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Monday, January 2, 2006

Stabilized Bigfoot film

Picture 2-40 elricky says: "As a follow-up to the stabilized Zapruder view of the Kennedy assasination, a shake-free version of that other enigmatic film from the 60's, the Patterson-Gimlin bigfoot footage. See also:"

posted by Mark Frauenfelder at 08:31:21 PM permalink | blogs' comments

Two-headed snake for auction

This two-headed albino rat snake will be auctioned on eBay with a starting bid of $150,000. The 6-year-old snake, named We, currently lives at the World Aquarium in St. Louis, Missouri. The aquarium purchased her for $15,000 just after she was born. From the Associated Press:
 Cnn 2006 Us 01 02 Rare.Snake.Two.Ap Story.Snake.ApAn inch (2.5 centimeters) thick and 4 feet (1.2 meters) long, she is a healthy size for a rat snake. While her body is white, the heads have a reddish appearance.

We has survived because, unlike some two-headed animals, both mouths are connected to the same stomach, (aquarium president Leonard) Sonnenschein said.

posted by David Pescovitz at 06:42:16 PM permalink | blogs' comments

Stabilized Zapruder film? High quality hoax or the real deal?

From WFMU's always excellent "Beware of the Blog"
Picture 1-62 Here's the alleged stabilized Zapruder film that's been making the rounds. Is it a hoax? A hoax of a hoax? The truth revealed? You decide.
Real or not, this is impressive work. Link

posted by Mark Frauenfelder at 01:15:43 PM permalink | blogs' comments

Elmo: Who wants to die?

Imagewrap Apparently some copies of the interactive talking book "Potty Time With Elmo" were clandestinely programmed to say, "Who wants to die?" According to a Local 6 News report, the manufacturer has received more than one complaint about this. The correct statement is, "Who wants to try to go potty?"
Link (via Fark)

posted by David Pescovitz at 12:21:09 PM permalink | blogs' comments

Yahoo to launch reality TV series online

Snip from SF Chronicle article:
Terry Semel, the former movie studio chief who now leads Yahoo Inc., is back in show business. His Web portal has filmed a pilot for a reality series called "Wow House" that will be broadcast online within the next few months.

(...) "Wow House," Yahoo's new show, will be broadcast in an area for technology coverage that the company is carving out on its Web site. Families participating in the show compete to outfit their homes with the latest electronics, such as theater systems, high-definition televisions and stereos. The family that wins, as voted by viewers, will keep the merchandise.

Link (Thanks, Kourosh).

Previously on Boing Boing:
Battle Blogging for Profit

posted by Xeni Jardin at 12:12:34 PM permalink | blogs' comments

$127 billion robot army and other top news from 2005

The publishers of the excellent Harper's Weekly email newsletter sent out its "Yearly Review" newsletter. What a year!
A 1,600-inmate faith-based prison opened in Crawfordville, Florida. Police began random bag checks of subway passengers in New York City. It was revealed that the CIA had set up a secret system of prisons, called "black sites," around the world; it was also revealed that the National Security Agency was spying on Americans without first obtaining warrants. Journalist Judith Miller was released from jail and said she wanted to hug her dog. U.S. Congressman Tom DeLay was arrested; U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney's Chief of Staff I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby was indicted. The Pentagon admitted to using white phosphorus during the 2004 attack on Fallujah, Iraq, and allocated $127 billion to build a robot army. The total number of American soldiers killed in the Iraq war rose to 2,174, while the total number of Iraqi civilians killed rose to 27,636. "We are all waiting for death," said an Iraqi soldier, "like the moon waiting for sunset." The U.S. Defense Department, in violation of the federal Privacy Act, was building a database of 30 million 16- to 25-year-olds. The Department of Homeland Security announced that it had wasted a great deal of money and needed much more. Starbucks came to Guantanamo Bay. Scientists began work on a complete, molecule-level computer simulation of the human brain. The project will take at least ten years.

posted by Mark Frauenfelder at 11:15:49 AM permalink | blogs' comments

Weinberger: Why the media can't get Wikipedia right

David Weinberger -- author of the magnificent Small Pieces Loosely Joined -- has published a great article anaylzing press-coverage of Wikipedia called "Why the media can't get Wikipedia right."

In the press-storm following on from Seigenthaler's damning of Wikipedia, there has been a stream of unfair criticism of Wikipedia. The press -- both mainstream and tech -- has hunted for ways to damn Wikipedia, nits to pick and indictments to lay, not to mention a healthy dollop of legal hysteria about the possibility that Wikipedia could be sued for libel.

Weinberger expertly dissects the media's claims about Wikipedia (a resource that I consult daily) and makes some shrewd guesses about why the press can't think straight about Wikipedia.

There were lots of little errors of tone. For example, Robert Lever, writing for the Agence France-Presse, said:
In an unusual bit of self-criticism, Wikipedia notes on its site that some complain about "a perceived lack of reliability, comprehensiveness, and authority" in the encyclopaedia.
"Unusual"? Wikipedia has been a continuous state of self-criticism that newspapers would do well to emulate. It has discussion pages for every article. It has handled inaccuracies not defensively but with the humble understanding that of course Wikipedia articles will have mistakes, so let's get on with the unending task of improving them. Wikipedia's ambitions are immodest, but Wikipedia is not.

And Daniel Terdiman wrote for C-NET:

The article stayed on Wikipedia — the free, open-access encyclopedia — for four months before Seigenthaler finally got the service's founder, Jimmy Wales, to agree to take it down.
"Finally"? Sounds like Jimmy Wikipedia Wales was resistant? Nah. I asked Jimmy about this. He was contacted by Seigenthaler once. Jimmy immediately removed the previous versions of the article so people couldn't come upon it by accident. Previous versions are not indexed by the search engines, but, Jimmy said, "We do that fairly often as a courtesy to people, if there's something disparaging to people in the article." Added Jimmy, Seigenthaler "didn't request that it be deleted. He seemed to be surprised that we were willing to do that."

posted by Cory Doctorow at 09:52:45 AM permalink | blogs' comments

Did a half ton steel plug beat Sputnik into orbit by two years?

Over at the "Notes from the Technology Underground" blog, Bill Gurstelle recalls a conversation he had with Robert Brownlee, a retired astrophysicist who had worked at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Brownlee told Bill that in 1957 he and a group of other scientists were working on a way to prevent radioactive material from leaking into the atmosphere during nuclear weapons tests.

One way to do this was to set off the bomb underground, which they tried one evening, with spectacular "roman candle" like results.

When the device was exploded, it blew the top off the well. The project leader remembers that,

“We did have a lid on that hole. Nobody's seen it since. We never did find that. There was (also) kind of plug in the hole. . . All it was, was a concrete cylinder with a hole through the center of it, so the detector could look through it. It was suspended from the harness that was holding the bomb. It was a collimator, and we never found that collimator either, and it was about five feet thick.”

In 1959 October 1957 [see note below], a team of Soviet scientists launched what they claimed to be the first man made object into outer space, the satellite Sputnik. But based on what Dr. Greenlee told me, I think Sputnik was the second object, beat by a full two years by an American made, half-ton, steel well cap, launched into orbit by a plutonium push.

Later this week , I’ll provide reasons why I think this could really be true.


Reader comment: Lakelady says: "Sputnik was launched October 4, 1957 - Not 1959."

Reader comment: Bill Leslie says: "There are a couple of great reference sites that address the 'atomic manhole cover launch.'

