It was a big week for huge accomplishments. SpaceX proved that you can, in fact, reuse rockets. Scientists trawled 3 million studies to solve an oceanic mystery and Twitter opened up all 140 characters for you to use. Numbers, because what else would we use to count?
By Camille Chatterjee, Christine Cyr Clisset and Lesley Stockton
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.
When it comes to a reliable, easy-to-use slow cooker, we’d invest in the Hamilton Beach Set & Forget 6-Quart Programmable Slow Cooker. We first picked the Set & Forget in 2013, and after making a half dozen fork-tender roasts, gallons of chicken and pork stock, and big batches of no-hassle beans (that are far more tasty and economical than the canned variety) over the course of nearly four years, we’re still thoroughly satisfied with this machine.
Who should get this
Getting a slow cooker is worth it if you want more convenience in the kitchen—particularly if you’d like to cook food while you’re out of the house. With a modern, programmable slow cooker you choose the heat—low or high—and the cooking time. When the time is up, the machine kicks over to the warming setting. That way, you can prep your food before work and head to the office without worrying about your meal overcooking.
If you bring food to dinner parties and other get-togethers regularly, having a slow cooker on hand with a locking lid and silicone gasket to prevent spills can be seriously time-saving (and up your game from the usual lukewarm casseroles and salads).
If you want something more versatile than a slow cooker—and you can spend between $120 and $250—consider an electric pressure cooker, which comes with multiple cooking settings.
How we picked and tested
For our 2016 update, we cooked presoaked cannellini beans (pictured here with a ham hock and aromatics). They came out tender and almost unbroken after 3.5 hours in the slow cooker. Photo: Michael Hession
Slow cookers come in a range of sizes, from 1- to 7-quart capacity. The diminutive 1-, 2-, and 3-quart cookers work best for making appetizers, such as dips. Most of these small pots have only manual controls. The next sizes are 4- to 5-quart cookers, which work well for singles and couples who want to make one meal, and maybe a round of leftovers. Most of these are manual machines, although some are programmable (see our full guide to compare the competition).
We focused our research on programmable 6- to 7-quart models, because they’re big enough to make a meal for a family of four, with leftovers to spare. Our experts recommended programmable models with timers, locking lids, a silicone gasket to prevent spills, and a heat probe to test meat temperatures without removing the lid. We also considered cook time capacities. See our full guide for more on how we picked what to test.
Armed with this criteria, we scoured every review we could find and read up on more than 40 top-rated models. From our research we found that programmable models in the $50 to $80 range fared just as well as, if not better than, pricier machines. The more expensive models tended to have a sleeker design, but not much beyond that. We found two notable models to test against our previous pick.
To determine how hot each of the machines cooked, we filled each crock with 4 quarts of water and measured the temperature of the water every half hour on both the low and high settings. We then tested for hot spots by cooking a batch of beans in each machine, noting whether the beans cooked evenly and how much liquid evaporated over a span of six to eight hours. We also cooked 3-pound chuck roasts in each cooker.
Additionally, we judged whether the programmable timers were easy to use, whether the hardware felt sturdy, and if there were any quirks in the design that made the cookers difficult or impractical to use.
We like the Set & Forget’s easy-to-read interface and locking lid. Photo: Michael Hession
Although the Hamilton Beach Set & Forget 6-Quart Programmable Slow Cooker isn’t the most luxurious or sleekest-looking machine out there, it does everything it should at a very modest price. It has the largest digital display of the models we tested, making it the easiest to read from across the kitchen, and its interface was the simplest to use. It cooks at true slow-cooking temperatures, unlike others we tried that ran too hot. Its locking lid also makes it more portable. We like that the Set & Forget has an alarm that rings at the start and the end of the cooking cycle—a helpful feature many newer, fancier cookers, like the others we tested, omit. Finally, the Set & Forget was the only slow cooker we found that included a temperature probe.
