Boing Boing 

Hacked passport crashes readers

A hacker has demonstrated an exploit against the RFID tags in the new US passports that allows him to clone a passport and modify the RFID with bad code that will crash the passport readers.
Lukas Grunwald, an RFID expert who has served as an e-passport consultant to the German parliament, says the security flaws allow someone to seize and clone the fingerprint image stored on the biometric e-passport, and to create a specially coded chip that attacks e-passport readers that attempt to scan it.

Grunwald says he's succeeded in sabotaging two passport readers made by different vendors by cloning a passport chip, then modifying the JPEG2000 image file containing the passport photo. Reading the modified image crashed the readers, which suggests they could be vulnerable to a code-injection exploit that might, for example, reprogram a reader to approve expired or forged passports.

"If you're able to crash something you are most likely able to exploit it," says Grunwald, who's scheduled to discuss the vulnerabilities this weekend at the annual DefCon hacker conference in Las Vegas.


Yet another Hollywood-created viral video site: MyDamnChannel

Ex-MTV and CBS Radio exec Rob Barnett created MyDamnChannel because he believes online audiences "want to see professionally produced shows other than network TV fare." Tell that to the cat poop auteurs and all those pugs on skateboards. Harry Shearer, David Wain, and Don Was are among the creative participants mentioned. Link to AP item, here's the company's press release. Laguna Beach-based Okapi Venture Capital is listed as a backer.

Ashton Kutcher's doing some kinda ARG thing?

I don't grok it yet, but it looks like Ashton Kutcher is doing some kind of alternate reality game. Perhaps he just loves bees. Here are some relevant urls: Link to, and video link. In related news: A VOIP startup just launched with Mr. Kutcher as celebrity endorser, presume this is unrelated to the ARG (or whatever that is): Link to

Johnny Ryan's Nick Magazine gags

Ryannick Turns out that Johnny Ryan -- creator of the amazingly absurd and fantastically offensive Angry Youth Comix that tosses political correctness right into a filthy toilet -- is also a contributor to Nickelodeon's Nick Magazine for kids. Nick is now uploading every one of Ryan's gag cartoons that appeared in the magazine. Belly laffs for the whole family!
Link (via Fantagraphics Flog!)

UPDATE: Brian Heater says, "Over at my indie comics blog, The Daily Cross Hatch, we put up the first part of an interview with Chris Duffy, the comics editor of Nickelodeon Magazine. The first part is mostly a bit of a tirade against DC, but in subsequent pieces, we discuss why someone in their right mind would pick people like Ryan, Kaz, and Ivan Brunetti to populate a kids’ magazine." Link

Weather station mistaken for bomb

A bomb-squad recently blew up a "suspicious looking box" mounted to a tree near the Lewis-Gale Medical Center in Roanoke, Virgina. Turned out that the "bomb" was actually an amateur weather station placed there by an employee of the Center. From the Roanoke Times:
An employee had placed a putty-like substance around the box to make it weather proof.

The investigation is concluded and no criminal charges will be filed.
Link (Thanks, Paul Saffo!)

Body of artist Jeremy Blake found

A body washed up on the shores of New Jersey has been identified as that of missing digital artist Jeremy Blake, presumed to have committed suicide after his companion Theresa Duncan took her life in the couple's New York City apartment. Link.

Previously on BoingBoing:

  • Artist Jeremy Blake missing, and his girlfriend has committed suicide
  • Update on Jeremy Blake, Theresa Duncan: body found + CoS claims
  • Drunk Astronaut Hall of Fame: Tintin's Capt. Haddock did it first.

    BoingBoing reader Ehsan writes in with a correction to this previous BoingBoing post:

    You guys made a mistake about naming Homer Simpson a pioneer of "drunk astronauts". Captain Haddock of the Tin Tin series was drunk and flying in space in 1954. Give him some credit! This link is to a scan of page 5 of the TinTin book "Explorers on the Moon" (1976), showing Haddock calling his flying whisky bubble back into his glass.


