Boing Boing 

European roaming charges now set by law -- and still high

The EU has mandated that, effective from today, European mobile carriers will have to offer a single rate for all of the EU, setting a maximum on the blisteringly high roaming charges. It's a cop-out, though: Orange and T-Mobile and Vodaphone and others have this legal fiction that Orange France and Orange UK are different companies and that an Orange UK customer should pay a premium to connect to Orange France's network. But in reality, Orange is perfectly capable of acting like a single company when it is in their interest. The Commission has set rates at about 10X what I pay for domestic use in the UK (still 60% less than I presently pay to roam) and says it will consider forcing lower rates in future.
"The roaming rip-off is now coming to an end," said EU telecommunications commissioner Viviane Reding in a statement. "Expect the new roaming rules to make it much cheaper to surf the web on your mobile while abroad in the EU."

After years of experiencing high prices for making phone calls abroad - or receiving them - the new tariffs are radically lower: sending a text message, for example, will drop from an average of 28 Euro cents to just 11 cents. The move should end the well-worn fear of opening a huge phone bill when returning from holiday or business abroad.

The new tariffs include the following maximum costs:

- making a call while abroad will cost 37p per minute
- receiving calls will cost a maximum of 17p per minute
- sending a text message from another country inside the EU will cost 10p
- Data transfers will also fall dramatically, with a megabyte of data costing 85p

Mobile roaming charges drop across Europe

Beautiful, immense papercraft castle


Wataru Itou created an immense and breathtaking paper castle, currently exhibited at Uminohotaru in Tokyo. It took Itou, an art student, four years to complete. The pictures are a must-see, do click through.

A Paper Craft Castle On the Ocean

海の上のお城

(via Paper Forest)

Second Skin gamer documentary coming to DVD, theaters

Victor sez, "Our documentary on virtual worlds, Second Skin, which premiered at SXSW last year, will finally be coming out in theaters and DVD in August. I produced it with my friend Peter Brauer and it was directed by my brother Juan Carlos. The three of us spent two years racing around the world following gamers who had fallen in love, become addicted, formed enormous guilds, or made their living playing MMOs like World of Warcraft, Everquest and Second Life. From gold farmers to disabled gamers, we tried to get a sense of how integral virtual worlds are to the fabric of life these days. We'd love you to check it out- the first five minutes are available on Current TV- here. The movie's coming to NYC, LA, Austin and Boston in mid-August, and DVD everywhere on August 25th."

I saw Second Skin at the Toronto Film Festival and was blown away -- by turns touching and funny, and always fascinating, this is a loving but clear-eyed look at the relationship of gamers to their games.

Second Skin (Thanks, Victor!)

Byte's Smalltalk launch cover -- Boing Boing Gadgets

Over on Boing Boing Gadgets, our Steven's found this delightful old Byte cover, celebrating the release of the Smalltalk programming language; it's part of BBG's tribute to Xerox PARC, the legendary R&D center that invented everything and commercialized practically nothing.

This special issue of Byte Magazine was dedicated entirely to Smalltalk. The image is based on the actual balloon launch at PARC that celebrated the release of Smalltalk.
Byte Magazine, August 1981

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Hardware video-decoder cartridge for the Nintendo DS


The iPlayer is a hardware video-decoder for your Nintendo DS. It plugs into your cartridge slot, and uses its on-board processor to send video in a variety of formats (avi, mov, RealPlayer, wmv, DivX, Flash, 3GP, asf, mpeg) to the screen and speakers. You load the video through a MicroSD card. Haven't tried it, got no idea if it's any good, but the premise is delightful.

iPlayer (via Red Ferret)

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RT @douggpound: This is either a new Chris Cunningham video or the scariest thing in the world! Link

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@BBVBOX: recent guest-tweeted web video picks (boingboingvideo.com)


(Ed. Note: We recently gave the Boing Boing Video website a makeover that includes a new, guest-curated microblog: the "BBVBOX." Here, folks whose taste in web video we admire tweet the latest clips they find. I'll be posting periodic roundups here on the motherBoing.)


More @BBVBOX: boingboingvideo.com

Frazetta Meatcard challenge results

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 Images Frazetta Cornered 200906302208

Some of the results are in for the Alpha-test Meatcard Challenge, and they are terrific. The rules were to photographically recreate one of several famous Frank Frazetta paintings (without using Photoshop or the like). The winners get business cards made from laser etched beef jerky.

Frazetta Meatcard challenge results

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I can't explain it, you really just have to see it for yourself Link

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Give this reporter many raises Link

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Failed fabricated 50s fad: The Duoped Link

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Silly PSA features bear shaving


A girl discovers an overheated bear in the forest. She helps him by shaving his fur in hard-to-reach places. Says Japan Probe: "This commercial is apparently an advertisement showing how Nisshinbo cares about global warming and the environment."

