Twisted by Jessica Zafra – Pumping irony since 1994

Archive for the ‘Technology’

The Hive Mind and the Outsourced Manhunt

April 21, 2013 By: jessicazafra Category: Current Events, Places, Technology No Comments →


In an earlier era, law enforcement might not have identified the suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing so rapidly.

When the smoke literally cleared on Monday, investigators had a huge problem and nearly no leads. No individual or organization claimed responsibility for the bombings that killed three and wounded more than 180. So they took a big leap: They copped to how little they knew, and embraced the wisdom of The Crowd.

Hiding in plain sight was an ocean of data, from torrents of photography to cell-tower information to locals’ memories, waiting to be exploited. Police, FBI, and the other investigators opted to let spectator surveillance supplement and augment their own. When they called for that imagery, locals flooded it in. They spoke to the public frequently, both in person and especially on Twitter. All that represented a modern twist on the age-old law enforcement maxim that the public’s eyes and ears are crucial investigative assets, as the Internet rapidly compressed the time it took for tips to arrive and get analyzed.

Read This Is the Modern Manhunt: The FBI, the Hive Mind and the Boston Bombers, at Danger Room in Wired.

House of Cards and the very near future of content

April 02, 2013 By: jessicazafra Category: Technology, Television 2 Comments →

House of Cards remake

We’re addicted to House of Cards starring Kevin Spacey as a scheming United States Congressman. Quick pegs: Evil West Wing, Game of Thrones in DC, Richard III (a Spacey specialty). Never play nice people again, Kevin, we don’t buy it. Robin Wright is terrific; every time we see her we want to punch Sean Penn in the face.

Yeah it’s a remake of a British series and the Brit original is better blah blah blah. But House of Cards is more than an addictive series. It didn’t originate on TV or cable; it’s produced by Netflix. The delivery system now produces its own content. We’re seeing the beginning of a great shift here.

Read House of Cards and the Decline of Cable in the New Yorker.

The case of the dead CDs

February 08, 2013 By: jessicazafra Category: Music, Technology 1 Comment →

CD rot

We’ve been reading a lot of late 19th-century literature so we thought we’d listen to music from the period. So off we went to Jackie’s to raid her music library (and dine on Yaya Andresa’s ostrich burgers, which are intense). We borrowed some Mahler, Brahms, Faure, Grieg and a double-CD recording of Verdi’s Otello starring Mario del Monaco (sounds like a bold star) and Renata Tebaldi.

When we opened the CD case we found that the foam liner had disintegrated and stuck to the discs. Ayyy! So we removed the bits of foam very carefully, then wiped the discs with alcohol. The discs had become translucent. They wouldn’t play, even if we tried them on different players. Otello was dead, a victim of CD rot.

“This problem was spotted in the early days of optical discs,” explains Juan the audiophile snob. (We are not allowed to use shoddy headphones in his presence.) “It happened to laser discs first. Apparently the seal on the two sides of the disc was not perfect, allowing air to seep in. Over time the substrate would disintegrate.”

(Digression: The first CDs Juan ever owned were the Chariots of Fire soundtrack and a Spandau Ballet album he bought in Tokyo in 1984. He also bought the newly-released Sony Discman. The battery back contained four D cells and was almost four times thicker and heavier than the player. Playing time was four hours or less.)

“The disc makers probably didn’t anticipate the chemical effect of the adhesive used on the reflective layer, and the manufacturing process was not perfect. The Japanese imprints were probably better than the American and European ones (Juan’s two oldest CDs still; some of his laser discs have gone kaput). Juan recalls a class action suit in the 80s against Pioneer, inventor of the laser disc. The CD was invented by Philips and Sony. The problem of CD rot was first reported in the west (The Otello CD was made in West Germany. There were two Germanies then).”

For more information: CDs are not forever. If you have any CDs from the 80s, time to check if they still play.

Add to to-do list: Attend the Wagner festival at Bayreuth. You line up for years and years to get tickets.

If wireless fidelity is Wi-Fi, then the infidelity phone is In-Fi.

January 14, 2013 By: jessicazafra Category: Re-lay-shun-ships, Technology 1 Comment →


TOKYO—Over the past few years, as many people rushed to trade in their old phones for smartphones, Japan’s philanderers have remained faithful to one particular brand: Fujitsu Ltd.’s older “F-Series” phones, which feature some attractive stealth privacy features.

The aging flip-phone—nicknamed the “uwaki keitai” or “infidelity phone”—owes its enduring popularity to customers who don’t believe newer smartphones are as discreet at hiding their illicit romances.

Read Japan’s Philanderers Stay Faithful to Their “Infidelity Phones” in WSJ

Here comes your Wi-Fe! If we spot someone with this flip-phone we’ll just assume he’s a cheater.

Gadget shopping for Xmas, without the aggravation

November 16, 2012 By: jessicazafra Category: Technology 2 Comments →

The first true portable computer was the Osborne 1 “luggable”, which weighed about 20 pounds and could fit under the passenger seat of a commercial plane.

Our laptop weighs 3 pounds and is cat-approved.

COMDDAP 2012: From radical technology to gadgets we can’t live without
Philippine Star, 11 Nov 2012

In 1984, a group of computer distributors and resellers joined a privately-organized exhibition of computer equipment in Manila. It was a disappointing experience: not a lot of people came to the show, probably because the organizer was charging an exorbitant fee of 50 pesos “to discourage usyosero”. The participating companies decided that they could put on a much better exhibition themselves. In fact they could form a trade association that would not only do expositions, but also work with IT providers and users, the government, and the private sector to make computers affordable and available to the masses.

Affordability was a big issue at the time. IBM had launched the first personal computer in 1981, setting the industry standard, but equipment prices were prohibitive. A Radio Shack 8-inch hard disk that had all of 5 megabytes of memory cost USD1,500. (5MB was huge because the memory of a regular PC was 16kb.)

Spies, lies and Gmail

November 11, 2012 By: jessicazafra Category: Current Events, Technology 5 Comments →

There was some speculation at Boing Boing over whether this letter to The Ethicist in the New York Times was related to the affair that led to the ouster of CIA chief David Petraeus. The NYT says it isn’t.


My wife is having an affair with a government executive. His role is to manage a project whose progress is seen worldwide as a demonstration of American leadership. (This might seem hyperbolic, but it is not an exaggeration.) I have met with him on several occasions, and he has been gracious. (I doubt if he is aware of my knowledge.) I have watched the affair intensify over the last year, and I have also benefited from his generosity. He is engaged in work that I am passionate about and is absolutely the right person for the job. I strongly feel that exposing the affair will create a major distraction that would adversely impact the success of an important effort. My issue: Should I acknowledge this affair and finally force closure? Should I suffer in silence for the next year or two for a project I feel must succeed? Should I be “true to my heart” and walk away from the entire miserable situation and put the episode behind me? NAME WITHHELD

Read the reply from The Ethicist at NYT Magazine.

Outed by Gmail: CIA Director David Petraeus Resigns Over Extramarital Affair (WSJ)

Meanwhile, NYT’s top emailed article is How to Devise Passwords That Drive Hackers Away.

The letter-writer is
A. Very civilized.
B. A masochist.
C. Something else.

P.S. Petraeus = Peaches.