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02.22.18

Links 22/2/2018: Qt Roadmap for 2018, Calculate Linux 17.12.2

Posted in News Roundup at 4:19 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Contents

GNU/Linux

Free Software/Open Source

  • Why open source could be IBM’s key to future success in the cloud

    Do those same developers need IBM? Developers certainly benefit from IBM’s investments in open source, but it’s not as clear that those same developers have much to gain from IBM’s cloud. Google, for example, has done a stellar job open sourcing code like TensorFlow and Kubernetes that feeds naturally into running related workloads on Google Cloud Platform. Aside from touting its Java bonafides, however, IBM has yet to demonstrate that developers get significant benefits for modern workloads on its cloud.

    That’s IBM’s big challenge: Translating its open source expertise into real, differentiated value for developers on its cloud.

  • We sent a vulture to IBM’s new developer conference to find an answer to the burning question: Why Big Blue?

    At the first IBM Index developer conference in San Francisco, California, on Tuesday, I spent the morning at a Kubernetes workshop learning that when apps on the IBM Cloud Container Service fail to deploy, the reason may not be obvious.

    The presenter, IBM cloud program manager Chris Rosen, framed the event as an opportunity to attempt to answer another question that isn’t evident to everyone: Why IBM?

  • Splunk competitor Logz.io open sources two log analytics tools

    Splunk startup competitor Logz.io has been rolling out new tools and new projects on the back of its seemingly healthy venture funding injections, which came in last year.

  • Logz.io Launches Two Open Source Projects, Empowering Businesses to Build Scalable Infrastructure
  • Why Pay For Something When It’s Free?
  • Elon Musk leaves Open AI’s board due to potential conflict with Tesla’s own AI effort
  • Musk stepping down from OpenAI board to avoid conflict
  • Elon Musk Steps Down From Open Source AI Group

    Elon Musk will be stepping down from his role as chair of the board for OpenAI, a nonprofit organization he co-founded with Y-Combinator CEO Sam Altman in late 2015.

    Musk’s departure was announced late Monday evening in an OpenAI blog post about new donors for the organization.

  • Elon Musk, who has sounded the alarm on AI, leaves the organization he co-founded to make it safer

    Researchers affiliated with the organization regularly publish AI research papers and release source code for other people to use. Unlike Tesla — and companies like Facebook and Google that conduct extensive AI research — OpenAI doesn’t sell any products.

  • Comment: Many happy returns to open source

    Twenty years ago the phrase “open source” was first used and the development of software – and hardware – was changed forever.

    Very few designers today will not use some element of open source software in their development projects.

  • Events

    • Authentication and authorization in Samba 4

      Volker Lendecke is one of the first contributors to Samba, having submitted his first patches in 1994. In addition to developing other important file-sharing tools, he’s heavily involved in development of the winbind service, which is implemented in winbindd. Although the core Active Directory (AD) domain controller (DC) code was written by his colleague Stefan Metzmacher, winbind is a crucial component of Samba’s AD functionality. In his information-packed talk at FOSDEM 2018, Lendecke said he aimed to give a high-level overview of what AD and Samba authentication is, and in particular the communication pathways and trust relationships between the parts of Samba that authenticate a Samba user in an AD environment.

    • Two FOSDEM talks on Samba 4

      Much as some of us would love never to have to deal with Windows, it exists. It wants to authenticate its users and share resources like files and printers over the network. Although many enterprises use Microsoft tools to do this, there is a free alternative, in the form of Samba. While Samba 3 has been happily providing authentication along with file and print sharing to Windows clients for many years, the Microsoft world has been slowly moving toward Active Directory (AD). Meanwhile, Samba 4, which adds a free reimplementation of AD on Linux, has been increasingly ready for deployment. Three short talks at FOSDEM 2018 provided three different views of Samba 4, also known as Samba-AD, and left behind a pretty clear picture that Samba 4 is truly ready for use. I will cover the first two talks in this article, and the third in a later one.

    • A report from the Enigma conference

      The 2018 USENIX Enigma conference was held for the third time in January. Among many interesting talks, three presentations dealing with human security behaviors stood out. This article covers the key messages of these talks, namely the finding that humans are social in their security behaviors: their decision to adopt a good security practice is hardly ever an isolated decision.

      Security conferences tend to be dominated by security researchers demonstrating their latest exploits. The talks are attack-oriented, they keep a narrow focus, and usually they close with a dark outlook. The security industry has been doing security conferences like this for twenty years and seems to prefer this format. Yet, if you are tired of this style, the annual USENIX Enigma conference is a welcome change of pace. Most of the talks are defense-oriented, they have a horizon going far beyond technology alone, and they are generally focused on successful solutions.

    • DIY biology

      A scientist with a rather unusual name, Meow-Ludo Meow-Meow, gave a talk at linux.conf.au 2018 about the current trends in “do it yourself” (DIY) biology or “biohacking”. He is perhaps most famous for being prosecuted for implanting an Opal card RFID chip into his hand; the Opal card is used for public transportation fares in Sydney. He gave more details about his implant as well as describing some other biohacking projects in an engaging presentation.

      Meow-Meow is a politician with the Australian Science Party, he said by way of introduction; he has run in the last two elections. He founded BioFoundry, which is “Australia’s first open-access molecular biology lab”; there are now two such labs in the country. He is also speaks frequently as “an emerging technology evangelist” for biology as well as other topics.

    • Notes from FAST18

      I attended the technical sessions of Usenix’s File And Storage Technology conference this week. Below the fold, notes on the papers that caught my attention.

