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Links 22/12/2016: VirtualBox 5.1.12, Qt 5.8.0 RC, IPFire 2.19

Posted in News Roundup at 7:58 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish



  • Kernel Space

    • ALSA 1.1.3 Released For Linux Sound

      Version 1.1.3 of the Advanced Linux Sound Architecture (ALSA) was released today.

    • A Holiday Gift From Conexant: an ALSA Driver For Recent Cherry Trail SOC Based Devices

      Late on Monday Simon Ho of Conexant announced the release of a driver for the company’s driver for CX2072X codec to the ALSA-devel mailing list. I have to add a tip of the proverbial hat to Pierre Bossart who shared the information in kernel.bugzilla.org where I found it. According to Mr. Bossart we can expect “a follow-up machine driver soon from Intel.” The machines where sound has been a problem have Intel SST sound on the SOC which uses the Conexant codec. On those systems the “sound card” is simply not detected.

    • Suzuki Joins Automotive Grade Linux to Expand Technology Development through Open Source Collaboration

      Automotive Grade Linux (AGL), a collaborative open source project developing a Linux-based, open platform for the connected car, today announced that Suzuki is joining The Linux Foundation and Automotive Grade Linux as a Platinum member.

      “Adopting an open source approach to software development is a key part of our technology strategy and will help us to keep pace with the rapid advances happening across the auto industry,” said Hisanori Takashiba, Executive General Manager of Research & Development at Suzuki Motor Corporation. “Joining Automotive Grade Linux expands our R&D capabilities and enables us to collaborate with hundreds of developers across the industry on new automotive technologies.”

    • Graphics Stack

      • RADV Radeon Vulkan Code Enables More Driver Features

        The RADV Radeon Vulkan driver in Mesa has seen some activity last night to enable more fine-grained features.

        RADV now enables shaderImageGatherExtended. The image gather extended functionality for shaders is described via the Vulkan registry as “indicates whether the extended set of image gather instructions are available in shader code. If this feature is not enabled, the OpImage*Gather instructions do not support the Offset and ConstOffsets operands. This also indicates whether shader modules can declare the ImageGatherExtended capability.”

      • Haswell OpenGL 4.0 / FP64 Support In Mesa Might Finally Be Close To Merging

        It appears that ARB_gpu_shader_fp64 for Intel Haswell graphics hardware might finally be merged soon into Mesa and thereby exposing OpenGL 4.0 support.

        While Broadwell and newer Intel hardware has OpenGL 4.5 support in Mesa, the Haswell support is left behind as while it can reach OpenGL ~4.1, it’s currently at OpenGL 3.3. The blocking extension from Haswell having OpenGL 4.0 is the big ARB_gpu_shader_fp64 extension, but the code has been sitting around for a while.

    • Benchmarks

      • Blender & Darktable OpenCL Benchmarks On 13 NVIDIA GPUs

        For those into Blender modeling or Darktable for your RAW photography workflow, hopefully you find these latest OpenCL benchmarks interesting. The NVIDIA 375.26 Linux driver was used for benchmarking. The cards tested based upon what I had available included the GTX 680, GTX 760, GTX 780 Ti, GTX 950, GTX 960, GTX 970, GTX 980, GTX 980 Ti, GTX 1050, GTX 1050 Ti, GTX 1060, GTX 1070, and GTX 1080. The tests in this article are just on the NVIDIA side with having no new AMDGPU-PRO release available for testing since my last 16.50 comparison and the open-source stack still leaving a lot to be desired and not yet trying out the brand new ROCm release, but I plan to work on benchmarks of that over Christmas if the stack holds up.

      • Linux Workstation/Server Distribution Benchmarks For Winter 2016

        The latest for your enjoyment of our year-end comparison articles and benchmarks is a fresh comparison of various workstation/enterprise/server oriented Linux distributions when looking at relevant workloads. Testing for this distribution comparison being done from a Core i7 6800K Broadwell-E system while a desktop-focused Linux desktop comparison for winter 2016 will be posted still before year’s end.

  • Applications

  • Desktop Environments/WMs

    • GNOME Desktop/GTK

      • Best GNOME Distro, Linux All-in-One, PIXEL for PCs

        Today was another busy day in Linux news with the top story being the release of Red Hat’s third quarter 2017 financial report. Third quarter revenue missed analysts’ expectations and cut full year forecast along with the resignation of CFO all added up to a rough night for Red Hat stock. Elsewhere, Raspberry Pi Foundation announced the release of PIXEL for PC and Mac and The Document Foundation introduced MUFFIN, a “tasty new user interface” for LibreOffice. Blogger Dedoimedo chose the best GNOME distro of the year and Andy Weir covered Acer’s new all-in-one PC that’s available with Linux.

      • GTK 3.89.2 Released With Vulkan Renderer, Continued GDK/GSK Changes

        Matthias Clasen shifted focus today from working on the new recipes program to putting out a new development release in the road to GTK4.

