All posts by John Skrhak

John Skrhak | Gadgets, Sports and Toys Fanatic | Read about them all here.

I found a rare 1st edition of ‘The Hobbit’ on a desert island

hobbit-betterEnlarge Image

This precious volume can be yours for just 15,000 euros (about $16,760, AU$21,100) and a trip to the Greek island of Santorini.

Eric Mack/CNET

Braving the high seas to uncover buried treasure on a remote island is hard, dangerous work, but sometimes it comes easy: like when I came across a rare, leather-bound first edition of J.R.R. Tolkein’s “The Hobbit” on the gorgeous, luxury-gorged Greek isle of Santorini.

Finding the coveted old tome didn’t require fighting any orcs, but my loyal companions and I did embark on something of an unexpected journey before spotting the oh-so “precious” volume. The quest saw us climb straight up the island’s sheer volcanic cliffs, often holding on for dear life by only one hand … to a pole inside the crowded public bus transporting us from the port to the cliff-top city of Fira.

After the perilous climb to the top of the ancient volcanic caldera that formed the famously photogenic Santorini, we found ourselves thrown into the heat of a battle for Instagram supremacy, dodging clumsy swipes not of swords, but rather some form of modern sorcery called “selfie sticks.”

Nestled amid the crowds were many a tavern offering cool drinks and at least one quaint book shop in the basement of a side alley. The tiny space was more of a hobbit hole than a store. More sorcery was afoot within, for despite the summer swelter atop the Santorini caldera, the air inside had been magically “conditioned” to a cool state that comforted we weary travelers and preserved its ancient treasures.

Indeed, the very name of this boutique, Atlantis Books, suggested it to be a something of a hidden treasure itself. But once within, its most precious goods were displayed prominently: first editions by the likes of Hemingway, Orwell and a fellow named George Martin with the curious habit of claiming the middle initial ‘R” not once, but twice.

And there in the center of them all was the prize of every literary geek’s eye, be they man, elf or the smallest of hairy-footed heroes: a leather-bound copy of wordish wizard J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” from 1937.

But the manuscript itself was not destined to be the prize for completing this quest, for common travelers were we, unable to afford the 15,000 euro ($16,757, AU$21,100) price put upon the precious piece.

Instead, the photo alone shall have to suffice. 

In the end, although I was not able to spirit away the treasure to my distant cave in a manner befitting of the gilded outline of Smaug upon its cover, I might venture to say I won the Instagram battle with its image, if only for one day.

Can someone please go pull 15,000 Euros from the cracks in my couch at home and wire it to Greece ASAP? @atlantisbooks

A post shared by Eric Mack (@ericcmack) on Jun 22, 2017 at 5:41am PDT

Technically Literate: Original works of short fiction with unique perspectives on tech, exclusively on CNET.

Crowd Control: A crowdsourced science fiction novel written by CNET readers.

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Apple working with Hertz for self-driving cars, report says

When it was discovered that Apple was using a fleet of Lexus RX 450h hybrids for testing its autonomous-car system, it was assumed that Apple didn’t buy them direct from Lexus. But now we probably know where they came from.

Apple’s small fleet of Lexus hybrids likely came from Hertz’s Donlen fleet management subsidiary, Bloomberg reports, citing documents from the California Department of Motor Vehicles, which lists Apple as the lessee and Donlen as the lessor.

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Google’s Waymo has also used second-generation Lexus RX 450h hybrids in the past.


The iPhone maker received a permit from the state of California in April, giving it the capability to test its autonomous-vehicle systems on public roads. Apple CEO Tim Cook acknowledged earlier this month that his company intends to develop a system for self-driving cars, rather than a complete car, that could then be sold to actual automakers.

Earlier on Monday, Google’s sister company Waymo and Avis Budget Group announced that the latter would be in charge of servicing and housing the former’s fleet of self-driving minivans

It’s unclear if Apple is only leasing these vehicles from Donlen and servicing them elsewhere, or if it’s a partnership similar to the Waymo-Avis-Budget arrangement.

Neither Apple nor Hertz Donlen immediately returned requests for comment.

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Vimeo axes plans for its Netflix-esque subscription service

“Vimeo has confirmed that it has decided not to proceed in offering a subscription based original program service scheduled to begin in ’18,” a Vimeo spokesperson told THR. In November, the company asserted that it would spend “tens of millions” to acquire and develop original content for this subscription package.

“Vimeo has the once-in-a-generation opportunity to, following in Netflix’s footsteps, deliver compelling subscription viewing experiences for consumers in the market for pay TV,” CEO Joey Levin said in a shareholder letter late last year, noting that the site boasted 240 million monthly viewers. “If we can convert just a small portion of our audience, we have a very large business.”

In the end however, this strategy didn’t pan out. Vimeo’s long positioned itself as a fancy YouTube — a “a one-stop shop for creators to bypass the entire existing media infrastructure,” according to Levin. And while the company has produced some original content of note (specifically High Maintenance which eventually got picked up by HBO) making the jump to licensed content streaming simply didn’t make sense. Instead, Vimeo is reportedly refocusing on its creator community.

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Get a Canon EOS Rebel T6 dSLR kit for $344

CNET’s Cheapskate scours the web for great deals on PCs, phones, gadgets and much more. Questions about the Cheapskate blog? Find the answers on our FAQ page. Find more great buys on the CNET Deals page and follow the Cheapskate on Twitter!