"Some links:

"One of the quotes in the article really sums it up:"

But the assumption that it might have escaped from Earth is implausible (Dr. Brownlee's discretion in making a priority claim is well advised). Leaving aside whether such an extremely hypersonic unaerodynamic object could even survive passage through the lower atmosphere, it appears impossible for it to retain much of its initial velocity while passing through the atmosphere. A ground launched hypersonic projectile has the same problem with maintaining its velocity that an incoming meteor has. According to the American Meteor Society Fireball and Meteor FAQ meteors weighing less than 8 tonnes retain none of their cosmic velocity when passing through the atmosphere, they simply end up as a falling rock. Only objects weighing many times this mass retain a significant fraction of their velocity.

posted by Mark Frauenfelder at 09:31:41 AM permalink | blogs' comments

New issue of Neural magazine

 Images N23Our Italian riot nrrrd friends at Neural have published issue #23 of their tech/art/culture print magazine. (Neural's editor, Alessandro Ludovico, interviewed our own Mark Frauenfelder back in 1994!) Among lots of other interesting material, the new issue contains interviews with the likes of McKenzie Wark (author of A Hacker Manifesto) and radioqualia, who in one project streamed the acoustic output of radio astronomy telescopes, an article on circuit bending, and plenty of reviews of music, books, and digital art.
Link to issue #23 contents, Link to Neural's Italian site

posted by David Pescovitz at 09:09:03 AM permalink | blogs' comments

60 days in bed for space medicine study

The BBC News reports on a recent study at the French space agency's Institute for Space Medicine and Physiology where volunteers spent two months in bed. The aim was to better understand how extended stays in space could impact the body, causing a loss of bone mass, fluid, and muscle. From the article:
The volunteers were subjected to a strict regime during their stay. They were divided into three groups: a group taking exercise adapted to a lying-down position, a nutrition group with a special diet including protein supplements and a control group.

(Participant Morag Roberts) was in the exercise group, which she was very happy about.

"We did the exercise in the same position - one shoulder touching the bed," she said in a phone call from the clinic.

"You're always at a 6 degree angle, even for the shower..."

During the three month experiment, the volunteers had some home comforts, including laptop computers, TV and music.

They were also able to do language and drawing classes, and were visited by astronauts.

posted by David Pescovitz at 08:49:03 AM permalink | blogs' comments

Calendar of US military dead in Iraq war, through 2005

At Cryptome, an HTML calendar of the 2,316 US military dead in the Iraq war, from March 2003 through December 31, 2005. Data viewable by date of death, names of the deceased, and how they died.


posted by Xeni Jardin at 08:30:02 AM permalink | blogs' comments

Chillits 2005 ambient DJ sets online

Every fall in Northern California, the Chillits music festival brings together a stunning line-up of DJs who spin mesmerizing sets of ambient and downtempo music under the sun and stars. (Previous Chillits post here.) Chillits organizer Scott Nelson Windels tells us that this year's sets are once again available online, as MP3s on the site and also via torrents. They're all great, but DF Tram's set is particular beautiful (as expected), as is Time Slips By's mix. Link

posted by David Pescovitz at 08:24:32 AM permalink | blogs' comments

Cat helps human by dialing 911

Last Thursday, Columbus, Ohio man Gary Rosheisen fell out of his wheelchair and couldn't get up. Fortunately, his cat Tommy called 911. From the Associated Press:
(Police officer Patrick) Daugherty said police received a 911 call from Rosheisen's apartment, but there was no one on the phone. Police called back to make sure everything was OK, and when no one answered, they decided to check things out.

That's when Daugherty found Tommy next to the phone.

Rosheisen got the cat three years ago to help lower his blood pressure. He tried to train him to call 911, unsure if the training ever stuck.

posted by David Pescovitz at 07:58:46 AM permalink | blogs' comments

Syriana screenplay online, in entirety, for your reading pleasure

Last week on Boing Boing, we posted an excerpt from the script for Syriana which reflected an interesting edit.

Warner Brothers has now released the entire script online.
PDF link.

If you haven't read the book on which it's based, by all means do: See No Evil, by Robert Baer.
(via script-o-rama, thanks Drew!).

posted by Xeni Jardin at 07:55:25 AM permalink | blogs' comments

HOWTO throw a fireworks party inside your apartment

Boing Boing reader Bjacques says,

The Dutch go nuts with fireworks on New Year's Eve, and so do I. This was my second year to throw a fireworks party in my 3rd floor flat here in Amsterdam. We set off firecrackers, rockets, etc., with flashbulbs and a dynamite plunger. It's marginally safer and more fun than just chucking fireworks out the window. And it's LEGAL.
Link. Do not (neccessarily) try this at home, possums. A lot of things are legal in Amsterdam, elsewhere YMMV. And not everything that's legal is good for your health, or that of your houseguests or furniture.

posted by Xeni Jardin at 07:40:47 AM permalink | blogs' comments

Zapatistas march Mexico, aiming to influence elections

Over the weekend, Dave Pentecost told Boing Boing,

The Zapatista rebels leave today on a six-month tour of Mexico, aimed at influencing the Mexican presidential elections. Here's my 2001 video report on their tour that year, which was the highwater mark of Zapatista support and influence: blog post link, and Video link.

The Zapatistas have been called the first internet rebellion. They certainly put the state of Chiapas on the map in 1994, capturing several towns to dramatize their opposition to NAFTA. They maintained international support which protected them in their long stalemate and allowed them to create autonomous communities. Few shots were fired, but the state of Chiapas was militarized, the Lacandon jungle pierced by roads which allowed both military and new settlers into the rainforest.

In 2001, new president Vicente Fox declared that he could settle the conflict, and gave the rebels safe passage out of the jungle, to travel to Mexico City and make the case for an indigenous bill of rights. I traveled in the back of a pickup truck with Mexican journalists in a high-speed caravan, jumping out every day to cover huge rallies in the towns along the way. My report was one of the few that made it to American television.

Once they reached the capital, the Mexican congress stonewalled them, passing a watered-down version of the rights they demanded. They returned to Chiapas, allowed to peacefully administer their communities, but they have not changed the lives of the poor of Mexico as much as they had hoped.

This year's tour is their chance to grab the spotlight again. They could gain greater influence in Mexican politics, or they could end up as spoilers. They have already criticized Lopez Obrador, the most progressive candidate. It will be interesting to see whether Subcomandante Marcos becomes the Nader of Mexico, draining support from the progressive wing and strengthening the rightwing candidates, or continues with his skillful command of internet and media tools.

Photos: Dave Pentecost. Above, Zapatistas at the last press conference before the march, 2001. Below, Zapatista children, 2001.

Link to a related AP report today, "Zapatistas Aim to Reshape Mexican Politics."

posted by Xeni Jardin at 07:21:16 AM permalink | blogs' comments

Obesity surgeries compared

CNN has a comparison of different radical anti-obesity surgeries, commemorating a comparative study on obesity-surgery techniques commissioned by the US government:
American doctors have preferred bypass operations because they produce faster, greater weight loss. But new research by O'Brien and others calls that into question.

Combining results on 23,638 patients in 43 published studies, they found that bypasses beat bands for the first three years but were comparable after seven years, with excess weight loss of 55 percent for bypass and 51 percent for bands.

That impressed Dr. Edward Livingston, chief of gastrointestinal surgery at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and chief of bariatric surgery for the Department of Veteran's Affairs national system.

"I really was not enthusiastic about bands until I came to Dallas from Los Angeles and saw the results from the group that I joined, which where quite good," he confessed. "What you can accomplish in a year with a gastric bypass you can accomplish in five years with a laparoscopic band."


posted by Cory Doctorow at 05:56:51 AM permalink | blogs' comments

Online sf mag Infinite Matrix goes out with a bang - new Gibson, Rucker, Kelly

The Infinite Matrix -- consistently one of the best online science fiction magazines extant -- has begun its final week of publication. This is a rotten day for science fiction. However, Eileen Gunn, the brilliant writer who founded and edited Infinite Matrix as a labor of love, has posted a stupendous final issue, with new fiction from James Patrick Kelly and Rudy Rucker and a tale by the late, lamented Robert Sheckley. Later this week, she'll also publish a new essay by William Gibson, and "Appeals Court," a novella by Charlie Stross and me, that has never before been published online.
Resistance is futile, but even so, it's best to go out kicking and screaming, don't you think?

