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An anonymous reader writes John Oliver calls it "cable company f*ckery" and we've all suspected it happens. Now on Steven Levy's new Backchannel publication on Medium, Susan Crawford delivers decisive proof, expertly dissecting the Comcast-Netflix network congestion controversy. Her source material is a detailed traffic measurement report (.pdf) released this week by Google-backed M-Lab — the first of its kind — showing severe degradation of service at interconnection points between Comcast, Verizon and other monopoly "eyeball networks" and "transit networks" such as Cogent, which was contracted by Netflix to deliver its bits. The report shows that interconnection points give monopoly ISPs all the leverage they need to discriminate against companies like Netflix, which compete with them in video services, simply by refusing to relieve network congestion caused by external traffic requested by their very own ISP customers. And the effects victimize not only companies targeted but ALL incoming traffic from the affected transit network. The report proves the problem is not technical, but rather a result of business decisions. This is not technically a Net neutrality problem, but it creates the very same headaches for consumers, and unfair business advantages for ISPs. In an accompanying article, Crawford makes a compelling case for FCC intervention.
184 comments | 10 hours ago
Walking The Walk writes YouTube is looking at creating a paid-subscription model that would allow users to skip the ads on their videos. (A more condensed summary from CBC.) No firm date has been announced, and it sounds like tentative steps right now, but YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki did mention that ad-enabled music videos would still be offered.
221 comments | yesterday
An anonymous reader writes: The Electronic Frontier Foundation has issued a report grading online service providers for how well they side with users over intellectual property disputes. They looked at sites like YouTube, Imgur, tumblr, and Twitter. "The services could receive a maximum of five stars, based on criteria including publicly documented procedures for responses to DMCA takedown notices and counter-notices, how the services handle trademark disputes, and if the company issued detailed transparency reports." Only two sites got a perfect rating: WordPress and Namecheap. tumblr got the worst score, and Imgur was not far behind. The rest of the sites were in between, though the EFF did give a bit of extra credit to Etsy for its educational guides and Twitter for its transparency reports.
16 comments | 2 days ago
TheRealHocusLocus writes: The Survivor Library is gathering essential knowledge that would be necessary to jump-start modern civilization, should it fail past the point where a simple 'reboot' is possible (video). Much of it (but not all) dates to the late 1800s and early 1900s: quaint, but we know these things work because they did work. In 1978, James Burke said our modern world has become a trap (video), and whether it springs shut or not, all survival starts with the plow. Could you make one, use one? Sure, even a steam engine to pull it. I rescued my copy of Henley's Formulas from a dumpster outside a library.
Think of the Survivor Library as a trove of survival skills, a "100-year civilization checkpoint backup" that fits on a hard drive. If one individual from every family becomes a Librarian, gathering precious things with the means to read them, there may be many candles in the darkness. Browse at will, but if acquisition is the goal, someone has kindly made a torrent snapshot as of 14-Oct-2014 available.
266 comments | 2 days ago
Maurits van der Schee writes "The Court of Justice of the European Union has ruled that embedding a copyrighted YouTube video in your site is not copyright infringement. From the article: "The case in question was referred to EU’s Court of Justice by a German court. It deals with a dispute between the water filtering company BestWater International and two men who work as independent commercial agents for a competitor. Bestwater accused the men of embedding one of their promotional videos, which was available on YouTube without the company’s permission. The video was embedded on the personal website of the two through a frame, as is usual with YouTube videos. While EU law is clear on most piracy issues, the copyright directive says very little about embedding copyrighted works. The Court of Justice, however, now argues that embedding is not copyright infringement."
68 comments | 3 days ago
TheRealHocusLocus writes: We are witness to a historic first: an individual charged with espionage and actively sought by the United States government has been (virtually) invited to speak at Harvard Law School, with applause. [Note: all of the following links go to different parts of a long YouTube video.] HLS Professor Lawrence Lessig conducted the hour-long interview last Monday with a list of questions by himself and his students.
Some interesting segments from the interview include: Snowden's assertion that mass domestic intercept is an "unreasonable seizure" under the 4th Amendment; that it also violates "natural rights" that cannot be voted away even by the majority; a claim that broad surveillance detracts from the ability to monitor specific targets such as the Boston Marathon bombers; him calling out Congress for not holding Clapper accountable for misstatements; and his lament that contractors are exempt from whistleblower protection though they do swear an oath to defend the Constitution from enemies both foreign and domestic.
These points have been brought up before. But what may be most interesting to these students is Snowden's suggestion that a defendant under the Espionage Act should be permitted to present an argument before a jury that the act was committed "in the public interest." Could this help ensure a fair trial for whistleblowers whose testimony reveals Constitutional violation?
