Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Good Hack

Metalab is an open hacker space in Vienna, Austria where people can share ideas and get creative with technology.

The space opened its doors in 2006, a many-roomed basement space not far from Vienna's Rathaus (city hall). Visitors can make use of  an unsecured Wi-Fi connection and an array of technology (3-D printers, laser routers, darkroom and more) to help realize any idea about using technology for greater purpose.

Many of those who come consider themselves to be hackers, anyone who wants to unpack systems and put them back together to work better, says Thomas Lohninger, a Metalab regular.

This Friday Metalab will commemorate the loss of internet freedom fighter Aaron Swartz with a daylong hackathon. "As usual, there are will be open WLAN, whiteboards, flipcharts, projector and soft drinks,” according to the announcement on site.

Every event is organized by members and -- with very rare exceptions -- open to the public, according to Lohninger. The not-for-profit organization that operates Metalab, sees itself solely as an infrastructure provider and exerts little influence over projects and events carried out at the lab.

Some images from my visit to the lab on Feb 14:
3-D Printer

Friday, February 08, 2013

Bringing Dark Money to Account

Illustration by Bill Brown
Think the election season ended on Nov. 6, 2012? Think again.

The shadowy Super PACs and front groups that polluted the airwaves with political ads last year are already raising millions from corporations and billionaires to batter television viewers with a new wave of ads.

Earlier this week, Karl Rove’s Super PAC American Crossroads attacked actress and political activist Ashley Judd, who is contemplating a Senate run in Kentucky. And former Obama campaign hands are lining up dark-money donors to support a public relations push for implementation of health-care reforms.

The thought of having to endure another round of shady and dishonest political ads might make you queasy. But relief could be closer than you think.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Is Free Public WiFi Possible?

Wireless access in a NYC public park. Photo: Timothy Karr
The noisy response to a front-page Washington Post story about an alleged government plan to create free public WiFi networks indicates public enthusiasm for the cheaper Internet access in America.

If only it were so simple.

Americans pay far too much for far too little Internet access by comparison to rates in other developed countries. So it's little surprise that so many would welcome the idea of ubiquitous and affordable wireless Internet access.

But the story drew a different response from insiders and tech reporters who knew that the creation of a "super WiFi" network described in the story is far from reality.

Monday, February 04, 2013

Susan Crawford's Call to Action

The media center at Occupy Wall Street. NYC, 2011.
Photo: Timothy Karr
The Internet is no longer a child. It was conceived by the defense department in the 1960s, nurtured by academics and engineers in the 1970s and adopted by billions of people in the years since.

Susan Crawford's new book, Captive Audience, details a host of challenges for the Internet and its users as this network enters middle age.

Many of its recent growing pains come at the hands of network providers like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon that sell access to the global network.

While these companies don't own the Internet, they often act like they do, and are pursuing polices to wrest control over Internet content away from its many users.