MIT and EFF's Freedom to Innovate Summit: defending students' and hackers' right to tinker


The Oct 10/11 event is run jointly by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Center for Civic Media at MIT and will be hosted at the MIT Media Lab. Read the rest

MIT and Boston U open legal clinic for innovative tech projects

The Entrepreneurship & Intellectual Property Law Clinic was partly inspired by the death of Aaron Swartz, who was hounded by federal prosecutors with MIT's complicity. Read the rest

MIT demos sub-$10k 3D printer that can spew 10 materials at once


MIT researchers built a 3D printer from just $7,000 in off-the-shelf parts that can print ten different materials at a time. Current multi-material 3D printers generally can only spew out three materials and cost more than $200,000. From MIT News:

MultiFab gives users the ability to embed complex components, such as circuits and sensors, directly onto the body of an object, meaning that it can produce a finished product, moving parts and all, in one fell swoop.

The researchers have used MultiFab to print everything from smartphone cases to light-emitting diode lenses — and they envision an array of applications in consumer electronics, microsensing, medical imaging, and telecommunications, among other things. They plan to also experiment with embedding motors and actuators that would make it possible to 3-D print more advanced electronics, including robots.

Read the rest

If phones were designed to please their owners, rather than corporations

Your smartphone was designed to deliver as much value as possible to its manufacturer, carrier and OS vendor, leaving behind the smallest amount of value possible while still making it a product that you'd be willing to pay for and use. Read the rest

Scratch creators around the world collaborate on "I'd like to teach the world to code"

Mitchel Resnick, founder of the amazing, kid-friendly programming project Scratch, writes, "Scratch community members from around the world joined together to create a collaborative project: 'I'd like to teach the world to code.'" Read the rest

LISTEN: MIT discussion about online harassment

Andrew writes, "Last night MIT's Comparative Media Studies/Writing program hosted Brianna Wu of Giant Spacekat and law professor Danielle Keats Citron, author of Hate Crimes in Cyberspace. With their permission, we recorded the talk (AIFF) so others could hear their discussion about online harassment, GamerGate, revenge porn -- and what our laws can do about it." Read the rest

Profile of MITSFS, MIT's 65-year-old science fiction club

This decades-old club maintains one of the finest science fiction libraries in the world, have a host of deeply, awesomely nerdy traditions, and are still going strong after influencing the lives of countless happy mutants.

Weird SPAM-colored soft robot moves like a zombie hot dog


Harvard University released video of this unnerving soft robot that can move untethered through punishing conditions, including snow and fire, yet will remain resilient. It looks a bit like reanimated sliced SPAM in the time-lapse crawling footage, and like SPAM, it retains its shape even when its appendages are run over by a car. Read the rest

Plastic robots that self-assemble when cooked

MIT researchers have demonstrated a kind of Shrinky Dink robot, laser-cut 2-D plastic forms that when baked fold themselves up into 3-D robotic components, including electrical circuits and "muscles." Read the rest

Kickstarting Danger! Awesome, a hackerspace in Cambridge, Mass

Amanda writes, "Danger!awesome is an open-access laser cutting, laser engraving, and 3D printing workshop in the heart of Cambridge, tucked right between MIT and Harvard. Our mission is to democratize access and training to rapid prototyping resources, long reserved for academic institutions and multi-million dollar R&D labs. We want to teach anyone and everyone how to make, customize, and invent. Read the rest

Aaron Swartz's father, Bob Swartz, discusses his son's death

It's been nearly a year since my friend Aaron Swartz killed himself, and it's a year his friends and family have passed by trying to make sense of his death and trying to decide what to do about his legacy. His father, Bob, and I have spoken several times since then, and I've often returned to his insights when I've thought about Aaron.

Bob has done a long interview with Boston Magazine about Aaron and the aftermath of his death. He's especially damning of MIT's role in Aaron's death, and in the inadequacy of MIT's internal investigation following it. Read the rest

LED stickers: turn your notebook into a lightshow

Noah Swartz writes, "Jie Qi from the MIT Media Lab and Bunnie Huang of Hacking the Xbox fame have teamed up to make LED stickers! Using adhesive copper tape you can turn any notebook into a fantastical light up circuit sketchbook. I got to play with them myself at FOO Camp and they're as easy to use as the look, and in the time since Ji and Bunnie have gone back to the lab and made a number of sensor and controller stickerss that give you loads of options of what to make. They're running a fundraiser to do a big production run of these over at Crowdsupply, and while they have funding I'm sure lots of people will be kicking themselves if they don't manage to grab some of these while they can."

