January has almost drawn to a close, which means all eyes look forward to the next month on the diabolical, never-ending calendar: Febtover. And, of course, with Febtover comes the ancient pagan ritual of whistlepig-worship, usually celebrated with temporal loops.
I speak, of course, of Groundhog Day.
It has been statistically proven that all of the most advanced weather-detecting technology in the world, harnessing processing power on the level of an entire Death Star, is not nearly as accurate as one groundhog seeing his shadow. Hard to believe, isn’t it? Just goes to show you that technology doesn’t solve every problem.
If that’s got you down, don’t worry. Here are a handful of gadgets that can help you solve problems. Like, if you get lost rock-climbing (or on your way to the corner store). Or managing that stack of devices you call a home entertainment system. Or heck, even if you just want to set things on fire. We’ve got you covered.
See SPOT save
I don’t know how many fatalities are the result of people getting lost or injured while hiking and rock-climbing, but I think I can safely say that it’s way too many. While there’s a lot you can do to prevent such a scenario, such as registering your hiking plan with rangers and informing friends and family where you’ll be, there’s always the unpredictable.
SPOT is a handheld GPS unit that intends to help in just such a situation. This bright, extremely robust little orange device operates in conditions from -40°F to 185°F and altitudes from -30 ft to 21,000 feet (so no climbing Everest, okay?), and it even floats in water. The design has four simple buttons: On/Off, OK, Help, and 911. It works together with a website service to relay your GPS coordinates to people that you designate. Just hit the OK! button and it’ll send your location to your friend and family, along with a convenient link to Google Maps. You can even have it automatically update your progress every ten minutes.
Should you get into a (non-life-threatening) bind, you can use the Help button to send a repeating help message to your contacts via email or SMS, repeating every ten minutes for an hour. And, in the hopefully unlikely event of an emergency, you can hit the 911 button, which will contact emergency services with your location, repeating every five minutes until it’s cancelled. The internal battery lasts for fourteen days in tracking mode and seven days in 911 mode.
SPOT’ll run you $170 for the box, plus $100/year for the service, but if you’re a frequent hiker and climber, it sounds like it only needs to work once in order to earn its pay.
Nowadays, our home theater systems are stacked chock full of devices: HDTVs, receivers, cable boxes, DVD players, Blu-Ray players, HD-DVD players (sorry, folks), perhaps even an Apple TV or Cuisinart—what, you don’t have a remote-controlled Cuisinart? How do you make remote smoothies, then?
Anyway, there are a number of universal remote controls that help you tame all the tangled components of your home theater, but none quite as button-happy as Tvcompass’s SR 1500 Digital Media Remote. You know it’s serious when they pull out Windows CE just to run a remote control. The SR 1500 has a 320×240 QVGA screen, 802.11b/g wireless networking, can run Flash, and even has an RSS client.
But the hassle with most wireless remote controls is the hours it can take configuring it to work with your system. Either you need to input arcane codes, or hook it up to your computer. Forget that: the SR 1500 can use its Wi-Fi capabilities to suck those codes right off the Internet and configure itself. Scary. It’s basically one step away from Skynet. The only downside at the moment is that the SR 1500 isn’t available to end users: rather it’ll be sold to companies that want to package the unit with their set-top boxes.
I feel taunted. Well, at least I guess I don’t need to worry about what happens when my remote control gives me a blue screen of death. Yet.
I like flashlights—or, as our friends across the pond call them, torches—but sometimes they just don’t do enough lasting damage. Sure, you can shine it in your buddy’s eyes, but you can’t, say, burn his retinas out. As the old saying goes, it’s all fun and games until someone permanently loses his eyesight—then it’s just fun.
The Torch aims to take flashlights to a new level. Coming in at 4100 lumens, the Torch is 100 lumens brighter than the previous record-holder. “How bright is it?” you want to know. Bright enough that it can set paper on fire. That doesn’t impress you? How about the fact that it can melt plastic, toast marshmallows, or scramble eggs.
Of course, all that power comes at a tradeoff: you only get fifteen minutes of burning and cooking before this sucker runs out of juice (at least they include the batteries and charger). If you’re smart, you’ll have set something on fire before it runs out of battery power.
Should you opt to spend the $300 this makeshift lightsaber costs, we urge to please use it only for good, never for evil. Because after your fifteen minutes are up, you’re going to be in serious trouble, young man.