Monday, July 28, 2014

Waikiki at Dusk, Hawaii

Thanks to

Friday, January 3, 2014

Kiwi Puts Its All-Purpose Wearable Up For Pre-Order, Aims To Be Everything To Everyone

We’ve spoken to the folks from Kiwi Wearables before: Back in September we caught up with them at the Disrupt SF Hackathon, when they were preparing their platform and demonstrated what it could do with a sensor-laden prototype used as a gesture-based musical instrument. Now, Kiwi is ready to unveil its hardware, and make it available to consumers for pre-order. The Kiwi Move is the product of its work to date, a small 1.6″ by 1.2″ gadget that’s only 0.35″ thick and weighs just a single ounce, but that contains an ARM Cortex M4 chip, a Bluetooth LE radio and 802.11b/g antenna, as well as an accelerometer, gyroscope, magnetometer, barometer and thermometer. It has 2GB of onboard storage, and can last 4 hours streaming data constantly, or 5 days under normal, periodic use. There’s an LED for displaying light-based notifications, and it ships with four native apps, plus a basic programming tool, and plug-in support for other devices. I spoke with Kiwi co-founder Ali Nawab and Ashley Beattie about the device and their goals with the campaign, which kicks off today and runs through the next couple of months. Pre-order pricing for the Kiwi Move is $99, but they’ll be more than that once the campaign ends. The team is looking to ship in July, 2014 if everything goes according to plan, and they tell me they’ve already seeded developer devices, worked out supply chain issues and even begun FCC testing (which is going very well) so they anticipate being able to meet their schedule. The Kiwi Move ships with apps to begin with to prove to consumers its usefulness, though it’s designed to be used as a stepping off point for developer ambitions. Eventually, Kiwi will have an app ecosystem with developer partners, but off the shelf, it provides Kiwi Move (which does activity and movement tracking), Kiwi Voice (for recording voice notes locally and for voice-powered input on their connected devices), Kiwi Insights (metrics tied to activity and motion tracking) and Kiwi Gesture (a way to use the device as a motion controller for connected home devices or other device input). There’s also support for third-party plugins, so that you can use it with Pebble, Philips Hue, Google Glass and apps including Strava and Run Keeper, as well as ‘When/Do,’ a basic user-oriented simple programming platform that lets people create their own actions with “if this, then that” style language to set the Kiwi Move to take steps when it detects specific contexts. It’s a way to make the many different functions Kiwi’s hardware is capable of work together in tandem with minimal user input. I asked both Nawab and Beattie about the risks of trying to do too much when every wearable device so far has been relatively niche, but they argued the versatility of Kiwi Move is its greatest strength, rather than something that could potentially confuse their target audience. They say that they’ve made sure to present the Kiwi Move as something usable out of the box, and minimized talk of sensors and technical details. It’s a launch aimed specifically at users, and while developers will also be key to its success, it’s interesting to see a startup that wants to be a platform take this tack at this stage in their evolution.

Which Is Better: Debit Cards or Credit Cards?

Credit and debit cards both have advantages and financial experts often disagree about which is best. We're interested in hearing your opinion. And make it count, because we'll be posting a follow-up article next week with the best arguments on both sides. What We're Looking For Yep, it's another Flame War. People enjoyed our look at Chrome vs. Firefox, Facebook vs. Google, and the Great Toilet Paper War of 2013, we just had to do it again. Our hope is that when we sift through the your comments, a reasonable look at the advantages and disadvantages of both types of card will emerge. So slip into your flame-retardant gear, jump into the discussions below, and most of all, have fun! Just keep in mind that we're using the term "flame war" a little tongue-in-cheek: we'll actually be looking for the polite, well-reasoned, and well-articulated arguments to feature in our follow-up.

What You Need to Know About the Giant Snowstorm Hitting the U.S.

Happy New Year! Are you ready for the year's first major snowstorm? Good! Because blizzard-like conditions are expected to hit the Midwest and Northeast tonight and Friday morning, affecting as many 100 million people. The storm hits in a few hours. In the Northeast, it's expected to start Thursday evening and continue through Friday morning, just in time to ruin the Friday morning commute. And it's been snowing heavily in parts of the Midwest, including Chicago, since New Year's Eve. Expect at least six inches of snow—and probably more. New York City will get between six and nine inches of snow, most of it falling Thursday night into Friday morning. And there's a blizzard warning starting at 6 p.m. in Long Island, where meteorologists are expecting snow accumulation of one inch per hour and winds of up to 45 mph.
Boston and most of Massachusetts are expected to receive expected to receive 10 to 14 inches of snow with some minor flooding. Buffalo will likely get 12 to 18 inches, and Vermont, Maine, and New Hampshire will probably get 9 to 12 inches.
With more than a foot of snow since New Year's Eve, Chicago has likely seen the worst of the storm, though they're expected to receive another several inches Thursday night and Friday morning. It's going to be cold. And it will be cold. Temperatures could drop into the single digits in New York City, below -3 degrees in Boston, to 15 to 25 below zero in upstate New York, and as low as -20 in Connecticut. But that's nothing compared to Manitoba, where temperatures could drop to -31 Celsius, making it two degrees colder than Mars. The storm is not called "Hercules." The Weather Channel has christened it Hercules, but that's a fake name that you should avoid using, as we explained last year.

