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01 Aug 17:26

Make Delicious, Two-Ingredient Ice Cream, No Machine Required

by Alan Henry

Make Delicious, Two-Ingredient Ice Cream, No Machine Required

It the weather near you is like it is here, it's ridiculously hot and a cold treat can take the edge off the summer heat. Thanks to Instructables user doodlecraft, this ice cream recipe can hold the heat at bay, and you don't need a machine or a ton of ingredients to make it. It's simple and easy.



31 Jul 00:51

Now That It’s in the Broadband Game, Google Flip-Flops on Network Neutrality (Wired)

by jake
Wired has a report on Google's response [PDF] to Douglas McClendon's complaint about "servers" being prohibited on Google Fiber. The response, which was ordered by the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC), states that Google Fiber can prohibit servers by noting, in part, that other providers' Terms of Service do likewise. But that flies in the face of earlier support for network neutrality as espoused by the company. "But, it turns out that Google's real net neutrality policy is that big corporate services like YouTube and Facebook shouldn't get throttled or banned by evil ISPs like Verizon, but it's perfectly fine for Google to control what devices citizens can use in their homes. We, it seems, are supposed to be good consumers of cloud services, not hosting our own Freedom Boxes, media servers, small-scale commercial services or e-mail servers."
29 Jul 21:13

Rethinking the Wetsuit

by Soulskill


symbolset writes "Apparently Australians have come up with the brilliant idea: if you don't want to be eaten by a shark, it's best to not go swimming in shark-infested waters in a seal costume. 'Scientists from the University of Western Australia, with designers Shark Attack Mitigation Systems (SAMS), have unveiled two new wetsuits that they say could save lives in the water. Based on a breakthrough discovery that sharks are colour-blind, one wetsuit, labelled the "Elude," is designed to camouflage a swimmer or diver in the sea. At the other extreme, the "Diverter" sports bold white and dark-blue stripes, and is intended to mirror nature's warning signs to ward off any potential shark attack.'"

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16 Jul 01:42


But the rules of writing are like magic spells. If you never acquire them, then not using them says nothing.
10 Jul 21:17

Firefox 23 Makes JavaScript Obligatory

by samzenpus
mikejuk writes "It seems that Firefox 23, currently in beta, has removed the option to disable JavaScript. Is this good for programmers and web apps? Why has Mozilla decided that this is the right thing to do? The simple answer is that there is a growing movement to reduce user options that can break applications. The idea is that if you provide lots of user options then users will click them in ways that aren't particularly logical. The result is that users break the browser and then complain that it is broken. For example, there are websites that not only don't work without JavaScript, but they fail in complex ways — ways that worry the end user. Hence, once you remove the disable JavaScript option Firefox suddenly works on a lot of websites. Today there are a lot of programmers of the opinion that if the user has JavaScript off then its their own fault and consuming the page without JavaScript is as silly as trying to consume it without HTML."

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08 Jul 21:45

ICANN Working Group Seeks To Kill WHOIS

by Soulskill

whois is very important. also see the comment by Medievalist

angry tapir writes "An Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers working group is seeking public input on a successor to the current WHOIS system used to retrieve domain name information. The Expert Working Group on gTLD Directory Services has issued a report that recommends a radical change from WHOIS, replacing the current system with a centralized data store maintained by a third party that would be responsible for authorizing 'requestors' who want to obtain domain information."

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08 Jul 17:20

China Says Serious Polluters Will Get the Death Penalty

by Soulskill

a major change

formaggio writes "According to the Xinhua News Agency, the Chinese government is now allowing courts to punish those who commit environment crimes with the death penalty. The new judicial interpretation comes in the wake of several serious environmental problems that have hit the country over the last few months, including dangerous levels of air pollution, a river full of dead pigs, and other development projects that have imperiled public health."

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25 Jun 22:19

They WILL take your photos and they WILL use them and you WILL like it.

by Scott Hanselman

This is hardly a tragic story and it's not even a good photo, but it's interesting because it happens a few times a year. Perhaps it's happened to you! (Share in the comments)

A buddy noticed a story in Business Insider Australia that was picked up off Reuters called "Microsoft says they've disrupted a global cybercrime ring responsible for $500 Million Theft." It was syndicated to OZ by Business Insider US who pulled it from Reuters, and it seems they each pick their own illustrative picture.

And apparently they did it in my damn office. That's my big head, my three monitors and I am, in fact, hacking on CoffeeScript in this picture, not fighting cybercrime. How do I know? Because I was there when this photo was taken by Rob Conery. We used it for my Speaking Hacks educational video.


Rob Conery and I made a video called Speaking's a screen capture.


It got used on a post a where I describe my system setup. I love that they crop the pictures they so carefully Google Image Search for.

I try to use for my image searches on this blog. Raphael Rivera turned me on to this and reminded me of the importance of respecting image copyright. Just googling for a picture and slapping it on your blog isn't cool.

Usually when this kind of thing happens I'll just email a kind note to the owner of the site and mention it and it gets handled. (I've just emailed Business Insider now) Most people are very nice. Folks at Gizmodo and LifeHacker almost always have a real human behind their stories with a real Twitter account and they've always been accommodating about little things.

Ah, but sometimes it's not just a nameless-faceless newspaper but it's a nameless-faceless newspaper article originally published by Reuters on "put on the wire" which means it can spread literally everywhere, and fast.

Do I care? Not really, but it's the principle of the thing. I mention it because it's a teachable moment for us all.

When you put an image on the Internet, it's on the Internet.

