Geek Stuff

Yes, All DRM

EFF's Deeplinks -

Everybody knows that the digital locks of DRM on the digital media you own is a big problem. If you’ve bought a digital book, album, or movie, you should be able to do what you want with it—whether that’s enjoying it wherever you want to, or making it more accessible by changing the font size or adding subtitles, or loaning or giving it to a friend when you’re done. We intuitively recognize that digital media should be more flexible than its analog forebears, not less, and that DRM shouldn’t take away rights that copyright was never intended to restrict.

But while it may not be as intuitive yet, DRM on digital media that you don’t own is also a major threat. Whether it’s books from the public library, streaming songs from Spotify, or TV shows from Netflix, wrapping media in DRM software—especially when it brings with it a cloud of legal uncertainty—is not just a bad way to enforce license contracts; it’s also a danger to our rights and our security.

That’s because DRM in any form requires us to give up control over our own devices to the companies distributing the media. That proposition ranges from unpalatable on a gaming console, to repulsive on laptops and phones loaded with sensors and personal info, to truly alarming when those computers are embedded in machines we trust with our safety.

These aren’t speculative possibilities, either; in the most recent round of rulemaking on DRM-enforcement laws, EFF requested (and was granted) an exemption for security research on the computers in cars. Just last month we filed a complaint with the FDA about DRM restrictions in medical devices. The threat of a DRM “lockdown” of our critical devices, forcing us to give up ownership of our technology in the misguided pursuit of limiting copies or enforcing contractual limitations, is very real, and only getting more so.

Those problems are fundamental to DRM and the legal and technical structures that support it. They are just as pronounced when the DRM is designed to enforce unacceptable limitations on ownership as when they hew closely to agreed-upon restrictions. Even if we never encounter the device that won’t play our music or the video game that stops working when the DRM servers shut down, we still give up something crucially important when we allow media to come wrapped in unaccountable software.

What’s more, DRM on these sorts of licensed media doesn’t work and isn’t needed. It’s easy to see how it doesn’t work: every bit of media that is “exclusive” to DRM-encumbered formats shows up, every single time, unlocked on file-sharing networks and torrent sites. More than a decade ago this was dubbed the “smart cow problem”—as soon as one smart cow figures out how to open even the most complicated latch, it doesn’t matter how high the fence is.

The fact that such exclusive content keeps getting made is a pretty good indicator that the DRM it comes wrapped in isn’t necessary. But it’s even clearer when looking at the success of people who’ve chosen to address “piracy as a service problem.” For years, businesses and creators across the Web have shown it is perfectly possible to compete with free, and consumers have shown that they’re willing to pay a premium for reliable and timely access.

It would take some major industry shifts to move the Netflixes, Spotifys, and Amazons of the world away from wrapping the media they distribute in DRM that hurts their consumers. For one thing, a locked-in DRM ecosystem makes it harder for new competitors to emerge, which might tend to dampen their motivation. For another, many of the publishers, labels, and studios likely require DRM in their contracts.

But it’s not impossible. The shift in downloadable music from proprietary and locked formats to mp3s that play anywhere shows a good path forward. And with the stakes this high, it’s a change we need to make.

This post marks the 10th anniversary of International Day Against DRM, an effort EFF proudly supports.


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Snowden: 'Governments Can Reduce Our Dignity To That Of Tagged Animals'

Slashdot -

An anonymous reader writes: NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden writes a report on The Guardian explaining why leaking information about wrongdoing is a vital act of resistance. "One of the challenges of being a whistleblower is living with the knowledge that people continue to sit, just as you did, at those desks, in that unit, throughout the agency; who see what you saw and comply in silence, without resistance or complaint," Snowden writes. "They learn to live not just with untruths but with unnecessary untruths, dangerous untruths, corrosive untruths. It is a double tragedy: what begins as a survival strategy ends with the compromise of the human being it sought to preserve and the diminishing of the democracy meant to justify the sacrifice." He goes on to explain the importance and significance of leaks, how not all leaks are alike, nor are their makers, and how our connected devices come into play in the post-9/11 period. Snowden writes, "By preying on the modern necessity to stay connected, governments can reduce our dignity to something like that of tagged animals, the primary difference being that we paid for the tags and they are in our pockets."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

