Boing Boing 

Gatekeeper: Cancel or Allow?

The new OS X Gatekeeper encourages desktop apps to be registered with Apple, with users warned against installing unsigned software unless they disable the prompts.

The benefits—and the potential pitfalls—are obvious. It's intended as as an anti-malware system (with a whitelist rather than a blacklist), and the registration process will be simple and inexpensive. It'll destroy the nascent market for sleazy Windows-style antivirus subscriptions.

On the other hand, it's under the OS vendor's control, and once established, offers it certain temptations. Will Apple use it to anti-competitively influence the desktop software market? Will OS X end up as closed to unapproved developers as iOS? Will the controls end up co-opted by governments?

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White Stripes' "Seven Nation Army" performed on things found in a laboratory

The Blast Lab at Imperial College, London, is a place where scientists study how explosions affect the human skeleton, and try to find ways to mitigate some of those effects. As you can imagine, this involves blowing stuff up fairly regularly and The Blast Lab is a pretty loud place.

But the team of students behind PLoS' Inside Knowledge blog noticed something cool about that. The sounds in The Blast Lab weren't just loud noises, they were loud notes. Edit them together, and you could reproduce a whole song, using nothing but sounds recorded in a working scientific laboratory.

In this video, the Inside Knowledge crew plays The White Stripes' "Seven Nation Army" on the Imperial College Blast Lab. In case you're curious, here's the breakdown showing what lab equipment the team used to replicate the sound of which instruments.

Bass Guitar: Main sensor output cable
Bass Drum: Blast Rig
Toms: Hammer & Storm Case
Hi-Hat: Oil Spray
Cymbal: Blast Plate
'Vocals': Laces to contain dummy leg during blast
'Guitar': Accelerometer cable & Fastening Strings

Video Link

Submitterated by Ben Good

Tiny, adorable lizard is tiny, adorable

Meet Brookesia micra, one of four newly identified species of ultra-small chameleons that live in Madagascar.

Never let it be said that reptiles can't be totally cute.

Submitterated by Dr. Sideshow and lecti.

"Putting the Fun Back in Infrastructure" - Maggie speaking in Vancouver

I'm going to be speaking on Monday, February 20th, at the meeting of the British Columbia Sustainable Energy Association, starting at 7:00 pm. My presentation will focus on the North American electric grid—where it came from, how it works today, and how it affects what we can and can't do in the future. I'll be talking about a lot of the big themes that I cover in my upcoming book, Before the Lights Go Out.

Privacy plugin keeps Facebook from reading your updates

"Encrypt Facebook is a Chrome extension that would prevent snooping on the discussions,status updates in Facebook groups by storing it them in an encrypted format on Facebook's database instead of normal text and also it would convert encrypted format back into normal text whenever that particular group's url is accessed in Chrome." (Thanks, Joly!)

On writing fiction with voice-recognition software

Justine Larbalestier, a very good novelist with very bad RSI, has written a great post called "Why I Cannot Write a Novel With Voice Recognition Software." In it, she explains why machine-based speech-to-text software isn't sufficient for fiction. I think that if I absolutely lost the use of my hands and had no other choice, I'd probably dive into speech-to-text and gut it out, but nothing short of absolute necessity would get me to write fiction with machine-based speech-recognition.

Most of my first drafts are written in a gush of words as the characters and story come flowing out of me. Having to start and stop as I correct the VRS errors, and try to get it to write what I want it to write, interrupts my flow, throw me out of the story I’m trying to write, and makes me forget the gorgeously crafted sentence that was in my head ten seconds ago.

Now, yes, when I’m typing that gorgeously crafted sentence in my head it frequently turns out to not be so gorgeously crafted but, hey, that’s what rewriting is for. And when I’m typing the sentence it always has a resemblance to its platonic ideal. With VRS if I don’t check after every clause appears I wind up with sentences like this:

Warm artichoke had an is at orange night light raining when come lit.

