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Links 15/8/2010: Dell Streak Catchup and Misc. News

Posted in News Roundup at 4:33 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish



Free Software/Open Source


  • Terrafugia Flying Car Approved by FAA, Will Be Available Next Year

    Late next year, you’ll be able to buy your own flying car — er, “roadable aircraft” — thanks to a thumbs-up from the Federal Aviation Administration. As long as you have $194,000 and a sport pilot license.

  • Tour of full-sized Bloodhound SuperSonic car model
  • Security/Aggression

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife

    • Geoengineering = Futurological Greenwashing

      Alex has similarly argued that geo-engineering is a form of greenwashing in this post.

    • Resource: New Mobile App to Combat Climate Skeptics

      Ever wish you had all the top climate information at your fingertips? If you’re the owner of a smart phone, then your wish has been fulfilled: the “Skeptical Science” app for iphones, Android phones, and Nokia phones is available now (for free!).

    • Hope for a future beyond oil

      We have a full crew and a pretty big campaign team on board with people from all over the globe including Argentina, Panama, India, Australia, Sweden, Germany, UK, Netherlands, Finland, Italy, Ukraine, the Cook Islands and Bermuda. I’ll introduce you to various members of the crew throughout our journey and there will be opportunities for you to talk directly with them via twitter and maybe even live video if our satellite system is up for it. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

    • The nuclear threat from Russia’s forest fires
    • Nuclear News: Iran ready to launch Bushehr nuclear power plant: official

      An Iranian official said Thursday that the country is ready to launch its first Bushehr nuclear power plant, the official IRNA news agency reported. Chief of Bushehr nuclear power plant workshop, Mahmoud Jafari, said in Bushehr that the main tests and inspections of the power plant have been successfully carried out during the last six months, the report said. Double-checks, “installations and montage stage is completed and we are about to launch the power plant,” Jafari was quoted as saying without referring to the specific time. In July, Sergei Kiriyenko, head of Russia’s state-run atomic energy corporation Rosatom, said that preparations for the launch of Iran’s Bushehr nuclear power plant are proceeding as scheduled and the plant’s first stage will be finished late August. Iran handed over the Bushehr project, started by German firm Siemens in the 1970s, to Russia in 1995. The launch of project has been postponed repeatedly in recent years.’

    • Nuclear News: Russia declares state of emergency in nuclear town as wildfires blaze
    • Another Crack: Petermann Glacier, Giant Ice Island, Breaks Off Into The Sea

      While the Senate, the White House, and delegates in Bonn at the international climate negotiations dither, Mother Nature keeps the hits coming. Russia is of course baking in record heat and now the Petermann Glacier in northern Greenland has lost an iceberg of 87 square kilometers in size. For scale, the ice sheet is said to be 4 times the size of Manhattan.

    • Security contractor: BP fired me for taking photos of dispersants

      A security contractor who was once responsible for keeping reporters away from cleanup workers is now coming forward to blow the whistle on BP.

      Adam Dillon claims he was fired by the oil company after he took pictures showing how dispersants were being used in the Gulf.

    • BP to pay 50 mln dlr fine for deadly 2005 Texas blast

      BP agreed to pay a record 50.6 million dollar fine for safety violations at its troubled Texas City refinery, officials said in a settlement which could deepen the energy giant’s legal woes.

    • BP’s Deep Secrets
    • Social-engineering contest reveals secret BP info

      With just two phone calls, entrant Josh Michaels managed to dupe a computer support employee at BP into spilling details that could have proved crucial in launching a network attack against the global oil company. The information included what model laptops BP used and the specific operating system, browser, anti-virus and virtual private network software the company used.

      Michaels was also able to trick the employee into visiting Social-Engineer.org, a feat that won the contestant extra points.

    • Climate data shows June 2010 to be Earth’s hottest month on record

      Temperatures warmer than average spread throughout the globe in recent months, most prominently in Peru, in the central and eastern United States and in eastern and western Asia, according to NOAA.

    • EU climate exchange website hit by green-hat hacker

      An EU Climate Exchange website was hacked as part of a political protest against carbon credits by a green-hat defacement crew.

