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Hide your kids, iRobot just got that ChemBot contract DARPA was shopping around last year, which means that before we know it, sentient bots will be oozing through keyholes and making really bad movies without regard for human life or decency. Probably. The project is a “multi-year, multi-million” R&D effort to build robots that are soft and flexible, and can squeeze through openings smaller than their actual “structural” dimensions. And of course the bots can’t be stupid piles of ooze, either, they’ll need to identify obstacles and report back findings. iRobot is teaming up with Harvard and MIT for the project, and expects to be working in research from fields as diverse as chemistry and “actuator technologies” to build the bots.

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Whoa, has it been a hot minute since we’ve seen a Pepper Pad 3 or what? Straight from the depths of left field comes Hanbit’s Pepper Pad 3, this time with a slightly more adept processor at the helm. Reportedly showcased ever-so-quietly at Computex (alongside a Tablet PC prototype), this critter was purportedly packing an Intel Atom CPU and a Linux-based OS. Further specifications included a 7-inch VGA touchscreen, QWERTY (loose interpreters, we see) keypad, integrated WiFi and a 20GB / 30GB hard drive. Not a clue when this thing is scheduled to slip out, but it will certainly give the Everun a run for its money in the ugly department.

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Garmin Nuvifone hands-on

It’s about time someone got his hands on a working Garmin Nuvifone. The folks at Laptop Magazine were lucky enough to spend some time with a prototype, reporting that the interface was snappy, the screen is nice and big, and the UI appears to be very GPS-centric. They tried the QWERTY keypad which is “spacious enough” and uses an auto-complete dictionary. The main interface presents a row of icons for calling, searching, and mapping, and finger swipes stream them across the screen. Included apps, at least in this model, were SMS, Google Search, email, and media player. All said, some apps didn’t load properly and some of the display units were frozen in bug limbo, but we’ll give Garmin a pass there as these were clearly early test units. So a couple questions remain: Is it still coming out Q3 of this year, and will it still run $499? Is it coming in white? Follow the read link for more impressions and hands-on pictures.

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If you were even the slightest bit intrigued by our hands-on with Samsung’s SC-HMX20C HD camcorder, you may be interested in seeing what we thought about it after a good bit of shooting. That’s right, the full review is ready and waiting over at Engadget HD. So, it’s a date?

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EA has made the Spore Creature Creator trial available for download on both Mac and PC. A while back EA promised simultaneous release for Mac and PC, and they seem to be on track with the Creature Creator which is available for purchase at $9.95.

The Spore Creature Creator is a preview and demo for the full Spore game, which is scheduled for release on September 7. As you might expect from the name the Creature Creator allows you to build and customize creatures which you’ll later be able to use in gameplay once the full game is released. I’ve been playing with the trial this morning and it does look very promising.

The Spore Creature Creator is Leopard and Intel Mac only. It requires at least an ATI X1600 or NVidia 7300 GT with 128 MB of Video RAM, or Intel Integrated GMA X3100. It will apparently not run on computers with the GMA 950 integrated graphics chipset on OS X (though, it will on Windows). The trial version can be downloaded directly from the Spore trial site.

Thanks, Shiraz!

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You already know about Firefox 3’s marquee new features, but now it’s time to dig deep and unearth the shortcuts, tweaks, and even Easter eggs that Mozilla marketing doesn’t mention. In honor of today’s official release of Firefox 3—at 10AM Pacific Time—let’s dive in past Firefox 3’s most talked-about feature-set into its lesser-known power uses, tricks, and customizations.

Shrink the Super-sized Back Button

The very first thing you notice in Firefox 3 is its extra large Back button. While it’s actually quite handy—less chance of missing your target!—if the Back button’s just too big for your tastes, it’s as easy as pie to reduce. Just right-click on Firefox’s toolbar, and choose Customize. In the dialog box, select “Use small icons.”

Adjust the Smart Location Bar’s Number of Suggestions

adjustsuggestion.pngThe Firefox 3 feature that you’ll get to know and love the most is the new smart location bar’s as-you-type suggestions that learn where you probably want to go as you browse. But if you’re feeling like the number of suggestions is too high or too low? Adjust it to your liking in Firefox’s configuration area. Here’s how.

  1. Enter about:config into the address bar and hit Enter.
  2. Press the “I”ll be carefull. I promise!” button. (Because you will be.)
  3. Enter browser.urlbar.maxRichResults in the Filter field to reach this preference.
  4. Set it to your desired number of suggestions. Three shown here.

Here’s another way to adjust the location bar behavior with an about:config tweak.

Shift+Delete Mistyped URL Suggestions

shiftdelete.pngWhile the Smart Location bar is quite intelligent, if you enter an incorrect URL—say, to a page that doesn’t exist—Firefox 3 will still remember it and suggest it again later. (Garbage in, garbage out, as they say.) To remove a mistyped URL from your suggestion list forever, key down to the suggestion and type Shift+Delete.

