Interview: Suw Charman – Open Rights Group

A video Interview with Suw Charman of the UK’s Open Rights Group, covering Digital Rights, Copyright Reform, Privacy, Data Retention, Automatic Vehicle Tracking and other issues.

Listen: Suw Interview
Watch: Youtube
Feed: RSS

Technolotics #26 – Supernatural Selection


Listen: Episode 26
Watch: Youtube
Feed: RSS


Bullying Causes Brain Damage

An experiment where mice were repeatly placed in cages with larger dominant aggressors

found that levels of BDNF (Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor) were decreased
‘bullied’ mice went on to behave in a socially avoidant manner
which could be ameliorated with anti-depressents

Using viral transfection – researchers temporarily turned of BDNF production in the mesolimbic dopamine system and repeated the experiment with a new set of mice

These mice failed to be negatively conditioned – as with BDNF production blocked a whole series of genes failed to express in reaction to repeated social defeat

The results indicate BDNF may play a role not just in depression – but addiction, social phobia, and post traumatic stress disorder
Implications: New drugs to treat anxiety, more rational approach than ‘chemical imbalance’

repeated incidences of social stress may lead to long term social anxiety and emotional withdrawal


Science Daily Coverage
Science Magazine Coverage
Original Paper – Essential Role of BDNF in the Mesolimbic Dopamine Pathway in Social Defeat Stress

Drive by Night

Luxury car manufacturers BMW and Mercedes release competing night vision systems
Dashboard monitors expose what the naked eye is unable to see lurking in the dark.
< 20 percent of fatal accidents occurred between midnight and 6:00 a.m.
Mercedes uses near-infrared sensors
BMW uses far-infrared technology

BMW system.

BMW system has longer range 984 feet – see bends earlier
but compromises on the sharpness of the displayed image
People appear as “very bright, ghostlike images”.
Future versions of BMW system will sound an audible alarm when an obstacle such as a person or animal is detected on the road ahead. Algorithms will be used to avoid too many false positives which would annoy and distract users.

Mercedes system.

Mercedes system has shorter range but better resolution and displayed objects brightness does not depend on it’s temperature.
Display is also better placed on the dash behind the steering wheel where other dials and gauges are usually placed.

Our thoughts

No head up display so it can be argued you’re taking your eyes off the road to look at the monitor.
Can’t replace the human eye or common sense.
Are accidents really caused by not seeing what’s ahead or by the fact that at that hour people are most likely to be DUI, exhausted and driving recklessly because there is less traffic around.
Can any algorithm be accurate enough to sound an alarm without falsies?


Wired Article

Short Stories

Vatican Rejects ID

The January 17 edition of L’Osservatore Romano contains an article that dismisses Intelligent Design on scientific grounds.
Views expressed in L’Osservatore are thought to reflect Vatican thinking because its content is published with official approval.
An editorial by Fiorenzo Facchini said proponents of ID improperly blur the lines between science and faith.

The Christian Century Coverage

CD Ripping isn’t fair use

The RIAA and other copyright pigopolists have decided that ripping your CD’s to your iPod should be illegal
In a submission to the US copyright offices – the RIAA stated

that format shifting (e.g.: ripping), and time shifting (e.g.: TIVO) – do not count an non-infringing uses

In complete contrast to their statements in the Groxster case etc
Remember this is already illegal in Ireland

EFF Coverage

UN calls for Guantanamo Close

A UN report has called for the immediate closure of Camp Delta in Guantanamo Bay
The report calls for either the immediate trial or release of the inmates – and described certain practises as ‘amounting to torture’

namely – force feeding of inmates
interrogation techniques such as – the use of dogs, exposure to extreme temperatures, sleep deprivation for several consecutive days and prolonged isolation
solitary confinement
beating, kicking, punching and excessive force
interrogations designed to cause religious offence – might seem ridiculous – but how would americans feel if iraqi fighters showed their prisoners videos of jesus and mary ‘having a go’
arbitrary detention without limit

The Liaison to the UN, Human Rights Commission responded as follows

report ignored certain pertinant facts
inspectors refused to visit camp – inspectors stated they would not have been able meet prisoners independently

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights – stated she could see little alternative to camp closure
In a study released last week, two lawyers acting on behalf on guantanamo prisoners – stated

only 45% of Guantanamo detainees had committed a hostile act against US
only 8% were Al Qaeda fighters


International Herald Tribune Coverage
New Abu Ghraib Photos

Supernatural Selection – Daniel Dennet on Religion

Daniel Dennett in his new book, Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon” (Viking) argues religion is human behaviour and as such should be studied as a human behaviour.
The idea is not new Marx and Freud had their own explanations. “Religion is the opium of the people” anyone?
Book opens by comparing religion to a parasite, causing irrational and/or inexplicable actions to be taken by people.
The question is who or what is benefitting from these actions.

Research including brain scanning has been carried out to trace the origins of faith.

Old assumption that religion was the product of ignorance. Natural disasters, diseases etc. product of the Gods.
This would mean that as people are more educated, religion dies.
However: by most measures the United States is a more religious country than it was 40 years ago

Several new theories enlist Darwin and evolution.
Religion evolved because it conferred benefits on believers, human groups that formed religions tended to outcompete those that didn’t, surviving longer and propagating more.

Boston Globe Article

Media Pimp


How to download quicktime movies [1]
Infiltration – The Urban Exploration Webzine [2]
Classic Commodore 64 Games online! [3]


Freedom Downtime – Kevin Mitnik Documentary [4]
Mod your LCD monitor [5]
Pageflakes [6] – Better than netvibes? is a votable list of web 2.0 applications – with every hot (and many not) Web 2.0 Apps linked to play with [7]
A great list of tools for Win 2000 / XP’s CMD programme [8]


Girlfriend X – High Tech Dating Software for Men [9]

Technolotics #25 – The White Episode


Listen: Episode 25
Watch: Youtube
Feed: RSS


PS3 Sexclusive

According to, last month sony shipped the final PS3 dev kits to developers
Still no signs of final hardware – the cases you’ve seen are just mockups
“I think to fit everything that Sony wants in there AND leave space for a 2.5 inch hard drive,” explains one senior developer working on a final kit, who will be our guide for much of this report, “the machine would have to grow. The models they’re showing off are way too small for what they want.”
Graphics card – RSX chip – next gen Nvidia chipset Gefore6800 * 2
Many games are being developed in only 720p NOT full HD 1080p – the PS3 then upscales to 1080i
Games played by kikizo have – full dynamic real world lighting, depth of field, sub surface scattering, high res textures, materials physics, complex fire etc
More onscreen action simultaneously than XBOX 360
Hardware = barely superiour to XBOX360 – will depend of developer skill & libraries
Graphics do not live up to killzone trailer – almost reach MGS4 standard
Launch – later summer in Japan, Autumn in US, Next spring in Europe!


