Internet Curiosities

HOWTO buy your way out of a California speeding ticket

Boing Boing -

Pricenomics revisits the perennial scandal of the 11-99 Foundation, which benefits California Highway Patrol officers and their families in times of crisis. Major donors to the foundation receive a license-plate frame that, drivers believe, acts as a license to speed on California highways. The plates were withdrawn in 2006 after a CHP commissioner's investigation seemed to validate the idea that CHP officers would let off drivers with the frames. The frames are back now, thanks to a funding crisis from 11-99, and some posters on cop-message boards say that the frames themselves aren't enough to get you out of a ticket -- because many of them are counterfeits -- but if you have a member's card, too, well, that's another story, wink, nudge.

On Officer.com, in a discussion about 11-99 frames (and fakes) mentioned earlier, a number of cops weighed in. Priceonomics is still trying to verify identities, so their statements could be fabrications. But it presents an intriguing perspective of officers’ potential views on the 11-99 frames.

A number of cops reported ignoring the license plate frames when they decided whether to pull over and ticket drivers. One cop describes a driver whose “first words” were about the stickers indicating the donations he made. When the driver insisted that they required big donations, the cop replied, “Well, paying for these citations shouldn’t be a problem.”

But some answers indicate that people have reason to believe that the frames will help them avoid tickets. In addition to the frames, the CHP 11-99 Foundation gives out membership cards to big donors. In reference to secondhand or fake frames, one cop wrote, “Unless you have the I.D. in hand when (not if) I stop you, no love will be shown.” Another added, “Ya gotta have more than just a license plate frame or a sticker.” The implication from these officers seems to be that buying a fake license plate frame is useless, but real donors will receive some leniency.

Can You Buy A License to Speed? [Alex Mayyasi/Pricenomics]

(via Naked Capitalism)






Vodo's indie science fiction bundle: comics, movies, novels, and more!

Boing Boing -


Jamie from Vodo writes, "We've launched Otherworlds, our first indie sci-fi bundle! This pay-what-you-want, crossmedia collection includes the graphic novel collecting Cory's own 'Futuristic Tales of the Here and Now', Jim Munroe's micro-budget sci-fi satire 'Ghosts With Shit Jobs', Robert Venditti's New York Times Bestselling graphic novel 'The Surrogates', and Amber Benson/Adam Busch's alien office farce, 'Drones'. Check out the whole bundle and choose your own price 5% of earnings go to the Electronic Frontier Foundation!"

I love Vodo -- they produce gorgeous, high-quality science fiction shows that are CC licensed; each episode is released once donors have pitched in to pay for it. It's a business-model that lets them make good art based on generosity, trust and working with the Internet, instead of stamping their feet and insisting that it change to suit their needs.

Otherworlds






This Day in Blogging History: Iranian scientist's future-prediction machine; Rotting WWII junk in the jungles of Peleliu

Boing Boing -

One year ago today
Iranian scientist invents machine that predicts the future: My invention easily fits into the size of a personal computer case and can predict details of the next 5-8 years of the life of its users.

Five years ago today
Rotting WWII junk in the jungles of Peleliu: Tons of the war stuff (tanks, guns, ruined buildings) lies out in the jungle, and I took a tour round, snapping some interesting photos and listening to stories (and weirdly, I discovered during writing the post that the battle was the origin of the phrase 'thousand yard stare').







Homebrew syringe hydraulic excavator

Boing Boing -

Here's a video of a young Brazilian man demonstrating justified pride and palpable pleasure as he puts his homebrew excavator, powered by syringe hydraulics, through its paces. Here's an Instructables post that takes you through building an ambitious syringe-hydraulics robot -- full of good ideas for your own syringe hydraulic projects.

Boy Makes DIY Excavator with Syringe Hydraulics (via Geekologie)






Tech companies could force NSA reform if they wanted to. Why haven't they?

Boing Boing -


President Obama at meeting with executives from leading tech companies at the White House in Washington December 17, 2013. Pictured are (L-R): Zynga co-founder Mark Pincus, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, Obama, AT&T Chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. Pictured are (L-R): Zynga co-founder Mark Pincus, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, Obama, AT&T Chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. Reuters/Kevin Lamarque.

