feeds | grep links > Net Neutrality in the UK, Single Bit Error, Facebook Updating with BitTorrent, and More

  • Ofcom sees no evidence of need for net neutrality regulation
    Matthew Lasar at Ars has the news of this conclusion by the UK’s telecom regulatory body. It is a bit surprising given the fervor over the issue here in the States. The only issues I can recall arising with the usual big ISPs are the concerns over Phorm and behavioral advertising. The silver lining is that Ofcom is willing to concede that just because they see no evidence of discriminatory practices now that it might not be an issue down the line.
  • Single bit RAM error
    Knowing this is theoretically possible is one thing. Reading through this detailed post Slashdot links to is another altogether.
  • Mozilla mimics Google’s native client in pure JavaScript
    This is a brilliant follow by The Register to their discussion with the folks at Mozilla yesterday about the future of their browser, in particular their stance against native code and plugins. The demo in question is a photo editing app that they showed off at Velocity. It ran at about 7 FPS compared to the native code at 15 FPS. It isn’t hard to imagine JavaScript improvements closing that gap within a few releases.
  • Facebook distributing code updates with BitTorrent
    This idea, detailed at Velocity and linked by TorrenFreak, seems so familiar. Of course, with a large cluster of nodes, especially if they are geographically distributed, a P2P protocol makes excellent sense for push updates out. My search fu is failing, if someone else did this before, or Facebook hinted at it prior to this presentation, I cannot find it.
  • Quantum memory storage prototype

feeds | grep links > DoJ Fails to Report Wiretap Orders (Again), Ads with Cloud Printing, Ajax Library Targets Mobile Developers, and More

  • DoJ fails to report wiretaping activities to Congress, again
    Mike Masnick at Techdirt links through to some findings by Julian Sanchez that the Attorney General has failed for a period of some years to provide a report on the number of surveillance orders applied for by law enforcers. This report is meant to allow Congress to exercise proper oversight which has essentially just not happened for large swaths of the past decade. As Masnick goes on to explain, the DoJ has done this twice before, lapsing then dumping multiple years of data onto Congress effectively creating years of operation at a stretch where oversight was impossible.
  • HP experimenting with ad delivering on its cloud based printers
    Via Cory at Boing Boing, this Computerworld article has me very concerned. Automatically printing ads along with print jobs your submit over the net is very different from purely digital ads on web pages and email. A user of one of these printers is paying for consumables, most notably ridiculously over-priced ink. I don’t care if HP says their first test subjects didn’t mind, I have to imagine a majority of folks will be surprised, not sanguine, if not outright angry at the presumption.
  • ExtJS tries to harness developer outrage to fuel its new framework
    The Register has an announcement from the ExtJS folks, a dual license AJAX library, that they are launching a new project to compete with mobile apps by combining their library with a couple of others targeted at programming touch interfaces and vector graphics presumably including animation. I’ve worked with ExtJS in a professional capacity and I am not entirely impressed by this attention getting move. I won’t say the library is bad, it packs a lot of capabilities. However, I will say I don’t think it is any easier to program than the iOS or Android SDKs. If you want to target pure web applications using HTML5 at mobile devices, I am positive there are better options.
  • Inside Australia’s data retention proposal
  • Employee monitoring, when and why IT is expected to spy
    Via Slashdot.
  • More on issues, activism around filming police
  • VPNs not adequate to anonymize BitTorrent users

Following Up for the Week Ending 5/31/2010

Bit Torrent Opens the Sources to uTP, Network Aware Protocol

This story at TorrentFreak by Ernesto is the first one I’ve seen in a while following a trend in which I was, and still am, very much interested. uTP, or micro transfer protocol, is an attempt by Bit Torrent, Inc. to make their swarming data transfer applications better citizens on the network. It is of a kind with Pando and P4P in trying to strike a balance between the demand for serving more data, faster, and not clogging ISPs’ networks in the process.

Reception for uTP, according to Ernesto, has been lack luster. The reason is that many have experienced drops in performance of file transfers, possibly attributable to the additional overhead the newer protocol requires. Opening up the sources is the company’s way of inviting the community to help address these criticisms.

As much as I admire the goal of uTP, the article explains that no ISPs have weighed in on how well it reduces the need for proactive network management. File sharers would like to avoid monitoring and throttling. Achieving that end also has the potential of easing the privacy concerns that arise from certain technologies, like deep packet inspection, often used to identify Bit Torrent traffic. I am a bit at a loss for the lack of at least feedback since almost every debate over network neutrality these days has the ISPs spouting off about reasonable network management. A congestion aware, manageable version of Bit Torrent seems entirely reasonable to me.

Could a BitTorrent Exploit Bypass ISP Monitoring?

The Register has some details about code originating from an exploit originally used to spread malware that potentially could make it difficult to associate BitTorrent traffic to a specific user. With modification, the article suggests this code could allow a client to randomly spoof other network addresses and to generate decoy peers. If this is possible for a legitimate client, I doubt either or both measures will make BitTorrent bullet proof. The techniques could make the cost for enforcing laws like the Digital Economy Act and Hadopi that much more costly.

