Geek Stuff

Edward Snowden's New Research Aims To Keep Smartphones From Betraying Their Owners

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Smartphones become indispensable tools for journalists, human right workers, and activists in war-torn regions. But at the same time, as Intercept points out, they become especially potent tracking devices that can put users in mortal danger by leaking their location. To address the problem, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and hardware hacker Andrew "Bunnie" Huang have been developing a way for potentially imperiled smartphone users to monitor whether their devices are making any potentially compromising radio transmissions. "We have to ensure that journalists can investigate and find the truth, even in areas where governments prefer they don't," Snowden told Intercept. "It's basically to make the phone work for you, how you want it, when you want it, but only when." Snowden and Huang presented their findings in a talk at MIT Media Lab's Forbidden Research event Thursday, and published a detailed paper. From the Intercept article: Snowden and Huang have been researching if it's possible to use a smartphone in such an offline manner without leaking its location, starting with the assumption that "a phone can and will be compromised." [...] The research is necessary in part because most common way to try and silence a phone's radio -- turning on airplane mode -- can't be relied on to squelch your phone's radio traffic. Fortunately, a smartphone can be made to lie about the state of its radios. The article adds: According to their post, the goal is to "provide field-ready tools that enable a reporter to observe and investigate the status of the phone's radios directly and independently of the phone's native hardware." In other words, they want to build an entirely separate tiny computer that users can attach to a smartphone to alert them if it's being dishonest about its radio emissions. Snowden and Haung are calling this device an "introspection engine" because it will inspect the inner-workings of the phone. The device will be contained inside a battery case, looking similar to a smartphone with an extra bulky battery, except with its own screen to update the user on the status of the radios. Plans are for the device to also be able to sound an audible alarm and possibly to also come equipped with a "kill switch" that can shut off power to the phone if any radio signals are detected.Wired has a detailed report on this, too.

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Amazon Loses Huge Footwear Company Because Of Fake Products, a Problem It Denies Is Happening

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Several sellers on Amazon had noted earlier this month that the platform is riddled with counterfeit products and that things have gotten worse after Chinese manufacturers were allowed to sell goods to the consumers in the United States. Amid the report, the German footwear company Birkenstock has announced it will no longer sell its sandals on Amazon. The company added that it will also ban any sales of its products by third-party sellers on Amazon, effectively making its products unavailable on the world's largest online store, according to a report on CNBC. From the report: "The Amazon marketplace, which operates as an 'open market,' creates an environment where we experience unacceptable business practices which we believe jeopardize our brand," Birkenstock USA CEO David Kahan wrote from the company's U.S. headquarters in Novato, California. "Policing this activity internally and in partnership with Amazon.com has proven impossible."

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Kaby Lake is coming: Intel begins shipping 7th-gen Core chips

Liliputing -

Intel’s next-gen processors have begun shipping, which means we should start seeing notebooks and other computers powered by the 7th-gen Intel Core series processors soon.

Code-named “Kaby Lake,” the new chips will be manufactured using a 14nm process, much like the 5th and 6th-gen “Broadwell” and “Skylake” processors before them, but Intel says the new processors feature optimizations that should offer better performance.

Up until now, Intel has been releasing chips on a Tick-Tock schedule, which means moving to a smaller process with every other chip release.

Continue reading Kaby Lake is coming: Intel begins shipping 7th-gen Core chips at Liliputing.

Research and Remixes the Law Won’t Allow

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Some day, your life may depend on the work of a security researcher. Whether it’s a simple malfunction in a piece of computerized medical equipment or a malicious compromise of your networked car, it’s critically important that people working in security can find and fix the problem before the worst happens.

And yet, an expansive United States law, passed in 1998 and emulated in legal codes all over the world, casts a dark legal cloud over the work of those researchers. It gives companies a blunt instrument with which to threaten that research, keeping potentially embarrassing or costly errors from seeing the light of day.

That law is Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Simply put, Section 1201 means that you can be sued or even jailed if you bypass digital locks on copyrighted works—from DVDs to software in your car—even if you are doing so for an otherwise lawful reason, like security testing.

It gets worse: Section 1201’s speech restrictions also apply to scholars, artists, and activists that are seeking to comment on culture or make it more accessible. The tools to make engaging remixes, annotations, or interactive commentaries are in the hands of more and more people, but the law has created a “gotcha” situation: while using that source material is legal, getting access to it might run afoul of these additional legal hurdles.

