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Independent news, views, opinions and reviews on the latest gadgets, games, science, technology and research from Apple and more. It’s about the technologies that change the way we live, work, love and behave.

John Glenn, Ham the Monkey and The Mercury 6 Story

The famous hand shake welcome. Ham the Chimpanzee is greeted by recovery ship Commander after his flight on the Mercury Redstone rocket, January 31, 1961
The famous hand shake welcome. Ham the Chimpanzee is greeted by recovery ship Commander after his flight on the Mercury Redstone rocket, January 31, 1961


John Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth when he sat in a small pod atop a huge rocket and blasted into space. On Flashbak, you can see the story of how he got up there in photos. And why a monkey call Ham got there first – and one named Goliath didn’t…

Via: The Mercury 6 Flight Story In Photos

Posted: 4th, September 2019 | In: News, Photojournalism, Technology | Comment


Several Variants on the Game of Chess

Gravity chess

Pippin Barr has developed this fun take on chess: several variations on the game of chess. Play in “Clone” mode and the piece you’ve moved replicates. “Chance” turns your piece into a random new piece – pawn to knight; knight to bishop; and so on. In “Gravity” makes your piece tumble to the bottom of the board unless its blocked by another. “Quantum” created a new piece in each possible new position of a selected piece.

Spotter: Kottke

Posted: 26th, August 2019 | In: Technology | Comment


Hal is coming: Russian Spacecraft carrying humanoid Robot aborts Space Station docking

The Russian Soyuz MS-14 spacecraft carrying the humanoid robot Skybot F-850 is seen during final approach to the International Space Station on Aug. 24, 2019. The Soyuz's docking was aborted due to a problem with its Kurs rendezvous system.

Have Ronald Reagan’s ray guns readied. An uncrewed Russian Soyuz Spacecraft carrying a humanoid robot has aborted docking at International Space Station.

Onboard the Roscosmos Soyuz MS-14 spacecraft is the humanoid robot Skybot F-850. On its final approach to the ISS, the automated docking system failed to lock on to its intended docking port.

“At no point was the crew in any danger,” says NASA spokesperson Rob Navias of the ISS’s six-person crew. But it’s not just the humans we’re worried about, is it. It’s the robot, aka Fedor.

“Like any person, Skybot f-850 is very sociable and has a sense of humor,’” says Alexander Bloshenko, science adviser to Roscosmos state space corporation’s director general. “As I have mentioned before, it can support any topic of conversation and answer a variety of questions: from welcoming remarks, continuing with a speech about its creators and ending with the philosophy of space.”

Hal… Come in Hal

Fedor spec robot

Image: The Russian Soyuz MS-14 spacecraft carrying the humanoid robot Skybot F-850 is seen during final approach to the International Space Station on Aug. 24, 2019. The Soyuz’s docking was aborted due to a problem with its Kurs rendezvous system.

Via: Russian Soyuz Spacecraft Carrying Humanoid Robot Aborts Docking at Space Station

Posted: 25th, August 2019 | In: Key Posts, Technology | Comment


Rowing back technology : Navy abandons touch screens

The USS Fitzgerald collided with a Filipino-flagged container ship in Tokyo Bay
The USS Fitzgerald collided with a Filipino-flagged container ship in Tokyo Bay

All the chatter about hacks and data harvests makes you wonder: was it all better in analogue? The US Navy is taking a look. Touch screen tech is out:

The US Navy has had enough of touchscreens and is going back to physical controls for its destroyers, according to a report last week in USNI News. Starting next summer the Navy will refit its DDG-51 destroyer fleet with a physical throttle and helm control system. The effort is a response to feedback the Navy solicited in the wake of a pair of fatal crashes involving that class of ship during 2017.

It’s a warning that the auto industry could do well to listen to. Touchscreens continue to proliferate into car infotainment systems, a trend fueled by the plaudits given to Tesla for its huge touchscreens as well as a general belief that CES-primed customers are asking for more and more consumer tech in their vehicles. But there’s mounting evidence that touch interfaces are an awful idea for a driver who is supposed to be—literally—focusing on the road ahead, not hunting for an icon or slider on a screen.

Seventeen sailors died in that accident.

Bring back the wheels and throttles. Full steam ahead…

Posted: 12th, August 2019 | In: Technology | Comment


CCTV nation: spying on kids are they gain independence is unspeakably sad

spying camp facial recognition

Screw solitude and giving loved ones space. Parents who like to video tape their child’s every move can now monitor and keep records of their lives when they’re away at summer camp. The routine is pretty simple. You upload a photo of your child’s face to the Bunk1 app, which uses facial recognition software. Whenever the camp commandants take a picture of the kinder at player and upload it to the service, parents get an alert asking “Is this your camper?” It might well be the most god-awful thing ever. But to the Washington Post, it’s mostly brilliant.

