Friday, November 16, 2007

Three Words: "Sexy," "Washing" and "Machine"

flexible_distance.jpgThis is probably the first time the word "sexy" has ever been used to describe a washing machine—but this concept piece from designer Simona Luculano is definitely worthy of such an adjective. Unlike traditional washing machine eyesores that must be hidden in a garage or behind sliding doors, the Flexible Distance washing machine could actually be used as a decorative piece.

flexible_distance2.jpgPlus, it is as functional as it is attractive, with touch controls on the outer ring of the wash well and an LCD screen on the lid to monitor the progress of your crusty underwear. It even conforms to low power and water consumption standards—or at least it would if it ever made it into production. [Yanko Design]


iPhone Malware Demo Freaking Me Out, Man [Apple]

PopoutMaybe it's the eyes. Don't be too alarmed, but this video shows the iPhone being accessed by terminal using a program installed by a webpage. Since the program, like all unofficial apps, runs as root, they've got access to data stores for mail, call lists, contacts, and voicemail, which are served up via terminal. And no, that guy isn't hacking your ghost with those piercing eyes. I think.

This is why a managed SDK with sandboxed apps like the one Jobs proposes for February is going to be a lot better than opening up the device outright, like it or not. Since this is a hack done via a website, it's likely the 1.1.1 TIFF exploit that can be patched by a) installing Apple's 1.1.2 patch or hacking your 1.1.1 iPhone using the installer website. The guy runs all this on a LAN, knowing IPs, but it wouldn't be hard to have malware ping home, either. Nothing to scoff at, but also not surprising given the unofficial nature of the apps developed so far, and maybe nothing to freak out over. [FC via CrunchHickey]


Take Walmart's $199 PC Operating System for a Test Drive

gos.pngIf Wal-Mart's recently released $200 PC sounds like a potentially great deal but you're not sure about ditching your current operating system for the inexpensive, Linux-based Ubuntu box, head over to the developer's web site and download the bootable gOS LiveCD (or rather DVD, at 728MB). The gOS operating system sports an emphasis on web applications, with desktop shortcuts to tons of Google Apps, Facebook, Wikipedia, and other webapps built directly into the desktop. If you've given gOS a try, let's hear how you like it in the comments.


The $8 billion story/scam

In case you had any doubt that human beings are irrational creatures, driven by stories, consider the case of the gift card.

Christmas has become a holiday about shopping, not about giving. Case in point: the $100 gift card, now available from banks, from stores, even in a rack at the supermarket.

Last year, more than $8,000,000,000 was wasted on these cards. Not in the value spent, but in fees and breakage. When you give a card, if it doesn't get used, someone ends up keeping your money, and it's not the recipient. People spent more than eight billion dollars for nothing... buying a product that isn't as good as cash.

Along the way, we bought the story that giving someone a hundred dollar bill as a gift ("go buy what you want") is callous, insensitive, a crass shortcut. Buying them a $100 Best Buy card, on the other hand, is thoughtful. Even if they spend $92 and have to waste the rest.

The interesting thing about stories is that the inconsistent ones don't always hold up to scrutiny. Consumer Reports and others are trying to spread a different story. One that sounds like this:

Gift cards are for chumps.

If enough people talk about this new story, people will be embarrassed to give a gift card. It's a waste. It's a scam. It's a trap for the recipient.

The irony is that the gift card companies could easily spend, say, half the profits and create a wonderful, better story... where every $100 gift card also generates two or three dollars for a worthy cause. That would resonate with a lot of people... But I think it's unlikely.

If I were a creative non-profit, I'd start marketing alternative gift cards. They would consist of PDF files you could print out and hand over to people when you give them cash. It could say,

"Merry Christmas. Here's your present, go spend it on what you really want. AND, just to make sure we're in the right holiday spirit, I made a donation in your name to Aworthycause."

Stories come and go. It's up to marketers to spread the good ones.


Andy Dick Look-alike Develops Device to Supercool Beer in Seconds [Boozetech]

huski2.JPGLeave it to a 22-year-old college student to develop what could be the best thing to happen to beer in centuries. The device, dubbed Huski, has a cooling capacity that is almost four times greater than regular ice. Plus, Huski won't water down your drink, and it is completely portable.

The inventor, Kent Hodgson, describes the science behind the device thusly:

"You have plastic cooling cells which are pressed down into the dock which houses the liquid carbon dioxide. The liquid CO2 expands and is pressurized into dry ice in the base of the cooling cells ... in a moment."

After that, it is a simple matter of dropping Huski into your drink, consuming the beverage, and waking up hours later in a dumpster with nothing but your boots on —just like any other Saturday. Hodgson also explained that one canister can fill thirty 330 ml bottles at a cost of 7 cents each. He plans on patenting the Huski and selling them for around $50. Not a bad deal if you hate lugging around ice and a gigantic cooler to the beach. [nzherald via InventorSpot]