Much of the political debate around encryption, such as that on display in a congressional hearing this week, has been characterized by a fundamentally flawed understanding of the most basic principles. Mason Wheeler won most insightful comment this week by underlining one such example:
Someone needs to sit this guy down and explain Kerckhoff's Principle to him. It's one of the most fundamental rules of information security: The Adversary Knows The System.
It means that any valid discussion of security must begin from the assumption that the bad guys who are trying to break in already know everything about how your system works, but does not necessarily already know the key, and if you can't show that the system is still secure against such an adversary, you have to assume it's not secure.
Kerckhoff's Principle rejects the very concept of a "front door" that the good guys can use but hackers can't gain access to. If there's another way in besides the private key, you must assume that the bad guys know all about it.
Meanwhile, HBO and Showtime tried to change some basic principles of copyright by pre-suing a site that planned to stream an upcoming boxing match. This raises a bunch of interesting questions, and second place for insightful went to an anonymous commenter who proposed a reversal of the idea:
Wait, if they can sue for anticipated copyright, then can we sue for anticipated public domain? I mean, technically all copyrighted works do eventually fall into the public domain, right? If their whole argument is hinging on eventualities, then why can't we do so for the public domain which is a definite eventuality?
Sporting events should not be copyrightable. Period. To say otherwise is utter insanity.
(The catch, of course, is that the copyright is on the coverage of the event, which is a work of authorship. But this still raises the question of just how much protection such coverage actually qualifies for, based on which aspects of it genuinely involve creative choices and how much is just neutral documentation of facts.)
For our next editor's choice, we pivot as we so rarely do to a Daily Dirt post, which discussed the Singaporean test question that lit the internet on fire. One person in the comments objected to it being called a math problem when it was really a logic problem, prompting Different Anonymous Coward to offer this well-conceived rejoinder:
If you think any given logic puzzle has nothing to do with math you either need to go deeper into logic until you hit math, or deeper into math until you hit logic.
Over on the funny side, we start out on our post about the latest moral panic: Minecraft and kids. Some parents shared their own stories about the game, and NoahVail's became the funniest comment of the week:
My kid roped me into launching a MC server
One of my kids wanted to setup a Minecraft server.
Two years later I'm managing & hosting 2 Minecraft servers w/ most of 100k usernames and my kid has wandered off onto the next project.
I did my bit. I got involved with my kid playing MC and now I'm saddled with running his online community.
At least pets die eventually. I don't know how long game servers live for.
My kids (10 and 12) are RUINED by this game. The last parent - teacher interviews I had I was told how my kids are sickeningly respectful to authority, work well with others, and to top it all off, will include other classmates in projects or activities when those kids are being left out by others.
(Full disclosure: I said "You sure you have my kids in mind??")
Oh, and to top it off, not only do they amaze me with what they make on that game (although really how anyone can sit for more than 5 mins on that game amazes me), they have come up with some pretty creative crafts using ordinary items around the house because of that game.
April 30th, 1993 is an important day in the history of the information era: it's the day CERN announced that the newfangled "World Wide Web" and the protocols and technologies that it consists of would be free to anyone, with no fees due. This decision, arguably moreso than the technology innovations or the proliferation of home computers or any other factor, shaped the future of the global communication network we all rely on today, and shaped it for the better. Sadly, now much of what is now happening online stems from the exact opposite attitude, with even many well-meaning innovators proving too nervous to relinquish control of their creations and let them truly flourish. Hopefully more people will take a moment to think about what the internet might look like if all its higher functions relied on a fragmented mess of proprietary protocols and walled gardens, instead of a unifying web on which everyone can build.
Not too long ago, people got pretty excited about the idea of a "modular smartphone", and recently Google announced that it would be launching its attempt at such a device in Puerto Rico this year. The idea has also sparked a lot of debate, with some saying the sacrifice of size and/or power needed to create something modular would be too great. But there's one idea I don't recall anyone bringing up at the time: moving the whole modular concept off of the phone and onto a phone case. This week, we're looking at the nexpaq, which does just that:
There's something very appealing about the modular components, as they seem to strike most people as something that just makes sense. Obviously with them living as extras on the case rather than being part of the phone, some of the original idea's efficiency and space-saving appeal is lost — but that was already debatable (though we'll see what Google comes up with) and I think most people were far more drawn to the modular function itself as a matter of convenience and coolness. It also makes the whole power situation a little easier to deal with: the case has a built-in battery pack (which helps run both the modules and your phone) and you can fill one of the modular slots with an additional battery pack component. This also means that the case can function independently: you can disconnect it from your phone, and still access the modules via Bluetooth. The other modules currently available in the Kickstarter include an amplified speaker, an SD card reader, a pair of physical programmable hotkeys, a laser pointer, a breathalyzer, a USB drive and several more diverse options which paint a good picture of the flexibility offered by the system. $109 gets you a case and four modules (which seems like a good price) and the current model is designed to be compatible with three very popular phones: the iPhone 6, Galaxy S6 Edge and the Galaxy S5.