We wish the heat probe was longer, and we also wish the 24-inch plug was a few inches longer, which would make it easier to use on a crowded counter. The Set & Forget’s digital interface wasn’t as modern-looking as the ones on the Smart Slow Cooker or the Cook & Carry. It was, however, easy to program and the easiest to read from a distance, with large letters and numbers telling you what temperature the machine is set to and how much cooking time is left.
We think the Hamilton Beach Set & Forget 6-Quart Programmable Slow Cooker offers the best overall value of any slow cooker out there. If you can’t find it for $50 or under, or at all, though, or if you find you need a timer that goes longer than 14 hours (which is the upper limit on the Set & Forget), we recommend the highly reviewed and easy-to-use Crock-Pot 6-Quart Programmable Cook & Carry Slow Cooker.
Overall, we found the Cook & Carry to be sleeker and more compact than the Set & Forget. Its push-button display is more modern and attractive than the one on the Set & Forget, its handles are larger and easier to grip, and its locking mechanism snaps into place more securely. However, we didn’t find that it cooked any better than our top pick, and it ran 2 degrees hotter on average. It also lacks a heat probe and an on-off alarm, despite being about $10 pricier at some outlets.
If you don’t need the capacity of a 6- or 7- quart cooker, we recommend the Crock-Pot 4-Quart Manual Slow Cooker. You’ll have to manually turn it off because, as with other cookers this size, it doesn’t have a timer, but it has great Amazon reviews and the price is hard to argue with.
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.
Why it matters to you
Zipping around town on an electric skateboard is convenient. The all-carbon deck of the 121C Arc Aileron makes it less cumbersome to carry between rides.
What happens when two great companies become partners? They make something better. That is exactly what has happened with the 121C Arc Aileron, a lightweight, pure-carbon electric skateboard.
For this collaboration, Arc Boards has taken its original design and replaced the deck with 121C Boards‘ deck made entirely out of carbon fiber. The result is a bigger, sturdier, yet lighter electric skateboard. While the original Arc Board may have felt cramped for inexperienced riders, the 121C Arc Aileron provides plenty of room.
More: Carvon’s next-gen electric skateboards boast all-wheel drive, can hit 35 mph
The Aileron deck from 121C is a cruiser class skate deck made entirely out of aerospace-grade carbon fiber, which is the same material used to build rockets and fighter jets. Its shape also features a subtle upslope along the profile that keeps the board flat and firm rather than dipping in like other boards. The edges also slope upward down the center line. This centers the rider’s weight for added stability and leverage while turning.
Arc Boards has added their technology to the Aileron deck to make it one of the best electric skateboards around. It features a brushless DC 5065 Outrunner with 1,815 watts of power. This can hold up to 264 pounds with a top speed of 22 miles per hour and can go uphill at a 22 percent incline. The lithium ion battery lasts up to 11 miles on a single charge and is ready to go again in 1.5 hours. Other features include water resistance, regenerative braking, lights, and a total weight of 9.5 pounds.
Controlling the electric skateboard is a small wireless remote. Two AA batteries are all it takes to control the board for up to six months. Riders can power forward or reverse and brake when needed.
Anyone interested can find the 121C Arc Aileron on Kickstarter for the discounted price of $930. Delivery is scheduled for June where the final retail price will be $1,073.
Update 4/2/2017 by Jeremy Kaplan: Changed the title to reflect that this is not the “world’s first” pure-carbon board, as the company’s Kickstarter page had originally claimed.
Why it matters to you
Your selfies are boring. This app can take them to the next level.
Sure, AI can turn photos into classical paintings, but one new app is using machine learning to model selfies after modern art: Emojis.
Memoji, a new app by the developer behind the selfie editor Facetune, turns selfies (or portraits of celebrities, the Statue of Liberty, or even the Mona Lisa) into the exaggerated expressions of emojis.
