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Part Three of a five-part series.
Wednesday, March 8, 2006
Wednesday gets off to a bad, bad start.
The morning is typical — a frantic rush to get breakfast eaten, lunches made, and everybody out the door on time. We arrive at the site and the first two jobs are easy, thanks to our new expertise: we clear a patch of weeds from a telephone pole and we tear down a rotted porch at the back of a trailer.
Then the plywood arrives.
Our job, we learn, is to lay down new plywood walls and floors throughout the wrecked trailer, using four hammers, two crowbars, a circular saw and a gas generator, and moldy eight-by-four slabs that have been donated from an amusement park in Washington, D.C. It’s about 9:30, and we’re supposed to finish at noon. Unlikely, we think, and even more unlikely as we watch Daryl, our coordinator from Rebuilding Northwest Florida, get ready to leave. Katie flags him down and asks if we could maybe have a tape measure and a pencil.
Cursing isn’t allowed on site, because we are, after all, representing Boston University, but much of it is done internally. We don’t have any nails. We don’t know if we are supposed to remove the linoleum from the kitchen before laying the plywood floor. And only two people in our crew have used a circular saw before, and neither of them feels particularly expert.
But the good thing about RNF, we’ve discovered, is that when you have to, you get to make your own rules. And luckily, Vernon Doucette, a photographer for BU Photo Services, who arrived on Tuesday to shoot pictures for BU Today and Bostonia, has some ideas about rules to get us through the day. It so happens that Vernon is a serious kayaker and a former Outward Bound instructor. Also, we are pleased to learn, he’s a pretty good construction manager.
The orders begin: sweep up everything off the floor or the plywood won’t lie even. Bring two pieces inside and then measure how much you need to cut. Wear goggles when you use a circular saw. At first, he goes back and forth between shooting and sawing, but eventually, he hands the camera over to Karen and dives full-force into the project. We set down the living room floor — or Vernon, Dan, and Katie do, fitting the pieces together like a jigsaw puzzle — and two-thirds of the bedroom. We don’t get to the walls or the living room, but Daryl doesn’t seem to mind. We are finished by 12:30.
Kendrick, a group leader, feels responsible for the morning’s confusion, and in the van on the way home, she apologizes. No big deal. At this point, everybody is thinking about lunch and our afternoon at the beach.
But the waves, which are enormous, feel amazing; Amy, Katie, Dan, Matt, and I spend nearly an hour diving through them. Vernon takes a well-deserved lunch break and comes back to snap pictures of us getting knocked around by six-foot swells. The images, I think, would make a good news headline: Boston University students drown — photographer captures it all.
We’re not sure what we’ll be doing tomorrow. It might be demolition, or it might be back to today’s trailer to finish the floors and walls. We’ve got our fingers collectively crossed for the former, but if we go back to today’s site at least we’ll be better off than where we started.
Read Part Four
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Want to put your neighbors to shame this Halloween? Pimp your pumpkin with a miniature smoke machine. A modified e-cigarette can create a surprising amount of fog, giving your carving an extra eerie touch.
Start with a type of e-cig called a clearomizer, available online or at your local vape shop. It has a refillable chamber that you can load with the “fog juice” used in standard smoke machines. Inside, a wick draws the liquid past a wire coil heated by a battery, where it’s vaporized. Normally, a person sucks this vapor into his or her mouth, but the smoke machine needs a way to push the fog out. An aquarium air pump attached to the battery end will do the trick.
Unfortunately, a sealed connector between the battery and the chamber blocks airflow through the e-cigarette. Ditch the battery and put a hole through the connector by replacing its solid central pin with a hollow pin from an unsealed connector (sold on websites such as MadVapes). By attaching this to a new power supply-—a universal AC adapter is convenient—you can feed both air and electricity to your device. Then use its smoke for a spooky effect.How to Make the Mini Smoke Machine
What You’ll Need Popular Science
Time: 3 Hours
• Clearomizer and battery
• Sharp pin or needle
• Fog juice (one part glycerin to three parts distilled water)
• Red and black wires
• E-cig battery connector with hole
• Universal AC adapter set to about 5V
• Aquarium air pump and tubing
1. Unscrew the clearomizer‘s chamber and battery case from its metal base. Run a pin or needle through the center of the base, then remove it. Fill the chamber with fog juice and screw it back to the base.
