Cybercrime, patent-theft numbers are total bullshit

In case there was any doubt in your mind, the alleged $1T cost to America from cyberwar and the $250B cost to America from "cyber-theft of Intellectual property" are both total bullshit. Pro Publica breaks it down.

One of the figures Alexander attributed to Symantec — the $250 billion in annual losses from intellectual property theft — was indeed mentioned in a Symantec report, but it is not a Symantec number and its source remains a mystery.

McAfee’s trillion-dollar estimate is questioned even by the three independent researchers from Purdue University whom McAfee credits with analyzing the raw data from which the estimate was derived. "I was really kind of appalled when the number came out in news reports, the trillion dollars, because that was just way, way large," said Eugene Spafford, a computer science professor at Purdue.

Spafford was a key contributor to McAfee’s 2009 report, "Unsecured Economies: Protecting Vital Information" (PDF). The trillion-dollar estimate was first published in a news release that McAfee issued to announce the report; the number does not appear in the report itself. A McAfee spokesman told ProPublica the estimate was an extrapolation by the company, based on data from the report. McAfee executives have mentioned the trillion-dollar figure on a number of occasions, and in 2011 McAfee published it once more in a new report, "Underground Economies: Intellectual Capital and Sensitive Corporate Data Now the Latest Cybercrime Currency" (PDF).

In addition to the three Purdue researchers who were the report’s key contributors, 17 other researchers and experts were listed as contributors to the original 2009 report, though at least some of them were only interviewed by the Purdue researchers. Among them was Ross Anderson, a security engineering professor at University of Cambridge, who told ProPublica that he did not know about the $1 trillion estimate before it was announced. "I would have objected at the time had I known about it," he said. "The intellectual quality of this ($1 trillion number) is below abysmal."

Does Cybercrime Really Cost $1 Trillion? (via /.)

Make a backyard control panel with your kids


This looks like a great weekend project:

Depending on your child’s experience and motor skills, this will require some adult supervision. How much you involve yourself is up to you but I’m warning you, you may want to join in on the fun! This project is perfect for cleaning out junk drawers and miscellaneous tools and hardware. All you need is a piece of wood (we used a wooden stool), random hardware and tools and imagination. Encourage your child to use their imagination when rummaging through things to use. Think outside the box when looking for items to use. You can get ideas from what we used or come up with your own. Let your child use the screwdriver, hammer some nails, and paint. He’ll get early experience with tools and how they work and will feel a major accomplishment when you guys finish the “control panel”.

Make a “Control Panel” with your kids (via Craft)

Mission to Mars: Anticipating NASA rover 'Curiosity' touchdown

[Video Link] This Sunday night (and through the wee hours of Monday morning), engineers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA will attempt to land the Mars Science Laboratory rover Curiosity on the surface of Mars. If the daring and complex landing plan goes right, Curiosity will enter the red planet's atmosphere, slow its descent by releasing a parachute, then lower itself to the surface on a tether with the help of a 'sky crane.' In this report for the PBS NewsHour, space journalist Miles O'Brien previews the highly anticipated space event. Read the full transcript here, and view video or download MP3 audio here.

Here's our roundup of ways to tune in and watch Curiosity make history. Things get hot and heavy starting around Sunday 830pm PT.

Designer room interiors of 1946


How to Be a Retronaut picks out the best of a 1946 portfolio of designer room interiors from the Internet Archive. Above, a room I would live in in a heartbeat. Right, a swell kitchen.

Portfolio of Room Interiors, 1946

Sociability's value comes from privacy

A smashing essay on Kyro Beshay's site about the relationship between sociability and privacy is a must-read:

Social networks and services have definitely given us new and seamless ways to communicate with people from across the globe, pushing the boundaries of what in our lives is deemed acceptable to share, but a wall has been hit and the efforts to tear it down have left me uncomfortable. I’m specifically talking about this new move to broadcast what pages and messages we’ve viewed, without our consent. Services like BBM have long been guilty of this, but the idea has seen increased adoption recently with services like FB Messenger and Apple’s iMessage. In fact, this whole push for “passive sharing” has been gaining momentum, with Quora as the latest transgressor.

