Finally, an argument for smartphones

Or a potential argument, anyway, pending this particular development:

“I’ve wanted someone to create a Taser app for some time now,” I said to the rest of the group. “It would be something you’d download on a friend’s phone unbeknownst to them. Then, you could Taser them by using the control portion of the app at your end. Most people carry their cell phones on their person. It would work, though be quite a battery drain.”

“It sounds like you’ve been giving this some thought.”

“Yes. I think many people would be interested in it.”

Really, the only way this could be better is if you could download it to a non-friend’s phone by pointing it in his general direction while he’s standing there demonstrating why he’s not your friend.

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Quote of the week

John Naughton in the Guardian, on the cost of those “free” online services:

When the history of our time comes to be written, people will marvel at the way that billions of people were seduced into the kind of one-sided agreements they have struck with outfits such as Yahoo, Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Apple. In the case of Facebook, the historical analogy that comes immediately to mind is sharecropping — the agricultural system in which a landowner allowed tenants to use his land in return for a share of the crops produced on it and which was once a staple of the southern states of the US. Its virtual equivalent is the Facebook system: a billion people till Master Zuckerberg’s land, creating all the content that is then harvested by him and his advertiser buddies. The only difference is that on Facebook the sharecroppers don’t get any share of the proceeds. They’re just croppers.

And here’s the really weird bit: the croppers are absurdly pleased with their lot. They get to post photographs of themselves drunk, sober, recumbent and upside-down. They get to “Like” their friends’ jokes and status updates and to organise parties and social events without having to use obsolete media such as email. And in the process they “pay” for this entertainment with their privacy and their personal data, apparently without batting an eyelid. Like I said: weird.

One assumes that these folks are happy with the deal. Now if the Big Zuckowski puts together an archive that barfs your status updates back at you exactly twenty years later — well, a little mortification is good for the soul.

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For which I claim full credit

Last week, I bought a set of shiny new Cooper CS4 tires for Gwendolyn, and industrialists in India were evidently watching:

India’s Apollo Tyres [will] acquire Cooper, of Findlay, Ohio, for about $2.5 billion, or $35 a share. That would be a 43% premium to Cooper’s Tuesday close at $24.56.

Apollo is reported to be the 15th largest tire manufacturer worldwide, and Cooper the 11th; the combined company will rank seventh.

The sensible part of this deal, if you ask me — and why should you? — is that the existing Apollo and Cooper markets have hardly any overlap: Apollo does most of its business in India, and Cooper is almost entirely American-based, though it does own the British firm Avon Tyres.

Note: Not intended as an attempt to sell securities.

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24-pin salute

When I was a lad, we had only nine pins, and we liked it:

According to research firm NPD, Americans bought just less than 20,000 brand-new dot matrix printers in 2012. You can still find an entire channel on for dot matrix printers with pricing starting at a lofty $205, more than double the least expensive inkjet.

So why would anyone want to use the best printing technology of 1983 in 2013? Apparently, many point-of-sale, warehouse inventory and other business systems still require carbon copy and multipart forms that work only with the hard impact of a dot matrix printhead and its continuous tractor feed. And, really, who can blame businesses for not modernizing their processes to use inkjet, laser or thermal printing? They’ve only had a couple of decades to think about it.

How about “The next level up is severely retarded and insists on multipart forms”? Does that work for you? Because it’s a reality for me.

And you’d be surprised how fast the least expensive inkjet goes through $205 worth of replacement cartridges — unless, of course, you own one.

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Like Berle, if Berle could rebound

About fifteen months ago, which in NBA terms is about a quarter-century, Tim Duncan didn’t suit up for some Spurs game because he was old. Really. Said so in the box score.

I have to figure, though, that Methuselah Jr. shrugged it off; the man clearly has a sense of humor. Jeff McDonald, on the Spurs beat for the San Antonio Express-News, sent this up yesterday:

Tim Duncan explains Spurs’ game plan vs. LeBron this way: “We’re guarding him with five guys.”

Also yesterday, Royce Young of Daily Thunder tweeted this:

Tim Duncan was asked what he would hate most about the spotlight the Heat get, the second-guessing, the over-coverage, etc. Answer: “Yes.”

I hope I’m that funny when I get that old.