It can be used for anything, anytime, by anyone. You can assert copyright, but usually depending on how big the site is (or how obtuse their Contact Us page is) you'll be lucky to find a human, much less a nice one.


At least I have my hair. So far.

Think about signing that Photo Release

It matters to me when it's big and public and involves my kids. Some friends were driving down the freeway recently and noticed something. They called and said "Is that your son on a billboard off I-5?"

This was my reaction: O_o


Turns out that years ago in our school's day care we signed a photo release. I assume we thought it was for their blog, or a pamphlet, but in retrospect even that was a bad idea. We never thought my kid would end up on a 30 foot paper billboard advertisement, with little recourse. Fortunately in the billboard case, the head of the school wasn't aware either! Their marketing folks were just pulling the photos from a shared folder, treating them as stock images. In the end, the school was extremely accommodating and apologetic and it's since been handled. Still, a wake up call to us, and I hope, to you, Dear Reader.

Happy Resolution

This email showed up literally as I was/am writing this post.

Hi Scott

Thanks for getting in touch. I’m the editor at Business Insider Australia.

I’ve removed that image, which was syndicated from the US edition. I’ve also alerted them to your complaint.

Hope this addresses the matter for you.

Best wishes,


Awesome. And sometimes your kind letter reaches a kind human and gets handled. Thanks Paul, much respect!

Now, about this NEW picture...;)


(Yes, I realize the thick irony of me blogging it, and thereby putting the image "back out there" but it's for educational purposes.)

© 2013 Scott Hanselman. All rights reserved.
25 Jun 22:17

Altering Text In eBooks To Track Pirates

by Soulskill

this technique was used by the military to catch people who leaked memos to the media, back in the day

wwphx writes "According to Wired, 'German researchers have created a new DRM feature that changes the text and punctuation of an e-book ever so slightly. Called SiDiM, which Google translates to 'secure documents by individual marking,' the changes are unique to each e-book sold. These alterations serve as a digital watermark that can be used to track books that have had any other DRM layers stripped out of them before being shared online. The researchers are hoping the new DRM feature will curb digital piracy by simply making consumers paranoid that they'll be caught if they share an e-book illicitly.' I seem to recall reading about this in Tom Clancy's Patriot Games, when Jack Ryan used this technique to identify someone who was leaking secret documents. It would be so very difficult for someone to write a little program that, when stripping the DRM, randomized a couple of pieces of punctuation to break the hash that the vendor is storing along with the sales record of the individual book."

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24 Jun 02:10

HOWTO singlehandedly erase traffic jams by driving slow

by Cory Doctorow

I don't know how other people were taught to drive, but this was covered midway in driver's ed. It is not rocket science, either - if you could not have figured this out on your own, you should not be driving.

Jeffrey sez, "A fascinating article about what causes traffic jams, and how to drive differently to help ease 'stop and go' traffic. It is interesting to see how basic human instincts (or maybe just the way we have been taught how to drive) can turn a crowded road into one that is jammed with stop and go traffic. It is probable that self-driving cars will eliminate many of these issues before many humans have time to learn these techniques. However, it is very encouraging to hear the author's anecdote about how he was able to singlehandedly erase a traffic jam in his own lane:"

On a day when I immediately started hitting the usual "waves" of stopped traffic, I decided to drive slow. Rather than repeatedly rushing ahead with everyone else, only to come to a halt, I decided to try to drive at the average speed of the traffic. I let a huge gap open up ahead of me, and timed things so I was arriving at the next "stop-wave" just as the last red brake lights were turning off ahead of me. It certainly felt weird to have that huge empty space ahead of me, but I knew I was driving no slower than anyone else. Sometimes I hit it just right and never had to touch the brakes at all, but sometimes I was too fast or slow. There were many "waves" that evening, and this gave me many opportunities to improve my skill as I drove along.

I kept this up for maybe half an hour while approaching the city. Finally I happened to glance at my rearview mirror. There was an interesting sight.

It was dusk, the headlights were on, and I was going down a long hill to the bridges. I had a view of miles of highway behind me. In the other lane I could see maybe five of the traffic stop-waves. But in the lane behind me, for miles, TOTALLY UNIFORM DISTRIBUTION. I hadn't realized it, but by driving at the average speed, my car had been "eating" traffic waves. Everyone ahead of me was caught in the stop/go cycle, while everyone behind me was forced to go at a nice smooth 35MPH or so.

The Physics Behind Traffic Jams


22 Jun 23:03

Why Americans should be worried about state surveillance

by Cory Doctorow

As the Prism/NSA leaks story unfolds, many Americans are left with a cynical "are you surprised?" response that rather misses the point. Recent American history is full of stories of spies using surveillance to target civil rights heroes like Martin Luther King, who was heavily surveilled during the Kennedy administration, culminating with the FBI sending him an anonymous package with evidence of his adultery and a note telling him to kill himself.

Here's a video and transcript of an excellent Chris Hayes editorial on MSNBC in which Hayes reminds us that America's spooks can and do use intelligence to attack causes that are later seen as being on the side of justice:

In 1964, after Hoover called King the most "notorious liar in the country" in a press conference, a package was sent to King in the mail, a package the House select committee ultimately traced back to the FBI. Inside this package, one of the most remarkable artifacts in American history was an anonymous letter addressed to Martin Luther King and a copy of an electronic surveillance tape apparently to lend credence to threats of exposure of derogatory personal information made in the letter. We don't know to this day for sure what was on that tape. The heavy speculation throughout the years it was of personal and sexual nature recorded by a device planted in Dr. King's hotel room.

