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 Read the rest

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 Read the rest

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.
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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) Read the rest

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) Read the rest

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) Read the rest

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.
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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) Read the rest

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!) Read the rest

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!) Read the rest

Crack monkey!

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

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!) Read the rest

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 Read the rest

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 Read the rest

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 /.) Read the rest

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) Read the rest

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!) Read the rest

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