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After Math: Get free

It’s been a rockin’ week in the free world. Chelsea Manning is free from prison after being pardoned by President Obama in January, Facebook announced it will stream 20 free MLB games across its social network this season and international business travelers will have a lot less free time on their next transatlantic flights now that the Trump administration’s in-cabin laptop ban plan has fizzled. Numbers, because how else would you know that you’ve only got 9 hours of freedom left in this weekend?


The best bike lock

By Duncan Niederlitz

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.

To find the best bicycle lock, we ordered 27 of the toughest we could find, and then we sawed, chopped, and cut them all to pieces. We learned that almost every lock can be defeated in under a minute, but the Kryptonite Evolution Mini-7 is the most affordable lock that will most likely need a power tool (accompanied by a lot of noise) to be beaten. It offers enough of a security advantage over other locks in this price range to keep a modest commuter bike from becoming an easy target for thieves. It has a secure but usable 7-inch length, includes a 4-foot cable to leash the front wheel and accessories, and also comes with a free year of anti-theft protection, upgradable to five years for only $25.

How we picked and tested

Our testing pool after a few rounds of security testing. Photo: Duncan Niederlitz

We spent many hours researching all the locks available from the major brands in the bicycle industry, attending the Interbike trade show to see not-yet-available options, reviewing our previous guide, looking into the most popular locks on Kickstarter, and searching for well-reviewed locks from smaller companies or lesser-known brands.

Manufacturers make dozens of locks in very similar styles. With supposedly different levels of security and proprietary ratings systems, however, it can be hard to decide which locks are comparable with each other, other than blindly going by price or researching the ratings from independent organizations that rate bicycle locks. Unfortunately, these institutions use different rating scales, and not all lock manufacturers submit all of their locks to be tested.

We decided that our only way forward was to order the most expensive locks from every company we could and destructively test them all ourselves in order to set our own baseline for what each company considered its highest level of security. We then ordered the budget locks from our previous guide, as well as some of the upgrades from companies that finished well in our first round of tests, and destructively tested all of those, too. We eventually had a total of 27 locks from ABUS, Altor, Artago, Blackburn, Hiplok, Knog, Kryptonite, Litelok, OnGuard, RockyMounts, Schlage, and TiGr.

We tested each of the 27 finalists using the most common tools available to a bike thief, including lock picks, cable cutters, hacksaws, bolt cutters, and an angle grinder. For more on our testing, and to watch a bike thief at work, see our full guide.

Our pick

Photo: Kyle Fitzgerald

The Kryptonite Evolution Mini-7 U-lock comes with a cable and a free year of the company’s anti-theft protection. This model is slightly more expensive than our previous pick, the Kryptonite Series 2, but it has one advantage that’s hard to see: Instead of using just a case-hardened shackle (the big U-shaped loop that U-locks get their name from), the Evolution series uses a harder steel shackle and a hardening process that, though not technically being “through hardened,” still withstood more abuse in our tests than other locks at the same price. Although we could cut lesser locks with only 24-inch bolt cutters, the Evolution Mini-7 withstood even our 36-inch cutters, surviving with just a couple of small scratches.

Proper locking technique: The U-lock goes through your bike’s back wheel and seat stays (the pair of diagonal skinny tubes that connect under your seat). The cable adds protection for your front wheel. Video: Kyle Fitzgerald

The Evolution Mini-7 also uses the more secure disc-detainer locking mechanism. This style of keyway and mechanism is very resistant to picking, requiring specialty tools, patience, and skill to pick. After consulting with multiple lock-picking enthusiasts and experts, we’ve decided that the chances of having this lock picked on the street are very slim compared with the those of some of the other locks we tested.

The only real flaw with this lock is that it locks on just one side of the shackle, using a bent foot on the nonlocking side. When we were confirming some technical specs with Kryptonite PR manager Daryl Slater, he informed me that the new versions of the Evolution Mini-7 and Mini-5, to be released early summer 2017, would have a dual-locking shackle. If that turns out to be the case, and if the price remains similar, it would remove the only flaw we currently see in this lock.

