(This is what I wrote in the comment I just sent to the FCC from battleforthenet.com. Please consider submitting your own comment!)

Net neutrality is absolutely necessary if the Internet is to continue to serve the broadest public interest. The principle that ISPs must treat all data equally is easy to articulate, easy for users of the Internet to understand, and easy for regulatory agencies such as the FCC to enforce. This simple principle should be fully protected by the FCC, under its Title II authority.

The Internet is not just another tool. It is rather the environment within which millions of creative people build new tools, exchange knowledge, and organize themselves in ways formerly only available to large, centrally controlled organizations — such as the monopoly-based music- and video-streaming companies who would love the opportunity to use their size to arrange preferential-treatment deals with ISPs and effectively force smaller competitors and other alternatives offline.

This dystopian dynamic is perfectly predictable, and perfectly stoppable. The FCC should reclassify ISPs as common carriers under Title II, and use all necessary provisions thereof to ensure that the Internet remains the platform for democratic organizing and decentralized innovation that it has been so far.

On an Internet clogged with prioritized traffic belonging to the highest bidders, there is no way my own young company would ever have been able to succeed. I watch with alarm the growing pressure from larger competitors to reformulate the Internet to treat their traffic differently from ours, and wonder how we — or the many other new companies in our position — could possibly continue on an Internet run by giants for giants.

Please don’t let that happen. Use Title II reclassification to fully and fairly protect traffic neutrality on the Internet. This is one of the few cases where a well-defined, targeted government regulation would unambiguously support both democratic ideals and a fertile environment for the growth of innovative businesses. Those who argue otherwise are trying to sell us something — and trying to have the market to themselves while they do it.

Sincerely,
-Karl Fogel
 Partner, Open Tech Strategies, LLC

Karl Fogel | rants.org | 2014-07-15 18:56:14

MOSFET level shifters
If you find yourself soldering tiny SMD packages, like these dual MOSFETs, you might pull out the microscope and get to see the solder paste for what it really is:
Solder paste under the microscope
So many tiny balls of solder! And as all of the microscopic spheres melt, surface tension pulls the blob onto the pads in the most amazing way.

NYC Resistor | NYC Resistor | 2014-07-15 02:53:40

As a new notion takes root in the zeitgeist one can find competing definitions circulating in popular culture and scholarly literature. This is especially so for what linguist Donna Gibbs (2006lc, p. 30) called cyberlanguage, with "its own brand of quirky logic, which evolves with unprecedented speed and variety and is heavily dependent on ingenuity and humor." One can see this evolution play out at Urban Dictionary (UD), a Web repository for (over eight million) definitions of contemporary popular culture, slang, and Internet memes. Submissions, which include a definition and optional examples of usage, can be made by anyone providing an email address; other contributors then vote upon whether a definition ought to be accepted. (One word can have multiple definitions; the term "Urban Dictionary" entry has hundreds (Lucy2005ud).) UD's earliest definition of FOMO as a type of fear is from 2005 and it simply expands the acronym and provides an example phrase "Jonny got the rep for being a fomo, but jake's a bigger one" (Justinas2005fmo). This example phrase is odd in that it is something one is rather than something one feels; in this, it is much closer to an older meaning of FOMO as a "fake homosexual." In any case, a better definition (and the most popular one) was posted in 2006: "The fear that if you miss a party or event you will miss out on something great" (Beaqon2006fmo). This definition and point in time marks the ascendancy of FOMO in popular culture: many more definitions would appear at UD and elsewhere in the following years.

Beyond penning definitions, lexicographers also attempt to find the origins and early exemplars of a term. For instance, the august Oxford Dictionary (2014fmo) locates FOMO's origins in the "early 21st century." While there's no evidence of single point of origin, I think we can be more precise than that. FOMO's usage, unsurprisingly, coincides with the launching of Facebook in 2004 and Twitter in 2006. For instance, Kathy Sierra, a popular tech blogger, wrote how Twitter fueled the fear in the year after its launch.

Ironically, services like Twitter are simultaneously leaving some people with a feeling of not being connected, by feeding the fear of not being in the loop. By elevating the importance of being "constantly updated," it amplifies the feeling of missing something if you're not checking Twitter (or Twittering) with enough frequency. (Sierra2007cpu)

(Apparently, at this point "tweeting" had not yet eclipsed "twittering.") In the same year, Lucy Jo Palladino (2007fyf) dedicated a section of her book on how to "defeat distraction and overload" to FOMO, though she focused on examples beyond social media, such as parents' anxiety that their children are falling behind. The earliest mention of the term on Usenet (the pre-Web fora of the Internet, which still muddles along) appears to be from 2008 (Bewdley2008hyg). By 2010, FOMO was being used and spoken of broadly and unambiguously tied to social media usage. By 2011, the phenomenon was something that others recognized they could take advantage of. A marketing report from JWT Intelligence ("converting cultural shifts into opportunities") recommended that "brands can focus on easing it, escalating it, making light of it or even turning it into a positive" (Miranda2011fm, p. 5, 17). Capping its seven year ascent, the notion was recognized by the Oxford dictionaries (OxfordWords2012bwa) as the "Anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on a social media website."

In 2013, FOMO received its first scholarly attention from social psychologist Andrew Przybylskia (2013meb, p. 841) and his colleagues. They defined it as "a pervasive apprehension that others might be having rewarding experiences from which one is absent, FOMO is characterized by the desire to stay continually connected with what others are doing." In this definition we see a recognition of an emotion (i.e., anxiety) and a characteristic behavior. Similarly, contemporary discussion of FOMO invokes multiple, often tangled, references to varied emotions (e.g., anxiety) and behaviors (e.g., compulsive checking). Hence, it is worthwhile to further understand what it is that people are speaking of when the lament a fear of missing out.

Josh Reagle | Open Codex | 2014-07-15 00:00:00

In addition to research and writing, summer is time to catch up on my reading. I thought I might share summaries of my favorites.

I first heard about "Gender Differences in Competition: Evidence From a Matrilineal and a Patriarchal Society" on Freakonomics. In this study, subjects were anonymously paired with someone else to toss tennis balls into a bucket; they were asked if they prefer to be paid on the basis of their own performance (X per success) or relative performance (3X per success; X if it's a tie). Among the Maasai in Tanzania (a textbook example of a patriarchal society) the men competed twice the rate of women (50% to 26%). Conversely, among the Khasi in India (matrilineal) women chose the competitive environment more often than the men (54% to 39%) "and even choose to compete weakly more often than Maasai men" (54% to 50%).

Josh Reagle | Open Codex | 2014-07-11 00:00:00

Have you been wanting to dip your toe into the world of programming but you’re not sure where to start? Need a gentle introduction that assumes no prior knowledge? I have a class for you.

mosaic

This Saturday we’ll be teaching a class on programming NeoPixels with the Adafruit Flora microcontroller. I love programming things that blink because not only are you controlling something in the real world, but you can also instantly “see” what your code is doing. And NeoPixels are nice because there is no breadboarding. You just tie two components together with 3 wires, and off you go. You don’t even have to solder.

In the class on Saturday we will be teaching the basics of programming (what is a data type? how do loops work?, etc.) using several sample programs that you will learn to edit to change patterns. It’s a great way to get acquainted with what programming is like, and to learn some fundamentals. You can get tickets here.

And don’t worry, class will end before the World Cup begins, and you’re welcome to stay and watch the game on our big screen.

And if you do have experience programming, and would like to branch out into Arduino-based blinky things, we have a NeoPixel programming class for experienced coders on Sunday. Tickets are here.

NYC Resistor | NYC Resistor | 2014-07-10 12:07:55

I just came back from a vacation where Kio and I went and visited most of the megalithic monuments on the islands of the Outer Hebrides in Scotland. Stone circles are all over the place on these islands and the biggest one is the Callanish Stone Circle. One of the cool things about these places is that there is very little history known about them and so all you can know about them is from your experience of being around them. Most of them all taller than me and you get the sense that these places were the sacred spaces of 5000 years ago.

One of the things I say a lot at MakerBot is that they really make the most sense when you connect your MakerBot to your passion. Since I'm into rocks. I scanned a few of my favorite stones and ran them through 123D Catch which makes a 3D model from up to 70 photos of the object. It’s pretty cool to think that yesterday I was walking among these stones and today I’m printing them out on the MakerBots in my office. 

It’s interesting to note that this feels a lot like the old days of vacation film photography. The process of processing the photos into a 3D model feels a lot like when I used to develop celluloid film after a vacation.

Someday, printing 3D models will be normal for everyone, for now, it’s just normal for all the MakerBot operators in the world.

If you decide to go on your own scanning vacation, aka scancation, here’s my process and tips for acquiring models. I use a Canon S110 camera and then upload my photos later to the 123D Catch site and then upload all the models and a zip file of all the photos to Thingiverse because the photogrammetry software will get better someday and I want to have an archive of the photos so I can make better models later.

 

  • Lighting conditions matter. A cloudy sky is much better than a sunny one so that you can get all the details of your subject. 
  • Fill the frame, but make sure to leave some area around the object in the picture. 123D Catch uses reference points in the object to make everything fit together. 
  • Use all 70 pictures allowed by the software. The more pictures, the better the scan. 
  • Scan weird things. Sometimes the most iconic stuff of a location isn’t the most obvious. Some friends of mine scanned all of Canal St. in NYC and said the interesting parts were the giant piles of trash bags which are one of the local overlooked pieces of landscape art.
  • Don’t forget the top view. If you are capturing a subject that is tall, do your best to get above it and take a picture. A quadcopter could be handy for that
  • Fix it up with Netfabb. After I upload the photos into the 123D Catch online portal, then I use Netfabb basic to slice off all the weird parts and cut a flat bottom onto the object.
  • Make sure to upload your scans to Thingiverse. We can all make models of your SCANCATION. 

 

Do you have any other scanning tips for those that would like to experiment with vacation scanning? Leave them in the comments!

Bre Pettis | Bre Pettis Blog | 2014-06-30 20:37:56

chairface_moon_sticker-p217483163803015319qjcl_400

Due to a fire the laser is down again this week. Laser night will be open for hacking, but alas no lazzzoring. You may have noticed we’ve been experiencing a lot of downtime lately. This is the current state of the laser:

The laser is old

Our laser has been in pretty consistent use for seven years. Many projects and even companies have been built on it. We’ve done our best to do regular maintenance and upgrades, but it’s nobody’s job and so it doesn’t always get done.

The laser is abused

Not all materials are created equal. We try to make sure people do burn tests to make sure we’re not doing damage to the laser, but it’s not perfect. Even wood and acrylic can be hard on it when doing long jobs with thick material. Everything that is lasered away ends up gunking up the lenses and mirrors.

The laser needs more air

The ventilation system that we have hooked up to the laser is also old and it’s underpowered at this point. We need new blower, hoses and filters. This will be a significant upgrade, and we may not have the finances to do this ourselves.

So that’s where we’re at. Stay tuned, we’re putting together a plan and we’re probably going to need help. Thanks for your patience and support!

Update: We’ve been working on the ventilation system this week, and work continues on figuring out the power problems. We hope to have the laser back in action in a week or so. Thanks for your patience!

NYC Resistor | NYC Resistor | 2014-06-23 19:52:37

Want to add blink to your wardrobe? Want to light up the night at Burning Man or the next NYC dance party? This intro class covers materials for illuminating your outfits. With a mixture of hands-on tutorials and demos we’ll teach you how to incorporate LEDs, NeoPixels, EL Wire, and fiber optic filament into your outfits.

debugging

This is an assembly-only class, no programming, but we will be providing some basic code to get you up and running. You are welcome to bring an outfit to add NeoPixels to, or we will provide a fabric swatch to practice on. Don’t forget your laptop! Get your tickets here.

