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22
Jul

Recommended Reading: Instagram’s influence on restaurants


Instagram Is Pushing
Restaurants to Be
Kitschy, Colorful and
Irresistible to Photographers

Casey Newton,
The Verge

It’s no secret that Instagram is full of brunch pics and food porn, but restaurants have noticed the trend. The Verge details how food spots are catering to photo-happy eaters with interior design details, eye-catching spaces and the proper amount of light.

A Son’s Race to Give His Dying Father Artificial Immortality
James Vlahos, Wired

A fascinating look at one man’s quest to build a chatbot so he can converse with his father after he passes away from lung cancer.

‘Ozark:’ Netflix’s Grim Foray Into Flyover Country
Sophie Gilbert, The Atlantic

I’ve seen comparisons to Breaking Bad, but The Atlantic details why Netflix’s latest drama fails to deliver on a potentially compelling premise.

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22
Jul

The 6 best STEM toys to get your kid interested in robotics and programming


STEM coding toys — toys that emphasize science, technology, engineering, and math — are on the rise. Amazon recently experimented with a program that delivers STEM toys to subscribers’ homes, and analysts at NPD estimate sales hit $26 billion last year. But not all STEM toys are created equal. As with any burgeoning category, companies of all shapes, sizes, and pedigrees are trying their darnedest to strike STEM toy gold — with varying degrees of success. Here’s a list of the best STEM toys on the market, and where to buy them.

What is STEM, and what are STEM toys?

STEM has enjoyed considerable attention in recent years, but it’s an acronym that applies loosely to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. Boiled down to the basics, STEM toys tend to emphasize creativity, logic, problem solving, and experimentation. Great STEM toys don’t just lecture kids, but engage them — they guide kids through lessons and activities in novel ways, and go the extra mile to reward their achievements.

The Best STEM toys

Circuit Cubes ($60)

If you’ve ever taken apart an old gadget as a kid, you probably know how educational it can be. But tearing old computers and TVs to shreds isn’t exactly the safest pastime. Luckily, there’s Circuit Cubes, a Lego-like building set that does a pretty good job approximating the experience. It consists of components made of transparent material, so that kids can see their inner workings. It comes with building instructions for cars, trucks, bikes, bridges, Ferris wheels, and more.

Circuit Cubes has its roots in education. It’s the debut effort of longtime educators Nate McDonald and John Schuster, who spent years developing lesson plans with an basis in STEM. Each kit ships with a motor cube that drives a gear shaft at 1,000 RPMs, an LED module that lights up brightly when attached to a completed circuit, and a rechargeable battery that lasts up to one hour of active play (and three days on standby). Future versions will allow kids to control modules with a smartphone or tablet via Bluetooth.

Lego Boost

Danish-based toy maker Lego launched its own take on STEM toys at the Consumer Electronics Show in January: Lego Boost.

Boost ships with more than 840 Lego bricks, a downloadable app, instructions and coding commands to create five possible Lego creations, including a functional 3D printer and a playable electric guitar. Other Boost bricks include a combination color and distance sensor and interactive motor, and the Move Hub, which packs two input and output ports, a six-axis tilt sensor, LEDs, and a Bluetooth radio that pairs with a smartphone running Boost’s companion app.

The Boost app teaches kids how to build animals and robots with the kit’s included pieces. It boasts activities like a Western-style one that outfits Boost ‘bots with handlebar mustaches and shooter guns, and a Tamagotchi-style game that has kids care for a Lego cat. It also walks kids through coding basics, allowing them to progress as they master modules.

Perhaps best of all, though, Boost works with existing Lego bricks. A “creative” mode lets kids start with one of three different bases — a walking base to create a robot animal, a driving base for vehicles, and an entrance base for castles and forts — and build whatever they want on top.

Osmo Coding Jam ($60)

Ever since Osmo, an augmented reality platform that uses the iPad’s front-facing camera to blend digital and real-world objects, made Time’s list of Best Innovations in 2014, the eponymous startup has been chipping away at improved kits. Its newest — Coding Jam — is one of the most impressive yet.

Osmo Coding Jam blends coding education with music. Like Osmo kits before it, kids download a companion app for iPad and interact with menus using physical cardboard pieces. Once they boot up the app and choose a randomly generated “stage name,” they’re ready to start composing short songs with Osmo’s cardboard block system.

Coding Jam is about more than music. The new Osmo kit, which was based in part on MIT research into the efficacy of tangible, physical teaching tools, puts ideas like “looping” and “sequencing” into musical terms that kids can understand. Better yet? The Osmo team’s already working with educators in 20,000 schools, and plans to publish formal lesson plans in the coming weeks.

Cozmo ($180)

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Cozmo, the miniature toy robot that looks kind of like a makeshift forklift, was one of 2016’s coolest toys. The AI-powered companion learns names and faces, plays games, and even develops a personality as it gets to know you better. But it’s also a platform for education.

