Firebox Offers ‘CrapWrap’ Service For A Chuckilicious Christmas

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If you really want to show someone you love them this Christmas then you’ll buy them a present and have it wrapped by a blind monkey with tourettes, right?

Well this seems to be what Firebox is hinting at with its new CrapWrap service, which claims to be a solution for people who are “bored of perfectly folded paper and exquisite tied ribbon”.

Inside NASA’s 747 Flying Telescope [Nasa]

Although still three years from starting actual scientific missions, the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) airborne observatory is tenaciously getting closer to its first job day. After two decades of research and $500 million modding a Boeing 747—including the 2.5-meter telescope itself that you can see tested in this video—SOFIA got a High-speed Imaging Photometer for Occultation two weeks ago, an instrument that will help it to measure objects’ surfaces and atmospheres. Now, NASA is completing final tests at their Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility before its first open-door flight later this year.

Why twenty years and so much money spent in this observatory? Well, while it’s not as spectacular as a space telescope, the daily challenges that SOFIA will face are greater than those of Hubble. From the high-tech door system in the modified 747 to the technology needed to compensate for the extreme in-flight vibration, SOFIA needs a lot more daily love than Hubble does.

In fact, it’s not that expensive: The $500 million price tag is a bargain when you consider the $2.5 billion paid for the Hubble Space Telescope’s construction. Not to talk about the Hubble’s total bill, including the servicing missions, which is estimated at between $4.5 billion to $6 billion without the more than half billion dollars that Europe put into the project.

For sure, SOFIA is not as flexible and won’t take the same kind of breathtaking photos that Hubble does. The telescope is designed to only work on the infrared and far-infrared light spectrums. But then again, in those light ranges, flying will allow it to get results as good or better than Hubble (it’s mirror is almost 4 inches larger than Hubble’s). After all, SOFIA won’t have to deal with 99% of the atmospheric vapor that disturbs these kind of instruments at ground level.

On the other side, repairing it won’t require dangerous and costly space missions. If it breaks down, they will fix it in the hangar.

Tests for SOFIA will being this month, while actual science missions will start in 2011, getting into full capability in 2014. [NASA]


Black Friday Giveaways (part 1): Guitar Hero On Tour / Decades bundles

Whether you’ve found yourself camped out in a line this early winter morning or just up late to see what we’re giving away on Engadget, we’d like to welcome you to our Black Friday giveaways. We’ve got a metric ton of gadgets we’re giving away today, so be sure to check frequently. First up on the block: a set of Guitar Hero: On Tour and Guitar Hero: On Tour Decades bundles for the DS. Ready? Here’s how it works.

We’ll put up a gadget on the site, and you can only enter it until the next gadget lands (usually within a couple of hours). If you miss your shot, sorry, we’re moving on to the next gadget. Good luck! Oh, and don’t forget the rules. (Yeah, there are always rules.)

  • Leave a comment below. That’s it! Who loves you, baby.
  • You may only enter this specific giveaway once. If you enter this giveaway more than once you’ll be automatically disqualified, etc. (Yes, we have robots that thoroughly check to ensure fairness.) You can enter different giveaways in today’s Black Friday giveaways, but you can only enter this one once.
  • If you enter more than once, only activate one comment. This is pretty self explanatory. Just be careful and you’ll be fine.
  • Contest is open to anyone in the 50 States, 18 or older! Sorry, we don’t make this rule (we hate excluding anyone), so be mad at our lawyers or US contest laws if you have to be mad.
  • Winners will be chosen randomly.
  • Entries can be submitted until the next contest goes up. After that we’re all done. Good luck!
  • Full rules can be found here.

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Black Friday Giveaways (part 1): Guitar Hero On Tour / Decades bundles originally appeared on Engadget on Fri, 28 Nov 2008 10:57:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Netgear Digital Entertainer Elite media streamer says hello to the FCC

Netgear returns with the Digital Entertainer Elite network media streamer taking an early peek from cover to go through its paces at the FCC test center. Two years after the EVA8000 Digital Entertainer HD, the EVA9000 model adds support for a 3.5-inch SATA internal HDD, 802.11n and more to its predecessor’s lengthy list of features. The leaked spec comparison after the break reveals AVI, XviD, DivX and h.264 decoding returning plus Dolby True HD, DTS-HD Master Audio, MKV, TS, M2TS file support that should chew through any HD files you’ve got and then some. Why wait for an official announcement, shipping date or price? The FCC already had its fun, so check out the PDFs for a full manual plus pictures inside & out, then once this box hits the stage at CES just pretend like you never saw it with the cover off.