Launching today in the App Store, Memoji by Facetune uses the intelligent portrait editing tools in the popular Facetune 2.0 app to instead mimic an emoji. From the big eyes and crocodile tear of the crying emoji to the wrinkled forehead and nostril steam of the angry emoji, Memoji brings the exaggerated facial expressions of emojis to actual people. The whimsical edits can then be saved as photos, GIFs, or videos to share on social media or send to friends.
More: Download the Bible Emoji — a Bible written with emojis
Since the app uses facial feature recognition, it works with any photo of a person — or something with facial features like a statue or painting. Along with emotion-based emoji edits, the app can also turn you into a unicorn (okay, not really, but it can turn your photo into a unicorn).
“Emojis have become a part of everyday conversation and guide the way we chat and share our emotions — but the overall reach and impact of this important technology is limited,” said Nir Pochter, CMO of Lightricks, the company behind the apps. “As emoji connoisseurs, we knew that the next level of societal emojification was letting it guide the photo editing process from the very start. People want more than to just send emojis, they want to be emojis. While the world is busy applying AI to silly ventures like autonomous vehicles and data analysis, we’re taking it to where the need is greatest,” he joked.
The software uses 3D facial modeling to recognize individual facial features then distorts them into the exaggerated emotion of the chosen emoji. The emotion in the original picture doesn’t matter since the software can turn smiles into emoji frowns too — which could be an unusual perk, Lightricks CEO Zeev Farbman suggests.
“I don’t smile in pictures,” Farbman said. “So when my girlfriend showed me a picture of me smiling in a photo we took on a hike, I was dumbfounded and scared. I’d spent years cultivating an image of Spartan focus and strength, and this one photo threatened to ruin decades of consistency. Thankfully, we had already developed Memoji by Facetune and I was able to instantly click on the frowny face emoji to bring order and decency back into my life.”
Memoji probably isn’t going to really lend any Spartan strength to selfies — but the new app certainly appears to use advanced artificial intelligence technology in a whimsical break from the norm. Memoji by Facetune is available for iOS in the App Store.
In light of the House of Representatives’ recent decision to allow broadband internet providers to sell your browsing data without your consent, web searches for Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) spiked virtually overnight. There are many reasons to consider a VPN service for your iPhone or iPad — if you use public Wi-Fi, for example, you’re an easy target for cyber criminals. VPNs can also help you gain access to region-specific streaming catalogs — like those belonging to Netflix, for instance — even if you’re technically located outside the coverage area; and they can also help stop your internet service provider (ISP) from throttling your connection without your consent.
More: Everything you wanted to know about VPNs, but didn’t want to ask
A VPN most importantly enables you to protect your data from snoopers and mask your true location. It hides your online forays in a secure tunnel that outsiders can’t penetrate, but you must choose wisely, since you’re trusting your VPN provider with all your online activities. If the service is free, you have to wonder how it’s staying afloat. Do some research to make sure the company behind the VPN isn’t selling your data or bandwidth to third parties. If you can’t, check out our favorite VPN apps below.
Keep in mind that you may need to install the OpenVPN Connect client and follow a guide in order to take advantage of the OpenVPN protocol on iOS. All the apps will work with IPSec or another protocol by default. You’ll find guides on most of the service provider’s websites to do this.
VPN by NordVPN
NordVPN is one of the most popular VPNs for Windows and MacOS, and, conveniently, it’s also available for iOS. NordVPN uses the IKEv2 security protocol, which is 30-percent faster than the last generation. The app allows you to browse servers using a map, or a curated list of countries. There are currently more than 600 available servers spread across 50 countries.
You can connect up to six devices with a single account, and bypass blocked websites and regional restrictions with zero lag. NordVPN does not store any user information either, so your privacy is protected at all times. The app also supports a host of security protocols — including OpenVPN, IKEV2, and L2TP — and your real IP address will show as the NordVPN server IP address, thus securing your browsing experience on the go. Subscriptions vary from $12 a month to $69 annually.