In a Guardian op-ed, Trevor Timm writes: The CEOs of the major tech companies came out of the gate swinging 10 months ago, complaining loudly about how NSA surveillance has been destroying privacy and ruining their business. They still are. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg recently called the US a "threat" to the Internet, and Eric Schmidt, chairman of Google, called some of the NSA tactics "outrageous" and potentially "illegal". They and their fellow Silicon Valley powerhouses – from Yahoo to Dropbox and Microsoft and Apple and more – formed a coalition calling for surveillance reform and had conversations with the White House. But for all their talk, the public has come away empty handed.

Read: Silicon Valley could force NSA reform, tomorrow. What's taking so long? [The Guardian. Trevor is executive director of Freedom of the Press Foundation, of which I am a proud board member.]






Celebrate World Homeopathy Awareness Week with homeopathyawarenessweek.org

Boing Boing -

It's World Homeopathy Awareness Week, so the Good Thinking Society (a nonprofit devoted to promoting rational thought has put up a new site at homeopathyawarenessweek.org in which you will be made aware of a bunch of facts that homeopathy advocates are often slow to mention -- like adults and children who've died because they were treated with homeopathic sugar-pills, the tragic foolishness of Homeopaths Without Borders, who are memorably described as "well-meaning folk [who fly] into places of crisis in the developing world carrying suitcases full of homeopathic tablets that contain nothing but sugar. It is not so much Médecins Sans Frontières as Médecins Sans Medicine."

The more aware you are of homeopathy -- that is, the more you learn about all the ways in which homeopathy has been examined by independent, neutral researchers who've tested its claims and found them baseless -- the less there is to like about it. From ineffective homeopathy "vaccine alternatives" that leave your children -- and the children around them -- vulnerable to life-threatening illnesses that have been brought back from the brink of extinction by vaccine denial to the tragic story of Penelope Dingle, who suffered a horrific and lingering death due to treatable bowel-cancer because she followed her husband's homeopathic advice, being aware of homeopathy is a very good thing.

As part of World Homeopathy Awareness Week, we would like to raise awareness of twelve key points about homeopathy:

    1. In 2010, the UK Government Science and Technology Committee analysed the research into homeopathy and concluded that “homeopathic products perform no better than placebos.” This conclusion was backed up this week in a review by the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council. With many homeopaths claiming their pills can treat serious illnesses, homeopathy is a dangerous placebo.

    2. When Penelope Dingle chose to take the advice of her homeopath husband and treat her rectal cancer with homeopathic remedies, the results were tragic – her death was, according to the coroner, the result of being “influenced by misinformation and bad science”. There are real dangers in using homeopathy in place of real medicine.

    3. Homeopathy is big business. The homeopathic industry is highly-profitable for companies like Boiron, Weleda and Nelson’s. The UK homeopathic market is estimated at £213m per year – comparable to the US ($300m), France and Germany (£400m each). All this for treatments which have not been proven to be any more effective than placebo.

    4. In 2010, the NHS spent around £4 million on homeopathy – this money could instead be spent providing effective treatments, vital surgery and additional nursing staff. With NHS budgets under increasing pressure, wasting money by giving sugar pills to the sick is unjustifiable. According to the 2010 UK Government Science and Technology Committee: “The Government should stop allowing the funding of homeopathy on the NHS.”

    Homeopathy Awareness Week

    Homeopathy awareness can make the world a healthier, happier place [Michael Marshall/The Guardian]






German Developer responsible for HeartBleed Bug in OpenSSL

The Hacker News -

We have already read so many articles on Heartbleed, one of the biggest iNternet threat that recently came across by a team of security engineers at Codenomicon, while improving the SafeGuard feature in Codenomicon's Defensics security testing tools.  The story has taken every media attention across the World, as the bug opened doors for the cyber criminals to extract sensitive data from

Researchers Get $10,000 for Hacking Google Server with Malicious XML

The Hacker News -

A critical vulnerability has been uncovered in Google that could allow an attacker to access the internal files of Google’s production servers. Sounds ridiculous but has been proven by the security researchers from Detectify. The vulnerability resides in the Toolbar Button Gallery (as shown). The team of researchers found a loophole after they noticed that Google Toolbar Button Gallery

