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Paul Merrell

​'Hostile to privacy': Snowden urges internet users to get rid of Dropbox - RT News - 0 views

  • Edward Snowden has hit out at Dropbox and other services he says are “hostile to privacy,” urging web users to abandon unencrypted communication and adjust privacy settings to prevent governments from spying on them in increasingly intrusive ways. “We are no longer citizens, we no longer have leaders. We’re subjects, and we have rulers,” Snowden told The New Yorker magazine in a comprehensive hour-long interview. There isn’t enough investment into security research, into understanding how metadata could better be protected and why that is more necessary today than yesterday, he said.
  • Edward Snowden has hit out at Dropbox and other services he says are “hostile to privacy,” urging web users to abandon unencrypted communication and adjust privacy settings to prevent governments from spying on them in increasingly intrusive ways. “We are no longer citizens, we no longer have leaders. We’re subjects, and we have rulers,” Snowden told The New Yorker magazine in a comprehensive hour-long interview. There isn’t enough investment into security research, into understanding how metadata could better be protected and why that is more necessary today than yesterday, he said.
  • The whistleblower believes one fallacy in how authorities view individual rights has to do with making the individual forsake those rights by default. Snowden’s point is that the moment you are compelled to reveal that you have nothing to hide is when the right to privacy stops being a right – because you are effectively waiving that right. “When you say, ‘I have nothing to hide,’ you’re saying, ‘I don’t care about this right.’ You’re saying, ‘I don’t have this right, because I’ve got to the point where I have to justify it.’ The way rights work is, the government has to justify its intrusion into your rights – you don’t have to justify why you need freedom of speech.” In that situation, it becomes OK to live in a world where one is no longer interested in privacy as such – a world where Facebook, Google and Dropbox have become ubiquitous, and where there are virtually no safeguards against the wrongful use of the information one puts there.
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  • In particular, Snowden advised web users to “get rid” of Dropbox. Such services only insist on encrypting user data during transfer and when being stored on the servers. Other services he recommends instead, such as SpiderOak, encrypt information while it’s on your computer as well. “We're talking about dropping programs that are hostile to privacy,” Snowden said. The same goes for social networks such as Facebook and Google, too. Snowden says they are “dangerous” and proposes that people use other services that allow for encrypted messages to be sent, such as RedPhone or SilentCircle.
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

Linux 4.2 Released Improving Cryptography Options - 0 views

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    "After eight release candidates, Linux 4.2 is now available, marking one of the longer development cycles in the last few years. The longer cycle was likely only the result of an abundance of caution on Linus Torvalds' part and some travel (Linuxcon) too."
Paul Merrell

This project aims to make '404 not found' pages a thing of the past - 0 views

  • The Internet is always changing. Sites are rising and falling, content is deleted, and bad URLs can lead to '404 Not Found' errors that are as helpful as a brick wall. A new project proposes an do away with dead 404 errors by implementing new HTML code that will help access prior versions of hyperlinked content. With any luck, that means that you’ll never have to run into a dead link again. The “404-No-More” project is backed by a formidable coalition including members from organizations like the Harvard Library Innovation Lab, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Old Dominion University, and the Berkman Center for Internet & Society. Part of the Knight News Challenge, which seeks to strengthen the Internet for free expression and innovation through a variety of initiatives, 404-No-More recently reached the semifinal stage. The project aims to cure so-called link rot, the process by which hyperlinks become useless overtime because they point to addresses that are no longer available. If implemented, websites such as Wikipedia and other reference documents would be vastly improved. The new feature would also give Web authors a way provide links that contain both archived copies of content and specific dates of reference, the sort of information that diligent readers have to hunt down on a website like Archive.org.
  • While it may sound trivial, link rot can actually have real ramifications. Nearly 50 percent of the hyperlinks in Supreme Court decisions no longer work, a 2013 study revealed. Losing footnotes and citations in landmark legal decisions can mean losing crucial information and context about the laws that govern us. The same study found that 70 percent of URLs within the Harvard Law Review and similar journals didn’t link to the originally cited information, considered a serious loss surrounding the discussion of our laws. The project’s proponents have come up with more potential uses as well. Activists fighting censorship will have an easier time combatting government takedowns, for instance. Journalists will be much more capable of researching dynamic Web pages. “If every hyperlink was annotated with a publication date, you could automatically view an archived version of the content as the author intended for you to see it,” the project’s authors explain. The ephemeral nature of the Web could no longer be used as a weapon. Roger Macdonald, a director at the Internet Archive, called the 404-No-More project “an important contribution to preservation of knowledge.”
  • The new feature would come in the form of introducing the mset attribute to the <a> element in HTML, which would allow users of the code to specify multiple dates and copies of content as an external resource. For instance, if both the date of reference and the location of a copy of targeted content is known by an author, the new code would like like this: The 404-No-More project’s goals are numerous, but the ultimate goal is to have mset become a new HTML standard for hyperlinks. “An HTML standard that incorporates archives for hyperlinks will loop in these efforts and make the Web better for everyone,” project leaders wrote, “activists, journalists, and regular ol’ everyday web users.”
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.
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