So the Infinite Matrix will present a final fireworks of stories, essays and columns, and then will cease publication. The site will stay up for a year or so, although older work may be removed as the rights run out.

Look what we've got: a final Runcible Ansible, with its accustomed bite, a fantastic story by Rudy Rucker, The Men in the Back Room at the Country Club, a shortshort by James Patrick Kelly, grafitti photos by A. Fluffy Bunny and original art by Seattle street artist Charles Whiteside, two more columns by Howard Waldrop, an essay on race, TV, and science fiction by Pam Noles, a story by Cory Doctorow and Charles Stross, an essay by William Gibson. There are even a few surprises to go up over the next few days.


posted by Cory Doctorow at 05:50:15 AM permalink | blogs' comments

Futurismic fiction: A transgenic, corporate dystopia

Futurismic's latest short story is "The Other Side of Silence," by Ruth Nestvold -- it's the story of a transgenic corporate dystopia, and it walks through a number of genuinely weird and fascinating moral conundra in just a few thousand words.
"What kind of genmod are you children interested in?" the Chrysalis saleswoman asked as she ushered them down the hall to one of the viewing rooms. She had introduced herself as Nabuko in a perky salesperson voice which Judith found immediately grating. It didn't help that her Asian good looks were reminiscent of one of the women in Vance's catalogue.

"A dog," Luther said stoutly.

"Luther, that's not a genmod," Miriam said with all the wisdom and impatience of an older sister. "That's just a normal animal."

Nabuko chuckled in an obliging way. "Actually, transgenic dogs are among our most popular items."

"Why get a dog when you can get an ocelot?"

Luther was not about to be tricked. "That's a cat. I know that's a cat. I want a dog."

"We have some very interesting items in the genetically modified dog line," Nabuko said, addressing Miriam. "There are even modified exspec clones, including the direwolf. Would you like to take a look?"

Judith didn't like the sound of direwolf, but apparently Miriam did. "Oh, okay," her daughter said, with an obvious pretense of reluctance.

Link (Thanks, Jeremy!)

posted by Cory Doctorow at 12:51:54 AM permalink | blogs' comments

Sunday, January 1, 2006

Buffy creator on the future of TV

Joss Whedon, creator of Firefly and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, has an hilarious editorial in this week's TV Guide about the future of television:
The networks will all be creating exciting, innovative new spin-offs of today's shows. Approximately 67 percent of all television will be CSI-based, including CSI: Des Moines, CSI: New York but a Different Part than Gary Sinise Is In and NCSI: SVU WKRP, which covers every possible gruesome crime with a groovin' '70s beat. (Jerry Bruckheimer will also have conquered Broadway with the CSI musical "FOLLICLE!" starring Nathan Lane as a frenetic but lovable blood spatter and Matthew Broderick as lint.)

Lost has that one-of-a-kind alchemy that really can't be copied. Therefore, look for the original series Misplaced, as well as Unfound, Not So Much with the Whereabouts and Just Pull Over and Ask!

Link (via Making Light)

posted by Cory Doctorow at 11:41:25 PM permalink | blogs' comments

Space Invaders tote-bag

Brenda knitted this amazing Space Invaders tote-bag -- I want a cardigan with this on the back! Link (Thanks, Brenda!)

posted by Cory Doctorow at 11:39:40 PM permalink | blogs' comments

Homemade Buffy the Vampire Slayer Mah Jongg set

Check out this elaborate and beautiful home-made Buffy the Vampire Slayer Mah-Jongg set -- from the bloodwood, hand-joined carrying-case to the elaborate, glossy tiles. The creator describes it as costing two months' worth of weekends, looks like six months' worth of weekends to me. Nice job.
Winds are good characters (Buffy, Giles, Xander, and Willow), dragons are bad guys (the Master, Angelus, and the Gentlemen), and pretties are either ancilliary good characters (Joyce, Cordelia, Kendra, and Tara) or what Lorien calls "morally ambiguous" characters: Faith, Oz, Anya, Spike.

posted by Cory Doctorow at 11:37:11 PM permalink | blogs' comments

Photoshopped landscapes sculptural elements worked in

Today's Worth1000 photoshopping contest asked participants to modify natural landscapes to make them appear to contain sculptural shapes from everyday life. This tickles exactly the same part of my brain that shapes-in-clouds or a stucco ceiling triggers: that big pattern-seeking mechanism that turned us into hominids. Apophenia is both satisfying and addicting. Link

posted by Cory Doctorow at 11:33:17 PM permalink | blogs' comments

Time-lapse 2005 out a window in Norway

Eirik sez, "For all of 2005 I have been taking a picture out of our living room window at random intervals. I have found a place in the window where the framing is almost identical for each picture. Now I have finished a video that runs through one year outside our window. All of it in about one and a half minute.

"Norway is a country with huge differences between the seasons. It's kind of cool to start the new year with this little run through of 2005."

Eirik's right -- the contrasts here are breath-taking, especially the rapid blooming of the greenery and the sharp dropoff to skeletal autumn. Link (Thanks, Eirik!)

posted by Cory Doctorow at 11:27:39 PM permalink | blogs' comments annual question: What is your dangerous idea?

Each year, John Brockman at asks some of the brightest minds in science and technology to consider one question. This year: What is your dangerous idea?
The history of science is replete with discoveries that were considered socially, morally, or emotionally dangerous in their time; the Copernican and Darwinian revolutions are the most obvious. What is your dangerous idea? An idea you think about (not necessarily one you originated) that is dangerous not because it is assumed to be false, but because it might be true?
Respondents include many whose work has appeared on Boing Boing before, including: J. Craig Venter, Sherry Turkle, Danny Hillis, Jaron Lanier, Rodney Brooks, David Gelernter, Kevin Kelly, Freeman Dyson, George Dyson, Rudy Rucker, Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi, Clay Shirky, Ray Kurzweil, and Clifford Pickover.

Here is U.C. Davis neurobiologist Leo M. Chalupa's dangerous idea:

# A 24-hour period of absolute solitude

Our brains are constantly subjected to the demands of multi-tasking and a seemingly endless cacophony of information from diverse sources. Cell phones, emails, computers, and cable television are omnipresent, not to mention such archaic venues as books, newspapers and magazines.

This induces an unrelenting barrage of neuronal activity that in turn produces long-lasting structural modification in virtually all compartments of the nervous system. A fledging industry touts the virtues of exercising your brain for self-improvement. Programs are offered for how to make virtually any region of your neocortex a more efficient processor. Parents are urged to begin such regimes in preschool children and adults are told to take advantage of their brain's plastic properties for professional advancement. The evidence documenting the veracity for such claims is still outstanding, but one thing is clear. Even if brain exercise does work, the subsequent waves of neuronal activities stemming from simply living a modern lifestyle are likely to eradicate the presumed hard-earned benefits of brain exercise.

My dangerous idea is that what's needed to attain optimal brain performance — with or without prior brain exercise — is a 24-hour period of absolute solitude. By absolute solitude I mean no verbal interactions of any kind (written or spoken, live or recorded) with another human being. I would venture that a significantly higher proportion of people reading these words have tried skydiving than experienced one day of absolute solitude.

