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  1. Office Feng-Shui

    June 1, 2012 by Bill

    Here are the top 5 rules (though they're more like principles, really) to achieve that mysterious "feng shui" thing everyone keeps talking about. OUR TOP 5 RULES FOR FENG SHUI: 1. Function. If anything, you should let functionality guide your decisions on placement of any furniture or technology around the office. Should this printer go here? How much is it really used? Can I reach it easily when I need it? Every item should be placed in the context of use and optimized according to personal subjective preference. 2. Comfort. A primary rule of feng shui is making sure you are comfortable. Doing so suggests maximized productivity and a calming environment to work in at all times. This also means if you have your back facing anything other than a wall, you might need some adjusting. The optimal feng shui setup allows you to face the people coming into the room, creating an affordance for conversation rather than "I'm trusting you not to be a ninja spy, so please don't attack me from behind." 3. Fashion. Even go into a room and say to yourself, "Man, that sofa really throws off this room." In all honestly, there's no scientific measure for something like aesthetic design, but one can always try. If a huge couch needs balancing, try adding a large painting or wall-shelving. An empty corner? Add some potted plants. Or simply rummage through our on-going Perfect Workplace Contest 2010 for some great ideas inspired by your own fellow readers. 4. Rearrange often. Like anything design related, one must accept the fact that rearranging is inevitable. We like to do it at least once every three months to optimize our working environment for upcoming projects. 5. Declutter. One of the original key rules of feng shui involves knowing what you should leave out. A room overstuffed with anything, from office furniture, to unruly computer cords, to overcrowded file drawers, is not acceptable. Get rid of it. Keep only what you need. And for goodness sake, clean up those wires! via Apartment Therapy  

  2. Get Ready for Karaoke on Wii!

    May 29, 2012 by Bill

    It's the moment we've (I've) been waiting for!  WII KARAOKE! Konami has announced plans to release Karaoke Joysound, four years after its Japanese release, on the Wii in North America. We're sure everyone else who remembers this old Hudson game is as shocked as we are. Joysound uses a streaming library of over 1,000 songs, access to which can be rented for one or three days, or one month, at a time. Contents of the library have yet to be announced, and we don't know the cost.  The North American version ships this fall, and includes two microphones.

  3. Flashy Trash

    May 23, 2012 by Bill

    It's a sad fact of life that trash cans are necessary. It would be so much better to just never accumulate trash at all. But until we gain another three levels in Wizard, we're just going to have to have trash cans. On the plus side, people out there are getting really creative with garbage cans. Check out these quirky options, and let us know what crazy things you've found. [gallery link="file" orderby="ID"] • R2-D2 Trash Can — $375 Yes, he's $375. But be honest, part of you wants him anyway. • The Tardis Trash Can — £39.99 This trash can seems tiny, but it's bigger on the inside. It makes Tardis noises when it opens and closes, and it'll be in stores this summer. • Chinese Take Out Trash Bin — $19.99 If trash cans shaped like Chinese take-out containers had been around when I was in college, I'd've had the coolest dorm room ever. • Bin Bin Wastebasket — $55 Proving quirky can be classy, the Bin Bin wastebasket looks like crumpled paper, making it an ideal place to throw your crumpled papers. If you miss, just pretend it's a sculpture field. • Amish-made Small Bathroom Trash Bin — $89.95 Sometimes objects are so vehemently normal that they go right out the other end and become kind of odd. This tiny bathroom trash can is solid wood and proudly Amish-made. • Mini Round Retro Step Can — $25.99 Doesn't this retro-cute trash can remind you of Zooey Deschanel? It's just adorkable. • Crusader's Helm Gothic Trash Bin — $49.95 This helm-shaped trash can is perfect for a gaming room. It's just begging to be filled with discarded character sheets. (Images: 1. Proshopjapan, 2. Forbidden Planet, 3. Streamline, 4. Unica Home, 5. Trash Cans Unlimited, 6. Simple Human, 7.Design Toscano)

  4. 10 Gadgets NOT To Buy Now

    May 21, 2012 by Bill

    Patience is a virtue, but it's not much fun. Unfortunately, you may need to repress your desire to buy a new gadget today and wait for the next version to come out....trust us on this one and check out these "wait on it" suggestions.