Instructors for this class include team members responsible for our recent and on-going collaboration with the Brooklyn Ballet, adding blinky technology to the dancers’ costumes.

photo by William Ward

photo by William Ward

NYC Resistor | NYC Resistor | 2014-06-19 18:45:21

There is an an earth-shattering kaboom.
Our laser is back in action!

NYC Resistor | NYC Resistor | 2014-06-09 14:16:19

On Friday night I experienced what is probably my most spectacular hardware failure yet. I was working on a project for our upcoming Interactive Show, a chandelier with 150 or so individually controllable 5 watt incandescent bulbs:

chandelier
A small piece of the chandelier during testing.

Anyway, it was way too late and I was rushing to get the last controller board finished on the outer ring of the chandelier, which has 7 controllers and 52 lightbulbs. I plugged the very last controller in backwards and flipped the switch…

burn

Fwoosh. The final controller went up in smoke. Because of the way the boards are set up, 24 volts from a beefy power supply shot backwards into the chip’s power rails. Of course, to get there, the voltage had to flow all the way around the ring, blowing a chunk out of every chip in line, killing the Teensy microcontroller I was using, then feeding into my USB port and frying my laptop, which started smoking as well. It was pretty spectacular – probably the most amount of money and effort I’ve burned in under a second.

Takeaways:

1) Don’t work tired. Nothing of quality ever comes from staying up late. Or rushing. Haste makes waste, as they say.

2) Think about how your power flows. More importantly, think about how your power might flow in different situations. If it’s possible for the power to be hooked up backwards, consider protection diodes, or isolating your power rails, or using a keyed connector.

3) Be thoughtful about your connectors. It’s easy and tempting to design simple things with 0.1″ headers, but this way lies danger. If your project can be damaged by reversing the connector, redesign the pinout, or use a keyed connector that can only be used in one orientation. This makes sure that your tired brain can’t do any serious damage.

4) Isolate your USB devices. A USB isolator might not be a bad investment if you work on a lot of USB devices, especially ones that also use higher voltages. They’re not terribly expensive, but unfortunately are not capable of handling High Speed (480 Mbps), although Full Speed (12 Mbps) is fine. But you can definitely isolate the power rails, which would have at least saved my laptop here.

5) If you find yourself in a similar what-the-heck-just-happened situation (if you don’t, you’re not pushing hard enough), use it as a learning opportunity. Stop and reflect on what happened and how you can improve next time. Ask questions! Just the act of explaining something to another person helps you understand it better. Then blog about it and press on.

Any other interesting #fails / learning experiences? Post ‘em in the comments!

NYC Resistor | NYC Resistor | 2014-06-05 12:18:06


On ~*June 28th*~ we’ll be hosting a new class on hacking NES cartridges for art and various related shenanigans. Cory Arcangel’s Super Mario Clouds is a well known work of digital art where a Nintendo game cartridge was modified to just show the clouds in the game. He also happened to release some instructions on how to reproduce his leet hax! In this workshop, we’ll be creating Super Mario Clouds from old NES cartridges, bringing modern art to your living room without having to splurge at Art Basel. Some basic soldering, desoldering, and programming will also be covered as a bonus since that’s how old NES cartridges are hacked.

Limited to 12 spots and includes your very own old Super Mario cartridge.

This class will be taught by NYC Resistor member David Huerta and Jon Dahan, who crafted this workshop after his experience re-creating it at the Metropolitan Art Museum’s Media Lab. Sign up on Eventbrite.

NYC Resistor | NYC Resistor | 2014-06-04 15:00:31

Mega Mario

Megascroller is the 512×64, 32-sided upgrade to Octoscroller, which was the eight sided RGB update to the venerable six-sided red LED Hexascroller. Megascroller is featured as one of the art pieces at the upcoming Interactive Show — on the giant cylinder you can play different video games in the round. Unlike normal side-scrollers, you have to move sideways to keep up with the onscreen characters. Here’s a video as we play-test Mario (source code) and discuss some tweaks to the game to enhance the fun (there is some interaction with the camera shutter that makes artifacts in the movie).

Buy your tickets now! and come see Megascroller plus lots of other fun interactive art at the 2014 Interactive Show. The doors open this Saturday at 8pm! The show is over and was great fun! Here’s a video of Mario being played in the round sometime late last night:

NYC Resistor | NYC Resistor | 2014-06-04 03:36:33

GET LAMP
Two weeks ago we salvaged two PDP-11/34 minicomputers, VT1xx terminals and assorted parts. Since then we’ve spent some quality time in the 1970s, cleaning Unibus contacts, reseating cards and replacing bad capacitors in the VT100 analog boards. Both of the CPUs start up fine and we’ve been able to read data from all of the RK05 and RL01 drive units. Still haven’t touched the tape drives, so no digitized monkey brains yet. Instead, here is a video of running Colossal Cave Adventure compiled from the original FORTRAN IV sources under RT-11v4 on our PDP-11/34:

NYC Resistor | NYC Resistor | 2014-06-03 01:31:36

laser-beer

Interactive Party – Homebrew Bar

So with the interactive party around the corner,  Travis Collins and I ( Matt Joyce ) have been working on the final touches for 3 homebrew beers that have been brewed at NYC Resistor.  I figured that I would take a moment to introduce you to each of them.

NYC Resistor is on the site of a former brewery that operated from 1850-1907, finishing it’s days as the Federal Brewing Co.  They used to brew German style bock beer to beer purity standards.    Things in the US have changed considerably since the hay day of Brooklyn’s brewing industry.  Among those changes is our complete departure not only from German style beers but from beer purity laws as well.  Much of what we drink in the US, isn’t even allowed to be called Beer in some parts of Europe.  We don’t care.  We left Europe and told those stick in the muds to shove off for a reason.  We love freedom, and exploration, and really wild new things.

So, for this party, I put together at least one new wild beer for your consumption, revulsion, or love.

Buy tickets here!

That brings us to our first beer of the evening.

Copo do Corrupção IPA  ( Corrupt Cup IPA )

As the world cup approaches, I’ve decided to use an ingredient near and dear to a land I once called home.  This is a beer that had Guarana seeds infused in the mash during our brew process.  We’ve also hopped it up as an IPA.   We suspect the flavour will be a bit bitter, a bit citrusy, and a bit floral.  This is an experimental beer, and is pretty unique for this hemisphere.  I called it Corrupt Cup as a shout out to the people of Brasil who are struggling to reconcile the contrast between poverty and the excess of hosting the world cup this summer.  I wish that country the best of luck.  It’s a wonderful place, filled with outlandishly awesome people.

Grains used:  Maris-Otter, Munich Malt Dark, Carapils, Caramel/Crystal Malt
60L, Melanoiden Malt
Hops:   Northern Brewer, Citra, Cascade
Guarana:  3/4 lb of seed powder

OG:   1.062
FG :  1.020
ABV:   5.51% ( maybe a bit more )

The other two beers are pretty simple and pretty weak.  We’d rather you had fun than end up feeling drunk or sick.  So we’ve gone out of our way to produce a couple of beers that are delicious, but light in weight and alcohol.  One is dark, one is light.  May they rule the night.

I guess we’ll start with the darkness…

Connection Refused Porter

Part of a partigyle brew, this light porter is delicious and low in everything.  It’s basically a near beer it’s so low in alchol.  It’s big brother is however a 10.5% imperial stout.  Unlike that monster, this beer you can drink to your hearts content without fear or remorse.  Which will keep you cool and ready to party interactive style all night.   I’ve tasted this, and it’s carbonating as we speak.  It’s delicious.  You’ll enjoy it.

Grains: Maris-Otter, 2 Row, Black Patent, Brown Malt, Flaked Wheat
Hops: Fuggles

OG:  1.030
FG:   1.014
ABV:  2.1%

The last homebrew is a return to the beloved IPA style.  This is what’s colloquial known as a Session IPA.

Introducing…

Session Cookie IPA

This IPA should be light, floral, and fun to drink.  Refreshing without too much risk of getting tanked.  This will be coming off dry hopping early next week and going direct to keg.

Grains:  NY 2-Row, CaraPils
Hops:    Columbus, Chinook, Cascade

ABV:   Expected to be around 3% ( full measurements not taken yet )

NYC Resistor | NYC Resistor | 2014-06-01 03:59:55

According to Mother Jones, Big Dairy is putting little bits of metal in dairy products to make it look better. Brighter whites is not just for laundry anymore! And I guess folks associate those brighter whites with better taste and more nutrients.

Dairy manufacturers are taking historical, visible markers of quality and mimicking them while decoupling them from the underlying qualities that made the markers worthwhile. This is why a tomato bred for red color (and not taste) ends up looking way better than it tastes.

All this is just an application of the rule that if you apply metrics, the reaction will be to maximize those metrics even in the face of absurd results. Be careful what you measure!

James Vasile | Hacker Visions | 2014-05-29 21:30:27

Turns out we’ve been using dictionaries all wrong. To get them right, we should go back to the old school, when Webster illuminated words instead of killing them and pinning them under glass. And we should keep them within constant digital reach for convenient consultation. The beautiful details are on the J Somers blog.

James Vasile | Hacker Visions | 2014-05-21 17:17:09

FCC Chair Tom Wheeler says FCC has “made preservation of the Open Internet a priority for the FCC.” There’s a simple way to accomplish that goal, which is to reestablish the rule that telecoms players have to treat all the traffic the same. Deliver all the packets. Connect all the users. No faster lanes. No slower lanes. No tiers. No privileges. Treat every packet the same, regardless of where it came from or where it is going.

Until Verizon v. FCC, this was the backbone of our simple Net Neutrality policy. “Don’t discriminate against different kinds of traffic” is the bright-line rule that has staved off balkanized, tiered services that are a nightmare for consumers to navigate.

But then a federal court pulled the foundation from beneath that policy in Verizon v. FCC. With the old rules undermined, everybody asked Wheeler’s FCC to put a new legal foundation beneath the policy so we can continue to live in a world where Net Neutrality protects us from telcos stacking the deck against all but the biggest players.

Wheeler, a former cable industry lobbyist, responded by hinting he would scrap Net Neutrality protections altogether. Everybody except the telecommunications oligarchs complained. And so Wheeler wrote that blog post promising to protect what he vaguely calls the “Open Internet.” But look at what he conveniently left out. There is no mention of the simple rule that used to protect us. He says not one word about drawing a bright line to prevent discriminating against traffic that can’t pay inflated ransoms.

Instead, Wheeler says he’ll maintain open pathways, which is a promise to pursue a goal using terms he has never actually defined. At best that promise is hollow. At worst, it’s disingenuous. In Wheeler’s vision, there is no reason an “open pathway” couldn’t include paths that discriminate against certain Internet traffic. His assurances quite explicitly omit a clear articulation of network neutrality because, in the end, Wheeler is not committed to that principle.

In place of a simple rule, he talks about guarding against degraded service, which doesn’t prevent companies from casting their discrimination as “upgraded” rather than “degraded”. He also promises us he’ll require companies to be commercially reasonable, which is an ever receding line of “current industry practice” that lets protections slowly spiral down until they’ve dwindled to nothing. And good luck giving those vague standards any teeth during a future Republican administration.

Wheeler’s refusal to simply restore the bright-line rule that has protected us since the 1990s is a major victory against consumers, a devastating blow to smaller internet companies, and a gag order for non-profits. The FCC has the power to do better. We should demand Wheeler do so.

James Vasile | Hacker Visions | 2014-05-15 16:54:43

A drawing on an artist.  How recursive.There's an interesting discussion going on over at Crooked Timber in response to a an article by Henry Farrell about Astra Taylor's book The People’s Platform.

But our post here is just about one great comment from that discussion.  Actually, it would be more accurate to say that our post here is one great comment from that discussion, because I can't think of any better way to say what Clay Shirky said in his comment than the way he said it.

