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AMD Athlon 5350 (Kabini) Review

AMD Athlon 5350 (Kabini) Review

Manufacturer: AMD
UK price (as reviewed): £40.72
US price (as reviewed): $63.99

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

There was some interesting news regarding AMD recently. Financially, it recorded some significant losses throughout 2013, which can arguably be traced all the way back to Intel’s launch of its Core architecture and AMD’s somewhat ill-fated Phenom. However, while it hasn’t really clawed back any significant ground in the high performance desktop CPU market, the APU arena is a very different story.

The case for budget gaming systems is pretty strong, and Kaveri and Richland (think A10-7850K and A10-6800K) have strengthened the idea that there are playable frame rates to be had below your typical budget CPU and cheap discrete GPU setup.

AMD has seen enhanced sales of GPUs thanks to cryptocurrency mining (not forgetting that the company is also in a fairly equal fight with Nvidia when it comes to frame rates too), and it also has fingers in plenty of next-gen console pies. Its Q1 2014 net income of -$20m is actually a lot better than what we’ve seen recently – the same quarter last year, for example, saw its net income at -$146m.

Things are arguably looking up for AMD, then, and with Intel’s inferior but ever-increasing graphics performance on its CPUs, with Kabini, AMD’s latest APU, it is looking to cement its dominance at the extreme budget end of the market, and fend off competition from budget Intel CPUs.

AMD Athlon 5350 (Kabini) ReviewAMD Athlon 5350 (Kabini) Review
So where exactly does Kabini fit in? Well, AMD wanted to be clear here – this isn’t a 1080p gaming setup, nor is Kabini going to be competing with Pentiums or Core i3′s in 2D performance stakes either. It’s not even really a cut down version of Kaveri – Kabini is essentially a low power desktop version of its latest mobile and console-based silicon sporting up to four Jaguar cores along with a Radeon GPU portion – more on the technical side of things over the page.

As we reported here on the day of launch, Kabini is essentially AMD’s answer to Intel’s Bay Trail, which is found in some low-power Pentium, Celeron and Atom-based systems including NUCs amongst other things. Steam OS, HTPCs and generic budget systems all come into play here, especially as Kabini APUs also sport Radeon graphics, and this market is precisely what AMD is aiming at.

AMD Athlon 5350 (Kabini) Review
It’s certainly lucrative given the sheer volumes involved, especially in the home/office PC side of things. However, something that’s really raised some eyebrows is the cost of the APUs and indeed their counterpart Socket AM1 motherboards. The latter are currently available for as little as £20, and the top-end APU that we’re looking at here today, the Athlon 5350, only costs £40 with the low-end Sempron 2650 retailing for just £24. Throw in a budget PSU, 4GB of RAM and a mini-ITX case such as Cooler Master’s Elite 130, and you’re looking at a complete base unit price of no more than £150 – something Intel simply cannot match, at least if you’re buying up-to-date gear.

AMD has cited a need from developing countries for a low-cost offering and price-wise it’s certainly met that, but where the new Socket AM1 also surprised us when we first heard about it, is that it’s socketed – not embedded like its predecessors. The reason for this, again according to AMD, is to offer a modicum of future proofing for the new socket but also to allow some flexibility when it comes to hardware choice, even if at launch there are only four models to choose from.

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OpenSSL forked into LibreSSL

OpenSSL forked into LibreSSL

The Heartbleed vulnerability has shone a light on the OpenSSL project, and OpenBSD developers have discovered enough flaws in its code to justify the creation of a fixed fork dubbed LibreSSL.


The OpenBSD project has announced the inevitible outcome of its recent deep-dive into the OpenSSL source code: a full fork of the project, dubbed LibreSSL, to feature a significantly improved codebase.

The OpenSSL cryptographic library made unfortunate headlines earlier this month due to the Heartbleed vulnerability, a nasty bug caused by incautious coding that allowed an attacker to steal memory contents – including, but not limited to, usernames, passwords, and even the entire private key – from any server using the software. With an estimated two-thirds of all webservers using OpenSSL for encryption, that’s a significant target base – and the attack, before it became known to the public, left no trace on the host machine.

