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Saturday, February 14, 2009

Force Trainer Toy Uses Your Brainwaves to Imitate Yoda-Like Telekinesis (David Lim, Auckland, New Zealand)

Here's one of the most interesting tech toys that have recently emerged from the toy crafting laboratories of Uncle Milton Industries. The Force Trainer is special both because of its affiliation to the Star Wars universe, and because of the innovative technology it uses.

The device has a headset that translates the intensity of your brainwaves into what looks like Force telekinesis powers. If you are strong in the Brainwave Force, you will see a ball move upwards inside a 10-inch tall tube. Just don't try to imagine Darth Vader using the Force Trainer, or the entire thing will be a little too ludicrous, even to veteran fans of the SW franchise. You will have to shed about $100 from your money mound if you want to try out your Jedi potential.

The Force Trainer's brainwave-based system is, in fact, a modified version of similar devices normally used for EEG medical testing. The more you focus on the sphere, the more it will rise, which is cool, even without the Star Wars wrapping. Now, don't you go and picture a brainwave flow emitted by your noggin and delicately nudging the “training sphere.” The ball is actually pushed by a volume of air released when the device detects a certain quantifiable amount of brainwaves from the user.

The creators of the toy probably know they've got a sweet deal going on here, but they still slapped on some Star Wars-like sound effects for good measure - which will probably become boring after a while. Hopefully, there will also be an option for turning them off. After all, a true Jedi needs absolute concentration, disregarding trivial annoyances. Do you really think Obi-Wan Kenobi paid any attention to the musical score, despite its coolness?

Anyway, it's still a little strange to see this kind of technology just waltzing in people's homes. Strange, but also encouraging, in the big picture.

5 Things You Didn't Know: The Department Of Defense


The United States Department of Defense is an agency of superlatives: the DOD is the country’s largest government agency and its oldest, and it is the primary occupant of the Pentagon, the biggest office building in the world. Yet for all that, its official statement on what it does is remarkably blunt: “We are war-fighters first and as such, have no peers.”
In general, the DOD handles issues related to national security and military affairs, making it the primary target for groups who resent U.S. military involvement overseas. Love it or hate it, we present 5 things you didn’t know about the United States Department of Defense.

1- The DOD's budget equals Exxon and Wal-Mart combined

Just what kind of monstrosity is the DOD? It employs over three million people, 1.3 million of them on active duty in the military, qualifying it as America’s largest employer. It operates on a gargantuan annual budget of $419 billion, a 2006 total that falls just shy of matching the annual budgets of retail behemoth Wal-Mart ($227 billion) and ExxonMobil ($200 billion) combined.
Furthermore, the DOD’s three million total employees is more than double that of those two companies put together, a figure that falls shy of 1.5 million.

2- The DOD no longer investigates UFOs


Another thing you didn’t know about the DOD is that it long ago gave up on finding Martians in the skies over the U.S.
In 1948, the U.S. Air Force launched Project Sign to look into the rash of reported UFO sightings. Over the next 21 years (and through two name changes -- first Project Grudge, then Project Blue Book), they investigated over 12,618 reports of UFOs and found explanations for 11,917 of them. The remaining 701 went unexplained. In 1969, Blue Book was shut down, having concluded that none of the investigated UFOs presented any threat to national security, none displayed technology any more advanced than what was known at the time and none suggested they might be occupied by little green men.

3- The DOD only commands the Coast Guard in wartime


The U.S. Coast Guard, long the whipping-boy of the military’s five branches, is the one branch that does not ordinarily fall under the authority of the DOD. Rather, during peace time it falls under the authority of Homeland Security (as of 2003). Prior to that, it was part of the Department of Transportation from 1967. As law enforcement officers, the members of the Coast Guard also have the same legal authority as U.S. Customs officers.
During war-time, the Coast Guard becomes an agency of the U.S. Navy, although this may only apply to combat units within the Guard. Historically, despite their role to “serve and protect America’s coastlines and waterways”, units of the Guard have seen action in almost every major military conflict in U.S. history over the past 100 years.

4- The DOD's Secretary of Defense does not sign autographs

You might think the mailbox of the head of a military force despised by much of the world would be overrun by death threats, but apparently the problem is autograph requests. Robert Gates, in an evident break from his predecessors, “has decided not to provide what have come to be considered customary autographs for collectors.”
The DOD will, on request, send you his photo, but they’re so tight about the whole thing that they inform you of your motives beforehand: “Your request implies respect and support.” In other words, no using Sharpies to give Gates a prison tear tattoo. The Secretary of Defense is a Cabinet post and is likely to change with the new administration, signaling good news for the Cabinet-level autograph-seeking multitudes.

