2015-11-22 The Command Line Podcast

newspapers-444447_1920This is an episode of The Command Line Podcast.

This time, I chat about some recent news stories that caught my attention, including:

You can subscribe to a feed of articles I am reading for more. You can follow my random podcast items on HuffDuffer too.

You can directly download the MP3 or Ogg Vorbis audio files. You can grab additional formats and audio source files from the Internet Archive.

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TCLP 2014-12-13 Interview: Cory Doctorow, “Information Doesn’t Want to be Free”

Information Doesn't Want to be Free: Laws for the Internet Age book coverThis is an episode of The Command Line Podcast.

In this episode, I interview Cory Doctorow about his latest book, “Information Doesn’t Want to be Free: Laws for the Internet Age.” If you are interested in learning more about the topics we discuss and that book covers, you can also check out books by the scholars we mention: Lawrence Lessig, James Boyle and William Patry. I compared Cory’s book to “The Indie Band Survival Guide” the authors of which are friends of the show whom I have also interviewed.

The audiobook version of the book is already available. Check Cory’s site, the free download and electronic editions should be available soon.

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You can grab the flac encoded audio from the Internet Archive.

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Standing Up to Internet Censorship

The EFF is launching a new campaign in the wake of multiple attempts to stem the data from WikiLeaks latest activity. Whatever you think of the content of the cables or the legality and morality of their acquisition, we all should agreed on one point:

Let’s be clear — in the United States, at least, WikiLeaks has a fundamental right to publish truthful political information. And equally important, Internet users have a fundamental right to read that information and voice their opinions about it. We live in a society that values freedom of expression and shuns censorship. Unfortunately, those values are only as strong as the will to support them — a will that seems to be dwindling now in an alarming way.

The announcement and the project page list out some of the recent threats to free speech online. They don’t mention COICA and the domain seizures, which according to recent remarks by the US IP Czar may become even more common, but I think the same principles definitely apply.

EFF is supplying a variety of badges and ribbons you can display on your web site and social media profiles. I certainly endorse this idea because I think it is far more critical to focus in on why media here in the US has failed so miserably to hold those in power accountable that the Internet, like an immune reaction, has fostered sites like WikiLeaks and Cryptome.

Hacktivists Propose P2P DNS System in Response to Seizures

Ernesto at TorrentFreak has some solid technical details on a move by hacktivists concerned by Internet censorship in general and more recently the domain seizures undertaken by US law enforcers. He also points to COICA, a bill here in the US that could make takedowns of a key part of the Internet’s infrastructure much more common. If COICA passes, it is not a stretch to imagine trade pressure akin to ACTA being brought to bear to expand such seizure powers more broadly.

As Ernesto explains, the goal of Dot-P2P isn’t to replace the existing DNS system. Rather it will augment it, handling requests for any domain ending in “.p2p” via a distributed network partly powered by BitTorrent while passing all other requests through for normal name resolution. This reminds me a great deal of Tor’s efforts to provide directory services within its encrypted network to allow sites and surfers to stay within the network rather than potentially exposing their activity via dropping out to plain text DNS.

The project is still quite young but is attracting support, most notably from Peter Sunde, one of the co-founders of the Pirate Bay and currently working on the micro payment system, Flattr.

“For me it’s mostly to scare back. To show that if they try anything, we have weapons of making it harder for them to abuse it. If they then back down, we win,” Peter Sunde told TorrentFreak in a comment.

This is the risk of regulation like COICA, that it may spark an arms race around the technologies it targets. I see a project like Open-P2P best serving this debate by slowing things down, giving everyone pause for thought, to come up with better solutions, focused more on outcomes, than specific technological means.

BitTorrent Based DNS To Counter US Domain Seizures, TorrentFreak

feeds | grep links > Circumventing Chinese Censors on a Kindle, Open Flash Tool Now Closed, Faced Detection for Web Apps, and More