Rather than

When Angel was able to emerge into the orange night Liam’s reign was complete.

Which is a terrible sentence but I can see what I was going for and I’ll be able to fix it. But that first sentence? Leave it for a few minutes and I’ll have no clue what I was trying to say.

However, checking what the VRS has produced after Every Single Clause slows me down and ruins the flow.

Why I Cannot Write a Novel With Voice Recognition Software

(Image: Arthritis, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from interactivestrategy's photostream)

DIY electric street racing benefits school in SF, March 18, 2012

Gever Tulley, co-founder of the Brightworks K-12 school, says:

The whine and growl of high-performance electric motors, the smell of ionized air, the squeal of rubber on pavement, the roar of the crowd and the thrill of the checkered flag -- this is the inaugural Grand Prix de la Mayonnaise!

Imagine a shipping crate: smaller than a refrigerator and larger than a microwave. This is the Super Parts Kit -- it contains all the tools and parts to construct a two, three, or four-wheeled vehicle large enough to carry an adult. Every team receives the exact same parts, but what they choose to do with those parts will determine the outcome of the race. Teams, from companies around the Bay Area, will spend all day Saturday, March 17, building hybrid electric/human-power vehicles of their own design. On Sunday, March 18, the street in front of Brightworks will be closed and transformed into a street track in the Grand Prix racing tradition.

Join Brightworks, the Bay Area’s newest alternative K-12 school, for the most exciting DIY racing event of the year. Music, food, and exciting up-close street-side viewing -- fun for the whole family!

Grand Prix de la Mayonnaise

Canadian tweeps bare all for spying MP

Canadian MP Vic Toews is pushing bill C-30, a domestic spying bill that requires ISPs to log your online activity and give it to police without a warrant. He says that if you don't support this, you "stand with child pornographers." Canadians are giving MP Toews what he wants: on Twitter, Canadians are flooding his account with the hashtag TellVicEverything, spilling the intimate secrets of their lives: "Had impure thought," Jeremy Klaszus. (Thanks, pbrstreetgang!)

Colorblind painter's wearable "synesthesia camera" reportedly broken by police

 Images  Multimedia Archive 00288 Painting-Of-Mataro- 288133A  Images Habirssson-1
 Photos Large 309183562 Back in 2008, I posted about Neil Harbisson, an artist with complete color blindness who makes paintings like those above using a camera/computer system that translates colors into sounds. In an editorial he's just written for the BBC News, he mentions that last year he "was attacked by three policemen at a demonstration who thought I was filming them." He Tweeted about it when it happened and posted the photo at left. "I told them I was listening to colors, but they thought I was mocking them and tried to pull the camera off my head," Harbisson writes. "The man who hears colour" (Thanks, Antinous!)

Apps for Kids interview on New Hampshire Public Radio

Virginia Prescott of New Hampshire Public Radio interviewed me today about the Apps for Kids podcast that my daughter Jane and I do each week.

201202161354With developers pumping out an estimated 2,000 applications daily for use on smart-phones and tablets, reviewers and web-critics are keeping busy sorting out what’s worth downloading, and what’s worth squat.

While some app-surfers could be overwhelmed by the chaos of the digital marketplace, Mark Frauenfelder saw a job opportunity for his adorable 8-year old-daughter, Jane. Together, they co-host Apps for kids, an app-review podcast for both kids and parents. Mark is the founder of Boing Boing, where you can hear the podcast.

Daughter...Yeah, There's an App for That

Record industry lobby attains chutzpah singularity

IFPI, the international recording industry lobby, has gone on the offensive to save ACTA, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, an unprecedented international copyright agreement negotiated in secret (so secret that even Congress and the European Parliament weren't allowed to see it). In recent weeks, popular protests against ACTA have grown, and many nations are pulling back from ACTA.

IFPI doesn't like this. In fact, it says that popular demonstrations calling for substantive treaty negotiations to take place in the open "silence the democratic process."

