Hey, pressure-washer warning label...

...if you don't want me to do it, don't make it look so fun!

Bricking Unsecure Devices: Good, Evil, Both?

Millions (or tens, hundreds of millions, or billions?) of IoT devices are shipped with default usernames and passwords, which users seldom change, and which malicious hackers can then use in attacks. A hacker by the name of Janit0r released his own virus for these devices, which simply bricks them before they can be used for larger bad deeds. And so the moral question: is this bricking of devices good, evil, or both? Gizmodo's Adam Clark Estes seems to argue for the "good" side, but there are good arguments for each. I'll stay neutral, and make sure to change my default passwords!
[via Ars Technica]

Theft Deterrence by Disguise, AirPod Edition

Apple's new AirPods are pricey little things, so theft deterrence isn't a bad idea - especially when it's this clever. A $4.99 sticker from Etsy will transform your tech into mint-flavored floss, at least as far as thieves are concerned. This follows some other theft-deterrence-by-disguise examples I've posted for cameras, bikes, and even sandwiches - though my favorite method might be deterrence by guilt.
[via Gizmodo]

Necessity : Invention :: Laziness : Brilliance

As far as bang for your buck, measured in delight delivered per hour of effort, Dave's poster pretty much can't be beat. As Tom said, "Nice one Dave."
[Tom Wysocki, via Core77]

Smart Keys and Unpressable Buttons

I'll admit it: I love my minivan. As long as it's considered for the function of transportation instead of the excitement of driving, there's nothing it can't do. It doesn't skimp on conveniences either, which include smart keys and power sliding doors. However, there's a literally unpressable button in that mix. The idea of a smart key is that it can be in a pocket or bag, and you never have to touch it. To allow you to lock the car without having to find the key, there are "lock" buttons on the outside door handles. The problem is that you can't use the lock buttons until all the doors are closed - so the convenient-but-slow sliding doors force me to wait by the car so I can press the lock button after they close. A simple change seems feasible, where the car could beep to acknowledge the lock button with the doors open, then double-beep when the doors close and successfully execute the lock command. It'd save a few seconds every time, often many times per day, and that adds up. Making buttons more pressable can make smart keys smarter!

Apple's Patent-Pending Pizza Box

Moving on from horrible food-related design jokes, here's a food-related design win: Apple put their world-class design chops into something that isn't several hundred dollars' worth of electronics! Behold, Apple's pizza box, US Patent application #20120024859. It aspires to be the platonic ideal of pizza boxes: no assembly required, stackable, manufacturable from a variety of materials, efficiently round like a certain corporate campus, ridges to elevate the pizza above its own grease puddle, and holes for ventilation to prevent sogginess. Apple: come for the iPhones, stay for the efficiently-contained personal pizzas! (And because you're locked into their ecosystem.)
[via Engadget & Wired]

A Frorking Joke

That misshapen red lump is McDonalds' Frork, which uses french fries as the tines of a "fork" (quotes, I believe, are necessary). It's a corporate/PR joke, and I want to write a blistering rant on it, but I absolutely can't do better than Kat Bauman's at Core77 - so read that instead. Frork you indeed, McDonald's.

Juicero, the poster child of over-engineering...

By now you may have heard of Juicero, the $400 (originally $700!) home juicing machine whose job can be done, and faster, with your own two hands. It's a story of excess, ego, and rampant over-engineering. Bolt's Ben Einstein did a thorough teardown of this beast, identifying a slew of unnecessary custom parts and expensive manufacturing processes. So, how did it happen? Some possibilities:

  • Improperly specified requirements. Does it really take "four tons of force" to squeeze out all the juice? If so, the Bloomberg reporter who did it by hand is quite the hulk.
  • Bad engineering. Over-engineering is just as bad as under-engineering, it just results in runaway costs instead of functional failures.
  • Hype. With $120M in funding, I'm sure the pressure was on to deliver the greatest juicer of all tiiiiiime! With that kind of cash and even a little ego, more is always better - and the CEO even bragged about all the "custom components" and other over-engineered elements in the machine. Dude, that's not a good thing.
Let's all learn this lesson from Juicero, so that we need not learn it from ourselves.
[via Core77]

Bartender trick of the trade

In the sci-fi film Passengers, Chris Pratt is the perpetual lone customer of an android bartender played by Michael Sheen. Pratt's character astutely observes (paraphrasing): "I'm your only customer, so why are you always polishing a glass?" Sheen's droid responds, "Old bartender trick of the trade. People are uncomfortable if you just stand there." So it turns out that the bartender/customer interaction is a designed product, too - whether in the brains of present-day flesh-and-blood sudslingers or the algorithms of future android drink jockeys - and it's designed to accommodate all of our irrational human idiosyncrasies. Good to know.