The disadvantage of this feature is that a thief needs to make only one cut, instead of two, in order to be able to remove the lock; the design effectively halves the time it takes to cut the lock. However, the design does offer an advantage, as the bent foot can act as a pivot to help squeeze the lock together when it’s a tight fit.

Upgrade pick

Photo: Kyle Fitzgerald

The Kryptonite New York Fahgettaboudit Mini U-lock is a workhorse. You won’t find any special features or extra frills with it, just a lot of it—4.55 pounds’ worth. It uses a through-hardened dual-locking shackle and extra metal in the crossbar for even more security. The 18 mm shackle has a cross-sectional area twice that of our top pick’s 13 mm shackle, and correspondingly takes twice as long to cut through. And whereas the Evolution Mini-7 needs to be cut only once, the dual-deadbolt design of the New York Fahgettaboudit Mini requires two cuts for a thief to remove it from a bike or rack, resulting in a total time to remove that’s four times that of the Evolution Mini-7.

The only significant downside to this lock, other than an increase in price over our top pick, is that it’s double the weight of our pick, but as our tests showed, a more hardened metal is the key to more security. The New York Fahgettaboudit Mini also does not include any mounting hardware if you wanted to attach it to your frame, and you would need to buy a cable separately.

Also great

Photo: Kyle Fitzgerald

Whether you have a cargo bike or an electric assisted bicycle with a nontraditional frame, or the best place for you to lock up your bike is to a telephone pole, a chain lock can sometimes be a necessity. We think the Kryptonite New York Fahgettaboudit Chain is the best chain for the money for high-security situations.

The chain uses 14 mm through-hardened links and comes in a fairly standard 39-inch length as well as in a giant, 5-foot version. The chain is connected by Kryptonite’s 15 mm New York disc lock, with a dual-locking shackle and a disc-detainer mechanism.

The only chain locks that took us longer to cut though were the Kryptonite New York Legend and the Artago 69T100E, both of which cost significantly more. If you’re particularly concerned about security, we think spending that kind of money on a stronger secondary lock would be a more savvy purchase and would give you more security for the same amount.

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.


Fabrics of the future will shed like snakes and sanitize your skin

It’s tough to say what tomorrow’s fashion will look like. Plenty of sci-fi films have tried — and failed — to predict how we will dress in the future, but we can at least get an idea of the materials they’ll be made from. These fabrics of the future are being developed in research labs today to solve age-old problems, from keeping us dry to killing germs. Here are a couple innovative materials that have emerged over the past month.

Shirts that shed

Humans have been turning to the natural world for outfit ideas since we first tossed animal hide over our shoulders. Leather seems no less popular today than it was back then, but we also now have many synthetic materials inspired by the more nuanced side of nature.

“These fabrics of the future are being developed today to solve age-old problems.”

Velcro is probably the most recognizable example. It was created by Swiss engineer George de Mestrel after he returned home from a walk with a bunch of sticker burrs stuck to his pants. Lotus leaves may be less obvious but they’re no less important, having inspired engineers to develop fabrics that can effectively self-clean and repel water thanks to a waxy surface of nanoscopic bumps.

“There are numerous publications on superhydrophobic surfaces and many reports on lotus leaf materials,” Jürgen Rühe, microsystems engineer at the University of Freiburg in Germany, told Digital Trends. “Yet they all suffer from one weakness — they are mechanically fragile.”

Even after adding bigger (i.e., microscopic) bumps for a bit more strength, most lotus-inspired materials are prone to scratching and tearing under the slightest strain, which compromises their ability to repel. To overcome this challenge, Rühe and his team took inspiration from reptiles to develop a material that can shed its outer layer.

William Thielicke

The material is made up of three layers: a water-repellent layer on top, a water-soluble polymer in the middle, and a superhydrophobic silicon film on the bottom.

“It is a sandwich structure with two superhydrophobic … surfaces, which are glued together by a water-soluble intermittent layer,” Rühe said. “When the top layer is scratched, water can seep through and dissolve the water-soluble layer, so that the top layer floats away.”

What’s left is the silicon layer, which can be rinsed with alcohol and dried to restore its water-repellent properties. The material still needs work — for one thing, the top layer still scratches too easily — but more durable versions may be used to develop raincoats and gear that can shed away damage.

