Saturday, January 31, 2009

Entire Web is Harmful, Google Says

this web site can harm your computer says google 
Either Google is onto something - a new experiment perhaps or a hack- or entire web is harmful and full of malicious content according to Google. The image shows the lame search for "MSN". However, if you click the link, rather any link on search engine result page, this is the screen that welcomes you: "Warning - visiting this web site may harm your computer."
Do you really think we cannot trust the world wide web any more? Do children need protection to such an extent? I do not know, you decide. :-)

Friday, January 30, 2009

Zombie Alert in Texas

traffic signs hack in austin texas 
Here is my nominee for best hack of the current year. Traffic signs in Austin, Texas have been hacked by a group of anonymous horror movie enthusiasts!

The electronic signs at Lamar and Martin Luther King Jr. boulevards had a surprise for today's drivers. For starters, they were not boring. One could even say they were stimulating. Do not ask me what they stimulate! The signs read this morning "Caution! Zombies Ahead.", "Run for Cold Climates", "The End is Near", "Nazi Zombies Run!"

A good thematic selection, I should say; horror, environmental, apocalyptic, and classic WW-II.

Don't drink and drive!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Memoirs of a Ninja Byte

Woke up, got out of the bed. A bitwise shift to the right, there am I, ready and charming than ever. Checked the mirror. No, one bit is slightly off. A shift to the left and another to the right; click, clang, it is O.K. now. Good! First impression is important.

After the dusting sectors of the ever-spinning hard drive, I am loaded back on memory. Threw myself on Information Highway, my journey begins. Got the time from an NTP server. How come did I sleep this long?

Something is wrong, terribly wrong. The handles, they are NOT right. Where is everybody? Phatal Error, Acidic Nature, Corruptor, Social Distortion, MalHavoc, Manifest Destiny, Mind Shadow... Where are they?

A few routers more. Here is a crowded place. With a funny name: Facebook. Who would name his site like that? Lame... But they can be here. Worth a look. Oh no! Real names, real information? Don't they know? Didn't anybody tell? I'd better forget the masses and concentrate. Can they be here? No, don't think so.

A few more hops. I am desperate, now. Kind of scared. And lonely. Very LONELY. What happened? Did we lose? Where are they?

I have to go back and get more information.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

A Kinesthetic Experience

Chris 'The Falcon' Han has compiled the songs with "love" in their titles. The point, however, is his use of sequencer interface. It acts as the visual of the mix for a functional and aesthetic experience. I cannot say I agree with the songs chosen but I have to admit I liked the feeling while watching it.

Love Songs from Chris 'The Falcon' Han on Vimeo.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

New York Times Afloat with Carlos Slim

Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim

Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim will invest $250 million in the New York Times. "Slim's money will be used in critical pay-backs that are due late Spring this year," Janet Robinson of Times has said. So far, so good. I am glad for the newspaper but who on earth is Carlos Slim?

Reportedly, he is the owner of Banco Inbursa and Inmobiliaria Carso among other companies. And he suddenly felt the need to invest in a troubled industry, media; not in a TV, a dot com or an initially shining technology co.

Call me a skeptic but I attribute the erosion of trust in journalism to mostly such deals. A newspaper is only as good as it is critical, the more the better, and my experience with such financing methods in this part of the world is not very pleasant. Such money is poured into media to provide leverage for creditors against competition, their competition, not the newspaper's. Let us hope this one does not turn sour.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Conficker Worm Still Going Strong

According F-Secure's latest report, this lovely worm going with the names Downadup, Kido and Conficker has so far affected close to 9 million computers (figure does not include corporations who forgot to patch their systems and hiding the fact they are infected). Since this place is not a technical site, we will not go into details like how to remove it, anti-virus software, on-line scanners and such. Instead, we will try to tackle the urge for writing such a magnificent (in spite of the damage caused, its code deserves recognition) program.

In his article "Ethics and the Urge" [1], Guido Sanchez of VIPER (Viral Inclined Programming Experts Ring) discusses about lame boards [2], several ways to dispose of them, and also the ethics involved in making someone's life miserable just because they are evolutionarily ranked just below slime mold:

There's a certain board in Colorado, called the Sound Doctrine BBS {303-680-7209}, and I call up... After downloading some nice french utilities, I realize that the board is a religious board, sponsored by some church.  Yes, the kind of religious board that carries the Adam's Rib echo, and has an on line "game" called 'The Beast' which finds the numerical hex value of any word you type in i.e. JESUS=444, SANTA CLAUS=666, LUCIFER=444, etc. This sickens me, as I am an agnostic who believes that religion should not mix with modeming.  Of course there's only one thing to do.  I shell to DOS, unzip 'WHALE.ZIP' from my \NASTY directory, rename it 'JONAH.EXE' (some of you can see this coming from a mile away), go into the VIPER Trojan Horse Construction Kit [3], create a fake 'JONAH.DAT' file of about 48k length, and write up a 'JONAH.DOC' file which goes a little something like this...

"Thanks for downloading 'Jonah and the Whale' from your local bulletin board system!  Here are the instructions of the game.  Simply make sure the JONAH.EXE and JONAH.DAT files are in the same directory, and then type 'JONAH'. It's as easy as that!
How to Play:
Simply use the arrow keys to help Jonah avoid the whale.
VGA/EGA/CGA SB/Adlib support
Please send me money!
Mathurin Picard 1234 fake address"

OK now I pose the question to you.. Is what I did chronicled in the above lines funny?  Damn straight. Is it ironic? Of course!!  Now here's the biggy.. Is it RIGHT?  ooooh.. lets see why or why not, shall we?

He then goes on to describe how he crashed two more boards and here comes the interesting part:
  1.  I asked myself, before crashing these boards, three questions.
    • Do they deserve it?
    • Why?
    • Do they have any way of finding out it was me?
  2. The only boards worth crashing are those that misuse our Ambrosia,  knowledge. They do this by..
    • promoting unfounded beliefs (such as ANY religion except Discordianism)
    • using the knowledge (i.e. bytes and bits) to get sexual gratification
    • devoting their life to such mind candy as Wing Commander II etc at 2400
In essence, crashing boards in these fashions is a sort of Cyberpunk Euthanasia for us.  I do it because I believe that these people are misusing knowledge, and if they continue to do so, it will result in harm to themselves and others (including possibly myself).  Others just do it for fun.  And that is to be respected, cause, hey all, lets face it.  There's nothing more gratifying than persuading a lamer board's SysOp's little brother or sister into giving you SysOp access, resulting in the board's demise.  Now if only they'd figure out a way to allow us to see the sysop's face...

Sadly, the puritanism of Sanchez and his friends has long since disappeared.

[1] Anaconda #001: The Official VIPER Electronic Mag.
[2] It is a BBS, a bulletin board; the article is dated 1992.
[3] Viper did release that kit.

Elephants Behave with SMS and GPS

elephant in nairobi kenya
Jake Wall's software AnimalLink uses SMS and GPS technology to prevent elephants hoarding the farms in Kenya. So far, 44 of these lovely and big creatures have been tagged with the software that reports their current position to authorities.

Wall estimates thousands of dollars of damage have been avoided after the elephants were tagged. AnimalLink sends the exact position of the elephants to a server in Nairobi and if the animals are getting close to a farm, rangers are dispatched to prevent the incident.

The software cannot unfortunately do much against illegal hunters and poachers, however, Wall is upgrading it so that AnimalLink will send a text message if an elephant does not make a move for more than five hours.

Image: Save the Elephants

Sunday, January 18, 2009

National Drag Queen Month

Sun Sentinel reports that January 2009 marks the first-ever celebration of National Drag History Month! This month-long event salutes the richness of drag culture and pays tribute to the courageous queens & kings who have fought for equality while inspiring, educating & entertaining us all.

