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Paul Merrell

Official Google Docs Blog: Upload and store your files in the cloud with Google Docs - 2 views

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    We're happy to announce that over the next few weeks we will be rolling out the ability to upload, store and organize any type of file in Google Docs. With this change, you'll be able to upload and access your files from any computer -- all you need is an Internet connection. Instead of emailing files to yourself, which is particularly difficult with large files, you can upload to Google Docs any file up to 250 MB. You'll have 1 GB of free storage for files you don't convert into one of the Google Docs formats (i.e. Google documents, spreadsheets, and presentations), and if you need more space, you can buy additional storage for $0.25 per GB per year. This makes it easy to backup more of your key files online, from large graphics and raw photos to unedited home videos taken on your smartphone. You might even be able to replace the USB drive you reserved for those files that are too big to send over email. Combined with shared folders, you can store, organize, and collaborate on files more easily using Google Docs.
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

transfer.sh - Easy and fast file sharing from the command-line. - 0 views

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    "Easy file sharing from the command line"
Gary Edwards

The True Story of How the Patent Bar Captured a Court and Shrank the Intellectual Commons | Cato Unbound - 1 views

  • The change in the law wrought by the Federal Circuit can also be viewed substantively through the controversy over software patents. Throughout the 1960s, the USPTO refused to award patents for software innovations. However, several of the USPTO’s decisions were overruled by the patent-friendly U.S. Court of Customs and Patent Appeals, which ordered that software patents be granted. In Gottschalk v. Benson (1972) and Parker v. Flook (1978), the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the Court of Customs and Patent Appeals, holding that mathematical algorithms (and therefore software) were not patentable subject matter. In 1981, in Diamond v. Diehr, the Supreme Court upheld a software patent on the grounds that the patent in question involved a physical process—the patent was issued for software used in the molding of rubber. While affirming their prior ruling that mathematical formulas are not patentable in the abstract, the Court held that an otherwise patentable invention did not become unpatentable simply because it utilized a computer.
  • In the hands of the newly established Federal Circuit, however, this small scope for software patents in precedent was sufficient to open the floodgates. In a series of decisions culminating in State Street Bank v. Signature Financial Group (1998), the Federal Circuit broadened the criteria for patentability of software and business methods substantially, allowing protection as long as the innovation “produces a useful, concrete and tangible result.” That broadened criteria led to an explosion of low-quality software patents, from Amazon’s 1-Click checkout system to Twitter’s pull-to-refresh feature on smartphones. The GAO estimates that more than half of all patents granted in recent years are software-related. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court continues to hold, as in Parker v. Flook, that computer software algorithms are not patentable, and has begun to push back against the Federal Circuit. In Bilski v. Kappos (2010), the Supreme Court once again held that abstract ideas are not patentable, and in Alice v. CLS (2014), it ruled that simply applying an abstract idea on a computer does not suffice to make the idea patent-eligible. It still is not clear what portion of existing software patents Alice invalidates, but it could be a significant one.
  • Supreme Court justices also recognize the Federal Circuit’s insubordination. In oral arguments in Carlsbad Technology v. HIF Bio (2009), Chief Justice John Roberts joked openly about it:
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  • The Opportunity of the Commons
  • As a result of the Federal Circuit’s pro-patent jurisprudence, our economy has been flooded with patents that would otherwise not have been granted. If more patents meant more innovation, then we would now be witnessing a spectacular economic boom. Instead, we have been living through what Tyler Cowen has called a Great Stagnation. The fact that patents have increased while growth has not is known in the literature as the “patent puzzle.” As Michele Boldrin and David Levine put it, “there is no empirical evidence that [patents] serve to increase innovation and productivity, unless productivity is identified with the number of patents awarded—which, as evidence shows, has no correlation with measured productivity.”
  • While more patents have not resulted in faster economic growth, they have resulted in more patent lawsuits.
  • Software patents have characteristics that make them particularly susceptible to litigation. Unlike, say, chemical patents, software patents are plagued by a problem of description. How does one describe a software innovation in such a way that anyone searching for it will easily find it? As Christina Mulligan and Tim Lee demonstrate, chemical formulas are indexable, meaning that as the number of chemical patents grow, it will still be easy to determine if a molecule has been patented. Since software innovations are not indexable, they estimate that “patent clearance by all firms would require many times more hours of legal research than all patent lawyers in the United States can bill in a year. The result has been an explosion of patent litigation.” Software and business method patents, estimate James Bessen and Michael Meurer, are 2 and 7 times more likely to be litigated than other patents, respectively (4 and 13 times more likely than chemical patents).
  • Software patents make excellent material for predatory litigation brought by what are often called “patent trolls.”
  • Trolls use asymmetries in the rules of litigation to legally extort millions of dollars from innocent parties. For example, one patent troll, Innovatio IP Ventures, LLP, acquired patents that implicated Wi-Fi. In 2011, it started sending demand letters to coffee shops and hotels that offered wireless Internet access, offering to settle for $2,500 per location. This amount was far in excess of the 9.56 cents per device that Innovatio was entitled to under the “Fair, Reasonable, and Non-Discriminatory” licensing promises attached to their portfolio, but it was also much less than the cost of trial, and therefore it was rational for firms to pay. Cisco stepped in and spent $13 million in legal fees on the case, and settled on behalf of their customers for 3.2 cents per device. Other manufacturers had already licensed Innovatio’s portfolio, but that didn’t stop their customers from being targeted by demand letters.