5- The DOD licenses insignia to retailers

The last thing you didn’t know about the DOD is that they’ve got your back. In an effort to boost its image and even land a few new recruits, the DOD -- specifically, the U.S. Army -- is a client of big-time brand licensing firm the Beanstalk Group, whose diverse client list includes Ford Motor Company, Universal Studios, Paris Hilton, and Mary-Kate and Ashley, to name just a few.
Beanstalk’s recommendations to the U.S. Army were to establish a “line of Army-inspired clothing… using insignia from the First Infantry Division” since “strong brand identification through retail sales of products potentially can enhance the Army’s recruiting efforts and the public’s general goodwill towards the Army and its activities.”

EyeClops Mini-Projector from Jakks Pacific Sounds Like Sweet Deal

(February 14, 2009, Source: Softpedia.com)

This device is to be officially and ceremoniously announced at the next edition of the Toy Industry Association’s Annual Toy Fair, which happens to be next week, in New York. But if you're just so very busy and can't attend, let me share with you the frugal information provided by Jakks Pacific Inc., the manufacturer of the EyeClops.
Don't let the toy-like design fool you. This is a mini-projector in the true sense of the word, with a serious spec list – at least that's how it looks from the preview of its description. If the EyeClops and a DVD ever meet in a bar, they will surely get along nicely, as the EyeClops is supposed to easily connect to DVDs. I wish I were capable of as much empathy. In fact, the mini-projector is compatible with a wide range of devices, from video game consoles to digital cameras. Still, even if compatibility is important when it comes to projectors – you must know from which gadgets you can take stuff and project it – visual quality and brightness are much more decisive in figuring out whether the projector is a-ok or not. The product made by Jakks Pacific should be capable of throwing images of up to 70 inches on various surfaces, so its LED lighting power is not as puny as that of other mini-projectors out there. Considering the fact that these features are all bundled together at a price which – we are promised – will not go over $100, it all sounds pretty idyllic. But we'll know for sure whether the EyeClops should enter the gadget list of fame next week, when that funerrific, top-model-filled party known as the Toy Industry Association’s Annual Toy Fair will bring the New York house down.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Nokia E-71 PDA Phone: Power Tips and Shortcuts, David Lim, Auckland, New Zealand, GDI


It had been almost a month now since I switched from my good old Nokia N95 to the Nokia E71; I am still very excited about this little cool machine. I have search on New Zealand's Vodafone site and cannot find much power tool or shortcuts.

Well, these tips are well known, but for people who doesn’t know yet, here some keyboard shortcut for Nokia E71:

- Quick dou
ble press on the bottom left ‘number shift’ key locks it. Most useful when particularly navigating around the GMail app to invoke actions instead of keep pressing the button before every keystroke.

- Copy and paste can, in some situations be done with Ctrl+C (but you need to hold down Func+Chr+C to get this on the keyboard). You can highlight text (in edit situations) by holidng the shift key and moving the direction pad. Copy will appear as on of the softkey labels.

- Page up and page down are Ctrl+Up and Ctrl+Down. Again you access control by pressing the function key first (so Fn+Chr+Up on the keyboard). Doing this directly is awkward. You can press Fn then Ctrl+Up. If you doble tap the function key it becomes sticky (i.e. like cap locks and as describes above) and you can then do multiple page up and page downs easily.

- From the idle screen hold down # to switch between silent and general profiles. Press and hold down * to switch bluetooth on and off.

- Press Fn Key + Return Key for quick Mark/Unmark of items like Msg. emails etc. for deletion or moving.

- On keys that show a symbol or number, hold down the key to get it.

- When in locked mode you can hold the large center ’select’ key to get a large back lit time and date display w/o unlocking or needing to re lock.

- Pressing Shift + Backspace = delete letters after cursor

- In Notes and Messaging, press Fn (most left bottom button) + Spacebar = gives input option such as turn on/off predictive text, settings, writing language, input method.

- Hold down left soft key to read out new text messages.

Top 10 Most Dangerous Places on Earth! Do you know?

In keeping with this site’s love of helping out with holiday plans, this is a list on the top 10 most dangerous places in the world - these are all places you might consider not visiting when planning your next holiday. Some of the items may be a little controversial, but you are, of course, free to ignore our advice and go anyway!