Link to complete list of respondents, and their answers.

posted by Xeni Jardin at 08:57:59 PM permalink | blogs' comments

Auction of incredibly rare self-published R. Crumb comic

Heritage Galleries and Auctioneers is offering issue #1 of Robert and Charles Crumb's Arcade comic. It's a six-page mimeographed book that the brothers self-published when Robert was around 16 years-old! The current bid $325 and the auction ends at 6pm (CST) on January 20. From the auction listing:
 Blog Uploaded Images Arcade1-720119From the files of Crumb's good friend (and one-time brother-in-law) Marty Pahls, comes this extremely scarce mimeographed copy of Arcade #1... The cover is a rare editorial cartoon by Robert, depicting Jimmy Hoffa and other Teamster bosses mowing down their opposition. The interior presents a five-page adaptation of Robin Hood, starring Fritz the Cat, by Robert and Charles (note: this is a tighter version of the penciled strip featured in The Complete Crumb Volume One -- it appears to be the same basic story, but redrawn with changes). The condition of the 'zine is GD/VG, with the last page detached from a single staple holding the rest together. It's very doubtful many of these survived -- probably very few were produced in the first place. As a bonus, a folded 8.5" x 11" mailer from Robert to Marty from 1959, complete with a small original sketch of a Pooh-like bear cub, is included with this lot.
Link (via the Fantagraphics FLOG!)

UPDATE: Patrick Nielsen Hayden writes, "Despite what the auction description says, that object clearly isn't 'mimeographed,' but rather the product of a spirit duplicator (also known as a 'ditto machine')."

posted by David Pescovitz at 07:19:15 PM permalink | blogs' comments

Sideways bike

Ivy sez, "I saw this unusual sideways bike on a recent trip to Dublin. The inventor Michael Killian says, 'Front to Back balance has very little visual input and is the primary balance used in riding a surfboard, windsurfer and snowboard. Front to Back balance is a finer instrument than Left to Right balance and offers a greater degree of artistic feedback. This is evidenced by the difference between skiing and snowboarding. Skiing (Left to Right balance) is faster than Snowboarding (Front to Back balance); however people like to snowboard because of the greater artistic expression. Introducing a new bicycle invention by myself, Michael Killian. This bicycle is ridden sideways and is balanced by using human Front to Back balance. This bicycle uses Front and Rear steering.'" Link (Thanks, Ivy!)

Update: Thanks to everyone who pointed out that the wrong photo/blurb combo appeared here; I've fixed it!

posted by Cory Doctorow at 12:25:43 PM permalink | blogs' comments

Super Mario 3 scarf!

Lana sez, "A very talented knitter has made a scarf featuring both the alive and smooshed versions of Super Mario 3 characters!"

Update: Kate sez, "the Super Mario scarf chick's name is Helen Li. She slaved away on that thing for a few months so I just want her to get the props she deserves." Link (Thanks, Lana!)

posted by Cory Doctorow at 12:23:17 PM permalink | blogs' comments

Wil McCarthy's wonderful "Hacking Matter" as a free download

Psiga sez, "Wil McCarthy's incredibly compelling book, Hacking Matter (raved about on boingboing some two and a half years ago), has been released in a free pdf form. It's great that the book can now be freely shared." Hacking Matter is a science book about Wil's research on "quantum dots" -- configurable "mezzoscale" (larger than nano) machines that can be controleld with software to mimic the properties of different elements. Link (Thanks, Psiga!)

posted by Cory Doctorow at 06:47:16 AM permalink | blogs' comments

Cory quit his day-job

For the first time in my life, I am a full-time writer. Effective today, I'm no longer an employee -- effective today, I'm a full-time, freelance word-maker. It's something I've dreamt of since I was 12 years old, and now it's a reality. Whew. Scary.

It's an amazing feeling.

It was a hard decision to make. For the past four years, I've been in the employ of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit organization that has repeatedly kept the online world safe for you and me -- that has preserved our fundamental liberties in the new digital world. Whether it's fighting warrantless wiretaps, the criminalization of hundreds of millions of file-sharers, or greedy encroachments on the public domain, EFF is there, winning substantial and critical victories.

Working for EFF has been an education. Watching the sausage of law get ground up and stuffed into its casings is something that changes you -- changes the way you think about the world and its secret workings.

So the hardest part of this decision wasn't the worry about financial insecurity: it was the difficulty of saying goodbye to the most meaningful, rewarding and challenging job I've ever had. It was saying goodbye to the best, smartest, most committed and most effective activists I've ever had the privilege of knowing, in a lifetime of activism.

Luckily for me, I didn't have to make a binary decision. I'm delighted to announce that EFF has named me a Fellow of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an honor I share with attorney James Tyre. As a Fellow, I'm still within the scope of EFF's attorney-client confidentiality and hence able to contribute on active cases.

EFF has a problem: we work on issues before anyone knows that they matter. In 2002, we were at the inaugural meeting on the Broadcast Flag, and we spent the next two years explaining to everyone we could find what this stuff was and why it mattered. We published on the risks of Trusted Computing before anyone had a clue that this isn't just a security technology: it's a system for gutting competition in the market and user choice and privacy by subjecting computers to control by remote parties. We're at the Broadcast Treaty meetings at the UN, trying to get the big IT companies to understand that if its provisions come to pass, they'll need permission from the entertainment companies to launch new services like Google Video and new devices like the Video iPod. We've been sounding the alarm over the Analog Hole, over paperless electronic voting machines, over DRM, since the earliest days.

EFF are canaries in the coal-mine, the first responders of cyberspace, building coalitions and briefing lawmakers, users and companies on the risks coming down the pipe. This is a critical job: if the resistance to these issues only mobilized once their risks had percolated out to the wide world, it would be too late. You need to start work on these issues as they are born, not when they are about to mature.

But the problem is that this makes EFF into an organization whose core issues are hard to explain to the mass audience, or even to the mass audience of geeks (witness the number of online posts that mangle our issues). Everyone wants to describe the Broadcast Flag as a system for stopping you from recording video, but that's just not true, and if you go around saying it, lawmakers will think you're full of it. The Broadcast Flag's danger is much deeper and subtler: it puts the features of electronics and computers under the veto of entertainment companies, who intend to use this veto to block any features that disrupt their business models. That's a lot scarier -- but it's also more abstract and wordier. Saying that the issue isn't recording, but freedom to build better recorders is true, and it's also hard to make understood.

I've been privileged to participate in a years-long effort on the part of EFF to make these issues more accessible without sacrificing accuracy. It's working. Our membership rolls have swollen, our staff has too. Geeks and civilians around the world have opened their wallets and have contributed signatures, code, and advocacy. You can, too: donations to EFF are tax-deductible, and there are many other ways to contribute -- see here

So what am I going to be doing now that I don't have a day-job? Well for starters, I'm going to be getting a full night's sleep every night. I'm going to stop travelling three weeks a month. I'm going to join the gym and get the hundred and a half household chores I've neglected while working three full-time jobs for the past two years done. I'm going to get a checkup and have my teeth x-rayed. All that overdue stuff I've put off and put off and put off.

Most importantly, though: I'm going to write. More blog posts, and longer ones. I have three novellas in the pipe. I'm tripling the pace of work on Themepunks, my fourth novel, and plan to have it in the can by early spring. I'm going to do a fix-up novel with Charlie Stross, completing our "Huw" stories (Jury Service and Appeals Court) and publishing them between covers. My podcast is going thrice weekly. I've got articles in production for a bunch of magazines and websites.

I'm not giving up on travel altogether. I'm still going to be speaking at various companies and conventions and seminars on technology, authorship and copyright, but a lot less of that. I'll be spending most of April in Australia, New Zealand and Japan at various speaking gigs and conventions like ConJure, the national Aussie SF con in Brisbane; I'm a guest of honor at Boskone in Boston in February; I'll be at the LIFT conference in Geneva in January and a Red Hat con in Nashville in June. But for all that, I'm going to be spending approximately 1000 percent more time sitting in one place, concentrating on one task. I can't wait.

