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Welcome to Red Slime, the personal journal of Ben Iwasevic aka Orange Claymore. This site contains work I have done over the years, audio and video. Things i like to do are as followed: interrupting people, skateboarding, computers, video games, listening to bad music, guns and creating music (check noise section). I also pass live feeds of interesting and related topics, which can be found below. Explore and have fun.

Follow the excitement with me, Orange Claymore, via Twitter or Instagram:

UPDATE: The new 404_Error band archive site and my old project, bland officer, is now active on the Noise page!. I put up mp3′s, pics and videos.

-Visit 404_Error

These Cool Architectural Pics Were Blacked Out With a Permanent Marker

These Cool Architectural Pics Were Blacked Out With a Permanent Marker

White on black is a no-no in many design circles, but there are definitely exceptions to the unofficial rule—like these cool prints from Marlon de Azambuja. The Madrid-based architect took an inky permanent marker to full-color photos, eliminating everything except for the thinnest structural silhouettes.

These Cool Architectural Pics Were Blacked Out With a Permanent MarkerS

The transformation is part day-to-eve, a bit painting-on-velvet-minus-the-blacklight, some essence of blueprint, and a touch of rendering tossed in for good measure.

These Cool Architectural Pics Were Blacked Out With a Permanent MarkerS

These Cool Architectural Pics Were Blacked Out With a Permanent MarkerS

Not to mention he used some of the world’s most iconic buildings are models and muses, giving these familiar sights a whole new perspective.

These Cool Architectural Pics Were Blacked Out With a Permanent Marker

These Cool Architectural Pics Were Blacked Out With a Permanent MarkerS

I love how the stark contrasts mix with the real-world detailing left in, like the leafy trees and greenery, and only wish there were detail shots to see how these look up close. [Lustik]

Source Article from http://feeds.gawker.com/~r/gizmodo/full/~3/-tFGI7LxTOo/these-cool-architectural-pics-were-blacked-out-with-a-p-1563187682

RunKeeper gets into the step-tracking game with Breeze

When it comes to being fit, it’s really the small stuff that counts. You can go to the gym as much as you want, run five miles every morning — but if you eat like crap, drive yourself to the corner store and take the elevator every morning to your 2nd floor office, it’ll be all for naught. RunKeeper can already help track each training session as you make your way from couch to 5K, now it’s trying to motivate you to keep moving between runs with Breeze. The iOS-only app uses the iPhone 5s’ M7 chip to track your movements and count the number of steps you take. Of course, pedometer apps are quickly becoming a dime a dozen. Breeze attempts to set itself apart through simplicity and minimizing user interaction.

The biggest part of the app are its notifications. If you’re sedentary for too long a motivating message pops up to get you off your ass. Every morning you’ll get a daily goal pushed to your phone and you’ll get an occasional status update to let you know how close you’re getting. It can even map out when the most active parts of your day are and where you are at those times. It’s not all notifications though, there is an actual app that you can launch and poke around in. The UI is stunningly simple, making it easy for the uninitiated to find their way around. But you won’t find the same depth of features and reporting here that you would with companion apps designed for wearables like Fitbit and the Jawbone UP.

RunKeeper is already planning for the future as well. The company is promising that its flagship activity tracker will integrate with Breeze. And while only the iPhone 5s is supported at the moment, other devices are on the horizon. Though we have no specifics about what phones will be supported or when.








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Source Article from http://www.engadget.com/2014/04/17/runkeeper-breeze/?ncid=rss_truncated

The Persistence of Jumping Rope

POV Jump Rope

[Antonio Ospite] recently took up jump rope to increase his cardio, and also being a hacker decided to have some extra fun with it. He’s created the JMP-Rope — the Programmable Jump Rope.

He’s using the same principle as a normal POV (Persistence of Vision) display, but with a cool twist. He’s managed to put the microcontroller (a Trinket) and battery into the handle of the jump rope. Using a slip ring system, the RGB signal gets passed to the rope, which contains the LEDs. It’s a pretty slick setup, and he’s written another post all about how he did the hardware.

To create the images for his JMP-Rope, he’s outlined the steps to a successful POV image on his blog. These include re-sizing the image to a circle (duh), reducing the color palette, and then performing pixel mapping using a discrete conversion (from polar to Cartesian coordinates). After that it’s just a matter of representing your new-found pixel map in a 1D animation, played column by column. [Antonio] stores these frames on the micro-controller as an RLE (run length encoded) indexed bitmap.

