Saturday, August 30, 2014


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Go Directly to Fail: Worst Tech Product Ideas Ever
By Avram Piltch,
Laptop, 28 August 2014.

Spray-on hair. New Coke. Pat Boone’s heavy metal album. Some products are such bad ideas that some executive must have been snorting canned air before letting them out the door. Unfortunately, hardware and software vendors are some of the worst offenders, releasing half-baked gadgets and fatally flawed operating systems while turning a deaf ear to anyone who informs them that the emperor has no clothes. These are 10 of the worst tech ideas of all time.

1. Android laptops

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Android and clamshell computing go together like black licorice and mayonnaise. That hasn't stopped HP from releasing the sorry SlateBook 14, which puts Google's operating system on a laptop that cannot fold or detach into a tablet. What users really need on a laptop or desktop is a user interface that works really well with a keyboard and touchpad or mouse and provides plenty of windows for multitasking.

Unfortunately, stock Android doesn't support multiple windows or any kind of split-screen viewing. Though Samsung and LG have added that functionality in their custom skins, HP goes with unaltered, no-Window Android. Even worse, most Android apps aren't made to take advantage of a large-screen tablet, let alone a 14-inch notebook. Try staring across the keyboard at the slim, single-pane Facebook app.

2. Google Nexus Q

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Google's US$299 stylish streamer was designed to solve a problem no one has. A heavy, black orb that looks like it belongs next to the plasma globes at Spencer's gift stores, the Nexus Q allowed multiple users to stream music and videos to the same home theatre at the same time, but not from Netflix, Hulu, Amazon or most other media services. Google's brain trust apparently thought young people typically go to parties and argue about whose Google Play music list they should beam to the stereo. After some negative user feedback, the company came to its senses and pulled the product from the market, giving away its leftover inventory without charging a single consumer for it.

3. Microsoft Kin

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A house divide cannot stand, particularly if it's an office building on Microsoft's Redmond, Washington, campus. Back in 2010, Microsoft was developing two different phone platforms by two different teams at the same time: Windows Phone, which was to become its mainstream mobile operating system, and Kin, one of the worst ideas of all time.

Launched in spring 2010, the Kin platform was designed for the five people on Earth who were tech-savvy enough to do social networking and listen to music and email, but too dumb to use a full-fledged smartphone. Unfortunately, the phones were just as expensive as real smartphones, and Verizon required consumers to buy full-priced data plans for them. Even worse, it turns out that people who know how to post to Facebook also like to install apps and use a real Web browser. Within two months, Microsoft was forced to convert the product to a feature phone and later pull it from the market.

4. Acer Aspire R7

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Like a reverse mullet, the Acer Aspire R7 laptop is party in front, business in the back, with a touchpad that sits behind the keyboard. Acer apparently felt that Windows users didn't need to move the mouse pointer anymore and didn't want to reach that extra 1.5 inches over the touchpad to poke at the touch screen - so the company designed the display to flip forward so it hides the touchpad entirely. If you hate the touchpad so much, why not do the full monty and remove it entirely, rather than hide it in an awkward place?

5. Windows 8's Modern UI and Start Screen

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Unless Windows 8's confusing and inefficient Modern UI is part of a secret strategy to boost sales of the company's next operating system (Windows 9), it's one of the worst ideas in computing history - the New Coke of software. In addition to eliminating the Start menu and making the entire desktop environment into an app, Windows 8 takes familiar UI elements and buries them. For example, before a recent software update, the Shutdown button was three or four clicks removed from the Start screen.

Even as a tablet OS, Windows 8 leaves much to be desired. Basic pieces of information - like the battery level, time and Wi-Fi status - remain buried, while many of the key settings menus and applications still require touch-screen users to navigate around the desktop. No wonder Windows 8 is growing even slower than Windows Vista was at this point in its life cycle.

6. Facebook Home / HTC First

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More than 1.2 billion users visit Facebook each month, but the number who want to turn their entire phones into Facebook machines is much closer to zero. After releasing the unsuccessful Facebook-centric Status phone in 2011, HTC should have learned its lesson. However, the company came back in 2013 with the HTC First, the inaugural and only phone to run the Facebook Home launcher. The First replaces the regular Android home and lock screens with social feeds. The handful of people who wanted Facebook Home were able to get it as a free download from Google Play, making this underpowered, one-trick pony a total failure.

