Boing Boing 

Of Dreammachines and A-Life

Neurophysiologist William Grey Walter's 1963 book "The Living Brain" inspired Brion Gysin and Ian Sommerville's invention of the trance-inducing Dreammachine. But in the late 1940s, Walter also pioneered the "bottom-up" approach to artificial intelligence with his "tortoise" mobile robots. Link Discuss

Mysterious charity for wealthy Rowling neighbors

Someone keeps making anonymous charitable donations -- cash, tinned goods, clothing -- to one of JK Rowling's (affluent and mystified) neighbors. Link Discuss

Woz: Draper kicks azz

Old nerd heroes never die! Captain Crunch -- AKA John Draper, the man imprisoned for publicizing the fact that the whistle premium in boxes of Cap'n Crunch cereal could be modified to generate control tones that would trick the phone system into giving up free long-distance -- has a new startup, building a pretty cool rack-mounted network-intrusion-detection system. I played with a demo of it at CodeCon, and it's pretty impressive, at least to a punter like me. You don't have to take my word for it, though: Woz says it's cool, too.
...Woz credits Draper as a true technical pioneer. "He perhaps didn't have the skills of social engineering of someone like Kevin Mitnick, but he did discover a huge amount of technical information himself, the codes and switches," all of which undoubtedly helps secure the new CrunchBox.
Link Discuss

Garfinkel: "The real wireless Internet doesn’t cost $50 a month- - it's free."

Simson Garfinkel describes the new economics of wireless networking.
The other day, for example, I was at the Boston University school of journalism to have lunch with a friend, but he wasn't there. Realizing that I was half an hour early, I took out my laptop and discovered that I was getting an excellent signal from the school's wireless network. But I didn't just get a signal—the university's network helpfully gave my laptop an address on the Internet. Within moments I was downloading my e-mail and surfing the Web. When I shut down my computer 30 minutes later, the address was automatically returned to the university. And since the J-school's network wasn't running at full capacity at the time, even my minor use of bandwidth had no impact on other users. Total cost to Boston University: zero. (The same thing happened a few weeks later when I was at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government.)...

[T]he increase in risk associated with having an open network is minuscule and, ultimately, irrelevant. Telephones in lobbies are so useful that most companies are willing to live with the risk that someone could use them to commission drug deals or call in threats to the White House. With the Internet as large as it is today, trying to increase security by restricting physical access is a losing proposition. Besides, if bad guys are actually in your building, keeping them off your wireless network is probably the least of your worries.

Link Discuss (via 802.11b Networking News)

It's a phone-book *and* it's a search-engine

If you search Google with the syntax phonebook:<name or business-name> <city state> (i.e., "phonebook:starbucks boston ma") you get white-pages listings! Link Discuss (via Network Fusion)

Iranian sat-TV samizdat

An Iranian popstar exiled by the Ayatollah has devoted his life to toppling the Iranian government by beaming satellite TV of he and his pals in Los Angeles into Iran. He's figured out how to circumvent the sat-jamming that the Mullahs' regime use to keep his programming out, and he's a major, by-God phenom among Iranian young people.
Buried in the hundreds of thousands of Iranians living in Los Angeles there was a neglected trove of aging Persian entertainers unwelcome in their home country. The Dan Rather of Iran now lived in Encino. The Frank Sinatra of Iran lived in Sherman Oaks. Atabay found the real star power he was looking for in a journalist named Ali Reza Meybodi, who also lived in Sherman Oaks. The Persians who live in Los Angeles describe Meybodi as the Larry King of Iran, but he's more dignified than that, a throwback to an earlier age of TV talk shows. He's more like the David Frost of Iran. Or was, until he, too, was forced to flee Iran for his life.
Link Discuss (via Amygdala)

Hacking newspapers for nihilism

Dan Gillmor speculates on yesterday's hacking of the New York Times's internal network, wondering how long it'll be before such a break-in leads to a major disaster.
One of these days, someone is going to change the online news pages of the Wall Street Journal or New York Time or CNN or other major news organization, in a way that does severe damage. Maybe the false story will set off a financial panic. Or maybe it'll simply cause one company's stock to tank, enriching whoever was behind the hack.
Link Discuss

