MonthAugust 2012

Panopticon Now

TrapWire

Jon Evans at TechCrunch (one of my employers) on TrapWire:

Is it being used for “monitoring every single person via facial recognition“? Probably not. Doesn’t matter. Let’s not kid ourselves: the point is that as cameras get cheaper and more connected and more ubiquitous, facial recognition gets more accurate, and data-mining software gets better, something like conspiracy theorists’ worst nightmarish fantasies of Trapwire will come to pass. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: this is only a matter of time, and not all that much of it.

Little pieces of the panopticon are already being built all around you. […]

Even relatively enlightened governments are becoming, if anything, more secretive than ever. Did you know that the Obama administration has persecuted more whistleblowers than every other presidency in history combined? Did you know that (PDF) government security classification activities alone cost more than $10 billion a year? These are not exactly statistics that fill me with hope for our panopticon future. In the name of so-called security, we’re charging headlong into a future filled with one-way mirrors behind which the rich spy on the poor, and the strong on the weak. It’s a disconcerting thought.

TechCrunch: Move Along, No Panopticon To See Here

Image: watchingfrogsboil / CC

Aqua Drone Used As Life Guard

aqua drone: Emergency Integrated Lifesaving Lanyard (EMILY)

Including in Oregon:

Think of a lifeguard and you might conjure up images of sunburned teenagers working a summer job. A new and relatively inexpensive lifesaving device could change that.

Meet EMILY, a remote-controlled lifeguard. It looks like a buoy, but it’s a small watercraft fitted with a flotation device. It can go up to 22 mph and can get to people more quickly, and in some cases more safely, than any human.

Full Story: The Columbian: Remote-control ‘lifeguard’ used in Ore. rescue

Why Oak Creek Isn’t Being Treated As A Tragedy For All Americans

The tragic events in the Milwaukee suburb were also treated differently by political élites, many fewer of whom issued statements on the matter. While both Presidential candidates at least made public comments, neither visited, nor did they suspend campaigning in the state even for one day, as they did in Colorado. In fact, both candidates were in the vicinity this weekend and failed to appear. Obama hugged his children a little tighter after Aurora, but his remarks after Oak Creek referred to Sikhs as members of the “broader American family,” like some distant relatives. Romney unsurprisingly gaffed, referring on Tuesday to “the people who lost their lives at that sheik temple.” Because the shooting happened in Paul Ryan’s district, the Romney campaign delayed announcement of its Vice-Presidential choice until after Ryan could attend the funerals for the victims, but he did not speak at the service and has said surprisingly little about the incident.

Full Story: The New Yorker: Why Oak Creek Isn’t Being Treated As A Tragedy For All Americans

(via Wolven)

Meanwhile, white power activity in Oregon:

Pair indicted for racial purity murders in Oregon, Washington and California

“Swastikas, threats, lynch-depictions and racist epithets” spray painted on Portland Sons of Haiti Masonic Lodge

eBay Bans The Selling of Magical Items And Psychic Services

The great and powerful internet auction house eBay has henceforth banned all sales of wizardly enchantments and magic spells, even if you have a vacuum cleaner’s worth of gold to offer.

Indeed, the company knows not what it does, unaware that the hour of the dragons grows near. Not only has eBay banned the sale of spells, but it has also prohibited the sale of potions. Yes, that even includes the +2 Potion of Dragonslaying — the fools! Psychic readings are similarly forbidden.
Read more at http://www.tecca.com/news/2012/08/15/ebay-magic-potion-psychic-reading-ban/#HhbovxHjcM6L82FJ.99

Tecca: Alas! eBay to ban sale of magic spells, potions

See also: Square prohibits its service from being used for “occult materials.”

As The Lone Wolf Rises, A Post-Mortem For Fifth Generation Warfare

Justin Boland offers a post-mortem for Fifth Generation Warfare and a brief history of lone wolf/spree killings.

“Fifth Generation Warfare” is not catchy. Consumers need something relatable, something visual and visceral. That’s why “5GW” has devolved from the critical theory of the warrior class into the crude shock and awe of “Lone Wolf” domestic terrorism. The dumbing down process is irreversible and immune to reason, so this isn’t written as a defense of the concept so much as a post-mortem for the field. […]

So with “Cyberwar” getting a bored response from the body politic, we’ve got some product testing underway in 2012 and the “Lone Wolf” angle is a promising pitch. […]

Skilluminati: 5GWTF: The Post-Everything Future of War

Be sure to read the whole thing, and the first comment from “Eric.”