Canon’s T6 is a dSLR for penny-pinchers

When it has to be cheap.

by Lori Grunin

Today’s deal is a rerun, but the very best kind: same product, even cheaper than last time. (Plus a totally new bonus deal, of course — skip down if you want to check that out immediately.)

I’m not really a camera guy. Actually, I totally dig cameras, I’ve just never been very good at photography. Maybe that’s because I’ve never really had the right tools.


Smile! You just scored a killer dSLR deal.

Starting with, duh, a good camera. Sure, my phone does passable work, but certain situations — starting with anything that requires a zoom lens — demand a digital-SLR. 

Like this one: Today only, and while supplies last, Meh has the Canon EOS Rebel T6 18-55mm dSLR kit for $344, plus $5 for shipping. The last time I shared this deal, it was $394. Meanwhile, the camera lists for $549 and would cost you $449 at Amazon.

Let me start by saying there’s some difference of opinion when it comes to the T6 (also known as the 1300D), which has been on the market for about a year. CNET’s Lori Grunin rated it 6.8 (out of 10), knocking its fairly minimal feature set and somewhat slow performance — while also praising its photo and video quality.

Over at Amazon, however, more than 200 buyers collectively rated it 4.7 stars out of 5. And that’s the same average score from over 130 Best Buy customers. This is not to say Lori’s review is somehow inaccurate, merely that the average dSLR buyer might have different priorities and expectations than a professional reviewer. And for those buyers, the T6 rocks.

The camera comes with an 18-55mm lens, which can be swapped for any number of other lenses should you so desire — but the included one gets the job done.

With it you can also shoot 1080p video, and with a lot more shooting options than you get from most phones.

Perhaps best of all, unlike last time, there’s no ambiguity regarding the warranty: It’s a straight-up one year from Canon.

Your thoughts?


This pocket-friendly speaker does it all: Bluetooth, line-in, microSD card and FM radio.


Bonus deal: As I’ve said many times, Bluetooth speakers come in many shapes and sizes — but most of the shapes are roughly brick-like, and most of the sizes are “too big to fit in a pocket.”

So here’s an interesting one: For a limited time, and while supplies last, you can get the Archeer Pocket Portable Slim Bluetooth Speaker with FM Radio for $19.53. That’s after applying promo code 9ZBCCG2A at checkout.

Not much larger than the average mobile phone, the Slim really can slip into a pocket. A few things I especially like about it, at least on paper: It has a built-in kickstand, one that double as a stand for your phone, and color-changing LEDs that add a nice little disco vibe when ambient lighting is low.

There’s a line-in port for connecting non-Bluetooth sources and a TF (aka microSD) slot, the latter great for using this as a standalone jukebox, no external source required. (I don’t know, however, if there’s any kind of shuffle-play option, which is kind of crucial if you’re listening to a card-based music library.)

Finally, there’s the aforementioned FM radio. It’s a great thing to have, but there’s one bummer: You have to tune by ear, as there’s no way to see the frequency. You just seek from one station to the next.

User reviews: 4.1 stars out of 5, and they’re all valid ratings, according to FakeSpot. For 20 bucks out the door, I’m seriously liking this.

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Bug-zapping laser will only kill bad insects

Using cameras and other optics, the Photonic Fence scans for pests within 100 metres, looking at each bug’s “form, velocity, acceleration and wing-beat frequency.” When a target has been recognized as being from the kill list, the Fence will shoot it with the laser, and the insect will be dead within 25 milliseconds. According to the company, the device can kill up to 20 insects per second, and can cover areas of up to 30 metres wide and 3 metres high — creating the so-called Fence in its name.

It’s not yet clear when the trial began nor when the results are expected, although the test was slated to start this summer. There’s still a ways to go before the Photonic Fence becomes available to individual farmers (nor corporations), not to mention us regular folks who want a good bug zapper for our balconies or porches. Still, pending the test results, it shouldn’t be too long before we can keep our plants and living areas safe from harmful pests.

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SpaceX doubleheader is a home run


SpaceX’s Falcon X takes off Sunday from Vandenberg Air Force Base in Southern California.


Elon Musk’s SpaceX has pulled off back-to-back Falcon 9 rocket launches and landings, a milestone that helps prove it’s up to the task of a more rapid pace of space flights.

A Falcon 9 rocket launched at 1:25 p.m. PT Sunday from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, delivering 10 satellites into orbit for the communications company Iridium Communications. The first stage of the rocket successfully landed minutes later.

That was just two days after a Falcon 9 rocket that launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, carried a satellite for Bulgaria into orbit.

The private space company, whose ultimate goal is to get more people in space (and one day send a million of us to Mars), needed to show it could handle the pressure of frequent launches.

The launches weren’t suppose to occur within 48 hours of one another. But the BulgariaSat launch got pushed back from last weekend due to technical concerns.

The Falcon 9 launched Sunday was sporting an upgraded titanium hypersonic grid fin, which Musk tweeted did a good job of withstanding the heat of reentry.

“New titanium grid fins worked even better than expected,” he tweeted. “Should be capable of an indefinite number of flights with no service.”

Musk also posted this cool video showing a sped-up version of Sunday’s launch:   

Sped up version of today’s rocket landing on the Droneship Just Read the Instructions (guess it did)

A post shared by Elon Musk (@elonmusk) on Jun 25, 2017 at 2:41pm PDT

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