Five Years Ago
It seems like there were a lot of shifting opinions this week in 2009. Media analysts began to realize that charging for online news was almost surely a losing proposition; Gartner was finally realizing that social networking at work isn't so bad; despite an anti-piracy "education" campaign, people in Sweden were becoming less and less concerned about file sharing — and, indeed, talk about the "death of file sharing" at the time was clearly exaggerated, while several musicians were beginning to realize that it's not as evil as they thought. And Europeans were being a bit confusing, supporting the idea of digitizing books as long as Google wasn't the one in charge.
Of course, we also saw plenty of the usual: Monster Energy Drink started bullying a beverage review website and a harmless actor. The Sex Pistols were also getting in on the trademark game. Hollywood was trying to contractually stop stars from connecting with fans, copyright holders were targeting university copy shops, PRS went after a shop assistant for singing at work, and the Wall Street Journal's managing editor called those of us who believe in free content neanderthals.
We were also in the middle of the Shepard Fairey/Associated Press dust-up, with Fairey foolishly destroying evidence and sacrificing good will — though we also wondered whether you could really trust the AP's coverage of the lawsuit.
Ten Years Ago
Remember that time in 2006 when the internet collapsed under its own weight and died an ignominious death? No? Well, in 2004, that's what one researcher was predicting. Not all the predictions ten years ago were bad though: people were cluing in to the future of device convergence and the need to ease up on brand management (I don't think Monster Energy got that message).
In the world of television, there were a few things going on. Work began on getting mobile HDTV ready to launch even though nobody seemed interested in mobile TV at standard definition; there was lots of chatter about devices that let you shut down any TV nearby by cycling through remote control codes; HBO was locking down the ability to copy programs, with flagrant disregard for fair use; and one man's TV caused a bizarre stir by broadcasting an international distress signal for some reason.
Today, it's almost impossible to imagine Christmas shopping without the internet — but in 2004, people were still wondering whether e-commerce could thrive without extreme holiday promotions. Publishers, meanwhile, were still worried about BugMeNot, and lots of people were worried about cyberbullying. One European Commission lawyer was not even a little bit worried about using his fax machine properly, and that cost 100 million euros when he put a document in upside-down and sent the court 100 blank pages.
Fifteen Years Ago
It's a shame that so many links from 1999 are now broken. Fifteen years ago, we pointed to an article by Tim Berners-Lee on the future of the web — but sadly, the link now just puts you on the MSNBC home page. I haven't been able to track down the exact article, but I suspect it was related to his book Weaving The Web, released the same year.
Two years ago, Encyclopaedia Britannica stopped publishing in print — but back in 1999 it had just launched its website, only to see it knocked out by high traffic. Technical difficulties also plagued the online chess match between Kasparov and the world.
Amazon's one-click purchase patent is among the most infamous "bad web patents", and this week in 1999 the company sued Barnes & Noble over it. A less high-profile web battle also broke out, with funeral directors fighting against online casket sellers. And a bunch of software companies discovered that nobody cared about their No Piracy Day.
Today it's assumed that basically everyone has a working knowledge of the internet — but in 1999, companies were just realizing that "internet experience" is an important qualification for a CEO. A lot of companies were also planning millennium parties, since they wanted their employees around in case Y2K really turned out to be a disaster. And the state of Massachusetts was trying to brand itself the ".commonwealth" to compete with Silicon Valley.
1999 was a post-Playstation world, and a new big console war was brewing. At the time, the X-Box was a "mysterious" tease, the GameCube was still codenamed "Dolphin", the PS2 was gearing up for release in Japan, and the Sega Dreamcast was still considered a serious contender.
153 Years Ago
October 21st, 1861 was a landmark day in the history of telecommunication: the First Transcontinental Telegraph was completed, connecting the small existing networks on the east and west coasts, and ushering out the Pony Express (which shut down two days later). The overland line would play a major role in America for the next eight years before being replaced by a new set of lines running along the Transcontinental Railroad route.
?Our laws and police powers need to be strengthened in the area of surveillance, detention and arrest,? the Prime Minister told the House of Commons. ?They need to be much strengthened. I assure members that work which is already under way will be expedited.?So, not only will they expand the police and surveillance state, but they'll do it in an "expedited" fashion as a kneejerk response to one guy shooting up the Parliament. That seems like a recipe for bad decision making and the erosion of the rights of the public.
There is frustration in government, and among law enforcement agencies, that the authorities can?t detain or arrest people who express sympathy for atrocities committed overseas and who may pose a threat to public safety, one Conservative MP said. ?Do we need new offences? If so which??Down here in the US, at least it's not the President saying this kind of crap, just well-known terrorist appeaser Rep. Peter King who has declared that the Ottawa shootings mean that the US needs to start spying on all the Muslims to find out which ones are radicalized. I wonder how King would react to someone saying that, based on that, we should also spy on "all the Irish to find out which ones are radicalized." Or, you know, perhaps he wouldn't like that so much, seeing as he has a rather long history supporting Irish terrorists, and such surveillance might turn up something he wouldn't like.
