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Recommendations for August 26, 2012

These are, again, long overdue; my excuse this time is that I have been on vacation. To make up for it, there’s a lot more here than usual.
Article: “Desktop 2.0 and the future of the networked operating system” by Paul Miller
If, like me, you recently upgraded to Mac OS 10.8 (Mountain Lion), you might be thinking about how deeply so many of its functions and services depend on internet connectivity. This (too) short piece explores some of the questions that arise when the internet is not just something you “log on” to— a place to which you open up a tunnel when you need it, and close it off when you don’t— but rather a part of how your computer works. Cloud storage and backup are the most obvious, and advanced, examples of this, but it’s going to become more true rather than less in the near future, and it is worth thinking about what that means. The author, by the way, is a few months in to a year without the internet, which puts a bit of a different spin on what he has to say here.
Article: “He Hit Send: On the Awkward but Necessary Role of Technology in Fiction” by Allison K. Gibson
Many authors of contemporary fiction have been hesitant to include technology in their writing, partly because it dates things so readily (like the big cell phone in Wall Street), and partly, this article suggests, because the language we use to describe these things is not very pleasant to listen to. Other people have written about these issues before (see this piece), and the most interesting thing about this for me is the question with which Gibson is centrally concerned: if literature leaves out technology when technology is more and more a part of our lives in all kinds of pervasive and casual ways, the will that literature cease to seem relevant to readers? 
Article: “Eraserhead” by Mary Norris
This is a blog post about erasers. It references a book about the pencil, which I immediately requested from my local library upon learning of its existence. I find the histories and minutiae of everyday objects like this fascinating.
Video: “Angel” by The XX (performed by Romy)
One of the members of The XX performing a new (?) song by herself in a Tokyo hotel room— just her and her guitar. Very nice. Via http://disconaivete.com
Video: “Datamatics 2.0” by Ryoji Ikeda
This is video of an installation by sound artist Ryoji Ikeda. It is a visualization of some quantity of data; I am not sure where the data come from, what they represent, or what the process is for transforming them into this. But it is very cool to watch, and looks like it would be awesome in person. I hope that he has an exhibition near me sometime soon.
Video: “Water Light Graffiti” by Antonin Fourneau 
Some people put together a wall of LEDs that respond to moisture, and then put it up in the middle of Paris and let people play with it. If there is more of a story to it than that, I don’t know it, but it is fun to watch.
Both of the last two videos, by the way, via http://shocklee.com
Article: “Why passwords have never been weaker—and crackers have never been stronger” by Dan Goodin
A truly alarming article about how people crack passwords, and how very easy it has become to do this. In part, it is because of increased computing power, which makes brute force guessing much more feasible than it used to be, but it’s also largely a result of increased knowledge about how most people choose their passwords, and the patterns that we follow in doing so. In short, the bad people are learning much faster than we are. 
Photos: “Underwater Experiments Continued” by Alexander Semenov
Really cool photos of jellyfish taken by a biologist who studies them. That is all.

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