Cowlix Wearing my mind on my sleeve

Technology Archives
Saturday, March 08, 2003 Permanent link to this day

Safe Utilization of Advanced Nanotechnology

Development of nanotechnology must be undertaken with care to avoid accidents; once a nanotech-based manufacturing technology is created, it must be administered with even more care. Irresponsible use of nanotech could lead to black markets, unstable arms races ending in immense destruction, and possibly a release of gray goo. Deliberate misuse of the technology by inhumane governments, terrorists, criminals, and irresponsible teenagers could produce even worse problems--gray goo is a feeble weapon compared to what could be designed. It seems likely that research leading to advanced nanotechnology will have to be carefully monitored and controlled.

[via Boing Boing]

Thursday, December 26, 2002 Permanent link to this day

Monday, June 03, 2002 Permanent link to this day
Tech reporting, tabloid style

Isn't it cute when reporters read too many bad hitech thrillers? [via Bifurcated Rivets]

Friday, May 24, 2002 Permanent link to this day
Sniffing for surfers

Tapping the alpha geek noosphere with EtherPEG: what do people surf for in the middle of tech conference speeches? With a notebook, a wireless network card, and a packet sniffer, you too can find out. [via Interesting People]

Thursday, May 09, 2002 Permanent link to this day
And the winner is...

The top bugs of all time. [via Information Addiction]

Monday, May 06, 2002 Permanent link to this day
Art for the very well sighted

Silicon Art: images found on microprocessors. [via Boing Boing]

Wednesday, May 01, 2002 Permanent link to this day
DMCA, European style

Alan Cox attacks the European DMCA: a summary of a talk given Monday by Alan Cox at a Lonix conference on the European Union Copyright Directive, which is said to be more restrictive than the DMCA. [via Voidstar]

Saturday, April 27, 2002 Permanent link to this day

Making friends with Big Brother?: on the mixed promises of ambient intelligence, or ubiquitous computing, research. The technology will require sensors essentially everywhere so that systems will know where (and who) people are in order to provide the services they require. The downside is of course the continual tracking that implies.

There is no doubt recent advances in information and communication technologies have had a major impact on the way we live, work and interact with each other. Yet if computer technology of the present has raised some concern over privacy, that of the future should lead us to near panic. Research into "ambient intelligence", a network of hidden intelligent interfaces that recognise our presence and mould our environment to our immediate needs, could bring about an even more radical change.

Sunday, April 21, 2002 Permanent link to this day

Sen. Mary Landrieu is introducing a bill to force adult oriented sites into a new high level domain as a means to protect children from seeing them. The fact that whether a domain ends in .prn vs. .com makes no difference to any software running today, the design of the net, or to whether anyone, regardless of age, can type it into a brower seems to have escaped her.

See also: .xxx Considered Dangerous [via Politech]

Seat belts required

Unsafe at any Clock Speed: Jim Morris compares where we are in the computer industry today with when Nader started exposing automobile safety problems in the 70s.

This week my laptop started freezing up, so I took it to tech support and had them look at it. They ran some virus checks and tweaked some of my setting and sent me on my way. The connection to my cell phone still doesn't work. Sometimes when I boot it up it can't find all the RAM I have installed. Sigh. I guess it's time to upgrade.

Saturday, April 20, 2002 Permanent link to this day
Silly patent games

Boy takes swing at US patents: a look at the five year old (and his patent attorney father) behind the swinging patent. [via The Daily Grail]

Saturday, April 13, 2002 Permanent link to this day
It's here

Inventing the Future

So often, signs of the future are all around us, but it isn't until much later that most of the world realizes their significance. Meanwhile, the innovators who are busy inventing that future live in a world of their own. They see and act on premises not yet apparent to others. In the computer industry, these are the folks I affectionately call "the alpha geeks," the hackers who have such mastery of their tools that they "roll their own" when existing products don't give them what they need.

