ELI5: Why in so many parts of the world are salt and pepper the ultimate and preferred condiment and seasoning? [Published articles]

CyanogenMod Inc. Reorganizes, Severs Ties with Project Founder [Published articles]

M33 The Triangulum Galaxy [Published articles]

Explanation of everything you can see in htop/top on Linux [Published articles]

The history of space exploration on a single space map [Published articles]

Time lapse over Crater Lake, Oregon [Published articles]

New York City mapped its trees and calculated each one’s economic benefits [Published articles]

There are at least 25 returning sci-fi shows, and over 50 new sci-fi TV shows planned over the next few years, including Red Mars, The Foundation series, and Hyperion. [Published articles]

EcoHelmet: this collapsible paper helmet just won a huge award [Published articles]


Isis Shiffer just won a Dyson design award for the EcoHelmet, an ingenious paper helmet that folds down to the size of a banana but offers significant noggin protection. (more…)

Plex's new Kodi plugin lets you enjoy the best of both worlds [Published articles]

If you've dabbled with building your own media center, it's likely that you will have encountered Plex or Kodi. Both started life as offshoots of the famed XBMC software, but over time their propositions have diverged, with Plex embracing subscriptio...

31 Years Later, Brazil Is Still a Horrifying Vision of the Ever-Encroaching Future [Published articles]

Terry Gilliam’s classic dystopian satire has only gotten more relevant since it came out. Brazil finds its humor in bleak places, mapping out an alternate reality where oppressive state-implemented paranoia makes everyone scared of each other.


I am Leah Remini, Ask Me Anything about Scientology [Published articles]

Hi everyone, I’m Leah Remini, author of Troublemaker : Surviving Hollywood and Scientology. I’m an open book so ask me anything about Scientology. And, if you want more, check out my new show, Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath, tonight at 10/9c on A&E.


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All Eight Harry Potter Movies Edited Down to an 80-Minute Epic [Published articles]

Decided to go marathon all the Harry Potter movies before seeing Fantastic Beasts, but don’t have nearly 20 hours of free time? Well, this extremely cut-down edit of all eight movies into a single film is probably the next best thing to access to a Time Turner.


Arp 240: A Bridge between Spiral Galaxies from Hubble [Published articles]

Why is there a bridge between these two spiral galaxies? Why is there a bridge between these two spiral galaxies?

MIT's sensor network tracks your power-hungry appliances [Published articles]

You get a bill from your electricity provider every month laying out how much energy you used, but there's no easy way to get a breakdown of which appliances suck down the most juice. But the US Navy has partnered with MIT scientists to design a chea...

Wallpaper: We suffer more often in imagination than in reality ~ Seneca [Published articles]

Well-Tempered Clavier history [Published articles]

Kevin Smith's Buckaroo Banzai TV Show Just Hit a Legal Snag (Updated) [Published articles]

A dispute over the rights to 1984 scifi cult classic Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension means that proposed TV show adaptation from Kevin Smith and Amazon Studios is suddenly on hold. Last week, MGM (which is in favor of the Smith-Amazon show) filed suit against the original film’s writer and director.


Microsoft Update Servers Left All Azure RHEL Instances Hackable [Published articles]

An anonymous reader shares a report on The Register: Microsoft has patched flaws that attackers could exploit to compromise all Azure Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) instances. Software engineer Ian Duffy found the flaws while building a secure RHEL image for Microsoft Azure. During that process he noticed an installation script Azure uses in its preconfigured RPM Package Manager contains build host information that allows attackers to find all four Red Hat Update Appliances which expose REST APIs over HTTPS. From there Duffy found a package labeled PrepareRHUI (Red Hat Update Infrastructure) that runs on all Azure RHEL boxes, and contains the rhui-monitor.cloud build host. Duffy accessed that host and found it had broken username and password authentication. This allowed him to access a backend log collector application which returned logs and configuration files along with a SSL certificate that granted full administrative access to the four Red Hat Update Appliances. Duffy says all Azure RHEL images are configured without GPG validation checks meaning all would accept malicious package updates on their next run of yum updates.

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Minimal Linux Live: a minimalistic distro with basic network support via DHCP [Published articles]

Samsung Places A Big Bet on Quantum-Dot TV, Acquires QD Vision [Published articles]

Quantum-dot televisions promise "better picture quality and are also cheaper to manufacture than organic light-emitting diode sets," ZDNet reports. And now Samsung has confirmed their acquisition of Massachusetts-based QD Vision for $70 million, according to this article shared by Dthief: QD Vision, previously known as Color IQ, is a specialist in quantum dot display technology. Developed for displays including PC monitors and television sets, quantum-dot technology uses semiconductor nanoparticles to change the properties of quantum dots, improving color definition and sharpness... QD Vision will become part of Samsung's research and development unit in the hope of creating quantum-dot LED displays suitable for the consumer market which could, in turn, become a strong competitor against OLED displays... The agreement follows Samsung's pledge earlier this year to launch a total of 14 SUHD television models this year, all of which use quantum dot technology.

