- This exploit isn’t new, but may be the most devilish thing I’ve seen in a couple of years: Using the Unicode “right-to-left override” character in a filename to make a .exe file look like a .pdf, a .jpg, .txt, or anything else. Double-click on that PDF, and you’ll get pwned…because it isn’t a PDF.
- Working 16-hour days and sleeping a couple of hours under your desk may contribute to the high percentage of failures among startups. Basically, people who short on sleep think dumb thoughts and chase dumb ideas. They seem to wear their wilfull sleeplessness like a badge of honor, even as it kills their startups. Or themselves.
- Note the near-obligatory Ekirch reference in the above article. I’ve still not found much evidence for his theory of “divided sleep” outside of his own book, but the guy gets citations all over the place.
- This article on food myths is less interesting than the comments, which generally confirm my conclusion (having seen lots of similar comment sections) that nobody really knows what healthy eating is. (Thanks to Roy Harvey for the link.)
- My own advice runs like this, with no apologies whatsoever to Michael Pollan: Eat food. Not too much. And sometimes plants.
- Much activity in this realm recently. Bruce Baker sends this link from the New York Times . Comments section very similar. The whole field, in fact, is a virtual food fight. Proving you’re right by insulting your opponents is very in right now, especially on Facebook.
- Neil Rest sends a link suggesting that exposure to bright light in the morning lowers BMI. Now, I think BMI itself is bogus–the metric doesn’t differentiate between fat and muscle, sheesh!–but if morning sunlight does indeed goose metabolism, getting out in the sun is a good thing. We should be cautious here: It’s been established that losing sleep does promote weight gain, and it’s mostly night people who lose sleep.
- Name brand diet soda sales are in free-fall. I think that this is less about health and more about cost: People are probably reacting to price hikes from Big Soda over the past couple of years by moving to house brands from Wal-Mart and the major grocery chains.
- House brands are a fascinating business, and there’s very little out there on how this titanic but virtually invisible industry operates. Who makes the Cheerios that aren’t Cheerios?
- Is the Internet taking away religious faith? Hardly. What it’s doing is providing secular religions (like political ideology) to satisfy the tribal hunger of the 50% whose disaffiliation from organized religion can’t be explained in other ways. Tribal ideology is cheap (no churches or clergy to support) and once you’ve given yourself permission to hate others who differ from you, it provides the perfect excuse.
Computers suck. Ask the man who has one. Or seventeen.
You haven’t seen much from me lately because I began the XP rampdown a little too late to be calm and systematic about it. It wasn’t evolution, nor upgrading. It was demolition. I will probably be tinkering with the rubble for a good long while, but the explosions have for the most part occurred where and how I intended them.
Before I get into that, take a look at the photo above. I use the Dell SK-8135 keyboard everywhere I don’t need one of my precious Northgates, and I destroyed one a couple of weeks ago by literally dropping a computer on it. (I don’t know if the SX270 got hurt. It’s now in somebody’s recycle pile, and will not trouble this world again.) That left me with no spares, so I ordered a couple of used ones from a surplus house. Both arrived the other day…with logins and passwords taped to their undersides. Heartbleed? We don’t need no steeking Heartbleed…
So we return to the XP crater. The smoke is clearing. Both of Carol’s machines are now used but spotless Optiplex 780s running Win7. My GX620 USFF upgraded to Win7 without a whole lot of argument. My quadcore now has a newer and much larger SSD, plus a new card reader and four new USB ports on the front panel. My new Dell e6400 laptop was a Win7 slab from the outset. I got rid of four SX270s, plus a couple of old Pentium 3 mini-towers that followed me home years ago and refused to leave. I was about to recycle my dead 2001 Thinkpad X21, then plugged it in, scratched my chin, shoved the hard disk solidly into its slot, and boom! Windows 2000 said hi to me for the first time since early 2005. The X21 remains my favorite laptop of all time. Still not sure what to do about that.