California Supreme Court Shows How Pharma 'Pay For Delay' Can Violate Antitrust Laws | Techdirt - 0 views

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    "from the antitrust dept For many years now, we've been talking about the problematic practice of "pay for delay" in the pharma industry. This involved patent holders paying generic pharmaceutical makers some amount of money to not enter the market in order to keep their own monopoly even longer."
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    "from the antitrust dept For many years now, we've been talking about the problematic practice of "pay for delay" in the pharma industry. This involved patent holders paying generic pharmaceutical makers some amount of money to not enter the market in order to keep their own monopoly even longer."
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

As TPP Supporters Whine About Failure Of Fast Track, Why Is No One Suggesting Increased Transparency? | Techdirt - 0 views

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    "from the time-to-get-it-right dept As we just mentioned, it looks like there aren't enough votes in Congress to give the President and the US Trade Rep the "fast track" authority they want to cram massive trade agreements down the throats of the American public. Nancy Pelosi, whose statement last week helped signal that it was a real possibility that support for fast track would no longer be likely, has now penned an op-ed for USA Today claiming that fast track is on its last legs, highlighting that Congress (not the executive branch) has the power to regulate commerce with foreign countries. Meanwhile, supporters of trade have put into motion an attempt to salvage fast track, which may lead to a vote as soon as tomorrow -- but seems like a risky gambit that may not succeed. "
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    "from the time-to-get-it-right dept As we just mentioned, it looks like there aren't enough votes in Congress to give the President and the US Trade Rep the "fast track" authority they want to cram massive trade agreements down the throats of the American public. Nancy Pelosi, whose statement last week helped signal that it was a real possibility that support for fast track would no longer be likely, has now penned an op-ed for USA Today claiming that fast track is on its last legs, highlighting that Congress (not the executive branch) has the power to regulate commerce with foreign countries. Meanwhile, supporters of trade have put into motion an attempt to salvage fast track, which may lead to a vote as soon as tomorrow -- but seems like a risky gambit that may not succeed. "
Gary Edwards

iPhone Web Site Design - 0 views

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    When building out a site designed specifically for the iPhone, your hands are no longer tied with the typical browser constraints (IE). Mobile Safari -- the browser used by the iPhone -- supports CSS3, 24-bit tranparent PNGs, and custom CSS animations.
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

Sustainable Models for Creativity | FCF - 1 views

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    Version 1.0 Free/Libre Culture Forum Declaration [For details, see the extended version] We can no longer put off re-thinking the economic structures that have been producing, financing, and funding culture up until now. Many of the old models have become anachronistic and detrimental to civil society. The aim of this document is to promote innovative strategies capable of defending and extending the sphere in which human creativity and knowledge can prosper freely and sustainably. This document is addressed to policy reformers, citizens and free/libre culture activists and aims to provide practical tools to actively bring about this change.
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

Enterprise Linux or Fedora? Product or project: choose for yourself - 2 views

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    [Product or project: choose for yourself A few years ago there was just one Red Hat Linux. As acceptance grew and Linux reached further into enterprise computing, one Red Hat Linux product could no longer be all things to all users. That's why in 2002 Red Hat created Red Hat Enterprise Linux. Stable, supported, certified -- Red Hat Enterprise Linux has become the Linux standard. The Fedora Project was introduced in late 2003. Built for and with the help of the open source community, the Fedora Project is for developers and high-tech enthusiasts using Linux in non-critical computing environments. Which Linux is right for you? See for yourself.]
Paul Merrell

Inside Google Desktop: Google Desktop Update - 0 views

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    Google throws in the towel on desktop search, just as Microsoft somehow reached into my WinXP Pro (which never runs with automatic updates turned on) and killed the file search functionality, replaced by a message that file search is no longer supported in Explorer 6, with an invitation to upgrade MSIE or use Bing. As though I would ever let MSIE outside my firewall! Somehow, the ability to search the cloud just isn't enough for me.  
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

