Pandora handheld console expected soon

pandora Pandora handheld console expected soon

The OpenPandora team is showing off an almost finalized case design for the Pandora open-source handheld console. The unit is has a ARM Cortex-A8 600Mhz+ CPU running Linux, a 4.3-inch 16.7 million color touchscreen LCD, a full keyboard with dual analog stick layout, WiFi 802.11b/g, Bluetooth, and a High Speed USB 2.0 Host, and can reportedly last 10 hours on a single battery. The device still isn’t quite completed, but is expected to hopefully be released April 7th. [via ArsTechnica]

The 10 Best Video Game Weapons Ever to Kick Ass

Try as we might to deny it, video games certainly have their fair share of violence. But it’s all in good fun, as proven by the wild, crazy and downright cool weapons we’ve been able to play with over the years. Sure, we’ve seen a few friendly sites build similar lists, but last week’s Portal Gun replica got us excited enough to take our own crack at it. Can you blame us?  Here they are, GearCrave’s ten best video game weapons in the history of gaming.

Number Ten: F.E.A.R.’s Nail Gun

In a testament to the beautiful merger of video games and physics, the Nail Gun in F.E.A.R. let players pin enemies to the wall, apparently for no good reason other than to allow for Internet braggng rights. The sequel’s coming next month, so you’ll get another chance at this sadistic killing machine if you missed it the first time around.

Number Nine: Doom’s BFG 9000

Yeah, yeah, you called this one from a mile away. It’s not like the BFG 9000 can be excluded from the list because of predictability. This big freakin’ gun floats a massive green orb towards enemies and, on impact, spreads to any poor sap nearby. Don’t bother fighting a room full of Cacodemons without it.

Number Eight: Unreal Tournament’s Redeemer

Controlling the Redeemer was always an imprecise science. Once you fired the one-shot mini-nuke, the camera would switch to the missle’s perspective, and you’d have to wind it around corners to reach your target. Fortunately, it didn’t matter if your aim wasn’t perfect, because even the splash damage was impossible to survive.

Number Seven: Halo: Combat Evolved’s Pistol

It’s no surprise that Bungie nixed the pistol as it functioned in the original Halo. It was just too deadly and accurate, to the point where no other weapon mattered. In other words, it was a great gun, and some gamers were understandably upset with its no-scope replacement, which was useless without another weapon in hand. Maybe this was the UNSC’s biggest military blunder.

Number Six: No More Heroes’ Blood Berry

Most guys would love to own a Lightsaber, but that would require traveling to a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away. Travis Touchdown’s beam katana was won through an Internet auction, and there are no Jedi skills required to operate it. Let’s hope one shows up on Ebay.

Number Five: Mega Man’s Thunder Beam

Picking one selection from Mega Man’s ever-expanding arsenal was no easy task. Ultimately, it came down to usability. Not only was Elec Man’s weapon the bane of Ice Man’s existence, it was shockingly effective on the Rock Monster and Dr. Wily as well. For every sequel that followed, I wished for a weapon with such brutality and versatility.

Number Four: Ninja Gaiden’s Dragon Sword

In its early years, Ryu Hayabusa’s Dragon Sword appeared to be a simple melee weapon, but it really came into its own during the series’ recent round of remakes. The concept of sharpness is so brilliantly conveyed as this mythic sword slices through the limbs and heads of your foes. The best part? Ryu always gives the blade a quick flick to shake off the excess gore before sheathing it.

Number Three: Ratchet & Clank’s Morph-O-Ray

This weapon turns your enemy into a chicken. Comedic value aside, think of the implications. It’s one thing to be dead, but becoming a barnyard animal is so much crueler. Everything you love and lived for becomes a distant memory as you strut about, clucking and laying eggs. This is what anti-game pundits should really be worrying about.

Number Two: Turok 2′s Cerebral Bore

Certainly one of the most hated weapons in first-person shooter history, the Bore was nearly impossible to escape once an opponent was lined in its crosshairs. Once fired, the floating contraption would home in on the enemy’s head, digging out comical amounts of brain goo. Years later, I still remember that dreaded “whirr,” mostly when I’m at the dentist.

Number One: Contra’s Spread Gun

It was often a point of contention among NES gamers whether the Laser or the Spread Gun was the superior Contra weapon. This is my feature, so I’m putting a foot down; shooting five bullets at once is definitely preferable. Don’t believe me? Try playing for real, without the 30 lives code, using only that dinky little laser beam to defend you. The spread’s wall of bullets will start looking like a healthier alternative right quick.

