Wrapping up the web

As a crowdsourcing platform that helps the little guy with the big idea to raise the funds needed to get a -project off the ground by relieving armchair venture capitalists of their disposable income, it's a corker – thanks in no small part to its clever reward system for different tiers of micro-investment. This has been proved a thousand times over by successfully funded projects for things like a giant statue of Robocop in the city of Detroit.

But, as a crowdsourcing platform for the many varied people of Planet Earth who aren't Americans, it's just rubbish. Because they (and, if you're anything like me, you) aren't allowed to play in the Kickstarter sandpit, no matter how impressive their/my/your plastic trowel and sandcastle blueprints may be. (Unless you've found a shadily exploitable loophole, like one of those intrepid inter-national-trade-treaty-scorning .za-based iPhone users who have somehow managed to get themselves US iTunes accounts. You know who you are.)

So if you look on Kickstarter, you'll see most of the South Africa-related projects are along the lines of: "Help me fund my trip from Manhattan to deepest darkest Cape Town, where I will take pictures of hipsters on fixed-gear rollerskates and come home to tell you all about it – if you give me $20."

Well, now there's Startme.co.za. Of the few projects up and running, some even look worthwhile. So far there aren't any of the sort of daft ideas that I, for one, want to throw money at. But if we grit out teeth and support one of the projects currently on the go, some local genius may be encouraged to try to raise South Africa's own statue of Robocop. Or possibly some sort of extraterrestrial Parktown prawn.  Those current projects include urban wind turbines, T-shirts about planking, prison rehab support, Carrie's brother Cameron's trip to Sri Lanka with his school's cricket team and a show intended for the Grahamstown Arts Festival that apparently involves samurai swords, clowns and an iPad. Oh dear.
Twitter: @Startmefund

Different dimension
3D printing has come along in leaps and bounds over the past few years, finally bringing fabrication processes – once the preserve of industrial factories – to the garages of generously bearded DIY-engineering enthusiasts the world over. And with the latest generation of printers, such as the recent Kickstarter success Form1 and Makerbot's Replicator 2, the 3D industry is poised to make the jump to the desktop. That's where, with the touch of a button, anyone with enough corn-based liquid plastic and a blueprint of the Eiffel Tower will soon be able to print out their very own knick-knackery to show off to their unimpressed children. Similarly useful things 3D printing hobbyists or "makers" have been making include chess pieces, egg cups, ashtrays, dental moulds, more 3D printers (hello!) and, um, parts for a working AR-15 semiautomatic rifle. Out of such garage tinkering were the likes of Microsoft and Apple born, so we're expecting much greater things. Any day now.
3D printers: Formlabs.com; Makerbot.com; RepRap.org
3D printing in SA: itux.co.za; cad-house.co.za

Duck or die
Eddie Izzard, the noted wit and road-running ace, once paraphrased the popular National Rifle Association mantra as follows: "Guns don't kill people, people kill people – but the guns help." He is perhaps more famous for his Death Star Canteen routine, which is funny but macabre when you remember that the Death Star killed rather a lot of people, albeit fictional people, with a ruddy big laser beam. The planet Alderaan was a sitting duck.

Ducks being what they are, there was once a Nintendo game devoted to shooting them. It came with a gun-shaped "Zapper" controller. Now, North Street Labs' engineering hacks have retrofitted an old Duck Hunt Zapper with a real laser, power-ful enough to blind and/or snuff the life out of actual people, not just Star Wars extras. It's ingenious! But terribly dangerous. We're not even sure if they had a tray. See how they did it at northstreetlabs.org/Zapper.html. Watch Death Star Canteen over and over again over at youtube.com/watch?v=Sv5iEK -IEzw

It has been a year since the efforts of amateur smartphone-owning photo-graphers in South Africa were first validated by the iPhone-o-graphySA competition and exhibition. Organised by renowned philanthropist Marc Forrest, it saw fit to reward dapper snappers with public acceptance and affirmation. Not limited to professional smartphone owners, anybody was allowed to enter. Indeed, for this year's competition, anybody is again allowed to enter. But only if they're from Cape Town, because the Jo'burg cut-off date has already passed. And only if they have an iPhone, presumably to guarantee that everyone's playing on a level field, filtered through the same retrogrammed insta-lens. Well. The iPhone isn't there for the sake of iRony, anyway. Winning Jo'burg entries will be on display at the Sandton iStore from October 6. Cape Town, you have until -October 8 to enter. Samsung Galaxy owners: Don't even think about it, you hacks. Seriously, there'll be security.

