| Wednesday May 25th 2016

Pratchett’s Snuff: A rural/nautical tale of drawing-room gentility, racism, & justice

Snuff, Terry Pratchett’s latest Discworld novel is an absolute treat, as per usual. It’s a Sam Vimes book (there are many recurring characters in the Discworld series, whose life stories intermingle, braid and diverge — Sam Vimes is an ex-alcoholic police chief who has married into nobility) and that means that it’s going to be a story about class, about law, and about justice, and the fact that Pratchett can make a serious discourse on these subjects both funny and gripping and never trivial is as neat a summary of why we love him as much as we do.

SnuffIn Snuff, Sam Vimes finds himself dragged off to the countryside for a first-in-his-life holiday, and of course, the holiday only lasts about ten seconds before Vimes is embroiled in local politics, which means local crime. The genteel countryside may be sleepy and backwards, but it is also seething with secrets, with privilege for the gentry, with class resentments, and with racism.

Goblins, you see, are universally reviled, thought incapable of rationality, and loathed for their weird religious habit of retaining all their snot, hair clippings, pus, fingernails and other castoffs (except urine, crap and teeth, strangely) in beautiful handmade pots that are buried with them. Also, they’ve been known to eat their young. Is it any wonder that they’re classed as vermin in law?

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October 31st is Jesusween

Kids around the nation will be happy to hear that Jesusween celebrators plan keep their candy for themselves and instead “give out Bibles and Christian gifts — in a friendly way!” on October 31.

Richard Stallman on Steve Jobs

Apple iPhone girlStallman is right in that Jobs was “the pioneer of the computer as a jail made cool” and unlike Gates (which at least played a huge role in first making computers available for businesses and then cheap PCs available for the masses – and without which the Open Source movement would have still been today a thing for a small group of academics), Jobs was also a major pusher of the ‘walled garden concept’ beyond the realm of classic computers. I would also contrast the things that Gates does with his billions with what Jobs did…

Steve Jobs, the pioneer of the computer as a jail made cool, designed to sever fools from their freedom, has died.

As Chicago Mayor Harold Washington said of the corrupt former Mayor Daley, “I’m not glad he’s dead, but I’m glad he’s gone.” Nobody deserves to have to die – not Jobs, not Mr. Bill, not even people guilty of bigger evils than theirs. But we all deserve the end of Jobs’ malign influence on people’s computing.

Unfortunately, that influence continues despite his absence. We can only hope his successors, as they attempt to carry on his legacy, will be less effective.

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Steve Jobs is dead

Steve Jobs apple.com

“Occupy Chicago” just got trolled so hard

We are the one percent

How Mark Boyle Lives on $0 a Year

The Moneyless ManDecent review of the book Moneyless Man: A Year of Freeconomics Living, by Mark Boyle…

In 2008 Mark Boyle decided to try living for a year without money. His self-imposed rules were simple: he would close his bank account and not spend or receive money (including checks and credit cards). He would live off-grid—that meant he would produce his own energy for illumination, heat, food preparation, and communicating with the outside world. He sold his houseboat and used the proceeds (a few thousand dollars) to set things up. This included buying a $300 solar panel to keep his laptop and cell phone charged (he accepted incoming calls, which he could do without subscribing to a cell phone plan.) He obtained an old trailer for free from a woman who wanted to get rid of it. He made a deal with an organic farm to let him park the trailer on the land in exchange for a few hours work each day. He built a compost toilet near his trailer to harvest the “humanure” for his gardening needs. He set up a solar shower, which consisted of a black plastic bag and a rubber hose to bathe with. For heating the trailer he bought a wood-burning stove made from an upcycled propane tank, and for cooking he built a “rocket stove,” designed to produce high-heat using small pieces of wood. A bicycle provided transportation.He started his year of moneyless existence on international “Buy Nothing Day” (the day after Thanksgiving, which is the biggest shopping day of the year). And he wrote about his experiences in his book, Moneyless Man: A Year of Freeconomics Living.

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Animated video about the placebo effect

The Professor Funk made a fun video about the placebo effect. Now excuse me while I shoot up my morning dose of saline.

How Two Scammers Built an Empire Hawking Sketchy Software

scarewareCreating fear and then profiting from it, where have I heard that before?

Sundin had already written some firewall software called Computershield. It wasn’t as effective as mainstream antivirus programs, but it didn’t have to be; the genius would be in the sales pitch. After rebranding it WinAntiVirus, IMI began buying pop-up ads that blared fake alerts about problems on users’ hard drives—for example, “You have 284 severe system threats.” These ads prompted customers to download a free trial or pay $39.95 and up for IMI’s subpar software. Once installed, the trial versions pumped yet more ads into the user’s web browser, pestering people to shell out the full price. It was a deeply ironic scheme: Jain and Sundin planned to exploit consumer fears of viruses in order to spread what was, in effect, another virus—and the victims would pay for the privilege.

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HOWTO: Escape from zip tie handcuffs

What to do if you accidentally zip-tie your wrists together.

Day after big debit fee hike, BofA homepage fails

Bank of America homepage fail

Bank of America’s homepage was down Friday morning, a day after the megabank announced that it will begin charging customers $5 a month to use their debit cards. Instead of the bank’s normal site, visitors receive a notice stating “Home Page Temporarily Unavailable.”Instead of the bank’s normal site, visitors receive a notice stating “Home Page Temporarily Unavailable,” followed by the message, “We’re sorry, but some of our pages are temporarily unavailable.” The site indicates that the bank’s online banking system is still working, but a number of commenters to Credit.com’s website say that it is not.

