Boing Boing 

$100,000 effort to identify foul stench in Las Vegas

For the last ten years, a mysterious nasty smell has been coming out of storm drains on Fremont Street in Las Vegas. Officials there want to spend $100k to track down the source of the vile odor.
The stink emanating from the storm sewers has plagued the area around the Fremont Street pedestrian mall for a decade, and every time the city has thrown time, effort and deodorizer at the problem, the "sewer-type" aroma has just returned.

On Wednesday, City Council is to consider a $100,000 US consulting contract aimed at finding the source of the olfactory offence.

A tiny closed-circuit television system would be used to examine the downtown storm drains, smoke would be pumped into the system to identify outlets and dye would be used to follow water flows.


Linux/sf convention call for papers

Mark sez, "Linucon, a combination science fiction convention and Linux expo is looking for panelists and papers for their upcoming event."
We're looking for several different types of programming. On the Geek side we have "Heavy technical", which includes topics like programming, system administration, and security, and "Light technical", which is about using computers rather than programming them (Digital art, electronic publishing, online communities, Linux on the Desktop, Open source in business, video games, etc). On the Fandom side, our main themes this year include literary topics (for authors, editors, publishers, and readers), Anime (and Manga), gaming, costuming... There are also "crossover" topics (like online comics and computer animation) that appeal to both sides.
Link (Thanks, Mark!)

Horror Channel coming to cable

The Horror Channel is an all-horror cable network launching next October. Link (Thanks, Prof. Griffin!)

Steampunk aquatic stiltwalker from Brighton's glory years

The Daddy Long Legs was a steampunk invention that graced the Victorian seaside at Brighton. It walked on 20' long legs that reached down to rails on the seabottom, ferrying passengers along the shore in clanking comfort. Link to poster, Link to article (Thanks, Anita!)

Women scientists' unsung stories in comic-book form

Rosalind Franklin's story is one of many great and unsung women scientists' stories recounted in the brilliant, Eisner-nominated comic book Dignifying Science, which features the work of Jen Sorensen, Anne Timmons, Ramona Fradon, Marie Severin and others, and the stories of scientists like Marie Curie, Emmy Noether, Lise Meitner, Barbara McClintock, Birute Galdikas, and Hedy Lamarr. Link

Rosalind Franklin: Crick and Watson's uncredited collaborator

Many of you wrote in response to the Crick obit from earlier today to remind us of the unsung and uncredited hero of DNA, Rosalind Franklin. Here's what Allison says about her:
It is past due that Dr. Rosalind Franklin received credit for actually being the scientist who demonstrated the helical nature of DNA. Her crystallography was crucial to the subsequent elucidation of DNA structure and replication. Her research was used without her knowledge or permission.

Update: Alex sez: "According to the NY Times there were no hard feelings between her and her colleagues."

One of the problems caused by the book was Dr. Watson's implication that the pair of them had obtained Dr. Franklin's data on DNA surreptitiously and hence had deprived her of due credit for the DNA discovery. Dr. Crick believed he obtained the data fairly since she had presented it at a public lecture, to which he had been invited. Though Dr. Watson had misreported a vital figure from the lecture, a correct version reached Dr. Crick through the Medical Research Council report. If Dr. Franklin felt Dr. Crick had treated her unfairly, she never gave any sign of it. She became friends with both Dr. Crick and Dr. Watson, and spent her last remission from cancer in Dr. Crick's house.

Dr. Franklin likely would have shared the Nobel Prize had she not died from cancer in 1958, the prize was not awarded till 1962. Nobel Prizes are not awarded posthumously.

Toronto Star 1945 online

The Toronto Star has put its searchable 1945 archive online for free. Link (via Waxy)

Disturbed diarist using perl blog site mistaken for bot

"Bondage-chICK" is a young, disturbed girl (she's a "cutter" who cuts herself to feel better), who stumbled across a free developers' journal service offered by and started using it for her personal diary. No problem, except that the developers who stumbled across her journal assumed that she was a perl bot ("If this is autogenerated, you need to tweak it so that the doubled+transposed letter mistake doesn't happen so often, and introduce some more naturalistic errors. If it's not autogenerated, you're really sad and about 18 months behind the curve.") or a gag. Of course, the whole thing might be a hoax. Or not. Link (via Waxy)

PowerPoint is why you got dumped by email

Joey "AccordionGuy" DeVilla has posted a rumination on how we got to the point where it is socially acceptable to break up with someone by email. He concludes that it's a natural outgrowth of "PowerPoint culture": "I think that the 'Dear Jane' emails that those people received were inspired by elements of office culture: PowerPoint, project post-mortems and annual performance reviews. Of the people who told me that they were dumped via email, all of their boyfriends worked white-collar jobs in which they either sat through or made PowerPoint presentations." Link

Golfing in Dubai

dubaiLook at these pictures of a Syd Mead-like golfing station in Dubai. That little green circle is the spot you stand on to hit the ball. Link (via

UPDATE Jeremy sez: The "Syd Mead-like golfing station" is actually a helicopter pad attached to the Burj al Arab, a luxury hotel. Tiger Woods was invited to hit balls into the Gulf as a publicity stunt. It's not the opening shot of the world's most difficult hole. See this Sports Illustrated article for more details.