Stick around to see how he made it, and some other cool examples of what it can do!

 

Diagram of Persistence of Vision Jump Rope

Diagram of Handle

The resulting images from his JMP-Rope are pretty impressive — it almost looks like Firefox was made for a POV display!

JMP-rope-Firefox

Firefox!

[Thanks Alan!]

Source Article from http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/hackaday/LgoM/~3/ivqmSkAUqZg/

Bloomberg: iOS 8 Will Have Shazam’s Song Identification Baked In

Bloomberg: iOS 8 Will Have Shazam's Song Identification Baked InS

Can’t name that tune? No worry: Bloomberg is reporting that Apple is partnering with Shazam to embed song identification software right into its forthcoming iOS 8.

The news agency reports that two of its sources believe Apple is “planning to unveil a song-discovery feature in an update of its iOS mobile software that will let users identify a song and its artist using an iPhone or iPad.” Obviously Shazam has been doing that forever, but it seems that Apple is teaming up with the guys behind the app so that it’s “integrated into the mobile software in the same way that Twitter’s service is currently incorporated, meaning consumers don’t need to separately download it.”

The report explains that it’ll integrate with Siri, too—so you’ll be able to ask “what song is playing” to find out what you’re listening to. Bloomberg believes that Apple will show off the addition to iOS at its annual developer conference that starts June 2 in San Francisco.

Elsewhere, the same sources suggest that Apple is planning to roll out iTunes Radio outside the U.S. later this year, and that Apple is mulling whether to release a subscription-music service, too. Indeed, it claims “Apple has built the service internally, yet has held off on releasing it to avoid slowing download sales.”

Of course, these rumors might not bear fruit: they might have long been mulled and discarded, or simply struggle to ever make it to the wild. But if there is a grain of truth in them, it looks like iOS 8 could have music as a focus. Let’s wait see. [Bloomberg]

Source Article from http://feeds.gawker.com/~r/gizmodo/full/~3/ZWV0LCJkUI0/bloomberg-ios-8-will-have-shazams-song-identification-1564154900

Spotify moves away from delivering music through peer-to-peer networks

Spotify's new design on the desktop

Spotify has always streamed at least some of its music over peer-to-peer listener networks, helping it deliver music quickly while saving some cash on bandwidth and servers. However, the service is now ready to leave that tradition behind. It tells TorrentFreak that it’s phasing out peer-to-peer connections, with plans for everyone to use dedicated servers in the months ahead. As the firm explains, there’s simply no need for peer links at this point — Spotify’s servers can deliver “best-in-class” performance all by themselves.


The move should reduce the amount of data you use when checking out hot tracks at home, which could help if you’re on a basic or capped internet plan. We’d also note that the transition should be relatively inexpensive for Spotify itself. Music doesn’t chew up as much bandwidth as video services like Netflix, so Spotify isn’t very likely to find itself paying extra connection costs to price-sensitive internet providers.






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Source Article from http://www.engadget.com/2014/04/17/spotify-phases-out-peer-to-peer/?ncid=rss_truncated

Awww Shoot! My Spool Doesn’t Fit My Holder

spoolholder-main

The great thing about standards is that there are so many to choose from. Filament spools certainly do not deviate far from this sarcastic saying. So what are we 3D Printer folks to do? Here are a couple completely different DIY options:

[Mark] made a spool holder that can accept 2 different width spools. This design uses skate bearings to support the spool on two points at each end. There are 3 sets of bearing blocks to accommodate the 2 different width spools. When either size spool is installed, one of the bearing block sets goes unused.

 

[Ben] took a different approach to the same problem. His design holds the spool on its side making the spool width have no affect on the holders’ functionality. The parts for this spool holder are recycled from an old computer CD drive. If we’d have to suggest anything, it would be to add a little resistance to the spinning turntable to prevent uncontrolled filament unraveling (we’ve all been there).

 

Source Article from http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/hackaday/LgoM/~3/3LSHk95n1Zk/

Samsung Gear Fit Review: A Beautiful Wristable Gone to Waste

Samsung Gear Fit Review: A Beautiful Wristable Gone to WasteS

Samsung’s Gear Fit had every chance to be by far the best activity tracker you could own. It isn’t. Not by a long shot. And there’s nothing sadder than unrealized potential.

What Is It?

It’s a stunning fitness tracker slash smartwatch wristable. It counts steps, tracks sleep, displays notifications from your phone, and even takes your pulse. It only works with Samsung devices.