7. Motorola Lapdock

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The smartphone you carry in your pocket has more processing power than PCs of yesteryear, so why not turn your handset into a laptop? That was the logic behind Motorola's lame Lapdock, a US$499 accessory that turned the company's Atrix 4G  phone into something less functional than a US$299 netbook. Worse than the laptop dock's hefty price, or even its cramped keyboard, was its nearly useless operating system. Rather than the Android operating system that was on the phone, the dock booted into Motorola's custom webtop interface, which was little more than a Firefox Web browser with a few additional features.

8. IBM PCjr

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In 1981, IBM released the PC 5150, which began a revolution in computing that continues with today's Windows computers and tablets. Unfortunately, just three years later, Big Blue unveiled the hobbled PCjr, a scaled-back clone that claimed to be compatible with the growing universe of DOS software. It couldn't run 60 percent of 1984's most important applications, including Flight Simulator, WordStar and Lotus 1-2-3. Even worse, IBM cheaped out on the PCjr's keyboard, replacing the industry-leading buckling-spring keyboard from the regular PC with an uncomfortable wireless Chiclet-style keyboard that didn't always stay connected to the computer.

9. Microsoft Bob

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Treating users like toddlers who need a ton of hand-holding is rarely a good product strategy. Back in 1995, Microsoft decided that its Windows operating system was too complicated for some grown adults to understand, so it released "Bob," a UI that covered over the desktop with what looked like a low-res child's video game. Bob featured a virtual house with different rooms, each of which was decorated with objects that launched basic apps. For example, clicking a pen and paper in a room launched the built-in word processor.

Unfortunately, even in 1995, computer-illiterate adults didn't need this level of hand-holding, and Bob soon disappeared. If you're going to give your customers training wheels, make sure they help them learn to ride a big-boy bike.

10. BlackBerry PlayBook's remote email

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You can't blame BlackBerry for trying its hand in what was an emerging tablet market in 2011, and at first glance, the 7-inch PlayBook  looks quite spiffy, with a colourful display and attractive UI. However, after months of hype, the product launched without an email client. Instead, users who wanted access to their inboxes had to run BlackBerry Bridge, a program that paired the slate with existing BlackBerry phones and read the email that remained stored on the handset.

At the time, BlackBerry reps claimed that leaving email on the phone was more "secure," because users could lose their tablets (but apparently not lose their phones). Yet even before the first unit shipped, the company promised to add a native mail application, which it did through a later update.

[Source: Laptop. Edited. Some links added.]

Friday, August 29, 2014


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Five of the best: Budget tablets
By Chris Wood,
Gizmag, 27 August 2014.

While we tend to hear more about high-end tablets, plenty of manufacturers make great low-cost devices with compelling specs and features. With the tablet market getting more crowded all the time, manufacturers are offering consumers more for their money than ever before. Read on, as we highlight five great options for tablets that won't break the bank.

1. Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 7.0

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Samsung’s latest 7-inch slate offers some good specs for its modest price point, with the device packing a 1.2 GHz quad core processor coupled with a solid 1.5 GB RAM. The tablet runs Android 4.4 KitKat with Samsung’s custom TouchWiz UI, is just 9 mm (0.35 in) thick, and features an attractive design with slim side bezels.

The device's biggest downside is its mediocre 1,200 x 800 display resolution. That translates to 216 pixels per inch (PPI) - a little lower than some of the competition.

If you’re a big reader, then you might want to check out the Nook version of the tablet.

The device retails for US$200. [Galaxy Tab 4 7.0 at Samsung]

2. Google/Asus Nexus 7 (2013)

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The second generation of Google’s Asus-built Nexus 7 tablet is one of the most high-powered devices in this bunch. The 7-inch slate features an impressive 1,920 x 1,200 display, giving it 323 PPI. There’s also 2 GB of RAM on board, as well as optional LTE connectivity.

Unfortunately, there’s no microSD expansion slot like most devices here, meaning you’ll have to make do with the tablet's 16 or 32 GB internal storage.

