Boing Boing 

US-VISIT immigration system spent $15 million per crook caught

The US-VISIT program subjects visitors to the USA to a humiliating round of being mug-shotted and fingerprinted, and has cost at least $15 billion. Since January 2004, it has caught a paltry 1,000 immigration cheats and crooks (no terrorists, though), at a cost of $15 million per apprehension. As Bruce Schneier points out, this is a pretty cost-ineffective way of catching crooks.
I wrote about US-VISIT in 2004, and back then I said that it was too expensive and a bad trade-off. The price tag for "the next phase" was $15B; I'm sure the total cost is much higher.

But take that $15B number. One thousand bad guys, most of them not very bad, caught through US-VISIT. That's $15M per bad guy caught.

Surely there's a more cost-effective way to catch bad guys?

Link

Law firm fires clerk for personal opposition to DRM

Fred sez, "Last week, Free Culture @ NYU's president, Inga Chernyak was fired from her legal clerk job at an intellectual property law firm in midtown New York. The reason? Her opinions on DRM differed from those of her employer's. During her final meeting with HR at the firm, Inga was read the recent Village Voice article which featured an interview with her about her DRM activism and Free Culture @ NYU. Though she was reassured her rights to her opinions and to free speech, she was told she could no longer work at the firm because her views were incompatbile with what the firm did. Read on for the full story, and wonder if there really is free speech about DRM."
As an active member of FreeCulture.org, and the president of the NYU chapter, I feel both obligated and prepared to stand behind the organization’s stance on where copyright is headed, and where it should be. I can not, in good conscience, renounce my beliefs in the hopes of gaining a rung on the corporate ladder.
Link (Thanks, Fred!)

Speakers' bureau for science fiction

Thomas sez, "The new Speculation Speakers website is maintained by AboutSF, which is a joint venture of SFWA, SFRA, Tor Books (see below), and several other donors. SF experts can post and maintain their own online speaker profiles in an easily searchable database. The aim is to help schools, libraries, businesses, and other folks who might want to hear about SF find experts who are willing to tell them about it." Link (Thanks, Thomas!)

Update: Tor Books's Patrick Nielsen Hayden sez, "We're donors; we're not joint-venturers."

Kerouac curator invents copyright laws to keep photographers away

The scroll of paper on which Jack Kerouac wrote the original draft of his magnificent novel On The Road is on tour, but the person running the tour has prohibited photography of this important document, citing copyright.

Thomas Hawk has written a great open letter to Myra Borshoff Cook, Tour Organizer for the book in which he spells out why her excuses for restricting the liberty of people who shoot the manuscript are bogus.

It's possible that shooting this with a flash might have long-term negative effects (though we're not talking about the Constitution here, and besides, it's under glass, so you won't get anything but glare if you use your flash), but that's a reason to ban flashes, not photography. The manuscript is a palimpsest of Kerouac's thought processes and revisions and it photographs beautifully.

Ms. Borshoff Cook, you have been entrusted with running a tour of one of the great pieces of literature of the written English language. Even more significantly *how* it is written is of great historical import. This document deserves to be shared beyond the confines of a small room in a basement of the San Francisco library. This document deserves to be shared with everyone online. They deserve to see the time worn type and corrections that Jack made to his document to get a sense of the historical uniqueness of it. Rather than allow the public an opportunity to share in this experience, you position weak copyright objections which don't hold up. Are not most books and documents in the San Francisco Public library copyrighted? In fact is not their own copy of the book "On the Road" back in their shelves copyrighted? And yet I see no sign there prohibiting me from taking photos of the actual book, or any other book in the San Francisco Public Library.
If I were in San Francisco, I'd follow Thomas's example and shoot the scroll -- maybe put it up on Flickr under a tag like "ontheroadscroll". Link (Thanks, Thomas!)

Update: Michael's created a Flickr group for your Kerouac scroll piccies!

