Saturday, June 30, 2007
Thursday, June 28, 2007
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
In this clip, Kathleen Hanna (ex-Bikini Kill, Julie Ruin, Le Tigre) speaks with Chris Anderson (Wired Magazine) and NPR about about music, file trading, and mix technology in the digital age and how current copyright laws are placing a wedge between artist and fan.
Thurston Moore (Sonic Youth) released a book called Mix Tape that looks at music trading over the last 40 years. In this article, Thurston discusses the history and importance of the mix tape and why it will continue into the future.
At the 2000 H.O.P.E conference, Jello Biafra (ex-Dead Kennedys) delivered his keynote address about corporate control of the media, the presidential election, censorship, the future of the Internet, Napster, pirate radio, online activism, and hackers.
(Must be at least 54". Not recommended for expectant mothers, those with a history of neck or back conditions, heart trouble, conditions aggravated by fog effects, those wearing casts or susceptible to motion sickness.)
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
Hacktivismo is an international group of hackers, lawyers, human rights activists, and artists. They are known as a hacktivism group because they use code to promote political ideologies. Hacktivismo attempts to raise awareness of human rights violations, as well as provide support for dissidents in countries without Free Speech. Below is a list of programs (many released at various H.O.P.E conferences) designed to provide security and anonymity to users. Hacktivismo believe that access to information and privacy are basic human rights and that the Internet must be kept free from state-sponsored and corporate censorship.Torpark: Allows you to securely and anonymously surf the internet, bypass website censorship, and it leaves virtually no tracks of your browsing habits behind.
Scatterchat: Provides secure and anonymous instant messages services for democracy advocates operating in hostile countries.
Camera/Shy: Tool that automatically scans for and delivers decrypted content straight from the Web and leaves no trace on the user's system.
Monday, June 25, 2007
I am a circumvention device.
H.O.P.E. (Hackers on Planet Earth) is semi-regular conference sponsored by 2600 Magazine, The Hacker's Quarterly. Since 1994, there have been six events held in downtown Manhattan with attendances now reaching about 3000. These conferences are major computing events where the finest hackers, phone phreaks, and net activists present papers on new findings and hold discussion panels. Non-hackers are also welcome to attend the conferences where they can learn from the "best-of-the-best". H.O.P.E. also draws top-shelf keynote speakers. Some notable addresses have been delivered by Jello Biafra, Kevin Mitnick, Steve Wozniak, and Siva Vaidhyanathan.
Saturday, June 23, 2007
In 1987, Fischer-Price released the Pixelvision PXL-2000 camcorder. This black-and-white analog video recorder captures about 11 minutes of footage on a simple cassette tape. The Pixelvision records the video to the left side of the cassette and the audio to the right. The uniquely appealing low-fi recording was pixelated and gutterboxed (black border around the video). The audio and video were far from crisp but had a certain vibe that is undeniable. Trying to mimic the Pixelvision's distorted video on modern equipment is tough. Pixelvision users are easily able to spot a clone!
Although originally designed as a toy, the PXL-2000 has a rabid following within the independent film world. Richard Linklater, Sadie Benning, and Michael Almereyda have all integrated the Pixelvision into their unique visions. In Almereyda's brilliant adaption of Hamlet, Ethan Hawke (playing Hamlet) can be seen using a Pixelvision camcorder throughout the film. There is even a film festival, called PXL THIS, featuring movies and shorts made with the venerated PXL-2000. Bent-Instruments produces circuit-bent versions of the Pixelvision loaded with features, including "body-contacts" and light level adjustments.
Please add the PXL-2000 to the top of my Christmas list!
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
When it comes to all things Zappa, the ZappaNose search engine (designed using Google Co-op) is the ultimate search tool! Google Co-op is a project that allows users to design custom search engines. Designers pick key websites to receive more weight within the specialized searches.