Why Does It Matter?

Yes, you’re basically not allowed to be a tech company if you don’t make a wearable device these days. But the Gear Fit is by far the best-looking entrant in an increasingly crowded field. It also promises the best of both fitness tracking and smartwatch worlds. What could possibly go wrong?

Samsung Gear Fit Review: A Beautiful Wristable Gone to WasteS

Design

It’s lovely to ogle. Front and center, the Gear Fit features a 1.84-inch, curved, full-color AMOLED touch display. It’s got the same inky dark blacks and those vibrant colors we love in devices like the Galaxy S5. It’s encircled by a shiny chrome bezel, a familiar Samsung note. There’s a single button that you use to wake up the screen, go back to the home screen, or turn the Gear Fit off. Simple!

Samsung Gear Fit Review: A Beautiful Wristable Gone to WasteS

The band itself is your standard hard rubber affair, available in six different colors. It’s nicely contoured, and one of the most comfortable wrist-worn trackers I’ve used. It has a simple poke-two-pegs-through-two-holes clasp system (reminiscent of Fitbit) and surprisingly I never had an issue with it popping off. It’s a really sleek, low-profile device. It’s unobtrusive, but if someone does notice it, it’ll get compliments instead of groans.

Samsung Gear Fit Review: A Beautiful Wristable Gone to WasteS

On the underside of the device is a sensor that lets the Fit read your heart rate, much like a pulse oximeter. It also has an IP67 rating which means it can handle being submerged in three feet of water for up to 30 minutes. In other words, you can shower with it or wear it in the rain, but you probably don’t want to swim with it (or no diving, at the very least). It uses Bluetooth 4.0 LE to communicate with Samsung Android phones.

Samsung Gear Fit Review: A Beautiful Wristable Gone to WasteS

Using It

On paper, the Gear Fit seems fantastic. It counts your steps, it reliably displays any notification from any app you want (and not from apps you don’t) from your Samsung Android phone, and it can track your exercise in tandem with the S Health app on your phone to give you even more data. It would be the perfect little package, if it actually did all three of those things halfway decently.

In fairness, the Gear Fit works just fine as a second screen displaying your phone’s notifications. It’s legitimately convenient to be able to take a quick glance at your watch, see that it’s not an email you need to deal with, and get back to whatever it was you’re doing. I set it up to receive notifications from Gmail, Google Voice, Hangouts, Calendar, Twitter, and Facebook. When one pops up you click on it, and it displays the first couple lines of text. If you want to read more, you hit the “Show on device” button, and it’ll open that app, though not usually that specific message.

The fact that it works seamlessly with the notification panel is a marked improvement over last year’s Galaxy Gear—and about on par with what you’ll find on the Gear 2—but the Gear Fit’s unique shape makes actually reading those notifications can be an exercise in frustration.

Samsung Gear Fit Review: A Beautiful Wristable Gone to WasteS

That long, skinny screen running perpendicular to your arm bone is actually a pain in the neck to read. Literally. If you keep it in its standard orientation (i.e. it appears right-side up when your fingers are pointed upwards) then you have to squish your elbows in, crick your neck, and make little T-rex arms to see the screen. Flipping the screen so that it looks right-side up when your fingers are pointed toward your chest is very slightly better, but it’s still not comfortable.

To its credit, Samsung adapted to this feedback very quickly and created a vertical orientation mode. That’s your best bet for most situations in terms of physical comfort, but you’re left with text that gets oddly split when you’re reading through notifications.

And that’s what actually works. The rest? Not so much. The step-counter is wildly inaccurate. I went for a walk, carefully counting 500 steps. The Fit told me I’d walked 700. That’s far enough off to be effectively useless. You also have to manually start the pedometer, which you don’t have to do for any other fitness tracker.

It gets worse. The S Health app on your accompanying Galaxy device—you need one of those, remember—has a built-in pedometer, too. Great, so they talk to each other, right? Theoretically. But in reality, nope! It doesn’t matter if you set it to sync at the most frequent option (every 3 hours) or if you do it manually—the Fit always thinks you walked way more than the Galaxy S5, and they will not come to an agreement.

