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Original author: 
Cory Doctorow

A "Snowball" is a poem "in which each line is a single word, and each successive word is one letter longer." Nossidge built an automated Snowball generator that uses Markov Chains, pulling text from Project Gutenberg. It's written in C++, with code on GitHub. The results are rather beautiful poems (these ones are "mostly Dickens"):

o
we
all
have
heard
people
believe
anything

i
am
the
dawn
light
before
anybody
expected
something
disorderly

i
am
the
very
great
change

Snowball (also called a Chaterism) (via Waxy)     

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Original author: 
Cory Doctorow

Dr. Tom Murphy VII gave a research paper called "The First Level of Super Mario Bros. is Easy with Lexicographic Orderings and Time Travel . . . after that it gets a little tricky," (PDF) (source code) at SIGBOVIK 2013, in which he sets out a computational method for solving classic NES games. He devised two libraries for this: learnfun (learning fuction) and playfun (playing function). In this accompanying video, he chronicles the steps and missteps he took getting to a pretty clever destination.

learnfun & playfun: A general technique for automating NES games (via O'Reilly Radar)     

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You know what's better than the nerd-classic 1985 teen comedy Real Genius? How about the Real Genius trailer recut in the style of M. Night Shyamalan, by YouTuber dondrapersayswhat (creator of the Breakfast Club/Avengers mashup and this this insanely great Baby Got Back mashup?


Real Genius by M. Night Shyamalan: Trailer Recut

(Thanks, Fipi Lele!)

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Justin sez,

In 2010, Boing Boing wrote about about James "The Amazing" Randi coming out of the closet as a gay man. Coming from the famed exposer-of-deception, many found his honesty inspirational. Then, in September of 2011, his live-in partner of 25 years, Jose Alvarez - the man who famously adopted the persona of "Carlos" for their "Carlos Hoax" - was arrested for identity fraud. Carlos, er, Jose, is actually named Deyvi Pena.

Luckily, documentary filmmakers Justin Weinstein (writer, editor of Being Elmo) and Tyler Measom (director, Sons of Perdition) were filming with them for their new doc, An Honest Liar: The Amazing Randi Story. In addition to getting the inside scoop on the Deyvi story, the doc features such greats as Richard Dawkins, Penn & Teller, Tim Minchin, Bill Nye, Neal DeGrasse Tyson, Adam Savage, Alice Cooper, and more.

You can help them get the film made by supporting it via Kickstarter (and get some great memorabilia).

An Honest Liar: The Amazing Randi Story

(Thanks, Justin!)

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Cory wrote on Monday about Ahmed Al-Kabaz, the Dawson College Comp Sci student who found a massive bug on his school's website that left total data on thousands of students vulnerable to an easy hack. Ahmed reported the bug to Dawson's administrators and later checked to see if it had been closed. He was then expelled. The story outraged Canadians, disgraced Dawson College and won Ahmed some job offers. Yesterday, the editorial board of The Globe and Mail, Canada's "newspaper of record", published this contrary view:

"When did it become wrong to punish hackers?"

The piece not only sides with Dawson College on Ahmed's expulsion, it also takes the opportunity to state the Globe's support for Carmen Ortiz's prosecution of Aaron Swartz. And it goes on. In five galling paragraphs, the Globe and Mail has declared its opposition to Internet freedom fighters, copyright reformists, privacy activists, transparency campaigners, and hackers of any stripe.

Read it and I think you'll agree that it's a stunningly ignorant piece of writing. A proud declaration of ignorance. An ignorance manifesto.

It's beneath contempt and consideration, save for the fact that it was published by the most influential newspaper in Canada. So it must be dealt with. Where to begin?

"The international hacking community is currently up in arms after the suicide of Aaron Swartz"

Sorry, "the international hacking community"?

