October 2004

Marine iguana (Amblyrhynchus cristatus). Rábida Island
It seems to me, though I have no scientific knowledge in this matter, that these animals are the true representative of the saurians that have remained on earth until this day. The marine iguanas are very gentle and delicate in their behaviour, incapable of any aggression toward other animals. On the contrary, they even let others, like birds or lava lizards, climb on their back. They mingle easily with the cormorants, the sea lions, the fur seals, the pelicans, the boobies and others. When the birds are nervous they pick on the iguanas, who do not fight back. The young sea lions mock them and play at pulling the iguanas’ tails, especially while they are swimming. But the marine iguanas just let it go.(via Guardian Unlimited)

BC News Online staff report, via Slashdot:

LOS ANGELES - Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles are celebrating the anniversary of the first message sent over what would eventually become the internet.

In the 1960s, computer scientists at American universities and in the U.S. Department of Defence devised a plan for a network of computers that could all communicate with each other.

After the hardware was put in place, researchers at UCLA attempted on Oct. 29, 1969, to log in to a computer at the Stanford Research Institute in Menlo Park, Calif.

In an interview on CBC Newsworld, Prof. Leonard Kleinrock admitted researchers weren’t exactly prepared for the history-making moment.

“[The message] wasn’t anything like ‘What hath God wrought?’ or ‘Come here, Watson. I want you,’ or ‘a giant leap for mankind.’ We weren’t that smart,” he said, referring to the first messages over telegraph, over telephone and from the surface of the moon.

In order to log in to the two-computer network, which was then called ARPANET, programmers at UCLA were to type in “log,” and Stanford would reply “in.”

The UCLA programmers only got as far as “lo” before the Stanford machine crashed.

John C. Dvorak writes:

After witnessing the latest Presidential election process, it’s apparent to me that the Internet is turning into a bad dream. Nobody wants to admit it, but the Web’s natural ability to remove normal interpersonal structures that prevent society from falling into chaos is not a benefit to anyone. Information revolution notwithstanding, the Internet will prove to be the undoing of society and civilization as we know it. It may not happen today, but it will happen sooner than we think.

Photo: Inside Dell's Austin assembly plant
Desktop PCs ride a series of conveyor belts and elevators (square tower seen at right) in the 300,000-square-foot plant. (Photo credit: Michael Kanellos)

Michael Kanellos, Staff Writer, CNET News.com writes:

reporter’s notebook:
ROUND ROCK, Texas–Two thousand, three hundred fifty.

That’s the number of desktops Dell was trying to produce per hour in the Mort Topfer Manufacturing Center here earlier this month. Put another way, that’s roughly 1 PC every 1.5 seconds, 40 a minute, or 23,500 per shift.

The company was initially vague about output figures, but they were written on a whiteboard at the entry to the factory floor. “I was hoping you wouldn’t see that,” laughed Steve Lawton, one of the engineers who helped design the facility and part-time tour guide.

For manufacturing and logistics fanatics (and really, who isn’t one?) a tour of the Topfer facility is sort of like visiting Stonehenge or the Flatiron Building. Here is where direct fulfillment, just-in-time production, took flight. It’s like safety goggle heaven.

Photo: The Littlest Prisoner at Abu Ghraib

The Stranger’s 2004’s Scariest Halloween Costumes via BoingBoing:

“Your child will be the hit of the neighborhood costume parade in this recreation of the Abu Ghraib prisoner-abuse scandal’s most indelible image. As an added bonus this easy-to-make costume will remind everyone on your child’s trick-or-treat route of our national shame! Simply roll a cone from a sheet of 24″x38″ black cardstock, making sure to cut out a hole for the face. Drape with two yards of black felt, and add leftover wires from your last lamp-rewiring project. VoilÀ! So easy, so quick, and so terrifying!”

Total cost: Under $20.
Total time: Under two hours.

Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker, writes:

To know Dick Avedon was to know the sun.
He radiated out, early and daily, on a circle of friends and family and colleagues, who drew on his light and warmth for sustenance. When he died, last week, at the age of eighty-one some light seemed to go out in many lives and around many pleasures. For, though he was incandescent in his presence, he was surprisingly domestic in his enthusiasms; he believed in family as passionately as he believed in art, and could leave an hour-long conversation about Goya’s horrors to talk with the same avidity about how to light a room or roast a leg of lamb.

On Slashdot, jcr13 writes:

“Wired news is running a story about TV-B-Gone, a new weapon in the fight against the pervasiveness of television in our society. With this device, which takes the form of a keychain fob with a single button, you can turn off virtually any TV set. How does it work? By rolling through all known IR power-off codes, one by one, trying codes from the most popular brands first. Personally, I am terribly annoyed by TVs in restaurants and airports: they grab my attention over and over, no matter how hard I try to ignore them, and they distract me from the conversations that I should be having with my human companions. Unfortunately, the TV-B-Gone website seems to have already been swamped by the Wired coverage, so we cannot order these just yet. In the mean time, those of you with DIY proclivities may want to think about wiring one of these up yourself using a PIC chip or other micro-controller.”


