May 18, 2005

pontin post delio

Following threads in Wade's blog (see below) I found Jason Pontin's new blog, The New Commonplace. Jason is the editor (in chief, I believe) of fave read Technology Review, so this is quite a good and interesting development. He's got a great job, I'm totally jealous! Um, but notably, his first non-hello-world post is a wrap-up of the Michelle Delio thing, in which he concludes:

This is serious stuff. We chose to remove all of Michelle Delio's stories from the three stories which proved accurate. I do not want to publish a journalist whom I am reasonably sure is a fabricator.

Woof. I bet you're happy to have that episode behind you, Jason. Anyway, I'm looking forward to more good new ideas streaming into my feedreader. Welcome to the b'sphere!

Posted by Gene at 11:31 AM | Comments (1)

don't go away mad, just go away

Since I've been 2 Busy 2 Blog, thought I should send you off to some folks who are adding real value to the web.

First, go visit one of my all time sci-fi heroes Rudy Rucker, who's currently working out ideas for his new book "Mathematicians in Love".

For your next fun side trip, make sure to add we make money not art to the top of your feedpile. Regine gets all the cool art-ubicomp-design-situated-wearable stuff ahead of just about everyone, so you might as well just jack in and enjoy the ride.

Lastly, geek journo Wade Roush has started the Continuous Computing Blog, and is right this minute asking readers to help review and contribute to the story he's working on for Technology Review. Should be very au courant for us mobility-media-ubicomp types, hope to see you there.

So go already!

Posted by Gene at 11:09 AM | Comments (0)

April 20, 2005

the latest trends in malware

Kaspersky Lab has posted its latest report on malware evolution. If you are at all interested in viruses, worms, adware, botnets, and phishing, this is a must-readme. Email worms are fading out, IM worms are growing fast, hijacking valuable objects from MMOGs is big time in Asia, and botnets are "the greatest threat to the Internet as we know it."

Researchers estimate that the number of zombie machines in botnets increases by 300,000 to 350,000 every month. The total number of zombies is estimated at several million. All of these infected machines are being actively used by cyber criminals as spamming platforms in order to make money. Botnets can also be used in DoS attacks and to spread new malware - such threats often lead site owners to pay cyber criminals not to attack their sites. Botnets are also used to mail out more and more new Trojans that harvest and send banking information to the controller. Today, virus writers from Brazil dominate this area of cyber crime.

Their virus analysts have a blog as well.

[via Steve Loughran]

Posted by Gene at 05:16 PM | Comments (0)

November 06, 2004

barlow is magnanimous in defeat

John Perry Barlow is characteristically human and insightful as he works out his personal reconciliation over the election results. It's a long post with extensive comments, so pack a lunch before you go, but do make the effort to click your finger over there.

This bit really hit home for me, I'm embarrassed to say:

I have a terrible admission to make. I've been so fanatically opposed to this administration that I have taken dark satisfaction in their failures, even though they were American failures as well. I welcomed growing indications that the situation in Iraq was deteriorating into a sump-hole of back-alley insurgency. Good economic news was bad economic news as far as I was concerned, and vice versa. I was tickled to death with Al Qaqaa and its terrorist-purloined WMDs, and not just because the name was so great. Surely all these bad tidings would eventually add up to an indictment that would convict Bush in the eyes of the American people and they would rouse themselves from Fox-hypnosis and 'possum sleep and vote for change.

I found myself doing this as well. Not good. But I think it happens largely because of the way we understand events at a distance, through the lens of the various media. Ongoing news events are stories, and stories told through the frames and conventions of mass media and yes, the net, become abstracted away from the financial privations, the bullets, the human toll. News = sports = entertainment = weather. A class 4 hurricane is better TV than a tropical storm. The sensational double murder drives a legion of armchair pulp fiction investigators. And the ebb and flow of politically-linked events gives us a storyline, gives us villains to vilify, gives us a sideline strategy that will help our candidate reach the goal line and give us that vicarious thrill of victory we crave. (Or in my case, the agony of defeat I suppose).

Getting past this is going to be hard. W and his crew are not "my team", and I don't support their means even if we share the same ends. Their playbook sucks, and frankly, I question whether we even share the same goals. Regardless, I need to find new ways to peel away the layers of abstraction, understand the ground truth of events as much as possible, and try not to accept the framing that the media, all the media, impose.

Posted by Gene at 04:10 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 03, 2004

what next for the press?