The creators are also actively encouraging development of new modules and new software: there are several backer rewards specifically for developers. Though I can actually see the case still being popular with just a core lineup of useful modules, it will be really interesting if they succeed in building a community of developers who create new stuff all the time.
There are a few things that remain unclear about the nexpaq, and a few details in the description that hint at potential limitations. For one thing, it sounds like most of the modules will only be accessible through the dedicated nexpaq app for now, and that compatibility will have to be built into other apps using the SDK. This may not be true of every module — it's possible that that the flash drive will be broadly accessible by the OS, for example — but it sounds like it might be if all of the modules are mediated through the case as a single peripheral rather than being separately accessible, hub-style. I doubt the blame for this falls on the creators: it's probably a limitation of the smartphones, perhaps to a slightly lesser extent in Android but certainly in iOS, but it still could be the flaw that sinks the nexpaq. Relatedly, the Bluetooth connectivity, while a nice feature, raises the question of whether Bluetooth will be required for some or all communication even when the case is connected, which would eliminate some of the elegance of the concept.
All this points to the key reason nexpaq might have trouble competing with Google's modular phone should it ever come to fruition: Google can build support for the modules directly into the operating system and make sure they are all accessible at a low-level as standard peripherals, so an SD reader module mounts cards normally and your existing Android apps automatically recognize a speaker module and so on; nexpaq will almost certainly have to limit at least some of its capabilities to its own app and those specifically designed to be compatible.
Either way, it looks like we're going to find out: the nexpaq has already shot past its goal with nearly a full month still to go in the Kickstarter campaign. Despite my reservations, I'm happy to see it move forward, and eager to find out the answers to some of my questions. Their goal is to ship by January of next year, though as with all Kickstarter projects, delays are a likelihood.
The future of online journalism and related businesses continues to be uncertain. Following the recent shutdowns of GigaOm and San Francisco's The Bold Italic, we ask a critical question that is, of course, of personal importance to us here at Techdirt: how can smaller online media players survive in this age of goliaths like Buzzfeed?
I think the big story here is that by this logic I should get replacements for any lost, stolen or broken DVDs/Blue-Rays. Because its not the disc I am buying. Its access to that content in a specific format. And my access to that content shouldn't be limited to the Temporal nature of the delivery mechanism.
More seriously, Music tried this very argument against format shifting (ripping and using an MP3 player), that we only bought the music in the cd format. It failed.
Meanwhile, we called out the MPAA over its strategizing on how to make internet censorship sound like a good thing. One dreary and unoriginal commenter accused us of hypocritically hating Hollywood while being "addicted" to its content, and another anonymous commenter took second place for insightful by disarming this loaded question:
We don't like Hollywood because they seek too much control over things more important than they are, and don't care about the broader consequences. If you hate the Internet so much, why are you posting here?
For editor's choice, we head to a precursor to the DVD ownership battle this week: a very similar dispute over the software in GM cars, with the automaker claiming it still owns all the software even if you own the vehicle. That One Guy momentarily rose above the legal morass and pointed out how utterly, fundamentally stupid this is:
This really shouldn't be that difficult
If a piece of software is required for something to run, whether it's a car, or tractor, or whatever, then the idea that the software and hardware should be treated as separate items is ridiculous.
No one buys a vehicle and believes that they are making two purchases(or a purchase and a license in this case), one for the car, and one for the software required for it to run. That would be like buying the car, but licensing the wheels. One does nothing without the other, so the idea that they should be treated as separate items is absurd. The customer may not have bought the software itself, but they most certainly should be recognized as having bought a copy of it, and be free to do with it as they will, even if that involves cracking or bypassing any DRM infections.
I downloaded it. Moments later, I started noticing my internet traffic was increasing as a rootkit was sending information to Sony regarding files I had on my own computer.
When I tried to open it, I was greeted by an FBI warning message, which I quickly ignored.
Once the warning was over, I had to spend 15 minutes watching previews of other leaked emails I had no interest in.
Finally, once the file loaded, a message came up stating the device I was using wasn't authorized to view the document. To bypass this restriction, I could pay Sony a fee of $14.99, which allows me a 24 hour access to the file.
Being frustrated, I decided to torrent the DRM-free file, opened it in a PDF view, then hysterically laughed my ass off at the irony of a company, once again, having no understanding of how to treat people like people.
MPAA lawyer -
Your honor: To prove Goliath, er Google, is the biggest threat to copyright ever, I'd like to submit Exhibit A, our willful infringement using Google's own video found by using google.com.
Just this morning, I was calibrating the voice-wakeup on my phone and being frustrated by its general lack of responsiveness. Despite this, I can't deny it's come a long way from visions of voice-based WAP shopping all the way back in 2000, when AltaVista was still around and postponing its IPO, and colleges were bizarrely cracking open the subject of internet ethics.
Predictions are abundant in the technology world. They are also almost always wrong, usually either vastly overestimating change in the short-term or vastly underestimating it in the long-term. But there's one fundamental and famous tech prophecy that has held true throughout all the twists and turns of the entire digital revolution: Moore's Law, which turned 50 this week. Put in the simplest terms, the law states that the power of computer processors (more technically, the number of transistors in dense integrated circuits) will double every two years — and that's exactly what's happened for half a century.
