Researchers have uncovered Android-based malware that disables infected handsets until end users pay a hefty cash payment to settle trumped-up criminal charges involving the viewing of illegal pornography.
To stoke maximum fear, Android-Trojan.Koler.A uses geolocation functions to tailor the warnings to whatever country a victim happens to reside in. The screenshot to the right invoking the FBI, for instance, is the notice that’s displayed on infected phones connecting from a US-based IP address. People in Romania and other countries will see slightly different warnings. The malware prevents users from accessing the home screen of their phones, making it impossible to use most other apps installed on the phone. The normal phone functions in some cases can be restored only when the user pays a “fine” of about $300, using untraceable payment mechanisms such as Paysafecard or uKash.
Here’s how the malware takes over:
“The ransomware’s main component is a browser view that stays on top of all other applications, Bitdefender Senior E-Threat Analyst Bogdan Botezatu wrote in an e-mail. “You can press Home and go to the homescreen, but a timer would bring it back on top in about 5 seconds. I managed to uninstall it manually by swiftly going to applications and dragging the icon on the Uninstall control, but it only works if the application icon is on the first row. Otherwise, one wouldn’t have the necessary time to drag it to the top, where the uninstall control is located.”
Users must first choose to allow out-of-market apps permission to install, and then install a porn “player” which is actually the malware. But it’s certainly easy to imagine scenarios not involving shady porn sites tricking the unwary into having to ransom their own phones.
image via shutterstock / Olena Zaskochenko
MacWorld connected and daisy chained 36 external hard drives to a new Mac Pro. Why? Because they had 36 external hard drives and a Mac Pro — I know I’d do it if I could. More:
While a dozen or so of these drives were bus-powered, most required external power. We plugged 24 power cords into three power strips and plugged each of those strips into a Watts Up power meter. When running a script that copied data from the Mac Pro’s internal PCIe connected flash storage to each of the drives, the combine power draw peaked at a whopping 865 Watts.
The script also tracked the amount of time it took each drive to write 6GB of data. The fastest was OWC’s Mercury Helios, which was able to write at an average of 271 MBps with all other drives running.
That’s an impressive write speed even without competing for CPU time with 35 other drives. 36 others if you count the boot SSD inside the Mac.
My needs are slightly more modest. I picked up a stock six-core Pro a couple weeks ago, with two external drives. The first is a 4TB LaCie d2 Thunderbolt drive for my Time Machine backup. Its only job is to stay out of my way until I mess something up. Or until we get an evacuation order some summer due to wildfires — it’s nice to be able to grab just one drive and then scoot. The second is a 4TB LaCie 2big, also Thunderbolt, in a striped 2TB RAID 0 config.
I dunno how fast that thing is, but I honestly can’t tell a difference between the LaCie RAID and the PCIe SSD boot drive. The new setup is so fast that I’m considering merging my year-by-year Aperture photo libraries into one big-ass 250GB library.
Because like the MacWorld guys — why not?
As Longtime Sharp VodkaPundit Readers™ are aware, I hate Blu-Ray. Love the picture, love the sound, hate what the studios have done to the disks. “Coming Soon” previews you can’t skip, even years after the “new” movies have come and gone. Stupid menus. Ridiculous load times. Anyone with small children knows just how exasperating Blu-Ray can be. So when I still buy physical media, I rip the movies or shows to un-copy-protected M4V files and stick them in my iTunes library.
The problem with ripping is unpredictable file sizes. Some movies just don’t compress well, usually ones with lots of camera movement, or random detail like fog or mist. The first time I tried to rip Aliens, the resulting file was actually bigger than the Blu-Ray. Insane.
But then a few days ago I thought of something. The iTunes Store always has excellent digital copies, virtually indistinguishable from Blu-Ray discs despite having enviably tiny file sizes.
NOTE: I don’t expect the phrase “enviably tiny” to catch on.
How do they do it? I dunno. But I know now how I get the same results.
