Archive for the ‘Tech Politics’ Category

Update: (It was all talk) RIM co-CEO Mike Lazaridis has some choice words regarding recent BlackBerry bans.

If you thought RIM was going to cave to foreign countries’ demands to weaken the security of the BlackBerry platform, you were sorely mistaken. RIM’s response is actually quite refreshing (and comical) in an age where big business and government politics are trumping individual freedoms and privacy left and right.

Specifically, when questioned about the recent BlackBerry bans spreading around the Middle East, Mike Lazaridis, RIM’s co-CEO had a few choice sentences:

This is about the Internet,” Mr. Lazaridis said. “Everything on the Internet is encrypted. This is not a BlackBerry-only issue. If they can’t deal with the Internet, they should shut it off.

We have dealt with this before,” Mr. Lazaridis said. “This will get resolved. And it will get resolved if there is a chance for rational discussion.

Although Mr. Lazaridis said RIM wouldn’t compromise the security of its products, he acknowledged the company would have to cooperate with authorities if handed a court order to do a lawful intercept of a person’s communications. “I would give them the encrypted stream,” he said. “It would have to be like a wiretap.”

We are going to continue to work with them to make sure they understand the reality of the Internet,” he said. “A lot of these people don’t have Ph.Ds, and they don’t have a degree in computer science.”

Clearly, RIM isn’t bending over. ‘Tis a proud day to be a BlackBerry user. RIM’s got your back.

Update

Yeah, about that proud, warm feeling over RIM’s hard stance — it was all talk. Local servers are being placed in Saudi Arabia as we speak. So much for consumers’ best interests and privacy.
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Producing shady iPhone/iPod/iPad accessories? Watch out, Apple’s a comin’

In a move that shouldn’t surprise many, it has come to light that Apple is finally unleashing the legal hounds on several iPhone/iPod/iPad accessory manufacturers for producing “sub-par” quality accessories. One example given by the lawsuit cites a case where an iPod user bought a third party battery charger from one of the defendants only to have the charger worsen his battery life. So far, there are over 20 different defendants named in the lawsuit.

As many of us have experienced over the years, getting that extra $5-$10 of an accessory doesn’t always lead to “value”. You know how it is — you get what you pay for. In Apple’s case, their accessories tend to be higher priced. But part of that is because Apple requires a 20-25% royalty on any products that are “officially licensed” with Apple’s seal of approval. Naturally, that cost gets passed along to consumers.

Regardless of how many companies are found guilty in this initial lawsuit, Apple’s gadgets are a hot ticket item world wide, with knock-off companies and accessory companies alike churning out new products faster than you can blink an eye.

It just goes to show that Apple’s own motto — “Our way or the high way” — is practiced in everything they do. Though in this case, they at least have some consumer interests at heart. No one wants a shoddy case…

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Common sense prevails: Exemptions made in DMCA clause to allow for jailbreaking/rooting/hacking (for legal content)

Each and every day, it literally pains me to read headline after headline of some new boneheaded politician or government body who makes a law based solely on the persuasion of company lobbyists. We all know what I’m talking about — companies who “donate” money to politicians so they’ll push for laws that favor monopolistic ways for the company on top and just fuck over customers overall. But there is hope!

The Library of Congress announced today a change to the DMCA’s god awful anti-circumvention clause. Specifically, verbiage pertaining to the act of hacking/jailbreaking/rooting your handset for the purpose of installing “legally obtained” software is permitted. Score +10 for consumers!

Though don’t get too excited just yet. While the law specifically states end users more or less have final say what they do with their phones, it does not say manufacturers can’t try to stop consumers — as Apple has time and time again…and failed repeatedly. Furthermore, the DMCA still prohibits “tools” (read: software in this case) that aid in DMCA-type circumventions from being discussed or publicly shared for others to download. Stupid — yes. So technically, it’s legal to jailbreak our phones, but obtaining the software and retweeting the hell out of new updates about Dev-Team products is not. Fluster cluck it is.

Still, it’s a huge win for consumers who have in recent years, seen plenty of their rights trampled on by the almighty corporate dollar. Baby steps folks, baby steps.

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Would you sell your e-reader if “exclusive” walled gardens hamper ebook uptake?

Yesterday Amazon announced that they scored an exclusive deal with publisher Andrew Wylie (clients: Oliver Sacks, Salman Rushdie, and Philip Roth plus more) that will give them the sole rights to distribute books by mentioned (and unmentioned) authors for a full 2 years. At first, it seems like a great way to push ebooks further and yeah, is a nice little nest egg for Amazon. But when you sit back and look at the bigger picture, it’s a very bad decision. First and foremost, no other outlets have access to these exclusive titles — no other ereader devices and not even traditional paperback versions.

Essentially, Amazon is setting a precedent for other publishers and ebook storefronts to create their own exclusive “talent clubs”, thereby fragmenting the market in an extreme sense. Just think, in a years time the sole decision when purchasing an ereader is: “What books can I or can’t I download?” That’s the wrong question to be asking. Features of the hardware itself and provided 3rd party services should be number one — not worrying about how many different ereaders you’ll need to read books from all of your favorite authors….
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DRM gets a fresh face: Ultraviolet.

Ask any tech competent person about DRM and they’ll correctly tell you it’s useless — unless of course you goal is to piss off someone and neuter their experience with legally obtained content. The image that has attached itself to DRM isn’t going away. So, content creators have to get crafty every now and then. (Too bad they can’t put that creativity into creating actual legitimate business models that don’t fuck over consumers…) Meet the latest face in DRM: UltraViolet.

