Boing Boing 

The President's challenge: What more does government want — or deserve — from the tech world?

There's an old joke. Heavy rains start and a neighbour pulls up in his truck. "Hey Bob, I'm leaving for high ground. Want a lift?" Bob says, "No, I'm putting my faith in God." Well, waters rise and pretty soon the bottom floor of his house is under water. Bob looks out the second story window as a boat comes by and offers him a lift. "No, I'm putting my faith in God." The rain intensifies and floodwaters rise and Bob's forced onto the roof. A helicopter comes, lowers a line, and Bob yells "No, I'm putting my faith in God."

Well, Bob drowns. He goes to Heaven and finally gets to meet God. "God, what was that about? I prayed and put my faith in you, and I drowned!"

God says, "I sent you a truck, a boat, and a helicopter! What the hell more did you want from me?"

As SOPA looked shakier, the President handed a challenge to the technical community:

"Washington needs to hear your best ideas about how to clamp down on rogue Web sites and other criminals who make money off the creative efforts of American artists and rights holders," reads Saturday's statement. "We should all be committed to working with all interested constituencies to develop new legal tools to protect global intellectual property rights without jeopardizing the openness of the Internet. Our hope is that you will bring enthusiasm and know-how to this important challenge."

All I can think is: we gave you the Internet. We gave you the Web. We gave you MP3 and MP4. We gave you e-commerce, micropayments, PayPal, Netflix, iTunes, Amazon, the iPad, the iPhone, the laptop, 3G, wifi--hell, you can even get online while you're on an AIRPLANE. What the hell more do you want from us?

Take the truck, the boat, the helicopter, that we've sent you. Don't wait for the time machine, because we're never going to invent something that returns you to 1965 when copying was hard and you could treat the customer's convenience with contempt.

Republished with permission from O'Reilly Radar

Vortex, a USB keytar

A $250 USB keytar with DAW automapping, MIDI-assignable motion sensitivity and an internal battery for optional use with an iPad? Yes. [Alesis]

Inside SpaceX's Dragon

When it heads into orbit this year, SpaceX's Dragon will be the first private spacecraft to visit the International Space Station. It won't be carrying tourists, but you can explore it now thanks to a panoramic view published by the company. [SpaceX]

NYT Pony Correction revisited

I'm a little late back to the party, but here's even more coverage of the now-infamous NYT My Little Pony Correction. [Romenesko] Previously.

Elfquest too much like The Hobbit, says Warner Brothers

Warner Brothers has canceled production of Elfquest, a movie about the feral descendants of space-faring shape-shifters and their quest to uncover the truth about their ancestors' crash-landing on a primitive planet, because that sounds rather too much like The Hobbit.

Trailer for Die Antwoord's upcoming "TEN$ION" album

[Video Link] This just hit the internet today. TEN$ION, the South African band's new album scheduled out February 7, will be their first release since breaking up with Interscope.

Ornate Victorian typewriter has a great section on the Crandall New Model, "one of the most beautiful typewriters ever made."

It has a wonderful curved and ornate Victorian design and is lavishly decorated with hand painted roses, accented with inlaid mother-of-pearl!

Lucien S. Crandall was born in Broome County New York in 1844. He would become one of the great early typewriter pioneers during the 1860s and 1870s. He patented perhaps ten typewriters with six or so being manufactured. All of his designs are very intriguing and brilliantly imagined machines. The Crandall - New Model was his third typewriter to be manufactured but the first to have some success in sales.

The Crandall was the first typewriter to print from a single element or "type-sleeve", well before IBM's 'Golf ball' of 1961. The Crandall's type-sleeve is a cylinder, about the size of your finger (see photo below), which rotates and rises up one or two positions before striking the roller, achieving 84 characters with only 28 keys. The type-sleeve is easy to remove, allowing for change of font style and character size.

Crandall, New Model (Thanks, Antique typewriter Collector!)

A.D.D. comic book: Exclusive essay and excerpt by author Douglas Rushkoff

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Everyone seems to have A.D.D. these days. (In case you’ve been too distracted by your Twitter feed to remember, A.D.D. stands for Attention Deficit Disorder -- the inability to focus on any one thing for too long, the urge to do nine things at once, and the hyper, constantly shifting, unsettled feeling that goes along with it.)