Prices for the Nexus 7 (2013) start at US$230. [Nexus 7 at Google and Asus]

3. Asus Memo Pad 7

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The Asus Memo Pad 7 packs a lot of the same internals you’ll find in the Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 7.0, including the same mid-ranged 1,200 x 800 display. The device runs Android 4.4 KitKat, and while the base model only features 8 GB storage, there’s a microSD card slot on offer.

The Memo Pad 7 is 10 percent thicker than the Samsung slate, and opts for an quad core Intel Atom processor clocked at 1.86 GHz.

Asus’ tablet is priced at US$150.

4. Kindle Fire HDX 7

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Amazon’s latest 7-inch tablet features the same great 1,920 x 1,200 display resolution as the Nexus 7. It runs on a powerful 2.2 GHz quad core processor and packs 2 GB RAM.

Not only does the device pack solid specs, but it’s also a good option if you’re already tied into Amazon’s content ecosystem. The tablet runs a heavily modified version of Android that Amazon calls Fire OS. The software significantly changes the look and functionality of the device, and puts Amazon content front and centre.

The downside here is that you only get access to Amazon’s app store, rather than the Google Play Store. It is possible to side load Android apps, but generally speaking, the app selection is weaker than that found on standard Android and doesn't include any Google-made apps or services.

The Kindle Fire HDX has one other ace up its sleeve in the form of its Mayday button feature, which provides free on-device video tech support.

The 7-inch Amazon Fire HDX tablet retails for US$230. [Kindle Fire HDX 7 at Amazon]

5. Acer Iconia W4

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While the Acer Iconia W4’s specs might not be anything to shout about, its choice of software makes it worthy of note. While the rest of our tablets run some form of Android, the Iconia opts for Windows 8.1. The choice of OS has some obvious benefits and pitfalls, giving the device full desktop OS functionality on one hand, while being less touchscreen-friendly on the other.

The tablet's internals are solid in most respects. There’s a 1.33 GHz quad core Intel Atom processor, 2 GB RAM, 32 GB internal storage and a microSD card slot. Like many of the tablets in this roundup, the Iconia W4’s screen is its biggest let-down, coming in at 1,280 x 800 over 8-inch, giving it just 189 PPI.

The Acer Iconia W4 is the most expensive device here, with a recommended retail price of US$300. However, you can currently pick it up on Amazon for under US$200.

Bonus: Tesco Hudl

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This 7-inch tablet from UK retailer Tesco is worth a mention due to its on-point specs and low pricing. The Hudl packs a solid 1,440 x 900 resolution display with 242 PPI, coupled with a 1.5 GHz quad core processor, 1 GB RAM and 16 GB of expandable storage.

The company does little to alter the Android experience, and it retails for just £99 (US$164). When you consider that electronics prices tend to be a little higher in the UK than they are in the US, the Hudl is a great value option. Unfortunately, it’s only available in the UK. [Hudl at Tesco]

These were our picks for the best budget tablets, but if you want to loosen your purse strings a bit more, you can check out Gizmag's latest Tablet Comparison Guide.

[Source: Gizmag. Edited. Some links added.]


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11 Controversies Caused by Cartoons
By Stacy Conradt,
Mental Floss, 27 August 2014.

For a medium that lends itself to silly subjects, cartoon controversy is more common than you might think. From toons driving drunk to WWII satire, read on for 11 eyebrow-raising animated moments.

1. Scooby-Doo: The horrors of being a size 8

A new direct-to-video release called Scooby-Doo! Frankencreepy finds the Mystery Machine gang in their natural habitat: a spooky old castle inhabited by a nefarious villain. When Daphne has a run-in with said villain, he hexes her with a curse that causes her to grow from a size 2 to a size 8 - a size that’s still smaller than that of the average American woman.

