Leigh Beadon’s Techdirt Profile


About Leigh BeadonTechdirt Insider

Leigh Beadon, formerly Marcus Carab, now a full-time member of the Techdirt team.

Located in Toronto, Ontario.



Posted on Techdirt Podcast - 30 June 2015 @ 12:41pm

Techdirt Podcast Episode 31: Closing In On Virtual Reality

from the it's-virtually-a-reality! dept

The promise of virtual reality has been teasing us since the late 60s, and yet it never seems to arrive in a fully realized form, and often gets relegated to the realm of mockery. Recently, however, VR (and its cousin, augmented reality) is back in a big way, with flagship products like the Oculus Rift and Microsoft Hololens taking the spotlight, backed up by dozens of other contributions from Google Cardboard to our recent Awesome Stuff feature, the Gloveone. To discuss this exciting trend, we're joined by erstwhile Techdirt writer Carlo Longino who, along with regular co-host Dennis Yang, attended this year's E3 conference and tried out a bunch of new offerings on the VR market.

Follow the Techdirt Podcast on Soundcloud, subscribe via iTunes, or grab the RSS feed. You can also keep up with all the latest episodes right here on Techdirt.

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Posted on Innovation - 30 June 2015 @ 10:37am

Help Copia Draft A Statement Of Innovation Principles

from the promoting-innovation dept

Last week, we announced the new website for the Copia Institute and talked about our philosophy of hacking policy through innovation, not lobbying. This week, we're inviting everyone to get involved in one example of this philosophy in action.

In this world of rapid technological innovation, nobody can truly claim their efforts stand alone. Everything is built upon previous innovations, and everyone benefits from those who took a pro-innovation stance when building their businesses and technologies. Today, everyone bears some of the responsibility for ensuring that we continue to promote innovation rather than stymie it, and it’s to that end that Copia is creating the Statement of Innovation Principles: a clear, robust statement for innovative companies to sign on to, laying out a variety of principles they intend to uphold in order to promote future innovation, ranging from how they deal with data and intellectual property to how they structure their APIs and developers’ kits.

We started this project in March at our 2015 Inaugural Summit, where we presented an initial version of the statement to a roundtable of General Counsels from innovative companies, then opened up a revised draft for discussion with everyone present. There were lots of interesting points raised at the summit, and you can watch the full roundtable discussion for some background on the project:

Based on all the comments and ideas from the summit we've made another round of revisions to the Statement, and we have now published the updated draft and are seeking feedback from the public. We've included some notes on key questions that were raised at the Summit and which we feel deserve further discussion, as well as a list of possible additional principles that were proposed but haven't yet been adopted into the complete list. We'd really love the community here at Techdirt to get involved, since we know you have a deep understanding of and interest in these issues, so we hope you'll head over to the project page on the Copia site where you can read the current draft and leave comments on individual points or the document as a whole. We look forward to hearing what you have to say, and will be incorporating the feedback into a new draft later this year.

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Posted on Techdirt - 28 June 2015 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the riots-and-retorts dept

One story in particular captured the readers' imagination when it comes to insight this week. As European taxi drivers went crazy over Uber, our readers chimed in, with JustShutUpAndObey taking first place with a simple recounting of personal experience:

I've been using Uber and Lyft for the last two weeks due to car trouble and love it for these reasons:

1. Drivers (and passengers) have both been pre-vetted by Uber. If either of us tries to rob the other, we WILL be caught.
2. No money changes hands (cash or credit)- Uber already has my credit card (the driver doesn't) and will charge me. The driver doesn't have to worry about me dashing without paying, and I don't have to worry about being charged a "funny" last minute amount.
3. Drivers are rated by passengers and I can decline a ride if the driver has a lower rating.
4. Passengers are also rated, and drivers can decline them too. There is an incentive for both parties to be polite.
5. The App: This is a much bigger advantage than is usually noted: I can see how far away the driver is, I can see his car moving on the map, along with the estimate of how many minutes. Once picked up, I can continuously monitor our progress.
6. Because Uber and Lyft use similar apps, I can check both to see who is closest BEFORE I request a pickup.

In addition to those points, all drivers (about a dozen so far) have been prompt, had very clean cars, and have known and taken the most efficient route. In contrast, last time I called for a cab, they took an hour and a half to arrive, despite telling me numerous times they were 5 minutes away.

Feeling sorry for taxi drivers is like feeling sorry for telemarketers: I do, but only a very little bit.

Second places comes from an anonymous commenter on the same post, breaking down the real meaning of what we're seeing:

They aren't flipping cars because they're worried about losing. They're flipping cars because they've already lost. They aren't trying to affect change. Not really. They're venting frustration. The whole scene makes a lot more sense in that context.

For editor's choice on the insightful side, we start out with one more comment from that post. Roger Strong both added some cultural perspective, and made a sad but solid prediction about the future:

France is a country where bossnappings - strikers kidnapping their bosses and holding them hostage - is a time-honored negotiating tactic. Protests by truckers, farmers, students make the Uber one look like a strongly worded memo.

Come back in five or ten years. The Uber drivers will be flipping and burning the self-driving cars that replace them.

Next, we pivot to a piece of EU copyright reform that involves stricter regulations on outdoor photography that might catch copyrighted material. Every time something like this has come up, it's seemed like a somewhat entitled concern, and MadAsASnake spells out the simple reason why:

Quite frankly, if they don't want it photographed, don't put it in view of the public.

Over on the funny side, first place goes to guest writer Bas Grasmayer. In response to his excellent piece about the need for artists to "sell features, not songs", one commenter insisted that he not "tell artists what to do". Bas racked up lots of funny votes with a short, sharp retort:

Don't tell me what to do.

For second place, we head to the bizarre story of Tumblr complying with the DMCA takedown requests of a self-proclaimed alien channeller (or some insane thing to that effect). Though the complainant was clearly questionable, Roger Strong made a good observation:

Still more credible than Rightscorp.