Apparently, it’s an epidemic -- particularly among boys, and especially among those who love video games. And so video games are now blamed for destroying their brains, and their capacity to become productive members of society.

But, to me anyway, something never felt right about this line of reasoning. Even if playing video games and answering txt messages shortens the attention span, what if it broadens the attention range? What if the downsides of an A.D.D. approach to life were actually offset by some other, still unidentified advantage? Or in computer programmer’s parlance, what if A.D.D. weren’t a bug, but a feature?

In fact, this whole Attention Deficit craze really only began in the late '90s, a few years after the Internet business magazines unanimously declared we were living in something called an “attention economy.” The idea was that the Internet is essentially limitless in its ability to hold content. The only limiting factor on how much money media companies can make off us in an age of infinite bandwidth is human attention itself.

They came up with a new metric, “eyeball hours,” to describe the amount of time they could keep someone’s attention glued to the screen. Media companies arose to make websites more “sticky” so that people -- especially kids -- would end up spending more of their eyeball hours stuck on their web pages.

Over the next decade, prescriptions for Ritalin -- the leading A.D.D. drug, otherwise known as “speed” -- went up by about 5000%. Were real cases of the formerly rare sensory disorder multiplying at this rate? Were they simply being diagnosed more easily? Or was something other than A.D.D. now getting labeled this way?

That’s when I started to believe that at least this new breed of Attention Deficit Disorder may not be a sickness but a defense mechanism: an adaptation to a world where someone -- usually some corporation -- is trying to program us everywhere we look. Fast channel surfing and short attention spans are not deficits but strengths -- weapons, really -- in the battle for human consciousness.

When I think about kids being diagnosed by public school guidance counselors and then drugged to pay better attention, I can’t help but suspect we are no longer treating a child but repressing the messenger.

So I decided I wanted to tell a story in which A.D.D. was quite literally a bug that was being turned into a feature. Following the what-if structure of science fiction, all I needed to do was ask who would do such a thing to kids, and why? And what would happen if it worked? What would American, videogame-playing “new type” mutations look like, and how would they relate to the world in which we are living?

The story in A.D.D. may be fiction, but the war on our minds and against our resistance is as real as the mediaspace in which we live. They mean to occupy our reality before we occupy theirs.

Buy A.D.D. (Adolescent Demo Division) on Amazon

Read Cory's review of A.D.D.

After the jump, an exclusive excerpt of Doug's A.D.D. comic book, published by Vertigo.

Make: Talk 002 - Bob Knetzger, Toy Inventor

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Here's the second episode of MAKE's new podcast, Make: Talk! In each episode, I'll interview one of the makers from the pages of the magazine.

We created Make: Talk to find out about the people who write the how-to articles in MAKE. As you might guess, MAKE's authors are often as interesting as the projects they build. In Make: Talk, you'll find out why they make things, how they acquire skills, where they go for inspiration, and what's on their workbenches.

Our maker this week is Bob Knetzger, MAKE's "Toy Inventor's Notebook" columnist.

Marble-MazeBob's a designer, inventor, and the co-founder of Neotoy in Kirkland, Washington. Bob's designed hundreds of toys and games for companies like Mattel, Hasbro, Simon and Schuster, and CBS. He's designed and invented everything from cereal box toys, to educational software, to games. His creations have been seen on The Tonight Show, Good Morning America, and ABC's Nightline.

See videos of Bob's collection of "groovy" mechanical sound players.

Download Make: Talk 002 as an MP3 | Subscribe to Make: Talk in iTunes | Subscribe via RSS | Download single episodes as MP3s

Secret history of the SOPA/PIPA fight

Carl Franzen's history of the SOPA/PIPA fight on Talking Points Memo is a fascinating account of the behind-the-scenes stuff that created the series of ever-larger protests that resulted in the bills' demise. Of particular note is his credit to Tiffiniy Cheng, who, along with Nicholas Reville, and Holmes Wilson, forms a trio of Boston-bred activists who are three of the most creative, passionate, skilled and engaged shit-disturbers I know. You may remember them as Downhill Battle, but they're also the folks behind Universal Subtitles, Miro, FreeBieber, and many other interesting and noteworthy campaigns and projects.