Samsung Gear Fit Review: A Beautiful Wristable Gone to WasteS

This whole “two things that were absolutely designed to be used together but don’t really talk to each other” dynamic is even more stark if you go for a run. Ideally, the Fit would act as a second screen for S Health’s now more-robust (but still way behind standard bearers like Runkeeper) running app, feeding in data and displaying the info you want to know, like heart rate and cadence. But nope! The running mode on the Fit and on the Galaxy S5′s S Health app work completely separately. You will have two different digital coaches telling you to do two different things simultaneously. And when you’re done, you’ll have two separate reports for your run, both with wildly different data, and both with important fields missing all together. You can see an example of the discrepancies above.

Then comes the sleep tracker, which you have to manually start and stop (not the end of the world, but easy to forget, and not a requirement of competitors like the Basis Band). The real problem: That data doesn’t go anywhere! You can’t even view it in the S Health app. The Gear Fit tracks it, displays it once you’ve woken up, and then it’s gone aside from a weekly “sleep history” bar chart that’s effectively useless.

The Gear Fit’s also not smart enough to know that you probably don’t want notifications on while you’re in sleep mode. You can’t turn them off on the watch, or simply mute them. Instead, you have to go into the Gear Fit Manager app on your phone and disable notifications altogether, every night, and enable them again every morning.

Samsung Gear Fit Review: A Beautiful Wristable Gone to WasteS

The Gear Fit Manager app does have some utility, like changing the Fit’s wallpaper, its style of clock, and controlling what notifications will be displayed. Less clear, though? Under the S Health setting within the Gear Fit Manager (already confusing) is an option to install more apps. As of right now, there are only three apps to choose from. I installed them all. Not a single one of them showed up on my Gear Fit, or connected to it in any way at all. There’s a menu option on the Gear Fit called App Connect. Click on it, and the only thing that’s there is a little on/off toggle for Strava. But here’s the thing: Strava also has zero interaction on the Gear Fit. There’s no app for it. Nothing.

In brief: The software on the Gear Fit is so completely, fundamentally broken, that it takes the most promising piece of hardware we’ve yet seen in the wearable space and makes it pretty darn useless. And even the hardware has its share of irritating quirks. The display is beautiful, but because there’s no ambient light sensor it seems to always be too bright or too dark. If you leave the wake-up gesture on (the “checking your watch” gesture) you will wake yourself up with a blast of light every time you roll over in your sleep. On the plus side, I got a solid four days of usage on a single charge, and it survived multiple showers.

Samsung Gear Fit Review: A Beautiful Wristable Gone to WasteS

Like

The hardware is near-perfect. Really, all it’s missing is an ambient light sensor, and maybe a mic for quick replies to email. But the screen is lovely, the band is comfortable, and the whole thing just looks great. Four days of battery life is totally respectable, as is its water resistance. Also, seeing a brief summary of emails, texts, @replies, and Facebook message as they come in is legitimately convenient and helped me stay on task and out of the attention vortex that is my phone. It’s nice to be able to control your music player from your wrist.

Samsung Gear Fit Review: A Beautiful Wristable Gone to WasteS

No Like

The software is unforgivably bad. Tragically bad. It feels as if the Gear Fit and the S Health teams barely spoke to each other at all. Which is especially bedeviling since Samsung made the conscious choice to sell a wearable product that only works with Samsung products. At least when Apple locks you into an ecosystem, things actually (mostly) work.

The Gear Fit’s pedometer is inaccurate, the exercise app doesn’t really integrate with S Health, and the sleep data doesn’t go anywhere at all. If you’re outside you need to turn the screen up to full brightness, but it will only stay in that mode for five minutes before reverting to medium brightness. Incredibly frustrating if you’re going for a run that lasts more than five minutes. Touchscreen controls tend to be very unresponsive, too.

Samsung Gear Fit Review: A Beautiful Wristable Gone to WasteS

Should You Buy It?

No. Absolutely not. This incredibly promising device is utterly ruined by bad software. Also, it’s $200. If Samsung does a major software overhaul—and I mean from the ground up—then it could be a great device. But for now, the fact that it only works with Samsung phones, and it only barely works with Samsung phones at all, makes this a very easy decision: hard pass. [Samsung]

Samsung Gear Fit Specs

• Radio: Bluetooth 4.0 LE
• CPU: 180MHz ST-Microelectronics STM32F439
• Screen: 1.84-inch Super AMOLED
• Battery: 210 mAh battery
• Weight: 0.95 ounces
• Price: $200

Source Article from http://feeds.gawker.com/~r/gizmodo/full/~3/qRGHcOODcsw/samsung-gear-fit-review-a-beautiful-wristable-gone-to-1563715416