2. Break the battery case to separate the metal connector. Taking care not to touch the wires and create a short circuit, cut away the battery. Then clean out the connector, removing and discarding the circuit board, any plastic pieces, the o-ring, and the central metal pin.
3. Solder the black wire, which will ground the device, to this connector.
4. Now take the unsealed connector and remove its o-ring and central pin. Solder the red wire to the pin, being careful not to block the hole. This will be the positive lead.
5. Insert the o-ring and the unsealed pin into the original battery connector. Screw the modified connector onto the base of the clearomizer.
6. Run the aquarium tubing up the red wire until it reaches the battery connector. Tape it securely in place so no air can escape. Snip a slit in the tubing and pull out the end of the red wire. Seal the slit with hot glue and secure with tape.
7. Attach the loose end of the tubing to the aquarium pump. Tape the free ends of the red and black wires into the positive and negative holes in the AC adapter. Turn on the power, then the air, and watch the smoke pour out!Shortcut
If you don’t like e-cigs, go low-tech. Push several nails into the floor of your jack-o’-lantern and place a small foil pie tin on them, with a few tea candles beneath. When you pour a little fog juice into the tin, the candles will heat and vaporize the liquid. This setup can’t control the fog like the modified e-cigarette can, but the effect should be equally impressive.
This article originally appeared in the October 2014 issue of Popular Science.
Pumpkin Elements Sam Kaplan
Frank Sinatra once said, “you buy a Ferrari when you want to be somebody. You buy a Lamborghini when you are somebody.” Known for their stunning looks, incredible speeds, and powerful combustion engines, the one-of-a-kind luxury cars from Lamborghini are currently going through a big change. The Italian manufacturer previously announced that it will now focus on the development of hybrid and pure electric cars. Therefore, 2023 is going to be the last year for its V-12 combustion engine cars.
To mark the occasion? Lamborghini will auction its last gas-powered Aventador LP 780-4 Ultimae Coupè along with an exclusive NFT.
The company has partnered with DJ Steve Aoki, artist and innovator Krista Kim, and digital content studio INVNT Group for this “Ultimate” drop. There will be only one owner of the 1:1 NFT Lamborghini collectible, and the company also claims that “the drop is the world’s first NFT ever to be auctioned with a physical super sports car.”Why is Lamborghini getting into NFTs?
While making the 1:1 NFT announcement, CEO of Automobil Lamborghini, Stephan Winkelmann, noted the synergy that exists between the car company and NFT community. “Lamborghini and the NFT community fit together very well, as we share many values. We are both young-spirited innovators, looking out for unexpected projects and technological solutions,” he said. In an email exchange with nft now, Winkelmann clarified his sentiments. “Lamborghini is more than just a super sports car manufacturer, it is an attitude, a lifestyle….the NFT community shares many of our values, consisting of innovative, young-spirited people seeking unexpected yet authentic ways to interact,” he said.
Winkelmann added that the project is particularly notable because Lamborghini is one of the first car companies to enter the space in this way. “This project is very special for us as it is a true first, a path nobody has ever taken,” he said.What’s so special about Lamborghini’s “Ultimate” NFT drop?
The auction of Lamborghini’s last V-12 engine-equipped Aventador LP 780-4 Ultimae and the attached NFT will take place at RM Sotheby’s on April 19th at 6:00 PM CET. The lucky collector will get to attend a virtual meet-and-greet with Krista Kim and Steve Aoki. They will enjoy access to Lamborghini’s VIP utilities and receive a private tour of Museo Lamborghini. The NFT holder would also be eligible for a preview of future limited edition Lamborghini cars and other VIP benefits.
Although the 1:1 Lamborghini “Ultimate” NFT is going to be a unique drop, it’s not the first NFT project from the Italian car manufacturer. The company debuted in the NFT space in January with its “Space Time Memory” collection, a pack of five eye-catching Lamborghini Ultimae photos created by Swiss artist Fabian Oefner. This time artist Krista Kim is designing the NFT artwork. Her special signature gradient will appear on both the NFT and the real Aventador.