    • A looming oxygen crisis and its impact on our oceans

      We’ve known for a while that we are poisoning the oceans and that human emissions of carbon dioxide, left unchecked, would likely have devastating consequences. A 2010 study found that oceans are acidifying 10 times faster today than 55 million years ago when a mass extinction of marine species occurred.

  • Finance

    • Did market efficiency cause the sub-prime mortgage meltdown?

      This time around I learned something even more interesting from Liar’s Poker: the most important thing for a young Wall Street trader to learn (from the perspective of the firm’s ‘mentors’) was how to take advantage of the firm’s customers. You see the greatest market inefficiency turns out to be trust. Anyone who went to a large Wall Street firm like Salomon Brothers in 1985 seeking financial advice was pretty much like an African wildebeest without the ability to smell lions.

      If you happen to have a copy of Liar’s Poker on your Kindle I would direct you to location 2954 – 3060 (about 65% of the way through the book). This is where Lewis describes his first experience “helping” a customer. He was set up by people within Salomon Brothers to push bonds that were likely to devalue, which caused his first (and very trusting) customer to lose so much money that he was soon fired from his nice job. Why would some trader at Solomon Brothers push bonds on a customer that were likely to devalue? Because Solomon Brothers owned the bonds and needed to get rid of them before they devalued more than they had already.

      Do you sense a conflict of interest? Yes, and so did Lewis (only because he was a newbie). When Lewis found out he had been used he confronted the trader who had set him up. Instead of being sheepish, the trader responded harshly to Lewis: “‘Look,’ he said losing his patience,’who do you work for, this guy, or Solomon Brothers?’” In other words, internally, the traders and managers didn’t even pretend that they were supposed to serving their customers.

    • Job ads up despite coalition cutbacks (UK)

      The number of jobs advertised in the public sector has fallen 21 per cent since the last survey in March. But contracting jobs for local and central government IT departments is still a strong sector and places more adverts than any others except for finance.

    • Geithner: Unemployment could go up before it goes down

      Geithner defends tax policy; Argues extending cuts for rich would be ‘deeply irresponsible’

  • PR/AstroTurf/Lobbying

    • Websites take on bogus reviewers

      Customer review sites are a useful way to find out about products and services, and for the businesses themselves they can be a valuable source of publicity. But a number of spam reviews sweeping the web are damaging local firms who depend on them to help make or break their reputation.

    • Policing the Web’s Lurid Precincts

      Ricky Bess spends eight hours a day in front of a computer near Orlando, Fla., viewing some of the worst depravities harbored on the Internet. He has seen photographs of graphic gang killings, animal abuse and twisted forms of pornography. One recent sighting was a photo of two teenage boys gleefully pointing guns at another boy, who is crying.

  • Censorship/Privacy/Civil Rights

    • BlackBerry assures India on access to services

      Research In Motion has promised India a technical solution for decoding encrypted BlackBerry data, a senior official said on Friday, a step that could allay Indian security concerns about the smartphone and avert a shutdown.

    • Google lets uneasy Germans opt out of ‘Street View’

      Google said Tuesday it would allow Germans to opt out of its disputed Street View navigation service ahead of its launch in the country this year but privacy watchdogs were still not happy.

      The move is part of an effort to placate German authorities, who have serious concerns about the service that allows users to view online panoramic still photos at street level taken using specially equipped vehicles.

    • Suit alleges Disney, other top sites spied on users

      A lawsuit filed in federal court last week alleges that a group of well-known Web sites, including those owned by Disney, Warner Bros. Records, and Demand Media, broke the law by secretly tracking the Web movements of their users, including children.

    • Electronic Frontier Foundation – Cindy Cohn
    • How to Crush Dissent

      While in Berlin for the LinuxTag 2010 conference a couple of months ago, I took the opportunity for a 8-mile long meandering walk across the city, from Warschauer Strasse and the East Side Gallery to Wittenbergplatz and KaDeWe, taking in the various historical sites along the way. It was a great refresher course in 20th century European history. I especially enjoyed the free outdoor exhibit in Alexanderplatz, which dealt with the Revolutions of 1989 with a focus on the various dissident movements and publications in the DDR. Most were self-published, stealthily distributed samizdat newletters, copied laboriously using typewriters and carbon paper, primitive printing presses, or toward the end, some personal computers smuggled in from the West. They had on display an Amiga 500 and an NEC Pinwriter P6 used in 1989. Through “advanced” technology like this, document production could be raised from a few hundred to tens of thousands of copies.


