Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Latest from Boing Boing

The Latest from Boing Boing

Link to Boing Boing

Kettling, the game

Posted: 30 Nov 2010 05:15 AM PST

kettle.jpeg Manage protestors by detaining them en-masse in this puzzle game! If you mess everything up, bring in your horses (i.e. reset the level) with the space bar. Game page [Increpare via Indie Games]

Robots designed by genetic algorithms

Posted: 30 Nov 2010 02:43 AM PST

Germany's Fraunhofer-Institut is making "genetic robots" by using genetic algorithms to design optimal forms: "The optimal form is decided based on a physics engine that takes into account the tasks and terrain and then designs the robot accordingly. The robots are made of ball and socket joints and connecting tubes and can change shape depending on the required tasks. The resulting robot is then 3D printed."

Genetic Robots made with 3D printing without a human designer (Thanks, Joris!)

Ten questions science should answer

Posted: 30 Nov 2010 12:25 AM PST

In celebration of the 350th anniversary of the founding of the Royal Society, the Guardian asks ten thinkers (scientists, novelists, writers) what questions they think science needs most urgently to answer:
Brian Cox: Can we make a scientific way of thinking all pervasive?

This would be the greatest achievement for science over the coming centuries. I say this because I do not believe that we currently run our world according to evidence-based principles. If we did, we would be investing in an energy Manhattan project to quickly develop and deploy clean energy technologies. We would be investing far larger amounts of our GDP in the eradication of diseases such as malaria, and we would be learning to live and work in space - not as an interesting and extravagant sideline, but as an essential part of our long-term survival strategy.

One only has to look at the so-called controversies in areas such as climate science or the vaccination of our children to see that the rationalist project is far from triumphant at the turn of the 21st century - indeed, it is possible to argue that it is under threat. I believe that we will only be able to build a safer, fairer, more prosperous and more peaceful world when a majority of the population understand the methods of science and accept the guidance offered by an evidence-based investigation of the challenges ahead. Scientific education must therefore be the foundation upon which our future rests.

Ten questions science must answer

(Image: Modern Rationalism, public domain/Wikimedia Commons)

EFF on US domain copyright seizures

Posted: 30 Nov 2010 12:19 AM PST

The Electronic Frontier Foundation's Corynne McSherry's got great commentary on the Department of Homeland Security's seizure of 82 domain names -- this act of quasi-legal confiscation and censorship is not only ineffective at combatting infringement, it also sucks up scarce DHS resources:
First, these seizures may be just a short preview of the kind of overreaching enforcement we'll see if the Congress passes the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA). That bill, which was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Nov 18, gives the government dramatic new copyright enforcement powers, in particular the ability to make entire websites disappear from the Internet if infringement, or even links to infringement, are deemed to be "central" to the purpose of the site. Rather than just targeting files that actually infringe copyright law, COICA's "nuclear-option" design has the government blacklisting entire sites out of the domain name system -- a reckless scheme that will undermine global Internet infrastructure and censor legitimate online speech. As we've noted, one of the most pernicious effects of COICA is likely to be just what we've seen here: the takedown of legitimate speech.

Second, the seizures also show why this kind of enforcement doesn't work; seized sites were available at other domain names within hours. If the United States government increases interference in critical DNS infrastructure to police alleged copyright infringement, it is very likely that a large percentage of the Internet will shift to alternative DNS mechanisms that are located outside the US. This will cause numerous problems -- including new network security issues, as a large percentage of the population moves to encrypted offshore DNS to escape the censoring effects of the procedures outlined in COICA. Presumably the DOJ and the DHS should be committed to improving network security -- not undermining it.

Third, it's hard to believe that this kind of action is the best use of the Department of Homeland Security's resources. What investigations didn't occur while the DHS spent it time and energy pursuing the agenda of large media companies? Moreover, it's highly unlikely that this publicity stunt will really help creators get compensated. The best way to help artists of every stripe get compensated for their work is to make sure that there is a thriving marketplace of innovative digital businesses to pay them -- business like OnSmash, which is committed to promoting new and unheralded artists.

U.S. Government Seizes 82 Websites: A Glimpse at the Draconian Future of Copyright Enforcement?