You can seek an exemption from the law to exercise a limited range of your fair use rights, but the avenue to do so is managed by an unsympathetic gatekeeper: the Library of Congress. The Librarian, working with the Register of Copyrights, has turned an already-onerous exemption process into legal obstacle course. And even if you win, you still have to come back every three years to do it again.

The intent behind that law was to create legal backing for DRM—the software that adds restrictions to “content” like music, movies, and books. But over nearly two decades, as software that the law counts as a “copyrighted work” became embedded in everything from tractors to light bulbs to kitty litter boxes, the prohibition has become best known for its unintended consequences.

Those unintended consequences create a problem of constitutional scale. Congress has the power to create copyright laws that “promote the progress of science and the useful arts,” but when it interferes with the traditional contours of copyright law, including fair use protections, it intrudes on the First Amendment. Section 1201 represents just such an intrusion, one that cannot pass constitutional scrutiny.

EFF has filed a lawsuit today to address that constitutional issue, and we’ve gone into more depth about the legal questions at hand in a companion post.

When Congress passed Section 1201, the hot-button copyright debates were about the terms under which people could copy and consume music, movies, and books. Those are important issues, and there is still work to do in getting the balance right for the producers, distributors, and consumers of those works—especially considering that, more than ever before, people jump between all those roles.

But while that work continues, copyright law shouldn’t be casting a legal shadow over activities as basic as popping the hood of your own car, offering commentary on a shared piece of culture (and helping others do so), and testing security infrastructure. It’s time for the courts to revisit Section 1201, and fix Congress’s constitutional mistake.


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Section 1201 of the DMCA Cannot Pass Constitutional Scrutiny

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Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act forbids a wide range of speech, from remix videos that rely upon circumvention, to academic security research, to publication of software that can help repair your car or back up your favorite show. It potentially implicates the entire range of speech that relies on access to copyrighted works or describes flaws in access controls—even where that speech is clearly noninfringing.

At EFF, we’ve been worried about this law since before it was passed. We were counsel in one of the first major tests of the law, but in those early days, we failed to convince the courts of its dangerous risk to speech. Ever since, we’ve documented those speech consequences. We’ve called on Congress to reform the law, to no avail. So today, we’re going to back to court, armed with nearly twenty years of knowledge about Section 1201’s interference with lawful speech and with key Supreme Court cases that have been decided in that time. For more about the problems caused by this law, see our companion post on the issue.

Section 1201 was billed as a tool to prevent infringement by punishing those who interfered with technological restrictions on copyrighted works. After the DMCA was passed, the Supreme Court was asked to evaluate other overreaching copyright laws, and offered new guidance on the balance between copyright protections and free speech. It found that copyright rules can be consistent with the First Amendment so long as they adhere to copyright’s "traditional contours." These contours include fair use and the idea/expression dichotomy.

The dominant interpretation of Section 1201, however, can’t be squared with these First Amendment accommodations. As long as circumvention in furtherance of fair use risks civil damages or criminal penalties, Section 1201's barrier to noninfringing uses of copyrighted works oversteps the boundary set by the Supreme Court..

In First Amendment terms, the law is facially overbroad and therefore unconstitutional. By preventing valuable and noninfringing speech, it goes far beyond any restriction that might be justified by the purposes of copyright law.

Defenders of the law may point to the triennial exemption process. But that rulemaking, which was intended as a protection for lawful speech, instead acts as an unconstitutional speech-licensing regime. To comply with the First Amendment, a speech-licensing regime must conform to strict safeguards to ensure that government officials issue timely permission according to strict standards, rather than exercising too much discretion.

The opportunity to seek government permission once every three years hardly provides for timely review, and in the most recent rulemaking, the government went so far as to claim that permission may be denied at the Librarian's discretion. It is also not enough to prove that you have the right to speak, the government demands that you show a widespread impact on others in a similar position, or you will be refused.

Section 1201 is a draconian and unnecessary restriction on speech and the time has come to set it aside. The future of cultural participation and software-related research depends on it.