For editor's choice on the funny side, our first selection comes in response to the Supreme Court's use of a Spider-Man quote in a ruling against royalties on expired patents. One anonymous commenter made another prediction:

Next up: Supreme court sued for copyright infringement by Marvel.

Finally, we return to the story of the European taxi drivers, who our headline accused of losing "Their Collective Mind". This prompted another anonymous commenter to stick up for the land of liberty:

Damn collectivists
In America, they'd lose their minds individually, not as part of some collective.

That's all for this week, folks!

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Posted on Techdirt - 27 June 2015 @ 12:00pm

This Week In Techdirt History: June 21st - 27th

from the decent! dept

Five Years Ago

These were the early days of the Chelsea (then Bradley) Manning affair, but apart from that, this week in 2010 was mostly like the last: jam-packed with activity on the copyright front. BPI was sending takedowns to Google in what appeared to be part of a broader plan, while the IFPI was trying to get the search giant to stop linking to The Pirate Bay entirely. German newspaper publishers were seeking copyright on headlines, while up in Canada the Heritage Minister called those who oppose stricter copyright law radical extremists (and then denied it, only to find out it was caught on video). The major labels were busy astroturfing in favor of three-strikes while trying to avoid paying songwriters, and ASCAP was demonizing Creative Commons.

We got one very bad ruling this week in 2010, when an appeals court said it's okay to take stuff out of the public domain and put it back under copyright. We also got a very good one when the court ruled in favor of YouTube in the Viacom lawsuit. Of course, that battle was far from over, but for the time being Viacom was in denial about the result while we wondered what its true implications were. The White House released its strategic plan for intellectual property and it wasn't as bad as we expected, but were disappointed to learn that the administration had pivoted from supporting copyright exceptions for the blind to fighting against them. Meanwhile, lots of researchers and other people were trying to tell the true story: how weaker copyright benefits culture and society, how the lack of fair use coverage for satire stifles free speech, how the recording industry made file-sharing much worse for itself, how there's no evidence that kicking people offline for file-sharing is in any way necessary, and how things like the Digital Economy Act and ACTA will stifle creativity.

Ten Years Ago

Much that was happening in 2005 this week mirrors what was happening in 2010. Canada was grappling with an earlier round of copyright reform, America's Copyright Czar was proposing major changes that were potentially good and potentially bad, and lines were being clearly drawn between the camps for sharing and owning culture. The recording industry was trying out a too-little-too-late plan to compete with unauthorized file-sharing, but it was the MPAA that was really up to no good: it tried to sneak broadcast flag legislation into the law, and then made some grandiose claims about its anti-piracy successes (then, when called on the numbers, tried to explain them away as hypothetical future piracy). Even the FTC was starting to see through Hollywood's anti-file-sharing claims (and so were the kids), while we revisited the ways the fashion industry thrives without copyright.

Also this week in 2005, the EU was moving forwards on software patents despite the fact that the politicians voting for it didn't understand the difference between patents and copyright. We got one great example of the ridiculousness of such patents too, when Apple was sued over the iTunes interface.

Fifteen Years Ago

In 2000, the file-sharing debate was just as heated but far more streamlined, with almost everything focused on the still-prominent Napster, which had just hired the government's lead attorney in the Microsoft case. One independent band, meanwhile, launched StopNapster.com — though on the other hand, the Economist was rightly pointing out that Napster is a wake-up call and proof that online distribution is feasible. Some companies were trying more "creative" offerings, like gas pumps that let you download music while you fill up, and the world drew closer and closer to the iPod with the advent of the first 1GB portable media player hard drive.

NASA announced that it had, for some reason, perfected porn-blocking software. It hadn't, and neither had anybody else who tried. The Librarian of Congress displayed his cluelessness about the internet, while Microsoft was airing a bizarre media campaign starring Bill Gates. The EU was setting up to probe the AOL/Time Warner merger, Sony was getting ready to storm the mobile phone market, and Kmart was making yet another attempt at getting online.

Forty & Eighteen Years Ago

This week, we look at two interesting milestones in the history of free speech in the US, and more specifically one of its most complex and storied wrinkles: obscenity and indecency. First, it was on June 26th, 1975 that the Supreme Court handed down its ruling in Miller v. California, establishing the three-prong "Miller Test" for obscene (and thus unprotected) speech. It requires that all three conditions be satisfied:

  • Whether "the average person, applying contemporary community standards", would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest,
  • Whether the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct or excretory functions specifically defined by applicable state law,
  • Whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.

Two decades later, a related law hit the scene: the Communications Decency Act. When it gets brought up here at Techdirt, it's mostly with regards to the Section 230 safe harbors, which have had an impact far beyond the subject of "decency". But the Act's original primary purpose was to protect children from seeing bad stuff online, and much of this has been struck down or altered since, with one notable date being June 26th, 1997 — the same day as the establishment of the Miller Test, 22 years later — when the Supreme Court upheld the ruling in Reno v. American Civil Liberties Union that the indecency provisions of the CDA were unconstitutional violations of the First Amendment.

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Posted on Innovation - 27 June 2015 @ 9:00am

Awesome Stuff: Not Quite Google Glass

from the heads-up dept

The failure of Google Glass was an interesting thing. Somewhat-overblown privacy issues aside, the device may have just been ahead of its time, or ahead of the technology powering it — or it might have simply been way too expensive. Whatever the case, wearable computers and head-mounted displays aren't dead, and in fact we'll probably be seeing a lot of them in the future. Today, we look at one such offering: Vufine, a wearable display that does less than Google Glass, which might be its biggest strength.

The Good

As the video reveals, the creator of the Vufine has tried just about every wearable display product around, and concluded that they are "unfocused, overpriced, impractical and overcomplicated." That's a pretty solid diagnosis, and the Vufine attempts to solve it. Firstly, it's just a wearable display, not a full computer like Google Glass: it clips onto your glasses or sunglasses, connects to any device with an HD video output, and then projects a small HUD-like display box in your field of vision. This enables lots of integrations, with two immediately obvious ones: hook it to a smartphone for heads-up maps and communication and media, or hook it to a GoPro camera to serve as a viewfinder when shooting your own action footage. Turn the camera around, and it can serve as a rear-view mirror.