Extremely smart questions about the Wikileaks #cablegate

Posted: 30 Nov 2010 12:14 AM PST

Dan Gillmor's commentary on the Wikileaks #cablegate release takes the form of a series of questions -- questions for governments, for Julian Assange, for the media, and even for Sarah Palin. The questions form a thought-provoking analysis of the larger context of Wikileaks -- is the US government right to stamp "Secret" on every bit of gossip it sees? Is Wikileaks prepared for disinformation leaks? When will Wikileaks dump the diplomatic cables of a secretive, totalitarian state like China or Syria? Why hasn't the press been getting at this stuff on its own, and what kind of deals are news outlets cutting with Wikileaks in exchange for access? Will the Wikileaks organization ever be as transparent as it is forcing the US government to become?
For journalists who get the documents directly from WikiLeaks:
* You are treating WikiLeaks as much as a partner as a source, no matter how much you might deny this. How comfortable are you in this bargain?
* Why does it take WikiLeaks to get the information you agree is so worthy of public exposure? Why aren't you doing your own jobs better in the first place?
* Why aren't you stressing, in your voluminous coverage, that these cables are not the final word on what has happened. They are often pure gossip. Do you have an obligation to provide more context for the material you're publishing and discussing?

(Update) For Sarah Palin, who (or, perhaps, a staffer) tweeted today: "Inexplicable: I recently won in court to stop my book "America by Heart" from being leaked,but US Govt can't stop Wikileaks' treasonous act?":
* Treason is an act against one's own country. Are you aware that WikiLeaks is not based in the United States, and that Assange is not a U.S. citizen?
* Are you saying you could have stopped Web and newspaper reports from other countries with U.S. court order? Can you find even one lawyer who agrees?

A few questions about the WikiLeaks release

(Image: Wikileaks #cablegate Process Documentation, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from blprnt's photostream)

Goodbye, Worldchanging

Posted: 30 Nov 2010 12:06 AM PST

RIP, Worldchanging: "Early this year a new board was brought on to reshape the organization and pursue a more traditional nonprofit development model (based more on grants, gifts and major fundraising drives), with many new board members recruited in just the last few months to help us re-imagine operations and launch these new plans. Unfortunately, despite everyone's best efforts (and a successful October event), funding ran out before such a transformation could happen. Given the financial realities we faced, the board and staff have agreed that it is time to bring Worldchanging to a close as gracefully as possible." Sorry to see it go.

Greedo and the menagerie

Posted: 30 Nov 2010 12:04 AM PST

Florian Bertmer's new Greedo print really captures the fantastic menagerie of the Mos Eisley cantina. This was the image my mind's eye carried away from Star Wars after I saw it for the first time in 1977.

my new STAR WARS print! (via Super Punch)

TSA scans uniformed pilots, but airside caterers bypass all screening

Posted: 29 Nov 2010 11:59 PM PST

Salon's Patrick "Ask the Pilot" Smith describes the farcical state of airport security, in which uniformed pilots are prohibited from carrying a butter-knife, but airside catering and maintenance crews pass freely in and out of the "sterile" side of the airport without any screening:
All workers with airside privileges are subject to fingerprinting, a 10-year criminal background investigation and crosschecking against terror watch lists. Additionally they are subject to random physical checks by TSA. But here's what one apron worker at New York's Kennedy airport recently told me:

"All I need is my Port Authority ID, which I swipe through a turnstile. The 'sterile area' door is not watched over by any hired security or by TSA. I have worked at JFK for more than three years now and I have yet to be randomly searched. Really the only TSA presence we notice is when the blue-shirts come down to the cafeteria to get food."

TSA's double standard (Thanks, Marilyn, via Submitterator)

(Image: Jetway, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from mbrubeck's photostream)

BP sued in Ecuador for violating the "rights of Nature"

Posted: 29 Nov 2010 11:42 PM PST

Ecuador's recent constitutional recognition of the "rights of Nature" is getting its first major workout in a groundbreaking lawsuit against BP: "This morning we filed in the constitutional court of Ecuador this lawsuit defending the rights of nature in particular the right of the Gulf of Mexico and the sea which has been violated by the BP oil spill. We see this as a test case of the rights of nature enshrined in the constitution of Ecuador--it's about universal jurisdiction beyond the boundaries of Ecuador because nature has rights everywhere."

BP Sued in Ecuadorian Court For Violating Rights of Nature (Thanks, Jeff!)

