Time to get organized? Here’s the Plug Hub, innovatively designed to hide that rat’s nest of cables, wires and plugs underneath your desk.

Run your power cords through one of the three holes in the top, then you can plug them into a power strip sitting on its shelf below. I especially like the way you can mount it on a wall or under the desk, where all of those power adapters and wires can be hidden away where people can’t see them unless they’re crawling on the floor.

I’ve tried a similar organizer before, and while the Bluelounge Mini did the job of hiding away cables, it wasn’t as compact as the Plug Hub, nor could it be side-mounted to a desk, or possess a “cord anchor” inside where cables could be wrapped around. Now all this needs is a power strip with room for those huge “wall wart” power adapters, and it’ll tidy up the messiest part of my house.

Why is this organizer so well designed? More than 568 people helped influence this product, according to Quirky, the site that uses crowdsourcing to develop products. If enough people preorder this $24 Plug Hub, it’ll actually be manufactured and shipped. Like that super snow scrapin’ Snowdozer we showed you the other day from Quirky, this one gets my vote.

Plug Hub

In the real world, you’d probably turn the box around the other way so you don’t see the power strip.

Plug Hub

You can wrap your excess cable around the three reels inside.

Plug Hub

Not a bad-looking design.

Plug Hub

Here’s the Plug Hub mounted under a desk. Wait, is that power strip defying gravity? The power strip can be attached through holes in the bottom.

Plug Hub

Sure looks better than a chaotic mass of tangled cables to me.

More About: crowdsourced, design, organizer, Plug Hub, Quirky, trending




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It’s been another busy week at Mashable. We’ve hired a San Francisco Bureau Chief and sent our own Pete Cashmore to Davos. Still, the team was able to turn out another lineup of tools and resources from the past week or so for your reading pleasure.

Scroll down for infographics on the size of the web and an illustrated history of social media. We’ve also got some hands on demos and a look at some nifty LinkedIn features to help your company.

Looking for even more social media resources? This guide appears every weekend, and you can check out all the lists-gone-by here any time.


Social Media


For more social media news and resources, you can follow Mashable’s social media channel on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook.


Tech & Mobile


For more tech news and resources, you can follow Mashable’s tech channel on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook.


Business


For more business news and resources, you can follow Mashable’s business channel on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook.

Image courtesy of Webtreats

More About: business, Features Week In Review, gadgets, List, Lists, Mobile 2.0, social media, tech




It looks like something from a science fiction movie, but this Volkswagen Formula XL1 plug-in hybrid vehicle will actually be available for sale to real drivers like you and me.

Concept cars such as this are usually built one at a time, gracing trade shows and the pages of flashy auto publications. But according to German site Automobilwoche, this bulbous futuremobile is destined to be a regular production car, albeit part of a small batch of just 100 to start out. The first VW Formula XL1 will be available in Germany, and after that, they’ll roll out in the United States and China.

The XL1 could become more conventional before it hits the production line; we can’t be sure if it’ll look the same or have the same power plant as its futuristic showpiece ancestor. That car was introduced at the Qatar Motor Show, and it had an unusual combo under the hood, including a lithium-ion battery-powered electric motor that’ll propel the car for about 22 miles on a charge, after which a tiny 0.8-liter two-cylinder turbodiesel engine kicks in to assist. That sounds vaguely similar to the upcoming Chevy Volt.

Keeping the car hyper-efficient is its super-lightweight carbon fiber body panels. Sounds expensive, but Volkswagen says even though the car has the second-highest number of carbon fiber parts (the million-dollar Bugatti Veyron has the most carbon fiber on board), its body will cost a mere $6,800. No one’s talking price of the overall vehicle just yet, nor are they saying exactly when the first XL1 will be available.

Look in the gallery for a variety of views of this dolphin-shaped conveyance, and don’t miss its unusual seating arrangement, in which the passenger sits slightly behind the driver, said to increase fuel efficiency even more. Fuel-efficient or not, we are all filled with want. This looks like the cars they showed at the World’s Fair in the ’60s when they were talking about “The Future.”

Volkswagen XL1

Look at that Utopian fantasy world in the background. Is that Dubai?

Volkswagen XL1

Gull-wing doors, a feature that graces many concept cars but often doesn’t make it into the real world.