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Tesla's 'Master Plan, Part Deux' Includes Trucks, Buses and Ride-Sharing

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An anonymous reader writes from a report via Los Angeles Times: After teasing Part 2 of his "master product plan" for over a week, Elon Musk finally delivered. Los Angeles Times reports: "In a blog post published on the automaker's website, Musk introduced a multiyear, four-pronged strategy that includes new kinds of Tesla vehicles, expanded solar initiatives, updates on Tesla's 'autopilot' technology and a ride-sharing program. Commercial trucks, buses, a 'future compact SUV' and a 'new kind of pickup truck' will be added to Tesla's fleet of electric cars. A heavy-duty truck called the Tesla Semi and a shrunken bus that Musk called a 'high passenger density urban transport' vehicle are in early development stages 'and should be ready for unveiling next year,' he said. The smaller bus would be designed without a center aisle, with seats close to the entrances, and would be able to automatically pace themselves with traffic, the post said. The bus driver would become a 'fleet manager.' Musk also used the master plan to defend his bid for rooftop solar power provider SolarCity and said he aims to make Tesla's Autopilot robotic driver-assist system 10 times safer than cars that humans drive manually. Musk also plans to move Tesla into the popular ride-sharing business, not only with an Uber-like fleet but also with an app that lets Tesla owners rent out their vehicles when they're not using them, perhaps defraying a portion of their auto loans. This will happen, he said, 'when true self-driving is approved by regulators,' a turn of events that's at least several years away."

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EFF Lawsuit Takes on DMCA Section 1201: Research and Technology Restrictions Violate the First Amendment

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Future of Technology and How It’s Used Is At Stake

Washington D.C.—The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) sued the U.S. government today on behalf of technology creators and researchers to overturn onerous provisions of copyright law that violate the First Amendment.

EFF’s lawsuit, filed with co-counsel Brian Willen, Stephen Gikow, and Lauren Gallo White of Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, challenges the anti-circumvention and anti-trafficking provisions of the 18-year-old Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). These provisions—contained in Section 1201 of the DMCA—make it unlawful for people to get around the software that restricts access to lawfully-purchased copyrighted material, such as films, songs, and the computer code that controls vehicles, devices, and appliances. This ban applies even where people want to make noninfringing fair uses of the materials they are accessing. 

Ostensibly enacted to fight music and movie piracy, Section 1201 has long served to restrict people’s ability to access, use, and even speak out about copyrighted materials—including the software that is increasingly embedded in everyday things. The law imposes a legal cloud over our rights to tinker with or repair the devices we own, to convert videos so that they can play on multiple platforms, remix a video, or conduct independent security research that would reveal dangerous security flaws in our computers, cars, and medical devices. It criminalizes the creation of tools to let people access and use those materials.

Copyright law is supposed to exist in harmony with the First Amendment. But the prospect of costly legal battles or criminal prosecution stymies creators, academics, inventors, and researchers. In the complaint filed today in U.S. District Court in Washington D.C., EFF argues that this violates their First Amendment right to freedom of expression.

“The creative process requires building on what has come before, and the First Amendment preserves our right to transform creative works to express a new message, and to research and talk about the computer code that controls so much of our world,” said EFF Staff Attorney Kit Walsh. “Section 1201 threatens ordinary people with financial ruin or even a prison sentence for exercising those freedoms, and that cannot stand.”

EFF is representing plaintiff Andrew “bunnie” Huang, a prominent computer scientist and inventor, and his company Alphamax LLC, where he is developing devices for editing digital video streams. Those products would enable people to make innovative uses of their paid video content, such as captioning a presidential debate with a running Twitter comment field or enabling remixes of high-definition video. But using or offering this technology could run afoul of Section 1201.

“Section 1201 prevents the act of creation from being spontaneous,’’ said Huang. “Nascent 1201-free ecosystems outside the U.S. are leading indicators of how far behind the next generations of Americans will be if we don’t end this DMCA censorship. I was born into a 1201-free world, and our future generations deserve that same freedom of thought and expression.”

EFF is also representing plaintiff Matthew Green, a computer security researcher at Johns Hopkins University who wants to make sure that we all can trust the devices that we count on to communicate, underpin our financial transactions, and secure our most private medical information. Despite this work being vital for all of our safety, Green had to seek an exemption from the Library of Congress last year for his security research.

“The government cannot broadly ban protected speech and then grant a government official excessive discretion to pick what speech will be permitted, particularly when the rulemaking process is so onerous,” said Walsh. “If future generations are going to be able to understand and control their own machines, and to participate fully in making rather than simply consuming culture, Section 1201 has to go.”

