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Zero Blaster Reviewed 208

Daniel Rutter writes "I've just reviewed the Zero Blaster, the smoke ring gun that ThinkGeek (among others) sell. It works. It's fun. It's a vortex ring physics demonstration with two triggers and a see-through mechanism. What more could you want for $20?" Thinkgeek and Slashdot are both owned by VA Software.
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Zero Blaster Reviewed

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  • "What more could you want for $20?"

    Do I really even have to answer that question?

    Some possibilities:

    Answer #1 []
    Answer #2 []
    Answer #3 []

  • How... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Wes Janson ( 606363 ) on Saturday August 09, 2003 @08:00PM (#6656955) Journal
    ...did this make the main page on /.? Must be a slow news day if this makes front page, and Yahoo! News has a story about nine comedians on the front page.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 09, 2003 @08:00PM (#6656958)
    • mikey% sudo echo "" >> /etc/hosts
    • by sketerpot ( 454020 ) <> on Saturday August 09, 2003 @09:17PM (#6657258)
      Well, at least the editors don't try to hide the fact that slashdot and thinkgeek are owned by the same company. Isn't integrity nice?
    • by SuperBanana ( 662181 ) on Saturday August 09, 2003 @09:29PM (#6657314)
      New category needed

      Agreed. What's particularly bad is that the editorial staff clearly recognizes the problem:

      Thinkgeek and Slashdot are both owned by VA Software.

      The issue I have is that they don't realize what the problem is. It's like they think the issue is readership not realizing thinkgeek is associated with slashdot. We don't have that problem when there's a blinking thinkgeek ad right above the story.

      Rather, the problem is that it's a plain and simple conflict of interest. OSDN trumpets slashdot as an "award winning news site", but slashdot editors continuously display zero journalistic integrities. Fact checking, not "reporting" about companies you accept advertising from, etc.

      If it were news about thinkgeek, the disclaimer would not only be appropriate, it would be necessary. This however, was entirely a product suck-up....complete with the linkage. All that was missing was a [add this to your cart and check out] link. The disclaimer is for when you think you need to disclaim to readers that there's a potential conflict of interest. The disclaimer does NOT justify posting blatant ads as legitimate news stories.

      • I tell you what. You go ahead and design a site, pay for the bandwidth, support a couple of million hits on a daily bases. At that point, then you can bitch and complain about your site maintaining journalistic integrity.

        Slashdot's editors are not journalists. Well, Roblimo would be, but Timothy, Taco, Hemos, etc. They repost news articles done by others. Journalistic integrity lies on the author of the article. The editors are there to seperate the wheat from the chaff.

        Besides, this really isn't ne
        • by Mulletproof ( 513805 ) on Sunday August 10, 2003 @12:55AM (#6657988) Homepage Journal
          "The editors are there to seperate the wheat from the chaff."

          Oh, you really didn't just say that... Do you really want to recount the all too numerous number of hoaxes, spam headlines and just plain assnine stories that have made it to the front page with these so-called chaff seperating "editors" at the helm??? No, their work is more akin to strip-mining. They take stories that grab their attention and dump them wholesale onto this site with barely a cursorary background check at times.

          They aren't journalists and I can accept that. But even editors is too rich of a word for what they do. At most Slashdot is a hub where people post stories and the people who run it do the absolute minimum in their posting. In effect, everybody else does their job for them. Not that I have a problem with it, but lets overhype their job here.

          And to that other guy, it's only a conflict of intrests if you claim that your organization is some how unbiased or impartial in some way. To my knowledge, Slashdot has never claimed that and has every right to hype their own products on their own site. It doesn't exactly look the best when it comes to credibility, but then, neither do the dupes, spam and other crap that make the front page, so who am I to judge?
        • "I tell you what. You go ahead and design a site, pay for the bandwidth, support a couple of million hits on a daily bases. At that point, then you can bitch and complain about your site maintaining journalistic integrity."
          Don't be ridiculous. Going on that reasoning no one is allowed to complain about anything which they have not directly done themselves.
      • I think the heighth of journalistic integrity is plainly and simply stating your biases for all to see. That is all I want and all I need. If Slashdot becomes a site that largely carries stories that seem to be ads, I'll stop reading it because it won't be useful anymore.

