Tuesday, July 31, 2007


From the upcoming CD. This isn't necessarily a political setback for algore3. DUIs were important millstones in the careers of Pridnit George "W" Bush and the cardiological cyborg Mistercheney. Let's not forget that Laura Bush (Welch) hit and killed a classmate in her H.S. driving years. (Funny how she is never asked about that, but Obama has to answer for every… never mind.) If his father, algore2, is correct, having been a (Prius-drivin' weed-smokin') outlaw during the dark carbon era could be a political plus in the coming turbulence of peak oil.
(Original photo credit to Christine Cotter of IAT. Rudely appropriated for re-mixing without permission. Thanks also to t.A.T.u. for the inspirational album title.)

Monday, July 30, 2007

Kagurazaka Matsuri

Tokyo July 27, 2007

These are cellphone quality videos uploaded to YouTube. I stumbled onto this. It's very energetic considering the heat. I was glad to get the audio: drumming, flutes, and voices. This effectively simulates the perception of a drunk myopic viewer. Extremely impressionistic. Best viewed with Firefox, on a Mac, with a squint, and 2 or more beers. Embrace the lo-fi low-res suck. Some like it pixelated. (My phone is limited to 50-second 3gp (176x144) clips of about 300k.)

The one on the bottom is pasted together from the clips. File size swelled to 53 MB from the original 2.+ MB of the clips, but it seems to have smoothed out the pixelation when it scaled up. Too big, though, and I might have to delete it. Anyway, enjoy! FWIW!

All things must PASMO.

The now archaic technology of the magnetic cards, PaSuNetTo and io. How soon we forget. The IC cards (rfid-based suICa and Pasmo) are more secure but lack the postcard-like designs of the magnetic era. I accidentally have a telephone card in there, too, but I have no way of knowing if they are still used, having not used a public phone in Japan for years as far as I can remember. Leaving home without a cellphone is like leaving without cash or pants these days. I don't miss the way payphone receivers came scented in tobacco, beer, sake, halitosis, vomitosis, fish, phlem, and other aromas. The magnetic patterns were easily forged and sold by illegal Iranian immigrants in the parks for years.

These cards have the original, unretouched scratches intact. Now that they are uploaded I can get rid of them. By the way, I have noted a decline in manners since Clifford the Big Red Dog began his appeal to commuters.

Friday, July 27, 2007

iPhone iCracked, iHacked, iJacked

That's interesting. Get in through the wi-fi and browser. (Who wudda ever thunk that?)
And an interesting quote, too. Looks like they have Apple's number. (Microsoft in drag. Only smaller. Hippy geeks versus the nerdy geeks(?) but these days it's all corporate.)

Does this add credence to Apple's position that 3rd party applications are not allowed on the iPhone for security reasons?
We don't think so. Almost all of the security engineering effort on the iPhone seems to have been spent protecting the revenue model, rather than protecting the user (which is, of course, an entirely understandable position). For example, a constrained environment is used to prevent users from loading new ringtones onto the phone, but the applications are not run in a constrained environment to contain damage caused by hackers who exploit them.
That's a really nice example to support the point.

Are these people for real, though? These look like names that I would have made up.
Who are you guys?
We're Charlie Miller, Jake Honoroff, and Joshua Mason, members of the software security team at Independent Security Evaluators, an information security consulting firm. Matt Green, Avi Rubin, Sam Small, and Adam Stubblefield were also involved in the project. If you're good at doing this kind of analysis, we're hiring.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Popcorn Geomancy

We people-of-the-corn use corn in all of our important rituals, such as foretelling the future. Many popcorns in this batch were fused together, indicating either love, war, the collision of Earth with another planetoid, or the convergence of technology. The oddest one was this sword-wielding popcorn. The sword is of a decorative West Asian style, and the width of the blade indicates the large number of deaths in the coming conflagration. (Or it could be a ski.) Persia and Saudi Arabia are indicated. We can also see that many babies will be born with doglike mouths and double-rows of reptilian-like teeth, indicating the use of chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons, an impression strengthened by the appearance of skin boils. A war seems to last 8 to 10 years before attrition forces a settlement. A man with a sloping forehead and strange, powerful buttocks will be involved. Not sure who that is, as the creation of an Interpol Buttocks DataBase (IBDB) for the identification of bad guys has been a low priority, even with the lobbying efforts of Jim Baker. It's probably Putin or his successor, setting a trap for the Americans and British. Several ninja-like characters will be looking on, watching closely but staying extremely Swiss.