Attaboy's new book of postcards

 Yumfactorystuff Brinepage
Attaboy is the co-founder and editor of Hi-Fructose, the excellent new magazine about candy, toys, and monsters. He also creates his own incredibly-inspired and beautiful illustrations. Last Gasp has just published a book of 32 postcards by Attaboy titled Floating Submerged. I can't wait to get my copy! From the Last Gasp description of the book:
Thirty-two full-color, removable, oversized postcards, perforated for your pleasure. Attaboy's maniacal undersea creatures and otherworldly vermin are together here for the first time. This postcard set features fans' favorite images seen the world over, along with characters from Atta's Vinyl Toy and Plush line, including the Axtrx and Gooberry! A great gift to send anyone for their next goo-filled visual vacation.

A renegade toy designer whose goo-filled images glow with an eerie, distrubed, childlike sensibility, Attaboy has emerged as a one of the many leading talents in a toy and design movement that might be called "Creaturism." His images appear in galleries, magazines, comics, strange candy devices, calendars, and toys all over. His T-shirts are sold in Japan, his art has appeared in numerous galleries, and his candy-coated stickers and eyesore-causing books are sought after by young and bold. Enter the toof-decayed and festering Yumfactory of Attaboy!
Link (via Laughing Squid)

Engineering dream jobs

The current issue of IEEE Spectrum includes their excellent Dream Jobs 2006 Special Report. Included in their list of ten technologists with "dream jobs" are Martin Cooper, who restores works of art using lasers, Mythbuster Grant Imahara, Disney Imagineer Manni Wong, and fountain designer Anthony Eckersall. From the profile of Eckersall:
When Eckersall started at Wet Design, he was asked to double the height of the Bellagio's water spray to its current 160 meters–"high enough," he says, "that the Federal Aviation Administration has complained that it shows up on radar." The shooters he helped design can propel water so powerfully that it disappears into a vapor. The new design also greatly improves control of the sprays. Today, the oarsmen can direct water to nearly one-thousandth of a degree. That lets the show designers pick the precise point at which two streams touch during the show.

Surprisingly, Eckersall says, one of the biggest challenges with the Bellagio fountain is maintaining the seemingly mundane housekeeping computer. It controls, among other things, the pond's filters, which catch everything, "from coins to nappies," he says.
Link

Perplex city

200601311705 Guy says: "Perplex City is a cross between collectible-card game and Alternate Reality Game. It's centered around a stolen artefact, and there's a $200,000 reward for whoever can find it. The cards themselves are rather beautiful and feature a diverse range of mind-bending puzzles, while Anton Bogaty (who you just featured) does much of the artwork for the game. I think it's primarily worth mentioning because it's the first self-supporting ARG, as opposed to marketing something else (or being made on a lo-to-no budget basis.)

"Also, Boing Boing itself is on one of the cards!

"There are also some live events coming up in New York and London, making it especially news-worthy right now - anyone can participate, as they aren't especially about PXC, just friendly puzzlin' competitions. Although the London event is closed to sign-ups, after 600 people applied..."
Link (Here is Guy's quick-start guide to the game.)

The art of Anton Bogaty

Picture 1 Nobody wields color markers as skillfully as Anton Bogaty. I've long admired his drawings and just learned that he has a sketchbook for sale. I just ordered mine. It costs $12 + $2 shipping and is limited to 100 copies.
Link

Rudy Rucker signing at San Francisco's Booksmith Feb 21

Rudy Rucker, one of my favorite science fiction authors, is signing his books at the Booksmith, one of my favorite San Francisco bookstores, on February 21st. The Booksmith writes:
In the 21st century, we no longer think of reality as particles and force fields. Instead, scientists and philosophers view the world as a sea of computation. "The Lifebox, the Seashell, and the Soul," by Rudy Rucker, explains and expands upon this new way to understand nature, society and the mind. In other words, its about what gnarly computation taught the author about ultimate reality, the meaning of life, and how to be happy.

Rudy Rucker is a mathematician, novelist, software engineer, BoingBoing contributor, and former professor of computer science at San Jose State University. He is well known for his popular books about science, as well as his thirteen novels. He is considered one of the core cyberpunk authors, and is the two time winner of the Philip K. Dick Award. For more info, see www.rudyrucker.com

Tuesday, February 21st at 7 pm, Booksmith (1644 Haight Street in San Francisco, between Clayton & Cole), 415-863-8688. Link (Thanks, Booksmith!)