NSA denies Report that Agency knew and exploited Heartbleed Vulnerability

The Hacker News -

The Bloomberg claimed that the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) knew about the most critical Heartbleed flaw and has been using it on a regular basis to gather “critical intelligence” and sensitive information for at least past two years and decided to keep the bug secret, citing two sources ‘familiar with the matter’. In response to the above report, NSA has issued a '94 character'

Appeals court overturns conviction of Andrew “weev” Auernheimer in iPad hacking case

Boing Boing -

Weev's conviction has been vacated! #freeweev

— Tor Ekeland, P.C. (@TorEkelandPC) April 11, 2014

Andrew Auernheimer, a hacker and troll also known as weev, was released from prison tonight. A federal appeals court today overturned his conviction in a case of significance for security researchers.

Weev exposed a security flaw in AT&T's website, and was charged with violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA). From the EFF:

Auernheimer was represented on appeal by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), Professor Orin Kerr of George Washington University, and attorneys Marcia Hofmann, and Tor Ekeland. In an opinion issued this morning by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, Judge Michael Chagares wrote that the government should not have charged Auernheimer in New Jersey, which had no direct connection to AT&T or Auernheimer.

"We're thrilled that the Third Circuit reversed Mr. Auernheimer's conviction," EFF Staff Attorney Hanni Fakhoury said. "This prosecution presented real threats to security research. Hopefully this decision will reassure that community."

Here is today's court ruling [PDF].

For more on weev, this profile in Gawker is a good place to start. Don't miss his thoughts on The Jews.






Mobile Charger That Can Power-Up Your Smartphone in 30 Seconds

The Hacker News -

Going for a meeting or for a party and your Phone's battery discharged? Oops!  Yes, I know this happens with most of us once in a day or I can rather say all of us. Smartphones are smart enough but not that smarter as expected keeping in mind today’s lifestyle. Phones are the basic necessity now-a-days, but this comes up with another tension-tension of charging at regular intervals,

Zero-gee cocktail robotics

Boing Boing -


Samuel writes, "At Yuri's Night World Space Party in Los Angeles on April 11th 2014, my team and I will be announcing the Zero Gravity Cocktail Project. It's been nearly ten years in the making, and we still have a ways to go, but we have 3D printed glass designed to work in weightlessness. As part of the system we are also developing a 'drinkbot' which will mix and dispense a variety of drinks without the need for gravity."

You may know me from my steampunk adventures on the Neverwas Haul. Did you also know that I also built a drinkbot called the COSMOBOT? It won several awards at Robogames, was showcased at BarBot Festival in San Francisco.

On top of that I am a futurist with the Space Tourism Society, a non-profit group promoting private space experience on, above and orbiting the Earth. This project was conceived during my tenure with the Society, and only recently with my experience building the COSMOBOT and gathering an amazing team of designers, Hollywood fabricators, and a celebrity bartender, is this project becoming real.

My team and I hope that by announcing this project during the great space celebration of Yuri's Night we can attract sponsors who want to be associated with the first cocktail made in zero gravity. We need funding to build more prototypes and to test them on the ZeroG parabolic aircraft. Cosmic Lifestyle (Thanks, Sam!)






Cloak - iPhone app to avoid enemies, bores, and jerks

Boing Boing -

I don't like using apps like Foursquare that let acquaintances know where I am. Cloak is an anti-Foursquare, and I'm eager to try it.

Cloak bills itself as the "antisocial network." Just sync it with Instagram and Foursquare so Cloak knows where your "friends" are, all the time.

Finally, let Cloak know which relatives/coworkers/"psycho hose beasts" you don't want to see. It'll then alert you when you're entering their vicinity. Or, if you're feeling reclusive, have it notify you when anybody you know is around. It's a fantastic way to dodge the dreaded "stop and chat." Avoid Enemies, Bores, Jerks, and Exes with Cloak






High school science teacher suspended for teaching science

Boing Boing -

The LA Times reports that Greg Schiller, a popular high school science teacher, was suspended because two of his students made projects that "appeared dangerous to administrators."

