Friend sees awesome photo mentioned on blog, friend sends link to photo to me, photo is judged to indeed be awesome, photo is placed on work computer's desktop, and photo is mentioned on another blog by me. Ah, the beauty of the system. Anyway, check it out—a 777's eye-popping wake turbelence rendered in the clouds above foggy London town, taken by Steve Morris. Check it out. —John Mahoney
Everyone, admit it: Youve stolen wireless Internet before. And although popping on to some poor suckers unsecured network to BitTorrent last nights episode of So You Think You Can Dance? is one of the Internet ages great semilegal pleasures, having people ganking your wireless only impedes your God-given right to free dance-based reality-show downloads at a reasonable speed.
Yes, you could always just enable encryption on your router to stop casual users from freeloading. But instead of simply locking them out, wouldnt you rather have them questioning their sanity by, say, redirecting all their traffic to kittenwar.com? Or by flipping all the images they see upside down, or making them all blurry? With a little Linux hacking, this guy split his network into two halves—an encrypted half for himself, and an unsecured, tweaked-out half for the Wi-Fi thieves. A pretty ingenious prank, if you ask me, especially if you have thin enough walls to hear your Interweb-stealing neighbors wondering where their marbles have gone. —John Mahoney
One of the most important ways the Internet has affected daily life is the way we shop—especially for consumer electronics. I rarely buy anything in a store without first seeing if I can get a better deal online, and BensBargains.com, one of hundreds of sites serving announcements of big rebate offers, coupon codes and close-out deals is usually a first stop. This week, the Ben behind Bens Bargains launched dealspl.us, an interesting interpretation of the deal-site model cross-bred with the community-powered nature of sites like digg.com. All the deals on the new site are user-submitted, and the hottest ones surface to the top of the page after receiving votes of approval from other users. Check it out, because if youve never felt the unique endorphin rush of saving hundreds on gadgetry over the regular store-browsing schmuck, youre really missing out. —John Mahoney
Everyone has that one paper airplane they are able to make. And most will claim that the one kind of paper airplane they are able to make is the best one known to man. I know Ive got mine, and it flies like a dream. This one, though, has been getting a lot of attention from bloggers today for its claim to be the best in the world. Its a slow day at PopSci HQ today, so I guess theres only one way to find out... —John Mahoney
When the strikers for either Germany or Costa Rica kick off the first game of the 2006 World Cup today in Munich, they will be doing so with what Adidas is hailing as the roundest soccer ball ever produced. The +Teamgeist (team spirit) ball, as the New York Times deftly explained yesterday, was engineered with a free-flowing set of 14 pre-shaped panels—fewer than the traditional 32—resulting in a smoother, more consistently round surface that supposedly responds more accurately to the force of a kick. Adidas backs up this claim with its own experimental data, including tests with a robotic kicking machine that diligently shot the +Teamgeist against a wall a few hundred thousand times.
The changes are also being felt on the field. Its very goalkeeper unfriendly, Englands keeper Paul Robinson told the Times. Its very light and moves a lot in the air. Oddly enough, the ball is actually on the high end of FIFAs maximum weight specifications, meaning this apparent lightness must be attributed to its new aerodynamic profile. And while the goalies dont love the new ball, spectators will probably be hearing goooaaaaaaal a bit more often this year, making the transition for us Yanks, accustomed to watching the Phoenix Suns score 120+ points a game, a bit easier to take.
If all this talk of robot kicking legs and aerodynamic profiles has worked you into a consumerist lather, you can get your own +Teamgeist for $129.99—John Mahoney
The next time you fly, do not go up to the automated-check-in kiosk unawares; thankfully, seatguru.com is here, teaching us that not all aisle seats are created equal. Simply find out what kind of plane youll be flying in (usually in your confirmation e-mail from sites like Expedia.com), then consult the sites exhaustive catalogue of aircraft schematics, indicating each seats width and legroom measurements down to a tenth of an inch, the location of power outlets, the proximity of each seat to the galley or lavatory and much, much more. Roll your mouse over each seat to see what people who have actually flown in it have to report.
