The Independent's Simon Calder reports that the US Department of Homeland Security has ordered air carriers to hand over the personal information of British people travelling to the Caribbean, Mexico and Canada, even for flights that don't fly over US airspace. What's more, they demand the right to order passengers to be yanked from flights right up to boarding time, without explanation. Essentially, they're extraterritorializing the No-Fly list, a list of thousands and thousands of people who are deemed -- for secret reasons -- to be so dangerous that they're not allowed to fly, but not so dangerous that they can be arrested.
Given that this is April 1, I'm slightly suspicious, as this is so blatantly evil that it's hard to believe that UK carriers would capitulate to it. On the other hand, everyone capitulates to the undemocratic absurdities of the American security-industrial apparatus.
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Simon Hughes, the deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats, told The Independent: "The concern by the US for its own security is entirely understandable, but it seems to me it's a whole different issue that American wishes should determine the rights and choices of people travelling between two countries neither of which is the US."
...Any passenger who refuses to comply will be denied boarding. Those who do supply details may find their trip could be abruptly cancelled by the Department of Homeland Security, which says it will "take boarding pass determinations up until the time a flight leaves the gate ... If a passenger successfully obtains a boarding pass, his/her name is not on the No Fly list." In other words, travellers cannot find out whether they will be accepted on board until they reach the airport...
Tomi Ahonen has a really interesting post on how it is that major, top-selling phone companies -- Siemens, Motorola, Palm, Nokia, Windows Mobile, RIM -- can see their sales fall off a cliff as the whole world seems to decide, en masse, that the phones are no longer the bee's knees. Ahonen marks it up to the fast replacement-cycle with phones, the tenuous relationship with dealers, and the concentration of power among the carriers.
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I think there are three factors that help create The Cliff. First, there is the replacement cycle. The average replacement cycle for mobile phones in year 2000 was 21 months. By year 2006 it was down to 18 months. Today it is 16 months (all handsets). For smartphones it is even faster, at 11.5 months. A car is replaced something like every 3 or 4 years on average. A TV set once every 7 years. A personal computer every 3 and a half years. But mobile phones are replaced every year and a half, smartphones replaced every year (on average).
So if you have a bad model car, and your sales suffers because of it, you will not lose all your loyal customers in a year or two, because many of your customers have last year's model and are happy with it, and will not even come to your car dealership until two years from now to consider the replacement model, by which time you have had plenty of time to fix the problems with your current car model.
Three times a week I get up early to go lift weights with a colleague. One of the main motivations for getting out of bed is the knowledge that I'll have ample coffee throughout the day to keep me going post-workout. In the past I've carried the previously reviewed Contigo
(which is still the best travel cup around) but found it held too little, especially if I share coffee with my work out partner. I've also used my fiancee's grandfather's old Thermos built around an insulated glass bottle which, while larger, is too fragile for daily use that involves rolling around in the trunk of my car. I realized I needed a replacement. Read the rest
A group of researchers at Drexel University have demonstrated a method of recovering credit card details and other sensitive information from used Xbox 360s, even after they have been "reset to factory defaults." The method is straightforward and uses readily available tools. Ashley Podhradsky, one of the Drexel researchers, says, "Microsoft does a great job of protecting their proprietary information. But they don't do a great job of protecting the user's data."
Which is to say that Microsoft is spending a lot of money and resource in ensuring that your Xbox 360 only runs software that is authorized by Microsoft (like Apple and iOS and Nintendo and the Wii/3DS, Microsoft charges money for the right to sell software that will play on your device). But they don't pay any particular attention to protecting your interests as the owner of the device.
What's more, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which regulates the breaking of software locks, makes it illegal to investigate the internal workings of devices like the Xbox 360, and to publish the details of your findings, where those findings might also aid people in choosing to run unauthorized software on their own property.
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Podhradsky, along with colleagues Rob D'Ovidio and Cindy Casey at Drexel and Pat Engebretson at Dakota State University, bought a refurbished Xbox 360 from a Microsoft-authorized retailer last year. They downloaded a basic modding tool and used it to crack open the gaming console, giving them access to its files and folders. After some work, they were able to identify and extract the original owner's credit card information.
Designer Christian Annyas has assembled a gallery of "100 logos from American and Canadian railroad companies," dating from 1845 to 2000. They show a microcosm of a century and a half's worth of evolution in design sensibility, but they also show just how lovely and evocative many of the logos of these forgotten railroads once were.
Railroad company logo design evolution (via Kottke) Read the rest
Deborah sez, "This landlord of an abortion clinic has turned the tables on anti-abortion protesters. His army of volunteers calls the anti-abortion protesters at home and say thanks for your concern but he's just a landlord and can't do anything about it. Very nice turning of the tables on the anti-abortionists."
