The first chemical circuit developed – RESISTANCE IS FUTILE!

June 3, 2012

Source: Nature Communications and via Engadget.

Swedish researchers have developed an integrated circuit that runs on chemicals as opposed to electronics. The countdown to human assimilation has begun.

First the transistor, then the chip. When the first semiconductor transistor was developed in late 1947, there was no idea how important it would be in the creation of today’s technology. Someone from Sweden must have a clue since he has now developed an IC chip that uses chemicals instead of electronics. The IC is built upon logic gates based on ion transistors first developed in 2009. Now begins further development into more complex chips.


Why chemicals? Why not? For starters, the human body is not electronic. There’s electricity at work (mostly in the nerves), but humans run mostly on chemicals, so the use of a chemical chip has obvious advantages:

(from “We can, for example, send out signals to muscle synapses where the signalling system may not work for some reason. We know our chip works with common signalling substances, for example acetylcholine,” says Magnus Berggren, Professor of Organic Electronics and leader of the research group.

This could be used to bypass damaged nerves to control muscles directly, but this is only one possibility. Such chem-chips can be used for any type of signaling and control. Example: An artificial pancreas can have such a chip that monitors blood-sugar levels, then signals another chip to make insulin as needed.


The Next Step… With a basic circuit done, more complex circuitry can now be developed. That would include elements such as ion inverters and NAND gates… and memristors? Could happen. Then from there…

Locutus of Borg

This post has been filed under News as Cyberpunk by Mr. Roboto.

The end of an era: Sony to discontinue floppy disks. PLUS: The continuing bane of DATA ROT!

April 27, 2010

Source: Just turn over any rock… OK, start with Wired, ZDNet, and The Examiner.

RIP Floppy Disk

Earlier today (26-Apr-2010) Sony announced that they will stop selling the 1.44MB, 3.5″ floppy disk that have been a mainstay in computers since 1981.

Another nail in the coffin. In what has to be an expected call, Sony announced that sales of the formerly ubiquitous floppy disks will stop in March 2011, save for possible niche markets. The move comes as Japan’s demand for the magnetic media has dropped from a high of 47 million in 2000 to last year’s 8.5 million.

Sony is apparently the last manufacturer to discontinue the magnetic 3.5″ drive (but will still make and sell the 3.5″ magneto-optical disks), even as computer makers stopped installing floppy drives as early as 1998. When the 3.5″ format replaced their bigger 5.25″ brothers, it was mostly seen as an expected advancement in technology even as IT managers pulled out most of their hair to make changeover. Today’s rewritable DVDs (RW Blu-Rays out yet?) and USB flash drives dwarf the floppy’s puny 1.44MB with gigabytes of storage, and with the possibility of solid-state drives being standard on PCs in the future, it’s time to retire the magnetic floppy media.

Better get what files you can from your floppies before you become a victim of DATA ROT!


Beware of DATA ROT!

Source: CBS News 60 Minutes.

Watch CBS News Videos Online

OK, the sub-headline may be more dramatic than necessary, but anyone familiar with technology can tell you why they are concerned about data rot, and why you should be concerned too.

I was able to catch the above CBS news piece one rainy Sunday morning over a year ago. I’ve been debating on whether to report on it here since then, but with Sony’s announcement it now seems more relevant.

Data Rot: a definition.

(From Wikipedia) Bit rot, also known as bit decay, data rot, or data decay, is a colloquial computing term used either to describe gradual decay of storage media or to facetiously describe the spontaneous degradation of a software program over time. The latter use of the term implies that software can literally wear out or rust like a physical tool. More commonly, bit rot refers to the decay of physical storage media.

“Data Rot” as defined above technically refers to computer technology, but the 60 Minutes piece stretches the term to include non-computer technologies such as cameras and film and tape recorders. Given that computers are part of virtually everything these days, the analogy seems quite apt. Magnetic tapes, photographs, books, records, and even paper are prone to thermal and chemical reactions that render them useless. But they can also be made unusable by advances in technology itself, as anyone who had an 8-track can testify to. Maybe we can modify the Wikipedia definition above to something a bit more reflective of what CBS is trying to convey. A proposed definition:

Data Rot (n):
1) The physical destruction of a medium due to physical, chemical, thermal, etc. forces that render the medium unusable or unreadable.
2) The rendering of media being unsupported due to changes in technologies.

