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New Year's Eve QTVR panos from around the world

QTVR panoramas from celebrations in Dubai, Zermatt, Lisbon, and other cities. At the time of this post, photographer Jook Leung's annual shot of Times Square in NYC isn't yet posted -- but will likely be up by the time you put down your champagne long enough to click here: Link. Feliz año nuevo, y'all!

Happy New Year

Sarina and DonkeysI thought I'd make my last entry of the year a picture of the miniature donkey we would have bought if it hadn't bitten me on the leg.

Best wishes to everyone in 2005!

Justice memo redefines torture

The US Justice Department has released a new memo that revises and broadens the definition of torture, replacing a 2002 memo that justified its use to protect national security.
The 17-page document states flatly that torture violates U.S. and international law and omits two of the most controversial assertions made in now-disavowed 2002 Justice Department documents: that President Bush, as commander in chief in wartime, had authority superseding U.S. anti-torture laws and that U.S. personnel had several legal defenses against criminal liability in such cases.

"Consideration of the bounds of any such authority would be inconsistent with the president's unequivocal directive that United States personnel not engage in torture," said the memo from Daniel Levin, acting chief of the Office of Legal Counsel, to Deputy Attorney General James Comey.

Critics in Congress and many legal experts say the original documents set up a legal framework that led to abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, in Afghanistan and at the U.S. prison camp for terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. After the Iraqi prison abuses came to light, the Justice Department in June disavowed its previous legal reasoning and set to work on the replacement document to be released Friday. The Justice Department memo, dated Thursday, was released less than a week before the Senate Judiciary Committee is to consider President Bush's nomination of his chief White House counsel, Alberto Gonzales, to replace John Ashcroft as attorney general.

Link to CBS News story (thanks, Scott Hille), Link to NPR (audio) coverage, WaPo, Guardian.

Here is the actual memo document, via the BBC story: Link to PDF(Thanks abi). Choice words in the final graf:

"There is no exception under the statute permitting torture to be used for a "good reason." Thus, a defendant's motive (to protect national security, for example) is not relevant to the question whether he has acted with the requisite specific intent under the statute."

Concrete TV

Ripped from the headlines over at Fleshbot:
Concrete Ron describes himself as "perhaps the greatest video editor of all time", and anyone who's ever caught Concrete TV on Manhattan public access television over the last decade or so probably wouldn't argue: a typical episode incorporates vintage porn movies, 80s aerobics videos, car crash footage, Hong Kong shoot-em-ups, old commercials, beefcake reels, pro wrestling smackdowns, cheesy B-movie moments, sex education films, random explosions, wet t-shirt contests, and plenty of "raw emotion, euphoria, physical collision, glee, fantasy, despair, and discomfort" in one noisy, violent, sexy, and brilliantly edited pop culture/infoporn mashup. If we ever had to show visitors from another planet what's going on in our collective brains at any given moment, we'd make them tune in here.

More on Exeem

Following up on this previous BoingBoing post, reader Pseudonym says, in a rather hushed voice:
Whois shows the crowd behind Exeem are in fact a company by the name Swarm Systems Inc. that are in fact located in Saint Kitts and Nevis, so would presumably be free from prosecution and lawsuits like Sharman Networks.
And another anonymous reader (my, you're a sneaky lot) says,
Just wanted to let you guys know that exeem IS compatable with torrent files, you can load them up just like any other client. The ads sloncek was talking about are just ads not adware. The reason there isnt a mac or linux version is cause the program is still in beta and chances are that eventually there will be mac and linux versions. Here are some screenshots of it. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9. Keep in mind that these are shots of the private beta so the public beta will probably be different since it has changed a lot sinse version 0.1.

Ix-nay on the b-word

Not long ago, NY Daily News gossipist Lloyd Grove decreed his column a Paris Hilton-free zone, announcing that only if "she discovers a cure for cancer, wins the Nobel Peace Prize, launches herself into outer space - or even gets her high-school diploma" would the shark-jumping heiress appear again by name. Well, I've been guilty of a similar sin in 2004, and I hereby pledge to go cold turkey on the word "blog" for, oh, at least the next 72 hours. Today, there's news that dictionary publisher Merriam-Webster named "blog" the "Word of the Year," and that just feels like the last fucking straw. It's time for at least a temporary autokibosh. There. Hear that? The sound of the b, l, o, and g keys on my key**ard hittin* the **tt*m *f the trash can here in my *ffice. F*r a few days, anyway. Link

NYE drug of choice for Burners

This New Year's Eve, Burning Man devotees homesick for Black Rock City are drowning their yearnings in the finest intoxicant earth has to offer: lines of playa dust. Twice as sweet as sugar, twice as bitter as salt. And if you get hooked, baby, it's nobody else's fault. Link to (snort) full-size image. (Thanks, Rusty!)

