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EU working group produces the stupidest set of proposed Internet rules in the entire history of the human race


An EU working group that's been charged with coming up with recommendations for a terrorist-free European Internet has been brainstorming the stupidest goddamned ideas you've ever read, which are now widely visible, thanks to a leaked memo. The group, CleanIT, which is composed of cops, governments, and some NGOs from across Europe, has been given €400,000 to make its recommendations, and a document dated August 2012 sets out some of the group's thinking to date. As mentioned, it's pretty amazingly bad. Like, infra-stupid, containing strains of stupidity so low and awful they can't be perceived with unaided human apparatus. Here's Ars Technica's summary of the ideas in the memo:

* "Knowingly providing hyperlinks on websites to terrorist content must be defined by law as illegal just like the terrorist content itself"
* "Governments must disseminate lists of illegal, terrorist websites"
* "The Council Regulation (EC) No 881/2002 of 27 May 2002 (art 1.2) should be explained that providing Internet services is included in providing economics instruments to Al Qaeda (and other terrorist persons and organisations designated by the EU) and therefore an illegal act"
* "On Voice over IP services it must be possible to flag users for terrorist activity."
* "Internet companies must allow only real, common names."
* "Social media companies must allow only real pictures of users."
* "At the European level a browser or operating system based reporting button must be developed."
* "Governments will start drafting legislation that will make offering... a system [to monitor Internet activity] to Internet users obligatory for browser or operating systems...as a condition of selling their products in this country or the European Union."

Ars Technica's Cyrus Farivar tracked down a CleanIT spokesman on his home planet. But Klaasen is the Dutch national coordinator for counterterrorism and security programme manager of the office of the Dutch national coordinator for counterterrorism and security*, and he is really upset that we can read this stupid, stupid document full of recommendations that would be illegal in European law. He also can't believe that European Digital Rights, the NGO that published the leaked stupid, stupid document, didn't honor the confidentiality notice on the stupid, stupid cover-page.

* Update Cyrus sez, "Klaasen has corrected his title calling himself now the 'programme manager of the office of the Dutch national coordinator for counterterrorism and security'. Here's his LinkedIn page. He's referred to as the 'project manager,' which as far as I can tell, makes him in charge of the whole thing."

"I do fully understand that the publishing of the document led to misunderstandings," he told Ars. "If we publish like this, it will scare people—that’s the reason that we didn’t publish it. It’s food for thought. We do realize these are very rough ideas."

..."You can compare [this situation] to taking pictures of what someone buys for dinner with how a dinner tastes—you don’t have the complete picture," he added.

..."We really didn’t expect that people would publish a document that clearly says ‘not for publication’—that really surprised us," he said. "I don’t know if it’s naive. Why can’t I trust people?" [Ed: Oh, diddums]

Proposed EU plan to stop terrorist sites even more ridiculous than it sounds

(Image: Clown, a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from manc's photostream)

David Byrne and St Vincent performing each others' songs together

Pitchfork's got a couple YouTube clips from the ongoing David Byrne/St Vincent tour, which is in support of their new album and Byrne's new book, both of which are amazing. I saw the tour stop in Toronto and actually wept at one point. I've been listening to the new album, Love This Giant nonstop since, and it's become the soundtrack of my days. I can't remember the last time a new album took over my life so completely.

There are still upcoming shows in NYC, Philly, Brooklyn, Bethesda, Nashville, Atlanta, Austin, Houston, Dallas, San Diego, Santa Barbara, Costa Mesa, LA, San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, Vancouver, Melbourne, Sydney and Hobart.

Watch: David Byrne and St. Vincent Perform Each Other's Songs (Thanks, Jonny!)