Circuit Stickers (Thanks, Noah!) Read the rest

First 100 pages of Aaron Swartz's Secret Service files

After a long wrangle, and no thanks to MIT, the Secret Service has begun to honor the court order that requires it to release Aaron Swartz's files. The first 100 pages -- albeit heavily redacted -- were just released. Kevin Poulsen, the Wired reporter who filed the Freedom of Information Act request that liberated the files, has posted some preliminary analysis of them. The Feds were particularly interested in the "Guerilla Open Access Manifesto," a document Aaron helped to write in 2008. The manifesto -- and subsequent statements by Aaron -- make the case that access to scientific and scholarly knowledge is a human right. The full Aaron Swartz files run 14,500 pages, according to the Secret Service's own estimate.

I was interested to note that much of the analysis of Swartz's materials was undertaken by SAIC, the mystery-shrouded, massive private military/government contractor that is often described as the largest privately held company in the world.

Update: Jake Appelbaum corrects me: "I've been reading what is released of one of the files for Aaron. I think that SAIC in these documents means 'Special Agent In Charge' and isn't actually the motherfuckers at SAIC. Reading this report makes my fucking blood boil, (b)(6), (b)(7)(c)" Read the rest

Petition to Congress: don't put people in jail for violating terms of service!

A large group of "security researchers, academics, and lawyers" have signed onto a letter to Congress demanding that lawmakers enact "Aaron's Law," which would reform the antiquated and terrible Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which US prosecutors claim makes violating online terms of service into a felony punishable by imprisonment. This is the law that was used to persecute Aaron Swartz, who was accused of violating terms of service by automatically downloading academic articles, rather than accessing them one at a time. The federal prosecutor threatened Aaron with 35 years in prison. Read the rest

Prosecutor Stephen Heymann told MIT that Aaron Swartz was like a rapist who blames his victim

Stephen Heymann is the assistant US attorney who made it his mission to see Aaron Swartz sent to prison for violating terms of service by downloading scientific papers with an automatic script, rather than individually, by hand. Heymann spent a lot of time working with MIT on this -- Aaron used MIT's network to allegedly violate the terms of service -- and in his efforts to get MIT to stay involved in the face of public criticism for their cooperation, he compared Aaron to a rapist who blames his victim. Aaron's lawyers have asked the DoJ to investigate Heymann for breaches of professional standards. Read the rest

UPDATED: EFF: MIT was not "neutral" on Aaron Swartz; actively assisted in his prosecution

The Electronic Frontier Foundation's Legal Director Cindy Cohn writes in detail about the MIT report on its involvement in Aaron Swartz's prosecution. She criticizes MIT's claim to neutrality in the matter, showing the way that the university went to great, voluntary lengths to help the government prosecute Aaron, and eventually siding with the government in motions to keep the evidence that it turned over to the prosecutor admissable. Cohn shows that MIT's likeliest motivation for this was saving face. Ultimately, Cohn says, "MIT's actions in helping the government prosecute Aaron are shameful, and betray the institution’s commitment to technologists."

Update: Cohn wrote in to add, "The prosecution turned on whether Aaron's access to JSTOR via the MIT network was 'unauthorized' and MIT had tremendous power over which way that decision went in the case. The report acknowledges this but simply repeats MIT's assertion that it didn't actually realize it without criticism or noting how unreasonable (or not believable) this assertion is. The CFAA isn't unknown or unknowable and the folks handling this are in the General Counsel's office. 'Unauthorized access' is the statutory language. And of course MIT's belief that Aaron's access might be unauthorized (as in violation of MIT's policies or maybe JSTOR's) is why they called the police and why he was arrested at their instigation. The idea that after they called the cops they didn't understand what law might have been broken or why their network openness and policies mattered to that determination, such that they never even volunteered the information or asked the prosecution for its theory or more importantly gave information about this to the defense, just isn't believable." Read the rest

MIT report after Aaron Swartz's suicide clears MIT of any wrongdoing

Aaron Swartz. Photo: Reuters.

John Schwartz at the New York Times:

"A long-awaited report released Tuesday by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that the university made mistakes but engaged in no wrongdoing in the case of Aaron Swartz, a renowned programmer and charismatic technology activist who committed suicide in January while facing a federal trial on charges of hacking into the M.I.T. computer network."

In an open letter, MIT's president said the report “makes clear that M.I.T. did not ‘target’ Aaron Swartz, we did not seek federal prosecution, punishment or jail time, and we did not oppose a plea bargain,” and that the university “acted appropriately.” Read the rest

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