  • Web Browsers

    • Mozilla

      • Removing Support for Unpacked Extensions

        With the release of Firefox 62 (currently scheduled for August 21, 2018) Mozilla will discontinue support for unpacked sideloaded extensions. You will no longer be able to load an extension via the Windows registry by creating an entry with an extension’s directory (i.e. unpacked) after Firefox 61. Starting with Firefox 62, extensions sideloaded via the Windows registry must be complete XPI files (i.e. packed).

      • Making a Clap-Sensing Web Thing

        The Project Things Gateway exists as a platform to bring all of your IoT devices together under a unified umbrella, using a standardized HTTP-based API. We recently announced the Things Gateway and we’ve started a series of hands-on project posts for people who want to set up a Gateway and start playing around with the Web of Things. Earlier this month we began with a high-level overview of how to build a Gateway add-on.

      • Trying Mozilla’s Things Gateway

        I have an old Raspberry Pi 1 Model B with a RaZberry Z-Wave Daughterboard which I had soldered a larger external antenna on to last year. I used to run OpenHAB on it to control some z-wave devices before I moved last year and since then it’s just been in a box. Let’s fire it up!

        This original Raspberry Pi is a single core 700mhz CPU, so I’m planning on running it headless and doing everything remotely over SSH to save on GUI resources.

      • Lando Demo

        Lando is so close now that I can practically smell the tibanna. Israel put together a quick demo of Phabricator/BMO/Lando/hg running on his local system, which is only a few patches away from being a deployed reality.

  • SaaS/Back End

    • Worth seeing in Barcelona: Open source for white box vRAN solutions

      News this week from cloud and carrier infrastructure platform company Kontron builds on our earlier coverage of the emerging virtual radio access network (vRAN); a promising technology that could help the evolution to 5G by maximising available bandwidth while lowering costs. The market for open vRAN solutions is gaining wider acceptance as operators seek more cost-effective approaches to network architectures and deployment. According to analyst firm Research and Markets, the growth of the vRAN market is expected to grow at a CAGR of approximately 125 per cent during the next three years.

  • Databases

  • BSD

    • OpenBSD Gets Mitigated For Meltdown CPU Vulnerability

      A few days back FreeBSD 11 stable was mitigated for Meltdown (and Spectre vulnerabilities), which came more than one month after these nasty CPU vulnerabilities were disclosed while DragonFlyBSD was quickly mitigated and the first of the BSDs to do so. While OpenBSD is known for its security features and focus, only today did it land its initial Meltdown mitigation.

    • Meltdown fix committed by guenther@

      Meltdown mitigation is coming to OpenBSD. Philip Guenther (guenther@) has just committed a diff that implements a new mitigation technique to OpenBSD: Separation of page tables for kernel and userland. This fixes the Meltdown problems that affect most CPUs from Intel. Both Philip and Mike Larkin (mlarkin@) spent a lot of time implementing this solution, talking to various people from other projects on best approaches.

      In the commit message, Philip briefly describes the implementation [...]

  • FSF/FSFE/GNU/SFLC

  • Openness/Sharing/Collaboration

    • Earlham Institute releases open source software to help identify gene families

      Researchers at Earlham Institute (EI) have released ‘GeneSeqToFamily’, an open-source Galaxy workflow that helps scientists to find gene families based on the ‘EnsemblCompara GeneTrees’ pipeline.

      Published in Gigascience, the open source Galaxy workflow aims to make researchers job of finding find gene families much easier.

    • 3 reasons to say ‘no’ in DevOps

      DevOps, it has often been pointed out, is a culture that emphasizes mutual respect, cooperation, continual improvement, and aligning responsibility with authority.

      Instead of saying no, it may be helpful to take a hint from improv comedy and say, “Yes, and…” or “Yes, but…”. This opens the request from the binary nature of “yes” and “no” toward having a nuanced discussion around priority, capacity, and responsibility.

    • 5 rules for having genuine community relationships

      As I wrote in the first article of this three-part series on the power and importance of communities, building a community of passionate and committed members is difficult. When we launched the NethServer community, we realized early that to play the open source game, we needed to follow the open source rules. No shortcuts. We realized we had to convert the company in an open organization and start to work out in the open.

  • Programming/Development

    • Snips Uses Rust to Build an Embedded Voice Assistant

      The team at Paris-based Snips has created a voice assistant that can be embedded in a single device or used in a home network to control lights, thermostat, music, and more. You can build a home hub on a Raspberry Pi and ask it for a weather report, to play your favorite song, or to brew up a double espresso. Manufacturers like Keecker are adding Snips’ technology to products like multimedia home robots. And Snips works closely with leaders across the value chain, like NVIDIA, EBV, and Analog Devices, in order to voice-enable an increasingly wider range of device types, from speakers to home automation systems to cars.

    • Rust Typestates

      A long time ago, the Rust language was a language with typestate. Officially, typestates were dropped long before Rust 1.0. In this entry, I’ll get you in on the worst kept secret of the Rust community: Rust still has typestates.

    • It’s Time To Do CMake Right

      Not so long ago I got the task of rethinking our build system. The idea was to evaluate existing components, dependencies, but most importantly, to establish a superior design by making use of modern CMake features and paradigms. Most people I know would have avoided such enterprise at all costs, but there is something about writing find modules that makes my brain release endorphins. I thought I was up for an amusing ride. Boy was I wrong.

Leftovers

  • Nobody Wants to Let Google Win the War for Maps All Over Again

    Self-driving cars need painfully detailed data on every inch of street. Can automakers solve the problem without the reigning superpower of maps?

  • How hard can typing æ, ø and å be?

    Last week, I was trying to type an email, on a tablet, in Dutch. The tablet was running something close to Android and I was using a Bluetooth keyboard, which seemed to be configured correctly for my location in England.

  • Science

    • Some black holes erase your past

      In the real world, your past uniquely determines your future. If a physicist knows how the universe starts out, she can calculate its future for all time and all space.

