The Null Device
Those rumours about colour laser printers putting hidden tracking codes in their output, at the behest of
the Men In Black the government are true; a team of hackers led by the EFF have cracked the code used by Xerox printers, and are working on other manufacturers' codes:
The DocuColor series prints a rectangular grid of 15 by 8 miniscule yellow dots on every color page. The same grid is printed repeatedly over the entire page, but the repetitions of the grid are offset slightly from one another so that each grid is separated from the others. The grid is printed parallel to the edges of the page, and the offset of the grid from the edges of the page seems to vary. These dots encode up to 14 7-bit bytes of tracking information, plus row and column parity for error correction. Typically, about four of these bytes were unused (depending on printer model), giving 10 bytes of useful data. Below, we explain how to extract serial number, date, and time from these dots. Following the explanation, we implement the decoding process in an interactive computer program.The reason this is an issue is because of the privacy implications of this technology. Yes, it can be useful for tracking down currency counterfeiters (as is its ostensible purpose), though it can (and undoubtedly will) also be used by oppressive regimes to trace dissidents. It's a lot easier than taking type samples from every typewriter, as the Soviets did.
(via bOING bOING)
In recent months, the blog comment spam problem has gotten progressively worse, as more and more parasitic scumbags take to hijacking any sort of comment system to drive up their search engine rankings and/or drive gullible people to malware-installing websites. In the light of this, The Null Device has now installed a CAPTCHA-like system for preventing comment spam on its comment pages.
From now on, whenever you enter a comment, you will need to type several letters, as seen on a graphic image on the page, into a form. With any luck, the images will be legible to humans but not easily decipherable by OCR software, and will keep comment spam out of the site.
For a while in the 1980s and early 1990s, you couldn't turn a radio on without hearing something containing the Funky Drummer break, a short length of drumming taken from the eponymous James Brown B-side. Then PolyGram got wise to it and started shaking down anyone using this idiom for licensing fees, and it disappeared.
Now some modular synth hackers have taken up the challenge of replicating the Funky Drummer with a Nord Modular G2. A discussion thread is here (containing downloadable patches but little other info, so people not owning Nord Modular G2s are out of luck), and a MP3 of the reconstructed Funky Drummer is here. It sounds definitely recognisable as the Funky Drummer, though also noticeably different; perhaps one should think of it as the No-Brand Funky Drummer?
Now if someone could port this to, say, Pd or SuperCollider, and/or do versions replicating the Amen break or such from first principles, that would be even cooler.