So, since we're always yammering on about the "permission culture" and how problematic it is, I thought, what the heck, let's just take a chance and publish Clay Shirky's comment as an article without asking him first.  If he's unhappy about it, we'll take it down, of course, but my guess is that Clay would agree that his spot-on point about the economic inevitability, throughout history, of the "struggling artist" deserves wider attention:

I’ve yet to read the book (getting it now, on your rec, Henry), so I’ll confine myself to reacting to your writing here, starting with your framing of the question: “If there isn’t an economic model for producing culture in some kind of self-sustaining way, will it get produced?”

 

To which the answer is that of course it will get produced. Culture always gets produced, by definition. You can’t have a group of humans living together who don’t produce some artifacts and behaviors that constitute their culture, including cultures who not only don’t have professional artists, they don’t have the concept of money.

 

Since this answer borders on the tautological, I think that this can’t be what you meant, so I will substitute what I think the question behind that observation is (and you’ll tell me if I’m wrong): If the marketplace that forms around cultural production does not produce, on average, a living wage for the producers of that culture, shouldn’t we expect cultural impoverishment to flow outwards from the impoverishment of the individual artists?

 

Now part of that answer comes down to personal taste — in the same way Katie Roiphe argues that feminism, as practiced, has ruined the novel, as produced, it would be possible to prefer the art of the ’70s to today’s, and to link that to the ways that, say, the Talking Heads or Robert Wilson’s Byrd Hoffman folks could support themselves in a way that isn’t possible today, and that these circumstances led to art you prefer. (Dave Hickey often advances just this argument.) There’s no real counter-argument, given the lack of taste accountants.

 

But part of that question is purely economic, and from my point of view, understanding the economics of cultural production comes down to a single home truth: more people want to make things than other people want the things those first people have made.

 

Always. This is always true. The economy where an artist couldn’t make a killing but could make a living has never existed. Being a working artist is such a desirable state that people are willing to endure penury and suffering for a shot at the big time. The hazing rituals of rejection letters, pawned instruments, and shows closing out of town simply reduced the pool of creators to the point where it looked like supply and demand were more in balance than today. This illusion could only be sustained by ignoring the vast majority of people who wanted to do that work but abandoned hope early and left not public trace of their aspirations.

 

What the internet does is to decouple fame and fortune*, so that the cadre of people who make things no longer need to ask anyone for help or permission before making those self-same things public. And the resulting flood of public work has revealed that there are many more talented people around than were surfaced when highlighting the work of a young artist entailed significant financial risk on the part of the people who could reach an audience. Now, we makers can reach the audience more directly.

 

90% of what we make is crap, as has been long noted, but the increased volume and increasingly sophisticated filters mean that the good stuff can be plucked from the crap without subjecting the average viewer to the average quality work. (This is also the answer to Freddie’s question as to what will replace the old model, which is “This. You’re living in the replacement of the old model.”)

 

And the massively increased denominator of available work means the numerator of cultural spending is spread much more thinly. A handful of stars still do well — some, who produce physical objects or live performances, are doing better than ever — but the pool of people who can share our work for no money, or make a little on the side, has increased so vastly that there is no comparison between the pool of people showing their work in public in the 1970s vs. now.

 

It is a category error to assume that there has always been some moderately-sized group of creators who are talented but not destined for stardom, and in the old days those people did OK while today they are immiserated.

 

Many of the people lamenting not being able to make a living from their work today would not have been able to under the old system either, but they imagine that they would have been among that system’s rare winners, rather than being part of the far larger group who was dissuaded from their dreams of being paid to create without ever having even been able to show their work in public.

 

There has never been a normal way in the US to be a self-supporting creator. The consolation prize today is that does not mean also not getting some of the public attention creators typically crave. The economic side-effect of the widely increased scope for that attention is the economic effects you are wondering about.

 

*http://www.shirky.com/writings/fame_vs_fortune.html

 

By the way, if you liked that, check out his later comment in the same discussion.  More Shirky, please!  (Commenters bobmcmanus and Trader Joe apparently agree.)

Tags: 

Question Copyright | QuestionCopyright.org | 2014-05-12 05:22:12

I’m always confused when my lvm volumes don’t show up in a pvscan command. I know the volume is there because I can see it blkid. It’s just missing from all the lvm commands.

It turns out the problem is always that the lvm is an encrypted LUKS partition. Before I can get at it using lvm commands, I need to open it with cryptsetup luksOpen /dev/sdb3 foo where foo is a name I want to call the volume for this session. Then I can use vgchange -a y to activate the volume groups as per usual. They’ll show up as /dev/mapper/whatever.

James Vasile | Hacker Visions | 2014-05-05 17:33:22

I'm on the board of Rhizome.org, a great non-profit focused on technology and art. We do an event every year called Seven on Seven where we pair seven technologists with seven artists.

Saturday was the fifth anniversary of the event, and this year one of the teams paired NYT writer and author Nick Bilton with artist Simon Denny.

Around 5pm on Friday, I got an email from Nick offering to pay me $5 for an emoji version of the White House's report on Big Data:

Email from Nick

The entire report is 85 pages, but they asked for a summary of page 55, a chart showing how federal dollars are being spent on privacy and data research:

bigdatagraphic2

Here's what I came up with (click for a larger version):

Big Data Emoji

I'm particularly proud of my emoji-fication of homomorphic encryption:

Homomorphic Encryption

I highly recommend watching the whole event, but Nick and Simon's presentation of the other reports they solicited begins around at the 3 hours and 25 minute mark of the live stream:

Nick, I know you said you'd pay cash, but I'd really prefer to accept the $5 in DOGE.

Please send 10,526.32 DOGE to DKQJsavxSdF381Mn3qZpyehsBzCX3QXzA2. Thanks!

Fred Benenson | Fred Benenson's Blog | 2014-05-04 17:18:01

test


Alan Toner | kNOw Future Inc. | 2014-05-01 06:42:52

Forbes recently ran an article accusing environmentalists of opposing a solution to climate change simply because the idea is backed by for-profit industrialists rather than non-profit do-gooders.

The contentious solution is enticingly simple. Fertilize the ocean with iron sulfate, which is an industrial waste product. This causes plankton bloom. Fishes love plankton. Some of the plankton dies and sinks to the ocean floor, taking CO2 with it. Less CO2 and more fish! What’s not to like? Surely anybody who thinks we shouldn’t run out and fill every puddle on the planet with iron sulfate is a parochial obstructionist!

But it’s not that simple. What we have right now is a promising idea backed by too little data and not enough study to know whether it makes sense at scale. And because the cowboy experimenters aren’t doing real peer-reviewed research, their experiments are hard to value.

Forbes wants to cast this as for-profit vs non-profit because that fits the narrative that makes their readers feel superior. But the truth is more complex– before we do something like this on a large scale we need a better handle on predicted size and quality of effects.

There’s a place for rugged individualism and damn the paperwork! And before we do anything as big as geoengineering, it would be good to have enough science to form a scientific consensus.

What we know right now is that we can do carbon sequestration this way. What we don’t know is what interaction this has with other systems or how to do it in the real world. How big would a program need to be in order to be effective? What constitutes “effective” in this case? Is there a place where scaling up that big makes sense? And what would a program at scale do to other parts of the environment? We probably need to be able to take a stab at that question before greenlighting a big effort on this.

And, yeah, there’s politics that connects to industry running edit-compile-test experiments on a live planet instance. And that probably connects to a divide between for-profit and non-profit approaches. But Forbes wants you to think that’s the major stumbling block and I don’t think it is.

Thanks to Mark Frazier, who mentioned the article on Facebook, framing it as “orthodoxy vs disruptive innovation”. And to Jessica Margolin for nudging me to post my rant here.

James Vasile | Hacker Visions | 2014-04-29 16:13:00

Books in a jail cell.At QCO we make a point of calling things by their right names, and of encouraging others to do so.  For example, we always talk about "copyright restrictions", instead of using the pro-monopoly propaganda word "copyright protection".  Try it yourself: if you consistently substitute restrict for protect, and restriction for protection, when talking about copyright, it will always work grammatically and it will be more accurate.

The information monopoly industries would much prefer us to talk about "protection", of course, by which they mean protection of their business model.  But most of us don't say "pre-owned car" just because used car dealers would rather we said that instead of "used car", and we can use the same principle of calling things what they are when it comes to copyright.

However, most media outlets (not to mention even other copyright reformers and abolitionists, sadly) still usually take the path of least resistance and continue using the term "protection".  This may be partly because it lends an air of legalistic authority: lawyers almost always call it "protection", not just for copyrights but also in the unfortunately consonant phrase "patent protection" and in the conceptually incoherent "intellectual property protection".

That's why I nearly jumped out of my airplane seat when I opened the New York Times this Friday, April 25th, and saw Farhad Manjoo's article "The Cloud Roots for Aereo, but People Need Better".  It was the first time I'd seen anyone in a major mainstream media publication use the term "copyright restrictions" where most journalists would have said "copyright protections".  Here's the exact excerpt, starting from the beginning of the article:

"The best way to think about Aereo, the company at the center of this week's Supreme Court battle over the future of computing, is as as an example of legal performance art.  Aero is based entirely on a legalistic leap of faith: If it's legal to set up an antenna and record a TV show at your own house, which it is, shouldn't it also be legal to rent an antenna and server space at a big data center, and then stream the show over the Internet to your computer, tablet or set-top box?

 

It's a clever argument, one that highlights the extreme lengths that tech companies go to to avoid copyright restrictions. ..."

Not only that, he never refers to restrictions as "protection" anywhere in the article.  Later he even repeats "restrict", again accurately, and with a directness that has been too often missing from many others' writings on this topic:

"Aereo is based on a loophole. To offer TV shows over the Internet, most streaming services like Netflix or Hulu pay licensing fees to studios. But licensing is expensive and restrictive; ..."

Why, it's almost as if he's determined to report what's actually going on!

I've been a fan of Farhad Manjoo for a while, so it's gratifying to see him taking such care with language here.  But just to be clear, there's no behind-the-scenes nudging going on, at least not by me: I've never met nor communicated with Manjoo.  Also, we have no reason to count him (or for that matter not count him) among those for radical reform or abolition of the current copyright system.  I don't know anything about his political beliefs in this area, and his insistence on using accurate language doesn't say anything about those beliefs.  It just tells us he's trying to be a good writer, one who uses the most appropriate word despite environmental pressure to do otherwise.  Let's hope he influences some of his colleagues to be equally accurate.

Tags: 

Question Copyright | QuestionCopyright.org | 2014-04-29 15:38:08

RE/Mixed Media Festival logo.

We've been fans of what the RE/Mixed Media Festival is up to ever since we first heard about it in 2010.  Now they're in their fourth year!  The next one will take place at the New School in New York City, the weekend of April 26-27.  They've kindly offered our readers a registration discount, too -- use the promotional code "QUESTION" to get 50% off.

In their own words:

RE/Mixed Media Festival, taking place on April 26-27 at The New School and CultureHub, is an annual celebration of collaborative art-making and creative appropriation. It's the artists' contribution to the ongoing conversation about remixing, mashups, copyright law, fair use, and the freedom of artists to access their culture in order to build upon it. Each year, the festival features performances, panel discussions, workshops, electronic remixing/hacking, sampling, film & video, fashion, DJs, technology, interactive installations, painting, sculpture, software, and much more.

Now in it's fourth year, RE/Mixed Media Festival is a hybrid event - a marriage of art exhibition and critical academic conference, a forum where artists, activists, scholars, musicians, writers, entertainment professionals, and policymakers come together to collectively re-examine the role of creative appropriation in the arts, and the roles of artists, government and industry in creating and maintaining a free and open culture.

