Twitter’s the new tech hype machine, and if you keep your ears to the wire, you’ll get tidbits of news in unlikely places. The latest comes from Microsoft’s Office ’10 Twitter page, which has oddly dedicated 40 percent of its posts so far to Zune-related issues. First, we’re told that June 2009 will be “an important month for Zune lovers,” followed by confirmation of a new product launch. “Hold off from buying an iPhone/Pre,” the feed sayeth. There are other dots to connect here. We’ve heard that Microsoft is working on an iPhone rival, codenamed Pink, plus the possibility of a Zune HD. Then, there’s the fact that E3 falls on the first week of June, raising the possibility of some Xbox connection. Also, Xbox Live director of programming Larry Hyrb is tweeting about “the coolest opportunity I’ve had in a long time.” So the takeaway is this: Microsoft is working on something, and they think it’s going to be awesome. [Twitter via Engadget]
A couple of Web sites are buzzing about the new iamakey flash drive from LaCie, and why shouldn’t they? The key-shaped dongle is a long-overdue idea, and a way better solution than the ring holes stamped into your typical bulky flash drives. Available in 4GB or 8GB models, the iamakey is made of stamped metal and survived CrunchGear’s road tests with no problems. It’s a little slower than an average drive, but not enough to outweigh the appeal of a simple, small drive that fits nicely on a keychain. If you’re worried about the thin construction, LaCie also makes itsakey, which sports a slighty thicker build and a covered USB connector. The iamakey costs $10 and should be available soon. [via CrunchGear and the Gadgeteer]
Vacuum Tube Chess Set Makes Tesla Proud
By Jared Newman
Vacuum Tubes may have been a cornerstone in developing electronics, but for our purposes here, they make a sweet chess board. The “Chess Set For Tesla,” by Paul Fryer, uses 32 vacuum tubes and 64 plugs to ensure that those pieces don’t tip over during play. And of course, they light up, sohwing the type of piece on top. As some Dvice commenters noted, this is probably an impractical board, as the tubes would likely get too hot to handle unless you’re playing in the northern reaches of Russia. That doesn’t make it any less awesome from afar. [Make Blog via Dvice]
The Nintendo DSi launched over the weekend with some new technologies, such as a built-in camera for face-detection games and a long-awaited online store. We love handheld consoles, so we thought we’d take some time to reflect on their rich past. Here is a visual reflection on 11 of our favorite handheld consoles of yesteryear, from the Milton Bradley Microvision to the Nintendo DSi.
Microvision by Milton Bradley (1979)
For every great technological leap, there’s got to be one product that bites the dust ahead of its time. The Microvision, which played games such as Phaser Strike and Friday the 13th, only lasted two years.
Game Boy by Nintendo (1989)
And then, there’s always one product that defines the revolution. Despite the console’s technical deficiencies, the Game Boy and its successors were the envy of the console market for years to come.
Lynx by Atari (1989)
Props to Atari for creating the world’s first color handheld, but good luck trying to name any games for it off-hand. The next item on this list was the nail in Lynx’s coffin.
Game Gear by Sega (1991)
The luxury of color and built-in backlighting meant instant schoolyard fame in a sea of pea green screens with clip-on accessories. Six hours of battery life be damned, the Game Gear was awesome.
Nomad by Sega (1995)
If Sega had created its portable Genesis/Mega Drive player during those consoles’ heyday, the Nomad might’ve had a chance. It’s still a cool idea, though.
Neo Geo Pocket (1998)
SNK’s foray into handhelds was cursed at every turn. The original Pocket never made it out of Japan and Hong Kong before being replaced by the Pocket Color, which had to endure the sale of SNK to a Japanses pachinko company. Got to love those Neo Geo games, such as Samurai Shodown, though.
Game Boy Advance (2001)
The leap to 32-bit was another fruitful move for Nintendo. Console enjoys great success. Yawn.
N-Gage by Nokia (2003)
This console/phone/media player/Swiss Army knife was so overhyped, despite its egregious $300 price tag, it deserved to sell only 5,000 units on launch week. With poor games and poor controls, the N-Gage did nothing right. Good riddance.
Playstation Portable by Sony (2004)
While Sony is lagging behind Nintendo in the handheld game, the PSP respects traditional handheld design and offers some solid features such as Internet and multimedia support. Plus, it gives the fanboys something else to debate over.
Nintendo DS (2004)
The reason we’re here today. Doubted at first for its unconventional touch screen and regular screen combo, the DS breathed new life into Nintendo, going on to sell over 100 million units.
Nintendo DSi (2009)
Finally falling into the hands of the public this weekend, the Nintendo DSi is an evolutionary step forward for gaming giant Nintendo. It includes a built-in digital camera, wi-fi connectivity and social elements that make it not just a competitor to the PSP and other handheld games, but the iPhone and iPod Touch as well thanks to a focus on downloadable apps.