A Map Of Places You Haven’t Been

From The Atlantic:

In his final year at the Design Academy of Eindhoven, Tom Loois received a vague assignment: “Design your personal definition of silence.” Loois, whose training is in product design, had no idea what to do. He found himself, as the deadline approached, wandering around the city searching for inspiration. Then he noticed a little alley near his route home from school.

“I stopped my bike,” he says, “and I thought, ‘I’ve passed by here so many times but I’ve never been here.’ I don’t know where it goes, where it might lead.” It was a eureka moment for the Dutch designer. “I found my silence in the places I’d never been.”

Loois’s final project ended up being a smartphone app called BlankWays, which charts your progress through the city, noting which paths you’ve come down before and suggesting itineraries to cover new ground. The app indicates and measures which parts of the city you’ve traveled, and which you haven’t:

The Atlantic: Choosing the Paths Less Traveled? There’s an App for That

(via Amber Case)

Video: Radiophonic Style Electronic Music Improv

That’s electronic musician Atomic Shadow, using the tools of the Radiophonic Workshop trade.

(via Synthtopia)

Former DARPA Director Heading Up New Experimental Technology Department At Google

Remember how earlier this year Regina Dugan, the former director of DARPA, took a job at Google? Now we know what she’s up to there:

Google has also created a department within Motorola—Advanced Technology and Projects—comprised of researchers charged with finding cutting-edge technologies that could give Motorola’s products an edge. And the executive refresh includes a new senior vice president, Regina Dugan, a former director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Pentagon’s long-term research arm. […]

But whether the DARPA research model can work in the fast-evolving world of smartphones is unclear, says Chetan Sharma, a wireless analyst in Seattle. “Regina does bring in outside perspective specially related to projects that are leaps, versus incremental steps,” he says. “However, this will need to be executed under the constraints of competition, time, and money.”

While DARPA has had some storied successes—such as the precursor to the Internet—it also freely admits that it often fails. And it has pursued some odd projects, such as setting up a research program to figure out how to reassemble shredded documents.

Technology Review: Can DARPA’s Strategy Help Motorola Compete Again?

Khan Academy Now Includes Interactive Programming Tutorials

I covered the Khan Academy’s new interactive programming tutorials for Wired:

Since 2006 the Khan Academy, named for its founder Salman Khan, has provided free video lectures on subjects such as mathematics, biology and history. As we’ve reported before Khan garnered praise from the likes of Bill Gates (whose foundation invested $1.5 million in the site), but other have been more critical of the lecture-driven approach. Thus far the site has only included prerecorded lectures that offered no feedback or interaction.

That’s changing today with Khan Academy’s new computer science section.

The tutorials are interactive and live entirely in the browser. Instead of a video, each lesson contains a pane on the left side for students to enter code and a pane on the right that displays the output. The first lesson walks students through the process of writing code that will draw a face in the right pane. After learning to generate graphics, students work up to animation and eventually to games, such as a Pac-Man clone.

Rather than have students write code and then run it to see if it works, the results of changes are displayed in the right pane immediately, providing immediate feedback. The lessons also include tips for solving common beginner problems.

Wired: Coders Get Instant Gratification With Khan Academy Programming

Previously:

Ending the Tyranny of the Lecture

Author Teaches Kids to Code Without Computers

Putting An End To The Biggest Lie On The Internet

New post from at TechCrunch:

It’s long been said that “I agree to the terms of service” is the biggest lie on the internet. And even if you do read them, many TOS are so ridden with legalese that you practically need to be a lawyer to understand them. Also, as I wrote in a gloomy post last weekend, users have no choice but either agree to the terms offered by a web app or simply don’t the service at all.

But a new project called TOS;DR wants to change that. The site aims to give more power to users by summarizing terms of service, flagging potential issues and rating apps on a scale from A (the best) to E (the worst).

So far the only company with an E, the worst possible rating, is TwitPic, which reserves the rights to sell users’ photos to news agency without giving the photographer a cut.

Project lead Hugo Roy tells me that he considers Wikipedia to be an exemplary service, though it hasn’t been rated by TOS;DR. He says both Wikipedia’s short, clear summary of its TOS and its practice of soliciting feedback from users before a change in terms should be widely adopted as best practices for the web.

TechCrunch: Putting An End To The Biggest Lie On The Internet

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