Category Archives: Random Comments

Nissan turns two Jukes into loudest mobile DJ station

car‘s bass may set off car alarms and wake babies, but compared to Nissan’s Juke Box, it is no more than the sound of a pin dropped onto a carpeted floor. The Nissan Juke Box project boasts sound louder than a 747 taking off.

Nissan’s exhibition audio system features not one but two Jukes, each fitted with two 18-inch subwoofers topped by arrays of mid- and high-frequency speakers. Nissan rates the system at 150 decibels from 18,900 watts.

Rather than just dump speakers and amps into the Jukes, Nissan worked with London’s Ministry of Sound, a club that boasts one of the best audio systems in the world. Ministry of Sound brought in Martin Audio, the designers of its club’s system, to build custom cabinets and fit the speakers and amps into the Jukes.

The intention was to create a very loud system that retains excellent audio quality.

Rather than play music off either of the Juke’s head units, the system is designed to be hooked up to a mobile DJ station. The sound projects from the open rear hatches of the Jukes.

The Juke Box, as Nissan calls the whole system, will tour Europe after its Le Mans debut. The Ministry of Sound will also host a Web radio station on its site playing recorded sessions from the Juke Box every other Monday night from 5 to 7 p.m., GMT.

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Top 5 game controllers

Console game controllers get no respect. These days especially, with all the attention paid to mobile games, touch-screen control, and Microsoft Kinect, everyone has lost sight of the irreducible awesomeness of a sweaty game pad.

With this thought in mind and the hype of E3 2012 fading in the distance, I offer you my best attempt to round up the Top 5 game controllers of all time.

To give the list some editorial authority I used CNET UK’s list from 2007 as the foundation, then checked it against our U.S. gaming editors for any updates or substitutions. Finally, to take the pressure off picking the No. 1 spot, I handed that decision over to you in a CNET poll I posted weeks ago (no peeking).

Of course, not everyone will be happy with this list (nor my pick for the worst game controller), so please work out your frustration constructively by leaving a comment. If you missed the vote and you don’t want to be left out next time around, be sure to subscribe to my Facebook page or follow me on Twitter, or just check back at CNET’s Top 5 blog every now and then.

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Crave giveaway: Ecoxpro waterproof phone/MP3 player case


The Ecoxpro requires three AA batteries and gets up to to 30 hours of battery life at average volume levels.

Grace Digital)

First off, congrats to Tim B. of Hilliard, Ohio, for winning a Dell Alienware Orion M17x Tactical Backpack in last week’s giveaway. Summer’s here, and that means sun, swimming pools, and beaches (except here in San Francisco, of course, where it means fog and layers, but that’s another story). This week’s prize, Grace Digital’s new Ecoxpro waterproof smartphone/MP3 player case, is great for toting your tunes along on those sun-and-fun getaways.

Part of Grace Digital’s Ecoxgear line of rugged waterproof products, the Ecoxpro has a built-in speaker and waterproof headphone jack. It also has room to store need-to-be-dry necessities like a driver’s license, credit card, keys, and cash. It’s submersible up to 10 feet, and it floats — good news if you happen to get caught in an MP3-overboard situation. It fits any MP3 player or smartphone, including
Android, and others.

Normally, the Grace Digital Ecoxpro would cost you $79.99, but you have the chance to score one free. How do you go about doing that? There are a few rules, so please read carefully.

  • Register as a CNET user. Go to the top of this page and hit the Join CNET link to start the registration process. If you’re already registered, there’s no need to register again.
  • Leave a comment below. You can leave whatever comment you want. If it’s funny or insightful, it won’t help you win, but we’re trying to have fun here, so anything entertaining is appreciated.
  • Leave only one comment. You may enter for this specific giveaway only once. If you enter more than one comment, you will be automatically disqualified.
  • The winner will be chosen randomly. The winner will receive one (1) Grace Digital Ecoxpro with a value of $79.99
  • If you are chosen, you will be notified via e-mail. The winner must respond within three days of the end of the contest. If you do not respond within that period, another winner will be chosen.
  • Entries can be submitted until Monday, June 18, at 12 p.m. ET.

And here’s the disclaimer that our legal department said we had to include (sorry for the caps, but rules are rules):


Good luck.

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BMW i focuses on eco-luxury to ready i3 for sale

The BMW i3 Concept.

The BMW i3 Concept.


How does a
car manufacturer whose motto is ‘the ultimate driving machine’ sell a front-wheel-drive car that takes 8 seconds to hit 60 mph and tops out at 93 mph? By shifting attention from under the hood to inside the cabin, focusing on the urban-electric lifestyle.

BMW opened its first dedicated BMW i store in London this week. The BMW i3 isn’t scheduled to enter production until 2013, but the company is taking advantage of the summer Olympics to boost the new vehicle line’s presence. The store serves as a showroom for its upcoming line of electric and plug-in hybrid cars.

