Moments in automotive history #149

1hp fiat

The 1 horse power version of the smaller Fiats proved popular in the Eastern European beach resorts where their low running-costs were welcomed by the local taxi drivers.


Technopeon #41


Even after a long and blameless life, Pete was something of a bore whenever he got a chance to bang-on about his career in computing.

With kind permission from Randy Glasbergen.

View from a Rhino House: the price of “free”

It was reported yesterday that a handful of Londoners in some of the capital’s classiest & most expensive neighbourhoods apparently agreed to give up their eldest child in return for free wi-fi access, during an experiment exploring attitudes & risks in public wi-fi use.
The experiment, which was backed by the law enforcement agency Europol, involved a group of researchers setting up a public wi-fi hotspot in June.

As people connected to the hotspot, the terms & conditions they were asked to sign up to included a “Herod clause” promising free wi-fi if “the recipient agreed to assign their first born child to us for the duration of eternity.” Six less-than-doting sets of parents signed up.

F-Secure, the security firm that sponsored the experiment, has confirmed that it (probably) won’t be enforcing the clause.

“We have yet to enforce our rights under the T&Cs but, as this is an experiment, we will, in any case, be returning the children to their parents,” wrote the company in its report.

“Our legal advisor,” it continues, “points out that, although the contractual terms & conditions are legally binding, the legality of exchanging children in return for “free services,” is questionable – so the clause might not be enforceable in a court of law.”

Somewhere there are some very unhappy parents cancelling their plans for next weekend.

"Hey Julie. I've found a great, free wi-fi hotspot & solved the baby skitter problem for the weekend......"

“Hey Julie. I’ve found a great, new, free wi-fi hotspot & solved the baby sitter problem for the weekend……”

View from a Rhino House: Facebook shocker…

If you’re feeling guilty about how much time you spend on social media sites like Facebook & Twitter, the “Pavlov Poke” could be the answer to all your worries, by making you feel seriously worse.

Originally designed as a joke with a serious message about the excessive hours we fritter away on internet services, the system gives you a small electric shock via the keyboard after you have clocked up a pre-determined amount of time on specified websites or applications. The shock is not fatal (yet), but is strong enough to act as a deterrent. (Look to see employers installing this on their networks soon.)

Social media sites are often described as more addictive than cigarettes & alcohol, & given the business model of Facebook et al., that may be an understatement. They are addictive by design.

Suffering from a deficit of will power, post-grad students Robert Morris & Dan McDuff at the MIT Media Lab put together a bespoke gadget from spare equipment lying around their office (That has to make you wonder, doesn’t it? What were their dissertations on, “Capital punishment in the workplace”?)  hoping it would help them spend less time on social media sites & encourage them to finish their dissertations.

The home-office-torture-kit uses software that monitors what applications are being run & when it detects that a given time threshold has been exceeded by an application, it triggers a short circuit in an electronic device connected to the computer, sending a current to metal pads in front of the keyboard. If a person’s hands are resting on those pads they get a shock.

If you have a real problem with going cold turkey, the system can help fry the monkey on your back (if you don’t quit before the system kills you) it will also automatically place a request on Amazon’s Mechanical Turk with your phone number & instructions for a crowd-worker to call & yell at you.

Ah, the gleaming spires of academe will never seem the same.

An early prototype.

An early prototype.