Floppy tombstone

Whoever came up with “etched in stone” must have never heard of weathering.

You must have seen data rot in action already. If you live in the US, you must know about the changeover from analog television signals to digital “high-definition.” Most everyone had to buy high-def TVs, or converters for older analog sets. That could be considered a form of data rot. How about movies? Remember VHS, or Beta? What about regular DVDs as opposed to Blu-Rays? Or do you just use Netflix online? Do you still have a CD collection, or have they been ripped to MP3s?

Preventing the inevitable. It can’t be too hard to imagine what kind of damage data rot can do. Important, valuable, and/or historical data could be lost forever leaving critical gaps in our collective conscious. One way of preventing data rot is to keep up with the technology; Upgrading software and systems as needed, and converting to the most common and supported formats. It may not cure or even prevent all data rot, but it is better than having to try to salvage unsupported data.

This post has been filed under News as Cyberpunk by Mr. Roboto.

Wired Calls Shenanigans: Cyberwar is a HOAX!

March 4, 2010

Source: Guess… Go ahead, guess…

Biggest threat to the Internet

“We have found the biggest threat to the Internet… and he’s standing beside me.”

Grandfather of the Panther Moderns. The creepy guy on the right in the pic is Michael McConnell, former director of national intelligence turned VP for defense contractor Booz Allen Hamilton. During his time as top spook, he wanted the NSA to have absolute, unrestricted access to ALL information on the Internet; The ability to capture and analyze all net traffic without warrants and with impunity, just to capture a few “potential” troublemakers. McConnell knows little about computers, nothing about the Internet, and even less about hacking, but he does have one ability that could get him what he wanted: Scare the living shit out of everyone. Judging on looks alone, he could have done that.

The Washington Post actually wasted bandwidth with an op-ed piece by the Freddy Krueger wannabe (read at own peril), and even CNN went hook-line-sucker with a “special” simulation called “We Were Warned: Cyber-Shockwave” (link to YouTube search, not recommended for weak hearts). Topping it all off, McConnell claims that we (the US) are losing a “cyberwar” that he (and his company) can turn around and win it for us.

Fortunately, not everyone is drinking the kool-aid.


Just call him Elmer FUD. In 2008, McConnell published a “report” that said that the NSA must have the ability to spy on all Internet traffic… worldwide, even… without the restrictions imposed by laws or The Constitution. To back his claim up, he tried to scare everyone, but Wired’s Ryan Singel found out that the cake was a lie:

(Wired) n the piece, McConnell returns, in flamboyant style, to his exaggerating ways, hyping threats and statistics to further his bureaucratic aims. For example, McConnell regurgitates the hoary myth that computer crime costs America $100 billion a year. THREAT LEVEL traced down the source of that fake-factoid in September to a former privacy officer for the state of Colorado.

Even though he’s no longer a spy, McConnell is now honing his scare-tactics and targeting the private sector. His plan: Rebuilt the Internet, making it into a spy-net:

(Wash. Post) We need to develop an early-warning system to monitor cyberspace, identify intrusions and locate the source of attacks with a trail of evidence that can support diplomatic, military and legal options — and we must be able to do this in milliseconds. More specifically, we need to reengineer the Internet to make attribution, geolocation, intelligence analysis and impact assessment — who did it, from where, why and what was the result — more manageable. The technologies are already available from public and private sources and can be further developed if we have the will to build them into our systems and to work with our allies and trading partners so they will do the same.

You can tell from the WaPo piece that McConnell’s head is stuck in Cold-War mode. Now he wants to bring that mentality to cyberspace.


As transparent as mud. Recently, the Obama administration declassified parts of the Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative (another inheritance from the Bush admin). You can read it online here or download the PDF for later. Of particular interest, as Wired points out, are initiatives 2 and 3 which call for the development and deployment of an intrusion detection system called Einstein (versions 2 and 3) that will scan “the content of communications to intercept malicious code before it reaches government networks.” Exactly how far “before” government networks is not specified. Also not specified is the role the government will take in “protecting critical infrastructure networks.”


