Boing Boing 

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


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.

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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)

Chick-fil-A store sponsors gay pride festival

Anthony Piccola, owner of the Chick-fil-A franchise in Nashua, New Hampshire, announced this his shop will be a sponsor of the area's gay pride festival next weekend. From Picolla's statement:

“In both my personal and professional life, I have had and continue to have positive relationships with family, friends, customers and employees in the LGBT community. It would make me sad if someone felt that they were not openly welcomed into my life or restaurant based on their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender."

"Nashua Chick-fil-A owner backing gay pride festival" (Nashua Telegraph)

"Nashua Chick-fil-A to help sponsor New Hampshire Pride Festival" (NH Pride Fest)

And now, we pause for a Moment of Kitten (video)

[Video Link]. Him widdle names is Pancake. He is a foster kitten, snuggling up in this video with a doggie.

Murderers dumping bodies in Detroit

A dozen corpses of murder victims have turned up over the last year in desolate and decaying parts of Detroit -- vacant lots, abandoned homes, overgrown parks… From the AP:

"You can shoot a person, dump a body and it may just go unsolved" because of the time it may take for the corpse to be found, officer John Garner said…

When he joined the department 13 years ago, Garner patrolled a 3.6-square-mile area in the tough 3rd Precinct, bumping into another officer every 20 minutes. Now he covers 22 square miles and crosses paths with other officers "maybe once every two hours."

"If we know this, the criminals know this," Garner said. Sparse patrols and slow response times make it less likely that someone will be seen dumping a body.

"Years back, people would go to rural areas" to dump bodies, said Daniel Kennedy, a Michigan-based forensic criminologist. "Now we have rural areas in urban areas."

"Vacant Detroit becomes dumping ground for the dead"

Toy butcher shop from 1840

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This is an 1840 butcher shop model. Note the exquisite detail down to the sawdust and blood on the floor. Such items weren't uncommon and were sold as promotional displays for shops or, yes, as child playlets. From Collectors Weekly:

As doll houses—which also started out as toys for adults—were being manufactured for children around the late 19th century, so were small-scale places of commerce, such as the butcher’s. These toy shops allowed kids to mimic adults and learn about money and food, just as supermarket playlets do today. The toy animal flesh, Wood says, wouldn’t have been shocking, because this is how meat was presented and bought and, with limited methods of refrigeration, children would have been used to seeing preserved cuts of meat hanging up.

What we do know is that Victorians documented their entire world in miniature. According to (Robert Culff, author of The World of Toys), elaborate and accurate little replicas were modeled for every store in town: the draper, the greengrocer, the fishmonger, the baker, the milliner’s full of bonnets and hat boxes, and the sweet shop featuring “uncertainly balanced scales, jars of hundreds-and-thousands [a.k.a. sprinkles] and cachou lozenges in little tins smelling of ghostly roses and violets.”

"Baby’s First Butcher Shop, Circa 1900"

I Love the '10s! Best Week Ever returning to VH1 in January

Great news for fans of VH1's brand of pop culture snark: weekly recap show Best Week Ever is coming back to the cable network this January, reviving the dreams of aspiring talking heads across the nation! Along with it comes another new nostalgia-based series, Miss You Much, hosted by Catherine Reitman (Breakin' It Down), who will conduct interviews with celebrities we liked 20 years ago. I'm hoping this means there will be less room for the Bret Michaels dating shows and all of their spinoffs. Unless, of course, they are ready to be mocked mercilessly by Christian Finnegan & Co. (via The Hollywood Reporter)

Long before CEO's douchey gay marriage comments, some at Chick-fil-A were jerks to workers

In Salon, an article about series of lawsuits against Chick-Fil-A by former employees who claim managers "have wielded their authority over workers in ways that break the law: firing a Muslim for refusing to pray to Jesus; firing a manager so that she’d become a stay at home mom; and punishing workers for objecting to sexual harassment." In one incident, a supervisor is alleged to have phoned immigration authorities to have immigrant workers deported as punishment for complaining about sexual harassment. Kiss 'em goodbye today.

Chilling effect spreads, as FBI hunts down national security leaks

"Current and former high-level government officials from multiple agencies" have been interviewed privately by FBI agents in recent weeks, reports the NYT, "casting a distinct chill over press coverage of national security issues." Agencies are turning down routine interview requests, and halting background briefings. The leak hunt is said to be the "most sweeping inquiry into intelligence disclosures in years."

New Nike ad features overweight 12-year-old boy

[Video Link]. Wieden+Kennedy's new ad for Nike is provocative stuff. Nike isn't sponsoring the Olympics this year, but the ad is timed accordingly. The star of this spot, Nathan, is 12 years old and lives in London, Ohio. He tells Business Insider he puked in a ditch while filming takes. I like this kid.