Home made tank tears through old shed

Picture 2 This home made tank reminds me of the wireframe tank in Battlezone. Watch this video of it as it tears through a field and knocks over an old shed. I could without the lame music in the background. They should have used "Teddy Bears' Picnic" if they really wanted to enhance the mood. Link

Sleek looking old car mod

 Images Tiburon Henry Covington made eight of these jetsonian cars (custom bodies on Renault frames) in 1958. He called it El Tiburon (The Shark). A guy in Riverbank, CA bought the last remaining Tiburon body from Covinton's widow for $800 and put in on a Porsche frame. This Modesto Bee article has more photographs.

(Check out the cover of the 1960s Mechanix Illustrated near the bottom of the page, too. The articles sound great: "ICE CUBES MADE WITH FLASHLIGHT BATTERIES," "NEW ARMY COMBAT VEHICLE 'WALKS' LIKE A MAN", and "WEEGEE TELLS HOW TO MAKE THOSE WEIRD PHOTOS." I'd buy that magazine for 25 cents.) Link (Via Mookie)

Fun with home made bomb

Picture 1 Windows media video of some guys in the Netherlands blowing up a bomb beneath a freeway overpass or a subway tunnel. Link

$6 stapler doesn't use staples

Treehugger reports on a cute-as-a-button stapler that doesn't use staples.
 Files Staplers Instead of using the tiny pieces of metal that add up to lots waste, this ingenious little device joins your papers by punching a small, neat hole in your documents and folding the remaining flaps together for a secure binding.

High altitude kites for beating the peak oil problem

 Images Artwork Top-Wings Well, probably not. But this is an interesting idea: using a kite "laddermill" (as opposed to a rigid, ground-based windmill) to harness the high-speed wind blowing at 30,000 feet and convert it to electricity. Link (Via Mirabilis)

ABC World News Tonight "Bloggers" segment video online

Archived video of last night's ABC World News Tonight segment about bloggers as "people of the year" is now online: Link WMV, 4MB. (thanks Mike!)

Tsunami Reconnect Project: Update

BoingBoing pal Mike Outmesguine gives us an update on the blog-driven project to provide free wireless communication services to areas cut off by the disaster:
Here's a rough update. Smartbridges located in Singapore has pledged 5 access points to begin with and more as specific needs arise. They can be used to connect remote locales over a distance or to create coverage in a local area.

Individuals have pledged spare antennas and radio bridges. Several people have volunteered their time and expertise, including volunteers from the US and Europe prepared to travel to the area to help set up the equipment.

I have been asked specifically to help rebuild communications from people in Sri Lanka, Indonesia, and an island near the epicenter without any telecom connection to nearby Sumatra.

We are now working in coordination with the efforts of the Wireless Comm Association International, and I will be attending the Jan. 13th disaster relief meeting in san jose. Other wireless activists and group leaders have contacted me about working together, which I am thrilled to do. I am in touch with companies that want to help, but are working with us to determine what specific models we could put in use.

Bloggers without Borders has pledged 10% of current donations will go to socalwug for this effort.

Donations can be made to socalwug via paypal (through my account at or credit card. Equipment can be sent to me to redistribute or may ship directly from the manufacturer to the site if practical (as in SmartBridges case from Singapore.)


Tsunami media bubble: a trickle or a flood?

Choire Sicha deconstructs wildly contradictory headlines related to the Asian disaster. "I'm all for opinionated reporting and interpretation, but this I find this actually quite disturbing and very sad, particularly when one gets a whiff of agenda in the headlines." Link

Scientific data on Earthquake and Tsunami

Comprehensive collection of materials related to the Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami, including animations, charts, links, and seismograph recordings, and helful explanations on how to read them. Link (thanks, Ben)

William Gibson interviewed by Moira Gunn

 Assets Jpegs Gibson IT Conversations has an 18 minute audio interview with William Gibson, from Moira Gunn's Tech Nation program. Link

Suit-productivity tips for nerds roundup concluded

Merlin Mann has concluded his end-of-year roundup of his attempt to port the excellent-but-suit-oriented productivity book Getting Things Done to a system that suits geeks who rely heavily on computers and related devices to organize their lives.
I doubt that I'm the only GTD nerd who now has faster and more ubiquitous access to the internet than back in 2001, when Getting Things Done was first published. Just as one data point, I work primarily on internet-related projects from home on a 1.5Mb DSL line and house-wide wifi: "@online" is virtually all of the time for me. So, the GTD contexts associated with my work demand more subtlety to be useful (or even worth the bother of maintaining them).

Take me and multiply it by an order of magnitude for students with Hiptops, full-time AIM access, and a completely wifi campus with unlimited, lightning-fast bandwidth. I suspect that this desk-free, under-25 crowd are a group worth Davidco devoting some avid attention to.


