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Good Thinking

The noble sport of scambaiting

July 4, 2006 If you are growing tired of your in-tray being crammed with email scams from third world nations, spare a thought for all those people who didn’t realise they were scams. ScamPatrol reports 15-20 victims a week, with an average victim paying out US$20,000 and some estimates put the global haul from 419 (advance fee fraud) scams at US$1.5 billion. While most of those scammed are the victims of their own greed, it’s interesting to see the rise of internet vigilantism and the evolution of the cyberspace equivalent of big game hunting - scambaiting. Scambaiting is the sport of scamming the would-be scammer and although the concept of vigilantism is a bit scarey, it’s hard to see scambaiting as anything but a noble pastime where a win does the world a good deed. The world’s best Scambaiting exponents display their trophies and teach other would-be-Robin-Hoods how to go about it at sites such as 419Eater, Scambaits, Scamorama and ScamBuster419. Should Scambaiting ever become an Olympic sport, Shiver Metimbers, the administrator of 419Eater, would be a Gold Medal contender. For some of his finest work, including how he got a scammer to carve him a Commodore 64 computer (pictured), read on.  Read More

The Lotus Type 119c soapbox racer

The rise in popularity of gravity (aka soapbox) racing has been spectacular in recent years, and one of the most successful teams has been the Lotus team from the famous motorsport constructor and design studio. Now the team is heading for a showdown at the Brooklands Museum Soapbox Derby on 16 July, 2006. The Lotus Type 119c soapbox racer is the reigning Goodwood Festival of Speed Gravity Racing champion and record holder, beating Bentley and B.A.R in the final event held in 2004. Following the omission of the downhill event from the crowded Goodwood Festival of Speed line-up, attention has turned to the Extreme Gravity Racing (XGR) Series in the USA, and the UK-based Brooklands Soapbox Derby which ran for the first time last year, being won by the gravity racer of another famous motorsport group – Lola. Accordingly, two unbeaten cars will face off for the Brooklands title. The closed-cockpit Lotus Type 119c "streamliner" features an aerodynamically-efficient ultra-light carbon-fibre monocoque, remaining true to the "performance through light weight" philosophy of Lotus founder Colin Chapman. It will be lining up once again against familiar automotive constructors such as Lola, Vauxhall and Ford as well as entries from schools, colleges and privateers. Excellent image library with this story. We have previously covered several extreme gravity racing stories such as Motorsport without the motor, the design of the Volvo Extreme Gravity Car and The billycart goes (WAY) upmarket!  Read More

Wire in Composite technology provides improved protection and packaging for harsh environm...

June 30, 2006 A new solution for the protection of vehicular wiring assemblies from damage, vibration and environmental impact was launched this week at the Defence Vehicle Dynamics Show in the U.K. Wire in Composite (WiC) completely encloses wiring looms in a bespoke composite sleeve, protecting them from damage and permitting designers to improve packaging by laying wires securely side-by-side as opposed to a traditional bundle. Conceived by BERU F1 Systems for motorsport applications in which wiring harnesses must be mounted as low and flat on a vehicle chassis as possible, WiC is equally suitable to aerospace, marine and other ground vehicle applications. WiC looms can be built to virtually any shape or form offering the ability to incorporate sharp bend radii without the risk of strain or chafing found in a conventional harness.  Read More

Personal Biometric Device offers access to multiple facilities

Now this is an interesting key-fob-sized device designed to eliminate the need for employees to use multiple access cards and passwords. The plusID authenticates a user's identity with their fingerprint and enables secure access to buildings and other physical facilities, local and remote computers and networks, and online or onsite financial transactions. The plusID works with existing, installed security infrastructure, making deployment quick and affordable with just one secure wireless device.  Read More

TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) Conference Free PodCasts available

June 28, 2006 Once a year, 1000 people are invited to the TED Conference in Monterey, California, to exchange something of incalculable value: their ideas. What happens there has never been shared until now. TED and BMW today announced they will team up to provide a free video and audio podcast series of the best talks delivered at the TED. Starting today, the public can download the talks of former US Vice President Al Gore, Macarthur Award recipient Majora Carter, motivational speaker Tony Robbins, New York Times technology columnist David Pogue, education visionary Ken Robinson, and founder of the non-profit Gapminder Hans Rosling. Additional talks will be released weekly and will feature rock star Peter Gabriel on his work with human-rights group Witness, evolutionary anthropologist Helen Fisher exploring the future of love, X-Prize founder Peter Diamandis making the case for space tourism and photographer Gregory Colbert unveiling the idea of an Animal Copyright Foundation, among others … and it’s all free. The talks are all 18 minutes and are being distributed across multiple formats to reach the greatest audience possible (Flash Video, QuickTime, MPEG-4 video, MP3 audio, VideoEgg, GoogleVideo, iTunes music store). Anyone with a web browser can watch TEDTalks online here or here. The audio and video podcasts can also be downloaded for playback on an iPod or other MP3 player. In the spirit of a free exchange, the podcasts are being released under a creative commons license, allowing them to be redistributed freely for non-commercial use.  Read More