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I'm no longer allowed to help with the Christmas decorations. [Published articles]

This Next Generation/First Contact Cover is Metal as Hell [Published articles]

Star Trek: The Next Generation has the most memorable theme song in the entire Star Trek canon. That may very well be the hottest of takes, but I stand by it. I also stand by this metal cover, because it made my Saturday epic.


Setup and Review of SyncThing, The Open Source File synchronization tool [Published articles]

False Porn-on-CNN Report Shows How Quickly Fake News Spreads [Published articles]

Slashdot reader xtsigs writes: "No, despite what you read, CNN did not run porn for 30 minutes Thursday, as was reported by Fox News, the New York Post, Variety and other news organizations, several of which later corrected their stories," reports USA Today. The story goes on to explain how the story started (a single tweet), how it was quickly picked up by media outlets (without verifying if CNN actually did, in truth, broadcast porn), how it was then retracted by some outlets (but not others). Other outlets jumped on the story of the story while, as of early Saturday morning some sites are still running the original story claiming CNN did, in fact, broadcast 30 minutes of porn.

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Yesterday Saw $3.3 Billion In Online Purchases [Published articles]

Friday humanity set a new record for the most money ever spent online in a single day -- and the most ever purchased on mobile devices. An anonymous reader writes: Online sales reached $3.34 billion yesterday, up 11.3% from the same day last year, according to a new report from Adobe Digital Insights. And most of that traffic came from mobile devices. In fact, yesterday became "the first day to ever generate over a billion dollars in online sales from mobile devices," according to their report. Although 64% of online sales came from desktop computers, 55% of the traffic to shopping sites still came from mobile devices -- 45% from smartphones, and 10% from tablets. (Just three years ago, only 20% of Black Friday sales came from mobile devices.) The top-grossing products appeared to be iPads and Macbooks, Microsoft's Xbox, and Samsung and LG TVs, while the top-grossing toys were electric scooters, drones, Nerf guns and LEGO sets. The products mostly likely to be "out of stock" yesterday included the new NES Classic and the Nintendo 3DS XL Solgaleo Lunala (black edition), the Playstation VR bundle (and the PS4 "Call of Duty: Black Ops" bundle), and the Xbox One S bundle for Madden NFL 17. The day after Black Friday is now being touted as "Small Business Saturday," a tradition started in 2010 when American Express partnered with the non-profit National Trust for Historic Preservation (and some civic-minded groups in Boston) to encourage people to shop in their local brick-and-mortar stores. American Express reported a $1.7 billion increase in sales on Small Business Saturday in 2015, "with 95 million customers reporting shopping small at local retailers, salons, restaurants and more."

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Apollo 17 VIP Site Anaglyph [Published articles]

Get out your red/blue glasses Get out your red/blue glasses

Thank-"full" [Published articles]

Ghosts of Science Fiction’s Past, New Heroes for the Future: Rewatching Interstellar [Published articles]

Interstellar film space colony

If there’s one thing that sets Contact apart from its fellow big idea tent-pole movies, it’s pragmatism. As discussed in a previous essay, Contact is a grounded, smart look at one of the biggest events in human history. It takes its time to do this from multiple angles and goes to great pains to contextualise, if not excuse, each one of those viewpoints.

By contrast, Interstellar is far more seat-of-the-pants in style, throwing huge concepts at the screen with the chilly abandon its director, Christopher Nolan, is known for. That impulsive approach is the cause of a lot of the movie’s problems but it also defines everything from Coop’s emotional trajectory to the ultimate resolution of the movie itself.

Matthew McConaughey’s Coop is, superficially, a collection of ticked boxes. A father and grieving widower, he’s a test pilot who washed out (following an accident he’s convinced was not his fault) and now spends his time farming corn. Corn, incidentally, is the last available crop on the planet. Humanity doesn’t look up anymore. There are no dreams of moving off-world, only hopes of surviving on this one as everything dies around us.

So, parent, widower, pilot, farmer, astronaut. Coop is the centre of a complex Venn diagram of masculine ideals and he’s pretty terrible at all of them. He’s rarely at ease, hates farming, misses the days when NASA was the pinnacle of space exploration and is just marking time until his crops die or he does. When the plot hands him an opportunity to be more than a parent and a farmer, he jumps at it with both hands outstretched. The pitch sequence, where Professor John Brand (played by Michael Caine) explains the plan is played out for the benefit of the audience more than anything else; Coop’s signed up the moment he spots that Indian Drone coming in for a landing.