Testing the TSA with Titanium Man

Posted: 29 Nov 2010 09:41 PM PST

Photo: Wikimedia Commons
I have been covertly testing airport security since early 2002. I file no reports and the only notes I take are mental. I am the person that knows when the airport has security holes and still boards the plane. I am titanium man. OK, enough of the dramatic science fiction; the truth is stranger. I have a few replacement parts installed in my body. Both my right and left humerus are constructed of titanium pins and plates with a number of screws in each arm and my right tibia has a full titanium core with a number of screws to fix it to my ankle and up by my knee. The details of how they all got there would be book length. The short version is that in early 2002 I had to get around in a wheel chair for a while, learn to walk, write, dress myself, eat, cook, all over again. It was an odd rebirth with metal ersatz bones to keep me all together. Unable to use my arms for much at the time due to their reconstruction, I managed to get around by dragging my left foot against the ground to propel the wheelchair. It was much like skateboarding when you get enough momentum to get from place to place.

Oddly enough, one of the first things I did after 4 months in a skilled nursing facility was fly to Canada. At the airport I first noticed how little security there was for me, despite the increased vigilance resulting from 9-11. I was 'wanded' in my wheelchair and of course beeped when wanded on my arms and right leg. After a brief visual inspection, I was simply pushed on by security. At the time, there was no security check of my wheelchair and I could have brought anything stashed in my chair or thick seat cushion. I felt sick being simply pushed by security as I watched a grandmother get special scrutiny. Flying wheelchair bound opened my eyes to the oddities of airport security.

I (re)learned to walk a bit later and was a happy boy when the insurance company knocked on my door to repossess my Quickie brand chair, an awesome piece of equipment I must admit. Then I flew, again and again, and noticed at many airports the same trend: massive inconsistency and the reliance on devices to make us feel safe.

Simply put: I carry enough titanium in with me to set off most metal detectors, unless their settings are on low. Therein lies the truth that I see every time I fly: The security system in the aviation world was, is, and will always be a sham to a certain extent. There are way too many holes to call it secure.

Why are metal detectors manufactured with settings of low, mid, and high? Shouldn't there just be one setting? I flew last week and the metal detectors at both Pittsburgh and Boston were set to low. When they are, I most often walk on through with no problem. This summer in Albany, I set the detector off and got a very thorough secondary screening. I don't mind being wanded and having my limbs touched for security purposes. I admit, almost all of the time it is done in a professional and dignified way by the TSA agents.

At many airports on most days there is a low security concern and the rules are lax. I skip through unnoticed and board my plane. When there is a real terror concern, however, I start to beep. If the airport has a specific threat like when I was in Munich last year, I beep and get some sort of secondary screening. In Munich I had a nice chat (and a thorough wanding) with a gentleman who was clearly not a standard security checkpoint screener. He asked behavioral type questions and I think he was concerned that I could conduct the interview in German. (Apparently, being an American who speaks a language with a degree of competency is a red flag.)

These days are good. I go through security, set off an alarm, am treated with caution and respect and get to go home with a real sense that someone is paying attention. I worry most when I get through secondary screenings without a second glance. 7 times (2 alone at the Dayton airport) the batteries of the hand wands were low or empty and therefore didn't go off during my secondary screening. Once I think the device was not even turned on as the green light wasn't lit. The TSA agent simply waved it over me as a rote motion, and then told me to be on my way. I stood there the first time in disbelief as I know how much metal I have on me and I know how those wands go off when they get near me.

Of course, I also know what happens if I say something and alert the security to their "problem". The airport gets shut down, the gates are cleared and we all go through it again because some TSA agent forgot to charge the batteries or turn the thing on. So I just go to my gate and get on the plane. Perhaps it is irresponsible, but I have seen all of the airport security holes and know that terrorists are not stopped at the security checkpoint by the system we have created. That is my reality and my perception. It may be somewhat flawed, but I am not alone in this viewpoint.

And now we have backscatter technology to fix the holes. It is humorous to me that this is the device that causes the most outrage us because it exposes us physically. I don't personally mind if some TSA agent in a back room sees the size of my schnitzel. My issue with the scanners is that it is more of the same bullshit heaped upon the existing pile of bullshit we already take for a security system. Shoes, liquids, printer toner, nail clippers, whathaveyou. All are smoke screens to have us not ask the harder questions about issues of what actually makes us secure. It is that general feeling that we are not doing security in the right way and that in itself makes us feel insecure.