I'm also going to be working on numerous civil liberties causes. I'm proud to serve on the Boards of Directors for two great charities, the Participatory Culture Foundation, creators of the indie Internet TV platform DTV and the MetaBrainz Foundation, which oversees development of the MusicBrainz system for distributing free, rich metadata about music.

There's also some big plans for a long, nonfiction DRM-book/research project lurking around here. With any luck I'll be able to announce more about that in late January or early February.

This is the most exciting day of my life -- the day I quit my day-job. Thanks to everyone who made this possible, all the readers and bloggers and friends and editors and agents. I'll do my best not to screw it up!

posted by Cory Doctorow at 01:03:39 AM permalink | blogs' comments

Cory's Anda's Game podcasted by Wonderland's Alice

With the new year comes a new podcast. This time around, it's a reading of Anda's Game, my Nebula-Award-shortlisted story about in-game sweatshops, originally published on and reprinted in Michael Chabon's Best American Short Stories. However, this time around, it's not me reading the story -- it's Alice Taylor, the founder of the Wonderland games blog and former competitive Quake player. She's the perfect reader for this one -- this story really does need to be read by a 1337 gamer-woman with a British accent to do it justice.

Alice has read the story in three parts, and I'll be podcasting them over the next week or two. The story itself is under a Creative Commons license that allows you to redistribute the text freely -- as is this podcast. Share it around, why don't ya?

Part One MP3

posted by Cory Doctorow at 01:03:29 AM permalink | blogs' comments

Uglies: young adult sf that perfectly captures adolescent anxiety

This December, I went away on holidays with my family and brought along a stack of reading. One pair of books that everyone took a crack at was the first two volumes of Scott Westerfeld's Uglies series, Uglies and Pretties, a pair of young adult novels that had us all on tenterhooks.

Scott has two careers -- on the one hand, he writes science fiction for adults, and on the other, he writes wonderful young adult genre novels (see previous reviews of Scott's Peeps, a science-fictional take on vampirism and So Yesterday, a mystery novel about a cool-hunter -- and don't miss his knockout horror trilogy, Midnighters). Uglies falls into the latter category.

Uglies is the story of a dystopian world where children are raised by the state and subjected to mandatory cosmetic surgery at 16, wherein they are rendered physically "perfect" on the basis that symmetrical, statistically average people with giant eyes are charismatic, convincing, and are afforded advantages by their peers; in the twisted logic of the Westerfeld's state, imposing this surgery on all creates an egalitarian basis for society. No one is heeded merely because she is beautiful; no idea is disregarded because it originates with someone who is ugly.

The novels tell the story of Tally Youngblood, a 16-year-old small-time rebel who becomes embroiled in a scheme to avoid the surgery, leading to her exile and eventual encounters with outsiders, secret police, and the gradual, sinister unravelling of the dark secret of the compassionate society.

The Uglies books are the perfect parables of adolescent life, where adult-imposed milestones, rituals, and divide-and-rule tactics amp children's natural adolescent insecurities into a full-blown, decade-long psychosis. They're the kind of book I loved reading at 15 or 16: damned fine science fiction and damned fine yarns. Having read the first two, I can barely wait for the third, Specials, due out in May 06. Uglies Link, Pretties Link

posted by Cory Doctorow at 01:03:08 AM permalink | blogs' comments

Amazon's author-blogs and the Age of the Conversational Artist

Amazon is hosting author-blogs alongside of the sell-pages for those authors' books. I think that this is an incredibly important development, one that recognizes that in the present day, an artist's ability to be conversationally engaged with her audience is a major potential source of career-success.

Here's what I think: back in the Vaudeville days, the thing that mattered most was your charisma. If you gave a great show, it didn't matter much how technically accomplished you were (contrariwise, if you were a virtuoso on your instrument but stood like a statue on stage, it really hurt your career). That was the age of the charismatic artist.

With radios and recordings, though, charisma wasn't enough. When your audience gets at your work through an hand-cranked Victrola or a big cabinet radio, your stage presence isn't really perceptible anymore. However, your technical skill with your instrument shines through in a way that it never had before. That was the age of the virtuoso artist.

Today there's the explosion of choice brought on by the Internet. All entertainments are approximately one click away. The search-cost of finding another artist whose music or books or movies are as interesting as yours is dropping through the floor, thanks to recommendation systems, search engines, and innumerable fan-recommendation sites like blogs and MySpaces. Your virtuosity is matched by someone else's, somewhere, and if you're to compete successfully with her, you need something more than charisma and virtuosity.

You need conversation. In practically every field of artistic endeavor, we see success stories grounded in artists who engage in some form of conversation with their audience. JMS kept Babylon 5 alive by hanging out on fan newsgroups. Neil Gaiman's blog is built almost entirely on conversing simultaneously with thousands of readers. All the indie bands who've found success on the Internet through their message-boards and mailing lists, all the independent documentarians like Jason Scott, comics authors like Warren Ellis with his LiveJournal, blog, mailing list, etc.

Conversation with an audience isn't easy, and there are lots of people who produce great art and lousy conversation. But that's not any different from previous technological changes: there were lots of charismatics who couldn't shift to radio. Lots of virtuosos will fail to shift to conversation.

Technology giveth and technology taketh away. There will always be some art that fails though it deserves to succeed and vice-versa. There will always be more artists than fans can support. The important question to ask is, does this open the field to more people, or fewer?

Conversation with an audience recruits fans to choose, through evangelism and advocacy, which art will succeed and which art will fail. It changes the system where the sole arbiters of such decisions work at publishing or entertainment concerns. It doesn't replace that system, of course, but it augments it. A TV executive's hand can be stayed from canceling Babylon 5 by the advocacy of JMS's fans, who have become his friends through conversation. A self-published novel like John Scalzi's can be buoyed up to the attention of a publisher through his readers' evangelism.

And it can also do an end-run around publisher-as-decision-maker, like Kelly Link and Jim Munroe's self-publishing successes.

So the Age of the Conversational Artist will harm the careers of some artists, but it will buoy up the careers of still more, by creating a broader range of decision-makers as to which art succeeds and which fails. And it's marvelous to see Amazon acknowledging this and jumping in to help.

Amazon is one of the many players in the publishing business trying to find new ways to increase the visibility of authors at a time when book sales are flat and other forms of entertainment are commanding ever-greater portions of the public's wallet. Most publishers have extensive author information on their Web sites, and a number of authors maintain their own sites, some quite elaborate.

HarperCollins recently started a speakers bureau, and Random House announced an agreement with a lecture agency to promote public appearances by its authors. Barnes & Noble operates an online book club that enables authors to discuss their works and to answer questions from readers online.


posted by Cory Doctorow at 12:59:54 AM permalink | blogs' comments

Devo records kids' album for Disney

Devo is recording an album of its classic hits performed by children, to be released on Disney records:
For the project, all five members of Devo regrouped to re-record some of its best known songs, including the 1980 hit "Whip It!" with vocals provided by a quintet of kids. Also included will be "Cyclops" and "The Winner," the first new studio tracks from Devo in nearly two decades.

The "Devo 2.0" CD is due March 17 via Disney Sound, a family-oriented division of Walt Disney Records. A companion DVD will feature animated and live-action videos for each of the tracks directed by Devo bassist

Link (via The Disney Blog)

posted by Cory Doctorow at 12:59:33 AM permalink | blogs' comments

Pilot dumps angry drunk on remote tropical island

A Monarch Airlines pilot flying from Manchester to Tenerife landed his plane on a tiny island near Africa to kick off a drunk, abusive passenger:
He became so abusive the fed-up pilot diverted the Monarch Airlines Airbus to Porto Santo island off West Africa.