The letter that came with the tape read in part, "you know you are complete fraud and a great liability to all of us negroes. The American public will know you for what you are, an evil abnormal beast. King, there is only one thing left for you to do. You know what it is. You are done. There is but one way out for you. You better take it before your filthy, abnormal fraudulent self is bared to the nation." The committee considered it highly likely that Director Hoover had before the fact knowledge of the action.

So that's a letter encouraging Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to kill himself, sent to King from the FBI. This happened in American history. It's just one example out of many of how the full weight of the surveillance state constructed to fight the cold war was used against the people working for racial equality. It may have been constructed to defeat the Russians and the genuine threat of global communism, but it was deployed on people like Carmichael and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Chris Hayes: "It's not some Orwellian abstraction. It's America's history" (via Making Light)


22 Jun 21:01

Hospitals ignore regulations meant to keep medical costs lower

by Maggie Koerth-Baker
A new study finds that out-of-network medical bills aren't just high, they're often illegally high — with hospitals ignoring regulations meant to keep you out of debt when you get sick out of state.

22 Jun 20:58

TOM THE DANCING BUG: Workin' in the Data Mine...

by Ruben Bolling
BE THE FIRST ON YOUR BLOCK to see Tom the Dancing Bug, by @RubenBolling, every week! Members of the elite and prestigious INNER HIVE get the comic emailed to their inboxes at least a day before publication -- and much, much MORE!

Is it hard to join? NO! Just click here.


21 Jun 03:16

Lesson #1789 - Home Protection, Part V


my kind of security

In case you don't believe in ghosts or believe in perpetuating belief in them, this way you can still use the sign!

STW PAGE-A-DAY CALENDARS: Thanks to everyone for your support with the campaign so far!

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21 Jun 03:14

Calvin and Hobbes for June 15, 2013

18 Jun 17:51

How 3D printing will rebuild reality

by Steven Ashley

A 3D model of a complex anaplastology case, created in collaboration with the anaplastologist Jan De Cubber, is seen at the Belgian company Materialise. 3D printing has already changed the game for manufacturing specialized products such as medical devices. REUTERS/Yves Herman

When Star Trek debuted in the mid-60s, everybody geeked out about the food synthesizers. Even my mom, a reluctant but compulsory Trek viewer, recognized the utility of this amazing gadget, particularly with two ravenous boys around the house. (My brother and I knew, of course, that the real magic food box was the refrigerator.)

Years later, I wasn’t the only one craving the replicators of Star Trek:The Next Generation for my home workshop. TNG’s follow-on concept of a ‘universal build-box’ upped the ante way beyond a hot cup of Earl Gray. The list of things we would have made, then and there at home, was endless: for the kids, replacement baseball bats, balls and window panes, game controllers and handheld electronic devices. I would have gone in for replacement car parts, repairs for broken appliances and furniture, and an endless supply of consumables like gasoline, toilet paper, kitty litter, and inevitably, a couple of cold—strictly non-syntheholic—beers for afterwards. (I note in passing that Starfleet protocol prohibits civilians from replicating weapons.)

With the recent rise of the Maker movement and the advent of cheaper, easier-to-use 3D-printing technology, the sci-fi concept of a household device that can manufacture functional objects seems to be gaining reality, but for those who witnessed the technology’s birth and growth, it has been a surprisingly long and winding road, one that has, however, recently reached a significant but mostly unnoticed milestone. As for me, it all began with Star Trek and the Silver Surfer.

A 3D object called the Quin.MGX is seen at the Belgian company Materialise, a pioneer in the process. REUTERS/Yves Herman

Exactly how replicators—presumably some sort of universal matter assemblers—might actually work has always remained unclear. The first time that I saw a version of the concept that offered some inkling of how a fabrication machine might operate was in 1969. It was in the classic Marvel comic book, Silver Surfer #1, when our superhero-to-be, Norrin Radd, rushes to build a spaceship so he can fly out to confront Galactus, the super-being that will otherwise consume his homeworld. Radd gets a top scientist to deploy a "mental constructor", a helmet-mounted beam-like device that does all the work for him: "within seconds the image of your ship which in have in my mind...shall take solid form before our eyes!"

The notion of wielding an energy beam to build a working rocket in one’s own lab was like catnip to somebody who ran a side business at the elementary school dealing (to trusted friends only) three-stage, explosive rocket munitions that I’d fabricated in secret at home from notebook paper, Scotch tape, matchbooks and soda straws (but that’s another story…).

A decade and half later, when I was first working as a science and technology writer/editor, it was therefore very natural for me to become captivated by the new manufacturing marvel of the day, 3D-printing technology. Watching 3D Systems’ groundbreaking SLA stereolithography system was particularly impressive. The moving laser beam built parts right there in the chamber out of photo-curable liquid polymer: “Holy shit, it’s the Silver Surfer’s fabricator!”

Thos 3D vase, called The Hidden, was designed by Dan Yeffetlamp. REUTERS/Yves Herman

Adding and subtracting

One of the publications for which I worked covered the machine-tool industry, which built big, powerful milling machines, drills and so forth, devices that carve away material from blanks in a subtractive fashion to leave the desired object, like a sculptor does. In contrast, the new additive 3D machines built the target objects from the bottom up in layers, like a bricklayer. Both technologies rely on the same precision x,y,z machine stages to exactly position the tool or workpiece within the three-dimensional build volume—so it was little wonder we followed the technology closely.