Interstellar film

Taking that headlong leap into the unknown would be a victory in a simpler movie. Here it’s both a link in a chain of events a century wide and a surprisingly savage takedown of one of the most attractive elements of classic SF: the astronaut as infallible hero.

To be clear, Coop, Brand, Romilly, Doyle, and even poor Doctor Mann are unquestionably heroic. There is no way signing on for a probable one-way trip through a wormhole to an uncertain future could be anything other than that. However, Coop, both Brands (John and Amelia), and Mann—the characters we spend the bulk of the movie with—are hideously flawed.

Coop’s colossal failure as a parent and caregiver we’ve already touched on, but there’s also the fact that he can’t commit fully to either the mission or his family. His attempts to speed up their first expedition are entirely motivated by his desire to be away from his children for as short a time as possible and when those attempts fail, his grief is as much about having the choice taken from him as the time he’s lost with his children. He’s unsure, a dog with two bones, until what he thinks will be his final sacrifice. That moment, with Coop behind the stick on what he’s expecting to be his final flight, is remarkable because of how serene he is. McConaughey’s accent, his mannerisms, even his good-natured fatalistic banter with TARS all evoke the even-voiced men who rode ICBMs into low Earth orbit during the Cold War. Stripped of his family, his obligations, his past and his future, Coop is finally at peace. He’s a link in a chain, a rocket stage whose job is solely to push the actual astronaut, the actual heroine, all the way to her destination.

Interstellar film

That much he can do. In fact, the humility inherent in this action is what really separates Coop from Doctor Mann (Matt Damon). In spite of what the character claims in his big speeches, he’s actually more concerned with huMannity than humanity. The fact that Doctor Mann dies through arrogance and in mid-monologue shows how out of touch he really is. The fact that Coop is prepared to die to give Brand a shot at reaching the last world and reuniting with her lover shows how at peace he finally is.

Of course that doesn’t last. The impulsiveness at the heart of both Interstellar and its lead protagonist comes together in one of the film’s most controversial sequences. The tesseract, where Coop closes the circle and becomes Murph’s “ghost,” is a beautiful visual but one of the movie’s major stumbling points for many viewers. It excuses, if not redeems, every single one of Coop’s actions and boils the fate of humanity down to nothing more than a brilliant, angry young woman finally realizing that her father never quite left her behind.

Interstellar film

It shouldn’t work. For many viewers, it doesn’t, and neither does the earlier scene where Brand (Anne Hathaway) discusses the possibility that love is what we can consciously perceive of a much larger, multi-dimensional force. The fact that this theory comes from Brand is one of the few genuine missteps in Interstellar, given how fiercely pragmatic she is throughout the rest of the movie. But, when interpreted from a slightly different angle, it becomes less about Brand being uncharacteristically emotional and more about her showing Coop the path he needs to take. Amelia Brand is a brilliant scientist and astronaut who is comfortable with the discomfort of not knowing if her lover is alive or dead. Coop, as discussed, isn’t comfortable at all.

Brand’s complex, not-always-successful balancing of science and hope also speaks to the film’s larger narrative. It’s significant that Brand, not Coop, is the last person we see. It’s even more significant that she’s reached a habitable world, has set up camp, and has finally gotten her answer as to whether Edmunds is alive or not. She’s reached escape velocity, leaving everything behind, and is now faced with a clean slate of a world. No more seat-of-the-pants flying, no more impulsive choices. Even the imminent (relatively) arrival of Coop doesn’t change that. The world’s saved, there’s work to do, and they’re both ready for it.

Interstellar film

That impulsiveness, embodied most fully in Brand’s father’s monstrous and altruistic lie about the gravity equations, is only escaped by two characters in the movie. The first is Amelia Brand, the second is Murph.

During the lion’s share of Murph’s screen time she’s played by Jessica Chastain, and it’s hard to imagine any other performer landing the character so perfectly. Murph is brilliant, angry, damaged, and absolutely refuses to let any of that get in her way. Murph is part of a generation that are constantly told how vital they are, but have had the deck stacked relentlessly against them. Her brother (Casey Affleck, in yet another chronically under-appreciated turn) makes his peace with that. She refuses to.

Coops’ abandonment of his family is the sand in Murph’s shoe, the irritant she spends a lifetime trying to remove and erase. It drives her to be better than her father even as it drives her towards helping him come home, or being ready for his return. Like the stages of a rocket, her grief moves through the traditional steps as she accepts his loss, discovers Professor Brand’s lie and, finally, learns the truth.

The thing that sets her apart is that Murph doesn’t give up. She cycles back around, again, to both her past and the ghost in her room. She uses the things she’s been taught as an adult to understand what frightened her as a child, and in doing so she makes her peace not only with her past but with her father. And in doing that, she saves the world.