As with last week's awesome stuff, we're trying out something slightly different. Instead of gathering three new crowdfunded products, we're focusing on just one and taking a slightly closer look at it. Please let us know what you think in the comments!
The Orbit1 simplifies, streamlines and compacts the complex process of electroplating a wide variety of materials with various metal coatings, and could open up a whole new world of possibilities for all sorts of creators. 3D printers get so much focus in these discussions that it's easy to forget there are other pieces to the puzzle, and a tabletop electroplater fills in a big gap. There are many things you can't do with plastic, metal 3D printing is still expensive and not easily accessible, and electroplating typically means forking over cash to professionals with large machines — so the Orbit1 is enabling countless new avenues for prototyping, jewellerymaking, art and more. It even enables the creation of printed circuit boards with a standard 3D printer. That will make it a boon to future Kickstarter projects too: many creators go as far as they can doing home prototyping work with their 3D printers, and the Orbit1 pushes that limit considerably further for many projects.
As with virtually all new devices these days, the Orbit1 is going to be unnecessarily shackled to its proprietary apps and cloud system. Thankfully, it appears they aren't going too far with this: the device can be controlled with the app via Bluetooth so it isn't online-only, and the "expert mode" (where all the various settings are under your control) is useable even without an account on the online service. But it sounds like many other features — including the ability to automatically determine settings and store various settings profiles — will be tied to the cloud. There's also no desktop app for controlling the Orbit1: it's limited to Android and iOS.
This approach to new devices is becoming a huge headache. Backing many things on Kickstarter now means not just betting that the creators will be able to produce the product successfully, but that they will also evolve into a sustainable company that keeps its servers running and properly manages your account. Using such devices means additional accounts and passwords (we all need more of those right?), putting your personal data on yet another distant server (best practice!), and having even more limited cloud storage (the Orbit1 comes with 5gb) scattered in fragments across the web. Mobile-only control means you're also relying on the apps to remain active and updated in proprietary app stores, with the potential for issues on that end of things to suddenly and randomly brick your new toy.
The Admirable, But Problematic
There is, however, some justification for the Orbit1's desire to tie users into an ongoing relationship: the creators appear to have a sincere commitment to environmental responsibility and safety (not to mention a genuine need to comply with various countries' regulations). Electroplating can be dangerous — the solutions used in some settings are highly poisonous, and all of them require proper disposal to avoid serious environmental damage. While the Orbit1 can work with any electroplating solution, and those with more knowledge of the process will surely make use of that, the creators are also focused on selling their own line of the safest possible solutions along with a free recycling service.
Here's the catch, though: the solutions are available to people with Orbit1 accounts, and those accounts can get cancelled if people fail to return their used solutions to be recycled. The details are slightly unclear, but it seems like this means a full account cancellation, which would also include all the additional cloud-tied features mentioned above. Now, while I understand and even approve of the desire to put real pressure on people to use the Orbit1 in a responsible way, I can't help but think this is going to screw some undeserving users.
Last week, podcast co-host and patent attorney Hersh Reddy helped us navigate the many ways in which the patent system is broken. This week, we turn our attentions to the ways in which it might be fixed, whether by small changes or sweeping reforms. For music, we've got more of Destroy All Patent Trolls by Jonathan Mann (CC-BY).
This week, we pointed out that the TSA's investigation into agents who were caught conspiring to grope passengers left little chance that they would be prosecuted. A lot of it came down to the lack of a named victim which, as an anonymous commenter pointed out in our most insightful comment of the week, is a rare conundrum enabled by the very nature of the TSA itself:
They didn't have a victim because they didn't tell the victim he was a victim. In any other situation the victim of assault would know without having to be told, but here its just normal TSA procedure to be assaulted so the victim walks away.
Speaking of victims, this week we also all shed a tear for the poor MPAA which faces a possible spread of fair use principles around the globe thanks to the TPP. After a leaked email from Chris Dodd to a USTR ambassador revealed the association's fear of fair use, jupiterkansas won second place for insightful with an accompanying letter of his own:
Dear Ambassador Froman:
The community I represent doesn't think much about copyright or fair use at all, which is why you don't hear from us very often. After all, we aren't paid huge sums of money to send you emails like Chris Dodd is. We aren't paid to try and get laws passed and trade agreements made to benefit ourselves. We aren't in the room when all those industry representatives get together to decide what's best for our country. In fact, we aren't even allowed in the room.
But we're the reason you have a job. We're the ones you're supposed to be helping. We're the people most affected by your trade agreements. Your job isn't to help Chris Dodd keep his job, and what's best for Chris Dodd my not be best for us.
All we ask is that you keep us in mind through all of this, because your job, most of all, is to represent us. You're all we've got to protect us from Chris Dodd and all those seeking to profit from your actions. Please stand up for us.
Sincerely, The American Public
For editor's choice on the insightful side, we start out with a response to the assertion that Google somehow makes it impossible to find and use alternative search tools. That One Guy decided to put this notion to the test:
Well, congrats, you actually got me to do something that I haven't for... I don't know how long, I actually used Google to search for something.