Paper pants that sanitize

Paper may not be the most fashionable fabric (yet) but it’s cheap, and thanks to researchers from Rutgers University, it could help saves lives someday.

“We thought that we might be able to adapt our work with metallized paper to create improved equipment to limit the spread of infectious diseases.”

The researchers have developed paper-based sanitizers that generate antimicrobial plasma from thin aluminum layers arranged in a honeycomb pattern. When a current is sent through the metallic paper, it produces ozone, heat, and ultraviolet light that zaps the germs. Integrated into clothing — such as gloves or hospital gowns — the paper sanitizers could give patients, nurses, and doctors in developing regions an effective and affordable way to maintain a hygienic workplace.

“With Ebola, there were cases where health care providers in both hospitals and outdoor installments were susceptible to spreading microbes,” said Aaron Mazzeo, an engineer who worked on the project. “We thought that we might be able to adapt our work with metallized paper to create improved personal protective equipment to limit the spread of infectious diseases.”

In trials, these paper-based sanitizers eliminated 99.9 percent of E. coli and 99 percent of yeast in 30 seconds. “When it comes to killing undesirable bacteria, there are essentially three degrees of cleanliness,” Mazzeo explains, “sanitization, disinfection, and sterilization.”

American Chemical Society.jpg

Although the paper sanitized, the team wants to improve its technology to eliminate more germs more effectively. They’ll also need make it scalable and address safety concerns, considering the paper needs a power source.

Once these issues are resolved, paper-based sanitizers may find applications as coatings for smocks and prosthetics — even if they fail to catch the attention of fashionistas.


OK Google, Where’s Barb? How to set up Google Assistant shortcuts to Netflix and more


Google Home, Google’s AI-powered smart home speaker, rarely goes a few months without getting a feature. In the past year, it’s gained support for third-party integrations and added the ability to distinguish between multiple users. And in recent months, it’s rolled out the ability to call any phone number in the U.S. and Canada for free, proactively notify you about things like traffic jams and flight delays, play music from free Spotify accounts, and send directions to your smartphone.

One of its niftiest new abilities though, is shortcuts — an easy way to trigger lengthy, multistep commands with a word or phrase. Instead of having to say, “Play workout music on Google Play Music to my basement speaker” to cue up a treadmill playlist, for example, you might shorten the command to “Start workout.” Or, you might set up a “movie night” profile that ties a Chromecast device to a convenient phrase. With shortcuts, beaming a Netflix series to the living room flatscreen becomes as easy as saying, “Movie time.”

Shortcuts for Google Home are incredibly useful, but they have prerequisites — and they’re a little challenging to get the hang of. Here’s everything you need to know.

Compatible services

google home shortcuts guide screenshot

google home shortcuts guide screenshot

google home shortcuts guide screenshot

Despite the fact that Google Home is powered by the Google Assistant, Google’s intelligent voice assistant that ships on Android TV set-top boxes and Android Wear smartwatches, shortcuts only work on Google Home and Android smartphones running Android 6.0 Marshmallow or newer. Unless you’re able to get your hands on an Android phone or Google Home, you won’t be able to use them.

If you can live with that limitation, though, getting started is a cinch. First, you’ll need the Google Home app — download it from the iTunes App Store or Google Play store. Once you’ve launched it and signed in with your Google account, tap on More Settings > Shortcuts. You’ll see two blank text fields labeled: When I say OK Google.. and Google Assistant should do

In the first field, enter a trigger phrase or word — the command you’ll utter to trigger the action — by tapping it out, or by using text-to-speech after tapping the grey microphone icon. After you enter it, you’ll get the option to add a second, optional fallback phrase or word — a second command you can say to trigger the same action.

The second field — Google Assistant should do... — is a bit more complicated. Here, you enter the device or services that will be triggered when the Google Assistant or Google Home recognizes your verbal shortcut. And unfortunately, the Google Home app doesn’t provide much guidance — you have the freedom to enter just about anything, which is fine for simple actions that don’t require much specificity. But if you tap out a command that the Google Assistant or Google Home fail to recognize, you’ll get a basic list of web search results for the phrase you entered.