That really can’t be emphasized enough. In a film that spends most of its running time focused on the epitome of the male hero, in the end, he’s just a step in a larger story. Murph is the one who solves the problem. Murph is the one who balances her dad’s impulsiveness with methodical, relentless scientific method and patience. Murph is the one who sees what’s there, not what she’s conditioned to see. The little girl whose brother teases her about her name grows up to be the woman who saves her species. No wonder they name the station after her.

That payoff puts all of Interstellar’s failings in perspective for me. It’s a film about a last ditch mission to save the Earth that’s founded on a lie and wrapped up in temporal causality that the people involved don’t care to think too much about, because they either don’t have the time or are too busy concealing their own failures. It shouldn’t work. Like the Endurance mission itself, it’s an enthusiastic confection, a best-case collection of ideas that sometimes barely fit together.

Scrappy, untidy and uneven, Interstellar isn’t the last astronaut movie but is about the last astronaut, the ghost of the classic science fiction adventurer who turns out not to be the true hero in this story at all. In the end, this is really a movie about who comes after him: the future, not the past.

Alasdair Stuart is a freelancer writer, RPG writer and podcaster. He owns Escape Artists, who publish the short fiction podcasts Escape PodPseudopodPodcastleCast of Wonders, and the magazine Mothership Zeta. He blogs enthusiastically about pop culture, cooking and exercise at Alasdairstuart.com, and tweets @AlasdairStuart.

Plex's machine learning tech auto-tags photos for you [Published articles]

Plex has made it easier for premium users to organize their photos and to unearth specific snapshots from their massive collections. The service now auto-tags photos based on what its new machine learning technology sees. If the tech detects a dog in...

Mad Shelia Is the Chinese Mad Max Ripoff of Your Dreams [Published articles]

We still don’t know when, or if, we’re going to get another chance to see Imperator Furiosa on the big screen. But, in the meantime, at least there’s Mad Shelia.


OK Go - The One Moment (shot in 4.2 seconds) [Published articles]

US Regulators Seek To Reduce Road Deaths With Smartphone 'Driving Mode' [Published articles]

US regulators are seeking to reduce smartphone-related vehicle deaths with a new driving-safe mode that would block or modify apps to prevent them being a distraction while on the road. From a report on The Guardian:The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) are to issue voluntary guidelines for smartphone makers, which will seek to restrict the apps and services accessible on a smartphone being used by a driver. US transport secretary Anthony Foxx said: "Your smartphone becomes so many different things that it's not just a communication device. Distraction is still a problem. Too many people are dying and being injured on our roadways." The NHTSA is hoping that Apple, Samsung and other popular smartphone manufacturers will adopt the guidelines in future smartphone and software releases. The so-called driving mode will block distractions such as social media, messages or email, stop the use of the keyboard for communication activities and also restrict access to websites, video and distracting graphics. The intention is that the driving mode will be adopted in a similar manner to the airplane mode common to most smartphones and connected devices, which restricts radio communications while airborne. Airplane mode has been a feature of smartphones since 2007.

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/u/ilikepix makes sense of hipster culture [Published articles]

TIL the term "Hippie" is derived from the term "Hipster," which described jazz fans in the 1940's. Hipsters were known for pot smoking and sarcasm. [Published articles]

Parker Posey Will Play Dr. Smith and Now We Suddenly Care a Lot About Netflix's Lost in Space [Published articles]

The news that Netflix was making a new version of Lost in Space was always only sort of interesting. It’s a show that’s ripe for a reboot in the landscape of turning old TV shows and movies into new TV shows and movies. But it’s also a property lacking anything more identifiable than a robot yelling, “Danger, Will…


Akamai on the Record KrebsOnSecurity Attack [Published articles]

Internet infrastructure giant Akamai last week released a special State of the Internet report. Normally, the quarterly accounting of noteworthy changes in distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks doesn’t delve into attacks on specific customers. But this latest Akamai report makes an exception in describing in great detail the record-sized attack against KrebsOnSecurity.com in September, the largest such assault it has ever mitigated.

“The attacks made international headlines and were also covered in depth by Brian Krebs himself,” Akamai said in its report, explaining one reason for the exception. “The same data we’ve shared here was made available to Krebs for his own reporting and we received permission to name him and his site in this report. Brian Krebs is a security blogger and reporter who does in-depth research and analysis of cybercrime throughout the world, with a recent emphasis on DDoS. His reporting exposed a stressor site called vDOS and the security firm BackConnect Inc., which made him the target of a series of large DDoS attacks starting September 15, 2016.”

A visual depiction of the increasing size and frequency of DDoS attacks against KrebsOnSecurity.com, between 2012 and 2016. Source: Akamai.

A visual depiction of the increasing size and frequency of DDoS attacks against KrebsOnSecurity.com, between 2012 and 2016. Source: Akamai.

