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Brain candy for Happy Mutants

Last Build Date: Fri, 17 Nov 2017 01:51:47 +0000


The Internet of Shit is so manifestly insecure that people are staying away from it in droves

Thu, 16 Nov 2017 16:50:32 +0000


In Deloitte's new 2017 Global Mobile Consumer Survey, the company notes that "connected home systems—a category that includes home security, thermostats, and lighting—continue to lag behind other connected devices such as entertainment systems and connected vehicles," which the report attributes to "concerns about security and privacy." (more…)

Teardown of a consumer voice/location cellular spying device that fits in the tip of a USB cable

Wed, 15 Nov 2017 16:29:58 +0000


Mich from ha.cking bought a $25 "S8 data line locator" device -- a cellular spying tool, disguised as a USB cable and marketed to the general public -- and did a teardown of the gadget, offering a glimpse into the world of "trickle down surveillance" where the kinds of surveillance tools used by the NSA are turned into products and sold to randos over the internet for $25. (more…)

Turn your photography inside-out with the Pro-lapse

Wed, 15 Nov 2017 15:36:38 +0000


Pro-Mounts, a photography accessories company in Europe, makes a device called the Pro-lapse.

It's a little €35 mount that slowly rotates, allowing the shooter to capture professional-quality time-lapse sequences. Coming with a locking plug, safety mount and antifog inserts, it's not fancy. But nothing I'd be ashamed to see poking out my fanny bag.

Consumer groups' labs advise parents not to buy connected toys, claim risk of strangers listening and talking to kids over the internet

Wed, 15 Nov 2017 15:21:53 +0000


Two leading European consumer groups -- the UK's Which? and Germany's Stiftung Warentest -- have published an advisory with the results of their lab tests on the security of kids' connected toys, warning that these toys are insecure and could allow strangers to listen in and talk to your kids over the internet. (more…)

Dress shoe with secret gadget compartment

Tue, 14 Nov 2017 17:31:34 +0000


The Secret Shoe is a bespoke shoe with a hidden compartment in the sole to hold the likes of "the world’s smallest phone, a tiny video camera, a mini Swiss army knife, a tracking device, a choice of currency capsule (£50; €50; or $50); and the world’s most advanced contactless payment ring. The shoes can also accommodate a spare house key." A pair will cost you £2000 and are unlikely to result in a smooth TSA experience.

From Oliver Sweeney:

In addition to the items hidden within the shoe, the laces themselves are made from Kevlar. They can act as a friction saw cutting through wood or plastic, so should you ever find yourself zip-tied, you have a fighting chance of escape.



(via Uncrate)

Type samples from Smith-Coronas

Mon, 13 Nov 2017 20:09:34 +0000


Selectrics get all the hype, but I love the typefaces available on Smith-Corona typewriters from the 1960s. From the samples posted by munk, I think my favorites are the futuristic but legible "Classic Elite No. 86" and the handwriting-style Artistic Script (pictured).

There are about 20 in the set. The only ones that seem to be available as fonts are Numode No. 61, and this set with Smith-Corona's Prestige, Mini gothic and the script, bu all in very roughly-scanned form.

(Via this conversation between @hacklib and Marcin Wichary, who is writing a book about the typewriter and mechanical keyboard community.)

Star Trek keycaps for your mechanical keyboard

Mon, 13 Nov 2017 16:04:50 +0000


The Roddenberry Shop sells the Galaxy Class keyset, designed to look just like the user interfaces from Star Trek: The Next Generation and its spinoffs. If anything, it's a radical improvement on the shifting, zero-travel Okudagrams from the show, as its for mechanical keyboards only. Make it click, number one!