      But a UC Berkeley mathematician has found some types of black holes in which this law breaks down. If someone were to venture into one of these relatively benign black holes, they could survive, but their past would be obliterated and they could have an infinite number of possible futures.

    • Genetic study suggests humans may be evolving in a way that prevents alcoholism

      A pair of researchers with the University of Pennsylvania has found evidence suggesting humans may be evolving in a way that will prevent alcoholism in the future. In their paper published in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution, Kelsey Elizabeth Johnson and Benjamin Voight describe their study which involved analyzing data from the 1000 Genomes Project looking for emerging gene variants and what they found.

  • Hardware

    • Hitachi chip unit embarks on first patent battle as buyout firm prepares to take the reins

      On 1st December last year, Hitachi Kokusai initiated its first patent litigation going back at least to 2009, when it became a subsidiary of the Hitachi Group. Hitachi Kokusai accused Dutch competitor ASM International of infringing seven US patents related to semiconductor manufacturing. On the same day, ASM’s IP holding subsidiary asserted three of its own patents against the Japanese company. Both cases were filed in the Northern District of California, and while it is unclear which party played the role of aggressor, the fact that the suits were filed one after another suggests the two parties were well prepared for conflict.

      [...]

      It is worth noting that other businesses have become more active in IP transactions and assertions after leaving the Hitachi stable. Maxell is the prime example. Formerly known as ‘Hitachi Maxell’, the company is asserting patents against seven major corporate defendants in the US, and has dealt patents to Fujifilm and NPE Microconnect in the past several months.

    • Qualcomm Raises Bid for NXP to $44 Billion

      Qualcomm Inc. pumped new life into its bid for NXP Semiconductors NV, raising its offer to $44 billion and locking up support from key stakeholders—a move Broadcom Ltd. had warned could prompt it to end its $121 billion pursuit of Qualcomm.

  • Health/Nutrition

    • Plundering the Planet: Coca-Cola And Nestlé To Privatize The Largest Reserve Of Water In South America

      Private companies such as Coca-Cola and Nestlé are allegedly in the process of privatizing the largest reserve of water, known as the Guarani Aquifer, in South America. The aquifer is located beneath the surface of Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay and is the second largest-known aquifer system in the world.

      Reported by Correiodo Brasil the major transnational conglomerates are “striding forward” with their negotiations to privatize the aquifer system. Meetings have already been reserved with authorities of the current government, such as Michel Temer, to outline procedures required for private companies to exploit the water sources. The concession contracts will last more than 100 years.

    • A Larger Role for Midwives Could Improve Deficient U.S. Care for Mothers and Babies

      In Great Britain, midwives deliver half of all babies, including Kate Middleton’s first two children, Prince George and Princess Charlotte. In Sweden, Norway and France, midwives oversee most expectant and new mothers, enabling obstetricians to concentrate on high-risk births. In Canada and New Zealand, midwives are so highly valued that they’re brought in to manage complex cases that need special attention.

      All of those countries have much lower rates of maternal and infant mortality than the U.S. Here, severe maternal complications have more than doubled in the past 20 years. Shortages of maternity care have reached critical levels: Nearly half of U.S. counties don’t have a single practicing obstetrician-gynecologist, and in rural areas, the number of hospitals offering obstetric services has fallen more than 16 percent since 2004. Nevertheless, thanks in part to opposition from doctors and hospitals, midwives are far less prevalent in the U.S. than in other affluent countries, attending around 10 percent of births, and the extent to which they can legally participate in patient care varies widely from one state to the next.

    • “We Count On The US To Maintain Its Commitment” – Global Fund On US Budget Cut

      The Trump administration proposal would dramatically reduce funding to these programs, some by more than 20 percent, while boosting areas like military spending, while pushing other governments to step up their funding commitments. The proposed reduction for Gavi from last year’s request is from $290 million to $250 million.

  • Security

    • Google drops new Edge zero-day as Microsoft misses 90-day deadline

      Google originally shared details of the flaw with Microsoft on 17 November 2017, but Microsoft wasn’t able to come up with a patch within Google’s non-negotiable “you have 90 days to do this” period.

    • Google Goes Public with Another Major Windows 10 Bug

      After revealing an Edge browser vulnerability that Microsoft failed to fix, Google is now back with another disclosure, this time aimed at Windows 10 Fall Creators Update (version 1709), but potentially affecting other Windows versions as well.

      James Forshaw, a security researcher that’s part of Google’s Project Zero program, says the elevation of privilege vulnerability can be exploited because of the way the operating system handles calls to Advanced Local Procedure Call (ALPC).

      This means a standard user could obtain administrator privileges on a Windows 10 computer, which in the case of an attack, could eventually lead to full control over the impacted system.

      But as Neowin noted, this is the second bug discovered in the same function, and both of them, labeled as 1427 and 1428, were reported to Microsoft on November 10, 2017. Microsoft said it fixed them with the release of the February 2018 Patch Tuesday updates, yet as it turns out, only issue 1427 was addressed.

    • uTorrent bugs let websites control your computer and steal your downloads

      The vulnerabilities, according to Project Zero, make it possible for any website a user visits to control key functions in both the uTorrent desktop app for Windows and in uTorrent Web, an alternative to desktop BitTorrent apps that uses a web interface and is controlled by a browser. The biggest threat is posed by malicious sites that could exploit the flaw to download malicious code into the Windows startup folder, where it will be automatically run the next time the computer boots up. Any site a user visits can also access downloaded files and browse download histories.

