Boing Boing 

Jimi Hendrix: "Sing sloppy and have a good beat to your songs"

An excerpt from a letter Jimi Hendrix sent his father in 1965:
Nowadays people don't want you to sing good. They want you to sing sloppy and have a good beat to your songs. That's what angle I'm going to shoot for. That's where the money is. So just in case about three or four months from now you might hear a record by me which sounds terrible, don't feel ashamed, just wait until the money rolls in because every day people are singing worse and worse on purpose and the public buys more and more records.
Link Discuss (Thanks, Scott!)

Jamming civilian GPS

The new Phrack has an interesting piece on GPS jamming. I'm no radio engineer, but this seems pretty plausible to me. When civilian GPS got its accuracy bump a couple years back, I remember reading a lot of reports that the military could selectively jam GPS, so that their opponents wouldn't get positional data, but US troops would. This is part of the premise of a story I finished rewriting the other day, about Open Spectrum guerrillas:
Lee-Daniel went out with a crew that Elaine was leading, up on the northern border of the sovereign. She had two junior surveyors with her, all of them loaded with positioning gear that tied into Galileo, the European GPS network -- the Galileo gear cost a fortune, but they'd found that their American GPS kit often mysteriously stopped working when they were working on projects in the territorial USA. They'd ordered the Euro stuff from a bunch of anti-globalization activists who'd found that the same thing happened in any city hosting an economic summit. Europeans were more likely to treat infrastructure as sacrosanct, while the US was only too happy to monkey with GPS for tactical reasons. The Series A man hated the expense of the Galileo gear, hated paying off crusty-punk Starbucks-smashers for critical tools, hated the optics of looking like a bunch of anarchists instead of a spunky startup.
Seems a little more plausible in light of this:
A low cost device to temporarily disable the reception of the civilian course acquisition (C/A) code used for the standard positioning service (SPS)[1] on the Global Positioning System (GPS/NAVSTAR) L1 frequency of 1575.42 MHz.

This is accomplished by transmitting a narrowband Gaussian noise signal, with a deviation of +/- 1.023 MHz, on the L1 GPS frequency itself. This technique is a little more complicated than a simple continuous wave (CW) jammer, but tends to be more effective (i.e. harder to filter) against spread spectrum based radio receivers.

This device will have no effect on the precise positioning service (PPS) which is transmitted on the GPS L2 frequency of 1227.6 MHz and little effect on the P-code which is also carried on the L1 frequency. There may be a problem if your particular GPS receiver needs to acquire the P(Y)-code through the C/A-code before proper operation.

This device will also not work against the new upcoming GPS L5 frequency of 1176.45 MHz or the Russian GLONASS or European Galileo systems. It can be adapted to jam the new civilian C/A-code signal which is going to also be transmitted on the GPS L2 frequency.

Link Discuss (via Joi Ito)

Harpo Marx, G-Man

Harpo Marx was an undercover agent for J. Edgar Hoover, running secret documents out of the Soviet Union.
One letter from the FBI archives, signed by Hoover in 1949, congratulates Harpo on his "loyal past services" to his country.

Hoover hoped they might meet in the near future, saying: "There may be ways that you can help your country again."

Link Discuss (via MeFi)

Paranoid Flash rant

Wild Oliver-Stone-conspiracy-rant as a crazy Flash movie, "documenting" the connections between Hailburton, Disney, the bin Laden family, American Airlines and everyone else. Link Discuss (Thanks, Danny!)

Creepy shampoo rant PDF

Chas sez: "PDF of insane Bronners shampoo label complete with poetry and political slogans. If you have a recipe for tingly peppermint soap you could now roll your own Dr. Bronners shampoo/bodywash/mouthwash/allpurpose soap." Link (36k PDF) Discuss (Thanks, Chas!)

IP over H2O

Forget IP-over-carrier-pigeon -- check out this art-project to run IP over running water:
1. The set-up at the top of the stairwell consists of a computer with a flat panel LCD screen and a USB video camera. When someone walks up to the screen they see live video of themselves. There is a button in front of the screen that when pressed takes a picture of the person. The picture is then translated into a 16 x 16 pixel grayscale image (desktop icon size) and displayed on the LCD.