        GTK+ 3.89.4 is the new GTK4 development snapshot released today. This the experimental Vulkan renderer implementation that co-exists alongside the OpenGL back-end. Related, the GDK and GSK (Scene Kit) rendering code continues to be refactored. Some changes to handling include now only drawing the top-level windows and always re-drawing the whole window. GTK has also been working towards EGL X11 support — as an alternative to the GLX X11 code — while the EGL Wayland support is obviously already there.

      • Best Gnome distro of 2016

        Ever since Gnome 3 came to life, I struggled with how it was realized and what it did, a far cry (but not Far Cry, hi hi) from its predecessor. It was functionally inferior to its rival, and it is the chief reason why MATE and Cinnamon came to life. Then, over the years, it slowly evolved, and now, at last, the combination of its core elements and a thick layer of necessary extensions allows for a decent compromise. Throughout 2016, I tested more Gnome releases than ever before, I was quite pleased with the results, and now we will select the best candidate for this year.

  • Distributions

  • Devices/Embedded

    • Phones

      • Android

        • Asus, T-Mobile have CES surprises in store for Android users

          As the end of December approaches, visions of sugar plums are dancing in Android fans’ heads as they await the big event. Not Christmas—we’re talking about CES 2017. While there are more rumors than you can shake a stocking at, several companies have already begun to promote their upcoming announcements.

        • 2016 and Android: 5 Things That Still Stand Out

          2016 was, to be honest, not exactly the best year in recent memory. From the nastiest presidential election we may ever see (until the next one in four years) to the early deaths of some of the great entertainers and people of this world, there was a lot to be sad about. But even in tech or Android specifically, we saw Samsung go through the Note 7 recall, carriers go extra shady on this “unlimited” idea, and even Google kill the Nexus line. What a year.

          And now with that depressing glob of snot on your mind, let’s talk about five (or six) things that are still standing out from 2016 as we head into 2017. Because even if 2016 sucked, a lot of stuff did happen!

        • Our Favorite Android Smartphone of 2016

          While we are still bringing in votes for the DL Reader’s Choice for Phone of the Year (POTY), we are ready to present you with our choice(s). In 2016, we saw a plethora of great smartphones from a number of makers, which made for a very exciting and busy year.

          Because there was such a high number of fantastic phones, it was actually quite the struggle to choose a single one as our favorite. As you will see, we have a couple runner ups this year, only because we didn’t want to have a three-way tie for favorite.

        • LG announces five new phones you probably won’t care about

          Ahead of CES, LG has announced four new phones in the K series — the K10, K8, K4, and K3 — that will make their debut at the trade show. LG will also showcase the Stylus 3, which offers an “improved writing experience” that mimics the “feel and feedback of an actual pen.”

Free Software/Open Source

  • 5 open source gift ideas for non-techies

    It’s getting down to the wire here for the holidays. You know, that time when we all realize that we’ve completely neglected to get gifts for people. While reading through our very excellent gift guide, a thought occurred to me: Those unfortunate souls with lives devoid of technological wonder… they need presents, too. So what do we get them? What do we present to these people whose interests diverge so greatly from our own? I’m glad you asked. I made a list.

  • What is Odoo Open Source ERP?

    Odoo’s open source application offerings range beyond ERP to include such features as CRM, website building, eCommerce and BI.

    Belgium-based Odoo made a name for itself under its previous name of OpenERP, an open source ERP application that quickly gained traction, especially in Europe. Over the past few years, however, the company has expanded into many more areas of the enterprise application landscape.

  • Swift Is Old, Why Should I Use it?

    A central concept to Swift is the Binary Large OBject (BLOB). Instead of block storage, data is divided into some number of binary streams. Any file, of any format, can be reduced to a series of ones and zeros, sometimes referred to as serialization. Start at the first bit of a file and count ones and zeros until you have a block, a megabyte or even five gigabytes. This becomes an object. The next number of bits becomes an object until there is no more file to divide into objects. These objects can be stored locally or sent to a Swift proxy server. The proxy server will send the object to a series of storage servicers where memcached will accept the object, at memory speeds. Definitely an advantage in the days before inexpensive solid state drives.

  • Ticketmaster Chooses Kubernetes to Stay Ahead of Competition

    If you’ve ever gone to an event that required a ticket, chances are you’ve done business with Ticketmaster. The ubiquitous ticket company has been around for 40 years and is the undisputed market leader in its field.

    To stay on top, the company is trying to ensure its best product creators can focus on products, not infrastructure. The company has begun to roll out a massive public cloud strategy that uses Kubernetes, an open source platform for the deployment and management of application containers, to keep everything running smoothly, and sent two of its top technologists to deliver a keynote at the 2016 CloudNativeCon in Seattle explaining their methodology.