[Pictures via AVSForum]

Continue reading Netgear Digital Entertainer Elite media streamer says hello to the FCC

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Netgear Digital Entertainer Elite media streamer says hello to the FCC originally appeared on Engadget on Fri, 28 Nov 2008 10:38:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Golden Shellback weatherproof coating now on sale

We’ll be frank — we had kind of forgotten about the altogether astounding Golden Shellback after seeing it work its magic on video this summer, but now the weatherproof coating is on sale, and it’s mighty tempting. For the argonauts out there (or just you clumsy kids) who can’t seem to honor the natural separation between gadget and liquid, this coating keeps your precious gizmo safe from the occasional splash of rain, mist, fog, steam or Seltzer water. Granted, such protection won’t run you cheap (does it ever?), with a coating for the BlackBerry Pearl running $120, the iPod shuffle $60 and the iPod touch $120. GS will also encase a few other select devices, and honestly, they’ll probably wrap up your Palm III if the offer is right.

Read – Official website
Read – Coated iPod shuffle auction

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Golden Shellback weatherproof coating now on sale originally appeared on Engadget on Fri, 28 Nov 2008 10:07:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Nokia N96 Bruce Lee Edition Promoted By Coolest Video Ever Made

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You may not be aware that Nokia is launching a special edition version of its N96, mainly because it’s only going to be available in Hong Kong.

It comes with an action figure of the great one himself along with assorted weapons and accessories and some sort of kung-fu keychain, but this isn’t why we’ve taken the time to tell you about it.

10 Reasons We’re Doomed: Black Friday Edition [Retail Hell]

Today is Black Friday, a day dedicated to our basest and most pathetic inclinations. The day after giving thanks for all that we have, we turn around and jump through horrible hoops to accumulate more at the insistence of sleazy, desperate retailers. It’s a nice summation of everything wrong with this country and the holiday season, an appropriately named cancerous mark on our calendars. Our behavior today is the sort of thing an alien race would use as justification for our destruction. Let’s run through the specifics, shall we?

1. Deals in Exchange for Dignity
You know what sucks? Not being able to afford something you really want, like an HDTV, unless you sacrifice your dignity by camping out in front of a mall in below-freezing temperatures on a night that should be spent with your family. The insane early-hour doorbuster sales force people, especially people with lower incomes who rely on discounts and sales, to physically suffer for their purchases. No cheap Blu-ray player is worth that.

2. May the Worst Man Win
Once you’ve spent the night camped out in line in front of a store, knowing full well there aren’t enough discounted plasma TVs to go around, you turn into an animal. After all, if you leave empty handed you’ve wasted your entire night. So when those doors finally open, you don’t have a line of shoppers—you have a line of bloodthirsty, vicious monsters that aren’t afraid to throw a few elbows to get to that pallet of merchandise first.

3. Everyone Stinks of Desperation
In previous years, it was the shoppers who were desperate on Black Friday, with retailers playing the role of sleazy opportunists. But now, with a financial crisis in full, brutal swing, both sides are equally desperate. The retailers need the shoppers as much as the shoppers need the deals, putting a lot more on the line for everyone involved this year. It’s a sad situation, one that lends an extra air of patheticness to the whole ordeal.

4. Bait and Switch
One thing that’s consistent throughout all the Black Friday ads we’ve seen is that there aren’t actually many good deals to be had. Every store offers up a handful of legit deep discounts, of which they have an inadequate supply. They get you into the store with these deals, but unless you slept on a sidewalk the night before, you were basically suckered into coming in for nothing, nothing but the retailer’s hope that you’ll stick around and buy stuff at full price, like an idiot.

5. You Don’t Really Want This Crap
Even if you do score what you came for, they’re probably not actually the things you want. They’re what you’ll settle for. You’ve had your eye on a Garmin with voice command or a Samsung with LED backlighting, but they’re not on sale. So you suck it up and instead buy the more gimped Garmin (or even a TomTom) or the Samsung with the crappier contrast CCFL backlight. You can’t justify buying the top product when the step-down is so insanely discounted. Black Friday has totally removed the satisfaction of researching a particular product and buying it because you really want it.

6. Seasonal Employees are Idiots
Every holiday season, retailers hire fresh meat to work for a month or two to help handle the rise in demand. Guess what? They don’t train them very well and these seasonal workers could give a shit about the company they’re working for. Bad combo! When you’re trying to buy something expensive like an HDTV, you want to ask questions from someone who both knows what they’re talking about and at least has a mild interest in you having a positive experience. Seasonal employees provide neither of these things.

7. There Will Be Blood
Every year boatloads and boatloads of people show up for Black Friday sales, and every year retailers can’t handle it. Maybe they won’t be set up for the line and it’ll be disorganized, leading people to fight for spots. Or maybe the registers will go down, leading to insanely long waits to check out. But something will invariably go wrong—very wrong—making your shopping experience even worse, if that’s even possible.

