After a week of Free, this round's on the house.
Praise of [Some] DDoSs? asks whether a denial-of-service attack is
morally equivalent to blackmail--or to a sit-in. It's a fascinating
question: do lawmakers write anti-cybercrime laws with mythical
uberhackers in mind, without recognizing that they may fall under the
same range of intent as meatspace offenses? And what does that mean for
- While cruising through Saurik's Android
Market webclient the other day, I found CRIME
MAP, a mobile mashup between Google Maps and live crime data (sadly,
only for Osaka, Japan at this time). So it's like EveryBlock, but map-oriented. And
I started to think about the potential for this kind of thing--match it
up with a Locale plugin,
for example, to warn you if you're about to walk into a high-crime area.
Or if it were adapted to non-crime tasks, and people were allowed to
submit activities/tagging to it (instant flash protest?). A big deal has
been made out of the camera-aware augmented reality applications
beginning to trickle out, but I wonder if this limited-but-ubiquitous
form would be more effective--a sixth sense, instead of a direct visual
- Appfrica has
details on Mozilla's Week of Service, which matches IT volunteers
with needy nonprofits. If you need the help, there's a link to the
Idealist page for registration. I was disappointed that the volunteers
are not necessarily just Mozilla staff, because I thought it would be
hilarious if JQuery creator John Resig showed up to rebuild Belle's
nonprofit web page. But it's still a good idea.
- Adam West is a strange,
- A Gabonese presidential candidate is attempting
to use social media to mobilize his followers, although it's unclear
how many people he's going to reach, given that only 10% of the country
- I've had no time, at all, for playing games this week. When I have,
it's been adventure-centric: Monkey Island 2 on the smartphone,
and Zombie Cow's smart indie
comedies, Ben There, Dan That! and Time, Gentlemen,
Please! I highly recommend both of the latter, especially if you
love the old Lucasarts titles. The first is free, but there's an option
to donate extra when buying the second one. Go ahead, push the total up
to $10. You won't regret it.
- Tonight is my first breakdancing class. No, you can't see video.
- Josh finds the common thread between America,
Apocalypse, and Anime.
I feel like all links are symbolic of something, personally.
- The executive producer for Terminator: Sarah Connor
Chronicles wrote up a blog entry on cancelation,
office spaces, and the trunk check. Coming from someone who liked
the show: if it had been consistently as well-written as that post, it
might still be on the air.
- Hackaday has some notes on Slow
Loris, a denial-of-service attack that only requires one computer
and doesn't use a flood. Seems like you could fix it on the server side,
though. It's not a new kind of attack--I'm surprised it still works.
- On the topic of security, Patrick Meier has been writing some
really good stuff lately. Check out his guide to communicating
securely in repressive environments and his review of How
to Lie with Maps.
and Appropriate Technology is a post about XO laptops by a teacher
in Malawi. An interesting read, even for a cranky skeptic like myself.
- Libertarians on Boats: The Saga
Continues. You know, I mock these guys a lot, but there's something
impressive about the amount of coverage they get. For all the articles
that are written, you'd think it was some kind of vast movement across
the entire libertarian party--but then you actually read further, and
it's really just the same small group every time, somehow always just
thiiiiis close to their seasteading paradise. Until next time,
- So we are holding a Rock Band party this weekend, which is
cause for much excitement. But it's also cause for consternation: where
do you get the second guitar, so people can play bass and mock my
real-life instrumentation? I'm sure they're very nice, but spare
instruments for the game are $80, which (plus the cost of boarding an
over-excitable dog) is really more than I wanted to spend. But once you
start looking into borrowing, the market segmentation really becomes a
hassle: not only do music games fail to play nicely with each other,
but you can't use controllers from the same game on different consoles.
My friends with the PS2 version wouldn't have any place to plug in.
Apparently even the USB microphone isn't cross-platform. Finally, we
found someone who knew someone else with an XBox 360 guitar. The heavens
opened, and the faint sounds of Iron Maiden could once again be heard.
- One of the amazing things about Stephen Colbert's act is that he
almost never breaks character. Talking Points Memo has a clip of him
John Kerry a couple of years ago. It's bizarre just to see him
Travel Tips for Africa, or anywhere really.