Read and weep:

When David Hiller’s two daughters checked into Camp Echo, a bucolic sleep-away camp in Upstate New York, they relinquished their cellphones for seven idyllic weeks away from their digital lives.

But not Hiller: His phone rings 10 times a day with notifications from the summer camp’s facial-recognition service, which alerts him whenever one of his girls is photographed enjoying their newfound independence, going water-skiing or making a new friend.

His daughters don’t really know about the facial-recognition part, he said. But for him and his wife, it’s quickly become a cherished summer pastime, alerting them instantly when the camp uploads its for-parents haul of more than 1,000 photos a day — many of which they end up looking through, just in case.

Points to consider:

  1. Why not just let the nippers have their phones? Why is not having your phones “idyllic”? Mum and dad seem to be on theirs all the bloody time. And they love it.
  2. Why is letting strangers take photos of children all day a good thing?
  3. What “newfound independence”? Everything they do is being recorded, observed and judged. A child in the frame is about as independent as a lab mouse in a cage.
  4. Why don’t the children know what’s going on in their own lives?
  5. Other parents of kids who look like yours get to watch them too?
  6. A huge database stores the images and names of all the kinder. What could possibly go wrong?
  7. It all looks like a desperate attempt by parents to make a connection with their children. Give them space. Protect their fullest freedom and development by protecting their right to be alone.

Zu kampers vant more?

“It’s all about building this one-way window into the camper’s experience: The parent gets to see in, but the camper’s not distracted from what’s going on,” said Bunk1 president Rob Burns, a former camp counselor himself. “These are parents who are involved in everything their kid does, and that doesn’t go away when the kid is at camp.”

We have only glimpsed the hell to come…

Posted: 12th, August 2019 | In: News, Technology | Comment


Did Israeli lander leave life on the moon?

tardigrades moon

When in April an Israeli lander crashed on to the moon’s surface, it was carrying dehydrated tardigrades, aka ‘water bears’ – microscopic creatures with a unique protein that enables them to survive intense levels of radiation. These things can survive in space.

Aerospace Industries’ Beresheet lander was the first private spacecraft to land on the moon.

Operated by Arch Mission – “a non-profit organization that archives the knowledge and species of Earth for future generations” – the launcher is part of “Earth’s backup plan”.

The mission was carrying a “lunar library”, an archive featuring 30 million pages of information, DNA samples (human), and thousands of tardigrades. And – get this – tardigrades that have spent up to 10 years in this dehydrated state have been revived.

At least know we know for certain: there is life on other planets.

Posted: 9th, August 2019 | In: Strange But True, Technology | Comment


Apollo 11: they injected mice with moon dust

moon dust mice clangers

The Apollo 11 crew brought moon dust with them to planet Earth. “We had to prove that we weren’t going to contaminate not only human beings, but we weren’t going to contaminate fish and birds and animals and plants and you name it,” says Charles Berry, chief of medical operations for the Apollo missions. Space.com has more:

First, NASA chose the species it would use. In addition to the mice, the agency and its partners also selected other representative species: Japanese quail to represent birds, a couple of nondescript fish, brown shrimp and oysters for shellfish, German cockroaches and houseflies for creepy-crawlies, and more….

Then, the agency tapped into its precious cache of 49 lbs. (22 kilograms) of newly delivered lunar material. Scientists ground everything to dust, half of which they baked to sterilize and half of which they left as it was. The prescription varied a little with animal type: mice and quail got the lunar sample as an injection, insects had the sample mixed into their food and aquatic animals had the moon dust added to the water they lived in.

NASA watched the menagerie for a month in case anything seemed to suffer from the lunar exposure. The German cockroaches that were fed moon dust — true to the insects’ reputation — thrived despite the exotic diet. And all the animals did well, with one glaring exception: Whether in lunar water or not, many of the oysters died, which the scientists chalked up to having tested animals during their mating season.

Hard cheese for mice. But they should see what they did to the cats.