Meanwhile, Steve Aoki is creating the music for the NFT and he is also working on an exclusive track for the car. Excited about this partnership, Aoki said, “I’m honored to be partnering with Lamborghini and Krista Kim on this historic project! The drop signifies the ultimate intersection – where the physical world, digital art, and music come together as one. Every design element of this car is purposeful. It truly has its own story, and therefore I wanted my music track to reflect its soulful energy – the vibe, the spirit, and the power.”
The auction of its last combustion engine-based Aventador car will be a historical moment for Lamborghini. It will also be a proud moment for the NFT community. “This event will likely be one of the most prolific NFT drops this year and will certainly be one of the most historic automobile auctions ever,” said Scott Cullather, CEO of INVENT Group.
This article has been updated to include additional statements from Stephan Winkelmann.
Halo: an analog smartwatch with a transparent OLED display
The rise of the smartwatch, especially now that Apple has jumped into the fray, has conventional watch brands somewhat scrambling to join the bandwagon. However, not everyone is willing to buy into how current big players like Google, Samsung, and Apple would like to define what a smartwatch is and how it looks like. Some, like German company Longshine, has ideas of its own as seen in Halo, a smartwatch that tries to combine the best of both analog and digital in a rather unique way.
Almost by definition or by expectation, a smartwatch, since it’s a wearable mobile device, uses a digital display and an LCD or OLED screen. The closest it can get to going analog is to use a watchface that tries to emulate an analog clock, but that is only an illusion. On the other side of the equation are analog watches, pretty much the bastions of timepiece sophistication and design, that are, unfortuantely, quite limited when it comes to displaying and interacting with digital content. In other words, limited at becoming a smartwatch.
Enter Halo, a smartwatch that combines a 100 percent authentic analog watch face and a touchscreen display. How? By using a transparent OLED screen as the glass on top of the analog watch. In its normal operation mode, it looks just like any regular analog sportswatch, though a rather bulky one at that. But simply press a button and a seemingly magical event happens. Icons are display on the screen, which you can then interact with like you would expect from a smartwatch, giving you access to notifications, messages, calls, and other bits and pieces of data that can be gleaned from a paired smartphone.
The strangeness of the Halo smartwatch continues inside. It is powered by an Intel XMM 2231, a rare ARM Intel chip that runs at 300 MHz and is designed around Android. That Android, however, isn’t the fresh and new Android Wear but is, instead an almost prehistoric Android 2.3 Gingerbread, and a highly customized one at that. The rest of the specs sounds pretty much like any smartwatch today, with 512 MB of RAM and 4 GB of storage. The display resolution is a dismal 96×96 and the color depth is an even worse 8-bit or a range of 256 colors only. Apparently, this is the trade-off for a transparent OLED screen.
Given what it tries to do, it isn’t surprising that the Halo is bulkier than a sportswatch, but that is probably, or hopefully, a temporary thing. The “analog smartwatch” (finally something you can say) is still at its prototyping stage, so there is still some possibility to refine and slim down the design. As of the moment, there are two models being exhibited. The Halo 1 is your typical smartwatch while Halo 2 adds the element of its own 2G connection for both data and calls. No word yet when or if this will become a commercial product, but it is definitely an interesting concept worth taking further.
VIA: Mobile Geeks
It was a frustratingly long wait for Apple to finally launch AirPlay 2, adding stereo pairing to HomePod – along with multi-room playback from an iOS device and more.
If you haven’t already updated, you’ll need to upgrade to iOS 11.4, and then update your speakers. I did that yesterday, finding it a largely painless process, through there were a couple of glitches which I’ll get to.
That done, I was finally able to find out how a pair of HomePods sound …
My first impressions of a single HomePod back in February were that it was a Sonos Play 5 killer. Indeed, one HomePod came closer than I expected to matching the performance of a pair of B&W MM-1s, which I considered a much more impressive achievement. I did subsequently replace the Play 5 in our bedroom with a second HomePod.