(Now available - HawkNet : The Hawkwind Guide)
Quintura is a search engine that totally embraces the semantic web. The engine, based on Yahoo!, provides both a list of results and a tag cloud. The bolder and larger words within the cloud are generally more relevant to the search. This type of searching is extremely intuitive.
ChaCha may look like a typical Google-type search engine but it has a unique twist: ChaCha Guides. ChaCha calls itself the People Powered Search because the user can actually instant message a ChaCha Guide to assist them in their search. ChaCha Guides are professional information gathers that surf the net while rating websites to improve searches.
Saturday, June 16, 2007
Generally, hackers may wear two shades: White and Black (or Gray).
A white hat is a hacker opposed to the abuse of computer systems. In general, they adhere to the Hacker's Ethic. IT companies employ many white hats to test security systems because of their extensive knowledge of code. On a few occasions, they have also been known to work with law enforcement to track down rogue hackers. Tsutomu Shimomura is well known for assisting the FBI track down and arrest Kevin Mitnick, "America's Most Wanted Computer Outlaw".
A black hat exploits a computer's security system for private or financial gain. This type of hacker is known to create viruses, worms, zombies, spam, etc. The Cult of the Dead Cow is group of hackers that designed an ingenious program called Back Orifice. This program allowed a hacker to slip in through a back door take control of a remote computer. Black hats may also create Denial-of-Service programs which can flood a server with so much incoming data that the targeted site grinds to a halt.
Friday, June 15, 2007
In 1982, fifteen-year old Rich Skrenta became the author of the first computer virus with the ability to spread. While in high school, Rick would distribute video games to his classmates containing his Elk Cloner virus. The virus would embed itself into the Apple II's operating system and monitor the computer's disk drive activity. The Elk Cloner spread to other computers by copying it's code onto uninfected floppies. Like many of the early viruses, it was not designed to be harmful. On every fiftieth reboot, the virus would simply display the following message:
Skrenta's beatifully coded virus created a stir in the computer field. As a result, programmers began to pay much more attention to the design flaws in code that allowed for hackers to insert their craft. Skrenta went on to work for Commodore, Unix System Labs, Sun, and the Open Directory Project. He also designed a variety of MUDs (Multi-User Domains) and Usenet readers that were extremely popular on the early Internet. Today, he is the CEO of Topix.net, the world's largest community news website. This website also allows users to comment on stories as well as post their own news stories.
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
The Sea Stallion is the largest Viking Longship reproduction in the world. It was modeled after a ship discovered in Roskilde fjord after having sat at the bottom for over 900 years. Using replicas of Viking-era tools, the 7.5-ton Sea Stallion was assembled with 5,250 cubic feet of oak and 7,000 hand-forged iron rivets. The Crown Prince of Denmark, Frederik André Henrik Christian, is the sponsor of this archaeological marvel.
This summer, the Sea Stallion will sail 1,900 kilometers (1,200 miles) across Northern European waters from Roskilde, Denmark to Dublin,Ireland. The 2 month voyage will test the limits of its 65 crew. According to Sail World: "The crew’s training included participation in altogether fourteen practice trips since 2004, participation in a sea-safety seminar under the guidance of a former navy instructor, a first-aid class with the project’s nurse, and in the evacuation drill of the next training weekend, held in corporation with the Admiral Danish Fleet."
These modern-day Vikings will forgo most amenities, but they will have the aid of a G.P.S. system. Hour by hour updates can be tracked online showing the ship's progress. 1200 years ago, Vikings settled in Dublin. This amazing voyage restores the history and the bond between the Irish and the Scandinavians.
Friday, June 8, 2007
Winnie the Pooh is a big fan of honey. In fact, he loves it so much that he will often get his paws and even his face stuck in the honey pot! In the computer world, a Honey Pot is a computer (or network of computers) designed to detect and monitor hackers. The idea is that the hacker will be lured in and trapped by the honey pot.