Farewell AA Battery.

Traditional batteries haven’t progressed far beyond the basic design developed by Alessandro Volta in the 19th century.
MIT’s Laboratory for Electromagnetic and Electronic Systems (LEES)are using nanotube structures to improve on an energy storage device called an ultracapacitor.
Capacitors store energy as an electrical field, making them more efficient than standard batteries, which get their energy from chemical reactions.
Ultracapacitors have advantages over batteries: a 10-year-plus lifetime, indifference to temperature change, high immunity to shock and vibration and high charging and discharging efficiency.
Ultracapacitors have an energy storage capacity around 25 times less than a similarly sized lithium-ion battery.
LEES ultracapacitor has the capacity to overcome this energy limitation by using vertically aligned, single-wall carbon nanotubes.
Here’s the science bit.

Storage capacity in an ultracapacitor is proportional to the surface area of the electrodes.
However, the pores in the carbon are irregular in size and shape, which reduces efficiency.
The vertically aligned nanotubes in the LEES ultracapacitor have a regular shape, and a size that is only several atomic diameters in width.
The result is a significantly more effective surface area, which equates to significantly increased storage capacity.

NEC, Hitachi, Toshiba – AA and notebook battery size [1]

Currently fears about the safety of the methonol fuel used in fuel cells is preventing their widespread adoption
Rearchers in Stanford University are working on hydrogen fuel cells batteries which use tiny channels to deliver fuel to the cells heart – defeating the difficulty of the too quick / inefficent burn up of fuel [2]
Practical difficulties with fuel cells involve the physical process of refueling
but this isn’t quite as much of a problem as with electric cars
you’re not going to get stranded if your laptop dies
and additionally distribution isn’t as much of a headache – however, they also mean you can no longer charge your battery from the mains
Researchers hope to eventually increase laptop life to 20 hours or more


Science Daily

Google News

Google Desktop 3.0

This update allows users to search multiple computers and share content with other Desktop users as well as

new features such as drag and drop sidebar panels.

It may soon be part of every computer you buy from Dell.
TEFF urges consumers not to use the “Search Across Computers” feature.

It will store copies of the user’s Word documents, PDFs, spreadsheets and other text-based documents on Google’s own servers.
It will make their personal data more vulnerable to subpoenas from the government and possibly private litigants, while providing a convenient one-stop-shop for hackers who’ve obtained a user’s Google password.
The government could then demand these personal files with only a subpoena rather than the search warrant it would need to seize the same things from your home or business.
Other litigants could do the same, seeking the data from Google rather than you.
The Electronic Communication Privacy Act of 1986, or ECPA, gives only limited privacy protection to emails and other files that are stored with online service providers—much less privacy than the legal protections for the same information when it’s on your computer at home.
Google claims so far not to have restricted access to the data to just a few employees but in future it may be used for marketing purposes. It’s current privacy policy doesn’t rule it out.
Cindy Cohn, EFF’s Legal Director calls on Google to “demand that Congress update the privacy laws to better reflect life in the wired world.”


Download it here, if you’re feeling stupid.
Dell in search tests with Google.
EFF Post:Google Copies Your Hard Drive – Government Smiles in Anticipation

Gmail Chat

Gmail and Google Talk are integrated.
Gmail users can exchange text messages with others without having to log onto a separate chat program.
The program will also allow users to store instant-message conversations.
Google still faces an uphill battle to beat AOL and MSN in the IM game. AOL has 57million subscibers and 27 million on MSN. Google has declined to say how many people use Google Talk.
If you don’t have it it may be because you’re language setting in Google is not set to English-US.
Internationalization on the code is poorly done, changing the language changes the entire application!
Not common code! Greatly slowing down the rollout of new features to users in non-US countries.

New Google Service to Blend the Gmail and Chat Features
Gmail Features Not For The British!
Chat + Email = Crazy Delicious

Short Stories

Anonymous P2P

Mute is a service for protecting your privacy while using peer to peer services

It does this in two ways

    Encrypting all data sent to and from your P2P client – to safe guard against packet sniffing
    Creating a virtual I.P address – ‘ant-routing’ – to safeguard your identity – with load balancing to ensure efficient data transfer

Other Alternatives…

The I2P bittorrent proxy, with with the Azureus Bittorrent client (recommended), or custom I2P-BT torrent software – allows you to use Bittorrent anonymously
Wastes – private encrypted chat & filesharing networks – allow groups of trusted friends to privately communicate – examples include WinW & Bad Blue


How Mute Works
Download Mute for Mac
Download Mute for Windows
Interview with Mute Developer Jason Rohrer
Excellent article from Clay Shirky about Anonymous IM & P2P
How to use Azureus with I2P
Custom I2P Bittorrent Client
WinW – An encrypted private networking client
Another encrypted private networking client
More information on Anonymous P2P

A real video ipod?

Apple have patented some two handed UI
Could this pave the way for a keyboard less laptop? Check out this video of whats possible [3]
Tech Manifesto have a tonne of info [4]

Media Pimp


Colour Blender – The Web Masters Dream

Generates a palate of complimentry colours for any colour you pick
Complete with photoshop colour table & illustrator colours to download

Clay Shirky’s Writings about the Internet

Intelligent, well informed, critical thinking about anonymity, artifical intelligence, and other aspects of computing and the web

My Space Profile Hack

Stop your myspace looking poo


MacGyver Returns!
Brokeback to the Future What if you crossed Brokeback Mountain with Back to the Future?
The Quiet American Recordings of very everyday stuff made during the travels of one man. Some really interesting stuff here.


