iPhoney now available
An iPhone owner and his money are soon parted. That’s not quite how the saying goes, but it might well be soon. As if the US$599 sticker price wasn’t enough, Internet scammers are out to raid the rest of your bank account. It’s hardly a shock that people of questionable morality would exploit the success of Apple’s overhyped gadget (it’s a phone, people, a phone). In fact, I’m surprised it took them this long to get going. What’s up with the pedigree of online conmen these days? Must be slipping. In this case, the malware is a Trojan that directs to an iPhone spoof site, then collects your financial information when you try to order one of these devices. What they should be doing is setting up an iPhone Nano spoof. If even people knew it was a dummy site, they’d gladly hand over their credit card numbers just on the minimal assumption that in an alternate universe it’s real and there really is such a thing as an iPhone Nano. Until Apple can confirm its existence, however, you’ve got a better chance of Steve Jobs coming over to wash your car.
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Magic recording product to ruin movie business
Just in case you aren’t sick of hearing about the iPhone yet (I’m sure sick of writing about it), Time magazine, which seems to spend a lot of its time compiling lists, has ranked the Apple gadget among the most influential of all time. Ignore the inane ramblings about how the iPhone is revolutionizing whatever but check out the other entries. The 1976 JVC VCR is a hoot. A steal at US$1,400, which accounting for inflation is more or less what you’ll pay for a new Honda Civic, this device scared the crap out of the movie industry. It seems almost quaint now, doesn’t it? Other interesting entries include the Sony Walkman, which was originally called the Stowaway in the U.K. I had no idea shipboard ne’er-do-wells were so common there.

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Howie Mandell’s illegal casino
A lot of us gamble every day. (If I show up half an late to work today will I still have a job by 5? So far, Insider has rolled the dice on that one and won, but time will tell.) Gambling is sometimes in the eye of the beholder, or if you believe two game show fans from Georgia, it’s in your cell phone. Shows like Deal or No Deal (hosted by Howie Mandell – remember when that guy had hair?) encourage people to send in text messages for a small fee and possibly win $10,000 in return. That’s gambling! cry the duo from Georgia and thus have launched a lawsuit to that effect. Missing from this blog post on the New York Times is why these two fans would want to spoil everyone’s fun but it’s hard not to see their point. Do you think if I asked people to send me a dollar for every minute I show up late to work that would constitute gambling as well? I dunno, but I’m willing to give it a shot.

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Where single people meet their match
Time magazine has published a list of the worst five Web sites online. Coming in first place is a dating portal called eHarmony.com – mainly because of its capacity to make you feel like a total loser. More specifically, the implication is, if this site can’t hook you up, nothing on earth ever will. The site asks you more than 400 compatibility questions and based on those criteria it matches you with the most suitable candidate. If you can’t find a match, or worse yet, your perfect match is a mouthbreather with a Grade 4 reading level, it’s hardly likely to do much for your ego. The other sites on this list aren’t all that surprising. For example, MySpace made the list because it’s become a breeding ground for cheap marketing and cyberstalkers.

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Look up in the sky! It’s Insider!
How many of you trying to draw comics when you were a kid? C’mon. Hands up. There’s more that a few of you out there. Well, DC Comics is now giving amateur creators a shot through its new site Zudacomics.com. Submissions are judged by readers and winners are awarded a one-year contract to produce their comics on an ongoing basis. Whadja think? Do we need the Adventures of Insider? One reporter’s attempt to trawl the Web for bizarre and interesting stories, present them in a sarcastic manner and fight evil editors all in an afternoon? It’s probably been done already. Sounds a bit too much like Spider-Man.

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Italian reports sore thumbs
An Italian man claims to have written a novel entirely by using his phone. It’s called “Compagni di Viaggo” (“Fellow Travellers”) and weighs in at 384 pages. The man, Robert Bernocco, says he wrote it during his subway commute to work as a way to fill the time. It’s being published by Lulu.com, owned by Canadian entrepreneur and founder of the Red Hat Linux distribution, Bob Young. I’ve no idea what it’s about, but I can only guess it has something to do with sticky floors, cramped seats and people who play their iPods too loud.