In this statement, IFPI is using the term "democratic process" in a highly technical, specialized manner, citing a little-understood definition: "a process undertaken by corporate lobbyists and unelected bureaucrats without public oversight or transparency."

Another specialized vocab use that's interesting is the word "silencing," which, again, is used in the rare technical sense of "marching in the streets in thousands-strong throngs asking lawmakers to oversee and publicly debate international agreements."

Over the past two weeks, we have seen coordinated attacks on democratic institutions such as the European Parliament and national governments over ACTA. The signatories to this letter and their members stand against such attempts to silence the democratic process. Instead, we call for a calm and reasoned assessment of the facts rather than the misinformation circulating.

IFPI & Other Lobbyists Tell Parliament That ACTA Protests Silence The Democratic Process

Space Available: photos of empty commercial buildings

 Media Images Sanantoniomj 525

Matthew Frye Jacobson, a professor of American Studies at Yale, made a gallery of hundreds of photographs of commercial buildings that have "Space Available." Indeed, that's the name of the photo series. For Jacobson, these signs are visceral representations of the economic crisis. Space Available is part of Jacobson's larger Historian's Eye project, a photographic and audio documentation of "Obama’s first term in office, the ’08 economic collapse and its fallout, two wars, the raucous politics of healthcare reform, the emergence of a new right-wing formation in opposition to Obama, the politics of immigration, Wall Street reform, street protests of every stripe, the BP oil spill, and the seeming escalation of anti-Muslim sentiment nationwide." Over at Design Observer, BB pal Rob Walker interviewed Jacobson.

 Media Images Nyc2010Mj 525

From Design Observer:

The “Space Available” collection is more than 900 photographs of, basically, buildings with signs indicating vacant commercial or retail space. Let’s face it, that sounds incredibly boring. Why should we look at pictures of these mundane signs?

While there are a couple of images in it that I’m attached to, for the most part that gallery is not functioning in a way that’s meant to arrest you one image at a time. It’s the scale. There’s something cumulative about it.

I go back to the Bonnie Fox interview, where she said there’s nothing public about this crisis. And those signs were one of the few public markers she’d picked up on. Once you start noticing them, you see them everywhere you go — these massive numbers of fairly recently closed businesses. And it just goes unremarked and unnoted. Everything in the culture is privatized, including the crisis itself, right? One of the aspirations of that part of the site is to make that public again, to make it part of the public conversation about what’s happening to our society.

It’s a very hard crisis to photograph, for exactly the reasons she was talking about. I’d been out in the world trying to photograph it, and I couldn’t find it anywhere, until she tipped me to the space available signs. “Space Available” became a sub genre of its own, in my mind.

"A Place Called 'Space Available'"

Building has a parasitic cabin

 Weblog Images Images 2 Andrea Mark Reigelman Manifestdestiny03

A collaboration between artist Mark Reigelman and architect Jenny Chapman working with engineering consultant Paul Endres created a rustic cabin and installed it as a parasite on a big building in San Francisco. Too bad nobody is living in it. Yet. From Design Boom (Cesar Rubio photos):

…The structure, which measures approximately W7 x D8 x H11 feet, takes on a 19th-century architectural style. constructed from vintage building materials - it has a welded aluminum frame, with an exterior finished with 100 year-old reclaimed barn board from ohio - the dwelling is meant to be an homage to the romantic spirit of the western myth and a commentary on the arrogance of westward expansion. three curtained windows, allow the interior space of the petite abode to be seen day and night, standing as a lonely beacon in the city's dense landscape. 3 x 4 foot solar panels located on the rear roof, charge during daylight hours in order to illuminate the cabin's interior by night.
weighing over 1000 lbs.

"Mark Reigelman and Jenny Chapman: Manifest Destiny!" (Thanks, Randall de Rijk!)

