Boing Boing 

Book launch this Thursday in San Francisco for my collection

A reminder: I'll be launching my new short story collection, A Place So Foreign and Eight More, at Borderlands Books in San Francisco this Thursday, at 7PM. I'm going to be signing copies and reading from a new work. Hope to see you! Link

Newsmonster is hiring!

Newsmonster -- a wicked-cool, Mozilla-based RSS reader -- is funded and looking to hire an engineer. The rarity value of this, a cool tech gig in San Francisco in 2003, is really astonishing.
We're looking for someone with experience in

# JavaScript, Java, C, C++ (min 5 years)

# XML including SAX, DOM, XPATH, XSLT, XUL, RSS, and RDF

# Understanding of "modern" RPC technologies (REST/SOAP/XMLRPC)


O'Reilly eBay Hacks book is out, with an intro by me!

eBay Hacks -- the latest of the O'Reilly Hacks series -- is out. It runs down 99 tips and tricks for eBay, ranging from simple buying and selling techniques to advanced programming with the eBay API. I wrote the intro for this book, and I'm really pleased with how it came out:
eBay makes us all into participants in the market again. It's no coincidence that eBay's first great wave of participation came from the collectibles trade. The collectibles market occurs at the intersection of luck (discovering a piece at a yard-sale or thrift shop), knowledge (recognizing its value), market-sense (locating a buyer for the goods) and salesmanship (describing the piece's properties attractively). It requires little startup capital and lots of smarts, something that each of us possess in some measure.

Somewhere, in the world's attics and basements, are all the treasures of history. Someone is using the Canopic jar containing Queen Nefertiti's preserved spleen as an ashtray. Someone is using George Washington's false teeth as a paperweight. Somewhere, a mouse is nibbling at a frayed carton containing the lost gold of El Dorado. A Yahoo! for junk would never break even: you simply couldn't source enough crack junque ninjas to infiltrate and catalog the world's storehouses of *tchotchkes*, white elephants and curios.

And just as Napster found the cheapest way to get all the music online, eBay has found the most cost-effective means of cataloging the world's attics and basements. It's attic-Napster, and it's spread the cost and effort around. When you spy a nice casino ashtray on the 25-cent shelf at Thrift Town and snap its pic and put it up on eBay, and when the renowned collector of glass ashtrays, ColBatGuano, bids it up to $400, you have taken part in a market transaction that has simultaneously catalogued a nice bit of bric-a-brac and moved it to a collection where it will be lovingly cared for -- and you've left a record of where it is and what it was worth when last we saw it. Buried in eBay's backup tapes is a Blue Book with the last known value of nearly every object we have ever created as a species, from Trinitite (green, faintly radioactive glass fused at the detonation of the first nuclear explosion at Los Alamos, $2.59 a gram at last check) to commodity 40-gigabyte laptop hard-drives ($30 at press-time and falling fast).


10 techs that deserve to die

Bruce Sterling's produced a list of ten dreadful technologies whose day has gone, technologies that deserve to die:
Most loathsome of all is the fiendish spam hard-burned into DVDs, which forces one to suffer through the commercials gratefully evaded by videotape fast-forwards. The Content Scrambling System copy protection scheme doesn’t work, and the payoff for pirating DVDs is massive, because unlike tapes, digital data don’t degrade with reproduction. So DVDs have the downside of piracy and organized crime, without the upside of free, simple distribution. Someday they will stand starkly revealed for what they really are: collateral damage to consumers in the entertainment industry’s miserable, endless war of attrition with digital media.
Link (via Kottke)

"New Ground" radio host Douridas to program iTunes?

Rumor: A BoingBoing pal says that Chris Douridas, host of AOL and KCRW's syndicated radio show "New Ground," has just been tapped as music programmer for iTunes.

Mild-mannered spam victim strikes back

Wired News story about a graphic artist whose domain and professional reputation were effectively hijacked by a spammer -- and what he did to fight back:
One week later, the spammer struck again, using Markley's domain. Five days after the second attack, the spammer struck yet again. Thousands of bounce reports and hate e-mails arrived in Markley's inbox. And Earthlink reps told Markley they could do nothing to help him. So "blood boiling, furious and literally foaming at the mouth," Markley set out to track the spammer down. (...)