Worse, there’s no way to validate commands before pushing them live. You have to save them, enable them, test them on Google Home or the Google Assistant, and make changes accordingly.

Once you’ve cleared those hurdles, though, you’ll see your custom shortcuts at the top of Shortcuts menu, where you can toggle them on and off individually.


Get two powerful military-grade flashlights for $18

What do you do when the lights go out? Sure, you could use the light on your phone, but if you can’t charge your phone, then you’ll want to conserve power. Maybe you’re out camping or hiking, night falls, and you don’t even have your phone on you. Then what?

Get two flashlights for $18 Learn more

If you’re going to do things, do them up right. Don’t bother with some dollar store flashlight that you’ll have to toss because the plastic’s dried out. Get yourself a flashlight with a metal casing that can stand up to the rough life so that you can take it with you wherever you go: camping, hunting, in the car, whatever.


The UltraBright 500-lumen Tactical Military Flashlight is made of an aircraft aluminum alloy and has a range of about a mile in ideal conditions with adjustable zoom. Right now, a two-pack of these flashlights is only $17.99 at Android Central Digital Offers. They regularly retail for $100 together, so you save 82%.

The UltraBright flashlights feature three modes to fit every situation: bright, lower bright, and SOS mode. They come with a convenient storage case, so you can toss them in the trunk of your card and never lose them. The handy and sturdy clip lets you slap one on your belt and have it stay put until you need it. UltraBrights are light and only take one AA battery.

Get two flashlights for $18 Learn more

If you’re looking for a handy little flashlight that’s perfect in any situation, check out the UltraBright 500-lumen Tactical Military Flashlight two-pack at Android Central Digital Offers and pay only $17.99.


Ben Heck’s Super Glue Gun: Time for some reverse engineering


When Ben created the Great Glue Gun it was given away as a prize. Thankfully, the winner still watches the show and sent it in to the team so that it could be reverse engineered. Ben discovers the original design has a mix of pros and cons, like the fact that it keeps trying to push out glue, even when there isn’t any. That means it’s time to tinker with 3D printer extruder gears and take a lot of mechanical (as opposed to electronic) designs into account. Let us know what you think, and follow along over on the element14 Community!


Apple Music’s Three-Month Trial is No Longer Free in Australia, Spain, and Switzerland

Since launching in June 2015, Apple Music has offered a free three-month trial in the United States and over 100 other countries around the world. In some countries, such as Ireland and the Netherlands, the free trial is for one month.

According to Apple’s website, however, the trial now costs 99 cents in Australia, 0,99 € in Spain, and Fr. 0.99 in Switzerland. Based on our spot check, the trial remains free in all other countries where Apple Music is available.

The reason why Apple has started charging a nominal fee for the trial in Australia, Spain, and Switzerland is unclear. The trial was still free in those countries as of May 14, according to archived versions of Apple’s website.

Apple Music rival Spotify’s three-month trial also costs 99 cents in Australia, 0,99 € in Spain, and Fr. 0.99 in Switzerland.

(Thanks, Alex!)

Tags: Australia, Spain, Apple Music, Switzerland
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Redesigned Version of Microsoft OneNote Now Available on Mac and iOS

This week, Microsoft took the unusual step of pushing out a redesigned version of OneNote for Mac and iOS ahead of its release on Windows and Android. The update to the note-taking platform introduces a new interface that aims to enhance usability for users of assistive technologies, simplify navigation controls, and create consistency across devices, according to the company.

Microsoft said it has listened to user feedback to learn how it could improve the navigational layout of the note-taking apps, especially for larger digital notebooks with more sections. As a result, the new interface places all navigation panes in one collapsible area on the left-hand side of the app, instead of having menus for notebooks and sections/pages on either side of the window.

This allows users to easily switch between their notes and dramatically improves usability with assistive technologies. With the new consolidated and simplified design, screen readers can easily navigate through the app to help those with disabilities. In addition, content is front and center—helping students to focus and avoid distractions.

