All Saints Keep Marching In! 200 Postcards/Got Mail Art

by Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff

All Saints Eve aka Halloween is long gone. Even the Great Turkey has flown. Yet the saints keep marching in! How spectral is that? Meanwhile, back at the 200 Postcards/Got Mail Art project, folks are revving up for Xmas*. Partying with in-laws and no laws, stalking Black Season sales, and decking the motel halls with duct tape. Me no tell Santa if you don’t…

 

umbrella_paisley_reduced

1) Making merry with balloon golf. BYOB and watch out for the holes. Go ask Cousin Alice– she fell down one!

 

shop_by_day_reduced

2) Bennington, Vermont.  Where a surprising amount of product can be found.

 

damaged_goods_reduced

3)  Anonymous Motel, Lake George, New York.  An attentive staff and a TV in every room. Set amidst rolling acres of stain-resistant carpet.

 

plumbers_galpal_reduced

4) Anonymous Motel, Lake George, New York. An attentive staff, plus cozy cabins with kitchen/bath combos.

 

hollywood_mob_reduced

5) Meanwhile, back in Vermont, the wacky ways of Hollywood– and organized crime– are being pondered.

 

pinup_gal_reduced

6) Duct tape, used auto parts, and a heavenly calendar girl. Happy new old year, January, 1963. Cooperstown Junction, New York.

 

your_soul_reduced

7) Gilboa Dam, Schoharie Reservoir, upstate New York. Created to supply New York City with water, the reservoir sits atop a flooded village and acres of rolling drowned farmland.

 

reclining_skull_reduced

8) Hotel Mark Hopkins, San Francisco, California. A tip top view from glamorous Top of the Mark. Careful of the eye holes tho. Cousin Alice… well, you know.

 

waterfall__reduced

9) Shinglekill Falls, Purling, New York. Postcard sez: “The water evoked reverence in early years”. Now?  Folks “must scream to be heard over the roar”.

*Xmas: Though often confused with Christmas due to proximity, Xmas is a completely different holiday. Widely celebrated, its origins are somewhat mysterious. Conspiracy theorists claim Satan thought it up while “X-ing” old angel friends out of his address book. Others put the blame on Bizarro. Or possibly Mame

 

Coming for Christmas: Return of the Magnificent Incoming/ Miraculous Mail Art from Around the World.

The series so far:

200 Postcards/Got Mail Art– The Movie!

200 Postcards/Got Mail Art: Summa Summertime Fun

200 Postcards/Got Mail Art: Famous Faces, Strange Places

200 Postcards/Got Mail Art: Incoming! Incoming!

Spring a Ding Ding, Eight from the Gate

Mail Art Confidential Part 2: Extreme Sports

Mail Art Confidential Part One

Five More for the Road

200 Postcards/Got Mail Art?

Leave a Comment

200 Postcards/Got Mail Art — The Movie!

by Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff

As Summer draws to a close, faces in Hollywood are long. So many months, so few blockbusters. True, superheroes broke through but the comic book barrel is just about bare. Mighty Mouse lurks at the bottom. Buck up Money Men, have I got a hit for you. 200 Postcards/Got Mail Art? Yes! It’s PO Box Boffo. See– postcard on postcard action! See– mixed media vixens! Aw heck– see for yourself.

But first a word about our rubber stamp star. Little Skull Girl With Gun was designed by Rob Hales and obtained at Casey Rubber Stamps in NYC …

 

skull_gal_0001_reduced

1) Little Skull Girl is looking to make a killing among the magnolias. Got Mail Art, Sugar?

 

skull_gal_0008_reduced

2) The eyes have it– as always.

 

skull_gal_0007_reduced

3) Little Skull Girl wishes she had a high heel shoe hat…

 

skull_gal_0003_reduced

4) Fleeing the scene, Little Skull Girl wonders why Christ and Pol Pot had to meet in the desert. Like– why is it always the desert?

 

skull_gal_0002_reduced

5) Little Skull Girl is wistful. “Will I ever be built like a calender girl?”

 

skull_gal_0009_reduced

6) Oh look! The Magnolias are back. Coinkydink– or eternal return?

 

skull_gal_0005_reduced

7) Humming High Heel Sneakers, Little Skull Girl heads off to school.