Code Lab, a visual programming feature built into Cozmo’s companion app for smartphones and tablets, lets kids reorder sequences of digital blocks to create basic programs and learn robotics basics along the way. It’s designed on Scratch, the sprite-based language developed by MIT’s Technology Media Lab, and tasks kids with using four different kinds of blocks — movements, actions, events, and animations — to program the robot. A series of tutorial-like challenges, meanwhile, teach Code Lab’s fundamentals.

It’s largely a drag-and-drop affair — publishing a program is as easy as pairing at least two blocks and tapping the green “play” icon. But special categories of blocks allow for slightly more complicated routines, and an advanced mode launching later this year will add support for math functions and other features.

Ozobot ($100)

Cute, colorful robots are one way to pique kids’ interest in technology, and the creators of Ozobot pretty much have that concept nailed. The startup’s robots, which are now in 2,000 schools, look a little like miniaturized Roombas with transparent domes and color-changing LEDs. They’re programmed using Ozoblockly, a language based on Google’s kid-friendly Blockly, and it’s designed to adapt to various skill levels.

Evo, the newest generation of Ozobot, ships with a cardboard playing field and pre-programmed games and activities. It’s social, too — if kids plop down one or more additional Evo robots, they’ll automatically connect to one another and let owners exchange messages, share programs, or synchronize their units’ movements. And it’s customizable — kids can swap out the Ozobot’s transparent top for skins like Captain America or Iron Man, which come with custom sound effects and behaviors.

Sony Koov

Koov, a robotics kit by Sony’s Global Education division, is designed to teach kids robotics fundamentals through a combination of challenges and activities. It ships in two starter kits consisting of seven interlocking blocks (including actuators, motors, proximity sensors, accelerometers , and a Koov Core), and comes with a companion app that serves as a hub for Koov activities.

Kids code Koov using a Blockly-like visual programming language via the Koov app, which boasts more than 30 hours of onboarding material. There are 35 different lesson plans for them to follow, each focused on a single robot design and sequence of digital programming blocks, and sharing features that lets kids share, like, comment on, and publish their favorite creations. Koov’s social networking features let users choose from a gallery of avatar pictures, snap pictures of their inventions using the Koov’s photo tool, and comment on, “like,” favorite, and download the programs they want.




22
Jul

The 6 best STEM toys to get your kid interested in robotics and programming


STEM coding toys — toys that emphasize science, technology, engineering, and math — are on the rise. Amazon recently experimented with a program that delivers STEM toys to subscribers’ homes, and analysts at NPD estimate sales hit $26 billion last year. But not all STEM toys are created equal. As with any burgeoning category, companies of all shapes, sizes, and pedigrees are trying their darnedest to strike STEM toy gold — with varying degrees of success. Here’s a list of the best STEM toys on the market, and where to buy them.

What is STEM, and what are STEM toys?

STEM has enjoyed considerable attention in recent years, but it’s an acronym that applies loosely to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. Boiled down to the basics, STEM toys tend to emphasize creativity, logic, problem solving, and experimentation. Great STEM toys don’t just lecture kids, but engage them — they guide kids through lessons and activities in novel ways, and go the extra mile to reward their achievements.

The Best STEM toys

Circuit Cubes ($60)

If you’ve ever taken apart an old gadget as a kid, you probably know how educational it can be. But tearing old computers and TVs to shreds isn’t exactly the safest pastime. Luckily, there’s Circuit Cubes, a Lego-like building set that does a pretty good job approximating the experience. It consists of components made of transparent material, so that kids can see their inner workings. It comes with building instructions for cars, trucks, bikes, bridges, Ferris wheels, and more.

Circuit Cubes has its roots in education. It’s the debut effort of longtime educators Nate McDonald and John Schuster, who spent years developing lesson plans with an basis in STEM. Each kit ships with a motor cube that drives a gear shaft at 1,000 RPMs, an LED module that lights up brightly when attached to a completed circuit, and a rechargeable battery that lasts up to one hour of active play (and three days on standby). Future versions will allow kids to control modules with a smartphone or tablet via Bluetooth.

Lego Boost

Danish-based toy maker Lego launched its own take on STEM toys at the Consumer Electronics Show in January: Lego Boost.

Boost ships with more than 840 Lego bricks, a downloadable app, instructions and coding commands to create five possible Lego creations, including a functional 3D printer and a playable electric guitar. Other Boost bricks include a combination color and distance sensor and interactive motor, and the Move Hub, which packs two input and output ports, a six-axis tilt sensor, LEDs, and a Bluetooth radio that pairs with a smartphone running Boost’s companion app.

The Boost app teaches kids how to build animals and robots with the kit’s included pieces. It boasts activities like a Western-style one that outfits Boost ‘bots with handlebar mustaches and shooter guns, and a Tamagotchi-style game that has kids care for a Lego cat. It also walks kids through coding basics, allowing them to progress as they master modules.

Perhaps best of all, though, Boost works with existing Lego bricks. A “creative” mode lets kids start with one of three different bases — a walking base to create a robot animal, a driving base for vehicles, and an entrance base for castles and forts — and build whatever they want on top.

