Candle-powered phone charger

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The Stower Candle Charger, in addition to being a basic emergency stove, powers USB gadgets with fire: put a fuel canister under it and it’ll transmute heatrons into juicetrons as described in the Codex Ifritanimus. One canister will charge a smartphone twice; actual wax candles will presumably not stretch so far.

When power outages hit, staying connected to family, friends, and emergency services is critical. But how to keep charged? – Batteries store power – they don’t make it – We love solar, but it doesn’t work at night or indoors – Hand cranks produce minimal power. 10 hours cranking to charge a phone? That’s tough. We want a reliable solution, and the Candle Charger is the first indoor generator designed to charge smartphones and keep them charged.

How to find out what Trump’s favorite big data machine knows about you

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Cambridge Analytica is a dirty, Dementor-focused big data research outfit that provided the analysis and psych profiles that the Trump campaign used in its electioneering; because its parent company is in the UK, it is required (under EU law) to send you its dossier on you for £10.
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The world’s littlest laptop is yours for $399, but is it the ultimate writers’ gadget?

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The GPD Pocket is a wee laptop with a 7″ high-dpi touchscreen display and an enticing $399 price tag. It’ll be light on power, with an Intel Atom CPU, 8GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD, but promises about 12 hours on a charge and two USB ports, one of them type C.

There’s a ThinkBook-style tracknipple in lieu of a trackpad. It’ll run Ubuntu or Windows 10 and, somehow, they managed to sneak a headphone jack on there. (more…)

Diversify your resume with lifetime access to over 1,000 courses across 15 professional fields

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Learning new skills is a great way to improve your resume and stand out from other candidates. Especially in a workforce in which many job-seekers have a wide variety of qualifications. With lifetime access to Virtual Training Company, you won’t have to choose a specific focus. You can pick up new expertise whenever you deem it necessary for a career change or new job.

Whether you want to brush up on your multimedia creation abilities, or learn a specific application for work, their course catalog is loaded with expert-led instruction to help you master a skill.

Developing new skills and expertise doesn’t require repeatedly paying for individual classes—these video courses are based around the idea that anyone can learn software on their own with the right materials. Lifetime access to their videos usually costs $2,500, but you can get a perpetual subscription to Virtual Training Company for just $89 for a limited time.

Explore other Best-Sellers in our store:

U.S. spies are withholding intelligence from Donald Trump, who has none

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Capping off Donald J. Trump’s No Good Very Bad Horrible Day today, the Wall Street Journal reports that senior U.S. intelligence officials are deliberately withholding sensitive information from the President because they don’t trust him. Today’s report cites sources inside the White House, and underscores the deep mistrust between career spies and the imploding kakistocracy.

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Puzzle: the lazy electrician

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Here’s a brain teaser from the Art of Play newsletter. I have not tried to solve it yet.

A lazy electrician is hired to fix the wiring in a tall building. In the basement are three buttons labeled, “A, B & C.” On the top floor of the building there are three ceiling fans in three different apartments labeled, “1, 2 & 3.” The landlord tells the electrician that each button in the basement is connected to one of the three fans upstairs—press the button once, and the fan turns on. Press it twice, and that same fan turns off. The problem is, no one knows which button controls which fan.

There is no elevator in the building and the electrician is very lazy so he will only climb up the stairs to the top floor once. It will take him nearly an hour to climb all the stairs and he refuses to use any assistance of any kind in order to complete this job. If it is impossible to see the fans from outside of their respective apartments, how does the electrician discover which button controls which fan once he climbs up the stairs for the first (and last) time?

Drug catapult found attached to Arizona-Mexico border fence

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The taller the wall, the farther catapults like these will be able to fling bundles of drugs. This one was found at the Mexico-Arizona border.

From KVUE:

When agents arrived, they searched the area and located two bundles of marijuana, weighing more than 47 pounds combined, as well as a catapult system attached to the Mexico side of the border fence.

Beautiful coin spins for 7-9 minutes

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J.L. Lawson & Co makes tops, spinner coins, and other hand-machined products.

Their latest thing is the Tempus Spin Coin, and has been successfully funded on Kickstarter. It’s still available in .999 silver, bronze, and copper.

For those of you that are interested in spin times, my average time ranges from 7-9 minutes. Considering the art isn’t balanced, the spin is fairly balanced but, keep in mind, this coin wasn’t intended for perfect spinning. It’s more to help keep you entertained at the local bar.

This $25 bidet is amazing

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I bought this $25 non-electric bidet last month and without going into detail, I have to say it’s a game changer. I just bought another one for the other bathroom. The water is not heated like with those high-tech Japanese toilets, but there’s something to be said for a refreshing blast of cold water. Installation took less than 15 minutes.