File this among the Webs most ingeniously useful sites. I dont even fly that much, and I still cant get enough. But then again, Ive been known to spend hours on airlinemeals.net. —John Mahoney
Via Patrick Smiths excellent "Ask the Pilot" column.
Building a Bigger Bird
Yesterday, Internet-phone powerhouse Skype made a good thing even better, announcing that calls made to any number in the U.S. or Canada are now free. The previous going rate was around two cents per minute—not too shabby, either. But still, free is free—and you no longer need a credit card to get started.
Skype HQ apparently had some trouble implementing the free service yesterday (it still asked some Skypers for credit), but they have apparently ironed out most of the bugs. I just called my own cellphone from my computer, and I must say its pretty thrilling to get something for free that youve been paying for all your life.
Does this mean big pain for traditional telecom companies? Many of them already offer VoIP service—but of course not for free. Connecting your Skype account to an actual phone number for incoming calls is the only thing you still have to shell out for, but at around $35 for a full years worth of service, its the best bargain around by far. And several new Wi-Fi handsets are now hitting the market, cutting the tether to your computer and making Skype function just like a regular cordless phone [check PopScis rundown for a few of the hottest models].
What say you, blog readers? Ready to ditch your long-distance service and become Skypers for life? Having fun chatting with Grandma in Saskatchewan for free? Let us know in the comments. —John Mahoney
The Nintendo DS handheld gaming system has sold fairly well here in the U.S., but its practically on fire in Japan, where its games regularly dominate the weekly top-5 sales charts. The console itself has sold almost two million units so far this year (its closest competitor, the PlayStation 2, has sold only 500,000). Its success is due in large part to its uniquely unconventional games, especially Brain Age, a quirky educational title designed with the help of a Japanese neuroscientist that has dominated the Japanese market. The U.S. version was released last week.
The game is fairly simple—you perform a variety of memory and
cognition-based mini games, such as counting the number of people in a
house as you watch them enter and exit, or identifying the number of
syllables in a spoken phrase, all of which are supposedly beneficial to
your brains overall health. The game then determines how old your
brain is according to your highest scores (the younger your brain, the
Despite a study by a psychologist at the University of Virginia claiming that the actual mental benefits of Brain Age are almost nil,
the games success (especially among adults and even seniors, a
valuable and untapped gaming market) is already spawning imitators.
Sega has a similar title for the PSP currently in the works, and the
Japan-only Brain Age sequel is selling just as well as the original.
What do you think? Can your mind really benefit from Brain Age, or
is this all just a clever way to sell more games? Sound off in the
Comments section below. —John Mahoney
Its easy to burn 15 minutes on hotornot.com without even realizing what youre doing, but once it sinks in that you've derived mindless (but considerable) enjoyment from rating pictures of complete strangers on a hotness gradient of 1 through 10, its enough to make you wish the Internet never existed.
If you still want to keep the Webs comparative hotness possibilities in your life but are looking for something a bit more substantive, try Sexy Science, a blog about—you guessed it—hot scientists. Although it lacks the interactive rating system, Sexy Science gets a bit more analytical, touting the attractiveness of various researchers and grad students from around the country while factoring in things like their ability to prepare reactive transition metal complexes stabilized by appropriately designed auxiliary ligands. Currently the blog uses a chili-pepper-based rating scale, but it can only be a matter of time before a more precise thermodynamic system is implemented. —John Mahoney
Want to take advantage of the dawning spring weather with a little lounging in the grass, but can't get over natures annoying lack of cushioned furniture? Worry no more--the "Grass Armchair" is here to fill nature's La-Z-Boy void. Simply assemble the kit's wooden frame, put it on your lawn, fill it with soil and grass seed, and within a few weeks you can enjoy a nice, comfortable, quasi-naturalistic sit. Now, if only one could get a little grassy TV to sprout nearby... —John Mahoney