Bonum Certa Men Certa

Links 7/2/2011: FOSDEM 2011 Closing, GNOME 3 Test Day

GNOME bluefish



  • Audiocasts/Shows

    • # Going Linux: Feb 05: #128 - Listener Feedback
      Android, Ubuntu, Slackware, Mint, Puppy... we talk about them all in this episode. Tom tries some cool new stuff. The pragmatic Larry returns... and rants again. (Well, a mini-rant.) We discuss video issues, wireless issues, gPodder/iPod issues, and much, much more. Two cool software picks and two cool Linux events. Listen to get 40% off your registration for the Southern California Linux Expo (SCALE 9X) Larry will be speaking. Listen to the end to get a 40% discount off of your registration. Below is a link to the details of his talk.

  • Kernel Space

    • Graphics Stack

      • Yet Another VIA Linux Driver Has Arrived
        VIA's small Linux development community is badly fragmented; there is yet another group of developers creating their own VIA driver. I wish it was a joke, seeing as there are already a number of drivers for the same VIA chipsets and none of them are feature complete or in really great condition, but a new driver has been released. This time the new driver comes from the OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) crew and it's just being dubbed xf86-video-chrome. Not only though is there yet another X.Org driver, but it's bringing its own kernel DRM.

  • Applications

  • Desktop Environments

    • FOSDEM 2011 Group Picture
      Here's this year's crossdesktop group picture of FOSDEM, featuring all your favourite developers that attended FOSDEM (and me)! \o/

    • K Desktop Environment/KDE SC)

      • KWin and the unmanageable combinations of drivers
        This week I once more noticed the biggest problem of KWin development: the differences between the multiple drivers. Since Monday KWin uses a new OpenGL 2 based coding path as default. The code was mostly written on one of my systems with the nouveau driver and regression testing was mostly done on my second system using fglrx which only supports the "legacy" old coding path by default but can be forced to the new one (but too slow for productive usage).

        Around Wednesday notmart reported that the code is broken on NVIDIA proprietary driver. As I had developed on nouveau I had not tested with the blob. So I had to switch the driver again and could confirm the regression (after fixing: it was clearly our bug and not NVIDIA’s). The regression occurred in a code path which seems to be only executed with the NVIDIA blob. It took me hours to figure out what is causing the bug and how to fix it. And it illustrates the big problem in KWin development: without an NVIDIA card and the driver I would not have been able to fix it and I doubt that anyone not knowing the code would have been able to fix it.

    • GNOME Desktop

      • Cairo Dock 2.3 Gets Zeitgeist Integration (Sezen-Like Applet)
        Cairo Dock 2.3 (currently in beta) got a cool new feature that lets you easily browse recent files such as documents, audio and video files, websites and so on thanks to Zeitgeist. The new applet also has a search and looks a lot like Sezen.

      • GNOME 3 Test Day
        On Wednesday evening, Fedora Desktop hackers were frantically building GNOME 2.91.6 into rawhide, including a number of rebuilds against newer versions of GTK+, and beta testing Live CD images to make sure they were usable.

        On Thursday morning (European time), ISO images were being uploaded by the our favourite QA insomniac. Quite a few people came to test the Live CD, and many bugs were filed.

  • Distributions

    • Reviews

      • Distro Hoppin`: iGolaware Linux 2.0
        There are some OSes out there that make you feel like /home right from the Live environment. I feel obliged to inform you that, for me, iGolaware is one of those and if I will seem a bit biased towards it, you'll know why. :D I'll try not to, but hey, just in case, there's my disclaimer. It's the first time I've heard about this distribution so I had zero expectations. OK, I'm lying, I was expecting a sloppy remix of Ubuntu, a distro that was simply made out of boredom and had no future ahead of it. But surprise, surprise, iGolaware is quite a serious project included in the portfolio of quite a serious IT consulting/solutions-provider startup in Netherlands.


        It sure does! It even makes ME purr! Look, at the end of the day, it's still an Ubuntu-based distro so most of the credit should go to Ubuntu or even Debian, but iGolaware's developers did such a wonderful job of customizing the OS for home/office use that I can't help recommending it to any computer user, be they experienced or total newbies.

    • Debian Family

      • Diskless Debian GNU/kFreeBSD HOWTO
        It was completely non-obvious; In some cases I had to figure it out by reading kFreeBSD source code; I write it down here so it’s not forgotten ;-)

      • Debian6.0 Squeeze is released! With Screenshots Tour

      • Congratulations Debian!

      • The new Debian Linux: Irrelevant?
        True, more and more companies are open-sourcing their drivers, such as Broadcom, the Wi-Fi device original equipment manufacturers (OEM). The real driver for this hasn’t been free software fans demanding drivers, but Linux-friendly OEMs like Dell demanding open-source drivers.

        By doing this, all Debian is doing with this move is satisfying its existing free software base and alienating possible new users. In a similar vein, Debian is continuing the farce of using Iceweasel 3.5.16, an unbranded version of Firefox, and Icedove 3.0.11, an unbranded version of Thunderbird because Mozilla, Firefox and Thunderbird’s parent organization, won’t let Debian, or its users. muck with these programs trademarked names and logos.

      • Canonical/Ubuntu

        • Designing Ubuntu
          When I joined Canonical back in 2006 as the Ubuntu community manager, the focus was simple: to deliver the latest and greatest open source software in a simple and integrated fashion.

