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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Virgin Mobile USA Marks Return Of $20, Contract-Free WWAN Plan

by Ray Willington

  It's back! No, not the McRib, Virgin Mobile USA's $20 no-contract broadband plan! The company has just announced a new expansion to their Broadband2Go offerings, with the triumphant return of the $20 plan leading the charge. This joins the current $10 and $50 plans, and provides 500MB with one month expiration for $20, offering another option for flexible internet access especially for the occasional user or traveler. Virgin Mobile’s no contract Broadband2Go plans feature 3G speeds and start at just $10 for 10 days/100MB of access. For heavy users the $50 plan offers unlimited data access with 3G speeds up to 2.5GB each month.

For clarity, all of these devices operate on Sprint's network, so you'll need to double-check Sprint coverage near you before buying in. You'll also get a number of device options, all spelled out below. In a world of tie-me-downs, hearing this news feels really refreshing.

Virgin Mobile USA Bolsters Broadband2Go Portfolio with Addition of $20 Monthly No Contract Mobile Plan

WARREN, N.J. – May 19, 2011 – Virgin Mobile USA continues to enhance its affordable, No Contract offerings for mobile broadband with the addition of a $20 plan to its Broadband2Go portfolio. Now available online and at participating retailers, the new plan, an addition to the current $10 and $50 plans, provides 500MB of data with a one-month expiration, offering another option for flexible Internet access, especially for the occasional user or traveler.

“From business travelers to virtual workers to students, consumers use Broadband2Go in different ways,” said Sean Yelle, product manager, Virgin Mobile USA. “We found there are a substantial number of customers who want a monthly plan, but don’t need unlimited data. The addition of our new $20/500MB plan, paired with no annual contracts, provides customers an affordable option for broadband access, allowing them to pay only for the service they need, when they need it.”

Virgin Mobile’s No Contract Broadband2Go plans feature 3G speeds and start at just $10 for 10 days/100MB of access. For heavy users the $50 plan offers unlimited data access with 3G speeds up to 2.5GB each month. Additionally, Walmart customers will still be offered the $20 plan for 1GB of monthly access.

Virgin Mobile offers three different mobile broadband devices, operating on the Sprint Nationwide Network, as part of the Broadband2Go device portfolio:

    * The Ovation™ MC760 USB device, developed in conjunction with Novatel® Wireless (Nasdaq: NVTL), connects to a single personal computer or laptop and is available at retail for $79.99
    * The MiFi® 2200, an Intelligent Mobile Hotspot developed in conjunction with Novatel Wireless, is priced at $149.99 and allows up to five users at a time to connect using a variety of Wi-Fi enabled devices; and,
    * The ZTE PEELTM 3200, a first-of-its-kind device that connects to your iPod Touch® (second and third generations) for access to the Internet, email, music and more –for $99.99. The exclusive broadband plan for the PEEL 3200 offers users 500MB of data for $20/month.

Verizon Kisses Unlimited Data Goodbye

As promised, much to the chagrin of the bandwidth hog, Verizon Wireless confirmed Thursday that it will do away with its unlimited smartphone data plan sometime this summer. New, tiered plans will replace the $30-per-month unlimited option the carrier offers, according to CFO Fran Shammo, who was commenting on the topic at the Reuters Global Technology Summit.

This is certainly disappointing news to customers who gobble up lots of data, but Shammo said family data plans are likely on the way to make you feel better. Instead of every member of the family paying $30 per month for data, the company will roll out plans that allow families to pay one price that could save them money, much like how many family voice plans operate. Shammo called family data plans a “logical progression." No word yet on pricing.

AT&T did away with unlimited data last fall, so it comes as little surprise that Verizon Wireless would do the same. In fact, the carrier said as much a few months ago. AT&T offers three tiered plans for smartphone data: 200MB/month for $15; 2GB/month for $25; and 4GB for $45, which includes Wi-Fi tethering. We would expect the individual Verizon plans to be in the same ballpark.

Am I dreaming: How Do I Get Out of Here???

I'm confused .... is it or isn't it?

