Technology News and Analysis for IT Managers & Acquisition Teams

Launch Missiles with iPhone/iPod Touch

Ever felt the need to blow up that co-worker sitting across the room, or the colleague chatting away in the adjacent cubicle? If so, those thoughts are best kept to yourself. However, employees can relieve a little in-house-generated stress with Dream Cheeky’s three USB missile launchers widely available for sale on the Internet. Ranging from $35 USD to $59 USD, all three versions plug into a local USB port and allows the end-user to aim and fire three foam missiles. Additionally, the launchers come loaded with pre-recorded sound effects, however consumers can download additional, home-made sound effects into the launchers’ controller software.

Compatible with Windows XP and 2000, the regular $35shoots up to twenty feet ‘at an extremely fast rate.’ The$45 version, on the other hand, only shoots up to ten feet, however the device doesn’t require a direct connection to the PC, using a USB-powered transmission dish to transmit instructions remotely to the launcher’s dish. Want to take the firepower to the next level? Take a look at the, offering consumers a built-in webcam and somehow works through Microsoft’s MSN Messenger chat client. Out of the three, this one fires in the medium range, shooting up to fifteen feet. However, the MSN Rocket Launcher is the only ‘weapon’ of the trio to offer compatibility with Windows XP, Windows 2000, and Windows Vista.

According to Newo Corporation, there is an Apple iPhone / iPod Touch application currently on Apple’s App Store that will enable users to control the standard $35 Dream Cheeky missile launcher from the mobile devices. Called the, users must download and install a free Windows-based desktop application in order for the iPhone App to communicate with the launcher. Unfortunately, the iPhone application isn’t free, costing potential missile-assailants a measly $2.99 USD.

The App works by wirelessly connecting to the Windows program running in the background via a local IP address and port number (provided by the software). Once a link is established, the iLauncher App pulls up a control screen displaying a virtual thumb pad. Consumers can position the launcher up, down, left, right, and then hit the nuke button in the center in order to annihilate the enemy target. Granted there are probably better things to do than send foamy projectiles across the office floor, the Dream Cheeky missile launcher and the iPod application may actually prove fun during working hours as well as at home.

At the time of this writing, Newo did not specify if the iPhone application will work on Dream Cheeky’s Wireless or MSN missile launchers, or if there are plans to support the devices in the future.

Skype Sextortion Scams Starving Students

A Skype sextortion scam has hit northern England: A woman calling herself Cathy Wong befriended at least three young men on Facebook, got them to contact her via Skype and then convinced them to perform sexual acts for her via webcam. According to North Yorkshire Police, she secretly recorded these acts and later used the clips to blackmail the men.

Wong first claimed her grandmother was ill and asked each man for £3,000 (about $4,500). Each refused, out of principle or penury. Wong then revealed the compromising recordings she’d taken, and threatened to post the videos to YouTube if the men didn’t pay. 

The three young men who came forward are all students, but not acquainted with each other. Police believe the scam may have worldwide reach.

‘This scam is causing considerable distress to the victims, and I urge anyone who uses any kind of social networking site to be very wary of what they are getting into,’ Detective Sergeant Rebecca Dyer said in theissued by North Yorkshire Police.

‘I am concerned that there are other victims of this scam who are too embarrassed to come forward about what has happened,’ Dyer continued. ‘I urge them to please get in touch with the police. Your information will be dealt with in the strictest confidence and with sensitivity. Please do not suffer in silence.’

Victims of sextortion and similar scams often suffer considerable distress, and the crimes are frequently under-reported, as British security software developer. Some victims even become suicidal, and a Scottish teenager jumped from a bridge in 2013 after being unable to pay Philippines-based sextiortionists. (In the United States, similar scammers often demand additional compromising images — or sometimes— instead of money.)

Internet users need to be very careful about engaging with strangers online, particularly when sharing explicit photos or videos.

‘Watch out for messages from strangers via email or social networking sites and never click on any links in such messages,’ Sophos’ Lee Munson wrote. ‘Remember, not everyone is who they say they are.’

Computer users should also cover webcams when not in use. Some types of malware can secretly activate webcams, thus capturing private or compromising video of the computer’s users. Keeping the camera covered with a Post-It note or opaque tape eliminates this risk.