We’re now forced into an obligation to respond to a person’s message, almost immediately. With email and texting, there exists a wall of privacy and discretion where the person on the receiving end is given full power to read, ignore, or respond without being bound by deadlines or expectations. I may not want to read or reply to a message for a myriad of reasons – I need time to think of a proper response, I’m waiting on other plans to get sorted, or the sender is just someone who really annoys me. My question is: Is this sort of stuff increasing the value of our social interactions? I don’t think so. In fact, I’d argue that it’s making our interactions less enjoyable. Many friends have mentioned how others knowing when they’ve read a message has made for many awkward situations; and I wholeheartedly agree.

Being Social Is About Being Private

Electronics Arts files lawsuit against Zynga

There are plenty of boots out there trying to squish this bug, but Electronic Arts' are the biggest yet. What was that Aliens vs. Predator tagline again? [NYT]

Drew Barrymore pledges to celebrate life at the end of the world in her second directorial effort

If you could spend the end of the world with anyone from Hollywood, wouldn't Drew Barrymore be a delightful choice? I mean, she's adorable, and she never wants to be a bummer, you guys. That's why she's chosen The End as her second movie as a director (after Whip It), an apocalyptic ensemble movie that doesn't focus on the people trying to survive the catastrophe (dummies!), but the ones who are like "Fuck it," and are celebrating their last day on Earth. Barrymore also has How to be Single and Heist Society on her plate to direct. (via Women and Hollywood)

Batman is probably not the most chill video game companion

For those of you who are lonely and looking for a cool person with whom to play video games, I do not recommend Batman, what with his shouty nature over things like, I don't know, triggers. (via Crave Online)

Tippi Hedren on the abuse she took from Alfred Hitchock: "Today, I'd be a very rich woman"

There is nothing more disappointing than finding out that someone whose work you have always admired was not a divine, magical genius, but a deeply flawed human being. Sometimes such flaws can be overlooked (like when you disagree with someone's political opinions) and sometimes it's just completely, upsettingly inexcusable. And if we are to believe Tippi Hedren and others who worked with Alfred Hitchcock, then it looks like the Master of Suspense was a truly inexcusable person. While promoting HBO's new movie about the tumultuous relationship between Hitchcock and Hedren, The Girl, the actress has spoken out about the harassment she endured, how it ruined her career, and how Hitch would have never gotten away with it today.

Read the rest

Enthralling Books: The Emigrants, by W.G. Sebald

This is one in a series of essays about enthralling books. I asked my friends and colleagues to recommend a book that took over their life. I told them the book didn't have to be a literary masterpiece. The only thing that mattered was that the book captivated them and carried them into the world within its pages, making them ignore the world around them. I asked: "Did you shirk responsibilities so you could read it? Did you call in sick? Did you read it until dawn? That's the book I want you to tell us about!" See all the essays in the Enthralling Book series here. -- Mark

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The Emigrants, by W.G. Sebald

A few days before the news of W.G. Sebald’s sudden death in a car accident in 2000, I had decided I was going to send him a letter. I have written about two letters to authors in my life, and I would do it more often if I thought there was way to go about it that didn’t by design come across as fannish and gushing. But the work of Sebald, particularly his 20th century masterpiece The Emigrants, had such a profound affect on me, I felt compelled to let him know.

Word of his death was a blow. Sebald was just starting to get the wider recognition he deserved with the publication of Austerlitz, which received the National Book Critics Circle Award. I felt as though something important had been taken from the world, something that was essential to helping us understand what it means to be human beings agents of history, and how history works on us. This is what Sebald’s work is about: None of our lives exist within a vacuum, that we are all part and parcel of historical forces that shape us, batter us about, and in our attempts to fight against them, we often lose.