At Chelsea Flower Show Small Gardens have Big Environmental Impact

by Bonnie Alter

change winds photo
Photo: B. Alter

There are other gardens at the Chelsea Flower Show besides the big, glitzy and expensive ones. There are small ones...

So give a Gold Medal to the Winds of Change urban garden which puts its reclaimed, industrial aesthetic first and foremost.

winds change photo
Photo: B. Alter

Its designer has a passion for reclaimed materials and created the garden around a focal point of home-engineered turbines made out of.big industrial cooling fans. He definitely makes a statement--they are unmissable. As is the only prison on site...the old steel shed has a door from a prison. A Victorian safe is used as a tool storage and the water butt is made out of old steel. The fencing is made out of recycled timber and the planting is loose and natural, with vegetables and a green roof.

wales portrait photo
Photo: B. Alter

This year there is a new category of garden: artisanal. By which they mean natural and sustainable. It is replacing what used to be called courtyard gardens and it is an interesting switch. The gardens are all charming: natural planting, lots of local and native plants, most use recycled materials and all have a cottage feel. However, after a while all seven seem much of the same.

The Postcard from Wales garden embodies the best of the genre. It depicts an old boathouse on the edge of a river; the old boat in the front is a particularly charming touch. The planting is gentle with alliums providing colour, rambling roses by the front door and hollyhocks against the recycled wood fencing, with bits of shells and beach combing findings strewn around. It won a Gold Medal.

lit garden photo
Photo: B. Alter

A Literary Garden is another charmer--it won a Silver Gilt award. Inspired and intended as a poet's retreat, the poems and verses have been hand-carved into the bench, bridge and sundial, all to make an atmosphere of reflection and quietude. The carving is done by a master carver who does each piece by hand. The planting style, again, is informal, overgrown, with lots of blue and cream.

korean loo photo
Photo: B. Alter

This Korean entrant, Hae-woo-so (Emptying One's Mind) is a bit of a variation: it depicts a traditional Korean toilet (what!). It seems that Korean people believed that going to the toilet was a "cathartic experience and considered it to be a highly spiritual natural cycle." Pictured is the outhouse, which is vintage and ramshackle looking. The planting is mainly green, with some wildflowers, artful pieces of driftwood and moss-covered stones. Winner of a Gold Medal (for shock value alone).

More on Chelsea Flower Show
Chelsea Flower Show Opens with a Blast (of Wind)
Cold Unseasonable Weather Affects Chelsea Flower Show :
Chelsea Flower Show Features Biodiversity As a Theme
Chelsea Flower Show Features Vegetables

Chelsea Flower Show Opens with a Blast (of Wind)

by Bonnie Alter

que bee photo
Photo: B. Alter

This year's Chelsea Flower Show in London has been beset by a series of natural problems. First there was the unseasonable cold weather, then the unseasonable warm weather, then the rain drought. But opening day featured glorious sun and celebrities, albeit with gale force winds.

That didn't stop this year's show, now in its 98th year, from being as big (with 17 gardens competing for top prizes) and beautiful as ever. The themes: "wild" rather than formal, vertical green walls, lots of insect habitats, roof gardens and a series of 7 natural and sustainable small gardens. Where to begin...

edible bee photo
Photo: B. Alter

You can't miss the B&Q Garden as the spectacular green vertical wall rises to 9 metres. Beside it is an insect hotel which is 5 metres high. And then there is the field of herbs: everything in the entire garden can be eaten. B&Q (like Home Hardware) have done an excellent job of showing sustainability, with wind turbines, solar panels and water butts to collect rain water. Tomatoes and herbs cascade from the vertical wall. There are vegetable plots and culinary herbs as well as fruit trees and lime trees included in this sustainable wonder. It may be considered too corporate since it is pushing the B&Q company line, but it should win a Gold medal.... News Update: Gold Medal winner

new bank photo
Photo: B. Alter

The artistic and aesthetic favourite seems to be the Wild Garden sponsored by the Royal Bank of Canada. Canadians can't take much pride in the splendour since there is not one aspect of Canadian content in it except our good old Canadian dollar. However, it was created by one of the eco gurus of the gardening world and it contains a recycled container that serves as an artist's studio, green roof, native plants combined with garden plants and a lovely stone wall with an insect hotel. It will be reconstructed and relocated to a Wetlands Centre after the show. Definitely a winner. News Update: Silver Gilt winner

