Ramblings & ephemera

Umberto Eco on books

From Umberto Eco’s “Vegetal and mineral memory: The future of books” (Al-Ahram Weekly: 20—26 November 2003): Libraries, over the centuries, have been the most important way of keeping our collective wisdom. They were and still are a sort of universal brain where we can retrieve what we have forgotten and what we still do not […]

How the Madden NFL videogame was developed

From Patrick Hruby’s “The Franchise: The inside story of how Madden NFL became a video game dynasty” (ESPN: 22 July 2010): 1982 Harvard grad and former Apple employee Trip Hawkins founds video game maker Electronic Arts, in part to create a football game; one year later, the company releases “One-on-One: Dr. J vs. Larry Bird,” […]

The Uncanny Valley, art forgery, & love

photo credit: hans s From Errol Morris’ “Bamboozling Ourselves (Part 2)” (The New York Times: 28 May 2009): [Errol Morris:] The Uncanny Valley is a concept developed by the Japanese robot scientist Masahiro Mori. It concerns the design of humanoid robots. Mori’s theory is relatively simple. We tend to reject robots that look too much […]

A better alternative to text CAPTCHAs

From Rich Gossweiler, Maryam Kamvar, & Shumeet Baluja’s “What’s Up CAPTCHA?: A CAPTCHA Based On Image Orientation” (Google: 20-24 April 2009): There are several classes of images which can be successfully oriented by computers. Some objects, such as faces, cars, pedestrians, sky, grass etc. … Many images, however, are difficult for computers to orient. For […]

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. […]

Crazy anti-terrorism plans that worked

From a Special Operations officer quoted in Tom Ricks’s Inbox (The Washington Post: 5 October 2008): One of the most interesting operations was the laundry mat [sic]. Having lost many troops and civilians to bombings, the Brits decided they needed to determine who was making the bombs and where they were being manufactured. One bright […]

Chemically remove bad memories

From Nicholas Carr’s “Remembering to forget” (Rough Type: 22 October 2008): Slowly but surely, scientists are getting closer to developing a drug that will allow people to eliminate unpleasant memories. The new issue of Neuron features a report from a group of Chinese scientists who were able to use a chemical – the protein alpha-CaM […]

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 […]

Why botnet operators do it: profit, politics, & prestige

From Clive Akass’ “Storm worm ‘making millions a day’” (Personal Computer World: 11 February 2008): The people behind the Storm worm are making millions of pounds a day by using it to generate revenue, according to IBM’s principal web security strategist. Joshua Corman, of IBM Internet Security Systems, said that in the past it had […]

Wikipedia, freedom, & changes in production

From Clay Shirky’s “Old Revolutions, Good; New Revolutions, Bad” (Britannica Blog: 14 June 2007): Gorman’s theory about print – its capabilities ushered in an age very different from manuscript culture — is correct, and the same kind of shift is at work today. As with the transition from manuscripts to print, the new technologies offer […]

An analysis of Google’s technology, 2005

From Stephen E. Arnold’s The Google Legacy: How Google’s Internet Search is Transforming Application Software (Infonortics: September 2005): The figure Google’s Fusion: Hardware and Software Engineering shows that Google’s technology framework has two areas of activity. There is the software engineering effort that focuses on PageRank and other applications. Software engineering, as used here, means […]

A botnet with a contingency plan

From Gregg Keizer’s “Massive botnet returns from the dead, starts spamming” (Computerworld: 26 November 2008): A big spam-spewing botnet shut down two weeks ago has been resurrected, security researchers said today, and is again under the control of criminals. The “Srizbi” botnet returned from the dead late Tuesday, said Fengmin Gong, chief security content officer […]

How Obama raised money in Silicon Valley & using the Net

From Joshua Green’s “The Amazing Money Machine” (The Atlantic: June 2008): That early fund-raiser [in February 2007] and others like it were important to Obama in several respects. As someone attempting to build a campaign on the fly, he needed money to operate. As someone who dared challenge Hillary Clinton, he needed a considerable amount […]

How the settlers changed America’s ecology, radically

From Charles C. Mann’s “America, Found & Lost” (National Geographic: May 2007): It is just possible that John Rolfe was responsible for the worms—specifically the common night crawler and the red marsh worm, creatures that did not exist in the Americas before Columbus. Rolfe was a colonist in Jamestown, Virginia, the first successful English colony […]

If concerts bring money in for the music biz, what happens when concerts get smaller?

From Jillian Cohen’s “The Show Must Go On” (The American: March/April 2008): You can’t steal a concert. You can’t download the band—or the sweaty fans in the front row, or the merch guy, or the sound tech—to your laptop to take with you. Concerts are not like albums—easy to burn, copy, and give to your […]

Details on the Storm & Nugache botnets

From Dennis Fisher’s “Storm, Nugache lead dangerous new botnet barrage” (SearchSecurity.com: 19 December 2007): [Dave Dittrich, a senior security engineer and researcher at the University of Washington in Seattle], one of the top botnet researchers in the world, has been tracking botnets for close to a decade and has seen it all. But this new […]

Do’s and don’ts for open source software development

From Jono DiCarlo’s “Ten Ways to Make More Humane Open Source Software” (5 October 2007): Do Get a Benevolent Dictator Someone who has a vision for the UI. Someone who can and will say “no” to features that don’t fit the vision. Make the Program Usable In Its Default State Don’t rely on configurable behavior. […]

Success of The Shawshank Redemption

From John Swansburg’s “The Shawshank Reputation” (Legal Affairs: March/April 2004): Yet even King didn’t think [The Shawshank Redemption] stood a chance at the box office-and he was right. Though the movie got good reviews, and seven Oscar nominations, Shawshank in its original release grossed only about half of the $35 million it cost to make. […]

More movies made from Stephen King’s books than anyone else

From John Swansburg’s “The Shawshank Reputation” (Legal Affairs: March/April 2004): Fifty-eight movies have been adapted from his writing, not as many as from Dickens, but more than from any other living author.

Failure every 30 years produces better design

From The New York Times‘ “Form Follows Function. Now Go Out and Cut the Grass.“: Failure, [Henry] Petroski shows, works. Or rather, engineers only learn from things that fail: bridges that collapse, software that crashes, spacecraft that explode. Everything that is designed fails, and everything that fails leads to better design. Next time at least […]