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The Internet

Submission + - Pirate Bay abandons bid for own nation

tomp76 writes: Perhaps it was all just a joke. Or perhaps The Pirate Bay, despite being one of the largest bit torrent trackers in the world, isn't really as powerful as its supporters would like to believe. That, at least, is the impression given by one of the founders in this interview. The plans for a copyright-free nation have been scaled down considerably: "We have $20,000 and we are looking at some alternatives. Really we just want somewhere we can name The Pirate Bay, so we can look on Google Maps and find ourselves there."
The Courts

Submission + - Supreme Court Refuses 200 Year Porn Sentence

Class Act Dynamo writes: "The United States Supreme Court today refused to hear the appeal of a high school teacher who was sentenced to over 200 years in prison for possessing thousands of child pornography images in Arizona. The justices declined without comment to hear the case. His attorneys argued that the sentence (10 years per image for the 20 images presumably leading to indictment) was disproportionate to the crime. I put this under Your Rights Online even though those rights really don't include possessing child pornography. However, what do Slashdotters think? Was the punishment appropriate for the crime? Think of the children!..but not in the way that this teacher apparently was."

Submission + - Citibank: training users to be less secure

Llamedos writes: Citibank has redesigned their credit card website (Citicards.com) so that the login page is not an SSL encrypted page. Instead, they expect users to simply accept a little lock GIF file they put up themselves, and their assurance that the form is submitted via SSL. According to Citibank, "Your security is important to us. While the new Citicards.com has an "http" address and no lock icon displays in your browser, your personal information is still protected." Citibank's security page While other sites are moving to more security and more ways for the user to protect himself (e.g., Bank of America's SiteKey program), Citibank is tearing away at protections and trying to train users not to care about security.

Submission + - Documentary on DRM, Piracy, Released for Free

iSeal writes: The "On Piracy" documentary team have just released version 1.0 of their documentary, free for the download. In it, they interview figureheads of various agencies including the president of CRIA (Canadian RIAA), the Canadian Motion Picture Distributors Association (Canadian MPAA), as well as the head of Creative Commons Canada, Michael Geist, youths off the street, indy labels, band members, etc. Streaming downloads are up, and the DVD ISO is being legitimately distributed via bittorrent.

Submission + - Who's number is on my caller ID? Who Called Us

An anonymous reader writes: I got a few calls today from a number I didn't recognize. They didn't leave a voice mail so I assumed it was a telemarketer. I decided to see what Google thought about the number and the first link that came up was: http://whocalled.us/lookup/3123279690. This link includes the phone number I was searching for. Pretty cool way for us to work together to ID the telemarketers.

IE and Firefox Share a Vulnerability 207

hcmtnbiker writes with news of a logic flaw shared by IE 7 and Firefox 2.0. IE 5.01, IE 6, and Firefox are also affected. The flaw was discovered by Michal Zalewski, and is easily demonstrated on IE7 and Firefox. The vulnerability is not platform-specific, but these demonstrations are — they work only on Windows systems. (Microsoft says that IE7 on Vista is not vulnerable.) From the vulnerability description: "In all modern browsers, form fields (used to upload user-specified files to a remote server) enjoy some added protection meant to prevent scripts from arbitrarily choosing local files to be sent, and automatically submitting the form without user knowledge. For example, '.value' parameter cannot be set or changed, and any changes to .type reset the contents of the field... [in this attack] the keyboard input in unrelated locations can be selectively geared toward input fields by the attacker."

Submission + - Massive Aussie bank tests Google Apps

daria42 writes: Australia's largest bank (the Commonwealth Bank of Australia) today confirmed it had evaluated Google's hosted office productivity suite for its 40,000+ users and found it wanting. "At this time, there is insufficient product capability in the Google product to be adequate for us for our desktops," the bank said.
The Internet

Submission + - NCUC opposes ICANN "word police" policy fo

Dan Krimm writes: ICANN (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers — the uber-group for regulating Internet domain names) is considering dramatic expansion in the assignment of generic top-level domains (gTLDs), well beyond the fairly narrow set of .com, .net, .org, .edu, .gov, etc. that are currently established.

That's a good idea. The bad idea is that the advisory council that is proposing policy for this change is suggesting that ICANN should deeply police what text strings can be used for new gTLDs. Bad idea: it would allow any member of ICANN's Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) — that is, any government who is signed up with ICANN — to veto any string that causes legal problems in that country. This would allow any single nation to veto that string for the whole world, leaving gTLDs only as least-common-denominators across the entire globe, and to bring trademark law into the picture on a pre-emptive basis. Not so good for market competition, terrible for free expression, a systematic violation of national sovereignty. Sets a terrible precedent for future policy at ICANN, in stepping way beyond the narrow technical origins of the coordination of Internet domain registration.