    The iPhone

    If you have your heart set on purchasing a new iPhone, don't do it yet. Every rumor points to the arrival of a much-improved product arriving by fall. We don't know what exact specs the iPhone 5 will have. We don't even know if it'll be called the iPhone 5 (my money's on "the Brand Spanking New iPhone"), but we can be pretty certain it will have 4G LTE, a faster processor, a better camera, and a larger and sharper screen. While four or five months may seem like a long time to wait, most iPhone owners are on two year phone contracts that usually won't allow them to upgrade until after 20 months. Do you really want to spend 2013 being known as the loser who has to "take a grenade" with Siri's older, slower moving sister while your friends cozy up to the new model?

    Windows Tablets

    Let's face the facts. If you want to buy a Windows 7 tablet, you're either a multitouch masochist or a sadistic CTO, looking to pinch-zoom in on employee suffering. Though Windows 7 runs all the applications you could ever want, its touch-unfriendly interface makes it really difficult to use with adult-sized fingers. Ever try tapping the X widget to close a window? You'll need to stick your index finger in a pencil sharpener first, so you can make sure it's thin enough. Coming this fall, Windows 8 offers a very touch-friendly Metro UI and a host of touch-friendly apps on top of it. Even better, Windows 8 will run on ARM-based tablets, allowing for thinner, lighter and longer-lasting designs. A slew of new convertible notebooks that run Windows 8 will arrive in fall too. I can't wait for the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga, which bends its hinge back 180 degrees to become a slate. Even Kanye West would sit in his seat long enough to wait for Windows 8.

    Ultrabooks

    The first generation of Ultrabooks — a new category of uberthin, fast-booting notebooks — arrived last fall with prominent entries from all the PC vendors. However, though notebooks like the ASUS Zenbook UX31 and Toshiba Portege Z835 have a lot going for them, a new generation of much-improved Ultrabooks will arrive this summer. These notebooks will sport Intel's faster, more efficient 3rd generation Core Series processors (aka Ivy Bridge), and many will offer higher-resolution displays. A couple of models stand out to us. The ASUS ZenBook Prime will offer a generous 1920 x 1080 screen that will let you watch HD movies at their native resolution, while viewing more of your favorite web pages and documents without scrolling. Meanwhile, the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon could be the ultimate productivity notebook when it launches this summer. It will pack a gorgeous 14-inch, 1600 x 900 matte display into a .75-inch thick chassis that weighs just 3 pounds. Plus, you'll get the industry's best keyboard.

    Sprint Phones

    Sprint likes to call itself "the Now Network," but it really should be named "the Promise Network," because right now all it is selling is the promise of 4G LTE at some point in the future. The carrier recently announced that it is dumping its mediocre 4G WiMAX network in favor of LTE on new handsets. That's the right move long-term, but it leaves current Sprint customers in a bind. The company is selling 4G LTE phones such as the Samsung Galaxy Nexus and LG Viper 4G LTE, but they'll only get a 3G signal until Sprint launches its new network. The carrier plans to roll out LTE this summer to just six cities — Atlanta, Baltimore, Dallas, Houston, Kansas City and San Antonio — with no ETA for other cities apart from 123 million people covered by the end of the year. Even if you live in one of the designated six markets, there's no guarantee that Sprint's implementation of LTE will be as fast as AT&T and Verizon's; we just don't know. Whether you are already a Sprint customer or are just thinking of becoming one, you should wait to see how quickly the company's version of LTE is coming to your area and whether it actually lives up to the hype. You don't want to buy that Evo 4G LTE today, only to be stuck with 2007-era 3G speeds while your friends on Verizon and AT&T are cruising along at 4G.

    MacBook Pros

    If you have your heart set on an Apple MacBook Pro, tell your heart to go on without one for just a little longer. Everyone expects Apple to announce a new lineup of MacBook Pros in June and these new notebooks will reportedly weigh less, feature high-resolution "Retina" displays and provide USB 3.0 ports in addition to running Ivy Bridge CPUs. These notebooks will also be running Apple's new OS X Mountain Lion software, which brings more iPad-like functionality to Macs along with stronger security. Unless a pack of rabid Windows fanboys breaks into your house and smashes your current MacBook Pro with a Metro-UI styled hammer, you can hold on for another few weeks. The Retina display, which should show more content on the screen at once, is reason enough to wait.

    Android Tablets

    Apple enthusiasts don't have anything to wait for when it comes to tablets. The "new" iPad just came out in March and has an incredible, high-res screen paired with a powerful processor. However, if you want to consider an Android tablet, now is not the time to buy. Though we've seen some speedy quad-core tablets like the ASUS Eee Pad Transformer Prime, we're still waiting for Android tablet makers to come out with screens that have higher than 1280 x 800 resolution. Both ASUS and Acer have announced 1920 x 1200 tablets, but neither one has hit the market yet. If you plunk down $500 on a tablet now, you'll feel silly when the new HD models arrive within the next couple of months.

