Boing Boing 

Mathematics of surprise

Scientists have modeled surprise in the form of a mathematical theory. The computational model is capable of predicting what stimuli an individual will pay attention to amidst the flood of sensory of data. In their experiments, the researchers from the University of Southern California and UC Irvine's Institute for Genomics and Bioinformatics used their theory to identify the most "surprising" features in a video. Then, they observed the eye movements of humans watching the same video. Apparently, the subjects' responses matched the predictions of the computational model. According to the scientists, "efficient and rapid attentional allocation is key to predation, escape, and mating -- in short, to survival." Link

Will NY sue Sony, too?

New York Attorney General is making threatening noises over Sony's rootkit DRM. There are still CDs infected with the malicious software in his jurisdiction and a spokesperson for his office says that he is "looking into" a lawsuit against Sony. The Texas AG has already announced a lawsuit under his state's anti-spyware law, seeking $100K per CD.
Spitzer's office dispatched investigators who, disguised as customers, were able to purchase affected CDs in New York music retail outlets -- and to do so more than a week after Sony BMG recalled the disks. The investigators bought CDs at stores including Wal-Mart (WMT), BestBuy (BBY), Sam Goody, Circuit City (CC), FYE, and Virgin Megastore, according to a Nov. 23 statement from Spitzer's office...

"It is unacceptable that more than three weeks after this serious vulnerability was revealed, these same CDs are still on shelves, during the busiest shopping days of the year," Spitzer said in a written statement. "I strongly urge all retailers to heed the warnings issued about these products, pull them from distribution immediately, and ship them back to Sony."

LInk (Thanks, Danilo!)

Previous installments of the Sony Rootkit Roundup: Part I, Part II, Part III

(Cool Sony CD image courtesy of Collapsibletank)

Radiohead remix redux: Me and This Army from Panzah Zandahz

Perhaps you missed this news over the holiday weekend? Don't. DJ Panzah Zandahz's "Me and This Army" is a collection of 16 Radiohead tracks remixed with snippets of artists such as MF Doom, Jurassic 5, De La Soul, and more.
Link to info, tracklisting, and torrent. (Thanks, Sevaan)

Miami police plan random ID checks of citizens

Snip from AP story:
Miami police announced Monday they will stage random shows of force at hotels, banks and other public places to keep terrorists guessing and remind people to be vigilant. Deputy Police Chief Frank Fernandez said officers might, for example, surround a bank building, check the IDs of everyone going in and out and hand out leaflets about terror threats.
Link (Thanks, Mike F.)

Update: a revised version of the story here says no random ID checks are planned. (Thanks, Dave F. and Kevin Poulsen)

What Hollywood can learn from anime

Daniel Roth has an interesting piece in the current issue of Fortune about the lessons Hollywood might learn from Mangawood. He tells Boing Boing, "The story analyzes how the niche worlds of anime and manga manage to pull off something increasingly rare in showbiz: they court their customers instead of alienating them, encouraging fansubbers (explained in detail in the piece), showing up at all fan shows, and pursuing whatever cutting edge technology their viewers are buying."

Snip from the piece:

Anime and manga firms have taken on forms very different from Hollywood studios or publishing houses. They more closely resemble the constantly updating startups of Silicon Valley. Their ethos is to get the product out to the right people -- whether it's on a DVD or over a mobile phone or downloadable -- and see what happens. If it succeeds, milk it; if not, try something different. And if the fans are into file sharing (which they are), keep the lawyers leashed and find a way to make piracy work for you.

(...)Female fans now make up about half the attendees at the conferences. Responding to the interest, CosmoGirl last summer began running its own manga strip on the back page of every issue. 'We started hearing girls say their favorite books and favorite things to read were manga,' says Ann Shoket, the magazine's executive editor. 'The girls have drawn their own manga for us. Not just one weird girl -- a lot of girls.')