Albinism photos of the 19th century

albinoGallery of olde tyme photos of 19th century albinism. Link (Via Sensible Erection)

Francis Crick (1916-2004)

crickFrancis Crick, co-discoverer of the double helix of DNA, has died. In 1962, Crick shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for uncovering the secret of life.
"Evolution is cleverer than you are." -Francis Crick

Update: Crick's groundbreaking 1953 paper on the molecular structure of DNA, co-authored with James Watson, is available here. (Thanks, Christina!)

LA Times online unclenches from paid-subscriber-only silliness

In recent months, the Los Angeles Times has taken a hell of a lot of heat from bloggers, media critics, and even some of its own writers over a constipated web content management policy that locked up all "Calendar" section listings to paid subscribers only. They've finally reversed that policy. This is groovy, because links just want to be free, man. Link

Update: A number of BB readers who are non-LAT-subscribers have written in to say that the "unclenched" content is "re-clenched," and that they can't access without paid subscription. Others have written in to say that registration, but not paid subscription, is still required. This could be a temporary tech glitch, but I'm still confused, and so are the rest of the LAT's online readers, so AFAIK it's still broken. Why do some publications insist on getting in the way of readers who just want to read basic content like this? I'll be looking for that new Koreatown barbecue/karaoke hotspot on their mercifully reg- and sub-free competitor

Squirrels scream ultrasonically

Ground squirrels emit an ultrasonic shriek to warn others that a predator is nearby. In the current issue of the journal Nature, University of Manitoba researchers report that while bats and whales use ultrasound for echolocation and to track prey, to their knowledge "ultrasonic alarm calls have not previously been detected in any animal group, despite their twin advantages of being highly directional and inaudible to key predators." From a New Scientist article about the study:
"Ultrasonic alarm calls might be beneficial because many of the birds-of-prey that catch and eat squirrels cannot hear them. Conveniently, ultrasound also has a shorter range than audible sound.

'It may be used to secretly warn others without alerting a more distant predator,' says (researcher David) Wilson.
Link (Thanks, Gabe!)

MSFT buys spam company, sues the competition, silences political activists

My cow-orker Annalee Newitz has posted a great editorial on the latest court battles over spam, pointing out the weird, anticompetitive and anti-speech aspects of the spam fight.
Microsoft is developing what it calls Bonded Sender, a program that would supposedly separate "legitimate" Internet marketers and bulk mailers from spammers. Working with a California company called IronPort, Microsoft will create a white list of Internet marketers who have paid a fee and demonstrated that they have no record of spamming. Companies participating in the Bonded Sender program will be allowed to send their email ads to HotMail and MSN users.

Given Microsoft's investment in the Bonded Sender program, it seems they may soon be in the business of serving as middlemen between emailer marketers and their webmail users. In other words, it sounds like the software megacorp is about to start competing with Richter. Of course, Microsoft could always call off its suit if Richter claims to have been rehabilitated -- and he pays his Bonded Sender fees!

In the spam wars, sometimes it's hard to tell the spammers from the antispammers.

The situation gets even more complicated when you consider the fact that Microsoft will do more than pick and choose winners in the junk email business. Bonded Sender will punish most the people who aren't even sending advertisements -- groups like Internet activists, who send out millions of emails to alert their members to upcoming political events and issues. If these groups don't pay their Bonded Sender fees, HotMail simply won't deliver their email -- regardless of whether users have specifically opted in to receive it.


Observing the SETI observatory

3antsThe SETI Institute predicts that we'll detect an extraterrestrial transmission within twenty years. If that turns out to be true, it'll probably be the folks at UC Berkeley's Hat Creek radio observatory who will have heard the call. Hat Creek is home to the SETI Institute's Allen Telescope Array (ATA), funded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.

I just returned from a trip with two friends to Hat Creek, about five hours northeast of San Francisco. Leading Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) researcher Jack Welch and his former student, astronomer Jim Gibson, were kind enough to give us a tour of the facility.

More about our visit to Hat Creek in my journal at TheFeature. Link

Genome of human zit sequenced

Scientists have sequenced the genome of the bug that causes zits. It had previously been mistaken for a part of the human genome.
“Sequencing the whole genome has revealed that the bacterium can actively degrade human skin tissue because of the massive presence of these enzymes, and also that there are specific immunogenic proteins which are present in this bacterium which trigger the immune response,” Brüggemann told New Scientist....

