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.


The Pirate Bay sells out… maybe.

July 2, 2009

Source: The Pirate Bay mostly.

Pirate Bay logo

Famed defenders of file-sharing has reportedly sold out to the tune of $8M US, and there have been some backlash among the torrent community. But TBP says it all for the better.

All hands abandon ship? Word came down the wires yesterday (June 30, 2009) that The Pirate Bay, historic torrent-tracker and copyright nightmare, has been sold to Swedish company Global Gaming Factory X (GGF). It should be noted that the sale has not yet occurred. It is only scheduled for August 2009, during which either side may change their minds.

TPB’s reason behind the sale:

We’ve been working on this project for many years. It’s time to invite more people into the project, in a way that is secure and safe for everybody. We need that, or the site will die. And letting TPB die is the last thing that is allowed to happen!

Also, TorrentFreak reports that TPB is looking to decentralize its operations by outsourcing its torrent hosting and tracking.


Pirate Booty. Among the major changes may be an inventive way to make file-sharing more “legitimate;” Actually pay users to share files, and even give copyright holders their fair share:

BBC – Mr Pandeya said that one of the biggest hurdles in overcoming illegal file-sharing was that there was zero cost to the users, while legitimate sites required users to pay for content. The only way to make something more attractive than free was to pay users to share files.

“The copyright holder still gets paid, the users still get their file, the ISP doesn’t have a million people all grabbing a file and – for the users who share that song – a payment for putting that file on the P2P network.”

TorrentFreak – The company says that after it has completed the acquisition it will launch new business models so that copyright owners get paid, which is clearly a huge diversion from TPB’s previous modus operandi.

“We would like to introduce models which entail that content providers and copyright owners get paid for content that is downloaded via the site,” said Hans Pandeya, CEO GGF.

“The Pirate Bay is a site that is among the top 100 most visited Internet sites in the world. However, in order to live on, The Pirate Bay requires a new business model, which satisfies the requirements and needs of all parties, content providers, broadband operators, end users, and the judiciary,” said Pandeya.

“Content creators and providers need to control their content and get paid for it. File sharers’ need faster downloads and better quality,” he added.

Exactly HOW these pay-outs are going to be made… ?


Will it be worth it? There have been some people who have already abandoned ship upon hearing the news of the sale… some 4000 out of 3.7M registered users… and even some nasty comments on their blog. But TBP says it will all be worth it, since ISPs will also get paid for the bandwidth use and upgrades, and other groups can also benefit:

The profits from the sale will go into a foundation that is going to help with projects about freedom of speech, freedom of information and the openess of the nets. I hope everybody will help out in that and realize that this is the best option for all. Don’t worry – be happy!

That’s probably what they said about the “new” Napster.

We won’t know until August if the sale is worth it. That’s IF nobody has second thoughts before then.

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

Reports from The Computers, Freedom, and Privacy conference

May 24, 2008

Two reports by Wired’s Ryan Singel from the Computers, Freedom, and Privacy conference held this week in New Haven, CT has some tidbits that may be of some interest…

Computers deciding humans’ fate… poorly.

This article from yesterday (22-May-2008) is about a panel discussing how computers are making decisions about people.

What happens when Google’s AdSense reads an email from your boyfriend telling you it’s just not working out, and AdSense is smart enough o display ads suggesting a good therapist or a dating site? Is it possible to say then that AdSense is actually reading your email?

And if so, could AdSense at that point be considered a legal agent, capable of breaking wiretapping laws?

And, that intelligence raises other liability questions for companies like Google or ISPs that begin trying to examine and filter the traffic that flows through their pipes,…

No fate but what we make for ourselves? Our ever-growing dependence on computers in our lives and jobs has now reached a whole new level of misguidance. It’s not that computers themselves are making important decisions, but they are all too offen making the WRONG decisions, based on what’s being reported with Colorado’s public benefits system:

(Danielle) Citron cited Colorado’s public benefits computer system that judged whether people were eligible for Medicaid and food stamps.

For more than three years, the system asked applicants questions and spit out decisions. Only the system had more than 900 incorrect policy decisions built into its code.

The result: Bad decisions, with no human oversight. And the panel expects the problem to worsen as more decisions are made by computers with less human intervention, unless an open-source solution is implemented where the policies in the system’s coding can be checked for compliance.


ISPs engaged in content filtering may be committing a felony.

Hopefully, you noticed that line about Google’s AdSense system being able to break wiretapping laws. Paul Ohm, a University of Colorado law professor and a former federal computer crimes prosecutor, claimed that Comcast, AT&T, and Charter Communications may actually be breaking the law by sniffing data packets:

University of Colorado law professor Paul Ohm, a former federal computer crimes prosecutor, argues that ISPs such as Comcast, AT&T and Charter Communications that are or are contemplating ways to throttle bandwidth, police for copyright violations and serve targeted ads by examining their customers’ internet packets are putting themselves in criminal and civil jeopardy.

These schemes all seem to violate the Wiretap Act, a federal statute banning eavesdropping that comes with criminal and civil penalties. That law has some exceptions for service providers to monitor content, but only when necessary to deliver service, or to protect the company’s “rights and property.”

No immunity for you, Big Brother! Even while king Duh’bya is pushing retroactive immunity for telcos who assisted with his criminal/unconstitutional domestic spying program (which even John McCain supports), the system administrators may still face criminal charges according to Ohm:

“Not only is this a five-year felony, it also has individual accountability,” Ohm said. “The sys admin could be sued individually and prosecuted individually If you are asked by your manager to go and do this kind of monitoring, you yourself may be legally exposed.”

The company gets immunity, the sysadmin gets screwed. Welcome to corporate America.

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

VeriChip sell-off: Spychips unprofitable?

May 22, 2008

Some may see this as a positive sign in the war against the security-surveillance grid of the United Police-States. Others may see this as a sad sign of controversy winning out over progress. One thing is for certain, VeriChip may be in financial trouble and can’t afford the research and development of the implantable tags. Stories come from sites like Wired, RFID Update, and RFID Journal. They have additional links to more information of VeriChip’s apparent dissolution.

Future for sale… cheap. Last week VeriChip sold its Canadian-based subsidiary, Xmark, to Stanley Works for $45M US. Now VeriChip has hired the investment banking firm Kaufman Brothers to help sell the VeriMark Health Link division… and possibly the rest of its assets.

Why the sell-off? From the RFID Journal:

Last month, VeriChip rebranded its VeriMed system, renaming it Health Link, and launched a three-month advertising campaign to market its services directly to potential end users in southern Florida (our story on VeriChip pushing spychips on old farts). According to Scott Silverman, VeriChip’s CEO and chairman, the initiative included a partnership with hearing care provider HearUSA, with a goal of signing up 1,000 new customers.

Assuming we reach our goal of 1,000, we are prepared to expand,” Silverman told RFID Journal in April, noting that HearUSA has locations throughout the country. “If, three months from now, nobody gets the chip, we will have to look at our business model.”

VeriChip’s implantable business, however, only generated $3,000 in revenue in the quarter ending March 31, 2008, during which the company saw a $1.9 million loss. According to a press statement released by Stanley, Xmark generates annual revenues in excess of $30 million, so without that revenue, VeriChip’s implantable business would be unsustainable.

In other words, the RFID implant market isn’t as profitable as VeriChip believed. The idea of the implantable chips was to provide “lifetime identification.” As Bruce Sterling points out:

Just for the record, lifetime computer chip implantation requires a “lifetime computer chip” infrastructure. There aren’t any. They don’t exist and maybe can’t exist.

Anyone who wants to be implanted with a genuine VeriChip better act fast, before the company is sold off.

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