This is the popcorn talking, not me. I'd like nothing better than for the Bush administration to be slowly brought to justice and disempowered, if not necessarily disemboweled. I expect so, too. The popcorn says otherwise, that Iraq was just a warm-up, but that's just one popcorn talking, a minority report. Perhaps it has nothing to do with Bush but is a spontaneous explosion (in the smoldering post-traumatic geopolitical wreckage left by Bush). Each kernel represents an alternate future. The future is still unpopped. Consult your local maize for further information. The medium is the message.

By the way, if you still have the (soon-to-be) banned microwave variety, you should know that popcorn is a health hazard. (I have a supply that will last until winter). The volatile butter flavorings cause lung disease and the components of the bag migrate into the corn and are highly carcinogenic. It's not nice to fool Mother Nature. All those medical complications and it doesn't even get you high, well, not really. Try removing it from the bag and popping it in a well-ventilated area. Get a Fresnel lens and make solar popcorn to reduce your carbon gore-print.

Final prediction: popcorn will be found to contain neurotrophic proteins.

Caesar Salad on the Table

I tend to get wind of most breaking news when I look at one of my computers and see the news scrolling, or spinning by on the RSS-reader screensaver. In the future, when someone asks how I learned of, oh, say the brutal lynching of the president or whatever spectacular news the near future holds, I will most likely have seen it go by on the screensaver. Once in a while a badly-worded headline rolls by like the one above, a headline that causes a surge of hope to rise in the chest, but which is just as quickly extinguished as one reads past the first three words. You really have to read beyond the first three words to get the whole story. It just goes by so fast. I guess I should have known better. Harry Reid doesn't run the Senate that way. And what would Julius "W" Ceasar be doing on the Senate floor, anyway? That's more like a place where you would find Mr Dick Cheney when he crawls out of his hole. If the Senate were to act, they should act against the VP first. The succession has got more complicated since the first century BC. This picture isn't from March, either, but is from June.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Bastard Spawn of Floor-cleaning Automaton and Taser Threatens Human Race

These are the good old days. Carly Simon said so. Since we know that the present will someday become the Good Old Days, I sometimes conduct thought experiments to visualize what kind of abominable technological or social development would cause these to be remembered as the Good Old Days. In order to do this, imagine something that seems bad now, and then imagine what permutation of it would cause you to remember this badness with fond nostalgia 50 years from now.

For example, roadside bombs are a problem for troops in Iraq. "Why, I remember the good old days, when alls we had to worry about were them dumb roadside bombs! They usually had a wire or somethin' attached, and you could see 'em before they blew! Sometimes they were detonated by cellphone, but at least we usually had body armor, kevlar vests that the family would send from home. They waren't nuthin' like these damn smart heat-seeking mines now, the ones that sense you, follow you home, leap off the ground and bore up through any available orifice before applying a software patch to your central nervous system causing you to go on a killing rampage when in the presence of a large number of your comrades, before exploding. Those things are downright nefarious! And where the hell are they comin' from at a time like this when we ain't even at war?! Maybe they're left over from the last war, but I think the robot companies are just pumpin' 'em out to drum up business for their other products. Oh, what I wouldn't give to just hold a good old-fashioned improvised explosive device in my hands today!"

Reality has a way of racing ahead of the most fevered imagination at times. Perhaps when the last human supporter of George W. Bush has vanished, military robo-tasers could patrol the world to keep the wetware in line.

From the Los Angeles Times

Taser-armed robots are in the works
From the Associated Press

July 2, 2007

BOSTON — RoboCops and robot soldiers got a little closer to reality last week as a maker of floor-cleaning automatons teamed with a stun-gun manufacturer to arm track-wheeled robots for the police and the Pentagon.

By adding Tasers to robots it makes for the military, Burlington, Mass.-based IRobot Corp. says it hopes to give soldiers and law enforcement officers a defensive, nonlethal tool.

But some observers fear that such developments could ultimately lead to robots capable of deciding on their own when to shoot and kill.