Could this be the world’s most expensive pc? Sure, the “701 Jewelry” from Moneual is the world’s most expensive “jewelry computer,” but how well can it run Crysis? The Intel Core 2 Due processor and ATI Radeon HD 4000 GPU can probably handle the task, but good luck seeing anything on that 7-inch screen. Chances are you’ll be distracted anyway by the 3,554 Swarovski Signature crystals that stud the buttons, border and screen frame. The gold plating and cylindrical shape lend to its other-worldliness, which begs the question: Where would you put it? At 77 pounds, it’s probably best to make that decision early on, if you can afford it. The 701 Jewelry is expected to cost around $30,000. No word on a matching crystal-studded keyboard and mouse. [via Aving USA]
When uploading to Flickr, users set tags, locations and other data– upon which an enterprising group of MIT researchers have built a project called “The World’s Eyes”. Now exhibited in the Design Museum in Barcelona, “Los Ojos Del Mundo” tracks photographers both local and tourist throughout their photographic adventures in Spain. As described by MIT’s SENSEable City Lab:
When posting photos online, users of the photo sharing platform Flickr transmit to the world their perspective of a place or event through the lens of a digital camera. Each digital photo file codes both the time when that photo was taken and the location it captures. Analyzing this information allows us to follow the trail that each Flickr photographer travels through Spain. (Un)photographed Spain maps thousands of these public, digital footprints over one year. As photos overlap in certain locations, they expose the places that attract the photographer’s gaze . In contrast, the absence of images in other locations reveal the unphotographed spaces of a more introverted Spain.
The result is a visually stunning display of the collective photographers’ view of Spain. Where and when do these photographs take place? What objects and locations are the most photogenic? We salute the work of MIT’s SENSEable CITY, as the art captured by Flickr photographers has been visualized into collective art from 30,000 feet. [MIT via datavisualization.ch]
According to designer Ivo Vos, the catapulting toaster is one of several products “that address the desire for skill, struggle, rituals, perfection, preparation and anticipation – qualities lost when we indulge in the comforts of prozac technology.” It’s also just really awesome to launch a piece of toast onto your plate. Angle and force are both adjustable, but there’s no word on the toaster’s ability to brown evenly. The greater “Brunch” collection includes a teapot that records your best pouring height and a set of cutlery that looks invisible against an accompanying placemat, but the catapult is the most fun. [Ivo Vos via SlipperyBrick]
Solving budget crises at the local level may not be so complicated after all, if the French Gendarmerie Nationale police force is any indication. By switching to open source software, such as the Ubuntu operating system and OpenOffice instead of Windows and Microsoft Office, the force has saved roughly €50 million since 2004. The best quote comes from Lt. Colonel Xavier Guimard: “Moving from Microsoft XP to Vista would not have brought us many advantages and Microsoft said it would require training of users,” he said. “Moving from XP to Ubuntu, however, proved very easy. The two biggest differences are the icons and the games. Games are not our priority.” But what about those sweet, sweet icons? No matter, the department says its budget dropped by 70 percent by switching to open source, and it’s obviously an approach they’d like to continue in the future. The entire organization should be running on Linux by 2015. My editor, an open source junkie, is probably ecstatic. [via Ars Technica]
If crime didn’t pay, there wouldn’t be any criminals. Throughout history, the successful criminals have used technology to stay above and beyond the law, developing new techniques to hedge their bets and avoid arrest. While some tech masterminds have escaped the long arm of the law, most have still failed. Meet the 10 most amazing high tech crimes– and the fate of the criminals that pulled them off.
Editor’s Note– if you enjoy this, be sure to check out our companion list of the 10 Amazing Tech-Assisted Arrests.
WANK Worm Bugs NASA
When NASA laid out plans to launch the nuclear-powered, unmanned Galileo spacecraft on a mission to Jupiter, protesters feared that the radioactive vibes could harm the Earth. But instead of merely grumbling about it, a group dubbed “Worms Against Nuclear Killers” hacked into NASAs systems and presented scientists with the image pictured above. The hack also tricked employees into thinking their files were being deleted, and spit random messages promoting anarchy and decrying the government. Cultural references in those messages suggest that the hackers came from Australia, but no one knows for sure.
$1.3m Made in “Easy” Roulette Scam
In 2004, a trio of cheating roulette players raked in £1.3 million from a British casino. Reports suggest that they used mobile phones fitted with laser scanners, calculating the likely position of the ball based on the speed of the wheel. That’s pretty clever on its own, but one physicist told New Scientist that there’s an easier way: Use the phone as a stopwatch, click it once when the wheel starts spinning and again after a revolution, and use a formula to calculate the outcome. Either way, the group was arrested, because you can’t win millions in a day at the casino without drawing some suspicion.
High-Tech Gadgets Aide Massive Poker Run
Aided by a camera up his sleeve, a tiny earpiece and a pair of accomplices, Yau Yiv Lam won $250,000 playing poker at six casinos. One of the cohorts, in a remote location, played back the video in slow motion to see the cards before they hit the table. Then, his person relayed the information to a veteran player that was in on the heist. Alas, it was too successful; casino staff called out the other player and caught the crooks red-handed. One officer said cheating like this is otherwise “extremely difficult” to prove.
