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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Line2 App Turns Your iPod into a Phone -- with Unlimited Calls and Texts

For $9.95 a month, Line2 provides unlimited calls and texts for iPhone, iPod and iPad users -- and even lets you text on airplanes.

Hold the line: For $9.95 a month, Line2 provides unlimited calls and texts over Wi-Fi on the iPod Touch.Toktumi (say it fast -- "talk to me") is an aptly named company. While it offers hosted PBX calling systems for businesses, it has made a bigger splash with the Line2 iOS application for the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad. Line2 is a dual-mode calling application that uses either Wi-Fi or cellular networks -- which gives iPhone users a second line, transforms the iPod Touch and iPad into calling devices and provides unlimited calls and texts in the United States and Canada. And people are certainly taking advantage of the new all-you-can-text function, with Line2 users sending more than 1 million messages in the first four days after the updated app launched.

Since Line2 can be powered by Wi-Fi, you might be wondering where airplanes come into the equation. Planes have long been forbidden territory for cell phones. There is some question about potential interference with aircraft navigation systems, but that hasn't really been proven. The real issue may be that travelers don't want to be strapped in next to a person loudly sharing personal details with Aunt Bertha on a four-hour flight.

You may not be able to exercise your cell phone in the air, but a number of airlines now offer paid Wi-Fi on flights. Knowing that Line2 works for calling over Wi-Fi means users could theoretically yap away through the entire flight. Airlines have put in place technology that blocks voice calls, but workarounds are constantly popping up. For those with more restraint and sense, the app's new text messaging feature is a much more polite way to stay in touch with the office, colleagues, friends and family while zooming along at 35,000 feet. The interface is clean and simple. Texting is unlimited in the United States and Canada and costs 10 cents per text for international messages.

The new texting feature is all fine and dandy, but the real business proposition here involves saving money. Line2 includes unlimited calling in the United States and Canada for $9.95 per month. If you can route a chunk of your calls over Wi-Fi, then you can go with a lower priced calling package. It also brings calling and SMS capability to the iPod Touch and iPad, so you can act like you have an iPhone whenever a wireless network is handy.

Line2 makes sense for business users who are often hanging around Wi-Fi hotspots at the office or on the road. There are other text messaging apps and VoIP apps for iOS, but none of them have the smoothly combined feature set of Line2. With text messaging added to the equation, it makes the 30-day free trial worth checking out. Business users who want to get into a more robust calling system can upgrade to Toktumi's $14.95 per month deal that includes an auto attendant, custom greetings, visual voicemail and other PBX features.

300 yard shot... with a putter. Jamie Sadlowsk

A 175-yard wedge? A 260-yard six-iron? A 300-yard ... putter? Watch Jamie Sadlowski, the longest hitter in the history of the game, unleash his power.

Jeremy Wade Catches 100lb “Giant Piranha”

Jeremy Wade is known for his show on Animal Plant, ‘River Monsters’. But what might get the 52-year old wrangler some more attention was his recent catch in the Congo River.

While filming with his team in Africa, Wade had a serious fight, but eventually brought in a 5-foot goliath tiger fish, which we called a “giant piranha”.

Because of its population and attitude, not many of the tiger fish have ever been caught – especially when it weighs in at 100 lbs. Many sightings of the fish include it killing prey the size of itself – crocodiles and even people.

[via odditycentral]

One Toilet Paper Company Decides to Ditch the Tube

by Stephen Messenger

ditching the tube photo

In an attempt to cut down on back on consumer waste, one toilet paper manufacturer has unveiled perhaps the biggest change the product has undergone in over a century -- replacing that old cardboard tube with, well, nothing. If the advancement in TP technology seems unremarkable, consider just how much waste it will keep from the landfill. Each year, a million miles worth of cardboard tubing is tossed out -- that's enough to circle the Earth over forty times.

Seinfeld's George Costanza once pointed out how little TP has progressed over the decades. "Do you realize that toilet paper has not changed in my lifetime? It's just paper on a cardboard roll, that's it. And in ten thousand years, it will still be exactly the same because really, what else can they do?" On that last point, he was wrong.

tubeless-tp.jpg Kimberly-Clark, the company which produces Scotts toilet paper, will begin testing its oddly revolutionary Tube-Free TP next week in Walmarts and Sam's Clubs across the North-eastern US. Depending on how well it's received, soon the trend might spread globally.

According to a report from USA Today, while it may seem fairly innocuous, Americans have been tossing out a lot of those cardboard tubes each year -- and it really adds up.