Bar code bust

Two couples in Nashville were busted this week for printing out their own UPC bar codes and slapping them on products in Wal-Mart and other stores to lower prices. Allegedly, they were part of a larger ring in 19 states that over the last decade would buy the, er, "discounted" items and later sell the goods or return them in exchange for gift cards that they'd also peddle. Authorities say that the scheme defrauded Wal-Mart alone of $1.5 million. Link

Animals escaped tsunami

While tens of thousands of people along the Sri Lankan coast were killed by the tsunami, wildlife officials say that they haven't found any dead animals. The waves swept inland to the island's largest wildlife reserve but none of the elephants, tigers, jackals, crocodiles, or other animals drowned. From the BBC:
Debbie Marter, who works on a wild tiger conservation programme on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, one of the worst-hit areas in Sunday's disaster, said she was not surprised to hear there were no dead animals.

"Wild animals in particular are extremely sensitive," she said. "They've got extremely good hearing and they will probably have heard this flood coming in the distance. There would have been vibration and there may also have been changes in the air pressure which will have alerted animals and made them move to wherever they felt safer."

Gaming Hacks, comprehensive, fascinating and eclectic

I just finished reading Simon Carless's Gaming Hacks, one of the latest O'Reilly Hacks books, and I can't remember when I've had more engrossing fun with a technical book.

Like all the hacks books, Gaming Hacks is arranged around 100 "hacks" -- tricks you can use to get more from gaming. They proceed from the simple to the hellishly complex, so there's something here for everyone.

That's even more true than is usual in the Hacks series, though, because of Carless's incredible, comprehensive, eclectic view of the kinds of hacks that might interest a gamer. Here are some of my favorites:

  • How to hack an old Atari 2600 controller: rehabilitate your old paddles without WD40, then splice them into a modern PC (also: how to download, play and write "homebrew" games for the 2600 and other boat-anchor platforms that are produced by console aficionados who enjoy the challenge of programming for 8-bit, minimal-RAM game environments)
  • Roll your own "machinima" -- movies made by recording the action taking place in a game environment, then dubbing in studio-recorded voices
  • Learn to read enough Japanese to play grey-market games imported from Japan
  • Create your own scripts for automating repetitive "grinding" tasks in massively multiplayer games
  • Etiquette for joining adventuring parties in MMOs
  • Detect and foil cheaters in networked first-person shooter games
  • Build a killer home theatre audio setup to maximize your game platform's 3D sound
  • Build a portable device out of an old console, like the NES
  • Overclock your console
This gives you a flavor for the book's subject-matter, but it doesn't convey wonderful prose style: Carless writes like a great, fetishistic geek, like the Car Talk guys or the folks on The Screensavers, like someone who's really, really enthusiastic about his subject matter and wants to wise you up to all the truly awesome wonders awaiting you.

Combine that with a stupendous introduction by sf-writer-turned-game-writer Marc Laidlaw, who wrote the Half-Life series for Valve, and a slew of highly knowledgeable co-authors who contributed various tips, and you've got the perfect mix of informative, enjoyable and fascinating. This book is staying on my shelf. Link

5ives: funny lists of five things

Merlin Mann is an amazingly funny guy. I've mentioned his "5ives" site here before -- it's where he keeps very, very funny lists of five things. I found myself needing a chuckle this morning so I revisited 5ives and by the time I got to this entry, I was actually laughing aloud:
Five things I'll be doing while you're at Burning Man

1. carefully stewarding my pallor
2. repeatedly watching Law & Order: Special Victims Unit on the TiVo
3. defecating indoors--copiously, often, and without queueing
4. not tongue-kissing a sweaty Java programmer in clown makeup named "Shanti"
5. wearing clothes--lots and lots of square, capitalist, heinous-body-covering clothes


Xeni on ABC World News: People of the Year -- Bloggers.

ABC World News Tonight with Peter Jennings has been doing some terrific tech-related work in their 2004 year-in-review coverage. While I can't disclose details, tonight's WNT episode features a technology-related "person of the year" segment in which I am a participant. I'm not a "person of the year" -- just another loudmouthed blogger who always has something to say about whoever is. Details and local air times: Link.

Update: The "People of the Year" ABC featured here -- bloggers. Link to segment transcript. The ABC News piece closed with a screenshot of this Photoshopped "fantasy" cover of what some thought a more deserving candidate for Time's "Person of the Year" issue. The image pays homage to Dan Gillmor's essential book, We The Media.

Update 2: Link to video: WMV (4.19 MB) (Thanks tons, Mike O!)

Amazing microscopic photography

 Eos2 English Gallery Templates Galeriepics Botanik LavendelNifty gallery of microscopic nature photographs. Shown here: cross section of a lavender leaf. Link

Surnova resurrected, eXeem launched

Popular torrent-helper site Suprnova has re-launched, sans torrents. And BoingBoing reader Derek says,
After a few days of having a teaser on their site, Suprnova's Sloncek did an interview with about a new P2P app and network called eXeem that will be released for download in a couple of weeks. It's being developed by a new, unnamed company, which asked Sloncek to be a representative for them.

