into Christmas trees and rhododendrons, and tucked them in and out of deck railings. Basically, we tried to use the lights how they’re intended to be used. We tested the weather impermeability of the exterior lights by plugging them in and sinking the strands of lights into a 3-gallon bucket of water. Though this test was a bit extreme, it’s certainly possible that any set of exterior lights will end up in a puddle or draped in a gutter. We also assessed each strand for color quality, using a high-quality incandescent strand as a benchmark.

Our pick for indoor lights

GE’s incandescent (top) and LED (bottom) strands. Photo: Doug Mahoney

The best lights for indoor use are GE’s Energy Smart Colorite LED Miniature Lights, which are available in multicolor (50 bulbs or 100 bulbs) and warm white (50 bulbs or 100 bulbs). These bulbs offer all the benefits of LED lights, including high durability, zero heat output, and a long life expectancy, but one attribute sets them apart: Of everything we tested, GE’s Colorites came the closest to replicating the glow of incandescents. This was particularly true with the warm white bulbs, which were impressive in their color quality. These lights also have a nice wire that’s easy to handle and to drape through a tree or railing. And unlike some other LEDs, they don’t flicker.

The GE lights have sold out quickly the past two years, so if that happens again, we recommend Christmas Designers’s T5 Smooth LED Lights (available in warm white, multicolor, or solid color).

Our pick for outdoor lights

The Christmas Designers 5mm Wide Angle Conical LED (top) and the regular GE Colorite LED (bottom). Photo: Doug Mahoney

For outdoor use, we recommend the 5mm Wide Angle Conical LED Lights from Christmas Designers. They are available in warm white, multicolor, or solid colors in a variety of lengths and bulb spacings (note that the 50-bulb lengths have a bulb spacing of 6 inches, not the more traditional 4-inch spacing of the 35-, 70-, and 100-bulb strands). The odd shape of the 5 mm bulb gives a lot of depth when seen from a distance. Depending on how you view the bulb, the light emits a different level of brightness. That combined with their warm colors makes them perfect for just about anywhere outdoors, including a window box, a tree, a wreath, or a roofline.

Like other LEDs, these lights cost more than incandescents, but because they’re specifically designed to withstand long-term exposure to moisture, your investment will be protected if they end up drooping into a puddle or a wet gutter. They also have a clean and tight wire, which in our tests made handling, hanging, and storing them easy. And because their electrical requirements are so low, you can connect a whopping 43 strands and run them on a single outlet before worrying about tripping a breaker; this reduces the need for extension cords, which can be a big hidden cost with larger exterior displays.

If our outdoor pick is sold out, we recommend Christmas Lights Etc’s Wide Angle 5mm LED Lights as a runner-up.

Our pick for incandescent lights

If you’re not ready to let go of the distinctive and traditional look of incandescents for indoor use, we recommend both the multicolored and white versions of Christmas Designers’s Incandescent Christmas Lights. These lights offer a great color quality that’s noticeable, particularly with the multicolor strand. In our tests the wires were tight and organized, and once we stretched them out, they lay flat and straight with no issues.

The rich hues of the Christmas Designers multicolor strand, especially the yellow-orange bulb, stood out against the competition. If there is a flaw to these lights, it’s simply that they’re incandescents: They won’t last as long as LED lights and will draw much more power.

This guide may have been updated by The Sweethome. To see the current recommendation, please go here.

Note from The Sweethome: When readers choose to buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn affiliate commissions that support our work.


Computer vision may help the blind see the world

The world is getting better at combining machine learning and computer vision, but it’s not just cars and drones that benefit from that. For instance, the same technology could be used to dramatically improve the lives of people with visual impairments, enabling them to be more independent. One of the startups looking to do just that is Eyra, which is showing off a wearable called Horus that could help the blind “see.”

I got to try out the prototype hardware at TechCrunch Disrupt, and while the design is close to being done, the current device is still rough around the edges. The starting point is a pair of Aftershokz bone-conduction headphones with a camera module attached to the right hand side. The module contains two FHD mobile cameras roughly a centimeter apart which kinda/sorta hangs off the side of your head.

The headset is connected via a microUSB cable to a black plastic box the size of about half a paperback book. Nestled inside is NVIDIA’s Tegra K1 chip and a battery capacious enough to sustain the device for a full day of use. Unlike other visual aids we’ve seen, Horus is designed to all of its processing locally, so you’re not left at the mercy of your wireless connection when out and about.

Horus is currently designed to read pieces of text, identify objects or recognize the faces of the people that you’re speaking to. You need to select which option you’re going to use with three menu buttons on the box (each one a different shape, for ease of use) and then select. If you want to have a book read out to you, select the option and then move the tome up towards the glasses. Audio cues will move from left to right to guide you into the right position for the camera to automatically trigger.