Osmo Coding Jam ($60)

Ever since Osmo, an augmented reality platform that uses the iPad’s front-facing camera to blend digital and real-world objects, made Time’s list of Best Innovations in 2014, the eponymous startup has been chipping away at improved kits. Its newest — Coding Jam — is one of the most impressive yet.

Osmo Coding Jam blends coding education with music. Like Osmo kits before it, kids download a companion app for iPad and interact with menus using physical cardboard pieces. Once they boot up the app and choose a randomly generated “stage name,” they’re ready to start composing short songs with Osmo’s cardboard block system.

Coding Jam is about more than music. The new Osmo kit, which was based in part on MIT research into the efficacy of tangible, physical teaching tools, puts ideas like “looping” and “sequencing” into musical terms that kids can understand. Better yet? The Osmo team’s already working with educators in 20,000 schools, and plans to publish formal lesson plans in the coming weeks.

Cozmo ($180)

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Cozmo, the miniature toy robot that looks kind of like a makeshift forklift, was one of 2016’s coolest toys. The AI-powered companion learns names and faces, plays games, and even develops a personality as it gets to know you better. But it’s also a platform for education.

Code Lab, a visual programming feature built into Cozmo’s companion app for smartphones and tablets, lets kids reorder sequences of digital blocks to create basic programs and learn robotics basics along the way. It’s designed on Scratch, the sprite-based language developed by MIT’s Technology Media Lab, and tasks kids with using four different kinds of blocks — movements, actions, events, and animations — to program the robot. A series of tutorial-like challenges, meanwhile, teach Code Lab’s fundamentals.

It’s largely a drag-and-drop affair — publishing a program is as easy as pairing at least two blocks and tapping the green “play” icon. But special categories of blocks allow for slightly more complicated routines, and an advanced mode launching later this year will add support for math functions and other features.

Ozobot ($100)

Cute, colorful robots are one way to pique kids’ interest in technology, and the creators of Ozobot pretty much have that concept nailed. The startup’s robots, which are now in 2,000 schools, look a little like miniaturized Roombas with transparent domes and color-changing LEDs. They’re programmed using Ozoblockly, a language based on Google’s kid-friendly Blockly, and it’s designed to adapt to various skill levels.

Evo, the newest generation of Ozobot, ships with a cardboard playing field and pre-programmed games and activities. It’s social, too — if kids plop down one or more additional Evo robots, they’ll automatically connect to one another and let owners exchange messages, share programs, or synchronize their units’ movements. And it’s customizable — kids can swap out the Ozobot’s transparent top for skins like Captain America or Iron Man, which come with custom sound effects and behaviors.

Sony Koov

Koov, a robotics kit by Sony’s Global Education division, is designed to teach kids robotics fundamentals through a combination of challenges and activities. It ships in two starter kits consisting of seven interlocking blocks (including actuators, motors, proximity sensors, accelerometers , and a Koov Core), and comes with a companion app that serves as a hub for Koov activities.

Kids code Koov using a Blockly-like visual programming language via the Koov app, which boasts more than 30 hours of onboarding material. There are 35 different lesson plans for them to follow, each focused on a single robot design and sequence of digital programming blocks, and sharing features that lets kids share, like, comment on, and publish their favorite creations. Koov’s social networking features let users choose from a gallery of avatar pictures, snap pictures of their inventions using the Koov’s photo tool, and comment on, “like,” favorite, and download the programs they want.




22
Jul

The 6 best STEM toys to get your kid interested in robotics and programming


STEM coding toys — toys that emphasize science, technology, engineering, and math — are on the rise. Amazon recently experimented with a program that delivers STEM toys to subscribers’ homes, and analysts at NPD estimate sales hit $26 billion last year. But not all STEM toys are created equal. As with any burgeoning category, companies of all shapes, sizes, and pedigrees are trying their darnedest to strike STEM toy gold — with varying degrees of success. Here’s a list of the best STEM toys on the market, and where to buy them.

What is STEM, and what are STEM toys?

STEM has enjoyed considerable attention in recent years, but it’s an acronym that applies loosely to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. Boiled down to the basics, STEM toys tend to emphasize creativity, logic, problem solving, and experimentation. Great STEM toys don’t just lecture kids, but engage them — they guide kids through lessons and activities in novel ways, and go the extra mile to reward their achievements.

The Best STEM toys

Circuit Cubes ($60)

If you’ve ever taken apart an old gadget as a kid, you probably know how educational it can be. But tearing old computers and TVs to shreds isn’t exactly the safest pastime. Luckily, there’s Circuit Cubes, a Lego-like building set that does a pretty good job approximating the experience. It consists of components made of transparent material, so that kids can see their inner workings. It comes with building instructions for cars, trucks, bikes, bridges, Ferris wheels, and more.

Circuit Cubes has its roots in education. It’s the debut effort of longtime educators Nate McDonald and John Schuster, who spent years developing lesson plans with an basis in STEM. Each kit ships with a motor cube that drives a gear shaft at 1,000 RPMs, an LED module that lights up brightly when attached to a completed circuit, and a rechargeable battery that lasts up to one hour of active play (and three days on standby). Future versions will allow kids to control modules with a smartphone or tablet via Bluetooth.

