Monday, March 30, 2009

Funky keyboards available

Bluetooth Virtual Keyboard

Manufacturer: i.Tech Dynamic

Why carry a keyboard around with you when you could instead activate this cool virtual keyboard? Well, maybe because jamming your fingers into a solid tabletop trying to press keys that aren't really there doesn't feel so great after a while. Or because the $150 Bluetooth Virtual Keyboard tends to be visible primarily in shady areas (or at night). But don't let these little shortcomings cause you to lose sight of two crucial considerations: It's virtual, and it sports a totally awesome red laser.

USB Cooler Keyboard

Manufacturer: Thanko

"Dang these sweaty wrists! They keep slipping around the keyboard while I'm trying to type, causing me to dsf;ldkhffd souln cnwlju!

"What's that, you say? There's a new keyboard from Thanko Corporation that solves my problem? Hallelujah! I can type again."

If you've ever said these words, the Thanko USB Cooler Keyboard (available in Japan for about $62) is for you. Hence the exceptionally high demand for this helpful product.

Touchstream ST Manufacturer: FingerWorks

The cult favorite Touchstream ST is a membrane keyboard with a twist: It accepts gestural multitouch input on its surfaces so that the user can initiate shortcuts and perform pointing maneuvers. Unfortunately, this device is no longer sold—Apple acquired FingerWorks and its patents in 2005. A few years later, Jobs & Co. released a curious little multitouch device called the iPhone. In that sense, the Touchstream lives on.

SafeType Keyboard Manufacturer: Ergonomic-Interface Keyboard Systems

When it comes to weirdness, the SafeType inhabits a realm of its own. The motions used to manipulate this strange, ultra-ergonomic device suggest a bizarre underground tickling handshake used by Chicago bootleggers in the Roaring Twenties. Check out the side mirrors designed to get around the slight problem that while using this keyboard you can't see what the hell you're doing.

Billed as the "World's Best-Selling Vertical Keyboard," the $295 SafeType evidently towers above its competition. My own research corroborates the manufacturer's market-share claim: I couldn't find any other vertical keyboards.

OrbiTouch Keyless Keyboard Manufacturer: Blue Orb

If aliens (other than Klingons) used computers, they'd probably gravitate toward the $399 OrbiTouch Keyless Ergonomic Keyboard—if only to impress us: "God, they must be an advanced society if they've figured out how to type on that thing." But maybe it really is ergonomic. After all, when was the last time you saw an alien life form wearing braces on its wrists?

New Standard Rainbow Keyboard

Manufacturer: New Standard Keyboards

Beyond the "a rainbow just threw up on my keyboard" design aesthetic, the £39 ($55) New Standard Rainbow Model keyboard takes a painfully literal approach to keyboard redesign: Even little kids know their ABCs, so let's put the letters in alphabetical order. That does put A and I in exceptionally awkward spots, but hey, how often does anyone use those letters?

Maltron Single-Handed Keyboard

Manufacturer: P.C.D. Maltron

For this right-handed model (£295, about $413), Maltron reduced the hand count by one, but made the well even deeper. The result: a keyboard that looks like a really nasty bunker on a Scottish golf course. If you're lucky, this design will be ergonomic heaven. If not, you've destroyed only one hand and can try again with Maltron's left-handed version.

Klingon Language Standard Keyboard

Manufacturer: ZF Electronics

This is it: the official keyboard of the Klingon Empire. All of the letters on this sleek black £44 (about $62) keyboard are rendered in Klingon script, though curiously the numeric keys on the input device exactly match the Arabic numerals familiar to Western Earthlings; this suggests either that pre-Contact Klingons had no concept of number, or that Hodgkin's Law of Parallel Planetary Development applies with special force to mathematical developments. In any event, native Klingons will surely appreciate being able to type their work without having to worry about awkward transliteration problems: "You've not truly experienced my research paper, Professor Johnson, until you've read it in the original Klingon.

iGrip Ergonomic Keyboard & Trackball

Manufacturer: Alphagrip

Here we see a textbook example of runaway button proliferation. This handheld keyboard/trackball device has buttons for fingers you didn't even know you had. But fear not: The folks at Alphagrip are confident that you'll learn to type on the $99 iGrip Ergonomic Keyboard & Trackball in half the time it takes to learn to type on a QWERTY keyboard. Plus, it enables you to indulge in ultralazy typing while slouched back in your superplush man-devouring recliner.

