After three years, my cow-orker Seth Schoen has broken his hard silence and admitted to writing the DeCSS haiku. In this poem, the algortihm necessary for playing back DVDs is expressed as a series of haiku, despite the fact that such publication is banned under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. In this essay, he explains his motivations and the procedure he went through:
Writing the bulk of the poem itself took me around 15 hours over the course of several days, excluding the CSS tables (whose construction I describe below). As Leigh Ann Hildebrand observed, there were classical influences at work in my efforts; I realized immediately that I would need to begin with an invocation of the Muse. (My poetic skills were not up to constructing dactyllic hexameters, and I had already settled on the haiku form.) I used Prof. Touretzky's article "The CSS Decryption Algorithm" as my main source for the technical details, but I set myself a strict rule against using hexadecimal constants, because they seemed unpoetic. Everything had to come back into decimal form, because a number is a number. I also felt that it was important to include passages honoring and praising heroes (even using an epithet in the traditional epic way: "wise Andreas Bogk", only partly metri causa) together with a substantial amount of context. After all, one of the ways long poetry maintains interest is by telling several stories at once, and by painting scenery. Finally, I felt that expressing the fear of censorship directly and repeatedly within the poem itself created an interesting tension. It emphasized that the poem had really been written by a human author with a human voice and his own interests and passions. Aware of the prospect of censorship, the poem confronts would-be censors directly and takes them to task. By contrast, most source code is relatively defenseless: it can't fight against its own suppression, and it gives less direct evidence of being in a human voice, leading some people to accept its stigmatization as "merely mechanical" or "merely functional". I feel that it is essential that the poem constantly pleads for its own life -- an effect accomplished comically yet powerfully by Joe Wecker in "Descramble (This Function Is Void)"
The Cobham catalog, exposed by The Intercept, features countless pages of surveillance gadgets sold to U.S. police to spy on American citizens: tiny black boxes with a big interest in you. In the creepily bland feature lists and nerdy product names is a whisper of a dark future; perhaps darker than anyone can imagine.
This image depicts the most commonly-found stylesheet colors on the web’s top sites—Paul Hebert did an amazing amount of analysis and this is just one of the intriguing visualizations he came up with. Most of these are obvious staples, especially HTML red and blue, though it’s interesting how far the blue “cluster” is from the […]
With the cacophony of an election year ablaze with unparalleled drama being fought on the front lines of Twitter, we find ourselves slowing down and staring at it like a bad accident. The need for escapist relief is perhaps more dire than usual right now. This fall, if it’s drama you crave, but the Hillary […]
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From self-driving cars to stock market predicting software to the recommendations you get on Amazon and Netflix, machine learning is at the core of modern technology. You could find yourself building technology that is literally changing the world with the skills you’ll learn in The Complete Machine Learning Bundle. This bundle of 10 courses includes 406 lessons that will teach […]