2009 - Gadget Victims


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Bring your FI8908W paperweight back to life

12/24/2009 10:10:00 AM 353
If you're part of the numerous people who bricked their ip camera at any stage, maybe you kept it (as a door stopper, a paperweight or a dummy camera). In that case, there is one last thing you can try to make your camera functional again. It requires a small investment of less than €15 so I think it's really worth trying.

I obtained some information recently, thanks to Foscam tech support for most part, on a serial upgrade method that would fix cameras for which the firmware upgrade went bad.
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Some branding at last!

12/17/2009 01:05:00 PM 10
Foscam is primarily a OEM producer and therefore always left their products open to custom re-branding.
Over time, they acquired some popularity (probably due to both their firmware evolution and their present customer support) but it was nearly impossible to distinguish their products from others if you wanted to buy from them.

This is about to change finally as, starting with the December production, their product range will now carry a distinctive "Foscam" label.
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Digital Note Taker Pen

12/07/2009 03:55:00 PM 0
I got myself the"gadget of the month" from the local hard-discount shop and started to play with Medion Digital Note Taker (MD 86149).

This 2nd generation model is similar to what appeared under the IOGear brand about 2 years ago but it became cheaper enough today to trigger an impulsive buy (€59.99).
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The geek Xmas 2009 shopping basket

12/05/2009 09:42:00 PM 0
The festive online shopping deadline is coming fast (taking into account the shipping delay necessary to get those items from eBay, DealExtreme, Iwoot, Firebox, DX and such...)

So here's my short list of gadgets of interest for this year. I hope it will help you finding the inspiration:

Idea #1: A Cassette MP3 Player
For some reason, many new cars are still coming with an cassette auto-radio, and at best, a CD player that doesn't play MP3's. The most popular solution was to plug one of those MP3 players with FM transmitter but the sound quality would be quite poor and depend on unoccupied frequencies available. 

Now you can put an MP3 player shaped as a cassette directly into your auto-radio. Much nicer! It also works as a standalone player.

Found at Chinavasion.com for €17.51 incl. 2GB SD card.

Audience: owners of old or French car.

Idea #2: A Digital USB Microscope
The interest of this gadget really depends on the price you'll pay for it.
At close to €70 (called "new low price"!) from Firebox, I'd say, forget it. But from €28 (shipping included) on eBay, you may think twice.

Audience: student, teacher, engineer, hobbyist...

Idea #3: An Atari joystick key chain

After the full size re-edition of the Atari VCS 2600 joystick a few years ago, there's now a tiny keychain version, and it's still playable on a TV screen!
My only regret is that it come with only 2 games when a hundred would have fit easily. This gadget is NTSC only.

Found at Firebox for  €17

Audience: nostalgic geeks, kids from 40 and over.

Idea #4: An USB Missile launcher

Probably the most useless usb gadget on the market. For real fun, couple this with a web/ip-camera and remotely control the host computer to fire at innocent people passing by...

Found on eBay, cheapest: item #390118120613 for €25.6 delivered.
Enhanced version with Webcam on Firebox for €45.

Target: any human or pet.

Idea #5: A Digital Note Taker

I didn't like those electronic pens that work only on special and expensive paper. A much nicer alternative consist of a wireless receiver that captures everything done with it's dedicated pen (using standard ink refill), then, the receiver memory is dumped to a PC where it can be archived or processed through the provided OCR program. It can also nicely replace a graphic tablet although the accuracy is probably not as high. It was found commonly at over €200 realier this year, but it now dropped to €59.99.

Found in Aldi stores @ €59.99 (Medion branded) and eBay, item #220506455598 at €59.59

Audience: student, professionals, kids,...

Idea #6: A Binary watch

Maybe you know someone so geek he's drifting toward being rather a neird ?
Well you'll have a gift for this person too:
While a binary watch is really for a selected audience, most of them found on eBay are just stylish enough to start and finish their life in a drawer.
But this particular Ovo binary watch found at IWOOT is far more elegant and reasonably sized.