Homebuilt Fiat bulldozer


If you see Kogoro Kurata's Fiat 500 bulldozer coming down the road, get ready to jump out of the way. With a top speed of 3 kilometers per hour, it's not stopping for nobody. (Via Pink Tentacle)

Blog about quick-n-dirty repairs

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Human ingenuity (and a touch of foolishness) on parade at thereifixedit.com (Thanks, Coop!)

Sichuan peppercorns: "There's a war in my mouth."

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The Evil Mad Scientists are rightfully fascinated with Sichuan peppercorns.

Sichuan peppercorns, oh yeah! Raven of Made with Molecules after eating them wrote, "There's a war in my mouth." They create a riot of numbing and tingling sensations, particularly if you can get relatively fresh ones (i.e. not stale from sitting around in a Whole Foods bulk bin). Raven links to an abstract about the particular anesthetic-sensitive potassium channels inhibited by hydroxy-alpha-sanshool, one of the components of sichuan peppercorns that make them so exciting.
Sichuan peppercorns

Blog about awful library books

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Michigan public librarians Mary Kelly and Holly Hibner have a blog featuring awful library books. The book above, Those Amazing Leeches, is a prime example of an awful library book. Awful Library Books (Via Hang Fire Books)

Today at Boing Boing Gadgets

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Today at Boing Boing Gadgets, we paid homage to the Palo Alto Research Center, or PARC, the amazing research facility responsible for hundreds of patents and myriad innovations in technology. Steven and Lisa visited the facility in May and got a behind-the-scenes look at several of their newest innovations. As a result, we have:

&bull pictures and diagrams of the first Ethernet cable in the world;

&bull the carpet on which graphic user interfaces were invented;

&bull a smart mirror that helps indecisive shoppers compare outfits;

&bull a gallery of caution signs seen along PARC's many corridors;

&bull a contest in which you could win an Alto user handbook or a Smalltalk instruction manual;

&bull an interview with PARC employees about how they geek out and party and eat good food;

&bull an explanation of the MrTaggy search engine;

&bull pretty photos of flexible electronics;

&bull and the mystery of Alan Kay's office. On the non-PARC-related front, we have Rob's review of the Fit PC2; Jonathan Harris' new Sputnik project; and Dell's ultra-mobile audiovisual presentation platform. Enjoy!

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Bert and Ernie go totally BRUTAL!! Link

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Win a blood-stained sword in celebration of JC Hutchins' new CC-licensed podcast/novel/mystery

Podcast author-legend JC Hutchins sez,

My book, "Personal Effects: Dark Art," came out earlier this month. To introduce readers to that world, I'm rolling out a podcast-exclusive prequel novella called "Personal Effects: Sword of Blood" -- the story features a lost sword mystically possessed by the blood of a dangerous, supernatural creature.

The premise of "Personal Effects" is to blur the line between fiction and reality (it features a cool Alternate Reality Game component), and that's what I'm doing with this promo. I'm actually giving away a real, battle-ready 40"-long sword, a replica of the iconic weapon used by Holy Roman Emperor Charles V of Spain, back in the 1500s. It was crafted by the same dudes who made swords for the "Highlander" TV show.

Giving away a sword wasn't enough: Written on its blade will be a "Personal Effects" flash fiction story written by myself and fellow CC-rockin' new media thriller novelist Matt Wallace, who donated the sword to the cause. And we're signing our collaboration, on the blade, *in our own blood* -- making this a "real" Sword of Blood.

Yes, we were inspired by the KISS comic book. :)

Participating in the giveaway is easy-peasy; folks simply need to evangelize the release of "Personal Effects: Dark Art" to friends or co-workers.

Personal Effects: Sword of Blood

Personal Effects

Life at PARC: Organic food, UNIX parties, coyotes and geeks.

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What's everyday life like at Silicon Valley's most famous research center? To find out, I talked to YF Juan, a director of business develpment at PARC, and communications manager Linda Jacobson.

Much like the research that goes on behind the laboratory doors, PARC's culture and atmosphere were designed with painstaking precision. The 14-acre facility was custom-designed by Gyo Obata, a founding partner at the world-renowned architecture firm HOK. At founder George Pake's request, each employee was to have his or her own office with a view of either the courtyard or of the rolling Palo Alto hills. Of equal importance to privacy were the common areas. The entire building is divided into pods, and each pod has offices, labs, and common spaces with themed decors designed to inspire different types of thinking&mdash the social science pod boasts a colorful, Scandinavian feel, whereas the computing science common area has a more traditional look with shelves lined with books on networking and computing. Outside the building walls, bush-lined walkways lead from sunny patios to trails of undeveloped lands inhabited by hares, chipmunks, lizards, coyotes, horses, and migratory birds. "The idea was to design an environment that would encourage collaboration as well as solitude for creative problem solving," says Jacobsen.