"It's one more step in that direction," said John Pike, director of GlobalSecurity.org, an Alexandria, Va.-based military research organization.

"It is not the first step in that direction, but I think at some point toward the end of the next decade, you're going to start seeing RoboCops or a Terminator," Pike said, referring to a pair of 1980s robot-themed sci-fi films. "We may see autonomous robots capable of inflicting lethal force."

Jim Rymarcsuk, vice president for business development at IRobot, said notions of armed robots acting on their own were far beyond what the company envisioned for the partnership announced Thursday
with Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Taser International Inc.

"Right now, we have no plans to take any robot with a lethal-weapon approach to the market," Rymarcsuk said. "For this system, and all systems we have looked at, there is a human in the loop making the decisions. This in no way is giving the robot the capability to use force on its own."

Financial terms of the partnership were not disclosed. The companies said they had developed a model that would be demonstrated at a Taser-hosted conference in Chicago on July 9 and 10. The model pairs IRobot's existing PackBot Explorer with the Taser X26 in what IRobot calls "the first robot of its kind with an on-board, integrated Taser payload."

There's no word when the system will be offered for sale, or for how much.
I wonder how the demonstration went. I haven't read or heard anything about it, but that doesn't necessarily mean all witnesses were killed.

The following article is from Softpedia.
If Armed Autonomous Robot Kills Humans, Who's Guilty of Murder?
- Armed autonomous robots cause real concern and raise interesting questions
By: Lucian Dorneanu, Science Editor

Last week, a company announced plans to produce autonomous robots equipped with Taser guns, which will be sold to law enforcement agencies in the US. They will be used for crown control and against civilians, a situation that raised concerns and gave birth to some interesting questions.

If such an armed autonomous robot accidentally kills a man, who will be charged with murder? Its makers, the police, no one?

The US military already uses PackBot, made by iRobot of Massachusetts, to carry lethal weapons and
there are already 5,000 robots used by the US Army in Iraq and Afghanistan, up from about 150 in 2004, most of them being used to search caves and buildings for insurgents, detect mines and ferret out roadside and car bombs.

But when it comes to US citizens, things get a little complicated. This move to arm police robots with stun guns has been condemned by weapon researchers and not only from the US.

These new robots are not designed to kill, they will only be equipped with Tasers, an electroshock weapon, an incapacitant used for subduing a person by administering electric shock that may disrupt superficial muscle functions.

While usually not lethal, Tasers can accidentally kill people. Thought to be reliable and non-lethal by most police agencies, between June 2001 and June 2007, there were at least 245 cases of deaths of subjects soon after having been shocked using Tasers.

7th of July 2007, 10:54 GMT
From New Scientist:
Armed autonomous robots cause concern
10:32 07 July 2007

A MOVE to arm police robots with stun guns has been condemned by weapons researchers.
On 28 June, Taser International of Arizona announced plans to equip robots with stun guns. The US military already uses PackBot, made by iRobot of Massachusetts, to carry lethal weapons, but the new stun-capable robots could be used against civilians.
"The victim would have to receive shocks for longer, or repeatedly, to give police time to reach the scene and restrain them, which carries greater risk to their health," warns non-lethal weapons researcher Neil Davison, of the University of Bradford, UK.
"If someone is severely punished by an autonomous robot, who are you going to take to a tribunal?" asks Steve Wright, a security expert at Leeds Metropolitan University, UK.
Even if not fully autonomous, Taser-bots remotely controlled by pranksters wouldn't be much fun either. It's easy to predict a spate of robot assassinations by humanists not wanting to take a chance that the floor-cleaner or lawn-mowing bot doesn't have a "stinger" on board. Corporations will have to take defensive measures to defend their bot-swarms, building in metal-detectors and behavioral analysis software to enable them to detect and self-defensively taser anti-bot humanists before they take the hardware offline.

Ah, I miss the good old twenny-ohs already.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Recycling of the Disposable Society

Long contemplated tweaks to old files inspired by the :-(P.M.G.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Despair not, DIY

The management and marketing geniuses at Despair.com have a do-it-yourself demotivational parody-inspirational poster generator. I did a somewhat uninspired test run with an image (that came from here) to see if it really worked. The Prairie Dog with light-saber is a tad better, I think. (It's based on this video. I can appreciate the red glow of the light saber reflecting off his right side. Speaking of DPD, this other Star Wars theme is cracked although badly done. The original Morning Musume segment and a nest of suspected prairie dog sympathizers deserve some credit for DPD's flourishing career.) Below is a sampling of recent demotivators from despair.com:-(.