Sources suggest the government is likely to bring in new hate speech legislation that would make it illegal to claim terrorist acts are justified online.
Rather, it's because iiNet's executives aren't idiots, and they know exactly what's going on here. It's not about stopping infringement, it's about copyright trolling, which iiNet uses the more polite term for: "speculative invoicing."
We don?t support or condone copyright infringement. In fact, our contract terms require that our customers must not use our service to commit an offence or infringe another person?s rights ? this includes copyright infringement. We also have a policy that applies to people who infringe the law.
It might seem reasonable for a movie studio to ask us for the identity of those they suspect are infringing their copyright. Yet, this would only make sense if the movie studio intended to use this information fairly, including to allow the alleged infringer their day in court, in order to argue their case.
iiNet fully admits that it may eventually lose and have to hand over the names, but that it worries that a broad ruling will "open the floodgates" to further copyright trolling in Australia, and that it believes this will lead to Australians "being intimidated to pay exorbitant amounts in an attempt to avoid improbable litigation." This looks like it should be another iiNet legal case to pay close attention to.
Speculative invoicing, as practiced overseas, commonly involves sending intimidating letters of demand to subscribers seeking significant sums for an alleged infringement. These letters often threaten court action and point to high monetary penalties if sums are not paid.
Our concerns with speculative invoicing by Dallas Buyers Club in Australia include:
- Users might be subject to intimidation by excessive claims for damages, as made by Dallas Buyers Club in other countries.
- Because allegations of copyright infringement are linked to IP addresses, the alleged infringer could be incorrectly identified if details of the account holder were revealed. For example, the relevant IP address could have originated from a person in a shared household, an individual visiting a household which has open WiFi, or a school, or an Internet cafe.
- Because Australian courts have not tested these cases, any threat by rights holders, premised on the outcome of a successful copyright infringement action, would be speculative.
This is a rant. More and more I'm finding myself using mobile devices, often on my iPhone, but also desktop applications in Windows and I'll push a button and find myself, as user, stuck inside your for loop.
Have you felt like this? The application locks up and you're stuck. Maybe it's Outlook saying Not Responding as the Curtain of Patience (tm) comes down, or perhaps it's Facebook on your iPhone updating Contact photos. Regardless, it's a for loop over a thousand or a million, or perhaps just one more data item than the developer tested, and you're stuck. Do you shut down and corrupt the data store? Do you wait? How long DO you wait?
Asynchronous programming can be hard, but the tools and languages support it, my friends.
Please don't block the UI.
Have you seen this? Why does it happen? What are you doing to avoid blocking calls? Perhaps it's a better UX pattern, or perhaps it's Reactive Programming?
Sound off in the comments!
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This is less a case of a company screwing up in supporting users than it is one of a major tech company grabbing more user info than is required and then, when they are caught, trying to write it off with a ?My bad? and a promise to add encryption.From all appearances, the real problem here is... DRM. Adobe's designed a DRM system that requires a server check-in to make it work. This is dumb for a variety of reasons, and also means that when -- inevitably -- the server goes away, those "purchased" works are likely to disappear as well.
That is entirely the wrong response. What they should have said was that they would stop the spying, not that they would make it more difficult for the world to listen in.
Former NSA head Keith Alexander continues to draw the sort of attention he probably hoped he had left behind by resigning his post. His questionable business venture -- a private banking security firm seemingly dependent on patents and methods polished during his tenure at the NSA -- has drawn pointed questions from legislators and a second glance from the internal ethics apparatus of the intelligence agency.
Alexander apparently thought it would be fine for him to use the talents of the NSA's current Chief Technology Officer, Patrick Dowd, for his new private venture. You see, Alexander didn't want the country to lose a bright spy mind, but didn't really want his own IronNet Security firm to go without Dowd's talents either. So he compromised. The country could have Dowd full-time as long as he could spend 20 hours a week securing banks with Chief Keith.
Due to the extra level of scrutiny being directed at everything NSA-related, the agency decided to take another look at the this
unholy unethical alliance. It didn't necessarily not like what it saw, but it wasn't absolutely enthralled with it either. But there will be no official statement forthcoming. Alexander has called the whole thing off.
On Tuesday, Alexander said: "While we understand we did everything right, I think there's still enough issues out there that create problems for Dr. Dowd, for NSA, for my company," that it was best for him to terminate the deal."Everything right" is apparently the equivalent of basically every other current and former intelligence official interviewed stating, "we've never heard of such a thing," and "pretty much a conflict of interest," etc.
The financial disclosure documents, which were released to investigative journalist Jason Leopold and published this month by Vice News, reveal nothing explicitly about why Alexander sold the shares when he did. On Jan. 7, 2008, Alexander sold previously purchased shares in the Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan, a Canadian firm that mines potash, a mineral typically used in fertilizer. The potash market is largely controlled by companies in Canada, as well as in Belarus and Russia. And China was, and is, one of the biggest consumers of the substance, using it to expand the country's agricultural sector and produce higher crop yields.The same day that Alexander moved his Potash Corp. shares, he also divested himself of his holdings in China-based Aluminum Corp., a state-owned entity that is the second-largest producer of aluminum in the world.