  • Events

    • LibrePlanet 2017 will return to MIT thanks to SIPB, March 25-26, 2017

      This is the fourth year the FSF will partner with MIT’s Student Information Processing Board (SIPB) to bring this two-day celebration of free software and software freedom to Cambridge, MA. Registration for LibrePlanet is now open, and admission is gratis for FSF members and students.

  • Web Browsers

    • Mozilla

      • Firefox takes the next step towards rolling out multi-process to everyone

        With Firefox 50, Mozilla has rolled out the first major piece of its new multi-process architecture. Firefox 50 is also Firefox’s current stable release.

        Edge, Internet Explorer, Chrome, and Safari all have a multiple process design that separates their rendering engine—the part of the browser that reads and interprets HTML, CSS, and JavaScript—from the browser frame. They do this for stability reasons (if the rendering process crashes, it doesn’t kill the entire browser) and security reasons (the rendering process can be run in a low-privilege sandbox, so exploitable flaws in the rendering engine are harder to take advantage of).

  • SaaS/Back End

    • 3 highly effective strategies for managing test data

      Over the last year, I’ve researched, written, and spoken coast-to-coast on strategies for managing test data, and the common patterns you can use to resolve these issues. The set of solutions surrounding test data are what I call “data strategies for testing.” Here are three patterns for managing your own test data more effectively. If after reading you want to dig in more deeply, drop in on my presentations on these patterns during my upcoming presentation at the upcoming Automation Guild conference.

    • Tuning OpenStack Hardware for the Enterprise

      As a cloud management framework OpenStack thus far been limited to the province of telecommunications carriers and providers of Web-scale services that have plenty of engineering talent to throw at managing one of the most ambitious open source projects there is. In contrast, adoption of OpenStack in enterprise IT environments has been much more limited.

      But that may change as more advanced networking technologies that are optimized for processor-intensive virtualization come to market. Some of the technologies we have covered here include single root input/output virtualization (SR-IOV) and Data Plane Development Kit (DPDK). Another technology includes using field programmable gate arrays (FPGA) in Network Interface Cards, to make them smarter about how to offload virtualized loads.

    • Q&A: Hortonworks CTO unfolds the big data road map

      Hortonworks has built its business on big data and Hadoop, but the Hortonworks Data Platform provides analytics and features support for a range of technologies beyond Hadoop, including MapReduce, Pig, Hive, and Spark. Hortonworks DataFlow, meanwhile, offers streaming analytics and uses technologies like Apache Nifi and Kafka.

      InfoWorld Executive Editor Doug Dineley and Editor at Large Paul Krill recently spoke with Hortonworks CTO Scott Gnau about how the company sees the data business shaking out, the Spark vs. Hadoop face-off, and Hortonworks’ release strategy and efforts to build out the DataFlow platform for data in motion.

  • Oracle/Java/LibreOffice

  • Public Services/Government

    • EC reports examine value of open government, help inspire for implementation

      This month, the European Commission published two reports, the first providing inspiration for the implementation of open government services, the second providing insight on the social value of these services, with advice on how to foster their use and increase their impact. The reports are part of the ‘eGovernment Action Plan 2016-2020′, which aims to modernise public administration, achieve the Digital Single Market, and engage more with citizens and businesses to deliver high quality services. The reports are targeted at European policy makers.


  • Norwegians are about to lose their FM radio and they’re not happy about it

    In just a matter of weeks, Norway will tune out FM radio for good and become the world’s first country to switch over to digital-only transmissions.
    Norway’s government has decided that the nation’s FM airwaves will fall silent from January 11, 2017, starting in Nordland and gradually moving south.

    After nearly a century of the analogue system, which revolutionised music listening with high-fidelity stereo sound compared to mono AM transmissions, the changeover to Digital Audio Broadcasting’s advanced version (DAB+) will render the country’s almost eight million radio sets obsolete.

  • Health/Nutrition

    • Lead Contaminated Drinking Water Is Much More Prevalent Than You Think

      In 2001, Washington, DC changed the chemical used to treat the city’s water from chlorine to chloramine. The switch was supposed to limit byproducts in the water that arise during the disinfection process. It turned out, however, that chloramine also has the particularly powerful trait of corroding lead pipes, which allows the toxic metal to show up in faucets and drinking water.

      Authorities from the water utility knew of the astronomical lead levels in 2001 but, for fear of repercussion, kept mum. It carried on for 3 more years, and as many as 42,000 children in the womb, or less than 2 years old, were exposed to extreme levels of lead, which can cause serious cognitive, and behavioral problems in children, as well as hearing, and weight loss, and fatigue. The DC water crisis from 2001 to 2004 is still considered by experts to be the worst such calamity in modern American history.