          To achieve this, we made sure Ubuntu came with a large number of upstream projects. Some were underlying tools, such as the Linux kernel and the X display server, and some more user-facing, such as the Gnome platform and its suite of applications.

          The Ubuntu team always had its nose to the ground looking for the next big thing that it could bring to users, often investing in pieces of development that would satisfy needs that weren't yet met. One example was the Jockey tool, which helps you install additional drivers if your hardware needs them.

          Back in 2008, Mark Shuttleworth called me over to his desk to share some thoughts about something he referred to as "awesome attention management". Around that time, Matthew Paul Thomas, a well-respected user-interface design specialist, had been working on a new project with him.

        • Ubuntu One: Ubuntu's cloud platform and its benefits explained
          The money behind the world's slickest Linux distribution has to come from somewhere, and increasingly that's Canonical's online platform: Ubuntu One. But what's in it for you?

          If there's one thing that now sets Ubuntu apart from other Linux distributions, it's not that it has a strong emphasis on desktop ease of use, or even that it's garnered such a large following. It's that Canonical is trying to find ways to turn a completely free desktop operating system into a profitable enterprise. Other companies leverage Linux for profit too - Red Hat and Novell come to mind - but they do so by selling support to corporate clients. No-one has really tried to monetise the desktop.

        • Flavours and Variants

          • Kubuntu 11.04 Alpha 2 released
            It may not be getting Unity nor the attention its purple/orange brother is receiving, but that doesn’t mean nothing interesting is happening with Kubuntu.


            As we covered gracefully before, KDE 4.6 was release bringing with it improvements to the Plasma workspaces and to a basket full of applications.

  • Devices/Embedded

    • Phones

      • Android

        • Android App To Send / Receive SMS Messages (And More) Using Your Computer: AndroidPC [Linux, Windows, Mac]

        • Super Cool Android 3.0 Powered Motorola XOOM Video Ad
          If this is not futuristic, what is? Watch this absolutely stunning advertisement featuring all new Android 3.0 "Honeycomb" powered Motorola XOOM tablet.

        • Honeycomb promises to hot up tablet PC race
          Earlier this week, Google unveiled its Android 3.0 operating system code-named ‘Honeycomb.' It has since received positive buzz across online geek forums for what many see as the open source operating system that will help Android Tablet PCs challenge Apple's iPad, the undisputed market leader now, which runs on its proprietary operating system.


          Huge leap

          The predominant verdict is that not only has Honeycomb been a huge leap over the previous versions of Android OS, which, to be fair, have been designed for smartphones running on much lower specifications. It also comes across as a good introduction to the Android ecosystem, in ease of use. It also supports multi-tasking, among many other new experiences.

Free Software/Open Source

  • F-O-S-S Explained
    3. Free and Open-Source Software : When a software combines the above two features, the same can be said to fall under the category of FOSS. Wikipedia : Its a software that is liberally licensed to grant the right of users to use, study, change, and improve its design through the availability of its source code.

    So, on the closing note a free software is more about “freedom” rather than zero-price.

  • Events

  • Web Browsers

    • Nice browser, but that name …
      That’s xxxterm, and before you go all wide-eyed and start thinking this application is intended to appeal to your biological urges, I can assure you it’s very legit. (Unless you tell it to do otherwise.)

    • Chrome

      • Chrome 9 on Linux
        In the course of my real work, I've had the opportunity to try out various combinations of Linux and Chrome on some of my lab systems, just to see how it all works together. I've installed Chrome on two versions of Linux; RHEL 6 and Fedora 14.

        Chrome was installed on RHEL 6 using the bog-standard Google-supplied RPM. I originally installed Chrome version 8 in this manner. What I noticed and certainly appreciated about Chrome on RHEL 6 is that Chrome 'inserted' itself into the regular software update structure of RHEL 6. Now, every time a new release is pushed out, the update icon lights up on the panel, and when I click on it, Chrome updates are installed just like they are under Windows. The installation under Fedora 14 is through the regular repositories, and updates come along with all the other Fedora updates. Again, smooth, simple, and clean.

    • Mozilla

      • Migrating HBase: In the Trenches
        We recently had a situation where we needed to copy a lot of HBase data while migrating from our old datacenter to our new one. The old cluster was running Cloudera’s CDH2 with HBase 0.20.6 and the new one is running CDH3b3. Usually I would use Hadoop’s distcp utility for such a job. As it turned out we were unable to use distcp while HBase was still running on the source cluster. Part of the reason for this is that the HFTP will throw XML errors due to HBase modifying files (particularly the case if HBase removes a directory). And to transfer our entire dataset at the time was going to take well over a day. This presented a serious problem because we couldn’t accept that kind of downtime. We were also about 75% full in the source cluster so doing HBase export was out as well. Thus I created a utility called Backup.

      • Firefox 4 Beta 12 Builds Released. Are We There Yet?
        The original plan called for seven betas. Then it was extended to nine and we are currently close to Beta 12. It may not be the last beta. Mozilla, are we there yet?

  • Business

    • Free Software, Paid Support
      I have always found the free software approach to be instructive. There are many forms of creative expression out there and most of them involve a paid model. But there is a very vibrant community of software developers that build things and then make them available to anyone who want to use them for free. The key is that they don't offer any ongoing support or maintenance.


    • Antifeatures at the Free Technology Academy
      In addition to lecturing for two courses at MIT this term, I recently had the pleasure of giving a lecture on antifeatures at the Free Technology Academy -- a program which offers Masters courses over the Internet. Quite a few of the FTA courses are about free software, free knowledge, and related topics!

