E-Voting Source Code Leak

•October 22, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Usually when a company is in the news because of an electronic voting controversy it’s Diebold, but this time the villain is Sequoia.

When providing data to the Election Defense Alliance, Sequoia also inadvertently  provided the watchdog group with with, “thousands of lines of MS-SQL source code that appears to control or at least influence the logical flow of the election, in violation of a bunch of clauses in the FEC voting system rulebook banning interpreted code, machine modified code and mandating hash checks of voting system code.” according to analyst Jim March.  A public wiki has been established to furher pick apart the code so if you can contribute to the effort go check it out.

Electronic voting machines constantly fail certification, their security measures are often found to be easily circumventable and the code that they run on is always closed source.  The continued push by state governments to replace paper ballots with these black boxes that could so easily sway elections maliciously or accidentally baffles me.

The ancient voting machines we use in New York still work fine and this is one registered voter who’s glad that we either don’t have the budget or the will to retire them.

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BlackBerry Finally Getting a Decent Browser?

•October 22, 2009 • Leave a Comment

There are two things that BlackBerries are known for, being excellent messaging devices and having an awful web browser.  Despite RIM’s constant stream of new devices their software platform has been lagging behind competitors with its seeming stagnation in light of Android, WebOS and the iPhone.  While the BlackBerry OS has gotten a bit of a makeover of late, there has been little to no improvement in it’s default browser.

Information Week is reporting that RIM has a job posting seeking a developer who will be, “Utilizing their expert knowledge in C++ programming, the successful candidate will be working in a fast-paced, dynamic development environment to develop a WebKit-based browser for the BlackBerry platform,”.  This combined with their recent acquisition of Torch Mobile, hopefully points to a WebKit browser in the near future.

Panasonic improves DMC-LX3 with firmware update

•October 22, 2009 • Leave a Comment


After posting firmware 2.0 and then quickly removing it, Panasonic has today announced the availability of firmware 2.1 for the venerable LX3.  This update promises improved autofocusing speed, a new 1:1 aspect ratio to go with the 4:3, 3:2 and 16:9 previously available, improved white balance along with white balance bracketing, new “artistic” shooting modes, and the lens will now automatically move back to it’s previous zoom setting when powered on.

Firmware updates that add features are common among SLR cameras but almost unheard of with point and shoots, this is definitely something we’d be happy to see other manufacturers start doing.  You can find  instructions for downloading and installing the update here.

Now if only they could get RAW support for the camera into Aperture and Bibble.

Microsoft Burns Gamers and Retailers

•October 22, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Major Nelson announced on his blog last week that unauthorized storage devices will be disabled in the upcoming Xbox 360 dashboard update.  While the move is likely aimed at cheaters, it also ensures that gamers pay Microsoft’s exorbitant memory prices.

I’ve got no problem with Microsoft attempting to protect their business, but this is going to be at the expense of their own fans.  Even the most tech-savvy of us can find ourselves in possession of products that Microsoft deems illegitimate as Adam Frucci of Gizmodo proved earlier this week.

Sony pulled something similar with a recent PS3 firmware update that broke compatibility with knock-off Dualshock controllers, but again, it was the consumer who paid for it since there was no way for them to even know they had purchased counterfeit product in the first place.

This won’t only prove to be a headache for people who are scammed, legitimate purchasers of products like Datel’s MAX memory card line for 360, which are sold by retailers alongside it’s Microsoft counterparts will find themselves locked out of their save games and gamer profiles as well.

This is a dick-move Microsoft.

E-Reader Rundown

•October 21, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Now that all the rumored eBook readers have come out into the open, it’s a good time for a quick rundown of the available and upcoming options out there for bibliophiles.


The big boy on the block is Amazon’s Kindle.  They walked into a market that consisted of two Sony devices and a few devices made by companies you never heard of and completely changed the game with their free wireless system for downloading books right on the device.  The Kindle is now the device by which the new eBook readers will be judged.


Sony has three new devices to compete against the Kindle.  The most affordable, at $199.99, is the Reader Pocket Edition (PRS-300).  With no wireless, cellular or wifi, your only option is to load books from Sony’s iTunes-like desktop software through USB.  There’s nothing that stands out about this device and really the only thing it has going for it is the price point which doesn’t look that great now that Amazon has dropped the price of the Kindle.

Sony’s mid-range device priced at $299.99, is the Reader Touch (PRS-600).  Also lacking wireless, the Reader Touch has a stylus based touch screen and expandable memory in either SD or Memory stick formats.  Since it has a touch screen, you change pages by swiping your finger across the screen, this should solve a common complaint amongst Kindle owners who find themselves changing pages by accident all the time.

The star of Sony’s lineup is the Reader Daily (PRS-900BC).  Available in December for $399.99 you’ll be getting a cellular data connection, a 7 inch touch screen usable in landscape or portrait mode.  Sony also announced partnership with libraries so users can check out digital copies of books for any of their three new devices, a feature which no other reader offers yet.

nook_front view

Barnes and Noble has just announced it’s $259 entry into the eBook market, the nook.  The standout feature here is a dual screen setup. Pairing a 6 inch e-ink screen with a 3.5 inch capacitive color touch screen underneath for browsing and UI navigation, the nook is the first device to offer a compelling solution for dealing with the slow refresh rate of e-ink screens.  In addition, nook owners will be able to browse complete copies of books while in Barnes and Noble brick and mortar stores, lend books to other nook owners,  access a library of books that is larger than Amazon’s Kindle library, and read their books on other devices like computers and smartphones.  The nook looks to be the first device that could potentially give Amazon a run for it’s money.  At least until the next iteration of the Kindle.