    Smart TVs

    Apple can play coy all it wants, but many industry insiders believe that the Cupertino company plans to launch its own TV later this year. There's no question that the Apple TV will have deep iTunes integration, a gorgeous screen (Apple is known for that) and some kind of Siri-based voice control. When it comes to launching new Smart TVs, Apple won't be alone. LG recently showed off its G2 Smart TV, which uses the Google TV 2.0 interface, supports voice commands and comes with a gesture-controlled "Magic" remote. Lenovo just began shipping its Android 4.0- powered K55 Smart TV in China and it may come here at some point as well. If you wait, the additional competition from these new products will force down prices on existing Smart TVs as well.

    Windows Phones

    The Nokia Lumia 900 has a gorgeous design and the HTC Titan II has an awesome 16-MP camera. However, when it comes to specs, apps and basic multitasking, Windows Phones still lag behind their Android and iPhone counterparts. With Windows Phone 8 due out this fall, Microsoft could finally start to close the feature gap with Apple and Google. According to some reports, the new mobile operating system will support higher resolution screens, dual-core CPUs, NFC payments and apps that can control other apps, a necessity for true multitasking. Microsoft has issued some conflicting statements about whether current Windows Phones would get an OS upgrade so I wouldn't count on the Lumia you buy today running Windows 8 tomorrow. If you're attracted to Windows Phone, delay your purchase until fall. Otherwise, you'll be living with a single-core, low-res handset for two years.

    eReaders

    There are several great eReader options on the market right now, from the tablet-like Amazon Kindle Fire to the E Ink-powered Nook Simple Touch. However, as strong as the eReader offerings are today, they're about to get much better. Barnes & Noble just released its Simple Touch with GlowLight and rumor has it that Amazon is set to release its own backlit E Ink-based Kindle this summer. However, backlit E Ink is just the tip of this innovative ice berg. Expect Amazon to launch the second-generation Kindle Fire 2 this fall, complete with higher-res screen options and possibly larger form factors like 8.9 inches. Flush with investment money from Microsoft and not content to stand still, Barnes & Noble is sure to release a new Nook Tablet sometime later this year as well. We'd expect the next Nook to also have a higher resolution than 1024 x 600. There's also a persistent rumor that Amazon will release Kindles using color E Ink later this year. We just reviewed the color E Ink-powered Ectaco Jetbook Color so the technology is already out there. How bad would you feel if you bought an old-school grayscale Kindle today, only to see one with a backlight or a color screen come out within a few months?

    BlackBerrys

    Research in Motion, the company that makes Blackberry phones, seems to be stuck in a time warp, offering phones that have the best specs of 2009, including single-core 800-MHz CPUs, tiny 2.4-inch screens and an outmoded BlackBerry 7 OS. Fortunately, most people aren't foolish enough to buy phones that you'd expect to find in the bargain bin at a garage sale rather than the shelf at a Verizon store. RIM seems to understand the problem too as it plans to release an entirely new line of phones running its new BlackBerry 10 OS later this year. The new touch-friendly BlackBerry London phone, complete with a bigger screen and faster processor than we've seen on a BlackBerry before, should arrive by fall. If you must have a BlackBerry, this is the one to wait for.   Original Post by Gizmodo

  5. Home Tweet Home

    May 18, 2012 by Bill

    There are plenty of times when you could probably use a heads up as to what is going on inside your home, like when the basement floods (again), or when the back door gets left ajar, and there are a slew of home automation solutions that can help with that - but none of them as simple as Twine.                             Twine, begun as a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign, is a 2.5" blue cube that more or less resembles a package of standard-size Post-It notes and holds on-board sensors that can measure changes in temperature, movement, moisture and more. It then uses internal WiFi to alert you to the changes via text message, email, or tweet which means Twine can send you a text message letting you know that the pizza guy is at the door, email you when the laundry is done, or send you a tweet alerting you that the fridge door is open. Because Twine reacts to general physical changes (temperature, moisture, movement), it can be used on a variety of objects. Twine has both internal and external sensors, with the initial set of sensors measuring temperature, accelerometer (for vibration, impact and motion detection), moisture, a magnetic switch (for doors and movement) and a breakout board with an analog and digital input, power and ground so other sensors can easily be wired up. DIYers will appreciate the ability to connect your own sensors and use HTTP to have Twine send data to your own app. Twine is designed hand-in-hand with it's accompanying cloud-based web app, Spool, so setting it up is as easy as pointing Twine to your WiFi network and selecting a few rules on the website. You can set rules on Spool to trigger Twine from anywhere; the rules themselves are set up in plain statements such as "WHEN Twines accelerometer is KNOCKED, then TEXT that someone is at the door." The sensors are instantly recognized by the web app, so you can see them connect and respond in real-time, and rules can be created and shared among Twine users. Twine runs on either a USB connection or two AAA batteries, which should last for months and will alert you when the batteries are running low. While Twine can be pre-ordered, it won't ship until September which gives you plenty of time to plan out what you'd like to connect it to. Images courtesy Twine on Kickstarter, Supermechanical