RE/Mixed Media Festival IV is pleased to welcome media theorist Lev Manovich and author David Shields as keynote speakers, as well as the NY opening of DJ Spooky's international art and design exhibit, The Imaginary App. Other 2014 artists hail from 13 countries, and include 15 students, alumni, and faculty from The New School of Public Engagement's School of Media Studies and Parsons The New School for Design. Past artists and scholars have included Moby, Steinski, Ricky Powell, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Jesper Juul, Nitin Sawhney and over 150 other artists, performers, educators, activists, musicians and DJs.

Details:

   Saturday, April 26
      10 AM – 5 PM: The New School
         Theresa Lang Center and Dorothy Hirshon Suite: 55 W 13 St.
         The Auditorium at 66 W 12 St.
         Anna Maria and Stephen Kellen Auditorium, 66 5th Avenue.
      6 PM – 10 PM: CultureHub, 47 Great Jones Street

   Sunday, April 27
      10 AM – 6 PM: The New School
         Theresa Lang Center and Dorothy Hirshon Suite: 55 W 13 St.

NOTE: Registration and check-in will take place at Theresa Lang Center on both Saturday and Sunday.  See remixnyc.com.

Tags: 

Question Copyright | QuestionCopyright.org | 2014-04-24 01:57:49

I scanned the top 10000 websites (according to Alexa) and these are the ones that came up vulnerable. I have rescanned the vulnerable ones periodically and will continue to do so over the next few days. It’s possible that anything unpatched by now won’t be patched any time soon. This list is of servers that are currently vulnerable. It does not tell you whether keys or passwords were compromised in the past.

Just to be clear, I scanned port 443 (not 993), which is to say I was looking at HTTPS connections rather than IMAPS.

A bunch of sites didn’t respond to the test. Presumably this is because they don’t support HTTPS. But it might be because they’ve taken secure services off line while they fix the bug. Such sites wouldn’t be listed as vulnerable here, but it also wouldn’t be quite right to say they are safe.

Thanks to FiloSottile for the scanning tool.

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2014/04/09 11:41:08 xtool.ru
2014/04/09 11:44:28 www.xtool.ru
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2014/04/09 11:42:41 www.hypebeast.com
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2014/04/09 11:44:23 www.woorank.com
2014/04/09 11:40:29 serpbook.com
2014/04/09 11:43:52 www.serpbook.com
2014/04/09 11:38:43 filelist.ro
2014/04/09 11:42:20 www.filelist.ro
2014/04/09 11:38:51 ge.tt
2014/04/09 11:42:28 www.ge.tt
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2014/04/09 11:39:06 idwebgame.com
2014/04/09 11:42:43 www.idwebgame.com
2014/04/09 11:38:52 gi-akademie.com
2014/04/09 11:42:29 www.gi-akademie.com
2014/04/09 11:38:33 downloadab.com
2014/04/09 11:42:08 www.downloadab.com
2014/04/09 11:37:59 alnaddy.com
2014/04/09 11:39:42 mediapost.com
2014/04/09 11:43:00 www.mediapost.com
2014/04/09 11:38:10 banglanews24.com
2014/04/09 11:43:57 www.state.tx.us
2014/04/09 11:38:24 cinepolis.com.mx
2014/04/09 11:38:29 datropy.com
2014/04/09 11:42:04 www.datropy.com
2014/04/09 11:40:15 protothema.gr
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2014/04/09 11:39:45 mp-success.com
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2014/04/09 11:38:38 evsuite.com
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2014/04/09 11:39:55 nukistream.com
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2014/04/09 11:41:06 worthytoshare.com
2014/04/09 11:44:25 www.worthytoshare.com
2014/04/09 11:40:47 tractionize.com
2014/04/09 11:44:07 www.tractionize.com
2014/04/09 11:38:37 edlen24.com
2014/04/09 11:42:14 www.edlen24.com
2014/04/09 11:38:31 digitalmarketer.com
2014/04/09 11:42:05 www.digitalmarketer.com
2014/04/09 11:39:51 myip.ms
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2014/04/09 11:40:28 seoclerks.com
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2014/04/09 11:39:41 matadornetwork.com
2014/04/09 11:42:59 www.matadornetwork.com
2014/04/09 11:38:58 gorillavid.in
2014/04/09 11:42:34 www.gorillavid.in
2014/04/09 11:41:07 wowkeren.com
2014/04/09 11:44:26 www.wowkeren.com
2014/04/09 11:38:42 fermasosedi.ru
2014/04/09 11:42:19 www.fermasosedi.ru
2014/04/09 11:38:30 dha.com.tr
2014/04/09 11:42:05 www.dha.com.tr
2014/04/09 11:38:11 beliefnet.com
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2014/04/09 11:42:28 www.futbol24.com
2014/04/09 11:38:27 coinmill.com
2014/04/09 11:42:02 www.coinmill.com
2014/04/09 11:39:29 kaskus.co.id
2014/04/09 11:42:51 www.kaskus.co.id
2014/04/09 11:37:51 alfajertv.com
2014/04/09 11:41:30 www.alfajertv.com
2014/04/09 11:38:02 arioo.com
2014/04/09 11:41:40 www.arioo.com
2014/04/09 11:38:01 aremo.com.br
2014/04/09 11:40:38 telly.com
2014/04/09 11:43:59 www.telly.com
2014/04/09 11:40:27 selfhtml.org
2014/04/09 11:43:50 www.selfhtml.org
2014/04/09 11:40:57 vic.gov.au
2014/04/09 11:44:14 www.vic.gov.au
2014/04/09 11:38:20 championat.com
2014/04/09 11:41:59 www.championat.com
2014/04/09 11:40:40 theme.co
2014/04/09 11:44:01 www.theme.co
2014/04/09 11:39:26 joomlaportal.de
2014/04/09 11:42:49 www.joomlaportal.de
2014/04/09 11:40:33 spinding.com
2014/04/09 11:43:55 www.spinding.com
2014/04/09 11:40:52 uploadbaz.com
2014/04/09 11:41:05 wordcounter.net
2014/04/09 11:44:24 www.wordcounter.net
2014/04/09 11:40:57 wallstcheatsheet.com
2014/04/09 11:44:14 www.wallstcheatsheet.com
2014/04/09 11:40:29 seratnews.ir
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2014/04/09 11:42:34 www.gorilla-evolution.com
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2014/04/09 11:41:49 www.avazutracking.net
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2014/04/09 11:43:49 www.savenkeep.com

James Vasile | Hacker Visions | 2014-04-09 15:55:57

A blog entry Swartz wrote in 2009, titled “Honest Theft,” neatly details his view of the school as a haven for rebelliousness. He described friends who he said secretly lived for free on campus, sleeping on couches in common rooms and stealing food from the cafeterias — and using the money they saved “to promote the public good.” -- Marcella Bombardieri, "The Inside Story Of Mit And Aaron Swartz"

The role of MIT's openness in this case is one that interests me, though I'm uncertain what to conclude aside from sadness for Aaron and his loved ones and the likely battening down of things at MIT. When I was a student there I had friends that basically lived on campus. One alumni split his time between the 24-hour coffee house and the libraries, which were open to anyone. (When I was a fellow at Berkman in the 90s, I was shocked at how much more restrictive things were and could be at Harvard.) Some female friends went months without permanent housing using a similar strategy and also taking advantage of the Cheney Room at the Women's Community Center.

In addition to MIT be an amazingly open place physically, the computer systems were similarly open. The lore went that since most student's could probably break the security on any workstation, MIT preferred to design its infrastructure such that they assumed any system could be compromised but to also trust the community. Hence, one could get root on any workstation via the command tellme root. Hence, David Lamacchia's troubles over file sharing had a similar dynamic back in 1994: he took advantage of this to install a file sharing app on a workstation that was only flagged because students noted that the workstation was slow and its disk was thrashing.

In hindsight, both David's and Aaron's actions were ill-considered and took advantage of MIT's openness. However, in my youth I too did things that if done now could get one thrown in jail (e.g., "weev" and AT&T). Hence, I am saddened when people blame MIT for being open. That said, the idea of being open, which implies that sometimes folks will cross a line and need to be responded to appropriately, is not easily reconcilable with a justice system that seeks to make example of folks by bankrupting or throwing them in jail.

Josh Reagle | Open Codex | 2014-03-31 00:00:00

I finally found an example of how ending a sentence with a preposition in English is not only not wrong, but is sometimes the best way to avoid ambiguity:

Make sure your facility’s storage room is clearly organized, so that people will know how to fit in their boxes.

vs

Make sure your facility’s storage room is clearly organized, so that people will know how to fit their boxes in.

It only works because of the implied “…to the storage room” at the end of the second sentence, though, so maybe it’s not the pure example I’ve been looking for.

Karl Fogel | rants.org | 2014-03-15 22:32:46

I finally got around to doing a screen cast of Thunderdell and BusySponge. I'm presently in the process of moving to support YAML/CSL exports as well.

Thunderdell (Freemind extract or 'fe.py')

Would you like a bibliographic system that was a simple and powerful complement to the way you take notes? The Thunderdell scripts are intended to make sure the important task of engaging a text is not hindered by bibliographic constraints. Using the power of the FreeMind (0.7) mindmap application you can quickly tag and outline a source and trivially indicate annotations, paraphrases, and excerpts with simple keyboard shortcuts; you can outline, link to Web resources, and include images and tables -- really, anything you can do with a mindmap and HTML. The underlying data is accessible XML and Thunderdell transforms this into the open biblatex bibliographic format (an update to the BibTeX standard).

Josh Reagle | Open Codex | 2014-02-27 00:00:00

I thought I would share a draft of a new paper; it's still rough and I welcome any and all feedback!

Fake geek girls and contested attention

Abstract: I use the online discourse about "fake geek girls" from 2012-2013 to offer an understanding of identity and boundary policing and relate this to questions of who merits attention, why, and what does that attention mean? I begin with a review of scholarly (and seminal popular) literature on geeks, "girl geeks," identity policing, and subcultural authenticity, finding that knowledge and enthusiasm are central to the notion of geekiness, but also gendered. This background permits me to elucidate the relationship between the policing of identity (e.g., am I a geek?) and the boundaries of social categories (e.g., is enthusiasm for a Hollywood movie adaptation sufficient to being geeky?). I then explore the discourse about "fake geek girls" and argue that the policing of some women as "fake" can be understood as a conflict over what is attended to and by whom. In this case, the policing is about (1) the movement of attention within and across the geek subcultural boundary and (2) the meaning of attention

Josh Reagle | Open Codex | 2014-02-24 00:00:00

Reposting for Tuesday, 11 Feb 2014 — The Day We Fight Back against NSA surveillance. Centralized mass surveillance is incompatible with freedom, as we've written about before, and enforcing copyright restrictions on digital networks can only be done through such surveillance.
Retweet / Redent.

Note: Copyright and Surveillance is the third meme in our Minute Memes series. It was animated by Nina Paley, with sound by Greg Sextro, for the 20th anniversary of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. It is released under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 license.

(High-resolution versions available from the Internet Archive. Also available on Vimeo and YouTube.)

In the EFF's own words:

"Three Strikes" and copyright cops. Entertainment industry bigwigs worldwide want ISPs to monitor subscribers, filter content and kick users off the Internet for file-sharing. EFF is fighting worldwide for the protection of fair use, free expression, and fairness for all Internet users.

Happy birthday, EFF! Keep up the good work.

As long as sharing copies is illegal, people who own copying machines (i.e., computers) will be suspect. Copyright + Internet = Surveillance. At QuestionCopyright.org, we want your computer to work for you. Who do you want it to work for?

Question Copyright | QuestionCopyright.org | 2014-02-11 15:58:55

Last week I had an interesting conversation with Noam Cohen from the NYT about Wikipedia vs. The Small Screen.

Some Internet specialists argue that Wikipedia should adjust to a mobile world by harnessing “micro-contributions” like those on Twitter and Facebook. For example, they suggest creating a “like” button similar to Facebook’s that would allow a reader to flag errors in Wikipedia articles, or to suggest those that need to be updated. Quickly adding photographs to a Wikipedia article from an editor with a smartphone is another possibility.

