January 25, 2014

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Weekend linkings

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The World

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Tech

  • Bruce Kushnick in HuffPo: 2014: The End Game in Telecommunications: The Perfect, Man-Made Storm. A pull-quote: This is a man-made storm to make more money and get rid of regulations. The major incumbent phone companies, which also own the largest wireless companies, and who also, with the cable companies, control most of broadband, Internet and cable services, are working together — a ‘cabal,’ a ‘trust,’ or some might call it — Mob Bell.  
  • Cory Doctorow in BoingBoing: Requirements for DRM in HTML 5 are a secret. It begins, The work at the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) on adding DRM to HTML5 is one of the most disturbing developments in the recent history of technology. The W3C’s mailing lists have been full of controversy about this ever since the decision was announced. Most recently, a thread in the restricted media list asked about the requirements for DRM from the studios — who have pushed for DRM, largely through their partner Netflix — and discoverd that these requirements are secret. It’s hard to overstate how weird this is.  
  • Benoît Felten in Diffraction AnalysisWhite Paper: There’s no economic imperative to reconsider an open Internet. Here’s the SSRN page. Download it there. From the conclusion: …it seems important to stress that solutions to optimize traffic exist and are very affordable; despite what they may sometimes suggest, ISPs are trapped in neither unsolvable technical issues nor unbearable economic situations. The financial importance of traffic management is modest, the model has been working since day one of the Internet and allows all players in the ecosystem to operate at low costs. It would be counter-productive to challenge those mechanisms and therefore break the fragile balance that allows Internet users to access the content they seek in the best conditions without any player in the ecosystem being in a position to decide what they may or may not access. In other words, there is no need for ISPs to seek rents from heavy data traffic sources (e.g. Google, Netflix and Facebook), just because the traffic is heavy.
  • Sten Tamkivi in TechCrunch: Why Silicon Valley Can’t Find Europe. He begins, Go to Europe these days – to Berlin, London, Helsinki – drop in on any of the regional tech confabs and you will quickly see that the European startup scene is in the most bustling, vibrant shape it’s ever been. The potential is everywhere, and the energy is undeniable. Then you return Stateside, in my case to Palo Alto, and Europe isn’t just irrelevant among the tech industry power-set. It has virtually ceased to exist. That is a mistake. I agree, by the way. Most of the start-ups I’m following are in Europe, Australia, New Zealand in non-Valley parts of the U.S. and Canada, and elsewhere. As George Packer put it in The New Yorker recently, “It suddenly occurred to me that the hottest tech start-ups are solving all the problems of being twenty years old, with cash on hand, because that’s who thinks them up.”
  • Tom Henderson in Network World: My journey from Macs to Mint. Sez Tom, Apple did an amazing job of forcing simplicity and continuity among its community members. My first Mac had evolved into a sophisticated platform that allowed me to code, write work product, do virtual machines, even use Apple’s Xserve platform — and I still use that server platform today, despite Apple’s discontinuance of its server hardware/storage platform. The Mac, and Apple in general, is totally about the user. It’s about a personal, rather than a dictated platform or methodology. I felt primped, pampered, if at a price for the pampering. Virtual machines did well; Parallels or VMware knew what to do. This was a machine for the ages. Then one afternoon, I realized that Apple was comparatively proprietary in nature. Apple’s OS couldn’t be used on non-Apple hardware; Apple has sound reasons for this. The server line was discontinued. It was great, but like the Apple XSan, no one apparently bought the chrome look for an extra 70%. They were ahead of their time, but businesses snubbed them. I got off the Mac bandwagon.Today, I do 90% of my work on Linux Mint. There are no Mac VMs so I don’t run them. I like MacOS. I like integration. Autonomy requires using machines as tools. I fawn after Macbook Airs. But my budget and independence streak is still in the zone of commodity Lenovos, and Linux.

Surveillance vs. Privacy

  • Jim Edwards in Business Insider: Ford Exec: ‘We Know Everyone Who Breaks The Law’ Thanks To Our GPS In Your Car. It begins, Jim Farley, said something both sinister and obvious during a panel discussionabout data privacy today at CES, the big electronics trade show in Las Vegas. Because of the GPS units installed in Ford vehicles, Ford knows when its drivers are speeding, and where they are while they’re doing it. Farley was trying to describe how much data Ford has on its customers, and illustrate the fact that the company uses very little of it in order to avoid raising privacy concerns: “We know everyone who breaks the law, we know when you’re doing it. We have GPS in your car, so we know what you’re doing. By the way, we don’t supply that data to anyone,” he told attendees. Rather, he said, he imagined a day when the data might be used anonymously and in aggregate to help other marketers with traffic related problems…
  • Andy Oram in O’Reilly RadarHow did we end up with a centralized Internet for the NSA to mine? Subhead: The Internet is naturally decentralized, but it’s distorted by business considerations. He begins, I’m sure it was a Wired editor, and not the author Steven Levy, who assigned the title “How the NSA Almost Killed the Internet” to yesterday’s fine article about the pressures on large social networking sites. Whoever chose the title, it’s justifiably grandiose because to many people, yes, companies such as Facebook and Google constitute what they know as the Internet. (The article also discusses threats to divide the Internet infrastructure into national segments, which I’ll touch on later.) So my question today is: How did we get such industry concentration? Why is a network famously based on distributed processing, routing, and peer connections characterized now by a few choke points that the NSA can skim at its leisure? I commented as far back as 2006 that industry concentration makes surveillance easier.
  • Cory Doctorow in BoingBoing: European Court of Human Rights will hear case about GHCQ spying.
  • Stan Schroeder in Mashable: Blackphone Could Be the First NSA-Proof Phone. It begins, An upcoming smartphone called Blackphone aims to put privacy in your hands, protecting you from anyone wanting to snoop into your private data — even the NSA.A Switzerland-based join venture between Silent Circle and Geeksphone, the project is backed by several important figures in the fields of computer security, including Phil Zimmermann, creator of data encryption protocol PGP (Pretty Good Privacy). 

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