Find a nice online bitrate calculator like this one. Plug in the movie running length and the file size of the iTunes Store movie — which Apple handily provides. Plug the result into Handbrake under “Average Bitrate,” and then set it to Two-Pass Encoding to make sure those bits are averaged as well as they can be.
I got Aliens — previously a network- and hard drive-hogging 16 gigabyte file — down to 5.49GB. That’s actually a little smaller than the iTunes version, and the picture looks great.
You don’t have to go through all this for every movie or show you rip — but for the ones you just can’t seem to compress, this method is flawless.
image illustration via shutterstock / nikkytok
While the 1970s are known for some terrifying fashions and the human indignity of the Disco Era, the decade (with some assists from the previous generation) also gave us some amazing technological advancements that many of us take for granted today. Here are ten that changed the world:
1. Microwave Ovens
Before the 1970s, our only option for heating up leftover pizza was the conventional oven and we didn’t have the luxury of 4-minute microwave popcorn (gross as it is). Though the “Radarange” was first sold in the United States in 1947, it wasn’t until the ovens became affordable for the average family that “microwaves” became common in American homes (even if they didn’t live up to their promises of delicious layer cakes and scrumptious roasts in 30 minutes). In addition to the high prices, many Americans were afraid of radiation associated with microwave ovens. I remember my dad refusing to purchase what he called a “radar burger” at a concession stand in the early ’70s. In 1971, only 1% of households in the U.S. owned a microwave. By 1986, roughly 25% of households in the U.S. owned a microwave oven, with the number soaring to 90% of American households by 1997.
Flash users, beware:
Adobe on Monday disclosed a new vulnerability in its Flash platform that may allow attackers to remotely take over and control Macs, PCs, and Linux machines and advised users to update their system as quickly as possible.
The bug affects Flash Player 22.214.171.124 and earlier on the Mac, Flash Player 126.96.36.199 and earlier on Windows, and Flash Player 188.8.131.520 and earlier on Linux. Adobe says that attacks exploiting this flaw have been discovered “in the wild,” so users are strongly urged to apply the latest updates sooner than later.
I uninstalled Flash from my desktop and laptop years ago and never looked back. My computers run faster and my browsers crash almost never — down from almost once a day, almost entirely due to Flash. Also, uninstalling Flash removed a major security weakness. There is no good reason to have it on any of your computers, especially with browser plugins available like FlashToHMLT5.
But it gets worse.
A few months ago I “subscribed” to Photoshop, because I thought I needed it again for a little something I was working on. The experience with Adobe’s cloud services was horrible, their front end was an intrusive nightmare, and it would never leave me alone to actually get anything done with it. So I eagerly paid the early cancellation penalty and then used CleanMyMac to make sure I’d removed every little last bit of Adobe from my system.
I remember when Adobe made the software that professionals couldn’t live without. Now they make the crap you can barely tolerate to live with.
Question: Will PC-like upgrade cycles keep iPad sales flat? I can tell you that here at Casa Verde, the answer is an unequivocal Yes.
Four years ago, Melissa and I bought two of the first-generation iPads. I upgraded mine to the original Retina Display model in 2012, because I do a lot of photo editing on the thing. Melissa finally upgraded to the new iPad Air late last year, but only because two of her favorite apps would no longer upgrade on a 2010 model. But that’s not to say we threw the old ones away. Mine is now armored in a very strong Fisher-Price kid case and is one of my three-year-old’s favorite toys. The other is mounted on a fold-away arm under a kitchen cabinet, where it runs our favorite recipe app, Paprika. Our older son has a first-generation iPad mini from 2012 which has taken all the abuse an eight-year-old can dish out, and then some.
Of the five iPads purchased by the Greens over the last four years, all five are still being used. I don’t have any reason to upgrade, since the A5X chip in the 2012 Retina model can still handle anything I throw at it. Melissa got three years out of her iPad 1, which was a slow beast even when new. She should get five years out of her Air. Preston’s mini has essentially the same CPU as my Retina, so he should be good for as long as I am.
So after an initial burst of purchases, we’re covered for a few more years — just like the broader market.