  • Are you a drunk astronaut?
  • Beer in space
  • Homer Simpson, Drunk Astronaut Pioneer

    Reader comment: Julian Bond says,

    Destination Moon was first published 1950-53. Well before 1976. So even more amazingly prescient. I suspect if you go back to Jules Verne and From the Earth to the Moon the protagonists took a fine sherry or perhaps some claret with them, but I guess that's not quite the same!
  • FCC wireless auction ruling: mixed bag for open access advocates

    A decision from The Federal Communications Commission today is seen as a partial win for Google and other entities that favor greater competition in the wireless voice and data market. Snip from NYT story:
    The agency voted to approve rules for an auction of broadcast spectrum that the F.C.C. chairman, Kevin J. Martin, had said would promote new consumer services. The F.C.C. rules will allow customers to use whatever phone and software they want on networks using about one-third of the spectrum to be auctioned.

    The F.C.C. did not approve a provision that would have required the winner of the auction to sell access to its network on a wholesale basis to other companies.

    In recent weeks Google and other technology interests pressed the commission to create an open-access wireless network – in contrast to today’s closed cellular networks – and to allow owners of the spectrum to sell portions of it wholesale to other companies. That would loosen the carriers’ grip on service offerings and might also open the door to new entrants like Google.

    In the model proposed by Google and new entrants to the market, consumers would be able to buy a wireless phone at a store, but instead of being forced to use a specific carrier, they would be free to pick any carrier. Moreover, instead of wireless carriers’ choosing what software goes on their phones, users would be free to put any software they want on them.

    Link to NYT story.

    "What this means is we won't likely have new companies enter the wireless market -- we'll be stuck with AT&T and Verizon," writes Farhad Manjoo of His blog post about the ruling is here.

    More analysis around the web: Ars Technica, Google's Public Policy Blog, Glenn Fleishman, O'Reilly Emerging Telephony, Public Knowledge.

    Previously on BoingBoing:

  • FCC to rule on wireless auction Tuesday; Google and telcos at odds
  • Rule the Web podcast canceled for today

    The Rule the Web live podcast for today is canceled. I'm going to try to do it next Wednesday. Stay tuned!

    James Fallows at electronics market in ShenZhen

    Picture 14-2 James Fallows narrates an Atlantic slideshow with photos from his trip to China, including a visit to a 7-story tall electronics bazaar with "thousands of little tiny vendors" selling every electronic gadget and component you could ever want. Link

    Odd fetish toy: Pussy Foot

    This the only SFW image of a fetish toy called the Pussy Foot. The photos on the site are not safe for work.
    Picture 12-3 Pussy Foot is the ultimate fantasy sex toy for foot fetishists. This size 6, 100% silicone foot is cast in pure silicone from a real life actual, beautiful female foot. In the sole of this lovely foot is a fully functional and totally f***-able silicone vagina.

    A surreal and supremely inane compendium of miscellaneous knowledge, Vol 6

    Picture 7-9 Everybody loves peanuts etched with business card information (except people allergic to nuts) (Via Candy Addict)
    Picture 8-11 Video -- MIT's undulating Hyposurface.
    Picture 9-8 Snarky comments about disgusting-looking retro food and fashion. (Thanks, Charlie!)
    200707311345 Meth-heads are stealing copper wire from California irrigations systems.
    Picture 10-6 Hilarious and weird video of Adult Treasure expo in Japan (NSFW)
    Picture 11-4 "Protest technology" - White noise projector

    Guns on robots

    The late underground cartoonist Vaughn Bode, who created a comic book universe about war-fighting machines, would have been interested in this military robot that's armed with a rifle and has been deployed in Iraq.
    200707311321SWORDS is designed to take on “high risk combat missions,” according to an Army statement. A specialist controlling the robot could send it into a potentially dangerous situation, such as a narrow street infested with snipers, seek targets and take them out before a foot patrol follows.
    Maybe the enemy could also use robots like this and we could just let the robots fight the war on our behalves. Link (Thanks, Ivan!)

    Reader comment:

    Pete says:

    Sounds fine to long as it doesn't wind up being like that Star Trek episode in which the wars were simulated in computers, and then the projected casualties were enforced on real people.
    Ivan says:
    I don't have any web link to corroborate the story, but you might find it amusing anyway.