The Amazing Trebuchet Toaster Catapults Your Breakfast

According to designer Ivo Vos, the catapulting toaster is one of several products “that address the desire for skill, struggle, rituals, perfection, preparation and anticipation – qualities lost when we indulge in the comforts of prozac technology.” It’s also just really awesome to launch a piece of toast onto your plate. Angle and force are both adjustable, but there’s no word on the toaster’s ability to brown evenly. The greater “Brunch” collection includes a teapot that records your best pouring height and a set of cutlery that looks invisible against an accompanying placemat, but the catapult is the most fun. [Ivo Vos via SlipperyBrick]

The PC Evolved: 10 Big Technologies for the Year Ahead

We’re now one month into the new year.  When it comes to computing, this year’s CES was largely uneventful and uninspiring.  We feel that, in spite of its slow start, the coming year can be a big year for the evolution of the personal computer.  In the last few months, subtle changes have been happening that when paired together make for an exciting moment in the world of computing.  Just how good can this year be for the PC?  Here’s our list of the 10 big developments that could go from early adoption to market domination in the year ahead.  I, for one, welcome our new 4G, SSD, dual-screen, 3D touch-screen overlords…

Number Ten: Dual Screens for Laptops

Lenovo’s introduction of the ThinkPad W700 is hopefully the beginning of a trend. Its secondary screen is great for artists, CAD designers or anyone else who just can’t get enough desktop real estate. See also: Voodoo’s Firefly concept, whose 4.3-inch screen is great for checking e-mail while waiting to respawn in Counter-Strike.

Number Nine: 3G to 4G

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As the third generation of wireless communications becomes ubiquitous this year, it’s time to think about moving on. In Baltimore, where Sprint is rolling out a 3G/4G modem for mobile broadband, average download rates range from 2 Mbps to 4 Mbps, compared to 3G speeds of 600 Kbps to 1.4 Mbps. Hopefully we’ll see more cell phone companies offer similar dual solutions while the next generation takes over.

Number Eight: Designer Netbooks

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We thought we’d seen everything with the crystal-studded Nintendo DS, but then HP introduced the “China Chic” HP Mini 100, a sultry red number designed by Vivienne Tam. And why not? These little laptops fit into pocketbooks anyway. Look for more designers to cash in as the netbook becomes a fad.

Number Seven: USB 3.0

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The new “SuperSpeed” USB technology won’t hit until 2010, but its effects should be felt early in the form of Firewire’s ultimate demise. The latest MacBooks have already taken the bold step of removing Firewire in favor of USB 2.0, perhaps an indication that other computer makers will follow. If that’s what must be done to make room for 5 Gbps of data transfer, so be it.

Number Six: Touch Screens

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As touchable displays take over cell phones, the door is open for greater interest in tablet PCs as well. Asus introduced the T91 at CES this year. HP and Fujitsu released touch screen laptops towards the end of last year. With Windows 7 offering more touch screen features than ever, this could finally be the tablet’s time to go mainstream.

Number Five: Cloud Computing

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It’s hard to pin down how Cloud computing will change in 2009 — especially because its core principal says you can’t tell what’s going on behind the scenes — but there’s at least a proliferation of online apps like Google’s ever-expanding suite, and the corporate world is apparently keen on the idea as well. Look for more news on this during the International Cloud Computing Conference and Expo in late March.

Number Four: 3D Visual Interfaces

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An Apple patent for a three-dimensional desktop was revealed in December, but BumpTop and Project Looking Glass have similar ideas in the works. With new advances in 3D imaging this year, perhaps a true virtual office space is in reach at last.

Number Three: Smaller, Slimmer All-in-Ones

All-in-One PCs positively blew up at CES this year, with Dell, SonyGateway and Lenovo all vying to be America’s next top model. Really, they’re all coming out winners for having so many options to choose from. Our favorite, though, didn’t come from any of these PC-making heavyweights. We liked Shuttle’s X50 because it comes with a handle.

Number Two: Intel Core i7

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With Alienware, Dell and Gateway getting in on Intel’s latest processor, it’s clear this is the must-have for PC gamers. Gizmodo does an admirable job of explaining the nitty gritty of the i7’s might, but the processor reduces bottlenecks, enables the use of more RAM and divides up tasks more efficiently — just what you need when getting your frag on.

Number One: Solid State Drives

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Later this year, Asus and Toshiba will both offer laptops with solid state drives. These read faster, are more reliable and use less power than hard disc drives, so it’s obviously something that should be implemented in more portable PCs over time. Solid state’s higher cost will prevent it from becoming the majority by year-end, but this is only their first year of availability. Once it’s accessible for all, HDD will be officially on notice.

Thanks for reading, GearCravers, Stumblers, Redditers and otherwise.  What do you think about these young technologies and their impact on computing as we know it?  Are there any other technologies you wish had greater focus by developers today?  Do you disagree with any of our listings here?  Let us know in the comments.  If you enjoy the article, take a moment to share it with your friends or vote it up on your favorite social media website.  We appreciate your help!

