Given the abundance of technology making it possible to see where jet planes are, why do we limit ourselves to options that flight crew can disable? Jad Mouawad, et al., at The New York Times: The idea of tracking airplanes in flight or using deployable black boxes that can broadcast their location via satellites has been around for many years and gained attention after an Air France jet crashed in the Atlantic Ocean in 2009; it took investigators two years to locate the black boxes, two miles underwater. But the disappearance of the Malaysian plane and improvements in satellite technology could provide a new impetus to track planes more closely, experts said.
There are legitmate concerns about the expense of new technology, and the fire danger posed by putting electronics aboard that cannot be disabled in an emergency. But there's also clearly a lot of "a captain and his ship" bullshit in this business.
Wink is a new website that reviews one remarkable paper book every weekday. My wife, Carla Sinclair, is the editor. We take photos of the covers and the interior pages of the books to show you why we love them. This week we reviewed books about Chip Kidd’s ingenious book covers, Jill Greenberg's delightful photo portraits of primates, Jimmy Nelson's stunning high-fashion portraits of tribal people in their most distinguished, authentic costumes, Annie Leibovitz's stories behind her best photographs, the world of Game of Thrones in the form of a large pop-up, fold-out map, and Thomas C. Card's photos of exuberantly colorful Japanese street fashion tribes.
Take a look at these books and many others at Wink.
Michael Smith went outside shirtless after being awakened Tuesday morning, yelling at a tree removal company to get off his property. The workers thought they saw a gun in his waistband and called police. Smith, who’d gone back to bed, was awakened again minutes later — this time by Maine State Police at his front door, backed up by a group of troopers with assault rifles in his driveway. They were asking him via a megaphone to come out of his house
Turkish users: you can send Tweets using SMS. Avea and Vodafone text START to 2444. Turkcell text START to 2555.— Policy (@policy) March 20, 2014
Juha sez, "Looks like Turkish prime minister Tayyip Erdogan was serious about blocking Twitter (and possibly other social networks) in Turkey in the run-up to the election. Twitter users in Turkey are able to bypass the block though through SMS, and the whole thing could backfire badly on the government there. That Streisand Effect again."
Erdogan is the thug who ordered the vicious crackdown on the Gezi protests, whose government was subsequently rocked by a high-level, multi-billion-dollar money-laundering and corruption scandal that has played out largely in social media. He told reporters: "We will wipe out all of these [social networks]."
Paging Mr Canute, your tide is coming in.
Twitter is blocked in Turkey. On the streets of Istanbul, the action against censorship is graffiti DNS addresses. pic.twitter.com/XcsfN7lJvS— Utku Can (@utku) March 21, 2014
An iPhone screen shot circulating on Facebook from a Turkcell subscriber purports to show that Twitter has been banned in the country, with an official message saying "the protection measure has been taken for this website".
"The international community can say this, can say that. I don't care at all. Everyone will see how powerful the Republic of Turkey is," Erdogan told supporters.
Turkey cuts off Twitter access ahead of local elections [Juha Saarinen/IT News]
Etsy seller MechWorld makes beautiful, ~$100 junkbots out of miscellaneous hardware. They're extremely poseable, have functional variations (like holding your phone), and there's even a Wall-E. They're pretty heavy -- 2-3lbs -- and ship from Zhuhai, China.
The Sword and Laser (S&L) is a science fiction and fantasy-themed book club podcast hosted by Veronica Belmont and Tom Merritt. The main goal of the club is to build a strong online community of science fiction / fantasy buffs, and to discuss and enjoy books of both genres. Check out previous episodes here.
We evaluate George R. R. Martin's plans to stay ahead of the HBO show, look forward to spaceships returning to SyFy, congratulate Arthur C. Clarke Award finalists and ponder the disgusting need for spit as a payment method in Richard K. Morgan's Altered Carbon.
Read show notes here.
Sword and Laser is not just a podcast; we’ve also been a book club since 2007! Each month we select a science fiction or fantasy book, discuss it during kick-off and wrap-up episodes of the podcast, and continue that discussion with our listeners over on our Goodreads forums. So come read along with us, and even get a chance to ask your questions to the authors themselves!
Since Netflix CEO Reid Hastings published a statement on Net Neutrality and Comcast (whom Netflix has had to bribe in order to secure normal service for its users), Comcast has gone on a charm offensive. The company sent a statement to Consumerist in which it asserts an imaginary history of championing Net Neutrality, a work of Stalin-grade reality-denying fiction that has Consumerist's Chris Morran practically chewing the keyboard in rage:
Comcast’s David Cohen, Exec. VP of Shoving Mergers Down Consumers’ Throats, actually released the following laughable statement to Consumerist and other outlets:
“There has been no company that has had a stronger commitment to openness of the Internet than Comcast. We supported the FCC’s Open Internet rules because they struck the appropriate balance between consumer protection and reasonable network management rights for ISPs. We are now the only ISP in the country that is bound by them.”