Waking up the voters
Over the equator and across the pond, US President Barack Obama would be laughing at his challenger's disastrous presidential campaign were it not for the fear that his own supporters are themselves so busy cackling that they'll forget to vote on November 6. So Samuel L Jackson's been asked to shout at them. In a TV advert called "Wake the Fuck Up", the Country of My Skull actor directs his scorn at those suspected of apathy or complacency because, hey, there's no Sarah Palin to terrify them into action this time around. Chockful of rhyming umbrage, it riffs on Go the Fuck to Sleep, the infinitely superior – though similarly Jackson-voiced – bedtime story for children. But no matter how amusing or effective it may prove to be, the folks who put the ad together should be ashamed of themselves. So much money and effort, so little attention to metre.
Wake the Fuck Up
Go the Fuck to Sleep

Never one to rest idly on his laurels, South African-born Elon Musk has been a busy, busy space capitalist of late. The man who gave the world Paypal and private space-freighter firm SpaceX has been hard at work promoting new superfast charging stations for his electric car company, Tesla Motors. Of course, not many people will be enjoying the benefits: Those cars are expensive! Perhaps that's why he's been thinking about adding trains to the spaceplanes and automobiles already in his portfolio. At least, we think "Hyperloop" is a train, but he tells Bloomberg it's a "sort of tube capable of taking someone from San Francisco to LA in 30 minutes". Which means speeds of nearly 1 500km/h. Sjoe. The last time Silicon Valley promised to revolutionise transport, we ended up with the Segway. And by "we" I mean shopping mall security guards. But he's dazzled us before, so let's see what he can do with a series of tubes.

Holly-Anne Grenada was a career diplomat until she accidentally left a laptop containing state secrets on a train in Midrand. Now she does this

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Related stories

The new wave way: How SA’s now generation moves different

South Africa’s newest stars have turned to the internet and cultivated cult followings to launch themselves onto the global music scene

Inside Facebook’s big bet on Africa

New undersea cables will massively increase bandwidth to the continent

Celebrating International Jazz Day at home

Here's a look back at how the annual International Jazz Day, now in its 9th year, has been celebrated across the world.

The Virtual Weekend Guide

Get into your lockdown long-weekend mood with at home entertainment ranging from Netflix, music concerts, cook-alongs to yoga sessions

Meet Doctor Fundile Nyati: South Africa’s own online medical mythbuster

The employee health and wellness specialist is using social media to combat misinformation about Covid-19

Get your quarantine on — the best in virtual entertainment

With everyone settling into an indoors routine or starting to lose it because of cabin fever, this guide should remind you that creativity and beauty still exist, virtually represented but there, nonetheless.

Subscribers only

Covid-19 surges in the Eastern Cape

With people queuing for services, no water, lax enforcement of mask rules and plenty of partying, the virus is flourishing once again, and a quarter of the growth is in the Eastern Cape

Ace prepares ANC branches for battle

ANC secretary general Ace Magashule is ignoring party policy on corruption-charged officials and taking his battle to branch level, where his ‘slate capture’ strategy is expected to leave Ramaphosa on the ropes

More top stories

Journey through anxious Joburg

A new book has collected writing about the condition of living, yes, with a high crime rate, but also other, more pervasive existential urban stresses particular to the Global South

Football legend Maradona dies

The Argentinian icon died at his home on Wednesday, two weeks after having surgery on a blood clot in his brain

Why no vaccine at all is better than a botched...

As Covid vaccines near the manufacturing stage, a look at two polio vaccines provides valuable historical insights

Under cover of Covid, Uganda targets LGBTQ+ shelter

Pandemic rules were used to justify a violent raid on a homeless shelter in Uganda, but a group of victims is pursuing a criminal case against the perpetrators

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…