Boing Boing 

Radio controlled helicopter with tiny video camera

An article about the Draganflyer, a strange-looking remote-controlled helicopter which weighs 17 ounces and has gyro-stabilizers so anyone can fly it. Apple is plugging it because the digital videos can be edited with iMovie. It's expensive, though: $750 plus $200 for the video equipment. Link Discuss


These hand-blown glass rayguns from Joe Blow studios are fantastic. Link Discuss (Thanks, JimWICH!)

Bugs 0wn the weather

Brit scientists have received funding to examine the hypothesis that the weather is manipulated by cloudborne microbes that have evolved the ability to influence climate to their survival advantage. Link Discuss

"I am the very model of a Usenet personality"

Charlie's reposted a brilliant "Modern Major General" pastiche about Usenet trolls, lovely, especially apropos of "Joo Joo," Boing Boing's latest empty troll:
I am the very model of a Newsgroup personality.
I intersperse obscenity with tedious banality.
Addresses I have plenty of, both genuine and ghosted too, On all the
countless newsgroups that my drivel is cross-posted to. Your bandwidth I
will fritter with my whining and my snivelling, And you're the one who
pays the bill, downloading all my drivelling. My enemies are numerous,
and no-one would be blaming you For cracking my head open after I've
been rudely flaming you.
Link Discuss

A streetcar named blog

A blog for fans, watchers and critics of the Toronto Transit System. Link Discuss (via The Adventures of AccordionGuy in the 21st Century)

Teach a person to run an httpd and you'll get pages forever

Zed sez: "O'Reilly's quoting Gibson's 'the future is here; it's just not evenly distributed' makes this seem timely:"
Wearing a traditional feathered headdress and using a Power Point presentation, a leader of the Ashaninka Indian tribe from central Peru described how his village created a presence on the Internet...

In the past several years, the Ashaninkas put up their own Internet server and website to tell their story. Mino said they are using Web-based tools to educate their people, and village Internet kiosks have enabled small villages to communicate with one another.

A key part of the program, he said, was their insistence that the villagers establish their own Web servers and learn to maintain the system for themselves. This led to a year of negotiating with the Peruvian state telephone company to provide the resources necessary for the Ashaninkas to install a network. It was important that the Ashaninkas be able to demonstrate their self-sufficiency to the dominant society in Lima.

Link Discuss (Thanks, Zed!)

Nicotine water

New nicotine-spiked spring-water gives you your toxin of choice in liquid form. No word on whether a caffeinated version is coming.
Nico Water, like nicotine gum, comes with 2 or 4 milligrams of nicotine. But unlike the gum, Nico Water is marketed as a supplement -- not a replacement.
Link Discuss (Thanks, Michael!)

Barbie considered harmful

Iranian police raid Barbie dealers, charge them with immorality detrimental to the state.
Recently Moral Police have stepped up arrest and harassment of shopkeepers for selling Barbie dolls and whatever decorated with different shapes of Barbie and its image which are immensely used by school children.

Tehran Judicial Department has arrested many of Barbie traders and shopkeepers mainly in Tehran  and other places accusing them for spreading obscene Western cultures since last month.

Link Discuss (via New World Disorder)

Ashes to thraxes

Baseball fan's postmortem wish to have his ashes scattered over his local ballpark cause thrakspanick when the urn is jettisoned prematurely and collides with the roof and scatters powder all about. Link Discuss (via New World Disorder)


Nice piece on America's hate-affair with documentation, and the rising trend to glossy up the manuals, turning them into three-page glossy gate-fold brochures.
In the United States, Whirlpool is selling a microwave oven that asks consumers if they are preparing, say, a cooked or uncooked chicken, with or without bones, with or without sauce. The microwave will calculate the cooking time and method; all the user needs to do -- after answering all those questions, of course -- is push the start button and dish out the finished product.

In the not-too-distant future, many of those questions may prove unnecessary, at least for frozen dinners and such. Some microwaves are being designed to read a bar code that will be printed on the side of the package and cook it automatically. "The consumer won't even have to read directions on how long he needs to cook the meal; he'll just have to eat it," Laermer said.