Taking this opportunity, let me recommend you a movie, if you have not watched it before of course: The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert [B&N]. Directed by Stephan Elliot, with Terence Stamp, Hugo Weaving, Guy Pearce and Bill Hunter in leading roles, it is a beautiful road movie across Australia. The performances of Stamp and Pearce are not easily forgettable. The film received a best costume award in Oscars if I am not wrong.

Pokia Retro Phone Handset Rocks the Shelves

pokia retro cell phone handset

The ultimate mobile/cell phone gadget is finally available for the masses. The new Pokia Retro Phone Handset with an answer-end button from Retrogismo will no doubt be the best selling accessory of 2009. "Add the charismatic tone and style of the product, it will surely attract pleasure- and distinction-hungry eyes," Retrogismo says:

This timeless model will most definitely reflect your sense for style, originality and unconformity while serving your communication needs.

Rush and order it before supplies are depleted.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Where to Find Un-Collectables: NUCA

nuca network of un-collectible artists
Web is a fun place. What is not imaginable twenty years ago becomes achievable at the push of a button. As publishing software improves, contributing to the cyberspace gets easier, even for the novice. The creative genie is out of its bottle in spite of all the efforts of some. This is from the web site of NUCA,  Network of Un-Collectable Artists :

NUCA is a nation-wide affiliation connecting those who gravitate towards ephemeral projects, participatory experiences, illegal art actions, and activities that oddify everyday life. Some members make unwieldy installation projects, while others alter billboards, project images in abandoned spaces at night, or exchange ideas rather than objects. Some simply make dead ugly paintings that would never sell.

Because such artworks are often fiendishly tricky to document, they seldom grace the columns of "recognized" publications. NUCA is building a publicity machine of its own, so artists may exchange essential info about their activities, collaborate on new projects, and connect with Uncollectable others.

Go join the ranks of NUCA. Decrease entropy,  increase anarchy!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Prado Museum Closeups with Google Earth

garden of earthly delights by hieoronymous bosch 
 Art lovers all around the world will from now on be able to see fourteen of the Prado Museum's masterpieces in very high resolution with the launch of Google's Prado layer on Google Earth. From the Prado site:
The Prado Museum has become the first art gallery in the world to provide access to and navigation of its collection in Google Earth.  Using the advanced features of Google Earth art historians, students and tourists everywhere can zoom in on and explore the finer details of the artist's brushwork that can be easily missed at first glance.

The paintings have been photographed and contain as many as 14,000 million pixels (14 gigapixels). With this high level resolution you are able to see fine details such as the tiny bee on a flower in The Three Graces by Rubens, delicate tears on the faces of the figures in The Descent from the Cross by Roger van der Weyden and complex figures in The Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Bosch.
Of course, not everyone is happy about it. Contrary to the Prado Museum's Director Miguel Zugaza who is more than thrilled with the project, for example Jonathan Browne, an art historian from New York University, has defined the digital experience as "like looking at a corpse". Still, we necrophiliacs are happy.

Biotic Man to Aid Drug Research

GE's technology development arm General Electric Global Research has announced its plans to develop a virtual human by signing an agreement with TMTI, Transformational Medical Technologies Initiative. Also supported by DTRA, Defense Threat Reduction Agency of the Department of Defense, the project includes a computer aided model to accelerate the development of new drugs against biological attacks.

The virtual human project dubbed as Biotic Man, is a Physiologically Based Pharmacokinetic (PBPK) software tool, which will be used to better understand the effects of a new drug much earlier than clinical experiments. PBPK will digitally model bacteria, viruses and other infection agents.

John Graf, Principal Investigator on the project for GE Global Research has said,
GE's Biotic Man project is all about speed. The goal is to enable faster development of drugs to respond to new biological threats. This new software tool also could have broad impact across the pharmaceutical industry, helping to accelerate efforts to develop new drug remedies at substantially reduced costs. This new, enhanced software tool will enable researchers to test and develop new drug therapies in a virtual, safer environment with better quantitative information.
Does it not disturb you all progress and research is geared to war industry? Of course, you can replace war with defense if you feel it is more convenient but at the end of the day, they are one and the same.