Lego Boost

Danish-based toy maker Lego launched its own take on STEM toys at the Consumer Electronics Show in January: Lego Boost.

Boost ships with more than 840 Lego bricks, a downloadable app, instructions and coding commands to create five possible Lego creations, including a functional 3D printer and a playable electric guitar. Other Boost bricks include a combination color and distance sensor and interactive motor, and the Move Hub, which packs two input and output ports, a six-axis tilt sensor, LEDs, and a Bluetooth radio that pairs with a smartphone running Boost’s companion app.

The Boost app teaches kids how to build animals and robots with the kit’s included pieces. It boasts activities like a Western-style one that outfits Boost ‘bots with handlebar mustaches and shooter guns, and a Tamagotchi-style game that has kids care for a Lego cat. It also walks kids through coding basics, allowing them to progress as they master modules.

Perhaps best of all, though, Boost works with existing Lego bricks. A “creative” mode lets kids start with one of three different bases — a walking base to create a robot animal, a driving base for vehicles, and an entrance base for castles and forts — and build whatever they want on top.

Osmo Coding Jam ($60)

Ever since Osmo, an augmented reality platform that uses the iPad’s front-facing camera to blend digital and real-world objects, made Time’s list of Best Innovations in 2014, the eponymous startup has been chipping away at improved kits. Its newest — Coding Jam — is one of the most impressive yet.

Osmo Coding Jam blends coding education with music. Like Osmo kits before it, kids download a companion app for iPad and interact with menus using physical cardboard pieces. Once they boot up the app and choose a randomly generated “stage name,” they’re ready to start composing short songs with Osmo’s cardboard block system.

Coding Jam is about more than music. The new Osmo kit, which was based in part on MIT research into the efficacy of tangible, physical teaching tools, puts ideas like “looping” and “sequencing” into musical terms that kids can understand. Better yet? The Osmo team’s already working with educators in 20,000 schools, and plans to publish formal lesson plans in the coming weeks.

Cozmo ($180)

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Cozmo, the miniature toy robot that looks kind of like a makeshift forklift, was one of 2016’s coolest toys. The AI-powered companion learns names and faces, plays games, and even develops a personality as it gets to know you better. But it’s also a platform for education.

Code Lab, a visual programming feature built into Cozmo’s companion app for smartphones and tablets, lets kids reorder sequences of digital blocks to create basic programs and learn robotics basics along the way. It’s designed on Scratch, the sprite-based language developed by MIT’s Technology Media Lab, and tasks kids with using four different kinds of blocks — movements, actions, events, and animations — to program the robot. A series of tutorial-like challenges, meanwhile, teach Code Lab’s fundamentals.

It’s largely a drag-and-drop affair — publishing a program is as easy as pairing at least two blocks and tapping the green “play” icon. But special categories of blocks allow for slightly more complicated routines, and an advanced mode launching later this year will add support for math functions and other features.

Ozobot ($100)

Cute, colorful robots are one way to pique kids’ interest in technology, and the creators of Ozobot pretty much have that concept nailed. The startup’s robots, which are now in 2,000 schools, look a little like miniaturized Roombas with transparent domes and color-changing LEDs. They’re programmed using Ozoblockly, a language based on Google’s kid-friendly Blockly, and it’s designed to adapt to various skill levels.

Evo, the newest generation of Ozobot, ships with a cardboard playing field and pre-programmed games and activities. It’s social, too — if kids plop down one or more additional Evo robots, they’ll automatically connect to one another and let owners exchange messages, share programs, or synchronize their units’ movements. And it’s customizable — kids can swap out the Ozobot’s transparent top for skins like Captain America or Iron Man, which come with custom sound effects and behaviors.

Sony Koov

Koov, a robotics kit by Sony’s Global Education division, is designed to teach kids robotics fundamentals through a combination of challenges and activities. It ships in two starter kits consisting of seven interlocking blocks (including actuators, motors, proximity sensors, accelerometers , and a Koov Core), and comes with a companion app that serves as a hub for Koov activities.

Kids code Koov using a Blockly-like visual programming language via the Koov app, which boasts more than 30 hours of onboarding material. There are 35 different lesson plans for them to follow, each focused on a single robot design and sequence of digital programming blocks, and sharing features that lets kids share, like, comment on, and publish their favorite creations. Koov’s social networking features let users choose from a gallery of avatar pictures, snap pictures of their inventions using the Koov’s photo tool, and comment on, “like,” favorite, and download the programs they want.




22
Jul

Protect your expensive new laptop with the best Macbook cases


You may be tempted to keep your new MacBook naked, so you and everyone else around can gaze at it, but you should let common sense prevail. Apple’s iconic device is absolutely gorgeous, and it deserves to be protected at all times. You’ve got to look after it, especially if you expect it to stay pretty. That’s why we’ve tracked down the best MacBook cases, covers, and sleeves. Whether you’re looking for protection or style, there’s something here for you.

