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? Read the rest

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 Read the rest

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. Read the rest

"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. Read the rest

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!) Read the rest

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.

Read the rest

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 Read the rest

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!) Read the rest

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

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!) Read the rest

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.

With 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 Read the rest

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 Read the rest

Space Available: photos of empty commercial buildings

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.

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.

Read the rest

Building has a parasitic cabin

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!) Read the rest

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 Read the rest

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.

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 Read the rest

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) Read the rest

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] Read the rest

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