    • BitTorrent Client uTorrent Suffers Security Vulnerability (Updated)

      BitTorrent client uTorrent is suffering from an as yet undisclosed vulnerability. The security flaw was discovered by Google security researcher Tavis Ormandy, who previously said he would reveal a series of “remote code execution flaws” in torrent clients. BitTorrent Inc. has rolled out a ‘patch’ in the latest Beta release and hopes to fix the stable uTorrent client later this week.

    • Security updates for Thursday
    • Hackers now exploiting Word documents to display ‘innocent’ videos that secretly mine cryptocurrency

      Hackers have been found exploiting Microsoft Word documents to deliver cryptojacking scripts to hijack victims’ computers and secretly mine cryptocurrency. Security researchers at Israel-based Votiro said the attack abuses Microsoft Word’s Online Video feature that allows users to insert remote videos directly into documents without having to embed them or provide a link to a third-party service.

      Due to insufficient sanitisation, threat actors have been using this new feature to insert cryptojacking scripts that silently exhaust a victim’s CPU and mine Monero coins in the background while the video plays.

    • Lawsuits threaten infosec research — just when we need it most
    • Security and Vulnerability Scanning of Container Images
    • The TLS apocalypse reaches Power Macs and TenFourFox FPR6b1 available (plus: let’s block nuisance JavaScript)
    • France Proposes Software Security Liability For Manufacturers, Open Source As Support Ends

      It sometimes seems as though barely a week can go by without yet another major software-related hardware vulnerability story. As manufacturers grapple with the demands of no longer building simple appliances but instead supplying them containing software that may expose itself to the world over the Internet, we see devices shipped with insecure firmware and little care for its support or updating after the sale.

      The French government have a proposal to address this problem that may be of interest to our community, to make manufacturers liable for the security of a product while it is on the market, and with the possibility of requiring its software to be made open-source at end-of-life. In the first instance it can only be a good thing for device security to be put at the top of a manufacturer’s agenda, and in the second the ready availability of source code would present reverse engineers with a bonanza.

  • Defence/Aggression

    • ‘Abhorrent’ Hoax Facebook Posts Are Claiming the Florida School Shooting Survivors Are ‘Crisis Actors’

      Facebook said Wednesday that it will remove posts circulating on the social network wrongly claiming that survivors of last week’s deadly Florida school shooting are “crisis actors” working on behalf of a liberal agenda.

      “Hoax images that attack the victims of last week’s tragedy in Florida are abhorrent,” Tessa Lyons, a product manager at Facebook, said in a statement reported by CNET. “We are removing this content from Facebook.

    • Time to Admit the Afghan War is ‘Nonsense’

      Officially, the U.S. military objective in Afghanistan is to force the Taliban to the negotiating table, but just last month President Trump said that talks with the Taliban are off the table, indicating an incoherent policy, as Jonathan Marshall notes.

    • Next on NPR: Some Think You Should Put Out Fire With Gasoline

      If a measles epidemic were sweeping the nation, with a mounting death toll of children, it’s unlikely that NPR News would respond by bringing on Jenny McCarthy to explain why vaccination wouldn’t save lives. And if they did feature her or other anti-vaccination voices, you can be fairly sure that NPR would follow up with experts expressing the scientific consensus that vaccines do in fact limit the spread of infectious diseases.

      But when it came to reporting on the epidemic of mass shootings, All Things Considered (2/19/18) gave a platform to the gun debate’s equivalents of anti-vaxxers, in a segment that gave no scrutiny to their claim that more guns are the solution to gun violence.

      NPR quoted Rush Limbaugh on Fox News Sunday (2/18/18): “The solution, to me and I know this is going to cause all kinds of angst, the solution is we need concealed carry in these schools.” And Fox‘s Tucker Carlson (2/15/18): “Tragedies like this happen for a reason, and it probably doesn’t have a lot to do with guns.”

    • Painting an Israeli Attack on Syria as Israeli ‘Retaliation’

      Israel claimed that it intercepted an Iranian drone in Israeli airspace on Saturday, February 10; Iran denied that it had a drone there. Israel then bombed a Syrian airbase, saying it was the command-and-control center from which Iran had launched the drone. The Syrian government shot down an Israeli jet that had bombed the base, and Israel subsequently launched more airstrikes against Syria.

      Reuters (2/13/18) described the latter airstrikes as Israel having “retaliated” for the downing of its aircraft. Vice (2/13/18) too characterized them as “retaliatory”; the Los Angeles Times (2/11/18) did the same three times. These word choices wrongly imply that Israel was acting defensively, when it was Israel who fired the first shots in the weekend’s exchanges: These outlets were saying that Israel was “retaliating” against Syria for defending itself against an ongoing Israeli attack.

    • Video games, not guns, to blame for school shooting, says Kentucky gov.

      In the wake of a shooting that left at least 17 dead on Wednesday in a high school outside Boca Raton, Florida, Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin (R) focused on violent video games as part of a “culture of death that is being celebrated” and leading to these kinds of incidents.

      “There are video games that, yes, are listed for mature audiences, but kids play them and everybody knows it, and there’s nothing to prevent the child from playing them,” Bevin said in an interview on WHAS’ Leland Conway show Thursday morning. “They celebrate the slaughtering of people. There are games that literally replicate and give people the ability to score points for doing the very same thing that these students are doing inside of schools, where you get extra points for finishing someone off who’s lying there begging for their life.”

    • Right On Time: Kentucky Governor Lays The Blame For Florida School Shooting At The Feet Of Video Games

      In the wake of the school shooting tragedy in Florida that saw 17 people slain and more injured, the following days have played out in a depressingly familiar fashion. It’s somewhat stunning to see such bloodshed result in the predictable retreat by most people to the defensive or offensive ground of their cause du jour. What should be immediately obvious to anyone seriously examining something like the mass murder of school children and teachers is that the reality that surrounds such an event is messy, complicated, and influenced by detail. Yet, as is our wont, entirely too many people decide that the solution to the mass shooting puzzle is made up of one or two pieces, rather than hundreds and thousands. It’s guns. It’s specific types of guns. It’s mental health. It’s rap music, or the waltz, or comic books. It’s one of these things that deserve our ire, or maybe two if we’re feeling generous.