The first step in nearly all those and most of today’s processes for “turning bits into atoms” involves using CAD/CAM software to create a 3D digital design that is then cut into two-dimensional “slices”—as if the virtual object were run through a kitchen egg-slicer. The resulting stack of cross-sections are next fed one-by-one as data into a printer unit, which directs a laser or dispenser head to follow a tool path that produces that layer of the physical object. Generally, nearly all 3D-printers first deposit a thin layer of material—metal or polymer powders, or a plastic goop that’s extruded like toothpaste—and then solidify the patterns layer-by-layer with laser light or other means, a procedure that in time yields a nearly completely finished object.

Posted to Creative Tools' flickr page, this model of Star Wars' Yoda was made with Fabbster, a 3D printer that can be bought on for $1800 in kit form, or $3000 pre-assembled.

Just a matter of time

The initial users of the technology, mostly product designers and engineers, could revise, tweak and iterate their unfinished designs easily and cheaply using “rapid prototyping” models, a process that in time greatly enhanced design capabilities and engineering productivity. And right from the get-go, the new fab technology hinted that it might bring about potentially revolutionary changes in global manufacturing practices by offering a possible paradigm shift for basic production, one that just might turn traditional supply trains on their heads. From our perspective, it seemed a given that at some point pretty much everybody would have ready access to functional metal and plastic objects—replacement parts, “one-offs,” you name it—made precisely to their specifications quickly and affordably locally.

Sure, the early fab units could only make rather flimsy epoxy and polymer models for design and engineering purposes, but we knew that it was only a matter of time before they would be able to manufacture practical parts out of many different engineering materials. We were certain as well that system and operating costs would drop as the process took greater hold in industry and production volumes rose. Not too long thereafter tougher ABS plastic 3D-printed components arrived, and researchers at places like Sandia Labs, MIT and the University of Texas at Austin were hard at work developing build processes that could manufacture working metal parts like those in your clothes washer, lawn mower or car by welding or fusing together metal powders.

A colorful geometric shape casts a shadow. Photo: fdecomite

Slow progress

As things developed, however, making functional 3D-printed objects a reality took much longer come to fruition than any of us had expected. Researchers have had to toil away for decades to perfect these basic innovations, and time had to pass for some of the crucial patents to expire and for computer, laser and materials technologies to advance sufficiently.

Year after year, the 3D-printer industry booths at manufacturing trade shows like the big International Machine Tool Show in Chicago would feature mostly design models, toys and puzzles and all manner of customized tchotchkes, knick-knacks, and one-off novelty items—yes, increasingly sophisticated stuff with ever-tightening dimensional precision—but for many years real-world commercial products were embarrassingly scarce. Those there that did eventually emerge were typically “high value-added” products, whose market niche typically arose from an acute need for the customization enabled by additive manufacturing processes. 3D-printed medical implants, using CAT scans as blueprints, eventually hit the market, for instance.

In the last decade, the steady progress in digital technology and the 3D-printing industry’s continuing R&D efforts has now brought into being multiple fabrication methods that employ new, better performing materials to achieve significantly better precision and build-quality. Today’s higher-end printers can produce truly amazing objects with highly complex, even ‘impossible,’ geometries as well as integral—built-in—moving parts.

But it was only the emergence of more affordable ‘home’ 3D-printer units, at a couple of thousand dollars a pop, has the technology caused any real excitement among the public. The burgeoning Maker movement—enthusiasts inspired by the DIY/home-grown ethic, the desire to personalize possessions and often a primal desire to democratize production—has captured the imagination of many technologists who once again dream of a replicator in every home. That iconic vision and the ready ability for designs to be downloaded from the Web, or easily scanned using a real object, has fanned the trend to the point that I will soon be able to buy a printer at Staples and download CAD/CAM designs to a ‘neighborhood’ fab shop that runs industrial printing systems. In the meantime, access to user information about the process and demos have become increasingly available at Maker Faires and similar events nationwide.

Until very recently the output of home systems has been mostly restricted to often very cool but mostly non-functional or non-structural aesthetic or decorative objects such as jewelry, highly customized items like cell phone covers, or relatively low-function replacement mechanical parts. That is starting to change.

But even though home 3D-printing has received substantial publicity of late, it is in the industrial sector where the technology will probably make its most significant near-term impact on the world both by manufacturing improved commercial products and by stimulating industry to develop next-generation fab methods and machines that could one day truly bring 3D-printing home to users in a real way.

This winged skull, uploaded to flickr by Jeremy Keith, demonstrates 3D printing tech's ability to produce extremely complex designs.

3D-printing nears mass production

So a couple of months ago when I heard that GE Aviation had decided to put into mass-production a 3D-printed jet engine component within the next few years, I knew that the real revolution had finally begun.

Rows of industrial 3D-printing units in plants will soon be fabricating turbine engine parts—fuel nozzles—from cobalt-chromium alloy powders. Each one of GE’s new LEAP jet engine will contain nineteen of the fuel nozzles, which are up to 25 percent lighter and five-times more durable than traditionally manufactured fuel nozzles. In airplanes cutting weight saves fuel. The LEAP engine has already amassed more than 4,500 orders, so between it and the new GE9X engine, the corporation could end up making as many as 100,000 additive manufactured components by 2020.

GE Aviation and Santa Fe-based Sigma Labs are working together to develop in-process inspection technology that is to verify the quality and geometry of the additive components during the build process, boosting production speeds by as much as a quarter and enabling faster FAA qualification of the parts. Recent news reports indicate that initial assembly of the first pre-production LEAP engines began just last week.

GE researchers also say that clinical testing has begun of a low-cost medical ultrasound sensor prototype made by 3D-printing ceramic powders. The new, cheaper device could potentially bring prenatal imaging to many more expectant mothers in third-world nations.

