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Alek Komarnitsky, Colorado (and the Internet's) own Clark Griswold, has decided to retire as his own props master, programmer, best boy, and effects specialist. After 10 years of increasingly elaborate set-ups, Alek's decided to go out with a bang, with his largest-yet rooftop display of open-source powered, remotely controllable, internet-connected Christmas lights. (This year, he even matches the fictional Griswold's 25,000 lights, but truth tops fiction, with live webcams, animated props, and more.) We talked with Alek last year, too; but now he's got a full decade's worth of reminiscing about his jest-made-real hobby as That Guy With the Lights, and some advice for anyone who'd like to take on a project like this.
Alek has managed to stay on good terms with his neighbors, despite the car and foot traffic that his display has drawn, and kept himself from serious harm despite a complex of minor, overlapping risks including ladders, squirrels, a fair amount of electricity and (the most dangerous, he says) wind. The lights are what the world sees, but the video capture and distribution to the vast online audience is an equal part of the work. Alek has learned a lot along the way about automation, logistics, wireless networking, and the importance of load balancing. It's always possible the lights will return in some form, or that someone will take up the mantle as Blinkenlights master, but this tail end of 2014 (and the first day of 2015) is your last good chance to tune in and help toggle some of those lights. (The display operates from 1700-2200 Mountain time.) Alternate Video Link Update: 12/22 22:50 GMT by T : Note: Alek talks about the last year here.
12 comments | 2 hours ago
First time accepted submitter opentunings writes "Engadget and many others are reporting that North Korea's external Internet access is down. No information yet regrading whether anyone's taking responsibility. From the NYT: "Doug Madory, the director of Internet analysis at Dyn Research, an Internet performance management company, said that North Korean Internet access first became unstable late Friday. The situation worsened over the weekend, and by Monday, North Korea’s Internet was completely offline. 'Their networks are under duress,' Mr. Madory said. 'This is consistent with a DDoS attack on their routers,' he said, referring to a distributed denial of service attack, in which attackers flood a network with traffic until it collapses under the load."
240 comments | 5 hours ago
An anonymous reader writes Researchers say that the different colors of the hot springs in Yellowstone National Park are caused by human contamination. From the article: "Researchers at Montana State University and Brandenburg University of Applied Sciences in Germany have created a simple mathematical model based on optical measurements that explains the stunning colors of Yellowstone National Park's hot springs and can visually recreate how they appeared years ago, before decades of tourists contaminated the pools with make-a-wish coins and other detritus. If Yellowstone National Park is a geothermal wonderland, Grand Prismatic Spring and its neighbors are the ebullient envoys, steaming in front of the camera and gracing the Internet with their ethereal beauty. While the basic physical phenomena that render these colorful delights have long been scientifically understood—they arise because of a complicated interplay of underwater vents and lawns of bacteria—no mathematical model existed that showed empirically how the physical and chemical variables of a pool relate to their optical factors and coalesce in the unique, stunning fashion that they do."
33 comments | 8 hours ago
dcblogs writes Texas Instruments says it has developed electronics capable of taking small amounts of power generated by harvested sources and turning them into a useful power source. TI has built an efficient 'ultra-low powered' DC-to-DC switching converter that can boost 300 to 400 millivolts power to 3 to 5 volts. To power wearables, the company says it has demonstrated drawing energy from the human body by using harvesters the size of wristwatch straps. It has worked with vibration collectors, for instance, about the same size as a key. It is offering this technology as a means to power sensors in Internet of Things applications, as well as to augment battery power supplies in wearables.
52 comments | 10 hours ago
An anonymous reader writes NPR has an article about the questions people ask librarians. Before the internet, the librarian was your best bet for a quick answer to anything on your mind. "We were Google before Google existed," NYPL spokesperson Angela Montefinise explains. "If you wanted to know if a poisonous snake dies if it bites itself, you'd call or visit us." The New York Public Library in Manhattan recently discovered a box of old reference questions asked by patrons and plans to release some in its Instagram account. Here are a few of the best:
91 comments | yesterday
Presto Vivace writes with this story about how Stephen Colbert became a YouTube Megastar. "Clips from The Colbert Report soon became a staple at YouTube, a startup that was making it easier for anyone and everyone to upload and watch home movies, video blogs, and technically-illicit-but-increasingly-vanilla clips of TV shows from the day before. And Colbert’s show was about to find itself at the center of a conflict between entertainment media and the web over online video that’s shaped the last decade. In fact, The Colbert Report has been defined as much by this back-and-forth between Hollywood and the web as by the cable news pundits it satirizes....A year after The Colbert Report premiere, Google acquired YouTube for $1.65 billion in stock. Five months later, Viacom sued YouTube and Google for copyright infringement, asking for $1 billion in damages. The value of these videos and their audiences were clear. The Colbert Report and “Stephen Colbert” are mentioned three times in Viacom’s complaint against YouTube, as much or more than any other show or artist."
