Boing Boing 

Mat Honan on being hacked

Mat Honan was hacked. The nightmare unfolded minute by minute, a sequence of security failures daisy-chaining their way into a disaster. But there was a single point of entry: Apple's willingness to hand over the keys to his account to anyone with the last four digits of his credit card number and home address.

What happened to me exposes vital security flaws in several customer service systems, most notably Apple’s and Amazon’s. Apple tech support gave the hackers access to my iCloud account. Amazon tech support gave them the ability to see a piece of information — a partial credit card number — that Apple used to release information. In short, the very four digits that Amazon considers unimportant enough to display in the clear on the web are precisely the same ones that Apple considers secure enough to perform identity verification. The disconnect exposes flaws in data management policies endemic to the entire technology industry, and points to a looming nightmare as we enter the era of cloud computing and connected devices.

It reminds me of how air crashes occur. In isolation from one another, storms, structural flaws and tired or incompetent personnel are rarely enough. But together, in just the right sequence, it all goes horribly wrong.

The worst part: Wired attempted the same social engineering technique today, and it still won them control of iCloud accounts.

How Apple and Amazon Security Flaws Led to My Epic Hacking [Wired]

Previously: Yes, I was hacked. Hard. [Emptyage.com]

MPAA seeks UK sock-puppets to help them screw over TVShack's likable, innocent owner

Richard O'Dwyer, creator of the legal UK website TVShack, faces extradition to the USA (even though TVShack is probably legal in the USA too). As usual, the MPAA has managed to get lawmakers to do their bidding so well that it has made them look like the villainous corporate scumbags everyone suspects them of being. A freshly leaked memo described by TorrentFreak documents Big Content's strategy for winning hearts and minds:

“The overall media coverage has been and will continue to be challenging,” the MPAA writes.

They mention the petition of Wikipedia founder jimmy Wales, the Demand Progress campaign, and note that a recent survey showed that 95% of the public does not support the extradition. According to the MPAA, public opinion is skewed because people are being led to believe that TVShack was operating perfectly legal in the UK.

“To counter these assertions, the MPAA and its allies need a coordinated effort to focus more on the criminal activity involved in the operation of TVShack and other similar linking sites,” the MPAA notes...

“Ideally, this would be done through third parties – but finding third parties – especially in the United Kingdom – has been very difficult so far, so the MPAA must be prepared to respond to media requests on the issue and set the record straight to counter the misinformation campaign by our opponents.”

MPAA Recruits “Surrogates” to Support Extradition of UK Student

Animated GIF of Mars Curiosity descent images

This animated GIF composed of descent images captured by NASA's Mars Curiosity rover as it headed towards landing is better than all the kittens on the internet combined. The video version is here. (via @nasasocial).

Curiosity landing removed from YouTube after bogus copyright claim by Scripps


Ten minutes after NASA posted a video of the Curiosity landing on Mars to its official YouTube channel, the video was taken down again, replaced with a message saying it had been removed due to a copyright claim by Scripps Local News. It's not clear whether Scripps actually filed a takedown notice with YouTube or whether YouTube's "content-match" system was triggered automatically because Scripps registered a clip of its own news footage, incorporating the NASA footage, with YouTube.

Either way, it points out the enormous asymmetry in copyright today, a shoot first, ask questions later presumption of guilt that results in the evidence of billions of dollars of uplifting, tax-funded spectacle being removed from public view because of the grasping and depraved indifference of industries that are programmed to deny the idea that copying can be controlled.

Alex_Pasternack writes on Mother Board:

On Monday afternoon, a spokesperson for E.W. Scripps Company, owner of the news service, emailed Motherboard a statement apologizing for the accidental takedown. “We apologize for the temporary inconvenience experienced when trying to upload and view a NASA clip early Monday morning," wrote Michele Roberts. "We made a mistake. We reacted as quickly as possible to make the video viewable again, and we’ve adjusted our workflow processes to remedy the situation in future.”

This isn’t the first time that a claim by the company, Scripps News Service, has grounded a NASA YouTube video: it happened in April, with a video of one of NASA’s Space Shuttles being flown atop a 747. According to Bob Jacobs, NASA’s Deputy Associate Administrator for Communications, such blocks happen once a month, and tend to be more common with popular videos.