Barlow on death of Grateful Dead music sharing, fans protest

Recently, Cory blogged this news:
" has been forced to take down over 1000 soundboard recordings of the Grateful Dead by Jerry's wife and a few (perhaps one) remaining member of the band."
John Perry Barlow, EFF co-founder and former Grateful Dead lyricist, tells Boing Boing:
You have no idea how sad I am about this. I fought it hammer and tong, but the drummers had inoperable bricks in their head about it.

What's worse is that they now want to remove all Dead music from the Web. They might as easily put a teaspoon of food coloring in a swimming pool and then tell the pool owner to get it back to them.

It's like finding out that your brother is a child molester. And then, worse, having everyone then assume that you're a child molester too. I've been called a hypocrite in three languages already.

How magnificently counter-productive of them. It's as if the goose who laid the golden egg had decided to commit suicide so that he could get more golden eggs.

This is just the beginning of the backlash, I promise you.

This is worse than the RIAA suing their customers.

Here's Barlow's blog. Today, news that Deadheads are boycotting the Dead, according to this Rolling Stone article:
All of the downloads were pulled last week at the request of Grateful Dead Merchandising (GDM), the group that handles official products for the band and is overseen by its surviving members.

Deadheads have answered in protest. In an online petition, fans have pledged to boycott GDM -- including CDs and concert tickets -- until the decision is reversed. (The band itself broke up in the wake of leader Jerry Garcia's 1995 death, but in recent years guitarist Bob Weir, bassist Phil Lesh and drummers Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann have toured simply as "the Dead.")


Identify the mystery fish

At Cryptomundo, Loren Coleman asks if anyone can identify this mystery fish found on an old postcard? (Please don't email your responses to me. Instead, post them in the Cryptomundo comments.)
 Cryptomundo Cryptids
From the blog:
The men in the picture look like military servicemen. The surroundings look like this photograph was taken on a beach or island. The fish appears to be about six feet long (notice the yard or meter stick lying next to it). But where are the fins on this cryptid (or even a tail)? What is it?

CS Lewis: Don't let Disney make Narnia! Live action Aslan is "blasphemy"

CS Lewis wrote a letter insiting that Narnia should never be adapted with live actors, calling it "blasphemy" and saying that he'd consider a cartoon (but not from Disney), but never allow human actors to portray his Narniacs. Now, from the letter he's talking about human actors in animal costumes, but it's clear he's also skeptical about the whole live action thing in general.
Dear Sieveking

(Why do you 'Dr' me? Had we not dropped the honorifics?) As things worked out, I wasn't free to hear a single instalment of our serial [The Magician's Nephew] except the first. What I did hear, I approved. I shd. be glad for the series to be given abroad. But I am absolutely opposed - adamant isn't in it! - to a TV version. Anthropomorphic animals, when taken out of narrative into actual visibility, always turn into buffoonery or nightmare. At least, with photography. Cartoons (if only Disney did not combine so much vulgarity with his genius!) wld. be another matter. A human, pantomime, Aslan wld. be to me blasphemy.

All the best,
C. S. Lewis

[Letter to BBC producer Lance Sieveking (1896-1972), who has written at the top: 'The Magician's Nephew' and, after the address, the phone number "62963".]


Man gets 5,000+ channels on 12 dishes

Al Jessup of Beckley, West Virginia, has 12 cheap satellite dishes stuck to his house, which pull in over 5,000 free-to-air channels from satellites all over the sky. He is retired, and delights in odd and foreign programming.
Because the programming is free, it changes regularly, he noted. Sometimes, a program he likes will disappear and something he dislikes will be put in its place, or vice versa. For example, he once had three ABC stations from Wyoming only to have it reduced to one.

"One day it may be here, the next day it may be gone, the next day it may be back," he said. "You never know."

Jessup said some programming includes things he likes, like racing or music, and some of it is, well, "weird."

Soon, he plans to add a 13th dish to his collection, he said. He may later get a "fancy" satellite dish that is basically like 16 dishes in one. This could eliminate some of the dishes outside his house -- or enable him to get even more channels.

"I could point them toward the east where there's a bunch of satellites running around," he said. "I don't know what I would get there."