    • My First Day as CIA Director

      Binney and other highly experienced NSA alumni, as well as other members of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS), drawing on their intimate familiarity with how the technical systems and hacking work, have been saying for a year and a half that this CIA/FBI/NSA conclusion is a red herring, so to speak. Last summer, the results of forensic investigation enabled VIPS to apply the principles of physics and the known capacity of the internet to confirm that conclusion.

      Oddly, the FBI chose not to do forensics on the so-called “Russian hack” of the Democratic National Committee computers and, by all appearances, neither did the drafters of the ICA.

      Again, Binney says that the main conclusions he and his VIPS colleagues reached are based largely on principles of physics – simple ones like fluid dynamics. I want to hear what that’s all about, how that applies to the “Russian hack,” and hear what my own CIA analysts have to say about that.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • Debt for dolphins: Seychelles creates huge marine parks in world-first finance scheme

      The tropical island nation of Seychelles is to create two huge new marine parks in return for a large amount of its national debt being written off, in the first scheme of its kind in the world.

      The novel financial engineering, effectively swapping debt for dolphins and other marine life, aims to throw a lifeline to corals, tuna and turtles being caught in a storm of overfishing and climate change. If it works, it will also secure the economic future of the nation, which depends entirely on tourism and fishing. With other ocean states lining up to follow, the approach could transform large swaths of the planet’s troubled seas.

      The challenge for the Seychelles is clear on the coral reef fringing Curieuse Island, once a leper colony and now a national park. The mass bleaching caused by warming waters in 2016 has left the white limbs of branching corals lying like bones in a ploughed graveyard, with rare flashes of the cobalt-blue coral survivors.

      “The biggest changes are climate change,” says David Rowat, a marine scientist and diving school owner for 30 years, who says storms and bleaching events are becoming more frequent. Some clownfish have never returned since the major bleaching in 1998, he says: “The ‘nemos’ all went.” As the reef recovered, the 2016 bleaching was a “kick in the teeth”, Rowat says.

    • New rebellion against wind energy stalls or stops projects

      Much of the opposition is centered in the Midwest, which has the nation’s greatest concentration of turbines. Opponents have banded together to block wind projects in at least half a dozen states, including Nebraska, South Dakota, Indiana and Michigan. Disputes are still being waged in Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois and Maryland. Intense opposition also exists in parts of the Northeast, including Maine, New York and Vermont.

      For many critics, their opposition starts with a simple disdain for the metal towers that support blades half the length of a football field. They want the views from their kitchen window or deck to be of farmland or hills, not giant wind-harnessing machinery.

      [...]

      Some wind supporters believe that fossil-fuel industries help fund organizations that oppose wind developments. Studies and claims by those groups then can motivate grassroots groups, said David Anderson, a policy manager with the New Hampshire-based Energy and Policy Institute, which supports renewable energy options.

  • Finance

    • Special Investigation: The Dirty Secret Behind Warren Buffett’s Billions

      Buffett makes no secret of his fondness for monopoly. He repeatedly highlights the key to his personal fortune: finding businesses surrounded by a monopoly moat, keeping competitors at bay. “[W]e think in terms of that moat and the ability to keep its width and its impossibility of being crossed,” Buffett told the annual Berkshire Hathaway meeting in 2000. “We tell our managers we want the moat widened every year.”

    • CBA avoids talk of customers leaving bank due to Apple Pay

      The Commonwealth Bank appears to be unwilling to in any way talk about the possibility that the lack of Apple Pay on its platforms may lead to customers deserting the bank in favour of one that does offer the payment option.

    • Yale student who secretly lived in ventilation shaft
    • Stormzy to Theresa May: Where’s the money for Grenfell?

      A British artist has taken Prime Minister Theresa May to task, rapping about the government’s failure to provide support to the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire.

      After Stormzy’s 40-second verse on stage at the 2018 Brit music awards on Wednesday evening won him praise, Number 10 defended its record over the deadly London blaze in June, 2017, in which at least 71 people died.

      In his lyric, Stormzy said: “Yo, Theresa May where’s the money for Grenfell? What, you thought we just forgot about Grenfell? You criminals, and you got the cheek to call us savages? You should do some jail time, you should pay some damages. You should burn your house down and see if you can manage this.”

    • Bitcoins for free? Japanese cryptocurrency exchange lands in hot water again

      A blunder at a Japanese cryptocurrency exchange let investors briefly buy bitcoins for free – though none were able to profit from the mistake.

      Zaif, a government-registered exchange run by Osaka-based Tech Bureau Corp, said on Tuesday that a system glitch had let seven customers buy bitcoin with no yen value during a 20-minute window last week.

    • Policy Choices, Not ‘the Market,’ Produce a ‘Small Number of Very Wealthy People’

      It is amazing how frequently we hear people asserting that the massive inequality we are now seeing in the United States is the result of an unfettered market. I realize that this is a convenient view for those who are on the upside of things, but it also happens to be nonsense.

      The latest nonsense-pusher is Amy Chua, who warns in a New York Times column (2/20/18) about the destructive path the United States is now on, where a disaffected white population takes out its wrath on economic elites and racial minorities. The key part missing from the story is that the disaffected masses really do have a legitimate gripe.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • Russian man arrested after speaking about work at ‘[astroturfer] farm’

      A Russian man said Tuesday he was arrested shortly after he spoke to U.S. media outlets about his time working at a “[astroturfer] factory.”