“Everything from imagery to music gets flagged,” Jacobs told me this morning. "We’ve been working with You Tube in an effort to stop the automatic disabling of videos. So far, it hasn’t helped much.

“The good thing about automation is that you don’t have to involve real people to make decisions. The bad thing about automation is that you don’t have to involve real people to make decisions.”

NASA's Mars Rover Crashed Into a DMCA Takedown (via /.)

If Hemingway (and Shakespeare, and co) were coders

Fat XXX's "If Hemingway wrote JavaScript" is a great piece of imaginative writing, speculating about the coding styles that various literary titans (Shakespeare, Hemingway, Dickens, Breton and more) would have employed:

function theSeriesOfFIBONACCI(theSize) {

  //a CALCKULATION in two acts.
  //employ'ng the humourous logick of JAVA-SCRIPTE

  //Dramatis Personae   var theResult; //an ARRAY to contain THE NUMBERS
  var theCounter; //a NUMBER, serv'nt to the FOR LOOP

  //ACT I: in which a ZERO is added for INITIATION

  //[ENTER: theResult]

  //Upon the noble list bestow a zero   var theResult = [0];

  //ACT II: a LOOP in which the final TWO NUMBERS are QUEREED and SUMM'D

  //[ENTER: theCounter]

  //Commence at one and venture o'er the numbers
  for (theCounter = 1; theCounter < theSize; theCounter++) {
    //By divination set adjoining members
    theResult[theCounter] = (theResult[theCounter-1]||1) + theResult[Math.max(0, theCounter-2)];   }

  //'Tis done, and here's the answer.
  return theResult;

  //[Exuent] }

If Hemingway wrote JavaScript (via Wired)

Mars Curiosity Rover: Boing Boing's $2.5 billion dollar question about image file types, answered by JPL

Photo: Two of the first images transmitted back by Curiosity, as seen on monitors at JPL 20 minutes after the rover landed on Mars. (Xeni Jardin)


NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory was a magical place to be last night, as engineers, flight specialists, NASA administrators, space celebrities, and scientists from many fields gathered to witness the landing of the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) Curiosity rover. Those seven minutes of terror ended in a picture-perfect landing: an amazing machine went through a crazy Rube Goldbergian descent sequence, and plopped down about two meters away from its planned destination on the Red Planet's surface.

We witnessed history. It seemed impossible. It was awesome.

I sat in on the post-landing press conference, and live-tweeted the evening at @boingboing. During the press conference, after the high-fives and screams of joy subsided, I asked MSL engineer Adam Steltzner a question about those first two all-important thumbnail images Curiosity sent back—critical because the data they contained would tell NASA if the rover had touched down in a safe spot.

[Video of that Q&A moment here.]

Given the great distance and technical challenges involved in transmitting timely data back from Mars, what file type and image compression algorithm(s) did they use for those first "rush" thumbnails? There's a 14 minute delay involved for any signals from Mars to Earth.

A dorky question, perhaps, but I was curious, and figured nobody else would ask. Things like, "Hey how do you guys feel right now," and "What will Curiosity do next," I knew others would tackle.

Mr. Steltzner didn't have details handy about the image file types used, and he referred me to Mars mission image specialist Justin Maki. Today I checked in with Mr. Maki and his JPL colleagues whose work focuses on data compression and interplanetary data transmission. Here's what I learned.

Read the rest

Chavela Vargas, 1919-2012

The great ranchera songstress Chavela Vargas has died. She was born in Costa Rica, and became one of the most timeless interpreters of what was, and is, a predominantly masculine music genre. She came out as a lesbian at age 80. She was 93 when she died. An LA Times obit is here.

Though Vargas experienced her first flush of fame in the mid-20th century — with an outlaw image she cultivated by wearing men's clothing, packing a pistol and knocking back copious quantities of tequila — she enjoyed a second round of admiration that was perhaps even more intense beginning in the 1990s, with a rediscovery fueled in great part by Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodovar, who championed her music for a new generation and included it in some of his films. It was Almodovar who perhaps best described Vargas' chosen instrument as "la voz aspera de la ternura" — the rough voice of tenderness.