Technolotics #24 – Jabbamushies


Listen: Episode 24
Watch: Youtube
Feed: RSS


Psilocybin Mushrooms Banned

They grow naturally on earth
They’ve been used to religious, meditative, and personal insight for thousands of years
They are completely non addictive
But the ‘loophole in the law’ has been closed – and they’ve become a class A drug
Tainaiste (vice president / deputy prime minister) Mary ‘Jabba’ Harney – has banned the sale or even possession of this naturally growing plant

Harney alleged that several people have died from mushroom use [1]..
1,500 aprox [2] of yearly deaths from alcohol abuse and alcohol related illnesses – and €2.65 billion annual cost to economy
48% estimated ( of criminal offences related to alcohol
6000 [PDF – health] tobacco related deaths per year
subject which should be close to the tainaistes heart the 2,500 deaths from obesity related diseases ** have not lead to the prohibition of alcohol, tobacco, or fatty foods

Shock Therapy 2.0

The highly controversial psychiatric treatment ECT (Electron convulsive therapy) [3]

works by literally scrambling the brain – stimulating massive depolarization across the brain, and possibly destroying large amounts of neurons – mechanism of efficacy is largely a mystery
still used in treatment of severe depression
serious side effects – long term & short term memory loss – provoked large anti-ect movement [4]

ECT, like pharmaceutical interventions, is a cheap alternative to long term therapy
New ‘kinder’ alternative [5] – specificially directs magnetic fields through the skull directly to brain circuts thought to be responsible for specific disorders
Supporters claim no cognitive deficits or negative side effects
But as the theraputic mechanism is unknown – some psychiatrists have expressed concearn
The danger is that the brain ‘circuts’ which are involved in modulating disorders like depression, OCD, and schizophrenia – don’t just do one thing

like all of the neocortex they also store memories
OCD – orbito frontal cortex – regulates behaviour – anteriour cingulate – regulates drive, motivation and emotional processing => stimulating or inhibiting these areas could have enormous consequences for the regulation of emotion and behaviour
temporal parietal cortex – schizophrenia – also processing of memory
prefrontal cortex – depression – also altertness, fight or flight, and sexual functioning

This sort of intervention – without extensive research and animal models to back up its use – is potentially extremely irresponsible & even dangerous

Google News

Googleblogger: Is google evil?

Google struck the news this week – having created a special chinese portal

lacking gmail, blogger, and with censored results [6]
This may be a competitive move against – a home grown search company, which is gaining market share in China against Google

Chinese authorities had in the past blocked access to the chinese language version of google
Executives have stated that this is ‘the ethical price they have to pay’ to have servers on the Chinese mainland, improving speed and quality of service


Sites such as BBC news, and Amnesty international – and any references to contensious issues like Tibet, Tiwan, or the Tienamen Square massacre – are filtered out by the 30,000 strong army of censors employed to patrol the ‘great chinese firewall’
Google has always been censored by China – but will now actively work with the Chinese government to censor freedom of speech and access to information within China
Googles move has been widely criticed by organisations like ‘Reporters without Borders’ and Amnesty International


IT online magazine The Register has reported that a Google is working on a desktop Linux varient, based on the Ubuntu distrobution [8]
Sources within Google deny such plans exist [9]
Why would google bother with a local OS – server side use maybe – but they already have a Google OS for their data centers

Bush silenced climate expert

Nasas top climate expert claims he’s been pressured into silence since calling for reductions in green house emissions [10]
James E. Hansen – claims officials are attempting to restrict and censor his communications
NASA officials deny the censorship – stating that the agency does not allow its staff to make public policy statements – and needed to centrally co-ordinate the dissemination of information
Hansen heads global climate simulations at NASA – and has been calling for emission reductions since the late 80’s
Media outlets considered as too liberal – such as NPR – are being refused interviews with the leading scientist
Similar muzzling of scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Catch the Fat

Is obesity contagious? [11]
Obesity may be linked or even caused by viruses
2 viruses – Ad-36, and Ad-37, which have been found to cause obesity in animals – may have the same effects in human carriers
screening and vaccination are still a long way off – as is a certain knowledge of the extent and proportion of obesity caused by viral vectors

what is certain, is that culture and national diets have an enormous impact on obesity levels

the contagin theory is still controversial – but supporting scientists point out that its only in recent years ulcers have been identified as viral in origin (the helicobacter virus was eventually found to be responsible)

Short Stories

Who has your STD?

inSpot – a site funded by the San Francisco dept of public health, allows you to anonymously inform your sexual partners you may have given them an STD – via e-cart [12]
the humourous cards (e.g.: ‘ I got screwed while screwing, you might have it too’) could be construed as reducing the intimidation factor of the message, or making light of a serious situation

Wireless *10

Super Fast wireless on the way [13]
IEEE have approved a proposal for 802.11n wireless standard
Aims for maximum speed of 600mbps – with more data rate consistency – fast enough and reliable enough for high bandwidth applications like multiple HD video streams with surround sound

Media Pimp


Indy games to play [14]
Memepool [15] – a mini boingboing from the creator of
Great News Network [16]

Technolotics #23 – So Sue Me

Listen: Episode 23
Watch: Youtube
Feed: RSS


Special Report – File Sharing Lawsuit

Last Years File sharing Case

Application Last July before Justice Kelly J in commercial court.
BT, Eircom and other ISPs should provide Names and Addresses linked to I.P of file traders
US Company – Media Sentry hired by IRMA to gather data
Method of Data Gathering

Searches of Gnuttella (Limewire, Bearshare) and Fast-track (Kazaa) networks – DCC++ & Torrent not searched
Shared folders scanned – sample tracks downloaded
Screenshots of folders taken to demonstrate availability of copyrighted material

ISPs neither consented nor objected

If objected – liable for costs in loss
If consented – plaintiff liable for their costs in loss

ISPs pointed out many of the privacy issues, data protection issues, and international precedents

