There are blenders, and then there are Vitamix blenders. I was a skeptic, but like my fellow Gear reviewer Joe Ray, the Vitamix made me a blender person. A blender is, essentially, just a blade atop a motor. Everything else just gets in the way. The motor is why the Vitamix is so good. And yes, it’s expensive, but it’s worth it. This isn’t the best deal we’ve ever seen for it, but it’s the best we’ve seen this year.
There’s nothing like homemade ice cream. We haven’t tested this 2-quart model, but I have used a smaller version, and it was fantastic. It’s especially fun if you have kids who can make up their own creative ice cream flavors.
The Tea Spot (CYBERTEA at checkout)
One of our favorite tea shops is having a site-wide sale. I’m especially fond of this tumbler, which serves as a brewer and keeps your tea hot for several hours. The deal also nets you three tea samples. You’ll also get free shipping (unless you’re in Alaska or Hawaii).
This is in our guide to the Best Chef’s Knives, and it was the most common knife in every restaurant I’ve worked in. It’s lightweight, holds its edge very well, and as the blade is thinner and softer than most European-style knives, it’s easier to sharpen.
Williams-Sonoma,Ooni, Dick’s Sporting Goods
Want to throw a backyard pie party? Ooni’s pizza ovens are the best we’ve tried. They’re all on sale, so it’s worth browsing the site on your own, but we think the best deal is the Karu 12 multi-fuel oven. It gives you the flexibility to use wood or charcoal when the flavor is key, or switch to gas for those times you need a pie in a hurry.
Take the kitchen outdoors with Solo’s Ranger fire pit. We love the Solo Yukon, but it’s pretty big. This cheaper model offers the same well-contained (and smokeless) fire pit experience, just smaller. It’s perfect for roasting marshmallows after a nice barbecue.
Fly by Jing
Fly by Jing’s Sichuan Chili Crisp is hard to describe. It’s spicy but not too spicy. It’s oily but not too oily. It’s smoky, it’s savory, and there are tiny, crunchy bits of chili that add an interesting texture. It goes well with noodles, soup, pizza, and eggs, but some online testimonials swear that the sauce even pairs well with peanut butter or ice cream. WIRED reviews editor Julian Chokkattu loves it.
Cooking is all fun and games, but someone has to clean up too. Make their (or your) life easier with this ingenious scrubber from Japan. I have a few, because it’s great for cleaning other things too—muddy boots, the kitchen sink, even burnt caramel—and it usually doesn’t leave scratch marks (that said, always test in an inconspicuous place first).
More WIRED Black Friday Coverage
Retailer Sale Pages and Coupons
Want to browse the early Black Friday 2021 sales yourself? Here are a few places offering deals. Be sure to check out our many buying guides and gift guides for additional ideas.
The testimony of Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen sparked the latest flare-up in a never-ending series of revelations on how companies and governments mine and commercialize our personal data. In an attempt to put consumers back in the driver’s seat, recent updates to data protection regulations such as the GDPR in the European Union and the CCPA in California have mandated transparency and control as critical pillars of privacy protection. In the words of the European Commission: “It’s your data—take control!”
Empowering consumers by giving them a say is a noble goal that certainly has a lot of appeal. Yet, in the current data ecosystem, control is far less of a right than it is a responsibility—one that most of us are not equipped to take on. Even if our brains were to magically catch up with the rapidly changing technology landscape, protecting and managing one’s personal data would still be a full-time job.
Think of it this way: Being in charge of your sailing boat is absolutely wonderful if you are drifting along the Mediterranean coast on a beautiful day. You can decide which of the many cute little towns to steer toward, and there are really no wrong choices. Now let’s imagine being in charge of the same sailing boat in the middle of a raging thunderstorm. You have no idea which direction to go in, and none of your options seem particularly promising. Having the “right” to control your own ship under these circumstances might not be very appealing, and could very easily end in disaster.
And yet, that’s exactly what we do: Current regulations drop people in the middle of a raging technology sea and bless them with the right to control their personal data. Instead of forcing the tech industry to make systemic changes that would create a safer and more amenable ecosystem, we put the burden of safeguarding personal data on consumers. Taking this step is protecting the creators of the storm more than the sailors.
For users to be able to exercise control over their personal data successfully, regulators need to first create the right environment that guarantees basic protection, in the same way the Securities and Exchange Commission regulates the investment world and protects individuals from making bad decisions. Under the proper conditions, individuals can choose among a series of desirable outcomes, rather than a mix of undesirable ones. In other words, we first need to tame the sea before handing individuals more control over their boats. There are a few steps that regulators can take immediately to calm the waters.
First, we need to make it costly for companies to collect and use personal data by taxing companies for the data they collect. If they have to pay a price for every piece of data they gather, they will think twice about whether they really need it.