      Marat Mindiyarov told The Moscow Times he was detained by police Sunday night for allegedly making a false phone call about a bomb in a nearby village. He was released after questioning, and denies all charges against him, he told the newspaper.

      Mindiyarov spoke to The Washington Post and The Associated Press after the U.S. Department of Justice announced charges against 13 Russian nationals and three Russian organizations for allegedly attempting to interfere in the 2016 election.

    • Former ‘Kremlin [Astroturfer]‘ Arrested After Speaking to Western Journalists

      Before his arrest, Mindiyarov had given several interviews to U.S. outlets about his role as an employee at the Internet Research Agency, a company allegedly financed by Kremlin-linked businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin, who was named in Mueller’s indictment on Friday.

    • Kushner resisting giving up top access amid scrutiny over security clearances: report
    • How Much Did Russian Interference Affect The 2016 Election?
    • Pennsylvania’s New Map Helps Democrats. But It’s Not A Democratic Gerrymander.

      Earlier this year, FiveThirtyEight presented seven alternatives to the current congressional maps of Pennsylvania and every other state, each using a different set of criteria. (One prioritized creating competitive districts, for example; another tried to maximize the number of majority-minority districts.) In addition to estimating the electoral implications of each map, we used other measurements to compare them. The goal was to show how different priorities in drawing district lines are sometimes in tension, and you can see that in the new Pennsylvania map.

    • Pennsylvania Democrats set to win big with new district map

      The state Supreme Court struck down the current lines in January, arguing that they’re an unconstitutional creation of partisan gerrymandering. Under the current map, Democrats hold just five of the 18 congressional seats, even though Democrats regularly perform well in statewide elections.

    • The Geeks Who Put a Stop to Pennsylvania’s Partisan Gerrymandering

      Districts like Pennsylvania’s seventh don’t get drawn that way by accident. They’re designed by dint of the centuries-old practice of gerrymandering, in which the party in power carves up the electoral map to their favor. The playbook is simple: Concentrate as many of your opponents’ votes into a handful of districts as you can, a tactic known as “packing.” Then spread the remainder of those votes thinly across a whole lot of districts, known as “cracking.” If it works as intended, the opposition will win a few districts by a landslide, but never have enough votes in the rest to win the majority of seats. The age of computer-generated data splicing has made this strategy easier than ever.

    • Indonesian President Jokowi puts off signing law protecting Parliament
    • Philippines concerned as US intelligence tags Duterte a threat to democracy
    • A So-Called Expert’s Uneasy Dive Into the Trump-Russia Frenzy

      Whenever the Internet Research Agency is in the news, I get a sinking feeling in my stomach. I was one of the first U.S. journalists to report extensively on the St. Petersburg-based “troll farm,” which was named in the indictment that Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election, issued last Friday. As a result, I am often portrayed as an expert on the Internet Research Agency and Russian online propaganda. In this, I am not alone. The endless unfurling of the Trump-Russia story has occasioned an explosion in the number of experts in “information warfare,” “online influence operations,” “disinformation,” and the like. One reason for this is that the Russians’ efforts tend to be framed as a kind of giant machine, in which talking points generated by the Kremlin are “amplified” through a network of bots, fake Facebook pages, and sympathetic human influencers. The machine, we are told, is so sophisticated that only an expert, well-versed in terms such as “exposure,” “feedback loops,” and “active measures,” can peer into the black box and explain to the layperson how it works.

      The thing is, I don’t really want to be an expert on the Internet Research Agency and Russian online propaganda. I agree with my colleague Masha Gessen that the whole issue has been blown out of proportion. In the Times Magazine article that supposedly made me an authority, I detailed some of the Agency’s disturbing activities, including its attempts to spread false reports of a terrorist attack in Louisiana and to smear me as a neo-Nazi sympathizer. But, if I could do it all over again, I would have highlighted just how inept and haphazard those attempts were. That the Agency is now widely seen as a savvy, efficient manipulator of American public opinion is, in no small part, the fault of experts. They may derive their authority from perceived neutrality, but in reality they—we—have interests, just like everyone else. And, when it comes to the Trump-Russia story, those interests are often best served by fuelling the fear of Kremlin meddling. Information-security consultants might see a business opportunity in drawing attention to a problem to which they (for a fee) can offer a solution. Think-tank fellows may seek to burnish their credentials by appearing in news articles—articles written by journalists who, we all know, face many different kinds of pressures to promote sensational claims. (How viral is the headline “Russian Internet Propaganda Not That Big a Deal”?) Even academic researchers, to secure funding, must sometimes chase the latest trends.

  • Censorship/Free Speech

  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • Man removes feds’ spy cam, they demand it back, he refuses and sues

      Last November, a 74-year-old rancher and attorney was walking around his ranch just south of Encinal, Texas, when he happened upon a small portable camera strapped approximately eight feet high onto a mesquite tree near his son’s home. The camera was encased in green plastic and had a transmitting antenna.

      Not knowing what it was or how it got there, Ricardo Palacios removed it.

      Soon after, Palacios received phone calls from Customs and Border Protection officials and the Texas Rangers. Each agency claimed the camera as its own and demanded that it be returned. Palacios refused, and they threatened him with arrest.

    • A smarter smart city

      An ambitious project by Alphabet subsidiary Sidewalk Labs could reshape how we live, work, and play in urban neighborhoods.

    • Facebook has been sharing our data for months to help study income inequality

      It is not clear exactly what data Facebook has made available to Chetty and his researchers or how personal and private information would be protected. The study has apparently been already underway for at least six months, however.

    • This heated jacket uses AI, Alexa, and other buzzwords to keep you perfectly snug

      If you consider the wintertime need to wear a heavy jacket into a warm subway car a “major wardrobe problem,” Ministry of Supply has a solution for you.