At my funeral, I want them to play "Do You Realize?"
- Is your pen a deadly
weapon? What happened to being mightier than the sword?
- Newsweek comments on Ray Kurzweil's mid-life
crisis. Not much new there, but it is kind of funny to hear that
even fellow Singularity U professors think he may be a little crazy.
- Last week, Wikipedia banned Scientology--or, to be more accurate,
they put a blanket ban on IP addresses known to originate with the
Church of Scientology. As satisfying as that might seem, Evgeny Morozov
has a few good reasons why
Wikipedia was wrong to do it.
Brief, Incomplete, and Mostly Wrong History of Programming
Languages: "1972 - Dennis Ritchie invents a powerful gun that shoots
both forward and backward simultaneously. Not satisfied with the number
of deaths and permanent maimings from that invention he invents C and
- Jim Rossignol provides
impressions of the "Thrilling Wonder Stories" panel, discussing
architecture, fiction, and futurism. Guests included Warren Ellis and
the designer of Half-Life 2's cityscapes, Viktor Antonov. There are
elements of a post about gaming's relationship to both science fiction
and futurism gestating as a result of this.
- I think it's really, really important that Harmonix--and not the
Neversoft Guitar Hero team--ended up doing Beatles Rock
Band. Technical issues aside, there was always a feeling that
Harmonix understood the musical side of what they were doing in a way
that their successors didn't, and it shows through in the product. I'm
not even a huge Beatles fan, and I still think this is
phenomenal. The trailer with actual game
footage is also looking really sharp. Belle is very excited.
- Along those lines, Anil Dash comments on the New Yorker and supporting
- As for the rest of E3: Eh. Microsoft's motion-tracking looks
very cool (and apparently actually
works), which would be great if I had a living room with actual
space in it. Likewise, if I wanted to annoy people I guess hooking my
XBox up to my Facebook status would be one way to do it. Nintendo's
being Nintendo with a
million franchise sequels and Wii attachments. Sony continues to
find ways to milk fans for money: more virtual objects for Home! A
download-only portable console that's still way too expensive! And as
nothing for PC.
- I once argued, to a room of conservative think-tank contributors,
that hip-hop (and jazz) were distinctly American forms of music--genres
that prize reinvention, improvisation, and a unique tension between
individual and collective action. Perhaps I should have specified that
it's not right for
Sometimes the puns don't come easy, you know.
- The interesting implication of captcha
on routers isn't that most people's security habits are poor. It's
that, as everything in the home gets smarter, vulnerabilities multiply
in odd places. I had no idea that some malware was using a browser
exploit to inject bad DNS entries into home routers, but I'm really kind
of impressed by it.
- Matt Taibbi meditates on aging
- Is new media an
elite forum? And is it best used simply to bootstrap narratives into
the traditional media?
- The Griefer
Future, continued: Russian hackers have pioneered ransomware,
which holds your computer hostange until you pay a ransom via SMS
- The Gecko
netbook runs on 8 rechargeable AA batteries. Is this the solution to
my laptop battery complaints? Surely there are hidden pitfalls to
something like this--it seems too good to be true.
- I'm two years late on Ikea Hacker. Which is too
bad, since its advice applies to pretty much all our furniture.
- The Center for Global Development has a post about using mobile
phones to monitor
With my hands now recovering from what was diagnosed as a case of mild
extensor tendonitis, I'm hoping to get back into the habit of writing
something here every day, in the morning or evening. Let's warm up with
a linked list:
- The AV Club pays tribute to Bea Arthur by posting her roast of
Pamela Anderson. It's a pitch-perfect slice of comedy--the whole bit
is Arthur simply reading selections from Anderson's "fictional" book
with that dry, acid tone of hers.
- The Boston Globe finds a few yuppies who have given
up technology in their lives. "They're not elderly luddites," the
paper writes. Indeed: they're not elderly. And remember, it's the
Internet that's killing journalism, so presumably these people are quite
trustworthy and not creepy at all.