Akamai said so-called “booter” or “stresser” DDoS-for-hire services that sell attacks capable of knocking Web sites offline continue to account for a large portion of the attack traffic in mega attacks. According to Akamai, most of the traffic from those mega attacks in Q3 2016 were thanks to Mirai — the now open-source malware family that was used to coordinate the attack on this site in September and a separate assault against infrastructure provider Dyn in October.

Akamai said the attack on Sept. 20 was launched by just 24,000 systems infected with Mirai, mostly hacked Internet of Things (IoT) devices such as digital video recorders and security cameras.

“The first quarter of 2016 marked a high point in the number of attacks peaking at more than 100 Gbps,” Akamai stated in its report. “This trend was matched in Q3 2016, with another 19 mega attacks. It’s interesting that while the overall number of attacks fell by 8% quarter over quarter, the number of large attacks, as well as the size of the biggest attacks, grew significantly.”

As detailed here in several previous posts, KrebsOnSecurity.com was a pro-bono customer of Akamai, beginning in August 2012 with Prolexic before Akamai acquired them. Akamai mentions this as well in explaining its decision to terminate our pro-bono arrangement. KrebsOnSecurity is now behind Google‘s Project Shield, a free program run by Google to help protect journalists and dissidents from online censorship.

“Almost as soon as the site was on the Prolexic network, it was hit by a trio of attacks based on the Dirt Jumper DDoS tookit,” Akamai wrote of this site. “Those attacks marked the start of hundreds of attacks that were mitigated on the routed platform.”

In total, Akamai found, this site received 269 attacks in the little more than four years it was on the Prolexic/Akamai network.

“During that time, there were a dozen mega attacks peaking at over 100 Gbps,” the company wrote. “The first happened in December 2013, the second in February 2014, and the third in August 2015. In 2016, the size of attacks accelerated dramatically, with four mega attacks happening between March and August, while five attacks occurred in September, ranging from 123 to 623 Gbps. An observant reader can probably correlate clumps of attacks to specific stories covered by Krebs. Reporting on the dark side of cybersecurity draws attention from people and organizations who are not afraid of using DDoS attacks to silence their detractors.”

In case any trenchant observant readers wish to attempt that, I’ve published a spreadsheet here (in .CSV format) which lists the date, duration, size and type of attack used in DDoS campaigns against KrebsOnSecurity.com over the past four years. Although 269 attacks over four years works out to an average of just one attack roughly every five days, both the frequency and intensity of these attacks have increased substantially over the past four years as illustrated by the graphic above.

“The magnitude of the attacks seen during the final week were significantly larger than the majority of attacks Akamai sees on a regular basis,” Akamai reports. “In fact, while the attack on September 20 was the largest attack ever mitigated by Akamai, the attack on September 22 would have qualified for the record at any other time, peaking at 555 Gbps.”

Akamai found that the 3rd quarter of 2016 marks a full year with China as the top source country for DDoS attacks, with just under 30 percent of attack traffic in Q3 2016. The company notes that this metric doesn’t count UDP-based attacks – such as amplification and reflection attacks — due to the ease with which the sources of the attacks can be spoofed and could create significant distortion of the data.

“More importantly, the proportion of traffic from China has been reduced by 56%, which had a significant effect on the overall attack count and led to the 8% drop in attacks seen this quarter,” Akamai reported. The U.S., U.K., France, and Brazil round out the remaining top five source countries.”

Top sources of DDoS attacks. Image: Akamai.

Top sources of DDoS attacks. Image: Akamai.

A copy of Akamai’s Q3 2016 State of the Internet report is available here.

Webhooks do’s and dont’s: what we learned after integrating APIs [Published articles]

Everytime an entertainer goes "crazy" I'm reminded of something Dave Chappelle said on The Actors Studio... [Published articles]

Watch a master glassblower make an intricate dragon [Published articles]


In under an hour, glass artist James Mongrain transforms blobs of molten glass into a stunning green dragon. The choreographed teamwork, the variety of tools, and the interesting narration make this a real treat. (more…)

Aussie Internet Pirates Are The Best Customers [Published articles]

