- Xerox PARC turns 40, The Register
- Scribd quietly moves users docs behind a paywall
Mike Masnick at Techdirt shares the realization by law professor Eric Goldman of this little publicized change. This action by the document sharing service defies reason. Goldman articulates how undoubtedly most of the users caught by this change must feel, used and trapped. Once again, this isn’t an issue with open or closed but moving from one to the other after a bargain was offered and a promise made. Even a much more clear shift would have been more tenable, if almost as unpalatable.
- Is Facebook turning on online activists it used to support?, ReadWriteWeb
- An open source, low bandwidth voice codec
Slashdot points to a project whose main developer also worked on the Speex codec, another effort tailored to efficient coding of just voice. Mainly Codec2 looks to be focused on replacing a current, proprietary codec used in amateur radio but its capabilities are compelling, almost 4 seconds of clear speech in just over 1 kilobyte. It would be nice of some of the unencumbered ideas might find application in high quality voice encoding, too, perhaps to help fuel an open alternative to Skype with similar sound quality. Of course, that’s just the podcaster in me thinking out loud.
- Mozilla joins Open Invention Network as licensee
- Wendy Seltzer discusses new IP enforcement bill
In this post on the Freedom to Tinker blog, Seltzer places the bill firmly in the context of piracy as a legal pretext for censorship. I didn’t touch on the issue of potential abuses but the point dovetails with what I explained yesterday about lowering friction. It simply becomes too easy to press a claim of infringement, legitimate or not, for the correct purpose or some lateral one such as suppressing dissenting speech.
- EP votes on controversial anti-piracy report, TorrentFreak
- Bill Tracker launched for legislation in the UK, BoingBoing
- Newton on an iPad
Ht @stephenjayl. The link, which I also saw on Hacker News, is to a write up on the latest fun with a pre-existing project, Einstein, that runs Newton OS on modern hardware via emulation. Earlier this month, the code was ported to iOS and the poster has embedded a video of it running on his iPad. I only ever had one on loan and enjoyed using it. My enjoyment of nostalgic computing and specifically the MessagePad overrides my current irritation with Apple enough that if I had a compatible device, I might try running this.
- Google Voice app approved in Apple’s app store
As Slashdot explains, it isn’t the first app that was infamously approved, rejected, and then removed from the store. However, Google Voice Mobile is apparently in the process of being re-submitted and re-considered. As with the changes in Apple’s developer agreement, this signals a softening of policies, most likely because of complaints resulting in FTC scrutiny.
- Modders bring emulation, homebrew games to PS3, Slashdot
- Swedish Pirate Party fails to retain seat in parliament, The Register
- Return to Castle Wolfenstein source code released, Slashdot
- iPhone app piracy tool, source code up for sale, ReadWriteWeb
- PostgreSQL 9.0 released
The H has the new features in this release that has been backing for a while. One of the most interesting is replication. It answers my questions, as a long time user of the database server, on how the feature works. It is targeted at hot standby, easing the replication of the write ahead log, so it is distinct from the kind of replication performed by newer, post-relational databases.
- Europe proposes international internet treaty, Slashdot
- Diaspora code fails to pass muster on security
On one hand, what The Register explains based on early analysis is hardly surprising. This code didn’t exist just a few months ago and it is clearly advertised as pre-alpha quality code. On the other hand, when will new projects really take to heart that security has to be a guiding principle from the first line of code write throughout the entire life of a project. On the gripping hand, a poor early impression of Diaspora’s quality isn’t going to help it compare favorably to Facebook which is gradually improving despite some notable gaffes.
- Dark patterns, recognizable techniques of scamming, exploits, BoingBoing
Via Hacker News, this not only tickles my sense of the hackish but is also a fitting tribute to the 25th anniversary of this particular flavor of assembly. Leo Laporte has a nice write up of 6502 and this special occasion.
- Massive loophole that allows tracking cookies in IE even when expressly disabled, New York Times
- Significance of European warez raids, Torrentfreak
- Ten things to look for in an anti-circumvention tool, Tor
Apologies for the paucity of posts today. I am feeling brain drain from a technical presentation at the $employer today. And my mind is still spinning on re-working my audio workflow under Linux now that my mixer is working.
- FSF calls on government to stop pushing Adobe Reader, The Register
- Mozilla slips in a stability beta, re-ordering betas slightly, http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/09/15/moz_suspends_firefox_updates/
- Humorous how-to on reading a patent, BoingBoing
- Babbage’s debugger
Via Hacker news, this blog post summarizes a paper the grandfather of computing wrote in contemplating the problems troubleshooting his early designs for purely mechanical computers. Despite its similarities to a sequence diagram, it is perhaps akin to the sort of mental contortions early coders went through in converting machine code to binary, as Babbage’s notion and examples deal with the lowest level of his proposed machinery.
David Pescovitz at BoingBoing points to some research at Case Western Reserve University that at first sounds like the ultimate homage to Babbage’s early mechanical computer. As he explains the project was funded by DARPA which is interested in components that would be much more reliable in high heat environments like inside a jet or rocket engine.
In a transistor, the voltage applied to one of the terminals, the gate, determines whether a current flows through it. But above 250 °C, the device becomes so awash with thermally generated electrons – even when it is supposedly off – that the voltage leaks through the gate to render the device useless. Even silicon carbide, the semiconductor material hardiest against heat, doesn’t remedy the situation.
