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Crime

Trolls No Longer Welcome In New Zealand 224 224

An anonymous reader writes: Legislation designed to prevent cyber-bullying has passed its final hurdle in the New Zealand Parliament, making it a crime to send harmful messages or put damaging images online. The Harmful Digital Communications Bill passed 116 to 5. The Register reports: "The bill creates a regime under which digital communications causing 'serious emotional distress' are subject to an escalating regime that starts as 'negotiation, mediation or persuasion' but reaches up to creating the offenses of not complying with an order, and 'causing harm by posting digital communication.' The bill covers posts that are racist, sexist, or show religious intolerance, along with hassling people over disability or sexual orientation. There's also a new offense of incitement to suicide (three years' jail).
DRM

Cory Doctorow Talks About Fighting the DMCA (2 Videos) 47 47

Wikipedia says, 'Cory Efram Doctorow (/kri dktro/; born July 17, 1971) is a Canadian-British blogger, journalist, and science fiction author who serves as co-editor of the blog Boing Boing. He is an activist in favour of liberalising copyright laws and a proponent of the Creative Commons organization, using some of their licenses for his books. Some common themes of his work include digital rights management, file sharing, and post-scarcity economics.' Timothy Lord sat down with Cory at the O'Reilly Solid Conference and asked him about the DMCA and how the fight against it is going. Due to management-imposed restraints on video lengths, we broke the ~10 minute interview into two parts, both attached to this paragraph. The transcript covers both videos, so it's your choice: view, read or listen to as much of this interview as you like.
Classic Games (Games)

Interviews: Ask Steve Jackson About Designing Games 111 111

Since starting his own company in 1980, Steve Jackson, founder and editor-in-chief of Steve Jackson Games, has created a number of hits, starting with Car Wars . . . followed shortly by Illuminati, and later by GURPS, the "Generic Universal Roleplaying System." In 1983, he was elected to the Adventure Gaming Hall of Fame - the youngest person ever so honored. He has personally won 11 Origins Awards. In the early 90's, Steve got international press due to the Secret Service's invasion of his office. The EFF helped make it possible for SJ Games to bring suit against the Secret Service and the U.S. government and win more than $50,000 in damages. His Ogre kickstarter a couple of years ago brought in close to a million dollars. His current hits are Munchkin, a very silly card game about killing monsters and taking their stuff, and Zombie Dice, in which you eat brains and try not to get shotgunned. His current projects include a variety of Munchkin follow-ups, and the continuing quest to get his games translated into digital form. Steve has agreed to put down the dice and answer any questions you may have. As usual, ask as many as you'd like, but please, one per post.
Advertising

How Television Is Fighting Off the Internet 194 194

HughPickens.com writes: Michael Wolff writes in the NY Times that online-media revolutionaries once figured they could eat TV's lunch by stealing TV's business model with free content supported by advertising. But online media is now drowning in free, and internet traffic has glutted the ad market, forcing down rates. Digital publishers, from The Guardian to BuzzFeed, can stay ahead only by chasing more traffic — not loyal readers, but millions of passing eyeballs, so fleeting that advertisers naturally pay less and less for them. Meanwhile, the television industry has been steadily weaning itself off advertising — like an addict in recovery, starting a new life built on fees from cable providers and all those monthly credit-card debits from consumers. Today, half of broadcast and cable's income is non-advertising based. And since adult household members pay the cable bills, TV content has to be grown-up content: "The Sopranos," "Mad Men," "Breaking Bad," "The Wire," "The Good Wife."

So how did this tired, postwar technology seize back the crown? Television, not digital media, is mastering the model of the future: Make 'em pay. And the corollary: Make a product that they'll pay for. BuzzFeed has only its traffic to sell — and can only sell it once. Television shows can be sold again and again, with streaming now a third leg to broadcast and cable, offering a vast new market for licensing and syndication. Television is colonizing the Internet and people still spend more time watching television than they do on the Internet and more time on the Internet watching television. "The fundamental recipe for media success, in other words, is the same as it used to be," concludes Wolff, "a premium product that people pay attention to and pay money for. Credit cards, not eyeballs."
Censorship

Australia Passes Site-Blocking Legislation 57 57

ausrob writes: Cementing their position as Australia's most backwards and dangerous government in recent memory comes this nasty bit of legislation, riddled with holes (which is nothing new for this decrepit Government): "The legislation allows rights holders to go to a Federal Court judge to get overseas websites, or "online locations", blocked that have the "primary purpose" of facilitating copyright infringement. If a rights holder is successful in their blocking request, Australian internet providers, such as Telstra and Optus, will need to comply with a judge's order by disabling access to the infringing location." Adds reader Gumbercules!! links to another story on the legislation, writing: Aside from the sheer inefficiency of trying to spot piracy by blocking individual sites, there's also the risk that servers which house other, more legitimate sites, will be caught up in the net. Unsurprisingly, the bill does nothing to remedy the fact that Australians pay far more for access to media than other places in the World or that media is often not available or extremely delayed, here.
Government

