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Here’s a podcast of my recent Locus column, The Internet of the Dead:

I had begun my trip with a few days in Toronto, attending to a strange and new kind of memorial ritual for a close friend who had died unexpectedly in June.

My friend’s name was Erik ‘‘Possum Man’’ Stewart, and I’d known him for decades, since we were high-school roommates. We were both geeks, but Possum was a true hacker, a talented and creative programmer who pursued numerous projects, including a lifelong effort to create spatial games like Pong and Tetris that ran in four or more dimensions. Like me, he was in his early forties, and he was in fine health, apart from an unsuspected weak blood vessel in his brain that ruptured without warning while he slept. When his housemates found him, his computer was still switched on and logged in, and his e-mail open, along with various windows with to-do lists and other random notes from one part of his busy mind to another.

Mastering by John Taylor Williams: wryneckstudio@gmail.com

John Taylor Williams is a audiovisual and multimedia producer based in Washington, DC and the co-host of the Living Proof Brew Cast. Hear him wax poetic over a pint or two of beer by visiting livingproofbrewcast.com. In his free time he makes “Beer Jewelry” and “Odd Musical Furniture.” He often “meditates while reading cookbooks.”

MP3 Link

/ / News, Podcast

Here’s a podcast of my recent Guardian column, Why all pharmaceutical research should be made open access:

One of the strongest arguments for public access in scholarly and scientific publication is the “public debt” argument: if the public pays you to do research, the research should belong to the public. That’s a good argument, but it’s not the whole story. For one thing, it’s vulnerable to the “public-private partnership” counterargument, which goes, “Ah, yes, but why not ensure that the public gets a maximum dividend on its spending by charging lots of money for access to publicly funded research and returning the profit to the research sector?” I think this argument is rubbish, as do most economists who have studied the question.

The public good of freely accessible, unencumbered research generates more economic value for the public than the quick-hit sugar-rush you get from charging the public on the way in and again on the way out. This has held true in many sectors, though the canonical example is the massive public return from the US Geological Survey’s freely usable maps, which have generated a fortune that makes the ransoms collected by the Ordinance Survey on its maps of the UK look like a pittance.

Mastering by John Taylor Williams: wryneckstudio@gmail.com

John Taylor Williams is a audiovisual and multimedia producer based in Washington, DC and the co-host of the Living Proof Brew Cast. Hear him wax poetic over a pint or two of beer by visiting livingproofbrewcast.com. In his free time he makes “Beer Jewelry” and “Odd Musical Furniture.” He often “meditates while reading cookbooks.”

MP3 link

/ / News, Podcast

Here’s a podcast of my recent Nature comment, co-written with Ben Laurie, Secure the Internet:

In 2011, a fake Adobe Flash updater was discovered on the Internet. To any user it looked authentic. The software’s crypto­graphic certificates, which securely verify the authenticity and integrity of Internet connections, bore an authorized signature. Internet users who thought they were applying a legitimate patch unwittingly turned their computers into spies. An unknown master had access to all of their data. The keys used to sign the certificates had been stolen from a ‘certificate authority’ (CA), a trusted body (in this case, the Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute) whose encrypted signature on a website or piece of software tells a browser program that the destination is bona fide. Until the breach was found and the certificate revoked, the keys could be used to impersonate virtually any site on the Internet.

Mastering by John Taylor Williams: wryneckstudio@gmail.com

John Taylor Williams is a audiovisual and multimedia producer based in Washington, DC and the co-host of the Living Proof Brew Cast. Hear him wax poetic over a pint or two of beer by visiting livingproofbrewcast.com. In his free time he makes “Beer Jewelry” and “Odd Musical Furniture.” He often “meditates while reading cookbooks.”

MP3 link

/ / Articles, Podcast

I did an interview with The Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy, which they’ve published in both text and MP3 form. We talked about Pirate Cinema, Rapture of the Nerds, the Humble Ebook Bundle, the future of publishing, the Disney/Star Wars merger, and lots more:


Wired: Do you ever get letters from kids who have been inspired by your books to become hacker anarchists?

Doctorow: Yeah, all the time — at least to become hackers, and political activists. My first young-adult novel Little Brother had an afterword with a bibliography for kids who want to get involved in learning how security works, learning how computers work, learning how to program them, learning how to take them apart, learning how to solve their problems with technology as well as with politics. And the number of kids who have written to me and said that they became programmers after reading that, I couldn’t even count them. I’ve had similar responses to my second young-adult novel, For the Win, and I’ve also heard from kids who’ve read Pirate Cinema. In fact, we published an editorial by one of them on Boing Boing — an anonymous reader who makes her own movies out of Japanese anime, and who talked about what drives her and how the book resonated with her.


With Pirate Cinema, Cory Doctorow Grows His Young Hacker Army

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Here’s a podcast of my recent Guardian column, Automated calls, fraud and the banks: a mismatch made in hell:

The banks are now outsourcing their fraud prevention to computers that can make dozens of calls all at once, around the clock, fishing (or phishing) for someone who just happened to have made an unusual purchase and is thus willing to spill all his details down the phone to get it approved. Note that most of the categories of purchase that trigger false positives from fraud detection systems are also the sort of thing that customers are anxious to see go off without a hitch. The unusual and the urgent often travel together.

MoneyBox took up the question of robo-calls on 22 September, with a series of finance industry executives explaining their position on robo-call anti-fraud systems. As Money Box pointed out, customers don’t know what automated fraud prevention calls are supposed to sound like, or which questions are supposed to be asked. They missed that even if this were common knowledge, it would be trivial to make a homemade robo-caller that perfectly mimicked the calls, and set it loose to call around the clock, to many victims at once.

Santander’s statement was that the system allows it to “reach more customers, more quickly, all at the same time”. It didn’t mention that it’s a lot cheaper than paying humans to make those calls, of course. On the other hand, it invited its customers to opt out of the service. But a customer that doesn’t even know the service exists won’t opt out of it – and if a customer’s first experience with a robo-caller is with a fraudulent one, they won’t have had a chance to opt out until it’s too late.

Mastering by John Taylor Williams: wryneckstudio@gmail.com

John Taylor Williams is a audiovisual and multimedia producer based in Washington, DC and the co-host of the Living Proof Brew Cast. Hear him wax poetic over a pint or two of beer by visiting livingproofbrewcast.com. In his free time he makes “Beer Jewelry” and “Odd Musical Furniture.” He often “meditates while reading cookbooks.”

MP3 link