    • Software freedom crusader Richard Stallman on European tour
      Dr Richard Stallman, the global crusader for the freedoms of computer users, will be embarking on a lecture tour during February and March.

      Organised and supported by the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), the tour will include nine lectures across Britain, and in Amsterdam, Brussels and Paris.

      Dr Richard Stallman said: "With software there are two cases: either the users control the program or the program controls the users. The first is free software, and the other is proprietary software."

  • Government

    • Affirmative action in procurement for open standards and FLOSS
      The Dutch action plan Netherlands Open in Connection intends to give a direction for public sector buyers to adopt a positive policy and strategy towards open standards and Free and open source software. This policy seems to indicate a preferred position on open source products, however it actually gives no guarantee that providers of free and open source software will get the opportunity to make an offer. First there should be a so called 'level playing field' for the suppliers. In an empirical study carried out between January and June 2010 the following question is answered: does European procurement law give a fair chance to vendors of FLOSS software? This study shows that despite of the desired affirmative action for open source products, in almost half (47.5%) of the tenders there is still a preference for closed source vendors or products. This preference inevitably results in not giving vendors of FLOSS software a fair chance to win the bid.

    • EU institutes' vendor lock-in no example to other administrations
      The European institutions' use of proprietary office applications and proprietary document formats is keeping others in the EU from increasing their use of open source software, according to public administrations in Finland, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom.

      "There still is not the 'big name' weight of some EU institution that would really shake the civil service out of their conservative viewpoint", says Mark Wright, city councillor for the Bristol in the United Kingdom.

      The lack of a role-model is a serious problem for municipalities, says Rüdiger Czieschla, head of IT at the German city of Freiburg. "The EU's attitude is not a shining example to lower administrations like us. We are left alone by the EU and by national agencies, and this weakens open source initiatives."

  • Openness/Sharing

    • Editor-to-Reader Ratios on Wikipedia
      It's been reported for some time now that the number of active editors on Wikipedia (usually defined as people who have edited at least 5 times in a given month) peaked in 2007 and has been mostly stable since then. A graph of the total number of active editors in every month since Wikipedia's founding is shown below. The graph shows the aggregate numbers for all language Wikipedias. English Wikipedia is the largest component of this and is generally more variable. That said, very similar patterns exist for most larger languages.

    • Rentalship Is The New Ownership in the Networked Age
      Now that collaborative spirit is spreading to all sorts of other industries as ubiquitous internet connections bring us together in creative new ways. The peer-to-peer model has lately moved from auction houses and online classifieds to car-sharing, jewelery lending, even online banking — and each time it’s cutting out a traditional incumbent.


  • India On Verge of ''Cultural Ecocide' Says Scholar
    Sheldon Pollock, a renowned scholar of Sanskrit and Indian literary history, warned that in literary terms, India is on the verge of becoming a country as brand-new as America. He gave the keynote speech opening the Jaipur Literature Festival Friday morning. 'It is now entirely legitimate to ask, if dismaying and disturbing, if within two generations there will be anyone in India who will have the capacity of reading Indian literature produced before 1800,' he said. 'I have a feeling that that number is slowly approaching a statistical zero.'

  • Science

    • JPEG canaries: exposing on-the-fly recompression
      Many photo-sharing websites decompress and compress uploaded images, to enforce particular compression parameters. This recompression degrades quality. Some web proxies can also recompress images/videos, to give the impression of a faster connection.

    • Physics gets more personal: new video abstracts in New Journal of Physics
      New Journal of Physics (NJP) has today announced the launch of video abstracts as a new integrated content stream that will give all authors the opportunity to go beyond the constraints of the written article to personally present the importance of their work to the journal’s global audience.

    • Tweeting the lab
      I’ve been interested for some time in capturing information and the context in which that information is created in the lab. The question of how to build an efficient and useable laboratory recording system is fundamentally one of how much information is necessary to record and how much of that can be recorded while bothering the researcher themselves as little as possible.

    • Help Make This Wild Braille Watch A Reality

    • New Mexico Bill Seeks to Protect Anti-Science Education
      educators in New Mexico want to teach evolution or climate change as a “controversial scientific topic,” a new bill seeks to protect them from punishment.

      House Bill 302, as it’s called, states that public school teachers who want to teach “scientific weaknesses” about “controversial scientific topics” including evolution, climate change, human cloning and — ambiguously — “other scientific topics” may do so without fear of reprimand. The legislation was introduced to the New Mexico House of Representatives on Feb. 1 by Republican Rep. Thomas A. Anderson.

  • Security

    • Security Hacks

    • WSJ: Hackers Penetrate NASDAQ Computers
      Over the past year, hackers have repeatedly penetrated the computers at NASDAQ, reports the Wall Street Journal. Federal investigators are trying to identify the hackers and their purpose.

      However, the trading platform wasn't compromised, people familiar with the matter told WSJ.

      Investigators think unlawful financial gain, theft of trade secrets or a national-security threat designed to damage the exchange could be reasons for the penetrations.

  • Defence/Police/Aggression

    • Tunisia's Revolution Continues
      Even though Tunisia's dictator for 23 years, President Zine al-Abdine Ben Ali has been forced to flee the country and is currently a fugitive from an Interpol international arrest warrant with his assets frozen in Tunisia and Europe, the very difficult task of thoroughly rooting out the old regime and building a new Tunisia continues.