A Small Group of Journalists Control and Decide What Should Trend On Facebook

Slashdot -

An anonymous reader writes: According to five former members of Facebook's trending news team, "news curators" as they're known internally, Zuckerberg and company take a downright dim view of the media industry and its talent. In interviews with Gizmodo, these former curators described grueling work conditions, humiliating treatment, and a secretive, imperious culture in which they were treated as disposable outsiders. After doing a tour in Facebook's news trenches, almost all of them came to believe that they were there not to work, but to serve as training modules for Facebook's algorithm." "We choose what's trending," said one former news curator. From personal experience I can share a similar incident. An Indian outlet extensively wrote about flaws in Facebook's Free Basics. Few days later, "Ban [that outlet's name]" was trending on Facebook. Clicking on it, for the first few hours, literally didn't return any relevant result, as nobody was talking about it, and no media outlet had written about it. It was after more than a day or so after this fabricated item kept trending that some other outlets started to write about it. (That's common in the media industry: writing about trending topics.) In the past, we've also seen Facebook employees ask whether the company should do anything to stop Donald Trump from becoming the president.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Should You Pay Sales Tax on Internet Purchases? South Dakota Law Could Be The Test

Slashdot -

An anonymous reader shares a PCWorld report: A new South Dakota law may end up determining whether most U.S. residents are required to pay sales taxes on their Internet purchases. The South Dakota law, passed by the Legislature there in March, requires many out-of-state online and catalog retailers to collect the state's sales tax from customers. The law is shaping up to be a legal test case challenging a 25-year-old U.S. Supreme Court ruling that prohibits states from levying sales taxes on remote purchases. Unless courts overturn the South Dakota law, it will embolden other states to pass similar Internet sales tax rules, critics said. The law could "set the course for enormous tax and administrative burdens on businesses across the country," Steve DelBianco, executive director of e-commerce trade group NetChoice, said in a statement. If dozens of states adopt Internet sales taxes, online sellers could face audits and changing tax rules in thousands of taxing jurisdictions nationwide. Even with software that could make tax calculations easier, that would be a burden, NetChoice says. And online shoppers could end up paying up to 10 percent more for many products.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Clearly your Raspberry Pi needs a tube amp (crowdfunding)

Liliputing -

The Raspberry Pi line of devices are inexpensive, low-power, credit card-sized computers. But while there are USB ports for connecting a keyboard, mouse, gamepad, or other accessories, there are also a series of GPIO (General Purpose Input/Output) pins that allow you to connect hardware in other ways.

For instance, you can connect a HAT (Hardware Attached on Top) board to add motor controllers, GPS, a display, or other features.

Now the folks at Pi 2 Design has launched a Kickstarter campaign for one of the most ridiculous/awesome-looking HATs I’ve seen.

Continue reading Clearly your Raspberry Pi needs a tube amp (crowdfunding) at Liliputing.

Prince Quietly Helped Launch a Coding Program For Inner City Youth

Slashdot -

An anonymous reader writes: Though many would say Prince changed the world through his music, the artist also took a hands-on approach to changing the world beyond music. The global superstar was the inspiration behind YesWeCode, an Oakland nonprofit, which works to help young people from minority backgrounds enter the tech world. The idea for the program came from a conversation between Prince and his friend Van Jones, who heads Rebuild the Dream charity, following the 2012 shooting of teenager Travoyn Martin. "Prince said, 'A black kid wearing a hoodie might be seen as a thug. A white kid wearing a hoodie might be seen as a Silicon Valley genius. Let's teach the black kids how to be like Mark Zuckerberg.'" Jones told CNN. The program is aiming to teach 100,000 low-income non-white teenagers how to write code, and was launched at the 20th Anniversary Essence Festival in New Orleans in 2014.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Biotech Company To Attempt Revitalizing Nervous Systems of Brain-Dead Patients

Slashdot -

Sarah Knapton, writing for The Telegraph: A groundbreaking trial to see if it is possible to regenerate the brains of dead people, has won approval from health watchdogs. A biotech company called BioQuark in the U.S. has been granted ethical permission to recruit 20 patients who have been declared clinically dead from a traumatic brain injury, to test whether parts of their central nervous system can be brought back to life. Scientists will use a combination of therapies, which include injecting the brain with stem cells and a cocktail of peptides, as well as deploying lasers and nerve stimulation techniques which have been shown to bring patients out of comas. The trial participants will have been certified dead and only kept alive through life support. They will be monitored for several months using brain imaging equipment to look for signs of regeneration, particularly in the upper spinal cord -- the lowest region of the brain stem which controls independent breathing and heartbeat.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Jolla secures $12 million in funding for Sailfish OS

Liliputing -

Finnish startup Jolla may have given up on plans to continue producing its own smartphones and tablets. But the company is continuing to develop the Sailfish OS operating system for mobile devices, and Jolla has just announced that it’s raised $12 million to continue working on Sailfish OS and to pursue licensing deals with hardware partners.