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Two floppy disk drives play the Imperial March

I may be incorrect but that looks like an Arduino board and he’s just sending seek commands to the drives, in a specific way, to make the different tones.

Kindle Fire

Kindle Fire

This is the Kindle Fire. It’s $200. Yes, it runs Flash. Kindle Fire

“The number one app for the iPad when I checked a couple of days ago was called Angry Birds — a game where you throw birds at pigs and they blow up,” Bezos told me in September 2010. “The number one thing on the Kindle is Stieg Larsson. It’s a different audience. We’re designing for people who want to read.”

Today at a New York City press event Amazon is releasing a $199 color 7-inch tablet device called Fire. It plays Angry Birds.

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Penn & Teller’s Magic and Mystery Tour: exploring magic’s roots in China, India and Egypt

We just watched Penn & Teller’s Magic and Mystery Tour, their 2003 documentary on traditional magic in China, India and Egypt, and really enjoyed it. Penn & Teller's Magic Mystery TourPenn and Teller resolve to track down performers who are still doing the street magic that inspired western magicians in years gone by — the Indian Rope Trick, the Egyptian Gali Gali men with their cups and balls, and Chinese classics like the mask trick and the glass bowls trick.

Each segment is very self-contained, and full of the brash Penn humor and Harpo Marx Teller mischief that they’re known for. There’s a bit of general history and cultural overview in each nation, but the emphasis is always on magic and its odd history in each nation — Mao’s purge of street magicians, the hieroglyphs that (may) depict an ancient cup-and-balls routine, the colonial soldier who faked evidence of the Indian rope trick.

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Space Station time-lapse video with Imaginary Foundation soundtrack

We recently posted the magnificent time-lapse video taken from the International Space Station orbiting the Earth. Here is that same video with its magnificence further amplified by an appropriately epic and glistening soundtrack by the Imaginary Foundation.

This is how hacking actually works

Groupon Restates Revenue & COO Exits

6 billion LOLCliff Notes: Revenue was actually $312 million, not $713 million. COO returns to Google after 5 months. IPO looking even worse than before.

Daily deals site Groupon Inc. said it was restating its financial results “to correct for an error in its presentation of revenue,” and said its chief operating officer was exiting after just five months.

As a result of the restatement, Groupon’s revenue for 2010 fell by more than half from what was previously reported — to $312.9 million, down from $713.4 million.

The news comes amidst an initial public offering that has brought intense speculation from investors over the viability of Groupon’s business model. The company canceled a road show it had scheduled for early September and pulled back on plans to go public. It is still evaluating its options on a week-by-week basis.

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Valedictorian Speaks Out Against School

“The aim of public education is not to spread enlightenment at all; it is simply to reduce as many individuals as possible to the same safe level, to breed and train a standardized citizenry, to down dissent and originality.”

Hackers break SSL encryption

Researchers have discovered a serious weakness in virtually all websites protected by the secure sockets layer protocol that allows attackers to silently decrypt data that’s passing between a webserver and an end-user browser.

laptop keyboard lockThe vulnerability resides in versions 1.0 and earlier of TLS, or transport layer security, the successor to the secure sockets layer technology that serves as the internet’s foundation of trust. Although versions 1.1 and 1.2 of TLS aren’t susceptible, they remain almost entirely unsupported in browsers and websites alike, making encrypted transactions on PayPal, GMail, and just about every other website vulnerable to eavesdropping by hackers who are able to control the connection between the end user and the website he’s visiting.

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Lewis Shiner’s new suspense novel DARK TANGOS as a free download; the action-packed, ugly history of Argentina

Dark TangosLewis Shiner (one of my favorite writers!) says, “My latest suspense novel, DARK TANGOS, is now available as a free PDF download from the Fiction Liberation Front website. The starred review from BOOKLIST said, ‘Delivers its grim story line with artistic mastery….Short and precise, the novel uses the elegance of tango to radiate sensuality throughout. This is an absorbing and surprisingly action-packed tale based in the ugly truths of Argentina’s history.'”

The book is also available as an article of commerce, should you be moved to financially support Mr Shiner’s outstanding efforts.

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John Landis: Monsters In The Movies

Filmmaker John Landis, director of the classic An American Werewolf in London and a slew of other great films, is a connoisseur of monster movies. In fact, he has just written a history book on the subject, titled Monsters In The Movies: 100 Years of Cinematic Nightmares, with chapters on vampires, werewolves, space monsters, and, yes, zombies, complemented by interviews with the likes of John Landis: Monsters In The MoviesChristopher Lee, David Crogenberg, John Carpenter, Rick Baker, and other heroes of the genre. Wired asked Landis to comment on an image gallery of his favorite beasts of the big screen. Above is the cyclops from “The 7th Voyage of Sinbad” (1958), the movie that Landis says “is the reason I’m a filmmaker.” From Wired:

In his new book Monsters in the Movies, out Monday, Landis explores a century of cinematic creatures, from the currently hot vampires and zombies to apes, genetic mutants, mad scientists, psychos and scary children. Scanning through the book, it’s hard not to be taken by the evolution of how Hollywood monsters are created, from rudimentary make-up tricks to really slick technical feats.”Technology in movies is always changing,” Landis told Wired.com. “In terms of CG, it’s an amazing technology and like all new technologies, completely overused immediately.”

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