Norwich Pharmacal order [1] – where innocent party is required to provide information about an infringer

Allows rejection of privacy right in ‘Prima Facia’ (self evident) case of breach of individual property rights

IMRO received all the personal data they had sought

None of the alleged file sharers were tried – most settled (for and average of € 2,500), 5/17 refused to pay – IMRO and the labels have 7 years in which to sue them [2]

Detailed discussion of the case (including contributions from Digital Rights Ireland chair TJ McIntyre) [3]

Dutch Precedent

Tuesday, July 12, 2005
A case was taken in Holland – Dutch court rejected claim under European law – on the basis that the firm acquiring the data was based in the US – a nation with no data protection act

specific companies can acquire ‘safe harbor provision’ to circumnavigate this restriction
Media Sentry had not acquired such a provision

Media Sentry was scanning more than just media – folders could have included user’s personal data
Media Sentry had not demonstrated beyond a reasonable doubt that i.p addresses were connected to particular infringing computers
Dutch court stated that ISPs “are obligated to deny the request to provide identifying information”

Data in this case were being exported – the Irish court at the time of the first case were not aware of this
Analysis of Dutch Decision from Constitutional Code Blog [4]

This weeks case

24th January 2006
Under ‘Phase II’ of IMRO’s action against ‘serial file sharers’

In a press release to announce the action IMRO stated – “The scale of the challenge and the damage is apparent when we consider that any one of these individuals engaged in illegal file sharing could be connected to some 2-3 million others at any one time on the Internet.”
This misleadingly implies simultaneous downloads

Justice Peter Kelly
49 alleged copyright infringers
29 users had tracks copyright to Warner music, 15 from Universal, 29 from Sony
500 – 5000 songs available each

One address appeared so much that it was ‘almost industrial’ in scale

Affidavit – from manager of EMI Ian Cavana

stated – publicity measures of ISPs unlikely to succeed
50% claimed drop of P2P recorded for two month period after case
Sought names, addresses, and phone numbers

In court this Wednesday – Eircom stated DRI letter had informed them of Dutch case
Label barrister stated ‘litigation is currently being conducted in many countries, and the courts there apply the data protection legislation as they find it’
Need for a balance between property and privacy rights – ‘the level of infringement here sets property rights at naught. Like property rights just aren’t worth anything’

Essentially the balance of proof that they were not in violation was with the accused users

ISPs e.g.: Irish Broadband ‘Don’t and can’t monitor’ use of connections

Today – court ordered names should be handed over
Judge described behavior as ‘Not petty theft. Some of it seems to be theft on a grand scale’

DRI’s stance

Fighting this litigation of technical grounds – view copyright infringement as indefensible
oppose not suits but potentially unlawful manner of data gathering
no legally coherent pro-file sharing argument
believe issues like the recent introduction of sweeping European data retention laws more important [5]

Future Liability

Under Irish Law – Section 140 of the Copyright and Related Acts 2000[6]

sharers of copyrighted files (not downloaders) – are liable for criminal prosecution – and thus potentially imprisonment of up to 5 years
liability for each song uploaded could be up to €1,900 for each copyrighted song in their shared folder, up to a maximum of €127,000 euro

No ‘fair use’ [7] provision exists under Irish Law

Hence copying the songs you buy on CD onto your PC or Mp3 player could open you to legal action
Who’s to know you may think – but with the recent update to the iTunes music store information can be carried back to Apple – remember every song you’ve not bought from the iTunes music store is technically an illegal copy
as is every *.WMA (windows media) song purchased from another music store and ‘transcoded’ (imported) into iTunes

Personal use as a right was specifically excised by the Copyright Act 2000

Possible Legal Defense

I.P’s assigned to wireless routers – publicly accessible connection argument

has been used successfully in the US [8]
untested in Irish court

Why the Law is wrong

The law in this area is self evidently ridiculous – but lets look at why

    Copyright infringement is not stealing or theft – OED ‘the felonious taking away of the personal goods of another’ – note taking away
    The corralling of knowledge ownership
    The denial of creative dissent
    File Sharing does not lead to a drop in record sales [9]
    File sharers buy more music – [10] – up to 4.5 times more – unsurprising as they are music fans – Many use file sharing to sample new tracks
    RIAA, IMRO and other industry bodies have refused all attempts to monetarize file sharing – fearing not the bottom line, but their monopolistic control of artists
    Industry estimate of file sharing are deliberately low for three reasons – to make it seem illegitimate – and to hide the fact that it is so widespread as to make anti file sharing laws undemocratic [11] – the real figures make a nonsense of their proclaimed impact on sales (up to 900million ‘illicit’ downloads per year)
    Industry estimates of the costs of file sharing are ridiculously high – of course each track made available does not cost X dollars – that is to assume a sale lost (whether per download etc) – in fact, wide distribution can equal increased sales, as more people hear the song in question and a proportion of those buy the song
    Many highly respected academics and organisations – such as the BBC [12] have a more positive interpretation of file sharing than the recording industry party line
    Although Recording Industry bodies purport to represent all musicians – their defacto monopoly of representation and the commitment of many musicians not to allow labels to sue fans for downloading their music make a nonsense of this – artists as diverse as Alanis Morissette, Ani DiFranco, Beastie Boys, David Bowie, Green Day, Courtney Love, Pearl Jam, REM refuse to allow their fans to be sued for sharing the music they love. – Here’s the story Francis mentions in the show, about Avril Lavines label actually funding the case of a sued file sharer [13]
    Law suits do not reduce file sharing – over 7000 file sharers have been sued in the US since 2003. Meanwhile file sharing has increased [14]
    Despite having to compete with an increased range of media purchases – DVD, Internet, Digital Television – CD sales have increased [15] and are not being reduced by file sharing
    16% of the Irish public admit to having downloaded copyrighted music [16]
    The majority of music published in history is not being made available by record labels – either in file or CD form [17] – This music is not generating a profit for anyone, which translates in economic terms to a loss – This music will under copyright till 2067
    Many (probably a majority) of books published in the past century are similarly unavailable [18] – and many classics are lost to history – Life of the author +70yrs copyright – File sharing and digital information sharing can stop this – [19]

Media Reporting

DRI Press Release [20]
DRI Article [21]
The Register [22]
Irish Examiner [23]
RTE Business [24]
Irish Times [25]
Underway In Ireland [26] MP3

Are Parasites controlling your BRAIN!