There were driver problems, not that that came as a complete surprise. Both my HP 5370C flatbed scanner and my OpticBook flatbed edge scanner came with drivers that refused to install. (Interestingly, my even older HP PhotoSmart S20 slide scanner installed without any grumbling.) HP’s 5370C driver was an abomination even when it was new. The 5370C is a freaking scanner, for cripe’s sake. Why does it need twenty-five assorted DLLs, OCXs, and other dubious squidlies in order to function? Well, I’m in the thick of scanning a lot of paper records for offsite storage, and I needed that scanner bad. What I ended up doing turned out to be a bit of a wonder: I bought the Pro version of VueScan. It rankled me a little at first to have to spend $80 to reclaim a scanner I paid for twelve years ago. That said, what VueScan gave me was marvelous: A common UI for every scanner in the house. (VueScan supports the S20 as well.) The product is well worth the money. It comes with a reasonably literate 111-page user guide, and there’s a book about it too. The book’s on order, and so far I’ve been able to find my way around by (gasp) reading the manual, with less head-banging than I expected. The list of scanners supported by VueScan is boggling. If I ever need to get another scanner, I won’t have to screw with psychotic vendor drivers, nor learn any needlessly different vendor UIs.
Win a program, lose a program. I have a little utility called Jasc Image Commander that’s been with me since the midlate 90s. All I use it for is to crop, resize, rotate, and adjust color on pictures for Contra. Alas, Win7 will have no part of it. Bummer. I installed FastStone and IrfanView and am trying to decide which to keep. Both are more complex than I need, but I’ve used them both before and the jump won’t be too traumatic. So far, IrfanView has the edge.
Win7 itself wasn’t that big a deal. I still have a couple of head-scratchers on the list. The e6400 simply will not join my homegroup. I’ll come back to that once I study up a little on homegroups. I have a weird impression that Win7 is dropping keystrokes on me when I type quickly–and as most of my friends are aware, I type very quickly. This may in part be due to the PS/2-USB keyboard converter that allows me to use a 1991 Northgate on a machine without a PS/2 keyboard connector. Don’t know. Will continue to research it.
I may put XP in a VM in case I need it for something. I’m also keeping one XP-based SX270, not for the sake of XP but because it’s the only machine in the house that can read floppies and Zip disks. Who still has floppies and Zip disks? I do. And they wander in sometimes carrying interesting things.
Still, for the most part, it’s done. Sure, I should have begun sooner. Yeah, I’ll miss XP a little. I won’t miss the boxloads of old hardware that the switchover finally motivated me to dump. And boy, am I looking forward to moving on to more entertaining projects than this!
- Hats off to T. C. Chua, who figured out how to make Zoundry Raven work with IE9+. Raven uses IE’s WYSIWYG editor, and changes made to the editor with IE9 breaks the program completely. Zoundry is open-source and hasn’t been updated since 2008. Mr. Chua traced through the Python code, found the problem, fixed it, and built an .EXE out of the Python code. He’s made it available here. I’ve used Raven to edit and post Contra entries since 2008, and didn’t feel like chasing down some new blog editor now that I’ve moved to Win7. Bravo!
- Vegetarian diets are not as healthy as we’ve been led to believe. Make sure you scroll down to Table 3 and get a look at the figures for cancer. Now, some thrive on vegetarian diets and many don’t. What the research doesn’t appear to take into account is “lifestyle panic,” which is severe anxiety that some (usually minor) aspect of your life will kill you. If worry about your diet turns your life into a cortisol thrill ride, your diet won’t help you, and it certainly won’t be what killed you.
- Mars reaches opposition on April 8, and the best day for observing it is April 14. Actually, any time within a week or two of those dates will provide a pretty good show, especially if you have even a smallish telescope. Such opportunities happen roughly every two years, so catch it now or wait until 2016!
- Wearable computing has never really set the world on fire, and here’s a reasonably honest assessment as to why. I already have one computer in my pocket, and that’s plenty.
- A GoPro-packing RC flying wing. Makes kites look kind of lame, but lame is what I have on hand, and lame is how I’m going to fly my GoPro this spring. If we ever get a spring. (6″ of sloppy stuff this morning; would have been 15″ had it been ten degrees colder.)
- Cores (the other kind of cores) like dust.
- My instance of the Gallery photo server is pretty much dead, and I’ve begun migrating photos to Flickr. Here’s my photostream link, and my three sets so far. I’m not yet an ace at the system by any means, but with some practice I’ll get everything interesting up there.
- Ok. Precision marshmallow toasting is cool. Just don’t get nuts and melt the mallow into the machinery.
- I study climate, in general to support a fiction concept I’m working on, but I don’t talk about it here because I don’t like to trigger the sort of slobbering tribal hatred that any such discussion invariably involves. This is an interesting (if depressing) psychological phenomenon all by itself. (Thanks to Trevor Thompkins for the link.)