EFF suing AT&T for helping NSA illegally spy on Americans

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is suing AT&T for rolling over and helping the National Security Agency execute illegal warrantless wiretaps against American citizens:
AT&T Corp. (which was recently acquired by the new AT&T, Inc,. formerly known as SBC Communications) maintains domestic telecommunications facilities over which millions of Americans' telephone and Internet communications pass every day. It also manages some of the largest databases in the world, containing records of most or all communications made through its myriad telecommunications services.

The lawsuits alleges that AT&T Corp. has opened its key telecommunications facilities and databases to direct access by the NSA and/or other government agencies, thereby disclosing to the government the contents of its customers' communications as well as detailed communications records about millions of its customers, including the lawsuit's class members.

The lawsuit also alleges that AT&T has given the government unfettered access to its over 300 terabyte "Daytona" database of caller information -- one of the largest databases in the world. Moreover, by opening its network and databases to wholesale surveillance by the NSA, EFF alleges that AT&T has violated the privacy of its customers and the people they call and email, as well as broken longstanding communications privacy laws.

The lawsuit also alleges that AT&T continues to assist the government in its secret surveillance of millions of Americans. EFF, on behalf of a nationwide class of AT&T customers, is suing to stop this illegal conduct and hold AT&T responsible for its illegal collaboration in the government's domestic spying program, which has violated the law and damaged the fundamental freedoms of the American public.

Link (Thanks, Jason!)

Make spaceships from aspirin bottles and toilet Items

200601311331 On the Make Blog, Phil Torrone, linked to a great how-to on "scratchbuilding" your own sci-fi props from household objects.
Link

The Daily Monkey

200601311232
It's all monkeys, all the time at Brian Biggs' Daily Monkey weblog. Brian is a talented illustrator who takes time away from his critically important drawing work to post a new monkey related photograph and quotation each day. For this, I am thankful.
"I'm shooting a special for MTV and they told me all I had to do was push my lips out a little and the monkey would give me a peck, but instead she rammed her tongue inside my mouth and swept it all around in a circle.

She touched every inch in there! It was the most disgusting thing ever!"

– Jessica Alba


Link

Burning Man photos from 1998 on

Neil Guy, a talented photographer, has been taking pictures at Burning Man since 1998 -- he's collected them in a site called BurningCam. There's some really nice work here, and the year-by-year archives are strikingly different and similar at once. Link

Your Senator needs an iPod!

Ren sez, "Remember how Ted Stevens, the 82 year-old Senator from Alaska, morphed into an advocate for the public's fair use rights after his daughter bought him an iPod? We think that's awesome, and we want to spread the love. That's why IPac launched the Congressional iPod Education Fund, where we're collecting money for iPods, stuffing them with public domain and Creative Commons-licensed content, engraving them with 'Listen to the People,' and shipping them to the campaigns of Senators who work on tech and copyright policy. Check it out!" Link (Thanks, Ren!)

99-word essay explains Fair Use

Norm sez, "I am in the midst of a 'haiku essay' project: each essay is exactly 99 words long, plus one for the title. With the Sony Rootkit, ubiquitous DRM and plugging the analog hole on everyone's minds, I took this opportunity to make the fair use case in 99 words."
I love music, movies, and books. I also love technology. I want to use technology to deliver the media I love anywhere, anywhen, with anyone.

This is fair use: I bought it, let me use it. I will tell all my friends about my favorite music. I might play it for them or even give them a digital version of a song. This is evangelism, not theft. This is advertising you cannot buy.

Restrictive copyright is like a vegetarian knife. You bought the knife, but if you cut meat with it, we'll sue you. Excuse me? Let's think again.

Link (Thanks, Norm!)

Law and Order Valentines

Brandon Bird has created an hilarious set of 10 Law and Order themed Valentines, and he'll sell 'em to you. Link (Thanks, Andy!)

Update: Lyle sez, "He's no longer taking orders."