By limiting the device to this single, simple, useful function, they skirt around all sorts of issues that are raised by more robust products like Google Glass, including the aforementioned privacy freakouts about head-mounted cameras and microphones. The most immediately noticeable difference is the price: the Vufine aims to retail for only $150, an order of magnitude less than Glass.

The Bad

Of course, simplifying the device also means giving up a lot of functionality. Things like voice control, gesture control, and streaming video from one person to another won't be possible unless the Vufine is hooked up to hardware and software that provides those abilities. This is less a "revolutionary new device" and more an innovative display for existing devices — not that there's anything wrong with that, but it may not generate the hype of something like Glass (though at the same time, probably won't generate the ire, either). And there's one feature that will likely irritate some, especially those who pursue wirelessness in all things: the Vufine attaches to your smartphone, camera or other device via a Micro HDMI cable. There are surely a lot of engineering and performance advantages to going the wired route, but the sight of a cable hanging from your face and disappearing into your pocket might be enough to put some people off the device altogether.

The Quantifiable

We've already looked at one of the Vufine's very attractive numbers — the price. Now let's consider a few others. Display-wise, it uses a 4x3mm micro-display that appears as a 4" display positioned 11" from your eye, at a resolution of 960x540 (a higher definition than Glass). It also weighs only 22 grams — about half of Glass and a quarter of the Recon Jet glasses. There's one slightly less attractive number though: the battery life, which clocks in at 90 minutes (compare that to 4 hours for the Jet, and a full day for Glass, though the latter can be drastically shortened depending on what features you are using). It can be attached to a USB charging pack for additional lifespan, but running a second cable from the Vufine to a pack somewhere on your person could be pretty cumbersome.

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Posted on Techdirt Podcast - 23 June 2015 @ 12:30pm

Techdirt Podcast Episode 30: Does Distance Matter In The Digital Age?

from the close-and-far dept

The internet has changed the parameters for how people can interact. Today, all sorts of work and socialization can be done over distances that were previously impossible, and the rise of telecommuting has been no surprise. And yet there are still a lot of imperfections in the system, and a lot of ways that the internet doesn't quite seem to close the gap as much as we'd like it to. In this week's episode, we ask the question of how much face-to-face communication still matters in the digital age, and what the future holds for long-distance interactions.

Follow the Techdirt Podcast on Soundcloud, subscribe via iTunes, or grab the RSS feed. You can also keep up with all the latest episodes right here on Techdirt.

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Posted on Techdirt - 22 June 2015 @ 11:33am

Daily Deal: The Network Engineer's Learning Bundle

from the good-deals-on-cool-stuff dept

Network engineers are the unsung heroes who keep the very foundations of our digital world intact while the rest of us build on top of them. They laugh at our frontend JavaScript and backend PHP, and dig beneath it all to the guts of the internet. Today's daily deal goes out to them, and to the next generation that will take up their mantle: it's the Network Engineer's Learning Bundle, a collection of seven online courses covering Python, Java, Vagrant, Linux, shell scripting and more, all with a focus on network engineering and architecture. At full price the package is worth $493, but you get lifetime access to all seven courses for only $59. If this piques your interest, please buy this bundle — the rest of us need you to keep our networks up and running!

Note: We earn a portion of all sales from Techdirt Deals. The products featured do not reflect endorsements by our editorial team.

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Posted on Techdirt - 21 June 2015 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the a-better-sunday-read-than-the-times dept

The Sunday Times got hammered this week over its article that simply parroted the government's talking points, and its responses were less than stellar. After they attempted to shunt all the blame onto said government, rw won most insightful comment of the week by pointing out the other side of the complicity coin:

This is why governments want to define "Journalists" as only those working for major media outlets.

In second place, we've got a comment that brings up a point I've never really thought of (and one that I admit I'm not sure about, but need to consider more) from Lane D on the subject of biometrics:

This is just my opinion
But I wish people would stop thinking of biometrics as a replacement for passwords. Think of them as a replacement for your username, but not as a replacement for a password.

For editor's choice on the insightful side, we start with a comment from last week's Techdirt History post, which is technically outside the boundaries for this week, but comments on those posts rarely get a shot, so why not? After we pointed to an older post asking if intellectual property was fundamentally immoral, one anonymous commenter made a pretty excellent case for "yes":

Intellectual property must give people the brainpower of a bowl of lukewarm oatmeal.

It does. It's the word "property" that does it. It's like gold fever, but for imaginary property.

Is intellectual property immoral?

Yes it is. First of all, it misrepresents the Constitutional limits of a temporary monopoly privilege as a thing that can be owned, and should therefore be owned permanently like actual property.

Secondly, it creates a breed of froth-mouthed adherents who not only disregard everyone else's rights, they insist on getting laws passed that actively infringe upon them.

Thirdly, it facilitates theft from the public domain via expansion, locking up works that were formerly free to use.

Fourthly, it robs us of our cultural heritage by letting unprofitable works on celluloid film decay instead of enabling them to be copied and saved for future generations.

Seriously, don't get me started on how utterly offensive and morally bankrupt "intellectual property" is. You can call it intellectual output if you will but if I see anyone calling it property or describing the experience thereof as "consuming," believe me I will put you straight. Let's not be using words from the real thieves' lexicon.

/End rant

Next, we've got a comment on our cross-post from the new Copia Institute website about hacking policy through innovation, not lobbying. After one commenter suggested that was difficult verging on impossible, another anonymous commenter composed an excellent response:

The Internet upsets information monopolies. (Encyclopedias)

And yet Wikipedia has come to dominate without requiring any policy changes.

But I could also repeat: Netflix, Amazon Prime

Netflix has also come to dominate without requiring any policy changes.

Innovation like SpaceX threatens fat dinosaurs

SpaceX is doing just fine without any policy changes.

