Tag Archives: Internetz

MP3 is Dead; Long Live MP3

If you read the news, you may think the MP3 file format was recently officially “killed” somehow, and any remaining MP3 holdouts should all move to AAC now. These are all simple rewrites of Fraunhofer IIS’ announcement that they’re terminating the MP3 patent-licensing program…

MP3 is no less alive now than it was last month or will be next year — the last known MP3 patents have simply expired…

MP3 is very old, but it’s the same age as JPEG, which has also long since been surpassed in quality by newer formats. JPEG is still ubiquitous not because Engadget forgot to declare its death, but because it’s good enough and supported everywhere, making it the most pragmatic choice most of the time.

AAC and other newer audio codecs can produce better quality than MP3, but the difference is only significant at low bitrates. At about 128 kbps or greater, the differences between MP3 and other codecs are very unlikely to be noticed, so it isn’t meaningfully better for personal music collections. For new music, get AAC if you want, but it’s not worth spending any time replacing MP3s you already have…

Until a few weeks ago, there had never been an audio format that was small enough to be practical, widely supported, and had no patent restrictions, forcing difficult choices and needless friction upon the computing world. Now, at least for audio, that friction has officially ended. There’s finally a great choice without asterisks.

MP3 is supported by everything, everywhere, and is now patent-free. There has never been another audio format as widely supported as MP3, it’s good enough for almost anything, and now, over twenty years since it took the world by storm, it’s finally free. 1

MP3 is Dead; Long Live MP3

Show 1 footnote

  1. We’re assuming her that this means the Fraunhofer codec can now be shipped with free wit all *NIX distros, which should actually improve the quality of MP3s.

Panama Papers & Ransomware

Before we dive into ransomware, we thought you might enjoy a readable overview of the latest and largest data breach. Have fun.

Panama Papers & Ransomware

We’ve mentioned before the reason most people don’t get hacked is they’re too poor. It’s far more lucrative to go after banks, to include the IMF et alia, where the hackers can be sure they’ll score actual money and not just overdraft fees. 1

Where the lumpen masses are affected is the hyper local – their own PC/laptop, via ransomware. And this works surprisingly well even on a larger scale: Short of banks and idiotic companies like Target, the easy money turns out to be in…hospitals.

That’s right – hospitals. They are increasingly becoming prime targets for ransomware. Last month it was Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center that dolled out the coin…bitcoins, that is, in order to regain control over their network. $17k worth.

Two weeks ago another three hospitals were nailed.

And just last week a whole hospital chain was attacked by ransomware, holding hostage the entirety of the MedStar server network in Maryland and WDC.

Naturally, the FBI was called in. 2

Interestingly the ransomware forced the MedStar hospitals to reroute ER patients to outside hospitals; the attack prevents patients from receiving timely care. It’s also possible some of thos patients may suffer a negative outcome does that make the hack more? Does the act morph into, say…assault and battery? Then there’s the fact that hospitals are considered part of our “critical infrastructure”: does this ransomware attempt now get classified as terrorism?

Panama Papers & Ransomware

Show 2 footnotes

  1. This doesn’t include CC theft/identity impersonation, which is its own distinct sub-genus.
  2. It’s too early yet to know if the FBI will issue yet another subpoena to Apple. Naw…who was I kidding? Of COURSE they’re going after Apple again.

Mechanical Sensei

The holiday shopping season officially kicks off this week with the frenzy of profligacy known ominously around much of the world as Black Friday.

There will be two vastly different common experiences among those who indulge in this annual rite. Customers of traditional stores will encounter crowded aisles, long lines, limited parking, and overworked employees as they jostle to grab the hottest holiday gifts. For some, the chaos will be energizing. Others will return home slightly traumatized, credit limits dinged by bulging bags.

On the Web…The shopping process is almost entirely curated by computers. Algorithms decide what products to recommend, how to display them, what price to set. and how an order can be most expeditiously and inexpensively shipped.

At mighty Amazon, the omniscient computer program that practically runs the company’s supply chain is known internally as the Mechanical Sensei. The program tracks all the items and orders coursing through Amazon’s systems. It makes millions of small decisions, such as how much of a particular product Amazon should buy, and—given the geographic dynamic of demand for that particular —where in its massive network of fulfillment centers to store it. As I researched my recent book on Amazon, The Everything Store, some employees even asserted that the Mechanical Sensei’s simulations helped to decide where the company should locate its newest fulfillment centers.