Link (Thanks, mattyohe!)

Fantasy tabletop game built out of legos

BrickQuest is a tabletop fantasy game that is built out of legos, both official and custom -- the "BrickMaster" snaps together elaborate dungeons, and then little legomen move around the board, fighting monsters, finding secret doors, etc. Link (Thanks, Mark!)

Vacuum-bag dust houses sculpted by former house-cleaner

Maria Adelaida Lopez, a Colombian-born artist, covers doll-houses with vacuum-cleaner lint in tribute to her days working as a house-cleaner while taking her Master's in Philiadelphia, and in tribute to the "other Marias" who still clean house. She collects full vacuum bags from others to continue with her art. Link, Link to artist's site (via Geisha Asobi)

Custom M&Ms: just don't mention the war, your hometown, or nouns

M&Ms will print you custom candies with two (short) lines of text -- a cool idea, but too bad they let the lawyers at it. The terms prohibit your using the names of places and events on your custom, personal-use candies, and a clearly embarrassed marketing department has come up with several hilariously bad workarounds, like substituting "Thar she blows" for "Mr St Helens" and "Marry a Doctor" for "Johns Hopkins."
Custom printed M&M'S Candies are for personal use only. No business names, product names, celebrity names, specific sports teams, major events, landmarks, names of schools or institutions. You're smart...use your creativity and work around these specifics.

Update: Kevin remixed the M&M maker to let you sub in your own messages, such as Impeach Bush, War Criminal.

Sony CD spyware installs and can run permanently, even if you click "Decline"

Many Sony CDs install a piece of spyware on listeners' PCs. The program, called MediaMax, from SunComm, has received less attention than the rootkit that made headlines on Hallowe'en, but it is even sneakier, in some ways, than the rootkit was.

Previously, Princeton researchers revealed that the MediaMax software installed itself even if you declined the EULA (the pop-up license agreement). However, the researchers concluded that if you declined the EULA, the software was only active until you restarted Windows.

Now Princeton's Alex Halderman reports that if you insert another MediaMax-infected CD (or the same CD again) and decline the EULA a second time, the software can activate itself permanently.

In some ways, this is unsurprising -- we know that non-negotiated "contracts" like DRM EULAs aren't really agreements. No one even expects them to be read, and no one allows you to negotiate the terms if you disagree with them. They contain abusive clauses that no one would ever willingly consent to. They're a comb-over that does little to disguise the glistening, liver-spotted bald pate of bad business-practices that underpin the entertainment industry.

So it's hard to get a lot of spit in your mouth over the revelation that they don't particularly care if you agree to the terms or not -- they'll impose them anyway. This is illegal, and EFF is suing them for it. Can't wait for them to get their comeuppance.

In the comments to our last MediaMax story, reader free980211 pointed out that the driver sometimes becomes permanently activated if the same protected CD is used more than once, even if the user never agrees to the EULA. This wasn't apparent from my earlier tests because they were conducted under tightly controlled conditions, with each trial beginning from a fresh Windows installation and involving only carefully scripted operations. I've performed further tests and can now confirm that MediaMax is permanently activated in several common situations in spite of explicitly withheld consent.

Previous installments of the Sony Rootkit Roundup: Part I, Part II, Part III

(Cool Sony CD image courtesy of Collapsibletank)

Political film comments on French riots using video-game animation

The French Democracy is a political film about France's riots, made in machinima (a filmmaking technique that uses video-games as animation engines) with the new video game The Movies -- a game whose objective is to make machinima films.

The French Democracy is a little rough around the edges, unashamedly political and one-sided, and could use some work on the pacing, but it's also a stirring piece of political filmmaking, created using a $50 piece of software intended to enable its users to become one-person animation auteurs.

Most machnima is silly, or porny, or violent -- but this is real political stuff, the kind of thing the First Amendment was invented for. It's a real milestone in machinima history. Link (Thanks, Hugh!)