Of all the things you've mentioned, only Uber and Lyft are hindered by current regulations. Your examples most contradict your premise that "you must convince the ruling class to allow us mere peasants to create innovation."

Over on the funny side, first place comes from our post about Comcast's use of misleading polls in a misguided attempt to fix its horrible reputation. DannyB did a hilarious job of imagining what one of these polls might look like:

1. How many problems have you had with your Comcast service?
[x] Zero
[_] Less than one

2. Which of the following problems have you experienced with Comcast? (Please check all that apply.)
[_] Was unable to express in words how happy I was with Comcast service!
[_] Could not reach enough Comcast people to express my joy with Comcast service.
[_] The online payment system has a bug that will not allow me to pay more than the actual price for the service.

3. How would you rate your Comcast service?
[_] Fantastical
[_] Amazing
[_] Wonderful
[_] Marvelous
[_] Good

Thank you for your feedback. As a reward for sending us feedback, would you like to receive craptacular email offers from selected Comcast partners?
[_] Yes! Please fill my inbox to overflowing!
[_] No. (but fill my inbox anyway)

For second place, we head to a post we titled "Designer Knockoff Enthusiast Issues DMCA Notice Targeting Half The Internet, Fails To Remove A Single URL." Did you catch the error? No? Thankfully, one anonymous commenter did:

FYI, you have a typo in your headline. It should read:

DMCA Notice Enthusiast Issues Blog on Designer Knockoffs ...

For editor's choice, we return to the Sunday Times saga, where CNN asked the reporter some tough questions and got some unimpressive responses. Agonistes pointed out the other big story here:

I'm absolutely shocked that a CNN employee asked relevant and coherent questions of a guest.

(To be honest, I watch so little TV news these days that I don't even know if it's fair to target CNN specifically — but given the general feebleness of that entire journalistic medium at the moment, the sentiment seems right.)

Finally, we've got a comment in response to the news that the European Human Rights court declared sites liable for user comments. Jigsy offered up the only thing that can safely be said about this bad decision:

[ This comment cannot be viewed due to disapproval by the European Human Rights Court. Sorry about that. :/ ]

That's all for this week, folks!

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Posted on Techdirt - 20 June 2015 @ 12:00pm

This Week In Techdirt History: June 14th - 20th

from the not-so-much-difference-engine dept

Five Years Ago

If you're reading this from a Starbucks, take a moment to celebrate: it was this week in 2010 that the chain first announced its plan to offer free Wi-Fi (something we'd been saying since 2003).

Once you're done celebrating, it's time to come back to the reality of all the stupid stuff that was happening that same week. In the midst of the campaign to sue people who shared The Hurt Locker, the producers defended their use of the true story it was based on as part of their free speech rights, though at least one independent director was pointing out that filesharing only hurts bad movies. Following the RIAA's victory over LimeWire, music publishers decided to pile on with their own lawsuit, while some people were starting to question the IsoHunt decision and Rapidshare was countersuing Perfect 10 for being a copyright troll. The government was getting ready to enact a law that made universities subsidize the entertainment industry, while a new anti-piracy campaign compared downloading to "killing" pop stars — while we noted that big labels and singers seem to copy from each other quite a lot. Who could blame them? Copying is often efficient and smart, copyright is barely workable when recording everything is standard, and (some) content creators were starting to come to terms with the fact that their work will be shared.

Others, like the producers of Twilight, were suing fashion designers for simply mentioning Bella and holding official Twilight t-shirt design contests where no official Twilight material is allowed. Still others, like many modern jazz musicians, were being held back by the copyright regimeseeking special exemptions from said regime. The RIAA was busy up in Canada, astroturfing for a Canadian DMCA and doing a damn good job of it.

Ten Years Ago

Oh the formats, they are a'changin' — this week in 2005, the bell began to toll for many an old medium. Wal-Mart supposedly announced that it would no longer sell VHS movies, and though it later denied the report, the signs still couldn't be clearer, much like they were for cassette tapes, supposed death of the music industry. EMI jumped on the CD copy protection bandwagon, accelerating that format's path to obsolescence, while reports were urging the music industry to embrace file sharing. Libraries were introducing (but still struggling with) digital downloads, the number of mainly-online news readers hit 20%, and surveys were already showing that people much preferred watching movies at home.

And when formats shift, industries panic. Some were calling for universal DRM or struggling to maintain their walled gardens, some were still pressuring congress to approve the broadcast flag, journalists were railing against Wikipedia and Warner Movies was threatening ISPs in the hunt for user data, while the MPAA was doubletalking about Grokster and Bob Geldof was calling eBay evil.

Fifteen Years Ago

Not much changes. This week in 2000, the RIAA was going crazy against Napster and seeking the removal of all major label songs, while the CEO was insisting the service is completely legal. Internet speeds were getting closer to making movie piracy a large-scale reality, while the MPAA's attack on illegal rebroadcasting signalled that it would surely behave much like the RIAA when faced with that reality. The web was already changing journalism and people were already going online for news... and journalists already weren't getting it. One person was surprisingly on-the-ball, though: Courtney Love, one of the first musicians to speak out with real insight on the music industry moving into the digital age.

The UK's Royal Navy embarrassed itself by accidentally emailing lots of confidential info to a teenage girl, while the US Navy was touting its new ability to send emails from submarines. JP Morgan made its own embarrassing error when it failed to pay the $35 to renew jpmorgan.com. Meanwhile, it was still trendy to ask the big questions about the internet: what do people really think of it? Does it actually increase productivity? And how do you keep kids innocent online?

64 & 193 Years Ago

June 14th marks two concurrent and related anniversaries in the history of computing. First, in 1822 it was the day Charles Babbage proposed his Difference Engine, the theoretical mechanical marvel that heralded the computing revolution way ahead of schedule. So it's fitting that it was also on June 14th, over a century later in 1951, that UNIVAC I, the first ever commercial computer produced in the US, was dedicated.