Ernesto at TorrentFreak bursts this illusion. He clarifies that a user’s real IP address will always be known to the tracker, regardless of how many decoys it spawns. He even spoke with a BitTorrent developer who confirmed that it is unlikely this code will lead to any useful means for foiling network monitoring by ISPs and those charged with enforcing intellectual monopoly online. Worse Ernesto fears, perhaps rightly so, that attempt to use some form of this code may lull users into complacency without affording any actual protection, playing right into big content’s hands.

50K New Lawsuits Against Movie Downloaders

EFF, among others, has the details. 20,000 BitTorrent users are being targeted not by the MPAA but by a group, “U.S. Copyright Group”, representing independent filmmakers. The lawsuits in question are actually John Doe suits based on information collecting with some BitTorrent filtering or monitoring software. 30,000 more users will be targeted over the next several months. All will receive essentially a settlement demand letter that, if not accepted, could lead to further legal action.

As EFF explains, the motivation here is pretty blatant compared to similar past efforts by DirecTV and the RIAA against their respective pirates. U.S. Copyright Group is looking specifically to generate a new revenue stream, not to punish infringement or deter piracy. As Fred von Lohmann says in the post, copyright law has indeed become unhitched from reality in this instance.

To me this suggests another potential target for reform. It is one thing for an intermediary to have a moneyed interest in publication and any subsequent infringement action. But lawyers who had nothing to do with production and distribution?

The revenue here might profit the filmmakers but it will undoubtedly benefit the lawyers prosecuting this scheme, whether the demands are settled or lead to subsequent suits. If we could limit the incentive for lawyers to propagate these settlement rackets, then everyone’s energy could be better focused on the legitimate question of how we reward creators for their efforts and encourage them to create more works.

Twitter to Use BitTorrent to Update Servers

This is actually a pretty clever idea for scaling distribution of data as clusters of servers get larger and larger to meet demand. TorrentFreak has the details.

Twitter’s new project, codenamed ‘Murder’, will not use the bandwidth of Twitter users. Instead, it will transform the site’s servers into a large BitTorrent swarm that will distribute file updates using BitTorrent technology.

Murder is a reference to the group name for crows, a slightly sinister code name that still makes an oblique reference to Twitter’s ubiquitous mascot. What sounds like it started with hacking on an open bit torrent client has turned into a full collaboration with Bit Torrent, Inc. Twitter and Bit Torrent have promised to share Murder’s source code though no date has been set for doing so. In carefully reading the article, Murder hasn’t been deployed yet and is still probably under active development.

OiNK Admin Found Not Guilty

This is very good news indeed. TorrentFreak has an excellent summary of the arguments of both sides, as well as the ruling. Looks like Mike Masnick was right in his thoughts on the lack of contributory liability. This victory is bitter sweet–as I mentioned, one of the threats of ACTA is obligating signing countries to possibly instituted local laws for contributory infringement. So I am glad to see Ellis go free but it is with the fear that it may be one of the last cases in that country to come to such an outcome.

BitTorrent Operator Explains His Views on the Legality of His System

I have seen several posts on TorrentFreak about the trial of Alan Ellis who operated the OiNK BitTorrent tracker. I didn’t really feel it was worth comment on as the toppling of The Pirate Bay has seen big content eagerly pursuing the next largest trackers and so on down the line.

Mike Masnick, though, unpacks the story a little, explaining why it may be worth paying closer attention. First is a compelling quote from well known musician, Trent Reznor, on his use of the tracker. Not surprisingly, it echoes rhetoric we’ve been hearing for some time, that of a market failure by the entertainment industry. Most recently, Lord Lucas in his criticism of the Digital Economy Bill has followed this same thread to accuse labels and studios of bringing the woes they want to solve with three strikes entirely on themselves.

What is more concerning is that according to Masnick, the UK doesn’t have a strong or even any conception of contributory infringement. If he is right, then Ellis’ view on the legality of OiNK may have some validity. That’s the silver lining. Unfortunately, it also is a big red bull’s eye for the ACTA negotiations, to bull doze any local development of such a legal notion with the worst case form.

This is why gatherings like CopyNight are important, about which another longer post is brewing in my brain. It is critical that audience and creators both know the state of current, local law so we can fully gauge the impact on creative expression and exchange threatened by policy laundering efforts like ACTA.

Winer Offers to Help Torrent Sites with Their RSS

I was kind of surprised to read how inconsistently RSS is used across sharing sites. According to TorrentFreak, RSS heavy weight Dave Winer’s offer of help is motivated by helping site operators remain as de-centralized as possible.

I’ll be honest, I am a little confused at how helping to standardize these feeds is going to help with that goal. Or how, as the TorrentFreak article comments, centralized search engines made up for inconsistencies and warts in each site’s RSS.

I have to suppose what is meant is that at a high level, user activity is either to just search for a torrent for media of interest or subscribe to a regular producer of the same. As search has become an increasingly risk laden activity as the index sites have shut themselves down or been shut down, then subscription becomes a more attractive option.

Personally, I don’t see it as directly comparable, although nowhere in Dave’s posts does he suggest as much. He simply remarks on making RSS and BitTorrent work better together, an idea that I have to agree is as appealing still today as when it was first suggested years ago.