Tech Notes

As expected, Amazon has unveiled their upcoming pocket-sized advertisementsmartphone. That leak we discussed back in April was on the mark. There were only two significant things in Amazon’s grand unveiling that weren’t in the leak: Amazon’s eyes and Amazon’s ears.

Ears as in Mayday, eyes as in Firefly. The “Mayday” service that Amazon introduced on their latest generation of tablets is now coming to your phone. Yell for help, and the phone will connect you to a live customer service representative who can look at your screen and solve your problems. And “Firefly” gives your phone a specifically Amazon-centric eye. You simply take a picture of something, and the phone will tell you all the important information: where to buy it* and how much it’ll cost. Point your phone at that tacky lamp and find out how much it cost. Point it at your state senator and find out how much he costs. Great fun at parties!

* Do you suppose it will direct you to Barnes and Noble if you snap a picture of a Hachette book? Seems unlikely. I’m sure Amazon would rather take your money and wait weeks to ship you the book.

The NSA and its counterparts in other countries are, no doubt, pissing in their pants in eagerness for the public to get their hands on a phone designed to let third parties view its screen and optimized to quickly upload photos. But you probably thought about that already. Did you also think about how much more attractive to criminals Amazon’s customer data is about to become? Just wait until you answer a phone call to your shiny Amazon phone and hear a cheery voice with a thick accent say “Hi, this is Fred from Amazon. We see you’re looking at a Jimmy Choo handbag. We have a special deal going on right now for 25% off. But you need to act quickly because they’re going fast. No, we’ve already got your credit card number. Just give me the three digit code from the back and I’ll enter the order for you…” Real time, targeted phishing attacks. Coming soon to a phone near you.


OK, on to something cheerier (and thanks to Lior for pointing me at this one).

Have you heard about IkeaHackers? It’s a website devoted to, as founder Jules puts it, “modifications on and repurposing of Ikea products.” Ideas range from modest (adding a baby changing table to the top of a dresser) to the ambitious (turning a cabinet into a hanging rat cage). With the occasional diversion into the not quite so well-thought out.

Lior pointed me to instructions for building a catwalk. No, not a platform for fashion models. An elevated path-slash-lounging space for felines. It’s a simple hack, requiring only a bunch of Ikea shelves, lots of threaded bolts (maybe you can pick up some spares from Caltrans; I hear they have a whole pile of galvanized bolts they don’t know what to do with), and the willingness to drill holes in your ceiling.

What a great idea! Give your cats an elevated space of their own to hang out. No more tripping over them on your way to the bathroom at 3 AM. Just remember to duck before you bang your forehead.

I can’t speak for your cats, but ours can–and frequently do–spend hours watching a bug fly around near the ceiling, occasionally jumping at it, only to fall short by several feet. With this catwalk in place, they’d have an elevated launching platform. They might even be able to jump down at the pesky bugs. What fun! Hopefully you were smart enough to remove all breakables from any room with a catwalk. Then there’s Watanuki’s habit of assaulting toes and ankles. Do we really want to give him easy access to ears? I don’t think so!

So maybe the catwalk isn’t for us. It might be for you. Even if it’s not, chances are good you can find something on IkeaHackers that is for you. Take a look soon, though. IkeaHackers is currently in negotiation with Ikea over the use of the name. It appears that the core of the dispute is advertisements for non-Ikea products on the website. Negotiations are continuing as I write this, and Jules is hopeful for a peaceful settlement, but if a settlement can’t be reached, IkeaHackers will have to move to a new, and probably less memorable, domain.

2 thoughts on “Tech Notes

  1. Gotta check out the IkeaHackers site! I don’t know where we’d put a catwalk in the small unit that the unholy trio and I live in, but we’ll see! Great article–loved the first line with the strikeout.

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    • The most important element in situating the catwalk has got to be the amount of headroom. If the ceiling is lower than nine feet, I don’t think I’d risk it. If you’ve got the clearance, though, even a small room could give the cats a lot of space to explore.

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