Posted: 30th, July 2019 | In: Key Posts, News, Technology | Comment


‘Destination Moon’: The best timed TV shot ever

'Destination Moon': The best timed TV shot ever

In 1978, James Burke (born 22 December 1936) timed his piece to camera to perfection. The rocket was primed. Burke, presenter on the BBC’s Connections talked the viewers down:

Posted: 21st, July 2019 | In: Key Posts, Technology, TV & Radio | Comment


Big Brother saves Yu Weifeng: China’s one-child policy and the stolen boy reunited with his family

Big Brother saves Yu Weifeng: China's one-child policy and the stolen boy reunited with his family

How easy is it to steal a human being in China? No, not for the overarching state to take children from loving families for re-education – which is a doddle for the country’s Government – but for non-wonks to take another human and make them vanish? Yu Weifeng, 21, has been reunited with his family. Yu vanished in 2001. “When we found him, he refused to believe that he was a kidnapped child,” says investigator Zheng Zhenhai, “but DNA confirmed that he was a match with his biological parents.”

The end to a mystery is the result of cutting-edge technology able to predict what Yu would look like as a grown man. “We opened the case the day after the incident and we never gave up,” adds Zheng. “Technology was limited at the time. We checked surveillance footage, but there were simply too many people coming in and out of the area… We’re very grateful to his foster parents for raising him for 18 years. From now on, his foster father will become like a brother to me; my son will have two dads.”

As with any technology ‘Made in China’, a degree of circumspection is needed. Is this – you know – true? The Chinese love to record and watch everyone and their genitals in their land. No arrests have been made. But the technology used to get every Chinese life on official cameras 24 hours a day has benefits, such as reuniting a long-lost son with his family.

PS: Yu was stolen in 2001 – when the Government policy in China limited many families to only one child, In 2013, the rules were changed to allow couples to have a second child if one parent is an only child but fewer couples than the government had expected began doing so. So let’s heat it for the son and heir back home. And you can – and very probably must – thank the Government which is only on the look out for new ways to control the people.

Posted: 21st, July 2019 | In: Key Posts, News, Technology | Comment


Gazing at the face of the sun : a NASA video

face of the sun

We’re looking at the moon. It’s 50 years ago since humans first trod on the lunar surface. NASA which reveals the Sun’s surface in a way never before seen.

This video takes SDO images and applies additional processing to enhance the structures visible. While there is no scientific value to this processing, it does result in a beautiful, new way of looking at the sun.

The original frames are in the 171 Angstrom wavelength of extreme ultraviolet. This wavelength shows plasma in the solar atmosphere, called the corona, that is around 600,000 Kelvin.

The loops represent plasma held in place by magnetic fields. They are concentrated in “active regions” where the magnetic fields are the strongest. These active regions usually appear in visible light as sunspots. The events in this video represent 24 hours of activity on September 25, 2011.

Spotter: Flashbak

Posted: 19th, July 2019 | In: Key Posts, Technology | Comment


Watch the entire descent : the Apollo 11 Lunar Module lands on the moon

Watch the entire descent : the Apollo 11 Lunar Module lands on the moon

Thanks to Apollo Flight Journal, we can see the complete descent of the Apollo 11 lunar module’s descent on July 20, 1969.

The video combines data from the onboard computer for altitude and pitch angle, 16mm film that was shot throughout the descent at 6 frames per second. The audio recording is from two sources. The air/ground transmissions are on the left stereo channel and the mission control flight director loop is on the right channel. Subtitles are included to aid comprehension.

Spotter: Flashbak

Posted: 19th, July 2019 | In: Key Posts, Technology | Comment


Animated green screen tattoos

Tattoo artist Lee Rowlett uses green screen tattoos that let you play videos on your skin. Look out for them on every celebrity and footballer who wants to secure a new branding deal…

Posted: 17th, July 2019 | In: Fashion, Technology, The Consumer | Comment


Whinefeld : The Seinfeld parody video game

Winefeld seinfeld

It’s 30 years since Seinfeld first aired. The show branded ‘too New York, too Jewish’ defied the critics and thrived. And it spawned this, Stay Tooned!, a 1996 computer game developed by Funnybone Interactive.

Wikipedia has more:

The player takes the place of an ordinary patron living in an apartment. The player starts off simply channel-surfing with a TV remote and watching short cartoons and commercials that parody real-life shows (such as Seinfeld, which is parodied as Whinefeld). One channel even has the game’s chief programmer providing hints on how to play the upcoming game. Several cartoon characters either forbid or encourage the player to push the red button on their remote as the player surfs the channels. When the player pushes the button, the cartoons break out of the television set, steal the remote, and cause the entire apartment complex to go into animated form. The player must recover the television remote, which is the only thing that can zap the escaped toons and send them back to TV Land, the fictional toon world found within the depths of the television.