Volkswagen XL1

Side view of the gull-wing doors

Volkswagen XL1

From this angle, it looks like it could be a three-wheeled car. But no, there are four.

Volkswagen XL1

That is one sexy back, VW.

Volkswagen XL1

The passenger seat is farther back than the driver’s seat.

Volkswagen XL1

Is that another screen above the armrest? Eyes on the road, driver.

Volkswagen XL1

The car looks a bit more conventional from the front.

Volkswagen XL1

It almost looks like a mini-sub.

Volkswagen XL1

We can only hope the production model looks anywhere near as cool as this.

[via The Truth About Cars] Images courtesy Volkswagen via Autoblog Green

More About: Future Cars, gallery, Hybrid vehicles, trending, Volkswagen Formula XL1, VW

Motorola has just released a new promo video for its upcoming Atrix 4G smartphone.

We were really impressed by the Motorola Atrix 4G when we saw it at CES. Packed with a powerful dual-core 1GHz processor, this Android phone is fast.

It’s also versatile. Motorola will be selling two different docks for the Atrix 4G. The first dock will transform the phone into a netbook (for surfing the web in Firefox or chatting with friends), while the second is a multimedia dock for connecting the device to your TV.

With early reports indicating that this phone will be $150 when it hits AT&T later this spring, this handset is definitely on our radar.

What do you think of the Atrix 4G? Do you like the idea of turning your smartphone into a laptop? Let us know.

[via Pocketnow]

More About: android, Atrix 4G, Motorola Atrix 4G, smartphones




Everything is more fun when there’s a monkey involved. That’s just basically a fact. That’s why Paul Frank’s Julius Dance Machine is a must for your next wild party.

Paul Frank — oh! maker of colorful, neon things — partnered with audio manufacturer SpeakerCraft to create this little Zenned-out creature, which works with all iPod devices.

We had a chance to play around with the Dance Machine here at Mashable, and, honestly, the sound quality isn’t all that different than that of your average iPod dock (so if you’re an audiophile, this isn’t really for you).

No, aesthetics seem to be the bigger aim with this dock; designed so that Julius cradles the iPod in his lap and his ears function as the volume controls, this item is all about whimsy.

Julius features a rechargeable NiMH battery, which means you don’t have to tie the monkey down in order to listen to your jams, and it can play for up to six hours without needing another charge.

If you do decide to pick up this $99.95 creature, I suggest powering him up and unplugging him so he can join the dance party, which, naturally, should kick off with “Mickey’s Monkey” by Smokey Robinson & The Miracles.

Photos by Jehangir Irani

Front

Side

Back

More About: gadgets, ipod, music, paul frank, pop culture, tech




Social Media News

Welcome to this morning’s edition of “First To Know,” a series in which we keep you in the know on what’s happening in the digital world. We’re keeping our eyes on three particular stories of interest today.

Images of White Google Nexus S Leak Online

Alleged photographs of a white version of Google’s Nexus S smartphone have appeared on the web.

Apple Planning Mobile Payment Service?

Apple will add NFC (near-field communication) capabilities to its next-generation iPhone and iPad, claims Richard Doherty, director of the consulting firm Envisioneering Group. NFC is a form of wireless data transfer over short (up to 4-inch) distances, which could be used to make purchases with a mobile device.

Facebook Turns Friend Activity Into New Ad Format

Facebook is rolling out Sponsored Stories, a new ad format that turns friends’ actions into promoted content in the column on the right side of the News Feed.

Further News

  • Fresh off winning four Golden Globe awards including “Best Picture,” The Social Network has been nominated for eight Academy Awards.
  • Ongo, the Cupertino-based startup backed by the parent companies of The New York Times, The Washington Post and USA Today, launched its ad-free, subscription-based news service to the public Tuesday morning.
  • Apple has launched @AppStore, a new Twitter account for its popular iOS and Mac App Store.
  • France Telecom’s Orange Tuesday said it has begun talks to acquire a 49% stake in French video-sharing website Dailymotion for 58.8 million euros.
  • Google and Mozilla have both announced new browser initiatives that will allow users to opt out of having their activities tracked by online advertisers.
  • LinkedIn has launched InMaps, an experimental project that creates a stunning visualization of the connections within your business network.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, DNY59

More About: apple, facebook, Google, Nexus S




The Altec Lansing inMotion Air Wireless Audio System is a great-sounding Bluetooth speaker that works with a Mac, PC or any Bluetooth-enabled music player or smartphone.