OpenSSL is an open source project, meaning anyone can download, examine and modify the source code that drives it. In theory, fans of the open methodology claim, this leads to improved code quality and security – the ‘many-eyes’ theory. In practice, it appears, when an open source project reaches a certain size, individual contributors can become the sole controller of particular sub-sections – with the result that their code goes unchecked by their peers.

OpenBSD is, as the name suggests, an open-source port of the BSD operating system. Designed for maximum security, the project was hit by the Heartbleed bug and vowed to examine the OpenSSL source code more closely in the future. The result has been the exposure of numerous terrifying kludges and bugs in the code – which, it must be remembered, still drives two-thirds of the web – in what has been dubbed the OpenSSL Valhalla Rampage. Having found everything from ‘temporary’ compatibility code reaching back more than a decade to a kludge which uses the server’s private key as entropy for the random number generator – potentially exposing the entire private key to any plug-in RNG used on the system, a major security hole – the OpenBSD researchers have reached a conclusion: OpenSSL can’t be trusted.

The result: LibreSSL, a fork of OpenSSL which benefits from the changes made by the OpenBSD project. Announced on a particularly spartan website – ‘donate now to stop the Comic Sans and Blink Tags,‘ its creators exhort visitors – the LibreSSL project will become the default cryptographic library for the OpenBSD 5.6 release. Initially, that will be the only supported operating ssytem; once the codebase has been cleaned of extant bugs and rewritten to improve maintainability and a source of funding secured, LibreSSL will be extended to additional operating systems.

Whether LibreSSL will improve security overall or simply divert resources that could be better used improving the cross-platform OpenSSL directly remains to be seen.

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LaCie customers hit by data breach

LaCie customers hit by data breach

Storage specialist LaCie has warned customers of a data breach which has resulted in ne’er-do-wells making off with usernames, passwords and credit card details.


Storage specialist LaCie has warned customers of a major data breach that may have compromised their personal data used for purchases between March 2013 and 2014.

The hole in the company’s servers is not, it has been quick to reassure customers, indicative of the security of its storage products in general; no customer data stored on the company’s cloud services or network-connected storage devices is thought to be involved in the breach. Rather, the attack targeted the company’s ecommerce system, making off with transaction information for purchases made in the last year.

On March 19, 2014, the FBI informed LaCie that it found indications that an unauthorised person used malware to gain access to information from customer transactions that were made through LaCie’s website,‘ the company explained to customers in a statement made nearly a month after it was alerted to the breach. ‘We believe that transactions made between March 27, 2013 and March 10, 2014 were affected. The information that may have been accessed by the unauthorised person may include customers’ names, addresses, email addresses, and payment card numbers and card expiration dates. Customers’ LaCie website user names and passwords could also have been accessed, which is why we required a reset of all passwords.

LaCie has not confirmed how the data was stored; while credit card information should be encrypted, password are better stored as salted one-way hashes which become much harder for an attacker to crack. Either way, those with LaCie accounts are advised to change their passwords, both on the LaCie service itself and anywhere else where the same or similar password was used, and to keep a close eye on their credit card statements for unauthorised activity.

As a precaution, we have temporarily disabled the ecommerce portion of the LaCie website while we transition to a provider that specialises in secure payment processing services,‘ the company added. ‘We will resume accepting online orders once we have completed the transition.

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Ben Heck builds WASD-replacement footpedals

Ben Heck builds WASD-replacement footpedals

Ben Heck’s footpedals, built in response to a viewer request, are designed to replace the traditional WASD control scheme in PC gaming.


Noted hacker and maker Ben ‘Heck’ Heckendorn has published details of his latest creation under Element14′s auspice: footpedals designed to ‘replace’ WASD gaming controls after their 32 year run.

The WASD control system, which uses the aforementioned letter keys in place of the traditional cursor keys, was first seen in the 1982 game Mazogs where it served to make up for the Sinclair ZX81′s lack of sensible keyboard layout. It caught on in the era of first-person shooters when mouse-look became the norm, allowing the left hand to sit at a more comfortable distance from the mouse-controlling right – unless you’re a sinister lefty, of course – while also providing easy reach to other keys that could be mapped to weapon changes, jumping, object usage or leaning.

WASD as a control layout has become so normalised that gaming keyboards typically come with replacement keycaps for those specific letters in eye-catching colours or with a deeply scooped design. Now, though, its days may be numbered – at least, if Ben Heck has his way.

