Boing Boing 

Nano Cartoon

Josh "Nanotech Report" Wolfe posted a witty cartoon depicting the extraordinary popular delusions and madness of crowds at the birth of a tech bubble. Link Discuss  

Newsweek's Stephen Levy: Capitol Hill P2P Prohibition craziness

In this week's edition of Newsweek, Stephen Levy reports on a Senate Judiciary Committee last week titled: "The dark side of a bright idea: Could personal and national-security risks compromise the potential of peer-to-peer file-sharing networks?"
By the end of the session, the only committee member in attendance, chairman Orrin Hatch-himself a songwriter who sells CDs on his personal Web site-zeroed in on what really bugged him: people sharing copyrighted songs on the Internet without paying for them. Then he ran an idea by one of the panelists: what if you had a system that could detect whether people were getting songs without paying for them and could warn those infringers that what they were doing was wrong? And then, if they didn't stop, the system would remotely "destroy " their computers.

"No one's interested in destroying people's computers, " said the panelist. "Well, I'm interested in doing that, "said the senator. "Warn them, do it again, and then destroy their machine! There's no excuse for anyone violating our copyright laws. "

Fortunately Senator Hatch hasn't yet codified his Dr. Strangelovean no-due-process piracy antidote into upcoming legislation. But in the House, Reps. Howard Berman and John Conyers have introduced a bill that encourages a different approach: jail 'em! Among other provisions, the bill lowers the bar for criminal prosecution to the sharing of a single music file and allocates $15 million to go after copyright offenders. Representative Berman says that he anticipates that prosecutors will go only after someone who, knowing the consequences, uploads massive amounts of music. But the bill says in black and white that if you share so much as a single tune with your pals on the Internet-as millions do every day-you are a felon. Penalty: up to five years in jail. (Better fill up your iPod before you go.)

Link Discuss (Thanks, Kevin)

Music legend Lester Chambers' album collection stolen -- call for help

From Lola Chambers, wife of Lester Chambers -- music legend, rock and soul pioneer, 1/2 of the Chambers Brothers ("Time Has Come Today", "People Get Ready," etc.):
I am truly heartbroken! My complete collection of my husband's (Lester Chambers of the Chambers Brothers) albums and 45's have been stolen from my home in Tarzana, California. This collection has taken me 25 years to collect and I had intended to pass them on to our two sons. Years before Ebay, I scoured record stores and swap meets to put this collection together. There were over 60 albums and over a hundred 45's stolen. Many were Chambers Brothers' Columbia albums released by Columbia under their many foreign labels and would be needed as proof of their non-payment of years of foreign royalties. These Columbia albums were released under Direction Records out of England, First Records out of Korea, etc. One of their 45's was released in Germany with an abstract orange coloring. Many of their 45's had photo sleeve coverings all in perfect condition. I had their complete recordings from their early years with Vault Records and one of their first albums recorded with Barbara Dane on the Folkways label. I would like to put the word out to all record stores (especially in Southern California), collectors, eBay shoppers, etc in order to try and recover these extremely sentimental albums. Please contact me at (360) 895-7877 or via attorney Lawrence Feldman,

SEEMEN Machine art show in SF on August 1

Kal Spelletich and SEEMEN present more "Live Audience Experiments with Machines and Robots" -- two shows at 8 and 10PM in San Fran, Friday August 1 (also robotics guru and former guestblogger Karen Marcelo's birthday! W00t!). New, audience-operated machines and robots. See SEEMEN website for details -- $10 to get in. Attendance by advance e-mail reservation. Photos, more photos, Details, Discuss

Bigfoot Symposium

The International Bigfoot Symposium will be held in September in the favorite sasquatch stomping grounds of Willow Creek, California. Numerous bigfoot investigators will speak, followed by a guided excursion to Bluff Creek, the site of the famous and questionable Patterson-Gimlin film. Jane Goodall, primatologist and bigfoot believer, was supposed to give the keynote in person but will now conduct a video presentation instead. Link Discuss

Nerve: Sex in the age of phonecams

Essay by SF Chron columnist Mark Morford ponders the 21st-century booty call in Nerve: "What Now, Voyeur?":
[I]t was only a matter of time before the two worlds should merge, a convergence of the technological twain, before popular digital cam technology should penetrate the wildly ubiquitous cellphone underworld. Thus transforming, in one divine swoop, not just how we snap photos, not just how we communicate, not even how we snap photos to communicate. But rather, how we get off snapping photos to communicate how we get off. Voila: the new digital cellphone/camera hybrid, now available, yours for upwards of 100 bucks, soon to be everywhere.