Grippity1.0 BackTyping Keyboard

Manufacturer: Grippity

How do you know for sure that the key you're about to press is a K if your finger is covering the label? For people paralyzed by the ontological implications of Schrodinger's cat, the Grippity1.0 BackTyping Keyboard may (or may not) be a lifesaver. You hold the Grippity (which as yet is only a prototype) as if it were a game controller, and then type by pressing the backs of the keys. Should be great for typists whose output tends toward backtalk and back-handed compliments. But if you press backspace from the back, do you go forward?

Dual-Handed Ergonomic 3D Keyboard

Manufacturer: P.C.D. Maltron

For most manufacturers, labeling a keyboard "dual-handed" might seem superfluous, but not for Maltron, which also makes a single-handed model (wait for it). The basic engineering idea of the £375 ($525) dual-handed model seems to be, "What if your fingers fell into a well and couldn't get back out?" Seems ergonomic to me.

Datahand Professional II

Manufacturer: Datahand Systems

I know what you're thinking, but no—the Datahand Professional II is neither a handy appliance designed for quick and easy amputation of your fingertips nor a digital bathroom scale for people with extremely small feet. It's just your average, completely incomprehensible $995 ergonomic data entry device. Move along.


Manufacturer: Combimouse

The Combimouse is not yet a commercial product, but it may become one soon. It attempts to fill a gaping hole in the combination keyboard/mouse market—one foolishly overlooked by slow-moving industry dinosaurs like Microsoft and Logitech. In fact, research shows that consumers have long demanded a product that splits a traditional keyboard in half and combines the right half of that keyboard with a mouse, so that typing and pointing will finally become simple and effortless. Research also shows that I'm completely lying.

abKey Revolution

Manufacturer: abKey

According to the abKey Web site, the inventor of the $108 Revolution keyboard "discovered the alphabet's most common letters while watching the TV program Wheel of Fortune." Apparently U, which is only the 13th most common letter in most English usage, gets quite a workout on Wheel of Fortune: The Revolution awards it a huge round dedicated button near your left thumb. The letter A gets similar enormous-button treatment, making this perhaps the world's best keyboard for typing in Hawaiian (think "humu-humu-nuku-nuku-apua'a").

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Chaos can be fun

Trabant Safaris

Trabi-Safari, Berlin, Germany and Budapest, Hungary

“How many workers does it take to make a Trabant? Two” an old gag goes. “One to fold and one to paste.” Fashioned of Duroplast (recycled plastic resin strengthened with wool or cotton) and produced in East Germany between 1957 and 1991, this “exhaust-belching matchbox of a car,” as one fan calls it, was virtually the only way East Germans could take to the road. They were obsolete the day the Berlin Wall fell. Yes, it fueled many a joke, but with reunification the Trabi gained a cult following. Now you can hire one to tour Berlin in plastic comfort, or travel to Budapest where renting Trabants is popular (no joke).

For more information:

Interesting views from Google Earth

Coordinates: 45 07'25.17"N, 123 06'47.52"W

Firefox Crop Circle

Crop circles are usually associated with aliens, but this crop circle is of the geek-next-door variety. Carved into a field in Oregon, it was created by Firefox folks, Oregon State's Open Source Lab students and others, who worked through the night after doing a practice run on a nearby field.

Coordinates: 10 54'13.84"N, 19 56'6.13"E

Small Herd of Elephants

Although the poaching of elephants is illegal, it is still a huge problem. For example, the elephant population in Chad's Zakouma National Park, one of central Africa's remaining wildlife strongholds may vanish within the next two to three years if poaching continues at recent levels. Elephant poaching is on the rise in other places as well, making this image in Google Earth all the more special.

Coordinates: 31 15'15.53N, 24 15'30.53W

The Lost City of Atlantis?

Few discoveries would be more exciting for an armchair explorer than finding the mythological sunken city of Atlantis. And plenty of folks thought just such a discovery was made when these mysterious lines were found in February. Alas, no lost city. Instead, scientists explained away the lines as ship tracks that were created from echosounding, which measures the time it takes for sound to go from the ship to the ocean floor and back.

Coordinates: 51 38'59.21"N, 3 15'24.39"W

Sultan the Pit Pony

Located centrally within Caerphilly County Borough in Wales, Sultan the Pit Pony is the UK's largest figurative earth sculpture, according to Google Sightseeing. Created by landsape sculptor Mick Petts, this 655-foot long earth-sculpture is named for a famous pit pony that used to work in the old underground coal mine.

Coordinates: 33 13'32.40"N, 111 35'51.86"W

Oprah Corn Field Maze

Apparently, hero worship can take the form of farm art. In 2004 Arizona's Schnepf Farms channeled its adulation for the media mogul, talk show host, and philanthropist into a 10-acre corn field maze.