  • Litigation cost asymmetries are magnified by the fact that most patent trolls are nonpracticing entities. This means that when patent infringement trials get to the discovery phase, they will cost the troll very little—a firm that does not operate a business has very few records to produce.
  • But discovery can cost a medium or large company millions of dollars. Using an event study methodology, James Bessen and coauthors find that infringement lawsuits by nonpracticing entities cost publicly traded companies $83 billion per year in stock market capitalization, while plaintiffs gain less than 10 percent of that amount.
  • Software patents also reduce innovation in virtue of their cumulative nature and the fact that many of them are frequently inputs into a single product. Law professor Michael Heller coined the phrase “tragedy of the anticommons” to refer to a situation that mirrors the well-understood “tragedy of the commons.” Whereas in a commons, multiple parties have the right to use a resource but not to exclude others, in an anticommons, multiple parties have the right to exclude others, and no one is therefore able to make effective use of the resource. The tragedy of the commons results in overuse of the resource; the tragedy of the anticommons results in underuse.
  • In order to cope with the tragedy of the anticommons, we should carefully investigate the opportunity of  the commons. The late Nobelist Elinor Ostrom made a career of studying how communities manage shared resources without property rights. With appropriate self-governance institutions, Ostrom found again and again that a commons does not inevitably lead to tragedy—indeed, open access to shared resources can provide collective benefits that are not available under other forms of property management.
  • This suggests that—litigation costs aside—patent law could be reducing the stock of ideas rather than expanding it at current margins.
  • Advocates of extensive patent protection frequently treat the commons as a kind of wasteland. But considering the problems in our patent system, it is worth looking again at the role of well-tailored limits to property rights in some contexts. Just as we all benefit from real property rights that no longer extend to the highest heavens, we would also benefit if the scope of patent protection were more narrowly drawn.
  • Reforming the Patent System
  • This analysis raises some obvious possibilities for reforming the patent system. Diane Wood, Chief Judge of the 7th Circuit, has proposed ending the Federal Circuit’s exclusive jurisdiction over patent appeals—instead, the Federal Circuit could share jurisdiction with the other circuit courts. While this is a constructive suggestion, it still leaves the door open to the Federal Circuit playing “a leading role in shaping patent law,” which is the reason for its capture by patent interests. It would be better instead simply to abolish the Federal Circuit and return to the pre-1982 system, in which patents received no special treatment in appeals. This leaves open the possibility of circuit splits, which the creation of the Federal Circuit was designed to mitigate, but there are worse problems than circuit splits, and we now have them.
  • Another helpful reform would be for Congress to limit the scope of patentable subject matter via statute. New Zealand has done just that, declaring that software is “not an invention” to get around WTO obligations to respect intellectual property. Congress should do the same with respect to both software and business methods.
  • Finally, even if the above reforms were adopted, there would still be a need to address the asymmetries in patent litigation that result in predatory “troll” lawsuits. While the holding in Alice v. CLS arguably makes a wide swath of patents invalid, those patents could still be used in troll lawsuits because a ruling of invalidity for each individual patent might not occur until late in a trial. Current legislation in Congress addresses this class of problem by mandating disclosures, shifting fees in the case of spurious lawsuits, and enabling a review of the patent’s validity before a trial commences.
  • What matters for prosperity is not just property rights in the abstract, but good property-defining institutions. Without reform, our patent system will continue to favor special interests and forestall economic growth.
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    "Libertarians intuitively understand the case for patents: just as other property rights internalize the social benefits of improvements to land, automobile maintenance, or business investment, patents incentivize the creation of new inventions, which might otherwise be undersupplied. So far, so good. But it is important to recognize that the laws that govern property, intellectual or otherwise, do not arise out of thin air. Rather, our political institutions, with all their virtues and foibles, determine the contours of property-the exact bundle of rights that property holders possess, their extent, and their limitations. Outlining efficient property laws is not a trivial problem. The optimal contours of property are neither immutable nor knowable a priori. For example, in 1946, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the age-old common law doctrine that extended real property rights to the heavens without limit. The advent of air travel made such extensive property rights no longer practicable-airlines would have had to cobble together a patchwork of easements, acre by acre, for every corridor through which they flew, and they would have opened themselves up to lawsuits every time their planes deviated from the expected path. The Court rightly abridged property rights in light of these empirical realities. In defining the limits of patent rights, our political institutions have gotten an analogous question badly wrong. A single, politically captured circuit court with exclusive jurisdiction over patent appeals has consistently expanded the scope of patentable subject matter. This expansion has resulted in an explosion of both patents and patent litigation, with destructive consequences. "
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    I added a comment to the page's article. Patents are antithetical to the precepts of Libertarianism and do not involve Natural Law rights. But I agree with the author that the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit should be abolished. It's a failed experiment.
Gary Edwards