You've probably seen the commercials: Girl spots best friend's boyfriend macking on some skank at a club, snaps instant five-second cellphone video clip, shoots it over to best friend at library. Friend sees clip, is briefly shocked, right until she looks up and makes eye contact with hot new guy across the room. Coy smiles ensue, slimeball boyfriend is suddenly ex-boyfriend. Voila. Relationship revolution, not a word spoken. Elapsed time: twenty seconds. Commercial #2: Myopic citizen hustles through city streets, looking down into purse, wallet, focusing on one little activity while crazy photogenic circus of life whirls around them. If only you had a cool digital cellphone camera to take it all in! implores the commercial. To instantly record this daily phantasmagoria and send to yourself and look at later on your computer and sigh wistfully at the craziness of life! Indeed.

Do you think they knew? Do you think the sly bastard marketing execs at Nokia or Ericsson or the rest realized what an erotic porn-ready firecracker gizmo they had on their hands? You're goddamn right they did.

Link, Discuss (Thanks, ESC)

Citizens' Protection in Federal Databases Act

EFF, EPIC, CDT, ACLU and Free Congress have drafted a bill that's been introduced by Senator Wyden today, for a new law called "The Citizens' Protection in Federal Databases Act." This is a hell of a law. It finds that various species of spooks are making avid use of commercial and governmental databases, merging them and aggregating them, without transparency, accountability, or any real understanding of the danger to civil liberties involved in this practice. Accordingly, it requires any Fed agency using non-Fed databases to cut it out and make a full report to Congress on who they're buying database and database-services from, what they're doing to preserve privacy, why they're doing what they're doing, and whether they actually have a realistic chance of catching any bad guys. And it calls into account Feds who abuse their authority and limits the kind of doomsday hypotheticals that can be used to justify such abuse.

We've spent the two years since September 11th writing blank checks to anyone who's got a good story about preventing terrorism through the wholesale abridgement of civil liberties, trading off freedom for the perception of safety. It's time that we called our civil servants to account on these scores -- they've spent our money and our freedom, what did we get in return?

Each report shall include -

(A) a list of all contracts, memoranda of understanding, or other agreements entered into by the department or agency, or any other national security, intelligence, or law enforcement element under the jurisdiction of the department or agency for the use of, access to, or analysis of databases that were obtained from or remain under the control of a non-Federal entity, or that contain information that was acquired initially by another department or agency of the Federal Government for purposes other than national security, intelligence, or law enforcement;

(B) the duration and dollar amount of such contracts;

(C) the types of data contained in the databases referred to in subparagraph (A);

(D) the purposes for which such databases are used, analyzed, or accessed;

(E) the extent to which such databases are used, analyzed, or accessed;

(F) the extent to which information from such databases is retained by the department or agency, or any national security, intelligence, or law enforcement element under the jurisdiction of the department or agency, including how long the information is retained and for what purpose;

(G) a thorough description, in unclassified form, of any methodologies being used or developed by the department or agency, or any intelligence or law enforcement element under the jurisdiction of the department or agency, to search, access, or analyze such databases;

(H) an assessment of the likely efficacy of such methodologies in identifying or locating criminals, terrorists, or terrorist groups, and in providing practically valuable predictive assessments of the plans, intentions, or capabilities of criminals, terrorists, or terrorist groups;

40k PDF Link Discuss

A week without Interweb is worse than divorce

A survey has concluded that techies are more traumatized by being cut off from the net than by getting divorced or moving house.
And when something goes wrong with e-mail for a week, the experience can be more traumatic that moving home, getting married or divorce, at least for a third of those taking part in the survey.
Link Discuss

WiFi versus wildfire

An experimental WiFi network provided a critical role in coordinating response to a king-hell brush-fire in California.
After lightning touched off the Coyote Fire July 16, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CDF) deployed more than 1,700 firefighters, 10 helicopters and several bulldozers to battle the blaze. To provide Internet communications for the CDF operations camp, researchers from the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), and San Diego State University deployed a high-speed wireless link to the remote site in northeastern San Diego County within hours of a request for help.