When the Huffington Post asked Warner Brothers to comment on the insulting choice of curse, Warner Brothers stated that they believe the message is actually a positive one.
Although you are correct that Daphne becomes bigger in the course of the story, the message is actually a much more positive one. The plot of the movie involves the Scooby gang becoming cursed and losing what means the most to each of them. Fred loses the Mystery Machine, Shaggy and Scooby lose their appetites, etc. Daphne loses her good looks (mainly her figure and her hair). While Daphne is at first upset by the sudden change, there is a touching moment where Fred points out that he didn't even notice a change and that she always looks great to him. At the end, when Velma explains how they figured out the mystery, she points out that the curse actually DIDN'T take away what means the most to each of them: their friendship. The loss of Daphne's regular appearance is proven to be a superficial thing, and not what actually matters the most to her.
2. Pokemon: The episode that sent kids to the hospital

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Rare stills from four of the Pokemon's most infamous episodes, via IGN.

In 1997, an episode of Pokemon sent nearly 700 Japanese children to the hospital. “Electric Soldier Porygon” included a segment where Pikachu uses his lightning attack to blow up missiles. Because Pikachu is in cyberspace at the time of the attack, the animators employed a different technique to make his usual attack look more high-tech. The strobe effect used ended up sending kids to the hospital with seizures, headaches, and other symptoms, a phenomenon later called “Pokemon Shock.” The episode has not been broadcast since.

3. Tiny Toon Adventures: The Toons drive drunk and die

In this Very Special Episode that aired only once, the Tiny Toons explore the “evils of alcohol.”

After spotting a cold beer in the fridge, Buster cracks it open, sighing, “Nectar of the hops!” Shortly after sharing a single bottle, Buster, Hampton, and Plucky start slurring their words and develop beer guts, stubble, and bloodshot eyes. After getting rejected by the “Babes” they catcall, the tipsy trio steal a police car, drive it up a mountain, careen off the edge, crash into a graveyard, and die. Despite their bad behaviour, they all turn to angels and float upward to the sky. You can see the first half above, or the entire thing here (with commentary). Though “One Beer” was only shown one time, it was included when the series was released on DVD.

4. Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies: 11 offensive cartoons

In 1969, United Artists pulled 11 Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies from rotation. They were all from the early ‘30s and ‘40s, and the ethnic stereotypes of the day were certainly represented. Even though the rights to the cartoons have passed hands several times since then, titles like “Uncle Tom’s Bungalow,” “Jungle Jitters,” “Coal Black and de Sebben Dwarfs,” and “Goldilocks and the Jivin’ Bears” have remained under wraps.

They’ve been officially shown a few times for historical purposes, such as at the TCM Film Festival in 2010, and there’s some talk that they’ll be released as part of a controversial cartoon set at some point. Until then, some of them are available on YouTube. The above is 'Goldilocks and the Jivin’ Bears.'

5. The Flintstones: Fred and Barney For Winston Cigarettes

These days, cigarette ads aren’t allowed on TV at all, let alone in the middle of a children’s television show. There were no such laws back when the Flintstones were first on the air, and, in fact, commercials were usually placed right in the middle of a plotline or added at the end of an episode. It does help that The Flintstones was originally targeted at adults, not kiddos, but by today’s standards, it still feels weird. The mid- and end-of-show product placements have since been removed, but the above video is a particularly offensive one for your viewing pleasure.

This one above was apparently for Busch employees only and never aired on television, but it’s still entertaining.

6. Rocko’s Modern Life: Adult humour goes too far

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This Nicktoons staple was known for its grownup sense of humour, but an episode titled “Leapfrogs” took it a little too far. “Too far” happened when Rocko’s neighbour Bev Bighead declared that she needed “a little attention from a man once in awhile,” then proceeded to aggressively pursue her teenage neighbour, including trying to trick him into seeing her naked.

Execs said no way, and the episode was pulled.

7. Beavis and Butthead: America’s dumbest teens shoot down an airplane

In “Heroes,” Beavis and Butthead manage to take down a commercial airliner while they’re haphazardly firing off guns in a field. The decision to pull the episode seems more relevant now than ever.

Another episode, “Incognito,” featured Beavis and Butthead bringing a gun to school. The episode was taken out of rotation years later, post-Columbine.

8. TaleSpin: WWII satire falls flat

Originally airing on November 1, 1990, a TaleSpin episode called "Last Horizon" featured Baloo’s discovery of “Panda-La,” a nation that appears to welcome him with open arms. We quickly discover that Panda-La is only using Baloo to gain information about his hometown of Cape Suzette, which they intend to attack and conquer.

