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The Courts

RIAA To Stop Prosecuting Individual File Sharers 619

debatem1 writes "According to the Wall Street Journal, the RIAA has decided to abandon its current tactic of suing individuals for sharing copyrighted music. Ongoing lawsuits will be pursued to completion, but no new ones will be filed. The RIAA is going to try working with the ISPs to limit file-sharing services and cut off repeated users. This very surprising development apparently comes as a result of public distaste for the campaign." An RIAA spokesman is quoted as saying that the litigation campaign has been "successful in raising the public's awareness that file-sharing is illegal."
Space

Simulations May Explain Loss of Beagle 2 Mars Probe 98

chrb writes "Researchers at Queensland University have used computer simulations to calculate that the loss of the US$80 million British Beagle 2 Mars probe was due to a bad choice of spin rate during atmospheric entry, resulting in the craft burning up within seconds. The chosen spin rate was calculated by using a bridging function to estimate the transitional forces between the upper and lower atmosphere, while the new research relies on simulation models. Beagle 2 team leader Professor Colin Pillinger has responded saying that the figures are far from conclusive, while another chief Beagle engineer has said 'We still think we got it right.'"
Government

Indian GPS Cartographers Charged As Terrorists 269

chrb writes "Following on from the discussion about Apple disabling GPS in Egyptian iPhones, we have a new case of the conflict between the traditional secrecy of government, and the widening availability of cheap, accurate GPS devices around the world. On 5th December, two software engineers employed by Biond Software in India were arrested for mapping highways using vehicle based GPS devices. Further evidence against the pair emerged when it was found that a laptop they had been using in the car contained some photos of the local airforce base. The company claims they had been commissioned by Nokia Navigator to create maps of local roads and terrain. Following an investigation by the Anti Terrorist Squad of Gujarat the cartographers have now been charged with violating the Official Secrets Act and will remain in custody."
Censorship

Court Nixes National Security Letter Gag Provision 128

2phar sends news that on Monday a federal appeals court ruled unconstitutional the gag provision of the Patriot Act's National Security Letters. Until the ruling, recipients of NSLs were legally forbidden from speaking out. "The appeals court invalidated parts of the statute that wrongly placed the burden on NSL recipients to initiate judicial review of gag orders, holding that the government has the burden to go to court and justify silencing NSL recipients. The appeals court also invalidated parts of the statute that narrowly limited judicial review of the gag orders — provisions that required the courts to treat the government's claims about the need for secrecy as conclusive and required the courts to defer entirely to the executive branch." Update: 12/16 22:26 GMT by KD : Julian Sanchez, Washington Editor for Ars Technica, sent this cautionary note: "Both the item on yesterday's National Security Letter ruling and the RawStory article to which it links are somewhat misleading. It remains the case that ISPs served with an NSL are forbidden from speaking out; the difference is that under the ruling it will be somewhat easier for the ISPs to challenge that gag order, and the government will have to do a little bit more to persuade a court to maintain the gag when it is challenged. But despite what the ACLU's press releases imply, this is really not a 'victory' for them, or at least only a very minor one. Relative to the decision the government was appealing, it would make at least as much sense to call it a victory for the government. The lower court had struck down the NSL provisions of the PATRIOT Act entirely. This ruling left both the NSL statute and the gag order in place, but made oversight slightly stricter. If you look back at the hearings from this summer, you'll see that most of the new ruling involves the court making all the minor adjustments that the government had urged them to make, and which the ACLU had urged them to reject as inadequate."
Privacy

In Japan, a Billboard That Watches You 133

An anonymous reader writes "At a Tokyo railway station above a flat-panel display hawking DVDs and books sits a small camera hooked up to some image processing software. When trials begin in January the camera will scan travelers to see how many of them are taking note of the panel, in part of a technology test being run by NTT Communications. It doesn't seek to identify individuals, but it will attempt to figure out how many of the people standing in front of an advertisement are actually looking at it. A second camera, which wasn't fitted at the station but will be when tests begin next month, will take care of estimating how many people are in front of the ad, whether they are looking at it or not."
Government

Wiretap Whistleblower, a Life in Limbo? 521

Newsweek has an interesting report on Thomas M. Tamm, the individual who blew the whistle on the Federal Government's warrantless wiretaps. The piece takes a look at some of the circumstances leading up to the disclosure and what has happened since. "After the raid, Justice Department prosecutors encouraged Tamm to plead guilty to a felony for disclosing classified information — an offer he refused. More recently, Agent Lawless, a former prosecutor from Tennessee, has been methodically tracking down Tamm's friends and former colleagues. The agent and a partner have asked questions about Tamm's associates and political meetings he might have attended, apparently looking for clues about his motivations for going to the press, according to three of those interviewed."
Programming

Political and Technical Implications of GitTorrent 208

lkcl writes "The GitTorrent Protocol (GTP) is a protocol for collaborative git repository distribution across the Internet. Git promises to be a distributed software management tool, where a repository can be distributed. Yet, the mechanisms used to date to actually 'distribute,' such as ssh, are very much still centralized. GitTorrent makes Git truly distributed. The initial plans are for reducing mirror loading, however the full plans include totally distributed development: no central mirrors whatsoever. PGP signing (an existing feature of git) and other web-of-trust-based mechanisms will take over from protocols on ports (e.g. ssh) as the access control 'clearing house.' The implications of a truly distributed revision control system are truly staggering: unrestricted software freedom. The playing field is leveled in so many ways, as 'The Web Site' no longer becomes the central choke-point of control. Coming just in time for that all-encompassing Free Software revolution hinted at by The Rebellion Against Vista, this article will explain more fully some of the implications that make this quiet and technically brilliant project, GitTorrent, so important to Software Freedom, from both technical and political perspectives."
Linux Business

"FOSS Business Model Broken" — Former OSDL CEO 412

liraz writes "Stuart Cohen, former CEO of Open Source Development Labs, has written an op-ed on BusinessWeek claiming that the traditional open source business model, which relies solely on support and service revenue streams, is failing to meet the expectations of investors. He discusses the 'great paradox' of the FOSS business model, saying: 'For anyone who hasn't been paying attention to the software industry lately, I have some bad news. The open source business model is broken. Open source code is generally great code, not requiring much support. So open source companies that rely on support and service alone are not long for this world.' Cohen goes on to outline the beginnings of a business model that can work for FOSS going forward."