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Posted on Innovation - 20 June 2015 @ 9:00am

Awesome Stuff: Immortal Data

from the forever-files dept

As we move ever deeper into the digital age, the question of data preservation as gotten bigger and bigger. Recently, people got a scare when it was suggested that SSDs have an even more dismal lifespan than presumed, though it turned out people were taking that study slightly out of context. Today, we look at an entirely different approach preservation: the Nanoform, an engraved sapphire disk that keeps your precious data around forever.

The Good

I imagine almost everyone feels a little attraction to the Nanoform. It's just a damn cool idea that plays on all sorts of curious, in-built human fascinations: precious minerals, miniaturization, and of course the desire for permanence. The engraved disks are beautiful, even just for the sheer amount of information that's packed in — one shot shows the entire text of War and Peace taking up only a fraction of a single disk. You could easily make one to include your entire life's memoirs, every letter you've ever written, a whole family history of photos, and then some. The engraved and sealed sapphire disks will likely live up to their promise of an essentially-infinite lifespan — we're not dealing with complex ways of storing bits and bytes, but a straightforward use of the world's third-hardest mineral. The whole concept puts me in mind of the Pioneer Plaques or the Voyager Golden Record (and indeed, the Nanoform might be a great choice for any future irresistible plans to attach a message to a spacecraft).

The Bad

Well, let's face it: this isn't exactly practical. The Nanoform gets its data permanence by trading in data usefulness: it's an analog medium, retaining things for curious posterity or just decoration rather than being a serious means of storage. Retrieving it doesn't require a card reader or a disk drive, just a magnifying glass or a microscope. Getting it back onto a computer requires a high-res scanner (and all the massive limitations that method entails). So I think it's safe to say that, outside some incredibly fringe cases that I can't quite think of, the Nanoform is for fun not function — and given its understandably hefty price tag, it's outside many people's "fun" budgets. The impact of the price is softened slightly, though, by the fact that a Nanoform really will last a lifetime — a very rare thing in the days when people regularly spend just as much money on devices that are either bricked or obsolete within a few years.

The Giftable

Once many years ago, I met someone carrying a huge binder of printed pages, and asked what it was. She explained that today was the birthday of her best friend, with whom she had almost-daily instant messaging conversations that dwindled late into the night covering every aspect of both their lives, and so as a gift she had printed off their entire chat history. Later I saw the gift being given, and it was clearly one of the most fun, interesting and genuinely moving presents the person had ever received. I thought about that story when I saw the Nanoform. If I were to make a guess, I'd say the number one place the Nanoform will catch on is the world of gifts. Weddings, anniversaries, birthdays — a permanent, decorative record of a lifetime is a fitting and excellent gift for all of them. And just like in that case, our online lives produce a huge amount of material that could make such a memento highly personal and meaningful.

Of course, that abundance of data about our lives is something that makes a lot of people nervous, but few people are willing to truly let go of it precisely because it represents so many memories. Maybe transcribing some of that information to an indestructible sapphire disk and getting it the hell off the cloud is exactly the solution nostalgia needs.

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Posted on Techdirt Podcast - 16 June 2015 @ 12:37pm

Techdirt Podcast Episode 29: Autonomous Vehicles Will Change Everything

from the drive-my-car dept

Last week, we were joined by Upshift founder Ezra Goldman to discuss the future of mobility in a world of on-demand services like Uber. This week, Ezra is back to help us fill in the other big piece of the transportation puzzle: autonomous vehicles, and their potential to change just about everything.

Follow the Techdirt Podcast on Soundcloud, subscribe via iTunes, or grab the RSS feed. You can also keep up with all the latest episodes right here on Techdirt.

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Posted on Techdirt - 15 June 2015 @ 10:31am

Daily Deal: Vitasigns Smart Bluetooth Body Analyzer

from the good-deals-on-cool-stuff dept

Whether you're trying to get fit, stay fit or just live healthily, simply obsessing over "the lbs" is going to do more harm than good. The Vitasigns Smart Bluetooth Body Analyzer monitors your body weight, body fat, and BMI, tracks changes in your fat loss and muscle gain, and sends all the data straight to the free Vitasigns mobile app where you can chart and monitor your progress. You shouldn't try to boil fitness down to a single number, but you don't need constant doctor visits and nutritional sessions just to stay accountable — monitor all the essential body metrics right from your bathroom floor.

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Posted on Techdirt - 14 June 2015 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the histories-and-hypocrisies dept

Recently, Bell seems to have woken up to the fact that lots of people use VPNs to access Netflix in other markets — and has decided that's a terrible thing. This week, they urged the public to shame such users, prompting both our first and second place comments for insightful this week. First, it's an anonymous commenter pointing out just how absurd this whole thing has gotten:

You know we're in crazy land when even paying for content is theft

Next, it's DB underlining the double standard when it comes to regional restrictions:

Businesses want to choose in a global labor market, but they don't want 'their' customers to have unmediated access to the global services marketplace.

For editor's choice on the insightful side, we start with a comment from John Fenderson, responding simply and elegantly to the idea that Edward Snowden gave up his right to due process:

If it's possible to give up due process, then "due process" means nothing at all.

Next, we head to our post about how police and the media make efforts to disparage those who have died as a result of bad police behavior, where one anonymous commenter highlighted how the system inherently favors bad cops over good ones:

That's why I automatically assume the police and press are lying when they say anything negative about the person they just shot.

Although I did once meet a former officer who had quit after almost shooting an unarmed man, and I do believe his story. The problem is, he quit because he was a good cop and couldn't stand the thought of shooting someone who was unarmed, even though the officer thought the person he was chasing had a gun and was about to shoot him.

So the problem is, people who should be cops quit when they come close to shooting an unarmed person, and those who shouldn't be cops don't quit. So you see how police forces quickly become full of people who shouldn't be cops.

On the funny side, we start out on our post about a UK official claiming that torrents are a gateway to more serious crime, and expounding the need to prevent kids from going down that path. That One Guy won first place by noting a certain unintended wisdom in his words, and adding an additional statement to his list:

"There are many of our young people, and not only young people, who are becoming highly skilled and capable in a digital environment," he said.

