WIRED Magazine in German: Great tech coverage, but with better beer

On the return trip from my Austrian hiking adventure I stopped over in Munich to partake in some authentic experiences: drink eine Maß Bier in a Biergarten, practice speaking German, and grab the German edition of WIRED.  Ok, the last one might not be on everybody’s list, but it was third on mine.

WIRED.de Cover
Cover of the second issue of WIRED.de

The second edition of WIRED.de is available in German kiosks and it has all the great features of the U.S. WIRED magazine: creative typography, cross-discipline technological articles, and a touch of cyberpunk, but with German seasoning and some unique additions.  The zweite edition weighs in at 138 pages, slightly longer than the latest U.S. edition with a Steve Jobs cover article at 122 pages.  The first edition was released back in September 2011.

WIRED.de has the same great infographics as its U.S. partner. In a hilarious and informative two-page spread (see picture), WIRED compares over 40 religions positions on various sinful activities, like gambling and sex.  Jainism appears the most restrictive and New Age the most liberal… if you’re into that kind of stuff…

WIRED.de infographic on religions positions and sinful activity or how to build your German vocabulary.

A welcome addition was a comic of the fall of Kim Dotcom.  Six pages of sharp illustrations made for an enjoyable mix-up from normal articles, one that I would be happy to see in the U.S. version.  They also had great articles on a bionic eyeball webcam, advertisements for a McLaren and a great feature on the struggle of the open web.

My only complaint is that it appears difficult to obtain in the U.S.!  Kiosk distribution in German-speaking countries seems to be the primary mechanism, but they also have an iPad app (you might have to use the VPN trick to get on the German app store).  I guess I’ll just have to go back to pick up the third issue, although that habit may become expensive over time…

HOPE #9

When one has a serendipitous day off in NYC there are several things one might go see / do.  The views on the top of the Rock and Empire are amazing, visiting the Brooklyn Brewery is fun and eating a Belgian Waffle in Central Park while reading a book purchased from the Strand kiosk is: legen-wait-for-it-dary.  But when I discovered that HOPE#9 was this weekend, I was all in!

Hackers on Planet Earth (HOPE) has been going on since 1994 and largely supported by 2600 Magazine, which I’ve been reading more regularly since it has been published on the Kindle.  This was the first HOPE that I attended, and while I only attended 7 of the 36 possible talks (assuming one can’t be in all three rooms at once, otherwise the number of distinct talks was over 100), I am definitely going to the next HOPE!  Not the “next hope“, that was in 2010, but the next HOPE in 2014…

Not the best view in the room… but it was standing room only in the Crimeware talk.

So, first lets dispel some myths.  Hackers are actually very friendly people.  I hadn’t preregistered, so when I went to buy my passport, a friendly fellow hacker sold me an extra one for a discount.  Then, walking around the mezzanine, where the lock picking labs, soldering station, and hammocks are located, a friendly patron pointed me to the right elevator.  Throughout the conference, people in suits, goth-like clothing t-shirts and flippie-floppies all sat together and listened to a range of topics.  In fact, I think the hacker community is one of the most inclusive groups that’s around.

But, I’m not a hacker anthropologist.  So, I attended the talks below (the links jump to the HOPE#9 abstract).

  1. Smartphone Penetration Testing Framework.  This set the stage for my HOPE experience.  On the stage, Georgia challenged the audience to hack her iPhone and within minutes, her iPhone would only display a picture of a cat.  Her point, that smartphones on your company network are a big risk, was well received.
  2. Technology to Change Society
  3. Lunch.  Two Hawaiian style pieces of Pizza from a nearby slice-shop.
  4. Crimeware Tools and Techniques of 2012: Past, Present, and Future.  The inside look at black-market tools, including automated credit-card shops.  Lets just say, if you jailbreak your phone, you should be really, really sure you know where that binary came from…
  5. Keynote from William Binney.  Think WIRED’s cover story on the NSA’s Utah operation a few months ago.
  6. Hacktivism, Tools, and the Arab Spring.
  7. Destroying Evidence Before It’s Evidence.  Given by an EFF lawyer. You should really know what anticipatory obstruction of justice is (US v. Wolff).
  8. Digital Security in Health Care Institutions.  Or how it’s possible to hack an implanted insulin pump to kill somebody (and why the company hasn’t fixed it yet).
  9. Why Browser Cryptography is Bad and How We Can Make It Great. [On Saturday] Talk on encrypted group chat given by the Crypto Cat founder.
  10. Protecting Your Data from the Cops.  Given by another great EFF lawyer. Among other topics, she discussed the application of the 5th amendment privilege to encryption situations.
Swag from HOPE#9. Yes, that’s a GNU and technically the glass is not from HOPE, it’s from Thinkgeek, but I thought it was apropos…

As you can see, in the short time I had to attend HOPE, it was jam-packed. But the talks go each day until midnight!  I also didn’t get a chance to try the Arduino lab or some of the other interactive demos.  It sounds like HOPE#9 was going as well as the other HOPEs and if that’s the case, you can see me at the next one.  Next time, I’ll try to stay for the entire weekend.