Jill Scharr is a staff writer for Tom’s Guide, where she regularly covers security, 3D printing and video games. You can follow Jill on Twitter  and on . Follow us , on  and on .

Hohrizontal 51 Shelf Doubles as iPod/iPhone Dock

Most iPod docks are pretty one-dimensional. Once you turn it on and insert an iPod, you’re all set. But finite elemente wants to provide a really useful alternative: an iPod dock that also doubles as a shelf.

Like all freestanding shelves, the Hohrizontal 51 attaches to a wall. With 12 mounts laid out in the plans, it’s clear this shelf can support significant loads (up to 25kg), with the iPod or iPhone sitting pretty in the middle. The speakers are directly integrated into the shelf, taking up a side each. Hohrizontal 51 also features a wood-like finish, facilitating the mix-and-match aspect of the interior design process.

Other pertinent specs: the Hohrizontal 51 features a frequency range of 50 to 25,000 Hz, and uses two 25 watt speakers. It’s a meter wide, 3 centimeters deep, with a 51 mm thickness. Aside from iPods or iPhones that fit into the 30-pin center port, the shelf also accepts audio input via USB or line-in, and is also capable of component audio/video ouput. Ironically, using non-Apple products creates more space on the shelf.

Whoever thought of integrating an entire iPod dock into a shelf is a genius, as the space-saving potential is immense. Here’s a suggestion though: why not move the iPod mount to one side, so that users can maximize the shelf space? The online brochure boasts finite elemente’s patent ownership of the concept, so let’s see if the German company is actually interested in profiting from its IP stake.

Razer’s RealSense-based Webcam Turns Gamers into Twitch Stars

Intel has been shipping its RealSense SDK and camera to developers since last year and a handful of laptops and AIO PCs already come with it installed. However, Razer is the first to sell a RealSense webcam peripheral to users. Though it employs the same RealSense F200 camera as Intel’s developer kit, the Razer has a sleek design with a dial that adjusts the lens position. In a brief hands-on, we found it very easy to change the camera angle with a light swivel.

The features touted by Razer in its upcoming camera include 3D scanning and motion and gesture recognition. Those capabilities will make it easier to add real-world objects and people into virtual spaces like games, Razer says.

But having seen the camera in action on the show floor at Intel’s Developer Forum, I think the real show-stopper will be the camera’s live-streaming capabilities. Razer’s camera automatically strips out your background, depositing your face neatly onto whatever game you’re playing so that anyone watching your stream sees you reacting to gameplay without the clutter of whatever’s behind you.

On a bustling IDF show floor, my colleague Avram Piltch popped up in a game, but none of the people standing behind him did. Even though this camera isn’t shipping yet, that feature already looks primed for its close-up.

It’s easy to understand why game broadcasting is front-and-center among the features Razer has built into this webcam. By the end of 2014, game-streaming service Twitch said that it was averaging 100 million viewers and 1.5 million broadcasters a month. But there are uses for that automatic background removal outside of game streaming: Imagine being able to jump onto a video conference without having to fret about whether the background behind you is too cluttered or distracting.

We’ll keep an eye out for the RealSense-powered Razer webcam, including its price tag and name, as we get closer to 2016.

Neil Young Says MP3 Isn’t Good Enough; Neither Are CDs

It has been no secret that MP3 files are an insult to music lovers and barely good enough to be played on a decent home stereo as they only carry about 5 percent of the original source data of the music. Even CDs and their WAV format hold only about 15 percent. Chatting with Walt Mossberg at the D: Dive Into Media conference, Young revealed that he wants to save the art of music and end the era of MP3 on a device that is capable of downloading and playing music with all data available.

“Steve Jobs was a digital pioneer, but when he went home, he listened to vinyl,” Young said. He is convinced that Jobs, had he lived longer, would have come up with a device that would have support music playback in its pure form. Young did not elaborate what device this could be, but noted that ‘some rich guy’ could be developing it. A possible solution that would work much better for music enthusiasts could be DSD, short for Direct Stream Digital, a technology developed by Sony and Philips for that uses pulse-density modulation encoding. The format uses 1-bit sampling at 2.8224 MHz, which is 64 times higher than the 44.1 KHz used by CDs. The result are huge audio files, about 300 MB for five minutes of audio. There are very few music publishers offering DSD files at all.

