feeds | grep links > Mobile Cloud, Name Changes and Reputation, Joke Patents at Sun, and More

  • Building a cloud out of smart phones
    Advancing beyond theory, a group of international researchers have cobbled together a proof of concept out of a dozen or so cell phones and a dedicated router. As Technology Review explains, this mobile phone based cloud is capable of driving one fairly typical distributed algorithm, map/reduce. I have to agree with the article that the rational for this, beyond the obvious clever hack value, is a bit lacking, even the possibility of moving computing back towards data, potentially cutting down on message passing. If there is a killer use for the idea, I’m sure someone will find it.
  • danah boyd criticizes Schmidt’s name change idea
    She makes good points on both deflating the implied ease of changing your name and on how reputation is likely to persist through a simple discontinuity such as tweaking the label on all your personal data online. She acknowledges that it is hard to make predictions about how reputation will evolve in practice and how much we may be able to affect it. Mostly she questions what it isn’t we don’t know about Schmidt’s recently expressed opinions both here and on the end of privacy. I like that she gives him the benefit of the doubt, suggesting there might be some puzzle piece we don’t have that could complete a rational synthesis of his opinions.
  • Sun engineers held a contest for goofiest patents
  • Vimeo releases new embeddable HTML5 player
  • Pirate Party strikes hosting deal with Wikileaks
  • All electrical data storage could deliver eight fold improvement in density

Pirate Party MEP Proposes “Internet Bill of Rights”

The idea which you can read more about at TorrentFreak, actually feels rather timely. We’ve seen several countries in Europe adopt access to broadband as a right, so maybe Engstrom and Andersdotter will be able to find broader support in the EU Parliament.

As much as the heart of the proposal may draw from the core principles of The Pirate Party, I am optimistic that some form of this idea could make significant headway. Even if it doesn’t become a law, exactly, it certainly should keep the momentum going on previous work that Engstrom has done along similar lines.

Not surprisingly the draft is being developed in the open so you can take a look and even contribute.

Following Up for the Week Ending 11/8/2009

A Bit Torrent Tracker for CC Licensed Works, Considering Copyright Puzzlers, and More

  • Pirate Party of Canada launches Creative Commons bit torrent tracker

    Saw this on Prof. Geist’s blog, what looks like a pretty clever idea. The party is only serving torrents to CC-BY-NC-SA 3.0 works and includes some pages with more details about included artists, including rotating a new one onto the front page of the tracker each week. No details on how to get your works into the tracker, though.

  • Canadian schools facing stiff retroactive copyright access fees

    Another story from Prof. Geist, this time the culmination of several years of negotiation between educators and the Copyright Board. Despite the surprisingly large fees, this is apparently a much lower rate than originally proposed. It would be easy to ignore the context and suggest schools are being treated unfairly, but these fees are apparently well established and at least some of the educators expect to have to pay them as a matter of course.

  • Research advances in computing with excitons

    According to The Register, the improvements are around the operational temperature of prototype components using a phenomenon that bridges the interaction between optics and electronics.

  • It may be cheaper to skip court than face the RIAA suits

    At Ars, Nate Anderson discusses a couple of cases where the defendants did just that and the default judgement was fair more manageable than the awards in the Thomas and Tenebaum cases. Nate has an update on the post that answered my first question about how settling compares to defaulting, with settling being the cheapest option of all, other than gambling and winning on proving you are innocent.

  • Is it legal to download if you do not upload?

    In this Ars piece, Nate Anderson does an excellent job of parsing through the complaints in the Thomas and Tenenbaum cases. He also considers the state of law and concludes that merely downloading can be argued to violate the reproduction right under the Copyright Act even if a user doesn’t infringe on the distribution right. Well worth the read since he also considers other countries, not just the US.

  • Australian group conflates unlimited bandwidth with piracy

    Via the Net Neutrality Squad list, an IT News AU piece describing a tortured bit of rhetoric by what I am guessing is an industry group. The article does not that AFACT is representing the film industry in a relevant court case, trying to hold an ISP liable for infringing downloads on its network.