Interview with Ray Harryhausen

NewImage Here's a 1974 interview with SFX pioneer and "Dynamation" inventor Ray Harryhausen, whose stop motion magic brought to life such classic films as The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958), Jason and the Argonauts (1963), and One Million Years BC (1967). (via Dangerous Minds)

Guy trying to cure friend's hiccups accidentally kills him

On Sunday evening, US Army private first class Isaac Lawrence Young, 22, was drinking and watching football with his buddies when he got the hiccups. His pal Pfc. Patrick Edward Myers, 27, pulled out a gun to scare him and cure the hiccups, but he accidentally shot Young in the face and killed him. Myers has been charged with manslaughter. (CNN) David

Fruit salad trees with six different fruit-bearing branches grafted on them


The Fruit Salad Tree Company of Emmaville, NSW, Australia sells trees that have up to six different fruit-bearing branches grafted on them.

* Stone fruits which grows peaches, plums, nectarines, apricots and peachcots
* Citrus which grows a winter and summer orange, mandarins, lemons, limes, grapefruits, tangelos and pomelos
* Multi-apples only
* Multi-nashi fruit only

The Fruit Salad Tree can be grown in the ground as for normal fruit trees, or in pots for those people with very limited space. Instead of having numerous different trees with more fruit than your household can consume there is only one tree with all of the fruits ripening naturally over a period of months. There can be more than one variety of an individual fruit on a tree, thus extending the picking time.

Fruit Salad Tree Company (via Kottke)

Google launches underwater Street View, a new virtual map of oceans

Today, Google Maps unveils a new Street View feature: underwater panoramic views of six special sea spots. The idea is to create a virtual map of the oceans, documenting the state of fragile ecosystems as they change over time, and sharing a vivid experience of part of our world that few humans get to see up close and in person, in real life.

The ocean collection on Google Street View is now available at maps.google.com/ocean, and includes coral reefs and the creatures who live in them, in Australia, the Philippines and Hawaii.

The panoramic images were collected by Google's partner, The Catlin Seaview Survey (Google+). I spoke with Richard Vevers, Project Director at Catlin, and asked why the organization chose to partner with Google on this project.

"The biggest problem with the ocean is that it's out of sight and out of mind for most of us," said Vevers. "99% of people have never gone for a dive and never will. One of the biggest issues around conservation is engaging people with the ocean, and this is a powerful way to accomplish that. It is a scientific project to create a baseline for observing how the oceans are changing, but it also creates awareness of why that matters."

Read the rest

Laptop rental companies reach cash-free, pointless settlement with toothless FTC for taking secret naked pictures of customers having sex, harvesting medical records and banking passwords and more

The FTC has settled with seven rent-to-own companies and a software company called DesignerWare of North East Pennsylvania for their role in secretly installing spyware on rental laptops, which was used to take "pictures of children, individuals not fully clothed, and couples engaged in sexual activities."

Under the terms of the settlement, the companies are free to go on engaging in this behavior, but now they'll have to notify customers. They won't pay a fine. The FTC won't say if it's referred any of the companies for criminal prosecution. The rental companies used the spyware to harvest renters' bank passwords, private emails to doctors, medical records, and Social Security numbers, and they used it to pop up deceptive windows on customers' computers to trick them into entering personal information.

Wired's David Kravets has more:

The software, known as Detective Mode, didn’t just secretly turn on webcams. It “can log the keystrokes of the computer user, take screen shots of the computer user’s activities on the computer, and photograph anyone within view of the computer’s webcam. Detective Mode secretly gathers this information and transmits it to DesignerWare, who then transmits it to the rent-to-own store from which the computer was rented, unbeknownst to the individual using the computer,” according to the complaint.

Under the settlement, the companies can still use tracking software on their rental computers, so long as they advise renters, the FTC said. The companies include Aspen Way Enterprises Inc.; Watershed Development Corp.; Showplace Inc., doing business as Showplace Rent-to-Own; J.A.G. Rents LLC, doing business as ColorTyme; Red Zone Inc., doing business as ColorTyme; B. Stamper Enterprises Inc., doing business as Premier Rental Purchase; and C.A.L.M. Ventures Inc., doing business as Premier Rental Purchase.

Rent-to-Own Laptops Secretly Photographed Users Having Sex, FTC Says

Debunking the NYT feature on the wastefulness of data-centers

This weekend's NYT carried an alarming feature article on the gross wastefulness of the data-centers that host the world's racks of server hardware. James Glanz's feature, The Cloud Factory, painted a picture of grotesque waste and depraved indifference to the monetary and environmental costs of the "cloud," and suggested that the "dirty secret" was that there were better ways of doing things that the industry was indifferent to.