Found on I Want One of Those at €22

Audience: hardcore geek and casual neirds

Idea #7: A Rollnet kit

If your garden is too windy and your house too small for a full size table, this simple idea let you play table tennis on any flat surface.
The Artengo Rollnet is also reasonably priced.

Found in Decathlon stores from €14.90 (€19.90 with 2 bats and 3 balls)

Audience: casual tennis table players

Idea #8: the ultimate tea and coffee travel mug
The Double Shot model from Planetary Design is the last mug you may ever need. It does everything and comes complete with the traditional coffee lid, but also the plunger, and, concealed in the base, a small storage box for a refill of coffee, tea or sugar...

Found from around €25 in various places:

Audience: Coffee and Tea lovers (with a geeky twist)

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About winning "Hands Down" (WC2010)

11/19/2009 06:00:00 AM
You know, I think it comes from a cultural difference, this French way of winning their qualification to the FWC2010.

In English, there's this expression "Winning hands down". The origin is supposed to come from the horse racing world where a jockey would win so easily that he could afford to release the grip on the horse's reins.

I could not find the origin  of the French equivalent expression which is: "Gagner haut la main"(Winning hand high)...but now I guess it comes from soccer!

Well done, Tony Parker!

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Synology DS109 NAS

11/17/2009 12:23:00 PM 2
I became increasingly concerned by the safety of my data after that some loss and corruption occurred on my NexStar LX NAS, apparently following episodes of heavy disk activity. I'm still not sure who to blame: the NAS or the old Seagate Barracuda inside.
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Bloody Blogger!

11/17/2009 12:21:00 PM 0
I don't consider myself very knowledgeable on Blogger stuff, with my first blog not yet six months old, I'm still a newbie. But I certainly learned a lot because of all the problems I had so far, and in particular this week.  

I hope this short story of my recent misadventures with Blogger will help some of you: 

I must have been on another planet, but I read only this month that Google Pages would come to an end this month, and that's where I stored my shared files! This started a cascade of consequences for me.

First: Until now, I was using Google Pages as a convenient free storage for my few files and had to look for a alternative.
I wanted to avoid as much as possible a host like filefactory.com but instead a storage giving direct access with no waiting time to the files. As I only have a handful of small files, I tried free websites like Weebly and Jimdo. One was constantly nagging me with "Website not published" even though I made it public and published several times, and the other one gave me dns errors on the early stage of the registration.
Then I came accross DriveHQ.com which free membership comes with 1GB storage. They also have a client application that allows to drag and drop files from a local PC to their server: very convenient. See a review here. There's a drawback though, only a limited quantity of bytes can be downloaded monthly.

Second: I had to change all the references to the old file server (geekandfun.googlepages.com) by the url of the new one (www.drivehq.com/file/.../PublicFolder). That part was simply done by exporting the whole blog from the settings > blog tools, then performing a full search/replace for one string to the other using Notepad++.

Third: The fun really began here: Re-importing the blog turned into a silent disaster.
Silent, because, at first, everything looked fine, but once I started to click on the links in the Recent Comments section, it lead to a 404 error! Then I realized that, upon importing the posts, blogger had renamed all my posts with a numeric suffix at the end, so a page like:
was now named:

So all the local links in my blog were now wrong!
From my researches, what happens is that old deleted posts are still in blogger index, and the new one are automatically renamed. I tried leaving the new posts for a day, hopping that they would be re-indexed and the re-importing would allow to recover the original names, but it can take days before a re-indexing occurs, so I had to take a more drastic measure.

Fourth: I went to Blogger dashboard and imported both blog backup and template into a brand new blog. Then I had to re-assign the domain gadgetvictims.com from http://gadgethell.blogspot.com to http://geekandfun.blogspot.com.
Apparently, this "new" blog is in the process of being indexed right now, and everything came back to almost normal. Some links will be invalid though as Blogger still found the way to rename some posts like "wireless-pan-tilt-ip-camera.html" into "foscam-wireless-pan-tilt-ip-camera.html" but that's the price to pay to keep the readers comments safe. If you don't find a page after clicking on a link, just use the tag sphere or labels below each post to narrow down to that article, everything is still there!