A few radio stories: Tell me More, Morning Edition, The World.

Tig Notaro joked about her breast cancer diagnosis during an epic set at Largo -- and killed

Standup comedian Tig Notaro took the stage Friday night at Largo as part of her farewell to Los Angeles as she prepares to move to New York to begin work on Amy Schumer's new show. But that wasn't all she was announcing: she revealed that following a string of personal tragedies (a terrible bout of pneumonia, her mother's death, and a breakup), she had been diagnosed with breast cancer. In both breasts. After starting her set with jokes about her diagnosis (“You have a lump.” “No, doctor, that’s my breast.”), she said she should maybe do some of her more light-hearted material, but someone yelled out: “NO. ABSOLUTELY NOT. THIS IS FUCKING INCREDIBLE.” She was killing it. I wasn't there (Kira Hesser was), but her fellow performers -- Louis C.K., Bill Burr, and Ed Helms -- posted raves on Twitter. Notaro had prefaced her set by saying that "everything is going to be okay," which only goes to show: awesome people are awesome, and cancer sucks. (via Splitsider, Uproxx)

Wikipedia's list of infamous software glitches

Worth noting, especially if you read my piece last Friday about problems with America's electric infrastructure: Wikipedia's list of infamous software glitches includes the problems with General Electric Energy's XA/21 monitoring software that helped make the 2003 East Coast Blackout happen. (Via Kyle McDonald)

Google Street View goes to Kennedy Space Center

I don't know what the best words ever written in the English language are, but I'm willing to put "Top of Launch Pad 39A, Address is Approximate" up there on the short list.

Among the images you can now explore online with the click of your mouse are the space shuttle launch pad, Vehicle Assembly Building and Launch Firing Room #4. Gaze down from the top of the enormous launch pad, peer up at the towering ceiling of the Vehicle Assembly Building (taller than the Statue of Liberty) and get up close to one of the space shuttle’s main engines, which is powerful enough to generate 400,000 lbs of thrust. And even though they recently entered retirement, you can still get an up-close, immersive experience with two of the Space Shuttle Orbiters—the Atlantis and Endeavour.

I'm not sure when this went live, but it's seriously phenomenal. And it's part of a larger series of special Street View galleries with geeky appeal. There are sets for Antarctica (see Shackleton's shack!), historic Italy (wander around the Colosseum!), and UNESCO World Heritage Sites (includes Pompeii!). In general, discovering this could be a major time-suck for me, if I'm not careful.

See the NASA collection

Check out the other Street View Galleries

The teaser trailer for Kathryn Bigelow's controversial Zero Dark Thirty hits the web

Before May 2, 2011, Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow was working on a movie about the manhunt for Osama bin Laden. After May 2, 2011, she had to rework her movie a bit, because that manhunt officially ended when SEAL Team 6 tracked down their target and killed him. Then it was revealed that Bigelow got some help from the CIA, which no one minded at all. And then she was told that her movie, which depicts a successful mission by the current president and the military to find the world's most wanted terrorist -- and was set to be released in October -- might look like propaganda and influence the presidential election in November, so it is now being released in December. But here's an even more interesting piece of information about Zero Dark Thirty: Chris Pratt is in it. Parks and Recreation's Chris Pratt. That Chris Pratt.

'Zero Dark Thirty' trailer: Kathryn Bigelow hunts for Osama bin Laden [/Film]

Associated Press: As dozens of Eagle Scouts resign, Boy Scouts of America ignores them

I recently posted a couple of articles featuring heartfelt letters from people who had earned their Eagle Scout awards as boys, but no longer wanted to be associated with the Boy Scouts of America and its rule banning gay scouts and GBLT troop leaders. Instead, they were choosing to return their awards to the BSA, in hopes that scouting's national organization would recognize that this rule isn't something all scouts want. In fact, many wrote about their frustration with what they see as the BSA failing to live up to the values that scouting teaches.

As of August 4, more than 80 former Eagle Scouts have sent photos of their resignation letters to the Eagle Scouts Returning Our Badges Tumblr blog, where the letters and the protest they represent are being archived.