Samsung Gear 2 review: much improved, but that doesn’t mean you should buy it

2013 was the year of the smartwatch. In promise, anyway — maybe not delivery. Of the many, many different, colorful and unusual timepieces that would populate our blogroll, it was perhaps Samsung’s Galaxy Gear that made the most headlines. Why? Partly because it was a new product from one of technology’s biggest players, and partly because it was just so bad. Poor battery life, an unpopular design and limited apps meant that the $300 accessory never had a chance of catching on. But, resilient as ever, Samsung is having another crack at it. In fact, it’s having another three cracks at it with the release of the Gear 2, Gear 2 Neo and Gear Fit smartwatches. The big question this time around: Is the second-gen Gear any better than its predecessor? Spoiler alert: Yes, it is. But enough that you might actually want one? That question is a little more complex.

Samsung Gear 2 review

See all photos

42 Photos



Hardware

If you were hoping for a complete redesign, it’s time to put on your disappointment pants. As far as aesthetics go, the Gear 2 is merely an evolution of the original. The main body is once again fashioned out of brushed metal, while the strap is made of a similar plastic material as before, with a near-identical clasp mechanism. I say “near,” as the microphone is no longer housed in this section, so the part of the clasp where this used to be is now thinner. The affectionately titled “wart” camera no longer resides in the strap either; it’s back up in the main watch housing, where it should have been all along. The result is that the strap is now just “dumb” plastic; there’s no technology inside like before. This is good news, as it means you can replace it with a host of fancy color options — there’s even a tiny release lever on the underside to make swapping a cinch. The model I tested had a chocolate-brown strap that actually compliments the rest of the watch quite well. So I’ve no urge to change it, but it’s still nice to have the option.

Other minor, yet welcome cosmetic changes include the removal of the visible screws from the top of the watch’s face. Meanwhile, the sole button now sits beneath the 1.63-inch, Super AMOLED display, just like on Samsung’s phones. I don’t suspect anyone buys a smartwatch based on its silicon, but if you must know, there’s a dual-core 1GHz chip in here, along with a 300mAh battery. While the Gear 2′s hardware is clearly similar to the original, it feels more refined, more cohesive. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that the first iteration was a bit of a rush job; the result of a scramble to put something out. The Gear 2, however, feels a lot like what the original should have been.

Beyond the superficial changes, there are a couple of internal additions that significantly expand the functionality here. These include an optical heart rate monitor (much like the one found on the Galaxy S5), an IR blaster and IP67 dust-resistance and waterproofing (that means total dust protection, and being waterproof to one meter for 30 minutes). Instantly, then — at least on paper — the Gear 2 is a more robust, and potentially more useful device. Of course, that’s if the software (or apps) are there to realize that potential — a question we’ll return to later.

Meanwhile, most of the other key hardware has remained unchanged. That means Bluetooth 4.0, 4GB of storage, a microphone and an accelerometer. Oh, and remember that weird charging cradle? Well, that’s mostly gone. I say “mostly,” as there’s still a proprietary adapter you’ll need to plug a micro-USB cable into, but it’s smaller and sturdier than the delicate cradle (with its moving parts) you had to deal with last time. It’s still not ideal — if you lose it, you’re screwed — but it’s a definite improvement nonetheless.

Software

The first thing you’ll need to do once you pry the Gear 2 out of its faux-pine box (what is it with Samsung and faux… stuff?) is connect it to one of the 17 compatible handsets. (Those are listed here, but basically, it includes most recent and flagship-caliber Samsung devices.) Yes, you still need to have a compatible device, but at least there’s a decently sized list to choose from this time.

Once you’re connected over Bluetooth, you’ll need to download the Gear Manager app from Samsung’s own store, and then you’re good to go. As a warning, you’ll be hanging out in the Gear Manager app a lot for the first few days. It’s where you can change the watch face, adjust pretty much all the settings and download apps. Often, it’s quicker to change a setting via the app than to do it on the watch. Mind you, it’s not difficult to change settings directly on the Gear; it’s just that you might feel more at home on your handset.