Parasites exhibit the ability to manipulate the ability of their hosts

Example: parasite that causes ant to clamp itself to the tips of grass blades greatly increasing the chances of it being eaten by grazing animals. Getting into a sheep or grazer’s digestive system allows the parasite to complete it’s life cycle.
Example: Rabies can cause carriers to become aggressive and bite. By no coincidence the disease can be contracted through the saliva of a victim.

Toxoplasma gondii: lives in the guts of cats eggs that can be picked up by rats and other animals that can just so happen be eaten by cats.

Toxoplasma forms cysts throughout its intermediate host’s body, including the brain. And yet a Toxoplasma-ridden rat is perfectly healthy.
The rats are different to uninfected rats in one way: they are more likely to be eaten by a cat.
Healthy rats shied away from cat odors such as cat urine as it causes high anxiety in the rat: a survival mechanism, stay away from predators.
The infected rats were not anxious behaving as if the odor wasn’t there.

Toxoplasma gondii can be carried by people so can it also have a subtle effect on the human carrier?

E. Fuller Torrey of the Stanley Medical Research Institute and his colleagues had noticed some intriguing links between Toxoplasma and schizophrenia.
Pregnant women with high levels of Toxoplasma antibodies in their blood were more likely to give birth to children who would later develop schizophrenia.
Most interestingly, drugs that are used to treat schizophrenia can be used to treat Toxoplasma.

A fascinating area for further study, what other parasites are altering our personalities and can they be part of the reason for cultural diversity?

The Return of the Puppet Masters
Do Parasites Contribute to Human Cultural Diversity

Vista will only allow signed kernel-mode software

In a supposed effort to curb the threat of rootkits Microsoft plans to block uncertified drivers from loading on x64 versions of Windows Vista.
To get your driver to run on Vista you must obtain PIC (Publisher Identity Certificate) from Microsoft.
There’s no way round this save some kind of hack “Even users with administrator privileges cannot load unsigned kernel-mode code”
Microsoft will give away the PIC for free, but software publishers are required to purchase a VeriSign Class 3 Commercial Software Publisher Certificate.
Drivers must be signed for devices that stream protected content. This includes audio drivers that use PUMA (Protected User Mode Audio) and PAP (Protected Audio Path), and video device drivers that handle protected video path-output protection management (PVP-OPM) commands.
The above seems like the real motivation for this, to protect copyrighted content. Microsoft control what drivers and arguably what hardware will work with Vista. It’s pretty easy to see that no drivers that could do anything the RIAA or MPAA don’t like will ever get a PIC.
One poster at the Awful Forums compared the idea to “cutting your leg off to avoid the pain after a workout.”

Commentary on the idea
eWeek:Microsoft Hardens Vista Against Kernel-Mode Malware
Whitepaper on the Issue

The Beast’s 50 Most Loathsome People in America 2005.

Interesting Entries:

47. Martha Stewart.
44. George Lucas. Charge: being an “awful writer and a shitty, shitty director.”
40. Tom Cruise. Charge: “Criminal Narcissism.”
26. Spammers
25. Paris Hilton Charge: “Won’t go away”
16. R Kelly Charge: “urinating on an underage girl” and “inflicting the worst piece of music in American history upon the public consciousness.”
13. God Charge : “If your answer to the age-old question of God’s existence is “yes,” your next question should be, “Why is he such a dick?” After three major natural disasters, not to mention the eternal constants of famine, war and disease, to believe in God is to believe either that He enjoys fucking with us, or at best has totally lost interest in the whole “people” thing. Never calls anymore.”
6. Michael Jackson.
No. 4 is You!
Charges: Silently enabling and contributing to the irreversible destruction of your planet. Absolving yourself of your responsibility to do anything about it that your immediate neighbors don’t. Assuming that it’s normal behavior to spend several hours each day totally inert and staring into a cathode ray tube. Substituting antidepressants for physical motion. Caring more about the personal relationships of people you will never meet than your own. Shrugging your shoulders at the knowledge that your government is populated by criminal liar’s intent on fooling you into impoverished, helpless submission. Cheering this process on.

Exhibit A: You don’t even know who your congressman is.
Sentence: Deathbed realization that your entire life was an unending series of stupid mistakes and wasted opportunities, a priceless gift of potential extravagantly squandered, for which you deserve nothing but scorn or, at best, indifference, and a cold, meaningless demise.

3. George W. Bush
2. Dick Cheney
1. Pat Robertson Charge: being a “insecure, misogynistic, homicidal fanatic”


The Beast

Media Pimp

Francis’ Pimp

TurboTanks Tank Game [27]

A cool and addictive game based on the Atari 2600 classic.

MPAA Dvd warning parody [28]

A parody of the warning message that appears on every dvd.
My particular favorite is “You may view this media only in your own dwelling, in complete secrecy, with the shades drawn, and with an armed sentry posted at the door. You can not loan this media to anyone for any purpose. We reserve the right to charge an additional fee if you can remember or recollect the contents of this media.”

Gareth’s Pimp

An intricate but well thought out theory on what’s going on behind the scenes in Lost [29]

Technolotics #22 – Mintback Mountain

Listen: Episode 22
Watch: Youtube
Feed: RSS


Granny Apple in the News

Will Disney buy Pixar, and make Steve King?

After days of speculation the Telegraph are reporting that the deal will go ahead
Jobs will be largest Disney shareholder
But will he have any power – Roy Disney failed to save animation at disney despite 1% of shares
What of Pixar, can its independent spirit survive?

Jobs invites microsoft to make their own iPod. As this week mine dies.

