Monthly Archives: February 2013

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Here’s How To Rally In A 4000-Pound BMW

That’s not in weight, of course. That’s the meager price of this BMW 325i rally car — in herculean Blightybux — that Chris Harris and his buddy Dan Prosser drove in the Wyedean Forest Rally, recently. Did they have fun without spending a shite-ton of cocks-and-hens? Yea, verily.

This week on Chris Harris on Cars, Chris and Dan go rallying in the misty marches of the Forest of Dean and Lower Wye Valley, along the Welsh-English border, with Dan manning the pace notes for the first time ever. Chris puts on his most stolid driver’s face and goes oppo’ing off into the woods.

The point is that having fun with cars doesn’t always take megabucks and a childhood devoted to the karting fast track. But it does take a good, cheap car and a few clicks’ worth of misty marches.

YouTube iOS App Now Beams Video to Your TV

YouTube’s iOS app has been updated with a “send to TV” feature that lets you beam videos wirelessly to your television from your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch. More »


Ice age chicken and egg: did warming or carbon dioxide rise come first?

Crystals in thin slice of Antarctic ice from Talos Dome seen through polarized microscope.

Ice cores have certainly done their share for climate science, but nobody’s perfect. While they contain wildly useful samples of ancient air and proxy records of temperature, linking the two together is harder than you might expect. Once you get down to fine-scale questions of timing, that difficulty becomes important.

Several studies that have looked at the start of the warming out of the last ice age have concluded that temperature began to rise several centuries before carbon dioxide increased. This week, a new study in Science shows that may not be the case.

The complications arise from the way in which air is trapped in ice. The ice, of course, forms from snow compressed by the weight of the snow on top of it. Above the ice, then, it’s possible for air to move between the bits of snow (or partially-compacted “firn”). So while this year’s snow (from which temperature is determined) is found at the surface, it won’t be encapsulated as much as 100 meters below. That means that when you analyze a layer from an ice core, the age of the ice and the age of the air bubbles are offset. If we want to know whether temperature rose before CO2, we’ve got to know which layer of ice corresponds to which layer of air bubbles.

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Files Is An Incredibly Simple Yet Powerful File Manager for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch

iOS: You’ll find a number of apps for managing your files on an iPhone or iPad, but most make it feel like a task or chore. A new app called Files makes the process so simple and elegant that you’ll actually enjoy using it.

Managing your files on iOS has never been particularly easy, but Files actually turns it into a fun process that’s easy to understand as it follows existing paradigms in the operating systems. You manage photos, videos, music, documents, and more just like you would apps on your home screen. Images and videos generate previews so you can now more about what you’re going to open. You can even create folders inside of folders. If you don’t like the iOS-style interface, you can swap it out for a more traditional list view.

Files allows you to transfer anything from your computer via a stellar web interface. You can also import from email, your photo library, several cloud services (Dropbox, Box, and Google Drive), and even download from any URL. The app can view many files within itself, including music and videos, but it’ll allow you to open any files in another app if it can’t handle the type on its own. While there are a number of features we’d like to see down the line (e.g. built-in MKV support, cloud folder sync), Files is already an amazing tool that’s well worth a download.

Files ($1) | iTunes App Store

BitFenix Raider Case Review: All These Little Things

BitFenix has historically been fairly reliable at producing reasonably priced cases that have their own aesthetic flair and solid performance. They've been exactly daring enough with designs like the extremely popular Prodigy, and been able to produce great value with less expensive builds like the Merc series. For the most part their midrange has been fairly well-covered by the Shinobi, but for users looking for something with a little more pep and a little different design, today we have on hand the Raider.

The Raider seems like a fairly basic ATX mid-tower, but there's some secret sauce at work here. BitFenix includes a pseudo-removable drive cage and, almost surprisingly, no side ventilation. No window, no side fan, nothing but two solid side panels. There's also a trio of BitFenix's silent Spectre fans, and that signature attractive soft-touch plastic finish. It sounds like the Raider has a lot going for it, but does it hold up?



Help Wanted: Editor-in-Chief

After some of the best years of my life, I’m leaving Gizmodo. I love this staff like family, but it’s time for me to move on. We’re going to need a new fearless leader. Job requirements: More »


I Bought The

It’s been a bad secret for the last few months, but I thought I should let everyone know, officially, that I am the proud owner of the most famous Merkur XR4Ti in the world. This is similar to having the world’s most famous spaetzle press in that it’s not particularly impressive, vaguely German, and a completely nonsense statement. 

I didn’t set out to buy a Merkur XR4Ti and never thought I’d buy one with such an important and historic lineage. Life is full of surprises, and occasionally one of those surprises comes with a welded differential.

Like many good stories, this all starts out with a tip from a reader last summer that Top Gear was driving around with a Merkur, an SVX, and an Allante. My sources told me that the cars would be sold, per the challenge, at the end of the episode somewhere in San Diego.

Something about the Merkur struck me. My dream car is a Ford Escort RS Cosworth, which is basically a custom body over a Ford Sierra, and the Merkur is basically a Ford Sierra, which means if I bought it I would basically own a Ford Escort RS Cosworth. 

I reached out to friends to see if anyone could go down to San Diego to bid on the car. I didn’t know anything about the car, its history, its condition, or even what the price would be.  Knowledge is supposedly synonymous with power, but in my experience knowledge is usually just a deterrent to buying something ridiculous.