First All-Drone USAF Air Wing 242

bfwebster writes "Strategy Page reports that the United States Air Force has announced its first air wing that will consist entirely of unmanned craft. The 174th Fighter Wing has flown its last manned combat sorties; its F-16s will be entirely replaced by MQ-9 Reapers. Reasons cited include costs (maintenance and fuel) and the drone's ability to stay in the air up to 14 hours, waiting for a target to show itself."
Google

Gaming Google a Gateway To Crime? 162

netbuzz writes "Merely hiring a blackhat practitioner of search-engine optimization may be indicative of a willingness to 'cut corners' — the kind that land business executives behind bars — says Matt Cutts, Google's top cop regarding such matters. It's an interesting theory, as generalizations go, but there would seem to be quite a leap between risking the death penalty from Google and risking a stint in prison."
Book Reviews

Hacking VIM 308

Craig Maloney writes "Throughout the years, there have been many clones and re-implementations of the venerable vi editor. One variant of vi that emerged and stayed with us is VIM. Since its introduction, VIM has proven itself a worthy successor to the traditional vi editor. VIM has rightfully taken the place of standard vi implementations as the spiritual successor to vi, completely replacing the vi editor on many, if not all of the current Linux distributions. Many improvements have been made to VIM such as tabs, spell checking, folding, and many, many more. However many of these new enhancements may still remain hidden to anyone who isn't keeping up on the cutting edge of VIM development. Hacking VIM is a good resource for becoming more familiar with the new features of VIM and how to make them work best for you." Read below for the rest of Craig's review.
Communications

AT&T To Decommission Pay Phones 470

oahazmatt writes "According to MarketWatch, AT&T said that its pay phones will be phased out over the next year. A company spokeswoman declined to say how much revenue its pay-phone business generated, but the number is small and declining. 'The first public pay-telephone station was set up in 1878, just two years after Alexander Graham Bell invented the talking device. The first coin-operated pay phone was installed in Hartford, Conn., in 1889. For decades after the pay phone's invention, many Americans relied on them because of the expense and difficulty in obtaining reliable home service. Only after World War II did the telephone become a household necessity.'"
The Military

How Tech Almost Lost the War 679

An anonymous reader writes "Blame the geeks for the mess in Iraq? Wired says so. Networked troops were supposed to be so efficient, it'd take just a few of 'em to wipe out their enemies. But the Pentagon got their network theory all wrong, with too few nodes and a closed architecture. Besides, a more efficient killing machine is the last thing you want in an insurgency like Iraq."

Comment Re:I've read about this before. (Score 1) 566

Next, I don't buy it because it's not feasible. How many NSA agents would it take to monitor ALL Internet traffic. That means bit torrents, email (including spam), web traffic (html), tunnels, ATM transactions, credit card transactions, Windows updates, NNTP porn, remote backups, YouTube videos, streaming radio stations and so on. There is just way too much crap flowing over the wires to monitor it all. The NSA, CIA, FBI, US Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force and National Guard combined wouldn't have the man power to monitor that much data.
Please tell me you're kidding. They use reasonably modern computers to extract obvious information s.a. URLs of sites visited (extracted from HTTP header, nowdays this could be done even on a router), search engine keywords (same thing), email addresses (parsing SMTP, again pretty easy), etc. Take a look at what Wireshark could do, for example. There are no humans watching every email/HTTP request/etc. Packet sniffer determines that there is an instant messenger chat, picks up the word "terrorist", flags the IP address, matches IP to a specific AT&T customer and increases a counter in some database which indicates the probability of you being a terrorist. If you live in NYC and decided to visit your relatives for Christmas, and while you were away your teenage neighbor used your WiFi to chat with his friends about Counter-Strike match - do you really believe there will be some human reviewing your case before system puts you on "no-fly" list and prevents you from coming back ?!? This stuff is all automatic, there is some heuristic rule that determines whether you could travel by airplane or hold a job in a bank or buy a fertilizer - just like there is a heuristic rule that helps Clippy to determine if you are writing a letter. It's a fully automatic system with no independent review or right to appeal.
 

How else do you fight terrorism? What would you suggest (other than that warm fuzzy "leave them alone and they'll leave us alone BS)". How would you FIGHT terrorism.
We could sell less weapons to nations like Saudi Arabia, where 15 out of 19 1-11 hijackers were from. If we give them $10 billions in arms sales instead of $20 billion we gave them last summer, terrorist funding will be cut in half. We could alienate less Muslims and instead work with Muslim communities to identify terrorists - British police was able to prevent attack on airplanes thanks to tips from Muslim community in London. Instead of monitoring AT&T internet connections, we could monitor items like guns and explosives - as of today there weren't a single terrorist attack committed purely with iPhones and used DSL modems. We could actually secure access to things like ports and chemical plants instead of trying to identify every single crazy person on Earth that might possibly try to attack them.

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