“There was sustained effort for the past three months,” said Tiffiniy Cheng, co-founder of Fight For the Future, an online advocacy non-profit that was founded in mid-2011 with a grant from the Media Democracy Fund, itself a fund-raising and distribution organization founded in 2006 “on the belief that freedom of expression and access to information are basic human rights.”

Fight for the Future played an early leading role in coordinating the various websites and groups opposed to SOPA and PIPA into a cohesive coalition.

That coalition, which ended up including upwards of 70 different companies and advocacy groups — From Tumblr to Demand Progress to Don’t Censor the Net — first took shape as a coalition in November 2011 under the banner “American Censorship,” just in time to rally opponents ahead of the House Judiciary Committee’s first hearing on SOPA.

How The Web Killed SOPA and PIPA (via Michael Geist)

Marx Brothers history

The latest installment from the great pop culture podcast Tank Riot is an in-depth look at the Marx Brothers. The lads cover the Marx's personal lives, their filmography, their place in the histories of Vaudeville, film and radio, and more besides. MP3

Gweek 036: Grab bag of comics, book, gadgets, apps, and websites we love

Gweek is a weekly podcast where the editors and friends of Boing Boing talk about comic books, science fiction and fantasy, video games, board games, tools, gadgets, apps, and other neat stuff.

Read the rest

Notes towards a practice of responsive comics

Here's the very talented Pablo Defendini -- developer, designer, artist, digital guy -- describing how "responsive" comics can be made using HTML and CSS that intelligently format themselves for a variety of devices, and addressing the writing and illustration challenges this gives rise to. He's not talking about "motion comics" -- he's talking about comics where the layouts and writing take into account a range of screen-sizes and aspect ratios.

Responsive design works for websites, why not for digital comic books?

New Righthaven offers hosting service "with a spine"

After snatching a notorious copyright troll's name at auction, a Swiss company is turning into a web hosting service. The intended customers?

Read the rest

US record labels trying to sneak SOPA's provisions into Canada's pending copyright legislation

Michael Geist sez,

The Internet battle against SOPA and PIPA generated huge interest in Canada with many Canadians turning their sites dark (including Blogging Tories, Project Gutenberg Canada, and CIPPIC) in support of the protest. While SOPA may be dead (for now) in the U.S., lobby groups are likely to intensify their efforts to export SOPA-like rules to other countries. With Bill C-11 back on the legislative agenda at the end of the month, Canada will be a prime target for SOPA style rules.

In fact, a close review of the unpublished submissions to the Bill C-32 legislative committee reveals that several groups have laid the groundwork to add SOPA-like rules into Bill C-11, including blocking websites and expanding the "enabler provision"to target a wider range of websites. Given the reaction to SOPA in the U.S., where millions contacted their elected representatives to object to rules that threatened their Internet and digital rights, the political risks inherent in embracing SOPA-like rules are significant.

The music industry is unsurprisingly leading the way, demanding a series of changes that would make Bill C-11 look much more like SOPA. For example, the industry wants language to similar to that found in SOPA on blocking access to websites, demanding new provisions that would "permit a court to make an order blocking a pirate site such as The Pirate Bay to protect the Canadian marketplace from foreign pirate sites."

The Behind-the-Scenes Campaign To Bring SOPA To Canada

Vermin Supreme: strong teeth for a strong America

Meet presidential candidate Vermin Supreme, the tyrant you should trust. He's wearing a boot as a hat and he knows what's best for you. If you let him control your life, you'll enjoy mandatory daily toothbrushing, free ponies for all Americans, fantastic wordplay and zombie energy generation. Stick around for the end when he glitterbombs fellow candidate Randall Terry in an attempt to make him gay.

[Video Link]

Preppers: suburban survivalists


Reuters profiles "Preppers" who are getting ready for total and complete societal breakdown due to natural disaster, terrorism, economic collapse, pandemic, or a good ol' fashioned apocalypse. Of course, they speak to Prepper patron saint James Wesley Rawles, author of How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It who also offers survivalism consultancy services.