The negative Asian stereotypes represented by some of the characters and the episode’s similarity to events that happened during WWII caused “Last Horizon” to be temporarily banned. That being said, it’s aired on Toon Disney at least once since then, in 2002. Another TaleSpin episode called “Flying Dupes” has been permanently banned for its terrorist themes - Baloo is unwittingly asked to deliver a bomb to the Thembrian High Marshall.

9. Darkwing Duck: The Devil takes DW’s soul

In 1992, the Halloween episode of Darkwing Duck had DW and Gosalyn visiting Morgana McCawber’s magic school. While they’re there, a devil named Beelzebub decides to challenge himself by stealing Darkwing Duck’s soul instead of the usual used car salesmen and politicians. It actually aired a few times before getting yanked, and you can still see the whole thing on YouTube (and embedded above).

10. Pepper Ann gets away with a bunch of boob jokes

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Image: Wikia

In the season one finale of Pepper Ann, a gym teacher mentions to our title character that she’ll need some “support” to jump on the trampoline. Pepper Ann thinks the teacher means that she needs a bra; hilarity ensues. That night, Pepper Ann’s mother asks her if she wants breasts. She means chicken breasts, of course. At the next gym class, P.A. is asked where her support is. In response, Pepper Ann flashes everyone, which is when she is informed that “support” meant a “support buddy,” not a bra. Though most episodes of Pepper Ann were rated TV-Y (appropriate for all children), this one was rated TV-Y7 (directed to children 7 and older).

11. SpongeBob Accused of Peddling Gay Propaganda

Perhaps the most scathing (and ridiculous) attack on this popular Nicktoon came in 2012, when the Ukrainian National Expert Commission for Protecting Public Morality argued that SpongeBob not only “promoted homosexuality” but was part of a “large-scale experiment” designed to transform the nation’s youth into “criminals and perverts.” See Also: 10 Controversies Caused by Nicktoons.

Top image: Still from Scooby-Doo! Frankencreepy episode, via YouTube.

[Source: Mental Floss. Edited. Some images added.]


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10 Bizarre Birth Mutations In Animals
By Elizabeth S. Anderson,
Listverse, 29 August 2014.

An octopus is called an octopus because it has eight tentacles. But when it has six tentacles, what is it called? A hexapus? A six-tentacled octopus? What do we call a goat with eight legs and both male and female organs? Or a three-headed frog?

10. ‘Henry,’ The Hexapus

Henry, an octopus at Blackpool Sealife - a British Aquarium - has six tentacles. He was caught off the coast of Wales and was transferred to a local zoo where he was picked up along with seven other octopuses by Blackpool Sealife. His mutation was only discovered when he attached himself to his glass tank in the aquarium. Octopuses are capable of regrowing their tentacles if they ever get cut off, but Henry did not have any space in between his tentacles to allow more to regrow, so the possibility of his tentacles having been cut off is ruled out.

Workers at Blackpool Sealife searched the Internet and spoke to several other aquariums, but none had any record of a six-tentacled octopus, making Henry the first hexapus to be documented. He is not a new species but a product of genetic mutation. Technically, he is known as a lesser octopus. Though the name “Henry” was chosen because it alliterates with hexapus, there are rumours that he was named after King Henry VIII, who married six wives even though he could have married eight.

9. ‘Octogoat,’ The Eight-Legged Goat

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When Zoran Poparic, a farmer in Kutjeva, Croatia, saw one of the kids his goat Sarka had given birth to, he had to call a neighbour to help confirm that he wasn’t going crazy. The kid had eight legs and both male and female organs. Local veterinarians believe that the goat, named Octogoat, absorbed its undeveloped twin while still in the womb. Octogoat was born with two other kids which were normal. Its mother, which Zoran had owned for four years, had also given birth to normal triplets on four different occasions. Even with its eight legs, Octogoat did not have the strength to stand and couldn’t walk, proving that eight legs aren’t always better than four.

It was believed that Octogoat wouldn’t survive the first week after birth and, even if it did, it’s unlikely to live for more than two or three years. Zoran said that he would make Octogoat his pet if it survived. The goat’s current state is unknown.