A Nestle logo was printed by a 3D printer during a display for the inauguration of the system technology centre for the design, development and deployment of their products in Orbe. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

Make it so

So here’s my point. Such progress in the industrialization of 3D-printing technology is probably the best thing that could happen to the Maker movement. It’s only a matter of time before spin-off technologies start trickling down into the hands of hobbyist and neighborhood makers at affordable prices. Greater R&D investment will in time surely yield a steady flow of more capable and presumably cheaper home printing technology, including new machines, enhanced design software, more and better fab materials and deeper processing knowledge. These innovations should help bring 3D-printing and additive manufacturing firmly into the mainstream and maybe into your own home.

Real-world replicators have taken a lot longer to materialize than I’d thought; it’s been nearly half a century since Star Trek first appeared. (Yeah, they also promised me jet-packs…) But the replicator revolution seems to be happening at last. Now where are those beers?

A handout electron microscope photograph shows a nano-scale model of London's Tower-Bridge created by a recently-developed 3D printing technique for nanostructures. Researchers from the Vienna University created their grain of sand-size structures in just four minutes, a fraction of the time that other tiny items were previously printed. Photo: Vienna University of Technology


18 Jun 17:26

Leaked NSA slide-deck claims that NSA has "direct access" to servers at Google, Apple, Facebook, Skype, Yahoo, and many others

by Cory Doctorow

The Guardian and The Washington Post have both been leaked a 41-slide NSA presentation on a program called PRISM, which -- according to the slides -- gives the spy agency (part of the US military) "direct access" to the servers of the biggest Internet companies in America, including Google, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, AOL, Yahoo and Skype. The papers have released three slides (reproduced above). The presentation dates from April 2013, and is marked "top secret with no distribution to foreign allies" and is claimed to be part of training material for new spies.

The papers go on to describe some of the other parts of the presentation, including a claim of "strong growth" in the spy agency's access to the companies' servers in 2012: up 248% for Skype, 131% for Facebook and 63% for Google. They also describe slides that walk through parts of the presentation that detail the changes in American surveillance law that makes this allegedly legal -- a shift in the standard for surveillance from "confirmations that both the sender and receiver of a communication were outside the US" to "anyone 'reasonably believed' to be outside the USA." This is celebrated by the authors of the presentation, who describe this as America's "home-field advantage."

Ars Technica's Cyrus Farivar spoke to representatives of some of the companies named in the presentation, who claimed ignorance of the program. Farivar followed up with Kurt Opsahl from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, who said,

"Whether they know the code name PRISM, they probably don't," he told Ars. "[Code names are] not routinely shared outside the agency. Saying they've never heard of PRISM doesn't mean much. Generally what we've seen when there have been revelations is something like: 'we can't comment on matters of national security.' The tech companies responses are unusual in that they're not saying 'we can't comment.' They're designed to give the impression that they're not participating in this."

All this confirms much of what has long been suspected by people who follow this stuff, but it's still profoundly disheartening. The spies have run amok, they won't even tell the governments they notionally work for what they think the law says, and the "most transparent" president in history has doubled down on GW Bush's surveillance smorgasbord. But Danny O'Brien has some heartening thoughts:

Surprised, upset, angry, people are people I feel a bond with and sympathy. I can understand when people believe they are not surprised, although that sounds to me more like a coping strategy; I struggle a bit more with the “surprised that others are surprised” response, because that just makes you sound dismissive of others’ ignorance, while exhibiting your own. It does no good to be aware of technical surveillance, while not knowing how most other people think of it.

I really don’t agree with the people who think “We don’t have the collective will”, as though there’s some magical way things got done in the past when everyone was in accord and surprised all the time. It’s always hard work to change the world. Endless, dull hard work. Ten years later, when you’ve freed the slaves or beat the Nazis everyone is like “WHY CAN’T IT BE AS EASY TO CHANGE THIS AS THAT WAS, BACK IN THE GOOD OLD DAYS. I GUESS WE’RE ALL JUST SHEEPLE THESE DAYS.”

You have to work hard to stop a war that kills a few hundred thousand instead of millions. You have to work hard to stop massive surveillance, instead of genocides. It’s all hard. Things can still get better. Disappointment is the price of wanting a better world.You need to stop being surprised that no-one else is fighting for it, and start being surprised you’re not doing more.

NSA taps in to internet giants' systems to mine user data, secret files reveal


10 Jun 05:10

Google Security Expert Finds, Publicly Discloses Windows Kernel Bug

by Soulskill
hypnosec writes "Security expert Tavis Ormandy has discovered a vulnerability in the Windows kernel which, when exploited, would allow an ordinary user to obtain administrative privileges of the system. Google's security pro posted the details of the vulnerability back in May through the Full Disclosure mailing list rather than reporting it to Microsoft first. He has now gone ahead and published a working exploit. This is not the first instance where Ormandy has opted for full disclosure without first informing the vendor of the affected software."

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09 Jun 04:24

Burner Phones, shipped anonymously to your door

by Rob Beschizza
For $75, Burner Phone will ship you a "completely anonymous" phone set up for 30 days of use. The only caveat: you then have to eat it.

Just kidding, you can throw it away. The payment system, which requires a credit or debit card, seems a weak link. Even if Burner Phone destroys their records, the banks won't. Also, you have to trust Burner Phone, and, presumably, whoever that dude is in their domain's DNS.

Update: Bitcoin support's coming soon, the creators say in a thread at Hacker News. [Thanks, Fredley!]