Jezebel's Cassie Murdoch tells the story in detail, describing how Todd Stave, landlord to Germantown, Maryland's Reproductive Health Services Clinic, has faced systematic harassment, and has fought back by enlisting an army of thousands of telephoners who call back the people who place harassing calls and politely tell them off. The group is called Voice of Choice. They look up the family details of harassers who make references to their victims' families and make a point of dropping the names of their kids and their kids' schools into the conversation.
Predictably and sadly, this has upped the ante, and so now the anti-choice squads are doing things like distributing fliers featuring photoshops of Stave as Hitler, with the personal details of Stave's relatives and in-laws to Stave's neighbors. They picket Stave's kids' school on parent-teacher nights, holding signs with pictures of foetuses and bearing Stave's name and contact details. There's even one guy who pickets the dental office of Stave's brother-in-law (that is, he pickets the brother-in-law of the landlord of a doctor who performs abortions).
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When asked if he thought this method of payback was harsh, Stave said no: "We gave them back what they gave us." Actually, not even.
BB pal Gareth Branwyn sez, "Just wanted to alert you, in case you were unaware, that my old cyberpal John Shirley's seminal series A Song Called Youth just came out in a new omnibus edition with a new introduction by Richard Kadrey and a biographical note by Chairman Bruce Sterling."
In a near-future dystopia, a limited nuclear strike has destroyed portions of Europe, bringing the remaining nation-cities under control of the Second Alliance, a frighteningly fundamentalist international security corporation with designs on world domination. The only defense against the Alliance's creeping totalitarianism is the New Resistance, a polyglot team of rebels that includes Rick Rickenharp, a retro-rocker whose artistic and political sensibilities intertwine, and John Swenson, a mole who has infiltrated the Alliance. As the fight continues and years progress, so does the technology and brutality of the Alliance... but ordinary people like the damaged visionary Smoke, Claire Rimpler on FirStep, and Dance Torrence and his fellow urban warriors on Earth are bound together by the truth and a single purpose: to keep the darkness from becoming humankind's Total Eclipse - or die trying! John Shirley was cyberpunk's patient zero, first locus of the virus, certifiably virulent."-William Gibson. An omnibus of all three novels-revised by the author-of the prophetic, still frighteningly relevant cyberpunk masterpieces: Eclipse, Eclipse Penumbra, and Eclipse Corona.
A Song Called Youth Read the rest
Here's Kevin Smith discussing his success as an independent, and rebutting critics who say that his go-it-alone strategy for his Red State (which is, by the way, excellent) was only possible because he'd made a name for himself:
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Anyone that tells you "oh he could do it because he's Kevin Smith"—tell 'em horseshit, man. That's somebody who's trying to tell you "don't try, you can't try, he did it, he can do it, you can't do it." Don't listen to that shit man. Think of life and progress as a game—I always think of it in terms of a game of hockey. When you're skating with the puck towards the net there's always a motherfucker trying to hook you from behind, just to slow you up enough, 'cause nobody wants to see anybody succeed. So don't listen to that. When you hear somebody go "well of course he could do it, he's Kevin Smith"—those same assholes, before I did it, were like "it's never gonna work, it's dumb, he crazy". And then when it worked, they didn't go like "you know what? we were wrong"—instead they say "well only he could do it because he's Kevin Smith" and I say horseshit. Kevin Smith wasn't always Kevin Smith, nor was Kevin Smith the little kid that pulled the fucking sword from the stone.
Now am I going to say like, this is the only way it should ever be done forever? No but you're always looking for alternatives, because the old method doesn't so much work anymore.
In this 1945 Mechanix Illustrated article, Harold S. Kahm sets out the facts for any would-be ride-designers looking to hit the jackpot with a new high-speed thrill. Starting with the origin story of the bumper car (a WWI munitions plant worker built a miniature truck for hauling parts, the plant workers went crazy riding it, so he covered it with bumpers and turned it into a carny ride), he moves onto the holy grail of 1945 amusement parks: a portable ride. The best thing about this article are the diagrams on the second and third pages. Woah. Charlie at the Modern Mechanix blog has them up at a generous 1800px wide, perfect for clip-art harvesting.
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As a matter of fact, hundreds of new ideas for rides flow into the offices of ride manufacturers in a steady stream, but not one in a hundred is even worth consideration, simply because the average inventor has no understanding of the technical requirements of the industry; he doesn’t, in fact, seem to know anything about anything—if you can believe the expert ride men. So if you think you’d like to try your luck in this fabulously successful field, which is certainly one of the best in the world for the amateur inventor, here are the facts you should know: The average successful ride is easily portable; it can be set up or dismantled in a few hours, and conveniently loaded into one or two trucks. If it is not portable, in this manner, it will be of no use to the richest and biggest ride market—the travelling carnival.