Severe acne is usually treated with common antibiotics, but many strains are becoming resistant to these. “With the genome sequence it’s now quite easy to generate specific drugs against this bacterium,” says Brüggemann. “That’s the next task.”


Ingenious spare-parts wheelchairs for the world's poorest nations

The Free Wheelchair Mission is a religious NGO that produces wheelchairs out of $41.17 worth of parts, and makes its plans for same available for free online. The project was inspired by the sight of a legless Moroccan woman dragging herself across a dirt road. Now the project works to provide low-cost wheels to all comers around the world. Link (via Gizmodo, via WorldChanging)

Ancient hard-drive, guy in bunny suit

On Gizmodo, this stunning image of an ancient, room-sized hard drive being serviced by a guy in a clean-room bunny-suit. The best part is that this thing and a million of its brothers put together probably had a lower capacity than the USB memory built into the pen I lost last month. Link

Update: Daniel Klein sez, "The picture is of a fixed-head disk, very similar to a Borroughs unit I had the pleasure of disassembling (in 1975) after a catastrophic head crash (I got authorization from Gordon Bell himself to do it). It took me 3 days to whittle it down to nuts and bolts, and the platter weighed 18 pounds. The hub upon which the platter was mounted was phosphor bronze, and weighed an additional 17 pounds. So imagine the inertia of 35 pounds spinning at 3600 RPM. It had electric brakes, because if you just switched off the power, it would spin for a loooong time. There is an (apocryphal) story of movers just hitting the circuit breaker (not the off switch that engaged the brakes), and after waiting the requisite 5 minutes for spindown, loaded the drive into a truck. All the moves and hallways were right angles, of course. Since brakes had not been engaged, it was still spinning at 2000 RPM or so by the time it was loaded. When the truck turned a corner, the drive precessed right out through the side of the truck. It held a few megabytes at most, if I recall correctly (a similar unit was used as a swap disk on the PDP-10, so it would have held 256K or so). "

Happy Sysadmin Appreciation Day, Ken!

Today is Sysadmin Appreciation Day, and it's long overdue. I started out as a sysadmin, and I'm here to tell you that sysadmins are the secret masters of the universe, underappreciated, all powerful, and indispensible. The world would crumble into dust but for the diligent work of our sysadmins.

I'd like to take a moment to recognise Boing Boing's volunteer sysadmin, the incomparable Mr Ken Snider, whose indispensible work is the reason that Boing Boing has such killer availability and uptime.

I'd also like to thank Chris Smith, who runs our submit-a-link form, instituting countermeasures against formspammers and catching the bounces.

Also due for appreciation is Carl Steadman, the long-time host of Boing Boing, whose donated services and connectivity made this all possible.

Finally, my appreciation to the sysadmins at EFF, past and present: Matt Peterson, Chris Palmer, Marc Perkel, Christopher Davis and Dan Brown. Thanks for keeping the Internet working (oh, and lest I forget, the OpenCola sysadmins: Helen, Michael, Karl, and Ken [again!]). Link

HOWTO legally sell downloads of cover-songs

CDBaby, a wonderful indie music publisherdistributor, has put up a howto for legally selling downloads of cover songs.
If you record a cover version of a song, (meaning your performance of a song that has been released in the U.S. with consent of the copyright owner), you are entitled by law to release your recording commercially, and the owner of the copyright to the song cannot prevent you from doing so.

The Copyright Act provides for what is called a "Compulsory License", which means that if you follow the steps set forth by statute, you can distribute your recording of that song on a CD or over the internet.

The following details the procedure for individuals to obtain a compulsory license to digitally distribute cover songs over the Internet to end users in the United States.

Link (Thanks, John!)

Mesh wireless conference call for papers

There's an upcoming mesh wireless conference in Boulder that's looking for papers on subject like Software Defined/Cognitive Radios, GPS, Galileo, Glonass Interoperability and standards, Effective Spectrum Management and Propagation Modeling in Urban Environment.
The ISART technical program committee is soliciting papers for the 7th annual International Symposium on Advanced Radio Technologies (ISART) to be held in Boulder, Colorado March 1-3, 2005. These papers will discuss new technologies, research and development, innovative ideas, enabling technologies, standards, protocols, business practices and policies, and government regulation for the purpose of forecasting the future development and application of radio frequency technologies into the next decade.
Link (Thanks, Sam!)

