This Can’t End Well: 3D-Printed Gun in Israeli Parliament

At some point, maker culture opens the door to un-maker culture…

Imagine a person holding a gun on his lap, fully visible, while in the same room as President Barack Obama. The equivalent recently happened in Israel when investigative journalists from Channel 10 TV tested government security by slipping a functioning 3D-printed gun into the Israeli Parliament, the Knesset, and into an address by the Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In fact, the journalists got past Knesset security twice. The Channel 10 journalists printed the gun based on designs from U.S. nonprofit Defense Distributed, and although it contains one metal part, a nail that serves as a firing pin, the gun even made it past a metal detector.

(Via Sean Captain at TechNewsDaily.com | 3D-Printed Gun in Israeli Parliament Ignites Security Concerns. Story has links through to the original Israeli news report.)

Markey Letter to ATF re: Printed Guns

U.S. Congressman Ed Markey’s letter to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives about Defense Distributed’s manufacturing of 3-D printed guns (public domain)

In an interview that covered key ideas on the singularity, advanced technology proponent Ray Kurzweil argued that while new, powerful technologies open the door to harm and terrorism, humans have the power to rein in the danger. But to do that, he suggests “we need to give a higher priority to preparing protective strategies and systems. We need to put a few more stones on the defense side of the scale.”

Given what has been revealed about the NSA data gathering and the broadening legal acceptability of online surveillance, somehow I don’t see anyone adding “more stones” to law enforcement anytime soon. Indeed, part of the motivation for printed guns seems to be precisely protection from the “defense side of the scale”.

Not to be a total downer, but how does this end well?

And what was that about an eye for an eye leaving the world blind?

Binge Watching Is Changing Us: Recognizing the Power of Imagination

It may not be one of the great novels of all time, but one of my favorite reading experiences was Umberto Eco’s Name of the Rose. Genre wise, it is a historical-fiction whodunit set in a medieval monastery.  The story and action are great (which the film version attests to), but it also has an intellectual depth that only a professional semiotician like Eco could bring to the table.  As the novel unfolds, Eco probes the deeply symbolic side of our lives, exploring how the categories we think with structure our actions and passions. (Think of the short ancient language and culture sections in Snow Crash, but this time marinating the whole thing, not just peppering here and there.)

Monastery Davidovica

Monastery Davidovica (© Vhorvat)

For Eco, the swirling liturgical and religious imaginations of monks in medieval Europe shaped—for good or for ill—the way that monks understood the world.  Indeed, that imagination, populated by angels, devils, and biblical figures, is almost a character of its own

Looking back, I probably liked The Name of the Rose so much because I read it as I travelled in Europe for the first time. I picked up the novel as I waited for a train in London at the start of a long solo trek to Florence.  I had spent months poking around churches, castles, and museums in England during classes, so my head was full of the images Eco drew upon.  I was in the perfect place—both literally and figuratively—to enjoy the work.

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Coins to Tunes

Mom found one just like Grandpa's bank!As a six year old, one of my favorite things about visiting my grandparents in their small, southern Illinois town was the thrill of splitting the pile of change from my grandfather’s piggy bank with my brother.  It wasn’t a piggy, actually, but a portly, tonsured monk, complete with fake fur for hair. The classic Friar Tuck, really.  I’m not sure if it was supposed to be an image of frugality or a critical commentary on medieval monks. But either way, we were glad that my grandfather was frugal so that we could feel a 6 year old’s version of gluttonousness.

We don’t have a piggy bank these days, but the change abounds.  Which is why I loved seeing Kelly Hodgkins short piece at TUAW.

You are probably familiar with the coin-counting service Coinstar, which offers cash in exchange for your loose coins. Instead of receiving a cash voucher next time you turn in change, select an iTunes gift certificate and you will receive a receipt with an iTunes redemption code.

The funds will be added to your Apple ID and you can use it to buy iOS Apps, OS X apps, music, movies and books. Coinstar waives the coin-counting fee with these gift certificates, so you will walk away with your full balance. The coin-counting service occasionally offers an iTunes promotion thatll give you an extra $10 when you redeem a minimum amount usually $40. You can find promotions on Coinstars Special Offers webpage or be alerted via email when you sign up for a Coinstar account.

I’ve never used Coinstar machines because they charge that fee. But this looks like a great way to put that change to good use while bringing back the thrill of the coin pile.

Hacking Your Machine, 1910 Style

Mac OS 7 Startup Screen

Mac OS 7 Startup Screen (via operating-system.org)

I spend way less time these days tweaking and fixing my computer than I used to. Back in the early-90s, I spent hours each week messing around with on my Macs trying to find the optimal configuration for the control panels and extensions.   I gathered custom system software that optimized my machine for home and work, but it was always a challenge figuring out how to get rid of conflicts and make sure that I still had enough ram to run things.  Watching those icons scroll across the bottom of the screen as they loaded during startup. And when they went to a second row, I was in heaven!

I always figured that I just grew out of that “tweaker” phase. These days, I like stuff that just works. (That’s not code for Apple. I let our temperamental Jetta go and have a much less fun Honda now.)

So I was intrigued by a fascinating account at the MIT Technology Review of a “Turn-of-the-Century Road Trip” from Newton, Massachusetts to Portland, Oregon in an Oldsmobile. And by turn-of-the-century, I mean the 20th century.  1910, to be specific!

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Things Are More Modern-er Than Before…It’s Computers!

After Apple’s most recent earnings call, the company’s stock fell and pundits began another round predictions about its immanent demise.

In response to the hyperbole and Chicken Little-ism, Sloan Schang wrote funny piece at The Bygone Bureau imagining what Jerry Seinfeld would have said if he was CFO of Apple. It ends with:

OK, I need to wrap this up. But first, raise your hand if you use a computer. That’s what I thought. Have you tried doing anything without a computer lately? It’s impossible. You want money from the bank? ATM computer. You want gas for your car? Pump computer. You looking for a news story explaining why your shares dropped 5% even though our gross margin was over 40%? Computer computer. You want to find out what you can do to shrink that eye pod? WebMD. Anyway I guess what I’m saying is, we’re in the right business, people.

Apple aside, that hits the hidden role of tech in the mundane right on the head.

Another Cool Christmas Gift: Give to Child’s Play (& Maybe Receive, too)

Still looking for something nice to do this Christmas? Consider donating to the cool organization Childs Play. As their website puts it:

Child’s Play seeks to improve the lives of children in hospitals around the world through the kindness and generosity of the video game industry and the power of play. When gamers give back, it makes a difference!

By facilitating donations of cash and stuff (hospitals set have “wish lists” for the kids they serve), Child’s Play helps make the lives of ill kids better by giving them ways to play. Laughter may not be the only medicine, but it is a potent one. They’ve raised about $ 3.7 million so far this year.

As an added bonus, the excellent tech news and commentary site Ars Technica is running a raffle with prizes like a Surface tablet, a Chromebook, a limited edition Skylander, and tons of video game collectables.

Just grab a digital copy of your receipt (a screenshot, or simply a cut and paste of the text) and send it to ChildsPlay@arstechnica.com by Friday, January 4, 2013.

For more info, go to 2012 Ars Child’s Play Drive.

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