This might be a good time to mention that PC upgrade cycles aren’t what they once were, either. Before I switched to Mac, I’d buy a new top-of-the-line-everything Windows PC about every 30 months. And in between, I’d upgrade pretty much anything upgradeable. But my first iMac lasted more than four years, and is still in service for the kids. My first Mac Pro lasted five years, upgraded just this month to a new Mac Pro I expect will stick around even longer. (Damn fool trashcan-looking thing has no moving parts; it had better last longer!)
Thirty months became four years became five years will become six years? Seven?
I dunno, but if my buying habits are any indication, then the slump in the PC and tablet markets* might be a long-lasting trend.
*Don’t talk to me about explosive growth in Android tablet sales, because those are almost entirely Crackerjack models people don’t actually use for anything, as usage statistics bear out. Even Samsung got caught lying about its Galaxy Tab sales figures.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is proposing long-awaited regulations governing the fast-growing electronic cigarette industry.
The new rules, to be made public Thursday, are expected to regulate e-cigarettes as tobacco products, placing them under the same requirements as cigarettes. That would likely include a ban on the sale to minors.
“That would be a little less stringent than if they were regulated as medicinal products used in smoking cessation,” said Dr. Hilary Tindle, assistant professor of medicine and director of the tobacco treatment service at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
The FDA said the public, the electronic cigarette industry and others will have 75 days to comment on the proposed regulations.
I’ll go ahead and add my comment before the 75-day period even begins.
Back off, bub.
I don’t smoke e-cigarettes, but a close friend of mine used them to quit smoking the real thing after years and years of failed attempts. He’d tried patches, gum, cold turkey, only smoking when his wife was at work — everything.
I’ve thought about buying one, just because I still sometimes miss that feeling of well-being you get from a rush of nicotine with that first cup of coffee in the morning, or right after a big meal. And why not? Nicotine inhaled via vapor isn’t going to give anybody any cancer. The only reason I don’t do it is I’m afraid the busybodies will take them away, leaving me craving a real smoke for the first time in a long time.
That’s not a risk I’m willing to take, not after it took me years of failed attempts to quit, just like my close friend.
But that’s what busybodies do: Restrict pleasure for the sake of restricting pleasure.
We’ve seen to many changes in technology over the last generation or so that some of the greatest innovations from the childhood of a Generation X-er (like me) are completely obsolete today. For example, my nieces have been aware of what “listening to records” is for a long time because I have a record player at my house. But a couple of years ago, when the oldest of the girls, now 9, saw a record outside the sleeve for the first time, she said, “Wow! That’s a big CD!”
It’s fascinating to see kids react to older technology. The Fine Bros., who have created some of the funniest videos anywhere with the React Series on YouTube, have tackled that topic with their latest video, “Kids React To Walkmans.”
Of course the kids’ reactions are priceless. One girl immediately thinks she’s looking at a phone, while another, when she can’t figure out how to use it, exclaims, “I feel so judged right now!” The kids “ooh” and “ah” at the cassettes and laugh at the headphones — “My grandpa has some of these!” To a man – er, to a child – all of them prefer today’s digital technology to the old school cassette player. Then again, who wouldn’t? Check it out for yourself:
Editor’s Note: This article was first published in two parts in September and October of 2013 as “Beating Present Shock: 5 Secrets To Survive 21st Century Technology Overdose“ It is being reprinted as part of a weekend series at PJ Lifestyle collecting and organizing the top 50 best lists.
Do you understand how media works? If not, it might control you. Media theorist Douglas Rushkoff’s last book, Program or Be Programmed, took on this question about media and our comprehension of it. Without a working knowledge of how information systems work, Rushkoff argues, we run the risk of being easily duped. This is a common problem and one that is easily battled with a drive towards media literacy, something I teach my students about in undergraduate mass communication courses. The battle does not end here, however, because even if we have a strong grasp of media systems we are not immune to yet another pitfall.