The Grand Unified Theory On The Economics Of Free | Techdirt - 0 views

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    [from the have-fun-with-it dept Ok. I'll be the first to admit that I've taken the long way around in going through my series of posts exploring the economics of goods when scarcity is removed. What I had thought would be a series of 5 or 6 posts, turned into something much longer -- but each week people came up with new questions or discussions or objections, and so I tried to spend some time digging down on various pieces of the economics at hand.]
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

FCForum » Declaration for Sustainable Creativity - 2 views

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    [ Version 1.0 * Download here: FCForum Declaration: Sustainable Models for Creativity v1.0 (PDF) Free/Libre Culture Forum Declaration [For details, see the extended version] We can no longer put off re-thinking the economic structures that have been producing, financing and funding culture up until now. Many of the old models have become anachronistic and detrimental to civil society. The aim of this document is to promote innovative strategies capable of defending and extending the sphere in which human creativity and knowledge can prosper freely and sustainably. This document is addressed to policy reformers, citizens and free/libre culture activists and aims to provide practical tools to actively bring about this change. ...]
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

Purchasing music no longer means ownership - Collegiate Times : Columnists - 0 views

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    "Posted: Tuesday, September 11, 2012 12:00 am Marcus Williams | 0 comments For the vast majority of us who have never read the iTunes Terms of Service Agreement after downloading - for what seems like the 100th update - it may come as a surprise that we do not, in fact, own any of this "purchased" music."
Gary Edwards

Blog | Spritz - 0 views

  • Therein lies one of the biggest problems with traditional RSVP. Each time you see text that is not centered properly on the ORP position, your eyes naturally will look for the ORP to process the word and understand its meaning. This requisite eye movement creates a “saccade”, a physical eye movement caused by your eyes taking a split second to find the proper ORP for a word. Every saccade has a penalty in both time and comprehension, especially when you start to speed up reading. Some saccades are considered by your brain to be “normal” during reading, such as when you move your eye from left to right to go from one ORP position to the next ORP position while reading a book. Other saccades are not normal to your brain during reading, such as when you move your eyes right to left to spot an ORP. This eye movement is akin to trying to read a line of text backwards. In normal reading, you normally won’t saccade right-to-left unless you encounter a word that your brain doesn’t already know and you go back for another look; those saccades will increase based on the difficulty of the text being read and the percentage of words within it that you already know. And the math doesn’t look good, either. If you determined the length of all the words in a given paragraph, you would see that, depending on the language you’re reading, there is a low (less than 15%) probability of two adjacent words being the same length and not requiring a saccade when they are shown to you one at a time. This means you move your eyes on a regular basis with traditional RSVP! In fact, you still move them with almost every word. In general, left-to-right saccades contribute to slower reading due to the increased travel time for the eyeballs, while right-to-left saccades are discombobulating for many people, especially at speed. It’s like reading a lot of text that contains words you don’t understand only you DO understand the words! The experience is frustrating to say the least.
  • In addition to saccading, another issue with RSVP is associated with “foveal vision,” the area in focus when you look at a sentence. This distance defines the number of letters on which your eyes can sharply focus as you read. Its companion is called “parafoveal vision” and refers to the area outside foveal vision that cannot be seen sharply.
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    "To understand Spritz, you must understand Rapid Serial Visual Presentation (RSVP). RSVP is a common speed-reading technique used today. However, RSVP was originally developed for psychological experiments to measure human reactions to content being read. When RSVP was created, there wasn't much digital content and most people didn't have access to it anyway. The internet didn't even exist yet. With traditional RSVP, words are displayed either left-aligned or centered. Figure 1 shows an example of a center-aligned RSVP, with a dashed line on the center axis. When you read a word, your eyes naturally fixate at one point in that word, which visually triggers the brain to recognize the word and process its meaning. In Figure 1, the preferred fixation point (character) is indicated in red. In this figure, the Optimal Recognition Position (ORP) is different for each word. For example, the ORP is only in the middle of a 3-letter word. As the length of a word increases, the percentage that the ORP shifts to the left of center also increases. The longer the word, the farther to the left of center your eyes must move to locate the ORP."
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

Smarter Than You Think | The Book - 1 views

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    "It's undeniable: technology is changing the way we think. But is it for the better? Amid a chorus of doomsayers, Clive Thompson votes "yes". The Internet age, he argues, has produced bold new forms of human cognition, worthy of both celebration and investigation. We learn more and retain the information longer, write and think with global audiences, and even gain an ESP-like awareness of the world around us."
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

