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The DC Metro Crash: "When complicated shit fails, make it more complicated, and then it fails."

Because we rely on it, expecting it to work because it's complicated and really reliable. Until it fails. Metro Crash May Exemplify Paradox of Human-Machine Interaction - washingtonpost.com
Metro officials have already begun a review of the automated control systems on the stretch of track where the crash occurred and have found "anomalies." While such measures are essential, Lee said, making automated systems safer leads to a paradox at the heart of all human-machine interactions: "The better you make the automation, the more difficult it is to guard against these catastrophic failures in the future, because the automation becomes more and more powerful, and you rely on it more and more." Automated systems are often designed to relieve humans of tasks that are repetitive. When such algorithms become sophisticated, however, humans start to relate to them as if they were fellow human beings. The autopilot on a plane, the cruise control on a car and automated speed-control systems in mass transit are conveniences. But without exception, they can become crutches. The more reliable the system, the more likely it is that humans in charge will "switch off" and lose their concentration, and the greater the likelihood that a confluence of unexpected factors that stymie the algorithm will produce catastrophe.

June 29, 2009

Pirate Bay launches their own version of YouTube

The Escapist : News : The Pirate Bay Take on YouTube
In a move that is as provocative as it is baffling, The Pirate Bay is starting its own video hosting site. As you may have heard, the Pirate Bay guys are at something of a loose end and so to fill the time, they've flicked the switch on their announced video streaming service, The Video Bay, from 'closed beta' to 'open beta'. The service was announced two years ago, and a spokesperson for the site said that it would have 'no censorship' and that unlike YouTube, would not act as 'moral police'. But after the announcement, it all went pretty quiet. That is until the Open Video Conference in New York City earlier this month where Pirate Bay creator Peter Sunde announced this new phase of the service to the assembled crowd. "This site will be an experimental playground and as such subjected to both live and drunk encoding, so please don't bug us too much if the site isn't working properly," he said.

June 28, 2009

An iTunes for comics?

Comic Book Resources > CBR News: HeroesCon: Longbox Digital Comics
Rantz Hoseley, the editor behind Image's “Comic Book Tattoo” anthology of comics inspired by Tori Amos, introduced his latest endeavor at Heroes Con this weekend. Longbox, a digital comics platform similar to iTunes, is expected to launch later this year as a free download for Mac, PC, and Linux. Developed by Quicksilver Software, Longbox comics can be download for a suggested price point of $.99 per issue, with the potential for block and subscription pricing. The first two publishers confirmed for Longbox are Top Cow and BOOM! Studios. CBR News caught up with Hoseley to discuss the details of Longbox and its potential impact.

“Everyone's been talking now for half a decade about the holy grail of digital comics, and how do you solve that problem: How do you make something that everyone gets on board with?” Hoseley told CBR. “And rather than just kind of jump into it willy-nilly, we've done a lot of research and actual development on the platform prior to even discussing it with any publishers.”

In an effort to make the Longbox platform appealing to publishers, the software toolset used for creating the secure digital files integrates with publishers' existing production process, plugging in to Adobe InDesign and Quark to add an “Export as Longbox”-type menu option. “The problem with a lot of digital comic solutions is that they require per-comic either adaptation or alteration in converting print comics to digital, in order to customize it to the platform. That immediately incurs an overhead cost that the publisher has to recoup they're even at a break-even point,” Hoseley explained. “Depending on what that cost is, immediately that's a negative for the publisher, especially when monthly sales are dropping, cover prices are going up and distribution costs are going up. The last thing they want is another expense on something that isn't proven. One of our keys is having a toolset that works as a natural extension of their existing production path so that it doesn't take additional production time or effort to simply create a secure digital version of the print comic that they're already producing as part of their ongoing publishing line.”