Markley checked the headers on the original spam returned with some of the bounces. Then he learned how to access domain-registry information and how to use a trace-route program. Over the next two weeks, he painstakingly worked his way through a half-dozen hijacked servers and a dozen spoofed e-mail addresses and bogus identities to find "his" spammer. "Last Thursday, at around 7 p.m., I finally knew without a doubt that my nemesis was Eddy Marin, who has a reputation as the world's most prolific spammer," said Markley.


New work by painter Isabel Samaras: The Haunted Dollhouse

If you're in LA: new work by BoingBoing pal and Bay Area artist Isabel Samaras will be included in a show called "The HAUNTED DOLLHOUSE," which opens tonight and runs though Nov 8th at Copro Nason Gallery in Culver City.

Shown here: "Wednesday The Destroyer," Oil on wood.


New: "Beginners Guide to Building Robots" book

Gareth Branwyn, blogger, author, and scribe of Wired Magazine's Jargon Watch column, has a new book out: The Absolute Beginner's Guide to Building Robots. It's part of the popular Absolute Beginner's Guide series by Que publishing, and leads newbies into the fascinating world of robots and do-it-yourself bot building. Gareth explains:
"The book contains projects that detail how to build three cool robots out of a coat hanger, a trashed computer mouse, and those AOL CDs that seem to breed on your desktop. I'm not kidding. Junkbots R Us.

Ilustrations throughout the book where done by bOING bOING's amazing Mark Frauenfelder, with photos by Street Tech's very own Jay Townsend. The site will include information not available in the book, bug fixes on the projects, reader hardware hacks, robot news, and downloadable "Heroes of the Robolution" trading cards illustrated by Mark."


Why grossout photos online should make you smile

Because they're proof that the Internet is still, on whole, uncensorable:
They die over and over on continuous loop, the journalist's throat slashed again and again, the bank robber blown up by the bomb locked to his body time after time. The graphic video and still images of dead and dying people that mainstream news organizations choose not to display inevitably find their way to the Internet, where they can't be killed. Some can be legally challenged, but even if a site is shut down, the image rarely goes away.

And there's a vigorous argument over whether instant access to such images is good or bad: Are they examples of stomach-turning excess or honest depictions of a disturbing world? There's little disagreement, however, over the Internet's role in eroding the mainstream media's reign as gatekeeper -- the media's decisions to withhold images from their viewers no longer mean viewers won't see those images

Link (via politech)

Invasion of the high-tech body snatchers

Brilliant and minstretching manifesto on the end of four billion years of Darwinian evolution, the dawn of Homo Technicus, and the ethical implications of bioengineering. Author Alan H. Goldstein is director of the Biomedical Materials Engineering Science Program at Alfred University in New York. Snip:
"The current popular fixation on clones, or science fiction's obsession with cyborgs, does not provide useful paradigms for the new forms of sentience that will ultimately emerge from nanotechnology. Both clones and cyborgs are too anthropomorphic. Ultimately, the future will not be about mixing humanity and technology but about sentient chemistry. Just as the revolution in quantum physics laid the foundation for the creation of weapons capable of vaporizing the planet, so the nanotechnology revolution is laying the foundation for the end of evolution and of life in any form we can imagine."

"A recognition of the ethical implications of bioengineering should have followed logically from the ethical questions raised by genetic engineering. But somewhere in our human hearts we apparently need to believe that, even in a cyborg, there will be a border where biology starts and technology ends -- a plug, a slot, an interface. That, unfortunately, is a fantasy. Silicon and carbon are perfectly happy to bond on the molecular level. DNA has no mandate from any deity that gives it an eternal role as the information storage system of sentience. Homo technicus will be different at the atomic level. We are not only going through the looking glass; we are merging with it."

Link (thanks, Stephen Hill)

FBI invokes Patriot Act against reporters covering Adrian Lamo case

Via Declan's politech list, news that the FBI is demanding that several reporters retail any notes or communication records pertaining to Adrian Lamo, the "Homeless Hacker" who turned himself in to Federal Authorities earlier this month. Lamo has been charged in NYC federal court with computer fraud and unlawful access.
The letters, first revealed in a report by Wired News, state that pending authorization, the FBI will issue subpoenas for the reporters' records regarding conversations with Lamo. (...)

FBI Agent Christine Howard states in the criminal complaint against Lamo that she gained information about Lamo's New York Times break-in from articles published by, Newsbytes (a Washington Post web site), the Associated Press,, and the San Francisco Weekly. Several reporters from these and other organizations have received requests from the FBI to retain all records relating to their contact with Lamo. Howard, part of the Cybercrime Task Force in the New York field office, told Wired News that "all reporters who spoke with Lamo" should expect similar letters.