Of course, the convenience of downloading a song in a few seconds today would be lost, at least as long as we are tied to relatively slow broadband connections that are well below 100 Mb/s on average. Also, your ISP may not like the idea of 300 MB music files. Stream 1000 songs per month and you may accumulate an extra 300 GB of data, which is enough to get you branded as excessive data user. Much higher quality of music would be something few of us would complain about, but the infrastructure clearly needs a lot of work.

Verizon to Test Streaming Service for Cord-Cutters

Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam says the telecommunications giant may take a page out of AT&T’s book — it will be testing its own over-the-top video-streaming service later this year.

Speaking at the J.P. Morgan Global Technology, Media and Telecom Conference in Boston this week, McAdam said that he plans to use the combined user base of Yahoo and AOL — about 1.3 billion users strong — to test the service, according to a report in. McAdam did not say exactly what the service might offer.

A Bloomberg report earlier this year suggested that Verizon, which owns FiOS TV, was working on a new streaming service that would compete with DirecTV Now and offer dozens of channels. That report said the service would likely be tied to FiOS TV, but like DirecTV Now, would not require a fixed-line or satellite subscription.

A new Verizon service might attract more viewers than the company’s existing mobile video streaming offering, Go90. Go90 has had trouble garnering new users and hasn’t been the streaming destination Verizon had hoped for.

However, Go90 doesn’t have the benefit of leveraging AOL and Yahoo as platforms, as the new streaming service to be tested will. With more than a billion registered users — but likely far fewer active ones — the combined AOL-Yahoo, to be known as Oath, will provide a sizable test market.

Verizon expects to close its Yahoo acquisition next month. Verizon won a $350 million discount on the purchase price after Yahoo disclosed two massive data breaches, and the telecom will buy the once-dominant search giant for $4.5 billion.

The Walkman That You Can Wear in the Shower

After you’re done with the gym and you’re ready to hit the showers, do you hate it when you have to remove your headphones and music player? Sony’s latest Walkman product could follow you into your shower for the rinse off.

Sony today unveiled the Walkman W260 Series, which is a headphone band that has an integrated MP3 player. The water-resistant frame ensures it can withstand sweat from intense workouts in any weather condition. Keep in mind that it’s water-resistant, not waterproof – so no swimming with this on!

The W series Walkman comes with Content Transfer software for users to drag and drop music files from iTunes for Windows, Windows Media Player or Windows Explorer (DRM free content only).

The NWZ-W260 series Walkman player also offers a convenient quick-charge function. With only three minutes of charge time, the player can run for up to 60 minutes and full battery life is up to 8 hours.

It will be available in August in the following configurations:

NWZ-W262 2 GB (black or white): $59.99

NWZ-W263 4 GB (black): $79.99

See How the Galaxy S9’s Slow-Mo Video Compares to iPhone X

We know super slow-motion videos look extremely cool, but just how easy and useful is capturing that many frames per second when it comes to real-life situations?

We compared super slow-mo on the Galaxy S9 and Xperia XZ1 with the regular slow-motion video on the iPhone X and Google’s Pixel 2 XL to see if super slow-mo results in must-see videos that make it worth any hassle.

The newboth offer super slow-motion video, which captures 0.2 seconds of footage at 960 frames per second. That results in an incredibly cool 6 seconds of ultra-slow movement at 720p resolution.

offers the same feature, but its forthcoming, due out later in the spring, takes super slow-mo to the next level by increasing the resolution to 1080p. That should result in better-looking clips, but reduces the playback from 6 seconds to 3 seconds. (An option to shoot 960 fps at 720p will also be available on the XZ2.)

How We Tested

We tested the Galaxy S9+, Xperia XZ1,and Pixel 2 XL in outdoor natural light by throwing water balloons against a stone staircase in Bryant Park. Then we moved our set-up indoors. We shot eggs cracking on a platter under incandescent lights in our video studio, then captured a Puff the Magic Dragon-themed Jack-in-the-Box creepily bursting out to terrify everyone in our open floor-plan office, where harsh fluorescent lights mix with natural light.

