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The Military Medicine

No, a Stolen iPod Didn't Brick Ben Eberle's Prosthetic Hand 122

Posted by timothy
from the too-bad-to-be-true dept.
New submitter willoremus writes A wounded Army vet had his $75k prosthetic hand bricked when someone stole his iPod Touch? Yeah, not so much. I'm a tech reporter for Slate.com, and a Slashdot post earlier this week prompted me to look into this story and ultimately debunk some of the key info. Sorry for self-posting, but I thought folks here might be interested in the truth since the false story was one of the top posts earlier this week.
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No, a Stolen iPod Didn't Brick Ben Eberle's Prosthetic Hand

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  • Rule of thumb (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nysus (162232) on Thursday August 28, 2014 @04:29PM (#47778477)

    If something sounds too crazy to be true without substantial evidence to back it up, it probably is. I take everything I read on the Internet with a very fine grain of salt.

    • Re:Rule of thumb (Score:5, Insightful)

      by i kan reed (749298) on Thursday August 28, 2014 @04:32PM (#47778521) Homepage Journal

      Yeah, apparently "what engineer would ever design a product like that?" was the correct question to ask.

      Because the answer is "no engineer"

      • But... what committee would design a product like that? [wikipedia.org]Quite a few probably.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by c (8461)

        Yeah, apparently "what engineer would ever design a product like that?" was the correct question to ask.

        Because the answer is "no engineer"

        I once pulled apart a cheap shop vacuum to fix an electrical problem. The motor was held in with about 10 screws evenly spaced around the core.

        Nine of those screws were a phillips head.

        The other screw? Otherwise identical to the others, nothing special about its location or anything to differentiate it from the others. Security torx.

        Because some engineers are just asshol

        • Re: Rule of thumb (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          That's not an engineering decision. That's management told the product team to make the vacuum impossible for consumers to repair. He could have used ask security torx. Or he could have used all different bits. He used but one since that was sufficient to placate management and should be easy for you to defeat with a dremmel (cut a slot; now it's a flat head screw).

          He wasn't an asshole. He was being as nice as he could without being fired.

          • by russotto (537200)

            He used only one because security torx is expensive compared to Phillips and minimizing the BOM while fulfilling the requirements (including making user repairs a pain) was his job. Naturally he had to balance this against the cost of having separate tooling to insert the security screw.

          • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

            More likely he was just keeping costs down. If you can remove one security screw you can remove them all, so might as well only use cheaper standard ones for the other nine positions.

          • (cut a slot; now it's a flat head screw).

            Exactly what I did when my (name and shame) Shopvac stopped. Once I got past the "security" barrier, as usual, the last facade of quality fell away and the crap that it truly was stood exposed. I was astounded that this thing hadn't spontaneously burst into flames: the motor windings were exposed to sawdust! I replaced it with a different brand, but of course I'd be deluding myself to think it's really any better.

          • While using a Dremmel is fun if you have one around, you can also get a set of security bits. IIRC, I got the smaller set at Harbor Freight for something like $4.
      • Not quite true. The article likens this to GM bricking a Corvette for losing the keys, but that's exactly what happens to a modern Toyota computer if you lose the last key (cost of replacing a key for my Prius $175. Cost of replacing key + computer $1,275, I checked and that convinced me to spend the $175 for a second key for my used Prius).

        • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

          Your Prius is only worth $1,275? Also, in the US they don't give you two keys when you buy it? In the UK the dealers can look up your car by it's VIN number and generate new keys, even if have lost them all.

          • My prius was $6500 used. It is a 2006. They only gave me one key, the previous owner had lost one.

            With the Prius, the vin number can be used to *create* a new key, but you need the old key as part of the programming sequence to pair the new key with the computer. Can't even boot the computer up without a paired key (really just an RFID tag in the fob, the actual physical key is only good for unlocking the door and cannot boot up the computer). So if all keys are lost, the master computer is effectively

    • by Voltara (6334) on Thursday August 28, 2014 @04:37PM (#47778603)

      Something didn't seem quite right, but I just couldn't put my finger on it...

      • But you could have had you backed up your iOS device to the cloud like everybody else.

      • by ihtoit (3393327)

        something about bricked fingers but I'm sure one of those ACs that I can't see has already brought himself and no bottle to that party.

    • Re:Rule of thumb (Score:5, Informative)

      by kdataman (1687444) on Thursday August 28, 2014 @04:50PM (#47778743)

      As the OP of the original post, I would like to point out that I listed 3 possibilities and the first was that the story was wrong, maybe even intentionally wrong.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        This is Slashdot, most of the initial commentary is in reaction to the titles, a few people read the summary, and roughly once a Earth-Mars eclipse someone reads the linked articles.

      • by nmoore (22729)
        The article even quotes you, but does not appear to indicate that you were the submitter of the slashdot story you were "incredulous" of.
      • As the OP of the original post, I would like to point out that I listed 3 possibilities and the first was that the story was wrong, maybe even intentionally wrong.