I just hope that I won't have to find another file host any time soon!
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The War of the Clones

11/12/2009 12:16:00 PM 57
Foscam sent me a picture with the new sticker layout that comes with the FI8908W produced from October 2009. It was supposed to help identifying a Foscam camera from a clone. And, guess what? It does exactly the opposite !
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Replacing the lens of your IP camera

11/03/2009 11:52:00 AM 66

This very simple tweak cost 5€ and was suggested by a Spanish reader of this blog (thanks Villamany!).

The pictures he posted were not only demonstrating a much wider angle of vision but also a much better image quality than with the original lens (in the case of the Foscam fi8908w). So it convinced me to do the same.
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An original fi8908w and a clone side by side

11/02/2009 11:24:00 AM 6
Outside characteristics of Foscam camera have changed with time and the clues below are no longer valid. The best way to ensure that you buy a Foscam camera is to check their list of recommended resellers.
The best way to find out if the camera you already bought is a Foscam is to contact them directly with your device ID. You will then know if you can use firmwares found on this blog.
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Another cheap GPS...

10/20/2009 03:37:00 PM 0
I recently had to replace my 4.3" GPS (bricked during an experimentation, doh!) with
another cheap one advertised as "Galaxy's Thinnest GPS Portable Navigator" and sold at roughly €68 on Chinavasion.com and eBay. Despite the usual 21.5% VAT on arrival and an unexpected gigantic hidden fee from UPS (€13.5 !!!), it ended up just the same price as my previous device.

The main differences are: a nicer look, a bigger 5" screen, a faster CPU, WinCE 6.0, but no Bluetooth.

In many places, this unit is advertised as having a SiRFAtlas III but the one I received definitely reports a 533Mhz SiRFAtlas IV CPU which supposedly  means lower consumption and faster position fix acquisition from a cold start. I reckon it's the first time I see a GPS device picking the position from my office desk.

A microSD is present in the GPS unit, and it's filled with maps and voices for most parts of Europe.
iGO 8.3 is present, so it would seem ready for Text-to-Speech...if only the TTS dlls were not missing!
In fact the 2GB card provided is a bit too small to hold all the maps together with the required Loquendo files.

So, after cleaning some un-needed files, I could add them and it worked fine.

I was curious about the "enable the especial voice" option in the Volume settings, so I enabled it, expecting to hear something like "Hola, soy tu sistema de navegación por satélite!", but instead, it just enables some chime sounds to the touch screen interface.
About unlocking: well...the usual tricks to enable the ActiveSync mode didn't work.The user interface provides an option to browse to the executable to launch from the Navigation button (no more shell.ini or gpsrunfile.txt), but trying USBSetting.exe or a registry editor did not give the expected result and the unit still connects as a USB Flash Drive to the PC.

However the interface is already quite nice and complete with a good player, some games and it doesn't require special trick to swap from iGO to Amigo to TomTom, so this is not really necessary...but still, for the craic of it!...I guess it is possible to tweak it though, so I'll update this page when I come across a solution.

- iGO 8.3 pre-installed
- SiRFAtlas-IV (despite the manual saying III)
- Good battery life 
- Fast response
- Compact casing for a 5" display with elegant look
- Navigation software can be swapped directly from the user interface.
- Speaker can be set very loud
- Good display quality and screen brightness

- no bluetooth
- finishing could be better, you'll have to wipe some extra glue but that's all.
- less straightforward to unlock
- the cable of the car charger is a bit short

Product references: TMCDOV2ZWL, CVHW-CS23, GPS-C3250
Successor: CVSB-G252
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Coding Horror: Adventures in Rechargeable Batteries

Triops: the living gadgets

9/25/2009 03:38:00 PM 2
I would have tried this earlier but simply didn't know about triops existence until recently and, to me, they look like the best invention since the mogway!

