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)"
This gadget does exactly as promised: it looks like a thumbdrive (sort of) and fries the circuitry of any computer it’s plugged into. It’s made from camera flash parts, is charged with a standard AA battery, and delivers a 300V zap of DC destruction to the port for all your USB-murdering needs. Note that this […]
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 […]
Loot Crate is a totally different kind of subscription service that mails subscribers monthly boxes filled with curated geek, pop culture, and gamer paraphernalia. Its cult following awaits a box every month filled with everything from bobble heads to T-shirts to special edition collectibles. But nothing gets Loot Crate fans as excited as the limited […]
The ARMOR-X Mini Flexible Phone Tripod is a smartphone tripod that is designed with flexible legs to rest on virtually any type of surface. Other tripods have proved useless unless I conveniently have a flat surface in front of me, which is why this particular tripod was appealing enough to try out. The ARMOR-X is compact and easy […]
You don’t need to get an advanced degree and take out massive loans to become a coder. This bundle of 10 courses was designed to teach anyone to code at home for less than it costs to go out for dinner. I was particularly impressed with this new 2017 bundle because it includes courses on […]