In a long rebuttal, Diego Doval, a computer scientist who previously served as CTO for Ning, Inc, takes apart the claims made in the Times piece, showing that they were unsubstantiated, out-of-date, unscientific, misleading, and pretty much wrong from top to bottom.

First off, an “average,” as any statistician will tell you, is a fairly meaningless number if you don’t include other values of the population (starting with the standard deviation). Not to mention that this kind of “explosive” claim should be backed up with a description of how the study was made. The only thing mentioned about the methodology is that they “sampled about 20,000 servers in about 70 large data centers spanning the commercial gamut: drug companies, military contractors, banks, media companies and government agencies.” Here’s the thing: Google alone has more than a million servers. Facebook, too, probably. Amazon, as well. They all do wildly different things with their servers, so extrapolating from “drug companies, military contractors, banks, media companies, and government agencies” to Google, or Facebook, or Amazon, is just not possible on the basis of just 20,000 servers on 70 data centers.

Not possible, that’s right. It would have been impossible (and people that know me know that I don’t use this word lightly) for McKinsey & Co. to do even a remotely accurate analysis of data center usage for the industry to create any kind of meaningful “average”. Why? Not only because gathering this data and analyzing it would have required many of the top minds in data center scaling (and they are not working at McKinsey), not only because Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple, would have not given McKinsey this information, not only because the information, even if it was given to McKinsey, would have been in wildly different scales and contexts, which is an important point.

Even if you get past all of these seemingly insurmountable problems through an act of sheer magic, you end up with another problem altogether: server power is not just about “performing computations”. If you want to simplify a bit, there’s at least four main axis you could consider for scaling: computation proper (e.g. adding 2+2), storage (e.g. saving “4″ to disk, or reading it from disk), networking (e.g. sending the “4″ from one computer to the next) and memory usage (e.g. storing the “4″ in RAM). This is an over-simplification because today you could, for example, split up “storage” into “flash-based” and “magnetic” storage since they are so different in their characteristics and power consumption, just like we separate RAM from persistent storage, but we’ll leave it at four. Anyway, these four parameters lead to different load profiles for different systems.

a lot of lead bullets: a response to the new york times article on data center efficiency (via Making Light)

Fantastically detailed miniature replica of Katz's deli


Miniatures sculptor Alan Wolfson was commissioned to make a teeny weeny, fiendishly detailed diorama of the legendary Katz's Deli. Wolfson doesn't do miniature people, so he needed a plausible reason to make an empty Katz's (it's normally mobbed). He opted for a "closing time" Katz's, complete with tiny dirty dishes. There's tiny neon outside, too!


Katz’s Delicatessen is one of those legendary New York locations. It’s been in business on the lower east side of Manhattan since 1888, and is New York’s oldest deli. Telling someone to “meet me at Katz’s..,” is almost the same as telling them to meet you under the clock in Grand Central - everyone knows where it is.

The collector who commissioned the piece no longer lives in the city and wanted something that reminded him of the many times, when he was a boy, that he and his family had eaten at Katz’s.

"KATZ'S DELI / CLOSING TIME" (2012) (via Waxy)

Silcon Valley's high-tech bus commuter lines visualized

Stamen, a design firm in San Francisco, was commissioned to study the private transport networks that run from San Francisco down to Silicon Valley. The traditional commuter dynamic for cities is suburbanites coming into the city to work, but in San Francisco it runs both ways, as city-dwelling tech workers catch a variety of semi-luxurious, WiFi-equipped buses with power outlets and work tables to tech campuses down the peninsula. I watched this with some amusement when I was in San Francisco this summer, observing how a crowd of googlers with Android handsets would magically converge on a corner near Dolores Park just as a big black Google bus pulled up and whisked them away (A friend at Google tells me that his bus has its own mailing list where they recently had a kerfuffle when some enthusiastic people proposed a weekly festive party-ride on Friday afternoons, to the horror of the more sedate riders).