The Gear Manager part is relatively unchanged the second time around. The big deal when it comes to software is Samsung’s decision to have the second generation of Gear devices run on Tizen, rather than Android. What does that mean beyond the lack of “Galaxy” branding? Firstly, it means any apps you were using on the original Gear are no good here. That’s a big deal. Not just because it causes a fracture in the user experience, but also in the ecosystem as a whole. One of the biggest problems facing the Galaxy Gear was the dearth of third-party apps — a situation that improved only slightly in the months after it launched. With the introduction of Tizen, however, what tiny progress that was made has basically evaporated. As of this writing, there were just 10 third-party apps for the Gear 2 (that’s 22, technically, but 12 are just watch faces.)

For those wondering what the OS switch means for the user experience, the answer’s actually very little. If you’ve used the Galaxy Gear, and someone gave you a Gear 2, there’s nothing in the UI to suggest something new is running under the hood. The font, icons and menus are almost identical to the Android edition. This means it’s still a pretty basic, homemade-looking interface (much like Samsung’s TouchWiz phone UI, to be fair). That said, it’s functional, tidy and easy to use.

One area where the software has improved is in the number of native apps. While you wait for Facebook and Twitter to build apps for the Gear 2, there’s a host of tools on the watch that go some way to making the watch useful right out of the box. These include things we’ve seen before, such as a stopwatch, phone dialer, a media controller and access to contacts and call logs. There are also a few new additions such as: Exercise, Heart Rate Monitor and a self-contained media player (which plays music locally from the watch, not via the phone). Most of them are fairly self-explanatory. The Exercise app, in particular, is basically a stripped-down version of Samsung’s S Health app. Which is to say, you can tell it you’re about to go for a run, do some walking, ride a bike or go on a hike. If you’re doing anything more exotic, or just knocking out your weekly dose of Insanity/Zumba (Zumbanity?), you’ll need to pick whatever’s the best fit.

This basic feature set appears to be growing at a fast clip. About two days after I obtained the device, the Gear 2 received a couple of firmware updates, and not just bug fixes, either. One of them included a whole new app for tracking sleep. It’s a fairly simple affair (basically you tell it you’re about to sleep, and let it know when you wake up) but even so, it’s a relief to see that new features are being added. I’m not entirely sure I want to be wearing this in bed, though, but hey, I’ll take new features where I can get them.

Another area that seems to be improved in version two is notifications. For many, this is what a smartwatch is all about, allowing you to glance at tweets, calls and messages from your wrist. The original Gear was a bit hit-and-miss in this regard. For example, if you used Samsung’s own email client, it would send a fairly useful notification to the watch. But with Gmail notifications, all you got was a mostly useless alert letting you know that email had arrived. Thanks! The Gear 2′s Gmail notifications are much better, with a decent snippet of the message included in the alert. It’s usually enough for you to determine whether it’s a message you want to deal with now or later. The list of apps for which you can get notifications is also surprisingly extensive, and includes pretty much every app on your phone. Never want to miss a Candy Crush message again? Not a problem; have them sent right to your wrist (for your own sanity, please don’t).

In use

Let’s get it out of the way right now: The current lack of compelling apps means you’re limited to notifications, timekeeping, taking calls and a few new features that Samsung introduced in the Gear 2. As mentioned earlier, the notifications are a clear improvement over the original Gear. There are still some limitations that we’d love to see addressed, however. For example, when you receive a Gmail notification, you can read some of the mail, but there’s no way to reply without getting your phone involved. You can reply to text messages with either templates or S Voice, which is a bit hit-and-miss. Overall, though, I’m glad to see the notifications are generally more useful.

There are some third-party apps, however, with the RSS reader Feedly being a favorite of mine. Feedly, if you recall, was quick to pick up new users when Google Reader shut down. It’s something I use daily on the desktop, so the idea of being able to access it on the Gear 2 was instantly appealing. The reality isn’t quite what I’d hoped, though. First of all, you need to add the app to the phone as well. No major hardship, and something I’d probably do anyway in this case, but it all adds to the sense of being “tethered” to the phone. I think I possibly had an expectation that the watch version of the app might be configurable through Gear Manager with my account credentials, but alas, no.

The user experience itself isn’t entirely perfect, either (which is disappointing, as Feedly’s web app is well-designed). You can browse your main feed on the watch, swiping stories as you go. Once you find something of interest, you can swipe up to read on the phone, or down to save it for later (also on the phone). The frustrating thing is that choosing “read on the phone” doesn’t wake, or open the app — you still have to unlock the handset — at which point it will be there waiting. A small detail, but one that underscores how the Gear 2 is really just an accessory to go with the phone.