Meet Thom Creed, Your Gay Super Hero

are batman and robin gay
Stan Lee of Marvel Comics (the creator of Spider Man, Hulk and the X-Men for the uninitiated) has taken up the main character of the book Hero by Perry Moore [B&N] and is heading for prime time TV in addition to kiosks. As Gay Patriot notes, Thom (with an h) Creed is not really the world’s first gay superhero and not even the first under the Marvel brand, but he is the first to have his own TV show and will be the most promoted.

Moore's Hero tells the very comic-book-inspired story of a teenager named Thom and his exciting, frightening and courageous journey as a new superhero - a new superhero who just happens to also be gay. Not only is this a wonderful novel filled with great archetypal superhero homages galore, but it is also a true "coming out" story for a new generation. It's a straightforward story that never apologizes for its main character's homosexuality. In fact, throughout most of the book, the reader is so immersed in the playfully familiar and fantastic world that the whole "gay" thing takes a backseat to the action and adventure.

In the book, Creed has an unusual super power: healing. Compared to the more familiar powers that comic book readers are accustomed to, this looks like utterly boring but Moore created wonders with it. It is not yet known or rather is a closely guarded secret what kind of powers Stan Lee will prefer for Thom Creed but speculations, some lame some pure joke, are abound. Allegedly, Thom Creed can bend his wrist which will tastefully redecorate the interior of a building, causing momentary confusion among the bad guys while he binds them in chains and leather. Creed's cape is by Versace, while he forgoes the usual hood for an impenetrable layer of gel. Like Superman's phone booth, Thom's superpowers are at full strength after emerging from a closet.

I think Thom Creed will be a huge financial success.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Khan Dies at 88 But His Wrath Remains

Ricardo Montalban, the Corinthian leader of the Star Trek episode "Space Seed" and the second movie "The Wrath of Khan" died in his Los Angeles home yesterday. I would very much like to attach a short video as a tribute for all the Star Trek fans around but Paramount Pictures is unnecessarily touchy about copyright these days.

star trek city on the edge of forever
What made Star Trek such a success? I thought about it a lot. For example, despite its popularity, I have never liked Star Wars. Laser swords, the Force, good and evil, flight and fight scenes, they hardly appealed to me. Trek was different. Disguised beneath a sci-fi cover -poor by today's standards-, we watched centuries old dilemmas of the humanity in the series. From religion to philosophy, politics to economy, human mind to anthropology, everyone could find something.

My favorite Star Trek episode was "The City on the Edge of Forever". I'd like to know yours.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Yahoo Picks Carol Bartz as CEO

There have been numerous rumors and speculation as to who will be the new CEO of Yahoo after its founder Jerry Yang stepped down. It is now official that Carol Bartz, former CEO of Autodesk (you know them with their flagship program AutoCad) will lead Yahoo for the next three years.

Now, if you are expecting something like a business analysis or forecast for Bartz led Yahoo, you are wrong. Nor will I say anything about Bartz. But when it comes to Autodesk and especially to its founder John Walker, we have to pause as there are few individuals that earned my respect although we have never met. Kara Swisher of Boom Town writes,
Though the world’s sixth largest PC software company, Autodesk is hardly a household name for a couple of reasons. One is that it dominates a niche: software that allows relatively inexpensive personal computers to produce powerful models for engineers, architects and other professional designers.

The other reason is Autodesk's founding genius, John Walker, a reclusive programmer who doesn't allow the company to distribute his picture or publish it in its annual report. In a rare interview granted for this article, a prickly Mr. Walker insisted that a reporter sit in front of a video camera, declared that Autodesk claimed a copyright on the ensuing discussion and debated the meaning of each question.
Oh, as there truly is no limit to eccentricity,
He relinquished the top spot in 1986 to Alvar Green, formerly Autodesk's chief financial officer, to return to programming. But the real power still rested with Mr. Walker, Autodesk's biggest shareholder, and an elite group of programmers called Core, who had either helped Mr. Walker found the company in 1982 or led its most important projects.