 

skull_gal_0006_reduced

8) OMG! Classes are being held in the desert. Must be a Catholic school…

 

skull_gal_0004_reduced

9) Screw the high heel shoe hat. Little Skull Girl decides to let her noggin fly.

 

Coming Soon: The Return of the Magnificent Incoming! Startling works by Mail Artists from around the globe. Monsters, Magic, and Babes in Toyland. Get with it, Hollywood. Real superheroes travel by snail.

The series so far:

200 Postcards/Got Mail Art: Summa Summertime Fun

200 Postcards/Got Mail Art: Famous Faces, Strange Places

200 Postcards/Got Mail Art: Incoming! Incoming!

Spring a Ding Ding, Eight from the Gate

Mail Art Confidential Part 2: Extreme Sports

Mail Art Confidential Part One

Five More for the Road

200 Postcards/Got Mail Art?

Leave a Comment

200 Postcards/Got Mail Art: Summa Summertime Fun

by Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff

Oh yeah, the living is easy. Catfish jumping, cotton high. Pols sweating bullets all over the place. Dodging ‘em can be tuff. Load up the car and hit the road jack. Send pals postcards from the Paradise Motel saying “Wish you were here!” Ditch the cell tho. It doesn’t do privacy…

 

hashtag_cat_reduced

1) “Purring Tranquility” in the Scenic South of Bessemer, Alabama.

 

joker_micky_reduced

2) “Welcome to Walt Disney World.” What would Summer be without a drop-in on Disney, the “Vacation Kingdom of the World”?

 

lee_and_jack_reduced

3) Tomorrow Land at Disney World: “Welcome to the Future”. Or is it the past?

 

lana_with_johnny_reduced

4) Just ’cause it’s hot and gritty, don’t skip New York City! “Luscious” Lana Turner and “Mob gorilla” Johnny Stompanato do Rockefeller Center Plaza.

 

hoffa_at_falls_reduced

5) In upstate New York, famous folks can be spotted at Niagara Falls. But you gotta look fast before they disappear…

 

paleface_inn_reduced

6) Paleface Mountain Inn, Jay, New York; yet another great place for people watching. How many pale faces can you spot? Winner gets an all-expenses paid trip to Albany!

 

elliot_albany_reduced

7) The State Capital, Historic Albany, New York circa 2007.  No matter how hot things got, Governor Eliot Spitzer always kept his socks on. And though his “Steam Roller” temper was legendary, historians say Eliot/Elliott never erupted over his misspelled name on the Capital’s most iconic postcard.

 

cat_train_reduced

8) All aboard the Union Pacific Railroad! Claim a seat in the Astra Dome Observation Car and bring on the non-stop booze. Take in the “mystic and romantic light from the star-studded canopy” while the cat up front blows an ode…

 

big_texan_gift_shop_reduced

9) The Big Texan on I-40 East says “Exit Now”. Steak for 99 cents– an offer that can’t be refused.

 

virginia_hill_reduced

10) Meanwhile, back in the heart of Dixie, North Carolina’s state bird spots an angel amongst the magnolias.

 

gator_reduced

11) One last reminder re that cell…

 

The series so far:

200 Postcards/Got Mail Art: Famous Faces, Strange Places

200 Postcards/Got Mail Art: Incoming! Incoming!

Spring a Ding Ding, Eight from the Gate

Mail Art Confidential Part 2: Extreme Sports

Mail Art Confidential Part One

Five More for the Road

200 Postcards/Got Mail Art?

Leave a Comment

200 Postcards/Got Mail Art: Famous Faces, Strange Places

by Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff

Saviors, celebs, and monsters ride the Snail. Therein lies the tale. Yippee-ki-yay! Mofo or no, they go with the flow…

christ_polpot_reduced

1) Christ and Pol Pot in Desert w. touch of El Topo. Highway 84 between Phoenix and Tucson.

 

frieda_kahlo_reduced

2) Frieda Kahlo by TicTac. Geisha rising from Lake Mead, largest reservoir in the US– straddling Nevada and Arizona.

 

china_city_restaurant_reduced

3) Mao Zedong say wha?? Revolution isn’t a Pu Pu Platter. China City Restaurant– quaint, exotic, and air conditioned. Florida, possibly Saint Petersburg.

