June 22, 2014
[war] America’s Nuclear Arsenal Still Runs Off Floppy Disks
… ‘The control room was not what Stahl—or I—expected: There’s no “big button,” but there are floppy disks. Like the old, big 8-inch floppy disks. Like the kind, […] that are often featured in a computer history museum or found in your attic, beneath old DOS manuals. Like, not even the newer, 3.5-inch model of floppy disk. That’s how they control our nuclear missiles. At 23 years old, the deputy missileer said she had never even seen a floppy disk before finding one that can help wreak untold carnage on planet Earth.’
May 8, 2014
[tech] Wat HiFi?
… amusing collection of reviews for high-end HiFI equipment … ‘This [$600] USB cable is simply revelatory in its combination of ease and refinement on one hand, and resolution and transparency on the other. Although capable of resolving the finest detail, Diamond USB has a relaxed quality that fosters deep musical involvement.’
May 7, 2014
[tech] How Steve Wozniak Wrote BASIC for the Original Apple From Scratch
… ‘The problem was that I had no knowledge of BASIC, just a bare memory that it had line numbers from that 3-day high-school experience. So I picked up a BASIC manual late one night at HP and started reading it and making notes about the commands of this language. Mind that I had never taken a course in compiler (or interpreter) writing in my life. But my friend Allen Baum had sent me xerox copies of pages of his texts at MIT about the subject so I could claim that I had an MIT education in it, ha ha. In my second year of college I had sat in a math analysis class trying to teach myself how to start writing a FORTRAN compiler, knowing nothing about the science of compiler writing.’
May 2, 2014
[security] 4 Simple Changes to Stop Online Tracking
… some great tips from the Electronic Frontier Foundation … ‘Get Adblock Plus. After it is installed, be sure to change your filter preferences to add EasyPrivacy.’
April 26, 2014
[tech] Previously Unknown Andy Warhol Works Discovered on Floppy Disks from 1985
… another story of digital archeology … ‘It was not known in advance whether any of Warhol’s imagery existed on the floppy disks—nearly all of which were system and application diskettes onto which, the team later discovered, Warhol had saved his own data. Reviewing the disks’ directory listings, the team’s initial excitement on seeing promising filenames like “campbells.pic” and “marilyn1.pic” quickly turned to dismay, when it emerged that the files were stored in a completely unknown file format, unrecognized by any utility. Soon afterwards, however, the Club’s forensics experts had reverse-engineered the unfamiliar format, unveiling 28 never-before-seen digital images that were judged to be in Warhol’s style by the AWM’s experts. At least eleven of these images featured Warhol’s signature.’
April 25, 2014
[tech] The Hackers Who Recovered NASA’s Lost Lunar Photos
… a wonderful story of digital archeology …
The photos were stored with remarkably high fidelity on the tapes, but at the time had to be copied from projection screens onto paper, sometimes at sizes so large that warehouses and even old churches were rented out to hang them up. The results were pretty grainy, but clear enough to identify landing sites and potential hazards. After the low-fi printing, the tapes were shoved into boxes and forgotten.
They changed hands several times over the years, almost getting tossed out before landing in storage in Moorpark, California. Several abortive attempts were made to recover data from the tapes, which were well kept, but it wasn’t until 2005 that NASA engineer Keith Cowing and space entrepreneur Dennis Wingo were able to bring the materials and the technical know how together.
When they learned through a Usenet group that former NASA employee Nancy Evans might have both the tapes and the super-rare Ampex FR-900 drives needed to read them, they jumped into action.
March 22, 2014
[tech] Spring Cleaning Who Has Access to Your Social Media Data
… useful tips for managing Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn … ‘Just like the spring cleaning rule that says, “If you haven’t worn it in six months, throw it out,” you should use the same edict with your online data: “If you haven’t logged in to an app or site in six months, revoke its access.”’
March 14, 2014
[tech] Good advice from a Fortune Cookie
… ‘You will never get back the years of your life you spent pointlessly rolling your own CMS.’
February 21, 2014
[power] U.K. National Grid status
… Statistics about the UK’s electicity supply in near real time … ‘Gridwatch was born, first of all to scrape the data off the BMreports site every 5 minutes and inject it into an SQL database where it would be easy to perform specific searches and do statistical analysis. Then, in a rather retro and humorous way, to display the data in terms of analogue instruments and moving graphs. This is pure personal amusement, I like dials and graphs.’