Advertising veterans to pioneer New Media Model for advertisers in Europe

June 23, 2006 Now here’s a concept that just might work. Using the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival as the backdrop, Holland’s Spotzer Media Group announced a ready-to-air concept for video commercials. Spotzer intends to pioneer this radical new approach to video advertising that will enable clients to rent and run a professionally designed and produced advertisement for as little as Euro 500. Videos can be personalised for the client by Spotzer, create a media plan online and actually purchase and book air or media time on-line or have the video commercials prepared for use with websites, narrow casting networks, cell phones and other mobile devices such as mp3 players. It's not an entirely new concept, as our colleague the Red Ferret points out, with SpotRunner having launched in the US earlier this year.  Read More

SmartShopper - the voice-activated shopping list

June 22, 2006 This is a rendering of a concept device that may or may not be a killer app. SmartShopper is an automated grocery shopping list device that will use voice recognition technology to store, and intelligently aggregate lists for shopping and errands, then print the list. According to the company's co-founder Richard G. Brindisi, "the user simply presses a button on the unit and says the name of a grocery item they will need on their next visit to the store. The unit has an LCD and an embedded thermal printer that actually prints the list right out of the unit. The list will be printed according to the categories in the grocery store, i.e. all of the produce items will be listed together, frozen foods together, etc. The unit comes with nearly 2,000 grocery items already entered and the user can add their own favorite items or brands." Now on one hand, it’s easy to see this functionality being incorporated into a Palm pilot, Windows CE device or built into almost anything with a microprocessor, so it won’t exist without competition. But on the other hand, it is designed for people to keep track of things without having to use a computer, could be used by the technologically-dysfunctional, it’s small and handy, could be used driving a car … and there's a demo of the device here.  Read More

Internet for all - EU ministers commit to an inclusive and barrier-free information societ...

June 16, 2006 A pan-European drive to use information and communication technologies to help people to overcome economic, social, educational, territorial or disability-related disadvantages was endorsed by ministers of 34 European countries in Riga (Latvia) this week. "e-Inclusion" targets include halving the gap in internet usage by groups at risk of exclusion, boosting broadband coverage in Europe to at least 90%, and making all public web sites accessible by 2010. Welcoming the ministers' undertaking, Information Society and Media Minister Viviane Reding (pictured) said: "Many Europeans still get too little benefit from information and communication technologies, and millions are at risk of being left behind. Enabling all Europeans to participate on equal terms in the information society is not only a social necessity – it is a huge economic opportunity for industry. By implementing their Riga undertakings, European countries will take a big step towards making e-inclusion a reality.”  Read More

High performance web search

June 13, 2006 Search is the name of the game on the web these days because it’s where decisions get made about where to spend money – if you can control the space where the best informed (and hence most lucrative) decisions get made, then you win the game. Not surprisingly, as the amount of available relevant information (reports, research, emails, blogs, news stories, documents ad infinitum) continues to increase at a bewildering rate, our ability to make informed decisions is in danger of being overwhelmed (hands up all those who feel like that – see!!!!). Faced with this exponential expansion of information and information sources, how can anyone know with certainty that they have reviewed all available relevant information? Or uncovered the facts and relationships critical to sound decision-making? Insightful Corporation was this week issued a U.S. patent for the "Inverse Inference Engine for High Performance Web Search." The invention is designed to provide a faster and more scalable alternative for intelligent keyword search techniques. With this invention, Insightful claims users will realize a richer and more relevant search experience than traditional statistical keyword techniques. The invention is designed to enhance the end user's search experience by providing related and recommended options based on the user's query found within unstructured text such as web sites.  Read More

The PayPal Plus Credit Card

June 12, 2006 The points of contact where the real world meets the virtual world are somewhat akin to the fabled end of the rainbow and eBay’s grand plan for ownership of a sizeable slab of the pot-of-gold became a little clearer last week when subsidiary PayPal introduced the PayPal Plus Credit Card - a MasterCard that can be used both online and anywhere that MasterCard is accepted offline. It seems like the eBay global garage sale has truly assembled a dream team of online properties on the back of its growth to become the world’s largest online marketplace. Last quarter, eBay traded US$10 billion worth of goods and Paypal was already the most preferred electronic payment method among eBay users before it was acquired in October, 2002. PayPal now has 100 million account holders and eBay has 200 million users (up from 147 million a year ago) and the recently acquired Skype VOIP communications company has 100 million users, so we forsee a healthy future for PayPal Plus. Not surprisingly, there’s a generous rewards program that applies to all online or offline purchases and just to ensure things get going with some immediate impetus, cardholders can take advantage of a special introductory offer – 0% APR on purchases and balance transfers until 2007. This limited-time offer is good through August 31, 2006, and will automatically appear on eBay items over US$50 as long as sellers accept PayPal and have not opted out of displaying PayPal Buyer Credit messages on their listings.  Read More

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