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Jonathan Fildes | 15:11 UK time, Tuesday, 28 September 2010

On Tech Brief today: "why the revolution won't be tweeted", Chinese iPhones and hotel death rays.

• Google is constantly refining its search to make it faster with more relevant results. Now the search giant's researchers foresee a time when a computer will be able to detect when a search fails, according to Information Week.

"Like bad poker players, frustrated searchers have tells, behaviours that betray their thoughts. They may frown or lean closer to their monitor, to make sure they're not missing anything... And because these signals can be detected, it's conceivable they could be detected by computers, were users to somehow warm to the idea of Google watching them through a Web cam."

Tipping Point author Malcolm Gladwell turns his attention to Twitter in his latest piece for the New Yorker, and his take is slightly less breathless than most. In it, he suggests that Twitter, long heralded as one of the tools of social activism, may have been oversold.

"There is something else at work here, in the outsized enthusiasm for social media. Fifty years after one of the most extraordinary episodes of social upheaval in American history, we seem to have forgotten what activism is."

• The iPhone 4 finally made its debut in China this week to much fanfare. But, according to blog Ogle Earth, some key features have been changed to fit local laws.

"I soon discovered that the Chinese version of the iPhone 4 comes with an aggravating quirk, though: The built-in Maps app is crippled. My phone's base map is hard-wired to Google Maps' censored dataset for China, where the depiction of China's borders complies with the official propaganda of the Chinese government."

Elizabeth Olson in the New York Times reports on the emergence of TV barcodes, that can be scanned with a mobile phone to take you to extra content.

"Bar codes have been used more widely in Asia and Europe, including on television, but in the United States, the lack of one standard code -- reminiscent of the quarrel over VHS and Beta formats -- as well as the relatively small number of smartphone users equipped with appropriate software have slowed the technology's use."

• And finally, Boing Boing alerted Tech Brief to a hotel in Las Vegas with an unusual claim to fame. Largest swimming pool? Most number of rooms? First with 8 stars? Nope. MGM's Vdara tower supposedly has a death ray.

"MGM's Vdara tower in Las Vegas has a polished, curved mirror surface that focuses a 'death ray' of heat onto the pool area that's hot enough to singe your hair and melt your plastic bags."

If you want to suggest links or stories for Tech Brief, you can send them to @bbctechbrief on Twitter, tag them bbctechbrief on Delicious or e-mail them to

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