  • Security

    • Most ATMs in India Are Easy Targets for Hackers & Malware Attacks

      Hacking is a hotly debated subject across the country right now, and it’s fair to say that the ATM next door is also in danger. It has been reported that over 70 percent of the 2 lakh money-dispensing ATM machines in our country are running on Microsoft’s outdated Windows XP operating system, leaving it vulnerable to cyber attacks.

      Support for Windows XP was discontinued by Microsoft in 2014 which means that since then the company hasn’t rolled out any security updates for this Windows version.

      While it doesn’t make sense for banks to continue using outdated software, security experts feel that the practice stems from legacy behaviour, when physical attacks were a bigger threat than software hacks.

    • 20 Questions Security Pros Should Ask Themselves Before Moving To The Cloud

      A template for working collaboratively with the business in today’s rapidly changing technology environment.

      Everywhere I go lately, the cloud seems to be on the agenda as a topic of conversation. Not surprisingly, along with all the focus, attention, and money the cloud is receiving, comes the hype and noise we’ve come to expect in just about every security market these days. Given this, along with how new the cloud is to most of us in the security world, how can security professionals make sense of the situation? I would argue that that depends largely on what type of situation we’re referring to, exactly. And therein lies the twist.

      Rather than approach this piece as “20 questions security professionals should ask cloud providers,” I’d like to take a slightly different angle. It’s a perspective I think will be more useful to security professionals grappling with issues and challenges introduced by the cloud on a daily basis. For a variety of reasons, organizations are moving both infrastructure and applications to the cloud at a rapid rate – far more rapidly than anyone would have forecast even two or three years ago.

    • Report: $3-5M in Ad Fraud Daily from ‘Methbot’

      New research suggests that an elaborate cybercrime ring is responsible for stealing between $3 million and $5 million worth of revenue from online publishers and video advertising networks each day. Experts say the scam relies on a vast network of cloaked Internet addresses, rented data centers, phony Web sites and fake users made to look like real people watching short ad segments online.

      Online advertising fraud is a $7 billion a year problem, according to AdWeek. Much of this fraud comes from hacked computers and servers that are infected with malicious software which forces the computers to participate in ad fraud. Malware-based ad fraud networks are cheap to acquire and to run, but they’re also notoriously unstable and unreliable because they are constantly being discovered and cleaned up by anti-malware companies.

    • Linux Backdoor Gives Hackers Full Control Over Vulnerable Devices [Ed: Microsoft booster Bogdan Popa says “Linux Backdoor”; that’s a lie. It’s Microsoft that has them.]
  • Defence/Aggression

    • Keeping Cheerful in a Difficult World

      It has been a difficult couple of days at the end of a difficult year. Individual lone wolf terrorism is impossible to stop completely. Fortunately, although it commands the headlines when it occurs, it is quite incredibly rare. Terrorism remains almost the least likely of freak deaths you could suffer, and everywhere in Europe is thousands of times less likely than the comparatively mundane event of dying in an ordinary traffic accident. Yet the perception of the terrorism risk is entirely wrong – for precisely the same reason that recent surveys show that people massively overestimate the number of Muslims in the population. Relentless media propaganda takes its toll.

    • US Military Returns Land to Japan, but Okinawa Isn’t Celebrating

      When US Ambassador Caroline Kennedy and top American military brass join Japanese officials for a much-anticipated land return ceremony on December 22 (Japan time), they will mark the largest handover of property by the United States in a generation. Okinawa, once the independent Ryukyu kingdom, has been part of Japan since the 1870s and after World War II was administered by the US military until 1972 when the islands reverted to Japanese control. But the US never really left and still has roughly half of its 50,000 troops and its greatest concentration of military bases on just 0.6 percent of Japanese territory.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • 39 Chernobyl children to spend Christmas in Ireland

      A group of 39 children with special needs will fly into Dublin from Chernobyl this afternoon before heading to homes all around the country for the best Christmas holiday of their lives.

      The very special visit follows an historic move by the UN this month, to designate an ‘International Chernobyl Disaster Remembrance Day’ for the future.

      Adi Roche from Chernobyl Children International (pictured) says it’s heart-warming that thirty years on – the survivors of the world’s worst nuclear disaster are not being forgotten: “I tried it one more time, last April at the General Assembly, not sure whether it would fall on deaf ears or not,

    • Judge rules school children can pursue climate change lawsuit against Washington State

      Eight Seattle children should have “their day in court” to argue that Washington State and others aren’t protecting them from climate change, a judge ruled.

      King County Superior Court Judge Hollis Hill allowed the young petitioners to move ahead in their case against the state, writing that “it is time for these youth to have the opportunity to address their concerns in a court of law, concerns raised under statute and under the state and federal constitutions.”

      The petitioners, between 12 and 16 years old, had asked the judge last month to find the state Department of Ecology in contempt for failing to adequately protect them and future generations from global warming.

    • Storm Barbara set to batter UK and cause Christmas chaos

      Storm Barbara is set to bring strong winds and Christmas chaos to Britain, according to forecasters.

