The Null Device


You've probably heard of Cory Doctorow's new novel, Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom; perhaps you had read Jury Service and were intrigued, but not enough to pay the Amazon shipping. (It has been rather thin on the ground in Melbourne bookshops, especially since Slow Glass is no more.) Well, Cory has kindly licenced it under a Creative Commons licence, and made it free to download. No poxy "rights management" either; you have a choice of ASCII, HTML or PDF. (A PalmOS document file would be nice, though; hint, hint...)


Engineers at the University of California in Berkeley have developed an inkjet printer which prints electronic circuits, laying down layers of conductors and semiconductors on a flexible substrate. This could eliminate the printed circuit board and make actual electronic components a thing of the past.

The one problem is that circuits thus printed are irreparable; once they break (or if a mistake is made), they're junk, which would increase the volume of stuff being thrown away (especially since you can always print a new gizmo). Perhaps someone will come along and invent a nanodisassembler which chews up dead circuits, salvages useful chemical compounds and stuffs them back into printer cartridges (or makes some other use of them)?

Also, I wonder whether the electronics industry will demand that all such devices be fitted with mandatory "digital rights management" technology to prevent people from pirating gadgets (or indeed printing illegal SACD rippers/Macrovision killers/portable OGG players they downloaded from an underground file-sharing network). Or perhaps whether all such printers will watermark their output with the time and GPS coordinates of manufacture, allowing illegal gadgets to be traced to their creator. Which will work, until someone prints a noncompliant circuit printer and uses that to print more copies of itself.

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Hugo Chavez, leftist president of oil-rich Venezuela, No Logo anti-globalist posterboy and target of an unsuccessful (and some say US-organised) coup last year, gave US$1M to al-Qaeda shortly after September 11. Chavez is also trying to turn his country into another Cuban-style dictatorship, suspending elections and ordering troops to fire on pro-democracy protestors. Or so says a "high-ranked military defector". The truth or a convenient pretext for toppling an irksome left-wing populist regime? (Didn't they say similar things about Allende?)

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