Tag Archives: Gadget Features

Sherlock returns! Mini-episode grants fans early Xmas wish

A haggard and unemployed Sgt. Anderson (Jonathan Aris) has become the biggest believer that Sherlock is alive.

In this seven-minute mini-episode “Many Happy Returns” of the hit TV show “Sherlock,” written by the show’s creators Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, we see Benedict Cumberbatch at it again as the great detective, Sherlock Holmes, as he makes his journey back to his roommate, colleague, and best friend Dr. John Watson (Martin Freeman).

Warning: Spoilers ahead, so if you’ve never watched “Sherlock” or are catching up, stop reading now.

After Sherlock disappears after faking his own death in “The Final Problem” to fool his archenemy Jim Moriarty’s henchmen — who vowed to kill those closest to Sherlock if he did not die — fans shared endless conspiracy theories on how clever the detective would have to be to convince even Watson (who sees Sherlock jump off the roof of St. Bartholomew’s Hospital) of his own demise.

We know Sherlock is indeed alive thanks to the last scene in “The Final Problem” where he lurks in behind trees hiding from Watson and his beloved landlady Mrs. Hudson (Una Stubbs) as they lament over his grave.

So what has Sherlock been up to since he’s been presumed dead and how have his friends and colleagues been coping this entire time? “Many Happy Returns” gives glimpses of Sherlock solving mysteries around the globe, starting in Tibet — which ironically mirrors Cumberbatch’s real-life adventures when he taught English in a Tibetan Buddhist monastery in his youth.

A very sad Watson (Martin Freeman) watching a DVD of an uncut message Sherlock made for his birthday during happier times.

The mini-episode hints that Sherlock (posing as a Buddhist warrior monk) ferrets out a blonde female drug smuggler who is hiding out amongst them. In New Delhi, we see a police press conference where it’s revealed the killer was discovered from the minutest of details – the depth of a chocolate flake had sunk into the victim’s ice cream cone. Not to mention the mysterious juror in Germany, who taps his fingers impatiently like you-know-who.

One of the most shocking transformations of a character belongs to Sgt. Anderson (Jonathan Aris) of the New Scotland Yard forensics team who was once insulted by Sherlock who accused him of “lowering the IQ of the whole street.” He’s no longer the defensive adversary of Sherlock, but has become the biggest believer that Sherlock is alive. Anderson, now haggard and unemployed, meets with DI Greg Lestrade (Rupert Graves) in a pub to discuss the unusual crimes he’s been tracking to try to convince him that Sherlock must still be alive to solve them all. It’s heartbreaking to see Anderson so desperately passionate to prove of Sherlock’s continued existence. But he may have just ingratiated himself into the hearts of Sherlock fans who have been tweeting #SherlockLives since his aired “death” on January 2012.

Lestrade leaves Anderson in the pub to deliver a few odds and ends of Sherlock’s to Watson in his new flat. He hands Watson an old DVD of an uncut message Sherlock made for Watson’s birthday during happier times. Later, alone with a drink in his hand, Watson pops in the DVD, to see that familiar wallpaper of their shared flat at 221B Baker Street. Sherlock talks to Lestrade, who is off camera, about why he’s missing Watson’s birthday party. When Lestrade urges him to elaborate, Sherlock replies “Only lies have detail.” Sherlock’s message to John might as well be a prelude to what is to come. “I’m sorry I’m not there at the moment,” Sherlock says. “I’m very busy. However, many happy returns. Oh don’t worry, I’m going to be with you again very soon.” Then cue doorbell, and a wink and a nod from Sherlock on the video.

A wink and a nod from Sherlock (Benedict Cumberbatch) on the video.

Screenshot by CNET)

Be sure to check out Watson’s blog, now updated about his feelings regarding Sherlock’s message on the DVD.

With only three episodes per season, this mere seven-minute mini-episode of “Sherlock” is just want fans need to keep us going until the third season premieres with “The Empty Hearse,” written by Mark Gatiss, on January 1, 2014 on BBC One in the UK and on January 19 on PBS in the United States.

The only thing better than this mini-episode, and the anticipation of a third season, is knowing that a fourth season is possibly also in the works, thanks to Cumberbatch letting the secret slip in a Radio Times interview: “All I know at the moment is we’re doing these three [episodes of the upcoming series] and another three,” Cumberbatch said. “I just don’t know what there is beyond that.”

All we can say is, “Welcome back, Sherlock. We missed you.”

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Internet cat Lil BUB about to make your holiday purrfect


Lil BUB/Twitter

Sure Grumpy Cat gets to hang out with other cat celebrities like Colonel Meow, Oskar the Blind Cat, Nala Cat, and Hamilton the Hipster Cat to make a cool Christmas music video, but wouldn’t you rather spend the holidays with a cat who enjoys the simpler things, like a soft carpet and a cozy fireplace to sleep in front of?