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And the number of the gigs shall be two

Can’t tell if trolling or too dumb to have a smartphone:

2GB data plan. how many gigs is this. I have AT&T

I’m tempted to say something like “Being as how it’s AT&T, probably 1.8.”

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Pockets of cootie resistance

In my capacity as a person who knows some actual female gamers, I did manage to pick up on this:

Now I’m not a big fan of the “We Must Have Our Own Role Models!” shtick; but this woman got totally dumped on in the crudest and crassest manner possible, and I’m not a fan of that sort of thing at all.

Lara Croft was not available for comment.

Disclosure: I have purchased and played — and won at — exactly one game with a female protagonist. This, of course, was long before my plunge into the ponyverse.

(Via Fark.)

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Beyond the blue Verizon

Here’s another one of those dadburn dilemmas with horns:

I have a phone I hate.

It’s glitchy and horrible and dumb and I hate it. However, I have a service that I like. 4G coverage, unlimited data, usually works yadayadda.

It escalates from that point, and winds up here:

Do I replace this stoopid hated glitchy phone I have now by using insurance and paying a $100 deductible for the same stoopid hated probably still glitchy phone because Verizon claims that the scratches on the phone have invalidated the warranty? (They made a similar claim invalidating my warranty when my Droid X got bricked by their stoopid ice cream update two years ago. I hate them SOOO much, yet I know they have the best coverage in America. ARRGGHHH.)

Be grateful. Had it been AT&T, they’d have charged you a Bricking Fee for accepting the update in the first place.

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Plate tech ‘tronics

It’s tentatively called the “e-tag” — a name there’s still plenty of time to change — and South Carolina is contemplating putting such things on cars as a method of tormenting scofflaws:

[T]he tags would be electronically linked to the DMV, so if a driver’s license has been suspended or his insurance has lapsed, the DMV would send a signal to the license plate. The word “SUSPENDED” or “UNINSURED” would appear on the license plate.

If your car is stolen, the DMV could make the tag read “STOLEN”. The state could also use the tags during Amber Alerts or other emergencies.

I figure this system will be hacked approximately 90 minutes after the first deployment of tags.

(Via The Truth About Cars.)

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Sympathy given

Musician Emily Haines wears several hats, though the one that brought her to my attention was the one she wears as lead singer and keyboardist for the Canadian band Metric. Here she is, not wearing a hat at all:

Emily Haines photo by f_mafra

This particular song, from Metric’s 2009 album Fantasies, has been creeping into my subconscious for several weeks now, though I didn’t hunt down the video until last night. It’s at least somewhat incomprehensible, as is the song itself, but I’m fine with that, and as usual, I’m amazed at what can be done in a single shot.

Why “Metric”? Emily explains to Spin:

“[Bandmate] Jimmy [Shaw] had a song that involved a sound he’d programmed into his keyboard and called ‘Metric.’ When we saw that word on the keyboard’s LED screen it looked so electro. It had a no bullshit vibe. It was a little cold and standoffish and we’re down with that. It works for us. Some people think it has something to do with the fact that we’re from Canada — which uses the metric system. That was coincidental, though at the time we were into arty electronic stuff that was coming out of European countries that also use the metric system. But if we’d wanted to use a name that evoked Canada, we would’ve called ourselves the Toques or something.”

Besides, there’s a band called The Toques, from, um, northern Arizona.

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Pass the Bufferin

Oh, wow! Streaming audio from the iTunes Store! There’s just one iFly in the iOintment:

It seems iTunes may dip into social media like Facebook or Twitter to see what you like and they say it’s to see which artists you like and don’t like so they can build a proper playlist for you, but we all know where it’s going. Selective marketing. You can buy any track you like immediately off iTunes Radio which isn’t a bad thing as long as the money gets to the artist. The problem here lies with the ads. The iTunes software is already resource heavy on machines in comparison to VLC Player or even the XBMC. Now take a resource heavy client and add in a live music stream and ads to follow every second song. It’s like taking a pack mule that is loaded with all your gear and sit on it expecting it to take you up the mountain.

Okay, it’s not a fly, it’s a mule. Either way, it’s bound to be stubbornly annoying — or annoyingly stubborn.

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You could have just asked

The Daily Mail comes up with another humdinger:

It won’t come as a surprise to most females that men mature later than women, but new research has pinpointed the exact age that boys mature completely as 43 — 11 whole years after women.