50 Open Source Replacements for Windows XP - Datamation - 1 views

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    "(Page 1 of 3) Microsoft officially ended support for Windows XP on April 8, 2014. That means the company is no longer patching newly discovered security vulnerabilities in the operating system, and people who continue to use it are opening themselves up to security risks."
Gary Edwards

Windows XP: How end of support sparked one organisation's shift from Microsoft | ZDNet - 1 views

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    Good story of how a UK Company responded to Microsoft's announcement if XP end of life. After examining many alternatives, they settled on a ChromeBook-ChromeBox - Citrix solution. Most of the existing desktop hardware was repurposed as ChromeTops running Chrome Browser apps and Citrix XenDesktop for legacy data apps. excerpt/intro: "There are the XP diehards, and the Windows 7 and 8 migrators. But in a world facing up to the end of Windows XP support, one UK organisation belongs to another significant group - those breaking with Microsoft as their principal OS provider. Microsoft's end of routine security patching and software updates on 8 April helped push the London borough of Barking and Dagenham to a decision it might otherwise not have taken over the fate of its 3,500 Windows XP desktops and 800 laptops. "They were beginning to creak but they would have gone on for a while. It's fair to say if XP wasn't going out of life, we probably wouldn't be doing this now," Barking and Dagenham general manager IT Sheyne Lucock said. Around one-eighth of corporate Windows XP users are moving away from Microsoft, according to recent Tech Pro Research. Lucock said it had become clear that the local authority was locked into a regular Windows operating system refresh cycle that it could no longer afford. "If we just replaced all the Windows desktops with newer versions running a newer version of Windows, four years later we would have to do the same again and so on," he said. "So there was an inclination to try and do something different - especially as we know that with all the budget challenges that local government is going to be faced with, we're going to have to halve the cost of our ICT service over the next five years." Barking and Dagenham outsourced its IT in December 2010 to Elevate East London, which is a joint-venture between the council and services firm Agilisys. Lucock and systems architect Rupert Hay-Campbell are responsible for strategy, policy
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    Meanwhile, some organizations missed the end of life deadline and are now paying Microsoft for extended support. E.g., the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, which is still running 58,000 desktops on WinXP. http://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2014/04/irs-another-windows-xp-laggard-will-pay-microsoft-for-patches/
Paul Merrell

The Government Can No Longer Track Your Cell Phone Without a Warrant | Motherboard - 0 views

  • The government and police regularly use location data pulled off of cell phone towers to put criminals at the scenes of crimes—often without a warrant. Well, an appeals court ruled today that the practice is unconstitutional, in one of the strongest judicial defenses of technology privacy rights we've seen in a while.  The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit ruled that the government illegally obtained and used Quartavious Davis's cell phone location data to help convict him in a string of armed robberies in Miami and unequivocally stated that cell phone location information is protected by the Fourth Amendment. "In short, we hold that cell site location information is within the subscriber’s reasonable expectation of privacy," the court ruled in an opinion written by Judge David Sentelle. "The obtaining of that data without a warrant is a Fourth Amendment violation."
  • In Davis's case, police used his cell phone's call history against him to put him at the scene of several armed robberies. They obtained a court order—which does not require the government to show probable cause—not a warrant, to do so. From now on, that'll be illegal. The decision applies only in the Eleventh Circuit, but sets a strong precedent for future cases.
  • Indeed, the decision alone is a huge privacy win, but Sentelle's strong language supporting cell phone users' privacy rights is perhaps the most important part of the opinion. Sentelle pushed back against several of the federal government's arguments, including one that suggested that, because cell phone location data based on a caller's closest cell tower isn't precise, it should be readily collectable.  "The United States further argues that cell site location information is less protected than GPS data because it is less precise. We are not sure why this should be significant. We do not doubt that there may be a difference in precision, but that is not to say that the difference in precision has constitutional significance," Sentelle wrote. "That information obtained by an invasion of privacy may not be entirely precise does not change the calculus as to whether obtaining it was in fact an invasion of privacy." The court also cited the infamous US v. Jones Supreme Court decision that held that attaching a GPS to a suspect's car is a "search" under the Fourth Amendment. Sentelle suggested a cell phone user has an even greater expectation of location privacy with his or her cell phone use than a driver does with his or her car. A car, Sentelle wrote, isn't always with a person, while a cell phone, these days, usually is.
  • ...2 more annotations...
  • "One’s cell phone, unlike an automobile, can accompany its owner anywhere. Thus, the exposure of the cell site location information can convert what would otherwise be a private event into a public one," he wrote. "In that sense, cell site data is more like communications data than it is like GPS information. That is, it is private in nature rather than being public data that warrants privacy protection only when its collection creates a sufficient mosaic to expose that which would otherwise be private." Finally, the government argued that, because Davis made outgoing calls, he "voluntarily" gave up his location data. Sentelle rejected that, too, citing a prior decision by a Third Circuit Court. "The Third Circuit went on to observe that 'a cell phone customer has not ‘voluntarily’ shared his location information with a cellular provider in any meaningful way.' That circuit further noted that 'it is unlikely that cell phone customers are aware that their cell phone providers collect and store historical location information,'” Sentelle wrote.
  • "Therefore, as the Third Circuit concluded, 'when a cell phone user makes a call, the only information that is voluntarily and knowingly conveyed to the phone company is the number that is dialed, and there is no indication to the user that making that call will also locate the caller,'" he continued.
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    Another victory for civil libertarians against the surveillance state. Note that this is another decision drawing guidance from the Supreme Court's decision in U.S. v. Jones, shortly before the Edward Snowden leaks came to light, that called for re-examination of the Third Party Doctrine, an older doctrine that data given to or generated by third parties is not protected by the Fourth Amendment.   
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