For sale: surplus nightmare fuel vintage manikins from a defunct dental school

Mon, 13 Nov 2017 15:07:16 +0000


The Agent Gallery of Chicago has bought a large lot of vintage dental training manikins and other gorgeous, nightmarish gadgets from the Hellraiserverse. (via JWZ) (more…)

Logitech plans to brick Harmony Link devices [Update: but will replace them free of charge]

Wed, 08 Nov 2017 17:06:46 +0000


Avoid everyday appliances (speakers, cameras, fridges, juicers, remotes, pets) built around internet-connected computers and designed to fail when the company goes bust— or just wants to brick it. [Update: Logitech clarified what's happening to the Harmony Link devices and promised to replace them free of charge; more below.]

Owners of the product have received an email from the company warning that the Link will completely stop working in March. “On March 16th, 2018, Logitech will discontinue service and support for Harmony Link. Your Harmony Link will no longer function after this date,” the email says. There’s no explanation or reason given as to why service is ending in the email, but a Logitech employee provided more details on the company’s forums. “There is a technology certificate license that will expire next March. The certificate will not be renewed as we are focusing resources on our current app-based remote, the Harmony Hub.” The Verge has reached out to Logitech for further comment.

Reddit is also mad about this; a Hacker News commenter noticed that the term "class action" is now being automoderated as a swear word at Logitech's support forums!

UPDATE: Logitech will replace the devices, writes Rory Dooley, head of Logitech Harmony, with new devices that have similar functionality.

If you are a Harmony Link user, we will reach out to you between now and March 2018 to make arrangements to replace your Link with a free Harmony Hub, a product with similar app-based remote control features to Link, with the added benefit of controlling many popular connected home devices plus, it works with popular voice assistants. You can also contact us at to make arrangements for your replacement.

We understand that services are important to you. Because the certificate that’s expiring relates to security, we would be acting irresponsibly by continuing the service knowing its potential/future vulnerability.

They also stopped blocking lawsuit talk on their forums.

Free keylogger: cheap keyboard records what you do and uploads it to the internet

Tue, 07 Nov 2017 14:04:45 +0000


Whatever you do, don't buy the MantisTek GK2 ($30), because it has a keylogger built in that sends data to a server in "the cloud," i.e. a computer you neither own nor control. It's hosted by retailer Alibaba, but operated by parties unknown.

The first way to stop the keyboard from sending your key presses to the Alibaba server is to ensure the MantisTek Cloud Driver software isn’t running in the background.

The second method to stop the data collection is to block the CMS.exe executable in your firewall. You could do this by adding a new firewall rule for the MantisTek Cloud Driver in the “Windows Defender Firewall With Advanced Security.”

If you want a one-click method, you can also download the free GlassWire netwo

No! Remove the malware. Throw the keyboard in the trash.

The Animation Dome

Tue, 07 Nov 2017 12:01:57 +0000


My inventor friend Les Cookson, just reached out and shared his new project with me: The Animation Dome. As usual, Les has created something that we’ll want to play with—and as with all his projects, it's inspired by a technology designed over 150 years ago: the Zoetrope. His tool takes the traditional 2D animation illusion into the third dimension.

The dome is a great art creation tool and is obviously the logical gateway to creating warm-hearted Burning Man favorites such as Peter Hudson’s Charon.

And his art imitates life classic, Tantalus.

If you like the Animation Dome, check out Les’s other creative products at Ancient Magic Art Tools.

He is the man with the animation plan!

The Animation Dome [Kickstarter]

Profile of Lance Braithwaite, a great of the longform gadget review

Mon, 06 Nov 2017 15:14:02 +0000


Lance Braithwaite, 81, is a gadget writer par excellence, with a keen mind for technology and a deep faith in the utility and virtue of manuals. He is now seldom-published; he roamed the magazines in the pre-Internet era, a time of long, technical reviews. “My biggest problem with many of the reviews you get, especially online,” he writes, “is that every schmuck with a computer figures he's a journalist.”