For the complaint:
https://www.eff.org/document/1201-complaint

Contact:  KitWalshStaff Attorneykit@eff.org AdamSchwartzSenior Staff Attorneyadam@eff.org CorynneMcSherryLegal Directorcorynne@eff.org
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Mod Minecraft Pi with our latest Essentials books

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We’re back again with yet another amazing book in our Essentials series. We know you love them, and we also know that a lot of you love Minecraft. So here is Hacking and Making with Minecraft, the best place to learn about how to mod Minecraft Pi using the power of code.

Hacking and Making with Minecraft is out this very second for you to go and get online.

Make games and mod the world with Minecraft Essentials

Packed into its pages, which you can download for free as a PDF, are a load of chapters based on articles in the magazine, as well as plenty of brand new tutorials created by the Minecraft Pi Mastermind himself, Martin O’Hanlon. You may have heard of him – he helped get the SpaceCRAFT code working that was run on the International Space Station by Tim Peake!

Here’s some of the amazing things you’ll find in the 13 chapters squeezed into the book:

  • Play the game and write your first program
  • Learn how to control blocks using code
  • Create your first mini games
  • Interact with the GPIO pins through Minecraft
  • Control Minecraft with Node-RED and Sonic Pi
  • And lots more exciting stuff!

We reckon it will help improve your coding skills, which you should remember when your parents start asking why you’re playing a bit more Minecraft than usual.

You can buy Hacking and Making with Minecraft in our app for Android and iOS, as well as grabbing the free PDF. Print versions are coming soon too.

Now if you’ll excuse us, we need to go try it out ourselves in the Holodeck.

Hacking and Making with Minecraft is freely licensed under Creative Commons (BY-SA-NC 3.0). You can download the PDF for free now and forever, but buying digitally supports the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s charitable mission to democratise computing and educate kids all over the world – so please consider it!

The post Mod Minecraft Pi with our latest Essentials books appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

Corning Unveils Gorilla Glass 5, Can Survive Drops 'Up To 80% Of The Time'

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An anonymous reader writes from a report via The Verge: Corning has unveiled their new Gorilla Glass 5, which should make its way to high-end smartphones and other electronic devices later this year and into 2017. Gorilla Glass 5 is designed to improve drop performance from devices that are dropped onto rough surfaces from waist heigh to shoulder height. Corning says it can survive up to 80 percent of the time when dropped from 1.6 meters. For comparison, Gorilla Glass 4, which was released in the fall of 2014, was marketed as being twice as tough as the previous version and twice as likely to survive drops onto uneven surfaces from about a meter high. Some things to note include the fact that in Corning's tests, the 80 percent survival rate was with pieces of glass that were 0.6mm thick -- Corning now makes glass as thin as 0.4mm. Depending on how thin manufacturers want the glass in their devices, the durability results may vary. Also, most of demos consisted of dropping the glass face down, rather than on its side or corner. Corning's vice president and general manger John Bayne said if the glass is dropped in such a way, it's going to depend on the overall design of the phone, not just the glass. Gorilla Glass 5 is currently in production, though the company says we'll hear more about it "in the next few months." There's no word as to whether or not the glass will be ready in time for the wave of devices expected this fall.

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47 Years Ago Today, Apollo 11 Landed On the Moon

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An anonymous reader writes: At this point 47 years ago we had begun our orbit around the Moon," writes Buzz Aldrin in a tweet. Today, Wednesday, July 20th, 2016, marks the 47th anniversary of when NASA astronauts landed on the moon for the very first time. Fox News reports: "Astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins blasted off from Earth on a massive Saturn V rocket on July 16, 1969. Four days later, the Eagle module landed on the surface with Aldrin and Armstrong inside; Collins stayed behind in the orbiting Columbia craft. Millions of people back on Earth watched, captivated, as Armstrong was the first down the ladder, then uttered his now-famous line: 'That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.' The astronauts eventually returned to Earth, splashing down four days later in the Pacific. On the moon, an American flag and a plaque that read, in part, 'We came in peace for all mankind,' remained." To this day, only 12 people have ever walked on the moon. Hopefully, that number will increase within the next decade. NASA is also celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Viking 1 lander's arrival on Mars. Viking 1 was the first American craft to land on the red planet on July 20, 1976.