[via BookNotes]

Get the vacuum

Network in a dust storm: Berkeley scientists, led by Kris Pister, are working on distributed computing technology involving "smart dust", processing nodes the size of a few cubic millimeters. [via Nanodot]

Drexler on nanotech

Back in December, Eric Drexler of the Foresight Institute gave a talk on the dangers of nanotech at an AAAS symposium on the effect of the WoT on science. The audio of that talk, as well as the others that day, is now available. [via Nanodot]

Wednesday, April 10, 2002 Permanent link to this day
Patently absurd

Be careful how you swing. You might need a license from the holder of this patent: Method of swinging on a swing. [via also not found in nature]

Sunday, April 07, 2002 Permanent link to this day
CBDTPA letter

The ACM chimes into the CBDTPA debate with a letter to Hollings.

Although we are aware of the challenges to copyright protection imposed by computing and communications technology, USACM is utterly convinced that the solution is not to be found in legislation imposing limits on the technology that may be developed, purchased, or used by law-abiding citizens. Furthermore, respected scientists and technologists, including many USACM members, have concluded that the CBDTPA will threaten the ability of individuals to engage in critical research, interfere in the otherwise legal exchange of ideas and information fundamental to innovation, seriously restrict the quality of computing education, and undoubtedly threaten national security.

Virtually every significant computing device in use today transmits, copies, or displays digital information. While the CBDTPA-imposed restrictions seek to prevent copyrighted work from being copied from one place on a disk or the network to another, the far-reaching restrictions would also interfere with literally thousands of other legal, non-infringing uses of digital computing...

[via Red Rock Eater]

Saturday, April 06, 2002 Permanent link to this day

Networking in the Mind Age: Alexander Chislenko looks at Hans Moravec's Mind Age and the future of networked robots and society.

It may be difficult to get used to dealing with a volatile distributed entity. Suppose your robot made some really stupid mistake. You are mad at it. The robot explains that the action was caused by a temporary condition in the experimental semantic subnetwork and suggests to present to you a hundred-terabyte volume of incremental archives, memory snapshots and audit trails from numerous servers involved in the making of the unfortunate decision, containing a partial description of the state of the relevant parts of the system at the time. If you can even find the culprit, it's non-material, distributed, and long gone.

Now, what do you kick?

See also: Moravec's Robots, Re-Evolving Mind

The incremental growth of computer power suggests an incremental approach to developing robot intelligence, probably an accelerated parallel to the evolution of biological intelligence that's its model. Unlike other approaches, this path demands no great theories or insights (helpful though they can be): natural intelligence evolved in small steps through a chain of viable organisms, artificial intelligence can do the same. Nature performed evolutionary experiments at an approximately steady rate, even when evolved traits such as brain complexity grew exponentially. Similarly, a steady engineering effort should be able to support exponentially growing robot complexity (especially as ever more of the design search is delegated to increasingly powerful machines). The journey will be much easier the second time around: we have a guide, with directions and distances, in the history of vertebrate nervous systems.

Friday, April 05, 2002 Permanent link to this day
Ban pencils, too

The CBDTPA Is Immune to (Conventional) Criticism: on the illegitimacy of the CBDTPA and suggestions on how to fight it. [via 2020 Hindsight]

Thursday, March 28, 2002 Permanent link to this day
Going up?

The Space Elevator Comes Closer to Reality: on how work on carbon nanotubes, which are now nearing production, is getting us closer to having the ability to construct a space elevator.

For a space elevator to function, a cable with one end attached to the Earth's surface stretches upwards, reaching beyond geosynchronous orbit, at 21,700 miles (35,000-kilometer altitude). After that, simple physics takes charge.

The competing forces of gravity at the lower end and outward centripetal acceleration at the farther end keep the cable under tension. The cable remains stationary over a single position on Earth. This cable, once in position, can be scaled from Earth by mechanical means, right into Earth orbit. An object released at the cable's far end would have sufficient energy to escape from the gravity tug of our home planet and travel to neighboring the moon or to more distant interplanetary targets.