Mickey's airport terror

A Mickey Mouse snowglobe set off a false positive on a "detection machine" in Sacramento International Airport on Tuesday, triggering an evacuation of the airport. Link Discuss (via New World Disorder)

Update on the future's ravenous appetite for the past

An update on the impending mothballing of the Musee Mechanique at Cliff House in San Francisco.
The project starts in September, and there is no room in the plans for Musee Mecanique, which is tucked away in the basement on the seaward side of the building. The Musee will have to close by Sept. 10.

If it closes, the Musee may never reopen. And if that happens it is the end of an era.

Link Discuss (Thanks, r3r!)

Sticky-fingered diners

Restauranteurs in Manhattan are improving their decor down to the smallest flourish -- pretty spoons, lovely candles, precious sconces. And NYC restaurant patrons are walking away with all this swanky schwag.
Some simply can't resist the allure of a great-looking object. One diner at Town, a 50-year-old man who calls himself an obsessive collector, entered the men's room and was struck by the display of plastic Statue of Liberty replicas arranged grid-like on the wall. "I thought it was incredible, innovative, really cool," he said. And as his eyes scanned the wall, he noticed five had been removed. He wiggled one of the statues. It popped off — and went right into his pocket.

After 200 statues were taken, the restaurant sealed them all behind plexiglass.

Link Discuss (Thanks, Stefan!)

Crack monkey!

Man steals endangered monkey, gets caught trading it for crack. Crack monkey! Link Discuss

Urban navigation technique

John writes: "I have discovered a new urban navigation technique. If you're ever unsure as to which direction you're heading. Take a look at the satellite dishes. They're always pointing SW. It's like the moss growing on the north side of the tree!" Does this only work in northeastern North America? Discuss (via John!)

King Bennie Nawahi - steel guitar master

Here's an article from Time about my current favorite musician, King Bennie Nawahi. Here's his CD, "Hawaiian String Virtuoso: Steel Guitar Recordings of the 1920's" And here are some song samples. Link Discuss

Ashcroft's scary scary song

This is frightening on so many levels I'm dizzy. Listen to John Ashcroft sing a song he wrote called "Let the Eagle Soar." Link Discuss

OddTodd's naughty tipjar

The creator of the wonderful OddTodd Flash cartoon about being laid off is in serious trouble with the Department of Labor because his Amazon tipjar landed him about $9,000 in donations while he was on unemployment benefits. Link Discuss (via /.)

Michael Moore versus Bill O'Reilly

Michael Moore makes Bill O'Reilly look like even more of a wanker than usual in this interview transcript.
O'REILLY:  But Enron wanted deregulation.  They wanted competition, you know, so they could maneuver the market and do all kinds of things that they were...

MOORE:  Yes, they were the people from Bulgaria. 

O'REILLY:  Look, I am not sticking up for corporate America...

MOORE:  Right.

O'REILLY:  ...in the sense that I know there are abuses.  And those abuses should be dealt with by the Justice Department.  But I differ from you in the sense that I feel that you want to take from people who earn money and give it to people who don't earn as much money.  And that's not capitalism, see?  That's not the country that we -- that's not the republic that we support.  I'd be in favor of having a plebiscite to vote on it, if you want to change to France.  If we want to be France, let's vote and see, you know. 

MOORE:  Have you ever been to France?

O'REILLY:  I have. 

MOORE:  Yes, nice place. 

Link Discuss (via Fark)

ObL was robbed!

ObL never had the bomb, though not for lack of trying. Looks like the soi-distant "criminal mastermind" got sold a lot of junk masquerading as radioisotopes.
The analysis of suspicious canisters, computer discs and documents conducted by the government suggests, in fact, that Mr. bin Laden and Al Qaeda may have been duped by black-market weapons swindlers selling crude containers hand-painted with skulls and crossbones and dipped, perhaps, in medical waste to fool a Geiger counter, officials said.
Link Discuss (Thanks, mthomas!)

