Boing Boing 

FBI releases files on Biggie Smalls murder; still no killer named

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Fourteen years after his death, the FBI has released a set of heavily redacted documents on the murder of Christopher "Biggie Smalls" Wallace, (1972-1997), the rapper known as "Notorious B.I.G." The FBI closed the case in 2005 without determining who killed him. More at Time Magazine.

Mars Science Laboratory + Curiosity Rover: Interview with NASA JPL's Ashwin Vasavada

Video link: An artist's animation of how MSL and Curiosity Rover will land on Mars. Courtesy NASA JPL.

This week, Boing Boing visited NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory for a peek inside the clean room where NASA's next Mars rover, Curiosity, and other components of the Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft (MSL) have been built for launch in late 2011 from Florida.

Read the rest

Software pioneer and ENIAC programmer Jean Bartik dies at 86

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The New York Times has published an obituary for Jean Jennings Bartik, "one of the first computer programmers and a pioneering forerunner in a technology that came to be known as software." She died on March 23 at a nursing home in Poughkeepsie, NY, at age 86. She was the last surviving member of the group of women who programmed the Eniac, or Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer, regarded as the first all-electronic digital computer. (via Jim Roberts)

Photo, via Wikipedia: "Two women operating the ENIAC's main control panel while the machine was still located at the Moore School. 'U.S. Army Photo' from the archives of the ARL Technical Library. Left: Betty Jennings (Mrs. Bartik) Right: Frances Bilas (Mrs. Spence)

Homebrew vote-counting software from Clerk in conservative Wisconsin county gives Supreme Court win to Tea Party darling

Saljake sez, "The Waukesha, WI County Clerk is allowed to design her own vote-counting-software(!) plus it lives off the network on a desktop computer in her office and has zero IT support after 5pm. Today, she found thousands of state Supreme Court votes for Tea Party darling Prosser that she somehow *forgot* to report to the AP yesterday."

If these newly discovered votes are allowed to stand, it will reverse the upset in the state Supreme Court election that saw the judgeship go to a candidate who attracted a large anti-Walker protest vote.

Today's announcement by Nickolaus drew immediate suspicions from Scot Ross, executive director of One Wisconsin Now, a liberal activist group.

"Wisconsin deserves elections that are fair, clean and transparent," Ross said. "There is a history of secrecy and partisanship surrounding the Waukesha County Clerk and there remain unanswered questions."

Nickolaus, a former staffer for the Assembly Republican Caucus, has been criticized in recent months for her handling of recent elections. The Waukesha County Board sharply condemned Nickolaus after past elections, demanding an audit of her practices last year.

The auditors criticized Nickolaus for moving some sensitive files, such as election results, onto her personal computer.

Newly discovered Waukesha County votes would give win to Prosser (Thanks, Saljake, via Submitterator!)

YouTube rolling out streaming web video service to more partners

Mashable: "YouTube has been dabbling with live streaming across a variety of sectors in recent years -- from concerts to Q&As with U.S. President Barack Obama -- and now the video-sharing site is ramping up those efforts by expanding its live streaming efforts and opening them up to select partners." (via Nick DeMartino)

Beastie Boys' star-studded, hilarious trailer: Fight For Your Right-Revisited

The Beastie Boys' trailer for "Fight For Your Right-Revisited" is a star-studded hilarity of a thing, as silly as you can imagine, funny and just plain great. It's to promote their next CD, Hot Sauce Committee Part 2, which comes out on May 3. I never met a Beastie Boys album I didn't like, and from the sounds of things, this will be no exception. (via Waxy)

US government shutdown could mean Space Shuttle launch delay

Here's one odd effect a government shutdown would have: NASA would likely have to scrub the launch of space shuttle Endeavour's STS-134 mission, currently scheduled for April 29. If Republicans and Democrats cannot agree to budget terms by midnight tonight, Washington will effectively run out of money and the government will close. If that happens, according to a NASA memo distributed today, only operations critical to protect life and assets would continue. So, operations to support the astronauts on the International Space Station would go on during a shutdown, as would any operations critical to prevent the loss or damage of NASA assets. And if a launch were in progress when the shutdown went into effect, that launch would continue. But for new shuttle launches, and other new projects: an indefinite delay.

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Memo (PDF) and NASA furlough plan here (thanks, Miles O'Brien!).

Marketplace for hijacked computers


Brian Krebs went browsing in an underground proxy marketplace, where criminals rent time on hijacked computers to other criminals who want to use the compromised machines as launching-grounds for untraceable networked attacks. Krebs traced down some of the people whose computers were up for rent and let them know that they were being bought and sold on the underground.
Michelle Trammell, associate director of Kirby Pines and president of TSG, said she was unaware that her computer systems were being sold to cyber crooks when I first contacted her this week. I later heard from Steve Cunningham from ProTech Talent & Technology, an IT services firm in Memphis that was recently called in to help secure the network.