09 Jun 04:17

Doonesbury's transvaginal ultrasound/Republican state house strips

by Cory Doctorow

I missed this back in March 2012, but it bears re-visiting. Here's a series of Doonesbury strips that some newspapers refused to run in spring 2012. The strips criticize Republican state legislatures' plans to require transvaginal probes for women contemplating abortion, with special emphasis on Texas governor Rick Perry.

Trudeau wrote: "Ninety-nine percent of American women have or will use contraception during their lifetimes. To see these healthcare rights systematically undermined in state after state by the party of 'limited government' is appalling. "In Texas, the sonograms are the least of it. The legislature has also defunded women's health clinics all over the state, leaving 300,000 women without the contraceptive services that prevent abortions in the first place. Insanity."

Trudeau is dismayed by the newspaper reaction. "I write the strip to be read, not removed. And as a practical matter, many more people will see it in the comics page than on the editorial page," he wrote.

"I don't mean to be disingenuous. Obviously there's some profit to controversy, especially for a satirist. If debate is swirling around a particular strip, and if its absence creates blowback, then I'm contributing to the public conversation in a more powerful way. But I don't get up in the morning and scheme about how to antagonise editors. Some of these folks have supported me for decades."

Oh, Texas... This is why I want to leave you. (via Reddit)


09 Jun 04:06

Why the FBI's plan to require weak security in all American technology is a terrible, terrible idea

by Cory Doctorow

Bruce Schneier's editorial on CALEA-II is right on. In case you missed it, CALEA II is the FBI's proposal to require all American computers, mobile devices, operating systems, email programs, browsers, etc, to have weak security so that they can eavesdrop on them (as a side note, a CALEA-II rule would almost certainly require a ban on free/open source software, since code that can be modified is code that can have the FBI back-doors removed).

The FBI believes it can have it both ways: that it can open systems to its eavesdropping, but keep them secure from anyone else's eavesdropping. That's just not possible. It's impossible to build a communications system that allows the FBI surreptitious access but doesn't allow similar access by others. When it comes to security, we have two options: We can build our systems to be as secure as possible from eavesdropping, or we can deliberately weaken their security. We have to choose one or the other.

This is an old debate, and one we've been through many times. The NSA even has a name for it: the equities issue. In the 1980s, the equities debate was about export control of cryptography. The government deliberately weakened U.S. cryptography products because it didn't want foreign groups to have access to secure systems. Two things resulted: fewer Internet products with cryptography, to the insecurity of everybody, and a vibrant foreign security industry based on the unofficial slogan "Don't buy the U.S. stuff -- it's lousy."

In 1994, the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act mandated that U.S. companies build eavesdropping capabilities into phone switches. These were sold internationally; some countries liked having the ability to spy on their citizens. Of course, so did criminals, and there were public scandals in Greece (2005) and Italy (2006) as a result.

In 2012, we learned that every phone switch sold to the Department of Defense had security vulnerabilities in its surveillance system. And just this May, we learned that Chinese hackers breached Google's system for providing surveillance data for the FBI.

The Problems with CALEA-II


09 Jun 03:56

California wants an end to taxpayer subsidy for WalMart

by Cory Doctorow

Walmart, brought to you by your taxes

The State of California is considering legislation that would fine businesses $6,000 per employee who has to turn to Medical, the state's version of Medicaid. The bill is especially targeted at WalMart, which notoriously counsels its employees to use food stamps and other social programs to make up for the shortfall between the wage it pays and the minimum cost of staying alive:

The amount of the fine is no coincidence.

A report released last week by the Democratic staff of the U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce, estimates that the cost of Wal-Mart’s failure to adequately pay its employees could total about $5,815 per employee each and every year of employment.

“Accurate and timely data on Wal-Mart’s wage and employment practices is not always readily available. However, occasional releases of demographic data from public assistance programs can provide useful windows into the scope of taxpayer subsidization of Wal-Mart. After analyzing data released by Wisconsin’s Medicaid program, the Democratic staff of the U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce estimates that a single 300- person Wal-Mart Supercenter store in Wisconsin likely costs taxpayers at least $904,542 per year and could cost taxpayers up to $1,744,590 per year – about $5,815 per employee.”

California To Wal-Mart: Enough! No More Taxpayer Subsidized Profits For You [Rick Ungar/Forbes]

(via Reddit)

(Image: Walmart-World, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from zooboing's photostream)


09 Jun 02:15

How LA surgeons cope in gang gun war

How LA surgeons cope in gang gun war
07 Jun 18:00

This is what hate gets you

by PZ Myers

Nigeria has just passed a vicious anti-gay bill. It not only forbids gay marriage, it criminalizes organizing or lobbying to allow gay marriage, helping gays marry, having a gay club, and public demonstrations of affection by couples in public.

Lawmakers in Nigeria passed a bill Thursday banning gay marriage and outlawing anyone from forming organizations supporting gay rights, setting prison terms of up to 14 years for offenders.

Nigeria’s Senate previously passed the bill in November 2011 and the measure quietly disappeared for some time before coming up in Thursday’s session of the House. Under previous versions of the proposed law, couples who marry could face up to 14 years each in prison. Witnesses or anyone who helps couples marry could be sentenced to 10 years behind bars.

Other additions to the bill include making it illegal to register gay clubs or organizations, as well as criminalizing the "public show of same-sex amorous relationships directly or indirectly." Those who violate those laws would face 10-year imprisonment as well.

I helped gay couples marry by voting in the last state election; I guess that makes me a criminal by Nigerian law, liable to a ten year prison sentence.