This insecurity logically leads to questions about the process. Now, something has changed for the worse. You are punished for refusing a specific device. The 'thorough pat-down' recently introduced is the TSA's method of quelling dissent by subjecting flyers to an invasive and undignified physical search. It is the spanking for simply questioning the veracity of the process. We ask, "Will the photos be stored?" The answer, "not possible, of course not." The geeks know differently. They probably programmed the machine and so we cry foul. Why are the geeks the ones who cry the hardest? Because we are inherently people of science and ultimately we know the limits of technology. We are the ones who understand that these new devices are no solution to our problems, but are most likely simple the new panacea, brought to us by a new lobbyist until the next great machine comes along. We know this because we have bought smaller versions of these devices all these years thinking that this device was 'it'. Was I the only person with a Sony Clié?

So pat me down, wand me, find my metal, but do it in a dignified way. Don't expect me to believe that this new device will find everything or that a groping will find things either. And please replace or charge the batteries in the hand wands. If you are so worried about touching us intimately and seeing us naked, you might miss the obvious.

Harry Potter and the Potboiling Podcast

Posted: 29 Nov 2010 09:56 PM PST

The Incomparable podcast features a bunch of serious geeks talking in alternate weeks about recent and classic sci-fi and fantasy movies, novels, comic books, and television shows. Our gang is led by Jason Snell, Macworld magazine's editorial director, and über-geek. The latest episode is available, covering Harry Potter, its borrowings from one Mr Tolkien, why Pablo Picasso and Magnum P.I. never met, and the words exegesis and tmesis.

NASA sets us all up for heartbreak

Posted: 29 Nov 2010 08:36 PM PST

NASA is holding a press conference Thursday. A press conference to discuss a "an astrobiology finding that will impact the search for evidence of extraterrestrial life". Seriously, you guys. You guys, seriously. That's pretty much all the information available right now. Kottke did a little poking into the CVs of the various participants and thinks it will be about indirect biochemical evidence of bacterial life on Titan. I'm intrigued. Press conference starts at 2:00 Eastern. It'll be streamed. Thought you'd want to know. (Thanks P. Bump!)

WaPo: Wikileaks' Assange could be charged in US under Espionage Act

Posted: 29 Nov 2010 07:02 PM PST

"Federal authorities are investigating whether WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange violated criminal laws in the group's release of government documents, including possible charges under the Espionage Act."

Somerville wins bad sex award

Posted: 29 Nov 2010 07:16 PM PST

Rowan Somerville took this year's "Bad Sex" in literature award, for the following passage in his novel, The Shape of Her. Often awarded to moistly verbose descriptions of the mechanics, this time the judges favored the Irish author's brief but utterly disabling similes.
[It was] like the upturned nose of the loveliest nocturnal animal, sniffing in the night.
Mr. Somerville was describing a nipple. [Businessweek]

U.S. Embassy: Prince Andrew is rude, doesn't like corruption investigators, and is a bit stupid

Posted: 29 Nov 2010 05:32 PM PST

Photo: Roosewelt Pinheiro/ABr
Britain's Prince Andrew "verged on the rude" and was "astonishingly candid" at a gathering in the Kyrgyz Republic, according to a diplomatic cable filed by the U.S. Embassy there. Among the targets of his boorish ranting were corruption investigators and journalists 'poking their noses' into Britain's sleazy international arms deals. The two-hour brunch involved Andrew and various guests, who discussed the investment climate for Western firms, corruption, influence and such forth. The report, peppered with incongruous wisecracks, is essential reading. It's as if the author was compelled to indulge his or her intelligence as an antidote to the excruciating event, to the otherwise inexpressible horror of discovering a massive multi-century breeding program whose objective was to place not a brilliant son of Atreus amid the dunes of central Asia, but Andrew Albert Christian Edward Mountbatten-Windsor:
Prince Andrew reacted with almost neuralgic patriotism whenever any comparison between the United States and United Kingdom came up. For example, one British businessman noted that despite the "overwhelming might of the American economy compared to ours" the amount of American and British investment in Kyrgyzstan was similar. Snapped the Duke: "No surprise there. The Americans don't understand geography. Never have. In the U.K., we have the best geography teachers in the world!"
Everyone who has spent time in England will have encountered this boomer-generation defensiveness over the U.S.'s inheritance of the Anglo-American power tools. I bet you can guess what he thinks of the French! Also reviled are the hacks:
He railed at British anti-corruption investigators, who had had the "idiocy" of almost scuttling the Al-Yamama deal with Saudi Arabia. (The Duke was referencing an investigation, subsequently closed, into alleged kickbacks a senior Saudi royal had received in exchange for the multi-year, lucrative BAE Systems contract to provide equipment and training to Saudi security forces.) ... He then went on to "these (expletive) journalists, especially from the National Guardian, who poke their noses everywhere" and (presumably) make it harder for British businessmen to do business.