Note: If you have a MacBook that includes a Touch Bar, it’s important to pick a newer case to match it. Many older cases will not fit the Touch Bar-equipped Macs, because their dimensions are different from the previous MacBook line. Sleeves, on the other hand, are usually a better bet because they tend to have more wiggle room.

Picaso Lab Classic Leather Sleeve ($82+)

These handcrafted MacBook sleeves are made from Napa leather. They’re available for different MacBook models and fit perfectly. They’re snug at first, but this ensures the sleeve stays secure as the leather ages and loosens up. The lightly-textured leather is durable, too, and comfortable to hold. We opted for the brown exterior, which features golden stitching and a red interior. This interior leather also extends an inch and a half to form a durable lip, before giving way to soft, felt-like material. There are no logos or other superfluous details here, though you can get your sleeve engraved with your name or initials if you want. These leather sleeves also come in black or tan varieties. Luxurious, but understated and elegant, we think they’re well worth the money.

Buy one now from:

Picaso Lab

Tech21 Impact Snap Case ($100)

We’ve witnessed Tech21’s stringent testing procedures before, which are rigorous given the manufacturer is one of the most prominent on the market. This MacBook case provides the same protection against bumps, drops, and scrapes that we’ve come to expect from the company. It’s a shell-based case that snaps onto your MacBook securely, adding little to its profile. There are also cut-outs for quick access to your phone’s ports, it opens and closes easily, and it sports durable rubber feet that prevent it from sliding around on a myriad of surfaces. Additionally, the textured sections offer extra grip, and the case’s translucent components show off Apple’s iconic logo. It currently comes in clear, black, purple, or pink.

Buy one now from:

Apple

Pad & Quill Cartella Linen Case ($100)

Fancy disguising your MacBook as an actual book? The Cartella Linen is designed to look like an old paper journal. Your MacBook sits in a wooden, Baltic Birch cradle with cut-outs for the ports, and the cover can be folded back to create a comfortable angle for typing. There’s an elastic closure that’s practical and adds to the aesthetic. Inside the cover, you’ll also find a slim pocket for papers. The linen buckram cover comes in three different color combos, and each case is handmade in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Buy one now from:

Pad & Quill

Moshi Muse Sleeve ($36+)

This sleeve is a smart design that eschews zippers or Velcro in favor of a something that Moshi calls “SlipGrip.” You can turn it upside down and the MacBook still won’t fall out. Open the flap and you’ll find a soft microfiber lining that cushions your device and cleans off smudges. There’s room for your MacBook to wear a close-fitting case and still slide in here. There’s also a pocket in the front that’s almost as deep as the main one. It proves handy storage for MacBook accessories and cables. It looks quite stylish, finished in Sahara beige or graphite black, with the flap providing a color contrast in both cases. It’s ideal for stowing your MacBook quickly and sticking into a larger bag or backpack to carry.

Buy one now from:

Amazon B&H

Inateck MacBook Sleeve ($14)

Here’s a great option if you’re feeling the pinch after buying your MacBook. It’s a simple, unassuming felt pocket with a nice, soft flannel lining on the inside. There’s a Velcro closure to keep it closed and it’s not too snug. There’s also another large pocket when you open the flap, and it’s big enough for an iPad or a big book. On the back, you’ll find two smaller pockets which could be used for accessories or even your iPhone 7, though there’s no closure on them. This sleeve is great value for the cost, and it also comes with a strange little extra — a small felt pocket with an elastic strap that’s just the right size for a mouse.

Buy one now from:

Amazon

Waterfield Zip Brief MacBook Case ($180)

There’s no escaping the fact that this is an expensive option, but it could be ideal for about town and air travel. The zippers allow you to open it and lay it completely flat quickly, so it’s TSA-friendly. There’s a plush pocket inside that will fit a MacBook, even with a close-fitting case on it. Two additional interior pockets can be used for accessories. You’ll also find an easy-access pocket on the outside. It’s finished in waxed canvas or ballistic nylon, and you can order it in a variety of different color combos. To finish off, there’s a comfortable pair of hand straps, and a removable shoulder strap for carrying.

Buy one now from:

WaterField Designs

Booq Taipan Spacesuit 12 ($40)

Here’s an interesting-looking neoprene sleeve with a honeycomb structure that promises to safeguard your MacBook from damage. The interior is seriously plush, and there are two zippers that can open the sleeve all the way round so it can be laid flat. You can get this sleeve in gold, gray, or black. You get two removable leather zipper pullers to match the sleeve color, and three brightly colored contrasting extras you can use, if you prefer a splash of color. This will work well if you want to place your laptop in a protective sleeve before you sling it into a quality laptop bag.

Buy one now from:

Amazon Booq

STM Dux Rugged Case ($43+)

STM’s Dux Rugged case provides a safe choice for even the most accident-prone consumer. The rubberized poly-carbonate brackets protect the sides and corners of your laptop from falling damage, while the textured rubber feet help prevent your computer from sliding on slick surfaces. The transparent cover also allows stickers and customization to shine through, and the minimalist design ensures your MacBook can always breathe through the built-in hinge. The case is currently available in black, chili, or Moroccan blue.