Meteor: The NeXT Web - 0 views

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    "Writing software is too hard and it takes too long. It's time for a new way to write software - especially application software, the user-facing software we use every day to talk to people and keep track of things. This new way should be radically simple. It should make it possible to build a prototype in a day or two, and a real production app in a few weeks. It should make everyday things easy, even when those everyday things involve hundreds of servers, millions of users, and integration with dozens of other systems. It should be built on collaboration, specialization, and division of labor, and it should be accessible to the maximum number of people. Today, there's a chance to create this new way - to build a new platform for cloud applications that will become as ubiquitous as previous platforms such as Unix, HTTP, and the relational database. It is not a small project. There are many big problems to tackle, such as: How do we transition the web from a "dumb terminal" model that is based on serving HTML, to a client/server model that is based on exchanging data? How do we design software to run in a radically distributed environment, where even everyday database apps are spread over multiple data centers and hundreds of intelligent client devices, and must integrate with other software at dozens of other organizations? How do we prepare for a world where most web APIs will be push-based (realtime), rather than polling-driven? In the face of escalating complexity, how can we simplify software engineering so that more people can do it? How will software developers collaborate and share components in this new world? Meteor is our audacious attempt to solve all of these big problems, at least for a certain large class of everyday applications. We think that success will come from hard work, respect for history and "classically beautiful" engineering patterns, and a philosophy of generally open and collaborative development. " .............. "It is not a
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    "How do we transition the web from a "dumb terminal" model that is based on serving HTML, to a client/server model that is based on exchanging data?" From a litigation aspect, the best bet I know of is antitrust litigation against the W3C and the WHATWG Working Group for implementing a non-interoperable specification. See e.g., Commission v. Microsoft, No. T-167/08, European Community Court of First Instance (Grand Chamber Judgment of 17 September, 2007), para. 230, 374, 421, http://preview.tinyurl.com/chsdb4w (rejecting Microsoft's argument that "interoperability" has a 1-way rather than 2-way meaning; information technology specifications must be disclosed with sufficient specificity to place competitors on an "equal footing" in regard to interoperability; "the 12th recital to Directive 91/250 defines interoperability as 'the ability to exchange information and mutually to use the information which has been exchanged'"). Note that the Microsoft case was prosecuted on the E.U.'s "abuse of market power" law that corresponds to the U.S. Sherman Act § 2 (monopolies). But undoubtedly the E.U. courts would apply the same standard to "agreements among undertakings" in restraint of trade, counterpart to the Sherman Act's § 1 (conspiracies in restraint of trade), the branch that applies to development of voluntary standards by competitors. But better to innovate and obsolete HTML, I think. DG Competition and the DoJ won't prosecute such cases soon. For example, Obama ran for office promising to "reinvigorate antitrust enforcement" but his DoJ has yet to file its first antitrust case against a big company. Nb., virtually the same definition of interoperability announced by the Court of First Instance is provided by ISO/IEC JTC-1 Directives, annex I ("eye"), which is applicable to all international standards in the IT sector: "... interoperability is understood to be the ability of two or more IT systems to exchange information at one or more standardised interfaces
Paul Merrell