Anyway, using Google to search for 'Search engines', here at the top 10 results:
1. Bing (search engine)
2. DuckDuckGo (search engine)
3. The wikipedia page for 'Web search engine'.
4. Dogpile (search engine)
5. Ixquick (search engine)
6. Top 15 most populat search engines (Ebismba article)
7. Entireweb (search engine)
8. 'Web search engines' (article of some sort I'm guessing)
9. 'The terrifying search engine that finds internet...' (Forbes article)
10. 'Ducking Google in search engines' (Washington Post article)
If the claim is that they are intentionally modifying their results to keep people from finding alternative search engines, then this simple test would seem to put that particular idea to bed. Just because a good number of people don't know about or use other search engines, is not Google's fault, and they don't really seem to be doing anything to hide the alternatives.
Baloney. I have been producing commercial software for decades (without ever using copy protection schemes). Most of my software has been widely distributed amongst the pirate community. And yet, I've managed to make a very good living anyway. I can personally demonstrate that unlimited copying hasn't forced me to work for free. If it hasn't forced me, then how can it force anybody else?
For first place on the funny side, we head to yet another story about TSA agents, this time busy destroying Cory Doctorow's "TSA-safe" suitcase. One commenter put on their tinfoil hat to suggest that the agents ripped the idea directly from one of Doctorow's distopian novels, but another suggested that this was giving them far too much credit:
The assumption of literacy in TSA agents is a bold move...
In second place, we head to our post about the discovery of just how vulnerable Virginia's voting machines were to hacking. The report noted that someone with a makeshift antenna made from a Pringles can could access the machines from anywhere within half a mile, leading Michael to wonder about the ever-shifting standards for technological liability:
So why isn't the CEO of Pringles being arrested right now?
For editor's choice on the funny side, we start out on the story of a new bill in California that would require libraries with 3D printers to post scary anti-infringement signs. One anonymous commenter pointed out that this feels kind of familiar:
This will surely eliminating infringement forever, just like the FBI warnings before every motion picture did.
Finally, we head to the story of the chess grandmaster who was caught hiding in the bathroom to analyze ideal moves with an app on his phone, leading another anonymous commenter to toss a dry and glorious pun into the conversation:
For this week's awesome stuff, we're trying out a slightly different format. Instead of gathering three new crowdfunded products, we're going to focus on just one and take a slightly closer look at its progress and prospects. Please let us know in the comments if you like this approach, or if you prefer the old format.
The Loxet is a device that installs in any car with a central locking system and, along with an accompanying iOS or Android app, allows you to lock and unlock the doors and control ignition access with your proximity to the car. It also bills itself as an advanced sharing system, allowing you to grant time-limited access to the car to other people.
For one thing, it's new. There are already plenty of proximity locks on the market, but they generally require a specialized fob on your keychain; there are already smartphone-controlled locks too, but they operate by button-press. Loxet appears to be the first smartphone-controlled proximity lock, or at least the first one that works with both iOS and Android (they make this latter claim on the Kickstarter page). The price also looks good — though all the super-cheap early bird deals are sold out, the standard Kickstarter price of $69 is still below the price of existing non-smartphone proximity lock systems, which tend to sit in the $80-200 range.
The way Loxet operates seems like it might come with some inherent issues. The device uses Bluetooth Low Energy, and in order to achieve full proximity operation on both iOS and Android, they have to use apps that repeatedly scan for connected Bluetooth devices at a time interval you set. To realize the full hands-off, out-of-mind potential of the system, that time interval will have to be pretty short — and I suspect it will have a noticeable impact on your phone's battery life and performance, though just how noticeable remains to be seen. For the time being, there aren't any obvious alternatives to this approach, at least not without sacrificing some capabilities.
With any wireless locking system, there's always one big question: is it secure? The last thing we need is someone whipping up an app to hack into people's cars via Bluetooth. Loxet would surely claim, in good faith I don't doubt, that the system is secure — but I'd like to see them call in some independent security audits and put the software in the hands of some white hat hackers before telling people it's ready to keep their cars safe. In fact, there's actually a disturbing lack of security information and discussion on the Kickstarter page, especially for an app that claims it will allow car-sharing via e-mail, SMS and QR code. With just under a month left in the campaign, this is the biggest thing the Loxet team needs to address.
Hersh Reddy, co-host of the Techdirt Podcast who has been away the past few weeks, is a patent attorney with a computer science degree and a long history of working in the tech industry. In this first half of a double episode, he discusses the many ways in which the patent system is broken, and how it got that way. This week's music is Destroy All Patent Trolls by Jonathan Mann (CC-BY).
Thanks to The Wire, Baltimore is where many people first learned what a Stingray device was — but the revelation that the real Baltimore PD has deployed them thousands of times and hidden that information from the courts goes far beyond the wiretap-misuse by its fictional equivalent. Mason Wheeler won most insightful comment this week with his reaction to the department's troubling instructions to the FBI:
“Does it instruct you to withhold evidence from the state’s attorney and the circuit court of Baltimore city, even if upon order to produce?” asked defense attorney Joshua Insley.