Spotter: r/ObscureMedia

Posted: 11th, July 2019 | In: Key Posts, Technology, TV & Radio | Comment


You’re smart phone is not making you ill – yet

The latest up-to-date research says smart phones and other electronic devices are not making us ill. Kurzgesagt (sources) have produced a video to prove the fact:

Electrosmog is one of those things that is a bit vague and hard to grasp. When personal health is involved, feelings clash extra hard with scientific facts and there is a lot of misinformation and exaggeration out there. On the other hand, some people are really worried and distressed by the electricity that surrounds them. And just to wave this off is not kind or helpful.

While there is still a lot of researching being done on the dangers of constant weak electromagnetic radiation, it is important to stress that so far, we have no reason to believe that our devices harm us. Other than… well… spending too much time with them.

Of course, not too long ago the experts told us cigarettes were good for us.

cigaretts kids

Previously we were told electronic “smog”, created by the electricity that powers our civilisation, is “giving children cancer, causing miscarriages and suicides and making some people allergic to modern life”.

Try to enjoy your day as you await the next big public health scare.

Posted: 10th, July 2019 | In: Key Posts, Technology | Comment


Tumblr is dead: network bans Iggy Pop, David Bowie and The Bayeux Tapestry for being too dangerous

Tumblr is dead. The social media network owned by Verizon bans everything and anything. It offers users a right to “appeal” its ridiculous decisions. Why bother? It’s not worth the effort. Here are some images Tumblr has banned from my page for Flashbak. The offence for each image is the same:

Thee are just some of the images that are for adults only. Yeah , as if the cool kids us Tumblr – dream on:

david bowie banned
David Bowie in his flat – this image will corrupt minors. Keep up the good work, Dave!
tumblr banned iggy pop
Banned! Iggy Pop will be chuffed to bits
A postcard for sale in Miami – Bettie Page remains edgy
tumblr banned
Ban this sick filth!

tumblr banned
Album covers are now X-rated – more disco days debauchery here
tumblr banned
Girls’ Love magazine 1965 – BANNED!
tumblr banned
Beatles concert (1964) – Look away now, kids!
tumblr banned
As seen on the The Bayeux Tapestry, a mainstay of history lessons
tumblr banned
BANNED! Dancers Berinoff and Angelina. Photo by Martin Badekow, 1920s
tumblr banned
Carmen Miranda – fine for 1941 but classified as dangerous in 2019

tumblr banned
Speedo Jockette Stretch Bri-Nylon underwear advertisement, Australia, 1977. BANNED!

Tumblr is dead. What odds large chunks of the corporatised web follow?

Posted: 12th, April 2019 | In: Key Posts, News, Technology | Comment


DNA company says we have a ‘moral responsibility’ to snitch on our family

DNA test FBI crime

If you’ve nothing to hide, you’ve nothing to fear. Of course, the rules can change at any time and what is ok now might not be ok in the future. Customers of FamilyTreeDNA are helping crimefighters by having their DNA data shared with the FBI. The home DNA test company reportedly shares customers’ genetic information with US federal law enforcement.

FamilyTreeDNA have updated their rules, announcing: “Users now have the ability to opt out of matching with DNA relatives whose accounts are flagged as being created to identify the remains of a deceased individual or a perpetrator of a homicide or sexual assault.”

But a new campaign called “Families Want Answers” rises eyebrows. A soon-to-aired advert features Ed Smart, father of Elizabeth Smart, the child kidnapped in 2002 and held captive for nine months:

In the ad, Ed Smart makes a plea for people to share their DNA so they can help families who have lost a child. “When a loved one is a victim of a violent crime families want answers,” he says as the ad shows footage of a child’s shoe on a playground, crime scene tape, and parents embracing. “There is more DNA available at crime scenes than any other evidence. If you are one of the millions of people who have taken a DNA test your help can provide the missing link.”

Gizmodo has more, alerting readers to a statement from FamilyTreeDNA’s president and founder, Bennett Greenspan. As specified in FamilyTreeDNA’s Terms of Service, law enforcement can only receive information not already accessible to the standard user by providing FamilyTreeDNA with valid legal process such as a subpoena or a search warrant. But get a load of this:

“The genealogy community has the ability to crowd-source crime solving. With the evolution of the family matching database, which FamilyTreeDNA first created nearly two decades ago, we can do the greatest good for the greatest number of people in our society… If FamilyTreeDNA can help prevent violent crimes, save lives, or bring closure to families, then we feel the company has a moral responsibility to do so.”

Do you have a moral responsibility to present all your ancestors and loved ones as suspects?

