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Swartz's expert witness speaks out | 297 comments | Create New Account
Comments belong to whoever posts them. Please notify us of inappropriate comments.
Well said: "a license to persecute anyone who stands in the state’s way"
Authored by: SilverWave on Sunday, January 20 2013 @ 07:16 AM EST
If conduct can be charged so broadly as to cover virtually
everyone, then prosecutorial discretion effectively becomes
a license to persecute anyone who stands in the state’s way.
- Scott Horton, Harpers

Once we have so many laws that it's likely we're all
breaking at least one of them, the prosecutor's job is no
longer about enforcing the laws, but about choosing which
laws to enforce. It's then a short slide to the next step:
Choosing what people need to be made into criminals, then
simply picking the laws necessary to make that happen. -
Radley Balko, Huffington Post

RMS: The 4 Freedoms
0 run the program for any purpose
1 study the source code and change it
2 make copies and distribute them
3 publish modified versions

[ Reply to This | Parent | # ]

Microsoft goes its own way with Web audio/video spec, despite W3C rebuff
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, January 20 2013 @ 01:07 PM EST
[PJ: Here they go again. Just like OOXML. Blech. This article pushes Microsoft's solution, so I gather the push is on.]

The reason behind this is pretty simple. Microsoft just spent $8 billion on Skype. They're going to look pretty stupid if Skype becomes obsolete because the equivalent of it is built into every browser.

Microsoft's "solution" to this is a non-standard standard. That is, a standard that everyone can follow but which doesn't actually specify enough to let different implementations talk to each other. They can then put out a Skype browser plug-in and mobile apps which follow their version, and call it "standard".

The Microsoft CU-RTC-Web is a specification for a low level toolkit for VOIP applications It's not however a specification which would allow the create of complete applications that would work with each other. The ability to create implementations that could actually talk to each other would be outside the scope of the specification.

Web-RTC developers (Firefox and Chrome) want a high level specification that is narrowly focused on VOIP (including video calls), but which can be implemented in a compatible manner. So far the Firefox and Chrome preliminary implementations aren't compatible. However, that's because they're demos which are intended to show the practicality of different ideas. Anyone who writes software should be familiar with the idea of creating different prototypes to try out ideas to see what works best in reality (as opposed to whatever theory happens to sound good in a meeting room). When they settle on the details, they would work together to make sure they work with each other. In the title article, Peter Bright is over-emphasizing the preliminary problems and ignoring the fact that their narrow focus means they don't have to solve every potential problem in communications, just the few that directly affect them.

Microsoft is going their own way, and Apple is sitting this out. However, I expect that Mozilla and Google will simply go ahead anyway. If Microsoft persists with their CU-RTC-Web (aka Skype plug in), then that will simply give people using MS Windows one more reason to install Firefox or Chrome. If Apple doesn't implement it for iOS devices, then third parties will no doubt produce apps for it.

In the end, what is happening is that Firefox and Chrome will have this feature, and Microsoft and Apple can either join in or be left behind. If you want something to worry about, then worry about who is going to own the "phone book" or "web central office" (web-CO?) which connects people together. If you want to "web call" or "web phone" your cousin, then you need some sort of web site that sits in the middle to make the initial connection between the two of you. And it has to be a web site that actually knows who the two parties are so that you can filter out calls from telemarketers. Right now, the most likely parties for this function are Facebook and Google. So, we are potentially looking at a future where Facebook is the phone company and knows who you called and when, and can man-in-the-middle every phone call. Microsoft would like their Skype system to occupy that role, but that depends on their CU-RTC-web becoming the "standard" (which I don't think is going to happen).

Facebook (or Microsoft) controlling the phone system is not a very attractive future. What we need is an open, distributed, secure "web phone" directory. It's possible, but it isn't going to arise by itself. It will need infrastructure software to handle making the initial connections between parties to a call. We need the Free Software version of that infrastructure software to be the dominant version in order to ensure interoperability. That is where the focus needs to be now.

[ Reply to This | Parent | # ]

News Pick The Shylock banking trojan now travels by Skype
Authored by: dio gratia on Monday, January 21 2013 @ 02:40 AM EST

The Shylock banking trojan now travels by Skype.

CSIS calls Shylock one of the most advanced online banking trojans and one that is being continually updated with new features. They also note that Microsoft announcing that it is migrating Messenger users to Skype and the emergence of a Skype-enabled Shylock "does not seem completely coincidental".
Color me not surprised. Why ruin a perfect record now? Further information in the blog post Shylock calling Skype.

[ Reply to This | Parent | # ]

Swartz's expert witness speaks out
Authored by: kg on Monday, January 21 2013 @ 11:55 AM EST

Alex Stamos blogged about a week ago, but I hadn't seen it yet, and it doesn't seem to be in the newspicks. Maybe I missed it.

Link: The Truth about Aaron Swartz's "Crime"

What struck me is that the media still doesn't get what happened at MIT, and the prosecutor was able to misrepresent it in a way that persuaded a grand jury to indict him.

Inaccuracies such as comparing a MAC address to a VIN once again hammer home the importance of education. That even MIT spoofs its MACs on its wireless access points should have been exonerating evidence on that count. It's not "hacking" in the black hat (illegal) sense, even though it is merely reconfiguring your own system.

A 1981 article I came across explores the role of the prosecutor and grand jury. It's worth a read, and it seems that prosecutors have discovered that they can get around the pesky courts by plea bargaining.

Linguist and Open Source Developer

[ Reply to This | Parent | # ]

Explaining the Supreme Court's Interest in Patent Law - Can't Patent Idea per Sen Leahy
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, January 22 2013 @ 07:46 AM EST
I have a letter from Sen Leahy, said "Ideas can not be
patented, only inventions".

The confusion is that folks, including the USPTO, seem to
think that you can patent an idea. That is not the intent of
the law.

[ Reply to This | Parent | # ]

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