Monday, January 20, 2014

Refrigerators, Routers, And TVs Send 750K Malicious Emails

Update: Turns out this was probably a clickbait hoax, but we all know it's just a matter of time. The Internet of Things is going to be a lot of fun for malicious hackers.

Computer security researchers say they have discovered a large "botnet" which infected internet-connected home appliances and then delivered more than 750,000 malicious emails.

The California security firm Proofpoint, which announced its findings, said this may be the first proven "internet of things" based cyber attack involving "smart" appliances.

The streets from Minority Report, echoed in the 2012 Total Rekall, looked amazing filled with robot cars, but did they find their own uses for things? Because the real street always does. Human cab drivers and truck drivers might be inefficient, and economically incentivized to driving under the influence of methamphetamine, but fraudsters can't hack them to send spam, and terrorists can't hack them to perform thousands of simultaneously orchestrated lethal accidents either.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Serious CSS3 Animation

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Nothing Happening But The End Of The World

One of the most important changes in the Web over the last ten years is that conversation's moved from private email, community email lists, and writer-owned blogs into various corrals and golden cages. If you were writing code in 2006, particularly "cutting edge" code like Rails apps (at the time), you remember how blogs were the new documentation, and all the dev community interaction took place in IRC or on email lists. I always felt embarassed that my blog lived on Blogspot, but the point's moot today. For new projects forming now, the information all sits on StackOverflow, GitHub, or Twitter -- or in personally-published ebooks.

The Web we lost was a temporary autonomous zone, and like all temporary autonomous zones, it provided an illusion of utopian anarchy wrapped within a coccoon of privilege.

Speaking of privilege-induced misperceptions, the tech press seems determined to prove it is not only too arcane and insular to provide any use whatsoever to non-techies, but also that it is too firmly and deeply rammed up corporate America's anus to provide any use whatsoever to techies either. Consider 2013 was a lost year for tech:

All in, 2013 was an embarrassment for the entire tech industry and the engine that powers it—Silicon Valley... Not a single breakthrough product was unveiled... 2013 was a great big dud for technology as a whole.

Om Malik picked up the horseshit baton and enthusiastically carried it down the field, "arguing" against that "lost year" blog post with a defense of 2013 as a year in technology which did not once mention either Bitcoin or Edward Snowden.

The biggest 2013 stories in tech were economic and political stories straight out of the pages of 1980s cyberpunk novels, straight out of the archives of 1990s cypherpunk listservs, and straight off the list of top headlines for the year in general. So-called tech journalists didn't even notice.

At the end of 2012, Anil Dash wrote The Web We Lost. By the end of 2013, we all knew about the Web we had built instead: essentially, it's J. Edgar Hoover as a service. It doesn't really matter how much money your web startup is or isn't making today; wait for a few iterations of Moore's Law and you'll find that your user data couldn't be more valuable if it consisted entirely of Bitcoin hashes. Of course, you'll also find that the NSA's taken control of it, which is the savviest land grab in human history.

2013 was the year Occupy Wall Street got serious about encrypting their email, while Wall Street got serious about cryptocurrencies. It was the year we all discovered that the cypherpunks had underestimated how important encryption would become.

Of course, I can't expect every hacker to remember the cypherpunks, or the Web we lost. Many, many hackers know absolutely nothing about either subject. The tech industry thrives on young new recruits, whether because their inexperience makes them easier to exploit, or because software is eating the world and, in the process, making every new generation of programmers more populous than the last.

(This ongoing demographic trend exerts two obvious, inevitable repercussions: it means each subsequent generation of programmers gets less weird, on average, and stupider, on average. The good news is that the growing-stupider is happening slowly, but the bad news is that the de-weird-ification is happening quickly. This explains how online culture moved from profoundly weird to pervasively frivolous. Where we once had Eris, we now have the Flying Spaghetti Monster. September becomes ever more Eternal with every passing moment.)

But whether you remember the past or are doomed to repeat it, today's walled gardens all share one huge, fundamental, fatal flaw: software is eating the world. It doesn't care what's on that world; it's after the whole katamari. Friendster fell to Myspace; Myspace lost to Facebook; and the NSA might have its hooks deep into Facebook, but those hooks won't make anything immortal. If there's one lesson we should learn from the past, it's this: Software Will Eat Itself.

Monday, January 6, 2014


Rich Hickey presented Harmonikit at the 2013 Clojure conj. Here's the code, and here's the hour-long video (embedding disabled, because apparently ClojureTV hates the Web or something?).

Harmonikit's an additive synthesizer built in Clojure on top of Overtone. Harmonikit gives you additive synthesis and uses core.async for control. Hickey says in the presentation that core.async proved "a fantastic fit" for handling MIDI and OSC.

Although Hickey calls Overtone "awesome" in the video, Harmonikit departs from the emacs-centric Overtone style. Hickey says, "emacs is one of the last things you want to have around when you're making music. You need emacs for making music like you need it for having sex." (To prevent any confusion, he clarifies that this means you don't need emacs at all in either of these contexts.) So although Overtone gets well-deserved praise, and plays an important role in the design, overall, Harmonikit represents a different direction.

If you're not well-versed in synthesis paradigms, the additive synthesis which Harmonikit implements is relatively obscure. You can find it in NI Razor or the very classic, very old-school Hammond Organ. Subtractive synthesis is the dominant paradigm, and frequency modulation is a more popular alternative than additive synthesis. Where subtractive synthesis uses filters to carve out interesting sounds from fundamental waveforms like the sine or the square, additive synthesis piles on many many waveforms to create complex aggregate waveforms similar to those generated by pre-electronic instruments. This gives additive synthesis an advantage in terms of harmonic complexity, but a corresponding disadvantage in terms of programming complexity.

I haven't played with it yet, but I'm guessing that using the library to its full effectiveness would probably require skill with, and a full understanding of, synthesizer programming. The video's fun to watch; Hickey demonstrates controlling Harmonikit with a QuNexus keyboard and the Lemur app running on an iPad. The Lemur UI comes off as both complex and intuitive.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

T-Shirt Design Addresses Government And Corporate Surveillance

I designed this in 2004, ten years ago now.