Tag Archives: Mechanical engineering

Kryptonite’s Task And The Real Cluetrain Lesson

For those of you following the Kryptonite – Bic Pen story (where customers found their supposedly impregnable bike lock could be opened with a cheap plastic pen, and quickly told the world about it via their blogs, while the company pretended it wasn’t happening) — it seems the company’s return program is getting into swing.

A message on its website on Friday says “thousands of replacement locks have been sent out to customers in the last few weeks. Kryptonite continues to manufacture and ship new products to consumers on a weekly basis. The whole process of the Lock Exchange Program is a complex one with manufacturing and transportation all coming into play. We are building and air shipping the new locks to get them out to our customers as fast as possible.” You can’t help feeling sorry for them, although, as plenty of folk have pointed out, their slow response only made it worse.

One thing that deserves a closer look are reports that the Bic pen information was not new — it was just better disseminated. The problem, some websites have said, was first highlighted by British freelance journalist and cartoonist John Stuart Clark in 1992. His methods — collaborating with a ‘professional villain’ undermined his story and the vulnerability was largely forgotten (except by the professional villain community, presumably). The original article is worth a read (PDF only).

In fact, although he mentions Bic pens, nowhere in the article can I find specific mention of its usage in opening locks (I’ve read mention of other British media picking up the Bic Pen issue at the time, but haven’t found any exact evidence of this yet). What does come across, however, is that there is really no such thing as a secure lock. If you know your Bruce Schneier, this is not surprising. A lock is simply a deterrent which the user hopes would keep the bad guy busy long enough for it not to be worth his while. Most locks, the article points out, can be broken within a minute or two, so the calculation for the owner should be: Is my bike in a place where a thief could not afford to take that long to break the lock?

If this Kryptonite case is a Cluetrain ‘markets are conversations’ moment, maybe that is the lesson we should all be taking away, not just that some locks are hopeless? After all, other manufacturers and vendors are being quick to claim their products are Bic-pen safe…

News: Great News For Bad Parkers

 Japan is now seeling a car that parks itself. Reuters reports that Toyota’s new hybrid gasoline-electric Prius sedan uses electrically operated power steering and sensors that help guide the car when reversing into parking spaces. Rivals General Motors Corp and Ford Motor Co will launch their first hybrids later this year.

Hardware: Notebook Chillout

 A problem I keep having with my notebook is that it catches fire a lot. Well, not actually on fire, but it gets very, very hot. Here’s a possible solution: Antec’s new Notebook Cooler.

Designed to draw a continual flow of cool air across the computer’s hottest surface, Antec’s Notebook Cooler fits underneath a laptop. Its aluminum surface helps conduct heat away from the system and its 388 ventilation holes keep a steady distribution of airflow from two 70mm fans. Cost? $39.95.