NordVPN even offers a unique, double encryption system that applies military-grade AES-256-CBC encryption to inbound and outbound data twice. A hit with reviewers and users alike, NordVPN should make anyone’s shortlist when looking for a robust VPN solution.
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If you’re tired of constantly getting lost in a thicket of ideas, half-concepts, and free-floating words that emerge from your brainstorming sessions, then you should think about using a mind-mapping tool. Mind maps are digital flow charts that can be used to describe ideas and list possibilities. In more advanced forms, they can also be used to describe complex structures and concepts so your entire team can better understand them. Here are the latest mind-mapping tools available, their most impressive strengths, and how you can download them for your next big meeting!
More: Don’t pay $10 a month for Microsoft Office! Here are the best free alternatives
Bloomfire ($9+ a month)
Bloomfire isn’t just a mind-mapping or brainstorming tool — it’s a suite for knowledge management. If you are part of a business that generates a lot of ideas and pushes them through multiple departments, then Bloomfire could be the platform you’re looking for. It not only allows for multiple maps and charts to drive decisions, but also allows you to track the content that comes from those ideas, and how successful it is compared to other content. The software may not be able to replace data management entirely, but for a large creative team, it could be an ideal support.
Why it matters to you
If you’re going to set an expensive lifestyle goal, how about one that’s always on the move?
Five billionaires walk into a room … and decide to build the world’s largest superyacht. The Quintessentially One, a 220-meter superyacht (that’s 722 feet) is set for a maiden voyage in 2019-2020, according to The Guardian.
The idea for the yacht, which they originally planned to launch in 2013, was indeed conceived when five unidentified billionaires each put up 8.5 million euros ($9 million) to fund it. That’s a lot of money, but still not enough to fund such a large superyacht. The total cost is estimated to be 250 million euros ($267 million).
More: Superyacht mothership concept breeds modular daughter apartments
The ship’s name comes from the majority owner and investor Quintessentially, an elite luxury lifestyle management and concierge service. The service will run the yacht for its members as a private club that just happens to be ocean-going. According to The Telegraph, membership in Quintessentially starts at 15,000 pounds ($18,816) annually. That fee does not include a residence on the ship or even a night in one of the 112 boutique hotel-style cabins. But those cabins will only be available to Quintessentially members, starting at $2,500 a night.
The five billionaires will each have leaseholds for the life of the ship for one of 12 planned onboard private residences, some of which have three floors. The remaining residences range in price from $8.5-12.8 million and in size up to an estimated 1,076 square feet. Owners of the private residences will have sole access to elite-among-the-elite facilities and services including a private restaurant, private bar, and complimentary spa treatments.
More: The biggest, baddest, most extravagant superyachts ever conceived
Why build a ship that never docks for long in one place and costs so much even for one night, even if you can easily afford it? The answer lies in part in where the Quintessentially will travel, which is where the ultra-rich typically flock each season. Destinations for the 2019-2020 voyage include such events as the Cannes Film Festival, Rio Carnival in Rio de Janiero, and F1 Grand Prix races in Barcelona, Abu Dhabi, Monaco, and Monte Carlo. Other stops include Miami, Havana, Aruba, Grenada (can’t miss the Port Louis Grenada Sailing Festival), Istanbul, Beirut, Alexandria, Lisbon, Las Palmas, and London.
“It will travel the globe to where the wealthy want to go and be seen,” Quintessentially co-founder Aaron Simpson said. “We know the events where there is huge demand and not enough supply. It will be the world’s largest floating private membership club. Where the traditional cruise model is to go somewhere, dock and get off; we will dock and people will want to get on.”
You could argue, as some have, that it’s not correct to call Quintessentially One a superyacht, which ordinarily implies a single owner. The 180-meter (592-foot) superyacht Motor Yacht Azzam, built by German shipbuilder Lürssen for Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan and launched in 2013, is the largest superyacht owned by an individual. It’s probably more accurate to refer to the Quintessentially One as a private residential cruise ship.