Specifically, we talked about an app that could ask: "you're by a historic monument that we lack a picture of, would you like to take a photo?" Our devices permit us to make many contributions to twitter, Facebook, and Google, imagine what we could do for Wikipedia!

Josh Reagle | Open Codex | 2014-02-11 00:00:00

As I continue to think about geekdom, especially in the context of the boundary policing of "fake geek girls," I return to Pierre Bourdieu's notions of field and capital. A field "constitutes a potentially open space of play whose boundaries are dynamic borders which are the stake of struggles within the field itself" (BourdieuWacquant1992irs, p. 104). That is, a field is constructed by constituents vying, as if in a game, to define it and their own relative position within. For instance, to define a "real geek" as one that is good with computers delineates a boundary and privileges some people over others. Position within a field is facilitated by and produces capital (BourdieuWacquant1992irs, pp. 98-101). Bourdieuian capital is accumulated time and effort which then has the capacity to "appropriate social energy" towards particular ends such that "everything is not equally possible or impossible." Capital tends to reproduce and enlarge itself and the resulting structure "at a given moment in time represents the immanent structure of the social world" (Bourdieu1986fc).

Bourdieu focuses on four types of capital: economic, cultural, social, and symbolic. Bourdieu's work seeks to understand each, their production and forms, and how they are transformed into other types. Economic capital is simply one's financial assets, perhaps accumulated from the fruits of one's labor. Cultural capital is one's holding of cultural values, habits, and tastes; it is acquired both explicitly and tacitly and includes things such as education and style of speech and dress. Its form may be embodied (in our person), objectified (in objects, such as art), or institutionalized (via certification, such as a college degree). An example of geeky cultural capital is knowledge of appropriate cultural references and in-jokes. Social capital is the value of one's social network, a "durable network of more or less institutionalized relationships of mutual acquaintance and recognition -- or in other words, to membership in a group -- which provides each of its members with the backing of the collectivity-owned capital, a 'credential' which entitles them to credit, in the various senses of the word" (Bourdieu1986fc). For example, wearing a comic conference t-shirt indicates one is part of that particular network. While social capital is dependent upon one's embeddedness in a group, symbolic capital is related to honor and recognition of the individual. For example, a geek who broke a world record solving a Rubik's Cube has symbolic capital. However, the line between symbolic capital and the other forms is not always clear. Bourdieu himself writes that "Every kind of capital (economic, cultural, social) tends (to different degrees) to function as symbolic capital" (Bourdieu2000pm, p. 242).

Central to understanding Bourdieu, and the geek field, is that for each type of capital one must take into account "both the labor-time accumulated in the form of capital and the labor-time needed to transform it from one type into another" (Bourdieu1986fc). With respect to defining geekiness (and fakeness), symbolic capital is important because "To be known and recognized also means possessing the power to recognize, to consecrate, to state with success, what merits being known and recognized" (Bourdieu2000pm, p. 242).

Josh Reagle | Open Codex | 2014-02-06 00:00:00

The Women+Film student group at Columbia College in Chicago is presenting QCO Artist-in-Residence Nina Paley's film Sita Sings the Blues this Thursday at 4:30pm -- and Nina will be there for Q&A!  Come see a wonderful film, talk to its director, and get the pre-downloaded DVD in person, straight from the source.

4:30pm, Thursday, 6 February 2014
1104 S. Wabash Ave.
Room 502
(Note: the posters are apparently wrong -- it really is room 502, not 302 as the poster says)

Poster for 2014-02-06 screening of Sita Sings the Blues at Columbia College Chicago.


Tags: 

Question Copyright | QuestionCopyright.org | 2014-02-05 18:42:22

QCO Education icon.Professor Howard Besser of New York University is offering a course at the Tisch School of Arts this Spring entitled Free Culture & Open Access, and he's released the syllabus online.  It's such a good list of introductory sources (and speakers) on the free culture movement that we wanted to point to it from here:

besser.tsoa.nyu.edu/howard/Classes/14free-culture-syllabus.pdf

Several QCO articles, and the work of our Artist-in-Residence Nina Paley, are listed in the syllabus.  Also very nice to see is the trouble Prof. Besser took toward the end of the syllabus to define plagiarism accurately and not confuse it with mere unauthorized copying (simply put: copying a song is not the same as claiming you wrote it!).  As we wrote back in 2007, this is not something NYU has always been clear on, though to be fair, the current Tisch School of the Arts Academic Integrity Policy seems to have thought about it more carefully.

We asked Prof. Besser "Will you be suggesting to the students that they release their own papers for the course under non-restrictive licenses?" and got a delightful answer:

Since 1994 I've been asking my students to make all their work for my classes publicly available
   http://besser.tsoa.nyu.edu/impact/ (choose "Student Papers")
   http://www.nyu.edu/tisch/preservation/studentwork.shtml
We are now transitioning into explicit CC licenses.

It appears the students are in good hands!  Best of luck to Prof. Besser and the class.

Tags: 

Question Copyright | QuestionCopyright.org | 2014-02-03 06:06:00

Since December the law office of Urmann + Collegen have become notorious in Germany due to their action against alleged users of Redtube – a streaming site dedicated to pornography. Copyright enforcement has hitherto been limited to users of file-sharing systems and the operators of streaming sites such as Kino.to. Pursuit of those using streaming facilities would represent a new escalation. Major questions about the plausibility of the offense, the manner of the evidence collection, and the bona fides of the plaintiffs are tied up in this litigation. Hopefully the affair will help discredit the current system.

First a word about one of the protagonists: this is not the first time the spotlight has fallen on Urmann + Collegen. In 2011 I wrote about how they attempted to sell-off the right to pursue alleged copyright infringers for compensation and legal costs under the abmahnung procedure (these are letters which demand the recipient desist from specific behaviour and pay both the costs of the letter’s production and some compensation). By 2012 they were threatening to publish the names of all those unwilling to cough up the amount demanded in the abmahnung for downloading porno movies using bittorrent. The German Data Protection office had other ideas.

1. Origins of the Redtube Affair

In the most recent episode abmahnungen were mailed to ten thousand users whose names and addresses were acquired following an order by the Civil Court in Koln (historically especially amenable to copyright owners requests). They were alleged to have infringed copyright by viewing porno movies on the streaming website Redtube.  The action was launched  on behalf of on behalf of The Archive AG, a Swiss registered company purportedly the owner of films being made available on the redtube website. dresses collected on behalf of the owners of the infringed copyrights. Multiple chambers of the court granted the plaintiffs request to require ISPs to identify the users behind IP addresses collected on behalf of the owners of the infringed copyrights.

But how were these IP addresses acquired? Collecting such IP data from p2p users is trivial – you just need to connect to the peer to identify the IP. But when it comes to records of your website visits access to such information is limited to:(a) the site visited (b) your ISP which routes the request and (c) facebook and other companies with the capacity to exploit trackers (cookies, Javascript, 1-pixel beacons, and Iframes). Important as the last category is, it is not relevant to this instance.

Daniel Sebastian, a lawyer representing Archive AG, said that the IP data had been collected by a company called ‘itGuard’ who had used a piece of software called ‘GLADII 1.1.3′. This company was registered in Delaware in March 2013 but claims to be based in California. It turns out that The Archive AG’s website was registered that same month and that their website uses the same webserver as itGuard.

The Archive AG claimed to have purchased the rights to the infringed films in July of 2013. Around the same time the domain retdube.net was registered. Such site are often registered in order to capitalise on typing mistakes, or can be used by phishing/spam emails to draw traffic. One hypothesis is that this site (whose owners remain unidentified in a Panamanian registry) was set up to trap and track website users. Dates of the alleged infringements are consistent with this timeline.

The legal process began in August 2013 when Sebastian submitted a request for identifying information

The plaintiffs request for subscriber identification information was granted in September. The first letters went out in early December. There followed a flurry of actions including one undertaken by Redtube itself: on December 19th they obtained a decision from a Hamburg court ordering that no further abmahnung be issued to redtube users. However the real turning point came as the result of an appeal by four alleged Redtube users in mid-January. They argued that their information had been wrongly provided to the plaintiffs and in late January the Koln court upheld their appeal. For the moment this brings the substance of the case to a close. The flawed original decision by the various chambers of the Cologne Civil Court was based on numerous errors which it is worth itemising.

2. Confusion in Court: Streaming and Reproduction

Irrespective of the relationship between itGuard and The Archive AG, it appears that the Koln court which ordered that subscriber to be divulged was either confused or misled. They appear to have believed that Redtube was a filesharing system rather than a streaming service. Submissions to the court by their lawyer, Daniel Sebastian, reinforced this impression by referring to downloads rather than streams.

In a decision announced on January 27th the Court upheld an appeal by one of the recipients of the letters.  They stated that they had been confused by the use of the term download in the original application and that streaming has not been found to constitute an act of reproduction.

3. More Confusion: Acquiring the IP Addresses

In his original submissions to the Court in Cologne,  Sebastian included a document drawn up by a Munich patent attorney from the firm Diehl & Partner, verifying the proper functioning and reliability of the GLADII. Nowhere in this twelve page document is there any explanation as to how the software actually interacts with the target site to collect the user data.

When the Cologne Court issued its statement connected to the successful appeal by one of the abmahnung recipients, the Judge raised again the troublesome mystery of how the GLADII software functions and noted that requests for further information had gone unanswered:

“even after indication from the Court, the questions remains unanswered as to how the software program can access a two-sided communication.”

4. Doubts about Ownership

The Archive AG claimed that they had purchased the rights to ‘Amanda’s Secret’ and other clips from a Berlin firm, Hausner Productions, who supposedly bought them from their original producer, a Spanish firm Serrato Consultants. But Hausner Productions does not exist, and Serrato never produced these films, which were shot by a company in California who continue to commercialize them.

5. Fallout

As each day passes the affair unwinds further. Urmann is now facing an action taken by a Berlin firm on behalf of abmahnung recipients alleging extortion and fraud. Meanwhile at the The Archive AG it’s all go: they moved their HQ to a Swiss village called Weisselingen and their director, the German Phillip Wiik, has been replaced by a certain Djengue Nounagnon Sedjro Crespin, a native of Benin. Oh, and their phone number no longer functions and the website is offline. apparently Swiss authorities have started an investigation into the directors for fraud. a reader of the German magazine Telepolis visited the office address of the software developer ‘itGuard’ in San Jose and found only a supplier of office services who had rented a letterbox to a company of that name.

Conclusion

Amusing as the details of this scam are, and unpleasant as some of the characters in this story may be, the real issue here is the mindless machination of a copyright enforcement industry. By the end of 2012 this apparatus had produced more than four million abmahnungen: it is a crazed monster and out of control. On the basis of sketchy evidence, possibly gathered illegally, multiple chambers of the Cologne Civil Court ordered the identification of tens of thousands of users to a firm who did not have to prove they owned the rights – this is evidence of institutional dementia.

Lawyers have cranked this apparatus up because the business model produces a lot of money for them in fees, far more than that earned by any notional rightsholder. Thomas Urmann didn’t even bother checking if his clients actually owned the rights they claimed, just sent out the 20,000 letters and waited for the cash to roll in. In early January he was promising further letters in relation to other streaming sites. And if there are further ‘issues’? No problem, he says, ‘we’ve got full liability insurance’.

For years now there has been discussion of reform to eliminate such abuse, but in the SPD/CDU Coalition agreement there is no commitment to do anything other than investigate how the current system functions. Until the next time folks.


Alan Toner | kNOw Future Inc. | 2014-02-01 06:50:32

Hearing of Pete Seeger's passing hit me hard today. His work to revive folk music and use music as a powerful weapon for positivity in the world inspired me.

In 1992 I went to Kobe Japan and studied at a college there and then stayed with a lovely Japanese family in Yao, Osaka. I fell in love with American style, old timey, banjo music in Japan.