- This turned up on April 1, but like all the best hoaxes, it is nowhere clear that it’s actually a hoax. So is it? (Thanks to Esther Schindler for the link.)
- The world’s smallest volcano was maybe just a little easier to suss out…
Pong, everybody. Relax. I’m still here. And I’m very glad to say that I’m probably 1200 words from the end of my current book project. If it weren’t for some home repairs and carpet cleaning I’d be done by now, and I expect to be done by EOD Friday. The publisher is still reluctant to say much about the book, for reasons I still don’t understand. I’m puzzled, but in publishing as in so many other realms, those who write the checks make the rules.
Much to do after the last word rattles out of the keyboard. Getting rid of XP is high on the list, given our April 8 deadline. This afternoon I ordered a refurbed Win7 laptop, a Dell e6400. How could such an old laptop be useful to me? Easy: I don’t do much on laptops. It’s a travel computer, for Web, email, and some light word processing–like writing Contra entries on the road. It cost me $240 postpaid, as they used to say. I’ve had very good luck with used Dell machines in the last ten years. Every machine in the house but my quadcore is a Dell refurb. I already have two Win7 Dell 780 USFFs for upstairs, and installed Win7 on my lab machine over a year ago. That leaves the laptop and the quad, basically, and if I didn’t need to use the quad to finish this book, the quad would be running Win7 by now as well.
The SX270s are now all bookends. They make very nice bookends.
Oh, and the computer junk pile is getting impressive.
The list of things to do Post Book is long. We need to replace our driveway slab, which is descending into rubble. Ditto the garage slab, the replacement of which will require putting my lathe, big drill press, tooling, and metal stock in storage somewhere. There’s a lesson here: Soil compaction matters. We spent thirty grand mudjacking the lower level, recarpeting, and repainting. Settling soil pulled our gas meter down so far the pipe cracked and damned near blew us over the top of Cheyenne Mountain. I made a number of mistakes having this house built, and I will never make those mistakes again.
Then there’s 3D. I drew 81 figures by hand for this book project, all of them in Visio. (I actually drew 83, but two of them won’t be used.) I’m very good at Visio. However, Visio is inextricably a 2D CAD program, and every time I’ve tried to use it for 3D, it makes me nuts. I took a lot of drafting and engineering graphics when I was in school and know how to do it. (Sure, it was with a T-square. Ya gotta problem widdat?) I need to be able to draw things in 3D. I downloaded the free version of Sketchup after Google bought it in 2006, but was too busy back then to spend much time with it. I see that Google sold it a year or two ago, and the new owners are positioning it as an architectural CAD system. That’s fine, since I know from earlier tests that Sketchup can do telescope parts, and if it can also design me an observatory, I’m good with that. I need somewhere to put an observatory, obviously, but that’s a separate challenge. So learning Sketchup is another priority.
Fiction, too. I’m going to try finishing Old Catholics. If that doesn’t work, I’ll start The Everything Machine, complete with a 3D scale drawing of a thingmaker, courtesy Sketchup. (I tried that in Visio years ago. Uggh.)
I will also be doing some intensive research on Oscar Wilde, for reasons that only a few people in my inner circle understand.
As I always say, Boredom is a choice. I may be tired, but I am not bored. And in a few days, I suspect I will no longer be tired. Bring it on!
- Jim Strickland found a site with some of the guldurndest CP/M-80 programming tools from the 80s and maybe earlier. Most of them aren’t familiar to me, and I don’t have a machine to run them on anymore. However, if you want any of the four releases of JRT Pascal, or Turbo Modula-2 for CP/M, well, dinner is served.
- And for dessert, here’s the x86 DOS collection, including Turbo Pascal 3.02, Turbo C 2.01, and all of the original IBM PC slipcase compilers that I’ve ever seen.
- Very nice if not especially new intro to Flash and SSDs, from AnandTech.
- Another, more recent piece on Flash over there. Remember that it’s a multiparter; read ‘em all.
- Pete Albrecht sends word of a Death Star ball camera trending on IndieGogo right now. It’s a little like kite aerial photography without the kite.
- Amtrak has some new muscle: 8600 horses’ worth. I used to take Amtrak between Baltimore and NYC regularly when I worked for Ziff-Davis, and it was a wonderful thing. Now if I could only get a damned train between here and Denver… (Thanks to Bruce Baker for the link.)
