- Governance for the New Class of Worker (Matt Webb) — there is a new class of worker. They’re not inside the company – not benefiting from job security or healthcare – but their livelihoods in large part dependent on it, the transaction cost of moving to a competitor deliberately kept high. Or the worker is, without seeing any of the upside of success, taking on the risk or bearing the cost of the company’s expansion and operation.
- Hidden Code in Your Chipset (Slideshare) — there’s a processor that supervises your processor, and it’s astonishingly fully-featured (to the point of having privileged access to the network and being able to run Java code).
- On Nerd Entitlement — Privilege doesn’t mean you don’t suffer. The best part of 2014 was the tech/net feminist consciousness-raising/uprising. That’s probably the wrong label for it, but bullshit is being called that was ignored years ago. I think we’ve collectively found the next thing we fix that future generations will look back on us and wonder why it went unremarked-upon for so long.
- Understanding Paxos — a simple introduction, with animations, to one of the key algorithms in distributed systems.
DRM makes a mash of security and privacy.
Put your books, movies, and music on a gleaming shelf. Close the door to keep the dust off. Lock the door, so no one can take it, and hand me the key. I’ll let you have the key when you need it, if you promise not to share these with anyone else.
I might keep track of when you borrow the keys, and what you check in and out. You understand, of course, that it’s just data I need to collect and aggregate to keep my costs down, right? I wouldn’t want to have to charge you very much for my key-keeping service.
It’s the Deal of the Century!
Or at least it will be if some kinds of content publishers and distributors get their way. Terrified by the sudden collapse in the cost of duplication and distribution, locking everyone’s shelves down seems like the only way to maintain their balance (sheets). Worse, products from beyond publishing are appearing with the new key-management practices built in, including cars, coffee, and of course printer cartridges.
The W3C sells out users without seeming to get anything in return
I had a hard time finding anything to like in Tim Berners-Lee’s meager excuse for the W3C’s new focus on digital rights management (DRM). However, the piece that keeps me shaking my head and wondering is a question he asks but doesn’t answer:
If we, the programmers who design and build Web systems, are going to consider something which could be very onerous in many ways, what can we ask in return?
Yes. What should we ask in return? And what should we expect to get? The W3C appears to have surrendered (or given?) its imprimatur to this work without asking for, well, anything in return. “Considerations to be discussed later” is rarely a powerful diplomatic pose.
Constant KV Store, Google Me, Learned Bias, and DRM-Stripping Lego Robot
- Sparkey — Spotify’s open-sourced simple constant key/value storage library, for read-heavy systems with infrequent large bulk inserts.
- The Truth of Fact, The Truth of Feeling (Ted Chiang) — story about what happens when lifelogs become searchable. Now with Remem, finding the exact moment has become easy, and lifelogs that previously lay all but ignored are now being scrutinized as if they were crime scenes, thickly strewn with evidence for use in domestic squabbles. (via BoingBoing)
- Algorithms Magnifying Misbehaviour (The Guardian) — when the training set embodies biases, the machine will exhibit biases too.
- Lego Robot That Strips DRM Off Ebooks (BoingBoing) — so. damn. cool. If it had been controlled by a C64, Cory would have hit every one of my geek erogenous zones with this find.
HTML DRM, South Korean Cyberwar, Display Advertising BotNet, and Red Scares
- Defend the Open Web: Keep DRM Out of W3C Standards (EFF) — W3C is there to create comprehensible, publicly-implementable standards that will guarantee interoperability, not to facilitate an explosion of new mutually-incompatible software and of sites and services that can only be accessed by particular devices or applications. See also Ian Hickson on the subject. (via BoingBoing)
- Inside the South Korean Cyber Attack (Ars Technica) — about thirty minutes after the broadcasters’ networks went down, the network of Korea Gas Corporation also suffered a roughly two-hour outage, as all 10 of its routed networks apparently went offline. Three of Shinhan Bank’s networks dropped offline as well […] Given the relative simplicity of the code (despite its Roman military references), the malware could have been written by anyone.
- BotNet Racking Up Ad Impressions — observed the Chameleon botnet targeting a cluster of at least 202 websites. 14 billion ad impressions are served across these 202 websites per month. The botnet accounts for at least 9 billion of these ad impressions. At least 7 million distinct ad-exchange cookies are associated with the botnet per month. Advertisers are currently paying $0.69 CPM on average to serve display ad impressions to the botnet.
