Apres-ski the ‘Star Wars’ way



Sure, your kids looked pretty adorable out there on the slopes in their R2-D2 snowboarding helmets. We hate to break it to you, though: the droid look wasn’t quite cutting it during the apres-ski cocoa-quaffing session. (Definitely weren’t the droids we were looking for. Nope.)

We’re thinking some cozier headgear would’ve been a bit more apropos. A helmet, after all, looks a tad out of place indoors. Unless, of course, it’s–gasp–a custom crocheted Boba Fett helmet!



Yes, “Star Wars” geeks and geekettes, thanks to BeeBeeKins at Etsy, now just such an item can be had. A no-doubt toasty-warm Boba Fett helmet-hat that will keep your kiddies’ ears snug while saving you the crushing embarrassment of ill-headgeared apres-ski offspring. (We mean, really–what would Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru have said? [If the stormtroopers hadn’t gotten to them first, of course.])

Perhaps best of all, seeing as these hats are made to order and can accommodate many sizes of head, you can even get one for yourself! They’re $55 apiece–and they’re back-ordered five to eight weeks (so you’d better act fast if you wanna get one before the snow melts away).

Of course, if that’s too long a wait, you can opt for the Ewok Wicket Hat, which at this writing doesn’t seem to be back-ordered at all (not yet anyway). The Ewok number comes with a detachable scarf, too, and costs 15 bucks less than the Boba Fett.

So: menacing bounty hunter, or cuddly Endor dweller? Either way, you and yours are sure to be the hit of the Hoth ski lodge, as you sip your cocoa and snack on roasted chestnuts and honey-cured Wampa.

(Via Gizmodo)

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In Japan, seat sensors that can recognize you

Advanced Institute of Industrial Technology)

Engineers at Japan’s Advanced Institute of Industrial Technology have developed a system that can recognize individuals by measuring how they apply pressure on a seat when sitting down.

Nikkei reports that a team led by professor Shigeomi Koshimizu is working to commercialize the system as a “highly reliable” anti-theft system. The timeline? Two to three years, if an automaker signs on.

It’s the
car seat of the future. Or perhaps the airplane seat of the future–no need to show your ticket or appeal to a flight attendant to boot someone out of your coveted window seat.

Here’s how it works: A sensor beneath the driver’s seat measures pressure at 360 points. The pressure at each point, measured on a scale from 0 to 256, is output to a laptop computer.

The researchers are also investigating pressure sensors for feet.

Advanced Institute of Industrial Technology)

In lab tests, the system was able to distinguish six different individuals with 98 percent accuracy.

The researchers say it helps reduce the psychological burden that traditional biometrics, such as iris scanners or fingerprint readers, can leave on people.

The researchers also say those technologies can be less accurate because the cleanliness of their sensor surfaces impacts their ability to authenticate properly; i.e. dim lighting or grimy surfaces cause “noise” and contaminate results.

Another application the researchers are investigating: pressure sensors for feet, which can allow or deny access to a room–no key card necessary. (It’s like a high-tech version of the gold statue-sandbag swap in the opening scene of the film “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”)

The next question, of course, is how much the system can scale. Can it distinguish between a Boeing 747 full of passengers? What about a multifloor office building?

This story originally appeared on ZDNet’s SmartPlanet via Wired.

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LG details its Ice Cream Sandwich upgrade plans

LG Nitro HD

LG’s Nitro HD, also globally known as the Optimus LTE, will be one of the first to bite into Ice Cream Sandwich.

Josh Miller/CNET)

LG unwrapped more details about its Ice Cream Sandwich software upgrade schedule for existing LG
Android smartphones.

The news, which popped up today on LG’s Facebook page, confirms much of what we already knew–that Optimus phones like the Optimus LTE and Optimus Black (known in the US as ATT’s Nitro HD and Sprint’s LG Marquee, respectively) will indeed receive the latest Android operating system in 2012.

More specifically, the global updates will begin in the second quarter of the year for the LG Optimus LTE, Prada phone by LG 3.0, Optimus 2X, Optimus Sol, my Touch Q, and the Eclipse.

The third quarter will see Ice Cream Sandwich land on the LG Optimus 3D, Optimus Black, Optimus Big, Optimus Q2, and the Optimus EX.

Updates present a huge customer challenge for the manufacturers and carriers; pressure is high to release stable software quickly and smoothly.

