I RFID Like fire, Radio Frequency Identification could be a wonderful thing (and one day may save your life) or it can really hurt you. For University of Westminster students, it is wonderful—at least for those who drink beer. This London institute of higher education has installed “Escape Pods” in their university bar that let their customers order drinks via an Internet connection imbedded in the tables. Drinks are delivered quicker and students sitting at these eTables order roughly 40 percent more than their classmates and professors at non-Escape Pod tables, making them more profitable to the bar owners. Using an RFID pre-paid card, students can electronically pay for their orders without needing to wait for change.

The Escape Pod interface lets you IM other Escape Pod tables and comes with preprogrammed pickup lines such as “that’s a nice shirt, it would go well on my floor” and “I’m not actually this tall, I’m sitting on my wallet.” These touch-screen tables come equipped with games, allow one table pay to for another’s drinks and may soon enable students to request songs from the university radio station or call cabs. Time to go back to school.

Are You Wearing Your Firewall? But if people who don’t understand technology force RFID on us (e.g. our present government—just Google Sen. Ted Stevens tubes), our most sensitive personal information could very well be at risk (see Technobabble March 30, 2006). A multi-university and industry collaborative effort has come up with a personal RFID “firewall” called the RFID Guardian that jams outside agents from accessing your RFID items without your permission. A simpler and cheaper option to stop the bad people from reading your information from RFID embedded items, as tech blogger Cory Doctorow of Boing Boing has pointed out as a possibility: “put your new U.S. passport in a microwave for a few minutes to nuke the [RFID] chip.”

It’s Not The Price of the Christmas Gift that Counts A few fun free Christmas goodies come to your eStocking from Flickr and DJ Riko. Flickr has hidden a yuletide Easter Egg in its online photo service. Using their photonote option, Flickr folk can add Saint Nick beards—make a note called “ho ho ho beard”—and Christmas hats—with a note “ho ho ho hat”—to photos. And DJ Riko has come out with his annual gift: a free, downloadable, 70-minute mix of eclectic Christmas songs that you’re not likely to hear in the malls, with drum-n-bass-n-jingle-bell beats and songs from Oscar the Grouch. Check it out at: