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Rain or Shine: Bay Area Internet Users Take the Net Neutrality Fight to City Hall

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Photo by Steve Rhodes; CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

"We want information to flow like water,” protesters yelled outside San Francisco City Hall in the pouring rain, rallying in support of keeping the Internet open.  The rally was in advance of a public forum inside City Hall on the looming net neutrality debate.

The San Francisco Bay Area has been one of the most vocal places in the nation in the fight for net neutrality, and there's a reason: Internet openness is crucial to the path-breaking artists, technologies, and businesses that thrive in this state.

The Bay Area is home to some of the world’s most recognized technology companies and bleeding-edge inventors and creators. And although this region certainly has a heavy stake in the outcome of the FCC’s net neutrality decision, the vast majority of policy conversations are happening in DC.

That’s why EFF collaborated with other local and national organizations at San Francisco City Hall last Thursday to host “Bay Area Speaks: A People’s Hearing on the Future of the Internet.” Joined by Former FCC Commissioner Michael Copps, librarians, public officials, and environmental activists, hackers, entrepreneurs, and educators, everyday Internet users from diverse Bay Area communities packed the room at City Hall to testify on why Internet openness is central to our lives.

The Rally

Corporate telecom puppet by David Solnit

The evening began with a rally outside. Holding up a giant puppet of a suit holding a money bag labeled “I$P” and a briefcase that read “net profit,” demonstrators braved the rain Thursday evening to make sure their voice is heard.  Protestors projected giant images in front of City Hall that read “Information Flows Vs. Slow Lanes” and “Net Freedom vs. Corporate Control.”

And as the rain poured, the net neutrality rally was joined in front of City Hall by demonstrators calling for justice for 43 disappeared students in Mexico. Back and forth in solidarity, activists shared the stage. Common threads emerged on corruption, transparency, and the centrality of organizing online for all projects of social justice and political change. A theme was clear: when corporations or governments control how we access information and connect to each other, democracy loses.

Inside City Hall

Jennifer Johns sings to a packed room.

The room was packed. Silently, Oakland musician and activist Jennifer Johns walked to the front before breaking out into a powerful song that brought the room to a focused attention.

EFF’s Intellectual Property Director Corynne McSherry kicked off the event, helping to remind us that only a few short months ago the FCC proposed a set of rules that would have given Internet providers clearance to charge websites to reach users faster.

But millions of people took action.

“And what happened?” McSherry asked the room. “The world changed. The FCC heard us load and clear… and last week we learned that the President heard us loud and clear.” The week before the hearing, net neutrality activists experienced a huge gain in momentum when President Obama came out in full support of bright-line net neutrality rules that would protect the open Internet, leaving the FCC to re-write their proposal.

Despite having received invitations, none of the FCC Commissioners made it to San Francisco for the night. Still, long time public interest champion and former FCC Commissioner Michael Copps flew in from Washington D.C. to speak. He reminded us what a world without net neutrality will looks like:

“If Internet service providers can unilaterally decide what news we can hear and what news we can’t, who can advocate online and who can’t, who can get the word out about rallies like the one here tonight… If they can decide that online fast lines will become the playground of the few rather than the common right of all of us, then we are in for real trouble in this country. And we will not be able to solve any of the problems that this country faces right now.”

Internet Users Shared Their Stories

Privacy info. This embed will serve content from youtube-nocookie.com

We heard from librarian Amy Sonnie, outreach director for Oakland Public Libraries, who pointed out, ”Net neutrality is critical for intellectual and academic freedom in the digital age.” Public interest advocates like Ana Montes from The Utility Reform Network, and Malkia Cyril from Media Action Grassroots Network, spoke out. Internet entrepreneurs and technologists like Dan Jasper CEO of Bay area ISP Sonic.net and Tim Pozar of Fandor.com joined the call for FCC rules that will protect net neutrality.