Coordinates: 50 00'27.35"N, 110 07'08.07"W

Native American Rock

Located in the badlands of southern Alberta, Canada, is a Native American listening to his iPod—or that's what it looks like anyway. The rock formation is the product of weather and erosion working their magic on the rocks. The "face" measures about 837 feet across and 738 feet long. The earbud "cord" is really a road that leads up to a natural gas wellhead located where the "head's" earhole would be.

Coordinates: 44 14'39.93"N, 7 46'02.93"E

Giant Bunny

On the side of a 5,000 foot high mountain in northern Italy's Piedmont region you will find a 200-foot-long toy rabbit. Created by the art collective Gelitin, the rabbit was "knitted by dozens of grannies out of pink wool" and stuffed with straw. Why? The group wants hikers to smile, and also encourages them to climb the rabbit's 20-foot-high sides, relax in its belly, and generally enjoy themselves.

Coordinates: 6 37'46.20"S, 31 08'12.96"E

Hippos Taking a Bath

The name hippopotamus comes from the Greek words "hippos," which means horse, and "potamus," which means river. True to their name, hippos spend much of their time in the water as these in Tanzania are doing. Once found through all of sub-Saharan Africa, the hippopotamus is becoming vulnerable to extinction.

Coordinates: 48 48'22.04"N, 2 06'59.53"E

Chateau de Versaille's Smiley Face

The awe-inspiring gardens of the Chateau de Versailles/Palace of Versailles cover about 800 hectares of land, much of which is landscaped in the classic French Garden style. The gardens contain beautiful lawns, blooming flowers, and breathtaking sculptures. Thanks to Google Earth we now know they also contain this smiley face.

Coordinates: 27 22'49.22"N 33 37'55.87"E

Desert Artwork

Covering about 62 miles, these cones and holes in the Egyptian desert were created by Greek artist Danae Stratou and the DAST art team in the mid-1990s. Called "Desert Breath," the artwork took several years to create and is designed to slowly erode over time.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Ferrari's new booming baby

The Ferrari 599XX: for those rich enough simply owning a Ferrari is never enough and the 599XX owners will actually be contributing to the development of future prancing horses by helping to hone the car in a series of special track events. Having wads of cash isn’t enough to join the select group of 30 participants in the programme either.

You’ll need a thorough understanding of what makes Ferrari special and the aptitude to be able to contribute to the ‘client test driver’ scheme. If you prove yourself to be truly worthy, you’ll get to drive one of the most extreme Ferrari s ever, a 700hp rolling test bed based on the existing 599 coupe. Form an orderly queue…

Monday, March 2, 2009

Empty vessels

THE Aston Martin V8 Vantage Roadster

Jeremiah (Bullfrog) Clarkson's comment
- "I would rather be in this than in Keira Knightley (but she says he's weakly, at best. That's why she calls him Justin!)."

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Get me a Crocodile sandwich, and make it snappy!

Crock & Roll!
Turn the tables on one of man's oldest predators and get your teeth into some tasty croc meat. Steaks and legs, with or without scaly feet attached, are commonly eaten in Asia, Africa, Australia and increasingly in exotic restaurants the world over. The meat is remarkably low in cholesterol and has a relatively mild taste somewhere between chicken and fish, which is nowhere I want to be if a fight breaks out!

Big-assed ants!
They are crunchy on the outside, with a juicy zing to the centre and they taste something like peanuts. In fact, they are so tasty that even posh London shops such as Harrods and Fortnum & Mason have sold them coated in chocolate. What are we talking about? Hormigas culonas, literally translated as big-assed ants, from north-east Colombia. The winged invertebrates have all kinds of supposed medical benefits, from kick-starting the libido to preventing cancer. Big-Ass Ants are also eaten in big-ass parts of Africa, Australia and Asia.
N.B. No reflection on any family member intended, despite any similarities that you might imagine, allegedly.

Witchety Grubs and yummy worm snacks
OK, grubs up! I'm a witchety grub, get me out of here! Caterpillars, worms and larvae are eaten the world over, not only in reality TV bush tucker trials. In Australia, the humble witchety grub is enjoying a renaissance, so much so that Prince Charles was given one to eat on a recent visit to Alice Springs. Unfortunately he refused, which is strange considering who is is winching. I think I would rather bite the head off a big fat juicy grub than French Camilla!

Likewise, you can pick up a can of silkworm grubs in Korea, eat bamboo worms in Thailand, hu-hu larva in New Zealand (what? what? No hu-hu!), mopane (mogain) caterpillars in Zimbabwe and Botswana, and let’s not forget the good ol’ Tequila worm in Central America.

Cobra shots!
Now you need something to wash it all down with, how about a venomous snake soaked in alcohol. Slainte!