The good news: this is not yet a fait accompli. At ICANN, the policy advisory group (GNSO — the Generic Names Supporting Organization) has not yet voted on the final draft proposal, which could happen at the next ICANN board meeting in late March 2007. One of the several advisory groups that make up the GNSO, the Non-commercial Users Constituency (NCUC) has proposed an amendment with alternate language that reduces ICANN's role to minimal arbitration of mainly only technical considerations. Much better.

You can play an active role in this policy vote by contacting the ICANN Board members and the GAC representative for your country and (1) voicing your opposition to the current draft proposal from the GNSO on gTLD policy, and (2) urging support for the NCUC amended language.

Relevant links:

NCUC media release: http://ipjustice.org/wp/2007/02/26/icann-power-gra b/

If you live in the United States, your representative on the GAC is Suzanne Sene from the US Commerce Department. Suzanne Sene can be contacted via email to SSene[at]ntia[dot]doc[dot]gov

The ICANN GAC representatives from other countries are listed here:

The ICANN Board of Directors is listed here:

Relevant documents:

GNSO Draft Final Report on the Introduction of New Generic Top-Level Domains:
http://gnso.icann.org/drafts/GNSO-PDP-Dec05-FR13-F EB07.htm

NCUC proposal (Feb. 2007) to amend the draft report:

NCUC Comments on Fall 2006 Draft Report
http://www.ipjustice.org/ICANN/NCUC_Comments_on_Ne w_gTLDs.pdf

Internet Governance Project Alert:
"Will the UN Take Over the Internet" Through ICANN?
http://internetgovernance.org/news.html#UNTakeOver InternetThroughIcann_022207

GNSO Council Webpage on Intro of New gTLD Policy:

Submission + - Networking Strategic Planning

NorCalRon writes: I work for the State of California in Information Technology. I am working on a committee that is defining the strategic plan for networking. This committee is comprised of people that had a good deal of technical expertise at one time, but our skills have morphed to the "business" side of the house, away from more active technical roles.

The committee is doing a pretty good job addressing the future based upon our technical understanding and experiences, but I am haunted that a bunch of bureaucrats (like myself) may be missing something important. We have already asked similar questions of our technical workforce, as well as some highly (over) paid consultants.

Here is an opportunity to possibly change the way the State of California does its business, especially in the area's of networking, voice, convergence, and security by suggesting ideas that we should be investigating as part of this process.

Any and all ideas welcome, even the inevitable flames. All will be helpful, or at least humorous.

Submission + - For Love of Insects

danny writes: "If you're interested in insects, or think you might be interested in them, then Thomas Eisner's For Love of Insects is one of the best works of popular science I have read. Read on for my review. In For Love of Insects, Eisner gives a engaging presentation of his work over more than half a century, studying insects and their defense systems. He includes some autobiographical material and captures the excitement of discovery and the adventure of curiosity-driven experiment and research, but his focus is very much on the insects, on the variety and complexity of their adaptations.

Bombardier beetles deploy 500 pulse per second chemical cannons, which they can fire in all directions and accurately target against attacks on different parts of their bodies.

"The bombardier is even able to fire forward over its back. It does this by bouncing the spray off a pair of skeletal reflectors that it manages to stick out from the tip of the abdomen at the moment of ejection. Ants are therefore at risk even if they scale a beetle's back."

Whip scorpions spray a mix of acetic and caprylic acids. Millipedes and a range of insects produce hydrogen cyanide. One way to manage poisonous substances in high concentrations is by mixing separately produced precursors "on demand"; another is by storage and transport in drainage tubes lined with cuticle.

Polyxenid millipedes use "grappling hook" bristles to entangle ants. When attacked, Hemisphaerota cyanea beetles hunker down and hang on with an adhesive force hundreds of times their body weight; this stops ants but not specialised predators that inject muscle relaxants. And there are caterpillars that consume Drosera sundews, using sensory hairs to carefully manoeuvre around the sticky droplets.

Photinus fireflies use lucibufagins for defence and female Photuris fireflies use mimicry to catch Photuris males, from which they obtain lucibufagins to defend themselves and their eggs. Lacewing larvae Chrysopa slossonae cloak themselves in trash, making themselves resemble woolly aphids and fooling the ants that herd them. Beetles of the genus Elytroleptus both mimic poisonous lycid beetles and prey on them; if they sometimes become unpalatable themselves, they would combine Batesian and Müllerian mimicry.

Ozaenine beetles direct jets of fluid against attackers using the Coanda effect. Daddy-long-legs Vonones sayi accurately administer benzoquinones onto attackers using their forelegs. Dienutes beetles emit gyrindal to make themselves unpalatable when swallowed by fish, using slow release to combat "oral flushing". Nasutitermes exitiosus termites spray gum against ants. And the secretions of Glomeris millipedes sedate attacking wolf spiders.