Greenpeace sues Dow Chemical and others over surveillance and computer hacking charges

Posted: 29 Nov 2010 04:39 PM PST

[Video Link]

Greenpeace today filed a lawsuit "against Dow Chemical, Sasol [...] and PR firms Dezenhall Resources and Ketchum, for hiring private investigators to steal documents from Greenpeace, tap our phones and hack into our computers."

NYT: The alleged spying occurred between 1998 and 2000 when Greenpeace was campaigning against the release of dioxin, a toxic byproduct of chemical manufacturing, in Lake Charles, Louisiana and other communities.

A PDF of the complaint is here.

HOWTO kill paper.li mentions on Twitter

Posted: 29 Nov 2010 04:18 PM PST

I may be revealing too much of my own OCD-ness here, but when a friend pointed me to these instructions for how to ensure you never see another paper.li "So-and-so's Daily" in your Twitter timeline... I wept with joy.

RIP, LSD (Boing Boing Flickr Pool)

Posted: 29 Nov 2010 03:57 PM PST


"R.I.P. L.S.D." Found in a cemetery in Williamsport MD, photographed, and contributed to the Boing Boing Flickr Pool by reader Camera John.

Julian Assange interviewed in Forbes: an American bank is next leak target

Posted: 29 Nov 2010 03:50 PM PST

Forbes, of all places, has an interview up with Julian Assange. WikiLeaks' next target will be a major US bank. "It will give a true and representative insight into how banks behave at the executive level in a way that will stimulate investigations and reforms, I presume—For this, there's only one similar example. It's like the Enron emails."

Level 3 Says Comcast Wants Fees to Transfer Movies to Users

Posted: 29 Nov 2010 09:37 PM PST

cables_sampson.jpg Level 3 has accused Comcast of demanding fees to transfer data from Level 3's backbone to Comcast customers. Level 3 describes this as "Internet online movies and other content," which would mean everything, even though it's calling out movies. Level 3 signed a deal on November 11th to act as one of Netflix's primary network providers. In October, Internet monitoring service Sandvine said Netflix streaming represents 20 percent of all U.S. Internet non-mobile bandwidth use during prime-time hours. Far be it from me to defend Comcast's policies, even while I am generally happy with its service. I subscribe to Comcast cable broadband service at home and at work, and it performs quite well in my parts of Seattle. I don't have much choice--Qwest has limited availability of an "up to 20 Mbps" service--so I'm lucky cable performs. And Comcast caps my 15 to 25 Mbps downstream service to 250 GB per month, with no-appeal threats of cutoff after two broken caps in a year. Nonetheless, this may not be quite what it seems. The Internet is a syndicate of different networks that agree to interconnect on various terms. There are quasi-public meet-me network rooms in which providers all pay to connect in and traffic passes among all those present. Networks can also choose to create peering points between each other when traffic demands it.

My understanding of fee-free peering, however, is that the data transferred must be roughly equivalent, whether in a private peering arrangement or one conducted in meet-me rooms. If the traffic becomes highly asymmetric, the party doing the heavy lifting may complain, because it's bearing the cost of carrying another network's traffic, even though that may be what its users are demanding. It's possible that Level 3 is feeding such an enormous amount of data to Comcast in return for receiving relatively little that Comcast wants to leverage this into Level 3 paying for access to its network.

If that turns out to be the complaint, it's problematic. Network neutrality argues for treating all network traffic from any source the same: no throttling, no filtering, no blocking. Exceptions may be made when a network's performance degrades because of incoming traffic, but that's an infrastructure issue rather than precisely a political one.

Comcast might be taking the tack of complaining about an unequal peering relationship that Level 3's customers should be paying for without highlighting differentiated traffic. That's harder to defend against, because that would require the FCC stating that network and Internet providers cannot establish peering relationships on terms that they choose. In effect, Comcast could filter without basing it on packets.

Comcast hasn't responded at this writing, and I'm curious to see its explanation and the FCC's response. Update: Comcast told the Washington Post: "This has nothing to do with Level 3's desire to distribute different types of network traffic. Comcast has long established and mutually acceptable commercial arrangements with Level 3's Content Delivery Network (CDN) competitors in delivering the same types of traffic to our customers." Not particularly clear, but "mutually acceptable commercial arrangements" would seem to indicate peering contracts.