"It's important that they put those skills to good use and are not tempted to become involved, unwittingly in cyber criminality.

"They are members of forums and are exchanging ideas in a marketplace that criminals are looking (at).

"They are looking for people with technical skills who can compliment their criminal business.

"They are looking to recruit those people.

"They try to induce and manipulate them."

"And that is why it's so important to sit down and talk to your sons and/or daughters, because if you don't, they might end up working for the government."

Next, we head to our post about a scrap over copyright and Javascript, kicked off by a threat letter from Airtel to a guy who exposed their practice of secret Javascript injection. DannyB won second place for funny by noting the similarity in tone between the threat letter and some more well-known bullshit correspondence:

From threat letter:
Your act also amounts to a criminal offence under the Indian Penal Code, 1860 and the Information Technology Act, 2000. This act of you have caused great damage to our client's business, as well as to its name and reputation, and although such looss cannot be compensated in terms of money, our client will be entitled to claim and recover from you substantial amount by way of compensation/damages.
I was expecting to see an additional paragraph:
We will forego any damage if you will help our wealthy client to move a large sum money out of the country in exchange for half the proceedes. Please to be sending us your bank account informations so we can be depositing the large sum into your account.

For editor's choice on the funny side, we remain on that post for a moment, where we also examined the whole idea of copyright and code and just how such things should work. Is simply viewing source code copyright infringement? One anonymous commenter adapted an old defence to this new purpose:

i looked at the words, but i didn't inhale.

Finally, we head to our post about the ongoing fears (and fights) related to cellphone radiation. One commenter pointed out the deja vu feeling of this issue for those who were told to fear radiation from good ol' television sets, leading to a conversation about the days before remote controls, and finally this gem from commenter RightShark:

My dad had a voice-activated remote control back then.
He would say "Son, go change the channel."

That's all for this week, folks!

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Posted on Techdirt - 13 June 2015 @ 12:00pm

This Week In Techdirt History: June 7th - 13th

from the digital-antiques dept

Five Years Ago

There was a whole lot of copyright news this week in 2010. The organizers of a Bulgarian chess tournament were suing over a copyright on chess moves, copyright was holding back research, and a top public school was seeking to copyright and sell its curriculum. Armenia decided it needed incredibly strict copyright laws while the IFPI was complaining that Canada's new copyright laws weren't strict enough, and a Spanish court (not the first) found file-sharing to be legal. One US court smacked down a lawyer for bad faith pursuit of copyright infringement, while another was expressing skepticism over US Copyright Group's lumping together of cases (while many of the targets claimed innocence).

We considered a key question about whether the RIAA's lawsuits had been a "success" while some took a closer look at the association's rise and fall (debunking the idea that it was all about Napster), and Thom Yorke was pinning the lifespan of record labels in the months, not years. Also in need of debunking was the claim that unauthorized handheld games cost the economy tens of billions, not to mention Authors Guild president Scott Turow's freakout about book piracy. Amidst all this, we asked a simple question: is intellectual property immoral?

Ten Years Ago

Five years earlier, press in the UK was happily parroting the recording industry's spin on everything while the country's new creative minister was trying to increase the copyright term for pop songs lest Elvis hit the public domain. Apple's iTunes store was taking on the file-sharing networks (though it wasn't clear to what extent) and people were beginning to notice the curious copyright questions surrounding wedding photography.

The Apple-Intel rumours finally graduated to an official announcement (and some wondered if Apple might sue CNET over the early leak). Journalists at the WSJ got a taste of working without email when their system went down, and AOL finally dipped its toes into the web with a free email service and portal. Firefox was gaining ground in the browser wars, United became the first domestic airline to offer in-flight Wi-Fi, and the FCC bumped up the deadline for TV broadcasts to go digital.

Also this week in 2005, Congress was moving forward with a patent reform bill that was mostly bad with a little good thrown in, while we highlighted an economic analysis of why patents are inefficient in emerging markets.

Fifteen Years Ago

All eyes were on the dot-com world this week in 2000. With a sudden emphasis on actually making money ruining a lot of people's fun, startups were furiously racing to profitability while still advertising on every surface they could find (the latest: shopping bags). But not everything works out — sometimes acquisitions fail, and sometimes dot-coms collapse and are tough to liquidate.

A judge handed down the first ruling that Microsoft must be broken up this week in 2000, while IBM was trying to revive its PC business. CBS, meanwhile, laid off a quarter of its internet staff.The UK government was losing track of its laptops and struggling to understand what meta-tags were.

The first major mobile phone worm appeared in the wild, leading antivirus companies to immediately start peddling protection (not that they ever blow anything out of proportion or anything like that). More and more men were seeking wives online, while at least one internet dater found himself victim of a carjacking scheme.

Thirty-Eight Years Ago

I know many Techdirt readers have fond memories of the Apple II, one of the first truly successful personal computers. Well, it was on June 10th, 1977 that the very first Apple II computers went on sale. The machine's number one hook was its color graphics, which were practically unheard of at its price-point and attracted a lot of consumer attention.

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Posted on Innovation - 13 June 2015 @ 9:00am

Awesome Stuff: New Digital Instruments Done Right

from the bleep-bloop dept

A couple weeks ago, I discussed how some bad implementation choices raised serious questions about an otherwise-cool digital crossfader for DJs. This week, we're looking at OWOW, a set of digital music controllers that are far more robust and actually make a lot of smart, musician-friendly choices in their design.

The Good

The OWOW devices all look pretty cool, even if they aren't all revolutionary. One essentially serves as a theremin, one as a tiny drum pad, two as neat handheld motion controllers, and the most innovative of the lot: a scanner that converts lines you draw freehand on paper into music. All of them are extremely compact, and the scanner is (to my knowledge) entirely unique. None are standalone instruments, though — they serve as controllers for digital music software. But unlike the aforementioned crossfader, these devices are designed for maximum compatibility with everything in that world (they appear to use MIDI-over-USB) rather than being tied down to a proprietary, platform-specific app. When combined with studio software like Reason or Ableton, these might be very powerful and would at least be a lot of fun.

