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Rob Beschizza

Rob Beschizza is the Managing Editor of Boing Boing. He's @beschizza on Twitter and can be found on Facebook too. Try your luck at  

Smells of the past


Stuart Eve created Dead Man's Eyes, an "augmented reality and heritage app" to bring the sights, sounds and smells of the past into the present.

At The Atlantic, he writes about his motives:

The past is dead, a foreign country where they do things differently. I experimented with augmented reality as a way to try bring me closer to experiencing what life was like in the past. Augmented reality is a way of merging the real world with virtual objects. It normally involves overlaying virtual objects onto live video feed from either a web camera, a head-worn display, or a mobile device. Many of the major technology companies (with the notable exception of Apple) have now produced such headsets—such as Google Glass or Microsoft's HoloLens. Some augmented-reality applications require the use of a physical marker to launch the experience—such as advertising interfaces that allow you to “drive” a car before buying it—whereas others work by locating your device using the embedded GPS and compass, such as Google’s worldwide roaming augmented-reality game Ingress.

Proprietary vibes: a new dawn for copyright trolls?


Yesterday, a jury decided that Blurred Lines infringed the copyright of Marvin Gaye's Got to Give It Up. The consensus seems to be that the ruling is a troublesome one, connecting the sheet music actually owned by Gaye's estate to the "feel" of its recording--and anything that sounds like it in future.

Spencer Kornhaber at The Atlantic:

No one contends that “Blurred Lines” is a straight musical copy of Gaye’s “Got to Give It Up”; unlike with Sam Smith paying royalties to Tom Petty, the issue is less about chords than about “feel.” The “Blurred Lines” groove hits the ear a lot like the Gaye one—the musicians admitted as much—but when, exactly, does feel become infringement?

The Telegraph reports that it has "the potential to change how musicians work and could open the door to new copyright claims."

The music industry may feel new constraints in the coming years as artists - and lawyers - sort through the verdict and its implications. ... Howard King, lead attorney for Thicke and Williams, told jurors in closing arguments that a verdict for the Gaye family would have a chilling effect on musicians' trying to evoke an era or create an homage to the sound of earlier musicians.

The Guardian's Keith Harris suggests, however, that copyright law is a red herring: the main upshot will be a "desire to avoid going in front of capricious juries."

Observers with no financial stake in the proceeding also fretted. To them, the jury’s determination that Thicke’s frisky 2013 hit Blurred Lines did in fact lift copyrighted elements from Marvin Gaye’s 1977 song Got to Give It To You, seemed unjustifiable. The tunes just weren’t similar enough, they complained. ... And yet, in a strictly legal sense, yesterday’s verdict set no precedent. US copyright law is fundamentally unchanged; the jury’s decision is an interpretation of existing law. If Thicke and Williams challenge the verdict, a court of appeals ruling could possibly refine aspects of that law.

ABC news reports the verdict has the music industry "singing the blues." Thicke, Pharrell and T.I. released their own statement decying the verdict:

While we respect the judicial process, we are extremely disappointed in the ruling made today, which sets a horrible precedent for music and creativity going forward. Blurred Lines was created from the heart and minds of Pharrell, Robin and T.I. and not taken from anyone or anywhere else. We are reviewing the decision, considering our options and you will hear more from us soon about this matter.

Marvin Gaye's daughter described the verdict as a "miracle":

Right now, I feel free. Free from ... Pharrell Williams' and Robin Thicke's chains and what they tried to keep on us and the lies that were told

Gaye's family has now set out to block further sales of the 2013 song.

"We'll be asking the court to enter an injunction prohibiting the further sale and distribution of 'Blurred Lines' unless and until we can reach an agreement with those guys on the other side about how future monies that are received will be shared," attorney Richard Busch, who represents the Gaye family, tells Rolling Stone. "We'll be doing that in about a week or so."