Official Lego Minecraft set ships this summer

This summer, Lego will ship an official Minecraft "Micro World" set, with blocks designed to look like the primitives used for construction in the popular game/virtual playset.

Help Steve survive his first night in a strange new world. Avoid the creeper and start mining for resources that will help you survive and thrive. Configure your four micro-scale LEGO Minecraft modules any way you like. Build your own mines and hills, and expand your world with multiple sets. Includes four LEGO Minecraft modules, hidden resources, extra pieces for wood, dirt, and stone, two "Micro Mobs;" Steve and a creeper.

J!NX : Minecraft LEGO Exclusive

For sale: house in Los Angeles: $125 million

Expensive, yes, but I heard the public schools in the area are very good. It's 35,000 square feet and includes a a three-bedroom caretaker's house.

201202161315 It was part of the divorce settlement between Texas billionaire David Saperstein and his wife Suzanne. In 2008, David abandoned his wife for their 32-year-old Swedish nanny and now Suzanne is sharing the mansion with her 33-year-old former soccer playing boyfriend until it is sold.

The most expensive house in America

Canadian MP demands trick photography to disguise rampant Friday absenteeism in Parliament

A Canadian Conservative MP has asked for an end to medium-wide camera shots in the broadcasts of Parliament on Friday afternoons. Fridays are when many MPs travel to their home ridings (districts) and Parliament empties out. The medium-wide shots used by Parliamentary broadcasts reveals a largely empty House of Commons. Worried about how bad this looked, Conservative MP Tom Lukiwski chaired a committee to revise the broadcast rules, and asked the CIO's office to end medium-wide shots, because it reflected badly on Parliament. The CIO turned him down.

Tom Lukiwski said he has heard concerns from colleagues that the empty seats picked up on camera make politicians look bad. "That kind of concerns a lot of members that it frankly doesn't look good for Parliament," he said. Friday is usually a light day in the House, as many MPs vacate Ottawa to return to their constituencies. A House of Commons committee reviewing the broadcasting rules this week heard from Parliament's chief informa-tion officer, who said wide-angle shots have been permitted since 1992 to provide some context for viewers at home. "You are on camera," Louis Bard told the committee. "If I have to focus on the chair and the member behind is sleeping, there's not much I can do."

Conservative MP worried empty seats make the House of Commons look bad (via As It Happens)

Martin Amis's guide to arcade games

In 1982, famed author Martin Amis published a book about arcade games: Invasion of the Space Invaders. He's since become reluctant to discuss this curiosity, which poses the question--why? Was it rendered silly by gaming's progression from the cutting-edge to mass entertainment? Was it written only for a quick buck? Alas, the right answer is the obvious one: the book is mostly a mere strategy guide with "sickly" literary affectations. [The Millions via Metafilter]

How to Build a Time Machine indie sf flick needs your help

Indie documentary maker Michael McMahon sez,

The year is 2036. Decades after the second American Civil War and the global nuclear strike known as 'N-Day', an American soldier named John Titor is assigned a top secret mission: travel back in time to the year 1975 and retrieve an IBM 5100 computer. During this mission, John would make an unauthorized stop in the year 2000 for 'personal reasons.' There he would connect with his family, including his then 2-year-old self, and begin interacting online with a group of open-minded time travel enthusiasts. John would share information about the future and a detailed description of his time machine and how it works.

While some question the veracity of John's claims, others believe he was truly a man from the future. How to Build a Time Machine is a genre bending 'non-fiction, science-fiction mystery' that will explore the story of John Titor through interviews and detailed recreations based on John's original Internet posts. To accomplish this, the filmmakers need yo ur help! Hot Docs has announced their brand new Doc Ignite crowd sourcing initiative and have chosen How to Build a Time Machine as their first project to support. In exchange for a number of great incentives (including a DVD of the finished film, a limited edition poster, and a one-of-a-kind 'Zoetrope Time Machine' lamp), the campaign encourages people to contribute towards the $25,000 goal, which will be used to pay for props, costumes, and actors for the film's detailed, cinematic recreations.

