Randomly Generated Catalog of Creepily Nondescript Domestic Surveillance Equipment

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The Cobham catalog, exposed by The Intercept, features countless pages of surveillance gadgets sold to U.S. police to spy on American citizens: tiny black boxes with a big interest in you. In the creepily bland feature lists and nerdy product names is a whisper of a dark future; perhaps darker than anyone can imagine.

The most popular website colors

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This image depicts the most commonly-found stylesheet colors on the web's top sites—Paul Hebert did an amazing amount of analysis and this is just one of the intriguing visualizations he came up with.

Most of these are obvious staples, especially HTML red and blue, though it's interesting how far the blue "cluster" is from the default blue hue, whereas the red cluster merely modifies the saturation and lightness. This might be influenced by various "studies" of the most effective link color.

The odd thing is the popularity of #d2b48c (triggered by the "Tan" HTML color name), which appears to be the single most popular nonblack color after #0000FF (HTML Blue) and #FF0000 (HTML Red). Google uses it somewhere (though I don't see it) Is everyone just following the leader? (UPDATE: see below)

UPDATE: Hebert explains the Tan thing in the comments.

UPDATE: 10/22/2016. Hebert's updated his method to exclude false positives (including the mysterious Tan) Read the rest

Halt and Catch Fire: The Most Relevant Show on Television is Set in the 80s

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With the cacophony of an election year ablaze with unparalleled drama being fought on the front lines of Twitter, we find ourselves slowing down and staring at it like a bad accident. The need for escapist relief is perhaps more dire than usual right now. This fall, if it's drama you crave, but the Hillary v. Trump show is driving you to near-suicide, then the AMC series Halt and Catch Fire is your new best friend. Returning for its third season on Tuesday, August 23rd with a two-hour premiere, you'll still get your fix of intriguing plot twists, flawed personalities, and high stakes, but without the partisan tantrums and pre-apocalyptic anxiety.

What the Hell is this Show About?

The show's title refers to the computing term (HCF), "Halt and Catch Fire," an early technical command that sends a computer into race condition, forcing all instructions to compete for superiority at once. Control of the computer could not be regained. The namesake series takes place in the personal computing boom of the 80s, when IBM was dictator, and before "website" was a word. Though HCF is categorized as a "workplace drama," you could say the same thing about Breaking Bad, and you'd be completely missing the point--and the thrill--of both shows.

To "break bad" is a colloquialism used in the American South meaning to challenge authority. Breaking Bad and HCF have three important things in common: obscure, nondescript titles that run the risk of losing potential viewers who need their plot summaries spoon-fed and hashtagged, a committed, forward-thinking home on AMC Networks, and the consistently visionary TV producer Melissa Bernstein. Read the rest

What if school was out, forever?

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Today a future without schools. Instead of gathering students into a room and teaching them, everybody learns on their own time, on tablets and guided by artificial intelligence.

Flash Forward: RSS | iTunes | Twitter | Facebook | Web | Patreon | Reddit

In this episode we talk to a computer scientist who developed an artificially intelligent TA, folks who build learning apps, and critics who wonder if all the promises being made are too good to be true. What do we gain when we let students choose their own paths? What do we lose when we get rid of schools?

Illustration by Matt Lubchansky.

▹▹ Full show notes Read the rest

Lament for the hard drive

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Where are our petabyte drives? Brian Hayes takes us through the reasons storage is "stuck" in the low terabytes. The tl;dr is that we got such exceptional capacity growth in the late 90s and early 00s we don't need much more right now, so the focus since then has been on SSDs, networking, interfaces, etc, which address performance bottlenecks. A great line: "Maybe in a decade or two the spinning disk will make a comeback, the way vinyl LPs and vacuum tube amplifiers have. Data that comes off a mechanical disk has a subtle warmth and presence that no solid-state drive can match."

Odd memory: my first story at Wired involved interviewing Mark Kryder. Read the rest

Squarespace staffer claims exec told them "you’re so black, you blend into the chair"

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Amélie Lamont, a former staffer at website-hosting startup Squarespace, writes that she often found herself disregarded and disrespected by her colleagues. One comment in particular, though, set her reeling — and came to exemplify her experiences there. Read the rest

How would we get rid of every single mosquito?

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In this episode of the Flash Forward podcast we travel to a future where humans have decided to eradicate the most dangerous animal on the planet: mosquitos. How would we do it? Is it even possible? And what are the consequences?