- Legal Manual for Cyberwar (Washington Post) — the main reason I care so much about security is that the US is in the middle of a CyberCommie scare. Politicians and bureaucrats so fear red teams under the bed that they’re clamouring for legal and contra methods to retaliate, and then blindly use those methods on domestic disobedience and even good citizenship. The parallels with the 50s and McCarthy are becoming painfully clear: we’re in for another witch-hunting time when we ruin good people (and bad) because a new type of inter-state hostility has created paranoia and distrust of the unknown. “Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of the nmap team?”
HTML DRM, Visualizing Medical Sciences, Lifelong Learning, and Hardware Hackery
- What Tim Berners-Lee Doesn’t Know About HTML DRM (Guardian) — Cory Doctorow lays it out straight. HTML DRM is a bad idea, no two ways. The future of the Web is the future of the world, because everything we do today involves the net and everything we’ll do tomorrow will require it. Now it proposes to sell out that trust, on the grounds that Big Content will lock up its “content” in Flash if it doesn’t get a veto over Web-innovation. […] The W3C has a duty to send the DRM-peddlers packing, just as the US courts did in the case of digital TV.
- Visualizing the Topical Structure of the Medical Sciences: A Self-Organizing Map Approach (PLOSone) — a high-resolution visualization of the medical knowledge domain using the self-organizing map (SOM) method, based on a corpus of over two million publications.
- What Teens Get About The Internet That Parents Don’t (The Atlantic) — the Internet has been a lifeline for self-directed learning and connection to peers. In our research, we found that parents more often than not have a negative view of the role of the Internet in learning, but young people almost always have a positive one. (via Clive Thompson)
- Portable C64 — beautiful piece of C64 hardware hacking to embed a screen and battery in it. (via Hackaday)
Luring students, looking at publishing's ecosystem, and using big data for big publishing.
Here are a few stories that caught my attention in the publishing space this week.
Amazon targets students with print textbook rentals
In headline news this week, Amazon expanded its digital textbook rental program to include analog books. Students can now rent physical paper textbooks, complete with prior students’ scribbles, for less than buying a used book (in many cases). Sean Ludwig at VentureBeat reports that most textbooks rent for $30 to $60 and are rented for the typical 130-day semester.
According to Amazon’s FAQ on the program, shipping in both directions is pretty easy to get for free: rentals are eligible for free Super Saver Shipping on orders over $25 and are also eligible for Prime free Two-Day shipping for Prime subscribers. Students can also sign up for the Amazon Student program and get six months of free Prime Two-Day shipping, then get a Prime membership at a discounted rate of $39 per year (the “adult” version of Prime is $79 per year). Amazon will conveniently autosubscribe student members to adult memberships upon graduation. Sounds a lot like those “free” credit cards that came with swag during my college days, designed to suck you in from the get-go.
“The Amazon story is about scale and momentum in general merchandise sales, here and abroad. I don’t care how many Kindles they deliver or their burgeoning downloads in books, music, video games and streaming of films. All this activity is designed to suck you into buying TV sets, washing machines, even disposable diapers and bottled water by the case.”
Or as O’Reilly publisher and GM tweeted in relation to Sosnoff’s post, “Books are nothing more than roadkill on Amazon’s highway to total retail domination.” So as publishers are frantically trying to find innovative ways to compete against Amazon, Amazon is just using publishing, in all its variations, as a means to an end.
Which brings me to Jim Tanous’ post at The Mac Observer, looking at ebook DRM: one possible positive outcome of this one-sided publishing battle against Amazon is the potential eradication of DRM. As Mathew Ingram pointed out last December at GigaOm, publishers “handed Amazon and Apple the stick of digital-rights management, which the two companies are now using to beat them.” And publishers are starting to come around to understand that DRM isn’t just locking content away from pirates (which it doesn’t do anyway), but that it’s locking content in to closed platforms, ala Amazon Kindle.
After looking at the new StoryBundle platform that give readers a bundle of books for whatever price they want to pay, all DRM-free, Tanous writes: “I was struck by how the DRM-free nature of the books mirrors a growing trend by publishers and independent authors to make their products easily available on multiple platforms and escape the stranglehold they fear Amazon holds on the market.”
Tanous looks at the overall trend, including fantasy publisher Tor’s removal of DRM from its catalog earlier this year and publishers like O’Reilly and Double Dragon that don’t use DRM. He notes that removing DRM removes the constraints on “customer mobility between providers and platforms” and that publishers’ recognition of this and subsequent changes to distribution and sales models, such as StoryBundle’s model, “will not only be good for consumers but for the overall health of the eBook market as well.”