221 comments | 4 days ago
Lasrick links to this interview with Peter Kuran, an animator of the original Star Wars and legendary visual effects artist, writing If you saw the recent remake of Godzilla, you saw stock footage from Atom Central, known on YouTube as 'the atomic bomb channel.' Atom Central is the brainchild of Kuran, who among his many talents is an expert on archival films of the atmospheric testing era of 1945 to 1963. Combining his film restoration and photography expertise with his interest in nuclear history, he has also produced and directed five documentaries. He is currently working with Lawrence Livermore and Los Alamos National Laboratories to preserve and catalog images from the bomb-testing era, and to produce a technical handbook that will help people understand these images and the techniques used to create them.
37 comments | 5 days ago
Frequent contributor Bennett Haselton writes: Facebook threatened to banish drag queen pseudonyms, and (some) users revolted by flocking to Ello, a social network which promised not to enforce real names and also to remain ad-free. Critics said that the idealistic model would buckle under pressure from venture capitalists. But both gave scant mention to the fact that a distributed social networking protocol, backed by a player large enough to get people using it, would achieve all of the goals that Ello aspired to achieve, and more. Read on for the rest.
269 comments | about a week ago
jones_supa writes Microsoft is expected to release a new build of the Windows 10 Technical Preview in the very near future, according to their own words. The only build so far to be released to the public is 9841 but the next iteration will likely be in the 9860 class of releases. With this new build, Microsoft has polished up the animations that give the OS a more comprehensive feel. When you open a new window, it flies out on to the screen from the icon and when you minimize it, it collapses back in to the icon on the taskbar. It is a slick animation and if you have used OS X, it is similar to the one used to collapse windows back in to the dock. Bah.
209 comments | about two weeks ago
TheRealHocusLocus writes: Disaster preppers have a saying, "two is one and one is none," which might also apply to 24x7 base load energy sources that could sustain us beyond the age of fossil fuel. I too was happy to see Skunkworks' Feb 2013 announcement and the recent "we're still making progress" reminder. I was moved by the reaction on Slashdot: a groundswell of "Finally!" and "We're saved!" However, fusion doesn't need to be the only solution, and it's not entirely without drawbacks.
All nuclear reactors will generate waste via activation as the materials of which they are constructed erode and become unstable under high neutron flux. I'm not pointing this out because I think it's a big deal — a few fusion advocates disingenuously tend to sell the process as if it were "100% clean." A low volume of non-recyclable waste from fusion reactors that is walk-away safe in ~100 years is doable. Let's do it. And likewise, the best comparable waste profile for fission is a two-fluid LFTR, a low volume of waste that is walk-away safe in ~300 years. Let's do it.
Why pursue both, with at least the same level of urgency? Because both could carry us indefinitely. LFTR is less complicated in theory and practice. It is closer to market. There is plenty of cross-over: LFTR's materials challenges and heat engine interface — and the necessity for waste management — are the same as they will be for commercial-scale fusion reactors. To get up to speed please see the 2006 fusion lecture by Dr. Robert Bussard on the Wiffle ball 6 plasma containment, likely the precursor to the Skunkworks approach. And see Thorium Remix 2011 which presents the case for LFTR.
218 comments | about two weeks ago
theodp writes: Having declared U.S. kids clueless about coding, Facebook and Microsoft are now turning their attention to Europe's young 'uns. "As stewards of Europe's future generations," begins the Open Letter to the European Union Ministers for Education signed by Facebook and Microsoft, "you will be all too aware that as early as the age of 7, children reach a critical juncture, when they are learning the core life skills of reading, writing and basic maths. However, to flourish in tomorrow's digital economy and society, they should also be learning to code. And many, sadly, are not." Released at the launch of the European Coding Initiative — aka All You Need is Code! (video) — in conjunction with the EU's Code Week, the letter closes, "As experts in our field, we owe it to Europe's youth to help equip them with the skills they will need to succeed — regardless of where life takes them."
213 comments | about two weeks ago
Two and a half years ago, we posted news of the completion of the Star Wars Uncut project. Now, reader kdataman writes that another fan-made Star Wars movie remake is ready to watch; this time it's Empire: 480 fan-created 15-second clips have been assembled to remake the entire movie, scene for scene (but not always word for word). The variations swing from professional production values to cardboard cutouts, but they are all creative and many are hilarious. Hard to pick a favorite scene but the guys at MTV selected a few highlights.