      The Boston-based clothing company, known for experimenting with technology, has just launched a Kickstarter for its newest creation, the Mercury smart thermal jacket. It’s an internet-of-things-enabled, heated jacket that’s controlled by an app, syncs with Alexa, and customizes its temperature using machine learning.

      That’s an awful lot of buzzwords. But underneath it all is a genuinely intriguing product.

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • Polish justice ministry refuses to show code for assigning judges

      Poland’s Ministry of Justice is refusing to make public the computer algorithms that are used to randomly assign judges to cases. The ePaństwo Foundation, an NGO promoting open government, in December asked the Warswaw Regional Administrative Court to intervene.

    • Holocaust hero Raoul Wallenberg’s family denied appeal to open his files

      They specifically want to know if Wallenberg was “Prisoner number 7” who according to records was interrogated on July 23rd, 1947 – six days after Wallenberg’s alleged death.

    • How Mediocrity Can Quietly Destroy Us All

      How much money would it take to convince you to become evil? A thousand dollars? Two thousand?

      Surprise! It’s a trick question. In reality, nobody is going to even make you the offer. The evil in the world doesn’t need you to join its side at all — it needs only for you to succumb to a warm, dense fog that will descend upon you at some point in adulthood.

      That fog is called Mediocrity

    • Inspector General For Intelligence Community Buried Report Showing Whistleblower Retaliation

      A report by Kevin Poulsen for The Daily Beast shows, once again, that those suggesting Ed Snowden should have used the proper channels to voice his concerns about domestic surveillance are either ignorant or deliberately obtuse.

      Just prior to the Snowden leaks, President Obama enacted Presidential Policy Directive 19, which was supposed to prevent retaliation for whistleblowing. It was issued in 2012 and went into force just months before Snowden left the NSA with a trove of documents. However, it did not protect contractors like Snowden. Those protections were added by Congress years later. Not that it really matters. It has been well established those protections are mostly worthless.

      Over the past year, there’s been a concerted effort to oust Dan Meyer — the person Intelligence Community whistleblowers are supposed to take their complaints to. Meyer filed his own whistleblowing complaint against the Defense Department, claiming IC officials retaliated against him for exposing waste and misuse of funds. Those gunning for top-level positions in Trump’s Intelligence Community have histories of retaliatory behavior against whistleblowers, which would further cement the reputation of the “official channels” as a good way to jettison your career.

    • Research Paper Links Police Unions To Increased Officer Misconduct

      Some research [PDF] has emerged indicating handing officers extra rights results in more citizen complaints. This may seem to be of the “water is wet” research variety, but there’s no reason to shrug this off. While most of us can infer that shielding officers from the consequences of their actions would naturally result in increased misconduct, almost all evidence to date has been anecdotal. (h/t Marginal Revolution)

      University of Chicago researchers were given the perfect chance to weigh the addition of a collective bargaining agreement against year-to-year complaint totals. Thanks to a 2003 Florida state supreme court decision, Florida sheriff’s deputies were allowed to unionize, finally joining their police department counterparts. This gave the researchers a dividing line for a before and after comparison. The results were unsurprising.

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality

    • Mozilla v FCC: Mozilla Re-files Suit Against FCC to Protect Net Neutrality

      This morning, the Federal Communications Commission officially published its order overturning net neutrality rules in the Federal Register. We had originally filed suit early while simultaneously urging the court that the correct date was after this publication. We did this in an abundance of caution because we’re not taking any chances with an issue of this importance. That is why today, immediately after the order was published, Mozilla re-filed our suit challenging the FCC net neutrality order. We won’t waste a minute in our fight to protect net neutrality because it’s our mission to ensure the internet is a global public resource, open and accessible to all. An internet that truly puts people first, where individuals can shape their own experience and are empowered, safe and independent.

    • The Death Of Net Neutrality Will Be Official In April (Cue The Lawsuits)

      Of course that’s really just the beginning of an entirely new chapter in the fight to prevent broadband monopolies from abusing a lack of competition in the broadband space (remember: net neutrality violations are just a symptom of a lack of competition, a problem nobody wants to seriously address for fear of upsetting campaign contributors).

      The publication in the Federal Register opens the door to the myriad lawsuits that will be filed against the agency. Those lawsuits range from suits by Mozilla and consumer groups, to the 22 state attorneys general who say they’re also suing the agency for ignoring the public interest. These lawsuits must be filed within the next 60 days. Expect the court battle to quickly begin heating up in March.

    • Ajit Pai’s Plan Will Take Broadband Away From Poor People

      It gets worse. Pai proposes to make the Lifeline subsidy available only to those companies that own their facilities, like the wires, towers, and other infrastructure that make up networks. The problem here? Seventy-five percent of Lifeline customers get their service from businesses that resell the capacity of companies like Sprint and T-Mobile. When the FCC opened the Lifeline subsidy to mobile phones back in 2008, these resellers came roaring into the market, increasing competition and reducing prices so that many subscribers pay little or nothing for service. Eliminating the carriers favored by three-quarters of the market will ensure that Lifeline prices will increase and quality of service will decrease.

      If resellers are forced out of the Lifeline program, some low-income Americans may find themselves unable to use their Lifeline subsidy at all. This result could have dire consequences—some Lifeline customers may find themselves without access to critical services like 911.

    • The FCC’s net neutrality rules will officially expire in late April

      The FCC voted to repeal the rules on December 14, but the repeal takes effect 60 days after it is published in the Federal Register. The Federal Register publication is scheduled to happen on Thursday this week.

      That means the repeal will take place on or about April 23. But the lawsuits to overturn the repeal can get started this month or in early March.