Life at PARC, it seems, is a unique blend of nature and technology, public and private, social and geek, artsy and science-y that melds into a one-of-a-kind creative environment conducive to extreme innovation. Keep reading to learn about the different types of geeks, spontaneous parties, and global cuisine that keep PARC employees happy.

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BB Video - Pirate Bay Surrenders to Hollywood: Peter Sunde interview


(Download MP4 / Watch on YouTube / Watch it at boingboingvideo.com.)

Founders of The Pirate Bay have made a deal to sell off "the world's largest BitTorrent tracker" to a Swedish gaming company for about $7.8 million.

More than 20 million visitors use the site each month. This April, TPB's three founders and a representative of their ISP were sentenced to a year in prison and damages of about $4 million over allegations of copyright violation.

A week before the news was announced, I interviewed Pirate Bay co-founder Peter Sunde at the Open Video Conference in New York City, about that lawsuit, and about their plans for the future. He mentioned that "huge, huge news" was coming up, but refused to disclose the news at that time. An edited version of our conversation above, including Peter's explanation of why he believes filesharing and anonymity are good for democracy, is above.

(Special thanks to OVC organizers Elizabeth Stark Dean Jansen, Eddie Codel, and Intelligent TV for production assistance).

Related: My former colleague Ben Fritz at the LA Times has this piece up about the sale, analyzing the news from Hollywood's perspective.


Sponsor shout-out: This week's Boing Boing Video episodes are brought to you in part by WEPC.com, in partnership with Intel and Asus. WePC.com is a site where users come together to "share ideas, images and inspiration about the ideal PC." Participants' designs, feature ideas and community feedback will be evaluated by ASUS and "will influence the blueprint for an actual notebook PC built by ASUS with Intel inside."

UK keeps mandatory ID cards for foreigners

Britain's keeping mandatory, RFID-enabled biometric ID cards that can be read without your knowledge or permission for immigrants like me:
Foreign nationals from outside the European Economic Area would still be required to have ID cards with 50,000 already issued, he said.

The Conservatives said the decision was a retreat.

"They have spent millions on the scheme so far -- the Home Secretary thinks it has been a waste and wants to scrap it, but the prime minister won't let him," said the party's home affairs spokesman Chris Grayling.

"So we end up with an absurd fudge instead."

Britain drops plans to make ID cards compulsory (Thanks, Dickon!)

World's first Ethernet cable -- Boing Boing Gadgets

Over on Boing Boing Gadgets, our Lisa's got an historical look at the dawn of networking:

Behind an ordinary door in a nondescript room hosting several printers and copiers at PARC is the world's first Ethernet cable. In 1973, Bob Metcalfe sent an internal memo to his colleagues at Xerox proposing a local system of interacting workstations, files, and printers. The devices would all be linked by one coaxial cable, he said, and would run within a local area network. He called the system an Ether Network, or Ethernet. By 1976, there were over 100 devices linked into Metcalfe's local network, and it was even used to test out the world's first laser printer, which was being developed concurrently in another research facility within Xerox. Metcalfe and his assistant David Boggs published their findings in the Association for Computing Machinery later that year. The rest is history.
Photo and original diagram of the world's first ethernet cable

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Embed virtual worlds

Metaplace, a service that lets you design your own virtual worlds, has now launched embedding, so that you can stick your world (or your friends' worlds) on your website.
* You can use it as a gathering space for your community -- on forums, for example, or as this user has done, as a way to foster community for her comics shop.

* You can make it the central gathering spot for a Ning community, as 3DSquared has done for the Digital Workforce Intensives in Louisiana.

* If you're a musician, you can hold your live shows right there on your site, complete with streaming audio and an audience, as Grace McDunnough plans to do.

* Over time, crazier uses will come about, such as this experiment in using virtual worlds to annotate the real world by embedding a Metaplace world on a geolocation in Google Maps.

Embed virtual worlds anywhere

(Disclosure: I am an advisor to Metaplace)

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Jeff Scher has a new hand-drawn kaleidoscope of a video up at the NYT! He celebrates tiny, subtle moments: Link

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Free 1956 Charles Willeford novella: Wild Wives

Wild-Wives

(Image from Hang Fire Books Flickr stream)

Manybooks.net has pulp author Charles Willeford's noir novella Wild Wives available for free in a variety of ebook formats.