Daily vitriol

The SFGate Morning Fix is a mailing-list that highlights the day's stories from the Chronicle. I forget who turned me on to it, but I just can't put it away. Mark Morford, the Fix's editor, has a marvellous poison pen, just this side of shrill, and while I rarely find anything new in the Fix, I do love to read Morford's run-on vitriolic take on the day's news:
"Caltech really needed something to get behind," said physics major Erica Nicole Eber, apparently not making a witty pun about her butt because she's like, studying physics or something and is hence entirely devoid of irony or sex. "When you go to basketball games when we're not cheering, it's so quiet you can hear the players spit," which is a charming thing to say. The elite school's original cheer squad disappeared along with their football team in the 1970s, as well it should have. Eber founded the new squad two years ago to bring some enthusiasm back to campus, along with bouncy skirts and annoying perkiness. But in March of last year, dressed in white and orange uniforms decorated with Caltech's beaver mascot, the squad won first place in the Division II Co-Ed/Jr. College category at the Cheerleaders of America West Coast Open competition in Irvine, beating out the CalPoly Sloths in front of a roaring crowd of roughly 27 semi-drunk parents and a handful of senior citizens bussed in from the nearby rest home who were told they were going to see Regis and who became terribly frightened...

Doughy overlord Dick Cheney jokes with Jay Leno about hiding in his undisclosed location like a hairless-cat-stroking, thinly veiled fearmongering puppeteer. Defense Secretary and reputed crocodile Donald H. Rumsfeld chuckles as David Letterman's mom urges him to "put the hammer" on Osama bin Laden because isn't that so funny and cute and never mind the bile and the hate. First Lady and noted hollow mannequin/useless prop Laura Bush, who is about as compelling as a sack of wet lima beans, made light of the president's tussle with a pretzel when she appeared on Leno's "Tonight Show"; he's practicing "safe snacks" now, she cracked, in a weak joke carefully scripted three weeks ago by 16 different Shrub handlers. And Secretary of State Colin Powell fielded questions on MTV, upsetting some conservatives when he endorsed condoms for sexually active young people, as opposed to the usual massive guilt and back-alley abortions and a lifetime of sexual misinformation and angst and dysfunction, which is just about the only mildly independent thought the administration allows him nowadays, given how he's been almost entirely castrated by the Bush/Cheney/Ashcroft Triumvirate O' Sneering Pain.

Link (subscribe to "The Daily Fix") Discuss

Catoonn avatar videoconferencing

Supermanspaljimmyolsen sez: "Funky new instant messenger that replaces videocam feeds with 3d avatars, including 3d representations of Bush and Putin, among other, less famous faces. Max Headroom alter-egos for those too shy for videoconferencing, I guess." Link Discuss

Chaucer is digitized for posterity

Workers at the British Museum are digitizing Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, working with the fragile documents to produce 1,300 high-res scans. The finished work will be publicly available for download, along with the Gutenberg Bible they scanned last year. Link Discuss (via Meerkat)

Freezing follies

Fun things to do with liquid nitrogen. Physics is cool.
Freeze a can of shaving cream and then peel the can away from the cream. Put the canless cream into someone's car. Let the oven-like heat from the car's sitting in the sun defrost the shaving cream. 2 cans will fill an entire car. (Coulter C. Henry,Jr.)
Link Discuss (via Electrolite)

Jack Valenti, Ass. President

The Reg's man in DC has written a scathing, high-larious editorial in response to Jack "Betamax is to the movie industry what the Boston Strangler is to women" Valenti's letter to the editor yesterday. Valenti took a bunch of cheap-shots at Lessig, et al, all by way of justifying yet more anti-Fair-Use restrictions on technology.
While much of the letter is devoted to incoherent ranting about some dastardly cabal of "professors" who are trying to rip the guts out of Hollywood, and hysterical claims such as "some 350,000-plus films are being downloaded illegally every day," we do get an interesting wrap-up where the industry Ass. President alludes to the need for the PC to be transformed into a secure content-distrbution device along the lines of a set-top box...