We tried it with a variety of devices, and were surprised by its stellar sound quality, not to mention its good looks. However, in our tests, its wireless range was nowhere near the 100 meters claimed by Altec Lansing for its Bluetooth dongle.

The $200 inMotion Air speaker has the easiest Bluetooth pairing routine I’ve ever seen. With one push of a button, the USB Bluetooth dongle was instantly synced up with the speaker.

After charging the speaker for about five hours, its lithium-ion battery was ready to power the system completely. The USB Bluetooth transceiver plugs into any Mac or PC, and any audio from the computer plays through the inMotion Air speaker, which behaves identically to any other USB sound output device. That includes any audio from an Internet browser, or any application that produces audio. So, I immediately went to my Pandora Radio account and it streamed through the speaker perfectly.

Connecting an iPhone and iPad were equally easy, and they all worked well with the speaker. It was a simple matter of turning on Bluetooth in the settings, and then selecting the inMotion speaker on the list of detected devices. I was also able to use my laptop’s internal Bluetooth radio to connect with the speaker.

The best aspect of this wireless audio system is its excellent sound quality. While it doesn’t have the thundering bass of my favorite wireless audio product, the $400 Sonos Wi-Fi audio system, the inMotion’s highs and midrange were sparkling and realistic, while its bass response was particularly powerful for the speaker’s diminutive form factor. Properly placed in a corner, it was able to deliver what I would call pleasant, high-fidelity sound.

Two minor gripes: I was slightly disappointed because the company says you can move the speaker 100 meters (328 feet) away from its Bluetooth dongle, but that’s apparently not the case unless you’re using it in a vacant lot. Going through one wall inside of a house, the best we could do was about 45 feet, and less than that with an iPhone and an iPad. That’s not bad, though, because it’s a whole lot farther away than we’ve been able to go with any other Bluetooth device.

The other slight problem is the inability to launch iTunes on my laptop using the remote control, something that the company says is not possible with some configurations. Unfortunately, mine was one of those. But those are small complaints, considering the inMotion’s sound quality and ease of use.

Come along with me to the gallery for a pictorial tour of the system, where I’ll offer additional comments and observations along the way.

Front

Check out that asymmetrical shape. This is one attractive wireless speaker.

Controls

Control your music from here, streamed wirelessly from a Mac or PC, or a Bluetooth-compatible music player or smartphone. It was easy to set up our PC, iPhone and iPad.

Angular Lines

Look how the thing leans back. But it’s still sturdy, even though it looks like it could tip over at any moment. And I mean that in a good way.

Back 3/4 View

The slot in the middle is a handle, and the recessed area on the right is where the remote is stowed.

Back

You can plug in its AC adapter, or it plays for seven hours on its rechargeable internal lithium ion battery.

Easy Carrying

It’s light and easy to carry with its slot/handle in back.

Blue Light Peeking Through

There’s a subtle blue light in the middle.

Two Speakers Inside

Those two drivers have great-sounding midrange and highs, and even though the speakers are small, the bass sounded surprisingly strong, especially when placed in a corner.

Remote Stowed Away

Here’s the remote nestled in its slot…

Removing the Remote

…sliding out when you’re ready to use it.

Remote

Control audio from your Mac or PC with this, and you’re supposed to be able to launch your default audio program (that didn’t work for my Windows 7 laptop, though). ESS is the Expanded Sound Stage technology, which does a convincing job of making it sound like the speakers are farther apart.

Crazy Remote

Even the remote has that asymmetrical theme going on.

Bluetooth Dongle

Plug this into a USB port on a Mac or PC, and it’ll let stream the music about 45 feet away (that’s with one wall in between).

USB

We plugged it in, and it streams music wirelessly. But the farthest away we could separate dongle and speaker without the sound breaking up was about 45 feet, far less than the 328 feet quoted by Altec Lansing.

More About: Altec Lansing inMotion Air Wireless Audio System, audio, bluetooth, review, Wireless Speaker

Discovr is a new music discovery app for iPad that shows connections between bands, and with a quick double tap, you can see the musicians’ videos on YouTube and a lot more.