(via)

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F-bombs

The site FBomb.co maps in real time whenever the F-word is dropped on Twitter. America and Britain are leaders in cursing online, according to the interactive map, with New Yorkers tagged as the biggest offenders.

Thanks to its creator Martin Gingras, a junior at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, the map not only tracks the F-bombs as they happen, but also features pins that can be clicked to see a tweet and who tweeted it. On Twitter, @FBomb_co retweets random tweets that make up the map.

(via)

F-bombs – whodathunk?

The map shows the entire tweet, along with links (should any be present.)

Knockoffs are a certainty: it’s like, you know, fer shure that like some, you know, frustrated old will like code a real time map of you know, like whenever people like use the term ‘like’ in their tweets…

Which all by itself will bring down the fuckin innernetz.

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The Golden Shield

The Chinese central government has two main ways of controlling what its citizens see on the web: the Great Firewall, as it is called by foreigners, which is a system of limiting access to foreign websites which started in the late 1990s, and the Golden Shield, a system for domestic surveillance set up in 1998 by the Ministry of Public Security. Separate government departments, along with local and provincial administrations, also have their own monitoring systems. China began by blocking a list of foreign websites, including Voice of America, human-rights organisations and some foreign newspapers. But its filters have since become more sophisticated and can now selectively block specific pages within foreign websites, rather than making the entire site inaccessible. They can also block particular terms when they are used in search queries or instant messages. Google is not blocked entirely; instead, users who search for banned keywords are blocked from Google for 90 seconds, though other websites remain available. China’s many internet companies are regularly issued with lists of restricted keywords, and often censor blog posts and other content pre-emptively to avoid trouble with the authorities. In all there are thought to be around 100,000 people, employed both by the state and by private companies, policing China’s internet around the clock. Since 2005 the state has also paid people, known as the “50 Cent Party”, to post pro-government messages and steer online conversations away from sensitive topics.

(Read the report…)

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Time Warner? They keep logs…forever

DJ: So, what we saw was a shift towards customers being made part of a business model that involved–I don’t know if extortion is the right word–but embarassment for gain.

An individual would download a movie, using bittorrent, and infringe copyright. And that might be our customer, like Bob Smith who owns a Sonic.net account, or it might be their spouse, or it might be their child. Or it might be one of his three roommates in a loft in San Francisco, who Bob is not responsible for, and who rent out their loft on AirBnB and have couch surfers and buddies from college and so on and open Wifi.

When lawyers asked us for these users’ information, some of our customers I spoke with said “Oh yeah, crap, they caught me,” and were willing to admit they engaged in piracy and pay a settlement. But in other cases, it turned out the roommate did it, or no one would admit to doing it. But they would pay the settlement anyway. Because no one wants to be named in the public record in a case from So-And-So Productions vs. 1,600 names including Bob Smith for downloading a film called “Don’t Tell My Wife I B—F—— The Babysitter.”

AG: Is that a real title?

DJ: Yes. I’ve read about cases where a lawyer was doing this for the movie “The Expendables,” and 5% of people settled. So then he switched to representing someone with an embarassing porn title, and like 30% of people paid.

It seemed like half the time, the customer wasn’t the one right one, but they rolled over because it would be very embarassing. And I think that’s an abuse of process. I was unwilling to become part of that business model. In many cases the lawyers never pursued the case, and it was all bluster. But under that threat, you pay.

AG: So when did you decide to limit data retention?

DJ: Well, we saw a big uptake in this problem early last year. The “Don’t Tell My Wife” one was the first, and we laughed about it. But then we saw more and more coming in. So I looked at this, and it was a cynical, awful business.

I met with my system team, and I said, why are we keeping these logs? The primary reasons were law enforcement and spam, so we looked at our law enforcement subpoenas, and the spam processing. In the case of spam, someone is infected and becomes part of a botnet, somebody kicks off a spam job and the customer dumps 20,000 emails in a day. We get complaints, and they’re all about the last day. My systems team also only needed logs for a day.

So then I looked at law enforcement subpoenas and tried to balance an ability to help law enforcement when it’s morally right to do so with an inability to help anybody beyond a certain window. In the civil copyright cases, we’d get a subpoena from them anywhere from 30-90 days later, sometimes longer after the alleged act of piracy has occurred.

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Our Holy Files

Brother Thomas, could you download the Gaga?

And then there’s the Swedes.