      While many are still troubled by the fact that long time Ben Ali crony Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi remains the head of government, there haven't been many street protests in recent days. After a major government reshuffle purged it of Ben Ali loyalists, most people seem to have adopted a wait and see attitude and started to get back to normal life.

    • Student Murdered, 11 Shot at Omega Psi Phi House Party at Youngstown State University
      Two men opened fire after an argument occurred at an Omega Psi Phi fraternity house in Youngstown, Ohio this weekend. The two men shot multiple rounds into a crowd of people, killing a student and critically injuring a 17-year old with a head wound. The student who was killed was shot while trying to break the two disputing groups apart. The university said six of the injured were students.

      The murder victim was 25-year old Jamail E. Johnson of Youngstown. Most of the 11 injured were shot in the foot. The men were arrested and charged with aggravated murder, shooting into a home, and felonious assault, according to Chief Jimmy Hughes of the Youngstown Police Department.

    • A tense calm grips Egypt
      After 11 days of unrest - some days violent, others jubilant - Egyptian protesters are determined to stay the course.

    • In Tunisia, Women Play Equal Role In Revolution
      Female voices rang out loud and clear during massive protests that brought down the authoritarian rule of Tunisian President Zine el Abidine Ben Ali.

      Women in Tunisia are unique in the Arab world for enjoying near equality with men. And they are anxious to maintain their status.

    • Financial Times reveals Anonymous hierarchy
      And in an astounding revelation, a closing statement from the group-that’s-not-a-group admits a famous Canadian vocalist is one of its founders.

    • Anonymous Hackers Pay Back FBI Snitch with 50,000 Leaked Emails
      Right now you can download a 4.7 gigabyte file full of about 50,000 emails stolen from a computer security expert named Aaron Barr. That's what happens when you cross the hacking collective Anonymous.

      Hackers from Anonymous, best-known for attacks on Scientology and Wikileaks detractors, trashed Barr's online life Sunday evening after learning he planned to meet with the FBI tomorrow and hand over information he'd gathered about them. They defaced the website of HBGary Federal, the D.C.-based computer security firm Barr works for. Then they took over Barr's Twitter account, tweeting his social security number and a file containing 50,000 HBGary company emails. They even claim to have wiped his iPad.

      Barr became a target of Anonymous after he appeared in a Financial Times article this weekend claiming he'd "penetrated" the group, identifying members by watching their chats and analyzing social networking profiles.

    • SIX Cops Beating The Crap Out Of Underage Teen Caught On Video

    • G20 abuse: What about the others?
      Toronto Police Const. Babak Andalib-Goortani is back in the news with the announcement that he is now charged with assaulting not one, but two, protesters during the G20 summit.

      It would be a mistake, though, to think this means the authorities have got to the bottom of all that went wrong on Toronto’s streets that weekend last June. Andalib-Goortani stands alone in having been charged, but the weight of all the allegations of police brutality do not rest on his shoulders. There were others: we have all seen the videos and photographs.

    • Egypt protests - Monday 7 February
      9.41am:CloseLink to this update: The German papers are full of speculation today that Mubarak might seek exile in Germany, writes Helen Pidd, our Berlin correspondent.

    • Did Bush Cancel Trip to Switzerland to Avoid Possible Torture Inquiry? Looks That Way.
      Just days before George W. Bush's scheduled arrival to Geneva, the former United States President decided to cancel his trip. The New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) sent the following statement:

      "CCR, with the Berlin-based European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) and Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), have spent weeks preparing a 2,500 page torture case against Bush that would have been filed on Monday, February 7 - the anniversary of the day, nine years ago, when Bush decided the Geneva Conventions didn't apply to 'enemy combatants.' Bush was due to be in Geneva on the 12th, and his presence on Swiss territory is required for the prosecutor to take action.

    • Egyptian police use Facebook and Twitter to track down protesters' names before 'rounding them up'
      Sitting on an upturned bread basket with her knees pulled up to her chest, a petite young woman looked out over Tahrir Square early yesterday morning and weighed up whether she should stay or leave.

      Gabrielle, 25, is a French-Egyptian property lawyer, one of the thousands of young protesters who have remained at the focal point of Egypt’s uprising since it began 13 days ago. Exhausted, she yearns to return to the comfortable home she shares with her younger sisters and anxious parents – also lawyers – in the upmarket Cairo suburb of Heliopolis ten miles away. She dreamt last night of a hot bath and fresh clothes.

      Laughing wearily, she says: ‘See, I am the colours of the Egyptian flag.’ She points to her black jeans, white shirt – and the blood on her sleeve.

    • Have you tried turning it off and on again? - Ministry of Love

    • Golden mirrors
      Someone out there does not want these five images to be shown on the internet. They allegedly deal with Mr. Mubarak’s gold assets abroad, and were posted by Wael Abbas (@waelabbas on Twitter), whose blog came to be under attack. Telecomix does not care about the content of these pictures, we are not in the position to verify or investigate into their authenticity. We just try to make sure the Internet never goes down. The more these pictures are attacked by denial of service attacks, the more we will copy them to new locations. This is the mission and purpose of the Streisand project.

  • Cablegate

    • Latin America - Clinton probes Russia’s relationship with Cuba and Venezuela
      A few months after becoming U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton instructed embassy officials in Havana and Moscow to assess the state of the bilateral relationships of Russia with Cuba and Venezuela. In a cable from April 2009 (09STATE40419) Clinton asks questions intended to determine whether Russia prefers Caracas over Havana, whether Raul Castro is any “easier or harder to work with” than Fidel, and if the Russians had any plans to establish a military presence in Cuba.