    In response to robots like the Talon and PackBot used to disarm road-side bombs, insurgents decided robotics couldn't be that hard. They strapped an artillery-shell bomb to a cart, and powered it with parts from a window-mounted air-conditioner. They aimed it at a bomb-disposal team, let it go, and without any navigation or sensing it promptly crashed into a ditch. As everyone at iRobot knows, making robots is hard!

    Cory W says:
    According to the Washington Post, Soldiers tend to get very attached to their robots.
    Sean says:
    Interesting and slightly creepy that SWORD was the name of the *fictional* autonomous weapon system that runs amok (in classic robot-rebellion fashion) in the Peter Weller movie "Screamers," based on Phillip Dick's "Second Variety." Life imitates art in a particularly ominous way.

    Beer in space

    Spurred by the recent news about drunk astronauts, New Scientist has a "short but frothy history" of alcohol in space. Along with mentions of Buzz Aldrin's taking of communion on the moon and cosmonauts hitting the sauce aboard Mir, the article looks at beer brewing, serving, drinking, and burping in space. From New Scientist:
    Graduate student Kirsten Sterrett at the University of Colorado in the US wrote a thesis on fermentation in space, with support from US beer behemoth Coors. She sent a miniature brewing kit into orbit aboard a space shuttle several years ago and produced a few sips of beer. She later sampled the space brew, but because of chemicals in and near it from her analysis, it didn't taste great by the time she tried it...

    Unfortunately for thirsty astronauts, beer is poorly suited to space consumption because of the gas it includes. Without gravity to draw liquids to the bottoms of their stomachs, leaving gases at the top, astronauts tend to produce wet burps.

    "That's one of the reasons why we don't have carbonated beverages on the space menu," NASA spokesperson William Jeffs told New Scientist.

    Previously on BB:
    • Are you a drunk astronaut? Link

    Rule the Web show: Richard Giles, CANCELED

     Static Avatars R Richard My guest on today's live call-in Rule the Web show (using the awesome BlogTalkRadio system) is Richard Giles, co-founder of Scouta, the online content recommendation system.

    To listen to the show, visit BlogTalkRadio at 4pm Pacific Time today a time and date to be announced. If you want to ask Richard or me a question during the show, call us at (646) 915-8698. Link

    Add to iTunes

    NY Public Library giving away free public domain books-on-demand

    The New York Public Library has just installed an Espresso book-on-demand machine and they'll print any of over 200,000 public domain titles from the Open Content Alliance free of charge for any patron.

    Library users will have the opportunity to print free copies of such public domain classics as “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” by Mark Twain, “Moby Dick” by Herman Melville, “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens and “Songs of Innocence” by William Blake, as well as appropriately themed in-copyright titles as Chris Anderson’s “The Long Tail” and Jason Epstein’s own “Book Business.” The public domain titles were provided by the Open Content Alliance (“OCA”), a non-profit organization with a database of over 200,000 titles. The OCA and ODB are working closely to offer this digital content free of charge to libraries across the country. Both organizations have received partial funding from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

    The EBM, now available for sale to libraries and retailers, can potentially allow readers anywhere to obtain within minutes, almost any book title in any language, whether or not the book is in print. The EBM’s proprietary software transmits a digital file to the book machine, which automatically prints, binds, and trims the reader’s selection within minutes as a single, library-quality, paperback book, indistinguishable from the factory-made title.

    Link (Thanks, WingManX!)

    Update: Gayle Snible from the NYPL sez, "The Espresso machine at the Library is printing 20 (only one 0!) for this trial run. The 200,000 is the high range that an Espresso machine would print...somewhere else."

    EFF privacy attorney gets pranked by interns and LOLCats

    When Electronic Frontier Foundation privacy lawyer Kevin Bankston announced that he was locking his office door to "prevent pranks" by this summer's crop of interns, the interns took it as a personal challenge. They figured out how to get into his office (they had the universal key!), took some pix, and then made a snappy little LOLCats animation commemorating the event. The LOLCats are especially ironic, given that Kevin's cat recently ran away from home, prompting a discussion of whether it's morally consistent for a privacy specialist to insert an RFID tag into his pets. Link (Thanks, Amy!)