After a short pause, as the system crunches the data, it’ll begin reading out what you’ve just snapped in a synthetic voice. It’s not perfect by any stretch, but it’s certainly smart enough to be able to let you read any book, magazine or newspaper as long as the font is legible. The system will also recognize objects and faces, although both will need to be trained before it’ll reliable enough to launch. In our demo, we were able to get it to read out a new magazine article and it could differentiate between Diet Pepsi and its full-fat equivalent.

The startup was created by a pair of students from the University of Genoa who were looking to develop a computer vision system. While their research was centered around enabling robots to navigate, they found the technology had other applications. In the subsequent two years, they’ve been working on producing a portable version of the gear, and think that they’re getting close to completion. In the future, the device is also expected to offer up scene description that’ll offer users a greater ability to “see.”

Should the pair secure the necessary funding, Horus will be released at some point in the near future, although it’ll be pretty pricey. The creators feel like the device will retail for something between €1,500 and €2,000 Euro, although if it can deliver on its promise, it may be money well spent.

Source: Eyra


The 11 best tech gifts for workaholics

We’re not saying you want to enable them (OK, maybe we are), but you definitely know someone who works too much. They chip away at their to-do lists on weekends. They are probably even going to slip away at some point during the holidays to check work email. If that’s the lifestyle they’ve chosen, embrace it by picking gifts that can either live at their desk, or come with them while they’re trying to get work done on the road. Our list includes everything from a comfy desk chair to a wireless charging desk lamp to our favorite laptop and desktop keyboard. You might not be able to persuade them to change their rigid habits, but at least you can make them more comfortable while they toil away.

For our full list of recommendations in all categories, don’t forget to stop by our main Holiday Gift Guide hub.


HSBC trialling app that automates your savings

While all the major banks have pretty good online facilities, there’s a whole breed of nimble startups using mobile apps and bank account data to create new, more personalised money management services. Hoping to learn some new tricks, HSBC announced today it has partnered with one of these fintech pups, Pariti, to launch a standalone iOS app geared towards “micro-savings.” The SmartSave app, which you can link to any bank account HSBC or otherwise, will automatically transfer money into savings or investments accounts based on user-defined rules.

By analysing your bank account, the app will determine when it’s “safe to save,” and you can set up daily, weekly or monthly transfers if you want a really structured regime. Alternatively, you can use one of the smarter options. Every time you spend, for example, the app can round the transaction up to the nearest pound and transfer the difference into your savings account, a few pennies at a time. You can also tell it to punish you for shopping at user-defined “guilty pleasures” stores, putting a small amount aside each time you treat yourself to another unnecessary item of winter clothing.

If, however, the app notices you saving too much and leaving your current account bare, it’ll tell you as much. Similarly, SmartSave will let you know if you could easily be putting more away for a rainy day. HSBC is launching the app as part of the Financial Conduct Authority’s regulatory sandbox initiative, which is supporting the development of new fintech services by slackening red tape to encourage live tests. This does mean that HSBC isn’t rolling SmartSave out to everyone, though, and instead will start with a six-month, invite-only trial involving 2,000 customers next week.


Former Samsung engineers build a smart umbrella

Wouldn’t it be great if your umbrella told you if it was going to rain before you left the house each morning? That’s the idea behind the Opus One, a(nother) smart brolly that’s been designed by a team of former Samsung engineers. The device (for it is not an umbrella now, but a device) connects to your smartphone over Bluetooth and pulls weather reports every morning. When it’s time to go out, you simply shake the handle and a light will flash red or green, depending on what’s coming.

That’s not the only thing that it can do, however, and Opus One will also offer up smartphone notifications in the form of vibrations. Should you receive an incoming call or message, the handle will shake to let you know that there’s something you need to check. In addition, the handle doubles as a Bluetooth tether, so if you leave your phone — or umbrella — behind, the other device will let you know before you get too far away.

Rather than a built-in battery, Opus One is designed to use a quartet of AAA batteries that, the company says, will last for a year with normal use. It’s already available in Japan and Korea, but the startup is looking for distributors to get its products out in the western world. The team designed it with England in mind, since the handles come either in the shape of a bowler-hatted gentleman or a Queen’s guard. Apparently the company’s head watched a lot of Kingsman: The Secret Service during the development phase.


BMW remotely locks a thief inside a car

Here’s an unexpected perk of owning a tech-savvy car: it can serve as an impromptu jail. When a Seattle-area BMW 550i owner’s car was stolen from a parking garage, police got BMW to remotely lock the luxury sedan while the thief was sleeping inside with the motor running. The culprit briefly tried to drive away when police woke him up, but it’s not as if he could get very far being trapped in the cabin.