    • Yemen - Yemen President Takes Marching Orders From U.S. Embassy
      New cables released by Wikileaks show that the Yemeni government held 28 Yemeni citizens in prison on behalf of the United States, despite the fact that a Yemeni government investigation showed that “there was no evidence they were involved in terrorist acts.”

    • Pilger, Wilkie, Burnside to defend WikiLeaks
      As momentous events in Egypt demonstrate, much of the world is calling to account an “old order”. These are exciting times for the possibilities of real change in the way our societies are run.

      One of the catalysts of the “people power” we see on our TV screens is the extraordinary disclosure of secret information that tells us how wars begin and governments manipulate and deceive in our name.

      In the tradition of courageous investigative journalism, WikiLeaks has blown the whistles that alert us to these injustices and lies, serving a basic democratic need.

    • Leaked cables reveal anger at regime may make Libya the next Arab domino to fall
      THE violence and corruption of members of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's family have made Libya a gangster state with a worse record of governance than Egypt or Tunisia, according to leaked US diplomatic cables.

      The documents reveal previously undisclosed details of how family greed, rivalry and extremism have complicated British and US efforts to normalise relations with Libya since it decided to abandon nuclear weapons and renounce terrorism. Gaddafi's children plunder the country's oil revenues, run a kleptocracy and operate a reign of terror that has created simmering hatred and resentment among the people, according to the cables released by WikiLeaks.

    • US Behind Swedish Internet Surveillance: Cablegate
      The US pushed Sweden to introduce laws that kept IP addresses and other data of Internet users for a longer period of time as part of a larger agenda to go after people who share files online, according to several diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks.

      In a March 2009 cable from the US State Department, the US embassy pushed the Swedish Justice Minister to present a six-step action plan that would let police know who was behind any Internet protocol (IP) addresses sharing files, that included shutting off the Internet connection of an accused party.

    • Suleiman 'panned' Egypt opposition
      Omar Suleiman, Egypt's recently appointed vice-president, has previously harshly criticised Egypt's opposition Muslim Brotherhood in his communications with US officials, according to leaked US diplomatic cables.

      The revelations came as Suleiman met opposition leaders, including the Muslim Brotherhood, on Sunday in an bid to end a political crisis that has seen hundreds of thousands of people take to the streets in opposition to Hosni Mubarak, Egypt's president.

    • Omar Suleiman 'Demonized' Muslim Brotherhood: WikiLeaks
      Egypt's new vice president, Omar Suleiman, has long sought to demonize the opposition Muslim Brotherhood in his contacts with skeptical U.S. officials, leaked diplomatic cables show, raising questions whether he can act as an honest broker in the country's political crisis.

      U.S. Embassy messages from the anti-secrecy WikiLeaks cache of 250,000 State Department documents, which Reuters independently reviewed, also report that the former intelligence chief accused the Brotherhood of spawning armed extremists and warned in 2008 that if Iran ever backed the banned Islamist group, Tehran would become "our enemy."

    • Congressman requests visit with WikiLeaks suspect
      A U.S. lawmaker said he requested Friday a visit with the Army soldier accused of leaking classified documents to the WikiLeaks website.

      "I am concerned about reports of his treatment while in custody that describe alarming abuses of his constitutional rights and his physical health," Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, said in a letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

    • Drop the Case Against Assange
      It is time for the United States to drop the case against WikiLeaks. Pressing forward with efforts to prosecute an Internet publisher at home while standing up for an open Internet in Egypt and the world at large is an increasingly tenuous position. The WikiLeaks case endangers the reputation of the United States as a defender of free speech and an open Internet globally, while forcing the Obama administration to take uncomfortable constitutional positions better suited to the Nixon administration. The importance of this issue is hard to overstate: At a time when the Internet is increasingly recognized as a medium of global resistance to authoritarian rule and when protestors in Tahrir square are holding up signs that say "Thank you, Facebook!", the Obama administration and the United States must make sure that they stand on the right side.

    • Ransom paid for Canadian diplomats: leaked cable
      A leaked U.S. State Department cable suggests a ransom was paid for the release of two Canadian diplomats taken hostage in Niger two years ago.

      The May 2009 cable released by online whistleblower WikiLeaks says a Libyan official told the U.S. ambassador in Tripoli that two Canadian officials were released "in return for a ransom payment."

    • WikiLeaks cables: Thailand's royal pet
      An experienced diplomat should be able to greet anyone from a king to a despot, but nothing could prepare one US ambassador for the experience of meeting a military officer that happened to be a poodle.

    • Cables: UK dismissive of 'numbskull' Zardari
      Leaked U.S. diplomatic cables reveal that British officials initially considered Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari a "numbskull" who would not last long in office.

      In cables from 2008 released Saturday by the WikiLeaks website, British government officials offered a pessimistic assessment of Pakistan's prospects as it battled financial turmoil and Taliban and al-Qaida violence.

      The Government of Cuba (GOC) appears to be seriously considering removing, or at least restricting, its national ration card system (libreta), one of the main pillars, along with education and healthcare, of Cuba's socialist state. The libreta is also one of the GOC's more effective tools to micro-manage nearly every aspect of its citizens' lives. Facing a serious financial crunch and low productivity, the GOC officially put all subsidies on the table in President Raul Castro's August 1 speech to the National Assembly (Reftel). The experiment to end free workplace lunches is the latest sign, along with the distribution of idle land, the right to fix one's own house, introducing a merit-based pay system, permission to work more than one job, and general encouragement of discussion on how to solve local problems, that the GOC is preparing Cubans to do officially what many already do unofficially: fend for themselves. The next question is how far is the GOC willing to expand the private sector in order to fill the gap.