The Great Music Industry Power Shift | Music Industry Blog - 0 views

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    "The long drawn out demise of recorded music revenue is well documented, as is the story of artists, labels and managers all trying to make sense of a world in which music sales can no longer be counted upon. But the contraction of recorded revenue has occurred at the exact same time that the live music sector has undergone a renaissance"
Gary Edwards

Microsoft Office whips Google Docs: It's finally game over | Computerworld Blogs - 0 views

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    "If there was ever any doubt about whether Microsoft or Google would win the war of office suites, there should be no longer. Within the last several weeks, Microsoft has pulled so far ahead that it's game over. Here's why. When it comes to which suite is more fully featured, there's never been any real debate: Microsoft Office wins hands down. Whether you're creating entire presentations, creating complicated word-processing documents, or even doing something as simple as handling text attributes, Office is a far better tool. Until the last few weeks, Google Docs had one significant advantage over Microsoft Office: It's available for Android and the iPad as well as PCs because it's Web-based. The same wasn't the case for Office. So if you wanted to use an office suite on all your mobile devices, Google Docs was the way to go. Google Docs lost that advantage when Microsoft released Office for the iPad. There's not yet a native version for Android tablets, but Microsoft is working on that, telling GeekWire, "Let me tell you conclusively: Yes, we are also building Android native applications for tablets for Word, Excel and PowerPoint." Google Docs is still superior to Office's Web-based version, but that's far less important than it used to be. There's no need to go with a Web-based office suite if a superior suite is available as a native apps on all platforms, mobile or otherwise. And Office's collaboration capabilities are quite considerable now. Of course, there's always the question of price. Google Docs is free. Microsoft Office isn't. But at $100 a year for up to five devices, or $70 a year for two, no one will be going broke paying for Microsoft Office. It's worth paying that relatively small price for a much better office suite. Google Docs won't die. It'll be around as second fiddle for a long time. But that's what it will always remain: a second fiddle to the better Microsoft Office."
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    Google acquired "Writely", a small company in Portola Valley that pioneered document editing in a browser. Writely was perhaps the first cloud computing editor to go beyond simple HTML; eventually crafting some really cool CSS-JavaScript-JSON document layout and editing methods. But it can't edit native MSOffice documents. It converts them. There are more than a few problems with the Google Docs approach to editing advanced "compound" documents, but two stick out and are certain to give pause to anyone making the great transition from local workgroup computing, to the highly mobile, always connected, cloud computing. The first problem certain to become a show stopper is that Google converts documents to their native on-line format for editing and collaboration. And then they convert back. To many this isn't a problem. But if the document is part of a workflow or business process, conversion is a killer. There is an old saw affectionately known as "Reuters Law", dating back to the ODF-OXML document wars, that emphatically states; "Conversion breaks documents." The breakage includes both the visual layout of the document, and, the "compound" aspects and data connections that are internal to the document. Think of this way. A business document that is part of a legacy Windows Workgroup workflow is opened up in gDocs. Google converts the document for editing purposes. The data and the workflow internals that bind the document to the local business system are broken on conversion. The look of the document is also visually shredded as the gDocs layout engine is applied. For all practical purposes, no matter what magic editing and collaboration value is added, a broken document means a broken business process. Let me say that again, with the emphasis of having witnessed this first hand during the year long ODF transition trials the Commonwealth of Massachusetts conducted in 2005 and 2006. The business process broke every time a conversion was conducted "on a busines
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