The study into the differences in maturity between genders revealed both men and women agree that males remain ‘immature’ well into their late 30s and early 40s. By contrast, the average age at which women mature is just 32.

Of course, your mileage may vary. I must, of course, point out that this particular study was paid for by the UK outpost of the television network Nickelodeon, which doesn’t exactly seek suave and sophisticated viewers.

And does this mean I should look for a mate 11 years my junior? I didn’t think so.

(Via Fark.)

Addendum: Now what could I possibly have done in my forty-third year to transform myself into a Mature Adult? Oh, yeah, right.

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Not so much as a Flickr of hope

I haven’t taken the changes at Flickr too badly, perhaps because I am a fairly light user of the service, my Pro status (which may be in jeopardy presently) notwithstanding. By contrast, Newton of Infinite Hollywood declares that it sucks:

The new Flickr is supposed to be a place where you post up all your random, pointless photos. The original Flickr gave you information on the camera used, aperture, shutter settings and allowed you to interact with the photographer to learn more. These options still appear in the new and “improved” Flickr, but they’re buried away because they aren’t flashy enough.

In terms of random, pointless photos, Flickr will never be able to compete with Instagram.

In terms of usability:

The old layout of Flickr wasn’t the prettiest thing in the world, but it was very functional. It wasn’t broken, so it certainly didn’t need fixing. But Yahoo has made sure that the new layout is super sleek and fancy. Unfortunately this also comes at the cost of slower loading times (to the point that apparently users with even slightly sluggish internet speeds can barely use the site) and almost zero functionality. Many of the old options are there, but they’re scattered throughout a clunky interface that’s designed to dazzle you, not help you.

And the search function is hosed, says JenX67:

I needed a picture of scattered feathers with the Creative Commons License. On the old Flickr, this would have been easy to find. But, before I even looked for such an image on the new Flickr, I decided it would (1) take less time to buy a bag of feathers and (2) photograph my kids scattering them and (3) clean up the entire mess than it would take to sift through the colossal junk that has become Flickr.

On a, you should pardon the expression, hunch, I checked in with Caterina Fake, co-founder of Flickr back in the Old Silurian times. She hadn’t a word to say about it, blogwise.

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Wait a minute

There was a short Monty Python song called “I Like Traffic Lights,” sung by a character who was named something other than Bamber. Not everyone, however, is so enthusiastic about them:

I don’t like traffic lights. They are so sloooooowwwwww. I have learned to cope by counting the seconds I have to wait. I find that most of the lights at big intersections run on a one minute cycle. These are the ones where you have dedicated left turn lanes and signals, so you have four groups taking turns. Occasionally you will run into a big intersection, like one with five or six points that runs closer to two minutes. Counting the seconds gives me something to do until light turns green. I will have a bill for the traffic gods when I die.

Personally, I think the light should count the seconds for you:

This installation is located, says the video provider, in Chiayi City in southwestern Taiwan.

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Rubber repossessed

I winced when I wrote the check for those tires the other day — the wrong side of $700, it was — but I take comfort in the fact that I could have done a whole lot worse:

Rent-to-own tire shops are among the newest arrivals to a sprawling alternative financial sector focused on the nation’s economic underclass. Like payday lenders, pawn shops and Buy Here Pay Here used-car lots, tire rental businesses provide ready credit to consumers who can’t get a loan anywhere else.

And, just like those other operations, they work on massive margins:

[A] couple last September agreed to pay Rent-N-Roll $54.60 a month for 18 months in exchange for four basic Hankook tires. Over the life of the deal, that works out to $982, almost triple what the radials would have cost at Wal-Mart.

Still, if you have to scrape to get $14 a week, and there have been times when I have had to, what else can you do? Used tires? Bus passes?

(Via Outside the Beltway.)

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Which way is it going?

This came out last year, but things haven’t changed all that much except for a few more bright pixels:

Tornado tracks through 2012

Notes from John Nelson of IDV Solutions, who put this together:

Got this data from NOAA via the spectacular It tracks 56 years of tornado paths along with a host of attribute information. Here, the tracks are categorized by their F-Scale (which isn’t the latest and greatest means but good enough for a hack like me), where brighter strokes represent more violent storms.

Also from Nelson: earthquakes since 1898, major fires since 2001, and hurricanes since 1851. Obviously we need to get off this planet entirely before it kills us all.


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