Tablets for Prison

I've previously written about the situation-specific design of Sony's radio for prisons, but like the rest of the world, inmates are ready to move on to tablets. The JP5 mini is designed precisely for use behind bars, with a clear case so contraband can't be hidden inside and a locked-down version of Android that allows full access to prion officials. It's also essentially indestructible - because the only thing worse than a severely locked-down tablet is a broken one!
[via Coolest Gadgets & Gizmodo]

Bike-Thru Fast Food Packaging

Drive-thru fast food (and yes, I believe "thru" is the correct spelling in this case) is one of countless ways that car culture is reinforced. We may want to try to back away from dependence on cars, but not at the expense of greasy shame food! Never fear; here's a concept for bike-friendly McDonald's packaging, which hooks over your handlebars and then spreads open for easy gorging. At least in this case you will have burned some of the calories beforehand!
[AdsOfTheWorld via Gizmodo]

Crossword Wrapping Paper

It's no fun when you need to wrap a gift for a 35-year-old dude, but find that your wrapping paper supply only includes leftovers from bridal- and baby-shower gifts. I've previously written about the versatility of silver for all purposes, but Fabio Milito has one-upped that with "Wordless" crossword wrapping paper. Simply highlight the relevant occasion, slap on a bow, and you're good to go! It's the Swiss Army knife of gifting - and one that you might want to keep handy.
[via Dornob]

Origami flower pot grows with its plant

Plants eventually outgrow their pots like kids outgrow their shoes - but just like the recently-covered Shoe That Grows, a clever design can allow the pot to grow with the plant. Studio Ayaskan's GROWTH does so with a clever origami-inspired design, which seems to look quite elegant at all three stages shown here - though I wonder about any awkward half-unfolded middle stages. Regardless, I'd welcome the liberation from having to re-pot plants!
[via MentalFloss - thanks for the tip, Jess!]

The Quality of Weight (and How to Fake It)

Of the many ways to communicate quality in a product, weight is perhaps the easiest to fake. In many physical products, high-performance components simply weigh more; thus, heavier or denser products deliver the impression of quality. Unlike build tolerances and genuine materials, however, weight can be inexpensively added just for weight's sake. It seems that's the case with the headphones shown in Bolt's teardown on Medium, where almost a third of the overall weight is due to superfluous metal pieces. It's worth noting that headphones are a product where extra weight actually detracts from the real use experience - but still, the weight adds to the perceived quality, and users may even experience a placebo effect. We humans are pretty easy to trick!
[via Gizmodo]

The Incredible Aluminum Can

It's a big accomplishment for any design to reach that level of maturity where it quietly does its job perfectly and reliably to the point where it becomes almost invisible. The aluminum beverage can has gotten there, and it's allowed us to forget all the amazing design and engineering that went into it. "Engineer Guy" Bill Hammack does a wonderful summary video, explaining among other things the genius of the modern pop top. Personally, I didn't know that it starts as a 2nd-class lever to pull out and break the can's seal (much easier than pushing into the pressurized can), then automatically changes to a 1st-class lever when that pressure is released to bend the tab out of the way. Just that little bit of engineering has prevented untold numbers of removable pop-tops from becoming sharp and dangerous litter. If you want to learn more, the video is well worth 11:38 of your time!
[via Gizmodo]

iOS and the Unpressable Shift Button

Apple has always tried to worship the dual deities of clean design and usability - and while those two often complement each other, sometimes they butt heads. Case in point: iOS 7.1 changed the color scheme of the shift key so that users just can't tell whether it's on or off. It blends in with function keys when it's off, and with the letter keys when it's on, but neither color intuitively suggests an "active" state. Allen Pike points out that making it stand out in any way would easily solve the problem, but standing out seems to be against Apple's dogma of clean design. A fix may be in the works, but in the meantime its aesthetics 1, usability 0.
[Thanks to Jonathan Jackson for the tip on this one!]