Deceptive sandwiches, employees and online girlfriends in this week’s Staff picks

Digital Trends Staff Picks

andrew coutsAndrew Couts: Remembering Aaron Swartz

One year ago, Google, Wikipedia, Reddit, thousands of other websites, and millions of Web users told Washington politicians exactly what we thought of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) with a mass online blackout. Our message was heard. SOPA was shelved. And the outcry was so strong, it has changed the way Washington addresses Internet-related legislation for the foreseeable future. It was, in other words, a true victory for the Internet and the companies and people who rely on it.

We owe this victory to Aaron Swartz, the Internet freedom pioneer and computer programmer who devoted his life to keeping the Web open, to keeping information free – a life that Swartz, himself, ended on January 11, exactly two years after he was arrested for downloading too many academic articles from JSTOR.

As we reflect on the lessons we can learn from Swartz’s life and death, take a moment to watch this speech Swartz gave in May 2012. It not only provides a glimpse into the inner workings of the anti-SOPA movement, but allows you to see exactly why our connected world is worse off without Swartz to lead the way.

natt garunNatt Garun: Outsourcing means more time for lolcats

This is the smartest man in the world. Instead of doing his job (i.e. snoozing and watching for data breaches at Verizon), he pays a cut of his six-figure income to outsource the work to a few randos in China. News surfaced this week that the Los Angeles man delegated the work to his Far East minions while he spent the 9-to-5 grind watching cat videos, surfing Reddit, checking Facebook, and shopping on eBay. Before the scandal, he would repeatedly get great remarks on his annual review. Of course, until he was let go.

Why wasn’t I cool enough to pull this off? To be fair, I guess I can’t afford Amazon Mechanical Turk, nor get away with a robotic writing style, but I do paid to occasionally surf Facebook and play with apps. And the idea that there could be some lady in China pretending to do my job is a little creepy. Still, this takes outsourcing to a whole new, personal level and I can’t fault the guy for an oddly ingenious move.

Chinese computer

Jennifer BergenJen Bergen: The watch the world wants

From the Pebble to the Martian, watches were a popular niche category at CES 2013. One watch we’re sorry we didn’t get our hands on is the 0.8-millimeter thick CST-01 Watch, which the company, Central Standard Timing, claims is “the world’s thinnest.” Though it doesn’t connect to your phone or show you when you have a new DM on Twitter, the CST-01 is one attractive watch.

It’s safe to say that the CST-01 is the watch for the person who doesn’t want to look like they’re wearing a watch. Other than the E-Ink numbers, the CST-01 can pass as a piece of jewelry – there are no buttons or knobs to get in your way. And though it may look heavy, it actually only weighs 12 grams, or the equivalent of five pennies. The watch takes a mere 10 minutes to charge, then runs for a month.

Still a project on Kickstarter, the CST-01 has more than doubled its $200,000 goal. Currently, the watch has raised over $491,000 and delivery is slated for March. Though we think smart watches are awesome, sometimes it’s nice to go with a more minimalist option – especially when it’s going to be sitting on your wrist all day, every day.


molly-mchughMolly McHugh: Manti Te’o gets catfished (or did he?!)

Well my favorite thing ever happened this week! Turns out inspirational story subject Manti Te’o is a big fat liar – but let’s start at the beginning, shall we?

I’m at a football game watching my alma mater, University of Oregon, play Stanford. We’ve been absolutely unstoppable all season; as in, zero losses unstoppable. As in our starters had barely played a second half unstoppable. As in our true freshman quarterback was receiving Heisman buzz unstoppable. And then the unthinkable happened: We lost in overtime, largely due to missed field goals. Heartbreaking. No amount of drinks in the world would ease my pain. My beloved University of Oregon Ducks would not be going to the BCS Championship.

To add insult to injury, it was starting to look more and more like Notre Dame would be going. Anybody who follows college football knows how much of a joke this was; how undeserving that team was of this spot – and how soul crushingly boring as hell that game would be. And guess what: We were all right! Go ‘Bama. Not like you needed it.

Of course, at the center of Notre Dame’s “rise” to the championship game was Manti Te’o, the all-around good guy with a heart of gold whose grandma and girlfriend died on the same day. Wait, what’s that now? Girlfriend didn’t exist? Yes, it turns out, Manti Te’o was “catfished,” or duped into an online relationship with someone who doesn’t exist. Let’s be real, in all likelihood, he catfished himself… I’m sorry, you don’t know what year the “love of your life” graduated from college or what she majored in? Did you or did you not meet her at a game versus Stanford? How is there so much confusion over the timeline in which she died? Liar, liar, pants on fire.

I cannot wait for the Manti Te’o 30 for 30.

Teo Catfish

caleb denisonCaleb Denison: Lunch-sacked by Stephen Colbert: This sandwich goes to 11

Oh man, how I was looking forward to hopping on this Subway sandwich train. I have a notepad filled with all kinds of clever quips. Scamwhich? Had that. Clowning the New York Post? All over it. Five dollar footwronged? Ok, I didn’t think of that one. Touché, Stephen Colbert’s writing staff.

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, allow me to catch you up: An Australian man was so upset to find that the foot-long Subway sandwich he had just purchased measured only 11 inches, he posted a picture of it on Facebook. Since the posting, the photo went viral, and a storm of controversy has surrounded Subway and its poor sandwich artists. The New York Post even jumped on board, making it the cover story on its January 13 edition. In the story, a pair of journalists show that 4 out of 7 Subway foot-longs measured in at 11.5-inches or less. Oh, the horror.