The 17 billion toilet paper tubes produced annually in the USA account for 160 million pounds of trash, according to Kimberly-Clark estimates, and could stretch more than a million miles placed end-to-end. That's from here to the moon and back -- twice. Most consumers toss, rather than recycle, used tubes, says Doug Daniels, brand manager at Kimberly-Clark.

A consumers demand for less wasteful products is apparently what has driven the toilet paper maker to update a product which has gone without any major improvement since it was invented over 100 years ago. "We found a way to bring innovation to a category as mature as bath tissue," says Daniels.

While the new tubeless rolls won't always be perfectly round, they'll have no problem fitting on standard toilet paper spindles -- and they can be used to the last square. The trick is in the special winding processes, but the company is keeping their technique a secret.

With any luck, soon other toilet paper manufactures will get on board with less wasteful alternatives to the tradition roll, whether it be by using more recycled material or ditching the cardboard tube altogether. And, as consumers demand more eco-friendly products, perhaps more manufacturers will continue to find more ways to cut unnecessary materials from the things they sell.

And who knows, maybe one day people will have conversations like this about us.

World's Largest Gummy Worm Prompts the Expected Jokes

Here's a promo video, which shows all the amazing things you can do with a three-pound gummy worm (though one NSFW!!! possibility is omitted) and makes the expected jokes about the size of a certain part of the male anatomy and how women will react to something that big.**

The worm costs $27.95 and comes in five different dual-flavor combinations, though all five are currently out of stock. Will Gut Check be ordering one for product testing? Oh, yes. There will be gummy worm.

* - That is, proclaimed by the company, not by the worm itself, which presumably can't proclaim anything.

** - To its credit, the gummy worm does appear to be ribbed for her pleasure.

Cell phone time traveler from 1928?


Is this woman on a cell phone in a 1928 Charlie Chaplin movie?

Is a woman in a 1928 film who appears to have a cell phone glued to her ear in fact a time traveler? That's what some conspiracy theorists think this eerie scene (video below) from Charlie Chaplin's 1928 film, "The Circus" is telegraphing, or rather phoning, and that the woman -- who looks about as time-traveler-ish as Martha Stewart, is indeed a voyager from the vortex of time and space.

Belfast filmmaker George Clarke, a Chaplin fan, says he was watching the "behind the scenes of 'The Circus' " and was "stumped" at what he saw.

"I kept winding it back, playing it; winding it back, playing it back, and I couldn't explain this," he says. "I want to get this out there to let people try and give me an idea, because right now the only conclusion that I can come to -- it sounds absolutely ridiculous, I'm sure, to some people -- it's a time traveler." Although, as Clarke notes, the "old woman ... looks like a man in drag ... on a mobile phone."

Some who have seen the clip and commented online say it's not a phone the woman is holding, that perhaps she's holding her hand up to her ear to shield the sun from her eyes, or to shield herself to stay out of the camera's gaze.

"Aside from some Star Trek time travel shenanigans -- could it have been some type of hearing aid ... or transistor radio or maybe even the fact that she might have been a nut bag and she was talking to herself?" said one person's posting on

What do you think?

Marijuana on the ballot: 6 states moving toward 'legalization'

Calfornia voters aren't the only ones considering loosening their state laws against pot possession next week

California's Prop 19 would be the most permissive marijuana law in the nation. A medical marijuana dispensary in L.A. is pictured.

California's Prop 19 would be the most permissive marijuana law in the nation. A medical marijuana dispensary in L.A. is pictured. Photo: Getty SEE ALL 29 PHOTOS

While the battle to control Congress is getting most of the pre-election ink, voters in several states will also be deciding how to handle the touchy issue of marijuana's legal status. Fourteen states already have medical marijuana laws on the books, and more are likely to vote in doctor-approved pot use this year or in 2012. (Click here to read The Week's latest coverage: "Will California's Proposition 19 pass?") Here are six states that could take a major step down the path toward decriminalization — or even legalization — on Nov. 2:

Passage of Proposition 19 by Golden State voters would create by far the most permissive marijuana law in the nation. The ballot measure would legalize — at the state and local level, anyway — recreational amounts of marijuana and allow local goverments to tax and regulate sales of the drug. The contentious battle over Prop 19 is creating some strange political dynamics, says NPR's Mandalit del Barco. For instance, many growers and "stoners" are opposed to the new taxes and government oversight, while some cops and mothers' groups support Prop 19 as a way to take profits out of the hands of drug dealers and Mexican cartels. None of that may matter, says Nate Silver in The New York Times, since support for the measure appears to be "going up in smoke" as the election nears. Today it stands no better than a 50-50 chance of passing.