After the plane touched down, the man was marched off by police and had his luggage dumped on the tarmac...

It is not known if police on the island, which is under Portuguese authority, charged or released him.

The Atlantic island, which is 10 miles long and three miles wide, is a two-hour ferry journey to Madeira.

link (via Digg)

posted by Cory Doctorow at 12:59:17 AM permalink | blogs' comments

Couple spends 28.5 years repainting baseball, now 119" circumference

Mike and Glenda Carmichael of Alexandria, Indiana have spent the past 28.5 years painting and repainting an ordinary baseball. The ball now weighs 1,700lbs, measures 119" around, and sports 19,100 coats of paint. Link, Coral Cache Link to Photo (via Neatorama)

posted by Cory Doctorow at 12:59:05 AM permalink | blogs' comments

Soy-sauce-dispensing chopsticks, a condiment pipette

These $18 chopsticks are hollow, with holes in their tips and soy-sauce reservoirs in their hind-ends; like a laboratory pipette, they drip soy-sauce over your food in carefully measured doses as you eat. Link (via Popgadget)

posted by Cory Doctorow at 12:58:56 AM permalink | blogs' comments

Narnia storms out of WTO talks, blames EU and US "bullying"

A hoax press-release describing Narnia's ambassador's dissatisfaction with the current round of World Trade Organization talks was picked up and run as news by many outlets including Forbes.
A story issued by financial news agency AFX on Sunday, picked up by several other outlets, has left a series of red faces by faithfully reporting a press release from "the independent state of Narnia". The story claimed Narnia had walked out of the World Trade Organisation talks in Hong Kong because it was fed up with being bullied by the US and Europe. It claimed the major powers were attempting to enforce liberalisation of its clothing sector.

It quoted Narnia spokeswoman Susan Aslan (Aslan is the name of the Christ-like lion featured in the film, and book, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe). Narnia's delegates "were tired of bullying by EU and US delegations and would be returning immediately to their state capital at Cair Parvel," Ms Aslan was reported as saying. "If this brings the Hong Kong talks to the knees we will be delighted," it went on. The story was picked up by top business websites, including

Link (via Making Light)

posted by Cory Doctorow at 12:58:44 AM permalink | blogs' comments

Chess-set made from nuts and bolts

This lovely chess-set is made from common hardware fixtures, such as nuts, bolts and hooks; the site details the construction, which involves glue to fix the chessmen to 14mm nuts. Link (via Make Blog)

posted by Cory Doctorow at 12:58:23 AM permalink | blogs' comments

Coldplay's new CD has rules: No MP3s, no DVD players, no car stereos

Coldplay's new CD comes with an insert that discloses all the rules enforced by the DRM they included on the disc. Of course, these rules are only visible after you've paid for the CD and brought it home, and as the disc's rules say, "Except for manufacturing problems, we do not accept product exchange, return or refund," so if you don't like the rules, that's tough.

What are the other rules? Here are some gems: "This CD can't be burnt onto a CD or hard disc, nor can it be converted to an MP3" and "This CD may not play in DVD players, car stereos, portable players, game players, all PCs and Macintosh PCs." Best of all, the insert explains that this is all "in order for you to enjoy a high quality music experience." Now, that's quality.

I wonder how Coldplay feels about their fans getting all these rules set down for them by the music label? I wonder if most fans who read these rules will be wise enough to blame corporate, or whether they'll just decide to dig up a band whose label treats them like customers, not crooks? It's amazing how the labels always seem to come up with new ways of screwing artists: if they're not cheating them out of royalties, they're systematically alienating their fan-base. Link (via Digg)

Update: Martin sez, "there's currently a great opportunity to tell Coldplay what you think of their DRM in 20 seconds or less via Skype.

posted by Cory Doctorow at 12:58:09 AM permalink | blogs' comments

HOWTO build a bed out of iron scaffolding

Here's step-by-step instructions for making a versatile, cheap handsome bed out of iron scaffolding. Looks like you could stick it together in no time, and easily reconfigure it if need be. Link (via Cribcandy)

posted by Cory Doctorow at 12:57:55 AM permalink | blogs' comments

Tetris/Sex Pistols comedy tee

This Tetris/Sex Pistols mashup tee, reading NEVER MIND THE BLOCKS and sporting falling Tetris blocks on a garish yellow background, is the coolest damned tee I've ever seen. As the site > says, "we've taken the best of punk and made it middle-class using Tetris-based humour." Link (via Wonderland)

posted by Cory Doctorow at 12:57:42 AM permalink | blogs' comments

Super Mario novelty mice

These novelty Super Mario mice are decidedly impractical, but woo-doggy they score many cool points.
In the case of the Mario Mouse, the plumber's hat is divided into the left and right buttons while Goomba's forehead serves as left and right mouse triggers. The construction is reasonably well crafted and non-creaky. The plastic molding is solid and doesn't squeak when rolling Mario or Goomba over a mousepad. The design uses a mechanical ball for the input sensor (400dpi) and the USB cord measures a lengthy 120cm or 47.24"
Link (via Wonderland)

posted by Cory Doctorow at 12:57:24 AM permalink | blogs' comments

100 greatest gadgets of the past 50 years

This PCWorld list of the 100 greatest gadgets of the past 50 years is excellent -- I was really glad to see old friends like the Texas Instruments Speak and Spell, the Motorola PageWriter, the Connectix QuickCam and Lego Mindstorms on the list, as well as the obvious iPod/Walkman/Atari 1977. Even the Newton and the Trash-80 made the list!
They're the butt of jokes these days, but 8-track tapes and decks changed car audio forever. The Stereo 8, which first appeared as an option on Fords, had minimal controls and was often mounted under the dashboard with ugly U-brackets, but aesthetics weren't the point. With an 8-track in your car, you were no longer at the mercy of local radio station playlists. That was a very big deal at a time when only the largest cities had stations that played what was then known as "album rock." And the sound! In those days 8-tracks blew the doors off anything coming from a radio station, despite their infamous fadeouts when the tracks switched. The 8-track didn't last all that long, falling out of favor in the early 1970s as smaller, more convenient cassette tapes (and later CDs) came along. Photo courtesy of 8-Track Heaven.
Link (Thanks, Pat!)

posted by Cory Doctorow at 12:02:35 AM permalink | blogs' comments

Best mashups of 2005

Here's a fantastic list (with MP3 download links) of one blogger's ten fave mashups for 2005:
1. DJ BC "Yoshimi Battles Snoop Dogg"
The Flaming Lips vs. Snoop Dogg vs. Will Farrell

2. Aggro1 "Pull Up the Poor Bitches"
M.I.A. vs. Mindless Self Indulgence

3. DJ BC "Can You Hear Biz Knocking?"
The Rolling Stones "Can You Hear Me Knockin'" vs. Biz Markie "Let Me See You Bounce"

4. DJ Riko "Stand Up and Ring My Doorbell"
Ludacris "Stand Up" vs. The White Stripes "My Doorbell"

5. CCC "One of These Heatwaves"
Pink Floyd "One of These Days" vs. Wings "Rockestra" vs. Martha Reeves & The Vandellas "Heatwave"

6. Smash Mash-Ups "Sanctuary's Over"
The Doors "When the Music's Over" vs. The Cult "She Sells Sanctuary" vs. pop beat

7. DJ BC "Money"
Wu-Tang Clan "C.R.E.A.M." vs. The O'Jays "For The Love Of Money"

8. FullMickTon "1000 Miles N Jiggin"
N.W.A. - 100 Miles and Running vs. Martyn Bennett - No.6 (untitled)

9. DJ Payroll "Intergalactic Enemy"
Beastie Boys "Intergalactic" vs. Rage Against the Machine "Know Your Enemy"

10. DJ iTrain "Frontin' on the Root Down"
Beastie Boys vs. The Who

Link (Thanks, Chris!)

