(You're reading all posts by Rob LeFebvre) Anchorage, Alaska-based freelance writer and editor Rob LeFebvre is Cult of Mac's Culture Editor. He has contributed to various tech, gaming and iOS sites, including 148Apps, VentureBeat, and Paste Magazine. Feel free to find Rob on Twitter @roblef
About Rob LeFebvre
Sometimes all a penguin needs is love, says the new Christmas ad from British department store John Lewis.
There’s a young boy with a real penguin. The penguin, named Monty, loves playing with the boy: swimming, sledding, building with Legos. but there’s one thing the boy cannot provide for poor Monty, and that’s a life mate.
Watch the full ad below and be sure to stick around for a delightful Calvin & Hobbesian moment at the end.
My math-averse daughter wanted to cheat on her algebra homework. So we downloaded PhotoMath, a free app that lets you take a picture of your mathematical and algebraic equations, solving them for you and showing the steps to the solution.
PhotoMath has been at the top of the App Store charts for a couple of weeks, hitting number one on the Education, Kids Games and Top Apps lists. Small wonder, as it seems like a great way to get out of doing homework.
However, despite the concerns of some parents and teachers, apps like PhotoMath just won’t help when it comes to cheating — they’re far too limited. Still, it’s a promising technology that, once it matures, might actually turn into the type of wonder tool for education we’ve long been promised, turning our iOS devices into useful educational tools that will help kids actually learn math, rather than simply giving them a shortcut to homework answers.
In this new, three-minute-long trailer, Warner Bros. teases us with the epic conclusion to Peter Jackson’s Hobbit film trilogy.
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies will complete the story of Bilbo Baggins’ journey with Thorin Oakenshield and his company of dwarves as they reclaim the wealth of their homeland. But the heroes also must deal with Smaug (that pesky dragon they unleashed in the last movie) and take care of that badass orc that’s been following them from the get-go.
Check out the full trailer below.
The thing about robots in science fiction, especially recently, is that they’re often portrayed as living in a clean, distant future.
The brilliance of Neill Blomkamp is his gritty, dirty, realistic portrayal of the future, and he’s bringing us a new robot to live there, named Chappie.
Chappie, motion captured by Blomkamp favorite Sharlto Copley, is a gifted young robot, an artistic and emotional prodigy. In the trailer below, you can see how much of the real world Blomkamp sets around Chappie: He-Man on the television, a wristwatch on the main propellerhead kid that befriends the robot, and a variety of militaristic types trying to blow up the special kid.
Check it out.
Shot on location in San Francisco, this film shows the more human side of drone technology: taking to the skies and filming beautiful people having sex.
Porn has always driven the adoption of new technologies, including VHS, Blue-Ray, and the internet itself. Online payment systems, streaming technologies, and even broadband technology has been driven by our endless need to see other people doing the nasty.
When there’s a new technology on offer, the adult entertainment business is the first to adopt and exploit it. Drones are no different: what better way to engage our inner voyeur than with footage of the sexual act.
The below video has an atmospheric soundtrack and — yes — people engaging in the oldest human activity on earth. While it’s tastefully done (there are no close ups of the action), the nakedness is clearly visible and is, as such, not safe for any environment like work or the subway. With that warning firmly in hand, head on through to see the video.
Just like iPads and iPhones are the hottest item on this year's holiday lists for many children, toys have always been a decidedly technological affair.
The 1950s were a decade of rapid change, post-World War II and through the Korean War. Toys of any decade reflect the culture of their times, and this collection of the popular toys from the 1950s — many still available in modern versions today — shows a focus on science, heroism, and realism.
Click on through to see how enduring favorites like Mr. Potato Head , Silly Putty and Lincoln Logs got their start in this fascinating decade.
Photo: Hake Collectibles
Lone Ranger Guitar
The Lone Ranger is one of America's most enduring Western fictional characters, first appearing in 1933 on a radio show out of Detroit. Originally inspired by Texas Ranger Captain John R. Hughes in a book by Zane Grey in 1915, the character became incredibly popular in the 1940s and '50s on radio, television, and in big screen serials. While the 10-inch action figure of the Lone Ranger may be the most successful, we're most enamored of this Lone Ranger-branded guitar, which is described as "a large size, 6-string Guitar, decorated just like a cowboy's. Has a rich professional tone. With shoulder cord and instructions for playing, tuning." Boy howdy that sounds keen.