      Amidst a flurry of activity starting with Raul Castro's July 26 speech and ending with the August 1 National Assembly, Raul and his ministers painted a desperate picture of the Cuban economy. The Government of Cuba (GOC) lowered its GDP growth projection for the second time in three months and Raul promised to cut expenditures to bring them in line with expected revenue. The GOC approved measures to address the "tense financial situation," without offering any details, and predicted an equally difficult 2010. Expectations for any meaningful reform have been delayed along with the Sixth Party Congress (Ref A). Instead, we can expect the GOC to continue to offer only marginal steps (forward and backward) including Raul's latest suggestions to improve the productivity of Cuban land by farming with oxen instead of tractors and sending young communists out to plant trees. Meanwhile, it remains too early to tell if or when earlier reforms, such as the leasing of idle farm land, may impact Cuba's bottom line.

      The combination of new warnings of potential blackouts, serious liquidity issues, and potential (if not already) reduced financial support from Venezuela has sparked rumors on the street and in the international media that Cuba may be headed toward another "Special Period". The reality is that Cuba and Cubans are not as vulnerable as they were in 1989 before the end of Soviet subsidies. However, the Cuban economy remains remarkably dependent on external markets and access to credit. While the level of foreign reserves is a well guarded secret, some analysts and USINT contacts believe the GOC could run out of cash later this year without a significant change of course. Energy austerity measures officially began on June 1, starting with state companies and then potentially moving to households. We expect a reduction in non-fuel imports as a next step.

      The Baghdad Zoo has reportedly become the most popular destination for family outings in Baghdad. Attendance increased dramatically in 2007, and continues to rise. The Zoo Director told visiting poloff on February 11 that approximately 8,000 people visit the Zoo every weekend, with families and couples comprising the majority of its customers. The Chief Veterinarian noted, however, that most visitors come from surrounding neighborhoods; residents of more distant districts, including all six outlying qadas, remain averse to taking a risky trip across Baghdad. He also reported that, since 2003, local schools have stopped sending student groups to the Zoo -- a regular practice before the war began. Nonetheless, Baghdadis increasingly seek out the Zoo's tranquility and calm, as well as its special features -- including the daily slaughter of two donkeys to feed the lions, and exotic fish with an image of the Iraqi flag etched permanently into their scales. The Baghdad Amanat, the local EPRT, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and ITAO have all devoted resources to the reconstruction and renovation of the Zoo.

      The UK is considering granting authorization to the British Embassy in Beirut to meet with Lebanese Minister of Labor Mohammad Fneish, a member of Hizballah, and other Hizballah party officials, FCO Levant Group Head Benjamin Saoul and Cabinet Office Desk Officer Brian Jones told us separately September 2 in response to ref A.

      As Gordon Brown lurches from political disaster to disaster, Westminster is abuzz with speculation about whether he will be replaced as Prime Minister and Labour Parxty leader, and, if so, by whom.

      Various elements of the Foreign Office have expressed confusion about USG policy on a potential peacekeeping operation in Somalia. According to their account, the USG, in various fora, have advocated for the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) to survey options for potential participants in a multinational force, for maritime escorts for World Food Program (WFP) humanitarian shipments as part of a larger PKO, and for a "blue hatted" maritime mission that incorporates security responsibilities on land. The UK sees these various initiatives as uncoordinated and disjointed. HMG would like a more wholistic approach to a Somalia PKO. That said, the UK does not have its own clear position on the way forward on peacekeeping operations in Somalia. Internal HMG discussions generally focus on priorities.

      FCO Russia, Caucasus and Central Asia Director Michael Davenport told DCM that HMG was conducting “parallel exercises” involving Cabinet, Intelligence and Foreign Office principals, designed to give PM Brown a clearer picture of Russian foreign policy making processes and recommendations for dealing with Moscow. He said the paper(s) will underline that the UK sees recent Russian foreign policy actions as a “continuum” in Moscow’s goal to maintain influence in its “near abroad,” but that many of the tactics employed have been “hit and miss,” leading to an uncoordinated, opportunistic approach. The paper will therefore recommend “hard-headed, robust when necessary,” engagement with Russia, coordinated among NATO and EU allies.

      British officials are eager to apply additional pressure on Iran's nuclear program. They are pursuing domestic and multilateral options, including possibly broadening the category of products requiring export licenses, imposing EU sanctions on additional Iranian banks, and testing their new legal powers to impose measures on weapons of mass destruction proliferators. Cabinet and Foreign Office continue to press the more cautious HM Treasury to use all the tools at their disposal. According to the British, other EU Member states fear the U.S. is preparing to take commercial advantage of a new relationship with Iran, and subsequently, are slowing the EU sanctions process.

      FCO Deputy Head Security Policy Chris Holtby (strictly protect) confirmed that HMG is satisfied with the progress in establishment of Operational Headquarters (OHQ) in Northwood UK, and afloat Force Headquarters (FHQ) for the EU counter-piracy mission "Atalanta." Holtby admitted that Greece had not been the UK's first choice for head of FHQ, but partitioning the year long mandate into three periods, with Spain and Holland in charge for the final two thirds of the operation, would ensure mission integrity and continuity. The current schedule calls for the operational plan to be presented to EU Member States on November 25th, followed by mission launch on December 8th. Holtby noted that this deployment will allow for an overlap with NATO operations in the waters off the Horn, which are scheduled to terminate on December 20. Thus far the UK is satisfied with NATO/EU cooperation and coordination in the run-up to Atalanta.

