Boing Boing 

Houston family calls 911 when dad has psychotic episode; now sued by the deputy who killed him

When Marlene Yazar's husband Kemal experienced a psychotic episode, she was so scared for her safety and the safety of her children that she called 911. A paramedic arrived on the scene, but fled after Kemal threw a Bible at him. The paramedic called the police, and Harris County, TX Deputy Brady Pullen arrived on the scene. Ten minutes later, he and a colleague shot Kemal ten times, killing him. Then, he sued the Yazar family, naming Kemal's mother-in-law (who wasn't at home when the episode took place) because, according to him, the family were negligent in describing the threat the dead father, husband and breadwinner presented. Now, the family must not only mourn the passing of their dead loved one -- they have to defend themselves against a $100,000 lawsuit brought by the police officer who shot him dead.

German labor ministry bans after-hours email from managers to employees

The German labor ministry has banned managers from calling or emailing employees outside of working hours as a means of preventing "self-exploitation," wherein workers end up putting in hours while they're off the clock. This follows on from voluntary bans enacted by major German companies like Volkswagen and Deutsche Telekom. Managers can contact employees after hours only under "exceptional circumstances."

HOPE X/EFF fundraiser

Emmanuel Goldstein from 2600 Magazine writes, "This summer's HOPE X conference is having a special EFF fundraiser for the entire month of April. Ten percent of every ticket sale will be donated to the Electronic Frontier Foundation as recognition of the essential work they're doing for the entire online community. In addition, there will be a huge EFF presence at the HOPE X conference, with multiple talks and presentations. HOPE X is being held July 18-20 at the Hotel Pennsylvania in New York City."

Eric Schmidt on the NSA* (*translated from original bullshitese)

Bruce Schneier: "At SXSW earlier this month, CEO Eric Schmidt tried to reassure the audience by saying that he was 'pretty sure that information within Google is now safe from any government's prying eyes.' A more accurate statement might be, 'Your data is safe from governments, except for the ways we don't know about and the ways we cannot tell you about. And, of course, we still have complete access to it all, and can sell it at will to whomever we want.'"

Microsoft's internal network censors Torrentfreak

Microsoft's internal network has begun censoring Torrentfreak, an excellent investigative journalism site that reports on file-sharing, censorship, copyright and Internet regulation around the world. Torrentfreak, which does not host or link to infringing files, is identified as a "security policy violation" by Microsoft's corporate spyware/censorware, supplied by Edge. Microsoft employees who try to read the site are shown a message that says, "The requested resource has been blocked as an identified risk to your client and the Microsoft corporate network."

MMO that lets players run servers and change the rules

A group of developers who worked on Ultima Online, one of the earliest successful MMOs, are creating a game called Shards Online over which players will have enormous control. Players will be able to run their own servers, change the code that the game runs on, and add their own challenges. The internal logic of this is a game set in a multiverse, and players who hop from one server to the next are entering an alternate reality. Shades of World of Democracycraft. (via /.).

Post-scarcity hacker convention: !!Con

Sumana is helping put on a new kind of hacker conference in NYC, !!Con (pronounced "Bang bang con"). Unlike other hacker cons, !!Con has no ranking, no winners, and no dominance displays: "Whenever possible, Hacker School culture assumes abundance rather than scarcity; attempts to rank projects or people would defile our ecology."

Bay Area drone-fliers' meetup

Jeffrey writes, "Bay area flyers, come talk and fly drones over pizza and beer in our massive 17 foot tall ceiling warehouse! Amateur and professionals are welcome to come and talk drones and show off their airframes in action. We'll have plenty of charging stations, onsite repair workbench, tasty local beer, and food/snacks for flyers. Compete for fun prizes, fame, and whimsical trophies in our drone flying contests. Starts at noon on April 5, contests start at 2 PM. Plenty of parking and free for all."