A report commissioned by the Australian government has found a drop in piracy rates for 2016. The fall is being attributed to improved availability of legal streaming alternatives, but as TorrentFreak points out, the report also reveals that the much reviled Aussie pirate is often the industry's best customer. From the report: Streaming, on the other hand, increased from 54% to 57% year on year, with TV shows and movies making the biggest gains. "The proportion of internet users who streamed TV programs increased from 34% to 38% (making TV the most commonly accessed content type via online streaming) and the proportion of internet users who streamed movies increased from 25% to 29%," the report reads. This year the most-consumed content were TV shows (41%, up from 38% in 2015), music (39%, down from 42% in 2015) and movies (33%) and video games (15%). When all four content types were considered, the survey found that consumers streaming content on a weekly basis increased significantly, with 71% doing so for music and videos games, 55% for TV programs and 51% for movies. [...] However, in yet another blow to those who believe that genuine consumers and pirates are completely different and separate animals, the survey also reveals that millions of pirates are also consumers of legitimate content. In 2016, just 6% of Internet users exclusively obtained content from pirate sources. And there was an improvement in other areas too. When the survey presents figures from internet users who consumed content in the period (instead of just 'all Internet users 12+'), 37% consumed at least one unlawful file, down from 43% in the same period in 2015. Using the same parameters, 9% consumed all of their files unlawfully, down from 12% in 2015. But while there have been improvements in a number of areas, the volume of content being consumed illegally is not coming down across the board. According to the report, an estimated 279m music tracks, 56m TV shows, 34m movies, and 5m video games were consumed in the three month period.

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The Dark Crystal Sequel Is a Comic Book, Not a Feature Film [Published articles]

We’re finally getting a sequel to the beloved 1982 Jim Henson and Frank Oz film The Dark Crystal, but it won’t be a movie. Instead, The Power of the Dark Crystal will be hitting shelves as a 12-issue comic series, based on the unused feature script and drawn by artists with an eye toward the legendary Brian Froud.


Some RPG Teacher stories. [Published articles]

Over on imgur they post work stories, and one of my jobs is teaching kids how to play Pathfinder (and secretly other skills by playing Pathfinder. I made a kid do long division just to sell his arrows he got off some goblins!)

I figured I would post these here and see if anyone wanted to talk about teaching RPGs, Pathfinder or otherwise, to kids!


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Scientists have figured out the reason London fog killed 12,000 people [Published articles]

Red Hat CEO Predicts Open Source Infrastructures With Proprietary Business Functionality [Published articles]

An anonymous reader summarizes the highlights of Fortune's new interview with Red Hat CEO James Whitehurst: A recruiter told Whitehurst the culture at Red Hat was "a little bit like that Blues Brothers movie, when Dan Aykroyd says, 'We're on a mission from God.'" But Whitehurst says geeky passion "makes it a great place to be a part of," and even argues that the success of Microsoft in the 1990s can be attributed to its Microsoft Developer Network, which led developers into Microsoft's platform and infrastructure. "Developers now are heavily using open-source tools and technology and, bluntly, I think that's why Microsoft had to open source .NET and why they're embracing more open source in general. Because open source is where innovation is coming from and is what developers are consuming, it forces vendors to participate." Looking towards the future, Whitehurst says "A rough line would be almost to say most infrastructure is going to be open source and most business functionality above it is going to be proprietary." And he also warns open source companies, "if you don't have the unique business model that allows you to add value on top of the free functionality, in the end you're going to fail... a lot of open source companies have come and gone because they've been more focused on the functionality versus how they add value around the functionality."

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Teach Your Kids to Game Week at DriveThruRPG [Published articles]

I have not idea how this hasn't been posted yet, but DriveThruRPG's annual Teach Your Kids to Game Week sale has four more days left:

Teach Your Kids to Game Week - Doorcrasher Deals

Games on sale include:

Hero Kids (full disclosure; I make this game)

No Thank You, Evil!

Monsters and Other Childish Things

Playground Adventures (Multiple systems)

Over the Wall and Other Adventures

Young Centurions

Little Wizards

Mermaid Adventures

Michtim Adventures

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Blame [Published articles]

I bet if I yell at my scared friends I will feel better.

Miltron's Galaxy (NGC 1433) [2048x1536] [Published articles]

Owl feathers pass their wisdom on to wind turbines [Published articles]

The secret to owls' quiet flight lies in a layer of down on their wings

Owls are known for their near-silent flight, which allows them to swoop down on prey unheard. Wind turbines, on the other hand, are often accused of being too noisy. A team of British and American scientists is currently addressing the one situation with the other, by copying the structure of owl feathers to make turbine blades more quiet.

.. Continue Reading Owl feathers pass their wisdom on to wind turbines

Category: Science

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Metallica and The Roots play "Enter Sandman" on toy and classroom instruments [Published articles]

On The Tonight Show last night, Metallica, promoting their new album "Hardwired...to Self-Destruct," played their old ditty "Enter Sandman" in an entirely new way. We're off to never never land.