[via Boing Boing]

Tuesday, March 26, 2002 Permanent link to this day
Hello, World

Leuschke demonstrates how distributing a two line BASIC program constitutes a felony under the proposed CDBTPA. Sounds like the start of a great code contest: What's the shortest program you can get 5 years in federal prison for? Surely we can do better than 22 bytes?

Long bridge ahead

Bleak future looms if you don't take a stand: Dan Gillmor on trends in big media control over information and entertainment through the DMCA and proposed bills.

This is a quiz about your future. It's about how you view some basic elements of the emerging Digital Age.

1. Do you care if a few giant companies control virtually all entertainment and information?

2. Do you care if they decide what kinds of technological innovations will reach the marketplace?

3. Would you be concerned if they used their power to compile detailed dossiers on everything you read, listen to, view and buy?

4. Would you find it acceptable if they could decide whether what you write and say could be seen and heard by others?

Those are no longer theoretical questions. They are the direction in which America is hurtling.

[via Boing Boing]

Friday, March 22, 2002 Permanent link to this day

Sunday, March 10, 2002 Permanent link to this day
SSSCA reaction

Antipiracy bill a high-tech threat, Hollywood-style

It's possible to fight by adding copy-protection features to the original video and audio files, but such systems are beatable. It'd be much harder to defeat hardware, features built into the digital devices to block illegal copying.

Enter the Hollings bill, which seeks to mandate the inclusion of exactly this sort of technology into every device capable of running digital media. Read it and gasp: "It is unlawful to manufacture, import, offer to the public, provide or otherwise traffic in any interactive digital device that does not include and utilize certified security technologies."

Yes, that includes your desktop computer, your TiVo recorder, your PlayStation 2 and TV set-top box. Everything. Suddenly, the US government is in the business of designing the next generation of electronic devices.

[via rc3]

Monday, March 04, 2002 Permanent link to this day
Limits of computing

The Physics of Information Processing Superobjects: Daily Life Among the Jupiter Brains. Anders Sandberg takes a detailed look at the physical limitations to enormous computers.

The laws of physics impose constraints on the activities of intelligent beings regardless of their motivations, culture or technology. As intelligent life begins to extend its potential, information storage, processing and management will become extremely important. It has been argued that civilizations generally are information-limited and that everything intelligent beings do, not just thinking but also economy, art, and emotion, can be viewed as information processing. This means that the physics of information processing imposes limits on what can be achieved by any civilization. In the following I will look at the problems of very large computing systems. They represent the extremes of what an individual being or a culture can become.

Sunday, March 03, 2002 Permanent link to this day
SSSCA debate

The debate over the SSSCA, which would make it illegal to sell computing devices without copy protection technology built in, is heating up. Senate hearings were held last week with primarily media executives testifying. An effort to block the bill has been started at

See also:

Sunday, February 24, 2002 Permanent link to this day

Tuesday, February 19, 2002 Permanent link to this day

The DMCA and What's Worse

Now, if you like technology, as I do, a System Folder crash of this sort is not an insuperable problem. If you want to reinstall software to recover from a computer disaster at home, and if you have the installers at home, you can reinstall. And if you have the serial numbers recorded at home, you can type them in at the appropriate places when you reinstall, so the reinstallation will work. Unfortunately, I wasn't quite that well prepared, but fortunately I had alternatives at hand -- I powered up another laptop I already had at home, and connected the two laptops together over the tiny wireless LAN I run in my apartment. I pulled software and other installation files over the network from one machine to the other, and in doing so I may be said to have violated the installation process that (to invoke the language of the Digital Milllennium Copyright Act) "controls my access" to the technology, to the copyrighted work. Technically, perhaps, I had violated the Digital Millennium Copyright. Please let's not let the news of my transgression leave this room.