    See also:
    EFF privacy attorney is a magnet for privacy invading street-searches
    Schroedinger's LOLCat
    Pedantic overanalysis of LOLcats not pedantic enough, says blowhard

    Archie becomes tool for the RIAA

    Abhishek says:

    Seems the RIAA has got to Archie too! The very first story in Archie #577 (September 2007) is a cautionary tale for kiddies called "Record Breaker" wherein all those leechers (and wannabe leecher kids) out there are taught that they're the ones responsible for driving their favorite artists into penury and worse perhaps.

    Seems no-one informed them about Prince's business model and how he's been doing a pretty good job of it, or is this story RIAA's response to the new avenues for revenue that Prince is trying to tap into - avenues, in fact, that don't involve suing and pissing off the hitherto loyal fans?

    Official story description can be found here.

    A page from the story where The Archies realise that file sharing has 'ruined' them [is shown above].

    All I can say is, I've never seen an organization so hell-bent on its own destruction and I doubt we ever will again. Of course, we *do* have Hollywood, Major League Baseball...

    (I'll bet it was this dirty rat what stole Archie's song). Link

    Previously on Boing Boing:
    Letters to Archie Club newsletter, circa 1979
    Creationist Archie comic
    Little Archie anthology due any day
    Scans of Spire Christian Comics

    William Gibson's Spook Country

    In his new novel Spook Country, William Gibson take science fiction to an amazing, unseen world: the recent past. Following on from his 2003 novel, Pattern Recognition, Spook Country tells the story of a cadre of spies, artists, and losers who collide in the roiling turmoil of twenty-first century, destabilized geopolitics.

    The cast of characters in this book is gigantic and deeply weird. There's Hollis Henry, a faded pop star who finds herself covering the "locative art scene" for a magazine that may or may not exist -- and that may or may not be associated with Hubertus Bigend, the powerful and lunatic branding exec from Pattern Recognition. Hollis injects the novel with introspection about fame, micro-fame, fleeting fame, and art.

    There's Tito, a kind of Cuban ninja, trained by the KGB and raised by a family of heroic spooks, now come to America and gone to ground. He is the excuse for a series of marvellous and meticulously researched spycraft sequences that have the technical fascination of the best technothrillers.

    There's Brown, a savage wet-work off-the-books American spook (who may or may not still work for the US government), and his hostage, a junkie translator who is cuffed and kicked into listening in on the Russo-Cuban connection. Brown acts as a kind of meditation on the nature of deep secrecy, the unknowable world of the black-ops spook who can never be sure who he's working for and whether he's gone off the reservation.

    Then there's the "locative art" kids, "VR" hackers who create 3D virtual sculptures that can only be seen while wearing goggles and standing in just the right place. These kids are Gibson's nod to his bastard child, "cyberspace," the word he coined in 1982, which has been pimped out by every dot-bomb con-man and gormless policy wonk in the world at this point.

    These characters inhabit the exciting, futuristic world of 2006. And it is a futuristic place, our recent past, a place so weird and light-speed that we don't even notice it. Not until a master storyteller and keen observer like William Gibson comes along to show us what we're all living in.

    Above all else, this is an exciting and vivid adventure novel, a book that you can't put down (I ended up sitting in a parking lot for an hour, unable to tear myself away from the last 70 pages). That is Gibson's special talent, the thing that makes him -- and science fiction -- such a powerful force for change in the world. Gibson has an agenda, a lot of keen observations, a philosophy, but they're wrapped up in a delightful coating of adventure and excitement.

    It's a hard combination to beat -- a book that makes you smarter and sets your pulse racing while it fires your imagination. It's been four long years since we had a new Gibson novel, but it was worth the wait. This may be my favorite Gibson book of all time. Link

    See also:
    William Gibson explains why science fiction is about the present
    William Gibson on writing in the age of Google

    Howard Waldrop blog

    Gavin from Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet writes, "[Brilliant short story writer] Howard Waldrop, who used to blog for Infinite Matrix) is back online -- or at least his blog is. Our chief iconoclast types the pieces up in Texas, mails them to us in Easthampton, MA, and we post them. They'll go up weekly until either he or we give out. The first piece is about recent TV ads, beavers, and the Louisiana Purchase." Link (Thanks, Gavin!)

