Ask MetaFilter Contains Everything You'll Ever Want to Know

Ask MetaFilter is a community site in which people ask and answer questions. There are tons of new questions every day, and they're all over the map -- you'll find life-and-death situations, complex technical topics, and even recipe suggestions. At the moment (as of 9am Pacific on January 6, 2011), I see a bunch of computer questions, along with these gems:

Whats the vibe like in Manzanillo, Costa Rica (Nicoya)? - 0 answers

What would be a good low maintenance freshwater fish that would thrive in a 2 gallon kids aquarium with a bubbler but no heater? - 10 answers

Wicked long shot, but I would like to identify a 15-year-old infomercial because it brought me so much joy. It featured a man in a dance club selling some mysterious service - 6 answers, including someone who found a complete video online showing the infomercial!

It's a big roiling pot of crazy awesome stuff. Check out the Most favorited posts of all time page for such hits as:

I want a badass skill. I want to know how to do something that people will see and think "wow, that is badass." - 108 answers

What are some good, somewhat dirty jokes suitable for telling to my Grandma? - 53 answers

Help! I'm stuck in my bedroom. The knob won't turn much either way and won't come unlatched. The only person who has a key to my house is out of town, so I can't even call a locksmith and have him let in. How can I get out of my bedroom? The door knob is the kind with screws only on the exterior. I've tried to slide a credit card in, but that did not yield results. Anyone have any advice to help me get out of my room? - 115 answers, and a community quickly forms around getting this woman out of her room

You get the idea. Got a few hours/days/years to kill? Ask MetaFilter. Oh, and if you're a design geek you might enjoy their ridiculous 2010 Year in MetaFilter infographic.

Apple Wants to Patent a Keyboard You’re Allowed to Spill Coffee On

In the future, eating and drinking near your computer keyboard might not be such a dangerous game. On March 8, Apple filed a patent application for a keyboard designed to prevent liquids, crumbs, dust, and other “contaminants” from getting inside, Dezeen reports.

Apple has previously filed several patents—including one announced on March 15—surrounding the idea of a keyless keyboard that would work more like a trackpad or a touchscreen, using force-sensitive technology instead of mechanical keys. The new anti-crumb keyboard patent that Apple filed, however, doesn't get into the specifics of how the anti-contamination keyboard would work. It isn’t a patent for a specific product the company is going to debut anytime soon, necessarily, but a patent for a future product the company hopes to develop. So it’s hard to say how this extra-clean keyboard might work—possibly because Apple hasn’t fully figured that out yet. It’s just trying to lay down the legal groundwork for it.

Here’s how the patent describes the techniques the company might use in an anti-contaminant keyboard:

"These mechanisms may include membranes or gaskets that block contaminant ingress, structures such as brushes, wipers, or flaps that block gaps around key caps; funnels, skirts, bands, or other guard structures coupled to key caps that block contaminant ingress into and/or direct containments away from areas under the key caps; bellows that blast contaminants with forced gas out from around the key caps, into cavities in a substrate of the keyboard, and so on; and/or various active or passive mechanisms that drive containments away from the keyboard and/or prevent and/or alleviate containment ingress into and/or through the keyboard."

Thanks to a change in copyright law in 2011, the U.S. now gives ownership of an idea to the person who first files for a patent, not the person with the first working prototype. Apple is especially dogged about applying for patents, filing plenty of patents each year that never amount to much.

Still, they do reveal what the company is focusing on, like foldable phones (the subject of multiple patents in recent years) and even pizza boxes for its corporate cafeteria. Filing a lot of patents allows companies like Apple to claim the rights to intellectual property for technology the company is working on, even when there's no specific invention yet.

As The New York Times explained in 2012, “patent applications often try to encompass every potential aspect of a new technology,” rather than a specific approach. (This allows brands to sue competitors if they come out with something similar, as Apple has done with Samsung, HTC, and other companies over designs the company views as ripping off iPhone technology.)

That means it could be a while before we see a coffee-proof keyboard from Apple, if the company comes out with one at all. But we can dream.

[h/t Dezeen]

Google Adds 'Wheelchair Accessible' Option to Its Transit Maps

Google Maps is more than just a tool for getting from Point A to Point B. The app can highlight the traffic congestion on your route, show you restaurants and attractions nearby, and even estimate how crowded your destination is in real time. But until recently, people who use wheelchairs to get around had to look elsewhere to find routes that fit their needs. Now, Google is changing that: As Mashable reports, the company's Maps app now offers a wheelchair accessible option to users.

Anyone with the latest version of Google Maps can access the new feature. After opening the app, just enter your starting point and destination and select the public transit choices for your trip. Maps will automatically show you the quickest routes, but the stations it suggests aren't necessarily wheelchair accessible.

To narrow down your choices, hit "Options" in the blue bar above the recommended routes then scroll down to the bottom of the page to find "Wheelchair accessible." When that filter is checked, your list of routes will update to only show you bus stops and subways that are also accessible by ramp or elevator where there are stairs.

While it's a step in the right direction, the new accessibility feature isn't a perfect navigation tool for people using wheelchairs. Google Maps may be able to tell you if a station has an elevator, but it won't tell you if that elevator is out of service, an issue that's unfortunately common in major cities.

The wheelchair-accessible option launched in London, New York, Tokyo, Mexico City, Boston, and Sydney on March 15, and Google plans to expand it to more transit systems down the road.

[h/t Mashable]


More from mental floss studios