Posted: 4th, April 2019 | In: News, Technology | Comment


EU ends speeding, driverless cars for everyone – car insurance is dead

speeding eu driverless cars

The EU plans to introduce technology to limit the speed of vehicles sold in Europe from 2022. “Every year, 25,000 people lose their lives on our roads,” says EU Commissioner Elzbieta Bienkowska. “The vast majority of these accidents are caused by human error. With the new advanced safety features that will become mandatory, we can have the same kind of impact as when safety belts were first introduced.” UK charity Brake says speed is a contributory factor in about a quarter of all fatal crashes. There were 26,610 people killed or seriously injured on British roads in the year ending June 2018.

No word yet on whether limiters will be fitted to police cars and other emergency vehicles. But the Daily Express cites the move as evidence that EU chiefs are “STILL meddling in British affairs”. The Mirror hails it as “the end of speeding”.

The other way to end speeding is to end speed limits, like on sections of Germany’s autobahns. Recent proposed speed limit enforcements over there were slammed as going “against all common sense” by Minister of Transportation Andrews Scheuer. The EU versus Germany – discuss.

The upshot of this legislation is to hasten moves towards driverless trucks, vans and cars. When people are not in control of their vehicles, we can do away with driver insurance. As Adrian Wooldridge noted:

When people are no longer in control of their cars they will not need driver insurance—so goodbye to motor insurers and brokers. Traffic accidents now cause about 2m hospital visits a year in America alone, so autonomous vehicles will mean much less work for emergency rooms and orthopaedic wards. Roads will need fewer signs, signals, guard rails and other features designed for the human driver; their makers will lose business too. When commuters can work, rest or play while the car steers itself, longer commutes will become more bearable, the suburbs will spread even farther and house prices in the sticks will rise. When self-driving cars can ferry children to and from school, more mothers may be freed to re-enter the workforce. The popularity of the country pub, which has been undermined by strict drink-driving laws, may be revived. And so on.

Why buy a car when you can take out a subscription to one? But will your vehicle be able to pass the Turing Test – you want to hear your taxi driver’s opinions on Brexit, don’t you? Or is humanity obsolete?

“People are lashing out justifiably,” said Douglas Rushkoff, a media theorist at City University of New York and author of the book “Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus.” He likened driverless cars to robotic incarnations of scabs — workers who refuse to join strikes or who take the place of those on strike.

“There’s a growing sense that the giant corporations honing driverless technologies do not have our best interests at heart,” Mr. Rushkoff said. “Just think about the humans inside these vehicles, who are essentially training the artificial intelligence that will replace them.”

You’re hermetically sealed inside a box and you’ve given Google the keys. They don’t just know where you’ve been on the web – they know every physical move you’ve made, too. The freedom of the open road is a thing of the past. So, dude, where’s my flying car..?

Posted: 27th, March 2019 | In: Key Posts, News, Politicians, Technology | Comment


After New Zealand: Tom Watson calls Mark Zuckerberg ‘wicked’ and blames Facebook for massacre

Forty-nine people are known to have been murdered as they prayed in a New Zealand mosque. The killer live-streamed the massacre on Facebook. On LBC Radio, Labour Deputy Leader Tom Watson used his hosted show to call Mark Zuckerberg, the owner of Facebook, “wicked”. Watson said he “dreams of the day” when he no longer has to use social media.

The Sun New Zealand massacre

Watson sounds like the intro to 1970s TV show Why Don’t You?, which advised British children tuning in to turn the telly off and get a life – but only after they’d finished watching this show, which was more pure than all the other shows. So by all means use Twitter and Facebook, but only listen to people who advocate “decency”, like Tom Watson.

The Daily Telegraph calls the slaughter the first social media terror attack. The Sun calls the killer the ‘FACEBOOK TERRORIST”. The Mail says it’s the “MASSACRE SHAME ON FACEBOOK”. The mood is clear: more censorship is required to prevent a repeat of this. But is that how you stop a disease from spreading? And who gets to decide what we, the impressionable masses, get to see?

You can argue about what kind of person seeks out a video of people being murdered, and why anyone not involved in psychopathic studies would want to spend a muon of their time reading the killer’s long manifesto. But should things be banned?

daily mail new zealand facebook

Maybe context is key? In France, the odious Marine Le Pen, leader of France’s far-right National Rally, is being investigated for her tweets. Her response to suggestions that the Far-Right has much in common with jihadism was to tweet the pointer “This is Daesh” and a series of gruesome photos. She thought it useful to show her followers images of a man being burned alive in a cage and decapitated US journalist James Foley. Le Pen has been charged with “circulating violent pictures liable to be seen by children”. “Sharing is caring,” says the blurb beneath social media icons. Not always it isn’t.