        This is Slashdot. We don't let facts get in the way of a good story.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Now we're expected to read lists? Fuck, next thing you'll be expecting us to read articles.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      You need to include printed sources too since this story was originally reported in the San Antonio Express - News [foxnews.com] and picked up by the national press - see link again.

      If this Slate reporter/blogger didn't follow up, we would have never known for sure.

      And here's the kicker, I guarantee you that Touch Bionics will be disputing this story for years to come.

      All you need is someone who is careless or just lies because it sounds good, and it catches on, people remember the misinformation and never the truth. -

    • Re:Rule of thumb (Score:5, Insightful)

      by mysidia (191772) on Thursday August 28, 2014 @04:51PM (#47778757)

      If something sounds too crazy to be true without substantial evidence to back it up

      If something sounds crazy, on the internet, especially Facebook,etc; It's probably click-bait. They just want your clicks to earn ad revenue.

      They will earn money, even if it's false or bogus. Also, there are unlikely to be any negative ramifications at all.

      "Sorry, our bad"

      And everyone will forget.

      Sort of.... i'm sure there will be many repeats, and we'll just never get it.

    • Re: Rule of thumb (Score:5, Insightful)

      by jd2112 (1535857) on Thursday August 28, 2014 @04:52PM (#47778765)
      Personally I use two or three large salt mines. A single grain just doesn't cut it anymore.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      If something sounds too crazy to be true without substantial evidence to back it up, it probably is. I take everything I read on the Internet with a very fine grain of salt.

      I too only use a fine grain of salt. However, I've been around the internet enough to now be diagnosed with acute hypertension thanks to my total sodium intake.

      • I prefer fleur de sel.
      • by cwsumner (1303261)

        ... I too only use a fine grain of salt. However, I've been around the internet enough to now be diagnosed with acute hypertension thanks to my total sodium intake.

        Actually, sodium does not cause hypertension. Some reports are wrong, it seems. It might be a problem if you already have it, though.

    • by richlv (778496)

      also, if a slashdot submission excludes key facts in the hope that we will read the article, they must be smoking something stroooong.
      we'll go in offtopic rants instead.

  • by Nimey (114278) on Thursday August 28, 2014 @04:30PM (#47778481) Homepage Journal

    Say it ain't so!

    • by Nimey (114278) on Thursday August 28, 2014 @04:37PM (#47778607) Homepage Journal

      Now I hope all you jackasses who immediately piled on with your superiority complexes ("oh, how could an engineer be /that/ stupid? I know better than him, hee hee") have learned something, but I doubt it.

    • by CanHasDIY (1672858) on Thursday August 28, 2014 @04:52PM (#47778763) Homepage Journal

      I'm more incredulous that Slate ran a factual story that wasn't 99% opinion.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Bricked means you can't recover from brickedness. If you have a chip or device that can be reset with a programmer, or if you can download software for this prosth-arm and have it working again, it wasn't bricked.

    Yeah, yeah, language changes, go suck a brick. "Bricked" is such new jargon that it barely had time to be properly used before the definition got raped. (I know rape doesn't apply here, but you know, languages evolve.)

    • by sjames (1099)

      Generally bricked means the device cannot be recovered using a normal end-user procedure. Needs JTAG to recover (especially if you must solder the connection in) ==bricked. Needs to be turned on while holding volume up key == not bricked (wedged hard). Needs reset button or power cycle to recover == wedged. No procedure can recover it == dead.

  • The truth? (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 28, 2014 @04:35PM (#47778565)

    Slashdot readers don't want the truth, they want their own version of reality that fits their particular political/sociological/etc. slant.

  • Mythbusters (Score:4, Funny)

    by dfsmith (960400) on Thursday August 28, 2014 @04:36PM (#47778593) Homepage Journal
    Maybe the hurried journalists quietly noted that there are now 66% fewer Mythbusters and thought, "Let's run with it—what's the chance of being caught now, eh?" B-(
  • Thanks (Score:5, Insightful)

    by alvinrod (889928) on Thursday August 28, 2014 @04:36PM (#47778597)
    Thanks for actually looking into this. Reporting in general seems (or perhaps it's always been this way, but I just wasn't as aware of it.) to have gotten a lot more lazy recently, especially with the explosion of news blogs and other internet only news sources. There's such a rush to be the first to break a story and get the massive number of clicks and associated ad revenue that reporters have lost focus on digging deep and getting to the bottom of a story. After that everyone just links to the original without bothering to verify the information and the facts gets buried under a combination of half-truths and/or agenda-driven opinion.
    • by Krishnoid (984597)

      Sorry for self-posting, but I thought folks here might be interested in the truth since the false story was one of the top posts earlier this week.

      The additional research you did is definitely very valuable, but it's going to take a lot more than a simple 'sorry' to make up for all the self-posting so far, Bennett.

    • by Type44Q (1233630)

      especially with the explosion of news blogs and other internet only news sources.