W-W-WAIT A MINUTE (Insert sound of record scratching for full effect.)
What Comcast’s Regulator Whisperer fails to mention is that Comcast is only still bound by those Open Internet rules because it’s part of the agreement Comcast made to fool the FCC and Justice Dept. into allowing its merger with NBC Universal.
This is like a paroled convict saying she’s a real homebody without revealing that she’s not allowed to leave her home except for trips to work and to visit her parole officer. Or someone who brags about having a positive impact on the environment by only using public transportation without mentioning that he had his license taken away.
It's great to have Netflix onside for Net Neutrality, now if they only weren't engaged in a war on the open Web and demanding DRM in HTML5.
Not A Joke: Comcast Says No One Is More Dedicated To Net Neutrality Than It Is [Chris Morran/Consumerist]
The Humble Ebook Bundle continues to rock, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for a bundle of great name-your-price ebooks, including Scott Westerfeld's Uglies, Steve Gould's Jumper, and Holly Black's Tithe. Also included in the bundle is an exclusive audiobook of my novel Homeland, read by Wil Wheaton.
I commissioned Wil to read the book -- it was pretty much the only way to get a DRM-free audio edition in the age of Audible -- and while he read, he had a series of conversations with the project's director Gabrielle di Cuir from LA's Skyboat Studios. In this clip (MP3), Wil explains how the discussions of crypto and technology in my novels serve as a spur to drive kids -- and grownups -- to research more about security and freedom.
You've got 11 more days to avail yourself of the Humble Ebook Bundle!
The Heds Will Roll Tumblr collects headlines that were too weird, offensive, or beyond-the-pale to appear in print. Some examples: "Papa’s Got a Brand New Body Bag" (An article on the death of James Brown); Tea Party Loses Its Mad Hatter (Michelle Bachmann’s announcement that she would not seek another term in Congress); '"The Feminine Mystique" Turns 50, Doesn’t Look a Day Over 30' (A timely Betty Friedan appreciation); "Roof, There It Is!" (A follow-up to a feature story about a city government’s handling of a homelessness crisis). I subscribed! (via Mefi)
Marcin Wichary is a designer at Medium who took on the challenge of creating a considered, fine-tuned underline for the links on the site. In contrast to the normal "data-driven" design story, which is often a series of A/B tests that nudge things around by a pixel or two for weeks until they attain some counterintuitive optimum, this is a story about someone who had an intuitive, artistic, aesthetic goal and spent a bunch of time getting HTML to behave in a way that was consistent across different browsers, screen resolutions, and so forth.
I have to say that the actual underlines that Medium came up with don't seem to me to be more or less appealing than the default (the GIF above is displaying a before-and-after and I still can't tell which is which without referring to the article), but I really enjoy stories about people who know what aesthetic effect they want to achieve and are willing to move heaven and earth to achieve it.
I carried on, adding more and more complexity and magic numbers to my suggested change. And this is where the code reviewers started asking the truly hard and important questions: Is this too complicated? Will this make the CSS too heavy? How would we maintain it? What happens if this fails?
And so, during the following weeks, I worked on:
* coming up with formulas rather than arbitrary values — in the event of changing the fonts or font sizes in the future, adjusting the underline positions would be much easier and faster,
* limiting the browsers we use so that in the case of failure, the reader could see the default browser underlines (rather than not seeing them at all!),
* simplifying the code so that while we might not get the perfect underlines, we could save both the bytes and future maintenance costs.
More than 25 tech companies -- including Happy Mutants, LLC, Boing Boing's parent company -- have signed onto a letter asking Senator Ron Wyden (chairman of the Senate Finance Committee) to oppose "Fast Track" for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The TPP is a secretly negotiated trade agreement that allows for big corporations to trump national law, suing governments that pass regulations that limit their profits; it contains a notoriously harsh chapter on Internet regulation that will allow entertainment companies unprecedented power to surveil, censor, and control the Internet.
The US Trade Representative and the Obama administration have demanded that Congress give "Fast Track" status to the TPP, meaning that they would not be allowed to debate the individual clauses of the bill, and would only be able to vote it up or down. The treaty is likely to have lots of sweeteners that will make it hard for key lawmakers to reject it entirely, a manipulative maneuver that, combined with Fast Track, means that the treaty has a substantial chance of passing, even though it means Congress will be surrendering its power to make laws that impact on massive corporations.