Are the academics who donated thousands of research papers to the public domain in Aaron's memory members of this "international hacking community"? Is Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren in this shady cult too, and is her bill in Aaron's memory a weapon of her radical cause? What about the hundreds of thousands of people who mourn Aaron because his contributions are so wonderful and his resolve to do good so inspiring? Are we the "international community of hackers", or is that just a convenient way of ghettoizing, belittling and dismissing us?

"Stealing is stealing," "rules exist for a reason," copyright is a "foundation".

Jesus, really? You'd think they wouldn't go there, considering what just happened.

Last fall, senior Globe columnist Margaret Wente was exposed as a serial plagiarist and a fabulist. The Globe knew about her thievery for months but ignored it for as long as they could. Then they tried to sweep it under the rug. Finally, they apologized, badly and insincerely. So much for copyright, so much for "stealing is stealing". And as for "the rules," they didn't apply to Margaret Wente. Her job was protected.

"In the age of the Internet, the massive downloading for free of music and movies and other copyrighted material has muddied the waters for many people."

What on Earth does music downloading have to do with Ahmed Al-Kabaz and his discovery of sloppy code that put himself and thousands of his peers at risk? What exactly does movie piracy have to do with Aaron Swartz's belief that locking away thousands of scholarly works, paid for with public funds and created for the good of humanity, was a crime that couldn't be tolerated? Who exactly is guilty of muddying the waters by lumping these disparate things together?*

Can the Globe's editorial board really not fathom the difference between running a security diagnostic tool on a website and launching a "cyber attack"? Would they uncritically appropriate language from a corporate press release in any other instance? Is this truly an inability to discern distinctions between fraudsters and fixers, between thieves and humanitarians, or just an angry refusal to even try?

Either way, it's no longer okay to be this stupid. Stubborn, willful stupidity like this, in the hands of power, has consequences.

Jesse Brown blogs at Macleans.ca and is on Twitter @JesseBrown.

*Actually, there is a connection between Ahmed Al-Kabaz and Aaron Swartz. Ahmed investigated a powerful institution to see if it was competent and safe, and when he discovered that it wasn't, he exposed it. Aaron believed passionately in the public's right to information. Both were doing journalism. In decrying their actions, the Globe has in effect taken a position against the basic mission of journalism .

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Eirik Solheim is an amazing geek and CC activist at NRK, the Norwegian public broadcaster. He writes, "We filmed a train ride four times. One time for each season; winter, spring, summer and autumn. Then we used an accurate GPS-track to sync the four videos using some clever programming in combination with after effects. Giving us endless possibilities for spectacular video footage.

You can watch it on the web, but we have also made it available for everyone to download in full HD -- and licensed it with Creative Commons so that you can edit, remix and share!"

Nordlandsbanen: minute by minute, season by season

(Thanks, Eirik!)

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Alex Stamos, a computer security and forensics expert, was one of the expert witnesses in US v Swartz, the vindictive case brought against Aaron Swartz for walking into an unlocked computer closet, and downloading a large number of academic articles from JSTOR, using MIT's network. Stamos has very good perspective on the "crimes" for which Aaron was being hounded by the state:

* At the time of Aaron’s actions, the JSTOR website allowed an unlimited number of downloads by anybody on MIT’s 18.x Class-A network. The JSTOR application lacked even the most basic controls to prevent what they might consider abusive behavior, such as CAPTCHAs triggered on multiple downloads, requiring accounts for bulk downloads, or even the ability to pop a box and warn a repeat downloader.

* Aaron did not “hack” the JSTOR website for all reasonable definitions of “hack”. Aaron wrote a handful of basic python scripts that first discovered the URLs of journal articles and then used curl to request them. Aaron did not use parameter tampering, break a CAPTCHA, or do anything more complicated than call a basic command line tool that downloads a file in the same manner as right-clicking and choosing “Save As” from your favorite browser.

* Aaron did nothing to cover his tracks or hide his activity, as evidenced by his very verbose .bash_history, his uncleared browser history and lack of any encryption of the laptop he used to download these files. Changing one’s MAC address (which the government inaccurately identified as equivalent to a car’s VIN number) or putting a mailinator email address into a captured portal are not crimes. If they were, you could arrest half of the people who have ever used airport wifi.

* The government provided no evidence that these downloads caused a negative effect on JSTOR or MIT, except due to silly overreactions such as turning off all of MIT’s JSTOR access due to downloads from a pretty easily identified user agent.

* I cannot speak as to the criminal implications of accessing an unlocked closet on an open campus, one which was also used to store personal effects by a homeless man. I would note that trespassing charges were dropped against Aaron and were not part of the Federal case.

Aaron hanged himself two years, to the day, after his arrest. The DoJ asked for the maximum penalty: 30 years.

The Truth about Aaron Swartz’s “Crime”

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Jonathan Keogh's "IMDB Top 250 in 2 1/2 Minutes" is a masterful mix, and a lovely tribute to popular film. As Colin Douma notes, "How much this would have cost if they sourced legal rights to each clip?" Not to mention the music. Watch it now before it's censored forever!

IMDB Top 250 in 2 1/2 Minutes

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Sam from MIT sez, "This 2-day conference at MIT brings together 50 leading thinkers about innovation in the media and marketing industries. Issues tackled include the importance of listening to their audiences and putting yourself in their shoes; the politics and ethics of curation in a spreadable media world; the move from "participatory culture" to "political participation," curing "the shiny new object syndrome" of putting the hype of new platforms over storytelling strategy, and rethinking copyright for today's world. The conference also includes particular looks into the futures of video gaming, the futures of public media, and the futures of storytelling in sports. Speakers include T Bone Burnett, Henry Jenkins, Maria Popova, Grant McCracken, Jason Falls, Valve Software's Yanis Varoufakis, PBS FRONTLINE's Andrew Golis, Google Creative Lab Director Ben Malbon, Xbox co-founder Ed Fries, AT&T AdWorks Lab Director David Polinchock, the creators of 30 Mosques in 30 Days, and USC Annenberg Inno vation Lab Director Jon Taplin. Also, there's a pre-conference event Thursday evening, Nov. 8, on 'New Media in West Africa,' moderated by mobile entertainment founder Ralph Simon and featuring the Harvard Berkman Center's Colin Maclay, artist Derrick Ashong, and iROKOtv's Fadzi Makanda."

Futures of Entertainment 6 | November 9-10, 2012 MIT, Cambridge MA

(Thanks, Sam!)

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Nathan Myhrvold's Intellectual Ventures has received a patent for a DRM system for 3D printers, to stop people from printing out trademarked and patent objects. Like other DRM systems, this won't work (it will either have to be so broad in its parameters for recognizing prohibited items that it will balk at printing innumerable harmless objects, or it will be trivial to defeat by disguising the objects beyond the system's ability to recognize them).

Like other DRMs, it will require designing 3D printers so that they keep secrets from their owners, opening up the possibility that this facility will be exploited by bad guys to do bad things to the printers' owners (Charlie Stross envisions compromised 3D printers outputting rooms full of printed penises overnight in his book Rule 34).

But at least it's patented by a notorious patent troll, which means that other jackasses who try to implement this stupid idea will find themselves tied up in absurd, wasteful lawsuits. It's mutually assured dipshits.

From Tech Review's Antonio Regalado:

“You load a file into your printer, then your printer checks to make sure it has the rights to make the object, to make it out of what material, how many times, and so on,” says Michael Weinberg, a staff lawyer at the non-profit Public Knowledge, who reviewed the patent at the request of Technology Review. “It’s a very broad patent.”

The patent isn’t limited to 3-D printing, also known as additive manufacturing. It also covers using digital files in extrusion, ejection, stamping, die casting, printing, painting, and tattooing and with materials that include “skin, textiles, edible substances, paper, and silicon printing.”

Nathan Myhrvold's Cunning Plan to Prevent 3-D Printer Piracy

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