Mayday PAC's Benjamin Singer Explains How You can Help Reform American Politics (Video) 233 233

Larry Lessig's Mayday PAC is a SuperPac that is working to eliminate the inherent corruption of having a government run almost entirely by people who manage to raise -- or have their "non-connected" SuperPACs raise -- most of the money they need to run their campaigns. The Mayday PAC isn't about right or left wing or partisan politics at all. It's about finding and supporting candidates who are in favor of something like last year's Government by the People Act. As we noted in our Mayday Pac interview with Larry Lessig last June, a whole panoply of tech luminaries, up to and including Steve Wozniak, are in favor of Mayday PAC.

This interview is being posted, appropriately, just before the 4th of July, but it's also just one day before the Mayday PAC Day of Action to Reform Congress. They're big on calling members of Congress rather than emailing, because our representatives get email by the (digital) bushel, while they get comparatively few issue-oriented phone calls from citizens. So Mayday PAC makes it easy for you to call your Congressional representatives and even, if you're too shy to talk to a legislative aide in person, to record a message Mayday PAC will leave for them after hours.

The five specific pieces of legislation Mayday PAC currently supports are listed at the RepsWith.US/reforms page. Two are sponsored by Republicans, two by Democrats, and one by an Independent. That's about as non-partisan as you can get, so no matter what kind of political beliefs you hold, you can support Mayday PAC with a clear conscience. (Note: the transcript has more information than the video, which is less than six minutes long.)
Sony

WikiLeaks' Latest: An Even More Massive Trove of Sony Documents 100 100

Newsweek is one of many outlets to report that Wikileaks' latest dump is a trove of Sony's company emails and other documents that consists of even more individual pieces than the 200,000-plus leaked in April. Included, says the Newsweek story, are "276,394 Sony Corp. communications, including email, travel calendars, contact lists, expense reports and private files." One interesting tidbit revealed by the documents thus revealed, spotted by Apple Insider, is that "Apple requested [from Sony] 4K content for potential digital distribution and on-demand services testing nearly two years ago, suggesting the company has been exploring ultra high-definition streaming for some time."
Censorship

In 6 Months, Australia Bans More Than 240 Games 136 136

dotarray writes with this snippet from (apropos) Player Attack: In the 20 years from 1995 to January 2015, there were 77 games Refused Classification in Australia. After January though, more than 240 games have been effectively banned by the Classification Board — an average of 40 per month. Most of these games are mobile- or digital-only releases you're unlikely to have ever heard of, with names like League Of Guessing, 'w21wdf AB test,' Sniper 3D Assault Zombie, Measure Bra Size Prank, and Virtual Marijuana Smoking showing up in just the first few pages. What games are banned in your country?
Music

The Problems Apple Music Needs To Fix Before Launch 110 110

journovampire writes: In less than two weeks, Apple Music arrives for consumers, but it still has some serious problems. Many in the industry are predicting the biggest digital music launch in history, but Apple hasn't even achieved its primary stated goal of de-fragmenting the music market. To illustrate, the article points out that Apple Music catalog is currently missing the current most popular artist (Adele), the most popular artist of the past decade (Taylor Swift), and the most popular artist of all time (The Beatles). The company is also promising a three-month free trial period. Great for customers, but not great for musicians, who won't see a dime from that trial, regardless of how much their music is being played. Apple has likely made you-scratch-my-back deals with the major publishers, but indies have no bargaining power. They've been hesitant to jump on board, and that only decreases the selection. Add to that the complications by DRM, Apple Connect, and the new service flat out not working on some music devices (competitors to Apple, now that they own Beats), and you have a recipe for yet another troubled streaming site.
Television

BBC Develops "Mind-Control TV" Headset For iPlayer App 27 27

An anonymous reader writes: The BBC has teamed up with tech company This Place to develop a prototype television headset that can be operated with the power of brainwaves. The Mind Control TV prototype works with an experimental version of the BBC's iPlayer on-demand platform. "It's an internal prototype designed to give our programme makers, technologists and other users an idea of how this technology might be used in future. It was much easier for some than it was for others, but they all managed to get it to work." said Cyrus Saihan, head of business development for the BBC's Digital division.
Security

"Let's Encrypt" Project To Issue First Free Digital Certificates Next Month 97 97