posted by Cory Doctorow at 12:02:09 AM permalink | blogs' comments

What a game-master is for, according to 30+ games

Martin sez, "Treasure Tables has taken 30+ role-playing games and written down their definitions of what the game-master does."
Advanced Dungeons & Dragons - Dungeon Master’s Guide, 2nd Edition (TSR, 1989)
Being a good Dungeon Master involves a lot more than knowing the rules. It calls for quick wit, theatrical flair, and a good sense of dramatic timing, among other things. (Page 7 of 192)

All Flesh Must be Eaten - Core book, 1st Edition (Eden Studios, 1999)
To enforce the rules and provide a coherent setting, one of the participants assumes the role of Zombie Master (called Game Master, Chronicler or Referee in other contexts). (Page 20 of 231)

Amber - Core book (Phage Press, 1993)
This is the person who controls the “world” and runs the game. All the non-player characters (NPCs), including guards, innocents, and villains are controlled by the GM. The GMs [sic] control even extends to things like weather, cross-universe politics and natural disasters. (Page 9 of 256)

Bunnies & Burrows - Core book (Fantasy Games Unlimited, 1976)

Rather, there is a Gamemaster (GM) that oversees the game, designs the playing area, is expected to modify the rules given herein to suit his or her fancy, and is the only omniscient participant in the game. (Page 1 of 74)

Link (Thanks, Martin!)

posted by Cory Doctorow at 12:01:55 AM permalink | blogs' comments

Texas sues Sony over spyware as well as rootkits

Texas's Attorney General has announced that he will expand his existing lawsuit against Sony to include damages for CDs infected with Sunncomm's MediaMax spyware. Previously, the Texas AG had announced that he was seeking up to $100,000 per CD sold in Texas with the XCP "rootkit" anti-copying technology, under the state's anti-spyware bill. However, the MediaMax software is much more prevalent than XCP, and is used by companies other than Sony, which means that the damages will be much, much larger -- as is the number of companies involved.
The Attorney General alleges the company's "MediaMax" technology for copy protection violates the state's spyware and deceptive trade practices laws in that consumers who use these CDs are offered a license agreement, but even if consumers reject that agreement, files are secretly installed on their computers that pose additional security risks to those systems.

Previous installments of the Sony DRM Debacle Roundup: Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V

(Cool Sony CD image courtesy of Collapsibletank)

posted by Cory Doctorow at 12:01:45 AM permalink | blogs' comments

Bulte (Canadian MP) gets big entertainment bucks, promises new copyrights

Sam Bulte, the Canadian Liberal Party MP for Parkdale/High Park is having her election campaign bankrolled by the Canadian entertainment cartel. Bulte previously authored a one-sided report proposing crazy, US-style copyright laws for Canada, and now her pals from the Canadian Recording Industry Association are throwing her a $250/plate fundraiser -- just the kind of high-ticket event that the poor artists Bulte claims to represent can't afford to attend. Instead, expect this dinner to be stacked with industry fat-cats.

Bulte fired off an angry letter to the Toronto Star in 2004 when columnist Michael Geist outed her for leading the effort to rewrite Canadian copyright laws after collecting big donations from the entertainment industry. Here she is again, though: hoovering up giant corporate bucks while campaigning to deliver just the kind of copyright laws that will make crooks out of ordinary Canadians and line the pockets of massive, US-owned entertainment companies.

The sponsors of this event, to be held four days before the election?

* Doug Frith (President of Canadian Motion Pictures Distributors Association)
* Graham Henderson (CRIA President)
* Jackie Hushion (Executive Director of the Canadian Publishers Council)
* Danielle LaBoisserre (Executive Director of the Entertainment Software Alliance) and
* Stephen Stohn (DeGrassi producer).

Within the boundaries of the Election Act, MPs are of course free to fundraise any way they like and individual Canadians are free to contribute to those same MPs. However, with the public's cynicism about elected officials at an all-time high and Canadians increasingly frustrated by a copyright policy process that is seemingly solely about satisfying rights holder demands, is it possible to send a worse signal about the impartiality of the copyright reform process?

Bulte's NDP opponent is Peggy Nash, the Tory candidate is Jurij Klufas Link

posted by Cory Doctorow at 12:01:35 AM permalink | blogs' comments

Sony may be liable on federal criminal statutes

Ed Felten has posted about the question that must scare Sony the most: have they committed a criminal act by distributing music CDs with spyware and rootkits on them?

The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act is a US federal criminal statute that punishes people who gain unauthorized access to computers, misappropriate their information, and break their machines. Felten's no lawyer, but his analysis of how Sony violates the CFAA is pretty compelling -- and many parts of this analysis reach to cover other abusive DRM practices.

Can't wait to see if Sony ends up facing a federal rap on this -- that'd sure put the fear of the law into every other customer-hating, DRM-using entertainment dinosaur.

The provision also requires that there be "damage". According to the CFAA, damage includes "any impairment to the integrity or availability of data, a program, a system, or information, that causes loss aggregating at least $5,000 in value during any 1-year period to one or more individuals". As I understand it, the cost of detecting and mitigating a problem, including the value of time spent by people on detection and mitigation, can be included in the loss. Given that, there can be little doubt that each of these software systems caused damage of more than $5000 total. For example, if a system was installed on 100,000 computers and imposed at least five cents in detection and mitigation costs on each one of those computers, the aggregate damage is more than $5000.

It seems clear, too, that the installation of a rootkit, or the installation of software without permission -- not to mention the security vulnerabilities caused by the software -- constitutes an impairment to the integrity of users' systems.


Previous installments of the Sony DRM Debacle Roundup: Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V

(Cool Sony CD image courtesy of Collapsibletank)

posted by Cory Doctorow at 12:01:21 AM permalink | blogs' comments

Stabby martyr pencil-holder

Funfurde sez, "Pencils are boring. Putting pencils into the Sebastiano pencil holder, however, is the height of entertainment. At least, it's as entertaining as putting pencils into a holder can be. Unless you don't like stabbing them into the belly a tubby plastic guy lying spread eagled on your desk, in which case this item is not for you. (Since we're told Sebastiano lives, I don't think it's as sick and twisted as it sounds, but I'm also trying to justify owning one and not come off as weird.) Anyway, this guy is an 'homage' to St. Sebastian, the young martyr who was shot with a bunch of arrows during an execution attempt but lived. (I'll spare you the part where he was later beaten to death, since that's not relevant to our story.) Sebastiano will cost you $20. From Giacon Massimo, the designer who brought us the Mr. Suicide drain plug, another crowd pleaser." Link (Thanks, FunFurde!)

posted by Cory Doctorow at 12:01:08 AM permalink | blogs' comments

Motorola's futuristic living, circa early-60s

Phillip sez, "In the early 1960s, Motorola advertised their black-and-white TVs or stereo hi-fis and such with a fascinating series of paintings illustrating modern American living." These are superb, a cross between Fuller's Dymaxion house, the Jetsons' home, the Carousel of Progress and the Monsanto House of the Future. I'd love to live in one of these. Link (Thanks, Philipp!)

posted by Cory Doctorow at 12:00:57 AM permalink | blogs' comments

Canadian RIAA's copyright poll asks the wrong questions

CRIA, the Canadian equivalent of the RIAA has produced a push-poll on copyright for the Canadian election. Michael Geist expertly deconstructs it in his latest blog post:
The more interesting (or headline grabbing) data will involve the views on stronger copyright laws. The data here illustrates why it is difficult to get parties to turn their attention to copyright, since notwithstanding CRIA's emphasis on the 32 percent who say they would vote for parties who favour stronger copyright laws, nearly half of the those polled say it makes no difference, while almost one in five see it as a negative.