Cunningham said an anti-virus scan of the TSG and retirement community machines showed that one of the machines was hijacked by a spam bot that was removed about two weeks before I contacted him, but he said he had no idea the network was still being exploited by cyber crooks. "Some malware was found that was sending out spam," Cunningham said, "It looks like they didn't have a very comprehensive security system in place, but we're going to be updating [PCs] and installing some anti-virus software on all of the servers over the next week or so."

Is Your Computer Listed "For Rent"?

Dark '70s animation of Japanese fairy tale on tsunamis and death: "The Guiding Jizo"

Matt Alt points ot to a beautiful clip from the 1970s animated show Manga Nippon Mukashibanashi (Animated Japanese Fairy Tales). The legend upon which this particular clip is based is hundreds of years old. Matt writes:

In it, a young mother and child from the island of Kessenuma Oshima happen across a statue called the michibiki jizo -- the guiding bodhisattva. According to local legend, the soul of a person that is about to die appears before this particular jizo the day before they pass away. The mother and child are shocked to see a whole parade of spirits appear before the statue -- male and female, old and young. 

When they return home, the father laughs it off as a figment of their imaginations. But the very next day, when the family is fishing at the seashore, the tide pulls out and doesn't come back in. Minutes later, a massive tsunami wipes out the entire town as the mother, son, and father watch escape to a hilltop. They are the only survivors. 

Given the fact that Kessenuma is in the headlines today for the very same reason, there is no doubt that this "fairy tale" is based on a true story. It's particularly haunting in light of the ancient stone markers that dot the Japanese coastline warning of tsunami from times of old, a literal message to future generations from ancestors long since shuffled off this mortal coil.

[Video Link, 10:42] and Matt Alt's blog.

dj BC mashes up Jay-Z and Brian Eno: ANOTHER JAY ON EARTH


rageear writes, "dj BC returns with his latest mashup album that crosses the works of Jay-Z with Brian Eno. Known for his previous works 'The Beastles', 'Wu Orleans', and 'Glassbreaks', dj BC continues to make fantastically interesting music and shows no signs of stopping."

I just downloaded this and gave it a spin, and as with all dj BC projects, the amazing thing isn't the incongruity of the two sources he combines, but how he finds their underlying similarities and brings them to the fore. I love dj BC's work, and a new album is always cause for celebration.

dj BC presents ANOTHER JAY ON EARTH

Fake-make: counterfeit handmade objects from big manufacturers

Make Magazine has started to publish my old "Make Free" columns online; today, they've posted "Untouched By Human Hands," in which I speculate about whether (and when) big manufacturing companies will start to produce fake "hand-made" objects, and what makers might do in response.
Will the 21st-century equivalent of an offshore call-center worker who insists he is "Bob from Des Moines" be the Guangzhou assembly-line worker who carefully "hand-wraps" a cellphone sleeve and inserts a homespun anti-corporate manifesto (produced by Markov chains fed on angry blog posts from online maker forums) into the envelope?

I wouldn't be surprised. Our species' capacity to commodify everything -- even the anti-commodification movement -- has yet to meet its match. I'm sure we'll adapt, though.

We could start a magazine for hobbyists who want to set up nostalgic mass-production assembly lines that use old-fashioned injection molders to stamp out stubbornly identical objects in reaction to the corporate machine's insistence on individualized, 3D-printed, fake artisanship.

Untouched By Human Hands

(Image: Weaving by the Pool, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from 87739302@N00's photostream)

Tim Minchin's anti-woo poem, animated

Here's a fantastic animated adaptation comic/skeptic/awesomesauce purveyor Tim Minchin's poem "Storm," a verse-form rant about the miseries of woowoo, the glory of science, the delights of skepticism and the miracle of the actual world.

Tim Minchin's Storm the Animated Movie (Thanks, Iguana, via Submitterator!)

Worldreader: ebooks for kids in the developing world

I've recently lent my support to Worldreader, an innovative nonprofit program that distributes ebook readers to children in the developing world and then exposes them to a large library of donated texts from writers from across the world, as well as newspapers and other materials. I was delighted to give them access to all my books (of course), and put them in touch with a large group of other kids' and young adult writers who were happy to do the same (including my hero Daniel Pinkwater, who travelled in and wrote about Kenya and has a real love of Africa).

WR: What advice do you have for kids in developing countries who are just beginning to read and only have recently gotten access to books because of technology advancements?

Cory: I have a couple of pieces of advice about reading. One is that the most dangerous thing in the world is someone who has only read one book. The great thing about reading is that you can triangulate your ideas among lots of different authors, different times, or different place. When you read widely and broadly it shows you that everything is relative. It shows that there is a lot of ways of looking at things, and often times, problems can become solutions if looked at creatively.