But perhaps the most interesting thing about OWOW is the choice to offer two versions of the devices: one full formed with a sleek aluminum casing, and one at a lower price that is just the raw circuit board on its own. The open circuit will work just fine by itself (and many aficionados of synthesizers and other gear are happy to work with some exposed boards around), and the designers are also supplying free schematics for 3D printing your own casing. The OWOW instruments, like all such devices, aren't cheap — and the DIY offering is a great way to help out musicians operating on a budget and support the maker-musician community.

The Bad

Funky-looking little high-tech MIDI controllers actually come along quite often, and only a handful turn out to be truly useful. Based on the video and the norm for such controllers, there's a good chance there will be some responsiveness issues, but whether these will be "occasionally annoying" or "crippling" is uncertain. With a new digital music device like this, you can never be entirely sure whether it's a tool or a toy until you've tried it out yourself. It remains to be seen whether some or all of the OWOW instruments are really worth the price — but, so far, they are ticking all the boxes and then some.

The Clever

There's one other thing worth noting about the OWOW: a creative approach to Kickstarter fundraising that I've never seen before. While most projects for higher-price devices like this fill out their lower backer tiers with stickers and T-shirts and other secondary gear for people who want to support but not buy, OWOW is offering up a five-euro mobile game for iOS and Android. The hook? The player with the top score in the mobile game at the end of the campaign will get a complete set of all five instruments for free. That strikes me as a fantastic way to engage backers and offer low-budget supporters a good reason to buy, and I won't be surprised if that tactic starts to catch on in the world of crowdfunding.

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Posted on Techdirt Podcast - 9 June 2015 @ 12:30pm

Techdirt Podcast Episode 28: Is Car Ownership On The Way Out?

from the the-future-of-mobility dept

The explosive rise of Uber, ride-sharing programs, and other on-demand mobility services has led many to wonder if the whole concept of car ownership is on its way out, at least for city-dwellers. This week we're joined by Upshift founder Ezra Goldman, who recently wrote a manifesto for the future of mobility and helps us delve far beyond a surface analysis of transportation trends.

Follow the Techdirt Podcast on Soundcloud, subscribe via iTunes, or grab the RSS feed. You can also keep up with all the latest episodes right here on Techdirt.

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Posted on Techdirt - 7 June 2015 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the bad-quotes-and-bad-scripts dept

This week, the New Zealand government stepped in to stop the US from seizing all of Kim Dotcom's assets, prompting a lot of reactions from every corner. Both our top comments on the insightful side come in response to that story, the first from PRMan with a simple but distressing observation:


It seems that New Zealand follows our constitution more than we do...

In second place we've got jupiterkansas with a response to the old argument that Dotcom's behaviour warrants this treatment:

Does not matter what Kim Dotcom did - it's no excuse for the U.S. government to break the law and resort to stealing just to to stop him or any other criminal, and seizing his assets is closer to piracy than anything Dotcom has done.

For editor's choice, we'll start it with one more comment along those lines that also questions the supposed magnitude of his "crimes":

Again your understanding of the facts leaves much to be desired. He didn't "produce nothing", he created a platform. He made money by selling access to that platform. He hosted content others uploaded to his platform. He didn't use any products others made in any infringement. The people who posted the material are at fault.

I want the US government to abide by due process. And not horsetrade with Dotcoms rights and legal avenues. Playing games with his ability to mount a defense is not exactly going well for the US Government, if you hadn't noticed.

Of course, it's hard to see Dotcom as a hero — but the same is not true of another one of the government's overseas targets, Edward Snowden. Our second editor's choice comes from David in response to yet another government comment about his serious crimes, and the need for him to face them:

Would that be before or after Clapper faces lying under oath to Congress about commandeering the dismantling of the U.S. Constitution by criminally reinterpreting his mandate?

As long as none of the criminals uncovered by Snowden's actions faces the music and instead stays in office without retribution, it is entirely silly to go gungho on the person uncovering the crimes.

Oh by the way: who is going to get prosecuted for the CIA torturing people to death for fun (as it has been clearly established that at the point of the killing no information was to be gained any more)? Obama has stated emphatically that those "heroes" and "patriots" would not be facing the music. Including the armchair psychologists directing the torture "experiments" and receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars for their "expertise".

I'm all for a punishment proportionate to the crime. If we take the punishment of those criminals as guidance, the punishment of Snowden would probably be a daily banquet in the Washington D.C. market place for the rest of his life.

Which is more or less what Sokrates pleaded as punishment for his "crimes" when dragged before a court about equally likely to deliver justice as a U.S. court.

Hopefully Snowden will spare the American people at least the shame of a mock trial and will refrain from returning while the current criminals are in office.

But, more so than any one statement about Snowden this week, we were shocked by the sheer number of them that referred to him as "Eric". Our first place comment for funny comes from Chris Brand and suggests a possible explanation:

Could be a printing error

in the script they're all reading from.

Speaking of scripts, we also got two strange, identical comments whining about something to do with the New York Times this week, prompting one anonymous commenter to to deliver our second-place winner for funny:

Hint: When shilling, try not to post identical comments twice in two minutes with different IPs.

For editor's choice on the funny side, we return to the story of "Eric" Snowden, where Baron Von Robber put on his best government-official voice:

Erik Snowden! A name that will live in infamy with the likes of Jody Stalin, Adam Hitler, Charlene Manson and The Rock Obama!

But of course, he missed one — and for that we go to our final (anonymous) editor's choice:

Erik Snowden is a regular Bernard Arnold.

That's all for this week, folks!

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Posted on Techdirt - 6 June 2015 @ 12:00pm

This Week In Techdirt History: May 31st - June 6th

from the fourteen-plus-fourteen dept

Five Years Ago

This week in 2010, we were following mass copyright threat campaigns and disappointed to see Verizon handing names over to US Copyright Group, but happy to see the EFF, Public Citizen and the ACLU ask a judge to put a stop to the subpoenas. At the same time, we wondered if US Copyright Group and ACS:Law might be working together.