"Only two in ten films ever retrieve their production and marketing investment from domestic theatrical exhibition," Valenti whines.

Well of course; but that's because they're ridiculously expensive cartoons that no one over the age of fifteen really wants to watch. But the obvious solution isn't hijacking people's computers and turning them into set-top boxes, but rather making cheaper movies that adults actually care to attend. And the great thing here is that the two go hand-in-hand. It's not an either/or proposition. Movies that involve such grown-up elements as good writing and dialogue and an imaginative story don't require spending of hundreds of millions on infantile whiz-bang special effects.

Link Discuss

Legitimate "pirate" e-books

Copyright law specifically exempts print editions of copyrighted works produced for assistive devices -- Braille readers and speech synthesizers employed by the blind. Bookshare aggregates volunteer-produced e-books (editions that would be called "pirated" if they were distributed on alt.binaries.ebooks or #bookwarez) and makes them available, for a small subscription fee, to the blind.
The Bookshare.org collection will be built and shaped largely by its users and supporters. If you regularly scan books for your own use, or have access to a scanner, you can help build the collection. If you are scanning new books, please read our scanning preferences. To find out what books other Bookshare.org users are requesting before you scan or submit your next book, visit the Wish List page.
Link Discuss (via InfoAnarchy)

A nation obsessed with numbers

The Taiwanese lottery -- formulated to allow Taiwan's new president to make good on his promise of free money for the elderly, doing an end-run around the opposition-controlled legistlature -- has created a nation of numerologists. Car accidents are scrutinized for "lucky" license-tag numbers; journos end conferences with requests for birthdays; tourists are harassed for their passport numbers. Link Discuss (via Fortean Times)

Message Pad parts

Trying to keep your Newton running? These guys have got nigh-infinite supplies of spare Newton parts. Link Discuss (via Deals on the Web)

Disney World costumes for sale

Walt Disney World is auctioning off hundreds and hundreds of surplus uniforms (as well as miles of fabric) on March 14. God, what I wouldn't give for a Haunted Mansion costume. Or a Pirates of the Carribean hat. Or a Tiki Room vest. Oooh, an Epcot jumpsuit! Link Discuss (via Deals on the Web)

Anti-Anthrax Screensaver

With the help of 1.35 million PC users, an Oxford University team's dsitributed computing project cranked through 3.5 million potential anthrax-treating compounds and came up with 300,000 possible new drugs. "We managed to search the complete dataset in just four weeks instead of years," one of the researchers says. Link Discuss

Physics for Future Presidents

I'm back! Did you miss me? Wait, don't answer that. ; )
UC Berkeley physics professor Richard A. Muller is teaching an amazing course called Physics for Future Presidents. Have you ever heard of those Physics for Poets classes? This is similar, only far cooler and more relevant. And the book Muller is writing to accompany the course - with chapter titles like Explosions, Nuclear Weapons, and Secrets of UFOs - is available online! Link Discuss

Top 10 Ways the World Will End

At the most recent TED conference, Stephen Petranek of Discover presented the 10 most likely ways the Earth could end in the near future:

10. We lose the will to survive (depression being the #1 mental illness)

9. Aliens invade Earth (most primitive civilizations do not survive outside contact)

8. Our Ecosystem collapses (e.g. we destroy the marginal tree in the rain forest or run out of fish)

7. Particle accelerator mishap - when we can make devices powerful enough to make black holes we expect them to evaporate, but we can't be sure.

6. Biotech disaster

5. Reversal of Earth's magnetic field

4. Solar flares

3. Global epidemic

2. Rogue black hole

1. Asteroid collision

Link Discuss

Woodring and Frisell's Mysterio Simpatico

Howard Rheingold sez: "Artist Jim Woodring and musician Bill Frissell have been collaborating in recent years. Now they are transcending the album cover level of correspondence by jamming." Link Discuss