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An Alarm clock is one of those gadgets that is simple enough to warrant a thousand different design variants. Here are the ones we consider most innovative or fun.Be awoken by a muezzin or a drill sargent and switch off by feeding money, doing a puzzle, diffusing a bomb, stepping on scales or grabbing a swinging pendant. We’ve included everything here except the Clocky, which you can see on a hundred thousand other blogs. Vote for your faves.

15 big fun alarm clocks

The sight of a Zeppelin under construction must have been an awe inspiring experience. The hangers that were constructed for this purpose are the largest structures even created and the lightness required for the Zeppelin frames meant that their trusses consisted of sophisticated aluminum struts where each strut was in turn another truss. The overall effect is of incredible complexity and detail, like a gigantic high-tech whale set in a space that resembles a Piranesi engraving of a dungeon with enormous shafts of sunlight lit by dust. Because of their age, this technological look is combined with distinctly archaic elements, such as the gas bags which were made from thousands of cows’ stomachs or the scaffolding and ladders which are wooden and rickety.

Zeppelins under construction

The view straight down from a bridge tower, a skyscraper creates a perspective which we looks surprising. Cars look like models and the base of something like the Eiffel tower looks tiny and distorted. That and the fact that these views are absolutely terrifying. Here are a dozen of our favorites.

12 dramatic views looking down

Up to the 19th Century mentally ill people were sometimes chained naked in squalid conditions in places like London’s Bethlehem hospital which became synonymous with chaos (its name being contracted to bedlam) and where tourists would pay to see the freak show. Then came the extreme rationalism of the Kirkbride plan which created a very unusual form of architecture for asylums throughout the Anglosphere that was used until the 20th Century. As a result of their demise, most are abandoned ruins today, giant, rotting testimonies to a bygone era of clinical Victorian discipline combined with neo-Gothic extravagance.The Kirkbride plan consists of an enormous a symmetrical staggered wing, like a bird made out of lego. Men are on the left and women on the right in wings that radiate from the main entrance for increasingly violent or incurable patients. Early mental institutions where patients had to pay for their own incarceration would also vary in class (rich to poor) on the y axis. The staggering of the wings ensured the flow of air through each, purging them of diseased vapors perhaps, such was the Victorian obsession with fresh air, from outdoor Tuberculosis wards to seaside promenades and piers.

insane asylum plans

There is something intensely creepy about submarines, not least because, as we found out from the two that had crashed into each other recently, they carry a thousand times the explosive power of the Hiroshima bomb in a claustrophobic metal sarcophagus powered by the same stuff as the bombs. Because of this, and because of their featureless exteriors which hide immense complexity they provide the same kind of kick that a complicated gadget in a smooth case provides. Just like gadgets its interesting to see how they work when they are being assembled or taken apart. Here are our favorite views from the science fiction like decommissioning of Soviet attack subs to rotting reactor cores to components being wheeled through English roads.

submarine construction and decommissioning

Skype is an idea that was conceived of by the Victorians, featured in movies in the 20s and became an icon for futurism, and yet the videophone has become ubiquitous independently of telecoms companies. How is it that an idea that could have been seen from such a long way off didn’t get developed by phone companies, leading to the ridiculous situation where a phone call costs money but a Skype video phone call is free? Here’s a visual history of early videophone concepts.

retro videophones

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Apple is closed source. What do you think of the iPhone 3GS?

June 9th, 2009 #link

The announcement of the iPhone guaranteed one thing – that every Apple keynote after it would be a disappointment.

Yesterday, was no exception. Apple announced a go-faster version of the iPhone, with a moniker reminiscent of a 1970s Citroen car, the 3GS and a minor software upgrade.

The new hardware featured a camera that was almost as good as standard issue for other phones in Europe and Japan.

The new software added a few do-dads, such as a remote bleeper and software erase that only works if you sign up to the Apple software service that gives you things like an inferior version of Gmail.

New apps were showcased, such as the very promising looking Tom Tom application and unpromising looking Tom Tom kit that hinted it would cost almost as much as a standalone GPS device, thus defeating the point.

But the big deal was the addition of tethering, allowing you to use the iPone as a 3G modem. Something that many 3G phones already do.

No matter that 3G tethering presumably costs money via the providers Apple listed, the problem was that it wouldn't work at all in the US, via the sole carrier, ATT.

Although Apple could be playing passive aggressive, deliberately directing flack at ATT, this is not just an ATT problem.

Apple is no longer the little guy offering a better alternative to Microsoft. Increasingly Apple's closed platform is becoming an irritating hassle, rather than a price that is worth paying for well designed and integrated products from hardware to software.

Here are some of the unnecessary irritations and bad design that Apple's closed approach creates:

1. You cannot easily store your music on an external device without needless messing around with iTunes restrictions.

2. You cannot go abroad with your iPhone and slip a new SIM card in without a huge pain in the ass.

3. You cannot take advantage of many new iPhone or OS features without subscribing to a service that offers inferior versions of free online services like Gmail, that will always be better because of the resources allocated to them.

4. You cannot replace the battery in an iPod, iPhone or (now) MacBook without a screwdriver.

Apple products are beautifully designed where most gadgets are useless toys, and the OS is peerless but there is a creeping sensation of needless and irritating lock in.



4 Responses to “Apple is closed source. What do you think of the iPhone 3GS?”

  1. Nick Taylor Says:

    Something I’ve been noticing recently is people using iPhones as brains for other devices – there’s been a motorbike recently that used one as a dashboard, a UAV that used one as eyes/autopilot etc… I can see something like an iPhone being a de-facto plugin brain for quite complex machines – like a really really smart Arduino with inbuilt senses.

    But it ain’t going to be an iPhone because iPhones are closed-source.

  2. apotheosis Says:

    I guess Apple learned nothing from their experience. Closing ranks around their platform and product line very nearly destroyed their company once already.

  3. OB Says:

    Yeah, because Microsoft is soooo open sourced thats why they are soooo successful… By what factual logic have you linked the near demise of Apple to its closed OS…?
    Oh, let me answer that for you. None.