Buy one now from:

Amazon

Mosiso Leather-Style Book Cover ($20)

You might find this polyurethane case a practical solution. Your MacBook slips into a pocket, with a cut-out for the trackpad, and there are elastic straps at the top to hold the screen in place. It’s made from fake leather, finished in brown, gold, red, blue, or black. There’s a magnetic closure that seems pretty secure, and soft-padding on the inside. There’s also a clever, small fold out panel on the back that allows you to prop your MacBook at a comfortable angle. It’s not the greatest quality in the world, but that’s reflected in the price.

Buy one now from:

Amazon

Runetz Neoprene Sleeve ($18)

Here’s a basic neoprene sleeve that won’t break the bank. It has two zippers and can be opened and laid flat. There’s also a front pocket with a separate zipper that’s handy for accessories. It’s soft inside and has padded bumps to cushion your laptop from blows. You can pick this one up in a variety of different plain color combinations, or opt for the chevron pattern pictured. The fit is nice and snug.

Buy one now from:

Amazon Runetz

Twelve South BookBook ($80)

For the most hardcore bibliophiles, Twelve South has created the BookBook, a case made of genuine leather that looks like — you guessed it — a book. With reinforced corners and a cushioned spine designed to absorb impacts, it’s a perfect blend of protection and class. Each BookBook is individually distressed, so each case is unique, and for an extra $20 you can upgrade to the Rutledge edition. The latter comes with hand-dyed “sunburst” designs on the outside.

Buy one now from:

Amazon Twelve South

Thule Vectros Bumper Case ($60)

Clumsy Macbook owners will thank themselves for purchasing the Thule Vectros Bumper case. This bad boy will protect your computer from just about anything, as long as you don’t drop it off a roller coaster or throw it in a lake. The beveled edges and shock-absorbing ridges keep your laptop safe in the event that you drop it, and the invisible shields that snap between the edge casings will protect the top and bottom surfaces of your computer from unwanted scratches or, say, spilled coffee.

Buy one now from:

Amazon

UAG MacBook ASH Military Drop Tested Case ($50)

Are you looking for a case that’s more openly ruggedized? This UAG case is designed to deal with rougher conditions, with an armor shell and impact bumpers to help the MacBook survive occasional drops and bumpy environments. The unit also includes the necessary vents for cooling and airflow. It’s an ideal case for outdoor work. However, the one downside is that it is only limited to the MacBook Pro 13-inch third generation, and options with the Touch Bar are just too large to fit.

Buy one now from:

Amazon

Speck SeeThru MacBook Case ($40)

Like the idea of a case but not the look? Check out the SeeThru case, which tries to be as invisible as possible while still offering hardshell protection for the MacBook Air. The case is divided into two pieces that quickly snap together, and includes all the necessary openings for various connections. If you like the style of this translucent case but not the clear version, there are a few primary color options to choose from as well.

Buy one now from:

Amazon

MoKo Sleeve Bag ($16)

MoKo’s stylish sleeve bag is made from PU leather, or a leather substrate with a vinyl covering. It gives you a better look without a high price, especially if you prefer one of these minimalistic sleeves to a full case. The sleeve also includes a card slot for storing cards or small electronic devices. The cover is magnetically sealed when you put it in place, and the inner surface is line with felt. However, there’s not much protection here, so you’ll still need to be careful when handling this bag.

Buy one now from:

Amazon

Mujjo Sleeve ($69)

Mujjo’s elite sleeve is one of the best available for the MacBook. It is made from felt and vegetable-tanned leather, with snap-in-place buttons for the cover. It can carry the 13-inch MacBook or an iPad Pro with keyboard, no problem. The design is good enough to be at home anywhere, and you’ll probably feel good showing it off. It comes with a card pocket, but not many other extras.

Buy one now from:

Amazon Mujjo

Update: Added new entries from Picaso Lab and Tech21.




22
Jul

New low-energy mesh standard makes Bluetooth the Internet of Thing’s best friend


iot-hero.jpg?itok=2c0RhFgr

Bluetooth could be the standard that turns the internet of things into something we can care about.

Chances are that when you hear “Internet of things” you don’t have high expectations. I feel you. Unfortunately, the real internet of things isn’t as exciting as some envisioned, and the devices and software used for shipping containers or a big library just don’t have a wow factor.

That will change eventually, and we’ll have consumer things that are useful, different and we can actually touch them. But first, some standards need to be worked out.

The current IoT is a mess of standards and protocols and things that just won’t work with each other. That’s really different from something like, say, Bluetooth, which just works everywhere and with practically everything. That’s why it was important for Bluetooth SIG (the companies and people who develop and maintain Bluetooth standards, among other things) get serious about the IoT, and the new Low-Energy mesh protocols shows that they are very serious about the future running on Bluetooth.

blue-satellite-review-1.jpg?itok=3PZyumpThese headphones can talk with your phone. Or your computer. Or your watch. But not your step tracker.