Which brings me to a tiny bit of happy news, at least: as of next Thursday, gay residents of the Twin Cities will be able to purchase marriage licenses. Maybe we should invite unhappy Nigerians to move here? Do it quick before your government decides to criminalize visiting more liberal countries!

07 Jun 17:48

Calvin and Hobbes for June 07, 2013

06 Jun 17:42

June 05, 2013


if you fail enough captchas, you unlock the robot internet!

Broke Eats is launching another series with Paul Prado called Eat Broke Love. Check it out!

03 Jun 18:07

Who Automates the Automation?

by Erik Gern

Steve huffed up the steps of the state Capitol to his office in the IT department. As he caught his breath in the lobby elevator, his PDA buzzed. The flag coordinator, responsible for processing state flag orders from citizens, had written him an email in his typical tone. WHY ARE THERE NO FLAG ORDERS IN THE SYSTEM? IT’S YOUR JOB TO GET THEM TO US!

Still panting from the climb, Steve logged in at his work computer and checked the FTP server where flag orders were stored after being faxed or mailed to the Capitol. Requests were uploaded as PDF files and renamed automatically with a numeric suffix, such as “flag_order_1234.pdf,” by the automated system in the flag coordinator’s office.

Checking the logs, Steve noticed that flag_order_6612.pdf had somehow been written twice, throwing the naively automated system into a feedback loop until the FTP server crashed. Until the server was back up, the Capitol intranet couldn't read the new orders.

So, the automated system tried to upload two files with the same name, Steve thought. But shouldn't it have incremented the numeric suffix automatically? Steve knew the bug was in the flag coordinator’s system. He went downstairs to root it out.

Going Down

“WHY DID THE FTP SERVER GO DOWN, STEVE?” The flag coordinator’s tone of voice had always been caps-locked for as long as Steve had worked there. The flag coordinator worked out of a first story office, just below the IT department’s slightly more spacious cubicles above.

Steve explained. “Your automated system tried to upload a file with the same name as another flag order.”


“Wait, your office doesn't run the automation?” During Steve’s tenure, the flag order system had never changed. He assumed, since there was no IT documentation, that the flag coordinator’s office had built it. Steve began to ask a question, but noticed the coordinator’s face had turned a dark shade of red. “I’ll take care of it,” he said.

Well, Steve thought, I could trace the flag orders from when they first get to the Capitol building.


The mailroom sat on the foundations of the Capitol building. The floor was wobbly from a century of bad concrete patches and shifting soil. Mail clerks pushed shaky carts full of packages, either to a mailbox inset in the walls, or to an outbound cart. One lucky soul delivered mail upstairs, escaping twice a day from the dimly lit room.

“141?” The mailroom supervisor squinted at Steve over bifocals. “That’s that mousy fellow, Ramon, I think. He usually comes in around nine-thirty.”

On cue, a short, middle-aged man in a grey sweater shuffled to box 141. Wheezing, Steve ran out around the wall of mailboxes, catching Ramon before he could scurry off. “Ramon? I’m Steve from IT upstairs. I’m trying to fix a bug in the flag order system. Can you take me to your office?”

“Oh, okay,” Ramon whispered. “It’s a bit of a walk.”


Because building funds were always tight, the state legislature leased several single-wide trailer offices in an unused parking lot across the street. Steve wiped beads of sweat from his forehead as he stepped into Ramon’s cramped office. “Don’t get many visitors,” Ramon said. “What can I do you for?”

“I’m rooting out a problem with the automated flag order system. Can you show me how it’s done?”

“Of course.” Steve watched as Ramon produced a flag order form from an envelope, set it on a scanner, and saved it to an old, yellowed Pentium desktop. “And then I rename the file, move it to a folder named FLAG_ORDERS, run this .bat file--”

“Wait, wait,” Steve interjected, “I thought this was automated! You type them all in by hand?”

“Why wouldn't I?” Ramon’s lip curled. “I’m the one who automates it! THIS is my job. The way I do it works just fine, so please don’t change it.”

Steve sighed. “Mind if I fix it? You know, no more dupes?” Ramon thought for a second and then nodded and got up from his desk. Steve opened the .bat file in Notepad, then added a sanity check in case Ramon named a duplicate flag order again. “By the way,” Steve asked as he saved his modifications, “who hired you? Which department trained you to do this?”

“Oh, I don’t remember,” Ramon said, “But let me tell you, it sure beats flipping burgers!”

[Advertisement] Make your team a DevOps team with BuildMaster. Pairing an easy-to-use web UI with a free base platform, BuildMaster gets you started in minutes. See how and others use BuildMaster to automate their software delivery.
30 May 17:17

EFF and Facebook Stand Up for User Privacy and Control in California Case

by Cindy Cohn

EFF filed an amicus brief (PDF) in support of Facebook in California state appellate court yesterday, urging the court to protect the privacy rights of social media users by requiring that all requests for their account information—including content—be directed to the users, rather than to third parties like Facebook.

The case involved an alleged domestic violence attacker who issued a subpoena to Facebook seeking the content of his alleged victim's Facebook communications. Facebook rightly objected to the attacker's subpoena, noting that the victim had full access to the requested information and that any demand for her information should go to her. The superior court ordered Facebook to comply anyway, so Facebook sought appellate review on a writ of mandamus.

EFF's brief, written by EFF Fellow Jon Eisenberg, notes that the Stored Communications Act plainly prevents a service provider like Facebook from turning over customer content in response to a third-party subpoena.  The statute is unequivocal and was confirmed by the California Court of Appeal in O'Grady v. Superior Court, a case EFF handled in 2006.  The reasons Congress chose to prevent service providers from turning over customer information to non-governmental actors are also still very strong and important.  As the O'Grady court noted:

"it would be far from irrational for Congress to conclude that one seeking disclosure of the contents of e-mail, like one seeking old-fashioned written correspondence, should direct his or her effort to the parties to the communication and not to a third party who served only as a medium and neutral repository for the message."