veg planter photo
Photo: B. Alter

The M&G Garden consists almost entirely of planters that are filled with vegetables and herbs. It is a modern interpretation of the traditional kitchen garden. As well as having raised planters of fruits, herbs, vegetables and flowers, there is a sitting area and a water feature. The raised beds are built from willow and topped with cedar. Cabbages mix with clematis, and beans with roses. It is a bit sprawling and seems crammed but the idea of updating the kitchen garden for modern use is good. News Update:Silver Gilt winner

perrier laurent photo
Photo: B. Alter

This has to be one of the loveliest gardens in the show. The Laurent-Perrier Garden--Nature & Human Intervention (love these conceptual/obscure titles) is the most elegant and sophisticated in design and planting. There is a delicate bamboo structure at the back with a long stream with rocks leading up to it. The flowers are a delicate planting of dusky pinks and browns and creamy colours, planted amidst 11 multi-stemmed trees. There are some huge sculptural stones which give it a Japanese feel, in keeping with the "pagoda" structure. News Update: Gold Medal winner

monaco garden photo
Photo: B.Alter

Here's a retro, super luxury and super glam garden from the Principality of Monaco. The Monaco Garden is a blast from the past when Chelsea consisted of high-end fantasy gardens (so what has changed?). It was conceived as a way to show how high density living ( Monaco is tiny) can be achieved through roof gardens and balcony gardens, fruit trees and green living walls. Love that swimming pool and the lilac lounge chairs--where is James Bond? News Update: Gold Medal winner

flying garden photo
Photo: B. Alter

The most controversial is the Irish Sky Garden, a bright pink pod known as the Wonkavator, containing plants that will be suspended 82 feet in the air from a crane. Created by Diarmuid Gavin, it's being called "lupins in the sky with Diarmuid" and only VIP's can take a ride, 8 at a time, in it. Helen Mirren has been in it, Gwyneth declined. Too gimmicky by far for many, Diarmuid is the bad boy of the gardening world--and relishes it. News Update: Gold Medal winner

More on Chelsea Flower Show
Cold Unseasonable Weather Affects Chelsea Flower Show :
Chelsea Flower Show Features Biodiversity As a Theme
Chelsea Flower Show Features Vegetables

Maker Faire 2011: Modular Guitars by Praxis Turn Just About Anything Into a New Guitar

by Jaymi Heimbuch
from guitar photo

Photos via Jaymi Heimbuch

Maker Faire 2011 was not short on musical instruments, but one that particularly caught my eye were these very interesting looking guitars. Not only do they look interesting, but the design is amazing -- made to be modular with swappable parts, you can turn just about anything, even old books, into a new guitar.

praxis guitar photo

Praxis Guitars are made to be modular, with all of the electronic components within one plate that can be swapped out on different bodies or different necks. They're made from recycled and salvaged materials, whenever possible, and since it's possible for you to reattach pieces to different bodies, you can also upcycle old items and give them a new life. For instance, even an old schoolbook was transformed into a body.

Not only are the materials and concept TreeHugger-friendly, but so too is the whole business model. Praxis' website states:

They are manufactured in an energy-efficient environment, making use of community workshop tools. All the information required to build a Praxis Guitar will be publicly released summer 2011 in order to build a collaborative community of digital luthiers. In this way, Praxis Guitars strives to provide a community that fosters direct participation and involvement between musicians, instrument builders, and their greater environment.

praxis guitar photo

Designer and creator Andrew Benson is working on putting the finishing touches on the guitar design, and as soon as it is ready, the design and products will be released to curious musicians with a DIY sensibility.

Follow Jaymi on Twitter for more stories like this

More on Maker Faire
Maker Faire 2010 - Crazy Bike Creations (Pictures)
Maker Faire 09: The iFixit Global Repair Community
Maker Faire 2010: Super Hi-Res Photo Project Aids in Science Research
Maker Faire 2010: Cool Green Stuff You Want from the Maker Shed

praxis guitar photo