“Yes,” Cabreja replied, saying he spoke with the FBI last week about the case.
This is the thing that mystifies me about all this.
An NDA is a contract. How can anyone--and particularly an expert whose professional specialty is the law--think that a contract between two specific parties can somehow trump a generally-applicable law? And more specifically, how can anyone think that a contract can trump obligations to a court, when a court's authority is obviously greater by the simple fact that a court has the power to declare a contract unenforceable?
As it happens, The Wire was just added to Canada's Netflix this year. Prior to that, plenty of Canadians used a VPN to watch the show from the US collection, in an act that big media companies are now saying violates copyright law (actually they were talking about New Zealand, which has it even worse in terms of access). Second place for insightful this week goes to pixelpusher220, who pointed out that this is really getting ridiculous:
I do like how now even PAYING for content is being classified as infringement.
It's not like Netflix provides content for free. Wouldn't it be fraud to take customers money and then not provide them the service they paid for?
that so many people want to ruin the best opportunity the world has ever had.
I am not just talking about money here, but the worlds greatest library. The greatest opportunity for understanding each other across borders. The internet is probably the single greatest global achievement the world has ever made, and we made it together.
Yes, there is violence, trolls, arguments and silly pictures a plenty... but this is also the best insight into different cultures and people that we have ever had.
The internet is not just the 8'th wonder of the world, it is greater than the others combined... and still some people are only interested in tearing it down. How sad these people are.
Knowing full well that once more what I have to say will be met with the blunt force of TD's lack of experience in matters of practicing before the USPTO
Yes, serial applicants have more experience in practicing before the USPTO than Techdirt. The implication that only those who profit from a malpractice should be allowed to criticize it is borderline funny though.
, I am disappointed that once more this site is coming to the defense of EFF staff who choose to engage the USPTO on substantive matters that implicate prosecution practice without having demonstrated any substantive knowledge of the rules governing such practice.
And yet EFF proves it understands Alice, and show a "patent" rejected by a federal court under Alice and does a side-by-side comparison of the refiled "patent" proving that the USPTO either doesn't understand it or perhaps even flout the Supreme court.
I find it interesting that neither of the EFF's supposed experts is even admitted to practice before the USPTO, and yet they seem not to have the slightest reluctance to mock the office when it raises issues with which such experts disagree.
The side-by-side comparison shame the USPTO for all to see. Perhaps that is why the USPTO invoke the Streisand effect? The purely fact based analysis is not mocking, or indeed opinion at all. The silliness is all the USPTOs.
Obviously the EFF has found a home at TD, but given its reaction as outlined in this article it is no wonder why its effectiveness in patent matters is presently marginal at best.
Neither EFF nor TD is a failed serial applicant. EFF and TD is simply not serial applicants at all. Their effectiveness in patent matters is thus not relevant. Perhaps they choose to have morals instead?
If you intended to say effectiveness in limiting malpractice in patent matters, by informing decision makers and bring about such decisions as Alice, there is ample evidence that you are mistaken. Few if any have had such a positive effect.
Even if one disagrees with the USPTO, there are ways to present such a disagreement without resort to approaches such as the infantile one utilized in this instance.
Proving that a serial litigant, serial aplicant, refile a rejected "patent" and USPTO approve it, is not infantile. Perhaps you ment infallible?
Over on the funny side, we start out on the story of YouTuber Angry Joe, who has sworn off Nintendo videos after the company blocked him from monetizing one. One commenter very reasonably asked how such a video wasn't fair use, and another anonymously responded:
Let's Play ad revenue: $250
Lawsuit to defend Let's Play ad revenue: $8,000,000
explicit fair use law: priceless
There are some things money can't buy. For everything else, there is the Supreme Court.
In second place, we head to our post asserting that the patent system is faith-based and ignores all the data. It's hard to argue with that, but if anyone's going to try, it's someone we all (unfortunately) know, who demanded an example of someone who ignores the data. Well, that's an easy one, and DogBreath quickly provided it, with a mirror:
For editor's choice on the funny side, we start out on a post that provides a perfect example of the kind of rituals the USPTO's faith requires: shuffling things in the system to make sure the notable nine-millionth patent wasn't an embarrassing one. Dfed guessed what came next:
Patent #9000001, however, was a "Method for practically gaming the USPTO patent system to achieve numerical synergy."
Finally, we head to our post about Comcast and its pleas that it has most certainly not paid anyone to support its merger with Time Warner Cable. Karl suggested that anyone who believes that shouldn't be put in charge of anything, including your lawn care, but one anonymous commenter smartly pushed back on that last point:
I most certainly would put them in charge of lawn care. Do you know how much high-quality composted manure costs?
Most of you probably know that basically all modern copyright descends from the Statute of Anne, an early 18th-century British law that created the first ever government-run copyright system. Well, it was on April 5th, 1710 that the bill passed and received royal assent, and the Statute of Anne became law.
For this week's awesome stuff, we're looking at some devices that help you monitor, track and control things that are useful to monitor, track and control.
