Nerf unveils "DRM for darts"

Hasbro's got a new foam dart gun, the $50 Nerf Ultra One blaster, and to make sure that owners of this toy arrange their affairs to the benefit of Hasbro's shareholders, the company has engineered a digital rights management system that detects and refuses to fire third-party darts, which sell by the hundreds for just a few bucks (the official darts are $10 for 20), which means that party organizers running Nerf wars will have to scale back their ambitions or shell out like crazy. Read the rest

Charles de Lint on Radicalized: "among my favorite things I've read so far this year"

I've been a Charles de Lint fan since I was a kid (see photographic evidence, above, of a 13-year-old me attending one of Charles's signings at Bakka Books in 1984!), and so I was absolutely delighted to read his kind words in his books column in Fantasy and Science Fiction for my latest book, Radicalized. This book has received a lot of critical acclaim ("among my favorite things I've read so far this year"), but to get such a positive notice from Charles is wonderful on a whole different level. Read the rest

Grounded teen evades device confiscation by tweeting from the smart-fridge

Dorothy is an (alleged) 15-year-old who has attained Twitter fame by hopping from device to device as her mother finds and confiscates her tools: first her phone, then her Nintendo, then her Wii U, and finally, her family smart fridge. Read the rest

A fireplace that burns proprietary logs

Hearthcabinet's "Ventless Fireplaces" use "pre-filled alcohol gel cartridges" -- that is, proprietary logs. When Drew quizzed the company's reps about this on Facebook, they danced around the question, but yeah, it's proprietary logs all right. The company notes that the design is patented (the founder, a product liability attorney named Michael Weinberger, has many related patents) so presumably this is the firm's primary method to prevent third-party log makers or log refillers. From what I can tell, there aren't any digital countermeasures that would allow the manufacturers to invoke other anti-adversarial interoperability measures like the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act or Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. And as clever as the design may be, it is yet another example of the rising tide of proprietary, single-use consumables, from Juicero juicers (RIP) to proprietary coffee pods. 8-packs of replacement logs sell for $80-$93with options for "unscented, vanilla, pine and cinnamon." (Image: Hearthcabinet) Read the rest

Paper-towel dispenser with a EULA prohibiting rival brands of paper

John Overholt from Harvard's Houghton Library spotted a paper towel dispenser whose prominent EULA prohibits refilling it with non-Tork brands of towels, with Tork vowing to "enforce its rights under applicable laws and agreements." Read the rest

The Oliver Twist workhouse is becoming a block of luxury flats with a "poor door"

The incredible human misery on display at the workhouse attached to central London's Middlesex Hospital inspired Charles Dickens to write "Oliver Twist"; now, Camden council has granted a developer permission to develop the site into luxury flats (just in time for the luxury flat crash!), in exchange for a commitment to build some below-market-rent social housing flats, which will be accessible through "poor doors." Read the rest

DRM and terms-of-service have ended true ownership, turning us into "tenants of our own devices"

Writing in Wired, Zeynep Tufekci (previously) echoes something I've been saying for years: that the use of Digital Rights Management technologies, along with other systems of control like Terms of Service, are effectively ending the right of individuals to own private property (in the sense of exercising "sole and despotic dominion" over something), and instead relegating us to mere tenancy, constrained to use the things we buy in ways that are beneficial to the manufacturer's shareholders, even when that is at the cost of our own best interests. Read the rest

After elderly tenant was locked in his apartment by his landlord's stupid "smart lock," tenants win right to use actual keys to enter their homes

Tenants in New York City have reached a settlement with their landlord requiring the landlord to install actual locks with actual keys on demand, rather than insisting that all tenants use locks from Latch, the leading Internet of Things "smart lock" vendor, whose products conduct fine-grained surviellance on their users, which the company reserves the right to share with third parties. Read the rest

Talking Radicalized, monopoly and DRM with the Techdirt podcast

I'm on this week's Techdirt podcast (MP3) talking about my latest book Radicalized -- this being Techdirt, the talk quickly moved to DRM, and then to tech policy, monopolism, breaking up the Big Tech platforms, and neofeudalism. Read the rest

London developer makes last-minute changes to lock poor kids out of "communal" playground

Henley Homes got permission to build a 149-home development on the site of the Baylis Old School complex on Lollard Street by promising to include some subsidised, below-market-rent units and "a network of courtyards and open spaces ... which will provide attractive areas for informal play. This will emphasise the sense of community within the scheme stressing that the common areas are there for the use of all the residents." Read the rest

Critical praise for RADICALIZED, my next book, from Booklist and Publishers Weekly

My next book of science fiction for adults is Radicalized, which will be published on March 19 (I'll be making tour appearances across the US, Canada and Germany starting on March 18); the early critical notices have started to come in and gosh, they are embarrassingly effusive! Read the rest

A free excerpt from UNAUTHORIZED BREAD, my latest audiobook

Unauthorized Bread is the first installment of my next science fiction book for adults, Radicalized, which comes out in just over a month; the audiobook is available DRM-free on Google Play and direct from me. Read the rest

Revealed! The cover of RADICALIZED, my next book of science fiction

On March 19, Tor Books will release my next book, Radicalized, whose four novellas are the angry, hopeful stories I wrote as part of my attempt to make sense of life in our current moment. Read the rest

Sole and Despotic Dominion: my story about the future of private property for Reason

Reason's December issue celebrates the magazine's 50th anniversary with a series of commissioned pieces on the past and future of the magazine's subjects: freedom, markets, property rights, privacy and similar matters: I contributed a short story to the issue called Sole and Despotic Dominion, which takes the form of a support chat between a dishwasher owner and its manufacturer's rep, who has the unhappy job of describing why the dishwasher won't accept his dishes. Read the rest

"Radicalized" will be my next book!

I've just closed a new book deal: Tor Books will publish "Radicalized," which tells four stories of hope, conflict, technology and justice in the modern world and near future in March 2019; along with the book deal is a major audiobook deal with Macmillan Audio and a screen deal with Topic Studios (a sister company to The Intercept) for one of the tales, "Unauthorized Bread." Read the rest

Tesla's demon-haunted cars in Irma's path get a temporary battery-life boost

Tesla sells both 60kWh and 75kWh versions of its Model S and Model X cars; but these cars have identical batteries -- the 60kWh version runs software that simply misreports the capacity of the battery to the charging apparatus and the car's owner. Read the rest