While the second wave of LG’s Android owners will surely chafe at having to wait months before receiving their Android 4.0 update, sharing plans usually helps keep the angry pitch fork-bearing populace at bay just a while longer.

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Memories of a ‘Star Wars’ Christmas

Darren Hayes. Screenshot by CNET)

It’s easy to get a little jaded about the holidays.

If you’re like me, you can’t help but cringe when you hear that first strain of Christmas music wafting out of the speakers at your local drugstore in early November. (“Here we go again,” you think.)

By the time Christmas Eve rolls around, you’ve battled crowds to grab your gifts and been bludgeoned with the latest Christmas cover tunes and advertising tie-ins. At this point, it’s tempting to write it all off as nothing but an empty tradition or a moneymaking gimmick.

If you’re lucky, though, you somehow manage to stumble on a Christmas story that hands you the holiday anew and makes the “spirit of giving” and “peace on Earth” more than mere platitudes.

Here’s a simply produced video from Darren Hayes, half of the duo that made up the late ’90s band Savage Garden (and a solo performer in his own right).

Maybe it’s the unabashed and unpretentious presentation. Maybe it’s because I remember “Star Wars” figurines and toy catalogs so well. I myself was a child in 1977 when the film first came out. Maybe, too, it has to do with the fact that I lost my mother not so very long ago and that Hayes’ film reminds me of her sweetness and sacrifices.

Whatever it is, I was moved and unhumbugged by Hayes’ modest offering. I thought some of you might be too. Sure, I could view this as yet another piece of Christmas-themed marketing, but I choose not to Scrooge around with that frame of mind.

In a statement to fans on his Web site, Hayes says the film “comes from the heart.” It feels that way to me.

Here’s his simple little tale. It’s a sweet one. Enjoy.

(Via Laughing Squid)

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Car Tech Live 246: CNET’s Tech Car of the Year for 2011 (podcast)

We announce the Tech
Car of the Year and the Car Tech 10. Find out which car is the techie best, which proved the most popular, what was the best car stereo of the year, and Car Tech’s best production asset.

Listen now:

Download today’s podcast

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New book celebrates maker of Mac’s iconic icons

The Happy Mac is alive and well in icon designer Susan Kare’s new book.

A recent neuroimaging experiment apparently showed that the sounds an
iPhone makes can trigger feelings of love in the gadget’s user.

Well, such emotional connections are nothing new for Apple. Anyone who owned a Macintosh back in the day can probably remember the feeling of, if not love, then at least affection engendered when the machine booted up, the startup chime sounded, and the Happy
Mac icon smiled forth. The device was functioning as it should, another session of satisfying and “user friendly” computing was about to begin, and all was right with the world.

Startup chime aside, it’s hard to imagine the original Macintosh without the pixilated, black-and-white icons created by designer Susan Kare: the aforementioned Happy Mac, the trash can, the pudgy hand. True, the icons would’ve been nothing more than eye candies if the underlying OS had not been so intuitive and smooth. But more than anyone else, Kare may well have been responsible for the emotional connection people felt–and still feel–for the Mac.

A Kare portrait of Steve Jobs, circa the early ’80s. Here we see it in the icon editor Kare used, with the icon itself to the right.



Kare more or less fell into her role at Apple. She was dreaming of a life as a full-time artist, having gotten a Ph.D. in fine art from New York University (writing a dissertation on caricature in 19th and 20th century sculpture–which makes some sense, given the expressiveness of designs like the Happy Mac). Then an old high school friend, Mac OS co-developer Andy Hertzfeld, called about doing graphics for the still-embryonic machine. He told her she could create designs on graph paper and he could transfer them to the digital realm–a project she found intriguing (and likened to nondigital art forms like mosaics and needlepoint).

Now, nearly 30 years later, Kare’s original icons, fonts, and other designs for the Mac still stand as hallmarks of the PC era, and of emotional design. In addition to Apple, she’s worked for Microsoft, Facebook, PayPal, and scads of other clients. She’s designed products for the Museum of Modern Art’s MoMA Store, been dubbed the “Betsy Ross of the personal computer” by The New York Times, and even done the graphics for an iPhone App.

Kare recently released a book, “Susan Kare Icons,” that singles out 80 designs from her past three decades of work. We’ve selected several designs from the original Mac operating system for our gallery. Take a look–and see if any of them give you that lovin’ feelin’.

Susan Kare’s early Mac icons gave computers a personality (photos)

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