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Submission + - "Snowden and the Future" is about more than just whistleblowing 1

foregather writes: 20 years ago the Federal government treated encryption as a weapon and arrested Phil Zimmerman for making software that let people send private email. Back then they targeted individuals for surveillance. Thanks to Edward Snowden we know they have spent the intervening years building tools that target all of us at once. What does it mean that we are all now targets in this government war on privacy? One of the veterans in this struggle — lawyer, historian, and technology freedom advocate Eben Moglen (seen on Slashdot here) — shares his views on what this all means and what we can do about it in a series of talks called "Snowden and the Future" starting on October 9th in New York and online at

Comment Re:Source code access for medical devices (Score 1) 38

It isn't always that way. From back in 2010:

Killed by Code: Software Transparency in Implantable Medical Devices (related video) (BBC summary of the main story)

Written primarily by a free software attorney whose doctors also recommended an implanted ICD and who examined 1) the regulatory requirements, 2) what the device makers have to actually submit to the FDA (not source code), and some other relevant security and design characteristics like just how close to you a controller device would need to be before being able to connect with and control your implanted device, in order to make an informed decision about the surgery.

One of the most important issues discovered during this process was just how little doctors had through of these issues, if at all. If your doctor is recommending an implanted device, whatever you decide about the treatment, it is important to discuss these issues with your doctors and help them understand your concerns.

Comment Re:Could that be a lie? Or, is Amazon not doing we (Score 1) 207

A couple of misstatements here in an otherwise interesting post:

A paper book last forever.

Before there was "bitrot" for digital files there was plain old "rot" for everything else, pressed paper books no exception. Those interested in the immortality of books need look no further than the library of Alexandria and the damage to the store of human knowledge done by its destruction.

A paper book can be read by anyone

Though very old, writing is a technology like any other. At a lower level on the technology stack you could say that "A paper book can be read by anyone who is literate and sighted." While it is true that ebooks require an electronic storage device as opposed to a paper one, those electronic storage devices are also capable of reading ebooks aloud, sharing information and culture with the illiterate and blind people in our own societies and preserving pronunciation and accent information for future generations.

In the Oxford University library in England, I found books in the old books room that were published in the 1600s. The persistence of paper books is an enormous benefit to all humankind.

Is the persistence of those particular physical objects what has enormously benefited humankind, or is it the knowledge and information they offer? While I can imagine scenarios where studying the physical books is of value to historians, I think we can likely agree that most of humankind will benefit only from the content of the books and will likely never know of or come into contact with the physical specimens in the old books room of Oxford's library.

What value then do books add to the persistence of human knowledge? Stone tablets are more durable and cell phones are owned in large areas of the geographic and socioeconomic world where owning a library is simply infeasible.

If we want to preserve knowledge, it seems to me that digital technologies offer us a larger scale, more ubiquitous, distributed, self-correcting, mechanism, for spreading and maintaining knowledge than ever before. While it is true that the current crop of format spats is making it difficult for consumers, the net effect is clearly in the right direction. And as all of the formats continue to converge on html, those incompatibilities gradually disappear and we are left with the native format of the web, which is the most universal and accessible format for displaying formatted text since the advent of printing.


Submission + - Printed Photos for the Blind (

disco_tracy writes: Software reads online content aloud and printers generate Braille text, but there hasn't been a fast and easy way to create recognizable images for the blind. Now, computer scientists in Arizona are generating social networking profile pictures the blind can "see."

Submission + - World's Fastest Carnivorous Plant (Video) (

sciencehabit writes: Researchers have discovered that an underwater plant known as the bladderwort engulfs prey in less than a millisecond, making this the fastest trapping mechanism of any carnivorous plant, including the Venus Flytrap. Close analysis of the high-speed video reveals that as prey trigger hairs on a bladder, a semicircular trapdoor swings in rapidly and the walls of the bladder expand, creating pressure that sucks in water and the prey . The door then snaps back into place, ensnaring the small morsel, which the plant then surrounds in digestive juices.

Submission + - Canonical disables Banshee Amazon Store in Ubuntu (

Julie188 writes: Banshee is a media/music player for Linux that has support for purchasing music via Amazon MP3. The revenues have always gone directly to the GNOME Foundation. Historically, the default music player in Ubuntu has been Rhythmbox, but that's changing in 11.04 to Banshee. The problem, at least as Canonical seems to see it? Amazon MP3 support in Banshee competes with Ubuntu's own offering, Ubuntu One — which also has support for purchasing music. The alternative? Canonical offered to leave the Amazon Store on by default, but take a 75% cut leaving a paltry 25% for GNOME.
The Internet

Submission + - Decentralizing the Internet - Big Brother (

mspohr writes: Eben Moglen is in the NYT ( for the FreedomBox Foundation ( ) which is an attempt to "Decentralize the Internet so Big Brother Can't Find You". The events in Egypt have shown that in spite of the Internet's inherent decentralized design, it can be subject to government control.

The FreedomBox is an attempt to improve decentralization by the use of small plug servers running a free software stack.

Looks like an interesting and useful project.

Submission + - 84,000 domains got ICEd (

cypherwise writes: It looks like ICE, DHS's Immigration and Customs Enforcement wing, redirected 84,000 domains during "Operation Protect Our Children". Out of those 84,000 only 10 were found to be hosting child pornography. The DNS entries were changed at the registrar level to point to which contains an interesting message from the DoJ and DHS claiming the site you are visiting contains child pornography. That's two botched operations in the past few months. What's next?

Submission + - Killed by Code: medical device source code (

foregather writes: The Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC has released some independent research on the safety of software close to our hearts, that inside of implantable medical devices like ,a href="">pacemakers and insulin pumps. It turns out that nobody is minding the store at the regulatory level and patients and doctors are blocked from examining the source code keeping them alive. From the article:

"The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for evaluating the risks of new devices and monitoring the safety and efficacy of those currently on market. However, the agency is unlikely to scrutinize the software operating on devices during any phase of the regulatory process unless a model that has already been surgically implanted repeatedly malfunctions or is recalled."


"Despite the crucial importance of these devices and the absence of comprehensive federal oversight, medical device software is considered the exclusive property of its manufacturers, meaning neither patients nor their doctors are permitted to access their IMD’s source code or test its security."

The SFLC concludes that transparency going forward is the only way to prevent people from being "Killed by code". Would you want windows mobile regulating your blood pressure?

Comment Network =! Social Network. (Score 1) 363

The web is a way of linking computers together, social networks are a way for people to manage what information goes to which of the people they know in particular social contexts. The two are not the same. The web works just fine without any awareness of social contexts and social networks exist just fine without computers at all.

What we need is a way to make our digital communication tools more like our analog expectations about information management, which means designing systems that allow the controlled sharing of information about our lives with the right groups of people in private, not on personal webpages broadcasting to the world.

That could take many forms. I want a system that just handles making secure connections to my various contacts and parceling out what information gets sent to those contacts based on my history with them. Something like this: Freedom Box Schematic

Comment Locked OS more dangerous than bells and whistles (Score 1) 416

I don't care if the phone makers want to rebirth the shareware market of the early '90s; eventually people will get tired of paying per feature and expect the good ones to be rolled into the core functionality of the OS or the larger applications they use, ala winzip.

What worries me about android is how all the phones they sell with it still need to be jail broken before you can make use of the freedoms in the free operating system. Surely that's a greater threat to your control over the software in your life than the fact that people are also willing to sell you closed software.

Going the speed of light is bad for your age.