An anonymous reader writes: Let's Encrypt, the project that hopes to increase the use of encryption across websites by issuing free digital certificates, is planning to issue the first ones next month. Backed by the EFF, the Mozilla Foundation, the Linux Foundation, Akamai, IdenTrust, Automattic, and Cisco, Let's Encrypt will provide free-of-charge SSL and TSL certificates to any webmaster interested in implementing HTTPS for their products. The Stack reports: "Let's Encrypt's root certificate will be cross-signed by IdenTrust, a public key CA owned by smartphone government ID card provider HID Global. Website operators are generally hesitant to use SSL/TLS certificates due to their cost. An extended validation (EV) SSL certificates can cost up to $1,000. It is also a complication for operators to set up encryption for larger web services. Let's Encrypt aims to remove these obstacles by eliminating the related costs and automating the entire process."
EU

European Court: Websites Are Responsible For Users' Comments 401 401

An anonymous reader writes: A new ruling from the European Court of Human Rights found it perfectly acceptable to hold websites responsible for comments left by users. Experts are worried the ruling will encourage websites to censor content posted by users out of concern that they're opening themselves up to legal liability. The judgment also seems to support the claim that "proactive monitoring" can be required of website owners. Peter Micek of digital rights group "Access" said, "This ruling is a serious blow to users' rights online. Dissenting voices will have fewer outlets in which to seek and impart opinions anonymously. Instead, users at risk will be dragged down by a precedent that will keep them from accessing the open ocean of ideas and information."
Education

San Francisco Public Schools To Require Computer Science For Preschoolers 179 179

theodp writes: Never underestimate the ability of tech and its leaders to create a crisis. The S.F. Chronicle's Jill Tucker reports that the San Francisco School Board unanimously voted Tuesday to ensure every student in the district gets a computer science education, with coursework offered in every grade from preschool through high school, a first for a public school district. Tech companies, including Salesforce.com, as well as foundations and community groups, are expected to pitch in funding and other technical support to create the new coursework, equip schools and train staff to teach it. From Resolution No. 155-26A2 (PDF), In Support of Expanding Computer Science and Digital Learning to All Students at All Schools from Pre-K to 12th Grade: 1. "All students are capable of making sense of computer science in ways that are creative, interactive, and relevant." 2. "All students, from pre-K to 12, deserve access to rigorous and culturally meaningful computer science education and should be held to high expectations for interacting with the curriculum." 3. "Students' access to and achievement in computer science must not be predictable on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status, language, religion, sexual orientation, cultural affiliation, or special needs." MissionLocal has a two-page SFUSD flyer on the project, which aims to illustrate the "importance of computer science" with the same Code.org jobs infographic that Microsoft used to help achieve its stated goal of creating a national K-12 CS crisis, and demonstrate "disparities in accessing CS education" for SFUSD's 57,000 students with a small-sample-size-be-damned bar chart of the racial demographics of the school district's 209 AP Computer Science participants (181 Asian, 0 African American, 6 Latino, 1 Native American, 14 White, 7 Other).
Encryption

US Tech Giants Ask Obama Not To Compromise Encryption 108 108

An anonymous reader writes: Two industry bodies which represent Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, IBM, and others, have written to President Obama urging that the U.S. government not seek to legislate "official back doors" into encryption techniques. The Software and Information Industry Association and the Information Technology Industry Council sent the "strongly worded" letter on Monday, saying, "Consumer trust in digital products and services is an essential component enabling continued economic growth of the online marketplace. Accordingly, we urge you not to pursue any policy or proposal that would require or encourage companies to weaken these technologies, including the weakening of encryption or creating encryption 'work-arounds.'" The letter is the latest salvo in a public battle for secure communications, one that has reached the public eye in a way that few security stories do.
Technology

A Computer That Operates On Water Droplets 67 67

Okian Warrior notes a Stanford project to build a basic computer that operates on water droplets. One of its creators, Manu Prakash, says the goal is not to compete with digital computers for manipulating data (though they can theoretically perform all of the same computations). Instead, "Our goal is to build a completely new class of computers that can precisely control and manipulate physical matter. Imagine if when you run a set of computations that not only information is processed but physical matter is algorithmically manipulated as well." The biggest obstacle in creating the water computer was figuring out a way to develop a clock mechanism. The team decided to use a rotating magnetic field, which is both precise and easy to control. To get it to interact with the water, they put arrays of tiny iron bars on glass slides, and then added a layer of oil, and finally another glass slide. Magnetized water droplets are injected into this scaffolding, and the magnetic field can then easily push them along paths created by the iron. "It's about manipulating matter faster," Prakash said.
IOS

