$10 Police Flashlight Hack! - video powered by Metacafe
There’s some insight and a considerable amount of confusion in the LifeHacker thread about this video, so rather than tack a wordy comment onto the end, I decided to post about it here. And then it sort of snowballed. But first, the flashlight thing.
Yes, you can relatively easily upgrade cheap flashlights with a higher voltage battery pack and a cheap bulb to match. Grab any old Maglite clone, install 12 volts worth of cordless-drill NiCds and a 50 watt halogen downlight globe (or more), and you’re in business (not much run time, but feel the brightness!). CandlePowerForums is an excellent place to kick off your new obsession with flashlights (or it would be, if it weren’t down at the moment).
This particular project, though, isn’t a good idea.
One commenter observed that the flashlight might melt, but I wouldn’t worry too much about that; I reckon running a bulb meant for six volts from three CR123s will burn it out long before it manages to make the plastic smell funny. You’re pushing the bulb to something approaching twice its rated wattage - filament lamps increase in resistance as the filament heats, so you can’t do a simple V=IR calculation for higher input voltage, but the difference isn’t huge over normal working power ranges. Double power will absolutely murder the poor little thing.
Surefire, in contrast, rate their filament lamps for 30 hours of life, and it’s hard to find anybody who’s had one blow that soon, even if they drop their light, hit things with it, or screw it onto a frequently-used firearm.
(Normal flashlight bulbs do not like being shocked while they’re operating, as anybody who’s ever hammered on a tyre iron with their 6-D Maglite and killed both the working bulb and the foam-padded spare will know. The Radio Shack bulb is rated for 15 hours, but that doesn’t include dropping the flashlight. LED lamps, in contrast, are rather more shockproof than many other components of a flashlight.)
I’d be very surprised if the bulb in this “overclocked” flashlight lasted 30 minutes. 30 seconds would not be out of the question, with fresh CR123s.
But then, as I’d reached the above point in the writing of this post, I noticed that a couple of commenters on the Lifehacker thread said they’d done the hack and it worked fine.
So I decided to give it the benefit of the doubt. Maybe that Radio Shack bulb is just unusually strong?
Then, though, I clicked through to the Metacafe page for the video in question. And discovered that it had by that point earned (according to the Metacafe money-for-popular-videos system; I believe the origin of this money involves underpants gnomes) its creator nine hundred and fifty-six American dollars.
And it’s not “Kipkay”’s biggest earner, either.
Even then, I could have let it go; it’s not as if the guy’s stealing from orphans, and what the hey, the trick may work.
But then I looked at some of Kipkay’s other videos.
DVD Player Hack! - Click here for the most popular videos
The sum total of the useful information in this one, for instance, can be boiled down to one URL. But it’s still made Kip $935 to date!
Trace Any IP Address Or Website! - Click here for more free videos
More than thirteen hundred bucks, for this one.
Let’s ignore “the name of the IP address”, Kip’s instruction to use tracert when ping will do the same job, and the fact that at first glance he appears to be cool with the idea that the White House is in Boston. The major point is that geographic IP address locating cannot ever be more than vaguely accurate.
The site Kip suggests does its best, but it still confidently puts me 94 kilometres by road from where I actually live. It places the White House’s IP address somewhere near the corner of P Street and 8th in Washington DC. That’s only about a kilometre off, but the effective range of my RPG-7 is quite a lot less than that, Kip! Gimme information I can use!
Kip’s got plenty of videos that’re perfectly genuine, plus others like this one ($665!) that’re borderline enough not to matter.
Make Traffic Lights Change!! Amazing! - Click here for this week’s top video clips
And this ($765!), while a complete and unexpurgated lie and probably plagiarised, could be classed as a harmless prank since it just gives people something to do while they wait for the lights to change.
And this one…
Potatoes Power My MP3 Player! Amazing! - Free videos are just a click away
…could be taken as a lame attempt to imitate the far more stylish (and, I think, rather less profitable) Mark Erickson, who, in case you’re wondering, is not the same person as Kip.
(I still, however, think Kip should suffer one disfiguring skin ailment for every child who tries to build this potato battery and is left disappointed by Kip’s lies.)
If I were very charitable I could even give Kip a pass for calling this…
Cool Ball Bearing Rocket! - These bloopers are hilarious
…”a new trick with ball bearings and magnets”, despite the fact that the 2002-vintage scitoys.com page for the exact same thing has for ages been the number one hit in a Google search for “gauss gun” (which, yes, should technically be a coil gun, but never mind).
(Kip also rips off a #1-hit Science Toys page for this video. Oh, and he’s not above ripping off Mythbusters, either. And he copies his floppy disk Enterprise from this four-year-old page.)
But then there’s this…
HyperMiling! Plus Secret Trick! - A funny movie is a click away
…which starts with sensible tips and then slides into bullshit about acetone, which will absolutely not improve your fuel economy - it’s another one of those strange phenomena that seems to happen less and less the better you test to see whether it’s happening at all.
But hey, who cares about the hoses and seals in the cars of suckers, when Metacafe will give you twelve hundred bucks for talking crap!
And then there’s this:
Does GOD Exist? The Eye… - The best video clips are here
Oh, and I choose my words with care here, for fuck’s sake. This one’s only made $157 to date, but that’s about a million dollars more than this Pascal’s Wager of the creation-evolution “debate” is currently worth.
(What’s with the “100 years of [unspecified] Cray time” part, you might be wondering? That’s because Kip can’t even come up with his own Creationist claptrap, so what he’s reading here was originally published in Byte magazine in nineteen eighty-five, and presumably republished without permission in some pamphlet Kip’s pastor gave him.)
Getting back to nerdly topics, check out this one, billed as “You’ve seen it all over the internet but this is the original version!”:
9 Volt Battery Hack! You’ll Be Suprised… - The best free videos are right here
Well, OK, when I mentioned it in 2001 I didn’t actually say that this was an emergency AAA-equivalent source. But I didn’t pretend to have invented the idea, either.
I realise this isn’t exactly an Ebert-versus-Schneider-level put-down. All Kip’s doing is taking Metacafe’s money for making videos for which people vote with their clicks. And it’s not as if I’m starving in a garret or something; I for one would take Kip’s money with a smile on my face and a song in my heart, but I don’t need it.
But it’s just so dispiriting.
I know that out in the real world the people who fix their eyes on the prize and do what’s necessary to get it, bugger the consequences, are always the ones who end up sleeping like babies on mattresses stuffed with money. I get that. But I thought things might be just a little fairer here in the Internet fantasyland.
There are lots of super-cool people out there in the hacking, fabricating and doing-science-at-home communities. They’re seldom in it for the money, which is good, because there’s seldom anything other than a large negative amount of money in it.
But if you think Kip deserves the money he’s made more than, oh, Matthias Wandel, there is something wrong with you.
And don’t e-mail me if you do believe Kip deserves the money more, because I already know why you think that. You read books about selling, and you think the boy’s got “chutzpah”, right?
Bullshit artists with selling skills are Part Of The Problem. They sell expensive credit to poor people, they sell worthless remedies to the sick, they sell wars to whole countries.
The rest of us don’t need you people, and I don’t care what you learned when you got your degree in marketing.
The world already has an ample supply of bullshit, Kip. Give us all a break and stop adding more.