Pre-order William Gibson's new far-future novel The Peripheral

Pre-orders have opened for The Peripheral, William Gibson's next novel, which comes out in October 2014. I've been reading this one as Bill worked on it, and it's spectacular, a piece of trenchant, far-future speculation that features all the eyeball kicks of Neuromancer and all the maturity and sly wit of Spook Country. It's brilliant, and I'm so happy to hear there's a production date for it! (via Super Punch)

Sen Lamar Alexander: if shills have to tell Congress who's paying them, it will "chill speech"

Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) is one of many Republican legislators who've objected to a new policy at OSHA that requires experts to disclose when they have been funded by parties with an interest in the outcome of regulatory proceedings. According to Alexander, he and his colleagues are "very concerned about OSHA's attempt to have commenters disclose their financial backers," because "the chilling effect the financial disclosure could have seems counter to the idea of robust inclusion of a diverse set of ideas and views to inform the rule-making." The current proceeding is about whether silica in cement poses a health hazard, and OSHA wants to know if the experts it's hearing from have been paid to have an opinion one way or another.

Another judge hands Prenda Law its own ass on a plate

Remember the copyright trolls at Prenda Law, the slippery crooks who claimed that no one actually owned their extortionate racket, that no one made any money from it, and that no one was responsible for it? Yet another judge has called bullshit on them, insisting that they produce financial statements prepared by a chartered public accountant, and dismissing their objections as "attorney speak."

Anti-video-game California politician indicted for gun-running

California Senator Leland Yee has been indicted, along with 25 others, in an organized crime bust that includes charges of wire fraud and firearms trafficking, as well as accepting bribes for legislative action. Yee is best known for sponsoring legislation to limit the sale of "violent" video-games to minors, which federal courts declared unconstitutional and struck down. (via /.)

Free Rudy Rucker books at Scribd tonight

Rudy Rucker writes, "I'll be reading and giving out BIG AHA and some other titles at Scribd in San Francisco on Thursday."

Basecamp, Meetup hit by extortionist's 20Gb/s DDoS

If you're a Basecamp user who couldn't get into your account yesterday, here's why: the company refused to pay ransom to a criminal who hit them with a 20Gb/s denial-of-service flood, apparently by the same person who attacked Meetup, who uses gmail addresses in this pattern: "dari***@gmail.com."

Disney buys Maker Studios

The Walt Disney Company has acquired Maker Studios -- a successful Youtube channel focused on millennials -- for $500M, with an additional $450M potential performance-related payout in the future.

Homeland shortlisted for the Prometheus Award

I'm immensely proud and honored to once again be shortlisted for the Prometheus Award, for my novel Homeland. The Prometheus is given by the Libertarian Futurist Society, and I've won it for my books Little Brother and Pirate Cinema. As always, the Prometheus shortlist is full of great work, including both of Ramez Naam's novels Crux and Nexus, both of which I enjoyed enormously. My thanks to the Libertarian Futurist Society and my congratulations to my fellow nominees! See you at the World Science Fiction convention in London this summer!

Official haircuts of North Korea

There are 28 official state-approved haircuts in North Korea, and there is renewed emphasis on the official coiffure parameters under its new leader, Kim Jong Un. Ironically, Kim's own haircut is not on the official list.

Big Data Hubris: Google Flu versus reality

In The Parable of Google Flu: Traps in Big Data Analysis [PDF], published in Science, researchers try to understand why Google Flu (which uses search history to predict flu outbreaks) performed so well at first but has not done well since. One culprit: people don't know what the flu is, so their search for "flu" doesn't necessarily mean they have flu. More telling, though, is that Google can't let outsiders see their data or replicate their findings, meaning that they can't get the critical review that might help them spot problems before years of failure. (via Hacker News)

Debt collectors illegally hound people who don't owe money

A third of people who complain about debt-collectors who break the law say they don't even owe the money under discussion. Of the victims who complained to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau about being hounded for money they don't owe, two thirds say they never owed it, and a third say they had already paid it off. Debt-collectors call wrong numbers or hassle people with names similar to those of debtors. They call them at work and at home, and use threats and obscene language when they're told they've got the wrong person. One offender, CashCall Inc, is being sued over its practices, and was separately ordered to refund $14M in debts it collected through fraudulent robo-signing.

Assistant AG admits he doesn't understand what Weev did, but he's sure it's bad

Andrew “weev” Auernheimer is serving a 41-month sentence for visiting a publicly available webpage and revealing that AT&T had not secured its customers' sensitive financial information. Now, weev's lawyers are appealing, and in the opening day's arguments, Assistant US Attorney Glenn Moramarco admitted I don’t even understand what [Auernheimer actually did.]" Then he compared it to blowing up a nuclear power-plant.