Flash Forward: RSS | iTunes | Twitter | Facebook | Web | Patreon

We talk to experts on mosquito ecology, public health, and a guy who’s trying to genetically engineer mosquitoes to eliminate themselves. We talk about everything from how hard it would be to exterminate mosquitoes, to which species we should target, to what the potential side effects might be. Listen for all that and more!

▹▹ Full show notes

Check out all the great podcasts that Boing Boing has to offer! Read the rest

The Malware Museum

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At The Malware Musuem you can enjoy the experience of DOS-era viruses, trojans and other digital beasties without any of the risk. Many of them manifested as wild graphical tricks and other spectacular coding feats, distracting you as they formatted hard drives or corrupted files.

The Malware Museum is a collection of malware programs, usually viruses, that were distributed in the 1980s and 1990s on home computers. Once they infected a system, they would sometimes show animation or messages that you had been infected. Through the use of emulations, and additionally removing any destructive routines within the viruses, this collection allows you to experience virus infection of decades ago with safety.

Pictured above is LSD.COM Read the rest

Old payphones becoming "masturbation stations" in NYC

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Neglected public payphones in New York City are being turned into "GuyFi" stations: a place where one can rub one out for the sake of "stress relief." Annalee Newitz reports on the wank booths from a company named "Hot Octopus"…

The company reported that at least 100 men used the booth on its opening day last week. Of course, public masturbation is illegal—and a rep from Hot Octopuss told Mashable, "We may be insinuating that these booths could be used in whichever way anyone would like to 'self soothe,' [but] the brand is not actively encouraging people to masturbate in public as that is an illegal offense." No word on how fast the Internet connection was, or whether there would be any efforts to help women "self soothe" at a rate equal to men in the workplace.

An armed society is a polite society: Snopes.

In NYC, pay phones become free Wi-Fi hotspots—and masturbation stations Read the rest

After 40 years, Sony retires Betamax

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You'd be forgiven for thinking the videocassette format long-dead, but it turns out that Betamax is still around. Sony is finally going to withdraw tapes from sale, bringing a 40-year story to an end.

The last recorders were sold in 2002.

ベータビデオカセットおよびマイクロMVカセットテープ出荷終了のお知らせ [Sony; via The Verge] Read the rest

In leaked document, Comcast admits data caps are not about congestion

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A leaked Comcast memo discloses that the company's consumer data caps have nothing to do with network congestion, contrary to its public claims.

The internet service provider has often complained (such as when lobbying against net neutrality) that it must impose limits on service to prevent network congestion. The argument suggests that these measures are required for the public good: to manage traffic, to give everyone fair access to the "road," to stymie abusive or selfish "drivers," you shouldn't be using more than 250 gigabytes of data each month. Read the rest

Upvote this: Teach kids in underserved communities how to code with Minecraft

Camp Minecraft. The goal: Bring it to more kids whose families can't pay.

LA Makerspace co-founder Tara Tiger Brown shares a project that her kid-friendly maker workshop is trying to make a reality.

Read the rest

13 million passwords compromised in webhost hack

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The web-hosting service 000Webhost stored user passwords as plain text. We know this because 13 million of them were exposed in a five-month old hack whose consequences are only now becoming clear. Read the rest

Powerful new tool literally blasts mean internet comments to smithereens

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Tanner Stokes of Herp Derp fame has done it again. He invented what we have all longed for, since the internet began: an effective way to shut people up.

“Plasma ball destroys the web.”

Yes, friends, Tanner's latest creation is the answer to unfriendly YouTube comments, harassing or abusive Facebook posts, douchey viral ads, you name it. Whatever on the internet is wrong. Read the rest

Sparkle Labs' Amy Parness on "pink girly engineering kits"

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I asked Amy Parness, the co-founder of Sparkle Labs, maker of fantastic educational electronics kits, to write a Medium post about gender and the business of being a maker business person. Her terrific essay calls out the problems with "pink girly engineering kits." From Medium: Read the rest

Zero UI will "change design"

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Zero UI is the new term for "invisible interfaces"—what happens in the future when all the clicking and tapping and typing is history: "If you look at the history of computing, starting with the jacquard loom in 1801, humans have always had to interact with machines in a really abstract, complex way." [Fast Company] Read the rest

Twitter chief resigns

Dick Costolo. Photo: Stephen Lam, Reuters
CEO Dick Costolo will resign, to be replaced in the interim by Jack Dorsey

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