Our video production team mounted the smartphones on tripods to eliminate any potential for shakiness (which can ruin a slow-motion video). The tripods were placed side-by-side to capture the same scene at the same time.

You can’t pinch to zoom in when shooting super slow-motion video, though you can when shooting regular slow-motion clips. We didn’t take advantage of zoom on the Pixel 2 XL or iPhone X to keep the tests consistent, so each video uses the camera’s default framing. You’ll notice some cameras, such as the iPhone and Xperia, automatically zoom in more than the S9 and Pixel 2 do. The iPhone X is able to capture 240 fps in 1080p if you change the default in the Settings app, but to keep the testing consistent, we stuck with 720p.

Round #1: Water Balloon

First, we ventured out to Bryant Park to see which phone’s camera could make a water balloon bursting against stone steps look the most epic. This is where we discovered the limitations of capturing super slow-motion clips.

The iPhone X and Pixel 2 XL can capture several minutes of slow-motion video, while the Xperia XZ1 captures 5-second videos and the Galaxy S9 stores 8-second clips. Both Sony and Samsung’s devices shoot a fraction of a second of action, which means you have to precisely time the shutter press on both phones. The iPhone and Pixel take more of a set-it-and-forget-it approach.

That presented some challenges. We had to throw seven water balloons to capture just one of them on the Xperia. If we pressed the shutter just a split second too early, we’d miss the water balloon.

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The S9 offers an automatic mode, which promises to only shoot action when it enters the frame, but we found that mode to be overly sensitive. If someone in the background of the shot moved, the S9 would start shooting and miss the water balloon. We decided to rely on manual mode to capture all of the S9’s slow-motion footage in every test.

We had to throw seven water balloons to capture just one of them on the Xperia. If we pressed the shutter just a split second too early, we’d miss it.

That was a good decision, because the S9’s super slow-mo clip was the best of the bunch, even though its camera was almost as finnicky to use as the Xperia’s. The S9’s clip best reflected the natural light of the outdoor scene, while the Xperia’s footage was darker and the contrast between the spraying water and the stone steps wasn’t as clear.

The iPhone X’s clip also captured bright, true-to-life light, but the S9’s super slow-mo effect was more dramatic.

Round #1: Water Balloon
1st Place: Galaxy S9+
2nd Place: Xperia XZ1
3rd Place: iPhone X
4th Place: Pixel 2 XL

 

Round #2: Jack-in-the-Box

After making quite a mess in Bryant Park, we took the party indoors to our office, where we conducted two more trials. For the first one, we set off a jack-in-the-box and captured the result with each phone.

Yet again, the Galaxy S9 and Xperia XZ1 stole the show in terms of slowing down the moment. There’s simply no replacement for framerate, and we’re happy Samsung and Sony have spearheaded the push toward 960 fps, up from the industry-standard 240 fps in the iPhone X and Pixel 2.

The Xperia claimed the grainiest shot of the bunch, with visual noise and heavy artifacting that danced from frame-to-frame. Although we liked that Sony’s phone pulled a tighter perspective to the Galaxy’s more wide-angle shot, the noise was very distracting. Samsung seems to have employed some software to tone down the static, which definitely helped, but even the S9 doesn’t look quite as natural and crisp as what you’d get from the iPhone X or Pixel 2 at 240 fps. Then again, Apple and Google’s handsets record four times fewer frames, so either way, there are tradeoffs to be made.

That leaves you with a choice: prioritize quality or framerate? It’s a toss up that really depends on the context of the scene. In this case, the light in our newsroom isn’t the most favorable, but we’d still take the Galaxy and Xperia because they collect so much more motion in the same amount of time as other phones. And of the two, we prefer the Samsung for better lighting and reduced noise.

There’s simply no replacement for framerate, and we’re happy Samsung and Sony have spearheaded the push toward 960 fps.

It is worth noting, however, that Apple has one advantage over Google in that the iPhone X can record slow motion at up to 1080p resolution by using its High Efficiency Video Compression (HEVC) format. This keeps file sizes down while bumping up the level of detail, with the caveat that HEVC may not play back on all devices, so 720p via .MOV is still available as an option.

