A completely creeptastic article from the NY Times on how Target can figure out that your 16 year old daughter is pregnant before she’s willing to talk to you about it, based on what she’s buying and when. Big Brother isn’t a mustachioed Stalinist, he’s a mild-mannered statistician attending corporate board meetings and sending out personalized coupon books that purposefully camouflage just how much his computers know about you and your so-called “private life”.
The University of Chicago has created an Open Courseware style Climate Science 101, with videos of the lectures and self-assessment materials online. It’s aimed at non-science undergraduates. If you, or someone you know, want to get a little more in depth knowledge about climate science on their own time, it’s a great resource.
Sustainable Energy, without the Hot Air by David MacKay, is a book (available in its entirety online) looking at the sources of energy available, and the ways in which we use it today. There are lots of options, but any real discussion has to, at the very least, use numbers that add up.
A vast signals intelligence industry exists, and will sell its wares (including satellite data interception and undersea fiber-optic cable tapping) to any and all comers. Ironically, they were infiltrated by agents from Privacy International, a London-based NGO. Apparently the industry isn’t yet using its own technology to defend against critics. One has to wonder how long that situation will last.
In Genoa, Italy a radioactive cargo container appeared. Nobody knew where it had come from, or where it was going, or what was in it. It took a year to get rid of it. It’s as if a pixel got stuck on, in the real world, not the digital world. I have to imagine given how automated the container transshipping is in some ports, that you could almost treat the insertion of something like this as a software problem. You just have to get a truck to pick it up without knowing who you are, or what you’ve loaded, and from there the 20 ton packet of reality moves, guided by a disembodied digital hand.
The virtual cockpits from which the US drone fleet are operated have been infected by a virus, anonymous Air Force sources tell Wired. Not only that, but officials at Creech AFB in Nevada where the deathly video games are played, apparently didn’t notify the Air Force’s network security organization of the breech. When you put this together with the extrajudicially authorized overseas executions of US citizens, well, it’s just a little bit too SkyNet for me to feel good about.
A scathing review of an official German government trojan by the Chaos Computer Club. They decompiled the binaries and reverse-engineered the software, and found that not only did it fail to comply with the German constitutional court’s mandate to limit its capabilities, but was so poorly designed and secured as to enable “even attackers of mediocre skill” to completely compromise any machine on which it had been installed. Clearly not the best of German engineering!
Crowdfunding, Why the SEC Bans It, Obama Wants It, and Banks Fear It. Kickstarter would be illegal if you were making investments in a business, instead of donations to a cause. Even so, people have raised on occasion hundreds of thousands of dollars via the site for honor-system bound innovation. Hopefully this will be legitimized soon.
The Prey Project is an open source package that lets you turn your laptop or phone into a location aware spying machine, tracking its own motions, and reporting on the usage of the person in possession — screenshots, webcam photos, network captures, etc. — in the event that it is stolen or lost. Sounds great! Of course, it also lets you turn somebody else’s computer into a spying machine, so you can watch them, if you can manage to get it installed without their knowing. Kind of creepy… given that they’ve got a “pro” version that lets you track hundreds of machines simultaneously.
Open-Source Camouflage From Computer Vision. As facial recognition becomes more popular as a means for police state identification, innovative makeup and hairstyle fashions can be deployed to foil the Orwellian algorithms. Talk about weird. Now we’re going to be dressing for the machines?