      Gusts of up to 90mph are predicted to hit the UK, with the worst of destruction expected between Friday evening and Christmas Eve morning.

      Scotland appears likely to suffer the most, while pockets of Northern Ireland, north Wales and north England could also feel the full force.

      Forecasters warned the potential for structural damage and disruption to some transport services means the storm’s impact could be felt long after the winds have subsided.

    • Fog in the south east threatens Christmas travel

      Fog across the south east has disrupted flights at Heathrow, Gatwick and City airports, British Airways says.

      The delays in London come as people travelling for Christmas were warned to expect disruption across the UK as Storm Barbara approaches.

      The Met Office said the worst of the weather was expected on Friday and Saturday, with gusts of up to 90mph forecast in parts of Scotland.

    • Storm Barbara AND Storm Conor to wreak havoc on Christmas Day in double mega storm

      Strong gales of up to 100mph are expected to smash into Britain with the arrival of the freak storm – with many predicting travel cancellations.

      And during Christmas it”s beginning to look likely that another storm will strike in the aftermath of Storm Barbara.

  • Finance

    • U.K. Companies Plan 2017 Price Hikes as Pound Drop Lifts Costs

      If you’ve ever gone to an event that required a ticket, chances are you’ve done business with Ticketmaster. The ubiquitous ticket company has been around for 40 years and is the undisputed market leader in its field.

      To stay on top, the company is trying to ensure its best product creators can focus on products, not infrastructure. The company has begun to roll out a massive public cloud strategy that uses Kubernetes, an open source platform for the deployment and management of application containers, to keep everything running smoothly, and sent two of its top technologists to deliver a keynote at the 2016 CloudNativeCon in Seattle explaining their methodology.

    • Google avoided US$3.6b in taxes in 2015: report

      Last year, Google, along with Microsoft and Apple, came under attack during an Australian Senate hearing into tax avoidance.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • A Spy Coup in America?

      As Official Washington’s latest “group think” solidifies into certainty – that Russia used hacked Democratic emails to help elect Donald Trump – something entirely different may be afoot: a months-long effort by elements of the U.S. intelligence community to determine who becomes the next president.

      I was told by a well-placed intelligence source some months ago that senior leaders of the Obama administration’s intelligence agencies – from the CIA to the FBI – were deeply concerned about either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump ascending to the presidency. And, it’s true that intelligence officials often come to see themselves as the stewards of America’s fundamental interests, sometimes needing to protect the country from dangerous passions of the public or from inept or corrupt political leaders.

    • Emanuel releases private emails, ending court fight

      After fighting in court to keep his private email accounts completely concealed from public view, Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Wednesday released a trove of messages from throughout his nearly six years in office and announced a new city ban on using private email to conduct official business.

      The records released by his administration showed Emanuel has frequently used a private Gmail account and another personal, unofficial email address — mayor_re@rahmemail.com — to communicate with top aides, business leaders, political supporters, national media figures and others who wanted to discuss city government with him.

    • Unsealed Clinton Email Warrant Asks Court To Maintain Secrecy Of Investigation James Comey Publicly Announced To Congress

      The FBI’s search warrant for Anthony Weiner’s laptop was unsealed and released yesterday. This isn’t the warrant the FBI originally used to seize and search the laptop. That one was looking for evidence related to allegations Weiner sexted an underage girl.

      This warrant is the second search warrant for the same laptop, related to the discovery of emails to and from Hillary Clinton on it. This discovery during an unrelated search prompted Comey to write a letter to Congress informing it that he was going to be diving back into the Clinton email investigation.

      The second dive into emails stored on the laptop by former Clinton aide (and estranged spouse of Anthony Weiner) Huma Abedin resulted in the discovery of nothing the FBI hadn’t already seen. Comey apologized for getting everyone hot and bothered by his shouting of “CLASSIFIED!” in a crowded electoral season, but believed his actions were justified because he feared this information would likely leak anyway.

    • Celebrity isn’t just harmless fun – it’s the smiling face of the corporate machine

      Now that a reality TV star is preparing to become president of the United States, can we agree that celebrity culture is more than just harmless fun – that it might, in fact, be an essential component of the systems that govern our lives?

      The rise of celebrity culture did not happen by itself. It has long been cultivated by advertisers, marketers and the media. And it has a function. The more distant and impersonal corporations become, the more they rely on other people’s faces to connect them to their customers.

      Corporation means body; capital means head. But corporate capital has neither head nor body. It is hard for people to attach themselves to a homogenised franchise owned by a hedge fund whose corporate identity consists of a filing cabinet in Panama City. So the machine needs a mask. It must wear the face of someone we see as often as we see our next-door neighbours. It is pointless to ask what Kim Kardashian does to earn her living: her role is to exist in our minds. By playing our virtual neighbour, she induces a click of recognition on behalf of whatever grey monolith sits behind her this week.