- Late last week, I started writing a voxel terrain engine in Flash,
just as a practice project. So far, getting something to run at a decent
framerate and resolution (say, 640x480) has been a challenge. I've been
reading a lot of Actionscript
optimizations, which are fascinating in a geeky kind of way. As a
high-level scripting language that gets compiled to bytecode (and,
sometimes, native instructions), some of the speedbumps are suprising.
- Speaking of terrain engines, if you haven't seen the footage of indie
MMO/shooter Love, you really ought to take a look. The UI
looks pretty hardcore, but the way that developer Eskil Steenberg has
put together a flexible, beautiful framework for user-generated problem
solving is very impressive. I particularly like the way that items in
the world can be triggered by a "key" over the in-game radio system, so
that complex mechanisms can be built out of simple components.
- In all the fuss (hype?) about Twitter and social change, Evgeny
Morozov reminds us to remember the power
of radio. I have a soft spot for radio, obviously. This is just one
of many great posts that Morozov's been putting up at his Foreign Policy blog.
- Tim Hwang, founder of ROFLCon, talked to the Berkman Center about
memes and their spread early this month. Interesting comments about
how open platforms like 4chan have a lot more cultural generativity than
closed systems like Facebook. Unfortunately, I feel like it's just
really not that simple.
- Along those lines, Mute Magazine has a piece on Africa and software
politics. It makes a few new points: that lack of bandwidth is a
serious problem for African open-source, that open-source is (sadly) not
a panacea incompatible with state power, and that (similar to the
Ishango Bone, which is the oldest known table of prime numbers) perhaps
the network society needs a new, Afrocentric genealogy.
- And for the data visualization nerds reading, the World Bank has
opened up its economic indicators and development photos with an external web API. It doesn't
look incredibly detailed yet, but I guess it's a start.
The new Yeah Yeah Yeahs album is pretty good after all.
- I'm really not going to keep writing about Resident Evil 5
forever, but this
editorial at Crispy Gamer caps it off nicely for me. Partially in
response to Stephen Totilo's argument
that the game is more about cliche than race, writer Evan Narcisse
rightly points out that the cliches themselves are hardly innocent.
Ultimately, did this debate produce more heat than light? I hope so. I'd
like to read that someone had their eyes opened by the discussion.
- At SXSW, Jonathan Marks did a couple of interesting interviews with
two of the Africa bloggers that I follow: Jonathan Gosier of
Appfrica and Erik
Hersman of Ushahidi. Gosier's raises an interesting point about
doing outsourced IT work from Uganda--one of the biggest barriers isn't
language or talent, it's the difficulty of transferring money from the
- The more that I spend time reading about smartphone platforms, the
more it's turning me into an advocate for free and open source software.
Give it another six months, and I'll be the guy in the back muttering
about recompiling his kernel, wearing a shirt that says "I'm with
- In all seriousness, I'm torn as to where I'll go for my next phone,
as all the open platforms have caveats. Nobody knows anything solid
about the Pre yet. Android so far has battery problems, and it sounds
like it needs a task manager. I don't like most of the Windows Mobile
hardware. And Nokia needs more apps, but their hardware is top-notch,
and I actually like S60. The Nokia E75 looks very
nice. I just hope that the Qt
library helps them pick up the pace.
- For those who enjoyed John Kessel's evisceration of
Game, Elaine Radford has finally put her original essay online: Ender and
Hitler: Sympathy for the Superman. Sadly, it doesn't include her
notes, which were apparently a lot more detailed.
- humanitarian.info has posted a set of information
security links for journalists and activists operating in
authoritarian countries. There's some good advice here, including a link
to the Reporters without Borders Handbook for Bloggers and
- The Meggy Jr.
is a handheld Arduino-based game handheld with an 8x8 LED display--so,
you know, you're not going to be playing GTA IV on it. You've
probably seen it around if you read Make or Hackaday. It got me thinking
about what you could do with such a limited amount of display
flexibility, like say 16x16 pixels. What games would work? What can't
you do? Some interesting ideas come to mind.