AI Sportswriters brewing coffee 1890s style

This months WIRED magazine, which I insist on receiving by mail, had some great articles.  I also read books made out of paper, so if you are Generation Y or later you may just want to go to WIRED website and read these articles for free.

Anyway, onto my WIRED roundup with: Fewer Voters, Better Elections by Joshua Darvis.  Scrap the one vote per person system and run it like clinical trials where 100,000 people are randomly selected to vote.  This is certainly one way to implement voting reform… Personally, I think it would be interesting to have a different representative system.  Currently, congressional representatives in the U.S. are elected based on a geographical area, with the idea being that particular elected official accurately represents his or her

Almost All the Wired Magazines Ever Published
I don’t consider myself a hoarder, but I do keep my WIREDs.  This is not my collection, but maybe one day…(Photo credit from flickr: outtacontext)

constituents based on location.  But what about if we had representatives based on profession?  I feel that I agree with more software engineers than I do my neighbors.  Passing thought experiments for sure as I doubt any reform is up-and-coming in the voting arena.

In a short product review, apparently the Bodum Bistro 11001 Coffeemaker is the thing to get these days.  Me, I’ve switched to a french press.  Mainly out of necessity since in my current living arrangement, I do not have a counter.  Essentially coffee makers are expensive heating elements.  They look nice, but basically they drip water and then keep it hot.  So, $250 seems a bit steep for me when there are cheaper ways to heat water.  I also use a burr grinder and keep my coffee in a mason jar.  I’m suddenly realizing I’m living in the 1890s, or in Portland.

Lastly, Steven Levy, of Hackers fame, writes of rise of AI in sports reporting in the Rise of the Robot Reporter.  As I learned from my Game AI class last quarter, there is a lot of active research in AI generated narrative (stories).  In the game world, this allows games like Skyrim to have unlimited quests and to be never-ending (story! sorry… couldn’t resist. Where are the actors in that movie now?!).  The idea with the robo-reporter is that for sports stories, which are very data-centric, the AI would generate the post-game article.  Once the AI is aware of the rules of the game, it would then know what plays were pivotal and be able to detect the turning point of the game.  The story would then be written prior to the teams shaking hands.

Narrative generation is not yet human-quality, so there is no near-term fear that robots will take over sports journalist jobs.  However it provides a great starting point for writing the article.  But what I find more interesting is its applicability into video games.  Imagine an online game, I’m thinking a MMORPG type, where battles won and lost are documented by in-game newspapers, written by AIs.  Did you just make the leader board?  You can read a detailed article about it in the Daily Paper.  This could even be provided as paid downloadable content.  Everybody has a newspaper from the day they were born, but how about a copy of paper from Skyrim on that day?

Now, if I could only find a way to get my hands on the new german WIRED. Maybe when I go to Germany in June I’ll have to hunt down a copy…

Why WIRED magazine rocks.

WIRED Magazine rocks.  In an age when magazines seem to be going the way of the dodo, WIRED is alive and well and consistently publishes quality, thorough articles.  I think I’ve  been a subscriber since 2002 or so, and it is the one magazine that I do not throw away.

Their articles cover a spectrum of tech related topics, software, medicine, military, social networking, etc…  In their latest issue, they have an article on Cowclicker, which was a satire on games like Farmville.  In fact it was such a good spoof, that Cowclicker became immensely popular, to the point where the creator didn’t know if it was his best work or his biggest failure.

Another favorite article of mine was about a game challenge themed “Bigger than Jesus: games as religion.”  The winning game creator, an atheist, created a Minecraft like game called Chain World that was meant to be run from an USB.

It had the following commandments (copied from the article):

  1. Run Chain World via one of the included “run_ChainWorld” launchers.
  2. Start a single-player game and pick “Chain World.”
  3. Play until you die exactly once.
    3a. Erecting signs with text is forbidden—your works must speak for themselves.
    3b. Suicide is permissible.
  4. Immediately after dying and respawning, quit to the menu.
  5. Allow the world to save.
  6. Exit the game and wait for your launcher to automatically copy Chain World back to the USB stick.
  7. Pass the USB stick to someone else who expresses interest.
  8. Never discuss what you saw or did in Chain World with anyone.
  9. Never play again.

This USB game has a similar mystery as the Dead Drops project I mentioned a few days ago.  The article continues to show how a religious schism develops among the Chain World disciples on the interpretations of the above rules, which immediately reminded me Life of Brian.

Anyway, get WIRED, you’ll love it.