More than one in every 100 Oregonians already smokes marijuana legally for medical purposes, and Measure 74 would let them purchase their pot from state-licensed growers and nonprofit retailers, called dispensaries. (Under current law, card-carrying smokers have to grow their own marijuana, or designate someone to grow it for them.) The problem with the measure, says The Portland Mercury in an editorial, is it has no regulation mechanism to assure "all pot is safe and legal," as with other medicines. Oregon should learn from the mistakes in California and Colorado, "and do ours better." But Oregon has already taken "the main step" of legalizing medical marijuana, says the Albany, Ore., Democrat-Herald in an editorial, and "if something is legal to use — such as liquor and tobacco — it's not unreasonable to authorize places where it may be sold."

Proposition 203 would allow Arizonans with a host of diseases to possess up to 2.5 ounces of pot with a doctor's recommendation. They would be allowed to buy medical marijuana from nonprofit, state-licensed dispensaries, or grow it themselves if the nearest outlet is more than 25 miles away. "Opponents worry it will bring more crime, substance abuse, and corruption to our state," says Lori Jane Gliha at ABC News 15. But with polls showing it the most popular measure on the ballot, with 54 percent support, "we'll go out on a limb and say [it] will probably pass" anyway, says Ray Stern in the Phoenix New Times.

South Dakota
Measure 13 is a do-over for South Dakota medical-marijuana proponents, after a similar measure in 2006 fell short by about 15,000 votes, or 4 percentage points. Activists "think they can get over the top this time around," says Phillip Smith in Drug War Chronicle, with restrictions carefully tailored "to win over a skeptical and conservative prairie electorate" — to wit, the proposed law limits people with specific conditions to 1 ounce and only upon the recommendation of a doctor with whom they have "bona fide relationship." But not all skeptics are convinced: "I just think it's a total scam being done by people interested in legalizing marijuana," says Yankton County, S.D., Sheriff Dave Hunhoff. "If they want to legalize marijuana ... they should just stand up and use that argument."

The Democratic candidate for governor of the Green Mountain State, Peter Shumlin, publicly advocates the decriminalization of marijuana, says Ron Kampia in The Huffington Post. And if he beats Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie (R), who is "ultra-hostile to decriminalization," Vermont — which already has a medical-marijuana law — "has a good chance of decriminalizing the possession of marijuana," too. But Shumlin can't count on getting every pro-pot vote, says Brad Sylvester in Yahoo News, since he's also facing Liberty Union candidate Ben Mitchell, whose platform calls for making Vermont into the "Amsterdam of the U.S."

In November, 73 Massachusetts towns and cities will vote on a nonbinding ballot measure instructing state lawmakers "to vote in favor of legislation that would allow the state to regulate the taxation, cultivation, and sale of marijuana to adults" — in short, to legalize pot. Although only 13 percent of the state's voters will see the ballot initiative, its sponsor, the Massachusetts Cannabis Reform Coalition, says majority approval would lay the foundation for a statewide, binding ballot measure in 2012. State voters have already approved decriminalization, says Michael Cutler in Wicked Local, and "the sky hasn't fallen." Full legalization would better limit access to the drug and raise revenue.

Robonaut 2 en route to International Space Station


NASA and GM have finished the Robonaut 2, a robot designed to assist astronauts on the International Space Station. It will launch Nov. 1.

Robonaut 2, or R2, is packed and ready to launch into space aboard the space shuttle Discovery on Nov. 1. The humanoid robot, or android, will assist astronauts aboard the International Space Station. It is not known precisely what tasks R2 will perform, but it is designed with “advanced control, sensor, and vision technologies.” Sounds useful enough.

The robot is a collaboration between NASA and General Motors, which began in 2007. Workers from NASA and GM spent the last few years at the Johnson Space Center in Houston building the robot.

“One of GM’s core goals is to lead in advanced technology and quality,” said Alan Taub, GM’s vice president of Global Research and Development. ”This partnership and the development of R2 are providing us with innovative technologies that will help us achieve these goals in both our future products and plants.”

GM believes that the advancements made in sensor capabilities will help the company improve safety in future vehicles. Already, several GM vehicles offer crash avoidance features that use sensors to warn of incoming danger and help drivers parallel park. In addition, some of the advancements in robotic hand dexterity could help GM design better manufacturing plants.

The original Robonaut was built by NASA and DARPA about ten years ago, and designed for space travel. NASA and GM have been working together since the 1960s, when the two collaborated on navigation systems for the original Apollo missions. GM helped develop the Lunar Rover.

Though strange looking, Robonaut 2 is undoubtedly a more constructive use of advanced technology than this pleasurable robot.