Prosecutor demos BDSM session

Yesterday, dominatrix Barbara Asher, AKA Mistress Lauren M, was acquitted of manslaughter. You may remember that she was accused of letting a submissive who suffered a heart attack die on the rack. Her boyfriend chopped up the body and dumped it behind a restaurant in Maine. I love this Associated Press photo taken during the prosecutor's closing argument. As my pal Carlo Longino said, "If the gimp mask don't fit, you must acquit." From the AP:
 Cnn 2006 Law 01 30 Dominatrix.Acquitted.Ap Vert.Prosecutor.Ap During his closing argument to the jury, prosecutor Robert Nelson put on a black leather mask with a zippered mouth opening and re-enacted the bondage session.

With both hands, he reached back and clutched the top of a blackboard as if strapped to the rack. Then he hung his head as if dead.

Asher's lawyer objected, and the judge agreed.

"That's enough Mr. Nelson," Judge Charles Grabau said. "Thank you for your demonstration."
Link

MN vampire gubernatorial candidate "The Impaler" arrested

Satan, say it ain't so!
A candidate for governor whose platform includes public impalement of terrorists found himself behind bars today on a pair of outstanding arrest warrants.... ...launched his campaign last month. His platform includes an emphasis on education, tax breaks for farmers and better benefits for veterans, but he also said he favored impaling certain wrongdoers in front of the State Capitol.
Link

Previously:
Satanist runs for governor in Minnesota
Wife of MN Satanic gubernatorial candidate fired for being witch

Table of newspaper mentions of of "fair use" and 'copyright" since 1993

Siva sez, "I did a search of Lexis/Nexis among major US newspapers to find the frequency of stories containing 'copyright' and 'fair use.' 'Fair use' is a good proxy for stories that describe an actual conflict or lawsuit. Also, because few of the thousands of stories about p2p file sharing (Napster, Kazaa, Grokster, etc.) discussed fair use, I was able to get a picture of the frequency of stories that did relatively sophisticated stories on copyright battles."
1992: 19     1999: 16
1993: 32     2000: 93
1994: 33     2001: 92
1995: 28     2002: 80
1996: 44     2003: 82
1997: 34     2004: 57
1998: 66     2005: 113
"In 1998 the DMCA was in the papers, although the coverage was horrifying and shallow. In 2000 copyright issues broke out everywhere and more newspapers assigned the "copyright beat" to business or technology reporters in the wake of Napster. The following years echo that new sense of curiosity. In 2005, beats me. I have no idea why 2005 should be such a high year. Perhaps Google Library." Link (Thanks, Siva!)

Update: David sez, "Several weeks ago I did something similar to get a rough measure of whether IP and commons based peer production have moved closer to the center of public consciousness. I searched for variations on 'open source software,' 'copyright,' 'patents,' and 'innovation' in the NYT, and in Wall Street Journal abstracts. At first glance it looks like there is a slight upward trend in IP-related terms, but not a very dramatic one. 'Open source software' is of course through the roof. I did these counts quickly, and a serious analysis would of course have to adjust for things like total number of articles published annually. You can take a look at the xls spreadsheet and a few Mickey Mouse regression graphs.

Where Thailand's hybrid truck/canoes came from


Thailand's distinctive longtail boats, which are made by mounting diesel truck engines on the backs of large canoes, are the result of a historical quirk in the way that Britain regulated motor vehicles.

I posted a link to James Gosling's photos and description of longtails a couple days ago, and Alexander wrote in with this fascinating tale of their origin:

It's not well known that those boats originate from a change in the British government's motor vehicle Construction and Use Regulations in the late 1960s. What with the new motorway construction programme well under way, the (largely old) truck fleet had begun to get in the way. So the then Ministry of Transport introduced a minimum power-to-weight ratio.

This meant that a ton of trucks with Gardner LX 105hp (mostly) or Perkins P4 engines suddenly became obsolete. Exporting second-hand trucks to places that would accept them (essentially, the third world) was not great business, so they were either scrapped or retrofitted with more wallop. Hence a mass of very reliable, very user-serviceable diesel engines going begging.

