I wuz robbed

Today I was in a hurry, walking down to my local subway station, the 16th and Mission BART, and, as usual when I'm too late to take Valencia, this took me past the cluster of drug-dealers who hang out on my corner, in the north Mission. I was wearing the groovy MiG goggles I'd bought last month in London at the Camden Market and have been using as shades, and this big drug dealer cornered me and started harassing me to try them on. Then he started rambling about what he does for a living, just talking a load of really boring rounder horseshit that probably sounds good and Elmore Leonardy when you say it to yourself in your head but just sounds banal and incoherent when you're standing on a corner.

He's a big guy and so I "let" him try on my shades. Then it transpires that he wants me to buy drugs from him in exchange for my goggles. I explain that I'm not in the market for drugs, but he won't give back my shades and he's talking more bullshit. Finally I say, "So, you're robbing me, right?" and more bullshit ensues. I repeat the question a couple times, then walk off.

I'm really pissed. Really, really pissed. I really liked those goggles and clearly this guy decided he wanted to just fuck with me for the hell of it. Short of flying to London, I can't replace them, ever. (Update: an alert reader pointed out a mail-order site, so I've replaced them)

I could go to the cops, but here's the thing: if I do, he'll know who did it and he might shoot me. Read the rest

OPENdj: Swarming streamer for Linux

Another swarming streamer, OPENdj, is also free and GPLed and runs under GNU/Linux. Grandiose prediction for a Sunday: swarming will standardize on a protocol in the next three-five years, abeit one with many implentations. Link Discuss (via /.) Read the rest

Hollywood asks Congress for Letters of Marque

Rep. Howard Berman, D-Calif has called for a bill that would create a "safe harbor" for rights-holders who want to attack P2P networks to "protect" their works. A safe harbor is a checklist of qualifications that will guarantee you immunity from prosecution. An ISP that does x, y and z can't be prosecuted for secondary infringement under the DMCA's safe harbor.

Berman is asking Congress for a safe harbor for RIAA and MPAA attacks on P2P systems. At first, this actually seemed slightly reasonable to me. Berman says that his bill won't allow rights-holders to damage individual or ISP computers, and he says the kind of thing they're planning is flooding the network with bad rips, spoofy meta-data (mislabelling tracks) and so on. Hey, that's already a problem in the wild in P2P networks, so what's the big deal, right?

There's something fishy here. Bad meta-data and bad rips are not criminal acts. There's no need for a safe harbor to protect the labels if they want to put up Gnutella hosts with 20,000,000 bad tracks (there're already Christian groups that put up inspirational/chiding images with names that suggest that the files contain porn, and so put their material directly into sinners' hands).

Why does Big Content need a safe harbor for something that's not a criminal act? Safe harbors only exist to protect people who are engaged in an activity that would otherwise be illegal. When Hollywood seeks a safe harbor for its attacks on the Internet, you know that what it's really asking for are Letters of Marque -- a license to engage in criminal vigilantism. Read the rest

Rob Flickenger explains WiFi

Rob "Community Wireless Networks" Flickenger has written an excellent primer on, well, community wireless networking for PC Magazine. He covers all the basics of technology and social phenomena, and imparts some of the vibrance of community networking, too.
The captive portal provides Web site redirection, which you may have encountered when surfing the Web from hotels that provide DSL access to rooms. When the Wi-Fi card in your laptop associates with the access point and you try to open a Web site, you are redirected to an introduction page that identifies the network and invites you to log on (sometimes after paying a nominal fee for access). Once cleared with the authentication service, you are redirected to the site requested.

The hot spot has its place in any community network project because it is relatively simple to set up and provides immediate benefits. For little more than the price of the hardware, homes and businesses can use the wireless network to access a high-speed DSL line (or other appropriate network connection), sharing its cost. Sponsors can charge competitive fees for Internet access to help offset the cost of operations.

The hot spot has one critical limitation: You can set it up only where high-speed Internet access is already available. What if you want to extend network access outside of DSL and cable range, or you want to bridge two networks together but can't afford a dedicated telco line?

Link Discuss (via 802.11b Networking News) Read the rest

Swarming MP3 streamer -- never run out of bandwidth again!

Streamer is a swarming MP3 streamer. Every listener to a Streamer Internet radio station relays for other users, so that you can never run out of bandwidth -- think of Onion Networks' and Blue Falcon Networks' technology, except that this is free and GPLed. I wish that the CBC would adopt this for their Internet radio streams, which are 99 percent busied-out and have a lot of rebuffering problems. I've got tons of upstream bandwidth in San Francisco, so I could handily relay CBC Toronto for other Bay Areans who wanted to listen to it, giving everyone a faster connection and saving money for CBC besides. Link Read the rest

Minor-league hockey-team for sale on eBay

The Anchorage Aces, a bankrupt minor-league hockey team, is up for sale on eBay.
Within hours of its second listing, the minor league team had received four offers on the Internet auction site, including a $2 million offer.