ATM Scam Yields $9M
This isn’t your typical scan job, in which a single ATM is fitted with a camera for identity theft. This is a hack involving RBS WorldPay, which serves workers around the world with a direct-to-debit payroll system. Last November, someone hacked it, stole the information need to make clone ATM cards and lifted the withdrawl limits on those accounts. In a matter of hours, dozens of henchmen hit over 130 ATMs around the world, pulling out cash over and over again until $9 million was stolen. Police had no suspects as of early February.
Spy Gear Used to Cheat on Immigration Test
The “Life in the UK” test — the last step on the path to British citizenship — can be a daunting task, particularly if you don’t speak English. Last year, police caught two men making it easier by transmitting the answer over an earpiece. The test takers inside paid the men for their services and used a buttonhole camera to transmit the answers. When police found the masterminds in a nearby a BMW filled with high-tech equipment, they originally thought an ATM card-skimming scam was at work. Then, they realized the men could be part of a network that helps immigrants cheat on their tests. The perps will spend eight months in jail, and the men inside taking the exam, they were sentenced to 180 hours of community service.
Crowdsourcing Crime on Craigslist
After taking control of an armored truck by subduing the driver with pepper spray last September, a perpetrator in Monroe, Wash., needed to cover his tracks. Fortunately, he thought ahead by hiring decoys on Craigslist. The job ad offered $28.50 per hour for road maintenance work for anyone who could show up near the Bank of America wearing a yellow vest, safety goggles, a respirator mask and a blue shirt if possible. Roughly a dozen guys showed up, sporting the very outfit the robber was wearing. In a surprising switch to low-tech, the man then escaped down the river via innertube. Police eventually caught up to him in November using DNA evidence.
Infrared Aides Jaguar Break-In
Ever worry that your car’s remote lock system might not be foolproof? In 1999, at least, there was good reason for concern. Using an infrared transceiver, someone copied the keyless entry signal on a Jaguar in England and opened up the car to steal the Rolex watch inside. One wireless security expert said the trick could be done with a £15 device, or made at home for about £2. Even Palm Pilots and other PDAs could be manipulated into break-in tools. Improvements to the technology have since made this crime much more difficult, but with keyless systems expanding to include ignition, it’s also more tempting.
Walkie-Talkies and Hot-Wiring in Tech Robbery
It’s the sum of its parts that makes this tech-assisted 1997 heist impressive. In order to steal hundreds of thousands of dollars in Lexmark printers, a band of criminals hotwired a tractor and used it to pull two huge in front of the yard where the goods were held. This blocked a view from the road while two men ordered in a pair of rental trucks by walkie-talkie. Another man kept lookout and monitored police band radio while the other guys loaded up the stash. It was like butter, and just one of many burglaries that had high-tech companies concerned in the late 1990s.
Tunnel-Digging Operation Had All the Comforts of Home
In one of the largest bank burglaries of all-time, a gang of criminals dug an 80-meter tunnel into Brazil’s Banco Central from a nearby house. This wasn’t just a shovel job; along the way, the burglars installed air conditioning and rudimentary lighting in the tunnel. At the end of their trip, they had to drill through a meter of steel-enforced concrete. They broke into the bank with no guns and no fuss, and stole 3.5 tons of money, valued at almost $70 million. In the end, though, one of the suspected accomplices was kidnapped and murdered, and police arrested 13 others.
“Mission Impossible Burglar” Makes Like Tom Cruise
Though we don’t know if Steven Jay Kreuger had to avoid any floor-activated security systems, he certainly had a penchant for Hollywood-style burglaries. With the help of sophisticated cutting tools, ropes and a strong upper body, Kreuger broke into Laptop Solutions in Irvine, Calif., from the roof, climbing down to pull out $300,000 worth of wireless modems. This was after he used a grappling hook to get onto the roof. Police nabbed Kreuger in 1998, but a press release from 2006 suggests that he’s out of jail and at it again. His new thing, allegedly, is cutting through metal roll up doors and stealing computer memory and laptops from industrial complexes.
Thanks for reading, GearCravers, Diggers, Stumblers, Redditers and otherwise! What did you think of our list of high tech crimes? Do any stand out to you as criminally brilliant– or criminally stupid? Could you have pulled off any of these better on your own? Let us know what you think in the comments. In the mean time, we could certainly use your help– if you’ve got a minute, send this to a friend or two who you think might like it, and feel free to give us a vote in your favorite social news website. Thanks for reading!
Editor’s Note– if you enjoy this, be sure to check out our companion list of the 10 Amazing Tech-Assisted Arrests.
Usually CDs and DVDs don’t mix with your speakers until you hit play. An interesting new home audio design concept out of Poland could change all that. Designers Witek Stefaniak and Anielka Zdanowicz crafted the Soundshelf, a working stereo speaker that doubles as a CD/DVD shelf. Wall and tower shelves provide two useful options.
Simple yet smart, the Soundshelf promises to be a great way to sell the wife on a new stereo system. Rather than big, intrusive speaker boxes, you get a sleek, integrated shelf to organize the living room. Everyone wins (at least in theory, no indication as to how these would actually sound). With the simple, multi-function design element here, perhaps the juvenile Polish quips about solar-powered flashlights can finally be put to rest. [via designboom]