- Wonderful volcano photo over at Wired, which again leads me to wonder what the trends are in volcanic activity over the past century or two. Are there really more eruptions, or are we just hearing more about the ones that happen? If you’ve ever seen a chart somewhere, please share.
- Pertinent to my last Odd Lots: The correct term is “assortative,” according to linguist Michael Covington. “Preventive” and “assortative” are derived from the 4th principal parts of the Latin verbs “preventus” and “assortatus.” That’s actually more interesting, in a way, than assortative mating itself.
- The Great Lakes are now 88% covered in ice. We may not top the 1994 level (94%) nor 1979 (95%) this year, but unless things get a helluva lot warmer out east in the next month or so, we’re going to give them a very good run.
- Great perky guitar piece by Eric Johnson in the $1.29 MP3 pile over at Amazon.
- Also, my fourth favorite pop song evah, for only a buck.
- If you &*!## love science enough to believe the &*!## data, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that sugar will &*!## kill you. (Thanks to my very brilliant wife for the link.)
- The core of loving science, by the way, is questioning authority–and demanding that scientific authority be sane, calm, utterly honest, and absolutely without anger. (And so–need I say?–should the questioners.)
- Either red wine, aspirin, or both could help us beat certain types of cancer. The key may be not too much wine, and not too much aspirin.
- If this Onion piece makes you twitch even a little, well, good.
- There’s lots more Neanderthal in us than we previously thought. My knobby Neanderthal head is poking me in my conical ribcage…
- Google just sold Motorola to Lenovo, but will be keeping the Motorola skunkworks.
- Saturation radio advertising in the early 70s has left their jingle stuck in the far corners of my head, but I never actually tasted Zapple cinnamon-apple wine. Weird wines fascinate me (I stop well short of baby mice wine, thanks) and that sounds better than some of the gimmick wines I’ve tried in my life.
- However, I did try Mateus and Lancers back in the day, both of which were handed out to all passengers on those noisy old Fokkers I used to ride between Chicago and Rochester MN when Carol was in grad school. Both still exist. I wonder if I have the will to buy one of each and see if those old golden memories were about the wine or the woman? (Three guesses. None of them count.)
- So is it “assortive” mating, or “assortative” mating? I see both spellings online, but having internalized “preventive” I’m loath to endorse”assortative.”
- A heads-up on something I’m investigating when time allows: Running the Atlantis word processor on Windows 7 fails the first time, but launches the Windows 7 Game Explorer module gameux.dll, which for some reason causes rundll32.exe to use about 50% of my CPU cycles thereafter. This problem arises with games, but Atlantis is not a game. The machine does not have a network connection, which seems key. Still poking at it, but if you’ve seen this problem and fixed it, do let me know how. I’m starting to think that there’s a game called “Atlantis” somewhere and that Game Explorer is looking for a network connection to “do something.” If there’s a way to carve Game Explorer out of Win7 without breaking anything else, that would be not only useful, but damned useful.
- People in Colorado are already skinnier than people in other states. They may be about to become skinnier yet.
- Another revelation from the Ministry of the Painfully Obvious: Political discussions damage Facebook relationships. Since a huge fraction of Facebook posts seem to be hatehurling anyway, this should surprise no one.
- Perhaps a new way to look at the dichotomy: Weather is anecdotes. Climate is data.
Last night I turned in my chapter on programming–just think, all of software development summarized in 55 book pages!–and am gathering my thoughts on mass storage for the chapter I’ll begin later today or tomorrow. Again, if you haven’t seen me much lately that’s the reason.
Each of my chapters has begun with a historical perspective on that chapter’s computer technology topic. This has brought lots of things to mind that I haven’t thought about in years, like IBM cards, FORTRAN, punched tape, and Bernoulli Boxes. I still have the card deck from the first program I ever wrote, in the spring of 1970. (See above.) I did some work with paper tape as well in my COSMAC days, but whatever tape I kept has been hiding well. I’d love to get a scan of a length of ASR-33 style punched tape, or a length (8″ or so) of the tape itself to scan here. Doesn’t matter what’s on it as long as it’s not greasy or physically damaged. Contact me if you have some you could spare, or least scan.
Time marches on. I have a 10MB Bernoulli Box cafeteria tray cartridge–probably in a box somewhere with the paper tape–and an original 1983 Microsoft Mouse. Obsolescence doesn’t bother me as long as I can keep functionality. I had to buy a copy of Office 2007 to keep writing commercially, since Word 2000 doesn’t understand .docx files, and Atlantis doesn’t do annotation. Yup, time marches on.