10 Russia

In this crime-ridden, ex-Soviet state, no longer does the government stuff their Armani suits with rubles, but the vandals and gangsters. The Russian mafia runs amuck, there are more gangsters than police, and a Russian is assassinated every 18 minutes, averaging 84 murders per day in a nation of 143 million. The nucleus of Russian crime is stationed in the Republic of Chechnya, a region within Russia just north of Georgia. Prostitution, drug trafficking, and underground restaurants are arbitrarily controlled by the Chechens. Foreigners are kidnapped more frequently due to the higher ransom allocated. Crimes towards include but are not limited to: pick pocketing wallets, cell phones, cameras, cash, and physical assaults. From superpower to Third World country, think tanks are beginning to speculate if communism really was the cure for Russia.

9 Brazil

For anyone traveling to Brazil, it is not a matter of whether you get mugged, it is a matter of when! Grinding poverty still lives alongside incredible wealth in a country that is riding a wave of economic growth. But with prosperity, rates of crime have also soared. Street crime is rampant in parts of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paolo, and whilst many victims are left unharmed, having a broken bottle put to your throat for your bracelet is not pleasant. The incidences of “quicknappings” has risen in major cities. This involves being abducted and taken to an ATM to pay your ransom. If you can’t pay, thanks to mobile technology, your family is only a call away. Along with street crime, organized criminal groups have waged wars against police and public institutions that were unable to be bribed. Prison riots are brutally suppressed, drugs and narco-terrorism claim civilian casualties and if you survive all that - the piranhas are waiting.

8 South Africa

Any nation described as the ‘rape capital of the world’ should be one to take extra special care in. Although rape had shown a declining trend to 113.7 in 2004, it increased in 2005 to 118.3 per 100 000. Another damning statistic for South Africa is its appallingly high murder rate. The 2010 World Cup host is consistently in the Top 5 list of countries by homicide rate. Most crime is confined to poor areas but it hasn’t stopped gated communities springing up all over South Africa and armed guards protecting wealthy tourist groups. Farming in South Africa has become one of the most dangerous professions in the world. The murder rate for farmers is 313 per 100 000 - about 8 times the national average. And like anywhere, sex can be very dangerous in South Africa, where more than 10 million people are infected with HIV.

7 Burundi

This small, densely populated and poor nation has giant problems. A civil war between Hutus and Tutsis tore the nation apart between 1993 and 2006. A ceasefire was declared however most provisions have not been implemented. Mass murder and mayhem compete with environmental problems as the biggest headaches for the people of Burundi. The list of assassinated leaders is extensive, and control of the nation has changed hands numerous times in the last 50 years. Crimes committed by roaming gangs and armed children are risks for visitors. Muggings, carjackings and kidnappings await, so you are advised not to stop the car for souvenirs. Should you be injured or harmed while in Burundi, you may need to be well trained, as local clinics have almost no resources to assist you.

6 Antarctica

While murder, rape and robbery may not be a big problem in this part of the world, the hostile conditions are. Antarctica is home to some extreme weather conditions, with the mercury regularly dropping below -60 degrees Celsius (-100F) and winds tearing in at more than 100km/hr. If exposed to this weather for more than an hour, you will most certainly die. Antarctica has no hospitals, no food to forage and if you get lost, not a lot of hope. Stay with the tour groups. At least there is a McDonald’s at Scott Base if you manage to find it.

5 Afghanistan

This nation has for hundreds of years, been one of the worlds most strategically important and lusted after territories. However it remains one of the poorest, undeveloped and unstable. During the Soviet invasion, the Red Army planted more than 12 million landmines in Afghanistan. Hundreds of people are killed, shredded, and maimed each year due to these insidious devices. Following the Soviets came the Taliban, whose control meant women were banned from jobs and universities. In 2001, the United States overthrew the Taliban, but banditry, tribal rivalries and drug related violence has left the nation unstable. Suicide bombings are a constant threat, and nobody in Afghanistan is safe. The most lethal suicide attack occurred in Baghlan Province in November 2007, killing more than 70 people. Did I mention Afghanistan is also the worlds largest supplier of top grade hashish and opium?

4 Somalia

Somalia is a failed state known for its anarchy, corruption, lack of government, and starvation. Travelers are warned against entering Somalia, the self-proclaimed “independent Republic of Somaliland” or even sailing near the Horn Of Africa. Pirates patrol these waters armed with AK-47s and will seize craft and hold crews to ransom. Inter-clan fighting has claimed thousands of lives in the north of the country, while territorial control in the capital, Mogadishu is carved up between many clans and warlords. Ethiopia attacked Islamic troops in Somalia in late 2006, resulting in hundreds of casualties and the internal displacement of thousands. Heck, if this place is too much for the Marines, what chance do you stand? Make sure your insurance is fully up to date.