While I was in Kobe, my friend Joe Pepi Benge, an avid banjo player, took me to Shaggy's which was a western bluegrass bar that played the best authentic old timey and bluegrass music. Everyone but us was Japanese. In Japan, people take their hobbies SERIOUSLY and the Japanese guys had studied Scruggs and then kept going. They were fantastic. Pepi was pretty good too!

It was the first time I'd heard American folk music and I fell hard for it. I returned to the states, Claudia bought me a banjo, and I got Pete Seeger's book and checked his records out of the library and made cassette copies.

A week later I wrecked my bike and gave myself a good gash and spent the rest of the summer learning to play banjo when I wasn't limping around. A few years later, in London, I met Tom Paley of the Lost City Ramblers at the Cecil Sharpe House and bought a fiddle off of him. 

For a few years, I thought that I might have a future as a professional banjo player. It turns out I'm not gifted with a great singing voice and while I can read music easily, I don't have an ear for picking up tunes easily.

Playing banjo is one of the things that makes me happy. It's really hard to be miserable while playing the banjo. Pete Seeger gave me hope that doing art and following your passion can lead to wonderful things and have an impact on the world. I admire his work and I love that his banjo said, "This machine surrounds hate and forces it to surrender."

Bre Pettis | Bre Pettis Blog | 2014-01-29 04:24:46

A month or so ago, Andy Baio was watching 120 Minutes and thought he recognized the wall moulding in Rancid's Time Bomb video:


Here's the video:

Rancid was playing on the 4th Floor of 155 Rivington, Kickstarter's former home on the Lower East Side.

Andy sent it around to everyone at Kickstarter and it was obvious -- it had to be the building we had spent the last 4 years in.

I watched the video repeatedly, and knew it too, but I wanted proof.

So I started digging through my photos of the place.

When we first moved into the 4th floor of 155 Rivington, a decision was made to take down some of the drywall on the west wall:

REAS / 155 Rivington
The wall on the 4th floor after we removed the sheetrock in February 2012

Underneath we discovered graffiti that must have been at least 15 years old, probably older. My colleagues Alex and Tieg recognized the H₂O H/C/N/Y tag as from the band H₂O, a punk rock band started in NYC in 1995. Ensign, in the upper right, was also an local hardcore punk band, so they must have been there too.

Other tags were easily Googleable. One was Lord Ezec is Danny Diablo, a famous underground recording artist, who is still very active in the scene (@dannydiablo on Twitter):

Lord Ezec

Danny was Sick of It All's roadie around the same time, which explains the "Alleyway Crew" tag, the story of which is referenced in this biography of the band:

Numerous Sick of It All fans have tattoos of the "Alleyway Dragon", the band's official logo. The Dragon is from a sheet of Greg Irons flash. It is not, as some people have claimed, a misappropriated gang symbol, but then the Alleyway Crew was never a gang to begin with. It was, and is, a group of friends. The dragon is a symbol of friendship as well as a way that members would relate who was hanging out at a particular gathering. The "Alleyway" is in a school yard in Flushing, Queens, where the band and all of their friends would gather.

The other acronyms, such as C.C.C. and D.M.S. and SNS are too hard to Google, but I'm sure if you were in the scene at the time you'd recognize them.

The biggest piece, however, was the big white REAS tag

REAS was a well known NYC graffiti artist who hit tons of spots in Manhattan and around NYC:

Screen Shot 2014-01-19 at 12.33.38 PM

Rumor has it REAS still painting, and he even recently collaborated with the well known artist KAWS on a vinyl toy:

KAWS / REAS Toy

Something told me that if I looked hard enough in the Rancid video, that REAS' tag might be there.

Sure enough, around 1 minute and 17 seconds in, it makes an appearance.

I transformed my photo onto a screen grab from the video and mapped it onto an animation:

So barring an explanation involving REAS and a time machine, I'd say this is proof that Rancid shot their video at Kickstarter HQ.

If you want to learn more about the making of video, check out Flaming Pablum's post from October 2013 on it here.

Fred Benenson | Fred Benenson's Blog | 2014-01-19 20:41:09

In an unsigned editorial today, “Edward Snowden, Whistle Blower”, the New York Times is needlessly weak:

… Considering the enormous value of the information he has revealed, and the abuses he has exposed, Mr. Snowden deserves better than a life of permanent exile, fear and flight. He may have committed a crime to do so, but he has done his country a great service. It is time for the United States to offer Mr. Snowden a plea bargain or some form of clemency that would allow him to return home, face at least substantially reduced punishment in light of his role as a whistle-blower, and have the hope of a life advocating for greater privacy and far stronger oversight of the runaway intelligence community. …

Well, there you have it. The iron-clad resolve of the nation’s most respected newspaper, taking a firm and uncompromising stand in support of a source who, at great personal risk, revealed a massive and ongoing abuse of government power. Yes, the New York Times is definitely who I want next to me in a trench.

Not. Come on, New York Times. The yellow-bellied, lily-livered, sop-to-power sycophancy of this position is… unseemly. Are you really saying “a pig like that, you don’t eat all at once” about Edward Snowden?

The worst thing in the editorial is also the subtlest:

The shrill brigade of his critics say Mr. Snowden has done profound damage to intelligence operations of the United States, but none has presented the slightest proof that his disclosures really hurt the nation’s security. Many of the mass-collection programs Mr. Snowden exposed would work just as well if they were reduced in scope and brought under strict outside oversight, as the presidential panel recommended.

Note the lacuna in the transition from the first sentence to the second. What I expected the second sentence to say was something like “Terrorists already assume their communications are being monitored and behave accordingly; Snowden’s leaks are a revelation only to law-abiding citizens who expected their government to play by its own rules.”

But instead the second sentence is an apparent non sequitur — it talks about how reducing the scale of data collection and increasing oversight would not harm the effectiveness of the programs. The implication is that the if Snowden’s leaks were to harm national security, they would do so by causing public outrage sufficient to force the programs to be reduced and brought under real oversight; and the Times is saying that we shouldn’t worry: because such reduction and oversight would not harm national security, therefore Snowden should not be punished to the full extent of the law.

There are two infuriating things about this. One is that they left out the obvious point that the real reason the leaks do not harm national security is that they do not cause terrorists to behave any differently than they are already behaving. Two is the implication that if changing the programs in response to public outrage did result in harm to national security, this would somehow be Edward Snowden’s fault, rather than being the responsible decision of the citizenry who demanded the reforms in the first place. Whistle-blowing is about pointing out when laws (not to mention Constitutions) are being broken in important ways — as was certainly happening here. It means giving the public a chance to decide how they will be governed. It does not mean the whistle-blower is personally responsible for whatever ultimate decision the citizenry makes.

Snowden himself has said this over and over: that his purpose was to inform the public, and that if we conclude, with full knowledge of what’s going on, that we want these programs to continue unchanged, then that’s fine. The point is to be making that decision in knowledge, not in ignorance.

They muffed the last paragraph of the editorial too:

When someone reveals that government officials have routinely and deliberately broken the law, that person should not face life in prison at the hands of the same government. That’s why Rick Ledgett, who leads the N.S.A.’s task force on the Snowden leaks, recently told CBS News that he would consider amnesty if Mr. Snowden would stop any additional leaks. And it’s why President Obama should tell his aides to begin finding a way to end Mr. Snowden’s vilification and give him an incentive to return home.

Are they citing Rick Ledgett to endorse what he’s saying? And if not, why are they citing him? “Please, Mr. Snowden, let’s not have too much of a good thing now…”

(Luckily he can’t stop the leaks; he gave the trove of secrets to journalists and didn’t keep any copies himself, as he has repeatedly said.)

Here’s how the editorial should have ended:

When someone reveals that government officials have routinely and deliberately broken the law, that person should not face life in prison at the hands of the same government. President Obama should immediately grant a full pardon to Edward Snowden and let him come home to the hero’s welcome he deserves.

If the NYT thinks that’s unrealistic, then they’re right — but that’s no reason not to ask for it. As President Obama himself has learned time and time again, there’s no reason to start negotiating from any position other than the one you actually want. If something less than a full pardon is really what the NYT advocates, then I don’t understand why, and can find no explanation in this editorial.

Karl Fogel | rants.org | 2014-01-02 19:50:20

2013 will be remembered as the year when Edward Snowden hauled the debate about state surveillance into the conditions of the 21st century. His revelations constitute a vast canvas made up of interconnecting elements, and the combination of scale and detail makes it difficult to fully find one’s bearings. It has often made me think of Plato’s famous Allegory of the Cave which he recounts in the Republic.

Plato used the allegory of the cave to illustrate the place of philosophers in society. He told of a people whose knowledge of the world was derived from the shadows of moving people and objects cast on a wall by firelight. One of the prisoners is freed and the illusion is revealed to him. When he looks at the fire it hurts his eyes. He sees the sun and it takes time for his sight to adjust, but it does and he can see the objects and people who were formerly only shadows.

Before May of this year we had some inkling of what was going on. After all it was sixteen years since the Science and Technology Options Assessment (STOA) office of the European Parliament commissioned two reports touching on global communications interception (including Echelon). This led eventually to a Parliamentary procedure in 2001. But investigations were based on piecing together and inference not documentary corroboration. Now we are confronted with the flow charts, slide-shows, and even doodles of the undertaking – a collision with the plumbing of modern power. Time is needed to take it all in.

Sovereign power is back on display, its capability multiplied by the rise of the data harvesting industries and the centralisation of data on their servers. Trust in these companies – Facebook, Google, Yahoo, Microsoft et al. – has been injured and the wound will fester, both amongst users and non-US governments. Meanwhile  ‘users’ drift virtually naked in a sea of insecure communications and with precious little data that is still ‘personal’ …. That’s the bad news. The good news is that it’s going to get better from here, because now people know and will begin to respond through litigation, agitation in the public sphere and tool development.

There is much to say but for now I’ll recommend some other voices: if you haven’t followed Eben Moglen’s lecture series, Snowden and the Future, then take the time to read or listen to his four lectures and absorb his analysis of the broad picture. Those interested in an accessible presentation of the technical aspect should watch his dialogue with security expert Bruce Schneier. Good background on the recent expansion of the surveillance culture in the US is contained in Ryan Lizza’s article State of Deception from the New Yorker. Finally Glenn Greewald, who broke the story with Laura Poitras, gave the keynote at the Chaos Computer conference last week, check it out here.


Alan Toner | kNOw Future Inc. | 2014-01-01 03:56:19

A while ago, Danny Colligan (author of the wonderfully rigorous & thorough "What We Lose When We Embrace Copyright") sent us a link to a new short piece he'd written, about public subsidies for artists and how to set them up so they result in more freedom, not more restriction.  It's here:

thegreatkladderadatsch.blogspot.com/2013/07/addendum-to-what-we-lose-when-we.html

Quoting:

There are many schemes one could create to subsidize artists.  Economist Dean Baker made one such proposal, which relies on a voucher system.  Basically, taxpayers get vouchers that they can use to allocate to whatever artist(s) they want, and artists, as a requirement for receiving money through the system, are forbidden from copyrighting their work. Such a system leverages the already existing tax infrastructure, would be more than sufficient to cover artists’ costs, and does not even require any sweeping changes like elimination of all copyright (besides, of course, passage of law that would bring the program itself into existence).  In short, the proposed voucher system is a relatively unobtrusive reform that could easily be implemented within the context of the current legal and economic system.  The political effort required to enact it, however, is another story, of course.

Yes.  This shouldn't even be a hard call.  Public money should result in public goods.

Tags: 

Question Copyright | QuestionCopyright.org | 2013-12-31 19:26:57

It’s the last day of 2013. I’ve thought a lot this year about how lucky I am: I get to work on freedom full-time, among other places at OTS, OpenITP, QCO, and the OSI.