Penguin Putnam's racketeering domain-name scam

Katie has owned the domain since 1996. Penguin Putnam recently released a book about girls who get into trouble with the interweb and called it Now, the clueless dorks at Penguin have decided that they need to strongarm Katie out of her domain so they can do tie-ins with their book (ironically, they scrapped, the original title, 'cause that's a porn-site, but they figured that a web-developer's site is fair game).
Today I also had a very unpleasant phone call from a lawyer working with Katie Tarbox, the author of the book. She tried to convince me that I should donate the domain name to them. Somehow this would resolve my problem. OK so not only do I get walked all over, my life invaded by this book, treated badly by the publisher/author who refuse to acknowledge that they've done the wrong thing, but then I get to hand it over to them on a silver plate and I not only have suffered all this aggravation but ultimately have lost the thing that I care about. Exactly HOW does this resolve anything other than give them the thing they want which they have done everything to hijack without any care and consideration for what is right and just?

Secondly, she tells me that they're planning on launching some school curriculum thing to teach kids about online safety - and they're calling it Are they insane? No wonder they want me to hand it over.


Induce hearings video as a Bittorrent download: QED

Orrin Hatch wants to ban P2P networks that are used for music-sharing, claiming that their non-infringing uses are negligible. He even held hearings on his Induce bill to make the point. Video of those hearings are now available on a P2P system called Bittorrent that allows lots of people to simultaneously download large files by portioning out the burden of serving parts of the file to everyone who's trying to get a copy.

Download a copy of the hearings for yourself, participate in the democratic process, and in so doing, prove that their conclusions were utterly bogus. Torrent Link

Better German tubemap

Horst sez, "You published a link to an alternative London Underground Map ("what if the Germans had won WWII?") in German on July 29th. Problem is, as any German native speaker might tell you, many of the names of this map are Mock-German rather than real German and don't really make sense. "A while ago I attempted a real translation of the London Underground map into German, with station names being real, literal or etymological translations of the English placenames into German. Most German readers of my map agree that it's funnier than Myrtle's map (the one that you linked to).

"Incidentally, the translation of the London map into German was part of a project that started with a translation of the underground map of Vienna, Austria into English, which might be of more entertainment value as most of your readers can actually read it. Link (Thanks, Horst!)

New O'Reilly magazine: Make

Make magazine coverToday, at OSCON in Portland, Dale Dougherty and I announced a new O'Reilly magazine called Make. It'll be a quarterly, full-color magazine filled with fun projects and hardware hacks involving technology. (Dale is the editor and publisher, and I'm the editor-in-chief. Thanks to BB's own John Battelle for getting me involved!)

Make will have 5-minute tips you can use to improve your gadgets, networks, and computers, as well as much longer projects that might take several days (or weeks) to complete. The first issue is coming out in January. If you're interested, visit the web site and sign up for the newsletter. I'll also be running the Make blog on that page. I hope that a lot of BB readers become Make contributors, too. Please send me your ideas for hacks, tips, tricks, workarounds, neat things to build, useful tools, etc. Link

Polaroids from DNC, and historic first for Web in Kerry's DNC speech?

Inside this online gallery, a series of polaroids shot by TIME photographer Christopher Morris at the Democratic National Convention in Boston. At left, the Rock the Vote bus arrives at the FleetCenter.

And if I'm not mistaken, John Kerry's mid-speech invitation to voters moments ago to go online for platform details was the first time in America's history that any presidential candidate plugged a campaign website during his acceptance speech. Snip:

"I've told you about our plans for the economy, for education, for health care, for energy independence. I want you to know more about them. So now I'm going to say something that Franklin Roosevelt could never have said in his acceptance speech: go to"
Link to speech text.

MSNBC: Social Networks Go to Work

I just filed this story for MSNBC about the business value of social networking services. Truth or hype: can some SNSes become helpful professional tools for businesses -- in particular, independent entrepreneurs and smaller companies, for whom each new personal connection is a significant business building block? Includes interviews with unrepentant compulsive digital networkers danah boyd, Frank Keeney of SOCALWUG, Noah Glass of audblog, Scott Beale of Laughing Squid, Scott Rafer of Feedster, Travis Kalanick of RedSwoosh (and, once upon a time,, and human router Joi Ito -- who said this:
Their usefulness depends on your needs and networking style. LinkedIn, for example allows you to search histories and CVs in your network -- it's great for finding people who work in a particular company, or who have worked with someone you know. It's also an interesting way to find references for people or companies you're getting to know.

I think email is broken in a serious way, and SNS is trying to address some of the issues associated with that breakdown. These networks may get it right and really change the way we do business, but we're still at the beginning of the development and evolution curve.


One million legal music d/ls

Here's a wiki that's attempting to collect links to 1,000,000 legal music downloads. Link (via Gizmodo)

Victrola iPod amp

Tubesville is a custom amp shop in NYC that builds whimsical bespoke amplifiers like this Victrola-oid iPod amp. Link (via Gizmodo)