8. ‘Faith,’ The Two-Legged Dog

At birth, Faith suffered from a brain defect which didn’t allow for the full development of her front legs. She couldn’t walk and had been rejected by her mother - a homeless dog which had tried to kill her. She was found by 17-year-old Reuben Stringfellow, who gave her to his mother. Her two front legs later began to weaken and had to be amputated.

Left with only two hind legs, Faith was taught how to stand, walk, hop, and run. Today, Faith walks on her hind legs just like a human being. She has met with several celebrities and has even appeared on The Oprah Show. She has visited several military bases and hospitals where she serves as a form of encouragement for injured soldiers and veterans. She has even been made an honorary sergeant in the US Army and was considered for a role in the fourth Harry Potter movie, The Goblet of Fire.

7. ‘We,’ The Two-Headed Albino Rat Snake

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Black rat snakes are usually all black except for their chins, which are white. But one black rat snake called “We” isn’t black - it’s an albino. It also has two heads and both male and female organs. We was purchased by World Aquarium in St. Louis from its owner for US$15,000 when it was just a few weeks old, back in 1999. We was visited by more than a million people over the years before its death at the age of eight.

The two-headed snake would often try to move in two different directions at the same time. World Aquarium also tried breeding it with another two-headed snake but was unsuccessful. The snake hit international fame in 2006 when World Aquarium tried auctioning it for US$150,000. The auction was unsuccessful, but We was adopted by Nutra Pharma, a biotechnology company which is into the production of drugs for HIV and multiple sclerosis.

Two-headed snakes generally have a very low survival rate in the wild. The two heads are known to fight each other for food and, in some cases, will attempt to eat each other. Only one two-headed black snake is known to have lived for 20 years.

6. ‘Froggy,’ The Three-Headed Frog

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While mutant frogs are not totally unheard of, one with three heads is still incredibly rare. A mutant frog with three heads and six legs was found in the garden of Green Umbrella Nursery in the UK in 2004. The discovery was made by a student who had just been dropped at the nursery on a Thursday morning. The students at the nursery initially thought it was three frogs cuddling with each other, but were surprised when it turned out to be one frog.

School staff captured the frog and put it in a tank. By Friday morning, the frog was discovered to have escaped. Froggy’s eyes and legs seemed to function normally, but it is unknown whether its three mouths were fully functional. A professor of biology at the Open University said that although mutant frogs have been reported for about 200 years, one with three heads and six legs is completely unheard of. The mutation could be due to parasites, pollution, or genetic mutation. Some people believe that the mutation is an aftereffect of the decommissioned Hinkley nuclear power station, which is 19 kilometres (12 mi) away from Green Umbrella Nursery.

5. Squittens

Squittens - from the words “squirrel” and “kitten” - were once thought to be the product of a squirrel and a cat. This is because they have short front paws and usually have to stand on their hind legs like squirrels. In reality, they’re cats who are affected by a mutation called radial hypoplasia, or RH, which stops their front paws from becoming fully developed. In mild cases of RH, the cats still make use of the front paws to hop like rabbits. In moderate cases, they hunt with their hind legs and may even use their tail to balance, just like kangaroos. In severe cases of RH, they move entirely with their hind legs and look like squirrels when standing upright. They are also sometimes called dinosaur cats or kangaroo cats.

Squittens encounter problems with climbing, particularly when coming out of trees. They also have problems when descending from stairs, and some have even been observed descending backwards. One squitten called Kanga was born along with three other normal kittens. She also suffers from megaesophagus, which requires her to eat a special diet while standing upright because she has difficulty swallowing. Another is Petal, who lives with her adopted owner in New Yorkshire, England, along with another squitten named Honey.

4. ‘Rudy,’ The Two-Headed Pig

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A pig called Rudy has two heads, two snouts, two ears, and three eyes. The middle eye - which is where the two heads meet - is blind. It was purchased from its owner for US$5,000 by animal rescue group Pigs Without Partners, who renamed it Ditto. Only one of Ditto’s snouts was functional, and it had to wear a little helmet in case it fell over.

Its whole life, Ditto had problems walking and had to use a special walker to get around. It had only begun learning how to use its two front legs when it died in 1998, just two months after getting to Pigs Without Partners. Before its death, it had become unstable and had a habit of falling on its left side. Its face was preserved to help research facial deformities in children. A pig with a similar condition was born in Jiujiang, China in 2003.