[special thanks to Benjamin Franz, one of the world’s top modders and the designer of the CM3 PC case, selected as the main image for this article.  Check out Franz’s books and more of his casemods at PlexMod.de]

Pandora Radio, Now With Ads

In these hard times, you can’t expect Internet radio to pump out music without a means of paying the higher-than-real-radio royalty rates, so Pandora Radio’s addition of 15-second ad spots is no surprise. Founder and CEO Tim Westergren said this is just one revenue model that the company is trying out, and in any case it’s still “a fraction” of what you hear over the FM airwaves. “The fears people have about it overtaking the listening experience are unfounded,” he told the California Press-Democrat. Indeed, an ad for Fox’s new show “Lie to Me” plays after 10 songs, then again after another 20. That’s not bad for a radio station that adapts to your personal interests. [Press-Democrat via Ars Technica]

Myka Torrent Player Box to Ship, Finally

The Myka is a BitTorrent player that pull torrents directly from the Internet and plays them on television sets. It was supposed to start shipping last summer, but the Boston-based company ran smack into the economic crisis and couldn’t get the financing to start production. Now, Myka reports that the first shipments are four to six weeks away. “The factory in China is humming,” the company said. There are three hard drive sizes available: 80 GB ($299), 160 GB ($349) and 500 GB ($459). While a torrent-box seems like an enabler for pirated content, there’s plenty of free and legal things to watch, plus the company says it’s in talks with studios and networks to bring in content on the up and up.

Scientists get closer to creating invisibility cloak

Scientists at Duke University are reportedly one step closer to creating the invisibility cloak we’ve all been dreaming of. David R. Smith, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Duke says “The new device can cloak a much wider spectrum of waves–nearly limitless–and will scale far more easily to infrared and visible light. The approach we used should help us expand and improve our abilities to cloak different types of waves.”  The current cloak prototype measures 20-inches by 4-inches and is less than an inch high. Scientist say it took nine days to take the device from conception to fabrication, a huge improvement in speed from the four months it took to create the original device. [via CNET]

Android Phones Get 2D Bar Code Reader

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Bar codes aren’t just for the grocery store anymore. The advent of personal bar code readers, like ScanLife’s latest for Android phones, allows you to quickly jump to Web sites, phone numbers or videos. This is basically a shortcut for typing on your smartphone’s keypad or browsing through menus. It’s even possible to create your own bar code on ScanLife’s Web site for quick access to oft-used functions. The software has been available as a free iPhone app since August, and can be downloaded now for Android phones as well. Head to ScanLife’s Web site and start checking yourself out, aisle three. [ScanLife via CNet]

Great Adventure 2009: London to Timbuktu in a Skycar

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Neil Laughton has a big day ahead of himself today, January 14th.  He’s departing from the city of London on a trip to Timbuktu, Mali in what will become one of the strangest adventures of this young century.  Laughton will be driving — and flying — a biofuel-powered dune buggy on this 3,600 mile trip.  Laughton’s Parajet Skycar will carry him by land and by air as it is both street legal and fully capable of flight.  On land, the Skycar is a standard dune buggy with a few extra features.  It includes a rear-mounted propeller and a flexible wing system that is reminiscent of a parachute.  Once the Parajet Skycar hits 38mph and the flex wing is in place, this dune buggy does what none other can do– it will lift off and achieve flight.

In flight, the Parajet Skycar can reach speeds of up to 70mph with a ceiling of 15,000 ft.  Laughton will pilot the Skycar close to these extremes as he passes over the Mediterranean, albeit close to its teeth near the Rock of Gibraltar.  The Skycar journey will then pass across the north of Africa until she touches down on Timbuktu, completing the goal set forth by the Pilot and his team at Parajet.  He won’t fly it alone, he’ll be joined in the Skycar for some of the trip by engineer Gilo Cardozo in addition to a ground crew carrying fuel and supplies.  One thing is for certain, this is likely the craziest way we can imagine to spend your new year– but we are pulling for both pilot Neil Laughton and the Parajet Skycar as they make their ascent into the history books… [parajet via cnet]

The History of the Robot Voice: From Kraftwerk to Kanye

Man’s obsession with robotics has made quite an impression on the world of music.  From “Mr. Roboto” to “More Bounce to the Ounce”, synthetic vocals have been celebrated by artists like Kraftwerk, Roger Troutman, Peter Frampton, Kanye West and many others.  When did the use of robotic voice in music begin?  How far has it come as the technology has evolved?  Here is the history of that familiar robot voice in music, from its invention in the 1930s to the Billboard hits of today.