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How The Internet Helps Sex Workers Keep Customers Honest

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HughPickens.com writes: Mid-range prostitution is a relatively new market, enabled by technology. Before the internet, it was hard for escorts to find customers: They had to either walk the streets searching for customers, rely on word-of-mouth, or work with agencies. The internet changed all that as Allison Schrager writes at Quartz that if you work at Goldman Sachs in NYC and you want to tie up a woman and then have sex with her, you'll first have to talk to Rita. Rita will "insist on calling your office, speaking to the switchboard operator, and being patched through to your desk. Then she will want to check out your profile on the company website and LinkedIn. She'll demand you send her message from your work email, and require a scan of either your passport or driver's license." Though some escorts rely on sex work-specific sites that maintain "bad date" lists of potentially dangerous clients, others make use of more mainstream sources to gather information about and verify the identities of potential johns. Rita is addressing a problem that every business, both legal and illegal, has. Before the internet, more commerce occurred locally -- customers knew their merchants or service providers and went back to them repeatedly. As technology has expanded our transactional networks, it must also offer new ways of building trust and reputation. "The lesson here is that, while you'd think all the technological options for finding customers would make Rita's job as a madam obsolete, it has actually made her services more critical," says Schrager. "One step ahead of the mainstream economy, Rita's thriving business shows that some jobs won't disappear. They just need to be recast in a way that capitalizes on what made them valuable in the first place."

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Feds Seize KickassTorrents Domains and Arrest Owner In Poland

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An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Federal authorities announced on Wednesday the arrest of the alleged mastermind of KickassTorrents (KAT), the world's largest BitTorrent distribution site. As of this writing, the site is still up. Prosecutors have formally charged Artem Vaulin, 30, of Ukraine, with one count of conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement, one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, and two counts of criminal copyright infringement. Like The Pirate Bay, KAT does not host individual infringing files but rather provides links to .torrent and .magnet files so that users can download unauthorized copies of TV shows, movies, and more from various BitTorrent users. According to a Department of Justice press release sent to Ars Technica, Vaulin was arrested on Wednesday in Poland. The DOJ will shortly seek his extradition to the United States. "Vaulin is charged with running today's most visited illegal file-sharing website, responsible for unlawfully distributing well over $1 billion of copyrighted materials," Assistant Attorney General Caldwell said in the statement. "In an effort to evade law enforcement, Vaulin allegedly relied on servers located in countries around the world and moved his domains due to repeated seizures and civil lawsuits. His arrest in Poland, however, demonstrates again that cybercriminals can run, but they cannot hide from justice." KickassTorrents added a dark web address last month to make it easier for users to bypass blockades installed by ISPs.

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Saudi Arabia Revives 15-Year-Old Ban On 'Zionism-Promoting' Pokemon

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An anonymous reader writes: Clerics in Saudi Arabia have renewed a 15-year-old ban on Pokemon, following the release of the highly popular augmented reality version of the game, Pokemon Go. According to Reuters, the General Secretariat of the Council of Senior Religious Scholars reaffirmed a 2001 ban on the game. The Times of Israel reports: "While fatwa no. 21,758 makes no mention of the latest iteration of [the] game, it does list many sinful aspects of Pokemon. Firstly, the game is seen as a form of gambling, which itself is forbidden. Secondly, it encourages belief in Darwin's theory of evolution, and thirdly, the fatwa says, the symbols used in the game promote the Shinto religion of Japan, Christianity, Freemasonry and 'global Zionism.'" The ruling says: "The symbols and logos of devious religions and organizations are used [including] the six-pointed star: You rarely find a card that does not contain such a star. It is associated with Judaism, the logo and sign of the State of Israel, and the first symbol of the Masonry organizations in the world." Pokemon Go has been such a success that it has already doubled Nintendo's stock price after launching just two weeks ago.

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BlackBerry CEO 'Disturbed' By Apple's Hard Line On Encryption