"The dissemination of information and incident intelligence up and down the command-and-control chain of command is more important than ever," said Jim Garrett, CDF Emergency Command Center chief. "The connectivity provided to CDF for the Coyote Fire was a real-life exercise that clearly demonstrated how valuable and useful the technology provided by HPWREN is to our agency. HPWREN provided us an invaluable service that cannot be overestimated." The 19,000-acre Coyote Fire was contained by July 24 and controlled by July 27

Link Discuss (via WiFi Net News)

WiFi coming to Second Cup

The Second Cup, a Canadian chain of coffee-shops, is rolling out WiFi hotspots in Calgary and Toronto. Link Discuss (via WiFi Net News)

Mobile Neurosurgery Table

These mobile operating tables and various attachments, particularly the neurosurgery outfit, look like they could be from a David Cronenberg film adaptation of a Philip K. Dick novel. Link Discuss

Patent for mind control via TV?

Here's a recent patent on a method to affect a human's nervous system through the electromagnetic field emitted by a TV set:
"Physiological effects have been observed in a human subject in response to stimulation of the skin with weak electromagnetic fields that are pulsed with certain frequencies near 1/2 Hz or 2.4 Hz, such as to excite a sensory resonance. Many computer monitors and TV tubes, when displaying pulsed images, emit pulsed electromagnetic fields of sufficient amplitudes to cause such excitation. It is therefore possible to manipulate the nervous system of a subject by pulsing images displayed on a nearby computer monitor or TV set."
As Doug Rushkoff says about television, "they don't call it programming for nothing!" Link Discuss

Very cool new social software app:

If you've been exploring social networking software services like Friendster lately, check out I just learned this weekend that an old friend and former colleague, Brian Lawler, is part of the dev team... very nice UI on this thing, and seems to facilitate certain kinds of interaction (read: non-gonad-driven) more elegantly than some of the other services out there right now. They're still in beta, but they say they hope to move into general release relatively shortly. So far, I'm liking it a lot. Not ditching my Friendster account anytime soon, though. Where else online could I schmooze with Satan, Carbohydrates, Mister Roboto, and vast legions of Goth/Burningman/Straightedge twentysomething hotties, all under one roof? Wait, don't answer that. Discuss

Hollywood news satire site Dateline Hollywood launches

My former Silicon Alley Reporter Magazine colleague and fellow Angeleno Ben Fritz just launched a new parody site today. Dateline Hollywood is described as "a satire of Hollywood and entertainment journalism -- think The Onion meets Daily Variety, Entertainment Weekly, and Entertainment Tonight." Dig it. Link, Discuss

QTVR: spontaneous flashing at Mardi Gras

Thought I'd kick off the blog this week on an intellectual high note. Two words: panoramic boobies. Hans Nyberg says:
Hi Xeni -- this week is a French Week. First QTVR is by Ray Broussard, "Flashing at Mardi Gras New Orleans." The Cajun music is from Basin Street Records. The page will be updated with more "French VR" during the week.

mythtv HOWTO: Linux PVRs for the rest of us

mythtv is a brilliant piece of open sourse software that ties together a TV tuner card, a Linux-based PC, and free Internet listings services to build a high-powered PVR, like a TiVo with far more bells and whistles. For example, a mythtv box can be used in many countries around the world (including the UK and Canada), and it stores its files in a format that is intended to be copied for use on other devices, so it's a snap to burn a CD with a bunch of your favorite programs to take on plane journeys, or to email clips to friends, or to drop incriminating CSPAN/Question Period footage in your file-sharing folder and foment revolution. It's also free to operate, and can be upgraded easily, and shares all the other properties of a general-purpose PC (so your set-top box can also be your WiFi router, firewall, and all-round file-server).

