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Donate Your Old USB Drives to Fight North Korean Brainwashing
The thumb drives gathering dust in your desk drawer could help to open one of the world's most closed countries.

In the age of Dropbox and Google Drive, the USB stick has come to seem like a dusty tchotchke that belongs in the drawer with your iPhone 4 cables. But send your chunk of cheap flash memory into North Korea, and it becomes a powerful, even subversive object—one that a new activist project wants use to help chip away at the intellectual control of the hermit kingdom’s fascist government.

Recycling and fighting tyrants, what’s not to like?

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THE MALWARE MUSEUM SHOWS THE CUTE COMPUTER VIRUSES OF THE PAST

The creators of the viruses of the past often set out to destroy computers, and trumpeted their activities with garish splash screens, showing scrambled code, animated pot leaves, or laughing skulls.

The vast majority of these viruses are gone now, the security holes they exploited patched out of existence by Microsoft or by the inexorable march of time making the very machines they worked on obsolete, but a new collection on the Internet Archive allows us to get a glimpse at an important part of computer history. The Malware Museum is an online collection put together by Mikko Hermanni Hyppönen, chief resource officer at Finnish security firm F-secure, featuring emulated versions of a number of MS-DOS viruses from the 1980s and 1990s.

Visitors can download defanged versions of the viruses in question, each of which has had the destructive bit of code at its core removed, leaving only the visual effects.

How computers broke science – and what we can do to fix it

Ben Marwick, University of Washington

Reproducibility is one of the cornerstones of science. Made popular by British scientist Robert Boyle in the 1660s, the idea is that a discovery should be reproducible before being accepted as scientific knowledge.

In essence, you should be able to produce the same results I did if you follow the method I describe when announcing my discovery in a scholarly publication. For example, if researchers can reproduce the effectiveness of a new drug at treating a disease, that’s a good sign it could work for all sufferers of the disease. If not, we’re left wondering what accident or mistake produced the original favorable result, and would doubt the drug’s usefulness.

For most of the history of science, researchers have reported their methods in a way that enabled independent reproduction of their results. But, since the introduction of the personal computer – and the point-and-click software programs that have evolved to make it more user-friendly – reproducibility of much research has become questionable, if not impossible. Too much of the research process is now shrouded by the opaque use of computers that many researchers have come to depend on. This makes it almost impossible for an outsider to recreate their results.

Recently, several groups have proposed similar solutions to this problem. Together they would break scientific data out of the black box of unrecorded computer manipulations so independent readers can again critically assess and reproduce results. Researchers, the public, and science itself would benefit.

Keep reading

The iPad Project Book
Michael E. Cohen, Dennis Cohen & Lisa L. Spangenberg
Genre: Computers
Price: $19.99
Publish Date: September 9, 2010

Bridging the gap between the palm-sized iPod touch and a full-sized computer, Apple’s iPad offers enough screen area and horsepower to perform the day-to-day tasks most people want to do. Packed with practical knowledge, this book will walk readers through how to manage their most common projects, from the simple (setting up a calendar event) to the complex (planning a vacation) and everything in between. Readers will learn to use the iPad tools and applications by using them to create practical real-world projects and to master everyday tasks. In this practical hands-on guide, you’ll learn how to Organize a party: Set up the calendar event, create invitations, invite attendees, and mail out the invites. Build a recipe scrapbook: Write up recipes in Pages (or find recipes via one of the useful recipe apps) and import pictures of the finished dish to go with the recipe in the book. Even learn iPad kitchen tips! Plan a vacation: Buy tickets, find destination activities, and map out directions. Watch videos: Stream videos with Air Video, convert high-quality movies from DVDs, and buy or rent videos from the iTunes Store. Get smart: Learn another language with one of the many translation apps available, and build an illustrated deck of flash cards with common words and phrases. Plus many more useful projects—both big and small— to help you do stuff with your iPad.