Link Discuss (via MeFi)

IRC commentary on my panel with Harlan

Last night, I did a panel on copyright (and more specifically, on bad copyright laws like the DMCA) at BayCon. I didn't find out until I got there that they'd invited Harlan Ellison to the panel as well. As a result, the talk ended up consisting mostly of Harlan bellowing obscenities and threats of physical violence, which may have been vastly entertaining, but left me feeling like a lot of important information and useful debate got drowned out by the histrionics. Harlan loathes the Internet (though he says he doesn't, I have the message he had Joe Straczinsky send to my Clarion class through GEnie, in which he basically calls us idiots for engaging in something as foolish at networked communication) and is proudly ignorant of its workings, features and underpinnings.

Nevertheless, he considers himself expert enough to go and say outlandish things ("My crew of leet hackers have the foolproof means to take down and Website in five minutes, bam!" "We don't need Brewster Kahle to preserve posterity, we have librarians!" "The EFF is only farting into the wind: It has a moral obligation to hunt down pirates and bring them to justice!" "There is no posterity. Take $FAMOUS_TWENTIES_AUTHOR, he is utterly forgotten today.")

It was rather tiresome, but thanks to Danny O'Brien of NTK and his 802.11-equipped laptop, we were able to channel the Internet into (and out of) the room quite a bit. If Harlan had been there to hear anyone else (rather than reinforce his superstitions), it would have been even more interesting, as, for example, Danny googled $FAMOUS_TWENTIES_AUTHOR and he and his wife Quinn began to recite all the various and useful ways in which the Internet has preserved him for posterity. Danny was on the #infoanarchy IRC channel, too, stenographing and discussing the panel; the chatter's pretty funny and may give you a sense of what we got instead of a panel. Link Discuss

Just in Tokyo

Justin Hall's guide to Tokyo, "Just in Tokyo," is out! Here's my cover-blurb:
"Put down that 'Prague on $5 a Day,' you hippie! Justin's Tokyo-On-No-Yen-Just-Confused-Smiles will have you flirting, reeling with liquor and dressed up like an extra from a bootleg high-school production of Neuromancer as you chow down on a hearty breakfast of vending-machine schoolgirl panties. As you lie awake in your coffin hotel, listening to the midnight symphony of salaryman flatulence and drunken good cheer, fire up your DoCoMo handset, aim its flat-panel display at this book and read and you will feel comforted."
Link Discuss (via EvHead)

OSXCON: Call for papers

The upcoming O'Reilly OSX conference has issued its call for participation -- do you have an OSX tech-topic you want to speak about? I've sat on a number of O'Reilly conference "kitchen cabinets" now, reviewing the proposals that came in, and it's a huge pleasure to see the kinds of creative things people are working in the technology universe. A suggestion: Don't pitch your product; rather, propose a talk that explains your product in a context (i.e., not "Here is my thing, which does stuff," but rather, "Here is some stuff, which is important because of x, y and z. My product coincidentally does stuff." Caveat: for "stuff" do not substitute $BUZZWORD, but rather some real and meaningful aspect of $BUZZWORD, i.e., "Bioinformatics for the consumer generation of evil clones," as oppposed to "Biometrics kick ass, just ask all the empty suits at $MARKET_RESEARCH_FIRM.") Link Discuss

Inspired to interestingness by Google

Delightful discussion of how Google works between a father and son. Note the first impulse (I will game the system, hurrah!) and the second (I will strive to be interesting!). If this is what Google does to young minds, then it is truly a force for good.
"Yes. Google follows the links. Google also decides that pages are more interesting if lots of people link to them,and shows you those first."

"Can I make a web page and write things?"

"Yes you can. I'll help you"

"And can I make some other pages and link to my web page so Google likes it?"

"That would be cheating - people have tried that and Google counts links from people who have lots of links pointing at them more than links from pages that no-one links to".

"Oh. OK. I'll write a page, and you can link to it, and you can tell your friends to link to it, and they can tell their friends to link to it, and then everyone will find my page."