3. ‘Kenny,’ The White Tiger

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Kenny was a white tiger who was rescued along with his brother, Willie - a normal, orange-coated tiger - by Turpentine Creek Wildlife Reserve in Arkansas in 2000. Kenny was mentally disabled and had a deformed face which prevented him from shutting his mouth properly. Willie, on the other hand, was cross-eyed. Kenny’s and Willie’s parents are siblings who were made to mate by a breeder who hoped to get a white tiger. The breeder later gave up on the two brothers after he encountered difficulties selling them due to their deformities.

White tigers don’t exist naturally. The only way to produce them is by breeding closely related tigers through generations until the right mutation occurs. Most are born with health problems and physical deformities. The gene that causes their coats to become white also causes the optic nerve to become connected to the wrong side of the brain, making all white tigers cross-eyed. They also suffer from cleft palates, club feet, immune deficiency, and deformities in their spines and organs. In fact, most white tigers are stillborn, and those who aren’t typically die early. Kenny died of cancer in 2008.

2. Polydactyl Cats

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Photo credit: Stale Johnsen

Polydactylism is when an animal has more than the normal number of toes. It is most common in cats, which normally have five toes in each of their front paws and four at the back. Polydactyl cats, however, have more than that. Jake, a male tabby cat from Canada, is recognized as the cat with the most toes. He has a whopping 28 toes - seven on each foot. Polydactylism, which means “many fingered,” is more common among cats in England, Wales, Eastern US, and Canada than anywhere else in the world. They were popularized by famed writer Ernest Hemingway, and are sometimes called “Hemingway cats.” They are also sometimes called “snowshoe paws” or “pancake feet” because the extra toes make them appear to have big feet.

As many as 30 out of the 60 cats currently living in Hemingway’s estate are polydactyl. President Theodore Roosevelt also had one called Slippers. Unlike many other mutations, polydactylism is an advantage. People generally love the look of polydactyl cats, and the cats have been known to use their extra toes to open windows and latches.

1. ‘Frank And Louie,’ The Two-Faced Cat

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Frank and Louie is the name of a cat with one head, two faces, and three eyes. Their mutation is called diprosopia or craniofacial duplication - a very rare type of mutation that causes an animal or human being to have two faces on one head. Cats affected with this mutation are also called “Janus cats” after Janus, the Roman god of transitions, gates, and doorways, who’s depicted as having two faces. Though diprosopia has often been recorded in cats, most do not live past a couple days. Frank and Louie turned 12 years old on September 8, 2011, earning them a place in the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s oldest Janus cats.

They are owned by Marty Stevens, a veterinary technician who adopted them after their owner brought them to the clinic where she worked to have them euthanized. The cats have one brain, and their middle eye - which is also their biggest eye - does not function. They eat with Frank’s face, since Louie’s face does not have a lower jaw and is not connected to their esophagus.

+ ‘Stumpy,’ The Four-Legged Duck

Stumpy, a four-legged duck, was born at Warrawee Duck Farm in the UK in 2007. The two extra legs couldn’t be used for walking and instead just hung behind its two main legs - although they did help it remain stable when it was younger. Stumpy was kept in a pen after birth because his owner feared that his extra limbs would get caught in shrubs. One of its extra legs did end up getting caught in a fence and had to be removed by a vet. The second one also turned black and fell off, leaving stumpy with two stumps where the extra legs had been.

Top image: Stumpy, the four-legged duck, via Metro.

[Source: Listverse. Edited. Top image added.]


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These 5 Smart Home Security Gadgets Could Kill Traditional Security Services
By Nicholas Greene,
The Coolist, 27 August 2014.

Many of the most promising gadgets of the connected revolution are designed with the smart home in mind. This means smart thermostats, smart smoke detectors, smart cooking devices and even smart home security gadgets. There now exists a plethora of smart security systems that allow a user to manage, monitor, and protect their homes with nothing but a smartphone and a few cameras. That’s great news for tech savvy users like us - and bad news for traditional home security companies.