This sort of incident isn’t very likely to happen, as you might have gathered. The thief only got in because a friend borrowing the 550i had left a key fob inside, and it’s not very common that a thief is foolish enough to sleep inside a car shortly after the theft (especially with the engine on). Still, this shows how much riskier it is to swipe a car in the modern era. Even if crooks get past the initial security, they can easily be caught if they’re known to be inside the vehicle. Let’s just hope that hackers and less-than-upstanding authorities don’t abuse this power.




Apple Watch Drops to Just 5% Share of Wearables Market as Basic Fitness Trackers ‘Reign Supreme’

While the Apple Watch remains the world’s best selling smartwatch, the latest data from market research firm IDC reveals basic wearables “reign supreme” as consumers gravitate towards simple, dedicated fitness devices—which also typically cost less than the Apple Watch and other smartwatches.

Shipments in millions (Source: IDC)
Basic wearables accounted for 85% of the market and experienced double-digit growth in the third quarter, according to IDC. Fitbit remained the leader with 23% market share, up from 21.4% a year ago, on the strength of its new Charge 2 fitness tracker. Fitbit shipped an estimated 5.3 million wearables in the quarter.

Xiaomi trailed in second as its $14.99 Mi Band is priced well below any competing wearables, allowing the Chinese company to capture 16.5% market share based on an estimated 3.8 million shipments in the quarter. Xiaomi’s market share remained virtually unchanged from 16.4% a year ago.

Meanwhile, the Apple Watch captured just a 4.9% share of the broader wearables market in the quarter based on an estimated 1.1 million shipments, according to IDC. Comparatively, in the year-ago quarter, Apple had an estimated 3.9 million Apple Watch shipments for a much higher 17.5% market share.

“It’s still early days, but we’re already seeing a notable shift in the market,” said Jitesh Ubrani senior research analyst for IDC Mobile Device Trackers. “Where smartwatches were once expected to take the lead, basic wearables now reign supreme. Simplicity is a driving factor and this is well reflected in the top vendor list as four out of five offer a simple, dedicated fitness device. Meanwhile, from a design perspective, many devices are focusing on fashion first while allowing the technology to blend in with the background.”

IDC attributed Apple’s decline in the third quarter to an “aging lineup” and an “unintuitive user interface.” Apple addressed those concerns with Apple Watch Series 2, but the second-generation models launched in mid-September and therefore did not have a full impact on the third quarter.

Apple does not officially disclose Apple Watch sales, instead grouping the device under its “Other Products” category in earnings results.

Related Roundups: Apple Watch Series 2, watchOS 3
Tags: wearables, IDC, Fitbit
Buyer’s Guide: Apple Watch (Neutral)
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Bay Area Apple Stores Experience String of Robberies

A robbery at an Apple Store in Palo Alto over the weekend has continued a string of Apple Store-related burglaries plaguing the Bay Area over the past few weeks. In Palo Alto, the University Avenue Apple Store was targeted by between eight and ten individuals who drove a rented SUV directly into the store’s floor-to-ceiling glass front, and made away with an unspecified amount of iPhones, iPads, “and other gadgets on display.”

The SUV used to crash into the Apple Store was subsequently disabled due to the purposeful wreck, and the thieves had to escape on foot. Since the event, which occurred early Sunday morning, four suspects have been arrested.

Image via The Mercury News

“This was a pretty brazen act,” said Palo Alto police Sgt. James Reifschneider said, “when somebody breaks their way into a business after hours and uses a vehicle to force their way into a store.”

Elsewhere in and around San Francisco, since October there have been three Apple Store thefts within San Francisco itself, three in Berkeley, three in Burlingame, one in Los Gatos, and one in Corte Madera. These eleven crimes are all believed to be linked, with similar descriptions of the perpetrators connecting each robbery: “a group of young men in their late teens or early 20s wearing hooded sweatshirts.”

The hooded thieves were said to rush into each Apple Store and “in about 45 seconds” stole upwards of $20,000 worth of iPhones and iPads tethered to their display tables. The Apple Store on Chestnut Street in San Francisco was hit on Black Friday and again the following Tuesday, at nearly the same time the Apple Store on Stockton Street was robbed. The frequency and “brazenness” of each robbery has lead to increased security in front of most Apple Stores in each area.

“It just keeps happening,” said Burlingame resident Angelina Bruno. “It’s really strange to feel that unsafe in a town that used to feel so safe.”

The Palo Alto theft is not connected with these other crimes, according to local police. Local news channel KTVU reached out to Apple for a comment, but Apple spokesperson Nick Leahy said “we don’t comment on matters of security.”

It should be mentioned that in any Apple Store robbery, all of the devices that make it out of the store’s Wi-Fi range become useless thanks to Apple’s built-in security measure that bricks each smartphone and tablet.

Tags: San Francisco, Apple Store
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