To switch to any other page or section, users can click its name in the navigation panes, or Control-click the name of any page or section and then choose from more options. To open a different notebook, users can click the Show Notebooks button and select it in the list, while options for creating new notebooks/sections/pages now appear at the bottom of the associated navigation panes. On Mac, each pane can also be resized by moving the mouse pointer over the vertical edge and click-dragging it.

The new design philosophy also brings greater interface consistency across Mac, iPhone, and iPad, enabling users to transition between devices quickly and easily, which Microsoft hopes will benefit those with visual impairments and also help in learning environments where device variety is increasingly common.

OneNote for Mac is freely available on the Mac App Store [Direct Link]; likewise OneNote for iOS is a free download on the App Store [Direct Link] The overhauled interface has also been applied to Microsoft’s web app. Windows and Android versions are expected to roll out in the coming weeks.

Tag: OneNote
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V-Moda Crossfade 2 Wireless review: Ace sound and comfort in a hardy industrial design

Products in their “Mark II” rendition tend to just throw a new lick of paint at the original in the hope that you’ll want to buy. Not so the V-Moda Crossfade II Wireless over-ear Bluetooth headphones: these bass-prominent cans have undergone a total rework for a more balanced listen with increased comfort and a visually better design too.

Having used them for a number of weeks we’ve become slightly addicted to their wide-ranging sound, overall comfort and reliable bass delivery – putting them in the bracket of best headphones we’ve used this year.

However, with a price hike compared to the original model and still no active noise-cancellation on offer, are the Crossfade II Wireless worth dropping your cash on?

V-Moda Crossfade Wireless 2 review: Design

  • Enfolding design, included hard carry-case
  • Industrial aesthetic with comfortable sponge earcups
  • Black, steel, gold, polished/matte bronze finishes as standard
  • Customisable metals and artwork printing available

The biggest problem with the original Crossfade Wireless was their snug fit: vice-like, they weren’t ideal for long periods of wear (despite softening up after many weeks sat over the head). The Crossfade II are remarkably different in this respect: they feel perfect to wear straight out of the box, without too much weigh overhead.


Part of this is down to the Crossfade Wireless II’s new design: the earcups are larger, sat tighter within the metal frame than the original model, which sees the comfortable sponge cups ensconce the earlobes perfectly.

That soft finish is juxtaposed wonderfully by a metal design aesthetic that doesn’t negate its industrial-styled identity. Exposed external screws, cut-away “v” shapes in the metal plates which flank the outer side of the earcups, and a foldable metal arms to hold everything together. These very well-made headphones indeed, you can tell just by looking, but it’s a whole other thing to handle them.

We have the black finish on loan for review, but the more adventurous may wish to choose stainless steel, polished or matte bronze instead. Or, if you’re really plucky (read that as rich) then a bespoke sterling silver, 14K gold/rose gold/white gold, or platinum finish can be arranged to order, including three-dimensional commissioned works of art to protrude from the metal.


There’s a Micro-USB charging port to the base of the left earcup (not USB-C for some reason), the position of which is mirrored on the right by a 3.5mm headphones jack – which, if you want to use these cans wirelessly, is accented with an orange non-tangle cable (which, again, is industrial tough – we put it through the washing machine by accident and it’s still good as new). Sure makes the Crossfade 2 look striking, without being overstated.

Unlike the originals, the Mark II come with a folding design and included hard carry case. It’s been handy for popping into a bag on our travels to ensure the metal doesn’t get scratched, but even when we’ve forgotten the subtle rubbing to the edges is barely noticeable. The case is the best place for these cans to rest, however, as we don’t find them that comfortable sat around the neck at all.


In one of those rare headphone design moments there’s very little we would change about the Crossfade II Wireless’ design. Other than that massive logo up top: we’d cut that, especially as V-Moda offers a customisation service which allows for printing your own content; let the creatives line-up and leave the massive logos on the box please.

V-Moda Crossfade Wireless 2 review: Sound quality

  • 50mm dual-diaphragm drivers
  • 5-40,000Hz frequency response
  • Bluetooth wireless or passive wired use
  • No active noise-cancellation (passive only)

With the original Crossfade Wireless we made no bones that they were strictly for bassheads. That’s still true for the follow-up model, but the second-gen are far broader in their reach. Sure, there’s bass aplenty, but the mids and high-end feel freer across the wide soundstage, capable of delivering quality for all kinds of musical genres. These are no one-trick pony.