55 comments | about three weeks ago
HughPickens.com writes Alan Boyle writes that over the years, Elon Musk's showmanship, straight-ahead smarts and far-out ideas have earned him a following that spans the geek spectrum — to the point that some observers see glimmers of the aura that once surrounded Apple's Steve Jobs. "To me, it feels like he's the most obvious inheritor of Steve Jobs' mantle," says Ashlee Vance, who's writing a biography of Musk that at one time had the working title The Iron Man. "Obviously, Steve Jobs' products changed the world ... [But] if Elon's right about all these things that he's after, his products should ultimately be more meaningful than what Jobs came up with. He's the guy doing the most concrete stuff about global warming." So what is Musk's vision? What motivates Musk at the deepest level? "It's his Mars thing," says Vance. Inspired in part by the novels of Isaac Asimov and Robert Heinlein, Musk has come around to the view that humanity's long-term future depends on extending its reach beyond Earth, starting with colonies on Mars. Other notables like physicist Stephen Hawking have laid out similar scenarios — but Musk is actually doing something to turn those interplanetary dreams into a reality. Vance thinks that Musk is on the verge of breaking out from geek guru status to a level of mass-market recognition that's truly on a par with the late Steve Jobs. Additions to the Tesla automotive line, plus the multibillion-dollar promise of Tesla's battery-producing "gigafactory" in Nevada, could push Musk over the edge. "Tesla, as a brand, really does seem to have captured the public's imagination. ... All of a sudden he's got a hip product that looks great, and it's creating jobs. The next level feels like it's got to be that third-generation, blockbuster mainstream product. The story is not done."
181 comments | about three weeks ago
While urging policy reform as more important than per-person safeguards, Edward Snowden had a few pieces of advice on maintaining online privacy for attendees at Saturday's New Yorker Festival. As reported by TechCrunch, Snowden's ideas for avoiding online intrusions (delivered via video link) sound simple enough, but may not be easy for anyone who relies on Google, Facebook, or Dropbox, since those are three companies he names as ones to drop. A small slice: He also suggested that while Facebook and Google have improved their security, they remain “dangerous services” that people should avoid. (Somewhat amusingly, anyone watching the interview via Google Hangout or YouTube saw a Google logo above Snowden’s face as he said this.) His final piece of advice on this front: Don’t send unencrypted text messages, but instead use services like RedPhone and Silent Circle. Earlier in the interview, Snowden dismissed claims that increased encryption on iOS will hurt crime-fighting efforts. Even with that encryption, he said law enforcement officials can still ask for warrants that will give them complete access to a suspect’s phone, which will include the key to the encrypted data. Plus, companies like Apple, AT&T, and Verizon can be subpoenaed for their data.
210 comments | about three weeks ago
maynard writes: Kathy Sierra spent a tech career developing videogames and teaching Java programming in Sun Microsystems masterclasses. Up until 2007, she'd been a well regarded tech specialist who happened to be female. Until the day she opined on her private blog that given the crap-flood of bad comments, maybe forum moderation wasn't a bad idea. This opinion made her a target. A sustained trolling and harassment campaign followed, comprised of death and rape threats, threats against her family, fabricated claims of prostitution, and a false claim that she had issued a DMCA takedown to stifle criticism. All of this culminated in the public release of her private address and Social Security Number, a technique known as Doxxing. And so she fled from the public, her career, and even her home.
It turned out that a man named Andrew Auernheimer was responsible for having harassed Sierra. Known as 'Weev', he admitted it in a 2008 New York Times story on Internet Trolls. There, he spoke to the lengths which he and his cohorts went to discredit and destroy the woman. "Over a candlelit dinner of tuna sashimi, Weev asked if I would attribute his comments to Memphis Two, the handle he used to troll Kathy Sierra, a blogger. Inspired by her touchy response to online commenters, Weev said he "dropped docs" on Sierra, posting a fabricated narrative of her career alongside her real Social Security number and address. This was part of a larger trolling campaign against Sierra, one that culminated in death threats."
Now, seven years later, Kathy Sierra has returned to explain why she left and what recent spates of online harassment against women portend for the future if decent people don't organize. The situation has grown much more serious since she went into hiding all those years ago. It's more than just the threat of Doxxing to incite physical violence by random crazies with a screw loose. Read on for the rest of maynard's thoughts.
728 comments | about three weeks ago
jones_supa writes Since 1960s, we have been seeing the oil company Shell logo being featured in some Lego sets, and Legos being distributed at petrol stations in 26 countries. This marketing partnership is coming to an end, after coming under sustained pressure from Greenpeace. The environmental campaign, protesting about the oil giant's plans to drill in the Arctic, came with a YouTube video that depicted pristine Arctic, built from 120 kg of Lego, being covered in oil. CEO of Lego, Jørgen Vig Knudstorp, wants to leave the dispute between Greenpeace and Shell, and the toy company is getting out of the way.