Saturday, February 16, 2002 Permanent link to this day
Serial cables are illegal?

My Run-In With The Digital Millennium Copyright Act: a university student, Colin McMillen, ordered a serial cable with a special end made for plugging into a Dreamcast console from He says his intention is to write real-time software for the console as part of his research. Instead the shipment was intercepted by Customs as being in violation of the DMCA.

See also: DMCA Protection at U.S. Border

Note: the first link above is to a university student's account which has been /.ed and mentioned on Wired. It may take a few tries to get in. [via zem]

Thursday, February 07, 2002 Permanent link to this day
The Dirty Dozen

The Digital Dirty Dozen: The Cato Institute lists 12 bills introduced last year as examples of the regulatory stance Congress is taking toward technology.

As shown in this review of our picks for the 12 most destructive pieces of technology legislation introduced in the 107th Congress, there is good evidence that policymakers--whether through conscious design or not--are adopting the telecom regulatory paradigm for the tech sector. It appears that the tech sector may be pigeonholed into that paradigm simply because it offers a familiar set of rules and a bank of regulatory agencies that can be activated on command.

Here they are:

Sunday, January 20, 2002 Permanent link to this day
Internet Reconfigurable Logic

This is apparently isn't news, but it's the first I've heard of it. Xilinx is offering FPGAs with what they call Internet Reconfigurable Logic. These are programmable chips whose logic can be replaced over the Internet. This brings a whole new meaning to getting root. [via Risks]

Monday, December 24, 2001 Permanent link to this day
Touch typing

The Senseboard brings a whole new meaning to touch typing. [via Boing Boing]

Sunday, December 23, 2001 Permanent link to this day
Implantable chips

An interview with the head of Applied Digital Solutions, who's wanting to implant chips into humans for various applications including tracking foreign visitors.

Saturday, December 22, 2001 Permanent link to this day
Technology awards

The World Technology Network award winners for 2001. [via bottomquark]

Implantable chips

Applied Digital Solutions is pushing to use implantable microchips, called VeriChip, similar to those used in animals for tracking to track visitors to the U.S. [via Unknown News]

Nanotech's downside

Eric Drexler talks bout the downsides of nanotech in a speech at an AAAS symposium on terrorism. [via also not found in nature]

Tuesday, December 18, 2001 Permanent link to this day
Really grand theft auto

The unique prototype of the Delfino Feroce, which will sell for about $80,000 in Britain when it becomes available, has been stolen. Nothing like taking something inconspicuous.

Friday, December 14, 2001 Permanent link to this day
Single photon emitter

The Toshiba Research and a Cambridge team have announced the first LED which can emit a single photon at a time, a technology that is important for a real implementation of quantum cryptography.

Sunday, December 09, 2001 Permanent link to this day

How do you define 24/7 support? [via Truer Words]

Friday, December 07, 2001 Permanent link to this day
Brain fingerprinting

Lawrence Falwell has offered his brain fingerprinting technique to federal authorities as a means of telling if a person remembers a specific event. According to this report from the GAO, the government doesn't think it has much applicability. [via also not found in nature]

Monday, December 03, 2001 Permanent link to this day
Geeks and Spooks

Bruce Sterling on Geeks and Spooks - "The big story about crypto is a power struggle between two American tribes: geeks and spooks." [via genehack]

Wednesday, November 28, 2001 Permanent link to this day
CDA appeal

COPA (son of CDA) is in front of the Supreme Court after being blocked in a federal appeals court.

Saturday, November 24, 2001 Permanent link to this day
Cybercrime convention

The Council of Europe's Cybercrime Convention has been signed by 30 countries. [via /.]

Thursday, November 22, 2001 Permanent link to this day
Phone ripoff

Hijackers in Hong Kong steal $26 million in Nokia phone parts. I'm guessing that's Hong Kong dollars, which would be about $3.3 million U.S.

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Copyright © 2001-2002 by Wes Cowley