Known for his innovative controller designs and homebrew laptops, including one based on a Commodore 64 and another on an Xbox 360, Heck is now the resident hacker at electronics giant Farnell/Element14 where he has created one possible successor to the WASD layout: footpedals.

A viewer of the Ben Heck Show, dissatisfied with the ‘finger-twister’ training required to excel at modern games, suggested the creation and Heck obliged. A pair of foot pedals provide mapping to four keys by responding to two levels of motion: a partial press activates one mode, while a heavier press activates the second. The result, Heck claims, is a natural-feeling control system that allows for forward, backward and strafing motion without the need to lock the left hand to the WASD cluster.

The entire project has been created from scratch, using a 3D printer for the pedal parts and the popular Teensy microcontroller – chosen for the ease at which it can be turned into a joystick, keyboard or mouse Human Interface Device controller – for interfacing with the PC.

If you’re curious how it was made, or how it works, Heck’s video on the project is reproduced below.

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Do case manufacturers really understand water cooling?

After a couple of years of mediocre progress, we’re seeing some genuine innovation with cases that are leaning ever more towards water cooling. Pretty much every medium to large case that’s released these days – even smaller mini-ITX ones on occasion – sports double, triple or even quadruple fan mounts, and though these of course boost air cooling potential too, they also allow for larger radiators to be installed.

Manufacturers such as Corsair and NZXT are now in the habit of listing radiator compatibility in their case instruction manuals too – they’re clearly taking it seriously and rightly so. Water cooling is one area of the PC industry that has certainly been growing over the last few years with all-in-one liquid coolers and full-on custom water cooling topping cooler graphs and featuring in many eye candy-filled systems – both modding projects and standard builds alike.

However, there is one small issue with many cases – specifically their radiator mounts. They’re usually designed only for half-height radiators, which lack surface area and thus cooling potential compared to their full-height siblings, and many cases also seem to be listing radiator and water cooling compatibility as little more than tick-box features.

Do case manufacturers really understand water cooling?
My point here is that when you try to install a water cooling system in one, there’s so little space that tube kinks become a real issue and there’s also little thought as to where to put pumps and reservoirs. One big factor here is that case manufacturers aren’t actually that concerned with custom water cooling loops (as in separate components connected together at home) and rather more with all-in-one systems such as a Corsair H80i.

It’s not just Corsair and NZXT, who incidentally make some of the best all-in-one liquid coolers out there, that are doing this. After all, you can forgive them for promoting a combination of their own case and cooler, but plenty of other manufacturers are doing it too.

Do case manufacturers really understand water cooling?
For instance, I’ve recently borrowed the Lian Li PC-V360 we looked at recently to see how well it can cope with a water cooling system, seeing as it has a dedicated dual 120mm-fan radiator mount in the side panel and is too slim to fit large air coolers.

In short, it wasn’t easy at all and I had to use anti-kinking springs on the tubing for everything to fit inside – and that’s using the skinniest radiator I could find. Also, this turned out to be only just capable of cooling my overclocked Core i5-3570K and GeForce 660 Ti with the fans on full blast, which for me half defeats the point of water cooling, which is noise reduction.

Do case manufacturers really understand water cooling?
Even with an all-in-one liquid cooler things would be tricky, but as we speak I’m in the process of dismantling the system to go back to my trusted BitFenix Prodigy, which is much more water cooling friendly. Of course, that’s my point; some cases do work well with water cooling, the Prodigy being one of them. It’s also far from being a large case – the PC-V360 is taller and deeper but can’t quite decide whether to jump off the fence on the air cooling side or water cooling side.

A lot of the issues, then, revolve around radiator depth, and at the moment, many case manufacturers are content to leave their cases with the bare minimum. You probably can’t blame them to some extent as the vast majority of all-in-one liquid coolers use skinny radiators – one reason why a custom kit with a full-height double or triple 120mm-fan radiator will likely perform much better and quieter with an overclocked CPU.

So, what would I like to see? Better consideration for water cooling enthusiasts for one, but this could just as easily be brought about by all-in-one liquid cooler manufacturers beefing up their radiators too, especially where double fan radiators are concerned. That way, we don’t only get better cooling from their own coolers, but you won’t have to opt for enormous cases or go through the hassle of having to use multiple radiators too. It wouldn’t require massive changes either – a few small modifications to existing case designs could make a world of difference.