Authorities in Belarus — the land of my forefathers — have arrested a man for using and providing voice-over-IP services. Check out the way they characterized his activity, “damage to the country’s communications providers,” whew!

US citizen Ilya Mafter has been detained in Belarus because he was believed to have caused about 100,000 US dollars in damage to the country’s communications providers, the Interfax news agency cited sources in the State Security Committee as reporting on Tuesday.

“A preliminary report suggests that damage of about 100,000 US dollars was caused to Belarussian communications providers, including the Beltelecom company, as a result of illegal communications services using IP telephony that were organized by Mafter,” the source said.

The US citizen, who was detained on Oct. 16, is also suspected of “working as an entrepreneur without registration or permission,” said the source.


On Slashdot, pinqkandi writes:

“CNN is a running a story on an Oregon college student’s flat-screen Toshiba TV which was releasing the 121.5 MHz international distress signal. He was unaware of the issue until local police, search and rescue, and civil air patrol members showed up at his apartment’s door. Apparently the signal was strong enough to be picked up by satellite and then routed to the Air Force Rescue Center in Virginia. Quite impressive - luckily Toshiba is offering him a free replacement.”

Photo: Regency TR-1 Transistor Radio

On Slashdot, theodp writes:

“Before the iPod, there was the Regency TR-1. Fifty years ago Monday, tiny Indianapolis-based I.D.E.A. partnered with TI and shook the world with the first pocket-sized AM radio, so impressing IBM chief Tom Watson that he provided a $49.95 (roughly $345 in current dollars!), four transistor TR-1 to each of his senior managers to kick-start the company’s transition from valves.”

The Associated Press reports via CNN, via BoingBoing:

ATLANTA, Georgia (AP) — Fears of a terrorist attack are not sufficient reason for authorities to search people at a protest, a federal appeals court has ruled, saying September 11, 2001, “cannot be the day liberty perished.”

Photo of Space Capsule in Apartment Building
A section of a Chinese scientific satellite that was returning from orbit crashed into a four-story building in Penglai, southwest China’s Sichuan Province, October 15, 2004. No one was injured in the accident. [scol.com.cn]

Xinhuanetreports, via :

“The satellite landed in our home. Maybe this means we’ll have good luck this year,” the tenant of the wrecked apartment, Huo Jiyu, was quoted as saying.


Julian Coman, Telegraph - UK, reports:

Denmark has launched an extraordinary bid for ownership of the North Pole, one of the world’s last untapped sources of oil and natural gas.

In recent decades the remote polar region has largely been left to a few explorers and tourists. Now, however, the effects of climate change have dramatically raised the stakes.

Scientists estimate that the ice in the Arctic Ocean is melting at a rate of three per cent a year - in time allowing the economic exploitation of a region that is almost totally unexplored.

In the words of one Danish scientist: “The Vikings hope to get there first.”

CBC News Online reports:

NEW YORK - Pierre Salinger, who worked as President John F. Kennedy’s press secretary has died, ABC news reported Saturday.

Salinger, 79, died from a heart attack in France, said the U.S. network

He was 35 years old when he served Kennedy. He left the White House in 1964 and eventually became a California senator before returning to a career in journalism.

The BBC reports, via Fleshbot:

Imagine finding unexplained condoms around your house and then waking up one night to find your partner having sex with a stranger.

It might sound like an affair, but what if your “cheating” partner was fast asleep during the act?

The phenomenon, called sleep sex, was described to doctors at a meeting in Australia.

Photo of Brain Chip
The tiny sensor consists of an array of 100 electrodes to capture signals from the brain. (© Alamy)

Roxanne Khamsi, Nature.com News, reports:

An pill-sized brain chip has allowed a quadriplegic man to check e-mail and play computer games using his thoughts. The device can tap into a hundred neurons at a time, and is the most sophisticated such implant tested in humans so far.

In this history-making transatlantic poetic happening, celebrating Allen Ginsberg and his epic poem HOWL, poets will perform at venues in London, Paris, and across the United States. These live poetry readings and poetic theatre pieces will be simultaneously streamed across JANET, Renater, and Internet2 advanced networks. (more…)

NASA Contrails Image

Credit: MODIS, Terra Satellite, NASA via Astronomy Picture of the Day

Artificial clouds made by humans may become so common they change the Earth’s climate.

The long thin cloud streaks that dominate the above satellite photograph of Georgia are contrails, cirrus clouds created by airplanes.

The exhaust of an airplane engine can create a contrail by saturating the surrounding air with extra moisture. The wings of a plane can similarly create contrails by dropping the temperature and causing small ice-crystals to form.

Contrails have become more than an oddity - they may be significantly increasing the cloudiness of Earth,
reflecting sunlight back into space by day, and heat radiation back to Earth even at night.

The effect on climate is a topic of much research.