Regulators also need to mandate that defaults are set to sufficient levels of protection. Users’ data should be guarded unless they choose otherwise, a concept termed “privacy by design”. Nobody has time to make privacy protecting their full-time job. Safeguarding information needs to be easy. Privacy by design reduces the friction on the path to privacy, and guarantees that basic rights are automatically protected.
This is one of our favorite electric toothbrushes. It’s not the most powerful one available, but it’s thin and light, and it offers just a gentle vibration to aid in your cleaning. This is the rechargeable version, but the AAA battery-operated one is also on sale for $15 ($10 off).
Best Buy,Target (regular),
Not everyone is a Keurig fan, and if you’re a really avid coffee drinker it’s worth upgrading to something else. However, sometimes you just need one quick cup, and that’s where a Keurig works. This one is super compact, so it won’t take up much room on a counter, and it has a very pretty design from Jonathan Adler (if you don’t like the design, the regular K-Mini is discounted too). It goes on sale frequently, but $50 is the lowest we’ve seen it.
I love digital frames, and Aura makes the best—they display your photos beautifully without looking tacky and pixelated. This is a newer, video-enabled version of my favorite frame from the brand. If you don’t want video and prefer the look of standard Carver, that one is also discounted to the same price. And if you want any other versions, all of which we like, those are all also discounted too from Best Buy, Target, and directly from Aura. Digital frames make good gifts for someone you want to share photos with instantly, like your parents. You just need the app connected to their frame and they need Wi-Fi.
We like all Roku devices, especially the Streaming Sticks, and this is one of the newest versions. It doesn’t have hands-free voice or programmable shortcuts on the remote the way the new 4K Plus version does, but it still has a microphone button you can use. An older version of the Streaming Stick Plus Headphones Edition is also discounted to $40 ($20 off).
Best Buy,Target, Amazon,Roku
If you like Roku’s streaming interface, but also want the added bonus of better sound, the Streambar is a small, entry-level soundbar for smaller rooms. This was the first soundbar I ever tried and I was amazed at just how bad my TV’s speakers actually are.
This technically retails for $50, but we rarely see it get that high and usually see it around $35. So in any case, this is still a good deal if you’re a fan of Amazon’s Prime Video offerings. This one, obviously, is geared heavily toward all Amazon content. This is the brand’s newest 4K device, which we haven’t yet tried, but we liked the older version and it has not changed drastically.
Best Buy,Amazon,Walmart ($848)
Need a new TV? This one has Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant built in, so you can ask them to search for shows or answer any other questions you might have. Even with smart features, we think most TVs need a dedicated streaming stick like the ones above. We’ve rounded up more TV deals here.
Best Buy,Amazon ($998)
This TV typically goes for a little less than the $1,200 price listed on Best Buy, but this is still a solid discount. We’re big fans of Sony’s A90J, which is unfortunately not on sale right now, but this one is usually much cheaper—the X90J is an LED TV, while the A90J is OLED. Still, you can get a nice-looking TV without shelling out nearly $3,000. The bigger sizes are discounted as well.
These earbuds (9/10, WIRED Recommends) are pricey, but they have excellent sound quality and noise-cancellation. The best part of Jabra’s buds is that they’re rugged, have a two-year warranty against water damage, and have physical buttons for controlling music playback. Jabra also does a great job of supporting its older devices with new features and updates.
These cute little Buds2 (9/10, WIRED Recommends) are comfortable to wear and sound great with their dual-driver system. They’re rated IPX2 for water resistance, so you can work out with them. Plus they come in lavender or olive (in addition to the standard black and white)!
The Galaxy Buds Pro (9/10, WIRED Recommends) are good for everything, and they’re better than Apple’s AirPods in nearly every way: They sound better, are more comfortable, and have longer battery life. WIRED associate reviews editor Parker Hall says he can go from Zoom meetings to listening to music on a run, and these earbuds perform well every time. They’re now $20 less than they were when this deal started.
These started at $85, rose to $100 and now are down to $75. We haven’t tested them, but we generally like the brand. Read our Best Wireless Headphones guide for more options.
Hard Drive and SSD Deals
This is one of our favorite portable drives for its speed. It’s light but tough, thanks to its metal body, so you can take it anywhere and not worry about it getting damaged. It was $5 less when the deal first started, but this is still a good disocunt if you’re in the market for a fast solid state drive. If you need more room, the 1-terabyte version is at its lowest price we’ve ever seen, at $110 ($60 off).
We haven’t tried this particular Samsung internal SSD, but the brand is known for making some of the best, and this one gets solid reviews elsewhere. If you need your computer to run faster, this should help. If you need more gigabytes, the other sizes are discounted as well.