A catalogue and history of one of the most pervasive subcultures — UFO believers

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I am not that interested in speculation on whether aliens have ever visited the Earth. What I am excited about, however, are all the ways we have imagined them, from the earliest grainy photos of saucer shapes in the sky to the orchestral-minded, big-eyed aliens from Close Encounters of the Third Kind. In the 1950s and 1960s, UFOs became ubiquitous in the pulp magazines and cheap popular paperbacks. With their lurid cover and claims that “Flying Saucers Have Landed,” these publications would set the popular consciousness afire. They also opened up theories of ever sort as to the origins of UFOs and what role the government might play in covering them up. From the hollow Earth, to Mars, to other dimensions, the UFO myth could contain almost any form of conjecture. Jews? Maybe. Men in black? Most certainly. Spiritual avatars leading us to a new age? Let’s hope so.

“Flying Saucers Are Real” by Jack Womack collects the science fiction author’s personal collection of UFO-related ephemera, and reveals what William Gibson describes in the book’s introduction as the “source code” of the UFO idea that has been programmed into all of us. Womack introduces the popular UFO myth as starting with what is known as the Shaver mystery, the strange tales of Richard Shaver who claimed to have visited the great civilization that lives in the hollows of the earth. Their brethren fled our planet on spaceships, but those left behind—the Dero—seek to kidnap and enslave human beings for the own (usually sexual) means. The editor Ray Palmer published these in “Amazing Stories” in the 1940s, and he would soon go on to make a career of publishing the most garish stories about flying saucers and invading aliens. His magazine “Fate” and books like “The Coming of the Saucers” lead the way for decades to come.

Womack’s collection is startling in its variety: “The White Sands Incident” by Dr. Daniel Fry in which the authors claims to have been inside flying saucers; “Men From the Moon in America” by W.V. Grant explains that the devil lives on the moon and the space race with the Russians is a race to the power of evil; and “Ceto’s New Friends” by Leah Hadley that teaches children not to be afraid if they are ever abducted. Womack’s collection contains book covers with all manner of saucer-shaped craft, amateur drawings of aliens, and those ubiquitous grainy photos. If the images weren’t enough to recommend this book, Womack’s discussion and examination is a smart and funny travelogue through the forest of this wonderful material.

Flying Saucers Are Real

by Jack Womack

Anthology Editions

2016, 288 pages, 11.0 x 8.5 x 1.0 inches, Paperback

$40 Buy on Amazon

See sample pages from this book at Wink.

Researchers show they can beat address space layout randomization with Javascript in a browser (!)

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Address space layout randomization is an important first line of defense against malicious software: by randomizing where in memory instructions are stored, ASLR makes it much harder to overwrite memory with new code that will be jumped to as a program executes, offering significant protection against buffer overflow attacks.

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Largest coal-fired power plant is shutting down. What will Trump do now?

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Trump made a big deal about saving the dying coal industry. “[We’re] bringing back jobs, big league. We’re bringing them back at the plant level. We’re bringing them back at the mine level. The energy jobs are coming back.”

But in recent weeks, owners of two coal-fired power plants announced they were going to cease operations, including the largest coal-fired facility in the western United States. They can’t compete with natural gas price, which “have made it more expensive to produce electricity at the facility than to purchase it from cheaper sources,” according to the Washington Post. It reminds me of my friend who sells novelty items on his website, but stopping because Amazon’s retail price of the same items is usually less than the price he pays to buy the items from manufacturers.

Trump’s ability to save the Navajo plant and others like it is limited, despite his rhetoric. Even if his administration follows through on its promises to relax regulations on the coal industry, those changes aren’t likely to change coal’s fading market.

And if the owners of coal-fired plants lose money when they operate their facilities, keeping them running makes little economic sense.

For some reason, Trump’s energy plan makes no mention of solar, “an industry that just added 51,000 jobs.” Maybe he could issue an executive order requiring solar panels to have coal burners on them to belch smoke.

Hacking a $2 voice recorder

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I’m really enjoying Donald Bell’s Maker Project Lab videos on YouTube. They are short reports on cool things happening in the world of making. This week, Donald talks about a circuit-bent voice recording intercom, a $500 laser engraver, a Raspberry Pi robot arm, Flick Face electronics project, Pi Cams compared, and a PocketCHIP review.

Taco Bell now has a wedding chapel in Las Vegas

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Taco Bell will soon offer fully-catered weddings at its Las Vegas flagship restaurant. Key selling points of this elegant offering are that this Taco Bell Cantina location has a DJ booth, pours booze, and has big digital displays. The $600 wedding package includes:

• A ceremony in the chapel inside the restaurant with an ordained officiant within as little as four hours

• Private area for a reception inside the restaurant with up to 15 of your closest family and friends

• Custom merchandise, including a sauce packet garter and bow tie, “Just Married” t-shirts for the bride and groom, Taco Bell branded champagne flutes and, of course, a Taco 12 Pack filled with tacos and a Cinnabon Delights cake for dessert

• A Sauce Packet bouquet is also available for the bride to use during the ceremony

How an old camera flash became the first Star Wars lightsaber

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The legendary lightsaber that Obi Wan passed on to Luke in Star Wars: A New Hope was actually a modified battery tube from a 1940s Graflex camera flash. Once that was known, prop recreators drove up the price of the flashes, frustrating vintage camera geeks who appreciate the elegant gear for a more civilized age.

