Science Addiction

A dormant blog by Devanshu Mehta

Tag: Miscellany

Change Watch:

Until inauguration day on the 20th of January, I will be covering some of the aspects of the transition to the Obama administration that affect technology and open government in a series called Change Watch. changegov.jpg

Today, was launched. It is the official web site for the “Office of the President-Elect”. It is an extremely forward-looking web site which hopes to capture the enthusiasm and energy of Obamamania before is subsides. The site continues where left off- except for the user participation part. One hopes that there is a direct way for citizens to participate. Maybe Joe Trippi’s idea?

UPDATE: Alan Rosenblatt at techPresident has a couple of great ideas about how the new President can keep the Obama social network alive- either as an independent community outside of government or as a “white house social network” to directly channel the energy of his supporters.


I would just like to say that I love doodling on my iPhone.

Oh, and the WordPress blogging app rocks.


Why This Blog is CC Licensed


You may not have noticed it (how dare you!), but this blog is licensed CC-Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike. This means:

You are free to:

  • Share– copy, distribute, transmit (send it to your enemies!)
  • Remix– adapt the articles (I’m waiting for the musical)

Under the following conditions:

  • Attribution– You must attribute it to me.
  • Noncommercial– You may not use it for commercial purposes.
  • ShareAlike– If you alter, transform or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under the same license.

So why did I choose this license?

  • To paraphrase Cory Doctorow, the only thing worse than an author who’s work is pirated is an author who’s work is not read. So share!
  • The Internet isn’t one-way. It is interactive. There is an archaic notion that my job is to write this blog and your job is to read. You and me are standing on the shoulders of giants. On the Internet, you stand on my shoulders, I’ll stand on yours and we’ll make one weird circus freak. So adapt and remix!
  • I have an ego, and I don’t like people taking credit for my work. So attribute (to me)!
  • Stand on my shoulders if you want, but don’t sell tickets to it (without my permission). So non-commercial! This is basically so that no one is making money off me without my knowledge. When asked, I’ve been known to give permission.
  • And clearly, I can’t let you share and remix my work, but then allow you to prevent further sharing and remixing. So share alike!

You’re free to use this license (or one of the many others Creative Commons has written) for any of your creative works. There’s even a comic (CC-licensed of course) to explain all the licenses.

Bill is Innocent!

Bill Stickers!

Oh noes!

Big Book of Apple Hacks


A long time ago, Chris Seibold, one of my co-writers at Apple Matters, asked if I had any ideas for a book he was writing for O’Reilly publishers called “The Big Book of Apple Hacks“. That email turned in to a little brainstorming which led to five chapters that I have in the book.

  • MacFuse
  • SSH Tunnels
  • ImageMagick
  • Tivo + Mac
  • Fink & MacPorts

Of course, those chapters have much better names in the book. Unfortunately, a publishing error left my name off the acknowledgments at the end of the book (seriously!), but my name is at the end of each chapter I wrote. Hopefully the book will have many reprints in the future which will include my name!

Obama, Montana and Jones

So, what’s hot this summer, asks

Science Addiction Referenced in a Law Paper

No kidding. The paper (by Gary Pulsinelli) is about the ownership rights of artistic works among goblins in JK Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Last year, I had noted that they sounded a lot like the RIAA/MPAA/ MAFIAA. This paper has a different take, but tips its hat to this blog post and the reader comments. If you read the paper, it is in footnote #29 on page 5.

Airport Security Checkpoint: For Kids!

Is your child growing up with false hope? Never fear, Playmobil has just the toy for you:

From the Manufacturer: The traveler hands her spare change and watch to the security guard and proceeds through the metal detector. With no time to spare, she picks up her luggage and hurries to board her flight!

Presenting, the Playmobil Security Check Point- so your child can fantasize about a police-state before living in one. If your lucky, maybe she can run it! Of course, the best part are the reviews:

I was a little disappointed when I first bought this item, because the functionality is limited. My 5 year old son pointed out that the passenger’s shoes cannot be removed. Then, we placed a deadly fingernail file underneath the passenger’s scarf, and neither the detector doorway nor the security wand picked it up. My son said “that’s the worst security ever!”. But it turned out to be okay, because when the passenger got on the Playmobil B757 and tried to hijack it, she was mobbed by a couple of other heroic passengers, who only sustained minor injuries in the scuffle, which were treated at the Playmobil Hospital.

The best thing about this product is that it teaches kids about the realities of living in a high-surveillence society. My son said he wants the Playmobil Neighborhood Surveillence System set for Christmas. I’ve heard that the CC TV cameras on that thing are pretty worthless in terms of quality and motion detection, so I think I’ll get him the Playmobil Abu-Gharib Interogation Set instead (it comes with a cute little memo from George Bush).

Of course, remind your kid to leave the set at home the next time you travel. Never know what will happen if the authorities find a detailed model of their awesome security system in your luggage.

(via Schneier and Threat Level)

Portrait of a Creator as a Sims Freak

Fantastic profile of Dr. Bostrom, the director of the Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford, in <a href=””>the New York Times</a>. <blockquote>In fact, if you accept a pretty reasonable assumption of Dr. Bostrom’s, it is almost a mathematical certainty that we are living in someone else’s computer simulation. [..] Dr. Bostrom assumes that technological advances could produce a computer with more processing power than all the brains in the world, and that advanced humans, or “posthumans,” could run “ancestor simulations” of their evolutionary history by creating virtual worlds inhabited by virtual people with fully developed virtual nervous systems.</blockquote>

I’ve had a similar theory for a while now, which I’ve tried to spin in to a fantasy novel (someday…) about a creator as a high-on-sugar kid with a LEGO set, albeit a LEGO set that builds intricate worlds. I’m paraphrasing, of course.

In any case, none of these ideas are ‘Matrix’-like pluggable-hybrid humans; they’re actually completely simulate that live in the circuits. The tubes, as they say in Alaska. I’d buy this theory, except there’s no way of knowing if it’s true. This isn’t the Truman Show, where you can walk out the end of the world or where everyone else is in on the joke. So, ultimately, it’s a cool hypothesis but I’m already set against unprovable creators.

A Chinese Golden Parachute

The boss of the toy company responsible for the huge recall in the US has “committed suicide by hanging himself”: in his warehouse. The toys were recalled due to toxic paint in the toys, which was sold to this ‘boss’ by a close friend of his. The most interesting paragraph in the AP story is:<blockquote>Zhang hung himself on Saturday, according to the report. It is common for disgraced officials to commit suicide in China.</blockquote>