The Lyft/Uber Option We Really Want

Make it happen. I know a lot of people (myself included) who'd pay the premium.

Swanky Floating Ladle

It might look unstable floating there in that soup, but apparently the Swanky floating ladle from OTOTO will indeed stay upright. Not sure about the one sitting on the counter, though (what black magic is at work there?). Anyway, a ladle that doesn't sink and doesn't melt from leaning against a hot pot edge sounds like a decent improvement - and the swan neck is fairly elegant. Overall, a design that brings a smile to one's face, and that's value in itself!
[via Gizmodo]

Artificial Intelligence: Not quite there yet.

I've generally been impressed with the abilities of virtual assistants in recent years - Siri, Alexa, Cortana, "Okay Google" - to come up with the right answer to real, factual questions asked verbally in natural language by flesh-and-blood humans. However, it turns out we shouldn't trust those answers quite yet. Tom Scocca writes an account of his misadventures regarding an article he wrote, correcting a widespread falsehood about the time required to caramelize onions. He found that Google was extracting a quote his article specifically identified as false, using that as the "correct" answer, and crediting Tom for it. A convoluted path, and it'd require impressive artificial intelligence to parse the correct context - but that's what's needed if an AI assistant is to be truly trusted. It's since been corrected - possibly manually? - and the right answer is shown in the image above. But be warned: AI just isn't quite there yet.

Knife + Fork = Knork

Sure, everyone loves a plastic spork when you need one, but what about the knork? I've frequently used a fork edge to cut through food, with varying success; imagine if the utensil had been designed with that in mind? As Dave Cortright explains on Cool Tools, the knork has an outside edge sharp enough for food but not so sharp as to cut your cheek, and a handle shaped for the application of lateral force. However, would it work as a disposable plastic utensil, reducing waste as the spork does? If not, it may be destined to languish as a sideshow, no matter how many stars it garners on Amazon...
[Cool Tools]

ACLU Dash Button

Amazon Dash buttons are kinda stupid. Trump is really stupid. But hey, can one stupid thing cancel out another? Thanks to intrepid hacker Nathan Pryor, they can! He customized a Dash button so that each press donates $5 to the ACLU. Pressing a button is a satisfying alternative to throwing something across the room or screaming into a pillow - and with this button, it might actually do some good!
[via Engadget & TechCrunch]

Kwik Sip: A drinking fountain in every faucet!

I kind of wish I that I lived in an alternate universe where the Kwik Sip faucet attachment was the ubiquitous norm instead of a weird, geeky outlier. Every faucet magically turns into a drinking fountain anytime you want it? Count me in.
[via Cool Tools]

Curtain Rod Design for Better Darkness

If you really need a dark room - I'm not saying because of a hangover, but I'm thinking it - the cracks of sunlight that creep through the sides of your curtains can be painful. Umbra's Twilight curtain rod addresses that with a simple design tweak: the rod continues around the corner to go flush to the wall, allowing the curtain to do the same. Simple, clever, and effective; rest easy!
[via Lifehacker]

Apple Stores Remove Security Tethers

You know those security tethers that keep on-display electronics from being stolen from stores? Apple is experimenting with removing these traditionally necessary inconveniences. Some reports indicate that iPhones are going untethered in some Apple stores, and this is impressive: Apple is betting that its lost-iPhone mode, which bricks the phone, will make it a sufficiently unattractive target for theft. That's how it's supposed to work with end users, too, and putting it into action in stores may help spread the word: "Don't bother stealing iPhones, they'll just get bricked." Here's hoping!
[via GizmodoCNET, & MacRumors]

Designed Response: Earrings to catch AirPods

Apple's totally-wireless AirPods have the cool sheen of being The Future, but they battle the persistent fear that they'll fall out of your ears and be lost forever. 3D printer company M3D has designed a response: 3D-printable earrings that act as baskets to catch falling AirPods. It's a cute example of design as commentary on another design; a designed response. It's also mainly a marketing move: M3D has made the design files available on Thingverse, and gotten some nice publicity practically for free. The product isn't serious, but the commentary - and the brand awareness - certainly are.
[via Gizmodo]

Tilting pot uses gravity to ask for water.

Perhaps the toughest part of plant ownership is remembering to water the darn things. There have been some electronic devices to solve the problem, but digital technology seems out of place in the analog world of plants. The Natural Balance is a plant pot that eschews technology for old-fashioned gravity: when the reserve of water gradually seeps into the soil and becomes empty, the balance of the pot changes so that it tilts to its side. See how it looks a little crooked in the photo? That means it's thirsty. Clever, elegant, analog, and gravity-powered, it just feels right for plants.
[via Core77]