Core members are contentious, eccentric free-thinkers who have had a way of devouring professional managers. They have often attacked each other and company executives, usually by sending "flame mail"–biting electronic letters. The outbursts sometimes have led to changes, and sometimes brought work to a halt. "The whole company is a theocracy of hackers," says Charles M. Foundyller, president of Daratech Inc., a market research firm in Cambridge, Mass.
For what it is worth, AutoCad was not invented by Walker. He bought it from a programmer named Michael Riddle. But as you will see, it is not a story of tragedy,
Mr. Walker gave Mr. Riddle an extraordinarily generous royalty agreement that eventually amounted to more than $10 million. The payment may be a record for an outside programmer in the PC business, but Mr. Walker has always operated by a different set of rules. He doesn’t care a whit about office decorum or hierarchy, so Autodesk was always casual and libertarian, even by techie standards.
You can read the full article in Boom Town but let me add one more thing: visit Walker's site and when you have the time read the Digital Imprimatur. You will have a lot of things to think about.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Sniffers Join the Smell Club

smell of stinking pair of socks uploaded to smell clubSince last December, an important milestone has been reached in the cyberworld and we are one step closer to a true virtual reality experience. From cooked rice to a used pair of stinking socks in summer, 160 different smells have been uploaded to the Smell Club, Nioibu (currently only in Japanese). The smells have also been geo-tagged using Google Maps, so geographic differences of a variety of smells will also be captured.

The club has so far 200 sniffing experts and more sniffers are expected to join after some publicity is achieved.

Unfortunately, you cannot smell the smells uploaded to the site, yet, but they are working on it. Will they succeed? Well, that will be the day. I am sure a lot of industries are anxiously waiting and hoping for the success of this venture.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Blogger Needed for Hamilton Island

employment in hamilton island
Hamilton is a beautiful island off the coast of Queensland, Australia and some might even call it a paradise. This little island is looking for a blogger to be employed for six months. It looks like a good opportunity for the adventurous bloggers with a wage of usd 25,000 per month. If you can fulfill the following requirements, go and apply for the best job in the world:
  1. Good swimming skills
  2. must be able to use snorkel efficiently
  3. tolerance for flexible working hours
  4. adventurous in spirit
  5. be able to post an article every two weeks (this must be tough)
  6. feed the tortoises
  7. observe the whales
The successful candidate will be given a fully furnished 3-room condo with an ocean view and no, it is NOT a joke.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Contest: Free Link to 1.8 Million Apple Iphone 3G

apple iphone 3g made of gold jewels and diamonds
No, you do not have a problem with your sight. Experiments in Cyberspace is giving a free link to a beautiful Apple Iphone 3G, with a 1,790,000 Euros (not dollars) price tag. Forget the economic crisis affecting the common people. Like all readers of this blog, you cannot be bothered with ups and downs of such simple things. The designer Peter Aloisson describes the phone,

Made of solid 18 carat yellow gold, white gold and rose gold. A fabulous combination. The white gold line is encrusted with a total of 138 brilliant cut diamonds of the best quality. But the main feature of this one-of-a-kind phone is its "home button". It carries a rare 6.6 carat diamond. Integrated in the design as if this diamond has been made for "taking you home".

The rules, rather the only rule is you have to read until the next line.
Here is your free link.[1]

[1] I am in no way affiliated with this product or designer.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Google Translate: Your Secret Proxy

WebbieStuffs has an article about Google's ever-improving translation service, now available in almost all Indo-European languages plus a few others. An interesting but little known service or by-product of Google Translate is you can also use it as web proxy.

Suppose you live in a country where everyone and his dog can go to a court and restrict access to a web site say, in Mauritius (I am not joking). Due to the government's (a fictitious government to the east of Bulgaria and Greece) short-sighted approach at the time of legislation and service providers' reluctance to make extra investment, nobody bothers to contact the web master enjoying the sunset in Mauritius and access to her site is blocked at a national level in a 10 minute court session.