      I strongly believe that the capability for citizens to dissent is an essential complement to fallible leadership. And all leadership is fallible. Without such capabilities, transitions of power may be less frequent, but they also may be far bloodier.

    • Hiding files in Flickr pics will fool web censors

      Life is about to become more difficult for countries trying to censor access to foreign websites. A system dubbed Collage will allow users in these countries to download stories from blocked sites while visiting seemingly uncontroversial sites such as Flickr.

      Collage relies on a well-established technique known as digital steganography, in which an image file is changed to encode the hidden message without obviously affecting the appearance of the image. A prototype version is due to be unveiled on Friday, 13 August.

      Steganography normally requires specialist software, but Collage is designed so that anti-censorship activists and readers can publish and download the hidden stories without any specialist skills. A publisher or activist can, for example, use Collage to copy news stories from a website and embed the articles into Flickr images in a process that is almost entirely automated.

    • Legal action on ‘zombie cookies’ filed in US court

      A legal challenge has been launched in the US against a number of websites amid claims that they were engaged in “covert surveillance” of users.

      The lawsuit alleges that a number of firms, including Hulu, MTV, and Myspace, used a Quantcast Flash application to restore deleted cookies.

  • Internet/Net Neutrality/DRM

    • Net neutrality for wireless? Don’t count on it.

      Earlier this week, Google and Verizon brokered a compromise on the definition — or at least, their definition — of net neutrality, a set of rules that ideally, would ensure that no company could place data-access restrictions on Web content, sites, platforms, and associated equipment. The deal itself sparked controversy over whose interests Google (GOOG) and Verizon (VZ) really had at heart and whether the deal would — or more importantly, should — be used as a model by the Federal Communications Commission.

    • Wacky Google/Verizon net neutrality theory

      What if Google agreed to Verizon’s stance on wireless net neutrality in order to keep Verizon from making a deal with Apple for the iPhone?

      Rumors about Verizon and the iPhone are evergreens, and now that the iPhone 4 hype is dying down, those rumors are starting up again. Coincidental timing of “Huge CDMA chipset order” rumors and this net neutrality piece shouldn’t be anything other than coincidental.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • Copyrights

      • Marking and Tagging the Public Domain: An Invitation to Comment

        Almost 1½ years have passed since we launched CC0 v1.0, our public domain waiver that allows rights holders to place a work as nearly as possible into the public domain, worldwide, prior to the expiration of copyright. CC0 has proven a valuable tool for governments, scientists, data providers, providers of bibliographic data, and many others throughout world. At the time we published CC0, we made note of a second public domain tool under development — a tool that would make it easy for people to tag and find content already in the public domain.

      • LA reporter abandons YouTube copyright case

        A Los Angeles journalist who was accused of leaking confidential court documents from his lawsuit against YouTube has abandoned his suit and has agreed to pay $20,000 to the video-sharing site.

      • New Jersey Hit With Fees Over Truth-in-Music Law

        New Jersey will have to pay the legal fees for a music promoter that sued the state to stop it from enforcing its “truth-in-music” law.

      • Brazil supports fair use

        The law change was discussed on Micheal Geist’s blog at the end of last week, where Geist, who is a Canadian law professor, said that it “Establishes equivalent penalties for hindering or preventing the users from exercising their fair dealing rights. In other words, the Brazilian proposals recognise what the Supreme Court of Canada stated several years ago – over-protection is just as harmful as under-protection.”

      • Pirate Party can’t contest Federal election

        “Our application to register is before the Australian Electoral Commission, however a party cannot be registered once an election has been called,” the party said in a statement over the weekend. Prime Minister Julia Gillard has called the next Federal election for August 21.

Clip of the Day

Richard M. Stallman Jan 07 2001

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