First-ever Internet-ready satellite launched

Boeing's new 376HP model satellite -- "e-BIRD" -- was successfully launched earlier this week. The satellite was launched by an Ariane 5 rocket out of French Guiana on September 27, and is said to be the first ever specifically engineered for two-way broadband communications.
With a configuration of multiple spotbeams, each providing high-power regional coverage, e-BIRD can contribute to national and pan-European broadband programmes such as the European Union's e-Europe initiative that aims for all schools, universities and businesses to have access to the Internet by 2005. It is estimated that a quarter of the population and between 10 to 40 per cent of Small to Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) in the European Union and candidate countries do not have access to broadband today.
link (via pho, thanks JP!)

Study says RIAA lawsuits have decreased P2P downloads

'Net research firm Nielsen/NetRatings says fileswapping volume has decreased on popular peer-to-peer networks since the most recent bout of RIAA-vs-consumer lawsuits.
Since the last week of June, traffic to the largest network, Kazaa, fell 41 percent to 3.9 million visitors during the week ending Sept. 21. Similar drops in usage were recorded for BearShare and IMesh networks. "The RIAA is clearly sending a strong message to American Web users and the message appears to be working," said Greg Bloom, senior Internet analyst at Nielsen/NetRatings (NTRT: news, chart, profile). "With hundreds of individuals facing real lawsuits, the threat to music file sharers is serious." Usage of popular file-sharing applications is at an all-time low, he added.

Xeni on NPR's Day to Day: new CA anti-spam law

On today's edition of the NPR program "Day to Day":
California's Anti-Spam Law: NPR's Alex Chadwick talks with technology writer Xeni Jardin about California's new anti-spam law, scheduled to go into effect Jan. 1, 2004, and how effective the law might be.
Link to "Day to Day" home, listen to the archived show here after 12PM Pacific.

WiFi wants to be free

Two interesting pieces on this morning's WiFi Networking News:

Intel's free networking day benefitted free networks: in hindsight, it seems obvious that the biggest beneficiary for publicity for free wireless will be free wireless networks. Still, the stats are compelling:

...the Starbucks in downtown Portland had 40 unique logins while Portland's free Personal Telco hot spot downtown had 176 unique logins.
Hotspot suppliers are offering competing packages for cafes that want to offer free wireless, including one that claims to "stop spam" (??). It's not clear to me, though, why a cafe that wants to give away free WiFi needs a "managed" solution (which requires that you depend on a tech-support queue for problems) that costs $300 when the "unmanaged" solution (a regular access-point, which can be "fixed" by turning it off and on) costs $40.

The moral of the story: Free WiFi is really, really free. Or at least cheap. The brisk market in WiFi gear, combined with the commodity nature of packets, makes it hard to engineer the kinds of market-failures in WiFi that represent gigantic marginal profit opportunities.

Disposable diapers' secret sauce useful for un-soaking books

Super Slurper, the super-absorbent compound found in disposable diapers, is being repurposed for use in drying out books that have been flood-damaged:
"Around 250,000 books are damaged each year in the United States by water from flooding or burst pipes," Yeager said...

"With Super Slurper it takes roughly 10 minutes to dry each book. It's a quantum leap in the amount of time," Yeager said.


Moby hates the RIAA's response to P2P

One of Moby's fans is being sued by the RIAA, and it's got Moby steamed:
personally i just can't see any good in coming from punishing people for being music fans and making the effort to hear new music.

i'm almost tempted to go onto kazaa and download some of my own music, just to see if the riaa would sue me for having mp3's of my own songs on my hard-drive.

Link (via Kottke)

GPS will pinpoint Coke prize winners

Presently topping my list of scary/surreal commercial applications for GPS technology:
Next summer, Coca-Cola plans to use satellites to find U.S. buyers who happen to purchase special cans of Coke products. They will be winners in a giveaway that will feature Hummer H2 sport-utility vehicles. The giant vehicles will be presented in person, using satellites to locate the recipients."
Link (Thanks, tregoweth!)

P2P Legal defense fund launches

A new project known as the "Peer-to-Peer Legal Defense Fund" was launched today by a group calling themselvers Downhill Battle. Co-founder Nicholas Reville explains:
We think the major label lawsuits are just intimidation followed by extortion: the record companies scare people with a suit for hundreds of thousands of dollars and then offer a settlement for 4 or 5 thousand. The cost of fighting is so high that even if you think you're innocent, it's cheaper to settle. (...)