Lil BUB, the cute cat with the tongue sticking out, has her own festive video of her relaxing in front of a roaring fireplace. The soothing sounds of Lil BUB purring and the crackling of the burning wood are the perfect backdrop for any Christmas activities.

Lil BUB is a rather special cat due to a myriad of genetic anomalies that include an extreme case of dwarfism that gives her a “perma-kitten” appearance; short, stubby legs; and a long body.

According to her site, “her lower jaw is significantly shorter than her upper jaw, and her teeth never grew in which is why her tongue is always hanging around.”

But it’s those differences that have turned Lil BUB from the runt of the litter into an Internet sensation thanks to her popularity on Tumblr and Reddit. She’s even the star of her own documentary, “Lil BUB Friendz,” which won the Tribeca Online Festival Best Feature Film this year.

So sit back and enjoy this adorable cat purr, snort, wheeze, sigh and murmur like a “Star Wars” Tauntaun in “Lil BUB’s Magical Yule Log” video.

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Hands-on with the TaskOne multi-tool iPhone case

The TaskOne case packs a ton of tools.

The TaskOne case packs a ton of tools.


I did not expect to like the TaskLab TaskOne iPhone case.

After all, my last experience with a multifunction holster — the ReadyCase — was decidedly disappointing. Mostly it was an interesting idea marred by less-than-stellar execution.

So it was with some skepticism that I approached the TaskLab TaskOne multitool iPhone case, which I wrote about in my recent roundup of iPhone cases that do more than protect your phone. A few days later, I got the chance to actually test-drive one.

The TaskOne takes many of the best assets of a multitool and shoehorns them into an iPhone case, the idea being to keep all those handy tools close at hand without having to carry a separate item. Of course, surely some sacrifices must be made to accomplish such a feat of engineering, right?

Yes and no. The TaskOne is way cooler than I expected it to be, in part because it does more than I ever thought a case like this could. It packs a whopping 22 tools, and while not all of them are outstanding, most work as advertised — and without a lot of hassle.

Finally, an app that turns your iPhone into a saw.

Finally, an “app” that turns your iPhone into a saw.


And just to be clear, these are tools in the true sense of the word. Whereas the ReadyCase incorporated things like a flash drive and cord wrap, the TaskOne gives you a pliers, a bottle opener, three screwdrivers, six Allen wrenches, a wire cutter, a wire stripper, a ruler, and so on.

But what really makes friends’ jaws drop is the combination knife/saw, a 2.5-inch blade that slides up from the top of the case. Sure, you can whittle with it, slice an apple, gut a fish — all your basic daily chores — but the reality is this looks like (and could function as) a weapon. I’d call self-defense the twenty-third “tool” in the TaskOne’s arsenal.

Obviously the TSA would balk at letting you on an airplane with this, but the good news is the blade is removable. The bad news is, I couldn’t remove it despite following the instructions.

I also found the kickstand capabilities, leveraged by inserting the small flathead screwdriver into either of two slots on the back, awkward at best. There’s nothing really holding that piece in place, so it’s easily knocked loose. More than once my iPhone just toppled over.

All the TaskOne’s tools reside in a very heavy-duty (and heavy) hard-plastic housing, which consists of a rear backing and two pieces that screw together around the edges of your iPhone. Ironically, those screws require an Allen wrench, but the six-tip one that’s included lacks the proper size — so you have to use a separate Allen wrench (also included, but not stowable).

The case adds only about 5mm of thickness to your phone and about 0.2 pound, though it feels heftier than that — in a good, protective way. The TaskOne is available for
iPhone 4/4S and
iPhone 5/5S. They’re priced at $79.95 and $99.95, respectively.

Steep, yes, but when you consider that you’re getting not only protection, but also a Leatherman’s worth of neatly stowed tools, this might be just the case for the family handyman, the mechanical engineer, the cyclist, or anyone else who’s always in need of a screwdriver. Or pliers. Or 1.8-inch sawblade.

Ultimately, although I’m done testing the TaskOne, I’m surprised to find I don’t want to take it off my iPhone. It’s just that cool.

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Birds could turned back into dinosaurs, says biochemist

Can we go back there?

Movieclips/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET)

It’s fairly clear that we’re in for a period of rapid change.

This might lead to a stunning new world, if you believe Google. Or, in the view of some scientists, it might also lead to a re-creation of Sam Neill’s finest moments.

So please imagine, if you dare, a world in which dinosaurs roam again. I am sure they will appreciate the advent of large meals in America and especially the Big
Mac and large fries.

How might this all happen? Well, one British biochemist believes that she might be able to take the DNA of birds and use it to re-create dinosaurs.

According to the Telegraph, Alison Woodard believes that scientists like herself need to have a full grasp of the DNA of modern birds.

Then, with a little genetic alteration — a nip here, a tuck there — there is a chance to design genomes that would turn out to be the large creatures we only know from books and movies.