It does. Right now we’re looking down the throat of something a little unprecedented: On April 9, Microsoft turns off security updates for Windows XP.Most of my nontechnical friends seem unaware of this, and my nerd friends have long since moved on to Win7 or 8. I’m in the middle: I’ve been using Win7 on my GX620 for about a year, and have a new Win7 Optiplex 780 on the shelf ready to be populated and configured when time allows. (I’ve done almost nothing but this book for what seems like–hell, has been!–months.) I’m about to take my quadcore in for a new sled-mounted SSD and Windows 7 Pro. The 780 will become Carol’s office machine. I will keep an SX270 XP machine basically forever, because it has pop-in drives for both 3.5″ floppies and Zip cartridges, some of which are piled in odd boxes here for no compelling reason other than they’re paid for. (Yes, most of them have probably gone to bitrot by now.) However, it will no longer be on my network, and will be powered up only as needed.
Here’s an interesting wrinkle that few people seem aware of: Win7 Professional comes with a special-purpose copy of VirtualPC, with a VM containing an instance of XP. (Win7 home does not.) I’m thinking that if I don’t enable the Ethernet connection to the XP VM, it doesn’t matter whether the instance gets security updates or not. I have some stuff here that won’t run on Win8, and possibly not on Win7 either. I can install it on my poor SX270 survivor, of course, but it will be interesting to see what limitations may exist on the XP VM. If something weird turns up in the VM, I can always revert to an archival image.
The real problem with this, of course, is that a lot of nontechnical people are still using ancient machines that won’t run Win7 ever. Only five or six years ago, I still saw Windows 95 on 486 machines owned by older people at my parish. I’ll bet there are plenty of doddering Pentia XP boxes with 512MB of RAM still crunching email and (maybe) Web, along with Office 97. What happens to them? They may well get pwned. On the other hand, I’ve seen several with updates turned off that aren’t pwned. How bad is the problem, really?
I’m sure nobody knows. Sometime this spring we’re going to find out. How many exploits are likely to be left in a 12-year-old codebase? There will be some. Not all exploits are the result of bad coding practices, though I’m sure plenty can be walked back to unbounded string functions in libc, which the C community just can’t seem to give up. XP’s security model is generally lousy, especially for people who don’t understand the implications of what they do, double-especially with Internet-facing apps. That being the case, how far does Microsoft’s responsibility extend? As big as they are, can’t they keep a few security fanatics on staff to fix the exploits that do appear?
I’m thinking that questions like this may soon be asked in the courts of law. We’ll see.
Anyway. I can fix things here, and in extended family. I do worry about nontechnical retirees at our church and elsewhere. When you’re 80, a 12-year-old OS may not seem like any kind of problem, and those on fixed incomes may not feel like $500 for a new box is worthwhile to solve a problem that remains hypothetical. (Hell, my 4Runner is older than XP.) Those of us who remember Y2K hysteria can be forgiven for a strong dose of skepticism. I expect pwnage. There’s pwnage today. The only question is how bad it gets, and how much bad PR it will earn Microsoft. My prediction: If it gets bad enough, and the lawsuits get thick enough, the updates will return.
Pass the popcorn and dig your 3-D glasses out of the drawer. This is gonna be good.
Wow. Somehow it got to be a whole new year when I wasn’t quite looking. I’m not unhappy to be shut of 2013, and as usual, I have high hopes for this year to be better. The last of our parents has been released from her suffering, and while I miss them all (especially my father, who died 36 years ago) my idiosyncratic understanding of Catholic theology suggests that they’re all in better shape than I am right now.
Which isn’t to say I’m in bad shape. I had a couple of health problems this year, but nothing horrible. I’ve been able to get my abdominal fat down to almost nothing, and weigh just eight pounds more than I did when I was 24. It still puzzles me just a bit, but I lost that weight by eating more fat. I’ll tell you with confidence that butter makes almost everything taste better except corn flakes.