Now the question is: Which of these events can be turned into a Gulf of Tonkin-like fakery that can create enough fear to let the military and the government turn the open internet into a controlled, surveillance-friendly net.

While there are real threats on the net, like the Mariposa botnet bust, there have been plenty of wolf-cries that make one wonder if this stuff is to be taken seriously anymore. You can probably find a couple of wolf-cries on our site. And it’s not just McConnell crying wolf…

(Wired) Now the problem with developing cyberweapons — say a virus, or a massive botnet for denial-of-service attacks, is that you need to know where to point them. In the Cold War, it wasn’t that hard. In theory, you’d use radar to figure out where a nuclear attack was coming from and then you’d shoot your missiles in that general direction. But online, it’s extremely difficult to tell if an attack traced to a server in China was launched by someone Chinese, or whether it was actually a teenager in Iowa who used a proxy.

That’s why McConnell and others want to change the internet. The military needs targets.

Make no mistake, the military industrial complex now has its eye on the internet. Generals want to train crack squads of hackers and have wet dreams of cyberwarfare. Never shy of extending its power, the military industrial complex wants to turn the internet into yet another venue for an arms race.

The Pentagon better be careful of what it wishes for. The next weapon they develop may shoot them in the foot… IF they’re lucky.


One more thing… About the same time Wired posted the cyberwar shenanigan piece, another post appeared by Joe Brown about Six Elements Every Conspiracy Theory Needs, almost as if Joe was calling Ryan’s article shenanigans.


This post has been filed under News as Cyberpunk by Mr. Roboto.

Microsoft takes Cryptome offline (temporarily)

March 1, 2010

Source: Wired, WikiLeaks, Cryptome (and Cryptome’s backup site, just in case)

Micro$oft of BORG

Some things never change.

You might have seen this coming. Seems like no sooner than the US Supreme Court gave corporations the right to flood our already fucked-up political system with money than one megacorp manages to get the plug pulled on a whistle blowing site. The site, Cryptome, was taken offline for a while because they released a “secret’ document earlier last week that shows how a company retains data regarding a user’s activities online… and how law enforcement can obtain that data. The corporate target: None other than Microsoft itself.

(Wired) For instance, Xbox Live records every IP address you ever use to login and stores them for perpetuity. While that’s going to be creepy for some, there’s an upside if your house gets robbed, according to the document: “If your investigation involves a stolen Xbox console, if the console serial number or Xbox LIVE user gamertag is provided and the console has been connected to the Internet, IP connection records may be available.”

Microsoft retains only the last 10 login records for Windows Live ID. As for your instant messages, it tells police that it keeps no record of what anyone says over Microsoft Messenger – though it will turn over who is on your buddy list.

And if you like to use Microsoft’s social networking products — like its old-school Group mailing list or its Facebook-like Spaces product, be aware that it’s very social when it comes to law enforcement or court subpoenas.

As Microsoft tells potential subpoenaees, “when you are looking for information on a specific incident like a photo posting or message posting, please request all group content and logs. We cannot retrieve single incident data.” The same holds for Spaces — if you are interested in a single picture, just request the entire thing. Call it Subpoena 2.0.


Helping Hands. Naturally, Cryptome wouldn’t bow to MS’s DMCA “takedown” notice, not when even governments couldn’t rattle them. Unfortunately, Cryptome’s registrar, Network Solutions, apparently got nervous and took them offline and locked their domain. Apparently, Microsoft only wanted the “infringing” file to taken offline, not the whole site. They withdrew their takedown notice and Network Solutions restored access to Cryptome. On Cryptome’s sites there are emails that show the progress of the fight from the issuance of the takedown notice to the restoration of Cryptome.

The file, The Microsoft® Online Services Global Criminal Compliance Handbook, is still available on Cryptome’s sites, as well as WikiLeaks, and even readable online through Wired’s article. Better download while you still can.


