Why the networks have lost the copyright battle, in a nutshell.
Tim Bray wants to watch episodic TV without commercials, and on his own schedule. He’s willing to pay, but being in Canada, nobody is willing (or able) to sell to him. The best way to obtain TV shows this way is, unfortunately, BitTorrent.
In both Canada and the United States, the networks are hurting financially. This market may not be huge, but it is untapped and easy to cater to. Other companies are making a respectable living catering to niche markets (cough-Apple-cough :), and this would be relatively high-margin added revenue.
I don’t think the networks are going to figure this out, of course…
I’ve suspected this was true all along:
Advertisers donâ€™t believe itâ€™s worth advertising to smart people, because smart people donâ€™t pay attention to brand. Smart people make an actual choice, they canâ€™t be tricked or convinced. They research. So we canâ€™t sell ads to a network for smart people.
from Leo Laporte on Advertising to Smart People | Smarterware, via Twitter.
Debugging problems with an executive’s RSA token:
(via The Daily WTF)
An “elite hacker” appears on the CodeSmith online community, asking for free activation keys. Check out the keys the community gives him to try…
With the backing of the government, farmers are producing more calories â€” some 500 more per person per day since the 1970s â€” but too many are unhealthy calories. Given that, it’s no surprise we’re so fat; it simply costs too much to be thin.
Given this accurate risk analysis, any rational employee will regularly circumvent security to get his or her job done. That’s what the company rewards, and that’s what the company actually wants.
The more secure you make something, the less secure it becomes. Why? Because when security gets in the way, sensible, well-meaning, dedicated people develop hacks and workarounds that defeat the security. Hence the prevalence of doors propped open by bricks and wastebaskets, of passwords pasted on the fronts of monitors or hidden under the keyboard or in the drawer, of home keys hidden under the mat or above the doorframe or under fake rocks that can be purchased for this purpose.
I’ve been hearing anecdotes about the battle between students and educators over kilts (and in particular, kilt length and related ‘tarty’ dress) since I was in private school, 20-mumble years ago. I don’t think the ’00s are that different from the ’80s, somehow…
Apparently there are many secret cables buried in and around Washington, DC. The “call before you dig” guys don’t know about them, so if you dig one up, guys in suits driving black SUVs arrive. Which of course creates a social engineering attack:
So if I want to stop a construction project in the DC area, all I need to do is drive up in a black SUV, wear a suit and sunglasses, and refuse to identify myself.
Yet another “refuse to be terrorized” article from Bruce Schneier, this time about satellite images in online mapping services…
“It struck me that a person in a tent halfway around the world could target an attack like that with a laptop computer,” said Anderson, a Republican legislator who represents San Diego’s East County. Anderson said he doesn’t want to limit technology, but added, “There’s got to be some common sense.”
The usual rebuttal applies:
Criminals have used telephones and mobile phones since they were invented. Drug smugglers use airplanes and boats, radios and satellite phones. Bank robbers have long used cars and motorcycles as getaway vehicles, and horses before then. I haven’t seen it talked about yet, but the Mumbai terrorists used boats as well. They also wore boots. They ate lunch at restaurants, drank bottled water, and breathed the air. Society survives all of this because the good uses of infrastructure far outweigh the bad uses, even though the good uses are — by and large — small and pedestrian and the bad uses are rare and spectacular. And while terrorism turns society’s very infrastructure against itself, we only harm ourselves by dismantling that infrastructure in response — just as we would if we banned cars because bank robbers used them too.
(the last quote is from http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2009/01/helping_the_ter.html).
After almost a week of pressure, The Conference Board of Canada finally recalled three reports supporting the lie that Canada is a haven for intellectual property thieves. I love the language:
An internal review has determined that these reports did not follow the high quality research standards of The Conference Board of Canada.
This after Michael Geist accused them of plagiarising the text of one report, without attribution, from the International Intellectual Property Alliance, a major US lobby group representing Hollywood et al.
The details are on on Michael Geist’s weblog, starting with The Conference Board of Canada’s Deceptive, Plagiarized Digital Economy Report . I’m particularly dismayed that they initially stood by the report, that it took three days of intense media coverage for them to back down. Call me a conspiracy theorist, but I believe that once the attention dies down, these reports will quietly resurface, they’ll circulate internally on Parliament Hill, and our lawmakers will pass draconian copyright legislation based on a lie.
In fact, Canada is a relatively low producer and consumer of stolen intellectual property. I’ll try to dig up the various references that support this (my browser history is acting up :-). For some reason factions within the US government have decided that they can win more votes, or collect more lobbyist dollars, by attacking their neighbour to the North.