Just about everyone has come across it, even if you don’t quite know what it is. That feeling you get when you sense there is never enough time and obligations are coming at you from every direction… that’s a piece of it. The good thing is we can fight back and Rushkoff has the tools we need to take control of our lives. In his latest book, Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now, Rushkoff addresses the problem with our “always-on” digital universe. Without a doubt, technology can lead to intellectual and psychological illness, usually in terms of addiction that can ultimately become destructive to every aspect of our life.
When it comes to cases for one’s phones the differences available range widely in both function and style. As one who has developed the, some would say, obnoxious habit of using the cell phone to film the Siberian Husky running around the neighborhood, I prefer phone cases that offer protection.
Thus, I’m not all that impressed with the Mujjo iPhone 5s case that I received last week to review. The black leather case slips on and leaves the phone’s screen exposed. It offers limited protection for liquid or direct hits onto the screen. But I understand that perhaps those living less active lifestyles might not need as much protection and prefer the Mujjo’s beneficial feature, a space on the back to hold a few credit cards or hotel room keys:
This could work as a vacation case but generally I’m more inclined to lean toward protection over fashion. What do you prefer with your phone case? Is there a sturdier choice than the Otterbox?
President Obama’s new initiative is a higher minimum wage, and if he is successful the result will not be higher-paid employees heading off to work every day. Instead their jobs will be filled by an entirely new sort of worker: Robots.
Robots, unlike humans, don’t require pay or sick time or vacations. If they break they’re thrown out and recycled. Robots are expensive, but the threat of a higher minimum wage is now making a robotic worker more cost-effective than hiring a real person.
Across Japan the noodle-making chefs are now made of metal, and when you order a Big Mac at a MacDonald’s in Europe you do it by touch screen. A company called Momentum Machines in southern California has developed a robot that cranks out 400 perfectly-prepared burgers every hour. (Note: Robots do not sneeze. Ever. Think about that for a bit.)
Where is this going? Are we heading for a future where slinky femme fatale robots plot the destruction of mankind while wearing the perfect red dress?
From the Mozilla Blog:
Mozilla prides itself on being held to a different standard and, this past week, we didn’t live up to it. We know why people are hurt and angry, and they are right: it’s because we haven’t stayed true to ourselves.
We didn’t act like you’d expect Mozilla to act. We didn’t move fast enough to engage with people once the controversy started. We’re sorry. We must do better.
Brendan Eich has chosen to step down from his role as CEO. He’s made this decision for Mozilla and our community.
Mozilla believes both in equality and freedom of speech. Equality is necessary for meaningful speech. And you need free speech to fight for equality. Figuring out how to stand for both at the same time can be hard…
…We have employees with a wide diversity of views. Our culture of openness extends to encouraging staff and community to share their beliefs and opinions in public. This is meant to distinguish Mozilla from most organizations and hold us to a higher standard. But this time we failed to listen, to engage, and to be guided by our community.
Apparently, the “wide diversity of views” doesn’t include support for traditional marriage. Eich, who helped found mozilla.org in 1988 and was appointed CEO last month, donated $1000 to California’s Prop 8 marriage ban in 2008. It should be noted until he evolved in 2012, President Obama also supported a ban on gay marriage, so Eich’s support for Prop 8 was not considered extreme, out-of-the mainstream, or bigoted by most Americans at the time he made his contribution.
Even Eich’s blog post vowing to embrace inclusiveness at Mozilla could not save his job:
You will see exemplary behavior from me toward everyone in our community, no matter who they are; and the same toward all those whom we hope will join, and for those who use our products. Mozilla’s inclusive health benefits policies will not regress in any way. And I will not tolerate behavior among community members that violates our Community Participation Guidelines or (for employees) our inclusive and non-discriminatory employment policies.
One commenter on a tech blog expressed the sentiments of many in the mob screaming for Eich’s head on a pike:
When a person progresses from talking about how gays are horrible and moves to working to actively take rights away or make them second class citizens in some legal sense then it ceases to become a freedom of speech issue.