The heretofore most famous and largest private residential cruise ship is The World, at 196 meters (634 feet). The World, which launched in 2002 and circumnavigates the earth every 2-3 years, is privately owned by its residents who consist of 142 families from 19 countries (49 percent from the U.S.). At 220 meters, Quintessentially One is 40 meters longer than Azzam and 24 meters longer than The World.
According to The Guardian debt financing for Quintessentially One is being conducted in Norway and Italy, where the superyacht will be built.
Using Bluetooth earbuds while exercising or enjoying outdoor activities makes life oh so sweet. Unfortunately, the market is saturated with headphones, with most options ending up low quality and disappointing. What you need is a high-quality set of earbuds that you can use in any scenario, and you need earbuds that are built to last.
Save big on these magnetic headphones! Learn More
The original FRESHeBUDS earbuds were an enormous hit, and now they’re back and better than ever in this new Pro model. The sound quality has improved to the point where you’ll think you’re using full-sized headphones, and the battery lasts up to 10 hours of playtime.
Android Central Digital Offers has knocked $90 off the regular price of these earbuds — right now, you’ll pay only $30. Not only are these earbuds water and sweat resistant, they also have an amazing fit that won’t fall out, even when you’re in the middle of an intense workout.
The magnets in the earbuds keep them secured around your neck when not in use, and as soon as you pull them apart, they automatically connect to any of your Bluetooth devices. When together, they turn off to conserve battery, but a full charge takes only about 90 minutes.
Save big on these magnetic headphones! Learn More
If you’ve been on the fence about Bluetooth earbuds that work in any scenario, this is the time to buy. Don’t wait too long — this deal won’t last long.
With any product, it’s always important to get the major decisions out of the way first. Who’s the intended audience? What will it look like? How can we make it portable? And, most importantly, how do we keep the cost down? Join Karen and Ben as they plan out the their logic gate board game. As seasoned as they are, though, the duo could still use your help. What size do you think the game should be, and can you recommend a suitable LCD screen and microcontroller to use with it? You can get a feel for the direction the game is headed, thanks to the prototypes Karen and Ben have mocked up using the PIC microcontroller and ChipKit. Let the team know your ideas over on the element14 Community, where you can be part of the build.
Apple, Amazon, and Google are actively engaged in the bidding war to acquire Toshiba’s NAND memory unit, according to a report by Yomiuri Shimbun Daily on Saturday (via Korean Herald).
According to the Japanese newspaper, there are now 10 bidders looking to buy Toshiba’s lucrative semiconductor operation, which accounts for 20 percent of the NAND market. Nikkei reported on Friday that U.S. private equity firm Silver Lake and U.S. chipmaker Broadcom offered Toshiba about 2 trillion yen ($18 billion) for the unit. Other bidders include frontrunner and world’s largest NAND flash maker, Western Digital, with Apple suppliers Foxconn and TSMC having been named early on as potential suitors.
“The US tech firms — Apple, Google and Amazon — have become the next attractive bidders following Western Digital as Toshiba can have stable supply chains (for smartphones or data servers) from them,” an industry source told The Korea Herald.
On Thursday, Toshiba shareholders agreed to split off the NAND flash unit and sell it, in order to raise at least $9 billion to cover U.S. nuclear unit charges that threaten the conglomerate’s future. Both Apple and Samsung are major clients of the unit, while Google and Amazon want to buy the NAND maker to supply their own data servers, rather than having to rely on chipmakers.
Prices on the flash memory market remain high, while Apple’s interest in acquiring the unit has only increased as it continues to boost the storage capacity of its iPhones and iPads. Buying the unit would not only provide Apple with the ability to design and make its own flash memory, but it would also mean Samsung losing its main client. How much Apple’s offer amounts to remains unknown, however.
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