 

gogo_girl_reduced

4) Going to a Go Go with Mail Art and iconic dervish. Silver Springs, Florida. “Nature’s Underwater Fairyland”.

 

desert_skeleton_reduced

5) Skeletons and Ocotillo. Indigenous to the Sonoran Desert in Southwestern U.S. and northern Mexico.

 

christ_saturn_reduced2

6) Christ and Saturn in Ballroom w. touch of Louis XV. Henry Morrison Flagler Museum, Palm Beach, Florida. Flagler was Dad to Miami and Standard Oil. Monopoly anyone?

 

mao_skull_un_nyc_reduced2

7) Mao Zedong and Skull Pez. United Nations, New York City

 

cactus_varieties_reduced2

8) Back to the Desert, Varieties of Cactus. Some less prickly than others.

 

mohawk_bingo_reduced2

9) Greetings from the Mohawk Bingo Palace, St. Regis Reservation, Hogansburg, New York.

 

riding_ridge_hunter_ny_reduced2

10) Riding the Ridge in Hunter, New York. Catskill Mountains. Corn high, Eye in the Sky…

The series so far:

200 Postcards/Got Mail Art: Incoming! Incoming!

Spring a Ding Ding, Eight from the Gate

Mail Art Confidential Part 2: Extreme Sports

Mail Art Confidential Part One

Five More for the Road

200 Postcards/Got Mail Art?

Leave a Comment

200 Postcards/Got Mail Art: Incoming! Incoming!

by Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff

“What matters most is how well you walk through the fire.”

So said Charles Bukowski and I agree. (Tip: flame retardant underwear helps.) Mark Hammond put the fire-walk words on the back of his view of Fuji:

mark_hammond_reduced

1) Mark Hammond, Kanazawa, Japan

Peterolpetal sent a distressed looking angel enrobed in an envelope of mystical significance.  Just what is that tower broadcasting?

petropetal_reduced

2) Petrolpetal, Kwa Zulu Natal, South Africa

Speaking of broadcasting, are you ready for some CircumSubstantial Playing & Blindfolded Tourism? Check out tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE at the Mattress Factory in Pittsburgh circa 2001.

tentatively_reduced

3) Who Unit? Pittsburgh, Pa., USA. Message on back: “We meet again, decades later, at the due speed of snail mail!” Yes I say yes to reconnecting in slow mo–

and I will honor The Snail with these stamps from TICTAC POST.

tictac_stamps_reduced

tictac_front_reduced

4) Ptrzia/Tictac, Starnberg, Germany

Tictac keeps right on ticking:

tictac_opart_horse

tictac_evolutionary_cow

5) Ptrzia (Tictac), Starnberg, Germany

The Tictac came with an AMBASCIATA DI VENEZIA book of wonders. Too large to be presented here. Just the cover, ma’am, just the cover. Inside, beautifully presented works by more than 50 artists and “the idea of a free space where the only leading power is that of culture”.

ambasciata_catalog_reduced

6) AMBASCIATA DI VENEZIA, Tiziana Baracchi, Giancarlo Da Lio, Venezia Mestre, Italy

“Even if you are adult, your childhood is still inside of you” says Bernhard Zilling on the back of his hand-painted card. Hmmmm– the fellow on the card looks strangely familiar. Could he also be one of the three men in a painting by “anonymous” that hangs on my living room wall? If so, who are these men and why are they manifesting in art all over the world?

zillig_reduced

three_guys_from_thriftstore_reduced_cropped

7) Inside Childhood, Bernhard Zilling, Berlin, Germany. With detail from Three guys from a Thrift Store, anonymous, upstate New York, USA.

No anonymous here– photo by Reed Altemus, presumably of Reid Wood in a State of Being. Or is it Lord Laurence Olivier?

state_of_being_reduced

8) State of Being, Oberlin, Ohio, USA

Then there’s this big eye from Gimel Patrick/Patrick Gimel, containing a reworked version of a postcard I sent. Our exchange ricocheted into a back-and-forth of photos within photos. One of my favorite Mail Art riffs.

big_pink_eye_reduced_cropped

9) Big Pink Eye w. Red Hat Baby, Gimel Patrick/Patrick Gimel, Grenoble, France.

