Guy bytes 8/1/12

Velodyne vPulses: Ear-gasms for Under $100

I got a text last week from Proculus, asking me if I wouldn’t mind grabbing his “headphones” from upstairs, and running them to the office. I sort of recalled him listening to them in the lavatoire the previous night, and went searching. It took me ten minutes, because he had—unbeknownst to me—replaced the crappy white plastic earbuds he had been using with the object of our upcoming custody suit: Velodyne’s vPulse In-Ear Headphones.


At under $100, the slick vPulse offers a sturdy, portable pair of earbuds that broadcast sound at a high quality. While there are costlier pairs on the market, many which offer superior sound quality, the cost for most people doesn’t really justify the jump in listening improvement.


Parent company Velodyne did a top-notch job translating their dominance in the subwoofer market to a micro-scale. Because contemporary pop music is mostly bass-heavy (you have heard of Niki Minaj, right?), earbud speakers with a boost to the bass and a pull-back on the treble will take the edge off some of the more egregious studio work your ears are subjected to by most radio stations. And the vPulses don’t force you to make a choice between bass quantity and bass quality. NOW HEAR THIS: $89.


Gibberish? Nope, it’s BABBEL

Learning another language is rewarding and fun, and it is made easier today through the availability of both online language packages (which can, admittedly, be costly), and apps. Babbel—which is a companion to a larger online package—offers lessons for 11 languages, and the apps are similar for each. The Babbel apps are powerful tools for language-learning, with each consisting of 2,000 to 3,000 words, split into categories—from everyday things like food and beverages, to more complicated and nuanced ones, like society, and relationships.


The app offers memory tricks and games, which makes it easier to learn new words. Matching images, speech recognition (that keeps score of how well you pronounce the text out loud), and other simple but fun exercises (including more advanced writing lessons) help keep the flow of your learning steady and—most importantly—memorable.


Babbel keeps tracks of your progress, and updates it to your online profile. The developer says it will add more complete course content to future versions, which means you will soon be “hablo”-ing, muy y mucho. ¡Ay, caramba! BABBEL-ON: Free on iOS and Android. (The app lets you set up a free account to keep track of your learning, and accesses you to the complete, fee-carrying online program.)


Drive, and Let Live


No matter how diligent you are in keeping driving distractions at bay, there will always be something that makes you lose focus. But keeping distractions to a minimum means a greater likelihood of arriving safe and sound. Most people know by now that texting while you drive is more dangerous than driving under the influence (which I am also not endorsing here). That probably hasn’t kept you from checking that last notification—while cruising at 88 mph, on the East Oakland Park off-ramp. This is an example of impulse overriding better judgment in the moment. Although its better not using your smartphone at all while operating heavy—life threatening—machinery, there are some things you can do to make your smartphone less of a hindrance.


Voice controls let you change a song or send a text while driving, and there are comprehensive voice control features on both iOS and Android. Older iPhones that don’t have Siri can utilize Vokul to bridge the gap. Android users have tons of options for personal assistant tools. The idea, though, is to keep your eyes, and your focus, on the road. Change songs or send texts while stopped at a red light. Voice controls allow you to keep an eye on the electronic signal (so you’ll know when it changes), and you can still put serious thought into whether you feel more “Britney” or “Rihanna” at that moment.