Implication is they need to produce a competing music store
My guess? – Jobs is feeling the heat to increase iTunes store pricing, and feels a big no. 2 would spread the load
If MS had a licenced DRM platform, then Apple might open up fairplay
Apple matters speculates Apple owns the markey + the invitation is bait


MSNBC – Disney in talks to buy Pixar
Telegraph – Disney buys Pixar
The Rise and Fall of Disney in the Modern Era – account of Roy’s attempts to save Walts company from Eisner et al
Apple Matters – Jobs to Gates, bring it on!

Wasted Business Opportunity

My stickies – Tagged web notes – **When I first saw these I thought – ah one of those genius, why didn’t I think of it ideas – but is the market to saturated?

Then I realised they haven’t yet implimented the obvious thing – web stickies aren’t a style folksonomy – although the site suggests they intend to
Heads up to anyone with excellent coding skills looking for a business opportunity – produce a whiteboard collaborative / quasi-collaborative RSS syndicated folksonomy notation system – lacking the limitations of (bland interface, no private bookmarking)


My Stickies

Firefox 2 on the Way

The alpha version of the worlds best browser is due next month
New Features to include:

Tab & Interface enhancements – e.g.: Saving open tabs on close, history of each tab, tag based bookmarks
Smoother RSS Integration – integrated viewer, everything is feeds
Offline support of web apps – ‘supercookies’
Unifed smoother search – (combination of all engine output?), search cache history
Better antiphishing / security

What would you change? – Media plugin crashes, better popup blocking, better conversion of javascript open window commands to tabs, replacement of bookmarks with etc (by default), update without reset

PC Pro Article
Official FF Roadmap

Cringley’s 2006 predictions

Bob Cringley’s predictions for last year were down on his usual average 66% – and he calculates generously

Will lose in their streaming case versus
The new Intel Macs will support XP and Apple will start stealth competion with Microsoft
Boxed X will work on Wintel machines
.Mac online storage goes to a terabyte


2006 is merely preparation for a big push in 2007
New products and services will be announced and another public offering of shares to boost the warchest.
Wont release a PC or OS


iCringley 2006 Predictions

Al Gore compares wiretapping to Martin Luther King Surveillance

Al Gore – who since failing to convince the American people of anything but his inadaquacy has become an amazing speech writer (or hired some)
compared Bush’s warrentless mass wiretaping to J. Edgar Hoover’s surveillance of the black leader

who vowed to “take him off his pedestal.”, and blackmailed him in an attempt to induce suicide
Foreign Intelligence and Surveillance Act (FISA) partly introduced in reaction

Bush’s indescriminate automated wiretapping illegal (under FISA) & unconstitutional
Gore brings indeterminate detention without warrant, extraordinary rendition and torture of prisoners – examples of Bush regiemes disregard for constitution
Deeper Questions: Unitary executive – enslavement of judicial and legislative branches, perceptual war, imperialism
Calls for an investigation by Senate and Congress, Special counsel should be appointed by Attorney Gen to investigate presidental abuses of power
Meanwhile bob cringley downplays the illegality and importance of the Bush wiretaps

The Raw Story – commentary and text of speech
iCringley on Wiretaps

Googleblogger: Google defies the US government

Google is fighting a subpoena to hand over some of the information in its database to help “fight pornography”.
Google is fighting the subpoena on justification of request grounds

Commentators speculate – dont be evil, and commercial access to database grounds

Microsoft and yahoo have already surrendered data to the request
FBI is seeking to resusitate anti-porn laws already ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme court
Child Online Protection Act – would have forced every site to age check adults using their services

effectively useless because non-us sites would not have to comply
emphatically dangerous because there is no anonymous free method of confirming such identity
Additionally your obscenity is my art – new anti porn laws are already being used to curtail free expression


International Herald Tribune – Google refuses to hand over search records
CBS – Feds Seek Google Records On Porn

Media Pimp

Francis’ Pimp

A photograph of the world’s first ‘Bug’. A moth that got caught in a relay in an early computer system [1]
Watch out ladies the Hoff is single again. Check out this music video of The Hoff singing Hooked on a Feeling. [2]

Gareth’s Pimp

The Socratic teaching method – useful for anyone who’s had to give a lecture [3]

Technolotics #21 – Auld Fat Munters


Listen: Episode 21
Watch: Youtube
Feed: RSS


Revolutionary Interface

A Mock up of the Nintendo revolution interface which will allow us to play emulated games is now available [1]
Games will be rentable or purchasable for NES, SNES and N64 – together with the Revolutions porported Gamecube compatibility – it will be the most compatible console ever [2]
Fantastic that a main stream publisher has realized the popularity and potential profitability of emulated games – but will the price be right?
Could they do more – an online playground for orginally locally playable games?
It’s still unclear where purchased games will be stored without a Hard Disk (streaming download? memory card?) – how much they will cost – or if they will be region limited

Listen to many songs free

Inspired by this Digg story (don’t bother clicking – it doesn’t work any more [3] we’ve discovered the fantastic service Radio.Blog.Club [4]
Like Pandora [5] app we discussed previously – but much more flexible and content rich.
But Radio Blog Club is much more than just this – its also a stand alone application that allows you to stream music on your website (or blog.)
You can download the RBC software [6] convert all your mp3 files to their RBS file format, upload to your web host, install the online app and you’re site viewers will have a play list of your (largely undownloadable) songs to listen to

Logitech Video Effects

Logitechs new cam software is the first consumer level software to create an animated avatar [7]
More than just a cool toy, its the first step to dynamic AR communications which will allow rich anonymity and the development of increasingly expressive and immersive virtual worlds

Hyperspace Physics

And article in the last edition of New Scientist [8] details the awarding of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics prize for research on nuclear and future flight to a paper proposing ‘gravitophotonic’ hyperdrive technology
The technology is based on the theories of the obscure German physicist Burkhard Heim
Heims quantum interpretation of Einsteins General Relativity proposes a 2 dimensional subspace – which could potentially be used to travel vast distances in negligable time
The US military and department of energy have expressed interest in putting Heims theories to the test
When Heim unveiled his revolutionary theory in 1957 it aroused interest from von Braun and members of the nobel committe – however due to Heims reclusivity – caused by deformitys derived from a laboratory accident, and inability to secure funding within Germany, led to the disapearance of the theory for half a century
Heims theory has been since been used to predict the mass of fundamental particles more accurately than any other theory
A more developed version of Heims Theory – predicting an eight dimentional Heim-Dröscher space, is behind the award winning paper