Interesting in-ground trampolines that are level with the grass

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Trampolines Down Under sells in-ground trampolines that are level with the grass. The $1700, 14′ trampolines include a special plastic retaining wall system. According to the company, “Our ground level system dramatically reduces the injuries associated with trampolines, by eliminating falls to the ground, reducing the height above the ground while jumping, and eliminating injuries to children walking under the trampoline while others are jumping.”

I’d be surprised if home insurance providers would agree. They frown on trampolines big time, and most will drop you if they’re aware that you have one at your home even if it has a net enclosure.

(via Geekologie)

Italy unveils a legal proposal to regulate government hacking

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As a result, LEAs are increasingly hacking directly into the suspect’s devices (computers, phones, TVs, cars), installing trojans (tiny pieces of software that can do almost anything and collect almost everything without restriction).

This is something new. Unsurprisingly, in many countries, the laws regulating the legitimate use of trojans are just as new, notably US Rule41 and the UK IP Bill, laws that authorize LEAs to hack into suspects’ devices, with few constraints and with an unsophisticated approach .

In Italy, the Civic and Innovators parliamentary group – which includes, among others, Andrea Mazziotti, Chairman of the Constitutional Affairs Committee, Stefano Dambruoso, a well known anti-terrorism prosecutor, and Stefano Quintarelli, an italian internet pioneer and entrepreneur – has recently introduced a bill on the matter.

It took nearly two years of work to draft the proposal, with the involvement of many experts and stakeholders; among them: a former speaker of the Parliament, civil rights activists, law enforcement officers, computer forensics researchers, prosecutors,law professors, IT security experts, anti-mafia and anti-terrorism departments and politicians.

This complex law proposal tries to address most of the technical issues related to the use of trojans, while guaranteeing individual rights and protecting the public from the possible abuse of government trojan.

The main concept behind the law is that a trojan shall not be allowed to do everything, but only what has been specifically authorized by a judge’s signed warrant.

For instance:

* A Telephone Wiretapping Warrant is required to listen a Whatsapp call .

* A Remote Search and Seizure Warrant is required to acquire files on remote devices.

* An Internet Wiretapping Warrant is required to record web browsing sessions.

* The same kind of warrant that would be required for planting a physical audio surveillance bug is required to listen to the surrounding environment with the device’s microphone.

The proposal aims to update the framework of guarantees and limitations already provided by the criminal code, in light of the quick development of computer science, and the consequent threats to citizens’ privacy.

For example, according to the bill, if a device is searched and seized remotely during an investigation, the owner must be notified when the investigation ends. In fact, a similar provision already exists for “physical” house searches.

However, there are also very complex technical challenges that this proposal try to address, by specifying many technical and operational requirements that have to be met to legally use trojans in an investigation:

a. The source code must be deposited to a specific authority and it must be verifiable with a reproducible build process (like the Tor Project and Debian Linux are doing)

b. Every operation carried on by the trojan or through its use must be duly documented and logged in a tamper proof and verifiable way, using cryptographic time-stamping and digital signing, so that its results can be fairly contested by the defendant during the inter partes hearing.

c. The trojan, once installed, shall not lower the security level of the device where it has been activated

d. Once the investigation has finished, the trojan must be uninstalled or, otherwise, detailed instruction on how to self-remove it must be provided.

e. Trojan production and uses must be traceable by establishing a National Trojan Registry with the fingerprint of each version of the software being produced and deployed.

f. The trojans must be certified, with a yearly renewal of the certification, to ensure compliance with the law and technical regulation issued by the ministry.

g. Extracted data must be stored in the prosecutor’s servers and must be protected from third-party access with encryption.

h. Trojans have to be directly operated by police, and not by private contractors.

One would ask: how would that impact companies that develop and sell such kind of trojans?

Should the proposal become a law, they would need to update their software to comply with the new technical regulations and they would have to deposit their source code to the competent authority, in order to keep their business going on in Italy (and in any other country that adopted a similar regulatory framework).

The proposal is under public consultation. . There, judical and technical conversations are being held to further collect input from a wider public.

The Law Proposal, along with it’s Technical Regulation Proposal, is online. Of course, it is written in Italian, but an English summary is available: “Rules governing the use of government trojan with respect for individual rights”.


Fabio Pietrosanti and Stefano Aterno.
Fabio Pietrosanti and Stefano Aterno

(Image: calflier001, calflier001, CC-BY-SA)

Nokia to resurrect classic dumbphone

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Nokia’s 3310 is said to be the most reliable phone ever made. It’s a classic plastic-and-silicon brick from the turn of the century, long consigned to the recycling bin in the age of smartphones and tablets. But because people actually like and appreciate technology that works, as opposed to all the modern internet-of-shit frippery that doesn’t, they’re bringing it back. (more…)

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