I had discovered the novel The Emigrants by chance. It was weekday afternoon, browsing the literature section of the bookstore. I often scan by logos on the spines, looking for independent publishers in the hopes of discovering authors or books I have never heard of. I spied the New Directions mark on a book, pulled it from the shelf and read the back. I had never heard of Sebald, but thought it looked interesting enough. I bought it and took it home.

I was not quite prepared for what happened next. Almost like a state of self-hypnosis, I could feel some part of my reader’s consciousness shift. I read books as if I understand books, as if I know about genre and time-periods, know what to expect from science fiction, from crime noir, from Kafka, from Vonnegut, from Roth. Of course I’m surprised at times by language, plot, and a character that comes alive in a way I never thought possible. But I am rarely thrown off course by a book, never have I had to renegotiate the very act of reading. That is, until I read The Emigrants.

Read the rest

Outside Lands contest winner!

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Congratulations to Brad Konick, winner of our Outside Lands 2012 "summer photo" ticket contest! Thank you all for the amazing entries! We hope you enjoyed the contest. Brad submitted the beautiful photograph above left with Sigur Rós' "Svefn-g-englar" as the suggested accompanying song by an artist playing at this year's Outside Lands. Brad wins a pair of 3-day tickets for the festival which runs August 10-12 and also features artists like Regina Spektor, Beck, Neil Young, Jack White, and Thee Oh Sees. The festival is mostly sold-out but special VIP 3-Day Tickets are still available. Outside Lands 2012

Citizen Kane knocked down a notch

After 50 years, Citizen Kane has lost its top seat on the British Film Institute's famed list of the "Top 50 Greatest Films of All Time." The number one spot now goes to Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo (1958). Interestingly, Hitchcock didn't even break the top ten until 1982. "The Top 50 Greatest Films of All Time" (via Dave Pell's NextDraft)

Survival Research Labs live performance on eBay

 Forsale Apinerobot

 Forsale La05 Marlahorse2

Would you like Survival Research Laboratories to perform at your next party? How about adding their unique blend of robotic mayhem, orchestrated annihilation, and black comedy to your company picnic? Machine art pioneer Mark Pauline is selling out, literally, on eBay and you can benefit! For $149,000, Mark will bring his theater of cruelty anywhere in the lower 48 states. Permits are the buyer's responsibility but SRL provides the liability insurance. In fact, I may nab this myself for my son's future Bar Mitzvah party. eBay: "Survival Research Labs Large Scale Machine Performance"

If the Doors performed the theme to "Reading Rainbow"

A truly outstanding Jim Morrison impersonator croons the theme to "Reading Rainbow," on a Jimmy Fallon show episode. What more could you want?

The Doors Sing "Reading Rainbow" Theme (Jimmy Fallon) (Thanks, Fipi Lele!)

Update: Holy cats, that impersonator is Jimmy Fallon. Chalk one up to my mild face-blindness.

Pixelhead masks that make you look like a pixellated German Secretary of the Interior


Martin Backes is selling a limited edition of 333 "Pixelhead" anonymity masks, which allow you to replace your face with the pixellated likeness of German Secretary of the Interior Hans-Peter Friedrich. Masks are made to order and to measure, take 4-6 weeks for delivery, and cost €158 with shipping.

The full face mask Pixelhead acts as media camouflage, completely shielding the head to ensure that your face is not recognizable on photographs taken in public places without securing permission. A simple piece of fabric creates a little piece of anonymity for the Internet age. The material used is elastic fabric for beach fashion and sports gear with a fashionable Pixel-style print of German Secretary of the Interior Hans-Peter Friedrich. The mask has holes for your eyes and mouth, so you can see and breathe comfortably while wearing the mask, secure in the knowledge that your image won’t be showing up anywhere you don’t want it to.

Pixelhead Limited Edition (via Neatorama)