HOWTO open an electronic hotel-room lock without a key

Cody Brocious -- a Mozilla dev and security researcher -- presented a paper on a vulnerability in hotel-door locks last month at Black Hat. Many electronic hotel door-locks made by Onity have a small DC power-port that also supplies data beneath them. Brocious showed that if he plugs an Arduino into these locks, reads out the 24-bit number sitting there, and re-transmits it to them, some appreciable fraction of them (but not all of them) spring open.

Testing a standard Onity lock he ordered online, he’s able to easily bypass the card reader and trigger the opening mechanism every time. But on three Onity locks installed on real hotel doors he and I tested at well-known independent and franchise hotels in New York, results were much more mixed: Only one of the three opened, and even that one only worked on the second try, with Brocious taking a break to tweak his software between tests.

Even with an unreliable method, however, Brocious’s work–and his ability to open one out of the three doors we tested without a key–suggests real flaws in Onity’s security architecture. And Brocious says he plans to release all his research in a paper as well as source code through his website following his talk, potentially enabling others to perfect his methods.

Brocious’s exploit works by spoofing a portable programming device that hotel staff use to control a facility’s locks and set which master keys open which doors. The portable programmer, which plugs into the DC port under the locks, can also open any door, even providing power through that port to trigger the mechanism of a door lock in which the battery has run out.

Hacker Will Expose Potential Security Flaw In Four Million Hotel Room Keycard Locks

NASA's Ashwin Vasavada talks Mars Science Laboratory and Curiosity with Boing Boing


people-645.jpg In April, 2011, Boing Boing (well, our photographer pal Joseph Linaschke) visited NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory for a peek inside the clean room where the Mars rover, Curiosity, and other components of the Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft (MSL) were in the process of being built for launch in late 2011 from Florida. Our big photo gallery with gorgeous images shot by Joseph is here.

Around that same time, I spoke with Ashwin Vasavada, Deputy Project Scientist at JPL for the MSL mission, to understand more about how MSL works and what its creators hope to accomplish, how one scores a job designing interplanetary explorer robots, and how this updated Mars rover is (or is not) like an iPad.

Read Boing Boing's conversation with Vasavada here.

In mid-'60s LSD research study, dosed scientists achieved creative breakthroughs

Illustration: Jonathan Castro, for The Heretic

A wonderful long-read at The Morning News by Tim Doody, on 1966 LSD studies that took place as the US government's position on acid research shifted from "sure, go ahead, scientists" to "nope, this is now banned." The series of tests described in the article took place at the International Foundation for Advanced Study (IFAS) in Menlo Park, CA. Scientists from Stanford, Hewlett-Packard, and elsewhere participated. The volunteers each brought "three highly technical problems from their respective fields that they’d been unable to solve for at least several months." They took "a relatively low dose of acid," 100 micrograms, to enhance their creativity.

Read the rest

SpaceX, Boeing win $900 million to develop spacecraft for human space flight

NASA has awarded Boeing (not to be confused with "Boing Boing," you guys), SpaceX, and a Colorado-based systems integration firm more than a billion in contracts to develop spacecraft capable of carrying astronauts. The Chicago-based aerospace giant Boeing gets $460 million. Elon Musk's space transportation startup SpaceX, based in Hawthorne, CA, gets $440 million. And Sierra Nevada Corp. in Colorado gets $212.5 milion. NASA's press release is here.

Above: NASA Astronaut Rex Walheim stands inside the Dragon Crew Engineering Model at SpaceX headquarters, during a day-long review of the Dragon crew vehicle layout. (Photo: SpaceX)

Ice-cream ads: words fail me. In a good way.

I know nothing about the quality of the products on offer at Little Baby's Ice Cream in Philadelphia. But their excellent nightmare-fuel advertisements will haunt me in a good way forever. The one above, featuring a person covered in (made of?) ice-cream eating her or his own head while narrator Matthias Bossi reads copy that sounds like the captions on the photos printed on the sleeve inside the original Stop Making Sense album, is awesome enough.

But after the jump, there is an ad that features an endless fractal zoom-out on people made of ice-cream, whose heads have been partially ablated, sitting in ice-cream cones and contemplating eating smaller versions of themselves, forever.

(via JWZ)

Read the rest

The Library of Congress welcomes our new galactic overlords

The Library of Congress has an official standard for abbreviations of different languages. It's a long list, because, well, there are lots and lots of languages that might be mentioned in the Library of Congress. In fact, the standard is so thorough that it includes Klingon. (Via Hilary Mason)

Babelfish: Adafruit's Arduino-based RFID flash-cards for learning language with open source hardware

Phil Torrone sez, "Learn to make a speaking, card-reading toy! The Babel Fish helps you learn to say words and phrases on RFID flash cards by reading the card and playing an associated sound file loaded on an SD card inside. This project is very straightforward and could make a great jumping-off point for your own awesome RFID and Wave Shield project!"

Overview | Babel Fish | Adafruit Learning System