Round #2: Jack-in-the-Box
1st Place: Galaxy S9+
2nd Place:
Xperia XZ1
3rd Place:
iPhone X
4th Place:
Pixel 2 XL

 

Round #3: Eggs

For our last trick, we broke some eggs in our video studio, which was a fair bit darker than the room we used for the jack-in-the-box.

You can tell straight away that the Galaxy S9+ and Xperia XZ1 don’t handle this scarcity of light very well. We could get away with sacrificing some clarity in the previous two rounds, but particularly low light scenarios really push the limits of 960 fps recording to the point where we actually preferred the 240 fps handsets, even though they can only capture a quarter of the frames.

The phones from Apple and Google produced videos that were significantly less muddy than what we observed from the latest Samsung and Sony devices. Ultimately though, the iPhone won out against the Pixel here because of its brighter exposure and slightly warmer, more realistic white balance.

Still, all the egg cracking called our attention to an important distinction between the Galaxy and Xperia in terms of the way they record super slow motion. It turns out the S9’s clips are actually a bit longer — though not necessarily in the way you’d think.

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Samsung and Sony’s flagships capture about 5 seconds of 960 fps footage, but the Galaxy pads that with about three total seconds of regular speed video bookending the shot. In other words, the clip plays in normal time initially, when you start to see the egg falling. Then it slows down to 960 fps for about 6 seconds, before speeding back up again after the egg strikes the pan. Conversely, the Xperia just grabs a 5-second super slow-mo film with no change in the framerate from beginning to end.

You can tell straight away that the Galaxy S9+ and Xperia XZ1 don’t handle this scarcity of light very well.

Ultimately, one way of doing things isn’t necessarily better than the other — it just comes down to preference. We think the S9’s effect is very cool, as you can actually observe the world slow down, as if the phone is bending the laws of time.

The S9 also produces a longer overall video, though we wish both devices could save lengthier super slow motion clips. Until manufacturers can guarantee recording 15 to 30 seconds at a time, users are going to find it very difficult to capture the proper moment at a fraction-of-a-second’s notice.

Fortunately, the iPhone X and Pixel 2 are capable of rolling indefinitely, so you never have to worry about picture-perfect timing with the shutter button. They’re just easier to use in any situation. Couple that with the iPhone’s quality advantage in low light, and it’s little wonder why Apple’s flagship was our favorite to shoot with in the studio, even if its slow motion wasn’t quite as technically impressive.

Round #3: Eggs
1st Place: iPhone X
2nd Place: Galaxy S9+
3rd Place: Pixel 2 XL
4th Place: Xperia XZ1

 

Overall Winner: Galaxy S9+

The Galaxy S9+ is a solid pick if you absolutely have to have a super slow-motion feature, but it needs to record more footage to make it more effective in the world world. Also note that you’ll get the best results when you’re outdoors or when there’s a lot of light. Its effects were incredibly dramatic, though, making it our top pick for super slow-motion video.

Galaxy S9+
Xperia XZ1 iPhone X Pixel 2 XL
Water Balloon
1st Place 2nd Place 3rd Place 4th Place
Jack in the Box
1st Place 2nd Place 3rd Place 4th Place
Eggs
2nd Place 4th Place 1st Place 3rd Place
Overall Winner
1st Place
2nd Place 3rd Place 4th Place

The iPhone X was more reliable, though its effects weren’t as cool as the super slow-motion footage we captured on the Galaxy S9. When it comes to recording clips in everyday situations, some people will prefer the iPhone. The clips aren’t quite as eye-catching, but you also don’t have to pay close attention to your phone to capture the exact moment when action occurs.

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We plan to test Sony’s Xperia XZ2’s higher-res super slow-mo when that phone debuts later this year. Stay tuned to see if it can beat the Galaxy S9.

Credit: Tom’s Guide

Filmmaker To Implant Camera in Eye-Socket

Talk about entering cyborg territory: a Canadian filmmaker says that he plans to install a mini camera in his prosthetic eye.