Most commentators, however, are displeased. The fear is that the music business will be subject to a new regime of licensing and liability: a worst-case-scenario for a business where everything is, in one way another, a remix of something older.

But wouldn't it be something if the music business was nailed by artists--or their living descendants--using the interpretations of copyright that the music industry bought to protect its own interests?

Why we need free hardware designs

Richard Stallman, writing in Wired: "Users deserve control over these works, just as they deserve control over the software they use."

Ferguson city manager, police chief resign

UPDATE: Police chief Thomas Jackson is gone, too.

John Shaw is out of a job. After an uncompromising Justice Department report cited racial bias of city employees and police officers, city councillors unanimously agreed he should resign.

Last year, one of Shaw's officers, Darren Wilson, shot dead Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager. The killing led to months of protests and clashes in the St. Louis suburb, echoed by gatherings in other cities and even abroad.

Shaw is out only days after claiming that the report on Ferguson's government and police racism did not reflect the values of Fergusons's government and police force.

Though the Justice Department found insufficient evidence to charge Wilson, it uncovered dozens of examples of racial bias and bigotry. Moreover, it connected this pattern to revenues, saying the targeting of minorities effectively functioned as a "money-making enterprise" and specifically naming Shaw as encouraging police to ticket motorists.

Dutch scrap surveillance law over privacy concerns

Three-Ways-to-Pursue-Cloud-Data-Privacy-with-Medical-Records_webA data retention law mandating that ISPs retain customer data has been struck down by a court in The Hague. Assailed by privacy rights advocates, the dragnet allowed law enforcement easy access to customer records going back 12 months.

The law violated data protection and privacy rights, the court found, and was more than "strictly necessary" to meet the claimed needs.

Though the Dutch government claimed the requirements were necessary to fight terorrism, a broad coalition of journalists, activists and lawyers took it to court after the EU Court of Justice struck down the union's own data retention directive last year.

Though ministers said they wanted to keep the data retention rules, despite the EU court ruling, the court's ruling takes immediate effect.

Anita Sarkeesian on what she couldn't say

Read the rest

Jury: Blurred Lines infringed Gaye's copyright


A jury in L.A. decided that Blurred Lines, the song by Robin Thicke, Pharrell Williams and T.I., infringes the copyright of Marvin Gaye's 1977 hit Got to Give it Up and awarded Gaye's family $7.3m in damages.

From USA Today:

The Williams, Thicke and T.I camp contended they did nothing wrong in being inspired by Gaye and evoking the feeling of Gaye's music.

But lawyers for Gaye's children — Frankie and Nona Gaye — accused Williams and Thicke of repeatedly changing their stories about how they created Blurred Lines and felt his clients deserved a piece of the millions the song has made.

An accounting statement during the trial, according to The Hollywood Reporter, revealed that there were $16,675,690 in profits for Blurred Lines.

According to testimony, $5,658,214 went to Thicke, $5,153,457 was given to Williams and $704,774 to T.I.

Record companies (Interscope, UMG Distribution and Star Trak) took home the rest, with an executive at Universal Music testifying that overhead costs on the creation of Blurred Lines accounted for $6.9 million.

It's intriguing to wonder how much general shiftiness and bullshit—$6.9m to record one song?—contributed to the verdict, irrespective of the technical similarities of the music. Tough copyright verdicts and denying one's own influences, forming a vicious cycle.

Decide your yourself if the two songs are improperly similar. Here's Thicke:

And Gaye:

Recommended bottle sterilizer

Munchkin-Electric-700pixBecause there are few things quite so disconcerting as milk in my scotch, I never drink without having first sterilized my bottle in the Munchkin Steam Guard Electric Sterilizer, as recommended by The Nightlight.

Games return to Boing Boing

Our game site, Offworld, is returning Monday as a place for happy mutants who love to explore new worlds.Read the rest

Does everyone at Wired have to wear black?


Wired has a tasteful new redesign, and a tasteful "About Us" page to go with it. I know they said it's not a pirate ship anymore, but I didn't realize it was now the C Org.