Most people's knowledge of the weather is limited to forecasts, the thermostat, and looking out the window. The savvy may check live atmospheric maps and other data, but few people are able to build their knowledge based on the full synthesis of information available to them. WEZR aims to change that: it's a weather monitor that combines forecasts with a variety of live data and its own array of sensors to derive specific, hyper-local and constantly-updated weather conditions and pipe them to your smartphone. It then shares sensor data to help improve accuracy for all users.
Anyone who's kept houseplants has also, at some point, let one die — while some of us have given up the endeavour entirely after minor massacres. Planty aims to make the task of caring for plants a little easier and smarter: it's a wi-fi connected planter pot that monitors soil, temperature, light and water levels and sends you alerts when upkeep needs to be done. Even better, it includes an automatic watering system that you can remotely control to feed plants exactly what the amount of water they need from anywhere.
Home appliances are getting smarter and smarter, but not everyone has the funds or even the desire to replace all of their stuff just to get access to some time-saving features. That's why devices like this are so cool: they add some of those features without requiring a complete upgrade or even significant alterations. Meld is an automated range knob that simply clips onto your existing stove and communicates with a wireless sensor that goes inside the oven. It can be programmed to make automatic, on-the-fly adjustments throughout cooking according to the needs of the specific dish. Not only does this make life easier, it vastly improves the accuracy of cooking temperatures since the average range is poorly calibrated.
Last week, Gabriella Coleman joined us to discuss her new book Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy: The Many Faces of Anonymous and share her insider view of the nebulous group. Gabriella is back this week to continue the discussion with a broader look the astonishing and still-recent shift in the digital world towards real, widespread political engagement on issues like privacy and surveillance.
You left out the best part, where there is a municipal fiber line running right near his neighborhood, but the law prevents him from accessing it.
This story makes me rage so much. The competition is non-existent. If we had anything resembling an actual market, we wouldn't even need Title II.
For editor's choice on the insightful side, we'll start with one more anonymous comment from that same story. This time, it's a call to (congressional) action:
Members of Congress:
REIGN. IN. THESE. COMPANIES!
Seriously, this is getting absurd. What do the American people have to do or say to you to finally get you to actually listen to us instead of the paid mouthpieces from the broadband industry who want do what they want with no one to keep them in check?
No more mergers. No more protectionist laws to prop up their monopoly or duopoly gatekeeper power. Stop fighting against net neutrality and enact policies that dramatically increase competition.
The Fed Up American People.
Next, we head to our post about the recent attempts to paint public backlashes against corporations as "cyberbullying", which prompted ChurchHatesTucker to affirm his beliefs:
Now I'm even more convinced that cyberbullying laws are a terrible idea.
For first place on the funny side, we start out with the ongoing investigation into the investigation into Silk Road, where the facts continue to be astonishing, and where Michael decided to apply law enforcement's own standards:
"Force communicated directly with Ulbricht using PGP encrypted emails"
Full stop. This guy is a terrorist.
In second place, we've got the capper to a thread sparked when someone (who apparently doesn't know how to Google things) aimlessly attacked the credibility of one of our guest posters. Another anonymous commenter supplied them, and a third chimed in with this jeering rejoinder:
Wait a sec - you are citing data ..... and facts!
Are you sure that is allowed?
You see some folk think innuendo and vague references are quite sufficient and get all uppity when someone calls bullshit.
For editor's choice on the funny side, we head to the ongoing story of Attorney General Jim Hood's attacks on Google. One aspect of the ongoing case was the "Younger Abstention", which would keep the courts out of the issue, and which the judge rejected thusly:
Moreover, even if the Younger elements were satisfied here, the court would not be required to abstain here because an exception to the application of the doctrine applies. Indeed, federal courts may disregard the Younger doctrine when a state court proceeding was brought in bad faith or with the purpose of harassing the federal plaintiff...
Hood: Younger! Younger! The law: I may be younger but I wasn't born yesterday
Finally, we enter the always-insane world of Prince, who is currently facing an IP lawsuit because the universe loves irony. Prince has gone copyright-crazy over everything imaginable, and for some like jupterkansas, that's getting to be his dominant legacy:
The only time Prince is even on my radar is when he's mentioned here on TechDirt, and even then I feel I must be infringing something.
Had a few court cases gone differently back in these early days, deep-linking might be illegal and the web would be a very different place — but thankfully, this week in 2000, this didn't happen. Another thing that didn't happen is any meaningful impact from the Patent Office's supposed changes in the way it handles internet patents.
This week in 2010 everyone was buzzing about the iPad's April 3rd release, so it's fitting that all the way back on the same day in 1981, the world saw the release of the first commercially successful portable computer, the Osborne 1. It cost $1,795 (just under $5000 in today's cash), weighed nearly 25lbs, and was described as looking like "a cross between a World War II field radio and a shrunken instrument panel of a DC-3":
By Bilby (Own work) [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Reportedly, its sales tanked after the company prematurely announced a superior successor machine — a phenomenon dubbed the Osborne effect and applied to similar situations like Sega's early discussion of the upcoming Dreamcast after releasing the Saturn. However, it appears that the effect's original, titular example may have been a myth.
For this week's awesome stuff, we're looking at some crowdfunded technology that stays put in your house and makes life a little easier.