A better way to express this sentiment is to say that free speech ends where the mob says it does. If you like your free speech you can keep it as long as you agree with the Dictators of Acceptable Speech. Allegiance to LGBT rights is quickly becoming a bona fide occupational qualification. It seems we are heading to a place where those with traditional views of marriage (still nearly half of Americans) will be relegated to the proverbial jobs no one else will do.
For now, we still have a First Amendment that (at least on paper) says the government shall make no law abridging free speech, though arguably, laws requiring disclosure of political contributions has that very effect. Going forward, many will be reluctant to support unpopular causes due to a fear of retribution by the de facto Ochlocracy now dictating what constitutes acceptable viewpoints.
One significant consequence of this and other high-tech lynchings is that we now know the marketplace is willing to sacrifice innovators like tech genius Eich on the altar of political correctness. Progress is now defined as agreement with an approved orthodoxy rather than the meritocracy of real, tangible innovation, invention, and technological advancement. That should concern all of us, regardless of our views on marriage or other contentious issues.
Greg Beato looks at the future of the 3d printed economy:
Imagine what will happen when millions of people start using the tools that produced The Liberator to make, copy, swap, barter, buy, and sell all the quotidian stuff with which they furnish their lives. Rest in peace, Bed, Bath & Beyond. Thanks for all the stuff, Foxconn, but we get our gadgets from Pirate Bay and MEGA now.
Once the retail and manufacturing carnage starts to scale, the government carnage will soon follow. How can it not, when only old people pay sales tax, fewer citizens obtain their incomes from traditional easy-to-tax jobs, and large corporate taxpayers start folding like daily newspapers? Without big business, big government can’t function.
It was called “starving the beast” when Ronald Reagan did it with tax cuts. What should we call it when big manufacturing becomes a cottage industry performed on the same scale as knitting a sweater for your cat?
So if you ever wanted to get to the bottom of what’s wrong with kids these days, now you know.
Like all passionate readers, I sometimes feel anxious about the number of books I’ll never be able to read. A single lifetime is just a blip when you consider all the delicious literature out there, waiting to be consumed.
That was the first thing I thought of, after my mild horror subsided, when I heard about the new hyper-speed-reading app Spritz. Spritz promises reading speeds of over 500 words per minute; at its fastest, it can allow users to read the Bible cover to cover in 13 hours.
Why the mild horror? Well, it’s another byproduct of being a passionate reader: I’m torn between the desire to read as many books as possible, and the pleasure of lingering in each one. There’s no lingering in the magic of a scene at 500 words per minute.
This Atlantic article makes a great point that the app’s greatest utility may be sifting through the pages and pages of online articles many people feel socially and professionally obligated to read. If your goal is to be able to say you read it, that’s fine. Maybe eventually we’ll evolve to be able to comprehend at that speed, as well.
The experience of listening to music has changed since I was a child. I’ve survived the 8-track era, as well as the decline and resurgence of vinyl. I had a Walkman so I could take my cassettes anywhere I wanted, and I’ve even had the CD version of the Walkman. The revolution of digital technology allows me to carry my entire collection of music on my iPhone, which is nice, since I don’t have a record player in my office.
For those of you who speak audiophile, it’s reportedly made with zero-feedback circuitry and a digital filter that stops “unnatural pre-ringing”. Memory cards will be available for storing and playing additional collections of music.
PonoMusic is the device’s accompanying desktop-based “media management” system, which allows customers to download and sync music to player. They’ll reportedly offer “the finest quality, highest-resolution digital music from both major labels and prominent independent labels”. Their online store will also offer “PonoMusic recommended earbud and headphone products”.
The press release promises “studio master-quality digital music at the highest audio fidelity possible, bringing to life the true emotion and detail of the music, the way the artist recorded it.” Young himself has written, “Hearing Pono for the first time is like that first blast of daylight when you leave a movie theatre on a sun-filled day.” The players will be available for preorder through Kickstarter on March 12.