The other piece of advice I would give them about reading electronically is to not allow their collections to be tied to one device or platform. Devices come and go, but data can live forever. The only way you can maintain access to them is if you insist on the ability and the right to move the books into any format or any platform you want to.

Writers Changing Lives: A Chat With Cory Doctorow

Anti-viral/allergen nostril filters

First Defense Nasal Screens are tiny anti-pollen nostril-plugs you stick up your nose, made from "100 percent breathable non-latex, skin safe material." The manufacturer claims that lab tests show them to be "99 percent" effective against allergens and viruses. You can get seven sets for $10.

First Defense Nasal Screens (via Red Ferret)

Elf ears

Today in elf news, the ears have it: pointy ones, that is, cut surgically from the standard round human set. Mark posted about a pioneer some time ago, but now the mainstream's caught on. The tabloids are Concerned. From the Daily Mail:
Some fantasy film buffs in Arizona are taking their obsessions to new levels by actually having their ears cut open and sculpted to look like elves. The elf ears craze has many health risks but that isn't stopping sci-fi fans having the top of their cartilage sliced and sewed back together in a point. ... The elf ears craze is believed to have been brought on by films such as Lord of the Rings and Avatar, as well as HBO's comedy television series Bored to Death.
Dr. Arthur W. Perry, quoted by the Mail, warns that scultping cartilage is dangerous and risks a "major deformity of the ear," though that would seem to be rather the idea. ABC ran a news segment about it, full of pointed criticism. Fans undergo elf ear operations to look like fantasy film characters [Daily Mail]

Chinese censors ban time travel TV shows

The Chinese General Bureau of Radio, Film and Television has prohibited new science fiction TV dramas, following a vogue for shows where modern Chinese people travel to ancient China and discover that it's not a bad place to be (this having some counter-revolutionary subtext). They've also prohibited production of "the Four Great Classical Novels", ("the four novels commonly counted by scholars to be the greatest and most influential of classical Chinese fiction"), on the grounds that the widespread adaptations of them take too many liberties with the original texts.
From the end of last year, the time-travel themed drama is becoming more and more popular. Most of these time-travel dramas are based on real historical stories but with many newly added, and usually exaggerated elements to make it funny and more attractive. Nothing is off limits in this television genre. While some find it hilarious, others think the exaggeration and even ridiculous elements added into the story is a real source of annoyance and is a disrespectful for history.

The authority's decision was made on the Television Director Committee Meeting on April 1st. - but obviously it's not a prank to fans of the drama genre. The authority has a good reason to go against the genre. "The time-travel drama is becoming a hot theme for TV and films. But its content and the exaggerated performance style are questionable. Many stories are totally made-up and are made to strain for an effect of novelty. The producers and writers are treating the serious history in a frivolous way, which should by no means be encouraged anymore."

"No more time-travel drama", authority says it disrespects history

广电总局叫停四大名著翻拍 批穿越剧不尊重历史

(via Making Light)

Behavioral psychology and security blindspots

A Bruce Schneier essay from IEEE Security & Privacy describes a series of experiments in logical thinking, through which some of our security blindspots come to light:
Consider the Wason selection task. Subjects are presented with four cards next to each other on a table. Each card represents a person, with each side listing some statement about that person. The subject is then given a general rule and asked which cards he would have to turn over to ensure that the four people satisfied that rule. For example, the general rule might be, "If a person travels to Boston, then he or she takes a plane." The four cards might correspond to travelers and have a destination on one side and a mode of transport on the other. On the side facing the subject, they read: "went to Boston," "went to New York," "took a plane," and "took a car." Formal logic states that the rule is violated if someone goes to Boston without taking a plane. Translating into propositional calculus, there's the general rule: if P, then Q. The four cards are "P," "not P," "Q," and "not Q." To verify that "if P, then Q" is a valid rule, you have to verify modus ponens by turning over the "P" card and making sure that the reverse says "Q." To verify modus tollens, you turn over the "not Q" card and make sure that the reverse doesn't say "P."

Shifting back to the example, you need to turn over the "went to Boston" card to make sure that person took a plane, and you need to turn over the "took a car" card to make sure that person didn't go to Boston. You don't -- as many people think -- need to turn over the "took a plane" card to see if it says "went to Boston" because you don't care. The person might have been flying to Boston, New York, San Francisco, or London. The rule only says that people going to Boston fly; it doesn't break the rule if someone flies elsewhere.

Detecting Cheaters

(Image: Theory of Boundaries, 1969-1970, chalk on dry pigment on wall by Mel Bochner, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from nostri-imago's photostream)