We heard from public officials like Oakland City Council President Rebecca Kaplan, Chris Witteman from the California Public Utilities Commission, and San Francisco Chief Officer of Innovation Jay Nath, all talking about how local governments are fighting for net neutrality rules that will protect local Internet users.

Musicians and artists spoke out. As Thao Nguyen, a popular independent musician put it, “It is plain to see now more than ever, that no musician can release a record, reach listeners or to grow a fan base without the ability to share their work unimpeded on the Internet.”

An organizer from Greenpeace shared how the centrality of the open Internet to their political organizing, Naomi Most from the Noisebridge hackerspace in San Francisco talked about the Internet has a level playing field, and advocacy interests of all stripes joined us: a representative from Engine Advocacy talked about the needs of startups, Paul Goodman of the Greenlining Institute talked about why net neutrality is an issue of particular importance for racial justice, and Dave Steer, advocacy director at Mozilla, talked about why they continue to fight for an open Internet.

We Will Continue to Fight

Throughout this year four million Internet users commented to the FCC demanding regulators enact real, clear net neutrality rules that will prohibit Internet providers from speeding up or slowing down how we access parts of the web.  Over 99% of the comments in the rulemaking were calling on the FCC to craft the kinds of rules that will protect Internet users from censorious and discriminatory conduct by Internet service providers.

To be more specific, Internet users are asking the FCC to change the way the service of providing access to the Internet is classified under federal law. Right now, the FCC legally considers Internet access to be an “information service,” but legally the FCC is only allowed to enact meaningful net neutrality consumer protections if Internet  access is reclassified as a “telecommunications service” (under Title 2 of the 1934 Communications Act). As Dave Steer from Mozilla put it, “Full Title II reclassification is the cleanest, simplest path forward.”

The policies might seem complicated, but the concept isn’t. New political blogs, artist websites, startups, or growing businesses that can’t afford expensive fees for better service will face new barriers to success, leaving users with even fewer options and a less diverse Internet.

The future of the Internet is our future. It is why Bay Area activists stood with signs of giant cell phones and laptops in the rain outside San Francisco City Hall last Thursday.

And as the net neutrality debate looms in Washington D.C., we will continue to speak out, raise our voice, and we won’t stop fighting until we get the kinds of policies that will serve the information needs of our communities. Stay tuned. It’s not over yet.

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Google Chrome Will Block All NPAPI Plugins By Default In January

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An anonymous reader writes Google today provided an update on its plan to remove Netscape Plugin Application Programming Interface (NPAPI) from Chrome, which the company says will improve the browser's security, speed, and stability, as well as reduce complexity in the code base. In short, the latest timeline is as follows: Block all plugins by default in January 2015, disable support in April 2015, and remove support completely in September 2015. For context, Google first announced in September 2013 that it was planning to drop NPAPI. At the time, Google said anonymous Chrome usage data showed just six NPAPI plugins were used by more than 5 percent of users, and the company was hoping to remove support from Chrome "before the end of 2014, but the exact timing will depend on usage and user feedback."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








DHS Set To Destroy "Einstein" Surveillance Records

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schwit1 sends word that The Department of Homeland Security plans on disposing of all the records from a 3-year-long surveillance program without letting the public have access to them. The Department of Homeland Security is poised to ditch all records from a controversial network monitoring system called "Einstein" that are at least three years old, but not for security reasons. DHS reasons the files — which include data about traffic to government websites, agency network intrusions and general vulnerabilities — have no research significance. But some security experts say, to the contrary, DHS would be deleting a treasure chest of historical threat data. And privacy experts, who wish the metadata wasn't collected at all, say destroying it could eliminate evidence that the government wide surveillance system does not perform as intended. The National Archives and Records Administration has tentatively approved the disposal plan, pending a public comment period.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








Stupid Patent of the Month: Who Wants to Buy Teamwork From Penn State?

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Ever wanted to own the latest in “teamwork” technology? Well, you’re in luck. On December 8, Penn State is holding a large patent auction, and one of the items is U.S. Patent 8,442,839. This patent purports to describe an improved collaborative “decision-making process.” As well as being a good example of a silly patent, this month’s winner highlights concerns with universities trying to monetize their patent portfolio. Why would a university, which presumably has a mission of promoting knowledge and innovation, sell an unsuccessful patent that has no value except to a troll?

First, a little background. In April this year, Penn State held its first patent auction. It offered exclusive licenses to dozens of patents but only received a single bid (meaning that it likely didn’t even recover the cost of holding the auction). This is consistent with experience at other schools. Evidence shows that the vast majority of technology transfer offices lose money for their university. Selling old patents brings universities little revenue but risks contributing to the wider economic harm from patent trolling. Indeed, over 60 universities (paywall) have sold patents to infamous patent troll Intellectual Ventures.

Many, including EFF, have expressed concerns with universities selling to patent trolls. To its credit, Penn State says that it does not want to foster patent trolling. And it has included some licensing terms that will discourage trolls from buying its patents (including a six month bar on filing infringement actions). But it is difficult to see how a patent like U.S. Patent 8,442,839 would have value to anyone but a troll.

The patent, titled “Agent-based collaborative recognition-primed decision-making,” includes a single independent claim. Steps include “receiving information regarding a current situation to be analyzed,” interacting to receive “assistance in the form of assumptions or expectancies about the situation,” and using “collected information to determine whether a decision about the situation is evolving in an anticipated direction.”

The patent reads a little like what might result if you ate a dictionary filled with buzzwords and drank a bottle of tequila. A typical passage explains:

Story building also involves information gathering, but it is more than cue-driven information investigation, because the agents are still unclear about what cues to investigate. Therefore, the key is to identify a collection of cues which the team needs to pay attention to. Our model adopts a combination of two mechanisms: hypothesis exploration and experience synthesization.

In other words: learn from experience. The patent examiner originally rejected the application as not directed to patentable subject matter. Penn State responded by amending its claim to “include a team-oriented computer architecture that transforms subject matter.” In other words, it took an abstract patent and said, “Do it on a computer.”

Fortunately, the Supreme Court has put a stop to this kind of nonsense. We think Penn State’s patent would be found invalid under Alice v. CLS Bank. But even invalid patents have value to patent trolls. This is because they can use the cost of litigation to extort settlements. Indeed when patent trolls are actually forced to litigate to the merits, they lose over 75% of the time.

We urge Penn State and all universities to be more responsible. Instead of selling patents that have little value except as litigation weapons, universities should focus on true technology transfer—partnering with others to bring new technologies into the world. And universities should end their opposition to patent reform. We have a petition calling on universities to support patent reform here. Sign it now!

Related Issues: PatentsInnovation
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HP TouchPad gets Android 5.0 Lollipop (unofficially)

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HP’s long-discontinued webOS tablet continues to find new life as an Android device. The company launched the HP TouchPad in 2011 and discontinued the tablet just two months later due to disappointing sales. But when the company slashed prices and sold off its remaining tablets for as little as $99, HP managed to sell millions of […]

HP TouchPad gets Android 5.0 Lollipop (unofficially) is a post from: Liliputing

Complex Life May Be Possible In Only 10% of All Galaxies

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sciencehabit writes The universe may be a lonelier place than previously thought. Of the estimated 100 billion galaxies in the observable universe, only one in 10 can support complex life like that on Earth, a pair of astrophysicists argues. Everywhere else, stellar explosions known as gamma ray bursts would regularly wipe out any life forms more elaborate than microbes. The detonations also kept the universe lifeless for billions of years after the big bang, the researchers say.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








Book Review: Bulletproof SSL and TLS

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benrothke writes If SSL is the emperor's new clothes, then Ivan Ristic in Bulletproof SSL and TLS has shown that perhaps the emperor isn't wearing anything at all. There is a perception that if a web site is SSL secured, then it's indeed secure. Read a few pages in this important book, and the SSL = security myth is dispelled. For the first 8 of the 16 chapters, Ristic, one of the greatest practical SSL./TLS experts around, spends 230 pages showing countless weaknesses, vulnerabilities, attacks and other SSL weaknesses. He then spends the next 8 chapters showing how SSL can, if done correctly, be deployed to provide adequate security. Keep reading for the rest of Ben's review.