The Defense Fund actually runs on a peer-to-peer model: rather than collecting the donations centrally and then later distributing them, we use PayPal accounts so that donations go directly to people that have been sued and have signed up on our system. Our open-source software tracks donations and presents the person with the least donations so far to receive the next contribution-- money gets spread out evenly over time, without a middleman. We think it's a cool system and a good political response.

We hope it will give some people the ability to fight and will help alleviate some of the financial damage to the families that have to settle, people are seriously talking about taking out second mortgages or not being able to afford college tuition. From a political standpoint, if we can take away the damage, then the lawsuit scare strategy doesn't work as well.

Link to web site, Link to related NYT story, (via pho list)

Cramer disses Disney's MovieBeam

James Cramer's rant on Disney's new VOD venture, Operation MovieBeam:
No more devices. Sorry, I don't want still one more device attached to my television set. And I certainly don't want to pay for it. Yet, there goes Disney (DIS:NYSE) , offering Operation MovieBeam, under which you can add a device to your television that costs you money every day so you won't have to pay late fees at Blockbuster. Huh? Who thinks about this stuff? Who creates it? And at what point do companies stop dreaming about the wonders of video on demand? (...)

My prediction: There's a $100 million write-off headed Disney's way. This venture reminds me so much of those Disney ventures I was involved during the dot-com period. Everything they touched turned to stone. They had no feel for the marketplace or for what consumers wanted. It's just amazing how bad they are.


New Roger Wood clock

My friend Roger Wood's latest assemblage sculpture clock makes me homesick for a time that never was. Link

Accenture puts Verisign in charge of US Internet voting

Remember Verisign? The incompetent crooks who have abused their monopoly over .COM and .NET, betraying the trust of every Internet user, continuing on a long history of abusing their customers and the Internet?

They've been tapped to secure the US's Internet voting technology. They were given the contract by Arthur Andersen consuluting, now using the post-felony-fraud alias Accenture Accenture (Accenture split from Arthur Andersen before the Enron scandal, thanks, Jamais!). This beggars the imagination. I'm going to be sick.

VeriSign announced Monday that it will provide key components of a system designed to let Americans abroad cast absentee votes over the Internet.

The contract was granted by consulting firm Accenture, which is working with the U.S. Department of Defense on a voting system known as the Secure Electronic Registration and Voting Experiment. When completed, the system will allow absentee military personnel and overseas Americans from eight participating states to cast their votes in the 2004 general election.


Dean campaign enlists clueful roster of net-advisors

The Dean campaign has drafted a gang of Internet advisors -- not all of whom are Dean supporters -- to help guide its use of and feedback to the Internet. The advisors include Hal Abelson, Laura Breeden, Lawrence Lessig, Bob Lucky, Dewayne Hendricks, Joi Ito, David Reed, Richard Rowe and David Weinberger. Link

TSA-appointed "passenger advocate" in cahoots with CAPPS II contractor

Bill Scannell -- the whistle-blower who caught Jet Blue violating its own policies by handing over its customers' records to defense-contractors for a TIA-like aviation spy-program -- has caught one of the CAPPS II vendors with its hand in the cookie-jar. The TSA has appointed David S. Stempler, head of the "Air Travelers Association," to serve as the "passenger advocate" in the CAPPS II process. CAPPS II, the suspicion-generating system intended to automatically determine which passengers are likely to be guilty of crimes and hence liable to search and grounding, is supported by Cendant Corporation, a defense contractor that stands to profit if CAPPS II is enacted.

And it looks like Cendant Corportation and the "Air Travelers Association" are run by the same people.

Some "passenger advocate." No wonder he says that CAPPS II is a fine idea and "(w)hatever's going to be done will have to be done in secret".

# Stempler's 'Air Travelers Association' website reads like an infomercial for Cendant's Travelers Advantage program.

# Both Stempler's website and the site of Cendant Travelers Advantage are owned and managed by the Trilegiant Corporation, a Cendant subsidiary.

