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Monday, May 24, 2010

Logitech To Create First Google TV Set-Top Box In Fall 2010

Google managed to score quite a few big partners with their Google TV launch, with Intel and Sony being two key partners in moving the technology forward into the mainstream. But for those who don't want to purchase any entirely new television this fall with a CE4100 processor and the Google TV app onboard, they'll need a set-top box to connect to their existing setup. For that, there's Logitech.

This whole situation feels a little bit like when Microsoft first launched "Extenders for Windows Media Center" at CEDIA a few years ago, but those boxes eventually failed and are pretty much relics today. Google's hoping to have a lot more success with their own STB, with Logitech selected to be the first out of the gate. The details on the box have yet to be fully revealed, but it's pretty clear what it will do. You'll connect the box to your existing HDTV, and then the Google TV platform will come to life via the internal hardware within the sleek, small black shell.

Coupled with a Logitech Harmony remote, the total hardware solution could be compelling...

No price points were discussed either, but consumers were told that it will be compatible with existing Logitech Harmony remotes and it will ship with a few accessories, too. A compact keyboard, remote control and touch pad, to be specific. Logitech will also be responsible for a few more Google TV-related accessories, including an "an HDTV camera for video conferencing, and specialized apps that allow you to turn your smartphone into a Google TV controller." Expect the box to launch alongside the service this Fall.

The Net Worth of the U.S. Presidents: Washington to Obama


one dollar.jpg

Having examined the finances of all 43 presidents (yes, 43; remember, Cleveland was president twice), we calculated the net worth figures for each in 2010 dollars. Because a number of presidents, particularly in the early 19th Century, made and lost huge fortunes in a matter of a few years, the number for each man is based on his net worth at its peak.

We have taken into account hard assets like land, estimated lifetime savings based on work history, inheritance, homes, and money paid for services, which include things as diverse as their salary as Collector of Customs at the Port of New York to membership on Fortune 500 boards. Royalties on books have also been taken into account, along with ownership of companies and yields from family estates.

The net worth of the presidents varies widely. George Washington was worth more than half a billion in today's dollars. Several presidents went bankrupt.

Click here for the full article and dollar figures: The Net Worth of the U.S. Presidents: Washington to Obama

Douglas A. McIntyre, Michael B. Sauter, and Ashley C. Allen - Douglas A. McIntyre, Michael B. Sauter, and Ashley C. Allen are editors of 24/7 Wall St., a Delaware-based financial news and opinion operation that produces content for sites including MarketWatch, DailyFinance, Yahoo! Finance, and

Unusual Musical Instruments


You mean this device plays music, too?

This article will cover a few bizarre musical instruments, an oddities used by musicians to convey that special feeling or a melody. Some of the uniquely crafted items may cost a fortune, others are very simple and can be easily assembled from parts found in your kitchen. All of them have loads of character, and that special sound that no other instrument can make.

"The madness" started in 1619 with the "Temple of Music" acoustic experiments:

(image credit: Bibli Odyssey)

I am going to devote a special post to vintage music machines, as they are endlessly fascinating to my inner "music geek". Fast-forward to the modern times:

Thumb Pianos, or Kalimbas

Robert Patterson Collier makes custom and very aesthetically pleasing miniature instruments. There are many varieties on display in his Flickr set and, with his permission, here are a few that we particularly like:

Kalimba made from lamp parts and an ashtray:

The Ultimate Portable Thumb Piano? "A Camera Piano" -
Kalimba fitted inside a bellows camera case:

"The thumb piano, known as a kalimba or mbira and by many other names, is a lamellaphone that uses plucked prongs called tongues, keys or tines to generate acoustic vibrations."

Another Collier's set shows easy-to-make "Screw Lamellaphone" in detail and this Instructables article describes the DIY process:

Zither Kalimba:

Robert writes: "The sound produced is idiosyncratic to each instrument, often colored by creaks, buzzing, humming, croaking, twittering, hyper-resonance and other strange artifacts... While many of the instruments are wired with a piezo transducer and some even have their own built-in amplifier or digital recorder, the manner in which the sound is captured and the signal processed offers great potential for exploration."