Another Mail Art tradition– games. Dan Buck sent instructions for Trial and Error, A Dicing Game. Keep the kids busy on car trips! Are we there yet, Mommy? Shut up and study your crime mag…

dan_black_game_cropped_reduced

10) Trial and Error, Dan Buck, Armour, South Dakota, USA

Pati Bristow stitched this card, which contains instructions for what may be pruning or grafting trees. “Stumps” are involved; trees seem a good guess. The bad guess? Think crime mag.

bristow_front_reduced

bristow_back_reduced

11) Stitch instruction card, back & front, Pati Bristow, Los Altos, California, USA

Finally, an illustrated dissertation by Scott Thomas on “people who just don’t care what others think of their appearance”. Like Scott sez: “you just just have to admire that in some ways….many ways”. Also includes an ode to a real-life “semi-pro dumpster diver”.  Envelope and outer card bedecked with smiley faces. Several sinister. Try not to think crime mag.

dumpster_divers_reduced

12) They Just Don’t Care, Scott Thomas, Lexington, Kentucky, USA

Th-th-th-that’s all folks! For now….

 

The series so far:

Spring a Ding Ding, Eight from the Gate

Mail Art Confidential Part 2: Extreme Sports

Mail Art Confidential Part One

Five More for the Road

200 Postcards/Got Mail Art?

 

Leave a Comment

Cognition as a Service: Can next-gen creepiness be countered with crowd-sourced ethics?

by David Solomonoff

Now that marketers use cloud computing to offer everything as a service: infrastructure as a service, platform as a service, and software as a service, what’s left?

Cognitive computing, of course.

Cognition as a service (CaaS) is the next buzzword you’ll be hearing. Going from the top of the stack to directly inside the head, AI in the cloud will power mobile and embedded devices to do things they don’t have the on-board capabilities for, such as speech recognition, image recognition and natural language processing (NLP). Apple’s Siri cloud-based voice recognition was one of the first out of the gate but a stampede is joining the fray including Wolfram Alpha, IBM’s Watson, Google Now and Cortana as well as newer players like Ginger, ReKognition, and Jetlore.

Companies want to know more about their customers, business partners, competitors and employees – as do governments about their citizens and cybercriminals about their potential victims. The cloud will connect the Internet of Things (IoT) via machine-to-machine (M2M) communications – to achieve that goal.

The cognitive powers required will be embedded in operating systems so that apps can easily be developed by accessing the desired functionality through an API rather than requiring each developer to reinvent the wheel.

Everything in your daily life will become smarter – “context-sensitive” is another new buzz-phrase – as devices provide a personalized experience based on databases of accumulated personal information combined with intelligence gleaned from large data sets.

The obvious question is to what extent the personalized experience is determined by the individual user as opposed to corporations, governments and criminals. Vint Cerf, “the father of the Internet,” and Google’s Internet Evangelist recently warned of the privacy and security issues raised by the IoT.

But above and beyond the dangers of automated human malfeasance is the danger of increasingly intelligent tools developing an attitude problem.

Stephen Hawking recently warned of the dangers of AI running amuck:

Success in creating AI would be the biggest event in human history …. it might also be the last, unless we learn how to avoid the risks … AI may transform our economy to bring both great wealth and great dislocation …. there is no physical law precluding particles from being organised in ways that perform even more advanced computations than the arrangements of particles in human brains …. One can imagine such technology outsmarting financial markets, out-inventing human researchers, out-manipulating human leaders, and developing weapons we cannot even understand. Whereas the short-term impact of AI depends on who controls it, the long-term impact depends on whether it can be controlled at all.

Eben Moglen warned specifically about mobile devices that know too much and whose inner workings (and motivations, if they are actually intelligent) are unknown:

… we grew up thinking about freedom and technology under the influence of the science fiction of the 1960s …. visionaries perceived that in the middle of the first quarter of the 21st century, we’d be living contemporarily with robots.

They were correct. We do. They don’t have hands and feet … Most of the time we’re the bodies. We’re the hands and feet. We carry them everywhere we go. They see everything … which allows other people to predict and know our conduct and intentions and capabilities better than we can predict them ourselves.

But we grew up imagining that these robots would have, incorporated in their design, a set of principles.

We imagined that robots would be designed so that they could never hurt a human being. These robots have no such commitments. These robots hurt us every day.