Ditch Obselete Extensions

Firefox’s philosophy seems to be “stay lean and mean and leave the extras to add-ons.” Nevertheless, Firefox 3 does bake in some functionality that makes some extensions you might love unnecessary. Here are five extensions you won’t need with Firefox 3.

Revert the “AwesomeBar” with Oldbar

oldbar.png Firefox’s smart location bar (a.k.a. “AwesomeBar”)—which drops down a suggestion list of destinations as you type into it—is extra verbose and extra-tall, since it includes both web site titles and URLs. If you’re missing Firefox 2’s classic one-line drop-down look, the Oldbar extension can revert the “AwesomeBar” to something less awesome—or at least something that looks less awesome.

Trick Out Your Smart Bookmarks

smartbookmarks1.png Like iTunes Smart Playlists and saved search folders in OS X and Vista, Firefox 3’s Smart Bookmarks are dynamic lists of URLs generated by certain search criteria. Here’s how to create your own collections of Smart Bookmarks using search parameters. Hint: Add the most frequent pages you visit on by bookmarking place:queryType=0&sort=8&maxResults=5&

Set Gmail as Your Default Email client—Without an Add-on

gmailfx3.png Firefox 3’s filetype handling mechanism can now associate web applications as well as desktop applications with certain files. This opens the door to possibilities like automatically launching links to ical files in your web-based calendar app, or opening your webmail when you click on email links. While most webapps have to catch up to Firefox 3 to enable this functionality, one we already know and love is already there. Here’s how to launch Gmail when you click mailto: links on web pages.

Say Hello to the Firefox Robots

You already know about the age-old Firefox about:mozilla Easter egg. Well, Firefox 3 has a new Easter egg that pays homage to its robot mascot. Type about:robots into the Firefox 3 address bar to get a fun page with a list of robot pop culture references, from I, Robot to Blade Runner to Battlestar Galactica to Futurama.

Enable Spellchecking in One-line Input Fields

typo.png This tweak goes back to Firefox 2, but is still just as useful and functional in Firefox 3, especially if you’re a web writer. In about:config, set layout.spellcheckDefault value equal to 2 to enable spell-checking in single line input fields as well as textareas. (Less typos in your email subject lines and blog post titles!) Here are a few more Firefox about:config tweaks.

Mac Users: Add Favicons to Your Bookmark Toolbar

Mac users who are rockin’ Firefox 3’s new slick Mac-like theme—but who miss their bookmarks’ favicons—can easily add web site icons to their toolbar with a little tweak.

For a bird’s-eye view of Firefox’s evolution over the last four years, see the history of Firefox 1.0 to 3.0 in screenshots. Then, see how Firefox 3 stacks up in performance tests in comparison to Safari, Opera, and Internet Explorer.

How are you tweaking Firefox 3 today when you install it? Give it up in the comments.

Gina Trapani, the editor of Lifehacker, looks forward to allocating memory to applications other than Firefox with version 3.0. Her weekly feature, Geek to Live, appears every Monday on Lifehacker—except today, Tuesday. Subscribe to the Geek to Live feed to get new installments in your newsreader.


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Time Machine is great way to backup your entire Mac, but what if you want to make a single backup of your recently imported photos in iPhoto? Well, Automator for Leopard is here to help with this task. In this how-to, I will show you how to find photos taken in the last 2 months and burn the resulting photos to a disc for safe keeping.

Continue reading to learn how to create this Automator workflow.

Continue reading Mac Automation: Burn a backup disc of recent iPhotos

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The Boston Globe’s website has a great infographic that explains covers just about all the basics of energy-restoring naps—when to take them, how long to doze for, how to set up a good nap environment, and much more. It’s a little low-resolution for printing, so anybody who can find a scan of the original feature would be a hero to those of us with a need for some mind-clearing shut-eye now and again.


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For those of you who aren’t looking forward to Firefox 3‘s default new look today, might I suggest an FF2 theme called GrApple Yummy, from Aronnax. It makes Firefox a dead ringer for Safari. In fact, Aronnax claims it looks three times more beautiful than Safari. Your mileage, of course, may vary.

GrApple Yummy is available in two flavors, blue and graphite. Blue contains three-color window controls, while graphite, as you might imagine, has gray window controls.

Both themes are donationware.

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outlook_secure.jpgThe Online Tech Tips site has a helpful step-by-step guide for creating encrypted, password-protected data files in Outlook. Walk through the steps and you’ll learn how to create a stash for your sensitive emails that no passerby, or network hacker, can get into without some serious effort. If you’re really looking to keep your Outlook data out of prying eyes and hands, read how to create encrypted backups of your data on a USB drive.


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