Quite simply, a third-party provider like Facebook is not in a position to protect you from third-party subpoenas.  They don't know whether you have privileges—like the attorney/client or spousal or doctor/patient privileges—that may apply to your information, for instance.  They also likely don't know the proper scope of a discovery request given the underlying dispute.

EFF also argues that the Court should use this opportunity to strike a different path than the one taken by another California Court in Juror No. 1 v. Superior Court, where a divided appeals court allowed a judge to force a juror to consent to the release of his information from Facebook. Quite plainly, coerced consent cannot be lawful consent, and a rule that allows judically-coerced consent would effectively nullify the SCA's protections and undermine Congressional intent. 

EFF applauds Facebook for standing up for its users in this case. We stand ready to support other service providers who choose to do the same.

Related Cases: 

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30 May 08:43

Rat Park

by stuart

A good comic.

Rat Park drug experiment comic. Cartoon black and white lab mice science experiment into addiction.A classic experiment into drug addiction science. Would rats choose to take drugs if given a stimulating environment and social company?; All things.

29 May 17:37

Be Like Water: The Philosophy and Origin of Bruce Lee’s Famous Metaphor for Resilience

by Maria Popova

“In order to control myself I must first accept myself by going with and not against my nature.”

With his singular blend of physical prowess and metaphysical wisdom, coupled with his tragic untimely death, legendary Chinese-American martial artist, philosopher, and filmmaker Bruce Lee (1940-1973) is one of those rare cultural icons whose ethos and appeal remain timeless, attracting generation after generation of devotees. Inspired by the core principles of Wing Chun, the ancient Chinese conceptual martial art, which he learned from his only formal martial arts teacher, Yip Man, between the ages of thirteen and eighteen. When he left Hong Kong in 1959, Lee adapted Wing Chun into his own version, Jun Fan Gung Fu — literal translation: Bruce Lee’s Kung Fu — and popularized it in America.

In 1971, at the peak of his career, Lee starred in four episodes of the short-lived TV series Longstreet. In one of them, he delivered his most oft-cited metaphor for the philosophy of Gung Fu:

But the famed snippet belies the full dimensionality of the metaphor and says nothing about how Lee arrived at it. Luckily, in Bruce Lee: Artist of Life (public library) — a compendium of his never-before-published private letters, notes, and poems, offering unprecedented insight into his philosophy on life and his convictions about martial arts, love, and parenthood — Lee traces the thinking that originated his famous metaphor, which came after a period of frustration with his inability to master “the art of detachment” that Yip Man was trying to impart on him. Lee writes:

When my acute self-consciousness grew to what the psychologists refer to as the “double-bind” type, my instructor would again approach me and say, “Loong, preserve yourself by following the natural bends of things and don’t interfere. Remember never to assert yourself against nature; never be in frontal opposition to any problems, but control it by swinging with it. Don’t practice this week: Go home and think about it.”

And so he did, spending the following week at home:

After spending many hours meditating and practicing, I gave up and went sailing alone in a junk. On the sea I thought of all my past training and got mad at myself and punched the water! Right then — at that moment — a thought suddenly struck me; was not this water the very essence of gung fu? Hadn’t this water just now illustrated to me the principle of gung fu? I struck it but it did not suffer hurt. Again I struck it with all of my might — yet it was not wounded! I then tried to grasp a handful of it but this proved impossible. This water, the softest substance in the world, which could be contained in the smallest jar, only seemed weak. In reality, it could penetrate the hardest substance in the world. That was it! I wanted to be like the nature of water.

Suddenly a bird flew by and cast its reflection on the water. Right then I was absorbing myself with the lesson of the water, another mystic sense of hidden meaning revealed itself to me; should not the thoughts and emotions I had when in front of an opponent pass like the reflection of the birds flying over the water? This was exactly what Professor Yip meant by being detached — not being without emotion or feeling, but being one in whom feeling was not sticky or blocked. Therefore in order to control myself I must first accept myself by going with and not against my nature.

Bruce Lee (right) with his only formal martial art instructor, Yip Man

Quoting from Lao Tzu’s famous teachings, Lee writes:

The natural phenomenon which the gung fu man sees as being the closest resemblance to wu wei [the principle of spontaneous action governed by the mind and not the senses] is water:

Nothing is weaker than water,
But when it attacks something hard
Or resistant, then nothing withstands it,
And nothing will alter its way.

The above passages from the Tao Te Ching illustrate to us the nature of water: Water is so fine that it is impossible to grasp a handful of it; strike it, yet it does not suffer hurt; stab it, and it is not wounded; sever it, yet it is not divided. It has no shape of its own but molds itself to the receptacle that contains it. When heated to the state of steam it is invisible but has enough power to split the earth itself. When frozen it crystallizes into a mighty rock. First it is turbulent like Niagara Falls, and then calm like a still pond, fearful like a torrent, and refreshing like a spring on a hot summer’s day. So is the principle of wu wei:

The rivers and seas are lords of a hundred valleys. This is because their strength is in lowliness; they are kings of them all. So it is that the perfect master wishing to lead them, he follows. Thus, though he is above them, he follows. Thus, though he is above them, men do not feel him to be an injury. And since he will not strive, none strive with him.

Bruce Lee: Artist of Life is fantastic in its entirety.

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