"Well, that would work, but only if you think of something interesting to write."

"Oh. I'll have to think of some funny stories then."

Link Discuss (via Doc)

Hygiene versus Lisp

Joey counters a Lisp-snob's assertion that "the good programmers of the world are held back by trying to accomodate the less knowledgeable members of our field."
I counter-propose that we programmers who have mastered the basic human skills of preparing our own food, practicing daily hygiene, social skills and finding people with whom to mate are being held back, image-wise, by uberdorks like you.

This of course, is a classic mode of thinking in a field that is overwhelmingly dominated by men: rather than engineer something to be more user-friendly, this kind of thought says that we should restrict the set of users. Any attempt at usability or widining the audience is seen as "dumbing down". And that's truly a shame, because the nice thing about simple languages, such as Flash's ActionScript or VB, is that it brings people with problem domain-specific knowledge to the programming table

Link Discuss

Monorail for sale!

A 1971 Walt Disney World red monorail car is being auctioned off on eBay. Reminder: my birthday is 54 days away. I could give up the lease on my apartment and locate this at a trailer-park. It would absolutely kick ass. Link Discuss

80% water, 10% caffeine

Heather sez:
"You've heard it for years -- drink at least eight glasses of water a day. But now some scientists say that may be an urban myth. CNN Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen joined CNN's Paula Zahn to discuss the issue."

Here's the best quote from the piece:

"Diet Coke, 99 percent water -- you could get your water there."

To all those people who've disparaged my Diet Coke habit over the years: screw off!

Link Discuss (Thanks, Heather!)

This is how the Internet ends; with a worm, not a bang

What a fantastically alarmist and cool whitepaper this is, dealing with the coming netpocalypse arising from the inevitable flood of Warhol and Flash worms that will come along and kill the Internet. Link Discuss (via Interesting People)

General Publishing takes out CanLit

General Publishing, one of the largest Canadian book distributors, is about to trash the Canadian publishing industry. It's just done a bankruptcy restructuring that will screw 40+ small and academic publishers out of their due for a banner publishing fall. Many of them will certainly fail. Tell me again why consolidation is good for the industry? Oh well, who needed Canadian lit anyway? Link Discuss (Thanks, Joey!)

Roger Kaputnik: kaput at age 81

Here's an obit for Dave Berg, the pipe-smoking guy with the Reed Richards-style two tone hair who wrote and drew "The Lighter Side of..." cartoons for Mad. His sense of humor was quite a bit different from the rest of the usual gang of idiots, and it is strange that he was even in the magazine. I like his stuff though. Link (Thanks, Stefan!) Discuss

Shrubkitsch isn't bolshoi in Mockva

The Shrub just ain't popular in Russia. Moscow kitsch merchants can't seem to shift their newly made GW Bush nesting matrioshke dolls. Meanwhile, Clinton matrioshkas are selling like hotcakes.
"I guess he is not like Clinton, he is not so interesting," a vendor named Igor said. Clinton dolls were outselling Bush dolls two-to-one, he said, just as they would on any other day. At Igor's stand, the two presidents -- never known to enjoy each other's company -- were separated only by a serious-looking Harry Potter. The main difference between the two presidential dolls, both priced at a negotiable $30, is the story they tell.
Link Discuss

Disney sells housepaint at Home Depot

Disney's signed a $100MM deal with Home Depot to market a line of branded Disney housepaints in exchange for tons of Home Depot ad-placement in movies, parks, TV and print. Link Discuss

Piercing wannabees and near-fatal magnets

British schoolchildren simulated piercings by putting magnets on one side of their body (in their cheek, say), and steel balls on the other side. The magnets are so powerful that they are cutting off circulation and causing major, potentially fatal health problems.
n trying to give themselves fake lip piercings, several children let the magnets slip down their throats, and in one case sections of a nine year-old girl's gut were clamped together by a pair of magnets she had swallowed, causing potentially fatal perforations in her intestine.
Link Discuss (via New World Disorder)

Sublimestitch decals for sale

Sublime Stitching has put a bunch of extreme needlepoint iron-on transfers up for sale. Link Discuss

7,000+ advertisements

Mena sez: ""The Ad*Access Project, funded by the Duke Endowment 'Library 2000' Fund, presents images and database information for over 7,000 advertisements printed in U.S. and Canadian newspapers and magazines between 1911 and 1955." Link Discuss (Thanks, Mena!)

