Week in Review for 8/16/2009

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  • Are IT’s glory days over?
    This is a far less inflammatory NYT piece than it first appears. Even Siebel on further conversation tries to wave away some of the impact. Randall Stross does a good job of finding enough alternate viewpoints for you to draw your own, imprecise conclusions.
  • Alpha of next Firefox version released
    Some good details from Ars on what the next version will include based on what is available in this first alpha. The point version seems warranted as the focus seems to be on performance and other optimizations rather than large, new features.
  • Tenenbaum lawyers commit to continuing defense against RIAA
    This is a bit of encouraging news reported by Nate Anderson at Ars. Even beyond Nesson’s commitment to keep fighting for Tenenbaum and to seek even wider redress, I think Nate hits on a critical point of this fight. Statutory damages were designed with corporate infringers and commercial pirates in mind. Leveraging them against individuals is hardly fair as Nesson has repeatedly contended.
  • Considering the competitive strategy of Chrome OS vs. Microsoft
    This is a fascinating piece by Zachary at Tech Review. He explores much more than the technical arguments around the Chrome OS. He makes a pretty good argument for the business reasons and historical circumstances that may ultimately lead to Google winning out over Microsoft.
  • Some advertising networks using Flash to foil opt-out
    I’ve talked about the risk of Flash cookies, before. Wired, here, covers a government report that has uncovered some distressing uses that I wish I could say surprised me, but a recent post by Ed Felten on Freedom to Tinker suggested that there are certainly worse things than simple browser cookies. This is at least one thing he meant by that.
  • Flash cookie research prompts an advertising to change policy
    A good follow up from Wired. It suggests that there is definitely room for more privacy tracking work, maybe something similar to StopBadWare, either as a substitute for regulation or to supplement and augment it.
  • Music labels plan to introduce their own music file format
    BBG among others picked up this story. I think this is another case of the industry unhappy with their current revenue streams, trying to invent a new demand. I am doubtful it will succeed, given the ease of acquisition for a single, through legitimate or other channels. I also don’t think high quality album art and similar add ons are enough to make it worth more than the singles as MP3 or other existing audio format files.
  • Beta glimpse of Google’s new search engine
    RWW has some quick side-by-side comparisons. The new engine appears to be some infrastructure improvements in the search engine across the board, from crawling, to speed and quality of results.
  • More on forthcoming improvements to Google’s search
    Wired’s WebMonkey has a few more details, and also weighs in that the developer sandbox version yields faster, better results. Good news for Google with the social services focusing on search and Microsoft still trying to claw their way into the space.
  • A standardized operating system for robots
    I’ve heard this story, before. A couple of robotics kit makers promised a standardized base to which other vendors could make add-ons and peripherals. I don’t think this is a technical problem, I think it is a market problem. Until there is a compelling need for robotics in the home, I don’t think there is the kind of demand needed to drive this sort of open standardization.
  • Lockpicking and the internet
    The meat of this post by Schneier actually locks at the security problems with newer electronic locks but I was more interested by the first half. There he seems to be using online info on locks to make implications about disclosure. If we don’t have access to information on these locks, we can’t know how they will fail and can’t then build good security.
  • UK Pirate Party launched
    The BB story and its link simply report that the party has its infrastructure yp and running and is registered with the appropriate authorities in the UK. I do think it is good further evidence of how copyright issues are seeping into policy discussions in more and more places.
  • Issues the Pirate Party in the UK needs to address
    The Slashdot piece suggests that the part will also focus on surveillance as an issue. I think that is consistent with the platform of other instances of the party. Sadly, I don’t see any real in-depth discussion at the linked story beyond copyright reform.
  • New uTorrent includes network management friendly features
    uTorrent and others have just about always had the ability to throttle transfers which is a good idea when using a potentially limited connection. The new features in the beta, according to the Register, would appear to give users more insight into usage and make the client a better network citizen over all.
  • Two Brits convicted of refusing to decrypt data
    According to the Register, there are few details as this case was made public in a government report. The report doesn’t reveal the defendants names or any other details. They may not have even been defendants in a case originally, merely prosecuted for defying police powers granted by RIPA.
  • Movie industry now wants internet disconnect power
    According to this BB piece, the point of contention is once again judicial review. The movie industry finds it too time consuming and inconvenient. Excuse me? Protecting citizens’ rights and due process is inconvenient? Forget the antiquated business models, this poor grasp of the purpose of the judiciary is far more concerning.
  • Interpreting IBM’s stance on patents
    A nice bit of work by Glyn Moody. No doubt if IBM responds, they’ll continue to muddy the waters, but I think the material Moody has turned up make it clear that IBM wants the perception of being reform friendly but doesn’t want to have to give up its portfolio any time soon.
  • First formally proven operating system kernel
    Formally proven software is difficult given the complexities of real world software. This is a pretty amazing feat for something of the scale of an operating system kernel and immediately useful where reliability is the utmost priority, like safety systems.
  • New campaign for photographers’ rights
    Details and a link at BB. Seems like a long overdue effort. I like the bust card, a good way to help educate folks on the ground and ensure they have the info to hand they need to protect themselves as needed.
  • EFF criticizes Burning Man for limiting attendees fair use rights
    As the EFF notes, BMO’s motives may have be praise worthy but this sort of co-opting of people’s rights is never a good idea. The unintended consequences constitute to large a risk for the tactic to be worth trying.
  • Burning Man responds to EFF’s criticism
    BB has an extensive quote here with which I am sympathetic. The goals aren’t really the question, just the means. There has to be a better way to accomplish what the organizers want without resorting to this tactic.
  • Mozilla project to allow non-coders to help with Firefox development
    RWW has the details of a program announced earlier. The idea in a nutshell is to perform distributed usability testing, an ambitious plan that could really kick start the user facing developments in future versions of Firefox.
  • Sony adopts the ePub format, but with DRM
    RWW confirms what was unclear in some other coverage, that Sony is supporting a DRM wrapper around ePub, something which the format allows. It leaves me feeling a bit ambiguous as I like seeing further adoption of this otherwise open format but the fact that it can be so easily locked up bothers me. It makes me question whether ePub can in fact do what MP3 did as a de facto standard in pressuring Apple to drop DRM for their music offering.
  • Google Books adds CC license option
    This is indeed good news, straight from the CC blog itself. While it is preserving authors’ choice, though, the license is not a searchable option which means that if you don’t know what you are looking for, just doing a broader subject search, you’re still likely to get a mixed bag of copyrighted and open content.
  • Creating an AI to explore the nature of evil
    According to this SciAm article, this is a bit less practical than I was expecting. It seems more like a philosophical exercise rather than one with any sort of applications in cognitive psychology or robotics. The model doesn’t seem terrifically detailed, either, though I supposed that is understandable given how hesitant researchers are with examining even less squeamish aspects of the human psyche.
  • Firefox extension to frees court documents locked behind paywall
    The pertinent details are quoted in the BB post. The idea is to crowd source the micro payments to get a single copy of a previously protected document and then share that one copy forward to everyone else using the extension or the database that drives it. Shame we need this bit of hacktivism but very clever nonetheless.
  • Ubuntu removes controversial, experimental search extension
    Via Groklaw, no real explanation in the launchpad ticket to which the link points as to why. Top be fair, the extension was always described by Canonical as an experiment, so this could be a legitimate move as much as a result of pressure from public outcry.

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