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Cyanogen introduces Themes app for Cyanogen OS phones

Liliputing -

The developers of the open source, Android-based CyanogenMod operating system have offered a theme engine for changing the color scheme, fonts, and other visual elements. Now that some of the lead developers of CyanogenMod are working on the commercial Cyanogen OS, they’re planning to bring enhanced support for themes to phones like the Oppo N1 […]

Cyanogen introduces Themes app for Cyanogen OS phones is a post from: Liliputing

LinkedIn Study: US Attracting Fewer Educated, Highly Skilled Migrants

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vinces99 writes The U.S. economy has long been powered in part by the nation's ability to attract the world's most educated and skilled people to its shores. But a new study of the worldwide migration of professionals to the U.S. shows a sharp drop-off in its proportional share of those workers – raising the question of whether the nation will remain competitive in attracting top talent in an increasingly globalized economy. The study, which used a novel method of tracking people through data from the social media site LinkedIn, is believed to be the first to monitor global migrations of professionals to the U.S., said co-author Emilio Zagheni, a University of Washington assistant professor of sociology and fellow of the UW eScience Institute. Among other things, the study, presented recently in Barcelona, Spain, found that just 13 percent of migrating professionals in the sample group chose the U.S. as a destination in 2012, down from 27 percent in 2000.

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ramanPi: an open source 3D-printable Raman spectrometer

Raspberry Pi -

The 2014 Hackaday Prize offered fabulous prizes for the best exemplars of an open, clearly documented device involving connected electronics. Committed hardware hacker fl@c@ (we understand that’s pronounced “flatcat”) wasn’t in the habit of opening up their work, but had been thinking that perhaps they should, and this seemed the perfect opportunity to give it a go. They decided to make an entry of one of their current works-in-progress, a DIY Raman spectrometer based on a Raspberry Pi. The project, named ramanPi, made it to the final of the contest, and was declared fifth prize winner at the prize announcement in Munich a couple of weeks ago.

Raman spectroscopy is a molecular identification technique that, like other spectroscopic techniques, works by detecting and analysing the characteristic ways in which substances absorb and emit radiation in various regions of the electromagnetic spectrum. It relies on the phenomenon of Raman scattering, in which a tiny proportion of the light falling on a sample is absorbed and then re-emitted at a different frequency; the shift in frequency is characteristic of the structure of the material, and can be used to identify it.

The ideal molecular identification technique is sensitive (requiring only small quantities of sample), non-destructive of the sample, unambiguous, fast, and cheap; spectroscopic methods perform pretty well against all but the final criterion. This means that fl@c@’s Raman spectrometer, which uses a Raspberry Pi and 3D-printed parts together with readily available off-the-shelf components, removes an obstacle to using a very valuable technique for individuals and organisations lacking a large equipment budget.

The ramanPi uses a remote interface so that it can be viewed and controlled from anywhere. Like conventional Raman spectrometers, it uses a laser as a powerful monochromatic light source; uniquely, however, its design:

[…] is based on an open source concept that side steps the expensive optics normally required for raman spectroscopy. Ordinarily, an expensive notch filter would be used which is cost prohibitive for most average people. My system avoids this cost by using two less expensive edge filters which when combined in the correct manner provide the same benefit as the notch filter…at the minimal cost of a little extra computing time.