Superman can be a real jerk! "Comics Showing Superman Crazy Sociopath WTF Funny" (Happy Place)
UPDATE: Ah! Turns out, this is a dupe of Cory's 2006 dupe of Mark's 2005 post pointing us to Superdickery where it seems this gallery first appeared! A natural classic! Read the rest
The Electronic Frontier Foundation's Marcia Hoffman writes about security research companies that work to discover "zero day" vulnerabilities in software and operating systems, then sell them to governments and corporations that want to use them as a vector for installing spyware. France's VUPEN is one such firm, and it claims that it only sells to NATO countries and their "partners," a list that includes Belarus, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, and Russia. As Hoffman points out, even this low standard is likely not met, since many of the governments with which VUPEN deals would happily trade with other countries with even worse human rights records -- if Russia will sell guns to Syria, why not software exploits? VUPEN refuses to disclose their discoveries to the software vendors themselves, even for money, because they want to see to it that the vulnerabilities remain unpatched and exploitable for as long as possible.
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“We wouldn’t share this with Google for even $1 million,” said VUPEN founder Chaouki Bekrar. “We don’t want to give them any knowledge that can help them in fixing this exploit or other similar exploits. We want to keep this for our customers.” VUPEN, which also “pwned” Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, bragged it had an exploit for “every major browser,” as well as Microsoft Word, Adobe Reader, and the Google Android and Apple iOS operating systems.
While VUPEN might be the most vocal, it is certainly not the only company selling high-tech weaponry on the zero-day exploit market. Established U.S. companies Netragard, Endgame, Northrop Grumman, and Raytheon are also in the business, according to Greenberg.
Sculptor Christopher Locke makes the most amazing spiders out of scissors -- but not just any scissors. Scissors that the TSA confiscated and auctioned off.
Although the TSA website says scissors with blades less than four inches are allowed on airplanes, the individual officers conducting the screening have the authority to confiscate anything they think could be used as a weapon. As a result, hundreds of pairs of scissors are confiscated daily at American airports.
Scissor Spiders (via Colossal) Read the rest
In the Boing Boing store, a bubblegum-based label-writer. Feed it with any standard bubblegum tape, and stamp your message into it before you begin your chewy chewing for choosy chewers.
Bubble Roll Message Maker
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Romssonson created a single YouTube video displaying a grid of 130 miniature Simpsons episodes:
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About the video:
-Top to bottom: each row shows a season (from season 1 to season 10)
-Left to right: each column shows an episode (from episode 1 to episode 13)
A total of 130 episodes is displayed, framerate is 25fps, thumbnails have been captured at 80x60px
Watching +100 The Simpsons episodes at the same time (experiment) (via Kottke)
Here's the 11th episode of MAKE's podcast, Make: Talk! In each episode, I interview one of the makers featured in the magazine.
Our maker this week is Yury Gitman. Yury's a toy inventor and a product designer who teaches physical computing and toy design at Parsons The New School for Design in New York. In the current issue of MAKE, Volume 29, Yury co-wrote an article about his Pulse Sensor, a wearable heart beat sensor that he created with his colleague Joel Murphy.
Before the interview with Andy, I mention a cool project on our makeprojects.com website. It's a guide on how to harvest and use squid ink, which you can use for cooking or printing. It was written by Instrucatables.com cofounder Christy Canida.
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Mark Bowden's Atlantic article tells the story of Don Johnson, a high-rolling gambler who broke the bank at three Atlantic City casinos without card-counting or other "cheats."
Years ago, I was mildly obsessed with understanding casino economics and cheats, and read a bunch of books on how to win (or at least lose slowly) at a casino. The consensus among the experts I read was to realize that most skill-based casino games are only mildly "negative expectation" (that is, if you play them with perfect statistical strategy, you'll lose a little money over time). Also, most casinos distribute "comps" (freebies) to make up about forty percent of your estimated losses. These losses are calculated by pit bosses who keep an eye on consistent gamblers and observe the size of your normal bet and the tightness of your play, then make a guess at how much you're losing per hour, and multiply that by the number of hours you spend at the table (or at least, they did -- some casinos now use automated stored-value wagering cards that eliminate the need for estimation).
The secret to converting the negative expectation game to a positive expectation game was to trick the pit bosses. Play very slowly when the pit boss isn't watching, making the minimum bet on each hand and losing as slowly as possible. When the pit boss comes by to look, start playing fast and loose, and increase your bet-size. If the ruse works, the pit-boss will be tricked into comping you enough freebies to make your play pay, even if only by a little. Read the rest
Thank you to our sponsor ShanaLogic
, sellers of handmade and independently designed durable goods, apparel, delightful gifts, and other fine kit. Check out this clever unisex " Read the rest