Through passive amplification alone, these unique pieces instantly transform any personal music player + earbuds into a sculptural audio console. Without the use of external power or batteries, the Phonofone II inventively exploits the virtues of horn acoustics to boost the audio output of standard earphones to up to 55 decibels. The Phonofone II is constructed entirely from white ceramics and is available for $500 from charlesandmarie.com .
The Mimo UM series USB mini monitors are useful when additional display ports aren't available but unfortunately they haven't been distributed in the US until recently. Mimo has launched a US portal selling two seven-inch models, starting with the 710 at $130 , offering a 800 x 480 screen with a 400:1 contrast ratio and brightness rated at 350 nits. The higher end 740 adds touch capability and a webcam and cost $200 .
The upcoming release of Microsoft's Windows 7 will include native support for touch screens and multitouch interfaces. Gizmodo installed the Windows 7 Beta on an HP TouchSmart PC over the weekend and recorded a few movies of what to expect. They previewed the Windows 7 Media Center's touch interface, basic navigation as well as a third party air hockey demo.
Boxee is a social software platform allowing users to watch online video content and listen to music from the internet on their television or computer. Currently users have to install the software on a computer or Apple TV and hook it up to their television for the full experience but they are in talks with device makers to work out the details of a separate Boxee device. Take part in this survey to help them decide what direction to take the project.
Netflix seems to be one of the few technology companies booming in this recession with profit up 45% in Q4 from last year, and nearly 10 million total subscribers. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings noted that there were millions of subscribers using the Watch Instantly feature, and that Netflix had seen a "substitution effect" among subscribers who do so. "We are seeing early signs of less DVD usage with some subscribers who are also watching instantly as compared to subscribers who only receive DVDs," said Hastings. This could be more bad news for physical media companies like Sony because it shows that people are willing to compromise quality for the convenience of streaming video .
Japanese toy company Bandai has released a limited edition speaker with a diorama of Tokyo's Ginza district in all its modernist, 1950s glory. For a little over $2000 (198,000 yen) you get a cabinet with two 1 Watt speakers with the detailed diorama on top. The diorama uses LEDs to mimic what the famous street looked liked with all its signs and storefronts lit up at night.
MSI's WindBOX could be the future form factor for desktop PCs. The small fanless design mounts onto the back of any VESA compatible monitor and contains a 1.6GHz Atom CPU, 1GB of DDR2 RAM, Intel's GMA 950 graphics set, 802.11b/g WiFi, audio in / out, three USB 2.0 sockets, a VGA port and a 3-in-1 multicard. With the upcoming Nvidia ION platform's small size and 1080p capability we could be seeing HTPCs in similar invisible mounting form factors.
The how-to site Instructables has a tutorial on how to build a real-time home power usage monitoring system. The end result is a live chart in a web page that updates every 10 seconds with the instantaneous power usage from their entire house. The electrical current is measured on the main lines entering their home with AC clamps. The signal is then conditioned with a simple circuit and monitored by an ioBridge module and then charted in Google Charts as a kilowatt-hour calculation.
RTcom USA produces fiber optic transmitters and receivers that transmit high-definition, noise-free audio and video up to 1,000 meters away. The extension system consists of one transmitter, which sends DVI and audio signals through four-stand multimode fiber optic cables, and a receiver, which splits this fiber data into two DVI and audio signals. RTcom USA also produces USB Fiber Optic Extension Systems so you could extend your whole home theatre to an outdoor location like your patio. Original press release.
Streaming HD is probably something you'll be looking to add to your home theatre in 2009 and Netflix seems to be well ahead of the other services with a fairly large number of products using the service. Engadget has tested and compared them all and has a fairly good write up on what to expect from each unit and which products work best with the service. Reviews include Roku's Netflix Player, Tivo, Xbox 360, the Samsung BD-P2500 and LG's BD300.
Many consumer level Wireless-G routers allow you to flash new firmware on to them. Using third party developed firmware you can embedded specialized versions of linux onto your router and turn your $65 dollar router into a more secure, faster, full featured gateway. The new firmware allows you to boost your wireless signal, prioritize bandwidth allocation to boost VOIP reliability and access restrictions. Lifehacker has a good article on installing one of the more popular firmware DD-WRT and you can check here to see if your router is capable of running the firmware .
The BD-P4600 by Samsung will certainly be one of the thinnest Blu-ray players available when it comes out later this year. It measures only 1.5" thick and features Profile 2.0/BD-Live, Netflix and Pandora streaming, 1GB onboard memory, built-in Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio decoding, "Touch of Color" style accents and 802.11n Wi-Fi. You can also mount the player to the wall because discs are loaded from a slot drive on its side. Engadget has a few more pictures of the player from different angles but currently there is no information on pricing or a firm release date.
This weekend instead of riding your bike along the beach or visiting family you should build yourself a tube amplifier. S5 electronics have been selling DIY tube amp kits all for under 200 dollars for years and they make a great show piece. If you're still not convinced this weekend is the right time you can always read about other peoples progress Unplggd and here .
Philips recently introduced the ultra widescreen Cinema 21:9 LCD TV. It is actually the first LCD TV in the world that features a 56 inch screen with the 21:9 aspect ratio. The wide format means less action is cut off from movies filmed for theatre screens but since many movies are shot in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio you still wont be getting full screen action without some cut off. The Cinema 21:9 LCD TV will be available in Spring 2009. More detailed product specifications will be available at the end of February 2009.
The SC-ZT1 by Panasonic is a wireless home theater system that uses the 2.4GHz band to send uncompressed audio to all four speakers. The SC-ZT1 is somewhat unusual as its technically a 4.0 system--there are just the four, spindlelike speakers that each have four vertically aligned speakers within them, which the SC-ZT1 uses to create a virtual 7.1 surround sound effect. The SC-ZT1 lacks a dedicated, separate subwoofer but each speaker has an integrated subwoofer to fill in the low end. The SC-ZT1 is slated to be released in the spring, with pricing to be determined.
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