LE mesh brings a new many-to-many connection model where devices can talk to each other directly instead of going through a central server. This means a device that supports the latest Bluetooth LE standards can support a one-to-one (1:1) connection, like your phone “talking” to your headset, a one-to-many (o:m) connection, like a beacon that connects to a server which shares data across the internet, and the new many-to-many connection where a sensor or beacon or audio device could connect to another beacon or audio device directly.

More importantly, data can be shared directly without being sent through a server that has to process it and determine where it needs to go. This does two things: it streamlines applications and installations that use it, cutting out a middleman that’s one more spot for latency or errors, and it open Bluetooth LE devices to new use cases.

Bluetooth LE mesh means your Fitbit can talk to your scale without asking your watch to do it.

The Bluetooth SIG gives some great examples of how this new standard can be practical for existing use cases. Building automation — including your smart home — can have hundreds of individual smart parts. Getting them all to talk together means a better way for the user to do things with simple commands and almost endless customization of sensors acting on data they receive from other sensors.

Their example of using LE mesh for asset tracking, where hospital equipment is tracked using a sensor on the machinery or service cart, shows one huge advantage — the 33-foot barrier has been breached and signals can be chained almost endlessly so a server can talk to a device at distance. Range has always been one of Bluetooth’s weaknesses and a scenario where many sensors are in use and they can connect and pass data means less “server” devices are needed.

fitbit-surge-wrist-hero-2.jpg?itok=wUwflThis FitBit Surge can tell your phone you’ve hit your goal, but it can’t tell your headphones to play the “Tada!” sound to congratulate you. Yet.

We’re not sure how new devices will take advantage (or if they will at all) of this new connection method. Certainly, those boring things like keeping tabs on where a portable X-ray machine is sitting will benefit, but what if cars can talk to each other or even a road sign? There’s a lot of data out there that could be collected and used for … something. Hopefully something cool that makes our lives easier and better.

We’ll just have to wait and see, but we can be thankful that a group like the Bluetooth SIG is getting serious about making things work with each other. Their efforts, along with those of Google, Apple, Microsoft and endless component vendors will eventually form methods that get things on the same page, and the more good ideas that are developed mean it will get her faster and be better.

22
Jul

Hobbyist developers will make $30 million via ‘Roblox’ this year


Roblox has exploded over the past two years. It’s not quite a game and not quite a development platform, allowing players to boot up millions of user-made projects, or create their own games and immediately publish them across all supported platforms. In September 2015, Roblox Corporation was happy to report it had 6 million monthly players, most of them between the ages of 15 and 22, across PC, Mac iOS and Android. Hundreds of developers were bringing in at least $250 a month selling items and upgrades in their Roblox games, and the ecosystem overall generated $2.5 million for creators.

Yes, that’s real-life money.

Today, Roblox has 56 million monthly players, an increase of 50 million over 2015, and it’s available on Xbox One, Windows 10 and Oculus Rift. The top echelon of Roblox developers are pulling in more than $100,000 a month, and two creators are poised to make more than $2 million this year. As a whole, Roblox is on track to pay out $30 million to its developers in 2017.

That’s still real-life money.

Here’s how Roblox works, when it comes to cash: Any player can dive in and create their own game in the Roblox ecosystem. They can then publish their projects across all supported platforms — a huge boon when it comes to indie development — and monetize them by selling things in-game. Players pay in the community’s currency, Robux, which Roblox then converts to real cash via the Developer Exchange program. Of the 56 million total Roblox players, 1.7 million are creators. Each of them can technically earn up to $1.05 million per month.

“Not every game is monetized and some games are monetized in ways different than others, so there are many games and many creators who don’t make a lot of money with their games,” spokesperson Brian Jaquet says. But, he continues, “some of our top developers are on track to make close to $3 million dollars in 2017.”

There are two main reasons for Roblox’s growth since 2015, Jaquet says. First, the Xbox One launch was a huge help. Second, he says, “We’ve also improved our mobile experience, where we’ve been seeing the most aggressive growth on the platform. This has allowed players to jump on, create and share with friends easily, causing a network effect of growth.”

Jaquet also mentions the recent viral assistance of YouTube influencers, some of whom have created Roblox-specific channels over the past few years. There’s also the $92 million investment the company secured in March, bringing its lifetime fundraising efforts to $102 million.

The third annual Roblox Developer’s Conference takes place in San Jose this weekend, complete with panels and seminars designed to get even more people playing, developing and earning money in the game.

22
Jul

The Morning After: Weekend Edition


Hey, good morning! You look fabulous.

Welcome to the weekend. We’ll take a look back at some of the big stories from earlier this week, plus key updates like NASA’s tips for viewing a solar eclipse.

Getting the weekend started early.DC security robot says everything is fine, throws itself into pool

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Don’t read too much into this, but a security robot face-planted into an indoor fountain inside of a Washington, DC office building.

