Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Taking the long view

Security lapses long predate computers. Your list of favorite breaches may differ, but DeVry University nonetheless came up with an interesting set (seemingly in the belief history began around 1600). See "Top Information Security Breaches in History."

Meanwhile, the slow, painful, embarrassing celebration of America's retreat from manned spaceflight continues with one shuttle's hours-per mile crawl through urban streets. Maneuvering past the pine trees ... how's that for space-age ambition? See "Endeavour takes 12-mile trek through the streets of Los Angeles."

But wait! There's more ...

For one, there's the reinvention of buying books and other entertainment. The tech is seriously cool. But what about the ownership experience?

As if. When you buy a printed book or a game cartridge, you own that copy. You can reasonably expect its behavior to remain the same over time and when opened in different settings. What about when you pay money to download an ebook or a game (or movie, iTunes song ...)? You don't own that copy. No, you've acquired limited rights governed by a lot of legalese you probably don't read. The legalese -- and, more so, the equipment that makes use of the download -- constrains in strange and wondrous ways what can be done, and for how long, and in what context. And the controlling software in that device can itself be revised by download. See Cory Doctorow's fascinating essay (with a bit of plug for Pirate Cinema, his latest novel), "The Secret World of Hardware Revocation."

For how long has power generation by nuclear fusion been a few years (and a few billion dollars) around the corner? Too many. From IEEE Spectrum, see "National Ignition Facility: Mother of All Boondoggles?" The NIF's saga brings to mind ITER (aka, the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor), which is now looking to start actually fusing something in 2027. Oh, well. It's not as though clean energy is on anyone's wish list ...

To end on an amusing, if not quite upbeat note, and with a list that spans a few decades, consider io9's "The Biggest Science Fiction Movie Hoaxes."

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