  • Kindle allowing bypass of Chinese censoring firewall
    Slashdot points to an interesting use for the otherwise not very freedom friendly device. Apparently, however the 3G service is provided locally in China, it isn’t being subjected to the same censorship as regular net access. I tend to agree with Professor Kwan’s interpretation, that those in charge of the firewall simply don’t realize the Kindle can be used for anything other than buying and reading books.
  • Adobe temporarily closes their Flex SDK
    According to a conversation with the product manager initiated by The Register, the public source code repository and patch submission for Flex will be closed for a couple of releases. This stems from the fact that while the tool itself, used for creating Flash and AIR apps, is open, the platform is closed. In order to build against the un-released new versions of closed platform components, it is necessary to also close Flex. This demonstrates one considerable risk of working with a set of tools that isn’t all open.
  • Face detection with HTML5 and JavaScript
    Klint Finley at ReadWriteWeb describes a new library that the developer sees as helping with automatically tagging photos online. Even if it doesn’t evolve from face detection to full on recognition, you could easily see how a distributed, in browser trick like this could be effectively coupled with crowd intelligence to allow web applications to offer almost as good identity based tags. I think it is far more interesting to consider how the library might open up compelling, novel interactions with web applications based on a user’s movements and orientation in space. That avenue of thought is less concerning from a privacy perspective, too.
  • Publisher sells DRM-free ebooks to libraries , BoingBoing
  • OpenBSD 4.8 released, Slashdot

Following Up for the Weekn Ending 10/24/2010

feeds | grep links > TV Interview with Captain Crunch, New Report on Circumvention Tools, IP4 Addresses Running Out, and More

feeds | grep links > Remembering Mandelbrot, and More

As I predicted, I was not able to get enough work done on the stories I had bookmarked for tonight’s news show. As busy I as I was volunteering yesterday and grinding on my interviews notes for this week, I still had these links I wanted to share.

  • Remembering Benoit Mandelbrot
    I was incredibly saddened to read news of Mandelbroit’s passing over this weekend. His study of fractals is thoroughly bound up in my own readings on complexity. It’s a topic I find as endlessly fascinating as the ability to infinitely zoom in on the fuzzy forms he characterized without ever hitting a limit to the detail. In this blog post, Rudy Rucker, another icon in my readings on universal gnarl, presents his personal memories on first meeting Mandelbrot. Seems very fitting to me.
  • Google secretly tests autonomous vehicles in real traffic, ReadWriteWeb
  • Offering censorship as a product feature
    From Slashdot, this is concerning for its potential for abuse and the obvious privacy implications. A recent patent grant to Apple for a similar notion in the iPhone, covered by ReadWriteWeb, hints this may become a trend. This is like the problem of hard drives full of copies in junked photocopiers but now with a network connection. An even greater fear for me is that competitors will feel compelled to also offer this feature, worse even possible one-upping the original.

Following Up for the Week Ending 10/3/2010

Internet Censorship Bill Delayed for Now

Not only did the bill get modified in response to public criticism, but EFF is spreading the news that a vote on the bill has been delayed, possibly until the mid-term elections. Better news, of course, would be that the bill is dead but at least there is more time for discussion leading either to that outcome or stripping out all problematic sections of the bill.

Speaking of, I wanted to point you over to the comments on my last post about COICA. Laroquod identified an aspect of the bill I had overlooked. The original draft would have required publishing by the Attorney General of the list of sites to be blocked by DNS registrars and ISPs. In the new draft, the “shall” has been changed to a “may”. As Laroquod notes, in the absence of a hard requirement, the Justice Department is unlikely to share the list. This means that one of the most troubling aspects of the bill, the one that overlaps with outright internet censorship regimes, has been strengthened in amongst the relaxing of constraints on ISPs and registrars.

If you want an indication of the fight that is yet to come, take a look at this troubling post from Mike Masnick at Techdirt indicating the White House is already pursuing a plan B.

That is, while most folks have been focused on COICA, the White House’s Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator (IP Czar) Victoria Espinel has apparently been holding meetings with ISPs, registrars, payment processors and others to get them to agree to voluntarily do what COICA would mandate. While the meeting is carefully focused on stopping websites that sell gray market pharmaceuticals, if registrars start agreeing to censoring websites at the behest of the government, it’s as if we’re halfway to a COICA-style censorship regime already. ICANN, who manages the internet domain name system was asked to attend the meeting, but felt that it “was not appropriate to attend” such a meeting.

Admittedly, the targeting of Espinel’s discussions is gray market online pharmacies, not pirate sites. As Masnick notes though it opens the door for others, like big content, to ask the IP enforcement czar for similar consideration.

Victory: Internet Censorship Bill is Delayed, For Now, EFF