Web

Amazed by MS Paint art, unimpressed by David Blaine in this week’s staff picks

Staff Picks 7/27

jennifer-bergenJen Bergen: Never stop creating

The story of Hal Lasko is not only one that’ll pull at your heartstrings but will also make you wish you’re as awesome as this man when you’re 97 years old. Lasko, mostly known as Grandpa, has been using Microsoft Paint from good ‘ol Windows 95 to create art. Legally blind and suffering from macular degeneration, which results in a loss of vision in the center of the visual field, Lasko chose MS Paint as his medium since he can zoom way into sections of the piece. Working pixel by pixel, his art takes time, but in the short documentary below, Lasko says if it takes him two years to finish one, that’s fine, because he has a lot of patience. Lasko comes up with the idea for what he wants to paint first in his head, and then starts at it section by section, resulting in an 8-bit-esque work of art. His family set up a website for Lasko, which shows all of his prints (also available to buy). Do us a favor, take 8 minutes of your life and watch the video below. You’ll feel better after you do.

Les ShuLes: Surfing the friendly skies

While it isn’t as ubiquitous as we’d like, more and more airlines have outfitted their fleets with onboard Wi-Fi, allowing us to check in on our Outlook work e-mails (sigh). On land, Wi-Fi connections are usually fast, but in the air they’re as pokey as your old Pentium II’s 56k modem. That’s because existing in-flight Wi-Fi technology relies on communication with 3G cell towers on the ground, so don’t expect to stream YouTube videos or download apps while you’re 35,000 feet in the air.

But things are on the up, especially if you’re traveling internationally. Singapore Airlines, which arguably is the world’s most badass airline in rolling out great service and features across the board, will introduce the next-generation of its entertainment system on new Boeing 777-300ERs and Airbus A350s entering its fleet. The system is Panasonic Avionics’ new eX3, which allows for faster, broadband-grade Wi-Fi that will also support GSM cellular connections, so you can send and receive text messages on your phone. Because these new systems utilize satellites instead of ground infrastructure, you stay connected regardless of the country or ocean you’re flying over, as long there’s satellite coverage. Besides an 11.1-inch LCD in economy class (the rich up front get much larger displays, natch), the entertainment system has USB, iPod, and power ports (first and biz get HDMI-in, too).

Singapore isn’t the only airline to upgrade its onboard Wi-Fi. Germany’s Lufthansa has already rolled out its FlyNet service on its Airbus A380s and Boeing 747-8s, using similar tech from Panasonic Avionics. (Lufthansa was one of the first to offer intercontinental Wi-Fi via Boeing’s Connexion service until Boeing shut it down.) Stateside, United Airlines is installing satellite-based Wi-Fi throughout its fleet, starting with Airbus A319/320s and Boeing 747-400s. In the smaller Airbus planes, United will use the Wi-Fi to offer on-demand streaming of content to passengers’ mobile devices, allowing the airline to cut costs by not having to install entertainment systems.

KrisWorld, Singapore Airlines' inflight entertainment system

Andrew CoutsAndrew Couts: Magic is cool

You know, I’ve never really cared much for magicians. It’s not that their skills of deception aren’t impressive. I just can’t relate to them in any way. Like, what compels a person to decide that tricking people is the absolute best way to spend their entire life? The potential fame and fortune that comes to the cream of the magician crop surely plays its part. And hey, maybe it’s just fun – certainly better than sitting behind a desk shuffling papers and emails for a living. I get it. Still, there’s just something in their smug faces while performing their slights of hand that rubs me the wrong way. So when I saw this video (below), in which David Blaine attempts to blow the mind of a random kid, I couldn’t help but laugh. The kid’s reaction to Blaine’s trick is, well, it’s just perfect.

bill-robersonBill Roberson: Look up

When not piloting close-to-the-ground automotive missiles, I’m a bit of a sky and astronomy nut, so this video from the Exploratorium museum in San Francisco, California caught my attention. It shows what the sky looked like above the museum in time lapse, and not for just one day, but for a whole year, and it shows each day separately, and all at once. Give it a look and you’ll understand. Music is by Moby, video by Ken Murphy.

While the video can overwhelm at bit a thirst, once you get the gist of it, it’s interesting to spot the cycles of weather, seasons, and changing sunrise and sunset times. It’s a bit hard to make out in a small window but take it full screen, and it’s quite amazing to behold (and imagine seeing it here). Also, the NASA site hosting the video, Astronomy Picture of the Day, is a nearly bottomless well of amazing photos and video of the world around us and the heavens above us.

ryan-fleming-6-94x94Ryan Fleming: Neil Gaiman tries out video games

Neil Gaiman needs your money, and you should give it to him right now! Gaiman is teaming up with Game developers The Odd Gentlemen to create the video game Wayward Manor. You can throw money at them here.