WWDC 2015 Roundup 415 415

Here's an overview of the main announcements and new products unveiled at WWDC today.
  • The latest OS X will be named OS X El Capitan. Features include: Natural language searches and auto-arrange windows. You can make the cursor bigger by shaking the mouse and pin sites in Safari now. 1.4x faster than Yosemite. Available to developers today, public beta in July, out for free in the fall.
  • Metal, the graphics API is coming to Mac. "Metal combines the compute power of OpenCL and the graphics power of OpenGL in a high-performance API that does both." Up to 40% greater rendering efficiency.
  • iOS 9: New Siri UI. There’s an API for search. Siri and Spotlight are getting more integrated. Siri getting better at prediction with a far lower word error rate. You can make checklists, draw and sketch inside of Notes. Maps gets some love. New app called News "We think this offers the best mobile reading experience ever." Like Flipboard it pulls in news articles from your favorite sites. HomeKit now supports window shades, motion sensors, security systems, and remote access via iCloud. Public Beta for iOS 9.
  • Apple Pay: All four major credit card companies and over 1 million locations supporting Apple Pay as of next month. Apple Pay reader developed by Square, for peer-to-peer transactions. Apple Pay coming to the UK next month support in 250,000 locations including the London transportation system. Passbook is being renamed "Wallet."
  • iPad: Shortcuts for app-switching, split-screen multitasking and QuickType. Put two fingers down on the keyboard and it becomes a trackpad. Side by side apps. Picture in picture available on iPad Air and up, Mini 2 and up.
  • CarPlay: Now works wirelessly and supports apps by the automaker.
  • Swift 2,the latest version of Apple’s programing language . Swift will be open source.
  • The App Store: Over 100 billion app downloads, and $30 billion paid to developers.
  • Apple Watch: watchOS 2 with new watch faces. Developers can build their own "complications" (widgets with a terrible name that show updates and gauges on the watch face). A new feature called Time Travel lets you rotate the digital crown to zoom into the future and see what’s coming up. More new features: reply to email, bedside alarm clock, send scribbled messages in multiple colors. You can now play video on the watch. Developer beta of watchOS 2 available today, wide release in the fall for free.
  • Apple Music: “The next chapter in music. It will change the way you experience music forever,” says Cook. Live DJs broadcasting and hosting live radio streams you can listen to in 150 countries. Handpicked suggestions. 24/7 live global radio. Beats Connect lets unsigned artists connect with fans. Beats Music has all of iTunes’ music, to buy or stream. With curated recommendations. Launching June 30th in 100 countries with Android this fall, with Windows and Android versions. First three months free, $9.99 a month or $14.99 a month for family plan for up to six.
DRM

Apple Music and the Terrible Return of DRM 260 260

An anonymous reader writes: Apple's rumored music streaming service looks set to materialize soon, and a lot of people are talking about how good it might be. But Nilay Patel is looking at the other side — if the service fits with Apple's typical mode of operation, it'll only work with other Apple products. "That means I'll have yet a fourth music service in my life (Spotify, Google Play Music, Prime, and Apple Music) and a fourth set of content exclusives and pricing windows to think about instead of just listening to music." He points out Steve Jobs's 2007 essay on the state of digital music and notes that Jobs seemed to feel DRM was a waste of time — something forced on Apple by the labels. "But it's no longer the labels pushing DRM on the music services; it's the services themselves, because locking you into a single ecosystem guarantees you'll keep paying their monthly subscription fees and hopefully buy into the rest of their ecosystem. ... Apple Music might be available on Android, but it probably won't be as good, because Apple wants you to buy an iPhone.... There's just lock-in, endless lock-in. Is this what we wanted?"
The Military

US Bombs ISIS Command Center After Terrorist Posts Selfie Online 286 286

HughPickens.com writes: Brian Everstine writes at Air Force Times that U.S. intelligence officers were able to locate and bomb an Islamic State command center based on a photo and comments in social media. "The [airmen are] combing through social media and they see some moron standing at this command," said Gen. Hawk Carlisle, commander of Air Combat Command. "And in some social media, open forum, bragging about command and control capabilities for Da'esh, ISIL, And these guys go 'ah, we got an in.' So they do some work, long story short, about 22 hours later through that very building, three JDAMS take that entire building out. Through social media. It was a post on social media. Bombs on target in 22 hours."

Carlisle was careful to not go into great detail about the how the information was gathered and what additional effort went into targeting those bombs. It's easy to imagine that in addition to the information gleaned from the initial post that the Air Force used satellite and drone reconnaissance data. It's also possible that U.S. intelligence could have actively engaged with the original poster in order to draw out information. Attackers and researchers have shown time and time again that simply asking a target for information—either by posing as a trusted individual or using carefully created phishing attacks—works even better than fancy information-stealing digital attacks.
Yahoo!

Yahoo Killing Maps, Pipes & More 176 176

alphadogg writes: Yahoo is shutting down its mapping service, Pipes and reducing the availability of Yahoo TV and Yahoo Music. The company has decided instead to focus on three major parts of its business: search, communications, and digital content. "We made this decision to better align resources to Yahoo's priorities as our business has evolved since we first launched Yahoo Maps eight years ago," says the company.