It was the fourth anniversary of the raid that took down the Pirate Bay (for a couple days), which had yet to have any significant effect. We saw some early entries in what would become the Righthaven saga, a Dutch court said that just linking to movies is illegal, and Canada introduced a new copyright bill with DMCA-like anti-circumvention provisions (while admitting that the last bill was all about keeping US diplomats happy). Meanwhile, author Joe Konrath was experimenting with piracy to see how it impacted his sales, Ashton Kutcher and Lionsgate were 'self-pirating' their new film as a publicity stunt, and some successful content creators were worried about the Viacom lawsuit interfering with their use of YouTube. Scott Adams noticed (and accepted) that the price of content is trending towards zero, while David Gerrold argued that any industry that thinks filesharing is bad is ignoring customers.

Ten Years Ago

Last week, with the benefit of hindsight, I was able to note that the rumours of Apple switching to Intel were (for the first time) true. This week in 2005 the rumours solidified, confirming suspicions and forcing a lot of incredulous analysts to eat their words (though the official announcement wouldn't come until the following Monday).

The internet was changing the way people interact with entertainment in big ways. The line between advertising and content was getting blurrier, as was the entire concept of a "television channel" (which appeared to be on the way out), and as were the borders between regions (which, as Sony was learning, had become meaningless). The perennial concern that digital music is too low-quality reared an early head with a $9,500 device that makes Pono and Tidal look like bargains. DVD-trading communities were struggling because it turns out nobody wants bad DVDs, and hotel check-in kiosks weren't doing great either. But we did see hints of an exciting future, with more examples of patron-donation models for creators.

We learned that the recording industry stalked Kazaa's CEO for months, and that the MPAA was funding public surveillance of him — so it's unsurprising that lots of folks (as always way ahead of the *AA) were working on a more anonymous version of BitTorrent. ICANN agreed to create a .xxx TLD while we watched the .kids.us domain get only 21 websites in three years. Speaking of not understanding kids, California tried to ban textbooks over 200 pages in a misguided attempt to embrace the internet.

Fifteen Years Ago

Sony had resisted digital music sales until this week in 2000, when they made a selection of 50 tracks available for download (at a high price, in a special DRM format, of course). MP3.com was trying its own strategy — piping music directly to retailers — while The Offspring had the creative idea of cheekily selling Napster merchandise. Amidst all this, we noted that the recording industry was full of mixed messages, hating piracy but marketing to pirates. In short, it seemed like they didn't get it. Much like National Geographic didn't get Burning Man, high society didn't get the internet and its nouveau-riche, and high schools didn't get that free e-mail services are good.

These seemed like uncertain days for Silicon Valley, but people were beginning to realize that VC money was not in fact drying up and they were still spending like crazy. Of course, those Dot Coms that didn't survive tended to just disappear, since they had very little to be sold off.

Two-Hundred And Twenty-Five Years Ago

A few weeks ago I marked the 1710 passage of the Statute of Anne, forerunner of all modern copyright law. This week, we mark the next milestone in that saga: the signing of the Copyright Act of 1790 on May 31st, the first federal copyright law in the United States, and established the well-known (around here) original copyright term of 14+14 years for books, maps and charts.

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Posted on Innovation - 6 June 2015 @ 9:00am

Awesome Stuff: Feeling Virtual Reality

from the five-senses dept

True virtual reality — the kind we've been envisioning now for decades — is inching ever closer to, well, reality. But while most of the focus is new devices that let you see a virtual world, there are some people out there working on the other senses to round out the simulated experience. This week, we're looking at Gloveone, a haptic feedback system that wants to do for touch what devices like the Oculus Rift are doing for sight.

The Good

I don't think I need to sell anyone on the idea of fully immersive virtual reality, which is a sci-fi dream every bit as potent as flying cars and hoverboards, but one that's looking a lot more attainable. And then there's the idea of a glove-based input and feedback device, which remains intriguing even to those who were burned in 1989. So what can I say? The Gloveone is just cool. Even basic haptic feedback has proven a boon to mobile devices and game controllers, and those systems don't begin to approach the complexity and detail of the Gloveone's, so I'm excited to see what can be done with the technology.

The Bad

The Gloveone isn't likely to be many people's first foray into virtual reality. It would be great to use as part of a complete multi-sensory setup, but by itself it may not be all that exciting. The ability to interact with objects on regular screens will surely have some applications, but it's alongside something like the Oculus Rift or Microsoft Hololens that the device will truly shine, and those aren't exactly household staples just yet. But, ultimately, that isn't the point: the creators surely know their direct consumer appeal is currently limited, but they are banking on a future where virtual reality setups become more and more common, and filling in an important gap.

The Future

And that's what the Gloveone's really about, and what makes it awesome: the (potentially) coming VR future. The creators are putting a huge focus on developers: the developer site is already up with documentation, runtimes, SDKs and a package for Unity3D (with Unreal Engine compatibility as a stretch goal, which could lead to some exciting games). This community is where the Gloveone can really shine and where most of the attention is likely to come from for the next little while, as forward-thinking developers start doing interesting and unexpected things with the technology. The truth is, there probably isn't much reason for the average person to buy something like this right now — but given a bit of time and creative innovation, the Gloveone may prove to be the prototype for the next generation of haptic devices.

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Posted on Techdirt Podcast - 2 June 2015 @ 12:30pm

Techdirt Podcast Episode 27: The Rise Of The On-Demand Economy

from the beyond-uber dept

There are a lot of startups out there trying to become the "Uber of..." something, from valet parking to food delivery to dog-walking. But as much as this might look like mere bandwagon-hopping, it actually represents a fascinating and potentially important trend: the emergence of a new, highly efficient and flexible economy based around individuals offering on-demand services.

Follow the Techdirt Podcast on Soundcloud, subscribe via iTunes, or grab the RSS feed. You can also keep up with all the latest episodes right here on Techdirt.

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