Reading the comments that have turned up here at BoingBoing, I get the sense that there are many more Eagle Scouts—and active Boy Scout troops—that also disagree with the BSA, but don't want to resign from local connections that don't reflect the national organization's bigotry. In fact, the Northern Star Council, which represents 75,000 scouts in Minnesota and Wisconsin, is openly bucking Boy Scouts of America policy, and has been for years.

The Associated Press ran a piece yesterday looking at this dissent and the effect—or, it seems, lack thereof—it is having on BSA policy.

Deron Smith, the Boy Scouts' national spokesman, said there was no official count at his office of how many medals had been returned. He also noted that about 50,000 of the medals are awarded each year.

Beyond the Eagle Scout protests, the Boy Scouts' reaffirmation of the no-gays policy has drawn condemnation from liberal advocacy groups, newspaper editorialists and others. In Washington state, Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna, an Eagle Scout, joined his Democratic opponent, Jay Inslee, in suggesting the policy be changed.

But overall there has been little evidence of any new form of outside pressure that might prompt the Scouts to reconsider.

The leadership of the Scouts' most influential religious partners - notably the Mormons, Roman Catholics and Southern Baptists - appears to support the policy. And even liberal politicians seem reluctant to press the issue amid a tense national election campaign.

Read the rest of the Associated Press story

Liquid nitrogen hovers over the surface of a hot pan

The Leidenfrost Effect is a lovely sounding name for some very strange and nifty physics.

When you heat up a liquid, it will, eventually, boil away into a gas. Different liquids have different boiling points. But here's the weird catch: When you suddenly put a liquid in contact with something much, much hotter than its boiling point, the liquid doesn't instantly evaporate. Instead, it forms a little cushion of vapor between itself and the heat source. You can imagine it like a hovercraft moving over the surface of a lake. The cushion doesn't prevent evaporation—and it doesn't last long—but it does slow down evaporation enough that you can see the liquid moving around on the hot surface for little bit like everything is just fine and dandy.

This video was made as a promotional piece for Modernist Cuisine. The Leidenfrost Effect matters for cooking because it allows you to tell when you have successfully heated up a pan. If the temperature of the pan is above the Leidenfrost point, then you can sprinkle it with water and watch the droplets bandy about on the hot metal. In this case, though, they used liquid nitrogen.

Via Geeksaresexy and cafonso

Totally Not Photoshopped photos from Mars (a tumblog of greatness)

More like this: "TOTALLY NOT 'SHOPPED PICS FROM MARS"

(Thanks, Sean Bonner!)

Read the rest

Slicing vegetables with thrown playing cards

This fellow hopes to break a world record throwing playing cards with vegetable-slicing speed and accuracy. If you'd like to learn this useful skill, you might start by reading Ricky Jay's 1977 classic book "Cards As Weapons."

Birth of the deodorant industry

 Images Anti-Perspirant-Ads-Men-Gossips-631-Tall

In Smithsonian, Sarah Everts traces the deodorant business to Edna Murphey, a high school student from Cincinnati who around 1910 took an antiperspirant her surgeon father invented, meant for his sweaty hands in the operating room, and dabbed it in her armpits. Murphey dubbed the product Odorono and took it to market, but sales were slow. Then she connected with an ad copy writer who successfully made Americans, particularly women, worry that they might stink. From Smithsonian:

Young decided to present perspiration as a social faux pas that nobody would directly tell you was responsible for your unpopularity, but which they were happy to gossip behind your back about.

His advertisement in a 1919 edition of the Ladies Home Journal didn’t beat around the bush. “Within the Curve of a Woman’s arm. A frank discussion of a subject too often avoided,” announced the headline above an image of an imminently romantic situation between a man and a woman.

Reading more like a lyrical public service announcement than an advert, Young continued:

A woman’s arm! Poets have sung of it, great artists have painted its beauty. It should be the daintiest, sweetest thing in the world. And yet, unfortunately, it’s isn’t always.

"How Advertisers Convinced Americans They Smelled Bad"

Sponsor shout-out: ShanaLogic

Owwwwwl

Thanks to our sponsor ShanaLogic, sellers of handmade and independently designed jewelry, apparel, gifts, and other fine products. Above, Deadworry's Octo Owl Messenger Bag emblazoned with an unholy hybrid of an owl and an octopus. It's 100% cotton canvas and hand-screened. Shana is also offering free US shipping on orders over $50!