    Zeppelin vs. Pterodactyls: the lost film

    Rob sez, "One of the wacky ideas floated by Hammer Films in 1971 but never developed beyond a sweet poster was 'Zeppelin vs. Pterodactyls.' People have said it's tragic this movie was never made. Now tragically it has been made, a mashup of public domain cliffhanger serials and old movies. What if Republic Pictures had gotten this idea in 1936? See it here. Watch for glimpses of John Wayne, two 'Wilhelm' screams, and one actor who wasn't even born until 1939. Here's a link to the poster commissioned by Hammer Films to attract investors." Link (Thanks, Rob!)

    Amazon will distribute the US National Archive on DVD

    Archivist Rick Prelinger sez,
    The world's largest repository of public domain film and video has signed a distribution deal with Amazon's CustomFlix subsidiary to sell DVDs of its holdings.

    This isn't another Smithsonian-Showtime debacle. It's a nonexclusive deal, and the Archives gets copies of digitized materials and can make them available to its users. I've got a FOIA request in for the partnership agreement.

    Every generation needs to reinterpret history in the light of its own experience, and hopefully this deal will make it just a bit easier for people to get a look at the motherlode that until now has mostly sat on archival shelves.

    Link (Thanks, Rick!)

    Ceramic pinhole camera

    This beautiful ceramic pinhole camera was made by Steve Irvine and documented on the Pinhole Forum. It's made of stoneware fired at 1,300C, and takes a four inch by five inch piece of photo paper. The negative holder is made from three strips of black weather stripping. Link (via Make)

    ATT + iPhone int'l. roaming data horror story: $3K bill - UDPATE

    UPDATE, 12:18PM PT: Dave says, "AT&T just called and agreed to waive all charges due to the 'miscommunication.' I think they have a customer for life now."

    - - - - - - - -

    BoingBoing reader Dave Stolte says,

    I have a caveat emptor to top them all. I purchased an iPhone on opening day to use in lieu of a cumbersome laptop while traveling in Ireland and England for two weeks in early July. AT&T promises "easy, affordable, and convenient plans" in their advertising... turns out I got two out of three.

    On the way to the airport, I activated the per-use international roaming data plan - the only one offered to me. The rep quoted me $.005 per KB but did not disclose what that would translate to in layman's language (i.e., X amount per e-mail, X amount per web page, etc.). I'm a web developer as part of my career and I couldn't even tell you how many KB the average web page is, no less a text message to my son, an e-mail with a photo to my mother, or a quick check of Google Maps. That's part one of the trap. However, I now pay $40 per month for unlimited data usage on the iPhone, so really -- how much could it be? $100 at the most, right?

    Keep reading.

    As we know, the iPhone can't be unlocked to use a European provider's SIM card for more reasonable rates while traveling. There's part two of the trap.

    To be safe, I went online to My Account at AT&T a couple days into the trip and again a week later and was told "usage data is currently unavailable"... and that's part three. I had no way of knowing specific usage data until I received my bill over the last weekend.

    A bill for $3000.

    Read the rest

    Short links

  • Colette McNamara's photoshopped images of her teddy bear, Scribbles, floating in space and slumped on the Moon.
  • Flyer's Rights, created by a woman who was stuck on a grounded AA plane for nine hours.
  • Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Half of a Yellow Sun) says, "Madonna's not our saviour."
  • Reports of "sustained inflation" in China's illegally-exhumed corpse market.
  • New Zealand woman making breakfast cracks open egg, finds a smaller egg within it.
  • Support for childhood goat trauma victims.
  • Pieces of the hated Mickey wand from Spaceship Earth at Epcot appear on eBay.
  • Tuna shortage caused by overharvesting leads to horse sushi.
  • Science in the Simpsons Movie.
  • Podcast with Jimmy Carter about his 1969 UFO sighting.
  • 1982 video game: Communist Mutants from Space. More.
  • The American Direct Mail offices in Burbank have "No Solicitors" signs on their doors.

    (Thanks, Shane, Ingo, Wayne, Charles, M. Tai, Iain, Jeff Jones, vikingdiplomat, Nathan Torkington, Emeka Okafor, Sean Bonner)

  • DIY bike noisemaker

    Andrew says:
    I'm not an engineer type at all (I could short out the power to my television by boiling water in another room), so forgive my explanation...