So, who else be blamed?

The Hill:

“New Zealand Police alerted us to a video on Facebook shortly after the livestream commenced and we quickly removed both the shooter’s Facebook and Instagram accounts and the video,” Mia Garlick, Facebook’s director of policy for Australia and New Zealand, said in a statement. Facebook is “removing any praise or support for the crime and the shooter or shooters as soon as we’re aware,” Garlick added.

A caller to Watson’s show said words heard in any video can be transcribed by machine learning. If the broadcast features a word on the banned list, then the video is flagged. So, for instance, a video of Tom Watson talking about “porn” and “white supremacy” would be flagged and blocked at the gate. The problem with that approach is clear. No platforming words and ideas diminishes us all.

What to do? Well, a word from Waleed Aly is worth listening to:

Posted: 16th, March 2019 | In: Key Posts, News, Politicians, Tabloids, Technology | Comment


Watch Donald Trump call Apple CEO Tim Cook ‘Tim Apple’

Donald Trump capped a meeting with Apple CEO Tim Cook by referring him as “Tim Apple”. And nobody in the room – not one person – laughed.

Nobody in the room ever laughs. Why is that?

Is this why he named his company Trump, so he could remember what the hell it was called? That question to you Ivanka Trump, daughter of Ivana Trump.

Posted: 7th, March 2019 | In: News, Politicians, Technology | Comment


Mum destroys student’s automatic homework writing robot; now every student wants one

censorship china

You can buy a robot to draw Chinese characters. One Chinese child bought one. One Chines mother of a Chinese student destroyed it.T

The Inquisitr:

In China, students are often burdened with the task of writing complex characters over and over in order to learn them. It appears that the girl digitized her handwriting and had the robot complete her work for her. Predictably, the girl finished her homework in record time. All seemed to go well for the girl. That is, until her mom found the machine while cleaning her room and promptly destroyed it.

The exact model of the robot is unnamed, but known robots that can “write” look like a square box with a black arm that holds a pen or pencil. For example, there’s a U.S. company called Bond that uses robots that can write in what looks like human handwriting. Some of these machines come with handwriting that’s already loaded onto the hardware, while others allow you to customize the handwriting.

No more writing lines, being beaten by nuns for holding the pencil in your left hand and having to earn a ‘pen licence’. Machines can do it all. And maybe – just maybe – they can also give you an Oriental tattoo that doesn’t make you look like a wally.

Posted: 27th, February 2019 | In: Key Posts, News, Technology | Comment


Pristine copy of first Super Mario Bros game sells for $100,150

To the attic! An unopened copy of Nintendo’s Super Mario Bros. original 1985 game has sold at auction for $100,150.

From the auction house:

“Beyond the artistic and historical significance of this game is its supreme state of preservation,” says Kenneth Thrower, co-founder and chief grader of Wata Games.

Due to its popularity, Nintendo reprinted Super Mario Bros. from 1985 to 1994 numerous times, resulting in 11 different box variations (according to this visual guide). The first two variations are “sticker sealed” copies that were only available in the New York and L.A. test market launch of the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) in 1985 and 1986. Of all the sealed copies of Super Mario Bros., this is the only known “sticker sealed” copy and was certified by Wata Games with a Near Mint grade of 9.4 and a “Seal Rating” of A++.

“Not only are all of NES sticker sealed games extremely rare, but by their nature of not being sealed in shrink wrap they usually exhibit significant wear after more than 30 years,” Thrower said. “This game may be the condition census of all sticker sealed NES games known to exist.”

A group of collectors joined forces Feb. 6 to purchase the game, including some of the biggest names in video games and collectibles as a whole. The buyers include Jim Halperin, Founder and Co-Chairman of Heritage Auctions of Dallas, Texas; Zac Gieg, owner of Just Press Play Video Games in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and Rich Lecce, renowned coin dealer, pioneering video game collector, and owner of Robert B. Lecce Numismatist Inc of Boca Raton, Florida.