8. The Kickoff of the Advertising Clusterfuck
Nothing ruins the holidays like advertising. Every year it gets more cynical, with fat guys in Santa suits promoting everything from beers to debt consolidation. You can’t turn on the TV without being assaulted by some schmaltzy crap designed to twist your positive memories of the holiday season into an impetuous purchase. Nothing flushes my feelings of goodwill towards my fellow man down the toilet like seeing a line of Walmart cashiers playing Christmas songs with their register lights.

9. Buying Presents Sucks
This might be a dickish point, but come on. Deep down, you agree. Going out and shopping for other people is no fun. Sure, giving stuff to people feels great, but the actual act of going to a store, finding something and buying it and then not actually having anything for yourself to justify this sacrifice? It’s for the birds. Holiday shopping is a hellish, hellish experience, and the warm fuzzies you get from giving someone a gift don’t quite make up for the shitshow it requires you to put up with.

10. You’re Poor
Seriously, what the hell are you doing buying this stuff anyway? You don’t have any savings, you live paycheck to paycheck and if you haven’t been laid off yet you probably will be soon. Just because something is cheaper than it usually is doesn’t mean you have to buy it. You can go into debt just as easily buying shit when it’s on sale as you can buying shit when it’s full priced. Don’t get suckered by advertising. Give yourself the best gift of all this holiday season: being fiscally responsible.

More Advice for the Black Friday Fray:
• The aforementioned Ultimate Survival Guide.
5 Gadgets You Can’t Skimp On (And How to Save Money Buying Them)
Best of Black Friday Deals Complete Roundup“>All the best deals in one place
• Plus these late breaking ones from Cupertino: Apple Black Friday Deals Include Some Decent Third-Party Discounts
• Warnings: 7 Crappy Black Friday “Deals” That Aren’t Really
How To Choose an HDTV on Black Friday (or Any Day)
How to set up that new HDTV you just got.

Photochop Contest:
Brutally Honest Black Friday Ads Showcase Retailers on the Brink

Why You Might Want to Avoid Shopping on Black Friday, altogether:
10 Reasons We’re Doomed: Black Friday Edition
WalMart Worker Trampled to Death by Deal-Crazed Black Friday Shoppers

[Complete Black Friday Gadget Coverage at Giz]


Alternative energy and green gifts – Solar, fuel cells, biodiesel and more! [Advertisement]

Next year is going to be a big year folks, we’ll see more investment and emphasis on alternative energy than ever before, this will be our “space race” and our “moon landing”. The children of today will be the ones who will shape the next decade and the next century.

As a parent, a friend, big brother or sister, a mentor or just someone who is giving a gift this holiday season – instead of a plastic toy or nik-nak MAKE Magazine asks that you consider giving something that might just spark the attention of a young mind that will be called to solve the challenges for our energy needs. Read on for solar kits, fuel cells, biodiesel projects and more…

Solarspeeder Kit
Power House Kit
Fuel Cell Car & Experiment Kit
MAKE: Volume 3



Nokia 5800 XpressMusic launch dubbed ‘stunning success;’ 120 Russians can’t be wrong

Nokia 5800 XpressMusic launch dubbed 'stunning success;' 120 Russians can't be wrong

We love covering the antics of gadget-crazed buyers on launch day as much as anyone, whether it be die-hard gamers waiting for a PS3 or international fanatics clamoring for Apple’s latest. Sometimes, though, these big launch sellouts feel a bit… contrived. Such is the case with Nokia’s 5800 XpressMusic, dropped first in Russia on Wednesday ahead of its worldwide release yesterday. An internal memo (conveniently posted onto the Mobile-Review forums by a Nokia employee) talks up the usual release day shenanigans: buyers camping for days, bribery attempts for spots in line, inventory disappearing in minutes, and an inevitable prediction that this thing will be bigger than the iPhone. However, while the memo liberally quotes from the LiveJournal musings of Mobile-Review editor Eldar Murtazin, it skips over one choice bit of information he provided: a measly 120 phones were available at this “flagship” location in Moscow.

[Thanks, pops]

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Nokia 5800 XpressMusic launch dubbed ‘stunning success;’ 120 Russians can’t be wrong originally appeared on Engadget on Fri, 28 Nov 2008 09:31:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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First Major Publisher Outsells CDs With Digital Downloads

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Our recent report that MP3s have outdone CDs, cassette tapes and vinyl as the fastest selling format of all time has just been backed up by another milestone following an announcement by Atlantic Records, part of the Warner Music Group.

It is the first major music publisher to have made more money from digital sales than physical sales of CDs and DVDs, with 51% of its revenue over the last year coming from download services like iTunes.