Read the rest

Leonard Nimoy, 1931-2015

Leonard Nimoy as Mr Spock in Star Trek. Photograph: Moviestore Collect The New York Times: "The sonorous, gaunt-faced actor who won a worshipful global following as Mr. Spock, the resolutely logical human-alien first officer of the Starship Enterprise in the television and movie juggernaut “Star Trek,” died on Friday morning at his home in the Bel Air section of Los Angeles. He was 83."

His final posting: "A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. [Live Long and Prosper.]"

Net Neutrality wins


In a 3 to 2 party-line vote, the FCC decided today that broadband internet access will be classified as a "telecommunications service under Title II," a utility like telephone service.

The ruling enshrines major aspects of net neutrality, the principle that favors an "open internet" and which limits what service providers can do to control access to it.

The new rules specifically prohibit blocking legal traffic, intentionally degrading the service quality given to particular sites, services or devices, and paid prioritization, whereby partners pay for access to "fast lanes." FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and Democratic commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Jessica Rosenworcel each favored the rules. Republicans Michael O’Reilly and Ajit Pai voted against them.

Though the internet has remained largely "neutral" since its inception, service providers have long wanted to discriminate between different users, devices and types of data, to charge data-gobbling websites for access to their customers, and to play favorites with affiliated services and sites.

The ruling will be challenged vigorously by the service providers, business groups, and Republicans in congress.

An earlier FCC compromise was torn up after cable companies challenged the agency's power to regulate the web. Though they won in court, this strategy led the FCC to rule more directly on the internet's role as a communications utility.

During a four-month consultation period, a little-liked FCC plan to regulate neutrality issues on a "a case-by-case basis" ultimately gave way to more comprehensive protections for the open 'net.

A satirical, scathing segment produced by HBO's John Oliver became a popular turning point, racking up more than 8 million views and highlighting the consequences of ignoring Net Neutrality's highly technical and "boring" subject matter.

As the debate became more public and fractious, AT&T said it had suspended infrastructure investment until the neutrality proposals were decided, while the White House signaled support, and billionaire Marc Cuban issued perfectly-timed orations valorizing Ayn Rand and America's most hated corporations.

Now service providers must face the outcome they sought to avoid--an open internet protected by telecommunications utility rules.

Last day to badger FCC over Net Neutrality: do it! Do it now!

The New York Times reports that the FCC will likely go ahead and treat the Internet as a utility, but don't let them off the hook just yet. Click "Save Net Neutrality" below and tell them what you think.

Google bans "graphic nudity" from hosted blogs, will decide if your art is porn (UPDATE: decision reversed)

Google is to ban pornography and "graphic nudity" at Blogger, the publishing platform that used to host Boing Boing before we got our own servers.

Google said those Blogger sites that continue to host pornography after March 23 will be made "private." That means the content will be allowed to remain up, but it will only be accessible to the site's owner and the people who the user directly shared the blog with.

Google noted that it isn't completely banning nudity from being shown publicly on Blogger. The site will allow nudity "if the content offers a substantial public benefit, for example in artistic, educational, documentary, or scientific contexts." But it also puts Google in the position of deciding what is art and what is pornography -- a decision that Instagram and other sites have struggled with.

It's not news to say that the internet has mostly disappeared into serious culture's well-stretched arsehole, but it's always useful to remember that the googly eye now peering out from it is Eric Schmidt's.

Adult content policy on Blogger [Blogger]

UPDATE, FEB. 27: "The Web giant on Friday announced that it has changed its mind and will not crack down on adult content on its blogging platform, after all," reports PC Mag.

Help me pick a dumbphone


My anti-boredom lightbox has become a psychic vampire. So I'm going back to a plain "feature" phone for a while, just to see what life is like outside of cyberspace. Help me pick the right one!

Now, there are a few approaches to the peak of dumbphone mountain.