"It's a market that's really odd, involving collusion, where companies essentially coordinate on prices and output," said Craig Pirrong, a finance professor and commodities expert at the University of Houston's Bauer College of Business. "Strange things happen in the potash market. It's a closed market. Whenever you have Russians and Chinese being big players, a lot of stuff goes on in the shadows."
In the spring of 2008, shortly after Alexander sold his positions, senior U.S. officials began to speak on the record for the first time about the threat of cyber-espionage posed by Russia and especially China. Public attention to the intelligence threat was higher than it had been in recent memory. The optics of the NSA director owning stock in a company that his own agency believed may have been receiving stolen information from the Chinese government would have been embarrassing, to say the least.Those embarrassing optics have been dulled by the passage of time. Withholding these yearly, mandatory disclosures for "national security" reasons has sheltered Keith Alexander from any embarrassing external questions over the last half-decade of investments.
The only way to do a true apples to apples comparison would be to look at the data for areas with similar conditions, including population size and area, which the Connectivist doesn?t do.Morran notes, sarcastically, that the Connectivist seems to ignore all of this... and then suggests a reason why:
The site simply glosses over the fact that while broadband in the U.S. is improving, it?s still not a world leader in deploying high-speed Internet access to its citizens.
Even though nearly three-quarters of the U.S. has access to what the FCC currently defines as ?broadband,? meaning at least 4Mbps downstream, that?s still not a high enough percentage to get it into the top 10 globally. In fact, that percentage barely puts the U.S. in the 40 of all nations.
Likewise, only 39% of Americans have access to 10 Mbps service, which is what many people now consider the minimum acceptable standard for broadband. That ranks higher, putting the U.S. within the top 15 worldwide, but still pales in comparison to world leaders like Sweden (56%), the Netherlands (52%), and Romania (50%).
Maybe it has something to do with an organization you won?t see mentioned on the Connectivist until you get to its ?About? page, where it just happens to mention that ?The Connectivist is an online magazine created in partnership with the National Cable & Telecommunications Association.?Ah yes, the NCTA, better known as the major trade/lobbying group for the cable industry. The very same NCTA that recently tried to set up a painfully awkward attempt at sounding cool and young to attract younger people to its anti-net neutrality stance -- and when confronted with the fact it was behind that campaign, said, "What led you to the conclusion this is an NCTA effort?" At least this time it's officially buried in the fine print, but really, NCTA, if your argument is so compelling, why is it that you always have to set up fake groups to push it?
The Federal Trade Commission has hired privacy and technology expert Ashkan Soltani to serve as the commission’s chief technology officer. But security experts and former senior U.S. intelligence officials are questioning the FTC’s decision, given Soltani’s very public role as a consultant for The Washington Post, where he co-authored multiple articles based on classified documents stolen from the National Security Agency by former contractor Edward Snowden.The loaded language in the introductory paragraph telegraphs FedScoop's desire to have its predispositions confirmed by the NSA's defenders, even though this move is more of a return to form for Soltani rather than an indication of the FTC's willingness to give the administration the finger by proxy, or whatever it is that Hayden feels is going on here.
His job will be to advise the commission on evolving technology and policy issues, a role similar to one he held previously at the FTC before leaving government to become an independent consultant.Hayden's criticism of Soltani's selection begins with a sentence that shows (and immediately denies) what he'd like to do in the limited time FedScoop has granted him.
“I’m not trying to demonize this fella, but he’s been working through criminally exposed documents and making decisions about making those documents public,” said Michael Hayden, a former NSA director who also served as CIA director from 2006 to 2009.Yes, how dare he do journalism in association with a well-known and (mostly) respected news organization. The FTC has so far refused to comment on its "controversial" selection. The NSA has yet to comment either, although one wonders if anyone outside of FedScoop truly believes the agency actually has anything to comment on here. Neither did the White House, despite FedScoop's endless harassment.
The White House Office of Personnel Management [...] did not respond to FedScoop’s repeated requests for information on the FTC’s ability to hire Soltani given his role in consulting with the Post as it disclosed the Snowden documents.But guess who else has an opinion on this matter -- a hiring so controversial that no one actively employed by the government has felt the slightest urge to comment on? It's our other favorite NSA apologist, and he manages to top Hayden's vague but judgemental statements, as well as somehow managing to have even less of a grasp on the subject matter.
Stewart Baker, a former NSA general counsel, said, while he’s not familiar with the role Soltani would play at the FTC, there are still problems with his appointment. “I don’t think anyone who justified or exploited Snowden’s breach of confidentiality obligations should be trusted to serve in government,” Baker said.But those who aided and abetted the expansion of domestic surveillance programs and betrayed the American public should be "trusted" to "serve" (themselves and their agencies) for years to come. Those who question the government should be kept as far away from the inner workings as possible, at least according to these two NSA defenders. And they base this judgement not on Soltani's upcoming position (which neither seem to know anything about), or actual government policies (which neither cite in defense of their claims), but rather on their feeling that no one who has "betrayed" the Agency (even if to serve the public or the Constitution) should be allowed to serve the public in any capacity.