Merry “X” Mass

Merry “X” Mass (where “X” equals the winter festival of your choice) from all of the meatbots, cyborgs, and robot minions here at Street Tech Labs. Here’s to a happy ending to your year and to all good things in 2006. Peace out.

[Image of CyberSanta by Jim Leftwich]

USB Plushies: When Trends Go from Bad to Worse

We’ve spent the year cataloging the weird, wonderful, and frequently whacked world of USB-borne devices. The latest to be filed under “Whacked” is the USB Plush Animal. Released by Imation Japan, the USB 2.0 drives have 128MB of capacity inside of a wee plushy dog, hippo, or gator. They sell for 3,480 yen (about US$30). Is it just me, or do you also get hysterical visions of some housepet going feral over one of these, a.k.a. some poor sap’s accounting files or corporate report. And then the ensuing embarrassing vigils during evening “walks” with Rocco in an icky attempt to try and “recover the data.”

All I want for Christmas…

All I want for Christmas is the ability to download the movie of my choice at 300k/sec, at a reasonable price. I’m tired of having to get in line for 20 minutes to rent a DVD for five bucks. I’m tired of waiting for Netflix to stock enough copies of Battlestar Galactica so I don’t have to wait three weeks for it. I’m sick of crappy, slow torrents that take two days to download. That is all. Carry on…

What do YOU want for Christmas, that should exist but doesn’t?

Sightings of Our Universal Noodle

The cult of Pastafarianism grows and rears its starchy tentacles in the most unlikely places. This pic was snapped by DC-area slam poet Kate Dillon in the Hampden area of Baltimore, MD. It’s just there, assuming and enigmatic, on the side of a building. And no, it’s not a computer store, comic book shop, or other likely geek enclave.

Thanks, Kate!

Freeware of the Day: Magic Jelly Bean Shortener

There’s a wealth of free music out on the Internet that is actually perfectly legal to download: authorized bootlegs. This is live concert music recorded by fans – often plugged into the boards of the band, getting very high quality sound. The only downside is that fan sites that post these files often use the FLAC format, which makes for large downloads, and that can’t be played on most portable audio players.

The solution is the Magic Jelly Bean SHN Shortener. It takes FLAC files and converts them en masse to MP3 files of any specified bitrate. Very handy tool. It takes some time (maybe 30 seconds per song) and the UI for the MJBS is a little on the spartan side, but it’s a very straightforward program that does what I need it to do, and costs nothing. I’m currently working on converting some Elliot Smith and it’s working like a charm.

An All-Robotic X-mas

Robots.Net has a list of their top ten robot gift ideas (plus a few runners up). If you have a servo-head on your holiday list and you’re looking for some last-minute gift suggestions, check it out.

Personally, as much as we think the tech in the animatronic WowWee chimp head is cool, we suspect that this is one of those relatively expensive (US$150) presents that’ll enjoy about four or five days worth of play before it ends up gathering dust in the basement. It’ll definitely be fun to see if hackers do anything interesting with it. Just look at the cool stuff hackers and artists did with those otherwise dumb-ass talking fish.