However, like many open source software projects, installing and configuring mythtv isn't for the faint of heart. This HOWTO is a good step in the direction of making mythtv accessible to the masses. Link Discuss (via Wasted Bits)

WashPo embarasses itself with hysterical WiFi FUD article

The Washington Post has embarassed itself today with a FUD-laden, inaccurate and hysterical story about "WiFi security risks" that appears to have been ginned up by publicists for "security companies" who rely on public fear to generate business.
But most of those networks are unprotected, vulnerable to hackers who could steal data, introduce viruses, launch spam or attack other computers. Even as the number of wireless networks has risen dramatically, Poole's surveys suggest that the rough percentage of them that are unprotected remains above 60 percent.
None of these are risks that are unique to WiFi. The world is full of coin-operated or cash-based network access systems (I spent an hour feeding quarters into an Ethernet-equipped payphone in the Vancouver airport in June), and the idea that I, as a hotspot provider, am "unprotected" because the people who gain access to my network can do something bad to someone else is (deliberately) misleading.

I'm no more "unprotected" from spammers on my WiFi node (something I've yet to see a single published account of, despite the continuous warnings about it) than I am from spammers sending Nigerian 419 letters from the next terminal at the library. It's like saying that restauranteurs are "unprotected" from bank robbers who use a back table to plan their next job. Sure, they're "unprotected." So what?

Fundamentally, this is a warning against abetting the anonymous use of the Internet. A Beltway-Insider rag like WashPo should have too much familiarity with the Bill of Rights to advance the un-constitutional notion that anonymity is somehow bad, wrong, or illegal.

In their darkest visions, consultants can imagine someone with a WiFi-enabled laptop walking through an airport launching a destructive computer virus at every other unprotected laptop in the vicinity, because users who tap into a vulnerable network are just as exposed as its host.
In their sales literature, snake-oil "security" vendors identify "being connected to the network" as a risk, instead of "running unpatched and insecure software" as a risk. It's the public Internet. If connecting your computer to the public Internet puts you at appreciable risk from "destructive computer viruses," you'd better get a new operating system.
Hackers could also use WiFi access to anonymously launch attacks at the broader Internet, also threatening non-WiFi users.
Hackers could also use coin-operated Ethernet jacks and Internet Cafes to launch attacks on the broader Internet, also threatening WiFi users. So what? Malice is transport-independent.
Although no calamitous hacking event via wireless has occurred, security professionals say it is only a matter of time.
"Security professionals" also noted that "although no calamitous hacking event has been launched using a Dvorak keyboard, it is only a matter of time."
"It's broken; it has holes and flaws," Skoudis said of WEP technology. "It's kind of like a Band-Aid, but better to have a Band-Aid than a big gaping hole."

Users can also require passwords for access to their networks.

Yes, yes they can. Using WEP technology. Geez. Link Discuss

WiFi is too expensive when it's not free

Operating a WiFi hotspot that you charge money for costs $30 a day. Operating a free WiFi hotspot costs $6. Clearing $6/day in new profit from offering free WiFi is easy, clearing $30 a day in most locations is damned hard. Will more cafes do the math?
Here's the irony in Wi-Fi public access pricing: retailers can be profitable by offering free Wi-Fi as a customer acquisition tool. But when they charge for Wi-Fi access, these retailers, and the WISPs serving them, almost certainly lose money. According to a market study coming out this summer, retailers are quickly learning this lesson: up to 30% of US location owners who plan to deploy commercial hotspots in 2004 intend those hotspots to be free or free-with-purchase.
Link Discuss (via WiFi Networking News)

I have a sister!

Tonight, my brother, Neil Howard Doctorow, married Tara Lee Trimble, (now Doctorow). Mazeltov to the two of them, who are achingly, tangibly in love. Congrats and love always, guys. Here's the speech I gave:
And Tara is joining the family, which is not the Doctorow family, nor the Doctorow-Starr family, nor the Doctorow-Starr-Levitt- Cloth-Ceresne-Klayman- Greenfield-Negru- Rochman-Linsday- Goldman-Silver- Fox-West-BenDavid- Halprin family. It's my family, and it's this variegated, global, ramified enterprise whose edges are smeared out and indistinct, so that it's impossiible to tell exactly where it ends.