A Custom Joystick Primer

•October 21, 2009 • Leave a Comment

When Street Fighter IV was released it caused a parts shortfall for months.  Joystick prices went through the roof ,with Madcatz  Tournament Edition sticks going for more than 500 dollars on Ebay, order delays of over a month at popular arcade parts dealers like  Lizardlick Amusements and Akihabara Shop, and even low quality clearanced sticks like the Hori EX2 dissapeared like Wiis at Christmas.  So if you want to be prepared for the next installment of Capcom’s  best fighting franchise you should get started early.

American Style or Japanese Style?


The First thing you will have to decide on is what kind of parts you are going to use.  The two most popular styles of parts amongst joystick modders are the types seen in American and Japanese arcades respectively.  If you’ve got fond memories of playing Turtles in Time or Street Fighter II from your youth you’ll be familiar with the American style of arcade parts.  American joysticks are big, have bat shaped tops and are very springy.  Japanese joysticks are lower in profile, have skinny shafts and ball shaped tops.  Aside from cosmetic differences, the two styles of parts also feel very different.  American joysticks spring back to neutral very quickly and when you rotate them through 360 degrees of motion it feels like a smooth circle.  Japanese sticks, on the other hand, generally have a square restrictor plate so when you rotate the stick through 360 degrees of motion you will feel the corners of the square.  Some players prefer this especially for charge characters like Guile because when you are holding down-back you can feel it.  This is ultimately a personal preference so you’ll need to figure that out on your own.  One thing to keep in mind though, is that American style parts require more room so the dimensions of your case will need to be taken into account.

Your Circuit Board


The difficulty of getting the internals of your joystick properly setup depends on which platform you are planning on using.  For the Playstation 3 and the PC, the simplest option is the Cthulhu.  A member of the shoryuken.com fighting game enthusiasts’ forum, who goes by the name of Toodles, makes a custom board called the Cthulhu, that simplifies the process of wiring your  arcade parts to inserting the end of a wire in a hole and turning a screw.  If you buy a pre-assembled kit, there is no soldering involved and the resulting joystick will work on both the PS3 and PC.

Things get a little more complicated when working with the Xbox 360 in mind.  Microsoft uses a chip to prevent unlicensed controllers from working on their system so your only option is to break open a controller and get your soldering iron out.  The easiest controller to start with is the Madcatz #4716 series.  The job can be done with official wired and wireless Microsoft controllers as well but the soldering will be trickier.

The Housing


The housing you choose for your joystick can be anything from a custom made wooden or metal box, to an existing joystick you can pick up at retail and swap the parts out of, to Tupperware and shoeboxes.  If getting a drill out is a bit too daunting, you have a number of options for picking up premade custom cases.

There are several websites that offer blank cases of many shapes, sizes and materials such as modchipman.com, gamingnow.net, and norrisarcadesticks.com.  There are also members of the SRK forum who sell cases in their trading sub-forum as well.

Some may balk at the prices that these hand crafted cases command, but there are still options.  You may be able to find the makings of a suitable case around the house or at a local department or hardware store.  I made this joystick out of leftover parts, an old playstation controller and a case I picked up at the Container Store.


Made from a container store case

If you don’t have the tools necessary to modify a found container, picking up a retail controller with less than arcade quality parts is probably the simplest and quickest way to get started on your custom controller.  The Hori Real Arcade Pro 3 is an excellent starting point. There is plenty of room inside to work with and you’re just an art and button swap away from having a custom joystick of your very own.


My custom Real Arcade Pro 3 that works on Ps3, PC and 360


An old Dreamcast stick repurposed for PS3 with a Sixaxis PCB wired in

For a far more detailed guide, and even several sample controller builds, head on over to slagcoin.com. they cover everything from basic parts and tools required, to arcade button layouts, to controller wiring diagrams.  This may seem like a difficult task, but I was able to make three custom controllers without major mishap thanks to slagcoin and the helpful forum members at shoryuken.com and am currently working on two more.

Finally, check out the custom controller threads at SRK to see what people are doing with their customs.

Some stores worth checking out:


Best Apps and Hacks for Jailbroken iPhones

•October 21, 2009 • Leave a Comment

If you’ve got a jailbroken iPhone these apps will  make it a much more usable device.

Backgrounder and Kirikae


Backgrounder allows you to selectively enable background processing for any app on your phone.  This alleviates one of the biggest gripes people have with the iPhone and it works even better in tandem with Kirikae, which allows you to bring up a task switcher with a double press of the home button, allowing you to switch apps without returning to the home screen, access favorite apps from any other app, and quit any apps that are currently running in the background.

GV Mobile


When the news hit that Apple had rejected the official Google Voice app and unceremoniously kicked the unofficial apps that were already in the App Store  out, Sean Kovacs made his app, GV mobile, free for jailbroken iPhones.  GV Mobile gives you a taste of what we could have had from the official Google app with one click access to your phone’s address book and a fast interface to all the features of Google Voice.

5 Icon Dock


5 Icon Dock is exactly what it sounds like.  It is a hack that allows you to drag a fifth application to the iPhone’s dock so you have access to it no matter which page of apps you are on.  Simple, and very useful.  There’s also a 6 icon dock if this isn’t enough for you.



This hack allows you access to quick toggles for your Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, active processes, brightness settings and more, from any screen and any app.  Just drag your finger from the name of your carrier to the battery icon and a control panel will drop down allowing you to easily turn features off to conserve battery life.



You went to the trouble of jailbreaking so you might as well flaunt it.  Winterboard is a theme application that allows you to customize every aspect of how your iphone looks.  There are toggles for wallpapers, transparent dock, icon labels, navigation bars and a ton of themes freely available in the Cydia package manager to spice up that drab black background of the stock iPhone interface.