How do you think current cases could be improved for water cooling purposes? Let us know in the forum.

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Sony announces The Last of Us Remastered for PS4

Sony announces The Last of Us Remastered for PS4

The Last of Us Remastered for the PS4 includes revamped Full HD visuals, commentary for cinematics, and bundled DLC.


Sony has announced plans to release a remastered edition of hit PlayStation 3 title The Last of Us for the PS4, promising revamped Full HD visuals at 1080p.

Recently the subject of a film deal with Ghost House Pictures and Sam Raimi, The Last of Us follows the exploits of the player-character Joel and Ellen Page-inspired companion Ellie as they work together to survive in a post-apocalyptic world devastated by a mind-controlling fungus. Its gripping storyline has led to numerous awards, with many critics proclaiming it a must-have title for all PS3 gamers.

For those who have made the jump to the non-backwards-compatible PS4, though, Sony has promised a rerelease. Dubbed The Last of Us Remastered, the new version of the game will include higher-resolution character models, improved shadows and lighting, upgraded textures and other visual tweaks – all, developer Naughty Dog has promised, running at a targeted 60 frames per second Full HD.

As well as the improved graphics, the Remastered edition will include commentary for all cinematics from creative director and writer Neil Druckmann alongside voice actors Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson who play Joel and Ellie respectively. The PS4 rerelease will also come bundled with the Left Behind single-player expansion, the Abandoned Territories multiplayer map pack, and an as-yet unreleased map pack dubbed REclaimed Territories.

Sony has raised eyebrows with its promised pre-order bonuses, however. Those buying the game from selected retailers can receive extra Supply Points for Factions mode along with boosted abilities – increased healing and crafting speeds, increased reloading speeds and ammunition capacities – for the single-player campaign, leaving those who prefer to buy their games at the time of release at a disadvantage.

A formal launch date has yet to be announced, with Sony aiming for a summer release.

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Antec ISK600 Review

Antec ISK600 Review

Manufacturer: Antec
UK price (as reviewed): £53.98 (inc VAT)
US price (as reviewed): $64.99 {ex TAX)
Preferred Partner Price: 53.98 (inc VAT)

Although Antec is one of the bigger household names of the case market, it’s presence in the mini-ITX segment is fairly small. Looking to change that, the company has recently released the ISK600. Even for a mini-ITX chassis it’s on the small side, but as you’ll see you can still cram quite a lot of hardware inside, and at £55 it’s also very affordable, though not quite as much as the £40 Cooler Master Elite 130.

Antec ISK600 Review Antec ISK600 Review
Click to enlarge
While the Cooler Master case is cheaper and has a similar size and shape, it lacks something that we think many here will appreciate about the ISK600: aluminium. The core ISK600 chassis is built from steel, but the entire n-shaped lid is hewn from this premium case material, which helps explain the small price premium. The brushed effect is very pleasing to the eye, though it does pick up marks easily, so you’ll want to give it a wipe once you’ve finished your build. The aluminium also has the advantage of retaining the case’s great build quality while keeping it light – it tips the scales at less than 3kg.

Cooling comes courtesy of a single 120mm rear exhaust fan, and this is all that there’s room for without modification. This isn’t a lot of airflow by any means, but the case’s small volume means that you don’t need a lot to be effective. The fan will create a negative air pressure inside the chassis, which will draw air in through the small slits in the front panel as well as the larger mesh sections on the sides of the lid (which serve the GPU and front-mounted PSU). This is an effect to which internal CPU and GPU coolers will also contribute, though bare in mind there are no dust filters on this case.

Antec ISK600 Review Antec ISK600 Review
Click to enlarge
The plastic front panel is generally well built, though the power and reset buttons do feel cheap and tacky. Besides these are the standard audio jacks, as well as a USB 3 and USB 2 port, though there’s no external fan control. In the interests of space, Antec has opted for a slimline optical drive mount rather than a full 5.25-inch one.