At events like this one, where we are turned out in our thronged hundreds, I have developed a survival strategy: I bring my dates around and when someone comes up and heartily shakes my hand and marvels at how long it's been, or pinches me -- we're great and cruel pinchers in this family -- and leaves a smudge of lipstick on my cheek, I turn and say, "This is my friend so-and-so," and then, if luck is with me, the familiar face out of my boyhood is joined to a name and a relationship: "Ah, so nice to meet you. I'm Cory's great-aunt's sister-in-law on his mother's father's side, (beat) I knew this one when he wet the bed."

Link Discuss

Wil Wheaton in mean Pan remake

I saw a movie this week, and got very excited about one of the trailers, for a movie called Neverland, which appears to be a very lush retelling of Peter Pan that's quite nasty and dark -- like a rusty fishhook in the 'nads.

And this morning, I discovered that my pal Wil Wheaton, blogger and actor, is in the movie, and he says it's as good as it looks. Link Discuss

Verisign will have to pay for mistake

Gary "" Kremen has won an important victory in his legal battle to get justice for the theft of his lucrative domain, which the bumbling fools of Network Solutions gave away to a con-man who forged a fax to them. Since Kremen's contract with NSI predated the addition of the "you indeminfy us from all liability no matter how negiligent we are" language to its agreement (and the even crappier terms of service imposed by Verisign when it acquired the company) the court has ruled that Verisign is liable for NSI's mistake.
"Exposing Network Solutions to liability when it gives away a registrant's domain name on the basis of a forged letter is no different from holding a corporation liable when it gives away someone's shares under the same circumstances," wrote Judge Alex Kozinski, who penned the unanimous opinion for the three-judge panel.
Link Discuss

Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

I finished reading an outstanding novel today, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, by Mark Haddon. The conceit of the novel is that it is being written by an autistic teenager in a small British town. He has discovered a dead dog on his neighbor's lawn, and he has decided to Investigate The Murder in the fashion of his hero, Sherlock Holmes.

Christopher, the narrator, is utterly convinving and Martian in a way that is at once both believable and alien. The story manages to pull off the incredible trick of exposing the emotional lives of the characters around the narrator -- whose disorder precludes empathic interpretations of the feelings of the people he's dealing with -- and of the narrator himself, whose emotions are both lost to the noise of autistic overload and still subtly teased out and laid out for the reader.

The novel is very short, 240 pages, and flies past. The above graf makes it sound too soppy, I think -- the book is anything but. It's funny and charming. It's fast and exciting. It's didactic and narrative. I haven't enjoyed a novel this much in recent memory. Link Discuss

Baggies give way to jumped-up fruit-leather

Who needs ziplocs when you've got airtight edible transparent food-wrappers?
With a new school year upon us, kids may soon have the chance to eat healthier and also help the environment, using something unique wrapped around their tuna, turkey or PB&J sandwiches. Edible vegetable and fruit wraps, among the latest developments from modern chemistry, could keep lunches fresher longer and be substituted for some non-biodegradable wraps, says the creator, food chemist Tara McHugh, Ph.D.
Link Discuss (Thanks, Stefan!)

Subpoena Defense: dealing with abusive ISP subpoenas

In related news (see entry below), Subpoena Defense is a new website that is a clearinghouse for information to help you understand, respond to and resist abusive ISP subpoenas from the entertainment industry. Link Discuss

Are you wanted by the RIAA? EFF can tell you

EFF has launched a service to check whether or not your Kazaa/Grokster/whatever userid is the subject of an RIAA strongarm action against your ISP. It scrapes the PACER subpoena database periodically and indexes all the userids being sought by the recording industry. Link Discuss

Peer-to-Peer Prohibition Act: Congressman Pitts' anti-filesharing bill

This CNET story from yesterday covers the "Protecting Children from Peer-to-Peer Pornography (P4) Act" put forth by Rep. Joe Pitts, R-Pa. that would require P2P providers to get parental consent before allowing minors to use their services. A quick search in (Link or PDF copy here, ) reveals that the title now reads "To prohibit the distribution of peer-to-peer file trading software in interstate commerce." Prohibition was a real success in the early 20th century -- one can only imagine what wonders the sequel will bring.

