At the Lit.Cologne festival tonight in Germany

I'll be reading and speaking at the Lit.Cologne festival in Cologne, Germany tonight. It's in honor of the German release of Upload (AKA Eastern Standard Tribe) -- hope to see you there!
Science Fiction 2.0
Cory Doctorow – upload
Freitag, 29.02., 19.30 Uhr

Stammstraße 38–40, Ehrenfeld


TokyoFlash Tibida LED watch -- with binary mode! Three being given away gratis

TokyoFlash sent me one of their Tibida watches to play with in January. I've been buying TokyoFlash watches for years; they embody the perfect intersection of style, impracticality and blinky lights to tickle my nerdbuttons. The Tibida is no exception.

The face is a grid of circular white discs, each over a white LED. The watch has three modes: hours (hour is spelled out as a number on the bottom grid, minutes are approximated on the 12 lights on top), minutes (vice-versa) and binary (a fine update to the traditional binary LED watch).

I'm a clockwatcher, so I like having a little cognitive load associated with checking the time -- it slows me down and makes me recognize when I'm checking the clock (again).

TokyoFlash is giving away three Tibida watches to Boing Boing readers: just email the name of the holiday that's celebrated in Japan on March 14th, and email your answer to Three winners will be selected at random on Thursday March 6th 2008. Link

Vash the Stampede cosplayers

Here's the latest photo in my series of pictures from my travels over the years: a pair of Vash the Stampede cosplayers at ComicCon San Diego last July -- like the Incredibles cosplayers, these guys had their pose all worked out and dropped into it the second I took out my camera. Link

Record companies don't share money extorted from file-sharing fans with artists

The record industry has sued over 20,000 music fans to "protect artists' copyrights." But they haven't turned over any of the money to artists (of course, they never forked over any of the money from, Grokster, Napster, etc).
A contingent of prominent artist managers claims that little to none of that money has trickled down to their clients. They are now considering legal action.

"Artist managers and lawyers have been wondering for months when their artists will see money from the copyright settlements and how it will be accounted for," said lawyer John Branca, who has represented Korn, Don Henley, and The Rolling Stones, among others. "Some of them are even talking about filing lawsuits if they don't get paid soon."

Link (via /.)

Snow-causing bacteria

A research team from LSU, Montana and France had found evidence that rain and snow are started by bacteria who are able to catalyse precipitation at lower temperatures than grit and dust:
Dust and soot particles can serve as ice nuclei, but biological ice nuclei are capable of catalyzing freezing at much warmer temperatures. If present in clouds, biological ice nuclei may affect the processes that trigger precipitation...

But, what makes this research more complicated is that most known ice-nucleating bacteria are plant pathogens. These pathogens, which are basically germs, can cause freezing injury in plants, resulting in devastating economic effects on agricultural crop yields.


Shrine to bragging, deadly Internet "mall ninja"

The Shrine of the Mall Ninja collects the posts of "Gecko45," a poster to a gun-enthusiast message-board, who claimed to be a mall security guard trained in ninjitsu who had been given special dispensation to use machineguns after the saved the mayor's nephew from being sodomized near the Gap store, bravely stepping in where the local SWAT team feared to tread. The guy's claims are amazing, milk-nose-sortingly great, and halfway through he creates a sock-puppet who heralds the brave mall-cops of America, who fight the fights that the FBI are too chicken to intervene in.
I am the Sergeant of a three-man Rapid Tactical Force at one of America’s largest indoor retail shopping areas...If you want to laugh at somebody, try laughing at the sheep out there who go to the mall unarmed trusting in me to stand guiard over their lives like a God...

I tell you that we are undervalued for our beneficial effect on society at large, for the urban and suburban shopping centers see %80 of the armed violence in this nation, and why don’t the cops take care of it, because they are a bunch of wusses, and they are not man enough to put up with the danger and stress. You all who are makeing fun of me have never been threatened by jailed drug dealers, serial killers, and shoplifters, or fired at by high powered rifles so excuse me if I decide to have good weapons to protect and defend myself without all of you makeing fun of my choice, and they way I do my job!

My “Black-Ops” history ensures that you will never know about the missions I accepted in my younger days, and Vietnam still shudders when it hears the name of a an assasin so skillful and deadly, he is remembered decades later.