How to Build a Time Machine

LED Pulse Sensor for self-tracking applications

Do you want to add a more "human element" to your next project? The Pulse Sensor, available in the Maker Shed, measures subtle changes in light from expansion of the capillary blood vessels to sense your heartbeat. Gently place the sensor on any area of skin (such as a finger or earlobe) and it will transmit pulse data to your Arduino for processing. The downloadable sample Processing / Arduino code lets you visualize your pulse data right on your computer. It's a simple, non-invasive, inexpensive way to incorporate biofeedback into your projects. Need some great project ideas? Check out Becky Stern's Beating Heart Headband project from MAKE: Volume 29! NEW - Maker Shed now carries a 3.3V version of the Pulse Sensor that's perfect for Lilypads and other 3V Arduinos!

Where's Colbert?

The Colbert Report is off the air and no one knows why, or if they do, they're not saying.

Complaint: TSA agents targeted female travelers

Kim Zetter in Wired: TSA agents in Dallas singled out female passengers to undergo screening in a body scanner, according to complaints filed by several women who said they felt the screeners intentionally targeted them to view their bodies.

Soviet space propaganda posters

RussiaTrek's DeIntegro has assembled a marvelous gallery of mid-century Soviet space-program propaganda posters, showing brave and noble Russians ascending to the heavens on the back of sound socialist rockets.

Propaganda posters of Soviet space program 1958-1963 (via How to Be a Retronaut)

Prime Suspect, or Random Acts of Keyness

The foundation of Web security rests on the notion that two very large prime numbers, numbers divisible only by themselves and 1, once multiplied together are irreducibly difficult to tease back apart.

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Mountain Lion

OS X is to go onto a yearly release schedule, a la iOS, starting with this summer's Mountain Lion. Highlights include deeper iCloud integration and document storage; renamed core applications; the removal of interface inconsistencies and oddities; and an antimalware app-certification system of the sort likely to generate debate. [Daring Fireball]

HOWTO fight cheating by promoting authentic learning

Writing on 21k12, Jonathan Martin offers up a thoughtful response to the "plague of cheating" in secondary and postsecondary education. The right way to reduce cheating is to make education about more than test-scores and extrinsic measures, he argues. Cheating will only go down when students are told that they are in education to accomplish the satisfaction of mastery, and when they trust their teachers to be fair and honest. This jibes with my experience, and the business about trusting teachers is very important, and fraught with difficulty in a world where teachers' salaries depend on test-scores and arbitrary benchmarks are used in place of thoughtful, in-depth assessments.

First, Promote healthy school culture and authentic learning. We must recognize that the roots of cheating lie too often in the culture of the school and the perception by students of their academic enterprise. If we convey to students that we think their job is exclusively to get good grades, if we frame their success as being defined by their GPA, if we demand or exact their compliance by issuing extrinsic rewards, our school cultures will become cheating cultures.

APA: Ohio State University educational psychologist Eric Anderman found that how teachers present the goals of learning in class is key to reducing cheating. Anderman showed that students who reported the most cheating perceive their classrooms as being more focused on extrinsic goals, such as getting good grades, than on mastery goals associated with learning for its own sake and continuing improvement. High school students cheat more when.. their motivation in the course is more focused on grades and less on learning and understanding.

Edweek: Moreover, the more students learn to focus on grades for their own sake, rather than as a representation of what they have learned, the more comfortable they are with cheating.

Beating the Cheating: Five Ways to Combat the Plague (via Uncertain Principles)

Sponsor Shout-Out: Watchismo

Our thanks go to Watchismo for sponsoring Boing Boing Blast, our once-daily delivery of headlines by email.

Check out the most controversial watches of the Mr. Jones Watch Collection: the Fuck Cancer Watch and The Accurate Watch.