So first, a short description for the late discoverers like me: the triops are small prehistoric crustaceans whose eggs can dry and stays viable for many years. They hatch in temporary water pools formed by rain, generally under warm climates. Their short life (around 3 months) is spent at eating almost anything small enough for them (including their siblings), and laying eggs. When they die of old age or because the pool dried, the eggs are waiting there, ready for the next shower.

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Homebrew and DSi v1.4

9/09/2009 10:39:00 AM 0
Nintendo has to do something against piracy, and unfortunately, the collateral damage is that homebrew initiatives are impacted too.

Now don't get me wrong, I buy my games for DS, which is no big deal since there's hardly more than 10 titles worth owning (and DSiWare won't change that obviously).

While I don't feel the need to "chip" my Wii for the same reason above, it is convenient for a portable console like DS/DSi to have all the games and emulators in a single cartridge.
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Yet another firmware for Foscam fi8908w!

9/04/2009 02:19:00 PM 234

Following the feedback on the updated firmware released a month ago, I took the liberty to send a recap of the remarks and suggestions to Foscam.

As before, they replied almost instantly and once again with some great stuff!

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What freeware would you bring on a desert island ?

9/04/2009 11:44:00 AM 2

...in other words, what are the absolutely necessary applications that you should install first on a fresh OS, or better, merge in your installation "master" (using nlite, vlite, PE Builder, ...) ?

Here's my top-10 list:
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FSX, and now ?

9/02/2009 02:58:00 PM 0
There is one gaming area where computers still beats the dedicated game consoles hands down: Flight Simulators.

Times have been tough for Flight Simulator makers. The first noticeable disaster was the end of the excellent Flight Unlimited series from Looking Glass Studios in 2000, then, the best Air Combat simulator for jets (IL2 still rules for WWII fighters) that was Jane's USAF showed unusable under Windows 2000, XP and above.

With Microsoft closing the ACES studio, makers of FSX, and while there's still a big enough community of contributors to keep it going for some time, I could not help wondering if any decent modern alternative existed.
Well, there's still the multi-platform X-Plane (there's even an iPhone version!) whose development has proven very dynamic throughout the years.

But, what about freeware ?

Since developing Flight Simulators is so demanding in resources and heavy weight software companies don't have time for fun anymore, it's seems to be the end of such games...
Well, not entirely, in Armorica one village bravely resist the Romans, and with success...(*)
A well advanced project exist (started around 1996) in the SourceForge community called FlightGear.

This ambitious open-source flight simulator wants to offer features comparable to the big ones: realistic flight dynamics, wide choice of civilian and military aircrafts, IFR, GPS support, advance weather rendering (like fog and dynamically configurable 3D clouds), various viewpoints, ATC, world scenery, aircraft carrier landing, ...

And did I say it is multi-platform ?

So start downloading it here and have fun!

There is also something nice cooking here: The Combat Simulator Project

Not to forget: Orbiter (space flight simulator)

Next big flying thing for game consoles: http://www.il2game.com/

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Gmail offline backup tools

9/02/2009 11:32:00 AM 0

Server outages like this 1st of September are rare but always bring back some fears like "what if it doesn't come back online ?", "did I loose everything this time ?", "has a hacker managed to crack my inbox ?", and while "real men don't do backup", you kind of regret that you didn't.

There are other good reasons to consider an offline backup: in case you reach the generous online storage limit, but also to store your emails with private information (memberships, passwords, ...) away from a potentially hackable place.

While the Gmail offline feature can store your content locally, it is only ment to synchronize emails (that are less than 5 years old) so you can work offline until a connection is available. If you want to delete the older emails online, they get deleted offline too upon synchronization. So you have to look elsewhere for a backup solution.