What is most important about this poll, however, is what it doesn't ask. What percentage of Canadians would say that the law should protect consumers against the secret installation of copy protection programs that threaten the security on their computer? What percentage of Canadians would say they should be entitled to view a store-bought DVD in their homes regardless of where it is purchased? What percentage of Canadians would say that they should be entitled to make a copy of their CDs to listen to on their iPod? What percentage of Canadians are aware of the $140 million that has been collected under the private copying system, the majority of which goes to Canadian artists? These are the sorts of questions that must be asked for this poll to have any real credibility since my guess is that the numbers would be even higher. Canadians are deeply troubled by issues such as the Sony Rootkit, DVD regional coding, and the shortcomings of the private copying system and copyright policy must take these issues into account.


posted by Cory Doctorow at 12:00:28 AM permalink | blogs' comments

Trade your used CDs for a new iPod

Millennium is a CD store in Charleston, SC, that is bulking up its used disc inventory by offering iPods in exchange for used (but good-condition) CDs. They'll take the discs in person or by post.
45 CDs = 512 MB iPod Shuffle
65 CDs = 1 GB iPod Shuffle
85 CDs = 2 GB iPod Nano
110 CDs = 4 GB Nano
130 CDs = 30 GB iPod
175 CDs = 60 GB iPod
Link (via Digg)

posted by Cory Doctorow at 12:00:17 AM permalink | blogs' comments

Saturday, December 31, 2005

Signing off for 2005: Thank you, dear reader.

Feliz Año Nuevo. Much gratitude to you for visiting our humble blog. I hope you'll come back when the calendar strikes aught-six. Image: Maria Magdalena, shot inside a church in Antigua, Guatemala (2004 / Xeni).

posted by Xeni Jardin at 07:45:03 AM permalink | blogs' comments

Bootleg copy of 2006 Hooters calendar

Link to scanned image. It's totally worksafe. It's a joke. (Thanks, Wayne Correia!)

posted by Xeni Jardin at 07:40:03 AM permalink | blogs' comments

Moment of FSM zen: Pasta Club devotional fountain

An intrepid New York City photographer spotted this faith-based fountain in Central Park. It stands in tribute to the secret Pastafarian society known to acolytes as PASTA CLUB. Believe. Link (Thanks, Adam Fields!)

posted by Xeni Jardin at 07:32:10 AM permalink | blogs' comments

Friday, December 30, 2005

How to break Silly Putty

A couple of days ago I wrote about a Google employee who mashed together 250 lbs of Silly Putty and then had a hard time breaking it up into chunks. Today Dr. Paul J. Camp, from the Department of Physics at Spelman College in Atlanta, GA emailed me to say:
Picture 1-61 "I guess they didn't try smacking it with a hammer.

"Silly Putty is a bizarre polymer, but like most polymers it has a transition temperature at which its physical properties change. In this case, there is a glass transition temperature (Tg) -- below Tg, the polymer will behave like a glass and shatter on impact instead of deforming. For example, PVC has a Tg of 83 C which makes it a reasonable choice for cold water pipes but not for hot water, which would cause it to flow like Silly Putty (addition of various plasticizers can adjust the Tg). However, often the viscoelastic properties of polymers have a rate dependence and this is the case for Silly Putty. Do the same amount of work over a much shorter time (smack it with a hammer instead of pulling) and the SP behaves as if its Tg has been raised. It then shatters into bits.

"You can read a mildly confusing scientific explanation here (from Case Western) along with pictures of Silly Putty subjected to the same force at different rates, or if you prefer a more visceral experience, watch the video from this experiment of what happens when you drop a 50 pound beach ball made of Silly Putty off the roof of a building."

posted by Mark Frauenfelder at 04:01:59 PM permalink | blogs' comments

Every #1 song ever to appear on Billboard Top 100 squashed into one long song

R. Luke DuBois has created an interesting piece of music out of the 857 songs that have appeared at the top of the charts in the Billboard Top 100 since 1958. The result, called "Billboard," is 37 minutes long.
Billboard allows you to get a birds-eye view of the Billboard Hot 100 by listening to all the #1 singles from 1958 through the millenium using a technique I've been working on for a couple of years called time-lapse phonography. The 857 songs used to make the piece are analyzed digitally and a spectral average is then derived from the entire song. Just as a long camera exposure will fuse motion into a single image, spectral averaging allows us to look at the average sonority of a piece of music, however long, giving a sort of average timbre of a piece. This gives us a sense of the average key and register of the song, as well as some clues about the production values present at the time the record was made; for example, the improvements in home stereo equipment over the past fifty years, as well as the gradual replacement of (relatively low-fidelity) AM radio with FM broadcasting has had an impact on how records are mixed... drums and bass lines gradually become louder as you approach the present, increasing the amount of spectral noise and low tones in our averages.
Link (Thanks, Arwen!)

posted by Mark Frauenfelder at 03:56:33 PM permalink | blogs' comments

Update to iPod meat story

Yesterday, we noted that a Hawaii teenager was surprised to find a piece of raw meat in her xmas iPod box instead of an iPod. Here are more details:
An investigation found that a former [Walmart] employee apparently tampered with a shipment of iPods and put the meat into several packages. The former employee now faces tampering charges, Local 6 News reported.
Link (thanks, Cathy!)

posted by Mark Frauenfelder at 03:05:14 PM permalink | blogs' comments

Bloody Mary: War on Xmas over, War on Blasphemy starts

Here's the head of the Catholic League gloating over the organization's victory in convincing Comedy Central to pull a controversial episode of South Park this week:

The episode in question featured a statue of the Virgin Mary spraying blood from her vagina. It was one of the most vile TV shows ever to appear, and that is why I asked Joseph Califano, a practicing Catholic and member of Viacom’s board of directors (Viacom is the parent company of Comedy Central) to issue a public condemnation of the ‘Bloody Mary’ episode; I also asked that he do whatever he could to pull any scheduled reruns of the episode.

“On December 9, the day Califano received our request, he released a statement condemning the episode. He also said that any further decisions would have to be made by Tom Freston, president and chief executive of the New Viacom. For the past few weeks, we have been in touch with Freston’s office awaiting his decision. Yesterday, we received a phone call from Tony Fox, executive vice president for corporate communications at Comedy Central, informing us that there were no plans to rerun ‘Bloody Mary.’

“Already, we are being deluged with hate mail that is as obscene as it is viciously anti-Catholic. All because we exercised our First Amendment right to request that Comedy Central not offend Catholics again! But we’re used to such things and will not be deterred.”

Link (Thanks, Todd Jackson, headline swiped from H.O.T).

Previously on Boing Boing:
"Bloody Mary" resurrected: censored South Park hits P2P

Reader comment: Damien says,

I've added some information regarding the controversy to the episode's Wikipedia page itself. Link
Reader comment: Steve Wallace says,
Here's the link to Comedy Centrals feedback form if anyone wants to send them a note letting them know how you feel about the whole South Park censorship deal. Maybe enough viewer mail will let them know they made a bad decision.
Reader comment: IZ Reloaded says,
Comedy Central may have pulled down the rerun of the South Park episode Bloody Mary after the Catholic League successfully issued a complaint but over at its South Park Studios website, it is still making available clips of the episode for download. Link
Reader comment: Keith Blackwell says,
I just read that Catholic League reply to the South Park episode; "... All because we exercised our First Amendment right to request that Comedy Central not offend Catholics again!" Their first amendment rights? What about the First Amendment rights of people to broadcast satirical cartoons? Why can't they not watch if they are so easily offended?

posted by Xeni Jardin at 01:23:55 PM permalink | blogs' comments