In-wall USB power outlets are one of those little details that everyone would love to have but rarely seem worth the effort to actually make happen. The SnapPower Charger aims to make them a little more accessible by taking the "hard" out of hard-wired: rather than requiring the installation of a whole new specialized outlet, the SnapPower is simply a faceplate with a clever USB extension that draws its power from the screws on a regular wall outlet. Unfortunately, it's currently limited to a 1A current for charging regular smartphones but not high-power tablets, phablets and the like — but the creators are looking into creating a 2.1A model in the future.
There have been lots of attempts to redesign the alarm clock over the years, with any number of products promising the most peaceful and/or un-ignorable wakeup call possible. I can't speak to the success of those, or of this, but the Wakē does offer something novel: a solution for the problem, in shared beds, of being woken up by your partner's alarm. Mounted to the wall above the bed and controlled by smartphone, this two-person alarm clock uses an infrared body heat sensor and a parametric speaker to locate one of two users and direct its stream of music and lights towards them and them alone.
One thing that bothers me about a lot of cool modern tech, including a lot of fledgling projects on Kickstarter, is a near-total reliance on remote servers and web services for storage, processing and control, even when it's not clear that this approach is at all necessary for the task at hand. So it's nice to see something like the Neobase, which is all about doing the exact opposite. It's a compact, all-in-one server and network drive that runs its own custom-built Facebook-like software, so you can set up your own completely private social network. It's entirely self-contained and doesn't store anything on any third-party servers, but you can access it from anywhere via encrypted connections. There are some limitations to this, certainly, both by design and by virtue (or curse) of reliable broadband availability, but I'm excited to see such devices move beyond the generic "personal cloud" offerings and into more specialized and powerful out-of-the-box solutions like this.
People (especially those in the news media) love to talk about Anonymous, often making bold, sweeping and generally inaccurate proclamations about the group's nature and goals. Gabriella Coleman, on the other hand, has spent years closely studying and engaging with Anonymous in the real world, and developing a nuanced understanding of the nebulous phenomenon. Her new book Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy: The Many Faces of Anonymous provides insider details about Anonymous that you won't find anywhere else, and she joins us to discuss it on this week's episode.
Do you not comprehend that different things can both have value? That there is much to be said for a well-rehearsed performance or discussion in some contexts, and that at other times people very much enjoy listening to an unrehearsed conversation among people they find interesting or insightful or funny or what-have-you?
I am not "startled" by the concept of career progression in an artistic field. I am baffled by your direct connection of Shakespearean acting to a podcast about technology and media, as though the purpose of and standards for the two are identical.
*loyal reader for over 10 years, who values your service greatly
Then perhaps you could value the insight of the people who run the blog, including the person who has been running it for over 10 years, instead of telling us all our reasons are stupid and essentially accusing us of lying.
If you need Squarespace, you shouldn't be building websites.
If you need Soundcloud, you shouldn't be distributing audio.
This is a new world where content gets created without thrid party overloards. Join us.
If you think any of those things are true, then you're living in a fantasy-land and have no idea how the modern web works.
Firstly, we're a very small team with a large number of projects. It's not easy for us to just take on the management of entire new things on a whim, no matter how simple those things might seem to you.
Secondly, the internet ad market is not as easy or as simple as you presume. Try selling ads for a blog of this size - while keeping a commitment to quality ads that don't piss of your readers and are never deceptive - and you'll see that.
Thirdly, the fact that we use third-party services has nothing to do with a "hipster aesthetic" (honestly... look at our still-not-updated site design... how hip are we right now?) but that we actually believe that sort of networking and work-distribution is one of the greatest things about the internet, and an extremely powerful way to fuel innovation and growth. We chose SoundCloud because we like a whole lot of what that company does and stands for and found they offered an clean and easy out-of-the-box solution for our needs — if we feel we really have to re-think that, we will.
The truth is that unless you are the sort of person who goes and does Shakespeare in the park, for no pay, and with a stage consisting of blankets which you have painted and stapled to thin pieces of wood, and the audience consisting of such persons as are willing to sit on the grass, or have brought their own folding chairs and picnic baskets, you are not really an actor, and you have no business doing podcasting.
But your initial argument here is that protecting the moral rights of creators -- such as not wanting a politician they disagree with to use their work -- is a key reason that we need copyright.
How can you say that, and then say you are not fond of moral rights? Do you mean that you don't think we should actually have a law to protect the thing you think is important, as long as creators are able to misuse another law to similar effect?
The point Cpt. was making is not that the photo would likely find such a use fair in those circumstances -- simply that it's absolutely possible and, if they did, the photographer's moral objections to the politician would not be relevant.
You've proposed that a creator's ability to make moral decisions about who can use their work is one of the reasons that copyright is important. We are pushing back on that, because the truth is that copyright makes no actual room for such concerns. The ability to use copyright in that way is a side effect -- it's neither the purpose of the law nor the ideal outcome of the law.
If you truly believe that situations like this are the ones that make creator control worthwhile, then what you truly believe in are moral rights, not economic copyrights.