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An anonymous reader writes: BlackBerry CEO John Chen said he is "disturbed" by Apple's tough approach to encryption and user privacy, warning that the firm's attitude is harmful to society. Earlier this year, Chen said in response to Apple resisting the government's demands to unlock an iPhone belonging to one of the San Bernardino shooters: "We are indeed in a dark place when companies put their reputations above the greater good." During BlackBerry's Security Summit in New York this week, Chen made several more comments about Apple's stance on encryption. "One of our competitors, we call it 'the other fruit company,' has an attitude that it doesn't matter how much it might hurt society, they're not going to help," he said. "I found that disturbing as a citizen. I think BlackBerry, like any company, should have a basic civil responsibility. If the world is in danger, we should be able to help out." He did say there was a lot of "nonsense" being reported about BlackBerry and its approach to how it handles user information. "Of course, there need to be clear guidelines. The guidelines we've adopted require legal assets. A subpoena for certain data. But if you have the data, you should give it to them," he said. "There's some complete nonsense about what we can and can't do. People are mad at us that we let the government have the data. It's absolute garbage. We can't do that." Chen also warned that mandatory back doors aren't a good idea either, hinting at the impending Investigatory Powers Bill. "There's proposed legislation in the U.S., and I'm sure it will come to the EU, that every vendor needs to provide some form of a back door. That is not going to fly at all. It just isn't," he said.

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EPA's Gasoline Efficiency Tests Provide No Valid Information At All

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schwit1 writes from a report via Behind The Black: The tests the EPA uses to establish the fuel efficiency of cars are unreliable, and likely provide no valid information at all about the fuel efficiency of the cars tested. Robert Zimmerman reports from Behind The Black: "The law requiring cars to meet these fuel efficiency tests was written in the 1970s, and specifically sets standards based on the technology then. Worse, the EPA doesn't know exactly how its CAFE testing correlates with actual results, because it has never done a comprehensive study of real-world fuel economy. Nor does anyone else. The best available data comes from consumers who report it to the DOT (WARNING: Source may be paywalled) -- hardly a scientific sampling. Other than that, everything is fine. Companies are forced to spend billions on this regulation, the costs of which they immediately pass on to consumers, all based on fantasy and a badly-written law. Gee, I'm sure glad we never tried this with healthcare!"

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China Bans Ad Blocking

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An anonymous reader writes: Two weeks ago, China released its first ever set of digital ad regulations that impacted Chinese market leaders like Baidu and Alibaba. "But hidden among (the new regulations) is language that would seem to all but ban ad blocking," wrote Adblock Plus (ABP) operations manager Ben Williams in a blog post Wednesday. The new regulations prohibit "the use of network access, network devices, applications, and the disruption of normal advertising data, tampering with or blocking others doing advertising business (or) unauthorized loading the ad." There is also a clause included that addresses tech companies that "intercept, filter, cover, fast-forward and [impose] other restrictions" on online ad campaigns. ABP general counsel Kai Recke said in an email to AdExchanger that the Chinese State Administration for Industry and Commerce (SAIC) has much more control over the market than its otherwise equal U.S. counterpart, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). "After all it looks like the Chinese government tries to get advertising more under their control and that includes that they want to be the only ones to be allowed to remove or alter ads," said Recke. "Ad-block users are a distinct audience and they require a distinct strategy and ways to engage them," said ABP CEO Till Faida at AdExchanger's Clean Ads I/O earlier this year. "They have different standards they've expressed for accessing them, and advertising has to reflect that."

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There's A 50% Chance of Another Chernobyl Before 2050, Say Safety Specialists

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An anonymous reader writes from a report via MIT Technology Review: Spencer Wheatley and Didier Sornette at ETH Zurich in Switzerland and Benjamin Sovacool at Aarhus University in Denmark have compiled the most comprehensive list of nuclear accidents ever created and used it to calculate the chances of future accidents. They say there is a 50:50 chance that a major nuclear disaster will occur somewhere in the world before 2050. "There is a 50 percent chance that a Chernobyl event (or larger) occurs in the next 27 years," they conclude. Since the International Atomic Energy Agency doesn't publish a historical database of the nuclear accidents it rates using the International Nuclear Event Scale, others, like Wheatley and co, have to compile their own list of accidents. They define an accident as "an unintentional incident or event at a nuclear energy facility that led to either one death (or more) or at least $50,000 in property damage." Each accident must have occurred during the generation, transmission, or distribution of nuclear energy, which includes accidents at mines, during transportation, or at enrichment facility, and so on. Fukushima was by far the most expensive accident in history at a cost of $166 billion, which is 60 percent of the total cost of all other nuclear accidents added together. Wheatley and co say their data suggests that the nuclear industry remains vulnerable to dragon king events, which are large unexpected events that are difficult to analyze because they follow a different statistical distribution, have unforeseen causes, and are few in number. "There is a 50% chance that a Fukushima event (or larger) occurs in the next 50 years," they say.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

More Copyright Law ≠ Less Copyright Infringement

EFF's Deeplinks -

If you only listened to entertainment industry lobbyists, you’d think that music and film studios are fighting a losing battle against copyright infringement over the Internet. Hollywood representatives routinely tell policymakers that the only response to the barrage of online infringement is to expand copyright or even create new copyright-adjacent rights.