The West Coast Hockey League franchise filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last month. The team is more than $2 million in debt and owes more than 100 creditors. Last season, the Aces finished with a league-worst 19-44 record.

Link Discuss Read the rest

Wham-O, we hardly knew ye

RIP, Arthur (Spud) Melin, inventor of the Frisbee and the Hula-Hoop.
"No sensation has ever swept the country like the Hula Hoop," author Richard Johnson wrote in his book American Fads. "(It) remains the standard against which all national crazes are measured."

Melin and Knerr started with slingshots and named their mail-order company after the sound a slingshot made when its projectile struck a target. They branched into other sporting goods, including pellet guns, crossbows and daggers.

They added toys in 1955, when building inspector Fred Morrison sold them a plastic flying disc he had developed after watching Yale University students toss pie tins. Wham-O began selling the disc they called the Pluto Platter two years later before modifying it and renaming it the Frisbee.

Link Discuss (Thanks, Amanda!) Read the rest

Lab Notes

Nanotube pistons, tangible interfaces, and the invention of the mouse... all in my latest issue of Lab Notes: Research from the UC Berkeley College of Engineering! Link Discuss Read the rest


Fellow wunderkammer-keeper Denise Czaja sent me this link to ultra-surreal flower prints by Dr. John Robert Thornton (circa 18th century). As Denise says, "the painting style of the flowers reminds me of Mark Ryden!" Link Discuss (Thanks, Denise!) Read the rest

Silence is intellectual property

John Cage's 4'33", a lengthy silent track on composition from one of his avant-garde albums performances (thanks, Mark), constitutes an original work for copyright purposes. This means that other composers who include silent tracks have made a derivative work from Cage's silence. Cage's representatives have served producer Mike Batt with a legal nastygram asserting that he infringed on Cage's copyright with his 60-second silent track on the latest Planets album.
As my mother said when I told her, 'which part of the silence are they claiming you nicked?'.
Link Discuss (via MeFi) Read the rest

Beware of falling cows

Austrian driver nearly killed by a cow that fell 15' off an overpass just as the car was passing through it. Cow does not survive. Link Discuss (Thanks, Gary!) Read the rest

An international TV guide for public radio

Kevin Kelly (not this Kevin Kelly, this Kevin Kelly) wrote to tell us about the site he maintains at PublicRadioFan.com. Kevin's site has a massive and comprehensive guide to audio on hundreds of public radio sites around the world, with direct links to the audio streams, program home-pages and station sites. You can search by programming type, time and location. A little XML-RPC-fu and this could be the basis for a globe-spanning public-radio TiVo. Link Discuss (Thanks, Kevin!) Read the rest

Propaganda posters remixed for the war on terror

Amazing and inflammatory gallery of remixed wartime propaganda posters. I chose this one in honor of Canada Day. Link Discuss (Thanks, Mark!) Read the rest

Programming language pr0n

It all started with Raverporn's photo of two young women in lingerie, one spanking the other with an O'Reilly perl book. Joey, a legendary perl-hater, struck back with a photo of his own butt getting whacked with a Lisp book that Dan left behind when he moved to SF and went to work for the Vipul's Razor crowd. Now, Coderman adds his own contribution: a savage C++ book spanking. If only my HyperCard books weren't three thousand miles distant, I'd add my own contribution to the canon, yes I would. Link (perl), Link (Lisp), Link (C++) Discuss (via Ben Hammersley) Read the rest

Telemarketer saves life

A hiker stranded in the Andes thought he would die, but then his cellular rang. It was a telemarketer calling to get him to top up his pre-paid plan. The telemarketer got emergency services on the line and called the hiker at regular intervals to make sure he didn't lose consciousness from hypothermia. When the hiker's battery died, he put it in the snow to cool it off and it came back to life. The article doesn't say why he didn't just call 911 to begin with. Link Discuss Read the rest

Doggy blog

Dog News: Weird, inspiring dog tales. I have never seen this many dog-related snippets in one place. I'm not a dog person, but who can resist a headline like "Man quits day job to pick up dog poop all day long" and "Prozac hailed as potential cure for aggressive dogs?" Link Discuss Read the rest

Clicks for mammograms

Meg sez: "The Breast Cancer site is having trouble getting enough people to click on it daily to meet their quota of donating at least one free mammogram a day to an underprivileged woman. It takes less than a minute to go to their site and click on 'Fund Free Mammograms' for free (pink window in the middle). (There is nothing to sign up for and no cost to you.) The corporate sponsors/advertisers use the number of daily visits to donate a mammogram in exchange for advertising."

I dug around on Snopes and the About.com Urban Legends database and it appears that these folks are on the up-and-up. I think it's a rotten idea to publicize this with a chain letter (the original note asks you to tell ten friends and ask them to do the same), but the principle is sound. I just went and did my clicks; if you like this idea, why don't you do it, too? Link Discuss (Thanks, Meg!) Read the rest

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