Hacktivismo news

Hactivismo news -- one-stop shop for information on the way that code can be a tool of liberation. Link Discuss (Thanks, Chris!)

Mutant Fish Spawn

A whole school of mutant IXOYE fish. Link Discuss (Thanks, Stefan!)

Hollywood wants to plug your hole

I've just posted an analysis of Hollywood's latest Congressional report, in which the MPAA reveals its perverse fascination with "plugging the analog hole." It's every bit as dirty as it sounds.
The second section, "Plugging the Analog Hole," reveals Hollywood's plan to turn a generic technology component, the humble analog-to-digital convertor, into a device that is subject to the kind of regulation heretofore reserved for Schedule A narcotics.

Analog-to-digital converters (ADCs) are the building blocks of modern digital technology. An ADC's job is to take samples of the strength (amplitude) of some analog signal (light, sound, motion, temperature) at some interval (frequency) and convert the results to a numerical value. ADCs are embedded in digital scanners, samplers, thermometers, seismographs, mice and other pointer devices, camcorders, cameras, microscopes, telescopes, modems, radios, televisions, cellular phones, walkie-talkies, light-meters and a multitude of other devices. In general, ADCs are generic and interchangeable -- that is, a high-frequency ADC from a sound-card is potentially the same ADC that you'll find in a sensitive graphics tablet....

Virtually everything in our world is copyrighted or trademarked by someone, from the facades of famous sky-scrapers to the background music at your local mall. If ADCs are constrained from performing analog-to-digital conversion of all watermarked copyrighted works, you might end up with a cellphone that switches itself off when you get within range of the copyrighted music on your stereo; a camcorder that refuses to store your child's first steps because he is taking them within eyeshot of a television playing a copyrighted cartoon; a camera that won't snap your holiday moments if they take place against the copyrighted backdrop of a chain store such as Starbucks, which forbids on-premises photography because its fixtures are proprietary works.

Link Discuss

Disney reveals depth of deep Pooh

Disney's latest SEC filing reveals that the company will owe AA Milne's agent's heirs hundreds of millions of dollars if a court finds that they are indeed the exclusive owners of the merchandise rights to Pooh-Bear, as a recently discovered document indicates.

A lot of the blog coverage of this issue has implied that Disney ripped off Milne or his heirs, but that's simply not the case. In 1983, Disney licensed Pooh from Milne's heirs -- the plaintiffs in this case are Milne's agent's heirs, who discovered a document left behind by the late agent in which Milne signed over the merch rights in perpetuity to him.

So Disney was acting in good faith -- until, that is, it shredded a bunch of boxes of documents related to the case, shortly before they were subpoenaed. I wonder if they'll sue Milne's heirs for falsely representing their ownership of the merch rights to Pooh?

"If each of the plaintiff's claims were to be confirmed in a final judgment, damages could total as much as several hundred million dollars and adversely impact the value to the company of any future exploitation of the licensed rights" for Pooh merchandise, according to the filing. Slesinger's heirs claim Burbank-based Disney has cheated them out of $200 million in royalties since 1983 from Pooh-related videos, DVDs, computer software and popular Pooh attractions at theme parks. Disney contends that it has fulfilled its royalty obligations under a 1983 contract.
Link Discuss

Blogs and cons: Like peanut-butter and chocolate

Nick Denton sez that blogs aren't gonna change the NYT any time soon, but conferences are in for a blogistan overhaul.
My recommendation to conference organizers: hire some webloggers to report on your conference, and link to other posts; put up a conference news blog on the web; make that the default page on the internet terminals; and inject weblog commentary into the discussion. For instance, the moderator ought to be browsing weblogs in real time for points and questions to put to the panelists.
Link Discuss