The Null Device
This looks pretty nifty: a gadget the size and shape of a mobile phone which is a WiFi-based Skype client; it will connect to wireless base stations and send and receive calls over the internet using Skype, showing which contacts are online and calling phone numbers (credit permitting) as well. Best of all, it does not require a PC to be switched on and running Skype.
Of course, it is less than ideal, given that most wireless hotspots use a web-based kludge to collect payments, which renders them unusable for appliances not suited to web browsing. What the world needs is a standard for publishing access point metadata and negotiating payment or roaming. Perhaps, on each access point, an IP address (say, 10.255.255.254) to be reserved for responding to HTTP requests, which could give XML-based metadata about the access point, handle logins in a standard fashion, and speak some kind of digital-wallet protocol if needed for payment. With that, a wireless VoIP phone (or satellite navigation client or news-ticker wristwatch or whatever appliance one wants to imagine) could ping this, grab data on the access point, and see if it can use it on its existing credentials (such as roaming agreements). If not, it could display the point's charges and ask the user if they want to pay for access.
The latest gadget on the Japanese market is a gun that fires teddy bears, fitted with parachutes, into the air. The necessity that mothered this bizarre-sounding yet oddly compelling invention was the fashion in Japan to throw teddy bears, rather than bouquets, into the air at weddings. The teddy bear gun merely automates this process somewhat.
(via Boing Boing)
The US military has given the world a number of things: the internet, GPS, and now, it turns out, San Francisco's gay scene:
During World War II, the United States armed forces "sought out and dishonorably discharged" homosexuals. Many men who were expelled for being gay were processed at San Francisco bases.
This site agrees, stating San Francisco was indeed a point of departure during World War II. Gay men often stayed in the city after completing their military service. Since then, San Francisco's gay and lesbian population has continued to grow.
(via Boing Boing)
Over the past few years, a number of factors (increasingly miniaturised chipsets, cheap Chinese manufacturing, and the purchasing power of gigantic retailers like Tesco and Wal-Mart) has resulted in household electronic goods like DVD players becoming ridiculously cheap. The effect of this has been a steep fall in burglaries, as criminals realise that knocking over houses is no longer worth the bother:
"The falling value of electrical goods means housebreaking no longer makes sense. Even the simplest of criminal minds will carry out a risk-benefit analysis,"
He said: "There's no doubt the falling value of electrical goods has made housebreaking a less attractive crime. You can buy a new DVD player in Asda for about 20 quid, so there is no longer the same market for stolen goods.
Dr Cook added: "If you really want very cheap second-hand goods, they can be bought at money lender or cash-back places and are definitely not stolen. Second-hand stolen goods can't compete with that."The other side of the rise of miniaturisation and integration is that, with people carrying more valuable high-tech gadgets on their persons, street mugging has become a lot more profitable, and consequently increased.
In Toronto, vandals/hacktivists have managed to break into the commuter train system's electronic announcement/advertising signs and reprogram them to announce that the Prime Minister eats babies.
It appears that this was a case of electronic vandalism," said Stephanie Sorensen, corporate communications and media specialist for the GO Transit commuter system. "We assume it was a hacker. We haven't identified the person who did this but we're working closely with the contractor who runs the signs to fix the problem."
Screens on GO Trains have been shut down since Monday. Sorensen said she expects they will remain off line for a few more days until password-protected technology is installed to protect them from computer hackers.Oops!