This Easystore drive is essentially the same as the Elements drive we recommend in our guide, but this one doesn’t have a power button. They’re fine for backups and storage, but WIRED senior writer Scott Gilbertson doesn’t recommend them for editing video or anything else where speed is essential. Just know that while it sometimes jumps to $110, it usually goes for around $60. For a ton more storage, the 18-terabyte hard drive is discounted to $340 ($80 off).
Phone and Tablet Deals
We really liked using this cell phone, and even though OnePlus has raised its once super affordable prices, this is still a solid deal. The 8T has a nice quad-camera system and a full day of battery. If you desperately need a phone, you’ll probably be happy with this, but we saw more phones discounted last week and hope that they’ll come back.
Best Buy,Target, Amazon
If you don’t want to spend a lot of money on a smartphone, then get this Moto G. Its cameras aren’t great, but there’s decent performance, and it lasts a whopping three days on a single charge. It doesn’t come with all the bells and whistles for this price, but it’s one of our favorite Android phones.
Motorola fans that can spend more than the $180 for the G Power should go with the Ace. It’s better than the G Series phones with smoother performance overall and two days of battery life. Plus this one has near-field communication (NFC) sensors so you can pay with your phone (the G Series phones don’t).
There are plenty of things in this world that might keep you up at night. There’s COVID-19, of course, but if you’re anxious like me you could probably rattle off a very long list of additional fears: getting hit by a car, cancer, being poisoned by an ill-advised gas station meal, getting caught in a wildfire, electrocuting yourself plugging your laptop in at a dodgy cafe. But what is likely not high on your list is fungi. Unfortunately, that might be changing.
In 2009, a patient in Japan developed a new fungal infection on their ear. The highly transmissible Candida auris fungus had been previously unknown to science (and resistant to the drugs available to treat it), but within a few years, cases started emerging in Venezuela, Iran, Russia, and South Africa.
Scientists assumed that the spread was due to human travel, but when they sequenced the cases, they were surprised to find that these strains weren’t closely related at all. Instead, scientists were seeing multiple, independent infections of an unknown fungal disease, emerging around the world, all at the same time. About a third of people infected with Candida auris die from the infection within 30 days, and there have now been thousands of cases in 47 countries. Some scientists think this sudden boom in global cases is a harbinger of things to come.
Humans should consider ourselves lucky that they don’t have to constantly worry about fungal infections. “If you were a tree, you’d be terrified of fungi,” says Dr. Arturo Casadevall, a microbiologist at Johns Hopkins university who studies fungal diseases. And if you happened to be a fish, a reptile, or an amphibian, fungus would also be quite high on your list of fears, were you able to enumerate them. (Fungal infections are known to wipe out snakes, fish, corals, insects, and more.) In recent years, a fungal infection called Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (chytrid) has decimated amphibian populations around the world, with some scientists estimating that chytrid is responsible for population decline in over 500 amphibian species. To put that into context, that’s around one out of every 16 amphibian species known to science.
One of the reasons fungal infections are so common in so many creatures is that fungi themselves are ubiquitous. “This is dating myself, but you know the Sting song “Every Breath You Take”? Well, every breath you take you inhale somewhere between 100 and 700,000 spores,” says Andrej Spec, a medical mycologist at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. “They’ve made it to the space station. They are absolutely everywhere.”
Humans can and do get fungal infections (athlete’s foot, for starters, and fungal diseases are one of the leading causes of death for immunocompromised people with HIV). But people are generally unlikely to fall to a fungus for one big reason: humans are hot. (Although, if you want to be the pedant at a party, you might enjoy learning that humans are generally not, in fact, the commonly cited 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. That number comes from a German study done in 1851. In fact, human body temperature seems to have been cooling recently, and the global average is between 97.5 and 97.9 degrees Fahrenheit.) Warm-blooded environments, in general, tend to be too warm for a fungus to survive. One of Casadevall’s studies estimated that 95 percent of fungal species simply cannot survive at average human internal temperature.
You can see this temperature barrier in action when you look at animals that hibernate, which requires dropping their internal temperatures to survive the winter. Bats, for example, have recently suffered huge declines due to white nose syndrome, which infects them while they’re hibernating and therefore cooler than usual.
For Casadevall, these findings support his theory about the animal world’s long history with fungi. He argues that perhaps our warm-blooded natures evolved specifically to avoid the kinds of fungal infections that can wipe out cold-blooded populations.
Few people “plan for how their own deaths will impact social media,” says Katie Gach, a digital ethnographer at the University of Colorado, Boulder, who studies how people manage, and don’t manage, post-mortem social media data. To some of her subjects, “legacies” are reserved for celebrities, so “regulars” like them need not consider a parting note. If people do think about their social media legacy, she says, “they only know who should be making those decisions after they have died,” like telling their spouse their Facebook password to delete their account. Beyond that, most see social media as the wrong medium for the message, “as a tool for communicating in the moment, not as a meaningful record.”