Once a cuvette containing the sample to be tested is loaded into the ramanPi, the laser is powered up behind a shutter and the first filter is selected while the cuvette’s temperature is stabilised. Then the shutter is disengaged and the sample exposed to laser light, and scattered light is collected, filtered and passed to a Raspberry Pi camera module for capturing and then analysis. The laser shutter is re-engaged and the process is repeated with the second filter. The Raspberry Pi combines multiple exposures into a single image and carries out further image processing to derive the sample’s Raman spectrum. Finally, the spectrum is compared with spectra in online databases, and any match found is displayed.

fl@c@ says,

I’ve been trying to build up the courage to share my work and ideas with the world because I think it benefits everyone. This project is my first to share, and for it to be featured here [in a Hackaday Prize Hacker bio] […] is really amazing. I appreciate this whole community, I’ve learned a lot from it over the years and I hope to be able to give back and contribute more soon!

We’re very glad fl@c@ did decide to share this – ramanPi is an astonishing first contribution to the open source movement, and something that’s likely to be of interest to schools, chemists, biologists, home brew enthusiasts, people who want to know what’s in their water, businesses, ecologists and the simply curious.

You can read about ramanPi in much more detail, with further videos, diagrams, discussion and build instructions, on its Hackaday project page. We hope that this is far from the last we’ll hear of this project, or of fl@c@!

Married Woman Claims Facebook Info Sharing Created Dating Profile For Her

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jenningsthecat writes A happily married Ontario woman was shocked and dismayed last January to discover that she had an active account with dating site Zoosk.com. Mari Sherkin saw a pop-up ad on Facebook for Zoosk, but wasn't interested, so she "clicked on the X to close it. At least I thought I did." She immediately began to receive messages from would-be Zoosk suitors in her Facebook mailbox. When she had a look on Zoosk she was horrified to find a dating profile with her Facebook picture, name, and postal code. Zoosk denies ever setting up profiles in this way, yet their terms of service explicitly allow them to do it, and there are apparently several Facebook pages with complaints of similar occurrences.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








Interviews: Ask the Hampton Creek Team About the Science and Future of Food

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samzenpus writes Hampton Creek is a food technology company that makes food healthier by utilizing a specially made egg substitute in food products. The company was selected by Bill Gates to be featured on his website in a story called, The Future of Food, and has raised $30 million in funding. Hampton Creek's latest product is called, Just Cookies, which is an eggless chocolate chip cookie dough, but it is their eggless mayo that has been in the news lately. Unilever, which manufactures Hellmann's and Best Foods mayonnaise, is suing Hampton Creek claiming that the name Just Mayo is misleading to consumers. Named one of Entrepreneur Magazine's 100 Brilliant Companies and one of CNBC's Top 50 Disruptors, Hampton Creek has picked up some impressive talent including the former lead data scientist at Google Maps, Dan Zigmond. With Thanksgiving just around the corner, Dan and the Hampton Creek team have agreed to answer any questions you may have. As usual, ask as many as you'd like, but please, one per post.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








Deals of the Day (11-24-2014)

Liliputing -

The HP Stream 13 is a low-cost, portable notebook with a 13 inch display, an Intel Bay Trail processor, 2GB of RAM and 32GB of flash storage. It has a fanless design, runs Windows 8.1, and normally sells for $229. But right now the Microsoft Store is selling the laptop for $199. Plus you get […]

Deals of the Day (11-24-2014) is a post from: Liliputing

Nuclear Weapons Create Their Own Security Codes With Radiation

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Zothecula writes "Nuclear weapons are a paradox. No one in their right mind wants to use one, but if they're to act as a deterrent, they need to be accessible. The trick is to make sure that access is only available to those with the proper authority. To prevent a real life General Jack D Ripper from starting World War III, Livermore National Laboratory's (LLNL) Defense Technologies Division is developing a system that uses a nuclear weapon's own radiation to protect itself from tampering.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