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"Unfortunately, given the increasing complexity and fragility of our modern technological society, the chances of a societal collapse are increasing year after year," said author James Wesley Rawles, whose Survival Blog is considered the guiding light of the prep per movement.

A former Army intelligence officer, Rawles has written fiction and non-fiction books on end-of-civilization topics, including "How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It," which is also known as the preppers' Bible.

"We could see a cascade of higher interest rates, margin calls, stock market collapses, bank runs, currency revaluations, mass street protests, and riots," he told Reuters. "The worst-case end result would be a Third World War, mass inflation, currency collapses, and long term power grid failures…"

Many of today's preppers receive inspiration from the Internet, devouring information posted on websites like that run by attorney Michael T. Snider, who writes The Economic Collapse blog out of his home in northern Idaho.

"Modern preppers are much different from the survivalists of the old days," he said. "You could be living next door to a prepper and never even know it. Many suburbanites are turning spare rooms into food pantries and are going for survival training on the weekends."

"Subculture of Americans prepares for civilization's collapse"

Mr. Daisey and the Apple Factory


UPDATE: This American Life has retracted "MR. DAISEY AND THE APPLE FACTORY" because the segment "contained significant fabrications," writes show host Ira Glass.

When Apple fanboy Mike Daisey saw photos from someone's iPhone that were ostensibly from inside Foxconn and not wiped before shipment, he became deeply curious about the goings on in the factory that makes a lot of our high-tech crap. So he went to Shenzhen, stood outside the plant, and talked to the workers. His story of their stories stirred up quite a bit of controversy last year and ultimately made for a wonderful and moving spoken word performance at New York's Public Theater. (Nightly shows of "The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs begin again on January 31.) And if you're not in NYC, Mike's performance was excerpted on This American Life earlier this month. From an email Mike sent over the weekend:

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In its first week the episode was the most downloaded in THIS AMERICAN LIFE's history. The internet exploded, and the story went everywhere—I received over a thousand emails in just a few days; the response was overwhelming.

That same week news broke that hundreds of Foxconn workers had a stand-off that lasted two days, where they were all threatening mass suicide by throwing themselves off the roof of the plant over their working conditions.

This is at Foxconn, a company which Apple's own 2011 Supplier Responsibility Report said was completely up to code, and which Apple applauded for their efforts. This is the company about which Steve Jobs said the employees enjoyed a virtual paradise of movie theaters, swimming pools, and luxury.

A week after our show was broadcast, Apple made an abrupt announcement. After years of stonewalling and silence, they released the full list of their suppliers, and agreed to outside, independent monitoring of working conditions in the factories they use. It is not everything, but it is a small step down the right road.

"Mr. Daisey and the Apple Factory"

Room 237: documentary about The Shining

Room 237 is my old friend Rodney Ascher's curious new documentary about the hidden (imagined?) meanings and metaphors in Stanley Kubrick's The Shining. It premiers today at the Sundance Film Festival! Above is a short video about the score to Room 237. As the vocoder-esque narration says, "Kubrick's film was scored in large part with pre existing classical recordings, but the score for Room 237 has taken as its inspiration the elegant but quirky film music that accompanied low budget horror movies in the 1970s." Room 237

Museum photos: Mummified Ice-Age bison

Kirk Johnson is a paleobotanist at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. He took this photo at the University of Alaska Museum during a recent trip to Fairbanks.

What you're looking at is a mummified bison from the Ice Age. It was frozen in solid soil and uncovered by gold miners who were artificially thawing out the surrounding Earth in 1979. There are claw and tooth marks in the mummy that have allowed scientists to finger the bison's killer: An American lion.

This is really cool, and it gives me an idea: There are lots of relatively small, locally oriented museums all over the country, harboring neat finds like this. Unlike places like the Smithsonian or New York's American Museum of Natural History, these museums don't draw in huge crowds of tourists from faraway cities, so most of us don't even know about the treasures stored there—let alone ever get to see them.