Mr. Jones Fuck Cancer Watch - Cancer is a terrifying disease that touches most of us, and this watch's message aggressively asserts that we will not let it overshadow our lives or overwhelm the human spirit. 10% of the sale price of each watch will be donated to charities that fight Cancer: Stand Up To Cancer.

Mr. Jones The Accurate Watch - This is the most accurate wristwatch you can buy, with an hour hand that reads "remember" and a minute hand that reads "you will die". The dial and rim of the glass are mirrored, so the wearer is reflected in the watch face—there is no ambiguity about who the message is aimed at! The Accurate is a link to the tradition of the memento mori, an object designed to remind us that life is brief and that we should seize the moment while we are here. It's available in steel, limited edition black and ladies versions. See the entire collection of Mr. Jones Watches at

PlayFic: an online toolset and community for easily making text-adventure games

Andy Baio and his 15-year-old nephew Cooper McHatton created PlayFic, "a community for writing, sharing, and playing interactive fiction games (aka 'text adventures') entirely from your browser, using a 'natural language'-inspired language called Inform 7." Basically, it's a site for making your own Zork-style games, sharing them, critiquing them, and collaborating on them. It includes a "view game source" button that, like the "view source" item in browsers, can be used to kick-start your own progress into creation by seeing how the work you admire is put together. Waxy sez,"

My hope is that Playfic opens up the world of interactive fiction to a much wider audience — young writers, fanfic authors, and culture remixers of all ages.

While the language can be tricky, building simple games is surprisingly easy. Cooper had never coded anything or made a game before trying Playfic, and within 30 minutes of futzing around, he'd made his first game.

Some stuff is broken and missing, but I'd love to hear what you make of it. Open to any and all feedback. Go make some games!

Playfic (via Wonderland)

Meet the western technology companies who sell network snooping technology to torturing dictators

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has begun to publish a series of informative corporate biographies of technology companies that make network spying equipment and sell it to torturing dictators like Hosni Mubarak and Muammar Qaddafi. These companies' publish sales material advertising their use of tools created for the express purpose of breaking domestic and international law, and operate from countries like the UK (FinFisher) and France (Amesys). EFF urges prosecutors in these countries to investigate the spyware companies for complicity in human rights abuses.

The Wall Street Journal has since reported about FinFisher’s techniques and its technology’s dangerous capabilities. It works much the same way online criminals steal banking and credit card information. Authorities can covertly install malicious malware on a user’s computer without their knowledge by tricking the user into downloading fake updates to programs like iTunes and Adobe Flash. Once installed, they can see everything the user can. The FinFisher products can even remotely turn on the user’s webcam or microphone in a cell phone without the user’s knowledge.

FinFisher doesn’t pretend to market their products for solely lawful use. In 2007, they bragged that they use and incorporate “black hat (illegal and malicious) hacking techniques to allow intelligence services to acquire information that would be very difficult to obtain legally,” according to a report by OWNI.

Spy Tech Companies & Their Authoritarian Customers, Part I: FinFisher And Amesys

Make: Talk 005 - Carol Reiley, Surgical Roboticist


Here's the 5th episode of MAKE's podcast, Make: Talk! In each episode, I'll interview one of the makers featured in the magazine.

Our maker this week is Carol Reiley (@robot_MD and @tinkerBelleLabs). She's a surgical roboticist at Intuitive surgical and the founder of Tinker Belle Labs. Carols's on the cover of the current issue of MAKE, Volume 29, and is the co-author of two how-to projects in this issue: Air Guitar Hero, which is a way to control video games with the electric signals from your muscles, and an easy to use electronic blood pressure monitor.

Rudy Rucker's "Outspoken Authors" book: Surfing the Gnarl

Surfing the Gnarl is the latest volume in PM Press's wonderful Outspoken Authors series: a collection of slim, handsome chapbooks curated by Terry Bisson that combine essays, stories and interviews (I've previously written here about the Kim Stanley Robinson volume, as well as my own).

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