crapgadget

Fantastically deep history of plug & play videogame consoles

Back in the early 2000s, cheap plug & play videogame consoles became ubiquitous. I remember spotting them for sale everywhere from toy stores to Walgreens. Self-contained systems, they integrated one or many games instead of allowing users to swap in cartridges or CDs. Today, Frank Cifaldi of the Video Game History Foundation shares the deep and geeky history of plug & play as a launching point for his research on the TV Guide Quizmaster, "something so rare it might not even exist." Below are a few bits from the thread. See the whole thing on Twitter!

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Enjoy watching this fancy smartphone car entry system fail utterly

"Unlocking your €100,000 car is now easier than ever," writes Álex Barredo.

Not to worry: I hear they're developing a durable, solid-state device that weighs only grams and comes with a custom encryption profile. It's called a "Serrated Analog Authentication Interlock Disengagement and Reengagement Shard" and they're working out the kinks. Read the rest

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. Read the rest

Probing a mysterious network of dropshippers, evangelicals, crapgadgets, and semi-vacant Manhattan department stores

Jenny Odell is an artist and critic whose Bureau of Suspended Objects report on dropshipping (previously) was a fascinating dive into the weird, scammy world of crapgadgets and farcically poorly made fashion items sold through a network of "influencers" and turnkey ecommerce tool. Read the rest

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). Read the rest

A year later, giant Chinese security camera company's products are still a security dumpster-fire

A year ago, Chinese white-label CCTV/DVR vendor Xiongmai announced a recall and security update for its devices, whose weak security meant that they had been conscripted into a massive, unstoppable botnet. Read the rest

Bad breathalyzer code means countless DUI convictions are unsafe

Draeger's Alcotest 9510 breathalyzer [Amazon] is used widely by cops and has led to millions of drunk-driving arrests. For years its results have been suspect, and now researchers are elaborating upon its flaws: serious bugs in the code cause it to produce inflated blood-alcohol readings. Draeger used copyright law to try and stop folks talking about the cat writhing in the bag, but it eventually got out.

"Pursuant to a protective order, Draeger provided the source code to both of the defense experts in Snohomish County," said Marion Varec, a spokesperson for Draeger. "That source code is highly proprietary and it was important to Draeger that the protective order limit its use to the purposes of the litigation at issue." Draeger says it believes that one of the experts entrusted to examine the source code was using it in violation of the protective order, so Draeger sent the expert a cease and desist letter. Draeger says it "worked with the expert to resolve the issue."

Of the law firms we spoke to that were at the conference and received the report, none knew of Draeger's threat to launch legal action

Defense lawyyers clearly assumed for many years that behind the veil of intellectual property lay an unreliable crapgadget. What's amazing is not just the legal knots that result from trying to thread that understanding through copyright law, but the perverse incentive it created for police and prosecutors to prefer (and endlessly defend) a particularly low-quality model. Read the rest

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. Read the rest

Vtech covered up a leak of data on 6.3m children and their families, then tried to force us not to sue - the FTC just fined them $0.09/kid

Vtech is the Taiwanese kids' crapgadget vendor that breached sensitive data on 6.3 million children and their families, lied about it and covered it up, then added a dirty EULA to its products that made us promise not to sue them if they did it again. Read the rest

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... 🎵      🎶 ...And stay alive where others died 🎶

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Collapsing "connected toy" company did nothing while hackers stole millions of voice recordings of kids and parents

Spiral Toys -- a division of Mready, a Romanian electronics company that lost more than 99% of its market-cap in 2015 -- makes a line of toys called "Cloudpets," that use an app to allow parents and children to exchange voice-messages with one another. They exposed a database of millions of these messages, along with sensitive private information about children and parents, for years, without even the most basic password protections -- and as the company imploded, they ignored both security researchers and blackmailers who repeatedly contacted them to let them know that all this data was being stolen. Read the rest

Not just crapgadgets: Sony's enterprise CCTV can be easily hacked by IoT worms like Mirai

The unprecedented denial-of-service attacks powered by the Mirai Internet of Things worm have harnessed crappy, no-name CCTVs, PVRs, and routers to launch unstoppable floods of internet noise, but it's not just faceless Chinese businesses that crank out containerloads of vulnerable, defective-by-design gear -- it's also name brands like Sony. Read the rest

Ingenuity, defined

Never let it be said that the crapgadget factories of the Pearl River Delta don't know how to recycle surplus/rejected material. Read the rest

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.

The tiniest touchscreen "phone" of them all

VPhone is a wee "phone", surely the most wee of them all. It has a 1.54-inch touchscreen display, Bluetooth, FM radio, pedometer, 128MB (megabytes!) of storage, a heart rate monitor, some social network-monitoring apps, and a choice of "simple and stylish" black or silver trim. The radio's quad-band GSM, so if you can get your hands on one it should work on T-Mobile and ATT in the US.

Yes, there's also a 3.5mm phone jack. The Verge's Ashley Carman:

Some of you might read these stats and think they’re sad. I kind of agree, but I just really love how little this phone is, so it cancels out depressing spec reality. ... The S8 appears to only be available in China, so we, once again, will have to keep dreaming. I’m trying, everyone! I think if we dream hard enough we can force these cool phones to appear in front of us. Will it.

Agreed! It's a curious device that seems more a chunky call-enabled smartwatch than a fully-featured mobile--and the English is a bit ropey on the product page, so it's not really clear if it can make voice calls without a BT connection to another device. Carman points to this 2.45"-screened crapgadget as the smallest bona-fide smartphone on offer; the ancient Sony-Ericsson Xperia X10 Mini, despite its age, is probably a better bet in the 2.5"-ish range. Read the rest

Animatronic, maniacally giggling spooky eyeball doorbell

We went to our neighborhood Halloween store yesterday to find cool stuff with which to celebrate the best holiday of the year, and came home with one of these $30 animated, spooky eyeball doorbells, which I am now officially obsessed with. Read the rest

WiFi ResetPlug power cycles router whenever Wifi fails

Plug your router into it, and the WiFi Reset Plug does just one job: it monitors your Wifi network and resets your router whenever it loses its connection. If you're thinking it's a great idea, maybe… you need a better router? It's $60! [via The Internet of Shit] Read the rest

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