Here's a fascinating ten-minute animation to accompany audio from a debate between Stephen Fry and Ann Widdecombe, a UK Tory politician turned novelist. They're debating the motion, "The Catholic Church is a force for good in the world" (Widdecombe is a convert from Anglicanism to Catholicism), and Fry is both charming and relentless, and scores some incredible points. If you like rhetoric, atheism debates, philosophy and animation, this is ten minutes very well-spent.
The tsunami and earthquake have faded from the headlines, but the need for aid is still real. Incubot, in conjunction with partners World Events Productions and CustomUSB, have created a line of Japan Relief customs 2G USB drives: limited edition, fully licensed, and in colors honoring the japanese flag. Packaged in "Ganbari Japan!" custom boxes.
100% of profits go to Japanese Red Cross Society and to Safecast radiation monitoring efforts.
A group of respected security researchers have published a paper documenting the tactics used by KISSmetrics -- a company that counts Hulu and many other Internet giants among its customers -- to install and read back cookies on your computer even if you don't want them. Using a kind of kitchen-sink approach, KISSmetrics is able to track your computer even if you've got cookies, Flash cookies and other common cookie-setting vectors turned off. It's one thing for companies to say that they only gather information about users who allow such tracking; it's another thing for a company to go to endless lengths to circumvent their users' best attempts to shield themselves from tracking.
“Both the Hulu and KISSmetrics code is pretty enlightening,” Soltani told Wired.com in an e-mail. “These services are using practically every known method to circumvent user attempts to protect their privacy (Cookies, Flash Cookies, HTML5, CSS, Cache Cookies/Etags…) creating a perpetual game of privacy ‘whack-a-mole’.”
“This is yet another example of the continued arms-race that consumers are engaged in when trying to protect their privacy online since advertisers are incentivized to come up with more pervasive tracking mechanisms unless there’s policy restrictions to prevent it.”
They point to their research that found that when a user visited Hulu.com, they would get a “third-party” cookie set by KISSmetrics with a tracking ID number. KISSmetrics would pass that number to Hulu, allowing Hulu to use it for its own cookie. Then if a user visited another site that was using KISSmetrics, that site’s cookie would get the exact same number as well.
So that makes it possible, the researchers say, for any two sites using KISSmetrics to compare their databases, and ask things like “Hey, what do you know about user 345627?” and the other site could say “his name is John Smith and his email address is firstname.lastname@example.org and he likes these kinds of things.”
The City Of Westminster Counter Terrorist Focus Desk publishes a weekly briefing on safety called Griffin Weekly, full of useful advice. For example, this week's briefing contains these helpful tips on Anarchism: "Anarchism is a political philosophy
which considers the state undesirable, unnecessary, and harmful, and instead promotes a stateless society, or anarchy. Any information relating to anarchists should be reported to your local Police."
Right, that's my weekend sorted -- I'll be down at my local police station, reading the works of Kropotkin aloud for the constables.
(More seriously: Seriously? These are the terrorism experts who are making official evaluations of risk and official plans to mitigate it? Seriously?)
HADOPI, the French agency charged with disconnecting French Internet users who use the same Internet connections as accused copyright infringers, conducted a study on media purchasing habits by copyright infringers. They concluded that the biggest unauthorized downloaders are also the biggest customers for legitimate media. Just like every other study that's looked at the question, of course, but this time the study was funded and released by one of the most extreme copyright enforcement bodies on the planet.
Joe Karaganis, from SSRC, points us to the news that there's been yet another such study... and this one is from HADOPI, itself. Yes, the French agency put together to kick people off the internet for file sharing did a study on the nature of unauthorized file sharing, too. Not surprisingly (and consistent with every other study we've seen on this topic), it found that those who spend a lot of money on content... were much, much, much more likely to also get content through unauthorized means. HADOPI released the results in a somewhat convoluted way (perhaps trying to downplay this result), but Karaganis reformatted the results to make this clear.
AccessNow, an NGO that works for human rights values in telcoms policy, took a resolution to the Vodafone Board meeting in London last week, holding the company to account for its network shutdown during the Egyptian revolution and asking it to endorse a plan to uphold its customers' human rights in future.
"I am asking this question as a proxy and on behalf of thousands of people from over 85 countries who have endorsed this question to the Vodafone Board.
Our question is, in recognition of the challenges that you and other telcos faced during the Egyptian revolution and the lessons you’ve learned from this experience might you be better prepared for any future crises - which is undoubtedly in the wings - by committing to doing a human rights assessment of your licensing agreements in the roughly 70 countries you operate in, to ensure that, for example, you are both able to protect your staff and the integrity of the network, but not in the position of having to once again shut down the internet or send pro-regime messages to your customers as happened earlier in the year in Egypt?
I would like to present you with a five step action plan, consistent with the GNI principles, which we believe would assist you to protect Vodafone's brand and shareholder's profits and ask that you consider adhering to the practices outlined in the action plan."
In addition to prolonging the misery and bloodshed of the Egyptian revolution, Vodafone's network shutdown also resulted in the death of Egyptians who couldn't use their phones to call ambulances during medical emergencies. Not to mention all the money the shareholders lost when millions of Egyptians lost their phone service.
Today I got a message from Burton Posey on Google+ about a Kickstarter project he's working on with his wife. They're making an iPad game called "Robots Love Ice Cream". I liked the art they'd been working on, and I especially liked that they were having music created especially for the game by Disasterpeace.
Since it hasn't met its goal yet, I made a small donation to the project. If you'd like to do the same, you only have a couple hours left to do so, as the project's fundraising deadline looms before us.
Robots Love Ice Cream on Kickstarter
My friend William Gurstelle is holding a clerihew contest to promote his new book, TThe Practical Pyromaniac. Sounds like fun!
“Hello Poetry Lovers”
That was often the introduction to “Bullwinkle’s Corner,” a frequent segment of the 1960s cartoon, The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show. To this day, I still remember many of the poems Bullwinkle recited. Some of my favorite segments included “Wee Willie Winkie,” “Little Miss Muffet,” and umm, “I Love Little Pussy.”
To celebrate the publication of my new book, The Practical Pyromaniac, the Chicago Review Press (my publisher), is sponsoring a contest to see who can write the most creative Clerihew about fire, scientists, and similarly geeky subjects. For the budding poet, writer, or wiseacre with a scientific bent, it’s a great opportunity for creativity!
Jennie Sharman-Cox's assemblage jewelry uses a wide variety of materials, including a lot of pieces of British military regalia, encrusted with fake pearls and found objects. She's got a great compositional eye and the finished pieces are really beautiful; I just bought one for my wife at Luna and Curious in London.
I met Chester Winowiecki at Maker Faire Detroit (happening this weekend). He makes cool stringed instruments out of pie pans and cookie tins. They sound great! I've asked him to write a pie pan banjo uke how to for MAKE. I can't wait to make one myself.
Watch a video of Chester