The questions remain: will customers go for a completely different music player in the era of Apple dominance? Will users go for the odd triangular design and small touch screen? Will digital music fans switch to the Pono Music store when they’re used to iTunes and Amazon mp3? I have a difficult time believing that anyone outside of hardcore audiophiles will go for the new technology – at least not until the price comes down.
Editor’s Note: This article was first published in February of 2013. It is being reprinted as part of a new weekend series at PJ Lifestyle collecting and organizing the top 50 best lists. Where will this great piece end up on the list? Reader feedback will be factored in when the PJ Lifestyle Top 50 List Collection is completed in a few months…
I may be a blogging pioneer, but I’m not otherwise technically savvy.
I’ve never played a video game or “texted.”
I don’t even own a cell phone.
But along with blogging, one “techy” thing I know a little about is SEO, or search engine optimization.
At least, I did until Google ran their Panda and Penguin algorithm updates , and changed lots of their rules (mostly for the better) to punish folks who’d been trying to game the search-engine system.
And when you think of what’s at stake, it’s easy to understand why some “black hat” SEO “gurus” are always seeking the elusive formula for algorithmic alchemy, to turn search engine results placement into literal gold.
After all, an estimated 90% of Google searchers never visit page two of their results; getting your company’s site into those precious ten “page one” results for a popular and lucrative search phrase like “San Diego real estate” can mean increased business.
As well, dominating that first page when potential employers, spouses, or malicious trolls google your first and last name is a vital part of online reputation management.
I’m not an expert, but I’ve learned a few things about how to own (or at least, easily “rent”) your name on Google’s first-page results.
There’s not much you can do about nasty sites or pages devoted to dissing you unless they are literally slanderous and you can get a lawyer to send the site owner a “take down” notice.
However, you can try to push down embarrassing or nasty stuff by “owning” your page-one Google results.
These tips aren’t “tricks” — everything I’m about to tell you are all “white hat,” non-controversial things you can do to start taking control of your online presence.
TIP: Before you google yourself, ALWAYS sign out of your Google account, clear your browser cache and, if possible, use a program like HideMyIP to choose a different IP address.
Doing all this will more closely replicate what a total stranger will see when they search for you.
Radio Shack will close “underperforming” stores — and lots of them:
The struggling consumer electronics retailer announced Tuesday that it plans to close up to 1,100 underperforming stores in the U.S., or about 26% of its current company-owned stores.
“Over the past few months, we have undertaken a comprehensive review of our portfolio from many angles — location, area demographics, lease life and financial performance — in order to consolidate our store base into fewer locations while maintaining a strong presence in each market,” RadioShack CEO Joseph Magnacca said in a statement. “The result of that review is our plan to close up to 1,100 underperforming stores. We will continue to have a strong, unmatched presence across the U.S. with over 4,000 stores including over 900 dealer franchise locations.”
There is (was?) (soon won’t be?) a Radio Shack in here my tiny bedroom town of Monument, CO. The last time I was in there was about three years ago, when I absolutely had to buy an overpriced audio cable right the heck then. And I didn’t recognize the place as anything like the Radio Shack I used to know. Or as Jim Dalrymple said, “the RadioShack I grew up with lost its soul.”
I was reminded of what happened to The Sharper Image. What was once a place to geek out on really cool, hard-to-find nerd toys became a purveyor of gimmicky plastic crap.
Such a shame.
image via appleinsider.com
I have (if I do say so myself) a rather amusing piece on House of Cards up at the wonderful City Journal magazine. You should read it if for no other reason than to discover what is one of the best conservative outlets anywhere. It begins:
House of Cards, the Netflix series about a lethally unscrupulous Washington politician, is a wonderful show, but it does sometimes stretch the limits of credulity. I have no trouble believing that a Democratic congressman would push a reporter in front of a train, but the idea that anyone in the press would try to expose him for it is flat-out ridiculous. After all, Barack Obama has been pushing reporters under the bus for six years and nobody’s said a word. Ah, well. If the show gives leftist politicos nightmares about being held accountable for their actions by American journalists, they can simply keep repeating, “It’s only a movie, it’s only a movie.”
