Linux Foundation memo: how to make a computer that doesn't lock out GNU/Linux

UEFI is a new hardware standard nominally aimed at stopping malicious software, but it could also make it illegal to replace Windows or MacOS with GNU/Linux on your computer. The Linux Foundation has written a technical memo for hardware vendors explaining how they can ship PCs that still protect users from malware, without putting them in legal jeopardy for running free operating systems:

The recommendations can be summarized as follows: All platforms that enable UEFI secure boot should ship in setup mode where the owner has control over which platform key (PK) is installed. It should also be possible for the owner to return a system to setup mode in the future if needed. • The initial bootstrap of an operating system should detect a platform in the setup mode, install its own key-exchange key (KEK), and install a platform key to enable secure boot. • A firmware-based mechanism should be established to allow a platform owner to add new key-exchange keys to a system running in secure mode so that dual-boot systems can be set up. • A firmware-based mechanism for easy booting of removable media. • At some future time, an operating-system- and vendor-neutral certificate authority should be established to issue KEKs for third-party hardware and software vendors.

Making UEFI Secure Boot Work With Open Platforms (via /.) Read the rest

Anti-malware hardware has the potential to make it illegal and impossible to choose to run Linux

It's been years since the idea of "trusted computing" was first mooted -- a hardware layer for PCs that can verify that your OS matches the version the vendor created. At the time, TC advocates proposed that this would be most useful for thwarting malicious software, like rootkits, that compromise user privacy and security.

But from the start, civil liberties people have worried that there was a danger that TC could be used to lock hardware to specific vendors' operating systems, and prevent you from, for example, tossing out Windows and installing GNU/Linux on your PC.

The latest iteration of Trusted Computing is called "UEFI," and boards are starting to ship with UEFI hardware that can prevent the machine from loading altered operating systems. This would be a great boon to users -- if the PC vendors supplied the keys necessary to unlock the UEFI module and load your own OS. That way, UEFI could verify the integrity of any OS you chose to run.

But PC vendors -- either out of laziness or some more sinister motive -- may choose not to release those keys, and as a result, PC hardware could enter the market that is technically capable of running GNU/Linux, but which will not allow you to run any OS other than Windows.

What's more, UEFI may fall into the category of "effective access control for a copyrighted work," which means that breaking it would be illegal under the DMCA -- in other words, it could be illegal to choose to run any OS other than the one that the hardware vendor supplied. Read the rest

MIT Researcher records 90,000 hours of home video, analyzes the hell out of it

[Video Link]MIT researcher Deb Roy's presentation was probably my favorite at TED2011. The highlight of his presentation was when he played an audio file of his son learning how to say "water" over the course of the research project.

MIT researcher Deb Roy wanted to understand how his infant son learned language -- so he wired up his house with videocameras to catch every moment (with exceptions) of his son's life, then parsed 90,000 hours of home video to watch "gaaaa" slowly turn into "water." Astonishing, data-rich research with deep implications for how we learn. Deb Roy studies how children learn language, and designs machines that learn to communicate in human-like ways. On sabbatical from MIT Media Lab, he's working with the AI company Bluefin Labs.

Deb Roy: The birth of a word Read the rest

RoboClam anchor based on sea creature

Inspired by the way razor clams dig into the seafloor sediment, MIT researchers have built a robotic anchor for autonomous water vehicles. About the size of a cigarette lighter, the prototype RoboClam imitates the way the real clam's "foot" works its way into the sand. Learn more at the MIT site and don't miss the video of a real razor clam in action. From MIT News:
"Our original goal was to develop a lightweight anchor that you could set then easily unset, something that's not possible with conventional devices," said Anette "Peko" Hosoi, an associate professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering whose collaborators on the work are Amos Winter, a graduate student in her lab, and engineers at Bluefin Robotics Corp. Such devices could be useful, for example, as tethers for small robotic submarines that are routinely repositioned to monitor variables such as currents and temperature. Further, a device that can burrow into the seabed and be directed to a specific location could also be useful as a detonator for buried underwater mines.
RoboClam Read the rest

Nicaraguan town wealthy from cocaine bricks that wash ashore

The citizens of Bluefields in Nicaragua (population 50,000) enjoy a high standard of living thanks to the weekly (or sometimes daily) bales of cocaine that drift ashore. The cocaine comes from Colombian traffickers who throw it from their boats when the US Coast Guard pursues them. Law enforcement in the city doesn't do anything about it, and the drug is traded openly in the streets and even in supermarkets.
"They throw most of it off," says a Lt Commander in the US Coastguard. "I have been on four interdictions and we have confiscated about 6000 pounds [2720kg] of cocaine, and I'd say equal that much was dumped into the ocean."

Those bales of cocaine float, and the currents bring them west right into the chain of islands, beaches and cays which make up the huge lagoons that surround Bluefields on Nicaragua's Atlantic coast.

"There are no jobs here, unemployment is 85 per cent," says Moises Arana, who was mayor of Bluefields from 2001 to 2005.

"It is sad to say, but the drugs have made contributions. Look at the beautiful houses, those mansions come from drugs. We had a women come into the local electronics store with a milk bucket stuffed full of cash. She was this little Miskito [native] woman and she had $80,000."

Hujo Sugo, a historian of Bluefields, says the floating coke has created a new local hobby.

"People here now go beachcombing for miles, they walk until the find packets. Even the lobster fisherman now go out with the pretence of fishing but really they are looking for la langosta blanca - the white lobster."

Link (Via Digg) Read the rest

Kevin Kelly: The Technium and the 7th kingdom of life

Snip from an essay at Edge.org by Kevin Kelly:
The main question that I'm asking myself is, what is the meaning of technology in our lives? What place does technology have in the universe? What place does it have in the human condition? And what place should it play in my own personal life? Technology as a whole system, or what I call the technium, seems to be a dominant force in the culture. Indeed at times it seems to be the only force - the only lasting force - in culture. If that's so, then what can we expect from this force, what governs it? Sadly we don't even have a good theory about technology.

I'm trying to investigate ways to understand the long-term consequences of technology in the world and place it into some position along with other grand things like biological nature, big history, the physics of the cosmos, and the future. It's a very ambitious project and, surprisingly, there isn't really much thinking about technology in terms of its sphere of influence in a way that might be useful to thinking about how to evaluate what we make.

Link to full text of essay.

Kevin Kelly is Senior Maverick at Wired magazine and author of books including New Rules for the New Economy, and Out of Control. He is currently editor and publisher of the Cool Tools, True Film, and Street Use websites. (thanks, John Brockman) Read the rest

Cow shit kills farming family

From the Associated Press:
Exposure to methane gas led to the deaths of four family members and a farmhand, but whether they suffocated from the fumes or drowned in 18 inches of liquefied cow manure may never be known, authorities said.
Link Read the rest

Photos of fast food in ads and in real life

This is a great idea. These folks bought fast food items and photographed them, then placed the photos side-by-side with the photos in ads for the same product. Shown here: KFC Famous Bowl
Each item was purchased, taken home, and photographed immediately. Nothing was tampered with, run over by a car, or anything of the sort. It is an accurate representation in every case. Shiny, neon-orange, liquefied pump-cheese, and all.
Link (Thanks, Stephen!)

Reader comment:

Christopher says:

I worked (briefly) in the photogoraphy studio of one of the biggest ad agencies in NYC. They paid a professional "food stylist" around $2000 a day to make the food look like that. Every golden sesame seed or drop of crystaline dew was hand placed. That maoynaise isn't mayo, it's hair gel and that chicken looks so good because aparently everything looks yummier when it's been sprayed with laquer. A lot of that "food" isn't food at all and the stuff that is food has been treated with more chemicals and "tricks of the trade" than most super models.
Read the rest

Boing Boing Emporium: True Films, by Kevin Kelly

My friend Kevin Kelly, a co-founding editor of Wired and author of several excellent books, including Out of Control and Asia Grace, is a documentary movie junkie. True Films, his 56-page PDF book, reviews 100 of his favorite documentaries. Kevin says:
(Click on thumbnails for enlargement)"True Films" contains the best 100 documentaries I've reviewed on True Films as of December, 2004. I winnowed some from the larger list, and came up with an alphabetical collection of 100 documentaries I feel are worth your time. Most people will enjoy the majority included. There's been one private film club launched around this list. What you get for your $3: a downloadable PDF file of a color version of the book (which was printed in B&W).
Buy for $3 | Other items for sale at the Boing Boing Digital Emporium Read the rest