Borgs will be Borgs. Those familiar with the history of the net know of Microsoft’s often strong-arm tactics to become the dominant player in operating systems and the Internet. Very rarely does one hear of them backtracking, but the potential bad press that could have (and probably may still) occur may have been enough for them to reconsider. MS still has not apologized for the shuttering, and may continue using the DMCA to keep such documents “offline” in future cases. As Wired’s Ryan Singel wrote:

Cox Communications, which runs the nation’s third largest ISP, has long made its law enforcement subpoena page — including prices — public.

But Microsoft, Google, Facebook and Yahoo do not follow that example, even though all of them want their users to trust them with their most sensitive data and communications. Nor do any of them publish the most basic statistics on how often law enforcement comes knocking with subpoenas and warrants.

In fact, the simplest lesson here is that none of the pixels published over this incident would have been necessary if Microsoft had just published this document in the first place, which few people would have ever bothered to go read. Instead, these companies prefer to worry about the sensitivities of corporate-ass-covering lawyers and law enforcement agencies instead of putting their users and transparency first.

This post has been filed under News as Cyberpunk by Mr. Roboto.

Corporations are people, too (According to the US Supreme Court)

January 23, 2010

Source: Cited where applicable.


A ruling by the United States Supreme Court strikes down a law that has kept corporate dollars limited in politics. Now, the floodgates may have been opened for corporate influence… and corruption.

A historic moment in WTF? Depending on how you want to look at the ruling of the US Supreme Court on 21-Jan-2010, it could be either a major step twords the cyberpunk world you always wanted to (not) live in, or the beginning of the end of American democracy… maybe both. In a 5-4 split decision, the high court declared “unconstitutional” laws that kept corporations from using its own money to finance campaigns advertisements, stating that such laws were “a form of censorship.” Here are some of the details of the decision (Yahoo! News via Associated Press):


_A 63-year-old law, and two of its own decisions, that barred corporations and unions from spending money directly from their treasuries on ads that advocate electing or defeating candidates for president or Congress but are produced independently and not coordinated with the candidate’s campaign.

_The prohibition in the McCain-Feingold Act that since 2002 had barred issue-oriented ads paid for by corporations or unions 30 days before a primary and 60 days before a general election.


_The century-old ban on donations by corporations from their treasuries directly to candidates.

_The ability of corporations, unions or individuals to set up political action committees that can contribute directly to candidates but can only accept voluntary contributions from employees, members and others and cannot use money directly from corporate or union treasuries.

_The McCain-Feingold provision that anyone spending money on political ads must disclose the names of contributors.

A PDF of the decision can be found here.


The gory details. The ruling came about due to a 2008 “documentary” called Hillary: The Move produced by a conservative “nonprofit” group called “Citizens United.” The group tried to use its own money, as opposed to money from its political committee, to have it distributed. But that ran against the Federal Election Commission’s rules. The group challenged the rules, and succeeded.


Fallout, and a double-edged sword? The ruling has already caused repercussions and speculations of America’s downfall. An international human rights group said that the ruling “threatens to further marginalize candidates without strong financial backing or extensive personal resources.” (Associated Press/San Francisco Chronicle SFGate). Slate calls the ruling misguided (money is speech, corporations are people), while Time Magazine’s David Von Drehle claims the ruling will give “more Americans (have) more access to more streams of political communication than ever before,” and that labor unions will be able to challenge corporate dollars with their own. USELESS FACT: Many labor unions have far less money than corporations. When money talks, whose voice do you think will be heard? Here’s a little clue from Signe Wilkinson:

As for fallout, Colorado’s Republicans are ready to file lawsuits to that state’s campaign limits removed. And in a case of that’s-gratitude-for-you, several CEOs have told Congress to stop begging for their corporate $$$.



From What is Cyberpunk?

Corporate control over society: Cyberpunk almost always has an ever powerful controlling entity that directs society. Most often this is represented as a corporation. Some times its simply an ever present singular government. A common theme for corporate control involves a futuristic dystopia, where the last traces of high civilization exist only in an enclosed and protected city, where civil liberties are removed under the guise of protecting humanity.