This is the second time in about half a year that Jolla has secured funding from investors to keep the company afloat.

Continue reading Jolla secures $12 million in funding for Sailfish OS at Liliputing.

Samsung Smart Home Flaws Let Hackers Pick Connected Doors From Anywhere In the World

Slashdot -

Researchers have discovered flaws in Samsung's Smart Home automation system, which if exploited, allows them to carry a range of remote attacks. These attacks include digitally picking connected door locks from anywhere in the world. The flaws have been documented by researchers from the University of Michigan ahead of the 2016 IEEE Symposium on Security and Privacy. "All of the above attacks expose a household to significant harm -- break-ins, theft, misinformation, and vandalism," the researchers wrote in a paper. "The attack vectors are not specific to a particular device and are broadly applicable." Dan Goodin, reports for Ars Technica: Other attacks included a malicious app that was able to obtain the PIN code to a smart lock and send it in a text message to attackers, disable a preprogrammed vacation mode setting, and issue a fake fire alarm. The one posing the biggest threat was the remote lock-picking attack, which the researchers referred to as a "backdoor pin code injection attack." It exploited vulnerabilities in an existing app in the SmartThings app store that gives an attacker sustained and largely surreptitious access to users' homes. The attack worked by obtaining the OAuth token that the app and SmartThings platform relied on to authenticate legitimate users. The only interaction it required was for targeted users to click on an attacker-supplied HTTPS link that looked much like this one that led to the authentic SmartThings login page. The user would then enter the username and password. A flaw in the app allowed the link to redirect the credentials away from the SmartThings page to an attacker-controlled address. From then on, the attackers had the same remote access over the lock that users had.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Taking a 'Gap Year' Before College Is a British Tradition That's Becoming a Big Trend In The US

Slashdot -

An anonymous user cites an article on Quartz: Today, many U.S. universities not only allow admitted students to take a year off before beginning their studies, but encourage it. In 2000, Harvard's admissions officers co-authored an article titled "Time Out or Burn Out for the Next Generation," in which they suggest admitted students combat the mounting pressures of secondary and post-secondary education (and modern life in general) by taking a year off. [...] The term "gap year" caught on in the US about a decade ago, when Prince William and Prince Harry took planned time off before entering university in the UK, according to Holly Bull, president of an independent agency called Interim Programs that helps US pre-college students plan their time off. Bull's father founded the agency in 1980 to promote the concept. "I've basically watched the trend grow from its inception in the U.S.," she says. "And while I wouldn't call it mainstream now, we've seen a lot of growth." This growth has led to a burgeoning "gap year" planning services industry, populated by an increasing number of consulting agencies such as Bull's. The American Gap Association (AGA), founded in 2012, oversees this industry, acting as a kind of accreditation agency. Based on the programs it reviews, the AGA estimates that between 30,000 and 40,000 students annually take a planned "gap year" in the U.S., and that the number of students doing this has grown by between 20% and 30% each year since 2006."The growing popularity of gap years speaks to a larger conversation in the US about what direction education is heading and how we help young people become thoughtful, caring citizens," Joe O'Shea, president of the AGA, says.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Deals of the Day (5-3-2016)

Liliputing -

The second-gen Intel Compute Stick features an Intel Atom x5-Z8300 Cherry Trail processor, 2GB of RAM, 32GB of storage, 802.11ac WiFi, USB 3.0, and a microSD card slot.

Launched earlier this year, I found that the new model offers a slight speed boost over the 2015 model. More importantly, it offers significantly better WiFi performance and has two full-sized USB ports, which makes it easier to use without a hub or Bluetooth accessories.

Continue reading Deals of the Day (5-3-2016) at Liliputing.