James Hetfield - Vocals, Toy clarinet
Jimmy Fallon - Vocals, Bass Drum, Casio Keyboard, Kazoo
Lars Ulrich - Fisher Price Drum, Toy Cymbals
Kirk Hammett - Melodica
Robert Trujillo - Baby Electric Axe
Questlove - Hand Clappers, Kazoo
Kamal Gray - Xylophone
James Poyser - Melodica
Captain Kirk - Ukulele
Tuba Gooding Jr. - Kazoo, Banana Shaker, Apple Shaker
Mark Kelley - Kazoo
Frank Knuckles - Bongos
Black Thought - Tambourine, Brown Hat

Britain Has Passed the 'Most Extreme Surveillance Law Ever Passed in a Democracy' [Published articles]

Zack Whittaker, reporting for ZDNet: The UK has just passed a massive expansion in surveillance powers, which critics have called "terrifying" and "dangerous." The new law, dubbed the "snoopers' charter," was introduced by then-home secretary Theresa May in 2012, and took two attempts to get passed into law following breakdowns in the previous coalition government. Four years and a general election later -- May is now prime minister -- the bill was finalized and passed on Wednesday by both parliamentary houses. Civil liberties groups have long criticized the bill, with some arguing that the law will let the UK government "document everything we do online." It's no wonder, because it basically does. The law will force internet providers to record every internet customer's top-level web history in real-time for up to a year, which can be accessed by numerous government departments; force companies to decrypt data on demand -- though the government has never been that clear on exactly how it forces foreign firms to do that that; and even disclose any new security features in products before they launch. Not only that, the law also gives the intelligence agencies the power to hack into computers and devices of citizens (known as equipment interference), although some protected professions -- such as journalists and medical staff -- are layered with marginally better protections. In other words, it's the "most extreme surveillance law ever passed in a democracy," according to Jim Killock, director of the Open Rights Group.

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Average temperature on the surface of the planets [Published articles]

Optimal search path for finding Waldo [Published articles]


Dr. Randy Olson is a senior data scientist at the University of Pennsylvania. He used 68 of Waldo’s coordinates from all seven “Where’s Waldo?” books to developed an optimal search path.

Of course, we should never take results from machine learning too literally. A robot might be able to follow this path perfectly, but I wouldn’t be able to remember that path unless it was etched on every page for me. Instead, I think we can take some general lessons from the path that the genetic algorithm discovered:

  1. The bottom of the left page is a good place to start. If Waldo isn’t on the bottom half of the left page, then he’s probably not on the left page at all.
  2. The upper quarter of the right page is the next best place to look. Waldo seems to prefer to hide on the upper quarter of the right page.
  3. Next check the bottom right half of the right page. Waldo also has an aversion to the bottom left half of the right page. Don’t bother looking there until you’ve exhausted the other hot spots.

I annotated the best solution with a general path to follow when searching for Waldo. If you don’t find Waldo at the end of that trail, then you’ve got an outlier and should check the middle of the pages or the top left and right.

Get root on Linux: learn the secret password [Published articles]

Spoiler alert: the secret password is [none], but you have to enter it over and over again.

Barnes & Noble debuts $50 Nook tablet to take on Amazon [Published articles]

The battle for bookworms' hearts and eyes this holiday season is officially underway! Barnes & Noble announced on Wednesday the forthcoming release of its new Nook tablet. The tablet will retail for just $50 -- 30 bucks less than the baseline Ama...

Beyond Bad USB: Poisontap takes over your sleeping computer with a $5 USB stick [Published articles]


Prolific and dramatic security researcher Samy Kamkar (previously) has unveiled a terrifying device that reveals the devastating vulnerabilities of computers, even when in sleep mode. (more…)

Cold Weather Delayed over North America [Published articles]

Why is it so warm in northern North America? Why is it so warm in northern North America?

TPP: A Post-Mortem [Published articles]

The death of the Trans-Pacific Partnership that EFF called last week has since been confirmed by White House officials. This marks the end of a long-running campaign against the secretive agreement that EFF began back in 2012.

Make no mistake; although the proximate cause of the TPP's demise was the U.S. Presidential election result, the TPP faced long odds in Congress even if the election had gone the other way. This in turn was due to broad opposition to the agreement from many sectors of society across the political divide, including from members of the digital rights community. So as we survey the fallout from the TPP's demise, EFF and its supporters are entitled to feel proud of the part we played.

Implementation In Other TPP Countries

But as we mentioned when breaking news of the death of the TPP, this doesn't mean that the other TPP countries are out of danger yet. In fact only today New Zealand's Parliament passed the implementing legislation required to ratify the TPP, including legislation that would extend the copyright term in New Zealand from 50 to 70 years after the death of the author.

The most dispiriting thing about this is that New Zealand's lawmakers were not ignorant of the fact that they were doing this unilaterally and with no purpose. They knew it, and they did it anyway. This passage from the official transcript of the third reading speech from Labour party member Rino Tirikatene reflects our own frustration with the process:

We are wasting the House's time. I do not know where the National Government has been for the past 24 hours, but there has been an election in the United States, and there is a new President-Elect, Trump, and he has outlined that in his first 100 days, he is withdrawing the US from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement—a complete withdrawal. I do not know why we are here in some sort of deluded sense that by passing this legislation, the TPP is miraculously going to come into force, because it will not. It is dead—over.