Recommended reading: In the wake of the 2004 campaign, Jay Rosen considers the potential for an opposition press:

John Kerry's defeat is only hours old. One of the first questions to occur to me is: will we see the fuller emergence of an opposition press, given that George W. Bush and the Republicans are to remain in office another four years? Will we find instead that an intimidation factor, already apparent before the election, will intensify as a result of Bush's victory?

Jay's Press Think is a consistently insightful and challenging read. Bring your brain.

Posted by Gene at 09:28 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 20, 2004

gibson, sterling and stephenson in three-way deathmatch

Excellent wide-ranging Neal Stephenson interview on /. today!

4) Who would win? (Score:5, Funny) - by Call Me Black Cloud

In a fight between you and William Gibson, who would win?


You don't have to settle for mere idle speculation. Let me tell you how it came out on the three occasions when we did fight.

The first time was a year or two after SNOW CRASH came out. I was doing a reading/signing at White Dwarf Books in Vancouver. Gibson stopped by to say hello and extended his hand as if to shake. But I remembered something Bruce Sterling had told me. For, at the time, Sterling and I had formed a pact to fight Gibson. Gibson had been regrown in a vat from scraps of DNA after Sterling had crashed an LNG tanker into Gibson's Stealth pleasure barge in the Straits of Juan de Fuca. During the regeneration process, telescoping Carbonite stilettos had been incorporated into Gibson's arms. Remembering this in the nick of time, I grabbed the signing table and flipped it up between us. Of course the Carbonite stilettos pierced it as if it were cork board, but this spoiled his aim long enough for me to whip my wakizashi out from between my shoulder blades and swing at his head. He deflected the blow with a force blast that sprained my wrist. The falling table knocked over a space heater and set fire to the store. Everyone else fled. Gibson and I dueled among blazing stacks of books for a while. Slowly I gained the upper hand, for, on defense, his Praying Mantis style was no match for my Flying Cloud technique. But I lost him behind a cloud of smoke. Then I had to get out of the place. The streets were crowded with his black-suited minions and I had to turn into a swarm of locusts and fly back to Seattle...

Also: "literary" vs. "commercial" writers, writing code, the Singularity, and i love bees. Of course it's slashdot, so some of the comments are gems as well. To wit, this threadlet:

"The best interview with a writer I've read in a long time. I have never read any of Stephenson's books (only "In the Beginning was the Command Line"), but will run out and buy the three Baroque cycle books. "

"Run? I thought people who read Slashdot more sort of...waddled..."

"By "run out" he means "Open a new browser window and type 'amazon'"."

Heh. Now if I could just find time to drag myself through the rest of Quicksilver...

Posted by Gene at 02:33 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 14, 2004

literate linkage

Are you paying attention to the future? It's looking better all the time.

Posted by Gene at 04:32 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 31, 2004

edward abbey and the politics of wilderness

I've been re-reading Desert Solitaire, Edward Abbey's poetic and provocative book from 1968. It is a chronicle of the time Abbey spent as a ranger for the US National Park Service in late 1950's Utah, in what was then known as Arches National Monument. If you're familiar with Abbey's work, then you know that he could be a keen, sensitive observer of the Earth's natural beauty, as well as a passionate, opinionated crank. So it is throughout Desert Solitaire, a book which takes place primarily in the desert, but is not primarily about the desert. For example, in one extended passage, Abbey makes an impassioned plea in defense of preserving wilderness, and in so doing he veers into political territory that seems perhaps as recognizable and relevant to the world of 2004 as that of 40 years ago:

I would like to introduce here an entirely new argument in what has now become a stylized debate: the wilderness should be preserved for political reasons. We may need it someday not only as a refuge from excessive industrialism but also as a refuge from authoritarian government, from political oppression. Grand Canyon, Big Bend, Yellowstone and the High Sierras may be required to function as bases for guerilla warfare against tyranny. What reason have we Americans to think that our own society will necessarily escape the world-wide drift toward the totalitarian organization of men and institutions?

This may seem, at the moment, like a fantastic thesis. Yet history demonstrates that personal liberty is a rare and precious thing, that all societies tend toward the absolute until attack from without or collapse from within breaks up the social machine and makes freedom and innovation again possible. Technology adds a new dimension to the process by providing modern despots with instruments far more efficient than any available to their classic counterparts. Surely it is no accident that the most thorough of tyrannies appeared in Europe's most thoroughly scientific and industrialized nation. If we allow our own country to become as densely populated, overdeveloped and technically unified as modern Germany we may face a similar fate.