Mars Curiosity moment of joy: NASA JPL team high-fiving after landing (video)

[Video Link] As the post-landing press conference begins, NASA and JPL MSL leaders high-five and cheer with the Mars rover engineering and flight control team. I shot this last night (on my iPhone, pardon the shakiness) inside the Jet Propulsion Lab, at 11:15pm PDT, about 45 minutes after the rover landed, against all odds, on the surface of Mars.

* Despite the image on the screen behind them, this was not a Microsoft press conference.

Mark Twain on film

No, not Hal Holbrook but Mark Twain himself. Thomas Edison shot this film of Twain in 1909 and it is the only known footage of the author. To celebrate, Jason will cook me one of his celebrated Mark Twain steaks, pan-fried of course. (via Mental Floss)

Curiosity rover "caught in the act of landing"—NASA photo

This just in from Mars:

NASA's Curiosity rover and its parachute were spotted by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter as Curiosity descended to the surface on Aug. 5 PDT (Aug. 6 EDT). The High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera captured this image of Curiosity while the orbiter was listening to transmissions from the rover. Curiosity and its parachute are in the center of the white box; the inset image is a cutout of the rover stretched to avoid saturation. The rover is descending toward the etched plains just north of the sand dunes that fringe "Mt. Sharp." From the perspective of the orbiter, the parachute and Curiosity are flying at an angle relative to the surface, so the landing site does not appear directly below the rover.

The parachute appears fully inflated and performing perfectly. Details in the parachute, such as the band gap at the edges and the central hole, are clearly seen. The cords connecting the parachute to the back shell cannot be seen, although they were seen in the image of NASA's Phoenix lander descending, perhaps due to the difference in lighting angles. The bright spot on the back shell containing Curiosity might be a specular reflection off of a shiny area. Curiosity was released from the back shell sometime after this image was acquired.

More about the photo here. (courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona)

If there is anyone who can save M. Night Shyamalan from himself, it's Marti Noxon

Here is some excellent news that I promise is excellent, just wait for the second part: M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, Signs, and let's leave it there) is coming to television, developing a supernatural drama series for Syfy called Proof. And here is that second part that should have many of us very psyched: he will co-write this project with Marti Noxon, former writer, producer, and showrunner of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, screenwriter of the Fright Night remake (which was excellent), and trusted confidante of Joss Whedon. Tell me this woman isn't the perfect person to team with a guy who once wrote really good suspense and then veered off into Crap Town.

Read the rest

Instagram streams from various cities

Tokyoooo

Vegasssss

"This is Now" provides real-time streams of Instagram uploads from a variety of cities like London, Paris, New York, and Vegas (above). I'm surprised there aren't more photos of feet and food!

Radioactive uranium sculptures

Chandeeeeee

Anttttt

Australian artists Ken and Julia Yonetani created a series of sculptures from radioactive uranium glass. The large artworks, including the chandelier above and a 6-meter green ant, will be unveiled this week at the 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art in Sydney, Australia. The artists were inspired by the Fukushima nuclear disaster. The show is titled "What the Birds Knew," which was the alternative title for Kurosawa's film "I Live In Fear," about the fear of nuclear war. According to the press release, "Modern uranium, or "Vaseline" glass is typically only up to maximum 2% uranium by weight. This is not sufficiently radioactive to pose a health hazard to those viewing the glass."

"What the Birds Knew" (4A Centre)

"Radioactive art tackles fall-out for Japan" (SMH)

Profile of video/gif artist Max Capacity

 Tumblr M7491Lcasu1Qzpy7Ko1 250

Glitch video/GIF artist Max Capacity work pushes the grainy VHS cut-ups and early home computer bit constraints of 1980s cyberpunk into the digital realm. Network Awesome and Radosaur Productions interviewed him for Tumbkr's Storyboard effort. "Max Capacity: Net Necromancer"

Bees ground Delta flight

Honeybees clustered under the wing of a Delta Airlines flight at Pittsburgh International Airport last week; the plane could not depart until a beekeeper was summoned to take possession of the swarm. CBS reporter Mary Robb Jackson adds that swarms of bees are not uncommon at the airport, where 25,000 to 30,000 occupied Taxiway-C last May. [KDKA]

Life on Mars: A round-up of Curiosity-related awesomeness

They were chanting "Science! Science! Science!" and "NASA! NASA! NASA!" in Times Square last night, as the Curiosity rover touched down on Mars at about 1:30 am Eastern time.

The best parts are yet to come. As chemistry professor and blogger Matthew Hartings pointed out this morning, Curiosity is, fundamentally, a chemistry project. Curiosity will search for the chemical building blocks of life, it will study the make-up of the soil and atmosphere, it will look at planetary water cycles and the effects of cosmic radiation. The long-range goal, as you've probably picked up by now, is to put human beings on Mars—maybe by as soon as the 2030s. Curiosity is the chemistry that will help make that very ambitious sort of awesome possible.

We'll be staying tuned for cool stuff coming in from Curiosity. In the meantime, I wanted to point you toward some swell videos, photos, jokes, and essays that have turned up in the last nine hours.

First off, if you slept through the event or just want to relive the excitement, the video above captures the five minutes before and five minutes after Curiosity made landing. The actual touchdown happens about at about mark 5:30, and the first images come through at 7:30.

And, speaking of images ...

Read the rest

Memory card leads to long-lost camera's owner

Found by Vermont teacher Jon Noerr in a creek near Pharaoh Lake, a muddy Canon XT Rebel had clearly taken its last shot. But the memory card was ship-shape, and its contents made it possible to track owner Michael Comeau down and give him back his long-lost photos.

The memory card’s contents contained a hodgepodge of urban streetscapes, photos of apparent loved ones and random signs. He noticed most of the photos appeared to be in one general area, which he believed to be in one of New York City’s outer boroughs. ... But just two photos served as Noerr’s “holy grail,” a shot of a young woman sitting on a front stoop of a house numbered 327 and a shot taken seconds later of the sky that captured a street sign reading 3rd Street.

"I think I found your camera": Visual clues help man solve mystery [PostStar.com. Photo: John Noerr]

Baby deer saved

A cute, speckled deer "scampered" into the woods Thursday after being rescued from a 20-ft hole in Suffolk County, NY. [Huffington Post. Photo: Suffolk County Police Department]

• Two grey tiger kittens who spent hours trapped in a drain pipe were rescued by Ingham County Animal Control. Officials believe the kittens were thirsty, and did not realize that the pipes were slippery. [Battle Creek Inquirer]

• Puppies! Pongo the Rottweiler mix was rescued from a dumpster in Riverside, Ca., only hours before it was scheduled for pickup and crushing. Meanwhile, 57 puppies were rescued from a puppy mill by officers from Brunswick and New Hanover County Sheriff's department: "The raid was initially planned for next week, but ... the conditions were so bad, they had to take action earlier." [PE.com]

• Sadly, a group of campers in Nova Scotia was rescued from a circling pack of coyotes, which will now go hungry. [UPI, which deserves much kudos for finding stock art of a disappointed coyote]

Science fiction grand master Jack Vance rockin' a uke and a kazoo

The video description says it all, really:

Science fiction legend and grand master Jack Vance, 96, owns you completely with his ukelele and kazoo. He plans to sell music from his Go For Broke Jazz Band as well as the e-books already for sale on his website. Vance sings and plays harmonica, kazoo, ukelele and jug, and his friend Kevin Boudreau plays string bass and the washboard. Taken during a recent interview with Vance, for Locus Magazine. The Vance interview will appear in the August 2012 issue of Locus.

(Thanks, Spontaine!)

Temple killer was white supremacist

Wade Michael Page, who killed six people inside a Sikh temple Sunday, was a "frustrated neo-Nazi who led a racist white supremacist band," reports the AP.
Page told a white supremacist website in an interview in 2010 that he had been part of the white-power music scene since 2000 when he left his native Colorado and the started the band, End Apathy, in 2005, the nonprofit civil rights organization said. He told the website his "inspiration was based on frustration that we have the potential to accomplish so much more as individuals and a society in whole," according to the SPLC. He did not mention violence in the website interview.