Update: more background on Cendant from George Scriban your post on Cendant's shell game with the "Air Travellers Association" caught my eye. one thing you might want to clarify -- Cendant's not a defence contractor in the Lockheed sense of the term. they're a holding company for a number of businesses in the travel and hospitality industries (like the Gallileo GDS,, Days Inn, Howard Johnsons, Budget car rentals) with interests in real estate (Century 21) and consumer fiance (Jackson Hewitt). of course, they also have "loyalty" programs that remarket to frequent users of their products, and a wealth of data on their customers. Link

Voice-Over-IP-over-WiFi phone ships from -- makers of fine Voice-Over-IP memes, software and now hardware -- have shipped a Voice-Over-IP-over-WiFi phone, called the WiSIP. Right now, it can only be used to make calls on the Free World Dialup network, but a version that works with Vonage's service is in the offing, which will play with the legacy phone-network. Link (via Gizmodo)

Tickle Me Elmo fur coats

The PETA people are sure to get their panties in a bunch over this one: fur coats from Elmo pelts, and wall-mounted game trophies of the googly-eyed one's decapitated head. Elmo say, "owie." But don't throw blood at your monitor -- it's only the work of artist Kelly Heaton, who purchased 64 previously-owned Tickle Me Elmo dolls on eBay.

Link to photo series, Link to eBay art auction (Thanks, Tim)

Australian 5-year-old makes bong for show-and-tell

Yes, you read that headline right. "The little girl showing how to make a bong was the most in-your-face example of drug culture among primary school students I've heard of,'' one teacher said. Link (Thanks, Richard!)

Disney's Utopian EPCOT in an academic book

Walt Disney and the Quest for Community is a (pricey, $50) academic text on Walt's Utopian dream of building a city called EPCOT -- Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow -- on the grounds of his planned Florida theme park. EPCOT would have asked its worker-citizens to sign away their Consitutional rights in favor of a code-of-conduct specified by Walt and embodied in the Park's designs, and included plans to be electrically self-sufficient through the construction of a nuclear power-plant.

Written by a professor of Urban Planning, the book seems to have been written from the perspective of utopianism in urban design, with Walt as a kind of Bizarro-world Jane Jacobs. This is a subject that's always fascinated me -- the idea of a top-to-bottom Disney-mediated utopian community. There was a generation of Americna entrepreneurs who dreamed of these things -- Ford reportedly built planned communities in Brazil called "Fordlandia" where he subjected his rubber-plantation workers to his utopian vision (which included the banning of the local booze in favor of Tom Collinses, which were inherently Utopian in Ford's eyes).

"Mannheim does a remarkable job in detailing the Disney's revolutionary urban planning contributions that shape most of the modern world."
Edward J. Blakely, Dean, Milano Graduate School of Management and Urban Policy, New School University, New York, USA

"The book is the first to reveal Walt Disney's deep personal concern for the urban "crisis" of the time..."
Gerald Gast, Associate Professor, Portland Urban Architecture Program, The University of Oregon


Eat your spectrum: Clearchannel, the restaurant

Following recent moves by ESPN and Fox Sports to add their names to restaurant chains, media behemoth Clear Channel Communications is licensing Minnesota's largest sports radio station to launch "KFAN the Restaurant." I'll have one order of monopoly meatloaf, some free speech fries, a Commons cupcake, and a side of public airwaves, julienned.
Opening in Roseville, Minn., near St. Paul, by early December, the restaurant will be the first of what may become many tied to Clear Channel properties throughout the United States, including New York City. The Minnesota restaurant is meant to piggyback on the power and reach of Clear Channel properties. In addition to 60 plasma-screen televisions, banquet space and private "skyboxes," it will offer patrons sports and music programming from Clear Channel's seven area radio stations.

In exchange, Clear Channel will receive 5 percent of the restaurant's sales, sales that are forecast to reach $10 million in the first year, said Ken Plunkett, the chief executive at Grand Management in St. Paul, which is opening the restaurant. Clear Channel has agreed to return half of that 5 percent in the form of advertising time.


Collaborative ToorCon notes

Alexander "al3x" Payne, Chris Adams and Christian Woodward took great collaborative notes at ToorCon using SubEthaEdit, a Rendezvous-enabled text-editor for OS X.
a. Introduction to Root-Fu
 - What is a hacker?
  + Deep knowledge: finding/writing exploits, breaking in, fixing, alluding capture
  + Classical hacking: physical security, dumpster diving, social engineering, phreaking
 - What is a hacker contest?
  + The problem: how do you test a hacker's mettle in 2-3 days?
  + Limiting script kiddy BS
  + Finding/developing sploits
   = Coming in with predefined sploits doesn't make a good contest; DIY sploit dev
  + Teamwork
   = Range of skills required to own modern, complex systems
  + Integration of classical hacking
   = Physical, espionage, information gathering
  + Challenge of scoring
  + Fast-paced game
Day One Link, Day Two Link (via Al3x)