On his Flickr set page are many links to the videos, marrying the lamellaphone's "ambient sounds" with minimalist abstract imagery. Some are very relaxing, check them out.

On the other end of piano scale

High Fashion... Fluid Forms... Consider this futuristic "Pegasus" piano made by the German firm Schimmel and designed by legendary Luigi Colani himself:

...or a classic upright piano nicely complementing your Porsche (or your SonicAir toothbrush)

We also like this transparent concert piano idea:

Another model "Otmar Alt" that even your kid would love:

Here is a new development: scientist say that it's best to learn piano while playing underwater ;)

or if you set it on fire, you might get a really scorching solo out of it:

(image credit: Japan Today)

Jazz pianist Yosuke Yamashita plays a burning piano on the beach in Shiga, Japan. Yamashita did the same thing once before in 1973; he would do this every day, given an endless piano supply.

The Ondes Martenot - very strange French keyboard with a plaintive spacey sound

Definitely better sounding than most analog synthesizers, this highly refined instrument has been invented in 1928 by a French radio enthusiast Maurice Martenot. The pure "space bliss" sounds are made by pressing the sensitive button with your left hand (modulating the waves) and stretching the special string assembly with your right hand.

(image credit: Keyboardmuseum)

Here is a demonstration of the technique:

Watch Radiohead perform on the Ondes Martenot the techno despair sounds that this instrument was plainly designed to produce. "The Martenot Waves" keyboard was also used in the "Lawrence of Arabia" and "Mad Max" soundtracks.

Guitar Solos with Bite

Bill Stahl Photography site has a groovy picture of this bass guitar: (unfortunately there is little information on where to order this thing)

From this monumental compendium of curious instruments (thanks to Barry Wood) come a few guitars that may cause some head-scratching:

Split-Level Doubleneck from China (quite ergonomic, we might add)-

Spanish coolness -

Hindu Doubleneck (would come handy to have goddess-like four hands to play it, they say) -

Some gorgeous acoustic guitars:
Delmundo -

Zemaitis engraved guitar:

Weirdomatic has collected more examples of bizarre bass guitars. Here is a couple of our favorites:

This one is made from "Ouija" board, apparently for communicating with the "Grateful Dead":

Assault Bass, made by The Armando Custom Case company:
(order it from here - but just don't take it thru the airport security checkpoint!)

For a True Audio Gourmet: Drums Made From Cheese!

If you consider yourself a sophisticated partaker of sublime sounds... sort of like a gentleman shown here:

(original unknown)

then you will appreciate the yummy sounds produced by a set of drums MADE FROM CHEESE.

(image credit:

Seen at, they were created by Dutch artist Walter Willems for the Mocca Contemporary Art exhibition. The cheese must be really aged to make a thumping sound, plus the whole thing may be used to feed the starving artist for a week, if paid gigs would dry up. See it in action in this video.

Finally a truly EPIC instrument

Bored of the tinny sounds your little piano or guitar makes? In the mood for something as big and mysterious as the ocean itself? Come to Zadar, Croatia, and listen to "The Sea Organ". Giant 70 meters long instrument has 35 pipes and resonating underwater cavity - they interact with tides and wind to produce the deep, entirely natural sounds.

Designed by award-winning architect Nikola Basic and built in 2005, this project is not only extremely popular with tourist, but also a welcome redeeming feature for what was once an ugly concrete-enclosed waterfront.

Such nature-affected instruments are often called "aerophones", and at any given moment listeners can hear at least five pipes played in harmony by the waves and wind movements. This page has a sample of "sea Organ" sounds.

The air holes "breathe in" the wind along the shore, and the pipes hidden deep underwater make lower sounds.