Hatch Car Photo
Laura Hatch’s car at the bottom of an embankment in Redmond, Wash., Sunday. (AP photo)

Written by CBC News Online staff reports:

SEATTLE - A teenage girl missing for more than a week and given up for dead by her family was found alive on the weekend in her wrecked car at the bottom of a ravine near Seattle.

Bloomberg reports via :

Oct. 12 (Bloomberg) — At least 11 al-Qaeda suspects held by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency have disappeared in custody as they are detained at unknown sites without access to the Red Cross, Human Rights Watch said in an e-mailed report.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, suspected of masterminding the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the U.S., is one of 11 “ghost'’ detainees named by the New York-based human rights group. Other detainees who are missing include Abu Zubayda, a Palestinian who was third on the U.S. most-wanted list of al-Qaeda suspects, and Yemen’s Ramzi al-Shibh, also linked to the Sept. 11 attacks.

“There may well be several or many more such detainees,'’ Human Rights Watch said in the report. “The use of forced disappearances and secret incommunicado detention violates the most basic principles of a free society.'’

The International Committee for the Red Cross said in July it hasn’t had access to a “certain number'’ of detainees held around the world as part of the U.S. war on terrorism. The Geneva Conventions on human rights provides the Red Cross with automatic access to prisoners of war.

Robert X. Cringely, writes:

Like many of us, Andrew Greig put a WiFi access point in his house so he could share his broadband Internet connection. But like hardly any of us, Andrew uses his WiFi network for Internet, television, and telephone. He cancelled his telephone line and cable TV service. Then his neighbors dropped-by, saw what Andrew had done, and they cancelled their telephone and cable TV services, too, many of them without having a wired broadband connection of their own. They get their service from Andrew, who added an inline amplifier and put a better antenna in his attic. Now most of Andrew’s neighborhood is watching digital TV with full PVR capability, making unmetered VoIP telephone calls, and downloading data at prodigious rates thanks to shared bandwidth. Is this the future of home communications and entertainment? It could be, five years from now, if Andrew Greig has anything to say about it.

Bloomberg reports:

Oct. 11 (Bloomberg) — Christopher Reeve, known for his role as “Superman'’ in movies and later as an advocate for spinal cord research after a horse-riding accident left him paralyzed nine years ago, died yesterday of heart failure. He was 52.

Alex Bradbury writes on Slashdot:

“Members of the Bits of Freedom group conducted a test to see how much it would take for a service provider to take down a website hosting public domain material, and have published their results. They signed up with 10 providers and put online a work by Dutch author Multatuli, who died over 100 years ago. They stated that the work was in the public domain, and that it was written in 1871. They then set up a fake society to claim to be the copyright holders of the work. From a Hotmail address, they sent out complaints to all 10 of the providers. 7 out of 10 complied and removed the site, one within just 3 hours. Only one ISP actually pointed out that the copyright on the work expired many years ago. The conclusion of the investigation is definitely worth reading. The three providers who didn’t take down the material are XS4ALL, UPC and Freeler. The company that came out the worst was iFast, who forwarded all the personal details of the site owner to the sender of the fake takedown notice without even being asked to do so.”

BoingBoing reader Micah at indymedia
via Xeni Jardin, Boing Boing, reports:

A few minutes ago our host (Rackspace) in London received a federal order to turn over the hardware that hosts several Indymedia websites to the FBI.

Rackspace complied and handed the server over to the FBI, but they must have felt bad because they are building us a new server that will be online as soon as possible, oh and they apologized for the abruptness because they think that they are “required to comply with all federal orders of this nature”. The servers hosted numerous local IMCs including Belgium and African imcs, Palestine, UK, Germany, and Brasil, Italy, Uruguay, Poland, Belgrade, Portugal, and more. We are unaware as to the reasons for this at this time. We suspect it has to do with an FBI request that we take down a post on the Nantes IMC that had a photo of some undercover Swiss police. They claimed there was threats and personal information, but there was nothing of the sort. The undercover police that were photographed on the page were photographing protesters. Rackspace is a US company, but have colocation in the UK where these servers are (err, were) located. So this is about Swiss police, on a French site, on a server in England, taken away by American federal police… can I be the first to say WTF?! Also on the IMC servers stolen by the FBI were a lot of icecast radio stations, the Indymedia PGP public keyring and BLAG (an Anti-corporate GNU/Linux distribution with a suite of media tools designed to be used to overthrow corporate control of information and technology through community action and free software… put out by the Brixton Linux Action Group). Rackspace has been asked by the EFF for a copy of the order, but Rackspace claims they dont know if they can give it up.

I have been in contact with [Rackspace’s] regional director responsible for the federal order. He has stated that [he] can not provide any information regarding the order. I am going to follow up with our law enforcement liason to verify this.

David Twiddy, CanWest News Service; Associated Press with Peter Wilson (via Vancouver Sun via Slashdot):

A new Vancouver-made science-fiction movie starring Robin Williams is coming to theatres with a little high-tech wizardry of its own.

Rather than being sent to theatres on clunky and expensive film reels, The Final Cut will be transmitted by satellite to 115 North American screens in 27 markets — the first major Hollywood release to do so.

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