Important information.NASA doesn’t want you to go blind during the solar eclipse

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Please, for the love of god (and your eyesight), do not try to make your own eclipse glasses. Buy a pair, and make sure they’re less than three years old with lenses that are in good shape. The much-celebrated full solar eclipse is just one month away for those in the continental United States, and NASA really does not want you to go blind when it finally happens.

Phones, tablets and accessoriesThe best smartphones and mobile gear for students

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We imagine many of today’s college first-year students already have phones, but for those of you who’ve earned an upgrade, we crammed five into our back-to-school guide, including some budget options. Other recommendations include an external battery pack and a fast microSDXC card.

One of the largest marine surveys ever.Missing Malaysia Airlines flight search yields valuable seafloor data

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The massive search for MH370 since 2014 has not located the lost airplane or its occupants. As a result of the effort, however, researchers have now released detailed topography data for 710,000 square kilometers of Indian Ocean seafloor. The maps they generated with sonar have at least 15 times greater resolution than the ones that existed before the search.

A new space filled with old names.The traditional sports world is taking eSports into the mainstream

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It’s odd to think that eSports still hasn’t reached its full potential. The NBA, NFL, ESPN, NBC and many others have taken notice though, and now they’re looking to cash in. Street Fighter, FIFA, Rocket League and Overwatch are moving in next to traditional sports, and fans are asking for more.

Meet the AtariboxAtari’s new console will come in two suitably retro editions

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The first new gaming system from Atari in over twenty years will be available in two colors, include an array of ports (HDMI, USB and SD card) and… well, we don’t know much else. The Ataribox appears to be more capable than Nintendo’s nostalgia-bait systems, but an email to interested buyers stopped at revealing some design details.

It’s the biggest independent-film production ever, with a budget of $180 millionLuc Besson on ‘Valerian’ and his return to bold, inventive sci-fi

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Luc Besson to Engadget: “I’m back! Honestly, The Fifth Element was a nightmare to do, because, at the time, special effects were old-fashioned, it was before we went digital. Every time I wanted to use a green screen, it took like six hours. It was really painful. This one … because we prepped a lot, it was easier. Longer, but easier. The Fifth Element has 188 shots with special effects; Valerian has 2,734. It was less painful, but technology has made it easier for a director. You just have to specifically be very precise about what you want, and you need to have a good time to do it.”

But wait, there’s more…

  • Microsoft shows off a Nest-like thermostat based on Cortana
  • Disney’s immersive ‘Star Wars’ hotel is a Jedi dream come true
  • Google Glass is back
  • LG’s friendly robots will help travelers at Seoul airport
  • This Japanese VR arcade put me inside ‘Mario Kart’
  • ‘The Defenders’ Comic-Con trailer features punching, heroes
  • ‘Pokémon Go’ is getting Legendary monsters for its birthday

The Morning After is a new daily newsletter from Engadget designed to help you fight off FOMO. Who knows what you’ll miss if you don’t subscribe.

22
Jul

Strava’s new Premium perks will insure your phone while you ride


Strava makes a popular tracking app for workout warriors, however many cyclists have questions about whether its $60 per year (or $8 per month) Premium package is worth the cost. Features already include personalized feedback, analysis and more, but if that’s not enough it’s adding new Perks. Those include discounts on things like shoes from New Balance, body wipes, energy gels, coaching services and so on. The most interesting perk, however, is from Sundays Insurance, which will reimburse the cost of your device — up to $600 — if it’s damaged in an accident while you’re recording data with Strava.

Introducing Premium Perks: Get exclusive deals on gear, training and more from some of our favorite partners. https://t.co/kwVSoAJwlY pic.twitter.com/bxfD8eKwh8

— Strava (@Strava) July 21, 2017

It covers other things too, like $50 for a taxi in case of an accident or breakdown, and you’ll want to read the terms & conditions (PDF) carefully to see exactly what it covers, but it’s an unusual benefit for an app subscription. Add-ons like bike or travel insurance can be purchased separately, and as Bicycling.com points out, there are other insurers available for your ride like USA Cycling, which charges $50 per year.

Source: Strava

22
Jul

‘Minecraft’ novel by ‘World War Z’ author is now available


As strange as it sounds, Minecraft got the novelization treatment, and the final product is now out for purchase. The good news is that the Mojang team put Microsoft’s millions to good use by commissioning Max Brooks, author of the apocalyptic zombie novel World War Z. Minecraft: The Island apparently tells the story of a hero who got stranded on a mysterious island and ends up unraveling its secrets.

When the book was first announced, Mojang’s Marsh Davies described it as a “cuboid Robinson Crusoe, but madder: a hero stranded in an unfamiliar land, with unfamiliar rules, learning to survive against tremendous odds.” In the book, the cuboid hero will face hunger, the elements and, yes, zombies that roam the island at night.

Del Rey, the publishing house in charge of the project, called the book the launch of a series when the partnership with Brooks was revealed, so this might be the first of many. If you’re curious and looking for something to read for the weekend, you can get a copy right now from Microsoft’s Books store.

Source: Microsoft

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