1. Get a functional, no-nonsense model that does what I need—calls, text messages, battery life—and accept that to allow myself more than this is to bargain my way back to fun smartphone things.

2. Get a high-quality feature phone that limits me to more practical matters, but is sufficiently well-designed and made that I like using it within those limitations.

3: Dumb down my smartphone. This is what I'm doing now: it means removing attention-treadmill apps and disabling Mobile Safari using the "restrictions" menu option. It feels weird, but works. A pro is being able to put it to use as a simplifier (GPS, video, etc) when required; a con is paying for all that unused data.

Bear in mind that even the very dumbest dumbphones have a lot of the smartphone attention-machine things baked in anyway—especially social networking. So I'd like to avoid qwerty keyboards, too, imposing an extra level of friction and difficulty to engage beyond basic texting.

motof3 Now, I used to have a Moto F3, an e-ink candybar model that, at first blush, seems perfect: small, durable, good battery life, no apps, totally minimalist. But it has a critical flaw: only 6 characters per line on a two-line display. It's a fetish item, and barely usable for people who want to make frequent calls or write text messages. They're also getting rare and expensive.


At the other end of the spectrum, there's this Nokia (or, rather, Microsoft) 515, which remains the ne plus ultra of practical feature phones. It has gorilla glass and nice metal casing and I would totally fall in love with it. But it's expensive and has a full complement of attention-vampire apps. It seems vaguely like the feature phone equivalent of a set of leatherbound Britannicas, if you catch my drift.

nokia301 Nokia's 301 is made with plainer materials and more reasonably priced, but otherwise has the same "premium" dumbphone setup. This is my top candidate, but for...

The Nokia 105/106, cheap and low-end but with amazing battery life--days of talk time, claimed, and up to a month on standby. It's still quite good-looking, too, unlike the general chintz of other sub-$30 options. This looks like a great way to meet the needs of option 1. (The newer Microsoft-era "Asha" models, and the 200 series, all seem to have touchscreens or QWERTY keyboards. The 220 comes in a nicely toxic lime green, though, so there's that.)

Samsung has about 400 million different models, similar to these Nokias, but they look relatively flimsy. They're extremely cheap, though. How do they perform?

Screen Shot 2015-02-23 at 11.59.28 AMHas anyone tried a Blu feature phone? They're inexpensive, and look a bit sturdier than the bargain-bin models from LG and Samsung.

Ebay is full of various credit card-sized models from generic manufacturers. The very sight of these releases serotonin into my Moto F3 receptors. Is is possible that they aren't completely terrible? Has anyone here had any experience with them? Here is one on Amazon posed with a bottle of Baileys to show you how classy it is.


This "gold" one resembles a 40 year-old remote control and is called "Jump and Fish."


(Update: Reader Fuzzyfungus points out that these are derivatives of the $12 "Gonkai" Phone.)

Finally, there are also rugged models from Casio and Cat to consider; the Cat B100, below, is waterproof and generally looks the most uncompromising of the set: an immortal slab of metal for people who will never want anything else. The photo is from Engadget, where Brian Heater gives it a positive write-up.



Audiophile Micro SD Card


If you've been telling yourself that Sony's $1200 Walkman is actually a highly-polished, premium product—say, the audio equivalent of a professional DSLR camera—know that it is also making a $155 SD card to use with it for "premium sound." Consider yourself informed what sort of person Sony thinks you are, if you are thinking of buying that Walkman. [via @chrisheinonen]

Lenovo pre-installed malware on laptops

PC maker Lenovo reportedly sold laptops preinstalled with Superfish, a hidden malware package that injects advertising into browser sessions: "it can basically intercept everything and it could be really misused."

Net neutrality jumbotron to be parked outside FCC: get your message on it!


Net neutrality advocates StopTheSlowDown want your messages to put on a jumbotron outside the FCC, which will issue a historic ruling on February 26 concerning how the internet works.