What distinguished Braithwaite from his peers was his deep technical knowledge and an almost holy commitment to the industry. He didn’t just write reviews, but saw himself as part of a community that strived for high quality, ideally measured by precise equipment that led to verdicts driven by data rather than a vague sense of what’s cool. Sometimes, Braithwaite himself would help develop the standards used to gauge a product’s worth. For instance, Braithwaite is credited with developing testing procedures for the Consumer Electronics Association (now the Consumer Technology Association) that gauge the maximum picture resolution output by various types of video players. He’s most proud, though, of developing a method for measuring the low-light performance of camcorders that, he says, came to him during a play watching the stage lighting. ...

While writing a review, Braithwaite sometimes had to confront company engineers, asking them to explain negative test results or why a feature he deemed critical was missing. It took time to do a product review right. And each in-depth review containing graphs and conclusions that consumed multiple magazine pages.

The expert journalist used to serve as both skeptic and priest, but mass consumption, the media, the internet, and all the other postmodern solvents have made this posture much less convincing.

The middle classes talk about fashion by locating humanity in expensive things through a shared but exclusive appreciation of context and meaning. Likewise with tools and toys, and writing about them. Some of us get nostalgic and fussy when purple is cheap enough for everyone to do their own thing with it.

Whenever I write about gadgets, then, I know I'm sublimating my own bourgeois elitism. So when my future is history, I hope I'll have something better to complain about than the people who are doing it wrong.

Roundup of cheap microcontrollers

Mon, 06 Nov 2017 13:19:36 +0000


Jay Carlson, an electrical engineer, takes a deep dive into the world of cheap hardware: “The Amazing $1 Microcontroller”.

If you want to scroll down and find out who the winner is, don’t bother — there’s really no sense in trying to declare the “king of $1 MCUs” as everyone knows the best microcontroller is the one that best matches your application needs. I mean, everyone knows the best microcontroller is the one you already know how to use. No, wait — the best microcontroller is definitely the one that is easiest to prototype with. Or maybe that has the lowest impact on BOM pricing?

I can’t even decide on the criteria for the best microcontroller — let alone crown a winner.

What I will do, however, is offer a ton of different recommendations for different users at the end. Read on!

Paul Verhoeven and Ed Neumeier's best and most neatly prophetic joke is the one about the price of Robocop's CPU.

James Brown and the $600 Cup Noodle Cooker

Mon, 06 Nov 2017 13:00:51 +0000

Just one of those odd internetal coincidences: the meeting of The Godfather of Soul, Cup Noodles, and a big-bucks doodad for wealthy folks in Japan. Let’s start with the show, with Mr. James Brown shilling for Cup Noodle in a Japanese TV commercial to the tune of his hit “Get Up.” Though he is often hard to understand, here there is a reason: he’s shouting in Japanese, and it’s not about being a sex machine. Of course you all know what Cup Noodles are. Large cups of salt with a few noodles and bits of dried veggies and some sort of meat. But they are delicious, reliable, and convenient as hell. I once took a trip to a country which shall remain unidentified, whose food I was warned in advance was “speculative,” and traveled with an entire suitcase of Cup Noodle. Ate it lunch and dinner for two weeks using the little tea maker in my hotel room to boil water. Compared to the offal, slugs, dog, and horse my friends were stuck eating I felt quite pleased with myself. The Japanese company Nissin has been making numerous varieties of instant noodles for many decades. Instant ramen (the noodly stuff) was invented in 1958 by Momofuku Ando. His secret was to flash fry the noodles. The idea of putting them in a cup came later, in 1971. In Japan, the different types of instant noodle dishes sold in cups and bowls, ready for hot water, takes up an entire aisle in the supermarket—you can’t imagine the huge number of varieties and different dishes. Japanese folks wolf this stuff down with a hearty slurp, the Chinese even more so. Wikipedia states that 96 billion servings of instant ramen are consumed around the world each year. According to Sora News 24 : Over 1,000 of Japan’s most precious works of physical art and architecture are officially designated as Kokuho (literally “National Treasure”) and are provided the protection of the national government for their preservation. It’s a system that is celebrating its 120th anniversary this year with the help of the Kokuho Support Project. And pitching in is Japan’s most valuable unofficial national treasure of modern history, Cup Noodle. … This time they have truly outdone themselves by creating the Jomon Doki Doki Cooker which goes on sale November 6 at 10 am. This instant ramen vessel is a faithful recreation of Kaengata Doki pottery from the Middle Jomon period, dating back to roughly 3,000 BC. The reproduction of the 5,000 year old piece of pottery is limited to only 15 pieces, and costs $525. It’s based on a coincidental bit of design shared by both the cup containing the noodles and the bottom half of the ancient pottery. With such a limited edition, you’ll need superhero internet mousing to get one. So if for some reason you’re at your computer at 8 pm on November 5 and start feeling all James Brown about Cup Noodle, here’s your chance to “Get Up” and do something about it! [...]