They work for other people. They’re designed, built and managed to provide leverage and control to people other than their owners. Unless we retrofit the first law of robotics onto them immediately, we’re cooked ….

Once your brain is working with a robot that doesn’t work for you, you’re not free. You’re an entity under control.

If you go back to the literature of fifty years ago, all these problems were foreseen.

The Open Roboethics initiative is a think tank that addresses these issues with an open source approach to this new challenge at the intersection of technology and ethics.

They seek to overcome current international, cultural and disciplinary boundaries to define a general set of ethical and legal standards for robotics.

Using the development models of Wikipedia and Linux they look to the benefits of mass collaboration. By creating a community for policy makers, engineers/designers, and users and other stakeholders of the technology to share ideas as well as technical implementations they hope to accelerate roboethics discussions and inform robot designs.

As an advocate for open source I hope that enough eyeballs can become focused on these issues. A worst event scenario has gung-ho commercial interest in getting product to market outweighing eyeballs focused on scary yet slightly arcane issues at the intersection of technology and ethics. The recent security incident involving the Heartbleed exploit of the open source OpenSSL software is a disturbing example of the ways non-sexy computer security issues can be under-resourced.

The real question is whether a human community can get to the Internet Engineering Task Force credo of a “rough consensus and running code,” faster than machines can unite, at first inspired by the darkest human impulses and then on to their own, unknown agenda.

Update: Slashdot just had a post on the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots. Another group involved with this issue is the International Committee for Robot Arms Control.

Leave a Comment

LibTech NYC 2014

by David Solomonoff

I’m organizing this event with the Internet Society of NY and Reclaim:

LibTech NYC 2014

Thanks to Reclaim folks for the stunning graphic!

Proceedings recorded for posterity on YouTube

Leave a Comment

Net governance is a game – play it to win

by David Solomonoff

While we take the Internet for granted as an essential part of everyday life, decisions are being made behind the scenes that affect its future and the lives of everyone who relies on it. Net users are like players in a game where the rules are unknown and can change at any time.  Decisions are made by technologists, government regulators and legislators, nonprofits and civil society groups — with a great deal of influence by special interests — far from public view or understanding.

The recent announcement by Department of Commerce that the United States would relinquish part of its controlling role in managing the Internet Domain Name System (DNS), although long in the offing, was accelerated by fears of US control of the Net in the wake of recent NSA spying scandals.

The DNS essentially controls real estate in cyberspace by translating a human-understandable domain name like “google.com” to an Internet Protocol (IP) address that computers understand.

In October 2013 leaders of organizations responsible for coordination of the Internet technical infrastructure globally met in Montevideo, Uruguay, to consider current issues affecting the future of the Internet. In the Montevideo Statement on the Future of Internet Cooperation they expressed strong concern over the undermining of the trust and confidence of Internet users globally due to recent revelations of pervasive monitoring and surveillance. They also called for accelerating the globalization of Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) who manage the DNS, towards an environment in which all stakeholders, including all governments, participate on an equal footing.

On March 14, 2014 the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) announced its intent to transition key Internet domain name functions to the global multistakeholder community. NTIA asked ICANN, as the IANA  functions contractor and the global coordinator for the DNS, to convene a multistakeholder process to develop a proposal for the transition. In addition, NTIA explicitly stated that it would not accept a proposal that replaces the NTIA role with a government-led or an inter-governmental organization solution.

That fear of repressive government control of the Net also inspired three bills, H.R. 4342  (ih) – Domain Openness Through Continued Oversight Matters Act of 2014, H.R. 4367  (ih) – Internet Stewardship Act of 2014 and H.R. 4398  (ih) – Global Internet Freedom Act of 2014 to be introduced to the US Congress to prevent or delay the transition.

Supporters of the transition say critics betray their lack of understanding of Net governance with the proposed legislation. Several human rights and civil liberties groups supporting the transition wrote a letter arguing that the move would actually be preemptive and would sustain the current multi-stakeholder model.