No, but you're arguing that it's right and good for creators to make decisions about how to license their work based on their moral feelings about the use. Yes, that's possible under the current law — but I also think it's a bad thing, and essentially a misuse of copyright which is not supposed to be about moral concerns but about economics.
As for the compulsory licensing, yes, it prevents you from changing the song -- and that is a huge flaw in the system. It would work even better if people were able to get compulsory licenses for derivative works, alterations, remixes and everything else.
Another important question to consider: can moral rights be transferrable? In most countries that have strong moral rights, they are not — nor are they alienable or waiveable. Because if this truly is a moral issue, would it make any sense for a creator to be able to sell the right to make moral decisions about their work to another party? If that's possible, then clearly it's not a moral issue at all — it's just another artificial means of control to be bartered for its economic value.
But on the other hand, if moral rights aren't transferrable, then it reduces the value of your economic rights, and creates a lot of messy situations. I am going to be far, far less interested in purchasing a license to one of your photos -- or purchasing the rights to one of your photos entirely -- if I know that you, forever, will retain the right to interfere with my use of it. Generally this includes your right to demand attribution, and to prevent me from damaging the "integrity" of the work by modifying it, plus anything else where you can make the argument that my use is damaging your relationship to the work as its creator.
I do not believe in "moral rights" for creators. And the US copyright system mostly excludes them as well, preferring to focus solely on the economic aspect, even though that makes America's adherence to the Berne Convention questionable -- which I approve of.
I just do not see what purpose it serves for society to give people the right to control use of their work, via copyright, but on moral grounds. How is that a good thing for anyone? For every photographer trying to block an anti-gay-marriage politician from using their work, there's also a politician trying to block a watchdog group from using footage of their stump speeches to highlight their self-contradictions, and a corporation trying to block the exposure of its bad business practices and toxic culture. See, that knife cuts in a lot of directions, and most of them aint so nice.
Copyright tends to work best when there such restrictions are impossible. For example, look at the compulsory license system for cover songs: a rightsholder can't stop you from covering their song as long as you pay the fixed prescribed royalty rate. It doesn't matter if they hate your style of music or think you are butchering it -- they get no say in the matter. That permissiveness has given us a rich history of genre-bending covers and reimaginings, and it's easy to find death metal bands covering golden oldies and crooners oldie-fying death metal songs. Our musical culture has, without a doubt, benefited hugely from this open exchange of songs between musicians. Would we be better off if musicians had the right to say "I don't want that band covering my song, but I'll let this one do it"?
This statement suggests that creators should not try to make a business from their creations because it causes problems, to which I could not disagree more.
I don't think that's what anyone is trying to say. The problem arises when you try to talk about creativity in purely business terms. This is why I like the Doctorow quote above about art being a non-market activity. That doesn't exclude it from having a place in the market, but it does change the nature of that place.
Creators who complain about piracy often include vague threats to the effect that, if copyright isn't more strongly enforced, somehow the world will evolve to be devoid of good music/film/art/what-have-you. But every single one of us knows that's not even remotely true — we know that people will continue to create regardless of the potential for reward (something they already currently do, since they know the potential for reward is low and has been for nearly a century of the entertainment business) because we know that, as Doctorow says, people create for intrinsic reasons starting from early childhood, and will always continue to do so.
This doesn't mean we can't create systems to help creators make money, or that creativity can never be a business. But it does mean that attempting to talk about it in pure market terms is incomplete at best and foolhardy at worst.
if someone is making money off of another's creation is that not of significance?
No. Why should it be?
If what they are doing is preventing the original creator from making money, that is of significance. But why should the mere fact that they are making money themselves matter, unless the original creator just doesn't like seeing anyone else succeed? Sounds petty and childish to me.
There is a great quote on this subject kicking off Cory Doctorow's review of Amanda Palmer's new book:
The question of "business models for the arts" is a weird and contradictory one. For one thing, the arts are a "non-market activity" - people make art for intrinsic reasons, starting from earliest childhood, and even the people who set out to earn a living in the arts are not engaged in any kind of rational economic calculus because virtually everyone who's done this has lost money. Of those who made money, most made very little; and of those who made a substantial sum, most had their careers quickly crater and never earned another penny from their work. Being a "professional artist" is about as realistic as being a "professional lottery winner" - there are lots of people who've tried, and though a few have succeeded, it's a statistical improbability on the order of, well, winning the lotto.
I agree they should have a PC version. But I don't know what you're talking about with Windows Phone. I don't even think "hundreds of millions" of units have ever even shipped -- at least, they only shipped 35-million of them in 2014. Compared to nearly 200-million iOS devices, and OVER A BILLION Android phones. Also Windows Phone's market share fell in 2014, and is now sitting at less than 3%.
Not sure where the windows phone takeover you foresee is supposed to come from :)
Thanks. It seems like everyone saying this is stupid because it's easy is just focusing on the basic science-lesson version of electroplating, which is fine if you want to coat a penny in zinc or whatever -- but is not going to succeed at getting nice, even coatings of chosen thicknesses on complex objects. I'm pretty sure that when you pay the big bucks to a professional electroplater, they aren't just dunking all your stuff in some tupperware with a nail and a battery then walking away.