HOWTO turn a bathtub into an armchair or sofa

This is smart: recycle a bathtub into an outdoor armchair by slicing it in half and bolting the halves together, or do the same thing but lengthwise to make a weatherproof sofa. Link (via Cribcandy)

Update: Here's an alternative design from last year's Goldsmith's College Degree Show -- thanks, Isotonic! Read the rest

Cow waste for power

Researchers from Ohio State University have shown that the fermented, liquefied feed extracted from a cow's stomach can produce about 600 millivolts. The juice comes from the rumen, the biggest portion of a cow's stomach. Unlike converting methane from cow shit into electricity, a method that requires expensive gear, this method generates electricity as the microorganisms in rumen fluid break down the complex carbohydrates in roughage. From a press release:
While rumen fluid itself won't be used as an energy source, some of the microorganisms found in the fluid are also found in cow dung, which may prove to be a good source for generating electricity. In fact, in a related experiment, the researchers used cow manure directly to create energy for a fuel cell... This study represents the first time that scientists have used cellulose to help charge a fuel cell.... (The) output reached a consistent maximum of 0.58 volts. After about four days, the voltage fell to around 0.2 volts, at which time the researchers added fresh cellulose to bring the voltage back up to a higher level. “While that's a very small amount of voltage, the results show that it is possible to create electricity from cow waste,” (bioengineerin Ann) Christy said.
Link UPDATE: BB reader Kevin Deganhart writes, "When I read this it reminded me of something that my farmer dad told me the other day. An ethanol plant is being built in Yuma Colorado that uses cow manure to fuel the plant's processes."Link Read the rest

Plastinated bodies decomposing

The Universe Within is an exhibit of plastinated corpses currently on display at San Francisco's Masonic Center. It's basically a knock-off of plastination pioneer Gunther von Hagens' Bodyworlds show. Apparently though, the people who plastinated these bodies didn't have von Hagens's chops. The bodies are leaking. City officials are investigating and may shut down the exhibit. From ABC7 News:
The I-Team spotted moisture beading up across faces, dripping inside chest cavities, and pooling beneath feet. Plastination experts tell us, it's evidence of a rush job. Bob Henry, Int'l Society for Plastination: "It appears to be a classic example of someone not understanding the process and not realizing that it literally takes months to prepare a nice specimen." The I-Team took samples from the bodies and sent them to a lab. It's silicone from the plastination process and liquefied human fat. The bodies were not degreased properly before they were filled with plastic. Link
There's also question about how the organizers acquired the bodies:
The Masonic's executive director and the show's promoter claim they were able to bring the bodies from China with the help of Peking University and Professor EnHua Yu. The promoter, Gerhard Perner, says he pays rent to the Masonic, keeps 15-percent of the show's profits for himself, and sends the rest back to China. ABC7's Dan Noyes: "Do the profits go to Dr. Yu personally or to the university?" Gerhard Perner: "To the university." But university officials say all that's not true. They had no role in acquiring the bodies, they're receiving no money.
Read the rest

$25 logo design

Kevin Kelly reviews GotLogos.com, an outfit that designs take-it-or-leave-it logos for $25.

I bought one $25 logo for my emerging True Films website. Its style (identical to Cool Tools) is pretty minimal, an approach which is actually hard to design for. Here is the logo they sent me via email a a few days later.

I paid $10 for a revision, requesting even more simplicity, and a few hours later they provided this.

Link Read the rest

Kevin Kelly's True Films documentary guide available as a PDF

You can now buy Kevin Kelly's excellent True Films book as a PDF file for $3 via PayPal.
What it is: True Films contains the best 100 documenatries I've reviewed in True Films as of December, 2004. (There may be additional films reviewed in 2005 posted here but they will not be included until version 2.0.) I winnowed some from this list, and came up with an alphabetical collection of 100 documentaries I feel are worth your time. Most people will enjoy the majority listed. There's been one private film club launched around this booklet.
Link Read the rest

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