European Lawmakers Demand Answers on Phone Key Theft - The Intercept - 0 views

  • European officials are demanding answers and investigations into a joint U.S. and U.K. hack of the world’s largest manufacturer of mobile SIM cards, following a report published by The Intercept Thursday. The report, based on leaked documents provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, revealed the U.S. spy agency and its British counterpart Government Communications Headquarters, GCHQ, hacked the Franco-Dutch digital security giant Gemalto in a sophisticated heist of encrypted cell-phone keys. The European Parliament’s chief negotiator on the European Union’s data protection law, Jan Philipp Albrecht, said the hack was “obviously based on some illegal activities.” “Member states like the U.K. are frankly not respecting the [law of the] Netherlands and partner states,” Albrecht told the Wall Street Journal. Sophie in ’t Veld, an EU parliamentarian with D66, the Netherlands’ largest opposition party, added, “Year after year we have heard about cowboy practices of secret services, but governments did nothing and kept quiet […] In fact, those very same governments push for ever-more surveillance capabilities, while it remains unclear how effective these practices are.”
  • “If the average IT whizzkid breaks into a company system, he’ll end up behind bars,” In ’t Veld added in a tweet Friday. The EU itself is barred from undertaking such investigations, leaving individual countries responsible for looking into cases that impact their national security matters. “We even get letters from the U.K. government saying we shouldn’t deal with these issues because it’s their own issue of national security,” Albrecht said. Still, lawmakers in the Netherlands are seeking investigations. Gerard Schouw, a Dutch member of parliament, also with the D66 party, has called on Ronald Plasterk, the Dutch minister of the interior, to answer questions before parliament. On Tuesday, the Dutch parliament will debate Schouw’s request. Additionally, European legal experts tell The Intercept, public prosecutors in EU member states that are both party to the Cybercrime Convention, which prohibits computer hacking, and home to Gemalto subsidiaries could pursue investigations into the breach of the company’s systems.
  • According to secret documents from 2010 and 2011, a joint NSA-GCHQ unit penetrated Gemalto’s internal networks and infiltrated the private communications of its employees in order to steal encryption keys, embedded on tiny SIM cards, which are used to protect the privacy of cellphone communications across the world. Gemalto produces some 2 billion SIM cards a year. The company’s clients include AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, Sprint and some 450 wireless network providers. “[We] believe we have their entire network,” GCHQ boasted in a leaked slide, referring to the Gemalto heist.
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  • While Gemalto was indeed another casualty in Western governments’ sweeping effort to gather as much global intelligence advantage as possible, the leaked documents make clear that the company was specifically targeted. According to the materials published Thursday, GCHQ used a specific codename — DAPINO GAMMA — to refer to the operations against Gemalto. The spies also actively penetrated the email and social media accounts of Gemalto employees across the world in an effort to steal the company’s encryption keys. Evidence of the Gemalto breach rattled the digital security community. “Almost everyone in the world carries cell phones and this is an unprecedented mass attack on the privacy of citizens worldwide,” said Greg Nojeim, senior counsel at the Center for Democracy & Technology, a non-profit that advocates for digital privacy and free online expression. “While there is certainly value in targeted surveillance of cell phone communications, this coordinated subversion of the trusted technical security infrastructure of cell phones means the US and British governments now have easy access to our mobile communications.”
  • For Gemalto, evidence that their vaunted security systems and the privacy of customers had been compromised by the world’s top spy agencies made an immediate financial impact. The company’s shares took a dive on the Paris bourse Friday, falling $500 million. In the U.S., Gemalto’s shares fell as much 10 percent Friday morning. They had recovered somewhat — down 4 percent — by the close of trading on the Euronext stock exchange. Analysts at Dutch financial services company Rabobank speculated in a research note that Gemalto could be forced to recall “a large number” of SIM cards. The French daily L’Express noted today that Gemalto board member Alex Mandl was a founding trustee of the CIA-funded venture capital firm In-Q-Tel. Mandl resigned from In-Q-Tel’s board in 2002, when he was appointed CEO of Gemplus, which later merged with another company to become Gemalto. But the CIA connection still dogged Mandl, with the French press regularly insinuating that American spies could infiltrate the company. In 2003, a group of French lawmakers tried unsuccessfully to create a commission to investigate Gemplus’s ties to the CIA and its implications for the security of SIM cards. Mandl, an Austrian-American businessman who was once a top executive at AT&T, has denied that he had any relationship with the CIA beyond In-Q-Tel. In 2002, he said he did not even have a security clearance.
  • AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon could not be reached for comment Friday. Sprint declined to comment. Vodafone, the world’s second largest telecom provider by subscribers and a customer of Gemalto, said in a statement, “[W]e have no further details of these allegations which are industrywide in nature and are not focused on any one mobile operator. We will support industry bodies and Gemalto in their investigations.” Deutsche Telekom AG, a German company, said it has changed encryption algorithms in its Gemalto SIM cards. “We currently have no knowledge that this additional protection mechanism has been compromised,” the company said in a statement. “However, we cannot rule out this completely.”
  • Update: Asked about the SIM card heist, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said he did not expect the news would hurt relations with the tech industry: “It’s hard for me to imagine that there are a lot of technology executives that are out there that are in a position of saying that they hope that people who wish harm to this country will be able to use their technology to do so. So, I do think in fact that there are opportunities for the private sector and the federal government to coordinate and to cooperate on these efforts, both to keep the country safe, but also to protect our civil liberties.”
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    Watch for massive class action product defect litigation to be filed against the phone companies.and mobile device manufacturers.  In most U.S. jurisdictions, proof that the vendors/manufacturers  knew of the product defect is not required, only proof of the defect. Also, this is a golden opportunity for anyone who wants to get out of a pricey cellphone contract, since providing a compromised cellphone is a material breach of warranty, whether explicit or implied..   
Paul Merrell