I scored an interesting if slightly peculiar writing gig this year. It’s been an immense amount of work, not so much in the writing as in the learning. I’ve never done a book–or part of one–with this broad a scope. I’ve touched on a lot of technologies in my career, but touching isn’t understanding, and understanding is the critical path to explaining. I’ve written code in Python and C and ARMv6 assembly. I practically buried myself in ARM doc for most of two months. That felt good in the way you feel good after walking fifteen miles…once you’ve allowed three or four days for the smoke to clear. I now know a great deal more about virtual memory, cache, and memory management units than I might have just touching on things in my usual fashion. Curiosity is an itch. Autodidaction is a systematic itch. And to be systematic, you need deadlines. Trust me on that.
No, I still can’t tell you about the book. It’s going to be late for reasons that aren’t clear even to me. When the embargo breaks, you’ll hear it whereverthehell you are, whether you have an Internet connection or not.
Every year has some bummers. The ACA did us out of a health insurance plan that we liked, but at least in our case it wasn’t cancelled on the spot. We have some time to figure out where we can get a comparable plan, if one exists. (One may not.) It could end up costing us a quarter of our income or more, and we may lose relationships with physicians we’ve known for ten years. I’ll just be called evil for complaining, so I won’t. Anger is the sign of a weak mind, after all. I think one of my correspondents whose insurance was cancelled without warning summed it up in an interesting way: “I’m not going to get angry. I’m going to get even.”
It’s snowing like hell as I write. I would have posted a photo, but as most of you are staring out the window at snow this week (in some places a great deal of it) I doubt it would have been especially interesting. Besides, a couple of hours ago, I could have just said: Imagine yourself inside a ping-pong ball. Open your eyes. In truth, the weather hasn’t been all that bad. The global climate, in fact, has been remarkably benign considering all the dire predictions of the past ten or twelve years, at least once you look at actual stats and not anecdotes or GIGO models. Science works. Back in 2007, Al Gore himself told us that we would have an ice-free arctic by 2013. (Then again, he also said that a couple of kilometers under our feet it was millions of degrees…talk about global warming!) I love the scientific method. You predict, you test, and then you learn something. Sure, I believe in global warming. I’m still unconvinced that it’s entirely a bad thing. (I remember the ’70s. I also remember Arizona.)
I’ve also been doing some experimental research on the psychology of people who jump up and start frothing at the mouth like maniacs the instant they read something somewhere (anywhere!) that conflicts with their tribe’s narrative. That research is ongoing.
I’ve discovered a lot of good things, albeit small ones: Stilton cheese pairs with Middle Sister Rebel Red. Who knew? Python is much better than I remember it, TCL, alas, much worse. And Tkinter, wow. You’re not going to spin a GUI that fast or that easily in C. Green Mountain Coffee Island Coconut beats all, at least all you can get in a K-cup. Carol and I are dunking good bread in good olive oil again, now that Venice Olive Oil Company has a retail shop in Colorado Springs.
Time to go up and start cooking supper. We’re out of egg nog but my Lionel trains are still running. I don’t care if it looks like a ping-pong ball outside. I have my wife, my dogs, my junkbox, and a head that still works more or less as intended. Happy new year to all. Life is good, and getting better. Trust me on that too.
- I always hate to hand you two Odd Lots in a row, but I’ve been so burned out by the end of the day working on this book that there’s nothing left to craft a coherent essay with. I was going to write something insightful about Prohibition (which was repealed 80 years ago today) but about all I can muster is this: Prohibition was altogether evil and accomplished nothing. It was a cry of rage against Irish and southern European Catholic immigrants, and in one blow created organized crime and birthed a disrespect for the rule of law that afflicts us to this day. Of all the things our government has condoned, only slavery was more evil.
- ARM Holdings offers a free ARM and Thumb-2 instruction set reference in PDF format. I remember when these things folded up to fit in your shirt pocket. Not anymore.
- Somebody figured out how to hack Parrot quadricopters wirelessly, and it was done with a Raspberry Pi.
- Bill Meyer sent me a link to a nice comparison of various small under-$100 boards in the Arduino / Raspberry Pi class. The only serious omission I see are the Beagle boards, including the fascinating BeagleBone Black.
- But never fear: Make did a BBB vs RPi comparison back in August. Best I’ve seen so far. Gizmag’s is older but still worth a quick scan.
- You can evidently find out if your login or logins were stolen in the recent hack of Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo, Adobe, and other sites. Here’s a multi-site lookup.