I was all set to tear the western world a new one when, lo and behold, it had already done it for me – and by one of my favorite satirists, no less. So rather than hypocritically read you the riot act, I give you: Stephen Colbert.

instagram idiocy marshmallows or the moon and staff picks les shuLes Shu: The Talented Mister Winslow

As a kid, I must have watched the “Police Academy” movies more times than I can count on my hand, but if you ask me to describe to you my favorite scenes, I’ll just respond with a blank stare. Perhaps it’s my getting old or that the movies just weren’t memorable, but one thing that nobody ever forgets is Sergeant Larvelle “Motor Mouth” Jones and his sound effects.

The man behind the character is actor and comedian Michael Winslow, who calls himself the “Man of 10,000 Sound Effects.” Using purely his voice, Winslow creates uncanny, realistic sounds that truly mimic the real thing. You don’t forget something like that.

Since his “Police Academy” days, Winslow seems to have moved away from the big screen, but you can find videos of him all over the Web, doing the thing he does best. (He’s also released an iPhone game app in which he supplies all the sound effects.) In this appearance on a Norwegian talk show, for example, he performs a rendition of Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love,” handling electric guitar, beatboxing, and Robert Plant-esque vocals.

But my favorite video of Winslow to this day is his “History of the Typewriter,” a 21-minute-long film in which he impersonates the typing sounds of various typewriters throughout history, beginning with a Barlock Mod.4 from 1895, to an Olympia Monika Deluxe from 1983. The video pans around Winslow in a studio, showing you how he manipulates his mouth to create the effects. For anyone who grew up writing on typewriters and loves the sounds they make, this is a fun nostalgic treat.

History of the typewriter recited by Michael Winslow from SansGil—Gil Cocker on Vimeo.

Emerging Tech

New ‘parkour’ video shows Boston Dynamics robot training to overthrow humanity

Robots doing backflips? That's so 2017! In its latest jaw-dropping YouTube video, Boston Dynamics’ Atlas robot pulls off some frankly astonishing parkour stunts for our viewing pleasure.
Emerging Tech

From flying for fun to pro filmmaking, these are the best drones you can buy

In just the past few years, drones have transformed from a geeky hobbyist affair to a full-on cultural phenomenon. Here's a no-nonsense rundown of the best drones you can buy right now, no matter what kind of flying you plan to do.

Here’s how to set up an alternate appearance for Face ID

Would like to add a second face for your iPhone FaceID? Maybe your face looks different at work, or you have a loved one that you want to be able to unlock your phone. Here's how to set up an alternate appearance for Face ID.
Movies & TV

Stream till you scream with the best scary movies on Netflix, Hulu, and more

Need some ghoulish entertainment to get in the Halloween spirit? Check out some of the best horror movies streaming now. Whether you like creepy atmosphere or bloody jump scares, you'll find something to spook you.

Pixel 3 XL vs. Pixel 2 XL vs. Pixel XL: Which XL is best for you?

A Google Pixel XL is the best phone to get if you want the perfect Android experience on a big screen. However, with the release of the Pixel 3 XL, you have more choices then ever. Which Pixel XL should you buy?
Emerging Tech

With VR dinosaurs and ‘Minecraft,’ one hospital is making medicine less scary

From augmented reality rabbits on the wards to a Minecraft recreation of the hospital for kids to explore, one of the world's most renowned children's hospitals just got a major tech overhaul.
Emerging Tech

Will we ever fly supersonic again? Unraveling the concorde’s complex legacy

In a new book, Last Days of the Concorde, journalist and author Samme Chittum delves into the mindset that inspired engineers to design this marvel, the series of events that led to its fatal crash, and the possibility that commercial SSTs…
Emerging Tech

Check out the British Army’s beefy new bomb-disposal robot

The British Army is about to get an impressive new explosive ordnance disposal robot that is able to climb stairs, negotiate slopes, cut wires, and … oh, yes, dispose of bombs, too.
Emerging Tech

Kill it before it lays eggs! Crazy 32-leg robot moves like a cyborg sea urchin

We’ve seen one-legged, two-legged, four-legged and even six-legged robots, but researchers from Japan have gone way, way further with their latest project: A 32-legged robot. Check it out.
Emerging Tech

Leafy greens are grown by machines at new, automated Silicon Valley farm

Farming hasn't changed too much for hundreds of years. Now a new startup called Iron Ox has opened its first automated hydroponics farm, producing a variety of leafy greens tended by machines.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: DIY smartphones and zip-on bike tires

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!

As deaf gamers speak up, game studios are finally listening to those who can’t

Using social media, personal blogs and Twitch, a small group of deaf and hard-of-hearing players have been working to make their voices heard and improve accessibility in the gaming industry.
Emerging Tech

Get your head in the clouds with the best vaporizers for flower and concentrates

Why combust dead plant matter when you could vaporize the good stuff and leave the leaves behind? Here's a rundown of the best vaporizers money can buy, no matter what your style is.
Emerging Tech

Here’s all the best gear and gadgetry you can snag for $100 or less

A $100 bill can get you further than you might think -- so long as you know where to look. Check out our picks for the best tech under $100, whether you're in the market for headphones or a virtual-reality headset.