Delete Batches of Files Faster with the Command Line

Sometimes your files have overstayed their welcome and they just need to go and you want them to go as fast as possible. Or you just want to delete everything that starts with a certain word. Or some files refuse to go into the trash/recycling bin. Let the command line come to your rescue. Deleting files doesn't take much effort. All you need is the rm command. For example: rm IHateThisFile.txt You can also specify multiple files by separating their names with spaces. If you have a folder, you can add the -r flag for a recursive delete (i.e. getting rid of everything in the folder and its sub-folders) like so: rm -r IHateThisFolder You can also remove directories with rmdir instead, but the -r flag should give you less grief and just get the job done. Those are the basics, however, and you can do all of that without the terminal just as easily. Things get interesting when you start introducing wildcards. Let's say you want to delete any item in a folder that starts with the word Pineapple. You could use this command to delete them all very quickly: rm -r Pineapple* You can do the same for certain types of files, like JPEGs: rm -r *.jpg Wildcards can wipe out lots of files really fast and save you a bunch of time. (You don't have to use the -r flag in all cases, by the way, but I like to because then I know everything will get deleted and I don't have to think twice about it.) Next time you need to get rid of a batch of files, turn to the terminal instead of sorting through them all yourself.

Solar Is a Good-Looking, Gesture-Based Weather App for Android

Android: If you like a little form with your function, Solar is a weather app that offers it in droves. Instead of just displaying the time, temperature, and forecast, Solar gives you colorful, visual cues so you can infer a lot of detail from a single glance. Then you can swipe in any direction for more information. The main screen shows you the basics: temperature, time, date, and current conditions. The colors on-screen give you a feel for the time of day (sunrise, sunset, mid-day, overcast, sunny etc). Swipe down on the main screen to see the three day forecast for your location. Scroll (not swipe—hold your finger on the screen and scroll) up to watch the clock spin and show you the full, detailed 24-hour forecast, including animations for rain or snow, and color changes for sunrise and sunset. Swipe left to switch among saved locations, or to add new cities to track. Double tap to see the weather in all of your saved cities at once. Solar is surprisingly snappy and fast, and while it doesn't include things persistent temp in the notifications panel (although Google Now has this covered) or a home screen widget, I was surprised at how well it worked and how fun it was to use. That said, how much you love the look will really indicate whether this is an app you'll use all the time, or once or twice and forget about in favor of something with those missing features. It does source weather information from Weather Underground's "Best Forecast" feature, so it promises accurate forecasts. Plus, the app is completely free and ad-free, with no banners in the way of its beautifully minimal design. Hit the link below to give it a whirl—it's been available on iOS for a while now, but it made its debut on Android just this week.

Use Glitter Nail Polish to Make Your Laptop Tamper-Proof

If you don't want your computer tampered with, or you want to be able to tell if someone's been fiddling with your gear, a little glittery, shiny nail polish may be the perfect solution. A pair of security researchers presented the idea at the Chaos Communication Congress, and it's surprisingly effective. Here's why. Security researchers Eric Michaud and Ryan Lackey got to thinking about the issue when they started looking over ways to make sure your laptop wasn't tampered with when you travel with it. Security seals and screws are easy to remove cleanly and reattach by just about anyone, or even break and forge if you have to. The solution? A dab of glitter nail polish. The nail polish effectively creates a randomized pattern that's only established once it's set and dry—one that's easy to apply, look at and memorize (or photograph), and then tell if it's been altered in some way (or reapplied later to try and mimic the original look). Other metallic paints, or even crappy stickers, can have the same effect, they say: Some travelers affix tamper-proof seals over ports or chassis screws. But these seals can in fact be replicated or opened cleanly in minutes by anyone with even minimal training, Michaud and Lackey said. They instead advise borrowing a technique from astronomers called blink comparison. Here’s where the glitter comes in. The idea is to create a seal that is impossible to copy. Glitter nail polish, once applied, has what effectively is a random pattern. Once painted over screws or onto stickers placed over ports, it is difficult to replicate once broken. However, reapplication of a similar-looking blob (or paint stripe, or crappy sticker) might be enough to fool the human eye. To be sure, the experts recommend taking a picture of the laptop with the seals applied before leaving it alone, taking another photo upon returning and using a software program to shift rapidly between the two images to compare them. Even very small differences – a screw that is in a very slightly different position, or glitter nail polish that has a very slightly different pattern of sparkle – will be evident. Astronomers use this technique to detect small changes in the night sky. By taking the picture with a cellphone that is kept with you at all times, you can be reasonably sure the original picture hasn’t been tampered with or replaced. The researchers go on to suggest that a two-factor authentication system using two correctly shot photos of the same glitter in the same pattern could be used to gain or deny access to the system—like a smartphone app that has the original photo on it, and is then used to take a photo of the current state of the glitter before you can log in. It's unlikely to ever happen, but it would be effective. In the interim though, if you're worried someone's going to crack open your case and modify your system, or you can to seal off your USB or other ports on your laptop, a sticker with a dab of glitter nail polish is just the trick you need to make sure no one's fiddling with your devices.