Function over fashion.

Function over fashion.

Cell life
I was in Tokyo about two years ago when I saw the Japanese testing a system for paying for vending machine items such as soda and food with your cell phone. I thought to myself, “It’s going to be a while, but I can’t wait for this technology to come west.”

There are two stories this fortnight involving cell-phone payments on our side of the rock. First is close to home: The Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) is currently testing a system to let riders pay fares using a special addition to their cell phone. Two-hundred-thirty regular BART riders are testing the first system-wide cell-phone payment scheme in this country over a four-month period. If successful, you and I might be able to use the system later this year.

Across the pond in Finland, high-tech public highway restrooms are being tested. They require an SMS (text message) to open. The Scandinavian government is trying to curb vandalism with the tracking system. My Luddite friends Matt Powers and Jean-Claude better not visit this Nordic land until they give in to the century of the cell phone.

Flatten that mouse!
I do quite a bit of traveling, and there is a constant battle in my suitcase for territory between clothes and tech gear, and will be even more now that airlines are charging $25 for a second piece of luggage (nice one, United). JellyClick to the rescue. It doesn’t save a whole lot of space, but this soft plastic, inflatable, USB computer mouse flattens to near nothing and will cut your weight down a bit. Just be careful not to sit on it. Wonder if it ships with a patch kit?

All the rave
But it’s not all warfare between clothing and tech. Firebox has come out with a T-shirt that glows when it detects a Wi-Fi signal—the stronger the signal, the more bars that illuminate. Now I don’t have to walk around with my laptop open in my arms as if it were a metal detector, watching for the four little curved AirPort lines to light up. The roughly $40 shirt is a bit expensive but it can double as rave gear.

In your FaceBook, terrorists!
Who says social-network sites don’t amount to much? Almost 100,000 people in 165 cities around the world used FaceBook to organize a march Feb. 4 against the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia in Colombia’s capital of Bogotá. Roughly 500,000 protesters were expected to heed the electronic call and march in defiance of the left-wing group known for taking hostages.

Wacky Web site of the week
The next time you’re in New York City, you may want to take part in GarbageScout. Depends whether you want to collect valuable discards or alert others of street treasure. To post a find, take a picture of the street-side debris and e-mail it to In the body of the e-mail type a description @ location. For example: 10-speed bike @ 555 West 95th Street. It will appear on a Gmap mash-up, but take note, high-quality rubbish doesn’t last long.