House of Cards does pose a more realistic threat to leftists, however: their 40-year monopoly on artistic political statements—and their tacit blacklist of anyone who tries to make opposing statements—may finally be coming to an end. House of Cards is not, as left-wing activist Randy Shaw wrote in a blithering and inattentive pieceon Huffington Post, a “Republican fantasy world,” but it is not pure leftist cant, either. And that in itself makes it something of a New Thing on the show-business landscape.
You can experience the wonder of the whole thing here.
I’m sorry, but I’m going to have to disagree with two points from you piece last week, “How Conservatives Can Take Back (Some of) Hollywood for Oscar Time.” First, let’s take a look at where you place the goal posts for conservatives to aim:
But as you run your personal boycott of Hollywood, remember this. Almost everyone else you know — be it family, friends, business associates and, most especially, your children — is not. They are consuming Hollywood entertainment in mammoth gulps. And politics, as the late Andrew Breitbart said repeatedly (and he was far from the only one), is downstream of culture.
You give up Hollywood and you give up the country. Game over. And as we all know, it’s almost over already. Want that? Well, if you do, you can skip the rest of this article.
So… for those of you that are left… now more than ever is the time for conservatives and libertarians to take back at least some of the entertainment industry. Someone recently told me that Hollywood is like one of those football blowouts with a score of 90 for the liberals and 10 for the conservatives. We have to try to make it at least 70-30 (still a blowout, but there’s a glimmer of hope).
70-30? Come on. Settling for a pittance of the country’s entertainment industry is akin to aiming for a passing grade. Conservatives should proclaim bolder objectives with their efforts to enter the entertainment industry: to become billionaires and dominate the entire field through redefining it.
I’ve been studying and blogging on Walt Disney with Chris Queen here at PJ Lifestyle for over a year now to try to understand the secrets of his success. What did Disney do to make his name synonymous with a new art form? He innovated — a principle you as the co-founder of PJM know well. For Disney, his path — which is worth recounting visually since we can easily thanks to YouTube — made the first big splash with synched-sound cartoons in 1928:
Then Flowers and Trees, the first technicolor cartoon, in 1932:
Then Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the first feature-length animated film, in 1937:
And after World War II then leaping to television and theme parks simultaneously, using one to support the other, with the Disneyland TV show in 1954:
Nowadays Disney’s TV and theme park divisions make much more money than the studio films. (BTW, from David P. Goldman, commenting on my Facebook: “Factoid: The market value of Disney Corp is larger than that of the whole Ukrainian stock exchange. So much for Marxists vs. Disney.”)
Conservatives should be looking to the future and to new mediums of entertainment. Humans are not going to amuse themselves by sitting around staring at screens forever. I still believe in the Breitbartian idea that the battle for the culture is more important than the fight over political ideology. Where I’ve changed is in realizing that there’s actually a force more important and powerful to affect and control. Culture is driven by technology. Movable type came before the Gutenberg Bible. Edison’s film camera came before Hollywood. The techniques of animation had to be discovered by Disney and his animators through years of experimenting with Silly Symphony and Mickey Mouse shorts before Snow White could be achieved.
So yeah, politics is downstream of culture. But technology has the power to carve the shape of the river itself.
And conservatives are even more behind when it comes to applying technology to winning elections. J. Christian Adams in the symposium last week spells out how now targeting the broad, mainstream culture isn’t even necessary for winning elections when it’s cheaper to churn out the base rather than work to persuade the undecideds:
Modern elections are all about energy. Energy wins. Period.
The left has developed an election data tool called Catalist. The GOP has no functioning counterpart. This database allows leftist groups, the DNC, and the Obama campaign to activate the far left base in ways that were never before possible.
How do they do it? They collect massive amounts of data about everybody. What you read, what car you drive, what you said in a poll, everything. A consortium of leftist users pump data in, and a consortium of left-wing customers extract data.
The data about Democrat voters allow institutions to flip a switch and ensure a massive base vote.
So what does this have to do with Ted Cruz?