        All this rot about journalistic integrity gets us our current news media, all of whom claim to be 'objective' while clearly being extremely biased in one way or another. Journalistic integrity is about saying who you are, where you're c

      • > This however, was entirely a product suck-up....complete with the linkage

        I'll admit that I deliberately submitted it that way in hopes of getting it posted (and it worked!). But in the review, I do mention that I bought my review Zero Blaster on eBay, cheaper than ThinkGeek sell it :-).

        • The issue I have is that they don't realize what the problem is. It's like they think the issue is readership not realizing thinkgeek is associated with slashdot. We don't have that problem when there's a blinking thinkgeek ad right above the story.

        Oh read the freaking article, Dan has been posted to /. numerous times before, the article is EXTREMELY informative, DEFINITELY Nerdy, and downright COOL.

        Now if the /. EDITORS mentioned "and by the way, ThinkGeek sells this wonderful product as well!" THEN I w

  • One of them you fill with the supplied fluid. The other one's for overflow, from overenthusiastic use of the pump-trigger.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 09, 2003 @08:07PM (#6656983)
    I own it and it's awesome. And if you READ THE DIRECTIONS it shoots the rings much farther than a few centimeteres (I have gotten several meters) and you can also get rings to shoot through other rings. And you can get scented fog solution that disperses in a couple of minutes. In summary, it is awesome and will scare the crap out of your dog.
  • Spoilers (Score:5, Funny)

    by DorkHead ( 696720 ) on Saturday August 09, 2003 @08:07PM (#6656984)
    Thinkgeek and Slashdot are both owned by VA Software. Damn it! Here I was preparing a huge conspiracy post about how VA Software is abusing Slashdot's position among nerds to promote merchandise from one of it's other companies and then you just give it all away. What am I supposed to complain about today then? Couldn't you atleast give me a dupe or some bad grammar?
    • Daniel Rutter writes "I've just reviewed the Zero Blaster, the smoke ring gun that ThinkGeek (among others) sell. Grammar, shouldn't that read sells?
      • Nah, implying a plural subject with a singular word that signifies a group of people is one of those English constructions that is actually technically correct in some dialects...
        It's popular in Britain. The UK do it all the time...
  • ads (Score:2, Interesting)

    you know for every 10 bucks I spend on thinkgeek I sould get something like 20 page views added to my Slashdot account I would shop more at Thinkgeek then I would at

  • There are many pictures of the actual device, but where are the pictures of operation?

  • Who can we say about this? SCO is not present, M$ is not present, there are no Linux Champions to praise... why? What can I say? Still, looks like a fun little toy to have. However, I prefer guns that leave marks in walls [] at 8 feet.
  • Hmm (Score:5, Funny)

    by Openadvocate ( 573093 ) on Saturday August 09, 2003 @08:13PM (#6657014)
    I think I would be happier WITH the dollar.
  • 20 dolla (Score:5, Funny)

    by zumbojo ( 615389 ) on Saturday August 09, 2003 @08:14PM (#6657017) Homepage
    It's $20 and produces smoke rings? Must be an eighth of...oh...nevermind it's a toy. :-P
  • by Valar ( 167606 ) on Saturday August 09, 2003 @08:14PM (#6657019)
    Keep in mind that someone submitted this. And that the editors of slashdot are too busy on stage three (that's right PROFIT!!!) to care if Thinkgeek makes a couple of extra bucks here and there. Plus, admit it. You want one. Or maybe I'm part of the overarching conspiracy too. Bwahaha.
  • Well after i read these reviews I went over to my buddies place who just purchased one. I was not very impressed and like others have said it does kind of stink. I also agree with the other that this post on slashdot seem kind of pointless. I belive that most users of /. have seen and regularly for to thinkgeek.
  • by AndroidCat ( 229562 ) on Saturday August 09, 2003 @08:18PM (#6657030) Homepage
    When I read the title I thought, "OMG! Someone made a sequel to Zero Wing?!"