(image credit: OddMusic)

Aeolian Wind Harp is the only other instrument comparable in its aural majesty to the "Sea Organ" - a grand Aeolian harp is very rare instrument, first introduced ages ago in Ancient Greece. A perfect choice for the "Myst/ Riven" game sound effects.

I leave you with a link that just might totally swallow you up. This page is the best compilation of bizarre instruments to my knowledge, with a sound sample from each of them! Prepare to spend a while there.

Hope you enjoyed this little tour of instruments we found since our last publication on this theme. Hats off to these musicians who master the art of playing such oddities. It takes a certain panache and loads of determination to learn to play an unusual instrument. As for me, I only play normal-looking keyboards. "Sometimes I also play the fool", like John Lennon used to say.

FastMac U-Socket delayed due to safety redesign, now going for $20

And here you were thinking this thing had vanished into the never-ending Lairs of Vaporwareville. Lucky for you, the gents and gals over at FastMac have been hard at work caving to the also never-ending list of demands from the UL and various other safety agencies. That means that the utterly brilliant U-Socket is indeed still on track for mass production, but it'll be slightly redesigned and stacked with a few bonus features by the time it hits the market. According to an update sent out to loyal pre-orderers (which can be seen in full after the break), the USB sockets have been relocated as a compliance measure, but now, they're of the SuperSpeed variety. Each one is also capable of 10W power (read: iPad-friendly) and it also smokes the EPA's Energy Star requirements. The modifications have pushed the expected ship date back to October, and the original $9.95 price has been bumped up to $19.95 -- though the company is quick to point out that each one is made in the US of A, and those who got in early will have their orders honored. An extra Hamilton for USB 3.0 and 10W charging? We're still as sold as ever.

[Thanks, Brian]
Letter from FastMac regarding U-Socket status:

Dear [redacted],

Thank you for pre-ordering the TruePower U-Socket. The response to our pre-announcement of this product has been overwhelming, as has been the numerous industry awards we have won for it :-)

I wanted to email you to give you a progress update on our development. As you know, we have been working with the UL/ Safety Agencies to get this product certified and approved for sale in the US & Canada. They have asked us to make a number of changes, starting with a new look: see

In addition to relocating the USB connectors, the safety boards have also requested some other internal changes which will make the U-Socket safer & easier to manufacture. Since we were asked to redesign the U-Socket, we've gone back to the drawing board and rebuilt the product from the ground up to incorporate the following additional features:

a) USB 3.0
b) 10W Charging support so you can charge 1 iPad at full speed or 2 iPads @ half speed. This also means you can charge 2 iPhones at the same speed as Apple's AC adapter.
c) Energy Star- U-Socket meets and beats the EPA's Energy Star requirements by more than 10x their minimum when compared to the energy savings achieved by a typical Energy-Star compliant AC Adapter FYI, only 2 mobile phone manufacturers (Nokia & Samsung) make Energy-Star compliant AC adapters.
d) TruePower Technology- custom 'TruePower' energy efficient AC/DV converter and power management ICs
e) Custom UL-approved transformers that are smaller than even those found inside Apple's impossibly-small iPhone AC Adapter

All of these modifications/ upgrades will result in a reschedule of the shipping date to October end at the latest.

We apologize for the delay and understand that the new shipping date may alter your buying decision. We are committed to providing the safest, most compatible & highest quality products and this delay is necessary to comply with those goals. Should you wish to cancel your order, please let us know; please bear in mind that your current order guarantees you the price of $9.95 whereas later orders will be billed at $19.95 per U-Socket.

Thank you again for supporting FastMac and the U-Socket product line. As you know, we are one of the few, if only, accessory manufacturers left in the United States. You'll be glad to know that the U-Socket is not only designed in California, it is also built in California in our very own factory right here in San Francisco. We sincerely appreciate your support and look forward to contacting you within 2 months with a firmer ship date.

If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask.