- Is there any article online about the “divided sleep” concept (our ancestors retired at nightfall, slept for three or four hours, awakened for an hour or two, and then slept again for three hours or so) that does not walk back to Roger Ekirch? I’ve read Ekirch’s book very carefully, and his evidence for this phenomenon is pretty damned slim. Yet…it shows up all over the place.
- Statins may not cause memory loss or confusion. However, their primary mission of reducing cholesterol levels may not do much to prevent heart disease in people who don’t already have it.
- Eau Crappe. Newsweek returns from the death that is the Cloud, and will resume a weekly print edition. Will the magazine be awright, Uncle Lar? Well guldurn, Little Tommy, I sure hope not! (Thanks to Pete Albrecht for the link.)
- There are currently 35 volcanoes erupting around the world. Here’s a great site summarizing where they are and what they’re doing. I’m still curious about what the active volcano trends have been over the past thousand years or so (within the limits of our ability to determine what was blowing up on Kamchatka in the 1300s) and if you’ve seen any trend reports like that, do drop a note.
- That poor llama is finally getting a rest. After fifteen years, AOL is shutting down the Winamp page and ceasing support of the product on December 20. Winamp was the first MP3 player I ever tried, way back in 1998. One of my colleagues had to send me an MP3 to test it with: Rosanne Cash’s “Seven-Year Ache.” The song didn’t impress me, but the concept made me think: This is gonna change a few things in the music business.
I originally thought it was a hoax when I heard about it this past January. It sure sounded like one. But it’s for real: The World Trade Organization has given the otherwise unexceptional Caribbean nation of Antigua permission to sell US copyrighted content, without any payment to copyright owners.
It’s revenge, people. Antigua was making a pretty good living in online casinos until 2001, when the US outlawed online gambling. What was a $2.4B annual business dropped by two thirds. (Apparently, two thirds of the world’s stupidity lies within US borders.) I’d be temped to say that nothing of value was lost, which may have been true unless you were Antigua. So Antigua went to the WTO asking for compensation for the loss. The WTO gave them all American copyrights, free of charge. There’s a $21M cap on the annual take, but as best I can tell, no time limit on the grant. Basically, Antigua can sell anything copyrighted in the US at all.
This is the plot of a comic novel. It reminds me of nothing more than The Mouse That Roared, which was a 1959 sendup of nuclear weapons politics. A US firm creates a clone of the signature wine of the Duchy of Grand Fenwick, which is a nanoscopic country somewhere in Europe, probably bordering San Marino on one side and Liechtenstein on the other. The Duchy goes for the throat and declares war on the US, expecting to lose and make up for lost wine revenues in foreign aid. Instead, the country accidently captures the horrible Q-Bomb from a secret lab (with a bumbling crew of Robin Hoodish bowmen) and the US surrenders.
Except that this time, it’s real. Buried in my notes on possible novels is something I called TC Pirates in Paradise that dates back to 2006. A disgruntled engineer slips something extra into his company’s “smart” wall-wart product: a powerline networking system that sets up a hidden filesharing node every time it’s plugged into the wall. Nobody notices at first. He leaves the company, and nothing happens until a billion file-sharing wall warts have been sold into the wild. Then he reveals the secret, and all hell breaks loose.
Ok, not my best idea, and people would get annoyed at me for making fun of piracy. But man, this could be a marvelous high-tech farce with a title like Pirates of the Retail Channel. The whole business was made possible by a loophole in WTO rules that allows intellectual property to be used in punitive trade settlements. The glass on your irony meter will shatter explosively when you realize that the treaties that allow this are the same treaties that US copyright interests pushed for years ago and occasionally use against other countries. If those guys didn’t know what a “petard” was before, they’re sure as hell reaching for the dictionary now.
Antigua didn’t create its own online casinos. It licensed other people to create them, and took a cut of the profits. One wonders if they’re going to license Pirate Bay clones and do the same thing. Certain issues are unclear, primarily whether they’ll be able to strip DRM. On the other hand, who would stop them? (They could just download pre-stripped copies from Usenet and sell them.) What sort of prices are we going to see? Would they dare to become the Five Below of online commerce? Windows 7 for $5? And how soon before DRM-stripped items would show up on the rest of the pirate ecosystem? Is it any wonder that Adobe is giving up on selling boxed software?
No, I don’t approve. But man, I giggled. Politics is its own punishment, as the US copyright lobby is figuring out about now. If Rockhound57 and HockWards need to flee the country, well, Antigua would be the logical place to go.
Popcorn anybody? Let’s watch.