[via As Above
January 19, 2014
[web] Have I Been Pwned?
… a service that allows you to check if any of your usernames or passwords been compromised in recent website security breaches.
January 13, 2014
[tech] Source Code in TV and Films
… an amusing look at where the Source Code displayed in TV and movies is really from … ‘In the film Terminator, the HUD shows a listing of 6502 assembly language which appears to have been taken from an Apple II.’
December 20, 2013
[tech] 11 parental IT support issues you can expect if you go home this Christmas
… ‘No, change the screen resolution back, please. I prefer all my windows to be blurry and weirdly elongated.’
December 9, 2013
[mobiles] The Second Operating System Hiding in Every Mobile Phone
… all your worst fears about computer/phone security are true … ‘So, we have a complete operating system, running on an ARM processor, without any exploit mitigation (or only very little of it), which automatically trusts every instruction, piece of code, or data it receives from the base station you’re connected to. What could possibly go wrong? ‘
November 14, 2013
[work] Hyperemployment, or the Exhausting Work of the Technology User
… Whatever happened to Keynes idea of a Leisure Society? ‘The economic impact of hyperemployment is obviously different from that of underemployment, but some of the same emotional toll imbues both: a sense of inundation, of being trounced by demands whose completion yields only their continuance, and a feeling of resignation that any other scenario is likely or even possible. The only difference between the despair of hyperemployment and that of un- or under-employment is that the latter at least acknowledges itself as an substandard condition, while the former celebrates the hyperemployed’s purported freedom to “share” and “connect,” to do business more easily and effectively by doing jobs once left for others competence and compensation, from the convenience of your car or toilet.’
November 13, 2013
[retro-computing] Google BBS Terminal
… How Google search would behave if it had been created in the 1980’s.
June 25, 2013
[security] Anatomy of a Hack: How Crackers Ransack Passwords Like “qeadzcwrsfxv1331”
… A fascinating look at how easy it is to crack passwords … ‘Even the least successful cracker of our trio—who used the least amount of hardware, devoted only one hour, used a tiny word list, and conducted an interview throughout the process—was able to decipher 62 percent of the passwords. Our top cracker snagged 90 percent of them.’
May 6, 2013
… a real life pack Windows Solitaire playing cards … ‘Solitaire.exe is a physical pixel-for-pixel recreation of the popular computer card game included in the Windows 98 operating system.’
April 4, 2013
[tech] The Never-Before-Told Story of the World’s First Computer Art (It’s a Sexy Dame)
… the first computer art was apparently created by an anyonymous IBM employee … ‘A young man used a $238 million military computer, the largest such machine ever built, to render an image of a curvy woman on a glowing cathode ray tube screen. The year was 1956, and the creation was a landmark moment in computer graphics and cultural history that has gone unnoticed until now. Using equipment designed to guard against the apocalypse, a pin-up girl had been drawn. She was quite probably the first human likeness to ever appear on a computer screen. She glowed.’
March 19, 2013
[tech] It’s OK to Be a Hater Because Everything Is Bad
… amusing rant about the awfulness of technology … ‘Tablets are a complete luxury item—PURE luxury—and owning one makes you an asshole, instantly, categorically. It’s a wonderful toy. But a toy. A big boy toy. Nobody needs an iPad. Nobody. Not a single person, unless you’re literally so stupid and/or infirm that you can’t use a keyboard and mouse like the rest of the industrialized (or barbaric) world. iPads are a status symbol, a second computer that’s built expressly for convenience. You’re spending hundreds and hundreds of dollars to make your cushy life even cushier by carrying a beautiful computer you don’t need that you can use while flopped down on the couch or leaning against an airplane window like the bourgeois brat idiot you are. You don’t need this thing, and you know you don’t need it. You need a PC-yes. You need a PC to be part of modern society. But you don’t need an iPad, and the entire notion of the luxury device is noxious and offensive…’
March 12, 2013
[drink] What Coca-Cola Contains
… ‘The number of individuals who know how to make a can of Coke is zero. The number of individual nations that could produce a can of Coke is zero. This famously American product is not American at all. Invention and creation is something we are all in together. Modern tool chains are so long and complex that they bind us into one people and one planet. They are not only chains of tools, they are also chains of minds: local and foreign, ancient and modern, living and dead — the result of disparate invention and intelligence distributed over time and space.’