NASA Offering Contracts To Encourage Asteroid Mining

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An anonymous reader writes "Two private companies, Deep Space Industries and Planetary Resources, have received contracts from NASA to study asteroid redirection and will pursue their plans of asteroid mining. From the article: "Deep Space Industries is planning to build a number of dense spacecrafts called FireFlies, and they plan on sending the satellites on one way missions to gather information about the density, shape, composition and size of an asteroid. They also have plans to build a spacecraft called Dragonfly, which has the purpose of catching asteroids. The asteroid material will be collected and returned to Earth by 'Harvesters'. Planetary Resources, on the other hand, plans to build a number of middle sized and small telescopes that will be capable of examining asteroids near the planet Earth for economic potential. They already have the telescopes Arkyd 300, Arkyd 200 and the Arkyd 100, each having its own specific systems."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








T-Mobile customers can stream Google Play Music, Xbox Music for free(ish)

Liliputing -

T-Mobile’s Music Freedom program lets customers stream music from a number of online music sources without that data counting against their monthly data caps. The wireless carrier launched Music Freedom in June, added a few additional services in August, and now the company is more than doubling the number of online music services that are […]

T-Mobile customers can stream Google Play Music, Xbox Music for free(ish) is a post from: Liliputing

Ohio College Building Indoor Drone Pavilion

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First time accepted submitter Greenargie points out this story about an indoor flying pavilion for drones being built at a college in southwestern Ohio. An indoor flying pavilion for students to test and fly drones will be built at a college in southwestern Ohio. Sinclair Community College officials say the 40-foot high pavilion resembling a traditional aircraft hangar will be built adjacent to a building in Dayton that houses some of its education and training programs in unmanned aerial systems and aviation. The indoor pavilion will allow students to fly drones without having to deal with weather issues or Federal Aviation Administration restrictions on flying them outdoors, said Andrew Shepherd, director of Sinclair's unmanned aerial systems program. Congress has directed the FAA to integrate drones into civilian manned airspace by next fall. The agency currently allows unmanned aircraft to be flown only under controlled conditions.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








Intrinsyc launches Snapdragon 810 tablet, smartphone devices for developers

Liliputing -

Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 810 processor is an octa-core, 64-bit processor based on ARMv8 architecture. Qualcomm says it’s up to 30 percent faster than a Snapdragon 805 chip, supports LPDDR4 memory, and has other improvements. The new processor probably won’t be available in consumer devices until 2015. But developers who want to get a head start working […]

Intrinsyc launches Snapdragon 810 tablet, smartphone devices for developers is a post from: Liliputing

Class-Action Suit Claims Copyright Enforcement Company Made Harassing Robo-calls

Slashdot -

An anonymous reader writes Morgan Pietz, one of the lawyers who took on Prenda Law, has a new target in his sights: copyright enforcement company, Rightscorp. In a class action suit (pdf) Pietz claims the company made illegal, harassing robo-calls to people who were accused of illegal downloading and by doing so Rightscorp broke the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, which limits how automated calling devices can be used. "They robo-called Jeanie Reif's cell phone darn near every day for a couple of months," Pietz said. "And there could be thousands of members of this class."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








Apple To Donate Profit Portion From Black Friday For AIDS Fight

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An anonymous reader writes Apple will donate a portion of their sales from online and retail stores on Cyber Monday and Black Friday as a contribution to the worldwide fight against AIDS. Apple kicks off a two-week fundraising campaign for RED, the charity started by U2 lead singer Bono and Bobby Shriver. It includes 25 partnering app-makers, from Angry Birds to Toca Boca, which will donate all proceeds from purchases of their apps or in-app upgrades. In a statement, Apple CEO Tim Cook said: "Apple is a proud supporter of (RED) because we believe the gift of life is the most important gift anyone can give. For eight years, our customers have been helping fight AIDS in Africa by funding life-saving treatments which are having a profoundly positive impact. This year we are launching our biggest fundraising push yet with the participation of Apple's retail and online stores, and some of the brightest minds in the App Store are lending their talents to the effort as well."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








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