Update: Tony sez, "I think it's important to know that movies made with 'The Movies' are subject to Activision's EULA, which asserts Activision's exclusive copyrights in all of its original content. Since user-created movies seem to require at least *some* of Activision's copyrights (3D character models and/or environments at minimum), the DCMA could probably be used to take down movies. This might be of note if Activision doesn't agree with the content of political machinima made with 'The Movies.'"

UK tech rights group needs 33 signups in the next 24h

Sam sez, "The UK's new Open Rights group set a target of 1000 people to support them. They have a launch event in 23 hours, and need 33 people to sign up to support the organisation. If you are interested in digital rights in the UK and you've not yet pledged to join, now is the time to show your support."">Link (Thanks, Sam) (Disclosure: I am a proud member of ORG's Advisory Board)

Johnny Ryan's Comic Book Holocaust 2

Rude, crude, and damn funny cartoonist Johnny Ryan (Angry Youth Comix) has self-published his second issue of Comic Book Holocaust. (Previous Johnny Ryan posts here and here.) The first Comic Book Holocaust was filled with brilliant parodies of underground comix by the likes of R. Crumb, Dan Clowes, and Adrian Tomine. The limited edition CBH #2 is available for $10 from Johnny's site.
 Blog Holocaust2-1 CBH collects 24 comic book parody strips Johnny has drawn into one gorgeous package, with a display-worthy three-color wraparound letterpress cover produced by Buenaventura Press. Only 200 copies were produced, we have limited quantities available. Each copy is signed and numbered.

Programmers on Sony's spyware DRM asked for newsgroup help too

Programmers on Sony's less-known DRM, a piece of spyware called MediaMax from a company called Suncomm, posted messages to newsgroups asking for help with their technology. Earlier today I blogged two other exchanges from the authors of the Sony rootkit DRM, First4Internet.
Newsgroups: microsoft.public.windowsmedia.drm
From: "Ken Fagan" - Find messages by this author
Date: Tue, 1 May 2001 13:22:16 -0700
Local: Tues, May 1 2001 12:22 pm
Subject: How to download a licensed WM DRM file
Reply to Author | Forward | Print | Individual Message | Show original | Report Abuse

Here is our big problem!

We have found the same feature in the SDK files but what we WANT to do is EXACTLY what you describe as well as what is described below from the link:

We want to DOWNLOAD (and not stream) the files to the end user WITH A license to Play or Delete or Transfer to an SDMI Compliant Portable Device BUT NOT TO TARNSFER TO A PEER PC...

We want to do all of this WITHOUT having to require the user to re-validate a license with an online licensing server again!

It seems like you have figured it out!

Can you help???

Link 1, Link 2 (Thanks, Jason!)

Previous installments of the Sony Rootkit Roundup: Part I, Part II, Part III

(Cool Sony CD image courtesy of Collapsibletank)

Witch doctor refuses DUI blood test

Nyararia Mukandiwa, 33, was stopped after driving erratically in the West Yorkshire town of Huddersfield last year, but refused to give officers a blood sample on the grounds that as a witch doctor it was likely to send him into a zombie-like state.
Link (via Fark)

Family Circus meets Cthulhu

Joey Devilla found a trove of Family Circus cartoons mashed up with captions from HP Lovecraft's Cthulhu mythos. Link

Dolphins play at least 317 different games

Two researchers in Mississippi observed dolphins at play and cataloged 317 different game-like behaviors:
The captive dolphins "produced 317 distinct forms of play behavior during the five years that they were observed," they wrote.

One calf became adept at "blowing bubbles while swimming upside-down near the bottom of the pool and then chasing and biting each bubble before it reached the surface," the researchers continued. "She then began to release bubbles while swimming closer and closer to the surface, eventually being so close that she could not catch a single bubble."

"During all of this, the number of bubbles released was varied, the end result being that the dolphin learned to produce different numbers of bubbles from different depths, the apparent goal being to catch the last bubble right before it reached the surface of the water."

"She also modified her swimming style while releasing bubbles, one variation involving a fast spin-swim. This made it more difficult for her to catch all of the bubbles she released, but she persisted in this behavior until she was able to almost all of the bubbles she released. Curiously, the dolphin never released three or fewer bubbles, a number which she was able to catch and bite following the spin-swim release."

