I’ll Have a Double McDownload, Hold the Spam, Please

It’s the freakin’ 21st century and they still haven’t perfected a drive-thru intercom you can decipher, but that’s not stopping McDonald’s from gettin’ all McDigital. The Chicago Tribune ran a story yesterday about a suburban Chi-Town flagship in the chain that’s offering an ATM-style kiosk so patrons can download music, ringtones, print out pictures from their phones and digital cameras, and websurf while they bloat up like Morgan Spurlock on burgers and fries. McDonald’s claims the effort is an attempt at reaching a younger, more tech-savvy diner, and if the Chicago restaurant is a success, they plan on opening up others, next in West Virginia and Florida. Yeah, when I think of “young” and “tech-savvy,” I immediately think West Virginia and Florida.

Mars Needs Women!

When I was a little kid, I was seriously creeped out by the Topps Mars Attacks! bubble gum cards. Even though the Martians were sort of over-the-top and funny looking, there was something truly scary about them. The Tim Burton movie, underrated if you ask me, did a great job of capturing the camp and cartoonishness, while delivering a satisfying degree of menace. Now you can see the entire 1962 set of Mars Attacks! cards at Trader Crack’s

My Fingers Emit Sparks of Fire

Call me odd (it’s happened before), but I like working at my computer in the dark. The glow of my two computer monitors offers enough ambient lighting, as far as I’m concerned. The only problem is, I’m not a touch typist and I need to look down at the keyboard every so often. This was a BIG problem with my old black iMac keyboard, but less so with my new Bluetoothed white one. None of this would be a problem, and my digs would get a cyberpunky fashion upgrade, with a Deck board. Deck Backlit Keyboards come in four flavors: fire (red), ice (blue), gold, and my favorite, toxic green. The entire keyboard housing lights up, as well as the charcters on the individual keys. Another cool touch is that the underside of the boards are industrial diamond plate, deadly if you decide to home row somebody upside the head. The Decks cost either US$99 or $119, depending on model.

Is this the Joe Camel of Celluar?

As every brand manager will tell you, when it comes to building a loyal customer base, you want to hook ’em early and hook ’em often. This may be some of the motivation behind Tomy’s upcoming line of remote controlled toddler toys that are controlled via cell phones. It’s never too early to get little Biff and Ashley on the FamilySharing plan so they can “ring up” their toys in the back of the family Hummer.

[Via MobileBurn]

Another Mousebot

Sorry if I’m boring you non-bot enthusiasts, but I happened upon another BEAM-type robot that’s built around a computer mouse case. Called Mouser, this photovore (light-seeker) uses the Solarbotics BareBones Photovore (BBPV) circuit, probably the simplest robot sensor/brain/actuator chain possible. It’s basically little more than two photodiodes, a 74AC240 signal inverter chip, and two Solarbotics gear motors. Those are the photodiodes peeking out of the wheel wells in front of the motor casings.

Mousey’s Papa Found!

It was a thrill for me to see the drawing of Randy Sargent’s Herbie the robot in the illustration to my Mousey the Junkbot article in Make No. 2. I’ve seen other people’s bots that utilize the ingenious Herbie circuit, but I’d never seen Sargent’s original design. While poking around on Solarbotics.net, I found this photovore, built by Grant McKee, that follows Sargent’s original construction.

Click on the image to see a larger version. Another view can be seen on Grant’s Photovore BEAM page.

The POE House

Like a lot of other cable standards, Ethernet Cat5 has wires in it that are unused. With a little bit of DIY aptitude, you can commandeer these shiftless wires and put them to work, delivering power to devices on the other end of the cable. This technique is called Power Over Ethernet (or POE). This tutorial shows you how to do it. Be careful though. If you’re not careful, you can fry your components, or worse yet, YOU.

iRobot’s Scrubbing Bubbles

We got one of the iRobot Discovery vacuums for Christmas and we love it. It’s a perfect example of a consumer robot done right: affordable, great “out-of-box” experience, does what it’s supposed to do, built on appropriate technology, not flashy gee-whiz crap (no sonar or IR sensing, no fancy microcontrollers, no webcam, etc.). It vacuums, plain and simple.

iRobot’s founder, Rodney Brooks’s robot design philosophy has always been to build new features/functions on top of successful previous one. This leads us to the company’s new Scooba, a robot that can vacuum and wash hardware floors as well as “mop” kitchens and bathrooms. Cool.

iRobot says that limited quantities of the bot will be available this holiday season, with a full rollout in early 2006. No word yet on suggested retail price. There’s a sneak peek video and animation available here.

[Via I4U]

Nokia’s WiFi Tablet

Going against what seems to be popular opinion among gadget gurus, I’ve always been a fan of the tablet PC concept. People always ask me, if it’s the wave of the future, why does it continue to stumble so badly? Simple. No one has gotten the formula right yet of cheap, lightweight, with the proper design and functionality. I still see a future where you have a digital hub PC in your home, a few dedicated Net appliances, like an entertainment server, and a couple of cheap wireless tablets that float around your house as needed (looking up recipes in the kitchen, checking email in bed, surfing websites while watching TV, reading newsfeeds on the can, etc.).

Nokia may be teasing us with at least parts of that future with the introduction of their new 770 WiFi Tablet. Slated to retail for US$350, the device has an 800 x 480 pixels screen, runs on Linux, and comes with software to do email, Web browsing, use Internet phone service (Voice over IP), and has an RSS newsfeeder. Rather than try to cram a PC into a tablet formfactor (a la MS), this device relies on a home PC for storage (i.e. no hard drive) and has a MultiMedia Memory Card (MMC) slot for data storage/transfer. Also has Bluetooth and USB as other options for talking to your other devices. I’d love to try and get ahold of one of these and take it for a test spin.

UPDATE MobileBurn got their hands on one of these Nokia 770 devices and offers this quick review with pics.

“Broadcast Flag” Action Alert

In case you missed Cory’s posting on Boing Boing, we thought we’d make sure that all Street Techies know about the new EFF Action Alert asking you to email your Congresscritter about opposing any legislation that attempts to breath new life into the FCC’s broadcast flag legislation (which was unanimously struck down earlier this month).

Given all of the current media hoopla about Star Wars piracy (while the movie continues to break all box office records), now’s a good time to remind Congress that you don’t want the movie industry and the FCC dictating what sorts of digital media hardware you can have in your home.

The Alert is total push-button activism. All you do is enter your zipcode and press Submit to send a form letter to the appropriate lawmaker (or better yet, craft your own impassioned prose in the field provided).