Also upstairs is a water valve attached to a fixed jug of water or connection to a water source/main. When the grayscale image is created, the computer then analyzes the color of each pixel and 'prints' out pulses to the electronically controlled water valve - a different pulse pattern depending on the color of the pixel on screen. The water then falls to the first floor.

2. The set-up on the first floor consists of a plexi-glass tray that awaits the falling water drops. The tray will sit on top of a custom built wooden box with a video projector inside. A funnel situated above an infrared switch watches for falling drops and through a microcontroller, feeds information to the computer at the bottom to decode which color pixel has been printed.

Link Discuss (Thanks, Jed!)

Fourth Harry Potter book read aloud to dying girl in 2000

JK Rowling read the unfinished manuscript for the fourth Harry Potter book over the phone for an American girl who was dying of cancer.
Rowling e-mailed Catie back with some tantalizing snippets from her fourth book -- "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" -- and then phoned her in Albany, New York to read extracts.

"Catie's face just lit up," her mother recalled.

After the child's death, Rowling e-mailed her parents to say: "I consider myself privileged to have had contact with Catie...I am crying so hard as I type. She left footprints on my heart."

That really is a menschy thing to have done, and nevermind any cheap-shots about Rowlings's fans dying for a sequel. Link Discuss

Chickenshit car

Great article about a Brit garage-inventor who's converting cars to run on methane from animal waste:
"During the war I had done quite a bit of pig farming, and I knew that manure contained gases and that pig manure was very potent. A number of experimenters and sanitation facilities have been extracting gas from sewage for years now, but it's diluted so much that the process is slow. I therefore decided to concentrate on animal manure and find the best blend from which to extract methane... and then develop a method of feeding this gas into a car's engine.

"After experiments with just about every type of animal manure, I found I got the best results from mixing that of chickens and pigs. Chicken manure contains more nitrogen than others and pig droppings are useful because they generate heat so well."...

"I get five more miles to the gallon on methane than I get from an equivalent amount of petrol," Harold said. "This is because the dry methane has a higher calorific value and there is no waste of unvaporized fluid. Absence of oil dilution and reduced carbon deposits are just bonuses."

Link Discuss (Thanks, zorca!)

Wintertime QTVR panoramas from near and far

Danish photographer and QTVR enthusiast Hans Nyberg, whose Times Square feature was included in last Friday's edition of Web Zen, sends these links to stunningly beautiful full-screen panoramas.
"My Christmas show has some new QTVR -- for example, this one (shown at left) made last Sunday in New York by Jook Leung, who recently won the Fujifilm Masterpiece Award for his Tribute in Light panorama which I featured in April.

And if you want a real 'White Christmas,' look at this image by Kjell Are Refsvik."


Pregnant Barbie: no room at the Wal-Mart inn for you.

"Midge," the married, pregnant, longtime pal of Barbie, was pulled from Wal-Mart shelves this month in response to customer complaints. She has a detachable pregnant stomach, a wedding ring, a son, and a husband (both of whom are sold separately). From the Reuters story:
Mattel, the maker of Barbie, on its Web site, said the Happy Family preganancy-themed dolls "can help parents discuss pregnancy without having to resort to graphic descriptions of the reproductive process." It said the dolls can help children aged 5 to 8 to act out their feelings before the arrival of a new sibling.

Some shoppers said they were not convinced Wal-Mart's priorities were on target. "Wal-Mart pulling Barbie because she's pregnant, but they still sell guns and ammo?" said Laura Jamieson of San Francisco.

Link Discuss

Perfesser Farnsworth's Fantastic Fusor lives!

The "Fusor" is a miniature nuclear fusion device invented (and abandoned) by Philo T. Farnsworth, inventor of the TV. Over at the "Open Source Fusor Research Consortium" garage engineers are trying to hack working, viable Fusors without incurring the wrath of the NEA AEC (thanks, Gary!) or getting fatally irradiated. Link Discuss (Thanks, Jef!)