Since not everybody has the technical know-how to find a working proxy and adjust their browsers' settings, here is a neat trick.
  1. Go to Google Translate page.
  2. Enter the offensive URL.
  3. If the offensive site is English and you want to view it in English, you do not have to change anything as the default setting "from Spanish to English" is just fine.
  4. Press "translate".
  5. You have just accessed a restricted site, much to the censoring authorities' pain and grief.
Do not tell anyone that you heard it from me.

Light Graffiti Photography

light graffiti sparks in the prairie
light graffiti notes flying over a saxophone
TechEBlog has posted a series of photos of light graffiti, a technique in which exposures are made usually at night or in a darkened room by moving a hand-held light source or by moving the camera. My picks are on the left. You can check the rest at TechEBlog.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Determining the Target Audience for Your Blog

In a recent Entrecard forum thread about advertising and rejection of ads on the basis that they are not topically related to the blog where the ad will appear, Texas Wanderer has given the best explanation:

Smart advertisers don't look at YOUR blog. They do some forward thinking about who would be visiting your blog, and is that someone that would click on their ad.

I've chuckled many times here on EC when I see someone say, "I declined their ad because it had nothing to do with the theme of my blog".

These people, while having every right to expose only "relevant" ads on their blog, don't really grasp the basics of marketing. Their blog has nothing to do with why the ad was posted there, it has to do with their readers.

A good example is one of my old web customers that sells artwork by a Christian artist. If I made them an EC card, I would NOT advertise on "artwork" blogs, yet that would be the most relevant place. Instead, I would focus on sites with Precious Moments figurines, as well as matchmaking sites for singles, hitting the ones that proclaim themselves to be Christians the most.

But an ECer who doesn't understand marketing that runs the matchmaking service might say the ad is not relevant. And they are correct- it's not. It has nothing to do with their site. People by nature just don't like when things don't revolve around them when they think they should.

A more technical explanation will be knowing your target audience as the marketing people will say. Determining your target segment involves answering the following questions some of which may not even be related to blogging but are helpful, nevertheless:
  • What is the age range of the customer who wants my product or service?
  • Which gender would be more interested in this product or service?
  • What is the income level of my potential customers?
  • What level of education do they have?
  • What is their marital or family status?
  • Is this a product or service they need or a luxury item?
  • How will they use this product or service?
  • What will draw them to this product or service? (Easy availability? Low price? Personalized attention? Special features?)
  • Which, if any, special features are most appealing?
  • What do they like or dislike about the product or service in general?
  • Is this an impulse buy or something they are saving up for?
  • What is the common method of payment for this product or service? (Cash? Credit Cards? Installment Plans?)
  • Where do they gather their decision-making information? (The Internet? Newspapers? Magazines? Books? Television?)
Now, answering these questions are not so easy. You may have the false impression that for example women are more interested in your blog because some of the women around you are. Corporations pour billions into research companies to find those answers. Well, you are not a corporation and you do not have those funds to spend. Fine! Then, think about the answers. You will at least be on the right track.

Friday, January 2, 2009

To All the Unseen Behind the Gates

A Poem by Brian Routh, from 2005.

Cyber Me

I upload myself to the computer to see just how I look
Am I a person or am I a book?
On the hard drive I look so fine and slick
Better get it on the website double quick.

Is it me is it not?
Who am I... I forgot.

How many megabytes am I?
'Trigabytes!' I hear my laptop cry.

Now I am in my system folder
Buried deep and so much older.
Try to find me if you can
Ask Jeeves or Google if I'm the man?

I live forever in Cyberspace
An epitaph to the human race
No longer am I flesh and bone
But numbers in the computer zone.

A JPEG here a PDF there
I'm FTP'd everywhere.

Upload, download, refresh, save,
Join the new computer slaves.

My mobile plugs into my ear
Adds to my brain an extra gear.

Now I am an external drive
Am I dead or am I alive?

Connected to the Internet
It doesn't matter if I forget,
My memory's out there on the web
An eternal Cyberspace celeb.