The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'mit'
Aaron Swartz, esteemed hacker, co-creator of Reddit and inventor of the RSS 1.0 standard, committed suicide recently. Swartz was facing trial for illegally downloading a cache of academic documents from closed academic publishing site JSTOR (as pure a rent-seeking monopoly as exists, extracting lucrative sums from academic libraries and private user alike for access to academic papers which they contributed nothing to the creation of) by placing a laptop in a closet at MIT and fraudulently changing the laptop's MAC address to give it access to MIT's protected network, and apparently also for having pissed off the FBI at some point. There was no evidence of him having made any of the papers available to the general public, but nonetheless, the US Department of Justice decided to make an example of him, pushing for a sentence of 30-50 years.
- Copyfight advocate Lawrence Lessig on the disproportionate hounding of Swartz by the DoJ.
- The Truth about Aaron Swartz’s “Crime”, by computer security expert Alex Stamos, who served as an expert witness at the trial.
- Tributes from Tim Berners-Lee, and from the WikiMedia Foundation
In 18th-century England, when they hanged a highwayman, his corpse would be dipped in tar and hung in an iron cage along the side of a highway, as a grim warning to any others contemplating a career of highway robbery. From the point of view of the US Department of Justice, or more specifically, the rent-seeking corporations licensed to make money from the intellectual property system as it stands today, Swartz, with his radical views on open access to information, was the modern-day equivalent of a highwayman, an enemy of the system of intellectual property licensing and the structures of ownership and control built atop it, shoring up the stabilities of the status quo. Were he convicted (or bankrupted by the costs of defending himself), he would have served as the tarred corpse swinging in a gibbet alongside the Information Superhighway, an equally grim warning to any aspiring Information Superhighwaymen that you don't fuck with intellectual property, ever. Or, in other words: if you break the law, the law will break you. An upheld conviction, however, was no guarantee. Dead, arguably, he can serve the same role just as well, without the risk of him being released on appeal. To others, he will be a martyr for the Copyfight and/or an example of the iniquities of a system run for the benefit of corporate rentiers.
This looks pretty cool; the latest thing from the MIT Media Lab, Hyperscore, a new music-composition program which works in an interestingly high-level paradigm. Rather than working with notes or loops, it uses "motives", which can be applied by drawing lines; harmonies can be created by shaping a "harmony line". There is a free version here; it's apparently limited to only 30 to 60 seconds per song, and is promoted as a ringtone creation tool. It's currently Windows-only, though the WIRED article says that Mac and Linux versions are "in the works". (A Mac version I can believe; as far as Linux goes, I'll believe when I see it. Then again, the fact that MIT's $100 laptop for the developing world will run Linux could be reason enough for them to make one.)
A researcher at the veritable MIT Media Lab is mining volunteers' mobile phone location and call data, and using it to determine all sorts of things, from simple things such as how long people work and how much they procrastinate to which people are friends and which ones are merely coworkers. Not only that, but the data can predict people's behaviour:
Given enough data, Eagle's algorithms were able to predict what people -- especially professors and Media Lab employees -- would do next and be right up to 85 percent of the time.
Eagle used Bluetooth-enabled Nokia 6600 smartphones running custom programs that logged cell-tower information to record the phones' locations. Every five minutes, the phones also scanned the immediate vicinity for other participating phones. Using data gleaned from cell-phone towers and calling information, the system is able to predict, for example, whether someone will go out for the evening based on the volume of calls they made to friends.
Eagle was also able to see that the Red Sox's improbable breaking of the World Series curse shook even the world of MIT engineers. "I actually saw deviation patterns when the Red Sox won," Eagle said. "Everyone went deviant."The information was recorded by special custom programs running on the phone; the same information is gathered by the mobile network operators, though is not available to the general public. However, it is available to law-enforcement agencies, and is probably being used right now for assembling automated dossiers on entire populations.
The story of how a team of math geeks from MIT hacked Las Vegas blackjack, developing a team-based card-counting method that raked in huge profits and evaded the casinos' usual countermeasures -- for a while, anyway. (via Plastic)