The Principality of Sealand and data haven?
Seven miles off the English coast and just 24 feet above the roiling waves of the North Sea is the Principality of Sealand. The nation’s total area amounts to just 120 x 50 feet, but its occupier and “ruler” since 1966, Major Paddy Royal Bates, has had outsized dreams for his former military platform out in the sea. Once, it was the home of HavenCo, that company that billed itself as a “data haven,” the Switzerland of data centers.
HavenCo was supposedly to be the home of businesses who didn’t want governments minding their business: porn, anonymous currencies, governments in exile. When Fox News reported that WikiLeaks was moving its servers to Sealand, it certainly seemed fitting but, alas, turned out to be just speculation. That led us to Ars Technica, where law professor James Grimmelmann has written what is probably the definitive history of Sealand and HavenCo, and it is a thrilling read. A few snippets from nation’s short history include a pirate radio broadcaster hurling Molotov cocktails, press wars over “marooned children,” and coup led by a former diamond dealer (possibly staged).
Modern life is about maximizing information overload. So while you watch your favorite shows on the boob-tube, chances are you’re also surfing the Interwebs, looking for that actor’s screen credits, buying the season on DVD, checking other people’s real-time reactions. Ah, but what if your TV pulled up all that stuff for you, and helpfully displayed it on your computing device of choice, a la Google Ads in your email? Wouldn’t that be…something?
Before the end of the year, just such a TV will be released by a start-up called Flingo—a TV that, should you opt in to the service, will note what you’re watching and customize what your computer shows you. Read More
For all those penny-pinching, world-traveling Facebook-users out there, you’re in luck: you’ll be able to check Facebook during your flight and not pay a dime if you fly during the short, sweet month of February.
Of course this means we all need to prepare ourselves for the inane status updates. Like: “I can see my house from here!” And: “Clouds… wow.”
Participating airlines–including American Airlines, Delta, United Airlines, AirTran Airways, Alaska Airlines, Virgin America, and U.S. Airways–are partnering with Gogo Inflight Internet and Ford to provide airline passengers with free Facebook access. As Mashable reports:
Online flashers could soon be out of a hobby, thanks to a team of software engineers from the University of Colorado and McGill University. The team is developing a system called SafeVchat, which is meant to detect and filter out obscene images, foiling even the fastest of flashers.
The team tested their algorithms at Chatroulette, the infamous online video-chat service that lets you communicate with randomly-selected strangers, and the results looked good.
As you can probably guess, the problem with seeing video images of random strangers is that some of these people are all-too-eager to show off their flesh. Despite the age restrictions on some video-chat sites and the noble-yet-feeble first attempts at creating filtering software, flashers still peddle their wares with ease and have seemed as unstoppable as a bad rash.
But not for long. Enter the engineers.
What do 10 million Facebook friendships look like? It pretty much looks like the world at night from space. Facebook intern Paul Butler made the map and was surprised by how elegantly it lit up the world. Facebook has truly gone global. From his Facebook post about the map:
I was interested in seeing how geography and political borders affected where people lived relative to their friends. I wanted a visualization that would show which cities had a lot of friendships between them.
To make the map Paul looked up 10 million friendship pairs, and listed the friends by current city, then tabulated the number of friendships between cities. He then mapped this connection strength to the latitude and longitude of the city.
The data rendering was a little bit more complicated, as Paul explains in the post:
I defined weights for each pair of cities as a function of the Euclidean distance between them and the number of friends between them. Then I plotted lines between the pairs by weight, so that pairs of cities with the most friendships between them were drawn on top of the others. I used a color ramp from black to blue to white, with each line’s color depending on its weight.
Many of the areas with few connections are regions with small populations (hello, Sahara and Amazon!) or low internet penetration. And the lack of connections to China would be because the government blocks Facebook access, though there is an almost identical site called Ren Ren Wang.
The dark vastness of Russia is explained by the fact that Facebook is only the seventh most popular social networking site in the country, with only two percent of Russia’s online audience using it. But it still beats MySpace, so that’s really all that matters.