The Telegraph quotes Dr. Woodard as saying: “We know that birds are the direct descendants of dinosaurs, as proven by an unbroken line of fossils which tracks the evolution of the lineage from creatures such as the velociraptor or T-Rex through to the birds flying around today.”

I confess I didn’t know that, but am glad that she does.

This all apparently means that your friendly neighborhood sparrow, mudlark, or flamingo might have in them the basic stuff to be T-Rex.

“Could we ‘rewind’ evolution by switching these genes back on and using them to guide the development of that bird’s offspring, and its offspring’s offspring, backwards?” Woodard asks.

“Yes, let’s!” I reply, excitedly.

The biggest problem, allegedly, is editing. The boffins would have to take, say, a puffin and try to reform the precise sequence of nucleic acids to create a baby dino.

Apparently, the re-creation of a woolly mammoth might be cinch in comparison. Indeed, she is not the first scientist to suggest this, nor even the first British scientist.

The cloner of Dolly the sheep, Ian Wilmut, has already declared that the mammoth might be his next target for a comeback.

Of course, many of these creatures tended toward the unfriendly. They were hostile, even.

As Woodard mused: “On a more practical note, if we remind ourselves of the terror portrayed in the “Jurassic Park” blockbuster, do we really want to live alongside dinosaurs?”

I feel many would like to try. It would be like a theme park gone mad, and we do so like our theme parks to be large and spectacular.

I wonder, though, whether the dinosaurs will be happy to live in a world that has moved on somewhat from their times.

Still, there would be something quite poetic to see an Amazon drone wafting through the sky, bearing the latest James Patterson novel and a dinosaur looking up at it and believing this is lunch.

As with most scientific advancement, it’s the unintended consequences that can be the most fascinating.

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Why more people are training their cell phones on police

He seems like a nice man, doesn’t he?

JokRKidd/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET)

In the movies, when police come calling, the ordinary citizen has two options: quake or pull out a gun.

In recent time, however, people have realized that they have a third, quite potent option: the cell phone.

They know that if they can film the experience, disbelief will have to be suspended, because the evidence is all too clear.

The latest example of a seemingly innocent man encountering a peculiar visit from a policeman comes from Long Island.

What the filmed evidence seems to show is a policeman wandering onto the man’s private driveway and suggesting that it’s illegal to wash his
car there.

This seems a curious development.

Once upon a time, it was almost compulsory to wash your car in your driveway, a rite of community passage.

“This is a private residential home,” one of the car washers explains.

In a classic line that’s been heard many times on television and in real life over the years, the policeman replies: “Well, that’s what you say.”

As CBS New York reports, a ticket wasn’t ultimately issued and the local Garden City police department hasn’t commented on the events.

But this is only the latest example of people posting footage of the police behaving in a peculiar manner.

Earlier this year, a San Diego police officer became more than a touch touchy when his arrest of a pedestrian was filmed on a Samsung Galaxy. This officer had the ill humor to call the phone a “weapon.”

In another incident in May — this time in Bakersfield, Calif. — police were accused of erasing cell phone footage taken by a bystander. This recorded an incident between sheriff’s deputies and a man who died after an alleged altercation with them.

The very same logic that authorities use for the need to film ordinary citizens — that of ensuring justice is done — makes some police officers uncomfortable when it is turned upon them.

Sometimes, life is so absurd that your cell phone is the only way to make what occurs believable.

It is, as the San Diego police officer suggested, a weapon. Not deadly, but often deadly accurate.

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France turns nose up at sexting (the word, that is)

No sexting tonight, Josephine?

PBS screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET)

The English language is invading the world even more than the English ever did.

Native tongues find themselves at the mercy of phrases invented by nerds and donated to humanity.

The French, however, have always tried to defend their culture. They take it seriously — so seriously, indeed, that their Ministers of Culture usually have a knowledge of their departmental subject matter.

It’s no surprise, therefore, that France’s Academie Francaise — the nation’s last line of linguistic defense — has turned its disapproving eye on sexting.

No, not the practice. Just the word itself.

As the Associated Press reports, it has decreed that the French term for this practice is “textopornographie.”

I am concerned that the Academie hasn’t studied the complete picture on this one.

Perhaps I’m being liberal in equating the word “pornographie” with pornography. But it strikes me that there is nothing at all pornographic about, for example, one lover sending another a naked shower snap or, perhaps, a photograph taken at 7 a.m., just as the lover is experiencing a nude awakening.

With this choice of word, France is squeezing itself into a curiously puritanical bodice. One might expect this of, say, America.

But surely the French know better. They always say that they do.

In the past, France has enjoyed an excellent record in creating new French words for dull English ones. You might have once thought you had a Walkman. The French, though, insisted you had a baladeur.

Textopornographie is, sadly, lowering so many people to the status of pornographer whereas, in fact, many sexters are merely trying to raise their lives above the level of ennui.

Surely even “sextotexto” would have sounded a touch more romantic.

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