Willeford, along with Fredric Brown, is one of my favorite pulp crime fiction writers because his work transcends the genre. From Willeford's Wikipedia entry: "Steve Erickson suggests that Willeford's crime novels are the 'genre's equivalent of Philip K. Dick's best science fiction novels. They don't really fit into the genre.'" Wild Wives by Charles Willeford Buy on Amazon.

Money-related posts at Credit.com

Here are some of my recent posts about money for credit.com.

People are Easily Manipulated by Price of Goods, Except When They're Not: When people are told that a $10 bottle of wine costs $90, they'll report that it tastes better. When they're told a painkiller (actually a placebo) costs $2.50 per pill, they'll report less pain from electrical shocks than people who are given the same placebo but are told it costs ten cents.

Alarming Dashboard View of U.S. Debt: Watching the U.S. national debt, credit card debt, medical debt, and various entitlement liabilities skyrocket, I envisioned Uncle Sam at the gas pump, pouring greenbacks into a tank that we'll never be able to pay for when the bill comes.

Robo-call Rip-Offs: Patricia Poole of Mineral City, Ohio paid $695 to Mutual Consolidated Savings, which promised to "work with Poole’s creditors to get her interest rates lowered or eliminated." But after she paid the money, Poole says she never heard from anyone at Mutual Consolidated Savings.

Car Dealers' Tricks -- and How to Dodge Them: An especially dirty dealer trick is called "check ransoming." This is when a dealer asks you to write a check before a deal has been made to "prove to the manager you are serious." Then the check gets mysteriously "misplaced," putting you in an uncomfortable position that the dealer will use against you to close the deal against your better judgment.

Got a Plan to Reduce Your Credit Card Debt? Keep it to Yourself!: "Announcing your plans to others satisfies your self-identity just enough that you’re less motivated to do the hard work needed," writes Derek Sivers, the founder of CD Baby. "Once you’ve told people of your intentions, it gives you a 'premature sense of completeness.'"

Cheap, Good Food: Living on a budget sucks if you feel as though you are depriving yourself. The only way I'll be able to stick to a budget is if it's more fun than blowing the budget.

NYT and Jimmy Wales worked together to keep kidnapping news off Wikipedia

Executives at the New York Times managed to say they believed that publicity around the case of a journalist kidnapped in Afghanistan would make him more valuable to his captors, and increase odds that he would die in captivity. To this end, they worked with news organizations to enforce a news blackout on the case -- and they did the same with Wikipedia. Seriously, guys? There's a slippery slope for you.
A dozen times, user-editors posted word of the kidnapping on Wikipedia's page on Mr. Rohde, only to have it erased. Several times the page was frozen, preventing further editing -- a convoluted game of cat-and-mouse that clearly angered the people who were trying to spread the information of the kidnapping. Even so, details of his capture cropped up time and again, however briefly, showing how difficult it is to keep anything off the Internet -- even a sentence or two about a person who is not especially famous. The sanitizing was a team effort, led by Jimmy Wales, co-founder of Wikipedia, along with Wikipedia administrators and people at The Times.
Keeping News of Kidnapping Off Wikipedia (NYT)

@BBVBOX: recent guest-tweeted web video picks (boingboingvideo.com)


(Ed. Note: We recently gave the Boing Boing Video website a makeover that includes a new, guest-curated microblog: the "BBVBOX." Here, folks whose taste in web video we admire tweet the latest clips they find. I'll be posting periodic roundups here on the motherBoing.)


More @BBVBOX: boingboingvideo.com

Michael Jackson and the "Zombieconomy"

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Snip from a Harvard Business blog post by Umair Haque on the digital-age business lessons to be learned from Michael Jackson's death, and analysis of the purported revenue from his career over the last three decades:
Want to know why we have a zombieconomy? Because the beancounters killed the incentives to create real value.

Let's use MJ's tragic death as a mini case-study. $300 million over, for example, 25 years? That's $12 million a year.

I'm deliberately leaving out ads, endorsements, concerts, etc., to focus on the the structural problems in one industry: music.

If the world's biggest pop star only made $12 million a year from his recordings, why would anyone make serious music? Where did the rest of the money go? Why, straight into record labels' pockets. Did they make better music with it? Nope — they made Britney and Lady GaGa. And that's how they killed themselves: by underinvesting in quality, to rake in the take.

Wait a second — that sounds familiar. You can add back in the endorsements, etc. now — they only double the figure: to about $25 million.

If the world's biggest pop star only made $25 million a year in total, something's very, very wrong. Where's the rest of the money? Why can't a resource as scarce as the King of Pop capture more value?

Michael Jackson and the Zombieconomy (via Bob Lefsetz)