Honey Pots are decoy machines. They can be inside or outside a firewall; they can be single computers or linked into networks, called Honey Pot Farms. Once a hacker logs into the Honey Pot, they are under constant surveillance by the security staff. All of the hacker's keystrokes are logged and it becomes possible to recreate their attempts to invade the system and cover their tracks. Effectively, the security staff has created a research lab into the hacker's world. Honey Pots are also useful at tracking Spammers because all incoming mail is illicit as the decoy has no reason to send or receive anything. It is extremely important that the Honey Pot is well isolated, otherwise the hacker may be able to break through the decoy into the actual network.
Microsoft has developed a system where computers loaded with monitoring software explore high risk areas of the Internet, called the Exploit-Net. These Honey Monkies, short for Strider HoneyMonkey Exploit Detection System, search for sites that install malware on visiting computers. A snapshot of the Honey Monkey's registry and memory is taken before and after visiting a website. Any changes can determine whether or not malicious programs are being installed. Honey Monkeys can also patrol high traffic sites, like Google or Yahoo!, to make sure that spyware hasn't infected them as well.
Wednesday, June 6, 2007
Berkeley Systems' After Dark is the name of a screen saver program that became immensely popular in the early 1990s. Back in he day, we would actually pay for screen savers! Although, initially designed for the Macintosh, it was soon ported for Windows use as well. Porting is the process of converting a piece of software for use on a foreign computer platform. There were many different screen savers incorporated into After Dark, but one particular module became an icon of the period: The Flying Toaster. This famous screen saver was known for its winged 1940s style toasters that zipped around the screen. To induce a flashback, check out the video.
The diminutive Flying Toaster became the focus of two lawsuits in the 1990s. In 1993, Delrina Corp designed a screen saver starring Opus the Penguin, called Opus N' Bill. In one of the modules, Opus can be seen shooting down Flying Toasters. After Dark quickly sued. Delrina defended itself on the grounds that they were simply making a parody. The Court ruled that the Flying Toasters in the Opus N' Bill version were too similar to those in the After Dark screen saver. Delrina was forced to change the "angel wings" on the toasters to airplane wings with propellers. Opus didn't seem to mind the change and continued to shoot them down, too. If anyone can find a pre-lawsuit copy of Opus N' Bill, please give me a shout!
Then in 1994, the tables were turned when After Dark was sued by Jefferson Airplane. Back in 1973, the band had released their second live album called Thirty Seconds Over Winterland and (you guessed it) the cover was full of Flying Toasters. After Dark claimed that they had no knowledge of the album artwork. Just when it looked liked they were in very serious trouble for violating a copyright, it was discovered that Jefferson Airplane never bothered to trademark the cover art. Case dismissed.
Where are they Now?The Flying Toasters were last seen buzzing around an episode of VH1's We Love The 90s.
Opus the Penguin can still be found in the Sunday paper.
And, Jefferson Airplane? Well, they are probably still chasing down the White Rabbit...
Saturday, June 2, 2007
Frank Zappa was a true musical pioneer. Although mainly known for his rock output, Zappa was also an accomplished classical composer. In 1984, the brilliant conductor Pierre Boulez took to the podium and led his orchestra through three Zappa compositions. These performances resulted in the album Boulez Conducts Zappa: The Perfect Stranger. If this was not glorious enough, Zappa also included some tracks using the Synclavier System.
The 8-bit mono Synclavier was one of the first synthesizers to completely integrate digital technology. It was often called a tapeless studio because of its ability to create and sample sounds on magnetic disks. This provided Zappa the ability to compose an entire song without needing to bring in a band and set up recording gear. Zappa would often credit the synth tracks as being performed by "The Barking Pumpkin Digital Gratification Consort".This technology did not come cheap as Synclavier Digital Audio Systems retailed between $200,000 - $300,000 US.
Zappa truly loved the capabilities of the Synclavier and would continue to use it throughout his career. His Grammy Award winning album, Jazz From Hell, was almost totally composed and performed with the unit. In fact, many professional studios still use the Synclavier to this day because of the unique tones and textures that it can produce. If the Ghost of Zappa inspires you, there are emulators available!