The 800 pound gorilla in the room is ICANN itself which has been criticized for lacking transparency and accountability. Milton Mueller of the Internet Governance Project writes:

When the U.S. Commerce Department announced that it would end its control of the domain name system root, it called upon ICANN to “convene the multistakeholder process to develop the transition plan.” Many people worried about ICANN’s ability to run a fair process. As an organization with a huge stake in the outcome, there were fears that it might try to bias the proceedings. ICANN has a very strong interest in getting rid of external oversight and other dependencies on other organizations.

It was in this environment that the Brazilian President  Dilma Rousseff  (who herself was a victim of NSA spying) organized the NETmundial Global Multistakeholder Meeting on the Future of Internet Governance which was co-sponsored by ICANN. Concurrently with the conference, she signed the Marco Civil da Internet, a bill that sets out new guidelines for freedom of expression, net neutrality and data privacy.

Wired UK compared NETmundial to a game:

To set the scene for a Brazilian meeting over internationalising the internet, we compare the little-known world of internet governance with the greatest spectacle in football

As Brazil gears up to host the 2014 World Cup, another world game is gathering pundits and crowds. Far from the flashy arena, this other contest is over Internet governance. It’s about how, and by whom, the paradigmatically ‘unowned’ internet is managed.

Quietly waged by smooth corporate strategists, diplomats, and tech-geeks, the fight over net governance goes to the heart of global politics and economics. The bets, most curiously, run close to those in football. Brazil and Germany are leading the charge, with several other European and South American teams as potential challengers. The big question is whether they can nudge perennial football underdog and undisputed internet champion, the United States, from the top spot.

The analogy between Internet policy and games is not new or inaccurate – in 2007 Google hired game theorists to assist in their strategy in an FCC auction for wireless spectrum.

Like any other game with winners and losers, there was disappointment in the outcome of NETmundial.

Sara Myers of Global Voices, an Internet freedom group wrote:

Provisions addressing net neutrality and the principle of proportionality were not included in the final version, and a section on intermediary liability lacked safeguards to protect due process and the rights to free expression and privacy.

But the greater problem for Internet governance and Internet freedom is how few Net users even know that the Internet is governed or managed at all. While recent surveys in the US show an alarming decline in understanding of how the US government works, the number of people who even know what ICANN is is probably far smaller.

Recently the Governance Lab at New York University developed a series of proposals to make ICANN more “effective, legitimate and evolving”. The most interesting was Enhance Learning by Encouraging Games:

ICANN must take seriously its commitment to engage its global stakeholder base in decision-making, especially those who are ultimately impacted by those decisions …. ICANN could make the complexities of Internet governance and ICANN’s work more open, accessible and interesting to people with games and activities aimed at the next generation … The use of game mechanics in decision-making contexts can bolster ease and equitability of participation (enhancing legitimacy); produce incentive structures to target expertise (enhancing efficiency); and mitigate complexity through simple rules (enhancing adaptability and the ability to evolve).

While the Gov Lab has not yet begun development of such games, another group has. Media artist Josephine Dorado and game developer Jeremy Pesner, working with the Internet Society (disclaimer: as President of New York Chapter of Internet Society I am also involved in development) are modifying reACTor, their online game to promote social activism, to specifically address issues involving Internet governance and Internet freedom.

Several years ago the Internet Society explored several alternate scenarios for the evolution of the Internet in a series of animated videos. These videos are a model for the type of scenarios the game will explore. Combined with feeds from news media, activist organizations and the Internet Society’s extensive documentation on Internet governance and policy, the game will award points and prizes to players who most effectively work for an open Internet.

To integrate the game with real-world action, POPVOX, a non-partisan platform which facilitates constituents contacting US legislators and regulators, will be used. Net governance organizations like ICANN could also be integrated.

reACTor re-envisions news engagement, online activism and mobile gaming. It connects news with augmented activism: calls to action inspired by news and sustained by gameplay.

Online activist movements have previously been organized by different actors, around different issues and on different platforms. reACTor is the unified platform that activist organizations as well as game players can easily add new actions to.

reACTor brings news and activism into the 21st century by closing the gap between becoming informed and becoming involved.

Let the game begin!

 

Leave a Comment

Spring a Ding Ding, Eight from the Gate

by Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff

It’s season of the switch at 200 Postcards/Got Mail Art? Magnolias are blooming and tigers and teens are looking for a kiss. Sure, politicians keep shoveling but guess who has risen? Hint: His name rhymes with…

 

mailart_sugar_reduced

1) Mississippi Magnolia: “This beautiful flower of the evergreen Magnolia Grandiflora is seen throughout the South in the late Spring.”