- If WorldChanging can get $10,000 in recurring donations, they'll
get a $100,000 grant. That's probably a tough thing to do in the current
economic situation, but I personally think it's a good cause. As an
aggragator for greenpunk/development news, it's very good. Read about it
- I don't remember where I found this, but it's interesting: Game
Theory in the Dark Knight.
Thanks to daylight savings time and the user interface engineers at JVC,
my car radio's clock is wrong for about six months out of the year.
10 Unexpected Costs of Owning Things, via Brinstar. A great,
- Although I've read Making Light for years now, I wasn't aware
that co-author Theresa Nielsen Hayden was an ex-Mormon. Her story of
being excommunicated from the church, "God and I", is
typically funny and surprisingly good-humored.
- Kim Stanley Robinson, author of the "Red Mars" series and other
books, has written an editorial on the "multigenerational ponzi scheme"
of modern capitalism in the face of environmental change at What
Matters. This ties in nicely with Jamais Cascio's post the other day
the phrase 'long-term' from our thinking. Robinson is not the only
one arguing for a serious reevaluation of capitalist markets: Nobel
Prize-winning economist Amartya Sen considers the question
in the New York Review of Books.
- Speaking of Robinson, his publishers at Random House have joined
Baen and Tor with a free
e-book library that includes "Red Mars" and four other titles at
this time. They're also available on Kindle for free at the moment, as
well as several other e-reader formats like PDF, LIT, and Stanza.
Unsurprisingly, these are all the first books from series--I guess it's
finally becoming clear that this is a really good way to hook readers.
- So you've just released a videogame into the middle of a racism
controversy. What's the best way to publicize it? How about a
scavenger hunt for fake body parts scattered through London,
culminating with players gathering on a bridge and shouting nonsense
words in Swahili in the hopes of winning a trip to Africa? Words fail
me. (via Pandagon)
Also from the comments in that thread: there
is nothing racist in this screenshot.
- To be clear, that's definitely me being sarcastic about that last
- Video from the Aid Watch conference in New York has been posted. I
really enjoyed this clip of June
Arunga talking about getting business funding for ventures in Africa,
and the difficulties of fighting Western perceptions.
- The Berkman Center at Harvard has hosted a couple of very
interesting speakers in the last couple of weeks. Al Gidari, of the
Perkins Cole law firm, speaks on cell
phones and location privacy--in other words, who can track you by
your phone, and what protections do you have? This is a matter of no
small interest to many activists. Also, Gene Koo discusses games
as learning environments for ethics. For whatever reason, Berkman
insists on using a Quicktime plugin for its videos, but it's definitely
worth pulling the link open (you've got Firebug installed, right?) and
using VLC to watch them.
- The guy who runs 4chan can foster almost every prominent Internet
meme, but he can't
get a job.
- "Finally, local man sees Jesus in a sandwich/floorboard/cat/etc."
than six minutes. But remember, it's the Internet that's killing
- Android continues to get better applications than any other
smartphone platform--in this case, Torrent
Droid is a program that scans the UPC on a movie or CD with the
camera, searches for a torrent on the major trackers, and then sends it
to uTorrent for downloading. More and more, the only thing keeping me
from switching is the mayfly battery life.
- More as events warrant.
Remember Blood? Man, I used to love that game.
- I've been trying to figure out what bothers me about this
TNR article about The Politico. Finally, I figured it out: they're
basically running on the "paved
with good attentions" model that I worried about, driving their
site traffic (and thus their revenue) with appeals to the
least-credible, highest-traffic outlets (Drudge, cable TV) they can
find, thus intentionally altering the news cycle for their own benefit.
It's the kind of vicious, meta-media thinking I would normally reserve
for Bond villains.
- DOSBox has been ported to S60--you've probably seen this around as
"Windows 95 on a Nokia N95," but that's someone taking credit for the
work in this
forum thread. Pretty cool, but I'm holding off on installing it
until it's working off the most recent source version. The author says
it still doesn't play X-Com. I guess theoretically you could
solve the compatibility issues by running the x86 version inside this
one, if you didn't care about frame rates. Or battery life. Or the
- Patrick Meier and Josh Goldstein are offering the full
syllabus/reading material for their course on digital democracy here. There's some really
good reading in there, and it sounds like a great class.