  6. Fruit Candles – A How To Guide

    May 15, 2012 by Bill

    It's that lovely time of year again, when even though the weather is getting colder (and there are reports of snow), bright little boxes of clementines start popping up in store windows. Now is their season. I learned this fabulous little party trick when I was a school teacher years ago and have been showing other folks how to do it for years. Its ALWAYS a crowd pleaser.

    What You Need

    • One or more clementines
    • Olive oil
    • Sharp paring knife
    • Matches
    Thats all, folks!  Follow the video to get started!

  7. 6 Great Vacation and Travel Apps

    May 7, 2012 by Bill

    As we move into the hotter months of the year, many of us are making preparations for vacations to distant lands. Smartphones can not only come in handy for taking pictures or listening to music, but also make the trip run smoother and enhance your vacation. The most important thing to consider is to turn off the radio signal to avoid unnecessary international texts, calls and data costs. With that in mind, here are 6 apps you can safely use only while on vacation. Trip Journal It's important to get the most for your money and time when visiting somewhere exotic. Trip Journal lets you create an agenda to see numerous sites, taking into account commuting time and a scheduled agenda. Use the built in map to see all the points of interest in a particular place in case of unforeseen changes, track your route via GPS, take pictures, make notes, and share your trips photos via Facebook, Flickr, Twitter and Picasa. $3 Also available for Android - $3 World Customs & Culture The best way to learn about new cultures is to explore new lands face to face. World Customs & Culture has a plethora of useful information on countries all over the world. Whether you want to know about dining etiquette, laws, greetings, driving or more, you'll find it all here. Free Touchnote Postcards Sending a postcard is a favorite tradition of ours, and Touchnote Postcard strips away the more tedious parts. Take a vacation photo, add effects or text, write a message and send it off to multiple people at the next wifi hotspot. Touchnote handles all the printing and mailing for a fee of $1.50 per postcard (but bundle packages are also available.) Free Also available for iOS - Free iMedjet Being prepared for the worst even while on vacation is a wise cautionary rule of thumb. iMedjet is an efficiently abridged first aid guide that offers peace of mind wherever you go. A wide variety of treatments with detailed step by step instructions and diagrams are listed efficiently for quick access. Free Also available for iOS - Free Plan 'n' Pack For a full inventory of your luggage, look no further than Plan 'n' Pack. Answer the question 'did I pack the...' immediately without rummaging (and disheveling) all your clothes and things. Simply load it up and look over your in-app list of everything that was packed. $2 Zagat To Go There are many apps like Yelp that will help find restaurants or bars on the fly, but they all depend on a data connection. Zagat is the special exception that provides helpful restaurant ratings, prices and locations with data stored on your handset. Simply download from a wifi hotspot and see the wide range of dining selections in major cities across the world. $10 Also available for: iOS - $10 Android - Free trial lasts 6 months/$25 yearly subscription for Premium membership upon expiration.