Detachable scales help moths escape from orb spider webs. Orb spiders take their webs down during the day, or mark them with "stabilimenta" so birds can avoid them. Argiope spiders deal better than Nephila ones with bombardier beetles and stink bugs, wrapping them in silk before biting them. If not killed, bugs use saliva to weaken the glue and harden the silk, making it easier to break free.

Insect defences have naturally inspired a variety of "circumventers", or predators with ways of getting around chemical defences. Grasshopper mice jam the "armed" tails of Eleodes beetles into the sand before eating them from the head down, stopping just short of the poison glands. Phengodid beetles inject a rapid-acting poison into the necks of millipedes, crawl away and bury themselves in the sand for an hour or so, then return to eat the innards, leaving the poison sacs. Insects of several kinds consume leaves of latex-producing plants after first puncturing key veins to isolate them.

Synchlora caterpillars decorate themselves with flower petals as camouflage. The plant Mentzelia pumila uses lethal defensive spines against insects, but the aphid Macrosyphum metzeliae, moving carefully on long legs, not only feeds on the plant but is protected by its spines.

Insects such as grasshoppers and sawfly larvae use toxic chemicals from the plants they eat: waxes, slime, pine resin, eucalyptus oil, turpentine. Cochineals produce carminic acid not as a dye for humans but to deter predators, but some of those not only cope with it but turn it to their own ends:

"Laetilia, Hyperaspis, and Leucopis illustrate nicely now opportunistic strategies can differ from insect to insect. Evolutionarily all three have achieved the same thing. Through specialization they have 'crashed' through the defensive chemical barrier of their host, and have seized the opportunity of appropriating the host's weaponry for protective purposes of their own. All three use carminic acid for defense, but each does so in its own way. One expels the compound orally, another does so from the rear, and the third deploys it by bleeding."

Cantharidin is poisonous, but has been used as a primitive "Viagra". It is used for protection in meloids (blister beetles) through defensive bleeding. In Neopyrochroa beetles, cantharidin is transferred by males to females, and hence to eggs.

Utetheisa moths use alkaloids derived from plants for defence: males transfer alkaloid to the females, after using a derivative to attract them, and the females use it to protect their eggs.

And these are just some of the insects Eisner covers.

The science in For Love of Insects comes from many disciplines. There is chemistry, describing the structure and synthesis of defensive chemicals and explaining how they were collected and isolated. There is anatomy, looking at defensive structures and organs for producing, storing and targeting defensive compounds. There is ecology, looking at when and against which predators insect defences work, at the role of mimicry, and so forth. There is ethology, looking at behaviours for getting around defences, at transfers of chemicals in mating, and at different life stage strategies. There is evolutionary theory, looking at how all these features evolved, at predator-prey coevolution, sexual selection, and so forth. There is history and anthropology, looking at the role insects have played in human life. And more.

Eisner also includes some details of experimental methodology and design, and background on the mechanics of science; he generously acknowledges his collaborators over the years.

For Love of Insects is illustrated with extraordinary photographs. These are not necessarily the kind to excite an art macrophotographer, but they include action photos of insects, attacking and being attacked, that are both dramatic and informative. Eisner includes some discussion about how the high-speed photography involved was done. There are also electron micrographs and diagrams illustrating anatomical details.

For Love of Insects is the grand synthesis of a veteran scientist looking back, sharing his knowledge and experience but above all his excitement and wonder at the marvels of the natural world. Anyone curious about insects, or indeed natural history, should find it a joy to read."

Feed Intel Retooling Transistor Plant (nytimes.com)

The chip maker said it would retool a factory in New Mexico to start making chips with advanced 45-nanometer-wide transistors in the second half of 2008.

Submission + - Verizon wins injunction against TXT spammer

bulled writes: "cnet.com is running a story about a suit Verizon Wireless recently won against a company that was delivering spam text messages. Specialized Programming and Marketing and Henderson was ordered to pay more than $200,000 in damages to Verizon Wireless."

Ramanujian's Deathbed Problem Cracked 205

Jake's Mom sends word of the serendipitous solution to a decades-old mathematical mystery. Researchers from the University of Wisconsin have unraveled a major number theory puzzle left at the death of one of the twentieth century's greatest mathematicians, Srinivasa Ramanujan. From the press release: "Mathematicians have finally laid to rest the legendary mystery surrounding an elusive group of numerical expressions known as the 'mock theta functions.' Number theorists have struggled to understand the functions ever since... Ramanujan first alluded to them in a letter written [to G. H. Hardy] on his deathbed, in 1920. Now, using mathematical techniques that emerged well after Ramanujan's death, two number theorists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have pieced together an explanatory framework that for the first time illustrates what mock theta functions are, and exactly how to derive them."

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