Internet Archive

US, UK abusing Paris victims to push for more surveillance

How unsurprising:

At a Center for Strategic & International Studies talk today, CIA Director John Brennan renewed one of the government's favorite lies about spying: that mass surveillance has been successful in stopping a bunch of mysterious threats while it is simultaneously too ineffective to stop real attacks, because of privacy advocates and whistleblowers.

Meanwhile, in the UK, Cameron is using the Paris attacks to further his totalitarian agenda of mass state surveillance in the UK:

Some politicians in the UK are calling for the government to hurry new surveillance laws into power following deadly terrorist attacks in Paris on Friday. Lord Carlile, a former independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, said that the Investigatory Powers Bill - which was unveiled in draft form two weeks ago - should be "expedited" and put into action "as soon as possible," rather than by the end of 2016.

The UK prime minister David Cameron expressed similar concerns on BBC radio this morning, saying that the government should "look at the timetable" of the legislation. He also announced that the UK would hire 1,900 new security and intelligence staff at MI5, MI6, and GCHQ (an increase of 15 percent) in order to "respond to the increasing international terrorist threat." Cameron added that the attacks in France, which killed 129 people and wounded more than 300, "could happen here."

France already has these draconian mass surveillance laws. Sadly, they didn't prevent the attack.

The EU is preparing a frontal attack on the hyperlink

According to a draft communication on copyright reform leaked yesterday (via IPKat), the Commission is considering putting the simple act of linking to content under copyright protection. This idea flies in the face of both existing interpretation and spirit of the law as well as common sense. Each weblink would become a legal landmine and would allow press publishers to hold every single actor on the Internet liable.

The stupidity of the unelected bureaucrats in Brussels/Strasbourg never ceases to amaze me. Fresh from royally doing terrible things to the poohc regarding net neutrality, out comes this insane plan.

And then people wonder why the EU has such a bad reputation.

UK to ban encryption

British re-elected prime-minister Cameron is continuing his life's mission of invading the British people's privacy and severely restricting their freedoms.

Internet and social media companies will be banned from putting customer communications beyond their own reach under new laws to be unveiled on Wednesday.

Companies such as Apple, Google and others will no longer be able to offer encryption so advanced that even they cannot decipher it when asked to, the Daily Telegraph can disclose.

Measures in the Investigatory Powers Bill will place in law a requirement on tech firms and service providers to be able to provide unencrypted communications to the police or spy agencies if requested through a warrant.

How on earth did you Brits manage to not only elect this dangerous man, but also re-elect him?

Conde Nast to further merge content and advertising

Last month, I wrote:

The second method by which publishers and ad brokers will combat ad-blocking is by making ads harder to detect. We've already seen a huge increase in "advertorials", ads written to look like regular editorial content. Right now, there will be tags or other markers to separate advertorial content from regular editorial content, but in the near future you can expect these borders to become ever more vague, until eventually, they'll vanish altogether.

Today, Condé Nast, parent company of, among other things, Ars Technica, announced a new type of ad campaign, as reported by Observer.

"Creating the most compelling content and obsessively pushing boundaries is what drives Condé Nast," chief marketing officer and president of Condé Nast Media Group Edward Menicheschi said in the announcement. "Partnering with Cadillac, a brand with similar DNA, will result in premium storytelling that engages and inspires our shared consumers."

The marketing boundaries will be pushed by "the talented storytellers from Condé Nast's editorial staff" who, in a variety of formats and across the company's distribution platforms (aka editorial properties), will "dare greatly" to reimagine the relationship between editorial and advertising. Condés Cadillac campaign will consist of more than 50 pieces of custom content, including articles and video.

Give it a few years, and the boundaries between advertising and content will be gone completely. It's the only way to combat ad blockers and deliver advertising to consumers on the web.

Oh, how we'll long for today's ads.

EU declares net neutrality illegal

The European Parliament has passed the flawed compromise text on net neutrality without including any of the amendments that would have closed serious loopholes. The vote, with 500 in favour, and 163 against, took place in a plenary session a few hours after a rather lacklustre debate this morning, which was attended by only 50 MEPs out of the European Parliament's total of 751, indicating little interest in this key topic among most European politicians.