Update: A variation of the earlier Egyptian i-thing:

Monday, July 02, 2007

iPhone it in, iPhone home, iPhone sucks (you in)

As an enthusiastic but non-fanatical Mac user, I am always interested to see Apple products. I wasn't initially too excited about the iPod or iTunes, which were inferior to other alternatives, and still are. For example, since my iPod must be synced to one computer, if I come home late at night I am listening to content I downloaded to it late the previous evening, 24-hour old podcast content, in other words. There are some workarounds, and I could use my other player, but it doesn't queue my content in time order as I do on the Shuffle, so it requires navigation, but I prefer to be hands-free in transit so I can hold a train strap and my bag.

In general, the problem with some Apple apps is that they are control freaks. As much as I like their products, Steve Jobs is a control freak, but an unsuccessful control freak, while Bill Gates is a more successful control freak with a slightly looser grip, which allowed him to become more powerful than Apple, which wanted to control your hardware, too. I still prefer Apple and don't fear their control mentality, since Jobs is about 8 inches tall next to a full-sized Bill Gates. Mac works better. If or when I do abandon the Mac platform it will be for Ubuntu, not Vista. Ubuntu is improving rapidly and I will run it if I buy a PC and can get it to do the things I need it to do.

The iPhone has enjoyed the most ecstatically hyped launch in history, perhaps, but a few problems have been pointed out. I googled up 30,000 hits for "iPhone sucks". The best dissection so far: This site (essistme) listed 20-odd problems with the iPhone.