BMW i3, Pedelec Concept (pictures)

The main draw of the BMWi showroom is the chance to kick the tires of the updated i3 Concept. Unveiled last year, the revamped electric car received a new interior kitted out with eco-friendly materials and styling. Sustainably harvested Eucalyptus wood is used for the instrument panel, high quality wool adorns the cabin, and the upholstery leather was tanned with natural agents instead of chemicals. The materials give the four-seater a loungey feel, according to a BMW press release.

What makes this i3 Concept unique isn’t just the switch from plastic to natural materials. Missing is the protruding center console, gearbox, and tunnel that separates the driver’s cockpit from the passenger. Reverting to the old style bench seats will make it easier for the driver to slide over and exit from the passenger side if needed, which is common in dense urban areas with tight parking quarters.

The interior of the updated i3 Concept.

The interior of the updated i3 Concept.


Electronics are also a main focus inside the i3 cabin. Three displays, including an 8.8-inch display on the dash and 6.5-inch instrument cluster display, relay vehicle information to the driver with full graphics. That’s a lot of LCD coming from a company that once thought cupholders were distracting in vehicles.

The i3’s power output remains unchanged at 170 horsepower. However, BMW released photos and information on its high-speed i Wallbox, which can recharge the i3’s battery up to 80 percent in just an hour.

In addition to the i3, the BMW i store will also show off the i Pedelec Concept (Pedal Electric Cycle), a two-wheeled counterpart to the i3. The compact, foldable e-bike helps riders peddle up to 16 mph and has an range of 16-25 miles. Conveniently, two Pedelecs can be stored in the cargo area of an i3 with the seats folded flat, and they can also be charged from inside the car. Using a standard electric socket, the bikes take up to four hours to recharge an empty battery, or only 1.5 hours using a fast charger, according to BMW. Despite the Pedelec’s compact portable nature, don’t think you’ll be carrying it around with you everywhere — it weighs more than 44 poinds.

BMW i8 Concept Spyder (photos)

These two products are wrapped up in what BMW calls its 360-degree Electric Mobility package. This package includes such services as home and public charging, and smartphone apps for travel planning. For single-car households, BMW will provide access to its DriveNow shared vehicle network.

BMW seems to be following Tesla’s lead by opening retail shops in non-traditional locations. A different kind of car needs a different kind of sales channel, and customers may need a little more hand-holding to make the electric switch. The freestanding BMW i-branded stores should help customers shift their focus from the performance they’ve come to expect from BMW vehicles and instead marvel at a different kind of engineering that will affect not just their commute, but electrify their lives.

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Water-powered ‘bike’ lets you ride above the waves


You may have seen those crazy cousins of the Jet Ski and jetpack that let you zip around your favorite water-sports venue while essentially attached to a wild fire hose.

We’ve written about the JetLev R200 — a jetpack-like design — as well as a later spin on the idea: the Flyboard, which with its foot- and hand-level water jets, might make for more of a skiing-like experience.

Well, now it looks like the concept has been applied to a form factor all of us can more or less relate to: the cycle. The Jetovator lets you ride the wild hose as if it were a bike or motorcycle. And for that reason, it looks a little less squirrelly than the other devices (though watching the embedded video does make us wonder about the fine print in our health insurance policies).

Like the two-person version of the Flyboard, the Jetovator is powered by high-pressure water from a personal watercraft (PWC) such as a Jet Ski (you’ll see them zipping alongside in the video).

According to the manufacturer, you can go as fast as 25 mph, climb as high as 30 feet above the water, and even plunge 10 feet below the surface and keep going.

The gadget costs a bit more than your average Schwinn Stingray though: it’s nearly $9,000.

Then again, the last time we tried riding our Schwinn on a lake, it didn’t work out so well.

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What can Bluetooth do besides make calls? (ABCs of Car Tech)

Most of us can agree now that Bluetooth connectivity is something that every tech
car should have, but why is it important? Is it enough for a car to simply support Bluetooth or is there something more that you should be looking for?

In this week’s ABCs of Car Tech, I’ll do my best to answer those questions and explain the ins and outs of Bluetooth wireless technology.

Bluetooth SIG)

What is Bluetooth?
When most people hear the word “Bluetooth,” they immediately think about speakerphones and wireless headsets for
hands-free calling. That’s partially correct in that these devices often use Bluetooth technology to connect with your phone, but hands-free calling is only part of the whole picture.

At the top level, Bluetooth is a wireless short-range communication technology that lets devices share data with each other — for example, your phone communicates audio data with your car’s built-in speakerphone and vice versa. More specifically, Bluetooth is a collection of dozens of profiles, which are basically communication modules that define how a particular feature operates or how the paired devices communicate with each other.

What are these profiles and why should I care?
For purposes of this article, I’ll be sticking to the profiles and features that apply to cars.

HFP is the most commonly used Bluetooth profile, allowing users to make hands-free calls.

Josh Miller/CNET)

HandsFree Profile (HFP)
This is the Bluetooth profile that is most commonly used and with which most users are familiar. This profile is what enables your phone to send its voice data to your car’s hands-free system, a visor-mounted speakerphone, or a wireless headset, and receive input from a microphone. You can thank HFP for some people’s annoying tendency to refer to all wireless headsets generically as “Bluetooth”; however, this profile’s ubiquity means that you never have to worry about compatibility.

