Pirate radio on the rise

Posted on: Fri, 04/29/2016 - 14:15 By: Tom Swiss

From the "the more you tighten your grip, the more star systems will slip through your fingers" department:

In Internet age, pirate radio arises as surprising challenge (

In the age of podcasts and streaming services, you might think pirate radio is low on the list of concerns of federal lawmakers and broadcasters. You'd be wrong.


Helped along by cheaper technology, the rogue stations can cover several blocks or several square miles. Most broadcast to immigrant communities that pirate radio defenders say are underserved by licensed stations.

You can still send telegrams stop How cool is that stop

Posted on: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 14:00 By: Tom Swiss

I guess most of us thought the telegram died when Western Union shut down their service. But it lives! Now I shall be looking for an excuse to send one.

Technology You Didn't Know Still Existed: The Telegram (Atlas Obscura)

But a handful of companies are carrying on the tradition. Principal amongst them is the International Telegram Company who inherited and still operate Western Union’s former telex and cablegram network. They are well aware of their own anachronism: “Most people are pretty surprised to learn that telegrams still exist, and in fact are still pretty widely used in some parts of the world,” says Colin Stone, Director of Operations. Overall, he says that about 20 million telegrams are still delivered every year.

...[W]hen it comes to urgent hand-delivered messages, the telegram is still the gold standard. “People use them for canceling contracts and sending legal notifications because a copy of the message is retained in our files for 7 years and can be legally verified,” explains Stone. Everything from legal notices to social correspondence for births, funerals and weddings are being routinely sent by telegrams. In the U.S., Stone says that people still send telegrams for a simple reason, echoing the famous quote about why humans climb Mount Everest—"because they can."

Filabot Turns Your Plastic Junk Into Material for 3-D Printers | Wired Design

Posted on: Fri, 01/18/2013 - 19:56 By: Tom Swiss

3D printing has been getting a lot of hype, but the question of obtaining all the plastic always seemed a huge limitation. Just what we need, more plastic, right? But now (or coming soon), there's Filabot, which recycles many household plastics into filament for 3D printers. So that soda bottle, or clamshell from the deli, could take on a whole new life. This could get interesting.

Filabot Turns Your Plastic Junk Into Material for 3-D Printers

Filabot promises to help turn your plastic crap in to 3-D printed fanciness, alleviating one of the biggest sustainability problems for 3-D printing.


Unlike some of the more outlandish promises about how 3-D printing might save the world, McNaney’s project has a point. The world is awash in disposable plastic containers like soda and water bottles. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if that junk could be re-used on site?

magic in the history of C

Posted on: Wed, 09/12/2012 - 20:08 By: Tom Swiss

On the lighter side: from, something I stumbled across a while back about the history of the ubiquitous and important programming language "C". It seems it may be descended from something named after Tibet's native religion/magical practice:

Challenged by McIlroy's feat in reproducing TMG, Thompson decided that Unix—possibly it had not even been named yet—needed a system programming language. After a rapidly scuttled attempt at Fortran, he created instead a language of his own, which he called B. B can be thought of as C without types; more accurately, it is BCPL squeezed into 8K bytes of memory and filtered through Thompson's brain. Its name most probably represents a contraction of BCPL, though an alternate theory holds that it derives from Bon [Thompson 69], an unrelated language created by Thompson during the Multics days. Bon in turn was named either after his wife Bonnie, or (according to an encyclopedia quotation in its manual), after a religion whose rituals involve the murmuring of magic formulas.

Akihabara and Roppangi

Posted on: Tue, 05/01/2012 - 10:30 By: Tom Swiss

Happy Beltane! No Maypoles here in Tokyo, at least not that I've seen -- but, today I found an electronics store in Akihabara with a corner devoted to Tarot decks, occult books, and the like. So the universe still has surprises in store. That's good to know.

This morning I checked out of my tiny (even by Japanese standards, I think) room at the Chisun Inn in Nagoya, got my JR rail pass (after bouncing around the station for a while trying to find the right office), and got on the shinkansen train to Tokyo...only to find that I'd gotten on to a type of train ("Nozomi") that wasn't covered by my rail pass. Oops. I gave the conductor my best "sorry, I'm just a dumb gaijin" routine (which had the power of truth behind it) and he didn't demand I pay. I just got off at the next stop and caught a "Hikari" the rest of the way. Checked into my less tiny but still small room at the Horidome Villa, hit the ATM at the 7-11 (protip: Discover cards work as JCB cards here, making them pretty widely accepted and you can use them at many ATMs to get a cash advance on your account), rested and caught up on e-mail for a bit, then threw myself at the city to see what sticks.

First, the aforementioned Akihabara. A tech geek mecca. I did some window shopping in a few of the big stores and picked up a few small things, and also found a drum shop, a guitar shop, and an astounding telescope shop, with the largest scope having an aperture I could stick my head into; but my favorite discovery has to be CompuAce, the place with the Tarot decks and a noren (door curtain) with Ganesha on it, crowded with all kinds of computer and electronic accessories in addition to Pagan-y goods. Some sort of technopagan power spot.

Now, the infamous Roppangi. Full of hustlers, lots of Carribean or African guys trying to get me into clubs. Finally found a veggie burger, and then the "Cross Over" bar which seems a decent place to have a few beers, the sort of place that attracts both gaijin and Nihonjin. I found an Indian restaurant nearby, might hit that for dinner tomorrow. Indian is a good bet for vegetarian food plus an English menu. (Yes, there's probably ghee so it's not completely vegan, but we do the best we can in circumstances -- I'm a lot less likely to get fish stock in Indian food than I am in most practical alternatives...)

Twitter and the Line-Eater (assassination, dirty bomb, anthrax)

Posted on: Mon, 01/30/2012 - 21:32 By: Tom Swiss

Back in the glory days of USENET, we would half-joke about the "NSA Line Eater", a (hypothetical?) program that scanned posts for keywords like "cocaine", "nuclear materials", or "Palestinian". It was a standard practice to deliberately include these words in one's .sig or in a header, to overwhelm the (supposed?) spooks.

Well my friends, everything old is new again, and history repeats itself as farce. According to our good friends at EPIC, DHS is using fake accounts to routinely monitor Twitter and Facebook for key terms. And they're serious about it: two unfortunate British tourists were denied entry to the U.S., arrested, and had their passports confiscated after joking on Twitter that they were going to "destroy America" and "dig up Marilyn Monroe".

Now, here's the thing about our confused fans in domestic surveillance: they've actually given us a partial list of what they're looking for. Page 17 of this Department of Homeland Security memo tells us that terms like:

  • assassination
  • drill
  • national preparedness
  • dirty bomb
  • domestic nuclear detection
  • militia
  • shots fired
  • hostage
  • explosion
  • state of emergency
  • breach
  • anthrax
  • nerve agent
  • ricin
  • H5N1

-- well, the list goes on for a bit -- will get their attention.

So, in the spirit of the old NSA Line Eater, and to show that broad snooping, arresting tourists for Family Guy-inspired jokes, and security theater are not the ways to keep us safe, I suggest we start incorporating these terms into our tweets and posts. Have fun.

(nerve agent ricin H5N1)

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