I don’t want anything different for 2014, except for more people to be so lucky.

U.S. National Parks sign indicating a so-called 'free speech zone'.

Free Clarendon!

Speaking of freedom…

The U.S. National Parks sign above uses the Clarendon typeface — a high-quality digital incarnation of which is now on the way to being freed thanks to the Free Clarendon campaign on IndieGoGo, started by Linus Drumbler. If the campaign makes its goal of $30,000 Canadian, Clarendon Text will be released under the OSI-approved Apache License 2.0. While by font geek standards I’m no font geek, I love Clarendon, both aesthetically and for its association with effective government programs, and have contributed to the campaign to Free Clarendon. I hope you will too.

twitter.com/kfogel/status/418083411727618049 and identi.ca/kfogel/note/9Fk3frNZQmKEspQxr_PQjw:

Contributed to the Free Clarendon campaign: http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/free-clarendon! Join us? Classic font needs a Free digital life… #FreeClarendon

Karl Fogel | rants.org | 2013-12-31 18:10:32

My media box that runs XMBC has been breached. It’s a recent Debian testing install. I didn’t bother securing this box since it has no access to anything, but more importantly, I also made a couple of incredibly simple mistakes while setting it up.

First of all, I allowed root login via SSH using password authentication. This meant that anybody who knows the password and can reach the box can log in. This was supposed to be just while setting up the box, but I forgot to turn it off after I was done doing setup.

Second, I used a simple password. This was supposed to be disabled after I set up authentication via SSH keys, but I got distracted and didn’t complete the process.

Third, I connected the box to a public-facing VPN and downloaded some torrents. Doing this gave the world direct access to the box, unmediated by my network’s normal firewall and NAT infrastructure.

And I think those mistakes were enough. My guess (it’s not clear from the logs) is that somebody, or most likely some bot, probed the box, guessed the root password (I’m embarrassed about that most of all), installed a custom version of atd as well as some daemons I’ve never heard of (ksapd, kysapd, sksapd, and skysapd). It put these binaries in /etc, which is odd and was an early red flag in telling me this stuff wasn’t Debian-approved. The malware also overwrote root’s crontab and fiddled with /etc/rc.local. None of these changes showed up via rkhunter or debsums.

The attacker made some mistakes that made the malware fairly easy to find and disable, which was as simple as killing some processes, removing the root crontab (/var/spool/crontab/root) and looking at /etc/rc.local. Still, of course I don’t know if there are things I missed, so I’ll be reinstalling this box from scratch.

A cursory check of the other important boxes on my LAN shows no evidence that they have been probed or entered. I need to do a more thorough check asap, especially of the Macintosh laptop which for all I know is running software that hasn’t gotten a security update in a while.

A few weeks ago, somebody else seems to have encountered similar (or at least similarly-named) malware. Their conclusion is similar to mine:

It looks like a weak password. I lectured some 8 to 11 y/o kids on passwords, then created a user called word with password called word. 2 days later I saw things by accident, luckily they only were in for a short while.

I made a series of bad, easily-avoided mistakes with this install. Mostly, the mistakes were mental errors. I was thinking of this box as insecure and not worth attacking. I took a lot of shortcuts and then failed to clean them up. I was cavalier with connections and letting the box talk to the seedier corners of the Internet.

All of this is highly embarrassing. I’m supposed to be a person that knows the basics of locking the doors. I’m publishing this report precisely because embarrassment usually prevents people from talking about their security failures. So here it is. Feel free to mock me.

Next steps for me are to snapshot the install and to start looking at the binaries left on the system. If there’s anything more to report, I’ll do another post and perhaps update this one.

James Vasile | Hacker Visions | 2013-12-24 23:17:56

The new healthcare.gov web site sure looks great. Under the hood, though, it’s apparently implemented with Bronze Age web development technology :-(.

I tried to sign up today. After dutifully filling out my name, state of residence, and email address, then choosing a username and password, then answering three required security questions, I got this error:

Account creation failure.

That is:

Important: Your account couldn’t be created.

Please wait a few moments and try again, keeping this in mind:

The User ID you created may already be in use. Try using a different User ID.

The email address you entered may be used with another account. If you think you may have already created an account with this email address, select “Forgot your username” on the Log In page.

Since this was my first time signing up, I figured maybe someone had chosen the same username already, so I clicked on Try Again, expecting the site to preserve my old responses so I could just change the one that needed changing.

Instead, it started me all over from scratch. Yo, healthcare.gov, newsflash: my first, middle, and last names have not changed since the last time I filled in this form 30 seconds ago:

Blank name and email form.

Oh look, the next page is blank too — but okay, maybe that makes sense because I’m probably supposed to try a different username, and it’s common practice for web forms to not preserve passwords…

Username and password form.

…But then… wait, really? You’re going to make me fill in the three security questions all over again? Did I mention there are three of them?

Security questions form.

This is insane. The site knows what the cause of the error was. After all, it displayed the big red error box at me. So why not tell me? And, in the meantime, don’t trash the form values I’ve already filled in that are not the source of the error.

Just to be sure, I tried the mailback option. After all, maybe somehow my email address was in the system already, even though I’ve never clicked a button nor filled in a form field on the site before tonight. No email never arrived, though, and it’s not in my spam folder.

(I’m now 0/2 for Federal web site mailback login links, by the way, as petitions.whitehouse.gov has also swallowed my account there, no longer responding to the password I’m pretty sure I set, and never sending me a recovery email no matter how many times I ask for one.)

While we’re at it:

A username collision could be easily detected as soon as the user types it in the form field anyway. So “the User ID you created may already be in use” is a silly situation to be in in the first place. If the User ID is not unique, then don’t let me go farther; make me fix it on that page, especially since I have to go all the way through the security question choices again before I finally get to an error.

But anyway I’m pretty sure the error is spurious, because I’ve now been through the loop several times, with definitely unique usernames, and it still gives me an error every time.

This is not how we do it in 2013. I am not a happy camper

.

Karl Fogel | rants.org | 2013-12-23 03:05:48

The well-regarded photo-blogger David Hobby (the "Strobist") got fed up with moderating blog comments and invented a way to use Twitter in their stead. Each blog post will have a unique hashtag that people should use in their tweet. He writes:

Using Twitter for related discussion does several things. First, it encourages brevity. Second, comments are attributable only to the person who made them and not, by proxy, to this site. You wanna be a troll? Fine. Anyone can easily block you on Twitter. Have a nice life. Or don't.

But above all, Twitter is a great and wonderfully efficient discussion engine. And because of the brevity (and the lack of a need for my timely moderation) those discussion can happen in real-time.

If you'd like to chime in on this particular topic, the Twitter hashtag is #StrobistComments. (And and always, include an @Strobist at the end if it is important that I see it.) But also understand that each new post will get its own hashtag, so please only use #StrobistComment for this particular issue.

I can understand getting fed up with moderating comments. And moving to the gated Twitter community will obviously leave behind many spammers -- as well as some legit commenters. As David writes, "And for those of you who have contributed to the comments who for one reason or another choose not to participate in the Twitter version, I am of course sorry to see you go." However, might Twitter seem less spammy only because it is newer? Blog-spam-bots have a head start on Twitter-spam-bots, but the latter are getting better all the time. Also, and more importantly, even if this works for David for a while, it doesn't scale for the rest of us. Can you imagine a unique hashtag for every post on every blog, without collision? Imagine the hash-crashes.

Josh Reagle | Open Codex | 2013-12-13 00:00:00

Following on Eben Moglen’s mind-warping series of talks about life after Snowden, the Software Freedom Law Center has invited Bruce Schneier to join Eben for a conversation informed by Bruce’s own analysis of the leaked documents. Bruce is one of the smartest thinkers around when it comes to understanding how security and surveillance operate in the real world. And he is unsurpassed at presenting complicated security concepts even to people who lack his expertise. Between Moglen’s sophisticated thoughts and Bruce’s grounded approach, we’re sure to learn a lot about where we stand and what we can do next!

James Vasile | Hacker Visions | 2013-12-10 16:57:47

I set my IRC client to keep logs. Among other things, that means I have a record of all my away messages from the past couple of centuries or so… Some themes emerge, notably a nostalgia for an imagined Paleolithic past:

  kfogel is away: http://www.rants.org/2013/12/10/irc_away_messages/

kfogel is away: slowly leaching toxins from bloodstream while in a
state of severely lowered consciousness

kfogel is away: replacing busted USB port replicator so can haz
mousez and keyboardz simultaneouzly. Stay away from the IOGEAR
4-port USB 2.0 hub model GUH285 if you ever need a replicator.

kfogel is away: Upgrading to Lucid. Send a posse if you don't
hear from me in 30 min.

kfogel is away: enumerating the integers

kfogel is away: dealing with some reasonable subset of todo list

kfogel is away: errand in the city that never stops talking about
how it never sleeps

kfogel is away: communing with sessile benthic fronds

kfogel is away: pursuing striated brachiators

kfogel is away: metabolizing

kfogel is away: attending to metabolic requirements

kfogel is away: gym time -- yes, geeks are allowed to exercise,
stop looking at me like that

kfogel is away: bun run

kfogel is away: piano time is the only sacred thing

kfogel is away: deep in concentration

kfogel is away: ululating

kfogel is away: Post Office, possibly including metabolic detour.

kfogel is away: gradually converting oxygen to heat

kfogel is away: Speaking of certs and Apache redirects, it's time
to put my laundry in the dryer and start the next load.

kfogel is away: synthesis is the new creativity

kfogel is away: put the pencil in the suitcase when the whiskey
bottle faces the moon

kfogel is away: pipette herbivore cesium bricolage

kfogel is away: Drinking the blood of innocents.

kfogel is away: Q: How many Semantic Web advocates does it take to
screw in a lightbulb? A: What exactly do you mean by "a"?

kfogel is away: Every odd integer > 5 is the sum of three primes.
That made my day.

kfogel is away: weeping, once again, that "ombudsman" has neither
a sex-neutral form nor a verb form.

kfogel is away: One of the nice things about a downtown Chicago
office is exiting into a Daley Plaza protest most weekdays.

kfogel is away: gallivanting with brachiators

kfogel is away: afk for a bit; ask the NSA if you need to find me

kfogel is away: attentiveness to metabolic needs

kfogel is away: avoiding stobor

kfogel is away: oiling my Turing Machines

kfogel is away: pubpat.org is my hero -- victory for
non-patentable genes at U.S. Supreme Court!

kfogel is away: Literally heading to a restaurant whose motto is
"We Serve People". I am not making this up.

kfogel is away: Correction to previous away message: it might be
"Serving People", sorry

kfogel is away: realizing that public school systems are useful
for teaching children how to handle bullies well, and how to
subvert hierarchical authority structures, therefore they should
be preserved

kfogel is away: Is that Edward Snowden in a tuxedo, disguised
among the penguins in Antarctica?

kfogel is away: Seeing what that sound is.

kfogel is away: Researching the hallucinogenic properties of
oxygen -- hmm, continuous consumption appears to cause delusions
of reality...

kfogel is away: fulfilling humankind's millennia-long dream of
flight, albeit in a cramped, commercialized, sadly routinized and
perhaps slightly tawdry way.

kfogel is away: Neither hunting nor gathering.

kfogel is away: avoiding subsidizing further Mesopotamian
adventurism

kfogel is away: wondering why web sites use Flash in situations
where HTML+CSS+images would actually have been easier

kfogel is away: pondering the futility of empathy in a universe
made mostly of hydrogen

kfogel is away: pining for the fjords

kfogel is away: nostalgia-drenched lunch in NYC Chinatown

kfogel is away: stalking the wild asparagus

kfogel is away: converting sunlight to metabolic energy

kfogel is away: traipsing

kfogel is away: checking in on the progress of my escape tunnel

kfogel is away: flossing pulsars

kfogel is away: off to hear Chicago Schola Antiqua in concert --
I'm sure all of FreeNode writhes in jealousy

kfogel is away: contributing some heat back to the Universe

kfogel is away: consumption of sunlight, indirectly, via organic
solar repositories

kfogel is away: "What do we want?" "TIME TRAVEL!" "When do we
want it?"