One nice addition that doesn’t rely on the phone is the new music player app. If you have some tunes on your phone or desktop, you can load them directly onto the Gear 2 and play them via a Bluetooth headset/headphones. So, if you’re going for a jog, or maybe just want to leave the phone at home, you can use the Gear 2′s 4GB of onboard storage for storing some music. What you get then, is precisely what I’ve always wanted: a wire-free, wrist-worn media player.

Now seems like a good time to talk about battery life. This was a massive sore point with the original Gear, which only lasted about a day on a charge. I’m not sure what voodoo the Korean firm has done, but it’s somehow made a slightly smaller battery (300mAh, compared to 315) last nearly three times as long. I consistently got three days between charges with what I imagine is average, or slightly higher-than-average use (it is my job to play with these things, after all). This is a definite plus. If the battery had been less capable, it probably would have sealed the watch’s fate. Three days is still not as much as I’d like, but it’s strides better than before.

Perhaps some of the more compelling features are those new fitness credentials — i.e., the heart rate monitor and the exercise app. (The pedometer is the same one used on the original.) I’m glad to see these new additions, of course, but the execution is poor. The heart rate monitor falls somewhere between “not bad” and “frustrating.” Which is a similar experience to the one we tested on the Galaxy S5. When it wants to play along, it gives a reading close enough to what dedicated sports bands offer. But if you so much as move your wrist, or make a noise (the watch warns you to remain still and quiet!) you have to try again. When it does work — assuming you’ve set up S Health on your host phone — your latest pulse reading will be sent directly over to the app.

The same goes for the exercise app. Pull it up on the Gear 2; tell it you’re off on a stroll; and do your thing. Once you’re done doing that, let the app know and it’ll shimmy that information over to S Health too. What we couldn’t get to work was the pedometer. It counts steps just fine, showing the number on the display. While imperfect, it’s close enough, if perhaps a little optimistic compared to dedicated fitness trackers. But, for the love of all things smart, I’ve been unable to get it to sync with the phone. There’s a menu in Gear Manager for S Health with a “Transfer Now” option. I selected it a number of times, and received a “success” message, yet the step count on the phone’s S Health app simply won’t budge from zero.

This didn’t seem right, so I paired the Gear 2 with a different phone — a process that requires a factory reset of the watch and a load of software updates. Once I was done pairing, I was presented with a dedicated “Fitness with Gear” app (rather than S Health) that was practically reading the number of steps from the watch before I even knew what was happening. Weirdly, I then went into S Health on the phone, and it acted like it had never met me before, taking me through the whole setup process from scratch. Hardly a seamless experience, especially if you’re trying to foster an ecosystem. But, the features are there, and if you want a bit of a high-level fitness tool, it might do the job. All told, the hardware components seem to work fine, but the supporting software from Samsung leaves a lot to be desired.

It’s this disjointed experience that pretty much sums up the Gear 2, and perhaps Samsung in general. All the things you could possibly want are there. There’s a camera, call handling, step tracking, heart rate monitoring, a microphone, a speaker, media-control options, calendar-handling alerts and notifications. Most of these things the Gear 2 does fairly well, but you can never shake the feeling that it’s box ticking, or a “lite” version of the feature or function you really wanted. We’d love to see hardware and software working together much more closely. Maybe for third-party app developers to be invited in and make use of their expertise — or, at the very least, coerced into making an app for the Gear 2 in the first place. There’s definitely potential; it just seems mostly unrealized.

Camera

There is, of course, a camera. It’s a 2-megapixel affair, a negligible improvement over the 1.9-megapixel shooter from the first edition. There’s the same 720p video shooting, and, well, not a lot else. A camera is one of the less common features in the smartwatch world, so it’s a differentiator if nothing else. When I first played with the original Gear, I couldn’t imagine a time you’d opt for the watch camera over the much better one just inches away in your pocket. But I was wrong: I’ve used it quite a lot. Not really for photos I’d ever want to look at, but for quick “scrapbooking” of things I see, or want to remember. Perhaps to remind myself to Google something when I get home. That is, of course, the exact same experience on the Gear 2. I can’t really tell much difference between the old and new camera, but it serves a purpose, and is all the better for being housed within the watch’s body (and not the strap). If you’re curious, there’s a gallery below so you can see the quality for yourself.