Photo: Sears Supertone
Rangers Toy Gun
The golden age of cap guns started soon after World War II with toy guns sold bearing the names of famous television and film heroes like The Lone Ranger, Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, and Hopalong Cassidy were all the rage. The smoke powder gun above was marketed as a toy that looked so real, due to the smoke, that kids wouldn't be able to tell it from a real gun. Note in the ad: "This smoke powder is harmless. Will not hurt the eyes and may even be eaten." Gross. These days, all toy cap guns must be fitted with a bright orange plug in the barrel of the gun to prevent anyone from thinking they are actually real weapons.
Photo: Specialties Manufacturing Co.
Scientific Jet Rocket
Once Sputnik launched into space and the imagination of young boys and girls everywhere in late 1957, amateur rocketry became the hobby of choice for many kids and adults from then on. The Pacific Rocket Society was founded in the early decade, and would launch and research rockets from a site deep in the Mojave Desert. A 1956 article in Scientific American described how to build and power amateur rockets, helping a generation of kids send cardboard tubes into the sky. Perhaps inspired by the same article, 17-year-old Jimmy Blackmon's six foot homemade rocket was grounded by the Civil Aeronautics Administration as it was built from a material too week to contain the explosive nature of the liquid nitrogen, gasoline, and liquid oxygen fuel. Boom, baby. The rocket above only uses air and water to propel itself, so you know it was boring.
Photo: Honor House Products
The quintessential Schwinn bike from the 1950s was the Hornet, a single-geared cruiser with sweet "tank" and headlight styling. The Hornet first released in 1952, and the Schwinn company produced a new model every year thereafter from 1954 to 1964. The 1955 advertisement for this classic bicycle calls The Hornet "a fully equipped bike at a price that’s hard to beat -- and you get famous Schwinn quality and styling, too! Features include tank with horn, chrome truss rods and torpedo headlight. Sturdy luggage carrier on 26-inch models only." Beep beep!
Photo: Schwinn Bicycles
The original pink putty is made up of silicone and various other chemicals to produce a substance that acts both like a liquid and a solid. The best thing, however, is the way it picked up newsprint (before they switched to the more modern soy-based inks) and allowed kids to stretch and deform any number of images from the daily paper. The substance was originally sold out of Ruth Fallgatter's toy store, but it was marketing consultant Peter Hodgson who saw the true potential. As soon as he borrowed $147 to produce the now-famous plastic egg packaging and name: Silly Putty. The investment paid off, as the toy sold over 250,000 eggs worth of putty in the first three days. Though originally targeted at adults, the 1950s saw a huge uptake in the number of kids who bought the weird substance. The first televised commercial for the goo came about in 1957, which aired on the Howdy Doody Show.
Mr Potato Head
George Lerner came up with the idea of sticking various plastic features into fruits and vegetables during the early 1940s, but it wasn't until he showed his idea to the Hassenfeld Brothers (Hasbro) in 1951 that the toy reached national prominence. The first Mr. Potato Head toy, released in 1952, consisted of hands, feet, ears, two mouths, two pairs of eyes, four noses, three hats, glasses, a pipe, and felt facial hair. There was no potato "body" in those first kits, so families had to provide their own tuberous plaything until 1964 when the now-familiar plastic body was included. Mr. Potato Head also has the distinction of being first toy advertised on the nascent medium of television, and got a Mrs. Potato Head soon after in 1953.
This now-famous and controversy-prone doll was "born" March 9, 1959 at the American International Toy Fair in New York. The doll's inventor, Ruth Handler, had seen an adult-figured Bild Lili doll while traveling in Germany with her daughter, Barbara, and brought the design back to the United States to rework with engineer Jack Ryan). The fictional Barbie's full name is Barbara Millicent Roberts, and she has an on-again, off-again romantic relationship with her boyfriend Ken Carson, who was first created in 1961. Barbie has owned a ton of vehicles, including that famous pink Corvette convertible, and a veritable zoo of animals, including dogs, cats, horses, lion cubs, and zebras. The doll has been manufactured with a wide range of careers in the proceeding decades, including that of Astronaut, Doctor, and Nascar Barbies. She's also sparked more than her fair share of controversy, both around her inhuman measurements as well as the various failed attempts at producing dolls that were anything but white.