The Bathgate Ratchet, a clicky, machined fidget-toy that works like a socket wrench

Tue, 31 Oct 2017 16:23:44 +0000


For the past year, sculptor machinist Chris Bathgate has been designing a series of handheld, kinetic fidget toys, starting with a "slider" and then a top, a worry stone, a spinner, and a netsuke. (more…)

Review: Filco Minila Air wireless mechanical keyboard

Tue, 31 Oct 2017 08:00:49 +0000


Filco's Minila Air ($130, Amazon) should be my perfect keyboard: mechanical, high-end, sturdily made, with reliable Bluetooth and a cunning compact layout. It's even smaller than tenkeyless, but still comes with a proper set of arrow keys. It does everything I want—and fits in the same bag as an iPad. Thing is, though, I don't like it. My big problem is that it's incredibly thick. Even with the supports flattened, the number row tops out almost two inches from the desk surface! You can always add a rest, but that obviates the keyboard's small dimensions and mobility. My hands are like aching angry spiders, rearing up on the wristbones. Second, the unique layout has productivity in mind, not my plans to prettify it with fabulous keycaps. I just can't find a set that I like and which will fit. The supplied ones are perfectly decent, though. Finally, most subjectively, the bulky casing also has some asymmetric greebling at the back. It's subtle, and it has its retro geometric charm, but is not my cup of injection-molded tea. (image) Were it not for the unexpected bulk of the case, I think I'd be satisfied with the Minila Air thanks to its obvious excellence in most other respects. Reliable wireless is especially rare among mechanical keyboards, for some reason, and models that have it tend to be either unnervingly cheap or annoyingly expensive. I'll be trying the Anne Pro ($90, Amazon) next, but I don't think I can live without my arrows. Most of the above also applies to the wired version of the Minila ($120, Amazon) as it takes the same form. (image)

RIP Teaforia, the $1000 IoT tea-infuser

Sun, 29 Oct 2017 16:37:06 +0000


In 2016, Teaforia raised $12,000,000 in venture capital to manufacture a $1,000 tea infuser that combined proprietary, DRM-encumbered tea pods with a "patent-pending microinfusion technology" and a timer to make cups of tea. (more…)

Promising energy storage technologies for our renewable future

Sat, 28 Oct 2017 13:20:41 +0000


When the wind is blowing, the great plains could generate enough power to supply all of America, but storing and moving energy to supply those places where the wind isn't blowing, the sun isn't shining and the tide isn't coming in is a significant technological challenge that we're still figuring out. (more…)

Kodi: set-top streaming boxes that take the complexity out of building your own media server

Fri, 27 Oct 2017 18:06:46 +0000


Kodi boxes are commercial video-streaming gadgets that implement XBMC, a longstanding media-server free/open source project, in pre-packaged form, ready to accept third party plugins, including ones that access infringing streaming services, giving users access to practically every video, commercial and noncommercial, for free, with an easy search-interface. (more…)

Why electrical engineers should support the right to repair

Wed, 25 Oct 2017 14:30:14 +0000


Writing in IEEE Spectrum, iFixit's superhero founder Kyle Wiens and exective director Gay Gordon-Byrne bring the case for the right to repair (previously) to the engineering community, describing the economic, technical, and environmental benefits of permitting a domestic industry of local, expert technologists to help their neighbors get more out of their gadgets. (more…)