Part of that will be down to the Crossfade II being aimed at higher-end listeners, with Hi-Res Audio certification (approved by the Japan Audio Society (JAS)) meaning ultra-high frequencies above 40kHz are also catered for. However, there’s no aptX HD, while aptX is reserved for the rose gold finish only – so wireless listening doesn’t guarantee audiophile quality levels in all situations, which seems at odds with intention.

But just because it’s not ticking the audiophile box doesn’t mean the Crossfade II Wireless don’t sound good. Quite the contrary: they sound exquisite. The bass delivery from these cans is epic, with approaching sub-bass levels tickling the ears (no surprising given the 5Hz low-end frequency coverage).


Volume-wise there’s plenty on offer as standard, with only the Bluetooth connection being a little more limited – which is standard for headphones of any kind, really, given region-based regulation. This has led us to more often then not using them wired, but we could say the same of the Bang & Olufsen H8 and many others.

The wireless connection – activated by dragging a switch on the right earcup into position – has remained strong throughout our testing and the battery life has delivered on its promise of 14-hours of listening. Even at high volume levels we’ve managed two full working days with the cans wrapped around our ears.

The only downside are the default irksome “V-Moda noises” used for connectivity searching/confirmation, which is a standard overly loud sound that we don’t really appreciate in any of the company’s products, given its lack of subtlety.


There’s no active noise-cancellation in these cans, which although a shame doesn’t detract from the overall audio quality. The fit of those earcups makes a good seal to keep the majority of outside noise at bay, but if you want something that’ll cut away all kinds of hiss then the Bose QuietComfort 35 might be a better (albeit less well made) option.


For round two V-Moda has knocked it out of the park with the Crossfade II Wireless. They’re infinitely more comfortable than the originals, and while they still deliver strong bass the sound profile is better balanced, more accessible and even Hi-Res Audio certified (the lack of aptX HD is amiss, however).

The industrial design may still be divisive, especially in certain colour finishes or metals, but we find the Crossfade II Wireless to be mighty impressive top-of-the-line over-ear cans. Move over Beats, if bass and top quality are on your hitlist then V-Moda is right on the money with the second-gen Crossfade.

The alternatives to consider…


Beats Solo 3

An obvious contender for bass-heavy balance, however the Beats simply aren’t nearly as well-made as the V-Moda Crossfade Wireless 2.

Read the full article: Beats Solo 3 review


Bang & Olufsen BeoPlay H8

Leather and metal make for plush yet pricey BeoPlay cans. The H8 are one of our favourite ever headphones, however, and far better than the larger lower-down-the-range H7 model too.

Read the full article: BeoPlay H8 review


Bowers & Wilkins P7 Wireless

If you’re angling the audiophile hook and less bass prominence then B&W might be more to your tastes. Also incredibly well-made and in a similar price ballpark.

Read the full article: B&W P7 Wireless review


UK switches on the world’s largest wind turbines

The largest wind turbines in the world have recently started producing energy for the UK. Dong Energy, the Danish company behind the project, has recently switched on the 32 gigantic structures in Liverpool Bay. The turbines are taller than some skyscrapers at 640 feet and have 262-foot-long blades that can generate 8 megawatts of power. It’s the first time 8MW turbines are used for commercial purposes, and a single revolution of their blade, the company says, can power one house for 29 hours.

Dong Energy built the 32 turbines as an extension of the Burbo Bank wind farm built over a decade ago. They have over twice the capacity of the farm’s original structures. The Danish energy firm is building turbines in the UK due to its friendly regulations and subsidies. However, the UK government told wind energy corporations to find more ways to cut costs if they want continued support. That’s why the company decided on building fewer enormous turbines rather than plenty of smaller ones. They’re cheaper to build and maintain, after all, since you’d have to build a foundation and a tower for each turbine regardless of its size.

Source: MIT Technology Review, Dong Energy

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