Phone Book Access Profile (PBAP)
You don’t want to be fiddling with your phone when behind the wheel, so you need some way to get the names and numbers of your contacts from the phone and into your car’s infotainment system where they can be safely browsed or used in voice commands. PBAP gives your car’s hands-free system access to your phone’s address book for syncing.

Advanced Audio Distribution Profile (A2DP)
A2DP is sometimes referred to as Bluetooth audio streaming. This profile transforms your Bluetooth connection into an invisible auxiliary audio cable, enabling wireless transmission of digital audio to your car’s audio system. Audio quality varies from case to case with a dynamic bit pool (or range of bit rates) being negotiated by the transmitting the device (your phone) and the receiver (your car) at the time of pairing. Generally speaking, we’ve found the quality to be good enough for compressed MP3s with only a few isolated examples of a noticeable quality drop.

The most recent version of AVRCP supports the display of song metadata.

Josh Miller/CNET)

Audio/Video Remote Control Profile (AVRCP)
AVRCP often goes hand in hand with A2DP — in fact, you’ll often hear us Car Tech guys refer to the two profiles as one feature. What AVRCP does is add transport controls to A2DP’s audio streaming. Users are able to skip tracks forward and backward and pause and resume playback. The most current implementation of AVRCP also includes the communication of metadata (artist name, album, song title, and so on) and playback state (playing, paused, or stopped). In the future, we may eventually be able to browse media on the connected phone and perform simple searches.

Serial Port Profile (SPP), Dial-up Networking Profile (DUN), Personal Area Networking Profile (PAN)
These profiles allow an external device, in this case your car, to connect to the Internet using your smartphone’s data connection. Why would you want to connect your car to the Internet? Possible reasons include downloading traffic data, using online search engines to find destinations, and connecting to telematics services. Different cars work in different ways, using one or more of these three profiles. For example, Toyota Entune uses SPP to communicate with the Web through your phone. Ford Sync AppLink also uses SPP to connect with supported apps, but the Ford Sync Services function actually uses HFP to make voice calls to its automated call center.

Message Access Profile (MAP)
Texting while driving is bad, mmkay. However, many drivers have a hard time resisting the siren song of their notification beep. MAP allows incoming messages (usually SMS) to be relayed to your car’s infotainment system where they can be displayed or read aloud by a text-to-speech system. No longer will you need to wonder whether that incoming message is an important message from your boss or spouse that requires immediate attention or an unimportant message that can be attended to later. MAP is a bidirectional communicator, so certain cars can be set to automatically respond with a “Do not disturb” message. In the future, we may even be able to reply to the important messages via voice recognition.

Secure Simple Pairing (SSP)
This one’s not so much a profile as it is a pairing mechanism. If you’ve ever paired a phone with a Bluetooth speakerphone or headset, you’re familiar with the four-digit PIN input of Bluetooth’s legacy pairing system. If you’ve done it more than once, you’ll notice that most devices default to “0000” or “1234” for simplicity — not the most secure solution. SPP replaces the PIN input with a six-digit key that is generated at the time of pairing and displayed on both devices. The user simply confirms the match and the pairing is done. This pairing approach is both simpler because it doesn’t require inputting a PIN (just matching the keys) and safer because there are way more numbers between 0 and 999,999 than just 0 and 1234.

What’s the catch?
All of these profiles (and many, many more) are supported by Bluetooth, but that doesn’t mean that your phone or your car supports them all. Hardware and software makers can pick and choose the profiles they want and simply leave off the rest. Sometimes, that’s a good thing; you don’t really have a need to connect a Bluetooth keyboard to your car with the Human Interface Device Profile (HID), so why bother with the overhead required to load it.

Most Bluetooth-enabled cars support HFP, PBAP, and A2DP, but don’t support features like MAP or SPP.

Josh Miller/CNET)

Sometimes, however, it’s not so good. For example, some car audio systems that support Bluetooth HFP leave A2DP audio streaming out of their feature set. Additionally, both devices need to support a profile before the user can access the feature associated with it. So if your car supports MAP, but your phone doesn’t, you can forget about hearing those text messages read aloud.

Some profiles are more widely supported than others. For example, while every car that touts Bluetooth supports HFP and most with voice command support PBAP, A2DP is sometimes left out. A2DP implementation is rare, but only the techiest of cars support AVRCP’s ability to display metadata. SPP is so new that most of the automotive world hasn’t had time to catch up to it; and I’ve never once found myself in a car that supported MAP with a phone that did the same.

But it’s getting better. This time last year, A2DP streaming was a rarely spotted bonus feature tacked on to a system bought for the HFP. This year, A2DP/AVRCP are almost a requirement for any car audio system worth its salt. We should be seeing more widespread implementation of MAP and Bluetooth’s Web connectivity features in the future. You can count on CNET’s Car Tech to point out the best implementations of this tech in our reviews.

Hopefully, by now you have a good idea of what Bluetooth is, what it’s composed of, and how it can be useful in the car. If still you have questions about Bluetooth wireless technology in the car, leave them in the comments below.

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