One project used compressed air to propel a small object but it was not connected to a source of air pressure, so it could not have been fired. (In 2012, President Obama tried out a more powerful air-pressure device at a White House Science Fair that could launch a marshmallow 175 feet.)

Another project used the power from an AA battery to charge a tube surrounded by a coil. When the ninth-grader proposed it, Schiller told him to be more scientific, to construct and test different coils and to draw graphs and conduct additional analysis, said his parents, who also are Los Angeles teachers.

A school employee saw the air-pressure project and raised concerns about what looked to her like a weapon, according to the teachers union and supporters. Schiller, who said he never saw the completed projects except in photos, was summoned and sent home. Both projects were confiscated as "evidence," said Susan Ferguson, whose son did the coil project.

One of the most important lessons kids learn in public schools is that school administrators are usually autocratic imbeciles.

Science teacher's suspension spurs petition drive (Thanks, John!)






Boing Boing video collaborator Joe Sabia developing web video show for revamped CNN Headline News

Boing Boing -

Exciting news for Boing Boing pal and frequent Boing Boing video on Virgin America collaborator Joe Sabia: He's getting his very own show on CNN HLN! "Beyond the Like" is described as a half-hour series that "curates viral video moments and explores how the individuals behind extraordinary projects have made their mark online." CNN Headline News is revamping as a news channel for "the social media generation." And in related news, CNN is retooling under new boss Jeff Zucker.






LA Sheriffs launch crowdsourced crowd control: LEEDIR, a surveillance app that uses your photos and videos

Boing Boing -



A monitor displaying videos and photos uploaded to LEEDIR (Large Emergency Event Digital Information Repository) on April 10, 2014. The app that allows civilians to upload material to law enforcement after a disaster or emergency. Erika Aguilar, KPCC

Image: Citizen Global

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department today unveiled a software program that allows US law enforcement agencies who adopt it to solicit and gather videos and photos of "emergency events" from the public.

Under the leadership of disgraced former LA County Sheriff Lee Baca, the department is said to have conceptualized the web service and smartphone app, which was built by Citizen Global with Amazon. It's called LEEDIR, an acronym for Large Emergency Event Digital Information Repository. Citizen Global brands it as "public safety through crowdsourcing."

In today's announcement, earthquakes, terrorist attacks, and the Boston Marathon bombings were mentioned as scenarios in which LEEDIR could help law enforcement respond to disasters or large-scale public security threats. One might also imagine large citizen protests like Occupy Wall Street being the focus of such crowdsourced surveillance. From Erika Aguilar's report at KPCC radio: [Commander Scott Edson with the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department] said he realized not many law enforcement agencies have the extra bandwidth and extra storage to collect mass amounts of data in a short period of time. He reached out to Citizen Global, a private technology group that was providing uploading services to broadcast media companies seeking to collect videos and photos from eyewitnesses.

“It’s becoming part of our communication fabric,” said Nick Namikas, co-CEO of Citizen Global. “So I think this is the next phase of our see something, say something…it’s now see something, send us something.”

The LEEDIR website and app are not live all the time. A law enforcement or local government agency must send a request to Citizen Global to activate the uploading program. There’s no cost to the law enforcement agency to use LEEDIR if the emergency affects more than 5,000 people or covers five square miles and at least two public safety agencies respond.

Read or listen to the rest of the KPCC report here.

As you can see from the screengrab below, this week the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department is using LEEDIR to gather photos and videos from eyewitnesses of a chaotic street party in Isla Vista that led to over 100 arrests. Sheriff's investigators hope the images they receive will allow them to ID more suspects. According to today's announcement, agencies might typically retain uploaded content for a month or two, then delete it. But there's no requirement to delete it, nor is there a guarantee of true anonymity for uploaders, though you do not have to provide your name.

Below, a screenshot of the LEEDIR website.

Above: The LEEDIR iphone app, with which the public is invited to upload photos and video to law enforcement. Surely there could be no privacy concerns with downloading such an app to your smartphone.

Below, a promotional video released in 2013 with former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca, who is credited with leading the development of LEEDIR. Baca's administration was plagued by corruption and scandal, and he resigned amid ongoing investigation into possible criminal activity. Certainly no such imperfect leader would misuse LEEDIR.








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