Laptop DJ and BoingBoing pal John von Seggern asks, "Can peer-to-peer software be defined legally in such a way that the definition does not include the entire Internet? Aren't browsers and servers sharing files all the time? How is Google different than Kazaa in a larger sense?" And anonymous suggests a grassroots online campaign to counter the congressman's "P4 Act," to be titled "P5: Protecting People from Pitts' Preposterous Proposals."
Discuss (via pho / thanks, Kevin, and thanks Fred von Lohmann for the PDF)

WIRED: Enhanced TV -- lots of new projects in the hopper

I wrote a story for Wired News today about the American Film Institute's eTV workshop, which kicked off this Wednesday in Hollywood. Phonecammed a few snapshots live from the event, which you can see here (click "back" to proceed through series of snapshots). Participating networks with interactive TV programs in development include PBS, Bloomberg, ABC, FUSE Networks, and The Disney Channel.
[A]s interactive developers debated the pros and cons of "The Rashomon Factor" -- a term coined by AFI New Media Ventures Associate Director Anna Marie Piersimoni for programs that tell one story through multiple points of view -- some television producers called for a reality check.

"Audiences are lazy and TV still caters to the lowest common denominator," quipped Fifth Wheel and Blind Date Co-Executive Producer Harley Tat. "We're operating from a heady place where we're thinking about the future, but plenty of viewers don't have PCs and haven't upgraded their cell phones in years. If the information isn't right in front of them while they're microwaving mac and cheese, it's not going to happen. ETV has to be so simple that they can do it half-baked and horizontal on the couch."

Link, Discuss

Erotic Museum opens doors in Hollywood

The Erotic Museum did a soft launch here in LA on Wednesday, and will open formally in the fall. Such a tease. OK, now here's a museum store worth shopping in. Details from AVN:
The museum is hosted in a building that was originally built in 1911 and at one time was inhabited by a garter company, giving it a historical connection to sexuality beyond even the wide array of exhibits that will be displayed when the museum opens in October. The building, which is located a block from the Kodak Theatre, is currently undergoing renovations designed to bring back the original look. With a mission to "provide the community with a positive image of the potential of human sexuality," the museum will exhibit erotic photography, sculptures and a wide variety of paintings from all eras. Some of the exhibits will include a Picasso etch, covers of gay adult magazines such as Manpower #4 and even stills of John Holmes taken from 8mm loops.

Boris Smorodinksy, the CEO of the Erotic Museum, notes that "you can?t talk about eroticism without talking about Marilyn," as he points out prints of the Marilyn Monroe photographs taken by Tom Kelley that were used to launch Playboy in December 1995. The museum even includes an adult mahjong video game from the Atari era and a video projection that documents stroke by stroke how Picasso etched Bloch 1762. Bloch 1762, a part of the museum?s permanent collection, is a single etch in a series of etches, many with sexual themes, known as Picasso's Suite 347.

Link to museum website, Link to AVN story, Discuss (Thanks, Susannah!)

RIAA Shock and Awe: List of ISPs receiving subpoenas

The EFF's Fred Von Lohmann provides this list of how many subpoenas have been delivered to which ISPs. Data is based on subpoenas that are currently available electronically from Washington, DC District Court, which Fred says is a few weeks behind in posting them, but you get the idea of the first 150 or so:
1 Bentley College
1 DePaul University
1 Loyola University Chicago
1 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
1 Pacific Bell Internet
2 Adelphia Communications Corporation
2 Boston College
2 Earthlink, Inc.
4 Verizon Internet Services, Inc.
14 RCN Corporation
15 Time Warner Cable
21 Charter Communications
29 Comcast Cable Communications, Inc.
31 SBC
Discuss (via pho list)

Flashmob in Vienna today, with an eco-Dada theme

BoingBoing reader Norman in Austria says:
The email making the rounds since yesterday states the following (slightly absurd) text in German -- translated here to English:

"Easter rabbits from eastern Styria (province in Austria - ed.) have not eaten anything since yesterday. The dramatic hunger-strike was caused by weather occurences in the adriatic sea and the related efficiency of german bicyclers. please come and donate a small amount to restore the grievances of Austria's wine-region #2 Friday 15:00 - streetcar station Volkstheater (in front of the Palais Epstein on the Ring) P.S.: Update: Meeting is at 15:00, essential info will be handed out by 15:15, the actual happening will take place shortly thereafter."

Link one, Link two, Discuss