With a couple hundred bucks and a will to keep your home safe, there is an increasing number of gadgets available for smart home security.  We’ve cut through the fluff and analyzed the 5 best smart home security gadgets on (or approaching) the market today, from Canary to Dropcam and more.

1. Canary Learns What’s Normal - So That It Can Recognize What Isn’t

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A lot of security tools rely on sensors to keep track of what’s going on around the house - Canary isn’t one of them. It’s one of the first intelligent monitoring gadgets - after being placed in a central area of the home and connected to Wi-Fi, it’ll start to adapt to the normal rhythm of your home - activity, noise levels, air quality, temperature, and humidity. This allows it to be much smarter about when it sends you security notifications, reducing the chance of a false alarm.

  • Adapts to your home, significantly reduces the risk of a false positive; knows the difference between pets and people.
  • Incredibly easy to use.
  • Ability to set up a secondary and tertiary controller in the event that you miss a notification.
  • Lack of external sensors/peripherals means you’ll need a canary for each room/floor of your home.
  • Doesn’t communicate with other smart devices.
  • Lack of an internal battery means no security in the event of a power outage.

2. Blink HD is Smart Home Security Without Breaking The Bank

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The battery-powered Blink HD is designed with cost in mind - meaning it’s easy to create your own cloud-connected security network. Each Blink unit connects seamlessly with the others through a Sync Unit, at which point they can all be controlled with ease through the built-in smartphone app. Whenever the system detects something amiss, it’ll send you a notification – complete with a video clip if motion was detected. From there, it’s simply a matter of deciding whether to ignore it, contact police, or trigger the alarm.

  • Small and easy to hide.
  • Cost is just a fraction of other security devices.
  • Battery-powered, meaning it can be placed just about anywhere. This battery lasts up to a year on a single charge.
  • Doesn’t monitor as many details as other devices.
  • Pets could be a problem for motion detection.
  • Doesn’t communicate with any other smart devices.

3. Toss Up A Dropcam To Keep Tabs On Your House

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What makes Dropcam unique is that it’s more than just a security system - it actually allows the user to drop in and chat with whoever is in the room at the moment, be they pets, friends, family, or an uninvited guest. Set up only takes a few minutes, at most; after taking it out of the box, it’s just a matter of plugging it in, connecting to your Wi-Fi network, and creating a free Dropcam account. An optional cloud recording feature enables you to set up a constant, live security feed of your house, letting you store up to 720 hours of video.

  • Can be used to record, edit, and stream live video of your house to the world.
  • Two-way chat allows it to be used to stay connected to family members or pets.
  • Activity recognition lets you label certain sounds/movements as a common occurrence.
  • Standard Dropcam model doesn’t feature activity recognition.
  • Cloud recording requires a monthly subscription.
  • Lacks an internal battery, limiting where it can be set up.

4. Piper Makes Automating Your House A Breeze

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Piper is more than just a security tool - it’s a home automation device. It can monitor pretty much everything that goes on in your home, from ambient light/sound/temperature/motion to what doors and windows are being opened at any given time. In addition, through a suite of  Z-wave devices, it can control your lights and appliances, either remotely or automatically. The ability to establish a set of ‘rules’ within the device further means that it responds to a situation the way you want it to - without requiring any intervention on your part.

  • Connects seamlessly with Z-wave smart devices.
  • Easy home automation through a set of user-defined rules.
  • Features sensors for temperature, humidity, ambient light, ambient sound, and motion.
  • Rule-based automation might not work with every situation.
  • Somewhat more expensive than other options on the list.

5. Say Hello To Sentri: The Smarter Home Security Hub

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Sentri isn’t just designed to secure your home - it’s designed to connect you with it like never before. Using Sentri, you’ll be able to monitor pretty much every aspect of your house, including ambient air temperature, humidity, sound,  light, and motion. With a sleek user interface and a beautiful design, [Sentri at Kickstarter]

  • Designed to learn your personal habits and preferences.
  • Can be used to automate your entire home.
  • Beautiful interface with a customizable clock face and backgrounds.
  • Without a doubt, the most expensive device on this list.

Top image: Sentri. Credit: Sentri Facebook.

[Source: The Coolist. Edited. Top image added.]