How does this theory apply to the present and future of the famous United States of North America? Suppose we were planning to impose a dictatorial regime upon the American people -- the following preparations would be essential:

1. Concentrate the populace in megalopolitan masses so they can be kept under close surveillance and where, in the case of trouble, they can be bombed, burned, gassed or machine-gunned with a minimum of expense and waste.
2. Mechanize agriculture to the highest degree of refinement, thus forcing most of the scattered farm and ranching population into the cities. Such a policy is desirable because farmers, woodsmen, cowboys, Indians, fishermen and other relatively self-sufficient types are difficult to manage unless displaced from their natural environment.
3. Restrict the possession of firearms to the police and the regular military organizations.
4. Encourage or at least fail to discourage population growth. Large masses of people are more easily manipulated and dominated than scattered individuals.
5. Continue military conscription. Nothing excels military training for creating in young men an attitude of prompt, cheeful obedience to officially constituted authority.
6. Divert attention from deep conflicts within the society by engaging in foreign wars; make support of these wars a test of loyalty, thereby exposing and isolating potential opposition to the new order.
7. Overlay the nation with a finely reticulated network of communications, airlines and interstate autobahns.
8. Raze the wilderness. Dam the rivers, flood the canyons, drain the swamps, log the forests, strip-mine the hills, bulldoze the mountains, irrigate the deserts and improve the national parks into national parking lots.

Over the top? Sure. Paranoid? Perhaps. Shall we forgive him for playing the Nazi card, mindful that those horrors were only 25 years past at the time of his writing, and Godwin's Law was still 22 years in the future? Regardless, many of the trends Abbey feared in 1968 have continued to this day. Not necessarily as direct actions by government (well, except for that war thing), but certainly as consequences of industrial and political policy. I don't believe that the sum of these trends presage an apocalyptic collapse of American governance, but I am fully convinced that we are well down the path to an overly industrialized, overly mediated, overly controlled society where personal freedoms are constrained and a harmonious coexistence with the natural world is impossible.

Since this is turning into another depressing rant, let me close with another quote from the book, more typical of Abbey the ardent lover of wilderness:

Dark clouds sailing overhead across the fields of the stars. Stars which are usually bold and close, with an icy glitter in their light -- glints of blue, emerald, gold. Out there, spread before me to the south, east, and north, the arches and cliffs and pinnacles and balanced rocks of sandstone...have lost the rosy glow of sunset and become soft, intangible, in unnamed unnameable shades of violet, colors that seem to radiate from -- not overlay -- their surfaces.

A yellow planet floats on the west, brightest object in the sky. Venus. I listen closely for the call of an owl, a dove, a nighthawk, but can hear only the crackle of my fire, a breath of wind.

The fire. The odor of burning juniper is the sweetest fragrance on the face of the earth, in my honest judgment; I doubt if all the smoking censers of Dante's paradise could equal it. One breath of juniper smoke, like the perfume of sagebrush after rain, evokes in magical catalysis, like certain music, the space and light and clarity and piercing strangeness of the American West. Long may it burn.

Indeed, long may it burn.

Posted by Gene at 11:54 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 09, 2004

some light reading

Three great places to expose yourself to big thoughts:

1. Ray Kurzweil's collection of very big thoughts
2. John Brockman's smart friends at
3. Rich Gold's amazing archive

Passion! Controversy! Intellect! Alien abductions! After you get through the readings, we'll have a nice quiz.

Now playing: Fluke | The Matrix Reloaded (various artists) | Zion

Posted by Gene at 11:42 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 03, 2003

mpulsive behavior

You should go read the December issue of mpulse, it's really a good one. Interviews with David Weinberger on Small Pieces, Wirelessly Joined and Trip Hawkins on mobile gaming and Digital Chocolate, building "Reality Enhanced Gaming Experiences", and a surprisingly well-informed piece on mobile phone etiquette. Fun stuff from cover to cover. (But how does one become an international expert on mobile etiquette, I wonder?)

mpulse is one of the good side effects of the cooltown program at HP Labs (so I'm hardly unbiased); it's produced by my pal, web goddess Megan Taylor, who is another person who by the way should really get a blog. Megan, you getting this? Anyway, check it out, I think you'll enjoy it.

Update 3/03/04: fixed broken links from the cooltown site move.

Posted by Gene at 11:45 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack