Last week I stumbled upon an old article on Altas Obscura, initially published in 2018, that brought back some fond memories. What if I told you that once upon a time (the late 60’s), you could take a cheap plastic whistle that you dug out of a box of Captain Crunch and blow it into a mouthpiece telephone to call any place in the world for FREE? The 2600hz tone the whistle produced was the same tone used by phone carriers to signal an open line on their once analog phone systems. Once you had an open line, you could dial any number you wanted free of charge.
Phone Phreaking “hobbyists” created a little “blue box” that reproduced the same tone, and the world would never be the same. A story about blue boxes was published in Esquire in 1971, and after reading, Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs (yes, the boys from Apple) were all over it, creating a business selling such a device. See, kids, we DID know how to have a good time before the Internet!
I was a little late to the phone Phreaking party, but I remember reading about it as a kid and “playing” around with phone lines using my Apple IIc computer in the 80s, and tiring known hacks on random pay phones I would come across. Since I’m unsure of the statute of limitations for such questionable activities, I’m just going to leave it at that.
Years later, I discovered the infamous 2600 Magazine, launched in 1984 and still in publication today, and I got the bug again. For some unknown reason, I used to have the quarterly issues of 2600 delivered to my office vs. my home (poor attempt at privacy, I guess?), but I do remember expensing an annual subscription for “research” while I did a stint as a programmer in the early 2000’s. Inside each issue were stories of hackers doing some crazy things, like taking over the intercom system at K-Mart to accessing the terminals at Best Buy to get discount codes. The back cover was one of my favorite things about the 2600 magazine. It featured a picture of a working payphone from some random place around the world, something rarely seen in the United States these days.
Speaking of phones, Apple Insider just released a report titled “A secret tool lets police conduct mass surveillance using app data,” and it’s a little unnerving that data sold by Fog Data Science LLC to target ads based on a person’s location and interests is being accessed without a warrant.
This is another reason to audit your phone settings and adjust your security regularly.
And finally… If you use Emoji’s, you might have wondered how popular the one you’re about to send is. Well, wonder no more with this real-time Emoji tracker that shows the real-time emoji use on Twitter. Warning: a LOT is going on, and it might overwhelm those subject to issues with flashing things.
Another ‘Fake Spring” in Indiana with temps in the 60’s followed by below-freezing nights in the same week. The first couple months of the year are my least favorite time of year, and spring can’t get here fast enough…
At the recommendation of a co-worker, I picked up a new mouse last week. The Logitech MX Master 3 is unlike any mouse I’ve used before. First off, it’s a big boy size-wise, but, weighing in at 4.9 oz (140 grams), it’s surprisingly light for its stature. It also has a LOT of buttons and wheels. Something it’s going to take a while to get used to, especially since you can customize EVERY control and wheel depending on the application you have in focus. The fit in hand is comfortable, and the USB-C rechargeability makes this an excellent replacement for the Apple Magic Mouse I’ve been using for more years than I can remember.
Priced at $100 the Logitech MX Master 3 is not cheap but the improved ergonomics and extreme customizability are worth it in my opinion. After using it for about 2 weeks I can’t imagine going back to a “normal” mouse again.
And finally… 60 Minutes (Australia Edition) aired a piece earlier this month about the Malaysia Airlines flight 370 disappearance. A aerospace engineer claims he has determined, with great confidence, where the flight went down. He did this by analyzing disruptions in Ham Radio communications, of all things, during the flight. Let us know what you think after watching in the comments below.
Apple has finally released the first new AppleTV model in several years. What was once considered a “hobby” by Steve Jobs has finally matured into an impressive multimedia device!
The 4th version of the AppleTV has a familiar shape and footprint but it’s at least twice the height (and heavier too). The remote has undergone a major upgraded to include a touch screen and Siri integration as well as an internal, rechargeable, battery that is reported to last up to three months of regular use (charged by the now Apple-standard lightning cable).
I ordered the 64GB unit for $199 on the first day it was available for pre-order (Apple also offers a 32GB device for $50 less). Being impatient I opted for the next day shipping option in the hopes of receiving a new toy in time for the weekend.
Well it didn’t happen. My package was stuck on a loading dock in Tennessee and didn’t leave until sometime on Sunday. Apple refunded my overnight shipping cost which was appreciated (I had to call them to get this done though). I love the ability to get detailed tracking of packages but this had the reverse impact as the shipment didn’t get updated for days.
While reviewing the Apple forums full of other people waiting for their shipments I learned about a carrier in Europe that not only tells you the status of your package but you can see the progression on a real-time map. If that wasn’t cool enough you also know the name of the delivery driver along with a 30-minute delivery window (also updated in real time). Talk about stalking the delivery Guy!
Being an early adopter can be fun but it has its frustrations as well. Physical setup of the new Apple TV was relatively smooth once I figured out a work around for the missing “optical audio-out” (S/PDIF) I was using with the last model. The App Store, which is one of the big selling factors of this new model, was not very exciting the first couple of days. Not a lot of “must have” apps and nothing was categorized so finding apps to download and try out was not as easy as it should have been.
Now that things have been up and running for a few weeks the store is getting better and more useful apps are starting to become available. The Siri remote is the real star here. With it you can basically ask for a particular movie, actor, or genre and a list of options magically show up on the screen complete with a list of where you can view the content and pricing (if any). Right now this search is limited to Netflix, Hulu and the Apple Store but it’s supposed to be opening up to other services soon. This is a similar feature that Roku has had for a while but dictating with your voice is the new (and better) input method.
I’ve written two posts about my Cord Cutting project and how it’s been going. The new AppleTV has made the transition from Cable to Over The Air (OTA) content and streaming media a lot easier and the App Store keeps getting better every day. I think as this platform matures there could be some interesting capabilities surface that will make the 4th generation AppleTV an integral part of the entertainment stack.
It’s time to start thinking about the next electronic purchase and I’m pretty sure it’s going to be a TV upgrade. My 38″ Plasma has served me well for many years but 55-60″ of UHD (or 4k) video sounds very appealing. And the prices keep coming down to the sub-thousand level which makes it a more attractive buy.
I’m wanting to get a bigger screen and possibly install it over the fireplace. I’ve heard good and bad things about this mounting location but after seeing an articulating wall mount that allows you to pull the TV down in front of the (unlit) fireplace for a better viewing angle I think that’s the way I’m going to go.
I’d love to hear from any of you who have feedback on the over-the-fireplace mounting option. Is it that bad? I’m going to be 15+ feet away from the screen so that makes the viewing angle relatively flat (that was the main complaint from people who chose the higher mounting position).
Thoughts? Please leave them in the comments section below.
The first race of the 2014 F1 season is over and it was a very interesting race. BIG changes this year with the cars. The 18,000 RPM screaming V8 has been replaced with a 15,000 RPM turbo charged V6. Totally different sound & lots of reliability issues thus far. The KERS system has been updated to allow for 33 seconds of boost vs the 6 seconds in the past.
Red Bull put together this video (it’s a little corny) that explains some of the changes & the new technology in the cars. It’s going to be an interesting year!
This is some pretty crazy stuff. If it can get implemented into automotive finishes and clothing it will put a BIG dent in the cleaning industry!