      The celebrities you see most often are the most lucrative products, extruded through a willing media by a marketing industry whose power no one seeks to check. This is why actors and models now receive such disproportionate attention, capturing much of the space once occupied by people with their own ideas: their expertise lies in channelling other people’s visions.

    • U.S. government loses to Russia’s disinformation campaign: advisers

      The U.S. government spent more than a decade preparing responses to malicious hacking by a foreign power but had no clear strategy when Russia launched a disinformation campaign over the internet during the U.S. election campaign, current and former White House cyber security advisers said.

      Far more effort has gone into plotting offensive hacking and preparing defenses against the less probable but more dramatic damage from electronic assaults on the power grid, financial system or direct manipulation of voting machines.

      Over the last several years, U.S. intelligence agencies tracked Russia’s use of coordinated hacking and disinformation in Ukraine and elsewhere, the advisers and intelligence experts said, but there was little sustained, high-level government conversation about the risk of the propaganda coming to the United States.

    • 2016: The Year the Media Broke

      Rupert Murdoch’s bid for a full takeover of Sky TV demonstrates graphically that the extreme concentration of media ownership has not yet run its course. It also yet again underlines the extent to which the Leveson Inquiry was barking entirely up the wrong tree. There is no question to which the correct answer is increased government control over free speech. Any inquiry into the media should look first and foremost at its highly concentrated ownership and how to instil more pluralism. It is probably now too late to expect that a vibrant, diverse traditional media is achievable. We can however be cheered by the continuing decline of the political influence of the mainstream media, as illustrated by its “Fake News” panic.

      Even five years ago, if the mainstream media carried a meme that was fundamentally untrue, the chances of persuading public opinion of its untruth were almost minimal. Similarly if they wished to ignore an inconvenient truth, it would be very hard indeed to get it out to a significant number.

      Four years ago, when the official version of the Adam Werritty affair was front page news for days, causing the resignation of the Defence Secretary, I discovered that in fact the real scandal ran much deeper. Werritty – who had an official pass but no official position – had held at least eight meetings with Matthew Gould, now Cabinet Office anti-WikiLeaks supremo. Gould had at the time of some of the meetings been ambassador to Israel, at the time of others Private Secretary to two different Foreign Secretaries, David Miliband and William Hague. On at least one occasion it was acknowledged by the FCO that Mossad were also present. For the three meetings which occurred while Gould was Private Secretary, I requested the diary entries under the Freedom of Information Act. The meetings were held on 8 Sept 2009, 27 Sept 2010 and 6 Feb 2011. The FCO sent me, in reply to my Freedom of Information request, the diary entries for those three days with only the dates – the rest was 100% redacted, in the interests of national security.

    • Vox’s Undisclosed Conflicts of Interest, Explained

      One of Vox’s major investors—second only to Comcast—is General Atlantic. The New York–based private equity firm invested $46.5 million in Vox Media in December 2014, roughly six months after the flagship website Vox.com launched. As part of the deal, General Atlantic VP Zachary Kaplan got a seat on Vox Media’s corporate board (as is common in large investment rounds). General Atlantic also invests in several technology and media companies Vox Media covers, without Vox disclosing this fact.


      General Atlantic was also one of three lead investors in a $1.5 billion fundraising round for AirBnb in December 2015. While Vox has been critical of AirBnb’s high-profile problems with racist users, the New Money vertical was quick to defend the San Fransisco room-sharing giant after New York state passed restrictive legislation—again, without any disclosure of General Atlantic’s investment: “New York’s Crackdown on ‘Commercial’ Airbnb Listings Is Misguided” (11/18/16).

      When asked for comment on their disclosure policy, Vox managing editor Lauren Williams wrote back, “That’s something we’ve been thinking about, and we plan to post one in the new year.” A follow-up email asking whether Vox covering companies owned by its major investors was a potential problem has had no response so far.


      While Vox coverage of its corporate parents, siblings and cousins isn’t uniformly positive, all too often it is. Even in stories that aren’t more or less verbatim PR copy, disclosures ought to be mandatory—especially when it’s as direct as covering Comcast and NBC corporate. For startups, major investors are tantamount to ownership in every sense of the word, and since traditional media companies disclose ownership, there’s no reason why this same standard wouldn’t apply to venture capital and private equity-backed New Media outfits.

      Complexity is no excuse for not disclosing obvious conflicts, nor does it justify running a major media site for two-and-a-half years without a public, clearly worded code of ethics. Vox Media has raised over $300 million and has a staff reportedly of over 400 people. With all those resources, perhaps they can take a week off and hash out a coherent ethics guide that reflects the economic realities of PE- and corporate-backed “disruptive” media.

    • Sources Tell Me… Fake News, Kuwait and the Trump DC Hotel

      It is fully normalized now in American mainstream journalism to build an entire story, often an explosive story, around a single, anonymous source, typically described no further than “a senior U.S. official,” or just “a source.”