A simple and yet powerful approach exists: MailStore Home edition.
This freeware will archive emails from about any source (Outlook, Thunderbird, ...), including POP3 and IMAP services and let you store the backup on CD/DVD or USB storage afterwards. The archive can be searched and emails viewed directly from the application (which is faster than using the original client).

Adding to the product power, and to your freedom, MailStore can also re-export your backup to any of the numerous supported formats! So if Gmail had to disappear or become a payware one day (remember Yahoo POP3?) you could still re-inject your part of all your data into Outlook, Exchange, Thunderbird, SeaMonkey, or another POP3/IMAP server.

The new MailStore Home v.4, features a portable version and improvements detailed here.
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Free code editor and notepad replacement

9/01/2009 09:54:00 PM 0
If you are constantly dealing with different formats of text files (txt, jsp, html, log, ...), the simple notepad.exe needs to be replaced by something more powerful,with line numbering, syntax highlighting, large file support, ...

Here is another ultimate freeware that can compete easily with many commercial equivalents.

Notepad++ is an open source text editor with features found normally in €50 software.

One of the strengths of NP++ is simply its integration into the contextual menu: by right-clicking on any sort of file, the option "edit with Notepad ++" appears, which make the editor very accessible, even for files with unknown or no extension.

Languages: HTML, XML, PHP, C++, Flash, Perl,...
Macros: the macro recorder will automate repetitive actions, like fastidious manual line formatting.
TextFX: offers a wide range of powerful functions, from tidying up an HTML page (re-indenting XML for instance), to converting EBCDIC to ASCII, or just counting words.
Plugins: allows to interface with a spell checker, a FTP server, export to a different format, ...

Give it a try, you may not need any other text editor after that!

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Micro 4/3 cameras: a bridge too far ?

8/30/2009 02:03:00 PM 0

The new Micro Four Thirds comes to bridge the gap between SLR and digital compact cameras.

SLRs (and DSLRs) normally have interchangeable lenses while Bridge cameras have a unique fixed lense. These later are generally more compact, but use a smaller sensor (4/3 vs 35mm for SLRs).

Apparently there was still an unexploited niche in between, and potentially big enough for two major camera makers to start the experience of the Micro Four Thirds cameras.

These are as compact as bridge cameras but offer the lens interchangeability of their big brothers. So, the best of both world apparently? well, not exactly...

It takes the slower autofocus mechanism as well as the typical Electronic View Finder of the compact digital camera world (a plug-in optical VF is sold separately), and -for the moment- does not allow any video recording. This last point could be show stopper for people who like the compact all-in-one factor of bridge cameras. So the Micro Four Thirds has potential to frustrate both SLR and bridge fans.

So far there were two main categories of photographs (or so I thought): the casuals (using bridges) and the serious (using SLR's). In between must sit the seriously casuals (or the casually serious?), to which Micro Four Thirds will give a unique opportunity to spend big bucks for lenses and filters just like the SLR's (but with more space for accessories in the travel bag thanks to the smaller camera) and still enjoy the ISO limitation of a bridge.

Time will tell if there is an audience for this new type of camera...

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So Muhammad Ali is Irish !?

8/28/2009 09:18:00 PM
If you are living on the Emerald Island, and in the Banner county in particular, it is quite difficult to ignore that Muhammad Ali is coming on the 1st of September in the Information Age Town (everything is decoded below). My off topic category is there for events like this.