1939 World’s Fair: Synthesized Speech Yields Music

At the 1939 World’s Fair in New York, Bell Telephone Laboratory introduced the first ever synthesized speech device.  The Voder, as it was called, created comprehensible speech-like sounds using a radio valve and a gas discharge device.  The radio valve would create dynamic vowel sounds, whereas the gas discharge unit would present sibilance.  Together, these systems produced clear speech that could be recognized by most every attentive listener.  Fair-goers were treated to hearing the first-ever robotic voice, speaking clearly and audibly to its audience as commanded by Bell Labs.

A few decades later, Bell Lab’s Voder device was modified to mimic more than just the inflections of speech, it was modified to change pitch in a melodic fashion.  This allowed its users to make the Voder not just speak– but sing.

The Modern Vocoder is Born

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(image courtesystretta)

In 1970, famed synth maker Robert Moog borrowed Voder-style technology to provide voice control on his music synthesizers.  This meant that a user could speak or sing into a microphone to control sounds on the Moog Modular Synth.  If a user selected a violin-style synth sound, that sound would then take the character and speech pattern of the voice of its user.  If its user said the phrase “the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog”, the Moog synth would speak this phrase in the tone of the violin-style synth sound.

As analog synthesizers became cheaper and more accessible to musicians, Vocoder technology was used more frequently in modern music.  In the late 70s, vocoders began appearing in rock music and disco, as championed by the German synth pop group Kraftwerk.  Arguably the vocoder’s most recognizable early hit was 1983′s Mr. Roboto by Styx:

The Talkbox: Low Tech Perfection

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While much more primitive than its robot voice counterparts, the Talkbox is possibly the most sonically authentic and musical in character.  Whereas Vocoder and Autotune technology both rely on complex audio processing (one electronic, the other digital), the Talkbox is quite simple.  Plug your guitar or synth into a Talkbox, a speaker forces the sound output down a tube and into/around the player’s mouth.  Strike a chord and move your lips, the output will be naturally shaped by your mouth– and a “talking” sound will occur.

In the history of 20th century pop music, the Talkbox was arguably the most popular source of the robot voice.  Used sparingly by Stevie Wonder, frequently by Peter Frampton and ubiquitously by Roger Troutman, some of the greatest artists of the 70s and 80s were quite involved with the Talkbox.  Roger Troutman, a Funk/R&B artist who acheived fame as the frontman of the band Zapp, championed the Talkbox with a string of hits from “More Bounce to the Ounce” to the memorable chorus of Tupac Shakur’s “California Love”.  A shining example of Troutman’s talent with the Talkbox was shown on the early 80′s hit “I Can Make You Dance”.  Do yourself a favor- watch this one in its entirey below:

Antares Autotune: You Too Can Be a Pop Star

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Flip on a top 40 radio station at any given moment in the day, it is likely that you’ll hear the magic of Autotune within minutes.  From pop to R&B to hip hop, Autotune is everywhere.  In its original application, Autotune helped birth a series of bubble gum pop artists from Britney Spears to the Backstreet boys.  Today, when used for a creative effect, it is the muse of performers like Kanye West, T-Pain, Snoop and others.

When Antares first released the Autotune technology, it was to be used to correct basic pitch inconsistencies in an artist’s voice.  If a singer strayed off key, Autotune would automatically adjust the pitch in real-time.  When Autotune was pushed to higher levels of processing, the vocal would switch between pitches unnaturally, giving a robotic vocal effect.  In 1998, this effect was popularly employed by the artist Cher on her hit song “Believe”. A decade later, this effect would find a rebirth in hip hop and R&B thanks to the record producer T-Pain and other artists.

The problem with the Autotune effect is its simplicity.  Anyone with a computer and a microphone can produce melodic vocals without a hint of vocal talent.  Rappers like Snoop and Kanye West have sung on some of their most recent hits (“Sensual Seduction” and “Love Lockdown”, respectively).  It takes talent out of the equation thanks to the assist of technology.  This was not true with either the Vocoder or the Talkbox, as both of those technologies required talent with both musical instruments and audio technology.  To see how simple the Autotune effect can be to use, check out this brief (and funny) tutorial:

The fact that the Autotune effect masks much of the character of a singer’s voice, it makes the users of this effect sound similar.  As a result, the effect itself is generic in nature, limiting its creative employment over time.  While pop music is currently saturated with the Autotune effect, it will eventually become passe’– and fade from pop music accordingly.

Thanks for reading, GearCravers, Diggers, Stumblers and friends from Reddit.  What is your feeling on the robot voice’s use in music?  Who, in your opinion, has used it most tastefully?  Least tastefully?  Leave your thoughts in the comments, we’re curious about your take.