So here's my challenge to you: Visit your local science and natural history museums, photograph your favorite exhibit, and send me the pictures—along with any nifty information you picked up from reading the labels and signs. I'm at What beloved specimen do you want the world to know about?

Testing suborbital rocket navigation on Earth

When planning a mission to another planet, or even the moon, a big challenge is testing the sensors and instruments that actually land the payloads on the planetary surface. In this video, Draper Laboratory demonstrates how their Guidance Embedded Navigator Integration Environment (GENIE) -- a guidance, navigation, and control system -- can control a Xombie suborbital rocket under realistic flight conditions. The tether is just for safety. From Draper Laboratory:

Aircraft available to test NASA instruments today are unable to fly at the desired trajectories for planetary landings, and computer simulations are used to generate that data. However, a GENIE controlled flight vehicle could mimic a spacecraft’s final approach to the Moon and Mars here on Earth. Emerging and advancing future space technologies will then have the opportunity to fly their payloads terrestrially to raise their overall Technology Readiness Level and show that they are ready for use in space.

"NASA Moves Closer to Planetary Landing Demo Capability on Earth with Draper’s GENIE"

Inside a malware company's trouble-ticket system

Brian Krebs has been through the support forums for the "Citadel" trojan, a piece of commercial malicious software (spun out from the notorious ZeuS trojan) you can buy and use to take over other peoples' computers to make botnets for sending spam or taking down websites with traffic-floods. The fun-loving crooks running Citidel take their customers' satisfaction very seriously, so they've established an efficient trouble-ticket system to help solve any support problems that arise.

The Citadel trojan deactivates itself in the presence of computers running Russian or Ukrainian keyboard layouts. Krebs explains, "This feature is almost certainly a hedge to keep the developers out of trouble: Authorities in those regions are far less likely to pursue the Trojan’s creators if there are no local victims."

“We have created for you a special system — call it the social network for our customers. Citadel CRM Store allows you to take part in product development in the following ways:

- Report bug reports and and other errors in software. All tickets are looked at by technical support you will receive a timely response to your questions. No more trying to reach the author via ICQ or Jabber.

-Each client has the right to create an unlimited number of applications within the system. Requests can contain suggestions on a new module or improvements of existing module. Such requests can be public or private.

-Each client has a right to vote on new ideas suggested by other members and offer his/her price for development of the enhancement/module. The decision is made by the developers on whether to go forward with certain enhancement or new module depending on the voting results.

-Each client has the right to comment on any application and talk to any member. Now it is going to be interesting for you to find partners and like-minded people and also to take active parts in discussions with the developers.

‘Citadel’ Trojan Touts Trouble-Ticket System

John Cale on "I've Got A Secret" (1963)

While the amazing John Cale is best known as a founder of the Velvet Underground, his association with the group followed Cale's deep involvement with the avant-garde classical music scene. During the early 1960s, Cale performed with John Cage, La Monte Young, Tony Conrad, and many others, and pioneered the drone/minimalist sound that continues to inspire experimental musicians today. In 1963, Cale, Cage, and others staged the first full-length performance of Erik Satie's "Vexations," a piano piece meant to be played 840 times. The concert lasted 18 hours. On September 16 of that year, Cale was a guest the TV program "I've Got A Secret." His secret was that he participated in the Vexations performance. The other guest was actor Karl Schenzer, whose secret was that he sat through the whole thing. John Cale: "I've Got A Secret"

Local snow does not disprove global climate change

Even with all those Snowpocalypseses(?), NASA says that 2011 was still the ninth warmest year on record since 1880—and all but one of the top 10 warmest years have happened in the last 11 years. 1998 is third-hottest, although it's worth noting that the top six years are all close enough that they may as well be fundamentally tied for first.

Supremes to GPS-snooping cops: come back with a warrant

The US Supreme Court has unanimously overturned several lower courts and ruled that police can't hide GPS trackers on your car without a warrant.

I will not put a pun in this headline

You may be pleased to know that there is an International Forum for the Study of Itch. And it has a regular conference, which just leads to inevitable jokes.