'I'll Make Their Life Miserable': Tech CEO Bullies Low-income Vendors By His Home

Slashdot -

An anonymous reader quotes an article on The Guardian that has caused a spark on social media: A Silicon Valley tech CEO has sparked backlash for comments slamming local fruit vendors, saying he would "make their life miserable" and "destroy" their produce if they were stationed near his house -- making him the latest wealthy Californian entrepreneur to publicly rail against low-income people. Mark Woodward, CEO of software company Invoca, published -- and later deleted -- a Facebook post saying that he would have no qualms about aggressively harassing unauthorized fruit sellers in his neighborhood if they got near his home. "I would go out there and make their life miserable. I would do whatever it took to make them leave. If that meant destroying some of their produce, or standing out there with signs to chase everyone away, Or just making them very uncomfortable, I would do that in a heartbeat."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Oceans Could Soon Not Have Enough Oxygen To Support Marine Life

Slashdot -

An anonymous reader writes: As the climate continues to change in response to the increasing amount of carbon humans pump into the atmosphere, the oceans are being particularly hard hit from melting Arctic sea ice, acidification, and warming surface temperatures. Yet those are not the only difficulties that marine life has to deal with, as a new study reports that the oceans are also losing oxygen. As the majority of marine life relies on the oxygen dissolved in the oceans, it is worrying that noticeable differences have been observed in the gas concentrations in the world's waters. The reduction in oxygen will have profound effects on ocean biodiversity, though as the study published in Global Biogeochemical Cycles shows, not all regions will be affected in the same way or over the same period of time."Loss of oxygen in the ocean is one of the serious side effects of a warming atmosphere, and a major threat to marine life," said lead author Matthew Long of the National Center for Atmospheric Research. "Since oxygen concentrations in the ocean naturally vary depending on variations in winds and temperature at the surface, it's been challenging to attribute any deoxygenation to climate change. This new study tells us when we can expect the impact from climate change to overwhelm the natural variability."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

PocketCHIP $49 handheld computer begins shipping this month

Liliputing -

The CHIP is a tiny computer with a tiny price tag. Launched in 2015 through a Kickstarter campaign, the single-board PC has a 1 GHzAllwinner R8 processor, 512MB of RAM, 4GB of storage, 802.11b/g/n WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0, and a $9 price tag.

You can use the CHIP by connecting a display, keyboard, and mouse. But the company also promised that it would release accessories like the PocketCHIP to turn the little PC into a full-fledged portable computer/gaming device.

Continue reading PocketCHIP $49 handheld computer begins shipping this month at Liliputing.

Ubuntu Founder Pledges No Back Doors In Linux

Slashdot -

Mark Shuttleworth, founder of Canonical and Ubuntu Foundation, gave an interview to eWeek this week ahead of Ubuntu Online Summit (UOS). In the wide-ranging interview, Shuttleworth teased some features that we could expect in Ubuntu 16.10, and also talked about security and privacy. From the report: One thing that Ubuntu Linux users will also continue to rely on is the strong principled stance that Shuttleworth has on encryption. With the rapid growth of the Linux Foundation's Let's Encrypt free Secure Sockets Layer/Transport Layer Security (SSL/TLS) certificate platform this year, Shuttleworth noted that it's a good idea to consider how that might work in an integrated way with Ubuntu. Overall, he said, the move to encryption as a universal expectation is really important. "We don't do encryption to hide things; we do encryption so we can choose what to share," Shuttleworth said. "That's a profound choice we should all be able to make." Shuttleworth emphasized that on the encryption debate, Canonical and Ubuntu are crystal clear. "We will never backdoor Ubuntu; we will never weaken encryption," he said.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Lab-Grown Meat Is In Your Future, and It May Be Healthier Than the Real Stuff

Slashdot -

An anonymous reader shares an article on The Sydney Morning Herald:Scientists and businesses working full steam to produce lab-created meat claim it will be healthier than conventional meat and more environmentally friendly. But how much can they improve on old-school pork or beef? In August 2013, a team of Dutch scientists showed off their lab-grown burger (cost: $435,000) and even provided a taste test. Two months ago, the American company Memphis Meats fried the first-ever lab meatball (cost: $23,700 per pound). Those who have tasted these items say they barely differ from the real deal. The Dutch and the Americans claim that within a few years lab-produced meats will start appearing in supermarkets and restaurants. And these are not the only teams working on cultured meat (as they prefer to call it). Another company, Modern Meadow, promises that lab-grown "steak chips" -- something between a potato chip and beef jerky -- will hit the stores in the near future, too.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Sony Xperia X series phones go up for pre-order (sort of)

Liliputing -

Sony’s 2016 flagship smartphone family is expected to hit the streets later this month, and now Sony has announced that pre-orders are open for some models in the new Sony Xperia X series.