“Super Mario Bros. is not only the most recognizable game of all time, it saved the video game industry in 1985,” said Wata Games President, Deniz Kahn. “In terms of rarity, popularity, and relevance to collectors, this game has it all. Mario is the most recognized fictional or non-fictional character in the world, more so than even Mickey Mouse. Super Mario Bros. launched the world’s largest game franchise and this copy is the only known sealed example from Nintendo’s test market release…

“Gieg called this example the equivalent of the valuable comic book, Action Comics #1. “This is first appearance of Superman of video games,” he said. “We all knew how hard it is to find an open copy of this version in nice condition, but to find one still sealed is truly something I thought I would never see, even after selling vintage video games for over 20 years”

Spotter: Heritage Auctions

Posted: 15th, February 2019 | In: Key Posts, News, Technology, The Consumer | Comment


Thailand fires water canon to clear Bangkok smog; London learns

smog pollution london

You know you’re in Bangkok, Thailand, because you can see the air moving. But worry not. The Thais are defeating the smoggy pea-soupers with water cannon.

Global News has more:

Thai authorities used water cannons on Monday in an effort to combat Bangkok’s air pollution. Masks were also provided after hazardous dust particles reportedly reached an Air Quality Index (AQI) of 180.

Any level above 150 is considered unhealthy and Bangkok ranked in the top 10 of polluted cities worldwide on Monday.

The particles, known as PM 2.5, are a mixture of liquid droplets and solid particles that can include dust, soot and smoke.

Diesel fumes contributed up to 60 per cent of the pollution while burning rubbish and crops attributed about 35 per cent.

The Straits Times says the “PM2.5 air-quality index (AQI) in Bangkok on [last] Sunday reached a peak of 195, an unhealthy level, while some areas such as Bang Khen district were at hazardous levels, with PM2.5 AQI at 394 on Sunday morning”. That’s way over the target of 50.

The Mail:

Stagnant weather conditions mean it is unlikely to clear quickly own its own. But the government is set to deploy rainmaking planes to seed clouds by dispersing chemicals into the air to aid condensation. 
The weather modification technique should in theory result in rain, which would help to clear the skies.

‘The Department of Royal Rainmaking and Agricultural Aviation… expects the rainmaking to be done tomorrow but it depends on wind and humidity levels,’ Pralong Dumrongthai, director-general of Thailand’s Pollution Control Department, told reporters. 

Waiting for rain is dull – as is cutting the reliance on pollutants. Better to fire up the water canon. But the water don’t taste like what it outta:

Thai media reported that in a desperate attempt to bring down critical air pollution levels in Bangkok, local authorities started experimenting with sweetened water, instead of regular one. The idea behind the bizarre pollution-fighting strategy is that by increasing the viscosity of the water using sugar will allow it to trap more dangerous particles when sprayed into the air. However, some experts believe that the unconventional approach could do more harm than good.

Dr. Weerachai Putthawong, a professor of organic chemistry at Kasetsart University, told Workingpoint News that he has serious doubts that the sweetened water will yield better results than regular water. He claims that the increased viscosity of the liquid won’t make much of a difference, because the equipment used to spray it isn’t powerful enough to pulverize it into small enough droplets to catch dust and particulate matter as small as 2.5 microns in size. The current machines used to spray the water can only catch particles down to 10 microns.

To make matters worse, the added sugar could cause the surfaces the mixture lands on to develop dangerous mold, as the organic additive would allow bacteria and fungi to develop.

Back in the UK, London just sold its convoy of three water canon. “Although London’s air often appears clear to the naked eye, the city has suffered from illegal levels  of air pollution since 2010,” says the FT. Recall the canon. Fire at will!

Posted: 30th, January 2019 | In: Key Posts, News, Strange But True, Technology | Comment


How to appear trustworthy

blushing - (Gerard van Honthorst’s Smiling Girl, a Courtesan, Holding an Obscene Image, 1625, via Wikimedia Commons)

Do we trust others too much? Are we confident that the government is able to accomplish what it set out to accomplish, whatever that is (insert guess here and post it to Westminster). What about robots, do we trust them?In 2014, researchers at University of Wisconsin-Madison investigated what makes a humanoid robot seem more “alive.” They found that a firm, steady gaze was unsettling. Bots programmed to occasionally glance away and look around appeared more thoughtful and thus more trustworthy.

Sathnam Sanghera writes in the Times onheart surgeon Samer Nashef:

People have an instinctive inclination to venerate medical professionals, literally handing over their lives to them without question, when these people are as capable of error as anyone else. As Nashef explains at length in his excellent book The Naked Surgeon, patients operated on the day before a surgeon goes on holiday are twice as likely to die as those operated on the first day the surgeon returns from holiday; one surgeon can appear, statistically, to be a better surgeon than another although they have killed more patients, owing to a strange phenomenon called “category shift”; and choosing a surgeon with the lowest patient mortality rate could be a mistake because they could just be taking on fewer risky patients.