This is urgent: Telecom lobbyists are swarming Washington to insert legal loopholes so they can slow your favorite websites to a crawl. With so many websites based in the U.S., the future of the entire Internet itself is at stake. We’re parking an “Internet Voice” JUMBOTRON right in front of the FCC to make sure your voice is heard. Add your message now and we’ll make sure they see it

Improved design for Delta Airlines "Disposal Bag"

delta-bag Drink to remember.

Gif of a floating dog

Here is a Gif of a floating dog. doggif

Downton Abbey fan art

dowager A special feature at Deviant Art collecting the very best Downtown Abbey fan art. Yes, there is plenty of dowager.

Fighting games before Street Fighter II were mostly awful

Hardcore Gaming 101's collection of pre-1991 titles has a few good standouts, but it's remarkable just how bad the failure ratio was for the genre.

Canada upholds net neutrality rules

From Michael Geist: "Canada's telecom regulator has issued a major new…ruling that Bell and Videotron violated the Telecommunications Act by granting their own wireless television services an undue preference by exempting them from data charges."

FCC to hotels: WiFi blocking is prohibited

Megan Geuss: "Persons or businesses causing intentional interference to Wi-Fi hotspots are subject to enforcement action. Previously.

Journalists! Activists! Nominate your worst FOIA horror stories

Dave Maass at the Electronic Frontier Foundation wants to experience bureaucratic obfuscation and evasion—vicariously, though you.

This year, EFF is setting out to recognize the most outrageous responses to Freedom of Information Act and state open records act requests. We are calling it The Foilies and we need journalists, citizen nominations for these dubious honors.

Send your nominations to foilies at by Feb. 20, 2015. Recipients of these dubious awards will be announced during Sunshine Week in March.

Musician posts call transcript after Google says her claims are 'patently false'

Zoe Keating reported the awful contract terms Google is trying to impose on its musicians; Google says her claims are 'patently false'. She fires back with transcripts of her interactions with its staff.

Several journalists have contacted me to say that a Google PR rep told them my claims were “patently false”. “Patently” means clear and without doubt. Either someone is not telling the truth or the very nice rep I have been negotiating with, for a year, is patently unclear. There seems to be very little clarity and a lot of doubt on this topic.

I still haven’t decided what to do (YouTube is not at the top of my priority list right now) but I don’t want to spread false information and I hope my transcript below will provide some clarity. Please, tell me what you think it means.


Zoe: Wow that’s pretty harsh.

Google rep: Yeah, it’s harsh and trust me, it is really difficult for me to have this conversation with all of my partners but we’re really, what we’re trying to do is basically create a new revenue stream on top of what exists on the platform today.

UPDATE: A YouTube spokesperson got in touch to say that any artist who agrees to their basic Terms of Service will always be able to share videos on YouTube, and that the music service contract will not prohibit them from providing exclusives and goodies to fans on other services.

Online anti-harassment task force launched

Zoe Quinn, a game developer frequently targeted by Gamergate and other internet trolls, launched Crash Override, an anti-harassment site that will help victims get in touch with law enforcement, legal/threat monitoring and counseling services. Quinn and Lifschitz, who are currently funding the initiative themselves, hope that Crash Override will fill an important gap for people targeted by online abuse. As Quinn knows first-hand, it’s often difficult to find good advice about how to protect yourself from online harassment or know where to turn, especially when the responses from both Internet platforms and law enforcement tend to be either inadequate or nonexistent.

Play Zork on Twitter

Play classic adventure game Zork simply by tweeting at @zorkplay, by Tom Printy and John Biggs. You'll need patience and a map... zork-1-map

Cuban cigar ban over

BBC: New travel and trade rules between the US and Cuba are to take effect on Friday, US officials say.

Marriot backs down on WiFi blocking

Glenn Fleishman: "They haven't withdrawn the petition, but they have backed way off publicly and in a follow-up FCC comment on their petition."