    Oh well, a smoke-ring gun is pretty good.

  • among others (Score:4, Insightful)

    by frovingslosh ( 582462 ) on Saturday August 09, 2003 @08:18PM (#6657032)
    the smoke ring gun that ThinkGeek (among others) sell.

    So can anyone tell me who the among others are? Particularly anyone who might sell this toy from a retail store front? I would rather not mail order one and pay a steep shipping charge, and I do resent the Think Geek website approach of trying to make me "register" before I can even find out what the shipping cost is. (For all I know they might even be like other sites that make me give a credit card number before they will tell me the shipping charges, but I never got that far. I do buy on-line, but I never register or give a credit card number before I find out if I want to do business with the company, and for those that require it, I take my business elsewhere.

    • the smoke ring gun that ThinkGeek (among others) sell.

      So can anyone tell me who the among others are?

      google can!
      They even lists what appears to be the manufacturer []. Contact them for wholesale info.
    • I ordered a bunch of stuff from them and it came to $6.95 for 2nd day air. Stuff arrived neatly packed and well protected.
    • So can anyone tell me who the among others are?

      I have never been there, but I have noticed The Discovery Channel Shop, which has retail locations sells some of the same stuff Thinkgeek has. They have remote controlled blimps and hovercrafts for one. You might try their website.

  • ...and it's a "smoke-ring gun". I mean, if /. is gonna shamelessly promote their wares (hey, they got bills to pay like the rest of us), shouldn't the product being plugged at least have some practicality (smart drinks, hardware etc)?

    Maybe make a miscelaneous department for fluff stories like this.
  • What is 6 AA batteries (batteries not
    included)? Five dollars?
  • Make your own (Score:5, Informative)

    by Smidge204 ( 605297 ) on Saturday August 09, 2003 @08:23PM (#6657058) Journal
    I saw 'Mr. Wizard' build one of these. Granted, not really as portable, but it worked.

    1 Medium size cardboard box (12" cube or better-long boxes with square bases are best)

    1 Smoke source. (Incense, fog solution, etc)

    1 sturdy plastic bag or thin sheet (to make a diaphram)

    Duct tape (Of course!)

    Cut 4" hole in base of box. Preferably in a "clean" edge (no flaps or seams). If you can't do that, make a bigger hole and cut the 4" circle in another peice of carbboard to make the orifice. Neatness counts!

    Completely remove the opposite end of the box, and cover it with the plastic sheet. Pull it tight and secure with duct tape. Make a good seal!

    Place smoke source in box (potential fire hazard? Be careful...) near the middle and wait for the box to fill up.

    Aim and slap the plastic sheet to "shoot" a ring of smoke.

    The kid on Mr Wizard was able to blow out a candle from about 15 feet away with this thing.
    • Re:Make your own (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Even easier - take a 1 or 2 pound coffee can with a plastic lid. Cut off the bottom and put on a second plast lid with a 2" circular hole cut in it. Blow cigarette smoke into the can or figure out another smoke source. Whap the intact plastic lid hard with your fingers as if hitting a drum. You will get a smoke ring that rapidly travels across the room. And yes, you can put out a candle at 10 or 20 feet with it.
    • And if you paint the goatse man on the front you have just built the scariest halloween decoration EVER!
    • Re:Make your own (Score:3, Informative)

      by tunabomber ( 259585 )
      About 6 months ago, I went to a Frank Black concert in Albuquerque, and the opening act was "Scientific Phenomenolist" David Lovering. Most of the stuff he did were demos I remember my high school physics teacher doing, but the one thing that caught my eye was that he had constructed a giant smoke ring cannon out of a kick drum.
      The thing was hooked up to a big fog machine and could shoot rings a good 50 ft into the balcony, and by then they were 2-3 ft in diameter.
      I was really surprised that I'd never seen
  • by Daz3d ( 669004 ) on Saturday August 09, 2003 @08:25PM (#6657065) Journal
    The Airzooka here [] looks a lot more fun, being able to fire invisible balls of air at people at around 20ft (& ruffle hair, etc) and it can do smoke rings too, IIRC. Check out the 'Airzooka action video' near the bottom :)
    • ThinkGeek has them also. I have one and I found the diaphram made of plastic too loud. It makes kind of a loud "PHWAPP" when you do a full power blast. To fix this (in true geek fashion) I modified the 'zooka. I disassembled the rear assembly, and replaced the plastic diaphram with a piece cut from a black T-shirt I never wore. Now, the blast is a little less powerful, but it makes a quiet "fwop". Don't have any measuring devices, but it's at least 3x quiter. Much more effective and much more fun.
  • An Airzooka [].