Edge Question 2006

Each year Edge magazine asks a question of many of the worlds most famous scientists
Last years question – “What do you believe is true even though you cannot prove it?” [9] provoked a storm of intriguing ideas
This years question ‘What is your dangerous idea?’ has generated even more intelligent challenging responces [10]
Some ideas include:

Mirror neurons providing a rational basis for ethics – V.S. Ramachandran
Consciousness does not exist – Susan Blackmoore
Evangelical Science taking the place of Religion – Carolyn Porco
The Self Aware Internet – Terence Sejnowski
Zero parental influence – Judith Rich Harris

The Google Blogger

Google Video Store

Google Video Store
Google have monitarized their video service – offering an alternative to Apples iTunes video store
The video store is geographically limited (read ‘FU non US citizens – But the added navigation dropdown greatly increases usability[11]
Episodes of Star Trek DS9, I Love Lucy and other ‘classic’ shows are available, in addition to B-movies and music videos – but nothing to cope with iTunes exclusive shows
Shows are in X format, and can be put ont PSP and iPod – but vary in image quality
Classic Twilight Zone Episodes are also available – “You are about to enter a world where Google made a service that is worse than Apple’s and that god awful AOL video store. This world is called Google Video Store.”
Google have announced their own DRM – no word yet on what technology it uses

Google Pack

Google have launched a pack of software – all already available, but all useful to ‘newbies’
However the pack seems more of a marketing proposition than a compilation of essential software – note the absence of SpyBot, and the presence of the inferior ‘Adaware’ – or the use of Norton AntiVirus over the free AVG Suite [12]
Still no sign of a Google Office Suite, either online or downloadable
The Pack includes

Adobe Reader 7
Ad-Aware SE Personal
GalleryPlayer HD Images
Google Desktop
Google Earth
Google Pack Screen saver
Google Talk
Google Toolbar for Internet Explorer
Mozilla FireFox with Google Toolbar
Norton AntiVirus 2005 Special Edition (Six month trial version)

Media Pimp


Guerrilla News Network – An Independent Media Organization – which allows independent journalists to create an online presence and publish evidenced articles and media [13]


Build your own CoilGun [14]

Technolotics #20 – Christmas Special Needs


Listen: Episode 20
Watch: Youtube
Feed: RSS


The American Paradox

This years winner of the nobel prize for literature, the playwright Harold Pinter, addressed the Academy on the topic of American Imperialism [Hear / See / Read his lecture]
Since WW2 American has overthrown socialist regiemes, and put into power totalitarian regiemes and military juntas, trainned and supported guerillas responsible for mass rape, torture and the murder of politicial dissidents, and carpet bombed into submission nations it could not control

it has done this in Latin America (e.g.: Chile, El Salvador), South East Asia (Vietnam, Cambodia), the Middle East (Egypt, Saudi Arabia) and around the world – whilst preaching a doctrine of freedom, democracy and fear
This is what Pinter describes as ‘a vast tapestry of lies, upon which we feed’

Harper magazine this week reports [1] – while just under 80% of US describe themselves as Christian [2], only 40% can name more than 4 of the 10 commandments
Many (incorrectly) consider the laizze faire philosophy of Ben Franklin – the lord helps those who help themselves – to be enshrined in Biblical text
The united states is amongst the most “spiritually homogenous rich nations on earth” – yet it gives less foreign aid than any developed nation with the exception of Italy
18% of American children live in poverty
Despite the new testaments direct and explicit condemnation of murder – America has the highest murder rate of any developed country, and is amongst the only nation to execute both the mentally handicapped and children
Is Christianity the problem? Is it hypocracy? Or is it the unquestioning attendence to any creed – in quest for certainty and cognitive assonance
Economic Doctrines like ‘The Washington Consensus’ [3] have been used to distort the historic protestant plantation principles of hard work, self respect, and independence – into laissez faire [4] free market selfism
Such doctrines are lauded, upheld and made invisible by coporate media consensus [5], and an education system where primary and secondary level schools recieve only a small proportion of their funds from central government – meaning public schools in poor states and districts often fail to ensure even basic literacy – acting (like the prison system [6], as an insitution of institutionalisation and social control [7])

Short Stories

XBox 360 Review

Plus+’s – Universal Profiles, ‘Silver’ Live Package included
Minus-‘s – Overheating Power Supply, Worst Launch lineup ever, Game scratch if the unit is moved in vertical orientation

GoogleBlogger: New Gmail Features

RSS feeds right into your inbox [8]
Automatic detection of addresses / tracking numbers – put in handy boxes on the right
Anti Virus
HTML preview of word and pdf attachements

British High Court Bans Torture Evidence

Evidence obtained by torture (anywhere in the world) can no longer be used as evidence in a British Court [9]
Government had argued ‘Special Immigrations Appeals Commission’ [10], set up to deport or exclude individuals for ‘public interest reasons’ needed to hear evidence no matter how obtained in order to identify terrorists

Music Industry to attack tab and lyric sites

Not satisfied with attempting to bankrupt its biggest fans, the music industry have desided to begin suing sites which offer lyrics, tabs and sheet music [11]
The Music publishers association head Lauren Keiser has announced a crackdown, and his intention to “throw in some jail time” if possible
“The Xerox machine was the big usurper of our potential income,” he said. “But now the internet is taking more of a bite out of sheet music and printed music sales so we’re taking a more proactive stance.” – said Kesier, before annoucing new giant nets to stop the escape of musical notes from pianos
Music publishers of course currently offer no legitamate alternatives to online tab and lyric sites

Bush claims no torture

Despite the secret CIA prisons revealed by the Washington Post [12], and the practice of extraordinary rendition [13] to ‘friendly’ client states who practice torture
President Bush claims the US handles prisoners in accordance to international and American law – technically impossible since its treatment of Afghan and other prisoners in Guantanamo Bay violates the Geneva convention
Condolezza Rice has just finished a ‘keeping the troups in line’ European tour – unsubtly stating “European intelligence agencies had helped Washington extract information from suspects”
Whitehouse spokesman Scott McClellan recently stated renditioned prisoners “do not necessarily fit into the traditional military or criminal justice systems that were designed for different needs,”

Digital Rights Ireland Launch

The Irish equivalent of the EFF have launched [14]
Ireland has the most draconian data retention laws in Europe [15]
And its music rights framework is absurd (putting your cd’s on an iPod is illegal
DRI aim to “Protect Civil, Legal and Human Rights in a Digital Age”
Some of their initial activities include – fighting IRMA on suing filesharers [16], and the EU data retention directive [17]

Founder of Veganism Dies

Donald Watson, who founded veganism in 1944 has died aged 95 [18]

Iraqi Fighters using hallucinogenic enhancements?