Beyond this, decades into the internet being a daily part of our lives, most of us still either don’t know how to or are too uncomfortable to grieve online. In a 2017 study, Gach and fellow digital death researchers Casey Fiesler and Jed Brubaker found “grief policing” to be common online, where users import social norms of grieving into social media. This leads to bitter disagreements about what’s appropriate, and often shaming individuals for not expressing enough grief, for seeking attention through public grief, or exploiting death for personal gain.
For all these reasons—along with good old-fashioned fear of death preventing any planning for our ends—the vast majority of online death announcements today either feel like or are literal copy-and-pasted versions of the rote local newspaper obituary. Because this formula—date of death, age, who the deceased is survived by, where to send money in lieu of flowers—is all data, no life, these messages often get lost in our endless newsfeeds. Person A switched jobs, person B is divorced, person C died, Pete Davidson got a tattoo of Salt Bae on his thigh.
Why should we care how our deaths look on Twitter when we’re dead? While Mark Zuckerberg’s metaverse announcement earlier this fall was met with mostly jeers, eyerolls, and trepidation, it should remind us how close society is to a world where the digital space is a part of our corporeal (and not only experiential) being, where institutions like birth, love, and death have the same gravity as they do in the physical world. To prepare for this Ready, Player One existence, we should start to think now about the ways to curate this world with the tools to die in a meaningful way.
Thankfully, there are already communities that are helping to craft the art and ethics of dying gracefully in cyberspace. Megan Devine, a psychotherapist, has created Refuge in Grief, an online community that focuses on reframing grief as an illness or problem to be solved to one built around compassion and understanding. Another community, the Order of the Good Death, even uses the slogan “Welcome to the Future of Death,” as a portal to critical questions about death, like how to make it more eco-friendly and equitable. The “death positive” movement, which aims to remove the taboo around talking openly about our own deaths, has also had room to flourish online, where the disembodied forum has allowed for people to more easily move beyond the taboo. Even social media platforms themselves have started to wake up to death. After years of complaints, Facebook, which has a lot of control over how grieving unfolds, in 2019 started to allow a legacy contact to have more control over the activities of the deceased.
When ransomware hit a biomanufacturing facility this spring, something didn’t sit right with the response team. The attackers left only a halfhearted ransom note, and didn’t seem all that interested in actually collecting a payment. Then there was the malware they had used: a shockingly sophisticated strain dubbed Tardigrade.
As the researchers at biomedical and cybersecurity firm BioBright dug further, they discovered that Tardigrade did more than simply lock down computers throughout the facility. The found that the malware could adapt to its environment, conceal itself, and even operate autonomously when cut off from its command and control server. This was something new.
Today the cybersecurity nonprofit Bioeconomy Information Sharing and Analysis Center, or BIO-ISAC, of which BioBright is a member, is publicly disclosing findings about Tardigrade. While they’re not making an attribution about who developed the malware, they say its sophistication and other digital forensic clues indicate a well-funded and motivated “advanced persistent threat” group. What’s more, they say, the malware is “actively spreading” in the biomanufacturing industry.
“This almost certainly started with espionage, but it has hit on everything—disruption, destruction, espionage, all of the above,” says Charles Fracchia, BioBright’s CEO. “It’s by far the most sophisticated malware we’ve seen in this space. This is eerily similar to other attacks and campaigns by nation state APTs targeting other industries.”
As the world scrambles to develop, produce, and distribute cutting-edge vaccines and medications to combat the Covid-19 pandemic, the importance of biomanufacturing has been put on full display. Fracchia declined to comment about whether the victims do work related to Covid-19, but emphasized that their processes play a critical role.
The researchers found that Tardigrade bears some resemblance to a popular malware downloader known as Smoke Loader. Also known as Dofoil, the tool has been used to distribute malware payloads since at least 2011 or earlier, and is readily available on criminal forums. In 2018, Microsoft stymied a large cryptocurrency mining campaign that used Smoke Loader, and the security firm Proofpoint published findings in July about a data-stealing attack that disguised the downloader as a legitimate privacy tool to trick victims into installing it. Attackers can adapt the malware’s functionality with an assortment of ready-made plug-ins, and it’s known for using clever technical tricks to hide itself.
The BioBright researchers say that despite the similarities to Smoke Loader, Tardigrade appears to be more advanced and offers an expanded array of customization options. It also adds the functionality of a trojan, meaning that once installed on a victim network it searches for stored passwords, deploys a keylogger, starts exfiltrating data, and establishes a backdoor for attackers to choose their own adventure.
“This malware is designed to build itself differently in different environments, so the signature is constantly changing and it’s harder to detect,” says Callie Churchwell, a malware analyst at BioBright. “I tested it almost 100 times and every time it built itself in a different way and communicated differently. Additionally, if it’s not able to communicate with the command and control server, it has the capability to be more autonomous and self-sufficient, which was completely unexpected.”