Stasi radio monitoring department, hard at work, 1980s

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Here's a small gallery of the East German secret police's 26th Division, hard at work during the 1980s. Read the rest

Electronics repair shops overbill for labor when the customer has insurance

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In Insurance coverage of customers induces dishonesty of sellers in markets for credence goods , a research paper in PNAS by German and Austrian economists, the authors show experimental evidence that electronics repair shops are more likely to overcharge for labor when their customers have insurance. Read the rest

Dieselgate for GPUs: review-units ship at higher clockspeeds than retail ones

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Techpowerup caught hardware giants MSI and Asus shipping them graphics cards that were preset for a software-based overlock mode, meaning that the cards performed better out of the box for reviewers than they would for customers. Read the rest

Phones without headphone jacks are phones with DRM for audio

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Nilay Patel's magnificent rant about Apple's rumored announcement that future phones won't have headphone jacks starts with the main event: "1. Digital audio means DRM audio." Read the rest

Neon skull desk-lamp

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Fancy's $100 neon desktop skull lamp is 15.5" x 10", with a one-year warrant and a 6' cord; the picture makes it look more decorative than functional, which is a pity, because it would great to replace a desk-light with this for close-up work, as a kind of contemporary memento mori. (via Crazy Abalone) Read the rest

Kickstarting beltbuckle multitools

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Tony Zentil, a mechanical engineer, has a fully funded Kickstarter for a variety of multitool belt-buckles aimed at skateboarders, snowboarders, and motorcyclists -- they're a significant advance on my old, beloved 686 belt-buckle stolen by the security staff of London Gatwick airport in 2011. Read the rest

How to perform a magic gimmick in a way that astounds

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For many years, Tenyo's clever "self-performing" magic gimmicks have been a delight to amateur magicians and a bugaboo of professionals, who sneered at them as being obvious, hackneyed and, well, gimmicky. Read the rest

Watch: Fascinating panel on legal and privacy concerns for Big Data and the Internet of Things

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In "It's a brave new world: Avoiding legal, privacy, and security snafus with big data and the IoT" -- a panel from last week's Strata+Hadoop World conference in San Jose, Alysa Z. Hutnik, a lawyer who specializes in consumer protection in privacy, data security, and advertising and Kristi Wolff, whose legal practice is on liability in food, dietary supplements, medical devices, and emerging health/wearable technology and privacy issues, present an extremely digestable and fascinating look into the lay of the regulatory land for data-collection and user privacy. Read the rest

Do Robot Fireflies Dream of Electric Lights?

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Rick Lieder's astounding backyard photography has inducted us into the worlds of bees, birds, and bugs, but his firefly photos (captured in his book Among a Thousand Fireflies, with a poem by Helen Frost) were astounding, even by his own high standards. In this piece, Lieder explains how he captured the intimate lives of the fireflies in his backyard to create a remarkable book.

Hot Wheels is making a Spock-leaning-on-a-64-Buick car for Comic-Con

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The classic photo of Leonard Nimoy in Spock costume leaning on the 64 Buick Riviera he bought with his Star Trek earnings will be immortalized in dinkycar, thanks to the good offices of the Hot Wheels Corporation. Read the rest

The amazing, shitty robots of Simone Giertz

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Simone Giertz's oeuvre of "shitty robots" doesn't end with her marvellous slap-in-the-face alarm clock: her Youtube channel is full of examples of her work, each better than the last, from arms on her phone that let it commando-crawl along the sidewalk to the world's greatest hair-washing bot and the world's most alarming chopping bot. Read the rest

Ultra-rare unopened Leica camera for sale with X-ray to prove what's inside the box

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The Leica KE-7A is a very rare camera manufactured for the US military in the early 1970s. It's essentially a hardened and dust-resistant version of Leica's popular M4 camera. With around 500 produced, it's nearly impossible to find one in good condition. That's why this unopened specimen up on eBay right now is so special, and so expensive, priced at $45,300 or best offer. The listing includes an x-ray of the package.

According to the listing, the image below depicts another example of the same camera outfit as the one in the sealed package. But then again, how can you know for sure what's inside until you open it...

"Although I do not advise I can open the bag to inspect the camera for you at a Euro 5000 nonrefundable deposit," says the seller. "If you decide not to buy at any reason the deposit will not be refunded as the value will then be less."

Read the rest

The Steampunk Roadster: Jake von Slatt's final steampunk project, and it's for sale!

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Steampunk pioneer Jake von Slatt sez, "Unbelievably, The Steampunk Workshop will be ten years old in just a few months so it's kind of fitting that I've just completed my biggest and probably my last steampunk mod of my steampunk career. It's a car and it's for sale." Read the rest

Poseable Vitruvian Man action figure

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Is your David action figure lonely? Get him some much-needed companionship with this poseable Vitruvian Man, which comes "with a movable strut that makes it possible to recreate various scenes." Read the rest

Edward Snowden performs radical surgery on a phone to make it "go black"

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If you think that your phone may have been hacked so that your adversaries can watch you through the cameras and listen through the mics, one way to solve the problem is to remove the cameras and microphones, and only use the phone with a headset that you unplug when it's not in use. Read the rest

Going back to a mechanical keyboard turned me into a butterfingered idiot

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Lured by the internet's pervasive insistence that it represents a superior, more comfortable typing experience, I recently went back to an old-timey mechanical keyboard. This was a mistake. I am now a hamfisted ASCII jazz disaster. Read the rest

SpareOne: emergency cellphone powered by AA batteries

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SpareOne Emergency Phone is a basic cellphone powered by AA batteries. This gives it a relatively short time on a charge, but means that it will have a charge after being stuffed in a drawer or glove box for months.

I came across this during my search for the perfect basic phone, but be warned: it has no display, and therefore no text messaging. It has a glow-in-the-dark keypad, a 10-number phonebook, and an "SOS" button that sends texts to 5 contacts with your location.

The AT&T GoPhone model is 3G and costs $60 at Target stores, or $50 at Amazon. Some users report that AT&T doesn't really understand the gadget; be sure to activate it according to the handset instructions, not AT&T's instructions, which require you to receive a text message.

A 2G GSM model, requiring only a single AA battery, is officially available only in the UK, for some reason. Perhaps because it's a pain to activate on an off-brand carrier and US carriers periodically expire your minutes on SIM-only plans. But it's offered in the US for $30 on Amazon if you fancy your chances.

Something tickles me about the first-aid medical design. Read the rest

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