Above the I/O connections is also a thin strip, which is actually a molex powered light that glows blue when the system is on. Thankfully, the glow is subtle and pleasant rather than blindingly bright, and you can easily disconnect it if you find it to be a distraction. The final thing of note on the case’s exterior is the set of rubber feet, which mean the ISK600 stays firmly planted despite weighing so little.

Specifications

  • Dimensions (mm) 260 x 369 x 195 (W x D x H)
  • Material Aluminium, steel, plastic
  • Available colours Black
  • Weight 2.95kg
  • Front panel Power, reset, USB 3, USB 2, stereo, microphone
  • Drive bays 1 x external slimline optical, 3 x internal 3.5in, 2 x internal 2.5in
  • Form factor(s) Mini-ITX
  • Cooling 1 x 120mm rear fan mount (fan included)
  • CPU cooler clearance 170mm
  • Maximum graphics card length 315mm
  • Extras Illuminated front panel, internal dual-speed fan control

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Intel announces Bay Trail MinnowBoard Max

Intel announces Bay Trail MinnowBoard Max

Intel’s MinnowBoard Max is a worthy successor to the original, boasting a far more powerful 64-bit chip and an entry price half that of its predecessor.


Intel has announced new entries in its MinnowBoard family of hobbyist-oriented development boards, adding a range of more powerful 64-bit processors with the promise of still more to come.

Intel’s MinnowBoard, the company’s precursor to the far more affordable Arduino-compatible Galileo, was announced as a response to the growing popularity of the ARM-based Raspberry Pi and AMD’s overtures into the market with the APU-powered Gizmo. A high price and a relatively underpowered 32-bit Atom processor meant it was not, however, a particular success for the company – despite an open hardware design which left hobbyists free to peruse the firmware and board design to their hearts content.

The MinnowBoard Max, a direct successor to the original MinnowBoard, is Intel’s attempt to learn from the past. The 32-bit Atom chip has been replaced by a 64-bit Atom E38xx Bay Trail Series system-on-chip processor, with Atom E3815 and E3825 single-core and dual-core models confirmed for launch and hints of a quad-core variant in the works. Users have access to 1GB or 2GB of DDR3 memory respectively, depending on model chosen.

Designed as a development platform rather than a general-use computer, the new MinnowBoard Max features micro-HDMI video output, single USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 ports, a SATA 3.0Gb/s connector, and a gigabit Ethernet port, along with the promise of general-purpose input-output (GPIO) capability that shines: as well as eight buffered pins for easy experimentation, the MinnowBoard Max includes a low-speed expansion port offering SPI, I2C, I2S, UART, eight more GPIO pins, and power, and a high-speed port offering a PCI Express Gen. 2 lane, a further SATA 3.0Gb/s channel, a USB 2.0 port, I2C, JTAG debugging support and yet more GPIO pins.

All these features come in a cut-down footprint of 99mm x 74mm, but it’s the trimming Intel’s done elsewhere that is really eye-catching: the MinnowBoard Max is to launch in the US at $99 for the single-core or $129 for the dual-core variants (around £59 and £77 respectively, excluding taxes), meaning a starting price of around half that demanded by the original MinnowBoard.

Sadly for those salivating over the potential of the board, the MinnowBoard Max isn’t quite ready for release with Intel expecting to have the first models on shop shelves by June.

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Mod of the Month March 2014

Mod of the Month March 2014

We’re finally getting some decent weather here in the UK after a pretty appalling winter so those of us that have been flooded, frozen in or just plain don’t like tinkering out in the shed when it’s a bit nippy, are gearing up for a spring and summer full of modding. There’s already been plenty of action in our modding forum this month too. Several projects have been completed, as you can see in our monthly Modding Update, and there are some fantastic in-progress projects in the works too.

We’ve picked six of our favourites this month, which we’ve highlighted over the next few pages and you can vote for the ones that catch your eye too. Head over to our modding section and modding and project log forums to see more – there are plenty of amazing projects to see and guides to follow. We’ve also got our Case Mod Index and Scratchbuild Index too – you can see what other people have done modding-wise with particular cases or build materials and we give a prize to one lucky entrant each month.

Mod of the month is proudly sponsored by Mnpctech. The Mnpctech guys are regulars on our forums and, in addition to being avid modders themselves with some awesome projects to their names, the Mnpctech online store is also well worth a visit from every modder.