New research from the United Kingdom paints a very different picture of the state of online media consumption (PDF). The new report shows that unauthorized access to copyrighted media is on a steady decline, with only 5% of Internet users getting all of their online media through rogue methods, and only 15% of users consuming any infringing content. Similar studies in the US have shown a steady decline in unauthorized downloads here too. The numbers show that if Hollywood really wants to curb infringing media consumption, the best thing it can do is improve its official offerings.

Consumers Choose the Best Product

For the past five years, the UK’s Intellectual Property Office (IPO) has produced a study on how people in the UK access content online, including both authorized and unauthorized methods. The latest report—released earlier this month—found that consumption of infringing content online is now at the lowest point it’s been for the history of the study.

One of the key factors IPO found contributing to the decline is the rise of online subscription services—particularly for music. It’s easy to see why consumers are moving to services like Spotify for their music—they’re convenient for many users and they offer good selection. When IPO asked people what would make them stop accessing content via unauthorized methods, the most popular responses were to make legal services cheaper (24%) and for them to carry all of the content consumers want (20%).

IPO noted that when users choose where to get content online, legality isn’t much of a factor. Consumers look for convenience, selection, price, and quality. Simply put, listeners have moved to Spotify because they consider it the best product, legal or not.

In contrast with music, infringement of films and TV shows went up slightly (though it was still minuscule compared to viewership via legal methods). Given users’ stated reasons for using infringing methods, it follows that the relatively limited selection of content on streaming video services has played a role in some consumers’ reluctance to switch to them.

To be clear, we’re not cheerleading for streaming services. Most of those services lock down media in digital rights management (DRM) technology. Thanks to laws in the U.S. and many other countries that make it a crime to circumvent DRM, streaming services create legal uncertainty over what consumers can do with the content they access, potentially outlawing uses that wouldn’t otherwise constitute copyright infringement. The IPO report makes it clear that users are willing to pay for authorized methods of accessing content when those methods are the most convenient. If Hollywood invested in higher quality services for sharing content with fans that didn’t rely on DRM, that would do nothing but ease consumers’ transition to them.

ISP “Education” Programs Don’t Work

While there might be disagreement about how the entertainment industry can create more loyal, paying customers, one thing is certain: pressuring Internet service providers to enforce copyright does very little to deter users. We’ve written several times about the Copyright Alert System—aka “Six Strikes”—a system whereby ISPs allow major entertainment companies to monitor customers’ activity for unauthorized sharing of films and TV shows. CAS launched in the US in 2013 and the UK launched a similar program in 2015.

The IPO study found that these attempts by ISPs to “educate” users on copyright infringement have very little impact on users’ behavior. Only 11% of users who’d admitted to unauthorized access said that they’d be deterred if they received letters from their ISPs threatening to suspend their accounts.

More Copyright Is Not the Solution

If online infringement is on the decline, then why is it invoked so often when the entertainment industry tries to expand copyright? In the past few months alone:

And on it goes. Again and again, large content owners seem to think that the only way to fight unauthorized media consumption is to expand copyright. But more copyright won’t change users’ behavior. What it will do is chill innovation and free expression online. The way to bring in more paying customers isn’t to write new law; it’s to build a better product and get it to more customers at the right price.


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Verizon Begins Charging a Fee Just to Use an Older Router

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Karl Bode, reporting for DSLReports: Several users have written in to note that Verizon has informed them the company will begin charging FiOS customers with an older router a new "Router Maintenance Charge." An e-mail being sent to many Verizon FiOS customers says that the fee of $2.80 will soon be charged every month -- unless users pay Verizon to get a more recent iteration of its FiOS gateway and router. Since Verizon FiOS often uses a MOCA coax connection and the gateway is needed for Verizon TV, many FiOS users don't have the ability to swap out gear as easily as with other ISPs. "Our records indicate that you have an older model router that is being discontinued," states the e-mail. "If you do plan to keep using your current router, we will begin billing, on 9.29.16, a monthly Router Maintenance Charge of $2.80 (plus taxes), to ensure we deliver the best support."

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