    • FCC to officially rescind net neutrality rules on Thursday

      The official publication of the measure, which was first reported by Reuters, in the Federal Register will start the clock on the 60-day window that Congress has to pass a resolution reversing the FCC’s order to get rid of net neutrality rules.

  • DRM

    • Since 1998, using your own property has required regulatory permission and the ability to make your own jailbreaking tools from scratch

      In Did Congress Really Expect Us to Whittle Our Own Personal Jailbreaking Tools? — a new post on EFF’s Deeplinks blog — I describe the bizarre, unfair and increasingly salient US Copyright Office DMCA exemptions process, which is underway right now.

      This process takes place every 3 years, and it allows Americans to beg the Librarian of Congress for permission to disable the DRM on their own property in order to do legal things (like install apps of their own choosing, effect their own repairs, or just use third-party ink in their printers). After a long and tortured process, the Librarian may grant you permission — but not permission to buy or collaborate on the tools necessary to make that use.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • Copyrights

      • Disney’s Stupid Lawsuit Against Redbox Results In Judge Saying Disney Is Engaged In Copyright Misuse

        Well, well. For the past few months I’ve been meaning to write about Disney’s silly lawsuit against Redbox, but other stuff kept coming up, and now a judge has ruled against Disney and said that Disney appears to be engaged in copyright misuse. This is in a case that Disney brought — and it appears to be backfiring badly. Redbox, as you probably know, has kiosks where you can rent DVDs relatively cheaply. It’s managed to stay alive despite the traditional DVD rental business disappearing most everywhere else. About a decade ago, Hollywood fought vigorously against Redbox, but the company survived (though being taken over by a private equity firm in 2016), relying heavily on first sale rights, enabling it to legally purchase DVDs and then rent them out.

        Back in December, however, Disney sued Redbox over taking its business to the next level and including download codes that could be purchased at a Redbox kiosk. Though it took them basically forever, Hollywood studios have finally realized that offering online access with the purchase of movies is a good idea, but they only want the end consumer who is buying a DVD to get access to them. So, Redbox would buy the Disney “Combo Packs” that offered the DVD and a download code, and the would offer the paper codes in kiosks to let renters watch the movie online. They weren’t just copying the code and letting anyone use it — it was still a one-to-one limitation with the purchase in that they would buy the DVD with a paper code on it, and then stuff that paper code into their kiosk delivery pods. Disney argued that this was contributory copyright infringement, even though the code pointed to a legitimate/authorized version of the movie and was legitimately purchased.

        Redbox hit back by arguing that the First Sale doctrine protected it (as it did with the physical rentals) and that it is free to use the codes in this manner as the legal purchaser. Disney’s response to that was that First Sale does not apply to the download code because it’s not the copyright-covered work.

      • The Case Against the Bell Coalition’s Website Blocking Plan, Part 8: The Ineffectiveness of Website Blocking

        The Bell website blocking coalition unsurprisingly argues that blocking “regimes have been widely adopted internationally because they have been proven to work.” The submission cites data from several countries including the UK, Portugal, and South Korea. As demonstrated last week, the Bell coalition proposal has not been widely adopted internationally. In fact, the overwhelming majority of countries have rejected approaches that do not include court orders. Moreover, a closer look at the data reveals that website blocking is far less effective than its proponents claim.

      • Court Realizes It Totally Screwed Up An Injunction Against Zazzle For Copyright Infringement

        Last year we wrote about a bizarre and troubling DMCA case involving the print-on-demand company Zazzle, in which the judge in the district court bizarrely and wrongly claimed that Zazzle lost its DMCA safe harbors because the allegedly infringing works were printed on a t-shirt, rather than remaining digitally (even though it was the end user using the infringing work, and Zazzle’s system just processed it automatically). To add insult to injury, in November, the judge then issued a permanent injunction against Zazzle for this infringement.

      • EU Publishers Acknowledge Snippet Tax Concerns, But Say: ‘It’s OK, You Can Trust Us’

        Techdirt has been following the ridiculous proposal to extend EU copyright even further to include tiny snippets from articles for years now. The idea has already been tried twice in the European Union, and failed dismally on both occasions. In Spain, a study showed the move there caused serious economic damage, especially to smaller companies; German publishers tacitly admitted the law was pointless when they granted Google a free license to use snippets from their titles. More recently, the European Commission’s own research confirmed that far from harming publishers, news aggregators have a positive impact on the industry’s advertising revenue.

      • Australian Pirate Site Blocks Actually Block Pirate Sites

        New research, promoted by copyright holders, concludes that Australia’s pirate site-blocking efforts are paying off. The court-ordered blockades have effectively limited the number of direct visits to blocked sites. Whether the effect is as pronounced as claimed is unclear though, in part because VPN usage is not accounted for.

      • Sci-Hub Loses Domains and Access to Some Web Services

        Although some users have reported issues with Sci-Hub’s currently available domains on social media, a number of them are still active and accessible. “Sci-Hubs’ popularity has been steadily growing. And this is not only despite these lawsuits but also because of them,” Tzovaras writes. “I think if the publishers want to fight back against Sci-Hub they will have to do so outside the courtroom.”

      • Copyright Trolls Target Up to 22,000 Norwegians for Movie Piracy

        The Oslo District Court has effectively given a Danish law firm the go-ahead to target up to 21,804 potential pirates with cash settlement demands. Njord Law ran into trouble at the Supreme Court last year when it was found that its evidence against alleged pirates failed to show serious levels of infringement. This time around it has clearly learned from its earlier experiences.

        [...]

        Reports emerged of letters being sent out to local Internet users by Danish law firm Njord Law, each demanding a cash payment of 2,700 NOK (around US$345). Failure to comply, the company claimed, could result in a court case and damages of around $12,000.

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