Some sly fox saw a chance, and went round the country buying the engines and shipping them to Hong Kong and Singapore for sale to chandlers. As the engine arrived complete with the reverse box and the end of a propshaft, they just put in a length of shaft and a prop. Local boat builders came up with the rest and a new, unmistakable craft was born.

They still have (even brand-new ones with much later power units, radar and GPS) the traditional eyes on each side of the bow, a custom recorded everywhere from the Mediterranean to Japan and back into pre-classical antiquity.

Link (Thanks, Alexander!)

One-quarter of LA's air pollution: made in China

Snip from NYT story:
China is already the world's second-biggest producer of greenhouse gas emissions and is expected to surpass the United States as the biggest. Roughly a third of China is exposed to acid rain. A recent study by a Chinese research institute found that 400,000 people die prematurely every year in China from diseases linked to air pollution.

Nor does China's air pollution respect borders: on certain days almost 25 percent of the particulate matter clotting the skies above Los Angeles can be traced to China, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency. Environmental experts in California predict that China could eventually account for roughly a third of the state's air pollution.

Link (Thanks, John Parres!)

RFIDs: some faithful object because chips *are* mark of beast

The US State Department has said that RFID-chipped passports will not be issued to travelers "until privacy-related concerns have been addressed." Initial public feedback was overwhelmingly negative, and much of it was posted in entirety on the State Department's website -- including name, email address, and phone number of objectors who submitted comments by snail mail or email. Boing Boing reader Aaron Peterson says, "Way to go, thanks for addressing our privacy concerns by posting the personal information of everyone that had feedback on the subject!"

But buried within those many citizen comments is this gem:

No mark of the beast for me you Luciferian beehivers. You can take all those RFID chips wrapped like a burrito in the HR 4(6+6+6) national id bill and stick it up yor own arse!

Jesus is the way, not the antichrist of the beast system. Read God's words in the Book of Revelation lest your soul is burned in hell. The great test is upon us all...

Link to more "Luciferian beehiver butt burrito" research on Aaron's blog, and here's the awesome anti-RFID comment on state.gov.

Reader comment: ADM says,

There has been an established link between the anti-RFID movement and fundamentalist Christians for quite a while now. One of the leading opponents of RFID as a mean of identifying individuals is Christian media publisher Thomas Nelson, who this month released The Spychip Threat: Why Christians Should Oppose RFID Technology and Surveillance. This book follows up on Nelson's earlier Spychips release. This was mentioned in Wired a while back: Link.

CD DRM software players are amateurish and easy to trick

When an audio CD infects your computer with anti-copying software, it installs its own player. This player is intended to allow minimal, listen-only use of your CDs, while locking you out of copying those tracks to an unauthorized portable device, your laptop, or your next computer. However, these players fail miserably, because they are amateurishly implemented and can be defeated by minimally skilled attackers.

Princeton's Ed Felten and Alex Halderman have published the final installment in a brilliant series of excerpts from a paper-in-progress on lessons learned from the Sony DRM disaster, in which the company incurred millions in legal liability for deliberately infecting its customers' computers with anti-copying software that left them vulnerable to worms and viruses, destabilized their computers, and spied on their actions.

In today's installment, Ed and Alex talk about attacks on the custom players installed by the DRM on Sony's crippled CDs. These players were meant to impose restrictions on users, but they made many common beginners' security mistakes, leaving them vulnerable to simple attacks that could disable their restrictive behavior.

It is well known that DRM systems like this are vulnerable to rollback attacks. In a rollback attack, the state of the machine is backed up before performing the limited operation (in this case, burning the copy). When the operation is complete, the old system state is restored, and the DRM software is not able to determine that the operation has occurred. This kind of attack is easy to perform with virtual machine software like VMWare, which allows the entire state of the system to be saved or restored in a few clicks. The XCP and MediaMax both fail under this attack, which allows unlimited copies to be burned with their players.
Link

Previous installments of the Sony DRM Debacle Roundup: Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V

(Sony taproot graphic courtesy of Sevensheaven)

StarForce threatens to sue me for criticizing its products

A company that was criticized on Boing Boing has threatened to sue me, and claims to have sworn out a complaint against me with the FBI.

