Roundup: Week of Wonder

It’s been an odd week. Team Fortress Mann vs Machine was released, and it’s quite fun if you can find a match.

The Engineering Team behind Curiosity did an AMA.

While simultaneously being smart, witty and awesome, these engineers went fairly in-depth about the Mars rover Curiosity, including what programming language they use, and what their favorite tool on the rover is. Hint, it’s a frikkin’ laser. How awesome is that? Just go read it, because the other commentors also have a lot of good input.

Microsoft can’t quite figure out the “Metro” ordeal.

“Don’t use the word Metro, or you’ll get rejected,” has become “Don’t infringe on third party trademarks.” After Microsoft replaced the term ‘Metro’ with ‘Windows 8 Interface,’ there’s been all sorts of talk about why. I guess now we know that it’s because of the supposed infringement. I wish they’d have come up with a better replacement name, however.

eBay bans ‘intangible’ items.

If you’re in the market for a quick second-hand curse, you’re out of luck. Online auction house eBay has banned intangible items such as spells, curses, advice, magic or anything else they consider to be ‘metaphysical.’ The ban also includes ‘magic potions’ and items like ‘magic rings,’ which are tangible, but the true value is in the intangible properties. Groups have popped up to protest the ban, mainly because it appears that only the occult, pagan and witchcraft beliefs are being banned, while rosaries, crucifixes or religious medals are still allowed, despite their intangible properties.

Judge asks Apple’s lawyers if they’re “smoking crack.” 

Judge Koh, who is presiding over the Apple/Samsung debacle trial really wants to keep it on schedule. So much so that when presented with a list of an additional 22 rebuttal witnesses, she said to Apple laywer William Lee “unless you’re smoking crack you know these witnesses aren’t going to be called!” The discussion didn’t end there; during the tense meeting, with the jury absent, Judge Koh said that the time of the meeting would be deducted from their trial time because they were being unreasonable. I’m kind of glad there’s a level head in that courtroom.

iOS susceptible to easily spoofed SMS.

Apple, who has never done anything wrong, seems to be close to ending that streak. An independent researcher has uncovered a flaw in iOS, which has remained in place through the current iOS 6 beta v4. The flaw is due to the message headers that SMS – or text – messages use. There is a spot for “origin” number and “reply-to” number. iOS only sees the reply-to number, which means you don’t know who actually sent the message. That means that some hacker could send a message to you, supposedly from a your girlfriend, and claim that they’re leaving you for Bill Murray. That’s not good.

Hollywood Lawyers put British man behind bars.

It seems like a bad movie plot: Lawyers from Hollywood play the part of public prosecutors in Great Britain, use their own private surveillance as testimony, and manage to send the poor sap to jail. It’s not a movie, it’s what happened to Anton Vickerman, the 38 year old man who once ran I’ll tease you with this quote, then send you on your way over to read it: “FACT, not public officials in the UK, was the driving force behind Vickerman’s prosecution. Indeed, FACT effectively took on the role of a private law enforcement agency. Private investigators hired by FACT first identified Vickerman as the administrator of STC and built the case against him. His assets were frozen at FACT’s request by a government agency—which was itself funded by FACT. And when the UK’s public prosecutors decided not to press charges against Vickerman at all, FACT initiated a criminal prosecution on its own dime.”

Tennessee students create $3000 plug-in hybrid kit.

The dual-electric-motor setup gives a gain of between 50-100% in terms of fuel economy, and the kit can be adapted to ‘almost any car.’ The battery will be the size of a carry-on bag, and fit in the trunk. Once the rear electric motors kick in, the front tires don’t have to do as much work, saving quite a bit in terms of fuel economy. Aimed at in-town commutes, the range is about 35-40 miles, and caps at 40mph before going all-gas. If you could pay just $3000 and pimp out an old Accord like this, would you?

Diaspora goes full meme.

Diaspora, the competitor to Facebook that almost was, has decided to take a page each from Pinterest and the Cheezburger network., the new site from Diaspora, allows users to upload images, add text and share. It looks a hell of a lot like Pinterest, but filled with really bad pictures with even worse captions. It’s horrid.

JavaScript N64 emulator available.

Filed under ‘Awesome,’ the release of a JavaScript based emulator for the Nintendo 64 console has me quite excited. Check it out here, but bring Chrome/Firefox nightly builds and your own ROMs, and be ready for some glitches. It’s best not to discover this at work, since you do have a job to do.

Twitter revises API rules, screws developers.

Twitter, voice of freedom overseas, has decided that it only wants apps to look like they want. They’ve revised their API, and have effectively killed startup developers by limiting new apps to 100,000 users. They’ve also stated that current apps over 100,000 users can grow to twice their current size, but no larger. According to Twitter: “you will need our permission if your application will require more than 100,000 individual user tokens.” With these statements, Twitter is effectively killing all new and original ideas that could help grow the product, just because they want people to use their official – and usually lacking – apps.

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