Week in Review for 8/23/2009

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  • US tests new censorship circumvention tool
    According to this Ars piece by Cheung, this is a tool based on email and the encryption it usually has available. Sure, there isn’t really a lack of these sorts of tools and the existing ones remain effective, but what can having another hurt?
  • TPB archive available as a torrent
    RWW has the details of what appears to be a torrent based escape capsule. It has a certain elegance, even with the higher legal risk that may ensue from grabbing the file. They are using the very tools that got them into trouble to try to keep the sharing going even if The Pirate Bay doesn’t survive.
  • Many iPhone apps may be phoning home without notice
    RWW has a good discussion of what seems to me to be an analytics library for iPhone applications. The potential for abuse is obvious and with the black box nature of the phone, its platform, and the apps, concerns is understandable, even if some developers do try to act in good faith and transparently.
  • MSNBC acquires hyperlocal news site
    RWW has the few details about this deal, about the only thing we know is MSNB’s intention to keep the site independent. One thing I hadn’t realized is that Every Block’s source code is free software, presumably if MSNBC dilutes the service too far, another entrepreneur can spin up in the space if needed.
  • The WP ends its hyperlocal news experiment
    This NYT Bits piece also surveys the space a bit. I think the telling detail is that the WP tried to drive the Loudoun County focused site entirely with its own staffers. I think a more sustainable model would have been to build out a community of stringers with support, standards, and guidelines.
  • Comcast seeking to become a content provider as well as a carrier
    This is still just a rumor but a dire one if at all credible. This is really the worst outcome of the carriers broadening their interests in the wake of de-regulation or, as with cable, coming up with less regulation to begin with. This is also the bugbear that has been haunting the consumer advocacy side of the network neutrality debate.
  • Twitter threatened with patent lawsuit
    According to Wired, the patent holder, TechRadium, is not a troll but operates in the emergency notification space. Despite precedent and TechRadium seemingly pushing for a moderate solution of simple licensing, my question is whether their claims have validity if it isn’t Twitter focusing in on the overlapping usage, but users pulling the malleable micro messaging system into TechRadium’s stomping grounds.
  • Fabricated DNA may further erode its evidential qualities
    Via Glyn Moody, most worrisome not necessarily because fabrication is cheap or easily undertaken, but because reasonable doubt is often the standard when DNA evidence is involved. The fabricated DNA can be spotted but the test is expensive and may be possible to fool in the future. Really, it emphasizes what I am sure many legal experts are already espousing, that their is no one technique or tool that should trump the entirety of good investigative and forensic practices.
  • Change in EC leadership could be dire for the copyfight
    Via Glyn Moody, not a lot of detail and certainly pending confirmation, not necessarily of the facts, but the key intent. Spain apparently falls very strongly on the side of copyright maximalism.
  • New UK Pirate Party’s core beliefs
    Via Glyn Moody, these are the focused goals of the new UK Pirate Party. Beyond the general tenets common to the Pirate Parties in other countries, I wanted to know if the UK one would crusade against the increasing surveillance in that country. I’d interpret the Right to Privacy as exactly that.
  • Generation gap in privacy
    Nothing terribly startling about this, just a good reminder that this issue is a wrinkle on a repeated one brought about by periodic technological change. And that there is often a lag as those on the new side of the gap make their way into the legislative to better represent how the balance of privacy has changed in a networked world.
  • Is takedown of Obama image infringement or censorship?
    RWW has the details, such as they are. Flickr is not commenting on their reasons for the takedown other than a boiler plate response about infringement. I think it is credible they are doing merely that, though maybe more promptly than they might otherwise given the charged nature of the image.
  • FCC establishes blog to discuss broadband plan
    Lasar has the details and some speculation around the timing at Ars. I think it remains to be seen whether this modernization of the agencies communications with the public will extend beyond the efforts to develop the national broadband plan.
  • Court issued guidelines on revealing anonymous posters
    John Timmer describes a recent case in DC, on Ars, that reveals how complicated anonymous free speech gets when it brushes up against limits on that right, defamation laws. The court, in the absence of precedents, seems to have erred well on the side of protecting anonymity but this is a good reminder that a judge can interpret the facts to go in either direction, regardless of our broader expectations based on the Constitution.
  • Astonishing growth, velocity of Linux development
    Ryan Paul covers a report from the Linux Foundation and does a good job of explaining at least part of the reason for the velocity the report arrives at. He also has highlights of the corporate contributions to the kernel.
  • List of ‘awful’ internet rules released
    This is a list of onerous legislation from an advocacy group that works to protect online communities and e-commerce. Sounds like some of these are pending, so worth taking a look to see if there is anything local action can help foil.
  • Irish ISP to block TPB
    What seems worse, if I am reading this right, is that under this out-of-court agreement with the labels, is the country’s largest and oldest ISP is effectively implementing a three strikes (or less) disconnect regime. Thankfully, they seem to be the only ones playing ball but small solace given their size and status.
  • Handwriting analysis seriously eroded by research into spoofing
    Really just another example where if there exists a strong enough profit motive, someone will figure out a way to game or attack a system. And, as the Slashdot post says, a reminder that researchers need to consider adversarial situations, not just trusting ones.
  • Open source tech used to monitor Afghan elections
    Sounds like a robust and worthwhile project. Highly distributed, acting to aggregate and coordinate action through a widely available technology ibn the area, SMS.
  • Online code editor gains collaboration capabilities
    Ryan Paul covers the details at Ars, most notably that the Mozilla Labs folks actually integrated offerings from Google to make this possible. I think this makes the online editor make a lot more sense, as a means for distributed, real time collaboration.
  • Tim O’Reilly’s work to change government
    I am a big fan of O’Reilly’s work in this area and this RWW piece is an excellent overview not just of what he’s been up to buy how he is going about affecting change.
  • Real ID resurrected as Pass ID
    As this EFF piece points out, despite initially movement against the bad ideas underlying the original legislation, this reformed bill has been hacked to the point where it is set to repeat many of the same mistakes.
  • New algorithm to better deal with network latency
    John Timmer clearly describes the core of this research, which looks like it could vastly speed up network monitoring to the point where it can offset latency problems effectively. It is still early days, for instance it would rely on a very new specification that is not widely implemented yet in network hardware.
  • Working with Ogg Theora and the HTML5 video tag
    This is a very practically oriented guide based on some documentation efforts at the FSF. It helps debunk some of the myths while candidly admitting where the codec still needs work. It also does a good job of listing the gotchas you’ll need to be aware of as you consider using the format.

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Week in Review for 8/16/2009

Quick News Links

  • 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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