Samsung Gear 2 sample shots

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The competition

Where to start? It’s fair to say the dance floor at the smartwatch disco is positively bustling compared to even just a few months ago. Thanks to its recent makeover, the Pebble Steel ($250) is still a strong favorite with many. Of course, the Pebble doesn’t have a color screen, nor does it have a camera, if those things are important. (For what it’s worth, I’m not sure they are.) Then again, it offers a great selection of apps, and long battery life, too.

Two other competitors I feel compelled to mention are the Qualcomm Toq ($250) and Sony’s SmartWatch 2 ($300). Both have their strengths, but have yet to make a big splash with buyers. Really, this competition section should be more about what’s about to be released. Android Wear is set to shake up the smartwatch market, and with LG and Motorola on board, it’s clear the smartwatch disco is about to get even more crowded.

In the meantime, if you want a watch with fitness cred, I still love the Adidas Smart Run ($400), as well as Garmin’s Forerunner 620 ($400) — but these are dedicated devices, so you won’t get notifications or calendar features, et cetera. This might have also been a good time to mention the Fitbit Force, but that was recently recalled after some users reported skin irritation from the plastic band.

Wrap-up

The good news is that Samsung has addressed some of the major issues that plagued the original Galaxy Gear — namely, the short battery life. But, the company also deserves credit for squeezing more hardware into a smaller space, and generally polishing the design. The Gear 2 looks better and performs better than the original in every possible way. But here’s the rub: Of all the things it does, it doesn’t do any of them well enough to justify the price. It still feels like something of an executive toy. Sure, there will be those for whom the Gear 2 is a great fit (no pun intended), but unless you’re a loyal early adopter, there isn’t a compelling reason to lay down the $300 asking price. And that’s not least because of the small app selection. If Samsung can lure enough developers over to Tizen, it might become a more appealing prospect. But, until then, you might want to wait and see what Google’s Android Wear platform brings to the table.











Conclusion

The Gear 2 is generally a solid improvement over the original, with a nicer design and longer battery life. Even so, it doesn’t perform well enough to fully justify the $300 asking price.



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Source Article from http://www.engadget.com/2014/04/16/gear-2-review/?ncid=rss_truncated

Building a Mesh Networked Conference Badge

[Andrew] just finished his write-up describing electronic conference badges that he built for a free South African security conference (part1, part2). The end platform shown above is based on an ATMega328, a Nokia 5110 LCD, a 433MHz AM/OOK TX/RX module, a few LEDs and buttons.

The badges form a mesh network to send messages. This allows conversations between different attendees to be tracked. Final cost was the main constraint during this adventure, which is why these particular components were chosen and bought from eBay & Alibaba.

The first PCB prototypes were CNC milled. Once the PCB milling was complete there was a whole lot of soldering to be done. Luckily enough [Andrew]‘s friends joined in to solder the 77 final boards. He also did a great job at documenting the protocol he setup, which was verified using the open source tool Maltego. Click past the break to see two videos of the system in action.

Source Article from http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/hackaday/LgoM/~3/4GX1qzILiqs/

This Photosynthetic Algae Roof Filters the Neighborhood Air

This Photosynthetic Algae Roof Filters the Neighborhood AirS

Let’s take rooftop farming to a whole new level—a microscopic level. Unveiled at Expo Milan this week, the Urban Algae Canopy is a living, breathing alternative to our inert roofs and facades. Could algae be the next hip trend in urban agriculture?

Urban Algae Canopy imagines the untapped potential of ordinarily inanimate surfaces. A digitally controlled system of tubes keeps the microorganisms happy with air and water depending on the weather outside. From sunlight and carbon dioxide, the algae make oxygen. The finished canopy is supposed to produce as much oxygen as four hectares of woodland, which sounds pretty extraordinary. (Does it sound feasible, biology-minded readers out there?)

This Photosynthetic Algae Roof Filters the Neighborhood AirS

Also intriguing is the idea that the algae are more than just a buildup of green slime. Plenty of companies are keen to harness the potential of algae in food, cosmetics, energy, pharmaceuticals, and more; there’s been a veritable bubble in microbial interest.

The green city of the future could be green with algae. Someday, our walls and roofs could become thin, flat factories, supplying us with energy and raw materials inches from our doorstep. [Carlo Ratti Associati]

This Photosynthetic Algae Roof Filters the Neighborhood AirS

This Photosynthetic Algae Roof Filters the Neighborhood AirS

Source Article from http://feeds.gawker.com/~r/gizmodo/full/~3/pj_jOEm2ERY/this-photosynthetic-algae-roof-filters-the-neighborhood-1563515803