Trashing Portland's officials' privacy, tit-for-tat

Portland top cops endorsed the actions of officers who used the contents of a flamboyant cop's trashbin to build a case against her -- without a warrant. They argued that "Most judges have the opinion that [once] trash is put's trash, and abandoned in terms of privacy." A Portland alternative paper retaliated by going through the mayor, chief and DA's home trash at the curb, publishing their findings, prompting the officials to go berzerk and threaten legal action.
Our inspection of Chief Kroeker's refuse reveals that he is a scrupulous recycler. He is also a health nut. We find a staggering profusion of health-food containers: fat-free milk cartons, fat-free cereal boxes, cans of milk chocolate weight-loss shakes, cans of Swanson chicken broth ("99% fat free!"), water bottles, a cardboard box of protein bars, tubs of low-fat cottage cheese, a paper packet of oatmeal, and an article on "How to Live a Long Healthy Life."...

We uncrumple a holiday flier from the Hinson Memorial Baptist Church, which contains a handwritten note: "Mark. Just want you to know one Latin from Manhattan Loves You."

Invasion of privacy? This is a frontal assault, a D-Day, a Norman Conquest of privacy. We know the chief's credit-card number; we know where he buys his groceries; we know how much toilet tissue he goes through. We know whose Christmas cards he has pitched, whose wedding he skipped, whose photo he threw away. We know what newsletters he gets and how much he's socked away in the stock market. We even know he's thinking about a new car--and which models he's considering.

Link Discuss (via Plastic)

Virtual Yule Log burns up TV ratings in NYC

The "Yule Log Christmas Special"-- a Christmas morning broadcast on an NYC TV station--kicked Ebenezer Scrooge's butt in viewer ratings stats. The show is a two-hour, nonstop shot of a burning log in a fireplace. The TV tradition began in 1966 as sort of a media stand-in for real fireplaces, something many viewers in New York City don't have.
Wednesday's showing, from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., boasted 284,012 viewing households, a 26 percent boost in viewership compared with last year, WPIX Channel 11 said. It smoked the 1 p.m. airing of the 1951 classic film version of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol," starring Alistair Sim as Ebenezer Scrooge, by 29,000 households. For its triumphant return, the Yule Log tape was digitally remastered, but the soundtrack, including "Joy to the World" and "Winter Wonderland," was left unchanged.
See the Yule Log here. Discuss

Kawaii dining

Beautiful gallery of hyper-cute Japanese packaged meals. Link Discuss (via Dodoskido)

Star Wars origami

Step-by-step instructions for folding a wide range of Star Wars vehicles -- and R2D2! -- from simple paper. Use the folds, Luke. Link Discuss (via Dodoskido)

Quakes make "unintentional cubism"

Striking gallery of "unintentional cubism" in landscapes ravaged by earthquakes. Link Discuss (via Geisha Asobi)

Beating buildings into warships

Steel salvaged from the wreckage of WTC will be incorporated into a new US warship, the USS New York. Link Discuss

iPod batteries have a one-year duty-cycle

iPods have a well-known battery-life problem: over time, their battery life dwindles from 10h to 3h or less (my 5GB iPod, purchased in November 2001, was down to less than 1h this Thanksgiving). iPod warranties expire after 90 days, but Apple will "replace the battery" by giving you a new iPod for a whopping $50 off. Over on iPodHacks, they're trying to figure out if there's a better way to change the batteries -- any ideas? Link Discuss

Louisiana schoolbooks won't disclaim evolution after all

Louisiana's education authorities have overturned their decision to require disclaimers in biology textbooks that state that evolution is a theory, not a fact.
"I am not prepared to go back to the Dark Ages," said Paul Pastorek, the board's president, who voted against the disclaimer.
Link Discuss

Ook#: Ook for .NET

Ook# -- the .NET port of Ook (a programming language with only one command, "Ook," and various punctuation, such as "Ook?" and "Ook!") -- is out, under the BSD license. Here's "Hello World" in Ook#:
# Lawrence Pit
# (C) 2002 BlueSorcerer

#example that prints Hello World!