  8. Your Stomach Loves Doublemint!

    April 26, 2012 by Bill

    You've heard the warnings: If you swallow gum, it will stay in your digestive system for nearly a decade. Which would mean there's a decent chance you've got some hanging out in your gut right now. If you look at its ingredients—a delicious mix of indigestible compounds—it certainly seems possible. And if you look at the medical books, swallowed gum has caused some serious problems. Is it possible that your mom's crazy warnings were right? The Worst Cases A 1998 article in the journal Pediatrics discussed three cases in which kids took the act of gum-swallowing to Intervention-like extremes. (Warning: What follows is not for the squeamish!) The first tale was of a four and a half year old boy who had been addicted to chewing since he was two. By the time his parents finally took him to get help, he was up to seven pieces of gum a day—each one he had conveniently disposed of down his throat. When the mass created a blockage, his doctors had to pull the "taffy like substance" from him manually. The next subject, also four, would indulge in gum several times a day as a reward from her parents. The subject was known to gulp down her first piece just so she was allowed another. In the end "multiple spheres of chewed gum congealed into a multicolored rectal mass"—their words, not mine—had to be extracted. The final tale comes from a regular gum-chewing one and a half year old. The girl apparently decided to spice things up by taking in four coins with what she was chewing. The mass had to be pulled out via a special coin-in-body retrieval system. Not good! The History of Gum But these are extreme cases—just three out of possible millions. It's possible that we've been accidentally swallowing gum for centuries. Lumps of tar that date back to 7000 BCE have been unearthed in Northern Europe with teeth impressions in them. And chewing gum was primarily a young people's thing even then; teeth marks show that users typically fell within the 6-15 age range. Later on Greeks chomped on resin from the mastic tree, named for the related chewing action. The right kind of resin could pick up overtly gross things from one's teeth while also serving as a bit of a breath freshener. When the New England colonists settled in America, one custom they picked up from the Native Americans was chewing gum—in this case spruce resin. The modern incarnation of chewing gum actually comes from an engineering mistake. In the 19th century, industrialists lauded chicle, or the latex collected from a tree in the Yucatán, as a promising rubber equivalent. In 1869, Antonio López de Santa Anna, an exiled former president of Mexico living in Staten Island, thought he'd check out the claim. Santa Anna brought in a ton of the stuff from Mexico and hired an inventor, Thomas Adams, to work out its vulcanization process. The only problem was, it didn't work. Not only was the project a failure, but Adams was also left with the remainder of the material. Although the stuff wasn't going to work for tires, Adams did notice that the material had some remarkable qualities. When the resin was dried, for instance, he found it was insoluble in water and quite plastic. Why he then thought to stick it in his mouth, who knows? But what we do know is that he patented his chewable material in 1871. He eventually added of flavors, which allowed his gum to do better in drug stores that the sweetened paraffin sold for the same purpose. A little later, Wrigley's, with the right marketing, made gum famous. What's Really Going On Since then, we've all accidentally gulped down a few varieties of chewing gum, but it's highly unlikely they created a cast off colony our guts. It's possible the rubbery pieces might have lingered a little longer in our digestive system than, say, a milkshake, but even that delay is debatable. The reason: our stomachs are actually remarkably efficient systems for shoving food through, digested or undigested. Most of what makes up gum falls in the "undigested" category. Our saliva takes an early stab at digesting food, and it will penetrate the Chiclets' shell or the sweeteners inside a stick. But the base material—a combo of natural and synthetic gums and resins that make up to 30 percent of what we chew—is mostly impenetrable. Even then, our stomach muscles contract and relax, earthworm style, to force the things we swallow down and out. So no, unless you're replacing meals with the stuff, you're probably OK. That is not to say you shouldn't listen to your mother. Technically speaking, she has a point. Thanks and credit to Gizmodo

  9. Google Drive is here!

    April 25, 2012 by Bill

    Google Drive is here, and it allows for access to your files, even the big ones, from wherever you are. Share them with whomever you want, and edit them together in real time. Is this a "Dropbox killer"?

  10. Ignore this Friend Request!

    April 24, 2012 by Bill

    Your Facebook profile can and will be used against you. A recent segment on KDVR, the Fox affiliate for Denver, reminds us that collection agencies are happy to go through social media channels if they think it will help them squeeze money out of someone. Debt collectors will "set up fake profiles and befriend you on Facebook, just to get into your personal information," says Denisa Tova, a financial planner, on the KDVR segment. It's not a new tactic -- debt collectors have actually been using Facebook for years to reach out to people. Collectors have also been accused of impersonating a debtor's friends online, or posting public messages saying the person owes money. In an increasingly aggressive environment, those tactics may be used more often. Last year, the Federal Trade Commission received a record number of consumer complaints about debt collectors -- little wonder, when collection agencies are allegedly doing things like leaning on people who don't actually owe money, and threatening to exhume the dead loved ones of debtors if they don't settle their accounts. A few such recipients of hostile attention have begun to fight back with lawsuits. Last fall, in the U.K., the Office of Fair Trading, which had been receiving consumer complaints about online harassment, made it illegal for debt collectors to contact people through Facebook or Twitter. Social media is just one of many frontiers where debt collectors, regulators and consumers are fighting their ongoing battle. Collection agencies have become increasingly nasty in recent years, resorting to ever more inventive and abusive tactics as the industry grows more competitive, and as cash-strapped debtors -- against a wider backdrop of high unemployment, low wages and lack of savings -- are increasingly unable or unwilling to pay up.