Mod of the Month March 2014
The winner of Mod of the Month will get one of these awesome prizes from the Mnpctech store itself. There will be some new and exciting products from Mnpctech on the horizon too, but for now feast your eyes on these pieces of true PC bling.


Mod of the Month March 2014

Prize 1 – Pair of 120mm RED Sharkoon Shark Blade Silent Cooling Fans

Sharkoon SHARK Blade fans are equipped with a fluid bearing for long life and ultra-smooth operation. The special 3D curved design with striped air guides steers the airflow straight through the fan blades, thus preventing air turbulence – the main cause of wind noise. Fan speed: 1000 rpm, Start voltage: 7 V (DC), Max. airflow: ~56m³/h (33 CFM), Max air pressure: 2.63 mm-H2O, Noise level: 19 dB (A)


Mod of the Month March 2014

Prize 2 – Mnpctech Screw’d M3 PC Radiator Screws

“M3 Radiator Screw’d” fasteners have anodized rings to dress up radiator grills or match your custom PC accessories or liquid cooling components. They work with the following PC Radiator Manufacturers with M3 threads.
*Winner has choice of 3 sets of same color and size (12 total)

Mod of the Month March 2014

Prize 3 – Pair of Modder’s Work Gloves

These work gloves are made from combination of syntrex leather and spandex for dexterity. Recommended for use with power or hand tools or bending Acrylic or PETG tubing with heat gun.

Thanks to Mnpctech for stumping up such fantastic prizes again this month. We’ve got six very promising projects for you again, so it’s time to vote for your favourites. Don’t forget that you can vote for more than one project if you’re finding it tough to choose one over the others. MOTM is a competition for in-progress projects. You should consider potential, originality, execution and show of skill when voting.

This Month’s Contenders

  • Minecraft Creeper MbKr by kier
  • Minions Mod by Ronnie Hara
  • Project KUBUS by XTSX
  • R.O.G Reactor by Zsolt Guriga
  • The G5-yufi by thegyufi
  • ZdMods – Project 720 by Meelobee

Mod of the Month March 2014 Mod of the Month March 2014
Mod of the Month March 2014 Mod of the Month March 2014 Mod of the Month March 2014 Mod of the Month March 2014

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Restaurant uses parachutes, PayPal to deliver sandwiches

Jaffles

A woman removes the parachute from her just-landed “jaffle,” a toasted sandwich popular in Australia.


(Credit:
Video screenshot by Michael Franco/CNET)

Waiters are so last century. These days, sushi is flown to your table via a quadcopter and beer is dropped out of the sky from an octocopter. Now, a new pop-up restaurant in Melbourne, Australia, has added another, albeit less high-tech, method of food delivery: sandwiches that parachute several stories down to customers waiting on the street.

The novel nosh drop is the brainchild of David McDonald and Adam Grant, who make the toasted sandwiches, called “jaffles,” after people order and pay for them via PayPal on their Web site. The customers then stand on an “X” on the sidewalk and wait for their meal to drop down like mana from heaven. The locations change, and customers are kept up to date via Facebook. The company is fittingly called Jafflechutes.

The sandwiches are pretty basic — either cheese and ham for $6 AUD ($5.45) or cheese and tomato for $5 AUD — but this restaurant definitely seems to be more about style than substance.

Interestingly, parachute-delivered food could have a real benefit for would-be restauranteurs, as pointed out by Pop-Up City. Storefronts on busy city streets can demand super-steep rents. If chefs can prepare food from lesser-priced spaces higher up in buildings and then just throw it out the window to their customers, they could test out culinary concepts in a much less-expensive way. Plus, there are no pesky waiters to pay or tables to clean up.

At the moment, “Melbourne’s first float-down eatery,” as Jafflechutes terms itself, is taking a break to prepare for a roadshow to New York. So if you happen to be in the Big Apple over the next few months, be sure to keep your eyes on the sky. You just might see a sandwich floating your way. And if you’re in Melbourne, you can help the Jafflechuters create 1,000 new parachutes at its workshop on March 29, where they promise: “There’ll be beer nearby, some tunes, and a full afternoon’s worth of jafflechuting anecdotes (and other tall stories). We’re even working on a way to allow you to be recognised for every parachute that you make!”

(Via Pop-Up City)

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