Stellar DSLR Time Lapse of a Space Shuttle Launch


Six weeks, and over 100 hours of footage shot on several Canon EOS 5D Mark IIs culminates in this remarkable, 4-minute time lapse of a Space Shuttle launch. [Air&Space via Planet5D]

Send an email to Mark Wilson, the author of this post, at

16 secret LOST references in videogames

See the original image at The mysteries of the island extend everywhere… even your favorite games

Click here for all 16 secret LOST references in videogames

Pacman Anniversary Nostalgia – The Top 10 Greatest Pacman Accessories… Ever

By Intermaggio

In case you haven’t heard, Pacman’s 30th Anniversary was last week. In celebrating the nostalgic ’80s video game, we’ve put together this list with the greatest Pacman accessories ever, check them out.

The Pacman Plush Head

Is it a Halloween costume? Is it a ski mask? Or is it just an awesome bit of bling that tells everyone “Yeah. I was around in the ’80s. What of it?” This awesome plush fits comfortably on your head and keeps you warm while you show off just how cool you are.

The Pacman Rubik’s Cube

The Pacman Rubik’s cube is a custom-built fully functional Rubik’s cube with Pacman decals. The creator of this nifty device probably wanted to cause someone a mental breakdown- I mean look at it. Combining a Rubik’s Cube with Pacman. There’s no way anyone could let that thing stay unsolved- I’d be up all night.

Ms. Pacman Mary Janes

Though these nostalgic bits of footwear may look comfortable enough to be slippers, they are in fact Mary Jane style shoes. They are, indeed, super-cute, and made by hand. Kudos to the lovely lady who crafted these- I can’t imagine how great these would look on actual feet!

Pacman Rings

There’s an art to subtlety. You wont find any outrageous neon-yellow Pacmen or Pacwomen here- just an innocuous set of four rings that happen to depict a scene right out of Pacman. These rings say “I love Pacman, but I’m cool enough that I don’t have to yell about it.”

Pacman Power Pellets

This tin Pacman holds circular mints or sours, and acts as a dispenser. What’s cool about it is that the candies come right out of Pacman’s mouth, and it’s just like playing Pacman in reverse! Seriously though- this is a great little accessory, since it reminds you of the Pacman you know and love every time you go for a mint!

Pacman Neon Lights

Now come on. Tell me you don’t want one of these babies sitting prominently in your favorite bar? These neon Pacman lights look great, and are very colorful- making for great mood lighting.

Pacman Bikini

The ultimate gift for your retro-gaming girlfriend. This Pacman bikini has it all- our favorite part is the ghost hiding at the bottom. Presumably he doesn’t want to get eaten.

Pacman Hoodie

This hoodie depicts a giant level of Pacman. It’s an awesome, stylish way to show off your love of the ’80s sensation. Now if only we could find a way to make this giant level playable…

Original Pacman Arcade Game

We had to include it somewhere- the grandaddy of them all, the original Pacman arcade console. Countless hours have been played, and innumerable coins have been dropped into these classic arcade machines. The Pacman arcade game is a true novelty of the ’80s.

The PacM – Pacman Chair

This awesome chair is the work of designer Jose Jorge Hinojosa Primo, and is totally sweet. The PacM chair is sleek, sexy, comfortable, and most importantly, reminiscent of the Pacman we know and love. We can only hope this design becomes a reality.

That’s our roundup of the 10 greatest PacMan accessories. If you’re wondering what all the hubbub is about, you may want to read our post on Pacman’s 30th Anniversary – the celebrations continue, and even Google is having a ball!

Famous Children: Then and Now (46 pics)


It’s amazing how celebrities change with time. Most of them started their career as kids, and it is so fun to compare young stars back then and now.

Dakota Fanning

Famous Children: Then and Now (46  pics)

Kristen Stewart

Famous Children: Then and Now (46  pics)

Natalie Portman

Famous Children: Then and Now (46  pics)

Scarlett Johansson

Famous Children: Then and Now (46  pics)

Reese Witherspoon

Famous Children: Then and Now (46  pics)

Click here for the rest of this amazing gallery!!!!