    I live in chicago, and I saw this on Friday night, at the Sheridan red line stop. It's a super crappy cameraphone picture, but what you're looking at is what are either magnets, or small metal rings, zip tied to the spokes. there's a hunk of soldered metal pointing at the rings, like a record needle (though I don't think it actually makes contact). From the soldered piece, there's wires leading up to a 9 volt battery, and from that, wires leading to the speaker (seen in the pic).

    Essentially, it's a hacker-esque replacement for the old playing card in the spokes trick. Absolutely awesome.

    RIP: film director Michelangelo Antonioni

    The 94-year-old director died in Rome on the same day as Ingmar Bergman:

    Tall, cerebral and resolutely serious, Mr. Antonioni harkens back to a time in the middle of the last century when cinema-going was an intellectual pursuit, when purposely opaque passages in famously difficult films spurred long nights of smoky argument at sidewalk cafes, and when fashionable directors like Mr. Antonioni, Alain Resnais and Jean-Luc Godard were chased down the Cannes waterfront by camera-wielding cineastes demanding to know what on earth they meant by their latest outrage.
    Link to NYT obituary.

    Image: Still from Blow-up (1966), my favorite Antonioni movie (with Vanessa Redgrave, David Hemmings, and Jimmy Page/Jeff Beck-era Yardbirds). IMDB, Wikipedia, Amazon.

    A video search at Google turns up lots of clips from the film, and the original trailer.

    Yahoo and jailed journalists in China: more documents emerge

    Global Voices co-founder Rebecca MacKinnon blogs about new information related to the case of 'net dissident Wang Xiaoning, shown above with his wife (who is suing Yahoo for helping China jail her husband):

    More documents have surfaced showing that Yahoo! employees knew that they were handling political cases when they received information requests from Chinese authorities on at least two people now doing serious jailtime.

    This is contrary to previous claims by Yahoo! that "we had no information about the nature of the investigation."  Note that Yahoo! insists that it is wrong to say they were lying,  in spite of that statement made to Congress last year which makes it seem like they were.

    This week's documents, also courtesy of the DuiHua Foundation, contain new details from the case of Wang Xiaoning, also doing ten years, for "inciting subversion." The folks at Duihua have examined the new documents, judged them to be authentic, and uploaded the originals plus translations here. More on the documents Link.

    Previously on BoingBoing:

  • Did Yahoo lie in case of jailed Chinese blogger Shi Tao?
  • Jailed Chinese journo Shi Tao joins lawsuit against Yahoo
  • China: government's new campaign to "cleanse" the internet
  • Yahoo aided China in torture, says dissident in lawsuit papers
  • China dissident's wife: "Yahoo betrayed my husband."
  • Jailed Chinese dissident's wife to sue Yahoo for ratting out her husband
  • Yahoo rats out Chinese reporter to Beijing, writer gets 10 years in jail

    Read the rest

  • Books shaped like cigarettes

    Tankbooks are novels printed to look like cigarette packs:

    Tank is launching a series of books designed to mimic cigarette packs – the same size, packaged in flip-top cartons with silver foil wrapping and sealed in cellophane.

    TankBooks pay homage to this monumentally successful piece of packaging design by employing it in the service of great literature. Cigarette packs are iconic objects, familiar, tried and tested, and over time TankBooks will become iconic objects in their own right. The launch titles are by authors of great stature – classic stories presented in classic packaging; objects desirable for both their literary merit and their unique design.

    Link (Thanks, Stu!)

    Peer to Patent: keeping the Patent Office honest with community review

    The Peer to Patent Project is a pilot program to enlist the technological community in the patent review process. To date, the US Patent and Trademark Office has practically rubber-stamped any software or business-method patent that crossed its desk -- no matter how obvious, trivial, or non-inventive it was.

    Peer to Patent invites you to examine pending patents, discover prior art that invalidates or narrows their claims, and hold the USPTO accountable for its reckless creation of monopolies over the ideas that underpin life in the information age.

    They're reviewing one hell of a patent application, Microsoft's Off-line economies for digital media, which includes, among other things, "recording a sale" in the scope of the monopoly it seeks.