Evidence has accumulated that resistence fighters in Iraq are utilising a variety of drugs to provide them with the will to fight [19]
including a hallucinogen – BZ ‘Agent Buzz’/ 3-quinuclidinyl benzillate – developed by the US government – which promotes psychotic agression


Media Pimp


The Webtender [20]
Downloading Porn with Davo [21]
Sex by RSS [22]
Stuff that Sucks [23]


Steve Woznick Interview [24] -Much of the crappyist software comes from Apple, Apple won’t release X for commodity hardware,

Technolotics #19 – One vulcan, two geeks and a monkey spanker


Listen: Episode 19
Watch: Youtube
Feed: RSS


Police State Miami

Although Miami hasn’t been hit by a terrorist attack – authorities convinced it is a credible target
To confuse Al Qaida and other wanabe terrorist – displays of force
And maybe [1] maybe not [2] unconstitutional random ID checks
Police state anyone?
News Sources disagree as to whether displays of force

random collections of large amounts of officers at hotels, banks etc
more worryingly on trains and buses – plain clothes and uniformed + long term surveillance
will include ID checks

Deputy Police Chief Frank Fernandez said. “We want that shock. We want that awe. But at the same time, we don’t want people to feel their rights are being threatened. We need them to be our eyes and ears.”
Interestingly – sources disagree as to what the ACLU have to say!

Washington Post: officers on street patrol (making informed decisions on which individuals to stop), which is more effective and more consistent with the Constitution,” Simon said. “We’ll have to see how it is implemented.”
Associated Press: “What we’re dealing with is officers on street patrol, which is more effective and more consistent with the Constitution,” Simon said. “We’ll have to see how it is implemented.”

I feel safer already

Science Under Attack

The retiring head of the royal society has spoken out against climate change denial and fundamentalism [3]
Scientists need to speak out against climate change denial
Core scientific values under threat from resurgence of fundamentalism
Threats to world ecology real – climate change, loss of biodiversity, re-emergence of diease
Applies to both sides of the debate – Global Warming Deniers & Anti-Nuclear power campaigners
Ironically in the same week that the Royal Society have spoken out against free / open access scientific journals [4]
Nature suggest a more rational approach to open information sharing / web service integration of data in science [5]

Dvorak on Dead Media

Are DRM and quirky vendor only cables, connections and formats, leading us into a world of unreadable data
Dvorak has lots of media tech – cameras, memory sticks, DAT and video cassette tapes – which are, or will shortly be unreadable
He compares this – rather disingenuously – to the burning Great Library of Alexandria – where much of the collected knowledge of the classical world was lost
What if the *.gif liscence enforcement had been stricter
What if *.jpg had been DRM’d
Under the Digital Millenium Copyright Act, and its European equivalents – cracking these obsolete and abandoned formats is as illegal as DVD Jon’s cracking of the DVD so he could watch his movies on Linux
Dvorak’s forum in PC Magazine has some interesting suggestions from readers [6]

    Abandoned technoloties lose patents
    Companies which don’t use a given copyright or patent in a 5 year period lose it – “How many ideas and inventions are there that could ease our healthcare, population control, transportation, or energy problems that we are blocked from implementing because of some corporation’s greed?”
    A registry of hardware and software readers – and those qualified to operate them
    Format certification / standardisation – although open source formats do this by default!
    Forbidding media patents
    Media Death / Obsolescence – a function of a variety of factors – how ‘closed’ media is, how widespread / multivendor, physical durability, ‘length’ (duration) and ‘breadth’ (popularity) of use – All of these factors are getting worse – due to market fragmentation, rampant DRM, quick upgrade cycles, and inherently unstable technologies (high capacity magenetic storage)
    Enduring Future [7], create a heavy gauge metal book with ‘your story’ – hardly practical for digital media – but you probably squeeze in DECSS and the basic math to read it!
    Don’t use formats that require proprietry software / cables – e.g.: Apple, Sony

Interestingly, and to his credit, Dvorak responds to comments (even negative ones) on his forum

Short Stories

ATI speeds up video * 5

ATI’s new “Avivo XCode” encoding tool – which only works on its latest X1000 series GPUs
can massively speed up video encoding of MPEG 4 (Divx, Xvid), H.264, Windows Media 9, DVD etc
An example of what happens when software functions are moved to hardware
This will have a huge impact 2 – 3 years down the line on home video incoding
Only a drop in the ocean compared to the future impact of fully featured rendering on the GPU

Googleblogger: Google Space, Google Boutique Store Opens

Londons Heathrow airport is home to google first shop
where everything is of course free

iTunes Music Store (finally) on Linux

DVD Jon has released a free (as in beer & speech) interface to the iTMS [8]

Engaget: How to stream anything with VLC

Get the most out of the best media player ever [9]
Stream your movies and music around your lan or wan

Jason’s Friend’s Friend in drug blog hot water

A malaysian blogger has been forced to take down all drug related posts on his blog
The guy had been blogging about his experiences while on various substances (crystal meth, heroin etc.)
A Malay tabloid newspaper found out and put him on the frontpage
The authorites contacted him and he is considered *very* lucky to only have to remove the posts


Media Pimp


Cloud [11] - A truly original game?

Download [12]
Controls [13]


Porn Hacks [14]

Gareth [15]