Ook. Ook? Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook! Ook? Ook? Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook? Ook! Ook! Ook? Ook! Ook? Ook. Ook! Ook. Ook. Ook? Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook! Ook? Ook? Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook? Ook! Ook! Ook? Ook! Ook? Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook! Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook! Ook. Ook! Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook! Ook. Ook. Ook? Ook. Ook? Ook. Ook? Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook! Ook? Ook? Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook? Ook! Ook! Ook? Ook! Ook? Ook. Ook! Ook. Ook. Ook? Ook. Ook? Ook. Ook? Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook! Ook? Ook? Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook? Ook! Ook! Ook? Ook! Ook? Ook. Ook! Ook! Ook! Ook! Ook! Ook! Ook! Ook. Ook? Ook. Ook? Ook. Ook? Ook. Ook? Ook. Ook! Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook! Ook. Ook! Ook! Ook! Ook! Ook! Ook! Ook! Ook! Ook! Ook! Ook! Ook! Ook! Ook. Ook! Ook! Ook! Ook! Ook! Ook! Ook! Ook! Ook! Ook! Ook! Ook! Ook! Ook! Ook! Ook! Ook! Ook. Ook. Ook? Ook. Ook? Ook. Ook. Ook! Ook.

Link Discuss (via JWZ's LiveJournal)

iPod handbag

Check out this amazing iPod handbag, going for ¥10,800 ($90) in Japan. Link Discuss (via Kottke)

Nazi hunters score with tech

The US deported ten Nazi war-criminals this year, setting a record. Nazi-hunters attribute their success to the technology:
* Investigators have completed their time-consuming project to track down assets and property the Nazis looted from Holocaust victims.

* OSI has quick access to government records and commercial databases and can compare names, including variations of possible spellings in English.

* Investigators are able to pore over the archives of the former Soviet bloc countries, developing leads.

Link Discuss (Thanks, John!)

Dr. Who interactive episode-finder

Gene sez: "The BBC sci-fi/fantasy/comedy/drama/cult show 'Doctor Who' aired from 1963 through 1987 (with a revival in 1996) and had over 100 stories, encompassing over 500 episodes. So, how do you find a particular episode? Try the BBC's new 'It's the one with' episode guide! Choose a monster or plot point from the drop down menu, and they'll tell you what episode you're looking for. For instance: Looking for the episode with the freaky clowns? The story you remember is 'The Greatest Show in the Galaxy!'"
[Ants (Large) | Babies (Big, Orange) | Clowns (Freaky) | Cybermen | Daleks | Dinosaurs | Insects | Kittens | Looked a bit rude | Maggots (Giant) | Man in a Mask | Plants (Killer) | Rats (Huge) | Reptiles | Robots | Scary bloke (One Eyed) | Snakes | Spiders (Big) | Stones (Blood-sucking) | Sweeties (Big) | Vampires | Wearing String Vests | Worms]

[Dr Who died | Dr Who's friend died | The Daleks turn up | The Cybermen turn up | The Master is in it]

Link Discuss (Thanks, Gene!)

Citrus sculpture extravagoranges

With a month and a half to go till the Cloverdale Citrus Fair, it's time to have a look at the gallery of last year's winners of the annual citrus-stacking competition. Last year's theme was "Wonders of the World," and from the pyramid at Giza to the Great Wall of China, Rotarians and sorority sisters piled their oranges in enormous sculptifood extravagoranges! Link Discuss (Thanks, Steve!)

Destruction-testing a laptop

The Reg is reporting on a Czech website's destruction testing of a ruggedized laptop. The video of the testing -- which features a man jumping up and down on a closed notebook before booting it up -- is terrific. Link Discuss

Pay for groceries by fingerprint at Kroger stores

The largest supermarket chain in the US is offering some customers the ability to pay for groceries by "finger imaging," at three of its Texas stores.
A machine scans the index finger, matching the customer's unique fingerprint with the individual's account. The company avoids the term "fingerprinting" because of its law enforcement connotation -- the same reason the technology is applied to the index finger, rather than the thumb.

Customers can register for the voluntary program by presenting a drivers license, an index finger and a method of payment -- either credit card, debit card or electronic check.