Democrats have realized that modern elections are won or lost by mobilizing the base, period. Remember the treasured independent middle? Bah. Romney won them overwhelmingly but still lost the election.
The left swamped Romney using Catalist. Romney’s counterpart base mobilizer, “Orca,” crashed and burned on election day – literally. While Romney was spending one dollar to win one vote in the middle, Obama (using Catalist data) was spending a dime to get one vote in the base.
So the Romney campaign was doubly damned. They were outgunned technologically. But what were they shot with from all angles? Unrelenting images of Mitt the heartless corporate businessman, a symbol of the decadent 1%, lapped up by cultures and generations raised on the image of the evil executive. As I wrote about in the summer of 2012, “Why This Election Year America Is Carmela Soprano,” today people no longer know how to recognize good and evil in their leaders or entertainment. When Americans celebrate crooks at the movies they’ll surely vote them into office too.
How to counter this? What sorts of stories can get people to understand that evil actually often appears harmless or even noble to try to deceive you? With films of military tough guys fighting wars in lands most Americans can’t even locate on a map? I have another idea, and Sunday night’s Best Picture winner victory speech inspired me.
Think about how often you find a table at a restaurant with everyone looking at their smartphone instead of conversing. Technology certainly has its advantages, but something is clearly wrong with this picture. The concept of identity creates a different perception for everyone. In today’s culture, much of what constitutes a person’s identity may be channeled through social media. The problem is that some people put so much time into their digital profile that their real-world life suffers.
Undergraduate students in my mass communication class this semester have found one way to combat this. They turn going out to eat into a game where all cell phones are stacked at the end of the table. The first person to reach for his phone pays for the meal. Simple enough, but it gets at the heart of a larger concern. Are we struggling to keep our real lives as interesting as our digital ones?
This week, media scholar Douglas Rushkoff, along with PBS, released an excellent documentary called Generation Like. The film details how current teens create online identities and also shows how they are monetized. Some YouTube celebrities like Tyler Oakley have been able to turn social media followers into dollars. Other users remain simply nothing more than super fans content with millions of followers that justify their hours online. Teenagers today are the first generation to grow up with a fully digitalized culture, and we are seeing more signs of that every day in how they define themselves.
Feast your eyes on how Apple hopes you remember its visionary founder, Steve Jobs.
That thing is a scale- model of the winning design, which was selected from among 10,000 entries. Were they all this ugly?
It’s memorable, for whatever that’s worth. It’s also nothing like anything Jobs would have probably approved. He was all about clean design that made intuitive sense. That statue has Cyrillic letters sticking out of the side, because the designer is Serbian. Also, it has a tiny, pitted pinhead. It is basically a disturbing Pez dispenser, but without candy. The full-size 10 to 15 foot version will be built and stand outside Apple HQ in Cupertino, CA, where it will frighten children and impressionable adults for generations to come.
Welcome to the Laser Navy:
The Navy plans to deploy its first laser on a ship later this year, and it intends to test an electromagnetic rail gun prototype aboard a vessel within two years.
For the Navy, it’s not so much about the whiz-bang technology as it is about the economics of such armaments. Both costs pennies on the dollar compared with missiles and smart bombs, and the weapons can be fired continuously, unlike missiles and bombs, which eventually run out.
“It fundamentally changes the way we fight,” said Capt. Mike Ziv, program manager for directed energy and electric weapon systems for the Naval Sea Systems Command.
The Navy’s laser technology has evolved to the point that a prototype to be deployed aboard the USS Ponce this summer can be operated by a single sailor, he said.
The solid-state Laser Weapon System is designed to target what the Navy describes as “asymmetrical threats.” Those include aerial drones, speed boats and swarm boats, all potential threats to warships in the Persian Gulf, where the Ponce, a floating staging base, is set to be deployed.
All that power in the hands of a single sailor. It’s not just a high-tech weapon, but fully deployed lasers and EM guns would reduce the Navy’s logistical needs by… well, by a lot.
Amazing stuff, but I won’t really be happy until Special Forces troops are issued lightsabers.