critical reading for the rude

gupta on palin

Vinay has it right:

A pox on both their houses

Brutal beat down on Lara Croft Sarah Connor Sarah Palin.


If you make it through the article, here’s my thinking: “Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.” I think people will vote for her as a mom-with-a-gun, as the VPILF (cough, hack) and as a symbol of America’s past and future – rugged, gun-toting frontier types, making their way through the world with nothing but a covered wagon, some corn meal, and a gigaton nuclear arsenal.

Grab popcorn and enjoy the show, this one’s gonna be a doozy.


August 31, 2008 Posted by | blogs, geo/pol | 1 Comment

ironic design

CSven had me going

Usually when I surf through the CGTalk forum I see plenty of creativity when it comes to character design, but when it comes to products/objects what I find are mostly attempts to model real world designs. There are plenty of Mercedes this and Ferrari that, but relatively speaking very few original product designs. Thus it’s difficult to not appreciate Kadeg Boucher’s “stupid object #1 : Lawn Mower schumacher” (shown above). What a great piece. For more images, check out the thread on CGTalk (Link).

I was all ready for him to launch into how great it is that the piece is such an excellent joke — that the irony ought to make us a little sad — that the designer is really clever to play on the red-state tension of wanting to zoom-fast-ride-the-hell-out-of-here-like-#3 but is always just stuck… mowing the yard. Clock in, clock out. Going to church. Catching the big race on teevee… never really going anywhere new.

But I don’t think that’s what he was getting at…

Boucher’s fanciful effort once again makes me wonder why corporations – in this case MTD, Toro, Snapper, John Deere and the rest – don’t add a little more flair to their products. To my consumer eye, those riding lawnmowers all look so… plain vanilla. This reminds me of those urban vinyl ketchup and mustard bottle sculptures that made regular condiment bottles seem excruciatingly stale.

This device is not fun — it’s scary. It reminds me for some reason of the Garth Ennis piece from Preacher about the Sheriff’s son who shot himself.

I think the Boucher mower’s title says it all — it’s stupid and really funny because of its stupidity. This mower’s design is great in its black humor. It’s a kind of Steven Barthelme joke. It’s great because it makes us laugh a little and feel sad a little at the same time.

Because it does that so well that it’s a total success. It’s not a success because it has “flair”.

November 16, 2007 Posted by | blogs, books | , , | Leave a comment


You could call it a “smarm mob”, I guess.

[See also: Sterling making the blogosphere into teenage chess club angst retribution.]

November 11, 2007 Posted by | blogs | Leave a comment

CheapID… State In a Box

There goes Vinay being brilliant again… and this time a little scary, too.

You should be reading The Gupta Option often.

“Technology becomes policy.”

From SIAB:


I believe we have less than 10 years of legal anonymous free speech on the Internet. People confuse the “Wild West” style properties of a new frontier with fundamental aspects of the digital space and, as court houses and law get built on the Internet, much of the current wildness is inevitably going away.

However, correctly leveraging PKI and the ISA creates the possibility of preserving the politically critical support of free speech with a reasonable expectation of anonymity, except when criminal acts are being performed.

The benefit in this case is the convenience of single sign on across all Internet (and perhaps other) electronic services.

How is this to be achieved? Consider the OpenID standard, a distributed (or, more correctly, federated) ID system which hangs off the Domain Name System namespace. An OpenID identity provider gives out URLs, each one of which has a username and a password. The URL is given out to third parties as the “identity” and back-channel communication occurs between the third party and the OpenID provider to enable log in.

OpenID has about 10 million operational accounts and is being integrated into projects like Wikipedia. It is likely to succeed widely. If not, something else like it is going to take its place, in all probability. The email address has the same basic properties (of hanging off the DNS namespace) and has been used as a default ID namespace up to this point, with much the same properties Ð for most web sites, if I can read the email associated with Account X, then I am that person.

Hanging off the DNS namespace is an interesting thing, because it basically makes personal identities part of the DNS hierarchy. Part of the freedom people feel on the Internet is that, on the Internet, you are a “citizen” of the DNS Government Ð DNS creates the political unit of your email account provider or, if you operate your own domain, yourself. In the event of an investigation, queries follow the DNS chain of command: first WHOIS to identify the domain owner, then an enquiry to the domain owner about the conduct or identity of a given user.

This usually results in either a real name, or an IP address, which is then mapped back to service providers, then billing records, then an actual hard physical identity. Internet users typically feel rather violated by having their online actions tracked back to their physical location because it is a cross-namespace violation, rather like having a foreign nation state come and enforce its laws on you. These illusions have built up through common custom and the largely privileged academic communication which was the initial environment of the internet. That separateness is largely collapsing as the Internet becomes a part of the “real world” and the new privileged spaces are massively multi-player online roleplaying games like Warcraft, Second Life and Everquest.

Authentication for these systems is extremely problematic. Computer security is very ineffective for most home users, and falsely authorized emails generated by viruses, for example, are a common problem. Online banking security is constantly under attack from criminals compromising home computer security over unaccountable emails. This situation cannot go on indefinitely.

The solution is simple: a special, privileged class of Single Sign On Identity Providers who require an ISA-style blind contract before they will provide you single sign-on services. An identity with these groups is indicated by a cryptographic signature from the vendor attesting that they have a CheapID contract on file and will reveal it under a specified set of conditions, usually a court order in their native jurisdiction.

Ideally, this move would be coupled with a definitive upgrade in authentication. Pseudo-random number generators, when used for security applications like as the common SecureID tag are subject to man in the middle attacks, so probably we are going to wind up with an additional PKI level, perhaps small USB-type tokens. In any case it would be nice to indicate the level of authentication in the account so that third parties could judge for themselves how much trust they want to put into a log in from a particular SSO provider.

Common Operations

Identity Recovery

Upon display of proof that a given account has engaged in an activity which requires an identity to be revealed (i.e. presentation of a court order) the sign on service returns the original ISA-style blind contract, with associated CheapID Identity Card to the court to decrypt.

Electronic Democracy

With sufficiently secure SSO services, including perhaps specially created government-backed SSO accounts along the lines of the Estonian system, it should be possible to do secure electronic voting over a variety of devices including cell phones. Challenges pertaining specifically to this project will be the subject of another paper. In essence, this discussion is about extending the reach of the Professional Witness to transactions at a remote site like your home, using the media of a cell phone or other computing device as the intermediary. This is non-trivial and may involve windows of revocation in which coercion can be reported, for instance.

Technical Challenges

There are no difficult technical challenges specifically related to the ISA aspects of this system.

October 3, 2007 Posted by | blogs, geo/pol, info sci, ubicomp | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

James Kotecki gives them hell

I won’t attempt to restate or interpret what he’s doing here.  But watch this video.  This guy just won’t stop, and thank goodness for that.  At the moment, I’d rank James Kotecki as more relevant and important than 4/5ths of all the candidates running, and maybe even tied with Bill Clinton (don’t let it go to yr head, JK!).

Keep giving them hell and holding their feet to the fire, man.

August 2, 2007 Posted by | blogs, geo/pol, video | 3 Comments

library sparring

An ongoing game of “finding out” would be a good exercise for librarian bloggers. Do more with the outboard memory than store info — maybe run a few hot cycles, pour some ether in the carburetor?

In that spirit, what’s this:


July 23, 2007 Posted by | blogs, info sci, occult, search | 2 Comments

writing typing fonts

I reckon a book or a blog needs to carry on with that rhythm, page to page, post to post,  and carry it on with pictures and colors (whenever used) and sounds (both audio and in terms of the “sound” of the words used, the prosody) and maybe some other attributes I’m not thinking of.  Like tone and attitude.

Font becomes library.

July 18, 2007 Posted by | blogs, books, writing | 1 Comment

the veidt method

In answer to a Warren Ellis post… you’ll be wanting to ask this guy (Xoanon at about The Veidt Method, methinks…

{Watchmen movie?}

July 11, 2007 Posted by | blogs, comics, video | Leave a comment

google social software

Deb points us toward Carpe’s very quotable post:

…as for elgoog, well, they’ve already got every targeted service (messaging, voice, mail, video, pictures, payment, data storage, collaborative apps, et al)…and they’ve got a simple publishing platform in place (think ‘google pages 2.0′) – now all they need to is flick a very small switch: you log in and are presented with an option to ‘publish your google profile‘ and in doing so elect to include select apps/services and make all/some available to groups/user across the ‘google network’ – very simple for elgoog to execute.

…so while facebook dreams of some bullshit world where third parties clamor to build shitty little apps inside their cluttered networking space which reaches only a minority of global interweb users, elgoog is just going to “be the entire space” and throw networking into the mix to expound the details and nuances of services and features…there will be a consumer version and an enterprise version…

goodbye myspace, goodbye linkedin, facebook, bebo and all of the others (yahoo and wallop included for now)…you’ve all completely missed this dark horse running in the social networking universe – the interweb IS just a social networking infrastructure, and all elgoog is doing is building a simple utility to search and connect users with increasingly finer gradations (e.g. collaborative apps, calendaring and other ‘group/singleuser’ services) until one day – poof! – the dark horse emerges.

…oh, and btw, in my opinion the only (and i mean absolutely the only) player that can rattle and compete is microsoft – with the largest installed sw user base in the world, all they need to do is allow for the same profile publishing services as they already do for enterprise, roll it out to consumers at zero cost and integrate a world of online apps and services…

so yeah, that’s what was on my mind earlier this morning, just wanted to throw it out there because i have not found ANYBODY ELSE talking about it yet! what the shit? am i the only one who really sees it this way?

That’s tasty.  “…the interweb IS just a social networking infrastructure…”

Now go read Carpe on Google/Apple

July 5, 2007 Posted by | biz, blogs, info sci | 2 Comments

grisly google speculation & dark fiber

From National Post:

…Google’s plan has been underway for some time and is now gaining momentum. For at least the past three years, the company has been buying up swaths of unused fibre-optic cable — so-called “dark fibre” — around the world. Telephone and cable companies overbuilt these lines, which form the basis of the Internet, during the tech boom in the early part of this decade and Google has been only too happy to take the unused infrastructure off their hands.

The company is secretive about exactly how much fibre it owns, saying only that the cables are needed to connect its data and storage facilities, which power its various search and Internet services. Experts, however, estimate the company has far more fibre than it needs for such purposes.

A day old and already dated — Google’s got GrandCentral… Anybody been reading Jeanneney lately?  Any of you folks at Google into it?  Been reading your Borges, I hope?  Anybody?  Listening to that R.E.M. and their rock -n- roll songs?  Okay.

July 4, 2007 Posted by | blogs, info sci, search | 2 Comments