Your metadata reveals sensitive, private information

In MetaPhone: The Sensitivity of Telephone Metadata a pair of Stanford researchers recruited test-subjects who were willing to install spyware on their phones that logged the same "metadata" that the NSA harvests -- and that the NSA and President Obama claims is not sensitive or privacy-invading. The researchers applied basic analytics to the data and uncovered -- surprise! -- incredibly compromising information about the personal lives, health, and finances of their subjects, just by looking at metadata. What's more, harvesting the subjects' metadata also revealed sensitive information about the subjects' contacts' lives. (via Techdirt)

NSA versus puzzles

This is well-said, from Will Potter on Mashable: "[NSA Deputy Director Richard] Ledgett said he didn't know what NSA surveillance was important, because it's all pieces of a bigger puzzle. The reality is that the NSA isn't working with a mosaic or a puzzle. What the NSA is really advocating is the collection of millions of pieces from different, undefined puzzles in the hopes that sometime, someday, the government will be working on a puzzle and one of those pieces will fit."

Pirate Bay founder runs for MEP

Peter "brokep" Sunde, co-founder of the Pirate Bay and Flattr, a service that allows fans to pay artists, is running for the European Parliament on the Pirate Party ticket (what else?). If I lived in Finland, I'd vote for him without a second thought.

EFF Policy Fellowship for students: 10 week summer program

If you're a student interested in Internet and technology policy, you're eligible to apply for an EFF Policy Fellowship, a ten week placement with public interest orgs in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America and North America. It pays $7500, and you get to work on global surveillance, censorship, and intellectual property. "Applicants must have strong research skills, the ability to produce thoughtful original policy analysis, and a talent for communicating with many different types of audiences."

Self-directed Crypto 101 online course

Crypto 101 is a free online course on practical, applied cryptography: " everything you need to understand complete systems such as SSL/TLS: block ciphers, stream ciphers, hash functions, message authentication codes, public key encryption, key agreement protocols, and signature algorithms."

Arthur C Clarke Award shortlist for best novel of 2013

Last night, I was lucky enough to attend the announcement for The Arthur C Clarke Award shortlist for best novel of 2013. The six books on the list are Nexus by Ramez Naam; God's War by Kameron Hurley; The Machine by James Smythe; Ancillary Justice by Anne Leckie; The Disestablishment of Paradise by Phillip Mann and The Adjacent by Christopher Priest. Of the six, my favorite is Nexus, which I reviewed last year. Congrats to all the nominees! The Clarke winners will be announced on May 1.

Publishers Weekly on Humble Ebook Bundle

As noted, the new Humble Ebook Bundle is live, and Publishers Weekly has a great writeup on it, including my decision to independently produce an audiobook of my novel Homeland.

"Fiber to the press release"

Techdirt's Mike Masnick has a gift for catchy, acerbic shorthand terms to describe shenanigans. He coined the term "Streisand Effect" to describe any situation in which a relatively obscure piece of information becomes widely known through a ham-fisted attempt to censor it. He's done it again: "Fiber to the press-release" is the phenomenon of incumbent carriers like AT&T making showy announcements about their intention to build super-fast broadband networks to replace their creaky, under-invested monopoly infrastructure, without ever mentioning scale, timelines, pricing, or any other specifics, only to have the announcement lapped up and repeated by a credulous press.

Europe's first library-powered fablab

Jeroen writes, "about a project I'm working on: FryskLab, Europe's first library-powered FabLab. We're using a mobile lab facility to bring making and 21st century skills to primary and secondary education, trying to find solutions for local socio-economic challenges"

Crowdfunding money to rebuild destroyed Montana family health clinic

Since 1976, Susan Cahill of All Families Healthcare has been in family practice in Montana, offering compassionate family/reproductive health services -- including abortion. It is for this reason that her clinic was all but destroyed by violent thugs, who even trashed her irreplaceable personal mementos. An Indiegogo fundraiser has brought in about $32K so far.