Coming Soon: A Harry Potter Wand That Teaches Kids to Code

Kano
Kano

If you've ever wanted to learn how to code but couldn't focus long enough to finish an online tutorial, then you might want to try something a little more … magical. As spotted by Fast Company, the London-based startup Kano has partnered with Warner Bros. to develop a Harry Potter Coding Kit, which comes with a programmable wand that lets you code your own spells.

It won't make your furniture float or turn your enemies into ferrets, but it will equip you with some fundamental computer coding skills that may come in handy later. While the kit is perfect for children as young as 6 years old, it's also suitable for Harry Potter-loving adults who are new to coding.

Using a computer or tablet, players use code to navigate six areas of the Wizarding World, including Hogwarts, Diagon Alley, and the Forbidden Forest. Sensors inside the wand track users' hand movements and let them cast spells, all while using a block-based coding interface and JavaScript inspector to provide a fun introduction to programming.

Here's what that looks like:

The wand pairs with the Kano app and the software is compatible with iOS, Android, Mac, and PC. Speaking about the inspiration behind the coding kit, Kano CEO and co-founder Alex Klein said in a statement, "We're surrounded by technology in our homes, workplaces, and pockets, yet only a small percent of people, less than 1 percent of 1 percent, understand the happenings behind the screen."

Kano is backed by Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, who has described the company's child-friendly coding products as "a way for anyone to stumble onto their affinity and passion for computer technology."

The Harry Potter Coding Kit, priced at about $100, is available for preorder on Kano's website and will be sold in stores starting October 1.

[h/t Fast Company]

Why You Should Never Charge Your Phone in Public USB Ports Without a USB Data Blocker

Creative-Family/iStock via Getty Images
Creative-Family/iStock via Getty Images

The USB charging ports that have popped up at airports, coffee shops, and even outdoor stations around cities in recent years are definitely a lifesaver when your smartphone is down to its last bit of juice. A dead phone is annoying at best and downright dangerous at worst, so it’s totally understandable why you’d jump at the chance to revive it at your earliest opportunity.

However, those public ports might not be as benevolent as they seem. According to Afar, hackers can load malware onto those stations—or on the cables left plugged into the stations—which can then deliver passwords and other data right from your device to the hacker’s. If you have used a public port recently, don’t panic; TechCrunch reports that these cases are fairly rare. Having said that, it’s definitely better not to risk it, especially considering what a nightmare it would be to have your identity stolen.

The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office explains that the easiest way to prevent becoming a victim of this type of scam, often referred to as juice-jacking, is simply to abstain from using public USB charging ports. Instead, invest in a portable charger, or plug your own charger into an actual AC power outlet.

But unoccupied power outlets are notoriously hard to come by in public places, and portable chargers themselves can also run out of battery life. Luckily, there’s a small, inexpensive device called a data blocker that will enable you to use public USB charging ports without worrying about juice-jacking. It looks a little like a flash drive with an extra slot, but it lacks the two wires usually found in USB chargers that can download and upload data. That way, your device will charge without transferring any information.

You can get two of them for $11 from Amazon here.

[h/t Afar]

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Scope Out the Best Christmas Light Displays in Your Neighborhood With Nextdoor's Cheer Map

can72/iStock via Getty Images
can72/iStock via Getty Images

For many people, driving around the neighborhood to admire the gorgeous light displays (or laugh at the garish ones) is a beloved holiday tradition. But if you live in a big city or only want to check out the most impressive displays, you might not know where to look. That’s where Nextdoor’s Cheer Map comes in.

Nextdoor is a free and private social network that lets you interact with other people in your neighborhood. It’s used in more than 250,000 neighborhoods around the world, and if yours happens to be one of them, you can use the Cheer Map to find the nearest Christmas light displays in your area. The map is crowdsourced and voluntary, so your neighbors can mark their own homes with a holiday lights icon. And if you're eager to flaunt your own festive decorations, you can mark your home on the map, too.

The results will look something like this:

A woman uses Nextdoor's Cheer Map app
Netxtdoor

You can access the Cheer Map online, or via an iPhone or Android device. To get started, click the Cheer Map link, and you’ll be prompted to create a free online account with Nextdoor if you don’t already have one (signing up is quick and easy). Once you’re logged in, a pop-up window will ask whether you plan on decorating for the holidays; select “I will” or “Not this year,” then click "Continue." If you don’t want to participate, you can also select “Skip” to jump ahead to good stuff and access the map of decorated homes in your neighborhood. And that’s it! If you selected “I will,” a colorful light icon will mark your home on the map.

For those who live in small towns, there’s a chance you’ll be the first person in your neighborhood to join the site. Unfortunately, that means your neighborhood won’t be officially “launched” on Nextdoor unless you get nine of your neighbors to sign up. But even if you aren’t able to use the Cheer Map this holiday season, you could help spread the word (and holiday cheer) to get your neighborhood on the map for next year.

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