And thus, with one fell swoop, the progress several countries had made - including my own - is undone, by a bunch of incompetent, spineless toads in Brussels. We had full net neutrality in The Netherlands, but such rules are now effectively illegal.

And then people wonder why the EU is so incredibly unpopular.

‘System shock’

So, Medium tried a new thing on their website in which they render the site in system fonts - San Francisco, Roboto, Segoe - but soon they started getting bug reports from people about Medium showing blocky, pixellated fonts.

I looked again at all the system fonts and none seemed to match any of the descriptions. What was going on? I started asking for screenshots, and eventually a few trickled in.

And, suddenly, I realized I know this font. It was a font I saw on my first PC.

I love this story.

Google launches Accelerated Mobile Pages

Facebook's got Instant Articles and Apple's got Apple News, and now Google has something called Accelerated Mobile Pages, or AMP, together with a whole bunch of partners.

AMP HTML is a new way to make web pages that are optimized to load instantly on users' mobile devices. It is designed to support smart caching, predictable performance, and modern, beautiful mobile content. Since AMP HTML is built on existing web technologies, and not a template based system, publishers continue to host their own content, innovate on their user experiences, and flexibly integrate their advertising and business models - all within a technical architecture optimized for speed and performance.

The big difference between AMP and other initiatives: AMP is open source and available on Github, and anybody can use the code as they see fit.

HP announces OpenSwitch

HP today announced the launch of the OpenSwitch community and a new open source network operating system (NOS). HP and key supporters, Accton Technology Corporation, Arista, Broadcom, Intel, and VMware, are delivering a community-based platform that provides developers and users the ability to accelerate innovation, avoid vendor lock-in, and realize investment protection as they rapidly build data center networks customized for unique business applications.

Here's the official OpenSwitch site - and I'll admit, this goes way over my head.

Computers and the web can bring the old and new together

An interesting website that lets you go back in time, to see what the island of Manhattan looked like before it was appropriated by the Dutch and turned into New Amsterdam (now New York, of course). The native forest, streams, pond - they're all gone, obviously, and quite a bit of land was 'added' to the island to accommodate the city's needs (quite fitting, considering its founders).

Have you ever wondered what New York was like before it was a city? Find out here, by navigating through the map of the city in 1609. You can find your block, explore the native landscape of today's famous landmarks, research the flora and fauna block by block, and help our team continue to rediscover 1609.

A few weeks ago, in honour of the 200 year anniversary of the Kingdom of The Netherlands, the Dutch Kadaster and Topografisch Bureau (do I really need to translate that?) launched a fantastic website showing how much The Netherlands has changed over just the past 200 years. The site shows a Google Maps-like interface containing all topographical maps of the country made over the past 200 years, so you can navigate around the country and use the timeline slider to see when changes took place. Compare the Zuiderzee area in 1815 to the same area (now IJsselmeer) today, and it's completely different (we're basically just removing all the water and reclaiming all the land to bring us back to how it was 2000 years ago).

Even at the very local level, you can find really interesting things. If you ever wanted a clear image of the absolutely devastating effect the government policy of "ruilverkaveling" (land swap) and the '70s ideals of the "malleable society" in its most literal form had on the landscape of The Netherlands (and who doesn't, right?), look no further than this 1973 map of my hometown/area. You can clearly see what it used to look like (the messy part), and the straight, ordered, boring, and artificial nothingness they turned it into. A few years later, the last remaining "old" landscape was destroyed, and now it all looks straight and orderly.

This was all done to maximise agricultural production and make it easier for local, provincial and the national government to initiate new construction projects. It also allowed water management engineers to completely redesign our water management, which is kind of important in the western half of the country, since it consists almost entirely out of polders.

I love how computers and the web can bring the old and the new together like this, and visualise so well something you otherwise would never be able to get this clear an image of.

From radio to porn, British spies track web users

Before long, billions of digital records about ordinary people's online activities were being stored every day. Among them were details cataloging visits to porn, social media and news websites, search engines, chat forums, and blogs.