72 comments | yesterday
lpress writes Cuba first connected to the Internet in 1996 through a Sprint link funded by the US National Science Foundation. A year later the Cuban government decided to contain and control it. Now they say the Internet is a priority. If so, they need a long term plan, but they can get started with low cost interim measures. There is virtually no modern infrastructure on the island, but they could aggressively deploy satellite technology at little cost and, where phone lines could support it, install DSL equipment.
108 comments | yesterday
An anonymous reader writes with a ruling that seems obvious in a case about police making a fake Instagram account. A federal judge in New Jersey has signed off on the practice of law enforcement using a fake Instagram account in order to become "friends" with a suspect — thus obtaining photos and other information that a person posts to their account. "No search warrant is required for the consensual sharing of this type of information," United States District Judge William Martini wrote in an opinion published last Tuesday. In other news, an undercover officer still doesn't need to tell you that he or she is a member of law enforcement if you ask.
198 comments | yesterday
mrspoonsi writes Charlie Shrem, former Bitcoin Foundation board member and CEO of the now-defunct exchange BitInstant, has been sentenced to two years in prison for helping Silk Road users anonymously swap cash for digital currency. Silk Road, as you know, was the online marketplace infamous for hosting anonymous drug and gun sales that was busted by the FBI back in 2013. A version 2.0 went up shortly after that, but it suffered the same fate as its predecessor this November. Based on evidence gathered during the crackdown, Shrem agreed to partner with Robert M. Faiella to trade over $1 million in cash from buyers. Faiella was the one with direct contact to buyers, hiding behind the name BTCKing to post ads promoting his dollar-to-Bitcoin business on the marketplace.
69 comments | yesterday
Earthquake Retrofit writes The Register is reporting that the Tor Project has warned that its network – used to mask peoples' identities on the internet – may be knocked offline in the coming days. In a Tor blog post, project leader Roger 'arma' Dingledine said an unnamed group may seize Tor's directory authority servers before the end of next week. These servers distribute the official lists of relays in the network, which are the systems that route users' traffic around the world to obfuscate their internet connections' public IP addresses.
86 comments | 2 days ago
Nerval's Lobster writes Ever since 3-D printing began to enter the mainstream, people have discussed the technology's potential for building prosthetic arms and legs for human beings. But what about doing the same for dogs? In one of those videos that ends up circulated endlessly on the Internet, a dog named Derby, born with a congenital deformity that deprived him of front paws, is outfitted with a pair of 3-D-printed prosthetics. With those "legs" in place, the dog can run for the first time, at a pretty good clip. Both the prosthetics and the video were produced by 3D Systems, which builds 3-D printers, and it seems likely that other 3-D-printing companies will explore the possibility of printing off parts for pets. And while the idea of a cyborg pooch is heartwarming, it will be interesting to see how 3D printers will continue to advance the realm of human prosthetics, which have become increasingly sophisticated over the past decade.
25 comments | 2 days ago
apexcp writes: In less than a month, one of the biggest trials of 2015 will begin in New York City. The full list of government evidence and defense objections found its way online recently, shedding light on both the prosecutor's courtroom strategy and the defense team's attempted rebuttals. Also important is what's not presented as evidence. There's not a single piece of forensic documentation about how the FBI originally found Silk Road servers, an act the defense has called "blatantly criminal."
51 comments | 3 days ago
An anonymous reader writes: Not satisfied with merely launching The Old Pirate Bay, torrent site isoHunt today debuted The Open Bay, which lets anyone deploy their own version of The Pirate Bay online. This is achieved via a new six-step wizard, which the group says requires you to be somewhat tech-savvy and have "minimal knowledge of how the Internet and websites work." The Pirate Bay, the most popular file sharing website on the planet, went down last week following police raids on its data center in Sweden. As we've noted before, The Old Pirate Bay appears to be the best alternative at the moment, but since The Pirate Bay team doesn't know if it's coming back yet, there is still a huge hole left to be filled.
79 comments | 3 days ago
itwbennett writes In a blog post Tuesday, security service provider Alert Logic warned of a Linux vulnerability, named grinch after the well-known Dr. Seuss character, that could provide attackers with unfettered root access. The fundamental flaw resides in the Linux authorization system, which can inadvertently allow privilege escalation, granting a user full administrative access. Alert Logic warned that Grinch could be as severe as the Shellshock flaw that roiled the Internet in September. Update: 12/19 04:47 GMT by S : Reader deathcamaro points out that Red Hat and others say this is not a flaw at all, but expected behavior.