The dolphin may have been keeping her play interesting by blowing more bubbles than she could easily catch and bite, the researchers wrote.

Link (via Collision Detection)

RIAA targets mashups

MashupTown, a site that hosts and distributes mashups (two or more songs ingeniously mixed together to make a third) has taken down all of its files after complaints from the RIAA to its hosting partner.

Mashups are a really dumb target for the RIAA. There's just no universe in which someone who downloads a mashup of Prince's 1999 and the Benny Goodman orchestra performing "In the Mood" thinks, Well, now I've heard that, I have no need to buy the CDs those songs originated on.

In other words, if the RIAA genuinely only goes after its customers because it wants to keep from losing sales, attacking mashups won't and can't accomplish that. This action amounts to the RIAA saying, "This art is illegal because it displeases us." Link (Thanks, Karl!)

Homestar Runner papercraft

The Homestar Runner folks have put up four little papercraft playsets to download, print and assemble. Link (Thanks, Dan!)

Aerial signposts point to Scientology's sacred text storage facility

There are symbols in northern New Mexico that mark a Church of Scientology vault built in a mountainside. The facility contains founder L. Ron Hubbard's writings etched into stainless steel tablets that are stored in titanium capsules. The Church of Scientology apparently asked Albuquerque TV station KRQE not to air its report last week about the markings in the desert. From the Washington Post:
The church offered a tour of the underground facility if KRQE would kill the piece, the station said in its newscast. Scientology also called KRQE's owner, Emmis Communications, and "sought the help of a powerful New Mexican lawmaker" to lobby against airing the piece, the station reported on its Web site...

What do the markings mean? For starters, the interlocking circles and diamonds match the logo of the Church of Spiritual Technology, which had the vault constructed in a mesa in the late 1980s. The $2.5 million construction job was done by Denman and Associates of Santa Fe, but company Vice President Sally Butler said of the circles, "If there is anything like that out there, it had nothing to do with us."

Perhaps the signs are just a proud expression of the Scientology brand. But there are other, more intriguing theories.

Former Scientologists familiar with Hubbard's teachings on reincarnation say the symbol marks a "return point" so loyal staff members know where they can find the founder's works when they travel here in the future from other places in the universe.
Link to Washington Post article, Link to .wmv of a KRQE follow-up story

UPDATE: BB reader Tim Pozar points us to the Google Satellite Maps image of the symbols. Link

UPDATE: And from Matt Pierce, a link to an even more striking image from Terraserver. Link

Clifford Pickover's Gods blog

Psychedelic mathematician and author Clifford Pickover, who maintains the excellent Reality Carnival blog, has launched a new mind-tweaking blog called Godlorica. The site relays "breaking news on God and other higher beings in this world and the world to come." Recent posts are about the Rapture Index, Noah's Ark: A Feasibility Study, and a game that models heaven and hell. From the blog:
United States Patent Application

Edward Gilhooly patents a "game board apparatus" having a game board horizontally divided into two sectors representing heaven and hell. The start position is at the bottom of the hell and the finish winning position is situated at the top of the heaven. The players use playing pieces to traverse spaces in the heaven and hell sectors, the amount of advancement being dictated by indicia provided on decks of question cards and answer cards.

Rushkoff's Thought Virus #4

BB pal Douglas Rushkoff has posted the fourth excerpt from his forthcoming book "Get Back In The Box: Innovation From The Inside Out." From the excerpt:
In a renaissance society driven by the need to forge connections, play is the ultimate system for social currency. It's a way to try on new roles without committing to them for life. It's a way to test strategies of engagement without being defined by them forever. It’s a way to rise above the seemingly high stakes of almost any situation and see it as the game it probably is. It’s a way to make one’s enterprise a form of social currency from the beginning, and to guarantee a collaborative, playful, and altogether more productive path toward continual innovation.

And this play begins at work....