Downsides of the Apple iPhone:
• You CANNOT FREELY USE THE iPHONE ON OTHER CONTINENTS WITH SIM CARDS - you are restricted to AT&T international roaming networks only.
• … YOU HAVE TO LITERALLY PAY AT LEAST $2196+ FOR THE iPHONE for your 2 year contract.
• … You CANNOT record video clips
• Even though it has a 2 Megapixel camera, you CANNOT SEND PICS TO OTHER CELL PHONES VIA MMS PICTURE MESSAGING.
• You CANNOT DOWNLOAD OR ACCESS ITUNES DIRECTLY from the iPhone, you always have to do it through you PC or Mac’s iTunes program and then sync files.
• … TYPING PERIODS AND COMMAS ARE A PAIN IN THE NECK, requiring you to go to a 2nd screen each time. Given that you use a period or comma in almost every sentence you type, this is NOT CONVENIENT.
• You CANNOT GO ON VACATION OR ROAD TRIP WITHOUT YOUR CHARGER because it doesn’t have a removeable battery, so you cannot use multiple batteries as back-up or spare
• You CANNOT LOAD MORE THAN 4GB or 8GB worth of video, music, audio, documents, contacts, email, etc because there is NO REMOVEABLE STORAGE CARD supported
• The iPhone CANNOT SURF THE WEB AS FAST AS MOST COMPETITOR PHONES like the 3G Blackjack or Blackberry because it does not support 3G
• You CANNOT CONNECT TO ALL iPOD DOCKS AND CONNECTORS currently out there - most will work, and a upgrade may be in the works, but for now, you may have to buy yet another accessory to connect the iPhone to speakers, car radio, etc.
• About connections, not all earplugs/headsets will fit into the jack since it’s reported to be a extra deep connection. Some accessory manufacturers are going to sell $40 adaptors just to get their standard earphone jacks to work with the iPhone
• You CANNOT WALK OUT OF THE STORE WITH A WORKING iPHONE - you’ll have to go home and activate it through iTunes.com
• Since the iPhone DOES NOT HAVE A REMOVABLE BATTERY, and the expected life is 300-400 charges, you’ll HAVE TO SHIP IT TO APPLE TO REPLACE THE BATTERY EVERY YEAR OR TWO just like iPods. Who wants to be separated from their smart phone for a week every year or two AND have to pay for it!
• Intelligent keyboard and all, but you CANNOT COPY/PASTE ANYTHING! That’s called a sin of omission.
• Although it’s being marketed as web device with the “real internet” with a “real browser” (Apple Safari), it DOES NOT SUPPORT FLASH, which is used on tons and tons of websites out there.
• Although you can watch up to 10,000 videos on YouTube, you CANNOT VIEW ANY AND ALL VIDEOS FROM YOUTUBE.
• Although you may be able to use Meebo or other sites as a work around for Instant Messaging, the iPhone DOES NOT SUPPORT INSTANT MESSAGING
• Although it is an iPod, and although you can use a bluetooth headset for calls, the iPhone DOES NOT SUPPORT STEREO MUSIC STREAMING THROUGH BLUETOOTH HEADSETS, even if you have have the Jawbone or any other bluetooth headset capable of doing that with a A2DP supported phone.
• You won’t be able to sit in line and pull out your iPhone to play games, because the iPhone DOES NOT HAVE ANY GAMES. Games from the iTunes store are not compatible.
• Although you can fill it up with 8 GIGS worth of mp3 songs from iTunes, you CANNOT CUSTOMIZE YOUR RINGTONES WITH MP3 SONGS
• You CANNOT USE IT AS A MODEM like you can with the SamsungVaio laptop.
• The iPhone CANNOT GET REAL-TIME GPS MAPPING like you can on the Blackberry 8800 because it is NOT GPS enabled
• Although it has the “most advanced” interface using your fingers and the touch-screen, you CANNOT USE VOICE COMMANDS OR VOICE RECOGNITION OR VOICE DIALING.
The iPhone seems like a technology from an alternate timeline, with some features on the bleeding edge and others many years behind. I have shifted some of the fatal flaws and deal-breakers to the top of the list I reproduced here. It seems like the user interface and touchscreen are a year or more out in front, however, they should have never tied it to one carrier. That will lose them 80% of their potential market, you would think, unless they intend to end that agreement in a year or two when they have a bigger slice of the market. Another major deal-killer is that we are used to unlocking the handsets from the SIM cards so we can pop in a different SIM card and give that identity to that phone (another trick my wife taught me). It's very handy and I made my Japanese phone into a Canadian phone when I was there, using a local number and debit card, rather than using the international roaming, which cost me $700 when I freely IM'ed on it a few summers ago mistakenly thinking I was spending ¥10 each time. I am used to paying about $30 for my cell phone as part of a family plan, and a few hundred to trade up every few years. That would come to about $400 a year or a buck and change a day. The iPhone is overpriced. Another problem is the camera. I take more pictures than I make phone calls. I would hate to go back to a 2 megapixel camera. 3G has been standard for years, and Softbank was recently the last carrier to get a majority of its customers onto 3G. Although my phone is is not a smartphone, it has features the iPhone doesn't have. For example, although most people never use videocalling, it has been standard for a while. Think about it this way: your cellphone absolutely must have video recording in case you find yourself witnessing a UFO crossing the sky, Bigfoot crossing the road, or the execution by hanging of Saddam Hussein, or let's say, the VP or prez by an angry mob. Still photos won't do. Being unable to send your sha-mail to other cellphones is also a leap about 5 years backwards. The battery stubbornness of Apple reminds me of the iPod. Please put the most standard rechargable battery in there and make it available in every convenience store. Next, being unable to cut and paste is like having your thumbs cut off. That's unacceptable even in a low-end cellphone except for the most basic grampa model. Any sort of customized dockings or connections would also kill the deal or make me pause. I also demand removable media. Micro SD cards (or MiniSD) are capacious, tiny, and cheap. Don't just leave us with no way to take more photos, a limit.

Apple could potentially make a killing in Japan, since many people want to replace their keitai every three months or so with something flashier. That's how I get my wife's year-old hand-me-downs free. But they are going to have to come up with a serious product based on the Japanese market if they want to compete. They should make their platform more open to invite more innovation, too.

What you are really left with in the iPhone is the well-integrated iPod, decent voice-mail handling, the touchscreen, and wi-fi connectivity. Not a bad start if they just didn't want to wait to enter the market. They did get attention. What they came up with may be OK in the US, but is far below the floor for competing in the keitai hothouse of Japan.

Last time I checked, the (Softbank) keitai that met my minimum requirements were the 904T (with GPS), 705NK, and 910T.

Some good points were made in this YouTube video from CNN.