Ramblings & ephemera

Why Picasso charged a million dollars

Image via Wikipedia From Josh Olson’s “I Will Not Read Your Fucking Script” (The Village Voice: 9 September 2009): There’s a great story about Pablo Picasso. Some guy told Picasso he’d pay him to draw a picture on a napkin. Picasso whipped out a pen and banged out a sketch, handed it to the guy, […]

Apple’s role in technology

Image via CrunchBase From Doc Searls’s “The Most Personal Device” (Linux Journal: 1 March 2009): My friend Keith Hopper made an interesting observation recently. He said one of Apple’s roles in the world is finding categories where progress is logjammed, and opening things up by coming out with a single solution that takes care of […]

What Google’s book settlement means

Image via Wikipedia From Robert Darnton’s “Google & the Future of Books” (The New York Review of Books: 12 February 2009): As the Enlightenment faded in the early nineteenth century, professionalization set in. You can follow the process by comparing the Encyclopédie of Diderot, which organized knowledge into an organic whole dominated by the faculty […]

You need to know if your product is a luxury or a premium

From Seth Godin’s “Luxury vs. premium” (Seth Godin’s Blog: 17 May 2009): Luxury goods are needlessly expensive. By needlessly, I mean that the price is not related to performance. The price is related to scarcity, brand and storytelling. Luxury goods are organized waste. … That doesn’t mean they are senseless expenditures. Sending a signal is […]

Stolen credit card data is cheaper than ever in the Underground

From Brian Krebs’ “Glut of Stolen Banking Data Trims Profits for Thieves” (The Washington Post: 15 April 2009): A massive glut in the number of credit and debit cards stolen in data breaches at financial institutions last year has flooded criminal underground markets that trade in this material, driving prices for the illicit goods to […]

Storm made $7000 each day from spam

From Bruce Schneier’s “The Economics of Spam” (Crypto-Gram: 15 November 2008): Researchers infiltrated the Storm worm and monitored its doings. “After 26 days, and almost 350 million e-mail messages, only 28 sales resulted — a conversion rate of well under 0.00001%. Of these, all but one were for male-enhancement products and the average purchase price […]

Famous “Laws” of Business & Technology

These come from a variety of sources; just Google the law to find out more about it. Parkinson’s Law “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” Source: Cyril Northcote Parkinson in The Economist (1955) The Peter Principle “In a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence.” […]

Small charges on your credit card – why?

photo credit: Andres Rueda From Brian Kreb’s “An Odyssey of Fraud” (The Washington Post: 17 June 2009): Andy Kordopatis is the proprietor of Odyssey Bar, a modest watering hole in Pocatello, Idaho, a few blocks away from Idaho State University. Most of his customers pay for their drinks with cash, but about three times a […]

Mine fires that burn for 400 years

photo credit: C. Young Photography From Joshua Foer’s “Giant Burning Holes of the World” (Boing Boing: 16 June 2009): … these sorts of mine fires can stay lit for a very long time. One burned in the city of Zwickau, Germany from 1476 to 1860. Another coal fire in Germany, at a place called Brennender […]

The limitations of Windows 7 on netbooks

From Farhad Manjoo’s “I, for One, Welcome Our New Android Overlords” (Slate: 5 June 2008): Microsoft promises that Windows 7 will be able to run on netbooks, but it has announced a risky strategy to squeeze profits from these machines. The company plans to cripple the cheapest versions of the new OS in order to […]

Steve Jobs on mediocrity & market share

From Steven Levy’s “OK, Mac, Make a Wish: Apple’s ‘computer for the rest of us’ is, insanely, 20” (Newsweek: 2 February 2004): If that’s so, then why is the Mac market share, even after Apple’s recent revival, sputtering at a measly 5 percent? Jobs has a theory about that, too. Once a company devises a […]

German twins commit the perfect crime

From “Twins Suspected in Spectacular Jewelry Heist Set Free” (Spiegel Online International: 19 March 2009): Saved by their indistinguishable DNA, identical twins suspected in a massive jewelry heist have been set free. Neither could be exclusively linked to the DNA evidence. German police say at least one of the identical twin brothers Hassan and Abbas […]

Criminal goods & service sold on the black market

From Ellen Messmer’s “Symantec takes cybercrime snapshot with ‘Underground Economy’ report” (Network World: 24 November 2008): The “Underground Economy” report [from Symantec] contains a snapshot of online criminal activity observed from July 2007 to June 2008 by a Symantec team monitoring activities in Internet Relay Chat (IRC) and Web-based forums where stolen goods are advertised. […]

Another huge botnet

From Kelly Jackson Higgins’ “Researchers Find Massive Botnet On Nearly 2 Million Infected Consumer, Business, Government PCs” (Dark Reading: 22 April 2009): Researchers have discovered a major botnet operating out of the Ukraine that has infected 1.9 million machines, including large corporate and government PCs mainly in the U.S. The botnet, which appears to be […]

How right-wing talk radio works

From Dan Shelly’s “Former News Radio Staffer Spills the Beans on How Shock Jocks Inspire Hatred and Anger” (AlterNet: 17 November 2008): To begin with, talk show hosts such as Charlie Sykes – one of the best in the business – are popular and powerful because they appeal to a segment of the population that […]

Now that the Seattle Post-Intelligencer has switched to the Web …

From William Yardley and Richard Pérez-Peña’s “Seattle Paper Shifts Entirely to the Web” (The New York Times: 16 March 2009): The P-I, as it is called, will resemble a local Huffington Post more than a traditional newspaper, with a news staff of about 20 people rather than the 165 it had, and a site with […]

Defining social media, social software, & Web 2.0

From danah boyd’s “Social Media is Here to Stay… Now What?” at the Microsoft Research Tech Fest, Redmond, Washington (danah: 26 February 2009): Social media is the latest buzzword in a long line of buzzwords. It is often used to describe the collection of software that enables individuals and communities to gather, communicate, share, and […]

The cochineal insect’s gift of red

From Allen Abel and Madeleine Czigler’s “Scandal, communism, blood” (National Post: 27 June 2008): The blood-red allure of lipstick is a gift of a parasitic insect that infests cactus plants, principally in Mexico and Peru. It has been known since Aztec and Mayan times that, when boiled, the body of the cochineal insect dissolves into […]

Conficker creating a new gargantuan botneth

From Asavin Wattanajantra’s “Windows worm could create the ‘world’s biggest botnet’” (IT PRO: 19 January 2009): The Downadup or “Conficker” worm has increased to over nine million infections over the weekend – increasing from 2.4 million in a four-day period, according to F-Secure. … The worm has password cracking capabilities, which is often successful because […]

US government makes unsafe RFID-laden passports even less safe through business practices

From Bill Gertz’s “Outsourced passports netting govt. profits, risking national security” (The Washington Times: 26 March 2008): The United States has outsourced the manufacturing of its electronic passports to overseas companies — including one in Thailand that was victimized by Chinese espionage — raising concerns that cost savings are being put ahead of national security, […]