Photo: Mattel, Inc.
Lincoln Logs were first released as a toy in 1924, after they were invented in 1916 by John Lloyd Wright, second son of the architect Frank Lloyd Wright, while visiting Japan with his famous architect father. The younger Wright is said to have named the logs after Abraham Lincoln's famous log-cabin, but other sources state it's from Frank Wright's original middle name (Lincoln) or an alteration of the name 'linkin' logs. Whatever the case, 1950s television shows like Pioneer Playhouse and Davy Crocket featured the toy sets in advertisements, resulting in huge sales spikes in the early part of the decade. You can still buy these wooden construction toy today, a testament to the enduring appeal of construction toys.
This spring-like toy was invented by a naval engineer in 1943. Richard James demonstrated the toy at Gimbels department store in Philadelphia in 1945, and the metal marvel was an immediate hit, selling all 400 units in the first hour and a half. Over 300 million Slinky toys, named by James' wife Betty for it's sinuous properties, have been sold between 1945 and 2005. The metal version gave way to a safer plastic version in the 1970s for parents concerned their children would jam the metal toy into electrical sockets. The toy is so popular that the US Postal service issued a Slinky postage stamp in 1999.
The modern version of the hula hoop was marketed in 1958 by Arthur Melin and Richard Knerr and was based on an Australian bamboo exercise hoop. Their toy company Wham-O marketed the plastic version of the hoop starting in 1958: 25 million units of the hip-shaking toy were sold in less than four months after release, and sales reached 100 million hula hoops within two years. A huge fad was born, but just as quickly waned as Wham-O faced a glut of un-bought hoops after ramping up production on the toy. Luckily, Wham-O had a new toy up their sleeves: the Frisbee.
As vinyl enjoys a resurgence in interest and availability, it’s no small wonder that the publisher of Grand Theft Auto V is creating a special boxed set of tunes on physical media.
The six-disc vinyl and three-disc CD box sets will include 59 tracks from the game, including the original score, songs from the in-game radio stations (including real recording artists like A$AP Rocky and Tyler), and even some new content from DJs in the game, including Big Boy, DJ Pooh, Nathan and Stephen from WAVVES, Kenny Loggins, Twin Shadow and Cara Delevingne. The soundtrack is already available digitally through iTunes, but the new collection will come out on CD and vinyl in a 5,000 copy collector’s edition run. You’ll be able to grab a copy starting Decemebr 9, though no price point has been revealed.
Look, we all love sharing and getting nude photos of people we consensually want to see naked, right?
The problem, as this College Humor video notes, is that “some of you assholes keep sharing our nudes.”
While the big news is in the leaks of celebrity nude photos, even non-celebs want to be able to share sexy shots with their intimates. But if you keep sharing these ill-gotten gains, the amount of nudes out there? Is going to stop.
Check out the video below for more details.
It’s been a full week here at Cult of Mac, so we’ve once again put together a special Newsstand issue — all of the best news stories and features compiled in one place to read through easily on your iPad or iPhone. This week we’ve got some fantastic coverage of Tim Cook’s historic coming out letter, reviews of the iPad Air 2 (and our reasoning for skipping that iPad mini 3 review), some more great tips for your new install of OS X Yosemite, and some scary horror flicks that you’ll want to watch all weekend long. That and more, as always, in this week’s Cult of Mac Magazine.
What were you doing when you were 17? Probably not publishing a book on how to program 3-D terrain in video games.
Game developer Trent Polack did just that. He’s been playing games since, well, forever.
“My mom says I’ve been playing games since I was 2,” he told Cult of Mac, “but I don’t think that’s possible.”
That lifetime of experience is paying off for Polack, creative director of Team Chaos, a small game studio based in Austin, Texas. His team’s latest project is a collaboration with Rooster Teeth, a video production house beloved by gamers for its hilarious machinima, or films created using video game engines (most notably Red vs. Blue, based on the best-selling Halo series).
In the Rooster Teeth vs. Zombiens, which should hit mobile devices in late November, the Rooster Teeth crew gets turned into cannon fodder as they face off against a swarm of zombie aliens. Cult of Mac talked with Polack about that noteworthy project, his gaming roots and his knack for crafting crazy publicity emails.