I didn’t consider for a moment that HomePod – singular or plural – was ever going to replace a primary HiFi system. However, three factors did lead me to go some way toward modifying that view.
First, while I drew a distinction between the ‘really good’ audio quality of the HomePod and the great sound of my B&O and Naim systems, I also drew another one. Between actively listening to a piece of music, when I want great sound quality, and casual background music, when ‘really good’ satisfies me. And I found myself reflecting on the fact that, actually, the majority of my listening these days falls into the latter category.
Second, the convenience factor where casual listening is concerned.
So the convenience comes more to the fore. And the ability to simply tell HomePod what to play – both directly and indirectly – is pretty addictive. Once you experience it, it’s hard to be without it. It actually feels like a bit of a chore with my other speakers to have to open an app and select my music that way.
Third, since moving home back in November, we spend almost all our time on the glazed balcony, aka the winter garden – because that’s where we get the view which sold us the apartment. I thus put the B&O BeoLab 6000 speakers out there. It’s a relatively small space, and my partner was of the view that they were too big for the location. Usually it’s me lobbying for new gadgets, but this time it was Steph who was suggesting that a pair of HomePods might be a better bet there, with the B&O speakers moved to the living room.
I felt that, in such a small space, a pair of HomePods might well be sufficient. But that wasn’t something I was able to put to the test until yesterday.
As soon as the iOS 11.4 update was available, I immediately relocated the bedroom HomePod to the winter garden. To configure it in a stereo pair, I had to assign it to the winter garden and then follow the simple process to pair them.
One oddity is that you have to assign the left and right channels manually. Given that most people will, I imagine, orientate the speakers so that the volume controls are the right way up, I would have thought a pair of HomePods ought to be able to figure out the channels for themselves. Play a sound through one speaker and then use the directional mics on the other one to figure out whether the sound is coming from the left or right.
It’s a minor quibble, given that it takes seconds to assign them manually, but it slightly offended my sense of technological efficiency that they required me to do it.
Then it was time for the test! And three things very quickly became apparent.
First, it was a huge relief to be back to stereo sound. I don’t mind mono sound in some rooms. In the bedroom, for example, where a speaker is at the foot of the bed, stereo would make little difference as the speakers wouldn’t be that widely spaced for the listening position. In a kitchen, too, where you’re typically moving around the room, you’d spend more time out of the stereo sweet-spot than in it.
But in a main room, stereo is a must. So getting stereo from the HomePods was the first time when I could seriously consider them as a permanent solution in the winter garden.
Second, the increased volume of a pair of HomePods was, as Rolls-Royce used to famously understate about the power of their engines, sufficient.
I think, in truth, they would be room-filling even in the living-room. In the winter garden, they pumped out more than enough volume. Indeed, my partner retreated to the living-room when I was carrying out the volume tests, despite not needing to go any higher than 80%. Maximum volume would have been bleeding-ears level.
Third, the bass performance of a pair of HomePods is very substantially better than a single one. Sure, the bass level wasn’t issuing any challenge to my BeoLab 6000s, but it was again more than good enough for casual listening. In fact, I’d say that, at everyday listening levels, the difference in bass level was detectable but not particularly important. It’s only when I’m actively listening to a thundering track at high volume that I want that chest-thumping feel from a pair of speakers. I’d say that two HomePods at maximum volume are only about 10% below chest-thumping level.
I mentioned that there were a couple of glitches with the update. For a short time after the update, the Home app was complaining that the relocated HomePod wasn’t responding. I force-quit the app and then all was fine.
Additionally, when testing AirPlay from iTunes, the paired HomePods didn’t initially show up. Quitting and restarting iTunes didn’t cure it, however that resolved itself within a couple of minutes.
As you can see above, iTunes shows individual AirPlay speakers in the main section, then stereo-paired rooms below. That feels a bit odd – once you have stereo-paired speakers, which by definition have to be in the same room, I can’t think of any circumstance where you might want to select them individually. And the iOS Music app more sensibly only offers access to them as a pair.
But that’s again a very minor complaint – and let’s face it, one additional messy aspect to iTunes isn’t going to make much difference.