The silver lining in this is that the amendments introduced by the implementation Bill will take effect only from the date that TPP enters into force for New Zealand. If that never happens, then the legislation will never take effect.

Japan, too, has moved closer to ratifying the TPP since we last wrote on the subject. Its ratification bill passed the lower house already, and will automatically take effect on December 9 if the upper house does not act on the bill sooner. Unlike in New Zealand, many of the changes made to Japanese law, including the copyright term extension, are not conditional on the TPP taking effect.

This places Japan at an even higher risk than New Zealand of suffering self-inflicted damage from the TPP that it will never offset through increased U.S. market access. Japan's Aozora Bunko (literally Blue Sky Library, a repository of public domain works) is one national institution that will be particularly hard hit.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declared that his government's quixotic commitment to the implementation of the TPP would “show to the world our ability to produce an outcome”, and is even pushing other countries to hasten their own implementation efforts. It may be worth noting that Japan is also the only country that ever ratified the failed Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA).

The other country that is closest to ratifying and implementing the TPP, Malaysia, has today released a press statement [PDF] that acknowledges that the TPP has failed, yet does not categorically rule out the continuation of its own progress towards implementing the TPP's mandates through domestic legislation. Vietnam and Australia are in a similar position.

These countries, along with Brunei, Mexico, Singapore, Peru and Chile, ought to accept reality and provide their citizens with some certainty by formally shelving their implementation plans. If they see some symbolic value in continuing with their implementation, then at the very least they should do as New Zealand has done and make this conditional upon the existing TPP agreement coming into effect.

Implications for Other Trade Agreements

Instead of doing this, the remaining TPP countries now led by Mexico and Japan will be using this week's APEC meeting in Lima, Peru to discuss the idea of concluding a TPP agreement without the United States. Since U.S. involvement provided much of the value of the agreement, and the basis for many of the tradeoffs made by the other parties, it is difficult to make sense of this proposal without a significant renegotiation of the text.

In parallel, China is promoting the idea of expanding the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) into a broader Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific (FTAAP), covering all 21 members of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) group.

It is difficult to assess what this would mean for digital rights, but we can't see it being good. The RCEP in its present form does contain some provisions on copyright, which are for the most part not as bad as those in the TPP, but this may change before the agreement is done. Since the process of negotiation of RCEP is every bit as closed and opaque as the TPP, we may not find out about how users' rights are being traded away until it is too late.

As for future trade agreements that do include the United States, the next U.S. President Donald Trump has indicated his intention to place more emphasis on concluding bilateral rather than multilateral agreements, as well as on the enforcement of existing agreements. We are unsure of the implications of this for the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA), but they don't look good  for its backers.

The problem with a renewed focus on bilateral negotiations is that a single country in negotiation with the United States is far more likely to accept unbalanced copyright demands than it would be if it had the support of ten other countries, as countries did under the TPP. For example, previous bilateral U.S. free trade agreements have required trading partners to extend copyright protection to temporary copies in computer memory; a poison pill for innovators that the TPP countries rightly rejected.

Thus there is much uncertainty in the future around digital trade agreements, and EFF doesn't yet claim to have all the answers. But we can be certain about at least two things: that the TPP will not come into force in its present form, and that in consequence there is no rational reason for any of the countries that negotiated it to change their laws to conform with the agreement.

If you come from Japan, it is especially important for you to get involved with local activists who have the best chance of turning the government back from its misguided mission to implement this doomed agreement. If you come from Australia, Canada, Mexico, Peru, Chile, Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei, or Vietnam, then you can also make a difference by writing to your local newspaper about why TPP implementation is such a bad idea. Here are some links to get you started:

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Robert Heinlein's Scifi Classic Stranger in a Strange Land Is Coming to TV [Published articles]

True to its name, the Syfy channel has made a habit of adapting science fiction and fantasy literature both established (Childhood’s End, Hyperion) and contemporary (The Expanse, The Magicians). Now it seems there’s another much-beloved property on the network’s list: Robert Heinlein’s 1961 Stranger in a Strange Land.


Linux LUKS Disk Encryption Vulnerability (November 15, 2016) [Published articles]

A vulnerability in the way some Linux distributions implement Linux Unified Key Setup-on-disk format (LUKS) hard disk encryption could be exploited to copy, modify, or destroy hard disks.......

World map as a musical score [Published articles]


James Plakovic composes lots of scores that take the form of a composer, an object, or in this case, a map of the world. Set in 2/4 time signature with 32 bars, the piece does a pretty accurate job of depicting a standard Mercator projection that starts and ends with Asia. (more…)