“Zealous file-sharing enthusiasts in Sweden can now take their beliefs to the next level and join the Church of Kopimism, as the widespread practice has now officially been recognized as a religion.

For about a year the Kopimists of Sweden, stemming from the Young Pirates, the youth movement of the controversial Pirate Party, have struggled to get their faith to be officially recognized as a religion, but have been forced to face repeated rejection.

But now, after their third application was successful, the self-proclaimed pirates can finally pray to their own holiness.

“Now we will focus on performing our religious practices and to maintain good contact with our members,” Gerson said.”

Ahem…or, amen, come to that.

I know I know I know; damn feriners and their un-American ways…

Here…let me make it up to you.

Julia Holter – Marienbad from RVNG Intl. on Vimeo.

Our Holy Files

Here Comes the Presumptive King

I had no clue as to Facebook’s existence 18 months ago. 1

That state of grace did not last. 

At the time, in another venue, FB’s theoretical popularity was raised – would it one day become bigger than Google?  I argued 2 the app was essentially an on-line extension of high school that employed a value added bug feature to allow online retailers/direct marketers/spammers yet another opportunity to annoy everyone.

I would still argue for FB’s uselessness today. Nor do I believe FB could be considered bigger than Google. 3 I suppose millions of sheep may yet prove me wrong. Whatever.

However, as for this century’s new Mad Men…

What most users don’t know is that the new features being introduced are all centered around increasing the value of Facebook to advertisers, to the point where Facebook representatives have been selling the idea that Timeline is actually about re-conceptualizing users around their consumer preferences, or as they put it, “brands are now an essential part of people’s identities.”

Brands are now an essential part of people’s identities.

Or, I guess…when you say Nick Charles®©™, you’ve said nothing at all.

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Show 3 footnotes

  1. Nor Lady Gaga’s  & Justin Beiber’s, come to that.
  2. Which did not endear me to the site’s denizens; their normal wont was to simply note someone else’s observation or a trend/fad/passing fancy, while I tended toward somewhat aggressive (not to say argumentative-bordering-on-terrorist) commentary. I’ve always been shy that way.
  3. Or that it makes a dime’s worth of difference.

The Return of SOPA

Coming Soon to a Browser near You

SOPA box time.

If SOPA becomes law, there’s a laundry list of reasons why it would threaten the freedom we are used to on the Innernetz. Serious concerns include:

• SOPA would short-circuit the judicial system, allowing rights-holders to shut down websites in an ‘expeditious’ manner.

• DNS, simply speaking, will be gorked. Which makes the ‘netz and you less safe. There are many sites that explain why if you’re so inclined.

• Then there’s the whole legalizing government interference thing; with SOPA passage the American ‘netz experience would be censored on a par with China and Syria.

The most insulting part of this farce is the fact SOPA would be ineffective. Hell, even high school kids are hip to that factoid.

However, sure as nature is making lung fish that walk on land (again), Congress will do the bidding of those whispering in its ears while stuffing their pockets full of cash. 1
My read on this is that SOPA, if passed, is that the U.S. Government will have the legal framework necessary to shutter Google or Twitter or other any web site at any time it pleases believes necessary.

Like when OWS is pushing a protest.

If you believe that the American power structure and business elites were gladdened by the use of Twitter et al. throughout the Arab Spring, you’re a dmaned fool.

Should SOPA pass the unfettered conversation/dialogue that currently defines the ‘netz will fade into nonexistence, governments and corporations of ill intent will again be able to blind us to their activities, activites we’ve discovered over the last decade we don’t like very much.

The vote on this is tomorrow.

Before that happens, do yourself a favor and get involved. There’s a form just below that makes it easy to do so. Tell your friends. Have your dog fill it out, several times if necessary.

I don’t as a rule hawk this site but today is an exception; approach random strangers and have them read this post and fill out the form. It really is important.

DECEMBER 15th UPDATE: No admendment was accepted so the irrational SOPA bill procedes apace. Amazingly the committee spent time spatting like 5 year olds.

DECEMBER 16th UPDATE: “After two days of debate, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) abruptly halted a key hearing on the Stop Online Piracy Act, postponing a Committee vote on the bill until 2012. The move marks a win for hordes of internet activists who oppose the bill, but gives lawmakers another opportunity to juice deep-pocketed corporations for campaign contributions…” (Huffington Post)

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Show 1 footnote

  1. The original “reach around”.