    Granted, it's not as big of a deal as they make it, but it's more effective than a smoke ring.
    • The Airzooka looks pretty cool, but the Whamo Air Blaster [] was a better implementation of this concept, IMHO. I spent lots of time terrorizing our cats with that thing in the late 70's/early 80's.
      • Did anyone else notice they pulled many of the dangerous but fun toys off the store shelves in the late 80's.

        I remember those model rockets that were sold everywhere, I always bought them, then one day they all vanished except for a few private hobby shops, and I had a friend who ended up with third degree burns for being a bone head..

        The other one were those mega chemistry sets, the huge ones with what seemed like hundreds of bottles to make cool things, like neato toxic smoke, I filled the house with th
        • I'm not sure model rockets were taken off the shelves for being dangerous ... rather than just lack of sales. Kids just want to play nintendo these days instead of getting out and flying rockets. Toys-r-us & Wal-mart still carry model rocket motors and smaller rockets.

          Check out my rocket page [] for some examples of current model rockets.
  • Played with one (Score:3, Interesting)

    by SamMichaels ( 213605 ) on Saturday August 09, 2003 @08:31PM (#6657081)
    Friend of mine used to be the manager at Spencer Gifts...they started stocking these about a year and a half ago.

    I was yelled at quite often to stop blowing smoke rings at customers, at her cashiers, at her...and even at myself. Couldn't put the toy down.

    Smoke rings went for about 3 or 4 feet before they dissipated. Since I work in a club, I'm used to the smell of fog...and I'm one of the whackos who enjoy the smell of fog :)

    Get one for your home, your office, your car...everywhere. Your visitors will pick it up, start playing, and not be able to put it down. Some day you'll see from the addicts to this toy.
  • It is cool but it's no Gandalff--only rings, no ships. Actually, one of the guys here has one--along with a air blaster and a rubber band machine gun. Serious toys in this shop (the company founder restores pipe organs and music boxes). I think that's why my wife thinks I can run all the errands or make all the daytime phone calls: This place hardly seems like work!
  • DIY Vortex Gun (Score:5, Interesting)

    by istartedi ( 132515 ) on Saturday August 09, 2003 @08:45PM (#6657135) Journal

    This reminds me of a DIY vortex gun I saw in a kids science comic thingy when I was like... 13 or something.

    Step 1. Get a sturdy cardboard box no more than 6 inches wide in any dimension. 6" by 6" square with 8-12" length is good. Something cylindrical like a Quaker Oats container might be even better.

    Step 2. Cut out one end and stretch a balloon over it. Firmly tape or otherwise fasten the balloon over the end.

    Step 3. (perhaps the trickiest part) Attach something to the center of the balloon so you can pull it back. IIRC, they suggested that you could use a brass notebook fastener and some tape to do this. The tricky part is not to tear the balloon.

    Step 4. Cut a circular hole in the middle of the other side. I want to say it should be about a 3rd the "diameter" of the box. Certainly no larger than that.

    To "fire" it, just pull back on the balloon and hold long enough for pressure to equalize (this happens almost instantly because the hole is pretty big). Then, release it in a SNAP! all at once.

    It's been a long time, but I think they promised a curious puff of air could be felt by people 10 or 20 feet away if you did it right.

    An afternoon of scrounging for parts, construction, and experimentation with your kids is probably a more valuable experience than just shelling out for a vortex gun with nasty smoke in it.

    For extra credit and to find out if your kids are mechanicly inclined, encourage them to come up with a handle/trigger mechanism for the thing so it can be pointed like a real gun.

