In an age of disappearing prison libraries, jail profiteers provide "free" crapgadget tablets that charge prisoners by the minute to read Project Gutenberg ebooks

The past couple years has seen a rise in prison profiteers who strike deals with state corrections departments to provide "free" tablets to prisoners (these being the flimsiest, cheapest, least reliable hardware imaginable), and then profiting by charging exorbitant sums for prisoners to send emails (selling "digital postage stamps" that have to be affixed to each "page" of email), videoconference with family members, and provide media, charging prisoners for music that they lose every time a prison changes suppliers.

In-depth investigation of the Alibaba-to-Instagram pipeline for scammy crapgadgets with excellent branding

Artist Jenny Odell created the Bureau of Suspended Objects to photographically archive and researched the manufacturing origins
of 200 objects found at a San Francisco city dump; last August, she prepared a special report for Oakland's Museum of Capitalism about the bizarre world of shitty "free" watches sold through Instagram influences and heavily promoted through bottom-feeding remnant ad-buys, uncovering a twilight zone of copypasted imagery and promotional materials livened with fake stories about mysterious founders and branded tales.

A visit to the crapgadget impulse aisle with Meh.

I have a soft spot for crapgadgets. During my first stretch living in Silicon Valley, one of my favorite ways to spend a Sunday was to get a friend to drive me to Fry's and just buy a whole whack of stuff from the impulse aisle: stuff that some optimistic entrepreneur had made an unsuccessful bet on, sold off to a jobber, who then split it into lots that were sold on to import/export places that eventually dumped it into Fry's: black-and-white digital cameras without a viewfinder (I called it the "point-and-pray"); stuffed bootleg Windows 2000 logo plushies; digital walkie-talkies that looked like the Incredible Hulk.

This Day in Blogging History: Pirate Party Iceland wins 3 seats; US census crapgadget; Russia's $0.03/song MP3 service

One year ago today

Icelandic Pirate Party lands three seats in Icelandic parliament: The three new Icelandic lawmakers include Jón Þór Ólafsson, a business administration student at the University of Iceland; Helgi Hrafn Gunnarsson, a computer programmer; and Birgitta Jónsdóttir, a well-known WikiLeaks volunteer and former member of parliament from 2009 to 2013. — Read the rest

Time Magazine's free crapgadgets of the 1980s

Harry McCracken from Time Magazine sez, "Back in the 1980s, TIME magazine sold subscriptions via TV ads–'Hi, I'm Judy, an operator here at TIME'–and sealed the deal by offering free tech gadgets such as phones, clocks and cameras. The commercials live on via YouTube; I've rounded up a bunch of them, complete with the quaint, silly, sometimes cheesy gizmos we gave away." — Read the rest

Chunky crapgadget used to conduct the US census (kind of)

Ethan Zuckerman grilled the census worker who came to his door about the giant, clunky, dysfunctional PDA the US government uses to conduct its census with. It's a crapgadget par excellence.


The device she had strapped to her hand was a Harris HTC, which looks either like the ugliest cellphone you've ever seen, or a Palm Pilot designed by the US government.

Read the rest

A company that makes spy-tech for cops threatened to sue Vice for publishing its sales literature (because Iran!)

Special Services Group makes surveillance crapgadgets for cops and spies: cameras and mics hidden in tombstones, vacuum cleaners, children's car-seats, and other everyday items. Muckrock's Beryl Lipton used a Freedom of Information Act request to get a copy of "Black Book," SSG's massive sales brochure out of the Irvine police department, with minimal redactions.

A megathread of dirty industry secrets that you'll be glad you know even as you wish you didn't

Holly, a Harvard seminarian and activist, invited Twitter users to DM her the dirty secrets of their industries, which she then anonymized and posted in a megathread with more than 600 parts (as of this writing); while many of them are mild or self-evident, many of them are the kind of sphincter-tightening or blood-boiling confessions that you always suspected might be true but hoped like hell were not.

Cut the cord NOW: Cable bills are up 50% since 2010

My local cable monopoly is Spectrum, part of Charter, and I refuse to get anything except internet service through them (alas, my city, Burbank, will not sell me access to our amazing, 100GB/s fiber network, which runs directly under my house, because they have a deal with Charter not to connect any non-commercial-zoned properties to our muni fiber).

Halloween Gift Guide

♬ Darkness falls across the land ♩

♪ The midnight hour is close at hand.♫

♩Creatures crawl in search of blood ♬

? To terrorize y'all's neighborhood ?

♫ And whosoever shall be found ♬

♬ With the cash for getting down ♩

♬Will enjoy our Halloween Gift Guide… ? — Read the rest