      Causation vs correlation: internet-only news sources are a mixed bag but if you want breaking-headline stories that definitely have a political slant/bias (whether it's the blatant "Fascism-masquerading-as-Conservativism" spewed by the likes of Fox News or the far-more-subtle and carefully-concocted "Fascism-masquerading-as-Progressive-Socialism" you'll hear on NPR), be sure to tune-in to Mainstream Media...

    • by schnell (163007)

      Reporting in general seems (or perhaps it's always been this way, but I just wasn't as aware of it.) to have gotten a lot more lazy recently, especially with the explosion of news blogs and other internet only news sources.

      You are correct, it has gotten a lot more lazy recently. Once upon a time, when newspapers were printed once or twice a day and TV news aired only at 6 pm and 10 pm, there was a lot more time to get your facts straight and - most importantly - request a balancing comment from the "other side of the story." Today, there are so many sources of "news" - heavy finger quotes there - that operate in near real time that people are exposed to lots of rumormongering in the guise of journalism due to pressure to be f

  • I love Cracked's series that lists "Fake news stories you fell for". Most of the time I did not really fall for them, but every once in a while I do.

    This one was along the lines of "I don't think so, but there might be a designer about to be fired for stupidity".

  • by viperidaenz (2515578) on Thursday August 28, 2014 @04:44PM (#47778677)

    The guy said "they stole my iPod now I can't use my hand until I get a new one"
    The media interpreted that as need a new hand, not need a new iPod. Since need a new hand means more clicks on headlines, they run with it without clarifying.

  • by fermion (181285) on Thursday August 28, 2014 @05:30PM (#47779115) Homepage Journal
    While he can keep the same hand, it’s possible that he’ll have to reprogram some specific settings on his new device, said a spokesman for the Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, where Eberle is a patient.

    I don't see why that would be needed. The iPod should be backed up to something. Even if the setting are not backed up to a computer or icloud, it would seem for that amount of money the firm supplying the app would provide a cloud based service to make the service device independent. What if the iPod no longer had charged and you wanted to use your phone?

    It still seems kind of fishy.

  • Submitter wrote in his TFA:

    The Daily Mail, in a rare instance of actual reporting, did at least take note of Eberle’s Facebook post.)

    I keep seeing this here on /. and other sites, but is it really true? Is the Daily Mail any worse than any other media outlet, like CNN, the NY Times, Spiegel, etc.? Or is this just one of those internet born factoids that's been passed around so often that its just accepted as to be true, and is mindlessly repeated by careless individuals who didn't bother to verify its

    • by Nimey (114278)

      That paper didn't get known as the Daily Fail and Daily Hate for nothing.

    • It's about the same as fox news. The same as the others, but from the other side.

      Don't believe anything any of them report.

  • I'm not sure what's more amazing to me that 1. a newspaper in America still has reporters (not relying on th AP) or 2. that they got something wrong.
  • There's a ROFL episode of Big Bang where a cast member is using a robot hand for "personal pleasure", when it locks up.

  • While it's good to read that his prosthetic isn't useless due to the loss of an inexpensive device, I really hope there's some way to lock out that old iPod Touch from his hand. If the thief realized what he had stolen he could cause some mischief with it. Presumably his identity is unknown since he hasn't been caught, which means he could get close enough without being noticed. So unless the limb can be programmed to ignore the old device, could the thief just get within range of the prosthetic and cause t
  • It works for Fox News. Make outrageous statements, and let people get all riled up about it. The next say explain that it was wrong, but you have already won with that emotional tie. Same for Apple haters. Rationality never enters into it.

  • TFA says the iPod finds the hand by its unique serial number. But how does the hand authenticate the iPod?
  • It is pretty pathetic when original stories do not contain any journalism as in verification and clarification and using plain, apparently old-fashioned common sense. The correction is the only good thing here, and how common "journalism" fails to deliver seems to have become a story in its own right. Again.

  • Rush to post a story without even an ounce of research or fact-checking.

    Really, I only come here anymore for the profound amusement I get from watching this train wreck continue in super slow motion.

  • It seems that Slashdot has adopted CNN's recently invented journalism technique guaranteed to at least double traffic:

    1) Find a barely-newsworthy story
    2) Twist the facts so severely that the resulting summary /headline are factually false
    3) Create a story out of someone debunking said nonsense
    4) make sure to monetize at each step.

    With this technique, we can double the number of postings on slashdot! Monday:"FLYING CAR INVENTED!" Tuesday: "SLASHDOT LIES ABOUT FLYING CAR-- HOW IT HAPPENED"

    What incredibly f

  • As i read the article it only mentions Apple stuff, should have known, iLimb, sheez, like there is nothing else in the world!
  • ..a prosthetic hand? So to make it work, it has to be remotely operated by the working hand? Otherwise, isn't it just a narcissistic recursive device: command hand to poke at iPod so it can command the hand to poke at the iPod?

    Do they make pedal powered wheelchairs?

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