Nashef writes how a heart surgeon “day after day walks into an operating theatre, nonchalantly cracks open the chest, puts the patient on an artificial heart-lung machine, stops the heart, opens it, fixes it, starts it again, disconnects the patient from the heart-lung machine and expects that the heart will handle supporting life again”. We trust them.

You don’t need to study medicine for years or work in high finance to gain trust. You can cheat. You can rouge your cheeks and sit beneath a hot light:

The Dutch psychologist Corine Dijk gave volunteers a series of photos of people, some blushing and some not, accompanied by tales of their recent mishaps, ranging from appearing overdressed at a party to farting in a lift. The blushers were judged more favorably, despite their indiscretion.

Other research has found that if you blush people are more likely to forgive you, and it can even avert a conflict. When you’re trying to work out who to trust, it makes sense to choose the people who would feel guilty if they did anything wrong. The ideal person is someone who would blush and give themselves away.

Image: Gerard van Honthorst’s Smiling Girl, a Courtesan, Holding an Obscene Image, 1625.

Posted: 18th, January 2019 | In: Key Posts, News, Technology | Comment


The CIA emergency tool kit spies hid inside their rectums

Old spies never die- but they do pass interesting stools. Atlas Obscura shows us the emergency spy kit CIA operatives in the Cold War stored in their rectums:

This CIA-issued tool kit was issued to CIA officers during the height of the Cold War. It was a way for spies to get themselves out of sticky situations: to pick a lock, carve a tunnel, etc. Watch the video above to learn more about the tool kit from historian and curator of the International Spy Museum, Dr. Vince Houghton.

Anyone else miss the Cold War?

Spotter: Boing Boing

Posted: 17th, January 2019 | In: Key Posts, Strange But True, Technology | Comment


Teen Vogue beats CIA and other perverts: stick a plaster over your webcam

How can you prevent spooks and pervs from spying on you? Nicole Kobie has a tip for reader to Teen Vogue: stick a plaster over your Webcam.

However, there are others who could be watching through your webcam, and the stories of compromised cameras are genuinely terrifying: hackers taunting people and spying on women at home, blackmailing teens into sharing nude photos, and schools even keeping watch on their students. “This is a pretty invasive, targeted form of malware, but the consequences can be super embarrassing,” said Joseph Lorenzo Hall, chief technologist at the Center for Democracy and Technology.

Such attacks require your computer to be tunneled into by hackers, creating a backdoor called a Remote Access Tool (RAT) — sort of like if someone added an unlocked window to your house that you didn’t know was there. There are also cases that allege computer repair staff taking control of cameras when you get a device serviced.

Don’t panic; this type of attack remains rare, notes Wheeler. “One or two instances of RATs and teenagers being hacked for video through their webcams creates a lot of media clicks and hysteria, but the truth is that you should be much more concerned about your personal data than your webcam or your phone’s front-facing camera (which no one covers with a sticker).”

Nicole Kobie

Now take a look at that Alexa box sat in the corner of your room listening to everything, and the Facebook Page that when it remains open can see all other sites you link to and maybe listen to your phone calls. And wonder what it is about adults that makes them so keen to eavesdrop on you? What did they hear? What did you do?

“With the right tools, in other words, almost anyone—from foreign governments to the creepy teenager down the street—could be recording you while you sit at your computer. All of this raises the question: Why don’t we just cover our webcams whenever they aren’t in use?”

Slate

Felix Krause explains what happens when you allow an app access to your camera and microphone. The app could obtain:

  • Access both the front and the back camera.
  • Record you at any time the app is in the foreground.
  • Take pictures and videos without telling you.
  • Upload the pictures and videos without telling you.
  • Upload the pictures/videos it takes immediately.
  • Run real-time face recognition to detect facial features or expressions.
  • Livestream the camera on to the internet.
  • Detect if the user is on their phone alone, or watching together with a second person.
  • Upload random frames of the video stream to your web service and run a proper face recognition software which can find existing photos of you on the internet and create a 3D model based on your face.

Criminals beware! This video shows how a film makers set up his phone and waited for it to be stolen. He then spied on the thief. But if you’re doing nothing wrong, then there’s nothing to worry about, right? Or maybe Big Government and Big Corp. are just gathering data for ads and marketing. However, should any rules change and you become a person of interest, they’ll be in touch. In the meanwhile, get a sticking plaster. It’s not a total solution – but it’s an easy fix.


Posted: 14th, January 2019 | In: Key Posts, News, Technology | Comment