Update 2: Commenters indicate that a bit of clarification is needed here. I didn't properly distinguish between Comcast's handling of packets that originate from Level 3 and then pass over any path to reach Comcast, and Comcast's direct interchange with Level 3 (which some commenters argue is not properly called a peering point, although I disagree). Comcast cannot be denied to have the business basis to determine with which firms it directly contracts and to which it opens specific point-to-point pipelines for network interchange. That may be the issue at hand. Where network neutrality intrudes is if Comcast is threatening to degrade or block all Level 3 traffic on any Internet route to Comcast. While no laws or regulation specifically prohibit that, that's a different kettle of fish than wanting to collect fees for a direct network connection with Level 3.

Photo by Adrian Sampson used via Creative Commons.

Every issue of Playboy from 1953 to 2010 on a hard [hehehe] drive

Posted: 29 Nov 2010 03:11 PM PST


650 issues, 100,000 pages, 56 years, 1300 Cover Bunny Breasts. The Playboy Cover to Cover Hard Drive, a "USB bus-powered portable device" for $299.95.

Search, view, explore and organize the entire archive of digital editions--no power cord necessary. The device is hot swappable, so there's no need to restart after installation on your MAC or PC.

Buy: playboyarchive.com.

Press release, LA Times article.

Treehoppers: bugs that look like Dali designed them

Posted: 29 Nov 2010 02:18 PM PST

Ecologist and author Jerry A. Coyne writes about the amazing, bizarre treehoppers, which really, really do look like this (they were recently featured in a Nature article on Alfred Keller, who sculpted the model shown here):
The second thing one asks is, "What the bloody hell is all that ornamentation on the thorax?" (Note that the "balls" on the antenna-like structure aren't eyes, but simply spheres of chitin.) A first guess is that it's a sexually-selected trait, but those are often limited to males, and these creatures (and the ones below) show the ornaments in both sexes. Kemp hypothesizes--and this seems quite reasonable--that "the hollow globes, like the remarkable excrescences exhibited by other treehoppers, probably deter predators." It would be hard to grab, much less chow down on, a beast with all those spines and excrescences.
The surreal treehoppers (via Geisha Asobi)

Cyber Monday your way through the Boing Boing Gift Guide!

Posted: 29 Nov 2010 02:22 PM PST

For those who took a web vacation during the Thanksgiving holiday, a reminder that our 2010 Boing Boing Gift Guide is full of BB editor selections for your holiday shopping on this "cyber Monday," which, incidentally, I thought was the day you fire up your Apple IIe and ask random strangers if they "wanna cyber."

Check it out.


Pocket Chain Saw

Posted: 29 Nov 2010 02:09 PM PST

pocket chain saw.jpeg This little saw is excellent, fast cutting, light weight (at 3 oz without the case), and folds up small making it highly portable. It can quickly saw branches and trees up to about 4-6 inches in diameter with its 28 inch long chain. To use it, wrap the chain around whatever you want to cut and then grab the handles and pull back and forth. This flexibility means that it can take on logs and branches too thick for smaller camp saws. I've used it in the back country as well as around the yard. When one of the metal loops that attached the saw to the handles came apart at the weld point the company very quickly responded by sending me a new set of loops. It's an excellent product supported by a conscientious and responsive company. [Note: An even lighter weight military model can be purchased here.--OH] --Jaime Cobb Supreme Products Pocket Chain Saw $25 Check out a video of one in action after the jump.

Comment on this at Cool Tools. Or, submit a tool!

Four horsemen of the information apocalypse: Cohen, Fanning, Johansen and Frankel

Posted: 29 Nov 2010 02:45 PM PST

Time magazine's Lev Grossman's got a great profile of four authors of notorious software tools that formed the nexus of the last 12 years of copyright cold-wars: Bram Cohen (BitTorrent), Jon "DVD Jon" Johansen, Justin Frankel (Gnutella) and Shawn Fanning ("Napster").
So what ever happened to the pirate apocalypse of yesteryear? In the U.S., piracy hasn't turned out to be quite as bad for content producers as everybody thought. A report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office released last April labored mightily to establish a strong link between piracy and lost sales, but the results were inconclusive.