A tiny, wearable, Arduino-powered VT 100 terminal

Tue, 24 Oct 2017 16:17:02 +0000


The first "wearable" computer I ever tried was a wrist-strap that let me wear my Palm Pilot like a huge, ungainly wristwatch; I tethered it with a thick cable to a CDMA phone that could emulate a 9600 baud modem and used it to dial into the WELL. (more…)

Tech Support Gore

Mon, 23 Oct 2017 14:29:37 +0000


My new favorite subreddit is r/techsupportgore, where people who fix computers post the nightmare scenarios they find themselves in. It's not always the grand-guignol horror of Playstation 4 cockroach farms or, as pictured, loaves of solidly-baked dust. Some of them are subtle problems that can take a while to spot or which might even be invisible to nontechnical folk. Sometimes, the name is literal.

Previously: Toner Explosion.

Toner explosion

Mon, 23 Oct 2017 13:56:09 +0000


This photocopier's already had enough Monday. [Origin unknown; via Cursed Images]

Previously: What is a photocopier?

UPDATE: This is from a subreddit called Tech Support Gore! BB reader Grey_Devil has found more.

The MNT Reform: a modular, open source hardware, blob-free laptop inspired by classic PCs

Mon, 23 Oct 2017 13:54:16 +0000


Lukas F. Hartmann grew up on PCs like the Sinclair ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64 and Amiga 500, and while he appreciates the power and portability of modern laptops, he missed the character and invitation of experiment in these classic PCs. (more…)

Kids' smart watches are a security/privacy dumpster-fire

Sat, 21 Oct 2017 12:43:35 +0000


The Norwegian Consumer Council hired a security firm called Mnemonic to audit the security of four popular brands of kids' smart watches and found a ghastly array of security defects: the watches allow remote parties to seize control over them in order to monitor children's movements and see where they've gone, covertly listen in on them, and steal their personal information. The data the watches gather and transmit to offshore servers is copious and sent in the clear. The watches incorporate cameras and the photos children take are also easily plundered by hackers. (more…)

A new IoT botnet called Reaper could be far more virulent than Mirai

Fri, 20 Oct 2017 23:11:52 +0000


In 2016, an Internet of Things worm called Mirai tore through the internet, building botnets of millions of badly designed CCTVs, PVRs, routers and other gadgets, sending unstoppable floods of traffic that took down major internet services from Paypal to Reddit to Dyn. (more…)

Jonathan Mann sings a song about the MacBooks' dodgy keyboards

Fri, 20 Oct 2017 17:20:24 +0000


The Outline's Casey Johnson rages at the design of Apple's recent laptop keyboards, where the pursuit of thinness has resulted in keyboards that fail at the sight of a speck of dust, and where the said speck demands complete replacement of the keyboard assembly. Jonathan Mann (previously) turned it into a song!

I’m pressing the space bar
I’m pressing the space bar
I’m pressing the space bar
I’m pressing the space bar
And nothing is happening

Apple brought back Braun design, but Google is bringing back Olivetti

Fri, 20 Oct 2017 16:58:42 +0000


1960s/70s Italian industrial design was led by Olivetti, featuring products with "touches of joy that enliven everyday tasks" featuring bright color and playful forms, very different from the Braun look of minimalist, "Snow White" gadgets that are the precursor to Apple's design language. (more…)

Syndaver: A $95K animatronic cadaver that's replacing med-school corpses

Wed, 18 Oct 2017 17:12:43 +0000


The Syndaver is a super-realistic robotic human corpse simulator with replaceable viscera that med students can dissect again and again, freeing them to use the donated bodies of people who willed their remains to science for med school pranks, like sneaking them into the alumni dinner in a tuxedo. (more…)

Tiny 3D-printed Raspberry Pi cases look like classic computers

Tue, 17 Oct 2017 13:52:47 +0000


RetroPi makes adorable 3D-printed replicas of old, large computers for you install new, tiny computers within. [via]