The People and Tech Behind the Panama Papers - Features - Source: An OpenNews project - 0 views

  • Then we put the data up, but the problem with Solr was it didn’t have a user interface, so we used Project Blacklight, which is open source software normally used by librarians. We used it for the journalists. It’s simple because it allows you to do faceted search—so, for example, you can facet by the folder structure of the leak, by years, by type of file. There were more complex things—it supports queries in regular expressions, so the more advanced users were able to search for documents with a certain pattern of numbers that, for example, passports use. You could also preview and download the documents. ICIJ open-sourced the code of our document processing chain, created by our web developer Matthew Caruana Galizia. We also developed a batch-searching feature. So say you were looking for politicians in your country—you just run it through the system, and you upload your list to Blacklight and you would get a CSV back saying yes, there are matches for these names—not only exact matches, but also matches based on proximity. So you would say “I want Mar Cabra proximity 2” and that would give you “Mar Cabra,” “Mar whatever Cabra,” “Cabra, Mar,”—so that was good, because very quickly journalists were able to see… I have this list of politicians and they are in the data!
  • Last Sunday, April 3, the first stories emerging from the leaked dataset known as the Panama Papers were published by a global partnership of news organizations working in coordination with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, or ICIJ. As we begin the second week of reporting on the leak, Iceland’s Prime Minister has been forced to resign, Germany has announced plans to end anonymous corporate ownership, governments around the world launched investigations into wealthy citizens’ participation in tax havens, the Russian government announced that the investigation was an anti-Putin propaganda operation, and the Chinese government banned mentions of the leak in Chinese media. As the ICIJ-led consortium prepares for its second major wave of reporting on the Panama Papers, we spoke with Mar Cabra, editor of ICIJ’s Data & Research unit and lead coordinator of the data analysis and infrastructure work behind the leak. In our conversation, Cabra reveals ICIJ’s years-long effort to build a series of secure communication and analysis platforms in support of genuinely global investigative reporting collaborations.
  • For communication, we have the Global I-Hub, which is a platform based on open source software called Oxwall. Oxwall is a social network, like Facebook, which has a wall when you log in with the latest in your network—it has forum topics, links, you can share files, and you can chat with people in real time.
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  • We had the data in a relational database format in SQL, and thanks to ETL (Extract, Transform, and Load) software Talend, we were able to easily transform the data from SQL to Neo4j (the graph-database format we used). Once the data was transformed, it was just a matter of plugging it into Linkurious, and in a couple of minutes, you have it visualized—in a networked way, so anyone can log in from anywhere in the world. That was another reason we really liked Linkurious and Neo4j—they’re very quick when representing graph data, and the visualizations were easy to understand for everybody. The not-very-tech-savvy reporter could expand the docs like magic, and more technically expert reporters and programmers could use the Neo4j query language, Cypher, to do more complex queries, like show me everybody within two degrees of separation of this person, or show me all the connected dots…
  • We believe in open source technology and try to use it as much as possible. We used Apache Solr for the indexing and Apache Tika for document processing, and it’s great because it processes dozens of different formats and it’s very powerful. Tika interacts with Tesseract, so we did the OCRing on Tesseract. To OCR the images, we created an army of 30–40 temporary servers in Amazon that allowed us to process the documents in parallel and do parallel OCR-ing. If it was very slow, we’d increase the number of servers—if it was going fine, we would decrease because of course those servers have a cost.
  • For the visualization of the Mossack Fonseca internal database, we worked with another tool called Linkurious. It’s not open source, it’s licensed software, but we have an agreement with them, and they allowed us to work with it. It allows you to represent data in graphs. We had a version of Linkurious on our servers, so no one else had the data. It was pretty intuitive—journalists had to click on dots that expanded, basically, and could search the names.
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