The Null Device


Stupid move: In Brazil, a gang of car thieves hijacked a car containing blood, and after making their getaway, drank the blood, thinking it a yoghurt drink. Unbeknownst to them, the blood was from AIDS patients, and was being shipped to a laboratory for further testing.


Linux 2.4.0 is finally out the door.


Under pressure from critics and the penguinhead lobby, the CPRM committee are watering down the specification, allowing the user to switch it off or make special copy-controlled partitions. It remains to be seen whether this turns it into a paper tiger or keeps CPRM from being killed by lack of acceptance in the marketplace (as happened to consumer DAT tapes, another technology with built-in copy protection).


Life imitates South Park? Iraqi ballistic statesman and PlayStation enthusiast Saddam Hussein hasn't been seen for some days, failing to appear on Iraq's Army Day, and there are reports that he has suffered a severe stroke and is in ailing health or dead. Mind you, from what I've heard about of his relatives (the surviving ones, at least), one can't expect a régime of sweeping liberalisation, or the opening of a Baghdad McDonalds, anytime soon. (via Found)


The Communist police state of East Germany, which had the dubious honour of having one of the world's most comprehensive spy networks, came up with an ingenious method of tracking political dissidents: tagging them with radioactive elements, and following them around with hidden Geiger counters. Former East German dissidents may be relieved to know that the doses used were usually kept at safe levels, and dangerous mishaps were kept to a minimum. Ominously enough, East German political prisons contained "unusual non-medical X-ray machines", which may have been used for helping along the cancer-related mortality rate amongst troublesome dissidents.


Australia's first digital computer and the oldest existing example of its type, the valve-powered behemoth CSIRAC, now has a permanent home at the Melbourne Museum. Built in 1949, CSIRAC consumed 30 kilowatts, and was less powerful than a modern pocket calculator, though achieved some impressive things for its day. Apparently -- or so I heard from a retired academic -- it was shut down in 1964 after the Foreign Office in London had a word to the local powers that be, sternly informing them that Australia has no business doing research not related to primary industry (i.e. mining or farming).

australia british empire computers csirac history 0