      For a writer, this makes life pretty easy. They can simply make up the entire story sitting in their bedroom, inflate a taxi driver’s gossip into a “source,” or just believe an intern they tried to pick up at happy hour who says she saw an email written by her supervisor saying their manager heard something something. The story goes viral, often with an alarming headline, and is irrefutable in an Internety way, demanding critics prove a negative: how can you say it didn’t happen?!?!?

  • Censorship/Free Speech

    • Thailand’s military-appointed Assembly unanimously passes an internet law combining the world’s worst laws

      On Dec 15, an amendment to Thailand’s 2007 Computer Crime Act passed its National Legislative Assembly — a body appointed by the country’s military after the 2014 coup — unanimously, and in 180 days, the country will have a new internet law that represents a grab bag of the worst provisions of the worst internet laws in the world, bits of the UK’s Snooper’s Charter, America’s Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, and the dregs of many other failed laws.

  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • Twitter is ‘toast’ and the stock is not even worth $10: Analyst

      Twitter is “toast” as a company and the stock is not even worth $10, according to a research note published Tuesday, following the departure of another top executive at the social media service.

      The microblogging platform’s chief technology officer, Adam Messinger, tweeted that he would leave the company and “take some time off”, while Josh McFarland, vice president of product at Twitter, also said he was exiting the company. Both executives announced their departure on Tuesday.

      Meanwhile, last month, Adam Bain stepped down as chief operating officer last month to be replaced by chief financial officer Anthony Noto, who has yet to be replaced. Twitter has also lost leaders from business development, media and commerce, media partnerships, human resources, and engineering this year.

    • European Officials Accuse Facebook of Misleading Them on WhatsApp Deal

      European competition officials filed charges on Tuesday against Facebook, accusing the social media giant of making misleading statements to receive regulatory approval for its $19 billion purchase of WhatsApp, the internet messaging service.

      The accusation, which could lead to a fine of up to 1 percent of Facebook’s yearly revenue, meaning a penalty of about $200 million, comes amid growing tension with Europe’s policy makers over how the company is able to dominate much of the region’s digital world.

    • In Major Privacy Victory, Top EU Court Rules Against Mass Surveillance

      The European court’s panel of 15 judges acknowledged in their ruling that “modern investigative techniques” were necessary to combat organized crime and terrorism, but said that this cannot justify “the general and indiscriminate retention of all traffic and location data.” Instead, the judges stated, it is acceptable for governments to engage in the “targeted retention” of data in cases involving serious crime, permitting that persons affected by any surveillance are notified after investigations are completed, and that access to the data is overseen by a judicial authority or an independent administrative authority.

      The case was originally brought in December 2014 by two British members of parliament, who challenged the legality of the U.K. government’s Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act, which forced telecommunications companies to store records on their customers’ communication for 12 months. That law has since been replaced by the Investigatory Powers Act, which was recently approved by the British parliament and is expected soon to come into force.

      Though the U.K. voted to leave the European Union earlier this year, Wednesday’s decision remains — at least in the short term — highly significant, and will prove to be a severe headache for British government officials. The ruling will now be forwarded to the U.K.’s Court of Appeal, where judges there will consider how to apply it in the context of national law. It may result in the government being forced to make changes to controversial sections of the Investigatory Powers Act, which enable police and spy agencies to access vast amounts of data on people’s internet browsing, instant messages, emails, phone calls, and social media conversations.

    • Complete Victory: EU Supreme Court Rules Blanket Logging Requirements Blanketly Unconstitutional

      The EU Supreme Court (European Court of Justice) has ruled that no European country may have laws that require any communications provider to perform blanket indiscriminate logging of user activity, stating in harsh terms that such measures violate the very fundamentals of a democratic society. This finally brings the hated Data Retention to an end, even if much too late. It also kills significant parts of the UK Snooper’s Charter.

      This morning, Luxembourg time, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) presented its damning verdict. In a challenge brought by plaintiffs in Ireland and Sweden, it was argued that forcing telecommunications providers – ISPs and telecom companies alike – to log all activity of their users, in case law enforcement may need it later, was simply incompatible with the most fundamental privacy rights laid out in the European Charter of Human Rights. The court agreed wholesale.

    • Parliament must change the Investigatory Powers Act in response to CJEU ruling

      The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has issued a judgment that could force the Government to change the Investigatory Powers Act – just weeks after the surveillance law received royal assent.

    • Yahoo email scan shows U.S. spy push to recast constitutional privacy

      Yahoo Inc’s secret scanning of customer emails at the behest of a U.S. spy agency is part of a growing push by officials to loosen constitutional protections Americans have against arbitrary governmental searches, according to legal documents and people briefed on closed court hearings.

      The order on Yahoo from the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) last year resulted from the government’s drive to change decades of interpretation of the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment right of people to be secure against “unreasonable searches and seizures,” intelligence officials and others familiar with the strategy told Reuters.