The nanoscale levers that make the connection necessary for the inverter to function operate via electrostatic attraction when a current is applied, so are not purely mechanical. They are, however, resistant to temperatures in excess of five hundred degrees Celsius. Work remains, however, before practical application as some of the levers have melted or snapped after two billion cycles for reasons that remain unclear to the researchers.
I am usually very critical of the blithe application of the steampunk label. In this case, I think it resonates with the lateral thinking. Te-Hao Lee and his team re-visited concepts that pre-date modern electronics and effectively carried them forward, like retro futurism realized, to find benefits that complement the computing machinery that so successfully supplanted Babbage’s original designs.
- Google’s Schmidt stirs the online privacy pot again
Slashdot links to coverage of Schmidt’s speech at the Techonomy event currently going on. The remark in question was specifically about anonymity and resonates with Scott McNealy’s famous quit about getting over the end of privacy. The THINQ article is a bit frustrating, I suspect there is context missing as the rest of the speech discusses data, its volume and the sort of inductive leaps that will come with accelerating collection and analysis.
- EFF files a brief against expanding a CFAA claim from a misdemeanor to a felony
- Massive censorship of Digg uncovered
Via NewsTrust. This is another reason to avoid purely mechanized curation sites, one of the few recent points Jaron Lanier has made with which I whole heartedly agree.
- Visualization of twenty-five years of AmigaOS source code check-ins
- Court rejects warrant-less GPS tracking
- Samsung, Toshiba accused of price fixing LCD screens
I enjoyed the original three volumes of Ed Piskor’s well researched and lovingly crafted graphic novel, Wizzywig. When I read a few months ago that instead of producing the conclusion as originally planned, Piskor was going to re-work those volumes improving the art and story telling then release everything as a single printed book, I was far from dismayed. I very much respect the courage it took for him to respond to constructive criticism in such a positive way. I’ll happily add the completed story to my book shelf next to the original version.
As part of the re-work, Ed has been posting a couple of the updated pages a week as a web comic. That’s a very savvy move as he’s more likely to attract new readers and hence potential buyers for the final book when its complete. He also just collected the first quarter of the story into a convenient download, in either CBR or PDF version. I think that is another clever move, giving potential readers more ways to enjoy the work how they want and hopefully then follow along for the rest of the story as he re-vamps and finishes it. I am especially pleased that both the new web site for the pages as web comic and the collected first chapter are now under a Creative Commons license enabling fans, like me, to more easily share Ed’s work.
Oh, and if you are curious about Ed, he’s posted a ton of video material lately that informed Wizzywig and his talk from HOPE about his experience working on the book. I am also planning on interviewing him early in September as he’ll be in town for the Small Press Expo in Bethesda, MD.
Chapter 1 is Complete, Wizzywig Comics by Ed Piskor
This article is well worth the read. I have been down on Apple quite a bit recently. The story here involves Donald Knuth’s admiration of the early Mac program as the impetus. It harkens back to some of the original developers of the software of the first Macintosh and the sort of coding required to do something so clearly useful with so few hardware resources. It is a solid reminder that even for a company that is beholden only to its bottom line, attitudes and values change over time, for both better and worse.
I am also drawn to the archaeological and historical aspects of the efforts needed to liberate the code. It is fortunate that a network enabled Lisa was ultimately found to read the floppies the original author, Bill Atkinson, was finally able to unearth. It is a matter of luck–I wonder how much software of this vintage and early has been resigned to the dust bin of history for want of even an emulator, let alone original hardware.
This is news cast 218, an episode of The Command Line Podcast.
In the intro, thanks to new donor, Scott, and a request that existing donor Ryan contact me so I can send him his merit badge. Also, there will be new feature cast this week. I need to catch up on writing features for the show and I will be attending two events in DC this week: What Does Light Taste Like and Decoding Digital Activism.
This week’s security alerts are researchers form collective in response to Microsoft’s dismissal of a security concern and REMnux, a linux distro designed for reverse engineering malware.
In this week’s news new quantum states could lead to new approaches to quantum computing, the Apache web server conquers the world, another constructive criticism of transparency, and the NSA is looking to implement domestic surveillance of our infrastructure though they are quick to deny any active monitoring.
Following up this week, two UK ISPs are taking the Digital Economy Act to High Court.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.
- Origin of the HTML blink tag
Via Hacker News, I love that this ties back to Lynx, a text based browser I still use from time to time. It is also an excellent example of the odd thought process that often occurs to hackers. It also makes sense that the implementation was original an easter egg, the intent wasn’t to unleash untold eyestrain on the web but have a bit of a laugh. Funny how these unintended consequences arise.
- Senator uses copyright to block opponent’s use of her old web site
I am reading Netanel’s “Copyright’s Paradox” right now which is all about the fraught tension between free speech and copyright. Slashdot is one of many sources picking this story up today. It may be my current reading material speaking, but this seems like a very clear case of using copyright as a form of prior restraint, not having anything to do with its proper role as the “engine of free expression”.
- Near perfect 3D information storage, in the lab
Technology Review describes a system for reading and storing information that really does sound rather science fictional. A single bit encoded on a single molecule would seem to be pretty close to perfect density. Initially it is surprising that several developments here come from biography but then you have to wonder if related techniques operate or are instrumental to information processing in living systems.
- Open data analysis framework in the cloud
- Two Turkeys in conflict over Internet blocking
- Army will press charges against alleged WikiLeaks source
- Working towards a standardized power brick for laptops
- Seizure of DNS names of pirate sites by US fails