I find this especially interested after a recent article from Eric S. Raymond: Some Iron Laws of Political Economics
Mancur Olson, in his book The Logic Of Collective Action, highlighted the central problem of politics in a democracy. The benefits of political market-rigging can be concentrated to benefit particular special interest groups, while the costs (in higher taxes, slower economic growth, and many other second-order effects) are diffused through the entire population.
The result is a scramble in which individual interest groups perpetually seek to corner more and more rent from the system, while the incremental costs of this behavior rise slowly enough that it is difficult to sustain broad political opposition to the overall system of political privilege and rent-seeking.
Worth a read.
Yet another example of the premise that if you want to understand the world around you, look for the incentives…
Incentives explain much that is perplexing about security trade-offs. Why does King County, Washington, require one form of ID to get a concealed-carry permit, but two forms of ID to pay for the permit by check? Making a mistake on a gun permit is an abstract problem, but a bad check actually costs some department money.
In the decades before 9/11, why did the airlines fight every security measure except the photo-ID check? Increased security annoys their customers, but the photo-ID check solved a security problem of a different kind: the resale of nonrefundable tickets. So the airlines were on board for that one.
And so on…
From the Free Range Kids blog, the story of Lori from a small town in Mississippi, who sent her 10-year-old on foot to soccer practice, only to have him picked up by the cops, who reported “hundreds” of 911 calls by curtain-twitchers who were horrified at the thought of a 10-year-old walking a third of a mile to a local school. The cops told her she could be charged with child endangerment After she complained to the cops, the local police chief called her to apologize and to reassure her that she lived in a safe neighborhood. The moral of the story: stand your ground when crazy people tell you that your kid needs to be swaddled in bubblewrap until she’s 22.
From the article:
My 10-year-old son wanted the chance to walk from our house to soccer practice behind an elementary school about 1/3 mile from our house. He had walked in our neighborhood a number of times with the family and we have driven the route to practice who knows how many times. It was broad daylight – 5:00 pm. I had to be at the field myself 15 minutes after practice started, so I gave him my cell phone and told him I would be there to check that he made it and sent him off. He got 3 blocks and a police car intercepted him. The police came to my house â€” after I had left â€” and spoke with my younger children who were home with Grandma. They then found me at the soccer field and proceeded to tell me how I could be charged with child endangerment. They said they had gotten â€œhundredsâ€ of calls to 911 about him walking. Now, I know bad things can happen and I wasnâ€™t flippant about letting him go and not checking up, but come on. I live in a small town in Mississippi. To be perfectly honest, Iâ€™m much more concerned about letting him attend a birthday party sleepover next Friday, but Iâ€™m guessing the police wouldnâ€™t be at my house if I chose to let him go which I probably wonâ€™t.
via Boing Boing
The Kindness of Strangers
When I was growing up, children were commonly taught: “dont talk to strangers.” Strangers might be bad, we were told, so its prudent to steer clear of them.
As it turns out, this is profoundly bad advice. Most people are honest, kind, and generous, especially when someone asks them for help. If a small child is in trouble, the smartest thing he can do is find a nice-looking stranger and talk to him.
The advice in each of these paragraphs may seem to contradict each other, but they dont. The difference is that in the second instance, the child is choosing which stranger to talk to. Given that the overwhelming majority of people will help, the child is likely to get help if he chooses a random stranger. But if a stranger comes up to a child and talks to him or her, its not a random choice. Its more likely, although still unlikely, that the stranger is up to no good.
These guys managed to blow through many layers of hi-tech security with careful planning and some low-tech tricks, and one huge security gaff: the “unduplicatable” key for the vault was hung on the wall in a storeroom next door.
My favorite bit, I think, was how they disabled a magnetic sensor on the vault door, that would detect the door being opened; they brought a piece of aluminum covered in double-sided tape, stuck it over the sensor pieces, unscrewed the pieces from the vault door and door frame, and swung them out of the way. The sensor was never triggered because the two pieces remained in contact…
The article is a bit long, but it’s worth reading both for how they got through all of the security, and the one stupid mistake they made that led to them all getting caught…
Tomorrow is the first day of nerdigras ; let the festivities begin!
(I wonder what the pancake-equivalent is? :-)
It’s true. We live in amazing times, and everyone is as grumpy as ever!
- No Heroics – A UK sitcom about a bunch of second-tier superheroes hanging out in a bar.