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Phone it in
To the chagrin of corporate North America and the applause of everyone else, this site has published a list of operator numbers for major companies. Want a person at Air Canada? Dial this number. Want to speak to a human at IKEA? Well, that number’s there too. Actually, not too surprisingly, most of those numbers consistent of hitting zero till your finger bleeds, but it some cases it’s genuinely random. To reach a person at Compuserve, dial 1211. For Honeywell, press 11900. These are companies that clearly don’t want to talk to you. Insider encourages you to dial human operators, if only to say hello.
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Send in a sub
Google Earth is showing pictures of what experts believe is a
new nuclear ballistic submarine belonging to the Chinese military. Google’s satellite swept over the country and happened upon this impressive piece of hardware, much to the consternation of the Chinese government. Most of the press coverage of this discovery is concerned with how the Chinese might react to having their national secrets plastered on the Internet. What Insider is more worried about is what Google is going to do with this information. I imagine they’re building something similar at Google HQ. Redmond must be an awful tempting target.

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Hard drive, hard time
To the surprise of no one, tech support guys steal stuff from hard drives they’re supposed to be repairing. An
interview with one such gentleman posted here reveals that terabytes worth of MP3s are removed regularly, not to mention scads of porn. One anecdote reveals that a fellow techie was downloading porn off customers’ drives then uploading it back to a Web site at a profit. On the one hand, it’s a terrible invasion of privacy. On the other – Actually, I don’t really think there is a counter argument to this, but the interviewee says these guys are underpaid and bored.

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Scientists find earth not weird enough
A group of scientists is suggesting that we spend more time searching the heavens for “weird life.” My immediate response is that we have plenty of that already. I think the guy who fixes our photocopier would certainly qualify. But even Larry the copier guy might not be weird enough for these people. What they’re really looking for are micro organisms that don’t conform to our standard definitions of life.

According to this article:

“There’s good reason to suspect that other kinds of chemistry could support life as well, the authors of the new report argue. Weird life could differ from life as we know it in small or big ways. DNA uses phosphorus in its backbone, for example. It might be possible to build a backbone out of arsenic instead. Instead of water, life might exist in other liquids, such as ammonia or methane.”

Methane? Now that does sound like Larry.

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Hang up on scalpers

There’s probably nothing more annoying than trying to buy a new product only to find out that some greedy scalper got there before you. Well, iPhone speculators are discovering that their purchases aren’t working out as they thought. When the over-hyped devices went on sale in the U.S., people lined up to buy them – often buying two or three; one for themselves, the rest to sell at a profit. It turns out there is no secondary market for iPhones. People have figured that they can wait a few extra weeks and buy the phones themselves or maybe they just don’t care at all. iPhone scalpers are having to return the extra phones back to the Apple stores from whence they came or are selling them off at little or no margin. All I can say is, Yay!

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Button-mash your way to success

Entertainment media take quite a few knocks for corrupting the minds of our kids, but none so more than the video game business. So it’s gratifying to know that the hundreds of hours Insider spent playing games in Mom’s basement weren’t a total and utter waste of time. Apparently, games are good at teaching kids how to be leaders. It’s hard to imagine that disembowelling aliens is actually a leadership skill that come in handy in the office, but this article suggests otherwise.

“The findings are in contrast to ongoing criticism that children are spending too much time indoors — either voluntarily watching television and playing computer games or at the request of concerned parents afraid to let them play in the street or in parks, where they could be the victim or a perpetrator of crime.

“This so-called ‘bedroom culture’ is, it is often argued, creating a generation of monosyllabic, culturally illiterate group of youngsters who are ill-prepared for the impending roles and responsibilities of adulthood.

The Brunel University research findings follow hot on the heels of claims by computer giant IBM that online games are helping to groom future business leaders. Multiplayer online games are teaching children the core skills which are required to lead a team.

Online games like Runescape, World of Warcraft and Everquest allow players to join forces and work in closely-knit teams to achieve a goal that may take hours or sometimes weeks to complete.”

Interesting stuff. Next time you walk into a board room, offer your boss 14 pieces of gold and a +4 sword for his laptop. Remember to look menacing.

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