3 Sudan

Desperation, death and destruction are synonymous with Sudan. Terrorism is a mainstay of this nation, which has been controlled by Islamic military regimes since its independence. Some of the worlds most famous killers have earned their stripes in Sudan, finishing with degrees in car-bombing, rocket launching and genocide. Violence is rife in the Darfur region between government-backed militias, government troops and local insurgent groups. Sudan has been in open warfare with Chad partly due to the Darfur conflict. Since 2003, 230,000 Sudanese refugees have fled to eastern Chad from Darfur. More than two million have died during the 2 civil wars that spanned the last 50 years. Along with its bleak desert conditions, Sudan is one of the worst places on the planet.

2 Colombia

Kidnapping is the main worry in Colombia. There were 2338 kidnappings in Colombia in 1998. Of the victims, 138 were killed by their captors. Ranked Fourth in the world for murders with 69.98/100000 in 2006, the popular targets are mayors, with dozens of them being slain each year. And of course, who can forget cocaine? Colombia supplies 75% of the worlds supply and thanks to Pablo Escobar and the Cali Cartel, paramilitary groups have waged war on the government in a bloody conflict with no end in sight. Even those working in the name of charity are not excluded from the frenzy. In 2005, 5 Catholic missionaries were murdered, down from 9 in 1999. Colombia’s beautiful coast and rugged mountains should make it a tourist paradise, instead it is among the most feared destinations you can visit.

1 Iraq

It doesn’t matter whether you are George Bush, Pele or Chuck Norris - you are not safe in Iraq. Despite its rich history and its oil reserves, it is a ruined nation that is wracked with violence, despair and confusion. Since 2003, the United States has occupied Iraq which has led to a civil war claiming the lives of more than 650 000 civilians. Al-Qaeda, Sunni insurgents, Shiite security forces, Kurdish rebels, American soldiers, Turkish troops and criminals are involved in a cycle of violence that unfortunately, will not abate any time soon. Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), Explosively Formed Penetrators (EFPs) and mines are a constant threat, as are suicide bombers who have slain hundreds. Kidnappings and random killings are reported with almost mind-numbing frequency. Since 2003, 2 million Iraqis have fled to neighboring countries and another 1.9 million in Iraq remain internally displaced. Depleted uranium used as armor-piercing rounds will poison Iraqi civilians and US servicemen for decades. Truly, a hell on earth.

Bonus: United States of America

For the average traveller, the USA is fairly safe, but the numbers do not lie. There are more than 200 million guns in the USA and more than 50 murders a day, 10 times the rate of Germany. Nearly 5000 people die a year in truck crashes, about 6000 pedestrains die on the streets and 31000 people end their own lives. The USA now leads all nations in violent crime and leads all nations with incarcerations now standing at 2.3 million. American citizens also make up the greatest number of criminals serving time in overseas prisons. Militias, hate groups and other right wing radicals all spread their message of violence and are known to throw around the odd pipe-bomb. The government is not much better, spending a whopping $600 billion a year on defense in order to contain the handful of nations hostile to it.

Worldwide Mobile Phone Market Share for 2008 (David Lim, Auckland, New Zealand)

Nokia 40.9%

Samsung 16.4%

Motorola 9.7%

LG Electronics 8.6%

Sony Ericsson 7.9%

Others 16.4%

Source: Strategy Analytics

NZ dog awarded posthumous honour (Aukland, New Zealand, GDI)

George was hailed as a "brilliant little dog" by his owner. A dog which died protecting a group of children from two pitbull terriers in New Zealand has been given the highest honour for animals. George, a Jack Russell from Manaia, in Taranaki on New Zealand's North Island, fended off the two dogs, allowing the children to escape. But he was badly hurt in the April 2007 incident and had to be put down. His owner, Alan Gay, was presented with the PDSA gold medal by New Zealand's Governor-General Anand Satyanand. Mr Gay paid tribute to his pet. "He was a brilliant little dog, intelligent. You couldn't insult him. I'd call him 'dipstick' and he wouldn't have anything to do with me," he told TVNZ. George is the first dog from New Zealand to receive the honour, which is the equivalent of the Commonwealth's highest civilian honour, the George Cross.