      BBC Persian TV launched its well-resourced broadcast operations January 14. Both anti-regime exiles and the Tehran regime continue to attack BBC's objectivity. The BBC's effort is a long-term one aimed at attracting Farsi-speaking audiences in Iran, Tajikistan, and Afghanistan; broadcasts will be unhindered by jamming. BBC Persian TV has no office in Tehran, but has in recent months recruited many young journalists directly from Iran for its London staff, and will rely heavily on internet contributors for footage from inside the country. One BBC executive's public comments, possibly intending to curry favor with Iranian authorities, claimed for BBC Persian TV a level of credibility and objectivity he argued compares favorably with VOA Persian TV's work.

      In a meeting with Iran Watcher (poloff) August 11, Will Gelling, Tom Burn and Rachel Martinek of the FCO's Iran office shared lessons learned from the detention of British sailors by Iran in 2007 and more recently the arrest of nine local staff members from the British Embassy in Tehran. They also provided an update on the status of their senior locally engaged political analyst, XXXXXXXXXXXX, currently one of dozens of subjects of a show trial underway in Tehran. A legal analysis provided to the UK Embassy in Tehran by XXXXXXXXXXXX (strictly protect) has been sent via classified e-mail to NEA/IR.

      Prime Minister Brown continues to press hard for international adoption of a Tobin Tax, despite being aware of U.S. opposition to the tax. He has raised this issue - and bonuses - on several occasions directly with the Ambassador, and said that he saw cooperation on financial services and Afghanistan as the critical elements of U.S.-UK relationship. Brown first highlighted the Tobin Tax at the November G-20 Ministerial in St. Andrews, and subsequently told Ambassador that he was disappointed that Treasury Secretary Geithner publicly refused to support the UK position. The political opposition in the UK also is questioning the lack of U.S. support. The PM is using the issue for domestic political gain but also for reasons of “social justice.” The UK may feel emboldened on this issue, given French Foreign Minister Kouchner’s proposal at COP-15 for an international tax on financial services for programs for poverty reduction and climate change, and would likely criticize the U.S. if there were no further international movement on this issue.

      The UK fully agrees with and adheres to the EU policy of no contact with any Hamas element. The recent UK terrorism finance re-designation of Hamas' military wing, the Izz al-din Qassam Brigades was internal housekeeping, and not meant to distinguish between Hamas' political and military wings. The British government has asked the U.S. for additional information in its review of the UK charity Interpal's relationship with Hamas, as it continues to receive pressure from the Muslim charity and its supporters following UK banks' decision in late 2008 to restrict financial services to Interpal.

    • Yemen - Yemen President Handpicked Winning Contractor
      Dubai Ports International (DPI), a company based in the United Arab Emirates, won a 35-year concession worth $500 million to operate and develop the Aden Port and Aden Container Terminal, because of the direct intervention of Ali Abdullah Saleh, the president of Yemen who has ruled the country since 1978.

    • Jordan - Jordanian budget spent on "bloated" civil service and a military "patronage system"
      Over 80 percent of Jordan’s budget is spent on a "bloated" civil service and a military "patronage system" that includes support to the U.S. forces in Afghanistan, according to new cables released by Wikileaks, even through the country is in the middle of an economic crisis.

      The Jordanian government alsotold U.S. diplomats that despite "increased calls by opposition groups and non-governmental figures to explain its Afghanistan assistance and end its security cooperation with the United States ... Mash’al Al Zaben, Chief of Staff for Strategy, stated that Jordan would stay in Afghanistan until the last U.S. soldier came home."

    • WikiLeaks, Revolution, and the Lost Cojones of American Journalism
      This cravenness represents one of American journalism's darkest hours...

    • Simon's Speech from the February 6 Demonstration
      They, like the Pirate Party, are part of a new politics coming out of the rapid proliferation of information technologies. We want to reinvent our democracy, revolutionise our institutions and democratise access to politics. We want to break media monopolies. We recognise the failings of representative democracy, and we want to open our governments and make them transparent, make them more accountable. We want to make our democracy more direct. We are the Party of the youth, of a generation that understands the importance and centrality of access to information, knowledge and culture to our lives.

    • 'US will want Assange extradited for crimes they're inventing now'

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife

    • World's Worst Oil-Related Disaster? Chevron Faces $118 BIllion Fine in Ecuadorian Lawsuit
      Tens of thousands of Ecuadorian citizens have accused Chevron (NYSE: CVX) of committing the "world's worst oil-related disaster" in an environmental damages lawsuit they have filed against the energy giant.

      In the case, the plantiff, levies that Chevron, which ran several oil fields in Ecuador until 1992, intentionally disposed billions of gallons of toxic waste into waters and streams. The residents also claim the company spilled thousands of barrels of oil, constructed and abandoned 900 toxic waste pits, and destroyed oil spill records. As a result of these severe hazards to human health and the environment, Chevron could be found liable for as much as US$113 billion in damages.