Launched today, the $2.99 app is described as “interactive map of the world of music for iPad,” and we took it for a spin. Take a look at the video above, and you’ll see the graceful graphics showing connections of the bands that you can drag around the screen.

Discovr is like a visual version of Pandora radio, where you can read about all your favorite artists and study the relationships between them. Search for a band or artist, and you’re presented with a diagram of that band or artist depicted as a hub, with related artists connected as circular pics resembling spokes to that hub.

By double-tapping on one of the bands, you’re presented with a wealth of information about each one, including a biography, links to blog posts, places to buy the music, and a variety of YouTube videos of the band (if it’s popular enough). As you get down to third-tier bands and musicians, biographies and videos are not quite as frequent, but even so, the depth of this application is remarkable.

Staying in its diagram mode, it’s surprisingly smart, able to make connections between different hubs, and letting you continue to drill down as the bands get more and more obscure. As I continued exploring, I was able to create a huge tangled web of musicians, with the app often making connections between them that surprised me.




I tried looking up lesser-known jazz musicians, and it was interesting to see the relationships between various soloists. Who played with who? You can often find the answer, and the results were accurate.

Another nice touch is the way Discovr finds songs you have loaded on your iPad, and includes a strip of pictures of them across the bottom of the application, inviting you to start searching your favorite musicians right away.

The application crashed a couple of times when I taxed it too much, and I’m hoping the developers will get to the root of that and fix it as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, I found this to be a fascinating application that helped me understand the relationships between bands, and assisted me in finding new music according to bands that I already like. Fix the instability, and it would be an A-list app.

Find out more about Discovr here.

More About: bands, discovr, hands-on, ipad apps, music discovery, reviews, youtube




Tired of dealing with wires to charge your mobile device? The Energizer Inductive Charger lets you place your iPhone or Blackberry on its shiny black surface, where it immediately begins charging wirelessly.

Energizer’s $89 inductive charging station has been available for a few months, and the company’s been working on the various sleeves that must be placed on devices so they can work with it. So far, there’s a sleeve for the iPhone 3G and 3GS, a replacement door for the BlackBerry Curve 8900, and now, Energizer’s finally finished its iPhone 4 sleeve and sent it to us for review.

The charging station is a wedge-shaped piece of piano-black plastic that’s a little larger than a paperback book. It has two spots where you can place your mobile devices for wireless charging, and can accommodate both at once. There’s a USB port in the back to connect an additional device, letting you charge a total of three at the same time.

This inductive charger is compatible with the Qi (pronounced “chee”) wireless charging standard adopted by the Wireless Power Consortium. Qi shows great promise — in fact, we’re so impressed, we named it one of the 8 Gadgets to Watch in 2011. The consortium members include Samsung, Panasonic, Sony, HTC, Verizon, Duracell, Energizer, Black & Decker and a few others — but notably missing so far is Apple. The idea is for all the products made by consortium members to be interoperable with each other.

Here’s a diagram showing how it works:

Does it work? Yes, and it seems like magic. The Qi system uses an electromagnetic field to transfer energy instead of wires. When I plugged my iPhone 4 into its sleeve, all I needed to do was place it onto one of the targets on the charger, and its blue light began to glow, indicating that charging had begun. I like the way each of the two lights turn off, indicating the associated device is fully charged. When all are fully charged, the charging station goes into its energy-saving standby mode.

The plan for the Qi system is to build this wireless capability into devices, eliminating the need for an external sleeve, or in the case of the BlackBerry Curve 8900, a replacement door. Energizer says that according to iSuppli, there could be 234.9 million units with built-in wireless charging by 2014.

Whether that happens or not, for now, we have samples of the iPhone 4 sleeve and the BlackBerry Curve 8900 replacement door, and both are relatively unobtrusive. We also have the sleeve for the iPhone 3G and 3GS, and it’s slightly bulkier, more like a case than a 3/4 sleeve like that of the iPhone 4. See the gallery below for pictures of all.

The iPhone 4′s sleeve is nowhere near as bulky as even the thinnest add-on external battery extenders such as the Mophie Juice Pack Plus. It’s thin, light at 1.6 oz, and only makes the 5.1 oz iPhone feel only slightly larger and heavier. In the case of the BlackBerry, look at the gallery below you’ll see that the door only adds a tolerable amount of depth to the current handset.