Yesterday, I posted about StarForce, a harmful technology used by game companies to restrict their customers' freedom. StarForce attempts to stop game customers from copying their property, but it has the side-effects of destabilizing and crashing the computers on which it is installed.

Someone identifying himself as "Dennis Zhidkov, PR-manager, StarForce Inc." contacted me this morning and threatened to sue me, and told me that he had contacted the FBI to complain about my "harassment."

If you're looking for reasons to boycott StarForce-crippled games (besides the obvious ones), you might add their use of bullying legal threats to your list.

From: "Dennis Zhidkov" <denis.zhidkov@star-force.com>
Date: January 31, 2006 9:55:40 AM BST
To: "doctorow@craphound.com" <doctorow@craphound.com>
Subject: StarForce Response to Cory Doctorow

StarForce Inc. response to Mr. Cory Doctorow  

Dear Sir, calling StarForce "Anti-copying malware" is a good enough cause to press charges and that is what our corporate lawyer is busy doing right now. I urge you to remove your post from http://www.boingboing.net/2006/01/30/anticopying_malware_.html because it is full of insults, lies, false accusations and rumors. Your article violates approximately 11 international laws. Our USlawyer will contact you shortly. I have also contacted the FBI , because what you are doing is harassment.

Sincerely,
Dennis Zhidkov
PR-manager
StarForce Inc.
www.star-force.com

Here's my reply: "Thank you for your response. I have appended it to my original post and have forwarded it to the Chilling Effects project to be part of the permanent record of abusive attempts by companies to silence their critics." Link

Update: Looks like this isn't the first time Mr Zhidkov has sent legal threats to critics of this company -- check out this email he sent CNet, which opens "Dear Sir, calling StarForce 'nefarious Rootkit/Virus' is a good enough cause to press charges. How do you like that for a start?" (Thanks, Alexander!)

Update 2: Fiona sez, "I just contacted a friend who works in the testing department of the UK branch of the worlds largest games publisher, and they hadn't heard of it! I now think they have the (very healthy, by all accounts) fear of god about what this thing could do to peoples systems. They're testing a third-party game that uses it, and have found the drivers on their test box. They're not happy about having it on an open test system,"

Update 3: Avi sez, "Their business seems to depend on people not knowing how much they suck. For example, I was on a private beta list for a new game I won't mention by name due to NDA -- but the game authors agreed to drop StarForce after an outcry from the community. You don't often hear the stories about game developers dropping StarForce in favor of their customer."

Gaming dice made from mammoth ivory, meteorites and gems

CrystalCaste sells polyhedral gaming dice (like those used in Dungeons and Dragons) made of extraordinary materials, from semi-precious gems to meteorites and mammoth ivory. Shown here is a set of hematite dice from a customer's collection. Link to gemstone dice, Link to meteorite dice (via Wonderland)

Chinese buy adult diapers for crowded post-New Years trains

A scarcity of train-seats following on from New Years family reunions in China has driven sales of adult incontinence diapers. Trains after New Years festivals are often so packed that passengers even crowd into the toilets, making it impossible to relieve oneself on the long journey.
Many supermarkets in Foshan, a city in South China's Guangdong Province, have reported an increase in sales of about 50 per cent...

...This often makes it almost impossible for passengers to pass through and reach the toilets and they are forced to go without relieving themselves for the whole journey.

"In this period, a common train has to transit 2,000 passengers, with only around 1,000 seating tickets," Zhang Dazhi, an officer of Guangzhou Railway Group, said.