Fun fact: apparently Twitter employees refer to the entire Mission district as "the campus" (though I assume that this is ironic).

We enlisted people to go to stops, measure traffic and count people getting off and on and we hired bike messengers to see where the buses went. The cyclists used Field Papers to transcribe the various routes and what they found out, which we recompiled back into a database of trips, stops, companies and frequency. At a rough estimate, these shuttles transport about 35% of the amount of passengers Caltrain moves each day. Google alone runs about 150 trips daily, all over the city.

We wanted to simplify that, to start thinking about it as a system rather than a bunch of buses, so we began paring down the number of stops by grouping clusters where the stops were close to each other.

The subway map is the end result of that simplification; it's not a literal representation, but it's much more readable than the actual routes. We also wanted to show the relative volumes, so the map segments are scaled by how many trips pass through them; you get a sense for just how much traffic the highways get, and how the routes branch out from there to cover the city. We only mapped San Francisco shuttles, many of these companies operate additional routes in East Bay, the Pennensula, and around San Jose, including direct routes from Caltrain stations to corporate campuses.

The work was commissioned by ZERO1 and partly funded by the James Irvine Foundation.

The City from the Valley (2012) (Thanks, Fipi Lele!)

Dolphin giving birth

Here's a rare look at dolphin birth, from Dolphin Quest Hawaii at the Hilton Waikoloa Village. Jump to 17s for the main event.

Video Link [The Telegraph (h/t CSM)]

Six-eyed reveler wows Folsom Street Fair

From Carolyne Zinko's SF Gate story and slideshow from San Francisco's Folsom Street Fair (a kink/fetish event), this fantastic mask on an unidentified "reveler." I want to wear something like this on an everyday basis.

50 shades of fetish at Folsom St. Fair (Thanks, Fipi Lele!)

(Image: downsized, cropped thumbnail from a larger photo by Carolyne Zinko)

AMC casually confirms a fourth season of The Walking Dead

Good news! AMC has all but confirmed a fourth season of The Walking Dead -- by nonchalantly mentioning it while talking about something else entirely! In an announcement for not the show, but a blood drive for the American Red Cross, a prize entailing a trip to the set during the show's fourth season was offered up. So, hopefully that's a sure thing that is definitely happening, because people are literally going to allow themselves to be partially exsanguinated to visit that freaking set. (via Arrow in the Head) Jamie

Toyota's new robot

NewImage

This is Toyota's new arm-wresting robot. Apparently, its other application is for "human support" such as assisting disabled people and caring for the elderly in their homes. The robot's body can raise up and down and its tablet head is well-suited for telepresence. Toyota's Human Support Robot (via IEEE Spectrum)

Mitt Romney: "I don't know" why airplane windows don't open

Update: Apparently, Mitt was joking

At a $50,000/ticket fundraiser at the Beverly Hills Hilton (home to one of the great Trader Vic's of America, I might add), Mitt Romney expressed his controversial views on aerospace engineering, as recounted by the LA Times's Seema Mehta:

Romney’s wife, Ann, was in attendance, and the candidate spoke of the concern he had for her when her plane had to make an emergency landing Friday en route to Santa Monica because of an electrical malfunction.

“I appreciate the fact that she is on the ground, safe and sound. And I don’t think she knows just how worried some of us were,” Romney said. “When you have a fire in an aircraft, there’s no place to go, exactly, there’s no — and you can’t find any oxygen from outside the aircraft to get in the aircraft, because the windows don’t open. I don’t know why they don’t do that. It’s a real problem. So it’s very dangerous. And she was choking and rubbing her eyes. Fortunately, there was enough oxygen for the pilot and copilot to make a safe landing in Denver. But she’s safe and sound.”

I expect that's the sort of insight into technology that Romney acquired while creating jobs by remaking American industry to be more efficient.

Mitt Romney pulls in $6 million at Beverly Hills fundraiser

(Image: Virgin Atlantic Window, a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from aplumb's photostream)