It will be Windows only, with no Mac or Linux versions planned at this time. It will be ad supported, and not just banner ads either. It will be full of adware, most of which you can opt out of, according to Sloncek. Some of the less intrusive ones will be required for the application to function though.

Apparently eXeem is based off of BitTorrent, but is different enough that it can't be called a BitTorrent client, and I assume it won't be compatible with BitTorrents either. The application will be downloadable from in a couple of weeks.

Link to details, and here's a link to a .zip of eXeem Beta 0.16. Pseudonym sez: "It won't actually work because of a lack of a working beta code but if ye are curious to have a look at the program then by all means do..."

Winner: Most shockingly tasteless tsunami-related headline award

"Tsunamis shatter celebrity holidays," CNN. Link (Thanks, Realish). Gawker has others: Link

More on porting suit-productivity to nerds

Merlin Mann has posted part two of his year-end roundup of his project to port Getting Things Done, a productivity book aimed at suits, to nerdy types whose life is organized around technology.
I have had the worst time setting up a single, integrated workflow that works for me. I've flitted endlessly between text files, Entourage,, vim, online RSS-based calendars, all-in-one apps, paper planners, Moleskines, index cards, and more in search of the right combination. Each tool and habit has its benefits, to be sure, but I never seem to land on a really satisfying set of apps and practices that feels like it has exactly the right "flow" to it. Most corrosively, I often (really often) blow tons of time ramping up to some new bauble only to ultimately discover it lacks some critical piece (export, reminders, etc. etc.). Bad habits for someone who ostensibly wants his work life to be more productive and waste-free.

Of course, I can write some of the time and effort down to "research" and the fact that part of my work involves learning about new productivity widgets, but I can't avoid the fact that I still don't have a method of handling all my information (and actual work) in a way that I find satisfying and intuitive. Plus I have to admit to some terrible habits surrounding my ongoing search for "The Perfect System(TM)."


Documentary filmmakers get screwed by copyright clearance

Thomas sez, "Untold Stories: Creative Consequences of the Rights Clearance Culture for Documentary Filmmakers: A pair of researchers documented increasing barriers to documentary film production caused by the high cost of obtaining rights clearances from IP holders."
The study explores the implications of the current terms of rights acquisition on the creative process of documentary filmmaking in today's marketplace, and from them makes recommendations to lower costs and promote creativity. It focuses on the lived experience of independent documentary filmmakers who work primarily within a broadcast environment (sometimes with a theatrical "window"), in coping with the creative challenges created by acquiring and granting rights. Click here to read Untold Stories.

Independent documentary filmmakers were selected because their work regularly requires them to interact with a wide variety of rights holders, from archives for photographs and stock footage to musical performers to other filmmakers. This is especially clear when it is a historical documentary or one that comments on commercial popular culture, but it is an issue for most documentary filmmakers, no matter what the subject matter. When a trademark appears on a baseball cap, or a subject happens to be watching television, or a radio in the background plays a popular song, or a subject sings "Happy Birthday," rights clearance becomes a professional and creative challenge.

Link (Thanks, Thomas!)

Amazing card-stacking photos

Kevin sez, "Bryan Berg is famous for stacking playing cards. He is the Guiness record holder and tours the world stacking cards. The web site for him is sweet and simple and lets outstanding photography tell the story." Link (Thanks, Kevin!)

Win DRM hides malicious trojans, RIAA deploys infected music on P2P?

According to PCWorld and TechDirt, Windows DRM contains a flaw that allows for attakcers to create music files that contain trojans that attack your computer when you play them, and moreover, the music industry has hired a company called Overpeer which is flooding the P2P networks with infected fake music files.
Overpeer is the same company that the recording industry has hired in the past to dump fake versions of songs on file sharing networks. What the article doesn't answer is whether or not the industry hired Overpeer to dump spyware on the network as well, but it's likely they're pleased either way. Overpeer defends their actions by saying that anyone obviously deserves what they get because, obviously, they were looking for unauthorized files. It's not clear that everyone would agree. Sneaking malicious files onto someone's computer because "they deserved it!" doesn't seem like a very good justification. What may be even more important to this story, however, is the revelation of just how easy it is, thanks to a huge loophole in Microsoft's copy protection technology, to include a malicious file with an audio or video file. Basically, because Windows DRM needs to look for a license, all anyone needs to do is point that license to a website that loads malicious content and off you go. Thank you Microsoft, for creating a huge loophole that will probably make sure millions of new computers are loaded with spamming, DDOSing trojans shortly.
Link (Thanks, Alex!)