The aim of UltraViolet is to be a digital, cloud-based locker of sorts that will “just work”. The claim to fame is that no matter the destination, whether it be gaming console, smartphone, tv, computer, DVR, etc., UltraViolet will allow playback of your content without hiccup. Though of course, that was the original claim of your standard DRM scheme. And we all know how that played out. Not to mention, a cloud-based account signals to me that an internet connection would be required to authorize/de-authorize devices to play your content. For a fair chunk of users, that wouldn’t be a problem. But alas, not all of us have internet. What are those people going to do? Everyone involved managed to get one thing right though — it’s free.

There’s plenty of big name media partners, physical, and digital retailers jumping on board, so DECE UltraViolet looks like it may stick around for a little while. Let’s just hope it goes better than the last dozen and a half DRM it-always-works schemes. Anyone remotely excited? Or would you rather keep playback across devices in your own hands, manually, and without a needed internet connection? Ya…me too.

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73,000 blogs taken offline. ISP remains silent.

Looking for a new host to provide your website with hosting service? Avoid BurstNet like the plague. BurstNet is the hosting company that hosts did host Blogetery. Blogetery was a collection of WordPress sites, covering some 73,000+ separate entities. Apparently, something ran against the law as BurstNet is citing “law enforcement requests” as the reason the Blogetery was taken down. If that isn’t a knee jerk reaction, I don’t know what is. I don’t care how bad a website is or the content they cater to, instantly shutting down 73,000+ sites because of a few bad ones (the word is that it’s copyright/IP infringement related) is a gross over reaction.

I know if I were a legitimate Blogetery customer, having my site knocked out with no explanation as to why or a time frame on when it would be back up would end my relationship with them immediately. Adding insult to injury, BurstNet is claiming they’re sworn to secrecy and that the data from the downed sites cannot be retrieved. One vital piece of information that’s lost — the Blogetery owner’s contact information, which I’m sure some 73,000 site owners are probably looking for right now.

There really is no excuse to go to such great lengths over IP/copyright infringement claims. If the content is really so bad, why not blacklist/shutdown/delete the infringing sites’ accounts? Why take down 73,000+? If this is what we can expect from the U.S. government’s new tougher stance on IP infringement and digital laws in general, the future does not look bright. It appears due process is utterly useless now. If this does turn out to be IP/copyright related, we can all assume that since the “fight against piracy” is utter bullshit, the government is simply resorting to shutting down the entire internet small bits at a time.

Stay tuned…
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Brazil gets it: 100% legal to circumnavigate DRM for legal purposes. Fines given to rights holders for preventing fair use.

At first, the title “100% legal to circumnavigate DRM for legal purposes” may seem a bit cryptic. As we’ve seen countless times throughout various governments, “legal uses” is a highly ambiguous and misleading term. But in the case of Brazil and their digital rights laws, it’s a far prettier picture as far as consumer protections are concerned.

Here in the United States, it’s technically illegal to circumnavigate DRM (the digital cancer that pollutes more and more of our digital goods each and every day). Usually, consumers will witness the utter useless of this “technology” when copying a DVD or CD of theirs to their computer or digital device. But, the simple act of doing so technically makes them a criminal — a provision in the law that big media giants just love. Sadly, big media runs this country, not the citizens.

But Brazil is at a shining beacon of light, showing that not every government has bent over for the media industry, and actually stood their ground for consumers’ rights. Under Brazilian law, it is completely legal to break through DRM so long as you aren’t doing so to upload to file sharing sites, pirate, etc., etc. But the best part about Brazil’s digital media laws is this: Any copyright holder who laces their content with DRM and goes against current federal laws for consumers’ rights and “fair use/fair dealings” actually faces a fine for hindering consumers’ rights! +1 Brazel!

§1º. The same sanction applies, without prejudice to other sanctions set forth by law, to whom, through whatever means:

a) hinders or prevents the uses allowed by arts. 46, 47 and 48 of this Act [which addresses limitations to copyright including fair dealing]; or

b) hinders or prevents the free use of works, broadcast transmissions and phonograms which have fallen into the public domain.

How’s Brazil this time of year…anyone feel like a permanent vacation?

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About that Nokia N8 review a few weeks back, “Russian authorities” now entering the scene…

A couple weeks back, an N8 “review” of sorts was published (NOT Google translated) by Mobile-review journalist, Eldar Murtazin. In the review, his criticism was extremely evident, though, he did make note that the hardware and software in his possession were extremely early prototype builds. His object wasn’t to completely trash Nokia’s upcoming N8/Symbian^3 efforts but instead to just show what is coming as well as the quality of the unit…in his hand.

Nokia however is none to pleased that their early hardware/software is out in the open and getting a negative review, as agian, it’s early prototype material. Add in the fact that Nokia’s future is this close to balancing on the edge of no return. The N8 and accompanying Symbian S^3 is literally a last ditch effort…. —>

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About those digital, advertising license plates — Arnie says: “They won’t make it past!”

Ads are nasty things that invade our online lives. Before that, ads have been found on literally everything that exists on our planet. From light poles to a human forehead, ads are everywhere — except license plates. A recent bill moving through California lit up the blogosphere with it’s mention of web-enabled license plates dishing out ads 24/7 in order to make up a small fraction of that multi-billion dollar deficit California is looking at. But try as politicians might, there’s one person who is firmly against them — the governor, Mr. Arnold SSchwarzenegger himself.

The governors response over the matter makes sense:

“The Legislature needs to focus on passing a budget that lives within our means instead of distracting drivers to raise revenues.”

“This legislation will be vetoed if it reaches my desk”

California drivers may be safe from the advertising license plate after all. Because the last thing anyone needs is another ad in their life. Especially when doing 80mph down the freeway. Am I right?

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