Good news: Whale and dolphins are friends

Sometimes, you need to start off your week with a dose of happy news. For instance, this video from the American Museum of Natural History details two recent instances where scientists have observed a whale and several dolphins interacting in ways that are something we might classify as "play".

It's hard to talk about animal behavior without getting too anthropomorphizing, but think about it this way: In both instances, the whale and dolphins did not appear to be competing with other, they did not appear to be fighting, nor were they cooperating in a goal-oriented way. When scientists say "animals are playing" they don't necessarily mean "play" the way human children play, but they do mean behaviors that go beyond simple eat/sleep/defend/breed necessities. Play might be learning. Play might be about forming social bonds that help an individual later on. And however you interpret it, spotting examples of spontaneous, inter-species play in the wild is kind of a big deal.

And now, with those caveats out of the way, I'd like to highlight the top comment on YouTube, by one Bill Kiernan: "We both used to be land animals, isn't that crazy? clearly we need to hang out."

Video Link

Via Charles Q. Choi

Funny titles mask serious science

Sabina Hossenfelder, an assistant professor of high-energy and nuclear physics at Sweden's Nordic Institute for Theoretical Physics, is collecting a list of scientific research papers with hilarious names. I've long known that humanities researchers have a good deal of freedom in titling their work—ever since running across the seminal work "Like a Thesis: A post-modern reading of Madonna videos" in college. But I'd not guessed there would be as many ridiculously-titled scientific papers as Hossenfelder has managed to come up with.

There's some real beauties in here, including "Local Pancake Defeats Axis of Evil", "Deconstructing Noncommutativity with a Giant Fuzzy Moose", and a pair of papers from 2002 and 2006, respectively, entitled "Nutty Bubbles" and "Nuttier Bubbles".

Many of the papers on Hossenfelder's list come from arXiv, so they have not necessarily been through a formal peer review process, but they are all about very real science. That's an important thing to stress. In all the examples I listed, for instance, silly titles are adding a touch of levity to some otherwise highly technical physics work that I am not able to explain to you without first doing a whole lot of additional research. In fact, that's part of what makes this list so awesome. Here's the abstract for "Local Pancake Defeats Axis of Evil":

Among the biggest surprises revealed by COBE and confirmed by WMAP measurements of the temperature anisotropy of the CMB are the anomalous features in the 2-point angular correlation function on very large angular scales. In particular, the $\ell = 2$ quadrupole and $\ell = 3$ octopole terms are surprisingly planar and aligned with one another, which is highly unlikely for a statistically isotropic Gaussian random field, and the axis of the combined low-$\ell$ signal is perpendicular to ecliptic plane and the plane defined by the dipole direction. Although this $< 0.1 %$ 3-axis alignment might be explained as a statistical fluke, it is certainly an uncomfortable one, which has prompted numerous exotic explanations as well as the now well known ``Axis of Evil'' (AOE) nickname. Here, we present a novel explanation for the AOE as the result of weak lensing of the CMB dipole by local large scale structures in the local universe, and demonstrate that the effect is qualitatively correct and of a magnitude sufficient to fully explain the anomaly.

I'll give you a hint. It's about astrophysics.

Check out Hossenfelder's full list.

Via jebyrnes

Image: KISS's Noble Steed - Fancy Dress At Work #3, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from rileyroxx's photostream

Petition: investigate Chris Dodd for fraud

A petition to the White House asks for an official investigation of former senator and now-MPAA CEO Chris Dodd, who strongly implied that he believes his members' contributions to election campaigns are bribes.

“This is an open admission of bribery and a threat designed to provoke a specific policy goal. This is a brazen flouting of the ‘above the law’ status people of Dodd’s position and wealth enjoy,” the petition reads.

“We demand justice. Investigate this blatant bribery and indict every person, especially government officials and lawmakers, who is involved.”

In just a few hours the petition amassed more than 5,000 [ed: now 6,000] votes and this number is increasing rapidly. As a former Senator, Chris Dodd has many friends in Washington so it’s unclear whether the petition will accomplish anything, but if the numbers grow big enough the White House won’t be able to ignore it either.

White House Petitioned to Investigate MPAA Bribery