Whether you spare just one lucky pumpkin from the death of a thousand cuts or buy one anyway and put it directly into the cooking pot for pie filling, you can make a ‘green’ statement on the night that’s traditionally bathed in black and orange by displaying a Mac-O-Lantern.

Technically, that’s an old, still-working, one-piece Macintosh computer (which you may have in storage somewhere, in a dark corner of the basement or the back of a closet) resurrected, painted bright orange and lit up with a big, bright Mac Paint Jack-o-Lantern face on its screen.

The old, original Macs are ideal for this application because of their shape and size, eerily like a good-sized (albeit, square) pumpkin. But you can use any old computer and monitor as a technology platform and any paint or draw graphics program to create the face. Strictly speaking, you don’t even have to paint the monitor orange. In fact, if you have a colour monitor you can use, just drape it with a black cloth and create a full-screen Jack-O-Lantern image in traditional orange and black.

Now, I know some readers are already thinking about what they could do with a rolling Power Point presentation, rather than just a static pumpkin face… Well, it’s your ‘Mac-O-Lantern’, so go to town!

For advanced computer users who really, really love Hallowe’en, there’s the ultimate digital fright night display option: A full-blown video scare show rear-projected on a plain white sheet hung inside your front window.

(Tip: If you use only images and avoid text, you won’t have to worry about anything appearing backwards to viewers outside, on the street…)

From all of us at TECHLife Post, have a happy, safe Hallowe’en!

A study by researchers from King’s College, London (UK) indicates that British 14-year-olds are less intelligent — or, at least, their intellects are less developed — than 14-year-olds 30 years ago. Specifically, Professor Michael Shayer, who led the study team, says the average 14-year-old today is about as bright as the average 12-year-old in 1976.

Researchers recently gave 800 London teens aged 13 and 14 a series of tests addressing their their understanding of abstract scientific concepts such as volume, density, quantity and weight.

Kids who took similar tests back in 1976 performed significantly better in tests which the researchers rated as requiring ‘a higher level of thinking’. However, kids from both generations appeared to score almsot equally in terms of ‘average achievement’.

Shayer postulates that the decline in brainpower among British youth has occurred mainly in the past 10 to 15 years. He identifies changes in the British education system (preparing children for specific achievement tests rather than encouraging creative thinking) as well as the growing popularity of television watching and video games for the apparent dumbing down of British youth.

Microsoft, Yahoo!, Western Union and the African Development Bank (ADB) have teamed up to help educate Internet users about the continuing threat from fake lottery e-mails.

The new anti-scam alliance was announced earlier this week at the 6th German Anti Spam Summit in Wiesbaden, DE.

Spam e-mails claiming the recipient is the winner of an off-shore lottery were among the first widespread online social engineering scams and have continued to plague the Internet for years. Unwitting recipients are told they must provide financial details, often including bank account numbers, so their winnings can be electronically transferred to them. Of course, there isn’t really any lottery, much less any winnings. The bad guys use victims’ banking information to take money out of their accounts rather than putting any in. And, because the bad guys almost always transfer victims’ money to foreign countries, there’s no way to track them down and get it back.

The ADB is involved because many such scams have originated in, and continue to operate from, developing African nations such as Nigeria.

Just over two per cent of almost 5,000 Internet users polled in a recent Microsoft global survey reported they had lost money in e-mail lottery scams and similar online frauds last year.

It’s not so much about the big-screen LCD TV that folds away under his bed. It’s about the gadget that makes the TV fold away under the bed. (Check out the video at the K2 Web site.)

The Underbed Lift, from K2 mounts, can neatly stow Plasma or LCD TVs up to 50 in. (diagonal) in size and weighing up to 165 lb / 75 kg under a standard king- or queen-size bed — and automatically deploy them for bedtime viewing at the touch of a button. Alas, the Underbed Lift can’t be used with captain’s beds (with drawers beneath) or waterbeds (on solid platforms). A minimum of 8 in. of clearance is required.

What about installation? The Lift is designed with every imaginable user in mind, the K2 Web site assures us:

“If you select our wiring package, you receive our lift pre-wired for 7.1 Surround, tactile transducers, DVI, VGA, S-Video, component, subwoofer and surge suppressor which will substantially reduce your installation time and costs. A specialized equipment enclosure places all of the AV equipment in the lift and under the bed. Use your own speakers or choose one of our high quality speaker packages to create the ultimate sound experience.”

Just one problem, as far as we can see: Neither the K2 Web site nor any of the retailers it lists deigns to mention a price for the Underbed Lift. Which leads us to infer that it’s pretty expensive…

Legislation has been introduced in the Ontario legislature that would make the province the fourth Canadian jurisdiction to ban the use of cell phones while driving a motor vehicle.

But the legislation goes further than just cell phones. It also covers hand-held GPSs and other handheld digital devices.

Conversely, dash-mounted GPSs and cell phones with hands-free ear-pieces would be exempt from the ban.

Controversy continues to surround hands-free cell phones. The Ontario Medical Association (OMA) recently warned that hands-free phones are just as distracting to drivers as hand-held devices because users must still divide their attention between the conversation and the road.

Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association (CWTA) rep Marc Choma told reporters his organization doesn’t oppose the ban on the use of handhelds while driving but would prefer that governments address the problem of driver distraction more broadly: “At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if someone is eating a hamburger, trying to text-message someone or trying to change a baby’s diaper … it’s going to get you into trouble.”

Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and Québec already have laws in place banning the use of handheld cell phones while driving.

Microsoft (MS) yesterday announced it was matching the original (C)$25,000 offered for information leading to the return home of a missing Canadian Xbox Live user, bringing the total reward to (C)$50,000.

Fifteen-year-old Brandon Crisp of Barrie, Ontario, was last seen October 13, following a dispute with his parents over what they considered excessive amounts of time spent playing online games on the MS Xbox Live gaming site. The situation apparently came to a head when his parents took Brandon’s Xbox away.

MS is reportedly cooperating fully with police in the search for the 15-year-old, Crisp’s father told reporters yesterday. That apparently includes making a rare exception to the company’s own Xbox Live player privacy policy, releasing Brandon’s account records to police.

A Web site has been set up to aggregate news and information about Brandon Crisp’s disappearance.

From: Reuters

Canadian broadcasters, online radio stations, electronic gaming Web sites and other Internet services that use copyrighted music must now pay royalties to the owners of those tunes. New royalty regulations, imposed by the Copyright Board of Canada, came into effect yesterday.

The new regulations do not affect personal blogs, MySpace / YouTube posts, or background music Webcasts piped into hotels and restaurants.

As Reuters reports, “The tariff decision was prompted by the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada (SOCAN), a performance-rights group, which has long called for music royalties for Internet-base distribution and delivery of music product for which artists hold a copyright.”

A new IBM study indicates that Internet users around the world plan to increase their mobile Internet activities significantly over the next two years.

The survey, which polled some 600 consumers in the U.S., China and the UK, revealed that nearly 40 per cent of users expect increase their Internet use on mobile devices by an average of 40 per cent by 2011.

The survey also showed that communication, travel and navigation (mapping and GPS) applications will likely lead the way in increased mobile Internet usage, followed closely in popularity by news and information services.

A full 50 per cent of users surveyed said they foresee a time when their mobile devices will become their main gateway to the Internet.

The Go Mobile, Grow study, produced by IBM’s Institute for Business Value, is available in it’s entirety at the IBM Web site.

A faithful Polish GPS user apparently ignored multiple warning signs and drove his Mercedes SUV right into a man-made lake last week.

“It was still night time and he didn’t notice the road led into the lake. His GPS told him to drive straight ahead and he did,” police spokesman Piotr Smolen told reporters.

Smolen added that the warning signs had been in place for more than a year, since the road was closed. He also noted that — in spite of what some readers may have assumed — alcohol was not a factor in the accident.

The lesson in all this for GPS users: Like many of the satellite photos on Google Earth, the data on which your GPS unit relies when giving you directions may be seriously out of date.

The Olympus E-520 is a small, 10 megapixel digital SLR that boasts an array of features including in-camera image stabilization, live view on the camera’s 2.7” LCD display, and a supersonic dust reduction system on its image sensor. Indoors the E-520 performed well, both in available light (leveraging the image stabilization feature) and using the small pop-up flash. While anyone doing any amount of indoor photography would benefit from an external flash, the pop-up’s performance was on par with that of other SLRs. Outdoors I found the exposure system quite accurate, even in challenging conditions.

Olympus was the first SLR manufacturer to build “live view “capability into their SLRs, and for those of us used to viewing the world through the viewfinder, the ability to compose a shot on the LCD display is a great plus, especially on a tripod. When activated, the live view function does increase shutter lag, making the viewfinder a better choice for moving subjects.

I tested the camera with an Olympus 14-42mm lens (35mm equivalent of 28-84mm) and was impressed with its handling with one exception: The manual focus ring on the camera is electronic, not mechanical. While I didn’t find that to be an issue, it might annoy some photographers who do a lot of manual focusing.

Olympus has established a reputation for accurate colours and neutral images, and the E-520 follows suit. However, what really stands out is that the E-520 with 14-42mm lens and battery weighed in at a mere 765g, making it one the smallest and lightest full-featured SLRs I have tested to date and an excellent candidate for travel abroad or across town.

[ Sponsored by SmugMug. Use coupon code TECHLife for a 20% discount. ]

An independent Internet security researcher is warning that there’s a serious flaw in Google’s Android cell phone operating system — centrepiece of the new G1 smart phone launched last week by T-Mobile in several major U.S. markets.

Researcher Charles Miller of Independent Security Evaluators (ISE), based in Baltimore, MD, says Android’s greatest strength may also be its Achilles heel: It apparently contains a flaw similar to that in full-scale computer operating systems making it vulnerable to the same kind of ‘social engineering’ attacks currently plaguing Internet-connected computer users.

Like non-mobile surfers, Android users could be lured to visiting booby-trapped Web sites that could clandestinely place the user’s cell phone under the control of criminals.

Miller notes that ISE has already alerted Google to the threat and Google is working with T-Mobile and other providers planning to provide Android-based phones to fix the problem.

Google today released a new custom version of its Google Earth application for the iPhone and iPod Touch.

The enhanced application rotates its view automatically in response to physical rotation of the Touch device you’re using. Jump to your current location with a single keystroke. Enjoy direct access to Google Search, Panoramio and Wikipedia for background information and media on your Google Earth search targets.

Google Earth for Touch is available free from the iPhone or iTunes App Store.