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)"
Where are our petabyte drives? Brian Hayes takes us through the reasons storage is “stuck” in the low terabytes. The tl;dr is that we got such exceptional capacity growth in the late 90s and early 00s we don’t need much more right now, so the focus since then has been on SSDs, networking, interfaces, etc, […]
Amélie Lamont, a former staffer at website-hosting startup Squarespace, writes that she often found herself disregarded and disrespected by her colleagues. One comment in particular, though, set her reeling — and came to exemplify her experiences there.
In this episode of the Flash Forward podcast we travel to a future where humans have decided to eradicate the most dangerous animal on the planet: mosquitos. How would we do it? Is it even possible? And what are the consequences? Flash Forward: RSS | iTunes | Twitter | Facebook | Web | Patreon We […]
White hat hackers get paid to find holes in their own employers’ online systems, and plug those holes before they become serious security risks. It’s a job that pays handsomely…mostly because few job candidates, even experienced IT professionals, have the skills to scamper over firewalls and infiltrate the deepest recesses of a battle-tested network. But […]
Why buy one of those expensive and confusing universal remotes, clogged with enough buttons to launch a space shuttle, when you could accomplish the same electronic control right on your favorite mobile device? The Blumoo Universal Remote, now just $52.99 in the Boing Boing Store, harnesses the audio power of all your household equipment right […]
You may not love Microsoft Word, but you’ve definitely used it. Other than being one of the most ubiquitous programs on the planet, it’s been the go-to word processing system for more than a quarter-century because it’s as basic as it gets. But occasionally, you’ve got assignments that beg for a lot more options than simple […]