An idiosyncratic look at, and comment on, the week's net and technology news
by Alan Lenton
Well, this weekend I have some time to relax and bring you a new issue of Winding Down. It's been a hectic week both at work, with the launch of a new web site <http://www.greenmangaming.com>, and at home with a four day visit from my parents.
Nonetheless, in spite of the hectic round, I've managed to pull out a few treats for you to look at - I would especially recommend Hans Rosling's TED talk at the end of the 'Homework' section. It's my favorite talk to date.
And now, the show must go on...
It was difficult to know what story to start with this week - there were two main contenders - one good, one bad. However, since we up here in the penthouse suite at Winding Towers like to look on the bright side, we decided to start on an upbeat note.
This week included the first of April, and there were even more April Fool's jokes around the net than last year, which itself seemed like the largest ever. Those nice people at Pocket-lint have produced a round up of the best of the best, so you can spend a morning chuckling at the ones you missed on the first. My favorite? Gotta be the greyscale light bulb!
The bad news is that a new web site infection, known as 'LizaMoon', is spiraling out of control. The last estimate I saw suggests that since Tuesday, when it was first spotted, it has infected as many as half a million URLs. The infection features an SQL injection attack (possible because the site owners aren't checking user input properly, or at all) and produces fake virus warnings whenever anyone accesses the site. Unsuspecting users are then referred to a rogue 'anti-virus' site (originally lizamoon.com, the origin of the attack's name).
This is one of the most widespread examples of this sort of attack on record, and, depressingly, the way to avoid it has been known for years, but still site designers and programmers fail to take the few simple steps needed to proof their sites against SQL injection attacks.
http://xkcd.com/327/ (warning: very geeky)
The Economist magazine has an interesting piece on broadband bandwidth caps. It correctly locates the problem as being Internet video, and, to a lesser extent (considerably less, I suspect, in spite of the media companies blustering) 'pirated' peer-to-peer files. Back-up to the cloud is only going to make this worse, as backups get streamed to the cloud over home connections, even leaving aside the added bandwidth needed for Blu-Ray quality video.
Interestingly, the conclusion is that bandwidth capping may just not be a realistic possibility in the near future. I have my doubts about that conclusion, but the article is still worth a look.
Do I detect an outbreak of common sense (which actually isn't all that common) in the legal industry? The judge in the Limewire appeals case has rubbished the music industry belief that they can get damages based on the 'number of direct infringers per work'. In the Limewire case this would mean a fine of in the region of US$75 trillion! To put that into perspective the total world GDP is less than US$70 trillion. I guess the media companies are of the opinion that everyone in the world did nothing but listen to Limewire for more than a year...
The musicians among readers, and those with an interest in classical music, might like to have a look at a project called 'Open Goldberg Variations', designed to produce a new, public domain score and studio recording of J.S. Bach's Goldberg Variations. It seems that public domain versions of the score are few and far between. The project aims to rectify that situation.
I came across an unusual piece this week. It's a transcript of a talk given 20 years ago by American Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan, about what sort of legal system a spacefaring civilization will need. I was amazed. I had no idea people were thinking about these issues so long ago. The talk is fascinating, I urge you to take a look.
If you'd like a different view on an historical artifact, take a quick look at this article in The Register about the Bayeux Tapestry as an archiving model, One suitable for keeping data for a full millennium! I'll let you read it for yourselves to find out the estimated read and write speeds!
You might also like to take a look at a special newspaper produced by the EE|Times surveying the Japanese earthquake and its implications. Very high production values, combined with informative articles. Recommended.
Finally, in this section, the TED video choice is Hans Rosling arguing that most significant product of the industrial revolution was the washing machine! A fabulous talk - make time to watch this!
Want to read something a little different for a change? Have a look at this interview with the staff of Coilhouse magazine on the io9 web site. As Coilhouse's mission statement puts it, "We cover art, fashion, technology, music and film to convey an alternative culture that we would like to live in, as opposed to the one that's being sold or handed down to us."
An ambitious program, to say the least, and one espoused by a lot of underground and counter cultures out there. None the less the mag looks to me like something worth keeping an eye on for the future - I just wish they would do a newsletter...
Oh, yes. And there is an excellent one off geek toy up for grabs here in the UK. The UK's Ministry of Defence is selling off its flagship - the aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal. You will have to come up with a convincing use for it, in order to be allowed to bid at auction. You will also need to provide your own strike aircraft, although I hear they are also getting rid of their Harrier jump jets at about the same time.
Apple sues Amazon over 'App Store' name
SEC charges IBM with bribing Korean and Chinese officials
Google book settlement stalls: Judge declines to reward mass unauthorised scanning
Thanks to readers Barb, Fi, and to Slashdot's daily newsletter for drawing my attention to material used in this issue.
Please send suggestions for stories to email@example.com and include the words Winding Down in the subject line, unless you want your deathless prose gobbled up by my voracious Spamato spam filter...
3 April, 2011
Alan Lenton is an on-line games designer, programmer and sociologist, the order of which depends on what he is currently working on! His web site is at http://www.ibgames.net/alan.
Past issues of Winding Down can be found at http://www.ibgames.net/alan/winding/index.html.