If you aren’t familiar with Gaiman’s work, you should stop whatever you are doing and rectify that. Start with his brilliant Sandman, a series that helped change the way people looked at comics. Once you are done with that and your mind is suitably blown, check out his novels, including the best-selling American Gods and his award-winning children’s book The Graveyard Book.

OK, now that you are one of the cool kids, feel free to squee a little bit over the news that he is helping to create a video game. Wayward Mansion is based on an original story from Gaiman, and it puts you in the shoes of a ghostly dead man living in a house occupied by a bunch of meat bags. Your job is to use your wits to scare them out.

The development is being handled via crowd-funding, and like most projects that take that route, there are tiers of rewards based on the amount you give. The game itself is just $10, but the more you give the better your reward. In fact, I would appreciate it if someone could loan me $10,000 so I can have dinner with Gaiman. And then we’ll hang out, and he’ll read all my writing and love it, and we’ll go to movies and stuff, and we’ll be BEST FRIENDS FOREVER.

Home Theater

Vizio is still rocking the Black Friday spirit with these TV and soundbar deals

If you missed out on all the great TV deals this past Black Friday and Cyber Monday, don't worry, Vizio has you covered. The company has some great discounts on its most popular 4K TVs and sounbar systems. But don't delay -- some of these…
Movies & TV

Can't get enough lightsaber action? Here's how to get your Star Wars fix online

Few of us want to deal with DVDs or Blu-ray discs anymore. Unfortunately, the Star Wars movies are few and far between when it comes to streaming. If you want to watch Star Wars online, check out our guide on where to find the films online.
Computing

Want to make one hard drive act like two? Here's how to partition in Windows

If you don't want all of your files stored in one place but only have one drive to work with, partitioning is your best way forward. Here's how to partition a hard drive in Windows 10, step by step.
Computing

Don't know what to do with all your old DVDs? Here's how to convert them to MP4

Given today's rapid technological advancements, physical discs are quickly becoming a thing of the past. Check out our guide on how to convert a DVD to MP4, so you can ditch discs for digital files.
Computing

From beautiful to downright weird, check out these great dual monitor wallpapers

Multitasking with two monitors doesn't necessarily mean you need to split your screens with two separate wallpapers. From beautiful to downright weird, here are our top sites for finding the best dual monitor wallpapers for you.
Web

Google Translate updated to reduce gender bias in its translations

Google is changing how Google Translate offers translations. Previously when you entered a word like doctor, Translate would offer a masculine interpretation of the word. Now, Translate will offer both masculine and feminine versions.
Web

Encryption-busting law passed in Australia may have global privacy implications

Controversial laws have been passed in Australia which oblige tech companies to allow the police to access encrypted messages, undermining the privacy of encryption with potentially global effects.
Web

Can Microsoft’s Airband Initiative close broadband gap for 25M Americans?

A new report from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) says that 25 million Americans do not have access to broadband internet. Of these, more than 19 million are living in rural communities. Can Microsoft help out?
Computing

Microsoft’s Chromium Edge browser may be adding your Chrome extensions

Fans sticking to Google Chrome because due to its vast extension library might be able to switch over to Microsoft's latest iteration of Edge, as a project manager confirms that the company has its eyes on Chrome extensions.
Computing

If you've lost a software key, these handy tools can find it for you

Missing product keys getting you down? We've chosen some of the best software license and product key finders in existence, so you can locate and document your precious keys on your Windows or MacOS machine.
Computing

Google+ continues to sink with a second massive data breach. Abandon ship now

Google+ was scheduled to shut its doors in August 2019, but the second security breach in only a few months has caused the company to move its plan forward a few months. It might be a good idea to delete your account sooner than later.
Social Media

‘YouTube Rewind 2018’ is about to become its most disliked video ever

YouTube is about to achieve a record it really doesn't want — that of "most-disliked video." Yes, its annual recap of featuring popular YouTubers has gone down really badly this year.
Computing

Want to save a webpage as a PDF? Just follow these steps

Need to quickly save and share a webpage? The best way is to learn how to save a webpage as a PDF file, as they're fully featured and can handle images and text with ease. Here's how.
Mobile

5G: Why everything is about to change

Curious about the many ways 5G will change and enrich your life? Here’s our guide to all things 5G.