Using the charger in these sleeves couldn’t be easier. The iPhone 4 sleeve has a snug fit, so you won’t be leaving it in your pocket as you pull out your phone. The target area where you place the device on the charger is big enough so that it’s easy to get the device to start charging, even if you don’t place it exactly on the circular graphic.

There’s an added advantage to that sleeve — if you’re one who holds your iPhone with a finger underneath, covering up its tiny speaker, the sleeve redirects the speaker’s sound toward the front. It does the inverse for the iPhone 4′s microphone, directing its sound from the front rather than the bottom. I couldn’t tell a difference with the microphone, but I noticed the speaker sounds better with the sleeve on, an unexpected benefit.

So is it worth it? Are we so lazy that we can’t bother to plug in our phones to charge them? Probably. Maybe it’s not laziness, but the desire for convenience that makes wireless charging so appealing. I found myself much more likely to lay my iPhone onto this charger than to plug it in. And, it’s good to know this charger will still be able to accommodate any device that’s compliant with the Qi standard in the coming years. That’s when this will really pay off — when many devices have this wireless charging capability built in, and no sleeves required. Until then, even with the sleeves, I enjoyed using the system and highly recommend it.

Here’s a video showing how easy it is to charge your device by just placing it on the inductive charging station:

Energizer Inductive Charger

Place an iPhone in its special sleeve, and put it on the charger slab and it begins charging right away.

Energizer Inductive Charger

There’s room for two devices

Energizer Inductive Charger

Here’s a three-quarter view. The shiny surface is a fingerprint magnet.

Energizer Inductive Charger

There’s also a USB port for an additional device.

Energizer Inductive Charger

Here’s the underbelly of the charging station.

Energizer Inductive Charger

The charging sleeve fits snugly on the iPhone 4.

Energizer Inductive Charger

The blue light indicates that charging is underway.

Energizer Inductive Charger

While it would be better if it wasn’t necessary at all, the charging sleeve doesn’t add much weight or bulk to the iPhone 4.

Energizer Inductive Charger

It’s not exactly thin, but thinner than an auxiliary battery pack.

Energizer Inductive Charger

See how the iPhone 4 is not entirely covered up by this charging sleeve.

Energizer Inductive Charger

The top of the iPhone is exposed.

Energizer Inductive Charger

The back of the iPhone 4 sleeve covers up one of its most fragile parts, its glassy dorsal side.

Energizer Inductive Charger

iPhone 4 sleeve without the phone inside

Energizer Inductive Charger

It’s relatively thin and light, weighing just 1.6 ounces

Energizer Inductive Charger

That’s the Qi logo on the back.

Energizer Inductive Charger

This is the replacement battery door for the BlackBerry Curve 8990. We didn’t have a handset with which to test it, but it looks quite thin.

Energizer Inductive Charger

Another view of the BlackBerry curve 8990 replacement battery door.

Energizer Inductive Charger

This is the sleeve for the iPhone 3G and iPhone 3GS, significantly bulkier than the better-designed iPhone 4 sleeve.

Energizer Inductive Charger

Another view of the iPhone 3GS/iPhone 3G sleeve

More About: BlackBerry Curve 8900, Energizer, Energizer Inductive Charger, iphone 4, Qi, wireless charging




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The cold snap may not have “snapped,” but all that winter chill hasn’t prevented Mashable from churning out another set of social media tools and resources.

Have a read through resources below for a perspective on Wikipedia’s short life and it’s prospective future, or how videos games are helping social good. Tech & Mobile has some tips for Ruby and some odd Apple patents. Business offers up some case studies and how marketers can optimize crowdsourcing.

Looking for even more social media resources? This guide appears every weekend, and you can check out all the lists-gone-by here any time.


Social Media


For more social media news and resources, you can follow Mashable’s social media channel on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook.


Tech & Mobile


For more tech news and resources, you can follow Mashable’s tech channel on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook.


Business


For more business news and resources, you can follow Mashable’s business channel on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook.

Image courtesy of Webtreats

More About: business, facebook, Features Week In Review, List, Lists, Mobile 2.0, small business, social media, tech, technology, twitter