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7 April Fool's Day tech pranks for 2010

Our pick of today's mischievous tech stories

Sometimes web users need to be a little bit wary of what they read on the internet, because not everything written online is true.

That applies today more than ever, as tech manufacturers and their PR companies are fond of embracing April Fool's Day and attempting to hoodwink gadget fans by detailing new (and often ludicrous) inventions they plan to release in the future.

However, don't fear as here at PCA Towers we've been busy scouring the web to discover which of today's product announcements are real, and which are tech companies attempting to have a little bit of fun at your expense.

Here's our pick of this year's tech April Fools so far.

Lexmark invisible ink

Printer manufacturer Lexmark claims to have developed an invisible ink aimed at those wanting to print confidental information.

Lexmark says the ink, which is aimed at home users as well as the Police and Special Forces, has been developed in conjunction with high-level forensic teams and features a secret ingredient which makes it invisible to anyone other than the PC user that printed it.

The ink, which apparently comes in a variety of colours, is suitable for use in all Lexmark printers but only available for a limited time.

"So many incidences materialise whereby paper-based information falls into the wrong hands," said Darren Mangan, marketing director for UK & Ireland at Lexmark.

"We see not only Police forces taking this up, but also those home users out there who want to keep confidential information for their eyes only."

For more information visit Lexmark's dedicated web page or follow Lexmark's Twitter feed.

Cheap flights to space

Flight comparison site SkyScanner has announced it is making a number of cheap flights into space available, meaning web users that want an out-of-this-world experience won't have to fork out $200,000 (£131,700) for a Virgin Galactic flight.

"Virgin Galactic is doing a brilliant job of creating excitement and raising awareness that space tourism is a real possibility, but this is not a one rocket space race by any means and space travel doesn't have to cost the earth," said Skyscanner co-founder Barry Smith.

Danish company Copenhagen Suborbitals is offering the no-frills flights. While the prices have not been released, Copenhagen Suborbitals said half-price discounts may be offered for one-way tickets.

Tourists will have to stand through the entire trip as the spacecraft, which holds just one passenger, is so small it can't accommodate seats. However, 'buttock and armpit support' will be available.

There will be no baggage allowed on the flights, which take off from the Baltic Sea but do not have an exact landing destination.

"The no-frills model has transformed air travel over the last decade so it's no surprise a low-cost contender has emerged to make this market more accessible to all," said Smith.

"We'd like to call this company the Ryanair of space travel but we can't - you don't have to pay extra for hold baggage. In fact you can't take any baggage at all."

Smith said the flights would appeal to "forlorn former Concorde passengers who miss the view on flights from London to New York".

"It's one small click for the user, but one giant leap for us as a company, opening up opportunities for our business to boldly go into some exciting new market niches. "

Copenhagen Suborbitals said it is planning a test flight in June this year.

Opera Space Edition

Opera has also focused its interests on space, by developing a web browser that allows users to surf the net comfortably from the "vacuum of space".

Opera Space Edition, which is currently in beta, supports Interplanetary Network Transport Protocol (INTP) which apparently allows connection to the web at extreme distances.

Users will also benefit from Mission Mode, which allows all browser activities to be monitored, adjusted and audited by Mission Control, with the exception of private browsing sessions.

Opera Space Edition also comes with Augmented Reality Browsing (ARB), a tool that renders web content in a transparent overlay mode that's compatible with all major space suit Visual Retinal Displays (VRDs.

Furthermore, the browser offers optimisation for touchscreens when being used with the bulky gloves of a spacesuit.

Opera says proximity sensors detect the exact region of the screen the user wants to access.

"No single space project in this period will be more impressive to other browser makers or more important for the long-range exploration of the web, and none will be so difficult to accomplish," said Jon von Tetzchner, co-founder of Opera.

"But, in a very real sense, it will not be one browser going to space -it will be an entire industry. For all of us must work to bring it there."

Virgin's ferret broadband delivery system

Virgin Media has revealed it has found an original way to speed up the roll-out of its fibre broadband network across the UK, in particular in rural areas.

The ISP has for the last year been using specially-trained ferrets to lay its cables.

Virgin says the animals wear jackets fitted with a microchip to detect any breaks or damages in the networks.

"For hundreds of years, ferrets have helped humans in various jobs. Our decision to use them is due to their strong nesting instinct, their long, lean build and inquisitive nature, and for their ability to get down holes," said Jon James, director of broadband for Virgin Media.

"We initially kept the trial low-key as we wanted to assess how well the ferrets fitted into our operations before revealing this enterprising scheme."

TalkTalk to boost broadband speed by up to 332 percent

Meanwhile TalkTalk is running a new trial of 'Violet ethernet cable' which it claims could boost broadband speeds by up to 332 percent.

According to the ISP, the violet cable bounces away interference, unlike the yellow cables currently used, resulting in a broadband connection that's more than three times faster without any loss of quality over a longer distance.

"It has totally amazed us with the level of improvement you can get by changing the colour of the cable from Yellow to Violet," TalkTalk said.

The ISP is looking for 300 web users to trial the new cable. For more information on the trial visit TalkTalk's blog.

Consoling Farm helps bring back Dodo

The Dodo has been bought back to life with the help of a 'Consoling farm' - a network of thousands of handheld video-game consoles.

During a 2007 expedition to Mauritius, the intact skeleton of Raphus cucullatus was found in caves on the island.

According to Dr Flora Pilo, the project's director, the DNA was extracted and thanks to the power of the 'Consoling Farm', which runs Linux and contains 12,288 consoles with high-speed connections, researchers were able to splice the complete genome sequence.

The genome sequence was then used to fertilise eggs from a Nicobar Pigeon, identified as the dodo's closest living ancestor.

The eggs have now hatched and it is hoped they will begin to help repopulate the island with the once extinct species.

For more information visit the dedicated web page.

Google Australian translator

Google has revealed that thanks to a new language translation service it can now tailor its products and services for Australian users.

The search engine said it analysed millions of searches from those down under and scanned scripts from 23 seasons of Home and Away to develop the Optimise for Colloquial Cultural Articulation (OCCA) technology.

For example, if an Aussie web user searches for 'Cricket', Google will present results related to the sport rather than the insect.

Likewise, Google said that searches from Australia for 'automatic wiki', were more likely looking for information on the automatic wicket keeper common in backyard cricket rather than an automatically updated bulletin board or 'wiki'.

"OCCA greatly reduces the latency between a user's thought and ability to pinpoint information; a boon for local users who'd have Buckleys makin' sense of American English," Google said in a blog.

We can't forget a special mention to PC Advisor's sister title Macworld UK. They checkily set about trying to convince web users Apple was launcing a smaller version of the its new slate PC, known as the iPad Nano.

See also: Today's April Fools' Day technology pranks


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