252 comments | about three weeks ago
First time accepted submitter kyrcant writes Is there a way to accurately really test my "broadband" connection? I don't trust the usual sites, the first ones I found via Google. I suspect (and found) that at least some of them are directly affiliated with ISPs, and I further suspect that traffic to those addresses is probably prioritized, so people will think they're getting a good deal. The speeds I experience are much, much slower than the speed tests show I'm capable of. For a while I thought it might be the sites themselves, but they load faster on my T-Mobile HTC One via 4G than on my laptop via WiFi through a cable modem connection. Is there a speed test site that has a variable or untraceable IP address, so that the traffic can't be prioritized by my ISP (call them "ConCazt")? If not, which sites are not in any way affiliated with ISPs? Is there a way to test it using YouTube or downloading a set file which can be compared to other users' results?
294 comments | about three weeks ago
If you're in a wheelchair, wouldn't it be nice to have your chair automatically alert a caregiver if changes in your heart rate or another vital sign showed that you might be having a problem? And how about helping you rate sidewalks and handicapped parking spaces to help fellow wheelchair users get around more comfortably? Steven Hawking endorses the idea, and the Connected Wheelchair Project, in this short video. (You can see our interviewee, David Hughes, at 0:58 and again at 1:38.) This is an Intel project, in conjunction with Wake Forest University, run by student interns. | Besides helping wheelchair-dependent people live a better life, the Connected Wheelchair Project may help prevent Medicare fraud, says Hughes in our video interview with him. Falsified requests for durable medical goods are a huge drain on Medicare's budget. What if a connected wheelchair spent all of its time far from the home of the person to whom it was assigned? That would be a red flag, and investigators could follow up to see if that wheelchair was in legitimate hands or was part of a scam. | The Connected Wheelchair is still proof-of-concept, not a commercial product. Will it see production? Hard to say. This may never be a profitable product, but Intel CEO Brian Krzanich has said that that this project is an example of how “the Internet of Things can help change lives.” (Alternate Video Link)
22 comments | about three weeks ago
Radiosonde, weather balloon, near-space exploration package... call it what you will, but today's interviewee, Jamel Tayeb, is hanging instrument packages and cameras below balloons and sending them up to 97,000 feet (his highest so far), then recovering them 50 or 60 miles away from their liftoff points with help from a locator beacon -- and not just any locator beacon, mind you, but a special one from a company called High Altitude Science with "unlocked" firmware that allows it to work with GPS satellites from altitudes greater than 60,000 feet, which typical, off-the-shelf GPS units can't do.
Here's a balloon launch video from Instructure, a company that helps create open source education systems. The point of their balloon work (and Jamel's) is not that they get to boast about what they're doing, but so you and people like you say, "I can make a functioning high altitude weather balloon system with instrumentation and a decent camera for only $1000?" This is a lot of money for an individual, but for a high school science program it's not an impossible amount. And who knows? You might break the current high-altitude balloon record of 173,900 feet. Another, perhaps more attainable record is PARIS (Paper Aircraft Released Into Space) which is currently 96,563 feet. Beyond that? Perhaps you'll want to take a crack at beating Felix Baumgartner's high altitude skydiving and free fall records. And once you are comfortable working with near space launches, perhaps you'll move on to outer space work, where you'll join Elon Musk and other space transportation entrepreneurs. (Alternate Video Link)
48 comments | about three weeks ago
An anonymous reader writes "Free software programmer Lennart Poettering has been part of his fair share of controversy in the open source community, and his latest essay may raise the most eyebrows yet. Poettering takes on the idea that the community is one big happy family and has some harsh words for the loudest and most obnoxious members. He says in part: "I don't usually talk about this too much, and hence I figure that people are really not aware of this, but yes, the Open Source community is full of a#@&oles, and I probably more than most others am one of their most favourite targets. I get hate mail for hacking on Open Source. People have started multiple 'petitions' on petition web sites, asking me to stop working (google for it). Recently, people started collecting Bitcoins to hire a hitman for me (this really happened!). Just the other day, some idiot posted a 'song' on youtube, a creepy work, filled with expletives about me and suggestions of violence. People post websites about boycotting my projects, containing pretty personal attacks. On IRC, people /msg me sometimes, with nasty messages, and references to artwork in 4chan style. And there's more. A lot more."
993 comments | about three weeks ago