I like the 2 videos below (not embeddable, sorry) showing the boxer's great sense of humour:

Muhammad Ali talks about his Irish origins (Interview on RTE Irish TV 1960s)

Interview clips of Muhammad Ali (1971, 1974, 1975 and 1981)

If you happen to cross the town of Ennis on that 1st of September, and depending if you're a fan or not, you should know what places to reach, or to avoid with the program of his visit:
  • All Day - Muhammad Ali Exhibition, at Glor Irish Music Centre
  • 1.00-3.30pm - Public event at Abbey Street Car Park
  • 3.00pm - Civic Reception at Waterpark House, Drumbiggle (Muhammad Ali will embark on drive through Ennis town following this event). Please note that the Civic Reception is a closed event.
  • 3.00-4.30pm - Street entertainment at O'Connell Square, Abbey St. and O'Connell St.
  • 3.15-4.30pm - Live entertainment, Temple Gate Plaza
  • 3.15-4.30pm - Live entertainment, Turnpike
  • 3.00pm (free admission), 8.00pm (ticketed only) - Showing of 'When We Were Kings' at Glor Irish Music Centre. Proceeds in aid of The Parkinson's Association Of Ireland
Source: http://www.clare.fm/news/muhammad-ali-itinerary

Emerald Island = Ireland
Banner County = Clare
Information Age Town = Ennis (but that's Irish Geek humour!)

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Third-Party software for IP Cameras

8/18/2009 03:26:00 PM 144
The IP Camera BSTI PT100V2W appears to be a clone of the Foscam FI8901W which, in turn, is the older brother of the FI8908W.

Therefore the IP Camera Super-Client found on BSTI web site does work with Foscam cameras. The interface is not the clearest and I had a few crashes with it, but it appears to be free (even if a registration is required after some time), so it's still good to take.

More decent is H264WebCam also works with the Foscam FI8908W (selecting BSTI PT100V2W), excepted for the Pan & Tilt function. It exists in free, standard or pro version. It offers motion detection of pre-selected zones, FTP/email alert, recording, and some access control.
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Gestural Interfaces and Augmented Reality

8/18/2009 11:37:00 AM 0

The Nintendo Wii seems to sit in the middle of two worlds: the (old) world of solid interfaces (mouses, keyboards, buttons,...) and the coming world of virtual interfaces where we will interact with devices through gestures in the empty air with our bare hands.

While the Wii still requires you to hold a controller, Microsoft's Natal Project is one first step into the new world...

But there is more:

...and this extrapolation doesn't look too far away after all:

If you want to try the gestural interface for yourself: all you need is a webcam and the software for this site
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Alternatives to Wayfinder on Sony Ericsson mobiles

8/17/2009 12:20:00 PM 0

Several Sony Ericsson GPS-enabled mobile phones come with Wayfinder as the main application. The software itself looks ok and could even (very) occasionally be used to guide you when driving. But there's a catch: after a trial period, you'll be invited to pay a yearly fee. And instead of availing for their "exclusive offer", you may prefer to buy an entry-level but decent dedicated GPS device for the same price!

However, there are free alternatives if you still wish to use your mobile phone as a PNA:

amAze is a free GPS application (ad-funded) working on most J2ME mobile phones.

An important trick to avoid expansive data traffic for streaming maps over the phone, is to use the arrows mode where only the small amount of data for the calculated route is sent to the phone. See more here.
Like Wayfinder, it also provides vocal instructions. Previous reviews of amAze highlighted the ugly interface and the slow response. All this has visibly improved now (I tried v4.5). It actually seems slightly ahead of its competitor: Nav4All . But this is open to discussion...
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Interactive Projector Technology

8/17/2009 11:08:00 AM 0

TI has, for many years, been present inside most technological devices (Speak & Spell toy, TI computers, BOLT-117 laser-guided bomb), and it's nearly impossible to open one without finding the little Texas-shaped logo on a component.

But most of us know the brand for having used their calculators at school. And that's in the classrooms again that the company is about to make a remarkable comeback.

DLP (Digital Light Processing) is already popular thanks to the pocket-sized pico projectors and soon to be cellphone-embedded, but below is an even more spectacular example of the DLP Interactive Projector Technology:

Below is a demo of a possible alternative (for the not-so-well-funded schools):


- johnnylee.net/projects/wii/
- GestureFX
- SmartBoard
- Gestural interfaces
- Other Pico projector
- WowWee Cinemin Swivel
- eBeam
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What nanoscience could do for you...

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