kfogel is away: Los Angeles looks exactly like Los Angeles

kfogel is away: neural network nightly reset

kfogel is away: accepting silver medal for the 200 meter "not
thinking about the Olympics" challenge

kfogel is away: transferring heat from one location to another

kfogel is away: time to pay the cafe fee again -- maybe it'll be
another wheat-based sugary substance this time

kfogel is away: re-spending my misspent youth

kfogel is away: eating arugula in honor of Barack Obama

kfogel is away: improving my Sogdian accent

kfogel is away: converting matter into heat, using only my body

kfogel is away: Converting sunlight into energy, indirectly.

kfogel is away: admiring your gritty urban authenticity even as he
prices you out of your neighborhood.

kfogel is away: luxuriating in the knowledge that no matter how
bad things get, there's always xkcd

kfogel is away: pontificating somewhere, about something

kfogel is away: It's just about time for historical inevitability
to come back into fashion.

kfogel is away: ancient sunlight will now be converted to
particles of pure energy in my bloodstream

kfogel is away: seeking gourd for use in repurposed pagan ritual

kfogel is away: When you've just typed the same phrase three
times, it is time to take a break. When you've just typed the
same phrase three times, it is time to take a break. When you've
just typed the same phrase three times, it is time to FAKEOUT, YOU
THOUGHT YOU KNEW THIS JOKE BUT YOU DON'T.

kfogel is away: just going to start using "friblopen" to avoid the
whole "free"/"libre"/"open" debate

kfogel is away: Paying money to increase my cardiopulmonary
activity level in a socially-approved and non-disruptive manner &
location.

kfogel is away: taking The Jacket for repairs

kfogel is away: pursuing Outsider to galactic core to see what the
big deal is

kfogel is away: weekly spur waxing

kfogel is away: oak-sporting

kfogel is away: getting away from the computer for a bit and
fondly recalling my paleolithic past


          

Karl Fogel | rants.org | 2013-12-10 16:07:59

(Editor's note: We're cross-posting this beautiful essay from ninapaley.com; see also Nina Paley's similarly-titled interview with Baixa Cultura from April.)


Below are the images and text of a Pecha Kucha talk I gave in Champaign, IL. The Pecha Kucha format is 20 slides x 20 seconds per slide. Hopefully the video will be online within a few months.

Transmission_10fps2

You are an information portal. Information enters through your senses, like your ears and eyes, and exits through your expressions, like your voice, your drawing, your writing, and your movements.

02_Paley_pkncu

In order for culture to stay alive, we have to be open, or permeable. According to Wikipedia, Permeance is “the degree to which a material admits a flow of matter or energy.” We are the material through which information flows.

03_Paley_pkncu

It's through this flow that culture stays alive and we stay connected to each other. Ideas flow in, and they flow out, of each of us. Ideas change a little as they go along; this is known as evolution, progress, or innovation.

04_Paley_pkncu

But thanks to Copyright, we live in a world where some information goes in, but cannot legally come out.
Often I hear people engaged in creative pursuits ask, “Am I allowed to use this? I don't want to get in trouble.”

05_Paley_pkncu

In our Copyright regime, “trouble” may include lawsuits, huge fines, and even jail. ”Trouble” means violence. ”Trouble” has shut down many a creative enterprise. So the threat of “trouble” dictates our choices about what we express.

06_Paley_pkncu

Copyright activates our internal censors. Internal censorship is the enemy of creativity; it halts expression before it can begin. The question, “am I allowed to use this?” indicates the asker has surrendered internal authority to lawyers, legislators, and corporations.

07_Paley_pkncu

This phenomenon is called Permission Culture. Whenever we censor our expression, we close a little more and information flows a little less. The less information flows, the more it stagnates. This is known as chilling effects.

08_Paley_pkncu

I have asked myself: did I ever consent to letting “Permission Culture” into my brain? Why am I complying with censorship? How much choice do I really have about what information goes in and comes out of me?

09_Paley_pkncu

The answer is: I have some choice regarding what I expose myself to, and what I express, but not total control. I can choose whether to watch mainstream media, for example. And I can choose what information to pass along.

10_Paley_pkncu

But to be in the world, and to be open, means all kinds of things can and do get in that are beyond my control. I don’t get to choose what goes in based on its copyright status. In fact proprietary images and sounds are the most aggressively rammed into our heads. For example:

“Have a holly jolly Christmas, It’s the best time of the year
“I don’t know if there’ll be snow, but have a cup of cheer
“Have a holly jolly Christmas, And when you walk down the street
“Say hello to friends you know and everyone you meet!”

12_Paley_pkncu

I hate Christmas music. But because I live in the U.S., and need to leave the house even in the months of November and December, I can't NOT hear it. It goes right through my earholes and into my brain, where it plays over and over ad nauseum.

13.2_Paley_pkncu.013

Here are some of the corporations I could “get in trouble with” for sharing that song and clip in public. I wasn’t consulted by them before having their so-called “intellectual property” blasted into my head as a child, so I didn’t ask their permission to put it in my slide show.

14_Paley_pkncu

Copyright is automatic and there's no way to opt out. But you can add a license granting some of the permissions copyright automatically takes away. Creative Commons, the most widespread brand of license, allows its users to lift various restrictions of copyright one at a time.

15_Paley_pkncu

The problem with licenses is that they're based on copyright law. The same threat of violence behind copyright is behind alternative licenses too. Licenses actually reinforce the mechanism of copyright. Everyone still needs to seek permission – it’s just that they get it a little more often.

16_Paley_pkncu

Like copyright itself, licenses are often too complex for most people to understand. So licenses have the unfortunate effect of encouraging people to pay even MORE attention to copyright, which gives even more authority to that inner censor. And who let that censor into our heads in the first place?

17_Paley_pkncu

Although I use Free licenses and would appreciate meaningful copyright reform, licenses and laws aren't the solution. The solution is more and more people just ignoring copyright altogether. I want to be one of those people.

18_Paley_pkncu

A few years ago I declared sovereignty over my own head. Freedom of Speech begins at home. Censorship and “trouble” still exist outside my head, and that’s where they’ll stay – OUTSIDE my head. I’m not going to assist bad laws and media corporations by setting up an outpost for them in my own mind.

19_Paley_pkncu

I no longer favor or reject works based on their copyright status. Ideas aren't good or bad because of what licenses people slap on them. I just relate to the ideas themselves now, not the laws surrounding them. And I try to express myself the same way.

Transmission_10fps2

Like millions of others who don't give a rat's ass about copyright, I hope you join me. Make Art, Not Law.

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Question Copyright | QuestionCopyright.org | 2013-12-08 19:39:01

Nick Bilton's Hatching Twitter tells of four friends who became rivals in the claim for having "founded" Twitter. (A recurring narrative well captured in the 2001 film Startup.com.) Even beyond founding, others can claim to have "invented" something twitter-like before Twitter, including myself!

Unlike the vision of Ev Williams who conceived the focus of micro-blogging as real-time events experienced and Jack Dorsey who conceived of it as broadcasting updates about one's self, I was focused on sharing stuff I had done.

Over ten years ago I wrote up what I thought were the important requirements for a busy sponge

I spend a lot of my time typing things into various interfaces: such as a log of important/useful things I've done during the day, an outline of things I need to do, a list of interesting links and my thoughts on them, web site passwords, proto-ideas and scribbles, annotations/comments on things I've read, and travel information. Some of these things are stored in (different) html pages and some in (different) flat text files, and I use different editors/browsers for these files! I'd like to have a single easy to use interface for entering all these things. This will require a data store/model, an interface, and perhaps some syntactical conventions for easy freeform entry..

This was when I worked at the W3C and was motivated, in part, by our weekly meetings in which we shared our "two minutes." I wanted a way to capture stuff I had done and share it with my colleagues. Once I had a way to capture these events, I naturally created an RSS feed that my peers could subscribe to.

Since then the tool has evolved to do many things for me, most importantly capturing bibliographic data about Web sources for my online ethnographies and histories. For the past couple of years, I've thought I should send some of my stream of busy to Twitter and/or Google+. I prefer to use Google+, but they've so far refused to create an API for creating Plus status updates. With the semester winding down, I finally gave Twitter a go via the nice command line tool twidge. Hence, busy now has an option to send an update to twitter.

def yasn_publish(comment, title, url, tag):
    comment_delim = ": " if comment else ""
    comment = comment + comment_delim + title
    comment_room = 140 - len(comment) - len(tag) - len(url)
    if comment_room < 0:    # the comment is too big
        comment = comment[0:-17] + '...' # url will be shortened to 20 chars
    message = "%s %s #%s" %(comment, url, tag)
    call(['twidge', 'update', '%s' %message]) # tweet via twidge

Josh Reagle | Open Codex | 2013-12-07 00:00:00

It's been a little over a month since the November 6th fire that destroyed the scanning center building at the Internet Archive.  No one was hurt, but as Archive founder Brewster Kahle wrote in a blog post from November 6th (emphasis added):

We lost maybe 20 boxes of books and film, some irreplaceable, most already digitized, and some replaceable.   From our point of view this is the worst part.   We lost an array cameras, lights, and scanning equipment worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.  Insurance will cover some but not all of this.

The Internet Archive is far more important to the long-term interests of Internet users than, say, Facebook, and they'll make a little go a long way.  If you can, please donate to help them recover and grow.  I just sent in a check for $200 -- which really means $800 for the Archive, because...

Donations made before 2014 are being matched three-to-one by an anonymous donor!

So, if you can, please give.  There are few more obvious calls on the Internet right now!

Internet Archive, showing fire damage to scanning center building.

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Question Copyright | QuestionCopyright.org | 2013-12-06 21:54:02

I can't stress this enough — if you're still wondering about the connection between copyright and civil liberties, nothing could make it clearer than Eben Moglen's four-lecture series Snowden and the Future at Columbia Law School in New York City. The fourth lecture is this coming Wednesday, December 4th, at 4:30pm (Eastern US) in Room 101 of Jerome Greene Hall:

If you are in New York City on Wednesday, we strongly recommend going to that fourth and last lecture. Transcripts of the first three are already online (though I found them worth watching on video). Quoting from the third:

privacy is an ecological rather than a transactional substance

Moglen goes on to explain why very eloquently. It is a point of prime concern to copyright resistors: when every email, every post in a social network, every online communication among human beings, is subject to surveillance, then the system will always err in one direction: toward over-enforcement of already overly-strong restrictions. Surveillance naturally serves monopoly: the watcher is centralized, the watched decentralized. Thus, for example, it becomes your problem to fight fraudulent takedowns and other censorship, rather than being the censor's problem to justify the restrictions in the first place.

Thursday, 12 Dec: Eben Moglen and Bruce Schneier:

Then on Thursday the 12th at 6:30pm ET, Prof. Moglen will be talking with the renowned security expert Bruce Schneier about what we can learn from the Edward Snowden documents and from the NSA's efforts to weaken global cryptography, and how we can keep free software tools from being subverted. That event is also at Jerome Greene Hall; see here for details.


There is no freedom of thought without freedom of communication, and ultimately there is no freedom of communication without privacy. Privacy means secrecy, anonymity, and autonomy for individuals freely associating.

Monopoly will never argue for this. People have to do it. Copyright restrictions originated in centralized censorship and are increasingly supported by centralized surveillance. No one is analyzing the larger dynamic of surveillance better than Prof. Moglen. If you're in New York this Wednesday and next Thursday, you know where to go.


(Previous post in this series here.)

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Question Copyright | QuestionCopyright.org | 2013-12-02 20:38:28