I got a notice from Lycos today (remember them?,) stating that Wired.com has been sold to the physical publisher of the magazine. This could be good news, or it could be bad. The last I had heard, Lycos fired virtually every person writing for Wired other than maybe two or three people, and virtually everything on the website is written by freelance contributors now. The content frequency declined severely, and really has taken a back burner in the tech world. Wired has gotten in the habit of reprinting the print articles on the website fairly quickly after the magazine has gone out, which I'm sure will now stop entirely because it hurts sales of the magazine.
“We are pleased to announce that Lycos, Inc. has sold the Wired.com website and related assets to CondeNet Inc., the online division of CondeNast, publisher of Wired magazine.
CondeNet is a premier creator and developer of upscale lifestyle brands online and the home of Epicurious.com, Style.com, Concierge.com and Men.Style.com. Because of this purchase, it is now also the home of Wired News (Wired.com), one of the largest technology news sites and the online home of Wired magazine. With this purchase, the editorial staffs of Wired News and Wired magazine are together again after eight years apart.”
I've always been a big fan of Wired over the years. There is a long article they did on the current state of cold fusion a while back that was an eye opener, if not simply because everyone else in the tech media has forgotten about the subject. But more so, it was very well written and informative. Here are a few of my recent favorites, I suggest you get them while you can.
Crashing the Wiretapper's Ball In the conference rooms, salesmen pitched their solutions for "lawful interception." In attendance were the generally responsible representatives of North American and Western European government and law enforcement, but also numerous representatives of naked state control in the Middle East, Asia and Africa. The phrase "lawful interception" might have meaning in the United States, Canada and Europe, but this was the ISS world conference, after all, with attendees from more than 30 countries. [...] "You really need to educate yourself," he insisted. "Do you think this stuff doesn't happen in the West? Let me tell you something. I sell this equipment all over the world, especially in the Middle East. I deal with buyers from Qatar, and I get more concern about proper legal procedure from them than I get in the USA." [...] "You're not listening," he said. "The NSA is using this stuff. The DEA, the Secret Service, the CIA. Are you kidding me? They don't answer to you. They do whatever the hell they want with it. Are you really that naïve? Now leave these guys alone; they make a product, that's all. It's nothing to them what happens afterward. You really need to educate yourself." [...] The best conversation I had was with Robert van Bosbeek of the Dutch National Police. I asked him if he was tempted to buy anything. "Not really," he said with a laugh. "But it's always good to see what's on offer. Basically, we're three or four years ahead of all this." He said that in the Netherlands, communications intercept capabilities are advanced and well established, and yet, in practice, less problematic than in many other countries. "Our legal system is more transparent," he said, "so we can do what we need to do without controversy. Transparency makes law enforcement easier, not more difficult."
Soderbergh: Burn, Hollywood, Burn Soderbergh cited a litany of Hollywood problems: the obscene compensation of A-list talent (top stars routinely receive packages worth $25 million) and a revenue-sharing system that he described as unfair to theaters.
What If Cold Fusion Is Real? I follow Oppenheimer Road out of the modern town center, which is quintessentially Suburban USA, till I come to Trinity Drive, leading to a steel bridge spanning a canyon between two long, narrow mesas. An ominous notice warns that I'm entering government property, where "All Signs, Security Personnel, and Law Enforcement Officers Must Be Obeyed." Ten-foot chain-link fences topped with barbed wire are ornamented with dozens of yellow No Trespassing signs. Behind the fences, box-shaped concrete buildings dating back to the 1950s have had their windows blocked with sheets of stainless steel. The place looks like a low-budget military prison.
At the badge office, I'm told that no paperwork has been issued for me, although an official decides that it can be generated if the man I've come to see, Tom Claytor, gives authorization. Then Claytor arrives, and he doesn't want to do it. "I can't show you the lab," he tells me, escorting me to the parking lot. "It could create - some problems." [...] Initially, he was a skeptic. "We ran some experiments," he says, "and didn't get any results. Then we got some results three months later, but we didn't believe the results. Then we replicated them, and I realized there was something here. I think we spent about $300,000, mostly on labor - not a lot by Los Alamos standards." [...] Like other researchers, he was plagued by inconsistent palladium samples; so he used facilities at Los Alamos to refine his own, adding various small impurities. "This was our last large experimental thrust. We learned that certain palladium alloys would work part of the time, and the one that worked best was most complicated, with four different constituents. Also, we found that only very small fractions of the palladium seem active. Whenever we see a little dot where palladium evaporates off the sample, we get positive results. These dots are probably about 50 to 70 microns, they evaporate leaving a hole of 120 microns, and that's where it stops." He looks away thoughtfully. "If you could make the whole plate active, it would be very interesting."
"Very interesting," indeed. The effect might be multiplied by a factor of 10,000 or more.
The Electric Kool-Aid Bandwidth Test Inventor William "Luke" Stewart is a genuine national treasure, the kind of person who comes along once, maybe twice, in a century. How do I know? Well, I heard it from business executives, congressmembers, academics, military leaders, journalists. These people met Luke Stewart, sized him up, and concluded that his scientific intellect was virtually unparalleled. His ideas, they said, could alter not only the future of the Internet but the fate of humanity itself.
But sometimes you have to go straight to the source. The real reason I know that Luke Stewart is a national treasure - and, I suspect, the reason that all those other people did, too - is that he told me so himself. [...] Media Fusion promised to deliver, within two years, bandwidth at speeds thousands of times faster than what's possible with fiber. Stewart was company chair, while the board of directors included government heavyweights such as former Speaker of the House Robert Livingston; Terry McAullife, a leading Democratic fund-raiser and close friend of then-President Clinton; and Admiral James Carey, former chair of the Federal Maritime Commission. The firm's Web site declared that the ASCM technology would "impact every facet of our life," and the computing power of the network would be "exponentially more powerful than any supercomputer to date." [...] I called a Fortune 100 company executive who I'd heard had taken a look at Media Fusion's technology. At first mention of the company's name, he cut me off.
"Media Fusion is a quagmire," he said. "I don't want to wade into it." The technology, he told me, was "beyond science fiction."
When I tried to get him to elaborate on the record, he balked. "I never spoke with you," he said. If I ever told anyone about our conversation, he would deny it. "They have significant government figures on their board. These people have men who would die for them." [...] For that price, anyone with electricity running into their homes would have access to an almost unimaginable amount of bandwidth. Where available, a typical DSL line or cable modem can provide speeds up to about 8 Mbps. Even the fiber-optic trunk lines that move the data around the country do so at only up to 10 Gbps. Media Fusion was talking about a network that operated at exobits - more than 1 billion gigabits - per second. That would translate, the company said, into 2 Gbits right in your home: more bandwidth than you'd ever know what to do with. In a flash of Stewart's genius, Media Fusion had apparently solved the last-mile problem once and for all. [...] Stewart intended to use a public demonstration to prove the technology worked - the same game plan he would later adopt to plug Media Fusion - and met with several top cardiologists and radiologists. "Everything he talked about seemed really neat," remembers Eric Hoffman, a professor of radiology at the University of Iowa. "It was vague and far-out enough that neither I nor my computer experts could figure out if it was real. At the same time, we couldn't say it wasn't real. When we tried to say, 'Let's go ahead with this, let's get some money in this,' we never heard from him again."
Symbolics, a hardware manufacturer that shipped Stewart more than $500,000 in workstations, found him similarly elusive. According to court documents from a breach-of-contract suit filed by Symbolics against Claritek in 1990, Stewart simply disappeared when the company tried to collect its money or its equipment. "Claritek is and at all times was a sham," one filing reads, "and was used by defendant Stewart as a device to avoid individual liability for the purpose of substituting a financially insolvent corporation in his place." [...] "The whole idea is basically preposterous," said Robert Park, physicist and author of Voodoo Science: The Road From Foolishness to Fraud. "There were a bunch of warning lights. Probably the most significant is, it had absolutely no way of getting the signal through transformers. It doesn't work that simply, and in fact, there is absolutely no way to send the magnetic field, and not the electric field." [...] As the company began to collapse, its champions in the government quickly ran for the exits. Terry McAullife left the board sometime in the summer of 2000. Now chair of the Democratic National Committee, he didn't answer repeated requests to comment for this story. Neither did Representative Tauzin, who had lauded the company's potential impact a year before. Admiral Carey says he left in September, although his signature appears on Media Fusion PAC documents through December. Bob Livingston said only that "I was on the board; I did not have anything to do with day-to-day operations. And when, a few months ago, I saw things that I didn't like, I got off."
You just don't get this kind of reporting anyplace else. Sure, the NY Times breaks big news, and writes very fine pieces, but not 11-page pieces that dig beneath the surface for the answers that elude us after the shine from media spin wears off. These were all very important subjects, and Wired did us all a great service. It's a shame it's all over now.
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