March 6, 2013
[tech] How Qihoo 360 Won the Browser War in China
… a look at how a virus company leveraged it’s position to create China’s most popular web browser … ‘When a user tries to uninstall the 360 browser, they are presented with three choices: Repair, Change to IE9, or uninstall directly. If they choose to change to IE9, after installation another popup occurs and when you click “Next”, it reinstalls the 360 browser and makes it the default.’
March 5, 2013
[books] The Book-Writing Machine
… What was the first book ever written on a word processor? … ‘It was 1968, and the IBM technician who serviced Len Deighton’s typewriters had just heard from Deighton’s personal assistant, Ms. Ellenor Handley, that she had been retyping chapter drafts for his book in progress dozens of times over. IBM had a machine that could help, the technician mentioned…’
March 1, 2013
[tech] The Restart Page
… Re-experience the thrill of watching your favourite retro operating systems reboot.
December 11, 2012
[google] The best way to use Gmail and Google Calendar on your iPhone
… useful guide to using Google services with the iPad and iPhone … ‘The trick here is combining the Gmail app with two syncing protocols called CardDAV and CalDAV (don’t worry, you’ll never actually need to know what these are to get them to work). You’ll need an iOS device running version 5.0 or above to take advantage of these, but each offers better and more powerful integration with Google’s services than just tapping “Gmail” when you first set up your email accounts on your phone. Much like the momentary pain of digging into your Facebook privacy settings, the five or ten minutes spent setting up this system will save you email stress for months to come.’
November 15, 2012
[web] The Hacking Of A General’s Mistress
… a look at how long it takes to hack a password used by General Petraeus’ girlfriend … ‘Using oclHashtcat, it’ll take 17 hours to crack her password using a GPU accelerator trying 3.5-billion password attempts per second, trying all combinations of upper/lower case and digits. After doing this, you’ll discover the original password is “vsKLVg8L”. This is a fairly strong password, consisting of random upper/lower case letters and numbers, which is why it takes 17 hours to crack.’
October 8, 2012
[comics] Wisdom Of The Ancients
… ‘Who were you, DenverCoder9? –
WHAT DID YOU SEE?!’
September 10, 2012
[phones] Auto Crrect Ths!
… James Gleick on auto correct on phones / computers … ‘ In the past, we were responsible for our own typographical errors. Now Autocorrect has taken charge. This is no small matter. It is a step in our evolution — the grafting of silicon into our formerly carbon-based species, in the name of collective intelligence. Or unintelligence as the case may be. Earlier this year, the police in Hall County, Ga., locked down the West Hall schools for two hours after someone received a text message saying, “gunman be at west hall today.” The texter had typed “gunna,” but Autocorrect had a better idea.’
August 7, 2012
[security] How Apple and Amazon Security Flaws Led to My Epic Hacking
… a sobering look at how one man’s digital life – Google Account, Apple Account – was compromised and his iPhone and Mac were remotely wiped … ‘I asked him why. Was I targeted specifically? Was this just to get to Gizmodo’s Twitter account? No, Phobia said they hadn’t even been aware that my account was linked to Gizmodo’s, that the Gizmodo linkage was just gravy. He said the hack was simply a grab for my three-character Twitter handle. That’s all they wanted. They just wanted to take it, and fuck shit up, and watch it burn. It wasn’t personal.’
July 19, 2012
[history] This Is the Oldest Record In History—Scanned and Recreated From a Photo
… a remarkable story about how the worlds oldest recording was been recovered from a picture of the record … ‘[Patrick] Fester is an expert on resuscitating records from photographs. He scanned that image at a very high resolution. Then, using image processing software, he enhanced the resulting image. After obtaining the sound profile hidden in the shadows of the print, he used software to recreate the actual sound. What he heard left him speechless: it was the voice of the father of the gramophone, Emile Berliner…’
July 11, 2012
… a fascinating pictures series of disassembled old machines with their parts laid out in a forensic fashion ..
July 5, 2012
[books] Will Your Children Inherit Your E-Books?