And by pre-orders, the company apparently means you can register to receive a notification when the phones are actually available for purchase.

The top-of-the-line model is called the Sony Xperia X Performance, and its’a  phone with a 5 inch, 1920 x 1080 pixel display, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor, a 23MP rear camera, a 13MP front camera, 3GB of RAM, and up to 32GB of storage (plus a microSD card slot.

Continue reading Sony Xperia X series phones go up for pre-order (sort of) at Liliputing.

Tim Cook Defends Apple, Teases Exciting New Products In The Pipeline

Slashdot -

anderzole quotes a report from BGR: Apple's earnings report last week saw the company report a year over year decline in profits for the first time since 2003. The biggest contributing factor to the decline, not surprisingly, is that year over year iPhone sales dropped by 16%. Notably, Apple's most recent quarter represents the company's first iPhone sales decline in history. Consequently, the usual contingent of pundits and analysts have come out of the woodwork, all exclaiming that we've reached 'peak iPhone' and that Apple at this point has nowhere to go but down. In an effort to inject a bit of good news and all-around optimism to a particularly negative Apple news cycle, Tim Cook earlier today appeared on CNBC with Jim Cramer where the Apple CEO teased that Apple's still has a lot of innovation left to do and some interesting items in the product pipeline. "We've got great innovation in the pipeline," Cook said to Cramer. "New iPhones that will incentivize you and other people that have iPhones today to upgrade to new iPhones. We are going to give you things you can't live without that you just don't know you need today. That has always been the objective of Apple is to do things that really enrich people's lives. That you look back on and you wonder, how did I live without this."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Pocket FM: independent radio in Syria

Raspberry Pi -

When we started thinking about the Raspberry Pi project back in 2009, our ambitions were small, and very focussed on local education.

We realised we were doing something bigger than that pretty rapidly, but all the same, some of the projects we come across leave us shocked at their scale, their gravity and their importance. This is one of them.

Do you have a radio? 87.7 FM

In Syria, a German group called Media in Cooperation and Transition (MiCT) has been equipping towns with transmitters called PocketFM, built around Raspberry Pis, to provide Syrians with independent radio. Each transmitter has 4 to 6km (2.5 to 3.75 miles) of range, which is sufficient to reach a whole town.

In many parts of Syria, it’s impossible and politically unwise to build large transmitters, so a small device like PocketFM that can be easily concealed and transported, and that can be run off solar power or a car battery, is ideal.

A group of around a dozen independent Syrian radio stations has come together to form a group called Syrnet, who work together on programmes and topics and produce a joint station to be broadcast via the PocketFM transmitters; MiCT deal with the mix, distribution and transmission. “The variety of voices in a broadcast effectively illustrates Syria’s state of mind,” says one of the broadcasters. Using PocketFM, Syrnet is reaching 1.5 million citizens in north and north-western Syria, including Homs and Aleppo; they are currently making efforts to widen the network to more regions.

The project is about enabling freedom of expression; it also strengthens feelings of solidarity. “We are not for anyone, or against anyone. No one can escape our criticism, even ourselves.”

Between them, the participating stations have access to hundreds of reporters. As well as news, music and entertainment, they’re broadcasting vital information on security, health and nutrition. “One of our strongest programmes is called Alternatives. It describes how to keep warm without any fuel, or how to pick up the internet signal of neighbouring countries when the Syrian internet is down. The difficulties of life – and how to overcome them.”

Syria Radio Network

Syria Radio Network (Syrnet) is an initiative to support independent radio production in Syria with professional training and outreach. Syrnet is a mixed live programme, sourced from Syrian radio stations. Our program is available 24 hours and seven days a week.

In a warzone, radio can be one of the easiest ways to get information. If the power grid is down, you just need batteries.

“We lost one device in Kobane”, says Philipp Hochleichter from MiCT, who is the project’s technical lead. “But due to the bombing – not due to a malfunction.”

“At the moment our journalists are safe with the opposition, but it’s still a war zone with gunfire and shelling,” said Marwa, a journalist with Hara FM, one of the Syrnet stations, based in Turkey.

“I worry about our staff in Aleppo, but no journalist can be 100% safe anywhere in the world.

“For any journalist, telling the truth puts them in danger.”

These bold people are doing something extraordinary. We send them all our very best wishes, and our hopes for a swift end to the conflict.

The post Pocket FM: independent radio in Syria appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

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