One other slightly strange thing: all Siri responses come from one speaker (the left one in my case). I guess that makes sense, as it might sound weird coming from both, but it does jar slightly.
My verdict, then, is that a pair of HomePods makes a very decent speaker system consistent with the $700 investment. It’s not up there with high-end HiFi, but as someone who’s reasonably fussy about audio quality, it’s good enough that I’m going to relocate the B&O speakers to the living room and stick with these for the winter garden.
I’ll be buying a third one to replace what was the bedroom HomePod. As an aside, I think it’s worth noting that my partner – who is a lot less fussy than me about speakers, and has only recently been making significant use of Siri for HomeKit control – has been fully on board with purchasing three of them. At UK prices, that’s a total spend of £957 ($1270), which is testament to how well they sell themselves to someone who is perhaps halfway between a mass-market consumer and a techie.
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Mostly premium design
Simple to useCons
Squiffy sleep tracking
No durability commitments
Can’t interact with notificationsOur Verdict
The Huawei Band 7 is a smart band that gets a lot right. With a big display, a nice design, simple software and reliable exercise tracking, it nails the essentials for a relatively low price.
Huawei has regrouped. It was once on its way to become smartphone ruler of the west but following political problems it has now set its sights elsewhere, and aims to become a best-selling smart device brand.
The Huawei Band 7 is the company’s latest attempt to claim a seat at the top, focussing on fashion and fitness at a pleasing price point. But in a sea of competition, and with a slightly tarnished name, stealing a march is no easy task. Does the Band 7 have what it takes, no matter how low the price, to stand above the rest and help revive a flagging brand?Design and build
Slim attractive design
Decent strap colour options
In the decade since the launch of the first ever smartwatches, we have seen several distinct product ‘types’ arise. Of these, by far the most ubiquitous is the smart band’, aka the activity tracker. Often costing under $50/£50, they offer durability and rudimentary features primarily geared toward fitness and little else. Manufacturers of almost all stripes have tried their hand in this bracket, with many trying different tricks in the process.
With the Band 7, Huawei has produced something that is cheap but not bargain-bucket, premium without being pricey – and design is a key part of that.
It’s available in pink, red, black and green, with my review unit in the latter shade. It’s good to have a little more choice compared to much of the cheaper competition, which generally only offer generic black bands.
The device itself is constructed from a nice sturdy feeling matt plastic, with a single button on the right side and various sensors underneath. At 16g (without the strap) it is light on the wrist, and at 9.9mm thick it should fit easily under most shirt sleeves, while the strap is a relatively breathable plastic/rubber composite.
With regards to durability, though no great claims are made for impact resistance or scratch resistance, the Band 7 is rated for 5 ATM of water resistance. This should theoretically mean it will withstand a swim, even if it might need to be babied a little in general use to avoid damage.
Screen quality is the key to success of any fitness tracker. Any display used needs to remain legible in any lighting condition, be big enough to show necessary information and sharp enough to read without squinting.
By these highly scientific metrics, the display used in the Band 7 is of good quality. That is to say that it gets dim enough to be used at night, but quite bright enough to combat a particularly strong summer sun. It is sufficiently big (1.47in) as to be able to show a host of information without feeling crowded, and though it won’t win awards for sharpness it is highly legible for the most part. As an OLED screen it offers inky blacks and nice contrast, though it doesn’t quite challenge the best on this point.
An added plus at the price point is the presence of an always on display, which does drain the battery considerably but is a considerable quality of life improvement. It allows the Band 7 to act more as a watch replacement than might otherwise be possible, and is more than the likes of the Apple Watch SE can offer at roughly five times the price.Software and features
Huawei’s own software
Works with Android and iOS
As a smart band rather than a smartwatch, the expectations from a software perspective are rather lower for the Band 7 than they might be for the likes of an Apple Watch. Whereas the latter should be able to function almost as a mini-smartphone, a smartband’s primary purpose is to track health information and show the time.
It is a pleasant surprise to see then that not only does the Band 7 offer quite a few software features for the price, but that they are mostly well thought through and fleshed out.