Link (via Monochrom)

Steven Colbert interview in The Onion

The Onion has a great interview with Steven Colbert in the current issue. Colbert got his start as a sidekick on Jon Stewart's Daily Show, and recently struck out on his own with The Colbert Report, a screamingly funny news-satire show that does an amazing job of lampooning traditional suck-up reportage. In the interview, Colbert talks about the philosophy of the show, how he became interested, and his favorite work with The Daily Show:
Because authoritarian means there's only one authority, and that authority has got to be the President, has got to be the government, and has got to be his allies. What the right-wing in the United States tries to do is undermine the press. They call the press "liberal," they call the press "biased," not necessarily because it is or because they have problems with the facts of the left--or even because of the bias for the left, because it's hard not to be biased in some way, everyone is always going to enter their editorial opinion--but because a press that has validity is a press that has authority. And as soon as there's any authority to what the press says, you question the authority of the government--it's like the existence of another authority. So that's another part of truthiness. Truthiness is "What I say is right, and [nothing] anyone else says could possibly be true." It's not only that I feel it to be true, but that I feel it to be true. There's not only an emotional quality, but there's a selfish quality.
Link (Thanks, Robogeek!)

Update: August from Campus Progress points us to "an earlier interview with Colbert from July 2005, right before the main work on The Colbert Report started. Colbert spoke with Campus Progress about mocking our nation’s foibles, meeting Bill Clinton, and making everything stupider."

Flying windmills -- power from the sky

A Worldchanging post rounds up three different airborne power-generation systems -- a flying windmill, a windmill-equipped zeppelin, and a kite-based windmill.
According to their figures, one flying windmill rated at 240kW with rotor diameters of 35 feet could generate power for less than two cents per kilowatt hour--that would make them the cheapest power source in the world. For greater power needs, several units would be operated in the same location--Sky Windpower says that an installation "rated at 2.81 megawatts flying at a typical U.S. site with an eighty percent capacity factor projects a life cycle cost per kilowatt hour at 1.4 cents." And they would have far better uptime than most windmills--since the jetstream never quits, they should operate at peak capacity 70-90% of the time. Output would also be less dependent on location than it is on the ground, simply because terrain doesn't matter much when you're at 35,000ft; however, since the jetstream and other "geostrophic" winds don't blow much at latitudes near the equator, it would be useful primarily for middle- and higher-latitudes.
Link

Dance Dance Revolution remix teaches fundamentals of genetics

Matt Haughey visited San Diego's Scripps aquarium and documented their remix of the popular video/dance game Dance Dance Revolution:
In a wing devoted to explaining gene expression they had some stuff about DNA and the coolest thing was this video game that taught you about building blocks of life, then proceeded to a real DDR game where you have to step to the DNA parts being shown on screen.

The best part was when one of the 20 amino acids were built, it would say the name. So you'd see A T T G C and so on... and then it would shout "Cysteine!"

Link (via A Whole Lotta Nothing)

MSFT: Our DRM licensing is there to eliminate hobbyists and little guys

A Microsoft spokesman has described their DRM licensing scheme as a system for reducing the number of device vendors to a manageable number, so that the company doesn't have to oversee too many developers.

Yesterday, I spoke at a DRM conference in London. Just before me was the opening keynote, from Microsoft's Amir Majidimehr, Corporate VP of the Windows Digital Media Division, which oversees licensing and deployment of Microsoft's DRM.

Amir's presentation kept referring to Microsoft DRM as "open," which was curious, because it's actually the opposite of open. An open platform is something like an electrical outlet: if you want to design something to plug into an electrical outlet, you can -- you might have to satisfy a regulator that it won't burst into flames, but you certainly don't need to talk to General Electric or any other potential competitor.

Microsoft's DRM requires that device makers pay Microsoft a license fee for each device that plays back video encoded with its system. it also requires every such vendor to submit to a standardized, non-negotiable license agreement that spells out how the player must be implemented. This contract contains numerous items that limit the sort of business you're allowed to pursue, notably that you may not implement a Microsoft player in open source software.

The bombshell was Amir's explanation of the reason that his employer charges fees to license its DRM. According to Amir, the fee is not intended to recoup the expenses Microsoft incurred in developing their DRM, or to turn a profit. The intention is to reduce the number of licensors to a manageable level, to lock out "hobbyists" and other entities that Microsoft doesn't want to have to trouble itself with.

I was pretty surprised to hear an executive from Microsoft describe his company's strategy as intentionally anti-competitive and intended solely to freeze out certain classes of operators rather than maximizing its profits through producing a better product and charging a fair price for it.

Isn't that why the Justice Department and the EU went after Redmond in the first place? Link