    If your DIY version works, you can take the kids out for ice-cream and get some dry ice from the vendor. See if you can make your gun smoke with that. A fun afternoon and evening for the entire family!

    • See the ThinkGeek version, Airzooka, here []
    • Re:DIY Vortex Gun (Score:3, Informative)

      by spydir31 ( 312329 ) *
      btw, there's a link in the article, Make one [] it says.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    My Dad bought one of these when I was a kid. It used special smoke generating matches. A trigger operated hammer struck an internal rubber diaphram.

    I recently bought one on eBay but the diaphram is completely gone, but it shouldn't be too hard to fix. I've been looking for a good smoke source for it. I should check this one out.
  • Make a one meter version of this, dump a fuel-air mixture into it, light it and knock over the other bots from across the ring.
    • Actaully, i was just wondering what would happen if you filled it with an easy vaporizing inflammible liquid, lie gasoline or ether or somethign, and then shot it at a candle or ignited it at the muzzle. Would you get brief flame rings?

      Kids, dont try this at home. But if you do, keep me posted.
  • by echucker ( 570962 ) on Saturday August 09, 2003 @08:56PM (#6657178) Homepage
    Get an Airzooka. [] It shoots a harmless ball of air about 20-25 feet. Pretty cool for scaring cats off of TVs, blowing the co-worker's toupee off, or launching a fart at an unsuspecting party guest. Same price too - $20, including delivery by UPS ground. Color me a satisfied customer.
    • "launching a fart at an unsuspecting party guest"

      If I see someone exhaling out their ass into an Airzooka, well, I'm just gonna have to beat them with a clue bat.

      Talk about socially unacceptable!
  • Glycol? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Combuchan ( 123208 ) < minus pi> on Saturday August 09, 2003 @09:04PM (#6657203) Homepage
    I find it interesting that Zero Toys would use glycol as the formula for the smoke solution, especially a cherry-scented concotion. Kids tend to equate cherries with stuff that tastes good, with perhaps disastrous results when we look at the defintion from wordnet:

    n 1: a sweet but poisonous syrupy liquid used as an antifreeze
    and solvent [syn: {ethylene glycol}, {ethanediol}]

    Smells like a lawsuit waiting to happen.
    • Kids tend to equate cherries with stuff that tastes good when _i_ was a kid, "cherry flavored" meant "tastes like cough syrup".
    • by Anonymous Coward
      "Old" antifreeze was ethylene glycol, which was sweet poison.

      Most new antifreeze is propylene glycol, which doubles as a food and makeup additive (although just like every additive it has its share of detractors which swear it will kill us all) and is also used to generate smoke.
    • Re:Glycol? (Score:2, Funny)

      by cfuse ( 657523 )
      It might smell like cherry, but I bet it tastes like ass.
    • Tastes like a lawsuit waiting to happen.
    • > glycol n 1: a sweet but poisonous syrupy liquid used as an antifreeze

      Not all glycols are poisonous, and some are even used in medical products. People having abdominal surgery or other procedures are sometimes required to clean out the plumbing first (a "bowel preparation" in the jargon) by drinking a gallon or so of polyethylene glycol the night before. They even have great flavors [] like cherry. You might even be able to use the stuff to make smoke rings.

      And I'm not saying how I know that.

    • Re:Glycol? (Score:4, Informative)

      by Jade E. 2 ( 313290 ) <slashdot@perls[ ] ['tor' in gap]> on Sunday August 10, 2003 @04:07AM (#6658532) Homepage
      From their FAQ []:

      Q: What is in the fluid?
      A: A water based non-toxic liquid that is similar to the fluid used in special effects fog machines. The Fluid consists of Distilled Water, Glycerin (a USP kosher food additive) and Propylene Glycol (a USP kosher food additive ).

  • What I find amusing is that the majority of +3 and up posts are commenting on how this is obviously an ad placement. I completely agree, and while I am upset about it, it certainly is Slashdot's perogative as to what they post in terms of stories. However, since there has been an overwhelmingly large number of complaints about this, will anything be done? Of course not! Have any of the higherups ever commented on this issue? Of course not! Will they ever? Of course not.