118 comments | 4 days ago
Trailrunner7 writes with this news from ThreatPost: Unknown hackers were able to compromise vital systems belonging to ICANN, the organization that manages the global top-level domain system, and had access to the system that manages the files with data on resolving specific domain names. The attack apparently took place in November and ICANN officials discovered it earlier this month. The intrusion started with a spear phishing campaign that targeted ICANN staffers and the email credentials of several staff members were compromised. The attackers then were able to gain access to the Centralized Zone Data System, the system that allows people to manage zone files. The zone files contain quite bit of valuable information, including domain names, the name server names associated with those domains and the IP addresses for the name servers. ICANN officials said they are notifying any users whose zone data might have been compromised." (Here's ICANN's public note on the compromise.)
110 comments | 4 days ago
mrspoonsi writes The proposal was made by the Google developers working on the search firm's Chrome browser. The proposal to mark HTTP connections as non-secure was made in a message posted to the Chrome development website by Google engineers working on the firm's browser. If implemented, the developers wrote, the change would mean that a warning would pop-up when people visited a site that used only HTTP to notify them that such a connection "provides no data security". Currently only about 33% of websites use HTTPS, according to statistics gathered by the Trustworthy Internet Movement which monitors the way sites use more secure browsing technologies. In addition, since September Google has prioritised HTTPS sites in its search rankings.
394 comments | 5 days ago
MassDosage writes "At the the risk of exposing my age I remember building my first website using a rudimentary Unix text editor (Joe) and carefully handcrafting the Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) while directly logged on to the web server it was being served from. Back then Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) weren't even a glint in the eyes of their creators. A lot has changed and there's now a world of fancy WYSIWYG web page editors to choose from as well as Content Management Systems that allow you to create websites without looking at the underlying code at all. While this is all very useful and allows less technical people to create websites I still feel that having at least some knowledge of how everything works under the hood is empowering — especially in situations where you want to go beyond the limits placed on you by a certain tool. This is where Build Your Own Website: A comic guide to HTML, CSS and Wordpress comes into the picture. Its aim is to enable people new to web development to learn the subject by teaching the fundamentals of HTML and CSS first and only then describing how to use a Content Management System (CMS) — in this case Wordpress. While Wordpress might not be everyone's kettle of fish it's a good choice as an example of a modern CMS that is easily accessible and very popular. The concepts presented are simple enough that it should be easy enough for a reader to apply them to a different CMS should they want to. Read below for The rest of MassDosage's review.
31 comments | 5 days ago
schwit1 sends this report from The Verge:
Most anti-piracy tools take one of two paths: they either target the server that's sharing the files (pulling videos off YouTube or taking down sites like The Pirate Bay) or they make it harder to find (delisting offshore sites that share infringing content). But leaked documents reveal a frightening line of attack that's currently being considered by the MPAA: What if you simply erased any record that the site was there in the first place? To do that, the MPAA's lawyers would target the Domain Name System that directs traffic across the internet.
The tactic was first proposed as part of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in 2011, but three years after the law failed in Congress, the MPAA has been looking for legal justification for the practice in existing law and working with ISPs like Comcast to examine how a system might work technically. If a takedown notice could blacklist a site from every available DNS provider, the URL would be effectively erased from the internet. No one's ever tried to issue a takedown notice like that, but this latest memo suggests the MPAA is looking into it as a potentially powerful new tool in the fight against piracy.
388 comments | 5 days ago
Jason Koebler writes: Tucows Inc., an internet company that's been around since the early 90s — it's generally known for being in the shareware business and for registering and selling premium domain names — announced that it's becoming an internet service provider. Tucows will offer fiber internet to customers in Charlottesville, Virginia — which is served by Comcast and CenturyLink — in early 2015 and eventually wants to expand to other markets all over the country. "Everyone who has built a well-run gigabit network has had demand exceeding their expectations," Elliot Noss, Tucows' CEO said. "We think there's space in the market for businesses like us and smaller."
65 comments | 5 days ago
HughPickens.com writes: Lex Berko reports in The Atlantic that although webcasting has been around since the mid-1990s, livestreamed funerals have only begun to go mainstream in the last few years. The National Funeral Directors Association has only this year introduced a new funeral webcasting license that permits funeral homes to legally webcast funerals that include copyrighted music. The webcast service's growing appeal is, by all accounts, a result of the increasing mobility of modern society. Remote participation is often the only option for those who live far away or have other barriers — financial, temporal, health-related — barring them from attending a funeral. "It's not designed to replace folks attending funerals," says Walker Posey. "A lot of folks just don't live where their family grew up and it's difficult to get back and forth."
But some funeral directors question if online funerals are helpful to the grieving process and eschew streaming funerals live because they do not want to replace a communal human experience with a solitary digital one. What happens if there's a technical problem with the webcast — will we grieve even more knowing we missed the service in person and online? Does webcasting bode well for the future of death acceptance, or does it only promote of our further alienation from that inevitable moment? "The physical dead body is proof of death, tangible evidence that the person we love is gone, and that we will someday be gone as well," says Caitlin Doughty, a death theorist and mortician. "To have death and mourning transferred online takes away that tangible proof. What is there to show us that death is real?"
70 comments | about a week ago