Link (via Gibson)

Family busts "mailbox baseball" team after high-speed chase

A family in Hatley, WI, was so fed up with the local "mailbox baseball" team that they staked out their mailbox, followed the vandals in a 100mph chase, tracked them to a gas-station, blocked them in and called the cops.
While repairing the mailbox again on Saturday, Greg Fisher suspected that it might again be targeted. Fisher, 49, and his son Dustin, 18, took watch at 2 a.m. Sunday, and their diligence was rewarded less than an hour later when a truck drove past three times. The final time, a man took a baseball bat to the mailbox.

"It was frustrating watching someone smash your property," said Greg, who was in the house when the mailbox was smashed.

Dustin, who was waiting in a car in the driveway, followed the truck for more than eight miles through Hatley and onto Highway 29. As the truck reached speeds of nearly 100 mph, Dustin slowed down after getting a partial license plate number, he said.

Link (via Digg)

See also:
Survival of the fittest mailbox
Apple G4 converted to roadside mailbox
Fortified mailboxes, part 2

Urinal graffiti on a piss-wall

A graffiti artist has tagged an oft-pissed-upon wall in San Francisco's UN Plaza with these painted-on urinals. Link (Thanks, Dennis!)

Roy's Doty's Leap Year card -- Carpe Diem!


Roy Doty has been illustrating books and magazines since the 1940s. I first came across his work around 1970 when I acquired an old stack of Popular Science magazines from the 1950s. He did (and still does) a regular comic strip called "Wordless Workshop," which showed you how to make something cool without using any words to describe how. That's difficult to pull off, but Doty's clear and precise drawing style was (and is) up to the task.

When we started MAKE in 2004, I was overjoyed to learn that Doty was still illustrating. I wrote him and asked if he'd like to illustrate our puzzle page. When he said yes, it was a dream come true.

To celebrate Leap Year, Doty sent out this delightful card of a Rube Goldberg-style machine designed to get you out of bed. Doty sends out a card for nearly every season and holiday. I think it's because he finds a lot of joy in life.

TED Prize event streaming live now

The TED Prize event is streaming live now. I watched it last year and it was very moving. I imagine it will be again this year.
Picture 9-23 About the 2008 TEDPrize

The TED Prize was created as a way of taking the inspiration, ideas and resources generated at TED and using them to make a difference. Winners receive a prize of $100,000 each, and more importantly, a wish. A wish to change the world.

During today's session, webcast live from Monterey, California, the 2008 TEDPrize winners will unveil their wishes for the first time. Prize winners Neil Turok, Dave Eggars and Karen Armstong will be joined by singer-songwriter Vusi Mahlasela.


TED 2008: Samantha Power on American responses to mass atrocities and genocide

(I'm liveblogging from TED 2008, in Monterey, CA) Samantha Power, author of A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide, is a global leadership and public policy professor at Harvard. She's talking about American responses to mass atrocities and genocide.
Img 0255 Rwandan genocide in 1990s: 700,000 people died. The 1994, the NYT reported between 200k and 300k people had already been killed. Patricia Schroeder, US Rep from Colorado, told the paper that hundreds of US citizens were calling about ape and gorilla deaths in Rwanda, but nobody was calling about the people who were dying. "There wasn't an endangered people's movement."

Today, universities and high schools have started an endangered people's movement. Anti-genocide groups. These student driven groups have launched divestment campaigns, launched a 1-800-Genocide number. Type in your zip code and it will refer you to your representative. Genocide grades for members of congress. This movement has put bottom up pressure on Bush leadership to take action Rwanda, and it's working.

Pangea Day trailer

In December, I wrote about Pangea Day, a "global film event showcasing short films from around the world," on May 10. Just now, TED released the trailer on YouTube.

TED 2008: Irwin Redlener on surviving a suitcase nuke

(I'm liveblogging from TED 2008, in Monterey, CA) Presenter: Irwin Redlener, MD.

Picture 6-50

Irwin Redlener, MD is president of the Children's Health Fund spoke about how much loose nuclear material there is in the world, and how easy it is to make a suitcase nuke. Nuclear terrorism is probable, but survivable, he says. I missed most of his talk while typing up the last one (I'm sure Ethan Zuckerman will have a nice report on the talk). Here's a slide Redlener prepared on how to survive a nuclear attack.