    • David Suzuki: It will take more than rebranding to make tar sands oil “ethical”
      Ripping a page—or the cover— from fellow Conservative and former tobacco industry lobbyist Ezra Levant’s book, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his new environment minister, Peter Kent, have taken to referring to the product of the Alberta tar sands as “ethical oil”.

      The Prime Minister and Mr. Levant go back a long way. It was Mr. Levant who reluctantly stepped aside as the Alliance candidate in Calgary Southwest so that Mr. Harper could run in a by-election there in 2002. But the “ethical oil” argument they promote has holes as big as the ones in the ground around Fort McMurray.

    • Janez Potočnik European Commissioner for Environment Don't waste waste! Visit to UMICORE precious metal recycling plant and INDAVER sorting plant Hoboken & Willebroeck, 19 January 2011
      First - Because the mobile phone in your pocket has within it many precious substances that would have to be sourced through more primary extraction if we didn’t recover them. 40 mobile phones contain about one gram of gold. You would have to move and treat on average one tonne of ore, often using toxic substances such as cyanide, to get the same amount from primary extraction;

  • Finance

    • 1% of Big Society is a good thing
      Much has been made of volunteering in the Coalition Big Society. Probably best described as confusion on how it is funded through plundered ‘dormant’ bank accounts, to how we are all supposed to find the time to volunteer to run this country whilst the politicians work out a way to pay back money “we” have borrowed. Culminating in a relieved glee that even the dude assigned to voluntarily oversee this, Lord Wei, couldn’t hack it and was off to make some cash and spend time in the real world.

    • BofA to Pay $410 Million in Overdraft Fee Case
      Bank of America has agreed to pay $410 million to settle a federal lawsuit alleging the bank charged excessive overdraft fees.

      The suit is one of several filed against several banks from plaintiffs in 14 states, which were consolidated in a federal court in Florida. Other banks named in related suits include Wells Fargo and Citibank.

  • PR/AstroTurf/Lobbying

  • Censorship

    • How Google removed the muzzle on Twitter in Egypt
      Even before his first day on the job at Google, Ujjwal Singh was trying to figure out how to use his passion for the spoken word and the company's technological prowess to help Egyptians bypass government efforts to muzzle the massive protests there.

  • Civil Rights

    • Spying On Surfing: Why We Need a "Do Not Track" List
      The new model of Internet advertising scares the heck out of us. It's called behavioral targeting. What that amounts to, in a nutshell, is following you around the web from site to site recording your movements and using that record to sell you personalized ads. All those ads that pop up on the side of articles on your favorite websites like or are often not provided by those sites, they are from third parties that you've never heard of, with names like Lotame Solutions Inc. Using a variety of techniques, those companies are tracking where you go throughout the web.

    • Research problem: measuring the safety of the Tor network
      We need a better understanding of how much anonymity the Tor network provides against a partial network adversary who observes and/or operates some of the network. Specifically, we want to understand the chances that this class of adversary can observe a user's traffic coming into the network and also the corresponding traffic exiting the network.

      Most of our graphs historically have looked at the total number of relays over time. But this simple scalar doesn't take into account relay capacity, exit policies, geographic or network location, etc.

    • Test Vidalia & Tor Browser Bundles with libevent2

  • Internet/Net Neutrality/UBB

    • UBB NOT Overturned
      Various members of the government have said Usage Based Billing will be overturned.

      After the CRTC review. The CRTC says that Bell has requested an extension for implementation of UBB. Bell? Pardon me? Bell?

      Bell asked for UBB and has fought for it. Why an extension? Suddenly they don’t want this massive price increase?

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • Copyrights

      • Reverse class-action? It's the latest tactic in the P2P wars
        Imagine yourself as a lawyer who would like nothing better than to sue a few thousand people for some of the raunchiest pornography ever inflicted upon the world. You face a problem: when you sue individuals in federal court, where copyright suits are brought, you have to file suit in whichever District Court the defendant resides in. Who has the time and money to bring cases all over the country?

        So you try your luck anyway, only to have federal judges smack you down and force the dismissal of most of your cases on "personal jurisdiction" grounds. This stings, and you retreat to your lair.

      • How To Stop Domain Names Being Seized By The US Government
        As the United States authorities continue with their domain name seizure policy, file-sharing, streaming and link site operators around the world are looking for ways to mitigate this aggressive action. To this end, an Internet engineer and website operator has put together a guide that might just help site owners avoid a whole heap of inconvenience in the future.

      • MPAA Snags Google Downloading Torrents, Threatens to Disconnect
        In recent months Google has received dozens of copyright infringement warnings from MPAA-affiliated movies studios. While most of these notices are directed at users of Google’s public Wi-Fi service, a few also appear to be directed at employees at Google’s headquarters. The movie studios are not happy and are warning the search giant that it might get disconnected from the Internet.

      • Police Arrest Five In Operation To Shut Down Popular File-Sharing Forum
        According to a report from Greek police, one of the country’s most popular Internet forums with hundreds of thousands of members has been closed down following accusations of copyright infringement. In an operation which involved INTERPOL, five individuals were arrested with claims they had made 230,000 euros from advertising and membership fees.

      • Japanese Government Study Shows Anime 'Piracy' Could Boosts Sales
        Just as a whole bunch of folks have been sued in one of these mass copyright infringement shakedown lawsuits over sharing of Funimation anime, it seems worth pointing out that a new Japanese government study on the impact of unauthorized file sharing of anime has concluded that unauthorized copies of anime often appear to increase DVD sales.

Clip of the Day

Free Software Song en español

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Credit: TinyOgg

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