While it seems awkward to write about a man missing an eye, the idea of planting a camera into that empty eye-socket not only breathes in an aroma of science-fiction, but leads to the question of whether more individuals walking around in public–missing an eye no less–are watching us with those cleverly inconspicuous devices. In what may become a trend in the not-so-distant future, Canadian filmmaker Rob Spence, noted for his anti-surveillance documentaries, plans to actually install a mini camera into his prosthetic eye.

Why? According to Spence, to continue making documentaries while raising awareness about surveillance in society. Called, Spence’s ‘bionic eye’ comprises of a mini-camera, a wireless transmitter, and a battery all mounted on a tiny circuit board. According to the press kit, Spence, 36, had his eye surgically removed after enduring ten years of pain; originally, the eye was badly damaged from a shotgun accident when he was 13. Now, living in Toronto, Canada as a filmmaker, Spence rallied the help of ex-engineer Kosta Grammatis and a team of ocularists, inventors, and engineering specialists to create the ‘bionic eye.’ 

Building the eye proved to be difficult in an engineering sense, thus Kosta Grammatis set out to discover and implement the smallest, lightest, power efficient technologies. Thus, the prosthetic eye features the world’s smallest CMOS camera – 1.5mm square to be exact, or as Spence puts it, ‘small enough to be lost in a sneeze.’ The video signal transmits wirelessly, picked up by an external RF Transmitter smaller than the tip of a pencil eraser. The entire ‘bionic’ package feeds off lithium polymer battery technology, however, Grammatis said that he hoped the data will be sent and recorded via a backpack in the future. In no way does the device connect to his nerves or brain.

‘Originally the whole idea was to do a documentary about surveillance. I thought I would become a sort of super hero … fighting for justice against surveillance,’ Spence told. ‘In Toronto there are 12,000 cameras. But the strange thing I discovered was that people don’t care about the surveillance cameras, they were more concerned about me and my secret camera eye because they feel that is a worse invasion of their privacy.’

Frankly, they are correct. Technologies that allow humans to enter private areas and record private situations -whether it’s changing clothes or sorting through financial information- should be banned despite their overall purpose. While Spence claims that he has no intention to serve as a ‘life-caster,’ meaning to film himself and others in a ‘reality tv’ setting, he reassured that the camera would be switched off when not needed. Still, how tempting would it be to just flick on the eye and silently record the woman’s cleavage across the room?  Ultimately, Spence and Grammatis may be treading into dark territory, especially if the government gets a whiff of what the device can do.

Currently Spence is working on a documentary film about the Eyeborg Project and his experience of living with the bionic eye. Move over, Steve Austin.

Hulu Plus Finally Arrives On Nintendo Wii

Here’s another reason to purchase the Nintendo Wii for uses other than playing games: Hulu Plus.that the service is available now, costing the typical $7.99 USD per month. Hulu Plus compliments Netflix by focusing on current TV episodes which typically appear on Hulu the day after their original showing on networks. Netflix provides seasons of TV episodes as well, but it’s primary focus is delivering a plethora of movies.

‘Wii offers the most entertainment fun for everyone in the family, with an impressive selection of streaming movies and TV shows in addition to an unparalleled lineup of games that can’t be played anywhere else,’ said Tony Elison, Nintendo of America’s senior director and general manager of Network Business. ‘The Wii console is the hub of the living room, and with the addition of Hulu Plus, millions of households now have even more options for streaming premium TV shows and movies.’

Consumers looking for a family entertainment center may find this addition a great deal. Unlike the Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii owners won’t have to shell out extra money for network access on top of their Hulu Plus subscription. And unlike the PlayStation 3, the Nintendo Wii allows users to easily scroll through the Hulu Plus library by using the Wii remote. The console also doesn’t rely on an HD connection, making it compatible with older composite-based televisions.

What’s unfortunate is that it took this long to bring Hulu Plus to the Nintendo Wii, literally ten or less months away from the launch of Nintendo’s next console, the Wii U. Hulu Plus will likely be a launch service for the next-generation console, and it’s already slated to arrive on the Nintendo 3DS later this year.

Users who have a broadband Internet connection can visit the Wii Shop Channel now to download the Hulu Plus application at no extra charge. For the first month of launch, users who download Hulu Plus for Wii and do not already have an existing Hulu Plus account will get a two-week free trial.