The mass surveillance operation - code-named KARMA POLICE - was launched by British spies about seven years ago without any public debate or scrutiny. It was just one part of a giant global Internet spying apparatus built by the United Kingdom's electronic eavesdropping agency, Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ.

Severed pig's head.

Yes, the FCC might ban your operating system

Over the last few weeks a discussion has flourished over the FCC's Notification of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) on modular transmitters and electronic labels for wireless devices. Some folks have felt that the phrasing has been too Chicken-Little-like and that the FCC's proposal doesn’t affect the ability to install free, libre or open source operating system. The FCC in fact says their proposal has no effect on open source operating systems or open source in general. The FCC is undoubtedly wrong.

Be sure to actually read the article.

On ad-blocking

Let's talk ad-blocking.

With the arrival of iOS 9, ad-blocking is coming to mobile in a big way, and it's causing a lot of talk all over the web. It is highlighting the internal struggle some feel about the practice, but also the hypocrisy of some of its staunchest proponents. So far, it seems like the real 'bloodbath' isn't taking place where people thought it would be - namely, publishers - but among personalities.

Apple’s “veto power over new web technologies”

John Gruber, on Apple's incredible power over the web:

As a side note, I think this is more or less what is happening, whether the web community likes it or not, because this largely seems to describe Safari/WebKit's approach to moving forward - and Safari, because of iOS in particular - effectively gives Apple veto power over new web technologies. Apple can't stop Google from adding new features to Chrome/Blink, but Apple can keep any such features from being something web developers can rely upon as being widely available. That implicit veto power is what drove this summer's "Safari is the New IE" drama.

What could possibly go wrong. Meanwhile, John Gruber, on his site's about page:

Web standards are important, and Daring Fireball adheres to them.

OK.

We’re heading straight for AOL 2.0

The biggest internet players count users as their users, not users in general. Interoperability is a detriment to such plays for dominancy. So there are clear financial incentives to move away from a more open and decentralized internet to one that is much more centralized. Facebook would like its users to see Facebook as 'the internet' and Google wouldn't mind it if their users did the same thing and so on. It's their users after all. But users are not to be owned by any one company and the whole power of the internet and the world wide web is that it's peer to peer, in principle all computers connected to it are each others equals, servers one moment, clients the next.

If the current trend persists we're heading straight for AOL 2.0, only now with a slick user interface, a couple more features and more users. I personally had higher hopes for the world wide web when it launched. Wouldn't it be ironic if it turned out that the end-run the WWW did around AOL because it was the WWW was open and inclusive ended up with different players simply re-implementing the AOL we already had and that we got rid of because it was not the full internet.

The writing's been on the wall for a while now.

The mobile web sucks

Nilay Patel, writing for The Verge:

But man, the web browsers on phones are terrible. They are an abomination of bad user experience, poor performance, and overall disdain for the open web that kicked off the modern tech revolution. Mobile Safari on my iPhone 6 Plus is a slow, buggy, crashy affair, starved for the phone's paltry 1GB of memory and unable to rotate from portrait to landscape without suffering an emotional crisis. Chrome on my various Android devices feels entirely outclassed at times, a country mouse lost in the big city, waiting to be mugged by the first remnant ad with a redirect loop and something to prove.

With The Verge itself being the poster child for how slow the mobile (and non-mobile) web can be, this article did leave a bit of a funny taste in my mouth. Luckily, The Verge's parent company - Vox Media - is going to put its money where its mouth is, and focus entirely on performance - with solid promises we can hold them to. Very nice.

US exhausts IPv4 addresses

Ars Says, "Remember how, a decade ago, we told you that the Internet was running out of IPv4 addresses? Well, it took a while, but that day is here now: Asia, Europe, and Latin America have been parceling out scraps for a year or more, and now the ARIN wait list is here for the US, Canada, and numerous North Atlantic and Caribbean islands. Only organizations in Africa can still get IPv4 addresses as needed. The good news is that IPv6 seems to be picking up the slack."