Link Discuss

Greg Egan's stories online

Greg Egan, the brilliant Aussie sf writer/hacker, has 17 complete stories online, as well as many excerpts and tons of nonfiction articles. Woohoo! Link Discuss (via Bohnsack)

NYC for gondoliers

This large pic of Manhattan under 400' of water -- and the accompanying video of the water draining away -- is a really neat sidelong look at an otherwise familiar topology. Link Discuss (via Kottke)

Kiwi tire-farms slow erosion

Kiwi farmers are using thousands of tires to stop soil-erosion on their land.
This year's bitter El Nino winds have expanded the sand area by half. Mr Hull, who is now past 60, says: "The problem is just getting beyond me."

The Waiuku farmer's nightmare is an example of this country's rapidly vanishing coastline. His land is being buried under sand.

Link Discuss (Thanks, Gnat!)

WiFi: What threat?

Annalee's written a generally good debunking of the gub'ment's alarmist warnings about WiFi in her latest Techsploitation column, but in so doing, she says:
The ever resourceful publisher O'Reilly even has a new book out on the issue called 802.11 Security, which underscores my point by arguing that most WiFi networks -- which use the 802.11 transmission protocol specified by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers – are wide open to attack.
I have to quibble with this. Connecting to a WiFi network is not "attacking" it. A successful attack against a network should do some damage to it, or at least reduce its availablity to the detriment of its operator. Most home WiFi networks don't even have a computer on them much of the time (since WiFi net operators either take their machines with them or shut them down -- don't believe me? Take nstat with you on your next warstumble! Most of the nets I connect to don't have any hosts on them!). So connecting to the network doesn't constitute any kind of attack per se.

Now, there are a couple of actual "attacks" imaginable: one is a DoS attack on the network itself, putting so much traffic on the net that you shut it down. This one is much bandied, but I've never actually seen it take place. The 802.11b spec takes pretty good care to enforce good neighborship on connected hosts. It's like DoSing a hub -- theoretically possible, but not very likely, since hubs are, by nature, built to manage multiple hosts sending and receiving traffic.

Another attack is intrusion: either on the router or on another host. Router intrusion is surprisingly easy, since many operators don't change the default router password. Any time you associate with a network called "linksys", try pointing your browser at: http://:admin@ -- if you get a configuration screen, congrats, you 0wn that AP. But this certainly isn't an attack that's made simpler by flaws in WEP; rather, it's a UI failure in the configurator, which should force a password change on setup. Indeed, this attack is not specific to WiFi nets -- routers connected to cablemodems are just as vulnerable.

Intrusion into systems is a much graver case. In the case of MacOS X/9 machines, this is not much of a risk, since neither of these machines have default-on IP-addressable services, and activating such services generally requires some savvy that would, one hopes, also include enough smarts to set up a decent password (maybe a poor assumption). Win* machines are much more vulnerable -- this is a well-understood phenomenon, of course, and it has to do with major failings in MSFT's security engineering. The incremental vulnerability of a Win* machine on a WiFi net is high, but only because Win* and orthodox security engineering make the fallacious firewall assumption, that hosts inside your network are trusted and hosts outside your network are not. In truth, your security perimeter should be drawn around each host, not around the network, since hosts on the network can go rogue (0wned via a trojan, say), and hosts outside of the network can be highly trusted, as when you carry your laptop to some other place and need to connect to machines back home.

Now, there is a real-live attack possible due to the failings of WEP: packet-sniffing. In the cases where you are sending sensitive info (i.e. passwords, mail, http-auth session keys) in the clear, having untrusted parties on your broadcast network is a genuine risk. But this is not a situation that's unique to, or distinctive of, WiFi. Rather, it is the case any time you're sending data in the clear on any network connection that isn't under your control, such as net-connections in airports, hotels, conference centers, classrooms, boardrooms, cable-modems, etc. This is a major flaw in the assumptions that many Internet services make (any ISP that expects you to transmit your POP info in the clear, for example).

WiFi makes these threats more visible, but not graver. Link Discuss (Thanks, Derek!)