Other signatories to the letter include Reddit, Techdirt, Imgur, Duckduckgo, Ifixit, Cheezburger, Automattic (WordPress), and many others.
Based on what we’ve seen in leaked copies of the proposed text, we are particularly concerned about the U.S. Trade Representative's proposals around copyright enforcement. Dozens of digital rights organizations and tens of thousands of individuals have raised alarm over provisions that would bind treaty signatories to inflexible digital regulations that undermine free speech. Based on the fate of recent similar measures, it is virtually certain that such proposals would face serious scrutiny if proposed at the domestic level or via a more transparent process. Anticipated elements such as harsher criminal penalties for minor, non-commercial copyright infringements, a 'take-down and ask questions later' approach to pages and content alleged to breach copyright, and the possibility of Internet providers having to disclose personal information to authorities without safeguards for privacy will chill innovation and significantly restrict users' freedoms online.
Some aspects of U.S. copyright law, such as the DMCA's safe harbor provisions, have helped foster the vibrant tech industry in this country. But in other areas, we are due for major reforms—a fact made clear by Register of Copyrights Maria Pallante's call for the "Next Great Copyright Act" and the House Judiciary Committee's efforts to implement that reform. In light of these needed revisions, the U.S. system cannot be crystallized as the international norm and should not be imposed on other nations. It is crucial that we maintain the flexibility to re-evaluate and reform our legal framework in response to new technological realities. Ceding national sovereignty over critical issues like copyright is not in the best interest of any of the potential signatories of this treaty.
We can only build a successful innovation policy framework—one that supports new ideas, products, and markets—if the process to design it is open and participatory. Unfortunately, the trade negotiation process has been anything but transparent. Our industry, and the users that we serve, need to be at the table from the beginning to design policies that serve more than the narrow commercial interests of the few large corporations who have been invited to participate.
We urge you not to pass any version of Fast Track or trade promotion authority, or approve any mechanism that would facilitate the passage of trade agreements containing digital copyright enforcement provisions designed in an opaque, closed-door process.
One year ago today
Ray Bradbury's fan letter to Robert A Heinlein: YOUR INFLUENCE ON US ALL, FROM 1939 ON, CANNOT BE MEASURED. I CAN ONLY SAY I REMEMBER, WARMLY, YOUR MANY KINDNESSES TO ME WHEN I WAS 19–20–21 YEARS OLD. THAT YOUNG MAN BASKED IN YOUR LIGHT AND WILL CONTINUE TO BE GRATEFUL FOR THE HELP YOU OFFERED WHEN I WAS SO POOR & NEEDFUL! YOURS IN THAT MEMORY — RAY BRADBURY
Five years ago today
Tech Forensics in Guatemala Results in Groundbreaking Arrest for Decades-old Human Rights Crime: A Guatemalan police officer has been arrested in connection with the abduction and disappearance 25 years ago of a labor activist named Edgar Fernando García, during Guatemala's civil war -- a period in which extrajudicial executions, dissapearances, and torture by government agents were widespread.
Ten years ago today
Six years of kottke.org: Jason Kottke's blog turns six today!
Boars, Gore, and Swords is hosted by stand-up comedians Ivan Hernandez and Red Scott. In each episode they break down HBO's Game of Thrones and George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire. They also talk about movies, TV, science fiction, fantasy, and lots of other things. NSFW.
Ivan and Red begin the episode by discussing a recent behind-the-scenes Game of Thrones mini-doc from HBO and the questions it raises, before moving on to how to approach an introvert, Kristian Nairn, Detective Sheldon Cooper, Dead Like Me, Mikkelsen’s physicality, and cork boards with yarn.
And after finishing the discussion A Storm of Swords and The Princess and The Queen, Ivan and Red bring to your attention the next installment in their “What You Should Be Watching” series. They discuss one of the very few shows on television that can match George R.R. Martin’s disregard for his character’s lives, NBC’s Hannibal. Created by king of cancelled shows Bryan Fuller (of Dead Like Me, Pushing Daisies, Wonderfall, and writer on season 1 of Heroes), this show has a quantity of gore that relocates the boundaries of what’s acceptable on network television. The knockout cast includes Lawrence Fishburne, Mads Mikkelsen, and and a very strange turn for Scott Thompson, formerly of Kids in the Hall.
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Thinkgeek bills their $40 Blobfish Plush as a "Grumpy Cat of the sea." While its true that the "world's ugliest animal" is actually pretty unremarkable looking when it is compressed by the awesome high-pressure environment of the sea, there's no denying that it looks like a newspaper caricature of a sad, downtrodden shlub when brought to the surface, which makes it the perfect gift...for that someone special in your life.