The Kindle 2 got here today! Initial impressions: like the first one, it
looks much better in photographs than in person. I miss the old scroll
wheel, but the new UI is definitely better. The screen is noticeably
sharper, and I feel like it's a little faster, but that could just be
the "new gadget" halo effect. More details in a few days.
- Over on Making Light, Abi Sutherland discovers the reason why the
Internet's zombie obsession refuses to die: zombies
- Since I picked up A Force More Powerful last week, I've also
been thinking about Troy's
review commentary (the review itself is, sadly, lost to a garbled
content management system). It is a shame, as he notes, that the title
got so little attention. I'm still trying to get a grip on it, frankly,
and probably need to play a bit more before I make up my mind. It seems
- Appfrica, the blog for a tech training and start-up incubation firm
in Uganda, had an post the other day on the not-so-inclusive web and
network failure. I thought it was particularly interesting, since I
had just finished looking for more African blogs to read, and had found
that a lot of the people writing on development tech seem to be, even in
Africa, white males. The network effects tend toward homogeneity.
- Another interesting post from Appfrica, which really is a great
blog: Bit Torrent in
- Justin at Nostalgia for the Future used my January Round Table post
as the basis for this month's challenge. His mutation of
Iron Council: The Game retains the theme of revolutionary
politics, but changes the rules to fit new, historical settings. It's
very cool to see the idea continue this way (hey! you could make an
Otpor board game!), and a great reminder that I need to get my own
reinterpretation post in for this month.
- Whenever things get a little slow at work, I find myself messing
with the CSS here, aided by the addictive power of Firebug. At this
point, I'm working by two rules that I've distilled from interactions
with better designers: 1) use skinny lines, and 2) unless you have a
good reason, keep colors desaturated. Slowly but surely, I think I'm
reaching a design that could be safely classified as "not eye-bleedingly
hideous." Aim high, I always say.
In these troubled economic times, only lists of random novelties can
- Posted without comment: Congressional
Quarterly up for sale.
- Philosecurity has
an interview with the guy who coded the invasive adware for Direct
Revenue. First question: "You wrote adware. You bastard." Actually
includes an interesting confession of how, lobster-like, he was
gradually eased into increasingly unethical practices. He retains a
surprising amount of faith in mankind for someone who effectively wrote
rootkits to sell ads.
- English Russia has become
one of the more interesting items in my RSS reader. I really like their
recent post on "moon
currency" that some Russian photoshoppers invented.
- Speaking of foreign bloggers: while I was adding a lot of
development tech writers to my feed, I noticed that relatively few of
them were native Africans--there's nothing necessarily wrong with that,
but I felt like it would be nice to have a more diverse viewpoint, so
I've been looking for good, accessible African bloggers. One of my
favorites so far is What An African Woman
Thinks, which is based in Kenya and is very funny. I particularly
liked her inauguration
- I just can't quit you, OLPC: Cory Doctorow defends
the program in the Guardian, including a few shots at the
development-via-mobile model. He has a point about making sure that
phone networks and technology are open to innovation, but the rest of it
is typically overcooked. Here's the money quote: "Poverty and its
associated problems - hunger, poor health, lack of education and
disenfranchisement - are fundamentally information problems."
Fundamentally? Seriously? Cory, with all due respect, people aren't
starving to death because they can't get to Wikipedia. There's no magic
bullet (or, in Doctorow's laughable phrase, "pedagogical and development
wonder-boxes") for poverty, which is one of the key reasons for the
OLPC's failure. Why is that so hard to understand?
- Also in development: author William Easterly has begun a blog,
kicking it off with a great post about the
Davos "Refugee Run": an event that invites participants at the World
Economic Forum to "EXPERIENCE LIFE AS A REFUGEE IN DAVOS!" That's right:
poverty tourism fused with a team-building exercise.
- From Matt
Stevens, Bill Bailey plays
the Doctor Who theme as Belgian club jazz.
- I've started playing Disgaea DS. I have no idea what
in the world is going on with this game.