My sources were right. Top Gear was shooting an episode about cars that should have been hits but weren’t. Tanner Foust was driving the Merkur and would be selling it at a San Diego Ford dealership. You can (and should) watch the episode here and see the advertisement Foust did for it below.

Those sweet donuts are going to end up costing me money and hassle but, for now, let’s just enjoy them.

To win the challenge, co-host and amateur drum kit collector Rutledge Wood needed to sell his Subaru SVX for the highest price. Instead he spent his per diem buying the Merkur from Foust. Who can say no to a Merkur and, besides, he was pretty sure he knew another person almost as crazy for weird cars as he is after we bonded over Bricklins and wagons on a shoot for the original season of TGUSA.

Fast forward a couple of weeks and I have this text message exchange:

Rutledge: So, you love a good XR4Ti, huh?

Me: I am an American.

Rutledge: Hahaha

I know where a nice red one went if you still want one

Me: Hah, I’m listening…

Rutledge: Are we in the tree of trust? The trust tree?

Me: Deep in the roots

Rutledge: You know that nice red one we had on the show?

Me: Yes. Tried to send a buddy down to bid on it.

Rutledge: Yeah… I bought it.

My mind was racing. Why was he telling me this? Might I buy it? Alas, he wasn’t sure if his lovely and super cool wife Rachel would like it. Of the 40+ cars he’s owned since they’ve been together she’s been on board with all of them except his awesome Buick Roadmaster and the Merkur. 

It should be noted that Rutledge also offered me the Roadmaster, but I declined because I was hoping for something a little faster. 

Because he’s a great guy and the living embodiment of carma, he sold the Merkur to me for the very fair price of the $550 he paid for it plus the money it cost to ship and two Crown Royal-and-Sprites. 

It was a deal, but because of our busy schedules and a misplaced title it was hard for me to actually get down to Atlanta to go pick it up. So there it sat, on his brother-in-law Adam’s property, going undriven. Taunting me. 

I wouldn’t make it down until the end of my trip with Travis to Deal’s Gap in December. Our final stop on the journey was Rutledge’s charming hometown of Atlanta, Georgia. We got to meet Rut’s charming family, juggle a little bit, see what else he was driving, and finally hook up with the car.

Travis was obviously jealous when he saw the bright red German Ford, but he was kind enough to hide that jealousy under a patina of extreme pity. Rutledge’s brother-in-law Adam explained to me how I had to have the auxiliary fan on at all times to keep the engine from overheating. He pointed out that the car had been painted a luxurious black but, for TV purposes, had been quickly oversprayed with paint the color and sheen of cherry chapstick.

The envy reached a boiling point when I took Travis on the car’s maiden trip and it stalled at every intersection… a problem only exacerbated by the welded diff, which required me to drift around every sharp turn. Whatever. I loved it.

Tanner Foust is, of course, a professional drifter, but he apparently couldn’t handle the raw power of a drifting Merkur without cheating a little bit. Maybe one day, with a lot of practice, he’ll be able to handle such a fine machine without any assistance. Dare to dream, Tanner.

After getting the details sorted we took the car back to the hotel and set off for Partner’s Pizza for their Potato Pizza… which is basically a baked potato on a pizza crust. Delicious. 

In the next installment of Project Xratty, I’ll explain how I got it all the way home, how helpful the guys  at Merkur Midwest have been, and where it goes next.

Any questions?

Tesla says it lost “hundreds” of orders after New York Times controversy

Swanky car company Tesla recently engaged in some very public barb-trading with The New York Times over a test drive of the slick, all-electric sports car Model S. In light of that, the automaker’s CEO told Bloomberg TV the company has lost “a few hundred” orders resulting from what it views as the Times’ bad reporting.

“We did actually get a lot of cancellations as a result of The New York Times article. It probably affected us to the tune of tens of millions, to the order of $100 million, so it’s not trivial,” Elon Musk, the chief executive, said on Monday.

“I would say that refers more to the valuation of the company. It wasn’t as though there were 1,000 cancellations just due to The New York Times article. There were probably a few hundred.”

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Text Mode Makes Web Pages Less Distracting

Text Mode Makes Web Pages Less DistractingChrome: Great apps like Readability turn web pages into a format more easy on the eyes, but sometimes you just want less of a distraction rather than an entirely new look. Text Mode blocks out all images and flash components on a web page and puts everything into grayscale for distraction-free web browsing.

As depicted in the screenshot above, text is rendered about the same—just without color. Images, however, become a diagonal striped pattern so you can focus entirely on the written word. To activate Text Mode, you just click on the installed extension button and let it fly. To turn it off, just click the button again. The only very minor issue is that Text Mode doesn’t work in Hi-DPI mode (e.g. on retina MacBook Pros and computers like them) but that won’t affect the majority of users. If you’re looking for a simple way to make web pages less distracting, all you need is Google Chrome and this free extension.

Text Mode (Free) | Chrome Web Store via Addictive Tips

Live from Nokia’s MWC 2013 Press Conference

We just took our seats at the Nokia MWC 2013 press conference here in the new MWC venue in Barcelona. We're not sure what to expect from Noka today but we'll be covering the event live as best we can while WiFi holds up.