What's striking about the pirate kings is that they've been much less successful in the straight world than they were as pirates. An anarchic worldview coupled with brilliant code doesn't travel as well as you'd think in the bean-counting world of legitimate commerce. Good code empowers users by giving them choices and options, but empowered users aren't necessarily good for business. What you need to hit it really big in legitimate commerce is an authoritarian sensibility that limits users to doing what you want them to.

The Men Who Stole the World (Thanks, Airshowfan, via Submitterator!)

Roland, the epic, ass-kicking art teacher

Posted: 29 Nov 2010 03:40 PM PST

"I'm gonna pull that fuckin' plug out of the computer. Horrible."

Every art and design student should be so lucky as to be instructed by Roland.

(Via Roland is God)

Video of a 3D printer in action

Posted: 29 Nov 2010 02:09 PM PST

Marketplace Tech Report had a piece on 3D printing this morning. I came away with two thoughts:

1: I MUST see photos of the bicycle made from 3D printed parts that Jonathan Zittrain mentions in the interview. (So far, no dice. If you find anything, let me know.)

2: "Holy Cats! I've never watched a 3D printer work!" Luckily, YouTube came through for me. Big time. I chose this video to post because of the nifty song that goes with it, but there's lots more 3D printer videos available—including some that feature DIY printers. Follow the link, be awed, kill lots of time.

White House commission will review human research

Posted: 29 Nov 2010 01:41 PM PST

Today, I am wearing my happy-with-the-government face. Why? Because somebody, somewhere in Washington, seems to have realized that the past actually has an impact on the present.

Back in October, I told you about a long-buried bit of immoral, federally-funded research only recently shoved into the harsh light of day by Wellesley College professor Susan Reverby. During the late 1940s, American scientists deliberately infected hundreds of unwitting Guatemalans with syphilis and gonorrhea, in order to study the effects of penicillin. As far as anyone can tell, most of the infected were later cured, but that doesn't really make the study any less morally disgusting.

The current US government publicly apologized almost as soon as it was informed about the old study. And I figured that bare-minimum mea culpa would be the end of it. Instead, it's looking like we might actually get some proactive responses out of this debacle. Last week, the White House ordered a broad review of the current standards for human research. Rather than just blowing off the Guatemala experiment as "stuff we don't do anymore", the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues is apparently going to take steps to make sure that's true. The review is set to begin in January. Ladies and gentlemen, I think we may have learned some kind of lesson here!

Click here for a synopsis of the Guatemala study, or read the full report.

New podcast: Appeals Court, by Charlie Stross and Cory -- the Singularity versus the God-botherers

Posted: 29 Nov 2010 01:20 PM PST

I've just started podcasting Charlie Stross's and my gonzo Singularity novella Appeals Court. It's the sequel to Jury Service, the first thing Charlie and I ever wrote together (the podcast for Jury Service finished last week). We're about to start work on Parole Board, the thrilling conclusion, which Tor will be publishing as a novel under the title Rapture of the Nerds, a title we nicked from the brilliant Ken MacLeod.

Appeals Court 01


Podcast feed

Fast Company profiles Boing Boing

Posted: 29 Nov 2010 12:51 PM PST

Photo Illustration by Glen Wexler

Rob Walker, author of Buying In: What We Buy and Who We Are, and the "Consumed" columnist for The New York Times Magazine, profiled us for a lengthy feature article in the December 2010 issue of Fast Company magazine. Rob really got the story right! Thanks to all of our readers who make it possible for us to keep Boing Boing going!

And what really makes it interesting is that it does this with a mix of material that remains as eclectic, strange, and sometimes nonsensical as the obscure personal blog it started out as. Sure, the site offers its take on big, hot-button topics like WikiLeaks or the latest Apple gadgetry. But just as prominent are headlines such as "And now, an important message regarding elves," or "Heavily stapled phone-pole," or, to cite a recent favorite of mine, "Monkey rides a goat" (an animated GIF of exactly that).

How can this mishmash command an audience of millions? Particularly now, when the "postpersonal" blogosphere offers slick, focused, comprehensive takes on any subject you can imagine? Maybe the founders' insistence on keeping the site weird, loose, personal, and fundamentally unprofessional is exactly what keeps the crowd coming back. Boing Boing's longevity hasn't happened despite its refusal to get serious, but because of it.

Stay tuned for a behind-the-scenes look at how photographer/artist Glen Wexler created that amazing pogo-stick illustration.

Fast Company: Inside the Wild, Wacky, Profitable World of Boing Boing