Soulful Cyborg


Who says being a cyborg is necessarily soulless? I was mesmerized yesterday listening to this RadioBoston podcast of Julia Easterlin, this Berklee grad who uses a looping machine to perform as a one-woman chorus.

When 22 year-old singer/songwriter Julia Easterlin walks into a room, she is warm and humble, equipped with just a backpack. She carefully unpacks her rectangular looping machine and starts explaining how it works: “I have a microphone plugged into this machine, and I’m able to set it up so that I record what I’m singing live and then it plays back. And then over the playback, I record many other layers — again and again. And it essentially creates a one-woman chorus to back up my lead vocal.”

 

When she sat down recently with Radio Boston‘s Adam Ragusea, Easterlin put her looping skills on display, starting with a rhythmic base. She slowly added percussion, trilling her tongue and clapping her hands. Next came a vocal bass line. She ran those loops and then recorded a second section — another set of vocals.

 

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Few Consumers Are Cracking The QR Code


Some of my students are becoming aware of my penchant for using QR codes on handouts and in presentations to direct them to web resources. But it gives me pause that they are not widely adopted in the US. I heard this report yesterday, too. Give a listen and weigh in on this technology. Would you use or not? Why?

If you drive by billboards or flip through magazines from time to time, you may have noticed pixelated squares popping up all over the place. These aren’t scrambled checkerboards or alien landing pads, but QR codes, short for quick response codes.

The codes are scanned with a smartphone camera, kind of like one might scan a bar code, and marketing departments all over the country are coming up with clever ways to use them.

 

 

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The System is Down


This now classic web cartoon from Homestarrunner.com pokes fun at techno. I think of it whenever I consider some system being “down.”

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All kidding aside, the possibility of the internet coming down was very real for a small group of volunteers policing internet security. I was quite fascinated to hear this podcast yesterday, via NPR’s “Digital Life” and “Fresh Air.

For the past three years, a highly encrypted computer worm called Conficker has been spreading rapidly around the world. As many as 12 million computers have been infected with the self-updating worm, a type of malware that can get inside computers and operate without their permission.”

What Conficker does is penetrate the core of the [operating system] of the computer and essentially turn over control of your computer to a remote controller,” writer Mark Bowden tells Fresh Air’s Terry Gross. “[That person] could then utilize all of these computers, including yours, that are connected. … And you have effectively the largest, most powerful computer in the world.”

The gigantic networked system created by the Conficker worm is what’s known as a “botnet.” The Conficker botnet is powerful enough to take over computer networks that control banking, telephones, security systems, air traffic control and even the Internet itself, says Bowden. His new book, Worm: The First Digital World War, details how Conficker was discovered, how it works, and the ongoing programming battle to bring down the Conficker worm, which he says could have widespread consequences if used nefariously.

“If you were to launch with a botnet that has 10 million computers in it — launch a denial of service attack — you could launch a large enough attack that it would not just overwhelm the target of the attack, but the root servers of the Internet itself, and could crash the entire Internet,” he says. “What frightens security folks, and increasingly government and Pentagon officials, is that a botnet of that size could also be used as a weapon.”

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Given that loss of life could ensue should the internet be “brought down,” what should individuals, groups, organizations, governments and the international community be doing to prevent this?