The Null Device
Scientists at Johns Hopkins University have found that assessing a community's cancer risk could be as simple as counting the number of trucks and cars that pass through the neighborhood. Another reason to encourage the development of public transport. Not that anybody's listening here, with the government falling over itself to spend billions of dollars on new freeways and spending only the most grudging pittance on public transport (which is next to useless outside of the inner city). (thanks, Toby)
Xeni Jardin writes in WIRED about the emerging social applications of camera-equipped mobile phones.
Whipping out a cheap phonecam at the height of a late-night bash, a Michigan frat boy snaps his own Girls Gone Wild shots and instantly uploads them to an online gallery accessible by anyone in the world. At a Los Angeles convenience store, a woman witnesses a holdup - and with the press of a button, she captures the thief's image and zaps it to 911. In Hong Kong, a mobile phone user photographs the apartment complex of a neighbor suspected of carrying SARS. He posts the pictures, details, and GPS coordinates to an unofficial database designed to do what the government won't: collect and provide data about the spread of the virus.
As William Gibson said, the street finds its own uses for things. Most of the uses, unsurprisingly, are of a prurient nature:
"Upskirt" phonecam voyeurism in Japan is already a growing challenge for law enforcement. The device's low profile makes snapshot-sneaking easier and detection harder. (The devices are already banned in some Hong Kong changing rooms.) Portals like Cam7.com or uboot.com's SMS network - which allows users to view webcam images on their smartphones or share phone-captured pics and video - seem destined for pornographic deployment. And fans of photo showcases like PhoneBin are already competing in hot-or-not picture wars. Inevitably, the image with the most skin wins.
I've just ordered Radiohead's Hail to the Thief from the U.S. The local copy, you see, is "copy controlled" (i.e., distributed on a deliberately defective CD which doesn't work in some computer CD-ROMs and other devices). It works well enough if you run Windows and run a player application on the CD, not minding the poor quality of the low-bit-rate WMA versions provided and having to have the disc in the drive the whole time and trusting EMI's proprietary player program not to spy on you, delete your MP3s or fux0r your registry out of malice, stupidity or both, but if you use Linux, you're SOL. Unless you're lucky and your CD-ROM drive ignores the "Copy Control" voodoo and lets you rip everything without a hitch; but IMHO, that's not good enough, and if the local EMI subsidiary disagree, they can do without the hefty subsidies I've been paying them over the years. And with the peso being at a high, ordering from the U.S. is affordable again.
This isn't the first EMI disc of which I've ordered a Red Book copy from abroad. A while ago I picked up Goldfrapp's new one, Black Cherry (which is OK, though not as good as Felt Mountain; and it does seem that she's trying to be fashionable and jump on the '80s tinny-synth neo-electro bandwagon like everybody else), and Martin Gore's Counterfeit2 (which is very, very nice; basically a collection of covers, done with the combination of cold electronic glitches and bleeps and aching humanity that Depeche Mode fans will feel right at home with; I'd say it's probably better than any Mode since Violator, in fact). I also picked up the quasi-official fan edition of David Bridie's Hotel Radio (which is also excellent, and not as far from Martin Gore's territory as one would think).
Of course, some EMI titles have fallen by the wayside; for example, I probably won't be bothered to import the new Placebo album.
Today's Crikey has a rather amusing photograph. I bet one could do a lot with that and Photoshop.