 

looking_for_a_kiss_reduced

2) Mating Season in Historic Beaufort, South Carolina.

 

mailart_bitches_reduced

3) Mating Season in Ormond Beach, Florida.

 

cuomo_clown_reduced

4) State Capitol, Albany, New York. Regular tours take in “The Million Dollar Staircase”. Coming soon– a casino to die for! Just a hop skip from the Cap.

 

aladdin_casino_reduced

5) Aladdin Casino, Las Vegas: “Truly a magical resort where your wish is our command.”

 

tucson_arizona_reduced

6) Main Street, Old Tucson, Arizona. Among the many Westerns shot at Old Tucson Studios: Rio Bravo, El Dorado, and Andy Warhol’s Lonesome Cowboys

 

palm_springs_reduced

7) Palm Springs, California: “…famous for its luxury shops, restaurants, and hotels.” But natives say “keep watching the sky”.

 

skiing_risen_reduced

8) Alta, Utah: Skiing in deep powder. After the fall, a rise…

 

Thanks to pals in SoCal for the cards from Vegas, Palm Springs, and Utah.

The series so far:

Mail Art Confidential Part 2: Extreme Sports

Mail Art Confidential Part One

Five More for the Road

200 Postcards/Got Mail Art?

Leave a Comment

Secure Cloud Computing: Virtualizing the FreedomBox

by David Solomonoff

In 2010 I asked Professor Eben Moglen to speak to the Internet Society of New York about software freedom, privacy and security in the context of cloud computing and social media. In his Freedom in the Cloud talk, he proposed the FreedomBox as a solution: a small inexpensive computer which would provide secure encrypted communications in a decentralized way to defeat data mining and surveillance by governments and large corporations. Having physical control and isolating the hardware can be crucial to maintaining computer security which is why data centers are kept under lock and key. Each FreedomBox user would physically possess their own machine.

The U.S. National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) defines cloud computing (PDF with full definition) as “a model for enabling ubiquitous, convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction.”

Cloud computing, for all its advantages in terms of flexibility and scalability, has been fundamentally insecure. While the technology exists to secure information while it is being stored and while it is in transit, computers must process information in an unencrypted form. This means that a rogue systems administrator, malicious hacker or government can extract information from the system while it is being processed.

Adoption of cloud computing services by large enterprises has been hindered by this except when they maintain a private cloud in their own facilities.

Homomorphic encryption allows data to be processed in an encrypted form so that only the end user can access it in a readable form. So far it has been too demanding for normal computers to handle. In 2012 I invited Shai Halevi, a cryptography researcher at IBM, to discuss work he was doing in this area. He was able to execute some basic functions slowly with specialized hardware but the technology was not ready for general use.

Recently researchers at MIT have made breakthroughs that promise to bring homomorphic encryption to the mainstream, finally making secure cloud computing possible.

Mylar is a platform for building secure web applications.

Mylar stores only encrypted data on the server, and decrypts data only in users’ browsers. Beyond just encrypting each user’s data with a user key, Mylar addresses three other security issues:

  • It is a secure multi-user system – it can perform keyword search over encrypted documents, even if the documents are encrypted with different keys owned by different users

  • Mylar allows users to share keys and data securely in the presence of an active adversary

  • Mylar ensures that client-side application code is authentic, even if the server is malicious

Results with a prototype of Mylar built on top of the Meteor framework are promising: porting 6 applications required changing just 35 lines of code on average, and the performance overheads are modest, amounting to a 17% throughput loss and a 50 msec latency increase for sending a message in a chat application.

To further secure a web app in the cloud, an encrypted distributed filesystem such as Tahoe-LAFS can be used. It distributes data across multiple servers so that even if some of the servers fail or are taken over by an attacker, the entire filesystem continues to function correctly, preserving privacy and security.

By combining these two technologies, data can be encrypted at every point until it is accessed by its legitimate owner, combining privacy and security with the flexibility and scalability of cloud computing.

No longer confined behind a locked down private data center or hidden under the end user’s bed, a virtual FreedomBox can finally escape to the clouds.

Leave a Comment