… another of those article on the death of the book / E-books / and what happens to your books after you die … ‘…the question of what to do with books that outlive their owners has only been a common problem since the mid-19th century, when the steam-powered press and the advent of cheap paper caused a vast expansion of the book market. Before that, few families would have had the problem of a surfeit of books. Now, though, we may be reaching the end of the 150-year-old print boom, and with it a transformation in the way we have shared books, reader after reader and life after life.’
June 13, 2012
[tech] In Memoriam: Our Favorite Apps and Services That Have Gone Belly Up (and Their Replacements)
… useful list from Lifehacker … ‘Delicious (Web): 2003-2011 – The history: Delicious is a web-based social bookmarking app that is technically still around, but it isn’t really the same site it used to be. Many users have jumped ship entirely to other similar services instead. What’s taken its place: We rounded up our favorite Delicious alternatives back when it was headed for death, and Pinboard is still our top choice.’
May 22, 2012
… great little cross-platform backup solution for Gmail which dumps your email in flat files to a local disk.
January 26, 2012
[tech] The Wirecutter | A List of the Best Gadgets
.. if you’re thinking of buying some technology this would be a great place to visit before making the decision.
January 23, 2012
[funny] In Which I Fix My Girlfriend’s Grandparents’ WiFi and Am Hailed as a Conquering Hero
… ‘The people did beseech the warrior to aid them. They were a simple people, capable only of rewarding him with gratitude and a larger-than-normal serving of Jell-O salad. The warrior considered the possible battles before him. While others may have shirked the duties, forcing the good people of Ferndale Street to prostrate themselves before the tyrants of Comcast, Linksys, and Geek Squad, the warrior could not chill his heart to these depths. He accepted the quest and strode bravely across the beige shag carpet of the living room…’
January 9, 2012
[tech] Computers in space
… a look at the supposedly antique technology used in space missions … ‘The ISS is packed with processors to keep its crew happy, or at least alive, but at the core of its operational hardware are the Command and Control Computers. They’re 80386SX-20s. But they’ve got 80387 co-processors! A couple even have hard drives!’
January 8, 2012
[flight] Software bug fingered as cause of Aussie A330 plunge
… ‘The problem was fixed by turning the unit off and then on again. It’s not clear what caused the ADIRU to shift into failure mode, as this is only the third time that it has happened in over 128 million hours of operation – although one of those other incidents was down to the same ADIRU in that aircraft. The investigators checked all the usual suspects, including the use of electronic equipment by passengers, but were unable to find a fault and suggested it may be down to a high-energy atmospheric particle striking one of the integrated circuits within the unit.’
October 13, 2011
[usb] How to Plug In a USB Cable Correctly Every Time
… a great tech tip – can’t believe I didn’t realise this years ago!
October 6, 2011
[apple] How Robert X. Cringely summed up Steve Jobs in 1992…
The most dangerous man in Silicon Valley sits alone on many weekday mornings, drinking coffee at Il Fornaio, an Italian restaurant on Cowper Street in Palo Alto. He’s not the richest guy around or the smartest, but under a haircut that looks as if someone put a bowl on his head and trimmed around the edges, Steve Jobs holds an idea that keeps some grown men and women of the Valley awake at night. Unlike these insomaniacs, Jobs isn’t in this business for the money, and that’s what makes him dangerous.
I wish, sometimes, that I could say this personal computer stuff is just a matter of hard-headed business, but that would in no way account for the phenomenon of Steve Jobs. Co-founder of Apple Computer and founder of NeXT Inc., Jobs has literally forced the personal computer industry to follow his direction for fifteen years, a direction based not on business or intellectual principles but on a combination of technical vision and ego gratification in which both business and technical acumen played only small parts.
Steve Jobs sees the personal computer as his tool for changing the world. I know that sounds a lot like Bill Gates, but it’s really very different. Gates sees the personal computer as a tool for transferring every stray dollar, deutsche mark, and kopek in the world into his pocket. Gates doesn’t give a damn how people interact with their computers as long as they pay up. Jobs gives a damn. He wants to tell the world how to compute, to set the style of computing.
Bill Gates has no style; Steve Jobs has nothing but style.
A friend once suggested that Gates switch to Armani suits from his regular plaid shirt and Levis Dockers look. “I can’t do that,” Bill replied. “Steve Jobs wears Armani suits.”