TED 2008: Philip Zimbardo on The Lucifer Effect in Action

(I'm liveblogging from TED 2008, in Monterey, CA)

Presenter: Professor Philip Zimbardo, creator of the famous Stanford Prison Experiment in the 1971 which put students into a prison setting, randomly chosen to be either guards or prisoners. He is the author of Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil

Picture 5-59

Zimbardo is a very lively and engaging 75-year-old with a devilish van dyke beard.

For decades, he has been studying what makes people go wrong. Raised in South Bronx, he saw his friends live Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde lives. He learned that "the line between good and evil is movable and permeable." In other words, we all have the capacity to be good or evil. The human mind has an infinite capacity to make any of us kind or cruel, caring or indifferent.

God's favorite angel was Lucifer. God created Hell as a place to store evil. His favorite angel became the devil. What Zimbardo calls the "Lucifer Effect" focuses on why people can become evil (defined as the exercise of power to intentionally hurt people).

Abu Ghraib photos shocked Zimbardo but didn't surprise him. "I saw those same parallels when I was the prison supervisor at Stanford Prison Experiment."

Abu Ghraib soldiers were good but the barrels were bad and that made bad apples. He showed the shocking photos by US MP Guards from Tier 1-A Night Shift at Abu Ghraib. When Rumsfeld came to investigate, he said "who is responsible?" That's the wrong question to ask. "What is responsible?" What turns good soldiers into bad? What is the bad barrel? The power is in the system, it creates the situation that makes people evil.

Leadership failures caused the Abu Ghraib atrocities. It was going on for three months before it was stopped. They authorities didn't find out on purpose.

Zimbardo's fellow researcher, Stanley Milgram, wondered, "Could the Holocaust happen here?" Suppose Hitler asked you to electrocute a stranger. He tested 1,000 people who answered an ad that said "we want to test and improve people's memory."

The volunteers (called "teachers") saw a person wired to a machine that shocked them. The volunteer was told to turn the dial to 15 volts and press a button to shock the person (learner) when they got an answer wrong. (The learner was an actor unbeknownst to the volunteer, and the machine did not deliver a shock.)

As the experiment went on, the researcher told the volunteer to crank up the voltage, all the way to 375 volts, which had a warning on the dial that it was extremely dangerous. The learners would scream, cry, beg for life, appear dead or unconcious, etc. The researcher told the students to turn the dial to 450 volts, which was labeled "XXX."

Before the experiment, Migram and others thought up to 1% of the volunteers would turn the dial up to the danger point and ignore the learners' cries for mercy. But actually, 2/3 of the volunteers turned the voltage to the maximum, just because the authority figure told them it was OK. (Thank goodness for the 1/3 who refused to blindly obey authority.)

The Stanford Prison Experiment showed the same thing: 75 male students volunteered and were randomly assigned as prisoners or guards. Police came to the homes of the volunteer prisoners, cuffed and "arrested" them, and brought them to basement of the police station, and put them in cells. Almost immediately, guards began treating the prisoners very cruelly. Students had mental breakdowns. "Guards forced them to simulate sodomy."

Here's a trailer to a documentary about the experiment: Quiet Rage.

What can be done about this? Zimbardo offers heroism as the "antidote to evil." Teach kids to be ready to act heroically when the see evil. We need to give them real role models. Comic book superheroes are bad models, because they have super powers. A hero is the soldier who reported the Abu Ghraib abuses. People wanted to kill him. They threatened to kill his wife and mother, too. He had to go in hiding. Teach kids hero courses, teach them hero skills, make them heroes-in-waiting.

Report: security glitch exposes Mac OS X passwords

Declan McCullagh reports at that....

Apple has confirmed a security glitch that, in many situations, will let someone with physical access to a Macintosh computer gain access to the password of the active user account.

The vulnerability arises out of a programming error that stores the account password in the computer's memory long after it's needed, meaning it can be retrieved and used to log into the computer and impersonate the user.

"This is a real problem and it needs to be fixed," said Jacob Appelbaum, a San Francisco-area programmer who discovered the vulnerability and reported it to Apple. He said he disagreed with the company's response: "They won't put it in the latest security update or release a security update just for this issue."

Appelbaum is one of the team of researchers who published a "cold boot" paper last week describing unrelated vulnerabilities in encrypted filesystems, including Apple's FileVault, Windows Vista's BitLocker, and a number of open-source ones.

Link. Image: "Rebooting the target MacBook in a studio at CNET on Second Street in San Francisco. From left to right: Paul, Schoen, Appelbaum, and [Declan McCullagh].

Update: All of the technical details are here on bugtraq.