Discoblog: Desperate For Facebook Friends? Buy Some!
Discoblog: Worst Science Article of The Week: Facebook Causes Syphilis
Discoblog: Teen Sues Mom for Hacking His Facebook Account
80beats: Facebook Unveils Its Messaging System—Just Don’t Call It Email
80beats: The Facebook Movie Comes Out Today. Is It Fact or Fiction?
80beats: Facebook CEO: People Don’t Really Want Privacy Nowadays, Anyway
DISCOVER: Map A World Full of Spam
DISCOVER: Map What Does the Internet Look Like?
Image: Facebook Engineering Page
A new online game called Phylo is harnessing the power of idle brains on the Internet–asking any and all to help align genomic sequences. Human brain power is used instead of computer power because, as the researchers explain in the press release, humans are still better at some things than computers are:
“There are some calculations that the human brain does more efficiently than any computer can, such as recognizing a face,” explained lead researcher Dr. Jérôme Waldispuhl of the School of Computer Science. “Recognizing and sorting the patterns in the human genetic code falls in that category. Our new online game enables players to have fun while contributing to genetic research–players can even choose which genetic disease they want to help decode.”
Ncell, a subsidiary of the Swedish telecom company TeliaSonera, has installed a 3G data network in a Nepalese town that should reach the summit of Mount Everest. This high up, high-tech improvement will allow summit-ers to communicate with friends, family, and organizers from the top of the world.
A phone base station was set up near the town of Gorakshep at 17,000 feet above sea level, and the signal should reach to the peak about 12,000 feet above that, telecom officials said–but it hasn’t been tested yet. The service should be fast enough to allow adventurers to make video calls and surf the Internet from their phones.
Lars Nyberg, CEO of TeliaSonera, told the Associated Foreign Press how excited they were to take the mountain into the wireless internet age:
“This is a great milestone for mobile communications as the 3G high speed internet will bring faster, more affordable telecommunication services from the world’s tallest mountain,” said Lars Nyberg.
Want to see your tax dollars at work? There’s a more exciting way to do it than watching a road crew pour asphalt for the latest highway expansion. Now you can watch the next Mars rover being built in a clean room at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, thanks to a well-positioned webcam.
Curiosity rover, also known as the Mars Science Laboratory, is a hulking beast compared to its smaller cousins, Spirit and Opportunity. The six-wheeled Curiosity is about the size of a car and weighs 2,000 pounds. The rover is scheduled to blast off toward Mars in the winter of 2011, and to reach the planet in August 2012. Its mission: to probe rocks, take pictures, and generally cruise around looking for signs of life, past or present.
The “Curiosity Cam” went live today. It will typically show technicians working from 8 in the morning until 11 at night, Monday through Friday, but the bunny suit-clad engineers sometimes disappear from the shot when their work draws them to other parts of the building. (During their lunch break today one commenter groused that it was boring to stare at an empty room.) Right now the technicians are working on the rover’s instruments, tomorrow they’re scheduled to put the suspension system and wheels on. Be sure to tune in!
80beats: It’s Alive! NASA Test-Drives Its New Hulking Mars Rover, Curiosity
80beats: James Cameron to Design a 3D Camera for Next-Gen Mars Rover
80beats: Spirit Doesn’t Return NASA’s Calls; Rover Might Be Gone for Good
80beats: Mars Rover Sets Endurance Record: Photos From Opportunity’s 6 Years On-Planet
Image: NASA / JPL
A small town in Ontario has come down with a bad case of technophobia. The majority (88 percent) of an Ontario school’s parent group (which has 210 members) voted that they want the wireless Internet at their children’s school shut off, the group said in a press release:
“After learning the whole story about how risky WiFi is, parents voted to protect their children’s health and plug the computers back in with hardwires,” said Andrew Couper, a member of the elected School Council…. “This is something every school council across Canada should be questioning.”
After the wireless was installed, the parents of Meaford, Ontario say their children began complaining about symptoms ranging from headaches to nausea, which the children said struck while they were at school. In my day we called this illness “school-sucks-itis”. Well played, kids.