    • Europe’s highest court declares UK ‘snooper charter’ illegal

      Britain’s controversial ‘snooper’s charter’ has been delivered a blow from the EU with its highest court ruling that the government’s “indiscriminate retention” of emails is illegal.

      The ruling could trigger challenges against the UK’s new Investigatory Powers Act, passed into law in November, which allows for the sweeping collection and storage of people’s emails, text messages and internet data.

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • Anonymous’ Barrett Brown Is Free—and Ready to Pick New Fights

      When Barrett Brown was arrested in his home by FBI agents in 2012—a moment captured by chance in a public videochat streamed to his fans and haters alike—the hacker group Anonymous was an online force to be reckoned with. Just nine months earlier the group had hacked the private intelligence firm Stratfor and dumped five million of its emails, the crime to which Brown would later be tied and sentenced to five years in prison.

      Today, just a few weeks after Brown walked out of Texas’s Three Rivers Federal Correctional Institute, Anonymous has shrunk to a thin imitation of the hacker army it once was. But with or without the hacktivist group that he championed, Brown can’t imagine a better time to resume his work as a journalist and radical information agitator. “When things deteriorate, when the system destroys itself as it’s doing right now and does so in such an obvious and disgusting way, my ideas seem less crazy,” he says.

    • VIDEO: “Relatively Free” Barrett Brown out of prison and already hard at work

      Alex Winter and production company Field of Vision have released a short documentary on Barrett Brown’s release from FCI Three Rivers and the six-hour drive to his new residence, a halfway house near Dallas. The twenty-minute film called ‘Relatively Free’ features a skinnier, longer-haired Barrett discussing his time in federal prison, the fight for press freedoms to come under a Trump administration, and why his case is a “jackpot case” for reformers, should they choose to make use of it.

    • Dear TSA: The country is not safer because you grab vaginas

      Eventually your heart gets hardened when you hear about nightmarish scenarios with the Transportation Security Administration, or TSA. With my elite status as a TSA Precheck and a CLEAR traveler, I’d grown accustomed to breezing through the security screening process in five minutes or less.

      Randomly selected for additional screening? Child, please — not “Diamond on Delta” me. So when I was selected in a nearly completely empty Detroit Metropolitan Airport last night, I thought it was ridiculous.


      The supervisor told me he would call his manager. He did. I repeated my protests: I have a Homeland Security background. This is a severe violation of my privacy and civil liberties. Please just let me get the scan again. I do not want my vagina patted.

      The agent began to insist that it was a backhanded pat around the upper thigh. At the same time, the manager says I can go through it or be escorted out. I really weighed my options. Did I really need to get on this plane to New York? I did.

    • Google sued by employee for confidentiality policies that ‘muzzle’ staff

      A product manager at Google has sued the company over its allegedly illegal confidentiality rules, which, among other things, prohibit employees from speaking even internally about illegal conduct and dangerous product defects for fear that such statements may be used in lawsuits or sought by the government.

      The alleged policies, which are said to violate California laws, restrict employees’ right to speak, work or whistle-blow, and include restrictions on speaking to the government, attorneys or the press about wrongdoing at Google or even “speaking to spouse or friends about whether they think their boss could do a better job,” according to a complaint filed Tuesday in the Superior Court of California for the city and county of San Francisco.

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality

    • Global Average Internet Connection Speeds Reaches 6.3 Mbps in 3Q16

      The average connection speed is just that, the average of the all the connections that are made to Akamai’s global content delivery network platform. In contrast, the global average peak connection speed, which measures the highest speeds, was reported at 37.2 Mbps, for a 16 percent gain over the third quarter of 2015.

      Once again, South Korea was reported to be the top nation on the planet for average connection speed, with 26.3 Mbps. In contrast, the average connection speed for the U.S was reported at 16.3 Mbps. Singapore had the top peak speed at 162 Mbps, while the average peak connection in the U.S was 70.8 Mbps.

    • Canada Calls Broadband a ‘Basic’ Service, Funds Rural Expansion

      Canada’s communications regulator announced a C$750 million ($560 million) fund that companies like Rogers Communications Inc., BCE Inc. and Telus Corp. can tap to subsidize high-speed internet projects in rural parts of the country.

      The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission said broadband internet should be seen as a “basic” service across the country. The C$750 million will be distributed over five years and doled out based on applications from telecommunications carriers.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • Copyrights

      • Australian Govt Advisory Body Digs in Over Fair Use & Geo-Unblocking

        A final inquiry report published by the Australian government’s Productivity Commission is steadfastly maintaining the position that citizens should have the right to use VPNs to access geo-restricted content. The advisory body is also unmoved when it comes to delivering fair use exceptions, stating that rightsholder objections are based on flawed and “self-interested” assumptions.

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