    As much as I hate how this happ

  • Quick! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Zen Programmer ( 518532 ) on Saturday August 09, 2003 @09:07PM (#6657220)
    Somebody get a hold of President Bush! We've found the smoking gun!
  • Do you think this guy [] Is really impressing anyone with this thing?

    "Hey laydies... look what I bought on ThinkGeek! Hey wait, come back!"
  • Request (Score:2, Interesting)

    by spudchucker ( 680073 )

    Please use for shit like this.

    Please make worth looking at.
    Smoke ring stuff

    Cooler toy stuff []

    Stuff that matters []

    Stuff that matters []

    Stuff that matters []

    Stuff that matters []

    Stuff that matters []

    Stuff that matters []

    Stuff that matters []

    Stuff that matters []

    Stuff that matters []

  • In reading up on vortex rings, I came across this [] page which has some interesting ideas for building vortex generators as well as some nifty (wierd?) applications. Most interesting is to power the vortex tube with a big loudspeaker, and control the size and spin of the smoke rings by sending it different shaped waveforms.
  • At this point, I was glumly contemplating the task of trying to take pictures smoke rings while shooting them.

    How about, "At this point, I was contemplating getting out of my house and making some friends so they could take pictures of the smoke rings for me"
  • by DdJ ( 10790 ) on Saturday August 09, 2003 @10:04PM (#6657404) Homepage Journal
    My office-mate keeps a rifle that fires ping-pong balls in the office. I keep a Zero Fog Blaster. This means I always win in the intimidation battle.


    I don't mind being pelted with ping-pong balls. But he absolutely can't stand to be subjected to the awful artificial cherry scent of the fog rings...
  • I'm one of those militant non-smokers Philip Morris warned you about. I live in Florida where smoking is outlawed in resturants. I don't allow people to smoke in my car. Your right to smoke stops where my right to clean air begins.

    This certainly it not a product I'd be interested in... However, if instead of producing smoke rings, it could be modified to produce a cigarette extinguishing vortex, it'd be quite useful. I'd love to have something I can use to point-and-click peoples' cigarettes out witho
  • ... and now I can buy one.

    And I have three cats to test it on.

  • Awww... c'mon. Smoke a cigar. It's not bad if you don't inhale. And if you start on cigars, you'll probably never move over to any other tobacco products. I rarely smoke cigars (basically only at parties to impress the ladies with my macho smoke rings.... sure.....) but I tried a cigarette today. Too weak, I might as well stick my head near the exhaust on my oven and inhale. Didn't taste a damn thing. Plus, cigars have the upside of being non-addicting (more or less).
  • I love mine! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by dacetone ( 177878 ) *
    I got one of these a few months ago, and it's been a lot of fun. I leave it on my coffee table, and it's a conversation piece (I guess it helps to have stoner friends). My cats hate it a lot, they tend to wrinkle up their noses and run away.

    I can't say that battery life has been a problem like he described, i've had the same set in since I got it. It doesn't push them with much force, but you can get better distance with practice. One thing i've found that helps the quality of the ring is to cover the smo
  • The local Spencer's Gifts carried it. Don't know if they still do. It is an interesting contraption. But it definately has a novelty factor that can wear thin. I don't think I've used it since February? Really interesting to play with, though.

    PS: Some people will like the cherry scented smoke. Others will hate it. Animals seem to find it as a form of smelly attack.
  • Wheee - lookie everyone, my gun that blows smoke rings ! - wheeee !

    What fun ! - hours and hours of fun, er, well, er - blowing smoke rings ! - whoooopeee - I don't have a life !

  • Now, that's a p(r)etty sly action Dan pulled there. Get a post through on slashdot (and crosslink it on your page), put a pointer towards your webhost on your page, PROFIT.

  • Sorry, couldn't resist, old jokes are best.
    Could have also gone for:
    smoke and mirrors []

Houston, Tranquillity Base here. The Eagle has landed. -- Neil Armstrong