In their crude efforts to make work more fun, however, most companies are missing the point. Employers are busy installing foosball tables, hiring chefs, and building gyms for their increasingly disgruntled employees, but these are just ways of trying to make a bad situation more tolerable. (or to coax employees into spending long hours away from home) A foosball table is not the sign of a fun place to work; it's a glaring symbol that work is not fun and employees need a break. Why would they rather be playing foosball than doing whatever it is they've been hired to do?

Many have argued that it’s immature and idealistic to believe that everyone,or even a majority of people,should be allowed to enjoy their jobs. In the words of one dark New York TimesOpEd piece, "We're still just means of production....Work is often more bearable when we don’t, in addition to money, expect it always to deliver happiness." The same might be said for life itself, particularly when our duty to perform an economic function extends from what we can produce to what we can consume. Both work and life should be much more than "bearable."

Luckily, renaissances celebrate immaturity and idealism.

Champagne cork parachute

The Champichute is a reusable parachute for champagne bottle corks. Just £2.99. From Hawkin's Bazaar:
 I H0201-XlgHalf the fun of drinking bubbly is seeing what damage you can do with the exploding cork. Now you can add to the fun by clipping the 9cm Champichute onto the neck of the bottle and carefully pushing the 'pin' at the end of the parachute into the cork. The parachute is taken along with the cork which drifts down slowly and harmlessly.
Link (via MobHappy)

HOWTO make a wall-sized poster out of an ebook

Here's a HOWTO with instructions for taking the text of your favorite ebook and laying it out as a wall-sized, multicolored polyhedron poster, so it can be read or admired. This is a great idea for the bathroom -- never run out of reading in the bog again! Link (via Make Blog)

Ten (sensible) startup rules

Ev Williams, co-founder of Blogger and Odeo, has posted ten (really eleven) eminently sensible rules for startups. I think these are great -- they're the kind of thing I wish I'd known back when I was starting a company.
#3: Be Casual
We're moving into what I call the era of the "Casual Web" (and casual content creation). This is much bigger than the hobbyist web or the professional web. Why? Because people have lives. And now, people with lives also have broadband. If you want to hit the really big home runs, create services that fit in with–and, indeed, help–people's everyday lives without requiring lots of commitment or identity change. Flickr enables personal publishing among millions of folks who would never consider themselves personal publishers–they're just sharing pictures with friends and family, a casual activity. Casual games are huge. Skype enables casual conversations.

Bosnian town unveils Bruce Lee statue of peace

A Bosnian city has erected a statue of Bruce Lee to commemorate his 65th birthday, as a symbol of universal peace -- Bruce was apparently equally popular on all sides of the conflict in the former Yugoslavia.
"We will always be Muslims, Serbs or Croats," said Veselin Gatalo of the youth group Urban Movement Mostar.

"But one thing we all have in common is Bruce Lee."

Link (Thanks, Dave!)

Update Erik sez, "Someone stole Bruce Lee's nunchucks! Apparently it happened a few hours after the statue was unveiled in Mostar. According to this article, several dozen citizens gathered in the park where the statue was unveiled to 'express their disgust.' 'Once again we've shown what Balkan savageness is!,' says one." (Thanks, Erik, Marion and Sinisa!)

Sony rootkit author asked for free code to lock up music

First4Internet ripped off code from at least two free/open source software projects for the malicious rootkit program they supplied to Sony. Yesterday, I posted some old mailing list and newsgroup messages from First4Internet programmers where they were seeking advice on breaking peoples' computers.

Now, Baz and Alexander have found this old newsgroup post from a First4Internet programmer offering cash if someone will do his homework for him. Later, code from the free/open source software project LAME (which does some of what this programmer was trying to do) showed up in a First4Internet product.

I know it sounds like I am just after some free code due to my laziness but I really dont have the time and I am serious about the cash - I really need this functionality!
Link (Thanks, Alexander and Baz!)

Previous installments of the Sony Rootkit Roundup: Part I, Part II, Part III

(Cool Sony CD image courtesy of Collapsibletank)