The Band 7 runs a custom operating system from Huawei. It isn’t like options from Apple and other companies that allow apps to be installed, but instead has a set of options that can only be expanded via a software update direct from the company itself.
Luckily, for the most part this isn’t an issue, as the provided software is relatively fully fleshed out. In addition to the expected suite of fitness and health tracking options there is a torch option, the ability to ping your phone if it is lost, alarms and more. Though the likes of the Apple Watch offer options for music control and more, this is a device focussed only on the essentials, with a few extras thrown in for good measure.
Notifications can also be received on the Band 7, and given the size of the screen they are easy enough to read although they cannot be interacted with in any meaningful way. I tested the watch with iOS and with Android, and found no issues or bugs when interacting with either.
Interactions with the device are solely made through the medium of the touchscreen and the side button. The button wakes the device and opens various menu options, while everything else is handled by swipes on the display. There are obvious drawbacks to this approach, offering physical controls allows more of the display to remain usable while you are looking at it, however in practice I quickly got used to this control scheme finding it not to be an issue.
Changing watch faces and the like is handled through the Huawei Health app, which is mostly well-featured though I was dismayed to see a proliferation of paid watch faces available. If you are giving this to a child or teenager as a gift, this might be something to watch (no pun intended).Performance and fitness
96 sport tracking options
Good for runners
In general operation, the software on the Band 7 works well and smoothly. I didn’t experience many delays in swiping through the interface, though opening certain features (i.e. the alarm function) in general caused a slight delay – though this is to be expected given the price point. It was never an impediment to usage.
With respect to fitness, the Band 7 can monitor heart rate, SpO2 levels, can track sleep, offers assisted-GPS for runs (meaning it has to link to your phone to plot your route) and has 96 separate workout options, covering at least all of the basics. An important caveat to the above is that while it can perform measurements, these will never be as accurate as a true medical device and as such any readings must be taken with a grain of salt.
This is particularly true of those data areas that are a little more difficult to build an accurate picture of. I found that sleep tracking for instance was a little skew-whiff, reporting excellent sleep at times where this was patently untrue.
Thankfully, outdoor tracking proved to be quite accurate, closely following our route on various long walks through areas of patchy countryside connectivity. As a consequence, this is a band that will suit avid runners well in particular.
Though this isn’t a device that can offer the same high level of precision in tracking and monitoring as some of the higher end competition, it also comes in at a fraction of the price. As such, it will certainly be sufficient for people interested in fitness, if not elite athletes.
Sean CameronBattery life
Two week claim
Realistically just four days
Charge cable in box
Of all the claims that Huawei makes regarding the Band 7, its quoted battery life is among the grandest. According to the firm, it is possible to get up to two weeks of usage without too much effort.
This may certainly be possible if the device is left in a drawer with nothing to do for that length of time, but the figure was definitely not reflective of our experiences. With the always-on-display active and notifications incoming, I found that I could get through a solid 3 days of usage before it was time to plug in. By deactivating these (and therefore removing functionality from the device) I could stretch another 3 to 4 days on average.
Whether you will want to deactivate a lot of these features for battery gain will be a matter of personal choice, however we suspect that most will be able to find a balance that suits their needs.Price and availability
The Huawei Band 7 is available now directly from Huawei in the UK for prices beginning at £49.99. Four colour options are available: Wilderness Green, Graphite Black, Nebula Pink and Flame Red.
You can buy it from Huawei, Argos, Amazon, and Currys.Verdict
There are a lot of different smart band options on the market today, from small scale Chinese manufacturers through to big names like Garmin and Fitbit, everyone wants a slice of the pie. Against this tough competition, the Huawei Band 7 offers more than enough to stand out.
With good looks, sturdy construction, a big display, decent battery life, solid exercise tracking (for the most part) and simple software it makes a great first impression. Lacking any kind of scratch or drop resistance, slightly squiffy sleep tracking and a few other niggles keep it from true greatness, but for the price it is more than good enough. If you are looking for a good value smart band today, the Huawei Band 7 should be near the top of your list.Specs
Huawei Health app
1.47in OLED display
96 fitness/sports tracked
Heart rate monitor
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