September 14, 2000
12:46 PM   Subscribe

I'm not sure whether I'll actually use it, but the :CueCat Reader that Wired Magazine sent me for free is pretty neat. It is essentially a scanner that plugs into my computer and can "read" URLs in special bar-codes on ads or any UPC or ISBN. I scanned my thesaurus and a box of paper clips. Simple things ...
posted by quirked (16 comments total)
Joel of Joel on Software has an analysis of the cats ("Wasting money on cats").
posted by tomalak at 12:56 PM on September 14, 2000

This is more convenient than typing in a URL?

I threw mine out.
posted by luke at 1:12 PM on September 14, 2000

Don't these little 'cats' track your moves too? Now wired magazine not only know what article, ad or copy you read, but at exactly what date and time...*scary*

Reminds me of those little cards all my friends have from the grocery stores. Little bar codes on their key chains -- it's all in the name of saving 3 cents on a head of lettuce. My concern is again -- somebody's tracking you and your habits!

I'm thinking of hacking the Kroger database and selling the infos. Just think how valuable this information would be to Hit Men. They could stand in the frozen foods section dust off their prey.

Any body want to partner up?
posted by chiXy at 1:19 PM on September 14, 2000

I looked into this too. I found that essentially you could replicate the devices command sets and functionality with a few steps. I was really surprised at how well this works!

1. Stop reading the magazine, or catalog, you are reading. Novice users, place it near a computer with an internet connection.

2. Open your Internet browser. Novice users, click on the big 'e' on your desktop.

3. Type in the URL found often at the bottom of the ad you were looking at. Novice users, if you can't do this, you may consider having a conversatoin with your cat and water the ferns.

It was really quite simple though it did take a few hours to figure out the arrangement of steps. If you do them out of place, the whole process goes to hell.
posted by Brilliantcrank at 1:21 PM on September 14, 2000 [1 favorite]

hrm. sneaky advertisers. pfft.
posted by SentientAI at 1:23 PM on September 14, 2000

gsxl, you are brilliant! Those are, indeed, the steps as I recreated them as well, but you left out Step 4., "Call Wired Magazine and inform them of the precise date and time you entered the URL, along with your Wired Magazine customer number for linking to the rest of your demographic information." Other than that, you hit it right on.
posted by m.polo at 1:49 PM on September 14, 2000

Not mac compatible, sigh. Then again, the market for this type of product usually can't handle gsxl's process.

I'm going to canabalize the parts.
posted by DragonBoy at 2:00 PM on September 14, 2000

I'm waiting for someone to collect all these useless cats that are (going to be) tossed into the garbage and turn them into some sort of artistic type thingy.

A twenty foot high leaning tower of stupid ideas perhaps?
posted by dizzycow at 2:05 PM on September 14, 2000

My cat - or :Cat or whatever we're supposed to call it - just came today. And it's about to go into the garbage since their 100+ employees are currently incapable of giving Mac owners anything other than the usual patronizing "Mac version coming soon!" BS on their website. Well, on second thought, I'll probably shove it in a closet somewhere; in 20 years it'll be an amusing artifact of the Dark Ages of e-commerce. In any case, it's useless to me now, and I don't expect the company to survive long enough for them to actually get around to porting the software.

Looking at it, it reminds me of nothing so much as an unconscious albino ferret. I am reminded, however, of the Cauzin Strip Reader, an Apple ][ peripheral.
posted by aaron at 2:21 PM on September 14, 2000

A few posts above this one, chiXy mentions grocery cards and
how they let one save "3 cents on a head of lettuce." Most savings are like typical store coupons, 25 or 50 or 100 cents here and there. Not just a measly 3 cents.

You can put in false info when creating a card and switch cards with friends from time to time to confuse the information gatherers. gives a bunch of info on the resistance to grocery cards.
posted by gluechunk at 2:23 PM on September 14, 2000

The nice part is the way that Linuxy types have reverse-engineered the protocol in order to do fun things with the CueCat (book cataloguing for the anally retentive, anyone) and had a cease-and-desist slapped down on them. Cheers.
posted by holgate at 2:27 PM on September 14, 2000

Yikes! A lot of hostility for a goofy little piece of technology.
posted by quirked at 2:47 PM on September 14, 2000

You know a GNU:Cat would be really neat, you could make HTML catalogues of anything you want like say your CD collection, sort of like the way Winamp let's you make a HTML playlist.
posted by riffola at 2:57 PM on September 14, 2000

y'all missin the point. the :screw:you:cat is a 'track and report to the mamaship' device. its software sends all the crap you scan directly to the Digital Convergence servers. The whole point of the device is to amass yet another immense database of consumer prefs to be used in targeted marketing. And Digital Convergence just happen not to be very pleasant people. Read this, and this, and this. Intellectual property? Base 64 and XOR? The frightening thing is you give a typical American net user a cat-shaped chunk of plastic with a red window on the end and they go all gaga and can't wait to hook it up to thier box! Hey, its FREE!!!
posted by quonsar at 4:16 PM on September 14, 2000

Re: tracking. The point here is that the device does absolutely nothing fancy whatsoever; it types a bunch of characters. It's the software CueCat wants you to install that would do that sort of thing, accessing DC's barcode-to-URL lookup database.

So all you need is different software, and that's easy to find/write because their "encryption" is very transparent. DC will have you believe using/writing your own software for it violates the Digital Millenium Copyright Act, but to mention that would inspire within me a violent rant, which I've already done on my own blog, so I'll just shut up for now.

The devices are generally useless, the business model sucks and will quickly die. But they're great geek fun. Consumers have never had the power to easily and cheaply scan barcodes. We don't need to, sure, but it's the principle of the thing. ;)
posted by dan_of_brainlog at 10:46 PM on September 14, 2000

Aaron: if it makes you happier, the Cauzin Strip reader had a Mac driver for a couple years.

My wife has an albino ferret... you're right, this thing does bear an odd resemblance. It's missing the red eyes, though. Maybe a pair of strategically placed LEDs would do the trick?

posted by Mars Saxman at 12:37 PM on September 15, 2000

« Older This girl is, literally, fighting for her life.   |   In space Newer »

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