Think of Bill Gates as the emir of Kuwait and Steve Jobs as Saddam Hussein.
Like the emir, Gates wants to run his particular subculture with an iron hand, dispensing flawed justice as he sees fit and generally keeping the bucks flowing in, not out. Jobs wants to control the world. He doesn’t care about mantaining a strategic advantage; he wants to attack, to bring death to the infidels. We’re talking rivers of blood here. We’re talking martyrs. Jobs doesn’t care if there are a dozen companies or a hundred companies opposing him. He doesn’t care what the odds are against success. Like Saddam, he doesn’t even care how much his losses are. Nor does he even have to win, if, by losing the mother of all battles he can maintain his peculiar form of conviction, still stand before an adoring crowd of nerds, symbolically firing his 9mm automatic into the air, telling the victors that they are still full of shit.
You guessed it. By the usual standards of Silicon Valley CEOs, where job satisfaction is measured in dollars, and an opulent retirement by age 40 is the goal, Steve Jobs is crazy.
September 14, 2011
[wordpress] How to upgrade WordPress via SSH
… this is my #1 geek tip for using WordPress … ‘If you know how to log in via SSH (Secure Shell Access), then you will be able to upgrade your WordPress site in three minutes or less by using the following lines of code.’
August 24, 2011
[funny] Go Look: Herbert West, Data Entry Specialist
… ‘REAL MEN DON’T USE MENUS.’
August 22, 2011
[tech] Gizmodo: Unedited Thoughts About Technology Better Left Unposted
… On Nerds:
You know more about technology than anybody else, and anybody who knows less than you is a total dipshit. I love you for that. But normal people deserve wonderful technology too. And half the shit you call computing—running custom ROMs, reinstalling OSes, fucking with network settings—is like a chef sharpening his knives over and over and calling that cooking. Real computing is the actual stuff you do—cutting videos, editing photos, writing. Or at least it should be. Not the shit people do to make all of that work.
July 29, 2011
[web] Internet protocols: Removing the internet’s Relics
… On the long slow death of FTP … ‘The internet never throws anything away. Instead, engineers twiddle, update, and overhaul. The e-mail system in use today has a strong resemblance to that of 1971, just as transferring files between two machines in 2011 is, at heart, a 40-year-old relic…’
July 20, 2011
… How unique, identifiable and trackable is your web browser? ‘…web sites may be able to track you, even if you limit or disable cookies. Panopticlick tests your browser to see how unique it is based on the information it will share with sites it visits.’
June 23, 2011
[books] Kevin Kelly On When Books Disappear: ‘We are in a special moment that will not last beyond the end of this century: Paper books are plentiful. They are cheap and everywhere, from airports to drug stores to libraries to bookstores to the shelves of millions of homes. There has never been a better time to be a lover of paper books. But very rapidly the production of paper books will essentially cease, and the collections in homes will dwindle, and even local libraries will not be supported to house books — particularly popular titles. Rare books will collect in a few rare book libraries, and for the most part common paper books archives will become uncommon. It seems hard to believe now, but within a few generations, seeing a actual paper book will be as rare for most people as seeing an actual lion.’
June 11, 2011
… nice little software programme that automatically adjusts the colour of your computer display for the time of day – less harsh at night, brighter during the day. Available for Windows, Mac and Linux.
June 6, 2011
[tech] Information Overload, The Early Years
… ‘But around 1500, humanist scholars began to bemoan new problems: Printers in search of profit, they complained, rushed to print manuscripts without attention to the quality of the text, and the sheer mass of new books was distracting readers from the focus on the ancient authors most worthy of attention. Printers “fill the world with pamphlets and books that are foolish, ignorant, malignant, libelous, mad, impious and subversive; and such is the flood that even things that might have done some good lose all their goodness,” wrote Erasmus in the early 16th century…’
May 17, 2011
[tech] The Art of Endless Upgrades
… Kevin Kelly on an issue I’ve noticed too – I spend far to much time maintaining a few simple websites … ‘Keeping a website or a software program afloat is like keep a yacht afloat. It is a black hole for attention. I can kind of understand why a mechanical device would break down after a while — moisture rusts metal, or the air oxidizes membranes, or lubricants evaporate — all of which require repair. But I wasn’t thinking that the intangible world of bits would also degrade. What’s to break? Apparently everything.’